24 September 2012

Sōmen salad

When I started working about 5 months back, I was a little worried about eating too much hawker/canteen food (for lunch). You know, the temptation to over-indulge is always there - oh the fish cutlet rice looks good, hmmm, how about some beehoon with chicken wings? That kueh bomb (banana ball, one of my favourite Malay snacks) is calling out to me, and oh oh, curry and sardine puffs just taste so scrumptious on rainy days... yada yada :p I know myself, I tend to put on weight very quickly if I eat mostly hawker food.

So far, I've been trying to control myself, by bringing salad or home-cook food for lunching in at least 2 to 3 times a week. And if I do eat hawker food, I'll go for Yong Tau Foo beehoon soup with lots of veggies. Oh well, probably once a week or fortnight, I'll indulge in some Malay rice with my favourite achar, tempeh and curry chicken, or Chinese economy rice with my favourite sweet and sour pork.

The salads are usually very simple to put together. Basically mixed greens or baby spinach from Cold Storage, with Jap cucumber, cherry tomatoes, steamed sweet corn kernels, boiled shredded chicken, fruits like strawberry or orange, nuts and dried cranberries. For seasonings, I usually go for balsamic vinegar or sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. The shredded chicken is in fact extracted from the chicken breast carcass that I use for making chicken stock (no waste).

Sometimes, I add in a little carbo just to make the meal more fulfilling. On hungry days, protein and fibre just doesn't seem satisfying enough! This Sōmen salad is inspired by OKC's Udon Salad. Personally I don't really like Udon, prefer thinner noodles like Soba or Ramen. Then I recall that I have 3 packets of Sōmen sitting in my pantry, bought at Isetan Supermarket sometime back, and they are just perfect for as a "Main Course" salad. 

Ingredients used are really simple - salad greens, cucumber, carrot, tomato, Sōmen, cooked shredded chicken, toasted sesame seeds, sesame dressing, Jap mayo.

First, cook the Sōmen in boiling water added with pinch of salt and olive oil, to al dente. Thereafter, rinse with water and set aside to cool. Shred some cucumber and carrot into matchstick sizes. Toss carrot, cucumber together with Sōmen, add sesame dressing and Jap dressing to taste. Toss the shredded chicken with some Jap mayo and black pepper.

To assemble, place some greens as the base, then twirl the Sōmen and lay them on top of the greens. Top with shredded chicken, tomato, cucumber and finally sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds.

This is somewhat similar to those cold noodles served at Jap restaurant, and makes a perfect meal during hot summer days :)

These are the 3 packs of Sōmen that I bought at Isetan Supermarket. Pretty and apetising looking yeah? Yellow - original, green - green tea and pink - ume (plum).

This Sōmen salad is quite versatile I would say, you can combine with just anything, from greens to fruits to tuna, hardboil egg etc. I think this would be one of my staple lunch during the work week from now onwards :)

18 September 2012

Decadent fried beancurd skin roll (with Alaskan King Crab filling)

Ever since I tried Shirley's homemade Ngoh Hiang at our Homebaker's gathering, I've been wanting to try the recipe (which she kindly posted in her blog); she had mentioned that the recipe was not complicated and quite manageable. I used to dislike Ngoh Hiang, especially those sold commercially as a lot of fatty meat was used, too oily and heavy on the palate for my liking. But hers was surprisingly light with a well-balanced blend of minced pork, prawn, crab meat and water chestnut, and tasted nice even when cold.

The peculiar thing is, traditionally Ngoh Hiang also known as "Five Spice Roll" has five spice powder added, but this recipe doesn't include the spice. Only salt and pepper are used. She admitted in her blog that sometimes she would add some five spice powder to give the name its authenticity :)

So as I was going through the recipe, I had two dilemmas. Should I add five spice powder so that this is indeed the Ngoh Hiang, or should I just go along with the recipe? Which means that it's more of a beancurd skin roll like those sold at Dim Sum restaurants? But it seems that fried beancurd skin rolls actually have additional ingredients like chives and carrots. Finally, I decided to just call it beancurd skin roll, it doesn't really matter :p Anyway, hubby prefers beancurd skin roll than Ngoh Hiang too.

Next came my second dilemma, one of the ingredients is crab meat and I was contemplating whether to use imitation crab meat, or really buy a crab, steam it and extract the meat. Then it so happened that I attended a dinner with hubby where there was a whole steamed Alaskan King Crab (which typically cost around $400-500!). When there was leftover, I happily accepted the offer to "tabao" home =D Just perfect for the beancurd roll, in fact a very DECADENT one. I managed to extract around 130g of crab meat, which I reckon cost $40-50?

My two dilemmas were solved, YAH!

The whole process was quite simple just a little tedious as there are multiple steps to the recipe. I bought a sheet of beancurd skin from the wet market (cost 70 cents). It's a very large sheet which I cut into slightly bigger pieces (than what was stated in the recipe), about 12 cm by 13 or 14cm. I wanted to wrap them like those beancurd skin rolls sold at dim sum restaurants. The beancurd skins were very salty so I painstakingly wiped both sides of each piece.

For the pork, I didn't bother with the lean or pork belly, just bought about $3 worth of minced pork. For the prawns, I smashed each one with the back of the cleaver and roughly chopped them up instead of mincing them (as I wanted to retain the bite of the prawns).

There were around 32 pieces of skin, but I managed to wrap around 29 pieces only as I was over-zealous with the amount of filling in the beginning :p

Fried Beancurd Skin Roll
  • 1 large sheet of Beancurd Skin
  • 280g Minced Pork
  • 130g Prawn Meat
  • 130g Crab Meat
  • 7-8 pieces Water Chestnut
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 dashes Pepper
  • 1 tbsp All purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Water
  1. Cut the beancurd skin to about 12cm by 13 cm rectangles.
  2. Wipe down the beancurd skin with a damp clean towel to remove excess salt.
  3. Wash the water chestnuts and peel. Dice the water chestnut and set aside.
  4. Light beat egg and set aside.
  5. In a mixing bowl, mix together pork, prawn, crab meat, diced water chestnut, beaten egg, salt and pepper and mix well. (you can add a 1/4 tsp of 5 spice powder here if desired)
  6. Mix the flour with water to form a paste. This will be used as a ‘glue’ to seal the folded edges of the roll.
  7. Place roughly a tablespoon of filling in the center of one sheet of the cut beancurd skin. Apply some flour paste along the edges of the skin. Fold one side of the beancurd skin over the filling and fold the other side to overlap. Flatten the filling slightly, and shape the filling into rectangular shape during the process. Press the ends of the beancurd skin to seal.
  8. Repeat until all filling / beancurd skin has been used up.
  9. Steam the rolls for about 5mins.
  10. Cool down the rolls and pat dry with kitchen towel. Deep fry the cooked rolls in oil to golden brown.
  11. Drain and serve with your favourite sauce (sweet chilli sauce, mayonaise, vinegar).

The beancurd skin rolls were very well-received by hubby and dear son. The skin was crispy and still slightly salty (thank goodness I wiped the skin first otherwise would be overly salty), and the filling was fresh, juicy and savoury, enhanced by the sweetness of the Alaskan King Crab :))) I guess I would make this once in a while only since I seldom do deep frying at home, moreover, it's not everyday that we get crabs (pun intended!).

12 September 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I've always liked sweet stuff with a tinge of saltiness, as the saltiness brings about a different savoury dimension to the palate, like the Salted Chocolated Chip Cookies that I made before. Then I recalled seeing Salted Caramel Cupcakes somewhere, either from some bakery or someone's blog.
A search on the internet brings up a number of posts on Salted Caramel Cupcakes but most of them point back to the recipe by Sprinkles Bake. So I guess this must be the recipe worth trying.
At first I was quite daunted by the multiple components involved - the cupcake, the filling and the frosting but pushed on since I'm really curious as to how the cupcakes would taste like.
Here, I adapted Sprinkles Bake recipe by converting all the measurements from cups to grams for my own convenience and also reduced the amount of sugar used for all the components. The baking process was relatively manageable, albeit a little tedious.
The result was not bad but definitely far from Sprinkles Bake!

The cake turned out a little flat to my annoyance as my muffin pan size was too big for the cupcake cases I used. As a result, the cupcake cases widened after filling with batter :(
I've since consulted friends/bloggers who bake often and they used either silicone cases or aluminium cases to hold the cupcake bases. I was so enlightened :) and realised what a dumb dumb I was.

Taste-wise, I love it! The cake was moist and tender, matchmade in heaven with the salted caramel filling and salted buttercream frosting :) The taste was what I had in mind, but probably the saltiness could be more pronounced. Next time, I shall increase the amount of salt and salted butter.


Salted Caramel Cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2010/05/triple-salted-caramel-cupcakes.html)

Makes 15 regular cupcakes or 20 small cupcakes
  • 192g all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  •  ¼  tsp sea salt
  • 113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150g light brown sugar (original 245g)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature (60g eggs with shell)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125g buttermilk (substitute: add ½ tbsp of lemon juice to 125g of milk, stir and sit for 2 mins before using)
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius. Line muffin tins with paper casing.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; sieve and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated.
  5. Add vanilla extract. Mix and scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each.
  7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway full.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes. When done, transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.
Salted Caramel Filling:
  • 80g caster sugar (original 100g)
  • 43g salted butter, cubed
  • 60g heavy cream, at room temperature (substitute: whipping cream)
  1. Melt the sugar over medium high heat in a large pot.
  2. Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color.
  3. Add the butter and stir it in until melted.
  4. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and pour in 1 teaspoon of caramel (or as desired). Replace the cake piece and set cupcakes aside.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
  • 40g caster sugar (original 50g)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 50g heavy cream (substitute: whipping cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 113g salted butter
  • 113g unsalted butter
  • ½  tsp sea salt
  • 120g powdered sugar (original 190g)
  1. In a saucepan, stir together sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.
  2. Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.
  3. Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.
  4. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butters and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined. 
  5. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).
  6. Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration. If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny. If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Top caramel-filled cupcakes with frosting.

I brought the cupcakes to my office and there were pretty well-received as well :) Definitely gonna attempt this recipe again. The next time, I must make the cupcakes taller instead of being so flat, and increase the salt level for a more distinct contrast between sweet and savoury. Till then!

09 September 2012

Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes - comparison of 2 recipes

The Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcake seems to be the "in-thing" now, a lot of homebakers are making it. (Other than Tau Huay of course :p).
It is supposed to be "light and cottony soft", so naturally I wanna have a go at it too :), especially since I like the texture of chiffon cakes very much. So I scouted different blogs for recipes and came across 2 recipes by Cuisine Paradise and Nasi Lemak Lover; both are in fact the same, except the difference in quantity.
The recipe uses the egg separation method, that is, egg whites are whipped separately and then folded into the main batter. I guess the steps are fairly simple to me since I have had experience in baking chiffon cakes. The curious thing about this recipe is, no baking powder/soda or cream of tartar is used. I followed the recipe to a T and didn't reduce the amount of sugar used since I believe sugar affects the texture of chiffon.
The verdict? The cake turned out quite light but not cottony soft enough in my opinion. Is it because I didn't beat the egg whites enough? I kept thinking what had gone wrong in my steps.
Then I saw the recipe by Reirei that was posted in FB under Singapore Homebakers group. Ah ha! Her recipe uses baking powder and cream of tartar! The rest of the ingredients are almost the same, in fact the liquid amount (oil and milk) is lesser. So I baked another small batch (halved her recipe) to test the difference.
This time round, the cupcake really turned out cottony soft even the next day! I love it, especially chilled. Hmmm, my conclusion is baking powder and cream of tartar do make a difference to the texture of the cake. I'm re-posting both recipes (based on yield of 9 cupcakes using square cases) below, test both recipes if you like and let me know your personal verdict :)

Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes (I)
(From Nasi Lemak Lover. Makes 9 cupcakes)
3 egg yolks
20g sugar
35g corn oil
60g milk
70g cake flour
3 egg whites
25g sugar
60g dairy whipping cream
10g sugar
1tsp instant custard powder
Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
2. Arrange paper liners on baking tray.
3. Hand whisk egg yolk and sugar till pale in colour.
4. Add in corn oil and milk, mix well.
5. Sift in cake flour, stir to combine.
6. Beat egg white until foamy, gradually add sugar, and continue beat till soft peak form.
7. Take 1/3 of egg white and use a hand whisk to mix into egg yolk batter.
8. Fold in the balance egg white with a spatula till well combine.
9. Scoop batter into pre-arranged paper liners to about ¾ full.
10. Bake for 20-25 mins at middle rack.
11. Beat whipping cream with sugar till firm and stiff (over a bowl of iced water).
12. Add in custard powder, mix well.
13. Pipe custard cream into cupcake and dust with icing sugar. Refrigerated before consume.

Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes (II)
(From Reirei of All That Matters
. Makes 9 cupcakes)
 3 egg yolks
 1/8 tsp salt
 24g corn oil
 24g milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 32g cake flour
1/8 tsp baking powder (sift together with cake flour)

 3 egg white
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
 50g caster sugar
90g chilled fresh milk
 30g custard powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
3/4 tbsp icing sugar (optional)
145g dairy whipping cream

Some Snow Powder (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 175℃。
2) In a bowl, whisk egg yolks with salt. Then add oil, milk and vanilla extract, whisk till well-blended.
3) Fold in flour mixture and set aside.
4) In another bowl, beat egg whites , sugar and cream of tartar to stiff peak.
5) Scoop 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the yolk batter, fold well, then pour batter back to the remaining egg whites. Fold lightly till well-mixed.
6) Fill baking cases with about 30-32g of batter. Bake for 20 mins, then leave to cool.
7) In a separate bowl, mix milk, instant custard powder, vanilla paste and icing sugar till mixture is smooth.
8) Pour in whipping cream and beat till the thickness desired.
9) Using a piping tip, insert tip into the cake and pipe for 5 seconds. 3 to 4 seconds if you prefer less cream.
10) Sieve snow powder on top (optional) and chill cake before serving