Kee chang / Alkaline rice dumplings

The Dragon Boat Festival is something I look forward to every year, for two reasons. One – it means summer has ‘officially’ begun. And more importantly – it means it is chang/zong zi (粽子) season.

I previously made bak chang (肉粽), and in that post I said I would have to learn how to make the sweet version: kee chang / jianshui zong (碱水粽) / alkaline dumplings… and I have! For those of you who have not heard about these little morsels, they are eaten as a sweet snack or dessert. They get their name because the glutinous rice is pre-treated with alkaline/lye water, which gives the rice its distinctive yellow colour. They often do not contain any fillings, and are eaten with a sugar syrup or kaya (Malaysian coconut jam).

kee chang 2

kee chang 3

I genuinely did not know how this was going to go, as I did not have a proper recipe to follow. Thankfully, they turned out reasonably well. I would do a few things differently next time though:
– Boil for 1.5-2 hours (I only boiled them for 1 hour and the rice was a not ‘mushy’ enough for my liking)
– Leave the rice for 60 mins at most (I left them for 3 hours and they had a very slight bitter aftertaste)
I’ve tweaked the recipe accordingly to reflect these changes.

The next ‘chang’ I’ll have to make will be the Nonya bak chang / Nonya zong (娘惹粽) – which is filled with pork, candied winter melon and peanuts. Watch this space!

kee chang 1

Kee chang / Alkaline dumplings
Makes 10-12 dumplings

For the kee chang:
– 200g glutinous rice
– 1/2 tbsp alkaline water
– 20 fresh, young bamboo leaves
– Cooking string/hemp leaves

The day before:
1. Wash glutinous rice until the water runs clear. Place rice in a tub, cover with water, and leave to soak overnight.
2. Wash the bamboo leaves, and leave to soak overnight.

On the day:
3. Drain the glutinous rice.
4. Add the alkaline water, and stir this through the rice. Leave aside for 30 min.
5. Whilst waiting for the alkaline water to permeate the rice, drain the water from the bamboo leaves. Pat the leaves dry with a cloth – it doesn’t matter if they are still slightly wet.
6. Select two leaves, and place them in opposite directions (i.e. the tail end of one lining up with the top end of the other). Do not use any leaves which already have holes in them, as they will cause water to seep into the bak chang during the cooking process.
7. Form leaves into a cone.
8. Fill the cone with the glutinous rice, until you reach the brim of the cone.
9. Fold the leaves around the pouch, and secure with cooking string/hemp leaves.
10. Boil water in a heavy based pot. When the water comes to a boil, gently lower the kee changs into the water. Make sure all the changs are completely submerged in water. Cover the pot with a lid, and cook over medium heat for 1.5-2 hours hours. (* I only boiled them for 1 hour, and think they would benefit from a longer cooking time to make the rice softer).
11. Leave to cool, and serve with palm sugar syrup.

For the palm sugar syrup:
– 200g gula melaka (palm sugar)
– 200ml water
– 2 pandan leaves

1. Place the palm sugar, water and pandan leaves in a pan.
2. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes until the syrup thickens.
3. Strain and leave to cool.
4. Serve with kee changs, and enjoy! (This syrup also works well with ice cream and yogurt)

kee chang 4

Straight Up yogurt beetroot cupcakes

Yogurt is a great thing. You can eat it plain, you can use it in baking, savoury dishes, smoothies… the possibilities are endless. I’ve always loved yogurts from The Collective (as evidenced by my large collection of their yogurt tubs – which, by the way, make for excellent storage containers). So it’s not a surprise that I was excited to hear about their newest product Straight Up a natural, unsweetened yogurt with no added sugar, sweeteners, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Straight Up Produced using the best West Country milk, it is uniquely luxurious, thick and creamy with a velvety smooth texture, making it a live yoghurt like no other. Because it is packed full with probiotics, it has a very clean, tangy taste – I personally found it a little too sharp, but it’s nothing that a squeeze of brown rice syrup can’t fix! I wish I could have taken proper photos of the yogurt and my baking experiments, but my dSLR camera recently broke (to be more specific, the mirror broke) when we were on holiday, and I need to figure out if it is worth getting it replaced – or it might be time for an upgrade. I am just very grateful for camera phones. They will never replace a proper camera, but at least it’s better than nothing. So, what did I make? I decided to bake some beetroot cupcakes. Yes, I know. It’s a vegetable. But do not scoff, as it is actually a wonderful ingredient and works beautifully well in baked treats. beetroot yogurt cupcake 1 I was a little nervous to find out if Straight Up would work in this recipe, but I shouldn’t have. It worked beautifully, resulting in a moist cupcake with a tender crumb. The only downside of Straight Up is you have to finish the whole tub within a few days, as  the yogurt does not contain any preservatives. I had a small amount of yogurt left over, and it sadly went a little off. So my advice to you is to eat it all, and not practise the ‘let’s just leave some for later’ policy. Beetroot & yogurt cupcakes Makes 24 small-ish cupcakes, or 15 medium cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup beetroot puree *
  • 1 cup Straight Up yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour (you may use normal all-purpose flour if you wish)
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)

1. Preheat your oven to 180’C.
2. Sieve the brown rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the ground almonds and poppy seeds to the same bowl. I usually don’t sieve my ground almonds, because they usually aren’t ground finely enough to easily pass through the sieve.
3. Add the beetroot puree, egg, sugar, yogurt and corn oil into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment, until it forms a nice smooth paste (this should take only 1-2 minutes). You can also do this with a handheld whisk or a spatula if you don’t want to use/don’t have a stand mixer.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet beetroot mix. Mix until the batter is just combined.
6. Scoop the batter into cupcake tins.
7. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes until cooked. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes should come out clean.
8. Leave to cool slightly on wire racks, then eat!

* I usually use pre-cooked beetroot, and whizz this to form a puree. You can always cook it from scratch, but it is often difficult to find fresh beetroot. Remember to buy plain unflavoured cooked beetroot, and not those which are pre-seasoned with vinegar.

Disclosure: I was sent samples of Straight Up for review purposes, but all opinions expressed above are my own.

Roasted banana sorbet

The weather in London has been very good indeed over the weekend. Sun, blue skies, and proper heat. Now for a little confession: whilst I love the sun and the blue skies, I’m not so much a fan of the heat that comes along with it. I flap at the thought of humidity/heat, and cannot bear the thought of life without the fan/airconditioning.

My British friends always find it odd that I can’t take the heat (I did grow up in a tropical ‘always summer’ country after all).. to which I respond: ‘We move from air conditioned house, to air conditioned car, to air conditioned building’. Though come to think of it we had no air conditioning in school, and we sometimes even wore baju kurung. Thinking back, I have no idea how on earth I managed that.

One of the ways I deal with the heat is by eating copious amounts of frozen desserts – ice cream, sorbet, gelato, granita… I’ll take them all, thank you very much. I used to stock my freezer with many tubs of store bought ice cream, but ever since I got my ice cream maker I prefer to make my own. Because let’s face it, I can’t walk into Waitrose and get Milo ice cream now can I?

I saw this recipe for roasted banana sorbet in the Eleven Madison Park cookbook, and was quite intrigued. For those of you who don’t know, Eleven Madison Park is a 3 Michelin star restaurant in New York, and is currently No 10 on the Worlds Top 50 restaurants. It is also one of my favourite restaurants, ever. I’d cooked a couple of pork dishes from the book prior to this which turned out well, so thought I’d give their sorbet recipe a try.

This turned out rather well, but because there wasn’t any cream/milk/butter/egg yolks in it the sorbet wasn’t super creamy like how ice cream/gelato is. I actually liked this, because it made it very light and refreshing. The flavour of banana is also intensified from the roasting.. in fact it reminded me of goreng pisang (deep fried battered bananas, a Malaysian snack).

What I might experiment with next time is to use milk in place of the water – I suspect this would make it slightly creamier, without needing to use cream or egg yolks. And maybe add a dash of condensed milk. Hmmmmm.

Photo taken with instagram

I topped the ice cream with some crushed peanut & sesame brittle – because I always need a little crunch to go with everything I eat. I’m obsessed with texture!

Do try this recipe out if you’re feeling a little hot and bothered, and feel like you need to cool down. It works, really! 🙂

Ah, the difficulties of photographing frozen desserts in warm weather…

Roasted banana sorbet
Adapted from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook
Makes 2 cups

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup sugar (you may need more or less, depending on how sweet your bananas are)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Place the unpeeled bananas on a parchment lined baking tray, and roast until the skins turn brown and the juices have run out. This should take approximately 20-30minutes.
2. Peel the bananas. Place bananas in a large bowl, and add the water, sugar and salt.
3. Puree the banana mixture using a hand held blender, or food processor. If you wish, you can strain the mixture to ensure it is smooth. I choose not to do this as I like small banana chunks in my sorbet.
4. Add the lemon juice to the banana mixture. You may add less lemon juice if you prefer a sweeter sorbet.
5. Chill the banana mixture in the fridge for 3-4 hours, until it is thoroughly chilled.
6. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturers instructions.

Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts (with a chocolate glaze!)

When looking through my previous posts, I realised that I’ve never blogged anything Valentine’s Day themed before… so I am here now to rectify this. Most Valentine’s themed desserts nowadays usually have one (if not both) of chocolate, or red velvet. I did toy with the idea of making something like a chocolate fondant (I made these for Valentine’s a few years ago and loved them), but decided to make something I’d never done before instead.

So… I decided to make mini doughnuts, partly because I had a 6 month old mini doughnut tin which had yet to be used. Tin, you say? Why yes. These are baked doughnuts, you see. I doubt I would ever make ‘proper’ deep fried doughnuts, because the amount of oil needed and the subsequent oily kitchen floor really is not something I want to deal with. But baked ones – yes please! [P.S. I LOVE fried doughnuts, I just don’t love making them myself.]

There were a number of different recipes around, some with ‘cake like’ ingredients (i.e. without yeast), and some with ‘bread like’ ingredients (i.e. with yeast). Because I haven’t made these before, I decided to go with a recipe from Heather of Sprinkle Bakes – I’ve tried a few of her recipes before and they’ve turned out well, so I knew I could trust her recipe.

I initially planned on making vanilla doughnuts, but changed my mind at the last minute and went for vanilla and matcha instead. What can I say, I’m fickle. I’m really glad I added in the matcha though, as it added a lovely flavour to the teeny little doughnuts. Plus, if there is matcha in these, they qualify as health food… right? 😛


Doughnut tic-tac-toe, anyone? 😉

These doughnuts turned out really well, and I had a lot of fun decorating them with sprinkles! The decorating actually took longer than the actual baking of the doughnuts, believe it or not. It’s a testament to my pure OCD-esque-ism. They taste best on the day of baking, but become slightly hard the next day. I discovered a little trick to re-soften the doughnuts though: zing the doughnut(s) on HIGH for 10 seconds in the microwave… and voila! Slightly warm, soft doughnut with a melty chocolate glaze. Total win/win situation. In fact, this is what I always do with my beloved Krispy Kreme doughnuts – they just taste so much better warm!

Whilst these aren’t your typical Valentine’s dessert, I can assure you they are the perfect sweet treat for a “pick me up”. And even if you don’t really celebrate it – who needs a reason to eat mini doughnuts?

Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts
Adapted from this recipe on Sprinkle Bakes
Makes approximately 36 mini doughnuts

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (use 1/3 cup if you prefer a sweeter doughnut)
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 100g milk or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • sprinkles of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 210°C. Oil your doughnut tin with oil or melted butter (or cooking spray, if you have it).
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl), sift together the flour, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste (if using) and butter to the mixing bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium high speed, until the ingredients are just combined.
4. Fill doughnut batter into a piping bag, and pipe the dough into the doughnut tin cavities. Don’t overfill the tin, as the doughnuts will puff up and look more like muffins than doughnuts – aim to fill to just under 3/4 its capacity. Alternatively, you can try spooning in the batter, but piping it is much easier (and neater!).
5. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched with your finger. Let cool in pan for 2-3 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
6. Whilst the doughnuts are cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave.
7. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the melted chocolate, and top with sprinkles. Repeat. Then eat! (If you find that your chocolate is too thick, add 1-2 tbsp of milk to the chocolate which will help to make it a little more liquid and dip-able.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! And regardless of whether or not you plan to celebrate it, remember that there is ALWAYS a reason to eat some chocolate. Or cake. Or mini doughnuts.

Pierre Herme chocolate raspberry mini tarts

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that I’ve got a slight raspberry obsession. I’m not sure what it is that makes me love it so… but truth be told, there is very little to not like about its vibrant red hue and ease of being eaten (they’re bitesize!). Or maybe it’s just because I never ate much of it growing up – my childhood was predominantly filled with more ‘tropical’ fruits like rambutans, dukungs, mangoesteens and durians (all of which I miss terribly).

At any rate, I always find it hard to resist any desserts that features raspberries. In fact, I actually add raspberries to most of the things I make, even when the recipe does not call for it. It’s all about evolution. 😉

So when I saw these chocolate raspberry tarts on Ju’s blog, I was instantly hooked. Chocolate? Tick. Raspberries? Tick. Pierre Herme? Double tick! I made these tarts almost a year ago, but I still remember what they taste like, as if I was eating it yesterday. Which doesn’t often happen, let me tell you!

The tart base was excellent, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best recipes I’ve encountered (so far) for a sweet pastry base. It was a perfect balance of crumbly and crunchy, and to be honest I think I could eat the pastry cases on its own and be one very happy person. Like Ju, I also made tartelettes (the original recipe makes for one large tart) – because in my world, mini tarts are always better. Not only do they look more dainty, but it also gives you the illusion that you are allowed to eat more of it in one sitting. Total win win situation, no?

One extra thing I did was to pour some melted chocolate on the tops of the tarts after they’d been baked. This was because I wanted the raspberries to be stuck on firmly onto each tart, as I was planning to bring some to work the next day and didn’t want rapsberries to be flying around in my container! And I’m glad I did, because the melted chocolate gave the tarts an extra texture, as well as adding a nice sheen to the top of the tarts. I’m all about shiny things, evidently.

I also made some custard tarts with the extra tart dough, but found that the tart shells browned a little too much in my attempt to get the characteristic ‘burned spots’ on the custard. Thankfully it didn’t alter the taste of the tart shells too much, but I think I might have to adjust my cooking times/oven temperature if I was to use this pastry dough for custard tarts again.

But yes – try this recipe out if you’re in the mood for some tarts. Whilst the recipe for the filling was good (but nothing outstanding), the recipe for the tart dough is fantastic, and is most definitely worth a try!

Chocolate raspberry tartelettes
From Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, first seen on The Little Teochew

For the sweet tart dough
* Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking

  • 285g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 490g all-purpose flour

1. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed setting, until it turns creamy.
2. Add the sugar, ground almonds, salt, vanilla and eggs, beating it (on low speed) until it is combined. The dough may look curdled, but it’s alright – so don’t panic!
3. Add the flour in three or four additions, and mix (still on low speed) until the mixture just comes together to form a soft, moist dough. Take care to not overmix.
4. Gather the dough into a ball, and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in clingfilm. (As I was making mini tarts, I divided my dough into 6 portions. This meant that my dough would stay cold for as long as possible.)
5. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. *At this point, the dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.
6. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to a thickness of between 2-4mm, lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and dough are amply floured at all times. One trick I’ve picked up from all those hours watching the food channel: it’s easier (and less messy) to roll out the dough between two pieces of clingfilm. Just remember to lift up the top sheet of clingfilm from time to time, to ensure the clingfilm doesn’t crease and cause tiny crease indentations in your dough.
7.  Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, and cut off the excess. Prick the dough all over with a fork, and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (If you’re making mini tarts, you can easily pick up rounds of dough without needing to use a rolling pin to help you.)
8. To bake the crusts, preheat the oven to 180°C. Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans/rice/baking beans, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until it is very lightly coloured. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool. (I baked my mini tart shells for approximately 15 minutes. My advice is to constantly check to ensure you don’t overbake them.)

For the filling:

  • 55g (1/2 cup) raspberries
  • 145g bittersweet chocolate
  • 115g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature, stirred with a fork
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
2. Fill the tart crust with the raspberries. (I used 2 raspberries for my mini tarts, how much you put into each case depends on the size of your tins.)
3. Break the chocolate up into small pieces, and melt it over a bain marie (i..e in a bowl, over simmering water). Do the same for the butter, but in a seperate bowl. Allow both the butter and chocolate to cool until they are just warm to touch (approximately 60°C).
4. Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the egg into the chocolate, stirring gently in ever-widening circles. Take care to not agitate the mixture – you don’t want to beat air into the ganache.
5. Little by little, stir in the egg yolks, then the sugar.
6. Finally, still working gently, stir in the warm melted butter.
7. Pour the ganache over the raspberries in the prebaked tart shell(s).
8. Bake the batter for 11 minutes (5-8 minutes for mini tarts), until the top of the tart turns dull, like the top of a cake. The center of the tart should be wobbly if jiggled (it will firm up, don’t worry!). Remove the tart from the oven, slide it onto a rack, and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. (If you wish, you can drizzle more melted chocolate on the tart(s), and top with even more raspberries.)