Friday, April 13, 2012

Berry Easy Strawberry Mousse Cake

People always say "Make hay while the sun shines", in my case a more appropriate saying would be "bake cake before the sun sets" (so that my photos won't be dull and dreary), or "bake cake before the baby cries". :)  

It's a struggle to bake cake nowadays with a 2 month-old baby wailing every few minutes for feeding, for burping, for nappy change, and for lack of company. She doesn't allow me to leave her for a single second, not even to go to the toilet, seriously. If I disappear just 1 metre outside her radar, the alarm will go off, wahhhhh, and she will cry as if there is no tomorrow. :S  

Anyway, yesterday was a relatively quiet day for me, my little princess was snoring, so I assumed that she wouldn't wake up so easily and I thought of baking a special cake, one that I have never done before. Now this is my maiden attempt at baking a mousse cake and also my very first strawberry cake. So two double firsts. I was on my way to Delhaize for my annual stockup on cheap orchids. I saw strawberries on discount there so I bought half a kilo at 1.99 euro. What a steal! Later I realised that there was a newspaper promotion for strawberries at Delhaize, one pack of 500g cost 1.50 euro each if you buy at least 2 packs. Being the "kiasu" Singaporean, I was itching to go back and grab a few kilos but then I realised that strawberries don't keep very well. So let me first finish up these strawberries, and see how it goes. :)  

Here is my berry easy strawberry mousse cake, not too bad, isn't it? I left it in the fridge overnight as the sun had already set and I could only take pictures the next day (now you know why I only bake while the sun shines). But actually it only requires 3-4 hours in the fridge for the mousse to set.

The sponge cake recipe is from Alex Goh's Baking Code and the strawberry mousse recipe is from Aunty Yochana's blog. Adaptations have been made to suit a 8 inch round cake pan.

This sponge cake recipe uses 5 egg yolks and 5 egg whites and is originally intended for a 23 cm (9 inch) round cake pan. But I used a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan instead to achieve a higher height. This is a very good sponge cake recipe, a fail-proof and a very forgiving one. I don't say that without a reason. You know what, I actually forgot to add in the flour before adding in the corn oil, when the baby started crying all of a sudden. It was only when the sponge cake was already in the oven for 2 minutes, that I turned my back and saw the bowl of flour sitting pretty on the table. Luckily I managed to salvage the cake in time. I quickly took the batter out of the cake pan, pour it into a mixing bowl, fold in the flour, pour it back into the cake pan and put it back into the oven. Phew!!!

So here is the adapted recipe:

Ingredients A
5 egg yolks + 20g sugar + 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Ingredients B
5 egg whites

Ingredients C
120g sugar

Ingredients D
110 flour

Ingredients E
60g corn oil

1. Using a cake-mixer, whip ingredients A (egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence) until light and fluffy.

2. Using a cake-mixer, whip ingredients B (egg whites) until soft peak. Add in ingredients C (120g sugar) and continue whipping until stiff peak.

3. Mix the egg-white mixture with the egg-yolk mixture until well-blended. You should scoop 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, mix it gently using a spatula, then pour the combined batter into the rest of the egg-white mixture and mix it well.

4. Using a spatula, fold in ingredients D (flour) , mix well until well-combined. Add in ingredients E (corn oil) and use a spatula to mix until well-incorporated.

5. Pour it into a greased and lined round mould (8 inch springform).

6. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 30 min. Remove the cake and quickly invert it on a cooling rack to let it cool. Then use a sharp serrate knife to loosen the sides and unmould the cake.

The original recipe is meant for a 9-inch round cake pan but I have reduced the ingredients proportionately by 3/4 to suit a 8-inch round cake pan.

300ml whipping cream (whipped using cake-mixer)
280 to 300g fresh strawberry puree (blended in a food blender)
90g fine sugar
**4 tsp gelatine powder mixed with 70g water

1. If you buy 500g of strawberries, you should use 300g to be blended into puree and set aside 200g for decoration later.

2. Add strawberry puree and sugar into a saucepan and warm it over low heat to melt the sugar. Add in the gelatine solution and mix it well. Remove from heat and allow to cool before adding the whipped cream (otherwise the whipped cream will melt in the next step).

3. Fold in the whipped cream using a spatula and divide the strawberry mousse into 2 portions.

**Note that according to the instructions of the gelatine powder, we should use 3 tsp of gelatine powder for every 500ml of liquid to be set.

1. First cut the sponge cake into 2 layers using a sharp serrated knife. Place the bottom layer of the sponge cake into a cake ring or the springform cake pan that you used to bake the cake (must be cleaned and greased with oil). Cut strawberries into halves and arrange them side by side around the sides of the cake pan.

2. Pour in the first 1/2 of the strawberry mousse and level the surface using a spatula. Make sure the sides of the cake are also filled with the mousse.

3. Place the top layer of the sponge cake on top of the mousse layer.

4. Pour in the second 1/2 of the strawberry mousse and again level the surface using a spatula.

5. Leave the finished cake in the fridge for about 3 to 4 hours to allow the mousse to set. Tie any itchy hands with a rope and DO NOT touch the cake until the mousse layer is firm!!! 

6. Once the mousse is set, remove from the fridge and use a sharp serrated knife to run through and loosen the sides of the cake pan, then slowly (and steadily) open the springform or the cake ring.

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #18: Layers of Love (April 2012), hosted by Sam of Sweet Samsations(Click on this link For the AB #18 round-up.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

We speaken Nengels :)

I just read an article in the newspapers about the use of English by Dutch-speakers (in Netherlands and Belgium). It was funny if you look at some of the sentence structures, so funny that I practially roll off the chair in stitches. Coming from a English-speaking (and Mandarin-speaking) background, I do understand some of the pitfalls and common mistakes made by Dutch-speakers, which when spoken, may seem totally incomprehensible to native English speakers. 

I have been learning the Dutch language for a good 3 years, I must admit I'm still not very good at it, but at least I can read the newspapers and listen to the radio with close to 80-90% being translated without fail to English (my brain does it automatically, don't ask me how it does it). The remaining 10-20% is where I sometimes get stunned for words.

Here are some good examples of common mistakes of Nederlands-Engels, otherwise also known as Nengels or Dunglish. For more examples, you can look up this website.

I have hunger (Ik heb honger) = I am hungry.

I have thirst (Ik heb dorst) = I am thirsty.

I believe nothing from it (Ik geloof er niets van) = I don't believe what you are saying.

I am there not good from (Ik ben er niet goed van) = I am upset.

I am there not crazy from (Ik ben er niet gek van) = I am not crazy about it.

I can there not anymore against (Ik kan er niet meer tegen) = I can't stand it anymore.

I am a bit in the war (Ik ben een beetje in de war) = I am a little bit confused.

My hair is in the war (Mijn haar is in de war) = I am having a bad hair day.

I will learn you (Ik zal je leren) =  I will teach you.

I come here to solicit (Ik kom hier om te solliciteren) = I come here for interview.

There is something on the hand (Er is iets aan de hand) = There is something going on.

I am holding you in the holes (Ik houd je in de gaatjes) = I am watching you.

That hits on nothing (Dat klopt niet) = That doesn't make sense.

Everything good? And with the children? Yes yes, it goes well (Alles goed? En met de kinderen? Ja ja, het gaat wel.)

And how is it for the rest? (En hoe is het voor de rest?) = How are you doing?

I have to do with you (ik heb te doen met jou) = I feel your pain.

I especially like this phrase "I am holding you in the holes". Look, big brother is watching you! :) So after this quick crash course, do you understand Nengels or Dunglish by now?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Of Birthdays and Horse Carriages

The extent to which parents dote on their kids nowadays is really beyond the wildest flight of my imagination. I know of parents who are willing to go the extra mile to organize special birthday parties for their beloved child, even if it means splurging a few hundred euros. What I mean special is really special, wait till you hear my story.

My boy was invited last Wednesday to a birthday party of a classmate from his kindergarden class. It was a rather last minute notice, cos we only received a phone call from the doting mother on Monday, 2 days before the event. The mother of the lucky birthday boy actually hired a horse carriage (can you imagine that? I thought that only happens in fairytales?) to bring all 20 kids of the class to their house, which is about 7 km away and at least an hour's ride from the kindergarden. Now, that is what I call "special". I would love it if my husband had organized a horse carriage for our wedding, but dream on, that never happened.

The horse carriage stood ready at the gate, ready to pick up the kids when the school bell rang, at around 11.30am on Wednesday. I specially went to the school to dress my boy in pampers just in case he couldn't control his bladder (actually that was just an excuse for me to marvel at the horse carriage) and I happened to watch how busy the teacher was, rushing all the kids one by one to the toilet to prepare them for the big ride. It was an uphill task to try to quieten the excited kids and make sure they do clear their bladders before going up the horse carriage. Needless to say, I myself and other mothers who came to watch the spectacle, were very excited too, I think we were far more excited than the kids. I was in fact, quite jealous, I wish I was the one sitting in my boy's class. :)

By the way, my boy is nearly 3 years old now, he can talk pretty well, but he is quite scattered-brained when it comes to certain things, for instance he didn't know the name of the birthday boy and couldn't remember it even though we prompted him a few times. The present we prepared for the birthday boy was still sitting in his schoolbag when I arrived in school before the arrival of the horse carriage. When I asked him who the birthday boy was, he was tongue-tied, luckily a cute little girl sitting next to him quickly pointed to the birthday boy sitting opposite and enthusiastically offered to pass him the present. Later at the end of the day, when we picked him up by car from the birthday boy's house, I asked him whose house did he go to and whose birthday was it. He replied enthusiastically, oh it is A's birthday, when it should have been V's birthday! :S

I applaud the mother for spending so much effort (and money of course) to organize such a unique birthday party for her child, I think the kids really enjoyed themselves, I could see the enjoyment in their eyes. But then again, judging from the response I got from my boy, it seemed that he didn't know what was going on, and he had such short memory span that the party was quickly forgotten by the time we arrived home.

I wonder how well he will remember this fantastic birthday party, 10 or 20 years down the road. If he can't remember at all, at least his good old mum has some nice photos to remind him of the adventure he had with 19 other kids when he was 3 years old!

Ayam Kleo (Nonya Chicken in Rich Spicy Gravy)

I bought some lemongrass, galangal, candlenuts and a bottle of tamarind sauce from the thai supermarket in Antwerp Chinatown last weekend, thinking of cooking up a storm with these few ingredients, with a nonya recipe that I have earmarked for a long time. I actually only needed 1 stalk of lemongrass and a thumb-sized piece of galangal, but I had to buy 200 gram of each bcos that was the minimum quantity that was sold. Oh gosh, lemongrass and galangal are definitely not your average spices in Europe! Guess how much they cost? 13 euro per kg! I nearly got a shock of my life when the 2 tiny packs of lemongrass and galangal (200g each) came up to 5.20 euro. That's daylight robbery, just like the tiny piece of ginger which set me back by 2.50 euro, these are certainly exotic spices with exotic prices!

After arriving home, I forgot where I kept my precious recipe and now what am I supposed to do with 200g of lemongrass and 200g of galangal? I am definitely not gonna throw 5 euro away just like that! I thought of my treasured cookbook, Mrs Leong Yee Soo's "Best of Singapore Cooking", so I systematically combed through it, leaving no pages unturned, and painstakingly noted down the recipes containing either of the 4 ingredients.

So here are the results of my tenuous search (C-candlenuts, L-lemongrass, G-galangal, T-tamarind)
Ayam Kleo - C, L, T
Ayam Sioh - T
Satay Babi (Pork Satay) - C, L
Prawns in Pineapple Gravy - G, T
Chicken Coconut Curry - C, G
Lemon Curry Chicken - C, L, T
Beef Rendang - G, L, T
Spicy Fried Chicken - G, L, T
Satay Ayam Pangang (Chicken Satay) - C, G, L

Not all the dishes are easy, some dishes are rather complicated and some require deep-frying which I absolutely hate. After much deliberation, I set my mind on cooking Ayam Kleo (Nonya Chicken in Rich Spicy Gravy), having never tasted this dish before and not knowing what to expect. But I have absolute faith in Mrs Leong Yee Soo's recipes which I have attempted quite a few in the past, and they all turned out pretty well (as long as you omit the msg and halve the amount of salt that she used). This Ayam Kleo is no exception. It tastes quite like the Tumeric Chicken which I have blogged in my blog, also from her "Best of Singapore Cooking" cookbook. 

So here is my first attempt in cooking Ayam Kleo. It tastes really good, not too spicy cos I reduced the number of chillies to suit the taste of my toddler boy. But if you like it spicy, you can just up the amount of dried chillies or fresh red chillies. What I especially like about this dish is that it has a nutty flavour of candlenuts coupled with the rich creamy taste of coconut milk, the fragrance of lemongrass and the sweet-sour taste of tamarind. It is really unlike any other curries which I have cooked before. Try it and you will know what I mean.

Here is my adapted Ayam Kleo recipe for 3 servings:

600g chicken, cut into 6 pieces
250ml canned coconut milk

Ingredients A
2 dried chillies
1 fresh red chilli
1/2 stalk lemongrass, sliced thinly
3 candlenuts (also known as buah keras)
1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger or galangal
1/4 tsp of tumeric powder
2 cloves garlic
4 big shallots or 8 small shallots

Ingredients B
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp water

Ingredients C
1/2 tsp salt 
2 tbsp tamarind sauce (from bottle)
1 stalk lemongrass, lightly bashed with the back of a knife

1. Grind A to a fine paste.

2. Marinate the chicken in B and 2 tbsp of the ground paste for 30 min.

3. Set grill to hot. Grill the marinated chicken till brown on both sides (10 min for each side).

4. Mix the rest of the paste with the coconut milk and C, in a saucepan. Put in the chicken and mix well. Cook over a moderate heat for 15 min. Reduce heat and let chicken simmer until tender. Cook until the gravy is thick and oil comes up to the surface.

Now, 2 stalks of lemongrass down, and I still have 18 more to go. The next dish on the list will probably be one of the other dishes in Mrs Leong's cookbook, if I can still spare the time. Watch out this space as I churn out more CGLT (candlenut-galangal-lemongrass-tamarind) dishes for the rest of the month!

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