January 31, 2011

Pandan Chiffon Cake - Food for Angels & Babes

pandancake_5

For the longest time, I've been trying to perfect a decent rendition of a pandan chiffon cake. A chiffon cake is akin to angel's food cake, except it also has egg yolks to make the taste a little richer, but uses oil instead of butter to maintain that soft spongey texture. Pandan chiffon cake is common in Singapore and Malaysia, sold in most bakeries and eaten commonly as teatime snacks.

To me, the perfect pandan chiffon cake would have to be very light (almost cotton candy like), have an airy crumb (tender but stretchy, so not too cake-like), rise evenly without cracks or doming, fragrant, the colour of light jade not psychedelic neon green (some store bought ones blind me!), have an even brown (but not burnt) crust and of course taste yummy!

pandancake_3pandancake_1

This is by no means an easy feat and I was on a pandan cake baking obsession for about a month, making cake after cake, trying out various recipes and tweaking them. Friends benefited from my endeavour, as I would dole out pandan cake weekly. Two of my friends' toddlers really liked the pandan cake, finishing up an entire slice on their own, as it was so light and soft (and probably sweet). I think babies are very discerning eaters, hence I declared the resulting recipe a success :) It also fulfilled most of my criteria above, except that it rises quite a bit and ends up doming and cracking.

pandancake_2

Nonetheless, it's as close to perfect as I can get it. I started out looking at various recipes on the internet, which included those on Rose's Kitchen, Aunty Yochana, Baking Mum and ieatishootipost. Out of these recipes, the one that was closest to what I was after was the one on ieatishootipost plus there was a great deal of exposition and analysis on what makes a pandan cake tick on Dr Tay's website. One problem that I found across the recipes, was the differing pan sizes, which greatly affected the volume of batter as well as the baking time and temperature. Dr Tay's recipe was a whopping 9 egg whites (and 6 egg yolks) and was meant for a 25cm (10inch) tube pan. I only had a 21cm pan and where eggs are involved, it's a little harder to just scale proportionally down. As a result, I tweaked the proportions and came up with a texture I really liked, even though I still had a bit too much for my small pan. Perhaps I should just buy a bigger one!

Here's the final recipe that I came up with. I've rewritten it in the way I feel makes most logical sense to me in terms of the mise-en-place and sequence. It would probably fit a 23cm (9 inch) tube pan nicely, but if like me you have a smaller pan, just bake off the rest in a small tin. Never waste :)

pandancake_4

Pandan Chiffon Cake (makes a 23cm/9inch cake)

(recipe adapted from ieatishootipost)

9 pandan leaves
2.5 tbsp (~40ml) coconut milk

90ml corn oil
120ml coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp pandan paste (I try to add as little as possible as it makes the batter very green)

160g cake/pastry flour (I substituted with 120g plain flour and 40g corn flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder (can be omitted)

5 egg yolks (I use large eggs)
70g caster sugar

7 egg whites (I use large eggs)
80g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat an oven to 170deg C (I used mine on fan mode, if you have a regular oven, I think you can set your temperature to 180deg C).

1. To obtain pandan juice:
Cut the pandan leaves into pieces into a food processor. Add the coconut milk and blend until leaves are shredded. Squeeze and strain mixture through a muslin cloth to obtain all the liquid. You should get about 2 tbsp of pandan juice from this.

2. Mix corn oil, coconut milk, vanilla essence, pandan paste and the pandan juice together and stir evenly through. Set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. In another mixing bowl, whip the egg yolks and 70g sugar together until pale and yellow. Pour in the liquid coconut and pandan mixture and whip until incorporated.

5. Sift the dry flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Whip on medium speed until incorporated and batter is smooth. Set aside.

6. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whip until foamy. Add one-third of the remaining 80g of sugar and continue whipping. Gradually add the rest of the sugar in 2 stages until the whites are whipped to stiff peaks.

7. Add one-third of the whites to the batter and gently fold in with a spatula. (To make it easier to fold in, you may add a small amount of whites to the batter and mix it quite roughly to even out the texture before folding in the rest of the whites more gently). Continue to add the remaining whites in 2 stages until you get a light, foamy batter. Make sure to smooth out any meringue lumps.

8. Pour the batter into the tube pan, making sure there are no large air bubbles trapped in the batter (if not, you will get a large hole in your cake!). Tap the bottom of your pan to ensure all air bubbles are expelled.

9. Bake for 45-50 minutes in a 170deg oven for 20 minutes, then lower it to 160deg for the remaining time until a skewer comes out clean when inserted and the top crust is a nice golden brown. If it browns too much or you realise there's a thick crust, you're cooking it for too long and the oven temperature may be too hot.

10. Once cooked, take it out and cool it inverted to let the cake structure continue to elongate (instead of sinking). If your pan has 'legs' for it to balance upside down, great. If not, I always stick mine on top of a funnel. When it's cooled, run a knife or spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen it and unmould.

*edited 2 Feb

January 17, 2011

A Belated Happy New Year & The Singapore Episodes

I promised I'd blog this weekend and so here's my inaugural post of the year, although it's going to be a little of a cop-out since I'm going to be linking you guys to my fab gal pal Connie's posts on her whirlwind food-coma-inducing weekend in Singapore in December (more of that in a bit).

I've been very quiet on this blog because 1) I spent a good decent 4 weeks of the holiday season in Dec/Jan in my hometown Singapore for work and pleasure where I was way too busy stuffing my face all the time and 2) I've been super lazy and not motivated to blog (yeah I know, excuses). I started out with well-intended plans to blog while I was on holiday. I packed my camera and kit, even transferred my unprocessed photos onto a SD card so I can work on it while I was back in Sg away from my iMac. It started well, I did bring out my DSLR on a couple of occasions where we had fancy meals (Andre, Iggy's) but I soon degenerated to using my iPhone as I got too lazy to lug around my kit. The ease of Twitter also fulfilled my need for instant gratification and so blogging was erm relegated somewhere far down the list of to-dos.

Now that I'm back, and have a little time to breathe (before work travelling gets to me again soon), I realised how much backlog I have on my blog! There are a couple of baking shoots that I've yet to post, not to mention a couple of challenges I'm reneging on and of course there's that whole month of crazy eating and stuffing my face that I did in Singapore plus discovering of new places (mostly food related ha). Where do I even begin??

I think my stay in Singapore can be marked by the food adventures I went on with different friends. Fortunately, some of them have already blogged about it! So let's start off with those episodes I can do quick recaps of, plus link to the other blogs and I'll tell the rest of the story in future episodes :)

Episode 1 is probably defined by work during the first week that I was back. I was fortunate enough to visit some of Singapore's best and new restaurants, where we had meals at Bistro Soori, 2am Dessert Bar, Salt, Les Amis, Chinois, Tippling Club and Restaurant Andre. Of these, Restaurant Andre stood out for its creativity and quality of food but it was also the most pricey (will review it in another post). I would also want to check out Bistro Soori (by Chef Jimmy Chok) again as I loved the one dish I tried (joined a meal halfway) and the whole vibe was very chill.

It was also my first time at Les Amis and it didn't disappoint with very well executed French food. The lobster ravioli was exquisite as was the dessert of pineapple and coconut with spicy soy vinaigrette (! think!) that was presented like a sunny side up egg.

Les Amis





I had heard a lot about Tippling Club since its opening but have only tried the desserts, which I didn't like as they used too many savoury and unconventional flavours like curry (!) in it. This time round, I tried the lunch menu plus experienced 3-4 different cocktails. Their cocktails definitely are a must-try and deserve their reputation due to the care they put into each concoction. There was an apple pie inspired cocktail that was packaged to look like a McDonalds apple pie, and tasted pretty darn yummy! The lunch dishes were good, we started off with a chargrilled pepper (to be eaten with a forcep), pig's trotters with quail's egg and my main was a simple but well cooked chicken. Again, I felt the dessert, a strawberry sorbet item was lacklustre despite the fancy foaming milk that was supposed to dazzle.

Tippling Club


Episode 2 tells of Connie's maiden visit to Singapore. She had less than 48 hours on our sunny shores and Eugene and I racked our brains to craft the perfect itinerary to give a good overview of what Singapore has to offer. Obviously it could not be done as there's just so many meals one could fit in! In the end, we showed her a glimpse (maybe 5%) of what a hawker centre (Tiong Bahru) offered as we had to conserve our stomach space for a kaiseki lunch at Goto, followed by Iggy's for dinner. Read about our 18-course day on Connie's blog and the 5% of street food Connie tried (we're saving the laksa will have to be for another day!). We then had a great brunch at House just before she went back to Hong Kong (but not before buying 2 tubs of chai poh at Tiong Bahru!).

Episode 3 is of exploring Singapore with fellow foodies. MissEne, Pleasure Monger and I (plus JY) met up for a hearty meal of nasi lemak at Adam Road (Selera Mas) which satisfied my craving, but was not as wow as I had imagined. We then spent an afternoon gawking at kitchen gear at ToTT (Tools of the Trade aka glamourised Sia Huat) and baked some yummy cookies! Check out Pleasure Monger's tale of our afternoon! I also had the pleasure of meeting up with newfound foodie friends Davina @Sugarbardiva, Pam @Cooking Ninja, Brad @Ladyironchef and Ken @HungryRabbitNYC when Ken visited over the new year. We covered Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh, Mustaffa at Little India, Gongcha bubble tea, and snacks and tea in Chinatown. It was mouthful after mouthful as we literally crawled from one place to another (though I had to run away to do something in the middle). On another day, I met MissEne and checked out Nex, aka heartland mall on steriods or superglorified foodcourt. Any food shop you can imagine is there, along with my new favourite japanese bakery Green Pumpkin. Read MissEne's entry here. Oh and I heart heart heart King and King Wong, a home decor shop that sells very affordable victorian/country style furniture and LOTS of tableware!

Episode 4 will probably be my search for local food all around the island. I wanted to find the perfect prata (which I think I still haven't found), and also great a great zi char (literally cook and fry) stall, where they can cook up any dish (ok, almost) you want. Thanks to Pleasure Monger, I checked out Two Chefs at Commonwealth Crescent Blk 116. Their signature dishes, Butter Pork Ribs, Honey Marmite Chicken, Salad Prawns and Golden Tofu did not disappoint. The Butter Pork Ribs were my favourite, they were tender, coated with a powdery milky sweet topping. A close second was the salad prawns topped with pork floss. Oh yum.
Two Chefs



And of course, all the hawker street food that I've missed when I'm away from Singapore - chwee kueh, char kuay teow, laksa, bee hoon, nasi lemak, chai tow kuay, fish bee hoon, the list is endless!!


And the last episode would be my jaunt around my 'hood Duxton and Ann Siang Hill where I discovered many new cafes, bakeries and cute shops. Didn't manage to take too many photos so it might have to be a text-heavy episode instead of a picture one. I'm quite excited about sharing this as I love finding new shops and supporting indie places :) As a sneak preview, I just have to mention The Plain, a new cafe that's opened up on Craig Road serving quality barista coffee (none of that press the button nonsense) and some brunchy lunchy food. Decorated in a minimal contemporary style, it's got a laidback vibe, and is the perfect place to hang out and read a book. My new favourite hangout place :)
The Plain



So stay tuned to further episodes! How I miss Singapore!
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