Sunday 26 January 2014

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake Again!!!

My quest for the perfect Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake continues with some slight improvement. Behold my latest attempt, cracks, wrinkles and all. But notice that my cake is nice and tall with nice straight sides and minimal shrinkage. I don't know what happened that day but my egg whites were really puffy and beat up to super maximum volume.

I was super calm for some unknown reason (my heart rate and blood pressure normally escalates when I bake this cake) and I took some matters into my own hands. I tweaked the recipe all because the Tatura cream cheese I bought was a promotional pack which came with 20g extra. That means instead of 250g, I was working with 270g cream cheese.

From what I read in The Kitchen Tigress' post and video on Cotton Soft Japanese Souffle Cheesecaketoo much cream cheese causes the cake to be dense and wet. She has adapted the original recipe and cut down the cheese from 250 grams to 140 grams, thus making it lighter. But I don't want to do that because I want to use up the whole package of cheese and not end up having to stash the remainder in the fridge. What I did was increase the amount of flour and milk. And this time round, I behaved myself and used a proper waterbath. 

I used an 8" pan with removable bottom and high sides. I buttered the interior and lined it with baking paper. I also wrapped the bottom of the pan to prevent water from seeping into the pan. A springform pan is the most ideal but mine was rusty and I haven't bought a replacement yet. I then placed the pan into a 9" square pan. 

Now I see that the batter is lumpy. Hmmmm.....

After pouring the batter into the pan, I poured boiling water into the square pan and popped it into the oven. Then it was fingers crossed and as usual, I ran to the oven and peeped at the batter every 10 minutes to see if it would rise. It did rise very high and of course I was happy. But not so happy when I noticed cracks starting to form. After the cake was baked, I left it in the oven for 15 minutes (door closed) and after that I left the door ajar for 20 minutes. My cake came out looking like this :


Upon unmoulding the cake (about 30 minutes after I took it out of the oven), I was very pleased as there was minimal shrinkage and my cake did not collapse. I think the additional flour gave the cake better structure and made the cake more stable. 

But there was a technical problem. Water got in between the aluminum foil and the pan (from condensation), hence the bottom of my cake was wet. If I had used a springform pan, this would not have happened. I had to place slices of the cake on kitchen towels to soak up the water.

Notice that the bottom is damp.
The texture of the cake was good. Moist and light. And the top of the cake was dry and not wet like my previous attempts. From the photo above, it is apparent that I could have done a better job folding the two batters. I will keep that in mind on my next bake. 

So there is hope for me after all and I have a feeling that I will make more improvements in my next attempt. The recipe below is what I used and I will be testing it again sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I am taking another break for the Chinese New Year. Let me wish you Keong Hee Huat Chye/Gong Xi Fa Cai and see you soon!

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake
Adapted from : Diana's Desserts

Ingredients : 

50g butter
270g cream cheese
120ml milk

140g fine granulated sugar
80g superfine flour (or ordinary cake flour)
30g cornflour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

6 egg whites
6 egg yolks

1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler.
2. Cool the mixture and fold in egg yolks, flour, cornflour and mix well. Strain mixture to remove lumps.
3. Add cream of tartar to the egg whites and whisk until foamy.  Gradually add sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks.
4. Take 1/3 of the egg white mixture and fold into the strained egg yolk mixture to lighten it.
5. Then add the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture and mix well. 
6. Bake the cake in a water bath for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 140C.
7. When the cake is done, leave it in the oven for 15 minutes and thereafter leave the door ajar for 20 minutes.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before removing it from the pan and peeling off the baking paper.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Louiz's Rojak Roast Chicken

Hi folks! I just got back this morning. I have a lot to catch up on and I'll slowly make my rounds to visit your blogs. Meanwhile, what is Rojak Roast Chicken? Trust Louiz to come up with something so delicious with a funny name. What she meant by rojak is that her marinade is made up of anything available on her kitchen counter and she tosses any vegetable from her fridge into the roast. Very practical and sensible isn't it?

I got to know Louiz from her funny comments on my cousin's blog Small Kuching (Paparazzi is my cousin). Out of curiosity, I visited Louiz and had a great time reading her very entertaining posts. This girl has loads of humor! 

Before roasting. I put pieces of butter on top of the chicken just like Louiz. It turned out awesome!

This year 2014 is the year I start my Atkins eating plan all over again. In 2011 and 2012, I started Atkins and lost 15lbs. I could fit into my "skinny" pants and could buy regular sized clothes (read L or if I am lucky M). But in 2013, I sort of went haywire and started to binge of junk food. Twisties, Doritos, Mr Potato, Chipster, you name it, I ate it. I also stopped exercising regularly and as expected, nature took its course and I regained the 15lbs and more :( To make matters worse, I suffered a slipped disc in August 2013 and could hardly move for more than 2 months. So now, I focus on proteins and vegetables. Carbohydrates will have to take a back seat for the moment.

After roasting. Love the color and the taste!

Every once in a while, I like to try my blogger friends' recipes, particularly something that they invented themselves. Since these are their own creations with no formal name, I will name these recipes after them. For example Queenie's Sweet and Spicy Roast Chicken. Louiz's is another one I tried and am sharing here.

The marinade for this dish is taken from this post because I did not have lemons, carrots and God forbid, I am not eating potatoes. And as Louiz said, you can't go wrong with roast chicken even if it's seasoned with just salt and pepper. She is right as I this rojak roast chicken is totally delicious! 

I would never have thought of mixing just tomato sauce with oyster sauce as a marinade. It is obviously not something sophisticated but it is perfect for simple everyday home cooking. I love this style of cooking as I have no talent for the artsy fartsy stuff. This roast chicken was made on New Year's day and I had it with just a salad. It would have been great to have rice as the pan juices would have flavored the rice beautifully.

To anybody who says that they can't cook, you go do this and wow yourself. And go ahead and experiment with your marinades and you could have created you own signature rojak roast chicken!

Louiz's Rojak Roast Chicken
Recipe source : Adapted from Breathe a little...Slow down...

Ingredients :
- Half a chicken, chopped into 4 pieces
- 1 big onion, sliced
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 4 yellow mini peppers, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon oil
- some butter (optional)

Method :
1. Combine oyster sauce, tomato sauce,garlic and oil.
2. Pour marinade onto chicken pieces and mix to coat evenly. Leave to marinade in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
3. Prepare a lined baking tray.
4. Arrange onions and peppers on the baking  tray.
5. Then put chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.
6. If you like, put a few small pieces of butter on the chicken for added flavor.
7. Roast at 180C for 40-50 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Roasted Maple and Bacon Pumpkin

When I saw Gertrude Wan Patane's dish, I immediately jumped at the idea of using pumpkins. Her Roasted Maple and Bacon Butternut Squash looked like something that would be great to serve during a dinner party. And that was exactly what I did recently.

The fact that it has bacon in it really got me going :) One ingredient in this dish which I have heard of but never tasted before is maple syrup. I have been curious about maple syrup and wondered what is so special about this iconic Canadian product. 

So when I saw a bottle of organic maple syrup at Aeon (it cost me a princely RM34.90 for a 236ml bottle, ouch!) I put it into my basket without a second thought. When I got home, I decided to have a taste. I find the syrup quite runny and of course it was sweet. But I did not find anything significant about it's taste but then again maybe my palate is not sophisticated enough. From what I read, maple syrup contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey. You can read more about the health benefits here.

I also bought another wedge of pumpkin to add to the one that has been in my fridge for two weeks. Back home I cleaned the pumpkins making sure I washed the skin thoroughly as I wasn't going to sweat peeling the skin. I cut the pumpkins into cubes. I also cut a Bombay onions into cubes and tossed the onions and pumpkin cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I spread this mixture onto a lined baking tray and baked at 180C.

Meanwhile, I cut 6 strips of streaky bacon into cubes and fried them till brown and crispy. The smell was really good. I removed the crispy bacon and drained them on paper towels. I did not throw away the bacon drippings but instead, drizzled the oil onto the pumpkins for added flavor.

After that, I mixed maple syrup, cinnamon powder and Hungarian paprika (because I did not have cayenne pepper). The taste at that point was not remarkable. When the pumpkins were almost done, I drizzled the mixture onto the pumpkins and tossed them to combine. I continued to roast the pumpkins until they were tender and browned around the edges.

When the pumpkins were done, I tossed in the bacon and some chopped parsley and gave it a good mix. And that's it. Just dish out into a serving dish and I warmed it up just before serving. I had to rely on my mum's feedback because my tastebuds go numb when I am cooking for a dinner party. Mum said that it was good and the dish was very well received. 

Many thanks, Gertrude for this lovely recipe! I am reproducing the recipe here in my own words for future reference (yes! going to cook it again) and please visit Gertrude for the original recipe. If you don't have maple syrup, I reckon honey would be a good substitute. It was about a week later that I had another taste of the maple syrup. Ah! This time it registered. I love it but alas I can't describe it :)

I will be on a break next week and will update my posts again when I am back.  See ya!

Roasted Maple and Bacon Pumpkin
Recipe source : Adapted from My Kitchen Snippets

Ingredients :
- 1.2kg pumpkin, cut into cubes (I left the skin on out of pure laziness)
- 1 big Bombay onion, cut into cubes
- 5 tablespoons olive oil or enough to coat pumpkin and onions
- 3 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- salt and black pepper to taste
- a handlful of parsley, chopped
- 6 strips of bacon, cut into cubes and fried till crispy

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. In a mixing bowl add pumpkin, onions, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
3. Pour the mixture onto a lined baking tray and bake for 45-50 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix maple syrup, paprika and cinnamon powder.
5. When the pumpkin is almost tender, drizzle the syrup mixture and toss to coat. Continue to bake until pumpkin is tender and brown around the edges.
6. Remove the baking tray from the oven and sprinkle the crispy bacon and parsley. Toss to coat and serve immediately or if serving later, warm up before serving.

Note : If you like, drizzle the bacon drippings onto the pumpkin before baking.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

I love peanut buttah! The creamy one, not the chunky one and these days I buy the no sugar added variety. The brand that my grandpa used to buy was Skippy. When I was small, my mum made me peanut butter sandwiches and she sprinkled some sugar onto the peanut butter for that extra crunch. Not only that, she cut the sandwiches into various shapes to amuse me :)

There was a time when I had breathing difficulties which the good doctor at the Kuala Terengganu General Hospital attributed to me being overweight. I was only 8 years old at the time. And he told my grandpa - No more peanut butter! Not only that, he suggested some form of exercise like ballet. Ballet? Me do ballet? Luckily at the time, there was no such thing as ballet classes. Thank goodness!

This peanut butter muffin came about after I watched Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries. Actually she was already spooning the batter when I tuned in. Thus began my search for a recipe. There are so many recipes out there. As usual, under such circumstances, I come up with something of my own after getting the general idea of how to go about it.

These muffins were baked a few weeks ago. I had a big bunch of bananas which were just ripe, not quite suitable yet for baking but I couldn't wait. I wanted my muffins there and then (that was before I seriously considered going on a diet). Because the bananas were not that sweet yet, I added 1/2 cup of sugar. Lately, I tend to leave out sugar if the bananas are already very sweet. 

I did not measure an exact amount for the peanut butter. I just simply scooped 2 generous tablespoons and mixed into the batter. And since I had some roasted pecans leftover from a previous bake, I decided to use them as topping. I'll have to say that the muffins turned out very well. They smelled good and the texture was soft and fluffy. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have added a teaspoon of cinnamon and that would have made the muffins even more aromatic. I was very happy with the muffins and happily ate two. Cheers Dr Kuljit Singh!

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Recipe source : Phong Hong as inspired by the many recipes on the web.

Ingredients :
- 230g self raising flour
- 1/2 cup Muscavado sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, I will add in future)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 50g butter, melted
- 2 generous tablespoons of creamy peanut butter (I used no sugar added)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed

For topping :
- 60g chopped roasted pecans (Use more if you prefer more nuts)

Method :
1. In a mixing bowl, add flour, sugar and cinnamon powder (if using). Whisk to combine and set aside.
2. In another mixing bowl, add butter, peanut butter, buttermilk, vanilla extract, eggs and bananas. Stir to combine.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour/sugar mixture and gently mix to combine.
4. Scoop batter into muffin pan lined with cupcake liners.
5. Bake at 160C for 23 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Serradura (Macanese Sawdust Pudding) : Asian Food Fest Hong Kong & Macau

When I saw the photo of this dessert on Annie Mok's introductory post to the Asian Food Fest Hong Kong & Macau, I was very interested. It looked so cute in the little plastic tub and I like the name Serradura. Sounds so exotic but it actually means sawdust in Portugese. 

I would like to give my friend support for the event she is hosting and Serradura appears to be something within my humble and limited capabilities. Besides, everyone in the family loves dessert and I can be sure that my efforts will not go to waste.

I googled and spent quite a bit of time oogling at the numerous Serraduras out there. This is a dessert that is very easy to prepare and you can use any form of containers you like be it glass tumblers, small bowls, elegant wine glasses or even plastic cups. I have chosen to use the plastic cups I bought from Tesco as it is convenient and has a cover.

Marie biscuits. Grandma calls it "Mani Pianh". A childhood staple.

You only need 4 ingredients which are whipping cream, Marie biscuits, condensed milk and vanilla. As far as I am concerned, there are 3 pitfalls when attempting this dessert. One is over beating your whipping cream, two is estimating how many containers of Serradura you can make and lastly getting nice even layers (mine were really inconsistent. Not really an issue as I accepted my limitations).

Plastic cups with covers are very convenient.

In true Phong Hong fashion, I fumbled my way through (at 5:00 am in the morning mind you). My more capable and talented sisters (or brothers) will have no problems tackling this dessert and presenting it elegantly. The recipe I used is from The Missing Lokness which was adapted from My Buttery Fingers.

The recipe says that it makes 6 cups and I had no idea how many of my cups would get filled. I needed 8 : 4 for my partner's children, 4 for my partner's sister and her family and 2 for his other sister. I could have done the maths but my brain can't work so early in the morning (math is not my strong suit). And I decided to just go along and see what happens.

My piping nozzle. I just used an ordinary ziploc bag as my piping bag.

OK, let me share with you some tips, not that you talented people need any. It is more for my future reference and also in case there are people like me who are a bit blur hee..hee...

1. Make sure you beat the whipping cream until soft peaks first before adding vanilla and condensed milk (It does say so in the recipe, I just want to emphasize).

2. Then beat the cream for a short while to evenly mix the condensed milk. Have a taste. If it is not sweet enough, add a little more and taste until you are happy. I find that 1/2 cup of condensed milk to 2 cups of whipping cream is just nice and not too sweet.

3. Continue to beat until stiff peaks and then STOP. Don't overbeat because the whipped cream will split and become watery and you will cry. 

4. I find it easier to pipe the whipped cream to get a neat finish. After piping to the thickness you are happy with (for me it was about 1/2 to 1 inch), give your container a gentle tap on your work surface to smooth out the cream.

5. Use a teaspoon to sprinkle the biscuit crumbs onto the cream layer, dropping the crumbs at the edges of the container and then the center. Then give your container another gentle tap to even out the crumbs. The thickness of the crumbs should be enough for you to see the layering between the crumbs and the cream. Repeat till your container is filled, ending with the biscuit crumbs.

Inconsistent layering. Asal sedap, sodah!

Am I being long winded? Getting old, what to do? Anyway, with the original recipe, I did manage 8 not very full cups. My cups have a maximum capacity of 200ml. Six of them were 2/3 filled and the other two only 1/3 filled (one layer of cream and one layer of biscuits). Luckily I had one more carton of whipping cream in the fridge. I made more of the cream and voila! All my 8 cups were generously filled.

All safely stashed in the fridge. Can Phong Hong resist?

And there you go, my first ever Serradura, a dessert I would not have known existed if not for this AFF event. As for the taste and texture, I can only imagine. I tasted the cream and yummy! yummy! it was good. It has been a long time since I had condensed milk. My mum used to refer to it as "Ang Jee Guleng" back in the Susu Cap Junjung days. I can bet this dessert tastes heavenly but I did not eat any because I am on a diet :( Sobbbbsss.........waarrrrghhhhhh......rolling, rolling on the kitchen floor...........)

Serradura (Macanese Sawdust Pudding)
Adapted from : The Missing Lokness

This recipe makes 8 generous 200ml capacity plastic cups (the ones you see up there)

Ingredients :
- 600ml whipping cream
- 40 Marie biscuits
- 3/4 cups condensed milk
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

Other tools (optional) :
- a piping bag with a simple nozzle

Method :
1. Crush the Marie biscuits finely using either a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and simply bash them with a rolling pin/pestle (This one is good for anger management)
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks.
3. Add vanilla and condensed milk.
4. Continue to beat until stiff peaks.
5. Transfer the whipped cream into a piping bag and pipe about 1 inch thick of cream into each cup. Tap the cups gently to level the cream.
6. Using a teaspoon, sprinkle crushed biscuits onto the cream. Again tap the cup gently to level evenly.
7. Repeat piping the cream over the biscuit layer and continue to layer to desired height, ending with the biscuit crumbs. 
8. Cover the containers and chill in the fridge for a few hours or place in freezer for 4 hours and take out to room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Notes : 
1. Please read the tips in my post above before proceeding.
2. For me, the amount of condensed milk is just nice for a mild sweetness. 

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest Hong Kong & Macau hosted by Annie of Annielicious Food.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Crispy Baked Chicken with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes

Happy New Year! Happy New Year! Is there really anything to be happy about? For me, today is just another day but I am happy as it is a holiday and I am at home. And what better way to celebrate than to share with you a simple and easy chicken dish. Now, that is something to be happy about :)

I bookmarked this recipe for the longest time. It comes from the brilliant but now defunct Extra Virgin Chef. I have always known that Luan Ee would move on to greater things and I was right. I do miss her posts and I still feel a sense of loss. 

Second attempt with whole chicken legs.

According to Luan Ee, this dish is "Easy. Healthy. Tasty. Impressive. Practical. No exotic, expensive or inaccessible ingredients. Little preparation time. Only one dish to wash. It passes all these criteria with flying colours". I couldn't agree more.

So colourful and fresh. Try to use a bigger baking dish so that your veggies don't stick out on the surface and get burnt. My dish is a bit too small.

How easy can this be? What you need is chicken drumsticks, garlic, basil, cherry tomatoes, chilies, salt and pepper. And olive oil. Simply salt and pepper the drumsticks and arrange them in one single layer. Then sneak the other ingredients at the bottom or in between the drumsticks. After that give a splash of olive oil on the ingredients and bake in the oven for 90 minutes. There is no need to baste or turn the chicken. Just leave it there to do its thing. Unbelievable?

The chicken skin was crispy and the garlic tasted divine!

Honestly, I found it hard to believe until I actually tried it. The only ingredient that I did not have was basil as there was no stock at Aeon. The Thai basil in my garden wasn't doing too well but I managed to harvest a few leaves. I was worried that the chicken would burn after being in the oven for 90 minutes.

But no, they did not burn. Only some of the chilies, basil and garlic that were on the surface got burnt but it was no big deal. And the chicken was beautifully crispy, tender, juicy and tasted very good. The only thing I was not happy about was that my chicken drumsticks were too small and I did not put enough olive oil.

I attempted this dish again using whole chicken legs. It was a lot better but I made the mistake of using a baking dish that was too small. That resulted in my other ingredients sticking out above the chicken and getting burnt.

Burnt chillies again.

I am now convinced that this dish really works. It would be a dish that you could do for a dinner party if you want something hassle free. Just assemble everything and chuck it in the oven. This was what I had for my Christmas lunch and I think it is fitting to serve at my next dinner party. Here's the unbelievably easy recipe for you to try.

Crispy Baked Chicken with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe source : Adapted from Extra Virgin Chef

Ingredients :
- 6 chicken drumsticks (or any number you like/whole chicken legs)
- 10 cherry tomatoes, cut into half
- 10 cloves garlic, crushed with skin on
- 1 fresh chili, sliced
- a handful of basil leaves
- olive oil
- salt and pepper

Method :
1. Salt and pepper the drumsticks.
2. Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer in a baking dish.
3. Place the cherry tomatoes, garlic, chilies and basil leaves in between or at the bottom of the drumsticks.
4. Give the drumsticks a good splash of olive oil (be generous) and bake the dish at 160C for 90 minutes. There is no need to baste or turn the chicken.
5. Serve with rice or salad.

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