Friday, June 27, 2014

Chocolate Banana Cake


This simple cake really wowed me to the max.  It was indeed a real SURPRISE to see a bake that is soo soft and fluffy.  Man, it was really really soft and fluffy, no joke!  IRONICALLY and strangely, my wife was not into soft fluffy cakes.  What a rare weird species she is!

Anyway, the moment the cake landed on my hands when I was unmoulding it, I already knew that it would be one hell of a good cake.  True enough, this babe is just gorgeously soft, light, moist and luscious.  Whatever it is, you just have got to try baking one to believe it.

After my successful and satisfying attempt trying her Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-down Cake), I must give my credit, again to Joyce of Kitchen Flavours for sharing this amazing secret.  I am linking back her post and recipe here for your further read-up.   

Seriously, if you are free and want to find something to bake, do give this recipe a shot. Till then, have a great day ahead. 

Chocolate Banana Quick Cake
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf cake, serving 8

1-1/4 cups (5.3oz/151gm) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (0.8oz/23gm) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz/113gm) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7oz/200gm) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/3 cups (320ml) mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4.2oz/121gm) sour cream (I use yoghurt)
4 ounces (113gm) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use chocolate chips)


Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat at high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. At medium speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract and mix at low speed until blended. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean (except for any melted chocolate). Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  5. Unmold the cake onto the rack, turn right side up, and cool completely.
Store at room temperature, covered in foil, for up to 5 days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-down Cake

This recipe is definitely a keeper.   If you love caramel, banana and chocolate just exactly like I do, then this cake is seriously for you.  Bring this to any potluck gathering and I am positively sure this secret indulgence will be a crowd pleaser.

To me, chocolate especially dark rich chocolate just goes perfectly well with any ripe bananas.  These two ingredients really make good cakes as the flavour and aroma are just crazy.  More so, when the cake is drizzled with a slosh of caramel, oh my goodness gracious, the whole thing is just devilishly sublime.

Anyway, this recipe came to me by chance.  I was scouring around the net for a bak chang (Chinese dumpling) recipe when I accidentally spotted this secret.  I must thank Joyce of Kitchen Flavours for sharing this wonderful treat.  I strongly encourage that you visit her post here to view some close-up photos.  Indeed, looking at the photos was sufficient enough to make me go bananas.  I had to divert my ravenous eyes away (eerr from my bak chang recipe searching) and subsequently clicked in and explored the secret further.


I am pleased that I baked this cake as it helps to add on to my favourite and to-die-for collection of cake recipes.  The cake is chocolaty rich, moist and more importantly not overly sweet despite the caramel drizzle.  Wife likes it a lot and daughter loves it dearly too! But to me, it would have been even more perfect if I had added in some mashed bananas and chocolate chips into the cake batter, making the cake look even moister and taste more flavorsome.  Eerm, definitely going to try this the next round.

That's it, here you go, the recipe...  

Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-Down Cake
(adapted from Joyce of "Kitchen Flavours")
Serves 8
For The Topping :
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices


For The Cake :
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk (alternatively, you could also substitute it with 4-5 tablespoons milk and top up with homemade yoghurt to get 2/3 cup, as what Joyce had used)


Making the topping :
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round non-stick pan.
  2. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat until foamy. Whisk in the brown sugar, turn the heat to low, and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the banana slices in concentric circles on top of the sugar mixture. Set aside.

Making The Cake :
  1. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each. Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the mixture is light and increased in volume, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low, stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Stir in 1/2 of the buttermilk. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the batter on high speed for 30 seconds.
  5. Pour the batter over the bananas, gently spreading it into an even layer.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes. Holding the pan and a plate together with oven mitts, immediately invert the hot cake onto the plate. If necessary, replace any fruit stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes and serve warm, or serve at room temperature. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper, or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bak Chang

After my self-claimed success making nyonya chang the other day, so here I come again trying my hand now at bak chang, literally means meat dumpling.  Personally, I have always preferred bak chang to nyonya chang.  Reasons?  Well, bak chang tastes much saltier, meatier and there's also a variety of ingredients in it to go with the sticky glutinous rice, but the top most important reason is the chunk of pork belly meat with its wobbly-looking fat still remained intact in the bak chang that is ready for us to savour.  As what people used to say, 'save the best for the last'.  This is exactly what I do every time I eat a bak chang, the fatty part will without fail be my last bite.  So, I always end my bak chang eating on a high note.  Truthfully, a bite of that fat is just 'divine'.


Talking about my bak chang making experience, well I have underestimated the whole process.  I had thought that everything would be smooth-sailing and fast and simple.  I had prepared all the ingredients and soaked them in the morning.  I had planned to fry them after my class at 9.30pm.  After all, it was just stir frying and would definitely not eat that much time.  Only then I would wrap the dumplings and keep them refrigerated before boiling them the next morning.  That was what I had planned.  BUT everything went haywire.  Stir frying all the ingredients took me about 1 hour.  Preparing the soaked leaves and setting up my work station took me another 45mins to 1 hour.  So, you can now work down to guess what time I actually started wrapping and tying the dumpling, huh!  When I was tying the dumpling, I did not know what went wrong, somehow I lost my grace and nothing seemed to work.  The whole process was slowed down.  Well, guess what time I finished everything and went to bed?  3.30........A.M.!  This is CRAZY!

However, luckily the end result was NOT CRAZY!  Ha ha!  I am pleasantly satisfied with this recipe in which everything turns out to be positively encouraging.  Mom was surprisingly pleased with the taste claiming that my bak chang tasted even better than the ones she bought from her friend.  Two constructive comments were the chestnuts were not properly cooked as in they were not soft enough (in fact I should have boiled them after soaking) and another one was the wrapping and tying eeeerr....still needs a little brushing up.  A hollering YES, I certainly do concur with her that I need lots of practice especially on the tying part considering that just imagine 10 out of 20 pieces of the dumplings that I made slipped from the strings and eventually got unwrapped during the boiling process.  I was left speechless and completely frustrated upon looking at the rice grains including all the ingredients nicely floating in the boiling water. $@$#$%!

So, that's it....my first bold attempts making two kinds of dumplings - nyonya chang and bak chang!  To put it simply - an extremely tedious work but a time well spent and an effort worth invested.


Oh, yah, before I forget, I must thank Su-yin of Bread et Butter for sharing out the recipe, of which you can find it here.  It was her nai-nai's (grandmother's) recipe.  In fact, I just stumbled upon her blog when I was browsing through the net looking for a bak chang recipe.  I got hooked to this recipe simply because it was her nai-nai'sHe he!  To me, you can never go wrong with any recipes so long as it is from a grandmother's!  Anyway, my hats off to her for taking the trouble to learn how to make this dying traditional Chinese food.  As a twenty-something gal, she could have enjoyed life doing what modern young girls supposed to do like hanging out with friends, going for movies, fiddling around with electronic gadgets, going for dates etc etc.  Instead, she chose to be in the kitchen mingling with woks and pans just for one thing - preserving the tradition.  Wow!  Kudos to you, sweetie! 

So, here you go, Su-yin's nai-nai's bak chang recipe.......

Nai Nai’s bak chang
Makes approximately 19-20

Ingredients:
  • 500g pork belly, chopped into ~ 2cm chunks
  • 1 kg glutinous rice
  • 20 dried chestnuts
  • 1 chinese rice bowl of dried shrimps (heh bee)
  • 1 chinese rice bowl of dried Chinese mushrooms – I used approximately 40 tiny ones
  • 1 Chinese sausage (lap cheong)
  • 6 salted duck eggs (we will only be using the yolks)
  • 20 shallots
For the pork belly marinade:
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tbsp five spice powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
For the rice marinade: (approximate amounts – you may need to adjust according to taste)
  • 5 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 5 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
For wrapping:
  • at least 60 bamboo leaves (you need 2 per bak chang, with some spares in case of tears/holes in leaves)
  • cooking string/hemp leaves
Method:
The night before :
  1. Soak the bamboo leaves in a large pot of cold water (I used my 28cm Le Creuset pot). Try to submerge as much of the leaves in the water as you possibly can.
  2. Soak the glutinous rice in cold water.
  3. Soak the chestnuts in cold water.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the pork marinade together. Pour it over the pork belly pieces, and leave to marinade overnight in the fridge.
Preparing the ingredients:
  1. Cook the duck eggs in a pot of boiling water, for 10 minutes. Leave to cool sightly, peel, separating the yolk from the whites. We will only be using the yolks, so store the whites in the fridge for another use – I use them for steamed eggs, and as a condiment for porridge. Cut the yolks into quarters.
  2. Soak dried shrimps in a bowl, using hot water.
  3. Soak the Chinese mushrooms in a bowl, using hot water. If your mushrooms are very large you may want to slice them in half.
  4. Slice the Chinese sausage into 1 cm slices.
  5. Peel and finely dice the shallots. I cheat and use my mini food processor, which does the dicing in 5 seconds flat.
Cooking the ingredients:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp corn oil in a large pan/wok. Using high heat, fry the Chinese sausage until they brown slightly and become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and place in a bowl.
  2. In the same pan, fry the dried shrimps until they become fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan, and place in a bowl.
  3. In the same pan, fry the Chinese mushrooms until they become fragrant, and brown slightly. I usually season with a pinch of salt (old habits die hard). Remove from pan, and place in a bowl.
  4. In the same pan, fry the pre-soaked chestnuts until they brown slightly. Remove from pan, and place in a bowl.
  5. In the same pan, fry the pork belly chunks until they turn lightly browned. We’re not aiming to fully cook the pork belly here – the aim is to sear it briefly. Remove from pan, and place in a bowl.
  6. Add 1 tbsp corn oil to the same pan. Fry the shallots until they become fragrant. Add the glutinous rice flour, and stir for 1 minute. Add all the ingredients for the rice marinade, and any leftover pork marinade you have. Taste, and add extra oyster sauce/dark soya sauce etc as necessary. Switch off the flame, and leave rice in the pan. You can always transfer the rice to a bowl, but why wash an extra bowl?
Wrapping the bak chang:
  1. Drain the water from the bamboo leaves. Pat the leaves dry with a cloth – it doesn’t matter if they are still slightly wet.
  2. Select two leaves, and place them in opposite directions (i.e. the tail end of one lining up with the top end of the other). Do not use any leaves which already have holes in them, as they will cause water to seep into the bak chang during the cooking process.
  3. Form leaves into a cone.
  4. Fill the cone about 1/3 of the way with the glutinous rice.
  5. Then, place each of the following atop the rice: one chunk of pork belly, one chestnut, one/two Chinese mushrooms (use two if mushrooms are small), two slices of Chinese sausage, 1/2 tsp dried shrimps, and a piece of duck egg yolk.
  6. Top with more glutinous rice, till you reach the brim of the cone.
  7. Fold the leaves around the pouch, and secure with cooking string/hemp leaves.
  8. Repeat with remaining leaves and ingredients, until everything is used up.
Cooking the bak chang:
  1. Boil water in a large pot. When the water comes to a boil, gently lower the bak chang’s into the water. Make sure the entire bak chang is submerged in water. Cover the pot with a lid, and cook over medium heat for 2-3 hours. You may find that you need two pots if yours isn’t large enough.. I had to use two!
  2. To test if they are cooked through – you’ll have to unwrap one and check. And taste. (The perks of cooking.)
  3. Once the bak changs are cooked, remove from the pan and place in a colander – I use a colander as it allows any extra water to drain away. Alternatively you can hang them up, but I didn’t want water to drip all over my stove!
 Happy Dumpling Festival!