Saturday, April 23, 2011

Red Velvet Cake



Today is one of the busiest days of my life.

Having arrived in Dungun at 2 am last night, I had to then type out the recipes for my class for the next morning. It was a demonstration and lucky enough, no one noticed the tremendous exhaustion I felt (not even a yawn) that made even the wall seemed comfy enough for me to lean on relaxingly.

It was a 'special cakes' class and one of the items was 'Red Velvet Cake' (I reckon that words and fashion reach across this part of the country pretty fast these days, hence, this cake has made its name here as well).

Whether you see it as a stale version of chocolate cake or a cake with a bitter aftertaste (due to the beetroot juice), this cake has its own distinctive class and has made its way to the best bakery boutiques in town.


Ingredients:

Cake: preheat oven to 170C
A : 280g self-raising flour + 20g cocoa powder (sifted)
B : In a jug, pour 135g milk + 2tsp lemon juice/vinegar + 80 g red dragon fruit/beet root juice + red colour (I use the Wilton deep red gel colour) + vanilla + yellow
C : 200g butter + 180g sugar + 50g oil (the oil helps to produce a moist cake)
D : 2 eggs (A grade)
 
Method:
1. Beat (C) until light and fluffy
2. Add the eggs one by one and mix well (mixer at medium speed)
3. While mixer is on slow speed, add in A and B alternately in 3 or 4 portions.
4. When mixture is combined well, pour onto a 14X14 inch tin. Bake for 12 minutes first and check whether the cake springs back when touched. If it does, then the cake is ready. Cool the cake in chiller.
4. Divide the cake into 4 equal layers. Line a 7-inch removable-base cake tin with one cake sheet and spread 1/4 of the filling. Layer with another sheet of cake. Spread filling and repeat the procedure until the last layer.
5. Cool the cake for at least 4 hours before unmoulding it.
 
The filling:
400g whipping cream
300g cream cheese (soften at room temperature)
100g icing sugar
 
Method:
1. Beat cream cheese until mixture is smooth.
2. Add cream and sugar and beat medium speed until it becomes spreadable.

The cake does not need to be heavily decorated as it is normally served as it is. Enjoy!
 
 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily Decisions

It was a very hot day today.

It was too hot for me to walk to the mini-mall nearby. So, my Mom dropped me off there at around 1pm today. The Easter Sale at the Christian bookstore officially started today, which was why I was so excited to go there. 

I've had my eye on the ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible for a long time now. The leather edition sells for above RM224!

Because of the Easter Sale discount, for a limited time, I can get it for only RM179! So, this afternoon, I headed straight to the Christian bookstore and bought it! The last pristine copy left! It's like the Study Bible was waiting for me to buy it! 

I'm so excited! I can't wait to delve into it tonight during my quiet time. I have extra motivation to read the Bible now! I've been rather lax lately, I hope my enthusiasm lasts though! Heck! I'll make it last! I've never read the Bible cover to cover in all my years as a Christian, well, this is the year I'll finally succeed! 

After that, I went to an air-conditioned cafe, known as "Kitchen Creatures".

It's a no frills restaurant with bright lighting and ample natural sunshine to make it an ideal place for me to do cross-stitch in. Well, since my Mom is giving me the entire afternoon to hang around here, I brought my cross-stitch along! Man, did I make progress on that project today! 

"Hmmmm! What to order?". I finally decided on their home-made fish fingers as I just wanted a small snack, I already had lunch, some taiwanese meat sauce noodles, courtesy of my Mom, she brought it home for me (I ate before my outing). 

The fish fingers were delicious. I then asked for ice and poured my little bottle of water that I always carry with me into the glass, Ah refreshing iced-water! But then, I was still v. thirsty, like I said, it was a hot day! 

I then order some old-fashioned root beer, sweetened with cane sugar, NOT HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)!

40 grams of sugar, oh well! The lesser of the 2 evils, at least it 's not HFCS! (refer to article on HFCS on SP! [www.sparkpeople.com]). And it's not everyday I drink soda...... 

The 4pm rolled around. I was starting to feel hungry again, looking at all the delicious food the other patrons were ordering.

I was busily cross-stitching by then. At around 4.30pm, I finally gave in and ordered a pizza. Now, the pizza's here only come in one size : 10 inches in diameter. 

Oh Man! I can't finish that much pizza!

Then, an idea come to me, courtesy of my SP membership! I'll brown bag what I can't finish home! Then I can have another meal of two for later or I can even treat my family to pizza!

So, being a good girl, I ordered the vegetarian pizza, because I was supposed to watch my protein/phosphate levels, and only ate 3 slices, I ordered the waiter to brown bag the rest straightaway, so I wouldn't be tempted to polish it all off, it was delicious!!!! 

When I got home, I was too full to eat dinner, but I figured some more vegies won't hurt, so I ate a small serving of bitter gourd that my Mom cooked.

I was thinking, I shouldn't have ordered the pizza as my Mom cooked a nice dinner today, but hey! I was hungry in that cafe, surrounded by people eating pizza and pasta! 

Oh, well! I just consider it a celebration of sorts for my finally getting my BIG treat : The ESV Study Bible! Man! It feels so good to treat myself! I can't afford to do that all the time though.......so the next treat will in the next 2 months of so........

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Some Minor Adjustments

Anyone can get used to anything, even if it is unpleasant or difficult.

That's what I found out during my years as a dialysis patient. I've been a dialysis patient for 6 years and counting now.

At first I encountered less problems (after I got free of my IJC : which is the tube inserted into my jagular vein, that is, my neck before my arm access matured), as my body was still new to dialysis.

But now, going into my 6th year, my heart is not as healthy as it once was, and the phosphate, calcium & potassium levels have accumulated in my blood due to careless eating.

As a dialysis patient, I can't eat like a normal person. Well, after 6 years I guess I kinda think : "What the heck! I'll die someday even if I'm careful anyway, so I might as well enjoy eating", and went on my merry way eating whatever I like, however much I like, "to hell with portion control!", until the doctor gave me an ultimatum.....

So, in  a nutshell, I have to really watch my protein, phosphate (protein and phosphate are like partners : where there's protein, there's phosphate), potassium, sodium and fluid intake. No excuses, no arguments or my medical fees are going to go up.

That is, the doctor has threatened to exchange my phosphate binder from the affordable Calcium Carbonate to the more effective ; much more costly Lanthanum Salts.

Now, I'm already spending a lot on my condition as it is, so I guess I have no choice but to be a good girl and follow the renal diet closely.

So, today I was preparing dinner for myself, my Dad and my brother, because my Mom was out and requested I handle dinner.

So, I thought, "Yay! I'm finally in control of the menu, so let's put this new diet to work in my cooking today!", If my Mom cooks something that's unsuitable for me, I just take less of the unsuitable foods and more of the suitable components but today, I was in control.

Omelettes?

Well, I can't have egg yolks but I can have egg whites. Minor adjustment : I just separated the yolks from the whites and prepared 2 omelettes!

One using the whites and one using just the yolks, my normal Dad and brother can have the yolks, I'll take the whites. A little more effort maybe, but it was just a minor adjustment. I didn't waste food and everyone's happy!

Meat, I can't have much, but I'm not just cooking for me, but for my Dad and brother as well, I'll just prepare a meat dish and they can have it, I'll either not take the meat or take just one small piece. Again, everyone's happy.

I also cooked a vegetable dish, that I can have, but not too much though, I have to watch my potassium levels as well, I also fried some potatoes. But before cooking the potatoes, I soaked them in water first after slicing them to leach out the potassium.

No addition of phosphate to crisp up the potatoes, I just fried them fresh. I took just a few slices because potatoes have phosphate too.

Minor adjustments like these just take a little bit of effort but I have to make them because my life depends on it. If my phosphate & company levels get out of control, there will be some unpleasant and potentially life threatening consequences. I'll just have to adjust and control my desires for certain foods.

Minor adjustments, I can do that! It's no problem! After all, it's my life I'm prolonging!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Munching On Muffins....


 
Muffins are one of my favourite comfort foods as they are effortlessly easy and breezy to prepare.

Such lovely, fluffy and crumbly cupcake-like goodies make excellent breakfast, kids' lunch and even picnic munchies. Spruce them up with blueberries, oatmeal, dried fruits for that ultimate guilt-free snack that pairs beautifully with a steaming cup of coffee in the morning or those fancy-flavoured tea in the evening.

Muffins can be prepared in 2 ways - Creaming method & Muffin method. Personally, I prefer the latter as they are more traditionally 'muffin-like' (crumbly and has more substance unlike the more cake-like and fluffy nature of the other type). However, my kids love the cake-like muffins and fortunately, I have an excellent fluffy muffin recipe that I can play with to get as many flavours and colours possible!

1 recipe many variations...time-saving indeed. 

Ingredients:
50g butter
70g fine sugar
1 egg (beaten lightly)
50g self raising flour + 50g plain flour + 1 tbsp baking powder
50g fresh milk

Method:
1. Beat 50g butter and 70g fine sugar till pale and white.
2. Add the beaten egg into it. Continue beating till mixture is evenly mixed.
3. On medium speed, add the dry ingredients, followed by fresh milk. When mixture is well mixed, choose your flavouring as follows:

Chocolate - add 50g chocolate chips + 10 g cocoa powder + 20g melted chocolate

Mocha - add 10 g cocoa powder + 1 tsp instant coffee powder (in 1 tbsp water)
 
Pandan/Screwpine flavour - add 1 tsp pandan paste + 2 drops green colouring
 
Blueberry - fold into mixture 100 g of blueberry filling 
 
Carrot walnut - 1/2 cup chopped walnuts + 1/2 cup shredded carrot + drops of yellow colour
 
Apple - 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + 2 tbsp applesauce
 
Strawberry - add 1 tsp of strawberry puree/jam right into each muffin cup already filled with mixture
Most of the time, I would sprinkle either coloured rice or hundreds and thousands on each muffin to make them more irresistibly attractive. Most importantly, let the muffins rest for 20 minutes before baking them. Bake at 190C for about 15 minutes or until it springs back when touched.
 
It's fun to create as many flavours and toppings as possible. I even sprinkle streusal on top of my muffins sometimes. Thinking about selling muffins from home? Why not? I do!


Durian Season & Cheesecake Heaven



How can I NOT write about durian again when it is still in season! Its provoking smell (I find it gorgeously fragrant while others may find it unbearable offensive!) has tempted me to bake yet another favourite. I managed to get some of those striking golden pulps again (one of the best grades of durians) as I was driving along Dungun road. For today, it’s Durian baked cheesecake.


Ingredients
Bottom layer
Crumb crust for 9 inch pan (square or round)
250g crushed digestive cookies
90g butter melted
50g granulated sugar


Filling
500g cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
100g brown sugar + 50g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp corn flour
400g durian flesh + 200g cream (blend in food processor)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. For the base, mix the sugar and crushed biscuits. Add melted butter to it and mix well. Press mixture into mould.

3. Beat the cream cheese at slow speed until it becomes a smooth mixture.

4. Add both sugars and mix well. Shortly after, add the eggs slowly and mix well, still at slow speed.

5. Then add the corn flour and pour in the durian flesh mixture. At this point, if you see a very lumpy texture, strain the mixture.

6. Whip cream until it reaches soft peak and fold the cream into the durian mixture.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 100°C and bake further for 30 minutes or until the centre part is slightly wobbly when the cake tin is tapped.

8. Once done, open the oven door and let the cake cool for the next hour.

9. Chill a few hours before serving it.


Perhaps a cup of coffee to go with a slice of the cake?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Durian...Ohh Durian!


The season is here again!
 
I can see those beautiful spiny and spiky skin which promises the incredibly delicate, creamy and succulent pulp within, but as they say, ‘either you love it, or hate it’. For me, it’s one of the seasons I welcome most. The smell would still linger in the house even after hours the fruit was savoured by us. Obviously, its presence can be smelt within metres away, of which, to some can be extremely repulsive. I, on the other hand, find it addictive.
 
Nothing from this fruit would go to waste. Even the skin is normally used to repel insects and pests, particularly mosquitoes and rats. Under ripe durians makes lovely ‘bubur durian’. Overripe durians? Do not waste this as it can be further fermented to become ‘tempoyak’. The pulps that are just ripe can be eaten fresh or with accompaniments like sticky rice or bread.
 
The list of duiran-based desserts and dishes is endless. With a little bit creativity and innovation, you’ll get wonderful durian cakes, mousses, muffins and other scrumptious desserts. Since durians are in abundance where I live now, I find this durian chill cheesecake recipe simply irresistible!
 

Ingredients:
 
Bottom layer:
Crumb crust for 9 inch pan (square or round)
250g crushed digestive cookies
90g butter melted
50g granulated sugar

Use a sponge sheet as the base instead of crumb crust.

Filling:

300 g cream cheese, at room temperature
500 g durian flesh + 100ml warm water
2 tbsp gelatin powder + 100 ml cold water(in a bowl)
300g dairy or non-dairy whipping cream

Method:

1.    For the base, mix the sugar and crushed biscuits. Add melted butter to it and mix well. Press mixture into mould. I find using cake rings for chill cakes will result in smooth edges as unmoulding it will become effortless. Another option is to use sponge sheet as the base, preferably vanilla.

2.    Bloom the gelatin(which means sprinkle the gelatin on the water and wait until the water is soaked up by the gelatin) before heating it in the microwave to melt.

3.    Beat the cream cheese at slow speed until mixture is creamy and smooth.

4.    In the meantime, blend water and durian (use a blender or food processor). This will be the puree.

5.    Add the puree to the cheese mixture and mix well.

6.    Whip the cream until soft peak (DO NOT go beyond this stage as we do not want a stiff cream).

7.    Fold in cream into the durian mixture.

8.    Mix a little bit of mixture with the warm gelatin (about 3 spoonfuls of mixture). Mix well.

9.    Then fold the gelatin mixture to the rest of the cheese mixture.

10.   Pour onto the crust base. Smoothen the top with a spatula.

11.   Chill overnight or at least half a day. Cover the cake even as you chill as you do not want the durian smell permeating all other food in the fridge.

12.    Unmould and cut it using a warm blade. Serve plain or with whip cream as garnishing.







The big dollop of durian cheese filling on the base, to be levelled and smoothen.



Ready to be savoured!

 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Food As I See It...

When I was young, I had always been intrigued by what’s going on in my grandma’s big heavy clay pot over the fire, or the cake tin in my mom’s big black box which could be preheated, or even the stack of steamer pots in the kitchen that puffed away steam when it was heated.
 
Whatever put into any of these three equipment would certainly turn into a fabulous, scrumptious edible masterpiece that would leave us siblings salivating by just catching a whiff of those irresistibly delicious-looking delicacies (except for a few burnt, overcooked stuff which mainly resulted from the cook’s own carelessness or loss track of time).
 
As far as I can remember, I was completely clueless (but curious to know) of how those mouthwatering array of food on the table made its way there. 
 
Only when I started schoo did my mother let me (patiently let me) participate in the kitchen activities, especially during the festive seasons.
 
I had no inkling at that time that I was starting to venture into an exciting world that is a combination of Science (e.g. how baking powder works), Art (e.g. how to make and paint sugar flowers) and Statistics (e.g. how much rice is needed to feed 10 people for tonight’s dinner?). I started falling in love with food and kept wanting for more.
 
Eventually, my passion in baking and cooking had successfully triumphed over my 8-years commitment to the government (of which I never regret) and propelled me into my current involvement in food-related activities.
 
Besides, being self-employed and working from home means more time spent with my family.
 
I just had to leave school and college to focus on a more meaningful and joyous journey that also consists of miles of walks and aches in the kitchen.
 
This does not include the tests and trials that were seen as a seriously wasteful effort by some (as some failures involved such expensive ingredients...like Valrhorna chocolates and mascarpone), but were simply worthy and rewarding experience in my opinion.
 
So here I am, sharing my success and failures, recipes and views with all readers out there, and to connect with those who have the same interest, and also to keep myself sane by writing about something that actually makes sense!