Sunday, 27 July 2008

Garlic Buns

I just did a check on my blog archive.

I am so surprised to know that it was 9 months ago since I last made bread buns! Ever since my younger boy developed this 'special liking' for square sandwich bread, I have been making loaves after loaves of breads.

I finally got to make some Garlic Buns a few days back. I picked up this recipe as it yields only 6 buns, which is just right for us since we are down to the three of us for the next couple of weeks.

From the photo, these tasty buns look almost like mini baguettes with a hard crisp crust. In reality, they taste just like soft dinner rolls.

As usual, I left the bread machine to knead the dough so that I would be free to go about doing other chores. This is one great use of the bread machine, I guess it is even better than kneading with a standing mixer, as I am quite sure I wouldn't leave the mixer alone to do the kneading. To cut down on the electricity bill, I left the dough to rise in room temperature. I was glad that the dough rose beautifully within the required time. I then had fun shaping the doughs. This is the first time I have tried shaping doughs into longish or the torpedo shape, and I didn't do a good job. Yet, the most difficult part I discovered was making a slit on each dough after the second proofing. Since I do not have any razor sharp knives at home (you'll be surprised, my knives are only good enough to slice tofu!), it was a challenge trying to make a nice clean slit. Fortunately, the slits were later filled with garlic spread, the finished buns didn't look too bad ;)

(makes 6 buns)

150g bread flour
50g cake flour
15g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
130g milk
15g unsalted butter

30g butter, soften room temperature
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped)
1 tsp dried parsley

  1. Place all ingredients except the butter in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. After about 8mins of kneading (the ingredients should form a smooth dough by now), add in the 15g of butter. Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 10mins.
  2. Stop the machine and remove dough from the bread pan. Shape the dough into a smooth round and place in a mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it rise till double in volume for about 80mins.
  3. Remove dough and give a few light kneading on a lightly floured work surface. Press out the trapped air as your knead. Divide into 6 equal portions and shape into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let the doughs rest for 15mins.
  4. Flatten each dough into a round disc. Roll up Swiss roll style and pinch the seams in place. Roll the dough on work surface to shape it into a longish oval shape or torpedo shape.
  5. Place doughs seams side down on a baking tray, lined with parchment paper. Loosely cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let dough proof for 30mins.
  6. Prepare filling by mixing butter, garlic and parsley to form a smooth paste.
  7. Brush each dough with egg wash. With a sharp knife, make a slit lengthwise on each dough. Pipe fillings on each slit.
  8. Bake at preheated oven at 180 degC for about 12-15 mins. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack
Recipe adapted from 孟老师的100道面包

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Homemade Banana Chocolate Jam

I never thought I would ever attempt to make my own jam. There is never a need since I could get ready-made ones easily and there has never been an occasion where I have abundance of fruits in my kitchen. I did tried to make some kaya jam sometime back, after seeing how other foodies have success in making their own. Mine didn't turn out as expected, in fact, it was a total flop. Ever since then, I have put off the idea of making any jam of any sorts. Furthermore, I always thought that making your own jam would be a very tedious task to accomplish, and when it comes to choosing the type of jam to make, I couldn't think further than the usual jams made with berries. My perceptions of homemade jam changed after I pick up this little cookbook.

Written by the owner of this Japanese confectionery, the author has included many fascinating jam recipes in her book. Besides apples, oranges and apricots, there are also recipes using fruits such as rhubarb, pumpkins, kiwi fruits, lychee and even bananas. The recipes do not require the use of any pectin sugar to help the jams to set. I guess it's the clever pairing of fruits that makes this possible. The book has convinced me that the steps involved in jam making are really not that difficult. I particularly like the small amount of ingredients required for each recipe, yielding small portions of finished jams, the amount is just right for our small family as I wouldn't want to make jars and jars of jams that would last me for years.

This first recipe I tried was this this jar of Banana & Chocolate jam. The ingredients are easily available and I really love the idea of having both my favourites from the same jar. The whole process didn't take me longer than half an hour as the cooking time was indeed very short. I followed the tips given by my friend VB to go about sterilising my recycled jam jars. It is pretty much similar to the steps outlined here.

The finished jam tasted yumilious! I've used dark chocolates with a 64% cocoa content, but I do find it just a tiny bit on the sweet side, especially whenever I slurped up one spoonful of it ;) I won't complain too much as I believe, or rather, I would want to make myself believe that most of the sweetness comes from the tiny bits of bananas. The jam works really well on slices of toast bread, I bet it would taste fabulous with crackers, as toppings for pancakes or crepes. I might even swirl some into muffins batters, but I really doubt I would have any left for that.

(yields 380ml of jam)

300g bananas (about 3 large very riped ones)
80g dark chocolate (coarsely chopped)
20ml rum (optional)
100ml water (room temperature)
210g caster sugar*


  1. Thinly slice banana, about 1mm thickness.
  2. Place sliced bananas in a bowl, add water and caster sugar. Mix well. Transfer to a pot or a large saucepan.
  3. On medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (where the bubbles do not stop or lessen when you stir it). Once the mixture starts to boil, skim away any excessive foams or bubbles, stirring constantly all the time.
  4. Keep at a rolling boil for another 2 ~ 3 mins, stirring constantly till the mixture becomes clearer and brighter.
  5. Add in dark chocolates, mix well and bring it back to boil. Remove from heat immediately, stir in rum if using. The jam will be a little runny when hot but the consistency will be just right after it has cool off.
  6. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilised jars leaving a gap of about 1~2cm from the top. (Since I do not have an appropriate ladle or funnel, I poured the jam into my measuring cup before filling the jars. The sprout on the cup helps easy and clean filling.) Secure lids. Let cool. Jam will keep up to 3 months if stored in fridge or in a cool, dark cupboard. Once opened, store in fridge and best consumed within 1 week.

    Recipe source: adapted from 鲜美果酱轻松做! by Romi Igarashi
Note: *Do not reduce the sugar, as the amount is required to preserve the jam.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Lemon & Lavender Cookies

I first saw this plant during our recent vacation. The purple flowers looked like miniature pineapples. I was totally clueless what it was. Even though I was curious, some how I didn't make an attempt to find out the name of the plant. It was only a few days later, while browsing a gardening book on growing herbs, that I learned that it's actually a type of lavender. Since the book is written in Chinese, I couldn't figure out the name in English. Until I saw several pots of these plants on the flower stands outside a local supermarket...the tags say "Spanish Lavenders".

On several occasions, I have noticed these shrubs with long green stalks with small purplish flowers on them. It was only during this trip that I realised they are actually lavenders. I can't tell which species it belongs to...but the flowers do look like those common lavenders or also known as the English lavenders.

I was given a packet of dried lavenders, among several other goodies, from my friend VB. It was really very kind and thoughtful of her as I vaguely remembered I have mentioned that these are not easily available here. At least for me, I would have to make a special trip just to get them.

It was almost a year ago since I first saw Mandy's Lavender Sables. Even though I have received the dried lavenders a few months back, I only managed to use them to make a batch of cookies this week.

I guess I didn't measure the amount of flour correctly...the cookie dough was rather sticky and wet. I managed to shape it into logs and left them to chill over night. When I was ready to bake them, I simply couldn't slice the dough into nice kept tearing apart the minute I lift up the knife. It got worst when the dough slowly came back to room temperature. After struggling for a while, I gave up and gathered the messy doughs into a round disc...roll it out between two sheets of baking paper and pop it into the freezer. Half an hour later, I took out the dough and used a cutter to stamp out small heart-shaped cookie doughs. Even then, I had to work very fast, as the dough gets softer and softer as the clock ticks away.

These sables or French butter cookies turned out to be very flavoursome...very buttery with a hint of lemon and lavender. The recipe yields rather delicate and crumbly cookies that almost melts in your mouth. The fragrance from the lavender was not overpowering, at least my fear of biting into something that reminds me of shampoo or soap was proved to be unfounded. My boys, especially the younger one, love the cookies. Since this is the first time I have tasted lavender, I have yet to acquire the taste for it. I don't dislike it, neither have I fallen in love with it. Nevertheless, I couldn't resist treating myself with at least two cookies each time I pass by the kitchen counter :)


7 ounces (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender
zest from one lemon
1.5 cups & 1.5 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch


  1. Sift flour and cornstarch, set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until smooth, add icing sugar and beat until well blended.
  3. Beat in the egg yolk, followed by salt, dried lavender and lemon zest.
  4. Add the flour mixture and blend with a spatula. Mix just until flour is incorporated.
  5. Gather dough to form a ball, divide in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes in refrigerator.
  6. Form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4" in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill dough for at least 2 hours in refrigerator or leave overnite. (Dough logs can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in freezer for up to 1 month.)
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 170 degC. Once the oven is ready, slice the log into 1/4" thick and place on a lined baking sheet with 1/2" interval.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the cookies are set but not brown. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.

    Recipe source: from here.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cooking with Rosemary again

During my recent trip to the San Francisco bay area, I brought home a bunch of home grown fresh rosemary. I was just trying my luck to see whether they would survive the long journey back. I wrapped them with kitchen paper towel before sealing them in a ziplock bag. I was glad that they made it...they even managed to stay fresh for more than 3 weeks. I planted a few sprigs into a pot of soil, I just hope they will root someday.

This first thing I made with the rosemary was a loaf of Wholemeal Rosemary Focaccia. I used the same focaccia recipe that I made previously. The only change I made was to replace half of the bread flour with wholemeal flour. This flat bread turned out to be very tasty especially with the enhanced texture from the wholemeal flour.

The next dish I tried was pan-fried Lemon & Rosemary Fillets. I seasoned the catfish fillets with some lemon juice, finely chopped garlic and rosemary, some salt and freshly grounded lemon pepper. It was my first attempt at pan-frying a fish fillet. I was real lucky that day, as the fillets didn't break into thousand pieces since I didn't use a non-stick pan, and on top of that I just couldn't kick the bad habit of turning a pan-fried fish several times while it is in the wok ;)

Another of my first attempt with the rosemary...roasting a whole chicken. It was the first time I have ever bought a whole chicken, and that is after 2 years of cooking at home. I find it such a gruesome task having to clean the cavity of the chicken!

I followed some of the steps as written in Jamie Oliver's Roast chicken and potatoes recipe, however I didn't use exactly the same ingredients to marinate the chicken. Instead I rubbed the whole chicken with a combination of finely chopped rosemary, salt, ground pepper, lemon zest and some mixed herbs. I thoroughly enjoyed the rich aroma from the chicken while it was roasting away...the lovely fragrance of the rosemary and lemon combo was simply awesome. The chicken meat was very flavourful and juicy, even the chicken breast was passable, not too dry as I would expect.

The next thing I will love to try my hands on would be a rosemary potato pizza!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Blueberry Tart

During our usual weekend grocery shopping, I bought a pack of blueberries which was on discount. This is not the first time I bought fresh blueberries, but it seems such a small pack now...especially compared to the 1 lb (more than 500g) pack we bought from Costco (a wholesale club) when we were in the States.

Although blueberries have got very high antioxidant activity, we don't really enjoy eating them plain, unlike strawberries. So, I use them to make a fruit tart.

This photo was created using the dumpr site's 'amazing circle' effect. I was surprised that the orange peels which I placed in the centre of the tart has now been transformed into the circumference. How interesting!

I followed a tart recipe which is quite similar to the peach tart I made previously. Although the original recipe is meant for a strawberry tart, I went ahead with it as I prefer frangipane fillings over a custard one. However, I was quite disappointed with the amount of fillings was too little for me! I would have to double the portion for the fillings or follow the recipe under this Triple Almond Tart, the next time I make this.

Instead of making some strawberry jam as called for in the recipe, I slabbed the tart surface with a layer of Smucker's blueberry jam before topping it with blueberries. I never knew that it could be a tiring business to arrange the blueberries one by one! It was a good thing that I used this brand of jam (my favourite) I could use one or two berries from the jam to double up as fresh fill up the missing gaps ;)

This tart proved to be a good way to get the kids to eat the blueberries fresh. The sweetness from the jam made up for the slight tangy taste of the berries. I love the pastry crust most.

(makes one 18cm tart)

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

2 teaspoons cake flour
40g almond powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
30g unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
2 tablespoons (30g) lightly beaten egg
1 teaspoon Rum (I replaced it with vanilla extract)
some blueberry jam
some fresh blueberries
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 powder, set aside.
  4. With a manual whisk, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  5. Dribble in the egg, whisk and mix well.
  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 pastry 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.
  9. Chill the moulded pastry in the fridge for 20mins. (This helps to prevent the pastry from shrinking too much after baking.)
  10. Use a fork to poke holes on the pastry surface. Brush the top of the rim with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degC for 10~12 mins until the edges turned 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 almond powder. Fold with a spatula till well incorporated. Sieve over the flour onto the mixture. Mix with a spatula. Add in rum (or vanilla extract) and mix well.
  13. Spread the filling onto the cooled pastry base. Ensure that the edges are filled up. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 15~20 mins, until the edges and filling turn golden brown. Let cool.
  14. Spread a layer of blueberry jam on the tart surface. Arrange blueberries on top and dust lightly with icing sugar. Serve on the day it is made, keep in fridge if left overnite.
Recipe Source: adapted from Delicious!! Baked Cakes, Ikuko Omori

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Baking is Fun

Those were some baking supplies I bought during my recent trip to the San Francisco Bay area.

After having ramen at a Japanese restaurant in Mountain View, we spent the rest of the evening shopping at the Whole Foods Market. While the others wondered around aimlessly, I headed for the baking supplies section. I was so delighted to find bottles of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla extract. I have read so much about what a great difference it would make if a good quality pure vanilla extract is used in your bakes. I had even planned to ordered it online. Since the price of a 4oz bottle was the same as the one quoted online, I grabbed a bottle and placed it in the basket.

Further down the aisle, I spotted cans of Ghirardelli cocoa powder. As much as I would like to try using Dutch processed cocoa powder, there were only natural ones on the shelves. I have no luck in getting any valrhona cocoa powder either. Since a can of Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder was selling at a much cheaper price compared to what I would have to pay here, I took a can with only a very slight hesitation...that few seconds were spent convincing myself that there would be space for it in our already filled to the brim luggage bags.

On the last day of our vacation, we managed to find our way to a Trader Joe's store nearby. I got a bottle of garlic lemon that comes with a grinder and two bars of Belgian baking chocolate. It was only while taking photos of the items that I realised they have got 100% cocoa content. Now, I really do not have any idea what to use them for? I wonder whether it will be too bitter??

Besides the baking ingredients, while shopping at the local supermarts and retail stores, I got myself a set of measuring cups for dry ingredients (so that I don't have to do any conversion for ingredients that are measured in cups), a heat-proof spatula (I was in the "I Must Get Something!" mood) and I searched high and low before I finally found the lemon zester!

I love shopping at the local supermarkets and grocery stores in fact, it was one of our favourite pastimes during our short stay in the LA area many years ago. There's space enough for two trolleys to pass thru without the danger of bumping into one other. We could spend hours drooling over the vast varieties of junk foods that are available on the shelves ;) Some of the food items are so much get two tubs of Ben & Jerry's for less than S$8!

It's good to be able to get back to my baking routine after a long break. This is the first cake I baked when the school term resumed. This is a truly flourless cake. Yes, zero flour content and no other dry ingredients such as almond powder or cocoa powder...just dark chocolates, butter, eggs and sugar...and some icing sugar or cocoa powder for dusting on the final product. It was awfully chocolaty, with a texture that was moist, smooth and velvety. The only fault I could find was that the amount of ingredients use is quite little, resulting in a much too thin will never get satisfied with just one slice. I am sorry I won't be able to post the recipe of this Chocolate Souffle Cake (due to copyright issues), however, I will look out for similar recipes to try out and hopefully will be able to find something close.

Since I can't post the recipe, I will like to share with you some wonderful things you could do with your photos. It was only last week that I stumbled across this site by chance. I have since been hooked, playing around with the various fun 'toys' which are available for free..the best part is, there is no extra steps of downloading any software (which often puts me off). I tried the Rubik's Cube tool, and was very surprised at how good the effect turn out.

with the same photo I try it on this...

...the outcome really makes me tickles ;p

Have Fun!!