Sunday, October 23, 2011

Banana chocolate brownie with caramelized coconut top recipe

Banana chocolate brownie with caramelized coconut topping
Chocolate, banana and coconut go well together, maybe because all these ingredients are grown in tropical climates. This logic does not necessarily apply in all cases but its certainly true for this brownie.

The brownie has 3 layers, it may seem complex but the recipe is actually really simple. I preferred to keep the layers separate to have a more distinct chocolate, coconut and banana flavour. And a brownie with three layers looks nicer too! If you want to make the recipe even simpler you can mix it all together.

- My suggestion for the topping produces a result which is much crispier. I’ve noticed that some recipes suggest adding butter to coconut and sugar. This could produce a texture which is slightly less crispier. I preferred without butter since there is already enough butter in the brownie, however I was not entirely 100% satisfied with the texture. I will work on it more so please consider the caramelised coconut topping recipe as a work in progress. 
- there are two distinct layers in the brownie. However I was not very careful when pouring the second batter over the first batter, hence the reason you see uneven layers. The banana layer is not very noticable, it has been 'overpowered' by the chocolate layer

100 ml flour
100 grams melted butter or oil
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon (20ml) cocoa powder
¼ cup mashed banana
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

For the coconut topping (to be updated)
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup sugar

1. Heat oven to 175 degrees
2. Mix butter/oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract
3. Add flour, mix well and divide the batter into halves
4. Add mashed banana to one half of the batter, mix well and place in a baking tin
5. Add cocoa powder to the other half of the batter, mix well and pour the batter evenly on top of the banana batter
6. Mix coconut and sugar and sprinkle on top of the batter
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes. To caramelize the sugar, place under a hot broiler for a few minutes or use a blow torch (to be updated).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ajvar (pepper eggplant spread) recipe

Ajvar is a relish/spread from the Balkans. Authentic ajvar is made from fire roasted red bell peppers (capsicum, paprika), eggplant and a few other ingredients. Ajvar is sort of like tomato sauce/ketchup, but much more. You can use it in place of tomato sauce/ketchup such as with burgers and sausages. You can also use it in ways that you may not normally use tomato sauce/ketchup like as a spread on bread or crackers. Once you taste ajvar there is a risk that you will not go back to tomato sauce/ketchup again. However I am definitely not trying to discourage use of tomato sauce/ketchup.

The world can work in mysterious ways sometimes. I’ve always bought ajvar from the supermarket, it is widely available in Sweden due to a relatively large Balkans community. My friends from Balkans never inspired me to make avjar, instead pings pickings from Malaysia inspired me. And ping got inspiration from me, from my jarred ajvar. Bit of a circular reference here, it probably proves that the world is round!

Ajvar is really simple to make. In a nutshell you roast the vegetables and mix with other ingredients. I’ve checked a number of recipes as well as the list of ingredients on an ajvar jar. Most of the recipes do not use tomatoes but tomato puree is included in the jarred ajvar. It has about 3% puree. Also very few recipes use onions. I’ve decided to use tomato puree and not onions. I will try onions next time.

Ajvar is mildly hot. You can add chillis to suit your taste. 


2 large eggplants
6 large red bell peppers
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ cup oil
Juice of 1 lemon or 3 tablespoon of vinegar
Salt and black pepper
2-3 tablespoons tomato puree (optional, I used cooked puree)
Chili - finely chopped or minced (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (optional)

1. Heat oven to 400F/200C
2. Wash and dry eggplants and peppers. Half the eggplant and bell peppers lengthwise. Discard seeds from the peppers
3. Place eggplant and peppers on a baking tray cut side down and roast until the skins blister and turn black, about 30-45 minutes. 
4. Place eggplant and peppers in a heatproof bowl, cover and set aside for about 10 minutes.
5. Remove and discard the skins and mash or chop eggplant and peppers
6. Add all the rest of the ingredients. Ajvar is ready to rock and roll
7. It will keep in a refrigerator for up to 1 week. The taste will develop. I usually freeze in ice cube trays

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Swedish Brownies (Kladdkaka) Recipe

Kladdkaka / Swedish Brownie
Sometimes it happens that we buy chocolate to use in baking but when the time comes for baking we cannot find the chocolate. Chocolates have a tendency to vanish mysteriously, and never reappear again! It is times like this when recipes such as the one below come in very handy. This recipe does not require chocolate, just cocoa powder, but the result is just as good. Cocoa, butter and sugar substitute quite well for chocolate.

With such recipes you can buy your chocolate, 'make' it disappear and use cocoa powder to make brownies. Its likely that no one will notice the difference.

I checked many recipes for kladdkaka and none of them use chocolate. So it seems that it is normal for chocolates to mysteriously disappear in Sweden, hence such recipes are developed. 

Kladdkaka translates into sticky or gooey cake. It is a gooey moist chocolate cake, essentially a brownie. 

The brownie in the photos are not as gooey as you may expect. I baked the brownie for 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes. If you prefer a more gooey brownie bake for 15 minutes. 

I found the recipe on the side of a box of cocoa powder. 
Kladdkaka / Swedish Brownie

Sourdough Bread Recipe

Flaxseed wholemeal sourdough

Sourdough bread sounds complicated to make but in fact it is quite easy once a few steps are understood and mastered. I make sourdough bread every week and I find it easier to make than regular bread. The active time and effort required is actually less than going to a supermarket and buying bread. And it works out to be much cheaper. Before explaining the procedure for making sourdough I think it will be useful to understand the overall process in summary form followed by an explanation of different ‘components’ of sourdough. If you want, you can skip all these and go straight to the procedures. 

Summary of Procedures for Making Sourdough Bread
Here is a short summary of the procedures for making sourdough bread:
- make sourdough starter (takes 3-7 days, and you only need to do this once)
- Make a runny dough and add few tablespoons of sourdough starter. This is called a sponge. This step should take a few minutes only
- Add flavorings, other types of flours etc if you want but do not add salt. Leave it for many hours, such as overnight
- Add salt, flavorings and other types of flours (unless you already added it) and enough flour to make a bread dough. You don’t need to knead. This step should take a few minutes only
- Let the dough sit (proof) for many hours until it doubles in size
- Bake
Yeast is a living organism. Sourdough bread uses wild yeast as opposed to instant, fresh or other yeast used for making regular bread. Unlike regular yeast, wild yeast works much slower so it takes longer for sourdough bread to proof (rise).

Wild yeast that is captured in dough is called sourdough starter. A sourdough starter is like regular yeast, it needs to be added to dough for the bread to rise. 

Catching Wild Yeast
Wild yeast is in the atmosphere, on fruits and vegetables, pretty much everything I suppose. Catching wild yeast is a bit like fishing, you put bait (food) on the line and throw it in the water hoping that a hungry fish finds it. In a similar way a mixture of flour and water is food for yeast. If you leave this mixture sitting around it should attract some wild yeast. Fishing and catching wild yeast are also similar in the sense that you can catch them soon, after a while or not catch any. It depends on luck and a number of other factors.

Feeding Wild Yeast
Since yeast is a living organism it needs to be fed regularly otherwise it will starve to death. As the temperature drops the yeast starts to become less active and eventually become inactive, in other words it hibernates. Once the temperature rises the yeast comes out of hibernation and becomes active again. When the temperature exceeds 60C/140F the yeast will die. Hence the reason when working with yeast you should never use water or other liquids that are hot.

If you store your wild yeast in a cooler environment such as in the refrigerator you only need to feed it once a week. If you leave it at room temperature you may need to feed it everyday. If you freeze it, you don’t need to feed it of course. I have never frozen yeast so I don’t know how well they come back to life when defrosted.

On some occasions I left my sourdough starter in the refrigerator unfed for more than a week and they survived. They are a tough bunch I guess.

Life of a Sourdough Starter
If you regularly feed your sourdough starter it can be kept forever. There are bakeries that use sourdough starter that is hundreds of years old. My sourdough is a few months old. So you only need to make the sourdough starter once if you look after it.

By the way there is a Sourdough Hotel in Sweden. If you are going on holiday and no one will be feeding your sourdough you can leave it at the ‘hotel’ and they will look after it. It is a living thing after all, like your pet!

Here is a photo of my sourdough starter:

Sourdough starter
 You can see bubbles. In the photo it is difficult to see a layer of clear liquid (alcohol) on top of the starter.

I have read that sourdough starter can be dried and stored like other yeast. I have not tried this yet.

Procedure for Making Sourdough Bread 
Making Sourdough Starter 
The first step is to make the sourdough starter. Here are the steps:
- Wash a glass jar with warm water and detergent to sterilize it. I used a small pickled herring jar, any glass jar will work. You can use a big jar if you want.
- Mix together an equal amount of flour and water. The amount does not matter. Try perhaps 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon water.
- Put the flour water mixture in the jar, cover the jar with a cloth and leave it at a warm place somewhere in your house.
- After 24 hours mix together an equal amount of flour and water (1 tablespoon each) and add to the mixture that is already in the jar.
- Keep repeating the above step every 24 hours until you see the mixture getting slightly frothy with a slight sour aroma. When this happens congratulations, your flour water mixture has turned into sourdough starter. It can take 3-7 days. If nothing happens after 7 days, perhaps something has gone wrong. Try again from start
- Store your sourdough starter in the refrigerator unless you plan to make sourdough bread everyday, in which case leave it outside.
- Sometimes you will smell and notice a thin layer of alcohol on top of the starter. Don’t be alarmed, it is normal. Just mix the sourdough and it will be fine. However do not drink it. I have never tried and I don’t plan to.

Making Sponge
- Once you have the sourdough starter to make bread you need to first make a sponge. It sounds complicated but it is not. And from here my instructions get a bit vague because I never measure anything when making sourdough bread.
- Make a runny dough with flour and water, similar to a sourdough starter. It does not matter whether the dough is too runny (like light cream) or less runny (like thick cream). I use about 2 cups of flour.
- Take some of the sourdough starter (2-3 tablespoons perhaps) and add this to the dough that you just made. You can also add sugar or syrup to the sponge. Sugar or syrup makes the yeast work harder. I have tried with and without it. I didn’t notice much difference so I don’t add sugar or syrup.
- At this stage you can add flavourings, seeds, nuts, other types of flours etc but do not add salt at this stage. Salt inhibits yeast growth and activity
- Cover this sponge and leave it to proof for many hours, minimum 3-4 hours. I usually make sponge before going to bed and its ready the next morning. The reason for this step is to allow the wild yeast in the sourdough starter to multiply. You will notice small bubbles in the sponge. 
- Since you took some of the sourdough starter from your jar it needs to be replenished and the wild yeast needs to be fed. Add water/flour mixture and return to the refrigerator.

Making Dough and Proofing
- To the sponge that was sitting overnight (or for many hours) add salt, other flavourings (unless you added it earlier) and enough flour to form the dough that has the consistency required for making bread.
- Mix the dough. You don’t need to knead the dough. Since the dough will be proofing for many hours again the gluten forms anyway. I usually mix the dough with a spoon and that’s it. 
- Cover this dough with a wet tea towel and leave aside for several hours (proofing) until the dough doubles in size. I usually make the dough in the morning and it is ready for baking in the afternoon. In warmer temperatures less proofing time is required. Some bakeries proof the dough for up to 18 hours in humid cool conditions with temperature around 16-18C (60-65F). The longer it proofs the more developed the taste gets. 
- I always make enough dough to last me for about a week and I keep the dough in the refrigerator and bake what I need. Keeping in the refrigerator really helps to develop the flavor and improve the texture. It also means I only need to make the sponge and bread dough once a week and I can have freshly baked bread everyday, or many times during the day if I wanted. You may notice a slight alcohol aroma after a few days. Don’t be alarmed. It will evaporate when baked. 

- Place the dough in the bread tin or on the tray for free-form bread.
- Make slits/cuts across to allow the gas inside to escape and help in even rising 
- Bake at 220 degrees until the bread is done. I can’t tell you how long it takes, it depends on how high the dough is. I wait until the crust hardens and you hear a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

I have made sourdough with rolled oats, flax seeds, wheat flakes, rye flour and chili. You can add anything that you prefer. I usually add flavours etc during the ‘Making Sponge’ stage. You can also add it during the ‘Making Dough and Proofing’ stage. It does not really matter.

Summary of Procedures for Making Sourdough Bread
Here is a short summary of the procedures for making sourdough bread:
- make sourdough starter (takes 3-7 days, and you only need to do this once)
- Make a runny dough and add few tablespoons of sourdough starter. This is called a sponge. This step should take a few minutes only
- Add flavorings, other types of flours etc if you want but do not add salt. Leave it for many hours, such as overnight
- Add salt, flavorings and other types of flours (unless you already added it) and enough flour to make a bread dough. You don’t need to knead. This step should take a few minutes only
- Let the dough sit (proof) for many hours until it doubles in size
- Bake

As you can see the total active time required is not much. However it takes hours for proofing. You can time it so that it proofs while you are sleeping. In this way you don’t need to sit and wait.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tau Eu Kay (Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken) Recipe

Tau Eu Kay (Sweet Soy Sauce Chicken) 
Recently the lovely Sonia from Nasi Lemak Lover presented me with some gifts, including a book called “nonya flavours: A complete guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine.” The book contains over 150 authentic nonya recipes. I don’t know if I will be able to make all the recipes but I thought a good place to start would be one of the easiest recipes.

The recipe looks really basic and simple but the outcome is really really delicious. I have eaten and also cooked something similar many times but the non-nonya version which had little or no sugar. Perhaps the version I had was from mainland China and the nonya’s added sugar.

The recipe does not state whether the chicken pieces should be left with the skin on. In the photo I could see the skin and I presume most Chinese/Asian chicken dishes are made with the skin on. Personally I would recommend cooking with the skin since the fat and collagen from the skin helps thicken the gravy and add flavor. If you are concerned about eating skin, note the following:
- chicken has about 10% fat content so if you eat a piece or two of chicken with skin, the total fat in grams is not that much
- the skin does contribute a lot to flavor and texture of the gravy. Try to eat less fat during the day, have unbuttered toast and skip a few cookies, cakes and brownies. It will be well worth the sacrifice
- do some exercise after the meal. I cannot confirm whether this will be good for you or not but at least it will make you feel better
- the gravy contains some of the fat. If you don’t consume all the gravy, you are reducing your fat consumption

The gravy is really delicious. What I did was freeze the leftover in ice cube trays. This will be an excellent flavor base.

1kg free range chicken, cut into pieces
80 grams sugar (or more or less depending on your taste)
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
40 grams ginger, thinly sliced
2 cups water

1. Marinate the chicken pieces with sugar, soy sauce, pepper and salt for at least 30 minutes before cooking
2. Place the wok over medium high heat and add water, ginger and the chicken pieces
3. Bring to boil and simmer until chicken pieces are tender and the gravy is thick, about 30 minutes. Top up with more water if the stock dries up

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple Beetroot Semolina Cake Recipe

Apple Beetroot Semolina Cake
The inspiration for this cake came from the Swedish beetroot herring salad I posted a recipe for earlier. The salad has beetroot and apple and it worked fantastically well together so I thought it should work in a cake as well. I decided to exclude pickled herring and onions, maybe I should be more creative and daring! Or maybe you can be more creative and daring!

The cake is really moist. The flavor from the beets is subtle and it complements the apples well. I actually used more beets than it says in the recipe. If you are not a big fan of beets you can reduce the amount of beets, or even eliminate it. However beets enhance the visual appeal of the cake. 

I earlier made beetroot cake and realized that some of the color disappears as the cake cooks. The cake batter looks nicer.

The recipe used half flour and half semolina. If you don’t like or don’t have semolina, you could use just flour. I didn’t try with 100% flour but it should work fine.

75 grams butter, margarine or oil
100ml + 1 tablespoon sugar
100 ml flour, sifted
100 ml semolina
1½ teaspoon baking powder
50ml yogurt
2 eggs
1 apple, cored and sliced (peeling is optional)
1 beetroot, cooked and diced

1. Heat oven to 175 degrees and grease a 24cm cake tin
2. Cream butter and 100ml sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well
3. In a separate bowl mix flour, semolina and baking soda.
4.  Add the flour mixture together with beetroot and yogurt to the butter mixture. Mix well until combined
5. Pour the cake batter in the cake tin
6. Add 1 tablespoon sugar to the apple slices and mix. Place apple slices on top of the batter. It you place it neatly with a good design the cake will taste nicer – remember we eat with our eyes first
7. Bake until cake is done, about 30 minutes. A skewer should come out clean

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beetroot Jam Recipe

Beetroot jam
I made carrot jam and following its success I thought there is no reason why beetroot should not produce a jam just as good. After all they are both sweet root vegetables.

The result was nice. The flavor was fantastic, so was the color. I didn't puree the beetroot since I preferred chunky bits for texture. It went great with crackers.

2 medium beetroots
¼ cup sugar – or more depending on your preference

1. Boil the beetroot until cooked, then peel and either chop finely or puree
2. Add the beetroot and sugar to a saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the jam is set, about 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently. Add a small amount of water if the mixture gets too dry in the beginning. I added about 1-2 tablespoons of water during the process
3. Unfortunately I don’t know how long these will keep for. I guess it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. If could be kept longer is properly processed for preserving I suppose.

Beetroot jam

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