Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicken Soup with Stuffed Glutinous Rice & Ginseng

An-yong-ha-se-yo! (Korean's greeting for hello).  Does this chicken soup reminds you of the Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup?  This is Fong's version, as I did not use Korean ginseng to prepare this.  Instead, I used the mild American ginseng (花旗参).  And unlike the Koreans who love to consume this soup in the hot summer period, I prefer to pamper myself to this hot piping soup during the year end chilling months.  

Stuffed chicken

To prepare this soup, you will need:
  • 1 young chicken (slightly below 1 kg)
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice, soaked for about 2 hours
  • 7 to 8 red dates, remove the core
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, keep it whole (or use as little or many as you like)
  • A big handful of dried lotus seeds
  • Few slices American ginseng
  • Spring onion for garnish

1) Wash the chicken and trim away any visible fats.  I prefer to keep the chicken skin on (better flavour to the soup and keeps the meat moist) and skim the fats time to time during cooking.

2) Drain the glutinous rice and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Add the red dates, garlic, ginseng and some of the lotus seeds (see note below) with the rice.

3) Stuff the chicken with the glutinous rice filling.  Stuff a few lotus seeds or red dates at the opening to keep the glutinous rice in the chicken.  Use 2 to 3 toothpicks to seal the opening.  Place the chicken and the remaining lotus seeds/ginseng/red dates in a deep pot or casserole dish (see picture above).

4) Prepare some boiling hot water.  Pour the hot water into the casserole to cover the chicken.  Bring it to a boil and reduce to medium heat.  Let it cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn to low heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Season with salt to taste.

5) Garnish with spring onion and serve hot.

Notes on lotus seeds:
We soak the glutinous rice to speed up cooking.  However, the same does not seem to work for lotus seeds.  Remember to rinse the lotus seeds with HOT WATER, briefly soak in hot water for a few minutes to slightly soften, so that you can split open the seeds to remove the inner bitter germ - 莲子心。  You can keep it if you like as the germ is believe to relieve body heatiness. 

Do not wash or soak the lotus seeds in cold water, as the lotus seeds will harden up and do not soften easily during cooking.  This is not an old wives' tale, as I made this mistake in the chicken soup.  I happily soaked the lotus seeds in hot water and leave them for a few hours (totally forgotten about it).  The lotus seeds remain hard after cooking. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Or-Nee You ... Yam Mousse Cake

Yam Mousse Cake with pink rosettes

I'm quite into roses recently.  After my recent rose basket, now I have these pink roses "Or-Nee for You" (read: Only for You).  Or-Nee is a Teochew yam paste dessert.  While I never really like Or Nee (I find it too sweet and thick to swallow), I was surprised how delicious the yam mousse tastes when I first tried the yam mousse cake at my baking class. The yam mousse filling in the cake is not too sweet, it tastes much lighter than yam paste (with the addition of whipped cream ^_^) and has a nice coconut milk fragrance. 

For the cake sponge, I used my usual "4-1-1-1" combination for an 8 inch round pan.  After baking, let the cake cool completely and slice into three or four even layers.  Divide and spread yam mousse filling (see below) equally between layers of sponge.  Spread a thin layer of fresh whipped cream all over the whole cake (crumb coat) and place the cake in fridge to set for about 30 minutes.  Decorate the cake as desired and put it back into the fridge for another 30 minutes to an hour before serving (for our hot weather).

Making yam mousse filling

This cake is a birthday present for a lady friend, so I filled the top with pink rosettes (pipe with Wilton 1M tip).  Compared to the royal icing roses that I made for the rose basket cake, these rosettes are definitely much easier to pipe.  I practised piping a few rosettes on paper before piping them on the cake.  Try to pipe the rosettes as close as possible to minimise the gaps in between.  After piping the rosettes, fill the small gaps with swirls using the same 1M tip.  Arrange for odd number of roses in the centre, like 1 or 3.  Somehow, odd numbers is more visually pleasing than even numbers.

To complete the "rose" look, I covered the plain cake box with a rose-designed wrapping paper (if only cake box comes in a variety of colours and patterns ....) and finished with a purple ribbon and tag (same colour as the yam mousse filling).  By the way, I did not specially buy the wrapping paper, ribbon or tag.  They are ready-stock in my room.  I love to shop around for scrap-booking papers and accessories.  Beside cooking and baking, this is the area where I "waste" (败家) my $$$ on.

A birthday surprise for somebody .....

Ingredients for Yam Mousse Filling
300g yam (weigh after peeling) + few pieces of pandan leaves
50g sugar
2 egg yolks
150g coconut milk
Few drops of violet food colouring (optional)
100g fresh cream, whipped till stiff (I whipped 250g and use the remaining for decoration)
200g dairy cream (cold) + 20g fine sugar
1 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp water (melt and set aside)

1) Cut the yam into thin slices and steam till soft with a few pieces of pandan leaves.
2) Discard the pandan leaves and mash the yam while it is hot.  Stir in sugar, egg yolks and coconut milk. 
3) Cook the yam mixture in a non-stick pan over low heat till thick.  Set the yam paste aside to cool.  
4) Place a mixing bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Get ready some ice cubes or ice water.  Pour the dairy cream and sugar in the cold mixing bowl (placed the bowl over a bigger bowl filled with ice cubes/water) and whisk the cream till soft peak.  Pour in the cool gelatin mixture and continue to whisk till stiff.  Do not over-whisk or the cream will curdle.  Keep the diary whipped cream in fridge.    
5) Mix 100g of fresh whipped cream and food colouring into the cooled yam paste.  Mix well.
6) Gently fold in the dairy whipped cream.  
7) Assemble the cake with the yam mousse filling

1) If use all fresh whipped cream for the mousse filling, use about 150g fresh cream.
2) If use all diary whipped cream for the mousse filling, you may want to try 350g dairy cream with 40g sugar and increase to 2 tsp gelatin powder with about 3 to 4 tbsp water.  Increase the sugar used in the yam paste to about 70g (fresh cream has sugar in it while dairy cream is plain without sugar).

[Recipe: Mainly adapted from Richard Goh]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Curd

I was looking around my kitchen to see what to prepare for next day's breakfast.  I had some fresh blueberries.  Shall it be blueberries muffins, blueberries cupcakes or blueberries pancakes?  Finally, I decided it will be blueberry scones, for I have not baked scones since March this year.   And since I still have some lemon curd in the fridge, it will be nice to have it with the scones.

(makes 8 scones)

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
70g butter (for unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt), cut into small pieces
2 tbsp fine sugar
60g fresh blueberries 
100ml milk + 1 tbsp (if the dough is too dry)

1) Combine flour and baking powder.  Rub butter into flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2) Add in the sugar and fresh blueberries.
3) Pour in the milk to combine all the ingredients together to form a dough.
4) Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Use your hand to shape the dough to a flat round circle, with about 1" thick.
5) Cut into 8 triangular portions and place the scones on baking tray lined with baking paper.
6) Brush the top with milk and bake in preheated oven of 220C for about 15 minutes or till light golden brown on top.
7) Serve warm with your favorite spread.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicken Wine Soup

With the year end Northeast Monsoon season, the weather is getting very nice and cooling.  This is the time of the year where I think my electricity bill is at its lowest.  The wind is so strong that I need to shut most of my windows (else my house will be in a horrible mess), so there's no need to switch on fans or air-con.  

With the cool weather, this dish came to my mind.  Chicken wine soup is actually a confinement dish, but I have cut down on the amount of ginger, sesame oil and wine in this soup.


2 chicken thighs, drums and wings (or any chicken parts that you prefer)
Small piece of wood fungus (木耳), soaked and shredded (I used cloud fungus - 云耳 instead)
3 slices ginger, shredded
1/4 cup rice wine (I used cognac)

1) Chop up the chicken to bite-sized pieces and briefly marinate with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2) Heat up a little oil and about 1/2 tbsp sesame oil in wok over moderate-high heat.  Stir fry the shredded ginger till fragrant, then add in the chicken.  Stir fry till fragrant, add in the wood fungus (or cloud fungus) and sufficient water (depends on how much soup you prefer and how thick you like the soup to be).

3) Bring the soup to boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

4) Pour in the rice wine and remove from heat immediately.  Serve with plain rice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rose Basket Lemon Cake

I love the vibrant colours of these roses!

Cake Decorating Lesson 2: Basket Weaving
As in lesson 1, we need to bake basic sponge cake at home and bring to class for decoration.  This time, we need two cakes, so that when the cakes are stacked together, it makes a nice tall basket.  In addition, we need to prepare either fruits, flowers or anything that we want to arrange on our "basket".  

The planning stage at home ...
Since I had used strawberries in my first lesson - a Green Tea Strawberry Cake, I like to have something different.  I thought of using some other fruits like kiwi fruit, star fruit, mango, grapes, blueberries (use a stick to thread 3 to 5 together ... should be pretty) or perhaps pineapple rings cut into flower shape by using a flower cookie cutter, or maybe add some chocolate-dipped marshmallows in a stick.  Lots of ideas were running in my mind, as I think through, surf online for inspirations, and keep thinking ....

Eventually, I decided on roses ...
A few days before my class, I saw this beautiful rose basket... I know this is exactly what I want.  It does not matter that I have never done any rose piping before.  I will just learn.  It's a good opportunity to push myself to learn and do something.  Of course, it helps that I had this Wilton Lesson Plan:  Flowers and Cake Design sitting in my study (for a year).  So, I carefully read through the steps and started practising .... 

A bouquet of roses!

My hard work and my aching hands ...
These roses can be piped using stiff butter cream, fresh cream or royal icing.  Since I will not have enough time to pipe the roses during lesson time, after the basket weaving, I prepared the roses in advance.  Royal icing roses seems to be a better choice since they keep well and stay in shape.  

To pipe these roses, you will need a flower nail and piping bag with tip 104 (I used 103).  Hold the flower nail in one hand and the piping bag in the other hand.  As you squeeze the piping bag to release the icing, you need to turn the flower nail.  

My first few roses were flat and ugly (aiyah... I should have taken a photo of them ...).  I thought I have read every single words on the step by step..... never mind, read again.  Ok, icing is still not stiff enough.  More importantly, I did not move my tip "up and down".  It is not as simple as to just squeeze the bag.  You need to control your strength, the angle of the piping bag & tip, PLUS move the tip "Up and Down" while you turn the flower nail.  After hours of piping and many roses .... my hands were aching badly.... really painful.

By the way, you need to prepare these roses a few days in advance (better still, make them one week in advance) as you need to wait for them to dry completely.  Detailed step-by-step over here.

Roses... Roses... I love you

Preparation of sponge cake and lemon curd
I used my current favorite "4-1-1-1" formula for sponge (4 eggs, 100g flour, 100g sugar, 100g melted butter), but adjusted to 3 eggs recipe, plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest per cake (8" cake).  This formula gives consistent soft and light sponge.  

Lemon curd filling:
2 egg yolks
100g sugar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon (about 60g lemon juice)
1 tbsp butter

1) Combine egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice in a bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.  Stir frequently and cook till thicken (about 5 to 8 minutes).

2) Remove from heat, whisk in butter.  Place the bowl in a bigger bowl filled with tap water.  Continue to whisk till the lemon curd cools completely.

3) Cover with cling wrap (touching the surface of lemon curd) and keep in fridge.  Alternatively, I pour the lemon curd into a piping bag and store in fridge.  During lesson, I just need to pipe the filling between layers of sponge and cream (no mess!).

A basket of red and pink roses

I'm very glad that I took up the challenge to attempt this rose basket cake.  This marks my first rose piping and first basket weaving.  It's the same feeling all over again when I did my first princess barbie doll cake.  Very tedious, lots of hard work n preparation and reading up to do, except that it was not so stressful this time round.  In fact, I enjoy piping these roses.  The more I pipe, the more motivated I was to continue piping them, even though my hands were really aching.  Ha.. the power of our mind, determination, and .....

The tangy lemon curd blends in perfectly with the soft sponge and cream

And the POWER OF LOVE, for I make this cake with a person in my mind.  Happy Birthday, Mum!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Osmanthus and Honey Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Mummy... there are bees on my cupcakes!

BuZZ ...... BuZZ .....  have you joined in the fun for this month's Aspiring Bakers #13: "Enjoy Cupcakes"?  Still thinking of what cupcakes to bake?  No worries... you have up till end of November to bake, post your cupcakes and submit your entry to Min.  More details over here.  

Honey bees joining in the fun of this month's Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes (November 2011)

These bees cupcakes were inspired by the creations at Kraze Kitch Bakeshop.  I have thought of using Hershey's kisses or fondant to replicate these honey bees.  In the end, I used another method - similar to making cake pops, or in this case.... BEES POP (cos I wanted to make use of the leftover biscuits crumbs).

Similarly, there are several ways to make the honeycomb.  I suggest to use fondant as it is the easiest and gives the best results in terms of presentation.  Alternatively, you can bake some cookies in honeycomb shape and dust them with yellow crystal sugar.  I thought of a third method - waffle biscuits cut into trapezium shapes, glue them together using candy melts and sprinkle over with yellow crystal sugar.  This method is rather tedious, so if I were to make these again..... I think I will go for the fondant, though taste-wise, the waffle or the biscuit method should yield better results.

Steps in making honey bees and combs

Make honey combs from waffle biscuits

You will need: 
Waffles biscuits
Melted yellow candy melts or melted chocolate
Yellow crystal sugar

1) Split each waffle biscuit into half (to get thinner waffles) and cut the waffles into equal-length trapeziums (with angle of 60 degree at the wider length)
2) Glue six trapeziums together with melted candy melts/chocolate to form a honeycomb shape.
3) Spread some melted candy over the waffles and dust over with yellow crystal sugar.
4) Leave to dry completely.

Notes:  Check out Anncoo Journal on how to make coloured sugar at home ...... really cool!

Make honey bees from biscuits & cake crumbs

You will need: 
Cake crumbs and/or biscuit crumbs (I used a little cake crumbs and leftover waffles from above)
Melted chocolate (sufficient to mix with crumbs to form a dough)
Melted yellow candy melts
A little coating chocolate (melted)
Some almond flakes (for the bees wings)

1) Crush cake/biscuits into fine crumbs.
2) Add in sufficient melted chocolate to form a dough.  Place in fridge for about 30 minutes to slightly harden the dough for easy handling.
3) Take about 1 tsp dough and roll into a teardrop shape.  Put back into the fridge for 30 minutes.
4) Dip the shaped dough into melted candy and place on lined baking tray to set.
5) Pipe the eyes, a smiley face and lines on body with melted coating chocolates.
6) Stick two almond flakes on the bees.
7) Place in fridge to set till ready to use.

1) I find that the candy melts is not really user-friendly.  It does not melt to a thin consistency for easy dipping, so you will find that the bees do not have a smooth surface.  I checked online and found that some added a little paraffin to the candy melts to achieve a nice smooth consistency.  I added about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of Criso shortening to the melted candy, else dipping is basically impossible.  

2) Alternatively, melting and dipping in coating chocolate is much easier to handle.  So, at step 4 above, dip the bee dough into melted coating chocolate, set and then pipe yellow candy melts or butter cream on the body.

3) Sigh... after all these trial and errors, I think I should have just buy a packet of Hershey's kisses or use some fondant to make the bees!  But I must say these bees taste really good and fondant will not achieve the same good taste.  

Spongy cupcakes with honey cream cheese frosting

Make Osmanthus Sponge Cupcakes
(makes about 9 cupcakes)

2 eggs
50g fine sugar
50g plain flour, sifted
50g melted butter
Pinch of dried osmanthus flowers

1) Whisk eggs and sugar (add a tiny pinch of salt) at high speed for 5 to 6 minutes till stiff.
2) Fold in sifted flour and the dried osmanthus flowers.  Fold in melted butter till batter is shiny.
3) Pour into lined cupcake trays or cupcake liners and bake in preheated oven of 160C for about 15 to 20 minutes (test with skewer).
4) Remove from oven and leave to cool completely.

Make honey cream cheese frosting

30g butter, thaw at room temperature
60g cream cheese
1 tbsp honey
A small pinch of dried osmanthus flowers

Method: Cream all the ingredients together till smooth.

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes (November 2011), hosted by Min of Min's Blog.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Green Tea Strawberry Cake

I started my cake decorating class recently and this is my first piece of "homework".  The first lesson requires us to bake a basic sponge cake at home and bring the cake to class for creaming and decoration.  In the class, we need to slice our sponge cake into two or three layers and fill the layers with whipped cream.  We also learnt how to crumb coat the cake and thereafter apply cream on cake and smooth the surface.  

I consider myself a beginner to cake decoration, as I have not attended any other cake decorating classes before, other than the 2-tier fondant cake workshop early this year.  In any case, the skills and technique required for fondant cake is rather different from cake creaming.   For instance, when we apply cream on the cake, the way we hold the spatula, the angle and our movement will affect how the cream is applied on the cake.  I used to spend an hour just to smooth out the cream... but to find that the more my spatula touches the cake and cream, the messier and uglier my cake has become.  In fact, trying to slice the whole cake into three equal slices is not an easy task to begin with!  

After my successful attempt with the Green Tea Strawberry Swiss Roll, I decided to use this green tea + strawberry combi for my first lesson.  I love the colour contrast of the green-layered sponge against the bright red strawberries.  For the sponge, I used this wonderful and easy to remember "4-1-1-1" formula, plus 5g of baking green tea powder, added to the sifted flour:

Basic sponge cake:
(makes one 8" round cake or two 6" round cakes)

4 eggs
100g fine or caster sugar
100g plain flour or top flour, sifted
100g melted butter or corn oil*
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or other flavor) - optional

* I used a combination of 50ml melted butter with 25ml corn oil and 25ml milk.

1) Whisk eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt at maximum speed till stiff (mixture does not drop easily when mixer is held up).
2) Fold in sifted flour and melted butter/oil till batter is shiny.
3) Pour batter into greased and lined baking pan.
4) Bake in preheated oven at 160C for about 45 minutes (test with a skewer).
5) Remove cake from baking pan, peel off baking paper and leave the cake to cool completely.

[Recipe:  Richard Goh's baking classes]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who wants Ice Cream?

Lemon Meringue Cupcake in a cone

These ice cream melts in your mouth, but not in your hands.  You can place them outside the fridge for hours and they will stay in shape.  Simply cos'... these are not real ice cream.

Last month, I bought some ice cream waffle cones, with the intention of making a castle cake for children's day.  But, that did not happen as I ended up making some chocolate cake pops and desserts instead.  With these ice cream cones in my kitchen cabinet, an idea came to my mind - ice cream cupcakes!  

Cut off the bottom tip with a serrated knife

One obvious problem of using these pointed-end waffle cone is they cannot be placed upright without some form of support at the base.  So if you intend to make ice cream cupcakes at home, buy those flat-based waffle cones instead.  Anyway, I just wanted to clear these waffles cones from my pantry (rather than to buy another packet of waffle cones), so I just cut off the bottom with a serrated knife to create a flat base and insert a small piece of Oreo cookie into the cone to prevent the cake batter from leaking,

(makes about 12 ice-cream cupcakes)

Ice cream cones (use the flat-based cones)

Sponge cake
2 eggs
50g sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
50g plain flour, sifted
50g melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla essence or lemon essence

1) Whisk eggs, sugar and salt at high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes till stiff.
2) Fold in sifted flour and add in melted butter.  Fold well till batter is shiny.
3) Pour into ice cream cones, almost touching the top.
4) Bake in preheated oven of 160C for about 15 to 20 minutes (test with a skewer).
5) Remove ice cream cones and poke a hole at the bottom with a knife to release moisture.  Set aside to cool.
6) Use a small knife and cut a small hole in the sponge cake.  Fill in with the lemon curd filling.  Pipe meringue frosting on top.  Grill in preheated oven of 200C (top-heat only) to lightly brown the meringue for about 30 seconds (or use a kitchen torch for better results).

Keep the ice cream cone steady with aluminium foil and a small cupcake liner

Lemon curd filling
2 egg yolks
100g sugar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon (about 60ml lemon juice)
1 tbsp butter

1) Mix all ingredients except butter in a bowl and cook over a pot of simmering water till filling thickens (takes about 5 to 8 minutes.  Need to stir frequently).
2) Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Set aside to cool.

Meringue topping
100g sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
45g water
2 egg whites

1) Combine 100g sugar and water in a pot and bring to boil on medium heat (do not stir the sugar at all).
2) When the syrup starts to boil, start to whisk the egg whites till foamy.  Add in 1 tbsp sugar and continue to whisk (meanwhile, continue to boil the syrup till thick).
3) When the syrup becomes thick (test with the back of a metal spoon, it should coat the spoon and only drips a little), pour the syrup into the meringue and continue to whisk till cool.
4) Fill the meringue into a piping bag for easy piping on the cone.

Cross-section of the lemon meringue cupcake

These are basically fun or novelty cupcakes to make with kids or for kids' parties.  My girl was very thrilled when she saw these "ice cream" and said they were very yummy. But for adults, baking these cupcakes in normal cupcake liners still works better, as the waffle will turn soggy after a short while.

I will be submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy cupcakes! (November 2011), hosted by Min of Min's blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oxtail Stew

Preparation is similar to my earlier post over here, except that I have added more vegetables in this stew and about 3/4 cup canned tomato puree in the sauce (hence the orange colour in the stew).  As oxtail takes a long while to simmer, I stir-fry the ingredients in the wok, bring to boil, simmer for half an hour and then transfer the contents to an electric slow-cooker and leave it to cook till tender.  So, I started to prepare this dish before noon, transfer to slow-cooker and come home in the evening with a piping hot dish.

I have prepared more gravy for this dish as I'm having it with bread (french loaf).  I also intend to use the leftover gravy for another dish(es) (my way of stretching dollar, since oxtail is quite expensive and it takes so long to cook).  So, depending on how much gravy you like in your stew, you will need to adjust the amount of seasoning sauce accordingly.

2 to 3 stalks celery
2 stalks leek
2 to 3 carrots
1 onion
1 potato
5 to 6 slices ginger
[All vegetables cut into big chunks]

Seasoning sauce
1 to 2 pieces fermented red bean curd 
1 tbsp bean paste
3/4 cup canned tomato puree
Dash of cooking wine
Sugar to taste
Soy sauce (to add later if you find the sauce is not salty enough)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hootylicious Chocolate Cupcakes

Hoot do you love?

With the year-end school holiday round the corner, how about making some cupcakes with your kids at  home?  These yummy-looking chocolate cupcakes are much easier to make than they look.  First of all, the cupcake batter needs no creaming or whisking at all!  They must be the easiest cupcakes to make!  

Hoot want more?

The "embellishments" added to the cupcakes are available from most supermarkets and are easy to assemble on the cupcakes, even for little children.  Probably, the hardest part is to twist and split the Oreo cookies into halves!  I'm not joking, that's how easy ^_^

First, let's start with preparing the chocolate cupcake.  The recipe yields very soft and moist cupcakes, not surprisingly, given the high ratio of butter/sugar to flour.

(makes 12 cupcakes)

120g butter, thaw to room temperature
75g chocolate chips
120g brown sugar
100g hot water
1 tbsp instant coffee powder (or 1 packet of 3-in-1 coffee)
1 tsp coffee emulco

110g plain flour
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
25g cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten

1) Combine ingredients (A) in a bowl and double boil till smooth.  Leave it aside to cool.  Add in the beaten egg and mix well.

2) Mix plain flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder together.  Sift the flour mixture and mix well into the melted chocolate mixture.

3) Pour the batter into cupcake paper liners, about 70% full (the batter rise very well during baking, I filled about 80% full and the batter overflowed).  Bake the cupcakes in a preheated oven of 160C for about 35 minutes or till a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake.

4) Cool the cupcakes completely before decorating them (Note: These chocolate cupcakes are very soft, you may want to put the cooled cupcakes in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden them slightly before decorating).

[Source: Richard Goh's chocolate mud cake - original recipe is doubled the above portion for one 10" round baking pan - bake for about 50 minutes to an hour at preheated oven of 160C] 

Get ready all the ingredients before starting to decorate the cupcakes

To decorate the cupcake owls:

You will need:
Baked cupcakes
2 Oreo cookies (per cupcake)
1 Maltesers chocolate ball, cut into halves (per cupcake)
1 M&M chocolate (per cupcake)
Buttercream (see below)

1) Twist and split the Oreo cookies.  The side with the cream will form the eye.  To make the ears, cut one plain side into half, then quarter.  You need 2 quarters for the ears.

2) Spread vanilla buttercream on the cupcake.  To make the eyes, place two cream-side cookies on the cupcake (cream side up) and place half a chocolate ball on each cookie.

3) Place a M&M chocolate between the eyes for the beak.

4) Put the quartered cookies above the eyes for the ears and pipe chocolate buttercream on the cookies (Note: Alternatively, for little children, you may want to spread some chocolate buttercream on the quartered cookies, then stick cocoa crunch cereal for the ears instead).

5) Use a toothpick and dab a small dot of vanilla buttercream for the white highlights on the eyes.

Recipe for buttercream:
240g unsalted butter + a small pinch of salt
120g icing sugar
80g milk
1/2 tsp coffee emulco, 1 to 2 tbsp cocoa powder (for chocolate buttercream)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (vanilla buttercream)

1) Cream butter till smooth.  Add icing sugar gradually and beat till fluffy.
2) Add in the milk gradually and beat till smooth.
3) Take half portion of buttercream, add in the coffee emulco and cocoa powder.  Mix well and put in piping bag, fitted with star nozzle (no. 21).  Add the vanilla essence to the other half portion of buttercream.

Hoot... Hoot ..... I will be submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes! (November 2011), hosted by Min of Min's blog.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stir Fry Asparagus with Prawns

I was shopping at Giant super-mart when I spotted some nice, thick and fresh asparagus from Australia.  I happily grabbed a few spears ...


6 to 7 thick spears of asparagus* 
8 to 10 thin slices of carrot
6 to 7 medium-sized prawns 
2 slices ginger
1 tsp shredded scallop sauce (similar to XO sauce)
1/2 tsp bean paste sauce
Soy sauce to taste (optional)
A little cooking wine
A little cornstarch solution to thicken the gravy

* Tip:  Use the top tender part for stir fry and use the bottom part for making cream of asparagus soup.  


1) Remove shell, devein and clean the prawns.  Pat dry.  Add a pinch of salt, a tsp of cooking oil, a tsp of cooking wine and a dash of pepper to marinate the prawns (about 3 to 5 minutes before cooking).

2) Remove the tough fibre from the asparagus by peeling off the outer skin with a vegetable peeler.  Cut into thick slices.  Blanch the asparagus and carrot slices in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes to partial-cook the vegetables (add 1/2 tsp oil in the water so that the asparagus retains the bright green colour). Drain off water and set aside.

3) Heat up the wok on high heat.  Add a little oil.  Add the prawns and sear both sides - takes about a minute.  Remove and set aside.

4) Add a little more oil to the hot wok.  Stir fry the ginger slices briefly.  Add the blanched asparagus and carrot slices.  Stir fry briefly till aromatic.  Add in the shredded scallop sauce and bean paste sauce and stir fry to combine.  Add in the prawns from step 3.  Stir and add a dash of cooking wine from the side of the wok.  Stir and add a little water or stock for gravy.  Stir well to combine.  At this point, you may want to add a little soy sauce to taste (check the taste first to determine how much soy sauce to add).

5) Add some cornstarch solution to thicken the gravy.  Serve hot immediately.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Self-Frosting Nutella Cupcakes

Self-Frosting Nutella Cupcakes, or Nutella Swirl Cupcakes were such a hit with many food bloggers a few years back (was it Year 2005?).  It was such an ingenious idea of adding a teaspoon of Nutella on top of each cupcake, swirl it gently with a toothpick and you will have the yummy frosting bakes right into each lovely cupcake. No mess at all.  These cupcakes are tasty on its own and do not need further frosting on top.  After all, why would you want to cover the lovely Nutella swirls with frosting?

These cupcakes are light and airy with a lovely Nutella bite at the top.  I am sharing this yummy cupcake with Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes! (November 2011), hosted by Min of Min's blog. 

(makes 12 cupcakes)

140g cold butter (I use salted butter)
1/2 cup fine sugar (about 115g) 
2 medium-sized eggs (cold from fridge)
30g whipping cream 
20g milk
1 tsp rum extract (or vanilla extract)
200g plain flour + 2 tsp baking powder (sifted)
12 tsp Nutella spread (about 4 tbsp)


1) Cream butter and sugar together till pale white and fluffy (I used an electric hand-held mixer and it took about 8 to 10 minutes).

2) Add in eggs, one at a time and beat for another minute.  Mix in whipping cream, milk and rum extract (Do not worry if the batter looks a little curdle, it's normal).

3) Add in the sifted flour mixture and mix well to combine.

4) Fill each cup to 3/4 full and top each cup with 1 tsp Nutella spread.  Gently swirl the Nutella into the batter with a toothpick or wooden skewer so that some batter covers the Nutella (do not over-swirl as you want a marbling effect).

5) Bake in a preheated oven of 165C for about 20 to 25 minutes, till a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake.

[Source: Recipe adapted from Baking Bites, original recipe from Donna Hay]


1) I cut down the sugar from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, which is just nice for me and not overly sweet (since the Nutella frosting also adds to the sweetness of the cupcake).

2) Original recipe calls for creaming the butter (soften at room temperature) and sugar till light, for about 2 minutes.  From my baking class, I learnt that creaming the butter and sugar till light and fluffy helps to achieve the softness in butter cakes (which appeals more to our Asian palette, as compared to a dense texture).  Butter that is not well-creamed will result in cakes having a harder or dense texture.  But, you do not want to over-cream your butter till it melts, as the resulting cake will then be oily and compact (heavy).  Hence, I started with cold hard butter from the fridge and cream till light and fluffy (the mixture will be pale white in colour).  Adding cold eggs from fridge helps to keep the temperature of the butter low while creaming, which helps to prevent it from melting (especially for our hot weather).

3) Original recipe calls for 3 eggs.  I replaced one egg with whipping cream and milk as I run out of eggs and happened to have whipping cream and milk on hand.  The result is good.

4) Add 1/4 tsp salt if using unsalted butter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creamy Curry Pork Chop

How often do you zoom straight into your kitchen to prepare a dish, after reading through a recipe on the internet?  Chances are you will first bookmark the recipe, and attempt it at a later date .... well, hopefully (we all know after a few days, we will be too "lazy" to go source for ingredients and then cook it).

But this is exactly what I did, after reading Wendy's Curry Chicken Chop.  Her pictures look so mouth-watering that I headed straight to the kitchen to gather the ingredients.  Of course, it helps that I have all the necessary ingredients - ALL EXCEPT for the main ingredient - CHICKEN!  ha....  If you have been reading my blog, you would know that I do not follow recipe closely, especially when it comes to cooking.  I have no chicken, but I have two beautiful pieces of pork chop sitting in my fridge.  So, here's my pork chop with creamy curry sauce.

As what Wendy said, this sauce has the fragrantly curry aroma, but it is not hot and spicy at all.  Let me add on:  This is "kids friendly".  My little girl happily drizzled the curry sauce over her pork chop and licked her fingers to savour every drop of the sauce....  Thanks for sharing this recipe, Wendy!


2 pieces of pork chop

Marinate for pork:
1 to 2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 thumb-sized ginger, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cooking wine
1 tbsp water
Dash of pepper

Coating for pork (before frying)
2 to 3 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 beaten eggs

1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 heaped tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt, slightly sweetened (this will further help to reduce the heat of the curry)
1/2 to 1 cup milk for thinning the curry (to your desired consistency)
Salt to taste

1) After cleaning the pork chop, pat dry and gently pound on the pork chop using the back of the chopper (or cleaver).  If pork pieces are huge, cut each piece into two portions, i.e. yield four pieces.

2) Combine marinate and rub all over the pork slices.  Cover and keep in fridge for 3 hours.

3) Add the beaten egg to the pork, coat it evenly.  Mix the corn flour and curry powder in a shallow plate.  Dust the pork pieces lightly with the flour and set aside for 5 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, heat up sufficient oil for deep-frying the pork chop.  When oil is moderately hot, put in the pork chop and deep fry till golden brown.  Drain on kitchen paper.

5) In a clean frying pan or wok, heat up a little oil till hot.  Fry the chopped onion till translucent.  Turn to low heat, add in the curry powder and fry till fragrant.

6) Up to medium heat, add in the whipping cream and let it thickens.  Pour in the yogurt and sufficient milk to get the desired thickness of the sauce (more milk added, thinner the sauce).  Add salt to taste.  Note: The sauce will thicken further when cool.

7)  Pour the sauce over the pork chop or serve the sauce separately as a dip (I poured half over the pork chop and served the remaining sauce separately).

Now, are you ready to head to your kitchen to cook this yummy curry dish ^_^

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