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36-Hour Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for a special parcel to England...(UPDATED)

Friday, October 29, 2010 | Labels: , , , , | 12 Comments »

Update (September 2011): This is my second time making these cookies and this time, I kept the golden brown flecks in the brown butter (saving a step) and the cookies did turn out with slightly deeper flavours but I thought it was did not make a significant difference so in future I will just skip the filtering through cheesecloth.  In terms of texture, while shaping the cookies this time, I did not flatten the cookies before resting for 36 hours and I ended up with rougher textured cookies as you can see in the first two updated photos.  The last photo is of the first batch I made last October.

I have heard and read so much about the elusive 36-hour chocolate chip cookies that supposedly yield the 'best' chocolate chip cookies ever.  I have also been reading a lot on the many delicious benefits of adding browned butter or also known as beurre noisette into baked goods and a wide variety of dishes.   I thought combining the two would probably be incredibly interesting and yummy!  So of course I had to google this 'idea' of mine and I decided to try out the brown butter chocolate chip cookies recipe found at Ales & Emily's Travels with fabulous results.


My littlest brother is a chocolate chip cookies fiend monster so these were baked especially to be sent to him in England.  I really loved these cookies as the brown butter added a nutty and deeper buttery flavour to the cookies and of course the seemingly long cooling time of the batter in the fridge really enhanced the flavours all-around.  Now I think the excruciatingly long wait was definitely worth it.


I was also apprehensive at browning butter for the first time ever in my life as apparently the process is prone to some mishaps, most notably of course is burning the butter instead of just browning it!  I was so glad that my first time yielded aromatic and nutty butter - in fact the term beurre noisette is literally translated to hazelnut butter, possibly due to the strong nutty aroma that arises after the butter goes over the melting point.  I clarified the butter by using cheesecloth but I've also read versions of brown butter where the tiny golden brown flecks are kept for an even deeper nutty aroma.

Japchae (Korean stir-fried noodles) 잡채 Recipe - Vegetarian Version

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 7 Comments »

Japchae or 잡채 in Korean is a dish that I always end up ordering each time I go to a Korean restaurant.  I love the texture of the dangmyeon (a variant of Chinese glass noodles that is usually made from sweet potato flour) combined with the myriad of vegetables usually found in the dish.  The colour of the dangmyeon is brownish and greyish before cooking and will turn a more translucent colour once cooked.  This popular noodle and vegetable dish is usually stir-fried with sesame oil and flavoured simply with soy and sugar where usually some meat like beef will be added but today I decided to go the vegetarian route.  Even though I have tasted japchae many times at restaurants, I had no idea on how it was supposed to be 'properly' cooked so I was ecstatic when I came across Alice of Savory Sweet Life's yummy vegetarian japchae recipe.  I only made some slight changes to her recipe, adjusting some of the ingredients to my own preferences and of course availability.


Apart from being utterly delicious, I love how the colourful dish appeals to the eye as well.  Although this is a simple dish, it was a little time-consuming as the ingredients had to be separately stir-fried before being tossed together and stir-fried a final time before serving.  However, I think it was well worth my efforts as the final result was not only tasty but very pretty too!


The ingredients..

Chinese Peanut Soup (Revisited) 花生猪尾汤

Monday, October 25, 2010 | Labels: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

This feature is to revisit the classic Chinese slow-fire soup (老火汤) of Chinese peanut soup.  I had earlier featured this soup which was cooked with only the 'skeletal' ingredients needed i.e. peanuts, pork and dried cuttlefish here which was also delicious but today's soup tasted better (to me), more soothing and layered with more complex and satisfying flavours.   Armed with advice from my parents, I added Chinese smoked ham, pig's tail and pickled mustard - I never thought that pickled mustard would work in this soup but it worked beautifully and I think added an extra 'layer' of soothingness to the soup.  If I am not mistaken, I think peanut soup has heat-relieving properties (下火) as well.


With all the flavourful ingredients combined, I did not need to add salt to flavour the soup at all.  As always, with slow-fire soups, one just needs to be patient - add required ingredients into your pot and let it slowly simmer for at least 5 hours.  Slow-fire soups are of Cantonese origin and is a staple in most Cantonese homes as apart from being tasty, slow-fire soups are highly touted for its' many nutritional benefits.  I can totally have just slow-fire soups for an entire meal - so if you're not in the mood to make a full home-cooked dinner, you can just boil one of these and have an extremely wholesome and delicious meal at home.  The cooked spareribs in the soup also taste delicious dipped in some soy sauce with chilli peppers.


The ultimate Chinese comfort food in my books, 老火汤!

Chinese Leeks with Shrimp Stir-fry Recipe

Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 3 Comments »

This is an extremely easy and satisfying stir-fry recipe.  You can omit the shrimp and keep it vegetarian, or you can replace the shrimp with pork slices or even Chinese waxed sausages/ duck.  The pronounciation of this vegetable in Chinese is 'to count' hence this is also another extremely auspicious dish during festivities as to be able to count would imply that one has more than enough.


Growing up, I was not a big fan of these vegetables as I thought they had a rather strong scent and the an almost overly crunchy texture.  However, as with most things, being older now has taught me to appreciate the unique texture and strong fragrance of these nutritious vegetables.  The same applies to other bitter melon which is indeed really bitter.  I hope you will give this a try and as this is such a simple dish, it is important to make sure the leeks you pick are of the best quality and not too 'old' i.e. the leeks should have a bright green colour.


Note: A tip from mom, I like to blanch most vegetables before giving them a quick stir-fry as overstirring most vegetables will cause them to turn an unpleasant yellowish colour.

Plain and Strawberry Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Labels: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

It has been years since I've been making shortbread and following my extremely successful French butter cookies I made earlier also from Martha Stewart, I decided to try one of her shortbread recipes.  I added a slight twist by making some pretty strawberry shortbread cookies in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month as well. Incidentally, October is also my birthday month and pink is one of my favourite colours - so all the more reason to make something pink and sweet!


Every time I make shortbread, I am time and again pleasantly surprised at the simple ingredients used, flour, sugar, salt and butter.  It is said that shortbread was so named because of the butter used i.e. shortening and every January 6th is National Shortbread Day in Britain!  I found this site that provides a brief summary on the history of shortbread.  Since the list of ingredients is so short, it is preferable to use the best quality of butter you can find.


I especially loved the melt-in-your-mouth texture of these shortbread cookies and of course the yummy buttery taste.  Also, if you don't like using cookie cutters, you can simply shape bits of the dough into mini globes and flatten before baking.

Bubur Cha Cha Recipe (Sweet Potato Soup) - 喳喳

Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Labels: , , | 14 Comments »

Bubur Cha Cha or sweet potato soup is a traditional Nyonya dessert.  I believe that this dessert soup evolved from another similar dessert, sweet potato soup(蕃薯糖水)which is a traditional Chinese dessert.  Nyonya cuisine contains many of the traditional Chinese ingredients but is also heavily influenced by Malay and Indian cooking via the spices used which resulted in a cuisine stronger in taste compared to traditional Chinese cuisine.


Bubur Cha Cha is simply sweet potato soup richly flavoured with coconut milk and scented with fragrant screwpine (pandan) leaves.  I love eating the sweet potato and yam cubes which have been boiled to yummy softness and the sago pearls add lovely texture.   Preparation is very easy and if you have a penchant for South East Asian desserts - bubur cha cha is a must. I am not very good with dessert soups I have to admit so this is another of my mom's delicious (and reliable!) recipes.  Some versions of this classic dessert soup calls for steaming of the yam and sweet potatoes before adding into the prepared sweet soup mixture, however I find that boiling the yam and potatoes together result in richer and more aromatic flavours - at least for me.


For a bit of history, the Nyonyas and their male counterparts, the Babas belong to a group of Chinese called 'Peranakan Chinese' who are descendants of early Chinese settlers with the locals in Malacca.  Malacca had strong trading ties with the Ming Court being a famous port at the time, according to historical records - a Chinese princess was betrothed to the Malacca Sultan at the time and the early Chinese settlers mentioned above were mostly part of her entourage.

Orange and Cherry Madeira Cakes Recipe

Friday, October 15, 2010 | Labels: , , , , | 4 Comments »

It is said that madeira cakes are an old English tradition.  According to what I've been reading, madeira cakes were so named because of the madeira wine that was traditionally served with the cakes.  The recipe for the cake sounds just like one for butter cake although almond meal is added which gives it a different and unique texture.  I decided to make an orange and cherry version today by just adding some orange paste and chopped up cherries into the batter.  They turned out pretty well.  I eschewed icing this time but if you wish you can make an easy icing by mixing some icing sugar with water and just pour on top of the cakes.


My love for baking seems to be growing stronger, growing in spades as a matter of fact. I have been asking myself the same question - why didn't I start taking an interest in baking sooner, hmmm guess it's not too late to start now though!


If you don't like maraschino cherries, you can substitute with fresh cherries or cranberries.

By the way, don't you think being a patisseur sounds lovely?  Perhaps instead of going to London to study economics, I should have hopped over to France to study and apprentice at a pâtisserie and maybe I could have ended up being a maître pâtissier!  (haha)

Sesame Pork and Mushrooms Noodles Recipe (Lo Mein)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 10 Comments »

This is an extremely simple noodle dish I put together this morning when I was suddenly craving for some - noodles simply tossed with some stir-fried ground pork and shitake mushrooms in abalone sauce and Chinese rice wine.  I love making tossed noodles (lo mein) as I don't have to deal with the mess of any noodles sticking to the bottom of my wok!  I used flat noodles this time (the dried variety) but you can use any noodles you have available in your kitchen, even pasta.  In fact, I love cooking (and eating!) pasta Asian style - see my stir-fried macaroni with ground pork that was inspired by the yummy fusion menu found in most famous Hong Kong cafes ('Char Chan Teng').


Instead of stir-frying the noodles today, I just spooned the cooked ground pork mixture on top and tossed the noodles before eating also known as 'lo mein' (捞面) which differs from fried noodles (炒面).You can substitute the ground pork with chicken or beef.  For a finishing touch, I sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top before tossing to add some texture and fragrance as well.


In the past I used store-bought ground pork for convenience but for today's feature I chopped up a piece of pork the old-fashioned way which I thought was superior in taste and texture to the former.

Pear and Honey Tea Cakes Recipe

Monday, October 11, 2010 | Labels: , , , , | 3 Comments »

I think I was first introduced to tea cakes when I had a 'proper' English tea in London.  I loved the little cakes that were usually flavoured with fruit that went so well with a cup of piping hot English tea.  I think the most appealing thing about an English tea is the petite scale of everything like delicate finger sandwiches, little tartlettes and petite scones.


I found this recipe in Donna Hay's book, Entertaining where the original recipe called for apples but since I had some Asian pears available I decided to try this recipe with pears and I think it turned out really well.  The pear slices are first cooked with a bit of lemon and butter (which made the kitchen smell heavenly by the way!) before being baked together with the cake batter.  I thought the cake recipe resembled that of butter cake except that honey was added which gave it a deeper, more interesting flavour although truth be told, I think I still preferred the plain butter cake I made recently as I guess I'm a boring plain vanilla person when it comes to cakes.  Anyhow, these tea cakes were still delicious and were a good variation since one cannot live on butter cakes alone!


The cakes had a nice texture (not too fine) and remained moist even the next day.

Sweet and Sour Prawns Recipe 甜酸虾

Saturday, October 09, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 13 Comments »

This is my family's tried and tested method of cooking for sweet and sour dishes.  Credit has to be given to my mom (she loves sweet and sour dishes!) as she is the one who came up with this final recipe after trying out different ways of cooking sweet and sour dishes.  Today's feature is sweet and sour prawns but you can use this method of cooking for all kinds of seafood like crab, squid and fish.  The prawns are lightly marinated in salt then shallow instead of deep-fried (for the best texture) and then stir-fried in a delightfully appetising vinegary sauce mixed with fragrant minced garlic, red peppers and ginger.


This is a vibrantly colourful and delicious dish - not to mention auspicious as well since 虾 (prawn) is also the same pronounciation as laughter in Chinese, hence this is a choice dish during festive occasions especially during Chinese New Year.


Choy Sum Fish Cakes Stir-fry Recipe 菜心炒鱼饼

Thursday, October 07, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 4 Comments »

Today's recipe is such a simple one - my family usually cooks this whenever we have fish cakes, either home-made or bought.  Choy sum or otherwise known as flowering Chinese cabbage due to the tiny yellow flowers sometimes found on the stalks is such a versatile Chinese vegetable and is used heavily in a lot of stir-frys.  Choy sum has a naturally sweet taste with a crunchy texture that lends itself well to many popular Cantonese stir-frys.  Choy sum is also a great vegetable for adding into stir-fried noodles, see my Chinese fried egg noodles for an example.


Although this is such a simple dish, there is something important to keep in mind that is not to stir the choy sum around too much to prevent yellowing of the vegetables which would be rather unsightly.  To avoid that, we usually first blanch the choy sum quickly with a sprinkling of salt to avoid having to cook the vegetables for too long.  As the fish cakes (I used fried ones) are already cooked as well, very little time is required in the wok.  I think the combination of the crunchy and naturally sweet choy sum goes very well with the savourty and flavourful fish cakes - with such a short list of ingredients, I hope you will give this a try especially the next time you happen to have leftover fish cakes!


Today's dish is basically fish cakes and choy sum cooked in fragrant garlic - extremely simple to make yet very satisfying to eat!

Butter Cake (Plain or with Almonds) Recipe

Monday, October 04, 2010 | Labels: , , | 22 Comments »

Updates:  I baked the butter cake again, this time in a loaf pan and while I prefer the loaf version, my mom prefers cakes baked in the round tin.  The loaf version was denser so it is really up to you which you prefer.  Both turn out delicious though.  In terms of cracking, the loaf version usually results in less cracking.  I updated this post with some of my brand new photos which I also prefer :D.

I will have to say 'thumbs up' to this butter cake recipe.  When I saw LK of Food For Tots' featuring her basic butter cake recipe, I knew I had to give it a try and am I glad I did.  Although I'm not much of a sweet tooth, I adore plain cakes, with butter cake being one of them - I love to dunk my butter cakes into my coffee and I think the texture of this butter cake was perfect for that.  I only tweaked the recipe a tiny bit by adding less milk and butter, and just for fun I also used some of the batter for some almond cupcakes since I had some almond flakes handy.  They were quite delicious but I still preferred the plain butter cake more. 

Butter cake at Tea Time...

This cake rises really well and look at the gorgeous golden brown top of the cake.  You can also easily make this cake without breaking out your cake mixer.  After all, people of the past produced excellent butter cakes too right (?) without any 'kitchen-aid'!


Did you know that apparently the best way to see if your batter has the right consistency or not is that if it does, the batter should drop from your spoon on the count of 1, 2, 3?

Butter Cake at Tea Time....

You can definitely do so much with this basic butter cake recipe, you can easily make a marble cake by dividing the batter into half and adding some cocoa powder into one portion of the batter or add some chopped up maraschino cherries for added colour and texture.  My mom is a rather picky eater of cakes and she really loved this one - I think this reminded us of the good old butter cakes sold in old Chinese shops that did not have an artificially fine texture but yet moist and most importantly delicious!

Here's my little variation, almond cupcakes


Last but not least, thank you LK for being so patient with my numerous questions!

Soy Ginger Chicken Recipe 酱油姜鸡

Sunday, October 03, 2010 | Labels: , , , | 7 Comments »

This method of cooking chicken is such a classic and straightforward Malaysian Chinese family dish.  Chicken simply cooked with lots of ginger and flavoured richly with a soy sauce mix.  Apart from being delicious, this chicken dish is also good for you due to ginger's many nutritional benefits. This was a constantly cooked dish in my parents' household as we were all growing up and it never lost its' popularity - as children, we probably had more of the gravy spooned onto rice than the chicken pieces though.  So, for you mothers, this is a great chicken dish to cook.


I even love eating the cooked ginger slices together with the chicken as I love the taste and texture.  As this is such a simple chicken dish, the ginger used is of utmost importance according to my parents.  For slight variations, see my ginger chicken with shitake mushrooms or my soy chicken with Chinese sausage dish.  As you can see, there are many variations to this basic chicken dish - mushrooms will add texture and the Chinese sausages add a hint of natural sweetness to the chicken dish.


This is also one of my little brother's favourite chicken dishes, I hope this recipe will help him out since he is now in the UK studying, away from (delicious?) homecooking!

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