Recipe: Merdeka cake

Merdeka day is coming (tomorrow). So to commemorate this independence day, I thought I’d make a ‘merdeka cake’ to see if I can play with the colours and experimental icing. So here it is: A vanilla cake with yogurt buttercream and lemon curd.

The cake was easy to make, nice and moist.  It is more on the dense side like a cheesecake because when I creamed the butter and sugar together for the cake, it was by hand and so not so light. I also baked the cake at a lower temperature. However, it was just as I wanted. I wasn’t too thrilled about putting so much red gel food colour to make it striking enough though. I wanted to use some natural colour, but alas could not find the right substitute. Any suggestions? The rest of the cake colour is pretty much naturally derived though. The blue colour came from blue butterfly pea flower that I extracted. More on that in a later post. The lemon curd really made the cake much better. Maybe I should have made it a lemon cake instead of vanilla in hind sight.

Hey! doesn't this look like pacman?

So for those interested, here’s the recipe:

White vanilla cake (adapted from Sweetapolia’s recipe, with modifications)

– 115g unsalted butter

– 300g caster sugar

– 390g cake flour

– 1 tsp salt

– 3 tsp baking powder

– 340g ice water (that’s 1 and half cup)

– 2 tsp vanilla extract

– 4 egg whites

– (for the red layer) 2 tsp of cocoa powder and red gel colouring

Method:

– Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.

– In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

– sift in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

– Beat egg whites until you get stiff peaks (i.e. when you flip the bowl upside down, the egg white foam stays put in the bowl).

– add the vanilla extract and slowly add in the ice water in three to four aliquots, beating well after each additions.

– fold in the egg whites gently.

– Divide batter into three. Pour two portions into greased 9 inch pans and bake for about 20 minutes.

– For the third portion of batter, sift in cocoa powder and mix in the gel colouring. Make sure batter is uniformly coloured. Pour into another greased tin and bake for 20 minutes as well. Cake is done when you press the middle of the cake lightly and the surface springs back up.

– Cling film the cakes and refridgerate.

For the Yogurt Icing (this is an estimate, I actually eyeballed the amount of ingredients):

– 115g butter soften

– 50g greek strained yogurt

– 120g icing sugar (you may need more if your icing is too runny)

method:

– Cream the butter with the icing sugar.

– Add greek strained yogurt and blend again.

– If your icing is too soft, chill it. If it is still too runny or soft, add a bit more icing.

To assemble, place one white layer on your cake board/plate. Spread some yogurt buttercream on it and add the red layer. Spread more buttercream and add the second white layer. Crumb coat the cake with more buttercream. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes and coat rest of the cake with the buttercream. Brush blue colouring into edge of cake. Top the cake with some lemon curd inside the blue circle. I made my own curd… more on that in another post as well.

So Happy Merdeka! And to those who are celebrating Eid today, have a good one as well!

– M.

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Milk and Honey Pudding with Chocolate Sesame thins

So when my housemates decided to make a special dinner for my leaving the UK, I’ve decided to make my last dessert in that kitchen. I looked into the fridge. I only had a few things left belonging to me as I was leaving in a couple of days. A pint of milk and some butter. OK. Looked into the cupboard. A jar of honey, half a packet of sesame seeds, cocoa powder, and a little of of agar powder left. Hmmm.

I like agar desserts. As a child, mum would make it as a treat. She had one of those cute tin jelly moulds shaped like a rabbit. I loved it so much! I also remember as a child that my favourite drink was milk and honey… can you see where this is going?

Served with some chocolate sesame thins

Here’s my milk and honey pudding. Sometimes, improvisation in the dessert works. I’ve been working with agar for a long long time (both kitchen and work, hehehe). I found that 6-8% agar gives the jelly a lovely wobbliness that is almost like gelatin. I then thought serving just the pudding was a little plain, so I made some chocolate thins to go with.

Smooth and wobbly

Close up of the pudding.

I was really happy on how it turned out. My housemates loved it too!

So here’s the recipe:

For the pudding (makes about 500 ml, good enough for 4 – 6 servings methinks):

– 500 ml milk (I prefer whole milk, but semi-skimmed is fine too)

– 2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)

– 3 g to 4 g of agar powder

Method:

-In a heavy saucepan, bring 100 ml of milk to a near boil. Add agar powder and stir.

– Once agar powder seems to have dissolved into the milk somewhat, add the rest of the milk and stir constantly until all the agar powder is dissolved and that you have a smooth looking mixture. This could take about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a low to medium heat and try not to have the milk boiling.

– Add the honey and keep stirring. You should see that the mixture looks a little thicken due to the agar. To check whether the agar is ready, take a teaspoon of the m

ixture and dot it on a cold surface. If the mixture become solid, then you have put enough agar powder. If not, add a little bit extra to the mix and stir until it dissolves.

– Turn off the heat and prepare 4 ramekins or whatever receptacle you would like as a mould. Carefully pour the mixture into your mould/ramekins and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until serving time.

For the chocolate sesame thins:

– 90 g butter

– 25 g plain flour

– 75 g cocoa powder

– 25 g sesame seeds

– 25 g sugar

Method:

– Preheat oven to 180 °C.

– In a bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until light.

– Sift the plain flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and mix well.

– Mix in the sesame seeds. You should have something that resembles a buttery spread.

– Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the batter onto the parchment thinly and evenly like a sheet of paper.

– Bake for about 20 minutes.

– While it is still warm from the oven, use a knife to score the thins to the size you want. Or, just let it cool and break the sheet into pieces.

-M.

P for Pulasan!

Pulasan, ripe

Pulasan

What is this red, thick-skinned and slightly spiky tropical fruit?

Is a rambutan? Is it a lychee? Or some bizarre mini red durian?

No… it’s Pulasan!

*cricket chirps*

If you don’t know what a pulasan is, I don’t blame you. Heck, this fruit is indigenious to Malaysia and South-East Asia in general, but most locals don’t even know that it exists either, much less what it tastes like.

Anyway, if I were writing some expat-explores-Malaysia blog, I’d probably start talking about the scientific name and whats not, but hey, the link to Wikipedia is already up there. I’m not in the mood to repeat stuff I don’t need to repeat.

I’d run into pulasan a few times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it for a long while, so I bought some. But I am starting a story in the middle… let start from the beginning.

So yeah I went for a hike up Broga Hill and after hiking me and the biking group I was with decided to whip out our folding bikes and go explore Pekan Broga on bike.

Shame it was so hot, but we did run into an interesting stall:

I love poky little stalls like these, especially when they sell local produce. So after we caught our breath from trying to bike up the evil hill slope we toddled over to spend some money.

Most of the produce is local, so we have, from top left to bottom right: Papaya, Wild Durian, Sweet Potato and our topic of today, Pulasan, which was promptly mistaken for rambutans by most of my group.

Anyway, I decided to buy some home, along with those wild durians, but fortunately (or unfortunately) I was spared having to figure out how to carry durians and one kilo of pulasan on my non-carrier fitted bike down the hill and all along the route back to where we had left our cars. The calvary showed up, and the appearance of our backup vehicle meant my purchases could hitch a ride.

Cycling with a durian dangling from each handlebar would have made for a great picture though.

Back home, I opened up the pulasan for a try. The technique is identical to the rambutan opening technique: make a little break in the thick skin with a thumb or forefinger, (the pulasan skin is thicker than the rambutan’s), then twist the skin with your wrists turning in opposite directions. The weakness you introduced in the break should let the skin break off like so:

As you can see this thing does look heck a lot like rambutan, down the inside fruit. I prefer it to rambutan though, the flesh is sweeter, thicker and doesn’t have the annoying peeling skin thing. Also, the lack of hair is definitely a plus. Not as messy.

For bonus points, the seed of the pulasan is edible!

It tastes quite nice, kind of like a green, raw almond nut. I wonder if I can collect enough pulasan seeds next time? I could roast them and try and make pulasan butter or something…

Incidentally,I just noticed the local naming scheme for tropical fruits. Duri-an (Malay: duri = thorn), Rambutan (Malay: rambut = hair) and Pulasan (Malay: pulas = twist). So logical.

I wish we kept our naming scheme more consistent across more fruits. Imagine the possibilities…

-Pinkydoodles

G&D’s Compass Stout Ice-cream

As summer finally rolls in, I can’t help myself but to go into one of the G&D’s ice-cream cafes for some of their frozen goodies. G&D’s, originally stood for the founders George and Davis, was first founded back in the early 90’s by two Oxford students. Their first store was on Little Clarendon Street in Oxford (in the UK). Having much success, two more branches were opened in the city of Oxford. I love the fact that the ice-creams are made using local cream (REAL cream), hand made, and many of their flavours are seasonal. I always judge a good ice-cream by tasting the plainest flavour like vanilla or even just cream. G&D’s definitely gets the thumbs up. It’s better than most of the gelato I’ve tried in Italy.

This time, I went into their newest cafe on Cowley Road, George and Delila (the second cafe is called George and Danver, see the pattern here?). I looked to the petition flavour immediately on the menu board as that is the seasonal one. It said “Compass Stout” and a little compass was drawn next to it. I thought it was interesting and decided to give it a try. One scoop of that beige one, please.

G and D's Compass Stout

Compass Stout Ice-cream

The girl who served me told me that the ice-cream is indeed made of stout… as in the beer! Compass is the name of the brewery (they used Compass’ Baltic Night Stout apparently). I was amaze, as I never thought you could make beer ice-cream, but come to think of it, stout is rather creamy…

A spoon in the mouth… hmmm… very creamy, but I don’t know what is this taste… fudge? Where is the beer? Another spoon… then, a subtle touch of earthy that is the stout comes in… superb. I thought that the beer would be very strong and possibly stale, but it was nothing of that sort at all. It was creamy, not too sweet, almost like caramel but with a hint of sourness and malt from the stout.

Having said that though, one scoop is enough for me. It is a good flavour but can’t have too much of it, unlike their matcha ice-cream… but then again, I’m a green tea fan. So, if you ever find yourself in the city of Oxford, do sample the local ice-cream.

-M.

Running Around London pt. 2: Fuller’s beer

While my cousins visited London and do all that touristy stuff, one of the cousins (i.e. Sharon) was keen to try as many beers as possible. Already she had been around the UK tasting different types of beer, so while in London, we headed to a nearby Fuller’s pub to sample some brew.

 Here’s some of the beer we tried at The Pilot Inn near where we were staying. The pub was friendly enough, but nothing unique about the place apart from the flowery exterior. So we tried the beers as shown in the insert, from left: London Pride, Aspall’s apple cider, Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter, Organic Honey Dew. The Honey Dew was my favourite, as it really have the floral scent of honey and some fruity flavours that really reminded me of honey dew melon. It was sweet, but not overly so and a hint of refreshing lemon to it. I hate apple ciders, so I thought the worst was that. The two other beers to me was as ales should be: bitter, hoppy, and generally a sort of roundness of flavour to it. Sharon thought London Pride was the best, as it was more malty and less hoppy than the bitter.

OK, time for some non-food pictures:

 View from the apartment my cousins were renting. Yes, it is North Greenwich in the East End of London. The Thames was looking so lovely in the setting sun.

Apart from the usual London attractions such as the Eye, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, I also went back to Greenwich. I love Greenwich. It’s like a lovely little town on its own. There are not as many tourists as in the central London too, so I feel more relaxed. You can visit museums such as the Maritime Museum and the Observatory, as well as the beautiful Royal Naval College. Here’s a picture of The Painted Hall in the College. Does it look familiar? This was used as a location for Pirates of the Carribean 4. Mr. Depp/ Cpt. Sparrow even left his outfit behind in there to prove it. Right, that’s all, anymore and I may sound like a Visit Britain Information Guide.

-M.

DIY Vanilla Extract

In Malaysia, you will always find a lot of imitation vanilla or vanilla essence. Only some supermarkets I found sells the real deal, but the price is a little too steep.

But that isn’t the real problem though. I mean, one can get whole vanilla beans nowadays and I find it a waste to throw away the bean pod husks. Sometimes, the bean would dry out already before I could use them… so what better way than to reuse them by making my own vanilla extract?

It’s simple. Just get an empty sterilised bottle and stuff it with vanilla pods (leftovers or fresh ones, up to you.) Then add vodka slowly to submerge the beans. I use Imperia vodka because I find that it doesn’t have a strong smell that you sometimes get from cheaper vodka such as Smirnoff. You can use rum too, but rum definitely has a smell. Close the bottle cap tightly and leave it. Couple months later and there you have it, your very own vanilla extract.

Here’s my vial of (half used) vanilla extract that had been steeped for 5 months. I’ve used two leftover seed pods (I scraped the seeds for some baking goodness) in this 50 ml bottle. The pods I got them on a trip to Bali, so it only costed me 5 USD for 24 beans! Cheap, no?

-M.