Sunday, July 29, 2012

Looking back.. exceptional movies that touched my heart

Have you ever watched a movie that broke and warmed your heart at the same time?

Well, having just watched The Dark Knight Rises, I'm again reminded of Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun. I'm always reminded of this show whenever I see him. Have you watched Empire of the Sun? If you haven't, you really should.. even once would be sufficient. It's a heart wrenching, sad, dark yet sweet story set in WWII.. I won't say more. I've only watched it once on the vcr in the early 90s, but it left such an impact on me, that I never could forget. The book is equally absorbing and touching..  

Looking back, I think it was probably Empire of the Sun that unleashed the "crying-monster" in me. I'm a crier. Period. I cry at movies. I cry when I'm sad. I cry when I'm happy. I have a seriously "loose" crying duct. It's embarassing.. and made me realized that I should avoid these kind of sad movies (especially in the cinemas).. but yet these movies "calls" out to my soul. So, unfortunately, I'm still a sucker for sad movies, with happy endings (hopefully) till this day. (^^)

As I write this post, I have a soundtrack of Departures playing in the background.. Okuribito (Memory). You can scroll right to the bottom of this post, under butterfly waltz likes, click on no.7 Departures, to listen to the full track. This soundtrack really resonates the soul of this movie. And it's a movie I really recommend you watch.. with tissues. When I watched this movie, my feelings were still raw over mum's passing a few years ago. I knew I probably couldn't handle the movie.. but the soul was drawn to watch it. I have no regrets.. it was a beautiful movie. Though it didn't heal the soul (does anyone EVER recover fully from a loved one's passing..?), it certainly soothed the heart. (^^)

Knowing my weakness for heart wrenching yet heartwarming stories, I try to stay clear of this genre of movies, preferring light-hearted movies whenever possible. However, once in a while the mind succumbs when an exceptional movie calls out to the soul.. Do you get those calls? (^^)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Honey chicken?

Oooh.. I love the honey pork belly posted by sook of heart mind and seoul today! The recipe actually originated from nami of just one cookbook posted sometime in june, which I obviously missed as I had yet to discover her blog then.

Looking at sook's post, I'm suddenly reminded of how much I love stuffing my mouth with a FULLY LOADED lettuce wrap! So korean! So hearty and robust! Also so satisfying and FULL-filling! Yes, I can be quite the pig *oink!oink!* (^^) 

But when I saw nami's post, I was blown away by HER honey pork belly! She styled it so deliciously beautiful.. so delicate and tender.. and almost too pretty to be eaten ^^! Don't worry, I really have no issues eating beautiful food! (^^)

Anyways, I'm inspired to cook this dish because it "looks" simply do-able! Only 4 ingredients for sauce ~ honey, oyster sauce, soy sauce and minced garlic. All of which I have, yay! Alas! I've no pork belly and too lazy to go out to buy.. So I ended up defrosting a deboned chicken thigh and some breast meat. 

And since I have no lettuce too.. I couldn't do the "pig" thing.. So I had the yummy honey chicken with finely shred cabbage. Nom! Nom! Nom! So, so, so-ooo GOOD! 

I actually cannot believe that this delicious dish, doesn't require marinating! It's so easy and simple to cook too! And no frying either! So my kind of (lazy!) cooking! I like?? I love!!! Fatty hubby too! (^^) Thanks, sook! Thanks, nami!

p.s sorry about the pictures! no style, no composition.. i know.. sorry ^^|| hope my poor pictures doesn't put anyone off trying this super-yummy and easy dish! head over to nami's and sook's blog for beautiful pictures and recipe ^^ 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ultimate indulgence - banana caramel cream cheese cake

I like banana cake. A lot.

I baked banana cake so much last year that my piggies actually had to tell me to stop. (^^||) But recently, I found a banana cake recipe on piggy's cooking journal (head on over to see her pretty cake and blog) that I really wanted to try out. It's different and really interesting because one, you don't need to mush up the bananas.. two, uses *gasp* cream cheese + butter.. and three, there's caramel in it! Can you see my name on it?!!! And do you now see why I call this the ultimate-indulgent banana caramel cream cheese cake?! (^^) 

Banana caramel cream cheese cake (adapted from piggy's cooking journal)

60g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
1tbsp hot water
2 tbsp fresh cream (I didn't want to open up a pack of cream, so I used leftover evaporated milk)

115g unsalted butter (I used only 100g, no problem)
90g cream cheese
75g caster sugar (consider using 40-50g, if bananas are sweet)
3 egg yolks
180g self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder (I omitted this)
3 egg whites
40g caster sugar (consider using 25g, if bananas are sweet)
1 1/2 bananas, cut into thickness of 0.5cm (I used 4 medium bananas, but next time I'll use more)
30g cream cheese, cut into small cubes (I used more, 50g)

1. Prepare caramel. Cook sugar and water in a saucepan. When syrup turns into amber color (I'm not sure why mine didn't turn amber, but cloudy and murky?), remove from heat. Stir in hot water, and cream. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 180C and prepare (line/grease) tin/s.

3. Beat butter, cream cheese and 75g sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg yolks slowly, one at a time till well combined. 

4. Whisk egg whites till foamy and add 40g sugar bit by bit. Whip till stiff peak forms.

5. Add 1/3 egg whites into cream cheese mixture. Then mix in flour till combined. (I added caramel here instead of as per recipe, no problem ^^)

6. Fold remaining egg whites into cake mixture gently.

7. Add bananas and stir in caramel. Pour cake mixture into tin/s. Top with cream cheese cubes.

8. Bake for 40 minutes or till skewer comes out clean.

From the ingredients, you know this cake is not for the faint-hearted! But if you know how to pace yourself, or like me, bake it in 3 small loaf tins.. divide and share the "fat".. you can have your cake and eat it too! (^^) 

But sometimes, despite our best effort not to over-eat.. it can get quite quite difficult ^^||.. especially when the cake is exceptionally good, like this one! This is simply one of the best cakes I've ever made!  Big and baby pig absolutely LOVES this! Big says he likes this better than the usual "brown mushed-up" banana cake. Between them, half a loaf was gone in a flash! And they are staking a claim on the third loaf!  

Anyways, I initially thought the cake texture looked kind of dense. Well, it is anything but dense! The texture is so unbelievably fine and smooth, yet it is fluffy, moist and soft.. I really can't describe how good it is. I wonder if my expensive Lurpak unsalted butter had anything to do with it ^^? Anyways, between fatty hubby and me, we too almost polished off a loaf! I normally don't like my cakes fresh from the oven, but this is really oh-so really, really GOOD! 

An exceptional and ultimate indulgent banana cake we all love! A keeper for sure! (^^) 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

baby's all time favorite ~ blueberry cheesecake

I love cheesecake! I really do! It's numero uno on my favorite cakes list! And my first successful bake was a cheesecake! In fact, all I ever baked for years was cheesecakes!

But the last I made cheesecake was almost 8 months ago, for baby pig's 10th birthday. It feels like forever.. and it's all papa's pig fault.. and big pig's too! Papa pig blames me for big's weight problem.. What can I say? Partially guilty? (^^||) Big LOVES cheese (big time!).. I love baking cheesecakes (big time!)! Bad combo, no?! Anyways, I think the coast is clear.. papa's away, and big has lost lots of weight over the past one year through sheer determination (controlled food portions), discipline (no cheesecakes?) and more importantly, the NEED to look good (teens!!!)! (^^)

So in keeping with big's diet (and the rest of the family's too!), I thought it best to bake an all time favorite of baby pig, blueberry cheesecake, into mini cakes ^^. I made half the recipe sans sponge base (less calories ^^). The recipe below is for a full recipe. Feel free to halve or quarter the recipe (^^).

Blueberry cheesecake (adapted from Alex Goh's Creative Making of Cakes)

500g cream cheese
110g sugar
40g flour
3 egg yolks
1  whole egg
400ml sour cream
3 egg whites
75g sugar
30g cornflour
350g blueberry pie filling
1 10" thin round vanilla sponge cake

1. Prepare water bath and preheat oven to 150C.

2. Cream 110g sugar and cream cheese till light and fluffy. 

3. Mix in flour till well combined.

4. Add in egg yolks and 1 whole egg, and beat till light and creamy.

5. Pour sour cream into cream cheese mixture and mix well. Do not over beat.

6. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites and 75g sugar till stiff. Do not over beat. Gently fold in cornflour.

7. Mix in egg whites mixture to cream cheese mixture gently till well combined. 

8. Line 10" cake tin and place sponge base on the bottom of tin. (if using)

9. Pour in some cheese mixture into tin/cupcake cases. Put in with some (be generous!) blueberry filling. And top with remaining cheese mixture.

10. Bake in water bath for 90 minutes for a whole cake, or 45-50 minutes if using cupcake/muffin tins. Half the recipe fills up a 12-cupcake tin nicely. 

11. Leave to cool, and refrigerate overnight. Serve with some blueberry filling as topping, if you like.

The mini cheesecakes are perfect for us piggies. I'm rationing 1 piece per piggy! So no over-eating! And no more feeling guilty after over indulging! The extras, I'm sharing with friends (^^)   

This is so YUMMY-LUSCIOUSLY-LICIOUS! Nicely rich and creamy, not too sweet and perfectly moist, and in just the right proportion! I'm happy! Piggies too! (^^)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade luscious kuih bakar

Translated, kuih bakar means burnt cake.. which is just the way I like it! Not totally burnt of course, just a bit more burnt on the sides, that's all.

This is my favorite malay kuih (usually a custard-like cake). I love them with coffee. But good ones are hard to find these days especially in the city. So I tend to indulge when I'm back in my hometown, buying from my favorite stalls. Having eaten a fair share of this, I can tell how good a kuih bakar is just by looking at its color (?!), which is a certain shade of green.. almost pistachio.. not too light, not too dark (fake coloring).. just so. (^^) I also prefer the small oval shaped cakes (think hard boiled egg cut into halves) than those sold as a whole cake ~ flower shaped (about 5 inches or so in diameter), because at least half the cake gets burnt ^^.. so you get a really nice caramel-ly taste.

Anyways, kuih bakar is really a simple cake made up of pandan juice, coconut milk, sugar and flour. And since I found a really nice paper mould (at Daiso) that resembles the flower shape of the ones sold as a whole cake, I thought I could try making it at home. Papa pig loves kuih bakar (well, we did grow up eating the same stuff ^^) too.

Kuih bakar pandan (recipe from siti delima)

1 cup sugar (I used slightly less)
1 cup pandan juice (water + 4-5 pandan leaves blended and strained)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups (450ml) coconut milk (I used 200ml full fat + 200 reduced fat + 50ml water)
2 tbsp butter (I used only 1 tbsp, am kinda out of butter ^^||)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
Sesame seeds (put lots, ok)

1. Blend all ingredients till smooth, except sesame seeds.

2. Grease baking tin and heat 2 tsp oil in tin in the oven. When the oil is hot, add cake mixture I have no idea why the need to do this?? Maybe for those using the original aluminium cast mould??? Sprinkle sesame seeds. 

3. Bake at 180C for 50 minutes. Or more if you want your cake top and edges to be more burnt.

Can you imagine the smell of the house after this bake? It is oh so-ooo good.. mmm..! The scent of pandan and coconut milk is so sweet and earthy! It reminds me of my kampung.. with mum still around. (^^)

And I'm loving this! in the absence of my best stall-bought (half) oval shaped mini cake, of course.. This kuih bakar is not as oily or overly sweet as the ones we buy outside. In fact, this recipe is perfect for us.. though we prefer it more burnt on the sides and top ^^. So next time I'm going to use a proper cake tin to make this. Paper moulds don't quite have that effect, and the paper started to burn as I tried to grill the top! And I'm going to add lots of sesame seeds! Anyways, fatty hubby and papa pig likes! (^^)

Scrumptious smell! Luscious taste! My first successful malay kuih, yay! (^^)

p.s shot the kuih bakar and apple pie pictures with papa/mama pig's nikon D3100.. my very first time using a dslr! it's really wonderful! i like v v much ^^ sorry, my pictures don't do the camera justice.. i can't quite style nor "photoshop" still..

Monday, July 16, 2012

Easy peasy apple pie

 This really is the simplest, easiest, yummiest apple pie ever!

Seriously, this is possibly my third (can't really remember my second attempt, if any) time making apple pie. My first apple pie was many many years ago, based on donna hay's modern classics 2 recipe.. and my piggies didn't like it at all! The crust was too sweet and they didn't like the almond meal in the filling (I don't think I enjoyed it too). I remember feeling so disappointed then and have not made any since. Of course, having been fed on the BEST apple pie by their mama pig, any apple pie would be hard to measure up. (^^)

And since mama pig makes the best apple pie in the world, there's really no reason for me to apple pie. But I came across technicolor kitchen's post on apple and cinnamon mini pies using donna hay's recipe recently, and I was reminded of my first (may be my one and only?) attempt.. And I thought, why not? (^^)

So it is with great trepidation I made this apple pie..

Easy peasy apple pie 

Pie pastry (recipe from martha stewart and smitten kitchen)
2 1/2 (313g) cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks (227g) butter
1/4 -1/2 cup cold water

I used/made half the recipe for my pie.
1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and mix till you get a coarse meal.

2. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Mix till dough is crumbly but can be formed. Add more water if necessary, 1 tbsp at a time. Do not over mix.  

3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate till firm, 1 hour or so. I took it out after 30 minutes, no problem ^^.

Apple pie filling
3 large apples, diced (I used 7 small fuji apples)
1/4 cup (55g sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp butter, softened

1. Mix apples, sugar, cinnamon and butter together. Make sure apples are well coated. 

2. Roll out 2/3 dough and cut to fit prepared tin/s (greased). Press dough to fit tart tin/s. Half the pie pastry recipe was good to fit 5 small tart tins. Leave excess dough hanging out.

3. Top with apple pie filling.

4. Roll out balance dough to cover filling. Pinch the top and bottom excess doughs together and seal the edges.

5. Make a few slits on the tops for steam to escape. Brush with egg wash (egg yolk + milk). I was lazy, I just brushed with milk.. don't! or your crust will look pale!   

6. Bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes, or until golden.

Guess what? Big and baby pig say it's thumbs-up GOOD! They polished off 1 pie each! Errmm.. the pies are not exactly small, just smaller ^^||. I couldn't even finish one on my own *gulp!* and had to share with fatty hubby. I'm not sure if there will be any left for mama and papa pig (^^||) at this rate!

Anyways, the crust's delicious, though not quite melt-in-the-mouth enough.. I may have over-baked at 45 minutes as I was waiting for the crust to turn "golden" (^^||) But the simple no-cook filling is PERFECT ~ nicely moist, not too wet. And the house smells so so good! (^^)

So simple.. yet so good.. the way only an apple pie can! (^^) I love this apple pie! (^^)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pain aux noix.. with cream cheese and dried fruits..finally!

After another disaster at pain aux noix a few days ago.. my 2nd attempt at daily delicious's recipe (my fault, of course).. I was ready to call it quits with rye breads! 

In fact, I have been psycho-ing myself over the week that rye bread or pain de campagne with cream cheese, dried fruits and nuts will forever be one of those "not-meant-to-be" things in my life, and I should just stick to store bought ones, and move on! Of course, while the mind was working on that, the heart was saying otherwise.. one more try.. one more recipe.. don't give up.. yet.

The heart knows best.. I'm no quitter.. I'm competitive.. I like to see things through to the end..and for the record, I'm a tiger aunt! Quitting is not my style (^^).

So I dug deeper on the web.. pain aux noix.. pain de campagne.. rye bread.. rye loaf.. walnut loaf.. walnut bread.. till I hit pay dirt.. with bea of la tartine gourmande's cranberry walnut bread rolls! I didn't care that the recipe uses whole wheat flour, not rye! I had such a good feeling about it.. that the "INVINCIBLE" me (^^||) just took over.. and daringly switched to rye flour instead! I had nothing to lose! (^^)

I'm so glad I did! It's SUCCESS at last! la-la-la-la-la! A few minor tweaks in bea's recipe and I have an almost-store-like rye loaf with cream cheese, dried fruits and nuts! (^^) So head on over to her blog to get her fantastic recipe!

Anyways, here's what I changed from bea's recipe.

1. Replaced same amount of whole wheat flour with rye flour.

2. Added about 50g (would have used more, but that's all I had ^^||) cream cheese, a handful of dried apricots (diced finely) and raisins, omitted cranberries. Anyways, I suggest adding more.. lots more of everything^^.  

3. Dusted dough with flour instead of brushing with water before putting into oven.

4. Placed a pan of hot water (or pre-heat water bath in oven) to create steam in the oven for a crusty bread. I also threw in a few ice cubes into the oven right after putting the dough in. Remove water bath after 10-15 minutes. 

5. Baked longer than 20 minutes.. the bottom was not quite done even at 30 minutes.. so bake about 50-60 minutes for a crusty top. Oh, I made a mistake and baked at 200C instead of 210C (410F) as suggested ^^||.. maybe that's the reason why it took so long.

This bread is SO-OOO GOOD!!! So very-very close to PERFECT! Or as what I hoped it to be! In fact, for a first attempt, this is as PERFECT as it gets! Crusty, chewy and oh-so flavorful! I'm the happiest person on earth, right now! Can you hear the birds singing? (^^) la-la-la-la-la..

Fresh out of the oven, it tasted exactly like the store bought ones! Beautiful wonderful scent, texture and taste! However, the crust didn't stay crusty for very long.. maybe due to the use of butter.. And covering the breads with tea cloth didn't help at all. I have wondered before how those store bought crusty breads stay hard in the shops, but once brought home it turns flat and soft too.. hmmm.. Well, something to work on. (^^)  

Oh, I'm also not sure why the rolls taste different after warming or toasting. It was so GOOD on its own fresh out of the oven ~ you can smell and taste a myriad of flavors! But there's barely any, once warmed, even on the same day it was baked (?). Maybe this bread should just be very lightly warmed instead of warming/baking to crusty levels again.   

Anyways, I still have a problem handling the sticky dough. And I also can't tell when the dough is too wet or just right. Though this recipe was not as sticky or wet as daily delicious's recipe, I still had difficulty rolling the dough. As you can see, my "rolls" are kinda flat when they should be round (^^||)! Maybe practice makes perfect? (^^)

Anyways, this is the best recipe ever! Thank you, bea! Happiness is.. days like this.. (^^)


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lusciously moist lemon cake with lemon drizzle

Sorry, I can't help myself.. it's been a while since my last butter cake bake.. and I'm having withdrawal symptoms ^^||..  

I was trying really hard to resist the temptation.. I even bought apples to bake apple pie! Alas, it was not to be.. I didn't realise I was out of unsalted butter! As there's only salted butter in the fridge, that can only mean butter cake (^^). And since I have some lemons sitting in the fridge for some time.. thought it best to get rid of it too. Hence, my very first luscious lemon cake (^^).

Moist lemon butter cake

250g unsalted butter (unsalted preferably.. but I only had salted ^^||) 
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon (1 tbsp)
2 tbsp lemon juice
230g self raising flour
6 tbsp fresh milk
4 egg whites
70g caster sugar (90g if using salted butter)

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Beat butter and 100g sugar till light and fluffy (don't overbeat!) Add egg yolks one at a time and beat till well combined. Mix in lemon zest.

3. Sift flour, and fold into butter mixture in 3 batches. Mix in lemon juice and fresh milk. Batter should be nice and smooth now.

4. Beat egg whites till frothy, and slowly add in 70g ((90g if using salted butter) sugar. Beat till soft peaks are formed.

5. Fold in egg whites gently into cake mixture in 2 batches.

6. Bake as cupcakes for 25 minutes, or in a 7 or 8" round/square tin for 40-55 minutes, or till the skewer comes out clean.

I decided to bake in 3 small loaf tins, and as usual the top kinda cracked.. more than usual today, probably messed too much with it ^^||. Anyways, don't worry.. it doesn't pop 'n crack like this if you are using bigger round or square tins. And don't let its looks or smell (not very lemony, right out of the oven.. could be my "old" lemons ^^||) put you off.. all butter cakes tastes best after it's rested or settled (and always better than best the next day ^^). I swear the taste and texture is par-excellence despite its looks!

Oh, I read a tip somewhere that poking holes on the cake and drizzling in some zesty, tangy sweetened lemon juice would make the cake to die for, so I did just that.. ok, I was kinda worried the cake was too plain.. it was not very "inspiring" right out of the oven.. yeah, yeah, I'm always freaking out like that.. it always turns out  PERFECTLY ALRIGHT!!! I really have to manage my expectations.. just as I'm managing yours, right now (^^).

Lemon drizzle

1-2 tbsp lemon juice  
Caster sugar (I used about 3 tbsp, but feel free to add more)

Just whisk sugar to lemon juice till you get the consistency and sweetness you want. Best not too sweet, that it still has a little tang to it. Brush or pour over cake.

Seriously, the lemon drizzle makes the cake OUTSTANDING! I recommend you don't over-sweeten the lemon drizzle.. leave it a little zesty, a little tangy.. so your cakes have a ZING to it.. This is so, so, so lusciously delicious!

My piggies love this! So do I! Another fabulous bake! (^^)

p.s i think the pictures turned out really well too.. even though the object/cake was plain ugly ^^|| didn't "photoshop" anything, except add vignette filter for the 1st picture. yes, i know now.. natural lighting.. which is kinda tough cos i can't always catch it in time ^^||

p.p.s did i mention how awesome the cake is? it's AWESOME! perfect scent! perfect softness! perfect moistness! perfect taste! (^^)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hello july!

This is my all time favorite ~ crusty rye bread with cream cheese and dried apricots/pineapple!  

I love! love! love this! And for once, I remembered to take a picture of it before I ate it all up.. ok, so I was half way through when I remembered (^^||)! This is one h*** of a rye loaf ~ crusty, chewy and super-loaded with cream cheese and dried fruits.. an OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD combination!!! 

This is also the bread (referred to as pain de campagne with cream cheese and dried apricots in earlier posts, here and here) that I've tried to replicate at home, TWICE!.. but to no success (><). Well, I haven't quite given up yet.. lots of rye flour in the cupboard still.. so watch out for another (hopefully successful) post soon! (^^)

A happy day! And a really nice way to welcome july (^^)