#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

Weekend Cooking: Black Forest Cake

My husband’s birthday is on Halloween so it’s always a tricky thing to celebrate. The day itself is difficult as there’s so much going on – school parade, class parties and of course trick or treating! And this year with Halloween falling on a Wednesday, it seemed too early to celebrate on the weekend before (and too late the weekend after). So we made do with the day before.

The husband’s favourite cake is Black Forest and I’ve been making it for the past few years. When I started out it was a bit of a disaster but I think this year I’ve gotten it almost right – well except for my cake decorating skills. I really had a tough time putting those chocolate shavings on nicely!

Black Forest Cake

Last year I used the recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen but felt that the sponge cake wasn’t chocolatey enough and a bit too finicky for my liking – it uses a lot of eggs and has to be baked immediately or it starts to deflate.

When I made my son’s birthday cake earlier this year, a chocolate raspberry cake, I used this great chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur Flour which has a great chocolatey taste and texture – it uses yogurt/buttermilk and boiling water and somehow that seems to make for a great moist cake.

Black forest cake in the making

So I used that same great chocolate cake recipe for the Black Forest cake and it turned out to be the right choice.

I use the jar of sour cherries from Trader Joe’s, cutting each cherry in half and saving the juice, to which I added some sugar and boiled down a bit to make a syrup. The syrup is then brushed onto each layer of cake to add to the flavour and moisture of the cake.

Then it’s topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream – I used 3 1/2 cups of heavy cream to 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and you could add a splash of kirsch if you want.

And place some of the halved cherries on top of the cream, making sure to spread them out but not to put too many pieces. Keep going with the layers until you reach the top layer which should just have a layer of whipped cream.

I then did a quick crumb coat of a thin layer of whipped cream on the sides, stuck it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and then finished off piling on the rest of the cream on the top and the side.

For the chocolate shavings, I just used a vegetable peeler on a bar of dark chocolate. And somehow try to pat them onto the side of the cake and sprinkle some on the top.

And that was my Black Forest Cake of 2018!

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: Pizza Party Buns

Most of the time my email box is full of things to delete. But there are some emails I look forward to, like those from King Arthur Flour filled with recipe suggestions. Last weekend there was one about pizza riffs. And a recipe for their pizza party buns.

I wasn’t planning a party but I thought that these would make for great school lunches!

My 7yo is in second grade and my 5yo is in afternoon kindergarten so both of them need a quick and easy lunch.

Pizza Party Buns to the rescue! You can find the recipe here.

I put my own spin on the recipe, exchanging about a third of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour and added some dried Italian herbs to the dough.

While it was rising, I got to work on my sauce. I usually go with the Smitten Kitchen uncooked tomato sauce but wanted to add in some extra vegetables so that this would be a more of a meal-in-one kind of bun. So I finely chopped carrots and celery and cooked it with garlic, added strained tomatoes and some herbs and spices.

The dough was easy to work with and roll out.

I didn’t have pepperoni so instead used some deli ham, chopped up, and shredded mozzarella.

I wish I had read about using dental floss earlier as slicing the rolls with a knife was tricky and I had to reshape them when I placed them on the tray to proof a second time.

We couldn’t resist trying one or two – they smelled so good!

I stored some in the fridge for school lunches this week. And then some in the freezer.

I reckon this would be great as a pesto and cheese bun. I’d love to try it with different cheeses too. And was wondering what other vegetables I could try it with. Spinach perhaps? I’ve been wondering if it would be too weird with Brussels sprouts (we love Brussels sprouts!). What do you suggest?

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.