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Lazy Honeydew Sago with Coconut Milk

In Recipes, Singaporean on September 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm

When you’re a lazy and poor student living in the Netherlands, you might be in search of refreshing dessert alternatives apart from yoghurt, vla (custard dessert) and rijst pap (rice pudding). The solution to this is simple — that is, to look eastwards and then southwards, where warmer climates and more recently developed countries mean that sweets that are brought to the table are often simple, cheap and refreshing.

If I were to always get my way, I’d say that fresh fruits would be sufficient to end the meal. But once, it seemed that my nicely cut apples weren’t too well-received as a dessert for a dinner gathering 😛 So this time, when I got my hands on some really sweet honeydew melon from the farmer’s market, I made some into lazy honeydew dessert! Hmm, so lazy that I didn’t even bother to measure my ingredients nor take the time to make a proper photo of it. But anyway, here it is. A lazy alternative for non-yoghurt, non-vla, non-rijstpap dessert in a student dormitory dinner.

Honeydew Sago with Coconut Milk Recipe simplified from here

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a honeydew melon
  • ~ 1/2 cup pearl sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1 can (400ml) thin coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 100ml water
  • ice if convenient

Method:

  1. Boil sago in 1L of water. When sago turns translucent, pour into sieve / strainer and wash away excess starch with cold water.
  2. Dissolve sugar in warm water to make a sugar syrup (I used the microwave).
  3. Add syrup to coconut milk until desired sweetness is attained.
  4. Cut honeydew melon into small pieces.
  5. To serve, spoon some sago and honeydew into a bowl, top over with sweetened coconut milk and add some ice. 🙂 That’s it!
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So Long Scandie #2 – Danish Cultured Milk

In Danish, Eats on June 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

This is one rare week that I’m absolutely certain that I have met my recommended calcium intake requirements… AND… I’m also pretty sure that any wars the ‘good’ bacteria in my colon had been fighting have been triumphant (rmb the Vitagen advertisement with the little soldiers flying through the intestines?).

Tykmælk. Check.

Ymer. Check. A38. Koldskål. Check. Check.

Together with my daily gobbles of milk and ice cream, and the windfall of cheese I earned from the housemate (thanks U!), I hereby proclaim that I’m officially done with milky stuffs for now and I’m absolutely looking forward to having some good ol’ soy milk / douhua / soy ice cream (oh Mr Bean!)  in <2 weeks!

Though I did enjoy these cultured milk products with fruit, raisins, muesli, lingonberry jam, soya bean agar ( I used vanilla soya milk with agar agar), crispbread crumbs, crisp cookies etc etc, I must admit that I was rather disappointed with the lack of difference between the products, and especially the lack of communication of the nature of these products that are so differently named. Is it too much to expect a different product when buying something of a different name? I mean all the sourdough breads with different cultures ARE still called, sourdough bread, aren’t they?

Like yoghurt, these cultured milk products have been inoculated with some species of lactic acid bacteria that ferment the lactose in the milk to produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the product, causing the major milk proteins (casein) to coagulate and increase the viscosity of the milk. The plus points? The milk keeps longer, it suspends delicious crunchy goodies wonderfully and LAB bacteria are good for our gut. And so, if it’s Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, it’s called yoghurt. If it’s not, it HAS to be called something else. Gee, those food regulations.

TYKMAELK is cultured with Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Same consistency as yoghurt, but less acidic tasting (L. bulgaricus in yoghurt causes a tarter taste), hence it tastes great consumed with less sweetening than YOGHURT.

YMER is cultured with just Lactococcus lactis. It was less thick in consistency than YOGHURT and tasted pretty much the same to me as TYKMAELK, with a little hint of buttery flavour (diacetyl!).

A38 is a product of Arla, which is cultured with Lactobacillus acidophilus and some other unspecified strains (oh well). Tastes like BUTTERMILK to me, more sour than TYKMAELK and YMER, and with the consistency of YOGHURT.

[I’ve forgotten to take a photo of this, can you believe it??]

KOLDSKÅL is the most different from the lot, and is made with BUTTERMILK in combination with eggs, sugar, milk/cream/tykmælk, vanilla and citrus. Just like a flavoured YOGHURT DRINK, refreshing and usually enjoyed with crisp cookies a.k.a. kammerjunkers.


So much for food variety. If I were to make a choice, I’d just buy whichever is on offer at the supermarket and enjoy it with lingonberry jam and muesli! 🙂

‘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. 😀


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 🙂 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! 😀

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 – Tangy Tomato Peas of Cake!

In Baking, Friday Afternoon Baking, Recipes on April 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I’ve always marveled at the amount of resolve pea pickers have. Yes, those diligent diggers who pick every single little pea out of their plates (even the puny Dutch peas and half peas and the pea innards that fall out of their skins). What is it about peas, really? What is it that makes kids say ‘pea-ew’ and parents say ‘eat your peas or I won’t let you have your ice cream’. Is it their flavour? Their freaky dimpled heads? Or their sheer numbers (the thought of fighting 100 peas vs 3 leaves of cabbage)?

A couple of days ago, I chanced upon an interesting muffin recipe while scouring the net for recipe solutions to the pea (or veg) eating issue. Here’s my list of criteria upon applying research lessons learnt from Food Choice course:

  1. Don’t give the kiddo a chance to pick the peas out. (common sense)
  2. Sneak the peas into the kiddo’s favourite food (but remember, the food still has to look good and taste good).
  3. Make sure the pea flavour is still recognisable, and the texture still fleetingly present (in order for flavour-flavour learning to take place)
  4. Divulge the identity of the peas only if the kiddo expresses a liking for the cake (positive reinforcement), otherwise blame it on adding too much sugar / fat (aversive learning). hurhur cunning.
  5. Stop telling the kiddo to ‘eat your peas, or else…’ (confers negative intrinsic meaning to the peas).

Unlike my usual kitchen adventures, this time I followed the recipe to the T, only reducing the batch size and making it into one cake in a loaf tin for easier dividing into bite-sized portions. I must admit that I was rather skeptical at first (peas and tomatoes in dessert?!) but I’m now absolutely won over. The tangy volcanic vermillion tomato layer with the sweet speckled pea layer was a burst of colours and flavours, with a wonderfully soft texture dispersed with nutty green bits of pea. Whoopidolicious! Excellent party food especially for Christmas and Halloween. And btw, it was wiped out at the dinner party I brought it to, despite the warning sign of PEAS AND TOMATO CAKE EXPERIMENT.


Sweet Pea & Tangy Tomato Cake Recipe originally in muffin form by Sylvia Regalado

  • 200g flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g sugar
  • 80ml oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (half a lemon)
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 100g frozen peas pureed (not too fine because the bits add a really nice texture!)
  • 100g tomato paste

1. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt
2. Mix the eggs, sugar, oil, lemon juice and vanilla essence in a separate bowl
3. Fold in (2) to (1)
4. Divide equally into two bowls (about 300g each) and mix in pea puree to one and tomato paste to the other.
5. Pour the pea batter into an approx 30cm long rectangular loaf tin (better heat transfer to the centre than a square or round tin), then top with the tomato batter. Use a fork to swirl parts of the layered mixture or drag some pea batter from the bottom if you’d like to create a marble effect.
6. Bake in preheated oven at 190˚C for 25-30min!


Tastes great too with Greek Yogurt Vanilla Frosting! 🙂 A lovely healthy frosting recipe from the Cupcake Project.

World Peas.

ABC – The Alternative Brownie

In Baking, Experimental, Recipes on April 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

You know how ABC soups with all those ingredients thrown in always inevitably taste so wholesome and good? Now, let me present you with…. *drum roll*…..the ABC cake!

To fully appreciate this unique creation, it is first essential to head back to some fundamental ideas that have been hardwired in our cognitive systems since early years.

Lesson #1:  A for Apple? Wrong! B for Boy? C for Car? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
The correct answer is….
A for Avocado! B for Banana! C for Carrot!

Avocado Banana Carrot Cake is so going to be the new classic when (one fine day) poorskinnychef becomes famous (would you like to help me out here? :)). Within the past 12 hours of its conception, it has won over a German who hates sweet food, a Dane who eats carbs only on blue moons, a Chinese who couldn’t imagine what an avocado would be doing in a cake, and of course a food obsessed Singaporean (yours truly) who has eaten her way through much of the world to confidently proclaim that this cake is a definite winner. Throw in another ‘A’ – for Almonds, and it’s ready to conquer the world!

This cake has the same consistency of fudgy brownies, with an incredible softness and moistness like banana bread that is neither sticky nor crumbly, and providing enough resistance to chew without being rubbery like many low fat / fat free cakes I’ve made in the past. Oh and that same fudgy brownie soft crust that crumples when you press on it, ♥♥. In fact, you might even call this ABC the Alternative Brownie Cake! 🙂 It’s green (good cake for you hlyf) all through, but still, go ahead and add on a mossy slathering of refreshing avocado lemon frosting *recipe below*, a shower of woody chopped almonds, plant it with raw carrot strips and mark this treasure with a teeny crisp dark chocolate flake. Beauty. The taste? A dominant banana flavour with a recognizable nutty creamy avocado aroma, doubling the goodness of traditional carrot cake and banana bread.

Lesson #2: This is flavour synergy, where 1+1+1 = 6. [Even the raw carrot and chocolate bit garnish added one personal scale point on the 9-point rated scale of liking.]


Unlike most creamed butter cakes with 50% of the calories coming from fat, this one has about 30% instead (yes I did those geek calculations from the raw ingredients) because all that ABC plant mash-shreds serve part of the function of fat replacement, thus there was only 60g of butter added to my 32 x 11 x 2.5cm cake. There are a few key notes to look out for in order to not end up with rubber or rock when doing low fat cake baking. 1. Knowing your ingredients, and 2. knowing the chemistry of gluten network formation. I’ve been reading up more on baking chemistry and ingredient substitution lately, in order to gain more flexibility with my baking (lower the calories, cut costs and avoid large stocks of ingredients whilst maximizing sensory pleasure). But I’d like to do some more experimentation first before sharing more detailed advice! Ok, enough of geekhood, it’s time to deliver what I’m primarily here to deliver — good cheap simple food with a healthy dose of thought. Enjoy!!

Avocado Banana Carrot Cake Recipe inspired by Lynne’s muffin recipe

  • 150g banana (1.5 medium bananas or 25-30cm of banana)
  • 60g avocado (about half a medium avocado)
  • 50g of finely grated carrots (about 10cm of a medium carrot) — carrots inspired by Chris & Ying’s delicious looking carrot cake!
  • 60g butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 185g plain flour or 1.5 cups
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (I replaced 15g of the sugar with vanilla sugar)
  • 50g chopped almonds
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (contributes a lighter texture via aeration, where air bubbles formed from rubbing of fat with sugar gets coated and stabilized by fat crystals. i.e. butter should not melt otherwise FAIL!)
  2. Add in eggs and mix (add in another egg white if you’re using cheap small eggs like I do– egg whites contribute a less firm structure to the cake than egg yolks)
  3. Throw in half of the flour mix and fold in quickly (fat coats flour, and reduces gluten formation — more tender texture)
  4. Add in fruit and vegetable mash, chopped nuts and fold in the remaining flour (additional water from fruit / veg interacts with the flour to form gluten networks that give the product structure. If too much gluten network formation, you’ll get a tough chewy cake!)
  5. Bake in tin lined with baking paper at 175˚C for 35-40min (makes a cake of ~300cm2 area and about 2.5cm height).

Avocado Lemon Frosting Recipe

* I’ve used only half of this frosting made (don’t want the cake too sweet), and kept the rest, which I’ll figure out what to do with at a later date. For even spreading of frosting and to prevent the frosting from masking the cake crust I like, I turned the cake upside down and spreaded the frosting on the flat base of the cake so that the crust becomes the base! 🙂

  • 60g avocado (the other half of the avocado, used as a butter substitute in the basic frosting recipe)
  • 120g icing sugar (approx 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or 15g of vanilla sugar to substitute part of icing sugar)
  • 1 dsp/tbsp lemon juice (adjust to taste, I squeezed straight from the wedge till I was happy with the sourness / flavour
  1. Mix half of icing sugar to mashed avocado
  2. Slowly incorporate the rest of the icing sugar and lemon juice to your desired taste and consistency

You’re welcome.

Agar-Agar Agaration

In Recipes, Singaporean on March 30, 2010 at 12:36 am

Agar-Agar is one of my favourite desserts to make for the occasional international gathering because it’s easy and versatile, and also because I love being entertained by the disturbed responses it always elicits, especially from biology students. Despite that, any initial apprehension always vanishes instantly with the first piece of these refreshing stiff jellies. It’s simply not possible not to like these thingies!

Making agar-agar is awfully simple if you’re able to get your hands on one of these packets of agar-agar powder. It’s even got clear pictorial descriptions on how to make your own dessert (package says: dissolve 1 packet of powder in 1L water and add 250g sugar, bring to boil and pour into moulds to cool). Since I never ever have colourings or flavourings with me, I prefer to grab a can of fruit from the supermarket and use its syrup as the flavouring, then use agaration (*Singlish for estimation) with the sugar and water to get the stiffness and sweetness I want. I personally think that 1L of water makes a jelly that is way too stiff, hence I usually put up to 1.25L of liquid for these 12g packets of powder. At the same time that makes 25% more agar. Yay. And I also like to throw in some fresh kiwi / pineapple… which takes up even more volume. Yayyyy.

This time that I made agar-agar, I had with me a couple of star- and heart-shaped ice trays from Ikea, which I used as moulds for the dessert. The rest of it, I poured into a large glass bowl, which can then be inverted to get a pretty agar-agar cake like this one that I made during Christmas. I first coated the bowl with a very thin layer of agar solution, arranged the fruits, then poured the rest of the solution with the cut fruits into the bowl and left it in the refrigerator to cool.

Fruity Agar-Agar Recipe

  • 12g packet of Swallow Globe Brand agar-agar powder
  • Syrup of one can of fruit (peach, fruit cocktail or pineapple have always worked wonderfully), topped up to 1.25L in volume
  • Cut fruits into chunks, include other fresh soft fruits if desired
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Put agar-agar powder, sweet syrup solution and cut fruits in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add sugar to taste
  3. Transfer to a mould / huge bowl, chill
  4. Unmould before serving!

Recipe alternatives:

  1. Layered agar-agar with coconut milk works great as well, especially with pineapple…mmmm! You might want to start with 750ml total volume of water and syrup, bring to a boil, then divide into two equal portions. To one portion add additional 250ml water, to the other add 250ml coconut milk. Pour one layer into the container and chill in the freezer. When the surface is just beginning to set, carefully pour the other layer over it and chill in refrigerator. If surface is too set, use a fork and scrape the surface before pouring the second layer, otherwise it wouldn’t stick!
  2. Make some almond jelly by using 500ml milk + 750ml water / syrup + sugar to dissolve the agar. Chill set, and serve with fruit cocktail 🙂