Saturday, November 24, 2012

Make-ahead Bread Rolls

I am grateful that in the past decade, I have never had to cook the Thanksgiving meal, thanks to the hopsitality of my friends who have always slaved in the kitchen cooking up a sumptious feast with home-made everything - from Turkey to the cranberry sauce to sides and pie.

Whereas, I walk in with something store bought. No shame in that though I do feel like the least I can do is to attempt something home-made.

So this year, in the spirit of taking baby steps -- here's my lowly contribution to the Thanksgiving table - home-made, make-ahead dinner rolls!

Tremendously easy - that is, if you have a dough hook or bread machine. By the way, the Kitchenaid mixer is the best investment I made in my effort to learn how to bake ... I've baked more in the past 2 years, than I've ever done in the past few decades (don't want to give out my age here :-)).

This is an easy recipe for the holiday feasts or just everyday dining! 

Recipe for Make-ahead Bread Rolls ( Source: Followed this recipe)


(A) Bread rolls
1 cup milk (110 deg F.)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour
3 tsp instant yeast

(B) Egg glaze
1 egg
1 tsp water

  1. Put all ingredients in (A) in the stand mixer with a dough hook, until a soft dough forms.
  2. Let dough rest infor 10 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking pan(s) or cake tins.
  4. Divide dough into even balls - best way to make sure they are even is to weigh them:
  • 2 oz (for small rolls) or
  • 3 oz (for big rolls).

Let it rise for about 1.5 hours in a warm place, and it will look like this:

At this point, you have a few options:

Option 1:  Bake immediately
- Pre-heat oven to 375 deg F.
- Place rolls evenly on baking pan.
- Apply egg glaze on rolls 
- I also melted some butter and brushed it on top.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Option 2:  Refrigerate and bake
- Cover with oiled plastic wrap and put in fridge overnight.
- The next day, follow the steps in Option 1.

Option 3: Freeze and bake
- Cover with oiled plastic wrap and put in freezer.
- Once frozen, you can remove and put in plastic freezer bags.
- To bake, place rolls on greased baking pans and let it thaw until room temperature.
- Once thawed, follow the steps in Option 1.

Makes about 22 rolls (2 oz each)

Finally, for a bit of a variation, I decided to make some herb rolls using the same dough above, after coming across a recipe for Buttered Rosemary Rolls from the amazing Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  No rosemary on hand, so dill will have to do.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Coconut Egg Custard Jam.

That's what "Kaya" means in Singapore or Malaysia.

And it's what brings back many memories back to my childhood days of having breakfast at an old coffee shop in Singapore called Killiney Kopitiam, even before this venerable institution in Singapore modernized and became somewhat of a chain store.

Back in those days, the coffee shop was old, hot and dingy (with an airwell in the middle) and had about 3 items on their breakfast menu besides coffee and tea - kaya toasted bread, half-boiled egg and french toast with kaya jam. Not much variety to speak of, but man, did the crowds flock there.  Hands down, best coffee, best kaya in town. Not much competition back then (maybe Ya Kun). Now these kaya toast places are a dime and a dozen in Singapore.

I also remember an old Hainanese man back in the kitchen, wearing a light blue pyjamas pants. He was constantly stirring this huge cauldron pot of kaya. And that is the traditional way kaya is made, always stirring under low heat to make sure the jam didn't burn.

Through some internet research, I found a picture of this old Hainanese grandpa (click here for his story and pictures). Apparently he worked at the coffee shop for 54 years until he retired! That's 129,600 hours of cooking kaya in those 54 years - assuming (conservatively) 8 hours per day, 6 days a week and 2 weeks vacation - did I get my math right??

I love kaya but not that much to spend my precious time cooking it the way he did. I was glad to chance upon some recipes that called for a quick and easy way to make kaya - either through the crockpot or the microwave. In the end, I opted to cook through the crockpot and adapted from two recipes (see below for recipe and credits).

Old Hainanese grandpa, God rest his soul - thank you for pouring your heart, soul and life into making wonderful kaya all those 54 years.

Now that you have passed on, I'm glad that that there is an easy way to re-create the wonderful memories of a breakfast in Singapore like I did at Killiney Kopitiam.


  • 10 eggs
  • 400 ml coconut milk (1 can)
  • 450 g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • A few pandan leaves (Note: I didn't have pandan leaves but the jam came out as well, so don't sweat it if you don't have this)


  1. Break 10 eggs and mix well.
  2. Add coconut milk, sugar, vanilla essence, salt and pandan leaves to the egg mixture, and mix well.
  3. Pour entire mixture into crockpot.
  4. Set crockpot on "High" for 2 hours.
  5. When the mixture starts to bubble (about 1 hour), check in and stir.
  6. At about the 2nd hour, stir again. 
  7. Switch crockpot settings to "Low" for about 15-30 minutes.
  8. The jam, when ready, should look like scrambled or curdled eggs - do not panic at this point, see picture below)
  9. Puree the curdled egg-looking jam mixture and voila - you will have smooth, velvety kaya jam!*

*You can use a hand blender or whatever food processing machine you have - just one that can puree food.

Makes a few small jars, estimated around 600-900 grams.

To serve:

  • Toast 2 pieces of bread.
  • Spread kaya jam.
  • Cut a few pieces of cold butter and add to bread, if you like.
  • Great for breakfast, tea or an anytime snack! 

Credits for recipe: I adapted from these 2 recipes - thank you for sharing them! Click links below.

The Little Teochew
Lily's Wai Sek Hong

The "ugly" mess:

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

There's nothing like home-made cookies, freshly baked from the oven.

I'm not much of a cookie fan, but one day, I had a box of raisins and Quaker Oats sitting side by side in my kitchen, and decided that they were meant to be together. Turns out it's a match made in heaven - chewy cookies with the crunch of oatmeal, coupled with the softness of the raisin.

I followed this recipe from the fabulous Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces, or 115 grams) butter, softened
2/3 cup (125 grams) light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins
1/2 cup walnuts (65 grams), chopped (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.
  3. At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them.
  4. The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.
Makes about 24-26 cookies

My comments:
  • I chilled the cookie dough because I prefer my cookies to be thicker.
  • I also used a tablespoon to scoop each cookie for consistency.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Here's an easy recipe that'll come in handy if you need to feed a crowd. Also perfect for a weeknight dinner (just halve the recipe). You can make a day ahead of time - just bake and serve!

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded, mainly white meat (Tip: Costco's your best bet)
  • 2 large boxes of fresh spinach
  • 2 standard bags of wide egg noodles
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 quart Whipping Cream
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Cream crackers, crushed  (or bread crumbs will do)  (Optional)
  • Shredded cheese as topping
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil egg noodles according to instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Stir fry spinach and onion with some oil/butter. Drain and set aside.
  3. Stir cooked egg noodles, shredded chicken, fried spinach, whipping cream, milk and mayo. Mix well.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. If making ahead, you can transfer mixture to a casserole-ready dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate.
  6. Before serving, spread crushed crackers or bread crumbs on top. Then spread cheese.
  7. Reheat in 350 deg F oven until dish is heated and the cheese has melted.
  8. In last 5 minutes, set oven to broil on low to brown the top.
Serves 12.
Source: Inspired by a Real Simple recipe found here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cold Century Egg Tofu

I need to slip in a cold dish recipe that is perfect for hot weather before summer days are officially over.

If you haven't heard of it before, the century egg is a Chinese invention made by preserving duck's eggs for several months (not for 100 years, despite its name). There's a rumor that the eggs are preserved in horse urine but that's bullshit (pun intended :-)) ....  the truth is these eggs are preserved in clay.

Admittedly, century eggs are an acquired taste. I love it and the Chinese eat it a lot - on its own, in porridge and apparently, this cold tofu dish is very popular in Taiwan, and the Japanese serve something similar called Hiyayakko.

I filed this under 30 minute meals but it will take you about 15 minutes max, to prep, serve and plate this dish, it's very simple. If you're Chinese or adventurous, it's yummy. If you're neither, I guess you'll have to take my word for it :-)

  • 1 silken tofu
  • 2 century eggs (diced)
  • 2 Tbsp Pork floss*
  • Spring onions, chopped (as garnish)
  • Cilantro (as garnish)
  • Toasted Sesame seeds (as garnish)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. Slice cold silken tofu into half, so that each slice is about 1/2 inch thick (see picture above) and plate it.
  2. Place century egg evenly on tofu.
  3. Sprinkle pork floss* evenly on tofu.
  4. Pour seasoning over tofu and add garnish (spring onions, cilantro, sesame seeds).
* Can be optional. I think the sweetness of pork floss adds nicely to balance the flavors. The only reason why we didn't have it in the picture is because half of my family liked pork floss and the other half objected to it, so we eventually left it out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bún riêu (Vietnamese Crab Vermicelli)

I had my first hot, steamy bowl of Bun Rieu, two years ago on a cold Christmas Eve at our friends, L&K's home. 
It was the first time I have had home-cooked Vietnamese food and it felt like I was eating a whole new cuisine for the first time.

Not that I haven't had Vietnamese before, but my prior experience consisted mainly of slurping down MSG-laden beef pho soup but that is like saying I've had Mexican food simply because I've had Taco Bell. Not quite the same! 

So while I'm not Vietnamese and can't claim my recipe is truly authentic, I adapted the recipe based on tips from my Vietnamese friend L's tips so hopefully that counts for something. I also adapted from House of Annie's Bun Rieu recipe. I would say that this is a great dish to host a small dinner party of 6 people because it's easy to make and you make a huge pot of sweet, flavorful soup that can go a long way.

Bún riêu (Vietnamese Crab Vermicelli)


  • 1 packet of vermicelli
  • 1 lb pork
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb crabmeat (Costco has a great deal.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bottle of Bun Rieu sauce (Vietnamese crab paste sauce)
  • 12 cups of Chicken Broth
  • 4-6 large tomatoes, quartered
  • Fried sponge tofu (optional - I didn't have it)
  • Tamarind paste (to be honest, I didn't have this and it turned out ok.)
  • 1 packet Mung Beans
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  1. (A) Soak vermicelli in hot water at the start, while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. In separate pot, boil water and cook the vermicelli very quickly, drain and set aside.
  3. (B) Mix pork, crabmeat, shrimp, egg with 1 bottle of Bun Rieu sauce, so that they're thoroughly mixed.
  4. (C) In separate pot, boil chicken stock, tomatoes and tamarind paste (if you have it) and simmer until the tomatoes are soft.
  5. Add a few squirts of tomato sauce into the soup to add to the color of the soup.
  6. Form round meatballs and add to boiling soup.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. (D) To serve, add vermicelli in bowl, with raw mung beans. Add hot stock and meatballs to bowl (which should cook the mung beans) and garnish with some cilantro (and if you like a squirt or two of Sriracha chili) and a lime wedge.
Serves 6.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beef Steak Marinade & Zesty Steak Sauce

I was looking for a steak marinade recently and came across this recipe on All Recipes which called itself "The Best Steak Marinade". 

I was skeptical at this bold claim, but then, I got intrigued by one of the reviews:  "I wept with joy at the first bite. Do you know how hard it is to eat and cry at the same time? Yet, I pressed on. After that, I wept with sorrow, because there would be a last bite."

I thought this reviewer might be a little melodramatic but in any case, it's worth trying this recipe out.

My verdict?  This recipe is indeed very good, even though I did not weep - sorry, I'm just not prone to weeping while eating.  I've had a few good steak in my lifetime so I'm not sure this is "The Best" but it is certainly "One of the Best" I've had.

Enjoy the last few days of summer and try this recipe at your next BBQ!

A few other tips: 
  1. You don't need to break the bank to cook steak.  Read this very funny article by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen on "How to turn Cheap Choice Steak into Gucci Prime Steaks" ... as she put it, "Do you know the joy of buying Choice and eating Prime? It’s like buying a Hyundai and getting a free mail-in rebate for a BMW upgrade!!!"
  2. Marinade overnight.  I guarantee you that all the goodness of the marinade will be infused into the beef and you might very well have someone weeping at your next BBQ!
  3. Pair with a zesty home-made steak sauce.  No bottled A1 sauce, please. I've included a recipe below that my friend, David, shared with me a long time ago. It's a sure winner.
"One of the Best" Steak Marinade - From this recipe
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: If you have rosemary or other herbs, add some as well. If not, don't sweat it. It'll be fine.

Mix all ingredients. Makes 1 cup. 

Note: I doubled the recipe to marinade 4 lbs of beef (London Broil) and it was just the right amount.

Zesty Steak Sauce 
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped up
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Add diced tomatoes and cilantro into a food processor and process/pulse it for a few minutes.
  2. Add generous amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pulse further to mix well.
  3. Finally, add salt (around 1/2-1 tsp) and pepper to taste.