Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've been hankering for curry puffs for a while now, but everytime I think about the number of calories in one of those bad boys, especially when I walk past Old Chang Kee (a famous curry puff vendor here, I swear I feel oilier just standing at the counter), I convince myself that it just ain't worth it and I keep on walking. But with Hari Raya Puasa coming up next week, temptation is just everywhere! Even in the carpark at HV, next to the mosque, there's a little stand there with an old uncle selling his goodies, which includes the Malay style apok apok, fairly similar to the curry puff but you have a choice of either potato filling or sardine filling. Both are very enjoyable, let me tell you. But they just as bad as those curry puffs because they are all fried in lots of OIL. YUM.

So in an attempt to satiate my craving for these little golden puffy parcels of goodness, I decided to try and make my own curry puffs. I also decided to be lazy and use frozen pastry dough, because I just don't want the hassle of trying to make the pastry on my own, only to have it fail miserably. For the filling, I used a recipe that I found here, and just tweaked it a little so I could use whatever I had in the kitchen. Plus, I added a piece of hard-boiled egg together with the filling in each puff. Finally, I baked my curry puffs, instead of frying them in a gallon of oil, so it's a little bit healthier and a little less guilt-inducing. Just a note, the recipe I'm posting reflects the changes that I made. For the original recipe, click here.

I deliberately made extra filling so I could snack on the leftovers. Heh how greedy am I?My puffs, brushed with egg wash and waiting to be baked. What do you do with those leftover scraps of dough? I used mine to make these mini curry puff "pot pies". Hot out of the oven and (thankfully not literally) bursting with puffilicious goodness!

Curry Puffs
3 to 5 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ curry powder
1 tsp chili flakes (I didn't have any chili powder)
½ tsp ground turmeric
300g chicken tenders, cut into small cubes
3 potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
1½ tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil and fry onions until lightly golden brown. Add the curry powder, chili flakes and turmeric and fry gently.
2. Add the chicken, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the potatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the chicken is completely cooked through. Leave aside to cool.

To assemble:
1. If you're using pre-packaged pastry dough, make sure it's at room temperature. Roll out according to package instructions and cut with a round cutter of your choice (I used a 4-inch cutter).
2. If you're using hard-boiled eggs as well, slice them into fairly small slices.
3. Place a piece of egg in the center of the dough circle, and then spoon some filling over it. Try not to overfill the puff, so that you have enough space to seal the edges.
4. Fold the dough circle in half, and squeeze the edges together so you get a semi-circle-ish puff. Crimp the edges with a fork (I don't know how to do the braiding thing, although that looks so much better).
5. Place your completed puffs on a baking sheet lined with parchment, then brush with egg wash. Bake the puffs according to the instructions on the pastry dough package - I baked mine at 320 degrees Celsius for about 13 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on them so they don't burn. I also roatated the tray about halfway through the baking time.

Mmm mmm curry puff. Maybe next time I'll be brave and attempt to make the pastry from scratch. But for now I'll just enjoy these!
The "pot pies" came out pretty good too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Munchies for the Doggies

I'm always on the lookout for dog treat recipes, and this is one of the best ones I've managed to find to date. It's got good crunch, and is really fragrant thanks to the sesame seeds. I've made it a couple of times already, and have always had good results. The best part is that it keeps pretty well stored in an air-tight container, without refrigeration. That's always a plus in these parts cos it's always so bloody hot and humid.

Somehow my greedy pooch Reese just knew that these were doggy treats and not for human consumption, cos he usually snoozes while I bake, but today he sat bum smack in the middle of the kitchen floor waiting for some samples.

Rows of butterfly biccies waiting to be baked. (Ironically I really don't like butterflies - I'm scared to death of them - and if I'd seen so many heading my way I would just faint and die.)The butterflies, hot out of the oven. Some cat-shaped biccies. I also made bunny- and heart-shaped ones, but was too lazy to take photos of them.

Crunchy Sesame Rye Treats
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup rye flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sesame seeds
¾ cup broth (vegetable/chicken/beef)
3 tbsp canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk together broth and oil, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. If necessary, add extra flour to form a dough that's not too sticky. Scoop dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead.
3. Roll out dough to about ¼-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for about 25 to 30 minutes, until crisp. Cool on wire rack.My greedy Reese, posing for the camera. (Truth is he just didn't want me to take away his stuffed toy ball.)

UBC Ponderosa Cake in a Cupcake!

I first made the UBC Ponderosa Cake a while back, and people really seemed to like it. So naturally, I had to try and see if it would work in cupcake form. I basically followed the recipe as it is, and baked it in cupcake papers instead of a big square pan. I've experimented a couple of times, and as luck would have it, my first trial came out better than the second time I tried it. The key is not to overfill the cupcake papers, like I did here. Ideally the cupcake papers should only be filled about two-thirds of the way. I kinda forgot and filled them almost to the top this time and hence they really puffed up after baking. Oops. Also, I find that it looked much better when I used mini chocolate chips (which I did in my first attempt, but ran out of for my second go at it), rather than the regular sized ones. Nonetheless, this is a super yummy cake... the combination of banana, chocolate and cinnamon sugar is just killer!I just love the crunchiness of the cinnamon sugar topping, mixed with the dark chocolate and the moist banana cake beneath it all!

A Warm, Hearty Meal

Today I woke up to a gloomy, wet morning, the kind where you just wanna stay cuddled up, all warm and cozy in bed and not do a damn thing for the rest of the day. Suffice to say, whilst I didn't quite make it to my yoga class as I'd intended, I was pretty productive, running some errands in town and squeezing in some baking for the poochies (a post on this will come soon). I also made dinner, which was a really quick and simple affair, with tasty results!

My first taste of a tuna noodle casserole came pretty late in the day, whilst my family and I were on vacation in Vancouver about two years ago. After four years of studying there and many meals at my aunt's place, she never once made her tuna casserole. But she pulled it out one evening when I finally made it back for a visit, saying she was too tired and couldn't be bothered to make anything fancy. Man! I loved it. It was so simple, but so yummy. I just couldn't get enough of it. So anyways... I decided to try and make it for myself tonight, seeing as today wasn't quite as warm as it usually gets in these parts. I don't have her recipe for it, but I saw this, and I thought it looked pretty darn tasty, so I gave it a go. I changed things a bit here and there to make things easier for myself; it's really up to you to tweak it as you see fit.Oops... didn't see the Roasted Garlic bit when I picked it up at the supermarket. Oh wells.The casserole is ready to be bunged in the oven.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
8 oz. penne (I didn't have any egg noodles), cooked until al dente
1 can tuna, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup (mine had roasted garlic, I didn't realize this till I'd already plonked it in)
½ cup milk
1 cup frozen peas, cooked
½ cup or more grated cheddar cheese (I used a mix of red and white cheddar)
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
1 knob of butter, melted
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Mix the first 6 ingredients together until well combined. I found that it's easier to mix the soup in with the milk before pouring it into the pasta/tuna/pea mix.
3. Spread mixture into a greased casserole dish. Mix together melted butter and breadcrumbs, then sprinkle over the top, followed by the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, and then serve piping hot.
There's nothing quite like a warm, hearty meal with which to end the day. Yum yum.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Old Skool Lunch

So I'm at home, it's lunchtime and I'm wondering what to eat. I decided to go the healthy route and not buy takeout, although I was thisclose to buying some yummy chicken bryiani from Sixth Ave. Good thing the parking there is such a pain in the ass, otherwise I would've totally caved. I do enjoy the briyani from one of the stalls there, and it has been a while since I last had it. Mmm... briyani... drool... Luckily for me laziness prevailed and I headed home empty-handed. But then what to eat? For once the fridge in my house is not overflowing with leftovers (I have issues, everything I cook always seems to be enough to feed an army, instead of just me and my family). I could have instant noodles, but that would have defeated the purpose of me trying to be healthy. A poke around the pantry later, I decided to make an old skool tuna melt. I love me a good, cheesy tuna melt. I can still remember the time I had a really good tuna melt, it was at my friend's place back in my uni days, and he was the one who put on the sun-dried tomatoes before plonking on the cheese and ooh, it made all the difference. Plus, all I needed were some pantry staples, and there's practically no wash-up. Easy peasy!So simple, yet so satisfying.

Old Skool Tuna Melt
1 can tuna
1 onion, chopped
mayonnaise, to taste
pickles, or sweet relish, which is what I used cos I didn't have pickles
a couple of sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips or chopped
cheese (I used mozzarella cos that's all I had)

Mix together the tuna, onions, mayo and relish/pickles. Pile the tuna mix onto your bread, then top with sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle cheese over everything, pop into the toaster oven until cheese is melted and Bob's your uncle.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pooch Pleaser

I've made this pooch-friendly cake a couple of times now, and it's been good to me thus far. The first time I made it I used a bundt pan as per the recipe, and it actually turned out quite nicely. The second time around I decided to try and make it into cupcakes, which was ok too, except the cake got a bit stuck to the cupcake liners. Today I made the cake again, but this time I used foil cupcake liners instead, and I think the sticking won't be such a problem. I do find that the amount of butter the recipe calls for is quite a lot, so I tend to cut it down a bit. I also like to add just a touch of honey to the batter, in the hopes that it makes it tastier for the pooches. So far it's proven to be a hit with all the dogs its been served too, even pleasing the likes of Mr. Brown, who's a somewhat picky eater. So yay! I like to top these off with some carob chips, which I place on top of the cupcakes the moment they are out of the oven so that they'll melt and I can sorta smooth it out to look like chocolate frosting. For today though I was low on the carob, so the cupcakes are frosting-less. Oh wells. I'm hoping the doggies won't even notice.Sitting pretty, waiting to be scarfed by the doggies!

Ginger & Banana Pooch Cake
2/3 cup mashed banana (I use 2 bananas)
113g butter
3 eggs
½ cup water
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Beat together banana and butter until creamy. Add eggs and water, and beat well. Stir in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
3. Spoon batter evenly into an oiled and floured bundt pan, or into cupcake pans (lined with foil liners). Bake bundt cake for 35 minutes, cupcakes for 25 minutes.
4. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.
A pooch pleasing cupcake.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cupcake Medley

As a home baker, one of the biggest drawbacks I face is that I can't offer 12 different cupcakes per box like those donut joints and their multi-flavor boxes. Each recipe I have makes at least 12 cupcakes, and unfortunately I don't have a shopfront in which to display the remaining 11 cupcakes per recipe, which when is times 12, comes up to 132 cupcakes. So most people are stuck with just one flavor of cupcake, unless they order several boxes. One way to incorporate variety, I've found, is to use one cupcake base, such as the humble vanilla cupcake, and then finish it off with different toppings. I did just that for a recent order, topping off the vanilla cupcake base with salty caramel and chococlate ganache (they're the ones hiding right at the back), strawberries and vanilla buttercream, blueberry pie and vanilla buttercream and apple pie a la mode. A tooty frooty cupcake medley!

So it's not quite the same as getting 12 different cupcakes in a box, but it works for me, and my client was pretty happy so I'm glad it worked out.

PS. I had some left over sauteed apples, and a couple of spare cupcakes, so I thought, maybe now's a good time to try and caramel apple pie cupcake a la mode! I wasn't quite sure how the apples would go with the salty caramel, but my mom and my friend aka the guinea pigs both gave them the thumbs up. So yay!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Penang Hawker's Fare

The famed Penang Hawker's Fare at York Hotel is something I look forward to every time it hits town. It happens every once in a while at York Hotel for a few weeks' at a time, and although my family says I don't eat enough for it to be worth my while, I can't help it I just have to go. Why? I friggin' love the peanut pancake stuff they have there. Well... that and I really like Penang food. I love the spicy prawn mee, the fishball kuay teow soup, the rojak... and being able to indulge in it all without having to fly to Penang, in cool airconditioned comfort, I say it's well worth the $23.80++ price tag!
This is Penang rojak, which is a melange of fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, jambu (rose apple) and guava, together with cucumber and turnip (jicama), all tossed with a thick and viscous dressing made up of sugar, chilli, lime juice and super pungent hae ko (dark prawn paste) and topped off with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Yums!Next up we have Lor Bak, which actually refers to meat rolls that are wrapped in beancurd skin and deep fried, kinda like our Chinese Ngor Heong. It also comes with some deep fried beancurd, deep fried sweet potato and deep fried prawn fritters. Mmm mmm deep fried goodness. It's served with chilli sauce and a starchy sauce flavored with five-spice powder and eggs.This here is Cuttlefish Kangkong, which is pretty self-explanatory. Thick slices of cuttlefish, cooked kangkong (also known as water morning glory or water spinach) and bean sprouts are tossed in a thick, sweet and spicy sauce and topped with chopped peanuts. It's good stuff!
One to the serious eats! This dish looks oh so simple, but it is oh so damn tasty! It's Fishball Kuay Teow Soup and it's just about the most delicious and flavourful soup ever. I kid you not. It looks so clear and so boring, but don't let its looks deceive you. It's really really yummy. Slices of fish cake and fishballs (yes I know, it sounds weird, but these are just little balls made of fish meat and starch, and it's really common for us Chinese) and shredded chicken meat together with super smooth kuay teow (a flat rice noodle) get along swimmingly in the fragrant broth, seasoned with spring onions, cilantro and fried garlic. I am drooling just thinking about it. This is Penang Char Kuay Teow, literally translated means Penang fried rice noodles. It's got flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, prawns, cockles, egg, Chinese chives and chilli paste, all fried over super high heat for that added oomph. Yes it's fatty, but you don't have to eat it everyday. All in moderation, I say!This is another sinfully fatty dish, called Orh Chien, or Orh Luak. It's a Hokkien dish in which oysters are fried with batter, eggs, chilli and spices. Basically your normal fried omelette, but spiked with fresh oysters and starchy pieces. I'm not such a huge fan of this, simply cos I'm not a huge fan of oysters, but I do like picking out the starchy bits.This is Assam Laksa, which is rice noodles accompanied by a thick, tangy, spicy and sour fish broth gravy that contains meshed fish meat. Very different from our local laksa, which has a coconut milk-curry soup base. It's garnished with chopped cucumber, fresh onions, mint leaves and pink pickled ginger. I find that this is quite an acquired taste, you either love it or hate it. Given all the other food options available, I usually pass on this. This is another of my personal faves, the Penang Hokkien Prawn Mee. It differs from the local prawn mee in that the broth is usually much more spicy and packs a real punch. To the prawn-based broth you get a mix of mee (yellow egg noodles) and bee hoon (vermicelli), with pork slices, prawns, kangkong and bean sprouts, topped off with pieces of fried lard and fried shallots. So so so good! I love this stuff. Finally, we have my lovely Min Jiang Kueh, my crispy pueanut pancakes! I'm super fussy about these, and I only like the ultra crispy types, not the thick and soft kinds I find that most hawkers in town sell. So naturally despite having stuffed myself full of all the other goodies, I have to have at least five of thses. Inside the crisp pastry shell is a mixture of chopped peanuts, sugar and Planta (a somewhat unhealthy brand of margarine type product, but heck, this stuff's so good I eat it anyways). With each bite you get the salty-sweet combination of the peanuts and sugar, all mixed in with melted buttery goodness. Oooh how I wish I had me some of this right now.

There's also Ice Kachang and Chendol for dessert, but I didn't take photos of these cos I was just too full and too lazy, about to slip into a big fat food coma. Ice Kachang is basically finely shaved ice on top of a mix of red beans, grass jelly, sweetcorn, attap chee (don't ask me what this is in English, I haven't a clue) and a bunch of other stuff (different hawkers may have different ingredients), drenched in sticky sweet multi-coloured syrups or gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) and evaporated milk. Chendol is somewhat similar, but there's coconut milk involved as well. It's got the shaved ice, red beans, and this funny worm-like starch noodles that they colour a bright green. I don't like it too much. I'd much rather gorge myself on those peanut pancakes. *drool*

And there you have it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Oh Fudge!

I decided to try this recipe for fudge ball cupcakes from Elinor Klivans' Cupcakes! book, as they were described as "mini-fudge brownie cupcakes" which sounds pretty damn good to me. I already have a go-to recipe for cocoa brownies, as well as decadent brownie cupcakes, but still, I wanted to try something new. I deviated from the recipe by using a chocolate ganache (I had some left over sitting in the fridge) instead of her recommended chocolate coating, and I dipped the tops of the cupcakes instead of the bottoms, which I thought made more sense. But whatever floats your boat, you should do whatever makes you happy is what I always say.My fudge mini babycakes are just waiting to be dipped. Look how shiny the ganache is! You can actually see my camera in the reflection!

Fudge Ball Cupcakes
½ cup butter, cut into small pieces
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1¼ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup flour

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line 2 mini-muffin tins that have 12 cups each with mini paper liners. Spray the paper liners with nonstick spray.
2. Put the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water, or simply use a double boiler. Stir th butter and chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and salt to blend them thoroughly, about 1 minute. Whisk in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla to incorporate them. Whisk in the flour just until no white streaks remain.
4. Fill each paper liner with about 1½ tablespoons of batter, to just below the top of the liner. Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 24 minutes. (Mine were really tiny, I baked mine for only about 22 minutes.) Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pans on wire racks.

This is where I deviate from the recipe, I just dipped the tops of the cupcakes in chocolate ganache to keep things simple.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Love Me Some Pie

I came up with the idea of making apple pie cupcakes, but didn't really want to have the apples baked into the cake itself. So I figured I'd saute the apples in some butter, sugar and cinnamon till it got all nice and caramel-y but not too soft, and top the cupcake off with it, and finish everything off with vanilla buttercream. And so the apple pie a la mode cupcake was born.
Apple Pie a la Mode Cupcakes
For the cake:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1½ tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
4 eggs
(This recipe makes quite a number of cupcakes, I have scaled it down to half before with equally good results.)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. Soften on low speed. Cream until light in colour.
4. Add sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, taking 8 to 10 minutes to blend it in well.
5. Add eggs one at a time at 1-minute intervals.
6. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, dividing flour mixture into 4 parts and milk into 3 parts.
7. Spoon batter into cupcake papers (about 1/3 full, so there is space for the apple pie filling after the cake is baked) and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden brown in colour.
8. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

For the apple pie filling:
diced and peeled green apples
brown sugar
(I usually just eyeball the amount of spice and sugar used, depending on how much filling I need.)

1. Melt butter in pan, and add cinnamon and brown sugar. Let it cook a little, before adding in apples. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well. Don't overcook the apples, just a few minutes should do the trick. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

For the vanilla buttercream:
4 oz. butter
2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Cream butter and salt for 30 seconds, then add ½ the icing sugar and milk to the butter. Beat until combined. Add remaining icing sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and beat well.
2. Beat on high speed for 5 to 6 minutes until frosting is fluffy.

To assemble:
Spoon apple pie filling on top of baked and cooled cupcakes, and then top off with vanilla buttercream.

Classic Carrot Cake in Cupcakes!

There was a time when the thought of making carrot cake would make me freak out, having had some less than stellar results with previous carrot cake recipes. But now I can safely say I have found the recipe that works for me. I have made this recipe several times over, and have yet to stuff it up. I got it from here, which is one of my fave stops for recipes and awesome pics. I especially like this recipe cos the cake is super moist. Also, even though the recipe calls for nuts, I always leave them out cos I hate carrot cake with nuts. But if you must, add 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Another thing, I try to cut down on the oil, and substitute half of it with unsweetened applesauce, and it's worked just fine.
Good Ol' Carrot Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp fresh nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup canola oil
¼ cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp finely chopped crystallised ginger
3 cups firmly packed shredded carrots

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices into a bowl. Whisk together.
3. Beat eggs and sugars together until well combined, about 2 minutes. At low speed, add the oil, melted butter, milk, vanilla and ginger and mix until blended. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing until just blended. Add the carrots (and walnuts, if using) and fold into the batter. Pour batter into prepared cake pans or cupcake papers.
4. Bake cupcakes for about 23 minutes, until they are dark golden brown. Mini babycakes take about 15 minutes.
5. Cool cakes on rack, and then frost with your fave cream cheese frosting.