Thursday, May 26, 2011

Princess Barbie Doll Cake

Princess Barbie Doll Cake for my little girl

Like any other little girls, my girl loves Barbie dolls, Disney Princess, Winx Club and all things pink.  But, I have never bought her any Barbie dolls before, though occasionally, I do get her magazines or storybooks relating to Barbie or Disney Princess.  This is her very first Barbie doll for her birthday and I am presenting the Barbie doll to her in a special way - A Princess Barbie Doll Cake. 

I have been thinking of making a Barbie doll cake since early this year.  As I have never made any Barbie doll cake before, I spent many hours browsing through the internet, watching youtube videos, looking at many Barbie doll cakes and finally decided on this Barbie doll cake with a fondant-covered evening gown.

My little girl, her friends and teachers love this cake!  This cake is not just visually pleasing, the cake itself tastes good too.  It is a rich butter cake with vanilla butter cream (prepared with fresh vanilla pod) and Nutella butter cream, and covered with marshmallow fondant.  The butter cake recipe is adapted from Richard Goh's Walnut Cake recipe. 

It's both a cake and a doll for the birthday girl

Ever wondered why those 3D specialty cakes are so expensive?  Yes, it is extremely time-consuming.  It took me more than 10 hours, over 3 days to complete this Barbie doll cake.  Why 3 days?  ha... I think I'm "kiasi" lah, better plan for more than less, especially this is my first attempt.  My baking schedule as follows:

Day 1: Relax ...
  • Bake butter cakes - two 8" cakes and two 6" cakes.  I baked an 8" and 6" cakes each time (max my oven and mixer can accommodate).  Hence, two rounds of measuring ingredients, preparing, baking and cooling the cakes.  
  • After the cakes are completely cool, wrap them in cling wraps, seal in zipper storage bags and store them in the fridge.
i) The cakes need to be chilled to harden up, so that you can cut, fill and trim the cakes easily.  In any case, butter cakes tasted better overnight.  

ii) It is better to use butter cake or any dense cake for fondant-covered cake.  The weight of the fondant plus the multiple layers of cake may be too heavy for a sponge cake.

Day 2: Where the funs begins ...
  • Prepare the butter creams and chill in fridge.
  • Cut to level the top for each cake.  Then, cut each cake into two layers (i.e. I have 4 x 2 = 8 layers).  For each subsequent layer, I carefully trim down the inches.  So starting with a base cake of 8", followed by 7.5", then 7" and so on.  By doing so, it is easier to trim the cake into a dome shaped later.  Stack up the layers to check for a rough dome shape.
  • Many sites suggested making a hole in the cake after filling and trimming the cake (the hole is to insert the doll).  But, I thought hollowing the cake in the centre after trimming is rather risky and messy.  I have small cake rings (or those for making scones), so I stamped out circles in each layer (of course be careful to ensure the circles are aligned for each layer).
  • Spread the layers with vanilla butter cream, alternate with Nutella butter cream and stack them together.  Reserve some butter cream to cover the whole cake (for Day 3).
  • Finally, use a sharp knife and trim the cake to a dome shape.  Wrap the dome cake with cling wrap again and put back into the fridge to chill again.
  • Prepare the marshmallow fondant (wrap and store at room temp) and royal icing (store in fridge) for Day 3.
[Note: I read in some baking forum that they used pyrex bowls to achieve the dome shape.  I tried baking the cake with it, but the cake centre is uncooked :( ]

Two 8" butter cakes and two 6" butter cakes for making this barbie doll cake

Day 3:  The challenge ...

Ha... it was like the night before your major examination.  I slept very little and kept thinking of how to go about rolling the fondant and wrapping it around the Barbie doll ... 
  • To adhere the rolled fondant onto the cake, you need to cover the whole cake with a thin layer of butter cream.  Put the cake back into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes before covering with fondant.
  • Prepare Barbie's top from a small piece of pink fondant - wrap around and trim (use a clean paint brush to apply a little water on Barbie to stick the fondant)
  • Wrap lower-part of Barbie doll with cling wrap and insert the doll into the cake.
  • Prepare the white frills - roll out white fondant and cut into thin strips.  For each strip, roll a toothpick onto the fondant to create the frills.  Starting from the bottom, stick layers of frills onto the cake (only for the front part) and work all the way up to Barbie waistline.
  • Roll out the pink fondant and wrap around the Barbie doll (except for the front) and trim away excess fondant.  
  • Roll out a smaller piece of pink fondant (create frills using toothpick) and wrap around Barbie's waist.
  • Decorate the gown with fondant and/or royal icing.
[Note: Always cover excess or unused fondant with cling wrap to prevent drying out.  If fondant becomes too dry and crack, apply a little shortening on your hands and knead the fondant before rolling out again]

Make your own Barbie Cake Box Carrier - it's easy and affordable!

The task is not completed, yet.  I need to bring the Barbie doll cake to my little girl's school for her birthday celebration.  How to transport the Barbie doll cake?  Jess of Bakericious shared with me her clever idea of using two cake boxes to DIY a Barbie doll cake carrier.  Simply overlap the base of the boxes and use the covers to form a "house" for the Barbie doll.  For my Barbie doll cake, I used two 11" boxes.  I secured the base with a metal clip on both sides and used sticky tapes to secure the "roof".

Recipe for Butter Cake
(makes one 6" and one 8" cake)

7 egg yolks (I used eggs with 55 net weigh each)
60g brown sugar
30g golden syrup

320g unsalted butter
60g brown sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla essence
Zest from an orange
320g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
120g whipping cream
50g chocolate rice

7 egg whites
60g caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1) Whisk ingredients (A) till thick.  Set aside.
2) Cream butter and sugar in (B) till fluffy and add in mixture from step 1.  Add in the rest of the ingredients in (B), fold to combine and set aside.
3) Whisk ingredients (C) till stiff peak.  Mix 1/3 portion of (C) into batter from step 2.  Fold in the rest of (C) into the batter till well combined.
4) Pour batter into greased and lined 6" and 8" cake pans.  Bake in preheated oven of 160C for 50 to 60 minutes (I cover the top with foil after 25 minutes to prevent the top from over-browning).

[Cake recipe adapted from Richard Goh's Walnut Cake from 色香味精选食谱]

Vanilla Butter cream
(enough to ice the Barbie doll cake)

Personally, I prefer Swiss butter cream or Italian butter cream as they are lighter in texture.  But, they required the use of raw egg whites (which is only "partially heated"), so I use this recipe instead:

200g unsalted butter 
40g salted butter (or replace with all unsalted butter and add a small pinch of salt)
120g icing sugar
1/3 vanilla bean (use the seeds only) - or replace with 1 tsp vanilla essence
80g fresh milk

1) Beat butter till smooth.  Add icing sugar gradually and beat till fluffy.
2) Continue beating and add in the milk gradually. 
3) Add vanilla bean seeds and mix well.

i) Use immediately or cover and chill in fridge.  When remove from fridge, wait for it to soften a little and re-whip  it before use.

ii) For Nutella butter cream, I just mix a heaped tablespoon of Nutella with some vanilla butter cream.  The kids love Nutella, so this is mainly to cater to their food preference.

My thoughts:

I never thought that I could also make a Barbie doll cake.  It was just a casual thought initially, but I set my mind and go for it, as I wanted to make something special for my little girl.  Seeing the smile on my little girl's face and the happiness it brings to her little friends, it is worth all my time and effort spent on making this  cake.  Plus, I get to learn something new in the process!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Birthday Goodies Bags

Handmade cookies with fondant for this year birthday's goodies bags

It was a busy weekend rolling out cookies dough, baking trays of cookies and decorating them with fondant and royal icing.  These cookies will be going into the goodies packs for little girl's birthday celebration in school.  

This bear cookie cutter is one of my favorite designs.  I have used this same cutter for my Valentine's Day cookies.  You can use the same cookie recipe as given in my post on Valentine's Day Cookies, or another recipe which I will share at the end of this post.

Little bear says "Hug Me"!

Flower cookies that look like the lovely sunshine ......

You are my sunshine!

Happy Birthday to you, my little girl!

Come and celebrate my birthday!

The fondant is prepared from melted marshmallow and icing sugar.  Making marshmallow fondant (MMF) is not difficult, just make sure you gather all the necessary ingredients before starting, as you are handling some really sticky stuff!  I used a pair of wooden chopsticks to mix the melted marshmallow and icing sugar at the beginning stage till almost a dough is formed, before kneading it with my hands.  The whole process takes around 10 to 15 minutes.  The recipe and complete steps for making MMF is here

Making marshmallow fondant

After spending so much time to decorate the cookies, the last thing I want is to crush them accidentally.  So, I bought these clear plastic boxes from a baking supplies store, washed and dried them thoroughly, before decorating them to store the cookies.  

Preparing these clear plastic boxes to store the cookies.

The final step is to wrap each cookie individually in small plastic bags and place them in the plastic box with thin cushioning in between the cookies.  

The final packaging!

Now, recipes for the cookie dough and royal icing ....

Before I bake these birthday cookies, I experimented on a small batch of cookies using 2 recipes - one using egg yolk and another using egg white.  Both recipes use almost the same ingredients and quantity.  The Bear Valentine's cookies is based on the egg yolk recipe.  While the egg yolk recipe yields good results (crispy and fragrance), my cookies also brown very quickly. Then, I saw this Y3K recipe from Peng's Kitchen that uses egg whites, I decided to try out this recipe.

The egg whites recipe yields a finer texture and a nicer cookie colour (i.e. not too brown).  In terms of ease of handling, I find them the same - you basically need to roll out the cookie dough between baking papers, chill to harden the dough sheet slightly, before stamping with cookie cutters.  If this is the first time you are making cookies, go for simple designs and you will have a higher chance of success.  For instance, for the three cookie designs that I made above, the easiest to handle is the gift tag cookie.  The flower cookie is the most tricky as the dough tends to stick at the joints between petals.  

Recipe for Cookie Dough (Y3K)
(makes approximately 36 cookies)

180g butter
30g egg whites (or 2 tbsp)
80g icing sugar
180g plain flour
80g rice flour
80g corn flour

1) Cream butter, icing sugar and egg whites till fluffy.
2) Combine all the flours together.  Using a spatula, fold the combined flour into the butter mixture till a soft dough is formed.
3) Divide into 2 or 3 portions.  Roll out each portion between a sheet of baking paper and cling wrap (about 3mm thick).  Chill the cookie sheet in the fridge till semi-hard, then remove and stamp out cookies using your cookie cutters.
4) Arrange cookies on lined baking trays and bake in preheated oven of 160C for 20 to 25 minutes.
5) Transfer cookies on rack to cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

If you are decorating the cookies with fondant, place the stamp-out fondant over the baked cookie once it is out from oven.  The heat from the cookie will slightly melt the fondant and allow the fondant to stick onto the cookie.  Transfer to rack to cool before storage.

Recipe for Royal Icing

Egg whites are usually used for preparing royal icing.  As these cookies are meant for little children, I used meringue powder (available from baking supplies store) to prepare my royal icing instead of using raw egg whites.  Meringue powder is a substitute for egg white for making icing.  For each egg white, you need about 2 tsp meringue powder + 2 tbsp water.  Taste-wise, royal icing prepared from egg whites taste better while meringue powder gives an artificial taste.  

4 tsp meringue powder
4 tbsp water
300g icing sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

1) Whisk meringue powder and water till foamy.
2) Add icing sugar gradually and continue to whisk till stiff and fluffy.
3) Add lemon juice and whisk for another 2 minutes.
4) Divide into portions and mix in desired coloured gel(s)

Transfer the royal icing to piping bag(s) and use immediately.  Else, cover the royal icing with cling wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Coming Up Next .....

A Princess Barbie Doll Cake

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lemon Grass Chicken Pasta Soup

A satisfying one-dish meal

My favorite ABC soup + lemon grass + pasta = Lemon Grass Chicken Pasta Soup.  I added a piece of parsley root for extra flavour.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

2 plus 1 menu: Cook Easy Non-Greasy

Steamed pork in shrimp sauce (咸虾蒸猪肉),Steamed tofu with minced prawn (百花豆腐),Spicy cucumber (小黄瓜)

Some of the days' weather have been so hot that I am avoiding the kitchen.  Today's dishes are steam, steam, marinate and DONE!  Of course, I still need to do the basic preparation work, but that's quite minimal.

Steamed Pork in Shrimp Sauce (咸虾蒸猪肉)

For this pork dish, I marinated thin slices of pork with about 1.5 tsp of shrimp sauce (咸虾).  I used the fine shrimp sauce from Lee Kum Kee.  Shrimp sauce is very extremely salty, so you need only a little of this sauce to bring out the unique aroma of this dish.  Balance this saltiness with 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp garlic oil (or shallot oil), dash of sesame oil and pepper, 1 tsp soy sauce, 2 to 3 tbsp water, 1 tsp corn flour and lots of minced garlic (abut 2 tbsp).  Marinate the pork for at least 3 hours in the fridge.  When ready to steam, cut thin slices of onion and line it on the plate.  Spread the marinated pork on the onion, add some chopped chili and steam on high for about 10 minutes.  Garnish with chopped spring onion and serve hot.

Very appetising dish with rice

 Steamed Tofu with Minced Prawn (百花豆腐)

To make the prawn paste, I minced about eight medium-sized prawns with a chopper and stirred the minced prawn with a pair of chopstick (in one direction) and mix in: 2 tsp egg whites, a pinch of salt/sugar/pepper each and about 1 tsp corn flour.  Chill in fridge for an hour before spreading the prawn paste on silken tofu (sprinkle a pinch of salt and some corn flour over the tofu before spreading the prawn paste).  Drizzle 1/2 tbsp garlic oil (or shallot oil) over the dish and steam on high for about 7 minutes.  Garnish with chopped spring onion and served hot.

Light and easy dish

Spicy Cucumber (小黄瓜)

My spicy cucumber is a fusion of Korean + Chinese style.  I like to add a little Korean hot sauce whenever I prepare this dish for a little spiciness.  The important ingredients for this dish are black vinegar (浙醋), minced garlic and peppercorn (花椒) oil.  Add sesame oil, salt and sugar to taste. 

One of my favorite dish during the hot weather - refreshing and appetising!

For more family menu ideas, check out the page here. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate Madeleine & Madeleine with Chocolate Coating

This is my first baking attempt with silicone mold and my first attempt with Madeleine.  I have long wanted to bake these little cakes, but never buy the bake pan for making it.  So, when I saw this silicone mold during my recent trip to Hong Kong,  I happily bought it at a very reasonable price of S$5!  

I used the recipe from Cuisine Paradise (original source: Donna Hay's Cookbook) and adapted it to make two flavours:  Chocolate Madeleine and Madeleine with Chocolate Coating. 

(makes 18 small Madeleine)

2 eggs
75g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g unsalted butter, melted

(A) 1 tbsp cocoa powder
(B) 2 tsp lemon juice + 2 tsp lemon zest + 1/2 tbsp plain flour

1) Whisk eggs and caster sugar till foamy.
2) Sift flour and baking powder together and mix well into the egg mixture from step 1.  Divide batter into two equal portions.
3) Add (A) cocoa powder into one portion, and ingredients in (B) to another portion.  Mix well.
4) Fold in equal amount of  melted butter (30g each) to each portion.  Mix well.

5) Pour batter into Madeleine pan or mold till almost full.  
6) Bake in preheated oven of 180C for 10 minutes or until Madeleine spring back when lightly press.
7) Transfer Madeleine to rack to cool completely.  Dust the Chocolate Madeleine with icing sugar.  Dip the Lemon Madeleine into melted chocolate.

Lemon Madeleines with chocolate coating and Chocolate Madeleines

I will be submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 – Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by Doris from Tested and Tasted.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Grilled Tofu Set Menu

Grilled Tofu with Twice-Baked Potato and Cream of Broccoli Soup

This is almost a vegetarian menu, except that I have used chicken & vegetable stock and milk, to prepare the cream of broccoli soup; and some cheddar cheese for the baked potato.

Tonight's 2 plus 1 menu:
(serves 3)

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Garlic Toast - $3.20
Grilled Tofu with Salsa - $4.00
Twice-Baked Potato - $2.80

Total: $10.00

 "Cream" of Broccoli Soup

There's no cream in this broccoli soup.  Instead, the soup is naturally thickened with some potato and a little milk is added for a smoother texture.  The method of preparation is the same as here, just omit the streaky bacons and cream.  To make the chicken & vegetable stock, stir-fry some chopped onions and carrots in a pot, followed with some chicken bones.  Add water and simmer for 45 minutes. 

I have earlier made some steamed black sesame and soy milk buns.  For the garlic toast, I simply sliced the bun, brushed with some garlic butter and toasted them in oven.

Approximate cost:
Broccoli ($1.50) + chicken & vegetable stock ($1.00) + milk/toast ($0.70) = $3.20

Grilled tofu is a nice alternative to grilled meat.

Tofu, or bean curd tastes rather bland on its own.  Hence, it is necessary to marinate it prior to grilling.  I used a simple marinates of miso paste, soy sauce and some freshly grated ginger & garlic.  To make it even more appetising, I served the grilled tofu on a bed of avocado salsa. 


2 large pieces firm bean curd (each piece sliced into half horizontally)
 - marinate with 1/2 tsp miso, 2 tsp soy sauce, grated ginger & garlic

For making salsa:
1 corn cob (blanch in chicken stock for making soup, cool and remove kernels)
1 tomato (deseed)
1/3 onion, finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper
1 ripe avocado
2 stalks parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Approximate cost:
Bean curd ($1.30) + combined vegetables ($2.70) = $4.00

1) Remove the avocado from the skin and quickly squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over it.  Cut the avocado, tomato and red bell pepper into small little cubes.
2) Combine the salsa ingredients together and let it chill in the fridge for two hours before serving.
3) Heat up a grill pan (preferably non-stick) and brush it with some oil.  Grill the bean curd slices on both sides till nice grilled marks are left on them.  
4) Scoop a nice serving of salsa on a piece of lettuce leaf and place the grilled bean curd on top.

Soft creamy potato with melted cheddar cheese

Twice-Baked Potato 

3 Russell potatoes
1/2 carrot, chopped (briefly boiled)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp corn kernels (from above)
2 stalks spring onion, chopped
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Sufficient milk to mashed the potato
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Approximate cost:
Potatoes ($1.00) + combined vegetables ($0.80) + milk/mayo/cheese ($1.00) = $2.80

1) Wash and scrub the potatoes and pierce with a fork all around.  Gently boil the potatoes till the potatoes are just soft enough to scoop out (about 15 to 20 minutes).
2) Cut 1/4 horizontally across and gently scoop out the potato flesh.  You want to have a thin layer of potato in the shell (use the 1/4 slices of potato for the broccoli soup).
3) Meanwhile, mash the potato with a little chicken stock, milk and mayonnaise.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the chopped carrot, onion, corn kernels, spring onion (reserved some for garnish) and mix well.  Set aside.
4) Brush the potato skins (all round) with melted butter.  Place the potatoes skin-side up and bake in oven at 175C for about 15 minutes.
5) Scoop the mashed potatoes into the baked potato shells, sprinkle shredded cheese and bake again for a further 10 minutes, or till cheese melts and begins to brown.

A healthy, colourful and delicious meal for three persons, for a total of $10!

I will be sharing this recipe with Cuisine Paradise's May $20 Budget Meal - Specific Ingredient: "Tofu/Beancurd".  

For more family menu ideas, check out the page here. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Braised Duck with Yam

This is a twist from the usual braised pork belly with yam.  Equally tasty with plain rice, and much cheaper than using pork belly.

(serves 3 to 4)

4 to 5 duck wings
Half a yam (cut into thick slices)
4 to 5 slices ginger
5 to 6 shallots (cut into half and smashed with chopper)
1.5 cube fermented red bean curd (南乳), plus some of it sauce - mix well (add 1/2 tbsp water if necessary)
1 tsp hoisin sauce (sweet bean sauce)
Dash of cooking wine

1) Fry the yam slices till light brown.  Drain and set aside.
2) Heat little oil in wok till very hot.  Add ginger slices and smashed shallots, give it a few stirs.  Add the duck wings and stir fry till fragrant.
3) Lower heat and add the fermented red bean curd sauce and hoisin sauce into wok.  Stir well with the duck wings.  Add a dash of cooking wine.  Add water (fully cover the duck wings, plus some more) and bring it to boil.  Transfer content to casserole.
4) Simmer over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes.  Add the fried yam and simmer for further 15 minutes [before adding the yam, check taste and add soy sauce to taste (if necessary).  Also, the gravy should fully cover the wings as the yam slices will absorb some of the gravy and thicken it while it cook.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Easy one-dish meal - I love Tofu!

吸了满满汤汁的豆包, 您想尝一口吗?

Using tofu as the theme ingredient, this easy bee hoon soup has tofu in every bite!  Soy beans for preparing the soup stock, mashed tofu wrapped in tofu puff and extra tofu cubes in the soup.  

(serves 3)

1/2 packet brown rice bee hoon (米粉) - soaked, drained water
1 tomato (cut into chunks)
Few pieces lettuce leaves
Small piece of silken tofu (cut into cubes)
Some fish slices (marinate with a pinch of salt, 1 tsp oil and dash of pepper)
Ikan bilis and soy beans (黄豆) stock - about 1 litre

For making tofu parcels:
120g minced chicken
Small piece of silken tofu (about 40g or 1/6 box) - mashed through a sieve
1 tbsp chopped spring onion
Seasoning: 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, dash of pepper, 1 -2 tsp corn flour
6 tofu puffs
Spring onion (to tie the tofu bag) - blanched in hot water till softened

Approximate cost: 
Bee Hoon ($0.60) + tomato/lettuce/spring onion/stock ($1.20) + Cod fish slices ($6.00) + minced chicken ($1.00) + tofu puffs/tofu ($1.20) = $10.00

1) Combine minced chicken with mashed tofu and chopped spring onion, add seasonings and mix well.  Let it chill in fridge for at least an hour to firm up.  

2) Blanch or soak the tofu puffs in hot water to remove excess oil.  Remove and squeeze out excess water.  Let it cool completely.  Make a small opening at one end and stuff it with fillings from step 1.  Use a spring onion to tie a knot at the opening.

3) Bring the stock to boil, add tomato chunks and bee hoon.  Next, add in the tofu parcels and tofu cubes.  Add the marinated fish slices, lettuce leaves and remove from heat.  Add a dash of pepper, some chopped spring onion, fried shallot and 1/2 tbsp garlic oil (from below).  Serve immediately.

For extra serving of greens, I blanched some kailan in the pot of stock (before cooking the bee hoon), serve the kailan on plate and topped with garlic sauce.

Ingredients: 2/3 packet of kailan (from NTUC), 4 cloves garlic (chopped), a little stock (from above)

1) Blanch kailan in stock, remove.  
2) Fry the chopped garlic with some oil till golden brown.  Pour out oil, leaving 1/2 tbsp garlic oil, add some stock to it.  Once the stock starts bubbling, add the fried garlic (reserved a little for garnish).
3) Add salt to taste and thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch solution.  Pour sauce over kailan and garnish with remaining fried garlic.

Approximate cost:  kailan ($1)

To ensure even cooking, make a small cut at the stem

For this healthy one-dish meal + extra greens, it costs approximately $11.00 to prepare or averaged, $3.70 per person!  

I will be submitting this post to Cuisine Paradise's May $20 Budget Meal - Specific Ingredient: "Tofu/Beancurd".  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Double-boiled Coconut Chicken Soup

The cool and refreshing coconut water must be the best thirst quencher for this hot and humid May.

(serves 2)

2 young coconuts
2 chicken drumsticks or wings (blanched in hot water)
3 parts chicken stock + 1 part coconut water (sufficient to fill the coconut)
2 red dates
2 Chinese mushroom (soaked and squeezed out excess water)
Small piece of snow fungus (soaked, cut into bite-sized)
1 tbsp wolfberries

1) Crack open the top portion of the young coconut and drain the coconut water into a container.  Enjoy your coconut water, leaving a little for making the soup.  You can either scrape some coconut flesh and cook them in the soup, or leave the flesh intact and enjoy it after drinking the soup.

2) Fill each coconut shell with a small piece of chicken, red date, mushroom, snow fungus and top up with chicken stock + coconut water.   Cover with coconut lid.

3) Steam over high heat for 30 minutes.  Add a pinch of salt and wolfberries.   Steam for another 5 minutes and serve hot. 

2 plus 1 menu: Light Menu

Tonight's menu:
(serves 3 to 4)

Seaweed Soup (紫菜蕃茄蛋花汤) - $1.70
Steamed Cod Fish and Tofu with Black Bean Sauce (雪鱼豆腐蒸黑豆鼓酱) - $8.30
Stir-Fry Prawns with Pea Sprouts (虾仁豆苗) - $5.00


Seaweed Soup (紫菜蕃茄蛋花汤) 

1 small piece of seaweed
1 tomato (cut into thick chunks)
1 egg (beaten)
2 tbsp dried silver fish (银鱼仔), rinse and pat dry
2 slices ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped (Omit as I used the garlic oil from second dish, steamed cod fish - see below)

Approximate costs:
Dried silver fish ($1.00) + seaweed/tomato/egg ($0.70)  = $1.70

1) Heat a little oil in a pot.  Add ginger, follow by silver fish and stir fry till fragrant.  Add about 1.2 litre water and let it cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat.
[Note: Before step 2, keep half a rice bowl of stock for preparing the third dish - stir fry prawns with pea sprouts - see below]
2) Heat a little garlic oil in wok (see preparation of steamed fish below), turn heat on high.  Stir fry the tomato chunks briefly, add into (1) and cook for another 5 minutes.
3) Add seaweed into soup and season with salt to taste.  Turn heat on high and pour in the beaten egg.  Turn off heat immediately and serve.

Steamed Cod Fish and Tofu with Black Bean Sauce (雪鱼豆腐蒸黑豆鼓酱)

150g cod fish fillet (cut into 1 cm thin slices)
1/2 box silky tofu (cut into 1 cm thin slices)

4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
Small piece ginger (finely shredded)
1 stalk spring onion (green portion, chopped)

Sauce ingredients:
1 tbsp salted black beans (黑豆鼓) - rinsed, drain off liquid

1 tsp hoisin sauce (or soy sauce to taste)
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 stalk spring onion (white portion, chopped)

Approximate costs:
Cod fish ($7.00) + Tofu ($0.40) + Sauce ingredients/garlic/ginger ($0.90) = $8.30

1) Heat about 4 tbsp oil in wok.  Fry the chopped garlic till golden brown.  Drain and set aside.  Pour out garlic oil.
2) Combine the sauce ingredients together and stir in about 1 tbsp of hot garlic oil.
3) Arrange cod fish and tofu on plate.  Pour the sauce over it, sprinkle shredded ginger and steam on high heat for about 8 minutes.
4) Garnish with chopped spring onion and golden fried garlic.  Serve immediately.

Stir-Fry Prawns with Pea Sprouts (虾仁豆苗) 

250g medium gray prawns (marinate briefly with a pinch of salt, pepper and dash of wine)
1 packet pea sprouts
1 tsp dried scallop floss
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Approximate costs:
Prawns ($3) + Pea sprouts ($1.50) + Scallop floss ($0.50) = $5.00

1) Heat some garlic oil (from 2nd dish above) in wok on high.  Add pea sprouts, give it a few quick-stirs and add half a rice bowl of stock (from soup - see first dish above) and a pinch of salt.  Once pea sprouts has softened slightly, turn off heat and serve on plate.  Discard liquid in wok.
2) Heat a little oil in wok, add chopped garlic, follow by dried scallop floss.  Once fragrant, add in the prawns and stir fry till cooked (about a minute).  Serve prawns over pea sprouts.

I will be submitting this post to Cuisine Paradise's May $20 Budget Meal - Specific Ingredient: "Tofu/Beancurd".  

For more ideas on 3-plus-1 or 2-plus-1 menus, check out the page here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes with Meringue Frosting

This is a simple recipe with few ingredients, but yields amazingly soft velvety cakes.

(yields 10 medium cupcakes)

60g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp cocoa powder

(B): Mix together
140g cake flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

(C): Mix together:
1/2 cup milk + 1 tbsp white vinegar (let it rest for 5 mins)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and mix in the cocoa powder.
2) Add (B) to step 1, alternate with (C) and mix till batter is smooth.
3) Pour batter into cupcake containers and bake in preheated oven at 175C for 12 to 15 minutes.

(Source: Adapted from Petite Sweets by Beatrice Ojakangas)

Meringue Frosting
(more than enough to frost the 10 cupcakes)

2 egg whites + 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (I used 4 tsp meringue powder + 4 tbsp water)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice

1) Combine the sugar and water in a small pot.  Boil the mixture over medium heat till sugar dissolves and small bubbles forming on the surface (takes about 5 minutes).

2) Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites & cream of tartar (or egg whites substitutes) till stiff peak.  Slowly pour in the hot syrup from (1) while continue whisking the meringue.  Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and whisk for another 5 minutes.

I will be submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 – Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

3-plus-1 menu: Pre-Mother's Day Celebration

Tonight's menu (serves 8):

Dried Vegetables Honey Dates Pork Ribs Soup (菜干蜜枣猪骨汤) - S$7.00
Clay Pot Prawns with Vermicelli (鲜虾粉丝煲) - S$7.00
Radish Pork Ribs Stew (猪软骨焖萝卜) - S$11.00
Stir-Fry Asparagus with Scallops (芦笋红椒炒带子) - S$9.00

Estimated cost: S$34.00

Dried Vegetables Honey Dates Pork Ribs Soup (菜干蜜枣猪骨汤)

This is an excellent soup for our recent crazy hot weather.  Dried vegetables helps to nourish and clear heatiness from our lungs.  It is tasteless on its own, i.e. there's no sugar or salt used to preserve it.  To prepare, soak the dried vegetable in water to soften the leaves and to rinse off any sand particles that are trapped inside.  

* You can also add one to two pieces of dried duck kidney (腊鸭肾) for this soup.  
* For a one-dish meal, try dried vegetables salted pork bone porridge.  Good for relieving body heatiness and aches. 

Dried vegetables (菜干)

A small bundle of dried vegetables (Note: the dried vegetables will expand after soaking & cooking)
400g pork ribs/bone (around S$5)
2 honey dates
5 to 6 red dates
1 tbsp almond kernels (南北杏)

1) Blanch the pork ribs/pork in hot water to remove any impurities.  Set aside.
2) Soak the dried vegetables in water to soften it.  Drain away the water and wash it again to ensure there are no sand particles trapped in the leaves.
3) Bring a pot of water to boil (about 1.6 litre).  Put in all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 2 hours.  Season with salt to taste.

Clay Pot Prawns with Vermicelli (鲜虾粉丝煲)

A simple, yet elegant dish to serve.  Where possible, use fresh sea prawns as they are sweeter and crunchier in texture.

8 to 10 medium-sized prawns
2 small bundles vermicelli
1 cup chicken stock + 1 cup water
Oyster sauce (adjust to taste)
3 to 4 shallots (sliced)
2 slices ginger
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 chilli (chopped)
1 stalk of spring onion (chopped)
Dash of pepper

1) Briefly soak the vermicelli till soft to handle.  Drain and set aside.
2) Prawns - trim away the legs (leave the shells on), make a cut at the back and devein. Marinate the prawns with a pinch of salt and a tbsp cooking wine (briefly, just before step 5).
3) Fry the shallots with some oil till golden brown.  Remove the fried shallots and set aside.
4) Heat a clay pot and add 1/2 tbsp shallot oil.  Fry the ginger slices, chopped garlic, add in the chicken stock/water, a little oyster sauce and bring to boil.
5) Add the vermicelli and sprinkle half the fried shallots over (check water level - should fully cover the vermicelli plus a little more).  Arrange the prawns on top.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes till prawns are cooked.
6) Garnish with remaining fried shallots, chopped chilli and spring onion.  Add a dash of pepper.

Radish Pork Ribs Stew (猪软骨焖萝卜) 

I love the radish in this dish - soft and full of flavour!  Always allow the stew to rest for at least an hour before serving.  This allows all the flavours to come together.

700g pork soft bones
1 medium radish (peel and cut into bite-sized)
8 slices ginger
4 to 5 shallots, cut into thick slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tsp bean paste sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 to 2 tbsp soy sauce (adjust to taste)
1.5 tsp sugar (or a small piece of rock sugar)
Dash of cooking wine
2 stalks of spring onion (cut into 2" lengthwise)

1) Heat some oil in wok on high heat.  Fry the shallots and ginger slices till fragrant.
2) Add the pork and stir fry.  Push the pork aside (lower heat), add some oil and add in the garlic.  Add the bean paste and stir-fry with the garlic till aromatic.  Turn heat up again and continue to stir fry with the pork.  Add a dash of cooking wine from the side of the wok.  
3) Add sufficient water to cover the pork.  Bring to boil, then transfer content to casserole.
4) Add oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauce (to taste) and let it simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.
5) Add radish and simmer for another 45 minutes.  Let the stew rest for an hour to two before serving.
6) To serve:  Heat up the stew.  Meanwhile, heat some oil in another pan or pot till moderately hot, add in the spring onion and turn off heat.  Drizzle the spring onion over the stew.

Stir-Fry Asparagus with Scallops (芦笋红椒炒带子)

Asparagus is in the season again!  This quick and easy stir-fry dish is popular during festive period or special occasion.  

5 thick stalks of asparagus
1/4 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized
5 to 6 large scallops, sliced into two horizontally
3 water chestnut, peeled and cut into thin slices
3 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A dash of cooking wine
A dash of fish sauce (or a little oyster sauce) -  to taste
A little chicken stock
A little cornstarch solution
Dash of pepper

1) Prepare the asparagus: Discard the lower ends (the tough and fibrous part), peel away the outer skin from middle of stalk to lower ends.  Slice diagonally.  When ready to cook, blanch the asparagus in some hot water (add a pinch of salt and a tsp oil in the water).  Remove, drain and set aside.  
2) Marinate the scallops with a pinch of salt and a tsp corn flour.  After blanching the asparagus, use the hot water to blanch the scallops for a brief 30 seconds.  Remove, drain and set aside.
3) Heat some oil in wok on high heat.  Add in the ginger, follow with garlic and stir fry briefly.  Add the blanched asparagus and stir fry quickly.  Add in the scallops, bell pepper and water chestnut and stir well to combine the ingredients (important to drain the liquid from the asparagus and scallops after blanching).
4) Add a dash of cooking wine and fish sauce from the side of wok.  Add in the chicken stock, stir well and wait for content to start bubbling before thicken the gravy with a little cornstarch solution.
5) Add a dash of pepper and serve immediately.

For more 3-plus-1 or 2-plus-1 menus, check out the summary here. 
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