Subtitle: An experiment in fermentation
Hi all, today’s Malaysian Monday is a record of my experiment over the weekend, rather than a proper recipe.
This kuih (generic term meaning snack/cake) has many permutations. Some versions are made using Eno (antacid salts), while others make use of creaming soda as a raising agent. The hallmark of a good kuih apam is the “split” at the top of the cake, some refer to it as the “smile”.
(accidentally tipped too much colour in the mix- it was meant to be a soft pink!)
Mum had actually collected quite a few apam recipes in her handwritten notebooks, but I had bookmarked this particular recipe because the method really appealed to my inner nerd. The method involves fermenting cold cooked rice, then adding rice flour, sugar and water to this mix.
The recipe itself was a bit vague, so I kind of made it up as I went along. Here’s how it went:
Placed 1 cup of cooked rice (cooled) and about 1 teaspoon yeast (I used instant dried yeast) in a bowl. I also added a couple of tablespoons of water, just enough to moisten the rice. Covered with plastic wrap and left to ferment for about 48 hours (the recipe says two days).
After day 1: the bowl was slightly warm to the touch, a bit of moisture had condensed on the plastic wrap, but the rice still looked “ricey”. The mixture smelt yeasty but sweet. I wondered if the fermentation process was a bit slow as it’s autumn and the kitchen was quite cool.
After day 2: More pronounced yeasty smell, rice still in grains. Suddenly occurred to me that maybe the yeast was old (didn’t check it first). Looked at box and expiry date: 11 May 2010. *slapped forehead.* Never mind, I pressed on.
Blitzed the rice with about 250ml water, in the food processor. Water sloshed everywhere. Note to self: Use the blender next time!
Poured watery mix into clean bowl, added half a teaspoon of (almost expired) yeast, and half a cup of sugar. Left overnight (about 8 hours)
Day 3: Ah, this looked promising. Realised that not all the rice had been blitzed, so poued this mix through a sieve and pushed the rice through with a spoon. Long tedious process which earned me a blister.
Added 1 cup rice flour and another half a cup of sugar. Stirred it well, then covered and left for about 2 hours.
Next, I lightly oiled some teacups, half filled it with the mix and placed in a steamer. I steamed it until it was cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre came out with a few sticky crumbs, taste the crumbs, it should taste cooked. The cake itself is going to be sticky)
Only one of the cakes in this batch had a split.
Worked out that I probably needed to fill the cups a bit more. Tried again, and …eureka!
(That is MC Junior's finger - she' was laying claim to the one she wanted)
Happily, it was a pretty successful experiment, and best of all, the kuih tasted close to what I remember from childhood. The texture of this kuih is slightly sticky yet spongy, almost like a cross between a mochi cake and a cupcake. Surprisingly, the mini-critics adored this, they called it “sticky buns” and kept asking for more. The kuih does smell a bit “fermenty” and can take some getting used to.
They are actually best eaten warm, and on the day they are made because they don’t keep well. If put in the fridge, the kuih go rock hard - although the texture can be revived with a very quick blast in the microwave.
I’ll definitely revisit this kuih again, maybe exploring some of the other methods.
(Attempted some mini versions too, using a muffin pan. Again, I underfilled the cases, so not much splitting happened)
A quick note on the fermentation process: if the mixture smells “off” or looks strange, throw it out. Err on the side of caution, I don’t want to be responsible for sending anyone to the ER!
Have a great start to the week!