#WeekendCooking Muffins and Financiers

 

I recently tried two new-to-me muffin recipes and both of them were great!

Chocolate chocolate chip muffins

I used this recipe from Pretty Simple Sweet but buttermilk isn’t something I have at home and I didn’t want to go out and buy some. So instead, I used whole milk yogurt, thinned with some whole milk. And it turned out great. It’s not too sweet (although that may be because I reduced the sugar by 20g) and it’s nice and chocolatey from the cocoa powder and the chocolate chips. I didn’t have quite enough chocolate chips though! I had just slightly less than a cup but it was enough for me!

 

Mixed berry muffins

Recently I picked up a bag of frozen berries from Costco. You know Costco, those bags are huge. I made some berry-banana smoothies from it but decided I also wanted to make some berry muffins. I was curious about this recipe from King Arthur Flour, supposedly some famous department store recipe (a name I wasn’t familiar with). The recipe is actually a blueberry muffin recipe but my bag of frozen berries was a mixture of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. So I went with that! The recipe called for 1/2 cup of the berries to be mashed but since I had frozen berries, I didn’t do that. As usual I decreased the amount of sugar (I find American recipes to be a little too sweet) but just slightly as I wasn’t sure if these berries were sweet enough. And I always appreciate websites like KAF’s which allow for weighted measurements. One of my favourite tools in the kitchen is the digital scale and it makes it so easy (and accurate) to add ingredients to the bowl. Anyway, if you do try this recipe, ignore the part that says “fresh preferred”. This recipe worked great with frozen berries!

 

Chocolate Financiers

I wasn’t quite sure if I had had a financier before. Maybe at a high tea once? But it didn’t have a lasting impression and I couldn’t tell you for sure what one tasted like. They aren’t exactly something I can easily find in my suburban town. So I decided to try making it. Once again, Costco to the rescue – their bag of almond flour is huge and priced well.

I don’t have a financier mould (which are small rectangles) but I did have a silicon mini muffin tray. And that worked out great. This recipe from Wild Wild Whisk was easy enough to follow (it’s adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller). But I was too lazy to pipe out the batter and instead used a spoon to pop it into the mini muffin moulds. And that still turned out fine! You do have to prepare the batter ahead, as it sits in the fridge for an hour. And I especially liked browning butter – it smells so good. It was delicious and so very chocolatey that one mini one was just perfect.

I might give this Brown Butter Financier recipe from David Lebovitz a try too. Interestingly, it doesn’t require refrigeration before baking.

Apparently they’re called financiers as their shape (the original rectangle) looks like a bar of gold!

Have you made financiers before?

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

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#WeekendCooking Chinese New Year celebrations

Chinese New Year isn’t a holiday here, the kids don’t get the days off school, the husband is still at work. It’s not the same as the Chinese New Year celebrations I grew up with in Singapore, where we would get the first two days off and spend it visiting family and friends, eating lots of snacks and special New Year meals.

 

But despite it not being a holiday, I still try to hang on to some traditions. The kids get new pyjamas, we decorate the house, and we try to have our reunion dinner on the eve, although this year it was tricky because the 7yo had tennis lessons in the evening so we had to do our reunion dinner on the first day of the New Year instead. We did our usual hotpot meal!

I also try to make some cookies for the New Year, this year I made pork floss cookies. Pork floss is a kind of shredded dried pork. It’s a bit sweet and a bit salty so it makes for a great cookie flavour. The cookie batter itself is very buttery and melt-in-your-mouth type. So the addition of sesame seeds and pork floss results in a  buttery crunchy and delicious combination.

One thing I always buy is niangao, a sweet sticky glutinous rice cake that is steamed. There are a variety of flavors you can buy like coconut or red bean or ginger. I like the simple brown sugar version. Traditionally it’s offered to the Kitchen God, as the sticky cake means he won’t be able to say bad things about the family. The niangao at room temperature is quite firm and it’s easy enough to cut.

I like to slice it up, dip it in some beaten egg and panfry it. This way the niangao itself softens and gets a bit sticky and tastes great with the egg. Some people eat it with yam but I’ve never tried it that way.

It’s a once-a-year special treat!

 

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

#weekendcooking: Condensed Milk Bread

My family wasn’t big on condensed milk like some families in Singapore were and are – a lot of condensed milk is used by drink stalls, for instance, sweetening Singapore-style milk teas and coffees and Milo. For a long time, my in-laws would add condensed milk into their coffee so I would buy that for them when they visited.

But condensed milk makes me think of when I used to go camping in Singapore, as part of the Outdoor Activities Club at my junior college. We’d slather condensed milk over bread and that was breakfast. Some years ago, in a little dingy Shanghainese-style eatery in the Bay Area, we discovered mantou (or a deep-fried bun) served with condensed milk as a dip. So sinful. So delicious! Sadly the eatery closed down after a few years. I’ve yet to see that dish in another eatery here.

Recently, I spotted this recipe from Bake for Happy Kids –  Condensed Milk Bread

And I knew I had to try it.

Of course I didn’t have condensed milk – and had run out of bread flour – so a supermarket trip was needed. But anything for a good bake, right?

You can find the recipe for Condensed Milk Bread here. I followed it to the T but decided to make two loaves.

This is actually a 排包 paibao – 排 meaning line and 包 meaning bread or bun – and if you look at the original bloggers’ photos, you can definitely see the lines clearly. Mine was a bit over proofed so it lost definition.

The lines of bread are made from dividing the dough into 15 little balls, rolling them out into strips that fit into your loaf tin. It’s quite a bit of work, especially if you’re making two loaves like I was!

But it does make for some extra soft and lovely bread. It isn’t overly sweet and tastes a little bit milky from the condensed milk and the milk powder. Quite a delightful loaf of bread!

I’ve been wondering though about the 15 balls. Perhaps I will experiment the next time, and instead of 15 I’d do the usual 4 balls when I make tangzhong bread  and see if that makes any difference.


Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Weekend Cooking: Treats from Singapore

My mum flew in from Singapore yesterday morning. And she brought some lovely and yummy things with her.

 

These canned poppadoms are really quite good. Of course freshly fried ones can’t be beat but really, am I going to fry poppadoms? No, the answer is no.

Also, peanuts. Singapore-style peanuts taste quite different from whatever I’ve seen here. The husband and I have grown up eating them at Chinese restaurants, which lay out plates of peanuts to snack on while waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

We are fortunately living in a city where Asian supermarkets are common enough, and some of these Asian supermarkets do sell ready-made pastes for chicken rice and some other Singapore or Malaysia-style dishes. But I don’t think I’ve seen this brand here. Asam Pedas Ikan is a sour-spicy fish dish – the sourness comes from the tamarind or Asam Jawa.

Laksa may be more familiar to some of you, it’s a spicy coconutty noodle gravy, eaten with fish cakes, prawns, bean sprouts. It’s just so much easier to make with a paste!

 

 

 

On the left is Ang Ku Kueh, literally translated as Red Tortoise Cake. It’s a sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a filling, in this case, yellow mung bean paste. It’s steamed on a piece of banana leaf to prevent it from sticking. The pink cake on the left is kueh lapis, tapioca and rice flours, coconut and pandan, then brightly colored and steamed. Sometimes it comes in rainbow colours.

 

Pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit. Pineapple tarts are my husband’s favourite and we have tried several store-bought brands over the years and none of them have been as good as this one. The pineapple paste is good, not too sweet, the biscuit base is buttery and crumbly and so delicious! The kueh bangkit is a light biscuit made with tapioca flour and coconut milk. It has a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Seafood high tea at The Westin Singapore

My mum was the one who suggested this high tea at the lobby lounge of the Westin hotel in Singapore’s financial district. I hadn’t even known that the Westin had a new hotel and that it was located in the CBD! There was quite a bit of construction around the hotel and to be honest walking around the financial district is always confusing for me – the tall buildings all kind of look the same and the GPS doesn’t work accurately because of said tall buildings.

But I finally found it.

The lobby lounge is on the 32nd floor and has a view of the port and part of Sentosa.

This is the first course. Each person gets a plate of assorted seafood bites including mussels, prawns, seared tuna and more. I quite liked the lobster and mushroom torchon, the addition of the chili on the seared tuna, and that poached prawn open-faced sandwich. The mussels, with the fruity dressing, was a bit sweet for me.

The top tier held crab sandwiches on pumpernickel bread – we got two each.

A closer look at the plate.

I loved how the soy sauce was in a pipette

Second course was lobster thermidor and an oyster each. The oysters came with three dressings – champagne, lychee bourbon and lime, shallot vinaigrette. To be honest, I prefer eating my oysters as is, with just a squeeze of lemon, but I tasted each dressing and though that the lychee one was quite fun.

And finally dessert.

There was pistachio and cherry cheesecake (I’m not a fan of cheesecake and this one didn’t change my mind about that).

There was a yummy mango and lime tart

From a different angle. The whipped cream was meant to be eaten with the chocolate chip cookies and I must say that those cookies were divine!

The little cups hold tiramisu which were really delicious and full of coffee flavour.

I’m not usually a fan of chocolate-dipped strawberries (or white chocolate) but I must say that these strawberries dipped in white chocolate and lemon were quite refreshing because of that very zesty lemon dip!

For all three of us, we barely touched the Truffle Cupcake. It was a very strange taste. Every part of the cupcake, from white chocolate shard, to the frosting, to the cupcake batter itself was infused with truffle. I believe this is the first time I’ve had a truffle-flavored dessert. I’ve had truffles on pasta, truffle fries etc, but definitely nothing sweet. And truffle is such an overpowering taste that even the fork I used had a faint truffle-y taste afterwards. Maybe if they had just put truffle in the frosting, it would have been better? I don’t know. I’m not quite sure I would eat a truffle dessert ever again.

Truffle cupcakes aside, this was a lovely high tea at The Westin Singapore. Attentive and pleasant service, a very nice and quiet lobby lounge (sometimes lobby lounges can be very noisy but this whole hotel was quite pleasant and calm), some very delicious savoury moments and nice sweet flavours, this seafood high tea gets the thumbs up from me.

 

Weekend Cooking: A very light banana cake

I always have bananas in my freezer as I buy bananas from Costco which come in a big bunch of at least 7-8 large bananas, and too often they seem to ripen at about the same time. They seem to go from green to almost yellow-green to yellow with brown spots all too soon. And I am no fan of ripe bananas. So into the freezer they go.

Usually I’m quite happy to make banana bread but somehow during the last round of banana bread I got tired of eating it really quickly. It just felt so heavy and stodgy. I wanted something that was a lot lighter, more of a cake than a bread. And somehow online I came across this cake recipe that read almost like it was heading a little towards a chiffon cake, something that would be light and different, with whipped egg whites and gula melaka (palm sugar). I reckon that if you can’t find palm sugar (usually at Asian supermarkets) you could use brown sugar, maybe with a bit of molasses to add a depth of flavour. I’ve adapted this recipe to include a step I learnt from Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Banana Bread Recipe, adding a sort of banana essence, made from the reduced liquid from thawed bananas. If you are not using frozen bananas, you can microwave your fresh bananas for a few minutes until soft and some liquid is released. It may be an extra step but it really adds such extra banana flavour to your cake!

Light banana cake

150g cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

4 large bananas – about 250g

(I use frozen bananas. Thaw them, sieve the liquid that inevitably remains, and heat the liquid on the stove, reduce it down to at least half and you get the most banana-y liquid ever. Almost like an essence)

100ml gula melaka syrup

100g vegetable or coconut oil

5 yolks

1/2 salt

5 whites

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

75g caster sugar

Line a 7″ square pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mash banana and add oil, egg yolks, salt, gula melaka syrup, mix the ingredients.

Add the baking powder and baking soda to the flour and sift this into the banana mixture and mix until well combined. Do not over-mix. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the egg white until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar. Continue beating on medium speed while gradually adding the caster sugar. Beat until you get firm peaks.

Gently fold the meringue into the flour mixture in 2 to 3 portions.

Pour into the baking tin. Drop the pan on the counter to get rid of big bubbles.

Place in a water bath and bake for 80 minutes at 350. Cover the top with foil if it is browning too fast.

Cool on a wire rack

Adapted from https://jeannietay.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/banana-gula-melaka-sponge-cake/

Weekend Cooking: How to hotpot

Hotpot has become a family favourite. We don’t really do hotpot that much in Singapore where it is far too hot for hotpot but the cool winters of California are great for it.

So it has become our own little tradition to do hotpot for Chinese New Year Eve (known as reunion dinner or tuanyuanfan 团圆饭) and we do hotpot on Thanksgiving too.

Hotpot is an easy meal for a crowd, provided you have enough utensils and hotpots!

And you preferably need to have access to an Asian supermarket. But if there’s none nearby, you can make do with some other ingredients.

Equipment

We use a portable gas stove and this fun dual hotpot. Those ladles with little holes in them are great for picking out just your ingredients. And we set out regular soup ladles too. Extra long chopsticks are for cooking the meat with.

But here are my typical hotpot ingredients.

Broth

I make two broths in our dual hotpot. One is a vegetable stock made with carrots, celery and whatever else I might have like corn if it’s fresh. And the other is an instant one with dashi powder (or you could make a dashi stock with bonito flakes and konbu) and miso.

Vegetables

I usually buy Napa cabbage and chop that up. Bokchoy would be great too. A more traditional leafy vegetable is tongho but it’s slightly bitter. This year I also added baby spinach that I had in my fridge.

We love the little bunashimeiji (beech mushrooms). There’s also shiitake and king trumpet mushrooms, which are all found at my local Asian supermarket.

Meat

While I do most of the hotpot shopping at the Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets, we prefer the meat from Japanese supermarket Mitsuwa. It’s a bit of a drive but it’s definitely so much more flavourful and tender. Asian supermarkets usually have thinly sliced meat (beef or pork) for hotpot. But you could always buy a nice piece of meat, freeze it for a bit to firm it up, then slice it really thin yourself.

Seafood

Our favourites are fish tofu, fishballs and cuttlefish balls. They’re springy and fun to eat and cook really quickly. My husband and kids like imitation crabsticks which need just like 30 seconds to warm up in the broth.

Other ingredients may include dumplings, tofu puffs, vermicelli or udon, konyaku, quail eggs and more.

Don’t forget your dipping sauces like peanut sauce, chili sauce or sesame sauce. We also like the Taiwanese shacha sauce which is made from garlic, shallots, chilis, dried shrimp.

Get that gas stove going, the broth boiling, then pick your favourite foods and dunk them in! Happy hotpot-ing.

 

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs