Friday, February 26, 2010

Basic Sweet Dough

In my previous post, I mentioned using a basic sweet dough for my Apple Cinnamon and Black Sesame Buns. A dear friend who is now in Sweden sent me a message and asked for the recipe. So I decided I should be a responsible (eh-hem) blogger and do a short post on this.

I think this is a decent dough for a nice breakfast roll.

365g Bread Flour
2 1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
Milk powder 1 tbsp (for extra fragrance)
60 - 75g sugar (the recipe I had say 75g, I usually use about 70g)
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg (or about 60g egg)
160 Cold water (It's good to use very cold water. I add 100g water and 60g ice to make sure..)
60g Butter

What I did
1. Combine all the dry ingredients together and mix well
2. Add butter and mix well
3. Slowly add the cold water and knead until smooth
4. Proof for 30 - 45 mins
5. Divide dough up and wait for 15 - 30 mins before shaping
6. Shape into desired shape and then proof for another 60 minutes

From the courses and books I've read.. and based on The Husband's and my experience, here is a simple list of things to note:
1. Be careful not to underknead the dough. If using a mixer, when the dough is ready, you should be able to hear a distinct "slapping" sound - sound the dough makes when it hits the bowl. The other way to test it is to take a handful of dough out and stretch it. You should be able to stretch it til it is rather thin and it should still look smooth and not break up
2. Allowing the dough to rest before shaping. I tend to make the mistake of wanting to shape the dough right after I divide it up. But it'd get very "stretchy" and difficult to shape. It's better to allow the dough to "relax" before shaping.
3. Leave enough time for the final proofing. The final proofing is the most important proofing. Allowing the dough to proof sufficiently makes a real difference and gives you that nice fluffy texture.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Buns and Black Sesame Buns

 Breads I made today - I need more practice
Somehow my breads never turn out very pretty..

I started out wanting to bake Apple Custard Buns.. but I forgot that the milk in our fridge has gone bad and no milk means no custard..

So I decided to make Apple Cinnamon Buns.. to use up the apples I had in my kitchen.. and Black Sesame Buns.. to give the bottle of Black Sesame Paste I bought a try.

This is the first time I've tried baking bread over a few different timeslots. I usually bake my breads in one go - meaning I'd knead the bread in the morning and the time I get fresh bread, it'd be tea-time.. This time, I kneaded the bread yesterday, shaped the dough this morning.. and did the final proofing and baking at night.

Although it is a lot more convenient to use the fridge to help "delay" the proofing process, I find the entire bread-making process end up taking a much longer time.. because you need to wait for the dough to "warm-up" after taking it out of the fridge.. and then proof it as per usual. But if timed properly, it is really a lot more convenient and means I can have fresh bread for breakfast if I planned well ahead.

These buns are not too difficult to make. I used the recipe for a standard sweet dough to make the buns.

For the apple cinnamon filling, I cooked some Granny Smith apples with a bit of butter, sugar and cinnamon and a little bit of cornflour.

For the black sesame filling, I used this Black Sesame Paste I bought from Hong Kong (I later realised it is available also in Singapore, I found them at Isetan).

The Apple Cinnamon Buns I really like.. I ate mine warm - the apples were good - tangy, sweet and gooey. The Black Sesame ones.. hmph.. I find the paste a little too dry. It's probably better to put the paste into the dough itself.. and maybe fill up the buns with some milk jam. Hm.. I think I'd do that next time. Oh, but before that, I will have to try making the Apple Custard Buns..

Apple Cinnamon Buns - not pretty but still yummy, at least to me..

 Black Sesame Buns - I like the sesame seeds on top.. 
but the paste is a little too dry to use as a filling..

Monday, February 22, 2010

Expired Milk

We almost never finish a bottle of milk before the date on the bottle and invariably end up throwing half a bottle away all the time.

With whipping cream it is a lot worse - I am always throwing half-used cartons away... cringing as I do so because whipping cream is rather pricey.. (and I do like to use the good ones.. somehow the difference is very noticeable to me.,)

I chanced upon this website and thought it very useful -

It is a shelf-life guide and tells you how long you can keep stuff for before you really have to throw it out. The whipping cream one, for example, is useful for me because I thought that you can't freeze whipping cream. Apparently, you can.. only that you can't use it for whipping.. But it can be used for cooking.

A good website for those who think they need to throw things out less - that's me!

Three Coloured Carrots Soup

 Piping hot homemade soup is always good..

I don't really know the name of this soup, so I call it Three Coloured Carrots Soup, a literal translation after its Chinese name, 三色萝卜汤.

I like making soup after we have "lou hei" at home. ("Lou hei", which literally means Scooping Up in Cantonese, is the tossing of a plate of colourful vegetable strips with some raw fish, pickled vegetables and a tangy but sweet plum sauce - It is like a Chinese salad with sashimi. The dish itself is called Yu Sheng)

 Yu Sheng - I made this and took it to a friend's house for dinner last weekend

In my family, we like making our own lou hei - actually more like assembling because all we do is buy a ready-made pack of lou hei ingredients which consist of the pickled vegetables and all the seasoning required, shredding lots of fresh vegetables, then slicing in some abalone or salmon sashimi.

We often add carrots, radish, green carrots and cucumber into our lou hei. Just a bit of each. As a result, I often end up with some of these vegetables left in my fridge.

So I make this "Three Coloured Carrots Soup", to use up some of the vegetables.

  • Some pork ribs - about 300g
  • 1 to 2 carrots, cut
  • 1/2 to 1 large radish, cut
  • 1/2 to 1 large green carrots, cut
  • 3 to 4 dried red dates
Note: Try to cut all the vegetables into larger pieces

What I did
  1. Blanch the pork ribs in some boiling water
  2. Add the blanched pork ribs and all the other ingredients into a pot of boiling water (3 to 4 bowls of water)
  3. Boil for about 2 to 2.5 hours
  4. Season to taste with salt
The soup tastes super sweet because of all the root vegetables in it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Fruit of Love

Quince is a fruit that belongs to the pome fruits family, and it is a cousin of apples and pears. It is golden in colour, with a creamy white colour when cut, and is usually too hard, sour or bitter to be eaten raw.

But when it is cooked, the colour changes from light pink to a deep rich orange-red. It holds its shape very well with cooking and is hence rather ideal for the making of stews, jams, jellies and other fruity delights.  

Quince is very popular in several parts of Europe and in the Middle East. In the olden days, quinces were exchanged by the Romans as love offerings. Ancient Greeks offer quince as a love offering to the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite (Greek equivalent of Venus). In Croatia, when a baby is born, a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life. In many of these cultures, quince is associated with love and marriage.

Quince paste is thick jam made from boiling the cut fruit with sugar and lemon juice, then pulping the sweetened fruits. I bought a packet of quince paste during my last trip to Hong Kong. These were supposed to be really good and they came all the way from Catalunya, Spain. 

The Spanish has a nicer and more delicious name for quince paste - dulce de membrillo, which roughly translates to candy of membrillo (as quince is called in Spanish).  This quince paste is cooked into a reddish orange wobbly block and it is very convenient for eating and serving because you can cut off thin slices or little cubes as and when you want to eat it. (I think It looks so much more presentable this way.. vs "digging" it out of a bottle as with most jam.)

In Spain, it is commonly eaten with Manchego cheese - placing a slice of the membrillo between two slices of cheese and securing the trio with a toothpick is a very pretty way to serve it.

I think it goes well with a nice piece of butter toast or bagel at breakfast. It can also be added into salads for an interesting kick, or with rolled up with prosciutto ham for a special appetizer.

Somehow, I think dulce de membrillo belongs to the category of food I would classify as "romantic". There is just something whimsical about eating the "Fruit of Love".

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feedback heard

I have to say... I am most impressed with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) about the way they handle feedback.

The Husband and I both think that there can be much done to improve Singapore's public transport services. MRT is great - not perfect but new MRT lines are already in progress and it does take very long to dig tunnels and test them. So no complains there.

But Singapore buses are another matter altogether. Each time I take a bus, I end up experiencing 2 or more of the following:
1. The bus takes a long time to come
2. The bus route is long and winding
3. The bus doesn't get you to where you want to go
4. It is better to take the MRT, even if you have to make multiple transfers

I really fail to understand why our bus services is so much worse than Hong Kong because Hong Kong is actually bigger and much more hilly compared to Singapore.

But back to LTA.

I wrote in a couple of feedback through the LTA website's online feedback form, highlighting the lack of buses from the area where I stay to various places.

Today, someone called me back! And she explained the steps they will take!

I don't know if it means that things will really change.. but wow.. I'm really impressed.. and a little ashamed. I should have written to them long ago, instead of just feeling grumpy about the whole situation.

So if you have any feedback about bus services, road conditions, traffic signs and a hundred other things LTA has jurisdictions over.. do input your feedback to them too.

The link to the online feedback form can be found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coconut Milk New Year Cake

Coconut Milk New Year Cake, 椰汁年糕 from 華麗園, 
a shop in HK famous for these kind of New Year Cakes

The Sister-in-law sent one of these to us for the New Year. A very nice Singaporean colleague of hers who was coming home for the New Year brought it all the way from Hong Kong to our home in Singapore for us.

To me, the Hong Kong Lunar New Year snacks are very different. They relish Yam Cake, Carrot Cake, Water Chestnut Cakes as so on for the new year, whilst in Singapore, we like Bak Kwa (Barbecue Pork), Kueh Bualu, Pineapple Tarts, Love Letters and mostly melt-in-your-mouth type of cookies.

But 年糕, or New Year Cake, which is actually glutinous rice cake, is something we have in common.

I like new my New Year Cake thinly sliced and then pan-fried with the teeniest bit of oil. Better yet, coated with a thin layer of eggs or a light batter of eggs and flour, and then pan-fried.

椰汁年糕, or Coconut Milk New Year Cake, I've never had before. It looks prettier than normal New Year Cake (is white) and smells heavenly (is the coconut).

The instructions inside the box says to cook it the same way as normal New Year Cake.

This makes a really good Spring Festival gift. So the next time you go Hong Kong in Jan or Feb,  buy a few boxes back for your family and friends.

Address: 銅鑼灣富明街2-6號寶明大廈地下
Tel: +852-25766335

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 New Year Resolutions

It's that time of the year for me to make my new year resolutions.

Yes, I know I'm later than most.

But for some reason, I have been making my new year resolutions around the Lunar New Year period.. ever since a time I've long since forgotten.

Yet.. better late than never, right?

The problem with new year resolutions for me is that I tend to forget what my resolutions are during the year.. so I have difficulty evaluating if I've done well or not.

Well, this year it'd be different.

Because I shall write down a couple of my resolutions here. Well, not all.... some will be too private for the internet.

1. 2010 will be the year I forget about money
 I can already imagine the alarm bells ringing in The Husband's head when he sees this... so let me explain...

In 2010, I'm not going to think about how much.. or how little money I make.. but expand my energies on other things - building my interests, going to the gym, enjoying life. And I hope to do all that with a clear conscience and minimal sense of guilt.

Our life on earth is too short.. I've been working on and off for about 10 years now... and I think.. not to worry about how little I make for 1 year should work out alright.

2. It's also a year for me to stay healthy
I've been going to the gym rather consistently for the past 1 year. In 2010, I'd have to do the same.. so that this habit of working out sticks.

Plus I have to complete a comprehensive round of blood tests and all the necessary check-ups to make sure my thyroid problem is under control. No more procrastination.

Of course, there are lots of other things I wish to do during this year.. like getting to know God more.. being a better friend to my friends.. being a better daughter and wife.. being a better person in general.. but I suppose these are not 2010 resolutions.. but life resolutions..

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Achar

A generous lady I know from gym makes one of the best Achar I've ever tasted and she is kind enough to often give me some ever now and then, whenever she makes a big batch.

Achar is a vegetable pickle popular in Southeast Asian. It is made from different vegetables and fruits such as cucumber, carrots, cabbage, long beans, chilli and pineapple.

Achar is usually served on the side along with meat and steamed rice. It's one of the things I'd always order when I eat Nasi Lemak (coconut rice).

The Achar that this lady makes is the kind I like.

It contains only cucumber, carrots, pineapple and chilli (which is perfect for me because I do not like cabbage and long beans in my Achar). Plus she is very liberal with the amount of peanuts and sesame seeds in her Achar and they make it really crunchy. She says she doesn't add much vinegar to her achar, just olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice, with a teeny bit of vinegar and tumeric powder.

I like to eat this Achar with a bowl of hot soup and freshly steamed rice. I've even eaten it plain just with steamed rice - it's that irresistible!

Delicious Achar - I was given a large box for the New Year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Elderflower Syrup

Elderflower drink - a very floral drink with a delicate but citrusy taste 
 Picture source:

I generally look upon syrups with disdain.

I like my beverages simple, natural and most importantly, not too sweet.

Syrups and cordials? With the exception of Ribena for that good old familiar taste, no syrups or cordials for me, thank you very much.

But I liked the name of this syrup at Ikea so much - think Elder Wand of Harry Potter.. or Elder Days and White Tree (the Elder Tree) of Tolkien. And besides, Happy did really rave about it when we went shopping at Ikea...

So during last trip to Ikea, I bought a bottle of this syrup.

I made some Elderflower drink today when my family came over for dinner, as part of our Lunar New Year tradition to visit each other's homes.

I added the syrup to some iced water, together with a couple of lemon slices and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The drink turned out pretty refreshing! It tasted like a very floral lemonade.

The Elderflower syrup from the Ikea Food Market.

This is how the Elderflower look like.. pretty, isn't it?

Brunch at Jules Cafe Bar

"Brunch" and "High-tea" are 2 of my favourite words in the English language.

Brunch brings to my mind words like "weekends", "sleep in late" and "eggs" (my favourite food)..

Jules Cafe Bar is a small cafe in a private residential area, very near our church and not too far from our home. It is, I believe run by an Australian chef, because the menu is very Australian.

We've been there once for dinner and I found it just so-so.

But the breakfast they served is pretty good. I had the Eggs Florentine - the eggs were cooked just nicely and the Hollandaise sauce was creamy but yet sourish enough.

A friend ordered the Big Brekkie, and asked for her bacon to be crispy.. The meal comes with 2 eggs, crispy bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes.. and toast. It looked really nice and is perfect if you are very hungry.

It's a nice place to go for a lazy Saturday morning brunch.

 My Eggs Florentine - Eggs are my favourite food.

Big Brekkie - all heaped up

Jules Cafe Bar
Address: 15-1 Jalan Riang
Tel: +65 6858 2827

Happy New Year and Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Lunar New Year to all...

And it's also Valentine's Day.. so a Happy Valentine's day to all too..

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mini Orange Raisin Muffins - Part 1

 Mini Orange Raisin Muffins

Petunia blogged about how good the Orange Raisin Muffins at Coffeebean were. And how they were never going to make them again.

Well, I really wanted to try them.. they sound so.. new yearish.

So I went to my good friend Google and did a quick search. This particular recipe seemed good. Many of the folks said their muffins turned out great. And it looked so easy too.

So I decided to try make some muffins for breakfast this morning. I did a couple of adjustments to the original recipe..

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 whole navel orange, zested
* 1/4 cup orange juice
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1/2 cup raisins

What I did
1. Soak raisins in hot water and then drain dry before use
2. Preheat oven to 200 deg C
3. In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, combine egg, orange zest, orange juice, milk and vegetable oil.
4. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until moistened.
5. Fold in raisins.
6. Spoon batter into mini disposable muffin cups. Top with some orange zest and chocolate chips (optional).
7. Bake in preheated oven for approx 18 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

The cake batter smelled really good when I was mixing it.. and baking it. It's the orange zest, I think.

Well, I never tried the Orange Raisin muffins from Coffeebean... but I found these ones I made pretty good - fluffy and moist (The Husband and I had 2 each at a go).

But the orange taste didn't come out too strongly in spite of the smell, so I'd try with orange juice concentrate next time around. And I'd also lower the amount of salt a bit.. I think the recipe could do with less salt... and maybe a little more sugar (Which is pretty strange because I've never had to add sugar to a US recipe..)

I had some mini chocolate chips which I put on some of my muffins.. and those turned out really great! Orange and chocolate really goes well together.

 The muffins were fluffy and moist. I'd try this recipe once more 
with some adjustments.. and then try out another recipe I've found.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Potter and the Clay

Clay is unyielding and shapeless.. and on the potter's wheel, doesn't turn into anything on its own but spin round and round endlessly.

In my inexperienced hands, the clay takes shape, but very slowly and very awkwardly.

Making sure everything is perfectly in the center is of vital importance in pottery making. But centering is a challenge for a novice like me and takes a while. Then as the clay is pulled outwards and upwards, it is all too easy for me to forget about the centering and end up with a lopsided pot. Or end up with a cup when I really wanted to make a vase.

Not so in the hands of a master potter.

My teacher's hands are steady and in his hands, clay and water work together in harmony. In his hands, the clay molds quickly and easily into a balanced and very finished looking piece of work. He thinks of the shape he wants and clay turns out exactly as he wanted it.

The entire process looks all too simple and effortless.

The Bible describes God as The Potter and us as The Clay.

Since I was a teenager, I have read words from the Bible and have sang songs about that.

God is the Potter and we are the clay, the work of God's hands. And so we are to let the Potter mold us and shape us, and put us into the fire, so that one day, we will become wonderful works of art.

Now, I think I truly understand what it means.. and am so glad that God is our Master Potter.

The Master Potter knows what He is doing and I can trust Him to make me into a work of art.

My vase - an older piece of work. I have done a few new ones.. 
 but I'm accumulating them to do the glazing together.. so it'd take a while..

Healthy Sweet Basil

Well.. this is old news.. but my plants have mostly died.

And naturally, being me, I haven't got myself any new ones to replace them. (I'm a Procrastinator..)

My friend, M found out about my plants, and passed me a mint cutting and a sweet basil seedling.

It is funny the way things go around. Because I gave these very same ones to M when she started out her balcony..

But oh.. this friend of mine has very green fingers. She says that she doesn't do very much.. but the her plants have been blooming She even complains of the mint leaves growing too big.. and too fast. And her basil seedling.. well, let's just say it looked like those you see in the supermarket - green, big and delicious looking.

It's been almost 3 weeks since I got the plants from M.

Happily, the sweet basil has settled down nicely in my balcony. And it is still looking rather good. The weird part is none of my sweet basils used to look so good.. even though at that time, I was a lot more enthusiastic about my plants. (See this post)

Somehow, I think plants thrive better without my constant attention.


My happy sweet basil - doing very well on their own.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kiam Chye Duck Soup

Pickled Mustard, or Kiam Chye, as it is known in Hokkien and Teochew, has a strange smell.

It smells of those old provision shop.. (or those old provision shop smell of kiam chye).

And it also looks weird - it is dirty green and "expired" looking. 

So, I've never really been a fan of kiam chye and have never used it in my cooking. Until recently, when The Mother-in-law came over to stay for a month. She cooked this wonderful pork ribs with bitter gourd and kiam chye. And even though I really dislike bitter gourd, I found the soup quite fantastic.

And so I figured, if kiam chye can make bitter gourd soup taste good... with other ingredients... it must be fantastic.

And so, I've been wanting to make this Kiam Chye Duck Soup since I read about it from Ting's blog. Many people have been telling me how great this soup is.. how they and their children loll their tongues out at the thought of having this soup for dinner.

I pretty much followed what Ting suggested.. and the soup turned out just great.

  • Half a duck (cut off some of the skin and fats)
  • Kiam chye (about a quarter), cleaned and soaked in brine briefly
  • 1 to 2 pickled sour plums 
  • 2 small garlic, peeled but kept whole
  • 2 small pieces of ginger
  • Half an onion, quartered
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
What I did
  1. Roast the duck in the oven at 200 - 220 deg C for about 20 minutes. A lot of the fat melted off
  2. Put the duck meat into a pot of boiling water and add the kiam chye, sour plums, garlic, ginger and onions
  3. Let the soup simmer for about 1 hour and then turn off the fire but keep the soup covered. For some reason, I heard that doing this helps to make the meat softer.
  4. Remove the layer of oil on top and then boil again for about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  5. Season with Chinese wine, white pepper and a tiny piece of rock sugar.
  1. I thought Ting's suggestion to put the duck into the oven to melt off the fat was ingenious. I would leave it in the oven for at least 30 minutes next time to give the skin a nice golden colour.
  2. I think it's safer to go easy on the sour plum and kiam chye. Before Step 4, taste the soup and if it is not sour or salty enough, add more for the final 1 to 1.5 hours of boiling.
  3. The lady who sold me the kiam chye also told me not to cut the kiam chye up too much. Just soak it briefly in some salted water, then cut a large piece of kiam chye into the soup.
The Kiam Chye Duck Soup, after the first hour of boiling..

This is really a very Teochew soup - sourish and strong in flavour.. The duck meat was literally falling off the bones. I like it... only next time, I'd try to buy 2 duck drumsticks.. half a duck is a bit too much for the 2 of us.

Left: The Kiam Chye duck soup with purple sweet potato rice
Right: The duck soup when it is finally all done. I was in a hurry to have the soup.. 
so couldn't really be bothered to take a good picture..

    Oct 2011: I have a better picture of this soup here.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Baked Sliced Apples - Recipes anyone?

    The packaging - see the picture behind that shows how this is made?

    I bought this little snack from the Osaka airport when we were leaving Japan.

    It is supposed to be an award winning snack.... and it just looked so interesting I had to buy it.

    The picture behind the packaging shows how this little snack is made:
    • Firstly, Someone grates an apple into a batter
    • Then, The Someone cutts up a large apple into thin slices
    • The Someone then puts some batter on a baking tray and places the thinly sliced fresh apples on top.
    • And although not shown in the picture, presumably, they bake it

    After baking, you get a fragrant and pretty little snack, with a rather strong apple flavour that goes well with a hot cup of English Breakfast.

    A very pretty looking snack

    It looks like something that will also taste pretty good home-made too.. only.. I have googled but couldn't find any similar recipes out there.

    Should anyone out there know how to make baked sliced apples, please kindly share it with me...

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    The Value We Attach to Things

    The value we attach to things differ.

    A story I like that illustrates this is the story of black pearls.

    In the mid-1970s there was no market for black pearls. People liked their pearls white or in lighter shades and there was no demand for black pearls. Hence, they were not considered valuable and you could not sell these pearls for very much.

    One man who owned a source of black pearls was really keen to make more money from them.

    He went to Harry Winston, a friend of his, and convinced him to display them in his famous store window on 5th Avenue in New York City with extremely high price tags attached. He also place ads in fancy magazines showing the strands of black pearls next to diamonds, emeralds, rubies, comparative references and gems that people attributed value to.

    Soon, black pearls were worn by the rich and famous in New York and now, when we think of black pearls, we think of them as expensive and rare... rather than just odd-looking and irregular.

    The value we attach to things differ.

    Each of us attach different values to different things. Some people are happy to spend lots of money on the latest technology but are not willing to spend more money updating their wardrobe. Others might spend lots on a single designer bag, yet refuse to spend on a gourmet meals. Some might happily put in lots of money into renovating and decorating their homes, yet refuse to spend much on movies and books.

    And the value that we attach to things change as we get older and as our circumstances change. I might be unwilling to spend a certain amount on a concert ticket alone.. but if The Husband wants to watch that concert, I'd be quite happy to buy two tickets. I might not like to spend any money at all on guided tours, but if my parents wants to go on a guided tour together, I'd happy pay for them.

    The value that I attach to things have changed a lot since my days as a student - I now value family, comfort, friends and good food a lot more than I did as a student.

    And as I grow older, I start to want to pamper myself occasionally with things that are just quite unnecessary.

    Just occasionally though. Very occasionally.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Homemade Pineapple Tarts

    I suppose it'd be good to weigh all the pineapple balls to ensure 
    you can get them evenly sized.. but it was too much work.. 
    so I decided to forgo that step..

    I've always wanted to make pineapple tarts with home-made pineapple paste (made from fresh pineapples) for the Chinese New Year.. but never got around to doing it.

    So when a friend asked if I'd be baking anything for the Chinese New Year 2 weeks ago, I said no.

    But then last week, I went to this little baking supplies shop at Tanjong Katong and saw a box of Sarawak Pineapple Paste. The man in the shop said the Sarawak Pineapple Paste is not as sweet as the regular ones he has in his shop.

    In a moment of impulse, I bought the pineapple paste and so ended up making a batch of pineapple tarts today.

    It's my first time making pineapple tarts. I thought that the pastry was very good. I modified a couple of recipes I had from my friends and am really pleased with the results. But I find the pineapple paste still a little too sweet for my liking - it'd probably be better if I made the type of pineapple tarts where there is more pastry than paste.

    Ingredients (for pastry)
    200g Unsalted butter, cold
    200g Plain Flour
    50g Cornmeal
    2tsp Cornflour
    2tbsp Custard Powder
    1tsp Salt
    2tbsp Sugar
    1tsp Vanilla Extract
    1 Egg

    What I did
    1. Mix all the dry ingredients together
    2. Cut butter into small pieces
    3. Rub dry ingredients into cold butter until entire mixture resembles breadcrumbs
    4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well
    5. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour
    6. Roll dough out and cut into desired size and shape
    7. Place on silpat and brush with beaten egg, bake at 190 deg C for 10mins
    8. Roll pieces of pineapple paste into small balls and place on baked cookies
    9. Bake for another 10-15mins at 190 deg C

    I can appreciate why pineapple tarts cost so much after making them.. Although it's not difficult to make them... all that cutting and rolling is really quite time-consuming...

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Jamie Oliver’s Banana and Honey Bread

    Finally, "real" banana bread

    The last time I made Jamie Oliver's Banana Bread, it turned out to be firstly not a bread and secondly not really Jamie Oliver's.

    It was not a bread because it really was just a quick-mix cake. (But in US, they would call still it a banana bread.. though the rest of us would call it banana cake...)

    It wasn't Jamie Oliver's recipe, but rather a recipe on his website, under the Community section, which meant someone else contributed the recipe.

    And even though the banana cake was nice, I really wanted to make a "real" banana bread.

    Well, today I made "the real thing". I'm in a very bread-making mood this week and this is my third one.

    I adapted from Jamie Oliver's Banana and Honey bread recipe.. (This recipe really does belong to him this time around...)

    The original recipe is here but I adapted it a little - I didn't change very much but I wanted less sugar and more fruit in my bread.

    • 500g strong bread flour (I used a mixture of very strong bread flour and regular bread flour)
    • 315 ml iced water + bananas mixture (start with 3 very ripe bananas, blended and top up with water)
    • 3 tbsp honey
    • 10g dried instant yeast
    • 1/2 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tsp fine sea salt
    • Additional banana and almond slices for topping

    What I did
    1. Mix all the dry ingredients
    2. Add water-banana mixture and honey slowly as you knead
    3. Knead until dough is silky and elastic. The dough is quite tough.. I ended up adding a little bit more water, about 30ml more but I think a lot also depends on the flour used. I kneaded it until a small piece of dough that I take out can be stretched fairly thinly across
    4. Lightly flour top of dough, cover in cling wrap and proof until double in size
    5. Divide and shape to 6 round balls and place them rather closely together, so that after they proof they'd stick together
    6. Proof for 90mins or until double in size
    7. Drizzle with 1 tbsp honey, top with sliced bananas and almonds
    8. Bake at 190 deg C for 20 mins

    I decided to proof for a longer time for the second proof because The Husband has mentioned to me before that the second proofing is actually more important for the bread to be soft and fluffy.

    Incidentally, it is also what Jamie Oliver says in his basic bread recipe- "This is the most important part, as the second prove will give it the air that finally ends up being cooked into your bread, giving you the really light, soft texture that we all love in fresh bread. So remember – don't fiddle with it, just let it do its thing.”

    The bread turned out fine - but it is a very dense and heavy bread. Whilst I think it might be that I should have proofed for an even longer time, I suspect that is because of the flour that was used for this bread..

    But it is a yummy bread and will be my breakfast for the rest of the week..

    Banana and Honey Bread - yummy!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Earl Grey Tea Bread

    The black little specks are the crushed tea leaves

    I'm really glad that I'm slowly making my way down my To-bake list, even though not everything turns out well on the first try.

    I wanted to make this Earl Grey Tea Bread ever since a friend sent me the recipe. But I haven't been able to find the Earl Grey Tea Powder the recipe asked for.

    So, I decided to use the earl grey tea leaves I bought from TWG to make this bread instead.

    The bread turned out pretty well - nice and soft and went very well with the milk jam.

    But there was no taste of earl grey tea.. which was a little disappointing, because I had used the tea leaves in 2 ways for the bread. I made some earl grey tea and used them instead of water as the liquid for the dough. I also grounded some tea leaves and mixed them into the finished dough.

    I'd try to look for the earl grey tea powder again, or else change the strength of the tea (a really very strong brew) and try this recipe again.

    Then I'd post the recipe here.

    Crushed Earl Grey Tea Leaves

    Earl Grey Tea Bread - soft and fluffy but no tea taste..

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes

    I liked the colour of this bread.. the shape I need to work on..

    Focaccia is a really easy bread to make. Or at least the recipe I have is very easy... and it is tasty enough for me.

    And so when I got my hands on some sun-dried tomatoes, I wanted to make some sun-dried tomatoes focaccia.

    It's been a while since I made bread.. so I think may have not have proofed it sufficiently the second time around.. The Husband further confirmed this when he took a bite of the bread. In his experience, he says, the second proofing is most important for fluffy bread.

    190g Plain Flour
    190g Bread Flour
    Pinch of Salt
    1 tsp Sugar
    8g Instant Yeast
    12g Honey
    240g Ice water
    20g Oliver Oil
    50g Sun-dried tomatoes (soaked in hot water, drained completely and then chopped up)
    A handful of chopped fresh rosemary

    What I did
    1. Mix all the dry ingredients, except for tomatoes and rosemary
    2. Mix all the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and knead until smooth
    3. Add in the herbs and tomatoes and knead well
    4. Proof til double in size (about 1 hour)
    5. Punch down and shape as desired.
    6. Proof for another 60 minutes, or until double in thickness (I only proofed for 30 minutes)
    7. Bake at approx 190 deg C for 20 minutes.

    In spite of the under-proofing, this bread is good when served warm, with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

    How it looked like on the inside..

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    It's February!

    February is my favourite month of the year.

    For a variety of reasons..

    Chinese New Year is usually in February. (Although not always.. but this year it is..) And to me, somehow, it is only after the lunar new year that I really feel a new year has begun. And of course it is also a time when family and friends get together and have good food and fun together.

    Valentine's Day is in February, and even though The Husband and I do not celebrate it, love seems to be in the air in February.. Or at least love is being widely advertised everywhere. Whilst some may think that 14 Feb is just another commercialized, frivolous and materialistic day (which in a way it is), I think Valentine's Day brightens up February, making it more romantic than other months and is a day to indulge in the memories of youth.

    February is the shortest month it the year and less means more precious, right? (The Husband also noted that in terms of salary per day, February is the month where you work the least to get the same pay. )

    And lastly, my birthday is always in February and that only comes around once a year, doesn't it?