Two years ago around this time, Ah Ma left this world. I was there standing by her bedside while I sense her leaving, it is hard to put into words for the feeling.
Ten years ago Ah Ma passed me a chiffon baking pan when I asked her for the recipe as she makes a mean chiffon cake. She uses to make it a lot when I was younger, and I remember it soft, fluffy and huge! Of course the chiffon pan was huge too, and believe me, when I say it’s huge it is. I believe it can actually fit a 10 eggs recipe easily.
Six years ago I tried my hand first time beating the egg whites stiff and make a green tea chiffon cake in inspiration of Ah Ma, and looking back, I have come a long way. Now I can beat egg whites with confidence, but not exactly to perfection though at least I can tell which state it is in. As I lamented then, I couldn’t use the chiffon pan that Ah Ma gave me because it does not fit into my mini toaster oven. Though my mini oven has served me well in all my baking endeavours for all these years, I have to say I am rejoicing over my new built-in oven finally!
But I digress, yes Ah Ma, suddenly I have overwhelming thoughts of her. For the past two years, I have still been wishing Ah Ma on her birthday but I never really did remember her going away date. Maybe naturally I believe in celebrating life rather than death. But my sister mentioned it that day, so I thought hey I should bake something in memory of Ah Ma then, and so I did.
I didn’t manage to bake a chiffon cake as good as Ah Ma’s, but I believe she would be proud of me nonetheless for my
Honey Chiffon Cake
As my chiffon pan was huge as mentioned, it was actually a 9-inch pan. The recipe turns out too little for it, so I would recommend using a 7-inch chiffon pan if you have one. Using a larger pan also yielded a larger surface of baking, thus making it slightly over-baked than I would have liked it. If I am ever to repeat this, I will surely double/triple the recipe. Other than that, I also found that the cake has softened nicely and the flavours developed more distinctly after a day, so if you can bear it, let it sit a day before devouring it, you won’t regret it!
Egg yolks 3
Honey 4 tbsp
Oil 3 tbsp
Water 1 tbsp
Flour 85 gm
Baking powder 1 tsp
Egg whites 4 (please note the difference)
Cream of tartar 1/8 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
Sift flour and baking powder together. (I sifted twice to make it lighter and finer)
Mix in the salt.
Whisk the wet ingredients together till well combined.
Fold in the earlier flour mixture to create a batter.
Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and sugar till stiff peak.
Fold and whisk about 1/3 portion of it into the earlier batter to loosen it.
Then gently fold in the rest of beaten egg whites, be careful not to flatten it.
Pour into a 7-inch chiffon pan
Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.
Invert pan immediately after baking.
After cooled, run a knife around it and remove from pan.
It was a nondescript rest day for me. I woke up in the middle of the day, feeling happy as it has been a while since I woke up with the sun high above the sky. Yes I am crazy like that, happy over little things like this. So I roll a bit more in my bed and let my mind wander. What should I do? It is a weekday, and everyone I know is busy running in their rat race and I for one is still looking for my own race. What should I break fast with? Suddenly I have a thought. What about the almond yogurt cake I’ve been wanting to make? I should also use up my huge tub of yogurt that is only halfway through so far. By the way, I am a yogurt enthusiast, I always have a tub sitting around. Plain yogurt goes wonders with fruits and nuts, kiwi is my current obsession.
Anyway the thought of baking got me jumping out of bed. So I quickly look for the said recipe and my mind start working. Alright I don’t want a cake, it’ll be too big for me to finish and too troublesome. I shall make it into little cups. Then I tweak around base on whim, fancy and whatever is in my pantry. By the end of it, my end result got me scratching my head.
First of all, I could not decide whether it is a cupcake or a muffin. If I adapted a cake recipe and make it into little cups, does that make it a cupcake? Some say that muffin is made from quick breads and cupcakes from cakes. So it is possible mine is a cupcake. But wait a minute. Others say it depends on the method that you use. If you beat/cream it then it is a cupcake, if you fold/mix then it is a muffin. But what bout me who first beat the wet ingredients and then fold in the dry ingredients? Hah, that got them, didn’t it? Some even say that a cupcake without the frosting and the little things that make it nice is a muffin. Mostly though people agree that cupcake is sweeter and has higher fat content while muffin is lighter, less sweet and less fat. Thus with that, I have to christened my creation a muffin! Although it started from a cake, it ended up as a muffin, how amazing.
My next headache was the name, as I have added few more ingredients into the recipe, which kind of highlight the taste of the muffin, thus it should be in the name. So pardon the long name, it is necessary, at least I decided on the muffin no?
I wanted to be healthy and use the white whole wheat flour that I discovered in Chang Tung, Taman Megah, Malaysia. Then I realize I don’t have sugar! So I decided to use Gula Melaka (Malacca Palm Sugar) instead, which I melted with some water and sub it with sugar, feeling a bit apprehensive about the extra liquid, thus I compensated with more ground almond and by whim reduced the oil as well. And oh, why not throw in some fruits for good measure? Kiwi? Orange? Banana? Apples? Ah yes, that’s it. Apples it is, and a green one seems to fit. Also, I actually ground the almonds myself, just put whole almond into your grinder and give it a little spin, it is that easy to make.
Just a warning though, this is kind of still a work in progress recipe, though mine does turn out well, in fact it tasted like our Malaysian Malaikoh (steamed Malay cakes) due to the Gula Melaka and it also amazingly have little holes to boot! But it was a little dry at the sides, so I might need to re-look into the baking time and heat. Anyway, be bold and try my recipe below and feel free to tweak! That’s part of the fun in baking.
White whole wheat flour 3/4 cup
Baking Powder 1/2 tbsp
Yogurt 1/2 cup
Gula Melaka 1/2 cup (melted with some water)
Oil 1 tbsp
Ground almonds 4 tbsp
Vanilla 1/4 tsp
Green apple 1 (cubed)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Line muffin pan with muffin cups
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, the oil and the sugar. Beat till smooth, during which add in the egg.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the almonds.
Add the flour mixture to the batter in three or four additions, and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon mixture into muffin cups till 1/2 full and top with cubed apples.
Put into the oven to bake, for 40 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean (I just poked with a butter knife). If yours brown too fast, cover the top with foil, mine did not though.
Let cool and munch away with your best choice of drink. (Black coffee for me the addict, of course 😉
Makes 5 muffins (yes it is an odd number in the usual 6 holes muffin pan)
I cannot believe it! Tomorrow is the last day of the Chinese Lunar calendar! I am going to leave for my dearest hometown wee early tomorrow morning along with aunty and cousins, and I can’t wait. Though counting up to tomorrow have been anxious, then turn to stress, then turn to excitement and then now anticipation. I can’t wait to drink my Pho Pho’s heart-stopping duck soup and wrap pieces after pieces after pieces after pieces of lettuce around my all-time-favourite Pho Pho’s jiu hu char. I can’t wait to toss the Yee Sangwith everyone up so high half of it end up on the table. I can’t wait to casually walk into my Lai Ma’s house again and mention casually that I haven’t had lunch, I hope the same trick works again, but then again, I don’t need a trick to have my Lai Ma pushing food to me. Moreover this year I am armed with New Year cookies for her as well! Hah! It does sound like I am bringing a container of cookies in exchange for a mouth-watering feast, I would say this is such a good deal, agree?
I have baked more goodies after my initial kick-off Chinese New Year baking and finally chosen to remake Green Pea cookies in batches for giveaways because it was oh-so-tasty and not too tedious to make. I mentioned that Peanut cookies seemed like a new cookie for Chinese New Year but oh boy was I wrong, Lily reminisced making these with her grandmother, only that the original called for lard! I stand corrected but I might try again to say these Green Pea cookies should be newer in generation, as I could not recall it before the appearance of Peanut cookies during Chinese New Year, and some even claimed that it was a variation of the traditional Peanut cookies. Correct me if I am wrong again! I do not know what the Green Pea cookies represent in Chinese in comparison to other more obvious cookies, if anyone does know, do let me know too!
As for now, pardon the short post, I need to get ready, pack my bag and head north to celebrate in gluttony. By the way, Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Green Pea Cookies
When I made my first batch, I found that it was too sweet, and so I went about researching on more recipes around the wonderful blogosphere and came about to my own measurement below. Also, on the first time I bought the green peas, it was the Jusco selection packet, that comes in 180g and it seem the green peas do look slightly smaller than the usual snack ones. The cookie came out so fragrant, I bought the same packets for my subsequent bakes! Note that these came salted so I omit the salt in the recipe. Also make sure you grind the green pea fine enough for the melt-in-mouth cookies. Similarly to the Peanut cookies, you should add the oil bit by bit until the dough comes together. This time I was a bit lazy and skipped the egg glazing steps, thus my cookies look pale but it still taste oh-so-good. This time I also learnt from the Peanut cookies bakes and used 1 teaspoon to shape my cookies and it came out just the right size to pop into the mouth.
180g ground green pea cookies
180g all-purpose flour (sifted)
80g icing sugar
80 – 100g oil
1/4 tsp salt (omit if green peas are salted)
1 egg lightly beaten for glaze (optional)
Mix the ground green peas, sifted flour, icing sugar and salt (if using) together till well combined
Slowly add in the oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed
Shape them into balls or use a 1 teaspoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie (optional)
Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes
Way long ago initially, I wanted to blog about my gastronomic adventure in Japan I haven’t. Then initially I wanted to do a roundup of the blog for 2008, and that did not happen either. Than it reminds me that initially I wanted to make many things for 1984 and friends’ Christmas Eve party but that did not happen either, though I did manage to make hummus and cupcakes, blog entry to follow, wish I hope would indeed happen on day. So all that initially aside, they have to wait, as I am going to make way for a more appropriate post at hand – Chinese New year bakes, which I had way way long ago initially, I’m talking about few years back here, wanted to bake which now I finally did!
To me the new year has yet to actually start, due to the impending Chinese New Year, it still feel like I am in the counting down mode to wrap up the year-has-been, please tell me I am not the only one, at least not the only Chinese. At first CNY still seemed pretty far away to me, but when I started to plan out some CNY bakes, it dawned onto me that it was only about 2 weeks away. Ah, so much to do, rather so much to bake yet so little time.
Anyway, what brought me into finally baking cookies for this important Chinese festival? That question brings to the story of a dear friend, M. She messaged me one day on a link to a detachable handheld mixer which she was contemplating to purchase in order to do some CNY baking; she chose to ask me because she knew I was a sort-of-baking-and-cooking aficionado, which then renewed the interest in me. I have always, wanted to bake for CNY but have not kick my lazy butt hard enough to really do it as because (insert overused excuses here) so this time thanks to M, I seized the opportunity and proposed to her to have a baking session together! Aha, that would bring this lazy tham jiak to really stick to the plan; she has a baking date to stick to!
So fast forward to the following weekend, I was lugging two big bags of ka-chang (Cantonese dialect’s multi-purpose word for kitchen tools/utensils/equipments/anything that you use to do something), to M’s home and then we got started on our project. There were two bakes that day as each of us chose one recipe to attempt.
M chose her many-attempts-since-last-year Dragon Cookies, which she had not yet manage to achieve her ultimate one, which were supposed to be creamy , slightly soft, melt in your mouth yet having a bit of a crunch on first bite kind, if I understood her correctly. I can’t help but to mention here that the batch she baked the day before which she added banana essence due to one recipe which called for it, and a word of advice from both of us here, do not attempt to put banana essence in your Dragon Cookies! It is not a banana cookie, end of explanation. I guess I was her lucky star as finally, that very day that I am there with her baking the cookies she finally achieved her ultimate Dragon Cookie!
M’s Ultimate Dragon Cookies
Note that for this recipe, you would need a cookie press to shape it. Also M had noted that she had tried before with plastic press which has less desirable results especially if the dough is not soft enough, therefore she prefer the metal one that she is using now.
One important thing to understand about making these cookies is the balance between the baking time and the oven temperature. Our first batch was slightly over-baked and really puffed up. After tasting we found that it had a texture of similarity to kuih bangkit, where we even joked we had made a fusion of them, but ah that is not what we want for the ultimate Dragon Cookies, do we? So for the next batch we decided to bake in shorter time, about 10 minutes, and it came out perfect! The next next batch was slightly under-baked though, where we need to put in for few minutes more. Take note that we had the oven on slightly higher temperature due to its nature. Therefore we can only conclude that, the secret here in making the ultimate dragon cookies is to find the balance of time and temperature, also good recipe is a must, we would not want another banana essence case do we? Just remember that the cookies are suppose to be pale white even after baked. Good luck in trying, M tried since last year, so be like her, don’t give up! Also, we are now giving you a tried and true recipe below, so I bet it would save you at least a year, no?
Beat butter, icing sugar, egg yolks and egg white until creamy
Sift flour and milk powder together
Add flour mixture to the batter and mix till fully incorporated
Fill batter into cookie press and press out a line and then shape it (M shaped to S which to me is a sleeping Dragon, there are other who made a flying Dragon – curly long line)on a baking tray
Bake at 160-180C for 10-15 mins
Yields 120 cookies
As for me, I chose to make Peanut Cookies, which not too long ago, I would say about maybe 10 years back that in Malaysia here, it became a must-have for Chinese New Year. If anyone new since when these cookies got into the list please let me know. As a peanut fan myself, I just had to make it, even though I knew it is not going to be easy, as we would first need to dry fry the peanuts patiently and then remove the skins patiently. Preparation is bit tedious, some experience on how the dough should be like would be good, but other than that it is a fairly simple recipe, calling for minimal ingredients.
First dry fry the peanuts over medium heat, remember to stir it religiously. Do not try to take shortcut by frying over high heat as it would result in the peanuts got burnt pretty quickly on the outside but has yet to fully cook on the inside. Then you have to take de-skin them, I do this by rubbing them against a basket, this would also need some work if you have not mastered the skill which enables you to do this in a jiffy. After that the peanuts is ready to be grind till fine.
But simple as the recipe may seem, it also requires some experience in understanding the dough. I added in all the oil and still found my mixture on the dry side but I tried by pressing them together and mould it into a 1/2 tablespoon for shape and it did work, but later noted to self that it seem a bit too big and might use a smaller one next round. But if you want an easier task where you can roll them into balls, you might need more oil to form the dough first. After researching and reading other’s experiences, it seemed that the quantity of oil needed depended also on how oily your peanuts were naturally. Therefore, slowly add in the oil until the dough is able to mould when pressed, or slightly more oil if you need to roll and shape them. These cookies came out with the melt-in-the-mouth texture, with some crunch due to the added chopped peanuts (I crushed them with a rolling pin; before that I tried to smash them against the counter which resulted in them flying everywhere, sorry M). I gave some to Q to try which she said that it tasted rich (even when I did not put enough oil) and she even asked if I have added peanut butter, ah, so it means I have achieved the creamy texture as well. Overall this is a good recipe, if you want full creamy kind then you might want to omit the chopped peanuts, and also remember to take note on the oil ratio.
Egg wash:1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
Put all the peanuts into a wok and dry fry over low heat till crunchy
Remove the skin then grind till fineSieve flour and baking powder together
Mix the flour mixture, ground peanut powder, icing sugar and salt together till well combined
Add in the crushed peanuts and mix well (if you are using)
Slowly add in the peanut oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed (see note above
Shape them into balls or like use a 1/2 tablespoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie
Bake at 165C for 15-20 minutes or till golden brown
Yields 35 cookies (for the 1/2 tablespoon size)
I would say the project has been quite successful for Peanut Cookies first attempt and the achievement of the ultimate Dragon Cookies. I am even contemplating to do second round of Peanut Cookies with some tweaks that I have learnt, oh well, we shall see if this lazy tham jiak will get around to that (psst, which might be next CNY!). Still, I think I deserved a pat on the head for finally meeting one of my initially-s, that is baking for CNY! Not to forget one pat for M as well for her perseverance!