Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Double Crust Apple Pie

Double Crust Apple Pie
This is one of those dishes that I keep doing over and over again. It's actually several years in the making. If the crust weren't so good I wouldn't be bothering. But that's the crux of the problem, the crust is really crisp and yummy but it's so hard to handle. It was just too soft. So one of my experiments was not to soften the butter and just cut it in the flour and sugar like a traditional pie crust. Then I beat the egg and egg yolk and mixed it in the butter-flour mixture. It did work and is sturdier than the original version. Next I have to try it with just 1 egg and either increase the flour or decrease the butter. Either way I hope it will make the dough firmer without sacrificing too much of the excellent taste.

Apple Pie in progress
More apples would have to be added. I wanted one of those really high apple pies I see in American magazines which would also mean longer baking times. I just hope I don't end up with burnt crust and barely cooked apples inside.

This is a much modified version of the original from The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen. The original recipe is also in the BBC GoodFood website.

Double Crust Apple Pie

Double-Crust Apple Pie

225 g  butter - softened but not almost melted
50 g  caster sugar
1 large egg - beaten
350 g  plain flour

1.2 kg apples
100 g  caster sugar
3 Tbsp light muscovado or brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp plain flour

*Egg wash:
1 small egg - beaten
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp sugar (for sprinkling)

*For the pastry:
  1. Cream butter with sugar for about a minute.
  2. Add egg and beat until well mixed.
  3. Add flour and mix well. Knead for a few turns just enough to keep it together.
  4. Separate about 1/3 of the dough. Shape both into balls, cover with clingfilm or put in a plastic bag.
  5. Put in the fridge to firm up for about 1 hour.
*For the filling:
  1. Peel and core the apples. Slice into 1/4-inch pieces.
  2. Combine the sugars, cinnamon, and flour.
  3. Add the flour mixture into the sliced apples and mix well.
*To assemble:
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F.
  2. Roll out the smaller (1/3 part) of the dough into an 11-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.
  3. Lay and centre the rolled-out pastry on a 9-inch pie plate making sure that the overhanging pastry is evenly distributed.
  4. Tip all of the apple mixture onto the pastry-lined pie plate. Make sure it mounds in the centre.
  5. Roll out the remaining dough into a circle about 13-inch in diameter and 1/8-inch thick.
  6. Carefully lay on top of the apple mixture and cut the overhanging pastry to about 1/2 to 1-inch.
  7. Crimp pastry at the edge of the pie plate.
  8. Put about four slits on the pastry to let the steam out during baking.
  9. Mix the egg and milk for the egg wash. Brush generously all over the pie.
  10. Sprinkle about 1 Tbsp sugar on top.
  11. Bake for about 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer poked in one of the slits pushes through smoothly in the apple filling (this means the apples are cooked). If the crust is turning too brown cover loosely with foil.
  12. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Note: Although the crust is delicious, I am still experimenting on the best way to prepare it since I find the original recipe is too soft to handle. So far I have tried cutting the flour into a chilled butter (like most traditional recipes) - it was a success. Next time I will try in the original way (softened butter) but with only 1 egg and maybe more flour.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Soya Chicken

Soya Chicken
My kids took after my husband, they so love noodle soups especially the ones with egg noodles. So whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant my kids would almost always order noodle soups. It's one way to test if the restaurant is any good. My son would get the braised beef while the girls would more often than not order the soya chicken noodle soup.

This delicious soya chicken dish (sometimes called soy chicken) it involves braising a whole chicken in soy sauce and spices and then hanged to dry and crisp up. You can usually see this hanging with roast ducks and crispy roast pork in Chinese restaurants serving roast meats. It is great with noodles (both the stir-fried and soupy varieties) or simply with steamed rice.

Here is an attempt to re-create soya chicken at home to reduce our visits to noodle restaurants. I did not bother to use a whole chicken and dispensed with the air-drying thing. It is delicious nonetheless.

Soya Chicken

1 cup dark soy sauce
1 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/2 cup Chinese rock sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 whole star anise
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn - roasted
1 inch fresh ginger - peeled and lightly smashed
1 cinnamon stick
500 g  chicken legs
  1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a pot. Bring to boil in medium heat.
  2. Add in the chicken and bring back to boil.
  3. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn or braise chicken with the sauce from time to time.
  4. Turn off heat, cover pot (if not yet covered) and let sit for 1 hour.
  5. Remove chicken from sauce. Cut up into serving pieces and serve with steamed rice or noodles in soup.
Note: The sauce can be re-used. Just re-boil it, strain the spices and discard, cool the sauce completely and then store in a glass or plastic container in the fridge.

Thursday, 27 November 2014


The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

This has been in my baking to do list for a very long time so I was glad this challenge came up in the Daring Bakers. It's supposed to represent a bicycle wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. Well my pastry certainly isn't very round. It's more like oval. But I did have problems in the baking of the choux pastry. After watching it rise wonderfully in the oven it deflated when I took it out. Maybe the oven temperature was too low, maybe the baking time was too short, or I took it out too soon. But it doesn't matter, instead of slicing each of it horizontally for the filling, I just put it on top of the other and I think it's as good as any. :)



*For the Choux Pastry:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup + 2 tsp [100ml] whole milk
1/3 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1/3 cup [85 g] butter
100 g  [3/4 cup] plain flour
3 medium eggs - slightly beaten
slivered almonds
extra egg for brushing on top
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil on medium heat while stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the flour in one go and stir vigorously. Bring the heat to low and stir continously until the mixture come together into a firm, smooth dough. It must be dry and should come away from the bottom of the saucepan easily.
  4. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  5. Using an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. The dough will be smooth like a very thick cream.
  6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Draw 4 1/2-inch circles on the underside of the baking paper to help in piping the circles.
  7. Use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) nozzle to pipe the pastry. Pipe the pastry dough into two concentric circles tracing the guide you drew previously. Pipe a third circle on top.
  8. Brush all over with the extra beaten egg and sprinkle the slivered almonds.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool inside the oven with the door slightly ajar.
*Note to self: Next time try baking with high heat initially and/or increase baking time.

*For the Praline:
60 g  [1/3 cup] whole almonds
60 g  [1/3 cup] whole hazelnuts
80 g   caster sugar
1 Tbsp water
  1. Gently caramelise the caster sugar in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
  2. Add water and bring to boil.
  3. Add the nuts and stir to coat the nuts with the syrup. At this point the sugar will crystallize again. Continue stirring until the sugar caramelize again.
  4. Immediately transfer the nuts onto a baking sheet grease with oil. Cool completely.
  5. Break up into smaller pieces and grind in a food processor until you have a thick paste.

*For the Creme Mouselline:
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 Tbsp plain flour
85 g  [1/3 cup] unsalted butter - softened
80 g  praline
  1. In a heatproof bowl whisk the egg yolks and flour until combined.
  2. Bring the milk to boil in a saucepan on medium heat.
  3. Pour half of the hot milk in the egg yolk-flour mixture while whisking vigorously. Once mixture is well combined, pour it back to the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cook on medium heat while stirring continously.
  4. When mixture is thick and smooth, remove from heat and transfer to another heatproof bowl and cover the cream with cling film touching the cream. This is to prevent a crust to form on top. Let cool completely.
  5. In a bowl, combine the softened butter with the praline until smooth.
  6. Add the cooled pastry cream and mix until well combined.

*To assemble:
  • Slice the baked pastry horizontally.
  • Spread or pipe the creme mouselline on the lower half and then carefully put the top half on.
  • [Optional] Dust with some icing sugar on top.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake
Last week was my youngest daughter's and my birthday. As by tradition, we had to have a cake and what a cake we made! I was supposed to do this as an entry to the Daring Baker's challenge for July 2014 but I ran out of time. So I was making it up for that by baking this for our birthday.

It was indeed a challenge for me. Seriously, I thought it's one of those experiments that would end up in the rubbish bin. I decided to adapt the recipe of Kerry's fabulous rainbow cake from her blog Kerry Cooks since it is based in a Victoria sponge which I know would guarantee deliciousness. And here was where the first of near misses happened - I said I 'adapted' the recipe which means I used an 8-inch cake pan versus her 6-inch ones. Well, the batter were quite thin when I spread it in the pan and naively I though they would rise evenly. Ha! It rose in the middle and tapered to nothingness towards the edges. They look like small hills complete with bulging boulders on the sides!

Rainbow Cake
The the icing would cover all that up, says moi. But then when I reached for the icing sugar in my pantry there was hardly any in the bag. Drat! Okay, I had to think quickly otherwise my youngest would be really disappointed. What I had in abundance was eggs, sugar, and butter so my light bulb idea was to adapt Corinne's Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. Gosh I was nervous because it was the very first time I did that. Nevertheless, glorious billowy white buttercream emerged. This one was delicious and not too sweet - definitely my kind of frosting.

The frosting came out all right but as I was slathering it between layers I realised I hardly have enough to cover it well! Oh darn, it must be mercury retrograde since nothing's going right. I had to use every bit of the icing and as precisely as I could to spread on all the cracks and crannies. Thank goodness there was just enough to cover the whole cake.

Those were not my only firsts in this exploit. The lettering on the cake was a first as well. Looking at it now, I guess there's no other alternative for me but to improve. Despite all my trials, the best part was cutting the cake. It was an unexpected delight to see that it had all come together in all its colourful glory. Really fab! Best of all, the cake with the meringue icing combination tasted great - that was according to my daughter. Mission accomplished!

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

*Batter: (x2)

250 g  self raising flour
250 g  butter - softened
250 g  granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk

gel paste colourings (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple)

Note: Mix two batches of this batter and divide each of them into 3 thereby creating 6 layers.
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease three 8-inch round pans.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in vanilla and eggs one at a time; mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add flour and then milk into the butter mixture just enough to mix it in.
  5. Divide equally into three smaller bowls and tint each one with a different colour. Mix the gel colour well in the batter.
  6. Spread batter evenly in the three prepared baking pans.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool 5 minutes in pan and then remove. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. [Optional] Wrap the cooled cake layers in cling film and chill in the fridge for several hours. It is easier to assemble it if the cake layers are chilled or even frozen.

*Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:

5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
250 g  unsalted butter - softened but not melting
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of fine salt
  1. In a bowl set on a simmering saucepan of water (bottom not touching the water), whisk egg whites and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. You can test this by feeling a little of the mixture between your fingers. If you can't feel any grittiness then it is done.
  2. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whip the egg white mixture with an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks stage.
  3. While still beating, add the softened butter a spoonful at a time.
  4. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and salt.
  5. Mix on high speed until the icing is light and fluffy.

*To assemble:
  • On a cake board or plate, put a thin layer of icing in between cake layers while stacking it on top of each other.
  • Put icing on top and all along the sides of the cake. Decorate as you please.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chicken Wing Kara-age

My oldest and youngest kids love things Japanese. And that includes watching lifestyle shows in NHK World channel - the only one in our cable subscription that caters for anything Japanese. Well nowadays I'm watching them, too, but as expected mainly the food and cooking shows. One of these is the very informative Dining with Chef. They do step-by-step demonstrations of dishes including a lot of tips and tricks from Chef Tatsuo Saito.

One particular dish I adapted from that show is the fried chicken wings. Wings are my favourite part of a chicken. But to be honest I really only care for the middle section. I'm not particularly fond of the little wing drumettes. So to find this recipe from the Dining with Chef using only the middle section really delighted me. And it's so good especially when paired with the sauce. You should try it with hot steamed rice.

Chicken Wing Kara-age

Chicken Wing Kara-age
(Japanese Fried Chicken Wings)

12 mid-section chicken wings
1 Tbsp sake or rice wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
plain flour
oil for deep frying

*For the sauce:
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp chopped green onions
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1/3 cup dashi or chicken stock
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
  1. Dry the chicken wings with kitchen towels. Make a cut between the bones on the underside of the chicken wings - do not cut all the way but at the tip separate the wing bones by cutting through the joint. For illustrations go to the Dining with Chef website.
  2. Combine the sake and soy sauce in a bowl. Mix in the prepared chicken wings and marinate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Dredge wings in flour and deep fry in oil heated to 180°C/350°F for about 4 minutes or until crispy.
  4. Serve hot or warm with the sauce.

  1. Saute the green onions and ginger in the sesame oil in a pan. Cook until aromatic.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Chicken Wing Kara-age

Thursday, 16 October 2014

World Bread Day 2014: Potato Bread Rolls

World Bread Day 2014 (submit your loaf on October 16, 2014)The lovely Zorra of Kochtopf is again hosting the World Bread Day 2014 food blog event. An annual virtual gathering of food bloggers to celebrate anything to do with bread.

For my entry, I'm harking back to the very first bread I ever successfully baked. When I started baking more than two decades ago I got really stressed when baking with yeast (well nowadays I still get a little anxious). I think it's the worry that the dough won't rise that I constantly peek while it is proving. This might have contributed to my first few attempts at bread making to fail. So when I saw the Make-Ahead Potato Bread Rolls in my beloved hardbound Betty Crocker cookbook, I lost no time in trying it. See, in that recipe the rising is not done in a warm place but in the fridge - overnight! How great is that? No more stressing, hand wringing and peeking to see if the dough rose at all. Anyway, the bake was successful but I never got to bake that bread again until now more than 25 years later.

Potato Bread Rolls

One thing I only remembered now is that the shaping of the dough into balls can be a bit hard. They would not follow easily the shape I want. Maybe I should let it come to room temperature first before shaping? I'll find out next time. There's also one thing I remembered - how delicious it is especially when warmed. My youngest daughter loved it so much she slathered it with strawberry jam - one of the few times I saw her do that. This is a definite keeper of a recipe.

Potato Bread Rolls

1 package [2 1/4 tsp] active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup unseasoned mashed potato
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2/3 cup butter - softened
7 - 7 1/2 cups plain flour
  1. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water together with 2 tsp of the sugar. Set aside. It should foam and bubble after 10 minutes. If it did not, this means the yeast is dead so discard the mixture and start again with a new batch of yeast.
  2. Add the sugar, potatoes, eggs, butter, salt and 3 cups of the flour. Mix with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
  3. Add in enough of the rest of the flour to make the dough easy to handle. Knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes of until smooth and springy.
  4. Grease a bowl and place dough in it. Turn dough to grease all over. Cover tightly with cling film and let rise in the fridge for at least 8 hours but not more than 5 days.
  5. Punch dough gently and knead for a few turns. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces for loaf and 4 equal pieces for rolls.

*For small dinner rolls:
  • Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Arrange on a greased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double (about 1-2 hours).
  • Brush with melted butter or egg wash (beaten egg with 1 Tbsp water or milk).
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F for 15-20 minutes.

*For clover leaf rolls:
  • Grease muffin pans. Shape into 2-inch balls and put in the muffin pans. Using scissors, cut balls into halves and then into fourths.
  • Brush with melted butter and let rise in a warm place until double (1-2 hours).
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F for 15 minutes.

Potato Bread Rolls

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


The October Daring Cooks’ Challenge was brought to us by Andrea from 4pure. She introduced us to one of her family favorites which is soon to become one of yours, too. Welcome to the world of Dutch Bitterballen!

Actually before I made these Dutch treats I haven't tried nor heard about bitterballen. But it's not foreign to most people - it is a variant of a deep-fried croquette. I did the cheese bitterballen and was gearing up to make the prawn version but I ran out of time for the deadline. You can head to the Daring Kitchen's website for the recipes of the beef and prawn renditions of this delicious snack.

I froze my bitterballen for deep-frying a week later. They froze rather nicely.

frozen bitterballen

As instructed by Andrea, you have to add 1 minute to the deep-frying time for frozen bitterballen. It was delicious! Although next time I would do the egg dip and breadcrumbs at least twice to make the breaded crust thicker and crunchier. Plus also making the balls smaller - perhaps 3/4-inch in diameter only. I would prefer more starch/crust in the crust-cheese ratio to make it less rich. All these personal changes are reflected in the recipe below.

Cheese Bitterballen

Everyone in the family loved it including my youngest who was busy speed reading the very recently released book of her favourite novel series.

Cheese Bitterballen snack

Cheese Bitterballen

1/2 cup [125 g] butter
3/4 cup [110 g] plain flour
2 cups [500 ml] full-fat milk
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup [80 ml] single cream (light cream)
2 tsp gelatine
80 g  hard cheese (parmesan, grana padano, pecorino, etc.) - grated
80 g  soft cheese (brie, camembert, cream cheese, etc.) - sliced into small pieces
80 g  matured cheddar - grated
salt and pepper

*For the breading:
plain flour
2 eggs - beaten
dry breadcrumbs
  1. Melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan.
  2. Add flour all at once and stir to cook for 3 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Add milk and bring to boil while stirring continously.
  4. Bring heat to lowest and simmer for about 10 minutes stirring from time to time.
  5. While it is simmering, dissolve gelatin with about 2 Tbsp water. Set aside.
  6. Add nutmeg. Taste sauce and add appropriate amount of salt (about 1/2 tsp) and pepper.
  7. Stir in the cheese until well mixed in the sauce.
  8. Add in the dissolved gelatine and stir until well combined.
  9. Remove from heat and spread out the sauce in a baking dish or plate.
  10. Cool for about 30-60 minutes then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  1. After refrigeration, the mixture would have hardened. With a spoon, scoop out enough cheese mixture to form into a 3/4 - 1-inch ball.
  2. Roll the ball in the plain flour; then dip in the beaten egg; then roll in the breadcrumbs. (The breading may be repeated if you want a thicker crust.) Do the same for the rest of the mixture.
  3. Rest the breaded balls on a plate in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  4. At this point you may freeze the bitterballen if you wish.

*Deep frying:
  1. Heat at least 3/4-inch of oil in a heavy saucepan to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Deep fry the bitterballen for 3-4 minutes until golden. (For frozen bitterballen, add 1 more minute in cooking time.)
  3. Serve warm with mustard or chutney.