29 January 2012

Bak Kwa Cookies

Happy New Year! Today is the 7th day of the Lunar New Year, which is known as 人日 symbolising everyone's birthday. Happy birthday to all!

This year, I didn't manage to bake any new year goodies except for these Bak Kwa Cookies. Since dear son's birthday was 1 week before the Lunar New Year, I already had my hands full with his birthday cake and cupcakes for celebration with family and at his childcare centre. Plus, I had an order fulfillment of 3 tubs of salted chocolate chip cookies. So after a week of intense baking and celebrations, I simply couldn't muster the energy to bake more stuff.

Nevertheless, when I came across Jane's recipe on Bak Kwa Cookies, I was completely sold! I mean, it was brilliant, combining the richness and crunchiness of butter cookies with sweet, oily, gooey, chewy, fragrant bak kwa. How would the taste be like? The thought kept lingering in my mind. So the moment I got hold of a packet of bak kwa, I got down to work.

The recipe was actually quite easy and straightforward. Cutting up the bak kwa into mini dices was pretty tedious though, but an essential step to ensure that the bite-size pieces of cookies were not overwhelmed by too much bak kwa.

I made 2 batches of cookies, one batch using Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa and the other Lim Chee Guan. Also made very minor changes to the recipe, like reducing the amount of icing sugar by 20g and brushing the dough with some egg yolk to give it a glossy finish. For the first batch, I weighed each cookie to be about 8 to 8.5g and yielded 107 cookies. For the second batch, I made half the recipe, and weighed part of the dough to about 7 - 7.5g. I think I managed to get more than 60 cookies.
The aroma of butter and bak kwa filled the entire house and I was eagerly waiting to try how the cookie would taste like. These were brushed with some egg yolk and I thought they looked more CNY-like. They could even pass off as pineapple tart or some almond cookie :)

Taste-wise, the cookie was buttery, almost melt-in-the-mouth, yet with bits of chewy bak kwa. Very unique indeed. I think it's perfect for people who like the best of both worlds, or for those who find eating bak kwa neat too jiat lat (overwhelming). And like what Jane said, it's very addictive! I found myself popping one after another, as it was not oily nor too sweet. Hubby claimed that the ones made using Lim Chee Guan bak kwa tasted better (well he's very biased coz he only likes LCG bak kwa). I think there's just a very subtle difference, the ones made using Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa were a tad dryer, as in the bak kwa bits inside the cookie were drier. Anyways, both batches were equally nice.

First batch of cookie made using Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa. These were not brushed with egg yolk. I thought they looked like those old-school fish ball snack with a slight tinge of golden brown.

The ones brushed with egg yolk looked more like the typical CNY snacks.

I think from the next CNY onwards, I'm going to make this bak kwa cookie my regular bake! Or after CNY, if you have leftover bak kwa, this is the perfect solution! Tempted yet? Hop over to Jane's blog for the recipe :)

  • I found cutting the bak kwa into tiny bits very tedius and time-consuming so I used a handheld blender (Braun Mulitquick) to blend the bak kwa (till the bak kwa is fine but with some coarse bits). The cookies turned out even better, with a stronger bak kwa fragrance.
  • 7.5g per cookie dough yields 120 cookies.

25 January 2012

Hiroshima/Miyajima Nov 2011 - Final Part

Continued from Part I, II, III, IV and V.

Here's some sharing of my haul from the Hiroshima/Miyajima trip.

Our favourite Yuzu honey drink from Sugi Yohoen. There are many other flavours available like grape, lemon, blueberry, acerola, maple, rasberry... but we still like yuzu the best. The last time we purchased the honey was 3-4 years ago when we went Nikko. Glad to find a branch on Miyajima island itself.
This is a very interesting jam which I found at Yutori No Kitchen (Mitsukoshi), by Harumi Kurihara, one of the best-known cookery writers in Japan. The jam is milky, thick and creamy with a tinge of earl grey flavour.
Strawberry jam which dear son loves, available at most supermarkets.
Crochet linen, coaster and a fork. Bought at Natural Kitchen.
These 2 pouches are from Miyajima, they open up to a cloth bag and fold into a cube. Super kawaii.
Calbee veggie chips, bought at convenience store.
When I saw this electric weighing scale at Tokyu Hands, I simple have to buy it, so pretty :p I already owned a similar Tanita scale (green colour also bought at Tokyu Hands) but this is even better. There's an anti-slip silicone mat, the measurements come in g and ml (ml only for water and milk) and precision up to 0.1g. You know, sometimes I need 2 weighing scales at one go :p
The spatula with yellow handle is from Tokyu Hands, sold in Singapore for close to $10 but only $7 there. It's one of the most handy and useful spatula I owned. I already have 2 at home but one is a little worn out so I bought another 2.

The 3 other items, mini melon baller, chiffon knife and cake decorator are bought from Daiso at 200 yen each.
Fell in love with this watch the moment I saw it. Bought at cache cache, Shareo Underground Shopping Mall.
Read from a fashion magazine that this particular brand of curl lash fixer is good and the make-up remover sheets are very effective too. Bought them from France-ya which is a beauty shop selling beauty products from France.
Travel pillow bought from Tokyu Hands. Since we travel so much, both air and car, I reckoned a good quality travel pillow is important! This has a t-shirt material so the surface feels really soft and comfy.
Souvenirs from Miyajima. The spatula on the right was a gift from the Momiji-so Ryokan in Miyajima. Hubby just couldn't resist buying the 2 lucky charm for his fishing! I got a mini one for luck too :)

These are just some of the interesting items, the actual haul was ahem, more :p Haha.

Travel resources

22 January 2012

Hiroshima/Miyajima Nov 2011 - Part V

Continued from Parts I, II, III and IV.

After departing Miyajima, we took the tram bound for Hiroshima Station. Halfway through the journey we stopped by a fishing tackle store (which I spotted the previous day when we were heading towards Miyajima pier) for hubby to shop. After browsing around the store for more than an hour and purchased a rod that he has been looking for, we headed back to the tram station.

By the time we reached Hiroshima station and checked into Sheraton Hotel, it was already late afternoon. The room was big and luxe indeed.

Very comfy and cosy King-size bed.
Bathroom with all the amenities.
The bathroom is sort of open-concept.
Work area and flatscreen TV with cabinets that conceal fridge, crockery and cutlery, coffee/tea making facilities, wine, snacks and etc.

Wished I could linger in the room more but I was running out of time to shop!! LOL. So I left hubby in the room and went towards downtown Hiroshima for my shopping marathon. Only had time for Sogo Departmental Store and the connecting AQ'A; Loft (one of my must-visit shop in Japan) is located at Level 8 of AQ'A. Both stores are huge but close at 8pm.

Met hubby for dinner. Ate at a Tonkatsu restaurant at the top level of Sogo. Not sure if it was due to late hours (8+pm) or a weekday, the restaurants were all quite empty. Ordered a Curry Tonkatsu which was ok, but not the best that we've eaten.

After dinner, we went back to JR Hiroshima Station area, browsed at a bookstore and supermarket and then back to the hotel.
The next day, hubby had to go for his meetings already, whereas I had about 6hrs to short before catching the night flight back to Singapore.
Hubby set off for breakfast quite early whereas I lingered in the room, enjoying the scenery and comforts of the room. How I wish I could stay longer. In fact, I was so dumb for not staying for more days.

Lingered for a while more before heading out. The stores open at around 10-10.30am, so I reckoned I had time for breakfast and then a quick tour of A-Bomb Dome.
Had a ham and egg sandwich set breakfast at Cafe Doutor which is similar to Star Bucks/Coffee Bean. The sandwich was delish!

Then I took the tram to the Genbaku Dome-mae station which is near the Atomic Bomb Domb and Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

The whole area was peaceful and serene, with some groups of visitors taking photos.
After the short tour around the area, I headed back to the downtown shopping district where I started my crazy shopping marathon.

I was quite ambitious as I aimed to walk through all the major malls around the area, covering Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tenmaya Department Store, Fukuya Department Store, Parco Department Store as well as Shareo Underground Shopping Mall. Due to limited time, I merely browsed through the stores quickly, only stopping longer for shops that I was interested in, such as Laura Ashley and Watashi No Heya located at Mitsukoshi, Muji and Francfranc at Parco. At Muji, I found some toddler t-shirts on sale at half price, like 250 yen for a t-shirt! Didn't know what I was thinking, only bought a few pieces and totally regretted not buying more pieces to keep since it was such a bargain and the material of the t-shirts was good too. Till now, I still regretted terribly!
After covering the department stores, I went in search of a zakka cafe located off Hondori, called AIDA with Cafe. Quite easy to find as the downtown area of Hiroshima is planned in grids and not too complicated.
Ordered a Winter Special afternoon tea set (actually hadn't eat lunch yet but I was more keen in dessert) which was caramel chiffon cake with tea.
Love the decor of the cafe. The shop was divided between into 2 sections, cafe and zakka shop.
The Caramel Chiffon Cake came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream too. As I was quite hot from all the walking, got an iced earl grey.
The chiffon cake was really good! It was lightly toasted on the surface and dusted with some icing sugar and a light drizzle of caramel sauce. The cake was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and was slightly warm which complimented perfectly with the cold ice-cream. Heavenly!

Didn't have much time to linger around too much, so after the tea, browsed around the zakka shop for a while before heading to the Shareo Underground Shopping Mall which is at the underground cross junction at Kamiya-Cho.

There are a number of zakka shops there too, like my favourite Afternoon Tea and Natural Kitchen.

Could only do very quick and brief shopping at the shops as I had to rush back to the hotel to pack my luggage already. Didn't even have time to shop at the JR ASSE which is just next to the hotel. There are a few zakka shops there which I wanted to check out but ran out of time! *sigh* why didn't I stay for just one more day?

Back in the hotel, I quickly packed my luggage and took a warm bath, just as hubby knocked off from work. We took the Airport Limousine Bus to Hiroshima Airport and had udon for dinner.

After the dinner, I bade hubby farewell and checked in. All the shops at the public area of the airport closed at 8pm and there was only 1-2 small shops at the departure lounge. Anyway, didn't have to wait for too long before boarding the domestic flight bound for Haneda Airport. Once again the flight took about an hour and half. Once I reached Haneda, I had to take a shuttle bus to transfer to the international terminal. Had planned to shop at the international terminal but unfortunately the shops closed (around 10pm) by the time I reached. Well, no choice I could only shopped at the departure lounge . Found my favourite Yojiya yuzu lipbalm at one of the DFS shop, and managed to spend all my yen!! Heehee...

The flight back home was uneventful, couldn't really sleep well as usual. Upon touched down at 6am, I went home for a quick wash-up and had to go fetch dear son from his grandma's place already :(((

So this ended my short 4D3N trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Next and final entry, I will share some of my haul :p Stay tuned!

Travel resources

18 January 2012

Hiroshima/Miyajima Nov 2011 - Part IV

Continued from Part I, II and III.

After viewing sunset at the beautiful torii gate, we headed back to the Ryokan and found our room already laid with futon beds. Felt tempted to fall directly into the cosy futon but dinner was beckoning us :)

Dinner at Momiji-So was prepared by the old Granny who's over 70 years old. She's very proud of her culinary skills and went around the tables chatting with guests and insisted good naturedly we finished every item served even the garnishes.
For starters and appetizers, we had sashimi, vinegared prawns and scallops, spinach/carrot/radish in sesame dressing, pickled veg with konnyaku and seaweed/cucumber with eel. All were very refreshing and appetising and we couldn't wait to taste the main dishes!
Grilled prawn with sea salt. The prawn was huge, nicely grilled, very crunchy and juicy.
Even the rice was nicely cooked and served with toasted white sesame seeds. I wished I could have a second helping but stopped myself as I was controlling my carbo intake :p The pickles were also very tasty too!
Miso soup with oyster. Another way of cooking oyster; this cooking method enhanced the flavour of the oyster with miso.
Grilled beef and salad. The beef was juicy and succulent but I thought it was a tad too tough. The salad at the side was really refreshing with a citrius dressing.
Simmered sea bream in soy sauce. I love the fish, the sauce complimented the fish meat very well indeed. Some bits of lime zest were added to give the fish a tangy and refreshing taste too. The greens at the side was a type of Japanese pasley; initially I didn't eat it but old Granny said to try and true enough it helped cleanse the palate.
Dessert was cheese cake with pear and grapes. The cheese cake was smooth and creamy. The grapes was big and juicy, taste was very different from our usual grapes. You know those grape-flavoured candy? They tasted just like those. The pears were very juicy, crunchy and sweet :)

Although the meal was not extravagant like those kaiseki meals served at big Ryokans, a home-cooked meal prepared with love and pride by granny and her family was a more precious experience.

After dining, we just retired back to the room, enjoyed a soak in the hot bath, watched some TV and then fell asleep in the cosy futon.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and proceeded for breakfast at around 8am.

There was buttered thick toast with strawberry jam, yogurt, coffee and orange juice. I love the thick toast, crispy on the outside yet fluffy when you bite into it. The yogurt was yummy too! Too bad it can't be found here! I don't normally drink coffee, but this coffee was really aromatic.
Smoked ham slad with citrius dressing, very refreshing.
I love this scrambled eggs!!! It was rich and creamy and tasted so good.
Vegetable soup to warm the stomach.
Some fruits for Vitamin C. I love the orange and pineapple.
After the hearty breakfast, we decided to take a stroll around the Ryokan and Momijidani Park.
It was quite chilly in the morning.
We saw water vapour coming out of the moss growing on the tree bark. It was as if the tree was letting off steam.
Many lovely waterfalls and streams around the park.
After the stroll, we headed back to the Ryokan, packed and lazed a bit before checking out.
Walked around the island and decided to visit the Miyajima Aquarium.
The sea lions were adorable, so were the kids who were wildly excited.
Soon, it was time for lunch again. We just popped one of the eatery near Omotesando Shopping Street.
My set lunch which came with soup, appetizers, deep fried breaded oyster, pickles and rice. Well, must try the different methods of cooking the oysters right?
Hubby ordered a soba and eel with rice set. Eel is also a specialty of Miyajima.

The weather was much better with clear blue skies but too bad we didn't have time to ascend Mount Misen again. It would have been beautiful with this perfect weather.
Once again, we bade farewell to the torii gate.
Walked through the shopping street and saw this particular stall selling Gratin Oyster.
Couldn't resist and ordered 2. Like I said we must try the different methods of cooking the oysters. Indeed, this was good too, surprisingly the cheese and creamy complemented the oyster very well.

Finally, we made our way to the pier and took the ferry back to mainland Hiroshima.

Travel Resource