March 30, 2010

A Disney Story & Oven-Baked "Fried" Chicken With Sweet Wasabi Sauce

Looking back at my last post, I realized it’s been more than a week since I last spoke to this little journal of mine. Phew! I’ve been swarmed by unfinished business in the past couple of weeks. As a self-proclaimed “tomato-canning feminist,” my body and mind are a union of a kitchen goddess and career woman (Orenstein, 2010). And good news: These deities in me are working hard to get along! It’s not been easy, but I’m learning a whole lot as a 22-year-old. (I know I’m too young to talk about these … Bah …)

I’ve also learned a whole lot during my 1-week sojourn down South. Continuing with my Disney epic, and in all honesty, visiting the South wasn’t the rationale behind the spring-break trip I once partook a year ago, initially. Together with four other pals, we were there for Disney World!

Disney World, the world’s largest and most visited recreational resort in central Florida, the U.S., is made up of four theme parks. Well, because I’ve got (literally) an album of pictures to share with you, let’s get the film rolling now!

What a pleasant surprise! We're greeted by these lovely people who can dance, sing (or lip-sync) and smile all the way through! Amazing! I don’t think I’ve got the stamina to put up such performance.

After a little bit of humming and jiggling to the music – in the wee hours of the morning – we made our way through the theme park …

… where all the classic Disney characters come to life!

At Cinderella Castle: Don't they look familiar?

Winnie the Pooh in action at a parade

Daisy and her little ducklings

Mickey, Minnie and I ... Nothing really grand about it actually ...

After close to 14 hours of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pooh and so forth, I was already pretty sick. It’s time for some REAL animals! No, no – no real mice, thank goodness! (Yea, I still spotted two or three Mickeys and Minnies in the “wild.”)

On a ride across the "savanna," there was this slow-moving ostrich moving into our way.

Llama, with butt facing my camera. Argh ...!

Never seen something like this before ...

The Tree of Lives, if I ain't mistaken about what it's called ... And, I don't think it's real ...

The "Himalayas." There, you can find one of the best roller coaster rides in the world! Love it!

Day 3 – Epcot and Downtown Disney Marketplace

After trotting our way through the manmade savannas, it’s time for a break from the “wilderness.” It’s time for some globe trekking and shopping.

Spaceship Earth, at Epcot

Glass Pyramids of Imagination!, at Epcot

Unfortunately, tragedies are inevitable. The camera battery died on me! Bummer! So, I can only bring ya around to part of this very lovely theme park. In fact, Epcot is my favorite out of the quartet. I so love, love to learn about different cultures from various parts of the world. As a poor scholar, the theme park's World Showcase gave me the opportunity to “travel across the globe” in less than a day.

Five young travelers parted and went their ways. At one moment, I found myself standing before a tall pagoda at the Japanese pavilion, enjoying Japanese meal for lunch. The next moment, I was there watching and cheering with the crowd at young Chinese acrobats. I roved. I watched. I listened. My ear was mesmerized by the yodeling accordion of the Bavaria. My eye was hypnotized by the riveting street performance in Rome. My nose was engulfed in the enticingly sweet aroma of fresh baked goods before a “Parisian” pâtisserie and boulangerie. What a romantic evening I had when a young French lad said “bonsoir” to me! *Fainted*

Made up of Lego bricks entirely. Impressive, huh!?

On top of that, I kind of went on a shopping spree at Downtown Disney Marketplace. “What!?” you must be thinking I was crazy. Yea, I kept myself sane with a purchase of four bars of 85-percent cacao dark chocolate and Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets – my first investment in a cookbook. And from then on, I’m officially a cookbook addict!

Action-packed. Adrenaline-pumping. Star-studded. What more can I say about this very theme park! We had a blast – the Hollywood style!

Hidden within the tower is one of the scariest rides I've ever had ... Well, for me, it was scary at least.

Some stunt show, which I can't quite recall what it was called. But, it was sure good!

Indiana Jones in action!

How I wish this was real! I never made it to New York City whilst I was in the States!

The 4-day Disney trip was fun. But, the only complaint I’d file is there was too much walking and too much to see in such little time! We rose at 5-ish or 6 in the morning, rushed to have ourselves washed and dressed, hurried to catch the shuttle, and crawled our way to bed at midnight. In the end, we were downright exhausted! Nonetheless, here’s a shout-out to my friends who gave me the opportunity to join in the fun!

A group photo: the five of us with the characters from Peter Pan

Albeit tiredness, we still managed to trudge our way back to northern Minnesota – all the way from Florida – with reluctance. We drove past the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Iowa before wrapping our journey up in the Minnesotan freezer.

The flat Iowa, which is a famous agricultural state in the U.S.

As the only non-American writers for the newsletter at my university, I shared my thoughts with my fellow schoolmates by submitting a piece of writing on March 18, 2009. I’ve extracted some parts of the article that sum up the essence of the trip, from my viewfinder:
“Seeing is believing” is another cliché that has been worn out as time passes by. Yet, the essence of this good old saying still holds true. And, the essence of my spring break revolved mainly around this long-lived truth. …
“As an international student who has been living in the northern part of the country for more than two years, I have been hearing a lot about the South such as its climate, beaches, people, hospitality and food. And surprisingly for me, the Disney experience was not the most memorable part. Instead, it is the climate – of Florida specifically – and the opportunities to interact with the Southerners. …
The largest drumstick I've ever seen in my life, and it's turkey. Of course, it was shared among three girls. *LOL*
“Yes, it is true that Disney World hosts tons of different cultures at just one stop at its famous international village Epcot. You could “fly” from China and Japan to France and Morocco in just a few steps. But nothing beats authenticity – that is, when you are at the actual place to experience the real deal for yourself! And in my case, I am glad that I finally got a taste of the South – something I will surely bring back to Malaysia.”

The friendliest and funniest driver ever! I enjoyed riding on his shuttle. I miss his Hispanic accent.

To wrap things up – and to stop my long-windedness, I’d like to share with you this healthier “fried” chicken recipe, to add a little “Southern” flair here.

This “fried” chicken isn’t fried – it’s baked. Baking the chicken gives you fairly crispy, utterly satisfying “fried chicken for the ultimate “deep-fry” cravings without compromising your health! (Attention: The statement above is ONLY applicable to gluttons not deep-fried food purists.) I’ve made this twice, and with a little twist each time. For my maiden attempt, I followed the recipe a “T.” For my second attempt, I added this magic ingredient:

I shun product endorsement; I want an ad-free blog! Blogging is for fun, is a way for me to relieve my stress through writing, and it has to be ethical. However, there’s this one thing that I’d really like to share with you. I’ve been head over heels in love with Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning ever since my family friends introduced it to me in 2007. We heart the unique spicy and salty kick that you can find in KFC. I don’t know if it’s me, but I seriously think this Creole seasoning really does wonders – because it’s from Louisiana!?

My home-made Southern fried chicken, with Tony Chachere's original Creole seasoning, and these are REALLY deep-fried

I lugged it all the way from the U.S. I’ve used this Creole seasoning on my fish, chicken, zucchini and in my soup. It’s always been a hit in my family! Eventually, this canister of spices will be exhausted. Good – I’ve now found an alibi to build Creole seasoning from scratch. In fact, I believe Creole seasoning of any brand would work – not just Tony Chachere’s. So, let’s us keep experimenting in the name of cooking. In the meantime, without further ado, here’s the recipe for a healthier version of good old “fried” chicken. Enjoy!

Oven-Baked Crispy Chicken With Sweet Wasabi Sauce
Adapted From I Love Baking, by Emily Wong   摘自《香噴噴烤焗料理》。Emily Wong 著

4 chicken wings
4 chicken drumsticks
*I've tried using chicken thighs, too. But, you need to adjust the cooking time of course depending on the size of the chicken used.*

1 tsp garlic salt
Some fresh ground black pepper, to taste
**I experimented by replacing garlic salt and black pepper wholly with Tony Chachere's original Creole seasoning. Either way is just as good.**
**Please adjust the quantity of the seasonings above to suit your taste -- you need not follow the recipe to a "T!" What matters is the end product because you're going to eat it!**

1 egg, slightly beaten
60 g breadcrumbs, or adjust as necessary
***I used Japanese panko.***
Enough all-purpose/plain flour, for coating the chicken prior to baking

(C) -- optional
4 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp wasabi paste
1 tsp honey
  1. Wash to clean the chicken parts real well. Then, drain and pat dry. Marinate them together with (B) and set aside, covered, for at least 1 hour
  2. When it's about time to cook, preheat the oven to 210C. Line a fairly huge baking sheet with aluminum foil. An aluminum foil-lined baking sheet helps catch the dripping from the chicken, and also makes cleaning easier later on. Next, grease a large metal rack, which can withstand high temperature during baking, with some cooking oil. Then, place it over the lined sheet. Set aside.
  3. First coat the marinated chicken with flour, then followed by the beaten egg. Lastly, cover to coat the chicken evenly in breadcrumbs. As you proceed with this particular step, arrange the coated chicken on the greased metal rack
  4. Place the whole deal into the oven, bake chicken at 210C for 15 minutes.
    Turn over the chicken and reduce the oven temperature to 190C, bake for another 15 minutes or till done -- that is, you will see juices run clear when you poke a chopstick/skewer/fork into the chicken, especially the parts with the most flesh. Remove the whole thing from the oven once the chicken is cooked through.
  5. While the chicken bakes, prepare the sweet wasabi sauce by combining (C) together thoroughly. This is for you to serve the chicken with, but it's optional. Dip the hot/warm chicken into the sauce and serve immediately!
*** Notes: Based on the feedback I've gotten on this recipe so far, some of you find that the resulting texture of this baked "fried" chicken is far from ideal. What I can say is comparisons vis-à-vis between baked ones and deep-fried ones are, for me, unacceptable. The reason being without the additional grease that's used in deep frying, baked "fried" chicken won't be as juicy and greasy as those deep-fried ones. Well, think about the dripping that escapes from the bird during baking -- you're actually getting yourself fat-reduced crispy chicken to chew on instead! In the end, it's the same old conclusion: If you really are looking for that "authentic greasy deep-fried feel," go with deep frying. That way, you won't go wrong. As of now, I still have neither figured out nor found any other better way besides baking in order to get crisped-skin chicken without that additional fat from deep frying. Happy experimenting! Do share with us if you have better idea(s)! ***

March 19, 2010

Le Jour du Macaron, Happy Birthdays & No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake

Well, I don’t really have the luxury to blog several times each week. The most I can go is two. Period. Thanks to my 8-hour workdays! Argh …! But, this post is a last-minute thing because I just realized March is a birthdays-packed month for me! So, I think I’ll keep the sequel to my Disney World story till the next post. Extremely sorry for this sudden change of plan!

Image courtesy of

Before I get the birthday drumroll going, I had to tell you that I almost forgot this Saturday is le Jour du Macaron! Yes, March 20 has been named Macaron Day since 2006 by the Macaron Master Pierre Hermé. (For heaven’s sake, I don’t remember how many times I’ve said this to myself. But here I’m repeating, “I’d die to meet the Maestro in person at least once in my life!”) Though I’ve been unable to participate in the event myself, I do know that in Paris and in New York City beginning this year, macarons are offered to the public at an unusually lower price on this very day.

My home-made chocolate macarons, with mocha ganache -- my first successful attempt, dated January 2009

At the same time, the public is encouraged to spread the fun of munching on the SWEET macaron because proceeds will be put to use for a good cause. Hermé contributes the yield to the funding of research on rare illnesses each year. Initiated by another great pâtissier François Payard, the Big Apple will also contribute the proceeds to fighting against hunger and poverty. Hey, isn’t this nice!? A win-win situation! How I wish I can partake in the fundraiser! I just don’t understand why Kuala Lumpur hasn’t been hit by the macaron fever. Even our neighbor Singapore has long been cast under the spell of the macaron. *Tsk, tsk*

Actually, I was diagnosed with a very severe case of macaron fever for quite a few months in 2008 and 2009. (I’d not started blogging at that time. But, I’d upload all my photos and experiments onto my Flickr photostream – and am still doing so.) I knew it’s never easy to nail down the art and science of making macarons.

My home-made ginger macarons -- my second successful attempt, dated January 2009

But, armed with a never-say-die attitude, I kept trying and trying. After who-knows-how-many trials and errors, I was so delighted to get a batch of these almond meringue cookies with 90 percent of them looking decent! “They’ve got the feet!” I stomped and screamed with inexplicable joy and excitement – like a psycho – as I was checking the oven. “Can’t believe it!” Unlike my previous attempts, there was neither crackled top nor “uneven skirt.” It was one of those “eureka moments” I can’t ever forget. (I can name you all the funny features I’ve gotten out of those macs so far, but it’s going to take time. LOL!)

Dark chocolate pots de crème with chocolate macarons and fresh strawberries, dated April 2009

However, the macaron is a real finicky creature, like I said. After two successful batches, the stars haven’t been aligned for me in the kitchen – for anything macaron. Feeling stupefied (and after gaining weight) with all those “maca-flops,” I finally called it quit! And, it’s been close to a year since then.

My home-made chocolate macarons, with mocha ganache -- my first successful attempt, dated January 2009

The more I think I about it, the more I miss the macaron mojo I once had. The more I miss the macaron mojo, the more I crave for the macaron. I know it’s notoriously sweet, but I absolutely heart it. (What’s a girl to do when she has such a sweet tooth!) No matter how naughtier it may be, I’m longing for it, I’m dreaming about it. Behold, I think the Macaron Mojo has possessed me! *Crossing fingers* I hope I can relive those macaron days soon. *Sobbing*

OK, stop (all the nonsense and) the nostalgia! I’d like to send my birthday wishes to my beloved, and they are:

Lee Ping, my bestest friend for close to 10 years! Turned 23. (Girl, we’ve been through a lot together!) OK, I still owe her a full-course meal and a belated birthday dessert. Everything will come to life this July when she's back in Malaysia from Taiwan for the long summer school break. LOL! This is a picture of her (L) and her mom (R).

Becky Boe, also my bestest friend, turned 23 as well! (Taken with me, and photo by Gail, Becky's mom.)

Steve Williams, my American father who’ll be turning 60 real soon. Thanks for being my guardian angel in the past 3 years! Here's him unwrapping presents, with his family, at his birthday dinner last year. Doesn't he look like former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln? Hahaha ...!

Martha Johnson, my American sister, who just celebrated hers on Saint Paddy’s (March 17). She’s one of Steve’s four gorgeous daughters. (BUT, I can’t recall your age! Sorry! Oh, blame it on my poor memory!) Here's she and her boy Lars, photo taken when we first met in January 2007.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been baking cake lately. Probably because I’ve not been in a “cake mode!?” Nowadays, I tend to cook and bake for fun – but for the sake of utility, too. So, savory dishes, yeast bread, quick bread and cookies always top my list. Not cakes. (Thanks to my day job once again!) For Steve’s 59th birthday last year, I actually volunteered to bring no-bake Oreo cheesecake to the dinner. (Oh, yes! Those Oreo cookies I used for this cake were bought on my way back from the Disney World. So, I still can’t get away from Disney after all, huh?)

I adapted the recipe shared by Florence of Do What I Like. No-bake Oreo cheesecake has always been one of my faves. A simple cake with sweet little surprises! I wanted to let my family friends try it. Glad that it was the right decision because everyone loved it! One 9-inch (23 centimeters) cake disappeared right before me – in a snap! (Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised when there were 11 mouths to feed. Children loved it especially!)

In the event that you haven’t tried this cheesecake, it has this soft and creamy vanilla base that comes with oodles of Oreo pieces. It’s a good example of what a good cookie-and-cream dessert ought to be like. The dreamy vanilla and Oreo mousse-like delight is sandwiched in between an Oreo cookie crust and a pretty thick layer of crushed Oreos on top. Divine. Nom, nom. Steve, mind sharing the cake with us all? I promise I’ll make another birthday cake for you in the future – if I ever get to visit Bemidji again! But, I bet you don’t mind having the same cake again this year. Hahaha …!

Before signing off, here’s to wish, once again, a Happy (belated) Birthday to all the March babies! And, a Happy Macaron Day, too! See y’all till then! I’ll be fiddling around in the kitchen again this weekend with four Band-Aids all over my body! Hope the wounds can recover right before that – right before my weekend kitchen sessions! Can’t wait! And oh, yes! Enjoy the cake!

No-Bake Chilled Oreo Cheesecake (Adapted from Florence's, of Do What I Like)
[For one 18 cm-in-diameter cake]

110 g Oreo cookies, without the cream -- pulverized
*Florence uses digestive biscuits. You may also use graham crackers since both these cookies are pretty similar in flavor and texture.*
**I threw all the cookies into a Ziploc bag, sealed the bag (not too tightly of course) and started crushing them with my hands and with help from my rolling pin. You can also process them in a food processor, as wished.**
40 g butter -- melted and then let cooled slightly
*Both salted and unsalted ones work here.*

3 Tbsp boiling water
10 mL fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine

250 g cream cheese, softened
45 mL milk
50 g powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract or rum
*I used vanilla extract.*

250 mL cold heavy cream -- whipped until it looks mousse-like, NOT until stiff peak stage, then send it to keep chilled in the fridge until ready to use
12 pcs Oreo cookies, without the cream -- broken into coarse pieces
*I was very generous with these, I used more than 12 pieces. It's a matter of preference, really.*
Enough Oreo cookies, without the cream, for topping -- pulverized (optional, but highly recommended)
**I threw all the cookies into a Ziploc bag, sealed the bag (not too tightly of course) and started crushing them with my hands and with help from my rolling pin. You can also process them in a food processor, as wished.**
Enough Oreo cookies, without the cream (optional)
*Don't crush them up, just leave them the way they're -- intact!*
  1. If you're particular and worry about scratching your cake tin, just like me, do this: Take one 18-cm springform pan and detach its cake ring from the base. Line the base with aluminum foil; attach and lock the ring back to the lined base. Set aside
    *My springform pan is a nonstick one.*
  2. Thoroughly combine (A) together, then press this mixture onto the bottom of the prepared cake tin firmly to get an even layer. Then, send it to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes whilst you proceed with the following steps
  3. Place (B) in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl that's been set over a pot of simmering water, slowly dissolve gelatine completely with the liquids. Once dissolved, keep the mixture warm aside till ready to use (so that the gelatine won't set the whole deal!)
  4. Cream (C) together till smooth and creamy, then blend in the gelatine solution. Next, fold the cold semi-whipped cream into the batter to just incorporate them together
  5. Start first with a little bit of the cheese batter by pouring it over the chilled Oreo cookie crust -- just enough to cover the crust. Now, alternate your movements between pouring the batter onto the crust and scattering the rough Oreo pieces all over. Do this till both the batter and rough cookie pieces have been used up.
  6. Send the whole deal to chill in the fridge till the cake is completely set, for about 3~4 hours.
  7. Right before serving, and if desired, scatter the remaining pulverized Oreo cookies all over the top of the set and chilled cake.
    Then, wrap around the outside of the cake ring with a warm, dampened cloth/kitchen towel/etc. Hold it this way for a few seconds (... should be under 1 minute.) This is to ensure easy removal of the cake from the springform pan.
    Now, unmold the cake. Stick some of the whole Oreo pieces onto and around the sides of the set cheesecake for higher aesthetic value, if desired. *Chuckling*
  8. Slice and serve the cake chilled.
    *This is a trick I learned from Happy Homebaker. To get clean slices of the cheesecake, run a sharp knife (that you're going to use for slicing the cake) in tepid water to warm it up. Then, wipe it dry. Now, use it to slice the cheesecake. Repeat this particular step as necessary whilst slicing the cake -- do this whenever the cake starts to stick to the knife. This is applicable to all chilled cheesecakes.*

March 13, 2010

My Trip Down South and Strawberry-Vanilla Ice Cream

Exactly 1 year ago, I was still an undergraduate who was in her final term. As I was about to graduate, I kept myself overly busy with a 24-page senior thesis paper, exams and quizzes, homework, news assignments and interviews. And when I wasn’t working on these tasks, you could almost always find me nosing around in the kitchen, with the camera and reading my favorite food blogs. So, I was (and am still) busy.

I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I always managed to give my friends alibis to turn down their invitations. Whenever I think back, it seemed ridiculous and unwise. Though performing academically well is important, I should have given myself a break. *Sigh*

Somewhere in Atlanta, Ga.

Exactly 1 year ago, I was on a 1-week spring break. I kept reminding myself: “Stop fooling around! Finish your goddamn thesis paper! You’re not gonna graduate!” I got terrified initially and put myself on a frantic “research-and-write mode.” Then, my friend put me on a totally different track with this, “Yo, wanna join us for trip down to the sunny Florida – to Disney World?”

Buzz Lightyear and his green multi-eyed friends at one of the parades at Disney World

Yes. No. Yes. No … After hesitation and procrastination, I gave them a last-minute decision with a “yes!” The offer was too good to miss. The notion of a sunny Florida lured me out of the freezing Minnesota. The thought of driving cross-country stirred up my thirst for adventure. The picture of sky-high roller coasters gave me a virtual rush of adrenaline through my head. I was only halfway through my paper. But I told myself, “Heck, screw it up!”

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Five excited Malaysian students took off at about noon on March 07, 2009. We drove (duh!), snacked, chatted, sang and slept our way through. The trip kicked off in Bemidji, Minn. The southbound journey took us through the state of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia before reaching Florida. (We took another route when we headed back north.) The patience, will and determination demonstrated by the three of my friends still amaze me: They drove for hours without a word of complaint. Thanks, guys! I really appreciate what you did! (Missing you and hope to see you all again! And credit goes to my parents, too, who sponsored me for the trip!)

Hitting the road again after a few hours of sleep and breakfast in Indianapolis, Ind.

The two-day road trip was inspiring! The four seasons displayed and transformed right before us as we drove from the freezing North to the warm and sunny South! We started off wearing huge, thick winter coats and furry gloves. By the time we reached Florida, we were clad in just T-shirts and jeans! Felt lighter (literally) and so good!

March in north central Midwest (Bemidji, Minn.)

Louisville, Ken. of March

The Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ken.

Somewhere near Chattanooga, Tenn. I think we were pretty close to the Appalachians -- it looks green and feels like spring!

Atlanta, Ga. -- the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Downtown Atlanta, Ga.

I miss the Southern hospitality. I dream of Southern food. I heart Southern drawl. (Yee-ess, maa-am! Ya hurr-erd mee, rah-ee-it!) Our 1-week sojourn there wasn’t enough! I can still recall the moment when I first heard this expression at a gas station in Tennessee, “It’s fixin’ to rain.” Gagged and puzzled, I turned to my friend, who worked in the South last summer, and asked, “The sky needs to be fixed in order to pour!?” She said “fixing” is a Southern slang for “going to.” So, it really means, “It’s going to rain.” Hahaha …!

Nashville, Tenn.

University of Louisville in Louisville, Ken.

On a highway between Tennessee and Georgia. An interesting truck with a questionable head: Is it driving toward us? Hahaha ...!

Oh, how about the food!? I’m declaring hereafter that Southerners have one of the best fried chicken and biscuits in the world! At almost every corner down South, you’re likely to bump into restaurants that sell just fried chicken and biscuits! (Hey, I ain’t talking about the Colonel’s! Speaking of competition, he’s got stiff one there!) Fried chicken of the South has that ultra succulent and tender meat with that utterly spicy crispy skin that’s seasoned with just the right amount of salt. Mmm … (But sorry, no photo here!)

Biscuits in the American sense are not the same as British biscuits, which are almost always sweet and are closest to the American term “cookies.” Instead, American biscuits are a close cousin of British scones. But, Americans serve theirs warm with savory gravy – not clotted cream and jam. A true American experience indeed. Southern biscuits have this signature fluffiness and springiness that can’t be found elsewhere, not even in the North! They’re so addictive! Man, thinking about it makes me drool! Pairing the good food with the direct, “in-your-face” hospitality of the South gives you an unbeatably good deal! What more could I ask for? (I should probably churn out some home-made biscuits! It’s time!)

Anyhow, I shall continue recounting my Disney World moments with you in the next post. (I know I’m getting long-winded here.) It’s been long overdue, but I’m dying to spread the word out to all you out there. Here’s one of the best ice cream recipes I’ve tried so far. Well, how can it not be good when it’s a recipe from Helen of Tartelette!

I actually made this strawberry-vanilla ice cream during my last month in the States. Remember I told you about my strawberry picking experience from last summer? After enjoying them right out of my hand – fresh and plain – I froze 2/3 of the hand-picked strawberries. They were unexpectedly sweet! The initial intention was to clear as much stock before my departure back to Malaysia. But once I’d set my eyes on this recipe, I wiped off the strawberries for the sake of making and eating this ice cream! Yikes!

It’s an easy ice cream recipe. I didn’t use ice cream maker to churn the ice cream; it was all manpower. I suppose when it’s churned with a machine, the texture should taste superior, just like what Helen did. Nonetheless, my family friends and I loved how the ice cream turned out with its absolutely creamy, smooth and luscious mouthfeel. The mellow vanilla base spelled out the dreamy experience perfectly. As I my tongue twirled around the ice cream that was melting in my mouth, the refreshing strawberry bits gave my taste buds that tingling sweet-and-tangy sensation. A creamy and fruity combo. What more could you ask for in a humble home-made ice cream that came with lots of love and attention -- and no additive! *Wink*

Strawberry-Vanilla Ice Cream (Adapted From Helen's)

4 egg yolks, at room temperature
100 g (1 cup) caster sugar
*I found the sweetness of the ice cream was just right.*

473 ml (2 cups) half-and-half
**I used 1:1 of fresh whole milk : heavy cream to get 2 cups half-and-half. In other words, 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream.**
1 vanilla bean, split open
***I used 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract.***

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
****I used frozen ones, which were then thawed in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. Don't fret because frozen ones will lose plenty of juice. Nothing goes to waste because you still can drink the juice plain or slightly sweetened with a bit of sugar, right? That said, I drained the thawed strawberries real well before use. And, I still took the effort to remove their hulls and slice them up. Worked for me.****
*****I seriously believe that we can make variants of this fruity vanilla ice cream with other fresh or frozen berries e.g. blueberries and raspberries. Yumm!*****

25 g (2 Tbsp) caster sugar
  1. In a large bowl, whisk (A) together till pale and thick; set aside
  2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat (B) together over medium heat to bring it to a simmer without letting it come to a full boil. Next, gradually pour the hot cream to the beaten yolks in a thin stream while you keep whisking to temper the yolks -- and to avoid scrambling them!
    ******I skipped the vanilla bean in this step since I didn't use it.******
  3. Return the entire mixture into the saucepan and cook it over low heat -- stirring constantly -- till it coats the back of your wooden spoon. Remove from/Turn off the heat immediately to stop cooking it. Now, you've gotten yourself crème anglaise.
    *******I stirred in the vanilla extract at the end of step #3.*******
    Let the custard cool thoroughly. Then, strain well before refrigerating it till completely cold
  4. While chilling the custard in the fridge, prepare the strawberries. Place the berries and 25 g caster sugar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook them together over low heat long enough for the berries to soften and give out a little bit of juice. Next, remove them from the heat and let cool completely aside before use
  5. Transfer the chilled custard into another container that comes with a lid. Freeze it for 45 minutes.
  6. After about 45 minutes or as soon as you see ice crystals start to form around the edges of the mixture, remove the semi-frozen mixture from the freezer. Whip it up real well in e.g. a mixing bowl with your hand mixer till its almost doubled in volume. Then, return the whipped mixture into the container and freeze for another 45 minutes
    *You may whip the cold mixture with hand whisk or a sturdy spatula. But, electric hand mixer will make your life easier.*
  7. Repeat step #6: keep "disturbing" the mixture as it freezes, for 2 -- 4 times
  8. Now, check the partially frozen mixture every 1 - 1.5 hours. Stirring it a little bit as it freezes to prevent ice crystals from forming. Towards the end of churning, stir in the par-cooked strawberries to the half- to almost frozen ice cream mixture -- make sure they are evenly scattered throughout the ice cream. Continue "disturbing" the ice cream mixture -- stop doing this once it's frozen and set
    **This is what Helen shared with us: If you stir in the strawberries too early in the process of churning, you may end up with pink ice cream!**
  9. If necessary, transfer the ice cream into another airtight container. Then, store it in the freezer till it's time to serve
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