Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

After a busy week of cooking a Christmas Dinner for 20 something people last Saturday and finally doing the lasts of my Christmas gifts shopping, I can finally sit down with the family and enjoy some quality time together baking and decorating Gingerbread cookies. It was a really therapeutic exercise for me and the girls and Ming thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

I was over at Big Boys Oven today and couldn’t help but feel totally blissful with the sound of Nat King Cole crooning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” in the background, so much so I have downloaded the tune for the purpose of adding some Christmas ambience to my blog. So, if you do so feel inclined, press ‘play’ on “imeem” on the top right hand corner of my blog. Don’t forget to check out the very gifted Sunny and Sid for some really creative festive baking ideas on their brilliant blog – I get loads of inspiration from these two awesomely cool dudes!

I am also submitting these Gingerbread Cookies as an entry for Susan’s 'Eat Christmas Cookies'event. Check out Foodbloggafor more Christmas Cookie ideas or better yet, submit your very own entry for a chance to win a copy of Sherry Yard’s new cookbook, “Desserts by the yard”.

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies
Makes a whole lot of Gingerbread Cookies! Recipe may be halved to yield around 40-50 mid sized cookies.

1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 cup molasses
340g butter
5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1tsp salt
1 ½ ground cloves
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp water

Mix softened butter and sugar till creamy. Add eggs, molasses and water and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together then blend into butter mixture.
Wrap dough in two portions with cling wrap and chill for two hours or if you’re impatient like me, freeze for 40 minutes. Roll out dough onto lightly floured surface and cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies an inch apart on baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes on 175 degrees Celsius. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing.

Have a Blessed Christmas from my family to yours!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Greetings!

Here's Wishing all of you a wonderful and safe Christmas! Take Care and God Bless,

Carol xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox...
ps. the recipe for these cookies can be found here
I'm submitting these cookies as an entry to Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies event. Don't forget to check out Foodblogga for more Christmas cookie ideas!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Matcha (Green Tea) Macarons and a Christmas Musical

I have come to realise that macarons, well, they GROW on you. I now understand why so many people are 'infatuated' with this cookie - the many colors that they come in and the many flavours that it can carry . I could not be happier with my second attempt at making this cookie - they were smaller and daintier, and the flavor of 'matcha' or green tea goes incredibly well with dark chocolate eventhough it wasn't the filling that I had originally intended for it.

I had initially planned to use a matcha butter cream for the filling, but for some reason that didn’t turn out – it was too runny, and I was tired and didn’t want to start another batch of butter cream. So, I just made some chocolate ganache – easy, quick and fuss-free. As expected, the flavour combination of matcha and dark chocolate was sensational.

The first time I made macarons, I left the piped batter to sit for half an hour for the ‘skin’ to develop. I felt though, that the ‘skin’ was too thin, so this time around, I left the piped batter to sit for two hours instead and the outcome was a crisper and less fragile skin. To make the matcha macarons, all I did was add 2 teaspoons of matcha green tea powder to the basic macaron batter.

I also wanted the macarons a little less sweet, so I lessened the powdered sugar by 35 grams and it turned out great.

Matcha Macaron Batter

125g almond flour
190g powdered (icing) sugar
100g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
2tsps matcha green tea powder

Baking instructions and the recipe for the chocolate ganache can be found on my previous post.

I’ve not had time to do any blogging the last two weeks because of the many rehearsals we had to attend for a Christmas musical that our Church is staging this Saturday. It’s a really entertaining and enjoyable musical, so if you live on my side of the world, I welcome you to attend. You will not be disappointed!

EVENT: "Heaven's Lamb" Christmas Musical (SUPPER Provided after)
DATE: Saturday 1st December 2007
TIME: 6:00 P.M.
PLACE: Perth Christian Life Centre
3 Rangerview Place, Canning Vale 6155

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Elusive Macaron

I’ve always wanted to know what the hype was with Macarons. I’ve seen countless postings on this seemingly ‘hard to make’ French cookie in the last year or two but have never had the guts to attempt making them. Furthermore, I had never tasted them before until my recent trip to Singapore a couple months back. And even then, I thought, ‘Yeah, It tastes pleasant’, but it didn’t get a “WHOA!” out of me. Despite that, there was something alluring about it still. Maybe it was the different colours and flavours they came in. I couldn’t be sure.

I remember seeing some really gorgeous photos of macarons on Tartelette – the brainchild of the lovely and talented Helen and decided to refer to them again. Her Pistachio macarons were a sight for sore eyes. She breezed through the recipe like it was the easiest thing to make. I must say I had my reservations still because of the many different ‘must-do-in-order-to-achieve-success’ tips I’ve read on other blogs that she had done without. I doubted that I could pull it off the way she did. After all she is THE Tartelette, the Awesome baker!

I must tell you now that I DO NOT take failure gracefully and I’m hardly the type of patient person that will persevere with a recipe over and over until I succeed. On the contrary, when I fail in the kitchen, I SULK and I MOAN and GROAN, and I seek solace in the comforting arms of my husband and children. Yes, I’m not afraid to disclose the fact that I am somewhat of a DRAMA QUEEN.

It was not until I stumbled upon Veronica's Test Kitchen that I finally had the courage to embark on macaron making. Veronica’s obsession and persistence in mastering the macaron was truly inspiring, from her very funny and entertaining documentation of her failed attempt to her step-by-step journey to success ‘Macaron Chronicles’. And so began my exploration with the macaron. Suddenly, making the macaron didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. I followed Veronica’s findings faithfully and had success on my very first attempt. YAY!

I made hazelnut macarons by substituting half the amount of almond meal with hazelnut meal, just like Veronica did but instead of the Caramel fleur-de-sel filling she used, I thought that I’d start off with an easy chocolate ganache filling. I ‘aged’ (leave egg whites at room temperature) the egg whites for 43 (Veronica recommended aging the whites for 24-48 hours) hours before starting the recipe. Even so, I noticed the ‘skin’ of the macaron shell was very thin, which probably meant that my eggs were SUPER fresh and that I’d need to age them more in the future. Also, I carelessly spaced the macaron batter too close and a couple stuck together on the edges, no drama though, I just carefully pulled them apart. The other thing too, was that I didn’t expect the macarons to spread so much – I ended up with HUGE macarons! Other than that, everything was hunky-dory.

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Ganache
(Taken from Veronica’s Test Kitchen)

62.5g almond flour
62.5 hazelnut flour
225g icing sugar
100g egg whites
25g granulated sugar
Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150C). Run the flours and icing sugar through the food processor and sift twice. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat at medium speed. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue beating until the whites attain medium peaks and are glossy.
Add the dry ingredients slowly to the meringue, taking about six additions all in all. Pipe the batter to a diameter of an inch and let rest for 30 minutes before baking. Bake for about 11 minutes or until done, turning the sheets halfway through.

Draw a circle template on the reverse side of the parchment paper. Keep your tip positioned about ½ inch above and in the middle of the circle guide, the batter is going to spread out more evenly into the circle you want. If your macarons stick, peel away the parchment rather than force the spatula to lift the macarons out.

Chocolate Ganache
85g semi-sweet chocolate melted with 1/3-cup heavy cream
Refrigerate until consistency becomes spreadable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Malaysian/Singaporean Hawker Cuisine: Prawn Noodles

I don't often do posts on savoury dishes mainly because I HAVE TO cook dinner every Monday to Friday whilst I DON'T HAVE TO make desserts, bake cakes, pastries or cookies, thus the idea of baking becomes more appealing and is a treat for me. Styling and Photographing sweets is more fun too because the colors of sweets are more interesting.
However, every once in a while I whip up something savoury that takes a little more time and effort than the Monday to Friday dishes, something like this that I really take pride in preparing. I had some friends over recently to share this dish.

Most of you guessed right – This is Prawn Noodles or ‘Hae Mee’ as it’s known in Singapore or ‘Mee Yoke’ as it’s known in Malaysia. I’ve made Prawn Noodles in the past, but I must say that I was only totally happy with the flavour recently, thanks to Madam Chia Ah Bee, the mother of a good friend of ours from Singapore, Jeffrey Lim. On their holiday trip here two years ago, Madam Chia was kind enough to show me how she made her famous Prawn Noodles. Those of you living in Dover Road Singapore will remember Madam Chia for her noodle stall simply known as ‘Teck Hock Prawn Noodles’ that had been in the area since 1978. She is retired now and spends her time doing the things she loves like travelling, having her weekend mah-jong sessions, cooking for her family and watching cooking shows on TV.

Madam Chia Ah Bee (extreme right) with her family on holiday in Bangkok

Life wasn’t this easy for Madam Chia in the late seventies – she had been widowed in her mid 30s and had to be the only bread winner for her family of four children. Teck Hock Prawn Noodle Stall became her primary source of income. On Sundays and Public Holidays, she made and sold another of her specialty dishes, Braised Duck Noodles which was another popular favourite. I was told that Madam Chia had learnt her cooking skills from her mother and Mother-in-law, and this had become an invaluable asset for her in hard times.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to learn some of her ‘tips’ and ‘secrets’ to making some of the best tasting Singaporean dishes including this Prawn Noodle dish. The secret to making a memorable ‘Hae Mee’ is in the stock, which derives it’s rich flavour and coloring from prawn heads and shells that are sautéed until well caramelised.

I look forward to my next trip to Singapore when I will again savour Madam Chia’s skilful cooking!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Madeleines, Memes and Awards

The last few weeks saw me tagged with a couple of memes that I haven’t been able to fulfil due to the 3 lengthy vacation posts that I published, but as promised, today is THE day, but just in case you haven’t noticed that I already share my personal life quite freely with you, my advice to you is, don’t hold your breathe – I have nothing ‘juicy’ to expose. I have also been fortunate enough to received four awards but have been unable to down load them onto my sidebar for some strange reason. Anyway, first things first – Here’s a brief history of the ‘Madeleine’;

Madeleines have always been associated with the little French town of Commercy in the region of Lorraine. In the 18th century, the bakers of Commercy were said to have once, long ago, paid a very large sum for the recipe and sold the little cakes packed in oval boxes as a speciality in the area. Nuns in the 18th century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling a particular sweet. Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. Historians think the nuns, probably when all the convents and monasteries of France were abolished during the French revolution, sold the recipe to the bakers.

In 1923, the Madeleine was made famous by Marcel Proust (1871-1922) in his autobiographical novel ‘A la recherché du temps perdu’, translated ‘Remembrance of things past’. This novel was left unfinished upon his death and his brothers published the book in 1923. In it he wrote:

“She sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called “petites madeleines” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell... I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses…
And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings in Combray when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane… and the whole of Combray and it’s surroundings, taking shape and solidity sprang into being, town and garden alike from my cup of tea.”

Proust’s reminisce of a happy memory associated with the madeleine is not unlike our own reminiscence that is almost always associated with food, after all, food is the basis of any one happy memory, well, for me anyway! Madeleines are traditionally made with eggs, butter, flour and sugar with the inclusion of the zest from the orange or the lemon, but in the recent years, other ingredients have been added to add interest to the flavour.

Makes about 30

100g salted butter
100g icing sugar
40g almond meal
40g plain flour
4 eggs
Zest of 1 large lemon
1tsp. vanilla bean paste
Caster sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat. Let it bubble briskly for about five minutes (you’ll hear it crackle a bit as it loses water.) When it’s a deep golden colour and smells nutty, turn of the heat and leave it to cool slightly. Strain the melted butter (using a paper towel over a mesh strainer) – you want to leave the solids behind.
Grease the madeleine molds and dust with caster sugar. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sifted flour, almond meal and icing sugar and set aside. Put the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until thick. Fold in the lemon zest and vanilla, then sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the egg mixture and gently fold in. Now fold in the melted butter and stir only enough to bring everything together.
Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each mold 3/4s full. I use a small milk jug filled with batter to keep things clean and manageable. Bake the madeleines for 12-14 minutes or until the madeleines are golden brown. Remove from oven and unmold immediately on to racks to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Now, on to the Memes..

Big Boys Oven and Singairishgirl both tagged me with the ‘5 things’ meme, so here ‘tis…
5 things…
A. Found in my room
1. A Queen sized brown leather bed
2. Two nightstands on either side
3. Two table lamps, one on each night stand
4. Oil paintings on canvas
5. An Oil Burner

B. Found in my bag
1. A wallet
2. A tube of hand cream
3. A tube of Vaseline Lip Treatment
4. My mobile phone
5. My house and car keys

C. Found in my wallet
1. Cash
2. Drivers License
3. Bankcard
4. Loyalty Cards
5. A stack of receipts

D. I have always wanted to…
1. Be able to swim
2. Be slim
3. Be able to fit in nice clothing (Man! this is becoming depressing! Don’t anyone tag me with a meme ever again!)
4. Be able to eat whatever I want without putting on weight
5. Be able to sing well

E. I am currently into…
1. Blogging
2. Watching Korean and Hong Kong soaps
3. Home Decorating
4. Watching my daughters dance hip-hop (they are SO good, I want to learn how to youtube them. Can anyone teach me??)
5. Lounge and Korean music

And now, I have the pleasure of tagging the following bloggers with this meme;
(If you have been tagged with this meme before, you may choose to not take this on)

1. Daniel of Messy Pastor
2. Ming of Ming the Merciless
3. Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen
4. Anh of Food Lover's Journey
5. Sylvia of La Vida en Buenos Aires y afines...

Daniel of Messy Pastor tagged me with the ‘ 7 things most people don’t know about me’ meme, so here goes…

1. I don’t like crowded places – you’ll never find me at a sale
2. I can’t be under the afternoon sun for more than 15 minutes, I’d almost always have a headache
3. In my teens, I used to represent my school for singing competitions
4. I have terrifying stage frights – at a solo performance in Church with hundreds of eyes watching, my mind went totally
blank and I forgot the words to my song. (HORRORS!!) So, I made up some lyrics on the spot until the familiar chorus
5. That was the last time I sang solo on stage.
6. In 2000, I went on the Atkins Diet. I didn’t have rice, noodles or any carbohydrates for a year. I lost 15kgs and dropped
to a size 6. After a year of eating meat, sausages and bacon with very limited fruit and vegetables, I gave up.
7. In 2001, I decided to Love myself more

I’m tagging the following bloggers with this meme…

1. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen
2. Belinda of Bel’s Fish Bowl
3. Sunny of Big Boy’s Oven
4. Rafe of Rafe New York
5. Bee of Rasa Malaysia

I want to thank the following bloggers for giving me an award, I’m humbled and honoured.

1. Nora B of Life’s Smorgasbord for the Thoughtful Blogger Award. I have earlier passed on this award in a previous post.

2. Sylvia of La Vida en Buenos Aires y afines... for the Thinking Blogger Award. I pass this award on to the following bloggers:

Daniel of Messy Pastor, for helping me understand my faith better
Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, for being such a huge inspiration to me

3. Debra of Singairishgirl for the Creative Blogger Award. I pass this award on to the following bloggers:

Sylvia of La Vida en Buenos Aires y afines for her excellent food styling and photography
Bee of Rasa Malaysia for her fabulous recipe ideas

4. Debra of Singairishgirl (again!) for The Power of Schmooze Award. I pass this award on to the following bloggers:

Anh of Food Lover’s Journey for always being helpful and obliging
Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen for her beautiful personality that shines through her blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chloe -my school holiday guest chef & Singapore - my vacation wrap-up

After 2 solid vacation posts, the passionate foodie in me is literally ‘itching’ to do a post on a home spun goodie of some sort – so today, I present to you a guest chef from the Rode-Chong household, my gorgeous multi-talented daughter Chloe who is affectionately known at home as ‘Theng-Theng’. For all you foodies reading this post, I hope you will leave a kind comment as an encouragement to her. Many thanks in advance from this doting mom!


Chloe is 13, loves to cook and bake – her favourite food items in the whole wide world are the glorified Potato and the highly exalted Chocolate so it’s no wonder that she’s sharing her favourite Brownie recipe today. I’m just a little surprised that she did not incorporate a spud or two in the recipe! See here for another of Chloe's creations! Chloe also enjoys Hip Hop dancing, reading girlie novels and magazines, racquet sports, rock climbing and swimming. Albeit her tender age, Chloe is a sensible and responsible child who assists me in my home duties above and beyond her assigned tasks. She is a delightful companion and I count myself extremely blessed to have her as my daughter.

Chloe’s totally awesome Chocolate, Chocolate Brownies!
Makes 24

40g all-purpose flour
60g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
250g good-quality dark chocolate,
chopped into small pieces
125g milk chocolate chips
250g salted butter, melted
2tsps natural vanilla extract
4 eggs lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to160 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a 20 x 30 cm cake tin and line with baking paper, leaving the paper hanging over on the two long sides.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add the sugar and chocolate. Mix together and make a well in the centre.
Pour the butter into the dry ingredients with the vanilla and eggs and mix well. Pour into the tin, smooth the surface and bake for 40 minutes (the mixture will still be a bit soft on the inside). Chill for 2 hours before lifting out, using the paper as handles, and cutting into pieces. Enjoy them with your friends!

Now, on to the second part of this post - a wrap-up of my recent vacation in Singapore, I would firstly like to say that Singapore is Ming’s (my husband) country of origin, his family and the friends that he grew up with are all there, so we visit the island about twice a year. As for me, besides visiting Ming’s family, I get to hang out with one of my ‘Bestest’ (I learned this word from my daughters) friends, M, (of 'Yummytots') who actually introduced me to blogging. I have known M for yonks, we went to High School together here in Perth. We used to ‘wag’ (play truant) school together, cook and bake together, have long chats while we plucked hairs from our legs, ok, maybe a little bit too much info there but yeah, we were really close then and we still are.

The very impressive color changing canopy at Clarke Quay

Paige, at Clarke Quay

Paige and I browsing some bling-bling at Clarke Quay

Paige, digging into the Haagen Daaz Chocolate Fondue at Clarke Quay - hey, this here is a natural born foodie!

During my stay in Singapore, M and I went for two Delicious treatment massages at the ‘Renewal Day Spa’ in Tong Building Orchard Road, a couple of ‘toe-curling’ reflexology sessions at the People’s Park, countless meals together with our families – the best being the afternoon tea at the PS. (Project Shop) Café in Harding Road where we had their famous Steak Sandwich and fantabulous Tall Chocolate Cake. The most memorable meal however was had at M’s home where she cooked up a really satisfying meal that included her mouth-watering ‘Assam Fish Head’ (Fish Head cooked in a spicy tamarind sauce). As always the best meals are had without the presence of a camera, unfortunately. M and I also did a baking class together with Lynn Chen, patissier blogger and instructor at Palate Sensations, a cooking school in Singapore. We learnt to make the ‘Opera’ – a rich 3-layer almond sponge saturated in coffee and liqueur, sandwiched in a coffee butter cream and covered in a Valrhona Dark Chocolate Ganache. It was heavenly, as you can imagine. Lynn was wonderful, M and I totally enjoyed the experience.

Our 'Opera' making class in Lynn's Kitchen

The finished Product..

'M's very successful 'Opera'

During this trip, I also had the pleasure of meeting ‘A’ of Greedy Goose, one of my favourite food blogs. ‘A’ was really sweet and hospitable and my family and I took to her immediately. We had lunch together at the famous Chicken Rice stall in the Alexandra Village Hawker Centre. The Chicken and the fragrant ‘oil’ rice was delicious but the girls and I stared in horror as Ming and ‘A’ tucked into the plate of Chicken livers!

After Lunch, ‘A’ took us to ‘Macaron’, a patisserie specialising in macarons where we had some very tantalising samples over coffee. It was a very pleasant afternoon indeed.

Our Macaron Tasting Plate

A half chomped-on Lavender Macaron

Besides having a lot more lunches....

Ming, Chloe and I at Toast Box, Food Republic in Vivo City

.....and a lot more dinners...

'Rojak' - Singaporean Spicy Fruit Salad with Crisp Cruellers

Cheryl (my niece) and I at Island Cafe, CK Tangs

Spicy Fried Chicken Wings

...Ming and Paige visited the zoo whilst Chloe and I caught up on some retail therapy. Here's Paige (my precious, precious baby!) to take you on a mini tour of the World-Class Singapore Zoo..

Paige and the Alligator

A very rare White Tiger

Paige and the Hippos

Paige with the monkeys and the trainer in the background

Paige and the Elephant

This post concludes the recount of my August 2007 Foodie Vacation. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I've enjoyed writing it!