Friday, October 29, 2010

Melting Moments

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Melting Moments
Home Cooking

Now that MasterChef is over, I hardly ever have MasterChef-induced cravings that force me to make certain food items. This is probably the closest occurrence since then...

I listen to the radio every morning on the way to clinic and B105 are doing this 'Senior Masterchef' competition where listeners are encouraged to nominate their friends/family-members who are mature-aged and know how to cook. One lady was short-listed and she brought in a plate of melting moments. Obviously, because it was on radio I didn't get to see/smell the products but the way the morning crew were describing them made them sound like heaven on earth.

That was a few days ago and I had a craving for melting moments ever since.

Though I have probably got the worst social memory out of everyone I know (i.e. I can remember out of necessity e.g. for study but can barely remember my classmates from earlier this year), I vaguely recall melting moments being one of my earliest cooking attempts. I have no idea how they turned out... and bare in mind that this might not have happened at all.

Melting moments are named as such because when you pop them in your mouth, they're supposed to dissolve away. In a less poetic sense, they're like very short shortbread cookies... extremely buttery and rich. They're often sold/served sandwiched with an icing of some sort. On this occasion, I favored lemon icing.

The recipe I used is from Exclusively Food which is one of my most reliable recipe sources. I didn't stray much from the original recipe but I did halve the quantities by 2. Below are the quantities that I used.

Melting Moments
Makes ~ 10

  • 95g butter, softened
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g cornstarch
  • 100g plain flour
For the icing
  • 75g icing sugar, sifted
  • 20g butter
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Using an electric mixer, mix together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla until soft and fluffy.2. Add the cornstarch and continue mixing to combine.
3. Turn down the speed and add the flour. Mix until fully incorporated.4. Using your fingers and a teaspoon, roll small balls (about 2cm diameter) of dough out onto a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with all the dough, leaving about 3cm space between each ball.
5. Using a fork, press gently down on each ball to flatten to around 3cm diameter and 1cm height.6. Bake in the middle of the oven for around 20min or until the base is just golden and the cookies are just firm (in my oven it took around 15min).
7. Meanwhile, make the icing. Beat together the butter, icing sugar and lemon juice. Add more butter/icing sugar as required until you get a spreadable consistency.8. When the cookies are ready, cool them completely on a rack. At this stage I paired them up according to size so that it was easier for me to sandwich them (it was a bit like match-making the cookies hehe).9. Once cookies are cool, you may sandwich them with the icing. Serve!
I have a word of advice here... the cooling stage is important. I am extremely impatient so I started sandwiching with icing while the cookies were still slightly warm. That was OK initially... but then I decided I had too much icing so I started putting more icing between each of the 2 cookies. Large amounts of icing + warm cookies + warm day = icing oozing out the sides = mess.

To get my photos I had to quickly refrigerate the cookies to prevent further oozing and then use a paper towel to clean the sides. As you can see from my photos, there are icing smears all around the sides!!

So let that be a lesson for all...

Bite shot

Anyway all that didn't affect the taste. The cookies were VERY melty. Definitely deserving of their title. The cookies themselves weren't very sweet so I find the icing rather necessary here. It was one of those situations were I finally got what I'd been craving, ate 3 times the amount I should have, and now don't want to touch them for a few months. At least. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins
Home Cooking

Hit with a chocolate-craving the other day, I was stuck with the problem of 'what can I cook without butter'? Back in my frequent baking days, butter was a staple in my pantry. This was unfortunately, no longer the case and the more I looked at cake and cookie recipes online and in my hoard of dessert books, the more I realized just how essential it was.

Finally, I came across a recipe for chocolate yogurt cake that used vegetable oil instead of butter. I was lucky because mum and dad always keep a huge tub of yogurt in the fridge. The fact that it was lemon creme flavored made me hesitate a bit, but not much.

This recipe is REALLY easy because it's pretty much all in one bowl. I pretty much followed it to the tee, but I used chocolate that had almond pieces... and I made a quite chocolate ganache to blob on my muffins.

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins
Makes 10

  • 125ml natural yogurt (I used flavored)
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 200 grams of chocolate (I used Almond Old Gold)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar.4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well.5. Stir in the melted chocolate.
6. Distribute the batter into the muffin cups.7. Bake for around 20min or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.8. Cool before topping and serve. I just melted some more chocolate and stirred in a bit of milk to make a quick ganache that I then blobbed over the tops.

The muffins turned out a lot prettier than I expected, thanks to the paper cases. There was no lemon flavor in the end product (phew). I thought the end result was a lot like shop-bought muffins.

It was fluffy and flavorsome but slightly dry. They're definitely not the most amazing muffins I've ever had but quite impressive for a throw-together effort. I like these straight out of the fridge rather than warm, but that's probably a personal thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Luxe on James

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Luxe Restaurant

By the time our Valley wanderings took us to James Street, my appetite was gone completely. We stopped by Luxe hoping it would have some light lunch options.

I spotted some lunch specials on a billboard outside and they seemed decide so we went in.

Luxe is a very contemporary, clean, open-space dining area. It makes me think of the type of places business people go for after work drinks.

The first thing the waitress did was inform us that no lunch options were available. They were only serving out of the tapas menu. Hmm... ok, fair enough.

We didn't mind too much because this was compatible with what we wanted anyway. We kept it simple since there was no room for beverages and just ordered 2 tapas plates to share.

The term tapas is thrown around a lot these days. I don't really think the items on the Luxe tapas menu should be termed 'tapas'. It was more a mix of starters and small entrees.

Turkish bread with trio of house-made dips

The Turkish bread came first. It was more quantity than I expected, which is a good thing. There was a small mountain of Turkish bread with 3 accompanying dips. One dip had a strange blue cheese flavor that as unusual but very tasty.

Turkish bread close-up

I liked the middle dip that had a green olive flavor. Hien liked the olive oil with basamic, which I personally found too bitter for me. The bread itself was nicely toasted.

Moroccan spiced beef skewers with onion and cherry tomatoes

The other plate we chose was beef skewers. When commenting on the beef, I said 'too tough' at the same time as Hien said 'so tender'. I don't think he knows what he's talking about! The beef had a nice flavor as they were marinated very thoroughly.

I won't say I was extremely impressed by the food at Luxe but to be fair, we only ordered some bread and skewers. I'm not going to discard the possibility of returning to try proper food some time. The environment was classy and the service was great.
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Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

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Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Home Cooking

It's been so long since I last put some batter in the oven that I've started doubting whether or not I can bake at all. Is it harder than I remember? Would my new attempts be complete failures?

Well, only one way to find out.

I had originally purchased ingredients for making a brownie (i.e. tonnes of chocolate and butter) but because I just ate some brownie at Flamingo on Saturday, I decided to change tactics.

Our fridge was bulked up with left over sour cream from my chicken pie so when I saw the chocolate and sour cream cake in Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a domestic goddess', I knew it'd be perfect.

I'll post the full recipe below though I only used half the quantities and I also made some alterations to the icing, which I'll explain as I go.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Sour Cream Icing
Serves 6-8


For the cake
  • 1 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp soft, unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (good quality)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the icing
  • 90g milk chocolate + 90g bittersweet chocolate(I used all 70% cocoa chocolate)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup (I omitted this)
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted (I used half this amount)
  • 1/2 tsp hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 x 8in cake pans (I only made half the amount of batter so I used a mini loaf pan) with baking paper.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. Using an electric mixer, incorporate the butter.4. In another bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sour cream, eggs and vanilla.5. Slowly add the sour cream mixture to the flour and butter, beating thoroughly until mixed.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.7. Bake for 30min (mine only took 20min because I had half the quantity). When the cake is ready, an inserted skewer will come out clean and the cake should be starting to shrink back from the edges of the tin. Leave for 10min in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool.
8. To make the icing, melt the butter and chocolate either in the microwave or in a bowl over hot water.
9. Let it cool a little, then stir in the sour cream, vanilla and syrup.
10. Add the sifted icing sugar and hot water. Blend until smooth.11. Coat your cake with the icing. If you wish to layer the cake, you can use the icing the sandwich the layers.

I have to confess... I ate about 1/5 of the cake the moment it came out of the oven. As you can see from my photos, I'm very lazy when it comes to lining the tray properly with baking paper. Rather than cutting the correct shapes, I just shove a piece down there. As a result, the batter collects in the folds of paper in the corners.

To compensate for these defects, I simply trim the edges off. And what better way to use up the edges than by popping them in my mouth?

I was also too impatient to wait for the cake to cool before icing it. Even though I halved the amount of icing I made too, it was way too much than necessary for coating my cake. I ended up just pouring it on and spreading to make the covering reasonably even.

I dug into a slice of the cake while it was still warm... and I think my impatience (lol) actually paid off! It was like biting into a warm chocolate pudding with a lovely ganache-type sauce.


Though this cake looks extremely rich and sweet, it wasn't at all. I think the sour cream cuts the sweetness of the chocolate, and there was a slight saltiness that really added to the flavor. I loved that the inside of the cake was moist and squishy but there was a slight crunch at the crust.

We stored the rest in the fridge and I had a chilled piece the next day. It was almost like an entirely different cake. The texture was more like mudcake though a bit 'dry' for my liking. The icing was glorious though - firm but melted instantly in the mouth, like the inside of a Lindt ball. I think I would prefer to warm the cake a bit before serving.

ShliX for a pre-summer gelato hit

ShliX Gelato

Imagine being sick and feverish in a sweaty, isolated bed for an entire day. That's me today. Now, picture the exact opposite and that was how I spent my Saturday.

As previously mentioned, I got coaxed into a day time Valley shopping trip. The weather was a-mazing with just the right amount of "I'm getting too hot under the sun". All this translates to ICE-CREAM weather and when we walked by ShliX, there was no way I was going to pass up some gelato.

ShliX is located on Brunswick St and presents as a small, street/edgy gelato store. Apparently they have lunch items too but I've never tried that.

The gelato fridge displays a wide selection of classics, plus more unusual flavors. I inquired about how may flavors I could choose for the 'medium size' and was pleasantly surprised to be told I could select 3, rather than 2 as I'd expected.

Parisian delight, walnut on a date and after dinner mint

I asked the guy serving what 'Parisian Delight' tasted like and he couldn't explain it, justifying this by saying the flavor only arrived yesterday. No worries... this was solved by having a sample taste myself. I'm not 100% but it reminded me of Turkish fairy floss - pistachio with a hint of rosewater. Or I could be totally off the mark. In any case, it was good enough for me to choose it.

I also selected 'Walnut on a date' which, as you can imagine, was walnut and date flavored. It was great - a natural, strong date flavor with chunks of walnut. The last flavor I picked was 'After dinner mint' which was an attempt to cleanse the palate. It was still good but seemed boring compared to the other flavors.

Blood orange, hibiscus and marshmallow

Hien chose blood orange, marshmallow and hibiscus flavors. He's the exact opposite to me in that he likes fruity whereas I always go for creamy.

ShliX makes consistently good gelato. It's smooth, creamy and apparently (I read on the website), lower fat than regular ice-cream. Add into the equation the fact that there are so many good flavors to chose from and you have a winning formula.
Shlix on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maggie Beer's chicken, olive and lemon pie with sour cream pastry

Chicken, Olive and Lemon Pie with Sour Cream Pastry
Home Cooking

The moment I saw this recipe in the one and only issue of the MasterChef magazine that I bought, I knew I had to make it. I proposed this to Byron as a cooking project but from memory he probably vetoed my suggestion in favor of making curry instead (you'll notice most of the cooking posts are his doing and the majority of those are curries).

Now, many months later, I finally took the plunge and bought the necessary ingredients required to make this pie. Scratch that. What actually happened was that I delegated that financial task to my lovely parents.

At first glance, the recipe seems very multi-procedural. Once I got started, I realized it wasn't that bad. You have to whiz up a pastry first. That can be done in advance and stored away. You also need to roast some chicken and in the meantime, prepare some sauce. At the end, the chicken is added to the sauce, along with some other bits and pieces. All these is piled into the pastry crust and baked.

I halved the original recipe but somehow still had enough filling to make a large square pie (enough for 4) and 2 little ones. The pastry I made wasn't enough though so the pastry quantities are for the original amount. I also made some minor changes to the filling by putting lemon juice instead of lemon zest and some extra sour cream. Oh, and we used thighs rather than a whole chicken.

Sour Cream Pastry
Makes 1 quantity

  • 200g butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp sour cream

1. Cut the butter into approximate 1cm cubes and refrigerate until chilled.
2. Process the butter and flour in a food processor until fine crumbs form.3. Add the sour cream until the dough just comes together.
4. Press into a 1cm thick disc, wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate until required.

Chicken, olive and lemon pie
Serves 4

  • 1kg chicken thighs (with skin and bone)
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic (1 clove sliced, 1 clove minced)
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 220g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 80g green olives, pitted drained and sliced
  • salt, to season
  • 1 quantity of the sour cream pastry (above)

1. Using a veggie peeler to remove the zest from the lemon. Stuff this zest, sliced garlic and thyme under the skin of the chicken thighs. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cling wrap and leave to marinate for at least 10min but up to 3hours. I made my pastry in the time it took this to marinate.2. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Roast the chicken thighs for around 25-min minutes until golden and crispy on the skin and tender within.3. In the meantime, heat up the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Cook the garlic and rosemary until fragrant.
4. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for around 5min or so until soft.5. Reduce heat slightly and sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms. Mix until absorbed.
6. Gradually add the stock whilst stirring to ensure even absorption. Let it simmer for around 15min until thickened to the consistency of custard.
7. Remove the mushroom gravy from heat and stir in the sour cream. Set aside.8. Remove the skin, bones and stuffing from the chicken thighs. Cut the meat into 3cm cubes (or whatever consistency you like).
9. Mix the chicken, parsley and olives into the mushroom mixture.
10. Roll out the pastry into a 3mm sheet. Gently drape into the inside of your pie tray. I just used a baking dish but I think a pie tray would be more appropriate. Trim off the excess and re-roll to form a disc for the lid. You might need to return the pastry to the fridge if it becomes overworked and too hot to manipulate.11. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Fill the pie tin with filling.12. Layer the pastry lid over the top and fold the sides over to seal. Some say you can use a milk/egg wash to seal the seams but my pastry was so short (as in, soft and buttery) that it fused without any problems.
13. Slice some air vents into the lid.14. Bake the pie for around 30min on the LOWEST shelf in the oven. The pie crust should be a deep golden color when ready.15. Serve!

There was a bit of drama getting the pie slices out of the baking dish intact but after this was sorted out, we had a ball digging into the pie.

I've never seen the combination of chicken, olive and lemon used anywhere but when I heard it, I had a feeling it would just taste awesome. The filling was great! The olives and lemon added a zing to what would otherwise be a boring chicken pie. The mushrooms created a subtle earthiness. The filling consistency was great... nice and saucy with adequate chunks of chicken.

Close-up of filling

It was especially great coupled with the pie crust. Though I admit my crust was unattractive and too 'short'(as in, too crumbly and melty), it was a perfect adjunct to the pie filling. My mum in particular enjoyed this though dad thought it was too buttery for him. It was like a savory shortbread!

The whole dish was just so hearty and moreish. You can see how it would be an iconic Maggie Beer recipe. The best thing too is that it wasn't very difficult to make and I have a good idea of how to do pies now so I can make variants if I want.