30 September 2011

Chocolate Tweed Angel Cake - Fit for a Princess

My little girl is growing up. For her 6th birthday, instead of asking me to make a 3D cake, or a pink 'princessy' cake, Sugababe 1 graciously told me that she was fine with anything I chose.  This, coming from a girl who has always been a 'girly-girl', insisting on pink, or princess themes, when faced with a choice on anything.

"Anything you like, Mummy" she said.
It wasn't just about the cake.  This year there was no list of demands, and she was even happy not to have a birthday party but to just spend a day out with us.

It's a change that has been happening for some time, this realisation that she doesn't always need to insist on her way, but that she can give way to others, and make room for other ideas of what is good, or what is beautiful.  That it's okay if she doesn't have the only available pink cup or crayon (is it only in my household that girls would fight over this?).  That she doesn't always need to be in a dress, but that jeans and a T-shirt are fine too. That it is okay for her sister to have, wear or enjoy something that is 'nicer' than hers, because she is not any less special for not having the same thing.

Such are the rewards of a parent when you see glimpses of your child maturing into gracious and beautiful inner attitudes and behaviour.
I have always delighted in meeting my kids' birthday cake demands, no matter how much work it took to bake and build those 3D confections.
But this time, given free reign to bake for her what I chose, I had joy of a different kind.
I decided on this Chocolate Tweed Angel Cake, because she loves the soft texture of angel cakes, and also anything with chocolate.  But mainly, I loved that this was such a beautiful cake, its chocolate-speckles against white bringing to mind the elegance of Chanel tweed, and a princess of a different kind.  Yes, not a make-believe fairy tale princess with pink frou-frou and ribbons and bows. But a REAL princess - sophisticated, gentle and gracious.
Happy Birthday!

Recipe for Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake
by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Serves 14 to 16.
1-1/2 cups, divided superfine sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, lightly spooned and leveled off (or 1 cup, sifted into the cup and leveled off)
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 large egg whites, at room temperature, or 2 cups
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, chilled, finely grated, refrigerated
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: One ungreased 10-inch (16 cups) two-piece metal tube pan or 1 long-necked glass wine or soda bottle, or a large inverted metal funnel that will fit into the opening at the top of the pan. (Have this ready before baking and weight it by filling it with sugar or marbles to keep it from tipping.)
PREHEAT THE OVEN: Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
PREPARE THE SUGAR, FLOUR, AND SALT: In a small bowl, whisk together half the sugar, the flour, and salt until evenly combined. Sift the remaining sugar onto a piece of wax paper.
BEAT THE EGG WHITES INTO A STIFF MERINGUE: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the sifted sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Beat in the vanilla until combined.
MAKE THE BATTER: Dust (lightly sprinkle) the flour mixture over the beaten whites, 1/4 cup at a time (if using cake flour, sift it over the whites). With a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or large silicone spatula, fold in the flour mixture quickly but gently. It is not necessary to incorporate every speck until the last addition. Fold in the grated chocolate until evenly incorporated. Using a long narrow spatula or silicone spatula, spread a thin layer of batter onto the sides of the prepared pan to ensure smooth sides. Empty the rest of the batter into the pan. In a 16-cup pan, it will be 1/2-inch from the top of the rim. Run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets and smooth the surface evenly.
BAKE THE CAKE: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown, a wire cake tester inserted between the tube and the side comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. (A wooden toothpick will still have a few moist crumbs clinging to it.) During baking, the center will rise about 2 inches above the pan, but it will sink to almost level with the pan when done. The surface will have deep cracks, like a souffle.
COOL AND UNMOLD THE CAKE: Invert the pan immediately, placing the tube opening over the neck of the bottle to suspend it well above the countertop. Cool completely in the pan, about 1-1/2 hours.
Loosen the sides of the pan with a long narrow spatula and remove the center core of the pan. Dislodge the cake from the bottom and center core with a metal spatula or thin sharp knife. (A wire cake tester or wooden skewer works well around the core. To keep the sides attractive, press the spatula firmly against the sides of the pan, moving the spatula up and down as you go around it.) Invert the cake onto a flat plate covered with plastic wrap that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray and reinvert it onto a serving plate. Allow the cake to sit for 1 hour, or until the top is no longer tacky. Then cover it with a cake dome or wrap it airtight. It keeps for 3 days at room temperature and for 10 days refrigerated. Freezing toughens the texture. The cake is also lovely decorated simply with a light sprinkling of cocoa or lacy drizzles of melted chocolate. Do not serve this cake with sauce as it would fall apart.

12 July 2011

Lime Yogurt Cake with Rosewater and Pistachios

I remember when I first saw Rachel Allen demonstrate this very exotic, Persian-inspired cake with rose and pistachios on Rachel Allen: Bake. I thought it was just one of the prettiest flavour-combinations ever.  It put me in mind of beautiful Middle Eastern desserts like baklava and romantic holiday escapades to Arabia ala Sex and the City and Disney's Aladdin.

I am glad that when I finally had a chance to make and taste this cake, it did not disappoint. 

Refreshing with zesty lime, and fragrant with the floral scent of rosewater, it also has a very light and tender crumb.  Ground almonds give this cake a pleasant nuttiness and a delicate 'fall-apart' texture. A welcome departure from the usual rich, buttery cakes that I am so fond of (this one has no butter at all).  It is a subtle cake which is neither overpowering nor assertive.  Beautifully ambrosial, with a flavour that improves over time.  In a tea spread, it won't jostle for attention among richer cakes of chocolate, cream and butter.  But, like a true Middle Eastern veiled beauty, its unique, alluring flavour will grow on you and have your guests returning for more.

Recipe for Lime Yogurt Cake with Rosewater and Pistachios
(slightly adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen)


For the cake
225 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
75 g ground almonds
100 g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 generous tbsp or 50g runny honey
250 ml natural yogurt
150 ml sunflower oil

1 lime, finely grated zest only

For the syrup
150 ml water
100 g caster sugar
1 lime, juice only

1-2 tsp rose water (I used Nielssen Massey)

For decorating 

50 g unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
rose petals, (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line the base and sides of a 22cm spring-form/loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the ground almonds and caster sugar.

3. Mix together the eggs, honey, yogurt, sunflower oil and lime zest together well in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined. You can add some chopped pistachios to the mixture if you wish, or save them for decorating.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes.

5. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, boil the water and sugar for about 5 minutes until it is reduced by half. Add the lime juice and boil for a further 2 minutes, then cool. Add rosewater to taste (about 1 teaspoon, see note below).

6. With a fine skewer, make holes on top of the warm cake and spoon the syrup all over the top. Scatter the pistachios over, if you wish, and leave to settle for 1 hour.

7. Decorate with rose petals, if using. Serve with cream, natural yogurt, sliced mangos or berries. It is a very moist cake so keeps extremely well in the fridge for a few days. 

1) Rosewater can be overpowering if used excessively, so use sparingly. I used 1 teaspoon for the syrup.  The original recipe calls for 1-2tbsp but that is excessive in my opinion. 

2) Although this cake can be refrigerated, it is best served at room temperature. Part of its beauty is that it has a very delicate, tender and crumbly texture.  However, this will not come through if the cake is cold and not thawed properly. I kept mine at room temperature for 3 days in an airtight container and found that it improved in taste and texture over time. 

3) This cake looks best when baked into little rose or flower shaped mini cakes. I used a Nordic Ware bouquet pan.  A Nordic Ware rose muffin pan, like the one I used for my Salted Caramel Banana Cakes,  is also an excellent choice.  

07 July 2011

Blueberry Yogurt Brûlée

Here in our household, we've all been trying to eat more yogurt these days, ever since a recent Harvard study concluded that yogurt was the best food for long-term weight loss. Apparently, the study found that not all calories are created equal. So one could theoretically eat the same number of calories of yogurt as another might eat in, say, french fries, and the former would lose weight while the latter gained weight.

Interesting, you may say. Tragic, if you ask me.

Since the same study also found potatoes to be the worst food for keeping off weight gain.  Hard to swallow as that may be, I can't pretend that the finding was really a surprise. Deep in my gut I always suspected my faulty logic of replacing lunch or dinner with a giant bag of chips wasn't good weight-loss practice (although I frequently pretended it did).  So guilty was I about my unhealthy potato habit (and also for all the times I've used chips to bribe the kids) that I immediately declared our home a potato-free zone for a year. Yes, that means no chips, french fries, mash or hash for 365 days. I think this might be the hardest dietary choice I have ever made in my life. If it makes no difference to our health or weight in a year, you can be assured I will resume my chip habit.

At the same time, I also decided we could all try to consume more yogurt.

I was mulling over a healthy-ish dessert/supper option for tonight (not many, I can assure you) when I chanced upon this Blueberry Yogurt Brûlée in an old copy of Delicious Magazine.  Not only did it look delicious, it was also easy, and more importantly, guiltless. How great is that.   

I LOVE that it uses Greek yogurt, which is richer and creamier and therefore feels absolutely sinful in its luxuriating unctuousness while being absolutely not. A most lovely contradiction. Apparently, Greek yogurt is also healthier than regular yogurt, as it contains more protein and less carbs - all the more reason to make the switch.

The additional step of cooking the blueberries lightly in honey, really helps the flavours to meld together much better than merely folding in fresh berries (which is what I usually do for breakfast). Sprinkled atop the yogurt, the velvety muscovado sugar turns into a beautiful, dark, caramelly syrup, which I slurp up (and pretend is toffee sauce).  Good quality manuka honey, with its unique woody, caramel notes, also makes a real difference to this dessert (so don't use the cheap stuff).
Great as a simple dessert, and refreshing for breakfast.  At 112 calories per serving, guiltlessness really doesn't get much better than this.

Recipe for Blueberry Yogurt Brûlée
(by Joy Skipper, Delicious Magazine)

This is a healthier take on crème brûlee which, because of the high cream content, is extremely high in saturated fat. Using yogurt instead of cream makes for a lighter, yet still delicious end to the meal. Serves 4

200g blueberries
2 tsp manuka honey
250g Greek yogurt
4 tsp dark muscovado sugar


  1. Place the blueberries and manuka honey in a small saucepan and heat gently, until the juices of the blueberries start to run and the fruit softens slightly. Remove from the heat and spoon the fruit and juices into 4 individual serving bowls (about 125ml). Leave to cool.
  2. Spoon the yogurt over the blueberries and sprinkle each bowl with 1 tsp of the muscovado sugar. This will melt and turn syrupy. Place the bowls in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
Nutritional Information:
Per serving: 112kcals, 3.8g fat (2.6g saturated), 3.6g protein, 9.5g carbs, 14.4g sugar, 0.2g salt

(This dessert was submitted for Sweets for a Saturday Party #25)

06 July 2011

Pandan Chiffon Cake

It's amazing what one can accomplish when the baby sleeps. Sugababe 3 took an unprecedented 2 hour nap yesterday and I immediately got to work on this Pandan Chiffon Cake.  It's a recipe from the well-known food blog ieatishootipost that I had been dying to try for some time.  I am pleased to report that the Pandan Chiffon turned out as fluffy, moist, voluminous and delicious as promised, and is easily the best chiffon recipe I have tried so far!

In particular, I really liked that the recipe asked for the additional step of beating the egg yolks until light and lemon-coloured.  Most chiffon recipes only call for the egg whites to be beaten to stiff peaks, and for the egg yolks to be mixed with the other ingredients (i.e. oil, milk, etc).  Beating the egg yolks until they are light does make it easier to fold the egg whites in at the later stage, and also seems to incorporate more air into the batter, which is a good thing. I will definitely be using this technique for all my chiffon cakes from here on.

If like me, you have none-too-fond memories of dry, coarse and scarily mutant-green pandan chiffon cakes sold in local bakeries, you will be won over by this recipe. My Sugababes, who are partial to soft, fluffy cakes, absolutely adored this cake.  And as I always say, anything that my picky eater Sugababe 2 willingly devours, is a must-try!   

Recipe for Pandan Chiffon Cake
(from Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost. Instructions have been summarised and paraphrased in my own words. For more detailed instructions and an excellent step-by-step tutorial, please go to this link)


6 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
115ml corn oil
140ml coconut milk
200g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp pandan juice
2 tsp pandan essence
1 tsp vanilla essence
(* You can use 3/4 tsp of pandan paste, in place of pandan juice and pandan essence.  Although convenient, pandan paste definitely tastes more artificial, so stick with fresh pandan and pandan essence, if you can)
** I used Kara brand coconut cream, which is nice and thick)

9 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar


Preheat the oven to 170C.

Sift cake flour and baking powder, mix evenly. Set aside. 

Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and lemon-coloured. Add in the oil, coconut cream, pandan juice, pandan essence, vanilla essence and salt. Sift flour and baking powder over the mixture. Mix well until smooth.

Beat egg whites with wire whisk attachment until slightly foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks. Add in sugar tablespoon by tablespoon and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture does not slide out of mixing bowl when upturned.

Add in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and mix gently with whisk, to 'lighten' the mixture. Using a spatula, fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites into egg yolk mixture, gently, to prevent batter from deflating. Do not overfold.

Pour batter into 25cm ungreased tube pan. Run a spatula through the batter to eliminate large bubbles in the batter.

Bake at 170C in preheated oven, for about 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean (or with few dry crumbs adhering)

Remove cake from oven, prop it up on a bottle to cool, upside-down so as to prevent the cake from sinking.

Once cool, remove from tube pan by sliding a knife along the sides, and bottom.

To serve, cut with a serrated knife (so as not to flatten the cake).

(This dessert was submitted for Sweets for a Saturday Party #25

30 June 2011

Let's Do the Hokey Pokey!

Hokey Pokey, Sponge Toffee, Sea Foam, Honeycomb Candy - whatever you may call it, I recently had an inexplicably intense craving to gorge on some - chocolate-covered ones specifically.  This was right on the heels of my cravings for chocolate ice cream, iced chocolate, and chocolate cake, in that order. No, I am no longer pregnant, but cravings while one is breastfeeding can be just as powerful, if not more so.  And in my particular case, it was all the more cruel as having a newborn on my hands meant I had little time to bake up my own treats. Unfortunately, store-bought chocolate treats are largely disappointing.  Blame it on the fact that I've been eating and baking with Valrhona chocolate for almost 3 years now. I never set out to be a chocolate snob, but after you get used to the good stuff, it's hard to enjoy supermarket chocolate.  They taste too waxy and milk-powder-like for me. I bought 3 Nestle Crunchie bars to satisfy my chocolate honeycomb craving. In the end, I barely finished one, and not before scraping off the chocolate to get at the honeycomb insides.  I tried foisting the remaining 2 Crunchie Bars on my kids (how clever of me I thought), but while Sugababe 1 happily polished off hers in a jiffy, Sugababe 2 refused to eat more after a wee bite.  Believe it or not, she's developed a taste for Valrhona chocolate too.  

So if you are asking why bother with scratchmade honeycomb if you can get Crunchie or Violet Crumble, I would say, because you can use better chocolate, that's why. But if you are not partial to that then, by all means, save yourself the trouble.

Having said that, honeycomb really should not be that much trouble. The recipe is simple and straighforward, and if done correctly shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.   I confess however, that having a newborn put me in such a very distracted mummy state that I burnt my caramel no less than THREE times. 

Thankfully, once out of those three times, I ended up with caramel that was not TOO burnt, but salvageable for the purposes of making burnt caramel ice cream.  It was one of those times when my attempts to manage a kitchen disaster brought about a most fortuituous result - an improvised no-churn burnt caramel gelato that didn't take more than 10 minutes to make (minus freezing time).  Yes you heard right -  an Easy No-Churn Salted Burnt Caramel Gelato.  Otherwise known as Obesity 101. I will happily endanger your health by sharing the recipe in a future post. 

In the meantime, back to the honeycomb.  There are many recipes for honeycomb candy, all calling for largely the same ingredients - sugar, corn syrup and the magic-making baking soda.  In the end, I struck honeycomb gold with a recipe that called for the addition of gelatine, which resulted in a better, crispier texture, with fine bubbles throughout.

Making honeycomb is fun and exciting, and always makes me feel rather like a science-experimenting lab genius.  You'd feel the same too when you see how the hot caramel syrup bubbles up into a towering mass of candy foam once the baking soda is added.  If you have older kids (who can handle molten sugar safely under supervision) I can imagine this would make a fun cooking exercise for them.

Look at those little golden nuggets, dipped in luscious milk chocolate. So much better than Crunchies. And super addictive too.  My kids have been asking me for Hokey Pokey all day. These will surely be even more phenomenal with dark chocolate, but unfortunately I'm out. A good excuse, surely, to do the Hokey Pokey again!

How to do the Hokey Pokey
(A recipe adapted from Wilde in the Kitchen)

¼ tsp gelatin
1 tsp water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 tbsp baking soda (sifted)

Melted milk or dark chocolate (tempered)

Butter a 9x9 pan then dust with flour. Tap out excess flour. Alternatively, line pan with greaseproof paper.

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 tsp water and allow to bloom.

In a medium stock pot with high sides, mix sugar and corn syrup together. Heat over medium heat and swirl the pot occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves evenly, and the mixture comes to a boil. Do not stir. Clip on candy thermometer and heat to 310° F.

Remove from heat and let sit for a few seconds, the bubbling should subside. Add gelatin and whisk, be careful, the sugar syrup will bubble up. Sprinkle baking soda over syrup and whisk vigorously. Return mixture to the heat and whisk for 30 seconds. The sugar will rise up in the pot, a lot!

Quickly pour into prepared pan, it should come out in a big blob. Do not spread the mixture, just let it settle into the pan. Allow to cool completely (about 2 hours or overnight) before removing from the pan.

Either break into odd pieces or cut into squares (this is a messy process!). To cut into squares - using a serrated knife, score the candy at 1-inch intervals. Snap the candy apart at the score lines. Then score and break into squares.

Dip sponge candies in molten tempered chocolate, tap off excess. Ensure that the honeycomb is completely covered with chocolate, as any exposed parts will absorb moisture from the air and quickly degenerate. Chill in the fridge to set the chocolate shell.

And that's what it's all about!

1) The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup of water to be added to the sugar.  This is the 'wet method' of caramelization which takes a longer time. I prefer to use the dry caramelization method and therefore the adapted recipe does not require the addition of water. The caramelization will occur pretty quickly, so one must keep a careful watch on the colour of the sugar syrup. If you are using a digital instant read candy thermometer, great.  If you are eyeballing it, stop once it turns a medium amber shade, otherwise you run the risk of burning it. My preferred method is to drop a few drops of molten syrup into a bowl of water every once in a while.  When it reaches the hard crack stage (which is what we want), the syrup will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent.

If you are not careful and it becomes dark amber, it will be no longer good for honeycomb.  However, if it has only a whiff of burntness but is still fit for cunsumption, quickly pour in 2 cups of milk or cream to stop its temperature from rising (and therefore being TOO burnt) and then make burnt caramel gelato with it.

2) If you cannot be bothered to temper chocolate (like me), simply use tempered chocolate (like Valrhona). When melting, ensure that you do it over low heat (whether in a double-boiler or in microwave) and stir often. Once 2/3 of the chocolate is melted, remove it from heat or microwave, and keep stirring until the remaining chunks of chocolate are melted.

3) Honeycomb degenerates quickly in humid weather. Make sure to store them immediately after making, in an airtight container with food-grade desicants, or they will degrade into a sticky mess within minutes.

27 April 2011

Cranberry New York Cheesecake

New York Cheesecakes are by far my favourite kind of cheesecakes. I like that they are dense and cheesy, and when combined with chocolate,  deliciously fudgey.  A ruby red cranberry topping just takes it over the top.

I adapted a recipe from Smitten Kitchen by (1) adding in whipping cream to lighten up the texture of the cheesecake, (2) incorporating chocolate into the bottom layer of the cheesecake; and (3) giving the cake a cranberry topping. I do love how the bright red topping spills dramatically down the cake when you cut it.
Recipe for Cranberry New York Cheesecake
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Crumb crust
8 ounces (227g) finely ground graham crackers or digestives

8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Very tall cheesecake filling:
5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (or 1134g) (I used Elle Et Vire, great quality and cheaper than Philadelphia. Pick it up from Euraco finefood, next to TOTT Store)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream
200g dark chocolate

Make crumb crust: Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and up the sides, stopping one inch shy of the top rim**, of a buttered 9 1/2-inch (or 24 cm) springform pan. Pop it into the freezer so it quickly sets while you prepare the filling.

Make very tall cheesecake filling: Preheat oven to 550 degrees***. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated. Scrape bowl down between additions; I cannot stress this enough as if you do not, you’ll end up with unmixed stripes of cream cheese. I always find at least one, despite my best efforts. Stir in whipping cream and mix until evenly blended.

Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, taking care not to burn it.  Divide cheesecake filling in half.  Mix one half with the melted dark chocolate, until even.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips). Pour chocolate filling into crust, smoothen the top, then pour the remaining cheesecake mixture in the pan. Bake in baking pan in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. Please watch your cake because some ovens will top-brown very quickly and if yours does too fast, turn the oven down as soon as you catch it. Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about one hour more.

Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool the cake completely in springform on a rack, then chill it, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Recipe for Cranberry Topping
(adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

1 cup (100g) fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75g) sugar
2.5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup (59g) water

(Note: If you like more topping, you can use 1.5 recipe like I did) 
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cornstarch and cranberries and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stop stirring, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 minute, swirling the pan occasionally. The mixture will be thick but pourable. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.

17 April 2011

Earl Grey Sticky Date Pudding, with Salted Toffee Sauce

I've tried several sticky date pudding recipes in the past, and while none of them were too bad (after all, it is not difficult to like anything served with toffee sauce), they were not particularly memorable either.  Some may consider what I am about to say next rather sacrilegious, but to be very honest, I don't like the 'pudding' texture of sticky date pudding.  What some recipes promise to be "moist" have often turned out for me to be too cloyingly sweet, gummy, sticky and dense.  My memories of most sticky date puddings are that they are sweet in a very one-dimensional, toothache-causing kind of way.

I like this recipe by Rachel Allen very much, because it manages to be very moist without being gummy or overly sticky.  This more open crumb texture means that the cake still has room to soak up the generous lashings of toffee sauce that you will inevitably be pouring over it.  But the best part of this recipe is the addition of black tea, which has a wonderful way of balancing out its sweetness and adding some complexity to its flavour.

I have adapted the recipe very simply by using Earl Grey tea, which complements the naturally-honeyed Medjool dates beautifully with its bergamot notes.  And to bring even more depth of flavour to the sticky date pudding, I salted the toffee sauce, which makes a most amazing difference.  From simple to extraordinary. More toffee sauce, anyone?

Earl Grey Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce
very slightly adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen

Ingredients 225g (8oz) Medjool dates (stoned weight), chopped
250ml (9fl oz) earl grey tea (not too strong)
100g (3 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
175g (6oz) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Toffee sauce
110g (4oz) butter
250g (9oz) soft light brown sugar (or half brown and half caster sugar)
275g (10oz) golden syrup
225ml (8fl oz) double cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fleur de sel/salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Butter and flour the sides of a 20cm (8in) diameter spring-form/loose-bottomed tin, or a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8in) square cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the chopped dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a few minutes to soften the dates, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter in a large bowl or an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the spices and vanilla extract. Fold in the date mixture. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold in gently until mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is just firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Allow to stand in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a serving plate. While the cake is cooking, make the toffee sauce.
  6. To serve, cut into slices (or squares if it is in a square tin) and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and a very generous drizzle of warm toffee sauce over the top!

Toffee sauce

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan set over a high heat and boil for approximately 4–5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has thickened.

22 March 2011

Easy Quiche Lorraine

What makes a good Quiche Lorraine?  Nice, salty bacon, a crisp (as opposed to soggy) crust, and a well-cooked egg custard that is not too dry. The last one is a common problem.

But, anyway, I don't mean to scare you. Because making a quiche is really not that hard.  If a stupid stupid rat creature can do it, well then so can you.

The recipe is an easy one to learn by heart too. Just remember "half fat to flour" for the shortcrust pastry, and 1 egg to 1/2 cup liquid, for the egg custard. The traditional fillings are bacon/ham, and Swiss cheese.  But you can really vary this creatively to include a variety of other ingredients like mushrooms, leeks, broccoli and spinach.

Recipe for Quiche Lorraine

Shortcrust pastry
250 gram flour

125 gram unsalted/salted butter, cut into small cubes, chilled
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 egg, beaten (optional)
2 - 3 tbsp cold water (may not need all)

Place flour in a mixing bowl and, using a pastry blender, cut chilled butter into flour until the mixture just resembles coarse breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, you can rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips, but be careful not to handle the mixture for too long as the butter will melt). Add beaten egg, mix well.  If needed, add cold water tablespoonful by tablespoonful until a manageable dough forms. 

Roll out the dough on Silpat or lightly floured surface into a 1/4 inch thick round.  Line a lightly greased tart tin with the dough, taking care to smoothen it out and press out any air bubbles beneath the dough. Ensure that the dough comes up evenly to the top of the tart tin (otherwise the wet custard may leak out).  Trim any excess.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes in the freezer.

Line the top of the shortcrust pastry with parchment paper or foil and weigh it down with baking beans. Ensure that the parchment paper or foil hangs over the sides of the tart tin otherwise the sides will burn before the base is baked.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until the base of the shortcrust is almost dry. Remove baking beans, cut a whole in the parchment/foil such it will only cover the rim of the shortcrust pastry but not the base. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the base of the shortcrust pastry is dry and lightly browned.

Set aside.

Egg custard

250 gram heavy cream
125 gram mix of bacon and ham, sauteed and chopped
2 eggs, beaten
50 grams cheese, shredded (e.g. Swiss, parmesan)
dash of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Mix above ingredients well.  Pour mixture carefully into pre-baked shortcrust tart base.  Bake at 180C for 15 to 20 minutes or until the egg is set.  You can test for doneness by shaking the tart tin a little (the egg should not jiggle!) or poking the egg custard with a skewer.  The skewer should not have traces of uncooked egg. Be sure not to confuse this with the wetness on a skewer that is from the steam in the egg. Do not overcook!

Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. 

21 March 2011

White and Dark Valrhona Chocolate Mousse Cake

Love is a Many Layered Cake.

That's what I thought when I baked this for my husband's birthday last week. Despite the fact that we already bought an excellent Laurent Bernard chocolate cake for him earlier to celebrate with, I thought I should still bake something special for him.  After all, I always pull out all the stops for the kids birthdays and I thought it was only fair that SugahDaddy got a bit of effort too.  Deciding on the flavour was easy - he likes chocolate and macadamia nuts. It would have to be a boldly flavoured, 'solid' kind of cake and not light, fluffy and sissy (sorry no Chiffons then). And lastly, I love doing layered cakes, because they always manage to look so elegant, special and like something you bought from a chi-chi cake shop (and often for correspondingly less effort than you would think!).

I modified a Bon Appetit recipe on Epicurious, and the result was a 5-layered White and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake, with alternating layers of white and dark chocolate eggless mousse and Kahlua-soaked chocolate genoise sponge, atop a crunchy macadamia chocolate crust (arguably the best part!).  The contrast between sweet white chocolate and bittersweet dark chocolate was very pleasing, and unlike a pure dark chocolate cake, you can many more slices of this cake as it doesn't feel as heavy.

Decorating the cake was easy - no need to smooth out icing all over the cake. All I did was dust the top all over with cocoa powder.  For this cake, leaving the sides of the cake exposed (instead of covered with icing) actually has a better aesthetic effect. I confess I really like those gold flakes they put on cakes which make them look so luxe. But they cost a bomb, and if like me you'd rather spend money on gold you wear, then well, here's something you might want to try: I sprinkled edible gold dust (from Wilton, cheaper than gold flakes!) in a rough zig-zag pattern over the cake, and also brushed some on the berries on top of the cake. Simple and elegant.

Did SugahDaddy like his cake? You bet. Happy Birthday Luv.

Recipe for White and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) (57g) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (40g) sifted all purpose flour (sifted, then measured)
1/3 cup (40g) sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process; sifted, then measured)
4 large eggs
2/3 cup (150g) sugar

Macadamia crunch base
5 ounces (142g) dark chocolate chopped
1 cup paillette feuillettine 
1/3 cup macadamias toasted, chopped

Dark Chocolate Mousse
5 ounces (142g) white chocolate, chopped 
5 ounces (142g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt

4 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur for brushing on cake layers
Additional unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting on top cake layer
For cake:
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F (176C). Line bottom of 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Spoon off foam from top of butter and discard. Spoon clear yellow butter into small metal bowl, leaving water and milk solids in bottom of pan. Add vanilla to butter in bowl; set clarified butter aside.

Sift flour and cocoa powder together 3 times into medium bowl. Whisk eggs and sugar in large metal bowl to blend. Place bowl with egg mixture in large skillet of barely simmering water; whisk constantly until egg mixture is lukewarm (105°F), about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from water. Place bowl with clarified butter in hot water in same skillet over low heat to keep warm.

Using electric mixer, beat egg mixture until cool and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Sift 1/3 of flour-cocoa mixture over egg mixture and gently fold in with rubber spatula. Fold in remaining flour-cocoa mixture in 2 more additions. Fold 1 cup of cake batter into warm clarified butter until incorporated. Using rubber spatula, gently fold butter-cake batter mixture into remaining cake batter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean and top springs back slightly when gently pressed, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.)

Run knife between pan sides and cake to loosen. Invert cake onto rack; remove parchment. Using long serrated knife, trim top of cake horizontally, so that cake is level.  Split the cake into 2 layers. Set cake layers aside. 

For macadamia crunch:
Line bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with parchment paper. Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave (being careful not to overheat it).  When chocolate is smooth and completely melted (it should look satiny), stir in pailette feuilettine and nuts. Spread crunch evenly over parchment in pan. Place one genoise cake layer atop crunch layer, pressing to adhere before the chocolate crunch layer cools down and solidifies. Chill until crunch is firm, about 1 hour.
For dark and white chocolate eggless mousse*:
Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave (being careful not to overheat it).  Stir slightly until melted chocolate is smooth. Cool chocolate to lukewarm. Do the same for the wite chocolate.

Using whisk attachment in electric mixer, beat cream and salt in another bowl until very soft peaks form (when bowl is tilted, cream should be fluffy but still pourable and flow to one side). Divide whipped cream into two equal portions. Pour one portion of whipped cream over and fold into dark chocolate just until incorporated. Pour second portion of whipped cream over and fold into white chocolate just until incorporated (mousse will be very soft).

Brush top of chilled cake layer with Kahlua.  Spread dark chocolate mousse over cake in pan. Place 2nd chocolate genoise cake layer over dark chocolate mousse. Brush top of 2nd layer with Kahlua, and spread white chocolate mousse on top. Dust the top with cocoa powder and chill overnight. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Run knife between cake and pan sides to loosen. Soak kitchen towel in hot water; wring out water. Wrap hot wet towel around pan sides and hold 30 seconds. Carefully remove pan sides from cake; smooth mousse with knife if necessary. Place cake on pan bottom on rack set over baking sheet. Transfer to platter and serve. 

* You can use crushed vanilla wafers or rice cereal (which was in the original Bon Appetit recipe) as a substitute but the result will not be as good.

**This cake would be great with the usual chocolate mousse made with egg. In fact, the texture of regular mousse is smoother.  I used an eggless mousse (which is really the texture of whipped cream) as I can't consume raw eggs during pregnancy. 

01 February 2011

Vargas Butter Cake - the BEST butter cake on the planet


You have never really lived until you've tasted a Vargas Butter Cake.

Until I bit into one, the perfect butter cake existed only in my imagination. In my fantasies, such a cake would be oozing with fragrant, buttery goodness, without being heavy, dense and oily. As a child, there was nothing I liked so much as to snack on a plate of little salted butter cubes.  It's crazy but I swear, on some days, the sensation of creamy butter melting on my tongue was waaay better than having ice cream.  To me, a butter cake is no good unless it is buttery enough to rival that taste sensation, otherwise I might as well just eat pure butter on its own. 

Unfortunately, I never managed to find or bake such a cake. Until now. Some time ago, I stumbled on rave reviews about the famed Vargas butter cake from Philippines. When my husband went there for a business trip last week, I begged him to bring back one for me. I was going crazy just thinking about it. He managed to get his colleague to lug back not one, but TWO butter cakes.

Did it live up to the hype? You bet. This is one crazy good cake, completely saturated with the intensely rich fragrance of butter.  It is also by far the moistest, lightest and most tender cake I have ever eaten. If you can just imagine - it has a very tender, open crumb structure, so tender that it threatens to fall apart in your hands. It is moist without being wet or heavy, and at each bite you can feel the individual butter-soaked crumbs falling apart and melting in your mouth. And as if the pure butteriness of the cake wasn't enough, it was ALSO topped with a shiny, sticky butter glaze.  Absolutely lip-smackingly swoon-worthy. 

Just when I thought butter cake couldn't get any better than this, I followed the suggestions on the cake-box to toast a slice for a few minutes. I can't even BEGIN to describe how awesome it is when toasted. Just imagine a lightly browned, slightly crisp outer crumb coating, and the fragrance of browned butter sizzling on the pan. Butter Heaven.  

I am so sorry that after all this, I can't leave you with anything other than a butter cake craving. No there will be no recipe in this post, as I have not the faintest clue how to bake a butter cake like that (although you can bet I will be working hard on that ).  Someday, when I have figured out a way to cram a maximum amount of butter into my cake batter and still have a cake that is light as air, I will certainly share my findings here.

In the meantime, to stave off your cravings, you can try soaking your toast in lots of melted butter (another disgusting habit I have besides eating little cubes of butter). 

And, needless to say, if you are EVER in the Philippines, you have to get your hands on this cake.

Vargas Kitchen
49 Pili Avenue, Forbes Park,
Manila, Philippines.
Telephone 810-7529 and 817-8483

Also available at Saturday Salcedo Market and the Sunday Legazpi Market.


31 January 2011

Chinese New Year Pineapple Tarts Recipe (Open-face)


If you want a pineapple tart recipe that can rival the best from your aunty, grandaunty, grandmother or great-grandmother (or will at least not be laughed off the table), look no further.  150 tarts and 9 pineapples later, I have finally arrived at one that I am happy with. I have, however, to give credit where credit is due. No recipe could ever have a chance of matching a mother's or grandaunty's, unless it is from a matriarch herself, none other than the grandmother from whom all their recipes originated. My recipe is only decent because it was adapted from such a recipe in the first place.

If you are wondering whether this is THE recipe you have been waiting for, let me describe the pineapple tart for you. After all, there are many differing opinions on what constitutes the best pineapple tart - moist jam, caramelized jam, melt-in-the-mouth pastry, firm biscuit-like pastry etc.

This recipe yields pineapple jam that is moist and full of natural pineapple flavour. The spices are in such quantity as to complement rather than overshadow the beautiful honeyed taste of the pineapples. More importantly, you won't taste the sourish tang of lemon in this jam. I know that lemon juice is a very common ingredient in pineapple jam recipes, and my fellow baking aficionado C informs me that it is used to supply pectin to the pineapple jam. However, I find that most recipes add them in such quantities as to make the jam slightly sour and rob it of its natural pineapple goodness. The difference in taste is more pronounced than you would think - I could taste the juice in 80% of tarts I have tried this year, both commercial and home-made versions, and they suffered for it next to a pineapple tart unadulterated with lemon juice.  The pineapple jam I made set well without the use of lemon juice, so I do think it is not essential especially if there is enough sugar to 'set' the jam. Of course, getting good quality pineapples is essential to making good jam. Many people swear by Sarawak pineapples. I used 'honey' pineapples recommended by my fruit grocer this year, and they were fantastic.   Making pineapple jam is the most time-consuming aspect of making pineapple tarts - from peeling to grating to cooking the pineapple to the right consistency.  I tried grating the pineapples both by hand as well as with the food processor, and I have to say, the latter method is superior. Apart from saving you from accidentally grating your fingertips, machine-grating also results in pulp with shorter fibrous strands, which is to be desired.  Cooking the pineapple jam, which can take anything up to 2 hours, also requires some skill. The desired colour is golden yellow, and the jam should no longer be wet but moist. In deciding when to stop, you have to take into account that the jam will dry out further in the oven when the tart is baked.  So you are aiming for a degree of moistness that is slightly more than what you would expect in a finished tart.  If the jam is too dry, you will get a crispy jam 'shell' on top of your tart (yes, that happened to me), and if it is too moist, your pineapple tarts will get mouldy fast. For the same reason, do not be tempted to cut down on the sugar in the jam too much, as that will also cause your tarts to become mouldy. The jam has to be a little sweeter as the pastry in this recipe is not very sweet.

As testament to how good the jam is, take a look at this picture on the right.  I had sternly forbidden my kids from snatching pineapple tarts off the cooling rack. So Sugababe 2 slyly thought that I wouldn't miss a thing if she just pinched the jam from a whole row of tarts. You can see what challenging conditions I work under. Now I don't have enough good tarts for gifting (not that my family is complaining).

Now we move on to the pastry. In our family, we all differ in opinion as to what makes a good pastry. Grandma likes the pastry firm and biscuit-like, my husband likes it firm but yet tender, and I like it crumbly and melt-in-the mouth.  I was striving for the texture I liked, but my husband insisted that he really disliked that crumbly, powdery texture (no doubt melt-in-the-mouth) which always makes him choke.  I have to respect the guy who brings home the dough (so to speak), so this recipe achieves a texture that is firm (as in it won't break apart into little bits in your hand) and yet very tender. What we all agree on however, is that the pastry has to be very fine, fragrant, and buttery.  For that reason, the rubbed-in dough in this recipe has the highest fat to flour ratio that can be tolerated. The minimum ratio for a shortcrust pastry is half fat to flour, i.e. 50% fat to flour. This recipe has the highest percentage I have seen i.e. 66% fat to flour. It does result in a dough that is slightly trickier to handle, but the results are worth it.  The recipe for the pastry is actually very simple.  I have seen recipes that call for milk powder to be added, to achieve a 'melt-in-the-mouth' texture, but again, this compromises on the taste. And don't even consider using margarine or shortening, which gives that tell-tale plastic taste to commercial baked pastries.

If there is any secret to the pastry at all, it is in the use of salted Golden Churn butter. Or any salted butter of the highest butterfat percentage you can find (no less than 80%).  Most of the time, I bake with unsalted butter, but salted butter really makes a difference to this pastry. The other 'secret' is to work the dough as little as possible, since an over-worked dough results in a tough pastry. I used my fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, but my friend C recommends the use of a pastry cutter for this step (so that less heat is transferred), and I think this sounds like a brilliant idea which you should certainly try.

Pineapple tarts are painstakingly laborious to make, but when done well, they are well worth the effort, as nothing that you purchase commercially will ever come close.

If you are craving pineapple tarts, I hope this recipe will serve you well this Chinese New Year.  If not (and you find something better) then in the Chinese New Year spirit of generosity you must absolutely share it with me ;) From my home to yours, Happy Lunar New Year!

Recipe for Pineapple Tarts 

340 g plain flour
20 g cornflour
240g salted butter
1/2 egg
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp icing sugar

Pineapple Jam
3 big pineapples (grate and discard core. drain all except 3/4 cup of its juice)
284g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 inch piece of cinnmon stick
2-3 cloves
2 segments of star anise

1) Cook all ingredients for pineapple jam in a pot on the stove, ovver low heat. After 30 minutes, remove spices and continue cooking until the juice has dried up but pineapple jam is still moist (not wet).  This will take approximately 1 hour. Refrigerate.

2) Sift flours and icing sugar together, twice. Cut butter into small pieces and run into sifted flour.after it is completely rubbed in, add egg and then slowly add in the cold water (only if needed) to get a nice and fairly firm dough. Divide dough into 2 portions, wrap each portion in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out into 0.5 cm thickness between 2 sheets of plastic and then chill again for another 15 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, roll jam into small balls for easy filling.

4)  Take out dough and cut using a pineapple tart mould. Fill with jam. Work in an air-conditioned room. If dough is too soft to work with, flour your hands, the work table and rolling pin, making sure not to add too much flour to the dough or it will become tough. If necessary, flour the tart cutter before cutting each tart, so that the tart removes easily with all its patterns/grooves intact.

5) Arrange tarts on tray lined with baking paper.  Chill in fridge for about 10 minutes, then bake at 140C for about 30 minutes. When ready, leave to cool and store. Makes about 50 - 70 tarts depending on the size of the pineapple mould.

Almond Polvorones (aka Russian Tea Cakes/Mexican Wedding Cookies)

Every Chinese New Year, home bakers all around our little island will be busy baking up their Chinese New Year specialties for gifting or selling.  In our families, there is always this unspoken rivalry among the aunts and grandmothers as to who bakes the best pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit (a melt-in-the-mouth coconut cookie), sugee cake (a Eurasian almond cake) or kueh lapis (a multi-layered cake).  Needless to say, most of these treats are extremely time-consuming and laborious to make, for what else other than a completely masochistic recipe could set one's skills apart from the other?

Not daring to prove myself against these doyens of Chinese New Year goodies, I choose every year to bake the simplest (and yet oh so delicious!) type of cookie possible for gifting - Almond Polvorones.  The distinguishing characteristics of these cookies is their fragrant, nutty flavour and incomparably fine, melt-in-the-mouth texture.  My kids go crazy for these cookies and snatch them right off the cooling rack. Which creates problems for me since I need exactly 20 cookies to fill a jar ... and it drives me nuts when I am short of 1 or 2 due to these thieving little runts.

I find these cookies a welcome change from the usual Chinese New Year treats (as do my friends and family).  More importantly, I love it that they are so delicious and yet simple to make in large quantities, as that means I can bless more friends and family with these tasty treats. After all, isn't generosity and abundance the hallmarks of a good Chinese New Year celebration?

But don't let my characterisation of these as Chinese New Year cookies stop you from baking them for just about any other event or reason: for fund-raisers, Christmas, or just simply for an afternoon tea with friends. these Polvorones are simply beautiful when enjoyed with a cup of hot tea. 

Recipe for Almond Polvorones
(adapted from Epicurious)

For cookies:
1 cup (226g) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely ground

For dusting: 
1 1/2 cup icing sugar/snow powder 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method: Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170C. 

Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar or snow powder and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.* 

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. 

Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. 

(Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

1) You can easily substitute the almonds in these recipe with other nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia, or a combination of the above. I used almonds simply because almond treats are popular and considered 'lucky'during the Chinese New Year. 
2) Note that icing sugar can be used if the cookies are to be consumed immediately, or if your climate is generally dry.  In humid weather, icing sugar will start to melt and turn gunky, so the use of snow powder is recommended instead, especially if you are baking these for gifting.
3) This recipe makes 40 cookies, each weighing 14 g (in dough form)

01 January 2011

Coconutty Banana Fritters (Goreng Pisang)

Move aside banana crumble, banana bread and banana cake. Goreng Pisang (literally, 'fried bananas' in Malay, and one of the most popular desserts in Singapore and Malaysia) is hands down the best way to use up overipe bananas. 

Who can resist deep fried banana fritters with a crispy coconutty coating and melty-hot banana insides?  I know I can't.  Have it piping hot, with a scoop of cold rum and raisin ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup, and you will know why my kids literally BEG me to make this all the time.  

The secret to good deep fried banana fritters? Coconut, not so much as to overpower but enough to lend some fragrance to the crispy coating. Also, the use of baking soda and soda water help the fritters to fry up nice and crunchy.  Having said that, these fritters are best served hot, as they will inevitably become less crispy if left sitting for a while.    As a side note, I do wonder about that extra crunchy goreng pisang that is sold at Maxwell Market, which seems to stay crispy the entire dayI love the crunch but I really dislike the overwhelmingly bitter taste of baking soda in its crisp coating. So, don't be tempted to add too much baking soda to your fried goods as it can, and does, affect the taste!

Recipe for Coconutty Banana Fritters

1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 tbsp cornflour/tapioca flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 cup cold water/soda water

8 ripe or overripe medium-sized bananas (pisang raja variety is best)

1. Combine and mix all ingredients together to form the batter
2. Heat up sufficient vegetable oil for deep frying at high heat.  To test if oil is hot enough, drop 1/2 teaspoon of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and floats to the surface, the oil is at the right temperature.
3. Dip each banana into batter and deep fry in hot oil. Turn heat down to medium high and turn the bananas over occasionaly to brown evenly on all sides. Remove to drain on a paper towel when they turn golden brown. Do not over-crowd the oil with too many bananas. Depending on the size of the bananas, I usually only fry 2 or 3 at a time.
4. Serve piping hot with ice cream (vanilla or rum and raisin is best), and a drizzle of maple syrup or some cinnamon sugar.


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