What to do with (almost) 20 pounds of cherries #WeekendCooking

Brentwood, CA, is full of cherry farms. And during weekends in May and early June, the farms are full of families who’ve driven up from the Bay Area to pick cherries. Along with some friends, we drove an hour to RC Farms one Sunday morning, making sure to get there when the farm opened at 9am. Our family ended up with two buckets full of cherries.

So besides eating them fresh, here’s what I did with the cherries.

Cherry pie. This was the first time I’ve made cherry pie. I’ve made other pies, like blueberry and apple. I used this cherry pie recipe from Sally’s Baking Recipes, as well as the all-butter pie crust recipe on the website. The recipe was well written and easy to follow. And it turned out really delicious! I like how the half the cherries are to be left in halves (the rest are quartered) so that we had nice large pieces of cherries in the pie.

Cherry turnovers.

I made a bit of a cherry compote with some cherries, cooking it down slightly with a bit of sugar and vanilla essence. Then added it to some cut out store-bought puff pastry (it was right there and easy!). Another layer of puff pastry goes on top, and the sides are crimped with a fork. Brush with some egg wash and bake. A quick and yummy breakfast!

We also ate the cherry compote with yogurt. My younger son thought I needed to put more sugar in the compote but it was sweet enough for me.

Chocolate cherry ice cream

My absolute favourite of all these cherry treats was the chocolate cherry ice cream. I based it off David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Ice Cream recipe from his book, The Perfect Scoop. But added the cherry compote, just chopped up finely. He has a Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry ice cream in the book, but I didn’t have almonds plus my kids aren’t fond of nuts, so I figured that chocolate and cherry ice cream would do just fine. In his cherry ice cream, he uses 1 cup of the chopped candied cherries but mine was quite a bit more than 1 cup.

If you’re looking to make ice cream at home, I highly recommend The Perfect Scoop. His recipes are clear and easy to follow and more importantly, everything I’ve made from this book has turned out delicious.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Tangzhong marble bread #WeekendCooking

I love tangzhong bread (also known as milk bread). If you’re not familiar with that, it’s a type of soft bread that’s made with a roux or tangzhong. It just requires an extra step of making the tangzhong but the end result is a very lovely soft bread. I first posted about tangzhong bread here.

For a few years now, I’ve been using this recipe from Christine’s Recipes. It’s an easy chuck it all the in bread mixer recipe (at least for the first part). It does result in delicious and soft tangzhong bread. But when I came across the book, Milk Bread and Mooncakes by Kristina Cho, I wanted to give her recipe a try.

So her Mother of all Milk Bread recipe is a little more involved than the one I’ve been using. Cho’s recipe asks for the milk to be scalded. Whereas, previously I had just been adding the milk in straight from the jug. Also, when adding the cut-up butter, it asks to add it piece by piece, so that the butter is fully incorporated before the next piece is added. With the other recipe, I would cut up the softened butter and just toss it all into the bread machine. The dough is a lot less wet and sticky than the recipe from Christine’s Recipes.

So when I browsed through the book, a version of the milk bread that stood out was the Matcha and Black Sesame Marbled Milk Bread recipe. I had matcha powder but didn’t have black sesame. But there was also a recipe for a chocolate version of the Mother of all Milk Bread, which was just adding 3 tbsp of cocoa powder to the dough. So I thought, I could do a chocolate marble bread instead!


It’s essentially making one loaf of Mother of all Milk Bread and then one loaf of the chocolate milk bread version. Then divide the dough into several portions. Roll one ball of regular dough out. Roll one ball of chocolate dough out. Then place one on top of the other, tuck in the sides, then roll it up, like when making regular tangzhong bread.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Black Forest Birthday Cake #WeekendCooking

You may know that I’ve been making Black Forest Cake for the husband’s birthday for a few years now. (This is last year’s)

But this year, my older son decided he too wanted a Black Forest birthday cake. I made him a chocolate birthday cake last year.

Cherries still aren’t in season though, so I stuck with frozen cherries. But I still used my favourite chocolate layer cake recipe from KAF. The cherry mixture and whipped cream recipes are from from this blog.

I like to make the cake layers ahead of time and freeze them. So that way I won’t get too flustered by having to do too many things on one day! It helps that we have a large upright freezer in the garage.

I am of the opinion that cakes should be at the very least three layers of cake. But birthday cakes should reach for the stars with five layers.

This time I added some chocolate ganache to go on top.

To avoid bad icing handwriting, a Happy Birthday sign (that plays music) always is a better bet!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Pork rib and lotus root soup #WeekendCooking

I must be missing Singapore again, as I cooked some Singapore food this week.

Pork rib and lotus root soup

Lotus root is actually the stem of the lotus. I love its crunchy texture. Even after cooking it for a few hours, it remains crunchy. But it will start to discolour after peeling, so peel it just before cooking

This is one of my favourite Chinese-style soups. It’s easy to make but it does take a bit of time to cook. It would probably be faster if you have an instant pot, which I don’t.

Some recipes call for soaking the ribs for an hour. Others just require the bones to be blanched in boiling water. This helps to remove the blood from the ribs, and gives you a clearer soup.

But essentially, it’s a soup made from pork ribs, sliced lotus root (washed well and peeled), some slices ginger, and some salt and white pepper to taste. I simmered my soup on the stove for about four hours. And served it with some pan-fried miso-marinated salmon fillet, garlicky zucchini, and rice.

Pulut Hitam or black glutinous rice

My kids love this dessert. If you can find black glutinous rice, it’s really easy to make too. Please note that not all black rice is glutinous rice. So make sure the packaging states that it’s glutinous or sticky rice!

This is the type of black sticky rice I got from my local Asian supermarket.

It’s pretty much like making a porridge, just rinse the rice and then cook it with water, a bit of salt. When you rinse the rice, the water will remain purplish in color. That’s normal. This recipe uses 5 cups of water to 200 g of rice. Check on the water level regularly when it’s cooking and add more water if needed. I used my slow cooker and it took a few hours for the rice to break up and soften. Add sugar to taste. We like to serve it with coconut milk.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Happy Lunar New Year! #WeekendCooking

Happy Year of the Tiger! 新年快乐!万事如意 

During our trip to Singapore in December and January, my mum ordered yusheng, a popular “salad” that’s supposed to be good luck when eaten during Lunar New Year.

It has lots of different fruits and vegetables like carrots, radish, shallots, pomelo, ginger, yam. Usually these are shredded into long strips. Raw salmon is a popular topping.

The different ingredients are symbolic. The fish (yu) sounds like the “yu” word in the saying 年年有余 (nian nian you yu), which means abundance through the year. The sweet plum sauce is supposed to represent 甜甜蜜蜜 that life will be sweet. In a restaurant, the server will utter all these various auspicious sayings as they place the specific item on the plate.

When the dish is ready, everyone takes a pair of chopsticks, and the “lohei” begins. It essentially is a tossing of the yusheng ingredients, while saying various good luck wishes. The higher you toss, the better.

As a kid, I never liked eating yusheng. There was too much ginger in it for me. I would grudgingly eat a few mouthfuls for good luck and look forward to the next course. But I love it today. It’s fresh and tasty and has a great blend of ingredients!

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

What I Ate In Singapore #WeekendCooking

We had a bit of a whirlwind trip to Singapore in December. Winter break for the kids is only about two weeks here, so we usually don’t go to Singapore for Christmas. But since we hadn’t seen our families for 2.5 years, and Singapore had recently announced the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (where flights are only for vaccinated travellers and no quarantine period is needed), we had to go back.

Being on the Vaccinated Travel Lane required us to take rapid antigen tests for the first seven days. The first PCR test we had to do was at the airport. Days 3 and 7 were supervised rapid antigen tests at government centres. And the rest were done at home, with results submitted online, before we could leave the house.

We tried to minimise our movements to less crowded places for the first few days. But that didn’t mean the eating had to be minimised. Also, since it was the festive season, that meant Christmas Eve and Day dinners with families. And also New Year’s Eve and Day meals too. Here are some highlights of our 2.5 weeks there. 

 

Christmas Eve dinner featured ham, sausages, salads, smoked duck and more. 

 

Christmas Day lunch was British-style, with turkey, bread sauce, Christmas pudding. 

 

 

 

Christmas Day dinner. Lots of seafood! And my mum made pecan pie.

 

A lot of meals were takeout, to minimise any risks, especially since we stayed either with my parents or in-laws.

Fishball noodles

 

And the hawker centre stall that the fishball noodles came from. You can pick from the different types of fresh noodles (the flat type I had is called meepok) and whether you want it to be spicy. It also comes in a soup version.

 

 

One of my favourites – rojak. A kind of salad with pineapple, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, youtiao,  jicama, grilled dried squid, and mixed with a kind of sweet sour sauce that has tamarind and shrimp paste. Also, satay in the background 

Modern Singapore food at Rempapa

Massive crabs. One was cooked with a chili crab sauce. The other is in an “imperial broth”. The fish noodles in the big box behind were really delicious too.

 

 

The Sweet Stuff

 

Loved this eclair-focused high tea with a friend at L’eclair Patisserie.

 

Being back in December-January meant that Lunar New Year favourites were available. The rolled up biscuits are known as love letters. They’re very thin and delicate. The flowers are kueh bangkit, which are made from coconut milk, tapioca flour etc to create a melt-in-your-mouth delight. 

It’s not so easy to find these fried pastries anymore. This one is known as butterfly bun. We also bought some goreng pisang (fried battered bananas).

 

I was also delighted to have mangosteens. One of my favourite fruits!

 

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Black Forest Cake 2021 #WeekendCooking

The husband’s favourite cake is Black Forest cake. And I’ve been making one for him for his birthday every October since at least 2013. And this year’s was the tallest one yet.

Here is last year’s Black Forest cake.

As I’ve done for the past couple of years, the cake layers are made using this King Arthur Flour recipe. It’s a hot water chocolate cake and it’s simple and nice and light. This is important in Black Forest cake. The layers of cake sandwich whipped cream and cherry preserve, so a rich cake is just too much.

For the cherry preserve, I used frozen cherries since they’re not in season in autumn. I use this recipe for the cherries and the whipped cream, slightly reducing the icing sugar in the cream to about 200grams. I didn’t add the chocolate ganache but instead topped the cake with chocolate shavings that I peeled from a bar of dark chocolate.

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Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

Min Jian Kueh or Peanut Pancake #WeekendCooking

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Something the husband always makes sure to eat when we visit Singapore, is a snack called min jian kueh or ban jian kuih. It’s essentially a thick fluffier than usual pancake that’s filled with a variety of ingredients, folded in half, and sliced up. There’s a thick soft version, but also a thin crispy version. I’m never sure if they’re both called by the same name.

I decided to see how easy (or not!) it was to make, first watching this video to see how it’s made. I combined two recipes, one from The Meat Men above, and also, this one from What To Cook Today. Because it used tapioca starch and that was something I had in the pantry.

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For the pancake batter

  1. 100g plain flour
  2. 30g tapioca starch
  3. ½ tsp baking soda
  4. ½ tsp instant yeast
  5. 2 tbsp sugar
  6. 1 egg
  7. 160ml water (lukewarm)
  8. pinch of salt

For the filling:

  1. 50g roasted ground peanuts
  2. 25g sugar
  3. A few small cubes of butter (optional)

Essentially, mix together the batter ingredients, until relatively smooth. Set it aside for at least half an hour to let proof. There should be some bubbles in the batter.

Meanwhile, mix your sugar and peanuts together for the filling.

Heat a medium-sized frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat. This is to make sure the whole pan is well heated, to ensure that you get the characteristic honeycomb look.

Spray some oil and spread it evenly with a paper towel.

Pour the batter into the pan. I used about a ladle and a half. Spread it across the pan properly.

Cover and let cook for about 4 minutes on medium heat. Don’t have the heat too high. The first time I made this, the bottom was a bit overdone.

Lift the cover and check that there’s bubbles and that the batter is cooked (you don’t want it to be wet, as it won’t be flipped over). Spread the filling over half the pancake. I also tried adding some small cubes of butter to one pancake before the peanuts, for additional flavour perhaps? Not sure if it’s needed.

Here’s where recipes seem to differ. Some of them say to put the filling on, and cook for a couple more minutes. Others say to take the pancake out of the pan and fill it. And fold it in half.

I guess it doesn’t really make that much of a difference if you make sure the pancake batter is no longer wet, then fill it. You don’t want to have raw batter in your pancake.

Other possible fillings…

cheese and scallions

chocolate chips or chocolate rice

shredded coconut

Instead of ground peanuts, some eateries in Singapore use chunky peanut butter. Also very good.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

A blueberry pie that almost didn’t make it #WeekendCooking

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I’m not sure why I was determined to make a pie for Pi Day. We never did anything for Pi Day before, although they do talk about it in school. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I would make a blueberry pie.

In Singapore, there was a little local bakery that my mom would take us. I have no idea its name, but it was near the library, or at least that’s how it is in my memory. And they had blueberry pie. Which is unusual, as it’s not exactly a dessert that was common in Singapore at that time. I’m sure blueberries were really expensive then – and they still might be? Singapore imports a lot of fruits and vegetables as there’s little space for farming.

But somehow I remember that pie.

And I wanted to make one.

I found this recipe on Food52 by Rose Levy Bernabaum. I am a fan of Bernabaum’s Bread Bible, and have loved everything I’ve made in that book, especially the scones, which are my go-to scone recipe. I always double that recipe so I have extra to store in the freezer.

The one thing I wasn’t so sure was the measurements. The recipe used cups which personally I detest. I feel like baking recipes should always provide weights which are far more accurate than cups. And usually, I would stay far away from a cups-only recipe. But this one sounded really good. The filling isn’t baked, just 1/4 of the berries are cooked, then the rest are mixed together with the syrupy cooked ones.

Well, unfortunately, somehow I got myself tripped up on the measurements and ended up using twice the amount of butter! I only realised it the next day when I put it into the oven to bake and the pastry started melting! Sigh…

I scraped it into the compost bin after it cooled and started over. But I didn’t have the time to work on the same dough so I just quickly went with this one by Smitten Kitchen. I let it rest for a while in the fridge, not as long as I wanted to, and then rolled it out and baked it. The dough shrank in some parts. Sadness.

It may be because of my glass pie dish. I have since ordered a metal dish so I’m hoping that will see some improvement?

The blueberries though were simple and delicious. A quarter of them are cooked in water, then some cornstarch solution and sugar are added. Then it’s mixed with the rest of the blueberries. Once the pie crust has cooled a few minutes, just pour in the blueberries. They need to set for at least two hours. I loved how the blueberries were mostly intact and they were juicy and plump. Although my dough didn’t look great, it was still tasty.

My 7yo, who’s probably my harshest critic who refused to eat the mixed berry muffins we made last week, declared it delicious and ate it again for breakfast the next day.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Lunar New Year Nian Gao 年糕 #WeekendCooking

Happy Lunar New Year! Today (Saturday) is the second day of the Year of the Ox.

Nian Gao 年糕 is a traditional Lunar New Year treat. It’s something I’ve eaten as a kid growing up in Singapore but it was not something we made at home. But I loved eating it! If you’ve never eaten nian gao before, it’s a sweet sticky cake of sorts made with sugar, water and glutinous rice flour.

I don’t eat it on its own but instead, I slice it up, and dip it in egg and pan fry it. Panfrying it with egg softens the Nian Gao a bit and the warm sticky eggy cake is delicious.

I think there are several different interpretations between the meaning of the cake. I remember reading about how it’s offered to the Kitchen God, and the sticky cake will prevent him from saying bad things about the family to the Jade Emperor. The word 年(Nian) meaning “year” sounds the same as the word 粘 (Nian) which means “sticky”.

Also, 糕 (gao) means “cake” but also is the same sound as 高 which means higher, so 年高 means a higher (better) year.

This year, the fourth grader had an assignment, which was to make a Lunar New Year dish. Some of the other examples included dumplings, steamed fish, tangyuan. But he wanted to go with the Nian Gao. I looked up the recipe, (and also another and yet another ) and realised that it’s actually quite doable. It’s made up of a few main ingredients and needs to be steamed. Traditionally (at least in Singapore), it’s wrapped in banana leaves, but I didn’t have any (although I have seen them in the Asian supermarkets here). Instead I just oiled my cake tin well.

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So since this was the kid’s assignment, he was in charge of pretty much all of it. I pretty much only helped him with the steaming part as it’s tricky putting the tin into a pot of boiling water! Oh I also did help a bit when he had to simmer the water and sugar together on the stove, just to make sure the water stayed simmering and not boiling, and helped him to figure out if the sugar was dissolved properly.

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The really traditional way of making Nian Gao seems to involve some 10 to 12 hours of steaming in order to get the sugar to caramelise! There are quite a few different variations in the making of Nian Gao. This recipe from What to Cook Today also gives directions for making it in the Instant Pot and the slow cooker. I went with the regular steaming method, with a pot of water, a little metal stand to prop my cake tin, and a piece of aluminium foil to stop the drips of moisture from the lid getting into the Nian Gao.

I decided to follow the instructions of this recipe from Woks of Life, which said to test the cake with a toothpick and if it comes out clean, it’s done. It turned out quite nicely.

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Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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