Malaysian Monday: Kuih Lapis (Merdeka Edition)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

kuih lapis solo
Today is Hari Merdeka (Merdeka Day), which is Malaysian Independence Day. To be honest, I’m not exactly the most patriotic person – but I do love a good theme. So of course, today’s featured kuih has been dressed up as the Malaysian flag (Jalur Gemilang/Stripes of Glory ).

kuih lapis again
This is Kuih Lapis (literally Layered Kuih), and it is commonly coloured pink and white, but I’ve made the topmost layer blue instead of the usual bright red.

I based this on a recipe found in one of mum’s handwritten notebooks. I find the requisite tick indicating the recipe is “good”, but what’s this? Only ingredients are listed, not the method. I don’t think mum would have appreciated a late-night phone call demanding to know how to make kuih lapis, and luckily I find another recipe in her books with a method attached.

Confession time: My first batch didn’t turn out well (the texture was too tough), mostly due to my laid back approach towards ingredient substitution. I didn’t have quite enough coconut milk as required by the recipe, so I topped it up with water instead.

Bad move.

I really, really, really, really hate wasting food but I did have to throw that lot out because even though it was edible, I wasn’t going to eat a whole tray of a coconut milk laden dessert by myself.

Second time around, I tried another substitution – this time involving evaporated milk, just to see if I could cut down on the coconut milk. I also cut down on the amount of tapioca starch and increased the rice flour to get a softer kuih. Success! There was a minor moment of prancing round the kitchen singing “I did it! I did it!

more kuih lapis

I also added a hint of lime to the flavouring. Lime isn’t a traditional addition to this kuih, but I needed to find an alternative after accidentally beheading my beloved pandan plant. (A long and sad story involving a jury-rigged winter shelter meant to protect the plant from the elements).

Even though the kuih turned out well, I am now faced with the dilemma of storing it. Once put in the fridge, the texture becomes “tougher”. A way to remedy this is to heat it up briefly in the microwave. And there is still a fair bit of kuih to get through even though I have help from the mini-critics this time round. So I’ve packed some away in the freezer and I’m hoping it will thaw out successfully. Fingers crossed.

Most importantly, what did Mr. Kitchen Hand think of all this?

The MKH Scale-O-Meter
(points out of 5)
Appearance: 3.5 (“Extra point for hysterically pro-Malaysia theme”)
Taste: 3.5 (“Started inoffensively and ended with a hint of charm”)
Texture: 1.5 (“This is kuih, what do you expect – a round of applause?”)

And just when I thought I was being highly original, I discovered another blogger had done the whole Kuih Lapis as flag thing well before me (but for American Independence Day instead). Check out Lily’s blog for a slightly different recipe).

Kuih Lapis
(the TWS version)
220g rice flour
80g tapioca flour
270 g coconut milk
130 g evaporated milk

200g sugar
½ cup water
grated rind of 1 lime + juice form ¼ lime (instead of the more traditional pandan leaves)

Sift rice flour and tapioca flour into a large bowl. Mix both the coconut and evaporated milk together. Make a well in the flour and pour in the milk mixture. Stir together until smooth.

Make syrup by heating sugar, water and lime rind and juice over medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved then remove from heat and set aside to cool for a little while.

(edit: forgot to mention when to add the syrup to the batter. Do it after the syrup has cooled, sitr until batter and syrup are well incorporated).

Prepare the steamer. The easiest way is to set a trivet/pot stand in the base of a wok and fill with water until just below the top of the pot stand. Bring water to a simmer and cover with lid.

Divide the kuih lapis batter into 3 portions. 1 small portion – about ¾ cup for the topmost layer and 2 equal portions for the other layers. Colour the topmost layer bright red (or whatever colour you want). Colour another portion light red/ pink and leave the last portion white.

kuih lapis ingredientsThis is from attempt no. 1. I also tried experimenting with the flavour and added pureed raspberry to the red layer - not worth doing.

Lightly oil a baking tin/ other heatproof mould. Pour a little of the white batter into the tin then steam for about 5 minutes or until set (otherwise the layers will merge into each other).

whole kuih lapis

Remove from steamer and pour in some of the pink batter and steam for about 4/5 minutes. Continue this pouring and steaming, alternating the layers as you go. After the final layer has been added, steam for slightly longer 8-10 minutes to make sure it is cooked. Occasionally wipe down the lid of the wok so that condensation doesn’t drip back into the kuih lapis.

Let the kuih cool and cut into diamonds or any other shapes that take your fancy.

F is for Friday and Friends

Friday, August 28, 2009

cherry cupcake1
There’s really not much of Friday left. I meant to post this in the morning but it was such a glorious day that we went to the beach instead (apparently this is the warmest August on record - sorry planet).

I love Fridays for all the usual reasons, but I also love it because it’s the day I catch up with a lovely group of gals. What started out as a sort of postnatal support group has turned into a true circle of friends and we have caught up every Friday for the past 6 years, almost without fail.

The girls are great for a laugh (and for serious conversations), but they’re also great taste-testers. These cherry cupcakes with cinnamon white chocolate ganache got the thumbs up.

So here’s to friends, both old and new (in the wonderful world of the blog), and here’s to cherry cupcakes. (Apparently, cherry cakes are good for hangovers too )

Cinnamon cherry cupcakes
(makes about 12 large cupcakes)
A TWS Original

225g flour
190g sugar
200g butter (softened)
3 eggs
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
60ml (1/4 cup) cherry juice (save from thawing if using frozen cherries)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

About 24 cherries (pitted) (I used my last batch of frozen cherries)
Chopped white chocolate (about 20 g)

If using frozen cherries, thaw overnight in fridge, in a sieve set over a bowl to catch the juices. Pit the cherries and sandwich a small piece of white chocolate between each cherry.
(I found the sandwiched white chocolate wasn’t that noticeable for the amount of effort involved, so I’d actually skip this step in future and just throw some white chocolate bits into the finished cake batter)


Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds to mix.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs lightly and stir in cherry juice.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the butter and half the egg mixture. Beat on low until the flour is moistened (and won’t fly up all over the kitchen), then beat on high for about a minute or two until it’s well mixed. Scrape down sides, add the rest of the egg mixture and beat well (about 1 minute).

Spoon batter halfway into cupcake cases, pop two cherries onto each cupcake, then add more batter to cover the cherries.

batter with cherries

Bake until golden (about 15 minutes – check after 10).

cooked cupcakes
Cool on wire rack and ice with white chocolate ganache.

I piped on the ganache swirls for the photos, then found that the ratio of icing to cake made it too sweet. So I just used an offset spatula to ice the rest of the cupcakes – not as photogenic but much tastier.

more cherry cupcakes

(I made a basic white chocolate ganache and flavoured it with a pinch of cinnamon. Completely forgot to write down my measurements for the ganache, which is why there is no recipe. Ganache is usually equal parts cream to chocolate).

havaianas on beachHave a great weekend !

Dobos over the Danube : Daring Bakers Aug 09

Thursday, August 27, 2009

small dobos torte
Challenge number two and I went for style over substance this time around.

But first:
The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugarand Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

And I think in my overexcited state when posting my first ever Daring Baker’s Challenge, I may have not have observed proper blogger etiquette. (I’m pleading noob status ok?). So a big thank you goes out to Lisa of La Mia CUcina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice founders of the Daring Bakers.

What is a Dobos Torte? According to the information supplied by our lovely hostesses : “The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties”

Even though the initial recipe looked extremely daunting, it was actually quite a simple cake to assemble if broken down into parts. First make the sponge (which could be refrigerated or frozen), then the buttercream, then the caramel.

I’d never tasted a Dobos Torte before, so first time round I followed each part of the recipe exactly, just downsized the portions to create a mini-5 layer torte. I’m glad I did this because I found the buttercream too rich and sweet and I’m really not that into caramel.

Then it was time to play experiment. Inspired by a comment on the DB forums about “leaning towers of Dobos”, I started thinking about landmarks. What better landmark to attempt than the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge? Then I thought – but it’s a Hungarian cake! So a quick Google and I found an image for a bridge in Hungary : the Chain Bridge.

harbour bridge torte 1

harbour bridge torte 2
Here is my attempt at bridging the gap (groan all you want) between two cultures – a Hungarian cake built by a Sydneysider. (I was really keen to make the Malaysian Twin Towers as well, but then I ran out of steam).

Instead of buttercream, I used a Sour Cream Ganache (fitting for a Hungarian cake yes?) and I was going to add paprika to the caramel too, but I forgot. I probably should have brushed the sponge layers with a bit of syrup or liquer too, but the sponge is surprisingly fluffy and not as dry as it looks. A container full of the deconstructed bridge that I sent off to hubby’s workplace came back sparklingly empty so I guess there were no complaints.

chain bridge torte1chain bridge torte2

The following is a brief description of how I made the bridges, I hope it’s clear enough but feel free to email me if you want a longer explanation.. Please take a peek at what the other Daring Bakers have come up with too .

layers of torte
First bake the sponge layers on large sheet pans. The cut out the layers using a template (I used folded up baking paper to make a rectangle that would fit this pan). Assemble the layers of sponge and ganache in a baking pan lined with plastic wrap. After all the layers are done, cover with wrap and place in fridge for half an hour or so to firm up - this helps with the cutting

making the shapesUsing baking paper shapes as a guide, cut out the required shapes to build required landmark. Top with more ganache and hazelnuts and caramel shapes.

Dobos Torte
Sponge cake layers

* 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
* 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
* 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
* pinch of salt
Chocolate Buttercream
* 4 large eggs, at room temperature
* 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
* 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
* 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

* 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
* 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
* 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

* a 7” cardboard round
* 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
* 1⁄2 cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Bake to the future*

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

all about buns and scones

A parcel arrived in the mail the other day and a wave of nostalgia swept over me when the contents spilled out. Mum, my most enthusiastic (and only? ;) ) blog follower had decided to post over a few recipe booklets she thought I’d find handy.

One of these was a 1957 booklet for Stork margarine (The Stork Cookery Service) titled “All about buns and scones”. Within the pages, Mum had slipped a note detailing how her classmate had given her the book back when they were 18 year olds. Awww…

I remembered leafing through this book many times when I was younger but I don’t remember making anything from the recipes then. No time like the present eh?

The following blackberry “bun” recipe went down particularly well with (almost) everyone. (Mini critic junior didn’t like them - but she really liked the rock cakes from the same book, maybe I’ll post that recipe soon).

Here’s to “old” recipes!

Blackbberry Buns
(these are actually filled scones)
adapted from All about buns and scones (The Stork Cookery Service)
Makes about 18 small buns or 12 large ones.

8oz (8 heapeds tablespoons) self-raising flour and a pinch of salt
3 ozs butter (the original recipe calls for Stork margarine of course)
3 ozs (3 rounded tablespoons) sugar
1 egg
5 tablespoons milk
Finely grated rind of 1 orange (or lemon if preferred)
12 (or 18) small teaspoons jam (I used blackberry )

Preheat oven to 400˚F (I estimated it to be around 180˚C)

Cover a baking tray with baking paper.

Sieve flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into small cubes. Gently rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. I find that holding my hands high above the bowl helps to keep the mixture fine. This way, I resist the temptation to "squash" the butter.
Stir in the sugar and rind into flour mixture.

Beat egg lightly with milk. Make a well in the flour mix and pour in the egg mixture. Mix into a soft dough. I used a flexible rubber spatula for mixing the dough

Divide dough into 12 equal balls (sprinkle flour onto work surface if needed). Flatten slightly, put a teaspoon of jam in the middle and seal. Place on tray seam side down.

scone with filling

Brush tops of buns with some milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in oven until golden and cooked (about 20 minute according to instructions, but I found mine only needed about 15).

baked sconesBunfight survivors

(Scones are usually meant to be eaten the day they are made. These didn’t last too long but the few we had the next day still tasted great.)

*(thank you Mr. Kitchen Hand for the post title)

Malaysian Monday : Sago Gula Melaka

Monday, August 24, 2009

sago gula melaka
Is it Monday already? I feel as if I’ve blinked and lost a whole month. The summer-like weather we’ve been experiencing in Sydney has also added to the feeling of things speeding up. My daughter keeps reminding me that it’s only three more months until Christmas (according to 6 year old maths, you don’t count the month you’re in or the month that includes Christmas).

So here we are again at another Malaysian Monday, attempting to persuade Mr Kitchen Hand to eat a malaysian dessert.

This Sago Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar Sago) proved really tricky to photograph well but the making of the dessert is super simple albeit a little time consuming (it requires chilling time).

Sago Gula Melaka is actually just a set mould of sago, served with coconut milk and a gula melaka (dark palm sugar) syrup. There are so many recipes out there for Sago Gula Melaka, but most of them are just variations of how much water, sugar or coconut milk to use in the dessert. It’s all a matter of taste. When we were kids this meant drowning the sago in tons of the gula melaka syrup and adding very little (if any) coconut milk.

I’ve thrown together my version without really referring to a recipe as such, but I’ve outlined my measurements and method below. Feel free to re-mix it your way. (A lot of Malaysian cooking involves “agak-agak” (literally guess-guess)measurements anyway, and because a lot of desserts are not baked, the exactness of measurements aren’t as crucial.)

And did Mr. Kitchen Hand like it? The results please….

The MKH Scale-O-Meter (scores out of 5)

Appearance: 2.5 “Elegantly presented biological material”
Texture: 2 “It’s slimy and it’s cold!”
Taste: 2.5 “Started off nice but then ended up really weak – the sago is flavourless”
Ah well, there’s always next Monday. Have a great week ahead and do drop by soon ☺

Sago Gula Melaka
(makes 4 small dessert portions)

(For the sago)
1 cup sago (approx. 175g)
6-8 cups water
To serve: Canned or fresh coconut milk with a pinch of salt added.

(For the gula melaka syrup)
About 25g gula melaka roughly chopped.
1 tablespoon caster sugar
½ cup water.
(Place all ingredients in small saucepan, Stir until sugars are dissolved. Simmer gently until reduced and syrupy)

Method for sago

1) Lightly oil 4 small jelly moulds or similar, or one large mould. (My aunty always makes this in a tin shaped like a rabbit.)
2) In a large pot, bring the 6 -8 cups of water to the boil.
3) In a bowl, lightly wash the sago pearls, then drain in a sieve. Give it a light rinse to remove excess starch.
4) When the water is boiling, add the sago pearls stirring all the while to stop the sago from sinking and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to a medium simmer.

sago pearls in pot
5) Stir the sago often, it will release a lot of starch. Cook until the sago pearls are transparent. This can take up to half an hour depending on how much water is in the pot and the cooking temperature.

sago pearls almost done
6) Drain the cooked sago in a heat proof sieve and rinse under cold water to remove excess starch again. The aim is to get visible pearls rather than a lump of starch.You will probably need to do this in batches.

draining the sago pearls
7) Tip into moulds, cover and refrigerate overnight – if you prefer a firmer sago, you can leave uncovered in the fridge to dry out and firm up a bit.

Serve with coconut milk and syrup on the side so that everyone can have as much or as little as they want.

Saffron Cupcakes for a fabulously forty friend

Friday, August 21, 2009

saffron cupcakes in box

A good friend hit the big 4-Oh last week, and of course I baked. Time was tight so I decided on cupcakes, but I wanted them to be really celebratory hence the saffron. For some reason, when I think of saffron, the word association that springs to my mind is yoghurt. So I adapted a Greek Yoghurt Cake recipe by Jill Dupleix(New Food).

This led to more word association and in came pistachios. There’s a Pistachio Marzipan recipe in The Cake Bible(Rose Beranbaum) that I’d always wanted to try.

The actual cupcakes were pretty straightforward to make – even thought they were a bit “peaky”. The taste of saffron was obvious but not overpowering and the colour was a gorgeous shade of yellow.

Then marzipan happened…
cracked pistachio marzipanArrgghhh - marzipan!

I usually find the Cake Bible recipes very easy to follow and virtually foolproof. But this marzipan – lordy! It ended up really sticky and hard to roll and just very difficult to work with. In all fairness, it was probably something I did wrong. The pistachios took forever to grind in the food processor - I'm talking over 20 mins here (with stops so my processor wouldn't die). So maybe they weren’t paste-like enough before I started. Also, I had to substitute glucose syrup for the corn syrup required, maybe that was the culprit. (It tasted really good though, very pistachio-ey).

Anyway, I managed to roll it out enough to make circles for the top of the cake.

Alack! Alack! Cake + marzipan = too dry. D’oh! Quickly I whipped up a simple buttercream flavoured with honey, popped that onto the cake, then topped it off with the marzipan layer and a quick flower cut from modelling paste. Finally a silver cachon to finish and it didn’t look too bad at all.

pretty saffron cupcakae

I was pleased the overall flavour combination worked but best of all, the birthday girl was very happy with her cupcakes and that was all that mattered. Have a great year ahead Yosh!

Btw if you've noticed changes around my links etc, that's just because I've been stuffing around (Aussie technical term) trying to find a layout that I'm happy with. I can't help it, I'm a tweaker.

Saffron Yoghurt Cakes
(tweaked from Greek Yoghurt Cake by Jill Dupleix. Makes 18 medium cupcakes)

150 g butter
100g sugar
pinch of saffron
3 eggs separated
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g honey
150 g yoghurt

about 150g flour (although a commentor used 200g and it still worked) - sorry for leaving this out earlier.

Heat oven to 180˚C.

In a dry pan, lightly toast saffron until it smells good.

Mix yoghurt and honey together, then crumble the saffron into the mixture and set aside.

saffron in yoghurt

Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat well.

Sift dry ingredients twice, add half to the butter mixture and mix well. Add half the yoghurt mixture and mix to combine. Repeat process until all the flour and yoghurt has been mixed in.

Beat egg whites until stiff and peaky and fold gently into mixture.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake until golden or lightly springs back when touched.

Cool on wire racks and ice with honey buttercream icing.

(I'm lowbrow when it comes to buttercream - I've tried the mousseline style ones but I really, really like just sugar and butter in my buttercream)

uniced saffron cupcakesThe cakes peaked a bit even though I'm quite sure I checked the oven temp

Honey buttercream icing
(makes enough to cover 18 medium cupcakes)

100g butter (softened)
125 icing sugar
1 tbsp honey. (don’t use a honey that is too overpowering or you won’t be able to taste the saffron)

Beat butter until fluffy. Add icing sugar and beat until sugar is well incorporated. Add honey and beat well.

The Oopsie Slushie

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

green apple and jasmine granita

Cute name aside, this recipe really was heading downhill until I hit upon the idea of turning it into a drink. You see, I was actually attempting to make a sorbet – without an ice-cream machine. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a bit of a “jump-in-the-deep-end” kind of gal. I’d never made a sorbet before but how hard could it be? Um, a little bit hard apparently.

The whole thing started with jasmine. Thanks to the warmer weather, the Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) bush in the garden had started to flower. I’d been raring to try a very interesting technique to make perfumed water with jasmine flowers, as described by David Thompson in his book Thai Food (method below).

jasmine flowers

Inspired by my recent granita success, I thought I’d use the perfumed water to make a sorbet flavoured with green apple. This is where things started going a bit pear shaped (or apple shaped as the case may be). I had every intention of beating the sorbet mixture every hour for as long as it took but I’d started the process a little bit late in the evening. So I only managed four mixings/beatings before I went to bed – thinking I’d wake up and give it a good mix with the beaters and it would be still ok. The sorbet had other ideas. What I succeeded in making was an extremely smooth granita but a granita nonetheless.

Okaaaay, I could live with a granita instead of a sorbet, but then I tasted it. Have you ever had that happen? The effort, the anticipation, the hope, then the disappointment as the item you made didn’t taste anything like you’d imagined it would.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t taste bad but the flavours just weren’t working well together. I was hoping the green apple would have given an acid balance to the floral jasmine but the overall taste was one of overwhelming sweetness. And the apple flavour seemed to be jostling for supremacy against the jasmine scent.

Luckily, a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of soda water later – the problem was solved! And we even jazzed it up just for the adults by adding lime juice instead of lemon and a dash of rum. Mojito anyone?

the slushie

icy mojito version
Jasmine and green apple granita
(I’m posting the recipe anyway with the caveat that it is too sweet. Maybe you can re-mix it your way and let me know if you come up with a better flavour combo).

Perfumed Water
(abridged from Thai Food by David Thompson. I made a half portion using 11/2 cups water and 5 jasmine flowers.)
perfumed water
4 cups water
10 jasmine flowers or 1 cup less pungent flowers
2 ylang ylang flowers (optional)

Bring water to the boil. Cool then pour into a wide bowl.
Clean jasmine or other flowers then add to the water. If using ylang ylang flowers, briefly wilt them over a flame - this helps to release their perfume – before placing them in a small dish and floating them on the water. Seal bowl and leave overnight (I used a clean glass jar with a lid). Remove flowers before use.

- Cool boiled water absorbs more fragrance than straight tap water
- Only steep blossoms overnight as the fragrance becomes flat and dull after 24 hours.

jasmine in water
For the granita:
160g sugar
11/2 cups perfumed water
100ml green apple juice (from 1 green apple)

Instead of juicing the apple, I whizzed it in the food processor then sieved the mush to collect the juice – mainly because I couldn’t be bothered lugging out the juicer from the cupboard and cleaning it up afterwards.

Make a simple syrup by bringing the perfumed water and the sugar to a gentle simmer and stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cool a little, then stir in the apple juice. (May benefit from the addition of lemon juice at this point).

Place in a freezer proof container then put into freezer for about an hour. Check to see if ice has started to form around the edges of the container. Beat with a whisk or beaters, or if you don’t mind a grainier version use a fork to scrape the ice and mix the liquid and ice together. Put back in freezer. Repeat the beating/mixing process again in about an hour, then again in another hour. When happy with the granita’s consistency, cover and freeze until ready to serve.

(Apparently, with a sorbet, you’re meant to beat it every half hour or so until it is ready, but mine seemed to take forever to freeze which is when I gave up and went to bed).

Malaysian Monday: Kuih Ketayap

Monday, August 17, 2009

kuih ketayap inside

Kuih ketayap is a sweet Malaysian snack that may seem quite familiar because it is actually a filled crepe. The outer part of the kuih is a pancake flavoured with pandan, which is then wrapped around a filling made of coconut and palm sugar. (BTW, I’ve only recently realised that I’ve been pronouncing the word crepe wrong – it doesn’t rhyme with ape, oops).

Why is it called Kuih Ketayap? The Ketayap (a.k.a Kopiah), is a type of headwear similar to a skullcap, worn by Muslim men. The patterns on the lacy crepe do look a little like the patterns on a ketayap. Kuih Ketayap is also sometimes called Kuih Gulung (gulung is the Malay word for roll) or Kuih Dadar (I’m not 100% sure but I think dadar refers to the way the pancake is cooked).

trio of ketayapThe patterns on kuih ketayap

I find a recipe for Kuih Ketayap in a little book called “Hawkers Flavours – A guide to Penang Hawkers Food” (published by S. Abdul Majeed and Co). My dear mum, fearing that I would starve to death in unknown climes, had tucked this book into my luggage when I first moved to Sydney over a decade ago.

After following the recipe to the letter, I decide to go out on a limb and make my own completely untraditional chocolate version too.

And did Mr. Kitchen Hand find the Kuih Ketayap to his liking?

The MKH Scale-O-Meter (Scores out of 5)
Aesthetic appeal: 2. “It’s kind of limp green”
Texture: 1 for the exterior pancake (Bit too “rubbery” ) and 3.5 for the filling “Nice and chewy."
Taste: 3. “I’m a sucker for coconut.”

He also liked the chocolate version because “the crepe was lighter and softer, it had the slight bitterness from chocolate and the flavour combo worked well.”

Finally! Success in small doses. I consider it a success because even with his harsh marking of the dessert, Mr. Kitchen Hand and the two mini critics devoured all the kuih in one sitting.

Kuih Ketayap Recipe
(From Hawkers Flavours. I made half portions of the original recipe – makes about a dozen small kuih ketayap)

For the pancake
15 g pandan (screwpine) leaves (about 10 medium leaves)
(If unavailable just add a few drops of green food colouring)
125 ml water*
125 ml plain flour
1 egg
1tsp oil
green food colouring (optional)

For the filling
125g fresh grated coconut (I used the coconut I froze from this recipe. You can also use dessicated coconut instead, but the texture will be a bit different.)
80g gula melaka (a dark palm sugar made from the sap of the coconut tree – substitute with palm sugar or brown sugar if unavailable)
(I also needed about ¼ cup water and a pinch of soda bicarbonate)

gula melakaDark palm sugar (Gula Melaka)

Make the filling first so that it can cool. Put the coconut and the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and cook over medium heat. Add a little bit of water (about ¼ cup or so) to help dissolve the sugar and mix with the coconut. Simmer gently and stir often to prevent burning. Cook until the sugar caramelises, the coconut is tender and the mixture becomes thick and jamlike. I found that after 20 minutes of cooking, my coconut was still quite tough so I added a pinch of soda bicarbonate to the mix. I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect but it seemed to do the trick.

Method for the pancake:

Grind pandan leaves in a mortar and pestle (traditional way), or whiz in food processor until fine. Sieve and collect the resulting green juice, discard solids.

Beat the egg lightly with the oil. Sift flour into bowl, make a well in the centre, then pour in the beaten egg. Mix lightly, then add the water and pandan juice and mix well using a whisk until batter is smooth. (I also added a few drops of green food colouring to boost the colour). The original recipe doesn’t say to do so, but let the batter stand for about an hour).

Lightly oil a small non-stick frypan (or crepe pan if you have one), and pour a small amount of batter onto the pan. Swirl and tilt the pan to get a circular pancake (I try very hard and only get one perfect circle!). If the batter is too thick add more water. Flip and cook on the other side as you would a crepe/pancake.

Put the cooled filling onto a cooked pancake and roll up. Repeat until all the filling is used up. Serve warm or cold.

step 1 ketayap rollingStep 1: Place a bit of filling on the crepe

step 2 ketayap rollingStep 2: Start rolling from one edge

ketayap side foldStep 3: Fold in two side edges

lots of ketayapTa Dah- All done, I may not pass a "lipat" (folding) test, but it'll do.

* [In the interests of adhering strictly to a traditional recipe, I’ve used water even though it makes for a heavier batter. Fresh milk is not a common traditional ingredient as Malaysia is not really a dairy producing country. A lot of Malaysian recipes call for canned evaporated milk or condensed milk. When I was growing up, we’d sometimes get a house call from a bicycling milkman - who sold fresh unpasteurised cows milk, but it wasn’t the most common occurrence. Of course, things have changed and both local and imported cartons of milk can now be found at the supermarket.]

Completely not traditional Chocolate Kuih Ketayap
(Filling recipe my own. For the crepe recipe, I look through many books and end up adapting from recipes in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion and The Margaret Fulton Cookbook ).

chocolate kuih ketayap
For the filling
45g desiccated coconut (about ½ cup)
30 g brown sugar (about 2 Tbsp)
Pinch of cinnamon powder (optional)

Cook the coconut according to the method above. I didn’t feel the need to add any soda bicarbonate this time.

For the chocolate crepes
100g flour
25g cocoa powder
2tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
pinch of salt.

Sift flour, cocoa powder and sugar into bowl. Warm milk and butter in microwave (or on the stove) until butter is melted , stir in the salt. Make well in flour, add beaten eggs and mix partially. Add the milk mixture and mix thoroughly with whisk until smooth. Let batter stand for 2 hours. Cook as above.

Serve with ice cream.

(I’d also made a ganache from 60g coconut cream and 60g chocolate just to see if it could be done. It worked and I got a thick ganache but I wasn’t impressed with the taste. The chocolate was too strong and I couldn’t taste the coconut at all. The ganache texture wasn’t as smooth and when I tried to warm it up a little in the microwave, it went all oily on me. Lucky it was only a small batch!)

Have a great start to the week and come back soon to check out the next Malaysian Monday instalment.

Custard Apple Panna Cotta

Friday, August 14, 2009

custard apple side view
custard apple top view
I always think the custard apple looks a little bit dangerous – like a hand grenade maybe (not that I’ve seen a hand grenade up close before). But looks can be deceiving because it’s a big softie at heart.

What am I going on about? Custard apples (or Nona as they are known in Malaysia) are one of those fruits that you can eat only when it’s gone all soft and squishy. When it's ready, the pale green outer skin starts turning black and there is a slight give to the fruit when pressed. I used to have a little Nona tree when I was growing up, and we’d know the fruit was ripe when it split a little near the stem end.

The flavour is quite mild and sweet, with an underlying earthiness. Texture-wise, it’s creamy yet occasionally fibrous in parts (especially around the seeds), with some graininess similar to a pear thanks to sclereids (stone cells). There, I knew my biology degree would come in handy one day - if only to show off on a blog!

Usually we just eat it “straight”, but after consulting my Cook’s Companion (Stephanie Alexander) and getting some flavour inspiration, I decided to try using the custard apple to make a panna cotta.

And because my first attempt at tuile making had gone so well, I decided to try some lacy tuiles to sit atop the finished panna cotta.

custard apple panna cottaCustard apple panna cotta and lacy coconut tuile

Custard Apple Panna Cotta

(A TWS original)

(Makes 4 small pots)

300ml thin cream
200 ml milk
¼ cup sugar (or less depending on taste)
Flesh from 1 medium custard apple, seeds removed
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
1 tsp lime juice
2 titanium strength gelatin leaves (you can also use gelatin powder – read instructions on packet to work out how much to use – the gelatin leaves I used had a ratio of 1 leaf per 250g liquid).

Soak gelatin leaves in cold water.

Whizz custard apple flesh and 1 teaspoon lime juice in food processor till fine. Push the resulting mixture through sieve to remove the fibrous bits.

inside custard appleInside the custard apple

Put cream, milk and sugar into saucepan, stir to dissolve sugar then scald (bring to just below boiling point). Remove from heat.

Squeeze gelatin leaves and add to hot cream mixture, stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Put a spoonful of the cream mixture into the custard apple flesh and stir to loosen. Put the flesh into the cream mixture and stir well.

Pour into lightly oiled panna cotta moulds (I didn’t have any, I just used 200ml custard pots), stirring between each mould to prevent the custard apple flesh from sinking to the bottom.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until set (if shaken, it will have a slight wobble).

Dip briefly in hot water to unmold. Serve with lime slices and coconut tuiles.

I found this dessert best eaten on the day it is made. The longer it is refrigerated, the “tougher” it gets. The flavour of the custard apple is noticeable, and also the graininess of the stone cells can be felt – not in an off-putting way, but it gives a bit of character to the panna cotta.

I also found the dessert a bit sweet, which is why I served it with lime to help cut the richness.

lime slices
Lime slices
Slice a lime thinly, sprinkle a tiny bit of caster sugar onto the lime slices and set aside until needed.

For the tuiles, I used a recipe from

The tuiles make great snacks on their own too.

Oh-oh oranges and friends – trio of granitas

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

granita mountain

There was an avalanche pending from the citrus mountain that had accumulated in the fruit bowl. Due to my enthusiasm in trying to provide a variety of winter fruit, we’d ended up with tangelos, mandarins, oranges and blood oranges. Not to mention the candied cumquats that were still in the fridge.

The unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having here in Sydney provided the inspiration to transform my citrus bounty into an icy cool treat. A trio of granitas to be precise. I don’t do ice-cream, nor own an ice-cream maker, but granitas are super simple to make. And great for using up overabundant oranges!

Trio of Granitas
(Blood Orange, Cumquat and Tangelemon)
granita in tubs
To start this recipe, I made a light sugar syrup consisting of ½ cup caster sugar dissolved in 1 cup boiling water. I didn’t even have to turn on the stove, just the electric kettle.

Blood orange granita ingredients : Juice from 1½ blood oranges, light sugar syrup

Method: Strain juice into a measuring jug. Add enough sugar syrup to make up to ¾ cup. Pour into a freezer proof container. Put into freezer for about two hours, then check to see if ice has started to form around the edges of the container. Use a fork to scrape the ice and mix the liquid and ice together. Put back in freezer. Repeat the fork scraping process again in about an hour or two (depending on iciness of mixture – make sure it doesn’t freeze into a hard lump or it won’t have the texture of granita). Cover container and return to freezer. Scrape up with fork again before serving. (You can repeat the scraping process a few times to get a finer granita if preferred).

Cumquat granita ingredients : ¼ cup candied cumquats and syrup(I had some from this recipe)

Method: Finely chop any pieces of cumquats. Put the cumquat pieces and syrup into measuring jug, make up to ¾ cup with plain water (The cumquat syrup is sweet enough). Follow method above.

Tangelemon granita ingredients: Juice from 1 tangelo and ½ lemon. Follow method for blood orange granita.

granita on spoon
How simple is that? You can vary the quantity of syrup and the fruit juices to suit your taste. Or even make a grown up alcoholic version like Megan from Feasting on Art.

Hurry up summer!