Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pound Cake

After the baking failures over the weekend, I thought I should keep it simple. The first recipe I flagged from my lovely new book was the Blue Ribbon Pound cake. I adapted it and made it in cupcake size to share at work.

Pound Cake

makes 30-36 cupcakes

1 cup or 2 sticks butter
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven at 300F. C
ream the butter and shortening until pale before adding in the sugar and beating until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time until well combined then add in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the sifted mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions. Scoop into cupcake liners.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, covering with foil if the tops get over browned.

Verdict: This totally satisfied my craving for a simple cake and it was lovely eaten with jam. The sugar in the recipe can be increased by up to 1/2 a cup if the cake is not going to be served with something sweet.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Weekend of Baking Practice

I had been busy covering classes all of last week and I didn't get a chance to bake. My best friend Gayle had been busy the whole of the last month and hadn't been baking as well so we planned to spend the entire Saturday baking at her place. I even packed a shopping basket of goodies that included Dorie, Tish, and my latest acquisition.

We were rather ambitious, planning to make banana sticky buns, madeleines and a chocolate souffle cake all within 6 hours.

The sticky buns turned out fairly well but we didn't roll them tight or with enough filling so not a great success. The madeleines were too big and baking them too long turned out very dry cakes, so also failed. The chocolate souffle cake looked the most promising but the middle of the cake remained gooey.

All in all, a productive Saturday in terms of getting back to baking but not so productive in terms of getting nice edible baked goods.

However, I will leave you with this cute mini watermelon that I chanced upon at the supermarket. Its just enough for 2 to share or eat it all yourself if feeling greedy. The skin is thin and although not very sweet, its juicy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

8 Random Facts

I was tagged by Katie to post 8 random facts a week ago and I only found out earlier today! I got right down to it and here it is.

I have to post these rules before I give you the facts: Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged. Go to their blog and leave a comment telling them they're tagged.

Here goes...

1. I wanted to be a hotelier or restaurateur when I was a child but I think I'm more suited to the teaching profession. I've been teaching part-time and full-time since I was 17 and I enjoy this job the most. This aspect of me I've definitely inherited from my mother who is also a teacher. I remember that we frequently hosted visiting missionaries in our home and my mother always opened up our home for church meetings and gatherings.

2. I can be obssessive compulsive. I'm super organised and I like to have a system for the way things are done. This part of me I probably got from my father. When he started golf, he went at it with a vengeance and still does. When I like something, I go all out and get everything I can possibly need for it. The latest 'binge' being eyewear when I went to get my eyes tested after years. In a space of a week, I got 5 new pairs of glasses. I definitely have difficulty pacing myself.

3. I don't have pets but I have plants. They often feature as the backdrop in my blog pictures because the balconey has the best light for my photoshoots. My favourite flower is the hibiscus but I also like heliconias, orchids and the lotus.

4. I am a night bird. I'm usually up until 2 a.m. and I seldom rise before 9 a.m. My mother can't understand my lifestyle since she feels that more gets done when one starts their day early. Good thing I don't live with her :)

5. I am an avid online shopper. I get most of my clothes, accessories and books from online retailers in the U.S. The only type of shopping I really enjoy in town is to the supermarket. Otherwise, the crowds and queues just put me off.

6. Other than the kitchen and the bed, I spend most of my time in my 'office' space, at the coffee table with the laptop and the television on. Its usually tuned in to a police drama (I love C.S.I., Law & Order, Cold Case & Criminal Minds), Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or the Travel and Living Channel.

7. I've been told I don't drive like a girl. I hope that's a good thing because I certainly take it as a compliment.

8. Before going back to baking, my last hobby craze was crocheting and I made lots of flower pins. Of course, I went overboard and I still have lots of leftover wool. I'll probably take it up again soon.

That was insightful. Here are some wonderful blogs that I'm tagging:

Shawnda of Confections of a Foodie Bride
Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Danielle of Habeas Brulee
Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas
Ruth at Once Upon A Feast
Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen
Sher of What Did You Eat

I've fallen short of the required 8 but I'll update when I can.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lychee Martini Sorbet

When the mood strikes, drinks out at a nice bar will see me ordering Lychee Martini - its sweet and the taste of alcohol is not too strong. Of course, it helps that the martini glass imparts an air of sophistication to the drinker as well. My name is Eunice, Eunice...

Just in time for WCC#18. I was still in the sorbet mood and the theme had my eyes peeled at the fruit section in the supermarket. The beautiful peaches, strawberries and cherries caught my eye but I felt that it would be a shame to mush them up for sorbet. At the price I had to pay for them, they should be enjoyed in all their wholesome goodness. Fortunately, there were basket of lychees there too.

I used a combination of fresh and canned lychees for my recipe as the canned ones tend to be overly sweet. However, you can do as I did or simply use either fresh or canned by itself. I did not use the liquid that the canned lychees came in because the sugar content was unknown and too much sugar can inhibit the feezing process.

The alcohol part was tricky because I wanted to make sure that the sorbet would freeze. I decided to hold back on the vodka and simply drizzle it over the sorbet before serving. That way, I can drizzle on more depending on taste.

Lychee Martini Sorbet
makes 3-4 cups

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 kg lychees or 2 large cans of lychee

4 tbs lychee liquer
4-8 tbs vodka

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat to make a syrup, set aside to cool. Remove the skin and seed from the lychee to get only the pulp or drain the canned lychees to remove any liquid. Blend until puree is smooth to get 2 1/2 cups.

Mix the syrup, puree and lychee liquer together, chilling thoroughly before freezing in the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drizzle vodka over the sorbet before serving.

Verdict: Definitly a cool concoction! Much nicer than the drinks at the bar since this 'drink' remained cold a lot longer. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Apple Cinnamon Muffin with Brandy Butter Glaze

Today's overcast weather was great for baking and so I adapted this recipe from The Pastry Queen's Mini Apple-Cinnamon Loaves with Calvados Glaze. This book has such lovely recipes and stories that it inspires one to open their own bakery and cafe.

The original recipe was for the batter to be baked in mini loaf tins for 50-60 minutes but I split mine to fill regular and mini muffin cases.

Apple Cinammon Muffins with Butter Brandy Glaze
makes 30 cupcakes or 60 mini cupcakes

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3 cups chopped apples (3-4 apples)
1 cup pecans, toasted

1/4 cup or 1/2 stick butter
1/3 golden brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tbs golden syrup or light corn syrup
1 1/2 tbs brandy

Preheat the oven at 350F. In a mixer bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix until creamy smooth. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together before stirring into the oil mixture until incorporated. Finally, stir in the apples and pecans to distribute evenly. The resulting batter will be very stiff. Scoop into muffin cases.
Bake for 30 minutes if making regular size muffins, 25 minutes if making mini muffins. Remove and cool slightly before glazing.

For the glaze, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Keep stirring to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 2 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly then remove from heat.
Brush the glaze over the muffins. Serve warm or let the glaze cool and set for about an hour before storing.

Verdict: The brandy butter made this taste rather festive. I love butter and golden syrup - its my favourite thing on toast so by default, this is definitely something I will make again. Its so easy and finger-licking good!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mangosteen Sorbet

Having made both ice cream and sorbet, I'm sticking to the latter for the moment simply because its so much easier and a lot more refreshing.

This time, I chose mangosteen to make for Darren, my foodie buddy. He once ate 3 kg of this fruit in one sitting while chatting with me so I know this is definitely his favourite.

The mangosteen is known as the Queen of Fruits because it is often eaten together with the durian, the King of Fruits. Durian lovers never just eat one seed of the fruit - they often open up a few fruits to sample and enjoy. Since the durian is considered to give 'heat' to the body, the mangosteen is usually eaten after a durian session to provide a balance as it is supposed to 'cool' the body.

I'm posting this in time for HHDD#13 but I'm not sure if I'm allowed two entries. Just be aware that this beautiful deep purple fruit may not be so readily available to most and might be expensive the way strawberries and peaches are costly over here. In any case, Donna Hay's basic sorbet recipe is so versatile for any type of fruit, the possiblities are endless.

Magosteen Sorbet
makes about 3-4 cups

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 kg mangosteen
1/2 tsp lime juice

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat to make a syrup, set aside to cool. To open the mangosteen, simply press the fruit firmly until a crack appears on the shell before prying it open. Remove the pulpy flesh of the mangosteen, taking care to avoid staining yourself with the fibres from the shell (easily washable if taken care of quickly). To remove the pulp from the seeds, press the fleshy white segments through your fingers. The seeds are usually found in the bigger segments of the fruit, the smaller sigments are often seedless. Blend the pulp in a the blender to get about 2 1/2 cups of puree (if it falls short, just top up with more water).

Mix the syrup, puree and lime juice together, chilling thoroughly before freezing in the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Verdict: Another fruity refreshing treat. If you haven't tried mangosteen, the chilled fruit totally hits the spot on a hot day. I can't really describe the flavour - its sort of tart and peachy but its yums! Can't wait for the round-up on July 15th for more flavours to try. Look out for it!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My kitchen towel on a string

I chuckled when I read about Show Us Your Apron on IMBB. I don't use an apron in the traditional sense of it protecting me from splatters or accidents during cooking. Of course, if it does then that's a bonus. My 'apron' is primarily used for me to dry or wipe my hands during food preparation.

I wash my hands very often when baking or cooking. Since all I really need is to tie a kitchen towel to myself so that its handy, I sew my own aprons. They are made from a kitchen or tea towel with a strip if binding sewn on one of the longer sides.

I go through about 2 of my aprons per cooking session. I started with the 2 striped ones which now look rather grubby despite repeated washes so I've had to make new ones. Here are all my very functional aprons!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Malibu Orange Sorbet

Its still hot and I'm now turning my focus to sorbets for HHDD#13. I decided to get the icy version of my preferred cocktail drink and tweaked the basic recipe provided to get my own Malibu Orange Sorbet.

I'm not much of a drinker. A good cocktail to me has to be something sweet so I can't taste the alcohol. I'm a sleepy drunk but before getting to that stage, I will feel like an iron, emanating heat from the effects of the alcohol. So you can see why drinking isn't all that fun for me.

Malibu Orange Sorbet
makes about 4 cups

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 oranges
2 1/2 cups orange juice (unsweetened)
6 tbs Malibu

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat to make a syrup, set aside to cool. Cut away the rind and pith of the oranges. Using a paring knife, cut between the membranes to remove only the juice sac segments. Place in blender together with any juice squeezed from the remaining pulp, blend to get about 1/2 cup of puree.

Mix the syrup, puree, juice and Malibu together, chilling thoroughly before freezing in the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Verdict: Sweet but the presence of Malibu could have been stronger. However, I was afraid that the sorbet would not freeze if I added in too much alcohol. Anyway, in this weather, my favourite cocktail in a brain-freeze inducing state is a welcomed accompaniment to enjoying the late afternoon sun on my balcony.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mango Ginger Ice Cream

We don't get summer here in the tropics but it sure seems as if its been hotter than usual. I can usually sleep with just the fan blowing all night but lately, I've had to have the air-conditioning on and take at least 2 showers a day.

Therefore, ice cream for July's Monthly Mingle was a timely impetus for me to take out the still-new ice cream machine and get cracking. I knew I didn't want to start with a boring flavour like vanilla or chocolate. I was instead inspired by my favourite handwash, a mango and ginger scented one.

Today, the smell of mangoes permeated the entire kitchen and I
was so tempted to leave them be for the lovely natural perfume. I've left this till the last minute because I was waiting for the mangoes to get overipe so I'm cutting it really close to the deadline.

I've adapted the recipe from this book which provides all sorts of variations to most basic flavours. I guess its a good basic book to start on the ice cream making endeavour.

Mango Ginger Ice Cream
makes about 5 cups

2 large ripe mangoes
1-1 1/2 inch knob of ginger, chopped
2 tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks

1 tbs cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crystallised ginger, chopped

Remove as much flesh as possible from the mangoes. Combine the mangoes, ginger, lime juice, corn syrup and salt in a food processor, processing until smooth. Pour the puree through a strainer to remove any fibrous bits, getting about 1 3/4 cups of puree.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch until crumbly. In a saucepan, heat the milk until it is simmering, stir it into the sugar egg mixture until all the sugar is dissolved. Return the mixture to the saucepan and over low heat, stir constantly until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and strain the hot custard into a large bowl to cool.

Combine the cooled custard, puree and cream in the bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Pour the mixture into the ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Finally, add in the crystallised ginger when the ice cream is soft and still churning.

Verdict: I love the sweet heat of this flavour! Also, the contrast between the temperature
and the slight heat from the aftertaste is intriguing. Better pack some for my parents before I polish it all off trying to satisfy that intrigue.