Monday, December 31, 2012

Another 3 plus 1 meal for Year 2012

My recent posts were mostly cakes and desserts.  While I enjoy baking cakes and creating sweet little treats, cooking remains my greatest passion, especially Chinese cuisine.  So, I shall end this year with another 3 plus 1 meal post.

What's for dinner:
Chayote & Carrot Pork Ribs Soup (similar recipe over here)
Steamed Chicken with Ginger Sauce
Light and Healthy Tofu with Broccoli
Crispy Tofu Puff with Meat Filling

Steamed Chicken with Ginger Sauce

The chicken is steamed in a rice cooker.  Rice cooker cooks similar to a pressure cooker.  The result is quick, tasty and juicy chicken.  Compare to the traditional method of poaching the chicken in a pot of hot water, this method is much easier and I find the chicken more flavourful.

* Mixed spice ingredients: 2 knots of pandan leaves, crushed lemon grass, few slices of ginger, crushed garlic/onions/spring onion (your preference...  I like to have them all!).  
* Rub the whole chicken with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sesame oil, leave to marinate for about 30 minutes.

To cook:
* Place some of the mixed spice ingredients at the bottom of the rice cooker.  Place chicken on top (with a knot of pandan leaves and lemon grass inside the chicken).  Pour 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine and 1/2 cup of water over the chicken.  
*Cover and press cook button.  Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on your rice cooker) and switch to keep warm mode for another 10 minutes (the heat inside will continue to cook the chicken).  Remove the chicken, cool slightly before cutting up the chicken.
*Serve with warm shallot and ginger sauce.
*Use the gravy in the rice cooker for cooking rice.

You can also use chicken wings/thighs/drums to prepare this:

Light and Healthy Tofu with Broccoli

The tofu dish is light and tasty.  Very few basic ingredients - chopped ham, corn kernels, carrot, breech mushrooms, silken tofu and broccoli.  Other: 2 slices of ginger, stock, 1 egg white

To cook:
*  Blanch the broccoli in boiling water. Set aside.
* Stir fry ham/carrot/mushroom/corn with ginger slices till fragrant.  Add in stock, bring to boil.  Add tofu and simmer for a minute.  Add seasoning (salt/oyster sauce etc) to taste.  Thicken with corn starch solution and add in beaten egg white.  
* Serve with blanched broccoli.

Crispy Tofu Puff with Meat Filling

The taste is similar to ngoh hiang, except it is crispier on the outside, due to the tofu puff (invert inside out).  For the filling, you can use prawn, fish or meat paste.  I used 1 part minced meat to 1 part chopped garlic chives and water chestnut.  Combine the filling ingredients together, seasoned with oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper etc.  Cover and keep the filling in fridge for an hour before stuffing inside the tofu puff.

To prepare:
*  Cut a small opening at the side of each tofu puff.  Gently turn the puff inside out.
* Stuff each tofu puff with a teaspoon of meat filling.
* Deep fried in hot oil till golden.  

Tofu puffs with meat and chives fillings is very tasty.  You can steam it instead of deep frying, or cook in soup with noodles and some leafy vegetables for a healthy one-dish meal.    For this menu, since my other dishes were rather light, so I deep fried these tofu puffs for variety in taste and texture.


Other 3 plus 1 menus are listed over here.  

Wishing all a Happy and Healthy 2013. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Baking and Sharing

I have been busy with Christmas baking and decorating since end November.  Here are some of my attempts for this Christmas:

My first batch of Christmas bakes - snowman cookies.  The cookie dough recipe is from Sugarbelle, which uses icing sugar in the dough instead of fine sugar or caster sugar.  It gives very clean-looking cookies, but taste and texture wise, I prefer the other recipe which I will mention later in this post.  As with other cookie dough that I have tried, this recipe also yields rather sticky dough and I need to keep popping the dough back into the fridge to firm up before transferring the cut-out cookies to the baking sheet.  

For the decoration bits, prepare round pieces of fondant (coloured with sky-blue colour food gel) while the cookies are baking in the oven.  Once the cookies are removed from the oven, quickly place the prepared fondant over the hot cookies.  The heat from the cookie will melt the fondant slightly and allow the fondant to stick itself firmly on the cookie.  Next, cut out small pieces of white, red and black fondant to make these snowman.  You will need a little corn syrup to stick the pieces together.  I used a toothpick and dip into the black colour gel for the eyes.

I had so much fun baking the usual Christmas cookies and decorating them with fondant and royal icing.  For my second batch of cookies, I used this recipe, mainly adapted from Happy Home Baking.  Quite a sticky dough and need to work fast.  At times, I do need to pop the rolled out dough back into the fridge to firm up before transferring the cut out cookies to baking tray.  But, the hard work is worth it, as the cookies are crispy and tasty.

(makes about 36 Christmas theme cookies)

200g unsalted butter + a pinch of salt
100g fine sugar
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
360g plain flour + 40g corn flour + 1/2 tsp baking powder (sift together)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp mixed spice (optional)

1) Cream butter, salt, fine sugar and icing sugar together till creamy.
2) Add in egg yolks, one at a time and beat till creamy.
3) Mix in vanilla paste and sifted flour till form a dough.  
4) Divide the dough into 3 portions.  Roll out each portion between a sheet of baking paper and clear plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
5) Remove and stamp with cookie cutters.  Transfer the cut out cookie to baking trays, lined with baking paper.  If dough turns soft, place dough back to fridge to firm up before transferring the cut out cookies.
6) Bake in preheated oven of 175C for about 15 minutes.
7) Remove and cool the cookies on rack completely before storing in airtight containers.

For the first time, I organised two cookies/cupcake decorating sessions at my house, one for my neighbour kids, and another session with my friends and their kids.  My house was filled with the sweet aroma of baked cookies and cupcakes.  While it was a little tiring having to prepare the cupcakes, cookies, icing etc, but I was rewarded with lots of joys and laughters - the best Christmas presents!

This is rose cupcake with rose butter cream 

Cupcakes for friends.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread House

This year, I attempted gingerbread house from scratch.  From drawing the template, preparing the dough, baking and putting the house together and finally decorating it.  It was a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finally completed my mini gingerbread house.  As the gingerbread house is meant for display only, I used the cheapest shortening available to prepare the dough,  which is tub margarine (S$2.40 for 500g).  No need to use expensive butter, of course unless, you intend to eat the gingerbread house.  

Here's the gingerbread dough recipe, adapted from Haniela:

550g plain flour
250g margarine
170g icing sugar
70g dark brown sugar
1 egg, medium sized
2 to 3 tsp mixed spices (or more if you like)
1/2 cup golden syrup (lightly grease the cup with a little oil before filling with golden syrup)

1) Cream margarine, icing sugar and dark brown sugar together till creamy.
2) Add in eggs, mixed spices and golden syrup.  Beat till combined.
3) Add in plain flour and mix to form a dough.  Rest the dough for a short while before rolling and cutting out the cookie shapes.
4) Bake in preheated oven of 175C for about 15 minutes or more.  I prefer to bake for a longer time to ensure the cookies are really dry, given our high level of humidity.

With the success of my first gingerbread house, I made my second gingerbread house a few days later - the polka dots house.  For this gingerbread house, I flooded the cookies (i.e. the "walls") with red/white royal icing and let them dry completely (preferably in an aircon room to speed up the drying process) before putting the house together.  Despite putting in more work and effort, I think the house is quite ugly and far from the super cute-looking bird house by Haniela.

Now, these two gingerbread houses are currently the best natural air freshener for my house.  The aroma of mixed spices and icing sugar is simply superb!  One question that you may have .... any ants, cockroaches or house pests came knocking on the door of my gingerbread house?    Surprisingly ..... no.  I just leave them uncovered on the dining table.  Perhaps the mixed spices fragrance is too strong for the liking of the average household pests??

Friday, November 30, 2012

Salted Egg Pan Fried Tofu with Garlic Chives

Tofu is one ingredient that I always buy whenever I go to the market.  It is healthy, tasty and very versatile in cooking.  Just yesterday, I prepared steamed salmon belly and silken tofu with miso ginger sauce.  The salmon belly and tofu were so tasty that they just glide and melt away in my mouth (oops ... I did not take any pics though).    And a few days back, I had pan-fried tofu with shredded coconut sambal sauce.  I love tofu and will never get tired of eating it.

About this dish .... I bought two medium pieces of firm tofu (豆干) earlier in the day and was thinking of what to do with it when near dinner time.  Then, I remembered reading Wendy's Wok Messed Tofu, just a week earlier.  So, I started looking around my kitchen ... good, I still have one salted egg left.  And from my fridge, I have this fresh bunch of garlic chives that I bought for making stir fry bee hoon and dumplings.  I took out a red chili as well.  Good, I have all I need to prepare this tofu dish.  Very few basic ingredients, impromptu idea... and this is really how I like to cook ....随心所欲.  

Both salted egg yolk and garlic chives are strong flavour ingredients.  Hence, you do not need much seasoning, except to add a little soy sauce to taste.  Salted egg yolk also gives a shiny golden coat to this simple, yet tasty tofu dish.


2 pieces firm tofu, cut into 8 pieces.
Some plain flour
1 egg, beaten
1 salted egg yolk, steamed with a few drops of sesame oil for 5 minutes
A small bunch of garlic chives (韭菜), cut into 1.5" length
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red chili, chopped
Soy sauce to taste

1) Lightly dust the tofu pieces with plain flour and dip in beaten egg.  
2) Pan-fry the tofu in a lightly-oiled pan till both sides are golden brown.
3) Mash up the steamed salted egg yolk.  Heat up a wok over medium heat and add a little oil.  When the wok is hot, add in the chopped garlic, followed with the mashed salted egg yolk.  Stir to melt the salted egg yolk till it becomes very foamy.  Add in the pan fried tofu and add in a little water (the water helps to combine the ingredients and flavour together). Add the garlic chives and season with soy sauce.  Cover and let it cook for a while till the gravy dries up and absorb into the tofu pieces.
4) Add in the chopped red chili and dish up.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Summer Berries Mousse & Green Tea Cheesecake

It was our usual weekend family gathering and a few days before my niece's birthday.  My little girl asked me to bake a birthday cake for her cousin, after her failed attempt to DIY a doll, as a birthday present for her cousin ^_^  

hmmm.... Tiramisu cake, strawberry shortcake, chocolate cake came to my mind, but I did not have all the necessary ingredients and I am very lazy to go out, especially on a Sunday morning.  It can get very crowded and queues are real long at the supermarket.  But, I do have some frozen summer berries in my freezer.      Maybe a berries cheesecake?  Too bad... I only have 180g of cream cheese and a small packet of 200ml dairy whipping cream at home.   No.... I'm not going out, just have to work something out of whatever I have at home.  Ideas .... ideas .... check internet, check blogs and Wendy's beautiful Blueberry Yogurt Mousse Cake caught my eyes.  Lovely, but too bad again, cos I have no yogurt at home!  Eventually, I settled with the idea of alternate layers of berries mousse and green tea cheesecake, since red and green are such beautiful contrasting colours.  To complete the look, I made some white chocolate garnish from melted chocolate and top with strawberry halves.

The cake was well received by my family.  They love the light and refreshing taste of the cake.  The sourness from the summer berries mousse/jelly complement nicely with the sweetness from the white chocolate, layers of sponge, cheesecake and biscuit base.  But, the mild flavour from the green tea cheesecake was sort of overshadowed by the berries.  Perhaps I could have added more green tea powder to the cheesecake.

There are 8 layers to this cake (from top to bottom):

Berries Mousse
Plain Vanilla Sponge
Green Tea Cheese
Berries Jelly
Green Tea Cheese
Plain Vanilla Sponge
Berries Mousse
Biscuit Base

Wrap sliced cake with thin sheet of plastic cake wrap to hold shape & prevent drying

I did not take note of the exact amount of sugar used to prepare the berries sauce for the mousse, as well as the sugar for the cheesecake layer.  In any case, the sweetness can be adjusted based on your preference.  As a general note, the berries coulis or sauce, should taste a little more sour than you like, so that when folded with the whipped cream, the taste will be just nice.  On the other hand, the filling for the green tea cheesecake could be a little sweet, so that it balances with the sourness from the berries.  

(for one 7" cake)

Biscuit base:
6 pieces of digestive biscuits, finely crushed
50g melted butter

Combine ingredients and press onto the base of a 7" round cake ring.  Freeze till hardens.

Berries Sauce
300g frozen summer berries
2 to 3 tbsp water
Fine sugar, to taste

Place the berries and water in a small saucepan and cook over low heat.  As the berries start to break down,  add sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently during cooking, till the sauce thickens.  Sieve the content to obtain thick berries sauce for preparing the mousse.

Berries Jelly
After sieving the thick berries sauce, put the berries scraps back into the pot and add about 220ml water.  Bring to boil, add sugar to taste and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Soften 2 and 1/2 gelatin sheets in iced water for about 5 minutes, squeeze out excess water and add to the berries syrup (or use about 1.5 tsp gelatin crystals, dissolved with 2 tbsp water#).  Stir well and cook for another minute.  Sieve to obtain thin berries syrup.  Cool briefly and pour into a 6" round cake pan, lined with plastic wrap (reserved a little of this jelly solution for garnishing the cake).  Cool the content before chilling in fridge to set.

Berries Mousse
180ml berries sauce, cool to room temperature
2 tsp orange liqueur
2/3 portion of dairy whipped cream (see below *)
1.5 tsp gelatin crystals, dissolved with 2 tbsp water#

Gently fold berries sauce into the dairy whipped cream.  Add in the orange liqueur and dissolved gelatin.

# To dissolve gelatin, place gelatin crystals and water in a bowl.  Let the gelatin crystals expand a little, stir and microwave at 20 seconds interval, till gelatin crystals fully dissolved. 

1) The berries sauce can be prepared in advance and keep in fridge.
2) The berries jelly can be prepared 1 or 2 days ahead and keep chill in fridge. 
3) Prepare berries mousse only when you are ready to assemble.

Dairy Whipped Cream
200ml dairy whipping cream, cold from fridge
2 tbsp fine sugar
2 tsp gelatin, dissolved with 2 tbsp water# and let it cool to room temperature

Place the cream and sugar in a cold bowl (place the bowl in freezer for 5 minutes).  Whisk the cream till soft peak and add in the dissolved gelatin.  Continue to whisk till firm.  Be careful not to over-whisk, or the cream will curdle.  Place the whipped cream in the fridge while you prepare other steps.

* Use 2/3 portion for berries mousse and 1/3 portion for green tea cheesecake layer.


Green Tea Cheese
180g cream cream, soften slightly at room temperature
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sugar to taste
2.5 tsp green tea powder
60ml milk, warm up in microwave oven
2 sheets of gelatin (or use about 1.5 tsp gelatin dissolved witn 2 tbsp water)
1/3 portion of dairy whipped cream (see above *)

Soften the gelatin sheets in iced water for about 5 minutes, squeeze out excess water and add to the warm milk.  Stir to melt the gelatin into the milk.  If necessary, microwave the milk for another 20 seconds.  Leave the milk mixture to cool.  Meanwhile, place cream cheese, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl and cream till smooth.  Add in the green tea powder and cream well to combine.  Add in the milk and stir till smooth.  Fold into the dairy whipped cream.


To assemble the cake:

You will need:
* Biscuit base, harden
* Berries mousse
* Berries jelly
* 2 thin slices of 6" round sponge cake (see here for recipe/method)
* Green Tea Cheese mixture
* White chocolate garnish, fresh strawberries

1) Pour half the berries mousse over the harden biscuit base.  
2) Place a slice of sponge cake over the mousse.  
3) Pour half the green tea cheese mixture over the sponge cake.  Place in freezer for 5 minutes to set it slightly.
4) Remove the berries jelly from the plastic wrap and place over the green tea cheese layer.  Pour the remaining green tea cheese mixture over the jelly.
5) Place the other slice of sponge cake over the green tea cheese layer and pour the remaining berries mousse over the cake.  Smooth the top and chill in freezer for at least 3 hours to set, before transferring the cake to the fridge to keep chill.
6) Remove the cake from the cake ring.  Decorate the sides with white chocolate garnish.
7) Warm up the reserved jelly solution in a microwave oven and pour into a piping bag.  Pipe designs on the cake and decorate with fresh strawberries.  Keep chill in fridge till ready to serve.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Chicken Stew

The first time where I tried chicken stew with peanut butter was back in the Year 2000.  Hubby and I went for a free and easy holiday to Perth.  During our stay, we booked a local four-wheel drive cum camping trip to explore Western Australia.  Our driver cum tour guide was also our chef.  Breakfasts and lunches were usually cereals, sandwiches and fruits.  At night, we had either BBQ dinner or simple stews with rice.  One of the stews I remembered was peanut butter with chicken and some vegetables.  Our chef started with cutting up the vegetables and chicken.  With some hot oil (or butter) in the pot, he sauteed the onions, chicken, tomatoes etc ... poured in canned tomatoes and water.  When the content started bubbling, he took out a bottle of peanut butter and scooped a few big spoonfuls of peanut butter into the stew.  I was thinking then, what was he doing??? peanut butter in a savory dish??? 

If you have never tried peanut butter in chicken stew, let me tell you:  IT IS DELICIOUS!   Peanut butter adds richness and flavour to this dish.  Depending on your preference, you can always adjust the amount of peanut butter to add to the stew.

Prepare a big pot of this stew, keep a portion in the freezer, just reheat and serve on another day.  Keep some extra sauce in a separate container and use the sauce for your next pasta meal.  One dish into 3 meals!  Easy and economical.  I managed to squeeze in a 4th dish - spicy chicken buns, by using a small portion of the reserved sauce, cook with some shredded chicken, sliced onion, mushrooms and curry powder, as filling for my breakfast buns.


8 chicken drums (or other chicken parts)
1 big onion, cut into big chunks
1 carrot, cut into big chunks
Some fresh button mushrooms, halved
A few black pitted olives, sliced
1 cup of canned chopped tomato & sauce
2 heaped tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
1 to 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 bay leaf
Few cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Start with marinating the chicken pieces with some salt and pepper (I added a teaspoon of mixed spice in the marinate).  Leave it aside while you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2) Heat up some oil in a pan over moderate high heat (or a wok which I find easier to work with).  Stir fry the chopped onions and minced garlic till fragrant.  Add in the carrot and button mushrooms.  Add the chicken pieces to the pan and stir to combine with the other ingredients till fragrant. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and its sauce.  Add in the black olives and the rest of the ingredients (except peanut butter).  Add sufficient water to cover all the ingredients.  Transfer to a pot.  Cover, bring to boil before adjusting to low heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.

3) Stir in the peanut butter and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the peanut butter does not stick to the base of the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4) Cover and keep it aside for another 15 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a pinch of parsley flakes and served with rice or bread.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lunch for Little One

Time flies.  Last year around this time, I was busy preparing (myself and) my little one for her primary school.  School orientation, buy new books, uniform, stationeries etc.  One new activity also popped up in my mind - I need to prepare lunch for my little one.  Previously, lunch is provided for in her preschool.  

Like a first-time excited mum to her newborn baby, I went online and bought books to check out the beautiful kids lunch boxes and bentos.  OH... I can cook this, this and this!!!  Ha...well, as usual, I'm simply too lazy to try out any of the cute-looking lunches.  I love to cook, but I simply cannot "tahan" spending hours to beautify the lunch box.  Moreover, after spending so long on "touching up" the food, won't they turn cold?  Sorry dear, no cute bears or smiley face sandwiches for you, instead, here are some of the lunches that mum had prepared for you (and myself).

Stir-Fry Udon, Shredded Chicken & Beans Salad, Tofu Miso Soup and Ham & Bean Rolls.

Pan-Fried Pork Collar Steak with Japanese Curry

Garlic Mushroom Baked Potato with Grilled Taiwan Sausage and Steamed Vegetables

Mixed Seafood Tempura with Cha Soba and Chawanmushi

Chicken & Pumpkin Gyoza with Chinese Yam Soup

Fried Rice with "Special Satay"

Ipoh hor-fun with Soy Sauce Chicken Wing, Tofu and Blanched Beansprouts

Meatballs in Creamy Tomato Sauce, Potato & Leek Soup, Steamed Broccoli

Minced Meat Stew with Braised Egg, Tofu and Blanched Vegetable

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blueberry Molten Custard Buns

These custard buns are hot from the oven!  Baked them last evening for today's breakfast.  My initial idea is just to make some plain custard buns.  But since I have some fresh blueberries in the fridge, why not use it to decorate the buns?  

(makes 8 buns)

(a) 270g bread flour, 30g plain flour, 40g fine sugar, 1 tsp instant dried yeast, 2 tbsp milk powder, 1/8 tsp salt
(b) 1 egg (about 50g), 120g plain milk, 30g water (or use all milk)
(c) 40g butter

Custard cream
(d) 125ml milk + 1 tbsp custard powder + 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp vanilla essence
(e) 125ml water + 2 tbsp sugar
(f) 3 tbsp whipped cream (optional)

Bring (e) to gentle boil and remove from heat.   Combine (d) together, sieve and pour into (e).  Return mixture to heat. Stir till mixture thickens.  Cool the custard and place in fridge (with plastic wrap covering the surface).  Fold in the whipped cream.

1) Place (a) in a mixer and pour in (b).  Knead the dough till smooth.  Add in (c) and knead the dough till you get a smooth and elastic dough.  Cover and rest the dough for about 40 minutes or doubled in size.

2) Knead the dough gently and divide into 8 portions (about 75g each).  Round the dough, cover and rest them for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, get ready 8 small pieces of baking paper (preferably non-stick type - wax, silicone etc) and 8 small baking tartlet moulds.

3) Using the small tartlet mould, make an indentation in the middle of each bun.  Place a small piece of baking paper over the hole and weigh it down with the tartlet mould (if need be, add some baking beans or rice into the mould).  Cover and rest the buns for another 30 minutes or till doubled in size.

4) Remove the tartlet moulds and baking papers.  Fill the hole with custard cream.  Bake in preheated oven at 190C for about 12 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Place a few blueberries on each custard bun.  

5) Cool the buns on baking rack.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let's Eat Desserts!

I'm into cup desserts lately.  First, I made some green tea milk pudding, using Japanese green tea powder and some hot milk, garnished with dairy whipped cream and strawberry halves.  Simple and elegant.

With some leftover chocolate cake, I prepared this chocolate banana trifle.  Main ingredients are chocolate cake, cut into small cubes, sliced bananas (squeezed some lemon juice over the bananas to prevent browning), chocolate sauce, dairy whipped cream, crushed Oreo cookies and toasted almond flakes.  Garnish with strawberry halves and Glico chocolate sticks.  To prepare, just place the ingredients layer by layer and chill in fridge for an hour before serving.  

I'm not sure if this is the season for Australia rock melons, but they are really sweet and juicy. The melon pudding is made with real melon juice by blending melon with some milk, before adding a little syrup to taste.  Top with melon balls and clear jelly.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Light and Spongy Chocolate Butter Cake

My best ever chocolate butter cake.  Chocolatey, very light and spongy.  I simply love it!

(makes 8 inch pan)

200g cold unsalted butter
100g fine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla/rum extract
30g cocoa powder + 1/4 cup hot water (mix into paste)
50g buttermilk
180g self-raising flour + 1/4 tsp baking soda (sift together)
4 egg whites
60g fine sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1) Cream butter, sugar and salt together till light and fluffy.
2) Add egg yolks, one at a time and cream together.  Add in the vanilla/rum extract.
3) Add cocoa paste and mix well.
4) Add buttermilk and sifted flour,alternately to the butter mixture.  Mix well and set aside.
5) In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar till stiff and fold in batches to the cake batter till well combined.
6) Pour into greased and lined baking pan.  Bake in preheated oven at 160C for about 50 minutes.  Test with a skewer.
7) Transfer and cool on a baking rack.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lightning McQueen Cake * Peace

Vroom .....  Vroom .... this Lightning McQueen cake is for a little boy, Shalev, to celebrate his 3rd birthday.  Shalev is a beautiful name and it means peaceful. 

About this cake ... it is a 2-tier chocolate butter cake, covered with fondant.  The base is one 11" round cake, sliced horizontally into two and sandwiched with vanilla butter cream.  The car body is carved and assembled from one 8" round cake.  This is the first time I'm making a car cake and there are still many areas to improve on - rolling/covering of fondant, the small details etc.  Now looking at the picture, I should have made bigger wheels for the car... aiyo... how to win the race with these small wheels??

Happy Birthday, Shalev!  

Hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your birthday with your family and many of your little friends.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pan-Fried Salmon with Sauteed Vegetables

This is an simple salmon dish that we can prepare at home with ease.  Few ingredients:  Salmon fillet (or other fish fillet), carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and fresh lemon.  I chose these vegetables for their bright cheerful colours.

To prepare:
1) Cut the vegetables into cubes.  For chopped carrot, I prefer to gentle boil in stock for a few minutes before stir frying it.

2) Heat up a small pot or pan.  Add a little oil.  Stir fry the zucchini and carrot, add a little garlic (or chopped onion).  Add in a little stock.  Once the zucchini turns soft, add in the bell peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of dried dill.  Cover and keep warm.

3) Score the skin of the salmon and season with salt and pepper.

4) Heat up a pan, add a little oil.  When the pan is sizzling hot, place the salmon fillet in pan, skin-side down.  Gently fry the fish over medium heat for a few minutes till the skin is crispy and brown.  Carefully flip the fish over and squeeze some lemon juice over it.  Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave the salmon fillet in pan.

5) Lay the sauteed vegetables on plate and sit the salmon fillet on top.  Garnish with a little lemon zest and a sprinkle of dried dill.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Being the ever thrifty homemaker, I always find buttermilk being overpriced.  Probably due to the low demand here, a carton of buttermilk can buy twice the amount of fresh milk.  But, as I have read so much about baking and cooking with buttermilk, I'm really curious to experiment a little with buttermilk.  With the packet of buttermilk, I used it to make buttermilk pancakes, pan-grilled buttermilk chicken and finally, this chocolate buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting.  Not bad huh, really stretch my dollar by using the buttermilk to make breakfast, dinner and a tea-treat!

This chocolate cake recipe is adapted from my earlier Wild Berries Citron Crumble Slice, mainly by replacing a small portion of plain flour with cocoa powder; and sour cream/milk with buttermilk.  The frosting is cream cheese with melted white chocolate and topped with toasted chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and apricot.  I like to add white chocolate to cream cheese frosting as it tastes good and keeps the frosting from melting away

(makes 8" square pan)

100g butter
50g fine sugar
30g brown sugar (or use all fine sugar)
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs (55g each)
1 tsp rum extract
100g plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder (sift together)
40g cocoa powder + 3 tbsp hot water (stir together)
100ml buttermilk

100g cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp melted white chocolate
1 tbsp orange liquor

Toasted walnuts, chopped
Chopped dried cranberries and apricot
Some lemon zest

1) Cream butter, sugar and salt together till light and fluffy.  Add in eggs, one at a time.  Mix in rum extract.

2) Add flour and buttermilk, alternately to butter mixture.  Add in the cocoa paste.  Mix well.  Pour into greased and lined baking pan.

3) Bake in preheated oven of 180C for about 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, set to cool before spreading with cream cheese frosting.

4) To prepare frosting, beat the cream cheese with lemon juice till creamy.  Add in icing sugar and beat well.  Add melted white chocolate, orange liquor and beat well.

So what's my verdict with using buttermilk in cooking and baking?  It's good to have, but not necessary.  My buttermilk pancake does not taste fluffier or tastier than one prepared with plain milk + vinegar.  My buttermilk chicken tastes just as succulent nice as one prepared without using buttermilk.  I think the cooking time, method and heat control is more important.  I'm not an absolute chocolate cake lover, so while this chocolate cake is nice and soft, I guess the right combination of cream/milk will yield the same soft texture too ^_^

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