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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ondeh Ondeh (Onde Onde) - Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls





South East Asian sweets and desserts are most strongly defined by the bite sized snacks known as Kuehs/ Kuihs.  Ondeh Ondeh has always been one of my favourite kuehs. I have never been able to resist these sweet chewy coconut coated balls ever since I was young. Soft and chewy in texture, this is probably one kueh that encompasses all the essential ingredients typically used in the preparation of exotic South East Asian desserts. Sweet potato is the essential root vegetable in this dessert while glutinous rice flour imparts the slightly sticky and chewy texture. Coconut milk and pandan juice provide the mild fragrant richness and Gula Melaka (brown palm sugar) rounds up the sweet experience with its distinctive caramel-like flavour.


A good Ondeh Ondeh should be tender yet chewy. The amount of rice flour used should be just enough to yield a bouncy softness that gives way to the burst of Gula Melaka sweetness when chewed. Very often, commercial Ondeh Ondeh loads up on the glutinous rice flour and stinges on the use of Sweet Potato which helps to soften the Ondeh Ondeh.

I have experimented with a few different sweet potato/glutinous rice flour ratio and my favourite so far is this one that uses equal portion of sweet potato with glutinous rice flour. As a result of the higher quantity of sweet potato, the colour will not be the typical jade green colour seen in the commercially sold Onde Onde. It will take on a mossy brown colour. For the photos in this post, I had added quite a bit of green colouring but otherwise, I would be most comfortable to leave it as it is without any artificial colouring.

I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #12: Traditional Kueh (October 2011) hosted by Small Small Baker. 

Recipe :

Sweet potato               100g
Glutinous Rice flour   100g
Pandan Leaves(1)       5 pieces
Water                          15ml
Thick coconut milk     30g

Gula Melaka               100g (chopped finely)

Grated Coconut           200g
Pandan Leaves(2)        2 pieces
Salt                              1/4 tsp

1. Cut Panadan Leaves (1) into small pieces and blend it with the 15ml water. Squeeze to get 30ml of dark green pandan juice.
2. Boil sweet potato in the jacket in a pot of water until tender. Cool down. Remove potato skin and mash well.
3. Mix 100g of mashed sweet potato with Pandan juice (1) and coconut milk. (green colouring can be added now if desired)
4. Add in glutinous rice flour and incorporate until the dough comes together.
5. Place grated coconut on a plate. Cut Pandan Leaves (2) into 5 cm lengths and embed in grated coconut. Steam over boiling water for 5 mins.
6. Leave steamed grated coconut to cool completely and mix in 1/4 tsp salt. Set aside.
7. Portion out (4) into 10g dough. Dust hands with glutinous rice flour and roll each 10g dough into a round ball. Use pinkie finger make a well in the center of the ball. Carefully fill the well with chopped Gula Melaka. Seal the opening of the dough and roll it into a ball again.
Place the ball in a shallow plate of glutinous rice flour to prevent them from sticking together.

8. Boil a pot of water. Drop (7) into the boiling water. Cook until Onde Onde floats to the surface of the boiling water.
9. Remove Onde Onde with a slotted spoon and leave it to cool for 2mins.
10. Roll (9) in grated coconut (6). Serve and finish on the same day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pierre Herme's Sichuan Pepper Chocolate Truffles

Truffles 6

Truffles 2

Truffles 1

We are down to the last 2 months of the year. Isn't it boggling how each year seems to slip away faster than the last? In theory, with all the tools that we have now to make life easier and make us more efficient, shouldn't time be stretched to linger just a bit longer? Perhaps, just like the way nature abhors vacuum, we feel compelled to rush in and fill up every available time slot with extraneous activities.... many of which ,as we shall eventually discover,  will distract us from our real priorities...

For those who count holiday gifting as a serious annual priority, it's probably time to ponder over the possible options. I baked something for my colleagues last Christmas but I honestly cannot recall what I had baked for them.... I will need to remember to check with them when I get into the office next week...  goes to show how much I value the tradition of gifting.
This is the first time I am working with chocolates and am hoping to churn out something decent enough to be given out as Christmas treats.

Chocolate truffles do not require tempering so that really makes it the entry level chocolate assignment for anyone who is looking to create their own chocolate treats. I found this recipe in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. What intrigued me was the incorporation of Sichuan Pepper in the recipe. As the recipe accurately points out, Sichuan pepper has more flavour than burn, more sweetness than heat, so what you get from this truffle is a very mild exotic zing at the tip of the tongue. A taste more suited to one with a more adventurous palate but I do find myself enjoying it.

For those who are keen to try this recipe, take advantage of the 20% discount on all Valrhona chocolates at Shermay's Cooking School now until the end of this month.

Truffles 6(250)
Recipe :

260g         Bittersweet Chocolate, preferably Valrhona Caraibe.
250g         Heavy cream
2tbsp        Sichuan pepper, crushed.
50g          Unsalted butter, at room temperature. Cut into 4 pieces.
Dutch processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona for dusting.

Method :
1. Please chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set aside.
2. Place cream and crushed sichuan pepper in a heavy saucepan and heat to boil. Remove from heat and cover tightly with a plastic wrap and let the cream rest for 10 mins to infuse it with the pepper.
3. Pour the cream through a strainer. Return the strained cream to the saucepan. Add in 1/3 of the pepper in the strainer and throw out the rest. Heat up cream to boil again.
4. Strain the cream into the chocolate. Slowly stir the cream into the chocolate until well mixed.
5. Rest the hot mixture for 1 minute. Add in butter one piece at a time and stir until fully incorporated.
6. Cool (5) in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Cover chocolate with a plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours.
7. Shape the chocolate ganache into balls using a a spoon. (Shape does not need to be a perfect round)
8. Place (7) into a shallow tray with cocoa powder and coat each truffle with cocoa powder.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Magnolia Bakery - Cupcakes In New York

Picnik collage

Picnik collage

Picnik collage

Banana Pudding

Magnolia Bakery needs no introduction. Most of us who enjoy baking would have heard about this famous bakery ,possibly like myself, through its famous cookbooks. I do not own any of the cookbooks from Magnolia Bakery...was almost tempted by the array of powdery pastel cupcakes on their covers but the lack of photos inside the book had failed to appeal to my weakness for visual stimulation. Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes are legendary and I was eager to try them on this trip. I was literally brimming with a jittery sense of excitement as I joined the bustling crowd in front of the shop.

A lovely cosy shop with pretty sweets decked out in homely display, I thought the bakery exudes an old fashioned southern charm. It was easy to get carried away by the array of cupcakes. Although the flavours available were limited (mostly were just vanilla cupcakes with different colour butter cream frosting), the lovely signature swirl of the fluffy pastel frosting had the ability to beckon. When I left the shop, I was a happy girl with 2 cupcakes and a banana pudding in my bag. When I took my first bite of the vanilla butter cream cupcake at a park nearby, I was crest fallen with disappointment! The frosting was so tooth achingly sweet that I had to scrape it off the cake. As fluffy as the frosting looks, it was, I felt over saturated with sugar, giving it a sandy/gritty texture. The cake itself was ok but I have baked cup cakes which are fluffier and moister myself. The caramel meringue butter cream was much smoother and a little less sweet than the vanilla butter cream. What saved the day was really the Banana Pudding. Creamy and smooth, it was the perfect dessert to be enjoyed on a cool sunny day in the park. I am now contemplating to reproduce it at home.

Following my previous disappointing experience at the very popular Crumbs, this is my second lack luster encounter with the American Cupcake. I am struggling to understand what is it about these cupcakes that make them so popular, is it the fist size portion at Crumbs or is it the pretty frosted swirl at Magnolia? The frosting is not piped but twirled skillfully using an icing spatula. It was bewitching and inspiring to watch the staff work effortlessly with the fluffy icing. For those who are keen to create the signature swirl, watch the little video I had shot with my little compact camera. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Purple Pig- Chicago

Picnik collage

Purple Pig1

Purple Pig2

Purple Pig3

I have been on the road for the last 6 weeks and am now feeling extremely zonked out both physically and mentally. I don't wish to get on another plane for as long as I possibly can! Travels take its toll but I have to admit it is sometimes not without its perks. I was in Chicago for the first time 2 weekends ago. I have possibly been to the US not fewer than 20 times over the last 10 years but have always only limited my visit to the immediate vicinities of New York City.

There only for a short weekend break, the snapshot I was exposed to was sufficient to have me yearning to be back for more. The limited culinary scene I was exposed to in Chicago was refreshingly exciting- it reminded me a little of Sydney. At the recommendation of Jared and Alice of EatADuckIMust, I sauntered off to The Purple Pig for lunch on my last day there. A stone's throw away from where I was staying in downtown Michigan Ave, I went into the restuarant without the slightest idea about its fame and their specialty.Touted as one of the Top 10 Restaurants In America by Bon Appetite (I found out later) , the resturant serves, as its gate (see photo) indicates, Cheese, Swine and Wine. The menu featured lots of pork, cured meats, smears and cheeses. The flavours and atmosphere were very clearly mediterranean / spanish. It soon became clear that most of the dishes came in the form of a substantial tapas serving. There were too many things on the menu which I was curious about but eating there by myself did not allow me to order too many variety. The 2 generous tapas portions of Calamari With Fregola, Radish, Cucumber and Milk Braised Pork Shoulders With Mashed Potatoes would have filled me up more than adequately. However, a table with just 2 tapas dishes was just too sad-looking... I had to fill it up with one more. The deep fried Pig's Ears with Fried Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers and Fried Egg was their specialty which, as the very friendly waiting staff told me, people would come and queue for.

All 3 dishes did not disappoint. The Calamari Antipasta was light and refreshing. Eating fregola pasta for the first time, I thought they tasted a little like a cross between nuts and coucous. Mixed this up with the tender calamari and the crunchy radish and cucumber, the texture balance was quite brilliant.I could eat this everyday.

The Milk Braised Pork Shoulder With Mashed Potatoes would have you swoon at first bite. Briased to the perfect fall apart texture, the Pork Shoulder is comfort food at its best. Great luscious food like this is best shared with someone - the generous chunk of swine was too much for me to finish by myself.

The signature Deep Fried Pig's Ears lived up to its name. Crispy and savoury, it went brilliantly well with the runny egg yolk of the fried egg. I have always shunned away from the Braised Pig's Ears found in some Chinese restaurants but I am glad I went without reservations with this one.

This is definitely a restaurant I will want to return to... there are just too many interesting dishes on the menu which I am dying to try and this time round, I shall make sure I go with friends in tow!


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