Sunday 29 September 2013

Coconut Pandan Cheesecake

Boy, am I late! The theme for this month's Little Thumbs Up is Pandan (which is another brilliant theme!) and hosted by the very talented Joceline of Butter, Flour and Me. And here I am, limping to the finishing line just a day before the end of the month! I feel like a tardy student handing up her assignment right at the last minute :)

I have been admiring Joceline's blog and she has a great repertoire of delightful bakes. And I love her beautiful photos. Joceline blogs in Mandarin and I do follow a handful of blogs written in Mandarin.

And I've got to tell you, Google Translator is of no help at all. Why? Because this is a sample of what I get - "I remembered the days of studying in the horse" Huh?? Or how about this one "In the horse the night before, Mom killed four keep a year of big fat chicken". Wahahahaha!! So friends, not only do I learn new dishes from you, I also get a good laugh along the way. Sorry, ah.......not your fault lah but thanks to Google Translator. My grandpa very wisely taught me that every language has a beauty of it's own, some of which may be lost in translation. Or end up hilarious in this case. How true!

My cheesecake base was a disaster. Crumbly and hard.

I regret playing the fool during Mandarin class when I was in primary school. Me and my cohorts used to giggle and pass around salted peanuts during the afternoon class. Our "lao tze" (teacher) was a very kindly man. I have fond memories of him checking my homework. We had to match sentences on the left to the ones on the right. "Lao tze" shook his head as he gently chided me "Aiya, your mother can wash mosquito, ah? And after we have our dinner, we have to run?". Even my grandma could not help laughing.

You see, I couldn't read and I simply "hantam" and mismatched the sentences. And of course they turned out nonsensical.  As a Chinese who can't speak Mandarin, I am often looked upon as strange. I don't speak Cantonese either and I get this a lot "Eh, you not Chinese ah??" When that happens, I can only respond in Hokkien with "Gua beh heow thiah" (I don't understand) or "Lu kong hamik?" (What did you say?). So, I am not that hopeless after all, eh? But when all else fails, this is the last resort "Lu tau cakap Melayu?" (Can you speak Malay?).


Sorry for this late entry, Joceline! But as they say, better late than never! Pandan is mostly used in desserts and cakes which are not my strong suite. The only savory dish I can think of is nasi lemak and pandan chicken but these are too much for me to handle especially with my bad back. So to my relief, I found this simple pandan cheesecake from the book Cheesecake Mania, a perfect book for cheesecake maniacs like me :)

My two 6" cheesecakes in non-removable pans. Had to line with aluminum foil and baking paper.

My only disaster here is the cheesecake base. I only had something like 6 pieces of digestive biscuits and I used cornflakes to make up for the shortfall. Bad idea as it did not work out at all. To add to this shortcoming, both my 8" and 8.5" springform pans are no longer usable. The 8" is bent out of shape (don't know how that happened) while the 8.5" is rusty! Grrrr.....Determined to bake my cheesecake, I used two 6" pans with no removable base. I had to line them with aluminium foil and baking paper to enable me to remove the cheesecake once baked. Although the base turned out crumbly and hard, the cheesecake itself was delicious! Initially I was worried if cream cheese worked with pandan and coconut milk and my fears were unfounded. Highly recommended for cheesecake lovers who love pandan and coconut!

Coconut Pandan Cheesecake
Recipe source : Cheesecake Mania page 32
(My notes and adaptations in red)

Ingredients :

Base :
- 160g crushed digestive biscuits
- 80g melted butter

Cheese Layer :
- 450g cream cheese (I used 500g)
- 100g caster sugar
- 3 eggs (I used 2 large eggs)
- 150 ml coconut milk (I used 200ml)
- 60g pandan juice (I omitted)
- 1 tbsp corn flour (I used custard powder)
- 1 tsp pandan essence (I used 1/2 tsp store bought pandan paste)

Topping :
- A few drops green coloring.

My method of marbling :
- reserve a small bowl of the cheese filling and add a few drops pandan paste for a deeper green colour.

Method :
1. To make the base, combine all ingredients and press into a 18cm (7 inch) cake tin.
2. To make cheese layer, beat bream cheese and sugar until soft and smooth.
3. Stir in coconut milk, pandan juice, corn flour and essence until well blended. Pour cheese mixture into prepared tin.
4. Add in green coloring with 1 tbsp of cheese mixture, mix well. Drizzle over the surface. Draw marble pattern with skewer. 
5. Bake in preheated oven at 170C for 40 minutes or until cooked. (I baked my two 6" cakes at 140C for 40 minutes)
6. Remove cake from oven and leave to chill in fridge.


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY and hosted by Joceline of Butter, Flour and Me

This post is also linked to Cook-Your-Books #4 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Friday 27 September 2013

Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic (Ree Drummond)

Chicken+Tomatoes+Garlic = ??? Looking at Ree's photos, that equation has to equal Scrumptious! Golden brown chicken legs in a sea of red tomatoes with a peppering of whole garlic cloves. Doesn't that sound enticing? It does up to a point. If you are like me, who likes to overdose on certain ingredients, you better hold your horses before you throw your herbs in. Ree did say to add plenty of fresh herbs but that doesn't mean that you thrown a ton in.

I bought a packet of basil for this dish and not wanting to waste, added the whole lot in. Basil is supposed to go well with tomatoes but if you put too much, sort of spoils it, at least for me. I think rosemary would have worked better and I wouldn't mind repeating this dish as I think it has lots of promise. Nevertheless, even with the overtly strong basil aroma, I still relished every drop of the gravy.

I would add a lot more garlic next time and perhaps a scant sprinkling of fresh basil after the dish is cooked would be a better bet. Ree served this with pasta and I preferred to eat it as is because I have been on carbo overload since trying her recipes. Carbo overload = Happy :)


Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic
Recipe source :Ree Drummond
(My notes and adaptations in red)

Ingredients : 
- 8 pieces Chicken Legs Or Thighs (1 used 4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs)
- Salt And Pepper, to taste
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
- 1 can (14 Ounces) Whole Tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons (Heaping) Tomato Paste
- Fresh Herbs: Basil, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary
- 8 cloves Garlic
- 16 ounces, weight Pasta (Ree Used Cavitappi) (I omitted)
- Grated Parmesan Cheese, For Serving (I omitted)
- 1/2 cup White Wine (or Red Wine)(I omitted) 
Method :
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (200C)(I cooked on stove top) . Salt and pepper chicken legs.
2. Heat ovenproof skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and butter. When oil/butter is hot, add chicken legs to the pan. Using tongs, brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.
3. Pour in wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Cook for 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes with their juice and add tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn off heat. Add plenty of fresh herbs, 8 cloves of peeled (but whole) garlic, and the chicken legs. Put lid on pot and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
4. Remove pot from oven and allow it to sit on the counter with the lid on while you boil the pasta.
5. Cook the pasta to al dente, Drain and add to a large serving bowl.
6. Remove lid and check sauce. If it's overly thin, remove the chicken from the pot and boil the sauce on the stovetop for 5 to 10 minutes. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.
7. To serve, pour sauce over cooked pasta, then arrange chicken pieces over the top. Sprinkle generously with fresh Parmesan and serve with crusty French bread.
(Dish may be served with rice or mashed potatoes, instead!)

I'm linking this post to Cook Like a Star, an event co-hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsBaby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out and Mich of Piece of Cake. The featured chef for the month is Ree Drummond.

Monday 23 September 2013

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken and Roasted Potatoes (Ree Drummond)

I have always been intrigued with chicken roasted with herbs and the name Herb Roasted Chicken itself already makes it sound so delicious. I found this recipe while browsing Ree Drummond's collection of chicken recipes. I love chicken and any chicken dish will get my undivided attention. And I reckon this would be a great dish to cook for a family lunch or dinner. 

This recipe comes from Ree's friend, Ryan, whom she affectionately calls Pastor Ryan. It looked easy enough. Just chop up some fresh herbs, mix them with salt, pepper and oil and rub this mixture all over the chicken. For additional aroma and moisture, the cavity of the chicken is stuffed with lemon, onions and garlic.

I did something additional that is to let the chicken lie on a bed of sliced onions and carrots. Gordon Ramsay mentioned this tip on his show but I can't remember what it is for. It made good sense because you get roasted vegetables with your chicken too. I had some carrots and potatoes in the fridge and they would not last for another week. Hence, I decided to let them join the chicken in the oven.

I simply sliced a big onion and the carrots and lined them in the middle of the roasting pan. And I let the chicken lie on top of the vegetables. As for the potatoes, I cut them into two and tossed them in a mixture of crushed garlic, dried rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil. I used dried herbs because didn't have enough fresh ones. 

I did not truss the chicken and followed Ryan's method of making a cut in the chicken to tuck the chicken legs in. I also tucked in the wings and the chicken looked very neat.

The end of the chicken legs are tucked into a slit made at the side of the chicken.

Rosemary and thyme have a very strong aroma and quite honestly I find it too strong in their raw state. However, as they cooked in the oven, the smell became very aromatic as they mingled with the garlic, onions, lemon and oil. So appetizing!

My chicken was roasted at 180C for 1 hour 20 minutes. The potatoes were done after 1 hour. I originally set the oven for 1 hour as that is the usual time taken for my other roast chicken. I think this one took longer because I roasted the chicken whole instead of the usual butterflied.

I love the roasted chicken as it was very tasty and lip-smackingly good. And don't get me started on the accompanying herb roasted potatoes! They were so good eaten warm from the oven. I wish I had roasted more potatoes. As it is, I have gone totally bonkers with my carbohydrate intake ever since this Ree Drummond thingy started. 

This herb roasted chicken is a keeper and I forsee roasting this chicken again and again. Next time, I'll throw in some garlic cloves so that I will have roasted garlic too. Now, how yummy is that!

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken
Recipe source : Adapted from Ree Drummond's friend Ryan

Ingredients :
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 whole lemon, cut into 2
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 big onion, thickly sliced
- 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

Method :
1. Clean chicken and pat dry. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.
3. Rub the mixture all over the chicken, including the cavity. You can roast the chicken straight away but I prefer to let the chicken marinate for a few hours or overnight.
4. Arrange the sliced onions and carrots in the middle of a lined baking pan.
5. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with lemon and garlic
6. Place chicken on top of the carrots and onions and roast at 180C for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes or until the chicken is browned and fully cooked. 

Note : After 45 minutes, I basted the chicken with the pan juices every 15 minutes or so.

Herb Roasted Potatoes
Recipe source : Adapted from Ree Drummond's Roasted Potato Wedges

Ingredients :
- 6 chat potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 each (or any potato that you usually use)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- 5 cloves garlic, finely minced (I crushed mine using a garlic press)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried roasemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- some black pepper

1. In a bowl, mix salt, garlic, dried herbs, olive oil and pepper.
2. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.
3. Arrange the potatoes around the chicken (if roasting together with chicken) to roast for 1 hour or until browned and tender.

I'm linking this post to Cook Like a Star, an event co-hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsBaby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out and Mich of Piece of Cake. The featured chef for the month is Ree Drummond.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies (Ree Drummond)

It's been a while since I baked cookies. I remember the cookie baking frenzy that went on just before Chinese New Year and I did say that you will be seeing more cookies from me but somehow that didn't quite happen until last weekend.

I was looking at Ree Drummond's recipes on her blog and this cookie caught my eye. Where can I get malted milk I wondered when I suddenly realized that we do have malted milk in the form of Horlicks. And guess what? I have a small packet of Horlicks which I bought because I wanted to bake those cute doggie cookies. My doggie cookies did not materialize and this was the perfect opportunity for me to finally use the Horlicks.

I woke up early on Sunday morning and took out a block of butter to soften it. I studied Ree's recipe and made some adjustments. I am hopeless with cups. I am not confident measuring flour using cups and prefer weights as it is more accurate. Sugar and liquids is not a problem and is actually easier using cups. But for butter, I definitely prefer to weigh it.

As usual, the first thing that I do is to reduce the sugar. Americans eat way too much sugar and if I were to follow the recipe to a tee, I would faint in a diabetic heap. Horlicks is already sweet  and so are the chocolate chips. And the original recipe calls for 300g of sugar to 250g of flour.

I prepared the cookie dough in advance and kept it in the fridge because I had to go to Aeon for a spot of grocery shopping. When I came home, I took the dough out and proceeded to drop the dough on the lined baking tray. I had to figure out the baking time and referred to my previous bakes for guidance. For my first batch, I was slightly mad and baked the cookies for 18 minutes. This was what happened :

My cookies were very brown and had a slightly burnt taste. I prefer crispy cookies rather than chewy, hence my preference for longer baking time. For my next batch, I reduced to 16 minutes but found that they were still too brown and adjusted by another 2 minutes for the next batches. I found that 14 minutes is just nice for a crispy cookie while 12 minutes yielded a softer, chewier texture (I don't like). My cookies did not become flat like Ree's probably because I reduced the sugar quite drastically (mine was 100g compared to Ree's which is 300g).

50, sorry...4 shades of brown. From left 12, 14, 16 and 18 minutes. My ideal cookie is the one baked for 14 or 16 minutes.
Quite honestly, I like the darker cookies with that slighly burnt taste. Weird huh? But of course I had to consider other people's taste buds and stuck to the more acceptable 14 minutes. The malted milk added a very special taste and aroma to the cookies. 

I was enjoying myself experimenting with the baking time and tasting that I forgot that I haven't prepared anything for lunch. But it didn't matter because I was quite full from the cookies. Hee..hee..the freedom and autonomy of being an adult! You eat cookies when you want to and nobody tells you that you are spoiling your lunch. Whoo hoo! But you only have yourself to blame if you get fat :( And you have to pay your own bills :( :( :(

I love these cookies and they are going to be in my Chinese New Year cookies repertoire. And don't forget to check out what Ree does with these cookies. She made ice-cream sandwiches out of them. Very tempting indeed!

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe source : Ree Drummond
(My notes and adaptations in red)

- 1 cup (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter Softened (I used 250g)
- 3/4 cups Golden Brown Sugar (I used 50g)
- 3/4 cups Sugar (I used 50g)
- 2 whole Eggs
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 2 cups All-purpose Flour (I used 240g self-raising flour)
- 1-1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda (I omitted)
- 1-1/4 teaspoon Salt (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1/2 cup (rounded) Malted Milk Powder (I used 65g)
- 1 bag (12 Ounce) Milk Chocolate Chips (I used 250g)

Method :

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (I preheated at 160C)
2. Cream butter, then add both sugars and cream until fluffy. Add eggs and beat slightly, then add vanilla and beat until combined. Add malted milk powder and beat until combined.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, beating gently until just combined.
4. Add chocolate chips and stir in gently.
5. Drop by teaspoonfuls (or use a cookie scoop) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Bake less if you want chewy cookies; more if you want crispy cookies. (For me, 12 minutes yielded chewy cookies while 14 to 16 minutes yielded a crispy cookie)
6. Optional: Allow to cool completely, then use two cookies to make an ice cream sandwich. Add sprinkles to the sides of the ice cream, then wrap individually in plastic wrap

I'm linking this post to Cook Like a Star, an event co-hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsBaby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out and Mich of Piece of Cake. The featured chef for the month is Ree Drummond.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Cherry Cheesecake Shooters (Ree Drummond)

What on earth are shooters (besides being persons with a gun in their hand who shoot?). I knew they were some kind of drink and I eventually found out that a shooter is basically an alcoholic mixed drink. And a shooter is generally drunk quickly rather than slowly sipped. Hmmmm....But these Cherry Cheesecake Shooters aren't the kind of shooters that we speak of. They are cherry cheesecake in a glass, scooped and not sipped :)

I couldn't help being very attracted to this dessert when I saw them on Ree's homepage. Ree made them in wine glasses and they looked so elegant. I did not execute these shooters very well because I made some mistakes with the cherry topping. I used canned dark pitted cherries and sort of fused Ree's method (she used frozen cherries in her second version of the recipe) and the method I found at Joy of Baking. My cherry topping was not thick enough and was a little too sweet. And because it was quite fluid, it bled into the cream cheese.

As for the cream cheese part, I did not follow Ree's recipe as she used cream cheese and condensed milk. I am not very keen on condensed milk and decided to use Su Chan's recipe, the one for Tiramisu Cake.

After chilling these shooters for a few hours, I had a taste and it was very good. Other that the slightly too sweet filling, it was delicious. And because the crushed digestive biscuits are not mixed with butter, they are loose and crumbly and you have to be careful not to spill them when you eat. I had a mini disaster on my couch and had digestive biscuits all over my tee shirt and sarong.

Overall, this is a very easy dessert to put together. It looks elegant and it tastes great. Something that could be made a day ahead and one that will certainly impress your guests. And by the way, I had the last one for breakfast this morning, a terribly naughty thing to do tsk..tsk..tsk...

Cherry Cheesecake Shooters
Recipe source : Ree Drummond
(My notes and adaptations in red)

Ingredients :

-12 whole Graham Crackers (the 4-section rectangles) 
- 2 packages 8 ounce cream cheese 
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 
- 1 can cherry pie filling 
- 1/4 cup slivered Almonds 

Method :
1. Put the graham crackers into a ziplock bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they're fine crumbs.
2. Spoon graham crackers into the bottom of mini wine glasses.
3. Add cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip them together until fluffy.
4. Fill a pastry bag or zipper bag with the filling. Snip off the end and pipe a big helping over the crumbs in each of the glasses.
5. Top with a big spoonful of cheery pie filling.
6. Top with chopped almond flakes.

Ree's notes :
- Mix 2 tablespoons melted butter into the crumbs if you'd like them to be a little more moist
- Use whatever kind of pie filling you'd like.
- 1 package pf cream cheese makes for a mode udding-like texture; 2 packages makes for a thicker texture.

For my cherry filling :
Ingredients :
- 1 can 439g dark pitted cherries in syrup
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I will omit in future as my filling was a bit too sweet)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- juice from half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon butter (in future I would omit this)

Method :
1. Drain cherries to separate the fruit from the syrup.
2. Use spoon to cut the cherries in half.
3. Pour the syrup into a saucepan and add honey and sugar. Bring to a boil and add butter. Simmer until slightly reduced and syrup becomes thicker.
4. Pour the cherries into the syrup mixture.
5. In a small bowl, add lemon juice and cornstarch. Pour into the simmering cherry mixture and stir until thickened.

For my cheesecake filling (Adapted from Su Chan's Tiramisu Cake):
Ingredients :
- 250g cream cheese
- 100g castor (superfine) sugar
- 3 eggs yolks (please use pasteurized eggs for your safety)
- 1 tbsp rum
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 250ml whipping cream, whipped

Method :
1. Beat cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl until light.
2. Add egg yolks one by one.
3.  Add rum and fold in whipped heavy cream.

I'm linking this post to Cook Like a Star, an event co-hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsBaby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out and Mich of Piece of Cake. The featured chef for the month is Ree Drummond.

Friday 13 September 2013

Avocado Egg Salad (Ree Drummond)

Last weekend, my partner bought me some avocados and they have ripened. It was therefore perfect for me to try Ree Drummond's Avocado Egg SaladThere are a few ways of serving this tasty creamy salad (other than eating spoonfuls right out of the bowl) and Ree has served the salad as a sandwich and also topped the salad on slices of tomatoes. 

I was at home recuperating from my backache and this seemed like a very simple lunch to prepare. I had only a tablespoon of mayonnaise in the bottle and used all of it in the salad and had none to spread on my bread. But it didn't matter as it was not necessary. The salad itself was already very moist and creamy.

This is my hastily put together sandwich. I asked my partner to buy me Gardenia's Canadian Purple Wheat bread but it was not available so he got me the Raisin Oatmeal instead, which was quite nice as it is sweet and has a nice aroma.

I had some Roma tomatoes in fridge and I decided to make a tomato boat and stuff it with the salad. It tasted very nice. I love this creamy egg salad and it is really good as a sandwich filling.

Avocado Egg Salad
Recipe source : Ree Drummond
(My adaptations and notes in red)

Ingredients :
- 8 whole hard boiled eggs, peeled (I used 3 eggs)
- 2 whole avocados, pitted (I used 1 avocado)
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used 1 tablespoon)
- 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar (I used 1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (I sprinkled some to taste)
- Blackpepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon chives, chopped (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Method :
1. Combine all ingredients (scrape avocado from skin) except for chives in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, scrapping the bowl once or twice if necessary. Continue pulsing until salad reaches the consistency you want : chunky or more smooth (I just used a fork to mash).
2. Remove blade from bowl and stir in chives. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
3. Serve on a sandwich (spread bread with a mix of Dijon and mayonnaise)(I omitted this part because I had none) or serve on a thick slice of tomato as a cool salad. Sprinkle on extra chives to make it pretty.

I'm linking this post to Cook Like a Star, an event co-hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsBaby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out and Mich of Piece of Cake. The featured chef for the month is Ree Drummond.