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portuguese custard tarts (pasteis de Nata) & aWard

Portuguese custard tarts

Recently I bought the Café Favorites Cookbook from one of  The Australian’s Women Weekly Cookbook series. I only flicked through it quickly and without hesitation I bought it right away, there are many recipes which I know I would love to try and I have already tried a few already. The Portuguese custard tarts were a big hit, I have made twice in two weeks time already, for both occasions: our street BBQ and my friend’s baby shower, they were gone so quickly.

A little story telling….

The first time I came across Portuguese custard tarts was in 1997 in Hong Kong , when Lord Stow’s Bakery from Macau opened his first branch in Hong Kong, snake-like queues of people were waiting for hours to sample the freshly baked tarts came out of the oven. For those who did not want to wait (side-story), his ex-wife had also opened a bakery jut nearby competing with him and claiming hers were better. Anyhow, the food culture in Hong Kong is like fashion or a wave, rather short-lived, after people have tried, they jump on to try other new food. Lord Stow’s bakery does not exist in Hong Kong anymore, their custard tarts are now sold under exclusive licence at the coffee lobby bar in Excelsior Hong Kong.

I have visited Portugal years ago and have tried the local custard tarts there, I could only buy those selling at room temperature. To be honest, I did not like them at all. The custard was harder, a little curdled. I still like the modified version by Lord Stow. I am also too used to having freshly baked ones and eat them when they are piping hot or within a few hours out of the oven maximum.

I asked in twitter and found out apparently the most authentic ones are in Belém, Lisbon, thanks Helen @World Foodie Guide! I have to make a “pilgrim visit” to Belém one day : )

Although I am writing about Portuguese egg tarts today, my friend who is also named Carmen from Basel @ Sushi Session, both of us agree that Hong Kong style egg tarts are the best, especially the puff pastry ones. I was reading from wikipedia about the history and types of egg tarts, if you interested too, you can click here. Our last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten who is also a food lover, likes the Hong Kong style egg tarts a lot, he used to visit Tai Cheong Bakery, 泰昌餅家 in Central from time to time, this bakery got popular since then (see picture below).

Tai Cheong Bakery, Central, Hong Kong

Please feel free to share your custard tarts experience in the comments section, would love to hear your story!!!

Recipe adapted from Café Favorites

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) water
  • 4 fresh egg yolks (large eggs)
  • 300ml cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 ready-rolled sweet puff pastry
  • cinnamon (optional for sprinkle on top)
  • powdered sugar (optional to sprinkle on top)
  • butter for greasing the muffin molds

Directions:

  1. Grease a 12-hole muffin mould with some butter.
  2. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, set aside.
  4. Mix the cornflour and water in a small bowl, set aside.
  5. In a stainless steel saucepan, add in the sugar, cream and gradually whisk in the egg yolks, turn to medium heat and keep stirring with a whisk until all sugar is dissolved, the cream and egg yolks are mixed well.
  6. While the mixture is slowly heating up, slowly pour in the cornflour mixture. Keep stirring to avoid lumps and until the mixture thickens and become custard.
  7. Unwrap the puff pastry, fold into half and then roll it up from the short side like a swiss roll.
  8. Divide the pastry into 12 equal round pastry dough.
  9. Cut-sides up, roll each small dough into a round piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10cm round. Push the rounds into the muffin molds with the sides sticking out, don’t worry they will strink when they are in the oven.
  10. Divide and spoon the custard into the each holes to about 3/4 full.
  11. Bake for about 2o minutes.When out of oven, let it stand for 5 minutes before lifting them to cool on wire rack.
  12. Optional, sprinkle some cinnamon and powder sugar for even more authenticity.
  13. Best served when they are piping hot or warm.

Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The recipe says mix the cornflour with sugar, cream, water and egg together, I find this will cause lumps so it’s better to dissolve the cornflour first with water.
  • I used a spoon to help stirring the custard as after some custard may stick to the bottom, I use the back of the spoon to help to avoid curds forming and ensuring the custard is smooth.

Custard tarts

You see those rocky road on the right? Stay tune for the recipe!

Award

And finally, I would like to thank you so much for Sophie from Sophies Foodiefiles for the Sisterhood award. Sophie lives in Belgium, I always feel she is living very close to me because Holland is just next door.

sisterhood

To keep with the tradition of passing on this  award. The Sisterhood Award is an award from bloggers to bloggers in recognition of a blog spot which shows attitute and/ or gratitude.

  1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
  2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude
  3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
  4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog, or by sending them an email.
  5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

And I would like to pass on to

So here is a long post today, I hope you have enjoyed it!

nian gao (年糕) & homemade Chinese turnip cake (蘿蔔糕)

Yesterday was the 7th day of the Chinese New Year of the Ox which is known as ‘everybody’s birthday人日’, the day when everyone grows one year older. When I was in Hong Kong, we will say Happy Birthday to our friends, family and colleagues. You must be thinking that the Chinese New Year has so many rituals and celebrations and you are absolutely right, if I have to follow strictly the rules, there are many things that I have to abide and follow but in the modern days, most people will only follow selectively.

A major difference to the Western New Year, the Chinese New Year lasts the whole of first month 正月 of the lunar calendar. The first fifteen days are the most important. And within the first month, it is very important that no one in the family is allowed to buy any shoes, this is because shoes in cantonese sounds like sighing and we don’t want to sigh for the rest of the year. If you are interested to know more about the things that symbolize good luck or bad luck to the chinese especially in the Lunar New Year, wikipedia has listed quite many of them.

For growing kids, the Everybody’s birthday is particularly meaningful and my mom used to pan-fry Nian Gao (年糕)and Turnip Cake, (literally translation: Lo Bak Gao 蘿蔔糕) in the morning for breakfast.

‘Gao’ in Cantonese pronounces the same as the word ‘height’ – 高, and by eating these chinese savoury cakes, the kids are blessed to grow faster and taller (年高). And what about adults, it also symbolize the business sales will grow more and more each day and month, the stock market index will go higher and higher, and you will get a job promotion. With all these meanings, that’s why these chinese cakes are so important in the Chinese New Year!

Nian Gao is mainly made from Glutinous rice flour and brown sugar, these days most people will not make their own anymore, as there are available everywhere, and time is very precious in particular in Hong Kong and most people are too busy, if your mom or grandma are still willing to make them for the family, you should be extremely grateful, this is because although the ingredients for making Nian Gao are very basic, brown sugar, glutinous flour and oil, the skill is all that matter to make it successful.

This year,  I was given one as a gift from my friend Carman which was not too sweet, just right for me. It was so good that I could make a live demonstration and explain the meaning behind to my family here.

Nian Gao

Niao Gao (before panfried)

How to prepare nian gao:

  • cut the cake into slices
  • whisk an egg in a small bowl
  • Heat up a flat pan or wok to medium high heatand add a little cooking oil
  • coat the nian gao by dipping the slices of nian gao into the egg
  • place them to the pan one by one and
  • pan-fry them immediately until they turn soft and slightly crispy on the outside
  • serve immediately with some chinese tea (to help digestion)

img_1823 

~~~~~~~

Homemade Chinese Turnip Cake

as seen in foodgawker #15088, 03.02.09 , & foodphotoblog #2533, 04.02.09

Chinese Turnip Cake, Lo Pak Gao 蘿蔔糕 is my all time favorite, you can find this all year round in Dim Sum restaurants. Yet, you can never compare with homemade ones, as they are far more tasty than the commercial ones, the ones in the restaurants usually are rather stiff and do not have enough turnips and taste too floury.

In Hong Kong, my dad makes the best, I remembered that the family and friends liked them so much that he went and made many of them one year to give them out as gifts, but because of all the grating and chopping requires a lot of work & time standing, my dad ended up a very bad backache. We then limited him to make three cakes only the following year and only those who made New Year visits (拜年) will be able to taste my dad’s turnip cake.

This year, I dare to make it for the very first time with my visiting friend, Carman. It was a fun cooking session for us, our turnip cake turned out perfect despite we burned a little the bottom of the mixture but we were able to rectify instantly and not being affected by it.  I was so happy with the results that I had to call my parents to report our success, the turlip cakes were not too hard nor too soft. Both mom and dad said we were talented enough to be successful for the first time, as although there are so many recipes out there, a lot of people claimed this is challenging to make a good one. I hope I can be repeat and be successful next year!

Panfried Chinese Tulip Cake with XO sauces

How to make Homemade Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Gao, 蘿蔔糕):

Ingredients:

  • 3 white radish (other names: chinese radish/ turnip or daikon) ~ 1.75kg for this time
  • white rice flour 350g
  • white radish : rice flour (5:1)
  • chinese sausages (mix of pork ones and the duck liver ones, usually available only in Winter)Chinese sausages (臘腸 & 膶腸) specially for winter time 
  •  
     
     
     
     
     
     
      

     

     

  • dried chinese mushrooms or shaiiake mushrooms
  • dried scallops
  • dried shrimps (optional)
  • handul of shallots
  • a bunch of coriander
  • approx 350ml chicken stock
  • 2 -3 tbsp corn starch dissolved in little cold water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • pinches of white pepper

Method:

  1. Hydrate the dried scallops, dried mushrooms and shrimps in separate bowls of hot water for a few hours, finely chopped
  2. Cut the chinese sausages into thin slices or small cubes (both are fine either way)
  3. Finely chopped the shallots
  4. Separate the leaves and stalks of the coriander, cut the stalks into small pieces
  5. Coarsely grate the white radish, set aside
  6. Heat up a wok or frying pan at medium high heat, add in the chinese sausages, stir-frying  for a few minutes, you will see some oil will come out from the sausages (like the bacon), you can then gradually add in shallots, mushrooms, scallops and shrimps, keep stir frying them for a few minutes until they are semi-cooked.
  7. Boil the chicken stock  in a deep pan of another wok if you have available, and add in the grated radish, keep stirring and cook until the radish is soft and transparent.
  8. Stirred in the chinese sausages mixture and coriander stalks into the cooked radish.
  9. Turn off the heat, wait for a while about 5-10 mins, and pour in the rice flour and corn starch, keep stirring and then add in the salt, pepper, sugar. By this time, you will result to have a half cooked thick paste. Funny enough the rice flour can dissolve directly to the mixture without pre-dissolved in water but do prepare some cold water aside to adjust the paste where necessary, this part is the most important to get a correct consistency.
  10. Generously oil 2 baking tins and transfer the paste mixture to cake baking tins (you can use the disposable aluminium ones too)
  11. Steam each tin/ tray for an hour at high heat first, when the water is boiling turn to medium heat.
  12. When it is cooked, remove from heat and sprinkle the coriander leaves on top as garnish.
  13. Let the cakes to cool down completely before turning them to large plates.
  14. Cut into slices and panfry until slight brown and crispy on the outside.  Serve with XO sauce or chili sauce if preferred.
  15. You can also cut a portion in small cubes and stir fry with some bean sprounts XO sauce, I learnt it from the restaurant served as a contemporary dim sum.
  16. Alternatively, if you want the panfried ones too heavy, I like cutting big cube and reheat by steaming it and pour a little dark soy sauce on it.

Note:

Step 9 is very critical and was where we did wrong, we were worried that the rice flour would not dissolve properly and thicken to a paste, so we heated it up again and all of a sudden we discovered that it was beginning to burn. And when I talked to my dad, this was almost the first thing he asked if I have done. I wish I had talked to him beforehand but luckily we solved this by not stirring too hard to the bottom.

Chinese Turnip Cake 02

 

Enjoy and happy birthday to you all!

mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) easy made

mapo-tofu-01

as seen in foodgawker #12908, 08.01.09 & Serious Eats’ Photograzing

Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish which is said to be originated from the Szechuan province. It is a combination of tofu (bean curd) and minced meat, usually pork or beef, in a spicy chili- and bean-based sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension. Somehow, the cantonese has adapted the mapo tofu in our own way which the spiceness is well accepted by most people.

I find that it’s not only a popular Chinese dish but also very popular among the Japanese as I found a quick version of the Mapo Tofu sauce made by the Japanese which is great in my opinion and especially when you don’t have time to prepare it from scratch. However, I have finished all these convenient packs and I have made this delicious dish from scratch last night. I always have a pack of tofu in the fridge and some minced pork in the freezer so it’s pretty handy if I crave for this spicy dish. It was said that it is easy to made mapo tofu but to stir fry the bean curd and mince pork at the same time without breaking the pieces of tofu can be quite tricky. There are many types of softness of tofu, try to choose the medium softness one that is not the softness or hardest.

Serves 2

Ingredients (see picture below):

  • 1 Smooth silky Tofu
  • 150g minced pork 
  • 2 tbsp chopped chinese dried mushroom (hydrated)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Preserved Chinese Radish (炸菜)(see notes and picture below)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese Red Chili sauce (Dou ban jiang 豆瓣醬)
  • 1 tbsp Yellow bean sauce (麵豉)
  • 1/2 tbsp Chinese Rice Cooking Wine
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 shallots sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped spring onion (white and green parts separated)
  • 3 tbsp water

Marinade for the minced pork:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

Seasoning:

  • 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chicken bouillion powder
  • Pinches of white pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp Sesame oil

Method:

  1. Discard the water in the tofu pack, cut into small cubes and set aside
  2. Marinate the minced pork with the ingredients described above
  3. Prepare the seasoning by mixing the above in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat up the wok, add some cooking oil, when it is hot enough, add in the ginger, garlic, shallots, white part of the spring onion preserved cabbage, stir briskly and then add in the minced pork. Stir fry to mix everything together, then add in the chili sauce and yellow bean sauce and lastly the chinese cooking wine, keep stir frying in the meantime.
  5. Slowly add in the water and the prepared seasoning,  turn the heat to medium and bring to boil.
  6. Add in the tofu cubes, gently stir to mix into the sauce and let it boil for about 2-3 mins at medium heat. Use medium high heat to evaporate the liquid if you feel there is too much liquid.
  7. Dissolve 1 tbsp orn flour with a little cold water and add into the sauce to thicken it. Gently stir to mix.
  8. This is now ready. Serve immediately on a deep plate and garnish by sprinkle the chopped spring onion (green parts) on top.
  9. Best to enjoy with steamed jasmine rice.

Notes:

  1. Since the Chili sauce already contents chili, in theory, it is not necessary to add more chili but if you think this is not  spicy enough for you, you can add dried chili or chili oil to adjust the spiciness.
  2. Chinese Preserved Radish is available in cans or directly from some chinese groceries if you have a China Town near you or if you live in Asia. Otherwise I think most of you will buy the canned ones. Before use, you need to soak the amount you require in water for about 30 mins and then wash and discard the water, this step is important as the radish is too salty to use directly, after this you can chop and use as required. Do not soak the ones you are not going to use, as they can be kept in a bowl, in the fridge for later use. Other use of the preserved radish including steaming with sliced pork or beef. You can also use a few big pieces to prepare a noodle soup base.
  3. Optional ingredients you can also use: 1 tbsp chopped chinese mushrooms, 1 tbsp finely chopped shallots
  4. Remember to use medium heat and not high heat. When adding corn flour liquid to thicken the sauce, you can use medium high heat.

Ingredients for Mapo Tofu

Ingredients for Mapo Tofu

Preserved Chinese Radish

Canned Preserved Chinese Radish, click here for another recipe using this ingredient.

mapo-tofu-02

Mapo Tofu and Stir fried broccoli with garlic

more cookies on snowy days

10 Dec 2008 Outside Home, first day snowing in this Winter

When I woke up this morning, I see everything was covered white outside. It was said that it may still be snowing for the next couple of days. Luckily my car has just got in time changed to winter tires today.

Snowy day in Duggingen 10 dec 2008

 

And I have stocked up yesterday from the supermarket so I can stay peacefully at home baking more cookies and amaretti. I am flying to UK tomorrow and will take them with me to give out to my friends.

Also I was experimenting the best baking time and temperature for my oven. And this afternoon, I think I have got the hang the best temperature for my chewy chocolate cookies, of course it’s a matter of personal taste. The best was to eat them when they are still a bit warm. Last time I said I have used 170ºC but with a few more attempts, I can’t agree more with Mrs. Field that it is better at 150ºC.  So I have amended in my recipe from 170ºC to 150ºC. Although 170ºC is already chewy but 150ºC does make the cookie even more chewy. There is no need to worry that they are still rather soft when out of the oven. They look so good when the chocolate are somewhat melted and looks a bit shining. Not only I like eating the cookies, I enjoy taking photos for my cookies, I created a new term for myself ‘food modelling’…..

img_0998

as seen in TasteSpotting #28749, 11.12.08 ; foodgawker #11012 , 11.12.08; Photograzing 19.12.08

 

Mountain of Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Cookies 10 Dec 08

italiano Amaretti cookies recipe

 food_blogga_cookie_logo

Learnt from Rosa’s Yum Yum’s post on Pecan Sandies that there is a worldwide cookie event called “Eat Christmas Cookies” by Susan at “Food Blogga” (USA), so I thought I can submit my amaretti too. This is already Season 2 of this event, you can see the round up so far here. The deadline is 21 December so there is still time to submit for all of you!

Italian Amaretti 01 as seen in TasteSpotting #28577, 09.12.08 & Photograzing, 18.12.08

The chewy cookies quest has got me went on to explore how to make amaretti.  Amaretti is my husband favorite, he was so happy when the first batch of the amaretti came out of the oven to be a success. I have never thought that they are so easy to make. The beauty is that I can buy the ground almond easily in Switzerland, saves a lot of time from grounding. The Swiss loves almond flavored desserts, the ground almonds was run out from Coop and I have to run to next door Migros to buy them, Migros has almost run out too so I immediately stocked up 6 packs of 100g in case I fail in my first attempt. Now that they come out so nicely, I have already received a pre-order from my in-laws to take over to Holland when we visit them over Christmas. This will keep me busy in the next days in the kitchen : )

Many thanks to Garrett McCord from Simply Recipes and ElenaC  from Comida De Mama for the lovely recipes. I have adapted and combined their recipes somewhat to the following version:

 

Ingredients

  • 300g ground almond (200g blanched & 100g non-blanched)
  • 280g fine sugar (confectioners sugar)
  •  3 egg whites (use large eggs)
  • 1 tbsp white flour
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • a little of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp bitter almond essence
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • butter and flour for baking paper

Make: 32-36 pieces

 img_0941

Method:

  1. Line the baking sheets on the baking trays, butter and flour them accordingly .
  2. If you cannot find ground almond, you will need to ground the almond (with skin removed) using a food processor. Otherwise mix the ground almond with the sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice until you get a dense white foam.
  4. Gradually fold in the almond sugar mix, flour and corn starch using a spatula. Make sure there are no lumps, use a colander where necessary.
  5. Add in the bitter almond and vanilla essence, blend well until it is throughoutly mixed.
  6. You should now have a very nice almond dough. Place teaspoon size of the dough in the buttered and floured baking sheets. The doughs can be quite close together about 2cm aparts, as they will not rise much. Each amaretti will be about 5cm x 5cm. Use your finger to help shaping the amaretti a little if necessary.
  7. Dust the dough with powdered sugar and leave them in a cool place for 4-5 hours before baking.
  8. Preheat oven to 170°C, half an hour before baking.
  9. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 25 mins or until subtle golden brown. This will give you crispy sides and nicely chewy in the middle. If you like them more crispy, you can add a few more minutes accordingly to your preference.
  10. When out of the oven, let them cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transfer them to the cooling rack.
  11. Serve when cooled or store them in air-tight metal cookie tins.
  12. Don’t forget to prepare a nice coffee or expresso to go with them. 

Note. My first attempt turned out to be so good that I went to make a second batch but this time I have left them overnight and it turned out that they only need to be baked for 20 mins, and they turned to golden yellow and still soft inside so I turned them to cooling rack straight away. Alternatively, you can turn the oven to 150°C  for 24 mins . It’s really a matter of adjusting between time and temperature and of course knowing your oven : )

Enjoy ;P

Italian Amaretti 02