Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Taste Of Chinese New Year

Posted by Quinn at Sunday, February 14, 2010 14 comments Links to this post

Happy Chinese New Year people!!!! Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!! Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!! Kong Hey Fatt Choy!!!! Kiong Hee Huat Chye!!!! Gong Hee Fatt Choy!!! That is so us Chinese Malaysians. Lots of dialects and everyone unite and celebrate the same grand festival. This is gonna be a long long post. I practically did everything you will be seeing here. This is a post about my house. It's always me doing it ....couldn't brag more but gotta credit the two lil' monkeys as well just in case they're reading this!

Having said that, Happy Valentine's Day to all couples and singles alike in the world!!!! More on that at the bottom of this post but for now, let's move on! Chinese New Year (CNY) is not all about the food though food play a big role from Day One till Day Fifteen. Decorations play a lot too. I love my house adorned in flashy red and blings blings! Gives it the CNY feel. The one you see above is a large vase of pussy willow with artificial plum blossoms. Pussy willow symbolizes prosperity and as it blooms, the prosperity grows with it. Plum blossoms are meant for good fortune and helps in smoothing rocky relationships. Together, the vase of plant is meant for auspicious days like CNY and is placed throughout CNY from Day One till Day Fifteen. Yes, very much like your Twelve Days of Christmas and Christmas Tree! The tree is usually decorated with ornaments and red packets (friendly termed Angpao in Hokkien). It will bloom lotsa green leaves, just make sure you change the water or add fresh ice cubes to it everyday. I make it a point to do it every morning. It will look so beautiful by Day Eight, where we have an open house. Another grand event I shall talk about when time comes.

That's my living room wall. That painting has been there forever. I don't read Chinese, nothing to be proud of really but I've been told what they mean and I try to remember all the strokes and memorize them. You know, just in case anyone ask. No, the wall is not white and it is not dirty either. It is not wall paper too. It is just three colour of paints sprayed on decoratively. It looks good upclose really. Can't help it when your very handy uncle is a painter and yes, he paints houses.

That's our huge praying altar. I probably never mention this before but I grew up in a family where superstition holds and everyone is a strong believer of God. All grandma do is pray day and night. This is nothing much yet. The praying table is sorta like a transformer. robot You can pull out all sorts of edges and extend it further. It was loaded just now, way more than this but I thought this looks prettier. So I put my palms together and pray to them so they don't blame me and I then relocate things a bit according to what I like when Grandma wasn't looking! And back to plants and prosperity, you see yellow chrysanthemum. It is soothing and symbolizes prosperity too, a very common flower offered for spiritual purpose. That is why it is on the praying altar. In the same vase as the chrysanthemum, you see two stalks of red and green plant. I don't know what it is called but Mum said the florist told her it is called 'Step Step High Rise'. It's a proverb in Chinese during CNY and please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. That's a direct translation from Cantonese 'Pou Pou Kou Seng'. Sometimes, we add a stalk or two of bird paradise too. All plants about CNY must be as colourful as possible, must be tall, no trimming of stalks and they are always there for a reason.

Right next to the praying altar is a hallway that leads to the dining area, the inner kitchen and the garden+outer kitchen. I told you, you see red everywhere in my house!

That's my living room. The table will not be this empty. This was taken yesterday. Still in the midst of preparation. Apparently, lucky bamboos signify something too you know. We have a large and tall pussy willow where the camera is positioned to take the above shots and we see a lucky bamboo plant right next to the plasma.

Yes, they can be bent and twisted into any shapes you like. I have seen a large ship, a pineapple, an '8' figurine and etc. Number 8 is auspicious and good and Number 4 is vice versa, remember that. The lucky bamboos are again used to help everything in the house prosper and brings good fortune. It took us years to grow the leaves and we keep adding in new bamboos every year. All leaves slanted towards left because there is a huge window pane there and bamboos love sunlight. Just a little, not too much.

That's my dining table. I love when everyone gather around for a feast. We don't have many but yeah, just me, mum and dad and both my sisters and grandma. Just direct family. Dad can't stand the noise, he can't breathe when there's too many people. And again, red ornaments.

That's a wine bar my parents are so ever proud of. Every Chinese should have one in their home, it's all about the face, it shows that you are of upper class minority and all that yada yada yada....No, I don't believe in them, they just show that you're a bunch of alcoholics who don't spend money wisely. Shhhh....just my thoughts, please don't tell mummy. She will be furious, I don't think so, I know so!

That's just another angle and yes, this is my kitchen. The kitchen I love working in. It is very comfortable really.

This marble table is where I knead all my breads and make paus and stuffs. We don't have a big house so I can't bake much no because this table will be full of food on the Grand Eighth Day. More about that later. I love this table. It work so well with chocolates and breads.

Having showed you that, I reckon I need to show you the kitchen I work in Adelaide. I know it's nothing to shout about unlike many Kokkens but this kitchen is where I churned out some of my most interesting dishes. This kitchen is also where I baked all these CNY cookies so I do appreciate you all giving attention to this not so well-equipped kitchen. Wait till I get back to Adelaide and snap a shot of the oven for you and you'll say 'Oh My god!!!!' How did you bake with that?????

A day before Day One of CNY, we have a reunion dinner. All family members must be present. And we always cook way more than enough. The food on the table is probably enough to feed an army. I love how food brings people together. Both me and my sister fly back from Australia just for this dinner!

That's the table all set up after the reunion dinner. Can't tell you much, they are just praying stuffs. You wait for the right time, tick-tock-tick-tock, and you pray, light the candles and light up the incense and pray, do some gestures and so forth. Then you burn stuffs and pollute the air.

Nah, no offence please but I wasn't kidding really. Imagine every house doing the same thing....Imagine China. Anyway, that's my grandma aka best cook in the house burning some paper money for Gods. There are plenty of Gods in Chinese, I don't know them, no story, sorry..... I know grandma say you need to make sure they are fully burnt (all black ashes) and no pieces left so they receive it properly 'down there'. Direct translated from Ah Ma, don't get it, don't question!

Oh did I mention each and every house will also hang this huge piece of red cloth. Ours says 'Fook Seng Kou Chiu'. That's in Canton by the way and it means some auspicious stuffs again. I know some of you are probably growing sick and tired of the word auspicious, good fortune, prosperity. I know but really, that is what CNY is all about. Do you see another plant in the picture?

It's called Four Season Lime Tree. I asked the nursery where we bought them from. Aren't they pretty? No, you cannot eat the limes on the tree. They are solely for decoration purpose and are full of insecticide, toxics and pesticides, I kid you not. I asked the nursery people too.

There are still many other auspicious plants like the money tree, the Buddha's fist plant and so forth. If we were to buy everything back, our house would look like a jungle! I just love how the lime tree look. They are so green, full of plump and round inedible limes. Just so auspicious!!!!

This is the wall right outside my house. We change it every year depending on the Chinese Zodiac. It's tiger this year so there it is. One is a lil' lopsided, will go fix that right now.

The reunion night ended with plenty of fireworks glazing the sky and yes, I know it's illegal. I don't wanna go into that but hell yeah, it's CNY so bring it on!!!! That's the best view I could get. Maybe more fireworks shots on Day Eight. We all tuck in to sleep as quick as we could. Very much like Santa giving out presents to kids the very next day. We fall asleep with the sound of fireworks and firecrackers all night long till at least 4am. We woke up to the sound of lion dance. It's beautiful sound, the sound of drum, crash and triangles combined together.

When we wake up the next day, we bath with lime and pomelo leaves water and put on washed, clean, red shirts. Say auspicious greetings to our parents and get Angpao. This red packets consist money! And you gamble with the money. Nah, don't do that, it's illegal in Malaysia. Yes, many things are illegal in Malaysia. Spoils my CNY fun!

That's Nyonya Chap Chye. It's vegan mixed vegetables. Mum eats this one whole day. She believes being a vegan on Day One brings you good luck and bless your family for the next 364 days. I know it sounds a but kiasu but haha, I love them. They are cooked with plenty of Nam Yu or red fermented bean curds with Sang Choy and Beijing lettuce. Lots of imitation meats are added. They include imitation goose meta, char siew meat and etc. Mushrooms are also added whole. They are all prepared the night before. You don't pull out scissors or anything sharp on Day One of CNY especially! You don't sweep the floor, no moppings too! And you obviously cannot break anything on Day One because you will scare the God of Prosperity (or Choi San in Canton).

Having said that...Shhhhh....don't tell mum I broke glass 8:30am this morning while I was putting out the food in the living room. We wipe it clean with cloth, working as quickly as we could, me and my maid and grandma. And I accidentally cut my finger a little....What a bad way to start off my Day One of CNY. I did not tell mum because I know she will not care about my finger rather she will be concerned with the fact that I broke something on the first day of CNY!... And I had a small argument with Aaron the night before and it's Valentine's Day today. No, I shall not proceed further and let unhappy things drift me away.

That's the round tray all set out with CNY goodies that I have been blogging about previously. I am glad they love it though they did say the pineapple jam is a tad too sweet for some but judging by the looks, I can make more fancy stuffs next year! I made everything there except for the Ferrero Rochers of course and the chicken floss roll. They are yummy but we don't deep frying at home. Wait till I invest in a deep fryer machine.

Clockwise from top left, we have Rose Cookies or Kuih Loyang, Roasted and Salted (R&P) pistachio nuts, Kuih Kapit (Love Letters) and R&P cashew nuts.

We also have arrowroot chips. and prawn crackers. The chips and crackers are a crowd pleaser every year. The above are prawn crackers and the arrowroot chips are those in a red jar (see first pic of this blog post).

Moving on, this dessert is cooked on Day One to serve us and our guest who will come pai nian (that's visiting in Mandarin). This is doubled boiled longans, lotus seeds and lily bulbs dessert or Longan, Lin Chi Pak Hap Tong Sui (that's in Canton). It can help bring in new addition to the family and helps newlyweds conceive more easily. It is also auspicious-sounding.

Valentine, there you go. No, lemme clarify and let you all know Aaron is not only a man of his words, he is also a man of practicality. He will never gave me that beautiful bouquet of flowers. That is my cousin's husband Valentine gift to her. He is back in Sekinchang with his family members celebrating CNY and my cousin wants to celebrate CNY with her family so I guess not everyone is too happy that CNY falls on the same day as Valentine's Day and Valentine's Day is totally overshadowed by CNY. And my Aaron is back in Labuan. I wish to say it's just 2 and a half hours flight away from KL but let's all admit that is pretty far and I cannot see him during this period as much as I could. I know I get to have him all in Adelaide but I wish I could celebrate some days of CNY with him. Just in case you are wondering, Aaron got me a good tripod. All the pictures you see here are taken with his tripod. I am loving it. I cannot thank Aaron enough for getting me what I really need. It's more like I asked for it. I love him nonetheless though deep down inside me, I wish he could be a lot more romantic. Happy Valentine's Day Aaron. I did not bake anything Valentine-y as of now but I promise to make up to you when I see you in Labuan. I hope time flies, I hate the distance.

That's a little Tiger cum cat waving to you as the Year of Tiger roars in! Now, I'm gonna go catch a midnight movie with my two lil' monkeys. Oppss...only say good sounding words during CNY. I am gonna go watch a movie with my two beloved little sisters. I don't hope much from the movie, we all know how CNY movies can be lame sometimes but I treasure the moments we spend together munching on Twisties and Cheezels and gulping down Season's Ice Lemon Tea. It is so our thing and I wanna remember moments like that before I fly back again, very soon.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bread Cake

Posted by Quinn at Saturday, February 13, 2010 16 comments Links to this post

Justify FullThis is something I made right before coming back to Malaysia. It's quite a hit thing in many bread cookbooks and bakeries. It's called a bread cake. Usually made in a loaf pan but I've used my chiffon pan for it.

Made it the night before and kept it in my new bought cake carrier. With the amount of potlucks we do and birthdays we have, I think this is rather a good investment. Had it for breakfast, plain, dipped in coffee, smeared with peanut butter (not me, Aaron!) and nutella, endless possibility.

Having baked this, I realise I could actually submit this for my Monthly Mingle. Yes...It's Monthly Mingle again. This time around, hosted by Jamie of Life's a Feast.

The theme is Chocolate & Bread. Now, is that beautiful or what? Tessa Kiros has a beautiful chocolate bread custard and another chocolate loaf in her Apples for Jam. I settled with Agnes Chang's book and baked a bread cake from her book, 'I Can Bake'.

This is a bread cake literally. One part chocolate bread, one part pandan cake, all parts delicious! Eat them however you may, cake first followed by bread or vice versa. It's a great texture when you eat them together. It's light in texture from the fluffy cake and slightly chewy and soft when you sink your teeth in the chocolate bread layer.

The fragrance of pandan is there. I've cheated and use pandan paste diluted in water. I would have blended pandan leaves with water but hey, did anyone tell you what you'd get if you blend frozen pandan leaves with a splash of water? You get grey water people! Freakish looking and totally uninviting colour of grey. Yes, presentation matters to me and I'd rather die from preservative and additives rather than producing a grey looking pandan cake. Oh, you have a problem with that? Sue me.

You think the above click looks like a pandan chiffon cake? I think it does, and a very successful one too! Look again below. This is so good eaten plain but I'm no plain Jane. Maximize the orgasm by smearing peanut butter and melted chocolate on the bread. Yes people, I have issues with peanut butter and chocolates. I guess it's the withdrawal symptom I'm in now from the previous chocolate and peanut butter overdose.

I'm gonna keep this short and crisp and send you off to the recipe. Try it. This is something I grew up with too you know. You can get this from La Boheme, King's Confectionery's or Baker's Cottage. They're sold cheap and nice. Those were the days before I start getting picky about what cupcakes I'll eat and have the luxury to make my own cakes and breads.

I made two rings of bread cake with this one recipe. My chiffon pan is 18cm in diameter each.

Bread Cake
(makes one loaf and adapted and modified from Agnes Chang's book, I Can Bake)
Bread Ingredients:

200g bread flour
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder, passed through a tea strainer
1/2 tsp salt

5.5 tbsp castor sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp water
40g butter

Sift A into a mixing bowl (yes, the cocoa powder will be sifted twice this way!), add in B and whisk well to mix. Slowly pour in water from C and use low speed to knead the dough until smooth. Add butter from C and continue to knead until the dough is fully developed and can be stretched to a thin membrane sheet without tearing.

Remove dough from mixing bowl and shape into a smooth ball and place it in a lightly greased mixing bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise until it double in bulk. Punch the dough down with knuckles to release air and knead again until smooth. Rest it for 15 mins, covered with the damp cloth to prevent skin from drying out.

Roll the dough into a rectangular shape and then roll it up tightly. Place the dough now in a loaf tin (this is the loaf tin you'll be baking from, so make sure you grease it well!) and leave to rise until it doubles in bulk. If you're using chiffon pan,weigh the dough into two parts and poke a hole through it. Let it proof in the well-greased pan. You can also use a large chiffon pan. Only pour in the cake batter when the chocolate bread dough has doubled in size like in the below pic.

Get on with the cake part and preheat your oven to 180°C now.

Cake Ingredients:

20g plain flour, sifted
20g cornflour, sifted
2 tbsp castor sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp water
Drops of pandan paste

3 egg whites (I use four, just wanna use up the leftover eggwhite from glazing pineapple tarts)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2.5 tbsp castor sugar

Mix A in a mixing bowl until smooth. If you're using pandan paste, you might wanna add a bit more since the colour will get lighter with the addition of egg white.

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar from B until slightly foamy. Add in sugar from B gradually and continue beating until it reaches stiff peak like in the pic below.

Having said that, the egg white peaks should also defy gravity like this:

Dollop a little egg white batter from B into A and whisk to combine. When you get them to approximately the same kind of texture, your folding in process will be a lot easier. Now, pour the fluffed up A mixture into B and gently fold in with a spatula until well-combined. Pour cake mixture over the risen dough and gently level the top with a spatula.

Bake it in the oven until golden browned and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely, slice and serve plain or dolloped with peanut butter and melted chocolate.

Note: 1 tbsp = 15ml and 1 up = 250ml

Thanks Meeta and Jamie for organizing and hosting the event! It gave me a reason to bake and get creative yet again!

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tangerine Style Pineapple Tarts

Posted by Quinn at Saturday, February 06, 2010 15 comments Links to this post

This is my last post from Adelaide for now. I'll be flying off back to Malaysia in less than 24hours! I can't wait to bring back the cookies, all the bakings I have done previously and some stuffs I have bought and requested by some friends. These tangerine tarts, they are the last batch of Chinese New Year goodies I've made.

There's a good and a bad story behind these tangerine style pineapple. I didn't make nastar. I don't know why. The mould, I just can't seem to get it right. The opening from the mould yield a very very thin pastry. It makes my jam looks huge. As much as I really love pineapple tarts with lotsa filling, the one I made was way too much. I cannot make open face. The dough just wouldn't roll properly even after chilling because I have used the creaming method. I always have a tendency to overcream stuffs. I ended up making tangerines, something I am comfortable with.

I have to let go of my favourite nastar because I really don't want to repeat all the piping that I did, like thrice the effort just to make decent nastars. I needed to make like seriously, a lot! So bad as in I cannot make nastar but good as in I still can bring more pineapple tarts back and they do look good but I just would have preferred nastar....

I made two batches. One using self raising flour and one using plain flour, both from the same reliable recipe that I have always used when I found it here. The tarts above are made using plain flour wheres the ones below that I have placed in mini muffin liners are made using self-raising flour. I actually like the one with SRF better because they are more fluffy and they do expand a little when baking so the muffin liner comes in handy. It's really not that big in reality.

Talking about pastry, I have edited my pineapple jam post so do check it out. I've added in more pictures and tweaked the steps a bit using what my granny always does. I like her method way better. In fact, I always like anything caramelized.

And nope, I will stick to my chopsticks wire rack. I don't bake cookies often really so when I bake a cake, I use my oven rack as my wire rack. I have too much tools really. But I really need a good pasta maker though so I'm planning to splurge a bit on a good one. I think I can make flaky egg tarts, croissants, puff pastry and danish pastry with it too apart from just making pasta. The maker will help me save a lot of rolling time which I suck at.

These 'Tau Sar Piah' looking tarts are made specially for Aaron because he doesn't like the strong smell of cloves. And he whined I've only made 8 tarts without cloves. Simply because I like them so much better with cloves. They look more tangerine like! Did I mention I wrap the filling in when they are frozen from the freezer. When it is frozen, I work so much more quicker and the skin roll up so quickly and seamless too. I don't need to chill the dough and it did not ooze oil. I love wrapping in filling when they are frozen. They are always more moist when baked and even cooled after days...

And for storing, see if you can get red plastic jar/bottle like this. They are so traditional and typical of Chinese New Year. Again, I have used jumbo muffin paper flattened and spread out to line each layer. The tarts are so crumbly and fragile. And did I mention, yummy! And they fit just snuggly in my little red jar. And they are all of the same size. I NEVER WEIGH MY FILLING AND PASTRY. I'm not bragging but I would love to tell you all what I've done. For tangerines, 1/2 tablespoon of dough to 1 tspful of filling is the perfect proportion. Simply use your measuring spoon, the one with 1/2 tbsp capacity and 1 tsp capacity and measure. There is no need to weigh it in my opinion, just my thoughts. Please don't condemn me.

Layer the tarts in the jar until it is full to the brim/bottleneck. Before screwing the top, place a kitchen towel or baking paper on top and press the cover down. Twist till tightly secured and tape it with sticky tape all around. Baking paper or kitchen towel helps absorb moisture and prevent tarts from turning mouldy too quickly since I always like my jam on the moist side. Apart from that, they are a very good sealer and act as an insurance air-tight. And with the sticky tape all around it, yeah my little red jar of tangerine tarts look as if it's storebought/pasar-malam bought. And I place it under my bed. It is such a good spot, not too cold and never get warm from the summer heat. Anyway, they are all n my hand carry luggage now. I can't wait to go back Malaysia. I'm already homesick now. I will still post from Malaysia if I'm not too busy.

And my fellow bloggers, I can't wait to see all of you!!!!!

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