Thursday, 28 May 2009

Oven Roasted Chicken

Besides baking, I bought an oven 3 years ago with the intention to use it to for roasting. However, it took me much longer before I attempted to roast a whole chicken! I used to think that it must be a very mind boggling task to roast a chicken, mainly because I am not familiar with herbs and spices. I am glad that I have since uncovered my myth about roasting and even learned a thing or two about cooking with herbs. Ever since the first trial, this Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary has became a regular dish on our dinning table.

I adapted several recipes, although I followed quite closely to Jamie Oliver's version, and came up with one that uses ingredients which I always have on hand or are readily available from the supermarket shelves. Even though I would prefer to use fresh rosemary, on several occasions I have replaced it with dried ones, it works just as fine.

I love any kind of potatoes. So, I will not miss the chance to roast some potatoes alongside the chicken. I have experimented with Russet potatoes as well as the usual yellow potatoes commonly available at the local wet markets. Both taste great to me, but if you like very fluffy potatoes, then go for Russets. The potatoes are first boiled with a whole lemon till they are tender. They are then tossed with some simple seasonings before layering them in a roasting pan. This layer of potatoes also serves as a 'rack' for the chicken. The hot lemon is stabbed several times before it goes inside the cavity of the chicken.

The roasting time can be pretty long, my oven usually takes at least 90 mins or longer before the chicken is done. I shouldn't be complaining as I pretty much enjoy the aroma created by a chicken roasting in the oven...which is infused with the fragrant lemon-pine flavour of the rosemary and a subtle presence of lemon. This roast chicken is full of flavours, deliciously tender and juicy, even the breast meat tastes good to me. The best part has to be the crackly crispy skin, which my elder one would always save for the last ;)

Lemon and Rosemary Roast Chicken


1 medium-size chicken
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly grounded black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 teaspoons fresh, finely chopped rosemary (or use 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1/2 kg potatoes
1 lemon


Grate zest of the lemon in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, mixed herbs, rosemary and mix well. Set aside.

Wash, clean and pat the chicken dry (very dry) with paper towels all over, including the cavity. Rub the seasoning mixture over the chicken and inside the cavity. With fingertips, gently separate the skin from the meat of the chicken breast and push some seasoning mixture under the skin. Leave the chicken to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Remove chicken from fridge and let it rest in room temperature for at least 30 mins so that it will cook evenly. Brush melted butter (or olive oil) all over the chicken.

Peel and cut the potatoes into halves or quarters. Put them into a pot of water with a pinch of salt together with the whole lemon. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute. Return the potatoes to the same pot. Toss the potatoes with some salt, freshly grounded black pepper and a little olive oil. Do this while the potatoes are still hot so their outsides get chuffed up and fluffy.

While the lemon is still hot, carefully pierce it with the tip of a sharp knife about 10 times. Stuff the lemon inside the cavity of the chicken.

Put the potatoes in a roasting pan. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken and place it breast side up, on the potatoes. Cook in preheated oven at 200 degC for around 40 - 45 minutes or until the skin is nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and roast for a further 30 minutes or until the skin is browned. Turn the chicken breast side up again and roast for another 10 - 15 mins until the chicken is done and the potatoes are nice and golden. To test whether the chicken is done, pierce the tip of a knife near the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. The juices should run clear (not pink), if it is still pink, cook the chicken a little longer. Carefully remove the lemon from the cavity. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to settle and the chicken will be much more succulent.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Wholemeal Banana Tart

My elder son can swim far better than his brother, but when it comes to running, he is not better off than me. He went for his 'long-distance' run early this morning. It was part of his school's annual physical fitness test. Although it was only 1.6 km, to him, who has got a pair of elephant's legs, is almost equivalent to a mini-marathon ;)

In order to give him an extra boost of energy, I made something with banana for his breakfast today.

I have planned to make a banana tart using the same old Peach Tart recipe. However, when I was gathering the necessary ingredients, I realised that I have ran out of ground almond. I was not prepared to get out of the house to buy a pack of ground almond, and neither was I keen to bake a banana cake. So I looked around for a suitable substitute...and when I spotted the pack of wholemeal flour, I knew instantly that my problem was solved.

I was a little hesitant to use the wholemeal flour for the pastry base, my main concern was whether the pastry would be able to form a dough or hold it's shape. But I went ahead and gave it a go. Lady Luck was with me, the pastry dough was not very much different from the usual ones using ground almond. I was also surprised that even without the almond, the finished tart shell was emitting a nice buttery aroma when it was cooling on the rack.

This Wholemeal Banana Tart is not as pleasing to the eyes as compared to the lovely Peach Tart. The banana slices turned black upon baking, no amount of icing sugar could cover up the undesired appearance :'(

Nevertheless, it smells and tastes really really delicious. I love the nutty texture of wholemeal flour, although the filling was slightly sweet due to the generous amount of bananas I have added to the filling. My kids have no complaints though. The tart shell was crisp on the day it was baked, sadly, it softened when left over night, I wonder whether the mashed banana was the main culprit?

My boy clocked in 10min 4sec for his run which is 1.5mins faster than his usual timing. No, I won't attribute it to this tart, I think it was his determination and the set of goals that he had set that made him pushed himself to his limit. It is my wish to see him having the same zeal in everything he does.

Wholemeal Banana Tart

(makes one 18cm tart)

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

60g unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
50g brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
80g wholemeal flour
10g flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, mashed

2 bananas, thinly sliced (optional)
icing sugar for dusting (optional)

    Pastry base:
  1. Lightly grease an 18cm tart pan, set aside. Sieve flour and set aside.
  2. With a manual whisk, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the egg gradually, whisking the batter till well mixed each time the egg is added.
  4. With a spatula, fold in the wholemeal flour.
  5. Sieve over the flour in 2 to 3 additions into the batter. Fold the mixture gently with the spatula. Gather and form the pastry into a round ball.
  6. Roll out the pastry in between 2 plastic sheets or baking paper to about 23cm in diameter.
  7. Remove one side of the plastic sheet. Carefully turn/flip the pastry and 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 before rolling.
  8. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 20mins. (This is to prevent the pastry from shrinking upon baking.)
  9. Use a fork to poke holes on the pastry. Brush the top of the rim with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 10 ~12mins until the edges are slightly browned. Let cool completely.
  10. filling:
  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 wholemeal flour and the plain flour. Fold with a spatula till well incorporated. Add in vanilla extract followed by the mashed banana, mix well.
  13. Spread the filling onto the cooled pastry base. Ensure that the edges are filled up. Line with banana slices (optional). 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 (optional).

    Recipe Source: Delicious!! Baked Cakes, Ikuko Omori

Monday, 18 May 2009

When a fruit is not a fruit

Although both my boys do eat their greens and fruits, each of them has developed a special dislike for a particular type of vegetables or fruits. For example, my elder son loves bitter gourd, while his brother would not eat a tiny portion without screaming 'yucky!' all the way. On the other hand, the younger fellow enjoys the sensation of a juicy cherry tomato bursting in his mouth, the elder boy would always eat it with a huge frown spreading across his brow. Both hate celery and yet would fight for the last slice of Japanese cucumber on the plate.

A couple of months ago, during dinner, when my elder child realised that there were some cherry tomatoes scattered over the bowl of salad, as if to justify his dislike for this fruit, he said with a disgust in his voice, "Mah...mmmyyy, do you know that when we eat tomatoes, we are actually eating the ovaries of the plant?!" I was totally taken aback by that statement, and it really made me paused for a few seconds before I popped one of those juicy fruits inside my mouth ;) You see, it happened that on that day, he learned in class about the reproductive system of a flowering plant. During my time, this topic was only covered when I was in secondary school, but nowadays, the kids are taught way in advance! Indeed, fruits are actually the matured ovaries of plants. However, who will usually associate this 'biological fact' in our daily lives?!

Last week, as usual, at the eleventh hour before his Science exam the next day, I sat down with my boy to go through the subject. Having mastered the 'skills' of passing so many exams over the earlier part of my life, I advised him wisely that it would be important to know the similarities and differences between the functions of the ovary of a plant to that of the human body. Yes, they study the human reproductive system at Primary 5 (equivalent to a 5th grade)! We gained a common understanding that the ovary of a plant protects the ovules (further developed into seeds) as it develops into a fruit, whereas in a human body, the foetus is protected by the uterus. He then asked me, "So, what about strawberries?"

"Strawberries have got seeds on the outside of the fruit, and so, how does fertilisation take place?" he asked me, hoping to get an instant answer. "Oh yes, the strawberries are certainly not doing their jobs to protect the seeds!" I said. I told him, I don't have the answer, so it is best to find out. Thanks to the www, we cleared our doubts with just a few clicks.

It was really interesting to discover that strawberries are technically false fruits! The tiny 'specks' on the outer surface are actually matured ovaries or true fruits. Each single speck or "achene", as they are called, contains a seed that is enclosed and fused by the ovary wall, making it a fruit! The red, fleshy part is actually the enlarged receptacle or the end of the stem on which the flower is borne.

Can you imagine how many 'strawberry fruits' are there on this tart?!

As a bonus, we also learned that by definition, the individual grains of wheat and rice are also technically fruits! It has never been a surprise that I can always learn something new through my kids ;)

Friday, 8 May 2009

手做的幸福2 (Homemade Bread)

续上回手做的圆面包, 这次又动手做这款白土司面包。

'愛上做面包' 的作者, 德永久美子称它为英国面包, 也许是因为烤好的土司有一层香脆的外皮吧, 就像一般的欧式面包, 有如 Farmhouse White Loaf。我非常喜欢欧式country-style面包, 由其是法国面包。可是我还没找到勇气在家里制作! 为了让这个土司看起来有多一份乡村风味,我在第二次发酵前撒上少许面粉(有一点画蛇添足hor?!)。

As a follow-up to my previous attempts on making plain crusty bread rolls, I made another loaf from the same cookbook. This 'English Bread' has got a nice crisp crust while the crumbs is soft, almost similar to a farmhouse white loaf. Although it is not called for in the recipe, I dusted the surface with some flour to give it a rustic look :)

使用双手揉面团的好处是能感觉面团的湿度,太干就加一点点水,太湿就撒点面粉。感觉上这面团还蛮容易搓揉,不怎么黏手,可能是我用另一个牌子的面粉吧?? 还是它的油份很低?? 这个Gold Medal, Better for Bread Flour,似乎有比较高的'吸水力',它的蛋白质含量也比较高, 所以产生的筋度也比较大,做出来的面包具有弹性与嚼感,很适合烤欧式面包。所以说angmo面包还是用angmo面粉比较好?! 虽然这个牌子的价格表面上看起来似乎较昂贵,可是它是两公斤装,算算看其实贵不到那里去。

Whenever I have the time to spare, I will prefer to knead the dough by hand. This way, I will be able to get a feel of the texture, whether the dough is too wet or too dry. Some recipes will yield very wet and sticky doughs whiles others will give tougher, tenser ones. By having a feel of the texture while kneading, I will be able to co-relate it with the finished loaf, and hence, provide a better review of the recipe.

I wonder whether it was the type of flour I had used, this dough was rather easy to knead as it hardly sticked to the work surface. For this loaf, I used Gold Medal's Better for Bread Flour, which is a stronger flour with a higher protein level. It is only slightly more expensive than the usual brand I use, but I believe it gives a better flavour to the bread, and I would think it is very suitable for making rustic, country-style type of bread.

面包在炉里还没烤好就传来一阵阵熟悉的面包香, 不是那种香浓的奶油香,而是发自面粉和酵母的一股淡淡的酒香,闻起来真会另人感到很温馨很幸福 ;)

There is nothing more delightful than to have a kitchen filled with a wonderful aroma of freshly homemade bread baking in the oven ;)

烤好的土司外层香脆,里边却是松软的。因为用本色(unbleached)面粉的关系,面包也和面粉一样有点泛黄。它的口感会比较扎实, 有弹性, 没有软式面包'拉丝'般的柔软, 有点类似欧美面包却又没那么有嚼劲。

I like how the bread turned out...with a lovely crusty crust while the inside remain soft. The crumb has got a nice texture, not cottony soft and yet not overly dense or heavy.

吃之前放进面包烘烤机, 烤一烤, 涂上牛油或果酱, 再配上一杯热腾腾的浓咖啡就是一顿丰富的早餐! 还是那句老话...简单就是一种幸福。

My all time favourite breakfast...a cup of freshly brewed coffee, along with a slice of toasted bread :)

又: 这是第二次尝试用中文书写, 文笔钝拙, 用了好多照片, 就像平时用英文书写一样, 整编文章有如儿子的看图作文, 哈哈哈 ;')

English Bread

(makes one 7.5"x4"x4" loaf)

300g bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
30ml (2 tablespoons) milk
180ml lukewarm water (about 30 degC)
10g butter, soften at room temperature

  1. Mix milk and water.
  2. Stir bread flour, caster sugar, salt, and instant yeast in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add in milk mixture. Mix the ingredients with hand and slowly form into a dough.
  4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 20 mins. Do the window pane test: pinch a small piece of the dough, pull and stretch it. It should be elastic, and can be pulled away into a thin membrane without tearing/breaking apart. Wrap the butter in the dough and continue to knead until the butter fully incorporates into the dough.
  5. Place dough in a lightly greased (with vegetable oil) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Smooth into round, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let it rise for another 20mins.
  7. Divide dough into 2 equal portions, about 265g each. Roll into rounds. Cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 15 - 20mins.
  8. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough into a round disc, roll the dough from the centre to the edges until the diameter is about 9". Flip the dough over. Fold the dough 1/3 from the left side towards the centre. Fold over 1/3 from the right side, to form a long rectangle (about 9" x 3"). Starting from the shorter end roll up swiss-roll style. Pinch and seal the seams. Place the two doughs, seam side down, in a well greased pullman tin. (See illustrations below). Dust the surface of the dough with some flour (optional). Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 40 ~ 50mins, or until double in size, or when the dough has almost reached the rim of the tin.
  9. Bake in pre-heated oven at 190 - 200 deg C for 30-35 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven, unmold immediately and let cool completely before slicing.
Recipe source:adapted from 爱上做面包, 德永久美子

Monday, 4 May 2009

Tiramisu Charlotte Cake

I spent the first twenty years of my life without celebrating my birthdays. There were no parties and no birthday cakes.

When I was still very young, I used to envy my friends and classmates whenever they showed me photos of them when they were barely toddlers...standing behind a birthday cake. No, don't get me wrong, even without any birthday parties, I had a wonderful childhood...I would even think I am way better off as compared to my kids. I spent most of my time playing as we had so much free time. School homework were unheard of during those days and there were no such things as enrichment classes! My childhood days were fully enriched with the time spent at the playgrounds and the fields :)

I probably had two or three birthday cakes for the subsequent 10 to 18 years of my life. My friends bought me my first birthday cake. I remembered it was an ice cream cake from Swensons.

It was only after I embarked on my baking journey that I started having birthday cakes on a regular basis. That's because I made the cakes myself ;) It was with mixed feelings that I made my first birthday cake. The excitement worn off when I attempted the second one. This year, I only decided to make a cake just so that I could use it as an opportunity to test out the tiramisu torte recipe again. Yes, the previous two attempts were not as satisfactory...the cakes were delicious...the only thing was, the sponge cake layers floated above the cheese fillings!!

I made this Tiramisu Charlotte Cake this year. This must be the most presentable cake I have ever made, or rather, I have ever had on my birthday. I have always wanted to make a pretty and very very girlish cake. I guess my wish had finally came true...and you will be surprised at how easy this can be accomplished.

I decided at the last minute not to go back to the same tiramisu recipe which I had attempted twice. I didn't want to go through the hassles of making the sponge cake layers and the zabaglione. I googled using the key words 'easy tiramisu' and out came this video clip of Gorden Ramsey whipping up an awesome version of this Italian dessert. Then, I searched using another set of key words 'tiramisu birthday cake' and I was brought to several blogs featuring a tiramisu cake recipe by Dorie Greenspan, it looks 'simple' enough as it also doesn't require making the zabaglione. With my past two hands-on experience with making tiramisu, I tried to mix and match the two recipes and came out with my own version.

There is no baking required as I used store-bought sponge fingers. It was really a time-saver. Although I have not tried making any homemade sponge fingers, I would think these ready-made ones are not anyway less inferior in taste, and that was base on the fact that both my kids actually save the sponge fingers for the last! In case you ask, I used this brand (Vicenzi) of sponge fingers, and for the locals, you can get it from Carrefour or Cold Storage. It comes in a pack of 24 sponge fingers, and the quantity is just enough for this cake.

To me, the most tricky part of putting together a tiramisu cake is the timing to dip the sponge fingers in the espresso syrup. It has to be done within one second so that they will not get soggy. I accidentally dropped the first sponge finger into the espresso syrup and it was totally soaked within a few seconds.

It was a fabulous cake, rich and finger-licking good. It certainly picked-me-up especially on a day when I have to unwilling acknowledge and accept my advancing years ;)

Tiramisu Charlotte Cake

(makes a 7" cake)

Espresso Syrup:
1 tablespoon instant espresso/ strong coffee powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon Marsala (I used Baileys Irish Cream)

250g mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons Marsala (I used Baileys Irish Cream)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy/whipping cream

about 24 sponge fingers (savoiardi)
50g dark chocolate

cocoa powder, to dust
dark and white chocolate shavings (optional)
strawberries for decoration (optional)


To make the Espresso Syrup:
Dissolve instant espresso coffee powder, sugar in boiling water. Leave to cool. Stir in 1 tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream. Set aside.

To make the Filling:
In a mixing bowl, with a manual whisk, whisk mascarpone cheese with icing sugar, vanilla extract, Baileys Irish Cream and 3 tablespoons of the espresso syrup until blended.

With an electric mixer whisk the whipping cream until soft peak (do not over whip). With a spatula, fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture.

To assemble the cake:
Cut off one end of the sponge fingers so that each one is about 3" in length. Line the sides of a 7" round baking pan* (with a removable base or use a springform pan) with the sponge fingers (do not dip them in the espresso syrup). You will need about 17 sponge fingers (depending on the type/brand). If the last sponge finger cannot fit in nicely, trim away part of it to fit it in. Save the leftover small pieces.

One at a time, gently dip (do not soak) sponge fingers in the espresso syrup and use them to line the base of the pan. Cut the sponge fingers into shorter lengths if necessary. Use the leftover pieces to fill the gaps.

Spoon over half of the filling. Spread evenly. Grate the dark chocolates over the filling. Repeat with another layer of sponge fingers and spoon over the remaining filling. Spread and smooth the top. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, best left overnight.

Just before serving, unmold the cake and dust the top with cocoa powder. Decorate with dark and white chocolate shavings and strawberries (as desired).

(*Note: If you do not have a springform pan or a pan with a removable base, you can improvise by lining a normal round pan with a large sheet of aluminium foil. Give allowance of about 1~2 inches for the foil to hang over the rim of the pan. Place a cake board inside the lined pan. Follow the steps above. To unmold, simply lift up the cake from the pan by gripping the foil. Transfer the cake onto a serving plate and carefully remove the foil. )