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Monday, October 31, 2011

Malaysian Monday #8: Ang Koo Kueh (红龟粿)

The bad thing about blog surfing, at any time of the day, is the food porn that greets you each time you visit a blog. I'm an extremely visual person, and am definitely susceptible to good food photos, so I try to blog surf after meals, so that I don't get too tempted. Alas, I still do and I sure do salivate when I see my fellow bloggers' posts - and when I mean I salivate, I literally DO salivate - the salivary glands under my tongue get activated and saliva pools in the lower cavern of my mouth - no joke!

Now, I've been craving for ang koo kueh ever since I saw Lena's post with purple sweet potatoes, but it became progressively worse because I was met with a deluge of ang koo kueh posts, no thanks to this month's Aspiring Bakers #12 - Traditional Kueh. For some mouthwatering versions, check out Edith's yellow sweet potato version and Ah Tze's red ang koo kuehs using beetroot.

I told my mom about making some for ourselves, to which she told me to just go and buy some. And so I did. I bought them because I don't own any ang koo kueh moulds, and because I didn't have glutinous rice flour and was too lazy to steam my own sweet potato. BAD bad decision. In a bid to satisfy my craving, I bought 5 ang koo kuehs from 5 different sellers (with different fillings) at the pasar pagi (morning market) when I accompanied my mom to the wet market, and with the exception of one, all the others disappointed me to no end - they were too oily, not tasty enough, the filling was too grainy, the gripes just go on...

Then I saw Sharon's post on MacGyver ang koo kuehs and I thought, hey, if she can make it with her silicone muffin cups over in Sydney, shouldn't I in Singapore do better, especially since these ingredients are so easily available? So I got myself some sweet potato, glutinous rice flour and decided that I shall save money and use my moon cake mould. It's the same one I used to make my mini snow skin moon cakes. I didn't have enough chopped peanuts at home, and I was far too lazy to go out and get some, so I substituted part of it with peanut butter. Worked like a dream I'd say! 

For those of you readers outside of Southeast Asia, this might look and sound a little foreign. Basically, kuih muih (plural for kuih or kueh) are traditional delicacies of Nyonya origins (Nyonya or Peranakan refers to the Straits Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia - the interracial marriages between the local indigenous people and the mainland Chinese - this marriage also brought about a marriage of chinese and malay and other local pastries, giving us the assortment of kuih muih we have today.) Ang Koo Kuehs (or Ang Koo Kuih) literal means 'red turtle cake' in hokkien, in my case, I guess I should probably name them Ung Ge Niu Kueh (Hokkien for yellow moon cake) since they're not red and not made using the special ang koo kueh mould that is usually used for making them. Anyway, ang koo kuehs traditionally are round or oval, and have soft sticky skin made of glutinous rice flour or rice flour or a combination of both - sometimes, mashed sweet potato (like what I've done here) is used too. Another feature of the ang koo kueh is its filling - traditional fillings include mung bean paste, sesame and peanut. This kueh is then steamed on a square piece of banana leaf. The most important feature must of course be its bright red color and tortoise shape/imprint on the kuih. Why tortoise and why red you might ask? Well, it's no secret that we Chinese are a very taboo bunch - so the color red is meant to welcome the good fortune and luck during an auspicious occasion; and because tortoises are known for the longevity, and we Chinese want to emulate that, so we print a tortoise on the red kuih to make it decoratively more pretty. 

Ang koo kuehs are definitely a popular item during ritual offerings and a baby's first month shower. Again, Chinese have this tradition of celebrating a baby's first month (or full moon, 满月) by giving out a set of goodies including dyed red eggs, ang koo kuehs, glutinous rice, and more recently, cakes. And just an interesting tidbit - ang koo kuehs were used to tell recipients of the baby's gender - if you got domed shaped ang koo kueh, the baby is a boy, and if you get flat ones, the baby is a girl. I'm not sure if this tradition still prevails but it's definitely something interesting to know :]

Cracked mooncake shaped ang koo kuehs! :]

Sweet Potato Ang Koo Kueh Recipe 
Adapted from Florence
Makes 10 moon cake sized kueh

For the skin
100g   sweet potatoes, steamed and mashed.
150g   glutinous rice flour
15g     oil
80g     water

For the peanut filling 
140g   roasted peanuts
50g     peanut butter
60g     granulated sugar
20g     water

10 pieces of baking paper or oiled banana leaves.

  1. Steam the sweet potatoes until soft. In a bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Add in the glutinous rice flour, oil and water and mix well. Knead until you obtain a smooth dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave aside to rest while you prepare the peanut filling.
  2. After roasting the peanuts, allow them to cool before putting them in the processor. Add the water and granulated sugar before processing it for a few seconds. Then, add in the peanut butter and process until you get your desired consistency. The filling should come together because of the peanut butter. 
  3. Brush the mould with some oil for ease of removal of the kueh from the mould. A good thing to do first is to take a portion of dough, roll it into a ball and press it into the mould. Add or subtract from the ball until the entire ball is smooth and flattened into the mould. Weigh that piece of dough - that should be the total weight of your kueh. Depending on how much filling you prefer, subtract from the weight accordingly. I used a 25g skin: 15g filling proportion, which is a little on the 'less filling side'. Ideally it should be a 2:1 skin to filling proportion. 
  4. Measure all the sweet potato doughs and roll them into balls. Do the same with the peanut filling. Take the measured portion of sweet potato dough and using your palm, flatten it into a round shape, making sure that the sides are thinner then the centre. Place a ball of peanut filling in the centre of the dough and pinch all the sides of the dough together. Then, roll it into a ball with both your palms. The seam should smoothen and almost disappear. 
  5. Then, press the ball into the mould firmly, with the seam side facing outwards, so that the smooth side will get the imprint of the mould. Then, tap the mould gently on all sides to remove it from the mould. Place the 'released' kuih on square pieces of oiled banana leaves (or baking paper). 
  6. After all the kuihs have been shaped, arrange them in the steamer and steam them in a wok over high heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the wok and allow them to cool before consuming, about 15 minutes at least. 

In pictures:

Just prior to steaming - my ang koo kuehs have cracks in them, mainly cos I'm not too good at making them :p

They flatten out quite a bit after steaming, and become a more vibrant yellow. It appears oily but I didn't brush any extra oil on them.  

Check out how thin the skin can be! And look at that peanut filling!! :o)
YUM - I used some red coloring on this ang koo kueh to indicate that less peanuts was used heh.

I'll be submitting this post to SSB for this month's Aspiring Bakers #12 - Traditional Kueh as well as Muhibbah Malaysia Monday hosted by Shaz of Test With Skewer and Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies :] 

Oh, and Happy Halloween, for those of you who 'celebrate' it ;p Guess you could try having this yellow/orange kuih on this day as well, in the spirit of all things orange and Halloween :]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pink Salted Caramel Macarons for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This post has been long in the making. Like 8 months kinda long. Ever since my first post on macarons more than half a year ago, I've been making macarons on and off, experiencing more failures than successes. I'm experimented with technique, temperature, equipment, ingredients and a whole lot of other variables, and have come to the conclusion that macarons are indeed iffy little creatures and having a humid and cramped kitchen to work in is definitely not the most ideal of places. I say this with a caveat of course, since I know that bakers in similar situations have churned out beautiful macarons but let's face it - you do get better results if you work in an air-conditioned (or low humidity) environment. Also, let's just say that I impose exacting standards on myself and even the 'successful' macarons you see below still don't pass muster in my books - the feet are a tad too short and the tops are not flat and shiny enough.

I'm still experimenting with different recipes (you might say, just stick to a darn recipe girl! But I'm fickle minded that way), and am still determined to get my french meringue technique right - I'm still in the process of tweaking the different variables to see where I'm going wrong.

Like I mentioned previously, I tried making macarons using the french method for a consecutive five times, and each time, the macarons turned out feet less. I was so dejected and disappointed - at that point, I knew that I had to turn to the italian meringue, which had given me results on my first attempt. And to that I turned, and it did give me results as promised. You might query why the hesitation in using a successful method? Well, for one, I find the steps tedious, and you do need a candy thermometer in order to make the italian meringue and second, I really wanted to get my french meringue method right. Suffice to say, after having successful macarons with the italian meringue, I have given up on making macarons for a while and have focussed instead of using up those macaron shells. Once I've cleared my fridge of all those shells, it'll be back to more macaron experiments for me!

For those interested, these are what my failures looked like:- volcano and cracked tops as well as undercooked bottoms for some.

After reading MANY troubleshooting posts (see Not so Humble PieMiso Hungry, Duncan, Vivian for some imminent examples) on why my macarons turn out the way that they do, I have concluded that it was a combination of several factors, including:

1. Not allowing the 'crust' to develop sufficiently, hence the mega cracks
2. Too humid weather and too high baking temperatures (see this useful post by Silvia and Ivan on dehumidifying)
3. Over folding the batter.

Check out the difference in the bottoms of the macs - the left ones are using a generic silicone mat and the right ones are made using baking paper. 


Nevertheless, I was sick of getting failures, so I escaped by using the italian meringue method (yes I'm escapist) and I ended up with this bunch of macarons you see here:

Finally, some successful macarons.

Macarons with relatively smooth shells but super tiny feet. Well, at least they had feet right? And strangely enough, I ended up with salmon pink macarons, even though I used brown coloring. I thought, hey, that might just be serendipity, since I was dying to come up with macarons to qualify for this month's Mactweets Mac Attack Challenge #24, Pink October Macarons. For those not in the know, Mactweets is a monthly macaron challenge started by Jamie and Deeba, both of whom have wonderfully written blogs. This month's Mactweets is special, because it is the second time they are supporting a wonderful cause, since October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was actually hoping to have some failures which looked like breasts (i.e., those with nipples), but as fate would have it, I didn't get that particular type of maca-fails. So normal pink macarons it is!

I've been wanting to talk about Breast Cancer Awareness this entire month, but time just seems to have passed me by and all my pink-related bakes weren't successful enough to be blogged about. Anyway, I'm at that age where the idea of having breast cancer seems foreign, but I've come to realize that although the risk of getting breast cancer increases with age, being young doesn't mean there is no risk. Women as young as in their early twenties have been diagnosed with breast cancer! I know that many older women have the mentality that this can't happen to me (a friend of my auntie was diagnosed recently and she was in denial, refusing treatment for months before she got some sense knocked into her) - but it does and can happen to ANY of you, male or female! Yes, it does occur in males, though less than 1% of the population. And you can help yourself by doing your own self-examination, and going for a mammogram, especially if you're 40 years or older. Early detection does save lives! I mean, come on - self examinations are free and it costs $50 to go for a mammogram in Singapore. For more information, especially for people in Singapore, please do check out the Breast Cancer Foundation website, where you can get information about breast self examination and other useful information related to breast cancer!

So, if you're female, give yourself some self-love today (terrible pun to tie in the photo below, I'm sorry), and do a self-check to reassure yourself that you're breast cancer free! :]

Alrighty, and back to my macarons. I shall be providing you with Pierre Herme's Italian Meringue recipe, which I translated from his Macarons book which I have in French (yes, the English version was just released). I also used his recipe for caramel fleur de sel (salted caramel buttercream filling), which was awesome (as usual). Because I upped the saltiness a little, the filling matched the sweet shells perfectly. 

Macarons with Salted Caramel Buttercream, using the Italian Meringue Method

For the Macarons
150g   ground almonds
150g   icing sugar
55g     egg whites
1 tsp   egg yellow food coloring (I used 2 drops brown coloring)

115g   castor sugar
40g     mineral water
55g     egg whites

  1. At least a day (24 hours) before attempting the macarons, separate the egg whites from the yolks and let them rest in the fridge (it is too humid and hot here for them to rest on the counter for more than a few hours) to age and 'liquefy' (in the master's words). 
  2. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds individually to get rid of the large lumps. Then, sift the icing sugar TOGETHER with the ground almonds. This is known as your "tant-pour-tant" (literally, so much for so much or equal parts). Mix in the food coloring into the first 55g of egg whites. Then, combine these colored egg whites into your tant-pour-tant. Mix well and leave this aside. 
  3. For the remaining 55g of egg whites, place it in a clean mixing bowl. Next, heat the castor sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Do use a candy thermometer - allow the mixture to boil until it reads 118°C. However, once the syrup reaches the 115°C mark, start whisking the egg whites. The sugar syrup should read 118°C just as the egg whites reach a soft peak (the timing is pretty accurate). Pour the sugar syrup down the sides of the bowl and continue whisking the egg whites until you achieve a stiff peak. The egg whites should read about 50°C when stiff peaks are achieved. 
  4. Fold in the egg whites in 3 additions into your tant-pour-tant mixture, gently folding the batter until it is glossy and 'flows like magma'. I generally use the indicator of how long a fold takes to 'dissolve into itself' - about 15 to 20 seconds to check if my batter is ready. 
  5. Pour the batter into a pastry bag filled with a plain tip (about 10-15mm in diameter should be just right) and begin piping the mixture into circles of about 3cm in diameter onto your baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If you have problems piping evenly sized shells, do print out a template or you can trace out 3.5cm rounds on the back of your parchment paper. Since the shells will spread out a little, do pipe the shells a little smaller than the circles you have drawn. Leave a 2cm space in between each shell. After you are done piping, rap the baking sheet against your work surface to ensure that there are no air bubbles trapped in the shells. 
  6. Allow the shells to develop a 'crust' - this crust is simply a skin that ensures that the shell will not stick to your finger. It literally feels like a thin membrane. For a humid environment like Singapore, try to work in an air-conditioned environment or you can place the shells in front of a fan. My shells took about 1 hour to develop a crust.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160°C (some recommend 180°C but I find that 160°C works best for my oven). Place the tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. At the 5th minute, the feet should have developed. At the 8th and 11th minute, do open the oven door a little to release the build up of steam. If your macaron shells start to brown, your shells are overcooked. What I do is to remove the tray from the oven at the 12th minute and flip one shell over to check if it adheres to the baking paper. If it does, put the tray back to bake for a few more minutes; if not, the shells are done. 
  8. Once out of the oven, remove the shells from the baking sheet (still on the parchment sheet) and allow them to cool on a cooling rack. This will ensure that the shells don't continue to cook on the hot baking sheet. Once the shells are cool enough to handle, remove them carefully from the parchment sheet (ideally they should not stick at all) and pair them up. 
  9. Fill the shells with your desired filling and store in the refrigerator for at least 24-48 hours before consuming, to allow for an 'osmosis' of the buttercream to the shells. 

For the salted caramel buttercream filling
100g sugar
115g whipping cream
15g butter 

1 tsp fleur de sel, or any sea salt. 
70g butter, softened. 

  1. Add half of the sugar to a saucepan and allow it to melt before adding the remaining half of the sugar. Do not stir the mixture and allow all the sugar to melt to a amber color. 
  2. At the same time, bring the cream to a simmer. 
  3. Once the sugar has turned a dark amber color, remove from heat and add the first 15g of butter. Stir quickly and be careful as the mixture might splatter. Then, add in the cream which has been simmering and stir quickly to incorporate. 
  4. Put the saucepan back onto a medium heat and allow it to boil until it reads 108°C on the candy thermometer. Pour the mixture into a heatproof dish to stop the mixture from cooking and allow it to cool. 
  5. Once the caramel mixture has cooled, stir in the sea salt, making sure it dissolves. Begin beating the softened 70g of butter for about 5-10 minutes, or until it becomes soft and fluffy. Add in the cooled caramel mixture in two additions, making sure that the caramel is fully incorporated into the fluffy butter. Place the mixture into a piping bag and your salted caramel buttercream is ready to be piped!

Janine's jots: 
  • Note: Veron from Kitchen Musings has this delightful series on Macarons which you should read - more relevantly, her comments on Pierre Herme's italian meringue method here come in handy should you wish to attempt this recipe. For a photo tutorial, do check out Edd's post for this exact same recipe. If you wish to look at local bloggers attempting the italian meringue method, do check out Swee San's step-by-step tutorial for Wendy, both of whom had beautiful macarons with frilly skirts :]
  • Taste: I enjoyed the saltiness of the caramel but it might be a tad salty for people unused to the taste of sea salt. I would recommend starting with half a teaspoon and working your way up through tasting (you can do that with the cooled caramel). The sweetness of the macaron shells were thus countered with the salted caramel. 
  • Texture: For the best experience, DO allow the filled macarons to rest in the fridge for at least a day or two, because the part of the shell in contact with the buttercream yields more easily and this gives you a crisp and chewy mouthfeel, the hallmarks of a good macaron. 
  • Serving size: I halved both the macaron shells and buttercream recipe, so that I got a smaller number of shells (about 30 pairs). 
  • Modifications: I didn't get my hands on salted french butter or creme fraiche, so I changed that to normal unsalted butter but used instead an extra teaspoon of sea salt to adjust the saltiness to my liking. Creme fraiche was substituted with whipping cream as well. I did reduce the sugar in the sugar syrup by quite a fair bit - the original calls for 150g of sugar and 37.5g of water but I found that reducing the sugar a little worked as well. 
  • Storage: The macarons keep extremely well in the refrigerator - you can even freeze them for a month, but note that the shells will soften and lose its crispiness. 
  • Would I make this again?: Definitely! The italian meringue method requires much more work than the french, but it promises results each time, so I know which recipe to turn to when I have a macaron craving! However, I intend to tweak the recipe a little to see if I can use less sugar for the sugar syrup in order to reduce the sweetness of the shells. 

Well, I had ONE successful chocolate macaron from the batch of chocolate failures.
The texture of the shells were pretty good - slightly crispy with a chewy interior. There are also no visible air pockets whee! :]

Alright, this post is getting a tad long, so I shall end with a final picture of some heart-shaped macarons I attempted. As you can see, I'm still quite bad at filling the macarons, but I try! ;p

Till my next macaron adventure!

Playing around with colors. I quite like the washed out look here. What say you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Janine's Failed Macaron Cake aka a Flourless Chocolate Cake made with Maca-fails

I swear by the phrase "out of adversity comes creativity", not only because I am usually pushed by circumstances to think out of the box, but also because much of my (best) work is done when I'm facing a time crunch or other adverse situations. Just take today for example, I was craving ang koo kueh, a traditional glutinous rice treat filled with peanuts or mung beans, and since it was raining heavily and I couldn't go out, I decided that I should make myself some. And so I did. I did so even without the mould required for it, without the banana leaves, and without having peanuts/mung bean paste in the pantry. And it turned out quite successful I must say. I used baking paper and peanut butter as substitutes - creative no? ;p

Anyway, the cake below also stems from one of my 'creative' episodes. I have had many a failure with those dainty little things called macarons, and it's really a pain having to deal with them. This is because with pretty 'footed' macarons, I can gift them to various people, but with macarons that look like whoopie pies...well... let's just say taste is their only redeeming factor, which is sad because many people 'eat' with their eyes first. And the thing is, macarons are always hit-and-fail thing for me, I have as many successes as failures, which makes me hesitant every time I want to make macarons because I'm afraid of the results, or lack there of.

So after a particularly crazy streak of macaron baking which saw me using dozens of egg whites, I ended up with several pretty macarons and a hundred more feetless, shapeless macs. This meant that I had trays and trays of maca-fails, and being the thrifty person that I was, I didn't dump them in the trash right away. I really hate wasting food, so I stored them in airtight containers in the fridge, to the point that there were MANY such containers in the fridge, and my mom started nagging at me, asking me to get rid of them.

So what could I do?

This was when I put on the proverbial thinking cap. I knew that I could do verrines or Eton's mess with crushed macarons, but I'm not exactly a fan of sweet meringue and cream, so after having done it a few times, I had to resort to some other method of getting rid of these feetless horrors. I had always played with the idea of using them in a cake, and after a search on my trusty friend google, I found only one hit for 'failed macaron cake'. The unfortunate (or fortunate perhaps) thing was that the blogger there basically guess-timated her way through her own recipe, and didn't have any particular recipe for her macaron cake. I then deduced that if I pulverized the shells, I could probably replace any recipe which had ground almonds for them. And that was exactly what I did.

So I went about looking for a chocolate cake which made use of ground almonds, mainly because I had lots of chocolate flavored macarons. And as luck would have it, I landed upon Ju's Flourless Almond and Chocolate Cake, which I had bookmarked, a long time ago. If you read the recipe, you'll realize that it's pretty similar to the Queen of Sheba cake, made popular by Julia Child, but that has flour in it.

Anyway, I made a few liberal modifications to the recipe (like using the processor to make the cake), so do check out the original recipe if you're interested in the original cake!


Janine's Failed Macaron Cake (Flourless Almond & Chocolate Cake made with Powdered Macarons)
Adapted from Ju, who obtained it from Times Online 
Makes an 8-inch square cake

200g  dark chocolate (I used a mix of 55% and 70%)
15g    hot brewed coffee (or 1 tablespoon)
15g    rum (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
95g    caster sugar 
100g  unsalted butter
5        eggs, separated
¼ tsp salt
110g macaron shells

  1. Melt the chocolate, brewed coffee, rum and butter in the microwave or on a bain marie. Stir well to combine and allow to cool. 
  2. Place the macaron shells in a processor and blitz them for a minute, or until fine, like ground almonds. Do not over process. Add 70g of the sugar and salt into the processor and blitz for a few seconds to combine the ingredients. Next, add in the 5 egg yolks and process for about 5 seconds. Add in the chocolate mixture and process for 10 seconds, or until all the ingredients are well combined. Empty the mixture into a clean bowl. 
  3. In a metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites together with the remaining 25g sugar, until you get stiff white peaks. 
  4. Take some of the egg whites (about 10% worth) and mix them into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. You don't need to be gentle with mixing this 10%. Once the egg white is completely mixed into chocolate mixture, gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the lightened chocolate mixture. This time, making sure to gently fold to retain the air in the egg whites. 
  5. Line your cake tin with baking paper and lightly butter the sides. Pour in the cake mixture and give it a few raps on the counter to get rid of any unsightly air bubbles. 
  6. Bake at 170°C for about 40-50 minutes before removing it. If you want it more fudgey/moussey - bake it for about 40 minutes and your cake tester will come out slightly wet. If you want a more cake-like texture, bake for 50 minutes or more, and some crumbs will still adhere to your tester. 
  7. Cool it in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing it to cool on a wire rack. 

Janine's jots: 
  • BEWARE: I actually made 2 vital errors for this recipe - which accounts for the picture you see above - I used a dark-colored pan, and failed to reduce the baking temperature, which explains why the bottom of the cake is quite over-baked. As for the dense layer slightly above the bottom, that was because I was multitasking while beating my egg whites and I slightly overbeat them, to the point that it was almost turning clumpy :/ This was probably why the cake didn't rise to its requisite height. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the dense layer at the bottom of the cake, because it tasted almost fudgey, and very chocolatey, which was a perfect contrast against the airy cake on top! That being said, I'm not sure if these 2 problems were the result of the powdered macarons, but I doubt so. Anyway, I'll probably try this out again soon (I know I'll have more maca-fails to try them with) and see where I go with it.
  • Note: You should process the macaron shells when they are at room temperature so that they are less 'wet' and can be processed into powder more easily. Otherwise, you might get tiny clumps because of the moistness of the macarons. However, don't worry too much because these clumps will dissolve somewhat after baking (whee!) :]
  • Taste: Having made the original and the modified version, I do feel that there is not much difference in taste, except for the fact that the almonds are much more discernible in the original version. I'd probably use a mix of half almonds and half macarons in the next try to get the best of both worlds :] Do remember to reduce the amount of sugar by a little as well, because the macaron shells after all, are half sugar, and will contribute to the sweetness of the cake. 
  • Texture: The chocolate cake feels almost mousse-y (and tastes that way too), but has a cake-like crust (thanks to my slight over baking), which is a delight to dig into. The best word to describe it would be 'airy'. 
  • Modifications: I reduced the sugar from the original of 150g to 95g, because I took into account that the macarons were half sugar. I felt that the amount of sugar can be decreased further because the cake is still a tad sweet for my liking. My family liked the level of sweetness though. 
  • Storage: The cake does not store well at room temperature because of its gooeyness but they did very well in the refrigerator. Let it sit for a while at room temperature before consuming for the best texture, but even if you don't, it's still really good. I stored a slice in an airtight container for almost 2 weeks and it tasted as delicious (maybe a little drier) as it did when I just baked it. 
  • Would I make this again?: Definitely! Now that I know how to make use of the maca-fails, I have no reason to try and try again :] I'd also serve this with some icing sugar on top, to hide the unsightly cracks - note that this cake WILL sink! Just maybe not as much as mine did.

So there you have it - my secret recipe for disposing of maca-fails! Do try this recipe out if you too have many maca-fails and don't know what to do with them - it's a yummy, alternative way to dispose of them :] If you don't have failed macarons (i.e., all your macarons are perfect) - I hatecha! (I'm jesting!) - this is still a very yummy flourless chocolate cake to try nevertheless :)

Have a great weekend y'all!

PS: I found a new spot in my cramped apartment to take photos and I'm quite happy with the results :) I took these photos in a rather precarious position - balancing on two chairs with the cake placed on a stool which rested on top of my washing machine so that I could get the sun to the side of my cake! What do you think? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pizzas in Singapore #2: La Nonna

This is yet another long overdue post. Like I mentioned earlier, I was on a hunt for good pizzas in Singapore, and one of the first places I stumbled upon was this place recommended by Brad, called La Nonna, which according to him, had the best lunch promotion in Singapore. The best thing was, it was located in Holland Village, which is relatively near to where I live. Since then, I've visited La Nonna more than 3 times, mostly during the lunch period (so that I can take advantage of the $10 pizzas!) and for their lovely balsamic vinegar. 

Being the bad food blogger that I am, I only had my camera on one of the occasions that I went, so I only have two pictures. I realized that I'm really quite bad at this restaurant blogging thing, because I believe in eating my food hot, so once the food lands on my table, I just go 'snap' once or twice before digging in. This is why I admire those food bloggers who make the effort to lug around their huge-ass cameras to restaurants and to take proper good shots of the food so that they can entice others to go. 

Alright, the best thing about the promotion is that all pizzas and pastas are 50% off. This 50% actually applies to anything on their ala carte menu and they also have 3-course meal offers for about $22/++, which includes complimentary tea or coffee too. This might not sound impressive, but let me tell you that their pizzas are generally $19 and pastas around the same. This means that after 50%, pizzas are super duper cheap, about $10 or so! Plus the fact that they also serve complimentary bread with the traditional olive oil and balsamic vinegar - this place is really a steal! (Gosh I'm using so many exclamation marks!) And if you're a typical girl eater, you probably can't finish one of these pizzas yourself, so if say you stick to plain water and order a pizza, pasta and dessert for 2 to share, it'll be definitely less than $20 per person after taxes. 

La Nonna signature pizza

Only caution though - this lunch promotion is an open secret, so La Nonna is really quite packed for lunch, especially because they don't sit too many people on the inside. There are a couple of tables outside, but unless it's a cool day, I won't advise sitting outside. Good thing is that they accept reservations, even during lunch :] So do try to make reservations if you don't wanna wait! You can also access their website to make an online reservation - it is an instant reservation system, so it's akin to calling in if you can't call ;p

The pictures of the pizzas you see are both $19 before discount, which amounts to $9.95 after discount, before taxes. If you're unsure what to order (they have a few pages worth of pizza and pasta choices), you might want to try the La Nonna signature pizza. It's a tomato based pizza, topped with Mozzarella, Parmesan, Asparagus, Egg and Black truffle. Best thing is, they are really generous with their truffle and parmesan, and if you think you need more parmesan, just ask them for more parmesan - they will provide you with the freshly grated stuff, and not those packaged parmesan you get at plebeian places, heh.

My friends and I love salty food to bits, so the other pizza we ordered was the Caprino, which was also tomato based, but had mozzarella, goat's cheese, pancetta and rucola salad. In this pizza, the goat's cheese and rucola takes the limelight, as the goat's cheese they use is pretty mature, and tastes rather tart (or what Singaporeans might terms as 'sour'). Just a tip I picked up in Italy - you can combine an equal part of balsamic vinegar together with the olive oil (that they provide for every table), and use your fork to mix them together, then drizzle over your rucola. The sweetness of the balsamic vinaigrette goes perfectly with the rucola and goat's cheese :] This is not a pizza I'd recommend for anyone who doesn't like the taste of strong cheese. But if you are a lover of strong cheese - ORDER THIS!

Caprino pizza

We also ordered their Linguini ($19), which was served with crab meat in a tomato cream sauce and fresh basil, and again, they were really generous with the crab meat. I also loved the tomato cream sauce, which was a lovely orange color. On other occasions, I have ordered their Spaghetti ($19) and Capellini ($20), which were in mixed seafood cooked in aglio olio style and scallops in fresh tomato sauce respectively - I didn't like the spaghetti too much because I tend to prefer seafood in a cream-based sauce and I found the spaghetti a little dry (not enough olive oil used). The Capellini was perfect, as once again, they were very generous with the scallops. 

I've never ordered any of their secondi (main courses), so I'm not sure how those fare, but as for other pizzas, I have had their Diavola ($19), which is a tomato-based pizza with mozzarella and spicy italian calabrese salami. I found this pizza quite plain - because there just wasn't enough mozzarella, and overly oily, because the salami oozed too much oil after being baked. I had to use the paper towel to soak up the excess oil before I was willing to eat it, although my bf had no issues with the pizza. I did however, like the spiciness of the salami, which was an interesting change from the normal run-of-the-mill salami.  

And I've probably ordered La Nonna and Caprino like a couple of times after that first, and these are probably my two favorite pizzas out of the lot :]

So if it's lunch and you're thinking of pizza, don't order Pizza Hut or Dominoes or Sarpino's, give La Nonna a try and you won't be disappointed! It's cheaper too (after the discount)! FYI though, the pizzas are the thin-crust Italian type of pizzas, and not the American thick-crust pizzas. 

La Nonna
Address: 26/26B Lorong Mambong
 Holland Village, Singapore 227685
Contact: +65 6468 1982
Opening hours: Everyday, 12-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm
Price: Pasta and Pizza starts at $19

They have another outlet at 76 Namly Place.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Price Comparison of [some] Baking Ingredients in Baking Supplies Shops across Singapore

When I first posted THIS list of baking supplies stores in Singapore, I never imagined that it would be one of the most popular posts on this blog. I'm happy that it is, because it means that my list is of use to other people who may be on the search of certain baking products/goods/ingredients in certain places. Do check out the updated list - I've updated it with some additional places, as well as included the opening hours of all the places. 

Just a tiny grouse - I've seen some similar lists on other blogs (who I shall not name) who have posted similar lists - while I understand that there are only that many places in Singapore selling baking ingredients, and that such information is easily available on the www, time and effort was spent to collate the list, so it would be highly appreciated if credit is given where it is due. 

Okay, gripes aside, I thought that the list should be supplemented with additional information which I personally find helpful - mainly price comparisons for a few common ingredients. As I've said before - I'm a very 'cheapo' person - I like to think of myself as thrifty though. I like to survey prices and I like to think about buying something for some time before actually buying (though I give in to impulse buys more often than not). I have this tiny note in my phone which records the prices of certain ingredients in certain places, so that I know how much it is and if it really is on promotion (some stores have this gimmick of putting an item on offer when really it is the same price :/ ).

So for this list, I decided to use ingredients that I usually purchase, which actually are ingredients that most recipes will require - butter, other dairy products, cocoa powder and chocolate. Flour, sugar and eggs are the other typical contenders, but since these are largely the same everywhere, I've left them out. I've also included almonds and baking mats in the comparison below, just for fun and because I thought it might be useful to others as well. I still remember back when I first started baking (late last year), I spent so much time visiting each and every shop, surveying prices and jotting them down in my phone. These prices are updated as of October 2011, and should be the prices you'll see when you visit the stores yourself. 

These are the lucky seven ingredients I've decided to start with, but I'll probably list more as time goes on. I already have a number of other information in mind to post and share with you guys.

Again, please note that I am not paid by any of the shops below to do any (secret/stealth) promotion or advertisement, and these prices are the result of an extensive market survey conducted over months after my numerous visits to these places to hunt for the best prices and ingredients. 


Valrhona chocolate 
Some might wonder, what on earth is this Valrhona which bloggers rave about now and then? Well, it actually used to be a small chocolate producing company in the Lyon area of France, but since then, they have grown to become one of the leading producers of chocolate in the world. Renowned pastry chefs and chocolatiers from around the world use Valrhona (which is the result of pretty good marketing in my opinion) and they also sponsor many chocolate competitions around the world.

I especially remember an episode of Adriano Zumbo's short documentary where he says that he went to the factory in France to specially make his own chocolate [ETA: it appears that I must have remembered wrongly, because I read that he is loyal to Cacao Barry.] (by that he means choosing where the chocolate comes from as well as the % of chocolate and type of bean). For those still in the dark, chocolate, like vanilla pods, is highly affected by where it is being grown - so a Criollo cocoa bean grown in Tanzania compared with another grown in Madagascar might produce chocolate with different 'notes' and aromatics. How cool huh! This is especially evident if you taste-test the chocolate all at the same time. I did it with a few chocolates and oh my, in some chocolates you can even taste honey! My pastry god, Pierre Herme also swears by Valrhona of course :p

The next question that comes to mind now is, where can I get this widely raved about chocolate? Well, I believe the below is a comprehensive list of shops which sell Valrhona in Singapore.

Prices for Valrhona cocoa powder:
  • BIY - $39.80 for 1kg (no smaller quantities)
  • Kitchen Capers - $4.20 for 80g, $34 for 1kg
  • Shermay's Cooking School - $9.95 for 200g, $18.90 for 400g (but they frequently have 20% off)
  • Sun Lik - $8.50 for 250g, $16 for 500g 
  • ToTT (under Euraco Fine Foods Store) - $90 for 3kg (no smaller quantities)

Please note that I'm not paid by any of the stores I've listed above (I wish!), but as you can see, Sun Lik sells Valrhona cocoa powder for the cheapest if you are buying in small quantities. So now you know where to get your Valrhona fix in Singapore! This is of course, subject to many other factors, like where on the island you live and how convenient it is for you to get to these places. Only Kitchen Capers is located in the East, BIY and ToTT are both located along Bukit Timah (but at least a 10 minute car-ride apart), Shermay is in Chip Bee Gardens, which is opposite Holland Village, and Sun Lik is opposite Raffles hotel, near Bras Brasah. Btw, nowhere in Johor is it being sold (trust me I've checked). 

When reading recipes, you might also encounter the phrase "dutch-processed cocoa powder" and wonder what in the world is it? Well, David Lebovitz has a really good FAQ - simply put, dutch-processed cocoa powder is less acidic. It is also known as an alkalized unsweetened cocoa powder, and since it's neutral, you'll need to use it alongside baking powder. Brands of natural cocoa powder include Nestle and Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and most other American brands of cocoa powder. Most European cocoa powders are Dutch-processed, so Valrhona and the rest I've listed below are usually Dutch-processed. Just keep a lookout for the words "natural" on the packaging - if it is natural, it's not dutch-processed, and vice-versa. Joy of Cooking provides a substitution between dutch-processed and natural cocoa but I haven't tried it out myself.

The below list is an almost comprehensive list of the types of cocoa powder available in Singapore. You will notice that like Valrhona, the Belgian cocoa powders cost quite a bit too - remember: you get what you pay for!

Other types of cocoa powder available in Singapore
  1. Brandless cocoa powder (from Malaysia)
    • Phoon Huat - $4.10 for 250g
    • Sun Lik - $1.50 for 100g, $5.50 for 500g, $10.50 for 1kg
  2. Van Houten cocoa powder
    • Mustafa - $7 for 250g 
    • Sun Lik - $3.60 for 125g, $6.50 for 250g, $10.50 for 1kg
    • NTUC/Cold Storage - $5.75 for 250g
    • (for comparison) in any Jusco supermarket in JB - RM7.50 for 125g, RM13.50 for 250g
  3. Hershey's Cocoa Powder (226g carton)
    • Kitchen Capers - $6.85
    • Mustafa - $5.90 
    • NTUC - $6.62 
    • Cold Storage - $8.60 
    • Sun Lik - $7.30 
    • (for comparison) in any Jusco supermarket in JB - RM16.90 for 125g
  4. Cacao Barry 
    • This is a Belgian chocolate which similarly has a wide range of chocolate and cocoa products. I first encountered them in Belgium with their cocoa nibs and they're good!
    • Kitchen Capers - $3.50 for 80g or $25 for 1kg
    • Delicia - $20 for a 1kg pack 
    • (for comparison) in Perling Indah in JB - RM58 for 1kg 
  5. Belcolade 
    • CocoaOrient - $37.50 for a 3kg pack of Premium Dutch Cocoa Powder (but you must buy a carton which contains 2 3kg packs - i.e., $75 for 6kg)
  6. Nestle 
    • Not available in Singapore, but I bought a can in Australia for about A$4 - it tastes better than Hershey's in my opinion but not as complex as Valrhona!


Bittersweet chocolate (70%)
As I have alluded to earlier, not only are there different brands of chocolate available in the market, these chocolates have varying percentages of cocoa solids as well. Basically, the chocolate bars you see are actually a combination of cocoa beans, cocoa butter and sugar (mainly). So the percentages you see refer to the amount/percentage of cocoa solid (beans) within that block of chocolate.

For the purposes of price comparison, I have decided on the 70% chocolate, which I often buy because of its bittersweet qualities. I find it the most value for money, because if you want a bittersweet chocolate, you can just use the chocolate by itself, but should you want a semi-sweet type of chocolate, you can combine this with a chocolate with a lower percentage (say 40% or even a milk chocolate) and you'll get a semi-sweet combination easily.

The 70% chocolate (Guanaja) is available at 
  • BIY - $27 for 500g (only 1 size)
  • Kitchen Capers - $40 per 1kg block, $106 for 3kg. 
  • Sun Lik - $14 for 300g (couvertures), $40 for the 1kg block
  • ToTT - $114 for 3kg (only 1 size)
  • Shermay's - $12.95 for 250g, $24.90 for 500g

Cacao Barry also has a 65% Madagascar chocolate, which Kitchen Capers sells at $8.30 for 200g and the 76% Equateur Chocolate which retails at $33.80 per kg. Another place that sells Cacao Barry is Delicia, an online retailer which I found through googling. They sell the 76% Equateur for $26, which is substantially cheaper than KC, but note that you have to pay for delivery charges (not sure how much though?) unless you have a minimum order of $160. Sun Lik has the 70% Cacao Barry at $8 for 250g pack and $29.80 for the 1kg original pack.

Callebaut has a 70.4% dark bittersweet chocolate, which retails at Sun Lik at $7 for a 250g packet.

ToTT also sells another brand, Belcolade, another type of Belgian chocolate which they sell for $25.20 for a 1kg pack. The cocoa content for the bitter chocolate is 71%. If you want this same brand for cheaper, you can head down to Admiralty, to CocoaOrient, which sells it for $17.50 for the same 1kg pack. They are a wholesaler, but I called to ask if they sell to walk-in customers and they do :] Just email them in advance to let them know your order before self-collecting! They open from 0830-1800hrs. Again, Sun Lik also sells Belcolade, for $23.50 per kg.

The cheapest bittersweet chocolate will be the Strong Bitter Couverture droplets by Bakeway - sold in Phoon Huat. They have a 73.5% cocoa content, and only costs $14.20 for 1kg. I personally have not tried this, but when I was in the Chip Bee Gardens and Bencoolen branch, I saw many people loading up on the chocolate when it came in stock.

Btw, if you are desperate, you can also use those confectionary chocolates - for e.g., NTUC has the Cadbury Old Gold block chocolate, which has 70% cocoa content. They also sell Lindt block chocolates with the same cocoa content. For couvertures, Cold Storage, NTUC and other supermarkets also sell this brand called "Choco Line" which has a 53% dark couverture at $4.90 for 150g. Again, they work well when you're desperate or when you're baking to satisfy a craving at say, 11pm and you run out of chocolate and there's a 24h NTUC near you :]


I never knew the importance of using good quality butter until I tried it myself. I have come to realize that it isn't that much more expensive. I don't always use French Butter, because it's quite expensive to use on a daily basis, but I substitute it for unsalted butter by the brand of Saputo, which retails at Phoon Huat for $4.80 per 454g. 

Other brands of butter that are available include (I've listed the more common brands towards the bottom of the list):
  • Elle & Vire 
    • $3.20 for a 200g block (Sun Lik)
    • $3.50 for 200g block (ToTT)
    • $4.32 per block for a pack of 3 250g blocks (Shermay)
    • $3.49 per block for a pack of 6 (Shermay)
  • Saputo  
    • $1.90 per 200g block (Phoon Huat)
    • $4.10 per 454g block 
  • Greenfields
    • $2.40 for 250g (Phoon Huat)
  • Goldtree
    • $2.40 for 250g block (Phoon Huat)
  • President salted/unsalted butter 
    • $4.50 for 250g (Delicia)
    • $5.45 for 250g (Cold Storage)
    • $5.40 for 250g (Shop & Save)
  • Lurpak salted/unsalted butter 
  • Anchor salted/unsalted butter
  • Golden Churn salted butter 
    • $4.70 per 250g block (Cold Storage)
    • $4.50 (Sun Lik)
    • $4.55 (NTUC/Shop & Save)
  • SCS unsalted butter 
    • $5.30 per 250g block (Cold Storage)
    • $3.50 per 250g block (Sun Lik)
    • $4.75 per 250g block (NTUC)
    • $5.15 per 250g block (Shop & Save)
  • SCS salted butter 
    • $2.85 per 125g block (Cold Storage)
    • $2.80 per 125g block (Shop & Save)
  • Fairprice Pure Creamery butter 
    • $3.50 per 250g block (but NTUC usually has offers for this)
  • Cowhead
    • $3.80 for 250g block (NTUC)
    • $3.25 for 250g block (Shop & Save)
  • Liv unsalted butter 
    • $4.50 for 250g block (Shop & Save)
  • Tinned Golden Churn Butter (no need to refrigerate)
    • $8.60 for 454g (found in the baking needs section) 

Btw, if you are confused about all the various brands available, you can check out a butter taste test conducted by Weylin 2 years ago in 2009. Although I have not conducted a similar taste test, I have used most of the brands I've stated above, and like I've mentioned, if your pocket can take it, do use the Normandy French butters (Elle & Vire) because you'll get the best buttery, creamy flavor from it. If the places which sell it is not accessible, Lurpak is an often used alternative - it's a Danish butter, but the results are good. SCS is also a common brand used by many, especially in Malaysia (or rather, JB where I stay in) which might not have a similar wide range of expensive butters.

My mom used to buy Buttercup because it was cheap, but note that this isn't exactly real butter - the reason why it's so cheap is because it's a mixture of oils - it is actually termed as "dairy spread" and costs $2.25. There is a cheaper brand called Goldenmaid that retails for $1.90. The ingredients usually include butter flavor and vegetable oils.


Cream is also an essential ingredient if you want to make a ganache or certain types of icing or butter creams. I love the ones at Phoon Huat, because I think they're thick and cheap. 

Beware of different types of cream - there's the non-dairy type, which typically retails for cheaper and the dairy type of creams. I prefer the dairy types, because it's just hard to replicate that creaminess that comes from cows. 

The supermarkets also sell this Nestle sterilized cream, which retails at $2.15 for a 170g tin, which works perfectly fine when you need cream urgently. This is the only cream that retails in almost every supermarket, even the tiny small NTUC near my house. I've used the cream in my caramel making and it tastes almost as good as those made with fresh cream. 

Just a tip, you can freeze cream, especially the non-dairy ones - what I do is to freeze them in ice cube trays so that I can pop them out when I need them, so don't worry about buying huge cartons of cream because they can last pretty long! Do note that if you refrigerate it, once you open the carton, it has to be used within 2 weeks or it will start souring and smelling! Also, the dairy whipping cream, once frozen, tend to look curdled and will be quite difficult to whip up into soft/hard peaks, so I'd suggest using them in ganaches etc where you melt them. Non-dairy whipping creams don't have such a problem though! The visible difference between the both is probably first the color - dairy whipping creams tend to be off-white or cream in color whereas non-dairy creams are pure white. Also, dairy whipping creams taste, naturally, like milk (more dairy) whereas non-dairy doesn't have that 'cow' taste and tastes sweetener. Nevertheless, if you are lactose-intolerant, non-dairy is the way to go!

Types and prices of cream: 
  • Elle & Vire (35.1%)
    • $9.50 for 989g (ToTT)
    • $8 for 989ml (Sun Lik)
    • $9.95 for 989ml (Shermay)
  • President Dairy Whipping Cream (35.1%) 
    • $8 for 1000ml (Sun Lik)
    • $8.80 for 1000ml at Kitchen Capers
    • $11.80 for 1000ml at Cold Storage (although the packaging looks different)
    • $11.75 for 1000ml at Shop & Save
    • $4.55 for 200ml at Cold Storage (the UHT whipping cream, light cream and extra light all retail at the same price)
  • Dairy Farmer Thickened Cream 
    • $3.80 for 300ml at Kitchen Capers
    • $3.75 for 300ml at Cold Storage 
    • $3.65 for 300ml at NTUC
    • $3.55 for 300ml at Mustafa
  • Bulla Fresh Thickened Cream (35.1% fat)
    • $4.10 for 300ml at Cold Storage
    • $4.05 at NTUC
  • Bulla Fresh Pure Cream (45% fat)
    • $4.30 for 200ml at Cold Storage
  • Emborg Whipping Cream (38%)
    • $3.35 for 200ml at Mustafa
    • $3.40 for 200ml at NTUC/Cold Storage
  • Millac Dairy Whipping Cream 
    • $6.45 at Phoon Huat 
  • Greenfields Whipping Cream 
    • $10.05 for 1000ml at Cold Storage 
  • Lescure UHT Whipping Cream (made in France)
    • $7.05 at Phoon Huat 
  • Rich's Pride Topping/Value Pride (non-diary whipping cream)
    • $5.50 (or $6) for 1000ml at Sun Lik 
  • Redman Whipping Top Cream (non-diary whipping cream)
    • $5.60 for 1000ml at Phoon Huat 


Many chocolate cake recipes require this. What is buttermilk? It basically is the by-product of churning butter out of cream. Of course, it'll be dumb for us to do that ourselves, so many have come out with substitutions for buttermilk, such as the addition of vinegar or lemon juice to milk. For a long time, I used those substitutions (including a mixture of yogurt and milk), but I find that using buttermilk itself does make a difference - cakes and pancakes are a tad fluffier, and have a creamier taste to them.

There is probably just one brand available in Singapore (but I may be wrong) - Dairy Farmers, a blue carton - it retails at Mustafa, NTUC, Cold Storage, Phoon Huat, Shop & Save and Giant for the same price of $3.95 for 600ml. You can probably make over 50 cupcakes with that amount, or a huge amount of buttermilk pancakes (which are awesome btw). Btw, I did notice that there are some price variations across certain supermarket outlets even if they are the same supermarket - so prices might vary a little!


If you venture into baking French cakes or pastries, you'll realize that many many recipes require almonds - just take financiers or the ever-so-welcomed macarons. The French use copious amounts of almonds, and I think this stems from the fact that bakers of yesteryear had an abundance of almonds to bake with - hence you see almonds being used in the staples of French cooking, like joconde, dacquoise and praline!

Macarons are always a popular item, and they require the use of ground almonds, which some refer to as almond meal or almond flour. You can always ground your own from whole almonds, but it's quite a troublesome process, even though whole skinned almonds are the cheapest almond product you can get.

These are the prices for almond meal across various places in Singapore. You can probably deduct about 10-20% for the price of almond flakes, nibs and whole almonds (with skin or without). If you are really desperate, you can probably head to your nearest NTUC or Cold Storage branch and they'll be likely to sell whole almonds (blanched or otherwise) which you can grind up yourself.

  • Phoon Huat -  $16.05 for 1kg, $4.40 for 250g 
  • Sun Lik - $4 for 250g 
  • ToTT - $19.80 for 1kg 
  • NTUC - $4.03 for 100g Bake King pack, $2.55 for 100g whole almonds (Pasar brand)
  • Cold Storage - $4.40 for 100g Bake King pack 
  • (just for comparison sake) In JB - RM17.50 per 500g


Silpat Mat
The market is permeated with all types of 'silicone mats' nowadays, but I believe the forerunner was Silpat, which was created by Demarle in France back in the late 1960s. Nowadays, any type of silicone mat is also referred to as a 'silpat', even though they might not actually be a Silpat. The benefit of a silicone mat is of course, its non-stick surface. I've one which I use for baking cookies, sponge cakes, macarons and rolling out dough when I need a non-stick surface. After you're done, you just wipe it down and it's clean! 

In Singapore, the 2 places that retails Silpat (that I know of) is Sun Lik and Shermay's. The 12x16 inch retails at $49.95 whereas the 11¾ by 8¼ inch goes for $29.95. Over at Sun Lik, the 12x16 inch (the only size they have) retails for $35.

Over the Phoon Huat, they have their own brand of silpat, which retails for slightly cheaper, around $20 or so (I can't remember the sizes or prices sorry). Over at ToTT, they have another brand, Pavoni, which is an Italian brand. They have 3 sizes, the smallest of which is 30x40cm, and retails for $18, the medium is 51x31cm and the large is 58x38cm, which retails at $34.80.

For those without the budget for a Silpat, don't worry - greaseproof baking paper works just as well. I also like the silicone baking liners that ToTT sells - it's a pre-cut liner which you can use to line your cake trays (it's more malleable for a cake tin than the Silpat) and it works the same way. It's frequently out of stock and costs $7-8 for a square or round piece (around 30x40cm for the rectangular piece). Alternatively, just stick to those brands of baking paper you can get from NTUC or Cold Storage - they work perfectly as well. I use them for baking cookies and sponge cakes, etc. 


And that's the end of this list! It's a really long read, but I hope this short list of the seven most common baking ingredients available in baking supplies stores in Singapore will be useful for you!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins, with a Crumble Topping

Although this is the second pumpkin-related recipe here on the blog, I have to admit that before this year, I used to avoid pumpkin like the plague. No joke. I guess I had bad memories of how pumpkin tasted like - my mom used to stir fry it with some soupy substance which till today I have no idea what it is. No thank you. I guess it's also a sign that my tastebuds are maturing somewhat - I used to think brinjals (aubergines) were icky too, but I've come to accept them, same for salted egg yolks and sweet potatoes. I still don't really like bitter gourds except when cooked in an omelette though. 

Since the childhood aversion, I have not touched pumpkins until ironically, I was confronted with thousands of them (okay I exaggerate) when I was grocery shopping in Australia.  It was autumn, almost winter, and pumpkins were in abundance. I guess one other reason why pumpkins don't cross my mind while I'm in Singapore is probably due to the fact that our local pumpkins don't look as endearing as say, butternut pumpkins and I grocery shop lesser here, since my mom does the cooking. (Butternut pumpkins are available locally actually, I just never noticed them before.)

So while grocery shopping in Woolies, I was completely entranced by the array of pumpkins and other squashes - there were butternut, white ones and pale yellow and green Japanese ones (sorry I don't know the names). I decided to buy one pumpkin and take the plunge with it. So I did. I made pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins with it. They were all delicious, and made me regret knowing pumpkin at such a late age. Boy have I missed out! When I returned to Singapore, with the taste of pumpkin still lingering in my mind, I told my mom to get me a local pumpkin for me to experiment with. I already knew what I wanted to make. When I saw these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins posted by Annie, I immediately bookmarked them - and with some expiring cream cheese, this was the perfect thing to make. Admittedly, I have to admit that our local pumpkins taste a little 'grassier' or earthier than butternut pumpkins, but since we're combining them with spices and sugar, the taste isn't all that prominent. Do use other varieties like butternut if you want a sweeter pumpkin puree. 

So, to all you pumpkin-haters, don't say no to this superfood! Pumpkins are full of vitamin C, helping boost immunity and reducing heart disease. They are also full of fibre and are a natural source of potassium which equals to strong bones and controlled blood pressure. My dad who has high blood pressure should really eat pumpkins more often! Being orange, they contain the same antioxidants as carrots, which is thought to slow down the aging process and reverse skin damage caused by the sun. Like carrots, the vitamin A in pumpkins also promote healthy vision. Singapore being the nation with the highest density of bespectacled people, ought to promote pumpkin eating! 

As the first step towards promoting pumpkin eating, I give you these pumpkin cream cheese muffins, which are bound to dispel any negative perception you had about pumpkins!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Makes 6 muffins

For the cream cheese filling:
60g cream cheese, softened
40g icing sugar

For the muffins:
90g all-purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
⅛ tsp allspice
⅛ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 egg
85g castor sugar 
140g pumpkin puree*
100g vegetable oil 

For the topping:
1tsp cinnamon
20g flour 
20g castor sugar
15g butter

  1. About 1-2 hours before baking the muffin, begin preparing the filling. To prepare the filling, combine the softened cream cheese and icing sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a log about 2-3cm in diameter. Roll the plastic wrap tightly around the log and transfer to the freezer to chill until firm, for at least an hour. 
  2. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and baking soda. Set aside. Combine the egg, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil (I used olive oil) and mix until well-blended. Add in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. 
  3. To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a fork until the mixture is coarse and resembles bread crumbs. Chill in the refrigerator until read to use. 
  4. Fill each muffin well with a muffin cup. Pour about 1-2 tablespoons of batter into each well. Then, slice the log of cream cheese into 6 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese log in each muffin cup and continue to fill the muffin cups with the remaining muffin batter. Fill until about 60% full if you want a flat topped muffin or up to 80% if you want a domed muffin. Top each muffin with a teaspoonful (or more) of the topping. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 170°C and bake the muffins for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tops brown. If you want to use a cake tester, make sure to poke just the side of the muffin otherwise it'll come out with cream cheese filling. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before consuming. 

Janine's jots: 
  • *Note: To make your own pumpkin puree, simply slice the pumpkin into smaller chunks and steam it for about 10 minutes or until soft. Then mash it up with a fork or blend it if you wish for a smoother texture. You can also roast or microwave the pumpkin if you don't like steaming. 
  • Taste: I am not a particular fan of sweet muffins, especially if they are for my breakfast, so after reducing the sugar in the original recipe, I found these muffins just sweet enough for me, especially with the cream cheese filling. I thought that I could live with slightly more ginger and cinnamon in the muffin, to make it more 'spicy' :]
  • Texture: I felt that the muffins were a tad oily for my liking, so I would recommend reducing the oil by about 10% to 90g instead. Alternatively, in my next attempt, I would probably try to increase the pumpkin puree to 160g or more and reducing the oil by a proportionate amount to make it a healthier muffin. Nevertheless, the muffin is indeed moist, with the cream cheese filling providing that extra moistness and yumminess to an otherwise naked and ordinary muffin. 
  • Serving size: Original recipe calls for 24 muffins, but I quartered it to produce 6 muffins. Recipe works fine!
  • Modifications: The original recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice, but being a very American item, I don't have them in my pantry - I made do by substituting with the spices above. Pumpkin pie spice is a combination of ginger, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. You can check out Jamie's recipe for it which is very similar to how I substituted or you can refer to allrecipes
  • Storage: The muffins don't store too well at room temperature (especially in our humid environment), so I'd advise storing for a maximum of one day at room temperature before storing it in the fridge for up to 3 days. I popped mine into the microwave for 10 seconds on high before consuming so that the cream cheese filling was gooey and warm. 
  • Would I make this again?: Definitely! Because pumpkins are in season again :]

In pictures: 
Am loving the super orangey batter - that's Mother Nature's coloring for you! For some odd reason, my cream cheese filling kinda floated up. Word to the wise - make sure to place it in the centre and not close to the top! 
But I do like the crack which reveals the cream cheese :] And somehow I preferred the naked muffins (i.e. those without the topping) to the those with the crumble topping. 
GAWD check this out. Deliciousness in a single muffin! Muffin is super moist and yummy!
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