Sunday, March 27, 2011

Baking Disaster: Flat Muffins

I was so looking forward to bake muffins this week. I searched for many muffin recipes online (and finally found one), consulted my friend on how to bake this successfully and read a lot of muffin baking tips. I was extra careful about this baking muffin idea and trust me, from all the information I got in the internet, baking muffins seems so easy which boosted my confidence and excitement to do this. I even watched Nigella Lawson's making muffins tutorial video on YouTube and she says baking muffin is stress-free.

So, I did it and was so excited to test my brand new muffin molds too. Anyway, all my good mood about muffins turned into a traumatic experience when I had flat muffins today.

My flat muffins today: Had soft texture inside but tasted bit floury.

This is the original recipe that I used and I think I had obediently mind the below tips too into my baking attempt today. It's just that today I used crushed Oreo cookies too instead of just using chocolate chips and I used oil instead of melted butter. I used Oreo cookies as one of my ways to be more creative in baking as I was inspired by a photo of cute Oreo muffin in the internet (too bad the recipe was not disclosed).

Here are top five tips in making muffins that I collated from my online reading:
  1. Always separate mixing the wet and dry ingredients. Once we are done with this part, create a well in the dry mixture and pour the wet ingredients until well mixed.
  2. Sift the flour to have best result.
  3. Avoid over stirring the muffin batter. Muffin batter is meant to be lumpy. In fact, some tips mention that maximum amount that we could only do in stirring the batter is 12 strokes by using spatula (which I can't figure out how possible this is to be done).
  4. Fill the cup mold with no more than 3/4 full to create a room for the muffin to rise.
  5. After the muffins are done, leave them in the molds for 5 minutes first before releasing them (I didn't practice this since this time around I didn't find this was necessary nor helpful to save my day anymore)
Now I wonder where I went wrong with all this. Was it my whisking method for the wet ingredients? I used mixer to do this as I don't dare to experiment in whisking cake batter manually as yet. Or was it the crushed Oreo cookies, my so called creative, additions that technically caused more flour into the muffin batter? Or was it because I didn't fold the batter properly? Although I am sure that I didn't over do it and had a lumpy muffin batter as advised. I don't think I'd blame the oven temperature for this since it looked normal today.

Help! I feel horrible and embarrassed after this failure, especially since my brother in law's family is here too. I hope by tomorrow I'd feel much better. By the way, in the end I threw away some of the muffin batter since I knew it would not made it and if I continued, I would have just wasted more gas for the oven.

Holy Moly, my muffins didn't rise today and I am sad. If you know any nice muffin recipe (which is 98% guaranteed would produce successful result, perhaps), please do share with me. I'd like to try it.

Checking Out the Petronas Twin Towers

A virgin trip to Malaysia is incomplete without checking out the Petronas Twin Towers or KLCC. These skyscrapers and twin towers were one of the tallest buildings in the world and is the landmark of Kuala Lumpur. In short form, it is a must to check this place out when we are in Malaysia for the first time.

Seemingly, the KLCC Skybridge is open to all visitors and according to the Wikipedia, the tickets are limited to 1700 people daily on first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately, we didn't really have the chance to go up there and check the skybridge since we were catching plane for my family to go back home to Indonesia.

With the 30 minutes time that my husband allocated for us to check KLCC before heading to the airport, under the scorching hot sun, we loitered around the building's park below and snapped pictures with the towers as many as we could.

 My family with the KLCC in the background.

Below the buildings, there is KLCC park, notably was designed for jogging and completed with walking paths, fountain with incorporated light show (which we didn't catch) and a children playground (which I didn't notice).

Taking silly picture with my sister at the KLCC Park.

Another silly picture directed by my husband.

Actually before we really headed to LCCT, my husband let us check the Suria KLCC too but we didn't really buy much, again due to the time constraint. Suria KLCC is an upmarket retail podium at the feet of the Petronas Towers and mostly features high-street labels.

That was it for my family's first trip to Malaysia. Petronas Twin Towers concluded it all. Hope to welcome them again this September.

Dropping by Genting Highlands

One day before my family left for Indonesia, we took them to visit Genting Highlands, about one hour from Kuala Lumpur by driving. Genting is a very famous destinations in Malaysia due to its casinos and crisp air so somehow we had to show this place off to my family when they visited Malaysia.

On our way to check the main attractions in Genting, we made a stop at the large temple built by Genting's founder. I usually never really enjoy exploring temples but I was very impressed with this particular temple. I remember I really enjoyed taking a stroll and pictures there with my family. This 清水 temple has giant Buddha and Guan Yin statues, pagoda, lots of statues of some historical characters and stories such as the seven levels of tortures in hell, the journey to the west (西游记), the eight immortals (八仙), etc.

The pagoda at the Genting 清水Temple.

Me and my Dad with the giant Buddha statue in the background.

Journey to the West with Sun Wukong.

My parents with Monk Xuanzang.

Taking photo with giant statue of Guan Yin.

Moving on, we headed to Resort World Genting to have lunch, check out the mall and Ripley's Believe It or Not museum and the casinos. My family didn't gamble and but my husband and parents in-laws did some games. My brother, then under 18, was not allowed to enter the casino but finally managed to sneak in from different gate. Smoky and happening casinos there in Genting. No photos of ours were taken when we were in the casinos since it was prohibited to take pictures there.

After checking Ripley's Museum in Genting.

In front of the Resort World Hotel.

Genting's Resort World Hotel Building.

My family didn't find the casinos that entertaining, so perhaps next time, we'd like to check the Genting's Theme Park out, which I missed since I didn't know about its existence.

Dropping by Malacca

Last year, I went to Malacca for the second time. Malacca is the third smallest Malaysian state and it is famous for its historic city center. My husband and I took my family from Indonesia to check out Malacca, one of the famous tourist spot in Malaysia and its location is only about one hour away from Seremban. Initially, my siblings lamented about our plan to bring them around Malacca when they were in Malaysia simply because they never heard this place before. At the end of the trip, they craved for more visits to Malacca and kept on begging me to bring them to Malacca again in the future when there is a chance.

First thing when we arrived to Malacca, we took my family for a snack shopping at Tan Kim Hock snack shop, famous for its dodol. As we can see the shop is packed with mountains of local Chinese snack. My mom and sister went crazy over these snacks to bring back to Indonesia.

 My Dad and sister at Tan Kim Hock Product Center Sdn Bhd., Malacca.

Once we were done with shopping, my husband and I planned to bring my family to taste Malacca's famous cendol but they declined the invitation to eat cendol again so we headed to the city center. When we reached Malacca's city center, my family, especially my Mom, was ecstatic to see the heavily decorated bicycle rickshaws with loud music there. Indonesia also has lots of pedicabs as mode of short-distance transportation around the town but we don't really have ones decorated like the ones in Malacca.

Malacca's decorated bicycle rickshaws. Gotta pay to ride.

Moving on, we visited Fort A Famosa, a famous fortress in Malacca constructed by Portuguese back in 1511.

In front of Porta de Santiago's ruins.

My siblings trying to be funny with the canon at the Fortress.

 My brother mimicking the Statue of St. Francis Xavier.

Done with circling and observing the remains of Fort A Famosa, we went back to the city center and prepared to do some souvenirs shopping at the city center.

In front of Malacca's Stadthuys.

In front of Christ Church Malacca.

In the evening, the street stalls along the Jonker Street started to open and we had a long walk exploring this place. We had lots of street snacks and shopped lots of cheap antique souvenirs.

The Jonker Street.

Before we went home, my husband introduced the super famous food from Malacca, Satay Celup. It's similar to steamboat but we dip the boiled ingredients to satay sauce instead of eating it with hot soup. We were supposed to try the Capitol's Satay Celup but the long queue at the restaurant was unbelievable. Luckily we managed to get served at the other restaurant called Ban Lee Siang, also known for its satay celup too.

Malacca's Satay Celup.

Malacca is indeed an interesting place to visit although next time, we'd probably would just go there for its cuisines as I feel that once we visited its historical city center, there would be not much to explore again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Marble Pound Cake

Pound Cake is a traditional cake made with a pound of each of four main ingredients namely flour, butter, eggs and sugar. When making the cake, the basic ingredients' ratio has to be maintained at 1:1:1:1. The quantity of the ingredients used for the cake can be varied depending on the desired cake size, but as long as the 1:1:1:1 ratio is preserved, the cake can be called Pound Cake.

I was browsing random cake recipes this afternoon and bumped into a simple Marble Pound Cake recipe. The original recipe of this Pound Cake attracted me because the ingredients needed are so simple and not too much in quantity. The steps to make this cake are also pretty much straight to the point. I didn't plan to bake anything today but thanks to this recipe, I spontaneously baked something after dinner.

Today's baking attempt: Marble Pound Cake.

Marble Pound Cake

Ingredients:

150 gr butter/margarine
150 gr granulated sugar (I used 100 gr only)
150 gr flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp chocolate powder

Tutorial:

1. Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.

2. Mix the butter or margarine until smooth then add in sugar bit by bit. Continue mixing until this batter is well developed and the color is slightly whitened.

3. Add in eggs, one by one,  into the cake batter whilst mixing.

4. Put the flour mix into the cake batter using spatula and slowly mix well.

5. Take about two tablespoons of cake batter, put it in a separate bowl and mix it with chocolate powder.

6. Pour the white cake batter into the loaf mold. Add in the chocolate cake batter on top and create a marble pattern by using chopstick. I didn't have a loaf mold so my cake's end result looked thinner.

7. Put the cake batter in the heated oven (180 C)  for about 20-30 minutes.

Fresh from the oven: The marble pattern I created today.

Overall, I am quite happy and satisfied with my flash baking attempt today. The whole preparation process only took less than 30 minutes of my time. In addition, this time around I used real butter for the cake batter and as a result, the cake aroma was very strong and different from other cakes made with margarine.

The texture of the cake was soft and velvety. I think I desperately need a loaf mold for baking this kind of small-sized cake. My cake result today was just so square, as usual. FYI, it's been a real challenge to find a non-sticky loaf mold that I want here. I just could not find it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meeting Joel in Kuala Lumpur

The last time I saw Joel was when he paid a visit to my previous company in Singapore back in last October, exactly before I left the company. It's been like six months since we last saw each other. In six months time, way too many things took place on my end. I joined a different company. My previous company suddenly closed down one month after I resigned. I quit my new company because I was relocating myself to Malaysia. I finally settled down in Malaysia. Time flies but Joel and I still keep in touch.

Joel was in Malaysia since last week and we planned to meet up sometime last week but he was crazy busy meeting people and in fact, spent the last weekend in Singapore. He came back to Kuala Lumpur via KTM train this morning and squeezed his last few hours in Malaysia to meet my husband and me in Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

I always admire Joel for his jokes, chirpy personality and incredible passion for his work. At age 76, his non-stop business traveling schedule (all around the world) is unbeatable. I always wonder how he does this and how he can be so energetic in getting the business going around the globe. I'm so happy to have the chance to introduce my husband to this bionic man.

It took lots of phone communications to finally be able to find him in Kuala Lumpur today. After we found him and followed him having a short meeting with his client in an office near the Mall, Joel bought us nice heavy lunch before he went back to Hong Kong. We indeed had lots of things to catch up.

Me and Joel doing Pancho.

Our Mexican lunch at Chili's, Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur.
Chit chat over long lunch. Chit chat in the car on the way back to his hotel to pick his luggage up and to the airport. During these times, he indeed shared a lot of interesting old-time stories that made my husband and me laughed along the way. He even showed us his driving license in Hong Kong, which in his opinion, looks like a library card. Both my husband and I couldn't agree more with him on this.

We hope to see him again in the near future. So long, Joel.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bak Ku Teh in Lukut

I am a Chinese but in my younger years in Indonesia, I was known as the only Chinese girl in the family who refused to eat pork. Yes, I never fancied eating pork no matter how people cooked it. I hated its smell and in particular I hated eating its fatty part, like the 'shaking' pork belly or skin. I always thought that pork is so unhealthy. Then, I only accepted white meat and vegetables.

Since I met my husband a couple years ago, I trained myself to accept pork as part of our daily food intake in Malaysia. Pork dishes are commonly chosen when we order food in Chinese restaurants and pork is usually cooked at home too. It was like either, I take some of this meat or I just eat plain rice with veggie. So I learned and trained myself to eat pork. Bit by bit. Moving on, I believed that eating high-fat meat like pork in moderation won't hurt and my friend told me that pork actually contains collagen. Hence, no harm eating pork. My progress to date is to accept pork's lean meat, bakwa or pork floss only. I still refuse to eat its belly, skin or other fatty parts.

As said, my tolerance level to pork increased only about two years ago, hence I even never ate the famous Singapore's Bak Kut Teh during my four-years stay in Singapore. It never crossed my mind to try eating Bak Kut Teh before I met my husband. Bak Kut Teh literally translates as "meat bone tea" and it is actually a popular Chinese soup consists of meaty pork ribs, dried tofu, some vegetables and mushrooms simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices.

During my first visits to Malaysia, my then-boyfriend/now-husband introduced me to Bak Kut Teh as one of the must-eat cuisines from Malaysia. He said near his hometown, there is a super delicious Chinese restaurant in a small town called Lukut selling Bak Kut Teh and I have to try it. In full faith, he proclaimed that this Lukut restaurants sells the best Bak Kut Teh ever and no one sells one like this in Seremban. We had to drive for about 20-30 minutes out of town to find this. His first acquaintance with this restaurant was when he was posted in a project in Lukut.


Dry Bak Kut Teh and Soup Bak Kut Teh from Lukut.

In summary, I liked it. I only ate the lean meat but I liked the sauce and the yu diao served with the dish. The way they serve the ingredients and sauce for this dish is just nice, especially for the dry one. These days, whenever we want to eat Bak Kut Teh, we always drive all the way to this particular restaurant in Lukut. We also brought my family eat this for lunch when they visited us last year and they really liked it.


The infamous Bak Kut Teh restaurant in Lukut.

Always eat Bak Kut Teh with chopped chillies and fresh garlic dipped in light soy sauce. 

This restaurant is well known in the area so by 1.30pm or 2pm, they'd start clearing their restaurant already. Once, we arrived there at 2pm on Saturday and they ran out of pork for Bak Kut Teh. They served us chicken meat in replace of the pork for the Bak Kut Teh. It was dissapointing. Pork for Bak Kut Teh is irreplaceable.

After tasting this, occasionally I ate Bak Kut Teh too in Singapore for lunch with my friend, but true enough, Bak Kut Teh in Singapore can't beat the one in Lukut.

Ice Cendol in Seremban

Occasionally, I'd crave for some Indonesian dessert like dawet. Dawet is a dark green pulpy jelly made from glutinous rice and served with coconut milk and palm sugar and can be bought almost in every local Indonesian restaurant or wet market in town. It's very common for us to eat dawet with shaved ice as dessert or snack in Indonesia back then. Apparently, Malaysia and Singapore also have this similar dessert but it is under a different name. Over here, dawet means cendol and it is a widely popular local dessert too. Actually, in Indonesia, cendol itself by definition, would mean a totally different type of traditional dessert. Language problems.

Malaysian cendol. 
This one is from Hajji Shariff's.

Anyway, in Seremban, where I live now, I still could find this dawet-type cold dessert sold in a cendol street stalls in some local wet markets for a mere RM1 per package/bowl. Other alternative to enjoy this dessert is by visiting a cendol restaurant in town. Yes, there is a designated Indian restaurant in Seremban called, Hajji Shariff's Cendol, specializing mainly in selling cold cendol. It's always full house and usually on weekend, by 4pm, they'd call it for a day already. They price their cendol for about RM 2.5 per small bowl.

Hajji Shariff's Cendol Restaurant in Seremban.

My husband introduced this restaurant to me a couple of times and when my family visited me last year, we also brought them there for some "Indonesian vs. Malaysian" cuisine comparisons. For them, Seremban's cendol tasted a bit salty so they didn't quite like it. They prefer our dawet. This restaurant, however, has various styles in serving it. For instance, cendol with glutinous rice, cendol with sweet corn, cendol with red beans or just regular plain cendol.

Eating the regular style of cendol with ice.

Seremban's cendol for me is not too bad as it cures my sweet tooth craving which takes its toll once in a while. Although honestly, in Indonesia, I hardly hit dawet for my favorite dessert. I only ate it when it happened to be around. I never particularly looked for it. For the time being, Indonesian food in a foreign land, it is totally different story for me. Precious. I will particularly look for them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making Pandan Bread: Baking Failure

Two nights ago, I was inspired by this recipe to make a simple Pandan Bread. From the recipe, making this particular bread looks very simple and it seems to have high chance of baking success. I happened to have all the needed ingredients, so I just hit it. I made some minor modifications from the original recipe though. Instead of using the whole recipe, I used half recipe to save some ingredients (in case I failed). Also, I added on chocolate powder too so we would not have to suffer from Pandan overdose after consuming Pandan flavored cakes for few consecutive days.

Unfortunately, my biggest horror came true. Possibly due to my wrong technique in kneading the bread dough, after I rested the dough for more than one hour, it just didn't develop. Somehow, with the needed amount of flour as per stated in the original recipe, my dough was still so sticky to my fingers.

I was half way through, so I just continued baking it.

These ain't meatballs, people. 

I was supposed to put on egg yolk on top of the bread dough before putting it into the hot oven to give a glazy look on the bread but I skipped it. I just knew this bread would not make it.

Fresh look from the oven.

After 30 minutes sitting in the oven, the bread came out not so fluffy and tasted like a plain flour. It was quite disappointing.

The bread texture.

Eating the bread with fruit jam didn't work well either.

Added some jam on it: Still didn't help much.

On the next morning, the bread's dry texture didn't go away, even after heating the bread in the microwave. My husband and I decided to just throw it away. Sigh! I guess I really have to practice kneading bread dough with hand or else, I'd  have to invest on a bread machine.

It was such a bad baking experience but I think I have to learn from mistake. One day, I want to repeat this recipe once more because it actually has good reviews. I want to prove it.

I'm welcoming kneading or bread/loaf making tips here :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Mango Pudding

We happened to have mangoes at home and I've been eating mangoes since yesterday. This is like my first time tasting Malaysian mango. Anyway, I feel like I have not been eating mangoes for ages. Seemingly, I have missed mango seasons for more than five years. Mangoes, all imported, were so expensive in Singapore whilst back then in Indonesia, my parents always bought tons of mangoes when the mango season came.

Following are some mango cultivars found in Malaysia.

Waterlily Mangoes.

Elephant Tusk Mangoes.

I bought a pack of mango jelly powder over the weekend and decided to match the real mangoes with mango jelly together, while mango stock lasted. In less than 10 minutes of preparation, I had bowls of mango jelly with mango cubes.

Mango jelly with real mango.

Cooled the jelly in the freezer for a while and this is what I got.

Slurp!

It tasted heavenly... How I miss mango!

Why Malaysia doesn't sell my favorite mango type, Mangga Gadung/ Harum Manis??? What a pity to know that this particular mango family is mostly only grown in East Java.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Making Putu Ayu

After my husband bought me some pretty flowers this morning, my baking mood was lifted up again. Initially, after making potato donuts on last Friday night, I thought of taking a break in making cake, at least for this week. Both of us think that baking once a week is healthy enough. Since last Friday, my husband and I had shopped most of the ingredients for Putu Ayu that I've been planning to make, today I decided to just go ahead with making some Putu Ayu. Putu Ayu is a popular traditional steamed coconut cupcakes in Indonesia.

It's Sunday and the kids and brothers in law are here, so I guess it would be good if I make this today so there would be enough people to finish them. On our way home, my husband made a stop at a food retail shop in the neighborhood and bought some fresh grated coconut for me. The whole coconut and grating fee cost RM1.80.

The original look: Flower-shaped putu ayu.

Putu Ayu

Ingredients:
  • 250gr baking flour
  • 225 gr granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 130ml coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ovalette/sponge cake stabilizer
  • 200 gr grated coconut
  • Green coloring - as needed
  • Cooking oil - as needed
  • Pandan juice/essence - as needed
  • Putu Ayu molds or plastic jelly molds

Tutorials:

1. Boil the coconut milk. Let it cool.

2. Thinly grease the molds with cooking oil.

3. Make some pandan juice and pandan leaf cuts from fresh pandan leaves. I prefer using real pandan juice instead of the artificial pandan essence since the cupcake's pandan aroma would be very different with real pandan juice.

Squezzing the juice and making the cuts from fragrant pandan leaves.

4. Mix sugar and eggs together in high speed until the mixture is thick. Add in the sponge cake stabilizer. Mix well again until white and fluffy.

The mix is ready for flour and coconut milk.

5. By using spatula, add in flour, cold coconut milk, pandan juice and green coloring into the cake batter. Mix well slowly until even.

The cake batter is ready to be poured onto the molds.

6. Put a layer of fresh grated coconut on the bottom of the greased molds. Press the grated coconut a bit with one finger to make the final results firmer.

The molds with grated coconuts on the bottom.

7. Heat the steamer. Pour the cake batter onto molds until they're 90% full. Put one cut of pandan leaf on top to give extra pandan savor.

The cupcakes ready for steam.

8. Steam the cupcake for about 15-20 minutes.

The final results: Fresh from the steamer.

9. Release the cupcake from the molds and serve warm.

Heart-shaped putu ayu

I first learned making Putu Ayu during my final year in primary school. Then, cooking and baking were part of the school curriculum for the girls and we had to showcase our cooking/baking skill for the national exam too. Since then, I practiced what I learned from school at home with my Mom's assistance. She bought me my first oven when I was 12. The oven was bought from a department store in my hometown called Mitra and it cost Rp. 50,000. I still use the same oven when I bake at home in Indonesia.

Although I often make mistakes in baking, baking has actually become my hobby since I was young. I haven't really baked so much for many years since I left my parents' house for my overseas study and work but am very happy to reconnect with my old flame again when I moved to Malaysia. I've got to use my Mother-in-Law's oven and have pretty much completed most of my baking utensils again here - so I can do all my baking frenzy again.

As for today, I'm very happy to bring back my primary school old memory again by making Putu Ayu. These green cupcakes tasted good, soft and fragrant and today's recipe made about 40 cupcakes in total. A lot, huh!

Garden Makeover

After breakfast, my husband took me to Giant Supermarket in Senawang. He wanted to buy a medium-size pot to separate the pandan and aloe vera plants that we planted the other day. When we arrived, I was excited to see the small flowers that they sell and thought of keeping some at home. They were so fascinating and irresistible.
The gardening shop in front of Giant Senawang.

The flower pot stands they sell.

I quickly fell in love with few of them and made my husband to buy them for me. Minutes later, my husband bought 3 pots of pansy flowers at RM5/pot, 2 pots of mini decorative golden crest trees at RM12/pot and the pots 3-layer stand at RM65. In one single trip, another impromptu shopping cost him RM120 just for gardening stuff.

The flowers and mini trees that caught my attention. 
Minutes later they are mine.

My husband did some rearrangements at the house's front yard. He moved some plants here and there and finally, we got a new look for the house's mini garden. I think the colorful pansies and the mini golden crest trees get along together very well. They look sweet and pretty together.

Latest look at home with the new additions for the green family.

Sorry for making you spending extra money for these 'unnecessary additions' for the garden, my husband. I just could not resist them. :-)