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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Buco Salad

I first heard of Buco Salad on Terri's blog. As she aptly puts it, it's absolutely refreshing and a hit at the barbeque. I was invited to a barbeque party not long ago by a Filipina. She is a PR married to a Singaporean and teaches in Ah Girl's school. Among those invited were fellow Filipinas/Filipinos who are working here as domestic helpers, engineers, teachers and of course, Singaporeans like me. Eversince I saw the recipe that Terri has put up (practically drooling at all her food pics), I have been wanting to try it. What detered me was the coconut scrapper. I couldn't find it anywhere here in Singapore. I am not sure if the scrapper is available at Lucky Plaza though.

So I told my helper about the scrapper thingy and she came up with this. I think it's brilliant!

She said she used to make this when the scrapper was not available. Just a piece of bamboo, metal strips cut out from a condensed milk tin and raffia string, you have a coconut scrapper! Sometimes we are just too reliant on gadgets. But having said that, I have asked my helper's sister to bring 1 along when she arrives here in December. Ahah. With the scrapper problem solved, nothing beats bringing Buco Salad to a Filipina party. In case you are wondering, Buco is coconut in Tagalog.

I couldn't find Nata de Coco that are in bigger chunks. I know that will give the salad a better texture. Instead, I got hold of a 1kg packet of Nata de Coco bite-size bits swimming in light syrup. I forgot the weigh the Nata de Coco after draining. Tsk. The wet market near my place is only selling old coconuts. I got those pretty-young-but not-too-young coconuts from Shop 'N' Save. Below is the recipe adapted from Terri's Marylou's Buco Salad. It is a rather forgiving recipe so you don't have to bee too particular about the measurement.

Buco Salad
4 Coconuts, hacked open and scrape flesh
1 can 850g Fruit Cocktail, drained
1 Packet 1 kg Nata de Coco in light syrup, drained (I bought Strawberry Flavour for its pink colour)
1 Cup Whipping Cream
3 Tbsp Condensed Milk
1/8 Tsp Rose Essence

Toss everything together in a large bowl.

*Note : Remember to retain the coconut water for consumption, refreshing for a hot day! Do not scrape too deep into the coconut flesh or you will get pieces of husk attached.

** Note : Terri mentioned that Tropical Fruit Cocktail should not be used as there is too much soft papaya.

***Buco salad should be served cold. Best prepared the night before and freeze. Thaw before serving. Alternatively, make it a few hours before the party and freeze it.

Before the party was over, the salad was gone. That's how good it is. Give it a try!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chilled Blueberries Cheesecake

My mom has been asking me to stop baking eversince she noticed my expanding waistline. But the baking bugs are hard to kill, you can't spray 'em with insecticide for sure. Every now and then, I will still bake but I did divert my attention to the crochet hooks. To keep up with the pace I set for myself, I decided not to bake during weeknights. Thus you will see less stuff churning out of my kitchen. However, there has been this nagging thought on my mind. Given the amount of time I am sitting down now; instead of my waistline, would, you know, my behind be the next to 'prosper'?

Recently, the term that kept coming up is 'spreading the wealth'. Well, I don't have 'wealth' to spread around but I am all for sharing. This is a well-loved combination among my friends. Usually, when I make a chilled cheesecake, it is meant to be a gift. I don't usually get to eat it. Which is great! I get to create something but didn't have to put on weight. That's a good way of spreading the fats love around. In case you are worried, this recipe is a healthier version and induces less guilt. The recipe is the same as this cake Lemon curd cheesecake, but I replace lemon curd with blueberry puree.

Blueberries Cheesecake
Base :
120g Digestive Biscuits, crushed finely
40g Softened butter

Filling :
100g Cream Cheese, bring to room temperature
100g Yoghurt (Paul's set yoghurt)
60g Fine Sugar

1 Tbsp + 1/2 Tsp Gelatin
3 Tbsp Boiling Water

*make sure the gelatin is melted and kept warm

200g Blueberry Puree*
200ml Non Dairy Whip Cream, whipped to mousse state and chilled

Topping : (Optional)
4 Tbsp Blueberry Pie Filling
1-1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

*Mix well

100ml Non Dairy Whip Cream, whipped stiff and chilled

1) Prepare a 7 inch loose base round tin. Mix the crushed biscuits and butter in a bowl. Transfer to the cake tin, using a small spoon to press the base evenly. Chill in the fridge for later use.

2) In a mixing bowl, using a electric whisk, whisk cream cheese, yoghurt and sugar till mixture is creamy and no lumps. Pour in the gelatin mixture, using a hand whisk to incorporate well. Add in blueberry puree and whipped cream, stir well.

3) Pour into the prepared cake tin, using a spatula to level the surface. Leave to chill for at least 3 hours. Remove from tin.

4) Choose your desired piping tip and pipe the whipped cream along the edges of the cake. Spoon and spread the blueberries pie filling on top of the cake. Decorate as desired.

*Note : To make blueberry puree, simply take 220g of blueberries pie filling and add 20g of water, blend well and sieve.

Usually, I would love to add fresh berries to the cake but blueberries are not in season now and 1 punnet (250g) is going at S$6.95 as compared to previous price of S$3.85. My wallet didn't like the idea so I would have to make do with the canned ones. It worked well by the way.


Gumpaste Recipe

For those who have written to me about the recipe I used for the gumpaste flowers and butterflies, here it is. The original recipe can be found here. The reason I chose this recipe instead of those using Gum Tragacanth is because it is a cheaper alternative. I read that it also holds better in humidity. Making your own gumpaste is definitely cheaper than buying commercial ones.

For those who are using regular mixer, like my Philips Cucina, the below recipe will not fry your machine as I have already quartered it from the original recipe. You will need to make this at least 24 hours beforehand to allow the paste to mature. The flowers and butterflies I made, dried fairly well after 24 hours.

Nicholas Lodge's Tylose Gumpaste
1 Egg White
8 Oz. Icing Sugar
4 level Tsp Tylose Powder

Some Crisco Shortening

1) In a mixing bowl, beat egg white with dough hook on high speed.

2) Set aside 1/4* cup of icing sugar. Using low speed, add remaining icing sugar to the egg white. Turn to highest speed and beat till soft peak.

3) Turn the speed back to low and sprinkle tylose powder over five seconds. Turn the speed up to the high setting for a few seconds. The mixture will became quite thick.

4) Sprinkle the work surface with the reserved icing sugar. Remove the mixture from the bowl onto a work surface. Rub your hands with shortening and knead the paste, adding icing sugar gradually till you get a soft but not sticky dough. Wrap the paste tightly with a plastic bag and keep it in a ziplock bag.

5) Refrigerate for 24 hours.

6) Bring paste to room temperature before use.

For storage instructions, kindly follow the link provided.

Happy decorating!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Bentos Series 8

Couldn't really think of a title for my bento posts so I decided to numerise them from now on. And what an auspicious number to start with! You may have noticed now, my favourite furikake is Umeshiso (梅 しそ). The slightly sourish taste from dried plum and the fragrance of perilla leaves makes even plain rice interesting. Previously at the Hokkaido fair at Isetan's, my mom bought some sun-dried furikake. There were so many varieties and I was especially glad that she bought the one with Ume. I love it to death!

Stir-fried Chinese Spinach with Shimeiji and Carrots, Tomatoes. Devilled egg with Tuna in Hot Mayonnaise (canned food). And of course, rice with Umeshiso furikake.

Rice balls with sun-dried furikake filled with Natto (纳豆). Weird combination it may seem, but it really goes very well together. Stir-fried beans with white baits (good source of protein and calcium). Tamago-Yaki, Tomatoes. Dates, raisins with various nuts.

Niku-tofu (肉豆腐), Jaga-imo with beans, topped with pan-fried white baits. Rice with sun-dried furikake and Apples and Blueberries.

Somen with Umeshiso furikake (again), Chinese Spinach, Tamogo-Yaki. Chicken with Hijiki.

My desperate attempt in increasing my milk supply by adding soup in my menu. Just a simple fried rice with eggs and beans. Carrot, potato and chicken soup. I should have added Umeshiso furikake too. Tsk.

それじゃ~~ Till the next bento!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wedding Cake For A Friend

Judging by how many shots I took for this cake, shows how proud am I of this cake. I took a total of 58 shots of it. Scary huh? Well, pardon me for overindulging and self-bragging because this is the first wedding cake I have made. My first attempt on making gumpaste from scratch and of course, my first gumpaste flowers and butterflies. The review came back; the couple loved the design (well, I think the bride will love it more than the groom. It's a 'girlish' cake afterall) and the family enjoyed the cake as well.

Thanks to the vast information online, I am able to make this cake a reality. If you are into cake decorating, do join this new community. There, I learnt the importance of lining a fruitcake with marzipan before fondant. The fruitcake recipe is from my aunt and I have yet to have her permission to post it here. My apologies. If I were to do this over again, I would try to roll out the gumpaste as thin as it would go. I am still not too satisfied with the results yet.

This part of detailing took me quite abit of time. I was afraid that the whole thing will not form a proper sequence, but I guess my 'guess-timation' was spot on this time. In case you are wondering, they were sugar pearls, difference sizes of dragees and gumpaste cut-outs, glued together with royal icing. I did not purchase expensive flower or butterfly cutters for this project. The Sakura flower cutters were actually from Daiso. They are vegetable cutters meant for my bentos really. The butterfly cutters are those cheap plastic cutters for cookies. So if you are new to decorating, do not go out and kill your wallet by buying those expensive cutters. Like me, I do not know how long my interest in gumpaste and fondant would last. Start with the cheapest tools you can get your hands on first. In my opinion, if you could use the simplest tool and make something grand; you will get much more satisfication out of it.

Another view.

Close up on the butterfly and flowers.

Okay, this is one of my backlogs. This cake was done in September, that's how far behind I am with my posts. Anyway, 1 down, a few more to go. I need to find some motivation. But now, it's back to the hooks again.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Snowskin Mooncakes

I know I'm terribly late posting mooncakes here. But I would like to dedicate this post to my mom and my best friend, H. A guy who has a sweet tooth for mooncakes. H's affair with my mom's mooncakes started 13 years back. Back then, my mom started a little venture selling her mooncakes. They were well received by friends and relatives. Then it started the ball rolling when they in turn, introduced the mooncakes to their friends and relatives. Then, my mom stopped selling after a couple of years, as she hurt her wrist. H was rather devastated. He wanted to know when he would be able to taste those mooncakes again. He would come reminding me every mooncake festival. I guess I was hated at some point. Ahahah~~

To be honest, I wasn't very keen to pick up my mom's skills as her method took like forever to knead the dough. This year, I finally made the effort. But I found that the water and flour ratio had to be adjusted. Probably due to the water absorption of the flour. H was elated when he received the mooncakes. He was kind enough to say they are very close to my mom's version. I know there's still room for improvement. I promise you, H, next year, it will be better. I will try to supply you mooncakes until you are 60 and beyond. Ahahaha~~ I promise you mom, that I will upkeep your standard. Thank you for passing the recipe to me. I took a bold move to sell the mooncakes this year and the feedbacks have been good. After a long, long hiatus of 13 years, all my mom's client base is gone. I hope to rebuild mine slowly. Clients said they will be back next year. Shall see then. Ahahah~~

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vanilla Apple Cake

ただいま~!It's great to be back! Well, it's great that my helper is back. I had to work from home for the past 2 weeks when she was not around. First, Ah Girl cried for the first 2 days because she missed her. Then she fell sick. Next, Ah Boy fell sick too, with me following suit. Work has been crazy to start with. I thought I had it planned. Turned out that I overlooked certain areas and miscalculated production quantities required (instead of 1,200 sheets, I wrote 120 sheets! What the ...!). The production line was chaotic, I have to apologise to my staff, especially my colleague who covered for me while I was away. Sorry! Morale was real low and it didn't help that I had to stay up till 4 or 5 in the morning to get some of the office work done. I was coughing, sneezing and lost my voice for a couple of days.

Anyhow, I survived. I worked, I cooked, I cleaned, I didn't die of exhaustion, yet. However, I apologise to those who left comments for me. I was unable to reply due to 1) I didn't have time to blog, 2) I log on at night but those little hours I have, I need to do work. I also learnt a couple of things during my helper's absence. 1) I really, really enjoy being with my kids. A part of me wants to stay at home with them. 2) I can be really, really naggy. So much so that Ah Girl said it is better for me to go to work so that I do not nag at her that much. 3) Time management is important. 4) Sometimes, things appeared impossible because you see them as so.

Okay, back to this cake. This is an entry for this month's Sweet and Simple Bakes event. I had a couple of backlogs to cover but as the deadline's today, I have to publish this first. I just had time to bake this Vanilla Apple Cake this morning. While baking this, the aroma that filled the kitchen could kill you (in a good way, of course!)! How can something so simple, be so satisfying? I couldn't wait for it to cool completely to have a slice. IH commented that it would be great to have this cake, warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For once, he was right. I didn't make any ice cream but I would definitely try it out when I bake this cake again. This recipe is a keeper! I did a couple of changes and here's my version.

Vanilla Apple Cake
6oz Salted Butter, softened
120g Fine Sugar
30g Molasses
4 Eggs, beaten
1 Tsp Vanilla Essence
250g Self Raising Flour, sifted

3 small Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
¼ Tsp Ground Cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 170 degree C. Grease a 7 inch loose base round tin.

2) In a mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the caster sugar and butter together until the mixture turns pale and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually and add vanilla essence.

3) Add in sifted flour, dampen it and turn on the mixer on low speed and mix till batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared tin and arrange the apple wedges on top. Press them slightly into the batter when you are done. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

4) Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until skewer comes clean. Leave to cool for a few mins, then release the tin and cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

*Note : I tented the cake and only removed the aluminium foil in the last 10 minutes.

**Note : The batter is rather thick but the cake will be moisten by the apples and sprinkled sugar during baking.

じゃね~~ I have to go deal with those backlogs and reply to some comments.