Japanese cotton soft cheesecake

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake

This reminds me of a simple mousse cake with a cheesecake influence but none of its overwhelming cheesy richness. I first came across this recipe a few days back and wondered if it would be the perfect dessert for my in-laws who are coming to visit. My mother-in-law remarked the last time – when she had some of my cookies – that they were too sweet and I did notice that she didn’t like sweet stuff and neither was she a great dessert fan. You see, my in-laws and Nil seem to think that dessert revolves around yoghurt, fruit, apple pie and crumble. Nothing wrong with that…just that I like some variety.

Anyway, I halved this recipe and used a smaller spring form pan (6″) instead of the recommended 8″ pan. Assuming that the halving and the smaller size is a factor, I also shortened the bake time only to discovered that it was definitely a premature decision on my part. I should have let it stayed for at least an hour instead of 50 minutes.

Still, the cake turned out to be cooked and cotton soft based on the golden brown (and cracked) top – in fact, one squeeze and you hear air bubbles bursting! – but I think I’ll cook it longer the next time. The spring form pan – despite being lined with aluminium foil – had some water seeping in (bad) which resulted in a slightly moist base but otherwise, everything else is alright.

Japanese cotton soft cheesecake

Ingredients
75g finely granulated sugar
3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp lemon juice
25g butter
175g Philadelphia cream cheese
50ml fresh milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
30g white flour, sift
10g cornflour
1/8 tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F / 160 C.
  2. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk in a double boiler. Cool the mixture.
  3. Fold in the flours, salt, egg yolks, 1/2 tsp of lemon juice & the vanilla essence and mix well
  4. Whisk egg whites with 1/4 tsp of lemon juice until foamy. Add in sugar gradually and whisk until soft peaks form.
  5. Fold the egg white mixture into the cream cheese mixture, from centre to the sides and from the bottom. Do not overmix.
  6. Pour into a 6 inch round cake pan (lightly grease and line with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil to prevent water from seeping in.
  7. Place the cake pan on a casserole dish and place in the center the preheated oven before pouring hot water into the casserole dish. Water level should be half way of cake pan.
  8. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.
  9. Leave in the oven with door slightly ajar for an hour until cake cools.
  10. (Optional) Take it out of oven and turn cake out of cake pan. Wrap with aluminium foil and leave in the fridge.
  11. Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream or eat on its own.

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake

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Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!

Gong Xi Fa Chai!!!

The Chinese New Year is upon us again and this time, it is to say goodbye to the Year of the Rat and hello to the mighty Ox.

So what is Chinese New Year?
The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is one of the most important festivals among the Asian ethnic group around the world. Celebrated in various different ways by Koreans, Chinese and South East Asians, the Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon which occurs 15 days later.

According to legend, the first Chinese New Year occured when a group of villagers were being terrorized by a mythical monster called the Nian. At one time, they discovered that the Nian was afraid of the colour red and the sound of firecrackers. Hence the practice of decking oneself and putting up household decorative items entirely in red, and burning firecrackers. Unfortunately in some countries like Malaysia and Singapore, firecrackers have been banned so people improvised by playing loud music on the eve and first day of Chinese New Year.

What happens when?
This year, the Chinese New Year will start on 26 January

Leading up to the Chinese New Year
In the days leading up to the first two days of Chinese New Year – the most significant day among Malaysian Chinese – all Chinese households will be busy with spring cleaning and preparing traditional goodies for the reunion dinner that is held on Chinese New Year eve. Homes are decorated with lanterns, lights, paper couplets in red (bright and happy future) & gold (to signify prosperity and wealth) and food stocks are increased with a healthy supply of mandarin oranges known as kam (gold), cookies (represents a sweet year), snacks, canned fruits, dried goods like shitake mushrooms, savoury meat pieces (bak kwa) and so forth.

From Wikipedia,

One best and common example is the red diamond-shaped posters with the character ? (pinyin: fú), or “auspiciousness” which are displayed around the house and on doors. This sign is usually seen hanging upside down, since the Chinese word ? (pinyin: d?o), or “upside down”, sounds similar as ? (pinyin: dào), or “arrive”. Therefore, it symbolizes the arrival of luck, happiness, and prosperity.

Red packets filled with money are also on the list of preparations, if you’re married, that is (children and unmarried adults are the recipients of these goodies, which are supposed to bring in luck and good fortune). New clothes are bought in advance and some even go to the extend of getting a haircut in the month leading up to this festive occasion.

Tradition dictates that families must always come together for a reunion meal on the Chinese New Year eve. This is not a time for sparing quantities of food – fish (abundance/surplus), prawns (happiness) and other dishes made from expensive or meaningful ingredients (scallops, abalone, etc) are almost always on the menu. The rice cooker must never be empty, otherwise it would mean that the family would have a hard time filling their ricebowl throughout the year. Brooms, garbage and all other chores must be completed on this day – no one does their laundry, dusting or sweeping on the first two days of Chinese New Year because it would mean that one is sweeping their luck away and/or will be working in such manner throughout the year.

After dinner, families usually gather together and spend time either playing cards or watching movies – no one sleeps early on the eve. There is a vigil – some people believe that keeping a vigil helps to increase the longevity of parents – and all the lights in the house are turned on. At the stroke of midnight, the doors and windows are opened to allow the old year to leave and to welcome in a new year (and ultimately a fresh start).

On the first day of Chinese New Year
People start the day with a fresh pair of clothes and a nice bath, minus washing one’s hair as it means one will wash away their luck. Red or any other bright colours like yellow or gold is preferred and it is believed that one’s attitude will reflect on what will happen in the coming months. So fights, crying and anything “bad” is forbidden. No foul language either! Death and dying are never mentioned.

No one cooks on this day as it is believed to bring bad luck so most of the time, people eat leftovers – hence the reason for the massive amount of food at the reunion dinner the night before! Buddhists will refrain from eating meat on this day, choosing to consume the traditional lo hon chai or Buddha’s Delight.

All debts must be paid, but don’t go asking for them because it would mean that one is set to ask for money all year long. Visiting folks bring with them oranges, and sweet goodies, and will always walk away with some thing in exchange – to visit one and/or return empty-handed is to be rude and to owe that person in question. Taboos for gifts (and on your shopping list) include the following:

Clocks (escorting someone to the grave), green hats (mean infidelity), shoes (sounds like a sigh), pears (sounds like separation), handkerchiefs (used in funerals) umbrellas (sounds like closing), scissors, knives or sharp bladed objects (symbolizes cutting ties).

More importantly, the first day is when families of male relatives visit the oldest and most senior members like their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

On the second day of Chinese New Year
This is the day when married daughters visit their birth parents. During olden times, married daughters were hardly allowed to visit their birth parents on the pretext that once a woman is married, she belongs to her husband’s family and could not simply return home as and when she liked. To do so would bring disgrace to her birth family. The 2nd day of Chinese New Year was one of the few days for a married woman to visit her birth parents, bearing gifts and goodies.

So what do I do when I see a Chinese on Monday and the next 15 days after Monday?
Whatever you do, refrain for saying Happy Chinese New Year (or worse, Happy New Year!) because it means absolutely nothing!!!! You would be better off with the following:

Xin Nian Kua Lee (X?nnián kuàilè): Happy New Year!
Gong Xi Fa Cai (G?ngx? f?cái): Congratulations and be prosperous!
Sui Sui Ping An (Suìsuì píng’?n): Everlasting peace year after year!
Nin Nin You Yu (Niánnián y?uyú): Wishing you surpluses and bountiful harvests every year!
Sam Seung Sih Sheng: May you accomplish all you wish for!
Loong Mah Ching Sahn: Wishing you vitality and health!
Man Sih Yuet Yi: May all things go according to your wishes!

So yes, wishing you a prosperous and wealthy Year of the Ox!

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The results of pre-CNY prep – Part I

The fruits of yesterday’s labour!

I’m taking a break today because there is the laundry and well, I need to recover from yesterday’s cleaning and cooking. My legs hurt and well, doing all those things when you’re pregnant…is…well, not as easy as it is when you’re NOT pregnant. Gack.

Tomorrow – pineapple tarts, more cleaning (for Nil at least) and chocolate chip-almond cookies! In the meantime, there is some dry squid sambal with prawn fried rice and some pics chronicling the process of cooking up some homemade pineapple jam!

Dry squid sambal with prawn fried rice The start of some homemade pineapple jam About 1.5 hours in cooking pineapple jam The finished product - sweet golden brown pineapple jam

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It’s that time of the year again…

…when we get ready to say tata to the Year of the Rat (this time, that is) and hello to the ultra bulky, hardworking Ox!

Yes, even though I am living abroad and this is my first Chinese New Year in a town that has no Chinatown much or less care about the cultural practices of non-Swiss, I’m determined to celebrate it – on a less “festive” degree that what folks back at home are used to.

What is there to do, you ask? Well, there is the baking (pineapple tarts and almond/nut cookies (with and without chocolate chip)); cooking (sambal sotong – for the days after CNY – and maybe sambal prawns with fried beehoon, a soup and ice cream for dessert (must probably) plus make sure the rice cooker is full of rice); and spring cleaning (need I describe this?)! The cooking will take place tomorrow even though Nil is having his usual card buddies over for dinner and I’m in charge of dishing out some fried rice. I’m not going to care and cook my sambal sotong, pineapple jam AND fried rice – let them die in the smell!!!! *inserts evil laugh*

Oh, and yes, a call back home – super must!!!!!! Hopefully I’ll have some delish pics to share over the next few days!

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Thick & Thin Peachy Life I & II

Thick & Thin Peachy Life I

Thick & Thin Peachy Life I
Ply | One
Yardage | 140 metres
WPI | NA (Bulky)
Fibre | Corriedale (My own handdyed fibers)
Tool | Serenity Wheel [5.5:1 ratio]

Thick & Thin Peachy Life II
Ply | One
Yardage | 91 metres
WPI | NA (Bulky)
Fibre | Corriedale (My own handdyed fibers)
Tool | Serenity Wheel [5.5:1 ratio]

This is my first time spinning with Corriedale and after reading about how thick-thin yarns would go really well with wools, I thought texture and colour-wise, it would be suitable for this art yarn. It’s a little on the fuzzy side but still, I like how the colours move from one to another and the texture makes it awfully cool for a hat. I’m not exactly sure if it’ll be right for a scarf – those with sensitive skin might find this a little scratch so the safest bet would be to recommend it for a beanie!

Now, this was an awful fast spin – I need to go back and weigh it to get the exact specs – but just so you know, I had about 7 to 8 ounces of this yummy colour and it took me just under two days to finish spinning up the yarn. I knew thick-thin singles were fast work but I wasn’t prepared for how fast it really took!!! Since I’m still on my spinning craze, finishing this project ahead of my average four day spin-up is really good news.

I started work on 8 ounces of falkland which will either be turned into 3 ply sock-weight yarn or laceweight – it depends on the final outcome. All I can say right now is that the spun single on the bobbin is awfully thin, as thin as your regular cotton sewing thread! In a way, this is good news – I get to maximize yardage output per ounce of fiber which in turn will allow me more options when it comes to plying. 🙂

So yes, back to the spinning…and hopefully by the end of this week, I ought to have some yarn up for sale! Hm, I wish they would stop giving me assignments like “tv stand” and stuff…variety is the spice of life, no? Then again, I shouldn’t complain. Geh.

Handspun Corriedale in Life is Peachy

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Swirls of Green Tea

Handspun Merino-Tencel in Green Tea

Swirls of Green Tea
Ply | Two
Yardage | 348 metres
WPI | NA (Fingering)
Fibre | Superwash Merino-Tencel from Pigeonroof Studios
Tool | Serenity Wheel [10:1]

I started this project way before Christmas and was delayed by the usual holiday festivities not to mention a forced New Year resolution that I have still yet to complete. Yes, Nil made me swear to finish all my knitting WIPs before I can start news ones. Thankgoodness I have a couple of baby knits already underway!

Anyway, due to recent turn of events, I’ve decided to kickstart my spinning again in hopes of offering up some handspun yarn for sale over at the shop. It’s still very much a work in progress, but I’m definitely happy with the results so far.

I must reiterate – spinning is relaxing…not to mention my legs and arms get quite a work-out! That said, all the spinning craze of lately is excellent for my overwhelming stash of fibers which, thankfully, have come to a halt already. Acquisitions have stopped until further notice and so has the dyeing. I’ll put most of them up for sale except for a few…we’ll see how things go.

In the meantime, do keep an eye out for more handspun goodness to come because I’ll be experimenting with some art yarns to add to the traditional 3- and 2-ply handspun inventory! By the way, what the heck are Grohe faucets???

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Banana bread with almonds and raisins

Banana cake with raisins and almonds

While the original recipe called for the very tiny and sweet Pisang Rastali or Musa acuminata x balbisiana Colla (AAB Group), I used instead a larger variety known as the Cavendish banana – a widely exported variety in these parts of the world. Yes, the Rastali variety would have been a better choice given the difference of my bread and those commonly made with this variety.

The Cavendish variety gave me a very yellowy and clear texture compared to the typical dark and dotty texture of a banana bread. I can only conclude that my banana was not “ripe” enough for the cake even though on the outside, it looked as if it was going to start growing some penicillin. Either that or I pureed it instead of mashing it!

In terms of density, my bread is ultra dense because of some changes to the recipe – I used more bananas (which means more fluid) and I switched to teaspoons of baking powder instead of tablespoons of baking soda. Talk about being blind. Never attempt to bake when you’ve just gotten up from an afternoon nap! It turned out surprisingly nice – if you like very dense cakes (like Nil) – but still, this is an excuse to try this recipe out again!!!! 🙂

Taste-wise, I reduced the amount of sugar by 10 gms and came up with a bread that is just nice – my tastebuds have changed since I got pregnant (items that were once “just nice” on the sweet scale are not too sweet for my liking!). Add that with the crunch of almonds and the chewy melting natural goodness of raisins and you get a bread that is just divine for any time of the day, be it breakfast, lunch (!), or tea…even dessert, if you heat it up and serve it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. But I like mine just the way it is – on its own.

Now, excuse me while I go look at some small business opportunities!

Banana bread with almonds and raisins

Ingredients
400 gms over-ripe bananas
240 gms castor sugar
3 eggs
100ml milk
1/4 tsp salt
100ml olive oil
350 gms flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
Two handfuls of chopped almonds
Two handfuls of raisins

Method

  1. Sift and combine the flour and baking soda before placing aside. Mix the salt in with the milk and place aside as well.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 C and grease the sides and line the base of a pan before dusting lightly with flour.
  3. In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add castor sugar and mix well until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Drip in the milk slowly and then stop the machine and scape the bowl. Drip in the olive oil and blend well.
  5. Fold in the flour in batches and mix well to get a smooth batter. Do not overbeat though. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 160 C and bake for another further 60 minutes or until the bread is done when tested with a skewer.
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