Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Becoming a diabetic

Since a few weeks ago, after making my first creme caramel with sponge, I've begun gorging on sugary, creamy desserts and no wonder the love handles have grown larger and it'll be no surprise if I become a diabetic.

Firstly, it didn't help with scrumptious ice cream with exotic flavours such as pistachio, cookies and cream, caramel praline, and green tea. Secondly, I am addicted to a new show called "MasterChef" and I am so tempted to make all the sweets. This is one of them and I can tell you that it is a bit too sweet for my asian tastebuds but rich and tasty nonetheless.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce & Almond Praline

Sticky Date Pudding Ingredients
180 gm dates, pitted and chopped
310 ml water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
165 gm brown sugar
60 gm butter
2 eggs
150 gm self raising flour

  1. Grease 8 dariole metal moulds with melted butter. Preheat oven to 170 degree Celcius.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the chopped dates and water to boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Sprinkle the bicarbonate soda into the dates mixture and stir. Set aside.
  4. Beat the sugar and butter together.
  5. Add in the eggs into the sugar and butter mixture, beating well after each addition until the batter is creamy.
  6. Add the dates into the creamy batter. By this stage, the mixture will look very watery.
  7. Sift in the flour and fold until combined.
  8. Divide equally into the 8 dariole moulds and bake in a bain marie (water bath) with the water covering 1/3 of the height of the moulds, in a 170 degree Celcius oven, for 40 mins.

Almond Praline Ingredients
110 gm sugar
35 gm slivered almonds


  1. Melt sugar in a small saucepan without stirring until light golden brown and no sugar crystals are visible.
  2. Quickly pour the toffee onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper and sprinkle the slivered almonds over the toffee.
  3. Wait until the toffee sets before breaking it into pieces.

Butterscoth Sauce Ingredients
50 gm butter
220 gm brown sugar
250 ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla essence


  1. Place all the butterscotch sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a slow simmer. Stir to combine.

To serve: Invert the hot pudding onto a plate, top with the butterscotch sauce and a piece of almond praline. Serve immediately.

Note: I had used 300ml cream simply because I didn't want 50ml cream leftover so the sauce was way too watery. This recipe was too sweet for my tastebuds so if I am to do it again, I'll cut down the sugar in the pudding to 90gm as I can always use more sauce if it is not sweet enough, and the dates are pretty sweet on its own.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Zhong Zhi - Preparing the Leaves and Wrapping Process - Part 4

All photos, except for that posted in the Part 3 were taken during last year's festival but due to time constraints, I never got to post it up until several months after the event and by then, I thought it was a bit late and thought I'll save it for this year.
Last year, I only had to help mum and dad but this year, I was doing the whole thing solo. It was a bit of an effort to get everything prepared, to get it wrapped and cooked but it was well worth it.
Preparing the leaves:
Dried bamboo leaves are filthy so make sure it is well cleaned before use. First, the store-bought dried bamboo leaves (tan to light brown in colour) have to be soaked in hot water until it softens and turns green. Then the water has to be changed twice daily for a few days. A scrubbing brush is required to scrub both sides of the leaves once the leaves have softened. Notice the dirty water in the second pic from just scrubbing about 30 leaves or so. Allow the washed leaves to soak in the water for at least overnight. Rinse and drain the leaves, making sure that the upper surface of the leaves all face the same way.
Wrapping Process:
  1. Fold the leaf into a cone shape, ensuring that the top surface of the leaf is on the inside to prevent the glutinous rice sticking on the leaf after cooking.
  2. Fill up with rice and filling.
  3. Hold the dumpling cone with your thumb and middle finger and push down on the leaf from the top. You should have two flaps on the side of the dumpling.
  4. Push down the left flap and secure it using the thumb.
  5. Repeat step 4 with the right flap and hold with the middle finger.
  6. Using your other hand, fold the jutting-out leaf such that it follows the contour of the dumpling (left or right, it doesn't matter).
  7. Secure it with a piece of nylon string (or raffa vine), which should be parallel to the two flaps mentioned in step 3, 4, and 5. Double knot the string.
  8. Once a bundle has been made (around 15 per bundle), place in the pressure cooker or a stove pot (this will take about 3 hours to cook as oppose to the 1 hour in the pressure cooker) to allow it to cook.
  9. Once taken out of the pressure cooker, allow the bundle of dumplings to fully drip-dry (about 2 hours) before placing it in the fridge. This process deters mould from forming in a humid environment.

Zhong Zhi (Nyonya/Nonya Zhang) Part 3

upper left and bottom are the Nyonya Zhangs
Although this is not the traditional "zhang" that most people are accustomed to, this has become my favourite. It is a balance of sweet and savoury, with an aromatic fusion of exotic spices and a blend of textures wrapped in one small parcel.

Makes 35

500 gm chicken meat (diced into 1cm cubes, or even minced chicken meat will do)
1 knob galangal (cleaned, thinly sliced)
5 pips garlic
3 stalk of lemongrass (thinly slice the root)
2 stems of tumeric root (each is about 4cm in length)
1 tbsp onion infused oil
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp light soya sauce
1 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce
200 gm candied melon (chopped)
2 tsp oil
150 gm mushrooms (soaked, and chopped into 1cm cubes)
few pinches of plain flour
80 gm roughly chopped peanuts

  1. Grind and pound the galangal, garlic, lemongrass, tumeric root with a mortar & pestle until fine. You can also do this with a blender but be warned that the tumeric may render the the machine with a yellow/orangy tinge which is hard to scrub off.
  2. Marinade the chicken with all the seasonings and the grounded paste from step 1 above, overnight, in the fridge.
  3. Heat up the 2 tsp of oil in the wok and place the marinated chicken, candied melon, mushrooms and stir-fry until cooked.
  4. If there are lots of juices remaining, add a pinch of plain flour at a time until the sauces thicken.
  5. Dish up and set aside to cool.
1 kg glutinous rice (washed and soaked overnight)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp onion infused oil
  1. Drain the glutinous rice.
  2. Add the sugar, salt and oil into the glutinous rice and mix until it is mixed thoroughly.
  3. Wrap the dumplings with the rice, cooked chicken filling, and peanuts.
  4. Place in pressure cooker for an hour.
  5. Remove from pressure cooker and hang the bundle of dumplings to dry.

Zhong Zhi (Jian Shui Zhong aka Ki Zhang aka Lye Water Dumplings) Part 2

I wouldn't say lye water dumplings is for everyone. The little morsel of bland rice does not quite constitute as a meal, nor a dessert but dunked in gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup, it justifies the reason for eating the gula melaka on its own.
  1. Soak 1kg of glutinous rice in water along with one teaspoon of lye water overnight.
  2. Rinse the glutinous rice with plain water and start wrapping.
  3. Cook in pressure cooker for 45 mins.
  4. Take out of pressure cooker and hang to dry.
  5. Serve with honey / palm sugar syrup / sugar syrup / sugar.

Variations of this dumpling includes placing a ball of red bean paste in the middle.

Zhong Zhi (Bak Zhang) Part 1

This is the traditional food prepared for the fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar, and also celebrated by dragon boat races. As a bit of history and legend (there are many versions of the story but they all share many similarities), there was a minister called Qu Yuan (475 - 221 BC) who was much loved by the citizens. During the warring Zhou Dynasty, the Emperer of Chu of whom Qu Yuan was serving, was advised by Qu Yuan to resist going into conflict with the Qin Kingdom. The advise was rejected by other officials who, along with the Emperor's son, framed Qu Yuan and caused him to go into exile. In his despair, he drowned himself in the Milou River. To remember him, the common people used long dragon boats and beating war drums to scare the fish from eating his body. Rice wrapped in bamboo leaves are for his spirit and to avoid fishes from eating it as well. However, another version of the story is that the rice is thrown into the river so that the braver fishes will eat the rice rather than his body.

Makes 65.

Bak Zhang (Meat Filled Dumplings)
150gm Dried Shrimps (soaked and washed)
2 big onions (diced)
1/4 cup vegetable oil.
1kg Pork Belly Meat (diced)
100gm Shiitake Mushrooms (soaked)
750gm Dried Chestnuts (cleaned and husked) (replace with salted peanuts if desired)
Five Spiced Powder (aka mixed spices)
1 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce
4 tablespoons Dark Soya Sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon Plain Flour
250gm Mung Beans (rinsed)
bamboo leaves (I used about 100) and raffa strings (or nylon strings if you don't have any raffa strings)

  1. Fry the dried shrimps with about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and set aside overnight.
  2. Heat the remaining oil and fry the onions until the oil is fragrant. Leave aside overnight.
  3. Place the chestnuts in a pot and cover with water to just about 1cm above the chestnuts. Allow the chestnuts to simmer in the pot until it is soft and water is just about dry. You may need to place more water if there is completely no more water in the pot and the chestnuts are still not dried. You may also wish to put in a few blades of pandan leaves into the pot. Set aside overnight.
  4. Slice mushrooms and fry with one tablespoon of the onion-vegetable oil from step two above, along with 1 tbsp dark soya sauce, 1 tbsp light soya sauce, 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce, pinch of salt and pinch of five spiced powder. Add in 1/2 tbsp flour to thicken up any sauces. Set aside overnight.
  5. Marinate the pork belly with the remaining seasonings and spices. Set aside in the refridgerator overnight.

Rice and Wrapping Dumplings

2kg Glutinous Rice (soaked overnight)
3 tbsp dark soya sauce
1 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp five-spiced powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp onion/oil mixture from previous night's preparation

  1. Drain the soaked-overnight-glutinous rice and season the glutinous rice with all of the ingredients above.
  2. Wash and drain the mung beans.
  3. Bring out all the previous night's preparation of the fillings (marinated pork belly, mushrooms, dried shrimp, chestnuts)
  4. Begin the wrapping process.
  5. Place in pressure cooker for 1hr, remove from pot and hang up to drip dry.

A late post

Went through my pics today and realised that my mum's birthday cake - a green tea sponge with green tea cream cheese frosting - had not yet been posted. As the green tea sponge was a bit dense, i am not bothering with the recipe post. Have to master my sponges. *Grrr*

My Best Sponge Yet

I can't believe the best sponge I made is when I am not expecting it. I've been searching for a recipe with creme caramel on top of a sponge base since when I first discovered internet a decade ago and after first eating it. It was only recently that I found a recipe on Roz's blog. I've made this three times since last week and all have been perfect. Pity my "sponge cakes" don't turn out like the ones for this custard-cake.

With a few changes, I've made mine in a 22.7cm x 96cm round pan. Don't be fooled by the detailed recipe as it is really easy to make, and you do not need to cook the custard first and the two layers is sure to impress guests. And in addition, the sponge layer comes out evenly on top of the custard once cooked.

Sugar Base:
100gm sugar
1 tbsp water
  1. Melt the sugar and water in a saucepan without stirring the sugar. If required, swirl the melted sugar in the saucepan to allow the syrup to brown evenly.
  2. Quickly pour the sugar into the base of the baking pan until it covers the base fully and if time permits, let the sugar syrup coat about an inch of the side of the pan.
  3. Set the pan aside and the toffee to cool in pan while preparing the creme caramel and sponge base.

Creme Caramel Custard:
750ml milk
110gm sugar
6 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla essence or 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Place the milk and sugar into the saucepan used to make the toffee for the sugar base and heat the milk mixture on the stove just until the sugar melts.
  2. In a separate bowl, using a balloon whisk, whisk the eggs and vanilla essence until well-beaten but not until there are lots of froth on the top of the egg mixture. (If there are lots of froth, just run it through the seive.
  3. Mix the milk into the egg mixture and set aside until the sponge base is prepared.

Sponge base:
3 eggs (separated into yolks and whites)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
90gm castor sugar
110gm self raising flour (sifted)
2 tbsp milk
30gm butter (melted and cooled)

  1. Beat the egg yolks with about half the amount of sugar required for the sponge base.
  2. Add in milk and beat until combined.
  3. Fold in half the self raising flour into the egg yolk mixture until combined, repeat with the remaining flour. The batter will be really thick at this stage.
  4. In a separate greasefree bowl, using a high speed setting, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, before slowly adding in the rest of the castor sugar and continue beating the egg whites until firm peaks form. Continue beating the egg whites with a slow setting for another minute or two so that the air bubbles trapped in the egg whites are more stable.

  5. Gently but quickly fold 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk batter. Repeat until all the egg whites are folded into the egg yolk mixture thoroughly. At this stage, the batter should be light and fluffy.
  6. Drizzle the melted butter over the batter and quickly fold through until just combined.

To assemble:

  1. Pour the Custard into the toffee-prepared baking pan.
  2. Pour the sponge cake mixture on top of the custard.
  3. Place in a bain marie (waterbath) in the oven for 50mins at 180 degrees Celsius.
  4. Let the cake cool before placing it into the fridge until chilled.
  5. The toffee will have melted and there will be syrup at the bottom of the pan. I usually pour out the syrup and reserve it for drizzling over the cake when serving but you can let it soak into the cake base if desired.
  6. Turn the cake onto a large plate.
  7. When serving, drizzle the reserved toffee syrup if desired.