Beef and orange stir-fry

Serves 4

3 oranges
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless sirloin or rib-eye steak, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 to 2 tbsp canola oil
6 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
White rice, for serving

1. Into a small bowl, finely grate the zest and squeeze  the juice from 1 orange. Add the garlic and soy sauce.

2. With a sharp paring knife, peel the remaining 2 oranges. Slice the oranges crosswise 1/2 inch thick, then halve the slices; push out and discard any seeds. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, toss the meat with the cornstarch until coated. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Working in batches (adding more oil if needed), brown the beef on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.

4. Pour the juice mixture into the skillet, and boil until syrupy, about 1 minute. Return the beef to the skillet; add the orange slices and scallions. Toss until coated and heated through. Serve hot, with white rice.

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Cashew Chicken

The Hoisin sauce flavour is rather strong which overwhelms that of the chicken. And I realised that chicken breast can be tender too! Expect more chicken breast recipes!

Serves 2, adapted from Food Everyday

3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce
3/8 cup raw cashews (2 ounces), toasted
White rice, for serving (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch until the chicken is coated; season with 3/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, tossing often, until browned. Add the garlic and the white parts of the scallions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the hoisin sauce and 1/4 cup water; cook, tossing, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve immediately over white rice, if desired.

Coffee buns

With what I have left with the water roux yesterday, I made coffee buns. Just a little problem – the dough refused to rise in the 40 minutes given in the recipe. Sigh, I just let it take its own sweet time while we went out for lunch and grocery. Even after we came back, the dough has not doubled in size. =(

But they turned out fine still. =)

Breakfast for tomorrow.

Beef Bulgogi

This Korean dish us usually eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves, but you could serve it over white rice instead. I added Dou Miao stir-fried with garlic to this one-dish meal.

Serves 2

3/4 pounds rib-eye steak, trimmed of excess fat
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/2 tbsp hot chile sesame oil*
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 medium red onions, halved and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges
1/2 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small head Boston lettuce, separated into leaves

1. Slice diagonally (across the grain) into 1/8-inch-thick strips. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Place the onions and peppers in a small bowl; toss with half the soy marinade. Toss the steak in the remaining marinade; let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Heat 1 tsp of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over  medium-high heat. Add the onions and peppers; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp vegetable oil over high heat. Cook the meat, turning often, until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onion mixture. Cook, tossing, until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with rice and vegetables on the side.

* If you can’t find hot chile sesame oil, add a dash of red pepper flakes to 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil.

Cheese Bread

This is another bread item from the many selections in http://gracekitchencorner.blogspot.com/. This is made with Tang Zhong and this time, I made sure it is cooled and at room temperature before I start the baking process. There is a slight variation to the one in the blog; I added a slice of kraft cheese to each ball of dough and top it up with Gruyere and Parmesan cheese and dried parsley flakes on top.

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Chocolate Marble Bread

New England’s weather is so unpredictable. One moment, it’s searingly hot and the other, it’s pouring buckets. And when we thought it a rainy day this first day of the week, the clouds gradually disappeared.

We took no chance at all. It’s jogging time! Before that, today’s bake is Chocolate Marble Bread from gracekitchencorner.blogspot.com. I started with the cheese mixture by melting a slice of cheese kraft with 70g of milk in a pan at low heat. When the cheese has completely melted, add 20g of bread flour and keep stirring until it become a dough. Let the dough cool down on a plate and cling wrap it then tuck it into the fridge for about one hour.

So meanwhile, da man and I went for a short jog around the reservoir and I came back hungry! The cheese mixture was almost ready and it’s also time to prepare lunch!

To continue with the bread, knead 260g bread flour, 40g sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 4g yeast and 130g water with the cheese mixture until the dough is smooth. Let the standmixer do the kneading and prepare lunch in the meantime! When the dough is ready, add 20g of unsalted butter (cut into small sizes) and then continue kneading.

Once ready, weigh 200g of out of the dough for the plain dough and the rest for cocoa dough. For the first 200g of the dough, mix in 25g of chocolate chips and knead until it is smooth. I didn’t have chocolate chips and replaced with dark chocolate chunks.

Next, mix 2 tbsp of cocoa powder with 2 tbsp of water and then knead the rest of the dough with it until it becomes a chocolate dough. Shape it into a smooth dough and let both doughs proof for 80 minutes.

I took more than 80 minutes because I decided that the dough can proof for a longer time while we go to the library for some books. More proofing time means more flavour!

Roll out the cocoa dough into 20cm square in shape and 16cm for the plain dough. Place the plain dough on top of the cocoa dough. Roll it up and place it into a greased loaf pan. Let it proof for about 60 minutes till the dough fill up to 90% of the loaf pan.

Bake in a 190’C/ 375F preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes.

Sauteed chicken in mustard-cream sauce

This dish uses the classic French sauce which also makes an excellent topping for fish, such as seared salmon or trout. The original recipe calls for chicken breast but I prefer the tenderness of the thigh. Complement with roasted baby potatoes and steamed trimmed asparagus to make a full meal.

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Matcha Red Bean Buns

Something healthy and Japanese? Why not try matcha red bean buns? My buns came out real soft after cooling! Love it! They have very strong taste of matcha but the overall taste is not sweet. I did my own red bean paste and was careful not to add too much sugar during the process. I wonder if I should add more sugar to the dough so as to achieve a sweeter version of the buns. Room for improvement.
Anyway, ohayo gozaimasu!

Steamed chicken with coriander & Ginger dressing

I need a bigger kitchen and cool weather too! These days, Mr Sun has been shining so brightly and fiercely that one could easily be sapped of energy. We felt lethargic and even running for a mere 2km was a feat. It was too hot!

We did a 5km in the morning and upon returning home, I was hungry. It was 11am, just the right time to prepare lunch. I had wanted to prepare the steamed chicken with coriander and ginger dressing, a recipe I had kept in the blog for months. It was pretty easy to execute but it’s not just this dish that I’m preparing…I’m also stir-frying my favourite kang kong. So, my small stove-top can only accommodate small pans. Once the wok is in use, the other pots have to ‘squeeze’ in. My countertop is small too and while attempting mise en place, frustration set in.

I fully know I should be contented with this space since it’s considered relatively comfortable in apartments of this region. But it’s a far cry from the one back home. The real kitchen space is about 1/3 of the one at home and countertop space is soooooo limited! I know I shouldn’t complain but today I just wanted to rant! The hot weather didn’t help, nor did the very empty stomach. =p A hungry man is an angry man. Indeed!

But the dish is marvelicious! I…LOVE it! You would have extra sauce with the recipe and I think I would do a liang mian with it. Just nice for a summer day!

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Allspice crumb muffins

Muffins are those that fall under the category of Quick Breads because they don’t need the long fermentation time that traditional yeast- risen breads require. Instead, quick bread recipes rely upon chemical leaveners – baking soda and baking power – for their rise, and once the batter is mixed, it goes directly into the oven.

There are three mixing methods for quick bread and this recipe here uses the Muffin Method. It is sometimes called the quick-bread method and this technique involves blending the dry ingredients in one bowl and the other liquid ingredients in another and then combining the two just until moistened. You want to mix until no streaks of flour or pools of liquid remain. Don’t worry too much about lumps remaining in the batter; they’ll disappear during the baking process. Be careful not to overmix! Should you do so, the muffins or quick bread will be tough and chewy and you will see some tunneling in the crumb – a sure sign that too much gluten was developed during mixing.

Good muffins have a slightly uneven, coarse texture.

So, these are breakfast for today. What’s yours?

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shichimi-spiced pork ramen

I’m thankful, no doubt, that the hubs is a very easy-going person and does not demand a meal with a few dishes thrown in. Most of the time, I prefer to do a one-dish meal which has the carbo, proteins and fibre incorporated. At times, when I feel like it, I would prepare a few dishes but that’s rather seldom. A one-dish meal is good and prevents one from eating more than required. =p

I inherited a mini cookbook from Jac which has recipes of one-dish meals. One of them is shichimi-spiced beef ramen and it is really easy. I don’t normally deal with shichimi but since Jac also gave me her bottle of that spice powder, I thought why not prepare the dish. Well, I did a variation of it. Instead of beef, I used pork and I have run out of ramen noodles and used linguine instead. Works fine!

So, what you need to do is to rub the meat with oil and then season with shichimi togarashi and salt and then set aside to marinate for 5 minutes (whoah! so fast!). After that you can fry the meat for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Set aside and then keep warm. Next is the cooking of the noodles. For the stock, I used miso paste and add about 2 tbsp to the boiling water. Before assembling the meal, cut the meat into slices and then place on top of the noodle that is in the soup. Garnish with spring onion and seaweed.

Chocolate chunks and pecan nutty cookies

So, these cookies are birthed based on my two likes – chocolate chunks and pecan nuts. After knowing more about chocolates, store-bought chocolate chips are less seen in my cupboard of chocolates. I prefer dark chocolate anytime (72% preferably) and normally buy them in a block or a whole piece as compared to chips.

Ken and I love crispy cookies and when these cookies came out of the oven and then cooled, I realised this is the texture that we both desire. I also love the crunchiness of the pecan nuts, making this a to-keep in my list of favourite cookies.

Makes about 50 cookies

200g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
105g firmly packed golden brown sugar
90g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
160g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
140g Pecan nuts, chopped
140g milk chocolate chips (3/4 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line baking sheet with baking paper.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on low speed until well blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed just until incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chunks and chopped pecan nuts using spatula.
4. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons unto the prepared baking sheet, spacing the dough 5cm apart. Bake until the bottoms and the edges are slightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. They can last up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

CSCA AB lesson #5 – Sauces & Review

It’s our last lesson today and we are on to sauces and based on what we have learnt from the Basic course (I did not attend) and the Advanced one, all of us are to chip in to make a part of individual Saint-Honores.

Saint-honores are made up of Pate Sable or Quick Puff Pastry as the base. Pate a Choux will then be piped out to form the rim on the base before they are baked in the oven. Next, using caramel, the ‘crust’ is dipped in the caramel and 3 balls of  pate a Choux are placed on the rim before it is dipped again in caramel. After the caramel is cooled, Pastry Cream Mousseline is piped out in rosettes and then a final piping in the middle.

Confusing? Yep, you are right. This item has all of us working real hard. I was paired up with another classmate and we did the Pate a Choux. This was not before Chef E gave a short lecture of sauces that are in the notes given to us. I’m not sure what was wrong with me but I wasn’t able to concentrate. The mind was not absorbing. I blame it on the early rising of the sun that causes me to wake up automatically at 5-ish nowadays. I was…lost in her rattle.

It’s not my first time making Pate a Choux but you know what, I made a mistake in the initial stage and was made to discard the entire batch. I felt awful and disappointed with myself, that I landed my classmate into trouble (we had to redo again). Clearly, the recipe wasn’t clear but this was not a valid reason. After all, I had made this before. I should have known better!

The second attempt was a success, under the watchful eye of Chef E. Though encouraging all ALL times, she is also firm and when something is wrong, she will not be reserved about it and point out our mistakes. It’s good that these mistakes are made. We can learn from it. Well, I can totally understand that. Actually in a culinary class, we learn more from the mistakes.

It was a tiring process making Saint-Honores. 3/4 through and I could see my classmates shrinking away. My palm incurred blisters from stirring the Pate a Choux dough and it doesn’t help that we were making double portion. Oh gosh! No more exercise for me for today!

So we bade Chef E goodbye. I absolutely love this class. Though there are some topics I have learnt before ( mostly self-taught), I gained more by going through this class. It also made me realise that there are some things that I might have done wrongly and these were highlighted when Chef E showed us the proper way to do it and alternative methods of doing things like gauging the ‘doneness/readiness’ by other means other than the thermometer! Although this is a recreational class, I must say it is less than leisure. The chef makes sure you get the concept (tries) and everyone really works their arse out. I wonder how a real class for culinary students would be like.

Toasted almond scones

Another friend, Swanie, whom I’ve got to know more in the last month has left for home and again, some of us have inherited their stuff. It’s a bit sad because she has been a blessing to us and when we were at her place yesterday morning to shift some of the stuff, the hubs and I were touched by the family’s generosity and their love towards God. Sigh! Why didn’t we get to know them earlier?

Jac has landed in Singa land and on her FB wall post, she listed the breakfast she had and it made me drool! Fishball noodles, chwee kway, chai dao kway, tao hway, and teh bing… Argh! It’s ok. I will REN and meanwhile divert my attention to my breakfast of home-made toasted almond scones and good o’ coffee.

Note: I would definitely put sliced almonds on top the next time. The dough is easy to make without the use of any mixer and could be prepared at night and stored in the freezer. The next morning, just bake the scones straight from the freezer but give it 2 minutes more to the baking. Eat it on the day they are baked! For this reason, I halve the portion to yield 6 scones.

The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my home to yours. Yields 12.

  • 1 cup blanched almonds (whole, slivered, or sliced), toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cold whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the toasted almonds in half. finely grind 1/2 cup in a food processor or blender with the sugar, taking care not to overgrind the nuts and end up with almond butter. (I used almond meal for this 1/2 of the portion). Finely chop the other 1/2 cup of almonds.

Stir the egg, cream, milk and almond extract together.

Whisk the flour, ground almond/sugar mix, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, rub the butter with your fingers into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-sized pieces, and some smaller pieces.

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Don’t overdo it. Stir in the chopped almonds.

Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn in with a wooden spatula 8-10 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that is about 5 inches in diameter, cut into 6 wedges and top each wedge with slices almonds if using. Place them on baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until their tops are golden and firm-ish. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Once the scones are cut out and on the baking sheet you can also freeze some or all of them before baking. Simply put the tray of scones in the freezer and wait until they are firm. Put the frozen scones in a freezer and you’ll have fresh warm scones whenever you like. Do not defrost, simply put the frozen scones on the a parchment lined baking sheet and add a couple of minutes to the baking time.

Serve with jam and butter!

CSCA AB Lesson #4 – Chocolates

It’s no joke dealing with chocolates. Today, every one of us was assigned one item to make and each of us will be involved in one way or another, in creating those hand-made chocolates.

We used the seeding method of tempering (the process of melting and cooling chocolates in such a way that it hardens with a glassy, smooth coat that does not melt easily in the hand) and it basically means tempering a large quantity of chocolate easily by adding solid chocolate to already melted chocolate. Ok, there is a lot of science involved in it and I can only say that temperature and the absence of water are of utmost importance here. We were all doing fine for about 10 of the trays of chocolates until the last 3 trays when the temperature went beyond the stated temperature as we let it go through the double broiler. Arghh…

I know the above doesn’t really make sense because I am still grasping the concept of tempering. All I can say is that I totally appreciate hand-made chocolates and understand why chocolatier affix premium prices on those chocolates you see through the glass counter. It’s hard, hard work. 

And oh boy, what a lot of chocolates we dealt with today…it must have been expensive!

Below is the process:

And we each brought home a box of chocolates and truffles…time to exercise.

FFWD: Bacon and eggs and asparagus salad

Spring is here and asparagus aplenty! What a good pairing of eggs and asparagus. I love the lightness of the vinaigrette as compared to the creamy dressing. The addition of nuts and bacons lends a crunchy effect when eating the greens. It’s a nice combination and I love it!

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie!

Chicken chow mein

I probably will be cooking more of Chinese food this month and cooking through a cookbook will definitely solve my problem of having to think of meals to prepare (and I really think hard). So it’s Ching-He’s Chinese Food Made Easy again because I love the dishes listed in the book and they are all easy to prepare and the portions are small ((2 -4). Having just come back from a baking course and hungry like a big bad wolf, I just want to make an easy meal. So it’s chicken chow mein to the rescue.

I will be attempting most of the dishes and tweaking a little to give my own twist to it.

The flavour from this dish comes mostly from the five-spice powder which is the seasoning for the chicken. In the original recipe, red pepper is called for but since the hubs and I are not fans of it, I didn’t add the slices. I know it adds colour to the dish so in future to achieve the more colourful look, I would add slices of carrots instead. Also, I found the noodle a little dry and bland and added one tablespoon of dark soy sauce to it. Perhaps, I could also add some tablespoons of chicken stock if I have it on hand.

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CSCA AB Lesson #3 – Cakes

Our lesson today was on Cakes but before we got down to business, Chef told or rather, warned us to wear something that we don’t really want and dark as we would be doing chocolates (think ‘mess’). On top of this, we have to be on task or else out we go. I guess it was about tempering of the chocolates since precision is important and tempering chocolate is affected by the temperature. I can’t wait for that class um..because I have NOT done that before.

As a good student (ahem), I read up a little about cakes. Basically, we have butter cake, genoise (sponge cake), angel cake and pound cake (I believe there are more). For each one, there are different properties and before I could consolidate my thoughts (yesterday night), I kind of gave up and retired for the night. Too much information and I figured I would need more time to understand. Too much science for me…

Chef Elise explained a little about cakes and how to actually cover the cake with the buttercream. We were not going to make American type of buttercream which consists of butter and icing sugar (phew!) but we were going for French buttercream which uses whole eggs and egg yolks. Her method is different from the one I attended at LCB. This method uses cake ring and to me, better and more manageable once you get the technique right.

When it comes to choosing, I chose the one that I have not had any experience in. I went for coffee praline cake which is made up of almond praline (what on earth is that?), coffee buttercream (familiar but the method employed is so different) and spice cake (exotic!).

To tell you the truth, I spent a long time before I got down to baking. I was reading the recipe, going through mentally what the process would be like and trying to imagine what the finished product would look like. In the end, I was the last to ensemble my ingredients and I panicked. By the time I did my cake batter, all the oven space was used up = last one to go into the oven. Thankfully, Chef came over a while later and arranged the trays again and squeeze mine in.

Next was the almond praline and I had no idea what it was. By the time I got my ingredients (got the wrong ingredients and had to redo) and wanted to go over to the stovetop, there was no more space left! *cry!* I’m way behind others!

In the end, it was okay. When the praline was almost done and in the cooling stage, I finally understood what it was and was able to picture my cake.

When it was done, it was perfect (to me). It was a piece of art. Chef was happy, my classmates complimented it and came over to take pictures. The baker was happy and chef came over…twice to ask me if I’m happy. Of course I am. I’m ecstatic!

I am weakest with cakes. I dislike assembling and decorating it yet I know it would be totally satisfying once done well. I need to bake more cakes. =)

Lynn's coffee praline cake

Mariela's Tiramisu

Chef Elise's cake

A classmate's cake

The conversion of cups to ounce has really slowed me down. I spent quite some time doing Math! Doesn’t help that the  weighing scale is in ounces rather than in grams!

Remember: 1/2 cup of butter = 4 ounces

FFWD: Spinach and bacon quiche

I’m on time again!

As usual, when it comes to tart, I prefer to rub the dough in rather than roll it out which basically achieves the same result, just that it might not be as neat as it should be. But it’s ok!

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie! It’s fun!


I can do with more spinach the next time. =)

David Lebovitz’s Racines Cake

You absolutely have to bake this cake. When I first received his book ‘Ready for Dessert’, that is the first item that I wanted to bake (as you can see, there are many recipes that I want to try too) because it is so easy to bake and from his description, it really sounds marvelicious!

Racines is a restaurant in Paris and while David was in the men’s room, his eyes caught sight of a recipe for chocolate cake. After he returned from his table. he noticed a chocolate cake with the same name on the menu and so ordered it. It was so delicious, he wrote, that he returned to the men’s room, this time with a pad of paper and pen with him.

The cake is good when eaten on the day it is baked. We consumed it the next day and it was… still good! It was moist and rich with chocolate and not too sweet. If you are not used to cocoa nibs (peeled roasted cocoa beans transformed into chunks), you can opt them out. Okay, my pictures don’t really do justice to the cake but until I have my multi-card reader fixed, I just have to bear with this.

Oh, forgot to say this: for goodness’ sake, use good quality chocolate. =)

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Braised Pork Ribs with Coca-cola

This dish came rather by chance when Dom sent me an email about the 3rd season of Masterchef in Aussie Land and a recipe that she found interesting. It was fried lamp ribs marinated in coca-cola. I like the idea minus the deep-frying part and sourced for pork ribs instead and found the following recipe from Christine’s recipes ( I love her recipes. Go visit!)

Okay. Now you know I heart cola but that doesn’t mean I consume frequently! All right, that’s besides the point. The dish does not taste of cola though but it was heavenly. The meat fell off the bones and its tenderness melted my heart. This is a must-keep. I won’t follow the recipe religiously though it serves as a guide. Use your tongue/taste-buds instead. It will do just fine, if not better.

Ingredients:
600 gm pork ribs
2 stalks of spring onion, sectioned
4 slices of ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup Coca-cola
1 cup water

Seasoning:
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine or Shaoxing cooking wine
Pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Blanch the ribs  in boiling water for 2 minutes to get rib of any blood and fat. Drain well.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok, sauté ginger and spring onion until aromatic.
  3. Add pork ribs, sauté and continue to cook until lightly brown. Pour in the seasonings, mix well.
  4. Transfer all ingredients to a clay pot or a medium pot. Add coca-cola and water. Cover and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the sauce thickens. To me, it is done when the meat falls off the bone easily when I use a fork to remove it and the sauce is right for my taste-buds.

You can add carrots or potatoes or mushrooms too!

Notes on whipping egg whites

Eggs should be separated carefully so that no yolk gets in the whites. Fats, especially egg yolks (which contain emulsifiers as well as fats), interfere with the development of the egg white foam. Even a speck of egg yolk will drastically increase the amount of energy required to produce the foam and will reduce the foam’s stability.

Always use a very clean bowl and whisk to whip egg whites. Do not use plastic bowls since plastic holds fat residue, even after a thorough cleaning.

The fresher the eggs, the more viscous the egg whites. The whites of eggs that are at least 3 days old can actually be whipped to slightly greater volume than those of very fresh eggs. This is an advantage for making souffles, where maximum volume is highly desirable. In pastry making, stability is more important than maximum volume, and whipping fresh whites makes the foam more stable.

While it is easiest to separate eggs when they are cold, it is easier to whip air into warm whites. This egg whites should be allowed to warm to room temperature before whipping.

Use a copper, stainless steel, glass or glazed ceramic bowl to whip egg whites though copper bowls are the best choice. Do not use aluminium, which discolours the whites.

Egg whites sold in a carton does not whip as well.

1 egg white is about 1 ounce.

The addition of cream of tartar while beating egg whites brightens the whites and adds stability. The latter is true for the adding of salt.

Notes gathered from Baking class and The Art of the Cake by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat. 

On Meringues

A meringue is simply a mixture of stiffly whipped egg whites and sugar. When baked, it is very light, sweet and usually crisp.

There are 3 methods of preparing meringue batters, depending on how sugar is incorporated – French, Italian and Swiss.

French (or “ordinary”) meringue – sugar is beaten into the whipped whites. We use French meringue to make individual-serving-size desserts, decorations, rounds for layers in gateaux (pronounced ga-to = layer cakes) and shells that are filled with ice-cream or whipped cream and fruits to become vacherins (classic desserts). We also make French meringue as part of the preparation of separated egg sponge cake batters.

Italian meringue – hot sugar syrup is used instead of dry sugar. Used for some decorations and individual-serving-size desserts and as part of the preparation of vacherins shells and as a frosting on some gateaux.

Swiss meringue – egg whites and sugar are combined at the outset and whipped over low heat. Much heavier than French and Italian meringues and is used very little in modern cake making.

Adapted from The Art of the Cake: Modern French Baking and Decoration by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat.

CSCA AB Lesson #2 – Meringue

Another wonderful session in class! Oh! That’s quite a bit to talk about Meringue and I think I shall slowly pen down the notes over the next few days.

Today, every one of us attempted the different recipes on our own. I was the only one to go for Italian Meringue since I have done French meringue when baking macarons. What better way than to try it in class and get the chef to show you the ropes. Smart move, Lynn! I’m proud of you.

Anyway, I’m too engrossed in my work to capture more scenes in the kitchen. I like my performance today and I like it that I was swift in what I did. And if I can choose all over again on what I want to do when I first came over to Boston, I would choose to go to pastry school. I find myself so at home in the kitchen and enjoy the learning tremendously. No, I am not thinking about becoming a pastry chef though this could be one option. For now, I just love the learning. And shouldn’t we be learning for the sake of the love for learning rather than for a certificate or a job prospect and what not?

More info to be updated. For now, I’m saddened by the loss of a capable minister in the election that has just come to a conclusion. But hey, no one is indispensable. The election is over. Now is the time to start walking the talk.

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Finally got hold of David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert. I am baking what many would love – chocolate chip cookies – and I’m splurging today, by using Valrhona’s bittersweet chocolate! This is an indulgence definitely but I’m baking for my dear hubs who loves CCC and it’s all worth it!

I’m baking this using pecans and bittersweet chocolate. DL has recommended 10 minutes for the baking time for soft CCC and I did just that for my first batch. The second batch is in the refrigerator now and according to him and many other bakers, the dough improves with resting for at least 24 hours before baking. And for the subsequent batch, I want it crispier and would bake for a longer time.

  

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Tonkatsu with fruit and nut quinoa salad

I suddenly had a craving for Tonkatsu, actually more because I have run out of ideas to cook and also wanted a fuss-free meal. The thought of cooking Tonkatsu came when I saw the box of Panko on the shelf while doing my grocery.

Commonly, Tonkatsu is served with cabbage and tomato wedges. I thought it would not be substantial for the hubs and since I’ve just purchased a box of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), decided to accompany the meat with a fruit and nut quinoa salad. The latter is also a dish that I have missed out on preparing for one of FFWD’s dishes. I didn’t know what quinoa was then and couldn’t find it in the supermarket that I frequent. Today, I chanced upon it!

Quinoa was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain”. It remains an important staple in South American cuisine, as it contains more protein than most other grains. Its delicate flavour makes it a great alternative to rice or couscous as a side dish, and can be added to vegetables and meat as a main dish.

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FFWD: Tourteau de chevre

I confess I’m not good with cheeses. In fact, I only count the common cheeses – cream cheese, mascarpone, cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan –  as friends. All the others are perfect stranger to me. Imagine the agony that I go through when I have to purchase a type of cheese which I am not familiar with; I spent a long time at the counter and asking within me, “Where on earth is xxxx?”

For FFWD this week (yes, I’m on time! Finally!), goat cheese is used. All right, I know this is quite a common cheese but yours truly has no clue but I thought it is a good chance to get acquainted with this new friend.

Tourteau de chevre, according to Dorie, is a cheesecake of sorts and that the cheese was chevre, goat cheese. Unlike the usual American cheesecake we so commonly eat, this is not soft, creamy, moist or even rich. Instead, it’s a fairly dry cake (like a sponge cake, and the hubs thought it smells like butter cake) that you cut into wedges and eat out of hand.

The special thing about this cake is that the bottom is made of tart dough and then top it up with chevre batter, making it different from the cheesecake that we are familiar with.

Something that baffled me. The batter was to be put into a 400F oven for 15 minutes and subsequently the temperature to be reduced to 350F and the batter baked for another 35 minutes. A dark brown , cracked top is what you want to see in the end. For mine, Not only does it not crack, it doesn’t achieve the dark brown status even though I have put in an extra 30 minutes!

Nonetheless, the cake turns out fine. I wasn’t a great supporter of goat cheese (not yet) and prefer the usual cheesecake that I consume. Friends like it though and that’s more important.

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie!

Poppyseed Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

A friend asked me recently where she could find good basic cupcakes recipes which led me to think about the cupcakes that I have baked and their creators.

There are many bloggers out there who do an excellent job in this area. Just look at the nominated list of bloggers in my previous entry; I spent quite some time deciding who to vote for in the various categories!

So, this cupcake is from one of the nominees. I like the crunchy feel of the poppy seeds when you take a bite. I’m fond of cream cheese but quite detest icing sugar and just used a portion of it, about 3/4 cup instead of the suggested 1.5 to 3 cups. Taste for yourself the degree of sweetness that you want. For me, I want the cream cheese and butter flavour to stand out.

And then, of all times, the multi-card reader failed on me and I have to take the pictures using my Lumix. Sigh…

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More notes on puff pastry

In the recent puff pastry class, Chef told us that whatever leftover dough that we had (and if we wanted to keep it) should not be crushed into a ball but should be stacked in layers. With that, I brought home mine together with the almond filling that we made for the Pithivier.

Coincidentally, The Sunday Times featured the making of a chicken, mushroom and leek pie using the puff pastry for the layer on top and I decided to make a slightly different version of it, based on what I had in the fridge.

The steps are still similar – browning of chicken thighs (remember not to crowd them!) and then cooking of the bacon. I added Chinese sausages to it and while letting it simmer, tossed in broccoli and coriander. Having a good supply of home-made chicken stock at hand is always helpful for many dishes.

Lastly, I topped it up with the remnants of the puff pastry dough from the baking class and there you are, my own version of humble pie!

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More notes on puff pastry from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook:

Set aside plenty of time to prepare puff pastry; chilling the dough and letting it rest is very important and should not be rushed. The gluten needs time to relax after rolling or the dough will become tough and difficult to work with. Keeping the dough cold will ensure that the butter layers are even.

When rolling out puff pastry, make sure that your work surface is well dusted with flour. However, before making any turns in the dough, brush off any loose flour with a dry pastry brush. Excess flour can make for tough puff pastry.

To keep puff pastry from sticking, lift the dough periodically while rolling it out. If you can see part of the butter package through the dough, flour that area heavily and continue rolling; the excess flour will act as a natural patch for the dough. Just be sure to brush off the excess before proceeding.

If you will not be using your puff pastry dough within a day, cut it into 1-pound pieces (preferably square). Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator; this will take about 4 hours (you can allow it to defrost overnight if you wish). Don’t leave puff pastry in the refrigerator for more than 1 day or it will lose its ability to puff properly in the oven.

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Cendol Macarons

This is inspired by the dessert we often have at the hawker centres back home. To me, the coconut milk taste stands out whenever I consumed it, coupled with the red beans and I love chewing on them. Thus, this is my take on this Cendol macaron.

The basic recipe for the shell is used and coconut buttercream for the filling. To lend a cendol appearance to it, red bean paste and coconut jelly are added. Later, strawberries are inserted to give a more vibrant outlook to the dainty macaron.

Basic recipe (adapted from Macarons by Annie Rigg)

Makes about 40 shells = 20 filled macarons
200g/ 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
100g/ 2/3 cup ground almonds
125g egg whites (aged) – about 3 eggs
a pinch of salt
40g /3 tbsp caster sugar

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and ground almond and sieve it. Set aside.

In a spotlessly clean and dry mixing bowl, put the egg whites and add a pinch of salt. Using  the whisk attachment, beat until they will only just hold a stiff peak (looks like the bubble bath foam).

Continue to whisk at medium speed while adding the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time. Mix well between each addition to ensure that the sugar is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next spoonful. The mixture should be thick, white and glossy. A test to perform to show that it is ready is to invert the mixing bowl. If nothing falls out, you are all set to go!

Fold the confectioners’ sugar and almond mixture into the egg whites. The mixture should be thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Do not overmix! When it is ready, the mixture should drop from the spoon in a smooth molten mass.

Fill the piping bag with the mixture and pipe evenly sized rounds, about 3.5cm across onto the prepared baking sheets. I used the 807 Ateco piping tip.

Tap the bottom of the baking sheets sharply, once, on the work surface to expel any large air bubbles.

Add any edible decorations (I added gold glitter) onto the unbaked macaron shells. The top left one was a mistake; I added too much!

Leave the macarons for at least 15 minutes, and up to 1 hour, until they have “set” and formed a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky or wet when tested with your fingertip.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Bake the macarons on the middle shelf of the preheated oven, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. The tops should be crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool on the baking sheet before inserting the filling.


Coconut buttercream

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g confectioners’ sugar
70ml coconut milk
2/3 tablespoons caster sugar

Beat the butter until creamy and pale. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating well until the buttercream is smooth.

Whip the coconut milk and caster sugar until it turns slightly frothy, and add this to the buttercream. Beat until smooth

Pipe in the buttercream and add the red bean paste, coconut jelly and/or strawberries on the shell before sandwiching it.

Enjoy!