Saturday, October 31, 2009

Raspberry Cream Cheese Scones

It was hard to snap myself out of my macaron baking frenzy. But then I realised, there has not been anywhere near enough scones around here lately! So why not another scone recipe, before everyone forgets that I'm the scone-mad girl who eats them for dinner. Not that I ate these for dinner, but they were really good and it was a tempting thought! There's something so relaxing and comforting when I go back to baking scones, no matter how bad my day/night/week/month has been everything feels better when I'm covered in flour and the smell of them baking in the oven permeates through the house.

The raspberries in these gives them a wonderful pink tinge of colour, I seem to be baking a lot of pink things lately. The cream cheese makes them extremely moist and rich (and is a useful way of using up leftover cream cheese if you just made a coffee crunch cake) and were just perfect with some of the homemade lemon marmalade I had in my fridge (thanks Tomred!). These were not too sweet but had a lovely crunchy sugar top, with a hint of tartness from the berries, more like richer, eggy, cake-like scones than the fluffy cream scones I've been making recently. To be honest I still can't decide which I prefer!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Scones
(yield: approx. 8 scones)
2 1/4 cup plain flour
75g butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
90g cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
Optional: Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Carefully stir cream cheese, milk and egg in a medium bowl until combined. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then rub cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Form a well in the centre of the crumbs and add the wet mixture plus the raspberries to the bowl. Carefully and quickly mix together, avoid crushing the raspberries too much.

Gather dough together with well floured hands and pat into a 1 inch thick circle on a well floured surface. Cut dough using a 5cm scone cutter (any round, thin rimmed, floured water glass will work as a substitute), and place on a line baking tray.

Carefully pat together any of the scraps to recut, but do not overwork the dough or the scones will be tough. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and then bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serve on their own, or with fresh cream and/or jam.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ice Kacang Macarons (Rose Syrup & Sweet Corn Macarons) - Daring Bakers Oct 2009

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I've gotta tell you my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw what this months challenge was. It was a freaky coincidence that I had just recently attempted macarons for the first time and my confidence was so boosted by that initial success that I had been planning to attempt them again the very weekend that this challenge came out. I had been saving this flavour idea for when I was more experienced, but I took this as a sign that I should just leap in head first and attempt my crazy idea. Now keep an open mind about this, it might sound extremely weird but trust me, it tastes so amazing. Ice kacang (or ais kacang) is a fabulous Malaysian dessert made of shaved ice, thick and bright pink rose syrup, creamed sweetcorn, evaporated milk and other extra sweet things such as grass jelly and palm seeds. It's wonderfully sweet and refreshing and the perfect dessert for the humid Malaysian weather.

Ice Kacang
Many countries in South East Asian use sweet corn in desserts, ice kacang and sweetcorn ice cream being two of my favourites. But mention it to people who haven't grown up with it and they will usually raise their eyebrows in disbelief. I even remember one person saying, "I can't think of anything except chicken and corn soup when I think of sweet corn. It doesn't belong in a dessert!". But seriously people, don't knock it until you've tried it. The sweetness of the corn really makes it the perfect flavour for a dessert. So here was my idea: A rose syrup flavoured biscuit with a sweet corn and evaporated milk buttercream, et voila - Ice Kacang Macarons!

I realised afterwards that my first two Daring Bakers' challenges have been Malaysian-themed, but I had to do this flavour! It turned out to be a fairly traumatic and exhausting experience getting these right. First of all, I had serious issues with the recipe we were meant to use for this challenge. There just seemed to be too much egg white for the amount of dry ingredients, and the amount of sugar we had to beat into the egg whites seemed dangerously small. I attempted the recipe twice with the exact measurements given in the DB recipe and both times were EPIC failures. They were bubbly and cracked without the slightest hint of feet. Wasting 10 egg whites like that was pretty upsetting and I was ready to give up on the whole thing but I decided to give it one last go. I adjusted the ratios so there was more granulated sugar and more dry ingredients (and less egg whites in case it failed again!). And hurrah it worked! I was dancing madly around my kitchen doing what is now known as the 'feet dance', because right in front of my eyes were smooth pink macaron shells with FEET!

I still did a couple more batches after that, tweaking it here and there to get the right colour and flavour. It was really difficult to get the rose syrup flavour into the macarons, unlike rose water it is a very subtle rose flavour and I didn't want to add too much of it to the meringue because it would upset the water balance. I ended up having to spread the rose syrup out on a tray and baked it in my cool oven to evaporate some of the water from the syrup before adding it to the meringue. But it was worth the effort, the biscuits had that distinctive sweet rose syrup flavour infused into it, without being overpowered by the flavour of the almond meal. Note: Rose Syrup is NOT the same as rose water. Rose water is clear and has a much more concentrated floral flavour, while rose syrup is like red cordial with a hint of rose flavour. I also wanted that really vibrant pink colour that you see in the rose syrup, so I was lucky to get my hands on some pink powdered colouring. Though I may have added a tad too much, I freaked out a little when I saw how bright pink it went! But it seemed fitting in the end, and I really loved the final look of them.

Then, disaster struck. I had just dumped my final shots of my macarons off my camera onto my laptop, only to have the hard drive crash before I had a chance to upload them. After several painstaking hours attempting to recover those photos off my drive, I was left with corrupted jpg files that I could preview, but couldn't actually open. It was cruel and torturous, I could see them but I couldn't touch them! So I had no choice but to try making them again at the last minute. Unfortunately my last batch (third photo) were not quite as pretty as the ones from before (first photo), so I was feeling quite defeated. I think it will be a long time before I make this flavour again, as delicious as it is, after making 5 or so batches I'm totally sick of eating them! My boyfriend and workmates didn't mind though, A enjoyed the sweetcorn buttercream so much that he was eating it straight out of the mixing bowl. And all my workmates who hadn't tried sweetcorn in a dessert before totally loved them.

You're also probably wondering how I was able to complete this challenge with my nut allergy. Lucky for me I realised not long ago that I could get away with eating a few macarons without having any reactions, it seems that my allergy to almond meal is very mild. Such a relief! Anyway, I'll give you the original recipe as it was meant for the DB challenge, but I'll also include any adjustments I made during my tweaking so what you chose to use is up to you. I found Syrup and Tang's macaron articles were total life savers when it came to figuring out what I was doing right and wrong with my macarons.

Ice Kacang Macarons (aka Rose & Sweet Corn Macarons)
(adapted from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern)
Original Ingredients:
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

I used:
205g Icing sugar (blitzed in a food processor to remove any lumps)
120g Almond meal (spread out on a oven tray and dried out in a cool oven for 10 mins)
50g granulated sugar
3 large egg whites (aged in the fridge for 48 hours, approx 100g)
1/8 tsp pink powdered food colouring
1 tablespoon rose syrup (spread out on a pyrex plate and baked in a cool oven for 5 mins then cooled until thick, this is not the same as rose water!)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks. (Right before the mixture reached stiff peaks I added my food colouring and concentrated rose syrup to the mixture)
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients. (This was the most critical part of the recipe for me. I was NOT gentle, but instead really beat the air out of the mixture as I incorporated the almond meal. If I didn't I found the mixture turned out really bubbly and without feet. It's really important to know when to stop mixing, and even in my last batch I underbeat my mixture because I'm still super scared about over mixing. For me the mixture was ready when I could drip a line of mixture onto the top of the rest of the mixture and it would disappear after a minute.)
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaron for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

After the first 5 min bake

Some batches had mini feet after the first cool bake

After the final bake

For the buttercream:
110ml evaporated milk
100g sugar
37g plain flour
112g butter, softened
1/4 cup creamed corn
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted

Combine the flour and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Gradually pour in evaporated milk, stirring as you go to remove any lumps (using a whisk will make this easy).

Heat this milk mixture over medium low heat until it almost comes to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir constantly for several minutes until mixture becomes thick and hard to stir. Allow to cool completely.

Beat softened butter in a large mixing bowl until it is pale and creamy. Slowly add the milk mixture and continue beating until smooth. Add sweet corn and icing sugar and beat until combined. Take care not to overbeat at this point or the mixture can split. If mixture is still very runny you can add more icing sugar. Allow to cool in the fridge and then spoon mixture onto macaron shells.

I had some serious issues with my last batch of buttercream which I made. The mixture split and was super runny, so the photos I took at the last minute to try and make up for all the great photos I lost were kind of terrible. I really didn't have the energy to try again, so the photos in this post are the best that I could scrounge up from the scraps of photos I managed to recover.

Batch #1: Before I had powdered food colouring

Batch #2: So freakin happy with these.

Batch #3: Last minute panic batch, a little undermixed

In the end, I feel so much more confident about baking macarons. Thank you so much to Ami for choosing it for this month, it really was a great challenge. It pushed me as a baker and I will definitely be experimenting with more flavours and techniques in the future. Plus they were so yummy that I couldn't stop eating them! I am officially obsessed.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Winsure Barbeque Restaurant, Chatswood

I'm very sorry it's been slow going around here. It's definitely not due to lack of interest in my blog, my laptop died rather spectacularly the other day and it took all of my recent photos for my upcoming blog posts with it. So all I can give you for the moment is what I have left on my camera, which isn't much since I did a dump onto my laptop just before it died. The most painful is that I lost all my daring bakers' challenge photos *sob* so it looks like I will have to redo it. Again. SOB. Anyway, forget about my bad luck with technology and let's work with what we have. We ended up at Winsure for a lazy late lunch, after some healthy retail therapy. It's a great place to drop by for a casual meal since it's so cheap and the food is quick and pretty tasty.

Roast pork and Chinese sausage ($15.80)

The only thing that bothers me is that the serving sizes are inconsistent everytime we come, so I'm never sure how much I should order. Today they're average, so we ended up ordering just the right amount. We always get a plate of their Chinese sausage because it is so deliciously naughty. Fatty slices of meat filled with flavour, these aren't the same as the chinese dried sausage (lap cheong) but they pack about the same amount of flavour in the juicy meat. The roast pork is super fatty with a super crunchy layer of crackling on top, it's neeearly burnt but you can't taste it.

Plain congee ($3.00)

Instead of ordering steamed rice to accompany our meat, we get a big bowl of rice porridge. This is officially my new favourite combination - Chinese bbq meat + congee = comfort in a bowl. The steaming bowl of congee is the perfect match for the fatty meat with no sauce, it adds moisture and tempers the grease level. There's something very Chinese and very homely about it.

E-Fu Noodles - Dry Fried Yee Meen ($9.80)

A big bowl of yee meen is something we always get here, but today it's rather empty looking, lacking the usually generous serve of vegetables and sauce. It's still satisfying though, with the chewy egg noodles and chinese mushrooms. Anyway, it's just one of those places that is perfect when you can't decide what you want to eat and you want it to be quick, cheap and unfussy.

Be patient, it may take a while before I get my blog back on its feet now that I am laptopless, but I will definitely be back soon!

Winsure Barbeque Restaurant

302 Victoria Ave,

Chatswood NSW 2067,

(02) 9411 2988

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Coffee Cinnamon Crunch Cake

Today is my Mum's birthday. I say that with a sad little sigh, since another year goes by where I don't get to celebrate it with her. My parents are enjoying retirement bliss in Malaysia so we see each other 3-4 times a year at most. A while back I came across some old photos of my parents and was so fascinated and in love with all of them that I spent the whole day flipping through them. Coming across things like this makes me miss them a lot.

It's been about 6 months since their last visit and one of the things I remembered the other day was a cinnamon coffee cake that my Mother adored at her favourite cafe (which has closed down unfortunately). I woke up this morning determine to recreate that cake, to give as a virtual gift until I can give her a real one in person.

Unfortunately, this was no easy feat since I never actually got to taste this cake myself, so it was purely up to some vague descriptions from my brother and my imagination that this cake became a reality. According to him it was an incredibly moist, dense cake with a just a hint of coffee in it. I came across a similar sounding recipe in one of my favourite books, so I decided to improvise a little.

The result: A moist, soft, dense but not heavy cake with a thin crunchy layer tinged with coffee and cinnamon on top. It may be a cake from the imagination, but it wasn't too shabby. When I first sliced it open for a taste test, it was so moist it almost reminded me of mai lai gou (a super moist Chinese steamed sponge cake), and the crunchy crust with that subtle hint of coffee brought back memories of my favourite Roti Boy buns from Malaysia. And it was just the type of cake that my Mum enjoys; no whipped cream and not too sweet. So even though I can't give this cake to my Mum in person to get her nod of approval, I hope she knows I'm thinking of her.

Coffee Cinnamon Crunch Cake

(loosely adapted from The Golden Book of Patisserie)
For the cake:
1 2/3 cup plain flour
1/3 tsp bicarb soda
1/8 tsp salt
120g butter, softened
170g cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

For the crunchy topping:
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
40g butter, cold and cubed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp instant coffee granules

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin. Make the crunchy topping first by combining the brown sugar, cinnamon, coffee and flour in a medium bowl and then gently and quickly rub the cold butter into this with the tips of your fingers until it forms a fine crumbed mixture. Set aside.

Combine the flour, bicarb soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater on medium speed until it is creamy. Continue to beat at medium speed, adding one egg at a time until it is just combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk until just combined. You don't want to beat too much air into the mixture as this cake should not rise too much, so stir it up with a wooden spoon if it looks really fluffy. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and sprinkle the crunchy topping over the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If it starts to rise up too much in the centre of the cake while in the oven, gently pat the centre down with a spatula. Cool the cake inside the tin on a rack.

When cooled, very very gently turn out of the tin using two large plates, and then carefully cut into cubes. The topping with be a thin, delicate crunch and can fall off easily if you don't take care.

Happy Birthday Mum, next month I promise I'll bake this for you in person so we can share a slice over a cup of tea. Hugs and kisses, from Steph.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sushi Cupcakes

Now before you wrinkle your nose in disgust, these sushi cupcakes are not savoury and are not made with fish. I was in a silly mood one night; I had just bought myself a mini muffin tin and a bag of fish-shaped gummies inspired this idea. Cupcakes that look like little sushi rolls, but are crunchy and sweet. It appealed to my inner child. I remember as a child, playing with my Mum's homemade bright blue playdoh and moulding it into little pieces of sushi (not that I had any idea what sushi tasted like, living in the Middle East at the time). I blame it on the one video tape of Simpsons episodes we had brought with us to Qatar, which I watched over and over as there was hardly anything on the free-to-air tv at the time. Remember the episode where the Simpsons go to a sushi restaurant and Homer eats fugu and then thinks he's going to die? Yeah.

So the thing I love about these is they are so simple to decorate and yummy. I have a feeling it would either be a big hit with the kids, or completely confuse the heck out of them. I definitely managed to confuzzle my workmates, offering them a whole platter of these and asking if they wanted some sushi. They sniffed at it, eyed it warily and asked " it?" Heehee! It's just a regular vanilla cupcake topped with melted white chocolate mixed with rice bubble cereal and chopped up gummy lollies. Once they worked up the courage to taste them, they were a huge hit since they were moreish little bite-sized treats. One of my workmates even mentioned wanting to make them for her daughter's birthday party :)

Sushi Cupcakes
You will need:
1 quantity foolproof vanilla cupcake batter for full size cupcakes (or 1/2 quantity if only making mini muffin sized ones)
Green cupcake paper liners (or green fruit roll-ups to wrap around the cake if you can find it)
Rice bubbles
400g white chocolate
1 pack of various coloured gummy lollies

Bake cupcakes as per the foolproof cupcake recipe. With mini muffins, make sure to only half-fill the cupcake papers with batter, to make sure they do not rise too high and are easier to decorate. Allow to cool completely. In the meantime, cut equal sized cubes of gummy lollies with a sharp knife. (For the mini-muffins, I cut 0.5cm cubes of red, green and yellow gummies)

Can you tell I was in a silly mood that night?

Melt the white chocolate in small batches of about 100g at a time, to avoid it cooling and setting before you are finished spreading it over the tops of the cakes. Do this using a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water or in heated in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it is melted and smooth. Add rice bubbles to the melted chocolate and gently stir it in until it coats all the rice bubbles with a thin, even layer of chocolate. I think added about 1/2 cup of rice bubbles to each 100g of chocolate, but I would suggest to keep adding rice bubbles until it looks like the right texture you are looking for (enough rice bubbles so you can clearly see the texture of the 'rice' but enough chocolate to coat the cereal and hold the mixture together). Spoon the mixture over the top of your cupcakes.

Use a skewer or tip of a knife to dig a small hole in the middle of the 'rice'. Gently press your chopped up gummy lollies into the small hole to create the filling for your sushi. Leave these to set for a few hours. I made these in using full-size cupcakes and mini-muffins, and I definitely preferred the cute smaller version. I couldn't resist plating them up that night with some chopsticks and a bowl of vanilla 'soy sauce' haha! I probably could have done a lot more to make these look even more sushi-like, but it was late and I wanted to go to bed :P

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Reduced-Guilt Macaroni & Cheese

I've been trying my hardest to stay away from junk foods since Spring began, but you how sometimes you just get the biggest craving for something incredibly bad for you? The other night I had one thing on my mind and one thing only. I wanted macaroni. And cheese. Mmm...carbs and fat....

So rather than allow myself to buy that horrible bright orange powder macaroni & cheese stuff from the supermarket (that makes me feel a little sick everytime I remember the smell of it), I was lucky to have this recipe to fall back on. I wouldn't go so far to call it low-fat, it's still got plenty of cheese and pasta, but it's definitely not as bad as the full blown normal version thanks to the use of cottage cheese. You would think that the low-fat cottage cheese would make it taste powdery and crap but it's surprisingly creamy and smooth. I usually use a big casserole dish for this when I'm feeling lazy but I also love serving it in little individual cups! It's the perfect portion size :)

Reduced-Guilt Macaroni & Cheese
(adapted from Le Corden Bleu's Complete Cooking Step-by-Step)
250g elbow macaroni
375g low fat cottage cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
375ml skim milk
75g mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
30g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Cook macaroni as per packet instructions, but do not add salt to the boiling water. Drain macaroni well. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Either prepare a casserole dish or individual serve bowls or cups by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Fill dish/dishes with macaroni.

Blend cottage cheese until smooth in a food processor with the knife blade attachment. Whisk flour with 60 ml of the skim milk in a large saucepan until smooth. Gradually stir in the remaining milk until combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens slightly and is just about to boil. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the cottage cheese, cheddar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and preheat your grill in the meantime. Sprinkle parmesan on top and place macaroni on the closest position in your oven to the grill, heat for 2-3 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbling.

It can be a super easy side dish for dinner or the perfect snack to satisfy your junk food cravings. Unfortunately I didn't remember to grab a photo of the teacup versions that I made, I ate it too quickly!
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