Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baking a Bakewell Tart with Daring Bakers

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar . They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Don't ask me what is a Bakewell Tart cause frankly I have no clue whatsoever! However based on the initial pictures made by my fellow Daring Bakers it looked like a normal frangipane tart with the exception of a layer of jam in-between. I guess this type of tart is not that popular here in Singapore as I've not seen it in the bakeries that I have frequented. Anyway, this month's challenge again gives us the liberty of using any filing that we choose to pair off with the pastry crust and the franginpane. I toyed with many ideas, even to the extent of doing a chocolate crust. As June was nearly coming to an end, and partially due to my fault of having waited so long to do this challenge, I had to settle for something less exotic. However I did manage to squeeze in two different preserve/jam flavours.

The first is a cran-raspberry preserve. Using frozen berries, I placed 60g of raspberries, 30g cranberries with 30g sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest into a saucepan. Place over a low heat and simmer, stirring, until the mixture becomes thick. There is no need to add any pectin as the cranberries have natural pectin which will help to thicken the jam. The second preserve/jam flavour is a pineapple one. In fact this preserve is commonly used for pineapple tarts which is a local speciality biscuit favoured during the Chinese New Year. I used a can of Dole crushed pineapple, juice removed and added in 1 stick of cinnamon, 2 annise seed and 3 cloves. The entire mixture was then placed over a very low fire and cooked for about an hour until it became thick and sticky.

Cran-Raspberry and Pineapple Coconut Bakewell Tartelettes
Makes ten 3-inch tartelettes

Sweet shortcrust pastry:

225g all purpose flour
30g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp lemon extract (optional, and you can use any other extract or flavouring of your choosing)
1-2 Tbsp cold water


125g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract extract
125g ground almonds (or other nut of your choice)
30g all purpose flour

Jam or preserve of your choice

For the Dough:

1) Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

2) Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the frangipane:

1) Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Assemble the tartelettes:

1) Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out.

2) Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pans, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits.

3) Place the tarts on a baking sheet line with parchment paper and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. (I made the tart dough the night before and kept the shells in the fridge overnight)

4) Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. (I did a variation to the original recipe by blind baking [using beans placed on top of a parchment paper] on the tart shells half way and then filing it with jam and frangipane. I then continued with the rest of the baking thereafter.)

5) Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins

I haven't been baking muffins for ages now and decided to do so mid-week baking after work. Sometimes it's quite a stress reliever for me. I have friends who stress out by shopping, me on the other hand bake and I know for sure my office colleagues will be darn happy tomorrow morning.

Muffins are so easy to put together, you don't need a mixer, at times you don't need to cream the butter because the recipe calls for vegetable oil or at times melted butter, you only use at most 2 bowls (sometimes one will do)and I'm sure there is a whole lot more to add to this.

Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins
Makes 12 medium-sized muffins
Recipe adapted from the Baked Cookbook


1 1/2 cups of mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium-sized bananas)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
113g (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup of low-fat milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp strong instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp of hot water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extra
1 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of chocolate chips


1) Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

2) Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

3) In a medium bowl, stir in the banana, sugars, butter, espresso, milk, vanilla extract and egg.

4) In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gently add in the banana mixture. Stir into just combined.

5) Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

6) Fill each muffin tin about three quarters full and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

7) Once cooked, move muffins to a cooking rack. The muffins can be stored in an air tight container for up to two days.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thai Mango Salad

This recipe boils down to our love for Thai food, plus the fact that we love visiting Thailand as well. We used to make it a point to visit Thailand every year if we can and so far this year we have done a trip to Bangkok in March. In November we are planning a trip to the Northern parts of Thailand, to be precise it's to Chiang Mai for the Loy Krathong festival.

Thai food is said to be a taste of 5 flavours - spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. A popular salad that can be found in all Thai restaurants would be a Mango Salad or Yam Ma Maung. This dish is made from unripe green mangoes. Another popular salad which uses the same ingredients would be a Papaya Salad or better known as Som Tam. Both are great appertisers and served at the beginning of any great Thai meal.

Thai Mango Salad
Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Lemon Grass and Sweet Basil by Khamtane Signavong


3 garlic cloves
4 bird's eye chillies
30g roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
30g dried shrimps
8 cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
4 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
250g green mango, grated into long thin strips
4 lettuce leaf for garnishing


1) Using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, chillies, peanuts and dried shrimps to a fine paste. (If you don't have a pestle and mortar, you can use a food processor and blist it for a few seconds - make sure it is not too fine)

2) Mix the paste with the cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice. Mix well then add the mango strips. Incorporate all ingredients and do a final taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

3) Line a serving dish with lettuce and pile the mango salad on top of it. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I had purchased a bottle of Kahlua sometime back from a duty free shop at Bangkok International Airport specifically to make desserts or cakes with coffee liquer. The bottle was still unopened until I decided to make some tiramisu. I love this dessert even though I've never made it before. It's so smooth and light - a perfectly elegant and simple dessert to put together after a great meal.

This particular recipe uses raw eggs, which is the traditional way of making Tiramisu. Just make sure that you are using the freshest of eggs. I've seen fat free versions of tiramisu which uses low fat ricotta cheese and low fat sour cream. Give me a break! If you want to have a great tiramisu, go for the real stuff. Just don't gorge yourself with it in case you are feeling guilty.

I halfed the recipe below and served them in little glasses. These glasses are actually meant for tea lights but they sure did look good as dessert shots. The tiramisu was great and I'm definitely going to whip up a bigger serving the next time round when we have friends over for dinner.

Recipe Adapted from David Lebowitz
Makes 6 individual servings


1/2 cup (125ml) freshly brewed espresso, at room temperature (I used instant expresso powder to make a 1/2 cup of coffee)
3 - 4 tablespoons Kahlua
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons (90g) sugar, divided
1 cup (250g) mascarpone
twelve 3½-inch ladyfingers (70g, or 3 ounces)
30g grated bittersweet chocolate
unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving


1) Mix together the espresso and Kahlua. The mixture should taste strongly of alcohol. If not, add more until it does. (That flavor will tone down when mixed with the other ingredients, but feel free to adjust to taste.)

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to get stiff. Beat in half of the sugar until stiff. Scrape the egg whites into a small bowl.

3) In the same bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until stiff and light-colored, about three minutes. (If using a standing electric mixer, you may need to stop and scrape down the sides.) By hand, beat in the mascarpone with a spatula or whisk, until lump-free.

4) Fold in half of the beaten egg whites, then the remaining half, just until fully incorporated.

5) Put a splat, a heaping soup spoon, of the mascarpone cream into each vessel.

6) Break each ladyfinger in half and then submerge it in the espresso mixture for 5-10 seconds, until completely, utterly soaked. (Dried ladyfingers will take longer to saturate than softer ones.) Be careful not to soak it for too long as they tend to get really musshy! Then layer them over the mascarpone cream in each vessel. Use two ladyfingers for each serving.

7) Grate a generous amount of chocolate over each.

8) Top with remaining mascarpone cream, cover, and refrigerate at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

9) Right before serving, shake powdered cocoa generously on top. Delicious served with a cup of espresso coffee.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plum Tart

Plums happened to be on sale at the supermarket over the weekend when we were shopping for our groceries. So it made me think of baking some plum tarts as I had some unbaked tartlet shells waiting in the freezer to be filled with something delicious. I had made a double batch of tart pastry last month from baking a lemon tart. So really my work was already cut down by half in this case. We usually get a few varieties of plums locally and as these are imported fruits (as with berries and other nectarines), it’s usually too expensive. So I would only have the privilege of baking with fresh fruits when they are really on sale.

I like the idea of making tartlets as they are much easier to serve and presentation wise is way much neater. I had also bought these tartlets moulds with removable bottoms from e-bay (and at a steel may I add) a couple of months ago and simply love using them. I couldn’t find similar ones here in Singapore and so whatever I can’t find it locally, I resort to online shopping. Online shopping can be really addictive and I’ve heard of people who just simply buy stuff from the internet without thinking through whether they would need it or not. Is this “compulsive shopping” in another manner? I guess home television shopping falls into the same category as well. Imagine your house filled with stuff from television catalogues … now that would be a sure nightmare!

Plum Tart
Makes One 8" tart
Recipe from Chef Wan Tarts & Pies

Ingredients for the Crust:

250g all-purpose flour
200g cold butter, cut into small pieces
100g powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
grated zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients for the Filling:

1/2 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp corn flour (cornstarch)
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 large, sweet firm plums halved and seeded
Some melted butter
Apricot jam, heated with a little water to glaze the baked tart


1) In a good processor, quickly mix all ingredients for crust to form a ball of dough. Flatten dough slightly, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or 2.

2) Roll out chilled dough to form a circle about 2" wider than your tart pan. Line the pan with the dough and cut out the excess. Refrigerate for about an hour. Bake pastry blind, covered with parchment paper and filled with beans in an oven preheated to 175C for about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and bake for another 5 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Take out from oven to cool.

3) Then prepare the almond filling by combine almonds, sugar, corn flour and butter in a mixing bowl. Beat together on speed 2 to mix well until well incorporated and smooth. Increase speed and whisk in egg and vanilla extract for about 1 minute.

4) Spread almond filling over the dough and arrange with plums Brush with some melted butter and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 30 - 35 minutesuntil plums soften and pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and glaze the top of the tart with apricot jam.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thin Crust Pizza

Both my hubby and I are great fans of thin crusted pizzas. It's probably because it seems a well balance of both bread and toppings. We also enjoy hearing that "crunch" sound of toasted bread in between each bite. I have never ever thought of making my own pizzas until I attempted it as one of the Daring Bakers Pizza Challenge. Since then I don't really bat an eye if I was asked to make it from scratch. It's defintely no skin off my nose. However sometimes through sheer laziness, we will stock our freezer with frozen pizzas. Okay, it's not fresh I know but it's the closest I could probably get to the real stuff (other than call for pizza delivery)! We would usually buy a particular frozen pizza under the Dr Oetker label and would get them only when they are on offer. We really like these pizzas because they are super thin. Whenever we need a pizza fix, we'll just take it out of the freezer, no thawing process required, and I'll crank up the oven to 220C, add additional cheese topping and fresh bazil, reheat them until they come up nice and golden brown. Within 15 minutes or so it's munch time!

Thin Crust Pizza
Makes two 15" round pizzas

Pizza Dough
Recipe from Kitchenaid

1 pkg active dry yeast (about 11g)
1 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cornmeal

For the Pizza Topping:

450g jar of pasta or pizza sauce (canned or homemade if you really have the time. I simply used a bottled mushroom and basil pasta sauce for the base.)
300 pepperoni salami, thinly sliced
1 medium size green pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups brown mushroom, sliced
300g grated mozzarella
2 cloves garlic, minced finely


1) Dissolve yeast in warm water in a mixer bowl. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Attach bowl and dough hook.

2) Turn to Speed 2 and mix for 1 minute. Continue on speed 2, add remaining flour, a bit at a time and mix for another 2 minutes, or until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl.

3) Knead on speed 2 for 2 more minutes. Place dough in greased bowl, turn the ball of dough around to ensure that you grease the entire ball. Cover bowl with cling-wrap. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until double in bulk.

4) Preheat oven to 220C. Punch down dough to release the gas. Brush 2 pizza pans with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Split dough into 2 balls. Roll, stretch, or toss the dough until thin and place on the pans. Smear the sauce onto the dough evenly and not too thick.

5) Using half the ingredients, layer the pepperoni on each pizza. Then sprinkle the mushrooms, green pepper, garlic and onion on top of the dough. Use the remaining half of the ingredients for the 2nd pizza. Top each pizza with the grated mozzarella.

6) Pop the pizzas into the pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 - 18 minutes until golden brown. Remove pizzas from oven and allow it to sit for about 1 - 2 minutes before cutting them to serve.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Curry Kapitan with Yellow Tumeric Glutinous Rice

I'm not sure where Curry Kapitan originates from but it certainly has its roots well planted in Malaysian cuisine. This dish probably originates from the Peranakan culture (a mixture of inter-cultural Malaysian Chinese and Malays). Curry Kapitan is one of the more famous curry dishes in Malaysia and some claim that the best to be had is on the island of Penang. Curry Kapitan used to be served for special occassions like family feasts and local weddings. But nowadays it is not just confined to such eleborate events but incorporated into every day cooking. Although it is called a "curry" this dish does not use any curry powder whatsoever. Rather it is blend of freshly grounded ingredients such as red chillies, shallots, tumeric, ginger and coriander, amongst others.

I served this curry with yellow tumeric glutinous rice or what we locals would call "nasi kunyit". The word "nasi" means rice and "kunyit" means tumeric. This rice dish is also another accompanient for curry based recipes and served during special occassions. Although this is my first time cooking Curry Kapitan and Tumeric Glutinous Rice, I was totally surprised as to how well both dishes came out. The curry was extremely delicious and frangrant, with a hint of lime leaves mingled with the spices. The rice was indeed a great pairing with this curry.

Curry Kapitan with Yellow Tumeric Glutinous Rice
(serves 4)

Chicken Curry Kapitan


1 whole medium sized chicken (750g) cut into 16 pieces
3 lemon grass (use only the white part), sliced finely **
1 1/2 inch galangal **
226g of fresh red chili (seeded and sliced) – 226g **
8 small shallots (sliced) **
1 inch ginger **
6 candlenuts (soaked in warm water) **
1/2 inch fresh turmeric **
1/2 teaspoon belacan (fermented shrimp paste) **
1 cup coconut milk
8 pieces kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt to taste

** Ingredients to be finely grounded


1) Blend all spices to a very fine paste.

2) Heat up some cooking oil in a work and stir-fry paste until aromatic or a thin layer of oil rises to the top.

3) Add chicken and continue stirring until it’s almost cooked.

4) Add the coconut milk and continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes, over low heat.

5) Add salt to taste and serve hot.

Yellow Tumeric Glutinous Rice (Nasi Kunyit)


500g glutinous rice
1 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 pieces dried tamarind skin (asam keping) or 1 tbsp lime juice
1 grated coconut (or packet coconut cream)
1 tsp salt
20 white peppercorns
2 pandan leaves, knotted


1) Wash and soak glutinous rice in clean water. Add turmeric powder and dried tamarind skin or lime juice and set aside overnight.

2) Add 3 tbsp water to the grated coconut to squeeze out thick coconut milk. Add just enough water and squeeze out thin coconut milk. Put rice in a steaming tray and add thin coconut milk to cover the rice. Mix in peppercorns and add pandan leaves.

3) Steam rice over high heat until nearly cooked for 20 minutes. Combine salt with thick coconut milk. Remove rice from steamer. Stir in thick coconut milk and continue to steam for another 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm with the curry.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sphaghettini with Lemon, Prosciutto and Chilli

I'm currently so into Bill Grainger's cook books. I love the way his books are styled, the simple no frills type of recipes, crisp writing and pictures that are simple and clean. I used to try and catch his cook shows on telly whenever I could over the weekends but unfortunately they don't air it anymore. Such a shame! From watching his cooking shows, I fell in love with his home. Especially so his kitchen! Imagine having a kitchen that is dressed all in white and with huge windows all around, lots of natural light streaming in and with an ocean view to die for. I happened to mention Bill Grainger to my boss one day and I almost fell off my chair when she replied that she knows him, have been to his house on a couple of occassions and even had a meal at his place. How wild can that be!

Sphaghettini with Lemon, Prosciutto and Chilli
Recipe adapted from Bills Food by Bill Grainger
(Serves 4)


1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium size fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
12 slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (I used parma ham and grilled bacon as prosciutto was way too expensive)
1 1/2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
3 cloves raw garlic, finely minced
250g rocket leaves, shredded
3 sprigs of fresh basil, shredded
400g good quality dried thin spaghettini


1) Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, chilli, garlic and some salt and pepper in a bowl to blend.

2) Put the prosciutto, lemon zest, rocket leaves and basil leaves in a bowl and toss to combine.

3) Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghettini and cook until al dente. Drain and add to the prosciutto, rocket and basil. Pour the dressing over and toss to combine.

4) Transfer to a large serving dish or divide among four bowls. Serve whilst still warm with some crusty garlic bread and side salad.

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