This post may contain sweetness (DB April)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We were presented with a  real sweet challenge this month. I’ll let the blog-checking lines do the talking:

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

I struggled for ideas, and after seeing some of the mind-blowing creations posted by the other Daring Bakers, I’m feeling a little shy about posting my efforts.

We’d been rather busy, so I knew I didn’t have much time to bake a creative container. It needed to be relatively fast, and use minimal ingredients. So I made caramel baskets. You’ll find heaps of info on the net for how to make these things, and the usual advice is to make them on the back of an oiled ladle. But I tried it this way about six times and could not remove the caramel from the back of the spoon, it kept breaking. Highly frustrating!

This way leads to madness

Luckily, I found a great piece of advice in The Cake Bible. Over an upturned mould (a heatproof bowl or cup), gently smooth some aluminium foil, making sure to get it under the mould. Try not to let too many wrinkles or folds develop as this can catch the sugar making it hard to remove. Then oil the foil liberally, and drip the caramel onto it.

When set, carefully unfold the foil, and peel it away from the caramel strands. I found bunching the foil towards the centre was the best way to go. Also, using a mould with a smaller base than a mouth worked best.

But we all know how temperamental caramel can be, add the teeniest bit of liquid and it starts to melt all over itself. So I needed a protective layer between the mousse and the caramel. Simplest solution I could think of? A chocolate cone. To make this, make a baking paper cone, and balance it in a cup in the fridge to chill. I stapled the paper to hold it together, make sure the staple is high enough away so it doesn’t get coated in chocolate. Melt some chocolate (temper it if you will, I didn’t because I intended to store the cone in the fridge anyway), then pour it into the cold cone and swirl it around. Return to fridge to set.  Peel off paper when ready to use.

After I finished, I felt like I needed to do more. So I melted more sugar and stirred in some toasted hazelnuts to make praline. I then blitzed the praline to a powder, put teaspoonfuls of the powder into a circular shape on some baking paper, and baked it at about 180˚C until the praline melted and melded together. Then I removed the circles and put in muffin cups to cool, like making tuiles.

Which is how this next basket came about.  The dried fruit garnish is from a failed attempt to dry them into a container shape.

Realised I didn't take a photo of the praline tuile-cups, you can just sort of make it out in there.

By this stage, my tongue was crying out for relief from all the sweetness. So I made more caramel. Go figure. Actually, there was a method to my madness, I added ground coffee beans and sesame seeds to this lot, so the caramel had a bitter edge.  Voila, another container was born.

This one with a lid too.

The lid actually had a teeny bit of foil stuck inside, oops.

But the base was definitely edible, and I ate it all up :) You can see coffee bean flecks in the caramel, and some mousse remnants at the bottom of the container.

Then I was done.

And before I go, please do remember to check out what the other Daring Bakers have made. You can find the recipe for the maple mousse at The Daring Kitchen, or on Evelyne's blog (both linked at start of post).

See you!

Macaron Monday : Surprisingly chocolate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Surprise! Bet you thought you were going to find a Malaysian Monday post right?

Please accept my apologies, I’ve spent the long, and slightly wet, weekend cooking and baking. But didn’t get around to any Malaysian dishes.

Instead, I made some macarons for Macattack #18. Deeba and Jamiechallenged us to “create something sensational, surprising, unique, something beautiful, delectable, tantalizing, something worthy of a Mac Attack!”. We had to include chocolate in some form, whether in the shells or the filling.

Frankly, I was struggling for ideas, and stuck for time. Whilst rummaging through the freezer for my egg white hoard, I found some dark chocolate ganache, and some white chocolate “buttercream”.  Hmmm, an idea began to form. There wasn’t much of either icing, but what if I used them together? A dark and white layer? But that was hardly very surprising was it? How about adding a hidden surprise in the middle of the macaron?

I ran through various possibilities in my head, and rejected them all. Caramel dipped hazeluts? Too sweet. Candied lemon? No time to make. Dried orange segments? Been there, done that. Time was running out, but then I remembered that I’d stashed a couple of pomegranates in the vegetable crisper before we left on our holiday. At first, things didn’t look promising, the pomegranates had turned all leathery and sad-looking, but when I peeled them, glossy, juicy bright red arils tumbled out. Hooray!

So, I made a spiced macaron shell, and sandwiched a couple of the tangy arils between the chocolate cream layers. Ta-da, enter the cinammon, chocolate, pomegranate macaron. Perfection. “Like a party in my mouth,” was Mr. Kitchen Hand’s comment.

I served them up to dinner guests, and everyone agreed the pomegranates really added a lovely kick, a counterpoint to balance the sweetness. I’d actually made half the macarons without the pomegranates, which paled in comparison. So we ended up opening each macaron to check, and added our own arils to the ones we found lacking :)

I accidentally smushed the arils into the bottom layer when I cut it, but you get the general idea. :)

For the shells, I used a basic macaron recipe by Tartelette, converted/reduced it to 2 egg whites, and just added a teaspoonful of cinnamon to the ground almond/icing sugar mixture. You all probably know how to make ganache, and unfortunately I can’t remember how I made the white-chocolate “buttercream”. I was experimenting at the time, but I do know it’s not a proper buttercream, it’s just a simple icing sugar and butter version, with melted white chocolate beaten into it.

That was a fun challenge, thanks Deeba and Jamie! Don’t forget to check out what the other mac-attackers came up with.

Also, don’t forget that my friend Suresh over at 3 Hungry Tummies is collecting entries for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up. Do send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Have a lovely start to the week.

It’s been a while, Crocodile.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hi everyone! Miss me?

We had a lovely break and it’s time for the requisite holiday snaps. The reason we went off on our little jaunt was to attend the wedding of Mr. Kitchen Hand’s brother. Yup, I’ve scored a brand new sister-in-law, hooray! :)

My new sister-in-law

It was a beautiful little wedding, small (just family and a couple of friends) and absolutely perfect. Everyone contributed something to the day, and I brought cupcakes. But I’ll save that for another post.

Right now I want to tell you about pie. When Aussies think of pie, we don’t usually mean fruity baked desserts. Yes, we do eat apple pie/ other fruit pie, but usually when we say pie, we mean a meat pie. The meat pie is ubiquitous and can be eaten for lunch or a snack. There are even bacon and egg versions for breakfast.

Needless to say, you can find a pie shop almost everywhere. The quality of pie shops though can be a bit erratic, but you usually know you’ve picked a good one if there is a line out the door.

We’d driven past Hayden’s Pies in Ulladulla countless times on our trips down the coast to visit Mr. Kitchen Hand’s parents. And every time we did, we noticed how busy it was. This was certainly a place with a reputation. In fact, when we mentioned that we were thinking about stopping here, a close family member exclaimed, “Bl**dy oath! They do good pies!”.

They're flocking to the pies

The shop itself doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s situated in an industrial area, next to the Mitre 10 hardware store. There was plenty of free parking when we rocked up, and it wasn’t long before we were trying to make important pie decisions.

They do the usual suspects, eg: steak and mushroom and chunky beef, but they also do a range of very interesting sounding versions. I really, really wanted to try the butter chicken pie (served with minted yoghurt), but when I saw crocodile pie, I knew it was my duty to eat and report.

Service is fast, efficient and friendly. This must be a popular tourist stop because the person who served me handed over my change with a wish “to enjoy the rest of your holiday”.

Our haul of a meat and vegetable pastie, a spinach and ricotta frazzini (not sure what a frazzini actually is), a chunky beef pie, and a crocodile pie, plus tomato sauce, set us back $19.20. Not too bad value, it worked out just under $5 a head for lunch.

The inside of the pie shop was pretty busy, and we didn’t fancy sitting outside with a view of the car park and the highway, so we headed down to nearby Mollymook beach to savour our lunch. It’s only about 5 minutes away, and we were heading up that way anyway, plus it was a glorious warm day to boot. You could also head down to the harbour at Ulladulla, which is closer.


 A short way off, at Mollymook

On the plus side, there's a playground too.

On the drive down, the aroma of buttery pastry set our tummies growling, and the MC’s kept begging to bite into their pies. Such exquisite torture.

So what did crocodile pie taste like? Absobloominglutely brilliant! I’m not sure if it was because I was a bit nervous about eating it and not expecting much, or maybe I was really, really hungry. The filling was creamy, and I could see flecks of leek in it. You know that old joke about “tasting like chicken?”, well, this did actually taste a little like a very good chicken and leek pie, albeit with slightly stringy chicken. But it had an underlying slightly sweet, seafood flavour. I’ve had crocodile once before, a long time ago, and I remembered thinking that it tasted like a cross between chicken and prawn. Anyway, it was very good.

Crocodile pie

Also very good was the meat and veg. pastie. The spinach and ricotta thingy was given a good rating, and MC Junior declared her chunky beef “very tasty”. I tasted some, and although it was good, I still prefer the chunky beef at my local pie shop which I’ll have to post about sometime.

Chunky beef pie, Meat and veg. pastie

Spinach and ricotta frazzini

We polished off every single crumb, especially the flaky bits of pastry left over on the paper bags. Mmmmm.

Inside the pastie

No wonder the shop is always so busy! We’ll definitely make it a point to stop in again when we next head down the coast.

Hayden's Pies Restaurant.
166 Princes Hwy,
Ulladulla, 2539, Australia.
4455 7798

Look! We can make mud pies

Here are some holiday snaps. We went out on the Clyde River, on Pop Hand's boat.

Oyster leases on the Clyde River

Sea you later

Friday, April 15, 2011

I leave you with sea glass candy, you can find the recipe at Not So Humble Pie. When you're there, do check out the post on sugar science too, very informative.

That's where I learnt that the glucose syrup I use is probably the same as the corn syrup I see on many blogs. All this while, I thought they were two different ingredients!

(Edit: The green and brown ones are real sea glass. For comparison)

I'll be out of town for the next few days, and look forward to visiting you all when we get back.

Have a great weekend!

Malaysian Monday 70 : Siew Pao (Baked Pao)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hi everyone,

It’s school holiday time so posting will be slightly erratic for the next couple of weeks. We’re also going to have a very busy weekend coming up, so I probably won’t post anything next Monday.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a look at today’s MM dish. It’s a baked version of the chinese pao or steamed bun. Instead of a yeasted dough however, the “bun” is actually a pastry filled with cooked meat. The state of Seremban in Malaysia is home to some pretty famous siew pao.

I’d bookmarked this recipe in Mum’s hand-me-down recipe books ages ago, but hadn’t the courage to tackle it until now. The dish is actually not terribly hard to make, but the pastry involves the oil dough/ water dough rolling technique that I mentioned in the kaya puff post. There seems to be so many variations of the oil/ water dough recipes, I wasn’t sure if the recipe I had was going to work.

Well, it did, and it didn’t. Mainly because I chickened out and instead of using lard/ shortening as specified in the recipe, I substituted with butter. Usually, butter works quite well as a shortening substitute, but not here. Done correctly, the dough should be quite crisp, yet flaky. My pao ended up flaky, but not quite crisp enough. Anyone who has ever made pastry using lard will know the difference I’m talking about.

The filling, on the other hand, tasted very close to the real thing (it’s been years since I ate a siew pao, so my memory is a bit fuzzy). The filling is usually pork, but can also be made from chicken for a halal version (and obviously omit the lard in the pastry). I was actually using offcuts from previous dinners, and ended up using half chicken and half pork. Oopsily, I didn’t make quite enough filling, so ended up a little pastry heavy.

(Oops, too little filling)

Overall, I was pretty happy for a first attempt because the pao did look (and taste) like the ones I remembered. Now I just need to sort out the texture issues :)

Have a great start to the week, and don’t forget, my friend Suresh over at 3 Hungry Tummies will be hosting the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday roundup (#10), so please send your entries over to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Siew pao (Baked pao)

Make the filling first:

Chicken or pork - diced. (I used about half a cup/ 120g, but this wasn’t quite enough. I’d aim for at least 3/4 cup next time)
1/2 cup (70g) or about half a large red onion, diced
scant tablespoon each of dark soy sauce (caramel sauce) and light soy sauce
half a tablespoon of oyster sauce
half a teaspoon of sugar (or to taste)
(mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl)
1/2 tsp plain flour
salt if needed (I find that the soy sauces are enough for my tastebuds)
water if needed
vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoon frozen peas/ fresh if available and you feel like it.

(Dark soy sauce)

Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for about a minute and a half, or until translucent. Add the meat and fry until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes depending on heat. Add the sauces to the frying pan and stir. Then add about 2 tablespoons of water to the sauce bowl to “rinse” it out into the frying pan. Lower the heat, cover the pan, with the lid slightly ajar and simmer until all the sauce has almost evaporated and the meat is tender. This took about 15 minutes or so. Add the peas and stir well, then add the flour and stir until the remaining sauce thickens. Season with pepper (and salt if using). Cool and set aside until ready to use.

1 egg yolk mixed with a bit of milk for the eggwash.
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Oil dough
7 oz flour
5 oz lard or shortening

Mix the lard (I used softened butter) and flour together, using a spatula, then your hands if necessary, until a smooth dough is formed. Don’t overknead. Wrap in cligfilm until ready to use.

Water dough
8oz flour
2 tablespoons sugar (I did think it wasn’t sweet enough and would probably add a bi more next time)
3/4 cup water

Mix the flour and sugar together, then gradually stir in the water and knead lightly until a soft dough is formed.

Divide both lots of dough into 8 portions, shaped into little balls. I found that I would have preferred smaller pao and would have perhaps made 10 or 12, but that’s just because I like mini things.

Flatten a water dough ball slightly, and carefully enclose a butter dough ball completely into it, and seal. try not to trap too much air. With a rolling pin, flatten the whole water/oil dough ball flat, then use your fingers to carefully roll up from the edge closest to you, so you get a cigar shaped log. Turn the log a quarter turn so that the opening or mouth of the “cigar” faces you. Roll it flat with the rolling pin, then repeat the rolling with the fingers process to get a shorter log. Give it a quarte turn, then repeat the flatten/ roll process one more time. You should now have a short log. Carefully flatten it out into as circular a shape as possible, making the edges thinner than the middle. Place a little of the meat filling in the middle, wet the edges of the circle with a bit of water, then gather them together to seal, then give the top a little decorative twist.

(The flattening/ rolling process looks a bit like this)

Preheat the oven to about 180˚C. Place the prepared pastries onto a tray lined with baking paper, eggwash the tops (don’t omit this step or it won’t look good, and the eggwash adds touch of crispness), and bake until done.

Thumbs up for thumbprints.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do you ever get that urge? You know, that feeling of needing something sweet, and baked, and home made,RIGHT NOW! But the trouble is, you don’t now exactly what you want to bake or eat? And to make matters worse, the urge usually strikes at night, when it’s way too late to make anything complicated, or anything that requires chilling time (yeah, I’m talking about you choc-chip cookie).

If you’re looking at me funny right now, then you’re probably not from my tribe. But if you get it, here’s a great solution for those late-night-baking-munchy urges. Thumbprint cookies. I’d seen them around on American blogs but didn’t realise they were very, very similar to the Aussie jam drops.

After scouring the interweb, I went with a recipe from because it was rated highly by many users. I didn’t have any chocolate freckles (used in the recipe) so I just filled some of my cookies with chocolate buttons and some with jam. The thumbprints really hit the spot. Quick to make and you end up with lots to share if you make them quite small. 

After that batch had been eaten/ given away, I started obsessing about the many variations that could be possible with this simple cookie. I tried green tea in the dough which worked well, but I couldn’t decide what to put in the “hole” bit except for some slivered almonds so they didn’t end up very thumbprinty at all. Then I tried ground ginger in the dough, topped with some slices of crystallised ginger. Mmmm, yes!! (Mostly because I have a mild obsession with crystallised ginger at the moment).

Right, I’m off to dream about more flavour combinations. Suggestions welcome :)

(If you’re after  a recipe, I used this one, reduced the sugar to about 180g, added about a teaspoonful of ground ginger, and topped the holes with crystallised ginger slices.).

Muhibbah Malaysian Monday Round-Up #9

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Muhibbah Malaysian Monday. Quite hard to believe that we’re onto round-up number 9 already! Thank you to all of you who have joined us along the way. I still find it very exciting every time an entry pops up in my inbox, then when I follow the link to read the post, I end up feeling very fortunate and awed that such talented bloggers choose to join us time and time again.

Let’s explore the talent pool shall we?

First up, Lena who blogs at Frozen wings dishes up some home-made lemon chicken. Tangy and delicious.

She also made a dish of hot and sour trotters. Yes, those are feet! Porcine feet.

Next we have a new member, Janine who blogs at Not the Kitchen Sink. Welcome aboard Janine! She joins us with two entries. The first is Apam Balik, a favourite afternoon tea snack.

Then, when hunger pangs strike, try some speedy Muah Chee, another moreish snack.

Loyal Malaysian Monday-er Cheah from No Frills Recipes made a different type of snack called tau sar paeng which translates to Red Bean Biscuits. Golden and flaky pastry, need I say more?

Another regular, Sherie  (apologies for getting the name wrong at first!) from mameeemoomoo gave us three dishes. This one is called Mei Cai Kou Rou 梅菜扣肉 (Steamed Pork Belly with Mustard Greens) and it sounds delicious.

She also made that all time favourite: Nasi Lemak with Sambal Cili. Look at that mouthwatering pic!

If that’s not enough, here’s another mouth-watering pic of : Ipoh Hor Fun. When I received this link, I was so inspired I actually made it for dinner that night. Yum!

Another regular, Kristy from Kristy Gourmet, also contribute three dishes.

First, a snack of sesame glutinous rice balls. I love this snack and this one looks incredibly tempting.

 Next a dish that would have smelt heavenly when it was being cooked.
Kam heong black pepper chicken.

If you’ve ever been to yum cha (or dim sum), you’ll be familiar with this next dish called Loh Mai Gai. Kristy made a chicken version, and it looks perfect. I’d like some for breakfast :)

Put your hands together to welcome another new member. Veronica blogs at Quay Po Cooks, and she jumped on board with three sensational offerings.

There’s five-spiced pork rolls (lobak). How I miss this dish, and thanks to Veronica, I can now try it at home, yay!

Another dish I have to try at home is her Otak-otak. Funnily enough this dish translates as “brains-brains” not sure why, because it looks nothing like them! It tastes sensational though, and it’s a no-brainer (pun intended) to understand why it’s a popular snack.

Next up, she made Chwee kueh, a dish I am unfamiliar with. But it sounds very intriguing and one I want to try as soon as I can find a suitable mould. There's also a little information about one of her favourite childhood games.

Next up, we have another newcomer from I Live to Eat and Eat to Live. Come on down, Dave! He introduces us to a cookbook, and then makes Rendang Pahang (a beef rendang). Tummy growling yet?

Charmaine who blogs at From Our Kitchen joins us again with a very familiar dish: KL Hokkien Mee. A fast and tasty dinner winner.

And of course, Muhibbah Malaysian Monday would never have eventuated without the encouragement from Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies! Thanks Suresh.

He made three wonderful dishes again.

There was a dry tossed egg noodles with red cooked pork dish that looked very rich and satisfying.

Then there were prawns. I love prawns. Especially hot and sour prawns.

And hands up if you like fried chicken. Have you tried Tamarind fried chicken? I haven’t either but they sure sound amazing.

Suresh will also be hosting the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #10. Please send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo[dot]com.

Have a good week!