Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

The picture in Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2 didn't look like the pudding sort but I have been wanting to do something like this for a while so I gave it a try.

I adapted the recipe and made cupcake versions topped with the toffee sauce. I brought some to work and saved a couple in the fridge for myself. This morning, I removed the cupcake liner and warmed it in the oven for 20 seconds to get the picture above.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake
makes 20 cupcakes or an 8-inch square cake

1 1/2 cups or 200g pitted dates, finely chopped
1/3 cup water, boiling hot
125g or 1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk

Toffee Sauce
250g or 2 sticks butter
1 cup cream
1 2/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven at 350F. In a bowl, pour the hot water over the dates and set aside until the water has been absorbed.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale before beating in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and combine well. Mix in the dates and milk. Scoop into cupcake liners (1/2 full only) or lined cake tin.
Bake for 25 minutes if making cupcakes or about 40-50 minutes if making a cake.

To make the toffee sauce, place all the ingredients in a large saucepan (bubbling mixture may boil over) over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and simmer rapidly for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Spoon over the cake before serving.

Verdict: A compact cake that could have had more of a date flavour. Maybe it was the dates I used. The toffee was lovely though and its a great make ahead dessert.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gula Melaka (Sago Pudding with Palm Sugar Syrup)

When I sent out my Blogging by Mail package to Marye at Baking Delights, I bought an identical set of ingredients, thinking that I would replicate the recipe according to the recipe book I sent her just to be sure it works. I didn't have a chance to get around to it until yesterday when I had guests for dinner.

Well, Mary tried it out here and her results were rather 'deconstructed' so I had to try it out just to be sure.

I did exactly as Marye did, following the recipe as she did. I think the only difference was that I had little jelly mould cups to put the cooked sago in. I also refrigerated it since I had made it earlier in the afternoon. The other change I made was to add more salt to the coconut cream as it cuts through the rich cream and syrup, a nice contrast.

Gula Melaka (Sago Pudding with Palm Sugar Syrup)
serves 4

13 cups water
1 cup or 200 g palm sugar, roughly chopped
1 cup or 200g sago pearls (tapioca pearls)
1 cup or 250ml coconut cream
1 tsp salt

In a small saucepan over low heat, dissolve the palm sugar in 1 cup of water to make a syrup then set aside to cool.
Boil the rest of the water in a pot, sprinkle in the sago pearls, cooking for 10 minutes and stirring every now and then. Turn off the heat and set aside for another 10 minutes. By this time, the sago pearls should be translucent, indicating that it is cooked. Pour out into a sieve and rinse under running water to remove the excess starch. Drain thoroughly before spooning into individual serving containers to set.
Stir in the salt into the coconut cream to dissolve. Chill everything well before serving.
To serve, turn out the sago onto a shallow dish or bowl, spoon some coconut cream and palm sugar syrup over it.

Be warned, this is a rich dessert so small portions are advised.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stewed Pork Fried Vermicelli

Growing up, weekends were quite often spent swimming. My mother had an uncle with a swimming pool at his house. In those days, swimming pools in a private home was rare but my granduncle was a successful textile businessman who had a huge house. Fortunately for us, we were welcomed to use their pool any time.

Quite often, my mother would whip up her signature fried vermicelli (or bee hoon as it is known locally) to feed us. I've never not been hungry after a swimming session and I always associate this meal with those childhood memories by the pool.

The characteristic taste of this dish comes mainly from the canned stewed pork used and my family has our favourite brand. The canned pork is either stewed pork chops or stewed pork leg with mushroom and chestnut. The pork chops are healthier because the pork legs come with layers of fat.

Do not be put off by the globules of fat or the layer of oil from the canned meat. The fat can be removed for a healthier option or you can allow it to melt into the noodles when frying it
up. The layer of oil can be skimmed off or used as fat to saute the vegetables.

Stewed Pork Fried Vermicelli
serves 4

300-400g dried rice vermicelli or green bean thread
8-10 dried Chinese mushrooms
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 1/2 cups sliced french beans or shredded cabbage
2 cans 14 oz stewed pork chops or pork leg
1 tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce

Soak the vermicelli or bean thread in water until soft then drain. Soak the mushrooms in about 1 cup of water for a couple of hours until soft then remove the stalks and slice up. Save the mushroom liquid for the noodles if it gets too dried out when frying. After opening the cans of stewed pork, spoon out the fat for frying, pour out the rest onto a shallow bowl. Remove the bones and mash up the the meat so that there are no big chunks.
In a wok or large frying pan, saute the vegetables in a bit of vegetable oil or the fat from the stewed pork. When half-cooked, add in the stewed pork and turn down the heat while mixing the ingredients together. Toss in the noodles and turn up the heat, pushing it into the sauce at the bottom of the pan to soak up the flavour as it cooks. Continue stir frying until the noodles are cooked and all the ingredients are well combined. Add in fish sauce or soy sauce to taste.

Serve with cut red chilli or pickled green chilli and dig in!

I'm also submitting this to Ruth at Once upon a Feast for the six-month anniversary or Presto Pasta Nights.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Banana Cake/Bread

This is the basic recipe I always use when making anything banana cake- or bread-like.

I've received many compliments for this recipe. Its simple to make and allows for a multitude of additions to vary the taste.

I made a batch this time because I wanted to use up some frozen ripe bananas I had in the freezer and a bag of soon-to-expire butterscotch chips. Also, I haven't been baking much for those at work so this whole lot was for them.

Banana Cake/Bread

makes 30 cupcakes or 3 loaves

250g or 2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tbs milk
4 large bananas
3 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Optional additions (any one of the following can be added for variety)
2 tbs poppyseed
1 cup roughly chopped nuts
1 cup Post's Banana Nut Crunch
1 cup butterscotch/chocolate/peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven at 350F. Cream the butter and sugar until pale before beating in the eggs one at a time. Mash the bananas with the milk to form a paste then stir into the butter mixture. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into the batter and combine well. Scoop into cupcake liners or lined loaf pans.
Bake for 20 minutes if making cupcakes or about 50-60 minutes if making loaves.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Additions

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I've added a couple of new members to my household.

Walnut (Wally) is a domestic shorthair that I adopted 2 weeks ago. He's a tabby with a white chest. His mother was a street cat now being cared for by a Cat Welfare Society fosterer when she gave birth to 4 kittens. Wally still has a sister waiting to be adopted so if you're interested, please let me know.

Macadamia (Macky) is a Ragdoll which I brought home over the weekend. He was born a month after Wally but he's slightly bigger. Judging be his parents' size, he's going to be a big cat! He's still adjusting to his new home and getting into lots of mischief.

While Macky is still skittish and aloof (I'll give him a couple of weeks to settle in) Wally is the sweetest and most loving cat ever (not that I've ever had cats but I'm biased). He usually comes and sits between my feet or lies down for a snooze next to me. I just have to pick him up for a cuddle and he becomes a purring machine.

I hope to fall in love with the new kitten soon. Wally has been super friendly and affectionate but when they play fight, Macky sometimes spits and hisses in the most unsociable manner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blogging by Mail

I got my package today!

Thanks to Stephanie for starting this wonderful event, it's really an act of dispensing happiness all around the world. It's better than opening presents at Christmas because one doesn't know
if / when the package will arrive or from whom or what it might contain. So really, no expectations at all.

My package arrived all the way from Josie of Flavor Junkie in New York City. She sent me an assortment of her favourite baking implements / gadgets and foodstuff.

The kitchen things she sent included: a pie crust shield (looks like I need to get over the fear of making pastry), a cupcake-adorned silicone spatula (too cute!), a plastic dessert knife (very useful for bring-along food), powdered sugar spoon
(a mini sieve for sifting accurately over baked goods), cookie cutters on a ring (all in shapes I don't have, yay!), an offset spatula, cake tester and champagne bottle stoppers.

Since I indicated I had a sweet tooth, Josie sent along some really nice treats. She made me some Ginger Sparkle cookies and Spiced Nuts. There were also Rice Krispie Treats, Torrone, Sharfenberger Chocolate, Lemonheads, Sixlets, a Strawberry Licorice Rope, Taffy, Skittles, and an assortment of little sweets.

Thanks heaps Josie! It totally made my day and I've shared some of my loot with friends at work. I'll save the Strawberry Chapstick for a trip to Paris that I hope will happen in November (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pesto Calabrese

My favourite pesto to add to pasta is Barilla's Pesto alla Calabrese. Its a spicy creamy sauce that's a little sweet and perfect over fish or shellfish as well. If I'm in a hurry for dinner, I open a bottle of this. If I'm really in a hurry for dinner, I make risoni which cooks quickly and spoons easily into a hungry mouth.

I love it so much that I thought I should try to re-create it on my own. I figured that I could just go by the proportion of ingredients listed on the label and take it from there. The
peppers I used were very sweet after being cooked but did not pack any heat so I had to add in a chilli as well. However, I needed more heat so I tossed in some chilli powder too.

I'm also submitting this to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast for Presto Pasta Night #25.

Pesto Calabrese
makes about 3 cups or about 4 servings

2 large red peppers or capsicum
1 small onion
3 tbs olive oil
1 chilli, deseeded
250g or 1 1/2 cups ricotta
100g or 1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
1 tsp salt or more to taste
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

Chop up the peppers and onion into bite-sized pieces and stir fry with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until cooked. In a food processor, blend together the peppers and onion to get about 1 cup of puree. Continue blending this with the rest of the ingredients. Spoon over cooked pasta or refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with more grated cheese or chopped cilantro.

Verdict: Very close to the bottled version and so easy to make! I mixed cooked peeled prawns into the sauce and had it over the pasta. I'm going to freeze the extra and see of it's still good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quick Quiche

I haven't had much success making pastry and frankly, I avoid making it at all. If I have to, I resort to frozen ones or even ready-made pie cases.

The quiche recipe I use is a rough combination that I tweak according to my mood, the saltiness of the cheeses used and the other ingredients I add, whether bacon, salmon, tomato, spinach etc.

I'm not a cheese connoisseur so I can't claim to know the best combination. I just love cheese, any combination does it for me and I haven't found one that doesn't work well yet. When in
doubt, I check out this site.

Quick Quiche Mix
makes about 3-4 cups

3 eggs

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 cups grated soft or semi-firm cheese
1 cup grated crumbly or firm cheese
1/4 tsp of any suitable spice (optional)

Beat the eggs before adding in all the other ingredients. This time, I used Colby Jack and
Parmesan. Spoon the quiche mix into the pastry cases and top with desired toppings. I used leek, cherry tomatoes and leftover gorgonzola for variety.

Bake in a 350F oven for 20-30 minutes until mixture is cooked. The quiche will puff up quite a bit in the oven but the puffiness will subside upon cooling.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Daim Macadamia Fudge Brownie

The BrownieBabe challenge is back and since I was so inspired by the entries from the last round, I wanted to make one of my own- a brownie recipe that would include my favourite things with chocolate.

Daim is the best thing to take home from Ikea and since they've come up with little sweet wrapped portions, I've been able to pace myself better in consuming it. Otherwise, its a bar each time and that's totally hazardous for my throat.

Macadamia is one of my favourite nuts and these ones were given to me by a thoughtful colleague. They've been languishing in the fridge because I've been saving them for such a recipe.

I adapted Magnolia Bakery's Fudge Brownie recipe to get the following:

Daim Macadamia Fudge Brownie
makes 16 3-inch brownies

1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 oz or 350g unsweetened chocolate

1 cup or 2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract

40 Diam pieces, whole or crushed, optional

1 1/2 cup macadamia, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven at 350F. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract before adding the flour mixture. Combine well then pour the batter into lined or greased pans. I split my batter into two 11" x 7" pans. It can also be baked in a 18" x 12" jelly roll.
Bake for 25-28 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center of pan comes out clean.

Verdict: Love the crunchy nutty top, fudgy middle and sometimes chewy bottom where the diam pieces had melted. Especially good with ice cream - had mine with Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fresh Ginger Cake

I've been busy looking around for a new addition to my household the last week and this past weekend I brought him home. Hopefully, I will get him a companion this coming weekend. I'll post pictures when he's settled down some and I'm able to get some decent pictures.

While flipping through Room for Dessert, this ginger recipe called out to me with its simplicity. Of course it helped that I had pieces of ginger on my counter that were threatening to sprout leaves.

I didn't have the molasses that the recipe called for so I substituted it with my remaining treacle and golden syrup. Talk about clearing the larder.

Fresh Ginger Cake
makes 24 cupcakes or a 9-inch cake

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar

2/3 cup treacle
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 cup water
2 tsp baking soda
4 oz fresh ginger, grated
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs
crystallised ginger for garnish

Preheat the oven at 350F. Mix together the oil, sugar, treacle and golden syrup. Boil the water in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda before pouring it into the oil mixture. Mix in the ginger. In a separate bowl, sift the rest of the dry ingredients together, then combine well with the batter. Lastly, add in the eggs and blend well.
The batter is watery so use a small jug to pour into cupcake liners or pour directly into a prepared cake pan.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes for cupcakes or for about an hour for the cake. If decorating the tops with crystallised ginger, press them gently into the tops of the cupcakes about halfway into the baking time.

Verdict: Moist as promised in the recipe book and definitely packs some heat. The taste reminds me somewhat of a really good ginger cookie but the texture is definitely cake.