Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Gingerbread House to Celebrate the Holidays

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I was extremely keen to participate in this month's challenge especially as we were asked to do a gingerbread house. I've never done anything like this before so it would be really something as far as I was concerned. Both Anna and Y had posted their own gingerbread dough recipe. However we were also allowed to use any other recipe of our own choosing. I randomly picked a recipe from BBC Good Food and also used their gingerbread house template.

I really had great fun putting the entire house together. The house templates were baked and kept in the fridge a week ago. During the mid week, I scouted around for different candies, cookies, etc that would be used to decorate the house. My niece and nephew who happened to be in town this week helped out by putting up the wood pile and fence around the gingerbread house. They in turn had their own pieces of gingerbread cookie to decorate whilst I was assembling mine. I think for every piece of candy that went onto their cookie, one piece would be popped into the mouth .... that's kids for you!

Anyway I also wish everyone of you a happy New Year and hope you have a great kick start to usher in 2010.

Gingerbread House

For the Gingerbread Dough


250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger


1) Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won't quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.

2) Cut out the template. Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of 1/4". Cut out one of the sections, then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two side walls, a front and back wall and two roof panels. Any leftover dough can be cut into Christmas trees, if you like.

3) Bake all the sections for 12 mins or until firm and just a little darker at the edges. Leave to cool for a few mins to firm up, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.

4) Put the egg whites in a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, then stir to make a thick, smooth icing. Spoon into a piping bag with a medium nozzle. Pipe generous snakes of icing along the wall edges, one by one, to join the walls together. Use a small bowl to support the walls from the inside, then allow to dry, ideally for a few hours.

5) Once dry, remove the supports and fix the roof panels on. The angle is steep so you may need to hold these on firmly for a few mins until the icing starts to dry. Dry completely, ideally overnight.

6) Decorate the gingerbread house with a variety of candies, sweets and chocolates. For the roof, I used oat bran crackers for a more realistic effect.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

White Chocolate Layer Cake

I guess the season to be jolly has come around again and it has been a breezing fast one in my opinion. I am still reeling as to where the last 12 months have gone to? Amongst many things that I do know is that I have diligently blog posted in 2009, baked and baked some more, tried out new recipes which I have never done in my entire life and met many, many good virtual friends through my blog and gotten to know them better through their own blogs. Thus, I would like to wish each and everyone of you happy holidays and good tidings.

So in this month of festivities, the Cake Slice Bakers have selected a very appropriate cake to finish off the year with. It is a White Chocolate Layer Cake and we were encouraged to decorate it with a Christmas theme. I decided to keep this simple, yet elegant, so fancy santa clauses or christmas trees, etc are OUT!

I just piped my version of holly leaves on the top and decorated the bottom edges with alternating red and green balls. Unfortunately the red Wilton colour that I had used didn't exactly turn out Christmas red - it sort of came out reddish pink. I also substituted the original frosting in below recipe with a white chocolate buttercream frosting. I took a slice to taste (official tester that is me!) and didn't think too much of the entire ensemble. But the next day, wow .... it was a different thing altogether. In fact I think this cake tasted so much, much better a day or 2 after sitting in the fridge. It defiitely got the thumbs up from everyone! This is one recipe that I would do again. I would truly recommend that you use a very good white chocolate (like valhora) if you are planning to bake this cake.

Cake: White Chocolate Layer Cake
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
Makes an 8" triple layer cake
(Halfing the recipe will give you 6" triple layer cake - which is what I did)

For the White Chocolate Cake:

2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (see note below)

For the White Chocolate Frosting:

6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
12 ounces (1 ½ cups) cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp butter, softened
¾ tsp vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar

Method for the Cake:

1) Heat the oven to 350F and grease three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of waxed paper or kitchen parchment and flour the pan.

2) Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix them well.

3) Bring 3 inches of water to an active simmer in the bottom of a double boiler or a saucepan that will accommodate a medium heat proof bowl so that it sits snugly over the water. Melt the white chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in the bowl over the simmering water. Stir often, and then pour in the ½ cup of boiling water and stir to mix well. Remove from the heat.

4) In a medium bowl, combine the butter and the sugar and beat with a mixed at medium speed to mix them together well. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating each time to keep the mixture smooth. Add the white chocolate and the vanilla, and stir well to mix.

5) Add about a third of the flour mixture, and then about half of the buttermilk, beating with a mixer at low speed just long enough after each addition to make the flour or buttermilk disappear. Mix in another third of the flour, remaining buttermilk and then the last of the flour.

6) In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they are foamy and opaque. Continue beating at high speed until they swell into thick, pillowy mounds and hold peaks that are stiff, but not fry. Add one third of the egg white mixture to the bowl of batter, and fold it in gently using a spatula. Add the remaining egg whites and continue to fold with a light touch, until the egg whites are blended in well, with only a few streaks showing.

7) Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched gently in the centre and are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans.

8) Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for about 30 minutes. Turn them out onto the racks and peel off the paper and turn them back the right way up to cool completely.

Method for the White Chocolate Frosting

1) In the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often. Remove from the heat once melted and let cool to lukewarm. Transfer the melted white chocolate to a large bowl, and add the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat together at medium speed until you have a smooth sauce. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until smooth.

To Assemble:

Place one layer, top side down on a cake stand or serving plate and spread it with about a fourth of the icing. Continue stacking and frosting each cake layer in the same way. Cover the sides of the cake with any remaining frosting.

Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Set the cake out about 30 minutes before you want to serve it.

NOTE: If you can’t find buttermilk, stir 1 tbsp lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and leave to stand for 10 minutes before using.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spinach Quiche

I simply love making tarts and when I do make up a batch of tart dough, I would usually have an extra one to freeze up. So whenever I get cravings for tarts, I would just pull out the frozen tart shell for a simple lunch or over tea-time. Only problem then would be to figure out what to fill it with. This was one of those occassions where I had a spare tart shell sitting in the freezer and left over mozarella cheese from a previous pizza making venture. And what comes out of it ... a spinach quiche. Not bad I would say.

My fridge and freezer, plus my larder, is always jam packed with food stuff. I always tell friends that if they get confined indoors in my apartment, they don't have to worry about food for at least a month. If you think I'm kidding .... I'm truly not!

Spinach Quiche
Makes one 9" tart

For the pate brisee:

250g all purpose flour
150g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp fine salt
pinch of superfine sugar
1 medium egg
1 Tbsp cold milk


1) Sift flour into a bowl. Add salt and sugar.

2) Add in the butter.

3) Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

4) In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg with the milk and drizzle it onto the flour mixture.

5) Using your hands, blend the mixture together and lighly knead to bring together. Try not to handle the dough too much.

6) Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk and chill for about 45 minutes to an hour.

8) To line your tart tray, I find it easier to roll the dough between two pieces of clingwrap plastic. Roll to about 3" wider than the base of your tray. Remove the top wrap.

9) Lift the dough using the clingwrap plastic and gently flip it into your tart tray. Press the dough onto the tray and trim off the excess.

10) Dock the base of the tart shell with a fork and then place it into the fridge for another hour.

11) Preheat oven to 190C. Bake the shell blind, for about 15 minutes. Then remove the parchment paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool before pouring in the filing.

For the Quiche Filing:


1/2 cup of diced onion
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup spinach (defrosted and squeeze out the excess water)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup of mozarrella cheese (you can use any other cheese or a mixture of cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan)
3 Tbsp grated parmesan to sprinkle on the top


1) Heat olive oil in a small frying pan and sautée onions gently until starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2) Preheat the oven to 180C.

3) Beat together the eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Leave on counter during the rest of the preparation to allow it to come to room temperature.

4) Add in the onions, spinach, diced tomatoe and mozarella into the batter and stir well.

5) Pour the mixture into the tart casing. Then sprinkle the parmesan on the top of the quiche.

6) Place on a baking sheet and bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fondant Handbag Cake

As you may already know, I had recently done a fondant cake for my colleague's two year old son's birthday party. As I had some cake layers left over, I decided to make a mini fondant handbag cake.

This is definitely much easier than the jungle cake that I had made a couple of weeks ago. The fondant handbag is made of one layer 6" chocolate cake. I sliced the cake into half, sandwiched the two pieces with some buttercream and then trimmed off a bit of the rounded edges at both ends. I then crumb-coated the entire cake with a bit of buttercream, not too much, just enough so that the fondant will stick to the sides of the cake.

Instead of using store bought fondant, I made a homemade marshmallow fondant. It is really, really easy. What you need is:

Homemade Marshamallow Fondant:

100g white marshmallows
1 Tbsp water
200 - 250g of icing sugar sifted
Flavouring optional (use a no-colour flavouring )

Note: if you are using flavouring, use about 1/2 tsp and reduce the water by the same amount of flavouring used)


Place the marshmallows and water (flavouring) into a microwavable bowl. Heat the marshmallows on high for about 1 minute (until it melts). Remove and using a spoon, mix the marshmallows until it becomes a gooey mess.

Pour the melted marshmallows into the sifted icing sugar and stir to mix. Once incorporated, this is the time to get messy with the hands. Take some crisco and lather one hand with it.

Then proceed to knead the fondant until it becomes smooth and palleable. Add more icing sugar if required. Store the fondant in a plastic bag and into an air-tight container if not using immediately.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Caterpillar Bread

I seriously do not know why this particular bread is called "Caterpillar Bread". Maybe because of the shape that looks like the bumps on the top of a caterpillar or maybe it looks like the legs of a caterpillar! Whatever it is, this particular bread seems to be sold in almost every other local bakery, be it a small neighbourhood one or the larger franchise. Some bakeries will sell this bread with a pork or chicken floss topping that has been drizzled with mayonnaise and tomatoe sauce. I know some of you will probably think what the heck is this! Honest to goodness, this particular style of bread is extremely popular not only in Singapore but also in Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Since discovering this recipe, I've made it twice already and everytime it has been enjoyed by my hubby. Why? Well firstly it has one of his most fav ingredients .. cheese. Secondly, it has his other fav ingredient ... sausage. They do say a way to a man's heart is through his stomach - this is absolutely true in my case where this bread is concerned.

The bread is not dense at all, in fact it is quite light and it makes a great snack either for tea time or morning breakfast. Since there is only the two of us in the household, I halfed the recipe, thus having to bake the bread in two batches only.

Caterpillar Bread
(makes about 22 pieces of bread)

For Basic Sweet Bun Dough:

3 cups (480g) bread flour, shifted
1 1/2 cups (120g) all purpose flour, shifted
1 pack rapid rise yeast (I used normal dried yeast)
8 tablespoons (110g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (20g) dry milk powder
300ml warm water (about 105F)
1 egg
1 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoons (60g) of unsalted butter, at room temperature

Sausages (I used frozen chicken sausage pack which I defrost)
Shredded cheese (a mixture of white and yellow cheddar cheeses)


1) Add yeast to warm water in a medium bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes.

2) In your mixing bowl, add the bread flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar and dry milk powder. Attach your dough hook to your mixer and turn the speed to the lowest to combine all the dry ingredients.

3) Then slowly mix in the water + yeast mixture, with the mixer still on low. Mix for about 1 minute.

4) Beat an egg lightly in a small bowl. Add it to the softened butter. Then add in the egg and butter mixture to the dough. Mix well for about 8 - 10 minutes on low speed until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. The dough should be smooth and elastic. (If the dough seems a bit too wet, add a little bit of bread flour and mix in)

5) Remove dough from the mixer. Shape into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough around to ensure that is is coated with the oi. Cover bowl with clingwrap and set aside to proof for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

6) Once ready, try pressing a finger into the dough. It should leave a clear mark when it's ready. The dough can now be shaped.

To Shape the Dough:

1) Divide the dough into 70g pieces and mould them into balls. Let them rest for 10 minutes, then roll them into a flat oval shape with a rolling pin.

2) Put the sausage on the center of the dough and fold the dough into half. Lightly pinch to seal. Cut each folded dough into 7 - 8 small portions, leaving 1/3 from the sealed edges uncut. Ensure that the cuts are right across the sausage. (The dough should resemble a comb at this point.)

3) Twist first cut portion to the left, and second to the right, repeat this for the rest of the portions. Place the shaped dough onto a greased baking sheet and press each lightly. Place a clingwrap over the dough and let it proof for 45 minutes.

4) Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle the top of the dough with shredded cheese.

5) Bake in a preheated oven of 375F for 15-20 minutes or until the bread turns golden brown.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake

I think most of us in Asia would take a banana for granted. Mainly because we are blessed with so many types and varieties in this part of the world. Furthermore it is about one of the cheapest fruit sold. In Malaysia and Singapore, bananas are eaten as it is, added to desserts, curries or stir fried. The bananas that are usually added to curries or stir fried would be unriped ones.

I like using a particular type of banana in my cakes and desserts. Locally we call it "pisang emas" (translation to English means "golden banana"). It is grown in Malaysia and is exported out to neighbouring ocuntries. These bananas are short, fat and kinda stubby looking. When ripe, the fruit itself is amazingly sweet and gives out a wonderful flavour. It's extremely, extremely great over pancakes or waffles - just add some brown sugar, pinch of cinnamon and lightly brown the slices of bananas over a low heat. Yum and I'm wishing I'm having some right now. Sorry for the digression!

Anyway I've made bananas cakes, cupcakes and muffins before and some of the recipes have been posted in this blog. However I am always game to try out new recipes and this is another one to the addition. Again for this particular cake (which I downsized to "mini cakes") uses "pisang emas". You can use any other riped bananas you can get your hands on. By the way, if you have any left over riped bananas (and you are contemplating on throwing them out), mash them and store it in the freezer. They will keep until your next banana bread, cake or muffin recipe. I added a melted chocolate drizzle to the top as bananas go absolutely well with chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cake
Makes a 8" cake or six 3 1/2" mini cakes

Ingredients :

125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar (reduced from original 1 cup)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in the milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 - 5 lightly mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup chocolate chip (I used valharo chocolate pearls)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup walnuts for decoration
melted chocolate for drizzling


1) Cream butter and sugar until smooth and pale in colour.

2) Then add the egg and soda that which has been dissolved in the milk. Mix until incorporated.

3) Then add in the bananas and vanilla essence until it has mixed into the batter.

4) Shift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients into the batter and stir together. Add the remaining and mix until incorporated - do not overbeat your mixture.

5) Transfer the cake batter into a lined pan (or cupcake/cake liners) and bake in a preheated oven of 350F or 180C. Top the batter with whole walnuts as decoration. For cake bake for about 30-40 minutes, for mini cakes it should take about 25 minutes and for cupcakes about 18 - 20 minutes. Bake until the skewer comes out clean.

6) Remove from oven and set aside to cool complete.

7) Melt (in 15 second bursts so as not to burn your chocolate) some bittersweet chocolate in a microwave and then drizzle it on top of your cooled cakes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Siew Pau (Baked BBQ Pork Buns)

I came across this recipe for Siew Pau (to be precise Seremban Siew Pau) when Ellie of Almost Bourdain was doing a guest post at Bee's Rasa Malaysia . Like myself, both Ellie and Bee are fellow Malaysians, living abroad and away from home. Although both are so much further away from home than I am, Ellie and Bee have come out with the most amazing Malaysian dishes ever. If you haven't visited their blogs yet, what are you waiting for .... go do it right now!

This particular baked pastry originates from a state in Malaysia called Seremban - thus the name "Seremban" Siew Pau. I have been eating this pastry since I was young and although we didn't travel from Kuala Lumpur (my home town) to Seremban, they are readily sold in Kuala Lumpur as well. My mum would buy them from this particular coffee shop (really old Chinese style coffee shop) in Chinatown and we would enjoy these treats whenever she brings them home. So when I saw this recipe posted up, I knew I had to give it a try.

Many months ago, I had tried out a water dough and oil dough recipe for baked flaky mooncakes. The result was disasterous. The dough turned out hard like rock buns. So when I went about making the dough for the Siew Pau, I could only hope that it would be successful. You can already guess from the photos, that this venture turned out great. In fact it taste exactly like the ones sold back home! However if you are planning to make this, I do recommend that you eat it on the same day it is baked! If you do have left overs, pop them into the oven to warm them up .. otherwise the pastry tends to be soften up the next day.

Siew Bao (烧包) Recipe


Water Dough (水皮)

200g all-purpose flour, sifted
100g water
50g vegetable shortening
50g icing sugar

Oil Dough (油皮)

200g all-purpose flour, sifted
100g vegetable shortening

For the Filling:

300 g BBQ pork (Char Siew), diced (you can replace this with BBQ chicken)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup of green peas
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tbsp sugar

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
sesame seeds


To Make Filling

1) Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, corn flour and sugar in a small bowl and stir to mix well.

2) Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Stir fry BBQ pork, onion and green peas until fragrant. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, corn flour and sugar mixture and stir well.

To Make Pastry

1) Put all the ingredients of water dough in a food processor and pulse until it forms a soft dough. Cover it in a bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2) Repeat the same with oil dough.

3) Divide the water dough and oil dough into 18 equal portions.

4) Roll out a piece of the water dough into a flat circle.

5) Place a piece of the rounded oil dough in the centre of the flat circle.

6) Gather the outer edges of the water dough circle and wrap up the oil dough ball. Pinch and seal the edges.

7) With the heel of your palm, gently press the dough down to flatten it lightly.

8) Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into rectangle shape.

9) Roll up the dough Swiss-roll style. Turn the rolled dough 90 degrees.

10) Repeat steps 8 and 9. The pastry is now ready for filling and shaping.

To Assemble

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degree C.

2) With the heel of your palm, gently press the pastry down to flatten it lightly.

3) Roll out the pastry into a flat circle. Place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre.

4) Gather the outer edges of the dough circle and pleat and pinch to seal.

5) Brush egg wash on the surface and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

6) Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

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