Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Halo 3 Cake; Instant Chocolate Ganache

Ethan wanted a Halo 3 birthday cake for his birthday. I almost fainted thinking about how to recreate the Halo 3 look - space, the main character etc.

In an inspired move though, I decided to fashion the cake on Noel's Halo 3 commemorative t-shirt, which he got as one of the first persons in Singapore to get the game (See how fanatic my boys are about the Halo franchise? *winks*). Also, since Noel's birthday is also in December, I figured I could make 2 boys very happy with one cake.

I baked 3 8-inch square cakes using my chocolate cupcake recipe. I wanted a dense, chocolatey texture for the cake and I love how moist my chocolate cupcakes remained days after baking it. I had to extend the baking time to about 40 minutes each cake. I then sliced the cake in the middle to get 6 squares, in order to get 3 layers of cake.

Next, I slather a layer of "instant" choc ganache to sandwich the layers together, with the final layer a mix of canned dark cherries and choc ganache:

In between layers, I brush the cake with the liquid from the canned cherries mixed in with a little rum (not enough to make drunk kids... it's a kids' cake after all), moistening the cake further. *decadence...sighs* When the 3 layers are done, this is what a slice of the cross-section looks like:

The rectangle cake is then cut into shape. I sliced the bottom square into 2 smaller rectangles, and half one of that rectangle for sleeves:

I shaped a collar and the sleeves, and then covered the entire cake with the choc ganache.

After that, I covered the entire cake with fondant:

After that, I added the collar and sleeve details:

I printed out the Halo 3 logo from the Net, and then cut it out from the blue fondant:

Here's the final product:

I used the leftover fondant to cover the cake base and voila! Cake done!

Here's the cake inspiration:

And the cake close up:

I figured in total, I used about 4 Cadbury 70% Cocoa choc bars just for the ganache filling and frosting below the fondant layer. For the ganache, I did a lot of research to find a simple recipe. I struck gold with this amazingly simple 2-ingredient-2-step method to making the most versatile chocolate ganache from this site.

170g Dark Chocolate (I used the Cadbury Old Gold 70% Cocoa)
1 can Nestle Cream Pure Dairy Sterlised Cream

1. Heat the choc in a microwave oven at short bursts of 20 sec at med heat until all the choc is melted. Be careful not to burn the choc.
2. Pour the can of cream into the melted choc and mix well until the two ingredients are incorporated.


The choc ganache is pliable and holds itself well in our warm weather. Excess ganache can be stored in the fridge and warmed in the microwave before use.

Whilst making the cake, Edna hid in a corner and stole bits of fondant to eat... I finally wisen up when I saw little finger pinches from the fondant pile. *grins*

Friday, 30 November 2007

Banana Balls or Jemput Jemput Pisang or Cekodok Pisang

The hubby had a craving for banana balls... and I had over-ripe bananas with a wish to be made into anything other than banana cake or remaining a fruit. So after a thorough search online for banana balls, I finally found it in Mama Fa Mi's fotopages.

I've modified her recipe a little, especially since the bananas I had were very sweet and the amount was way more than her 3 ripe bananas. That said, this is really a recipe for the impatient cook - it takes less than 5 minutes to get the preparation done and all it takes is to fry up the banana balls.

350g ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tbsp milk powder
3/4 tsp Baking powder
2 tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
Oil for frying

1. Sift flour, baking powder and milk powder.
2. Mix the mashed banana, sugar and salt well.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mix. Make sure that the overall mixture is neither too dry nor too wet.

4. Heat the oil and drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into it. Once the batter balloons and turns a golden brown, scoop it up and drain it well.

5. Enjoy!

It's a heavenly taste - wonderful bite of banana, soft, yet chewy in texture. And it I mention that it's so simple to make? *g*

Monday, 26 November 2007

Homemade Mayonnaise

In my previous post, I mentioned homemade mayonnaise. And here's how to make it:

2 egg yolks
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
1 tbl white vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil mix (I use 3/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 cup canola oil, but it's really up to you. If you find the scent of the olive oil a little heavy, you can use more canola oil. I've not tried this recipe with other oils like soya bean or corn oil, but I suppose those oils might add their own flavour into the mayo, so you can experiment to get the flavour you like.)

1. In the mixer, beat the yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, sugar and Dijon mustard.
2. Whilst the mixer is beating the above ingredients, drizzle a teaspoonful of the vegetable oil into the mixer at intervals of 5 to 10 seconds. This is to allow the oil to incorporate into the yolk to from an emulsion.

(Here is a whole aside into Science which you can teach your kids - and I do since Ethan's being homeschooled. *winks* An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that normally can't be combined, eg oil and water or here, vinegar/lemon juice and oil. Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while simultaneously mixing rapidly, which disperses and suspends tiny droplets of one liquid through another.

However, the two liquids would quickly separate again unless an emulsifier is added to set and stabilise the mixture. Eggs and gelatin are among the foods that contain emulsifiers, and in mayonnaise, the emulsifier is the lecithin in egg yolk.

Emulsification is used in making medicine, and in making various items like paint, make-up, detergents and explosive. Thus concludes this post's Science lesson.)

3. Once you get a pasty mixture from your oil addition, you can add the oil in larger amount, making sure that the mixture remains an emulsion.

4. Once all the oil is incorporated, just put your mayonnaise into a jar and you're done!

For those of you worried about using raw egg yolk in cooking for fear of salmonella, make sure that the egg shell is washed before use. The egg itself doesn't contain the salmonella germs, which are actually found in fecal matter - on the outside of the egg or on unwashed hands. Therefore, wash your eggs in a mild bleach solution if you're worried (and keep those hands clean!), to kill those salmonella germs. Hey, now the Science lesson is really over! *grins*

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Welcome to McBrenda's!

Healthy hamburgers are an oxymoron? Not necessarily so! *grins* Homemade burgers are not only delicious, they are a chockful of healthy veggies, proteins and carbohydrates. Besides, you're almost guaranteed an empty plate after the kids have sat at the dinner table. *winks*

McBrenda's Burgers
Ingredients for Beef Patty:
500g lean minced beef
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 dash dried oregano (and other dried spices for taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients together.
2. Weigh the entire mixture and divide the amount to get your desired number of patties. This ensures that not only will you get the right number of patties for the number of hamburger buns you bought, but also that each patty is equal in weight... which help you avoid all those "But mmmmuuuum, his patty is bigger than mine!" complaints. heh.
3. Pat the patties into shape and put it in the fridge for about half an hour for the flavours to mingle, and for the patties to retain its shape. If you'd like to freeze the patties, do so by all means - just make sure to separate the patties by sandwiching them between plastic bags. When you want to use them, just thaw them out before cooking.

4. To cook them in the oven, pre-heat the oven to 200 deg Celsius. Put your patties on a rack and grill them to perfection... which takes about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how well-done you like your patties. (Warning: Be careful not to flip the patties too early, otherwise they might break up. If you do feel the need to flip the patties - which I don't - do it at the last minute and let the oven grill it on the other side for a minute or two.)

5. Assemble the burger. Make that a two-all-beef-very-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun... erm... well, it helps, but you can put the usual suspects into the burger - cheese, lettuce and onions. I use my homemade mayonnaise to hold the patties etc to the bun. Serve with homemade baked potato wedges. *grins*

Sunday, 30 September 2007

The BE BLESSED Brownie

Added on 4 Nov:
This was my first bake after my long pregnancy anti-baking (think antithesis of pregnancy craving). Edna's at that age where all cakes are birthday cakes, and all birthday cakes are hers. And what is a birthday cake without a candle? *winks*

As always, this brownie is absolutely chocolaty and aromatic. It's just so simple to bake too!

On request, my Brownie recipe, which originated from allrecipes.com. *grins*

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans/almonds/macadamia/walnuts
3/4 cup melted butter
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Grease and flour a 9x13inch baking pan.
3. Mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Stir to blend.
4. Mix in 3/4 cup cooled melted butter and 4 eggs.  Make sure the butter is cooled because you really don't want to have scrambled eggs in your brownie. ;P
5. Mix thoroughly and add in the chopped nuts.
6. Spread the batter evenly into prepared baking pan.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven.
8. Cool completely in pan before cutting into 2 inch squares.

I suppose the best thing about this recipe, apart from the yummy factor, is how fast it is to bake it. This is one of those perfect, welcomed dishes when there is a potluck to attend. *grins*


(19/06/2011) Edited to add:
This brownie can be a perfect pre-bake gift for a friend.
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
2. In a dry and clean glass jar, pour sugar and press down firmly.
3. Add cocoa powder and press down firmly.
4. Pour in chopped nuts, making sure they are evenly layered in the jar.
5. Top off with the flour mix.
6. Seal the jar.

Make a card with the following instructions to attach to the jar:
The BE BLESSED Brownie

You'll need:
An oven. A 9x13 inch pan. 4 eggs. 3/4 cup butter. A large spoon.

Break the seal on the mix and empty the mix into a large bowl.
Engage the ingredients:  Use your hands to mix thoroughly!

Beat 4 eggs lightly, and together with 3/4 cup of cooled melted butter, add them into the mix.
Large spoon in hand, mix up everything so that it's well mixed.
Ensure the pan is greased, and spread the batter into it.
Set the oven to preheat at 180 deg C, and bake for 30 minutes or until done.
Simply allow the brownie to cool in pan before cutting into 2 inch squares.
Every square of warm brownie, serve with scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Delight in the chocolately goodness of the brownie with family and friends!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Brenda's Bergerdils

Otherwise known as potato patties, these Bergerdils are easy to make and oh-so-yummy! The addition of chopped onions into the patties give these little potatoes a nice kick.

Brenda's Bergerdils

3 largish Russet Burbank potatoes (steamed and peeled)
3 1/2 tbsp dried shrimps (washed, blended, and fried with a very little amount of oil)
1onion, chopped
1 egg
1/2 tsp pepper
3 pieces of cream crackers, crushed (I use Hup Seng brand, and they come in packs of 3 crackers. See pic below.)

1 egg beaten with 40ml water for coating
Oil for deep frying

1. Mash the potatoes and leave them to cool. You don’t have to mash them especially fine.
2. Throw in the dried shrimps, onion, crushed cream crackers (hey, alliteration! *g* I just smash the packet around and throw in the crushed crumbs into the mix), egg and pepper into the potato and mix the lot well. The ingredients flavour the potato enough that you do not have to add any more salt.
3. I like even-sized bergerdils, so I weigh them to about 50g and shape them into flattened balls. It helps in shaping if your hands are slightly wet, so after shaping about 3 or 4 bergerdils, I wash my hands to wet them. If you're making these as finger food, weigh them in at about 30g to make smaller bergerdils.

4. In a wok or pan, make sure the oil reaches about half the height of the bergerdil. Since most of the ingredients of the bergerdil cooks rather fast, the idea is to brown the bergerdil, rather than to deep fry them.
5. Dip the bergerdil into egg mixture and fry till golden brown.

6. Once removed from the wok, let the bergerdils cool on a wire rack to retain most of its outer crisp. You can eat the bergerdil warm or at room temperature (although I love eating them warm).

Bergerdils make excellent party food because they can be made in advance and warmed up before serving. And who doesn't love fried potatoes? heh

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Baked Teriyaki Chicken

Delicious over rice, this baked Teriyaki Chicken is quite simple to make.

Terikayi Chicken
1 pieces of Chicken thighs (Or any other meaty parts, or boneless parts if you like)

1 tbsp dark soya sauce
1 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil

Teriyaki Sauce:
3 tbsp mirin
1 1/2 tbsp Kikkoman sauce
2 tbsp Japanese sake
1 or 1 1/2 tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet you want)
50 ml of water

1. Marinate the chicken with the marinate ingredients for at least an hour. It's best if it's marinated overnight.
2. Bake the chicken on a wire rack in the oven set at 200 deg C, for about 10 minutes on each side. Use the leftover marinate to baste the chicken while baking.
3. While chicken is being baked, put all the ingredients for the Teriyaki Sauce into a frying pan and allow the mixture to simmer. Once the sauce thickens to your liking and taste, put the sauce aside.
4. Arrange the baked chicken pieces on a plate and pour the Teriyaki Sauce over the chicken. Serve hot with rice.

Watercress And Honey Agar-Agar

I had a glass of Watercress and Honey drink for the first time in a restaurant that specialised in Macau food. For the first time ever, I dawned on me that watercress, a veggie that almost only appeared in a savoury soup, could be enjoyed in a sweet drink.

The second time I had Watercress and Honey was in June this year. Edna absolutely loved the drink, and I thought to recreate it at home.

The quantities for the drink is just a suggestion - I suppose it's more to do with 'taste' than a hard and fast rule. Also, I really went by feel in this first try.

Watercress and Honey Drink
1 bunch watercress, roots removed
5 red dates
1/4 cup rock sugar
Honey to taste
3-4 litres of water

1. Simmer the entire lot in a large pot for about 1 hour.
2. Pour the golden coloured liquid through a sieve.
3. The drink can be drunk either hot or iced. (I love it hot, but everyone else loves it iced.)

Because I made so much of the drink, I used 1.5 litres of it to make Agar-Agar. It was lovely because it wasn't too sweet.

Watercress and Honey Agar-Agar
1.5 litres Watercress and Honey drink
15g Agar-agar strands

1. Boil the two ingredients together until the agar-agar strands dissolve.
2. Pour into jelly moulds and place the agar-agar into the refridgerator to set.

Both the drink and the agar-agar are lovely on hot, hot days. They'll cool you from inside out!

Eh, What's Up Doc?

Carrots! That's what.

Ethan's favourite veggies, but Edna absolutely won't touch them... unless they're hidden in yummy, moist, spicy, crunchy Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake

250ml vegetable oil

150g brown sugar
3 eggs
500g coarsely grated sweet carrot (sweet, as oppose to bland. I like to use the Aussie medium-size carrots found in NTUC supermarkets that are "brandless".)
120g coarsely chopped walnuts (I crush the walnuts individually because I like coarser bits in the cake.)
375g self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp mixed spice

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Grease a 9" x 9" pan and line with baking paper.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice together in a bowl.

4. Whisk eggs and sugar on MED till thick and creamy.

5. Fold in the oil lightly. Don't worry if the oil doesn't bind into the mixture at this stage - because it won't. Therefore, you don't need to stir the mixture too long.

6. Fold in the carrot and the walnuts. Again, don't worry if the carrot and walnuts don't get mixed evenly; the mixture still won't bind well until you...
7. Add in the dry ingredients. In this case, add in a few spoonfuls at a time, until the batter is more or less even.

8. Pour mixture into the pan and bake for about 1hr or till cooked. Test using skewer. If the top is browning too fast, cover it loosely with foil.

9. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack. Turn cake top-side up to cool.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
30g butter
80g cream cheese
lemon zest from 1 lemon
120g icing sugar

1. Cream butter, cream cheese and lemon zest till light and fluffy.
2. Gradually add in the icing sugar.
3. Cream till smooth.

After the carrot cake is cooled, frost the cake with the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. Then sprinkle the with extra lemon zest and coarsely chopped walnuts.

Voilá! Carrots even non-carrot eaters would give a second look. heh.

ETA on 11 July 2007:
If you want to reduce the recipe, or just as a variation, a great way of making this cake is to make cupcakes! Just follow the above method and then fill up the cups 3/4 to the top.

Make sure you bake for only 40min!

You can decorate those cuppies with carrot slices shaped into carrots, like so:
A close-up look - that's a spring onion stalk! heh

Ethan Loves Baking!

This post has no recipe... only lots of Mummy's pride. heh.

Ethan came home from school yesterday with great excitement. Apparently, he had a "Math Fun Day" in school, wherein his class engaged in different Mathematical activities in a different locations in the school. There were areas where Ethan played with logic puzzles, shapes and matchsticks, but his favourite, and the reason for this post, is the area where the kids followed a Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe to bake 2 muffins that they can bring home.

Alas, the recipe remained in school, but I'm happy to report that my little baker's muffins are moist and yummy - "because we added some milk and an egg!" according to Chef Ethan.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Mousse Magic

After making the Mango Mousse Cake, I went on to make Durian Mousse Cake and Strawberry Mousse Cake with the same method.
I didn't add colouring to the Durian Mousse, so the more yellow layer is the sponge. The recipe for the sponge, and assembly for the cake can be found here.

Durian Filling Ingredients:
3 egg yolks
50g castor sugar (depending on how sweet/bitter your durian is)
1 tbsp gelatine powder
45ml hot water
250g durian meat
a few drops of yellow colouring (optional)
300g whipping cream

1. Whip the egg yolks and sugar until creamy.
2. Whip the whipping cream to soft peak.
3. Dissolve the gelatine with the hot water.
4. Mix well the steps 1 and 2 together.
5. Add in the melted gelatine and mix well.
6. Add in durian flesh and mix well.
7. Refridgerate after assembling the cake.

A close-up of the piped durians!

Strawberry Mousse Mother's Day Cake

A layer of fresh strawberry in the mousse

The mousse had such a pretty pink colour that I didn't want to cover it all up with cream.
Piped hearts details

Strawberry Filling
1 tbsp Gelatine powder
45ml hot water
250g pureed fresh strawberry
3 tbsp icing sugar (optional – depends on how sweet your strawberries are)
300gm whipping cream

1. Whip the whipping cream with icing sugar.
2. Dissolve the gelatine powder with the hot water.
3. Add the gelatine mix to the pureed strawberry.
4. Add the strawberry mix into the whipping cream and mix well.
5. Refrigerate after assembling the cake.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Chocolate Cupcakes


An intriguing debate in baking is difference between Cupcakes and Muffins. Whilst the two yummy baked goods look similar, they are differentiated by the method of baking, texture and perhaps also the way they are eaten.

A cupcake is essentially a small cake. Therefore, to gain the moniker of a cake, the method usually involves creaming the butter with sugar to get a light, fluffy texture for the cake. Additionally, the ingredients are mixed into a smooth texture. Muffins, on the other hand, involves mixing the dry and wet ingredients, to get a lumpy batter; too smooth, and the muffin doesn't taste as good.

For me, muffins are usually unfrosted and eaten warm. Cupcakes, like cakes in general, are usually frosted and eaten cold.

Frosted Cupcakes

This particular recipe hails from allrecipe.com, by Ladan Miller. I've reduced the amount of sugar needed slightly, but I must say that this chocolate cupcake is both simple to make and absolutely chocolatey and delicious.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (171g)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (96g)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened (43g)
1 1/3 cups white sugar (268g)
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 175 deg C. Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well.
4. Fill the muffin cups slightly more than 1/2 full.
5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
6. Frost with your favourite frosting when cool.

Frosted Mini-cupcakes

This recipe works well with both minicupcake liners and larger cupcake liners. Also, it tastes great a day after baking, retaining its moisture.

A simple frosting for the kids to use is to whip up some whipping cream with icing sugar to taste. Let the kids have fun decorating the cups with piping swirls and sugared bits available from baking shops. Chocolate rice and Hundreds & Thousands (or Fairy sugar) make great decorations too.

Or just bake the cupcakes and have a birthday cake with a difference - let the kids have the fun decorating their own birthday cakes with a candle in honour of the birthday kid!

ETA (20/11/07): You can also decorate your cupcakes with fondant (sugarpaste/gumpaste) figurines. Joyce has an entry in her blog about a sharing session we had at my place with this cupcake recipe.

ETA (20/04/2011): If you want domed cupcakes, fill your cups to 3/4, and heat your oven to 205 deg C. When you put your cups in the oven and close the door, reduce the heat to 175 deg and bake until done. The initial high heat helps make the cupcakes dome up.
If you want a flatter cupcake, fill your cups to slightly more than 1/2 the cup and preheat and bake your cups at 165 deg C. This takes longer to bake, but you'll get a flatter cupcake.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Spaghetti Carbonara

Watching late night Food Channel is a terrible torture. Watching all those delicious food, so simply cooked by celebrity chefs like Jaime Oliver, Nigella Lawson and their peers easily create a desire to run out at 1am to the nearest food centre and indulge in a hot, hot plate of char kway teow to stem the tide of hunger. heh.

That said, watching the ease of chefs in preparing food is also inspiring. You keep thinking - is that all there is to make that? That's so simple!

The following recipe is adapted from David Rocco's cooking series, Dolce Vita. His programme tries to tell as story each episode, as he weaves cooking and good food into daily Italian life.

Spaghetti Carbonara (for One)

A little Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 slice Bacon, cut into 1cm x 1cm pieces
100g Spaghetti
1 egg, separated
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
Black Pepper

1. Cook spaghetti in rapidly boiling water.
2. Put egg white, milk, cheddar cheese and lots of black pepper in a bowl.
3. In a saucepan, put a little olive oil to fry the bacon. You may fry a little minced garlic along with the bacon if you wish.
4. When spaghetti is done, add the spaghetti to the bacon in the saucepan, and give it a stir. Immediately, lower the heat and add in the cheese mixture. Stir until the spaghetti is coated with the cheese mixture.
5. Serve the spaghetti with the egg yolk on top, eat immediately. The egg yolk will cook on contact with the hot spaghetti - YUMMY! Garnish or serve with some steamed veggies, like broccoli or french beans.

When cooking for more, just increase the amounts accordingly.

My family loves this, and to me, it's an Italian version of eating dry instant noodles. The ingredients for this are usually found in the fridge. If we don't have bacon at the ready, there's always luncheon meat or sausages.