Sunday, 8 February 2015

Peanut Butter Cookies

There is a cookie for everyone. No one can resist a good cookie to go with a glass of milk or a cup of tea/coffee.

The important question for me would be: Chewy or Crunchy?
I like my cookies crunchy - chewy ones remind me of flapjacks.

Nutty cookies are my favourite as the nuts help to cancel out some of the sweetness of the cookies and make them very more-ish. Have you tried Mark and Spencer's crunchy pistachio cookies? Best cookies, EVER. I will be trying to recreate it at a later date, when I have moved in and settled in to my new abode.
I have already moved in but the stress of a first time home ownership and work has made me go quiet of late so I do apologise but fingers crossed that's me getting motivated again. I have been in my new house for 2 weeks now and I still haven't unpacked everything - I still need to clean the old place to hand back to the landlord so still freaking out a little!

Right, back to the cookies. I must admit, cookies are not my strong point and I have only been successful with 3 cookie recipes in my baking life:
Choc chip cookies - recipe from Marcus Wareing's "How to Cook the Perfect...".
Oatmeal Cookies.
And the Peanut Butter Cookies recipe below. I found this recipe in one of the first baking books I ever bought (from a 99p shop!) and I still go back to it for inspiration at times. This book is simply called, "Home Baking".
Again, I adjusted the ingredients and baking time slightly in order to achieve a more nutty taste. 
What's your favourite cookie?






Peanut Butter Cookies
Ingredients:
115g Butter, softened
120g Crunchy Peanut Butter
100g Golden Caster Sugar
80g Dark Muscovado Sugar(original recipe asks for light but I prefer the nuttiness of the dark)
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
85g Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
pinch of salt
115g Rolled Oats

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prep 2-3 baking sheets by greasing them.
  • Place the butter and peanut butter in a bowl and beat until well combined.
  • Beat in both the sugars until light.
  • Gradually beat in the egg and vanilla essence.



  • Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt, then add to the peanut butter mixture.
  • Add the oats and stir everything together.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on to your baking sheets, spacing them well apart.
  • Flatten slightly with a fork.
  • Bake for 12-15 mins, until lightly browned. If you want them to be more crunchy then check on them every minute or so after 13mins to ensure they don't burn.
  • Cool on the sheets for 2mins and then transfer them to wire racks to finish off the cooling process.

Great with a cup of espresso!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Cotton Cheesecake

I never tasted cheesecake until I was in my early 20s and even then I was never sure about a heavy rich filling on top of a crunchy biscuit base - although my first cheesecake had more of a soggy base.
As time went on I realised there are so many different types of cheesecakes about and it was just finding the right one for me. 
They can be baked, fridge set or even steamed! 
They can have a biscuit base, sponge base or even no base at all.
They can have chocolate, fruit or just on its own.
The possibilities are endless!

East asians are more likely to prefer a lighter sponge style cheesecake that has been dubbed "Japanese Cotton Cheesecake". It is so light and so moist that one of my friends who first tried this cheesecake even said, "it's like eating a cheesecake cloud!" 
I have also had others who are not so fond of it because they are stuck in their ways of liking the rich creamy sweet desserts that they are used to.
Japanese Cotton Cheesecake is by far my favourite cheesecake, although I had never tasted one from an actual bakers - until this year when I was in Hong Kong. I still prefer my version because the one I bought had a weird artificial taste and weird texture.
This wasn't just my opinion, even my sister in law who loves cotton cheesecakes turned round and told me that mine was better than the one we had in HK.

This bought one left me so disappointed but also quite proud that mine tastes better.


It isn't hard to make, but it is hard to perfect. I would always get frustrated as to why my cheesecake looked like a volcano but after some searching for tips on how to make it look pretty, I was ecstatic when I finally made a pretty (and tasty) cheesecake. 
Don't get me wrong, I still like the rich creamy cheesecakes that have the crunchy biscuit base - ONLY if it has a crunchy biscuit base. My mum makes hers with a sponge base and topped with jelly - as much as I love my mum and her cooking, I don't particularly like that combo. Something about sponges being put with ingredients that soak in to the sponge makes me wanna gag (trifle is the worst).


It took a lot of practice for me and to this day, I still make the "rookie mistakes" because I tend to fall back in to bad habits. 

The pans I use are the traditional pans that are used by bakers in East Asia to make these cheesecakes so it may be hard to source these styles of pans in the UK. I had to get mum to buy them from Hong Kong for me. Don't be disheartened if you can't get them because deep round cake tins work too but make sure it is NOT loose based! If you only have a loose based tin, wrap it up in tin foil so no water gets in. Remember to adjust cooking time when baking them in different sized tins. 2 of these tins should equal to two 6" or 7" deep round cake tins. 
If you live in the UK and are interested in buying these pans, please get in touch and I can see what I can do about sourcing them over here.


Right, without further ado here is the recipe:

 Cotton Cheesecake

Ingredients:
A)
160g Cream Cheese
25g Butter
120g Milk

B)
40g Plain Flour
30g Cornflour

C) 
4 Medium Egg yolks

D) 
4 Medium Egg whites
Cream of Tartar (about 1/8th of a tsp)
100g Caster Sugar
Pinch of salt

Method:

  • Line your tins with baking parchment.
Ensure the parchment goes above the sides of the tins.
  • Preheat oven to 160ºC and move the rack you intend to bake on to the lowest section of the oven.
  • Place all ingredients from A) in to a heat resistant bowl, place on top of a pan of barely simmering water and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until it is slightly thick.
  • Take off the heat and whisk in B).
  • Once combined, whisk in C).
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites from D) until it is all foamy, then add the Cream of Tartar and salt. Continue to whisk until soft peaks start to form. 
  • Gradually add the sugar - a little at a time - until the whites are stiff and glossy. Try not to overbeat!
I love the look of whites when they reach the stiff peak stage!
  • Fold the whites in to the Cream Cheese mixture in 2-3 batches, using the balloon whisk. 
  • Once combined, you can use a large spatula to complete the folding process to ensure all whites are incorporated.
  • Gently pour the mixture in to the baking tins.
  • Bake in a bain marie in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in to the cake.
  • If you have a very cold kitchen, take your cheesecakes out of their tins and complete the cooling process in the switched off oven with the door ajar.
Best to try and take off the parchment immediately after it comes out so as not to get the wrinkles you see here.

I love flavouring mine with Pandan! 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Coffee Chiffon

I love Chiffon cakes. Fact.
Easy (ish) to make, no fuss and no need to decorate.
Light and moist texture that can be eaten on it's own with a good cup of coffee/tea.

I remember the first time I made this coffee chiffon, it was for my brother's birthday and he specifically requested not to have a cake made for him (due to the fact that he's not a fan of sweet things) but I couldn't let him go without a birthday cake. He loves coffee, so I searched for ages for a coffee chiffon recipe and when I eventually found one that I was kind of satisfied with, I reduced the sugar by almost a half; using what knowledge I already knew about Chiffon cakes, at the time, to tweak the recipe. 
I used cream for the middle to add an element of freshness - it worked wonderfully and the bro really enjoyed it. Happy days!

Bro and Ella with his birthday cake.


The second time I made this, the texture was even better but the sponge lacked any flavour of coffee and I was so gutted. The reason was simple, I changed the coffee I was using. 
The coffee I used the first time was made using Nescafe Original coffee granules.
The coffee I used the second time was made using Nescafe Azera. 
Now, Azera costs more and is supposed to give a more "authentic" barista style coffee so it baffled me as to why it tasted of nothing when added to the cake!
My advice to anyone trying this recipe out, is to play around with the coffee you use and once you find the perfect one, don't change!
I am still searching for the right coffee for my Coffee Chiffon - once I find it, I will be amending this post!
If you find the perfect coffee to add to this, please comment below and share with us!

For now, I hope you like this recipe.

Coffee Chiffon
Ingredients: 
A:
300g Plain Flour
150g Caster Sugar
1tbsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
125ml Vegetable Oil
150ml Fresh Coffee
8 Egg Yolks

B:
8 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
90g Caster Sugar


Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
  • Sieve the dry ingredients from list A in to a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the flour.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients from list A in to the well and mix with a balloon whisk until the mixture is smooth, but make sure you don't over mix it.



  • Beat the whites and Cream of Tartar until foamy, gradually add the sugar from B and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

  • Fold the stiff whites in to the coffee mix in 2-3 separate batches - I use a balloon whisk for this but you can use a spatula, whatever is easier for you.


  • Fold carefully but quickly until all egg white lumps are gone and then use a large spatula to complete the folding.


  • Pour carefully in to a Chiffon Tube Pan. Lift the pan an inch or 2 above the work top and drop it - do this a couple of times to remove large air pockets.


  • Bake for about 65-70mins - remembering that different ovens vary so check after 60 mins - using the skewer method to check it is done. Cool upside down in the tin for at least 20mins. I usually let it cool completely in the tin.



  • To remove the cake, use a thin sharp knife and run it around the side of the cake and tin, then once you have taken it out, run the knife along the bottom and inside the tube part to get the cake off the rest of the pan.


You can decorate it however you like - maybe with a caramel sauce? Fresh cream? Sprinkled with walnuts? 



I prefer it plain with no filling or icing and have it with a nice cup of tea.





I Decorated the one below with a chocolate ganache and filled with a whipped ganache.





Monday, 17 November 2014

Malaysia

During my trip to Hong Kong I also paid a visit to Malaysia for a few days to visit Shirley's family and yes, there was loads of food involved. Her sister, Libby, and her boyfriend took us around to many places and I can't thank them enough. Malaysia is an amazing country, if you like the heat. The mosquito bites are very painful so I advise you to top up on anti-mossie spray all the time and have the appropriate injections before going on your travels.
I love the food over there because there is such an eclectic mix of chinese, indian, traditional malay cuisines and so many fusions - I really was spoilt over there.

So like the Hong Kong posts, this is just photos and captions of some of the foods I tried over there:

Our first morning, Shirley's parents took us to a place a few minutes drive from their house that sells the best stir fried squid and egg dish I have ever had!
The only thing that put me off was the amount of flies that were about but it is unavoidable in a hot country and a shop that has an open eating area.


Stir fried shredded squid and egg.



Crab dumpling - very tasty!


The thing they are most famous for, Chinese Chive Dumplings - it doesn't look very appetising but it is a must eat.


Stir fried rice vermicelli - most chinese people eat this for breakfast/brunch.


The wall decor shows just how long this place has been opened for and is busy all the time.


In the afternoon we met with Shirley's uncle, who treated us to a very scrumptious lunch at his local chinese restaurant.

This place makes their own Tofu! It's not only impressive but it was probably the best tofu I have had in a long time.


Roast Duck and Chicken - the chicken skin was removed and the meat was chopped up and seasoned then the skin was put back on and then cooked. 


Bamboo Curry King Prawns - my favourite dish. So good that I ate the king prawns with their shells still on!


Fish Stew - that was kept hot over the warmer.


Sambal Stir Fried Green Beans.


Fish Laksa - Steamed fish in a laksa broth with udon-like noodles. The mint gave it a nice freshness that completes the dish.

Returning from our day out, Libby's Boyfriend swerved the car in to a tiny car park that had this little Rojak Stall. They sell skewers of fruit, veg, egg and squid that you dip in to a sweet, thick and spicy peanut sauce. It is so more-ish and you can either stand there and eat it (they count the finished skewers afterwards) or you can buy it to take away. 





This is called Apom, a coconut flavoured pancake. This is the indian style, which has crispy edges and is a light sponge in the centre. Definitely something I wouldn't mind trying to make at home!




This is another roadside stall, selling Hokkien style Man Jeen Beng, a style of pancake with many options of fillings. They also sell Apom, but his are more like a thai style of Apom, that has real coconut shreds and no crispy edges.
This man was very friendly and let me take as many photos as I wanted.



Egg style


When cooked, they are folded and put in these racks to cool so they remain folded when taken out, making it easier for people to eat on the go.


He works several rings at once!

Nasi Lemak will always hold a special place in my heart. The crunch of the small fried fish, the sweet spicy chilli sauce, coconut flavoured rice and topped with boiled egg.
This little parcel of goodness was bought at a stall next to the pancake stall and was manned by an 8 year old boy who had better math skills than most adults. I ate this as soon as I got in the car and it sure filled my stomach! 20p - I can't even get a packet of decent crisps for 20p in the UK!




Most of us know the benefits of coconut water. Just imagine having unlimited access to fresh coconuts every day - Shirley's grandparents don't need to. They have several coconut trees on their land and while we visited, they showed us how they got them down, opened them and how to eat the flesh inside. Doesn't get any fresher than that.



Seafood restaurant at the beach.
Came here for dinner one evening and yes, it was mostly seafood!
Really good seafood and very well cooked too.
Lucky for us, it started raining that night so we didn't end up having dinner in our own sweat.


Fried Mantis shrimp with salted duck egg. The yellow shreds is actually the salted duck egg whites and this was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
Baby octopus, simply steamed and with 2 types of dips, one sweet and spicy, the other more salty and spicy.
Sizzling black pepper venison - Not my cup of tea because I thought the sauce was too strong for the venison.
Mango salad - Very very spicy but very very addictive! So tasty and so fresh.
Steamed Garlic Clams 
Thai style Ham Hock - meat falling off the bone with a sweet chilli dip to dunk in, what's not to like??
This Garoupa was the most expensive part to the meal but it is still way cheaper than what it would have cost in the UK.
Proper chicken satay skewers - great barbecued chicken with a sweet peanut sauce. This was sold separately outside the restaurant but you can buy it and bring it in to have with your meal.



Brunch in Penang
When we think of brunch here in the UK, we think of things like pancakes, french toast, and a nice pot of hot tea or coffee. 
Brunch in East Asia can be anything you like, and that is just why it is such a foodies paradise. Where we went to, was a corner unit that had tables and chairs and you buy the drinks from the people who owned that place but there are tiny food stalls - each one sold a different cuisine - surrounding it so you can take your pick of the food...

Wonton noodles - Hong Kong Wonton noodles are in a broth, in Malaysia, the noodles are coated in a sauce and the broth is on the side for you to drink. Personally, I prefer it this way. Would have preferred a couple more wontons instead of the char sui though.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls - The healthiest thing to have in asia! Wish there were more places that did vietnamese spring rolls in the UK. Yes, I am too lazy to do it myself. 
Vietnamese Roast Pork noodles - this looked amazing. You mix the ingredients in to the noodles underneath so it gets coated in the beautiful topping. 

Coffee break in China House
The area of Penang that we visited was a tourist hotspot and is where the world famous street art is located. I had major fun taking photos of them all. We then decided to have a little coffee break in a place called China House. It is quite a big property - with a beautiful open courtyard in the middle, back entrance leads to the bar/cafe that is used in the evening for live music, the front entrance leads in to the cafe that houses an art gallery. Customers are invited to draw on the large sheets of paper they lay out on the tables.
They have a huge selection of bakes on their cake table and their menu contains a loads of different food options for you to choose from.

Their cake table.
This is called the Milo Dinosaur - very popular in Malaysia and is basically an iced coffee with a Milo crumble on top. So simple but very effective!



Purple Dragon Fruit Juice
Malaysia is on of the few places where freshly pressed fruit juices don't cost the earth but taste so sweet without any added sugars.







Night Food Market
Now, this is a place that you would not want to go if you don't like cramped spaces.
The great thing about these night food markets is that again, where you sit, you must buy the drinks from whoever owns those tables and chairs but you get to choose which stall you buy your food from. This would normally be heaven for me but unfortunately I started feeling quite ill by this point of my trip and as much as I wanted to go around and get lots of food, I just couldn't. I had a little of what the others brought back and personally, I wasn't that impressed with the food. Even my brother felt a little disappointed with this market. Glad I wasn't the only one.

Spicy noodles

Baby oysters stir fried in eggs - the dish but still not as good as the oyster pancakes I had in Hong Kong.

Dry Grilled Squid - found this quite bland

Squid with a sweet spicy condiment - this was the least impressive  dish because the squid had a strange texture to it.

Grilled Fish - I had high hopes for this but this had way too many small bones in it so was a little off putting.

Malaysian Ha Meen - Prawn noodles, very spicy!

Buzzing night food market.

Lunch at Lou Wong in Ipoh
Ipoh was a very very long drive from where we were staying but they wanted us to sample the chicken with beansprouts that restaurants in Ipoh is famous for.
Me and my brother both thought, "chicken and beansprouts, really?"
But yes, REALLY. 
Probably the best tasting chicken I have tasted in a very long time. In fact, all their dishes were fantastic! They don't put any of the chicken to waste either.
Chicken and fish meatballs.

Beansprouts

Chicken feet that has been cooked in chinese medicine herbs - this has become my favourite chicken feet dish  because it was packed full of flavour from the herbs and cooked so long that everything fell off the bones so easily, giving that melt in the mouth feel.

This chicken, so succulent and so god darn tasty!

I originally thought this was chicken liver but it turns out it was the stomach. Not tough at all and seasoned very nicely.
 
Last meal in Malaysia
Cooked by Shirley's Mum - what a feast it was!

All in all, my food experience in Malaysia was epic to say the least! I was always full - sometimes too full to eat much of the next meal. Yes, it was extremely hot (never sweated so much in my life!) and although I had a bad reaction to the mosquito bites, it was all worth it to sample their food and visit the places I did. I know I hadn't sampled everything they had to offer but maybe one day I will return to try out more.