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‘FAB’-Steamed Banana Cake

In Experimental, Friday Afternoon Baking, Recipes on May 29, 2010 at 12:57 am

Surprise surprise! Another steamed cake recipe! When I say I am obsessed with something, I really mean it. I’m not going to just let it go after one try. I’d do it / make it / eat it again and again. But eating too much of the same thing would result in Sensory Specific Satiety and a decreased desire to continue eating it. That is why I set out to make as many variations of it. Neh. That was just some lame attempt to scientifically justify my actions. I simply want my muffins and cakes lower in calories, in all sorts of flavours that I like, yet still soft and moist so that I can enjoy my cakes and still have caloric allowance to enjoy all the other pleasurable foods that are out there waiting for me to enjoy. Is that too much to ask for?

You might have realized that the basic recipe of flour-sugar-egg-baking powder limits the possibilities of variations to dry flavouring ingredients like spices, essences and currants. With just 4 ingredients on the list, it might seem rather difficult to make the ingredient substitutions… but I realized it actually isn’t that complicated, really.

I found a recipe on chowtimes for steamed banana cake to make as a reward for my project group’s sensory panel. A quick comparison with the basic steamed cake recipe shows a partial substitution of egg (wet ingredient) with mashed banana (wet ingredient), and a larger amount of baking powder (1.5tsp vs 0.5tsp) to provide additional air bubbles for the rising of the cake that was originally contributed by the egg foam. The teaspoon of oil added contributes to a softer crumb texture as there is now less egg yolk (I’ll try it next time without oil just to see how significant the difference is).

The result? Soft and moist with a lovely flavour like banana quickbread. πŸ˜€


Steamed Banana Cake Recipe
adapted from ChowTimes

  • 1 ripe banana (~100g) roughly mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oil (optional)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 50g sugar (or adjust batter to desired sweetness)
  • 100g flour
  1. Heat up your steamer.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together and fold in the dry ingredients quickly.
  3. Pour into dish and steam for ~15min. (I made one 15cm x 22cm oval cake, 3-4cm in height)
  4. Voila! Done in a jiffy!

Variation #1: with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon added. While this was steaming, I mixed together Variation #2: with 1 heaping tsp cocoa powder added.
The cinnamon version was so well-received that I made another for tomorrow’s Project Emotions Picnic in Sweden πŸ™‚ This time with 1.5 times the above recipe with 1 tsp of cinnamon, additional 1 tbsp of water to substitute the extra half an egg, an extra handful of raisins and a half banana sliced and arranged on top! πŸ˜€

Steamy Solution to Low-Fat Cake-Making

In Chinese, Recipes on May 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm

My recent interest in steaming has escalated into a full-blown obsession with steamed cakes.

Yes, steamed cakes! Soft fluffy and moist sponge cakes in 30min or less! …no more long lists of ingredients, nor lengthy energy-consuming pre-heating of oven, nor even a need for sticks of buttery unhealthiness to keep the cake moist… not even a messy cleaning aftermath. It saves time, it saves energy, it saves money — absolutely PERFECT for a busy and poor student who craves a sweet treat.

Steaming cake eradicates the problem of tough chewy textures that often plague low fat / fat-free baking. With a little help from baking powder and whisked eggs, cooking the cake in the moist heat of the steamer results in a quick rise and quick set of the sponge cake due to the more effective heat transfer via steam. At the same time, the steam keeps the cake from drying out as it would during oven-baking. This gives the cake a nice open texture with good moisture retention without having to add a whole lot of empty calories to prevent the flour proteins from forming tight gluten networks that result in a tough final product.

I hereby declare the end of my struggles with fat-replacement in baked muffins and cakes.

Just steam ’em!

Steamed Egg Cake Recipe adapted from HappyHomeMaker

  • 3 eggs
  • 150g sugar (I used half brown half white)
  • 100g flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Optional: Raisins / Vanilla essence / Almond essence / Ground cinnamon
  1. Heat up the water in your steamer.
  2. Separate the egg whites from the yolks and whisk the whites adding sugar halfway until stiff peaks form. (Alternatively, beating the whole eggs till foamy will work too, but takes longer.)
  3. Mix in the yolks and fold in flour and baking powder.
  4. Add in 1 tsp of essence and a large handful of raisins at the end if you’d like.
  5. Pour batter into a dish and steam for ~20min in the heated steamer. (Mine: 20cm diameter cake, ~4cm height)

FAB – Chinese Custard Egg Tarts

In Baking, Chinese, Recipes on May 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Today’s FAB session was especially quick and hassle-free. From gathering the ingredients till washing up and giving away / gobbling up the tarts — all done within 1 hour! It happened so quick, I thought I might as well complete the entire cycle and make the post right away, while the 4 tummies in this house are still digesting happily.

Back in ’96-’98 when my family was living in Hongkong, I often delighted in the weekly dose of freshly baked custard egg tarts from the bakery nearby my piano school. Aaah… definitely the most lovely memories from those weekly lessons πŸ˜› Those fresh-baked dan tat with their flaky pastries and sweet wobbly eggy filling were absolutely heart- and tummy-warmingly heavenly ~*

Btw, flaky tart cases are now on sale (got sale got S’porean) at fakta / netto for 8kr (~1 euro / SGD$2) for 10 pieces of convenient goodies. What are you waiting for?

Chinese Custard Egg Tarts adapted from Chow Times

  • 1 egg
  • 160ml whole milk
  • 40g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 10 ready-made tart shells
  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
  2. Warm the sugar with the milk in the microwave for about 30s until lukewarm (just to dissolve the sugar).
  3. Mix the egg and vanilla essence into the sweetened milk and strain to remove any lumps.
  4. Pour into tart shells (fill to the rim as it will decrease in height as water evaporates) and bake for 12-14min.
  5. Eat them straight from the oven for maximum enjoyment!

*Adjust the sugar for your desired level of sweetness. Mine were slightly less sweet than the one’s at the shop, but I love it this way! πŸ™‚

Look at that quivery custard!

Chinese Steamed Bun – εŒ…子

In Chinese, Recipes on May 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’ve always thought that I needed one of these in order to steam my food:

Apparently not! As long as you have a pot / pan (with a lid) that is big enough to enclose some kind of container on a stand (e.g. small bowl), steaming is just as easy as putting a pot of water to boil. Here’s how I do mine: fill the base of a large pot with 3-4cm height of water, place a bowl in the centre, then I lay the plate of food to be steamed on top of the bowl. πŸ™‚

Great. Now you have no excuse not to try out steamed recipes.

Steaming food is a healthier choice because it doesn’t require the addition of oil and nutrients are not leached into boiling water. Moreover, the steam keeps the food moist and tender…AND busy / lazy people don’t have to watch it closely (as long as the water at the base does not dry out, your food and house will be safe) so it’s easy to cook the food well without spending much time at the stove.

Evidently, it isn’t used much in Western kitchens, but Asians use this method to cook almost anything — fish, meat, sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, soups, noodles, cakes, breads… Perhaps the common usage of this healthy method is part of the answer to the Westerner’s constant dwelling on ‘why are Asians so skinny’, apart from ‘burning energy picking up food with chopsticks’ lol. I guarantee that you can expect more steamed recipes to pop up soon!

First up, here’s a simple recipe for the Chinese steamed bun a.k.a. baozi (if filled) / mantou (if unfilled), which I often grab from the school canteen in Singapore for 60cents (30 euro cents, 2.5kr). Steaming bread is faster than baking it, and produces a texture that is both soft and moist. With many sweet and savory fillings to choose from – char siew, cabbage, corn, red bean paste, yam, lotus paste, etc etc… it is one of those grab-and-go breakfasts / snacks that is both satisfying and comforting. πŸ™‚

Steamed Chinese Bun recipe adapted from standard baozi / mantou recipe

  • 400g plain / cake flour — I used 340g plain + 60g potato starch (usually corn starch)
  • 1-2 tsp yeast / half a yeast cake
  • 1 tsp baking powder (optional)
  • 50g sugar
  • 180ml warm water / milk
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1. Mix the yeast and warm water together.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together then rub in oil evenly (tenderizer by limiting gluten formation)
  3. Combine and knead into a soft dough.
  4. Cover with a damp cloth and leave aside to rise for 2h.
  5. Shape dough into a log of about 4cm in diameter. Cut into 2-3cm segments, flatten / roll into a round and wrap your desired filling (any finely chopped stir-fries or sweet pastes or anything you’d willingly eat with soft white bread – I had in mine cabbage and corn stir-fried with garlic, onions, chili, pepper and oyster sauce). Place on a square of baking paper to prevent it sticking to the plate.
  6. Steam for 8-10min and serve warm!
  7. If you’re lazy to make the filling, you can make mantou from the dough by rolling it out into a sheet, then rolling it up like a swiss roll, and cut to desired shape. Here’s a good pictorial instruction. Good to eat with anything with a gravy (e.g. Singaporean Chilli Crab!!) or your stir-fries (you can serve it on a side like the Europeans do with boiled potatoes!)

Note: Remember to leave enough space between the buns, it expands about 50% of its size after steaming!

Refrigerate the extras and just pop it into the microwave for 30s and… voila! Soft chewy buns!

FAB – Chewy Tofu Coconut Cookies

In Baking, Friday Afternoon Baking, Recipes on May 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

A couple of weeks ago, silken tofu was on sale at the supermarket Netto, and I couldn’t resist grabbing one tetrapack off the shelf despite it still being 5 times the price I would normally pay (as opposed to 15x–I’ve seen the same tofu selling for a ridiculous SGD$11/ 5.50 Euros elsewhere). I miss tofu and all its soy relatives– silken, pressed, skin, dried, puffed, stuffed… tempeh, doubanjiang, edamame, soy milk/yoghurt/icecream…. hmm perhaps even some natto on my rice now would make me one happy girl.

Unbelievably this block of tofu survived uneaten for 2 weeks. Each time I’d reach for it and promptly put it back, hoping for recipe inspirations that would be befitting of tofu’s current gold-worthy status. I have no idea why I’m making such a big fuss about paying SGD$4– it’s not expensive per se (by Danish standards) but only expensive by comparison. Sometimes I’m just so stubborn. The good news is that in less than 7 weeks, I will be sitting by Mr Bean at Bukit Batok, pigging out on soya bean ice cream after stuffing my face with tahu goreng and yong tau foo… ahhh heaven.

It was just about time for another FAB session, hence I finally willed myself to let go of my dear tofu and make some cookies out of it. I figured that perhaps if I made the tofu into 50 cookies, I’ll at least enjoy its deliciousness over a greater number of days HA! I used about 3/4 of the block to make Susan’s Okara cookie recipe (and kept the rest to enjoy in a nice bowl of noodle soup). I actually had absolutely no idea until recently that tofu can be used as a fat replacer in baked recipes. Evidently, almost anything that disrupts the gluten network formation in baked goods (a balance of tougheners and tenderizers) can be used to some effect as a fat replacer — with inevitable textural changes of course, but nevertheless with very yummy results. πŸ™‚


This recipe yields 50 small soft chewy cookies with the nutty bite of sunflower seeds, light crunch of coconut shreds and the mild fragrance of soy bean and vanilla. Put it back into the oven for 5-10 min longer if you’d like more of a crisp edge on the cookie for additional crunch and a popcorn-type roasty flavour.

Tofu Coconut Cookies adapted from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

  • 50g unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 120g flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 140g sugar
  • 250g firm tofu pureed
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • handful of sunflower seeds (or any nuts/seeds that you desire)
  • (3 tbsp water if necessary)

1. Preheat the oven to 190˚C.
2. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl (tofu last).
3. Add some water (2-3tbsp) to make a thick batter that holds shape.
4. Spoon heaping teaspoons onto a baking sheet and flatten with the back of the spoon.
5. Bake for about 15-20min until slightly browned on the surface and crisp on the edges. Cookies will absorb some moisture upon cooling, so it doesn’t hurt to have the cookies a little drier/harder than you want it before taking it out of the oven.
6. Store in air tight boxes once cooled.

Teochew-style Steamed (Freaky) Fish

In Chinese, Recipes on May 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

FINALLY, spring is here and the garfish has just started streaming into Danish waters. It’s time to hit the coast and scoop up some of these eel-like fishes that have a wonderfully textured meat similar to our beloved stingray (ohhh, would somebody pleeaseprettypleeeease bring me some grilled sambal stingray from Changi?). It’s such a pity that such a palatable fish hides some skeleton in the closet under its skin that often sends people’s faces scrunching up in fear and disgust when discovered. BLUE-GREEN BONES. Can you handle that?

The housemate U had told me about this unusual colouring of its bones and scales before I had seen it for real, but I must admit, I still shuddered when I first set my eyes upon it. Of course, now I think it’s darn funky cool (I’ve saved some bones, anyone wants to make art with it?). The colour is due to the presence of the pigment biliverdin, which is a product of heme metabolism (same pigment responsible for the blueness of our bruises). In mammals, biliverdin is reduced and converted by enzymes to be secreted in bile, but many marine animals are believed (not yet strongly established in research) to lack the necessary enzyme for the metabolism and hence accumulate these pigments in their bones, muscle, skin, scale, etc….

By the way, this was supposed to be the product of my first fishing trip but the meet-up with the fishermen of 2nd floor biological department failed as a result of double phone malfunctioning… but a big DANKE SCHΓ–N to the mighty kind fisherman T for offering me part of his catch and the good ol’ housemate U for delivering it right into my refrigerator shelf! πŸ˜€

As it was my first time eating this fish, I wanted to cook it in the best way possible that will allow the taste and textures of the fish to come through… and I couldn’t think of any better way than Teochew-style steamed fish, just the way mom does it. Preserve the taste, preserve the moistness, preserve the nutrients! Food for the soul. πŸ˜€

Teochew-style steamed fish recipe produced from eating mom’s cooking for 24 years.

  • One garfish / fish to serve two
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 onion
  • handful of preserved vegetables (substituted with shredded pickled cucumber)
  • 3cm of ginger (slice half, shred half)
  • 1-2 tsp soya sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • shallots
  • scallions (spring onions)

*dried chinese mushrooms not available, but would have been awesome

1. Fill the base of a steamer with water and heat to a boil. Or mom’s suggestion: fill the base of a large pot with 3 cm depth of water and place a small bowl in it, on which you can set your plate of food upon.
2. Wash the scale and wash fish and rub with salt and pepper.
3. Make deep slices in the fish meat and insert slices of ginger.
4. Arrange slices of onion at the base of a soup plate and lay the fish on top.
5. Top fish with pickled vegetables, sliced tomatoes, shredded ginger and sprinkle soya sauce over.
6. Steam for 8-12min (until fish turns white and flakes easily).
7. Heat up oils in small pan and fry some shallots. Pour sizzling oil over fish and top the dish with chopped spring onions.
8. Serve with rice or rice porridge! *spoon the sauce gathered at the bottom of the fish over your rice / porridge — MMMM!!

Min Chiang Kueh | Apam Balik

In Recipes, Singaporean on May 9, 2010 at 12:25 am

It’s probably only in Singapore and Malaysia that you’d have two very different names for the same food. With our multi-ethnic composition, it’s very natural for cultural boundaries to be blurred and cuisines to be merged– hmm, I just couldn’t figure / find out whether this is supposed to be a Chinese pancake or a Malay pancake… so, let’s simply call it Singaporean / Malaysian!

I noticed while looking through recipes for Min Chiang Kueh that ‘alkaline water’ was a recurring ingredient in most recipes. Whenever the word ‘alkaline’ pops up, there’s always something interesting to say about the recipe. After all, how often do you add stuff that tastes like soap to your food? Or try this: name as many acidic foods as you can, and now try to name the alkaline ones. Umm baking soda (chemical leavener), ehhh egg white (very slightly alkaline), ehhhmmm sodium hydroxide (used to make Chinese century eggs or to make pretzels a rich dark brown!), uhhh… *blank*

Alkali is simply not normally found in food environments, but it sure has some useful properties — for instance, enhancing the Maillard reaction! [Let’s save the century egg chemistry for another day.] As spoken of in the earlier pretzel post, raising the pH promotes this chemical reaction that leads to the formation of more brown pigments and a more intense roasty aroma. That’s exactly what happens in my beloved Min Chiang Kueh, or so I believe to be true, as how else would it be possible to get such a lovely dark brown sheen by merely pan-heating the batter on medium heat for 3-5 min, without developing a crisp crust?

That said, now that we know what the alkaline solution is for, there’s no need to comb the country to find ‘alkaline water’ on the retail shelves (they sell it in baking stores in Singapore for several other Asian food applications), as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) I have used, worked perfectly well too. Yeast was my trusty leavener, conferring a nice bready flavour to the thick pancake that was porous enough to yield a satisfyingly soft yet chewy texture. Definitely one of my favourite Singaporean snacks!

Min Chiang Kueh / Apam Balik Recipe adapted from Lee Lee

Pancake

  • 150g plain flour
  • 10g corn / potato / rice flour (for a more tender texture)
  • 250ml warm water
  • 30g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp instant yeast

Filling

  • 50g peanuts
  • 12g sesame
  • 25g sugar
  1. To make the filling, pulse the peanuts and 50g of sugar in a food processor (not too fine, nice to have some peanut bits to chew on). Mix in sesame seeds. (Or make more and store for the next time you make the pancake!)
  2. Mix all the pancake ingredients together and go do some studying for 1 hour.
  3. The batter gets all puffed up and sticky — add additional water (~50ml) to get a consistency that will flow on the pan.
  4. Use a paper towel and grease the surface of a 30cm diameter non-stick frying pan. Heat pan on medium heat.
  5. Pour half of the batter into the pan, swivel pan to spread evenly, and cover pan with a lid.
  6. Pancake is done when the top surface just completely dries out (about 5 min).
  7. Remove from pan and make the second pancake (batter makes two ~25cm pancakes).
  8. Spread a generous portion of peanut filling on one half of the pancake and fold over. Cut and serve!

Just 5 min of preparation, 1h of proofing (go do something useful meanwhile), and 15min of pancake-making. Creating delicious snacks hardly gets any easier than this!

All packed up for sharing! πŸ™‚

Orange Overload!

In Dutch, Eats on May 5, 2010 at 11:13 am

It was great to be back in NL, even better that it was QUEEN’S DAY and SPRING! The Dutch sure are one crazy bunch of party-ers with their wild spirit of wacky orange party antics! With the biggest annual Dutch celebration of the Queen’s (mother’s) birthday, orange is the colour to be in and partying is the central activity on the agenda. But despite being one of the most creative and comedic bunch of people I’ve ever met (when it involves partying or funny random discussions), they aren’t exactly the most adventurous when it comes to food (or as the saying goes: Wat de boer niet kent dat eet hij niet / what the farmer does not know, he does not eat LOL)…..but WAIT, don’t go yet, I’ve still got some treats coming up for you!

Although I once complained loads about the monotony of breakfasting on bread with excessively sweet toppings, lunching on the same bread with ham and gouda cheese (one cheese, one ham to be specific. unexplainable.), dinner on potato mashes (stamppot)… and snacking on cakes and cookies of every shape and size of the same flavours (butter or speculaas)…..experiencing Dutch again after being away for 3 months in Copenhagen was surprisingly comforting. Now, ontbijtkoek (spiced breakfast cake) and broodje hagelslag (bread with chocolate sprinkles) possesses a new charm for me- a feeling of comfort and familiarity that tugs at the heart the way ice-cream sandwiches and kaya toast does for homesick Singaporeans. That’s when I realized I’ve been such a food snob* to judge the Dutch for what is simply Culture.

*’anyone who practises overt social or cultural bias… who insist too loudly on a scale of values’ -Alain de Botton
hagelslag | stroopwafel |ontbijtkoek | fluffybread | bischuit | gouda cheese | bapao | littleparties | bigparties | soppymusic | dutchbarstandards | orangefever | multitaskingcyclists | dutchifiedindonesianess | coolbunchofwagbuddies… miss them alllll!:)

If you’re not in the Netherlands and don’t have access to a whole supermarket shelf of hagelslag varieties, you’ve gotta grab some plain ol’ chocolate sprinkles from your baking department and try this:

Generously topped on buttered fluffy bread. Delicious!

PS: I’ve now got an ample supply of ontbijtkoek with me. Any suggestions on NEW ways of eating it are most welcome! πŸ™‚ Maybe brunost. hahaha…. we’ll see! πŸ˜€