Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kneaded with love.....


I’m not a morning person. I like to wake up as late as I possibly can- in the holidays and on weekends, this usually means at least 10 or 11am in the morning. I am barely awake during my first few classes at school in the morning and on days when I don’t have lessons in the morning, I’d much rather sleep for an extra hour than get to school to do some ‘productive’ work. But on this particular day, I was awake (only just) and in the kitchen at 8am. It was mothers day. ♥

I’d spent come time considering what to make my mother for mothers day- perhaps a cake? Cookies? A tart? A dessert? Or even dinner? As much as I loved the idea of cooking dinner for my mother, I knew that it definitely would not work for one reason: I have close to no experience in cooking. This would then mean is would spend three hours or so in the kitchen, making a complete mess, which would ultimately result in my mum cleaning up- and definitely not feeling very happy. I guess my cooking adventures could wait for another day.

I wanted to make something different- not something I’d made before and not another cake so I settled on something simple which I know she would like, and something which I’d been itching to try for a while now: raisin bread. But more than that, I wanted to keep it a secret, I wanted her to wake up to the smell of fresh, sweet bread baking in the oven and to serve hot, fluffy, soft bread for breakfast. Which shouldn’t have been such a hard thing- she wakes up even later than I usually do!

But surprises in our family never quite work out. For example, once, I decided to make a card for mother’s day. I'd put glitter glue on it so I had to put it in my cupboard to dry- on the exact same day my mother decided to look for something in that cupboard! Then there was the time I tried to make crème caramel whilst my parents were out shopping (actually, I was supposed to be home, studying for a test the next day) only my caramel burnt and my parents came home to a house which smelt like burnt caramel. And had to help me clean up all the mess I’d made.

This time, I was determined to make it work- I’d left enough time for the bread to rise and to bake. My bread machine is awfully loud so to make the process quiet enough so my mum would not suspect anything (no, waking up at 8 is not sus at all......) I decided to try hand kneading, for the first time. Although I love kneading, my hands get tired and then I get lazy so I usually spend ten minutes kneading the dough and throw the dough in the bread machine to knead for the next 20 minutes or so. This probably has the same effect as letting the bread machine do all the work, but I can't let the machine have all the fun!

I'd also chosen a recipe which used a sponge dough- that is, a mixture of flour, water and yeast which is proved overnight. Apparently, this produces a softer bread than the straight method. I’d made the sponge dough night before, and didn’t bother putting it in the fridge, because of the cold weather- by the morning it had only doubled in size. I wasn’t sure of how long I needed to knead the dough since I'd never done it before, but I thought that 40 minutes should be enough. The dough was wet when I started kneading, but after about 15 minutes, it started to become dry and I kept on having to add water- I think I’m starting to understand the dough a little better! By 40 minutes, the dough didn’t feel quite stretchy enough, and didn’t pass the ‘window pane test’ but I was scared that I wouldn’t have enough time for the proving so I kneaded intensely for the next five minutes and then left it to prove. I hadn’t considered that the cold weather would slow the rate of rise so much, even when I put it in the sun light so I ended up needing an hour and a half for the second prove. By then, it was past 11. Much to my disappointment, my mother had woken up and dressed up ready for an early yum cha (to avoid the midday crowds) so I had to tell her not to leave yet, as the bread was about to go in the oven. I told you, surprises don’t work in our household!

We had to wait another half an hour for the bread to finish baking but the wait was definitely worth it! The bread turned out very soft and fluffy and the raisins in it were surprisingly delicious! The bread was slightly crumbly though, which I think may be because I didn’t knead it enough and I perhaps also because the sponge dough was stiff. It still turned out better than most straight dough breads I’d made, and was delicious straight out of the oven. We had no trouble finishing it straight away between the three of us (although I’m pretty sure I ate most of it….) since my sister hates raisin bread

Unfortunately, my parents ended up having to wait for more than an hour for yum cha, but I’m sure it was definitely worth it!!

Golden Crown Raisin Bread
From Baking Code by Alex Goh)via Smallsmallbaker
note: I actually halved the recipe, and it worked perfectly with a 20cm pan....

Overnight sponge dough:

100g bread flour
60g water (room temperature)
1/4 tsp instant yeast

1. Mix the instant yeast with 20g of water until well-blended.
2. Add in the remaining ingredients and knead to form a dough.
3. Let it proof for 30 minutes.
4. Wrap with cling film and keep in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours.

Golden Crown Raisin Bread

Ingredients A:
400g bread flour
100g plain flour
20g milk powder
65g sugar
6g salt
10g instant yeast

Ingredients B:
100g overnight sponge dough

Ingredients C:
2 cold eggs
180g cold water

Ingredients D:
90g butter

Ingredients E:
220g raisins

1. Mix ingredients A until well-blended. Add in ingredients B and ingredients C, mix to form a dough.
2. Add in ingredients D, mix to form a smooth and elastic dough.
3. Add in ingredients E, mix until well-blended.
4. Cover it with cling film. Allow it to proof for 50 minutes.
5. Divide it into 40g each. Mould it round. Place 8 pieces of dough around the side of a greased 20cm round pan, place a 60g dough in the centre. Allow it to proof for 50 minutes.
6. Egg wash the surface and bake it at 180 deg C for 20 minutes. (I also brushed honey over the buns 5 minutes before they were done)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hong Kong, Part 2: The enchanted garden =]

It was around 7 o clock, we were standing at the train station, waiting for the train to take us where we were going. The trains in Hong Kong are really fast- there's usually one every two minutes or so. But this train was different. It was the only train which ran on this line. and this line only had two stations. It was a particularly freezing day and the wind was blowing on us- the wait was getting long. We were starting to feel slightly hungry. Since we'd known we'd be eating a buffet dinner, we ate 'light'ly during the day. Only it backfired because by 4 oclock, we were starving and so we decided to have yum cha for afternoon tea. Oops.

Figured out where we're going yet?
The train finally pulls in and the door opens, revealing the warm air inside the train, but more importantly, the beautiful interior of it. As we walk in, the magical sound of chimes comes through the speakers. "Welcome to.......we hope you enjoy the ride" Since it's late, there is barely anyone on the train, and we are fortunate to have half the carriage to ourselves. The ride may have been long but we don't notice- we're too busy ooh-ing and aah-ing, and taking pictures inside the train.

We're in Disneyland!!!
We are even more impressed as the train pulls in at the station, to reveal a beautiful station- it doesn't feel like we're in Hong Kong anymore! A couple more photos and we're out of the station, scanning our octopus cards when we realise that the whole ride (which started halfway across Hong Kong) only costed $13 (~$2 AUD)! I'd happily travel on that train just for the ride anyday!
We make it in time for fireworks (yay!) and then we rush off to catch the (free) bus which runs between Disneyland and its hotels (there's two!). It's not as exciting as the train ride but the night view of Disneyland (not the theme park) is quite interesting- it really looks as if we're in some other country!

The hotel was beautiful, as you would expect of a Disneyland resort. But the restaurant itself exceeded all my expectations (not that I had any in the first place...hehe). The name suited it perfectly- it really looked like a garden, with a water foundtain, white tables and fake green vines and leaves everywhere. Even the sky was painted like the sky!

But the most amazing thing was this:

There were disney characters walking around the place! yes, I tried to smudge our faces out......

And they weren't just walking either- they came to each table separately, and took photos with you. But don't be fooled- these are not the innocent little creatures they seem- they're awfully cheeky too! Mickey and Eeyore had an 'argument' because eeyore had stepped into the photo Mickey was taking with someone. This was despite the fact that the characters made no sounds at all- but their body langauge said it all! Later, Tigger decided to pull of someone's beanie halfway through a photo. When a little kid pulled Eeyore's tail, Eeyore decided to scare the kid by glaring at him. It didn't work- the kid ran away......

They were amazing- they turned every almost every adult in the room into a little kid! If I lived in Hong Kong, I would so get a job as one of these looks so fun!


The food itself was not extraordinary, although definitely better than the usual cheap RSL club buffets I have in Australia....tehehe We start with the cold food- they have a large selection of delicious salads, sashimi and other cold seafood.

Crab Legs

Our favourite are these crab legs- they are very thick and meaty! I usually like my crabs hot and covered with thick, flavoursome sauce but this is an exception. The crab meat is so fresh that it is sort of sweet. I also love the fact that it has been cut up so that there's no need to play around with nut crackers and all that......

Baked Snail with Potato Puree That's what it says on the sign.......

The snails/escargots were delicious and were probably my favourite of the night, although this may have something to do with the fact that I love snails more than that it was cooked really well. Not that it wasn't. The escargots were deliciously rich and garlicky and tasted really good served with smooth and creamy mashed potato. It was a tad oily and the potato was quite filling, meaning that I couldn't eat too much......

Pan Fried Turkey Breast/ Roast Lamb

There was so much to try that eating just one small serving of each thing that I wanted to try left me very very full. I loved the roast lamb- it was nice and juicy. The pan fried turkey breast was one thing that I wished I hadn't wasted my 'quota' on- it was simple piece of turket breast, coated with breadcrumbs and pan fried with a piece of cheese on it. It didn't taste that great, the turkey breast was not tender and the blob of cheese was quite filling.

Mini Hot Dogs

Clockwise from top left: deep fried prawn, corn, brussel sprouts, potato smileys, mini hot dogs
The selection of finger foods, or little 'snacks' were appealing more to the little kids than the adults. I was excited when I saw the potato smileys because they reminded me of Australia- my primary school used to sell them =] The hot dogs were cute, although left mostly untouched throughout the night. The fried prawns were delicious- the prawns were wrapped in a long noodle-like thing (I think it was supposed to be potato) which was extremely crispy when fried.

Selection of breads

Indian Curries /Roti

The selection of curries, although I don't make a point of remember what curries they were, were really nice. I personally find Indian curries appealing, although I rarely have them. They tasted really good, especially accompanied with soft and flaky roti.

Terriyaki Salmon

The selection of Japanese food was quite extensive, and I kept going back for more. The pan fried salmon was delicious- it wasn't over or undercooked and the skin was slightly crispy. There was only a slight hint of terriyaki sauce, but I don't mind because I love the taste of salmon.


The tempura display is really pretty, and looks really good.....if only I could eat it! The problem I find with tempura and buffets is that the crunchy exterior softens quite quickly. But since I love fried foods so much, I can't resist them, even if they look soft. Sure enough, they aren't as crunchy as I'd like, but still have a bit of crunch in them and taste delicious.

Karrage Chicken
I love the presentation of the chicken so much that were it not for the presentation I probably would not have eaten it. That, and the fact that it's untouched does make it very appealing. The chicken is freshly fried, and is therefore crunchy, which makes up for it's slightly ordinary taste.

Finally onto the desserts!

By the time I'm ready for dessert, my stomach is bulging out and I can barely eat any more. But that's okay- I have a second stomach, especially for desserts =] I'm pretty sure I do- no matter how much I eat, I can always find more space for dessert!The dessert is really the highlight of this buffet because not only do they have plenty of it, they are mostly disney themed too! Grab any dessert, and there's about a 50% chance that there's a mickey head on it =]

Chocolate Puff

We approach the desserts with a carefully thought out plan- during our first raid, we take at least one of everything there is. Then we share the plate between myself and my sister. The second time we go to the desserts, we only get the ones we like =]Of course, one plate was not enough to fit all the desserts (there were a LOT more than I photographed), and it took us quite a while to get through all the desserts. Especially since we had to take a break every couple of minutes to complain 'I'm too full! I can't eat anymore!' Only to continue a while later. The chocolate cream puffs look really nice and chocolatey- especially with the piece of chocolate stuck on top of the puff. And it doesn't dissappoint either- the puff is light and soft, and together with the cream filling is very very chocolatey!

( clockwise from top left) Mango dessert/ Chocolate mocha mousse/ Selection of little desserts (cupcakes and orange flavoured creme caramel)/Tiramisu

The mango dessert was one of the best- the vanilla flavoured filling which tasted slightly like a smooth custard, complimented the mango paste really well. The mango flavour was really nice- it didn't taste fake, like some other mango desserts I've had before.The chocolate mocha mousse did not taste as good as it looked- although this may have had something to do with the fact that I don't like coffee, and that it had a strong coffee taste. The chocolate pieces however, were deliciously chocolatey and smooth. The tiramisu cups were delicious, except for the ball of cream on the top (which I suspect has some kind of liquor inside it....). Surprisingly enough, this was the first time I've ever had tiramisu, but I didn't like it that much.

Black and White chocolate fountain

The chocolate fountain was amazingly fun to play with- I love that all the fruits already had sticks in them! The fruits were very fresh and all really sweet. Since the buffet didn't have any fresh fruits, we ended up just getting the fruits without dipping them into the chocolate. The slabs of sponge cake on sticks were also a really smart idea- the cake was extremely soft!

The dinner buffet is supposed to finish at 10:00, but I love that they were still bringing out desserts at 10:15........unlike some other buffets, where they stop bringing food out 1/2 and hour before they finish =[ By then we were way too full to eat anything else, but we hung around until the place was almost empty - it felt so sad to have to leave the place!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Emperor's Garden


I don't know about you, but the only reason why I'd be up early (ie before 10), in the middle of the school holidays (yeh, this was a while ago) is if I'm forced to. But when we decided to make a trip to the city (we rarely go) there were two options- waking up early or not going at all. You see, parking your car in the city costs a lot and we'd much rather spend the money on food so we decided to go early to make it in time for the early bird specials =] Of course, we chose the first option.

So what does one do so early in the morning? Well, we walk around looking at all the not yet open shops and restaurants wishing that they were open so that there would be something to do other than yum cha-ing at Emperor's Garden restaurant- it isn't the best yum cha restaurant in the city. But as luck might have it, there is nothing open other than a restaurant who's entrance is blocked by the delivery van and does not look too appealing. So we end up walking into Emperor's Garden. It is already quite full, which wasn't too surprising given that it's the only restaurant open. We walk in and are quickly shown to a table. The food is already beeing wheeled around and seems good to our stomachs.

We just had breakfast about an hour ago.

Rice Noodle Rolls

Perhaps it's because it's early, but there don't seem to be many fried dishes. But that's okay because the variety of dim sum on offer isn't too bad, and seem to be steaming hot. The steamed food is enough to satisfy our stomachs as we do intend to eat later.

The rice noodle rolls are pretty good, although the rice noodle bit isn't as soft as I'd like them to be. It has a slightly bouncy texture, and the filling of strands of meat and mushrooms is pretty tasty, especially with the sweet soy sauce that the rolls are sitting in.
Chicken Feet

What I like about yum cha is the excitement of discovering what lays inside the dim sum trolley. Unfortunately, there is only about two dim sum trolleys, both containing similar food items. The food therefore gets offloaded in two batches which doesn't make it as fun as yum cha usually is.

The chicken feet come and our chopsticks fly over, trying hard to grab one which is dark in colour. They haven't been flavoured evenly, and there are some which are lighter in colour than the others and some which are drier too. The chicken feet are also a tad smaller in size than the ones we usually have but otherwise, they are not too bad. The sauce is more garlicky than the ones which we're used to but I love garlic so I quite like these chicken feet.

Steamed Pork

The service here however, is quite terrible. The yum cha ladies are, as usual ,not the nicest people in the world. What bugged us was that one lady conviniently parked a hot trolley right behind my seat and went off somewhere. At first I ignored it, thinking she'd come back soon. But then it started to get hot- since yum cha trolleys are ...well, hot. We pushed it away, and the trolley was later retrieved with evil glances in our direction, and definitely no apology either.

The steamed pork is soft and really yummy, as it is steamed with bits of dried scallop and mushrooms in it. It sits on a bed of some sort of melon (winter melon I think) which is very soft and tasty, as it has absorbed some of the pork's flavours.

Steamed Dumplings

The steamed dumplings were yummy- I love how they're so big they actually fill up the whole steamer. The wrapper was slightly dry, but still delicious and the filling of prawns, chives (I think?), mushrooms and meat was delicious and very satisfying


Can't seem to think of the name right now......
Which is surprising because this is one of my favourite yum cha foods, although this one was not all that great. The meat was very tender, although some bits were slightly chewy and some bits were slightly dry- the garlic and black pepper sauce was delicious though.

Beef Sui Mai
Sui mai isn't my favourite of all yum cha foods, but these beef sui mai are a little different and their meatiness is quite nice. The meat tastes slightly like the meatballs you get at yum cha only these are a little stiffer but eqaully as tasty!

With yum cha being so expensive nowadays, the cost of yum cha in the city is now similar to yum cha elsewhere (It used to be more expensive). Nevertheless, this 'light' meal did cost us quite a bit, but was a nice way to spend our time whilst we waited for the shops to open. It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it'd be! Now, we were fuelled and ready to start on a food-filled day around the city =]

Sunday, May 9, 2010



There's about a billion things that I'm terrible at. One of these is buying presents for other people. So when I got an invitation from a friend to her Spanish themed 18th party, my first reaction was not ‘oh no, what am I going to wear?’ by rather, ‘what am I going to get her??’ Being the terrible last minute person I am (although this is true of most teens I know) I left it until two days before the party to tell my mum I needed to buy a present for her. Needless to say, I was stuck for ideas.

Between us, we came up with a handful of ideas ideas but I just couldn’t see her liking any of those. No, that was too girly, that was out of budget etc. etc. Completely out of ideas, I bought next ‘nice’ and present-y thing I could find at the shops and decided to do what I do best, and bake something for her as well (since I figured that everyone likes to eat…right?). Since it was a Spanish party, I searched up some Spanish food and somehow ended up deciding on making polvorones.

I was quite nervous as this was the first time I’d given any food items as a gift and I’d never tried this recipe before. Which for me, is a terribly risky thing as most of my baking disasters have been on things which are supposedly easy and hard to not succeed. Take for example, the first time I made chocolate chip cookies (keep in mind this was very early in my baking days). I tried a recipe (from all recipes) which had a 5 star rating (and had been reviewed about a thousand times) thinking that it could not go wrong- but they turned out sickenly sweet and as hard as rocks. I ate about three before throwing the whole batch out. I was sure that it was my fault they turned out so terrible so a week later I tried again but to no avail. I’d decreased the sugar and mixed it for longer but they still had a funny texture and tasted terrible. The third time I used a recipe from a book I had and they turned out perfect. Well I guess it shows that a recipe that works for a thousand other people might not work for you. Or that I’m terrible at following recipes =] (which is more likely).

This recipe is also from allrecipes, and my choc-chip cookie incident was the reason I was slightly hesitant to try this. One commenter suggested that replacing the butter with lard would make it taste more like Spanish polvorones, which was perfect because I had half a block of lard left over from my egg custard tarts. As terrible as it would be for my friend’s health (and partly for mine), I thought that it was worth it, as I wanted the cookies to taste really good.

The cookies were really simple (another reason I chose it) but I found I had to tinker with the ingredients a little bit to get a cookie like dough. I increased the flour by a lot because the dough didn’t look dough-ey enough and subsequently increased the sugar and cinnamon because I didn’t want it to loose flavour. I increased the sugar by quite a bit because I tasted the dough and it didn’t taste too sweet, although that may have been because of the strong lard taste. I only coated them lightly with sugar just in case they became too sweet. The sugar melted into the cookie which was quite cool (and the oven fan didn’t blow it all off, as I had feared…) and when I coated it with sugar afterwards, when they were still warm, the sugar half melted and stuck on which was also quite cool.

The batter didn’t yield too many cookies so I couldn’t taste test too many (hehe…) and I ended up sharing two cookies between my family. As I’d expected, the cookies were very soft, crumbly and melted in your mouth, which isn’t really my type of cookie (I’m more the crunchy, choc chip cookie girl) So I guess I made them right =]

*finger crossed the birthday girl liked them*

Recipe from allrecipes

• 1 cup butter (226.8g)
• 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup confectioners' sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture to form a stiff dough. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Mix together 1 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; roll balls in cinnamon mixture.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until nicely browned. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Black Stump Bar & Grill


One of the best things about being in the last year of high school is that we get so called 'study periods', or as we refer to them 'free periods'. If your free period happens to be the last period of the day, you get to go home an hour early. If you have a double free period, that mean you can go home before lunch =]

Eating out after a hard *ahem* working day of school is quite fun, although walking around in your school uniform at such early hours does guarantee a few stares (especially when you've got a huge '10' written on your back).
On this day, we decided to try out the Black Stump restaurant and Rouse Hill. We'd walked past it on the weekend, surprised to find that it actually existed. My mum had dinner at a Black Stump restaurant before, and thought the steak wasn't too bad so we decided that it would be worth a try. We decided to return on a weekday, when they had lunch specials =]

I was surprised to find that most of the restaurants are relatively empty in the afternoon- the restaurants at Castle Towers are usually quite full at this time! But the quite-ness is really nice and comforting anyway.......

The sign in front of the restaurant had advertised their lunch special from $9.90 but we soon find out that the only thing for this price are the entrees (chicken wrap or salad). The rest of the menu ranges from $10.95 (spaghetti) to $14.95 (lamb chops/rump steak). The menu is quite short, and ....well....boring. I had intended to order lamb chops but they ran out of them so I ended up ordering rump steak because nothing else on the menu was appealing. That's partly the reason why it takes us so long to decide what to eat- the waitress was getting awfully impatient! On our table of 5, we ended up ordering two fish and chips (because, my dad thought that ordering fish and chips on a friday would be cool *rolls eyes*) and three rump steaks.

Rump Steak $14.95

The wait for the food is sort of long considering there is only one other table there. Not that we actually minded- the slower the food came out, the more time we got to sit there and chat. Because sitting in a restaurant for a long time after you've finished your meal is slightly awkward- even if there's no one else in the restaurant.

The char grilled rump steak arrives with a large serving of fat chips and brocoli. The sauce comes in a small container which is interesting, although having sauce poured directly over the steak would have been so much more convenient (the thought of pouring it myself, strangely enough, did not cross my mind). The sauce is more watery than the usual gravy that comes with steak and has little pieces of mushroom in it- I would have liked to have more sauce though. It's a bit peppery but I can't quite identify what the sauce is. I suspect that if I had read the menu properly, I could have found out......hehe....The steak itself is quite good- it is quite juicy and definitely better than that one at Atrium Brasserie.

Fish and Chips $12.95

I love the char grilled lemon. And I love the chips- I like big fat chips =] But that's probably the only thing I liked about this. The fried fish was disappointingly ordinary- almost like the type you get at fish shops, only this is served on a plate. Unfortunately, the fish shop at Rouse Hill make a good fish and chips for about $8 (although that was probably only because I had it when it was feezing) which only makes this fish and chips even more disappointing.

Black Stump Bar and Grill Restuarant
Shop 110 level g
10-14 Market Lane
Rouse Hill NSW 2155

Black Stump Char-Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Egg Custard Tarts


It's not actually a thousand layers.....probably around a hundred

Apparently, girls are better than guys at multitasking. But if all guys are worse than me at multitasking, then I truly fear for the human race........

For instance, unlike most others I know, I cannot listen to music and do homework at the same time, much less watch TV (or blog....tehehe) - I get to caught up in the other thing and just ignore the homework (although that may be only because it’s homework.....).

Another thing I cannot do is bake more than one thing at a time. This is not to say I don’t do so regularly (hehe…) but when I do, things just don't come out quite right.......

I like to make more than one thing at once for many reasons. For one thing, I don’t actually have that much time to bake- especially since I take so long to make things (I almost always take longer than estimated time on the recipe). My ever growing list of things to make means that unless I multitask, I will still be up to item number 25 when I die. Also, many recipes that I make require awfully short oven times and I don't like to waste this precious heat, especially if I've taken longer to preheat the oven than to bake whatever I'm baking. Although I admit, I don't actually properly preheat my oven.......hehe

I've had plenty of bad experiences with multitasking so I really should have known that trying to bake a cake and make egg tarts at the same time was not a good idea. Especially since I was planning to make a layered egg tart pastry (like puff pastry) and a decorated cake. Needless to say, the cake didn't end up being decorated properly and the egg tarts didn't turn out too good.
The cake was originally going to be for a friend, and I had planned to cut it into a cute cartoon shape and then cover it with fondant. I thought it would be simple:
Making the cake: 30 minutes
Baking the cake: 30 minutes
Icing the cake: 10 minutes
Making the fondant + covering with fondant= 1 hour MAX

So at maximum I would spend 2 hours and ten minutes making the cake, which isn't very long in my time because I had left half a day to make it. Since I was in the kitchen anyway, why not make something else? egg tarts!

Thousand layer egg custard tarts are not my favourite dim sum dessert but seeing that it was possible to create the many layers after reading about it on a couple of blogs, I was interested in trying so myself. Although I had made puff pastry (once) before, that did not turn out too successfully so I was still a little scared about making the dough. It sounded fun enough though- I like fiddly recipes =]

The last time I made puff pastry, I’d spent about 10 minutes just on the rolling out of the dough, putting the butter in, rolling out etc. etc only to look at a video minutes later, to see that the people in the video only took about half a minute to do each turn and then BAM, back it went into the fridge. I was determined to speed myself up a bit this time and successfully completed the first turn in about 3 minutes or so……still slow but I guess it’s progress! I happily rolled the dough out for my second turn/fold, rolling it out until it was large enough to fold (this was not as easy as it sounds…..) when I lifted one end of the dough and then…………I rememebered

I forgot to reflour the surface!
Part of the dough had stuck to the surface of the table as a result of my slightly light flouring which meant all the flour from before had stuck onto the dough so the work surface had barely and flour left on it. Which was exactly the same mistake I made last time. And this was terrible because that meant the bit of dough separating the fat from the next layer of fat was GONE and this meant that the layers wouldn't be perfect any more!!!

After recovering from this horrible realisation, I tried to slowly peel the dough off the table- luckily it had only stuck onto the table at two places and the holes were relatively small. I did what I did last time, and covered the holes with a lot of flour and kept going knowing that the result wouldn't be too great and making sure I floured the table a lot each time. I think the sticking of the dough onto the table made the dough weak (it was wrinkly...) because I kept getting holes after that (just like the first time I made puff pastry) no matter how much I floured the table- the holes were forming just from the rolling out of the dough! I eventually lost count of how many times I rolled and folded the dough (I think it ended up being around 5 times) so I don't know how many layers it ended up being- but definitely far from a thousand =]. When I rolled the dough out to cut into circles, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the layers were still there, even if not perfect and you could actually see them!

Now. What happened to that cake I was talking about before?? I chose this time to quickly whip up a simple buttercake, which didn't take me long because I'd made it a few times before. It went pretty smoothly and then I divided the batter into a round mould and a rectangular swiss roll pan because I needed to cut it into the shape of a cartoon character. I figured a swiss roll pan would be better than a rectangular pan because it would save on baking time and I could easily cut them into rectanlge and stack them instead of baking a rectangular cake and having to slice it into layers.

So off the custard tarts and the rectangular cake went into the oven- the cake, I figured, would only need about 5-10minutes. In which time, I could quite fry a pad thai! Yeah. You can probably see where this is going. I'd made it the night before but I had some sauce left and some noodles so all it require was for me to get everything out and fry it for a couple of minutes. I made sure to check the oven at 5 mintues- the cake batter was still liquidy. At 8 minutes, it was still far from done. So I went on with my pad thai frying.......until about 15 minutes, I realised that I had completely forgotten about my cake! It had, by then, turned a dark brown and I knew instantly, I could not use it. Cutting into it, I realised it was hard. Actually, the texture was much like a cookie and it tasted like a really nice cookie too =] I had no problem eating up all of the baked-for-too-long cake but it ruined my plans for the cake I would bring to my friend's place. I ended up baking the round cake and just covering it with pink buttercream for a 'pink and fluffy' cake.

And the egg custard tarts? I ended up baking them for about 10 minutes more than the recipe said to because the pastry didn't look done after 20 minutes and was much too white. This however, meant that the custard was overcooked- and overcooked custard is not nice. Especially the smooth sily custard is supposed to be a main feature of chinese egg custard tarts. The pastry was layered, but in a weird way- the layers just would not adhere to each other! They fell off one layer at a time, so the pastry ended up much like patty cases.......The pastry also lacked the slight crispiness that you would normally find in egg tarts. Not sure if that was the recipe or me......

Overall, I guess it was a BIG FAILURE apart from the fact that the pastry was layered.

I think I've learnt my lesson now =]

So here's the recipe from Cafe of the East. The recipe wouldn't let me copy and paste but that's okay because I can type ;) But I figured the author didn't really want me to copy it exactly, so I figured I should try and write it out the way I did it -hence the dodgy instructions. If you're thinking of making these, I would suggest for you to read the original recipe =]

Flaky Egg Custard Tarts

150g white sugar
200mL water
2 eggs
50mL evaporated milk

1. Bring water to boil. Add in sugar and mix until dissolved, leave to cool.
2. Combine 150mL of the cooled syrup, beaten eggs and evaporated milk

Water Dough
80 gm plain flour
5g milk powder
6g custard powder
1 egg yolk
10g lard
12g icing sugar
~40g water

Short Dough
100g plain flour
100g lard

1. Mix all the dry ingredients of the water dough and then slowly add water until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Knead in the lard. Cover with cling wrap and chill in fridge for 20 mins.
2. Mix the flour and the lard for the short dough. It will be sticky. Cover and refrigerate this too, for around 20 minutes until it has hardened.
3. To make the pastry, you'd probably be better off referring to the original recipe or rather, the illustration provided here on how to make it.
4. Roll the pastry into roughly a 30cmx35cm rectangle. Using round cutters (I used a bowl) cut round circles large enough to fit into the egg tart moulds. You probably want to cut it so that you can still see the layers around the edges....
5 Preheat the oven to 240C(or as high as your oven can go. Put the fluted tart moulds onto a baking sheet. Line each mould with the pastry and fill up to 80% full with the custard filling.
6. Put the egg tarts in the oven and turn the temperature down to 200C celcius and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 180C and bake for a further 10 minutes or until they're done.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hong Kong, part 1


When I was young, my mother would often take me to Hong Kong to visit my grandparents and relatives there. I didn't think too much of it then- you never really appreciate things until you get older. Now I love going there, although my visits have become less and less frequent as a result of the difficulty of taking days off school (since the airfares in the school holidays are too expensive).

Of course, food is a major highlight as it is much more affordable to eat out than here in Australia. On average a meal there costs about $15-20 for the four of us. Not surprisingly, we eat out for at least two meals everyday. Being a food blogger, I brought my camera with me and took shots of food whenever I could (although only when I was dining with my parents) At first, I was afraid I would get told off by people at restaurants but I got no response (or maybe I snapped the photos too quickly for anyone to notice, hence the poor quality of the photos). It was really interesting though, when we got home to look back at what we ate- time flies too quickly when you're having fun to remember what you eat!

Breakfast at the Airport

Waking up early to make it in time for the plane was not the best way to begin a holiday especially as not enough sleep + a 9 hour plane ride= BAD plane sickness. I get awfully plane sick (hence no pictures of planes anywhere!) and spend most of the trip there either sleeping or looking/feeling dead. I really envy those who can eat on planes because I can't even stand the smell of plane food- it makes me vomit. Although not as much now that I’m a BIG girl =] (although it may have something to do with the travel sickness pills I take.........)

I recover from plane sickness quickly once I get off the plane and away from the airport, and my lack of eating for so long leaves my tummy very empty, but not for long......

Egg Waffles, $7 HK (~$1 AUD)

It was winter when we visited (hehe......yes this was 5 months ago) and with the occasional bursts of coldness, street food is very comforting and convenient whenever we feel hungry. Asian waffles are extremely popular and we witness many people lining up for hot crunchy waffles whilst they’re being made. I’ve never had these as I prefer the egg waffles, which, I suspect is made from the same (or at least a similar) batter to the other waffles as they look the same. When freshly made, the exterior is crispy with a soft, slightly cakey centre. The sweet and eggy taste makes them taste slightly like pancakes- although these are better =] A couple are made in advance, I guess for the convenience, but they cool down quite quickly and are usually warm when purchased. They are awfully good though, even when warm and I just wish I could try one hot! Sadly, every time I buy one, there’s already a premade one =[ Some stalls also sell them in different flavours such as taro, chocolate and sesame although they’ve always run out when I want one =[ *sigh* I have such bad luck with these things……

Red Bean + Green tea waffles $13 (~$2 AUD) from Coco Sweets, which, I suspect is somewhat affiliated with Beard Papa's

When I saw these waffles sandwiched with a selection of cream fillings, neatly packaged in clear plastic wrap, sitting elegantly with a selection of cakes and desserts, I had to have one. With so many flavours to choose from, I spent a couple of minutes just choosing which one to have. Since I love foods with an Asian twist so I chose the red bean and green tea waffle which was advertised as a ‘crispy waffle’. The waffle was cold, as it had a cream filling which had to be refrigerated so maybe this was why, when I took my first bite, I was severely disappointed to find out that it was any BUT crispy. The texture was like a hybrid of asian and western waffles- it was slightly breadier than the asian waffles I had on the streets but still had a sort of cakiness to it……. The ratio of waffle to cream was much too low and left the mouth filled with cream. As much as I love cream, it made the waffle taste really weird and even with four people, we didn’t end up finishing it and had to throw it away. I think I’ll stick with the crispy waffles from the streets =]

With the coldness of the winter, hot food is something that will never fail to attract me, no matter how full I am. Roaming around on the streets of Yuen Long, we passed an interesting looking cart which advertised a bowl of noodles for $10 ($1.50 AUD). With the freezing coldness, we decided to buy a bowl, despite the fact that we were making our way to dinner anyway. Turns out the cart was only part of the marketing plan to lure customers in. They made us pay in the store! After we paid a large bowl of noodles was ladled up from a huge pot and given it to us. Eating noodles on the streets is terribly difficult- taking a photo of a hot noodles in the middle of an overcrowded street is even more difficult so excuse my poor photography here! The noodles are smooth and thin, the bowl is full of various different ingredients and the broth is awfully flavoursome.

We later stumble past this little snack shop on the streets (as we make our way to dinner….tehehe) which sells a variety of little things- bread, dumplings, sweets etc. We buy two buns (pan fried buns) which are still warm, and so delicious in the cold weather that we would buy more, if it weren't for dinner waiting for us.

The store is very small and cramped- it's only about the size of a store in the food court but has clear windows so we can watch the food as it is being made. What’s interesting is that they have a huge pan to pan fry almost anything such as these potstickers!

A barbecue is a great way to catch up with friends and relatives so it we always have one with our relatives whenever we come to Hong Kong. Although this place is old and may look as though you’ve entered Stonehenge, we’ve been going to this place for ages and ages and any attempts to change the location have always been hindered by something. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and to travel here requires a trip on a public van which only comes here once every half an hour or so and sometimes even longer than that. Going home takes forever.

We arrive bright and early as the barbecues get taken quickly. We save two as our group is pretty big. The males start up the barbecue- I’m not sure how but it’s got something to do with fire, coal, and a lot of fanning with newspapers.

The Hong Kong style barbecue is quite different to the Aussie one- it’s more like the cooking marshmallows on a stick on a campfire type thing I’ve seen in movies. We bring our own food, coal and forks to the place and when the barbecue is up and burning, we stick food onto the ends of our barbecue forks and cook them over the flame. The food can be anything really, but there are almost always fish balls and sausages. We try to be a little creative with the food and get things which we can’t buy in Australia.

Barbecuing does require a certain degree of skill because you have to cook all the sides evenly. And if you’re not paying attention, your food may end up burnt like this.

The kids will usually cook the food so that’s it’s burnt on one side and raw on the other. And then give up halfway and go off to play whilst their parents cook the food for them…….not that I’m talking from self experience…………..=]

Getting certain foods into the fork can also be quite a challenge because some foods have awfully tough skins. My uncle poked holes into the eel beforehand which made it easier to put onto the fork, although finding the holes proved to be a difficult task in itself (but definitely easier than trying to poke through the eel). Eels work very well with the barbecue- it cooks relatively quickly and the skin goes really crispy, as does the exterior.

We had intended on ordering a suckling pig to cook but carrying a suckling pig across Hong Kong was a difficult task so we got pigeons instead. The barbecue meat shops sell cooked pigeons (I think they’re cooked in soy sauce) and so we only have to barbecue them until the skin goes crispy. I like to cook my food extremely slowly, and I manage to cook this pigeon in the time my uncle cooks two…….I don’t even know how I cook it so slowly! The pigeons are delicious though! The skin is really really crispy and the pigeon is really hot by the time it’s done. I like to eat it with my hands, although it gets awfully messy with all the oils (pigeon is pretty oily...) The pigeons are really filling though, but this doesn't stop me from eating two =]

.........Now, what's a packet of pads doing at a barbecue?

They're actually marshmallows! Tehehe......
We wanted to play a trick on our cousin but it didn't work because he'd seen it before =[but we figured marshamllows would make a good snack, OR we could barbecue them. I bought another pack of these to trick my firends- it was very fun! A packet of these aren't cheap though (I think it costed ~$9 AUD for a packet)....and it took us ages to find a shop which stocks them.

Turtle soup

Just to try something different, we visit a snake shop in Hong Kong ( don't know what the name of the shop is.....) It's small and cramped and very old, but that doesn't stop the customers from coming. It's hard to miss the shop- they have a huge tank at the entrance with live snakes. They good for scary children........'if you're naughty, we'll let the snakes out on you!'....hehe The walls are filled with newspaper articles and photos of celebrities eating their slightly 'famous' snake soup (蛇羹).

Supposedly, snake soup is healthy, as is turtle soup, another thing they sell. We order that to try but to me, it tastes like a really ordinary salty soup.....

Snake Soup

The large bowl of snake soup is around $50 HK ($7 AUD) if I remember correctly.....and we share one between two of us, incase we (me and my sister) don't like it. At first, it seems like any other thick soup I've had- with lots of mushrooms and pork, all cut long and stringy. I struggle to find the snake in it, until I ask my parents and see strands of strange looking things (which, might I add, look nothing like snake) of which you can barely taste. The soup is not bad, although I was disappointed that it didn't feel like eating snake......

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