Friday, October 24, 2008

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

First and foremost, apologies for the crap picture. It was late at night and I was using my camera phone. The cupcakes look more like tarts to me... hmm.

Anyway. I made these cupcakes for the staff at Melton Health's Paediatric department to say thank you for accomadating me during my clinical placement. Cupcakes are a great way to say thank you because if they're good, people will remember you for life.

The trend nowadays is cupcakes but unfortunately while they may look nice, many a times they taste terrible because the icing is too sweet and the cake at the bottom is dry. Cupcakes are essentially CAKES and I am of the believe that you have to get the cake right first.

This is a recipe that I have tried many times and made it my own. It is cheap to make because it uses the most basic ingredients and most importantly, extremely easy to make. It's not rocket science.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting (makes 15-20 cupcakes)

150g butter (softened)
155g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g self-raising flour
80ml milk
195g pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-3 drops yellow liquid food colouring

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.

2. Using an electric beater/mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. I suggest that you do not take this step for granted and exert patience when creaming because it affects the quality of the cupcakes!

3. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until combined. When all the eggs are in, add in the vanilla essence and beat well.

4. Using a spatula, fold in the flour and milk alternately until combined. The mixture should not look lumpy but smooth and creamy. This step definitely takes more effort (read: sore shoulders) but again, more effort equals better results.

5. Spoon mixture evenly into the muffin cases. Because we've used self-raising flour, only scoop 1 heaped tablespoon of batter into one muffin case if not your cupcake is going to look... obscene. Make sure you try to level the batter with the back of your spoon so your cupcakes don't bake slanted!

6. Place the muffin tray into the oven for 15-20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool.

7. Only when the cupcakes are nearly cool do you start making the frosting (it hardens if left unattended). Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, gradually add the lemon juice, a few tablespoons of water, a few drops of colouring and stir with a spatula until a smooth paste forms. Taste the frosting and add more lemon juice or icing sugar (I personally like the frosting to be tangy). The frosting should not be watery and if it has become too watery, add some icing sugar (don't forget to taste again!). The paste should be almost butter-like where it can be easily spread on the cupcakes.

8. Spread the frosting evenly over the cupcakes using a butter knife. Set aside and allow the frosting to set.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Bag and Tag - Pork

Ever since watching Alton Brown's episode on pouch cooking, I've been experimenting with a few pouch configurations myself - starting with the timeless combination of pork and asparagus. You could of course use aluminum foil instead of greaseproof paper, but I think some acids react with aluminum, so if you do take care not to use acids like lemon.

Pork and Asparagus Pouch

1 pork chop, deboned
5 asparagus spears
3 lemon slices
2 tbsp chopped spring onions
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp stock (home made preferred, of course) or water
1 tbsp oil

Special Equipment:
Toaster or Microwave oven
Oven tray
Greaeproof paper - make sure it's oven and microwave safe!

1. Preheat toaster oven (if needed). Tear out a square of greaseproof paper twice as big as your oven tray. Fold in half.

2. On one half of the paper, lay out asparagus, topped with pork which has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour on liquid seasonings (soy sauce, oil and stock) over pork and asparagus before covering with lemon slices and spring onion.

3. Fold other half of paper to form a pouch (see image), fold the sides and staple shut - but not airtight. Or, if you don't have a stapler like me, just crimp the sides as best you can. It's won't be an airtight seal, but that's ok.

4. Bake in the toaster for 12 min, or in a microwave for 10 min. Remove from oven, let it sit for 5 minutes (and relish the wonderful smell), cut open the pouch and enjoy. Watch out for hot steam!

Cost Breakdown:
Total Cost: approx RM5++ - a little pricey, but well worth it!
Pork chop RM2
Asparagus RM2
Lemon RM0.50

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dough-boy speaks

Hi everyone, I must say I have been away for quite a long while.
Updated my profile and I'm making a comeback with more budget meals.

I have been experimenting on quite a number of dishes which includes Sayur Lodeh, Salt n Pepper Chicken Ribs (to give Rose Garden Melb a run for their money, as if)
Vietnamese Pho and on Bun Bo Hue after my exams.
Some of these are more of a challenge, because the time and accuracy to tastes can be rather complex.
But of course there are the upcoming budget meals from me.
I will show you some of the quickest healthy lunches which I prep to have at the office.

currently 17Deg

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Easy Carbonara

I was getting tired of the tomato based sauces that I usually cooked, and besides, I didn't have any tomatoes on hand.

Easy carbonara
1 serve pasta, see cooking instructions below
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp milk
1 broccoli stem, sliced thin on the oblique
salt and pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions but remove from heat 2 min before recommende preparation time.

2. While pasta is cooking off the boil, heat butter in saucepan and stir-fry broccoli stems.

3. Set heat to low. Add milk, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain pasta and add to pan. Add yolk and mix until sauce is thickened. Serve hot.

Waitaminit... what am I going to do with the egg white, you ask? That's another recipe... so freeze it until you're ready to use it again.

Cost breakdown
Total cost: RM2.80
Pasta RM1
Milk RM0.50
Egg RM0.30
Broccoli RM1


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

McBBQ Sauce

Most people dig the fries at McDonalds; me, I dig the barbecue sauce. For a while I thought it was a queer obsession until I realised I was not alone (See here). Attempts to replicate the sauce called for the mixture of two specific sauces, which means you can't do it outside of the US. So I decided to do some trial and error and come up with a decent facsimile using everyday raw ingredients.

McDonald's Barbecue Sauce, version n.
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp soy
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp worster
4 tbsp sugar

1. Whisk all there ingredients together. Use as a dip for nuggets or some fried chicken.

(No cost breakdown for this - it's cobbled from ingredients that I already had in my pantry)

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