Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aspiring Bakers #3: CNY Cookies (2011) - Pineapple Rose Tarts

When it comes to pineapple tarts, one man's meat is another man's poison.  Some like a hard crust with a cakey pastry, whereas some like flakey pastry.  For me, I prefer flakey pastry, one that literally melts when you take a bite.  Some like the rich creamy taste (from formula milk or cream cheese) but I like mine with good old butter.

I'm happy with my current recipe but I've seen another similar recipe with more butter, less sugar and no rising agent.  This year, I decided to give this recipe (by Lekker, she made open tarts) a try, just to make a comparison.

This recipe has no rising agent so I presumed the pastry wouldn't puff up too much but I was wrong.  My rose tarts look so puffed and this made the crimp petals least obvious.  Argh!  I should have taken a picture of the tarts before baking, they sure do look like roses.

Another patchy egg wash maybe I should just omit next time.

Time was running out as I need to fetch my son from school but I've 2/3 pastry sitting in my fridge.  I have another cookie to bake and I have no wish to stop the oven.  My mind had to work fast to find a quick and easy way to finish up baking. 

I rolled the dough into oblong and rolled in the pineapple jam.  By doing this, I don't have to worry about sealing up the ends.  Despite this, I couldn't make it in time to fetch my son.  Thankfully I have a parent's contact number and had to seek her help to bring DS2 across the road.  Thanks SM!  Will bake you some pineapple tarts after CNY, I'm sure they are as good as the Malay store you've recommended ;-)

Verdict: This recipe is another keeper.  Gives you really flakey tarts BUT the dough is difficult to handle.  You need to work with quick hands as the dough gets soften fast due to our warm hands.  Nevertheless, it is a recipe worth trying if you like flakey tarts like me.

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers # 3: My Favorite CNY Cookie (Jan 2011) hosted by j3ss kitch3n.

Pineapple Rose Tarts
340g Plain Flour
1 tbsp Icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)

250g Cold butter, cut into cubes

1 Egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (I used Martell instead)
*lightly beaten

25ml ice cold water

Egg glaze: Lightly beat1 yolk with 1 tbsp water

Pineapple fillings (I used store bought but improvised it)


  1. Lightly beat egg yolk with brandy. 
  2. Sieve flour and icing sugar into mixing bowl. Stir in salt and blend well. 
  3. Cut in butter until it resembles fine bread crumbs. 
  4. Add egg yolk and ice water into flour and roughly work it into a ball. Do not overwork the dough. 
  5. Divide dough into 3 equal portions, place each portion in a plastic bag and flatten it slightly.  Chill in fridge for 1 hour.
  6. Remove 1 portion of dough from fridge and divide dough to portions of 15g - 20g each. 
  7. Wrap pineapple paste (15g each) with dough and shape into rounds.
  8. Chill the wrapped dough for 15 mins.
  9. Using a crimper, crimp the top to make a triangle.  Then crimp the next layer to make a hexagon.
  10. Place tarts onto baking tray lined with baking sheet.
  11. Glaze the tarts with egg wash.
  12. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue to bake for another 5 minutes or until golden. Turn tarts out to cool on a wire rack before storing in air-tight containers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Aspiring Bakers #3: CNY Cookies (2011) - Matcha Oatmeal Cookies

It is very frustrating to get phone calls when I'm in the midst of something, especially when I'm busy in the kitchen.  It is even more infuriating when the calls are unimportant calls.  I do get irritated when I received calls from banks/survey companies blah blah blah... but I can easily shut them off, end the call and go back to what I was doing earlier.  If the call is from a close friend or my maiden family, I will explain that I'm busy and will return call later (eh... that's a few days later).  But if it's a call from friends (or rather, acquittances) or relatives, I tend to be a little more polite.  Hypocrite?  Maybe.

Anyway, I've been getting the same questions from some people over the past 2 years, asking me why DD1's teacher allows her to do certain things but not her child.  Hey, these 2 kids have never been in the same class and their form teachers are different.  We are moving into the 3rd year and I'm still getting similar questions.  Given the same request from 2 students in different classes, do we expect to get the same reply?  When the response from the teachers differ, I get questioned, "Why huh?"  I'm not the teacher, don't ask me, go ask the teacher.

Alright, enough of my rants.  I just need to get it off my chest.

This is not a traditional Chinese New Year (CNY) cookie.  When I say traditional CNY cookies, I'm actually referring to peanut cookies, kuih bangkit, almond cookies, love letters and the ever famous pineapple tarts.  It is common to find these cookies all over the shops in Singapore during this festive season. Over the years, with some influence from the West, we have included western cookies into our CNY.  Yes, similar to the checkerboard cookies I've baked earlier, I'm sharing another western cookie for CNY - Matcha Oatmeal Cookies.

I've baked this using Oatmeal Currant Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe but modified it to include matcha.  Despite not being a great fan of matcha (green tea), my kids love these cookies.  I think this is a great combination, oatmeal and matcha, a healthier choice ;-)

With my previous attempt with cocoa powder, I thought the cookies were still too sweet so I omit caster sugar altogether.

I'm happy how these cookies turned out ^-^

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers # 3: My Favorite CNY Cookie (Jan 2011) hosted by j3ss kitch3n.

Matcha Oatmeal Cookies
110g unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I omit)
90g all purpose flour
1 tsp matcha/green tea powder
1/2 tsp salt (omit salt if you are using salted butter)
130g rolled oats
100g chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
  2. Cream together the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the egg and beat well (if you are making full recipe, add egg one at a time).
  4. Add in vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, matcha/green tea powder and salt.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated.
  7. Stir in the rolled oats and chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
  8. Using a cookie scoop, drop cookie dough onto the prepared baking tray.
  9. Flatten the cookies slightly and bake the cookies for about 15 - 20 minutes. The cookies are done when golden brown around the edges but still a little soft in the centers. (The longer the cookies bake the more crispy they will be.) Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. These cookies will keep several days at room temperature.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Aspiring Bakers #3: CNY Cookies (2011) - Checkerboard Cookies (JOB)

There were no intentions to make any checkerboard cookies until Aunty A called me last Sunday.  I was brainstorming with her over the phone on how to get the checker effect but she doesn't quite understand me. Actually I wasn't quite sure of myself and since I wasn't planning to cook dinner, I decided to drop by her place to see if we can get it right.  After spending a good half an hour in her house, I left without seeing the final outcome as the dough was resting in the freezer, waiting to be sliced, and I had to go pack dinner.  Aunty A sent me an sms to let me know that it turned out pretty alright.  Now my hands are itching to try making some :P

I googled online and found this recipe by Joy of Baking.  There were no step-by-step pictures to show how this was done so I googled more and found this.  Paul attempted the same recipe and did it so beautifully.  Yes, I've got the steps almost correct at Aunty A's house except that I sliced the stack breadth-wise instead.  Silly me!

Though it looks difficult, it is actually not, just slightly time consuming as you need to chill the dough several times.  I like how these turn out and although I'm not a cookie person, I enjoy munching on them.  My kids love these too and kept asking for more :-)

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers # 3: My Favorite CNY Cookie (Jan 2011) hosted by j3ss kitch3n.

Adapted from Joy of Baking
Source: Baggett, Nancy. The International Chocolate Cookbook. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. New York: 1991.

For step-by-step pictures, please refer to Paul's blog here.

1/3 cup (45 grams) hazelnuts (I replaced with almonds)
2 tablespoons (15 grams) unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar (I used 100g)
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I omit)
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (I used lemon zest instead)

  1. Place the almonds and cocoa powder in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely ground. (I didn't bother to toast them)
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour and salt.
  3. In bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add the egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat until well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 portions (mine was 350g and  400g) and add the cocoa/almond mixture to the larger dough. Set aside.
  5. Lay out two large sheets of parchment paper (about 10 x 12 inch) (25 x 30 cm) and on one sheet of parchment roll out the white dough into a 6 1/2 inch by 10 1/2 inch (22 x 26 cm) rectangle, making sure both sides of the dough are smooth. Wrap dough and place on a baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until dough is firm.
  6. Meanwhile, take the chocolate dough and remove 1/2 cup (used later for wrapping the checkerboard log) and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside. On the second sheet of parchment roll out the remaining chocolate dough into a 6 1/2 inch by 10 1/2 inch (22 x 26 cm) rectangle, making sure both sides of the dough are smooth. Wrap dough and place on a baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until dough is firm.
  7. When both the white and chocolate dough are firm, remove from freezer and lay the white dough on a cutting board, removing the parchment paper. Lightly brush the top of the white dough with a little water (this helps the layers to stick together). Remove the parchment paper from the chocolate dough and place it evenly on top of the white dough. Trim the edges of the two doughs so the rectangle now measures 6 inches by 10 inches (21 x 25 cm). (Take the chocolate dough trimmings and add to the 1/2 cup of reserved chocolate dough.) Lengthwise cut the rectangle into thirds (3 - 2 inch by 10 inch stripes) (5 x 25 cm). Place one strip on a piece of plastic wrap. Brush the top of the dough with water and place the second strip on top of the first (alternate colors so you have white, black, white, black pattern). Brush the top of the second layer with water and stack the third layer. Press down lightly on the top of the dough and then wrap and freeze for 15 minutes, or until firm.
  8. When firm, remove from freezer and unwrap, placing the dough on a cutting board. Using a sharp long knife, cut the layers lengthwise into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide and 10 inch (25 cm) long strips. (You will end up with 4 strips). Stack the layers, turning every other strip so top faces down and bottom faces up, to produce the checkerboard effect. Rewrap stack and place in freezer again to firm up.
  9. Meanwhile, take the reserved chocolate trimmings and 1/2 cup of chocolate dough and roll out on a piece of parchment paper into approximately 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch (24 x 26.25 cm) rectangle, making sure the dough is smooth. Cover and refrigerate until slightly firm.
  10. Remove stack of checkerboard dough from freezer and place in center of chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the checkerboard layers until you have a smooth surface that encloses the checkerboard design. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm. Can freeze dough for up to a month.
  11. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from freezer and place on a cutting board. With a sharp knife cut the block of dough into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place on prepared baking sheet spacing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake for about 5-8 minutes or until cookies just start to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
  12. Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to one week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chinese Yam Chicken Soup 淮山鸡汤

I love Chinese Yam (淮山 huai shan /山药 shan yao) and is actively looking for new soup recipes to try out.  After I found this recipe by Food 4 Tots, I've been cooking this fairly often as my kids love this soup very much.

The chinese yam sold in the supermarket nearby weigh 500g and above.  I do not want to use half of it and keep the balance so I always throw in the whole lot into the pot.

PS: I hate taking soup pictures as they are always so boring.

Chinese Yam Chicken Soup (淮山鸡汤)
500g chicken meat/bones
500g fresh huai shan(淮山 huai shan /山药 shan yao), peeled and cut into chunks
2 - 3 large carrots
100g yu zhu (玉竹)
2 tbsp gou zi (枸子)
20 - 30 red dates (I added in these dates to increase the sweetness of the soup)
1.5 - 2 litres water

2 tbsp rice wine (sometimes I use homemade ginger wine 姜酒)
Salt to taste

  1. Remove skin of carrots and cut into smaller pieces.
  2. Rinse red dates and yu zhu, soak in water for 5 - 10 mins or till soft.
  3. Blanch chicken meat/bones.
  4. Bring water to boil and add all ingredients (except wolfberries) in a pot. Using medium fire, bring water to boil again and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, reduce to small flame and simmer for 2 hours. 
  5. Add in the wolfberries and let it brew in low fire for another 5 - 10 mins.
  6. Add salt and rice/ginger wine to taste before serving. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Homemade Dark Chicken Stock

When there are too much leftover meat from a party/gathering, what do you do with them?  For me, I like to use them to make dark chicken stock, best if you have the roasting juices too, yummy!

All you have to do is just cook the leftover meat with some vegetables (I like to add in some tomatoes too but I ran out of it that day).

Put all ingredients into a pot and fill it up with water (depending on how much leftover you have, I usually add 1.5 litres to 2 litres) and add 1/2 -  1 tablespoon of herbs (I like to use mixed herbs).  Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Lower heat and simmer for another 1.5 hours (or more).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Strain the stock and pour it back into the pot.  Bring the stock back to a boil, add leftover shredded/sliced meat and more vegetables if you want.  Pour over cooked instant noodle and serve immediately (they asked for this instead of the usual macaroni).

If you are freezing the stock, the fat in the stock will float to the top and harden.  Use a metal spoon to scrap off the fats.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cendol Agar Agar

The first time I saw these beautiful cendol agar agar was in Facebook by an ex-colleague, KG.  She's the pioneer of our nursing mother, the one who suggested to our Human Resource to start a Lactation/Nursing Room for breastfeeding mothers.  I'm thankful to her for her initiative as without her, I probably wouldn't be able to survive my 5 years of breastfeeding back then.  Thanks KG!

I sent her a private message asking for the recipe and she was really kind to go dig out from her old files and emailed me.  I procrastinated making this dessert as my family will not be able to finish up the whole lot of agar agar.  Even with family gatherings/birthdays, I was lazy and didn't want to spend too much time on desserts as the cake alone is already a killer.

I was reminded of this agar agar again when I saw it in Wendy's blog.  It is so beautiful, who can ever resist such an appetising dessert?  Definitely not me.

Whenever there's a potluck in my maiden family, I'm usually the one bringing dessert as I'm the worst cook in the family.  And to pack food from outside is a no-no for me as I do not want to commit on something I'm not sure if I can fulfil.  To play safe, my contribution is usually dessert, quick and easy :P

This time round, with Dad's birthday celebration on a Saturday, I had more time to prepare as Friday is my day off (we go over to my inlaws for dinner yippee!!).  After running through the schedule in my mind while I was on the bed on Thursday night, I suppose I might be able to make an agar agar in addition to the longevity cake I have in mind.

The steps to make this is quite long-winded.  When I first received the email attachment from KG, I was also partially deterred by the method, seems like a lot of work.  But when I actually made this, it wasn't that tedious or difficult after all.  My kids love this except for DD3, she only likes the cendol layer but not the gula melaka agar agar. 

The colour of the cendol layer sucks!  I've rinsed the store-bought cendol several times before use but still, the colour runs.   Imagine the amount of colourings we are feeding ourselves.

I've adapted Wendy's recipe but did some modifications as I was using packet coconut milk (trim version).  I was brought up to regard coconut milk as unhealthy and I try to refrain from cooking/baking with it.  But if you want something really delicious, go with coconut cream.

Cendol Layer
250ml water
13g/1.5 Tbsp agar-agar powder

550ml water
170gm sugar

200ml coconut milk
pinch of salt
30gm corn starch

600gm cendol
(originally 500g but the store bought comes in 300g each pack)

  1. Mix agar powder with 250ml water, set aside.
  2. Mix cornstarch, salt and coconut milk together, set aside.
  3. Bring 550ml water and sugar to a boil. When solution has come to a boil, pour in agar mixture.
  4. Bring to a boil again, lower heat and pour in cornstarch mixture, stirring all the while.
  5. On medium heat , bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and put in drained cendol. Mix well.
  6. Pour into a 10 inch square pan. (I used a 8" square and a 6" round pan)
  7. Leave it aside to harden slightly while you prepare the gula melaka layer.
Gula Melaka Layer
250ml water
13g/1.5 Tbsp agar-agar powder

180gm gula melaka/palm sugar
550ml water
2 blades pandan, shredded and knotted

200ml coconut milk
pinch of salt
*mix together

  1. Mix agar powder with 250ml water, set aside.
  2. Bring 550ml water, gula melaka/palm sugar and pandan knot to a boil and simmer until palm sugar has totally dissolved.
  3. Sieve solution and pour it back into the pot.
  4. Pour in agar mixture, bring to a boil again.
  5. Lower heat and pour in coconut milk stirring all the while. When there are small bubbles on the side of the pot, remove pot from heat.
  6. Test cendol layer by touching surface. It should have slightly cooled and developed a film on top that does not stick to your fingers, but should be wobbly. Pour in gula melaka layer slowly and let it set and cool down.
  7. Chill in fridge before cutting.
If your cendol layer has totally hardened, scar surface with a fork before pouring in brown layer.