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Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year 2011 and a break

Happy Chinese New Year to all!!

I'm taking another break and see you all on 10th February 2011.
I'll still be checking comments once a day to answer questions.

Have a wonderful and blessed New Year.

Every cookie is gone, except these 2. So If you are dropping by, don't be shocked by seeing just 2 goodie on my shelf. LOL. I've got cookie monsters in the house, you know.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken

This is one post that I'm very frustrated with. Not with the recipe, but with the pics. With the lot that I took, 90% were blur and out of focus. Sometimes, thare are so many pretty pics that I don't know which to select and sometimes I just have to make do with the best among the uglies, and this is one of them. The small LCD display on the camera never tell the whole story, but when the food is eaten and the pics are loaded into the computer screen to see, You will feel like screaming.......


Like that.

Again for a DSLR point and shoot user, every picture is a gamble. I do not know what is what on the camera, I just focus and press to shoot. The outcome varies all the time. Don't think that my pics look that good right after shooting. I can't live without make up, so can't my pictures live without editing. It's the part that makes everything look prettier. And people who look at the final product happier. You won't want to see me being unhappy with ugly pics. Hahaha! I'll throw the camera and stomp on it til it turns to ashes. Well, that's exagerated. If I can stomp a camera to ashes, I am a superheated monster of which I am totally not. I'm a demure mother and wife *sniggering*

*Cools down*

Okok, now I still have a lot of Szechuan Peppercorn left and whenever I come into contact with recipes that utilizes them, I get all excited. Somehow we didn't get the numbing effect after consuming this, or maybe we didn't bite into the peppercorns. We spit it out whenever one gets into our mouth. But it sure does taste good.

Szechuan Peppercorn Chicken
Recipe adapted from : My Kitchen Snippets

5 boneless whole chicken legs
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Shao Xing)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
Good dash of white pepper powder

15 pcs dried chillies, cut into 3 pieces and seeds removed
10 slices of ginger (from knob of ginger larger than a big toe)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp szechuan peppercorn
2 fresh chillies, sliced thickly
2 sprigs of spring onion, cut into 2 inch lengths

Gravy mixture
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
1.5 tsp sugar or more
¾ tsp cornstarch
½ cup water
Few drops of sesame oil

1. Cut boneless chicken meat into preferred sizes. Marinate with salt, cooking wine, light soy sauce and pepper for at least 1 hour
2. Combine gravy mixture and set aside
3. In a hot wok, put in ½ cup of cooking oil. Let oil heat up, make sure your spatula is heated and coated with oil too.
4. Put in chicken and spread it around. Do not toss it.
5. Let it cook for a while then only flip the chicken. Cook until there are no more juices and chicken seems to be releasing oil. Drain and dish up.
6. Discard some of the oil if it’s too much. On high heat, sauté smashed garlic and ginger. When it’s fragrant, put in Szechuan peppercorn, dried chilli and half the fresh chilli. Cook until it is very fragrant.
7. Put cooked chicken back into wok and toss. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and put in gravy mixture.
8. Cook until gravy is reduced to preferred consistency. Taste and give it a quick adjustment.
9. Dish up and serve.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Elvis Presley's Favourite Pound Cake

One of my earliest bookmarked cakes from the internet. It’s been more than 3 years!

After seeing Honey Bee Sweets making her version of this cake, I knew I shouldn’t wait any longer if I ever have some whipping cream, and I did, after making Mike's chocolate engima cake. I forced myself to bake this cake, and I had no regrets doing it.

I was surprised by how this cake rose and then cracked. Usually cakes that I did without leavening will have a nice flat surface. But not this one. It rose at least by 33% when it was baking and lowered to maybe just 20% more of it’s prebaked height when it has cooled.
Another thing is that, when I see cakes baked in cold ovens, usually it’s dense and flatter too…but haha, why is mine domed and comes with a canyon? I have no idea.

But for pound cake or butter cake lovers out there, do try this cake. It’s dense, but soft, with a nice tight crumb. All who ate this cake raved about the crumb, how fine and tight it was.
I think the sugar here is just nice, after reduction. I dare not reduce too much as sugar place a role in retaining moisture in cakes like this. The original recipe with 3 cups of sugar (600gm) is just way, way, way too much. Maybe that’s the reason the “King” got heavier later on. The cake still taste sweet, not overly sweet, nicely sweet. No one complained.

Elvis Presley's Favourite Pound Cake
Recipe source : Epicurious

225gm butter
350gm sugar (reduced from original recipe of 600gm or 3 cups)
½ tsp salt (my butter is salted, so I reduced the salt but did not eliminate this as I usually will due to the high sugar content of the cake)
7 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
250ml /1 cup whipping cream (do not use non dairy)
350gm cake flour

1. Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven.
2. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess flour.
3. Sift together sifted flour and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times total).
4. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer.
5. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes(I just beat for 2 mins). Batter will become creamier and satiny.
6. Spoon batter into pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 350°F/175C (I used 160Cfor 40 mins and 150C for the last 20mins)
7. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (mine was nicely done at 1 hour). Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely

Butter cake experts out there, can let me know why my cake has wet lines? I read somewhere that it was due to the butter and sugar not well mixed with the batter, but I scraped the bowl after each egg, and after each addition of flour. Please let me know why…..
It always happens when I make cakes with 5 eggs and above with 1 block of butter. I'm suspecting my eggs are too large.

Want a slice? Bite the screen

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Steamed Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette 蒜泥茄子

A western recipe? Nope. This is a Chinese dish.

I’ve eaten this before at a local lunch spot, serving mixed rice (chap fan or 经济饭), and this is one of my fav dishes from them. And when I saw the recipe here in MeishiChina , gosh, I knew I just got to try this.

There is a difference though with both recipes. The one I had was lightly deep fried to cook it through, but this is steamed, but the garlic thingy is the same. But I made my own modifications to it.

Even my "sour food hater" hubby found this to be nice and appetizing, maybe due to his love for garlic, hahahaha.


Steamed Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette 蒜泥茄子
Loosely adapted from: Meishi China
250gm aubergine/eggplant/brinjal
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 Tbsp lime juice (original recipe was vinegar)
1 Tbsp sugar (use ¾ first, if not sweet enough then put in the other ¼)
½ tsp salt
Some lime zest
2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced (I used one red and one green)

1. Peel and cut eggplant into strips (bear in mind they shrink about 40% when cooked mixed with the vinaigrette)
2. Steam on high heat for 5 minutes, until cooked and tender, but not mushy. Leave t cool, if you like to eat it cold, you may chill it. Pour away juices if there is.
3. Grate garlic into a heatproof bowl (just don’t use plastic).
4. Heat oil until smoking and pour onto garlic. Stir.
5. Put in lime juice, salt, sugar, lime zest and half of the chillies into the garlic mixture.
6. Stir until salt and sugar dissolves. Taste, adjust accordingly. It has to be lightly sour, but well balanced with the sugar, slightly oversalted.
7. Pour vinaigrette over cooled eggplants and toss.
8. Put tossed eggplants onto serving plate and top with balance of sliced chillies for garnish.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pumpkin Velvety Butter Cake

Another pumpkin bake. Haha, it's fun to do things in a row.

I loved the texture of pumpkin in cakes, like my soft pumpkin cake. It made the cake taste so smooth. So this time, I tried to make a pumpkin butter cake, and the best reason is that I'm going to meet some bloggers. Good opportunity to get help finish the cake, Muahahahahaha!!!! I'm not going to list them here, as you might have seen this pic elsewhere yonks ago, hahaha. It's boring to read it over and over again, so I'm not going to bore you with this

I had no recipe for this, so as usual, I just dumped things in. Dump, nice word. I like it.

Pumpkin Velvety Butter Cake
Recipe source: Wendyywy

200gm sugar
200gm butter
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla
5 large eggs
300gm cake flour sifted together with 1 tsp baking powder
200gm soft steamed pumpkin flesh (no need to puree )
Handful of pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 160/180C. Line a 8 inch square pan
2. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy.
3. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Add in half of sifted flour, on low speed then beat until well combined.
5. Put in pumpkin and beat until all mushed up.
6. Put in remaining flour and beat until just combined.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
8. Bake for 50 minutes or until done when tested with a skewer.

The pumpkin gave the cake a velvety feel. Very fine and the texture is fabulous.
Glad my experiment worked out fine. LOL. Yeah, those bloggers were my guinea pigs, but I guess they were happy guinea pigs, right gals???

I met almost all of them the next day in another meeting, with additional few like Tracie and Meldylocks

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Steamed Pumpkin Muffins

For mothers out there, pregnancy is a wonderful experience. The changes that one goes thru thoughout the pregnancy is sometimes weird and unanticipated.

I've heard of people eating toothpaste, eating shoe polish or some find clay to be tasty. Disgusting, right? But I've only heard about such incidences where those people actually consume a limited diet, and they might be malnourished in some way and the body makes then comsume something that in nature contains the nutrient that the mother so needed. I've never heard of funny stories from people who lived in town, or consumes a veriety of food and never impoverished.

In one of the schools I worked in before, the school cleaner once chatted with me, about how she survived all her pregnancies craving for toothpaste, consuming only cream crackers with chilli paste and drinking only tap water for 9 months!! The rest are all, yucks to her. And she was the one who told me stories about people who eat funny stuff, and those people are relatives of hers.  Hard to believe? But I guess it could be true. Just that we are too privileged to be in contact with people who are never deprived of proper food.

When I was pregs with Lydia, from week 5 onwards, I was binging. Eating meals, not snacks every 3 hours. I gained 4 kg in just 2 weeks. Mike looked at me in horror, to see the way that I'm eating.I told him, I can't help it, my tummy is growling furiously.  But when week 7 came by, my appetite dropped drastically. I could eat nothing except fruits. Food made from rice were the worse. From congee to vermicelli, they all smell yucks! I could look at a burger, just look. I don't feel like picking it up. And if I pick it up, I won't feel like biting. And if I finally bit into it, I don't feel like chewing. After chewing, I don't want to swallow it. The whole eating process is just a torture to me. But if I see fruits, I can eat and eat. I dropped 7 kg throughout this difficult period. Which was 3 kg less compared to pre pregnancy. If I wasn't binging during early pregnancy, I'd lose even more.

Actually that time, my hormones were all crazy and I was having bad constipation. Constipation during pregnancy is due to the increment of progesterone. It's the way that my body reacted and helped me to overcome the problem that I was facing by rejected all foods except fruits. Taking in whatever that is needed to help the mother. When the constipation stopped at week 14, my appetite came back, in a snap! Even now, I totally believe in listening to my body. Eat when it tells u to, and don't eat when it doesn't tell u to. So, if I crave, there's no excuse for not eating. That's one pretty good excuse. Hahahaha!

This time, the pregnancy affected not my appetite, but my kitchen mojo. It hit me so bad that I don't want to wash my cup. I didn't want to touch the sink, didn't want to cook anything at all. I didn't bake anything out of fun, but only out of neccesity. I was craving for something with coconut milk, so I made and oil-less pandan chiffon. It was Mike's birthday and  I made him Chocolate Enigma Cake. With the extra cream from the cake, I baked another cake (I'll post that within this week) And I did a sponsored post with a health product that I've promised way before my pregnancy. I didn't cook a proper meal for almost 4 months!! We were eating out daily. Now that I'm at week 22, I'm pretty much the old me now. Not all there, but almost. Still not cooking 3 dishes 1 soup, but one plate meals mostly, like noodles, pasta, fried rice, and congee mostly. Won't call them one pot meals as cooking rice uses one pot and frying uses another wok. LOL.

Funny right? Hard to believe? I was still posting daily, right? hahaha! What you are seeing were usually posts so stale that they were made months ago. Haha! I still have lots of back logs to last me til I move in March.

So now, if you think that this bun in me is a sausage roll, which explained the different pregnancy experience, nah!!! Even Lydia and Lyanne weren't the same. Being pregs with Lyanne was a breeze. I loved food, especially white plain rice during the first 3 months, whereas I hated rice when I had Lydia. Both were burgers, and yet, different. Even now, both girls are very different. One is lingustic, the other technical and artistic. Haha.

Enough pregs talk, let's food talk.
This is the first thing I made, right after I got back my mojo at week 16. And I attempted this recipe twice.

First attempt flopped bad time. Simply because I read in one of the comments that aunty Yochana said the baking powder has to be double action baking powder, whereas the recipe itself called for only baking powder. My first attempt used DABP and weirdly the muffin was super dense and tasted sourish. I’ve encountered this when I simply substituted regular baking powder with DABP and my baking results were always less than acceptable.

So, with some pumpkin left, immediately I did my 2nd attempt with just regular baking powder. The results were wonderful, all smiling happily and they were all soft and fluffy. I’m now wondering how the taste will be with coconut milk… maybe next time.

Steamed Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Aunty Yochana
Yields12 steamed muffins (I used egg tart pans)

125gm steamed pumpkin flesh
1 egg
120gm sugar
100gm evaporated milk or coconut milk
30gm corn oil

180gm cake flour
20gm rice flour
1.5tsp baking powder

1. Prepare your steamer and bring the water to a boil
2. Put steamed pumpkin flesh, egg, sugar, milk and oil in blender and whizz for 30 seconds.
3. Sift cake flour, rice flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the blended ingredients into the well. Mix until well combined.
5. Spoon into lined steaming cups and steam on high heat for 15 minutes. It will bloom by itself, no need to make a cross with oil.

I love this. My kids love this. My hubby the pumpkin hater said nothing. But please don't ask me if this taste like Fatt Gou, I have no idea. I've never eaten a proper fatt gou in my life, except once, a very very dry yucky one. The muffin stays soft the next day, not as soft as fresh from the steamer, but acceptable even when cold.

See Lydia's thumb????


Monday, January 24, 2011

Dried Agar-Agar Candy II

I made this candy this year again.
But I improvised on the recipe.

The first batch that I did, I used 25gm agar strips with 1L water, and the second time around I used 25gm agar strips with only750ml water. The result was........ one less day of sunning. Great news, isn't it?

With 10 days left to CNY, and with this current super sunny weather, you can make it in time. Usually my wet bathroom takes half a day to dry, but these 2 weeks, it dried up after 2 hours of usage.

If you lined the pan with paper, it takes 4-5 days under direct sunlight, but if you didn't line the pan, it'll take 7 days. Like me this time, stupid, idiot, forgot to line the pan. Last year, mine were done in 4 days. Well, you see, the paper is an evaporation tool. It absorbs extra water and moisture from the jelly pieces and helps disperse it into the hot air when the sun hits it.  When I find, how come this year, it took so long to get it done, then only I remembered that I didn't line the drying pan. Luckily I did it early this year.

Dried Agar-Agar Candy II
Fills 3-4 jars of those medium sized red cap cookie containers

100gm agar-agar strips
3L water (12 cups)
800gm rock sugar
600gm sugar
2 tsp of rose flavouring+few drop of pink colouring
2 tsp lemon flavour+few drops of yellow colouring
2 tsp strawberry flavouring+few drops of red colouring
2 tsp pandan emulco

Do not think of reducing the sugar. It is needed for the candy structure to form. And I've never heard of a candy that is not sweet. And this is the mildest in terms of sweetness for dried agar candy that I've ever eaten. It is not meant for you to chow down, but savour slowly piece by piece.
If you just want to try try, cut the recipe by 75%---  25gm agar, 200gm rock sugar, 150gm sugar and 750ml water.

1. Put water and  agar strips into a heavy based pot.
2. Bring to a boil and cover with lid. With low heat, boil until all agar strips have dissolved.
3. Meanwhile prepare 4 baking pans/or any heat proof container. Put flavourings and colour into each pan/container.
4. Put in rock sugar and sugar, cook until everything dissolves. It feels thick, almost like cooked can soup.
5. Divide agar mixture evenly between the four pans.
6. Cut with serrated knife when it has solidified.
7. Arrange cut pieces, serrated side down on a large tray lined with non stick baking paper.
8. Sun dry until a whitish crunchy crust appears. Turn jelly pieces every other day for proper exposure to the sun. Bring into your air-cond room at night for further drying at night.

* Bugs love the lemon flavoured one, just don't know why.
The rose flavoured one lost its colour, dunno why. I used Wilton's pink colouring.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coconut Currant Butter Cookies

I love Danish cookies. Do you?

Which is your favourite? The pretzel shaped one? The rectangular? The ribbon like ‘C’ or the plain round cookie?
Mine is the one with coconut and currants. The coconut is pretty light, but I knew it was there. It’s in the list of ingredients, but you won’t taste it in other shapes.

So, today I tried to make something similar, hahaha. I melted the butter (so that the cookie will fall flat and spread), and I whacked the eggs to create aeration since the butter is melted (Don’t want to use too much baking powder). Weird method, right? But I think I’ll skip the cornstarch next time, as it tasted too fine or I’ll just use all purpose flour.

This is the actual size of the cookie

But overall, quite nice, not there, but quite near. That one has a better crunch rather than tasting “fine”, texture wise. But you can give it a try, nothing wrong. Those that comes in the blue tin is sweet, and these cookie's sweetness is about that, sweet but not too sweet. The currants give the cookie a nice fruity tang and it complements the sweetness. But then again, the sugar is needed to make the cookie go flat and spread.

If you prefer your cookie to have better stature, rather than falling flat, just use creaming method, Do not melt the butter and whack the eggs.

Coconut currant cookies
Recipe Source: Wendyywy

125gm butter
125m cake flour
25gm corn starch
25gm dessicated coconut
40gm icing sugar
½ tsp baking powder
40gm currants
1 egg
60gm sugar

Fall flat method (LOL : )
1. Preheat oven to 160(fan)/180C
2. Melt butter and let it cool down.
3. Mix cake flour, corn starch, coconut, icing sugar, and baking powder together. Then mix in currants.
4. Beat egg with sugar on high speed for 5 minutes.
5. Mix flour mixture with melted butter.
6. Pour in 1/3 of beaten egg into (5) and combine well.
7. Pour in another 1/3 and combine and lastly repeat with balance of eggs.
8. With 2 small spoon, take 1 tsp of the dough and form balls and put onto baking tray.
9. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden.
10. Cool on wire rack and keep air tight.

The typical cookie pose

Somehow I feel sick of taking cookie pictures, so I threw my temper at them and made them tumble over
*evil look*

That's it! No more cookie posts from me for an indefinate period of time.
"6 days of Cookies" is officially over!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Best Melt in the Mouth Pineapple Tarts (enclosed version)

This is not a recipe for someone who is weight conscious. Fattening cookie ahead!! Warning!!! Do not proceed if you are on a diet.

I haven't been baking pineapple tarts for 5 years. This year I came out from pineapple tart hibernation. It's not because I was sick of it, but I don't like making the same cookies each year. Last year, I didn't make any cookies at all, besides frying arrowhead chips. And this year I didn't fry any, and won't be planning to fry any. There're lots of other things to eat besides cookies and how much can one's stomach take in. Kekekeke. I'd save the space for good stuff, like prawns, abalone, bla bla bla bla bla......

I’ve seen this recipe many many years ago, during my early years of blogging. I saw it on many blogs then, but not now. Never seen it since 2006. Many of those blogs who tried this recipe are no longer active. And those who tried this recipe all found it lip smacking delicious, one even wanted to spank the recipe source, Josh. Hahaha. I've been KIVing this recipe for so so long, and I finally tried it out this year.

When I looked at the recipe, gosh: Butter, Cream Cheese, Whipping cream, egg yolks. How can this recipe not be soft and melty? And I read through the forum where this recipe was posted. I anticipated a soft sticky dough that will be hard to manage. I’ve never made enclosed versions before, so this is my maiden attempt.

When I mixed the dough, it was indeed very very soft. Looks like a cake batter, but a thicker one. So I quickly turned on all the airconds in my living room. With a lower room temperature, the dough will be easier to shape. That was my assumption.

See, it’s like cake batter, but it’s not sticky. Tested before the air-cond was on.

After I prepared the dough, I let the dough sit. It helps to make it more manageable rather than shaping it straightaway. During this time, I rolled my homemade pineapple jam. They are rolled into tiny balls, as big as a 10 sen, about 1cm diameter only. The amount of jam I made was slightly more for this amount of dough. The extra can be used for spreading on bread or other bakes. Keep them chilled while you prepare the dough balls. Cold jam helps with the wrapping process. They are more "solid" when cold.

Then I made balls of dough, double the size of the jam.

And I wrapped them up. Quite slow in the beginning, but picked up pace as I got the hang of it.

See my wrapped up tarts? Roll them round and nice.

After that I preheated the oven at 160(fan)/180C and made marks on my cookies. Brushed with egg yolk and baked them for 20 minutes. The recipe says 15 minutes, but I find they look nicer with 20 minutes. If I baked them at 180C in my convection oven, it takes 15 mins, yeah, but the colour is not that even, top is browner. So, I prefer to go lower and longer for a nicer finish.

These were baked at 160(fan) C for 20mins, whereas those in first pic were baked at 180C for 15 mins.

Notes to take note:
1. Wrap with clean hands. If your hands touch the jam too much, it’ll cause ur fingers to be sticky, and the wrapping process will be sticky. Wash it from time to time, or just try to keep one hand dirty with jam, not both hands.
2. Do not handle the dough too long. Wrap it as quick as u can.
3. You can push the dough to wrap around the jam, no need to roll it big and huge before you wrap. It’s soft enough to be pushed around the jam. More trapped air means high chances of cracked tarts.
4. Turn the air conditioning on. It helps. I just put it at 25C. Just make sure the room is not too hot, as in above 30C. I didn't even put the dough into the fridge halfway shaping.

Oh yeah, the ingredients, kekeke. Here’s the list of it and method to prepare the dough.

Melt in the Mouth Pineapple Tarts
Source: Gan55/Josh
Makes 125 pieces of tarts the size of Penang's dragon ball biscuit

250gm butter (salted), please don't use Buttercup, Butterblend or Farmcows, it's not real butter
75gm caster sugar
170gm cream (I used whipping cream, dairy of course!)
50gm cream cheese
3 egg yolks
400gm cake flour
30gm corn starch

One more yolk for glazing
Homemade pineapple jam from 2 large Morris pineapples

1. Cream butter, sugar and cream cheese together.
2. When it comes together, pour in cream and whip on medium speed (I used speed 2 on my hand mixer) for 10 minutes. Scrape the sides from time to time. It may look lumpy, don’t worry, later it’ll turn all creamy.
3. Beat in egg yolks for 1 minute.
4. Sift both flours and pour half of it into buttery mixture. Mix on low speed until it comes together and pour in the remaining flour and beat until it comes together. Do not over mix.
5. Let dough sit for 10 minutes minimum before you start wrapping your jam with it. Method, please scroll up :p

Gosh, this got to be the best enclosed tart ever. This is my maiden attempt in making enclosed tarts, but I've eaten lots of enclosed tarts and handled lots of different doughs before. Compared to cornstarch laden enclosed tarts, this is a clear winner. It’s not very fragile. It doesn’t crumble in your hands that easily compared to cornstarch or custard powder ones, but the way it melts in your mouth and not in your hands is truly delicious. I’ve eaten tarts fresh from the oven, and usually they are slightly crispy, and one needs to wait one or 2 days for it to turn soft and crumbly. Not this one. It’s melty the moment it’s out from the oven, melty but not fragile. I could just easily arrange them in the containers. It's due to the liquid cream added, the "fat" emulsion helped the dough to be more sturdy but yet remain soft and flaky. Better in terms of handling (very slightly elastic when raw, this helps with the wrapping and sturdy when baked) compared to recipes that uses loads and loads of butter. And the cream cheese added a beautiful dimension to the taste and texture. Lyanne even shook one container but they stayed complete, not broken nor shattered. Just bits of crumbs stuck to the side of the container, but remained whole and no one will notice if you clean the container later. My mom after tasting one piece demanded that I make more of this. Hahahaha. That is a command from Mommy dearest, my biggest fan.

This will the recipe that I will stick to the rest of my life, if I'm making enclosed tarts. There's no need to search for another when I've already found the best.

The real size is about 30% smaller than those in these 2 pictures
Lyanne shook these, see they're still whole!! But the egg glaze was "traumatized" by her shaking.

Yummy! Will be making a double batch in few days time.
I just cooked 4 large Morrises, by Mommy's demand.

This post cannot display anymore comments, due to my template's restriction.
May I suggest that you read through all the comments as I might have answered the same questions before.

1. How long will the cookie last: I kept it few weeks before.
2. How come the base is flattened or distorted : Jam too moist
3. Dairy whipping cream can be found at the same aisle with fresh milk and cheese and it's not the spray type. Fat content 35%. Non dairy cream is not recommended
4. Sometimes our weighing equipment could be a bit off, or the weather is too humid and the dough turns a little stickier than seen in the picture. You can add a bit extra flour, but it should not exceed 2 Tbsp. Just add until you can touch it with a clean finger and comes off clean.

More questions can be asked here on my FB. Thank you :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homemade Pineapple Jam

When I was a teen, right after my SPM (which is something like middle school examination, or O’levels), I made and sold pineapple tarts to earn some pocket money instead of slaving away at local supermarkets.

That time, I didn’t even think of selling my tarts, but then word got out after a few tasted my tarts and came asking whether I want to make these for sale. I gave it some thought and said, ok. My tarts were sold for 100pcs/RM12 (don’t worry, still made good profit from it). My tarts were open faced, weren’t big, but still, dirt cheap. I know, but that was like 15 years ago. Haha, now u can guess my age, right? But even that, there were some who said my tarts were expensive(mostly women in their 40’s trying to press a teen for price). But some said, how could I ever charge a cookie that needs 3 layers of job that cheap(tart, jam, lattice deco). And those who said that were men, men in the renovation and construction line, customers of my family’s coffee shop. Because when they quote their customers for reno works, it depends on how complicated the job is, and when they look at my cookie, even though they can’t cook nor bake, they’d scream “complication”!!

I made my jam from scratch, I don’t buy. I tried buying once, 5 years back, and my family told me never to buy pineapple jam. NEVER AGAIN. The store(BWY) bought jam smelled of pineapple essence. Not something that we can accept because we are so used to real jam. Well, can’t blame the manufacturers. The fibre used in the jam, might be remnants from the pineapple juicing and canning industry where it is almost tasteless by then, so the extra flavouring is inevitable. There is one cookie stall in Klang Valley’s shopping centres, Shazz Delight who used to make quite nice pineapple tarts, but once they changed their filling to stuff that reeks of pineapple essence, that was it. I no longer purchased another box from them. Before that, I was a regular customer. Call me picky. Yes I am.

Cooking 16 pineapples at one time was my record. I didn’t peel every fruit. Actually I never did until recent years when I no longer stayed at my hometown. I paid 50 sen extra to the fruit seller to have them peeled. Well, for professionals, it’s easy peasy. They’d get the job done in just a fraction of the time. That time one pineapple was sold for RM1.20, and 50 sen for peeling, seemed like 45% extra profit from the fruit. The 50 sen seemed little in amount, but substantial by percentage. I didn’t mind it at all. Even if they want to charge me RM1 to peel each fruit, I’d pay too, but of course, I just kept quiet. Hahahahaha!! And I didn’t cook all the jam, 16 fruits in one big wok. I’d cook 4 first, let the jam reduce, then add more, adding as it reduces. Needs good bicep work to get the jam stirred.

Now if you ask me, what varieties of pineapples work best?

I’d say Morris. Morris is the most common pineapple around. Fruit vendors may not call it Morris, but maybe call it, the “usual pineapple”. Please bear in mind that, here, they don’t even call green apples as “granny smiths” but just green apple. So, don’t think that they might know what you are talking about if you ever ask them about Morris. Fruit vendors here are mostly proficient only in Durian varieties, haha!

Why Morris?
1. It’s big and cheap (this year I bought each fruit for RM2)
2. It’s very fibrous
3. It’s tart (sourish), doesn’t taste sweet

Pineapple jam is all about fibre. How much jam you’d get depends on how much fibre the fruit has. I’d never go for a sweet eating pineapple like Josapine(not Josephine ok, no such pineapple exists) to make this jam. Because sweet eating pineapples are more juicy and has less fibre. I don't think you'd use fuji apple to make your apple cake, but use green tart baking apples instead, right?  I won’t go for ripe Morris too. Ripe ones are juicier and of course, less of the crucial stuff. The more under ripe they are, the more I love them. Simply because you can add more sugar. Crazy woman, why use more sugar, isn’t less much better???? Sugar is a preservative. If you want your jam to last, make sure you use lots of sugar. Tart pineapples allow you to use lots of sugar without tasting overly sweet. My cookies were known to last for months, and not a mould or fungus in sight! My friend kept a box of my tarts in her cupboard for almost 4 months and forgot about it. And it was still fine after the 4 months. And I’ve seen some pineapple tarts getting mouldy by the 15th day of CNY. Yucks!!!! So I won’t be trading sugar with fungus. No Way.

If you want to ask me,

Can I reduce the sugar?
If you can be sure your tarts are eaten within 1 week, u may. I won’t take risks. Anyway, mine is still LESS sweet and sticky than store bought ones.

Can I omit the cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a natural antimicrobial spice. It helps in food preservation. Omit if you want, but I won’t.

Can I drain the juice before cooking so that it cooks faster?
You may if you prefer jam with less flavour. The juice has tons of flavour in it. I’d never do that.

So, here's what you need to make pineapple jam, my version.

2 large Morris pineapples* (about 1.6kg each fruit before peeling, after peeling it’s about 900gm each)
2 cups sugar (400gm)
1 smallish cinnamon stick

Basically it's 20% sugar.
Weigh your cleaned pineapple and calculate the sugar needed.
If you go by volume, then for every 4 cups of pineapple puree, use 1 cup of sugar.

*Take note that hypermarket's Morris's are smaller than those at the wet market

1. Peel the pineapples. Method found in this post
2. Cut pineapples into chunks. DO NOT DISCARD THE CORE. That part has the most of the precious fibre.
3. Put half the pineapple chunks into a blender, add 1/3 cup of water and blitz away.** Pour 80% of the blended stuff into a pan or wok (please, no pot, you need a large evaporation surface)
4. With the remaining blended pineapple in the blender, repeat blending process with the rest of the pineapples, always leaving some blended stuff in the blender if you need to blend more chunks and you won't need more water.

**If you worry about the core not being fine enough, separate the core from the soft flesh and blend the core until it's very fine. There's a lot of fibre there.

5. Cook pineapple paste with cinnamon stick on medium heat until it's very pasty, like thick oatmeal. I don't stir it all the time, see notes below.
6. Add in sugar, it'll turn watery again. Turn to lower medium heat, and cook until it is very pasty. Stir once a while only, but keep an eye on it. See notes below.

7. Increase the heat to high. Don't stir and let the base take on some colour. It will caramelize the jam. Stir once a while to check on the colour. Stop when it almost reaches your prefered colour. Take note that some pans will continue to caramelize even when the heat is off.

Important Notes:
1. Add sugar in after the pineapple paste has lost more than 80% of its water. It reduces the risk of burnt jam and the most importantly, it splatters horribly when there is a lot of water with the large amount of sugar.
2. Do not stir often when you reduce the pineapple paste. Once you stir, it starts splattering again, even with no sugar. When it doesn't contain sugar, it doesn't burn that easily. Stirring once a while is fine, just keep an eye on it. I let it cook and surf the net, checking it every 5 minutes. Splattering is no fun, it's very very hot and the burns are horrible.
3. Use a heavy based pan to do it, if you can. It reduces the risk of burning the jam, drastically. But if you use a regular wok/pan, then you need to stir it more often and you face a higher risk of getting hurt by the splattering.
4. Wear kitchen mittens when you stir to prevent the splatters from hitting ur hand and wrist. It can splatter up to my kitchen hood. No joke! So, don't lean forward to look at the jam. Your pretty face will be at risk. CNY is coming, you will want to look your best.
5. Take note that the jam will thicken further upon cooling. It's best to undercook rather than to overcook the jam. You can cool it and see the texture. If it's too wet, you can cook it again to dry it, but if it's way too dry after cooling, you can only dilute it by cooking another pineapple (with sugar) and adding the too dry paste into it. Adding water might ruin the sugar formation in the dry paste and cause it not to last long.
6. If you want to cook more than 2 pineapples, do not cook all at once. Pour in paste from one fruit into the pan/wok and let it reduce. While it reduces, prepare the next fruit and pour in when it's almost dry. This way, it reduces much faster than cooking all at once, and you save time too. Preparing while cooking, rather than prepare all and cook. Just go by the ration of one large Morris with 1 cup sugar and it'll work fine.
7. If you have a kitchen hood, turn it on. Even though it's not smelly or oily, the exhaust will help with the evaporation. You want it to be quicker, right?

This was all that I got from 2 large pineapples.
A lot of work, but definately worth it.
Lydia even requested the jam to go with bread.


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