Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Earning Brownie Points In Heaven

Although we believe that it is through faith we are saved, and not by works, it's nice to feel that one is contributing some physical effort to ecclesiastical work, all be it in a small way.

Anyway, every year, my church has a Vacation Bible School, that runs for a week. Usually host to about 300 kids, there is always a need for physical nourishment, in addition to spiritual. This year, the wife volunteered to help out in the kitchen, and on the menu for one of the days was PIZZA. For 300 kids....!!!! Many hands make light work, so we were delegated to make for 100 kids, each slice measuring approx 3"x3". We were given the raw material, without any further directions. Fortunately, ahem, the wife's husband here has been making pizza for years. What I didn't expect was how hard it is to roll large quantities of the dough. Anyway, after awhile, I just thought it would be easier not to attempt one huge mega pizza, its not like we're vying for Malaysia Book of Records... so basically stuck to manageable sized ones. Thank God for the Kenwood mixer....looking at that contraption called a dough hook, you'd never believe it CAN actually knead dough. It looks like something fallen off from Hook's hand. As in Captain Hook. (wonder what his name was before he got a hook for a hand).

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Pizza for 100 kids, in various stages of preparation

Yesterday, it was time to make brownies for 300 (like the army of Sparta), which I had earlier on volunteered to contribute. The quantities were equivalent to 10 numbers of my normal 8"x8" brownies that I usually make to sell. I have to say, I'm quite efficient, ahem ahem. Got it all done in just over an hour. Without the frosting la. Used large baking pans so got it done quite fast.

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Naked Brownie

One of the people in the kitchen team had passed us a TUB (about 2 litre size tub) of frosting gone wrong, hoping that I'd be able to utilise it somewhere. I vaguely remember Chef Jean Francois Arnaud saying you should whip your frosting with a hand held processor to make it smooth and glossy.

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Chocolate Frosting Gone Wrong

So I tried and lo and behold, it was much better. I then decided not to waste, and use it as the frosting for the kiddos, as the taste was quite nice anyway.

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Trying to Salvage The Frosting

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Frosted Brownie

Ah, from the floggers tea party, I forgot to take a picture of the insides of the Caramelized Banana Chocolate Cupcake, so here it is. Still moist, after a couple of days, and very rich.

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The insides of the Caramelised Banana Chocolate Cake

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The Brandy Truffle I Forgot To Serve On Sunday

Served this for dinner to the In Laws. Very rich. To be taken in small doses on an empty stomach.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lazy Sunday Afternoon With Floggers

These are some of the gifts that came my way over the weekend, food related.

Jamie at Home, a book that I've been waiting to go on discount, but exFCI got it for me. How sweet and thoughtful of him. Actually, it's rather risky buying me cookbooks, unless you have an exact inventory of what I have already. Another well meaning friend bought me buxom Domestic Goddess' FEAST which obviously I would have. In case you're wondering, the only Nigella Books I don't have are FOREVER SUMMER, and the other non pictorial one... Principles of Eating or something like that.

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Thank you Boolicious and Lemongrass for Martha Stewart's book. Quite bizarre, Boo called me and asked, "Do you have Martha Stewart", when at that very moment, I was HOLDING in my hand, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

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From the wrapping, I knew that this was the Page One 500 series. Thanks Paprika for the great tart book. The stuff looks divine!!!

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Boys and gals trying their hand at decorating cupcakes. Those are lemon cupcakes with buttercream.

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Caramelised Banana Chocolate Cupcakes, recipe from Flavours Magazine, last issue. I thought they were rather good, if I may say so myself. A tad sweet, but that's probably because, according to Paprika, I used the "cheap stuff" and not Valrhona 70%, as Chef Jean Francois Arnaud would have. Sorry la, dont print money, some more these clowns want to use large amounts of chocolate ganache for their experimental decoration.

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Blondies by Paprika. Yummy walnutty flavour, though she said it was a bit overcooked and not gooey enough. Well, I'm a virgin to blondies, so no basis for comparison. I forgot to keep some, they'd go lovely with coffee.

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Boolicious rendition of Delia Smith's Lamb Shepherd's Pie, that looks even better than Delia's, and tastes magnificent. An empty plate is testimony to its yumminess.

After feasting on Fishballs, courtesy of Henry Yeo, Scrabblemaster Extraordinaire, Rojak, from Precious Pea, Pinwheel Currypuffs from Unka Leong, Blondies from Paprika, Shepherd's Pie from Boolicious, some nyonya kueh from WMW I think [updated, errata, omission: ...and Nipple's Bacon & Potato Salad], the organiser, Lemongrass, and Bald Eagle proceeded to assemble us for a round of CRANIUM, a rather fun boardgame that incorporates element of pictionary, sculpturing, charades, trivia,, True of False, Charlie Chaplin won first place in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest.....

Anyway, dear unkaleong was given the task of sculpuring BOXING.

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The sculptor extraordinaire can't understand why his team mates cant see what he's done.

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Cassius Clay aka Mohamad Ali would turn in his grave.

For more pictures of other decoraters work, look here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don't Laugh, But This Is Why I Don't Do Decorative Cakes

It was a slight tinge of horror that ran through my mind when Lionheart asked if I could do an Elmo cake for his daughter's birthday. And for 60 people too. I have till now avoided like the plague any orders for kids birthday cakes, but since I attended the cupcake class at Cooking House recently, and saw that fondant/sugarpaste wasn't that hard to make, especially with a kenwood, I thought I'd give it a try. What I find particularly tough about sugarpaste is coloring it. Kneading the dyes into the sugarpaste is a lot harder than it looks, especially to get an even coloring. However, since Elmo and appendages was going to be red all round, I mixed the coloring in at the mixing stage, so the entire batch was red.

Sugarpaste Recipe

480 gms icing sugar
2 tablespoons gelatine
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons liquid glucose
2 teaspoons glycerin

Sift the icing sugar. No shortcut here. Some brands of icing sugar are less lumpy than others.
Melt the gelatine in the water. Add the glucose and glycerin into the warm gelatine mixture.

With the K paddles at slow speed, gradually add in the mixture into the icing sugar, until it all binds together. Scoop out the sugarpaste onto a surface that has been dusted with icing sugar, and knead until you get a nice pliable blob.

And then, last Monday, Lionheart tells me that he's actually having TWO parties for his little princess, and needed a Cookie Monster cake for the dinner part. Up till that point, I had no idea WHAT Cookie Monster looked like. Thank goodness for the easy accessibility to such information online. Anyway, here's my 1st attempt at Cookie Monster.

Anyway, the other thing I find really hard to do is to achieve a nice smooth surface for the buttercream, as my buttercream is pure butter, as opposed to the Wilton one, which uses shortening, which I find exceedingly gross. The Wilton "butter"cream however spreads marvellously and looks gorgeous, but you can taste the lingering greasy slime of shortening on your palate, and fingers.

They were my birthday present to the Little Princess.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Finally, Famous Seremban Foods and Char Siu from Paradise

Virtually all the food blogger equivalent of the "Heavenly Kings" or the "Three Tenors" have blogged about this place, tucked away in Sunway Mas. Finally, dragged Unkaleong and his friend for lunch there, only to bump into WMW, who was there for her monthly fix.

Initially I had painstaking written down the very detailed instructions from Masak Masak's blog, but left it in the office. Age is really catching up. So, basing on my naluri, I decided to wing it, and was pretty pleased to find SFS!!! Now, what are the odds of there being an SFS and a FSF all within walking distance of each other? I thought I had momentary dyslexia, and called my MAKAN911, Ms Boolicious to ask her if it was SFS or FSF? Anyway, turns out we were at the wrong coffee shop, so back into the car it was until we did find it. There appear to be an abundance of Ipoh White Coffee places in this area.

Naturally, we zeroed in to what we came for, the charsiu. But I also LURVE hakka mee, so I had that.

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I wasn't disappointed with the hakka mee, although the best I've had to date is homemade by Lionheart. Noodles were nice and crunchy and the chee yoke sui was very tasty.

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We opted for a mixture of fat and lean charsiu, and omigoodness, its really melt in the mouth, good enough to eat on its own without any sauce. The meat is tender and moist. The caramelised outer layer is crispy and soft all at the same time. Mmmm, I am shuddering in delight just thinking about it. Darn, I give myself a once in 2 months allocation, for this piece of SIN personified in pork.

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Unkaleong had ??? what is this Unkaleong? Lou Shee Fun? Done what style? I was too engrossed with my own bowl of goodness, I barely paid attention to my surroundings.

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The siu yoke, we ordered more out of curiosity than need, and it was average, obviously eclipsed by the char siu.

The proprietor's card very impressive as he has BBA, MBA and something else A, just short of a doctorate. As we went at 11.45, we got seats easily, but we could see the lunch crowd building up by the time we left. Without hesitation I would recommend this char siu. Heck, I am salivating just thinking about it. Drooollllllllllllllllllllll!!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gobo Upstairs, Traders Hotel

When that woman Lyrical Lemongrass popped up on my MSN and asked me if I was keen to try out the MIGF menus..... alarm bells rang in my head the way a bank alarm goes off after a robbery. The disappearance of a lot of cash usually accompanies these kinds of adventures. Very promptly cutting and pasting the relevant links, the prices were quite staggering at some places, be still my heart.....this is all very well for HER, she who just came back from a British tour, with a newly bough canggih manggih camera from husband. I alas have no husband to bring me on trips or to buy me cameras....and a RM160++ per head dinner times 2, well, its kinda almost the months salary for the maid.

Anyway, we agreed on Pacifica Grill because it was only RM120++ and there was a possibility of a 10% discount with my MPO subscriber card. Yeah, beneath this pork seller veneer, I try to be a bit kultured la, and every now and then pop into the Dewan Philharmonik for a musical nap. I digress. So yar, it was like planning for the 70th birthday of the Queen, the amount of dinging donging that went on. And suddenly, the venue changed to GOBO, in Traders Hotel, at RM160++. Alarm bells again. ANd this is without plonk. I contemplated a hip flask, but I think I didnt want to corrupt the youth of today with whom I knew I would be dining.

I was quite excited, as I was a Traders Virgin, as in never stepped into the hotel before. Was supposed to have gone for drinks at SKYBAR last Saturday, but it rained, AND, the Skybar has no roof.

Expecting everyone to be late, I look my leisurely time, and got there at about 7.45pm....but I FORGET, these are food bloggers who take their food seriously. Apologies to LL, Precious Pea, Nipple Joe and Henry for the tardiness, which is actually very unMe, normally.

Parking was easy, as it shares the HUGE carpark of the KL Convention Centre. ANd the lift brought us straight to the place, without having to interimly wander like a lost soul in some cold lobby. They were already there, all of them, waiting like starved tigers.

The bread was yummy, freshly baked, and with bits of olives and dried herbs, coupled with the latest thing, TRUFFLE BUTTER. Does this mean that olive oil and balsamic vinegar has become yesterday? YAY, what IS with that anyway. God made butter to be eaten with bread, and vice versa. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's like force feeding oat bran down a person's throat.

Lemongrass was ill, and sniffing like a dog on heat. I'm bracing myself for the onslaught of the germs, as I was within contagious distance. As a result, she wanted hearty soup and fish....which apparently is not on the MGIF menu. Once I knew that MGIF menu wasn't compulsory, I immediately grabbed the a la carte menu, which actually was VERY reasonably priced. Anyway, here's what we ate:

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Henry went for the MGIF menu, so had a fancy smancy starter, some tomato kek lapis thingie, a shot glass of something, and another something. (I hope the editors of Vogue Travel and Living aren't perusing my very descriptive commentary of the food).

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Nipples had the prawns something something. The prawn looked nice and plump and fresh. Oh, its listed as prawn cocktail in the docket. Not very descriptive are they. Prawn cocktail @ RM29.

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Lobster bisque soup for RM26. Lovely, creamy lobsterish stock, with no sign of any lobster meat. Maybe a small booger size morsel on the island of sushi that floated in the middle. But the taste was excellent. Nice shrimpy prawny strong flavour.

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Hokkaido Scallops for starter. Since it was wife's, I managed to try half a scallop. It was fresh and firm, as scallops should be.

For the mains, I had a silver dollar mushroom as a sidedish. They aren't big on their garnishing veggies, so you have to order sidedishes of greens and what nots.

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Henry's MGIF Tenderloin looked divine. It was getting quite tiresome trying to photograph these things under natural light so at some point, flash it was, hence the different shades of colour.

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Wife's lambshank, at RM38, is fantastic value, considering its a 5 star hotel. Very tender, and very flavoursome.

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The baby beef short ribs in merlot sauce, is FANTASTIC value for money. At RM38, it beats ANY restaurant in town hands down. Seriously, for this quality meat, tender and falling off the bone, .... makes other restaurants sound like a slaughterhouse. Oooh so tender, and the sauce, all merloty, (mer lowy), with large bone for your dog if you have one. Yummy. Thumbs up all the way.

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Nipples pumpkin risotto. Me not risotto fan.

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Pasta in squid ink, for the MGIF menu. Gotta check Henry's blog for taste review.

Lemongrass opted for the cod, for IN COD SHE TRUSTS, but my picture of the cod was so pathetic, I can't even picasa it back to life.

Desserts, yummy. Wife and I shared a bitter almond chocolate torta. I asked the waitress if it was bitter almond, or bitter chocolate, she looked bemused.

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Torta was nica, but not orgasmic. Not enough vanilla icecream to go with it, and also, the vanilla ice cream wasn't creamy enough.

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Nipples dessert, chocolate fondant with ice cream.

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And the MIGF dessert. Cross check Henry's blog.

Overall a very pleasant experience and reasonably priced. Parking after validation is free as well, which in itself was a RM30 saving between us. Lemongrass's parking would have been RM17 if she had to pay. Yeah, definitely worth checking out, and the views from the SKYBAR, makes you proud to be Malaysian.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What's Baking?

Recently, I have been baking Walnut Cheesecake for one of the cafes that I supply to. The manageress told me what she wanted, so I came up with this recipe. Actually, baking, or cooking, I suppose, is really like writing an essay. Once you know your ingredients, which are the "words", and the basic formulas, which is your "grammar", it should be quite easy to whip up something decent without referring to any recipe books.

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So, for the baked walnut cheesecake, here is my "original" recipe. Quite easy actually.

Biscuit Base
10-12 digestive biscuits
65 gm melted butter
Optional - 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Blitz biscuits in a food processor, or laboriously crush manually with a rolling pin, or any other heavy object. If using FP, pour in the melted butter and pulse till well combined. (optional sugar would be at the beginning stage). Line the base of a springform tin, or tin with removal base, with the now somewhat soggy biscuit mixture. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

This base is your basic base. In grammar it would be like "he or she DOES, not DO". Very basic.

500gm cream cheese. (it sounds a lot, but believe me there are recipes out there that call for up to 1kg of cream cheese in a single cake).
½ to ¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons cornflour
300ml thickened cream
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Cream the cream cheese using a paddle. (no, not a boat paddle. the K paddle attachment, as opposed to a balloon whisk. If using hand mixer, then the normal beaters).
Add sugar and continue creaming, till light and fluffy.
With the aplomb and drama of chef, break in 3 eggs and cornflour, and continue mixing till the batter is nice an uniform.
Add the thickened cream, and continue mixing till smooth and creamy, with no visible lumps of cream cheese floating like icebergs in the arctic.

Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Line outside of cake tin with aluminium foil, and fill the filling atop the biscuit base. Place pan in a larger pan and pour hot water (as in give the cake a water bath), into the outer pan, (the aluminium foil is to prevent water from seeping in to the cake pan), and bake for 50 minutes on 150C.

According to local cheesecake guru, Catherine Low, leave cake in oven with door closed, for half an hour after switching off. Then, remove water bath, and leave cake in oven with door ajar for 1 hour. Immediately refrigerate overnight, or 6 hours at least.

Below is my lemon meringue pie, and a special thanks to Boolicious who painstakingly photocopied a recipe that shows how to deal with weeping meringues. It's no problem if serving the LMP freshly baked, and consumed thereafter, but when you leave the darn thing overnight, a whole host of problems seem to crop up, such as moisture beads, and weeping under the meringue, which can cause the pastry to go limp and soggy. Very annoying.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Cream Cheese Spirals And Cilantro

I made the cream cheese spirals pastry for cell group on Friday, but it was cancelled at the last minute. These babies are easy to make, and absolutely delicious, and I have posted them before here. But since this post was in January 06, before I met all you wonderful fellow food bloggers out there, you may not have read this before.

Anyway, the original name of these are Rugelach, and in the recipe books, are actually sweet. However, I decided to experiment them and make them savoury instead and its proven a hit especially with my kids (my son whacked 6 of these himself).

For the girl in Abu Dhabi with her new food processor:

Blitz together:

2 cups flour
250 gm cream cheese
125gm butter

until it clumps together as a dough. It will be a lovely pliable dough. No need to add any extra liquid. Refrigerate.

Split into 3 portions. Roll out a round, and cut into 8 equal portions. (see the illustration in previous post). Spread your savouries around the outer rim, (such as bacon with cilantro/coriander, corned beef, roast chicken and mozarella, use your imagination), and roll inwards like a croissant. Glaze with egg wash, bake at 180C till browned (approx 15 minutes).

Resist urge to pop hot spiral into your mouth, but they are best served warm.

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This is the smoked salmon quiche that I made to order as well, over the weekend.

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Since the orderer was domestic, she saved me a slice. My first time attempting smoked salmon, though I have used canned salmon many times. It's rather good.

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When I said cream cheese spirals and cilantro, yes, while I did add cilantro to the filling, I actually was referring to my favourite restaurant in town (when someone else is paying), Cilantro. They'll be moving from Micasa to the Gardens soon I hear. Anyway, since I recently blogged about this place I shall not go into much detail. Occasion was rich friend in town who wanted to give a treat to 3 birthday girls in one fell swoop.

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The truffle souffle as an appetiser. Deeeeeeevine!!!!

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The complimentary white bait something something. It looked terribly fishy, but tasted VERY good. No fishy taste at all.

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The unagi and foie gras. Sin in its full glory. Absolutely stunning. If it were a woman, it would be Aisywara Rai.

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Pan Seared Scallops With Rocket and Pear. Now, they are exceedingly generous with their plump juicy scallops. 5 in total, seared to PERFECTION. There is blue cheese in the dressing, which is gorgeous, but I can imagine, not everyone's cuppa tea.

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Braised Ox Tongue with Pan Seared Foie Gras. Nuff said about this dish in the previous post.

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Hokkaido Scallops with Pan Seared Foie Gras. Truth be told, the appetiser scallops were better. The hokkaido scallops, though humoungous, were a bit leathery, and not as sweet as the smaller cousins.

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Pan Seared Foie Gras (gosh, I should just abbreviate it to PSFG) with duck breast. The breast (the duck's one, that is) was tender and cooked to perfection. I notice duck can be a bit tough. But this one was tender as raw bullet wound.

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The special of the day, a half lobster with pasta. The lobster was nice and crunchy. Didn't try the pasta though. The sauce was very rich, and complemented the lobster well.

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Bamboo fish, or Soon Hock, to the uninitiated. Didn't try this, but Godma said that it was overcooked. Pity. I'd have sent it back, actually, at an establishment like this.

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One must of course have the mandatory dessert platter that allows you a choice of 4 desserts. Do the math. Individual desserts all about RM30. Platter is RM90, for 4. And they give you full size portions. Not scaled down miniatures that require a magnifying glass to locate. The fig tart was yummy. Good quality ice cream, which the host identified as Haagen Daz. My palate not so sophisticated la, cant really tell. Unless it was Walls. Then can.

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I forget what this is. A nougat something something. Okay lah, I felt the pastry layer could have been better.

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