Monday, 31 December 2012

a birthday and an anniversary

It is the time of the year again...

as the new year approaches, in just a few hours...

I gladly bid farewell to year 2012...

a year filled with wonderful memories and precious moments for me to treasure in years to come...

to mark the end of yet another year of baking and blogging, I will like to share with you this banana chocolate sponge cake.

I first saw this monkey cake a year ago when I was looking for a suitable birthday cake recipe for my son. However, back then, we were away from home, and even though the service apartment came fully equipped with an oven and basic baking tools, I wasn't gung ho enough to give this a try. I am glad that I went ahead to make it ten days ago, and it turn out to be the cake of the year (for me)!

Instead of the usual sponge cake, I baked a banana sponge cake for the layers. Recently, I have a reader who encountered some problem with this banana sponge cake recipe. I really admire her never give up attitude. Although I wish I could show her how I made this cake, but, I am no professional baker and I am certainly not qualified to give any advice especially since I have not even attended any baking class. The least I could do was to bake this banana sponge cake again so that I could at least revisit the steps to ensure I didn't mislead anyone with my instructions. The cake turned out well, with a nice golden browned crust, and soft and moist texture. I am quite certain that this reader has prepared the batter correctly, the only thing I could pinpoint would be the oven temperature, could the oven be too hot?? I understand how disappointing it is whenever I have to face a failed attempt. I sincerely hope she could get it right the next time, all the best!

My child was grinning from ear to ear when I presented the cake to him. Even though he was not born in the year of the monkey, he behaves pretty much like one ;)

The banana cake was so delicious with the chocolate ganache, the only downside was, the coco pops turned soft by the time I served it, and, it was really, too cute to eat, luckily it was quite an easy cake to put together.

Happy birthday to both my little munchkin and this humble blog of mine! It seems almost like yesterday when I went home with my baby boy on a Christmas day....and, it doesn't seems too long ago when I was pondering for a name for my blog. In reality it has already been six years since I published my very first post! I really hope I could still keep it going for another year or two...

or maybe three, or four years to come....

Here's wishing all of you a joyful new year!

And may your kitchen be filled with sweet memories and wonderful aroma of freshly home baked goodies, 
all year round!  

Banana Chocolate Monkey Cake

(make one 7" round cake)

for sponge layer:
3 large eggs, room temperature
100g caster sugar (original recipe uses 150g)
3 large ripened bananas, cut into chunks
150g cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
80ml vegetable oil
20ml milk (I used low fat fresh milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for chocolate ganache:
170g pouring cream (I used one can Nestle pouring cream)
170g semi sweet chocolate chips (or use any dark baking chocolate, coarsely chopped)

for peanut buttercream:
50g unsalted butter, room temperature
30g icing sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons milk (I used low fat fresh milk)
about 1 tablespoon peanut butter jam (use more if necessary)

for decoration:
chocolate flavoured rice cereals (I used one mini pack 30g kellogs coco pops)
2 regular size chocolate chips
1 large cookie


to make sponge cake:
  1. Grease (with butter) and flour sides of a 7" deep round pan (Note: original recipe calls for an 8" pan), line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Sieve together cake flour, baking powder and baking soda. Sieve the flour mixture twice and set it aside.
  3. Place vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl, set aside.
  4. Place eggs, caster sugar and bananas in a large mixing bowl. With an electric whisk, whisk the mixture at Low speed for a few seconds (to break up the bananas). Change to medium-high speed, and whisk the mixture till it becomes thick, pale and triple in volume. This should take around 7 to 8 mins. The batter should leave a ribbon like trail when the paddle is lifted. Test by lifting up the whisk/paddle, and draw an '8' with the batter. The number should stay for a few seconds. Turn to Low speed again, and beat for another 2 mins. This is to stablise the air bubbles in the batter. (Note: do not over beat the is not a good thing if the '8' doesn't disappear.)
  5. Sieve over the flour mixture in 3 separate additions. Each time Fold In the flour carefully with a Spatula, making sure there is no pockets of flour being trapped at the bottom of the bowl. Do not stir the batter with the spatula, it will cause the batter to deflate too much.
  6. Pour a small portion (less than 1/3) of the batter into the mixing bowl in Step 3. Fold in with the spatula until the oil mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
  7. Pour the mixture in Step 6 back into the rest of the batter (Step 5).
  8. Fold in the batter with the spatula making sure the mixture is well combined. (By now the batter could be deflated by about 20% or so as compared to Step 4).
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, the pan should be about 75% to 80% full (Note: original recipe uses an 8" round pan, I baked extra batter in two muffin paper cups) .
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 160 degC for 40-45mins or longer until the surface turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. (The edges of the cake should pull away slightly from the sides of the pan.) Remove from oven, unmold (slide a thin bladed knife along the sides of the pan) and leave to cool (inverted) on a cooling rack.

to make chocolate ganache:
  • Place cream and chocolate chips (or chopped chocolates) in a bowl. Set it over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl is big enough to sit over the saucepan).
  • Stir the mixture gently with a spoon till the chocolate melts and mixture becomes smooth. Remove from the bowl from the saucepan. Use immediately.
to make peanut buttercream:
  • Beat unsalted butter with an electric whisk in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Add icing sugar, continue to beat until the mixture turns pale and fluffy. Add milk beat till smooth. Add peanut butter (gradually so as to adjust to the desired colour tone, use more peanut butter if necessary) and beat till smooth.

to assemble:
  • Make a simple piping bag with parchment paper (refer here for instructions). Fill the piping bag with about 1 tablespoon of chocolate ganache, set aside.
  • Slice the banana sponge cake horizontally into three layers. Place a layer of sponge cake on a cake board. 
  • Spoon about 4 heaped tablespoons of the chocolate ganache onto the surface. Spread evenly with a spatula. Repeat with the second layer of sponge cake. Place the third layer and spoon the remaining ganache over the top and spread it over to the sides. Smooth the surface with the spatula. 
  • On the cake surface, draw/outline the shape of the face of a monkey with a toothpick. Spread the peanut buttercream on the surface. Smooth the surface evenly. Place two chocolate chips (upside down) on the face to make the eyes. Pipe nose and mouth with the piping bag. 
  • Pat the chocolate rice cereal/coco pops on the chocolate frosting. Cut cookie in half and place the halves on each side of the cake for ears. (Note: as the coco pops will turn soft, I will like to suggest to frost the cake as close to serving time as possible.) Store any leftovers in fridge.
Recipe source: monkey cake adapted from here; banana sponge cake adapted from here.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

honey joy to the world

I didn't know these are known as honey joys until I came across an Australian's Women Weekly cookbook.

These honey coated cornflakes cookies or honey joys are a familiar treat during the Chinese new year. I have been looking for its recipe so that I can make them anytime of the year. It was by chance that I stumbled upon a recipe that seems close enough to the store bought ones. Besides cornflakes, the extra almond and sesame seeds greatly enhance palatability and flavour of these buttery sweet snacks, making them a real crunchy and joyful treat for anyone, on any occasion.

As the Christmas season is upon us, may simple joys and little pleasures like these honey joys bring sweet memories of the past year, and may your year ahead be sprinkled with joy and happiness!

Merry Christmas!

Honey Joys


60g unsalted butter
50g honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g corn flakes
100g almond flakes, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

  1. Place corn flakes, almond, sesame seeds in a big mixing bowl.
  2. Melt butter, honey, sugar and salt in a saucepan, stir to combine. Remove from heat and pour mixture over the corn flakes, almond and sesame seeds. Keep mixing with a spoon until evenly coated.
  3. Spoon cornflake mixture into mini paper case and bake on baking tray at 150°C for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool completely, store in airtight container.
Recipe source: adapted from here.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mini Oreo Cheesecake

To my regular visitors, my apologies for the long silence.

To make up for my tardiness in updating this blog, here's a little treat from my kitchen to yours...
mini upside down oreo cheesecakes...

A month ago, I was quite caught up planning for a holiday was a last minute decision as we almost gave up the idea when we couldn't get on the flight. By chance or fate, (or rather, thanks to my never-give-up attitude of checking the airlines system every other few hours) I managed to get all of us booked on the same flight. As we neither speak or read Korean language, I had to make sure I did a thorough job of getting into the minute details to prevent any hiccups during our trip. My 'strengths' in micro-managing pays off. Everything went well, we got to visit the places we had planned and didn't have much problem finding the popular makan(eating) places. As usual, we were on a shoestring budget, everything was DIY, backpackers style...only difference was, instead of carrying backpacks we maneuvered the busy streets and from train stations to stations with cabin bags in tow ;)

Our holiday trip was a real short one...time flies and in no time we are back to our daily mundane lives :(
In between doing loads after loads of laundry, I took time to 'spot clean' my fridge. Lying in the fridge was this block of cream cheese, crying out loud to me that I was right on time, it would exceed the expiry date the very next day!

Instead of procrastinating and end up having to throw it into the bin the next day, I googled for suitable recipes that calls for cream cheese. I remember seeing some oreo cheesecake recipes some time back, and it was a good thing that the recipe requires very basic baking ingredients, and, I am never short of oreos! The only problem was, I didn't have any sour cream on hand, but I do have yoghurt in the fridge. I went ahead and replaced the sour cream with yoghurt. I guess not much damage was done...

I baked them with paper muffin whole oreo cookie is placed inside each cup before filling it up with the batter. The preparation was rather fuss free, quick and simple. I followed the baking time but extended it for another couple of minutes as I did the skewer test and the centre was still wet although the top was set. For fear of over baking, I turned off the heat even though the inside was still not set. I believe they would be fully set in the fridge (upon cooling, the cakes have to be chilled in the fridge before consuming).

My little baking retreat was a great success. These mini cheesecakes were really delicious, and I thought they looked very lovely with the oreo cookies on top :)

They are excellent after dinner treats even though I am not an oreo fan, and I am sure they would jazz up any tea time tables especially when there are guests around ;)

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

(makes about 10)

15 Oreo cookies (10 leave as whole, 5 remove cream and coarsely chopped)
8oz pack cream cheese, room temperature
50g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten, room temperature
60g sour cream (I replaced with plain yoghurt)


  1. Preheat oven to 135 DegC (275°F).
  2. Place one whole cookie in each of the 10 muffin paper cups (or line muffin tins with paper liners). 
  3. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer (medium high speed) until smooth. 
  4. Add in sugar, beat until just combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  5. Add in vanilla extract, beat until just combined. 
  6. Gradually drizzle in the egg, beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary. 
  7. Add in sour cream, beat till just combined. 
  8. Add chopped cookies, fold with a spatula. 
  9. Fill each muffin cup almost to the brim. Bake for about 22~25 minutes until the filling is set and not jiggly. Transfer to wire rack, leave to cool completely. Cover or store in airtight containers and leave to refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove cake from muffin cups, serve cookies sides up.

Recipe source: adapted recipe from here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

recipe revisit: oreo butter cake

I spent one quiet afternoon revisiting an old favourite recipe.  There is so much nostalgia associated with it.

This Oreo Butter Cake is one of the very first few cakes I made when I started baking and blogging.

Instead of baking the cake in a 8" round pan, I tried it with my tube pan. Although the batter wasn't enough to even fill up 70% of the pan, the result is still as good. I have seen other bloggers baking this same cake using loaf pan and even muffin cups.

Even though I am no fan of oreo cookies, I really like the texture of the cake, soft, moist and fluffy. It is such a simple cake to treat my oreo cookies monsters at home ;)

I am guilty of neglecting this little blog space. I don't want to make any excuses but things have been moving so fast that I have no choice but to give priority to other matters in my life. I hope I am able to post as regularly, especially during the coming year end school holidays.

Oreo Butter Cake


225g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
170g caster sugar (I used 120g)
2 eggs, beaten
240ml nonfat unsweetened yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
80g Oreo cookies, remove filling, roughly crushed

  1. Line base and side of an 8-inch round pan with parchment paper (I used a tube pan, greased and floured). 
  2. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  3. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until mixture turns pale and fluffy. Dribble in the eggs (1 tablespoon at a time), beat well. 
  4. With a spatula, fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in ½ of the yogurt. Then fold in ½ of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining yogurt, and vanilla extract. Finally fold in the remaining flour mixture. 
  5. Fold in the crushed oreo cookies. 
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. If using a round pan, if desired, decorate the top with a few oreo cookies.
  7. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degC for about 40 ~ 50 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 mins. Unmold and transfer to wire rack, let cool completely.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Fuss Free Wholemeal Loaf

This is a relatively simple, straight forward wholemeal loaf which I baked a couple of weeks back. There is no need to prepare water roux or tangzhong since the recipe is taken from a bread machine cookbook. This is something I could make on a whim...whenever I feel like having a slice of freshly baked homemade bread or whenever I miss the cozy feeling from breathing in the wonderful aroma of bread baking in the oven.

As usual, I left the bread maker to knead the dough put left the dough to proof in room temperature. A quick roll out and roll up of the dough, and in in no time, it was sitting inside the loaf pan ready to bloom. The raw dough rose beautifully, and it ballooned even further once it got into the hot oven...a phenomenon known as 'oven spring'.

The finished loaf looks pretty much like a crusty country loaf isn't it?

It is actually a soft sandwich loaf! This is a classical case of what you see is not what you get ;) The bread is pleasantly light and fluffy, something I didn't expect from a loaf made using the straight dough method and not to mention with wholemeal flour! I believe the secret ingredient is none other than yoghurt! Do give it a try if you have a bread machine at home or a standing mixer to do the kneading. If you choose to knead by hand, be prepared to wrestle with a wet and sticky mess, even though I have not done it by hand, I am sure the efforts will pay off.

Wholemeal Yoghurt Bread Loaf

(makes one loaf using a 9" loaf pan)

260g bread flour
115g wholemeal flour
15g unsalted butter
30g caster sugar
6g salt
100ml natural plain yoghurt
150ml water
5g instant yeast

some rolled oats (optional)


to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place water, yoghurt, sugar, salt, butter, bread flour and wholemeal flour flour in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Let the machine knead the dough for about 10 mins. Stop the machine. Select the Dough function and start the machine again. Allow the machine to continue kneading until the kneading cycle stops after 20mins. Total kneading time is 30mins. (Note: Leave the lid open through out the kneading cycle to prevent over heating.) Remove dough from the bread pan.

* Dust dough with flour, shape into a smooth round dough. Place dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about 45min to 1 hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Dust the dough with some flour if it feels sticky. Smooth into round and leave it to rest for about 10mins.

* Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape about 9" by 15". Roll up the dough along the shorter end like a swiss roll to form a log (with a length of about 9" or the length of the baking pan you are using). Pinch and seal the seams tightly. Place in a greased 9" loaf pan. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave dough to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size. Brush the top with water and sprinkle rolled oats all over, this is optional.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 190 deg C for 25 ~30 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: adapted from 幸福面包机

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

homemade gift

Homemade gift for a special friend,

someone who shares the same passion for baking...

someone who fares way better than me in keeping....
her household of three active children with a full time job and without a helper...

someone who cares to listen to a housewife's never ending ramblings...

Freshly baked mooncakes for my friend....with my lack of skills, they are nothing close to store bought ones...

but, as the saying goes, best gifts come from the heart, not the wallet...

well, I do feel thick-skinned to give my humble mooncakes away...for my friend would need to pay a high price for them...

that is, for wasting her calories on yucky food, paiseh paiseh (^_^''')

little fishes...

tiny rabbits....

specially for her children...I don't think they will mind the empty calories ;)

Recipe from here and here.

Friday, 21 September 2012

weeknight special

A medley of colour...ready to pop into the oven...

25 minutes later...

dinner was ready...

our weeknight special...roasted seabass with potatoes, tomatoes, celery, rosemary, garlics, lemon,  olive oil, salt and pepper...

I can't believe I am actually capable enough to pull together a dish like this!

Well, since there is no real cooking involved...even a lousy cook like me could prepare this meal without feeling intimidated ;)

My kitchen was filled with the lovely aroma of rosemary while the fish was cooking in the oven. I love rosemary! The fish didn't taste dry even though it was cooked uncovered. It tasted just like steamed fish.

It's the first time I have eaten roasted fish with potatoes...somehow I feel that the potatoes are a bit out of place here...maybe because I am so used to roasted chicken and potatoes. I probably need a bit of getting used to such combo. The tomatoes and celery went well with the fish though. I do not know the origin of this dish, but it reminds me of Mediterranean cuisine. It is a very healthy, nutritious meal (to me)...there is fish and lots of roasted vegetables, the dish is light as it is seasoned with only salt and pepper. This is something I will 'cook' again and again...

Roasted Seabass with Potatoes & Tomatoes


2~3 floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 fresh sea bass, gutted and cleaned
4 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 lemon, slice 1/2 of the lemon, reserve the other half
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
8 ~ 10 cherry tomatoes
sea salt
freshly grounded black pepper
olive oil


- Preheat oven to 220 degC.
- Put potatoes into a pot of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Make a few diagonal slashes on the flesh of the fish. Rub the fish with a mild seasoning of salt, pepper and olive oil. Place some rosemary sprigs, some garlic cloves, 1 to 2 lemon slices inside the cavity of the fish.
- Lightly grease a baking dish with olive oil (or use a roasting pan lined with baking paper). Place some celery, rosemary sprigs, garlic cloves in the dish and lay the fish on top of the vegetables. Place the par-boiled potatoes, cherry tomatoes, remaining garlic, celery, rosemary sprigs and lemon slices around the fish. Sprinkle sea salt, freshly grounded black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil.
- Roast for about 25 ~ 30mins until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with a squeeze of the remaining half lemon along with the roasted vegetables.

Recipe source: adapted from Food and Travel magazine

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

weekend breakfast

I know, it is only mid-week, pardon me for blogging about a weekend breakfast (*^_^*)

For me to be able to post this before the end of the week is already quite an achievement. There are so many things I want need to do, but most of the time, I can't accomplish all that I have planned for the week. Well, I'll have to learn to be less ambitious and lower my expectations for myself.

We don't have the luxury of having a lazy breakfast on a weekend morning as we have to leave the house early. But, over the last weekend, I managed to prepare something extraordinary for my children (at least it was not the usual sandwich slices with nutella). This egg gratin or baked eggs in ramekins dish was almost like a light brunch. My elder child loves it hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side ups, omelette or scrambled, just give him eggs and he will be happy. This meal is prepared specially for him and I know his brother will enjoy it too ;)

I didn't manage to get a picture of the inside...but underneath the 'supposedly soft and runny' egg lies a bed of stir-fried garlic, mushrooms and ham. I over baked the eggs a little, on purpose actually, allowing the yolks to be almost fully cooked through, just to play safe. As a result, it didn't look anywhere close to the photo illustration in the cookbook, which shows a very fluffy, almost pop-out-of-the-page, soft-boiled egg texture. Mine turn out to be as flat as pancake, but the middle of the yolk was still soft albeit not too runny. One special thing to note is, the eggs are cooked over a hot-water bath. I googled and read from here that the purpose is to allow the eggs to set nicely.

This dish is not as time consuming to prepare even though it requires cooking over a stove. As long as you mentally run through the steps involved, this meal can be pulled together in less than 30 minutes, much less if you have extra pairs of hands, but I am too 'kind' to wake up my kids to ask them to help up on a weekend morning.

Both my kids enjoyed the meal, they find the mushrooms and ham fillings really tasty. Of course, I have learned not to over cook the eggs, I am sure a softer and fluffier texture will wake up every single sleepy cell in their bodies ;)

Baked Eggs in Ramekins

(serves 2)

1/4 yellow onion coarsely chopped (I replaced with 2-3 cloves garlic, minced)
4 button mushrooms, coarsely sliced
2 slices of hams, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I replaced with one knob of butter)
2 eggs
some salt and freshly grounded black pepper
some butter for greasing


- Preheat oven to 180degC.
- Grease two ramekins with some butter and set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil (or butter) in a frying pan, add in chopped onions and cook till the onions softened (or saute garlic till fragrant). Add in sliced mushrooms, diced ham and saute till mushroom is cooked. Season with some salt and pepper.
- Divide the cooked mushroom and ham mixture into the two prepared ramekins*. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Sprinkle some salt and freshly grounded pepper on top of the egg.
- Place the ramekins inside a baking pan or baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Carefully, carry baking pan to the oven, position it in the middle rack (note: the ramekins may slide when you carry it). Bake for 10~14 mins or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Remove from oven immediately as the eggs will continue to set. Since every oven works differently, after 10mins of cooking, check every minute for doneness. Depending on how you want your eggs to be done, extend cooking time for another 1 to 2 mins as desired.   Serve immediately with toast or warm bread.

*size of my heart-shape ramekin: fills /2/3 cup (160ml) of water

Recipe Source: adapted from Cafe Brunch 星期天的料理时光

Friday, 14 September 2012

just for the record

I though it would take a while for me to update my blog, but I am glad I am able to do it much sooner. You see, I wasn't in the best mood to blog about anything, and had even harboured thoughts of giving it up altogether.

Thanks to these simple and tasty bacon and olive bread buns, I knew, I just need a good recipe ('good' here refers to simple and fuss free) to keep me get me tuned on to the 'I must certainly share this recipe on my blog' mode.

Just like someone who left a comment on my blog, I didn't make these bread rolls all by myself. Yes, I relied on a bread machine to knead the dough. Other than that, everything was DIY, with my own pair of hands. The person's comment, at least as I have interpreted it, suggested that I got someone else to make the bread buns I posted sometime back. It was too good to be true, as the recipe I posted didn't work for this person at all. The other couple of 'accusations' that came with the comment certainly dampened my spirit. I started wondering whether what I have been doing all these while is really worth the effort? I know I should just ignore the comment, but I just didn't feel good.

Luckily, I bought a new book recently, it was on huge discount, and there are many recipes which I couldn't wait to try. I decided on these simple bread rolls to kick off the list. They are made with a straight dough method, no starter or water roux to complicate matters. I thought it would yield bread rolls with a hard crust, but I was wrong. They are soft dinner rolls instead. The buns are still soft the following day, I warmed them in the oven and slapped some butter over it for breakfast. It tastes equally delicious on its own too. I would add a pinch of mixed herbs the next time I were to make them...and serve them with thick, creamy soup as a light meal :)

最近的天气阴阴沉沉的,心情因为某种因素也灰灰的。莫名其妙被人冠上莫须有的罪名,第一时间就设法澄清。过后又觉得清者自清,况且人家在暗我在明,无需费舌解释, 只会越描越黑。可是自己心里还是放不下,很是纠结。尤其被人质疑我假手于人,真有点哭笑不得。还好买了一本好书,虽是食谱却像coffee table book, 令我爱不释手,翻了又翻。成功试做了这款培根黑橄榄面包,心情也跟着好起来,迫不及待要在这里分享。虽然没有假手于人, 不过还是借用面包机来操刀,帮我揉面团。用直接法做出来的面包还蛮松软的。培根和橄榄有点咸咸的,不过面包本身带点甜味,口感不错。刚出炉的面包配上一点牛油,很香很香。之前阴霾的心情也随着面包香一扫而空。多亏了这款面包,看来我还是会傻傻地继续与读者分享烘焙的喜悦和乐趣。

Bacon Olive Bread

(makes 8 small rolls)

220g bread flour
20g cake flour
15g milk powder
35g caster sugar
4g salt
160g milk
25g olive oil
6g instant yeast
70g bacons (about 3 slices)
30g black olives


* Chop bacons into small chunks. Pan fry in a skillet or frying pan until bacons become crispy. Remove from pan and drain any excess oil on paper towels. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop black olives, set aside (if necessary absorb any excess moisture from the black olives with paper towels).

to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place milk, olive oil, sugar, salt, bread flour, cake flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Let the machine knead the dough until the kneading cycle stops after 20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

to knead dough by hand:
* Place bread flour, cake flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture to combine. Make a well in the centre and add in the milk and olive oil. Mix to form a rough dough. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until it no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 20~30 mins. It helps to have a dough scraper on hand to scape up the dough as you knead since the dough will be quite sticky at first.

* Place dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Knead in the chopped olives and bacons. Dust the dough with some flour if it feels sticky. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, about 65g each (or as per original recipe, divide into 6 portions, 80g each ). Roll each dough into smooth rounds. Place dough on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Happy Baking 星期天的烘焙时光

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

slow food so good

I'm normally not an advocate for slow cooking. If you have been following my blog, you would have noticed that I usually go for quick and simple dishes that could be put together under 30 minutes. It came with no surprise that I have been keeping this 'Taiwanese-style braised pork with rice' recipe for more than a year and no actions taken until recently. I can't remember how it surfaced from my piles of recipes, but I am really glad that I attempted something seemingly complicated and beyond my cooking skills. A quick glance at the long list of ingredients almost made me wanted to strike it off the list. After reading the instructions a couple of times and mentally going through the steps, I thought it really isn't as difficult as I have imagined it to be.

This slow dish is really worth the extra effort. The braised pork was very fragrant and delicious. The five spice powder and the fried shallots added so much flavour to the dish. I think these two ingredients are key to achieving the authentic taste. The strange thing was, the fragrant reminded me so much of nyonya bak chang (glutinous rice dumpling)! Everyone enjoyed the meal and all gave thumbs up to this one-bowl dish. My better half nodded with approval and assured me the taste was very close to the one he had in Taipei. Of course, I choose to believe him even if it was a white lie ;)

Braised Pork with Rice (台式卤肉饭)

(serves 4)

10 shallots
4 ~ 6 eggs
10 dried shiitake mushrooms
10g dried shrimps (hay bee, 虾米)
500g pork belly
1 thumb size old ginger (about 5g), minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons five spice powder (I used only 1~1.5 tsp)
2 star anise (八角)
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing Hua Tiao wine
3 tablespoons fried shallots*
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
30g rock sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
some water


*to make fried shallots, peel about 10 shallots, cut into thin slices. Pan fry with oil until golden (turn off the heat once the shallots turn golden, it gets burnt easily). Drain on paper towel and leave to cool. Reserve the oil. Alternatively, you can use ready made fried shallots.

- Place eggs (use room temperature eggs, cold eggs may crack easily upon boiling) in a pot and fill with enough water to cover the eggs, add a pinch of salt (to prevent eggs from cracking). Boil for about 10mins. Remove from pot and place eggs in cold water(easier to peel the shells). Peel and remove the shells. Set aside.

- Wash dried mushrooms, soak in water for 30mins. Drain and cut into 0.5cm small cubes. Reserve the water. Wash dries shrimps, soak in water for 30mins or until soften. Drain and minced. Wash and cut pork belly into 1 cm cubes. Blanch in boiling water for about 3 mins. Rinsed the blanched pork belly, drain and set aside.

- Heat 1 tablespoon oil (reserved from frying shallots) in a wok. Stir fry minced ginger, garlic and dried shrimps till fragrant. Add in five spice powder and star anise, stir fry till fragrant. Add in blanched pork belly, stir fry till browned. Add mushrooms, toss to combine.  Add shao hsing wine by pouring it over the side of the wok, toss to combine. Add in fried shallots, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, rock sugar, toss and stir fry to combine. Add the reserved water from soaking the mushrooms. Top with more water until it covers all the ingredients. Bring to a boil.

- Transfer everything to a claypot or casserole (note: the water level should be over the ingredients by at least 2 inches). Add in the hard boiled eggs. Cover with lid and leave to simmer for about 1.5hrs (turn the eggs around in between the cooking time). Add in salt and continue to simmer for another 10mins. Remove from heat. There should still be some sauce remaining when the dish is done, the sauce will appear glossy and thickened (from the fat of the pork belly).

- Serve with rice and blanched xiao bai cai (baby bok choy).

Recipe source: 贝太厨房

Sunday, 12 August 2012

butterflied roast chicken

I first saw this honey sesame roast chicken over at Min's blog, and was reminded again when I hopped over to Jessie's blog a couple of days ago. The recipe came so timely, as I had planned to roast a chicken over the long weekend =)

I have no intention to post this up as I knew I would have problem taking photos in the evening. When I was plating the dish, my elder son came over to ask whether he could take a picture of the roast chicken. He told me he could adjust the camera settings to compensate the poor lighting, and so I gladly hand over the role of photographer. His brother was happy to be his assistant, trying his best to bounce some light to the subject from his touch light to my baking tray (^^") I didn't expect anything decent since we do not have any external flash and it was already very dark. Fortunately, the picture quality was good enough for me to post his photos here, at least no one would mistake the chicken for something else ;)

I butterflied (or spatchcock) the chicken before roasting hoping that the chicken would brown evenly. Yet, some parts tend to brown faster so I had to cover it with foil to prevent it from getting burnt. I roasted it for close to an hour, turning it over in between and basting it with the marinate before returning to the oven.

The original recipe calls for honey, but I replaced it with maple syrup since I did not have any honey on hand. Nevertheless, the roast chicken still tasted as good as I had expected or imagined, it was tender and juicy. I had it with rice while the rest were having a good time wrapping up the chicken meat with tortilla wraps. The roasted vegetables were really good, especially the roasted sweet potatoes and onions! I would gladly eat the veggies even without any chicken. There is no doubt about it...this is going to be a regular visitor on our table. Thanks to Min and Jessie for sharing their wonderful recipes!

Monday, 6 August 2012

quick bread from my kitchen

It was love at first sight when I came across a Chocolate and Banana Bread while flipping through Linda Collister's book, Cakes and Bakes from My Mother's Kitchen. After a quick run through of the ingredients list, I had it bookmarked right away. Here's a quote from the author:

'This is a real treat for children everywhere or the big kid in all of us. Use milk chocolate and a banana~ or chocolate flavoured yoghurt for children or really dark chocolate and natural yoghurt for adults. This bread does improve with keeping - even for just a day.'

I am sold.


I would think most home bakers would try to bake something with bananas only if they were left with over-ripe bananas sitting on their kitchen counters begging to be used. For me, I specially bought a bunch of bananas and waited patiently for days, for them to turn black ;)

I stick closely to the original recipe and even took the trouble to measure my baking pans to make sure it fits the description of a '450lb size loaf pan'. I also bought a bag of self-raising flour just for it although I could easily do a substitution with plain flour and baking powder. I have bookmarked a few other recipes from this same book, and most call for self raising flour, so I am certain that it will be put to good use soon.

The finished loaves didn't look exactly like the illustration in the cookbook and that was largely my fault as I have replaced grated chocolates with baking chocolate chips. So, instead of a chocolaty, rustic loaf, I got a chocolate chips studded 'golden pillow' instead. I couldn't decide whether to love or hate the look of the finished loaves...from one perspective they were so awful but from another angle, I thought they looked cute and rustic all at the same time ;)

I encountered some mishaps when preparing the batter for this quick bread. Till now, I am not sure whether there is any typo error as I still can't believe that the amount of butter used is just a mere 55g? With so little butter compared to the amount of sugar and eggs, I was really skeptical that the batter would be 'fine'. Indeed, I had a busy time trying to cover the mixing bowl with my free hand to avoid having butter and suger splatting all over my counter. Fortunately, perseverance pays off, the heat from beating the butter caused the mixture to come together, from a bowl of 'sugary crumbs' to something I am more familiar with whenever I creamed butter and sugar together. I took extra care when adding the eggs, knowing that curdling would be quite unavoidable. True enough, the mixture did curdled into a mess of 'tau-huay' (bean curd), but not upon adding the eggs, but after I dumped in the yoghurt all at once. What a blunder!

Of course, I went on to add in the rest of the ingredients, keeping my fingers crossed all the time...hopping it wouldn't fall into that 'totally-waste-of-ingredients' category. Despite the blunders I made, the finished bread turn out to be deliciously moist and full of banana goodness. These bread loaves were truly flavours and fragrance-packed, since I took the liberty to add in some vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Tell me, who can refuse a slice that is packed with banana, chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla? The author suggested to serve it thickly sliced with chocolate and hazenut spread (aka nutella), but I think it is really not necessary, but of course, no one will stop you or any kid from doing so :)

Chocolate Chips Banana Bread

(makes two loaves, pan size: 17.5cmx9cmx6cm))

55g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g light brown soft sugar/ light muscovado sugar (I cut down to 120g)
2 large eggs, beaten
100g natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not included in original recipe)
350g over-ripe banana, mashed
300g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (not included in original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g semi-sweet chocolate chips (original recipe calls for 200g milk or dark chocolate, coarsely grated)

  • Line base and sides of 2 loaf pans with parchment paper. Sieve together flour, ground cinnamon and salt, set aside.
  • With electric mixer beat butter and sugar until well combined. Gradually beat in the eggs, little by little, followed by the yoghurt (add in gradually too) and vanilla extract.
  • With a spatula, stir in the mashed banana. Fold in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate chips until just combined. Spoon batter into prepare loaf pans, level the surface. Tap the pans on the work surface a few times to remove any trapped air bubbles.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 180degC for 40~45mins or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. (Optional: to ensure a nice crack upon baking, remove from oven after 15mins. With a knife, make a slit lengthwise along the centre of each loaf, return to oven and continue to bake until done). Leave to cool in pans for 10mins. Unmold, remove parchment paper, transfer to wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  • The loaves are best if wrapped in baking paper and kept for 1 day before cutting. Store in airtight container and consume within 4 days. Serve in thick slices with nutella spread, if desired.
Recipe source: Cakes and bakes from my mother's kitchen, Linda Collister