September 25, 2009

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

I can't believe that this blog has really been abandoned for more than a week! It'll be real hard for me to update it every so often from now on. Everyday, I go out at 8-ish in the morning and am only back home by 8-ish to 9-ish at night! Have been very worn out. LOL! As you can see here, it's already past midnight and I'm still here blogging. Sigh ...

For sure though, I've been enjoying every moment back home in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia! Because of their distance from my home, I've been stopping by these two KL landmarks a lot. Woot! I can say that I'm now back to my old routines when I'm not home--window shopping and shopping ... for baking and cooking ingredients, utensils, relevant books and kitchenware! As for now, I'll show you one of the landmarks first:

The third tallest and the tallest twin towers in the world--Petronas Twin Towers. Nonetheless, they're affectionately and aptly known to the locals as KLCC, i.e. Kuala Lumpur City Center due to their location ... They're at the heart of this beautiful city.

The KLCC Park is just right by the Towers. It's very fun to watch the water fountain there!  
At the base of the Towers is the popular shopping mall Suria KLCC.  
And within the shopping mall, there's my favorite spot to hang out at--Kinokuniya! :D  
Hehehe ... In fact, I just spent about two hours at the bookstore Kinokuniya again this evening and got myself two culinary magazines! (The best bookstore in town! You rock Kinokuniya!!!) What to do! My hands were itching for cookbooks and recipes.

Anyhow, I'll keep this short as I need to go to bed as soon as possible to recharge as much energy as I can for tomorrow. To wrap things up for the day, I'm now presenting you with my family's favorite: chocolate swirl cheesecake! We've been using this recipe for marbled cheesecake for several years since my mom first found it. And, it has never failed us.

This cheesecake is not the type of cheesecake you'd usually associate with. In other words, it has no crust and filling that's dense and extremely rich, smooth and creamy. It's baked; it's REALLY a cake per se. It can be considered a marbled cake. And yet, it's remarkably different than ordinary marbled cakes, which are oftentimes plain (vanilla) butter cakes with chocolate swirl. This cake tasted darn good! My father kept praising it especially.

I actually revisited this recipe because we discovered a cream cheese way back at one corner of our fridge that was threatening us of rotting real soon. So with the remainder, I made half the recipe. And, the batter fit just right onto our 15x7.5cm tin.
The sweetness of this cake was just right for us. And of course, the idea of pairing the tangy, creamy cream cheese and intensely bittersweet dark chocolate together is just yummily DIVINE! As you bite into the cake, all your brain can only think of is the extra fine and tight crumbs of the cake. And as you keep chewing, you'll experience the unexpected--your taste buds will be spinning around between the creamy, tangy "cheesiness" and the smooth, intense "chocolatey-ness." Leaving you begging for more! It's the BEST marbled cheesecake in town--period.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake (Adapted from Yummy Cheesecakes by Kelly Tang) Makes a 20x20cm square baking tin

250g unsalted butter, softened
160g castor sugar
1/8 tsp salt

2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature

120g plain flour
20g unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder

250g cream cheese, softened
80g castor sugar
1 tsp lemon juice (I used lime juice instead because all I needed was 1/2 tsp. The flavor wasn't affected.)
1 egg, at room temperature

  1. Grease and line the baking tin with parchment paper, then set aside for use later
  2. Combine (B) together and sift once, set aside; cream (C) together till incorporated, set aside for use later as the cream cheese batter
  3. Cream (A) together till creamy, then mix in the eggs gradually till well-mixed. Next, fold in the dry ingredients till just blended--this is the chocolate batter
  4. Spoon both the batters alternately onto the lined tin till the batters are used up, then swirl around the batter with a knife for the best result--not a chopstick--to create an amazing marbling effect. Of course, don't swirl it too much; otherwise, it'll be overdone
    Also, make sure that the surface of the batter is even
  5. Bake it at 180C for 45 minutes or till cooked through
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it sit on the tin for 10 minutes before unmolding the cake and let it cool on the cooling rack completely
  7. Slice to serve or store in airtight containers once it's cooled. You can also serve it chilled like how my dad did to his!

September 13, 2009

Wolfberry Brown Sugar Mantou 枸杞黑糖饅頭

Besides busy looking for a job, I've also been occupying myself in many other things--AND--learning how to use my new camera and lens hahaha ... These explain my lack of presence in the food-blogging world!

Anyhow, back to the business. As a Cantonese (廣東人), mantou (饅頭) isn't a staple for us on our table. Differing from the Northern Chinese, we almost have to have rice as the main source of our carbohydrate. (By the way, to say "almost" is because we can sometimes have noodles if we crave for it.) We commonly take mantou more as street food and restaurant dish.

What I'd like to share with you here is wolfberry dark brown sugar mantou (枸杞黑糖饅頭). I can't wait put this out because this recipe is absolutely healthy. You see, there were so many things that I once considered scarce and expensive during my 2-1/2-year stay in the U.S. One of them is wolfberries, or goji berries (枸杞). So, making these mantou was definitely my first time using wolfberries in my cooking and baking.

The Chinese believe that wolfberries are good for your vision; hence, our regular consumption of the berries. When I first found out about the recipe for these Chinese buns from this amazing Hong Kong-based culinary site, I thought to myself, "You've gotta a give them a shot!" (Man, it has so much to offer! Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Southeast Asian, French, Italian and many other international cuisines! You'll love it if you understand Cantonese!)

These buns are a Taipei (台北) street food that combines the goodness and unique flavors of dark brown (or muscovado) sugar and wolfberries. They were made with the direct method instead of using any sponge (麵種). So, they're best served immediately while they're still hot or warm in order to taste their softness; otherwise, they'll turn harder upon cooling. Nonetheless, resteaming the buns for 3-5 minutes to reheat them does the trick by bringing back their tenderness. Still, how long the dough was kneaded determines the texture of the mantou. So, don't overknead it! It's not supposed to be kneaded like how you'd do to a bread dough!

Another good thing about the mantou is that the recipe doesn't call for any oil. You can tell then these buns are super healthy. This recipe makes a rather big batch. So, halve it if you wish to. Because I don't have any dark brown or muscovado sugar, I used light brown sugar. I reckon that the first two ones will definitely give the buns a more intense flavor. So if possible, don't substitute dark brown or muscovado sugar with any other types of sugar.

Wolfberry Dark Brown Sugar Mantou 枸杞黑糖饅頭 (Adapted from Queenie's) 

80g dark brown sugar 黑糖
250ml water 6g instant dry yeast

500g plain flour

80g dried wolfberries 枸杞

extra dried wolfberries, for garnishing
  1. Soak the wolfberries in enough water for 3 minutes--DON'T oversoak them; otherwise, they'll become too soft and mushy! Cut out a huge sheet of waxed/parchment paper into rectangular shape of the same size--how big it is will depend on how big your mantou are going to be
  2. Dissolve (A) together completely, then stir in the yeast till dissolved
  3. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then stir in the yeast mixture and mix till a dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl
  4. Turn the dough onto a working surface and knead till smooth and not sticky--DON'T overknead it! Then, round up the dough into a ball and cover to let rest for 10~15 minutes.
  5. Roughly roll out the dough into a rectangular shape, evenly sprinkle half the soaked berries all over the rectangular dough and roll it up from the longer side Swiss roll-style--make sure the berries are included into the dough; pinch both the ends so that no berries will fall off Roll out the the rolled-up dough again in the same manner as described above and incorporate the remaining half of the wolfberries this time into the dough
    All this work ensure the wolfberries are incorporated into the dough without bursting! So, you won't end up getting bloody-red mantou later on LOL! Then, round up the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. To each portion, roll out and shape into a log; using a dough scraper-cutter or a sharp knife, divide the log into equal portions--each portion should look somewhat like a rectangular shape. But really, the size of the mantou is a matter of preference.
  7. Place each portion of dough onto a piece of cut-out parchment paper, then place a dried wolfberry on top as garnish; cover and let rest for 20 minutes
  8. Prepare the steamer by bringing the water into a full-rolling boil over high heat. Once the water's reached that stage, place the mantou onto the steaming rack.
    Steam them over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes--adjust the cooking time accordingly to the size of your mantou
    Once the cooking time is up, DON'T uncover the steamer yet--let the mantou sit in the steamer for 5 minutes with the steamer's lid on. Taking the buns out immediately will cause them to wrinkle due to the immediate drastic change in temperature.
  9. Uncover the steamer, remove the mantou from the steamer and serve them immediately

September 5, 2009

A Farewell Dinner & Banana Caramel Cake

It's been very tiring since I got home from the States. In the past week, I'd put myself to the test by attending interviews in a hope that I'll find a job and work for things that I'm truly passionate about, i.e. writing and food. And I believe it's because of that and in the future, work and other commitment in life, baking, cooking, food photography and styling as well as blogging will be an indulgence once in a while. Nonetheless, I've now come to see that a student's life is simpler compared to a working adult! It's been fun and I truly enjoyed every moment of it.

I shall talk about some of the interesting stories that happened on my way home in the next post. As for this post, let's fast forward to three days after my arrival. I feel compelled to share with you about these first. We decided to have a farewell dinner for a long-time friend of mine, C, whom I've known for nine years. So besides her, her mom and another good high school friend of ours Y were invited over for the dinner. (Too bad, my other friends couldn't make it due to personal commitment. It was a weekday anyway. So, it was perfectly understandable. Hope we can meet up sometime soon.

Three of us first knew each other when we were classmates during our junior-two year at Kuen Cheng High School (坤成中學). Ironically just as I'm home, C decided to pursue her undergraduate education in Taipei (台北) . Boy, we barely saw each other for the first time in three years! And yet, we're now separated once again. What I can tell for sure though is that she's going to be there for another four years. C, watch out yea? We're going to come invade you in Taiwan (灣) LOL!

As for the dinner, it was a casual one at a local restaurant that both my family and C's family have been patronizing for years. (It's close to the old Kuala Lumpur city center ... somewhere not too far from Petaling Street [茨廠街], Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown.) It was really a treat for me actually. Why? We had steamed fresh fish, shrimps (prawns), scallops and all the things that I once considered scarce and luxurious during my days in the U.S. Very, very glad to be back home! You can tell I'm a happy girl now hahaha ...!

I volunteered to make something sweet for dessert that evening. (I believe this is another unhealthy habit I acquired during my the stay in the U.S. Sigh ...) I kept reminding my beloved father don't order any dessert from the restaurant because I simply think we could do better than that on our own. Anyway, this was what we had to put a sweet ending to our dinner that evening. Since we were all fully loaded by the end of the meal, each of us had a slice of the cake and the rest was divided and given away to both my friends.

This cake is on the moist side and has a nice buttery caramel aroma. (You can't go wrong with burned sugar! Also, the quality of your butter really affects the result of your bake. I think I used cheap butter of poor quality while I was in the U.S. Learned my lesson ... will make better decisions next time.) As you bite into it, you'll be greeted by chunks of banana and cream cheese. Definitely a keeper!

I remember when I first saw the recipe here, I told myself, "Dude, you gotta make this someday!" Easy to be put together and worth the pennies! (Cream cheese is considered relatively expensive here you know ...) Thanks Grace of Piggy's Cooking Journal for sharing this splendid recipe!

All I've got to say is bake this cake till it's cooked through because the cooking time suggested by the recipe is just a reference. Mine took longer than 40 minutes even for a cake that was baked in a convection oven ... I think it was a little over an hour. (Pardon me for my poor memory because there are just too many things for me to remember now ... simply too overwhelming! Argh!) Be very PATIENT during baking and when letting the cake COOL THOROUGHLY on a cooling rack before you go ahead and wreck it. What to do when there's cake that's so tempting sitting before you!

Banana Caramel Cake (adapted from Grace's)
Makes one 18x8cm rectangular tin

For the caramel:

60g sugar
1 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp hot water
2 Tbsp heavy cream (I used milk because I forgot to buy heavy cream. It worked ... except that your end product will be less rich and fattening)

For the cake:

115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
90g cream cheese, at room temperature
75g sugar

3 egg yolks

180g self-rising flour (I made my own by combining 180g plain flour, 10g baking powder & 1g salt ... I don't buy this flour premix.)
1/2 tsp baking powder

3 egg whites, at room temperature
50g sugar

1-1/2 bananas, peeled and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices
30g cream cheese, cut into small cubes
  1. Grease and line a 18x8cm rectangular tin with parchment paper, set aside for use later. Combine and sift together (C), set aside for use later as well
  2. For the caramel: Place (A) together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook till it's turned an amber color. Then, remove from heat immediately and stir in 1 Tbsp hot water and followed by 2 Tbsp heavy cream; set aside for use later
  3. Cream (A) till pale and fluffy, then mix in yolks one at a time--mix well after each addition; stop mixing once it's combined. Set aside
  4. Whip egg whites till foamy, then gradually mix in sugar while continue whipping till egg whites have reached stiff peak stage
  5. Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk mixture. Then, stir in the flour mixture till it's combined
  6. Fold the remaining meringue in two portions into the yolk mixture till just combined, then stir in the caramel and banana slices
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then evenly scatter the cubed cream cheese all over the surface of the batter
  8. Bake at 180C/350F for 40 minutes or till test done--the top of the cake should look golden in color
  9. Let the cake sit in the tin for 10 minutes before unmolding it. Transfer the cake onto a cooling rack and let it cool thoroughly before serving
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