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Daring Bakers: Doughnuts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kuih keria
I have a love-FEAR relationship with doughnuts. Having been badly burnt after a frying churro (Mexican doughnut) exploded and splashed hot oil onto my face, neck and chest, one tends to get a little nervous around a pot filled with boiling oil.

And so it was with some trepidation that I read the October Daring Bakers' challenge. In fact, I actually started to laugh... a sign of anxiety, I think. Well, here's the brief:

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Like I said, I love doughnuts. I've even written a cover story (left) for my newspaper in praise of these confections. I so wanted to take part in this challenge properly and try out all the recipes Lori had lined up. The day after I read about it, I went out and bought some sweet potato because I knew I had to make the Malaysian kuih keria, or sweet potato doughnuts.

And despite the deep-frying, I had every intention of following up with an oven-baked cake doughnut and a raised doughnut.

But good intentions or not, sometimes you are just overwhelmed with things that crop up. Lots to do in life ­­– I'm preparing for a course I am taking ­­– and at work ­­– the boss is hounding me for a story I have been sitting on for over a month ­­– and so all I could manage was the sweet potato doughnut.

I'll take a bite of that
It's not difficult to make and a proper recipe is hardly necessary. Peel some sweet potato (the orange ones are prettier for this), cut into chunks and steam until tender; mash until smooth. Mix in sugar to taste and enough sifted all-purpose flour until a soft dough forms. If you can find tapioca flour, substitute a third of the all-purpose flour with it as it makes the doughnut more springy. Form into rings and deep-fry.

The doughnuts are usually coated with a thick sugar syrup which hardens in clumps, but here I have simply dredged them with icing sugar.

Start the day pretty

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mos Kit
This is a six-serving "Mos Kit". It is the breakfast served at Maison Moschino in Milan, Italy, which I was fortunate enough to be a guest of for three nights last week. (I was there on a working trip; I could never afford to stay anywhere so posh on my own ringgit!)

The picture was taken at the Clandestino Milano restaurant at 7am and with the camera on my mobile phone, so it is not as clear as I would have liked it to be. But it's obvious that this kind of breakfast makes a very good start to the day: lots of fresh fruit, eggs, orange juice and – what's not shown in the picture – a selection of seeded and wholewheat breads. Breakfast also comes in four- and eight-serving Mos Kits.

The meal is presented in a white glossy plastic box with a lid which looks like a shoebox. When the server brings it to the table, he/she will place it in front of you and open the lid to reveal the delightful spread. The bread comes in a smaller, separate box. The first morning I had the breakfast, I was very impressed. The following two days, I wasn't surprised any more, but still enjoyed the meal tremendously.

Maison Moschino is a pretty hotel with an interesting history. Its official website has some information but few images, but if you're interested, click on this hotel industry site for pictures. Here's a better picture of the Mos Kit breakfast from the site.

Eight-serving Mos Kit

The rooms are done up in various concepts and there are fashion-related items all around the place. This is what the restaurant looks like (again, taken with my phone):

Clandestino Milano restaurant at Maison Moschino
More about what I ate in Italy, and my visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano producer, in a future post. Ciao!

Now we are one*

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bak choy rose
* See note below

A year ago today, I started this blog... reluctantly.

My colleagues Hungry Caterpillar, Veggie Chick and I had been producing our Don't Call Me Chef cookery column in print for close to a year when HC thought that the next step should be writing individual blogs as an extension to the monthly newspaper feature.

As I said, I was reluctant. I wondered what I could say in it or if anyone would even be interested in what I ate or cooked. I didn't want to be someone who made her private cookery/eating journal public; if I was going to say something, I hoped it would be informative and meaningful to someone other than myself. Coming up with the focus of the blog took some time. But finally I decided, since I prepared my own lunch almost every day, and ate in the office canteen by myself with a book ­­– usually food-related ­­– perhaps I could write about that. And that was how I introduced myself in my first post.

But even as I got used to blogging, I didn't know where I was really headed. And looking over the older stuff now, there seems to be so many random posts without any substance as well as some real dingers. That was posting just for the sake of it ­­– what I had told myself initially to stay clear of.

Through the year, the design of this blog has changed and so has the focus ­­– from putting thoughts down in readable form however disorganised they are, to making an effort to document something worth remembering for the future.

And now I've come to realise what this space means to me.

The process of documenting food through photography is fun, from the styling (and sometimes, there is hardly any!) to the time when I click and then download the pictures to the computer to see my handiwork. There's often a lot of groaning at how bad the pictures are, but most of the time, there's that one shot that I am satisfied with and which drives me to do better next time.

As a blogger, I'm glad I signed up as a Daring Baker. Although I am often tardy and do the challenges at the last minute, it has been a wonderful experience. Even for a geeky loner like me, it's been nice to be part of a community just as fond of baking as I am.

As with many food bloggers, this is my cooking journal and recipe keeper. I still go to the archives for help with cooking and when that piece of paper I wrote a recipe down on goes missing.

What I like most about writing this blog is that it pushes me to "study" food. Sometimes I cook and eat to fill my belly (and for pleasure!), and sometimes, it's more than that. Food ­­– a fascinating subject. It's about life.

* The title of this post is a play on the title of a favourite poem of mine when I was little. I don't know where I'll be in six years, and what will happen to The Thymes, but right now, I am happy to write it.

Now We Are Six
By A. A. Milne

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Loco for coconut

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coconut rum cake
I wasn't kidding when I said in the October edition of Don't Call Me Chef that I have never met a coconut dish I didn't like. Give me the meat, the water, the milk or combine them with other ingredients in a sweet cake or savoury serving and I will not say no to it.

We had coconut trees everywhere around my childhood home. I didn't know anyone who could climb a coconut tree, but we got the fruit down easily enough with a long pole with a bent metal hook tied on to the end. Wielding a parang (machete), and under close supervision from my father, mother or one of the older guys, I was taught how to cut through the husk of a young coconut and get the top off the inner shell. Tipping the whole fruit up to drink the water straight from it required some skill.

After that, the hole in the shell would have to be widened so that you could dig out the soft flesh. And the scoop would be a shard from the shell.

After being inspired by the Don't Call Me Chef pumpkin-coconut-soy challenge, I thought I would make a cake ­­– then decided to leave out the pumpkin and soy, and instead pile on the coconut in three forms: cream, fresh meat and shredded. I recently acquired a bottle of dark rum and used it to flavour the cake. A coconut rum like Malibu would of course have fit the theme better.

This isn't a large cake. I made two layers in loaf pans and it probably would have been prettier if I had sliced each cake in two to make four layers in all with frosting in between. But it really didn't matter in the end because it was polished off quite quickly! Coconut, aaah...

A slab of joy
Serves 8-10. Cake is best made a day before it is frosted so that the rum is well absorbed. You can  leave out the real rum and use ½ teaspoon imitation rum essence instead. Add it together with the vanilla extract.

1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1¾ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup coconut cream (preferably fresh)
2-3 tablespoons dark rum
1 quantity frosting (recipe follows)
Flesh from 1 young coconut, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sweet shredded coconut
  • Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and base-line two loaf pans. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and mix into the creamed mixture until blended. Stir in vanilla extract and coconut milk until batter is smooth. Divide batter between the prepared pans.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is golden and springs back to the touch. 
  • Place on wire rack to cool for five minutes, then remove cakes from pan and peel off base paper. While cakes are still warm, poke holes in the crumb with a toothpick or thin skewer; spoon on the rum so that it is absorbed into the cake. Cover with foil. Or, if possible, place cakes in an air-tight container and leave overnight (at room temperature).
  • When ready to assemble, place one cake, flat side up, on a serving plate and spread with half the frosting. Spread with fresh young coconut slices. Place the other cake on top and spread with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle with shredded coconut, pressing gently to adhere.
60g butter, softened
1-1½ cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon coconut cream
  • Beat butter and coconut cream together until creamy; beat in icing sugar gradually until mixture is a soft spreadable consistency.