Saturday, 25 January 2014

Lemon Semolina Cake

I know what I said here, and yet today I cannot help feeling like Christmas has quietly slipped away like a whisper in the night. 

Everyone has started planning Chinese New Year lou sang parties, buying the artery-clogging-utterly-scrumptious bak kwa, making pineapple jam tarts and hanging up great glowing red paper lanterns all over the place. Even the Lion Dance troupes have started making its rounds.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the New Year is well and truly 'unwrapped'. While I cannot turn back the clock, there is another Christmas to look forward to in just about 11 months, so I will say goodbye (for now) to my favourite season of the year with a rather ornery, but oh-so-delicious lemony cake.


LEMON SEMOLINA CAKE

100g Salted Butter, softened
100g Caster Sugar
2 Lemons, zested and juiced
1 whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk
50g organic Self-Raising Flour
50g fine Semolina
1/8 heaped teaspoon Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Milk

A little Lemon juice and some Icing Sugar, mixed together to form a thick syrup

Preheat oven at 110 Celsius. Grease a 20cm round cake tin thoroughly with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream Butter, Sugar and Zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in Eggs, beating well after each addition.

Gently fold in the Flour, Baking Powder and Semolina by hand into the creamed mixture. Gently mix in the Milk until well-combined.

Scoop batter into the prepared tin and bake at 140 Celsius for about half an hour or until a skewer poked through the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, before turning out onto a serving plate. Drizzle Icing over the still warm cake and leave it to cool completely before serving.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Chocolate Rum Truffles


My first run in with these little babies (or I should say large babies) were at a bakery that opened in the Universiti Sains Malaysia where I did my undergraduate studies. 

The bakery was situated in a building which also housed the University sundry shop. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the building, as my memory of that time and place has become rather fuzzy over time. I do however, remember quite clearly that these babies were called Rum Balls! They were golf ball sized balls of dark chocolate cake tipsy with rum essence hiding plump black raisins rolled in chocolate rice sat in frilly white cupcake cases. 

I am calling them Chocolate Rum Truffles. You may call them faux Chocolate Rum Truffles if you prefer. Either way, these boozy little numbers are full of deep, dark chocolatey goodness made extra lovely by lashings of real rum. 

You will never guess how this got made. You see, I had actually made a tray of Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies - using the recipe below - to start with. As this brownie has a firm, chewy texture, I love cutting out shapes from it using my biscuit cutters. Then of course, I was left with the scraps. 

So here is what I did: I put the scraps in a large bowl. Using a fork, I mashed up the scraps. I then added about one to three tablespoons of dark rum into the brownie mash. Do not pour in too much rum. I rarely listen to my own advice about alcohol additions, but in this case I do. If you are lavish with the alcohol, you will end up with a sludgy mush that you cannot roll into balls. It will be the end of all your efforts. Mix it together. With clean hands, bring the mixture together into a ball. Pinch little bits of the mixture, roll into balls and roll the balls in chocolate rice. Place in a little paper case. Do the same until all the mixture is used up. Place all these little truffles in a container and keep chilled in the fridge. Wait about 2 hours before eating so the flavours have time to develop. They should be kept refrigerated, as the texture changes in ambient temperatures. They will keep for up to a week in the fridge (if they last that long).

ALICE MEDRICH'S COCOA BROWNIES
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef

140g Salted Butter
280g Caster Sugar
80g good quality dutch-processed Cocoa Powder
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
2 Eggs
65g Plain Flour

Preheat the oven at about 130 Celsius. Line an 8' x 8' square baking tin with foil overhanging on the sides for easy lift after the brownies have baked and cooled.

In a heavy-based saucepan over low heat, melt the Butter. Remove pan from the stove.

Stir in Sugar, Cocoa, Salt and Vanilla. Mixture will look grainy. Check the sides of the pan. If it is warm to the touch and you can place your palm on the side, the Eggs are ready to go in. If not, let the mixture cool a little. 

Add the Eggs in one by one, beating vigorously after each addition. The mixture will come together to look smooth and glossy. Fold Flour in gently until it disappears into the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin. Smooth it out in the tin.

Bake at 150 Celsius until the top has a 'crackle' effect or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. About 25 - 30 minutes. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Triple Orange Cake

The plan for last weekend was for several ramekins of Banoffee Pie. Unfortunately, the ripe bananas in the fruit basket met their untimely demise when a hungry person indiscriminately devoured them. Needless to say, that was the end of the Banoffee plan for the weekend. 

There were however, oranges and lemons in the basket. That, and about a heaping tablespoon worth of Tiptree Orange Marmalade with Malt Whiskey in the fridge was what inspired this cake.


My first thought was to make them into little cupcakes, but then I spied my 6-cup Bundt tin sitting quite unloved in a kitchen cupboard and decided to give it an outing instead. 

Now, I have never had much success baking in this particular Bundt tin in the past. I have always suspected that it had something to do with either the oven temperature being too high or the cake batter too watery. So this time, I kept the temperature low and the batter thick. It turned out perfect!

I wish I had the whole cake to show you. Unfortunately, another hungry person in the house lobbed-off slices of this cake while still warm from the oven and therefore the cake too met an untimely demise. 

TRIPLE ORANGE CAKE

125g Salted Butter, room temperature
125g Raw Sugar
1 large Orange, zested and juiced
1 rounded tablespoon Marmalade
1 whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk
150g organic Self-Raising Flour
1/8 rounded teaspoon Baking Powder

A little Orange juice and some Icing Sugar, mixed together to form a thick, white icing

Preheat oven at 110 Celsius. Grease a 6-cup Bundt tin thoroughly with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream Butter, Sugar, Orange Zest and Marmalade with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in Eggs, beating well after each addition.

Gently fold in the Flour and Baking Powder by hand into the creamed mixture. Gently mix in just enough orange juice to produce a slightly thick batter.

Scoop batter into the the prepared Bundt tin and bake at 140 Celsius for about an hour or until a skewer poked through the cake comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for about 20 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack, allow the cake to cool completely before placing on a serving plate and drizzling on the Icing.



Thursday, 16 January 2014

Black Pepper Beef, Broccoli and Mushroom Stir-fry


There is nothing better to come home to than a hot meal that you can put together and serve up quickly, with minimum effort, yet maximum flavour. This easy beef stir-fry uses Asian store-cupboard ingredients. 

With a little planning, you can have the broccoli and mushrooms on hand to make this dish, but it really isn't necessary. There have been times, when I've made this dish with just beef. Eaten with hot buttered noodles (the organic kind that cooks in under 5 minutes) or leftover rice warmed-up in the microwave, it is enough to satisfy at the end of a busy day. 

The only thing you have to remember to do is to thaw the beef before hand, either in the fridge for a day, or on your kitchen counter-top for a couple of hours.  

BLACK PEPPER BEEF, BROCCOLI & MUSHROOM STIR-FRY

300g to 400g Beef, thinly sliced
Ground Black Pepper 
Honey
Oyster sauce

A small head of Broccoli, cut into florets
6 - 8 White and Brown Button Mushrooms, sliced
A small knob Ginger, sliced
1 clove Garlic, sliced
Half medium Red Onion, sliced
Salt to taste
Sesame Seed Oil
A tablespoon of Roasted Peanuts (optional)

Some Peanut Oil for cooking

Slice Beef and marinate in Black Pepper, Honey and Oyster Sauce - to taste - for about half an hour. Heat two tablespoons of Peanut Oil in a wok. When it is hot, throw in Ginger, Garlic and Onions.

Saute for a few seconds, then add in Broccoli and Mushrooms. Add Salt to taste. Toss in wok for about a minute and remove from the heat into a bowl while the Broccoli is still dark green in colour. Wipe the wok clean.

Add two more tablespoons of Peanut Oil into the wok. When hot, add in the marinated Beef and toss till just cooked through, about a minute or so.

Once Beef is cooked through, add in the Broccoli and Mushrooms. Drizzle a little Sesame Seed Oil into the wok and add in the Roasted Peanuts. Quickly toss everything together and serve immediately with hot buttered noodles or rice. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Perfect Shortbread


I have long followed Felicity Cloake's How to Make the Perfect... series of articles in The Guardian online. However, it was only this recipe (so far) that got me to go into the kitchen to actually try it out. You see, despite my love for her series, I have never actually bothered to try her recipes.

What got me into the kitchen was the fact that this recipe was so simple. Also, considering I bake almost every week, I always, always have all the ingredients for shortbread in the pantry, except this time... so I had to substitute the ground rice with semolina which turned out very well. Very well indeed. It yielded a crunchy, crumbly, buttery and utterly delicious biscuit.


PERFECT SHORTBREAD
Adapted from Felicity Cloake

115g Salted Butter, at room temperature
55g Raw Sugar
1/2 teaspoon natural Vanilla Essence
130g Plain Flour
40g fine Semolina
A pinch of Sea Salt
More Raw Sugar to finish

  1. Preheat the oven to 140 Celsius. Line a 19cm tart tin with baking paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the Butter and Sugar with a wooden spoon until well-mixed. About 2 minutes.
  3. Mix through the Vanilla Essence. 
  4. Fold in Flour, Semolina and Salt gently until well-combined. 
  5. Transfer dough into the tart tin, pat down gently, leaving about half an inch space between the dough and the rim.
  6. Bake for about an hour and a half or until the shortbread is cooked through but not browned. Check the shortbread at the hour mark to judge the additional cooking time.
  7. Remove from the oven, sprinkle on more Sugar, cut into wedges with a sharp knife and let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 



R.I.P. Miss Burrow

We are so sad to see you go. You and your little friends have given us all so much pleasure and delight. 

Miss Burrow and her friend Turkey.

The perfect Christmas comes wrapped in blue


Monday, 13 January 2014

If I had a magic wand, I would rewind time to Christmas...

If I had a magic wand, I would rewind time to Christmas. This is the problem with the season. You wait all year for it and in the blink of an eye, it passes you by so quickly it catches you by surprise. It's the same story, every year, when you're left trying to hold on to the 25th on the 26th. 

I've always believed that the year truly begins in February, or at least when Chinese New Year rears its head. Then, it's really time (if you haven't already... like me) to put away, yes put away the Christmas tree, heave a great sigh and inevitably get on with the new year.

If you're wondering... my Christmas tree is still up (of course, it is). 

I have also quite cleverly squirreled away some Marks & Spencers Luxury Mincemeat and a boiled Fruit Cake for some post-post-Christmas parties which all of us who secretly cannot believe a new year has started will willingly throw and attend.     

Before I leave you to wonder what madness it is for someone to go on and on about Christmas in January, here are some photos of the goodies I baked... for the season (of course!). 

Run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Oh hello Gingerbread Man...
Oh no, look what you've done. You tried to run away so I was forced to eat your leg!
Fondant-iced Shortbread Biscuits
Homemade Mince Pies
Stained-glass Biscuits
Pineapple Jam Tarts