Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella frosting

This is my last minute idea to reward the children for their fabulous dance performance at a charity concert.  They sure had a busy schedule in school - last week had their annual drama day in school where they put up the play "The Stone Soup".  Next month or so will be parents' day, and not forgetting, there is the most important graduating concert at year end.  I'm so excited for the kids!  

Last minute?  Yes, I only started to weigh the ingredients at about 9 a.m. in the morning.  By 11.00 a.m., these cupcakes were all packed in cupcake box and ready to go!  Here's the recipe.  I did 1.5 portion and yield 16 medium-sized cupcakes.  I actually intend to dust some icing sugar on the cupcakes before the frosting, but it slipped my mind.  Next time, perhaps ...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chilled Strawberry Cheesecake

Fresh strawberries were on sale last Friday at Fairprice Xtra, around $2.80 for 250g punnet.  I happily grabbed two punnets even though there's still one punnet in my fridge.  These strawberries were imported from Australia, very plump, red and juicy.  Not as sweet as the Korea strawberries, but not too sour either and has a lovely strawberry aroma.  

And after making the Chocolate Marshmallow Cake, I still have lots of whipping cream to clear.  Now, you can't go too wrong with strawberry + whipped cream combination.  And since I have cream cheese in the fridge and some digestive biscuits in my kitchen cabinet, I know exactly what I will do with my strawberries.

At first, I was thinking of blending the fresh strawberries with milk, then combine with cream cheese and whipped cream for the filling.  But this will not give me a nice strawberry flavour in the end product.  I find that cooking the strawberry actually brings out the full flavour, and it adds a nice colour to the cheesecake.  The same goes for blueberries.  Beside using this strawberry sauce for cheesecake, you can also use the sauce to drizzle over ice-cream, yogurt, pancakes or add to milkshake etc.  It's 100% homemade strawberry sauce without artificial preservatives and flavouring.

(make 30 small squares, from tray measuring 20cm x 30cm)

(A): Base
15 digestive biscuits (crushed into fine crumbs - I used a rolling pin to crush it)
90g butter (melted)

(B): Strawberry sauce
250g fresh strawberries (chopped)
60g sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 to 2 tbsp water

(C): Cream cheese filling
200g cream cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
60g fine sugar
250ml dairy whipping cream (whipped till peak)
120ml milk
30ml water + 2 tsp gelatin
3 gelatin sheets

[Note:  I need about 5 tsp of gelatin powder.  But I run out of gelatin powder, so I replaced it with 3 gelatin sheets.]

1) Mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter together.  Press onto baking tray lined with cling wrap (for easy removal).  Chill in freezer till the base hardens.

2) Combine all ingredients in (B) in a small pot.  Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes till strawberries break down. Stir frequently and check.  Remove from heat, cool slightly and blend to become strawberry sauce.  This will yield about 300ml strawberry sauce.

3) Place the milk in a small pot and bring to a gentle boil.  Meanwhile, combine 30ml water with the gelatin powder.  If using gelatin sheets, soak in water briefly and squeeze out excess liquid.  Pour in the gelatin mixture and/or the soaked gelatin sheets into the pot of milk.  Stir and cook till the gelatin melts completely.  Do not boil the milk rapidly or the gelatin may lose the setting ability.  Set aside to cool.

4) While preparing step 3, place a mixing bowl in the freezer (for a few minutes) to chill it.  Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and whipped till peak form.  Place the bowl of whipped cream in the fridge.  

5) In another mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, lemon juice and sugar till creamy.  Add about 200ml of the strawberry sauce from step 2 (reserved about 100ml for later use).  Beat to combine.  Pour in the milk mixture from step 3 and mix well.

6) Fold in the whipped cream from step 4 to the cream cheese mixture.  Pour the cream cheese mixture over the prepared biscuit base.  Drizzle the remaining strawberry sauce over the top to create the marbling effect.  Put it back to the freezer to set.

7) To remove: Invert the chilled cheesecake onto a piece of baking paper, remove the bottom cling wrap and flip the cake onto a cutting mat.  Cut the cheesecake into desired serving size and serve chill.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate Marshmallow Cake

Make this cake specially for my gal's teacher to congrats her for winning this year's Outstanding Childcare Teacher Award, organised by MCYS.  This is the highest national award to honour and recognise the contributions and work of the outstanding childcare teachers.  I am so delighted and proud of her achievements!  

This is a coffee sponge cake with chocolate ganache & marshmallow creme fillings.

(for 7" cake)

3 egg yolks
35g brown sugar
30g ground almond
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
3 tsp water
45g top flour, sifted
1 tbsp instant coffee powder (I used the 3-in-1 type)
1 tbsp corn oil

3 egg whites
35g caster sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

60g whipping cream
80g dark chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallow + 1 to 2 tbsp milk
100g whipping cream (whipped to stiff)

Coffee syrup: 50ml black coffee + 1 tbsp sugar
Handful of Mini marshmallows
Chocolate shavings

1) Whisk egg yolks, brown sugar, ground almond, cinnamon, coffee powder and water till thick and creamy.  Mix in sifted flour.  Set aside.

2) Whisk egg whites, caster sugar and cream of tartar till stiff peak.  Mix 1/3 of the egg white into the egg yolk mixture.  Fold in the remaining egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.  Pour in the corn oil, fold till well combined and the batter is shiny.

3) Pour batter into greased and lined baking pan and bake in a preheated oven of 170C for about 40 minutes.

4) Cool the cake completely and cut into 3 slices.

5) Heat up 80g of whipped cream on stove (or microwave oven).  Stir the hot cream with the dark chocolate chips till all the chocolate melts.

6) Combine the marshmallow and milk in a microwavable bowl and set it on high for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir till marshmallow melts.  Pour in half the chocolate ganache from step 5 and mix well.  Set aside to let chocolate mixture cool.

7) Whisk 100g whipping cream till stiff and fold into the chocolate mixture at step 6.

8) To assemble the cake:  Brush a slice of cake with coffee syrup and spread half the chocolate mixture over the cake.  Repeat process with another slice of cake.  Place the last slice of cake on top.  Spread the sides with chocolate mixture and pour the reserved chocolate ganache (from step 5) over the top.  Chill the cake in the fridge for an hour to set the cake slightly.

9) Decorate the cake with some marshmallow and chocolate shavings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Braised Mushrooms with Sea Cucumber

This is one of my favorite dishes.  My mum will always prepare this dish on special occasions, such as the Lunar New Year period (without fail), mid-autumn festival, dongzhi festival or on our birthdays.  In the past, we do not get to eat this dish on normal days, as Chinese mushrooms and sea cucumbers are expensive stuffs.  Quality Chinese mushrooms from Japan are pricey, so I'd usually settle for the more affordable China mushrooms, which costs me about S$10 for 300g (I think it costs double or triple for the one from Japan?).  But,  nowadays, even the mushrooms from Japan does not taste the same as before.  Can't be help, since even the chicken and pork taste quite different from the past, included those labelled as "kampong chicken" or "kampong pork".  

I had prepared this dish in my earlier post over here.  Method is the same, except that this round, I replaced the chicken bones with pork front hock, which has more collagen and gives a richer and thicker gravy.  Also, this time round, I used a thicker type of sea cucumber which requires longer simmering time.  To save time and money, add in the sea cucumber (after brief stir-fry with a few slices of ginger) to the mushrooms in the last hour of simmering.  

As this dish always taste better the next day, prepare this dish one day in advance.  For me, that means preparation starts the night before, set to simmer in a slow-cooker, next day switch to high (or auto mode) and add the sea cucumber and simmer till the sea cucumber becomes soft.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stir-Fry Egg Whites with Milk (No. 2)

When I cooked this dish in January this year, I told myself I must try it again, as I did not do a good time then.  I remember the egg whites was too grainy and scrambled, as I made a mistake of stirring it too frequently at the beginning (see picture here).

I'm quite happy with this time - the whites are not too scrambled, and it has a smooth and soft texture.  Here's the improved recipe:


(A) Mix together:
1 cup egg whites
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tbsp cooking wine
1/2 tsp seasoning powder
3/4 tbsp corn flour
Pinch of salt and dash of pepper

Small handful of corn kernels
1 slice of ham, chopped
Small handful of wolfberries, rinsed and soaked in warm water
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped

Sweet beans, blanched in hot water with a little oil and salt (for garnish)

1) Heat up the wok with a tablespoon oil, stir fry the corn kernels and ham slightly.  Set aside.
2) Heat up the wok with another tablespoon of oil over low heat.  Pour in the egg white mixture.  Do not stir it immediately.  When the bottom starts to set softly, push it gently with a wok spatula, so that the set piece floats up.  
3) Keep checking and gently pushing the mixture.  About 3/4 way into cooking, add in the corn kernels, ham (from step 1), wolfberries and chopped spring onion (reserved some for garnish).  Push the mixture gently to combine.  When the egg mixtures have set softly but still slightly wobbly, turn off the heat and serve onto dish.
4) Garnish with greens and chopped spring onion.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Weekend meal: Trying new recipes ...

These are not exactly new recipes, as I have cooked them in one way or others.  For instance, the stuffed tofu puffs with minced meat and Chinese chives.  I have prepared similar dishes with mashed tofu and minced chicken as the filling, or sometimes using minced pork and mushrooms as the filling, and braised the puffs in hot bean paste sauce.  But, this is my first attempt to fill these tofu puffs with minced meat/Chinese chives; after looking at Wendy's mouth-watering Guangxi Stuffed Tofu.    

Stuffed Tofu Puffs with Minced Meat and Chinese Chives (韭菜)

I have used minced meat, fish paste (about 1/3 of minced meat portion), 2 to 3 Chinese mushrooms (chopped) and Chinese chives (chopped) as the filling.  Chinese chives (韭菜) has a very strong smell (pungent?).  To reduce the strong smell, I pre-marinated the chopped chives with a tsp of sugar and about 1/2 tsp salt and leave it for 30 minutes.  Then, squeeze out the excess liquid from the chives before mixing them to the minced meat mixture (seasoned with a little oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper, corn starch etc).  Chill the minced meat filling in the fridge for at least 2 hours before filling into the tofu puffs (I like the Unicurd brand cos their puffs do not have the stale oil smell and is very soft after cooking).  

I learnt a very useful tip from Wendy when steaming these tofu puffs:  Arrange the puffs on plate and fill the plate with boiling water halfway up the puffs.  Steaming with water in the plate makes these puffs juicy and keeps the filling moist.  I did a little twist to it.  I filled the plate with some lightly-seasoned stock instead.  After steaming over high heat for about 10 minutes, transfer the tofu puffs over to a serving dish, drain the liquid into a pot, heat it up and thicken with cornstarch.  Pour the gravy over the tofu puffs for a shiny touch.  

Stir-fry Baby Kailan with Chinese Sausage

Stir-fry kailan is another common home-cooked dish.  This time, I added some thinly-sliced Chinese sausage.   The trick to a nice plate of stir-fry kailan is to squeeze some ginger-wine juice (grated ginger mixed with cooking wine) while stir-frying the kailan in the wok over high heat.  This adds a nice aroma to the dish.  Since I'm using Chinese sausage in this dish, lightly heat up the sausage in the wok first with a little oil to release the excess fats in the sausage.  The fats will also add flavour to the vegetables.

Grilled Sambal Stingray

Everyone loves this dish and the sambal gravy!  I prepared these weekend menu about 3 weeks ago, so I cannot really remember the exact details.  It was a huge piece of stingray (probably around 600g to 700g, or more).  For the sambal sauce:  I mixed sambal paste (store bought or home made) with some assam juice, sugar, soy sauce and some stock (taste it to determine if you need to add more sugar and soy sauce etc).   Spread the sauce evenly over the stingray.  Prepare a piece of aluminium foil.  Place some sliced onion on the foil, sit the stingray on the onion and pour any remaining sauce on top.  Wrap the foil lightly over the stingray and bake in preheated oven at 200C for about 15 to 20 minutes (how long you need to cook depends on the thickness of the fish.  After 15 minutes, poke the tip of a knife into the fish to determine if it's cooked).  Then set the oven to top heat only and grill the fish for a few minutes uncovered, till the top caramelised.  Squeeze lime juice over and serve immediately with cucumber slices.  

Beside these 3 dishes, we had the Arrowroot pork rib soup for dinner.  And I just noticed that this menu makes my 20th 3-plus 1 menu ideas.  You will see more menu ideas over here.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chilled Tofu with Pork Floss and Century Egg

This is an super quick and easy dish to prepare.  No cooking at all.

1 box of silken tofu (chilled)
1/2 century egg (cut into small pieces)
1 handful of pork floss
Some toasted sesame seeds
Some chopped spring onion

1 tsp Korean hot paste
2 to 3 tbsp Japanese sesame sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1 clove garlic, minced

1) Prepare the sauce and keep chill in fridge.
2) Place the tofu on the plate and top with century egg.  Pour the prepared sauce over the tofu, add the pork floss and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onion.  Serve chill.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blueberry Cheesecake

Made this blueberry cheesecake for my friend's birthday.  She likes cheesecake, so I naturally thought of making one for her birthday.  Her favorite is Tiramisu cake, but I do not want to risk my birthday cake melting under the hot sun.  A baked cheesecake is a safer choice.

This is a light cheesecake and the two of us finished almost a quarter of the cake after our ramen lunch!  Preparation is similar to the Nutella Cheesecake, except that this is topped with homemade blueberry filling with whipped cream and the base is a thin layer of sponge cake.  Absolutely light and delicious!  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pizza Toast & Angry Bird Bento Workshop

Pizza Toast prepared by my little gal

It was a fun-filled morning.  Kids were busy cutting and stamping away flower and butterfly designs on small pieces of carrots, ham and cheese.  And very carefully, they arranged their art pieces onto their wholemeal toast and bento set.  A BIG THANK YOU to Ellena of Cuisine Paradise, who has kindly conducted this pizza toast cum bento-making kids workshop at her place.  Her initial plan is to organise this workshop for 6 pairs of parents and kids, so that all participants will have a fair chance of  making the toast/bento.  But due to overwhelming response, she opens up another session, in order to accommodate 6 more pairs of parents/kids for this 3-hour workshop.  Phew... salute to her!

Pizza Toast prepared by our junior chefs from 4 to 7 years old

My little girl was all so excited in making her very first bento set!  And I am equally thrilled to meet Ellena in person.  I have been a silent reader of her blog for several years, before getting to know her through Facebook and blogging recently.  

Angry bird bento

While I love cooking, I am not into preparing bento meals for my girl.  I find them time-consuming and wonder if the food will still taste good after all the time spent in decorating the bento.  And since my girl is non-picky over her food, I really have little incentive to prepare bento.  But after this workshop with Ellena, I think I should be able to prepare some simple bento in a few easy steps.  No kids will resist  a cute-looking bento meal!  My girl was so happy to show her friends her angry bird bento and proudly eats up her own creation!  You can refer here for details to prepare the angry bird bento.

What's in a Cupcake:  dark brown and red scrapbook papers, pink foam, crystal, glue dots (for 3D effect)

To thank Ellena for her time and efforts in conducting this workshop, I handmade a little gift for her - a customised kitchen sign and a thank you card.  I wanted to give Ellena a surprise, so instead of packing the gift in  a gift box, I put the kitchen sign and card in a plain cake box.

Kitchen sign on chipboard, decorated with scrapbook papers, pasta and star anise

Flip over, it reads:

Once again, thanks to Ellena for conducting this workshop.  I'm sure the kids had enjoyed themselves (mommies too!).

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pumpkin & Beech Mushrooms in Miso Sauce

This is a simple yet delightful dish - pumpkin and beech mushrooms cooked in miso sauce.  The natural sweetness of the pumpkin blends in nicely with the miso, giving a nice rich gravy.  

To prepare, stir-fry the beech mushrooms lightly with some garlic, add in the pumpkin, follow by miso paste.  Add sufficient water to cover content, add a little mirin, cover and let it simmer for a few minutes, till pumpkin turns soft and the gravy thicken.  How long you cook this dish depends on how soft you like your pumpkin to be.   

While writing this post, I realised that I used pumpkin quite frequently in my dishes:

From top to bottom (L to R):

Perhaps a pumpkin quiche, pie, muffin, cheesecake or scone for my next pumpkin dish ....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Princess Castle Album for a Wonderful Teacher

For the past week, other than baking a strawberry mango cake for Teachers' Day and preparing my usual meals, I have not done much baking/cooking.  I was spending hours on making this princess castle album.  This is a present for little girl's teacher.  She is really a wonderful teacher, a motivator, lots of interesting ideas and takes good care of the children.  My girl has spent two years plus with her and this year she will be graduating from her preschool.  We were also informed of the good news that her teacher will be promoted as the principal next year.  So, this will mark her final year as a Class Teacher.  

I wanted to make something memorable, a keepsake for her teacher.

The castle template is made of chipboard and is available at Spotlight (Plaza Singapura, Level 5).  It comes in plain wood colour and you can decorate the castle with scrapbooking papers and embellishments.  The castle has only 4 chipboards, so I added a few more sections to accommodate more photos and contents.

I filled the album with class photo, the children's photos, poem for her, our note of thanks and of course .... LOTS OF LOVE.

Wishing her the best in her new role and responsibilities.  May she continue to spread her love and passion to all the little ones under her charge.

A wonderful news on 22 Sep:
The school principal told us a wonderful news - my girl's teacher won this year's Outstanding Childcare Teacher Award!  This is an award at the national level, we are so proud of her!  I baked a Chocolate Marshmallow Cake to congrats her.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strawberry & Mango Cake (Happy Teachers' Day)

Today schools celebrate Teachers' Day and I bake this strawberry & mango cake for my girl's teachers.  It is a sponge cake, layered with mango/strawberries slices and whipped cream.  

Recipe for sponge cake and whipped cream are the same as here, except that I multiplied the ingredients by 1.5 times for a 10" cake (adjust baking time about 30 to 35 minutes at preheated oven of 175C) and replaced the rum with vanilla essence.  Once the sponge has cool completely, wrap and chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight, before slicing them into 3 thin slices.

My little girl helps to make these bookmarks for her teachers.  

Wishing all teachers a Happy Teachers' Day!  

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