Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lori's Simply Sinful Cheesecake, a Cranky Oven & a Potluck

For a long time now, I have had the suspicion that my oven was not telling me the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it came to its temperature. I finally got a proper oven thermometer and nearly gagged at the hefty price of 15.50 Euros. Ah well, all for greater bakes eh?

With my spanking new thermometer, I was ready to play kitchen doctor to my old Technogas convention oven. When I placed the thermometer into the oven to start my tests, I started hearing this cranky-ticky sound (more crank than tick) . I was even half afraid it would blow up in my face (Can you envision the headlines: Girl Dies in Oven Blast BEFORE baking her cheesecake!). I realised that not only does the temperature mark of my oven not read true, but the temperature within does not stay constant. (Does that mean the treatment for this patient is to tell him to R.I.P. and get a brand new oven?)

Anyways, with the ingredients for Lori's Simply Sinful Cheesecake already in the fridge, I decided to take my chances and bake anyway. I read that it was really important to ensure there were no lumps and hence, spent some time creaming my creamcheese (parodoxical rhetoric?) before adding the condensed milk. I had to use my untrustworthy sense of estimation here for an entire can of condensed milk weighed 397gms when the receipe only called for approx. 325gm.

My crust had a bad time because it had to bake in the ticking bomb of an oven first. The temperature was so hard to control that the crust had to sit in the oven for at least 30 mins before I was satisfied that it was sufficiently baked. Thereafter I said a silent prayer that the crust would turn out fine and not crumble all over itself in distress.

Similarly, I was more edgy when it was time to bake the cheesecake/crust concoction. In the end, I spent the entire 50mins babysitting the oven, staring at the thermometer every 5-10mins. Adjusting the temperature ever so slightly to achieve the 180degree celsius heat required. Each turn of the knob took at least 10mins to effect and hence, it was a rather harrowing and backbreaking task. Would you believe I actually brought my novel out to read throughout this hour?

The receipe I tried out was great except that I used granulated sugar instead of castor sugar and hence, I could taste the crunch in the cookie base. I ended up topping the cake with blueberries so that I could cover the slightly overbrowned appearance at the top of the cake. Here is my creation (once again, excuse the bad photography):

Ok to be frank, in my elation that Lori's cheesecake receipe was practically foolproof, I forgot to take a proper pic of the cake after it was topped with blueberries. The taste of the cheesecake astounded me. My colleagues told me that this tastes like a cheesecake from a good bakeshop, less the slightly tough crust (my fault, not Lori's). I also found out not many people like a thick crust. But after tasting Lori's Cheesecake receipe, I must say the crust is actually pretty good at cutting thru the cheesyness of the cream cheese.

A couple of days later, I was invited to a potluck by some friends. Being quick to notice that no one had offered dessert, Lori's Simply Sinful Cheesecake instantly came to mind. I was nervous on the day of the potluck.

When I arrived at the potluck, I was surprised that no one commented much on my cheesecake. Most of em had their maids cook for them, the late comers bought stuff on the way over. Nevertheless, I sat thru the entire dinner and drinks till late. When it was time to have the cheesecake, friends started oohing and ahhing and asked when did I have time to pick it up since I had a packed schedule that day. Blinking back my confusion, I told them I simply rushed home in a cab and got it outtav the fridge before rushing to their place. There was a moment of silence before everyone started chirping at the same time. It seems that the cake looked so professionally done (with my store bought plastic see-thru cover and maroon base) with the decoration, shape and smell that everyone had naturally assumed that I had bought the cake. My My!

I was nervous that the taste of the cheesecake might not live up to its over-emphasized appearance and when realised that due to the inconsistency of my oven, the crust was superbly hard, my heart fell. It took a guy two hands to cut thru (oops!). I had also swirled a couple tablespoons of the blueberries into the mixture for continuance to its blueberry-ed top. Everyone finished their cheesecake and those who loved harder crusts, ate their cheesecake first and then actually picked up the crust to eat as a biscuit. Gosh... the compliments were overflowing and my head got so inflated that it almost couldn't fit thru the doorway of the host's house when the party was over.

Again... coz everyone was so eager to eat the cheesecake that I never got a chance to unveil my digicam from its pouch to take a pic of the cheesecake in its entirety. Here is another bad pic of my slice of the cake:

Thanks Lori.. you saved my life!!!!
Verdict: SUCESS!

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Fluff Ball

No, I have not lost it and decided to experiment baking my dog.

I just wanted to take the time to introduce my most faithful kitchen invigilator. Everyone, meet Crissy. Crissy...? This is Everyone.

This is one of her favourite positions to take when I am experimenting in the kitchen. This is a position for when things smell good. For the times when things dont smell so good, she is on all fours, ready to bolt should there be signs that the oven's gonna blow. On occassions when I am puzzled at some process in the experiment, she cocks an ear with her head tilted to one side, as though asking "You sure about that buddy?"

Of course, she also hangs around me in the kitchen with an ulterior purpose, to catch the ingredient crumbs that sometimes drop onto the floor unnoticed.

Hmmm... I love this fluff ball of mine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Matcha Mochi with Anko Filling (Red Bean)

It all started when I had my first taste of Mitarashi Danggo (Sweet Glutinuous Rice Balls covered with Soy Sauce). I was surprised because I had expected the soy sauce to be salty. The entire concoction was sweet.

This got me surfing the net for danggo receipes and tripeed into the bigger world of Wagashi instead.

Strangely enough, I got sidetracked and started reading about how easy it was to make mochi. I even read about mochi being made into savoury dishes.

So after ensuring no oven baking was required (read my earlier blog on making Rachel's Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey) I set about creating my first ever batch of Mochi filled with Anko (sweetened red bean paste). This was how it turned out:

They didn't taste half bad although I could be a little more light handed with the Katakuriko Flour (Potato Starch Flour) and also I might reduce the amount water from 1 cup to 3/4 cup.

Instead of adding all ingredients together and nuking it, I decided to boil the water and add it into the well-mixed flour and sugar combo, stirring vigorously once boiling water is added.

Here's the simplest receipe I have found:


1 Cup Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour (Glutinous Rice Flour)
1 Cup Water
¼ Cup Sugar
Katakuriko Flour (for dusting) [Optional: Matcha Powder]

1. Mix Mochiko flour, sugar & Matcha powder in a bowl.
2. Add boiling water to dry mixture, stirring thoroughly.
3. Cool for a few minutes. Cut & Serve.

4. For filling: Dust mochi with Katakuriko or Kinako to prevent mochi from sticking everywhere. If you don't have these, you can just put the mochi on cellophane.
6. Variations for Filling: You can add red bean paste, ice cream, chocolate, etc. in the middle if you want BEFORE you dust. Add a teaspoon of filling and pinch edges closed.
* Variations for Dough: Add a few drops of food coloring into batter for color variation. A few drops of flavoring (strawberry, grape, orange, blueberry, etc.) may also be added. >> For chocolate flavor, stir about 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips into mochi batter before cooking.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rachel's Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey

I promised myself when I decided to do up a flog to record my little hits, mishaps and misses, that I would get a proper oven thermometer and have my oven temperature properly assessed.

Well I was so enticed by
Rachel's Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey that erm... I decided to go ahead and try it anyways.

I followed the receipe to a T, right down to the dish towels pseudo water bath. The only two things wrong was that

1) I didn't ascertain if my oven gauge is at the exact temperature required

2) I didn't run out to get a baking tin 12cm in diameter (used a 16cm one instead)

I should be too ashamed to show pics of this particular flop, but well... that's the beauty of the internet. No one really knows who I am so here it is:

As you can see, the poor thing didn't even rise above 2cm. The bottom of the cake was still semi-wet and felt more steamed moist then moist cakey. Obviously with such a bad combination, I was unable to taste the lightness of the cake as Rachel had indicated.

I did this 4 times (since I had a 250gm slab of cream cheese). Results:
Cakey 1) Too sweet, too soggy
Cakey 2) Still Soggy
Cakey 3) Baked without water bath or wet dish towels, same results
Cakey 4) Added Matcha but I guess 3/4 tsp was too little to taste

Sorry Rachel, I will endeavour to do your receipe proud again some day, but right now, it is just my "Fuwa Fuwa Fwah! Fail" cake.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sakura... Sakura... *Clap Clap*

I have been yearning for the past couple of days for the taste of Sakura. Not so much that I even knew what the taste was, but more like I wanted to know what it really tasted like.

So I was meandering around yet another Japanese Supermarket when I came across a Japanese Snack Counter. Springing from the escalator to the snack counter, I spotted pinkish concoctions and hoped fervently that these were the Sakura Mochi / Daifuku I had heard so much about. True enough, "Christmas" came early this year!

To be frank, ever since I came across the holy grail of a Japanese flog (Food Blogging) called
Obachan's Kitchen and Balcony Garden written by a true blue Japanese lady with Western influences, I was awe-struck.

My salivation was dripping onto the floors whilst I read her flog on
Sakura Mushipan and Matcha Swirl Bread, especially the entry where she described the taste of the salted distinct taste of the Sakura leaf she was tricked into eating by her nana.

Anyways, perhaps it is my age now, but after trying the Sakura leaf, I think I understand what she meant when she said she hated it as a child, but has now grown to savour the sharp contrast of the salty taste leaves, against the sweetness of the mochi. I loved the taste of the salty contrast against the sweetness that was rolling around on my tongue, so much so that I even contemplated eating the little nobby stem of the Sakura leave.

In retrospect, I didn't taste the Sakura as much as smelled the slightly cloying sweet scent of the flower. I didn't taste much of Sakura in the mochi either, but I guess since I smoke, subtle taste may sometimes be lost on my tastebuds (almost same thing with tasting Osmanthus flowers for the first time, it was more of a non-distinct honeyed taste and no smell kinda experience).

Nevertheless, I am thankful to Obachan's flog, for allowing me to have at least tasted what Sakura is all about. I know now I am more of a Sakura leaf cruncher than a flower eater.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Current Country of Crave: Japan

My current country of craving?
Japan! Actually it all started when I got introduced into the world of Anime. Don't get me wrong, I used to be like you sniggering at the "loser" adults who spend most of their time watching animes and proclaiming it to be their first love. In fact, I couldn't even understand what animes were all about.... they are cartoons aren't they?

However, after a particularly stressful phase in life, I decided to bore my brains into pure and unadulterated boredom by watching Anime. I am a closet Anime fan.

Along with Japanese Anime, I got intrigued by the world of Japanese food, culture and language. Hence, I was shopping in a Japanese Supermarket one day, sussing ingredients for Mochi and a Cheesecake, when I came across this little purse lookalike with a little tingly bell attached.

I coerced my best buddy who was trudging along grudgingly, to get this for me as her relocation present to me. The irony is that she's the one relocating to join her husband in Kazakhstan in another couple of months.

I decided that as my very first flog, I am going to post this cute little purse as a commitment to my current Japanese crave and as a tribute of the going away buddy.