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Friday, January 24, 2014

Nyonya Pineapple Tarts

G O N G   X I   F A   C A I ,    E V E R Y O N E!

It's time to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year! May the year of the Horse brings you an abundance of good luck, good fortune, good health and much joy.

The first cookie to be eaten for this auspicious celebration should be this authentic Nyonya Pineapple Tarts.  Why?  Because pineapple is called 'Ong Lai' in Hokkien dialect which means luck has come.  In Chinese community, everything and anything that is considered 'good' will be largely consumed or celebrated on such auspicious occasion.

Here, I present to you the authentic Nyonya Pineapple Tarts.  My family and I love to eat this tart.  Some would call this a cookie but actually it's not.  The pineapple jam should not be too sweet.  If too much sugar is used in cooking the jam, you will not get the taste of sweet-sourness of the pineapple.  That slight sourness of the pineapple that compliments the pastry.  The store bought jam is usually loaded with sugar and they thicken it with cornflour so that less pineapple is used.  Pineapples are not that cheap.  So for commercially processed jam, all that matters is the profit and not the taste.  That's why I don't buy commercialized pineapple tarts.  I'd prefer to make them although it is a very tedious process at making them.  So, I only do this once in every few years.. :) - provided I'm in the mood to be 'hardworking'! lol

The secret to making this tart is in the kneading of the pastry.  I don't exactly have the right measurement of the margarine used.  My late mom thought my sisters and I when we were younger on how to 'feel' the dough when making this tart.  The dough should not be too dry or too wet.  That's why most people who do not have the 'right' method or tricks in kneading the dough but rather follow the recipe book, may not get the right texture or taste for this tart.  So, I guess my siblings and I are rather lucky to have learned the tricks first hand.

There's really nothing to it if you know how.. wink! wink!

So, here's the recipe for the ingredients and I try to give you the exact measurement as I can...

Pineapple Jam:
3-4 large pineapple (try to get the ripe ones)
Granulated Sugar to taste (approx. 500g, depending on the natural sweetness of the pineapples)
(I know that some families use spices like the star anise or cinnamon sticks when prepare this jam.  My family prefer not to use the spices.  We like the natural taste of the pineapple that is not being overwhelmed by the spices)

1. Cut the pineapple and cut out the 'eyes'.  Chopped into bite sizes.
2. Blend the pineapple and strain.  Run it over clean water and leave to strain for an hour or so.
3. Cook the pineapple in a wok, keep stirring for about 45 mins, then add sugar.  Cook until pineapple is almost dry and the color changes to darker golden yellow.  Leave to cool before use.  Can be frozen for a couple of months.

600gm wheat flour
250gm margarine (has to be margarine.  Do not use butter) - add more as needed
1/2 cup hot salted water (hot water mix with 1/2 tsp salt)
3 egg yolks
1 egg white

1. Rub flour with margarine.  Texture should not be too sandy or too 'wet'.  When you pinch the dough together, it should be able to hold the shape.
2. Add the egg yolks and the egg white.  Knead well and add the salted water.
3. Roll out the dough and use the tart mould to cut out the tart discs.  Fill the center with pineapple jam.
4. Use the same dough to make the center pattern.  However, the original version, for the pattern dough, do the same for the pastry dough but add more egg whites to it so that it'll be stiffer and stretchable.
5. Brush egg wash on the pastry and bake at 160d C until the pastry is golden brown.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blueberry Sourcream Cupcake

This weekend has been quite a busy one.  Well, most weekends are kinda busy in my household but this weekend, we managed to buy Chinese New Year clothes for my kids.  Chinese New Year is just round the corner, at the end of January.  For the next two weekends, I'll be tied up baking Chinese New Year cookies.  My nieces and nephews will be waiting to put their hands in the cookie jars... lol

Not only did we managed to do some shopping, I also had my hair cut short.  Yup, really short and don't ask me why.  I guess it's just that sometimes you have that spur of a moment to do something so not you and this I guess, was the crazy moment for me.  Although the thought has been lingering at the back of my mind for weeks but never really wanted to do it until yesterday.  Was undecided as I love long hair.  Have been having long hair for ages.  So I asked my hubby's opinion and he said 'Cut'.  So I went for it.  If I had waited, I might not have the guts to do it.  Anyway, so it's short now and my head felt so light and free.  Not only that, I decided to go another step further with my hair.  Colored it Caramel Brown.  My hair is really black although I've noticed a few strands of grey lately.  I had my hair dyed many many years ago but the dye didn't stick to my hair.  I tried a few times back then but all didn't work.  I then learned that if I wanted to color my hair, I had to treat it first by bleaching.  Bleaching??  No way I'm gonna bleach my hair.. So after many many many years have passed, I thought okay, since I have a few strands of grey, probably this time it will absorb the color..then, guess what.. same thing.  My hair is still black and not brown.  Well, maybe if under direct sunlight, hopefully, hopefully, it will show some highlight to it.. anyway, so much for having a new hair color for the Chinese New Year... kakakaka

So, hair dye doesn't really work.  Now, I know what works.. let's bake some cupcakes!  Yay.. This is Martha Stewart's Blueberry Cupcakes.  How you want to serve it with, really depends on your creativity.  Here, I cut the cupcakes in half and since I have some leftover chocolate ganache that is slightly thickened, I spread some on the bottom half of the cupcake, top it with the other half, and add a generous dollop of good quality vanilla ice cream.  Not only is it yummy, it looks elegant too.  You can use whip cream with choc fudge drizzle or you can also drench it with some blueberry jam or some sort.  So versatile and don't be afraid to try various flavors of icing or topping.

Cupcake recipe:

1 2/3 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 180d C.  Line paper cups in muffin trays.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix well.
3. On medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time.  Add in vanilla.
4. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.  Fold in blueberries.  Fill cups 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 mins until cake is done.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nyonya Assam Prawns

Hi there! My first post for 2014 is this wonderful simple dish.  The Nyonya Assam Prawns.  'Assam' means sour.  In this recipe the 'Assam' actually refers to 'Assam Gelugor' which is Tamarind pulp.

This dish is so versatile.  It's perfect eating on its own but we just love to eat this with hot fluffy rice.  The way to cook this is by using the whole tamarind pulp including the seed as well.  Some people prefer to just use the tamarind juice.  It's personal preference but my late mom loved to cook using the whole tamarind, seed and all.  It's tastier this way. You will be amazed at how ridiculously simple this recipe is and yet it's so so tasty and aromatic.  I hope you will give this a try.

30 medium to large size prawns, cleaned with shell intact
3 - 4 tbsp tamarind pulp with seed mixed with 1 tbsp of water
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

1. Mix all together and marinate for 1/2 hour or longer if preferred.
2. Heat 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in wok and wait till it's really hot before you add in the prawns.  Prawns will release some liquid.  Stir fry until the prawns are almost dry.
3. Serve with hot white rice.