Friday 31 July 2009

Blueberry Morning

It's yet another blueberry morning. This time, I made blueberry pancakes for a late breakfast on a Saturday morning.

My younger boy woke up around the same time as me, and as usual, he offered to help me with the preparation of the pancake batter, while the other two family members were still reluctant to leave their 'sleeping clubs'.

Making the pancake batter is not very much different from making muffins. Nothing too complicated that my seven-year-old cannot handle. He cracked and beat the egg while I measured out the ingredients. Then he got to sieve the flour mixture (one of his favourite tasks), while I get ready the rest of the wet ingredients. I handed the ingredients one by one to my sous chef as he mixed it all up in a bowl. Then it was the grand finale of pouring all the liquid mixture (I couldn't help but to agree with him that the mixture did look terribly awful at this stage) to the dry mixture and with only a few quick stir it was done.

After cleaning up the mess, I was left alone to cook the pancakes. I got lazy this time and didn't bother to brush the frying pan with melted butter. I thought it was really not necessary...what difference would it made? So I took the short cut by pouring some vegetable oil into the pan and simply swirl it around. The cooked pancakes didn't turn out as well compared to those I made on my maiden attempt, the surface was not evenly browned. It could also due to the temperature of my pan...I am just bad at anything that has got to do with the stove! The resulting pancakes looked more like roti pratas to me! 囧

Despite the appearance, these pancakes were actually very delicious, especially with the homemade blueberry sauce which I made the night before. The pancakes were quite light and fluffy, but I would prefer a slightly thicker sauce. Maybe I didn't cook it long enough, or there was just too much water...even though I have already reduced the amount. I do like the hint of tangy flavour of the sauce though, and it was not overly sweet. My family members are a forgiving lot...they enjoyed the pancakes and there wasn't a single word of complaints. Even my tween who doesn't really care for pancakes was nodding with approval over his breakfast.

That night, my boys and I curled up in front of the tv to watch our current favourite Korean drama: Boys over Flowers (花样男子). I was watching with great envy when Ji Hoo (智厚) made some pancakes for Jan Di (丝草). He has finally perfected his pancakes. In the very 1st episode of this drama, Ji Hoo has asked Jan Di if she knows how to make hotcakes. She told him they were made with some flour and eggs, add milk and sugar. In the 2nd episode, he asked her if anything else was left out because his pancakes didn't rise. She told him he needs to add baking powder. I also found it amusing when he added that pancake premixes are actually available. Hmmm...I am not sure whether he used a pancake premix or the pancakes were made from scratch. But his pancakes looked perfect and delicious....urghmm...just before they were drenched with lots of maple syrup! ^^"'

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

(makes about 8 pancakes)

for the pancakes:
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) blueberry yoghurt
180ml (3/4 cup) fresh milk
2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

for the blueberry sauce
1 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup (180ml) water (original recipe uses 1 cup)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch mix with 1 tablespoon water


To make blueberry sauce:
Place blueberries, water, sugar, salt, lemon zest (if using) and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Let the mixture continues to boil for another 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to boil till the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool, cover and refrigerate.

To make pancakes:
Sieve flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Toss in the blueberries. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, sugar, yoghurt, milk, oil and vanilla extract. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, all at once. With a manual whisk, whisk the mixture until just combined (when the flour 'disappears'). The batter may have some small lumps but Do Not over mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough.

Heat a frying pan over medium to low heat. Using a pastry brush, brush the pan with a little melted butter or oil. Pour about 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the pan. When bubbles start to appear on the top surfaces of the pancakes (2-3 minutes) and the bottom is brown, turn it over. Cook until lightly browned (about 1-2 minutes). Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with melted butter or oil between batches. Serve immediately with blueberry sauce.

Recipe source: adapted from 懒人也会做面包

Saturday 25 July 2009

Classic Blueberry Muffins

Last weekend, I bought punets of blueberries which were on a great discount. They were just under two dollars for a pack. I once bought a batch...which was also on sales (no surprises, I only get blueberries when they are on sale), they tasted horribly tangy and most of the berries were miserably tiny. This latest batch is really value for money. The berries are very fresh...firm, plump and covered with this whitish bloom...the natural shimmery silver coating which protects them against the sun...a sign of freshness. Most importantly, they are sweet! Maybe the origin counts? These are from Oregon. Or could it be that fruits that are bought when they are in seasons would naturally taste better?

I used up one pack to make these classic blueberry muffins. They are wonderful breakfast treats for our family. These are so simple to make that my younger child did almost 90% of the work. I did the remaining 20%...the additional 10% was the extra effort needed to clean up the mess he created during the preparation. I should have taken a video clip on the way he 'cracked' the was almost like performing a magic trick ^-^ I couldn't spot a single bit of egg shell in the bowl and that was despite the fact that he unceremoniously squashed the egg shell with his hands!

During those earlier days when I first started out baking, I was always seeking for the secrets to making muffins that could rise high and mighty upon baking. It was much later that I finally discovered the techniques behind, upon reading this online article "The Secrets of the Dome" (the title sounds so Harry Potter!) I have since tried out all the three tips mentioned in the article:

1. fill the muffin cups to the brim;
2. use a recipe that yields fairly thick batter;
3. bake the muffins at a very high temperature of about 210 degC for the initial few minutes.

The first tip is real easy to accomplish and it works! The second one will depend on luck...I have came across muffin batters which is very runny and I ended up with very flat muffins. I have long since given up on the third one. The problem lies mainly with my oven...the temperature is almost beyond my control. Yes, I can easily preheat the oven to 210 degC, but I have no control over what the final temperature will be if I were to turn it down to 180 degC after 8 mins. It could easily drop all the way to 150 degC ;(

For the mixing of the batter, I prefer to adopt the 'muffin-method'. I find this method much easier and usually less fat is required as compared to muffins made by the 'creaming-method'. I also prefer the texture of muffins made with the muffin-method. Somehow it gives me a more wholesome, 'breakfast' feel as compared to those using the creaming-method which tends to yield more cupcake-like crumbs. I must add, these muffins will only taste good when they are served warm...either eat them fresh or heat them up again before serving.

I hope I'm able to post another blueberry breakfast treat soon ;)

Classic Blueberry Muffins

(makes 12 small muffins)

250g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
60ml vegetable oil
175ml milk
125g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g (about 1 cup) blueberries

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180degC (350 degF).
  2. Wash and drain blueberries. Dry with paper towels and toss them in a tablespoon of flour.
  3. Place egg, oil, milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl. With a manual whisk, whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Sieve together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
  5. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. With a spatula, gently fold all the ingredients to form a wet batter. Mix until the flour is just incorporate into the batter. Add the blueberries and fold in gently. DO NOT over mix. The batter should appear lumpy.
  6. Spoon batter into paper muffin cups. Bake for 15~20mins until muffins turn golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from Bread baking by hand or bread machine, by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno

Monday 20 July 2009

Yuja Cha Chiffon (柚子茶戚风蛋糕)

It is my daily routine to drop by fellow bloggers' blogs...walking through each of their interesting and very inspiring baking repertoires has become very much a part of my daily activities.

Although I do not know anyone of them in person, I do feel that I can relate to them very well. I share with them their joy when they churn out a wholesome homemade loaf of bread, I cheered along when anyone of them have conquered and removed the stumbling blocks they faced in their baking journeys, and I totally understand how one would feel whenever I read about a catastrophic event in the kitchen.

Occasionally, I came across fellow blogger pals who actually mentioned me in their blog postings :D It warms my heart reading about their kind words and comments. Recently, I read with great amusement when MH mentioned about my pork-floss like chiffon cakes in her post ;') I have never realised that, and after looking through my photos...yes, indeed most of them looked like they were covered with a generous layer of pork floss, lolz!

It was the same thing when I unmolded this Yuja Cha Chiffon ;)

I bought a bottle of Korean Yuzu Tea or Yucheong or Yuja-Cha 柚子茶 jam. This marmalade-like syrup is made from thinly sliced citrus fruit called Yuzu. When mixed with hot water you get a beverage known as Yuja Cha. I like adding lots of ice to turn it to a icy, refreshing cold drink, excellent to quench my thirst during the hot afternoons.

I didn't have much luck making chiffon cakes lately. I under-baked my earlier attempt on a coffee chiffon, and upon unmolding, the cake sank like the Titanic, lopsided. After cutting a slice of the cake, the pathetic looking 'ring' reminded me very much of the structure at the Marina Barrage. It was really amazing that even though with the undesirable outcome, we wolf down half of the cake minutes later.

I had better luck with this Yuja Cha version. It didn't collapse, in fact it rose beautifully initially, but it started sinking in the oven when there was still another 10mins before the baking time was up :'(

Can you spot the dense layer at the bottom of the cake? I can either blame my oven for the unstable temperature, or, it could really be due to the whisking of the egg whites. I may have over beat or under beat the whites? Or could it be due to the folding of the whites to the yolk batter? It's very likely that I deflated the batter quite a fair bit as I kept folding and folding and folding just to get rid of the tiny lumps of whites that were trapped in the batter.

Anyway, the cake still tasted good, although the yuzu flavour was not as prominent as I would have expected. The bits of yuzu rinds did enhance the taste though. I will certainly try this recipe again I am left with less than half a jar of Yuzu syrup!

Yuja Cha Chiffon

Ingredient A:
(makes one 18cm cake)

3 egg yolks
20g caster sugar
50g yuzu syrup/jam
40ml vegetable oil
50ml hot water
70g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Ingredient B:
3 egg whites (original recipe calls for 4 egg whites)
50g caster sugar

  1. Dissolve yuzu syrup with the hot water. Leave to cool.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder together, set aside.
  3. Separate egg yolks/whites and bring to room temperature. (It is easier to separate eggs when they are cold.)
  4. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add in sugar, and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes very sticky and turn pale.
  5. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the Yuzu mixture. Sieve over the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Beat in the sugar in 3 separate additions on high speed until just before stiff peaks form.
  7. Add the beaten egg white into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  8. 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.
  9. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 30 ~ 35mins or until the cake surface turns golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. 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 adapted from: 曾美子戚风cake零失败

Monday 13 July 2009

Biscuits or Scones

I used to enjoy those breakfast biscuits which were available during those good old days at the McDonalds outlets here. I can't remember when it happened...but the fast food chain has pull it off their menu for years. I was deprived of those buttery and fluffy biscuits until my very first visit to the States years later. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that those biscuits are still available at the outlets in the States. Since then, I would always make it a point to drop-by the chain whenever I visit the country. I even went to the extend to try baking these buttermilk biscuits from those pre-mix doughs that came in a can. I tried searching for these frozen doughs when I got home, but so far, I have never spotted them in any supermarts here. Somehow after many years, I thought I have totally lost the cravings for them. Little did I know that my dormant love affair with these American biscuits rekindled, right after our first visit to the Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits in California a few years back.

Of course we like the taste of Popeye's crispy, slightly spicy and yet very juicy and tender fried chickens. I think only our homegrown brand, Arnold's Fried Chicken come close enough. But it was Popeye's biscuits that I constantly craved for when we came back home. Indeed it was a 'love at first bite' affair with those biscuits. It was ironical that I was actually a little hesitant when I picked up the biscuit that was served along as sides. We checked out the first Popeye's outlet here at Changi Airport Terminal 1 not too long after our return. Sad to say, the biscuits just didn't taste right...even the chickens were not as tasty. When the Singapore Flyer was up, we didn't go for the ride, but instead headed straight to the Popeye's outlet. Once again, we were totally disappointed. Just two weeks ago, I tried the new outlet at Terminal 3. This time I had with me, a girl who has frequent the Popeye's joint ever since she was a first grader. She commented that the biscuits look "different", I think she was just being polite...I'm sure "weird" is a better adjective to describe those out-of-shape biscuits...they look more like those 'pop-overs' which I came across in many cookbooks. Both of us concluded that the chicken just doesn't taste as good.

To satiate my craving, I had on several occasions tried making my own homemade biscuits from scratch. However, I couldn't seems to be able to get it right. On my first attempt, my biscuits became dense bread buns as I was over zealously in kneading the dough. The second attempt yielded much softer 'buns', although edible, there were still no 'biscuits' in sight! I gave up hope after that, thinking that this is going to be my achilles’ heel, forever.

Thanks to this wonderful cookbook I found, I was able to make a decent batch of biscuits recently. They turned out almost perfect when I tried this same recipe the 3rd time. Although the author refers them to her Mama's Scones, they are really biscuits to me.

The biscuits were soft and fluffy...just the way I like them. They went well with it butter, cream cheese, strawberry jam and even kaya spread...especially when served warm from the oven :D

Mama's Scones/Biscuits

(makes 7)

250g cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
one pinch of salt
50g cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
30g caster sugar
1 egg plus enough fresh milk to make up 140ml

  1. Lightly beat the egg and add enough fresh milk to make up 140ml of liquid.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add in salt and sugar and whisk the dry ingredients together. With finger tips rub the COLD butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (It is important that the butter be cold so when it is cut into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs. Due to our hot weather and my warm hands, I use a fork to work the butter into the dry ingredients. If the butter starts to melt away during this process, stop and place the mixture in the freezer for 10-15mins to prevent the butter from melting further. Continue the process when the mixture is well chilled.)
  3. Keep the mixing bowl (with the flour-butter mixture) in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  4. Remove bowl from fridge. Add the egg & milk mixture and stir until just combined. The mixture will be sticky, moist and lumpy. Gather up the mixture and place it on a lightly floured surface and give it a few light kneading (not more than 10 seconds) so that it comes together to form a dough. Do Not over work the dough. (Only mix the dough until it comes together. Too much kneading will cause gluten to develop, and the resulting biscuits will turn hard and chewy. Mix only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.)
  5. Place dough in a plastic bag or cover it with cling wrap. Keep dough in fridge for about 30mins. (The objective here is to keep the dough cold to prevent the butter from melting so that there will be little bits of dispersed butter in the dough. During baking, the heat will cause these tiny bits of butter to melt into the dough and leaves pockets and layers in the biscuits for them to rise nicely. If the butter melts or softens before baking, the resulting biscuits will be hard and flat.)
  6. On a lightly floured surface, dust your hands and the dough with some flour and pat out into 1 inch thickness (avoid using too much flour). Cut out the dough with a lightly floured 2.5-inch biscuit cutter (I use a drinking glass instead). In order for the biscuits to rise evenly, press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting. Dip the cutter into some flour after each cut. Gather scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used.
  7. Place cut biscuits on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper). For soft-sided biscuits, place them close together on the baking sheet so that the sides are touching. For crisp-sided ones, place them 1 inch apart, these will not rise as high as biscuits that are baked close together. Brush the tops with some milk.
  8. Bake at preheated oven at 200degC for about 13 - 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the biscuit comes out clean. The texture of the interior should be light and soft. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Serve warm.
Recipe source:adapted from 爱上做面包, 德永久美子

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Build Your Own Lunch

This is a much delayed post as I have problem uploading photos to blogger :(

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you would have realised that I need many photos to compose my post as I am really weak at writing. I find it easier to do up a post with lots of photos as my writing is not very different from a Primary 3 picture composition :')

Thanks to Small Small Baker's latest post, I am now able to work around the problem!

My kids love pizza. However, having pizza at the restaurants or even getting them delivered to your door-step can be expensive. So whenever both of them are at home during the school holidays, we will make it a point to build our own homemade pizza. I guess homemade pizza is also a much healthier option.

This time round, I tried another pizza dough recipe from this book "Baking with Kids" by Linda Collister, who happens to be one of my favourite authors. I fell in love with the beautiful illustrations in the book the moment I picked it up from the library shelf. I have bookmarked several of her recipes and this is the very first recipe I tried. I liked the fact that dried mixed herbs is added to the dough as I love the aroma of mixed herbs, be it used in cooking or baking.

I like to involve my kids in my cooking whenever the opportunity arises. I find cooking with my kids very fun, at least it feels good that I am not alone toiling away in the kitchen. My younger child helped me knead the pizza dough with great enthusiasm, while the elder one gave me a hand when it came to slicing up the hams, pineapples and sausages. Both will fight over who to spread the sauce and toppings, and without fail they would smuggle some hams and pineapples while I was not looking.

We made two pizzas from this recipe, Hawaiian...their all time favourite, and another one with my favourite mushroom toppings.

To my delight, the dough was pretty easy to roll out, unlike my past experience with some other recipes. We were able to roll out the the dough till very thin without it shrinking back the moment we lift up the rolling pin.

The resulting crust was rather thin with very crispy edge, although the centre of the pizza was less crisp. Even though I used canned mushrooms, the pizza was still as delicious, the left over sausages gave a nice savory taste to it. We had a fun and hearty lunch that day. I am already looking forward to another round of pizza making soon.

Homemade Pizza Dough

(make two 12" pizza dough)

200g bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
125ml lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Place flour, salt, yeast and dried mixed herbs in a mixing bowl. Mix well with hand. Make a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil. Using your hand, gradually work the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a round ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rise for 1 hr or until double in size.
  3. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it down to release the air. Give it a few gentle kneading. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Shape into two balls, cover loosely with cling wrap and let the doughs rest for about 10mins.
  4. Roll or press out each portion to a round, about 12" in size. Place dough on baking tray lined with parchment paper or on a greased pan.
  5. Spread some pizza sauce over the dough to within 1 cm (0.5 inch) of the edge. Arrange a layer of grated cheese (I used grated mozzarella), followed by preferred toppings. Sprinkle the top all over with grated cheese.
  6. Bake in a preheat oven at 200 degC for 15~20mins or until the crust has turned golden and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from Baking with Kids by Linda Collister

Friday 3 July 2009

My Frustration - Finally Over!

I couldn't remember when, but I think it was more than a month ago that I started getting this error message whenever I click the "View Blog" tab on my blogger page: "Internet Explorer cannot display the blog address/link...and it will abort the operation". I had to click the 'Back' buttons a few times to get around with it. It was really frustrating! I thought it was due to our broadband service, and the problem will go off, soon, naturally. But it didn't!

Well, I got up this morning feeling that I shouldn't be tolerating this glitch any longer and started doing a search. I was so happy to be able to find the root cause of it and the problem was solved in a matter of a click!

If you are facing the same problem, let me tell you, it is all the fault of the 'GOGGLE FRIEND CONNECT" or aka 'FOLLOWERS' gadget displayed at my sidebar. Simply remove the gadget and the glitch is gone. I guess Blogger is working on it, and hopefully they could come up with a solution soon as I find that it is actually a neat and cool gadget.