Saturday, 27 May 2017

Chilli Flower

Found this in my drafts - a photograph of a flower on my chilli plant, from early February. It has since borne fruit and many more flowers, but this first one remains special to me. 


Apropos of nothing, I recently visited the River Safari, and had the opportunity to touch a live horseshoe crab. There was also a starfish that was more popular with the children, but personally, starfish pale in comparison to the living fossil that has been virtually unchanged for 450 million years. Also, horseshoe crabs have blue blood (royalty??) which is used in some biological assays. Meeting a real one was a very nice moment.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pineapple Tarts

It's already the Ides of March! Where is the year going.

I love pineapple tarts (the "golden pillow" variety), but they are both seasonal and really quite expensive. Making my own sounded like a great idea!

Pineapple Tarts (makes 30-45)
Adapted from this recipe. 

Filling
565 g (340 g drained) can of pineapple chunks
100 g granulated sugar, plus extra
1 1/2 – 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 – 1 1/2 tsp tapioca starch

Tart pastry
300 g all-purpose flour
75 g cake flour
50 g icing sugar
2 tbsp corn or tapioca starch
1/4 tsp table salt
220 g Golden Churn unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 egg yolks, divided
1 tsp water

To prepare the filling, drain pineapple. Place in a blender and pulse briefly until crushed. In a non-reactive saucepan, combine pineapple and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice, and extra sugar to taste. Add tapioca starch to thicken to desired consistency. Cool to room temperature before use.

To prepare pastry, whisk flours, icing sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside. Cream butter using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in vanilla essence using a spatula. Add two egg yolks and beat until combined.

Using a whisk, slowly beat in half of the flour mixture. Add remaining flour and beat with a wooden spoon until just combined. Scrape pastry dough together and knead 1–2 times to form a ball.

Divide dough into 30–35 balls (about 20 g each). To make each tart, press down on each dough ball to form an indentation. Place 1/2 – 1 tsp pineapple filling into the indentation and pinch shut. Roll lightly between the palms to form a pillow shape. If desired, decorate with a fork.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Whisk remaining egg yolk with water. Place pineapple tarts on a parchment-lined baking tray and brush with egg yolk glaze. Bake 15–20 minutes until golden-brown.

Notes

Theoretically, cornstarch can be used to thicken the filling, but I don't like to use it in fruit fillings because it tends to dull the flavour. Besides tapioca starch, potato starch also works well.

Golden Churn butter is magic and doesn't turn into oil at Singapore room temperatures. I strongly recommend this brand for this particular recipe.

The cake flour helps with the "shortness" of the dough, it can be replaced with plain flour mixed with 1–2 tbsp rice flour. Gluten-free flour would probably work, too.

I haven't tried this yet, but I think a touch of almond essence would help with the flavour. Perhaps 1/2 tsp vanilla essence, and 1/2 tsp almond essence. Other things I'd like to try: different glazes (the egg yolk glaze is very eggy), using silken tofu instead of egg yolks in the pastry, adding cheese powder to the pastry.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lemon Curd (Egg-Free)

I could have sworn that I had posted this long ago... Anyway, here is some egg-free lemon curd that, with further substitution, can be made vegan.

Lemon Curd (Egg Free)
Loosely adapted from this orange curd recipe.

Ingredients
180 - 250 ml juice from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 lemon
30 ml aquafaba
50 g silken tofu
150 g granulated sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp gelatin
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Over medium-high heat, simmer lemon juice until reduced to about 60 ml. Stir in zest; set aside.

Blend aquafaba and tofu until smooth. Whisk in sugar until incorporated. Stir in cooled lemon juice and gelatin.

Return to medium heat. Whisk constantly until curd has thickened to a pudding-like consistency (about 10 minutes).

Strain curd, if desired. While still warm, stir in butter and salt. Transfer to a clean, airtight jar and keep refrigerated.

Notes

Add more or less gelatin to adjust the firmness of the curd. For the above recipe, 1/4 tsp gelatin makes a spreadable curd but not too sloppy curd, while 1/2 tsp is a little closer to jelly.

Adjust the amount of sugar to taste (I only use 100 g, because I like a more tangy curd).

Friday, 10 February 2017

KFC Chizza

So I tried KFC's newest offering. The Chizza is a cross between fried chicken and Hawaiian pizza. Or, if you prefer, chicken parmigiana with pineapple.


It's not terribly big; the box is about 15 by 15 cm.



Compared with other pictures I've seen, mine looks pretty attractive! It's at least vaguely heart-shaped.



And here is a cross-section. The Chizza is composed of a battered chicken fillet - original recipe, judging by the taste - topped with tomato sauce, chicken ham, pineapple chunks, a proprietary cheese sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Did I mention that it's basically chicken parmigiana?

In spite of its dubious appearance, the Chizza is actually pretty good. The chicken is standard KFC fare, juicy with a crisp crust. The tomato sauce is unexpectedly excellent, a good balance of tangy and sweet. The cheeses, ham, and pineapple come together nicely without overwhelming the taste of the chicken base. Since it doesn't contain much in the way of carbohydrates, it's not too heavy, and it's not terribly greasy either.

I do recommend using a fork and knife, because it is pretty messy and difficult to hold. Also, at S$5.10 à la carte, it is on the expensive side. Nevertheless, it's worth trying at least once. I might go get another one, when the hype dies down a bit. (When I was at KFC, practically everyone was ordering a Chizza. Or multiple Chizzas. The staff really had to rush around. It was crazy!)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

MRT Announcements

Rest in peace, Mrs. Melson.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Chocolate-on-Chocolate Tart with Spiced Oranges

This genuinely fantastic recipe seems to have disappeared off the internet, so I'm reposting it here. The recipe was originally published in a 2012 or 2013 issue of the Coles Magazine. The text is the intellectual property of Coles Supermarkets Australia, I'm simply circulating the tapes.

Chocolate-on-Chocolate Tart with Spiced Oranges

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
120 g butter, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cocoa, for dusting
1-2 tbsp chilled water

Chocolate filling
300 g dark chocolate, chopped
300 ml cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Spiced oranges
6 oranges
1/4 caster sugar
1 star anise
4 Coles brand cloves
1 cinnamon stick

To make pastry, place the flour, caster sugar, cocoa and butter in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and chilled water and pulse to form a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and bring dough together to form a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Roll dough until 5 mm thick. Ease into a 24 cm fluted, loose-based, non-stick flan tin. Trim edges. Refrigerate for 20 mins.

Preheat oven to 180ºC or 160ºC fan. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights, dried beans or rice. Blind-bake for 15 mins. Remove paper and weights and bake for another 10 mins, until firm.

Meanwhile, to make chocolate filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream in a small pan until just at simmering point. Pour over chocolate and set aside for 5 mins. Stir until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Add eggs and stir to combine.

Reduce oven temperature to 130ºC or 110ºC fan. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared tart shell and bake for 30 mins, until filling is set but still wobbly. Refrigerate until cold.

Meanwhile, to make spiced oranges, remove zest from 1 orange and set aside. Peel all six oranges, removing pith. Using a small knife, segment each orange over a bowl, to catch juice. Strain the juice into a small saucepan, setting aside orange segments in bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water to juice in saucepan, along with sugar, star anise, cloves and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 5 mins, until syrupy. Pour syrup over orange segments and top with zest.

Dust tart with cocoa and cut into wedges. Serve with spiced oranges and a drizzle of syrup.

************

And now... here is my modified version.

Ingredients

Pastry 

120 g plain flour
70 g cake flour
15 g (1/4 cup) cocoa, plus extra for dusting
70 g caster sugar
120 g salted butter, chopped and kept chilled
1 egg, lightly beaten or 3 tbsp aquafaba, chilled
1-2 tbsp water, chilled

Chocolate filling 
300 g good quality dark chocolate
1/4 tsp instant coffee (optional)
300 g whipping cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Spiced oranges 
3-6 whole oranges
35 g caster sugar
60 ml (4 tbsp) water
1-2 star anise fruits
4 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick (or about 1/2 tbsp fragments)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the plain flour, cake flour, cocoa, and sugar. Chill in refrigerator for 5 min. Toss butter in flour mixture, then rub with fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add more flour if necessary. Mix in beaten egg. Add chilled water as necessary until the dough just comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a disc. Wrap on cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Lightly grease a 24 cm (9.5") fluted flan tin. Place dough disc between two sheets of piece of parchment paper or aluminium foil, and roll to 5 mm thickness. Remove the sheets and ease pastry dough into the tin. Press dough into the tin, smoothing out any air bubbles, and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Line with aluminium foil and refrigerate for at least 2 h.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Remove tin from refrigerator and fill with pastry weights or beans. Blind-bake for 15 min. Remove foil and weights; bake another 10 min until firm.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate filling. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl or saucepan, and sprinkle with instant coffee if using. Over a double-boiler or in a microwave, gently heat cream until just simmering. Pour over chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool for 5 min. Add 1 tbsp of chocolate mixture to beaten eggs and mix well. Stir tempered egg mixture into the chocolate until combined.

Reduce oven temperature to 150°C. Pour chocolate mixture into tart shell and smooth the top. Cover with foil and bake 25 min until filling is partially set. Remove foil and leave uncovered in the warm oven for 10 min. Remove tart from oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Refrigerate until completely chilled.

To prepare spiced oranges, reserve zest from 1 orange. Peel and segment all the oranges, reserving the juice. In a small saucepan, combine the juice, water, sugar, spices, and zest. Bring to a simmer; simmer 5 min until syrup has thickened. Strain syrup and drizzle over orange segments.

Dust chilled tart with cocoa. Cut into wedges and serve with spiced oranges.

Notes

The tart pastry can also be prepared using 190 g gluten-free flour for an extra-crumbly crust.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Recipe: Strawberry Melba Sauce

My first post of this year is about dessert. Of course.

Melba Sauce is one of those completely delicious things that seems to disappear off store shelves after you have become hopelessly addicted to it. Unfortunately, with fresh raspberries being as expensive as they are in this country (or simply unavailable), preparing the authentic version of this sauce is from scratch difficult.

Below is a workaround version I created that fairly approximates the taste of the bottled sauce. At any rate, it goes well with ice-cream, toast, and cake.

(The photograph below features two squares of zesty magic custard cake.)


Strawberry Melba Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients
250 g fresh strawberries, roughly diced
50 g dried currants
1/2 cup (125 ml) raspberry conserve
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) caster sugar
3-4 strips thinly-peeled lemon rind (no pith)
Pinch salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Add just enough water to the currants to cover them, and soak for at least 10 minutes. In a small, non-reactive bowl, mix sugar and lemon rind. Stand for 10-15 minutes.

In a small saucepan, mix strawberries, raspberry conserve, and soaked currants (including all liquid). Place on the stove over low heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the fruit breaks down. Stir in the pinch salt and the lemon rind mixture until all the sugar has dissolved; remove from heat. Stand for 5 minutes.

Strain sauce into a heatproof bowl using a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, pressing down with a wooden spoon to ensure that all the liquid passes through. Transfer the strained sauce to a clean saucepan and simmer further until thickened, if desired. Alternatively, microwave on low heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring in between.

Allow sauce to cool slightly, then stir in lemon juice. Transfer to a sterile, airtight jar. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.