November 24, 2014

Sweet NZ: Brownies Kukus and Life Drawing Class

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"Emma Watson"
November 2014--haven't finished yet :)
I am feeling guilty that I have neglected this blog and its readers for a very long time, and I am sorry for that. Life has taken me to a different direction, to where I have never expected before. The good thing is, I am still on the creative field.

Lately, I have been joining a life drawing class which is taken place at different locations on different days, depending on who's hosting at whose place. This is a new experience for me, totally different from food preparation, washing dishes, or pulling out weeds. It is a paper-and-pencil stuff (or speed painting, if you must), in an artful sense, that requires a good eye for details. Just like food photography in principle, only I do not need food stylists to work with.

Honestly, I don't know how to catch details from life drawing before, and I have no clue any other drawing technicalities it may require. But I remember one saying: 'Don't think, just draw." And so, I learn by doing.

"Three Angels", dedicated to my three darlings.
8 November 2014
I have no accredited art background, except a few short consultations with an art teacher when I was at school, but I love arts. 

Drawing is no stranger to me, though. I have loved drawing since as far as I remember my childhood. My mother once said, I liked sitting on my desk for hours, and all she could see from behind was the movements of my hands and shoulders. She said, I used to draw a picket fence house on a hill, surrounded with animals and roses, or fish in an ocean, magazine models, and landscape.

I one time had had my drawing displayed at my school art exhibition to raise money when I was still at the primary school. It did not sell, but I was so proud of myself to see my piece of work was hung amongst the greatests--from my child eyes--, and I was only 9! It was a drawing of three colourful fish in the ocean, with all other deep sea creatures, using colouring pencils and crayons. I remember it well since my art teacher approached me and informed me that she would include the drawing that I was working on on the exhibition. 

Balinese Dancer.
October 2014.
I have not been drawing as much during my twenties and thirties, since I was too busy with works, trying to earn a living. Perhaps an absent-minded doodling here and there. However, the addition of children in my life has somehow opened up my interest in arts to a new window of world, in a sense of 'I can do something with it'. Although I have not been practicing quite as much, I can feel it like my own skin. 

Now, I have arrived to a new door. I want to illustrate children's books one day. Have a look at my works on my Instagram @pena_ilalang if you like. Should there be any of you need help with illustration for children books, you may contact me. I am sure we can arrange something.

Life Drawing, Ararimu, Auckland
Right now, I am sort of figuring out how to do it. At the meantime, teaching my children the technicalities of drawing as part of their homeschooling subject, the parts that I know, I am allowing myself to sharpen my skills which have been buried in too much ignorance of the importance for sodding years. Eventually, I really want to dig myself deeper, build my own style, and allow my expressions be read by audience. Wish me luck.

So yeah. There's where I have been.

But you know what? I still cook and bake. And garden. We share plates at the drawing class, so I am not really too far away from food and its enchantment, you see. I still take food photos, although only taking it from my iPhone. The thought of having an SLR and a huge 100mm f/2.8L on my hand is still a bit too much to bear at the moment. Even a smaller 50mm f/1.4 is still feeling too awkward for me. Sigh. I am still not getting my mojo back for shooting food with proper cameras these days, please don't ask why.

Last week, we had a really nice lunch. It was like a Christmas table. There was bread, cheese and crackers, croissants with ham and cheese, steamed asparagus in butter sauce, zucchini fritters with tomato salsa, and bottles of good wine (judging by a group of smiley faces with twinkle eyes around me--since I don't drink, I wouldn't know). I brought my homecooking to the table, too: samosas, pecan brownies, and caramel slice.

Brownies are so simple to bake. They are also pantry-friendly. Once you have flour, cocoa powder, eggs, butter or oil, and sugar, you can bake a brownie. And of course, dark/milk/white chocolates, nuts, fruits or even vegetable like beetroots, can deepen the flavour and add interests in texture. 

I have baked many kind of brownies in years, Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies,  Brownies (all kind), and brownies which are kept off the record--either they are burned to bone dry or my batteries are flat-- and my favourite brownies of all Nigel's 24-carat Brownies, but do you know you can steam brownies? Well, better believe it if you don't. Because I have tried it, and it is not disappointing. 

It is dark, chocolaty, and moist. It's like fudge brownies and it's more cake-like rather than common shiny crust brownies. I think the combination of butter and oil gives this brownie lovely texture that it isn't dry even when it is a day old. 

I have to modify the recipe since I don't use cake emulsifier like most bakers in Indonesia do, and use extra egg yolks instead. I also use Whittaker's 72% dark chocolate to intensify the texture, and use extra dark chocolate to layer it.  

Brownies Kukus2

Brownies Kukus (Steamed Brownies) by Ny. Liem
shared by Nath Bangun
modified by me

6 large eggs (add 2 egg yolks, since I do not use cake emulsifier)
225 gram caster sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tps vanilla (extract)
125 gram plain flour 
50 gram Valrhona cocoa powder
125 ml cooking oil 
50 gram margarine or butter 
100 gram dark chocolate, chopped
60 gram dark chocolate, extra, chopped


Heat a steamer, bring the water to a rolling boil. Wrap the lid with clean teatowel (this is to prevent any water accumulated on the inside lid dropped on to the batter).

Grease a loaf tin with margarine or butter, line with baking paper (I use two round 15 cm small tins), grease paper with margarine. Set aside.

Sift together flour and cocoa powder. Melt butter and dark chocolate, let cool, then mix well with oil.

Beat eggs, sugar and salt until fluffy and pale, add in vanilla, mix well. Fold in flour mixture, stir well with spatula or with a mixer on low speed. Add in the butter, oil and chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Pour mixture half way into tin/s, steam on medium heat about 15 minutes, sprinkle extra dark chocolate on, and pour in the remaining brownie mixture. Steam until cook through. Remove from the steamer, let it cool.

We ate them warm.
It is an old photo that I haven't posted yet, but it is legally mine, so I am sending it to Alessandra Zecchini for Sweet New Zealand event this month

September 29, 2014

Genoise Cake Desserts

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Klub Berani Baking is now 7 years old. We are still 'getting together' to try out recipes and bake every two months. Sometimes it's an easy challenge, other time is rather tricky one. Those who dare will always await the new recipe sent to their mailbox and are eager to face up each challenge patiently and passionately; those who don't will miss out. There is a little discussion every now and then in our mailing list emails or through KBB's Facebook Page; often is we are clattering in our kitchen without further ado, unless many are held back till the deadline is approaching. Oh, what fun for the hosts to work on the round-up the last minute.

As with each challenge, I have set up a list what areas we are going to do more by listening to members's suggestions and initiation from the crews. I have tried to make it different variety and interesting values, although what you think it's various and interesting does not always work the same to others. At least, I and the KBB crews keep it fresh each year, so that we don't fall into boredom. We also look for what's trending in the bakery world these days, so we can also experience it in our home kitchen. Such as last challenge, Kurtos Kalacs, was booming in Indonesia at the time we had it tried out.

This time, we are baking Genoise Cake as the base for making a desserts. Rather a fancy one, I think, since it is involving chocolate belts and whatnot. And because it is an important occasion for it is KBB's birthday.

It has to be something special, don't you think?
There is no major difficulties in baking Genoise Cake for me, since I have baked it many times in my 13 years grueling in the kitchen. So, the cake turned out nicely and good size. A rather tricky matter for me is to make the chocolate belts. I have got a situation here.

After I've done all of those steps, from preparing the ingredients, baking, to filling and icing the cake, I put the cake in the fridge while I am melting chocolate in a double boiler for the belts.

So OK. Thought I have bought a transparent sheet used for chocolate and desserts, which I forget what's the name, and ramble through my utilities cupboards and found two sheets of them. The size was not as long as I want it, so I joined them..with a sellotape. I am thinking that it may be alright because there will be no overlapping sheets to crack the chocolate later on.

Right. After tempering the chocolate, I started having fun, squeezing all the chocolate on top of the sheets, trying to make a rather simple belt really, just drizzling it around here and there; a bit thickening the chocolate on the bottom to cover the sides of the cake. And then... the phone rings. It was my kids, wanting me to pick them up at the pony club. I was panic!

The journey will take around 20 minutes altogether from home to the Kaipo Flats and back. By then, my chocolate will be set! I grabbed the keys and drove away rather out of my comfort zone, keeping finger crossed that my chocolate won't be too hard to bend around the cake. As soon as the kids jumped in, I started to head home under their protests. I said, I have chocolate to rescue soon!

And so, I ran to the kitchen as soon as we arrived, did not even bother to lock the car. My chocolate was hardened and it was unlikely to bend it. But I tried anyway with all my might. It worked, thank goodness! I left the cake there while I did other chores.

I peeled the sheets off the chocolate and thought it might cracked. Yeah, it cracked the top one where the joined was. Oh well, it might not be a perfect cake in appearance but I am sure it tastes really good.

And it does!

We had a slice each after working in the garden.   

Happy Birthday, KBB!

Review: Membuat cake-nya saja ngga ribet sih, cuma saat bikin chocolate belt-nya ada masalah. Saat bikin chocolate belt aku musti jemput anak-anak dari klub berkuda, sampai takut nih chocolate bakal terlalu keras saat pulang. Tapi alhamdulillah, coklat masih bisa dikerjakan dan jadi santapan yang enak untuk afternoon tea atau desserts. 

July 31, 2014

Kurtos Kalacs: A Homemade Version

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First time I heard about kurtos kalacs is as KBB's latest challenge. I'm dared, and so I bake. I thought it was just like butter puff pastry and baked coiled around a certain mold such as creamed horn baking mold shaped like a trumpet. But, it's apparently a little different from it.

We do not need a specific mold to create that coiled tunnel-like shape. Our tool is just wooden-made or metal-made rolling pin, wrapped in tin foil and lined with baking paper. The pastry will be wrapped around it, a coil at a time along the pin.

This Hungarian favourite candy is very unique and I love baking it!

There is no difficulty in making this, except baking it. I know that Hungarians use a specific rotary oven to bake kurtoskalacs or use amber from a specialty open fire oven to achieve that lovely golden caramel colour.

Since, I don't have a rotary oven function and cannot be bothered with using our bbq pit, I just use our conventional oven with method suggested by the recipe we are using.

You can find the recipe at Kristy's blog here.

I have three rolling pins that I can use and they are all wooden. But one of them is too small, so I just use two of them. After wrap them in aluminium foil to avoid scorching them while baking, I line the foil with baking paper. I don't use a metal paper clip since ours are plastics, so I just use baking thread instead. It works well.

The ingredients are pantry- and fridge-friendly: bread flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, yeast, and cooking oil. Starting with mixing warm milk, sugar, and yeast together until it's starting to go frothy, we then mixing this mixture into the flour, eggs, and oil together. Knead well. We do not need to add any extra flour. We really don't want to get the dough too dense. The dough that I have got is rather supple although not too tacky. It feels right.

Like any other bakery item using yeast, we need time to let the dough rest for an hour to proof. I manage to squeeze in another chore to fulfill during the resting time.

I came back when the dough is doubled in size. Winter does not hold a yeasty dough to go chill, apparently, since we have a fireplace going a whole day which is heating up the rooms beautifully.

So here we go. With the various length of rolling pins I have, I use two wedges of the dough for the longest one and a wedge each on each end of the shortest one, which then gives me 3 small and 2 long baked kurtos kalacs.

First two trial and error, I use melted butter to brush the pastry before sprinkling the raw sugar on, and baked them on top of a roasting tin. The recipe suggested to brush the bread when it's half-baked, but when it brush off the sugar on it as well. So I thought of another thing to do.

For the next batches of bread, I brush the bread with melted butter, sprinkle the sugar thickly and flatten it a little bit to stick the sugar a bit further into the dough. It works well. As you can see from the photo below, that the sugar crystals stick properly on the bread although I have brushed melted honey on it as well.

I am very pleased with it. Yay! 

Ternyata ngga susah ya bikin roti gula-gula asal Hungaria ini. Yang repot memang cuma cara memanggangnya, tapi bisa kok dibikin di oven biasa seperti oven listrik saya. Nambah satu ilmu nih. Trims ya hosts.

May 13, 2014

Mother's Day: Vegan and Gluten-Free Almond Funfetti Cake

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I made this lovely Funfetti cake which happens to be vegan and gluten-free for my Mother's Day day. But then my children decided to present me some gifts they bought with their own money (they sell chickens, pullets, chicks and eggs from our farm) a day earlier, so we all enjoy this cake that very day. They are precious little darlings to me.

I am rather proud of being a mother. If I can say, it is the highest achievement in my life. 

Indeed there are neither trophies nor money to be earned by a full-time mother for her 24/7 works and dedication, but being with my children is such precious a trophy itself.

I am happy to be with my children as much time as possible, before eventually they believe they are grown up enough to leave the nest. Someone said to me 'Yeah, kids this age are growing like mad, and then they'll stop growing, and then it seems they are growing too slow to leave home". Oh well. I'm sure she did not mean what she said. At the moment, I am enjoying having them at home.

My children present liveliness in my life, sprinkling happiness in my heart which I will be holding a lot more time in the future. Our bonding is genuine and it feels wonderful.

This cake represents the rainbow dusts that they have been sprinkling to my life since they were born. All those colours that paint my path life, with them close in my heart, are designed to make me happy. And I am.

This year's Mother's Day is a day to commemorate our love and companionship throughout the years in much more understandings, since they are growing much bigger and much more aware of their surroundings to enable them to understand my existence for them and them for me.

I am thankful they are here in this world to brightening my life and make my life much more meaningful.

I was inspired by Sally's Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake  of Sally's Baking Addiction and I have to alter the recipe to be vegan and gluten-free version. Here is what I do.

First thing first, I am using Healtheries Gluten-Free Baking Mix which is available at the supermarkets and health food shops here in New Zealand. I use rice bran oil for the cake and have to use Olivani margarine for the 'buttercream' (despite of their unhealthy content, so they say--I cannot see if I can use coconut cream since it will take away the vanilla flavour in the cake). I also need to increase the use of leavening agents since vegan baking does not use any eggs, therefore more acid-alkaline ingredients to be used. I use lemon juice, freshly squeezed.

So here we are.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Almond Funfetti Cake
I use three 18cm cake tins for this recipe, spray with cooking oil and line the bases with baking paper.

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 cups caster sugar (NZ Chelsea Sugar company does not use bone char when process the sugar bleaching, so their products are all vegan, FYI--check their website if you like
2 cups almond milk + 2 teaspoons lemon juice, let stand for 5 minutes
1/3 cup rice bran oil
Egg replacer: 1 Tablespoon flaxseed powder + 3 Tablespoons water, mix well and let it be thicken
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups hundreds and thousands or other sprinkles

Preheat oven to 160C.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and fine salt. Add in almond meal, mix well.
Combine the soured milk, oil, egg replacer, vanilla extract and sugar together, whisk until smooth. Fold in mixed flour. Mix well. Add in sprinkles, mix well. Divide into three tins.
Bake for 20 minutes or until each cake is golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from tins, transfer to a cooling rack and peel off the baking paper. Let cool before icing.

Vanilla "Buttercream"
230g Olivani margarine (not the lite one, it is not vegan, so I was informed)
3-4 cups Chelsea icing sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Extra sprinkles to decorate

Beat the margarine until fluffy and smooth. Beat in the icing sugar a half cup of the time, until all used. Soften the icing with almond milk a little at a time until the desired spreading consistency. Add in vanilla extract, mix well. Use it for sandwiching and icing the cake. Sprinkle with extra 100s and 1000s or other sprinkles.

May 07, 2014

Sweet NZ: Healthy Vegan Cookies

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Nikki's Healthy Cookies

I first tried out Nikki's Healthy Cookies back in 2012, out of sheer curiosity. How can be a certain type of cookies filed under a 'healthy' group while others are 'not so'. What makes it different? 

It was beyond my expectation. 

Judging by the ingredients checklist, I was a bit skeptical on how I can produce a single cookie, without eggs as the filler or binder, or butter as the flavour enhancer. It must be some kind of magic tool to whip up some 'uncommon' ingredients to be a batch of cookies. I have never thought and then learned that butter and eggs are not everything. They can be left out and we still can eat cakes, cookies and even bread. 

Now, I was doubtful no more. It took me by surprise how delicious they can be. 

I am amazed how fruits, either dried or fresh, can be used as a substitute to sugar in baking, for there are adequate natural sugar in fruits anyway. They are modestly sweet. Impressive!

as shared on my IG @arfibinsted
You see, with a little training, we can always go back to use a natural sweetener. Taste the real thing. That fruits and vegetables have their own natural sugar. It's there for us to enjoy as is, without adding heaps more additional sweetness that tends to make us forget how it's supposed to be. Then, perhaps we will be living in an obese-free world.

This natural sweetener works like magic.

The cookies are sweet, sweet enough to my liking. But, perhaps you will expect them to be as crispy as a butter-and-sugar cookies, they are not. Mind you, there are no sugar crystal we are melting to harden the cookie structure here. These cookies are soft and chewy. They remind me of honey muesli slices although not as crunchy.

I am happy enough to revisit Nikki's Healthy Cookies again.

Healthy Cookies-1 (1 of 1)

And this time, I bake its similar cousin, 5-Ingredient Gluten-Free and Vegan Cookies. These gluten-free and vegan biscuits that Dana of the Minimalist Baker had produced in her kitchen will be my entry for Sweet New Zealand event, hosted by our very own lovely food blogger Sue Busch of Couscous and Consciousness. Hop on to Dana's blog to find the recipe and you might as well get more awesome recipes from her.

Healthy Cookies-2 (1 of 1)

I don't alter anything what the recipe calls for, accept using our local chocolate block, NZ's very own Whittaker's 75% Dark Ghana. Now, I have a doubt that this dark chocolate is vegan after all. I have searched some topics about vegan dark chocolate in NZ and some people said that Whittaker's Dark Ghana dark chocolate is accidentally vegan, but when I read the ingredients list, there it's said to have a trace of milk chocolate in it. So? I don't know. At least, I hope there's no animals to suffer in producing these blocks of chocolate. Maybe next time, I'll use Fair Trade 100% dark chocolate, just to make sure.