24 February 2008

Deep Fried Nian Gao

Lunar New Year may be over but it is just about the right time to enjoy some yummy niao gao, dip in flour and egg batter and deep fry to a crispy coat on the outside; and gooey, almost melt-in-the-mouth texture on the inside. Yum! I guess nian gao is something that is eaten only during Lunar New Year, same goes for Yusheng (both my fav for Lunar New Year goodies). Thus, I tend to over-indulge a little.
Traditionally, the Chinese buy or make this sticky and sweet glutinous rice flour cake to symbolise growth and prosperity (I think). Fresh nian gao is soft and very sticky and people rarely eat it this way. Since young, I always look forward to after Lunar New Year when the nian gao turns hard and mum would make deep fried nian gao, sometimes sandwiched with slices of sweet potato and yam.

This year, I want to try my own ultimate deep fried nian gao! But how? Tried asking relatives, tasted nian gao by different households, searched online recipes posted by bloggers, flipped through magazines... different recipes yield different texture and results.
Finally settled on 5 different batters.
The steps for mixing the batter is rather simple. (Have left out the sweet potato and yam for this batter test.)
  • Mix the flours and egg
  • Add ice water and mix to a smooth batter (not too runny or dry. Mum's way to test consistency - a figure of 8 written using chopstick stays for a while before blending into batter)
  • Some recipes call for oil and salt
  • Cut nian gao into thin slices
  • Dip nian gao into batter before carefully dropping into hot oil
  • Deep fry on low fire until light golden brown on both sides.
Batter 1 - adapted from recipe in Food and Travel magazine Feb 2008 issue.
  • 65 g plain flour
  • 25 g rice flour
  • 80 ml ice water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Verdict: Chewy and slight crispy crust when hot but soft when cold; not fragrant enough
Batter 2 - adapted from Cheat Eat
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 45 ml ice water
  • 1 tsp oil
Verdict: Close to Batter 1 but more fragrant. Crust puffed a little when hot and more crispy but once again turned soft when cold.
Batter 3 - relative's recipe
  • 50 g cake flour
  • 1 egg
  • 35 ml ice water
Verdict: Quite crispy crust when hot but still not fragrant enough. Soft when cold.
Batter 4 - adapted from Club CSC website.
  • 100 g rice flour
  • 45 g top flour
  • 20 g corn flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 egg
  • 110 - 120 ml ice water
Verdict: The original recipe uses self-raising flour and doesn't include egg and oil. During my first try, I didn't add the oil and egg. Crust was super crispy (a tad too hard) and lack fragrance. So I added egg and oil and it turned out better. Crust remained crispy even when cold.
Batter 5 - adapted from knowingfood.com
  • 2 tbsp corn flour
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
Verdict: The original recipe includes 1 cup water but after I added the egg to the flours, the batter was so thin that I added 1 more tbsp of corn flour (original only 1) and 1 more tbsp of rice flour (original only 2) and skipped the water altogether. Crust turned out light and crispy. Still crispy when cold but not as good as Batter 4.
Both hubby and I prefer batter 4 since the crust remains crispy even when the nian gao turns cold. Batter 5 is ok as well, but not 1,2 and 3 as these turn soft and chewy after a while.
But I just can't seem to replicate the same nostalgic deep fried nian gao taste that I remember fondly as a child. Could be the ingredients or the amount of ingredient used. Anyway, I'm happy for now.

Meme - 5 facts about myself

I've been tagged by Mimosa's Diary for a meme! Although I have seen memes in other blogs, I have never been tagged before so was pleasantly surprised :) The thing is, I also don't know other bloggers and rarely leave any comments at other blogs. This would be an opportunity for me to get to know more bloggers. Just hope that the bloggers being tagged won't mind.

The Meme rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Five facts about myself:
I always enjoy cooking but never gotten down to baking until March 2007 where I attended Joycelyn’s Cupcake Workshop at Shermay’s Cooking School. Since then, been attending classes regularly. I guess this new found interest is a way of de-stress as I discover that baking is rather therapeutic.

2. I am quite a procrastinator, especially when it comes to things I have to do but don’t enjoy. Maybe I am just plain lazy :p

3. My choices of therapy include shopping, sleeping, eating, going to spa, baking, going on vacation/getaways, mahjong… secretly I aspire to be a tai tai :p

4. I love Japan - the food, shopping, zakka, packaging, creativity, gracious people, onsen, traditional ryokan with cozy futon…

5. My dream is to own a zakka shop cum café.

Five bloggers I would like to tag:
1. masak-masak
2. evan's kitchen ramblings
3. honey and clover
4. zakka life
5. Veronica's Test Kitchen

12 February 2008

Pineapple Tarts for the Festive Season

Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐!
I am so missing in blogging action. Besides overwhelmed with work and barely enough time for rest, I still insisted on baking my CNY goodies. The past 1 - 2 weeks, pre CNY to now had been a whirlwind of non-stop action. Working, baking, visiting, hosting, gambling... kind of suffering from fatigue now.
I must say that I am rather pleased with my baking results, especially Pineapple Tarts. Yes it is really common; shops everywhere are selling it in all shapes and sizes; homebakers are also joining the bandwagon and touting the "Homemade" brand. Still, it's the effort and labour of love that count, doesn't it?

My pineapple jam improves a little from my test bake. Didn't blend the pineapple too much so that texture remains; cooked it longer as well so that it is drier. Had added even less sugar but somehow the jam still turned out tad too sweet. But overall, not too bad at all!
After 2.5hrs of cooking the pineapple jam, 2hrs of preparing the dough (ingredients + chilling time) and 2 nights of wrapping and baking the tarts (lost count of hours), I proudly produced 200 pieces of Pineapple Tarts. Am I considered slow?
Anyway besides pineapple tarts, I also baked 2 loaves of Hazelnut & Cinnamon Biscotti, 24 pieces of Mandarin Friands, a few dozens Almond Shortbread and even Pandan Chiffon Cake (tough work considering I had to literally squeeze juice out of 60 pandan leaves after fine chopping them!). Come to think of it, all these didn't seem a lot now? Well, initially I even had plans to attempt Jasmine Infused Macarons since there were 4 days of holiday. But then, gambling visiting took precedence subsequently.
Hadn't intend to sell any of my bake goods this year since I'm really an amateur. Turned out one of my colleagues liked my pineapple tarts and ordered 2 boxes of 18 pieces. I guess no harm selling and just charged a small fee for them.

Anyway, turned out my baked goods were quite well received and already friends were interested in ordering the tarts for next year! Oooh... seems feasible...
Meanwhile, let me take a breather and enjoy the rest of CNY gambling resting and no baking.
Huat Ah!