Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cupcakes-ful of Love


Been on a blogging hiatus and I guess there are no better reason than that I have been having fun and eating well. Oh yes, just had two weekends getaway, which the latest one have me and J on a gastronomic excursion up north, no prizes for guessing where it is. Yes you have said it, Penang the food haven of course. The place where all foodies claim to be the one place you must go to stuff your face if you are ever in Malaysia. The place where even when the Penangites themselves have long move out from their hometown, would still scuff at the every apparent mock-Penang-food they find, which are vastly available everywhere in Malaysia. I leave this now to your desires until the time I post up my honest tried and enjoyed reviews. Don’t frown yet, as I promise more than a few posts of my gastro-adventure coming soon, so bear with me for now as the focus should be on J.

Why you ask? Well, it was actually J’s birthday the past 12 days ago (so that’s the REAL reason behind the absence), and so we had been on a prolong celebration. The trip was actually meant for him, but being such a sweet guy, J went on with me to do what I love most instead, that is to EAT. Ah, such tham-jiak-ness to a point of no return. How did J put up with these? Could it be because I could churn out
his greatest weakness anytime, tempt him with many cakes, trying variations of our vices, reward him with surprises from time to time, whip up something when hunger strikes and also many of my little Chinese cookouts that I tried, reenacting my Ah Ma’s simple dishes.

Aside all these, all I know is that he is putting up his best with me and my food such as my camera frenzy, especially after I got the new one, where I need to take every picture of every food before consuming, as if it’s a ritual (does anyone out there have the same problem as me?). Sometimes he just wants to dig in straight but I had to warn him not to touch it until I take a decent shot (which takes quite a few tries) and sometimes I just had to give in and let the hungry boy down his food (especially when he is having the tham-jiak face on too). Then he also has to put up with certain degree of humiliation when I go around taking picture of people preparing food. You will sure hear more of these in my Penang-tales to come. In despites the once a while frowning, J had been a great partner in crime of my food endeavors. He had
came early in the morning to try my new bakes, bring me to breakfasts (my favourite) and try out new places (knowing well I would go into the picture-taking frenzy), search high and low for some place I read on some foodblog which I insist I must try (or die), and taking me to places he tried which was superb and he would want to share it with me. How much more wonderful can a foodie have from her partner?

Well, I would not be going into details of how J is, I guess the aforementioned of him and my tham-jiak-ness shall suffice. As for now, the cake, the one ultimately should have been the reason of this post. For J’s birthday I wanted to make something special, something different from my
1984’s cakes bake-out. So I decided to make him cupcakes adorn with letters on top to form a certain message (it shall be between us). No prize for guessing again, oh yes, I made it with chocolate and cheese. After all this two combination meant a lot to us.


Black Bottom Cupcakes with ‘Icing’ and Chocolate Love Letters
Adapted from David Lebovitz, at Leite’s Culinaria

I did some variations on the recipes, substituting chocolates with chopped Oreos that I happen to have extras on hand (ok I admit it’s a big purchase from my company’s warehouse sale). That move actually causes semi-disaster as the cheese portion overflow and was left with ugly bumps on the top of the cupcake due to the huge Oreos chunks. So I had to come up with last minute idea to cover it. I found that the cupcake was not really sweet (yes, I gobbled up one, but just because it split to half due to my clumsy hands when releasing it for the first time), as I had lessen the sugar amount in the original recipe. So I decided to sprinkle the cupcakes liberally with icing sugar till most of the ugly bumps are covered, and then adorn it with chocolate letters. When J tried it, he said it was the best (cup)cake I had ever bake (he had too) and then commented that it has frosting too! Then later I realize that he thought the cheeses was the frosting, as I had bought an inferior cream cheese instead (cause the shop I went to ran out of Philadelphia), so it was not cheesy enough to be noticeable. If I am ever to try this recipe again, I would make sure I buy good quality cheese, stick with chopped chocolates instead of Oreos, stick with the sugar ratio and would pour in the cheese right on top of the chocolate batter; instead of how I tried to spoon it in initially (you wouldn’t want to know how).

250g cream cheese
Scant 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 egg
60g of bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chop (which I had substitute with Oreos)

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
5 tbsps Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white/red vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

50g chocolate
25g of butter

Cheese Filling:
Beat together cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth
Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces
Set aside

Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 175C.
Butter a 12 cup muffin tin, (or like me bake it in two batches of 6 holes muffin tin, I had a small oven remember)
In medium bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
Mix in the brown sugar.
In separate bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, then stir in the wet mixture, till smooth
Do not overmix
Divide batter into the muffin holes, using a spoon, pour the cheese filling into the center of each cupcake, up to the brim
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or till top are golden brown and feel springy when pressed

Frosting (less than an hour before serving a birthday boy):
Melt the extra chocolate and butter in the microwave, stir once a while
Set aside and let cool
Pour it into a piping bag, or like me a ketchup squeeze bottle
Sift icing sugar on the cupcakes generously, till fully coat the top
Squeeze out the chocolates in letters you desire onto the icing sugars

Serving:
Stick one little candle on one of the cupcakes
‘Surprise’ the birthday boy
Sing the age-old song
Demand him to make a wish first before blowing out the candle
Then make him eat at least two cupcakes
Later sneak into the kitchen and try it out yourself

Serves a birthday boy, the baker and his family (12 cupcakes)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Smile!


Let’s see. Where do I start? There is so much to tell about a friend of mine, which is extraordinary in her own way. A girl I had mentioned quite a number of times in this blog. Y is a girl of exuberance. A girl who has a sweet smile on the face at all times. If I have to sum her up in one word, smile would would be it. She is smiling when she is walking, she is smiling when she is talking and she is even smiling when she is singing. Yes, she is a girl that smiles and brings joy to whoever she is with.

I have known Y more than 10 years ago, our passionate relationship kicks off when we both found ourselves sharing the same love for basketball. Then our friendship was forged deeper when we had the same class at 14, where we formed 1984; where we had tons and tons of laughter, excitement and adventure.

Our friendship was brought to the next level as we both came to the strange world of KL together, looking for more to life after the peaceful years of schooling and good food at the haven we are in. I call it fate that we both end up in the same college and soon end up as room mate, then to condo-cum-studio-mate and till now, housemate and not to forget, also my band mate. She had always been with me in KL, so to me; she is like my family here. I know I will always have someone to look to, to confide in and to share with, in times joy or turbulence.

I wish there is more I can tell about Y, as believe me she is not as simple as that. But somehow it seems impossible to mention everything about her. I can confidently say that she had always been a great friend, who never failed to be there for me when I needed and will always still be there for me even when I don’t need it. Confusing as it may seems, but believe me, she would understand what I mean. Love you Y, and have a great year ahead as a girl with the age-of-double-number. Cheers.

Extremely ChocolateY Chocolate ‘Kou
Adapted from Molly, Orangette


I made a cake for Y, specifically with all her preferences. I forgot to mention that she is a girl of acquired taste, extremely stubborn (which means if she does not like one thing, she would not ever change her mind bout it, no matter how much you try with all sorts of variation), a bit of a traditionalist and have a strong degree of liking to chocolate (who doesn’t?), and with certain specific no-no. She does not eat anything which is too bitter (thus degrade the idea she is addicted to chocolate, lets just add that she loves sweet things too), or anything with nuts, raisins or just anything round, hard or soft or whatsoever that appears in where she thinks it should not. Basically, she loves her food plain, simple and delicious. Since she has the weakness for chocolate, I decide to go all the way out to make an extremely decadent chocolate cake, which is flourless, and of course devoid of any trace of her no-nos.

I had been attracted to this cake since the day I read it at Orangette but have yet to find the occasion for such indulgence. Now this time, Y is going to be the victim, as the result of the cake is certainly addictive. When Y and my friends bit into it, they moaned with pleasure and I am not exaggerating here. In Y's words, she mentioned that the cake does not have the texture like regular cake at all but more to like ‘kou’ (as in kuih, like a marriage between pudding and cake), thus the name I christened it.

I would also recommend to use the best chocolate you can find (for me I would certainly go for bittersweet but since it is for Y, I used Vochelle cooking chocolate instead) and also the best butter, full fat kind, oh and the freshest egg around. I said this was good but I also said it was decadent remember.

200 g best-quality chocolate (bittersweet, unless for someone like Y)
200g full fat butter
220g granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 tbsp all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line an 8-inch round cake pan with foil.
Finely chop the chocolate and melt it with butter in a double boiler or microwave, stirring regularly.
Add sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, beat well and set aside to cool.
Then add in the eggs one at a time, beat well with a wooden spoon at each addition (I like this traditional way, working my arms over the batter).
Add the flour and mix well.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 25-35 minutes (mine took quite long, I covered the top half way through to avoid burning), until the top is slightly burnt but the middle is still jiggly.
Pull the cake out immediately with the foil and let it cool.
Then slowly peel away the foil, then be strong and store it away into the refrigerator for a at least a day (Molly said its better the day after and I’m not going to compromise this).
Before serving, take it out and decorate as desire to fit for a birthday girl (in my case a huge love to sweet Y).
Then slice thinly to indulge slowly (you have been warned).


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