Monday 28 October 2013

Tiramisu...for breakfast?

Tiramisu......that name rolls off my tongue so languidly as I sit here relishing every single bite. It is 6:20am. I am having Tiramisu for breakfast. Yes, this very morning. Phong Hong!!!! Crazy, ah??? Aren't you supposed to lose some weight? Aih, that can wait, I am in no hurry wah? That must be the rum numbing my senses and all the creamy comforting cream cheese lulling me into a sense of complacency. What's a few extra pounds? If I want to eat Tiramisu, I eat Tiramisu.

My first taste of Tiramisu (I had heard so much about it) was a few years ago at El Cerdo. It was Chinese New Year and my brother and his family took me, my partner, my other brother and my parents for dinner at El Cerdo. There was lots of food as it was my brother's style of ordering many dishes so that everyone can try a bit here and a bit there. That's not quite my preferred style of dining because eating small portions of different dishes leaves me unsatisfied as I cannot make a proper impression of each dish. I prefer to choose one dish and have it all to myself. When it came to dessert, again there was the tasting of a little bit here and a little bit there. And I couldn't even remember what the Tiramisu tasted like.

Fast forward to September 2012, I made a lunch date with my youngest brother (he is my occasional makan kaki) and we headed out to El Cerdo on a quiet Sunday for lunch. You can see what we ate here. When it was time for dessert, without hesitation I asked for Tiramisu. Finally, I can taste Tiramisu properly. And yum! It was delicious!

It did occur to me that I could make my own Tiramisu but I wasn't motivated enough. Until one day in July this year, I thought of making Tiramisu for a family gathering. My parents were flying in from Terengganu for a holiday and when they are here, one of the things I look forwards to is cooking for our family gathering.

Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

I thought Tiramisu would be a nice dessert to serve after dinner. My first quest was to look for sponge biscuits. At Cold Storage, I was delighted to find one packet of Savoiardi Sponge Fingers. Since it was the last packet, I quickly grabbed it. 

I watched the video on Joy of Baking a few times before I was confident enough to venture out on my own. The Tiramisu filling I used was not the traditional one and since I was too stingy to buy can't afford Mascarpone cheese, Philadelphia Cream Cheese would do just fine. 

What I did was double the filling recipe from Tiramisu Cake and it was just nice for two loaf pans. Each loaf pan could accommodate 16  sponge fingers. Which meant that I had some leftover sponge fingers which I stored in an airtight container.

Assembling the Tiramisu was not difficult at all. I did not bother to line the loaf pans. When dipping the  sponge fingers into the coffee mixture, do not linger for too long. Dip and remove the sponge finger immediately or else you will end up with very soggy  sponge fingers. That was what happened to me. When I ate the Tiramisu, I could feel that the  sponge fingers were very wet and oozed coffee. Not good. But overall, it tasted very good as the filling was creamy and delicious.

I prepared the Tiramisu one day in advance. To serve, I simply sliced the Tiramisu and removed the slices using a cake server. The first slice was difficult to remove but thereafter, it was quiet easy.

Since I had leftover sponge fingers, I decided to make Tiramisu again :) This time, I made half recipe and used a deep square plastic container. I made sure I did not dip the sponge fingers for too long in the coffee syrup. And just for research, I froze the Tiramisu. I read from the internet that Tiramisu can be frozen but there are mixed opinions. Of course, fresh is best as freezing can alter the quality and textures of foods.

I read from Sonia's blog that she did not have a good experience with Tiramisu at an Italian restaurant (in Italy!!) as the Tiramisu was watery with iced water. Apparently it was frozen and thawed before serving. I froze the Tiramisu for 3 weeks and thawed it in the fridge the night before. So what was my verdict with frozen Tiramisu? 

My breakfast. Naughty huh???

Yesterday morning, I sliced the Tiramisu and had a taste. Obviously, the Tiramisu was not completely thawed as I chewed on icicles in the sponge fingers. It was later in the afternoon that the Tiramisu was fully thawed and tasted almost as good as when it was freshly made. From this experience, I can safely conclude that Tiramisu can be frozen but make sure that you thaw it in the fridge at least 24 hours before serving. And this morning, it was still good!

Recipe source : Adapted from Ms Su Chan's Tiramisu Cake here.
This recipe is enough for 2 loaf pans.

Ingredients :

Filling :
- 500g cream cheese
- 200g castor (superfine) sugar
- 6 eggs yolks (please use pasteurized eggs for your safety)
- 2 tbsp rum
- 400ml double (heavy) cream, whipped
- 200g chocolate shavings
- Cocoa powder for dusting

Coffee Syrup
- 1.5 tbsp instant coffee granules
- 1 tbsp castor (superfine) sugar
- 300ml hot water
- 1 tbsp rum

- I used 32 Savoiardi Sponge Fingers (16 per loaf pan)

Method :

For Filling
- Beat cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl until light.
- Add egg yolks one by one.
- Add rum and fold in whipped heavy cream.

For Coffee Syrup
- Dissolve coffee granules and sugar in water.
- Cool, then add sherry and set aside.

To assemble the Tiramisu :
- Dip each  sponge finger briefly in coffee syrup (don't dip for too long)
- Arrange the  sponge fingers in a single layer in the pan.
- Top the  sponge fingers in each pan with 1/4 of the filling.
- Sprinkle with chocolate shavings to cover the top of the filling.
- Continue dipping  sponge fingers in coffee syrup and arrange in a single layer on top of the filling.
- Top the  sponge fingers with the the remaining filling, dividing equally between the two pans.
- Dust with cocoa powder to completely cover the surface of the topping. 
- Cover pan with cling film and chill in the fridge overnight.

To serve :
- Take the pans out of the fridge and slice the Tiramisu.
- Use cake server to remove from pan and serve.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Miso Honey Salad Dressing

I have to credit my mum for introducing me to salads. I love salads! When I am at a buffet, I will check out the salad station first. I'll get my proteins, cooked vegetables and whatnot and then get salads for seconds. And thirds. And if I have room (I usually do wink! wink!) then I'll have desserts.

Miso is an ingredient that I would love to have in a salad dressing and there are countless recipes on the internet. There are so many that I got tired of looking at them. I tried a miso dressing at The Salad Bar but it was so, so, salty.  I did not like the flavour combination.

Since it is soya beans galore on this month's LTU, I bought a tub of red miso from Aeon. The last time I bought miso years ago (I can't even remember what I used it for) I did not manage to finish the whole tub before the expiry date. What a waste.

So time for another bout of PH's research and development. Sometimes I like putting stuff together and when I am lucky, something nice comes out of it :) I put together miso, brown rice vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger and a hint of sesame oil. Boil it for a few minutes and guess what? Something nice did happen. The dressing was sweet, sour and salty and I loved the aroma. Just before tossing the salad, I added grapeseed oil to the dressing. It was perfect for me. Here is the recipe if you would like to try and please adjust according to your taste.

Miso Honey Salad Dressing
Recipe source : Phong Hong's concoction
(This recipe makes 4 servings)

Ingredients :
- 1 heaped tablespoon red miso
- 1 tablespoon soya sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 cloves garlic, finely pounded
- 1/2 inch ginger, finely pounded
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 250ml brown rice vinegar

Method :
1. Mix all the above ingredients in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.
3. Taste and adjust accordingly.
4. Cool the dressing and pour in a jar. Store in the fridge until needed.
5. Before serving, pour amount needed into a bowl and add grapeseed oil or any neutral tasting vegetable oil. Whisk to mix the dressing.

Note : 

1. I mixed 4 tablespoons of dressing with 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil.
I tried using olive oil but I find that the taste clashes with the miso. Did not taste good to me.

2. This dressing keeps for 2 weeks in the 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 Mich of Piece of Cake.

Monday 21 October 2013

Spicy Indonesian Tempeh

Do you know why tempeh is warm to the touch? That's because it is alive. I mean the fungus that ferments tempeh is alive and it produces heat during fermentation. This occurred to me when I took two pieces of tempeh out from the fridge for them to come to room temperature. A little more than an hour later, they felt quite warm.

This recipe comes from the Periplus Mini Cookbook series called Asian Vegetarian Recipes. There was a time when I wanted to become a vegetarian. I even bought Vegetarian for Dummies and a few vegetarian cookbooks. It didn't work out for me because I kept feeling hungry shortly after every meal. Besides, most of the dishes involve deep frying and some were not convenient for me to prepare.

Anyway, I will tell you that I love vegetarian food. My favorite vegetarian restaurant has to be Lohas. There is a branch at Damansara Uptown, a few doors away from Hong Leong Bank. I was very impressed when I tasted their vegetarian Nasi Lemak. There is also an outlet at 1-Utama. If you want delicious organic vegetarian food, try Lohas.

This is the second time I am cooking this Spicy Indonesian Tempeh. The first time was a few years ago when I was home alone in exile during Chinese New Year. Yes, my self imposed exile was to de-stress from work and I did not want to be the cranky auntie who drove everyone nuts during the festive period. As you know, family gatherings can be quite stressful sometimes.

This tempeh dish is very aromatic as it has lemongrass and kafir lime leaves. I omitted the galangal as I did not have any on hand. The sweet taste and stickiness comes from caramelization of palm sugar (gula Melaka). I added more kafir lime leaves as I love the fresh aroma. I also noted that the leaves became almost crispy during the frying process. When I ate the tempeh, I ate the kafir lime leaves too. It was a bit chewy but released such a nice aroma that I wanted more! Next time, I will fry them until crispy for the fantastic aroma and added crunch.

Spicy Indonesian Tempeh
Recipe source : Asian Vegetarian Recipes (page 54)
(My notes and adaptations in red)

Ingredients :
- oil for shallow frying
- 250g tempeh, sliced
- 4 red Asian shallots, finely sliced
- 2-3 birds-eye chillies, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced (I used 4 cloves)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh galangal (I omitted)
- 1 stem lemongrass, white part only, sliced
- 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves (I used 4 leaves)
- 2 tablespoons shaved palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon kicap manis (sweet soya sauce)
- 1 tablespoon light soya sauce or to taste

Method :
1. Heat 1.5cm oil in a large fying pan over high heat. Cook the tempeh in batches for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned. Drain.
2. Heat the extra oil in a wok, add the shallots, chilli and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until soft.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and 1/3 cup (80ml) water and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Reduce the heat, add the tempeh and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until heated through. Add a little water, if necessary, to prevent any sticking.

Note : For the last step, after simmering, I increased the heat and kept stirring until the liquids became thick and sticky.


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 Mich of Piece of Cake.

This post is also linked to Cook-Your-Books #5 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Chicken With Soya Bean Paste (Taucheow Chicken)

This is another dish that makes its regular rounds on my mum's menu. We call this "Kay Chu Taucheow". It is a dish that is full of robust flavors that come from the salty and pungent soya bean paste (taucheow). Salty and slightly sweet, this is a dish that makes us ask for more rice.

The ingredients used are ginger, garlic, onions and taucheow. The chillies are optional but I love having them for that extra oomph. It is quite nostalgic replicating my mum's dishes as it brings me back to those days when I would look forwards to mealtimes. Yeah, my favorite time of the day was lunch and dinner :)

When the taucheow is being sauteed with garlic and ginger, you cannot help but pay attention. The smell is truly heavenly! You would know immediately that a very good meal is coming your way. I love to add big onions in two stages. First is to saute with the taucheow, garlic and ginger and when the chicken is almost cooked, I will throw in another batch which I will cook until the onions are just wilted. I love lots of onions in this dish . They add sweetness and lots of flavour.

When you take a piece of chicken, be sure to scoop up the onions together with the thick gravy. Mix them into your rice and you'll understand what I am talking about. The taste is simply delicious. Enough said!

But no, I won't stop talking just yet. Be sure to julienne the ginger finely because you don't want to get a big jolt of ginger that might spoil your experience if you are not a big fan of ginger. I am generally a ginger lover, so big bites of ginger is fine for me. Also, make sure you use enough oil to saute the ingredients or else the result won't be satisfactory. OK, I shall now leave you in peace with the recipe :)

Chicken with Soya Bean Paste (Taucheow Chicken)
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 1/2 chicken, cut into bit size pieces (about 600g)
- 1 knob ginger measuring about 1"x1", finely julienned
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 big onions, cut into wedges - reserve one onion for later
- 2 red chillies, sliced (optional)
- 1 heaped tablespoon taucheow (soya bean paste)

Seasoning :
- 1 tablespoon light soya sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar

To thicken gravy :
- 1 teaspoon of cornflour mixed with 1.5 tablespoon of water.

- spring onions to garnish

Method :
1. In a small bowl, mix light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and sugar. Set aside
2. Heat oil in a wok and saute ginger and garlic until aromatic.
3. Add taucheow and saute until aromatic and add onions wedges (from 1 onion)
4. When the onions are soft, add chicken and seasoning. Stir to mix everything together.
5. Add a bit of water and cover the wok. Simmer, stirring every now and then.
6. When the chicken is almost cooked, add the second big onion. Stir and continue to simmer until the onions are slightly wilted.
7. To thicken gravy, add cornflour mixture and bring to a boil. Continue to stir to coat chicken with the gravy.
8. Dish out and garnish with spring onions.


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 Mich of Piece of Cake.

Monday 14 October 2013

Banana Carrot Cake

Banana and carrot? To me, that sounds like an unlikely partnership but of course that was before I ate this cake. I was itching to bake something when I saw this recipe in the book Blend It Well, Bake It Right by Chef KS Lee. 

It so happened that I had some ripe bananas and two carrots in the fridge. The other ingredients were pretty basic, just sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and cinnamon powder. And what I like is that there is no frosting for this cake. 

I am always nervous when I try a new cake because the baking time is a headache for me. The recipe says 170C for 45 minutes but my oven can only handle cakes at 160C max. Another headache is sugar, to follow the recipe or to reduce. I am still a long way from being good at baking.

I did change the recipe just a little bit. The recipe called for margarine, but I am not keen on margarine. It will always be butter for me. I had an opened block of butter in the fridge and it weighed 200g, just 20g above the amount called for in the recipe. Not wanting to cut off 20g and stashing such a small piece of butter in the fridge, I used the whole lot. I also decided to add 1/2 a cup of raisins.

The recipe called for all the batter ingredients (except the carrots and bananas) to be whipped at high speed till smooth. I was scared of doing that so I stuck to the usual creaming of butter and sugar first before adding eggs and flour. I am such a coward when it comes to baking :)

Everything seemed to come along fine with the mixing of the batter. It took me quite a while to fold in the carrots, bananas and raisins. My oven was ready but I was still folding the batter. My auntie told me not to leave the oven on preheat for too long because the oven would become too hot. So I hurried up to pour the batter into the pan.

Then I quickly peeled a banana, sliced it and hastily arranged the banana slices on top of the cake. Because I was in a hurry, the arrangement was lopsided and not in a nice circle :(

I set the oven for 50 minutes but at the end of the baking time, the center of the cake was still wobbly but the top was already brown. I had no choice but to tent the cake and bake at 150C for another 10 minutes. Luckily, the cake turned out alright. I noted that the cake in the book has a shiny surface but no mention was made about glazing the cake. Perhaps it was done for photography purposes.

I read somewhere that jam is used as a glaze. So I heated up 2 tablespoons of peach jam and when the cake was cool enough, I happily glazed the top. I only tasted the cake the next day. I was very pleased because the cake was delicious. I felt that there wasn't enough carrots and bananas and I am thinking of adding more when I next bake this cake. I would also reduce the sugar as my partner found the cake a bit too sweet and so did I.

This cake is a keeper and I am very happy that I baked it. I exercised great restrain because I had only one slice. I wanted another slice very badly but I quickly packed up the rest to give away. My mum is right about baking - it is not a good hobby if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight!

Banana Carrot Cake
Recipe source : Blend It Well, Bake It Right (Page 35)
(My notes and adaptations in red)

Ingredients A
- 180g margarine (I used 200g butter)
- 150g sugar (to reduce to 140g in future)
- 4 eggs
- 260g plain flour (I used self-raising)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (I omitted)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

Ingredients B
- 100g carrots (shredded)
- 100g mashed bananas
- 1 banana (sliced thinly for decoration)
- 1/2 cup raisins (my addition)

Method :
1. Combine all ingredients A in a mixing bowl and whip at high speed until smooth (I creamed the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then added the eggs one by one. Then I folded the flour and cinnamon powder in).
2. Add ingredients B (except for banana slices) and mix well.
3. Pour batter into a lined baking mould. Arrange banana slices on top. (I used an 8" round pan).
4. Place in preheated oven and bake at 170C for 45 minutes until cooked. (I baked at 160C at 50 minutes and had to increase baking time for another 10 minutes at 150C).
5. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes and unmould.

This post is also linked to Cook-Your-Books #5 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.