Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chocolate Banana Quick Cake

This chocolate cake will certainly make you go bananas! Just like its title in Tish Boyle's Cake Book, it is easy breezy and quick to whip up and most importantly, decadently good to eat! It is chocolatey rich, wonderfully moist and banana-ly fragrant! I've tried four cakes from Boyle's book and so far, none has disappoint. If you're expecting guests over for tea, you can dress this cake up to further impress with practically zero effort! After baking is done and 20 minutes out of the oven, invert the cake from the baking tray onto a cake plate or cake stand. Remove the baking paper that lined the bottom (now the bottom becomes the top after inverted). Leave until the cake is completely cool. Just before serving, place a doily on the cake and using a sifter, sieve some icing sugar all over to cover the surface. Gently lift up the doily away from the cake so that the rest of the icing sugar on the doily doesn't spill onto the cake and spoil the pattern. You'll get a pretty neat pattern on the cake. Decorate the center with fresh berries of your choice.


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1/4 tsp salt (omit salt if using salted butter)
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar (I reduced it to 3/4 cup for less sweetness)
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream (I used yoghurt)
4 ounces (113 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


- Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda into a medium bowl. Add the salt. Mix well to combine. Set aside. 
- In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until creamy and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract until well blended.
- At low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream or yoghurt in two additions. Mix until well combined.
- By hand, stir in the chopped chocolate.
- Scrap the batter with a spatula into a paper-lined 9 inch baking pan. Smooth the top with the spatula.
- Bake the cake for 55 minutes at 160 deg Celsius or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn it onto a plate to cool completely.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spiral Curry Puff

Some mornings I would wake up feeling fully energized, all ready to take on the baking world come what may! And what would seem as a really promising start to the day would often end up with me crashing onto the sofa, browsing recipe books and bookmarking more and more recipes and simply adding on to my endless list before the hours pass by with me NOT doing any baking at all. I've bookmarked so many types of local Chinese pastries that I have been wanting to make for a long, long time, but each time I read about the process of making them, I get lazy. I'll be thinking about which pastry to try first, whether this or that, whichever is easier perhaps, and that's about all that I do, most of the times.

The wise and enlightening Ajahn Brahm, an Australia-based English monk, shared a story in his book 'opening the doors to your heart' that one day many years ago as a young novice monk in north Thailand, he and his fellow young monks were asked by senior monks to move a huge mound of earth from one ground site to another in the temple grounds. After shoveling for a few days, the deputy chief monk had come to inspect and asked them to move the earth to another spot instead. And so they did, although not without some complains. When the chief monk returned from his trip, he told the junior monks that the earth was at the wrong site and that he wanted all the earth moved back to its original spot. This infuriated and annoyed Ajahn Brahm even more than the second time when they were asked to move the earth. He thought, can't those senior monks decide once and for all and agree? Aren't monks supposed to be organised?? He was really angry (since he was a novice monk who hasn't fully cultivated his wisdom yet) as he thought about the long suffering few more days, having to shovel with aching muscles. One of his fellow monks, noticing his continuous grumblings, then came over and said to him "your trouble is you think too much!". It then dawned upon him that his monk friend was absolutely right! The more he thought about the work, the heavier his shovel felt. From then on, he learned his lesson that thinking about moving the earth was the hardest part, moving it was easy. To this day, he suspected that the senior monks had planned it as it was to impart a wisdom to the young monks through their own experience. I love this story! And if I had read it sooner, I would have attempted more pastries! I would have thought less of the pastry-making process and just get to doing it. But, better late than never! So finally yesterday, I used this priceless lesson that the hardest part of anything is thinking about it, and I got round to stop thinking and start doing. So I made one of my many bookmarked pastry recipes, spiral curry puff. And true enough, the doing part is, really not that hard at all!

I made the doughs here based on a recipe in "delicacies of china town' book, authored by a lady but unfortunately I don't know her name as it was written in Chinese characters. Luckily the recipes are in dual languages. There are several versions for the dough recipes as I had seen online and in some blogs,  but essentially, the concept is similar to french puff pastry where dough and fat are inter-layered to get crispy light flaky pastry. The spiral effect here is achieved by rolling the two types of doughs (water and oil doughs) into a rectangle and rolling it up into swiss roll. Step-by step explanation is as below.

First up, prepare the filling as below. It can be made days or weeks ahead. Freeze it in a tight lid container and thaw completely before making the puffs.

(if you had read this filling recipe earlier and again now on 140712, you'll noticed that i've made changes here. previous measurement was for a portion of the dough only and wouldn't be enough if you follow the full dough measurement below. please refer to this new filling measurement. this is an estimation and depending on how thick/large your dough wrapper is, you might get a little leftover filling or dough)

200 g chicken meat, cut into small cubes
2 big onion, diced/chopped small
1.2 kg potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 tbsps curry powder, mixed with 5 tbsps water to make a paste
1 tbsp chili powder
A bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
750 ml water

Heat 3 tbsps oil in a wok. Saute onions until fragrant, then add in the chicken cubes. Fry for a minute, then add in curry paste and further fry for a minute. Add in the potatoes, coriander, water and salt and simmer until the gravy is absorbed and the potatoes has softened. Leave to cool completely. 

Now, with the filling all ready, here are the recipes for the two types of dough.

Water dough:
300 g plain flour
120 g margarine
150 ml ice water

Mix water dough ingredients and knead to form a dough. Cover with kitchen towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Oil dough:
200 g plain flour
120 g vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp salt

Mix oil dough ingredients and knead to form a dough. If the dough is too soft, add a tablespoon of flour.

With both doughs ready, here are the steps to achieving deliciously light, flaky and crispy spiral puffs. The amount here will yield about two dozens medium-sized puffs.

1. Water dough on the left and oil dough on the right.

2. Flatten the water dough and place the oil dough in the center of the water dough.

3. Enclose the oil dough by fully wrapping it with the water dough. Pinch the top part together to seal it off.

4. Flatten the combined dough into a rectangle shape. If there is any air trapped inside, simply make a small tear to release the air and seal it back.

5. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle with thickness of around 4 mm. The thinner the better.

6. Roll it up closely into a swiss roll starting from the furthest end rolling in towards you. Dough is soft, so do use both hands to control from both ends of the dough when rolling.

7. You'll get a long swiss roll like this.

8. Then, gently lift the rolled up dough and turn it vertically like this.

9. Next, roll it out sideways and further adjust by rolling up and down until you get a thin large rectangle once again, just like in step 5. After this, repeat steps 6 & 7 to obtain a swiss roll once more. Then, leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

10. Cut up the swiss roll dough into 1 inch-thick pieces. With cut side facing up, roll each piece into a round wrapper.

11. The circular pattern of water and oil dough is visible here.

12. Place a big spoonful of the filling on the center of the wrapper.

13. Fold the wrapper over in half to meet the opposite side, then press the edges together to seal.

14. Pleat the edges. Flatten one part and pull it out a little bit.

15. Then, use your index finger to push in the dough forward. Repeat all round the edges. Don't worry if your pleating is less than perfect. It's the imperfection of home made that actually makes it perfect.

16. Fry the puffs in an electric deep fryer or in a wok (on medium fire) with enough oil to cover the puffs at least half way up. Turn over the puffs to brown both sides evenly. Dish and drain on kitchen towel. Extra un-fried puffs can be frozen and fried straight from the freezer whenever the need arises.   

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bak Tau Yu (Braised Pork in Soy Sauce)

Bak Tau Yu or braised soy sauce pork is truly the simplest yet deliciously flavorful dish all Nyonya families can relate to. But it is not exclusive to the Nyonya folks only as in fact, this dish can often be found in almost all Chinese coffee shops or stalls throughout Malaysia that sell dishes and rice, but each might prepare it with a slightly different twist. Some prepare it with the addition of dried chili for a spicy version or a few slices of ginger for added aroma or extra ingredients like dried shitakae mushrooms. 

An original Nyonya style bak tau yu my late Mom used to cook is where the pork is simmered in water with light soy sauce (tau yu cair), thick dark caramel sauce (tau yu pekat) and with some white or palm sugar added in at the end after the meat has tenderized. The other version is where a few cloves of garlic are smashed and chopped, sauteed with cooking oil before the meat, water and sauces are added in. I love garlic! So, I've cooked it here based on the latter version. And I used sweet sauce (kicap manis) instead of sugar. Pork belly is the preferred part of the meat used for bak tau yu as there's nothing more comforting than when a piece of fatty meat converge and melt in the mouth. This is when you will momentarily forget about all the ill effects of saturated fats. And clogged arteries don't exist in your vocab. Well, I believe in enjoying food but as long as it is kept at an occasional and moderate level where fats is concerned, then that's completely alright by me. I've never tried it, but this should work well with beef too.


500 g pork belly, cut into strips of 1.5cm thickness (marinate with 1/2 tablespoon each of thick dark caramel sauce, sweet sauce and soy sauce, refrigerate for 30 minutes)
50 g garlic, smashed with the back of a cleaver and chopped roughly
2 tbsp cooking oil
About 1 litre water
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps dark sweet sauce (kicap manis, ABC brand or any other)
1 tsp thick dark caramel sauce
2 large potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and slice at 1 cm thickness



Heat the oil in a heavy based pot, fry the garlic until it is brown and fragrant. Stir in the marinated meat, fry for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the water, soy sauce, sweet sauce and dark caramel sauce. Cover with lid and braise the meat until they turn tender. Occasionally open the lid to check and stir and add half cup water if the gravy has noticeably reduced. Braise for about 60 minutes or until the meat is tender. Then, add in the potatoes and braise for a further 15 to 20 minutes. About 5 minutes before cooking is complete, taste the gravy and if necessary, add some more soy sauce if it's not salty enough. Serve hot with rice.

Happy cooking!