Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pineapple Tarts


It feels surreal to be sitting here writing this post rather than researching for and writing my thesis. Everyone who's met me would've asked, how does it feel? Do you finally feel free? I think up until now, I don't particularly feel anything, having jumped straight from the thesis wagon to the work wagon without coming down for a stroll in between. If anything, I feel I have less time to spare. While doing my masters, I had a deadline and a big list of things to do. This meant that if I organised my time well and completed what I needed to do for each week early, then I'd have spare time for other things in life, like baking or ahem.. watching drama. Now, however, work takes up a big chunk of my time, and for the rest of the week, I've got activities packed into my schedule like books on a tight bookshelf. There's no room for a lie down in the sun (though.. what sun?) for a casual novel or magazine. 

That being said, this was what I wanted to do. It wasn't what I envisioned doing post-thesis, but I'm happy. I'm finally taking the time and putting in the effort to learn Traditional Chinese Medicine! There's a whole world of knowledge for me to learn and remember and I feel that there's no time to waste. Do you know that feeling when you're doing something that completely aligns with your beliefs and your core? This is how I feel now. Even though I'm at the infant stage and I don't know where I'll be or what I'm going to do with this knowledge in the future, or thinking more realistically, how am I going to build a career or get some income from it, it feels right. There's a voice in my head telling me, don't worry about the future, I'll naturally figure those issues out. Right now, just focus on building my library of knowledge. Everything has a natural order - growth, development, blossom, anthesis, fruiting. I should take this as my period of growth and development, put in the time and effort to water and fertilize, rather than worry about the flower and fruits that will come naturally when the timing and conditions are right. 


Anyway, pineapple tarts! Not to be confused with the Taiwanese pineapple cakes, these pineapple tarts are a must during Chinese New Year in Malaysia. We eat these by the bucket load and wherever you go during that time of year, you'll see these gold gleaming goodies lining the shelves of supermarkets or people's homes. They come in different shapes and sizes, the most common being ones where the pastry encases the pineapple filling, kind of like a miniature sausage roll. They are absolutely delicious. I mean, who can resist incredibly short, buttery pastry paired with sweet and tangy pineapples fragrant with cinnamon and other spices?

Of course, it's getting more and more difficult to get top quality pineapple tarts. The ones outside were probably made with the bare minimum of pineapple, boosted with some textural agent, and the pastry... you'd be lucky if you get ones that contain any trace of real butter. So, making your own pineapple tarts at home is the way to go! Sure, they'll take a bit of time, as all good things do, but they are seriously worth it. And it's for the new year, so you've got to spend some time preparing these golden fortune bringing cookies to bring good luck and wealth for the rest of the year. 

I know Chinese New Year is now over, but I'm thinking wayyy ahead here! You'll have a whole year to practice making these irresistible delights, because trust me, you'll want to make these throughout the year and not just for CNY because they are that good. 

Pineapple Tarts

For the filling:
1 pineapple
3/4 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
a few barks of cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 cloves

For the pastry:
250g butter, room temperature
60g sugar
2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for egg wash)
375g flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch

  1. To prepare the pineapple filling, first top and tail, then skin the pineapple. Cut the pineapple into cubes and then place in a blender and blend until it reaches a smoothie consistency. Transfer pineapple to a deep pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Add in the spices and sugar and cook until most of the water has evaporated and you get a mixture that is roll-able (There should not be any more liquid bubbling in the mixture). Set aside to cool. 
  2. For the pastry, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks until well combined. Sift in the flour, salt and cornstarch and mix until just combined. Place the pastry onto a sheet of cling film, roll out into approximately 0.7 cm and chill in the fridge until the pastry has hardened (about 30 minutes). 
  3. Using your cookie cutter, cut out the shapes for your pineapple tart. Brush the pastry with the egg whites for egg wash. Take about 1/4 teaspoon of pineapple filling, roll between your palms into a ball and place on the pastry. Press down so the pastry sticks. 
  4. Bake in a preheated to 180C oven for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack before serving. 


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Almond Banana Chocolate (ABC) Cake


ABC... Easy as 1 2 3, simple as do re mi, A B C, 1 2 3 baby you and me girl!

Life is always better with chocolate. Life is even better with chocolate in the form of cake. Guilt free cake. Cake that is even healthy for you! Cake that doesn't make you break out if you're sensitive to sugar. Cake that you can eat for breakfast or lunch or midnight snack. Almond banana chocolate cake.

I don't know whether it's because I haven't eaten any sweet food in a while, but this cake really hits the spot. This delicious cake was made for my mum's birthday. I swear I was going to eat just one piece. Nek minnit... Ended up waking up in the middle of night three nights in a row chowing down this cake. Yes I still have self control not to eat the whole cake so it lasted a few days. And what surprised me was the taste of the cake matured over time. On the first night it was actually a bit too dry and you can't really taste any other flavours but chocolate. But second night, the cake miraculously became super moist and you can really get the banana and almond coming through the chocolate with the underlying tone of spices. One thing to add to it if i make this again though is fresh raspberries in the cake itself.





Almond Banana Chocolate (ABC) Cake


Recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Cake

200 g wholewheat flour
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of desiccated coconut
2 eggs
80 ml olive oil
120 ml honey 
2 ripe bananas, mashed

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Butter a cake tin, then dust with cocoa powder. 
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Fold in the desiccated coconut. Set aside. 
  3. Beat the eggs until nice and fluffy, then stream in the oil and beat until thick. Add in honey and beat until well combined. Mix in the bananas and mix until just combined. 
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet mix in three batches and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. 
  5. Bake for approximately half an hour (though check whether your cake is done as all ovens are different. The original recipe called for a 45 minute bake.)
  6. Remove cake from oven. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Ganache

80g dark chocolate
4 tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla essence

Desiccated coconut
Freeze-dried raspberry
  1. Finely chop the dark chocolate and transfer to a clean bowl. 
  2. Gently heat up the cream until it's just under boiling. Pour over the dark chocolate. Add in the vanilla essence and stir until chocolate has melted and is completely smooth. 
  3. Pour over the cake once it has cooled slightly (so it has thickened up but is still pourable). 
  4. Decorate with desiccated coconut and freeze-dried raspberry.