Sunday, May 24, 2009

Unable To Post

I have been unable to get into the blogsphere for the past week or so. Not only am I unable to update my blog, but I've also been unable to visit all my favourite blogs. Very frustrating. But I've worked out a temporary solution, while waiting for this problem to resolve. I hope that within a few days I will be able to post regularly. In the meantime, posts could be few and far between. I also apologise if I'm unable to respond to your comments.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mulberry Muffins

Deep purple mulberries - mild and best eaten on its own
Loses its flavour in a muffin
I thought mulberries were a figment of someone's imagination - some person who had tricked children into running around an imaginary bush so early in the morning. But lo! When we arrived in Suzhou, famous for its silk, we were told that the silk worms feed on mulberry leaves. So, if there were mulberry leaves, there must be - mulberries! It's sold in the markets, and there's even a tree in our compound. I must've missed it all these years, or just never paid any attention, or maybe the fruit sellers just decided to add this to their stalls. The mulberries have a very short life - they go bad the next day. The flavour is mild compared to strawberries or blueberries. I thought I'd have a go at making mulberry muffins.

The result - not impressive. The muffin was dense, and the berries just didn't give off any flavour. Just plain bland. Perhaps it would taste better with a different muffin batter recipe. I'd like to say I will tweak it, but this is one I will just let go. Savour the mulberries as they are and move on to the next recipe.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Cake for Mother's Day

Happy Belated to all Moms out there. Surprised that there's no cake today? I am. I had planned on baking a wonderful Only-Moms-Allowed dessert on this day and sharing it, but I think you can guess, it did not happen. CS and I spent the day at B&Q, looking at floors, tiles, paint, wood and sanitary ware in gazillion options for our new home. We're in the midst of doing up our new apartment (which, those close to me will know is way long overdue). Still, I didn't want to miss wishing all Moms a Happy Mother's Day! I hope the kids behaved.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lemon Slices

It's warming up - and I mean warming up - here in Suzhou. Maybe 'heating up' would be a better word. In the sun, it was probably hotter than in Penang. But it's not that bad yet. Soon, humidity will pick up and by July/August, Suzhou is one giant sauna. These are great temperatures for baking bread though. There will be more bread posts coming up so watch this space.

In this heat, I had a hankering for something lemony cool - like an ice cool lemonade. I saw this recipe on Baking Cakes Galore and decided to make it. Again, it was fast to make, with no-fuss ingredients. I completed the job in about an hour, baking and washing up included. The lemon topping has real pucker-power. Be ready for an explosion of sour - and I mean that in a good way. The leftovers were left in the fridge and the next day tastes even more like a piece of cold lemonade.

Butter 125g softened
Icing sugar 40g
Plain flour 150g
Eggs 3
Caster sugar 225g
Lemon zest 2 tbsp finely grated
Lemon juice 125 ml
Plain flour 2 tbsp

You will need 20cm (8 in) square tin, line the base and sides with tin foil, extending the tin foil 2cm (¾ in) above the edge of the tin. This will help to ease out the bar when ready for slicing.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Beat the butter and icing sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in the 150g (5 oz) of flour. Press the mixture evenly over the base of the prepared tin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes until browned lightly. Meanwhile, place the eggs, caster sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons flour, zest and juice in a bowl. Whisk until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the hot base. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until firm. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Dust with extra sifted icing sugar, if desired or a slice of thinly sliced lemon/lime. Store sliced, covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Spread

I seem to be making a lot of spreads these days. I guess today I was just moved to make this mock Nutella, and as luck would have it - I had all the ingredients on hand. It's been on the 'want to try' list for a while, but just could not find hazelnuts. Even our favourite nut seller at the Nan Men market didn't have them. (Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of nuts at that market, opening up just endless baking options).

What I did have on hand was macadamia nuts. So I decided to substitute the hazelnuts with macadamias.

I was extremely happy with the end result - for a first try. The consistency and the sweetness was just right. However, the aroma of the macadamias did not come through as I imagine hazelnuts would have. It produced a handsome quantity - enough to fill a large jar. Definitely more ecomonical to make your own than buying. Well, at least in Suzhou.

Macadamia nuts 2/3 cup
Condensed milk 1 tin 370g
Chocolate chips 1 cup
Honey 4 tbsp

Process the macadamia nuts till pasty. (If you can get the nuts to liquefy, this will result in a smoother spread). Set aside. Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips and honey in a large bowl and sit it on a pot of simmering water. (Double boiler would work great). Stir occassionally till the chocolate melts. Pour the chocolate mixture into the hazelnuts and blitz till the mixture is smooth. Transfer into an airtight container, cool. Enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pineapple Jam

Chunky pineapple jam
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day - so say the experts. I agree - I find that if I don't eat a proper breakfast (with my all important cup of Joe), I'm sluggish, irritable, and tend to snack all day long. Breakfast has to be fast on weekday mornings with people rushing off to school and work. Bread with spreads like jam and PB is fast and filling. So I have to be on the ball where breakfast is concerned. No time in the morning for elaborate preparation. (I tend to be a little more relaxed on weekends, so I sometimes make pancakes or muffins).

So jam is a good thing. Slap it on some bread and we're in business. Etienne said he'd like some pinapple jam, so I set off to find a good recipe. As always, cyberspace is loaded with recipes. I needed one that would be good as a spread, and not the thick ones used for Jam Tarts. I stumbled upon Chop Chop A to Z and decided to go with that one. I halved the recipe, but will go with the full one next time. It did not yield a lot, and the way it tastes, I figure it'll be gone in no time. I also omitted the cinnamon and cloves. Thought that would taste too much like a Jam Tart jam. Cooking time was reduced to 25 minutes. I would also grate the pineapple next time, not just chop it.

This is a really good tasting jam and is a keeper. It was all fruit and packed full of zing and ka-pow! I could probably eat it with a spoon. The pinapple was from Hainan Island. That and the variety from Taiwan are one of the best I have ever tasted.

Try making it - you won't regret it.

Ripe pineapples 2 medium, peeled and grated
Sugar 1 cup
Lemon juice 2 tbsp

Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it comes to a boil, stir occassionally, and boil for 20-25 minutes till the jam thickens. Allow to cool and store in an air-tight container. You can also can it if you intend to keep it for a long time. (Not me!)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes

It's Sweet & Simple Bakes time again. This time it's Vanilla Cupcakes. I have to say, this is a great and very easy recipe. All the ingredient go into the mixing bowl, mix it up and pop them into the oven. I was a little apprehensive when the recipe didn't start with "Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy". I wondered if the texture would be compromised. Little bits of butter just wouldn't blend in at first, but increasing the mixer speed soon solved that. A minute later and the batter was - you guessed it - light and fluffy. The most fun part was decorating the cupcakes. I chose sprinkles, M&M's and gummy candies. There are tons of ideas in cyberspace for all kinds of occassions. Can't wait to try them out.

For me, the cupcakes were perfectly moist and the sweetness just right. I would definitely use this recipe again. Making the frosting ahead and refrigerating it, the cakes themselves can be made from start to finish in under an hour - perfect for 'in between errands'.

Oh yes - if anyone can help me solve my 'dome tops' problem, that would be great. Please read my post on 'Problem - Dome Cupcakes'. Thanks lots.