Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Easy Muffins : Banana Muffins and Mango Muffins

Mango Muffins
Gedong Gincu Mango Muffins

First, I am sorry for not being able to write and update this blog in the last (ok, let me count...) 2 months... yes, in fact, more than 2 month!! Time flies. Doesn't mean I didn't cook thou. But not as many, since I spent most of my days traveling out of Jakarta for work. And the worst was.., from the only few cooking I did in between the trips, I kept forgetting to take pictures before I ate them or gave them away to friends and family. This time, I am going to share what I learned about muffins.

Banana Muffins
Banana Muffins with Coconut Milk and Palm Sugar

Easy and fast, require only one big bowl, one smaller bowl, one spatula, measuring cups and spoons... that's all! and you can have endless combination of flavors in about 40 minutes. Ten minutes of measuring and mixing, and 30 minutes of baking (20 minutes if you make mini muffins).

I tried to simplify the recipes, with only few basic ingredients so you can have almost freedom for adding the flavor you prefer. I hope you find it useful, and give you more confidence to cook muffins without recipe. Well, actually, not really without recipe.. all you have to do is remembering the two big rules about muffins : flour/baking powder ratio and flour/liquid ratio. Then you can add other ingredients according to your taste preference.

Mango Muffins 
 Gedong Gincu Mango Muffins, so much flavor in one bite...

However, with different combination of fruits, nuts, or other flavors, you might need to adjust the ratio. Some people have their own standard on how the perfect muffins should be, the batter and the muffins' consistency, etc. But if you are like me, who is baking simply for fun and enjoy your friends and family eating your muffins with fun, then you can try my principles in baking muffins.

Mango Muffins Mango Muffins
Banana Muffins Banana Muffins

Baking powder
It's the key. You can't make muffins without baking powder. It's the leavening agent so muffins will be softer, lighter, crumble, with the airier texture. If you use self-rising flour, forget the baking powder and forget the ration of flour/baking powder also, since self-rising flour already contains baking powder.
In general, use 1 - 2 tsp baking powder for every cup of flour.

I use low protein flour (cake flour) or simply use all-purpose flour. Do not use bread flour. For muffins, we want to avoid gluten.
Other type of starch such as whole wheat, rolled oats, etc. can be used also.

Usually there are several kinds of liquid used for muffins
  • Milk / yoghurt / butter milk / heavy cream / water
  • Oil / melted butter
  • Eggs
  • Or sometimes you might want to use honey to sweeten your muffins
The flour/liquid ratio, or the final dough consistency... not too liquid, yet not too stiff is important too. Hmm, how can I give the right description so you would know and understand. Hmmm..., let me think.
Well, describing consistency is apparently much harder than I thought. Well, it should be like a sticky dough. If you prefer a moist muffin, then you can add a little bit more liquid. In general, 1.5 cups of flour for 2.5 cups of liquids. Adjust the ratio according to the other ingredient or flavor you use.

Mango Muffins  

Sweetness and/or saltiness
For sweetness, usually I use granulated sugar... could be white sugar, brown sugar, palm sugar, or any other granulated sugar. Sometimes I prefer honey in a certain recipe, so I count the honey to the total liquid. But for granulated sugar, I do not count it for the total dry ingredient... only flour counts.
To balance the sweetness, it's better to add a pinch of salt to the mixture. Don't forget to adjust the amount of sugar if you make muffins with fresh fruits that have high sugar content (mango, cherries, etc.) or candied/glazed fruits. Usually, I use 1/4 - 1/3 cup of sugar for every cup of flour. For savory muffins, use only 1-2 tablespoon of sugar for every cup of flour.

Always keep in mind the water content in whatever flavor you choose for your muffins, especially for fresh fruits. Different fruits have different water contain. Usually, softer fruit (strawberry, ripe peach, pineapple, mango, papaya, fresh orange, berries, pineapple, cherries, etc.) has more water, so adjust the total liquid a little bit. No adjustment if you use dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, dried plum, dried cranberry, etc.), even after you soak and strain them).
Nuts are often mixed in for flavor and for giving nice texture in muffins.
For salty flavors, use cheeses, bacon, meat, etc. Simply reduce the sugar as I mentioned before.

Mixing method
Actually, there are several mixing method for muffins. But for this time, I will use the easiest method.
Mix well the dry ingredients in a bigger bowl, and wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Then pour the liquid into the dry mixture. 
If you use fresh fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. as flavoring, mix them in to the dry ingredient just before pouring the liquid in or at the same time with the liquid.
Using spatula or wooden spoon, mix just to combine. Do not over-mix, or the gluten will formed and you will not get a soft cake-like muffins.
Now go ahead and make your muffins experiment with whatever flavor you like.

Or, if you want to try some of my recipe: Banana Muffins with Coconut Milk and Palm Sugar, and Mango Muffins...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Meat Balls in Three Lemony Leaves Sauce

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 7 

This is the first post for cooked on the stove dishes. All the previous posts are desserts, cookies, macarons... those baked sort of things. In this page you'll find not just recipe for the meatballs, but some instruction of how to cook rice for you who don't have a rice cooker. Other than rice, this dish can be served also with almost any kind of starch: bread, flat breads (naan, roti, paratha, pita, tortilla), kuskus, etc.

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 1 

I like the flavor combination of lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves, and lemon basil, and frequently cook using those leaves. The three lemony leaves...

Most of you might not familiar with these three tropical herbs, but I believe you would love them. I always have some supply of lemongrass and kaffir-lime leaves in my freezer, together with all those chillies, salam leaves, sliced ginger, galangal and turmeric. Yes, I am a freezer-freak, eehh.. maybe even a little bit obsessed on it. Well, I am that kind of shop-once-in-a-week person, so I always try to find the best way to keep my vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices as fresh as possible at least for a week without loosing its flavor.  My freezer is not only for frozen fish, meat or chicken, but for spices and herbs, and fruits also. Of course, not everything can be kept inside the freezer without damaging its texture, flavor or aroma. Lemon basil for instance. Just like sweet basil, we can't freeze it. The best way to have lemon basil in stock is to have it in a pot and water it daily. Yes, plant and take a good care of it. Fortunately, it's quite simple and easy to grow anyway.

Those three lemony leaves are quite often used in asian cookings, especially in South and South East Asia. You might be familiar with Tom Yam Soup from Thailand... so you probably already know lemon grass and kaffir-lime leaves flavors. But lemon basil?

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 6

Lemon grass
Here is the link to wikipedia for this aromatic grass. You can see that it can be used for so many good purposes, not only for cooking. Personally, this is one of my favorite herbs. I like the aroma and the flavor, and use it a lot in my cooking. Sometimes, I make lemongrass syrup or simply infuse it in my hot tea. Simple, refreshing yet calming at the end of a hard busy day.

To make lemongrass syrup, simply boil one liter of water, 1.5 kg of sugar, and a big bunch of lemongrass (slice thinly or smash them using a hammer or a pestle on a cutting board to help releasing the flavor). After boiling, reduce the flame and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain and keep in a clean bottle in refrigerator.

The ugliest lime in the world. Ok, first the wiki link, if you are interested to know about this particular plant. For cooking we use the leaves, the lime juice, and the lime rind. The leaves and the lime rind have the same aroma, so they substitute one to the other. If using frozen leaves, add more leaves to the recipe because the flavor is less strong than the fresh one.

Lemon basil
Lemon basil looks similar to sweet basil, but has quite different aroma and flavor that cannot be substitute with sweet basil or other basil leaves. It's kemangi in Indonesian language. I did try cooking this Meat Balls in Three Lemony Leaves Sauce with sweet basil and it was ok, but sweet basil gives a different perspective to this dish. Personally, I prefer using lemon basil that would give a perfect combination with the other two lemony leaves. When I smelled lemon verbena in France for the first time, the aroma immediately reminded me of this lemon basil. Exactly the same aroma! I wonder if we could substitute lemon basil with lemon verbena. Well, I have never tried it.

So, for this recipe, those three lemony leaves play a significant role to flavor the dish. Without one, then the dish would taste totally different. It could be ok, but you will miss the fun of having those lemony flavors coloring your day in nice calming pastel colors (uh, forgive me, I am starting to imagining things...). Anyway, you can substitute the minced beef meat balls with any other meat such as lamb, chicken, beef (cut in slices or cubes), or even shrimp and fish. They would turn out nice and delicious.

Meatballs in Three Lemony Leaves 5

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

One of my friends... well, one of my good friends, brought me from France a bottle of pate de pistache. "For your macarons" she said. She used to be one of my victims to eat those failed and not-that-good macarons I made on my first attempts several years ago. We used to work for the same organisation, and after she ended her mission in Indonesia she came to visit several times and each time she gave me something for my cooking. This time, it's a bottle of pure organic pistachio paste. 

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio macarons. I have been dreaming of make one ever since I can make macarons without having problems. I like pistachio nuts, but they're so expensive in this country. Around 50-60 dollars a kilo. I dreamed to make pistachio macarons that so pistachio-y having pistachios in both the shells and the filling. With that expensive price, it means I have to drop this idea. So, when Jo told me that she had pistachio paste for me, I was so happy. Thank you so much Jo, you made one of my dreams came true. All I need to do is buying a small amount of those expensive pistachios for the shells. Since it's only a small amount, it's not that expensive.

Pistachio Macarons

If you follow all my macarons journey from the first post, you will notice that I am trying to reduce the sweetness of the macarons shell, by little by little add the ratios of almond/nut to the powdered sugar or reduce the caster sugar. This time, with 130 grams of nuts and 185 grams of  powdered sugar, it's definitely less sweet. For my next batch of macarons, I will experiment more on reducing the sweetness to see how far I can go with it. Off course I also have to balance the flavor and the sweetness. Psychologically, some certain flavors already have their own "sweetness" (even though there's no sweetness in it) that would enhance the "sweet" experience in your taste buds. It's related to how our brain works... it relates a certain flavor with a certain taste. Besides, fruits already have sugar in it, so the amount of sugar in a recipe should be reduced. .. etc., etc. For many, the macarons are still way too sweet, especially the Asian people.

I made the pistachio filling using swiss meringue butter cream as the base. I managed to have a perfect sweetness. It's not so difficult to reduce the filling's sweetness (unlike the shells) since it's not that temperamental. So we can play reducing or adding sugar or flavor much more freely. The egg white in swiss meringue butter cream would make it lighter compared to the pure butter cream one, and that's why I like it a lot. Less sweet and lighter.

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachio Macarons

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sugar Cookies for Eid al-Fitr

Sugar Cookies 5

In less than a week, the Moslems will celebrate their Eid al-Fitr. I usually bakes cake or cookies as a gift to my best friend who works for the same organisation as I do, and who by chance is also my dearest aunt by marriage. Her husband's nephew married to my sister D. So, I am not really her real niece thou.. in fact, I am one year older than her. But that doesn't matter at all. We have a strong bound in whatever you name it.

Last year, I made her chocolate crinckles cookies and it was a hit among her real little nieces and nephews. One big jar of cookies. This year I decided to bake cut-out cookies for her, like those sugar cookies nicely decorated with royal icing. We often have it in our Christmas, why not do the same for Eid al-Fitr? I bet her nieces and nephews will love them also. My plan was to make shapes of mosque, ketupat (traditional packed rice cooked in little woven young coconut leaves pouch), camels, or anything related to Moslem religion or culture. With more than 80% of the population is Islam, I thought it would not be difficult to find cookie cutter in those shapes. Well, I was wrong! It's easier to find cookie cutters with different shapes of christmas tree, snowman, bell, star... Fortunately, I found some animal cookie cutters, which was perfect as an alternative. Well, it was not the first time I made cut-out cookies, but it was the first time to decorate them. I know I don't have steady hands and fingers, so don't be disapointed to see how "not that neat" I played with those different colors of icing sugar.

Sugar Cookies 4
Hmmm... yes, I forgot some of the small details.. cats and pandas without noses and mouths..
This is the Sugar Cookies recipe I used, which turned out very nice. I didn't make any changes in the recipe because I was quite convinced with all those nice reviews. I just added more description on some of the instruction to make it clearer for you. It has nice taste with just perfect sweetness, soft, buttery, and crumbled easily in the mouth, but strong enough to hold its shapes when cooked and cooled, and even stronger with the royal icing on them. The dough was a bit difficult to handle and i have to put it in a fridge most of the time and only took some amount to roll and cut in shapes. Well, I live in a hot tropical country anyway...

For the Royal Icing, I followed recipe from this video. The recipe is more than enough to decorate cookies from two or three batches of the above sugar cookies recipe. So if you plan to only bake once, simply make half recipe of this royal icing. Oh, I added two tablespoon of lemon juice for one recipe to give a hint of acid taste to balance the sweetness a little bit.

Sugar Cookies 3
My favourite, a Red Cross ambulance

Sugar Cookies 6
... another two layers, and off to go to cheer  the Eid al-Fitr up

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Tamarillo Muffins

Tamarillo Cupcake 6

Finally, back to Kitchen Notes after more than one month busy with traveling work... went out to Sulawesi and Papua for 3 weeks, returned back to Jakarta for a couple days, left to Sumatra for another 5 days, back again to Jakarta for one day before flying to Kalimantan on the following day. Now in Jakarta again, but still have to leave soon for Surabaya and Lombok island. Well, I am looking forward to have a long holiday at the end of the year thou...

Puncak Jaya, Papua

Between my Papua and Sumatra trips, I baked this Tamarillo Muffin. Well, I am a bit confuse on its name... cupcakes or muffins. I simply mixed all the ingredients as in muffins recipe, but it has a moist and soft consistency like cupcakes. This tamarillo muffin quickly becomes one of my favorite. I love the sweet and tangy flavor from the tamarillos.

Tamarillo Cupcake 4

Digging into my old "gray area" inside my head, my earliest experience in cooking was when I was about 8 years old. At that time, a cousin from my mother side lived with us and she took a good care of us. One day, she cooked Bolu Kukus (literally means steamed cake) for us. It's like cupcakes, only as its name it is steamed, not baked in the oven. Me and brother-G (he was about 10 years old) sat in the kitchen and watched how she made Bolu Kukus with flour, eggs, sugar, some vanilla extract, and we saw her took a bottle of soda drink from the shelf and pour some into the batter she was making at the end of the process. I remember how excited we were because we loved Bolu Kukus, which has a spongecake-like soft texture. We closely stood next to her while she beat some eggs with sugar, carefully mixed in some flour and vanilla extract and poured the batter into small tin-cups lined with parchment paper. We watched her put them in a steamer, then half an hour later, we were the first who enjoyed eating the warm Bolu Kukus, deliciously fresh and soft. I couldn't remember how many we ate.. but I remember that both of us still wanted more. So we decided to make our own Bolu Kukus. We could remembered the ingredients, and we have seen how it was made... just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, devide into those small cups...simple! Ha ha!! that was from children's eyes and minds. So we thought we could make one. There we were, made a plan on when we could discreetly cook our Bolu Kukus. Of course we had to choose a time where nobody would disturb us or knew about our plan cause we wanted all (yeah, ALL!) the Bolu Kukus just for the two of us. We simply didn't want to share.. The perfect time came in the evening on the following day, where our parents went out for a party and everybody had gone to their rooms. It was around 9 or 10 pm... the kitchen's lamp has already been switched off. There we were... eagerly working to have the Bolu Kukus of our own. We even used a mixer to mix all the ingredients we could remember... just as what our cousin did before. But of course we didn't take the "how" and "how much" into account. Pour one bottle of soda drink into the mixture simply because we like soda drink, stirred all together and tasted it to see if it was sweet enough. Then into the small cups and into the steamer. Half an hour later... we checked and it was still liquid!! we thought: hmmm..., maybe it needs more time to steam. Another 30 minutes passed and it still was a liquid. Well, definitely we did it wrong, but we couldn't figure out what (now I know, we pour in to much soda on our batter). Then an idea came to me: since it tasted pretty good why not put them in the freezer so we could have ice cups. So, there we were... have some ice-cups in the morning. Of course, since those ice-cups were not as good as Bolu Kukus we didn't mind sharing with our sisters and brother.

So, back to tamarillo muffins. What is tamarillo? Tamarillo or Tree Tomato is in the same genus/familly  with tomato and eggplant. OK, these are the pictures to best describe how they look like, and a wiki-link for this fruit if you want to know more.

Tamarillos 1 Tamarillos 2

Tamarillo has a quite tangy taste, which I like a lot. I bought a lot of Tamarillos from Wamena during my Papua trip. Back in Jakarta, I quickly made this Tamarillo Muffin before going for another trip, and took some pictures for the blog. For these recipe and to be stored in freezer, I simply halfed the tamarillos and scooped out the flesh with a spoon. But if you want a nice shape of frozen tamarillos, you can peel the skin using the technique for peeling tomatoes, before freezing them. 

Tamarillo Cupcake 3

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Mango Macarons

Mango Macarons 1

Yes, still on macarons.. seems that I would never get rid of the bugs. This time... flavored with mango. I see that mango will be in season soon; well, it's already started. Since it's a native plant, we can find so many varieties... with name or without name. The one without name, of course the least desired... sour and fibrous. Only a few people like them, including me. Well, basically I like mangos whatever the taste... sour, sweet, juicy, or fibrous... doesn't really matter to me. My husband has his own names for different mangos he can find in the market... common mango (Harum Manis; easy to find everywhere), starchy mango (Indramayu) , fragrant fibrous mango (Kweni), aromatic mango (Gedong Gincu), yellow mango (Manalagi), sour mango (Semar), and so on and so on, which sometimes confuse me... and confuse himself! for there are too many varieties. Yes, as a foreigner in this country, all those local names are too difficult for him to remember; he named them based on their characteristics. Sometimes, in fruit stores, we can find imported mangos from Thailand or from Australia. But of course we like our mangos better, the local varieties have richer flavor than those imported one, and much cheaper too. I often wonder what kind of people buy those imported mangos...

In the office, Atiah brought some green mangos almost every week. She has one mango tree in her front yard... a Gadung mango tree... what a blessing.

Mango Macarons 3

My favorite mangoes are Gedong Gincu, Harum Manis, and green mango (unripe mango) from whatever variety. I also love Kesturi mango from Kalimantan. I used to eat Kesturi mango in my childhood when we lived in South Kalimantan. That was in 1970's. Kesturi mango is endemic plant in that province. In every mango season, my Mom and Dad went to villages in South Kalimantan looking for this particular kind of mango, and would buy them directly from the tree. It's so aromatic and sweet, small size around 7cm long and 5cm thick, and so fibrous. The skin is dark purplish green, covers the dark orange fibrous flesh. Since it's so fibrous, not many buy and plant Kesturi, and it becomes more and more difficult to find. In 1980's the local government tried to promote this endemic plant, but not much has been achieved until now. Kesturi is still hard to find. Gedong Gincu is aromatic but not as aromatic as Kesturi, and less fibrous.

Mango Macarons 4

To flavor macarons, I need the most aromatic mango I can find, which is Gedong Gincu. Last week I oven-dried some Gedong Gincu mango (see my post on oven-dried fruits), which the flavor I love so much. It was so intense! I process some in my food processor,  trying to make powdered mango. But I couldn't make it fine, so it looked more like mango bits. Maybe I didn't dry it enough. Never mind. I mixed 25 grams of it in the almond-powdered sugar mixture, and resulted in macawrongs... 
This is the pictures... they look perfect, but... I trick you! they have big air pockets!!

mango macawrongs
See the big airpocket under the surface?

Yes, those mango bits inside the macarons shells were not dry and fine enough. Taste-wise? yummy! and sooooo mango!

The next batch was plain macarons colored in orange, with some mango bits on top of the shells. They look nice, with just enough Gedong Gincu flavor from the mango bits. To add more mango flavor, I decided to make the filling using Gedong Gincu mango puree,  mixed with swiss-meringue buttercream. Yum. Love the flavor a lot. Next time, I will take care on oven-drying the mango, make sure it's really dried and fine, and see how it will end up with.

Mango Macarons 2

Monday, 23 May 2011

Oven-dried fruits

Oven-dried Manggo 2

For me, baking macarons is like playing a fun game. Yes, tons and tons of fun! In one of my post, I promised to share with you the method I use for drying fruits. The idea was started when I wanted to bake Tartelette's Powdered Strawberry and Vanilla Bean Macarons. In this country, powdered strawberry is not available in the market, so buying one is not an option. Before that, I read Tartelette's post on Carrot Cake Macarons, and got my inspiration from there, knowing that fruits or vegetables can be dried in an oven. I quickly went to web-search on how to dry fruits and vegetables.. and found several methods for drying fruits or vegetables. Most of the articles on the web that I read were explaining how to dry fruits or vegetables using an electrical food drier, which I don't have and would be difficult to find in this country. It's a much easier method of course. But I was interested only to dry fruits and vegetables using oven. One method that I know I can do for this time being.

After reading more than ten articles about how to oven-dry fruits and vegetables, I could grasp some basic principles on how to do it properly and to maintain the flavor. In fact, the flavor becomes more intense when it is dried.

Strawberry Macarons with oven-dried strawberry

The initial reason to dry fruits was to flavor my macarons shells with different powdered fruits... but since I know how to dry fruits using my oven, I do it often, simply to have a healthy snacks in my jars. So, instead of munching on a bag of potato chips, why not munching on a small bowl of dry-fruit chips? Yum...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lemon Macarons

Since I was a kid, I always love sour or tart fruits or vegetables. I love the feeling I have each time this particular taste hit my senses. I consider myself to have an extreme liking on tartness/sourness, compared with the rest of people in this country. So many different fruits and vegetables always available all year long apparently make people quite picky on how the fruits taste. People say sour fruits are not the good fruits. Fruits should be sweet, not sour. Let’s take orange as an example. My mom does not eat orange if it has even a hint of sour taste. And many are like her. So many locally endemic fruits are forgotten and become rare and some are almost distinguished, simply because they are sour. Which is a pity.

I always feel soooo happy whenever I find these rare fruits in a market. Kecapi, dhuwet, gandaria, green mango, kepundung or buah-menteng, kelubi, kedondong, langsat... those are only a few of maybe hundreds of variety local fruits that now are difficult to find in the markets. Nobody wants them... but I long for them.

The worldwide well-known sour/tart fruits also not that common, except strawberry. For kiwi-fruits, people look for the sweet yellow variety instead of the sour green one. Sour plum and apricot is not bought as much as peaches and nectarines. In fruit stores, you can find more than thirty kind of sweet fruits and only less than five sour fruits.

Lemon is one of my favorite. Not only to have it in my desserts but also to flavor the dishes I cook with it... to marinate chicken, duck, fish, seafood, beef..., or simply squeeze them on my meals.

For long since I know how to bake macarons, I wanted to make lemon macarons. I have never tasted Ladurée or Pierre Hérmé’s Lemon Macarons, so mine might be slightly different. I flavor the shells with grated lemon zest, and filled them with thickened lemon curd.

Considering my liking on sour/tart taste, I think I am a bit late to know about lemon curd. This was the first time I cooked lemon curd. I chose Tartelette's recipe for
lemon curd, knowing that she loves sour taste also. And Tartelette's Lemon Curd is amazingly delicious... a taste of heaven for me. I filled some of my lemon macarons shells with it, but I thought it needed to be thicken a little bit so it doesn't squeeze out when we bite on it.

Spinach and Cheese Muffins

Inspired by Yuni, my sister A's friend, with her delicious Bolognese Muffin recipe, for two weeks I have been thinking of baking a different savory muffin. Finally, it hit my cooking mood in one Saturday morning when my niece P stayed over. Quickly checked the fridge on what were laying there, my eyes were set on a bunch of spinach and a piece of gruyere cheese. That would be our breakfast. Spinach and Gruyere Cheese Muffins.

You can substitute the spinach with other leafy vegetable and substitute the gruyere with other type of cheese of your choice. My sister A (P's mother) likes it better with cheddar cheese.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Vegetable and Mushroom Pie

Talking about pie always brings me back to years and years ago when I ate my first pie. I don't really remember how old I was at that time, around 12-13 y.o. maybe. Well, back then, pie was not a common dish in this country and nobody sold pies. So, the only way to eat pies was to bake it yourself. No no no, I wasn't the one who baked... it was my sister A. She found the recipe from a woman magazine 'Femina' and I remember we enjoy that pie much. In fact it might be the first pie baked in my family. The filling was a litle bit unique and maybe that was why my sister decided to give it a try. It had rice and shrimps filling, and tasted great! Unfortunately, none of us remembered to keep save the recipe.
Several years passed before I have enough courage to bake my first pie. And it was an Apple Pie from Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. Having more confident after baking one, I made another and shared the pies with my neighbours and my friends from work, and they liked it (and even asked for more :)).

Actually, I don't bake many different pies, even though I know we can have almost anything for its filling. Sweet or savoury. One of my favourite is vegetable pie. This time, I decided to add mushrooms that turned out giving very nice flavour to this pie.

Vegetable and Mushroom Pie 

For the crust : 

250 grams of all purpose flour 
150 grams salted butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened 
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1 tbsp of cold milk or cold water 

Put the flour on a big bowl. Make a well in the center, and put the butter and egg in it. Using your finger tips, start from the center slowly incorporate the butter and egg with the flour. 
Add cold milk/water and continue mixing. Be careful not to over-work the dough or it could become tough.Form a thick disc and wrap in clingwrap plastic and put in your fridge for 20-30 minutes. 
At this point, reheat your oven to 180 Celcius degree. 
After 20-30 minutes, take the dough from the fridge and roll out the dough to about 4-5 mm thin, and line a pie dish with it. Prick the base with fork, top with parchment/baking paper and fill it with rice/beans/baking-beans. Bake with the beans for 15 minutes, take out the paper and beans. Brush the egg on the base, the sides and the edges of the crust (keep the left-over egg to brush the decoration on top of the pie), and continue baking for another 10 minutes. This is called as blind baking. 

While the crust is baked, make the filling : 
1 carrot, sliced 2-3 mm 
1 eggplant, cut lengthwise in two and slice 3-4 mm
1 onion, chopped
4 cups of fresh spinach leaves 
4 cups of roughly-chopped portabella mushroom (or any mushroom of your choice) 
3 eggs 
1 cup of heavy cream
salt & pepper
about 150 grams of salted butter 

Keep your oven temperature at 180 Celcius degree.
Separately cook all vegetables, except the spinach, in a frying pan with the butter.
Line the base of the half-baked crust with the fresh spinach, top with cooked carrot, eggplant, onion and mushroom.
Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and mix it with the heavy cream, season with salt and pepper.
Pour the eggs-cream mixture onto the pie, use the left-over crust dough for decoration, brush with egg and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Chocolate Macarons and Matcha Green Tea Macarons

One day in 2008 I received a box full of different kind of sweets from my colleague Arnaud who finished his mission in Indonesia. It was his farewell gift. My eyes fixed on three round cookies that looked so cute and yet so appetizing. When I bit and tasted how delicate and delicious it tasted, I suddenly fell in love with those cookies. I asked Arnaud about it and he said: It's Macarons, cookies from Paris.
Being challenged, my journey began. Thanks to modern technology, we can find information almost on anything from the internet, including macaarons' recipes. Then the first attempt resulted in what I called as amoeba-type macarons. Odd shapes. My macarons' shells had protruding "feet" reaching the other shells on the baking tray... just like amoeba! No real macarons feet.

Second try. The protruding "feet" had feet!
Hah! what a strange world! (now I regret for not taking pictures on those amoeba macarons)
Well, those failures challenged me even more. In this case, the internet became so helpful giving me a lot of information for my macarons research. Hours and hours was spent to simply study macarons-making. Tartelette, Syrup & Tang, David Lebovitz..., those are only a few from so many blogs and websites I read. My big thanks to all of them.
Third try. The result? No protruding "feet"... they were round-shaped macarons with the real feet. But..., they were not perfect. The feet raised only in half part of the cookies. Again, what a strange world.

Being not easily discouraged, macarons research was continued. I cannot tell how many hours I have spent for this. Well, at least my friends in my office happilly ate all the bad and the not-so-bad macarons. I started to realise that I was obssesed to master the macarons making.

Then the bright day came when I managed to make perfect macarons on my fourth attempt.

Now, still obssesed with macarons, experiment goes on for different flavours for the shells and the fillings... all natural flavours, no chemical flavours. Chocolate, green tea, strawberry, carrot, vanilla, those are the flavours for the shells I managed to make. I want to make macarons shells flavoured with litchi, jackfruit, mango... There are lots and lots of flavourful fruits in this country all year long. Yes, I understand, we cannot add fluid to the ingredient for macarons shell, so somehow they have to be dried whitout loosing their rich flavours. I promise to tell you more about this.
For the filling, the choices are endless... and it's not as difficult as making the shells.

For this time, I am going to share the result from my experiment for Chocolate Macarons and Matcha Green Tea Macarons. Both with bitter chocolate ganache filling.
Basically, those two have similar recipes.
For Matcha Green Tea Macarons, simply substitute the 25 grams of chocolate powder with 10 grams of Matcha Green Tea powder.

Chocolate Macarons

For the shells:
(make about 25-30 macarons)

110 g ground almond

185 g powdered sugar

100 g white eggs (aged 1-2 days in room temperature)

25 g dutch chocolate powder

50 g caster sugar

Blend together ground almond, powdered sugar, and chocolate powder in a food processor, put aside. Sieve, if you want a very smooth surface on your macarons. Put aside.

Using a mixer, beat white eggs and add caster sugar gradually, continue beating until hard-peak consistency. Be careful not to over-beat.Add almond ground/powdered sugar mixture, 1/3 at a time. Incorporate until well-mixed to a lava-like consistency.Line two baking tray with silpat or parchment paper.Using pipping-bag with a round big nozzle, pipe round discs of 3cm diameter.Tap the baking tray on hard surface a couple times to remove the bubbles, and let the surface dries a little bit for approximately 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 160 Celcius degree. Double the baking tray and bake the macarons shells for 20 minutes in 140-150 Celcius degree.Let it cool before removing them from the lining baking paper/silpat.

For the filling:
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

230 g dark chocolate (60% or more), finely chopped, put in a bowl
150 ml heavy cream
50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Boil the heavy cream, and pour it onto the chopped chocolate.Stir from the center, slowly widening in a cocentric circles, incorporate all the mixture until all chocolates are melted and the mixture is smooth.Leave to cool down the mixture a little before adding butter in two additions. Stir until well-mixed and smooth.Put in a fridge to thicken before putting it in a pipping bag for your macarons filling.

To assembly :

Friday, 8 April 2011

A working place called home

Wake up in the morning, check what's in the fridge while waiting the coffee brewed in a 2-cup espresso kettle, think of what could be brought to the office for lunch, grap some vegetables and eggs or fish or chicken... some garlic, spices, herbs... I think I am blessed, cause in my office we have a big well-equipped kitchen and we are allowed to cook during lunch break. I like to call our office: the second home. Yes... I know, not many have a working place like ours. The non-profit organisation I work with rents two big houses for our office, so it has everything for a place called home except... beds! (too bad!)OK, back to the kitchen. Not everybody cooks his/her lunch in the office. Many simply reheat their lunch, bring or buy lunch to be eaten in our big kitchen, where we have nice interesting chats over nice meals. Only me and Atiah cook in the office, plus Rosy who sometimes boils her tomattoes, Dwiyana who sometimes cook vegetables and a couple other friends who reheat their lunches.

makan siang

In contrary with that big kitchen, at home... my real home, I only have a small kitchen... about 2.5m x 4m. But, no matter how big or how small, I love those two kitchens. They are my homes inside homes!