Chocolate muffins

30 Nov

My cousin loves her chocolate.  So I though I’d make some chocolate muffins for her.  Some moist, chocolately goodness.  A parting kind of gift for her last day in Melbourne. Food Network had a recipe from Nigella Lawson and from what I read, Nigella’s recipes are always quite easy and rich.  What’s more, I had all the ingredients in my cupboard except cocoa powder so I used some drinking chocolate.  The end result was a lighter colored muffin.

I was obviously distracted when I put 3/4 cup of oil instead of 1/3.  So I had to do my math and ended up with 26 muffins instead of 12 as I originally intended.  Sigh.  Lots of muffins to finish now!  Luckily for me, they were yummy, yummy, yummy – especially the parts with the chunks of chocolate.

Chocolate Muffins

Adapted from Food Network

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbs cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup cooking chocolate

1/3 cup plus 2 tbs vegetable oil

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
  2. Chop up cooking chocolate into small chunks
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together
  4. Mix all the wet ingredients together
  5. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together to get a lumpy batter
  6. Spoon into muffin paper cups in a muffin tray
  7. Bake for 20 minutes

Tips

  1. It pays to use good quality chocolate.  The cheaper versions leave a slightly waxy after taste due to the higher vegetable oil content.
  2. There are many types of chocolate available on the shelves. Look here for a good introduction to what you see.
  3. You can fill the muffin tin halfway and then place the chocolate chunks in the centre, followed by more batter for a oozy, chocolaty centre.
  4. For a greater enjoyment of your muffin, it’s best to heat it up in the oven before serving to melt the chocolate!  YUM!

Adding to my experience

26 Nov

Deformed zucchini muffins

I thought since I was doing so well with muffins, I could get fancy.  So I experimented with zucchini muffins.  Nothing ground breaking but I experimented with a different kind of cheese, rather than what people usually used – I used Kraft Singles.  In my absolute brilliance, I forgot that 1. The cheese forms an impermeable layer and prevents the steam from the muffins from escaping. 2. I had just used the grill function of the oven and hadn’t changed it back to convection.

So I ended up with a rather ugly, deformed muffin.  But it tasted yummy all the same.

I learnt again not to judge a book by it cover.

Zucchini Muffins with cheese

Adapted from Best Recipes

Makes 12 medium muffins

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup apple sauce (I used my apple jam)

2 cups grated zucchini

3 slices of Kraft Singles

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  2. Mix all the wet ingredients together until the color lightens.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until just mixed.
  5. Add grated zucchini to batter.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin tins lined with muffin cups.
  7. Quarter the Kraft Singles and place on to of the muffin.
  8. Bake muffin for 20 minutes or until skewer comes clean from the centre.

Tips

  1. Grate zucchini using the largest hole grater on the cheese grater.
  2. If you want better looking muffins, you may want to break up the cheese and sprinkle on the top instead.

Grilled shrimp and veggies

26 Nov

Grilled shrimp and veggies

I’ve been cooking for guests the whole of this week and I have learnt that a dish that can be prepared beforehand and popped into the oven is the easiest when catering for a large group of people.  I cracked open my newly made basil pesto and a lemon, chopped up the veggies and tossed the whole thing together into the fridge in the morning and left it until it was time for dinner.

As usual, I don’t actually own the equipment necessary for some of the dishes I make.  So I make do.  I took out my frying pan and seared all the ingredients and heaped them onto a baking tin and popped it into the oven to cook further.  Otherwise, it would make a fantastic BBQ dish if done over the grill.

Grilled Shrimp and Veggies

Ingredients

4 tbs basil pesto

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

6 tbs of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

0.5kg of shrimp – shelled and deveined

2 medium capsicums

1 medium eggplant

1 large red onion

Method

  1. Chop up the vegetables.
  2. Make the marinade with lemon juice, zest and pesto.
  3. Combine all the ingredients into a pot with a lid and toss to cover all the ingredients with the marinade
  4. Leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice in between.
  5. Heat a frying pan to medium to high heat and sear batches of the veggies and shrimp.
  6. Once the batch is seared, transfer to a baking pan.  No need to completely cook the ingredients.
  7. Discard marinade.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius with the grill function.
  9. Bake until the vegetables are tender.

Tips

  1. You can use fresh basil and garlic instead of pesto.  I make my pesto fresh and store in the fridge since basil doesn’t keep all that well.  Use 1 bunch of basil and 6 cloves of garlic minced in place of pesto.
  2. The longer you marinade, the better the flavors.

Kampar Chicken Biscuit 鸡仔饼 Revisited

25 Nov

Kampar Chicken Biscuits

While making my lemon meltaways the last time, I was just thinking to myself that I could use the method of rolling the 鸡仔饼 dough into a log and cutting it up to cut down (excuse the pun) the prep time.  I mean, who doesn’t want to get their hands on yummy biscuits faster?

The verdict?  The dough was more fiddly than the meltaways – I attribute it to the fact that vegetable oil was used.  The melting point is a lot lower than butter (or lard) so one had to work really fast.  Also, the dough seemed to attract a fair amount of condensation which made it sticky and messy to work with if you take a long time.  There is definitely no way of getting the requisite 2mm even thickness that one gets with rolling.  The dough doesn’t hold up.

BUT after baking, my MIL reckons it takes more like the real McCoy of her youth.  The biscuit is doughier and brings to mind another type of biscuit which I used to have in my childhood (the name of which I’m still trying to ascertain)  That biscuit is like a pinwheel with a gingery taste, colored in both brown and cream.

I think how one makes the biscuits would boil down to one’s preference.  I would make it this way if it were for my MIL since she likes the texture like this.  But for myself?  Crispy and thin is the way to go for me even if it means that it disappears in double quick time!

Tips

  1. Wrap dough with freezer film to facilitate handling.
  2. You can flatten the biscuits a bit more after cutting but I like the rough feel of the biscuits that are cut with the knife.

Carrot muffins

24 Nov

Carrot Muffins

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day but it is always rushed when one has to get to work quickly.  Sandwiches need time to assemble and sometimes come apart as you gobble it down while walking.  Cereals are out of the question – there’s no such thing as eating on the go.  Plain bread isn’t a rounded meal at all.  Muffins?  The answer to my prayers!

Muffins are a great solution for so many reasons:

  1. Easy to make
  2. Sweet or savory
  3. Many flavors
  4. Some freeze well
  5. You can make a meal out of these little things

I accidentally bought 2 bags of carrots so I decided to make a batch.  Prep time was 15 minutes.  Baking time 20 minutes.  Quick and easy!  I omitted the cream cheese as it’s fattening and they don’t freeze too well.

Carrot Muffins

(Adapted from The Delicious Life)

Makes 12 medium muffins

Ingredients

1.5 cups all purpose flour

1.5 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2/3 cup sugar

1.5 cup carrots shredded

3 eggs

2/3 cup oil

1/3 cup pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and stir.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients and mix well together,
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and gently mix until it just comes together
  5. Scoop batter into muffin tins that are lines with paper liners.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until skewer comes clean after inserting into the centre of the muffin.

Tips

  1. Use some flour and pour it into the container with oil to soak up the last bits of oil and make cleaning a lot easier.
  2. Don’t over mix the batter otherwise the muffin becomes tough.
  3. A chinese soup spoon makes transferring the batter a lot easier.
  4. I fill my liners till they are full to get a overflowing muffin.  But if you don’t want them to peek up from above the liner, fill it to 3/4 full.

Apple Chips

21 Nov

Apple chips

Potato chips are the most common kind of chips that’s available in the supermarket.  But with healthy living, the fruit chips such as apples and pears are becoming more common.  Not that they are actually very healthy per se.  A look down the list of ingredients, underlines this fact.  And in Singapore, there’s even a “censorship” of the word healthy on the package by way of a black marker over the word on the package!

We’ve been consuming a fair bit of chips at night.  A terrible habit.  Adds to the waist line.  But with the cold weather, one does tend to want to eat almost constantly.  Or at least, I do.  The potato chips are really yummy but the sodium load! HORRORS!

I could make potato chips but I figured, that’s too common.  Why not try apple chips?  If you want to go through the trouble of making something, it should be something that everyone goes WOW!, right? Haha…

With the Granny Smiths I had left over from the market, I thought a small experiment would be possible.  Afterall, I had all the ingredients in hand.  No mandolin.  Who needs one when you have a chopper (meat cleaver) to do the job?

The verdict?  Very simple to do.  Time consuming in terms of oven time.  But at least you get to dictate the amount of sugar and there are no preservatives!  It was so good I couldn’t wait and took a photo with the lousy lighting we have so that I could just finish it all off!

Apple Chips

(Adapted from Purple Foodie)

Ingredients

1 Granny Smith

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

Method

  1. Sharpen your knife if you don’t have a mandolin.
  2. Wash your apple and remove any stickers on it.
  3. Preheat the oven to 80 degrees celsius.
  4. Core the apple. You could skin your apple but I was lazy.
  5. Place lemon juice with 60ml of cold water.
  6. Slice apple thinly and place the slices into the water.
  7. Drain slices of apple and remove excess water.
  8. Line baking tray with parchment paper and place slices on the tray.  Sprinkle sugar over the slices.
  9. Bake the slices for 1.5 – 2 hours until crisp.
  10. Sprinkle cinnamon powder over the chips once they’ve cooled out of the oven.

Tips

  1. If appearance is not of the utmost importance, I find that by slicing the apple parallel to the stem on both sides towards the core the fastest way.  Stop at the core and turn the apple 90 degrees and slice the other 2 sides.  You will end up with a square core.
  2. A sharp knife really replaces a mandolin.  If you don’t have a knife sharpener, use the bottom of a ceramic bowl and drag the knife edge across it at an angle like you would on a sharpening stone.  It works a treat.
  3. Paper thin slices are too thin and get stuck to the parchment paper.  I found 1.5 mm slices the best – easy to manage with the knife, doesn’t get stuck and it doesn’t take too long to get crisp.
  4. In the middle of baking, I actually open the oven door to let the steam out (although it drops the temperature of the oven)  and I loosen the chips off the parchment paper as the sugar tends to make the chips stick fast at the end.  You can even change the parchment paper if you.  Am considering just using a thin layer of oil on the pan and baking without the paper.
  5. Brown sugar gives a lovely caramel color.
  6. You can use red apples and omit the sugar.

Apple Jam

20 Nov

I’ve been trying my hand at jams since coming to Melbourne.  Partly I can’t resist the really cheap fruits one can get at the market.  I mean, when blood oranges are 50% cheaper than back home, who can resist, right?  And then realising after the first attempt that it is so easy to make jam, I couldn’t stop.  The economics adds up, the taste and flavor adds up and knowing exactly what goes in definitely adds up!

With the rest of the world heading towards autumn, apples and cinnamon feature on a lot of sites.  So apple jam was a natural choice when this month’s marmalade was finished.  Granny Smiths going for $2/kg today confirmed my decision to make apple jam.

It turned out even easier than marmalade and strawberry jam.  The natural pectin in the apples meant that I didn’t have to use any jamsetta and the apples just cooked themselves to pulp without me having to brandish my blender.  Easy clean up and few utensils! My kinda recipe!

There was just a little bit more left that I couldn’t fit into my jars so I spread it with some crackers and ate it with some nectarines that the bubs left behind.  Slightly tart but full bodied with just the right amount of sugar.

Apple Jam

Ingredients

1.5kg Granny Smiths

1 cup of sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Skin and core the apples.  Chop up the apples into rough cubes.
  2. Place apples, lemon juice and sugar into the pot and heat on medium heat until juices start to boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to let the apples simmer.
  4. Clean your jars and sterilise them the way you prefer.
  5. When the apple has turned to a thick, smooth consistency, ladle into the jars and seal.

Tips

  1. The apple cubes don’t have to be uniformed as it all cooks down to a mush
  2. If you are doing a jam for storage on your pantry shelf, you will need a lot more sugar as it is the preservative.
  3. I don’t do the whole jam-jar-in-boiling-water-bath-to-sterilize thing.  If you clean your jars properly and practice hygienic cooking, the jams can last 1 month in the fridge.  I only cook enough for that period of time.  There is limited storage space and we do get sick of having the same thing too often.
  4. I do try to make my jars as clean as possible by washing them with hot soapy water first and then pouring hot boiling water into the jars and over the caps.

Char Siew 叉烧

17 Nov

Char Siew with rice and pan fried asparagus

One of my favorite childhood dishes is 叉烧 with rice.  The hawkers would hang the pieces of 叉烧 on hooks with a spotlight above it to make it look delicious and enticing.  The piece of meat would be colored bright red with bits of charred meat at the uneven edges, glistening in fat and oil.

I defrosted some pork neck instead of soft bone by mistake and decided to make 叉烧 for dinner.  Google brought up a number of recipes but they all needed the use of hoisin sauce which I didn’t have and wasn’t keen on buying.  So I decided to come up with my own.  It was delicious with soft fluffy rice and pan fried asparagus on the side.

Char Siew 叉烧

Ingredients

0.5kg pork shoulder

1 ½ tbs kecap manis

1 ½ tbs light soy sauce (low salt)

2 ½ tbs honey

1 ½ tbs oyster sauce (low salt)

2 tbs Shao Hsing wine

½ tsp five spice powder

Method

  1. Place all other ingredients besides the pork in a bowl and mix completely to make a marinade
  2. Cut up pork into 1 inch strips.
  3. Place marinade and pork strips into a resealable bag.  Massage the pieces of meat to allow for the marinade to coat the meat well and penetrate the layers.
  4. Place the bag in the fridge overnight, massaging a few times.
  5. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celsius.
  6. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper to catch the drippings.
  7. Place the pieces of pork on a roasting rack and place onto the roasting pan.
  8. Bake at 230 degrees celsius for 30 minutes.
  9. Baste the pork with the remaining marinade once or twice during the baking duration and turn the meat over to allow for even caramelisation.

Tips

  1. Slice against the grain of the meat for more tender pieces
  2. Pork with a significant amount of fat make for tastier pieces as the fat absorbs the marinade well and keeps the meat moist and tender.
  3. Parchment paper is not a must but it makes cleaning up a lot easier.
  4. A bit of charring is part of a good piece of char siew as it means that adequate caramelisation has occurred.
  5. You can add red food coloring for the authentic red look.  But I try to keep my food as healthy as possible as far as additives are concerned.  And you can see that the meat turned out a nice reddish brown anyway.

Meltaways

17 Nov

Lemon Meltaways

Embolden by my success with the cheesecakes, I decided that I’d venture on and try other baked goods.  Admittedly, not having a electric cake mixer does limit one’s repertoire a bit.  Or it makes you develop fantastic biceps.  I’m a bit of a wimp.  I decided to be a bit more creative by using my food processor as a mixing blade and it hasn’t failed me thus far!

I’m a huge fan of Martha Stewart.  Yes, I do know that it is all packaging and that she’s got a great staff that put up a great show, but you must give credit to her genius in building her empire, right?  Anyhow, I came across Lime Meltaways and my greedy little stomach told me that I had to try it out.  I was also sold on the idea that I could make the cookie dough and freeze for a quick snack later.  All the work in 1 go and then savor the fruits of your labor for a long while!

I didn’t have any lime so lemons were used instead.

Lemon Meltaways

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Method

  1. Place butter and 1/3 cup of caster sugar into food processor and cream at low speed.
  2. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest and continue mixing at low speed.
  3. Mix the flour together and add to the butter mix, still mixing at low speed until all combined.
  4. Place mixture on parchment paper and roll into a 3cm log.
  5. Place log in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
  6. Cut cookies 1/4 of an inch thick
  7. Place on parchment paper and bake at 190 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.
  8. Take out of the oven to cool
  9. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the cookies.

Tips

  1. To make creaming faster, you can put the butter in microwave for a quick 10 seconds to soften it.  Do not melt it to liquid!
  2. Try varying the thickness of your cookies to see what you prefer.  The thinner cuts give a slightly crisper texture which the thicker ones a denser one.
  3. You can omit the sugar if you don’t like such sweet cookies.
  4. I buy lemon in bulk and process them for freezing so I always have lemons on hand.  Will put a post up one day on what I do.

Cherry Cheesecake

15 Nov

 

Cherrie

I don’t have photos of the cheesecakes.  They were too ugly.  They were so ugly that when I offered it at work, people tried to be polite and make a dash for the door.  That is until one brave soul came and ate it.  Then thecupcakes all disappeared in a flash.  So don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s the inside that counts

We went to Queen Victoria Market on Saturday for our regular groceries.  The hubs likes going near closing time as people try to get rid of their wares at super low prices.  The cherries were originally going for $8/kg.  But the guy said “$6/kg! Hurry up! I want to go home!”  So I said ” 0.5kg please?” His answer? “Nope.  0.5kg $4 1kg $6.”  So how was I to buy just 0.5 kg.

The cherries were divine and the bubs polished off a small bowl of it after dinner.  The remaining were a bit unripe.  I remembered a recipe from The Basics: A Really Useful Cookbook by Anthony Telsford for cheesecake.  His explanation for the finer details of getting the perfect outcomes for various dishes were very helpful.   Don’t overbeat the cream cheese, bake in a water bath were some tips which I felt made sense.  But I had returned the book to the library just the day before!  So the internet, here I come!

I found a cheesecake recipe (with beautiful photos to inspire me) at The Pleasure Monger.  I substituted cherries for strawberries, thinking that I could create beautiful cheesecakes like her.  But I didn’t have a cake tin.  So I made cheesecake cupcakes.  My result tasted heavenly.  Just the right texture with just the right amount of tartness and sweet.  But. Just. Plain. Ugly.  I attribute it to my inexperience with the cherry sauce.  Not sure if it is because of my substitution of cherry for strawberry or my omission of the small amount of orange juice.  I think the next time I make this, I’d just add my cherries directly into my cream cheese and see what happens.

In my very sparse kitchen, I also have to improvise or make do.  No handheld cake mixer available.  So I used my food processor to do all the work.

Cherry Cheesecake

(adapted from The Pleasure Monger)

Makes 12 medium sized cupcakes

Base

150g Digestive biscuits

50g unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degree Celsius
  2. Line 2 muffin trays with cupcake holders
  3. Break up the biscuits and pour the butter into the food processor and process
  4. Divide mixture equally into all the holders and press down
  5. Bake for about 7 minutes at 150 degree Celsius
  6. Take trays out and set aside to cool completely

Cream cheese filling

500g cream cheese

100g caster sugar

2 medium sized eggs

1 tsp vanilla paste

  1. Bring the cream cheese to room temperature – it helps with the mixing.
  2. Add sugar and blend using food processor.
  3. Add eggs one by one and continue blending.
  4. Add vanilla paste and mix
  5. Pour over cake bases that have been prepared

Cherry topping

150g Cherry washed and pitted

1 tbs caster sugar

1/2 tbs cornflour

  1. Process all the above in a food processor
  2. Pass the contents through a sieve to remove the larger bits
  3. Spoon over the cream cheese filling

Baking the cake

  1. Place muffin tray in a deep tray and fill the deep tray with water to 2.3 way up the muffin tin.
  2. Bake at 150 degree Celsius for 40 minutes.
  3. Cool cakes by leaving the oven door open to avoid having the cakes sinking.

I’ll update with actual cupcake picture when I bake these again.  But now, they are in my colleagues’ stomachs.