April 17, 2014

Isa's Punklicious Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

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Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-3 (1 of 1)

Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes are surely awesome. They taste punklicious even without eggs and dairy products. They also keep moist at room temperature for two days (well, that's how long the cupcakes last at this household). You can hear the crunch of vanilla beans every time you take a bite. It's impressive.

I make them gluten-free as well, so that is a bonus.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-1 (1 of 1)

I am sending these cupcakes to Marnelli of Sweets and Brains for Sweet New Zealand event she's organizing this month. 

So here's what I do with Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Ganache.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cupcakes-2 (1 of 1)

Isa's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Ganache
by Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen

I substitute all purpose flour with gluten-free flours mixed with almond meal so it will be safe for me and my children, since we are gluten intolerance. I also reduce the sweetness of the cupcakes and use the ganache to be the filling instead of using it as the frosting. 

Cupcakes Batter
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (I use rice milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (I use 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (my gluten-free modified version)
2 tablespoon cornflour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder (I use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use 1/4 teaspoon)
1/3 cup canola oil (I use rice bran oil)
3/4 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup homemade vanilla sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped

1/3 cup amond milk
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I use Whittaker's 72% Dark Ghana, chopped coarsely)
2 tablespoon maple syrup (I use honey)

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line 12 hole muffin tins with cupcake papers. Isa sprays her cupcake liners but I just leave them as they are. Put the milk and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk well. Set aside.

Combine and sift all the flours, baking powder, baking soda, Xanthan Gum and salt in a mixing bowl. Add in almond meal and mix well.

Measure the sugar and mix in the vanilla seeds. I use my hands to blend the seeds into the sugar so they will be incorporated well. Mix it into the combined flours.

Put oil into the combined milk and lemon juice, mix well. Make a well in the mixed flours, almond meal and sugar. Pour the combined oil, milk and lemon juice into it, mix well. There won't be any lump. The mixture should be like pancake batter although mine is a bit thicker.

Spoon a little batter at a time on the bottom of each cupcake papers. Spoon in the firm ganache in the middle of each cupcake, then top with the rest of the cupcake batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. 

Bring the milk to boil in a small saucepan, lower to simmer. Add in the chopped chocolate and honey. I just take the saucepan off the stove as soon as I see the chopped chocolate has started to soften and mix the mixture thoroughly with a little balloon whisk until smooth. Leave this ganache in the fridge overnight before I make the cupcakes the next day. Roll the cold ganache into balls and put them in the centre of each cupcakes.

March 27, 2014

Getting Doughy with Tangzhong Starter

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Green Tea and Aduki Bean Paste Swirl Bread
When I met Alli of Pease Pudding on one of Helene Dujardin's workshop in New Zealand, we were talking about sourdough bread that will be her bakery's hero. The sourdough starter is told to be at least 25 years old and is still being used up to this day. Isn't it amazing?

Sourdough seed culture, phase 3. #bread #food

I used to make my own sourdough starter and kept it at the back of our fridge until it was ready to use and re-feed. I loved baking batches of sourdough bread and was proud of myself. The skin was crusty and the texture was lovely. Every batch produced wheaten vapour aroma that spread all over my kitchen and perhaps escaped far and wide to touch our neighbour's sense of smell. No one reported casual damage though, mind you.

classic sourdough bread
classic sourdough bread

Unfortunately, I don't keep that starter anymore when I have found out that I am allergic to wheat and its products. So sad to be parted with the starter that I have used for 2 or more years. So I gave away the starter to a good friend. Hopefully she could keep it and be a part of her. But lately, I found out that she spoiled the starter and had to throw it out of her fridge. Tragic.

However, every now and then I still bake bread. I can't tell you how I missed it. I missed the aroma of a freshly baked bread which can be enticing and pleasurable although I am more a rice person than that of those who cannot live without bread. I sometimes 'treat' myself gluten-rich in moderation, so not to worry.

I've been baking batches of bread lately. Not a sourdough one though.

Hokkaido Milk Bread

I made batches of Hokkaido Milk Bread these days since I am amazed how fluffy and cotton-soft the texture is. It reminds me of those loaves of bread or chocolate filled buns that I often ate when I was little, came warm from a local bakery.

I adapted Christine's Recipe and made assorted bread from it.

The good this of it is that it won't go stale up to 3 days, IF you are doing it right. Pay attention to and do the exact measurement will reduce failure, I guess.

I made batches of them, from a plain loaf, green tea or buns filled with desired filling. 

I even made cheese bread, which I don't often do. I was curious with what's so special about cheese bread that my Indonesian friends back home are so raving over it. Perhaps, I am not only a bread person, but also not a cheese one either. It does not give me excitement to match cheese with bread, unless it is sandwiched and grilled.

Cheese Bread

Lately, I quite like to try to make green tea bread, so I give it a shot. 

Making my own experiment by using green tea powder in half of the dough and leaving the other half plain, I thought I'll make it braided, like Chocolate Cinnamon Babka

Green Tea and Aduki Bean Paste Swirld Bread

I expected the bread will rise higher, but then again I did not use a bread pan to support it. The aduki beans filling is also rather dense for the sponge to rise up during proofing and baking. But I quite happy with the outcome.

So, have you baked bread today?

March 25, 2014

Play with Lights: Food Photography Workshop with Helene Dujardin

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Auckland's weather was gorgeous yesterday afternoon and I was so excited to be able to meet Helene Dujardin at one of her food photography workshops in Auckland, New Zealand.

One important thing I got from the workshop is to play with the lights. Lights can convey different messages on photos if we direct them to what we are going to deliver. Different light setting will give a different message, look, and feel.

Take a look at the sample photo I took during the session. This photo below was taken without any intention to direct lights. The lights spread and come from any direction, including behind me (I was on the other side of the room), but the main light comes from the front.

Notice where the lights paint on this shoot. And compare with these two other photos below.

Can you see it? Can you feel the differences? 

If you can, congratulations. Go on ahead and keep it up at it. If you cannot, then you need to play around with your lighting once, second, third, zillion times more, if you can, to understand it, to get the feel of it, to be able to create different stories or messages. It might sound difficult, but it's not. Go get your black cards and start directing your lights to get different mood. It's all about creativity and imagination. Wake up, get up, and start kicking around. You'll get there eventually.

For me, this is a wake up call. Photographing is not only composition, beautiful styling and excellent props, but also giving messages to the audience through directed lighting. If your lighting is flat, your photo won't look interesting. 

It was a very lovely and important workshop for me. Now I can see clearly where I am going from this on.

I also had a great time catching up with my ladyfriends yesterday, and met Nicola Galloway of Homegrown Kitchen who runs cooking workshop in Nelson and Rebecca Oliver. Here are some photos that I took from my iPhone.

Ponsonby Central, 6 Brown Street,
Ponsonby, Auckland, NZ

Waikanae crab omelette with morsels at Toru Cafe.
The best omelette I've ever tasted.

Toru Cafe
Ponsonby Central, Auckland
Photos I manage to snapshot through iPhone during workshop.

As well as with Helene, I also had a good catch-up with Allison of Pease Pudding.
Pssttt...Alli is going to open her own bakery this coming April.
Come and see her in Kumeu, Auckland!

And more food and drink afterwards with good friends. Thank you Carmella and Boon, Danti and Yessy!

Foxtrot Parlour at Ponsonby Central,
Ponsonby, Auckland

This cappuccino is excellent. Frothy, creamy, and the coffee was excellent!
at Foxtrot Parlour,
Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby

Non-alcohol cocktail "Cherry Bomb"
At Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Antipasto Misto
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Baked whole snapper, Risotti ai Gamberi, and Polenta Cakes
Polenta Cakes were awesome, crispy outside and creamy soft inside. We love them!
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Short Espresso was super excellent! Strong, thick, and fresh.
at Prego Cafe and Restaurant
Ponsonby, Auckland

Goodie bag from Nourish Magazine
Thank you, Vicki!

My companies for the evening: Carmella and partner Boon-Li.
Thanks you two! X.

A lovely catch up with Danti and Yessy
at Toru Cafe
Ponsonby Central, Ponsonby
Till we meet again!

February 17, 2014

Sambal Tempeh: An Indonesian Favourite

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Sambal Tempeh is one of many Indonesian dish we love. We like its texture and its flavour combination. We like it either thinly sliced, julienne, or cubed. We like it hot with loads of chilies, sweet and sour with the acidity of homegrown tomatoes, or dark and sticky with drizzled of kecap manis.

We like it in many ways, because tempeh is a versatile soy cake.

Tempeh has been a missing ingredient in my kitchen for years, since I could not find where to locate shops which sell tempeh starter. Unless we are back holidaying in Bali, we have not eaten tempeh anymore.

Since Tonzu's organic tempeh seems to stop coming onto shelves at our local supermarket, I decided to home-produce tempeh myself, just to supply our household and to be there when we need it.

So, I phoned order Tofu Shop in North Shore, Auckland one day to send me the original tempeh starter, coming directly from Indonesia. I found split soy beans at our local Asian groceries shop and that is marvelous, given that I don't have to hull and split them myself.

I soaked the beans overnight and started to cook them the next day. Drained and placed them on top of a large serving tray lined with paper to absorb more water. I let them dry, until they were completely dry. I stirred them every now and then, to make sure that there is no excess water trapped in between layers of beans.

When they were dry, I spooned over them the tempeh starter, and then mixed them thoroughly. It is said that you have to mix the starter well into the soy beans. This is to make sure the rhizopus spread evenly in between layers, top and around the cakes, so you will have beautiful tempeh structure.

This tempeh making is not my first try. It was back in 2008 I first tried to make tempeh. I used grape leaves to wrap the tempeh, which was rather not disappointing. 

I was trying to replicate my late grandmother's used of teak leaves when she produced tempeh to sell at the local market. At that time, banana leaves were hard to find, even at our local Asian groceries shop. I had to think of something else. Just because our grape leaves were lush and green, I thought I could use them. I still think that banana leaves are the greatest leaves to wrap tempeh though. They make tempeh smells so distantly, part mushy because of the rhizopus, part greenish, you know, like fresh air after the rain. I really can't find the right word for it.

This time, I just use ziplock bags, because they are simply handy. Just remember though, when making tempeh not to forget to punch your wraps or bags with a toothpick or something similar size, so your rhizopus will be able to breathe happily. Otherwise, your tempeh will become a wet soy bean cakes with aroma you don't want to smell, ever.

So I made 1 big tempeh in a big size ziplock bag, and 4 small size ones. I froze the small ones and use the big one to fill in the time we've been missing out.

I made Sambal Tempe to start the feast with. Here's what I do.

Sambal Tempe

Tempeh Marinade
500g tempeh blocks
2 cloves garlic minced with 1 tsp salt
a little water
oil for shallow frying

Sambal Tempe
5 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 red chilies, thinly sliced
5 green chilies, thinly sliced
3 red bird chilies, thinly sliced
1 cm galangal, sliced
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp dry shrimp paste
200 ml water
2 Tbs kecap manis
salt and sugar to correct the seasoning
a little oil for cooking

Tempeh Marinade
Sliced tempeh thinly.
Mix minced garlic with salt and a little water. Combine garlic paste with tempeh and set aside for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Take tempeh slices, drain excess water on an absorbent paper, and then fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Sambal Tempeh
Heat the oil in a frying pan, large enough to fit in all the cooked tempeh. Cook all the chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, bay leaf, and shrimp paste until fragrant and soften. 

Meanwhile, combine tamarind paste and water, squeeze the tamarind until all the juices are mixed with water. Discard the solid tamarind pulp. Add this mixed tamarind juice and water into the fragrant chilies mixture. Mix well. 

Correct the seasoning with salt and sugar. Cook until slightly thicken, then stir in the cooked tempeh slices. Mix well. Drizzle in kecap manis. Stir well and keep cooking until it's rather sticky. Remove from the stove and serve immediately with warm jasmine rice and steamed greens. Enough for 6-8.

January 20, 2014

Asinan Jakarta

Asinan Jakarta is simply a vegetable salad with sweet and sour dressing, which is very popular in the capital city of Indonesia, and is widely sold almost in any corner of local suburbs. Whether it is offered as street food, served at traditional warung (food stall) or even restaurants, Asinan Jakarta is very refreshing and delicious. 

There are options available for choosing which vegetables to go with the dressing, but using fresh vegetables will make a huge different. I'm pretty lucky to have a large garden and have time to manage and grow our own vegetables, so my option is to use whatever I have in the garden, freshly picked.

I have mustard cabbage in my garden, so I brined them last night. This is to substitute the salted cabbage required in the recipe. I also use our organic carrots, chillies, cucumber, cabbage, chives, and kale sprouts to add an interesting crunch. 

I use Pak William's recipe on ACMI website (http://acmi-indonesia.org/masakans/view/1/Asinan%20Jakarta#.UtxTaH_XeSN). Pak William W. Wongso is an Indonesian culinary expert whom I have admired for such a long time. Luckily, Facebook is able to bring our distance closer, so we can occassionally have a 'chat' about Indonesian food. 

ACMI is the shortened of Aku Cinta Masakan Indonesia (I Love Indonesian Cooking/Food) which provides information on wide variety of Indonesian food. If you only know beef rendang or sate ayam to be Indonesian food, then you only know too little. Think about this, Indonesia has thousands of islands and each island has its own culinary uniqueness which I don't think I will be able to taste them all in 10 years to come!

There are many Indonesian food I don't recognize or never have eaten before, including Asinan Jakarta. I've been to Jakarta many times and lived in Depok for quite sometime but I have never ever eaten or made Asinan. When Pak William posted a bowl of Rujak Aceh Noodle on his Facebook, I was involved in a short conversation with him about it which led me to my kitchen and made Asinan Jakarta instead of Rujak Aceh. Rujak Aceh needs certain type of mangoes, which is called Kweni or Kueni--the most scented variety ones, and it is impossible to get it in New Zealand.

So, yes Asinan Jakarta it is.

I have never had this flavour combination in salad before. Eveything tastes really beautiful and fresh and exotic and WOW. The dressing enlivens the dead saliva after too much greasy meals, and Pak William's suggestion to have this Asinan as an appetizer will be a wonderful experience.

What's more can I ask? The vegetables are crunchy, the dressing delivers pleasing sensation accompanying every bite, making it not just an accessory on the plate. In fact, the dressing acts as the super star in this matter. 

I think this is what Ayurveda wisom of life Deepak Copra ever mentioned in his cookbook [The Chopra Centre Cookbook]:
"Ayurveda suggests that a little sweetness adds delight to life, whereas too much can be cloying. A touch of sour adds interest, but too much makes us grimace. A little salt provides endurance but too much raises our blood pressure. Bitterness, pungency and astringency add spice and complexity to life, but too much may cause us ro feel irritable, resentful and withdrawn. The flavours of life in the right proportion add richness to both our food and our experience".

That's it. This salad confirms those statement. Trust me. 

Asinan Jakarta
By ACMI (www.acmi-indonesia.org)

I must omit centella asiatica leaves since I haven't got them in my garden, and had to make my own brined cabbage using mustard cabbage the night before I made this. 

200 gr tofu, cubed 1 x 1 x 2 cm
100 gr cabbage, thinly sliced about 1 cm
150 gr bean sprouts, trimmed
200 gr  brined cabbage, washed, drained and sliced 2 cm
150 gr  cucumber, sliced ½ cm
150 gr  carrots, grated coarsely
100 gr chive bulbs, trimmed 
50 gr  centella asiatica, trimmed, optional (I used kale microgreens, instead)

Asinan Dressing: grind all of these ingredients to make paste, except vinegar

3 to 4 red chillies or red bird chillies, 
1  Tbs dried shrimps, soaked in hot water,
5 Tbs  roasted/fried peanuts
300 g sugar
3 to 4 tsps salt
1000 cc boiled water
3 tsp vinegar 

150 gr roasted/fried peanuts
7 to 8 noodle crackers
8 Tbs palm sugar syrup (it's palm sugar and water, cooked and cooled)


  1. Clean and trim all the vegetables.
  2. Asinan Dressing : cook all the ingredients until boiled through, removed from the stove. Cooled, and then pour in the vinegar. Mix well.
  3. Arrange vegetables on a plate, bowl or other container, pour the dressing over. Keep in the fridge to let them settle for a while, about half day.
  4. Remove from the fridge and served sprinkled with peanuts, crackers, and palm sugar syrup.