Banana Bread/Muffin Recipe : Girls Day In

“Too bad you always work on the weekends” I exclaimed assumingly, as we were mentioning that we did not hang out enough. You see, U, my kai jie (god-sister) works at days and times that are not the usual slaves of cubicle nations (like poor ol’ me), she could work from break of dawn or till the wee midnight, even on weekends and break on uncertain days of the week. It is nearly impossible to catch her, not to mention that she chose to stay quite far away, even in my context of after 7 years of staying in Klang Valley that requires quite a travelling distance to get to places (in Taiping context), which used to be where I stay in my days long gone. Ah, those were the days.

“Oh, I am off on this Saturday!” U shouts with excitement (through MSN mind you, but I can feel the excitement all the way from her house to my office).

“What!” that is all I can answer at the moment. It was a befuddlement to me. Then the moment passed and I got a grip on myself “We must hang out then! Catch up! What shall we do? Shopping? Eating? Watch a movie?” I babbled on and on like an excited kid that has been promised an all day outing.

“I am afraid of spending too much if we go out, let’s just stay in”, she says, at that moment I flash back to the last time we hang out, we watch movie, shopped and ate indulgingly as if we are some rich tai-tais (wives)having a day out, I blushed. Then a light bulb flashed right above my head, while my eyes roll up where I imagined a picture in my mind – U and I baking delicious stuffs out of her huge, and I mean huge oven that I had ooohed and ahhhed over when I visited her place the first time.

Oven @ U Home
Oven @ U Home

So I exclaimed “OK! Let’s stay in, we cook something and do some baking!”, and her resounding yes! had made my heart jumped with excitement. So that very Saturday, I went out to buy the necessary stuff that I can get at last minute (yes, that’s me again at it) and all my usual ka-changs, before heading off to her lovely home. When I reached, U had already begun baking chicken with baby potatoes and capsicums and loads of garlic. The house is already basking in wonderful food aroma, ah, how I miss those smells which make a house feels like home. Then like some chef cooking at home in her day off, she whips up spaghetti aglio olio with such style and flamboyant, she made me feel like I am eating food from a posh restaurant when we finally dig into the food. At same time we watched a chick-flick that I normally would not be watching, but it is alright because I was too busy enjoying the food anyway.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio and Baked Chicken @ U Home
Spaghetti Aglio Olio and Baked Chicken @ U Home

Finally when the show ended, and with me nearly falling asleep, she asked, “So what’s up for baking? “. When I told her I planned to make three bakes today, her eyes grew wide and I laughed, she just had to pardon me, who is someone that had been deprived of good baking therapy lately. Admittedly, I have not been baking much in recent times, so was a bit rusty on the baking instincts, and also due to ripping off recipes from my ever-long to-do list without thoroughly examining it, out of our three bakes, only one truly came out good. And luckily it was really good, I brought it the next day to work for breakfast, my sceptical colleague took a bite and say “hey, it’s good, just like those you can get in the famous-coffee-chain”. Ah, such things are what bakers  or cooks out there would loved to hear, that the people who ate their food enjoys them as much as they do themselves, I did for mine!

Banana Bread / Muffin Recipe
Banana Bread / Muffin

Banana bread-fin

Adapted from Slow Like Honey

I called it banana bread-fin because, it was supposed to be banana bread but I made it into muffin sized because I had this bunch of muffin cups around and I want to take the shortcut in baking them. Muffins bake in nearly half the time than bread. Besides, the outcome is more muffin like, possibly due to some of my own modification of the recipes (I am always guilty of this, couldn’t help tinkering). Making it into muffin also gave me the chance to see U in action, where she shows how commercial bakers make muffins quickly, by scooping up the batter with their hand and squeeze into each cups, using their palms as ‘funnels’. We had such fun doing it, we forgot to properly swirl and level the top and coupled with us not putting the muffin cups in proper muffins trays, it resulted in whimsical muffins, where after a long good laugh, I find it quite adorable and it gave a homemade feel to them.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped chocolates (optional) (or walnuts if it rocks your boat, I would have add this in if I had them)
Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

Prepare 12 muffin cups in a muffin tray
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine together eggs, banana, sugar, and oil.
Add in the flour mixture and stir till just moistened (do not over-stir, batter should be lumpy).
Fold in the chopped chocolates (and/or walnuts) gently.
Squeeze batter into the muffin cups
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick poke in near the center comes out clean

Makes about 12 muffin cups if squeezed properly!

Jamie Oliver’s Pukkolla @ My Homemade Bircher Muesli

Did I ever mention before my love for Jamie Oliver? I have not? Psst, don’t tell J, yes I heart Jamie Oliver like how many other food bloggers as well. Who wouldn’t? He is charming, funny, kitchen savvy and with a big heart to boot. He was after all the man behind the Fifteen restaurant and the campaign against processed food in UK. But I fell in love with him way before that of course; he had me at Naked Chef. Seriously, he did. I have watched his series from television old and new diligently, ask Y she would know (she even used to ask me why and when I am going to make those wonderful things that Jamie made for her). Then later I downloaded some of his series out of desperation and the latest ones had me watching from youtube! I had even contemplated to join Fifteen before, I even wrote in and asked but too bad, the rule is that you must be a citizen of UK to be eligible. I was devastated thereafter, alright I am a bit whee overdramatic here, but I was pretty disappointed though. That is how much I love him.

Anyway, remember my previous post on my advocate on healthy breakfast? Alright, you know where I am heading here, oh-oh Granola Version 2.0. Well nearly, but no. You see, I did had my heart set to improve my version 1.0 to maybe 1.1 or so, yes I have a bit of geek streak in me, after all I work in an IT industry (though I wished it was food industry hah), because I have two new ingredients at hand that would work brilliantly in my granola. My mum went to Hatyai a couple of weeks ago and asked me do I want some cashew nuts, my eyes glimmered instantly, oh yes I do, please bring me some, raw please. My mum was confused when I said I wanted raw, she thought I wanted non flavoured roasted kind, I had to explain, no I want raw, whitish and uncooked kind, she thought I was mad. But luckily I got the message across and she lugged back that packet of gem for me. She also asked if there is anything else that I would want, oh yes I do, dried fruits please, any dried fruits in season will do when she asked and she brought back dried mangoes for along with her supposedly dried bananas which turn out to be banana chips (please pardon my mum, she is not really culinary incline) but that aside, I am so set to make my granola tropical! But alas, I did not manage because there were some technical difficulties (which were just a posh way to say I had a problem) in getting access to my oven, thus the plan deferred. Then I remembered that there was something called muesli, a non-bake sister of granola. Ah-hah! Making muesli would also be like killing two birds with one stone as a faithful reader commented at not being able to make my granola for not having an oven, so no more excuses for ya!

I did some search for the recipe of muesli and voila, I found it at, yes you guess it, Jamie Oliver’s site! This recipe is actually Jamie’s version of Bircher muesli which he named Pukkolla, oh yes he is cute that way, which includes with mixing your own muesli and then soaking it and adding in good stuffs before eating. Just head on to the forum to get his original recipe or you can see my version below. I made my version of Jamie’s Pukkolla which was his version of Bircher muesli. Oh no is this the geek side of me or the crazy side? Anyway, version to version, mine came out so good I am happy with it! I am sticking to the name Pukkolla as it is kind of cool (hope Jamie don’t mine), with my running versions yet again! Ah, so geek.

Jamie Oliver's Pukkolla @ My Homemade Bircher Muesli
Jamie Oliver's Pukkolla @ My Homemade Bircher Muesli

Pukkolla My Version 1.0

Jamie as always advocating ease and rustic kind of cooking, his recipe was in handfuls, just grab and mix kind. I wanted to do that just to feel rustic ha-ha, but the inner female side of me emerged and I just had to measure my things, but don’t worry as I go roughly by cups and not by weight, else you can also convert all the cups to handfuls if you want to be rustic like Jamie. I also had kind of halved Jamie’s recipe as I really do not know what to do if with so much muesli at one time where I am the only one eating it, I also do not want to open my new pack of rolled oats just yet, so feel free to double it. Since I did not have bran on hand, and had the goodness of freshly ground flaxseed with me, I substituted them. Also in Jamie’s show, he smashed his nuts in a tea towel, leaving bits of different sizes, which give this mixture an extra depth!

4 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
1/2 cup sultanas/raisins
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup crushed cashew nuts

Dump everything into a very large bowl, use your hand (so we are getting rustic here anyway) and mix everything well together.
Pour into an airtight container and store till when needed

The night before your breakfast:
Scoop half cup of your muesli mix into a bowl or container
Pour in about half cup of yogurt, or just enough to cover
Let soak overnight in the refrigerator

After a good night sleep, on next day for breakfast:
Remove bowl or container from the refrigerator
If you found it too thick, which I did, loosen with another roughly quarter cup of milk
Tuck in and enjoy

After that give yourself a pat on the head for having a wholesome breakfast and for listening to Tham Jiak!

Edited on 18th December 2008

Homemade Granola Version 1.0

Homemade Granola Recipe
Granola

This month had been eventful; I had a week long trip in Japan and took so many pictures I have yet to really process it. Also, catching up on work after a long break is definitely no easy feat, it took me half a day just to clear my inbox! Somehow though, I manage to finally kick start my baking adventures this weekend. It was not easy as everything is not at hand and I have to dig it out, clean it and start using it. But oh boy, was it worth it.

Since I have started into a healthy regime of sort, I have been looking out for interesting healthy food options. Contrary to the popular believe, I actually found that food which is good for you do taste good as well. Just like the Lui Cha that I mentioned before, all goodness pack into a bowl with plethora of taste and textures, I found another love in muesli.

Muesli stirred into plain fresh yogurt is an absolute heaven to start your day with. This was what I had frequently at work for breakfast, and as expected, I had mixed responses from fellow colleagues. Some do not even recognize what I am having, some cheered me for my good healthy choice while some salute me for being able to stomach it. Well I do agree that muesli is not exactly a normal breakfast fare for Malaysians, where we consume in abundance breakfasts like Nasi LemakRoti Canai, roti bakar (toast bread) with eggs, Wan Tan Mee (dried soy sauce noodles) and so on. With such indulging choices for breakfasts here, it is no wondered nobody ventured out further than that.

Of course we also do consume cereals and fresh milk at home apart from the usual bread with kaya, thanks to the heavy advertising by the giants bout 10 years ago but the idea of muesli and yogurt is still lost to many. For me, I thank the wonderful world of food blogging for introducing me to this seriously good, taste and health wise, food. It was also superbly convenient to have whenever you need a fulfilling breakfast or a quick healthy snack.

Ever since I have been consuming packaged muesli, I have been in awe of those who make their own mueslis or granolas. Ok wait, what is the difference between them? I am quite confused at first but from a quick read in Wiki here and here, I conclude that muesli are simply mixed grains, nuts and fruits while granola is a baked version of them. Correct me if I am wrong here, but anyhow, they both serves pretty much the same to me, crunchy goodness of oats, nuts and fruits all in one.

The batch of granola I made was crunchy and fragrant; as expected. Just like many bloggers have mentioned, after you make your own, you find that it is so easy and tasted so good, why would one ever go back to buy packaged one? So if you are one like me who found love in muesli or granola, do try to make one at home or if you are one who have yet to understand its delicious goodness, try it and be converted!

Homemade Granola Recipe
Homemade Granola

Granola (Version 1.0)

I had used recipes from various bloggers as guidelines to come up with my own version. Thanks to my limited supplies, I was just planning to try out so I did not splurge much on fruits and nut, I made a really simple version of granola. You would notice that halfway through I stirred in ground flaxseed, this is because I totally forgot about until the granola had started baking in the oven, and I had to ground my whole flaxseed then before I can use it. This is my currently working version where I would continue to refine and innovate to come out with an ultimate granola!

1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped almond
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp neutral oil
2 tbsp water
½ cup ground flaxseed

Mix all the dry ingredients together – oats, raisins and chopped almond.
Pour the dry ingredients onto prepared parchment paper on a tray.
Mix the honey, water and oil and then slowly stir into the mixture bit by bit.
Mix very well until everything is a bit moist and clumps together a bit.
Roast in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes. Stir it about every ten minutes.
Halfway through, stir in ½ cup of ground flaxseed for good measure!
When done, take it out and let completely cool before storing in airtight container.

Tip: serve ½ cup of granola stir into 1 cup of yogurt or milk or soy milk of your choice.

Update: Today while munching on my granola I found that some of my raisins were actually burnt, so I would advice to add in raisins maybe halfway through the baking.

Green Tea Chiffon Cake : Beating it Stiff!

I believe every cook has its challenges. Every cook has its qualms. As for me there are only two things in this culinary world that always gave me the apprehension. It is the yeast and the beat-till-stiff-peak thing. Oh yes, shamefully, as a cook, I have yet to even bake a bread myself, the thought of culturing a colony of yeast and then kneading them together and then hoping they would multiply and make your dough grow fat, seem so daunting, impossible even. But then, yesterday I had just overcome the other one of my culinary shortcomings, though not without some glitches. Before this, I had failed before in my attempt unknowingly, when I baked the birthday cake for my Ah Ma, resulting in a dense short sponge cake. This time however, I had finally beaten those stubborn egg whites stiff and baked myself a chiffon cake! Hurrah!

As a kid, I have always loved chiffon cake (similiar to sponge cake but lighter and taller). My Ah Ma used to bake a mean pandan chiffon cake. She can make them rise really high in her huge chiffon pan, which she had passed on to me and which sadly, could not fit into my mini oven. Besides, here in Malaysia, chiffon cake is really popular among the locals. The most popular one is of course, the pandan flavoured chiffon cake then next is the orange chiffon cake. My mum used to buy it a lot too for me to bring to school last time, and I absolutely love the soft texture and the soft feeling of it. One can eat the whole chiffon cake without feeling you had eaten a bomb. In case you’re wondering, I have yet to try to eat the whole cake myself, ha-ha. Nowadays in KL, we can find chiffon cakes easily in the Pasar Malam (night market) and also at any of the hypermarkets like Tesco and Carrefour, which gives even better prices. Every time I wanted to buy them I would stop myself and then think “hey, you can easily bake one at home!” In the end I would end up deprived of them, cursing myself all the time. After so long, I guess it finally paid off. I succumbed to temptation, flipped through thousands of chiffon recipes, choose a promising one, braced myself and finally baked one.

Since this is such a well-loved light dessert for the Malaysians from eons ago, I am submitting this entry to Babe‘s Merdeka Open House 2006! Though this cake can still be found easily outside, I believe it is no longer the common bakes of Malaysian households, in a way it is a long forgotten recipe. Now with this easy and adaptable recipe, I hope everyone will bake one their own, just like how my Ah Ma would and make some kid really happy. Do look out for this wonderful event as Malaysia celebrates its 49th birthday.

All these while, I had always been used to the idea of pandan or orange chiffon cake, until I ate one cheese chiffon cake baked by C, a fellow KC during our first gathering. Then it dawned on me that chiffon cake is actually really versatile, and could be flavoured in anyway you would want to. In fact we had been having the chocolate sponge cake in our famous blackforest cake all these while unknowingly. Chocolate seems like a good choice, but no too normal, then I do not have any cheese in stock (not after I just baked off a batch of overdue ones), then suddenly I stumbled upon this recipe, from Jo’s Deli Bakery for green tea chiffon cake. now this is certainly interesting. I love green tea, as drinks and also especially in ice cream. It is certainly an exotic taste, which I found really versatile in a lot of things. This green tea flavour took the chiffon cake up to another level of sophistication altogether, setting it apart from the usual ones. The green colour can be deceiving, as my mind would keep tricking me that I am eating pandan chiffon cake, but when I chew on the soft cottony cake a few times, and revel a bit in the flavour, then the green tea will come through and oh wow, I’m lost for words. Let me go try another one (yes it’s an excuse) and come back with better words to describe it.

Green Tea Chiffon Cake Recipe
Green Tea Chiffon Cake


Green Tea Chiffon Cake

This recipe is actually for a fancy birthday cake, all dressed up with whipped cream and green tea powder, but I just took the basic sponge cake and give it a try. After all this is about me and the egg whites war, so a basic chiffon cake will do. I do not have a chiffon cake pan, but I heard before that it can be baked in the usual round cake pan so there goes the pan problem. Well, I finally manage to beat my egg whites stiff peak, it stands on the tip of my beater and I can turn the bowl over my head without being splash white (Jamie’s way). Then I carefully fold in the green tea portion, taking care not to expel all the air I had whipped in. Now everything seems find till this step, but my one mistake is, I believe, my oven was too hot when I put it in. Before that I had been baking a chocolate cake at higher temperature, though I had lowered it down for a while before putting in the chiffon, apparently it is still hot, half of the top blacken considerably slightly after half time and that part did not rise as much, this is because my temperamental oven are usually hotter at the inner left, I don’t know why. Another thing to note is I used a 9 inch pan, instead of the 8 inch that the recipe called for, that is why my cake was shorter and with that it baked in a much lesser time, which luckily I check with a toothpick and took it out sooner. Oh ya, I also took care not to peak until only the last quarter of baking time.

A few things that I noted from this recipe are, first I would dissolve the green tea powder in the water, then only add to the flour mixture. As for the egg yolks, it should be beaten first, then add with the oil and beat further to mix well, as both are of the same kind, it should be easy and then add to the flour mixture too. This way it will be easier to incorporate everything together, which I had a hard time earlier. I would be reflecting these in the recipe.

Next time, I would also go back with the 8 inch pan and bake at the right temperature (until I found how to deal with my oven), and if possible get myself a chiffon cake pan for better heat distribution, in case you don’t know, chiffon cake pans have a tube in the middle for the heat distribution along with the sides of the pan. Now that I had finally successfully baked chiffon cake, and love it, I would be baking more soon, so definitely worth the investment (note to self). Look out for more of my chiffon cakes adventure, I would still be going back to this green tea a lot, but of course I will be experimenting on other flavours too, yum!

100 g cake flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
45g castor sugar
4 egg yolks
50g oil (I used olive)
70g water
2 tsp/3g green tea powder

4 egg whites
50g sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 170C
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
Add in the sugar.
Beat the egg yolks, then add in oil and beat well again.
Dissolve the green tea in the water.
Stir in both the oil and water mixture into the flour mixture.
Stir until incorporate well.
In a separate clean bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar till bubbly.
Gradually add in the sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form
Fold 1/3 of the egg white into the green tea mixture to enlighten it
Then pour this mixture into the remaining egg whites and fold gently to combine
Pour into a 8 inch pan and bake for 40-45 minutes
As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, invert the pan and let it cool
Once cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan to remove the cake

Update: We devoured (virtually) all the food at Babe’s Merdeka Open House 2006!