Friday, October 18, 2013

Eid Adha with Homemade Lemang and Rendang

Salam Eid Adha!

So how did you celebrate your Eid Adha? Since Eid Adha fell on a Tuesday this year, none of the SPK gang made plans to balik kampung and it became the first time that we had everyone around the night before Eid Adha.

One of the girls proposed that we make some homemade lemang and rendang together. Homemade rendang, I can obviously do. But homemade lemang is in a whole different league for me. Erm, hello, city girl here? Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, my definition of having lemang is buying it from someone and cutting it open.

We kicked off the night with a buka puasa dinner for those fasting that night. It was definitely a good meal, especially with sambal hitam from Pahang. I think I practically hogged the sambal hitam plate that night, it was sooo good! Meanwhile, the kids were running all over the house playing, so that kept them out of our hair for the night.

The girls, albeit missing one.
And then, we all crowded outside the house to start with the lemang and the rendang. The boys were responsible for the lemang while the girls concentrated on the rendang. Earlier that afternoon, the boys had pre-filled the bamboo with the lemang mix (beras pulut mixed with santan kelapa) so all they had to do was cook the lemang near the burning wood over a slow fire. The boys had also sourced for wood to burn the fire much much earlier, so really, other than periodically checking on the lemang, they were just hanging around lepak-ing!

First photo with the lemang. Too many cooks spoil the broth??
Two engineers making sure the structure is stable for all of the lemang.
Excited faces. You can obviously guess that even Hubby has never had the opportunity to make homemade lemang!
How can I say no to a photo opportunity with the lemang??
Posing with the lemang again!
Hubby periodically checking on the lemang.
Look at that proud smile.
Checking on the lemang in style - equipped with an Energizer headlight to check whether the lemang is cooked.
Hubby showing off his headlight.
The ladies on the other hand, were frantically looking for a periuk kawah big enough to cook all the rendang, and discovered that we didn't have enough santan and forgot to cut the daun kunyit. It was a good thing that I had asked my maid to head over to my friend's house that afternoon to help her maid out with cleaning the chicken. So between the two maids, they had pre-prepared the chickens and the ingredients.

Eventually, we got enough santan and cut the daun kunyit and we finally accepted the fact that we would have to cook the rendang in two separate kuali instead of the original plan of one. And we got to work!

Missing two girls. One was looking for an extension wire while the other was getting a second stove (so we could cook both simultaneously).
Of course, when girls get together to cook, girls get together to gossip too! We nearly burned the first rendang cos we were so engrossed in gossiping that we forgot to kacau the rendang.

We nearly burned the rendang!
Finally we got both rendang cooking.
Hot lemang!
It was my first time having freshly cooked hot lemang, and I was in awe! I had always regarded lemang as hard and crusty, but our lemang was soooo good, it was soft and berlemak that it changed my perception of lemang overnight! Even eating the lemang on its own was good! Try eating it with rendang fresh from the kuali... *drool*

So that was what I served on the morning of Eid Adha the next day. What did you have?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Crème Brûlée

I have always loved Crème Brûlée. Cracking your spoon through the hard caramel crispness and then reaching the silky smooth cold custard underneath... aaahhh *drool*

I remember the exact spot where I introduced Hubby to Crème Brûlée. It was in Geelong, Australia during honeymoon #4 (I think??), in a beautiful restaurant just by our hotel. And since then, whenever we fine dined we would automatically agree to have Crème Brûlée for dessert.

I have always thought that making Crème Brûlée would be hard for an amateur baker like me. Of course I was intimidated. How would I ever replicate that indulgent rich vanilla custard topped with hard caramel? But secretly, I wanted to try. And then by chance, a colleague showed me this article about Malaysian Rachel Khoo (of Malay-Chinese and Austrian parentage) who bowled the French over with Paris' smallest restaurant. And at the tail end of the article, was her Crème Brûlée recipe! And all I needed was to find a blowtorch - erm yeah easier said than done.

So the recent trip to Houston, I made sure that the Crème Brûlée blowtorch was in the shopping list. I got lucky at the third shop we visited, the blowtorches just arrived in their recent shipment. I even bought the butane gas just in case I couldn't find any back in KL - thank god the butane aerosol can didn't explode from the pressure in the airplane!

So here goes! Crème Brûlée recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking. You can try Rachel Khoo's recipe too, but I decided for my first try, I would stick with my favourite baking website.

Crème Brûlée:

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) heavy 'whipping' cream (cream with a 35% butterfat content)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
4 large (60 grams) egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar (gula pasir halus)
about 4 tablespoons (60 grams) caster sugar

Method of Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place 4 - one cup (240 ml) Crème Brûlée dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan. In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the cream and the vanilla bean and seeds to the scalding point (the cream just begins to bubble around the edges). Remove from heat and remove the vanilla bean. 
  2. Meanwhile in a heatproof bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale (about 1-2 minutes). (You can do this with a wire whisk or hand mixer.) Gradually pour the scalding cream into the egg yolk mixture, making sure you keep whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle. (Stir in vanilla extract, if using.) Strain into a large measuring cup or pitcher and then evenly pour the custard into the ramekins.Prepare a water bath (bain marie) by carefully pouring enough hot or boiling water so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 30 -40 minutes(baking time can vary depending on size of ramekins and temperature of water) or just until the custards are set (a slight wobble is okay). 
  3. Immediately remove the custards from the water bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack (about one hour). Refrigerate (uncovered) for at least 4 hours or until cold and firm. At this point they can be stored (covered) in the refrigerator for about three days. 
  4. To serve, remove the custards from the refrigerator. Sprinkle an even, not too thick, layer (about 1 tablespoon (15 grams)) of superfine sugar over the custards. Using a hand held kitchen torch, or under a very hot preheated broiler, caramelize the sugar until it is golden brown and bubbly. If using a torch, place it about 2 inches (5 cm), at an angle, over the custard and move the torch around until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Let sit a few minutes so the sugar can harden then serve. 

Excuse the mess on the side of the ramekins. Should have wiped them off for better presentation!

I tried angling the blowtorch about 5cm away (as instructed) but it took too long for the sugar to caramelize.

So I moved the blowtorch closer. The ramekin on the top right is how the end result should look like.

Try reducing the sugar if you're not Kelantanese like me *grin

The recipe did specify a thin even layer of sugar (about one teaspoon). Trust me, the picture above is NOT one teaspoon. Strongly suggest you to stick to the recipe!

Definitely a good buy. Love my blowtorch! Now, what else can I make using this...

The end result. Don't worry about the burnt edges. It makes the Crème Brûlée look more real and authentic!

Just a few tips before you run off baking:
  • Make sure you have sufficient ramekins beforehand. I bought my ramekins real cheap at a Jusco member's day sale. They don't have to be expensive! Just presentable enough to serve direct to your guests. The best ones are the wide and shallow ones so that you get ample amount of caramelized sugar with each spoonful of caramel.
  • Since the recipe calls for so much egg yolks, save the egg whites for a pavlova! Imagine how professional you will look by serving Crème Brûlée AND pavlova during a dinner party. 
  • The recipe above only makes about 4 ramekins. I doubled the recipe since I knew everyone would want second helpings!
  • Invest in vanilla pods. Really, vanilla beans are way better than bottled vanilla extract. 
  • Shortly before serving, take the ramekins out of the fridge, and caramelize the sugar just before serving. You can even show off your blowtorching skills in front of your guests. Try not to warm the custard when you are caramelizing the sugar. I love my Crème Brûlée served as cold caramel but with a piping hot top. 

Enjoy baking!
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