Monday, March 31, 2014

Balloon Cookies on Sticks!

Balloon cookies on sticks!

Wow, I am on a baking roll this week! My oven churned out cookies on sticks, a macaron tower, two Monster High cakes and one football cake just in the past month. Unfortunately, I am starting work next week so this should be the last batch of orders - at least until I feel comfortable enough to juggle two boys and baking at the same time.

This order was for a friend's one year old baby. The theme was balloons and she wanted the cookies to look like balloons on sticks. I used my favourite butter cookies batter for this. The good thing about the recipe is the rich buttery taste, like my favourite Kjeldsens cookies. But the bad thing about a rich butter cookie, is the cookie senang masuk angin and cannot stay crunchy for long. If you want something that stays crunchy, gingerbread cookies can stay crunchy for a longgggg time. But gingerbread cookies reminds me of Christmas, not daily cookie consumption. And yeah, I love butter!

Cookie dough cut to size using a balloon cookie cutter (erm actually an Easter egg cutter), with sticks shoved in the middle of the dough.

It was my first time baking with lollipop sticks but I was not too worried about it. I did my research early, just cut the cookies and push the stick into the back - how hard can it be right? Well, wrong. Hubby had actually reminded me to do a test batch before I cut all of the cookies. I was halfway done when I remembered his advise, so I popped a whole tray (yes a whole tray) into the oven just to see how it turned out.

All the cookie sticks melted! 

I was absolutely dumbfounded. All the baking sites I visited claimed that lollipop sticks are oven safe. So why did mine melt? I panicked and called a fellow neighbour for advise. She offered for me to try her lollipop stick (purchased at a different baking shop) to see if it would make a difference.

Meanwhile, I threw away the whole tray. I ended up making indents in the cookie so that I could glue the cookie sticks with royal icing after the cookie baked. This meant that I had to recut each and every cookie so that I could make an indent in them. Kerja dua kali namanya! And even then, you couldn't wave the baked cookie around (as kids would probably do), without the cookie flying off. *sigh* Can't really expect the royal icing to be able to stick such a heavy cookie to a lollipop stick. *double sigh*

Sticks glued to the baked cookies with royal icing.
Then my neighbour's sticks arrived, and I tried a little experiment. From left to right, my neighbour's bare lollipop stick, my lollipop stick wrapped with aluminum foil and my neighbour's lollipop stick wrapped with aluminum foil.

In the end, the bare one melted as well (it became even worse than mine!) but the ones wrapped with aluminum were fine. So for the remaining batches, I meticulously wrapped each and every one of the lollipop sticks.

Hard work, I tell you!
Decorated with pastel coloured fondant.
While prepping the last tray of cookies, I suddenly had the idea to "patch" the back of the lollipop stick with cookie dough to reinforce the stick. Definitely a good idea to be replicated for the future!

So here are pictures from the birthday party. Happy 1st birthday, Maryam!

Balloons everywhere! I burst out laughing when my friend wanted to manually pump a whole room of balloons. Talk about being optimistic! I ended up loaning her my neighbour's automated balloon pump.
The dessert table and my balloon cookies on sticks in action.
Contributed my Tiffany Blue rock candy and candy sticks to match the pastel theme.
Loving the cake pops! I had a bad prior experience with cake pops (the chocolate seized - long story), so I admire multi coloured cake pops! Also a vegan birthday cake, since the birthday girl is allergic to dairy. 
The BBGS gang. Check out my long hair. Going to cut it to a more reasonable length before I start work!
Last but not least, Aiden won first prize for "wrap the mummy" contest. Last two years we played the same game and Aiden couldn't stand still. This year he can listen to instructions, so he stood still while Hubby wrapped him up. 

Note: Aiden had a blast at the party. Since he was so "vocal", the magician picked him to assist him in the magic show. Oh he absolutely loved the attention! He even gave a thumbs up sign to Danya when he was standing beside the magician, to which Danya responded with a big smile - so adorable! I think, by the end of the party practically everyone knew Aiden's name, because the next day we went to another birthday party and an adult actually said hello to Aiden as he recognized Aiden from Maryam's party.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

You either like pound cakes or you don't. If you like plain butter cakes, then pound cakes are your thing. Hubby on the other hand feels that those type of cakes are way too boring, lacking character. For me, I love the simplicity of the cake, the rich buttery flavour melting in my mouth.

Pound cake refers to a type of cake classically made with a pound of each of the main ingredients, namely flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Man, that's a huge cake!

In an attempt to make the pound cake a tad more interesting for Hubby's palate, I decided to make a Cream Cheese Pound Cake instead of the conventional pound cake. The cream cheese makes the otherwise heavy pound cake into a delightful lighter moist cake with a slight richer edge to the taste. And since the cream cheese is already in the cake, you can consume the cake as is, or serve it with some fruits or ice-cream.

My boss' wife actually introduced me to this variation of the pound cake, when she baked one for my boss' birthday. She kindly gave me a copy of her recipe but unfortunately I didn't get much success with her version so I was so excited when my favourite baking site, Joy of Baking, had a tried and tested recipe for the cake.

Recipe from here. I halved the recipe so below are the adjusted quantities.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake:
195 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
170 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
113 grams package cream cheese, room temperature
275 grams granulated white sugar (I used only about 220grams)
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Zest (outer skin) of one lemon or orange (optional)
3 large eggs, room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (I used 165degC) and place oven rack in center of oven. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick spray that contains flour) a bundt pan.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • In the bowl of your electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Continue beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). 
  • Add the vanilla and lemon zest and beat until incorporated. 
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  • Add the flour mixture, in three additions, and mix just until incorporated. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30-50 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 - 30 minutes so it has time to set. Remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling. This cake will keep about 3 to 4 days at room temperature and about one week in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Since I halved the recipe, I adjusted the baking time to only 30-50 minutes. Original recipe calls for baking for 55-70 minutes. I also adjusted the baking temperature from 180 to 165degC since my loaf pan is black in colour. Dark coloured pans will get hotter faster and transmits heat faster, causing the outside of the cake to cook too quickly. If you find that your cake is rising too quickly and the top is brown but the cake isn't yet done, cover the top with aluminium foil and continue baking.
  • The full recipe calls for the use of a 10 inch (25 cm) bundt pan. Since I didn't own a bundt pan, I thought I could fit in half of the recipe in one loaf pan. I was sadly wrong. Half of the recipe filled about one and a half loaf pan. Or maybe I should have filled two loaf pans instead! Next time I will use this website to help me with my pan conversions. Apparently one 10 inch bundt pan is equivalent to two 8inch round cake pans (hence one 8inch round cake pan for half of the recipe). 
  • Note: if a recipe calls for round tins, but you need to use square ones instead, remember to use square pans that are 1-inch smaller as square tins hold more batter than round ones of the same size. Okay, I digress.
  • Why the cracked top? I didn't care much about the crack on top since the cake was purely for own consumption. But I googled why to write this blog post, and apparently pound cakes, because of their higher fat ration, would tend to crack on top and is actually an inherent signature characteristic for pound cakes. Due to the density, the outside of the cake would bake and brown first. As the center begins to heat up and expand, the batter pushes up and out, forming the crack. To reduce the amount of cracking, ensure that your ingredients are carefully measured and ensure they are at room temperature. This will also result in a pound cake with maximum volume. 
  • Don't skimp on the beating but don't overmix the batter too. Yes, the butter, cream cheese and sugar needs to be beaten for a good 5 minutes (I checked my watch) to ensure that they whip air into the cake batter so it will rise during baking and produce the characteristic fine crumb. However, don't overbeat the eggs. Add one egg at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. Once the last egg goes into the mixing bowl, the beating is over. Gently add the flour into the batter using the mixer on its lowest setting. As soon as the flour disappears, stop.
Fresh out of the oven, crack and all.
Released from the pan.
I simply love the lovely golden brown crisp crust!
The characteristic fine crumbs *love*
Practiced some self restraint and managed to consume the entire cake in 3 days. Usually it would be all gone in 1 day, but this time I sliced small pieces to satisfy my craving. Oh the calories! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our New Baby Beemer

Finally, after deliberating for soooooo long, we decided to sell my Baby Beemer for a new Baby Beemer. Truth to be told, after 6 years, the cost for maintaining the car was getting a bit too exorbitant; we were paying 4digits every few months. *sigh* First it was the jerking, which took 5 trips to the workshop (each costing about 4 digits!!) to fix. Well we were partly to blame as well cos we tried to use a second hand part (to reduce cost) and just my luck, the part became faulty just after the one month warranty. So then I had to fork out more money for original parts. Then the power window for the left back seat malfunctioned. Then one day, as Hubby was reversing out from a parking lot, the brake refused to work! He had to jam his foot down to force the brake to stop the car! Imagine, something as safety critical as brakes could malfunction without any indication of wear and tear! And the most recent was the radiator, so I had to keep topping up water to prevent overheating until we fixed it. Not to mention, the daily wear and tear - interior, exterior and ailing suspension. While we were fixing the radiator, I asked the mechanic to provide us a quotation for fixing everything, and I literally balked when I saw the price. It was about half the cost of a down payment for a new basic 3-series.

Despite everything, I definitely cherish my memories with Baby Beemer. Six years ago, I've always admired the 3-series but always assumed that it was too expensive for my reach. Then the Sakhalin opportunity came along and with my expat salary, I thought I could probably afford a Mercedes, even going as far as placing a deposit back then. Biasalah, shopaholics don't shop around, they simply buy! Then Hubby managed to convince me to check out Auto Bavaria. And we found out that since Hubby was working with Sime Engineering, we could get an 8% discount from the actual price, making it just a bit more expensive than the Mercedes! So I quickly cancelled my cheque deposit (but I felt so guilty to the guy who sold me the Mercedes, I met up with him separately to give him an angpow of RM200) and placed my order with Auto Bavaria. Of course, drama queens always attract drama - I was quite adamant that I wanted my car to be Graphite Grey in colour, but the sales associate kept telling me that if I wanted the SE (special edition) version, I would have to settle with any remaining colours they had because they were phasing out the SE for the basic (and cheaper) version. So I grudgingly agreed for black. By chance, (I don't remember exactly how), I found out that there were a few graphites but they were given to some other customers just because I had settled for black. I kicked up such a big fuss, even going to the extent of contacting the branch manager and insisted on changing to a different sales advisor (which was a blessing in disguise because the replacement, Ken, is such a god sent with fabulous PR skills and tip top service).

I also remember tendering for the plate number 1221 and failing the first time. Tendered a larger sum the second time and finally got the news while I was in Russia that I scored the plate and the car was ready for collection. Then conniving me decided to surprise Hubby with the car. I deliberately told him that my trip home was postponed and tricked him into believing that our area was going through a communications black out for a day due to some server upgrading works. How he believed that, is still a mystery to me now! So I boarded the plane home and during transit in Korea, texted Ken to inform him  that I was on route home to pick up the car. Landed in KLIA and took a taxi directly to Auto Bavaria, luggage and all. Ken gave me a short briefing of the car, and then... I drove the car on the road for the very first time! Terkumat kamit baca Bismillah and segala surah whilst driving to Hubby's office. Got to his office just after lunch time, and called him. Imagine his shock when I told him that I was downstairs, with the new car!!! (Then on the way back to his office that afternoon, I nearly got into an accident, stupid car in front of me made an emergency brake and I had to do the same, screeching tyres and all. Well, at least I got to test the brakes!)

Anyway, Baby Beemer has been through all of our ups and downs. It has Aiden's milk spots all over its back seat (which we would dutifully wipe clean), scratches in its interior due to Aiden's curious prying fingers, brought both Aiden and Ian home for the very first time, witnessed us signing the S&P to our new house, lovingly carted our possessions when we moved house, put up with the minor accidents and dents we caused (I was once in an accident where I was sandwiched between a Honda and a lorry - Honda's boot was dented in and the lorry's fender broke but our car suffered no dents at all, just minor scratches) and of course, drove us everywhere we needed to go.

10th February 2014, we finally surrendered Baby Beemer to be traded in.
Farewell Baby Beemer - you have served us well for 6 years.
So, why another Beemer? Honestly, Hubby was swayed by the Audi. We test drove the Audi twice, and both times I sulked. After driving a Beemer for 6 years, I do not want any other car! Despite the faults I listed earlier, really - what more can you expect from a six year old car? And, why another 3-series? Well, that was Hubby's decision in entirety. He claimed he is too young for a 5-series *ppffttt* and also he fell in love with the 328 M Sport, the highest spec in the 3-series line. Something about performance or torque or speed of the car - whatever! I, on the other hand couldn't care less; as long as he decided on another Beemer.

19th February 2014, say hello to our new Baby Beemer.
Waiting to be picked up at the showroom.
20th February 2014, we went to pick up the car. Check out that smile!
See the blue line across the dashboard of the car? That's a signature to show that the car is an M Sport. The 328 also comes with a bigger iDrive screen complete with map navigation. Please don't ask me about the features under the hood!
Using the back seat seatbelt for the first time.
Similar to when I picked up our first Baby Beemer, before you can drive the car out of the showroom, Auto Bavaria would conduct a one-to-one briefing about the car, its features and answer any questions you may have. This is Hubby listening intently to Ken's explanation.
Aiden all excited!
That weekend, we brought (the new) Baby Beemer for its first long distance maiden drive. Balik kampung for my brother's engagement. We were given strict instructions not to use the Sports mode or go above a certain RPM during the run-in period, but even with all those restrictions, the car's performance was an absolute dream. On the highway it took Hubby every ounce of his self restraint to not push the pedal all the way down!

Our car in the convoy of cars heading to my brother's fiance's house.
Can you spot Baby Beemer?
My favourite dish bila balik kampung!
Poor Aiden - he didn't get into this picture.
All of us.
Selfie with my sister.
Now that Hubby has proclaimed that Baby Beemer is his car (some excuse about how I can't handle the performance of the car *scoff* or was it because he paid the downpayment?), I guess I am now saddled with driving his car to work daily. Takpelah, smaller car, easier to park, and the best part is - Aiden has the same car too! *grin*

Hello Mini Cooper! We're going to have a lot of adventures together!
Aiden's car is so cute, I wish I have the courage to spray paint his car red to match mine!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Singapore Chilli Crabs

I've been watching too much Food Network Asia.

It has really inspired me to be more adventurous in preparing dinner! I'm good in baking but crap at cooking - but during my maternity leave I kept watching episodes after episodes of French cuisine, Mexican food, even ten dollar dinners to grilled burgers. However, the ones that inspired me the most were those short snippets where Asian celebrities try out local cuisine in Singapore, KL, and a couple of other places such as Korea and Taiwan for frog legs and live octopus *erk* okay those I usually don't watch.

So, during my last grocery outing, for some reason, my hand grabbed crabs! Honestly, since I got married I have only tried cooking crabs once and it was a complete disaster. The taste didn't really penetrate the crabs and digging the meat out required so much effort - it wasn't worth it. But this time I around, I conquered my fear of crabs and wanted to try and make Singapore Chilli Crabs! Googled for the recipe and was quite surprised about how easy they were to make.

Recipe from here:

For the Sauce
Tomato Ketchup – 5 tbsp
Water – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 1/2 – 3 tbsp, or according to taste
Cornflower – 1 1/2 tsp
Soya Beans or Dark Miso (optional) – 1 tsp pounded brown preserved Soya Beans
For the Crab
Crab – 1 large, prepared for cooking - go in for a large Mud Crab
Garlic – 6 cloves
Egg – 1
Spring Onions or Scallions – 2, cut into finger lengths
Lime or Lemon Juice – 1tsp,
Freshly squeezed Coriander leaves or Cilantro – 1 small fresh bunch, cut into 2 cm long pieces

Method of Preparation:
- Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside
- Pound or grind Garlic and Chilies to a rough paste
- Heat Oil in a wok over high heat
- Add Garlic and Chili paste and fry till fragrant
- Add Crab and stir fry until the shells turn slightly red
- Add Sauce. Stir well, cover the wok and simmer till the shells turn bright red, indicating that the Crab is cooked
- Break the Egg into the Sauce and mix well. Simmer for another 10 seconds
- Turn off the heat and stir in spring onions and lime or lemon juice
- Garnish with freshly chopped Coriander leaves and serve hot

How I did it differently:
  • I used some fish sauce and oyster sauce, to taste.
  • I didn't have soya beans, dark miso or any of the spring onions, scallions, coriander leaves nor cilantro - but it still tasted good.
  • I cut the crab body in half then slightly cracked the legs and claws so that they are easier to break later.
  • I added half of the egg during cooking, then when Hubby walked through our house door - I reheated the dish and added the remaining half of the egg.

Soooo good.....
Served with sayur campur, and of Aiden's favourite telur dadar.
Definitely repeating it again!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ian at Three Months Old!

Wow, time sure flies when you are a stay at home mum!

Ian is turning 4 months in exactly one week and I will start work a few days after that. I certainly enjoyed my 4 months maternity leave (bila lagi nak cuti panjang, kan), but unfortunately have not managed to accomplish everything in my to do list. Apparently sleeping and doing nothing is much more interesting than sorting out pictures for our US/Disneyland trip photobook, or updating this blog with the recent Aqiqah and Aiden's 5th birthday party.

Until I get a girl, I simply have to satisfy my shopping craze by buying and dressing my two boys in matching clothes! *sigh*
Anyway, before Ian turns 4 months, I better get to recording what he is up to nowadays!
  • Loves smiling, first time he smiled when di-agah was in the plane home from Kuching just as he turned 2 months old. 
  • Generally a happy baby, big smiles, senget smiles. But rarely laughs out loud. 
See, big smile all the time! Tapi no sound! Just smilesssssss....
  • However, he has a soft spot for Aiden, or rather a loud spot for him, cos everytime Aiden agah him, he will respond in a loud high pitch voice especially reserved for his big brother. So far, only Aiden has managed to make him laugh out loud. That's how special Aiden is in Ian's eyes.
Best friends baru bangun tido, which explains their mata sepet.
  • Morning person. Aiden enjoys sleeping in during weekends, but Ian is already up and awake early in the morning. However, now that my holiday is coming to an end, I would coax Ian into sleeping till late morning by breastfeeding him in bed. *grin*
Ian is already awake, while Aiden snores in the background.
  • Same as Abang Aiden, he doesn't like being placed down. Nak dukung memanjang, adoi patah pinggang Mummy. But slightly better than Aiden, at least there are times he can watch TV on his own in the rocker or self soothe himself on the mattress. 
  • When placed flat on the mattress, he prefers turning to his left, then sucks his fingers quietly. Or, as soon as we lay him down he will turn to his left and flip over, head strongly lifted up. Once I caught him in that position, watching Aiden play his iPad intently!
Check out the strong neck muscles, and the focus!
  • Unlike his brother who fears the water immensely, this one is a water baby! Immediately quiets down when you start undressing him, and grins and coos when in the bath tub.
  • Knows my voice, cos even by hearing my voice he will get excited, which he will show by kicking his feet against the rocker base.
  • Loves making conversation - me talking, him cooing back. Sometimes his coos are so long and complicated it sounds like he's complaining about something! Favorite position for cooing is head side by side, forehead nearly touching. His breathe smells so sweet!
  • Hair is growing well on the top, but none on the sides! We even had to trim the top before the aqiqah so that he doesn't look like Fido Dido!
See the hair sticking from the top?
  • Doesn't like being held horizontal. Prefers to be vertical when di-dukung, and will proceed to suck your shoulder until he falls asleep. 
  • Hates "sitting down" and insists we hold him standing up. Doesn't like sitting on my lap and will automatically use his feet to push himself up. 
He used to love coo-ing to me in this position. Now he wants to stand all the time. Oh, my arm muscles!
  • (If in the mood), he loves watching Hi-5, sometimes we catch him talking or cooing back to the TV
  • Still fully breastfed, drinks about 4oz per feeding. Nowadays, he even wants to hold his own bottle while feeding.
Double, triple chin! Nyummmm.... all on Mummy's milk.
  • Is starting to slowly extend his hand out to reach out to things. I think he still hasn't figured out that those are his hands and fingers. 
  • Which is why sometimes he looks in amazement (sometimes almost crossed eyed!) at his fingers before proceeding to suck it. 
The many faces of Ian Iskandar.

Here's to the end of my Mummy's four month maternity leave. Boo hoo hoo!

And that brings us to the close of Ian's third month old journey. Happy four months old, baby!
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