Sunday, June 29, 2008

June Daring Bakers Challenge

Regarding this month's challenge, can I just say, WOW! Seriously, great job, Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? . The recipe you guys picked is simply out of this world. YOUR recipe restored my faith in my own bread making skills! I would never have believed that I am capable of producing something like this, if not for this challenge!

Despite baking for almost 7 years now, I have only attempted bread a couple of times, and as for complicated pastry like the Danish, forget it!! Those two top my list of things NOT to bake, and frankly speaking, I panicked a little when I saw the challenge, and very nearly freaked out when I was pulling my dough together, because the dough seemed to like my fingers A LOT more than the working table. Jamie Oliver, you liar.

Anyhoo, somehow or another, I did mange to pull the dough together, and I am VERY proud of myself, so much so that, first chance I get, I'm going to move on to something I have always wanted to bake but never dared-- cinnamon buns!!!

Ok, back to the challenge. I decided to fill it with home-made red bean paste, because,

1. I LOVE anything red bean

2. I love red bean paste with bread

3. Did I mention that I love red bean?

I think all you intelligent readers get the idea. So, then, how to make red bean paste? Turns out, its idiot proof!!


1 cup dried red beans [azuki or chinese]

1/2 cup sugar

Couple tablespoon of oil

Soak red beans in water, overnight. Once ready, drain well, pour into a pot, cover with enough water to reach four fingers above the beans, and boil until soft.

Once soft, drain and blend the beans to desired texture in a blender or food processor [add a little of the water the beans cooked in if the blender jams; just a little!]. If you want a silky smooth paste, press through a sieve to remove the skin. If you are happy with just smooth, and don't give two hoots about skin [like me], leave it =D

In a frying pan, heat up the oil until hot but not smoking. Pour in the bean paste and sugar, and stir it until everything is absorbed into the bean, and the paste looks relatively dry. Remove from heat and allow to cool. It will thicken and firm up beautifully once it cools. And voila, you have delicious, pillowy-mashmallowy red bean paste!

As usual, I won't go into the details of the recipe, but I will point out the highlights and the fun parts!!

The rising of the dough-- look at that!! Good work, my yeasty miracle workers!

And the braiding. Who knew it only took a matter of minutes to get the amazing braided look?? Is it just me, or does the unbraided dough resemble Davy Jones just a little?

I forgot to take pictures because I was in a bit of a rush [I woke up at 5.30 am to finish baking these babies!!], but I made a bunch of little ones, filling them with chocolate, cinnamon, and leftover red bean paste.

All in all, while being the most challenging DB challenge to date, it was also the most fun! While I would be even more thrilled if my braid had layered a bit more [check out some of the truly outstanding creations of the other daring bakers here!], I am very very pleased with my results =) My favorite flavor would have to be the chocolate one. Next time I make this recipe, I'll dedicate an entire half batch to chocolate!

This is the sum total of my yield; what a lot of bread!!

Also, since the challenge coincides quite nicely with Father's Day, and since my dad has a sweet tooth the size of texas, this challenge is dedicated to you, daddy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these cookies with the intention of sending off a dear friend, who is leaving Singapore in a few days to further her studies, which means I'll probably next see her god-knows-when. Good luck Audrey!! I'll be there to chill with you over a beer as soon as I can!

Careful readers of my humble blog will have noted that I've mentioned a couple of times before that I hate making cookies, chiefly because I hate having to spoon out a zillion drops of dough, and then wait [im]patiently while my tiny oven hobble along one tray at a time. What I wouldn't do for one of those giant ovens that can handle a whole batch at one go...

But I digress. Basically, dear readers, I am pleased to report that I have found a chocolate chip cookie recipe, that in my opinion, is near perfect. It gives a cookie that is crunchy on the outside yet slightly chewy on the inside, with a perfectly adorable crinkle top. It takes no time at all to whip up, because you don't need to cream the butter and sugar [yippeeeee], and last, but significantly, it spreads beautifully. This may sound trivial, but trust me when I say it is not. Not many batter can claim that it spreads as evenly and as splendidly as this one does, neither too thin, nor remaining in a stubborn lump as it cooks.

I took the recipe almost in its entirety from dear old Fearnley-Whittingstall. Only addition I made to the batter is to add some salted and roasted peanuts. You can replace it with any nuts you want, or omit it if you dislike nuts, but I find the salted nuts a quick and tasty addition to the classic chocolate chip cookie. Think salted caramel chocolate treats.

On a sidenote, can I just say how under-rated dear Fearnley-Whittingstall is? Every one of his recipes that I've tried has worked beeeeautifully, and he is such an endearing chap. His River Cottage series is top-notch as well, beating Jaime's hands down. So if there are any British ladies out there reading this, give the chap a chance =D [at this point, I am under the impression that Fearnley-Whittingstall is mysteriously single. If I have made a mistake, please forgive me, lady Fearnley-Whittingstall =P]

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cranberry white chocolate muffin

A few years back, I decided that I wanted to be able to make perfect muffins, so I set out to find the perfect recipe. Now, if you have the same interest in very very good muffins [ok, perfect is such an obnoxious word], I am going to save you from the numerous recipes and trials and errors I went through to find this recipe, because I am going to give it to you right here, in this post.

The recipe I'll cite is a basic muffin recipe, which is fantastic, because you can flavor it with whatever the hell you want. I have yet to experiment with savory muffins, but I'm pretty sure it'll work with this recipe as well.

The way to incorporate flavors is very simple--if your flavoring is wet, add it to the wet ingredients first, and if it is dry, add it to the dry ingredients. This is very important, and is one of the secret to good muffins; keep the dry and wet ingredients completely separated until ready to combine, and then combine them altogether, in one go. This minimises mixing, which will ensure a tender muffin.

Another crucial element to this muffin recipe: only, and I mean ONLY, use self-rising flour. I know there will be times when you run out of self-rising flour, and this little voice inside you says that cookbooks insist plain flour + baking powder = self-rising flour, but I am begging you, do not succumb! I cannot say for other recipes, but this one needs self-rising flour. I have tried it with plain, and it is a sheer waste of food.


375g self-rising flour

90g melted butter/subtle vegetable oil [I find oil to be wayyy more convenient]
220g castor sugar
310ml milk
1 egg


*in this case...
100g white chocolate chips
50g cranberries

Place flour, sugar, chips and cranberries in large mixing bowl, mix well [in other words, all the dry ingredients together]. In another bowl, combine milk, egg and oil [all the wet ingredients]. Using a spoon, create a well in the middle of the flour mixture, large enough to hold the liquid mixture. Pour liquids into the well, and with a fork [I find this mixes the best, but use what you want], quickly incorporate the ingredients. The idea is NOT to achieve a smooth batter. It is simply to moisten all the dry ingredients and to ensure that all the liquids are taken into the flour. It is OK for the batter to be lumpy. I cannot emphasis this enough. I have to say, it can be hard to still the mixing hand, but try very hard =)

Dry and wet, separated.

Once all the ingredients have been incorporated, fill your muffin pan/cups just 3/4 of the way with the batter [it rises a lot] and bake at 180 degree celcius until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean. If you see any bits of flour on the surface of the muffin, simply cover it up with a little batter. Don't worry, it will cook, its just that bits of flour on muffin surfaces are ugly =)

P.S. Yields 12 medium muffins.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mother's Day

Just a quick post about the meal I cooked up for mummy dearest a while back on Mother's day. Haven't had time to post it until now.


Sad to say, this didn't turn out so well, and it was mainly my fault. Long story short, I added lime juice where I should not have, and refused to add sugar where I should have, resulting in an ultra sour sauce. Still, the idea is pretty cool, and I should like to give it another try.


Chicken fillets [breasts, thighs, whatever]

Salad greens, whatever you want

Orange juice [juice of 1 - 2 orange should be sufficient]

Oil [a few tablespoon]

Herbs [I used rosemary]

Heat up the oil, and panfry the chicken fillets with herbs until cooked through. Set aside.

Pour the orange juice into the pan [the one used to fry the chicken], and cook until reduced and syrupy. Taste and season.

Toss the sauce with the greens, then place fillet [either sliced or whole] on top of the greens and serve.

Main course: Creamy mushroom baked pasta

Recipe adapted from Nigella's recipe. I don't know how that woman lives with herself after eating so much butter, but I just can't do it. For the bechamel, I followed the recipe exactly, and I have to say it turned out fantastic. For the mushrooms, I simply stir fried them up in a little olive oil and left it at that. Mom was totally crazy over this dish, but I find it much too rich. So if rich, creamy cheesy baked pasta sounds like your thing, go ahead and make this, because it really is pretty good =)

Dessert: Baklava

A fantastic middle-eastern/Turkish/Greek dessert, chosen because my mom loves nuts, and this dessert is full of it. The phyllo pastry can get a little tricky to work with, and I only used a few sheets, which still leaves me with much of the box of pastry, but mom loved the dessert, so it's ok.

Ingredients [yields 6 squares]:

250g of finely chopped nuts [walnuts/almonds/pistachos, mixed or individually]
2 tablespoon cinnamon powder
75g castor sugar

Phyllo pastry; roughly 9 sheets

100g melted butter

100g honey, warmed.

* recipe by no means authentic; authentic baklava calls for the whole dessert to be soaked in sugar syrup, which I find more than a little frightening.

Pre-heat oven to a hot 200 degree celcius.

Combine the nuts, cinnamon and sugar, mixing well.
Brush the baking pan liberally with the melted butter and place the first sheet of pastry in it. Simply tuck in the excess. Brush with butter again, and repeat with 2 more pieces of pastry.

Pour in half the nut mixture and spread evenly across the pan. Press down firmly.

Place another sheet of pastry over the nuts and brush with butter. Repeat with 2 more sheets of pastry.

Pour in the rest of the nut mixture and press in firmly. Top off with the rest of the pastry, brushing each sheet with plenty of butter. Slice up the unbaked pastry the way you like it [traditionally in diamonds]. The wet pastry can be tricky, just smooth it out if it gets wrinkled.
Bake in the over until pastry is golden and puffed.

Immediately after the baklava is removed from the oven, pour over with the warmed honey. Let cool for a while before serving.