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Sep 29, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Really Good Frosting

This is a dedication post for a special girl on her special day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOE!, from across the miles. This one’s for you. Hope you like the cute cupcakes. I definitely won’t win any prizes for icing a cake tho. But it’s made with love, so what if it’s lopsided ;). So sad you can’t be here to share it and I don’t think they’ll last til you come over. Sigh, I’ll just have to eat them then.

I came across 2 of the most interesting and delicious sounding recipes and had to try them out and what best way to do so than to incorporate both into one recipe.
I personally am not a cake person but definitely a sucker for dark chocolate. I'd eat cooking chocolate too, if nobody's looking ... shhh. Also not into icing and frosting for various reasons ... the cloying richness and the humidity here doesn't make one a happy baker when your buttercream frosting seems to have a mind of its own and decides it wants to be gravy instead. So when this frosting recipe popped up, I thought I'd give it another go.
Another amazing, away from the old school norm, recipe. Holds together beautifully. Tastes good too.


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

½ cup (1.5 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

¾ cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon table salt

½ cup (4 ounces) sour cream


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 180˚C. Line muffin pan with baking cup liners.

2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick.

5. Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool before icing.


5 Tablespoons Flour
1 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)


In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla.
While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

Spread or pipe onto cooled cake, or in this case, cupcakes.

Leftover frosting can be refrigerated but needs to be re-whipped before use.


Sep 24, 2010

Ginger Beer Roast

I stepped out of my car parked in the garage after a long, tiring day. I sniffed the air and smelled the heavenly aroma of roasting meat. Hmm, my neighbours are having a barbeque again, I thought.
As I walked closer to the front door, the aroma got stronger and by the time I got my keys out to open the door, my tastebuds were on overdrive and I really wasn't looking forward to calling our corner eats shop for another takeout. I opened my front door and this giant waft of deliciousness practically knocked me over. Holy tingling tastebuds! I believe it's coming from my own kitchen! I crossed my fingers as I proceeded ever so not patiently to where it's coming from. What a sight for sore eyes! And I don't mean the number of pots and pans piled up high in my kitchen sink.

My husband (gasp) cooking (gasp) dinner for me (gasp gasp)! Okay, okay, a little over dramatic but hey, he gets inspired ever so rarely. And when he does, it's usually a "MacGyver" dish. Who or what is MacGyver? Gosh, you gotta be really old or really young to have not watched this series. It's about this cute guy, Richard Dean Anderson, character name, MacGyver, secret agent, who kicks the butts of baddies and getting through difficult situations the non violent way by using just whatever he could find and being resourceful without using a gun. See:

And that was what my husband did.... no, not kick the butts of baddies...the MacGyver dish, remember? Well, he could kick some butt too if he wanted to but ..... anyway .... back to the subject...
He's a real meat and potatoes man, very much influenced by the days of Beano and Dandy comics (very British, the comics, I mean) and Desperate Dan and his cow pies ... no, not cow pies as in cow patties, but cow pies with the beef and the pastry complete with horns and tail. Check this out:

So, my meat and potatoes man with his MacGyver throw-together-whatever's-in-my-fridge-freezer-and-pantry dish. It's not fancy fine dining but it is good and satisfying....
a totally wholesome, farmhouse style dinner.

500 g Rolled Roast of your choice
(he used topside)
A big handful of baby carrots, bite sized
1 large Fennel bulb, sliced into wedges
2 medium red onions, peeled
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
3 - 4 waxy potatoes, scrubbed & quartered
2 sprigs Rosemary
1 cup Ginger Beer
1 tsp cornstarch + a little water
3 tbs Canola oil
Salt, pepper to taste


Heat oil in a shallow oven proof pan. Lightly brown meat. Season to taste.
Remove from pan.
Throw in all vegetables in the same pan and toss to coat evenly. Season vegetables.
Place browned meat on top of vegetables.
Strip off rosemary leaves from stalk and sprinkle into pan. Alternatively, you can leave the rosemary on the stalks and remove before preparing the gravy.
Place uncovered in preheated oven at 150˚C for 45 mins for medium rare. Remove from oven. Put aside meat and vegetables. Deglaze pan with ginger beer. Thicken sauce with cornstarch mixture. Remove twine, carve and serve with gravy.


Sep 23, 2010

A Lump of Dough

Uh, no .... this is not a recipe.

This is how I feel right now, after a massage. I've been kneaded, pummelled, squeezed, twisted, ...short of being cut up and shaped into twisted little breadsticks and baked, altho I may as well be.

Ever noticed the masseurs never really look like the mountain-sized Igors and the Helgas we see on teevee playing the role? My tiny slip of a girl masseuse, is such a petite little thing, you'd never imagine her to have enough energy to lift a bag of flour, never mind massage and roll over a beached whale like me. Oooh but aaahh and ooohh...she IS strong! And a lump of dough I am in her capable hands. I surrender!

I've been to a good number of spas and massage places (massage parlours sound kinda seedy) and have my experiences with different massage people, masseurs, masseuses (?), ...spell it however which way you like. Balinese, Javanese, Thai, Japanese Shiatsu, Chinese and some I don't even know what they call themselves. The Indonesians told me, after noticing I was holding back tears and the veins nearly popping out of my forehead, that if I can't stand the pain, I shouldn't be doing this. So that's off my list.

The Thais masseurs seem to think everyone is as pliable and flexible as they are and the way they flipped me over their knees, backwards, really made me think they were trying to whip me into shape for the next olympics. Either that or they're in cahoots with some pysiotherapist or spinal chord specialist. They're off my list too.

The Chinese masseuse, actually imported from China by the health center, seemed to believe that pain is the cure to everything. No pain, no gain, right? Wrong! This time, there were no near tears, it was real tears! I went with 2 other friends and they were in different rooms and they said they could hear me yell from where they were. The lady masseuse, fortunately, didn't get annoyed with me, in fact, she was laughing so hard, she didn't even notice she was inflicting more pain on me. Inwardly, I thought she was into S&M and that she was thoroughly enjoying my agony. I was in more pain than when I stepped into her parlour...said the spider to the fly ... cheez. Off the list.

Hey, I may be the only one complaining here. I go to these people through recommendations, so they're good at what they do, but unfortunately, it's just not for me.

When I finally found my teeny, tiny, strong as a mini ox masseuse, I stuck with her. And I've insisted on her and her alone to torture me all this time now for the last 3 years. I actually feel good after the sessions and have always wished the hour would drag on a little longer. But then, her fragile looking arms might just fall off. Psst...don't let those arms fool you. You really don't want to piss her off. Ouch.

Sep 17, 2010

Seeing Green

16th September was Malaysia Day. And to celebrate, a bunch of us very city folks with a couple of city-but-a-little-more-experienced-in-jungle-trekking folks headed off to Janda Baik. This is located just below Genting Highlands, our own homegrown Las Vegas, started by Mr/Datuk/I don't-know-how-many-titles-he-has, Lim Goh Tong, bless his Chinaman soul. I watched a tv interview of him a long time ago and I really liked the guy, even though what he created brings out the devil in so many people and causes so many heartaches due to some peoples' gambling addictions and an incurable need to make money the quick and easy way. On the other hand, he's helped the country's economy and workforce. But that's another story.

Greens are good for you. It's been proven, gastronomically and visually. We all know about the benefits from eating vegetables, so we won't get into that. Looking at green things apparently relaxes the eyes and calms the mind and soul ... so I read ... somewhere.

Janda Baik, which means "Good Widow", is filled with lush greens, especially since it's been raining almost daily for the last month. The secondary tropical jungle surrounds small fruit farms scattered around the area. And if you look carefully, you might see some pretty fancy getaway homes among them. These farms produce a good supply of local fruits for sale at the surrounding village shops and also the scalp-the-tourist shops below the entrance to and at Genting Highlands.
The morning started out like all groggy mornings. Fortunately it wasn't raining and was quite a lovely day. 10 of us left in 3 cars and convoyed to a good Malaysian breakfast in the hopes of having lots of energy for the trek. Unfortunately and predictably, after stuffing our faces, we were all pretty warm and woozy. Cups of hot teh tarik (hot milk tea) and coffee didn't seem to work. The drive took another half hour before we got to the little township of Janda Baik. Meanwhile, folks who weren't driving were nodding off in the back seats.

We left our nice, air conditioned cars (hey, we're city folks, remember?) at the car park of a quaint little place called Hawa Resort.They have a good facility for training, leadership and fellowship building purposes. It was quiet at this time of the year due to Ramadan and Eid and most folks are off to their kampungs (hometowns), so we have the whole place to ourselves...

...except for 2 of the most ferocious geese I've ever met. Hmmm... Christmas is coming, and we haven't had roast goose for a long while. Ok, ok, just kidding ...
They make excellent watchdogs.. umm.. i mean, watchgeese.

The air was fresh and clean, the earlier couple of rainy days helped, lack of noise pollution (except for the occasional jabbering from some individuals of our group), breathe in, breathe out, inhale, exhale ....

We started our trek going through a "langsat" (botanic name: Lansium Domesticum) fruit orchard. And thus, our trek was delayed by a good half hour :)

After having been satisfied with taking pics and some mouthfuls of the sweetest, freshest langsats I've ever had, we finally set off on the trail that our so-called guide and friend claimed he knew like the back of his hand.
You know something's about to go wrong, right?

It wasn't quite so bad. After much slipping and sliding, cuts and bruises, bugs and leeches and crashing our way through some denser undergrowth due to non-traffic during Ramadan season, we landed up at a place we were not supposed to other words, we got lost.
Wild boar foraging grounds. You can see the upturned earth where they dig for edible roots. Thank goodness we didn't meet with any of them oinkers. Those things are fierce! and
dangerous! and you think just because they're big and fat they can't run? Think again. I've seen the pygmy ones in Africa and they were scary little round things with upright tails, running and nipping at our heels with sharp toothpick tusks trying to puncture the truck tires ... dumb things. I'm certain I wouldn't want to meet up with their Malaysian, 10x-bigger-in-size cousins!
I think some people in the group probably didn't realize this. Maybe it's just as well.

Nah, it's not quite as exciting as it sounds. It happened to be the backyard of one of those holiday homes and we just had to trespass (sshhh) and cut through the massive garden to the river where we had our picnic.

It was a lovely place to picnic. Some of us were frolicking in the river while others were enjoying the greenery and tranquility of the whole situation. And some were trying to stop the bleeding from leech bites with a forest herb called "Senduduk Hutan" (botanic name: Melastoma Polyanthum), a Rhododendron-like shrub, by crushing the leaves and rubbing it on the wound. It worked for some but not for all. Apparently, you need the ones that grow deep within the jungle.
(A word of advice: rub bug repellant around ankles to prevent leeches from crawling up your legs and into your socks and who knows where else.)

Things went really quiet after that. No more of the excited chatter at the beginning, no more screechings from discovering leech bites, no more shrieks from falling on one's butt into the mud (that was me...ahem).... just calm and peace with a hint of tiredness in the air. How do I explain it? A satisfying tiredness? Ah, yes,...... Contentment. Absoverylutely zen.

Sep 15, 2010

No Frills Open Sandwich

Today was No Frills Day!
No-fuss lunch, no-fuss dinner, in other words, L..a...z...y day. No-fuss posting too! Does it have to be a fancy recipe or post each time? Give yourself a break once in a while. This is supposed to be fun and therapeutic.
Canned food ..... and what's wrong with that? I like to dig a spoon into some baked beans every now and then or even some sweet corn kernels ... straight outta the can, mind you.
Today's lunch was canned mackerel in tomato sauce. This brings me back to my childhood days when mum used to throw this together at the spur of the moment when I got hungry ... which was all the time. She used canned sardines then, but somehow, somewhere down the line, I developed a dislike for sardines and tuna. Must've overdosed on it. So, mackerel it is.
And thrown together it was too! The only "frills" in this are the cucumber twirls on the top.
And if you don't like the "punch-you-in-the-face" and "knock-your-boxer-shorts-off" type heat, you can always substitute the chillies with cayenne pepper.


Canned Mackerel in tomato sauce
Calamansi lime juice, to taste
Salt, to taste
Red onion, diced
Cucumber, remove core, diced/julienned
Red Chillies, finely chopped


Crumble mackerel and toss together with the rest of the ingredients. Taste and add more salt and chillies if necessary. Garnish with extra cucumber and chillies. stuff!
Serve on toasted focaccia.

Note: I used chinese lettuce because that was all I could find in my fridge. Iceberg would've been nice.


Sep 8, 2010

Pineapple Jam Tartlets

Remember what I said earlier about anytime being a good time for pineapple tarts? Well, here it is in the month of September, still some months away from angpow season. It somehow comes with some kind of celebration as the chinese term for pineapple is "ong lai" (hokkien) and "wong lai" (cantonese) which means "prosperity comes". But then, I'm the worst Chinese example when it comes to the language and its traditions. So, if I've got that definition wrong .... my bad. We're celebrating here anyway. Ramadan is a couple of days away and my brother and sis-inlaw are visiting from Florida. And she's given me a BIG hint about pineapple tarts being one of her favorite cookies. Happy to oblige! This is for you , L !

This recipe is one of the variations you can do and it's also my personal favorite. There are so many different shapes and variations from the different cultures we have here in this very colorful country.

My attempts at other variations:

Thumbprint cookies .....

and ....

the Hedgehog....I mean, Pineapple. Now, that one was
time consuming. And as you can see, my attempts were quite feeble.

So, I've given up on the pineapple shaped one and am quite happy with my pseudo mat salleh tartlets. Besides, I get to have more jam on those tartlets than this other two where you just get a mouthful of pastry.

Below is the recipe for the tart base. It's just a basic shor
tcrust pastry and I've omitted the sugar as per regular sweet shortcrust pastry. I figured the jam is sweet enough! I've filled it with the pineapple jam posted earlier. You can find the recipe here.

I have adjusted the recipe to include 1 oz of custard powder. This gives the pastry a slightly more yellow/orange/golden (call it whatever you like) color.
Also, for people who do not relish the buttery aroma too much, you can adjust the ratio of butter to 2 ozs butter and 2 ozs vegetable shortening.

INGREDIENTS (Amended measurements: 30 Jan 2011)

9 oz plain flour + 1 oz custard powder
5 oz cold butter, cubed
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten (if you find the dough too dry, add 1 tbs cold water)

Note: I've amended the previous ratio of 8 oz flour : 4 oz butter to this recent measure as I've found it to be a better texture. If there were any problems using the previous measurements ... my apologies.


In a food processor, blitz together flour, cold cubed butter and salt.
Pulse until texture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add beaten egg and quickly pulse to mix until dough comes together.
Remove dough from machine and press gently to bring it together without kneading.
Rest dough in refrigerator for at least 15mins.
Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into rounds using a cookie cutter.
I'm using aluminum tartlet 12-hole trays with holes measuring about 4cm or 1 1/2" in diameter and about 1cm or 1/2" deep.
Press rounds into holes and gently push down dough to fit mould. Pierce bottom of pastry with a fork, making 3 lines of holes.
Fill pastry cups with pineapple jam.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 12 - 15 mins.
Remove from oven and let rest in tray for 5 mins. Cool completely on a rack before storing in an airtight container.


Sep 6, 2010

Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly

Easy, quick and delicious.... that's how I like it. I just don't have the time to make certain things from scratch. I envy those who have all the time in the world to do that and I salute them. And when I do find some time to actually make stuff from scratch, I try to make the not-so-time-consuming ones. Or, I'd rather sit back and enjoy and nice cuppa with a big chunk of rich, chocolatey brownies. Real brownies, made with good quality chocolate, not those that are made with cocoa powder, emulco, healthy carob, white chocolate and whatnots. White chocolate brownies?! Why on earth would they even call them brownies in the first place when it's not brown?! Bah! Humbug! Gotta be the real thing for me. Call me a snob. I'm proud to be a chocolate and coffee snob.


30g butter
250g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
80g butter, extra
2 tsp vanilla essence / 4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like using walnuts)
1/3 cup sour cream


Grease a 7" X 7" cake pan, line the base and grease the paper.
Melt 30g butter in pan. Add chocolate and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Cool 5 mins.
In a separate bowl, beat extra butter, essence and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sifted flour, then cooled chocolate mixture, nuts and sour cream.
Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake in moderate oven (180C) for about 45 mins.
Cool in pan before cutting and serving.


Homemade Ginger Ale

Adapted from Aran Goyoaga's recipe @ Design Sponge

This is such a great recipe! I've never thought of making my own soda until I chanced upon this fabulous post. I've tweaked it a little to my taste by adding a little more ginger. I like a bit more oomph to my ginger ale. I've thought of reducing the sugar but then the yeast might not react properly. I'm too chicken to try it out .... yet.
So refreshing on hot, sweaty days ..... like, everyday over here. Sigh, if mother nature would just screw up and let it snow here and have a fair exchange with somewhere far up north or down south where they might appreciate a bit more sunshine. Double sigh. Oh well, I'm allowed to dream.
Meanwhile, back to ginger ale ......

How To Know When It's Ready:

Remember to use a plastic bottle. .The gases from the fermentation can crack a glass jar.
Those 2 liter plastic soda bottles will work just fine. Recycle, recycle.
Feel the bottle by squeezing the sides. When you've just filled it, it's nice and soft and squeezable. After about a day or 2 or 3, you can feel it's more resistant. Refrigerate the bottle once it's ready, to stop further fermentation.
There will be a little residue at the bottom. Not to worry, it's just the yeast. Throw the last bit away when you get to it.


3 tbs grated fresh ginger (2 tbs young ginger + 1 tbs old ginger)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp instant yeast
7 cups water


In a small pot, add grated ginger, sugar and 1/2 cup water.
Bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve. Remove pan from heat and allow to steep and cool for about 30 mins.
Strain the syrup through a fine sieve.
Mix in lemon juice, yeast and 7 cups water. Whisk together.
Using a funnel. pour into plastic bottle. Screw the cap on and let it ferment at room temperature for about 2 - 3 days.
Make sure to refrigerate after it starts to carbonate.


Sep 4, 2010

2 Layer Pandan Cake

This is a recipe from one of my student's mum. She's a fantastic baker. I know because I get lots of samples.... not complaining, well, maybe my waistline is.


400 ml coconut milk ( I used 2 packets of 200ml ready packed coconut milk )
50 ml pandan juice ( about 8-10 large pandan leaves blended with 1/2 cup water, measure out 50 ml, keep remainder )
300 ml light pandan juice ( add water to the remainder of above to make amount )
150 g sugar ( this can be reduced )
60 g cornflour
1 tbs instant jelly / agar agar powder
1/8 tsp salt
green coloring, optional


Combine all of the above in a large pot and whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens into a starchy consistency.
Pour into a 9" X 9" deep tray. Leave aside while you make the cake layer.


3 egg yolks
4 tbs castor sugar
2 tbs corn oil ( I used grapeseed oil )
1 tsp vanilla essence ( I used 2 tsp vanilla extract, homemade )
100 ml water
100 g self raising flour

5 egg whites
4 tbs caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar


In a large mixing bowl, combine the 3 egg yolks, 4 tbs sugar, oil, vanilla, water and self raising flour.
Whisk until mixture is smooth.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the 5 egg whites and cream of tartar til soft peaks form. Add the sugar and beat until the stiff peaks stage.
Fold egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture until well combined.
Pour batter into pandan layer.
Place cake tin into a water bath and bake at 180 C for about 45 mins.
Cool and refrigerate.


One Ingredient Ice Cream

Yup, you read it correctly!
One ingredient ice cream! Strange as it may sound, it works! And what is this miraculous ingredient? Wait for it ....... Bananas!
When I first came across this recipe, well.... actually there were many of these recipes posted.... I was intrigued. I just had to try it out to believe it. And a believer I now am.
The taste takes a little getting used to. Depending on the type of bananas you use, there'll be a different degree of grassy aftertaste. This can be remedied somewhat with a little honey and vanilla extract or rum. Or, like most recipes, it can be tweaked by mixing in some fresh berries. Some posts even add peanut butter to it, but you really can't run away from the banana taste. But, how healthy is that!? Thumbs up to the person who discovered this. I can have all the ice cream I can eat without the guilt.
It's better to eat it immediately as it doesn't do well re-frozen or when it gets too soft. Whip and eat, that's the way to go.
This didn't go down so well with my husband tho, he likes the 'real' thing. 'Real' being the artificial flavorings and egg powders etc, used in commercial ice creams.... yeah... real.
Anyway, you just gotta try this, just to know how amazing it is. Kinda like a lab experiment. Eureka!
If you don't like it .... oh well, it was fun.
PS : Since I couldn't finish all of my ice cream, and my husband won't eat it, I blended it with some fresh milk and, VOILA, banana milkshake. No waste.


2 - 3 large ripe bananas, sliced and frozen.


Place frozen bananas into a food processor. If bananas are frozen solid, allow to thaw a little ( but still frozen ) for easier blending.
Blitz processor until bananas turn into ice cream consistency.
Eat immediately.


Peanut butter
Frozen strawberries
Vanilla extract or other flavorings