Monday 28 April 2014

Travel diary ... back to Shanghai

It's been 3 long years since my last working trip to Shanghai. I was on a 3-day business trip to Shanghai last week. Well, scheduled with packed BTB 2 full days meetings.

It's spring season now. Ha ha 我和春天有个约会! The weather was cool and sunny in the day but rainy in evening.  I love the cool breeze and we took a stroll in the small garden during lunch break that's within the industry in Pudong.

Lovely bright red flowers
Chirpy birds singing ... I love the maple leaves
A small walking path with beautiful green, yellow,  maroon colour leaves, led us to the fish pond ... the garden was really quiet and peaceful.  An escape from the hectic and hustle city life.
Koi fishes dancing happily in the pond! 
On the 3rd day before departure,  I met up with an old friend for brunch in Puxi - Gubei 古北 before heading to Pudong airport.  My favourite tea house避风塘. It was a short but good catch up cos it has been ages since we last met. 避风塘 served Cantonese Hong Kong dim sum and savory snacks like fried beef hor fun, chee cheong fun, fried carrot cakes etc. I missed the chee cheong fun (steamed rice rolls) that served with peanut sauce. Hee hee, perhaps I should learn how to make chee cheong fun one day ?!? 再见了上海.
Fried carrot cake and chee cheong fun

Saturday 19 April 2014

Chocolate Tarts

Bars of chocolates in the refrigerator ... semi-sweet, dark & bitter types. Few packs still wrapped nicely untouched. I didn't purchase all these ... most of these chocolates were birthday gifts given to my girl from her friends.

Well, since I have these readily ingredients, decided to try out some chocolate tarts on my weekend baking.  Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking (Chocolate Pie)  As I only have tart moulds so it looks more like Chocolate tarts to me. I reduced the quantity of the chocolate filling as my girl has hinted "less sugar & chocolate as I want to loose some weight" ):

Ingredients (with modifications made in blue) :
Chocolate Filling:
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar (90g castor sugar)
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour) (1.5 tbsp)
1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup (400 ml) milk, divided (whole or 2% reduced fat) (250ml)
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream (35-45% butterfat content) (50ml)
3 large egg yolks (2 egg yolks)
3 ounces (90 grams) semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, finely chopped (80 g)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature (cut into small pieces)

Shortbread Crust:
130 grams all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (35 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar)
113 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks.

Chocolate Filling: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Then whisk in 50 ml of the milk to make a thick paste. Add the egg yolks and whisk into the cocoa paste mixture. Set aside while you heat the milk and cream. Have ready a strainer placed over a bowl as you will need to strain the pudding after it is cooked.

Pour the remaining 200 ml milk with the cream into a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring this mixture just to a boil (the milk will start to foam up) and then remove from heat. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pudding mixture to a clean, heavy bottomed medium sized saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about 3 - 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking. Add the finely chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, and butter, stirring gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap, to prevent a skin from forming, let cool, and then chill in the refrigerator until thick (for at least four hours, or even overnight).

Shortbread Crust: Lightly butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart pan (I used 4 tart mould)
In your food processor, place the flour, sugar, and salt and process to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and form clumps. Transfer the pastry to your pie or tart pan and, using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Gently pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C and place rack in the center of the oven.
Bake the crust until golden brown, about 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Then fill with the chilled chocolate filling.

I forgo any whipped cream topping, just decorate it with walnut.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Banana Walnut Muffins

Banana Walnut Muffins ... freshly baked!
I've never grown tired of baking muffins.
It is easy and less hassle as compared to baking cupcakes,  sponge cakes etc. In fact muffin was my first bake when I bought a box of muffin premix from supermarket. As I've developed my interest in baking, I read up some cookbooks, bakers blogs, watched video demo by Stephanie of Joy of Baking and baked different varieties of muffins... Chocolate Chips Muffins, Strawberry Banana Muffins, Strawberry & Blueberry Muffins, Mango Muffins etc. Muffins are also my big kids' favourite breakfast.

I baked these Banana Walnut Muffins for breakfast, adapted from Joy of Baking, with slight modifications in blue adjusted to our taste.

Banana Walnut Muffins Recipe (12 regular size) :
115 grams walnuts or pecans (90g)
230 grams all-purpose flour
150 grams granulated white sugar (90g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
113 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled (90g)
3 ripe large bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line a 12 - 1/2 cup muffin pan with paper liners or butter or spray with a non stick spray.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.

With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake about 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool for five minutes and then remove muffins from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baked for breakfast! for myself ... a cup of freshly brew coffee plus 2 muffins before heading to work!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

A glass of eggless non-bake cheesecake

I'm not a cheese person. If I'm given a choice to choose between a slice of butter cake and a slice of cheesecake,  I will definitely grab the butter cake. But in the recent years, I've grown to 'appreciate' the texture of the cheesecake. My big kids like cheesecake. Last month,  I made a simple non-bake cheesecake for them and the verdict ... they liked it. But I finished that small slice with some blueberries as I find it too cheesy.

Last Sunday, as I was searching for some other non-bake cheesecake recipes that added fruits to it ... found this "Eggless no bake mango cheesecake"  !!
Adapted the recipe from this website

I made some adjustments to the quantity and ingredients used to suit our taste. I used low-fat yogurt instead of whipping cream.

(A) Ingredients for the base :
Digestive biscuits – 150g finely crumbled
Butter – unsalted 80g, melted

(B) For the filling :
Philadelphia low fat cream cheese – 250g soften at room temperature.
Natural flavour low-fat yogurt - 220g
Mango – 110g cut into small bite size pieces
Gelatine – 1.5 tbsp
Hot water – 100g
Castor sugar - 50g

(C) For glaze topping :
Mango puree – 120g
Hot water – 120g
Gelatine - 1 tbsp

(A) For the base :
Combine the finely crumbled biscuits and melted butter.
Press this mixture to a 7" loose bottom tin or the dish you are using. (I used 5 glasses, each 7cm in diameter).
Refrigerate it (for at least 15 mins) while you make the rest of the cheesecake.

(B) For the filling :
Dissolve gelatine in hot water.
With a electric mixer, mix the cream cheese and castor sugar till it becomes smooth.
Add yogurt and mix well.
Pour gelatine water in and mix well.
Add the mango pieces and mix well.
Pour this mixture over the biscuit base and return it to the fridge. Make sure that this layer is refrigerated for a minimum of 2 hours before adding the glaze topping.

(C) For the glaze topping:
Dissolve gelatine in hot water. When it is warm, add it to mango puree and mix well.
*Note: To obtain a smooth mirror like mango puree topping, strain the mango puree mixture.

Pour this over the cream layer, once it is set, refrigerate for another 2 hours.
Garnish with strawberry/mango & mint leaves when serving.

This time,  I really enjoyed a glass of eggless non-bake mango cheesecake!

Saturday 12 April 2014

Lemon Friands

Asked my big kids what would they like to have for today's tea snack ... muffins? cupcakes?  Well .. how about try something new? Friands.  "Okay!"

I have to thank Ann of for sharing her recipe :-
Lemon Friand
     95g Butter
     60g Plain flour
     70g Icing sugar
     60g Almond meal (ground almond)
     3 Egg whites (105g)
     Grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180C. Melt butter and use a little to grease 20 holes mini friand pan. 12 holes for bigger friand pan.

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl, then stir in the lemon zest and almond meal.

Place egg whites in a small bowl and lightly froth with a fork. Add to dry ingredients with melted butter, stirring until completely combined.

Fill each friand hole two-thirds full/ Bake for about 20 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven, leave in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Not sure why, I've greased the non-stick muffin pan but still the sides tend to break and not easily remove from the pan.

My boy likes the lemon icing drizzled on small Lemon Coconut cakes that I baked some months ago. So, instead of dusting some icing sugar on Friands,  I drizzle a little of lemon icing instead.
Well, yummy and refreshing Friands with a cup of hot mint tea on my weekend.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

BBQ Orange Parcels .. Simply Awesome

Have you ever tried BBQ oranges, wrapped in foil ?  
"Nope, I haven't tried that before".  
"No, how does it taste like huh?"
"Wonder how's the taste ... got a feeling it is awful ...."
"Hah? BBQ banana yes, but not BBQ orange!"

Well, these were some responses I received when I checked around with some friends.

The reason why I asked around was when I saw the recipe from the cookbook,  I was like "what ?!? Such easy and simple recipe and sure it won't be delicious,  sure alot of people have tasted it... nothing special ..." These were just my thoughts and I was wrong. So last night I decided to make this for our dessert since I have not tried it.    

Unwrapping the hot parcels taken out from the oven.
As soon as the parcels were taken out from the oven, I just can't wait to unwrap the foil. The aroma of the honey, brandy & orange sweet fragrance immersed all within the parcels. 

Transferred these lovely bright orange slices onto a serving dish and topped some orange rind. Spread with some juices and enjoyed few spoonfuls. Simply awesome delicious warm dessert on a rainy cool night.

Yes, never judge a book by its cover ... so never judge a simple and easy recipe too. Cos you'll never know the goodness ... and that it may taste awesomely good !

Here's sharing the recipe adapted from Martha Day's cookbook.

Barbecue Orange Parcels
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 Tbsp low-fat spread, plus extra, melted for brushing.
4 oranges
2 Tbsp maple syrup (I used honey)
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur (I used brandy)
Low-fat fromage frais, to serve (optional)

1) cut four double-thickness squares of foil, large enough to wrap the oranges.  Melt about 2 teaspoons of the low-fat spread and brush it over the centre of each piece of foil.

2) remove some shreds of orange rind, for the decoration.  Blanch and dry them and set aside. Peel the oranges,  removing the white pith and peel catching the juice in a bowl.

3) slice the oranges crossways into thick slices.  Reassemble, and place each orange on a square of foil.

4) create a cup shape by tucking the foil up high around the oranges.  This will keep them in shape, but leave the foil open at the top.

5) mix together the reserved juice, maple syrup and liqueur and spoon the mixture over the oranges.

6) add a dap of low-fat spread to each parcel and fold over the foil to seal the juices. Place the parcels on a hot barbecue for 10-12 mins until hot. (I threw them into oven, set grill mode). Serve topped with shreds of orange rind and fromage frais, if you like.

I'm sharing another 'ORANGE' post with The Little Thumbs Up.  


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs up organised byBake For Happy Kids, and My Little Favourite DIY, hosted by Ann of Anncoo Journal

Saturday 5 April 2014

Orange Yogurt Brûlées

A few years ago when I took a short break (about 5 months) from the workforce,  my ex colleagues presented me 3 cookbooks in cakes and desserts recipes for my farewell. I needed a break then to help my girl focus on her studies and preparation for the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination). Well, I guessed it's the 'typical stress' that most Singaporean parents,  if not all, had experienced when their 12 years old children sit for these school examinations.   It was a wise choice then as that's when I developed the interest in baking.

Occasionally I would flip through the pages of the cookbooks to try new recipes but I'm quite selective cos most western recipes are rather rich in sugar and butter for cakes or desserts.  Chance upon this Orange Yogurt Brûlées recipe using low fat yogurt. Looks pretty 'easy peasy' and gave it a try as it's my 1st attempt in Brûlées. The recipe calls for 4 individual heatproof dishes ... hmm.. gosh ... I don't have any. Searched through the kitchen cabinets and found a piece of rather appropriate Pyrex dish.

Here's sharing the recipe adapted from Martha Day with slight modifications :-

Orange Yogurt Brûlées
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 oranges
150ml low-fat yogurt
4 tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche
3 tablespoons (2 Tbsp) caster sugar
2 tablespoons (1 Tbsp) light muscovado sugar

1) cut away all the peel and white pith from the oranges and segment the fruit, removing all the membrane.
2) place the fruit in the bottom of 4 individual flameproof dishes. Mix together the yogurt and crème and spoon over the oranges.
3) mix together the two sugars and sprinkle them evenly over the tops of the dishes.
4) place the dishes under a preheated,  very hot grill for 3-4 mins or until the sugar melts and turns to a rich golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Probably due to the reduced amount of sugar, hence, the top didn't seemed to be 'rich golden brown'. As usual, my big kids would be my first customers to sample my products. My 18 years old son commented "not sweet enough..".  I tried a few spoonfuls ... hmm.. the natural sweetness of the oranges complimented the sourish yogurt tasted refreshing!

I'm submitting my 'ORANGE' post and joining The Little Thumbs Up for the first time.


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs up organised by Bake For Happy Kids, and My Little Favourite DIY, hosted by Ann of Anncoo Journal at this post.