Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers February Challenge

I have been slack, and haven't participated in the last three (GASP) challenges, because November, December and January are really festive months over here in Malaysia, and we are swamped with all kinds of celebrations, and the whole country is one big party.

I was thrilled therefore to note that this month's challenge is co-hosted by fellow countryman, DHARM of Dad Baker and Chef, and Wendy of WMPE's blog. And, to top it all, the recipe is from our country's favourite culinary son, Chef Wan!

As February is ALSO quite a festive month, the family has been eating to the hilt, so I needed an appropriate time to make this cake, when there would be people to eat. Actually, I realised I didn't need to worry, since my brood of 4 kids are like scavengers, and a combination of chocolate and vanilla would be scarfed down quicker than you can say, Dharm IT!

Although flourless chocolate cakes are not new to me, this recipe was, and tempted as I was to use my tried and tested, there's a certain thrill in following a NEW recipe and have the cake turn out beyond expectation. At a glance, it seemed to contain only egg, and chocolate, ... which ..err...begged the question, why not just eat chocolate.

The lucky recipients of my largesse were my Friday Bible Study group, who are the defacto guinea pigs for most new items that needed testers.

Here is the challenge:

February’s challenge is a Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Valentino, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. Recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan:

What we Want You to Do:
the following recipe
-Serve with - The original recipe calls for the cake to be served with whipping cream. BUT we decided to make this more of a challenge and ask you to make your own Ice Cream – a first for the DBrs. You can choose any flavour you want and any recipe although we provided two vanilla ice cream recipes. But we are giving you a little freedom here and will allow whipped cream as a topping as well or of course non-dairy whip. Be as creative as you want with your topping. Any fruit puree or sauce would be lovely with this cake.

At times like these, I am glad I am well equipped! Twas time to get my old gelato maker out of warm storage. When I first bought it three or four years ago, it was like a new wife, used everyday, and churning out all kinds of experimental flavours. When the novelty wore out, and it was taking up too much space in the freezer, it was unceremoniously wrapped up and chucked into the equivalent of the equipment morgue..... I'm sure you'd find treadmills, abs machines, dumbells, etc in the same place. So, I was glad to hear the parts could still churn.

- Use your favorite chocolatethe finished cake will taste exactly like the chocolate you use. Be creative with your chocolate, if you like a sweeter cake use milk chocolate or a combination of the semisweet and milk chocolate. If you like bittersweet chocolate use that and add sweetness by mixing the semi sweet with bittersweet. If you are daring, try white chocolate. (Dharm used all bittersweet and Wendy used a half bitter/half semi sweet chocolate).

I opted for Wendy's combo, and used half bitter and half semi sweet. Experience has shown that bitter chocolate does all appeal to all and sundry.

- A higher cocoa percentage increases the bitterness of the chocolate.
-Equipment - it is optional to use a heart shaped pan. For a real Valentino, bake it in a heart shaped pan or cut it out into a heart shape. You may use any shape pan that gives you an area of 50” - 6x8 or 7x7. An 8” spring form pan works with great results as do smaller pans or ramekins.
-An instant read thermometer highly recommended.

Note on recipe - the recipe consists of 3 simple ingredients and how you interpret them is part of the challenge. The simplicity of this recipe gives credit to the ingredients much in the same way of French baguette.
-This recipe comes together very quickly with a hand mixer.
-This is a very decadent cake that will sink a little as it cools but will still hold its shape.
-Very dense and fudgy cake that tastes divine.
-The top forms a light crust kind of like a brownie

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).


5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.


6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.


7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.


8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C


9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.


10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.



The texture of the cake was a lovely gooey fudgy texture...almost self saucing in a way. Everyone in my bible study group loved it, including the numerous children.


TA DAH....Ebony..and Ivory, go together like Pianooooo Keys....


Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe
Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)

1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat)
{you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse
Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy. 3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time
4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.
5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)
By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

The completed home made ice cream

Nothing quite satisfying as luscious creamy ice cream made from your own sweat and effort

Good enough to eat on its own, but a few Oreos chucked in makes it even better!

Wendy's Ice Cream Recipe
Vanilla Philadelphia Style Recipe
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole, full fat milk)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 (12 grams) tablespoon of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together (we do this in a plastic pitcher and mix with an emulsifier hand blender-whisking works too).
Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer
Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

Actually I used to use this particular recipe, or something similar to the one above, for vanilla ice cream, as I wasn't keen on using yolks. But now that Pavlovas are part of my repertoire, I have found that those egg whites can be pretty useful!!!

Thank you Dharm and Wendy for hosting the February Challenge. I had fun, but most importantly, I am so glad my ice cream maker is back on the saddle again. Nothing like the droning sound of the churning to warm the heartstrings, as the ice cream is being chilled.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lamentations of Lilliput

When a Lil fat monkey (an utter misnomer, actually, he's nowhere NEAR fat) told me he wanted to order mini sized cakes from me, a chill ran down my spine the way it does when you hear some gruesome story, or when someone scratches their nails on a blackboard..... (do the youth of today even know what that means? Blackboards, do they exist anymore).

You see, much as I enjoy baking, and eating, the two things that are virtually a no no for me, are decorative cakes, (we've all seen poor elmo, that forced the likes of AWOL into hysterical laughter), and miniatures. Ordinarily, I'd have declined, but since ALFM is so nice, and so reassuring, and so complimentary, AND, told me, this was my chance at stardom, I said okay. The order, 1 large pavlova, (no probs there, I can almost do this blindfolded now, thanks to Thamby), and invidual portions for X numbers, of lemon meringue pie, mars bar cheesecakes, Spencer 4 seasons cake, and tiramisus in cups. I could feel the life force draining from me, and to borrow a phrase by Argus, "might as well gouge my eyes out"....

Anyway, with much determination, and tenacity, I set forth to complete my herculean task, with the dainty hands that I do not possess, and with much elegance as a sailor who's not had it for a year after at sea.

So yeah, just before the rains came, I managed to somewhat finish my task...the worst thing about miniatures is the number of boxes you have to use..... to transport them from A to B....



The mars bar cheesecakes, and mini lemon meringue pies..... amazing what juxtaposition against make up items can do.... no wonder women use it.

Anna Pavlova, ready for her curtain call....


Oh, I forgot to mention, TO MY UTTER HORROR, SPENCER MELTED!!!!


I had no choice but to try to salvage them, by running to Mercato and buying those inelegant disposable aluminium foil tart pans, and cup them.

Many of you may not know this, but I ahem, do have one of these:

Which made me analyse WHY Spencer melted the way it did.

YOU SEE, the exposed surface area for a 2"x2" cake is 2 x 1½ x 4 = 15 sq inches. (just the sides)
The volume is 6 cubic inches. Surface to volume ratio is therefore 15/6 = 2.5

Compare this with the whole cake, with exposed side surface area of 1½" x 8" x 4" = 48 sq inches, and a volume of 96 cubic inches. Surface to volume ratio is 48/96 = 0.5

ie, the small cake is 5 times more exposed than a large cake. NO BLARDY WONDER IT MELTED LA!!!!!!

Anyway, I sms-ed Spencer himself after the event, and the conversation roughly went:

Me : Eh, Spencer just melted la.
Spencer: I'm a sensitive fella also la. Melts easily :-P
Me: But the uncut Spencer holds up okay one wor...

Oh well, such is life....

But on a more positive note, apparently the cakes were quite well received.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Up Close and Personal.....

I was about to make an appointment with a neurologist, because everyday, there was a sudden ringing in my ears....a constant drone, like ice cream men of yore, except, with the Doppler Effect and all, you could hear the ice cream man coming, and going....but this was a constant ringing....

Then I realised the ringing usually starts at noon. Perhaps it was my diet, as I was prone to have irregular breakfasts and lunch, so maybe the lack of blood sugar was causing a ringing in my ears. Everyday, without fail, there it was, that ringing sound, almost like churchbells, except using mouse sized bells....

THEN I SAW IT...................

Argh, McVALUE lunch, RM5.95, with a guy holding the board, and bell, ringing it with the boredom of Quasimodo after vespers....

Phew, quite a hefty savings on the Neurologist bill.

Yeah, so anyway, after a celebrity filled Thursday, having met Ciki, Jackson, PM, Stephen Rahman Hughes all in one day, I bumped into yet another celebrity, in Ikano, after my Body Step class at the Curve. Truth be told, I knew he was going to there, as it was advertised in the papers, but I was trying my luck that he would be there up close and personal.

Well, AWHIFFOFLEMONGRASS was suitably envious.....


But don't be, coz I've even taken pics with him personally before. So it's not my first time seeing the guy. Ahem.

Nuff said.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dim Sum With the Dim Sums, And My Celebrity Filled Day

Must have been my lucky day. Firstly, this hot chick, ciki, sms-es me, after I responded to her dim sum post, and told me to come for lunch, and call Jackson along.

Glamour puss

Now, getting an appointment with Jackson, (the most recognisable flogger) ...... even harder than getting an appointment with any of the 3 fellas highlighted here:

You see, it's the 2nd time I'm watching a play with the PM in the house. The last being Emily of Emerald Hill, when he was DPM, and he was literally in the row and in the seat behind me in Actor's studio.

I couldn't find a picture of the elderly Tiara, as the place was swarming with the minions, all waiting for PM, and I wasn't going to make my way through the labyrinth of Body Odour to get to her poster... so I got him instead. The fler who plays Hang Tuah.

And that's him there again...aitelyu, for a Brit who doesn't speak Malay, he was a darn good Hang Tuah. I couldn't get close enough to get a pic of Tiara chatting with PM....wonder if he kept awake throughout the musical....

But I digress. Yeah, such a compelling write up almost spurred us into immediate action. I was dying to try out this dim sum place. I was shocked Jackson was available. He asked, "Who is Ciki?"

Siu Mais.... well, actually, in my opinion, a siu mai is a siu mai, and one can only do so much with mince meat and a wanton wrapper right.... good enough for me.

Mmmm, yong ai kwah, (Brinjal stuffed with fish paste), excellent. The fish paste was springy and fresh, and the brinjal tender, not overly oily.

The egg tarts were sublime when warm. Flaky pastry, and egg custard with just the right wobble factor. However, like all tarts, they lose their appeal when they turn old....

Pei tan sau yoke choke....(century egg and lean meat)...why does it have to be lean meat? why not fat meat? Century eggs afterall are harddddly the epitome of health food. The congee was smooth enough, no complaints there.

We take a break to introduce to you....ta dahhhhh.......

Back to the food.... ham soi cock, ..very good. The skin texture, perfect. Not too thick, and the filling inside ...a bit sparse, but adequate.

Oooh, the piece de resistance....DURIAN BUNS....fluffy mantau like texture, with pure durian puree within. Durian lovers unite!

Another mentionworthy dish is this glutinous rice.....ABSOLUTELY LOVELY. Not too oily, fluffy basmatilike grains of glutinous rice, with loads of chinese sausage, etc etc...all the stuff that makes the world go round. (as in round in the waist)

Quite forgettable, these buns, that look like cross between a Bao and a Gyoza.

We unanimously agreed, that a dim sum meal is incomplete without the ultimate test. Char siu baos.

Check out my bun....
Actually the CSB were only passable. A whole discussion was spawned about where to get the best CSB. Where ah?

My mango pudding, which I forgot to photograph, was nothing to shout about. The texture was all wrong. The two healthier ones had the black kwai lin gou.... tasted okay.

What a delightful way to spend lunch....thanks Ciki for the treat.

On a separate note, PUTERI GUNUNG LEDANG is EXCELLENT!!! Surpassed all my expectations, and according to Tiara, we were the best audience. I guess PM being there and all surprisingly spurred the crowd on. It ended with a huge standing ovation. Way to go!!!! So proud that its a Malaysian production!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reunion Revisited, For Lionheart's Surprise Birthday

There's something rather fascinating with "surprise" birthday parties. Always the chink in the armor that inadvertently gives the game away, like some smartie pants who sms-es the birthday boy on the day of the dinner, "happy birthday, see you tonight", when the guy's birthday isn't actually on the day, OR, "let's wait till tonight to take a group picture", at a red herring birthday lunch, ......

For planning a surprise birthday, I think STRICT instructions have to be given to guests, AND THEIR SPOUSES (especially), and should come with a hefty penalty for leaking pots. (cheen pou). Cut off their handphones for a month as a punishment, or make them sing Frank Sinatra's "START SPREADING THE NEWS" in the foyer of Suria KLCC....

However, there are the odd occasions, where despite close hiccups, (such as almost bumping smack faced into the birthday boy in the foyer, carrying a birthday cake), a surprise still manages to succeed.....

Such was the case last week, for Lionheart. His good wife had planned this dinner months ago, and had cleverly told him that he had to come to join her for dinner with clients. Me & wife walked into the front entrance of BV, and saw the man on the opposite side, head bowed down busy texting away. (Speaking of bowing head and texting, I once was mistaken for being extremely religious, because I had my phone in between my legs while the waiter was serving the food, and was sms-ing away, and the hostess thought I was quietly saying grace)

We bolted the way a herd of deer bolt when they feel the ominous presence of a Lion in the Masai Mara, (but not with the dexterity and litheness of deer), and jumped into the nearest elevator, near the Massimo Dutti entrance. We bump into another guest, and quickly exchange stories of close shaves. (nothing to do with hair from any parts)

And since Malaysians are generally a tardy lot, there's always the real possibility of him bumping into anyone of us...heck, I can bump into friends in a busy Shanghai bazaar, so what more in little Bangsar Village.

Mrs Lionheart is frantically sms-ing us to see if we had all congregated at Reunion, the appointed venue. Of course, only 4 out of 10 had arrived.....she appears, all flustered, and excited, telling us that she had told him to go kill time at MPH and use the loo there while waiting for her clients. (Good tip, if you ever need a clean loo to go to in BV2, apparently the one next to MPH is highly underutilised)....

When it was decided we had quorum, she calls him and says, "Dear, you can come now, all my clients are here already. Eh, what fish you want ah? Steamed or fried?"

Meanwhile, I also drop a red herring of my own, sending Lionheart an sms about gym, and saying that I was on my way for in-laws dinner at Kajang...


The above collage captures the surprise, real or otherwise, expression of the birthday boy!

I always find the food at Reunion to be fairly consistent, and of above average quality.



Not usually a cod fish fan, I found this dish VERY good. I think its a kinda honey glazed pan fried cod. The skin was delumptiously (delicious + scrumptious, something I learnt from a Secret Seven book in my youth) crispy, while the flesh firm and sweet.


Claypot Brinjal with Mincemeat. Extremely flavourful, and a carb magnet. It just screams out for rice.


Of course, dine with any Brit educated flers, an order of duck will inevitably draw comparisons with Bayswater's Four Seasons, ....which actually I am inclined to think is a bit overated. (eeeks, bracing for the onslaught of FS Duckians)....

The Pei Pa Ngap at Reunion I thought was good. Succulent, not overly fat, but fat enough, and the skin, lovely and crispy.


Mmmm, comfort food, steamed mince pork with salted fish. Again, another rice magnet. Very tasty, and just the right balance of meat and salted fish.



I'm not sure what this dish is called, but it's kinda like a marmite chicken with little mantous. Very delectable morsels.


Mmmm, baby french beans I think they're called. Tender, and young...just how I like them. Crunchy too, while maintaining their cholorophyl. Lovely crunchy bits of shallots to complete the crunch factor.


Wow, we had a lot of food. Their signature salted egg prawns. I am a bit off salted egg dishes coz they're so rich. I now prefer my crabs done in superior stock, having OD-ed on Salted Egg Yolk Crab... however, if you haven't OD-ed on Salted Egg Yolk, its still a good dish.


AND the piece de resistance. I know its strange to contemplate the fact that there may be hokkien mee in restaurants that taste as good, if not better than established road alleys, and insalubrious corners of KL where the rats set up their official exco and state secretariat....

...but I think the hokkien mee in Reunion really is up there with them all. Infested with crispy divine pork lard, and enough wok hei, and gravy, and almost too much lieu, (ingredients), not enough noodle, it is my all time favourite dish here. Mmmm, just thinking about it....makes me shiver in delight


My humble contribution to the festivities, a Passion Fruit Peach Cheese Cake.


And from the Lionheart's personal trainer, a Baileys soaked Tiramisu!!! Phwaaaah, talk about enough kick.


As usual, twas a lovely enjoyable dinner with great food, great company. What more can a person ask for. We look forward to your grand 50th Birthday, dear Lionheart....(I know its not for a few more years, but we must save up mustn't we, to buy our airfares there!)