Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Lies Beneath?!

Bring on the rabbits!

I was swept by joy!! Think my neighbors could hear my excited scream last Sunday evening!

My first carrots!! Yipppeeeee!!!!!!!!!!

3 carrots in total from 1 plant I finally, finally had the heart to pull out!

I picked the plant that didn't flower as the flower is too pretty to be sacrificed (see my below post). I'm quite surprised (and extremely elated!) to see 3 carrots from a single plant. But based on what I have read and saw on 'planting your own veggies' sites and blogs, there is normally 1 carrot to each plant. Mine has got 2 small carrots (more like stunted carrots due to heavy clay soil which impedes full development) and 1 longer and larger one. Hmm...somewhere along the process, it must have mutated into 3! Not sure how this happened but I'm not complaining. I didn't expect my first time growing carrots to be a success.

Destined for the stew pot this weekend!

Now, I can't wait to dig out the rest for my sisters when they comeover soon.

If you don't have any ground areas, I read that growing carrots in pots work so much better as you can choose the type of soil, which has to be light, rich in compost and free of pebbles/stones.


petite nyonya

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A White, Lacy Discovery & Lots Of Chilies Too!

Work has been so hectic lately and I'm mentally tired. All day long yesterday (Friday), I've been anxiously anticipating the weekend so that I could sleep in late. I was hoping that it would rain this morning. But it didn't! Darn!! Why does it always rain in the morning on weekdays?!! Anyway, strangely I woke up early this morning (at 8.30am!!) despite it being a Saturday. Not normal for me. Just could not fall back to sleep. After freshening up and dumping the laundry into the washing machine, I took a peep at my backyard from my kitchen. To my pleasant surprise, I suddenly noticed a pretty new bloom perking upright on a single long stem! A lovely, lovely white lacy cap-like flower. I immediately grabbed the key to my back door and dashed out. To my pleasant surprise, one of my carrot plants has flowered! I didn't even know that carrot plants produce flowers so you could imagine how delighted I was at this morning's discovery. This is my 1st time planting carrots.

A 2nd wonderful surprise was my bird's eye chili plant has suddenly grown so many chilies ! Just last weekend, there were no flowers nor chilies, so they all grew within the past 1 week. Today's find is such sweet reward after a busy work week. Well, I'll say no more and shall just leave you with some pictures that speak of my joy today, and tomorrow and for as long as they can grow and last :).

Carrot flower

Pretty, huh?!
In full bloom
Based on what I've gathered from the web, carrot plants are biennial, which means they can live up to 2 years and flowering only happens in the 2nd year. My plants are just 3-4 months old so I'm perplexed. Anyway, my carrot seeds are of F1 hybrid and while I can savor the beauty of the flowers, I can forget about using the seeds once the flowers dried up as seeds from F1 hybrid will not germinate.

This is another bud getting ready to bloom.
Bird's eye chilies

Have a restful weekend!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Butter Cake With Cream Caramel Sauce

There are a couple of good ol' fashion cakes that will never cease on charm and tradition amongst home bakers. Apple butter cake is simply one of them. I don't think anyone who has taken a strong keenness in home baking has not attempted an apple butter cake in his or her baking lifetime, unless of course if you've just only started out in baking. Don't worry, you too will for sure make an apple butter cake someday.
I have a funny relationship with apples. I love the smell of apples when holding one close to my nose. And I like hearing the crunch when someone bites into it. But despite these and its glossy luscious red or fresh vibrant green look, if I could liken eating an apple to a day in a life, it would be an unmistakeably dull, unlikeable day. Somewhat like a much anticipated weekend day at home which turned out unexpectedly unenjoyable, dry and dreadfully slow. One with no phone calls, no messages, no great programs on TV, no pleasant visitors, no sale in the mall, no flowers blooming in the garden, an empty gas tank in the kitchen stove, no eggs in the refrigerator and a visit by the m.i.l. You get the picture.
Apples could be THE most boring fruit to munch on, according to me, for me! But since there is always going to be a better tomorrow (as long as 2012 hasn't arrived! seen the movie?), there's still a hope. If I could pick one out of all types of apples to at least stand out slightly successfully in tackling my munch, it would be the South African variety. It has a nice crunch to it and is sweet, and usually my interest munching it will last a tad bit longer than it usually does with apples before it starts to wane. Therefore, I hardly choose to eat apples.

BUT, give me apples fried, cooked or baked, I'm all for it. In all its forms, commercial glory and varieties, I do appreciate the fact that apples exist! Being one of the most bountiful of fruits, a wide cooking option is available, from apple cake to apple tart to apple pie to apple sauce to apple strudel to all sorts of creative uses in meals. I can't disagree that it is one of the most marvelous fruits to be created, sowed and reaped from the face of this earth! According to Wikipedia, at least 55 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2005, with a market value of about USD$10 billion. Given 5 years on and with overpopulation, I'm sure cultivation and harvesting have since increased!

To me, apple cake exudes a feeling evocative of old rustic farmhouse and village charm. I guess I must've gotten this from reading the many blogs that associate apples with autumn pickings, an activity often away from the cities. Thinking of this, I think I would really favor living on a farm. But not in Malaysia though! Anyway, enough rumblings and as you would probably know by now, I simply adore recipes from the Australian Women's Weekly. This apple cake recipe is another awesome one from AWW following the one below on Tiramisu roulade. Topped with cream caramel sauce, this is a winning apple cake recipe!

2 -3 medium green apples
80g butter
3/4 cup (165 g) firmly packed brown sugar
125 g butter, softened, extra
2/3 cup (150 g) caster sugar (I used only 1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup (150 g) self-raising flour
2/3 cup (100 g) plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
3/4 cup (180 ml) cream

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C or 160 deg C with fan-forced. Grease 20cm baking pan.
2. Peel, core and quarter apples; slice thinly. Melt butter in large frying pan; cook apple about 5 minutes or until browned lightly. Add brown sugar; cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Strain apples over medium bowl. Reserve apples and cooking liquid.
3. Beat extra butter, caster sugar and extract in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined between additions; transfer to a large bowl. Stir in sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk, in two batches.
4. Spread two-thirds of the mixture into pan. Top with apples, leaving a 2 cm border around the edge; cover with remaining mixture. (In addition to the pre-cooked apples, I added some chopped fresh green apples into the cake batter as well). Bake about 50 minutes. Stand cake 5 minutes; turn, to-side up, onto wire rack to cool.
5. Meanwhile, return reserved apple liquid to frying pan, add cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until sauce thickens (I didn't have anymore cream left so I omitted it, thus my sauce does not look creamy/milky thick).
6. Serve warm cake with caramel sauce.

Click for my previous post on Apple Fritters

Happy baking & best wishes!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tiramisu Roulade, Reshaped!

This was supposed to be a roulade, or more commonly known here as swiss roll.

But my rolling technique failed miserably! So, it became a stack tiramisu cake instead. But it tasted just as fantastic as I expected it to be.

Have I mentioned that I'm a HUGE fan of Australian cake recipes and ideas?! ESPECIALLY recipes that are from the Australian Women's Weekly. They are my favorites! So far, all of AWW's cake recipes that I've tried have been accurate and yielded successful results. This 'almost' roulade was no exception.

Back to my failed attempt and the suspected reason for it. I didn't have a proper swiss roll cake pan to begin with, one that is wide or large enough for the batter to spread across more thinly. So, I had no choice but to use my rather small rectangular cookie tray, thinking that 'it'll do it'. Of course it didn't (yes, I'm blaming my pan!) as my cake turned out a tad too thick to be rolled successfully. Thus, it cracked while being rolled. I rolled and unrolled several times and when the cream started to spill out and everything became messy, that's it!! My patience ran thin. In the end, I thought what the heck, all I wanted was to eat this cake regardless what shape it takes. So, I scooped out all the cream again (yes, messy! messy!), cut the cake where it cracked and I got four pieces. I then stacked two pieces, with generous amount of the delicious smooth cream sandwiched in between.

The cake batter is very simple to make and it gives a very airy and light texture. The cream, which combines mascarpone cheese and thickened cream, is infused with coffee flavored liqueur and imparts a lovely aroma and full-bodied creamy taste. This cake makes a superb light but very satisfying dessert after a hearty meal.

I may have failed at my rolling technique but I'm sure you wouldn't. So here goes the recipe for the Australian Women's Weekly's Tiramisu Roulade.

2 tbsps coffee-flavored liqueur (I used Kahlua)
1/4 cup water
2 tbsps caster sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp hot water
3 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar (extra)
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tbsps flaked almonds

Coffee Liqueur Cream
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup thickened cream
2 tbsps coffee-flavored liqueur

1. Grease 25cm x 30cm swiss roll pan; line base and two sides with baking paper, extending paper 5 cm over long sides
2. Combine liqueur with the water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, without stirring, for about 5 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Remove from heat, stir in half of the coffee; reserve syrup.
3. Dissolve remaining coffee in the hot water.
4. Beat eggs and extra sugar in small bowl with electric mixer about 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and mixture is thick; fold in dissolved coffee.
5. Meanwhile, sift flour twice, then sift again over egg mixture and gently fold into mixture. Spread sponge mixture into pan; sprinkle with almonds. Bake about 15-20 minutes or until cake is done at 170 deg C.
6. Meanwhile. place a piece of baking paper cut the same size as the swiss roll pan on working top; sprinkle evenly with about 2 tbsps of caster sugar. Turn sponge onto sugared paper; peel away lining paper. Roll sponge from long side, using paper as guide; cool.
7. Meanwhile, beat ingredients for coffee liqueur cream in a bowl with electric mixer until firm peaks form. Unroll sponge, brush with reserved syrup. Spread cream over sponge then re-roll sponge. Cover roulade with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

Happy rolling!