Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sweet for my Daring Bakers - Caramel Cupcakes with Caramelized Butter Frosting!

The last few Daring Bakers challenges had involved yeast but this month we are back to the basics of baking. November's challenge or should I say a choice of two challenges allows Daring Bakers to pick one or the other.

The first option is the signature Caramel Cake from Shuna Fish Lydon of Egg Beater. The second option is Alice Medrich's Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels. Taking the helm to host this month's challenge is Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity with assistance from Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food

When I read the posting in the Daring Baker's forum, I immediately knew that I would opt to do the first option which is the Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. This is simply because I don't fancy caramels at all. I also had no idea what a caramel cake tasted like but the mere name itself conjured up images of a sweet delicious cake. And indeed it was such and having read the comments from other Daring Bakers who had earlier attempted the cake, I decided to reduce the amount of sugar stated in the original recipe. So instead of using the original 1 and 1/4 cups, I cut this down to about slightly less than 1 and 1/8 cup and it worked.

Instead of baking this as a cake, I decided to work it into a cupcake version instead. This gave me 15 full size cupcakes and the baking time was shorten to about 24 minutes. These were made over a Friday night and I then packed the cupcakes into an airtight container. The next morning I made the caramelized frosting to go with this treat. I halfed the frosting recipe which gave me more than enough to cover all 15 cupcakes. And guess what, I could not resist tasting one immediately after I had frosted them. It was delicious! Surprisingly the frosting with an extra pinch of sea salt paired very well with the cupcakes. I could taste a bit of the salt in-between mouthfuls of cake and frosting. That very afternoon itself my husband and I had planned to go out. He had to drop by at one of his client's home and I decided to pack some of the cupcakes for them. The remaining cupcakes were taken to office and quickly distributed. I even treated myself again by indulging in another 2 more cupcakes the next day (oh dear .. there goes my waistline) and the cake texture was still very moist (even after being in the fridge for 3 nights).

Opps ... nearly forgot to mention that I also had left over caramel syrup which was used to make a peanut sesame brittle, great snacks in front of the telly (check out the top tray of the above cake platter)! This is one recipe which I'm going to bookmark for another time! Gals, many thanks for picking such a winner!

Caramel Cupcakes with Caramelized Butter Frosting
(Makes a 9" cake or 15 cupcakes)


142g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature


1) Preheat oven to 350F or 176C

2) Butter one tall (2 – 2.5" deep) 9-inch cake pan (or line 12 cupcake pan with paper liners)

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

4) Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

5) Sift flour and baking powder.

6) Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

7) Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan (If making cupcakes, scoop the batter into cupcake liners about 3/4 full. The batter results in a pretty flat cupcake, not the dome shape kind)

8) Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. (For cupcakes bake about 24 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle)

9) Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramel Syrup


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)


1) In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

2) When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. (You could also tear a piece of foil and cover the to of the saucepan leaving a small gap to enable you to pour in the water. The foil will prevent the caramel from sputtering out)

3) Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

Caramelized Butter Frosting


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste


1) Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

2) Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

3) In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

4) If you are doing cupcakes, you can half the recipe as it will give you sufficient frosting to cover all cupcakes.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hainanese Chicken Rice

I guess besides the well known Singapore chillie crabs, which is a "must try" for all tourist visiting this tiny island located near the equator, the other well-known national dish is probably the Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure how Hainanese Chicken Rice has become so closely linked with Singapore. Purely from it's name alone you would know that it's more associated with Hainan, a province in China. However when the Chinese migrated to South East Asia they not only brought along their culture and traditions, they also brought with them their culinary skills.

You can find Hainanese Chicken Rice not only in Singapore but also in Malaysia and Thailand. However each country's version of this dish has been tweaked somewhat to cater to local tastes. This dish can be found not only in expensive hotels, it is also in tiny cafes or food courts. Did you know that it is also one of the few local dishes even served on Singapore's national airline carrier, Singapore Airlines? It is also given a mention in Singapore's Tourism Board's website. Now that's what I call "nationalism".

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a very simple dish to make and can be prepared easily in no time at all. No messy frying and you just need 2 pots at the most. It's one full meal prepared in one-go!

Hainanese Chicken Rice
(serves 4)

Ingredients for the Chicken:

1kg size (2-pound) chicken
1 small bunch of scallion, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 slices fresh, peeled ginger
4 - 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
3 pandan leaves, tied together (pandan leave is also known as screwpine or pandanus)
2 pieces star anise
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Rice:

4 cups long-grain uncooked rice, washed and drained
3 slices fresh, peeled ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
3 pandan leaves (tied together)
1/2 tsp fine salt

Ingredients for the Chilli Sauce

2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh red chilies,
5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp fine salt

Grind all the above ingredients in the blender and then add in 1/2 cup boiling hot chicken soup. Stir well and set aside.


1) Boil a large pot of water. When water in boiling add in the star anise and pandan leaves.

2) Stuff the cavity of the chicken with scallion, garlic and ginger.

3) Once the water is boiling, dip the chicken into the boiling water and dip it a few times until the skin is cooked. Once the skin is cooked, leave the chicken under the water to cook. This is to ensure that the skin does not break. The cooking time is about 20 minutes for a 1kg chicken.

4) Ensure that the water is kept just below the boiling point during the entire cooking process. Once chicken is cooked, put the chicken immediately into ice cold water for a few minutes. This will stop the cooking process and ensure that the meat will remain tender and the skin crunchy.

5) To make the rice, heat oil in frying pan. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry till fragrant. Add the uncooked rice, stir fry for two minutes, then add in the salt. Transfer the uncooked rice into a rice cooker and add enough chicken soup (the soup from cooking the chicken) to cover 1/2 inch above the top of the rice. Add in the pandan leave and set the rice cooker to "cook" mode.

6) Chop the chicken into serving pieces and place onto plate. Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Separately dish out the rice into bowls. Serve the chicken rice with a bowl of hot soup and chillie sauce.

Note: There is no requirement to reheat the chicken again as it is served at room temperature. However your rice and soup should be steaming hot.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Buns

The first few times that I'd baked bread from scratch was a disaster! My bread did not turn out soft, not even somewhat soft. It was more like a dense and heavy loaf. I do believe you could have injured someone with it as well.

After a few more tries and a bit more research through the internet and YouTube, I think I've now got a better hand at kneading bread than before. Though I do think it is cheaper to buy a normal loaf of bread from the bakery, there is nothing quite like making it from scratch. There is a sense of tranquility in kneading bread. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the motion of pulling the dough and the feel of it being shaped from a sticky mass to something that's soft and smooth. Maybe it's the state of concentration that I'm in at that point of time. Whatever it is, I do feel a sense of satisfaction at this.

I made these sweet buns on a Wednesday night, after work (ok I'm mad) and by the time I was done with the buns, it was close to 11.00pm (ok extremely mad). Though I was shacked by then, the smell of baking buns is unbelievable. I did not even wait for it to cool down before trying one - absolutely delicious it was. You don't even need to add any spread to it as the bread was slightly sweet due to the amount of sugar added to the recipe.

Sweet Buns
(makes around 9 buns)


150g bread flour
150g cake flour
5g active dry yeast
3g salt
125g milk
1 egg
60g caster sugar
50g butter
(1 egg, beaten, for glazing)


1) Mix all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add in milk, egg and butter. Mix into a dough.

2) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until the gluten is fully developed (see tip below) and the dough is elastic, smooth and non-sticky. It will take about 25 mins to knead the dough by hand. Initially the dough will stick on to the work surface. Do not be tempted to add more flour or even give up kneading! After continuous kneading, the dough will no longer stick to the work surface.

3) Place the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp towel or cling wrap to seal in the moisture. Allow the dough to ferment(or proof) until double in bulk. This will take probably take about an hour if you are living in a tropical country like Singapore.

4) To test whether the dough has been fully proofed, press a finger into the dough and withdraw quickly. It should leave a deep impression and spring back very slowly. For an insufficiently proofed dough, the impression will spring back instantly.

5) Take out the dough and punch out the gas produced. Let the dough rest for about 15minutes.

6) Divide the dough into 60g portions. Shape and add fillings as desired. (I left mine plain) Arrange dough in a greased or lined pan. Rest for about another 15 minutes.

7) Brush the top with whole egg mixture. Add topping if desired. (I topped 3 of the buns with sesame seeds, another 3 with sliced almond and the last 3 with grated cheddar cheese)

8) Bake for about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 190 degC. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.


To check whether the dough is fully developed, take a small piece of the dough and stretch it with your fingers. If it can be stretched into a thin layer without tearing easily, the dough is fully developed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sweet Potato Cake - Celebrate with Cake Slice Bakers!

Sweet Potato Cake - this is the choice and flavour for November's Cake Slice Bakers challenge!

Maybe it's timely as this cake seems to blend in well with the holiday celebrations of Halloween and Thanksgiving. In fact I was one of those who voted to bake this cake for November (along with the majority of the group). To me the flavours of the cake seem intriguing - sweet potato, chocolate and orange cheese frosting! Sounds yummy!

I had wanted to start early this month and get all my challenges out of the way. Unfortunately I was down with a flu the 1st week-end of November, probably from a flu bug that has been going around in the office. A number of my colleagues seemed to have caught it as well. Thus I had to wait another week. I had only 2 weekends left before actual posting, coupled with a Daring Baker's challenge to complete sort of stressed me out somewhat! At times like this I always wonder why did I get myself into such situations. But then if I had not joined these two amazing groups, I would not even have attempted 90% of their challenges. So you could say I have learned heaps!

I don't know what it is but every time I have to do a cake frosting, that very same day seems to be a hot and humid one! Sunday was no different. It had rained the day before, in fact practically the whole day. So I thought Sunday would be cool but it seems someone of higher authority decided "today we shall have sun". And so it was! Couple of things went wrong with this challenge. Firstly I whipped the egg whites first and set it aside. I then tackled the rest of the instructions. The last part called for stirring in 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the batter, which I did! Immediately after doing so, I realized my egg whites had started to turn watery! I wasn't sure what would happen if I poured the rest of it into the cake batter but I wasn't going to take the chance. The thought of a deflated cake came to mind and I was not about to start from sractch again. I immediately whipped up more egg whites. Luckily the cakes turned out great, whew!

However I couldn't say the same when it came to the frosting. As I had mentioned it was a hot, hot day. Heat and frosting are certainly no pals - they can't even sit in the same room together without bickering. I had to put the cake into the fridge at least three times before I could finally finish the decoration. It was not much point trying to smoothen the sides so I left the cake with a "rough unfinished" look.

In a couple of my previous posts I had mentioned that my dear husband simply does not eat cake. I gave him an itty bitty piece of sweet potato cake to try and he had such an expression on his face ...... it was close to giving a child bitter medicine. I give up! Instead most of the cake went to my office colleagues the next day. Everyone loved it. When I asked my boss to guess what type of cake it was, her immediate response was carrot cake. I told her otherwise and she said that she wouldn't have even thought of sweet potato.

This cake taste exactly like a carrot cake and I personally think it was even better the next day. However I did think that the frosting was a tad too sweet. A tip from a fellow Cake Slice member is to add a pinch of salt to the frosting to tone down on the sweetness ... how clever - I certainly never thought of this.

Sweet Potato Cake
(Makes one triple layer 9" cake)


2 medium or 1 large sweet potato (about 340g)*
3 cups of cake flour**
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
5 eggs, separated
2 1/4 cups of sugar
142g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups of milk


*If fresh sweet potato is not available where you live you may use canned sweet potato, yams, and pumpkin puree)Makes a 9-inch triple layer cake, serves 16-20 people

**The recipe calls for cake flour and if you only have all-purpose flour on hand, you can substitute 3/4 cup (105 grams) all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch.)


1) Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes in 2-3 places, place on a small baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

2) Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms and the sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper also.

3) When the sweet potatoes are cool peel off the skin and remove any dark spots. Cut the potatoes into chunks and puree in a food processors. Puree until smooth. Measure out one cup of potato puree and set aside.

4) Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Set aside.

5) In the bowl of electric mixer add the egg whites and attach whip attachment. Beat on medium speed until egg whites are frothy. raise the speed to high and gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are moderately stiff.

6) In another large bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the sweet potato, butter, vanilla, and remaining sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each egg yolk is added. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk in alternately in 2-3 additions. making sure to begin and end with the dry ingredients.

7) With a large spatula, fold in one fourth of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Then fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Making sure to not over mix or this will deflate the batter. Divide the batter among of the three pans.

8) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cake layers onto a wire rack and cool completely at least 1 hour.

9) To assemble the cake, place one layer flat side up on to a cake stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and filled with chocolate cream cheese icing, pipe border around the edge of the cake. Fill the center with the orange cream filling smoothing it to the edge of the border. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process. Place the third layer on top and use all the chocolate cream cheese frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Cream Frosting:
(Makes 3 cups)


283g cream cheese at room temperature
113g unsalted butter at room temperature
453g powdered sugar, sifted
43g unsweetened chocolate melted and slightly cooled


1) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar to cream cheese butter mixture. Making sure to scrape down the sides the sides of the bowl. Then beat until light fluffy 2-3 minutes.

2) Measure out 1 cup of frosting and set aside.3. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining icing in the bowl and beat until well combined.

Orange Cream Filling:

1 cup of reserved cream cheese icing from above.
2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed (I used orange juice instead + 1 Tablespoon orange zest for added flavour)
1/4 teaspoon of orange extract

Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Northern Kedah Laksa

For those who are familiar with laksa, you would probaly think of the more popular curry laksa. Curry laksa seems to be the more affluent and well travelled cousin of the "laksa" clan. Curry laksa can be found in USA, UK and as far down south as Australia.

However did you know that there are a lot more different varieties of Laksa. It even amazes me as I'm a Malaysian and should be a bit more knowledgeable in this area. For example in Malaysia (my homeland), a country in South East Asia made up of 13 states, I found out that there is a laksa dish named after most of the states in Malaysia. Now that's a lot of laksa.

This particular laksa which I had prepared over the weekend (with assistance from my co-chef, my husband who did the chopping and grinding, whilst I did the cooking) is called Kedah Laksa. It comes from the state of Kedah, which is in the northwestern part of Peninsular Malaysia. Just as an added piece of general knowledge, Kedah is also known as the "rice bowl" of Malaysia because the main agriculture is rice planting and produces 50% of the country's rice. For those who have sampled Penang Laksa (also known as Assam Laksa), Kedah Laksa is a close cousin. Kedah Laksa has its own identity as a rich, tangy, aromatic offering of noodles with a sharp, spicy tamarind gravy and mackerel flakes, garnished with herbs indigenous to the area.

Northern Kedah Laksa
(serves 6 - 8)


1 packet laksa noodles (scalded)
1 kg mackerel (ikan kembung)
1 litre of water
7 dried chillies (soak in warm water and then de-seed the chillies) *
2 cm dried shrimp paste (belacan) *
10 shallots *
5 pieces of tamarind slices (asam gelugur)
Salt to taste
1 bud ginger flower (bunga kantan) - you may be able to find this in an Oriental grocery store
Several kesum leaves (laksa leaves)- you may be able to find this in an Oriental grocery store

* Ingredients to be grinded into a smooth paste

Garnishing Ingredients:

5 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and halved (optional)
5 calamansi limes, halved
1 large spanish onion, finely sliced
1 head lettuce, finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, finely sliced
1 cucumber, finely julienne
Prawn paste diluted with a bit of warm water (you can purchase this from Asian grocery shop)


1) Boil the mackerel in the water for about 5 minutes or until fish is cooked. Remove the fish and debone (take care to remove all fine bones). Put the bones into a separate bowl (do not throw away). Strain the fish stock and put aside.

2) Put fish bones into a food processor and grind until it becomes a paste. Add the bone paste into the fish stock and strain one more time.

3) To the strained fish stock, add in the mackerel flesh, ground ingredients, tamarind slices. Bring to a boil and add salt to taste.

4) Add in the ginger flower and kesum leaves. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

5) Put laksa noodles into individual serving bowls. Garnish with the garnishing ingredients. Pour the fish stock on top just before serving. Add prawn paste to taste. Serve noodles hot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Strawberry Ice-cream

I made ice-cream again over the week-end. It's strawberry ice-cream this time as I managed to purchase 500g of ripen fruit. Every Friday evening at a building near my office (and where I would park my car as well), a local fruit supplier would set up a few tables at the foyer and sell their fresh and dried fruits. And usually it's slightly cheaper than at the local supermarkets.

I suggest you use ripen strawberries for this ice-cream, so as to get the best possible strawberry flavour. This is a light, creamy and non-custard based ice-cream. It is utterly delicious! This recipe makes slightly more than a litre tub.

Also don't despair if you don't have an ice-cream maker, you can still make this by hand. It just takes a little bit longer.

Strawberry Ice-cream


450g strawberries, hulled
Juice of half a lemon, or to taste
150g sieved icing sugar
300ml double or thickened cream

Variations (which you could add):

1-2 Tbsp freshly chopped mint or
1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1) Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, then turn them into a bowl and season with the lemon juice and sugar to taste. Add the mint or black pepper, if used.

2) Stir in the cream.

3) Transfer mixture to your ice-cream machine and freeze-churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

4) If you are making this by hand, skip (3). Instead put the mixture into the freezer for about 2 to 3 hours until ice forms at the edges of the mixture. Remove and give the mixture a few whisk. Then place it back into the freezer and repeat this process for another two more times. Finally freeze the mixture overnight before consuming.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My First Blog Award!

You could say that I was in "7th heaven" last Thursday morning when I discovered that I had been awarded a blog award from an amazing young Singaporean blogger, Sihan of Fundamentally Flawed (many thanks Sihan). My very first! I texted my husband about the news and his text reply was "clap, clap, clap and more to come"!

In accepting this award, I in turn have to pass this along to 7 other exceptional bloggers. But before this I have to do the following and this is the hard part. I have to put on my big "thinking cap" first ......

7 things I say most Often

1) I'm hungry
2) Look at that! (and that's usually oogling at other people)
3) Stop that!
4) Bad boy! (and that's to my 2 dogs, and sometimes my husband .. hehe)
5) Where did I put that #@%*?
6) Where are we going?
7) Dear, can you .... (that's whenever my husband is sitting in front of the telly and I'm running around doing housework)

7 things I did before

1)Played in 3 golf tournaments
2) Baked and sold cupcakes for an office function
3)Camped out in an African safari game reserve
4) Acted in a school play
5) Set a small portion of my school lab desk on fire whilst doing a chemistry experiment (it was a small fire ok)
6) Used to scuba-dive
7) Go off-roading in my SUV

7 things I do now

1) Bake and bake
2) Shop for baking ingredients instead of clothes, shoes, etc like any normal female
3) Sign up for interesting baking classes such as making fondant figurines
4) Blog and blog
5) Drive and try to keep to my speed limits (especially after receiving a fine for speeding)
6) Scrutinize food labels before buying
7) Look for alternatives (groceries are so expensive now that I have to opt for local produces, sigh!)

7 things I want to do

1) Retire early
2) Win the lottery (I foresee this being more of a "fantasy", but who knows)
3) Hope to open a cafe and dessert shop when I retire
4) Take up yoga
5) Get a bigger apartment (with a bigger kitchen)
6) To point (1), retire in the country (not Singapore and my husband wants to retire in Chiangmai, Thailand simply because the people are so friendly, they have winter which is nice and cool and you can bring your dogs everywhere you go)
7) Maybe do a pastry/baking course (a real certification one)

7 things that attract me about the opposite sex

1) Nice smile
2) Humour
3) Laugh
3) Height
4) Honesty
5) Be humble
6) Mannerism
7) It doesn't hurt to have nice "buns" as well (and I don't mean the yeast kind)

7 favorite foods

1) Old fashion chocolate cake
2) A good curry laksa
3) Waffle with maple syrup
4) Chilli crabs
5) Chicken pie
6) Sushi
7) Satay

7 other bloggers to whom I would like to pass this award onto as I am a regular fan of their works. Have fun guys and great job! In turn please do the above 7 things and pass to award to other 7 deserving bloggers.

1) Ramya of Memory Achieved - Passion for Cooking
2) Shibani of Any One Can Cook
3) Ramya of The Cooks Collection
4) Jo of The Adventures of Kitchen Girl
5) Farina of Salt & Tumeric
6) Jude of Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté
7) Pete of Pete Bakes

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Banana Walnut Muffin

What is a Muffin?

When I did an internet search, I found out that there are actually two types of muffins, the American version and the English version. The American version is made from a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda) whilst the English version is more yeast dough like (similar to English muffins)

I also found out that the American muffin is further divided into two different types, cake-like muffins and bread-like muffins. A higher sugar and butter content would result in a more cake-like muffin. Wow, I never knew any of this until now. All I ever did prior to this wealth of knowledge was just pop a muffin into my mouth and eat it. I'll never look at a muffin in the same light again.

I personally go for the cake-like muffin as they tend to be more moist. Muffins also make such hearty breakfast meal. They are also simple to make and you can add sweet or savoury ingredients to it. Here's a recipe for a scrumptious banana walnut muffin which I tried out during a mid-week baking session. I brought it to the office the next day and it was still moist and light.

Banana Walnut Muffins
(makes 15 muffins)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 over-ripe bananas
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup sugar instead)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (melted)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1) Preheat oven to 375F and arrange the baking cups in a muffin pan.

2) Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. In a large bowl, combine the flour, butter, eggs, baking soda, the remaining 2 bananas, sugar, and vanilla extract.

3) Beat the ingredients with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until all ingredients are mixed together.

4) Fold in the chopped walnuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into each of the baking cup and fill each cup about halfway. Top each muffin with a walnut.

5) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins turn brown.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nutella Frosted Cupcakes

I was back at my home town Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia recently during the recent Deepavali (Diwali) holidays and had also wanted to bring back some baked goodies. As we'll be on the road for about 4 hours, I could not possibly bring along anything that had cream or frosting on it. So it had to be something that was easy to carry and without much fuss. Why not unfrosted cupcakes! They're easy to pack and would probably survive a bump here and there along the way.

This recipe uses nutella which I thought would be an interesting change. I've not tasted nutella before and can only imagine it to taste like melted chocolate. Silly me, of course it's chocolate. It says so on the label .. duh!! I opted for a hazelnut flavour instead for this particular receipe. I loved the taste of the nutella, especially when the cupcake was still warm. It had a slight crunchy chocolatey taste to it. This recipe produces 12 moist cupcakes. My sister said that these cupcakes were extremely tasty, without an eggy taste to it even though 3 eggs were used.

Nutella Frosted Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)
Recipe from Baking Bites


10 Tbsp (140 grams) butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups (200 grams) sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
Nutella, approx. 1/3 cup


1) Preheat oven to 325F or 180C. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Cream together butter and sugar until light, which should take about 2 minutes.

3) Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t look smooth. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains.

4) Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner with batter. They should be 3/4 full, if you’re not using a scoop.

5) Top each cake with 1 1/2 tsp Nutella. Swirl Nutella in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the nutella.

6) Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Beef Rendang (Spicy Coconut Beef Stew)

I've been eyeing this particular beef rendang recipe from Rasa Malaysia simply because I love rendang and trying to cook it from scratch has always been somewhat daunting to me. Some of the recipes which I've come across called for a thousand and one ingredients, also not forgetting the long cooking process! Maybe it's about time to give this a try!

Back home in Malaysia, beef rendang is closely associated with Hari Raya which is the Muslim new year or Malay wedding ceremonies, called kenduri. When I was young, I would follow my parents during Hari Raya to visit their Muslim friends "open house". Open house is pretty much a tradition for all Malaysians (irrespective of race or religion) during each of own new year festivals, and there are so many ..... Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali (the Indian new year) and Christmas. "Open house" literally means opening your doors to all friends who will drop by and say hello, also not forgetting having a bite or two in-between visitations.

Rendang is a dish which originated from the Minangkabau people of Indonesia. It is one of the characteristic foods of the Minangkabau culture, and it is served at ceremonial occasions and to honor guests. Being also popular in Malaysia and Singapore, rendang is traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions. Though rendang is sometimes described as being like a curry, and the name is sometimes applied to curried meat dishes in Malaysia, authentic rendang is nothing like a curry and doesn't contain curry powder.

Rendang is made from beef (or occasionally chicken, mutton, water buffalo meat or vegetables like jackfruit or cassava) slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone, leaving the meat coated in the spicy condiments. The cooking process transitions from boiling to frying as the liquid is evaporated. The spices may include ginger, galangal, turmeric leaf, lemon grass and chillies. The slow cooking process allows the meat to absorb all the spices and to become tender.

There are two kinds of rendang: dried and wet. Dried rendang can be kept for 3–4 months, and it is for ceremonial occasions or to honor guests. Wet rendang, also known as kalio, can be found in Minangkabau restaurants and without refrigeration it should be consumed within a month. Rendang is often served with rice in Indonesia but in Malaysia it is served with ketupat (a compressed rice cake) and lemang (glutinous rice barbecued in bamboo tubes).

If you've never had rendang before and love spicy food, I truly recommend that you try this recipe. And don't be put off by the long simmering. After trying it out, I find that it's really not that difficult and is in fact easier than some recipes I've come across.

Beef Rendang (Spicy Coconut Beef Stew)
(Recipe courtesy from


600g beef chunk or boneless short-rib beef (cut into 1 1/2" cubes)
5 Tbsp cooking oil
1 cinnamon stick (about 2" long)
3 cloves
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods
1 lemongrass (cut into 4-inch length and pounded)
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 cup water
2 tsp tamarind pulp (soaked in some warm water for the juice and discard the seeds )
6 kaffir lime leaves (very finely sliced)
6 Tbsp kerisik (toasted coconut)
1 Tbsp sugar/palm sugar or to taste
Salt to taste

Spice Paste to Grind:

5 shallots
1" galangal
3 lemongrass (white part only)
5 cloves garlic
1" ginger
10-12 dried chilies (soaked in warm water and de-seeded)


1) Chop the spice paste ingredients and then blend it in a food processor until fine.

2) Heat the oil in a stew pot, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and cardamom and stir-fry them until aromatic.

3) Add the beef and the pounded lemongrass and stir for 1 minute.

4) Add the coconut milk, tamarind juice and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is almost cooked.

5) Add the kaffir lime leaves, kerisik (toasted coconut), sugar/palm sugar, stirring to blend well with the meat.

6) Lower the heat to low, cover the lid, and simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is really tender and the gravy has dried up (I personally prefer to have some gravy left so that it'll go well with rice). Stir every so often to ensure that the gravy is not burnt.

7) Add salt to taste. If not sweet enough, add more sugar to taste.

8) Serve immediately with steamed rice and save some for overnight.


To prepare the kerisik or toasted coconut, just add the grated coconut to a dry wok and stir continuosly until they turn golden brown. After that using a mortar and pestel, pound the toasted coconut until oil develops.

Beef Rendang served with briyani rice and acar (pickled spicy vegetable)

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