Saturday, October 31, 2009

Peanut Dessert

This is not the typical peanut dessert made of pureed peanuts. For this dish, the peanuts are boiled in water and the water is then sweetened. The dessert is usually taken with yu char koay which are Chinese crullers.

300 grams Raw unsalted peanuts ; shelled
sugar ; to taste

1. In a pot, put in peanuts and add enough water to reach 1 inch above peanuts. Boil.

2. Once it has started boiling, bring it down to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.

3. Add sugar to taste.

4. Serve hot with crullers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: French Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

For me, this was by far the toughest challenge in The Daring Bakers' Challenge. First of all, I've never eaten a macaron. I would know one on sight as, recently, they have gotten quite popular with home bakers in America, hence their blogging about them. However, I do not know how the texture should be. So even if my macarons happen to look like the ones in pictures, I would still have no idea whether they are truly macarons. This dilemma aside, I was quite adamant to have a go at it. They look so cute!

I tried the recipe provided in the Daring Bakers' Challenge and failed spectacularly the first time. I thought I had not whipped my egg whites enough. As you can see from the two pictures below, my batter was too wet and once the macarons baked, you can see little bubbles forming and no feet!

So I gave it another go. This time, I am very sure my egg whites have been whipped correctly. However, once I started to fold in the dry ingredients, I realised I'll be getting the same batter consistency as my first batch (which was too wet). I started mixing in extra almonds and sugar to get a drier consistency. The second batch was much better. I actually got tiny feet. However as I had to add dry ingredients, I had to fold the batter more times than is required. So my macarons didn't turn out well. They were all crinkly on top.

For my third try, I decided to use Syrup and Tang's formula for macarons. This time, my macarons finally turned out right. I was so excited when feet formed in the oven. They deflated a little when I took out the macarons but they still looked good. The shells had a hard-ish outer layer which cracks when you bite into it. The insides of the shells were moist and soft and sort of cake-ish. They were very good.

I decided to flavour my macarons with green tea. I added green tea powder to the shells and I whipped up a batch of green tea custard for the filling. For the sake of variety, I filled some macarons with good ol' peanut butter.

The recipe from The Daring Bakers' Challenge is listed first, followed by the recipe I used for my third batch (including the custard).

The Daring Bakers' Challenge Recipe

Confectioners' (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don't overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It's easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Recipe following Syrup and Tang's formula

112 grams Confectioners' Sugar
91 grams Almond flour
1/2 teaspoon Green tea powder ; if desired
56 grams Granulated sugar
2 aged Egg whites ; (at room temperature) (about 70g)

1. Sift the confectioners' sugar, ground almond and green tea powder twice, into a medium bowl. The mixture should be dry and clump together only slightly. If the ground almond is too moist, bake in oven at 140°C for 5-10 minutes before adding the sugar and green tea powder.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gradually and slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Add 1/4 of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold hard and fast to knock out some of the air in the whipped egg whites. Then add second batch and do the same; then the third and last batch. At first the ingredients will not mix well, but it comes together quickly. Then fold more slowly and gently as you continue until you get the consistency of "very cold honey". When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing. The final batter is pale and smooth, with no visible aeration.

To test the batter, place a tablespoon of the batter in a thin line on the remaining batter. It should disappear in 30 seconds. If not, do a couple more folds.

4. Stack 2 baking sheets together. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto the back of baking sheet lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper). Dab each corner of baking paper with batter so it does not slip. Pipe vertically over the centre, about 5mm above the tray surface. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Air dry macarons on the counter until they are touch-dry (about 1 hour or up to 4 hours).

5. Preheat oven at 200°C. Put in macaron tray in the middle shelf, and immediately turn down temperature to 160°C. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating tray and baking a further 5 minutes. They are ready if shell moves only reluctantly on its foot when you lightly nudge it with a finger.

7. Turn off oven and leave the tray in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove macarons and cool on a rack face up before filling.

8. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 teaspoon of the green tea filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavours to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

To store: Place in airtight containers and refrigerate.

Green Tea Filling

3 yolks
60 grams sugar
10 grams plain flour
10 grams custard powder
250 mililiters milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons green tea powder (or more, if you like it stronger)

In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and a third of the sugar until very thick and pale. Add in flour, custard powder and green tea powder. Whisk until well-combined.

In a saucepan, boil the milk with the remaining sugar. Once it boils, stir in vanilla and pour it onto the egg yolk mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture back in the saucepan and return to stove.

Over a very small flame, bring to boil, stirring continuously with a whisk. Let it simmer for two minutes, stirring. Strain the custard into a bowl. Immediately place bowl into an ice water bath and stir until custard cools.

To store: place some cling film over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate.

Personal note: I'd like to thank Audax Artifex here for his tremendous help and encouragement.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicken Pie

I love chicken pot pies. I love breaking the puff pastry into the thick chicken broth. I love how the broth remains hot for a long time.

I came across this top-rated recipe in AllRecipes. It's one of the few recipes not using canned soup so I jumped on it. I made it one time without celery salt and it was a bit bland. The celery salt definitely made a difference.

Adapted from AllRecipes, this serves 4.

250 grams Chicken breast ; skinless, boneless, halves; cubed
1 cups Frozen vegetable combo ; of carrots, green peas, corn (defrosted)
1/2 Potatoes ; cubed
1/2 cup Canned mushrooms
1/2 stalk Celery ; sliced
Butter ; for frying
1/2 large Leek
1/4 cup Onions ; chopped
1/4 cup All purpose flour
1/6 teaspoon Salt ; or to taste
1/6 teaspoon Black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Celery salt
1 1/3 cups Chicken broth
1/2 cup Milk
1 puff pastry; to cover the top of the pie pan

1. Preheat oven to 190°C.

2. Steam potato for about 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine chicken, frozen vegetable, potatoes, mushrooms, and celery. Add chicken broth to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside both broth and chicken mixture.

3. In the saucepan over medium heat, fry leek in butter until soft. Set aside. Cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Place the chicken mixture and leek in pie pan. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with puff pastry, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I had filling and curry leftover from September's Daring Cooks' Challenge. So I decided to make a different version of thosai. The recipe from Kuali requires a bit of fermentation which I felt is closer to the type of thosai we get in Penang.

It was really easy to make. The tough bit was grinding up the rice and dhal and frying them up. Once you get into the groove of ladling the batter onto the pan, you can do it with an eye closed.

This recipe serves 4.

25 grams blackgram dhal ; (ulundu) with skin
88 grams uncooked rice
38 grams cooked rice
3/4 cup Water
3/8 teaspoon Salt ; or to taste
Cooking oil ; or sesame oil

Wash rice and dhal and soak each separately overnight or for at least seven to eight hours. Drain, remove skin from the dhal.

Grind rice and dhal together with the cooked rice and water in a blender until smooth. Strain batter through a fine sieve. Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment for eight to 10 hours. (Refrigerate if not using it for breakfast.)

Grease an iron griddle lightly with oil. Pour a ladleful of batter onto the centre of the griddle. Spread the batter immediately with the back of the ladle starting from the centre in a clockwise motion to make a thin pancake.

Cook for about half a minute or until the underside turns slightly brown. Remove thosai from the griddle and repeat till the rest of the batter is used up. Serve thosai with curry.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Apple Cake

I've never had apple cake before. I guess that's why I like baking and cooking. I get to make food I like and food I'd like to try. I baked an apple pie ages ago and liked the combination of apples and the spices.

This particular cake is heavenly. Eaten warm, with ice cream to provide the added sweetness, this cake has become a favourite with me. This recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking.

3/4 cup Walnuts ; or pecans; chopped (75 grams)
454 grams Apple (about 3 medium apples)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cup All purpose flour ; (195 grams)
1/4 cup Granulated sugar ; (150 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Fine salt
6 tablespoons Unsalted butter ; melted (85 grams)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup Raisins ; (50 grams)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray with a non stick cooking spray, an 8 inch (20 cm) square baking pan and then line with parchment paper or wax paper.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack and then coarsely chop.

Peel, core, and coarsely chop the apples (about 1/2 inch cubes). Toss with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated. Fold in the chopped nuts, raisins, and chopped apples. If the batter is thick, stir in the milk.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and lift out cake with paper and place on a wire rack to cool.

Serve warm with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Reheat before serving.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Vietnamese Chicken Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I've never had Vietnamese Pho. I like noodle soups though so I thought this is a good challenge to try. This is a very easy dish to prepare. The "tough" part was toasting the spices, which was actually really easy.

The chicken pho tastes like Koay Teow T'ng (Malaysian street fare: noodle soup) except it has a cleaner taste. All I was thinking while eating it was, "this is such a healthy dish". I used fresh koay teow (flat rice noodles) instead of dry because they were easily available. I also substituted soy sauce for fish sauce, so that probably accounts for the oh-so-slightly bland taste to the soup.
Other than that, I'd say this is a great healthy dish.

Here's the recipe.

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.

2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.

4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.

5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.

7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.

8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spicy Vegan Curry

I am so on a curry phase right now. Also, most recipes with chickpeas happen to be curries and I made 1 large potful of chickpeas by a slightly miscalculation on my part. Yeah. That's right.

This dish is another pretty good one. Not as flavourful as the previous ones I've made but it's able to stand on its own feet.

Adapted from AllRecipes, serves 3.

2 potatoes ; peeled and cubed
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion ; diced
1 1/2 cloves Garlic ; minced
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 inch Fresh ginger root ; peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoons Fine salt
206 grams Diced tomatoes ; (about 4 tomatoes)
213 grams Chick peas ; rinsed and drained
213 grams peas ; drained
199 grams milk

1. Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.

2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk (enough to cover the ingredients and slightly more), and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I had lamb soup last weekend. My parents went to a bazaar and there was a wonderful variety of food. My dad decided to buy back a middle eastern dish for me to try. There was the rice with wonderful flavour from spices, accompanied by soup which tasted really familiar to me. Eventually, I realised the soup was boiled with lamb (I don't have lamb very often) but funnily enough, the meat in the soup was chicken (you can see why I was confused).

With lamb on my mind, I searched for a recipe which might be similar to the one I tried. This recipe from All Recipes was fantastic. It was not as oily as the one I had, and had a cleaner taste to it. I'm not familiar with Middle Eastern fare but according to the submitter of the dish, Harira is a traditional Moroccan dish.

2 tablespoons Butter
453 grams Lamb meat
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3/4 cup Celery ; chopped
1 Onion ; chopped
1 red onion ; chopped
1/2 cup Fresh cilantro ; chopped
822 grams Diced tomatoes
Salt ; to taste
7 cups water
3/4 cup green lentils
425 grams Chick peas ; drained
2 Eggs ; beaten
Cilantro ; for garnish

(1) Season lamb with a bit of salt.

(2) Place butter in large soup pot and melt over low heat. Place lamb, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, butter, celery, onion and cilantro into the soup pot and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Pour tomatoes (reserve juice) into the mixture and salt to taste. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

(3) Pour tomato juice, 7 cups water, and the lentils into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Let soup simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

(4) About 10 minutes before serving, turn the heat to medium-high, place chickpeas into the soup, let cook about 10 minutes. Stir in eggs, let eggs cook 1 minute.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tomato Bisque

I had some tomato paste I really wanted to use up. All Recipes is a good site to search for recipes by ingredients. I came across Tomato Bisque III which had good ratings from the users.

The recipe was good though I did prefer the creamy carrot with curry soup. The tomato flavour was a bit overwhelming. I think I probably used too much tomato paste. The recipe is adapted to serve 3 people.

30 grams butter
1/2 small onion ; finely chopped
1/2 stalk celery ; finely chopped
1/2 carrot ; finely chopped
1 cloves Garlic ; minced
1 1/2 tablespoons All purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
411 grams fire roasted diced tomatoes ; drained
1 tablespoons white sugar
1/12 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 cup milk
Salt and black pepper ; to taste


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook and stir until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, tomatoes, sugar, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.

3. Pour half to three-quarters of the soup into a blender-depending on how chunky you want it-filling the pitcher no more than halfway full. Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Alternately, you can use a stick blender and puree the soup in the saucepan.

4. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Cook over medium heat until the soup is hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.