Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crusty Moist Madeleines

These little plumpy morsels in their recognizable shell shape may have originated from France, but its fan base spans the globe. I read that some had said, for the tastiest and most delicately authentic madeleines, one needs to go to France. Hmm...sounds like a darn good idea to me!

The first time I tried making madeleines was well, not quite in their original form as I didn't have any madeleine pans then so I basically used my bear mould pan. I had used the recipe from Lee Mei of Cooking Hut, who shared a classic recipe which uses yeast instead of baking powder.

Last week after purchasing my madeleine pans, I got eager and wanted to make some badly. After searching and comparing about 5-6 recipes (and they all have the same classic ingredients), I stumbled upon one which uses some milk and honey. The result was good if you want crusty edges with a buttery moist inside. These are however, best eaten on the same day they are baked as leaving a day older will have them less spongy.

Recipe for "Crusty on the outside, moist in the inside Madeleines" (found at

1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for brushing molds
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons mild honey

Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Brush molds with melted butter.
Sift together flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then whisk in zest.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into another bowl with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use). Add sugar and rub together until vanilla is well dispersed, then whisk in eggs, milk, honey, and remaining 1 3/4 sticks melted butter. Fold into flour mixture until just combined.
Spoon a rounded tablespoon of batter into each mold, filling it about two-thirds full. Bake (with 2 pans on one rack), switching position of pans halfway through baking and rotating 180 degrees, until golden around edges and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a madeleine comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes total. (I baked longer for crustier edges)
Turn out madeleines onto a rack and serve slightly warm.
Notes: These madeleines are best eaten when just baked. The batter can be made 3 hours ahead, then chilled, covered.
petite nyonya

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sri Melaka Cupcake

Alex Goh is a popular Malaysian pastry chef who has published books ranging from cakes and cheesecakes to breads and pastries. Under my growing recipe book collection I have 3 titles from Chef Alex. What I find approachable is that in one of his books, he willingly had his mobile phone number printed inside it so that people like you and me could reach him for baking related questions, hints and tips. Although I don't seem to have much luck with some of his bread recipes, on the contrary my sister's attempts have been highly successful thus far. One of his latest books I've recently purchased is Magic Steamed Cake, which I thought is just perfect since I have an under utilized steam oven. However, you don't really need a steam oven because simple equipment like a wok with a cover or steaming pot will work just fine.

Sharing with you here is a simple recipe from his steamed cake book - Sri Melaka Cupcake. Melaka is the name of my hometown state, a historical place once upon a couple of centuries ago had been colonialized by the Portugese, Dutch, Japanese and English. The name of this cupcake must've been derived from the use of gula melaka (gula = sugar). Gula melaka is basically brown palm sugar made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm and is produced in cylindrical blocks. Whether it was originally produced in my home state or not, I have absolutely no idea. But what I can say for sure is that gula melaka is widely used in many gastronomical delights of the Baba Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine which originates from Melaka, from our dishes to sweet desserts to cakes. Gula melaka is also very widely used in many yummy Malay cakes and desserts.

gula melaka

There are many cottage producers of gula melaka in Melaka (as with elsewhere in Malaysia) but only a true old timer food critic I call 'Dad' knows where to get the actual pure stuff. Some producers may make it by mixing with white granulated sugar, and the color is often pale in comparison to the real thing. My sisters and I can be sure of adequate packets of gula melaka readily available for us each time we make a visit back home. Our dad refuses to buy from any other supplier except his regular trusted one. According to him, finding dead bees trapped inside the gula melaka and high softening point (needs to be kept in the refrigerator) are indicators of pureness. They say the Nyonyas are fussy, well you haven't met my dad yet!


200g gula melaka (or brown sugar as substitute)
120g water

4 eggs
100 g white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

150g corn oil
150g coconut milk

400g flour
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
4 tsps double action baking powder

1. Cook A until sugar is dissolved, set aside to cool.
2. Whip B until sugar dissolves and mixture slightly thickens. Add in A adn C, mix until well-blended.
3. Fold in sieved D, mix until well combined.
4. Fill cupcake liners placed in muffin pan till about 3/4 full.
5. Steam for 30 minutes or until cake is done.

I serve it with grated white coconut as they pair well together.

Happy steaming!

petite nyonya

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chef Devagi's South Indian Pepper Chicken

I was delighted to learn that one of Singapore's celebrated chefs, Chef Devagi Sanmugam, recently published her Indian cook book. Titled 'South Indian Temptations', just a quick browse through the pages had me convinced that it is THE South Indian cook book I've been searching for. I've tried only 2 recipes since I purchased the book about 2 months ago and below is one of my 2 tries. Serve it with plain rice or pilaf or biryani rice, this pepper chicken is full of aroma from the lovely blend of spices.

Pepper Chicken (with Coriander!)

1 kg chicken (chopped into small pieces)
3 large tomatoes
2 tbsp black pepper
11 cloves garlic
5 cm piece ginger
2 large onions
1/2 cup water
enough salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 cup water
10 tbsps oil
2 pieces cinnamon
4 cardamons
4 cloves
1 tsp aniseed (coarsely pounded)
2 sprigs curry leaves

Add in a bunch of chopped fresh coriander leaves in step 3 below. This is my own addition, not stated in Chef Devagi's original version above.

1. Chopped the tomatoes.
2. Blend pepper, garlic, ginger and 1/2 onion with 1/2 cup water in a blender.
3. Mix blended ingredients with enough salt, turmeric powder, pepper powder, chilli powder and coriander powder. Rub over chicken pieces and leave to marinate for 1 hour or more.
4. Add 1/2 cup water and tomatoes to chicken pieces and cook covered over slow heat.
5. When gravy has thickened, turn off the heat.
6. Slice the remaining onion into fine pieces.
7. In a pan, heat oil. Add cinnamon, cardamons, cloves and aniseed. When fragrant, add onion slices and curry leaves.
8. When onions are lightly browned, add chicken pieces and fry for about 5-10 minutes over low heat. Dish out and serve.

Have a great day!

petite nyonya