Monday, 31 October 2011

Katsutera (Japanese Honey Cake)

Adapted from several recipes written in Chinese I collected a while ago.

My Ingredients:

My Method:
  1. Preheat oven at 170C. Mix plain flour and bread flour, sift twice with a fine sieve.
  2. Warm 20ml of milk in microwave oven at high temperature for about 30 seconds then mix it well with another 15ml of cold milk. Add and mix honey until completely dissolves, set aside.
  3. Beat 6 eggs in a large stainless steel mixing bowl over a pot of hot water. Make sure the bottom does not touch the water. Leave it until the stainless steel bowl becomes slightly warm.

  4. Gently whisk at the slowest speed or by hand for about 1 minute. Add sugar in 3 batches while continue to beat at the slowest speed. Then beat at high speed until the mixture is slightly thicken to an extent that droplets dropped from the beater stay visible on the surface for at least few seconds. If the egg foam is not thick and stable enough, the addition and mixing of flour in later stage will kill all the form so the cake will sink during baking. Using a hand mixer, it took about 9-10 minutes.
  5. Add the honey/milk mixture in 3 batches. Beat at low speed for about 30 seconds after each batch. 
  6. Add flour in 3 batches. Gently mix by hand for 10 seconds after each batch. Then mix at slowest speed until the mixture is so thick that a figure "8" can be "written" on the surface. (Don't worry about over-mixing. Gluten is supposed to be developed in this stage to give the cake some texture.)

  7. Pour into a loaf tin (silicone one or metal one lined with parchment paper). The tin should be about 80% full. Insert a knife or chopstick into the batter and draw zig zags in different directions several times. It helps eliminate big bubbles and distribute small bubbles evenly.
  8. Bake at 170C for 10 minutes, then bake for another 50 minutes at 150C.
  9. After baking, cover the top with foil* and flip over (so that the bumpy top side is facing down while the smoother bottom now becomes the top). Put the cake (still with the tin) into a sealed plastic bag or freezer. Put it in fridge for at least 4 hours before taking the cake out of tin to serve. The sides of the cake can be sliced away by a wet bread knife.

One-line Verdict:
Geez. Even though the cake resembles a simple pound cake, it's difficult to make! Not for baking newbies.

    • Last time I had Katsutera was probably back in 2005 or 2006. Honestly I can hardly remember the taste and texture. Hence I am not sure how well or bad I did in baking this katsutera.
    • The cake is sweeter than most other cakes I made before but it is not bad. After all, katsutera is meant to be sweet. I also love the subtle hint of honey in the cake.
    • An electric mixer (whether it's a hand mixer or stand mixer), in my opinion, is definitely essential in making this cake. I quite can't imagine how long it'd take to hand beat 6 whole eggs into stable foam. Probably over an hour even you have very very strong arms?
    • Unlike egg whites, whole eggs are less prompt to over-beating -- I read from a website that 6 whole eggs would take 45 minutes to over-beat. Hence it is okay to beat a bit longer if we are not sure if the egg foam is thick enough. For stand mixer or any hand mixer with a really strong motor, high speed should be avoided for beating whole eggs. High speed beating results in bigger bubbles which affect the stability of egg foam.
    • Since there is no baking powder nor soda used in this recipe,  the entire raising is done solely by egg foam. It is advised not to change the amount of sugar in an attempt to change the sweetness of cake. The egg foam may not be able to form if there is not enough sugar in the mixture.
    • Traditionally Katsutera is baked in wooden boxes which is virtually impossible to get outside of Japan or Taiwan. Some bloggers made their own Katsutera tin with carton paper or even newspaper. I can't be bothered so I just used a silicone loaf pan. I think silicone pan is better than metal bakeware as silicone is less heat-conductive so probably the sides of the cake won't burn that easily.
    • Possible improvement next time: (1) The cake should be left in fridge for longer, preferably overnight. (2) A baking paper should be placed on the top of the cake before wrapping it with foil to avoid sticking out the skin. (3) I usually don't use any lining for silicone pans but maybe I should line it next time so the cake can be taken out from tin more easily.

    Sesame Oil Chicken with rice

    Do you keep any "emergency meat" in the freezer? My favourite "emergency meat" is chicken, either wings or thighs. As you may or will notice, chicken is a very popular ingredient in my home, as a combined result of several factors:
    1. I tend to cook a bit more so the leftovers can be frozen up for lunches on the following day or later. Beef or fish usually becomes too chewy but chicken just tastes as good after re-heat.
    2. Hubby is not a big fan of pork. He eats it, sometimes, but only when it's exceptionally well cooked.
    3. Chicken is cheaper and more affordable here in UK than pork and beef, especially those parts with bones such as wings or thighs.
    I always try to keep a kilo or two of chicken in freezer. So when I am too busy to do grocery shopping or simply too lazy to do so (usually the latter case...), I can quickly de-froze some chicken, chuck it into a saucepan, or even better, a pressure cooker. It doesn't take much time nor effort -- probably just 20% of what I did for Coq au vin -- but it can make a easy peasey cozy homey dinner.

    I read from about 6 or 7 recipes from Taiwanese blogs using traditional cooking method (slow cooking in a crock pot). Then I modified and tested to come up with this version using my pressure cooker.

    My Ingredients: (serves 4)
    • 1kg of chicken (about 12-13 wings)
    • A bit of gingers, sliced
    • 3 clovers of garlic, diced
    • 2 tbsp of sesame oil
    • 600g or 4 cups of rice, uncooked
    • 4 cups of water
    • 1tbsp of Shaoxing wine (紹興酒) (optional)
    • salt and soy sauce sauce
    • Shiitake mushrooms or dried Chinese mushrooms (optional)
    My Method: 
    1. Marinate chicken with Shaoxing wine and a pinch of salt for 3 hours, or at least half an hour.
    2. Mix rice in water in a small bowl. Put aside.
    3. Heat 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a large frying pan and sauté garlic and ginger until brown. Stir in half of the chicken wings over a medium-high heat for 4 minutes.
    4. Stir-fry another half of the chicken for 4 minutes.
    5. Put all ingredients into the pressure cooker, water and rice first, followed by chicken wings.
    6. Cover and lock the pressure cooker. Make sure the pressure setting has been set to "2" (which has a higher cooking temperature at 116C). Cook over high heat until the green mark which indicates the right pressure has been reached.
    7. Turn to medium heat and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and wait until the cooker de-pressurizes itself naturally. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil when served.

    One-line Verdict:
    For a very lazy night.

      • This is a modified version of Sesame oil chicken with rice (麻油雞飯) which is a popular homey dish in Taiwan. To me, it tastes, especially when mushrooms are added, very much like "steamed chicken rice with mushrooms (北菇蒸雞飯)" served in Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong.
      • I don't know it has any scientific grounds, but sesame oil chickens are believed to have an ability to nourish the body and keep people warm in cold winter. New mothers in Asia (e.g. Taiwan & Malaysia) are advised to have sesame oil chicken in their diet during the confinement month after childbirth (坐月子). Maybe the high energy content of oil and chickens help speed up blood circulation?
      • 600g of rice is actually quite a lot -- usually a small bowl of rice served at home is just about 100-150g.
      • This dish is a little bit too oily though. For a healthier version, sometimes I use chicken breast and reduce sesame oil to 1 tbsp.
      • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £3 (isn't it a real bargain? £3 for 4 servings!)

      Saturday, 29 October 2011

      Hong Kong Style Borscht

      My personal "Just wing it" recipes... (it's in fact my own version of HK-style Borscht adapted from about 8 different Borscht recipes)

      My Ingredients: (serves 4)
      • 1kg of beef brisket
      • 1 small or half large cabbage
      • 1 medium carrot
      • 2 celery stalks
      • 3 small onions
      • 4 medium tomatoes
      • 2 heaped tbsp of tomato paste
      • 1 dried bay leaf
      • water, cooking oil, salt & white pepper

      My Method: 
      1. Wash and then chop vegetables into large chunks.
      2. Parboil beef by placing it in pressure cooker and cover with cold water. Bring to boil over high heat. Continue to boil vigorously for 2 minutes to allow impurities to be released.
      3. Dump water and rinse the beef with hot water in sink. Scrub the pressure cooker to remove any residue.
      4. Add 1 tbsp of oil into the pressure cooker. Stir fry onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until browned. Add all other vegetables and the beef in.
      5. Add 1.2 litre of water or until the water level reaches the Max1 (lower maximum) mark inside the pressure cooker. Add bay leaf and tomato paste.
      6. Cover and lock the pressure cooker. Make sure the pressure setting has been set to "2" (which has a higher cooking temperature at 116C). Cook over high heat until the green mark which indicates the right pressure has been reached. (about 10 minutes).
      7. Turn to medium heat and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and wait until the cooker de-pressurizes itself naturally (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper before serving.

      One-line Verdict:
      A super quick and easy way to make a tasty soup in less than 45 minutes.

        • Hong Kong style Borscht (港式羅宋湯) is my hubby's favourite so I make it almost every week. I am not an avid fan of soup nor tomato but I think this soup tastes pretty good. It makes a very healthy and refreshing supper when we are carbohydrate-overloaded on that day.
        • I use a Fissler Vitavit Comfort Pressure Cooker (6L/22cm). From washing ingredients to serving, it takes about 45 minutes while the actual "over the heat" time is only about 20 minutes. Without a pressure cooker, the soup shall take about 2 hours to make.
        • Brisket, with stronger and meatier flavour, indeed tastes better than ordinary casserole beef. However I don't think the difference can justify an extra £4!
        • For extra carbohydrates, 2 medium potatoes,1 medium parsnip or 1 small swede can be added but they would make the soup a bit muddy.
        • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £9 (brisket) or £5 (casserole beef)

        Friday, 28 October 2011

        Lemon Berry Millefeuille

        Adapted from:
        "Blueberry and lemon millefeuille" from Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy. Also on BBC.

        Original Ingredients: (Makes 6 triple-layer millefeuilles): 
        • 115g/4oz icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
        • 250g/9oz shop-bought puff pastry
        • 200g/7oz (or 1 punnet) blueberries
        • 165ml/5½fl oz whipping cream
        • 25g/1oz icing sugar for sweetened cream
        • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only (or alternatively 2 drops of vanilla extract)
        • 1 lemon, finely grated zest and a squeeze of the juice

        Original Method:
        1. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Dust the work surface with lots of icing sugar and roll out the pastry to a rectangle just larger than 27 x 30cm/10½ x 12in, trimming the edges straight. It should be super thin, as thin as you can get it, without stretching the pastry.
        2. Cut out 18 rectangles about 9cm/3½in long and 5cm/2in wide and place them on the prepared baking tray. Sprinkle with lots of icing sugar and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
        3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
        4. Remove the pastry from the fridge and bake in the oven for five minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle the pastry with more icing sugar. Return to the oven and bake for a further five minutes, or until the pastry turns golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
        5. For the sweetened cream, put the cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and whip until medium-stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Fold in the lemon zest and juice, to taste, then scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in straight nozzle.
        6. Place one of the pastry thins on a serving plate. Pipe blobs of cream over the pastry and put the blueberries between the cream, then put another pastry thin on top and repeat with one more layer. Sprinkle the top layer with more icing sugar and repeat until all the pastry and cream is used up.

        My Ingredients: (Makes 6 double-layer millefeuilles):
        • about 40-60g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
        • 250g shop-bought puff pastry
        • about 70g blueberries
        • about 50g raspberries
        • 110g double cream
        • 20g icing sugar for sweetened cream
        • 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
        • 2/3 lemon, finely grated zest
        • 2 squeezes of the juice

        My Modifications:
        • I only could roll out the pastry to a smaller rectangle of about 21cm x 28 cm. After trimming the edges, I cut out 12 rectangles each about 5cm x 9cm.
        • In addition to blueberries, I also added raspberries to some millefeuilles.
        • Extra lemon juice and zest were folded in the cream to reduce the sweetness. I also added zest on the top layers of each millefeuille after finishing with icing sugar.
        • I did not exactly measure how much icing sugar used but it's significantly less than 115g suggested.
        • As my pastry wasn't rolled thin nor even enough, some puff layers became quite thick after baking. Hence I only made 6 double-layer millefeuilles instead of 4 triple-layer millefeuilles.
        • Double cream instead of whipping cream was used, simply because I have a tub of double cream expiring in two days. I reduced the amount of sweetened cream as I had fewer layers to cream.
        • I used a sandwich bag (because I was too lazy and didn't want to use and wash my piping bags) for piping. I piped the whipped lemon cream as zig-zags over the pastry as the I could not pipe any nice blobs with a sandwich bag.
        • The total baking time was about 16 minutes:
        1. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with icing sugar;
        2. Turn the tray around by 180 degrees, bake for another 5 minutes.
        3. Turn the tray around by 90 degrees, bake for another 3 minutes.
        4. Turn the tray around by 90 degrees, bake for another 3 minutes.

        One-line Verdict:
        Using store-bought pastry doesn't mean easy peasey. Rolling it thin and cutting it even was NOT easy.

          • This millefeuille recipe is easier than most other recipes. The pastry was cut before baking so the messy step of cutting baked puff neatly is skipped. Whipping cream is a lot easier to make (or it can be bought readily) than Crème Pâtissière used in many other recipes.
          • Pre-cutting the puff pastry, however, seems to result in less tidy edges compared with the traditional ones that are cut after baking. If I make millefeuilles again, I will not cut the puff beforehand.
          • I accidentally made an extra squeeze of the lemon so the cream was less sweet than I'd like, though my other two friends seem to be pretty satisfied with the reduced sweetness.
          • Rolling the pastry thin and even were really challenging. And I didn't do it quick enough so the butter in the pastry started melting in the middle. I stopped and didn't roll further. Maybe I should just chuck the half-rolled pastry into fridge for 30 minutes.
          • Substituting piping bag with sandwich bag is acceptable but it's very difficult to make any decent blobs of cream.
          • Raspberries go really well with blueberries and lemon! I think those with two berries taste better than those with blueberries alone!
          • Overall I am happy with this though there are many rooms for improvement. I will make this again, definitely!
          • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £3

          Wednesday, 26 October 2011

          Chocolate Walnut Brownies

          Adapted from, with heavy modifications:
          "Chocolate Chunk Cookies" from The Great British Bake Off.

          My Ingredients: (Makes 24)
          • 150g flour
          • 125g unsalted butter
          • 50g caster sugar
          • 50g dark brown muscovado sugar
          • 30g cocoa powder
          • 1 large egg
          • 1/2 tsp baking powder
          • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
          • 100g walnut pieces
          • 50g dark chocolate (86% cocoa)
          • good pinch of salt
          • Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

          My Method:
          1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the walnut pieces on a baking tray and toast them for 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile, break the chocolate into smaller pieces. Use a knife if needed.
          2. Put the soft butter into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg and the sugars and beat well.
          3. Sift the flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder into the bowl and mix in with a wooden spoon.When thoroughly combined, work in the toasted walnuts and chocolate pieces.
          4. Spread the dough onto a baking tray lined up with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes or until the brownie is lightly golden. Rotate the tray halfway through the baking time so the brownie cook evenly.
          5. Remove from the oven and leave the brownie on the baking tray to cool and firm up for 5 minutes. Cut it up into 2cm x 8cm pieces into mini brownies. Dust with icing sugar if desired.

          One-line Verdict:
          It's a MISTAKE.

            • It is important to toast walnuts or any other nuts before baking because nuts can never get hot enough to toast while baking due to the presence of other ingredients surrounding them. Toasting nuts beforehand can help reduce the bitterness of raw nuts and give them some extra crispiness.
            • After the test bake, I found that the cookies were more fudgy that I'd like and tasted more like brownies. Hence I baked the remaining dough into brownies in a tray. This change of texture could be caused by the reduction in chocolate so the same amount of leavening agent gives the "cookies" more "raise" and result in a "cakey" texture resembling brownies.
            • I replaced half of the chocolate (100g) specified in the original recipe by 30g of cocoa powder as I want to have less chocolate-y bakes. I also used 86% cocoa instead of 70%. I should have added extra butter to compensate the loss of chocolate. The substitution should be: 40g of chocolate can be replaced by 30g cocoa powder plus 14g of butter. It means I should have added 35gram more of cocoa powder plus 35g of butter.
            • The cookies/brownies are not too sweet but drier than most brownies as a combined result of the reduction in chocolate and the use of higher cocoa %. But honestly I am quite happy with the sweetness. If I make this recipe again, I might add 35g of extra butter but I won't use the chocolate bar with 70% cocoa as suggested.
            • Muscovado sugar should not be replaced by golden caster or any other brown sugar because it is significantly moister than other brown sugar.
            • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £2

            Tuesday, 25 October 2011

            Fresh Fig Ice Cream

            Original Recipe:
            "Fresh Fig Ice Cream" from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

            Original Ingredients:
            • 2lbs fresh black mission figs (about 20)
            • 1/2 cup of water
            • 1 lemon
            • 3/4 cup of sugar
            • 1 cup of heavy cream
            • 1/2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste.

            Original Method:
            1. Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, non-reactive saucepan with the water, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan.
            2. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes until the figs are tender. Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches a jam-like consistency.
            3. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend together with cream and lemon juice, chill in the fridge and then put in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.

            My Ingredients:
            • 450g of Turkey's bursa figs (about 8)
            • 125ml of water
            • 1/2 lemon
            • 75g of sugar
            • 120g of double cream
            • lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
            • 15ml of Crème de Cassis 

            My Method: 
            • I halved the recipe and translated it into metric measurements. The only exception is water. I did not reduce the amount of water into because it would not be enough to cook the raw figs.
            • I added 15ml (approximately 1 tbsp) of Crème de Cassis after blending to avoid the ice cream from freezing too much.

            One-line Verdict:
            Looks rustic but tastes divine. Not the easiest ice cream to make though.

              • This ice cream is egg-free, it means it's particularly easy to freeze into hard ice. Using an ice cream maker should help but I don't have one. I did churn the mixture a lot (every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours) but it just couldn't reach the creamy texture. I will make this or any other non-custard based ice cream again only if I get a decent ice cream maker.
              • Thanks to the liqueur. I think it did help to prevent the ice cream from freezing too much. I was afraid the addition of Crème de Cassis (a blackcurrant liqueur from France) would interfere the flavour but luckily it didn't happen. If I make this ice cream again, I would use Rum, Brandy or Vodka as the higher alcohol concentration should be more efficient in preventing ice formation. Or I'd replace some granulated sugar with liquid glucose, which can provide some viscosity and prevent ice formation.
              • Though it looks rustic, it tastes good. What can I say? It tastes DIVINE. No exaggeration. The sweetness is just right and the fig seeds give an interesting crunchy feeling. Did I mention the colour? No food colouring but the figs and double cream alone are enough to give the ice cream an absolutely gorgeous pink.
              • I think a food processor can be used to blend the fig jam before mixing it with double cream and lemon juice to grate the fig skins and give it a smoother feeling.
              • Figs are in season from autumn till early spring, so seize your chance before they're gone!
              • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £4 (about 500g, excluding the cost of liqueur)

              Monday, 24 October 2011

              Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

              Original Recipe:
              "Brussels Sprouts with Bacon" from Heston Blumenthal at Home.

              Original Ingredients:
              • 5 smoked bacon rashers, cut into lardons
              • 50g unsalted butter
              • 400g brussels sprouts

              Original Method:
              1. Slice the bases from the brussels sprouts and carefully separate the leaves, pulling them off the sprouts.
              2. Fry the bacon in a frying pan over a medium heat until soft but not coloured. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Set aside.
              3. Melt the butter with the bacon fat in the frying pan over a medium to low heat. When the butter is foaming, add the brussels leaves and stir to coat them. Add 2 tbsp water and cover the pan.
              4. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stir in the bacon and season with salt and pepper.

              My Ingredients:
              • 200g smoked bacon lardons (Waitrose Essential)
              • 25g unsalted butter (President)
              • 200g brussels sprouts (loose veg from Waitrose)

              My Method: 
              • Basically followed the recipe except reducing the cooking time of brussels sprouts from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

              One-line Verdict:
              This is an easy recipe which only takes about 30 minutes to yield a very satisfying result.

                • Sprouts are not really a very popular vegetable because of the unpleasant boiled-cabbage bitterness. However this is mainly due to overcooking, especially the exterior. The key to this recipe is to separate the leaves of the sprouts instead of to cook them whole. Ideally every leaf can be evenly cooked and sweet.
                • Separating the leaves was very laborious, it took me about 20 minutes to separate 10 sprouts. But it really worked and the resulting sprouts were sweet and delicious.
                • As what I bought was called lardons, I didn't do any further cutting or dicing -- okay, I simply forgot. However the photo on Heston Blumenthal's book showed neatly diced cubic lardons. If I do this dish again, I'll try to remember to dice the lardons into smaller cubes.
                • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £2.4 (serves 2)

                (Additional information) How to choose brussels sprouts?
                • Choose firm, small, compact sprouts with a good green color and stem ends that are clean and white.
                • When possible, select sprouts of uniform size for uniform cooking. Avoid those with wilted or yellowed leaves or that feel spongy.
                • Sooty smudges or small holes in the leaves may be an indication of worms or plant lice.
                • Old Brussels sprouts acquire a strong cabbage odor.
                • Brussels sprouts are most abundant in autumn through early spring.

                Saturday, 22 October 2011

                Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)

                Original Recipe:

                Original Ingredients: (Make about 2 cups or 500ml)
                • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
                • 1 large whole egg
                • 50 grams (1 3/4 oz.) pastry cream powder (can substitute cornstarch)
                • 128 grams (4 1/2 oz) sugar
                • 473 milliliters (2 cups) whole milk
                • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
                • Unsalted butter for coating surface, optional

                Original Method:

                1. Combine the egg yolks, whole egg, and pastry cream powder (cornstarch) with half of the sugar in a mixing bowl, whisking until the mixture is well blended and lightly coloured.
                2. Place the mile in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a small, sharp knife scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk.  Add the bean, along with the remaining sugar, and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from heat.
                3. Whisking constantly, pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper it.  Whisk the tempered mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan. Place the mixture over high heat and, whisking constantly, return it to a boil.  Boil, stirring constantly with a whisk and taking care to scrape the bottom and lower inner edges of the pan for 2 minutes, or until thick and smooth.
                4. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it into a large, shallow pan, spreading it out with a spatula to hasten cooling.  Remove and discard vanilla bean. Cover the surface of the pastry cream with a piece of plastic film place directly over the top.  This prevents the formation of skin (tamponner).  Set aside to cool and then refrigerate until ready to use.

                My Ingredients:
                • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
                • 1 large whole egg
                • 50 grams cornstarch
                • a few drops of yellow food colouring
                • 128 grams castor sugar
                • 473 ml whole milk
                • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

                My Method: 
                • I followed the recipe word for word except replacing pastry cream powder with cornstarch and yellow food colouring.

                One-line Verdict:
                Finger-licking-delicious! Tastes very similar to the custard bun (奶皇包) back in home.

                  • The recipe is very well written. Portion is quite accurate too, I got about 485 grams of Crème Pâtissière.
                  • Stirring, stirring, stirring... the key is stirring!!
                  • For some reason my pastry cream mixture solidified and became thick pretty quickly. Didn't have enough time to boil for a good 2 minutes
                  • I used 1 whole vanilla pod to compensate the "possible loss in vanilla flavour" as I used cornstarch instead of pastry cream powder (which has some extra vanilla extract).
                  • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £5 (for one 8-inch tart, can be halved if using vanilla extract instead of vanilla pod)

                  Friday, 21 October 2011

                  Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Tart Dough)

                  Original Recipe:

                  Original Ingredients:

                  • 250 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
                  • 125 grams confectioners’ sugar
                  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
                  • 500 grams cake flour
                  • 1/2-teaspoon baking powder

                  Original Method:

                  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat of low to just combine. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and creamy. 
                  2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. (Do not add them too quickly or the mixture will separate. If separation occurs, continue mixing until the mixture comes back together. If it does not homogenize after a period of mixing, add just a spoonful of flour to encourage the process.)
                  3. When the eggs are well incorporated, turn off the motor and add the cake flour and baking powder all at once. Return the machine to slow speed and, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, beat until the flour is just incorporated. Do not over-mix.
                  4. Using the spatula, scrape the dough from the bowl. Gather the dough together and form it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic film and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 week before rolling it into the shape required. The dough may also be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

                  My Ingredients:
                  • 125 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
                  • 62 grams icing sugar
                  • 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
                  • 200 grams plain flour
                  • 50 grams cornstarch
                  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

                  My Method: 
                  • I followed the recipe word for word except halving it and substituting away cake flour which is not available in the UK. For 5 parts of cake flour, I use 1 part of cornstarch and 4 parts of plain flour instead.

                  One-line Verdict:
                  Easier than I expected. Hubby and my friends loved it! (Of course they didn't have it alone. It was made into a Berry Tart shell)

                    • This recipe is very well written and guarantees success!
                    • The only problem is... the portion seems to be INCORRECT. Before I started, I compared this with other pastry dough recipes found online as well as the other two dough recipes  (Pâte Brisée & Pâte Sablée) on the same book. Looking at the ingredients, this Pâte Sucrée recipe seems to be 50% more than others. After baking my first tart, my scepticism was proven right. The halved recipe should only be enough for one 8- to 9- inch tart. But I think I only used about 60-65% of the dough and got enough to make 9 smaller 2-inch tartlets the other day.
                    • I used the remaining dough to make tartlets after 2 more days but it did not work. It was quite difficult to roll it out and apparently I overworked it. With gluten built up, the resulting tartlet crusts were tough and bread-like. Next time if I have to make my own pastry dough, I will try to use up all of it on the following day.
                    • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £2 (for 1.5 or 2 eight-inch tarts)

                    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

                    Hoisin sauce Chicken Drumsticks

                    My personal "Just wing it" recipes... (blush blush)

                    My Ingredients:
                    • 1kg, about 12 pieces of Chicken drumsticks
                    • 6 heaped tbsp of Hoisin Sauce (Lee Kum Kee, 李錦記)
                    • 2 tbsp of water
                    • Salt & Pepper

                    My Method: 
                    1. Marinate the chicken drumsticks with Hoisin sauce, water, salt and pepper. Leave them in fridge for at least 2.5 hours.
                    2. Pre-heat oven at 180C. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotating midway through baking.

                    One-line Verdict:
                    Good for a lazy evening.

                      • Another variation is: Bake for 15 minutes at 200C. Take the tray out and cover with foil. Return to oven to bake for another 15 minutes. It will result in a crispier exterior.
                      • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £5 (serves 4)

                      Monday, 17 October 2011

                      Banana Walnut Bread

                      Adapted from:
                      "Banana Bread" from BBC.

                      Original Ingredients: (Makes a 20cm x 12.5cm loaf)
                      • 285g/10oz plain flour
                      • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
                      • ½ tsp salt
                      • 110g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
                      • 225g/8oz caster sugar
                      • 2 free-range eggs
                      • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
                      • 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
                      • 1 tsp vanilla extract

                      Original Method:

                      1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
                      2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
                      3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
                      4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
                      5. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
                      6. Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
                      7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

                      My Ingredients & Method:
                      • Basically followed the recipe word for word except the following modifications:
                      • I used 3 ripe bananas instead of 4 (as I misread the recipes, doh!)
                      • I used a 20cm (8-inch) round cake tin as my loaf tin is smaller than the suggested size.
                      • I reduced the baking time to 40 minutes.
                      • I added 30grams of walnut.

                      One-line Verdict:
                      An easy cake perfect for breakfast or teatime with coffee or tea.

                        • I misread the recipe and accidentally reduced the banana portion by a quarter. The resulting cake had a weaker banana flavour than most store-bought cakes. Oh yes, banana bread is technically a cake. The "bread" title has more to do with the loaf-shape then the texture.
                        • Tin sizes or shapes definitely affect baking time. This must be taken into account when substituting tins. A rule of thumb is to reduce the baking time by about 1/4 when using a shallower pan (in another word, a wider tin with larger surface on the top) than the one in the recipe. For a recipe with an original baking time of 60 minutes, start checking 40 minutes after start.
                        • Walnuts or any nuts should be toasted at 200C for 6-8 minutes before chopping and mixing with the batter. I didn't realize that from other online resources until I finished my bake!

                        Wednesday, 5 October 2011

                        Basic Bread

                        Adapted from a recipe used in a baking class held by Tower Hamlet Idea Store.

                        My Ingredients: (Makes 8)
                        • 500g strong flour
                        • 14g of easy yeast (2 sachets of instant yeast)
                        • 100g (1 medium) onion or shallot (see below for alternatives)
                        • 500ml of water or milk to mix
                        • 1 tsp sugar
                        • 1 tsp salt
                        • a wee bit of cheese or seed (for optional topping)

                        My Method:
                        1. Place the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cook raw onion or shallot in vegetable oil or butter till soft and golden brown.
                        2. Chop the cooked onion into small pieces. Add the onion and water (or milk). With a wooden spoon, bind the flour into a soft and elastic, but not sticky dough. If the dough becomes too dry, add a little warm water (or milk).
                        3. Using floured hands, knead the dough until smooth and even textured (about 20-30 minutes). Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place until the dough has risen and doubled in size (about 40 minutes)
                        4. Knock back, shape and place on a greased and floured baking tray. Brush with melted butter, egg or milk. Add cheese or seeds on top (optional).
                        5. Prove again without covering for about 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
                        6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size & shape) until the crust is golden brown. Dough should feel springy to touch, or sound hollow to knock.

                        One-line Verdict:
                        A basic bread recipe which is ideal for first-time bread baker (i.e. me!).

                          • 500ml of milk was a little bit too much. 350ml should be a more appropriate amount.
                          • For strong flavour, shallots should be used instead of onions. Can replace onion by cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, apricots, raisins, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame, poppy seeds... you name it!
                          • If using cheese, hard cheese (such as cheddar or Eden) is preferred. Parmesan will not work.
                          • Tips for creating different bread shapes can be found here.
                          • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £2

                          Tuesday, 4 October 2011

                          Creamy pasta with mushrooms, parmesan & lardons

                          Original Recipe:
                          "Creamy Pancetta pasta with mushrooms & parmesan" from Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy. Also on BBC.

                          Original Ingredients:
                          • 400g/14oz pappardelle
                          • 100-200g/3½-7oz cubed pancetta
                          • 175g/6oz chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
                          • 225ml/8fl oz double cream
                          • 75g/3oz parmesan cheese, grated
                          • freshly ground black pepper

                          Original Method:
                          1. Cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions.
                          2. Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a frying pan over a medium-high heat for about five minutes. When it starts to brown, add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the double cream.
                          3. Once the cream is hot, add the parmesan and stir together well.Once the pasta is ready, drain and return it to the pan. Add the pancetta mixture and stir through well. Season with some pepper (I find it does not usually need salt because of the salty parmesan and pancetta).

                          My Ingredients:
                          • 200g fusilli (corkscrew shaped pasta)
                          • 90g cubic bacon lardons
                          • 200g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
                          • 110ml double cream
                          • 38g parmesan cheese, grated
                          • freshly ground black pepper

                          My Method: 
                          • Basically followed the halved recipe but substituting pancetta with bacon lardons, and pappardelle with fusilli. (The only reason for substitution is I already have lardons & fusilli at home).
                          • I increased the portion of chestnut mushroom as we both love it so much. The original portion just won't be enough!

                          One-line Verdict:
                          Super easy and fool-proof. Ideal for mid-week quick dinner.

                            • Quick, easy and delicious. Very happy as long as I don't think about the calorie and fat intake.
                            • Approximate cost of the main ingredients: £5 (serves 2)

                            Monday, 3 October 2011

                            Green Tea Ice Cream

                            Adapted from several recipes:

                            My Ingredients:
                            • 200ml double cream
                            • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
                            • 85g castor sugar
                            • 12g Matcha green tea powder
                            • 3 large egg yolks

                            My Method:
                            1. Heat the cream and milk over a low heat with a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it almost boils - you'll see a few bubbles at the edge. Take off the heat and set aside for 30 minutes or else the egg yolks added in the next step will be cooked and coagulated. 
                            2. Brieftly mix the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Scoop out about a quarter (125ml) of the cream mixture from saucepan and beat into the egg yolks. Continue until all cream has been added.
                            3. Pour the mixture into the saucepan. Add the green tea powder. Cook it over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Watch that it doesn't boil. As soon as you see any bubbles about to burst to the surface, it should be thick enough and the pan should be taken off the heat immediately.
                            4. Pour the custard into a heatproof bowl. Cover the ice cream with a cling film which has to be in contact of the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin forming on the surface.
                            5. Then sit the bowl in a bigger bowl one third full of iced water to cool (this should take about 20 minutes but took me about 40 minutes as I used tap water). 
                            6. Put the bowl of custard in the fridge for 3-4 hours, stirring once an hour until almost frozen.

                            One-line Verdict:
                            Quite many steps but not difficult. Just need some patience and concentration.

                              • The texture is smooth and creamy. In fact I find it creamier than most other store-bought ice cream.
                              • A little bit sweeter than I would like. I'll reduce the sugar content further from 85g to maybe 75g.
                              • The green tea flavour is mild and moderate, but the green tea powder I used seems to have paler taste than others.
                              • The ice cream can be a bit hard after a day or two. Just take it from the freezer 30 minutes before serving then it will be soften up.
                              • Approximate cost of the main ingredient: £5 (about 500 grams)