What's Cooking (in Yvonne's Kitchen)?

I've changed the name of this blog to What's Cooking (in Yvonne's Kitchen) because I will be getting a kitchen of my own very soon, it maybe small but will be able to produce more goodies to share with everyone!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kai Chai Paeng (鸡仔饼) Little Chicken Biscuits

makes about 60 crispy thin biscuits

Have you ever craved for a food so badly but cannot source it in the area you live in, so much so that you decided to take the matter into your own hands--to make it from scratch?  Well, I have.  In fact, ALL. THE. TIME.

And for that, the baking/cooking bug in me always gives myself the "excuse" to attempt the recipe for the first time, regardless whether it's a success or a total failure.  Thank God that most of the time, it turned out quite well.

The recipe calls for a long list of ingredients, but most of them are easily found in your pantry!

This time, I have decided to make kai chai paeng, a type of biscuit originally from Kampar, Ipoh, to fix that craving of mine.  So, I looked no further than my two gorgeous gourmande girlfriends, May and Karen, for inspiration.  As always, they never disappoint me by providing me with a recipe by Lily and I did some cross-referencing different recipes on Google (I know, OCD much?).  I realized that most of the recipes resemble the recipe posted by Amy Beh on Kuali.

I did some tweak the recipe, and here they are:
- the original recipe calls for ammonia but I didn't have it and this ingredient sounds too "chemically" (Yes, I am aware that a lot of food contains ammonia, but if I have the choice of NOT including it, why should I?)
- use organic ingredients such as flour, egg, salt and sesame seeds to make the biscuit wholesome
- cut the sugar level by 30% (I didn't do it for the first time, but I've gotten smarter)
- to make the biscuits vegetarian, I replaced chicken granules with mushroom seasoning, which is equally yummy!

Replacing the chicken granules with mushroom seasoning makes these biscuits vegetarian

It's a rather simple recipe and if you have a food processor, it will save at least 50% of the physically mixing and kneading.  The only time-consuming part is the shaping.  I shaped them into thin and crisp oval-shaped biscuits by shaping them in small balls and rolling them thinly.

Mixing ingredients A in a food processor (right) and whisking ingredients B in a mixing bowl (left) before combing the two.

For semi-chewy kai chai paeng, baking them for 10 minutes (top), if you prefer crispy texture, bake them for 12 minutes (bottom).  But keep an eye on them once you smell the aroma.  

This recipe will definitely be included in my Chinese New Year cookie repertoire and I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.  Bon appétit!

Ingredients A
300 g self-raising flour
70 g icing sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1 tsp five spice powder (
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp stock granules (I used mushroom seasoning granules )
2 cloves garlic, minced
80 g white sesame seeds
70g candied winter melon strips (
冬瓜糖), finely chopped or easier done with a food processor

Ingredients B
1 large egg
1 tbsp malt or commonly known as glucose (
2 pieces red fermented tofu
(南腐), mashed
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (kicap manis)
100 ml sesame oil

1. Preheat the oven at 175⁰C.  Pulse all ingredients A in a food processor, pulse until all mixed.

2. In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients B, whisk until all mixture blended.

3. With the motor running on slow speed, pour ingredients B mixture slowly into the food processor until all ingredients combined (it feels a little greasy and sticky when you touch it).  Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and knead with hand until a dough is formed.  Let the dough rest for 10 minutes (no need to put in the fridge).

4. To shape the biscuits in rustically just like the original ones from Kampar, form small balls like the size of marbles and put them on parchment papers or silicone sheets, use a rolling pin or glass bottle to roll over the small dough balls, so they will be flattened to 1/8-inch thick.

5. Bake the biscuits 10 minutes (if you prefer a crisp on the edges but slightly chewy in the middle texture) or 12 minutes (if you like crispy and crunchy biscuits).

6. Cook the biscuits on a rack before serving and storing them in air-tight containers. 

Storing these biscuits in a mason jar with a cute ribbon would make a thoughtful gift.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oatmeal and Prune Buttermilk Scones
makes 8 jumbo-sized 3" scones

Hmmmm... scones are perfect for afternoon tea.   

I am a purist when it comes to ingredient selection as I want to use the best and freshest ingredients in cooking and baking.  But I am NOT usually a purist when it comes to gadgets/equipment in food preparation.  So when it comes to the debate of making scones either by hand or by food processor, I would choose the latter.  This is also the reason why I hinted my husband for a food processor as my Christmas present few years back... and I got it, hehe.

There's nothing more luxurious and intimate than enjoying a tête-à-tête with a friend or two with freshly-baked scones and a cup of good quality English tea such as earl grey.  So, to take matter into my own hands, I opt for homemade scones instead of store-bought ones.

I have sourced for scone recipes from my good & trusty cookbooks and online recipe sites.  But the recipe that impressed me the most is this one from Epicurious.  I hope you will find the time to bond with your kitchen this weekend by making these scones.  

The ingredient list of this recipe is pretty short--buttermilk, oats, flours (baking powder+baking soda & salt), brown sugar, butter, orange zest and prune.

Most people think it's difficult to make scones, but I beg to differ.  Even if you do not have a food processor, you can also rub the cold butter cubes into dry ingredients with your hands or a pastry cutter to form coarse crumbs.

Flatten the dough into a 1" thick disc by hands, cut out the scones with a cutter, brush the top with buttermilk, sprinkle with some brown sugar before shovelling them into the oven.

These scones would be ready under 20 minutes, by then your kitchen will be filled with refreshing aroma of orange and prune.  

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Finely grated zest from an orange
1 cup buttermilk (1 cup regular milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup prunes (about 12 of them), quartered

Special equipment: a food processor and a 3-inch round cookie cutter

  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC. 
  2. Sieve together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss currants with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 6 times. 
  4. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round disc, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner until all dough are used. 
  5. Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or cheese.

These scones are amazing!  They are so best eaten fresh or can be stored in a freezer for up to 2 weeks!

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Homemade Savoury Popcorn
serves a big bowl of popcorn enough for two but one hungry person like myself 

Yes, I am a self-confessed savoury popcorn lover.  Like many people, I used to settle for convenient microwave popcorns in different varieties--butter, extra butter, kettle etc.  Yes, I know they are packed with chemicals which are hazardous to our health, but they were the fastest popcorn fix, I can enjoy in minutes without washing any utensil. 

However, I have been a new convert ever since I bumped into plain popcorn recipes from Epicurious and Simply Recipes!  And I never looked back.  Nothing beats freshly-popped (savoury) popcorn, drizzled with melted butter and freshly ground parmesan cheese, so so so divine!    

Some variety of flavours I have tried and loved:
olive oil + seasoned salt
salted butter + freshly ground pepper
parmesan cheese + chives
garlic powder + seasoned salt
parmesan cheese + paprika
salted butter + curry powder + parsley flakes
olive oil + nutritional yeast + sea salt (for vegans)
So I am dedicating this recipe to popcorn lovers, especially to my dear friend, Sheila, who enjoys salted popcorn just as much as I do.  Bon appetit!  

3 tbsp olive oil (or any high smoke point oil)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels (I prefer white kernels)
2-Litre stainless steel pot with lid
2 tbsp of butter
Salt to taste

1 Heat the oil in a pot on medium high heat.

2 Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pot.

3 When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels, level them in an even layer with a spatula, cover with lid, turn off the heat and count 30 seconds. (It's fun to count out loud with kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4 Return the pot to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest manner, gently shake the pot by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pot from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a serving bowl.

5 If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but still very hot pot.  Then pour the popcorn back to the pot to coat them evenly.

6 Sprinkle salt* to taste.

*If you mix the salt into the oil in the pot before popping, the salt will be well distributed throughout the popcorn.

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