Wednesday 25 December 2013

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Chopped Pecans

"Oh my God......Oh my God.........". It was 5am (I was very hungry. Very) and I had a serious case of the OMGs which accompanied every single bite of this chocolate cake (they were leftovers from the day before). It was sheer ecstasy as I savoured this very moist, fudgey, chocolaty and nutty concoction. Many thanks to The Pioneer Woman's The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. 

Note that the cake is dense and moist. Not airy or crumbly, why ah??

My first ever proper chocolate cake was Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake with Ganache Frosting which I adapted from Diana Desserts. The Pioneer Woman's version is slightly different because she brings the butter, cocoa powder and water to a boil before mixing the hot mixture into the flour and sugar. Diana's version merely melts the butter mixture without bringing it to a boil. And there are two additional ingredients i.e. vegetable oil and cinnamon powder.

Boiling butter, cocoa powder and water mixed with flour and sugar. Batter is paste like and I was concerned.

Quite honestly, I found it strange for boiling liquid to be mixed into the flour. But I decided to just follow the recipe and see what happens. Well, what resulted was thick chocolaty paste. After that the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla essence is mixed into the batter. That made the batter very fluid and smooth.

After mixing in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla resulting in a smooth batter.

The batter is supposed to be baked in a sheet pan but I baked the cake in a 9"x9" pan. My previous experience with a 9"x13" pan was not good. The cake was done in 20 minutes and has a dense and fudgey texture. I compared the Pioneer Woman's Cake with mine and her cake's texture looks more like  a regular cake as it looks crumbly. Mine is looks wet and dense, as if it is still raw although the batter is properly cooked.

Thick clumsy streaks of  ganache. I could have done a nice piping but I am no Eric Lanlard.

Maybe it is because I changed the recipe a bit as I reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1/2 cup. I could not imagine having 2 cups of flour to 2 cups of sugar as the frosting itself contains a whopping 385g of sugar. That would send me into a permanent diabetic coma. Also since I used self-raising flour, no baking soda is added to the buttermilk mixture. That could have altered the chemistry, hence the difference in texture.

I did not use the Pioneer Woman's evil decadent frosting (in her own words) and chose to use ganache instead. And of course, I used yummy pecans although it costs me a small fortune.

I made the ganache when the cake was just out of the oven and poured it onto the cake while it was still warm. Then I chopped up the pecans and scattered them onto the ganache. Since I had another 125ml of whipped cream, I did not want to keep it and decided to make extra ganache. I drizzled the extra ganache on top of the pecans. It would have looked better if I piped the ganache as I ended up with thick clumsy streaks.


I would have to say that this is my favourite chocolate cake as it doesn't require use of a mixer and I love the moist fudgey texture. Coupled with the ganache and chopped pecans, it was simply to die for! I would recommend this cake to novice bakers and it is very easy to put together and bake and yet comes out so impressive.

Don't you just want to take a spoon and dig right in? Louiz?

One more thing I need to tell you is that this cake is soft and therefore it is fragile. It tends to break easily and you need to be careful when slicing the cake. It would probably be better to chill the cake before slicing it so that the cake is firm and you will get clean neat cuts. Bring to room temperature before serving if chilled.

If I may say so, this cake has a festive feel to it and would be a delight to serve up for Christmas. And having said that I would like to wish all my friends and readers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you again in 2014! PH needs to rest :)

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Chopped Pecans
Adapted from : The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients :

For the Cake :
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1/2 cup Muscavado sugar (add more of you prefer a sweeter cake)
- 4 heap tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 220g butter
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 whole eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Ganache :
- 100ml whipping cream
- 100g bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
- 10g butter
Note : I made extra ganache with 125ml of whipping cream and 125g of chocolate just to finish up the whipping cream. I used it as topping on the pecans . It was more than enough and I was left with about 1/4 cup of ganache which you know ended up where :)

For Topping :
- 200g toasted pecans, chopped

Method for cake :
1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa powder and cinnamon powder. Stir together.
3. Add boiling water and allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.
4. Pour mixture into flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.
5. In a measuring cup, pour buttermilk and add beaten eggs and vanilla. Stir the mixture into the flour mixture. Gently mix until well combined.
6. Pour into a lined 9"x9" pan and bake at 160C for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Method for ganache :
1. Put chocolate and butter in a measuring cup or a bowl and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, boil the whipping cream.
3. Pour boiling whipping cream into the chocolate and butter.
4. Leave it to stand for 5 minutes and then stir until the ganache is thick and shiny.

To assemble :
1. Pour ganache onto the warm cake and tilt the cake pan to spread ganache evenly.
2. Top with the chopped pecans, pressing down gently to ensure nuts stick to the ganache.
3. If you made extra ganache (optional), pipe it onto the nuts for a nice presentation.
4. Slice the cake and enjoy!

I am submitting this post to Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013 hosted by Baby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Nutella Swirl Cheesecake

I have some Nutella leftover in the bottle, not enough for a whole cake and not enough for cookies. Sure, I could take a spoon and do the deed the easy way but no lah. I have been very well behaved for the last 2 weeks except on Friday night. I had dinner with my partner at The Fat Spoon and the desserts board was right in front of me. I tried not to look at it. But deserts lists are very magnetic. Resistance is futile.

There must have been 10 items on the list among which were the following : Banana Fritters with Vanilla Ice Cream, Sago Pudding, Bubur Cha Cha, Ice Cream, Red Velvet Cake and my downfall  - Fat Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. And the Fat Chocolate Cake was sitting in a glass display next to the Red Velvet Cake right in front of our table. Next time I must sit with my back facing the counter. 

I caved in and ordered the Fat Chocolate Cake. It was really a fat chocolate cake as it was a very big slice (RM12.00) and came with 2 scoops of vanilla ice-cream (and two forks, when one should suffice. I am perfectly capable of finishing the whole lot by myself, thank you). The cake was served warm and eaten with the ice-cream, wow! The dessert list also got on to my partner who is not much of a dessert man. He ordered the banana fritters with ice-cream. The fritters were mini fritters, freshly fried and served hot with vanilla ice cream. It was also very good.

Back to my latest Nutella bake. I don't need to convince you that this cheesecake is delicious. Nutella in any bake is a winner. Mission accomplished!

Nutella Swirl Cheesecake
Recipe source : Adapted from here

For the base :
(i) 200g digestive biscuits
(ii) 50g melted butter

For the filling :
(i) 500g cream cheese
(ii) 120g castor sugar
(iii) 3 eggs
(iv) 250ml whipped cream
(v) 1 tbsp custard powder
(vi) 1 tsp vanilla essence
(vii) 2 tbsp Nutella

Method :

For the base :
1. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Butter an 8" round springform pan.
3. Crush digestive biscuits finely.
4. Pour the crushed biscuits into a bowl and add melted butter. Mix well until mixture looks like wet sand.
5. Pour mixture into the pan and press firmly to compact the base.
6. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside.

For the filling :
1. Beat cream cheese until smooth.
2. Add castor sugar and continue to mix.
3. Add eggs one by one and continue to mix.
4. Add vanilla essence, custard powder and whipped cream and mix well.
5.  Remove 1/4 of mixture and add Nutella. Mix until well blended.
6.  Pour 1/2 of the plain mixture into the pan.
7.  Add spoonfuls of the Nutella mixture, reserving enough for topping.
8.  Pour remaining plain mixture into the pan.
9.  Add spoonfuls of remaining Nutella mixture and use a skewer to swirl.

Bake for about 50 mins.  The cake is done when the outer ring is firm but the middle is still wobbly.  After taking it out of the oven, run a spatula around the edge of the cake for easy removal later.  Cool the cake completely before chilling in the fridge overnight.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Chicken and Pumpkin with Taucheow

I actually deviated from my mum's recipe for Chicken with Yam. Mum's recipe uses yam, which I am avoiding due to it's higher carbohydrate content. I ran out of "taucheow" and because I still have a lot of red miso leftover from the LTU-Soya Bean event, I decided to make do.

I don't remember my mum cooking this dish very often and my recollection is that she cooked it only once. I find mum's dish very tasty as the combination of "taucheow" (fermented bean paste), five spice powder, honey, shallots, garlic and ginger really works to produce something so aromatic and pleasing to the taste buds. 

Seeing that miso is also made from soya beans, I reckon it was alright as a substitute even though I find "taucheow" more "fragrant" and the flavor more robust. My top tip for cooking this dish is to make more of the bean paste ingredients as you want enough to coat every piece of chicken and pumpkin (or yam). Besides, you also want extra for flavoring your rice, without a food fight at the table.

After tasting, I will have to concede that Miso is not a suitable substitute as far as this dish is concerned. But at least I tried and I better put "taucheow" on my shopping list. I'll make it two bottles :)

Chicken and Pumpkin with Taucheow
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 900g chicken, cut into bit size pieces
- 400 pumpkin, cut into cubes (if using yam, steam the yam first and add it in only when the chicken is cooked)

Pound or blend till fine :
- 2 big onions or 25 shallots
- 1 inch ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons taucheow
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 level teaspoon five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper

Method :
1. Heat oil in wok and saute pounded/blended paste till fragrant.
2. Add chicken pieces and stir to coat. Cover the wok and lower the flame. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Add pumpkins and stir. Cover the wok and continue to simmer until chicken is cooked and pumpkins are tender.
4. Taste. This dish should be salty and slightly sweet.

Note : You can add some water to simmer the chicken if you find it too dry. I did not add any water as I know that the chicken will release water and I don't want the dish to be watery. 

Sunday 15 December 2013

My Sunday Chicken Salad.........Quest for Longevity?

How many of you read the obituaries? When you flip the papers do you skip that page or hover for awhile?

Thursday 12 December 2013

Simple But Delicious Steamed Chicken

This steamed chicken marinated with Chicken and Scallop Sauce turned out so delicious. I bought 2 chicken legs for lunch and wanted a simple and hassle free recipe for the weekend. What could be simpler than steamed chicken? I marinated the chicken with Chicken and Scallop sauce (just because I had a bottle in the fridge, oyster sauce would do just fine), light soya sauce, thick soya sauce, garlic, ginger, a hint of sesame oil and Chinese cooking wine.

Instead of wrapping the chicken in aluminum foil, I put them into a corningware, covered and placed the dish into the steamer. I covered the dish because I hate having lots of liquid at the end of steaming. I reckon that since it is covered, it would take a longer time to cook so I steamed the chicken for 45 minutes.

After 35 minutes, I turned off the flame and let the chicken cook for another 10 minutes using residual heat (stingy accountant trying to save gas). I was very pleased because the chicken was cooked perfectly. It was tender, juicy and very tasty. Definitely a dish worth repeating in the future.

Simple Steamed Chicken
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 2 chicken legs, cleaned and pat dry

Marinade :
- 2 tbsp Chicken and Scallop Sauce (or Oyster Sauce)
- 1 tbsp light soya sauce
- 1 tsp thick dark soya sauce (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tbsp finely minced ginger
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp cornstarch

Method :
1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together.
2. Put chicken legs in a mixing bowl and pour in marinade.
3. Coat the chicken with marinade and let stand for 1 hour.
4. Place the marinated chicken legs in a covered heatproof dish and steam over high heat for 45 minutes.
5. Garnish with spring onions and serve.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Banana Kaya Muffins

I went clothes shopping again. Not that I am a clothes horse but because I have to. I am one of those women who do not enjoy shopping. Joyce left a comment on my previous post saying that she does not enjoy shopping for clothes and only does it when she needs to. Are we a rare species?

I went up to the women's department at Aeon and browsed for long pants. I found a section of pants. They looked quite nice and I scanned for one to try. And there it was, a gem in my eyes - XXL. Ah, I found another one in a different color. Might as well resign to the fact that I am no longer an M and no point picking up an L only to be insulted in the fitting room. I was in luck as there was a fitting room free right in front of me. Time for some tugging, pulling and heaving. No wonder I don't enjoy clothes shopping. As I pulled up the pants, I realized that the waistband was way too big. At least 2 inches bigger and there was some room around my thighs. Tis the season to be jolly! At least Aeon has the good sense to cater to aunties like me with ever expanding girths.

I went back out to get L and too bad there was only one in the color that I liked. Well, well, it fitted with about 1/2 inch extra room around my waist. I also grabbed another pair of pants know as Jeggings. I am a bit out of touch with fashion and the like and I can only guess that Jeggings is a hybrid of Jeans and Leggings. I tried it on but ughh!!! It clings to the body and made me look like a wrapped up "nangka" (jackfruit). That will not do! 

Just to sidetrack a bit, I was at another outlet earlier looking for long johns. I had bought a pair (size M) about four weeks ago and decided to get another one. The sales girl told me that they were all out of M and my only options were S or L. This was what she said to me verbatim "Ms ah, I think you take S because you are skinny". What? What? Say again? Skinny? I almost gave her a hug. Tis the season to be jolly indeed! No lah, I am far from skinny. My baggy T-shirt fools them all the time. Either that or what the sweet young thing meant to say was that I am not that big. So I settled for the L.

And this morning, I baked Banana Kaya Muffins. Which is not helping me in any way to get back to my pre-XXL heydays. But who cares. The muffins were delicious as bananas go very well with kaya (coconut jam). I used the original flavor kaya as I find that pandan kaya does not taste as good with bananas. But that's just me, you might like it. As with my previous muffin, I left out sugar as the overripe bananas are very sweet and so is the kaya.

Banana Kaya Muffins
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 230 grams self-raising flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 113g butter, melted
- 1 tub plain yogurt (135ml)
- 200g bananas, mashed
- extra sliced bananas for topping (optional)
Note : Sugar left out intentionally as bananas and kaya are sweet enough.

For filling :
- 12 teaspoons kaya (cold from fridge so that it is firm and easier to handle)

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
3. Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
4. In another mixing bowl, add yogurt, butter, eggs and mashed bananas. Mix well.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour.
6. Using a spatula, gently mix the batter until just combined.
7. Half fill all the muffin liners.
8. Add a teaspoon of kaya into the middle of the batter.
9. Fill up the muffin liners with the remaining batter to cover kaya.
10. Top with sliced bananas (if using).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean.
12. Let the muffins cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Mummy's Chicken Garam Kunyit (Turmeric and Salt Chicken)

This is a very popular dish back home. It is my mum's "Kay Garam Kunyit" (Turmeric and Salt Chicken). Sometimes we refer to it as yellow chicken as the dish is yellow due to the turmeric. The "rempah" (spice paste) is a simple combination of shallots, garlic (lots please!), chillies, turmeric and salt. 

You can use this spice paste for fish or beef. Every time my mum cooks chicken garam kunyit or any variation of this dish (especially beef!), we kids would be very happy. Mum serves this dish with rice and our favorite French Salad. The most prized part of this dish at the end of the meal would be the yellow oil and bits of rempah remaining at the bottom of the serving dish.

Everyone will fight for this yellow oil.

The lucky person will get to scoop some rice into the dish and mix it around for the rice to absorb the oil and rempah. And that I tell you, is absolutely divine! My mum uses olive oil to cook and we give ourselves the excuse that the oil is good for us :) 

Spice paste pounded coarsely.

I decided to go the traditional way of pounding the ingredients. I dislike using the blender because the spice paste would become too fine. I want them coarse, the way they should be, the way my grandma and mum would do it. And my big lesung batu (mortar and pestle) got a good workout that day. I did the pounding standing up so that it does not stress my back. The usual way would be to place the mortar and pestle on the kitchen floor over some old newspapers (to protect the floor from splatters) and sit on the floor and pound away.

Chicken marinating in rempah.

When the spice paste reached the right consistency, I scooped them up into a mixing bowl and mixed everything with the chicken pieces. I let it sit for about 30 minutes, then I heated some oil in the wok and dropped the chicken in. It is quite easy to cook, just mix it around, simmer and towards the end keep stirring until the dish is dry and the spice paste is slightly browned.

I had to adjust for a bit more more salt and you need this dish to be on the salty side or else it doesn't taste good. The garlic, shallots, turmeric, and salt come together so well. I would say that the chillies play a supporting role lending a hint of heat to the dish. You could leave them out altogether if you like. But please, don't wimp out on the garlic. Lots of garlic gives this dish its distinctive oomph! Unless of course you are one of those people who dislike garlic.

This dish reminds me of home with the added advantage of me monopolizing the yellow oil hee..hee..hee...Fatso can have all the oil and rempah to herself :D It looks like my lesung batu will be having another good workout sometime soon because I plan to cook Fish Garam Kunyit and Beef Garam Kunyit. 

Chicken Garam Kunyit
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 1/2 chicken, cut into bite size pieces (about 600g)
- 1" fresh turmeric
- 20 shallots 
- 4 big cloves garlic (and I mean big! If the garlic is small, use more)
- 2 red chillies
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Method :
1. Pound turmeric, shallots, garlic, chillies and salt coarsely (you can use blender but your spice paste might get too fine, it is OK but it is better if it is coarser)
2. Put spice paste into a mixing bowl with the chicken pieces. Stir to coat chicken pieces evenly. Let stand for 30 minutes.
3. Heat adequate oil in a wok and pour in the chicken.
4. Stir and cover the wok, lower the flame and simmer. Stir every now and then to prevent the chicken from burning. Add some water if your dish is too dry (My chicken released quite a bit of water and it was not necessary to add any).
5. When the chicken is almost cooked, increase the flame and keep stirring until any liquid is dried up and the spice paste is slightly browned.
6. Dish out and serve with white rice.

Monday 2 December 2013

Oaty Malty Chocolaty Cookies

I am home sick today from the flu. It started with a mild sore throat on Saturday evening. Then yesterday morning, I woke up with a very sore throat and a bad headache. I was also feverish. The whole day, I felt drained, drowsy and tired. This morning it is the same. I would rather be well and at the office. There is a lot of work that needs to be cleared before the year end.

I baked these cookies on Saturday afternoon but could not put it up in time for the LTU-Oats event. But never mind, I can still share this cookie which is adapted from my previous bake, Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies. One ingredient leftover from that bake is ho, ho, ho, Horlicks. I want to use it up before it gets cakey and mouldy. That was what happened to a packet of flour I bought to bake bread. Yeah, me and my bread ambitions. That project never took off :(

Chinese New Year is coming and I am very sure the cookie baking frenzy would soon begin in earnest. What? You started already? I know the auntie who sells cookies near my office is already geared up to take orders. A few years back, I bought a few canisters of cookies from her and I was quite appalled by the prices. Every year, her prices go up and I believe next year would be no exception.

I still have half a bag of baby rolled oats and I decided to incorporate it into the cookies. I simply rolled the cookie dough into the oats to make a coating. The cookie dough is very soft and sticky and very ideal as the oats stuck to it very easily.

When the cookies were freshly baked, the oats were so crunchy and I really loved the crispiness. But when they cooled down, they became chewy as expected. But they still tasted good. I have one more portion of Horlicks and baby rolled oats left for another batch of these cookies. I'll keep that for Chinese New Year!

Oaty Malty Chocolaty Cookies

- 250g butter

- 75g Brown Sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 240g self-raising flour
- 80g Horlicks

- 1 cup Rice Krispies
- 200g semi-sweet chocolate chips

- Enough baby rolled oats to coat the cookies

Method :

1. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Cream butter, then add sugar and cream until fluffy. Add eggs and beat, then add vanilla and beat until combined. Add Horlicks and beat until combined.
3. Add flour to the mixture and beat gently until just combined.
4. Add chocolate chips and Rice Krispies and stir in gently.
5. Drop by teaspoonfuls into rolled oats to coat. Place on a lined baking tray and use a fork to press the cookies dough slightly.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes.