Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lego Cake






A Lego birthday cake for my friend's son, who celebrated his 7th birthday recently.

Happy Birthday, Zheng Ting!





Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pink Ombre Berries Cake






This two-tier birthday cake is especially created for Alison, who just celebrated her first birthday last week. Two basic sponge cakes, 6" and 8", where I sliced and filled the layers with dairy whipped cream, home-made berries compote and fresh berries. 


Making the cake begins with a sketch of the draft cake design:





The lower-tier cake was decorated in three shades of pink - dark pink, pink and light pink (2 rows of petal design for each shade).  Even though I tested the colours before piping, I realised that the darker shade of pink did not turn out as well as I expected it to be (the bottom two rows).  They could have been darker for a better pink ombre effect.  

For 2 tier stacked cakes, I always add "support pillars" by inserting a few thick straws (bubble tea straws) into the lower-tier cake and placing a small cake board between the 2 cakes (see here).  This will protect the lower-tier cake from being "flattened" by the top tier.



Did you notice the pink disc at the top?  The main purpose of this disc is to prevent the toy from sinking into the cream.  I found the easiest way to do it - not fondant or chocolate, but simply a piece of light-weight wafer biscuit (a childhood snack!).  It works perfectly on the cake, and the splash of bright pink goes very well with the overall decoration too ^_^


Happy 1st Birthday to you, Alison!


   




I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #40: Rainbow and Ombre Party! (March 2014), hosted by Cynthia of The Baking Biatch.  



















Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chinese New Year Special: 5 plus 1 Festive Menu





This year's Chinese New Year seem to set in quickly and in two days' time, it is the 15th day of the 1st month or yuan xiao festival (元宵节), which marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.  

Last Sunday, I invited my in-law family over for CNY gathering cum dinner. Here is my dinner menu for 13 pax:

1)   万寿果薏米排骨汤 (Papaya Pork Rib Soup)
2)黄金麦片虾 (Cereal Prawns)
3)焖冬菇蠔豉海参 (Braised Mushrooms with Dried Oyster and Sea Cucumber)
4)腐乳蒸鸡 (Steamed Chicken with White Fermented Bean Curd)
5)芦笋炒带子 (Stir Fry Asparagus and Scallops)
6)南乳芋头扣肉 (Braised Chinese Yam and Roast Pork with Fermented Red Bean Curd)



万寿果薏米排骨汤 (Papaya Pork Rib Soup)
I have prepared a similar papaya soup recipe, using  fish head for the stock.  Over here, I used pork ribs and pork tail bones instead.  Other ingredients for the soup: barley, almond kernels (南北杏), white fungus (雪耳) and dried figs.






黄金麦片虾 (Cereal Prawns)
The recipe is from Kitchen Tigress, and it works very well even for home kitchen.  Two important things to note:  (1) Use low heat to pan-fry the cereal (use Nestum instant cereal, not oats) and stir frequently, as the cereal burns easily.  (2) Use high heat to deep-fry the prawns.  When you combine the pan-fried cereal and prawns together, the cereal helps to absorb any extra moisture from the prawns, which give the prawns a crispy texture plus fragrance.   Depending on the size of your wok/deep-fryer and the amount of oil used, it is better to deep fry the prawns in batches if you are preparing a large serving of this dish.  This is to ensure you do not overcrowd the wok (which will lower the oil temperature).  






焖冬菇蠔海参 (Braised Mushrooms with Dried Oyster and Sea Cucumber)
This is a typical Cantonese dish for all those important festive meals.  My personal favorite and definitely one of those nostalgic heirloom dishes that I will pass down to my daughter and the future generations.  Recipe is available here.






腐乳蒸鸡 (Steamed Chicken with White Fermented Bean Curd)
This dish is not my first choice when I'm planning for this dinner menu.  Ideally, it should be steamed fish, done HK style.  Not just that eating fish during Chinese New Year carries the auspicious meaning of  年年有余, but having steamed fish would give this menu a more balanced overall (my personal view).  I did not buy any fish, but I do have a few chicken legs in my fridge which I wanted to clear.  So, my practical side wins!  But in any case, no ones complain of having this steamed chicken dish, as it was wiped clean, especially the gravy!

You will need:  3 chicken legs (cut into bite-sized), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic (chopped), 1 to 2 tbsp grated ginger, 2 pieces of fermented bean curd + 2 tbsp sauce from the bottle of fermented bean curd, 1 tsp sugar, 3 tsp soy sauce, a little sesame oil, corn starch and pepper, 2 - 3 tbsp water.  Mix all ingredients together and leave it to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Steam the dish over high heat for about 12 minutes or till cooked.  I added some wood ears/snow fungus for extra crunch to this dish (optional).






芦笋炒带子 (Stir Fry Asparagus and Scallops)
Another festive menu favorite!  Not only does this dish looks presentable when you are having guests over for dinner, it is fairly quick and easy to prepare too.  I wanted to say "easy" to prepare, but on a second thought, you do need to have basic stir fry skills for this dish to taste good (with wok hei).  Recipe can be found here.  Tip: Fresh scallops releases lots of fluid during cooking.  To minimise this (the extra moisture could dampen the aromatic wok hei during stir-frying), blanch the fresh scallops in boiling water briefly before stir-frying with asparagus over high heat.  A dash of cooking wine will up the aroma factor ^_^






南乳芋头扣肉 (Braised Chinese Yam and Roast Pork with Fermented Red Bean Curd)
Another of my family's favorite dish.  Similar recipe can be found here.  For this dish, I used roast pork instead of fresh pork belly.  Roast pork gives a richer aroma and flavour to this dish.  After steaming the prepared yam, roast pork and fermented red bean curd sauce in a deep bowl, let it cool slightly.  When ready to serve, cover the bowl with your serving plate and carefully flip the dish onto the plate.








Monday, February 10, 2014

Chinese New Year Special: Poon Choi (盆菜)




Poon Choi


盆菜, or poon choi in Cantonese, has been gaining popularity in Singapore as the Chinese New Year dish.  Originally from Hong Kong, poon choi is an indulgent dish consisting layers of ingredients, separately prepared and cooked, before combining in a casserole or metal basin.  

While restaurants in Singapore have been quick to roll out their colourful festive poon choi for dining in or take-away, I have not tasted poon choi before.  My family traditional CNY feast is either a spread of Cantonese delicacies or steamboat. The thought of spending a few hundred bucks for food stacked together in a pot does not seem money-worth to me.  After all, why eat them stacked together when you can actually savour the separate dishes on their own? And if you were to buy them as a take-away dish from a restaurant/eatery,  I wondered just how long have the food been prepared, frozen, before we reheat them at home???  But, as eating poon choi is slowly becoming a trend here, my mum is eager to try it too.  And so, I started to google for beautiful bowls of poon choi and reading up the preparation process.  

Preparation of the various dishes within the poon choi stretched over two days.  This excludes time taken to purchase the various ingredients.  While it is possible to prepare poon choi within a day, I find that the flavours of each prepared dishes, especially the braised dishes, needed longer rest time for the flavours to develop.    




I will not be elaborating on the detailed recipe for the poon choi.  Instead, you can refer to here for the preparation process and recipe, which I have used as a reference to prepare this dish.

For me, I do not start with preparing the superior stock.  Instead, I braised the Chinese dried mushrooms with: chicken breast meat and bones, extra chicken feet and fatty pork for the rich collagen, dried oysters (added in at the last hour of braising) and smoked ham for extra flavours. Simmer the dish for a few hours over low heat, cool completely and let the dish rest overnight in the fridge.  The next day, the mushrooms have fully absorbed the essence of the various braising ingredients and taste simply heavenly.  Carefully remove the braised mushrooms and oysters from the pot.  Sieve the gravy and pour the remaining meat/bones back into the pot.  Add some more water, bring it to boil and simmer for another 20 minutes.  This will give you extra stock to impart wonderful flavour to the other ingredients, such as the pork skin, fried bean curd and radish.  With the reserved braised gravy, I used it to cook the sea cucumber.  Other prepared dishes for the poon choi include:  braised yam with pork in fermented red bean curd sauce, braised pork with lotus roots, homemade meatballs, steamed chicken drumstick with ginger and wine, abalone, pan-fried prawns, cooked pork skin, radish and fried bean curd skin.





If you plan and prepare the various dishes ahead, you find that making poon choi at home is not mission impossible.  The final step is gathering all dishes together and stacking them up beautifully.






Wishing all a prosperous Lunar New Year.  May the Year of Horse brings good health, fortune and happiness to everyone.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest: Hong Kong + Macau, hosted by Annie from Annielicious Food.  





Monday, January 6, 2014

Apple Crumble Tart







After staying at home to be a homemaker for the past 6 years, one thing that I missed most from work life is the social interactions with my ex-colleagues.  So I was very excited when there was a gathering cum a house-warming party on the last Sunday of 2013.  I baked this Apple Crumble Tart and a Pandan Kaya Cake for the pot-luck party.






Recipe
(for one 9" tart)

(A): Shortcrust pastry base
180g plain flour
30g icing sugar
90g salted butter (or use unsalted butter and add 1/4 tsp salt)
1 egg yolk + 2 tbsp milk + 1/2 tsp vanilla essence (egg mixture)
A little egg white for brushing the partial-baked tart

[Note: Original recipe calls for 160g plain flour and 80g butter.  But I want to be safe and add a little more flour and butter, to ensure that the dough is enough to fit the pan.  It can be very frustrating to be trimming dough just to fit the pan.  At the end, I just have a tiny ball of extra dough leftover, which I can just add over for the crumble toppings].


(B): Apple Fillings
Green apples (peeled, cored and cut into cubes) - weighs about 500g after cutting
80g fine sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated lemon zest
35g raisins (soaked with 2 tbsp orange/apple juice or liquor) - discard juice after soaking
1 tbsp butter
A little cornstarch solution (to thicken the fillings) - mix about 1 tbsp cornstarch to 2 tbsp water


(C): Almond cream
40g unsalted butter
30g fine sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
15g plain flour
40g ground almond meals
1 tsp vanilla or rum essence


(D): Crumble Toppings:
45g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
45g plain flour
30g icing sugar
45g ground almond meal
Additional 1 to 2 tbsp fine sugar for dusting on top just before baking - optional


Method:

1) For the crust base: Sift flour and icing sugar together.  Cut the butter into small cubes and mix with flour mixture.  Use finger tips to rub the butter into the flour till the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in the egg mixture to form into a dough.  If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon of milk.  Do not knead the dough.  Wrap in clingwrap and store in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

2) Roll out the dough to fit the tart pan (with removable base).  Trim and chill the tart shell for another 15 minutes.  Just before baking, lightly prick the base with a fork.

3) Blind bake in preheated oven at 190C for about 10 minutes.  Remove baking paper/beans and bake for another 10 minutes.  Brush the tart shell with some beaten egg whites and bake for a further 3 minutes.  Cool the tart shell briefly before adding the fillings.

4) Prepare apple fillings (do this while waiting for dough to be ready for rolling, i.e. after step 1): 
In a pot, mix apple, sugar and lemon juice together.  Cook apple on low heat (the mixture will release some liquid) till apple softens.  Add in ground cinnamon, lemon zest and soaked raisins. Stir in the butter.  Thicken the apple fillings with a little cornstarch solution  Remove from heat and let it cool before filling into tart shell.

5) Prepare almond cream: Cream butter and sugar together till creamy.  Gradually add in the beaten egg and cream well.  Mix in the plain flour, followed with the ground almond and vanilla essence. Mix well.  Keep chill in fridge till ready to use.

6) Mix crumble toppings ingredients together and rub using finger tips to combine butter and mixture till it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

7) To assemble for final baking:

a) Spread prepared almond cream evenly into partial baked tart shell (make sure tart shell has cooled down briefly, else the almond cream will melt).

b) Pour apple fillings over almond cream and topped with crumble.  Dust with additional fine sugar over the crumble (optional).

c) Bake in preheated oven at 190C for about 30 minutes.


Cool the tart before removing from the tart pan.  If you like, dust the top with snow powder before serving.


【Recipe largely based on: 孟老师的甜派与咸派】








Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Party



We had an early Christmas celebration on Sunday.

The main course was Christmas bone-in ham, which I ordered from supermarket.  All I need to do back home is to reheat in the oven and add some simple garnishing:





I like to include a variety of hot and cold side dishes for the party.  Where possible, try to include a few dishes where you can prepare in advanced, and just put together before the party.  For instance, the drunken chicken was done a day ahead (soaked in rose wine broth), sliced and arranged just minutes before the party.  The century egg tofu was prepared in the morning and kept chilled in the fridge.  


Nicoise Salad with Lemon Garlic Light Vinaigrette Dressing



Herbal Drunken Chicken



Chilled Century Egg Tofu



Roasted Pumpkin with Pomegranate



Otah Samosa


I love to include a colourful dessert for party.  It is visually pleasing and serves as a lovely centrepiece for the party. For this purpose, I made the Mixed Berries Baked Mango Cheese Tart.  The tart base is digestive biscuit crumbs and mango cheesecake, baked and chilled, before garnished with assorted fresh berries.  To add to the festive mood, I have also made a ice cream log cake.



Mixed Berries Baked Mango Cheese Tart 



Green Tea & Red Bean Ice Cream Log Cake


With a little planning ahead and some helping hands, you can also enjoy a sumptuous Christmas lunch at the comfort of your home.
















Here's a peek behind the scenes to getting the Christmas lunch ready:






Wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!




Monday, October 28, 2013

Pink Ombre Barbie Cake









I'm back, after missing in action for almost a month.  I caught the exam bug, or rather the mom's exam bug. Now that exam is finally over, it's time again for some baking.


I really love this Pink Ombre Barbie Doll cake.  It is decorated using a simple swirl design, but I think the result is fabulous!   Thanks to my neighbour, Mag for giving me this great idea!  The cake is a chocolate sponge base, filled with alternate layers of dark chocolate cream and homemade raspberries cream.





Happy 5th Birthday, Mei Mei!  




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...