Sunday, 29 July 2007

Fun with Chocolates

Last night, just before bedtime, my elder boy requested that I bake him some brownies the next day. He has been craving for brownies for quite some time already. We checked through a few recipes and decided to try this walnuts and chocolate chip brownies from a book which I bought recently. The description and the texture of the brownies look really attractive to me: "These chunky chocolate brownies are moist, dark and deeply satisfying. They are delicious with a morning cup of coffee and will definitely boost morale on a dreary day."

As promised, the first thing I did this morning was to bake a batch of brownies. It is a rather simple and straight forward recipe. It took me less than half-an-hour to get the brownies into the oven. I omitted the walnuts from the recipe as both my boys reminded me that they didn't want any nuts in their brownies.

I am so glad that the brownies turn out beautifully! They are rather thick (in terms of height) unlike my previous attempts, the brownies were too dense and were usually very flat and thin. I like the slightly flaky and crisp crust, with a moist, cake-like layer on top and it gets fudgy nearer the bottom. This is by far my best brownies which I have made from scratch, and it uses sunflower oil instead of much 'healthier' than another recipe from the same book that requires almost an entire block of butter! My boys couldn't really wait for me to finish my photo-taking session, they kept asking when they could try a piece of the brownies...and guess what my younger one was "doing" while I was trying to get the best lighting for my photos?

What can I say, but to give them each a piece right away!

Each time if I use any melted chocolates for baking, I will let my younger boy to help "clean-up" the bowl...he will lick up every single trace of melted chocolate. This time, I used the left over chocolates and made this:

I learnt this from the Martha Stewart's show...simply use a brush (I used a chopstick), dip it with melted chocolate and paint funny faces on the inside of a clean glass. Chill the glass in the fridge to let the chocolate set before filling it with cold milk. The 3 of us had fun painting our own glasses. They certainly look ugly but adorable, aren't they?!

Nut and Chocolate Chip Brownies

(makes 16)

150g semisweet chocolate, chopped
120ml sunflower oil
215g light brown sugar (I cut down to 200g)**
2 eggs
5ml vanilla essence
65g self-raising flour
4 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
4 tablespoon milk chocolate chips
75g chopped walnuts (I omitted this)

**latest update: I further reduced the sugar amount to 180g and the texture or taste was not affected.

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degC. Lightly grease a shallow 19cm/7.5 inch square pan.
  2. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
  3. With an electric mixer (a manual whisk works well too), beat together oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate then beat well until evenly mixed.
  5. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the batter. With a spatula, fold thoroughly until all the flour mixture incorporates into the batter.
  6. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Mix well.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared square tin. Spread the mixture evenly to the edges. (The mixture is rather sticky and gooey.)
  8. Bake for about 30 ~ 35 mins until the top is firm and crusty. Cool in the pan before cutting into squares.

Recipe Source: The Cookie and Biscuit Bible

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Kiddy Bento Set

Tried making bento sets for the kids' lunch yesterday.

This is my first attempt to assemble one. I have not thought of making a bento for them until I came across a fellow flickr pal's beautiful bento sets she made for her husband.

Was indeed very pleased that I could finally use those cute paper liners which I bought from Daiso many months ago.I don't have a proper lunch box at home (my boy seldom pack any food to school), but I managed to dig out some disposable food trays from my cupboard full of disposal containers;)

I made the rice balls with the help of a rice mould which I use occasionally...the mould is a 3-in-1, that comes in 3 different shapes. The rice balls were filled in the middle with salmon toasting some fresh salmons...seasoned with only a tiny pinch of salt & pepper in the oven. The rice balls were then sprinkled with different flavors of furukake (rice seasoning). I also toasted some fresh button mushrooms in the oven. The mushrooms didn't require any seasonings as they tasted very sweet just on their own. Filled up the other compartments with cherry tomatoes and some hard boiled quail eggs. A little tub of yogurt completed the set.

My boys were so pleased to see their colourful set lunch when they came home from school. It's definitely a nice change from our usual porridge, noodle soups meals.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Peach Tart

This is the first 'proper' tart I made yesterday afternoon. The very first tart I tried was using crushed digestive biscuits as base...a no-bake tart actually. I am not the tart or pie person. Believe it or not, I have not eaten a big tart like this before...I don't see them selling at the neighbourhood bakery shops either. I did tried those little fruit tartlets...but I don't really find them appealing. I don't quite like the hard and dry pastry base with this thick, glossy, gel-like glaze that's always very generously brushed on top of the fruits.

So, why is it that I attempted to make this 18cm tart? Well, simply because I fell in love with the photo in a baking book. I would usually skip the part on tarts and pies whenever I browse thru baking books...but the picture of this beautiful pear tart really caught my eye and it doesn't have any glaze on top of the fruits! I couldn't wait any longer to try it out.

It requires some time to make this tart you need to chill the pastry for 20 mins before baking, bake it for another 12mins or so...then let it cool completely, before you can add in the fillings (otherwise the fillings will melt away)..then it's another 35mins of baking time.

The step-by-step instructions and photos in the book are really useful. I was able to make the pastry base easily. I like reading these Japanese to Chinese translated cookbooks as they are always very detailed in their instructions. For this recipe, it's not necessary to use any baking weights or uncooked rice over the pastry when baking...hmmm, but I don't know the reason why?

The filling was spread evenly all over the base before lining the peaches (we prefer peaches over pears). Off it went into the oven.

Ok, here's my finished's a far cry from the one in the cookbook right? I guess I should have pressed the peaches slightly further into the filling...the tart surface was rather flat...unlike the one illustrated in the cookbook...the filling is all beautifully puffed up, well above the pear slices. At first glance, I even thought it was made with a pastry covered on top.

The tart tasted really very good...I'll certainly recommend my baking friend to try it. This tart is full of this buttery flavour...and except for the edges and the rim, the pastry was not hard at all. I could even taste the ground almonds, which was added to both the pastry base and filling. After eating one slice...I was so tempted to reach out for another one!

I left the pie sitting on my kitchen table while I prepared dinner. When I was done cooking, I took a look at the pie and this was what I saw:

The sun was setting then...and the light was shinning all over the tart. It looked so lovely! It took me only less than 5 mins to snap at least 30 shots! With the long afternoon rays...the lights casted shadows all over the tart...making the surface looked really 3 dimensional.

This is my favourite shot! It makes the tart 'almost' comparable to the one shown in the cookbook :)

(make one 18cm tart)

80g cake flour (or plain flour)
20g grounded almond powder
30g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter , soften at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15g) lightly beaten egg

10g cake flour (or plain flour)
80g grounded almond powder
50g brown sugar
60g unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoon Rum (I omitted this)
some canned peach slices, well drained
icing sugar for dusting

Pastry base:
  1. Lightly grease an 18cm tart pan, set aside.
  2. Toast almond powder at 100 degC for 10 mins. Stirring in between. Let cool.
  3. Sieve flour and almond meal. (The grounded almond powder I used are too huge to pass thru the I simply threw them back into the sieved flour!)
  4. With a manual whisk, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  5. Add in the egg, very gradually, whisking the batter till well mixed each time the egg is added.
  6. Sieve over the flour/almond meal mixture in 2 to 3 additions into the batter. Fold the mixture gently with a spatula.
  7. Form and shape the pastry into a round ball. Roll out the pastry in between 2 sheets of cling wrap or baking paper (I used two sheets of cut-out plastic bags) to about 23cm in diameter.
  8. Remove one side of the cling wrap or baking paper. Place it over the prepared tart pan. Mould the pastry into the tart pan, smoothing the edges and the rim carefully...if the pastry is too soft to handle, chill it in the fridge for 10~15 mins. (I didn't have any problem with it.)
  9. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 20mins.
  10. Use a fork to poke holes on the pastry. Brush the top of the rim with egg wash. (I did this with my fingers.) Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 10 ~12mins until the edges are slightly browned. Let cool completely.

  11. With a whisk, cream butter and brown sugar till the mixture turns fluffy. Add in the egg gradually, mix well each time the egg is added.
  12. Add in grounded almond powder. Fold with a spatula till well incorporated. Sieve over the flour onto the mixture. Mix with a spatula. Add in rum and mix well.
  13. Spread the filling onto the cooled pastry base. Ensure that the edges are filled up. Line with peach (or pear) slices. Make sure the slices are well drained. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 deg C for 30 ~ 35 mins, until the edges and filling turn golden brown. Let cool, and dust with some icing sugar.

Recipe Source: Delicious!! Baked Cakes, Ikuko Omori

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Happy Meal

This was what we had for lunch yesterday...another Kid's Meal I cooked for my kids And myself. Just a simple burger, a cup of sweet corns, a bottle of vitagens...and leftover greens for me ;)

It only happened sometime earlier this year that my boys started to like hamburgers. They used to eat only chicken nuggets whenever we had meals at the McDonalds. I bet you will find it amusing if you know the reason behind it...

Well, it all happened a few months ago, when the kids TV channel here started showing SpongeBob Squarepants at a time, best suited for the TV to 'babysit" these two boys for was from 6pm - 6.30pm...the time I am usually busy in the kitchen. They started to enjoy the silly jokes and funny character of much so that they could recite what he said after each episode.

One fine day, both of them related to me how SpongeBob (who's job is making hamburgers at Krusty Krab) made his Krabby Patty. They could tell me step-by-step the way to put a hamburger together. Of course, after their story, they requested me to make one for them!

Before this SpongeBob craze, I did made hamburgers for them, only I didn't know how to prepare the meat patty, I used frozen ones...something which I'm quite reluctant to include in my kids' regular meals. After their full animated account of how a Krabby Patty is made, I looked up some recipes and learned that I could easily use minced meat to make a meat patty. As beef is not available at the wet market near my place, I used pork meat instead. I simply marinate the minced pork with some salt & pepper, and a heaped teaspoon of corn flour. Shape them into meat patties and pan-fry. It will smell/taste great if butter is used instead of cooking oil. When the patties are almost done, I coated them with a spoonful of store-bought Unagi (eel)sauce or Yakitori sauce...and let it simmer for a few seconds before serving. I find the sweetness of these Japanese sauces go very well with the meat patties. It makes the patties real juicy and yummy! The patty will taste very good if some minced onions are added...but, too bad, my little one kept complaining about the tiny bits of onions, as such I have to omit it totally :(

I usually get ready all the necessary ingredients...lettuce, tomatoes, cheese slices, ketchup, mayonnaise...and the kids will assemble the burger themselves. Even though they get to make the burgers whichever way they like, they will always end up arguing who's doing the right thing!

Oh, by the way, after several attempts, I learned that in order to make the burger "burst" with ingredients...the bun should be sliced at an angle...not 180 degree across..and don't cut through it.

Now, this meal will be perfect, if a little toy comes with it, don't you think so?

Monday, 16 July 2007

Fun with Eggs

Made these hard boiled eggs for the kids breakfast yesterday...

using the egg mould set I got from Daiso. The egg moulds are quite simple to use. Just need to peel off the egg shells while the eggs are still hot and place them in the egg moulds, cover and leave to cool. The eggs that I used were slightly too small to fill up the egg moulds...

as such, the supposedly star-shaped egg looked more a little flower...

while the hear-shaped one looked superbly cute ;)

After slicing the eggs, I realised that the egg yolks were not cooked thoroughly...but I liked the fact that even the egg yolks were shaped accordingly ;)

Since I am on the topic of eggs, I'll like to share these interesting Black eggs we had when we went to Hakone, Japan, recently.

The eggs are cooked in the volcanic springs...the shells are blackened due to a chemical reaction with the sulphur in the spring water.

Other than the blackened shells, they tasted just like any ordinary hard-boiled eggs...but according to Japanese legend, every one egg you eat will add seven years to your life. We were not very greedy, we only ate one egg each. Will probably visit Hakone again if I ever needed another 7 addtional years of life span ;)

This cute Hello Kitty was sitting outside a gift shop. Very kawaii isn't it?!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

In Search of 绵绵土司

After several bread-making sessions, I realised that loaves made with a bread machine will not yield very soft texture. The bread machine doesn't seems to be able to knead the dough till it pass the stretch test...which is the basic requirement to produce a soft and light texture. However, I still find that using the bread machine is such a time-saving way to make a daily loaf. Hence, I have been trying out various bread recipes, with the aim of finding one that will produce a loaf of 绵绵土司 (绵绵 = soft as cotton, 土司 = toast or a loaf bread) that will yield light, tender texture and yet uses the very basic ingredients and can be made easily with a bread machine. It's quite a tall order actually!

I chanced upon this recipe while blog-hopping. I like the fact that the ingredients are relatively eggs, whipping cream are required, and milk powder is used instead of fresh milk...with two growing kids, milk powder is something that will never run out in my kitchen.

After reading reviews and comments from various blogs, I learnt that in order to get the cottony texture of this loaf, I'll have to shape it by hand (using the correct shaping technique) and bake it in a normal oven. Nevertheless, I still went ahead to experiment it with my bread machine. To over come the problem of not enough kneading...I stopped the machine right after the first kneading cycle (10 mins of kneading). Then, I re-started the Basic programme again. This way, the dough was subject to 30mins of kneading instead of 20mins. I added in a pack of left over raisins immediately when the bread machine beeps...only to find out that the raisins were all mashed up by the paddle during mixing :( Next time, I'll know better to add in dried fruits only towards the end of the second kneading cycle.

Here's the verdict:

As the heating element of my bread machine is located a the bottom, a thick crust was formed at the bottom of the loaf. The overall loaf was dark brown...something which I don't really like. The crust on the top was alright though. I find the texture of the bread soft and light especially when freshly baked...although it is still a far-cry from this. It's quite a tasty loaf actually...just a light hint of sweetness from the extra raisins. The best part is, the bread remained soft the next day! I didn't even have to toast it and I could eat it plain, without any butter or jam.

When I find some time next week, I'm gonna do this same recipe by hand...

Original recipe from here.

168g water
24g butter
5g salt
45g sugar
300g bread flour
18g milk powder
5g instant yeast
some raisins (optional)


  1. Pour water into the pan of the bread machine, followed by butter, sugar and salt. Cover with flour, milk powder and make a small indent with your finger on the flour. Place yeast inside the small indent. (Or place all ingredients according to the sequence stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine.)
  2. Fit the pan into the bread machine and set to BASIC white programme. Select 1 lb or 1.5lb loaf size and set to light or medium crust setting (depend on your preference).
  3. Add the raisins towards the end of the second kneading cycle.
  4. Once baked, remove the loaf from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Green Tea Buns

I finally made these green tea buns this morning. I bought a small bottle of green tea powder from Phoon Huat some time ago, without knowing what to do with it. Subsequently, I came across this pack of azuki bean paste during my regular visit to Daiso. Without any hesitation, I bought it right away...with my mind conjuring up the idea of green tea buns with the red bean paste as fillings. Both items where left untouched for quite some time as I was merrily baking other stuff from my long list of "to do" bakes ;)

I found a green tea bun recipe from the cookbook "Bread Magic". However, the bread is a little too time consuming to make...u'll need to make the bread dough, and then another smaller portion of bread dough as topping, i.e. to be wrapped around the main dough. As I couldn't afford to spend too much time on this, I simply followed the basic sweet dough recipe from the same book and added in 1 tablespoon of green tea powder. I didn't know whether this would affect the outcome of the bread, but since the ingredients to be used are relatively cheap and available, I felt I could take the risk without much regret!

I left the bread machine to do the kneading and let the dough rise at room temperature. Shaping the dough was quite easy, as I made most of them into round buns. I also tried adding sesame seeds on a few buns just to have some variation.

Then, I attempted to make a few twisted buns. The effect was not very nice though...this is the best out of the 3 that I did ;)

The buns turned out to be rather soft...although I couldn't taste the green tea flavour; and the red bean paste was slightly too sweet for my liking.

This is one of the better photos I have taken so far. I like the effect of the rounded bun and how it stand out from those buns at the background =)

Note: The buns didn't taste good after leaving them overnight. Had to warm them before serving...otherwise the bread tasted a little dense and "doughy". Not sure whether it was due to the green tea powder or the red bean paste?? Will remove the recipe which I had posted here yesterday.

I received a few requests for this green tea buns recipe be posted, despite the fact that I wasn't sure why the bread didn't keep well. I have now posted the recipe below so as not to disappoint those who are keen to give it a try.

(makes about 9 buns)

330g bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon milk powder
60g caster sugar
120ml water
10g instant yeast
1 egg
40g butter
1 tablespoon green tea powder
some red bean paste for filling
some white sesame seeds

  1. Place water, egg, butter, followed by caster sugar, salt, bread flour, milk powder, green tea powder and yeast into the pan of the bread machine. Set to Dough function.
  2. When the machine completes the kneading cycle (20mins) remove dough from the bread pan, let it proof in room temperature in a mixing bowl, covered with cling wrap. Allow the dough to proof for 60 mins or until double in bulk. Alternatively, you can leave the machine to complete the full Dough cycle (knead and proofing) which takes 1hr 30mins.
  3. Take out the dough and punch out the gas produced. Divide the dough into 50g portions. Shape into rounds and let rest for about 10 mins.
  4. Flatten rounds and add fillings as desired. Shape into rounds or as desired. Arrange dough in a greased or lined pan or use paper liners. Let rest for about another 30 mins. If desired, top doughs with sesame seeds. Bake for about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degC.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Strawberry Mango Cake

Made this birthday cake for one of my extended family members. It's her birthday today. It's gonna be a very special day, since it's 07-07-07 today!

Well, this is only the 3rd birthday cake I've made since I started my baking journey last August, and it's the very first time I made this for someone outside my immediate family. I didn't inform the birthday girl that I'll be making her a cake until the very last minute...just before the cake was ready to pack and I wasn't very confident how the cake would turn out, I thought, if it's not too presentable, I will have to keep it for our own consumption ;)

This is actually a simple 3-layer sponge cake. I used whipped cream and fresh mango as fillings, and decorated the cake top with strawberries. Don't ask me how could strawberries go well with mango?? The true is, I don't know how to decorate a cake with mango slices, haha! Since I am also not good at frosting a cake, the best way is to use the strawberries to cover up the entire cake top and those ready-made sponge fingers (or ladies fingers) are great to hide the uneven frosting at the sides ;)

Here's how the cake came about:

I used the same sponge cake recipe which I have been using where 4 eggs are beaten with sugar & some salt. It is important to leave the eggs at room temperature before beating. I'm not sure why, but I think the eggs are easier to whip at room temperature. By the way, this photo was taken with my left hand holding the mixer and the right hand holding the camera.

Beat the egg mixture at the highest speed of your electric mixer...and it'll probably take about 8 ~ 10 mins to reach the ribbon-like stage. Can you see the "ribbon" formed on the batter?

Fold-in the sieved flour this by lifting the batter with a spatula from the bottom of the bowl and turning the bowl at the same's kind of hard to describe this part...just make sure not to deflate the batter too much. The batter will look a little lumpy at this stage.

Pour out about a third of the batter and mix it in a separate bowl with the salad oil. Then combine the mixture with the remaining batter. This method helps to prevent the batter from being deflated too much when you mix a denser liquid like oil with the batter. This is how the batter looks like when the salad oil and then milk are added. The mixture should look smooth now.

Pour batter into an 8-inch prepared pan (lined with parchment paper) and it should be about 70% full. Slightly lift up the pan and gently give it a few "bangs" on the table. This will help to release some of the air bubbles trapped in the batter.

It's so interesting to see how the cake bakes in the oven. If you stand in front of the oven long enough, you will notice that there are actually 3 distinct stages of the baking cycle. During the initial baking time, the batter will appear to sink in the middle of the cake pan. Subsequently, it will inflate and rise up above the baking pan (as shown in this photo). Eventually, when the cake is almost done, it will shrink back to the height of the cake pan. Interesting, isn't it??

Here's the sponge cake that was baked to a nice golden brown.

I read from somewhere that the cake should be cooled inverted. This way, the top of the cake will be very even.

It's so satisfying to look at a nice, evenly baked sponge cake. I thought it looks good enough to be eaten plain.

Here's how I filled up the layers with non-dairy whipping cream and fresh mango slices. This was done quite I knew I could cover up whatever mess with the sponge fingers ;p

Finally, after lining-up the ring of sponge fingers, I covered the top with strawberries. These strawberries are quite a result, the cake was a little too tall for the cake box I bought...I couldn't even close it properly :( I got to secure the sponge fingers with a ribbon as I was quite sure they would fall apart during the delivery. Fortunately, the cake was delivered to the birthday gal in good condition.

As I won't get a chance to have a piece of this cake, it sets me wondering how this 'strange' combination will taste like?! I just hope it will not taste too odd to have strawberries, mango, sponge layer and the ladies fingers all in one slice of cake =)

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Milo Doggies Cookies

When my friend told me she has experimented baking a Milo version of the Horlicks Doggies Cookies, I was real curious to know how the Milo ones would taste like.

Naturally, the first thing I did once I got back to my normal routine, was to bake a batch of these cute morsels. I followed the original recipe closely, the only change I made was to replace the horlicks with equal amount of Milo powder. The dough was as soft as the original recipe. I could shape the cookies easily, and was able to complete the batch at a much shorter time as compared to my first few attempts :)

Taste wise, the Milo cookies are equally crunchy as the horlicks version, in fact, I find them richer in taste. My boys were very eager to try them as I've used the new Koko Krunch duo for the ears.

This new range of Koko Krunch has got both dark chocolate (the usual ones) and white chocolate flavours in a pack. However, the effect was not very good for those doggies with white ears...they looked rather strange, don't you think so?