Friday 29 August 2008

Cooking for Kids

Right after their term exams, my elder boy requested that I cook something 'nice' for their lunch. I was lucky when he told me he would like to have least it was not a tall order for me :)

In the past, I usually make burgers with Gardenia's hamburger buns, however, my younger boy could never be able to finish his share. A couple of weeks ago, I bought this pack of smaller buns from the same manufacturer. They looked like mini hamburger buns without the sesame seeds. I turned the buns into mini burgers, and they worked really well...the size was just right for my little one, and we liked the taste and texture of the buns. It was a great disappointment when I was not able to find them on the supermarket shelves during our weekend shopping trip. In the end, I settled for this other brand of mini butter rolls.

Recently, while looking up for Ikea's Swedish meatballs recipes (yes, I am getting a little more adventurous nowadays!), I found that it is possible to use a mixture of ground beef and pork to make meat patties (pardon my ignorance). It was a perfect opportunity to experiment with it. I used equal amount of ground beef and pork to make the meat patties based on this Japanese hanbagu recipe.

I adjusted the recipe and cut it down to 3 serving size instead. The butter rolls were heated in the oven as the crusts were rather pale. To my delight, they went rather well with the meat patties...which were, well, very tender, juicy and delicious :) and the boy who has requested for this...wolfed down 3 out of 6 mini burgers.

I thought these mini burgers looked so cute that they deserved to be featured on the front cover of the latest issue of my 'Cooking for Kids' magazine ;) In case u find this interesting, you can hop over here to create your own magazine cover, have fun!

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

This blueberry streusel coffee cake was the first thing I made once I am back to my usual baking routine.

I took the recipe from this book, and if you happen to click on the link, you would probably know why I have chosen this recipe. I simply couldn't resist the mouth-watering photo on the front cover. Besides this recipe, I have already bookmarked a couple of other recipes from this book.

I bought 4 packs of blueberries a few weeks ago when they were on sale at the local supermarket, they were half the usual price. In the past, I would never place more than 2 packs of blueberries in the shopping trolley. Besides the price, I knew I would have problems trying to use them up before they turn bad. This mindset has changed since I chanced upon this site. I have now learned how to freeze blueberries. This has certainly make life so much easier for me. I followed the method closely, although I didn't wash the blueberries before freezing, as I guessed they were already pre-washed. I did thaw and washed them before use.

This cake recipe is available here. Even though it is not called for in the recipe, I dusted and coated the blueberries with flour before mixing them in the batter. Alas, this extra step didn't help to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. I think the next time I were to bake this again, I would sprinkle the berries on top of the batter instead of mixing it with the batter.

Except for the crunchy sugary streusel toppings, the cake was very moist and the sweetness just right for me...partly because I didn't 'pack' in the brown sugar when measuring them with my newly acquired set of measuring cups, and I have already formed the habit of cutting down the amount of sugar whenever I can. The use of brown sugar not only enhanced the flavour, it also gave the cake lovely golden brown crumbs. The blueberries were a disappointment though, they were rather bland after baking. They didn't pass my kids taste buds either. My younger boy purposely left the bottom layer of his slice untouched, giving the reason that he was already very very full, and yet, he had room for extra streusel toppings from my share.

Besides the blueberries and walnuts, the cake is made with equal amount of plain and wholemeal flour, which makes it a very wholesome cake for breakfast. I find that it tasted best when served warm, and I must say it is a perfect companion with a steaming cup of freshly brewed hot coffee.

It was a pleasant surprise to know that Eliza at Notes from My Food Diary has passed on this cute award to me :) Thank you so much Eliza!! It's now my pleasure to pass on the award to the following floggers for churning out delicious food, post after post!

Elyn at E's Joie
Mandy at Fresh from the Oven
thecoffeesnob at Eat and be Happy

Friday 22 August 2008

For the Love of Bread Making

I have not been baking much for the past two weeks, as I had to spend most of my time coaching both my kids for their end-of-the-term examinations. As a stay-at-home-mum, I cannot cook up even one single excuse to avoid this extremely hair-pulling task. Before the kids went on to primary school, I have never thought that I have to "study" again! No kidding, I actually picked up new things and refreshed what I have learned many years ago. I am now fully equipped with the necessary skills to tackle mathematical problem sums without having to use 'x, y and z'. Although I must say, I am still struggling with this particular mathematical method known as 'supposition', even though it was 'introduced" to me since last year. My brain has gone too rusty to understand the logic behind this method. Having the discipline to sit down and go through the entire Science syllabus has also cleared some of the 'doubts' which I carried over since my primary school years ;') I am so glad this responsibility of mine is now over, well, at least, for the time being.

Anyway, to ease the mounting stress, I managed to squeeze in some time to bake a batch of Matcha Melon Pan earlier this week.

It has been a year since I last made these Japanese Melon Pans or Melon Buns. I have always wanted to try out the various melon pan recipes, alas, I am always put off by the amount of work involved in churning out these buns.

Besides the already time consuming dough making, there is this extra step of making the pastry or cookie-like dough. After the bread dough had gone through the 1st proofing, I wrapped each small dough with some semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for red beans), and then covered it with a layer of the pastry dough. The job is not done before each dough is coated with sugar and then carefully marked to give the signature pattern of a Japanese melon pan. The doughs were then left to rise for the 2nd time before they were ready for baking. I must be out of my mind when I decided to make everything from scratch, by hand. Not only did I knead the dough manually, I have also chosen to use a manual whisk instead of an electric mixer to prepare the pastry dough. Anyway, I do find the pure action of kneading the dough very soothing and therapeutic, what about you?

I'm not sure whether it was due to my inaccurate measurements of the ingredients, the pastry dough was very wet. It was impossible to form the mixture into a soft dough. I suspect I could have added in more eggs than necessary. To get over the situation, I added one tablespoon of flour at a time to the mixture. It turned out that I had to add an extra 4 tablespoons of flour in order to get the consistency right. The resulting pastry dough was very sticky and I couldn't really shape them into small rounds as recommended in the recipe. In the end I simply form them into small lumps and left to chill in the fridge. I also faced the daunting task of trying to cover the bread dough with the sticky pastry dough. The pastry dough got stuck to my fingers once I lay my hands on it. I tried my best to shape each dough with the help of a piece of plastic sheet, to avoid any direct contact with the pastry dough. As a result, the amount of washing up was more than necessary :'(

Despite all the hiccups, the finished products didn't look or taste too bad.

Unfortunately, these buns didn't keep well overnight. In fact, I noticed this happened to most of my bakes that have got matcha powder in the ingredient list. Nevertheless, as long as they were reheated before serving, they tasted as good as freshly baked ones.

As much as I would like to take photos to illustrate the various steps involved, I was too pre-occupied with the entire preparation process. So, for those of you who are keen to give this a try, you may hop over to this site for some step-by-step photos. Although it's written in Japanese, you will at least get an idea how to go about it. While writing up this post, I've also managed to find a video clip here. Hope you will find them useful.

If you ever give this a go, do drop by to let me know whether you have any problem with the pastry, and how you went about making them. I've yet to attend any baking courses or workshops. As such, I am totally clueless whether I am doing things right? I would really love to hear and learn from you.

Happy Baking :)

Matcha Melon Pan(抹茶菠箩面包)

(makes 12 buns)

Bread Dough:
300g bread flour
3g matcha powder ( I used 1/2 teaspoon)
30g caster sugar
5g salt
7g (about 1 & 3/4 tsp) instant yeast
210g (about 200ml) milk ( I used low-fat fresh milk)
30g unsalted butter (bring to room temperature)

Pastry layer
50g unsalted butter (bring to room temperature)
100g caster sugar
80g egg, lightly beaten
200g cake flour ( I added extra 4 tablespoons)
3g baking powder (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
6g matcha powder ( I used 1 teaspoon)

some semi-sweet chocolate chips
some caster sugar for dusting/coating

  1. Sift bread flour and matcha powder into a mixing bowl. Add in caster sugar and salt. Add in instant yeast and mix the dry mixture a little.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add in milk. Mix the ingredients with hand and slowly form it into a soft dough.
  3. Transfer dough to work surface. Knead until the dough longer sticks to the work surface. This should take less than 5 mins.
  4. Flatten the dough and add in the butter. Continue to knead. Initially, the dough will be very oily, after a few kneading, the butter will be absorbed by the dough. Continue to knead until the dough no longer feels sticky to your hand and will not stick to the work surface. This should take about 15 to 20 mins. (Alternately, you can knead the dough with your standing mixer or your bread machine.)
  5. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and let proof for about 40 ~ 60mins, or until double in bulk.
  6. While the dough is proofing, prepare the pastry layer. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until mixture turns pale. Add in the lightly beaten egg gradually. Beat well after each addition.
  7. Sift over cake flour, matcha powder and baking powder. Mix with a spatula until flour mixture is fully incorporate. Gather to form a soft dough. Divide dough into 12 equal portions, about 40g each, roll into rounds. Place doughs in a tray and let the dough chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  8. Punch out the gas in the bread dough and divide into 12 equal portion, about 45-50g each. Roll into rounds. Cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the dough rest for 10mins.
  9. Take one piece of bread dough, flatten it into a small disc and wrap in some chocolate chips. Roll it into rounds again. Repeat the same for the rest of the remaining doughs.
  10. Remove chilled pastry dough from the fridge. Take a piece of pastry dough and roll out in between 2 layers of cling wraps, big enough to cover the bread dough. (I cut out two small sheets from a clear plastic bag). Remove the top layer of the cling wrap of the pastry dough. Place one bread dough on the pastry dough. With the bottom layer of the cling wrap still intact, wrap the pastry dough around the bread dough. Carefully remove the bottom layer of the cling wrap, at the same time, smoothing the edges of the pastry dough. NOTE: DO NOT cover the Entire bread dough with the pastry dough. Leave the bottom 2 ~ 3 cm uncovered. The dough needs the space to expand, otherwise the pastry dough will burst and the resulting appearance will not be very pleasing.
  11. Coat the exterior with caster sugar.
  12. With a plastic dough scraper, cut out patterns that resembles the 'veins' of a leaf on the surface, or decorate as desired. Place dough on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave to proof for the second time for about 40 ~ 50mins, loosely covered with a damp towel or cling wrap.
  13. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 deg C for 10 ~ 12 mins. (I baked mine for 15~20mins) Let cool completely before storing. Note that these buns don't keep well, if left overnight, do reheat them before serving.
Recipe source: 酥皮面包大集合by 佐藤律子

Friday 15 August 2008


Ever since I started cooking for my family, I have been cooking dishes 'anyway' I like. I don't usually follow recipes closely and I have a tendency to take short cuts. Things started to change after I read a Japanese-Chinese cookbook. It is a great book, with many step-by-step photos to illustrate how to go about preparing the ingredients for cooking. It provides many useful tips and explains why certain steps have to be adhered to. It even includes details on when to turn up or turn down the heat while you are cooking the dish. For the first time, I was very disciplined and followed the recipe of a hamburger patty to a T.

This Hanbagu, the Japanese version of a hamburger, is served on a plate and not sandwiched between a bun. Besides the basic salt & pepper seasonings, eggs, onions, and bread crumbs are also added to the ground beef. Unlike most beef patty recipes I have seen, the minced onions are first sauteed before mixing with the meat. Although it seems like an extra step, I thought it is a good idea as I believe my kids would find the taste of the sauteed onions more bearable ;)

For a quick and simple weekday lunch, I served the hanbagu with some blanched french beans, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Thanks to the clear cooking instructions in the book, the meat patties turned out to be very juicy. The patties were 'steam-cooked' midway...this helped to retain the juice and yet ensured the patties were cooked through. I was quite skeptical about the instructions for making the sauce though. There was no cooking involved, the sauce was made simply by mixing some ketchup with Worcestershire was too simple to be true. I tasted the mixture and it gave a real yucky taste! Nevertheless, I trusted the cookbook and went ahead to serve it with the hanbagu. To my amazement, the sauce actually went quite well with the meat patty! It tasted as if it was prepared with red wine?! As expected, my kids love the hanbagu, but made noise about the sauce :( I guess it would take sometime for them to acquire the taste, so in the mean time, I would have to look for another recipe for the sauce.

(serves 4)

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
400g ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
some pepper to season
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 tablespoons milk

mix 2 tablespoons ketchup with 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  1. Saute onion with butter, until onions turn transparent, set aside, let cool completely.
  2. Soak the breadcrumb in milk, mix a little and set aside.
  3. Place ground beef in a bowl, add beaten egg, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add in the cooked onion and breadcrumb mixture. Mix the mixture with hands until it becomes sticky.
  4. Make four meat balls and toss each ball from one hand to the other hand a few times. This helps to prevent the meat patty from breaking into pieces during frying.
  5. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the meat patties over medium heat for 1~2 mins. Turn over and fry for another 1~2 mins. When both sides are lightly browned cover the pan with a lid and turn to Low heat. Allow to cook for about 7~8 mins. Remove the lid and cook until both sides are evenly browned. You can insert a toothpick or a skewer into the centre of the beef patty. If the juice runs clear the patties are done.
  6. Dish out the patties and serve with the the sauce.
Recipe source: 轻松学做菜: 烹饪秘诀195

Friday 8 August 2008

Earl Grey Chiffon Cake

As usual, it is always a difficult task for me to pick up a recipe from my ever-growing to-do list of cakes & bakes. I was thinking of making some Japanese melon pans, but decided against it as it will take up quite a fair bit of time and effort...then I thought maybe I should make a blueberry crumble cake as I just bought another 2 packs of fresh blueberries.

In the end, I decided to give another try on making a chiffon cake since I failed miserably during my recent attempt on a mango version. I could only blame it on my unstable oven temperature. The temperature of the oven dropped by at least 20 degC when the cake was in the oven for less than 5 mins. Even if I were to turn up the temperature setting to 200degC, the temperature would not bulge. As a result, the cake was baked at 150 degC. Even though it did rise and expand, but upon unmolding, the top of the cake caved in :'((

I had better luck this time with this Early Grey Chiffon cake. The recipe is original meant for a Japanese green tea chiffon. I replaced it with Earl Grey as I have been looking for a similar recipe that will suit my small chiffon pan.

The steps involved in the making of this cake is similar to other chiffon cake recipes. To ensure a very stable oven temperature, I preheated the oven 20mins earlier. By the time the cake was ready to bake, the thermometer registered a temperature of 190degC, once I popped in the cake, the temperature started to went down to 170degC, just the right temperature! I left the cake to bake for 50mins, I don't understand why this recipe calls for baking the cake for such a long time as compared to others, which usually would take about 30-35mins. When the cake was in the oven for about 35mins, I couldn't help but to open the oven door to slip in an aluminium foil to tent the top, although it was only slightly browned. This caused the oven temperature to drop by another 5 degC.

Fortunately, the cake rose beautifully in the oven, it almost reached the tip of the tube...however, towards the end of the baking time, it started to shrink and upon cooling, it was slightly under the rim.

I was very pleased when the cake was unmolded...unlike my previous attempts...there were no obvious big holes on the surface of the cake. The sides were also baked to a nice golden hue :)

If you like Earl Grey tea, I bet you will like this cake too. The fragrance from the Earl Grey was so prominent that it was as if I had a cup of hot Earl Grey tea by my side. I must say this is by far the best chiffon cake I have made...not in terms of flavour, but rather, the texture of the cake was very good. The cake was light, soft and yet 'springy'(I'm not sure whether this is the correct term to describe it though!). To me, this recipe is certainly a keeper. On the other hand, both my kids didn't like the cake at all...the younger one tried his very best, and yet he could hardly finish one small slice of it, he told me that I shouldn't have used 'pepper' to make the cake, lolz!

Earl Grey Chiffon Cake

(makes one 18cm cake)

1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea powder (about 3 satchels)
100g cake flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
50ml vegetable oil
75ml water

3 egg whites
40g caster sugar


  1. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
  2. Separate egg yolks/whites and bring to room temperature. (It is easier to separate eggs when they are cold.)
  3. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add in sugar, in 3 separate additions and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes sticky and turn pale.
  4. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the water. Sieve over the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter. Add in the earl grey powder and mix well.
  5. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat on high speed until just before stiff peaks form* (after note: after several attempts at baking chiffon cakes, I learned that the whites should be beaten until just before stiff peaks form).
  6. Add the beaten egg white into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  7. Pour batter into a 18cm (7 inch) tube pan (do not grease the pan). Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  8. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 45 ~ 50mins or until the cake surface turns golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and invert the pan immediately. Let cool completely before unmould. To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Release the cake and run the knife along the base of the pan to remove the cake.
Recipe source: 好想为你亲手做出美味的甜点! 检见崎聡美著

Note: you may replace Earl Grey tea with other tea of your choice, like matcha or green tea. If the tea leaves are coarse, use a mortar and pestle or a grinder to grind it till fine and powdery.

Friday 1 August 2008

Prata in a Bento

It was many months back when I first saw this prata sausage roll over at baking fiends unite! Ever since then, I have been wanting to try this out. Well, I finally bought a pack of frozen prata and made these rolls for lunch.

I left the frozen prata to thaw for a couple of minutes so that it was soft enough to roll up a cheese sausage in it. If the prata is left to thaw for too long, it will become very sticky and it will be difficult to roll it up. So, if you plan to make this, do watch out on this part. I made the slits on each roll before they were baked at 180degC for about 40mins. The finished rolls didn't look as appealing as those done by Baking Fiend :(

While the rolls were baking in the oven, I made another version of these prata rolls. Instead of baking, I pan-fried a piece of frozen prata with a little oil till it was slightly golden. Removed it from the frying pan, and pan-fried a lightly beaten egg. When the egg was about to set, I placed the ready prata onto to it and continue to pan-fry till both sides were golden browned. I left it to cool off a little before wrapping a sausage (pan-fried earlier) in it. As with the baked version, I make a few slits on the top and place it in the oven for about 5 mins. I guess this step is really not necessary. But it helped in a way to keep the rolls warm in the oven before they were served.

The prata rolls for the pan-fried version were more puffy, while the baked ones were very crispy. Both tasted yummy to me :)

I prepared some vegetables to go along with the rolls and it became an instant bento lunch for the kids!