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Archive for October, 2008

 

I am proud (or should I say embarrass) to announce my first DB challenge failure! Looks like I need not apply for any pizza chef positions! :)

This month’s challenge was to make our own homemade pizza dough and top it with our choice of fillings. The challenge was hosted by Rosa’s Yummy Yums who was initially suppose to host this month’s challenge with Sherry and Glenna. Unfortunately, Sherry passed away unexpectedly in July, and Glenna for personal reasons decided to leave the DB-ers, Rosa was left to host this month herself. Well, one definitely has to applaud Rosa on her decision to continue with hosting this month’s challenge herself and for respecting Sherry’s choice of this month’s challenge which she shared before passing away. 

The reason I joined DB was because I wanted ti be challenged in my culinary experience. This month’s challenge is the exact representation of why I joined the DB-ers! Far and beyond my abilities, and definitely above my wildest dreams of accomplishing, I had to make pizza from scratch! It was scary yet exciting! Alan was ecstatic when he heard what the challenge would be this month and was looking forward to it.

Sadly, this challenge did not turn out the way I’d pictured in my mind! The dough was perfectly ok. It was simple and easy and I was quite happy with how it turned out. Day 2 was when disaster struck! Tossing the pizza?! You’ve gotta be kidding me! I can’t toss a frisbee if my life depended on it so what makes you think I can toss a pizza! There were a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” when the tossing was happening. Alan had a go at it and wasted one of my pizza balls as half of it ended on the floor and the other half in the sink! Mine wasn’t too good either but we all had fun. All 4 of us at home were in the kitchen trying to catch a bit of the fun and it didn’t turn out too bad.

The baking was the beginning of my failed challenge. As mentioned many times, I use a turbo oven. This oven’s good for baking cakes and simple tarts etc. But when it comes to things which require browning/baking on both sides, it’s not your ideal oven. Most of the time it’ll cook the top, leaving the bottom undone if it’s not flipped over. That being the case, our first pizza was half cooked! Learning from this, I baked the base first for my second pizza but the end result was that it became too crispy and turned out more like crackers than pizza! Needless to say, the third was half cooked as I’d already topped it with the filling while baking the first so had no choice but to bake it face up. Even after baking for more than 30 minutes, it was still half cooked. But because we were all starving at home, I decided to take it out and serve. Before my own eyes, I saw the pizza fall apart! All in all, fun as it was, I failed in this month’s challenge! In conclusion, I shall not attempt to make my own pizza again until I get a proper oven. I believe everyone in my house will concur with me that it was the equipment and not the chef’s fault this time round! :)

My first choice of topping is an Australian favourite at many of the pizza joints here – Garlic and Herb Pizza Bread. It’s generally served as an entree and it’s topped generously with fresh garlic, herbs and a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan cheese. 

My second choice was a favourite of ours – Smoked Salmon Pizza. The base of the pizza is baked first, then removed from the oven. Spread with a layer of sour cream, top with red onions, smoked salmon, capers and a sprinkle of dried dill tips.

And my last choice was a half and half. I spread the base with tomato paste and topped each half with different ingredients. The first half was topped with fresh tomatoes, hot salami and pineapple chunks, and the second half with chicken and red and green capsicum. Finish with a generous sprinkle of cheese and you are good to go!

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 
  • 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Instant yeast
  • 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
  • 1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Method:

Day One:

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

Day Two:

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). 

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. 
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving. 


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Being faraway from home often has its disadvantages. One of them being that you miss out on most, if not all the celebrations you grew up in. Malaysians are well-known for their festivals and celebrations. Being multi-racial, we celebrate all sorta festivals for the different races. Growing up, all these different celebrations meant public holidays to me – an extra day off school, more time to play and go shopping, sleeping ins etc etc. I think when you grow up in it, you kinda just start to take it for granted as the years go by, especially if it’s not a celebration you embrace yourself. But when you are faraway from home, you start missing these celebrations as no matter how faraway you are, a part of you will always carry the roots you came from. 

In comparison to a lot of my friends, I would have to say I was more privileged than most of them. My parents are very sociable people and that meant that they have friends from different races, which also meant that we got invited to lotsa different celebrations! As kids, my sis and I were often “dragged” along for Hari Raya (which is the Muslim celebration) and Deepavali open houses. Just being there is an eye opener! You get to see different practices and culture, taste different and amazing food, and watching people dressed up in their traditional wear was so much fun! 

When we were young, we had an Indian part-time maid – Letchumi, who would come to our place a couple of times each week to clean and stuff. My mum and her were particularly close and even after she stopped working for us, she’d still dropby our place once in awhile to catch up. Every time we opened our house for Chinese New Year, mum would ask Letchumi for help to prepare food and clean the house etc. And every year, without fail, we would receive an invite to her place for Deepavali. Just very quickly, Deepavali (or Diwali) is a major Indian festival normally celebrated in October or November each year. Known also as “The Festival of Lights”, this day is celebrated all over the world by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Deepavali has different significance to each different group. But overall, to many, the festival marks the victory of good over evil and the uplifting of spiritual darkness. Hence, on this day, the Indians would light oil lamps and perform some sorta spiritual cleansing ritual to mark this day.

Every year when we went to Letchumi’s place for Deepavali, she’d cook up a feast for us. There’ll be all sorts of curries, capatis, tosais etc etc. And of course there’d be different cookies and sweet stuff to munch on. My favourites were the murukus and these sweet crispy things that my mum called beehives. Because we kids loved them so much, every year, Letchumi would fill 2 containers for us to bring home. Sadly, I no longer have this opportunity now that I’m overseas. So, you can just imagine how ecstatic I was when I found the recipe for muruku and beehives on Aunty Lily’s website. She calls them Kuih Rose (Rose Biscuits) but I still like to call them beehives because of their shape and design. When I went back for holidays in 2007, I found the mould used to make them and bought them without thinking twice! I still can’t find the mould for murukus and had to use my icing press when I made them last year. However, I can’t seem to find the photos for them so guess we’ll just have to settle for beehives this time and save murukus for a future post. 


Ingredients:
1 can of 400 ml coconut milk
2 large eggs
170 gm sugar
150ml water
1/2 tsp salt
240 gm all-purpose flour
100 gm rice flour
Oil for deep frying        

Method:

Prepare at least two moulds.
Combine coconut milk, eggs, sugar, water and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Sift all-purpose flour and rice flour and add in the the above. Whisk to obtain a consistent batter, sieve to prevent lumps. Pour batter into a straight sided cup.
Heat oil in a wok/deep fryer until 325F..
Preheat moulds in the hot oil. (The moulds have to be hot enough for batter to cling on them)
When the oil is hot enough, dip mould into batter. Make sure batter coats only the bottom and sides of mould.
Place coated mould in hot oil. Shake to release from moulds. If required, use wooden chopsticks to help releasing. Fry until golden brown.
Repeat until all the batter is used up by using two moulds alternately. Use one while the other is being heated up in the hot oil.
Preheat oven @ 250 f and bake the crispies for 10 – 12 minutes to ensure that they are well done.
Leave to cool completely on wire racks.
Store in air-tight container.

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You are not going to believe this! Pearlyn in her hastiness to upload the photos of the engagement cake accidentally logged herself out of her flickr account! Sighz…I’ve been making sure that I don’t do that as I can’t seem to remember my password! What’s worst is, I’ve forgotten the answer to my secret question as it was AGES ago when I setup my yahoo account! Oh gosh! There goes access to all my previous photos! Oh well, something good has come out of it. Since I’ve had to create a new account, I now have 200 free photo uploads again! :)

Technically I can’t call this my first 3D cake since I’ve made the piano cake early this year but what the heck! It was nonetheless equally, if not more, exciting and challenging! As mentioned in the previous post, when I saw this design lying on the counter of my cake supply shop, it was love at first sight! I knew this is THE cake and it fitted perfectly seeing the theme of the engagement was fairytale! Making it was a whole new issue altogether! Lucky for me, the aunty at the shop is an amazing, friendly woman and agreed to photocopy the cake  picture so I could use as a guide and lent me some of her personal collection so I could make the walls and stuff. Everyone who saw the picture of the cake thought there was no way I could reproduce it. Alan definitely had no faith in me and was more than prepared for me to fail! Talk about supporting your partner! :@ But, boy! I do love a good challenge and was pumped up to prove my “critics” wrong!

Well, in the end, I came close to reproducing the original but added my own touch to it. Don’t ask me “Why elephants?!” ! Cos even I do not know the answer to that question. I know it would have been a lot more romantic and prettier if I had made a boy and a girl but call it lazy, call it cute, or me simply being cheeky, but once again, when I saw these elephants while web surfing, I knew they were THE ones! :)

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Yes I know…Pearlyn’s been slacking again! What happened to her? Why hasn’t she been posting? Oh well…it’s the same thing again…work commitments…falling sick (AGAIN!)…lack of inspiration…moodlessness…etc etc. Well, I’m back again! :)

I’m not sure if any of you guys remember but I was MIA in July/August due to overwhelming “work” commitments. Up till now, I’ve yet to come up with any reasonable explanation to justify my lack of posting for that month. Well, finally, after a lot of hassling and nagging, ah koh gave me the photos I needed to make this post even worthwhile. I have to bear 50% of the lateness in this post but only because I had to do a bit of further photo editing myself.

I was actually busy with one of my “sons’ ” engagement party. About a month before the event, I was approached by the couple to handle the food side of things. After comparing prices of various caterers, it was agreed that it would beneficial for them and for me if I did the catering for the engagement. It was really exciting for me as I finally got the chance to cater for a big group of people officially, and it was the ideal event as I love weddings and engagements.

So off I went designing a menu that would entice the tastebuds of all the guests. Whoa! It was hardwork! A lot of time was spent pouring over library books, magazines and various websites. In the end, we decided on more variety but lesser quantity of each item. It was great fun revising and re-revising the menu over and over again as I decided on feasibility, deliciousness, presentation etc etc. It was frustrating too having to come up with something that would hopefully please everyone (as the saying goes: you can never please everyone!). It was also a time of bonding for me with a good friend and “sis” – Ade (who sadly has returned to Singapore), as we experimented on different food and prepared for the event. All in all it was an adrenalin packed 4 weeks filled with many ups and downs.

It was also a chance for me to try new things. Not just cooking-wise, but also in terms of baking. I was asked to make the engagement cake and was just excited at the prospect of trying new decorative ideas and brainstorming on various designs. When I saw the design at the cake decorative shop I go to for supplies, I knew then that it was THE cake! Alan doubted I’d be able to produce it as it was something I’d never tried before but being me, I was all out to prove him wrong.

I got my first taste of being a professional caterer the week leading to the event. Every night before going to bed, I’d be planning the next day’s schedule. I became a stickler to details and plans as any one being out of place would throw my entire day off. The night before the engagement, I was up till late prepping for the next day, and was up early to make sure everything was in order. Then it was off to the venue and time to “kick some ass”!

Being a perfectionist, I had selected a group of friends whom I knew could be trusted to work with and for me. With delegation and instructions, we all got down to work. I won’t say it was smooth sailing but we pulled through. We had a fair bit of wastage thanks to a couple of miscalculated accidents. But all in all we had fun and it was indeed an experience to remember.

So here are some pictures to share the amazing and memorable event with you guys and also hopefully to entice your tastebuds! :)

The fun and hardwork pre-event....

The fun and hardwork pre-event....

The Feast

The Feast - (fr L-R): cocktails and mocktails, sushis, nachos and dips, rosemary and balsamic glazed drumsticks

Japanese anyone?

Japanese anyone? - Assorted sushis and inaris

More food....

More food.... (L-R): BBQ pork wrapped hoisin roll, prosciutto wrapped rockmelon, pie tee and little provencal tarts

Food for the sweet tooth

Food for the sweet tooth -Mini fruit tarts, blueberry cheese tarts, serimuka and kuih lapis

Engagement Cake

Engagement Cake

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