Friday, November 25, 2011

Kawaii Faces - White Chocolate Mud Cake

I have not stopped cooking. Neither have I ceased taking photographs. It’s just that, apart from my wife’s cakes, I find nothing inspiring with my recent kitchen exploits. Due to my work commitments I actually have not been cooking anything new and exciting. They’re still tasty meals but nothing extraordinary.

So please forgive me as this is another cake post. But for your benefit I’ll include my wife’s White Chocolate Mud Cake recipe at the end. I cannot emphasise how scrumptious it is. Those who have tasted it can attest to that. I should start putting testimonials on her page (Cherry’s Cakes)…

One great thing about having kids is the fact that they keep me in touch with today’s pop culture. I might not like most of it (I’m already exhibiting signs of generation gap) but it is valuable to at least be aware of “what the kids are into.”

“Kawaii” is a Japanese word that literally translates to “cute.” It not only characterises Japanese pop culture but also their mainstream society as a whole. From clothing to cars, from entertainment to everyday kitchen items, even in people’s mannerisms ‘kawaii’ or cuteness features quite heavily. There is nothing in Japan that has not been infiltrated by ‘kawaii’.

While my son is very much into manga my girls, on the other hand, prefer all these ‘kawaii’ stuff. To be more specific, they have a thing for miniature versions of everyday food. I did not realise they are quite prolific on the internet. There are thousands of YouTube videos that you can watch on the subject.

So, When Eliana was asked what cake design she had in mind for her birthday the answer was pretty obvious. But with literally thousands (maybe even millions) to choose from the dilemma for us was, what sort of ‘kawaii” it was going to be. Hello Kitty has been done to death as with most ‘cute’ characters.

And then she showed us these ‘kawaii faces’. The faces represent various emotions a 9 year old girl would have gone through in her young life. They were perfect! There were at least 9 of them, just right for Eliana’s 9th birthday.

As for the flavour of the cake it had to be Eliana’s favourite white chocolate. The mini cakes were also individually encased in white chocolate for added luxury and texture.

To add Eliana’s personal touch to her cake she made ‘kawaii’ food to complete the design. No need for us to for an apprentice. She’s got the drive and the passion to succeed her mom…

Among all my children you’re the one who has shown me how it is to have a child like faith. Thank you! I love you! Happy birthday!

As promised here’s the recipe.

White Chocolate Mud Cake

300g unsalted butter chopped

300g white chocolate

300g plain flour

150g self raising flour

400g caster sugar

3 eggs lightly beaten

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

270ml water

A pinch of salt

9 inch round tin

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Grease and line the tin with baking paper.
  3. Put the butter and the water in a pan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted. Turn off the heat, then add the chocolate and stir until it has melted and is well mixed.
  4. Sift the flours, the sugar, salt in a deep bowl and make a well in the centre.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture, egg and vanilla into the well then stir until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tin. Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle of the cake.
  7. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  8. Serve on its own, with fresh cream or white chocolate ganache.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Cake for an Unconventional Girl

Designing a cake for my little fashionista is not an easy task. Despite Elishah’s firm colour and design choices, creating a “girl’s cake” based on her specifications proved quite a challenge.

If you’ve read my post last year on her you’ll understand that her colour preferences are not conventional. Pink and purple would have been easy but no, not for Yaya (her nick name). We were given black, of course, navy and crimson to play with for her special 7 year celebration. Actually, make that Cherry, my dear wife, not “we”, not “us”, just her, just Cherry’s Cakes, just Cherry to create something wonderful from a limited palette. I’m only the blogger/photographer.

For a time we thought we were heading the “Titanic” direction (as in the movie). For some reason Yaya was completely enchanted by the movie from the first time she saw it. She’s different, what more can I say? She couldn’t get enough of it. Titanic this, Titanic that. Her YouTube favourites were mainly “Titanic” stuff, parodies and all. Our house was filled with various renditions of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” And then she had a sudden change of heart. Thank God for that. I did not know how much longer the rest of the family could go on…

And this is what Cherry came up with after that nautical theme was quickly shot down: a Lollipop cake that is sophisticated and yet girly at the same time. It fits the brief. If you have to imagine what sort of lollipop flavour it would make here’s an idea: black is liquorice, navy is blueberry and crimson is cherry.

Despite her being modest about her abilities Cherry’s handiworks speak for themselves. She’s got her own page if any of you are interested in her designs. Please follow the link to Cherry’s Cakes.

And to my beautiful daughter here are my words of blessings to you:

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favour and give you His peace” Numbers 6-24-26. Happy birthday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sampinit – Philippine Wild Raspberries

Sampinit in bilao

A caveat: There’s not a lot of literature written about sampinit. What I’m posting here is purely from personal experience, what I know, what I’ve seen and what I’ve tasted. Nothing extracted from a “tropical fruit” journal. Wikipedia did not help this time as well. This is all me, purely my thoughts.

P20 worth of Sampinit

When I first posted photos of sampinit on my Facebook page (yes, I have one) a lot of my Filipino friends were pleasantly surprised to know that such a fruit can be found in our native land. I was familiar with it but by no means was it common. It was and remains a rare summer treat. Not widely available and only for a short period of time. That partly explains it being on the pricey side. I used to pick them myself as I could not afford the going “market rate” back in the ‘80s.

Sampinit in bilao

It might be expensive compared to other tropical fruits but once you understand what it takes before they appear in some ale’s banana leaf lined bilao you’ll accept the price as fair if not cheap. I am not aware if attempts have been made to cultivate this precious jewel of the forest. From what I know nothing has changed in how sampinit is harvested. They are sporadically found in Laguna’s rainforest. Some brave souls needed to endure the sweltering summer heat to come up with a kilo of this much loved wild berries. The berry bush, by the way, is surrounded by sharp thorns adding to the tricky nature of collecting them.

Raspberries from the supermarket

Compared to the commercially available raspberries sampinit are a bit smaller and thereby more delicate. The flavour is very similar to the regular raspberry but it is more robustly astringent and tart. They are not genetically modified to become sweeter and plumper to suit the consumer. They have been left as nature intended. I think sampinit would be great in compotes, sauces, pastries and even cakes if you can get a hold of enough of them.

Raspberries from the supermarket

You can devour sampinit straight from the bush but some people prefer to add a bit of salt (yes, you read right, salt!) to bring out more of that berry goodness. They let it stand in the salt for a few minutes which then slowly releases the berry juices. It is a known way of eating sampinit in Laguna. You’ll notice a small jar of salt on the bilao in one of my photos.

They’re about P10 for a shot size glass filled to the brim. I think that amounts to barely 100g of the stuff. I’m kicking myself now for not buying more and made something out of them. On the next trip back home I promise myself not to miss the opportunity…whenever that may be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adobo – The Vegetarian Antidote

As a child I had a funny relationship with food. I went through various aversions/liking to certain food groups. At one stage I would only eat fat. Yes, just fat. Yes, just pork fat! One thing I do not remember though is loving just vegetables.

Hence, it really bothered me when one of my kids started exhibiting troubling signs of vegetarianism. I don’t get it. If there’s one thing a foodie dad dreads it’s a vegetarian for a child. For some time I was totally convinced I spawned one. My eyes were probably closed when it happened…

That fear was not totally unsubstantiated. On burger nights my 3rd child, Yaya, would have what we now call Elishah’s (her real name) burger. It’s basically rabbit food in a bun. She would only eat the outside of spring rolls. She would remove any trace of meat on her spaghetti. She loves Hainanese chicken rice though… without the chicken. It is worrying as she’s barely 7 years old.

Maybe my comments about how I love cats…deep fried…has something to do with it but I’m still unsure about what brought this “not eating meat” habit on. Regardless, I was determined to nip it in the bud.

I’ve tried all sorts of techniques. Initially she would give in but then quickly revert back to her veggie fix. I felt helpless.

And then one day I cooked adobo for the following week’s packed lunches. The savoury aroma wafting throughout the house began to weaken Yaya’s resolve. Her curiosity got the better of her and asked for a taste. From then on she was cured. And we all lived happily ever after…

Adobo, after all, is the great vegetarian antidote. Now I know…

Pork Adobo ala Beancounter

1kg pork belly cut in fairly large chunks

60ml coconut vinegar

60ml Filipino soy sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Black pepper

1 head of garlic chopped finely

1 large onion chopped

Water (just enough to cover the meat)

1 Bay leaf

A bit of oil for sautéing

1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot but set aside a quarter of the garlic and onion for sautéing later.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour or so or until desired tenderness of the meat is achieved.

3. Remove everything from the pot but separate the meat from the sauce.

4. Heat up a bit of oil in the same pot. Sauté the garlic then the onion.

5. Add the meat pieces back in and fry for a couple of minutes. If you prefer a “crispier” adobo fry it a bit longer.

6. Add the sauce back in and simmer for another five minutes.

7. Serve with steaming hot jasmine rice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yorkshire Pudding 2.0

If you’ve been following this blog you probably have some idea why there’s a 2.0 in the title. Or should it be 1.1?

My first attempt at making Yorkshire pudding wasn’t a great success. But judging from my son polishing off that first batch like there’s no tomorrow, it wasn’t a complete failure either. I have since tried various other recipes and have finally found one I am happy with.

Give honour to where honour is due. The recipe below was inspired by the English episode of SBS’s Food Safari. I’ve tweaked it slightly for a “lighter” version. Instead of using duck/goose fat or drippings I substituted sunflower oil. I also found the 10g of salt on the original recipe a bit much. You decide how much salt to put in. You can even add sugar if you’re so inclined for a sweet kind of pud. Instead of gravy, pour cream or ice cream for a decadent dessert. It’s not so out there come to think of it as the ingredients for this are not that dissimilar to pancakes.

It’s the cooking technique that makes all the difference. The oven must be really hot. The fat in the muffin tins must also be smoking hot. The batter needs that constant high temperature hit until it’s done. Otherwise you would not get that characteristic crater in the middle of this pudding.

Yorkshire Pudding ala Beancounter 2.0
4 eggs
200g plain flour
450ml full cream milk
A bit of salt
Sunflower oil

1. Place your muffin tins in an 180C oven to warm through.

2. Mix together the flour and the salt and make a well in the centre.

3. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together. Pour about a third of the liquid into the centre of the flour well and whisk until all absorbed. Add another third of the liquid and so on. Set aside your batter.

4. Turn the heat up to 220C. Take the muffin tins out and pour about 1 cm of oil in each tin and place back in the oven until the oil is smoking hot.

5. Remove the muffin tray once more and pour the batter into each tin until three quarters full. Return to the oven and cook for 15 -20 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Serve hot with your roast beef.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Food Porn - A Lazy Sunday Post

The photos to follow are what I have been Tweetting (@beancounterau) in the past couple of weeks. I used to just “state” what home meals I have been having. But of late I have included graphic representations of the said meals as well.

The demands of my day job gave me little time to write so I’m posting just photographs instead. Enjoy the food porn!

Roast Belly of Pork

Breaded Pork Chops

White Chocolate Mini Cake

Sinigang at Pritong Tuyong Biya

Roast Rib of Beef

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Oxtail Kare-Kare

Shabu-shabu at home

Sizzling Porterhouse

Sizzling Porterhouse

Red Velvet Cupcakes topped with White Chocolate Ganache

Bistek Tagalog

Pasta Carbonara ala Beancounter

Cappuccino Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Chips

Gai Lan with Oysters Sauce

Ginisang Sardinas

Pan de Sal (with hotdog) for kids' school lunches

Pan de Sal


Sotanghon Guisado

Home made burgers and thick cut chips

Wonton Soup and a side of Fried Chicken Wings