Monday, September 29, 2008

Plum and Fig Kuchen

plum & fig cake

A punnet of figs proves to be plentiful if one doesn't eat them out of hand. After using some in the fig financiers, I am still left with half a punnet of figs! While I rummage the fridge for dinner ingredients that night, I am surprised to see a few plums hidden underneath the shanghai bokchoy! Perfect, now I can bake something with plums and figs. A google search returns with a recipe of plum and Fig Kuchen on Mary's blog- Alpineberry, which is a recipe from Flo Braker on SF Gate Food Section.

Wanted to save some bucks on electric bill, I bake this together with the fig financiers. The batter is made while the financier batter is resting. In my attempt to multi-task, I totally forget about the walnut, which is part of the kuchen ingredients. I don't realize it until I have arranged the plums and figs on top of the batter. Too late to add the 2/3 cup of chopped walnut, so I simply sprinkle some on the batter.

And then, in my hurry to usher everything into the oven, I skip the cinnamon and ground cloves topping in the original recipe. I wonder what all these mishaps will do to my final cake.

plum & fig cake

The answer, which is revealed 4 hours later, is the cake will still be delicious. But it will definitely benefit from the crunch of the walnut, and make it tastier; have I not forgotten to layer the chopped walnut between the batter and the fruit topping. A step that I should caution you not to forget/miss!

Insteads of using Italian prune plums as the original recipe suggested, I use the red plums I have on hand. Given the forgiving nature of the recipe, (after all the mistakes I have commited) I think one can easily substitute other kinds of nuts and fruit toppings to make the recipe your own!

plum & fig cake

Plum and Fig Kuchen
adapted from Flo Braker on SF Gate Food Section

Make the cake a few hours ahead or the night before so that the juice from the fruit have enough time to redistribute in the cake.

2 red plums, pitted and sliced
5 small Black Mission figs (about 5 ounces), stems snipped, and quartered
1 cup unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, about 3 ounces (which I forget to use)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, reserved to sprinkle on the fruits topping

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9 x 2-inch round baking pan and insert a round of parchment paper in the bottom; set aside.

For the cake: Sift flour, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In the bowl of a heavy duty (or use a hand-held) mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at medium-low speed until creamy smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Scrape butter down the sides into center of bowl. While beating on medium-low speed, pour in granulated sugar in a steady stream followed by brown sugar. Continue beating until well-incorporated and slightly fluffy. Beat in egg, then egg yolks and vanilla. On lowest speed, add flour mixture just until combined. Spread batter evenly in pan, and sprinkle walnuts evenly over batter. (note to self: remember this next time!)

Starting at the perimeter of the pan, arrange the plum wedges, flesh side up, one next to the other in circles around the tart. After using all the wedges of plums, continue the circular pattern where you left off with the fig wedges, repeat placing them flesh side up and fitting them close together. After completing the circles, if any wedges remain, if possible, snugly fit them in where you can.

Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar over the fruit.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until the portion of cake nearest the sides of the pan is puffy and golden brown and the center is set. A good test to see if it needs to bake longer is to tap or move the pan gently. If the center appears liquid and soft, bake another 5 to 7 minutes. If it is firm and set, then remove it from the oven to a wire rack and set it aside to cool for about 1 hour.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a small flexible spatula slowly around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Cover the cake with a wire rack, invert the cake, lift the pan, then gently peel off and discard the paper liner. Place a serving plate on top of the cake and turn it right side up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of any leftover portion of the cake and store at room temperature.

Serves 12


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Prata Dogs

prata dog

Note: A few of you have mentioned that the correct spelling for Prata should be PARATHA, as the wrappers in the photo below are spelled. Yes, that should be the correct spelling. But from where OCT and I come from, people usually just refer to it as Prata. Hence the title I've given this dog and my entry. If anyone know how the A and H got omitted from Singapore's version, please let me know.

Yesterday's Martha Stewart Show was all about hot dog , I couldn't help developed a sudden hankering for hot dog after watching the show. While the Ditch Dog sounds intriguingly delicious, it wasn't something I want to make just for myself on an uneventful weeknight. Just then, I remember the unique "dog" I've seen on my friend- Happy Home Baking's blog not long ago.

Insteads of using the traditional hot dog bun, the sausage is wrapped inside a prata (or roti Paratha), making it a Prata Dog (or Paratha Dog). For the uninitiated, Prata is a kind of flatbread enjoyed throughout Singapore and Malaysia. Conventionally, it is served along with curry sauce, although I like to just simply pan fry and snack on it when I am too lazy to make lunch/dinner. Eating a piece of prata is like eating a chewy piece of puff pastry. I wish I could give you a succinct description on the unique texture of prata, on how flakiness and chewiness coexist in a simple piece of flatbread; unfortunately it's beyond my realm now. However, I strongly encourage you to grab a pack of frozen prata the next time you visit the Asian grocery store. They are located at the freezer section, alongside the frozen chinese buns. They make a great snack anytime of the day and would be a great vehicle for hearty curry sauce. I think prata will be perfect served with this too.

Frozen Prata

Moving on to the prata dogs. The process couldn't be more simpler. First, have your sausage cooked, whichever way you like. Let it cool for a few minutes. Next, take out the frozen prata from the freezer, and cook according to the instruction at the back of the package. Which basically means, heat a skillet to medium heat, and drop the frozen prata onto the hot skillet and let cook for 1.5 minutes per side. No thawing required. And no oil needed too. Isn't that neat?

prata before and after

Once the prata is cooked, just wrap a sausage inside ,cut a few slits on top (which is optional) and bake for 5 minutes @ 350F. Serve with ketchup, mustard, hot sauce or even BBQ sauce and enjoy. Or better still, squirt in the sauce on the sausage before rolling up on the prata skin. I need to try this next time.

prata dog

Mine didn't turn out as puffy as Happy Home Baking's, but they were just as delicious. :)


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting acquainted with fig : Fig Financiers

fig financiers

The first time I heard of figs was from the many fig recipes my favorite bloggers posted last year. Then I was persuaded to give figs a try. But it was too late! The fig season is fleeting, and if one fail to grab a punnet decisively,when figs are still abundant, they may be disappointed the following week. I am not sure about the rest of the country, at least, such was the case with the city I previously resided.

This year however, luck is on my side. While I was strolling down the aisle of Dekalb Farmer's Market in Atlanta last week, rolls after rolls of figs beckoned. I grabbed a punnet and asked myself - now what?

fig financiers

Nothing caught my eyes after spending a few hours researching on the internet. Actually, that's not entirely true. There's a fig and goat cheese tart that I wanted to eat. But the process was more involved than I'd like to commit. I could have go on and on researching until something appealing appears, but the punnet of the figs couldn't.

In the end, in a total anticlimax fashion, I decided to simply top some sliced figs on financiers. I wanted to try Dorie's recipe ever since I read it on Pim's blog. The recipe perfectly fit my lazy mood on that particular day. It doesn't require a mixer, which results in one less thing to clean up.

Insteads of using the traditional financier molds, I used my underutilized mini muffin pan. I think the mini cherry tea cakes turned out pretty adorable when I used it last time. My batch of fig financiers traspired to be slightly too sweet for my taste. I suspect it's mostly my fault. I misread the recipe and added the flour into the batter on the stove! My friend Grace made a batch of financiers for our gathering, using the same recipe with delicious outcome. I need to make the recipe again, perhaps with other seasonal fruits to confirm if that misstep is indeed the culprit.

fig financiers

The remaining figs were being transformed into a cake, which I will tell you about in the next post. Fresh figs are sweet and soft that many covet. This I have just ascertained by the reactions from OCT's colleagues upon seeing the fig desserts. But in all honesty, it is not a fruit I will crave. Perhaps, it's an acquired taste. I grow up eating durian, and that's something I will yearn in the middle of the night.

Do you like figs? Do you have a favorite recipe with figs? I am all ears.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seafood Quiche

Seafood Quiche

Quiche is one of my favorite brunch items. I love its simplicity and adaptability. Use any cheese and protein you like, or make it vegetarian. There are endless possible combinations. When I first started baking, quiche was one of the first few things I learned to make. It was a good starting point, for the outcome greatly boasted the confidence of this novice baker.

Of course I must admit that I had help. I used the store bought pie crust insteads of making my own! A practice I still keep now. As much as I love baking from scratch, having a box of Pillsbury Unroll and Fill Pie Crust in the freezer offers me the spontaneity when the craving strikes.

Seafood Quiche

The original recipe comes from Clark, who uploaded his recipe on I have made the recipe many times and switched the cheeses and proteins with other varieties. The results are always delicious.

This seafood version was made for a lunch party at our place a while ago. My friends loved it and asked for the recipe. I am sharing it with you here and I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do!

Seafood Quiche
adapted from here

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

4 slices thick sliced bacon
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) of low fat sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely diced
1.5 cups of cooked seafood (prawn, crab, mussel, scallop etc)
1 cup of Shredded Monterey Jack cheese + Shredded Cheddar cheese + grated Parmesan (or any hard cheeses you like)
4 eggs
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Unroll the pie crust onto a 9-inch oiled pie plate. Keep it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.

Cook spinach according to package instructions. Allow to cool, then squeeze dry.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until soft and translucent. Stir in mushrooms, and cook for 2 minutes, or until soft. Stir in cooked seafood and cooked bacon. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, sour cream, salt and pepper. Spread into pie crust. Layer with bacon mixture. Mix together Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Parmesan, and sprinkle over pie. Whisk together eggs, half-and-half and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over pie.

Place pie on baking sheet, and bake on middle shelf in preheated oven for 40 minutes. The top will be puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mixed Berries Frozen Yogurt

mixed berries frozen yogurt

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of frozen yogurt. The inspiration comes from Molly's blackberry frozen yogurt. And I sighed thinking that we almost ended up moving to Seattle instead of Atlanta a few months ago.

And I imagine myself picking buckets after buckets of the glorious blackberries, all free of charge. In reality, that doesn't happen. I have to pay 3 dollars for the half pint of blackberries from the grocery store. Sometime, when I am lucky, it costs me about 2 dollars.

Instead of paying more than I want to make Molly's blackberry frozen yogurt, I decided to make a mixed berries variation. I combined the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries that I have freezed in earlier summer with some fresh blackberries for my batch. I didn't measure the exact proportion of each fruits, just a little of everything to make up to 1 pound. Because I like the pairing of berries and Chambord, I added a generous splash to macerate the fruits. Greek yogurt is used instead of the normal whole milk yogurt, which in my humble opinion, gives the final product a creamier texture.

mixed berries frozen yogurt

We have eaten almost 75% of the frozen yogurt before I realised that I haven't told you about this fantastic recipe! Having some leftover eclair shells from last month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, I scoop some frozen yogurt into the eclair shells for this entry. I reckon they make a pretty and delicious treat after a summer meal.

aug 08 277

Mixed Berries Frozen Yogurt
inspired by Orangette's Blackberry Frozen Yogurt

1 pound fresh or frozen mixed berries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp Chambord
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a medium bowl, combine the berries with sugar and Chambord, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Using a blender, process the berries and the liquid that gathered in the bowl with the yogurt and lemon juice until smooth.Pass the mixture through a sieve into a medium bowl to remove the seeds. Taste the filtered mixture. You want it to be slightly sweeter than you like at this point,as freezing will dull the flavor later.

Refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour. Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: 1 scant quart


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pichet Ong's Banana Cake

banana cake

As weird as it may sound, one of the must have items in my freezer is banana. You know, those over ripen ones with black dots all over their yellow skin? Sometime I buy bananas with the sole purpose of freezing them. Undoubtly, a few will be consumpted when my back is turned, but most go to the freezer.

The freezed bananas offer me the spontaneity of whipping up a batch of banana cake when the craving calls. No longer do I have to go out to get some, and wait another day or two before they turn into the right stage for banana cake. You know how sometime you see an intriguing recipe in the middle of the night, and want to get into the kitchen to make it immediately? (note to self: don't read food blogs or cookbooks before bed) Such is the case with this banana cake recipe, from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot.

banana cake

I have a favorite banana cake recipe, which I am in a commited relationship and have used it in almost all the events that called for banana cake. But when someone shares a favorite recipe, especially like Chef Pichet Ong, whom I met in NYC, I know I have to give it a try.

The original recipe calls for baby bananas, in which a variety called "Pinang Emas" comes to mind. It is more readily found in South East Asia, although I see it at the farmer market here in Atlanta sometime. It is also the only kind of banana I eat. Did I tell you that I don't eat banana in its original form? Shocking, I know.

For this recipe, I used the regular bananas from the grocery store though. The resulting banana cake is very moist and tasty. Mine turns out a tad short because I used a bigger pan than the recipe called for. Other than that, there isn't much to pick about. I keep my loaf in the freezer, thinking that it would take us sometime to finish. Boy am I wrong! The last slice is gone before I know it!

I know I am going to make this recipe with baby bananas (Pisang Emas) when I go home in November.

banana cake

Banana Cake
adopted from The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts

1/3 cup (78g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (155g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (85g) honey
1/2 cup (72g)packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (228g) mashed ripe banana,dotted with black spots all over, from the freezer (or baby bananas)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup (130g) plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream
1 cup (155g) chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet), optional (I used about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly butter an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan, set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.

Put the butter, honey, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a mixer bowl, and beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the bananas and vanila and beat on medium speed until the mixture looks lumpy, about 1 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium low and beat in the egg until well incorporated. Turn the speed to low, and gradually add in the sifted flour mixture. Mix just until no trace of flour remains, about 10 second. Taking note not to overmix the flour. Add in the yogurt, and mix until the batter has only a few remaining white streaks about 5 second. If you like, stop the mixer and mix in the yogurt by hand instead. Gently fold in the chocolate chips, if desired. (I sprinkle the chocolate chips on the batter after it has been poured into the pan.They will sink slightly into the batter after baked)

Transfer the batter into the greased pan and bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely on rack.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sweet Spot @ NYC- Pichet Ong's Batch Bakery

Ask me about my NYC trip, and I'd have many things to tell. So many that I have a hard time on where to begin. Meeting up and hanging out with my BGF from London was certainly THE highlight, so was the visits to the top of Rockefeller Center, the "Slice of Brooklyn Tour", walking across Brooklyn bridge and many more. One of the highlights of my NYC getaway which I can't wait to tell you about,was the visit to Pichet Ong's Batch Bakery.


It was sheer serendipity that I found myself at the charming west village, steps away from Pichet Ong's dessert spot- P*ONG after agreeing to meet my friend at the nearby meatpacking district.

Turned out, the park we met was right across Magnolia Bakery. I will tell you more about the cupcakes next time. Or maybe I won't. The cupcakes were nothing to call home about. But the line that formed outside the bakery eluded us. Did we miss something. Well, nevermind. It doesn't matter.

After the cupcakes, we consulted ST's little TimeOut guide, and there it was, chef Ong's P*ONG restaurant was within walking distance! At that point, I didn't remember his bakery-Batch was just next to P*ONG.


As we walked past Batch, the man himself was there, wearing a black singlet with a matching three quarter pants, frosting a batch of what looked like chocolate peanut butter cupcakes on the counter. I enthusiastically walked in and confirmed that he was indeed Chef Ong, and told him that I admired his work and was a big fan. I went on to tell him that I had tried his favorite banana cake and the Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream recipes. As if that's not enough, I told him that I am Mrs Ong. All of which was true, even the last bit. OCT's surname is indeed Ong, which makes me legally Mrs Ong.

Pichet Ong

Maybe it's not everyday that a crazy female fan would walk in and proclaim herself Mrs Ong, chef looked a bit shocked and didn't know how to respond. So I asked him for recommendations on what we must try. Still half full from the heavy lunch and cupcakes, we ordered the chocolate hazelnut cake and green tea tiramisu that Chef Ong recommended, along with two cups of iced coffee, which he mixed for us. On hindsight, I must thank ST for not running away and dissosiated herself from me on the embarrasement I definitely had caused.

"Do you take milk with coffee, and how much?" Chef Ong politely asked.
"As much as you deem right, chef" I replied.
"And chef, do you mind, signing a copy of your book for me?"
"Sure, who should I address that to?"
"Mrs Ong."
"........" awkward....
"just kidding, my name is Mandy"
"Right Mandy, here's a carrot cupcake on the house" Chef Ong smilingly offered.

"Do you like the tiramisu?" He asked
"Yes! I like that you use rhubarb at the bottom layer!"
And then we went on chatting about pastry, on where he drew his inspirations, how he began in the pastry kitchen,his opinion on Asian inspired desserts; in between frosting his tray of cupcakes, picking up a few calls and entertained a few walk-ins.

Green Tea Tiramisu with Rhubarb

Chef Ong was really nice and patient to answer all my quirky questions, which made me feel comfortable in his ecclentric little bakery. I feel so surreal, sitting on the only couch, eating cakes with my best friend, and talking to one of the 10 best pastry chefs in US at the same time. It is not everyday that I get to meet such remarkable baker who so generously dispense his knowledge and wisdom on sweets and life in pastry.

Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

While we were half way through the cakes, chef suddenly asked if we didn't like the cupcake, because it was not finished. We told him that it's because we were trying to savor it slowly, while digesting the insight he imparted. :p

As if on cue, I put down the huge piece of chocolate hazelnut cake, and started eating the carrot cupcake.

"I like the filling in the cupcake, chef. Is that cream cheese? What did you put in it, it tastes interesting."
"It's salted cream cheese" Chef Ong replied.
"Oh, interesting! Where did you buy that?"
" I made it"
"I see....of course you made it...." I felt like an idiot. But salted cream cheese was indeed a brilliant idea.

Before he ran off, I took the opportunity to have a photograph with him, and ordered another macaron. I confessed that I was not a big macaron fan, which he emphatized and proceeded to tell me something shocking about macarons. Oh, and another salted caramel macaron on the house. :)

Chef Ong and Mrs Ong

That's Chef Pichet Ong and moi, with a half eaten macaron. I was having an allergy on my right upper eyelid, so I didn't have any makeup on.That explains why I looked pale and tired. Should have put on my sunglasses!

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