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So what do you get when you marry the 2 most favorite Chinese New Year cookies together and you give it a Western twist? You get an awesome dessert that is delicate and light (taste light but fat-wise, I don't think it's light!!). :)

In the midst of making so many love letters recently, I thought that it would be a great idea to use these yummy 'coconuty' waffles as some sort of accompaniment to a mousse or ice cream. But the flavor of this mousse just totally eluded me. I knew it had to be something tropical but lime just didn't appeal to me, neither did mango. During a run, it dawned upon me that pineapple would be a wonderful flavor to blend in with the coconut. And since I have pineapple paste for making pineapple tarts sitting in my fridge, why not use that to create this marriage of flavors?

I started scouting around for a good mousse recipe and found a mousse expert, tarlette. The mascarpone mousse recipe below is adapted from her. Hers is a wonderful lime mascarpone mousse with raspberry and the ingredients I substitute in her mousse recipe was pineapple paste / juice for the lime juice and zest. I also reduced the sugar, since pineapple juice and paste are already sweet.

Mousse Ingredients ( makes enough mousse for 7 mini love letter baskets):
1 egg, separated
1 tbs sugar
2 oz. mascarpone cheese
75 ml whipping cream
1 tsp gelatin
1 tbs pineapple juice
1 tbs pineapple paste

1. Mix gelatin with 1 tsp water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Once 'bloomed', microwave for about 10 s.
2. Whisk mascarpone with sugar and blend well.
3. Whisk in egg yolk
4. Add gelatin and mix well, then add pineapple juice and paste.
5. Whisk egg white until stiff.
6. Fold egg white into the mascarpone mixture.
7. Whisk cream until medium stiff. Then fold into the mascarpone mixture.
8. Divide mousse into portions by piping or scooping mousse onto a wax paper.
9. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Love letter basket: Place love letters that are piping hot from the pizzelle maker into a small bowl to let it take the shape of the bowl. Repeat until you have enough baskets for your party.

Assemble the mousse into the basket when ready to serve. As a finishing touch, you may grate a little gula melaka (palm sugar) on top of the mousse and on the plate. (Note: The baskets will get soft, so do not assemble in advance!!)

11 January 2009 @ 08:19 pm
The lunar new year is barely a month away and Y and I decided to make nyonya love letters (otherwise known as kuih kapit) with our pizzelle maker (Thanks, MC for the machine!!). Love letters are absolutely one of my favorite snacks during the new year and is unique to Singapore and Malaysia. It's light and delicate and totally addictive. It's hard to get away with eating just one.

Unfortunately, pizzelle moulds have a greater depth than the traditional love letter moulds, therefore it's harder to roll these delicate cookies. We settled with simply folding them into quarters. It is really really easy to prepare the batter. The time consuming part is standing in front of the maker and folding love letters ever so often. We modified the recipe from kuali.com by adding extra egg yolks and reducing some of the sugar.

Ingredients (Makes about 56 love letters)
125 g rice flour
35 g plain flour
130 g sugar
1.5 cup thick coconut milk  (We use canned coconut milk without diluting)
2 eggs
4 egg yolks

1. Whisk flours together.
2. Blend in sugar
3. Whisk coconut milk with flours and sugar.
4. Beat in both eggs
5. Whisk in the egg yolks
6. Sieve batter and let stand for at least half hour
7. Heat pizelle maker
8. Use 1 tablespoon of batter to pour into each mould
9. When ready, quickly remove from mould and fold into quarters. Use a jar cover to press the love letter firmly.
10. Cool on rack and pack carefully into a cookie tin

22 December 2008 @ 02:23 pm

The first time I made these, we thought they were great. Then I baked them as Christmas loaves to give away and I thought they were only good - not great. Lesson learned - use fresh cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries. The fresh cranberries provide extra moisture and its tartness lends a starker contrast to the ultra-sweet white chocolate chips than do the dried cranberries. I seem to have an obsession with cranberry white chocolate as I previously posted a recipe for a coffee cake. But this is a lighter recipe and the texture is different.

The following recipe is modified from America's Test Kitchen's The best light recipes. The modifications include cutting back the sugar by 1/4 cup and adding 3/4 cup white choc chips and using fresh cranberries instead of dried.

(Makes 12 large muffins. My muffin cups are tiny, so I can make 16.)

2 cups plus 1 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 sugar
4 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/ 2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin tin with oil spray or lay muffin tins with muffin cups.

1. Whisk 2 cups of all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 sugar together in a bowl.
2. Beat 1/2 cup sugar and butter together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each addition.
4. Add orange zest and vanilla.
5. With the mixer on low, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just incorporated. Add 1/3 of the yogurt. Keep alternating until ingredients are just incorporated. Don't overmix.
6. Toss fresh cranberries with 1 tbs of flour. Gently fold into batter together with the white choc chips.
7. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups or baking tins.
8. Bake until golden or when the skewer inserted in the center of the muffin or loaf comes out clean / with just a few crumbs. (25-30 minutes). Remember to turn the pan / tin midway through so that the muffin will be cooked evenly
9. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes then flip the loaves / muffins onto a wire rack.

22 December 2008 @ 02:02 pm
This recipe is from my sis-in-law who used to make them for Chinese New Year and I generally modified the recipe by just cutting back a little on the sugar. Although store-bought roasted peanuts are ok to use in this recipe, I really encourage you to bake your own peanuts (Spanish redskin peanuts are the best), then remove the skin, and grind the peanuts up in the food processor. Seriously, this makes a whole lot of difference and brings the recipe from yummy to heavenly. I use a food processor to blend the dough together but I also sometimes just use my hands to knead the dough together.

300 g. peanuts, baked/roasted, skinned, and grounded peanuts
600 g. plain flour
200 g icing sugar
13 oz. vegetable oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

1. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
2. Whisk in grounded peanuts with flour mixture. Ensure mixture is well-blended.
3. Pour in about half of the oil and mix well. Then slowly drizzle the oil and mix well until dough is malleable and soft but is not too soft or sticky to work with (Note: Sometimes you may not need as much oil, so that's why you should just drizzle the oil and mix as you go along).
4. Once the dough comes together, you may start shaping the cookies. Make balls that are about 1-inch in diameter each.
Don't put the dough too close together since the cookies will expand in the oven.
5. Use a skewer to poke a hole in the middle (Optional)
6. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
7. Cool on wire rack then transfer to airtight container.

Best eaten within 10 days of baking (usually they never sit around uneaten for that long anyway!!!) :)

22 December 2008 @ 01:37 pm

This is one of the many recipes that I learned from Y's mum. These wonderfully light and crisp cookies are simple and unpretentious and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Because the highlight of the cookie is butter, European butter is a must because it is so much more flavourful. They are also fun to make with your children and you can pretty much shape it in anyway you like using a cookie press. 

Cookie press
Standing cake mixer (this is a must unless you want to beat the butter and sugar until your arms drop off.)

1/2 lb (8 oz) European butter
1/4 ob (4 oz) icing sugar
1 lb (16 oz) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Sieve the flour with baking powder for at least 4 times before setting it aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar together until white, light, and fluffy. (This is a really important step. If the butter mixture is not light, the cookie will turn out dense rather than crisp and light).
3. Scrap mixture from the sides, then add egg. Beat in egg lightly.
4. Slowly fold in flour until dough comes together.
5. Place dough in cookie press and pipe cookie dough onto baking sheets.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
20 September 2008 @ 04:51 pm

One of my favorite cakes is the humble carrot cake. Unfortunately, I don't like the frosting as I feel that it overwhelms the flavor of the cake. And oftentimes, the frosting is so sweet that I've to scrap it out.

Carrot cake isn't actually bad for you (if you have it with the cream cheese frosting in moderation or if your cream cheese isn't laden with so much sugar) and it doesn't take long to prepare and bake as well. There are 2 recipes that I really adore - one is with wholewheat flour and butter, the other is with plain flour and oil. Both gives you an equally moist and flavorful finish. The recipe here is the oil and plain flour one and is adapted (to quite a large extent) from an old women's magazine. As usual, the sugar has been reduced. Raisins were added to give it another layer of sweetness and flavor. I also added some ground nutmeg and orange zest.


For the cake:
200 g. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
125 g sugar
1 large orange
zest of the orange
2 large eggs
150 ml vegetable oil
125 g grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts (toasted) (optional)

Frosting (the amount of this icing isn't enough to coat the entire cake / cupcakes as I had cut it back so that we'll have the frosting in moderation)
200 g low fat cream cheese
50 g icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a 900 g. loaf tin or a muffin tray (if you are making cupcake sized ones) or 3 mini loaf tins
2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a bowl. Add sugar. Whisk dry ingredients together.
3. Process orange flesh in a food processor or a blender. 
4. Add eggs and oil to the orange juice. Mix the orange zest in.
5. Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Then add the carrots and raisins.
6. Pour into tin.
7. Bake about 35 minutes for the big loaf tin, about 25 minutes for the mini loaf tins and about 20 minutes for the cupcakes. Or bake until skewer comes out clean.
8. Cool in tin for about 15 minutes, then tip cake out of the tin onto a cooling rack.
9. While cakes are cooling on racks, whisk cheese and icing sugar together, using a mixer. Once the frosting is nice and smooth, place frosting into a piping bag and pipe it onto the cooled cakes.
10. To beautify cake before serving, sprinkle some orange zest on the icing.

14 September 2008 @ 05:00 pm
Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee minus the sugar.

Stephanie is having her comps starting this week for 6 weeks. As a friend who has gone through a similar process a couple of years ago, I thought it'll be nice to show my support by making her some cookies that she could have during her tea breaks.

America's Test Kitchen's lemon sugar cookies is simply delightful to have with tea or coffee. These cookies got rave reviews at the office last December and so I'm baking it again and this time, I remembered to take pictures!! These amazing people at ATK managed to cut the fat in the cookies without compromising on flavor. As someone who doesn't like things too sweet, I find that cutting the sugar down by a couple of ounces still give you equally good results. I also sifted the flours, etc. together instead of whisking it together. The trick is also not to overbake  - as soon as the cookies are light golden at the edges, take them out. Otherwise you would get crispy cookies rather than chewy cookies. If you are not a lemon / citrus fan, just don't add the zest.

ATK's light lemon sugar cookies (modified)
Ingredients (Makes 24 cookies):

3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 oz) cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup (9 1/3 oz) sugar 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 large egg, beatened
1 tbs vanilla extract
3 tsp lemon zest (approximately the zest of 2 lemons)

1. Adjust oven to the middle position. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk flours, baking powder and salt together. Sift flours, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
3. Cream butter with 2/3 cup (about 5 oz) sugar until light and fluffy. (approximately 3-5 minutes on medium speed). Scrap down the sides of the bowl when necessary. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with 2 tsp lemon zest. Add egg mixture and vanilla extract to butter mixture, beating on medium speed for about 30-60 seconds.Add the flour mixture and continue beating on low speed for about 30-60 seconds or until everything comes together. Scrap down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
4. In a bowl, mix the 1 tsp lemon zest with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar.
5. Using a tablespoon to measure the dough, roll dough into 1-inch balls, then quickly roll the balls in the sugar, and place them on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 1/2 inches between each ball. (Refrigerate the dough if it's too soft to work with)
6. Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, until edges are golden brown, for about 9-11 minutes. Midway through the baking, rotate the tray.
7. Cool cookies on a tray for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to cool on a wire rack.

Ready to be baked
Per light cookie:
Calories: 90 (as opposed to 110)
Fat: 2.5 g (as opposed to 6 g)
Saturated fat: 1.5 g (as opposed to 4 g)
Cholesterol: 15 mg (as opposed to 20 mg)

p/s But remember, even if it's light, it doesn't mean you can eat the whole tray at one go!!

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06 July 2008 @ 04:36 pm
Went out to the farm to pick blackberries and blueberries last week, so Y and I decided to bake a fruit tart for his parents with these farm-fresh berry goodness. The recipe is taken from joyofbaking.com and I don't think we made any modifications to the recipe. This is a great recipe and is not too complicated. The custard can be made in advance and kept for up to 3 days and the tart shells can be kept fresh for a good 1 week and you can assemble the tarts just a couple of hours before your parties.

Note: Do not over knead the dough lest you get a very hard crust!!!

15 June 2008 @ 04:32 pm
Pineapple tarts are unique to Singapore and Malaysia. They are usually baked and served during festive occasions such as Hari Raya Puasa and Lunar New Year. But in some families like my husband's, we have them pretty much all year round, whenever the craving kicks in. The tart consists of a delicate buttery pastry and a pineapple jam that has been cooked for hours on low heat until the flavors from the pineapple, cloves, and cinnamon fuse together. The tart is also presented in 2 different forms - one is the open-faced one, and the other one is where the pineapple jam is encased in the pastry.

On my recent trip to Australia to visit C and E, they were both craving tarts and since they didn't fancy the ones with the jam encased in pastry, we searched high and low for a pineapple tart mould but we couldn't find anything remotely close. Finally, we ended up buying a flower-shaped mould and using a bottle cap to indent the middle. The result? Just as dainty-looking tarts

Tarts using flower-shaped mould

A tart using a traditional pineapple tart mould

The easiest way to cook the jam is to buy cans of crushed pineapples (not in heavy syrup but in its own juice). I usually cook more than what I need. The jam keeps well frozen for 3-6 months and can be thawed out to use whenever you need it.

Pineapple jam
Strain the crushed pineapples until fairly dry. Keep aside the juice just in case you need it. Place pineapple in saucepan / stockpot (depending on amount) with cloves and cinnamon stick(s) and sugar. Cook on low heat and stir frequently until consistency is like that of jam (about 2-3 hours). Add pineapple juice / water as and when necessary. Set aside to cool. (Note: Cook this in advance so that you will have sufficient time to cool it down properly and so that you wouldn't spend 1 entire day slaving in the kitchen). Before assembling the tart, you may want to form little balls of about 1-1.5 inch in diameter (depending on how big your mould is)

300 g. all purpose flour
187.5 g butter (about 1.5 sticks of butter in the US)
1 large egg

1 egg mixed with some water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Rub the flour into the butter until like fine meal. Add egg and blend till it forms a ball. (If you have a food processor, this process will be really fast).

Roll out the dough to about 3/4 inch thick, reserving about 1/8 of the dough

Use a mould to cut out the shape of the tart

Brush pastry with egg wash

Press each pineapple jam ball firmly onto the pastry

Roll out the reserved dough to about 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long. Cut out very thin lattices (like in the pictures above) and assemble them in either criss-cross or 'tic-tac-toe' patterns on top of the pineapple jam

Bake in preheated oven at 350 deg. F. for 6-10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 deg. F. and continue baking for 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
18 February 2008 @ 02:17 pm

Damiers are one of my sis's favorite cookies when we were in secondary school. She used to head to the bakery across the road from school to buy 100 g of it. I remembered as a teen, paying $3 for 100 g of cookies seemed somewhat indulgent. But it was an occasional treat and my sis was always good about saving money for it and also sharing it with me, though I don't appreciate buttery or chocolaty stuff as much as she does. It wasn't until a couple of years ago when I saw Martha Stewart make damiers on Food network and it brought back all those memories of following my sis to the bakery to get these cookies. So I decided to try out the recipe.  The process is time consuming but it's good fun, rolling and laying the pattern. It almost felt like playing with plastercine / play dough in preschool. I think I had always enjoyed that, so that's why this was fun and best of all, edible. I am giving you the original recipe as it is because I think in terms of sweetness, it doesn't require any adjustments. Oh, and get ready a ruler to measure :D

Prep time - 1 hour
Cook time - 15 minutes
Makes about 6 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Generous cup of confectioners sugar (aka icing sugar), sifted
Pinch of salt
3 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 tbs cocoa powder, sifted
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

In a bowl, combine butter, sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add flour, and beat on low speed until dough forms around paddle. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and divide into 3 parts. Sprinkle cocoa over 1 piece. Blend the cocoa into the piece by pushing it away from you with the palm of the hand. Keep kneading until cocoa is incorporated and you have a nice evenly brown piece of dough. Shape each piece of dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 1 hour or until firm.

Remove disks from fridge and set aside 1 blond disk. Divide the other blond disk into 3 equal pieces and roll each of these into a long thin rope (about 20 1/2 inches long and 3/8 inches in diameter). Divide the chocolate piece into 5 pieces and roll each of these into a long thin rope of the same dimensions as the blond ropes. Arrange the ropes in a checkerboard design: Lay 1 chocolate rope, place a blond rope next to it, then lay another chocolate rope next to it. Push together gently so that they will stick together. Set aside. Lay a blond rope, then a chocolate rope, then a blond rope. Place and push gently on top of the 1st set of ropes. Next, lay 1 chocolate rope, place a blond rope, then a chocolate rope next to it, push together gently and place on top of the 2nd set of ropes.

Roll out the reserved blond disk to a 21 1/2 by 6 inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Trim edges and brush dough with egg white. Place your 3 layered log in the center of the rectangle. Fold dough up and encompass the log with the dough. Press lightly and seal. Halve crosswise and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in fridge for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and start slicing crosswise into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place on sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown, then transfer to wire rack to cool.

I've tried making these ahead of time and freezing them. It keeps pretty well and it allows you to have freshly baked cookies as and when you want them.