Monday, January 30, 2012

Cherry-Vanilla Tea Cake with Vanilla Sugar

I love cherry and vanilla and was deeply attracted to this cake when I saw this recipe in the book, Bon Appetit by Barbara Fairchild. Thus, I've suggested baking this cake with my two baking buddies, Lena, from Frozen wings and Joyce from Kitchen Flavours for our 17th bake-along.

Apart from just baking according to this recipe, I've also tried baking this cake in a form of cherry vanilla cupcakes with a slight twist. I've created a glossy version of cherry vanilla cupcakes using this similar cake mix but without adding any cherries inside. Instead, I've made a cherry sauce with the fresh cherries and used the sauce to create a glossy topping on these cupcakes. I reckon that both cake and cupcakes are fantastic, the basic cake mix is very moist and they are all very delicious to eat. 

cherry vanilla tea cake vanilla sugar

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vegemite Cheesy Scrolls for Australia Day

Happy Australia Day!

Tomorrow, we are celebrating Australia Day and it's time again to fire up our Barbie to enjoy lots of sausages.

Last year for this day, I made a classic trifle with an Aussie iconic Aeroplane jelly. And this year, we are eating Vegemite!

As what Wikipedia describes, Vegemite is a dark brown Australian food paste made from yeast extract. It has a great salty taste and is usually eaten with a toast, sandwich or cracker biscuit. I think Vegemite is a great vegetarian food and love eating Vegemite with cheese. Best of all, I enjoy eating Vegemite in the form of cheesy scrolls especially when they are freshly baked from any local bakeries. For this post, I am making my own freshly baked Vegemite cheesy scroll, all from scratch using a brioche recipe from the book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

The brioche recipe that I am using is the poor man's brioche which contains lesser butter than the other two recipes. This brioche bread is surprising quite light and spongy and does compliment the both tasty cheese and Vegemite very well.

vegemite cheese bread scrolls

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sticky Asian Pork Ribs

This is what we ate for our Chinese New Year reunion dinner. This pork ribs dish doesn't have a special auspicious or symbolic meaning to eat for Chinese New Year, but I must say it is a nice and luxurious delicacy to enjoy for this special occasion. 

Surprise! Surprise! This Asian pork ribs recipe actually originates from Donna Hay magazine! This Aussie-Asian fusion recipe originally uses beef ribs but I have replaced them with pork ribs instead. This recipe is super easy to cook. All I need is the ingredients, a oven-safe dish and an oven and all I did was to mix everything together and bake it! Essentially, I don't think that there is special skill required to cook this dish and all you need is time and patience. I've baked this dish for a total of 3 hrs and this dish is definitely worth the long wait.

The meat fell off the bones of the pork ribs as we scoped them off the baking dish and they are so tender and well-infused with all the Asian spices and sauces. My family enjoy this dish very much for our reunion dinner. My son didn't like the look of the dish initially but wouldn't resist his second bite after trying it.

sticky pork ribs Donna Hay 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting ready for Chinese New Year - Pineapple Tarts (Part two)

This is the sequential part of my pineapple tart baking...

In my previous post, I've made my own pineapple jam and baked two jars of cream-cheese-melt-in-mouth pineapple tarts using both recipes provided by Wendy, Table for 2 or more. Wendy's cream cheese pineapple tarts recipe is really good but I would wish to seek further for an ultimate melting kind of pineapple tarts and wouldn't mind trying out different pineapple tarts recipes to satisfy my curiosity. Since young, I've been extremely good being a pineapple tart critic. LOL! My husband and son loves pineapple tarts too and I think that we all can be "critical" enough to test lots of pineapple tart from different recipes.

There are two recipes that I have tried and tested in this post:

My first recipe is from Jun, Indochine Kitchen. Her nastar (enclosed kind) pineapple tarts are all very uniformly shaped and they look so beaming with their golden glaze! I can't stop admiring the way she shaped and baked the tarts with her detailed step-by-step instructions and thought that I can do that too...or maybe not. Using her recipe, my pastry has turned out to be too crumbly for me to handle. My rolled pastry broke into pieces whenever I tried to roll them to enclose the pineapple filling. Eventually, I thought I can salvage the pastry by adding an additional egg yolk and can only shape the pastry into the open kind of pineapple tarts.

My second recipe is from Ju, The Little Teochew. As I was browsing through most bloggers' pineapple posts, there were a few that mentioned that this recipe by The Little Teochew is really really really good! And it is true! Out of all the recipes that I have tired so far, I would say that this is the best.

For this Chinese New Year, I'm happy and satisfied with the pineapple tarts that I made using the The Little Teochew recipe but wouldn't think that this is the end of my search for the most ideal pineapple tart yet. At this moment, I would love to sit back, relax and enjoy these pineapple tarts first, and will continue my quest probably after this celebration.

best pineapple tarts open face
Melt-in-your-mouth pineapple tarts (Recipe from The Little Teochew)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Getting Ready for Chinese New Year - Pineapple Tarts (Part one)

I can't imagine celebrating a Chinese New Year without eating any pineapple tarts...

Last year, I've used an express method to bake pineapple tarts for our Chinese New Year 2011. The advantages of using this method are: 
  • It is really fast and easy. 
  • The pineapple tarts are delicious.
  • Everything including the pineapple jam is all homemade!
The only disadvantage is that I can only make 15 tarts which are just not enough to satisfy our family's consumption.

This year, I am baking more pineapple tarts for my family. At the same time, I would love to try and test different pineapple tart recipes to seek for an ideal one for my future bakes.

As I was reading and exploring every recommended recipes, I came across about a few concerns that I need to embrace making a large batch of pineapple tarts...

Wendy, Table for 2 or more has highlighted the danger from splattering of hot pineapple juice while cooking the pineapple jam.

Ju, The Little Teochew has mentioned that melt-in-mouth pastry can be difficult to handle as the buttery pastry may melt down in our hot summer days.

For the sake of continuing the culture of eating GOOD QUALITY pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year, I'm writing down the following checklist to gear up for my series of pineapple tart bakes:

Pineapple - We are lucky that Australian pineapples are in season now.

Butter -  I have stocked up the best quality butter to bake these Chinese New Year delicacies (checked)

"Heat-proof" hands to endure splattering of pineapple jam
(I think that I'm tough enough to do this - checked)

Being BRAVE enough to handle melting pastry and explore different pineapple recipes (CHECKED! LOL) 

Since last year, I remember reading a detailed pineapple jam post and a cream-cheese-melt-in-mouth pineapple tarts post, both by Wendy, Table for or more. Both her posts have very precise step-by-step instructions and she has shared lots of tips and techniques with her pineapple jam cooking and so I've decided to use both her recipes to make my first batch of pineapple tarts this year.

Both Wendy's recipes are really good. Unlike the commercial made pineapple jam, my homemade one is mild in sweetness and deliciously soft with adequate amount of moisture and fibers in every single bite of this jam. The cream-cheese-melt-in-mouth pastry is delicious too but I was seeking an ultimate melting kind of texture and so my quest for more pineapple tarts recipes continues...
Cream-cheese-melt-in-mouth pineapple tarts

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"QQ" Cornflour Bread and Korean Buckwheat Noodles - Gifts from Lena

About two weeks back, Lena from Frozen Wings and I finally met!

Lena is my one of our bake-along buddies. We have never meet each other before and only know each other through blogging. A year back, Lena and I were follower of each other blogs and we were corresponding a lot, leaving our comments at our blog posts. In the midst of last year and my early bread baking days, I started writing to Lena to seek her advices in bread baking. Then, she invited me to be part of our bake-along team, all together with Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and now Joyce, Lena and I are great friends.

This is my first time face to face seeing Lena and I was very excited to see her. As I was waiting at the Flinders train station at Melbourne city, I was busy scanning around for any potential Lena-looking ladies. I kept asking myself "is this Lena?" or maybe not. When she arrived, I knew that this is her! I think this is funny because I sound like I was dating an online friend...LOL!

I was very comfortable chatting with Lena. I brought her to the well-equipped spice shop at Lygon and we had a nice lunch at a cafe, Brunetti. Lena has been very thoughtful to me and my family and gave me lots of gifts. Amongst all are these two cookbooks which I would like to cook and bake one recipe from each book to express my gratitude to Lena's generosity.

The meaning of "QQ" in Chinese term means chewy food with bouncy texture. This recipe, "QQ" cornflour bread is from the book, The Second book of Baking for Beginner by Carol. The recipes in this book are all written in Chinese and when Lena knew that my husband can translate these Chinese recipes for me, she decided to give me this book.

The addition of cornflour in this bread dough is meant to give the bread a little bouncy "QQ" texture but can cause the dough to have insufficient gluten strength to rise to a higher height. This recipe recommends 10 cm high Pullman tin but mine is 11 cm high and unfortunately, the bread dough just can't rise slightly higher to form a perfect square shape in my higher Pullman tin. Nevertheless, the bread is actually quite "QQ" with a nice buttery "brioche-like" taste.

At the same time, I've also cooked a nice and easy Korean spicy chilled buckwheat noodles for our family's dinner based on a recipe from the other book, Seoul Kitchen by Debbie Lee. I must admit that the sauce of this noodle dish is little too spicy for my son but my husband and I were happily enjoying it. Eventually, I had to prepare a non-spicy sauce but his non-spicy sauce is just not Korean enough.

"QQ" Cornflour Bread

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Brownies

I thought that I am supposed to be happy... baking my happy brownies. I was happy baking these brownies but I am not sure now that I am as happy as I should be.

These brownies are originally made with lots of happy reasons...

First of all, these brownies are surprisingly low in fat, sugar and calories, and yet they are very moist and delicious! This makes me happy knowing that I'm feeding my family these guilt-free treats.

Second, I love baking and so I thought that I will be simply happy baking these cute little brownies.

Last and most importantly, I was supposed to bake these brownies for our 16th bake-along with my two baking buddies, Lena, from Frozen wings and Joyce from Kitchen Flavours. Due to family reasons, Joyce was unable to join us for this bake-along and I feel bad and feel that these brownies should not be as happy as they are intended to be. Nevertheless, I hope that everything will be fine for Joyce and sincerely wish that my happy brownies post can give everybody lots of "happiness" and lots of smiles on your face.

Hi! I'm plain-happy brownies made by Zoe, a happy baker.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pizza made of harvest from my garden

I'm amazed whenever I eat a cherry tomato from our tomato plants; thinking of the day which was more than 4 months back that my son planted these tomatoes seeds into the potting mix. Then, without fail, my husband and son water the plants everyday. When I'm busy cooking, both father and son would spend their time catching the bugs and caterpillars that attack our plants and nurture their allies spiders for their bugs catching assistance. Now, we are all happy that we are reaping our reward from our hard work and patience .

This is a nice and easy pizza base recipe with which does any pre-baking. This recipe is so easy that I actually knead the pizza dough by hand. No kneading machine required! However, you would need lots of extra flour to dust because the dough contains no added fat and can be quite sticky to handle. I can use fresh tomatoes and juicy pineapple as my pizza toppings and yet the pizza crust turns out to be a great texture and not soggy.

Pizza made from our hard work...tomatoes and oregano from our garden

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Knowing my family with lots of cookies baking...

Welcome 2012! Looking back, year 2011 has been a bakerholic year for me.

Even since I've started this blog, I've been exploring lots of recipes and wouldn't miss out trying out any good recipes. Through blogging, I have tried understanding my family's likes and dislikes and encourage my family to explore new taste and different food culture.

I always thought my family likes the classic plain chewy chocolate chip cookies, made with brown sugar for buttery soft cookies texture. For my blog and curiosity, I've stepped out of my assumptions and discovered lots of different cookies recipes which create a wide variety of textures and flavours.

Here are some great cookies recipes that I've baked last year but didn't have a chance to post them before 2011 ends.

For the first two recipes, I was comparing the difference in amount of butter and sugar composition that affect the taste and texture of both crispy and chewy cookies. Everything in the recipe is the same except for the proportion of butter, sugar and milk. I'm amazed with the results. My husband and son were pacing behind me when I was baking these cookies and got really excited when they were asked to do the taste test...and the winner is not surprisingly the CRISPY cookies! Clearly, the higher butter and sugar content in the crispy cookies give them a better crunch and taste! I should have know! LOL.

Another of our family's favourite is these very-chocolatey soft cookies. These cookies are named Better-than-Brownie-Cookies but I prefer to name them as my husband's favourite cookies. These cookies are so easy to make and I've baked these more than a couple of times. Every now and then, I receive requests from him and his colleagues for these cookies.