Saturday, December 29, 2012

Classic English Trifle for the holidays

Much of my holidays traditions at my home are heavily influenced by my colonial English upbringing in Hong Kong and also my Aunt Kathy. I went to a English missionary school from age 3. Since my father was a single dad, my aunts were very involved with me when I was growing up, especially my father's youngest sister Kathy. I used to go over to her house after school, we would have tea with my English Uncle and she would help me with my homework till my father picked me up after work. We also used to cook together. We used to experiment with both traditional Chinese as well as English recipes. We had our shares of great success and a good laugh at those "not quite right".

Trifle is one of those dessert that I make during the holidays. Actually I would not call this cooking, rather an assembling. This is one of the first thing I learned to make at Home Ed class in school. (I went to an all girls' school, we were supposed to know how to cook and sew back in those days).
I made some modification through the years as I moved around. It looks grand and easily feed a crowd, great for Christmas and New Year Party.

This is one dessert that you do need a nice glass bowl, I have a couple trifle bowls. It is worth making that little investment. In this recipe, you will find that I am using a traditional English custard powder, just to keep to the tradition. I do make trifle dessert through the year, I would make a light custard from scratch in the summer with berries and at times, a Hawaiian inspired version with a coconut milk custard, fresh mango and lilikoi butter.

As with the ingredient amount, it will vary with the size of you bowl that you use. If you don't have a trifle bowl, try a nice glass 3Qt bowl. A tradition trifle is usually 3 layers: cake, fruit and custard, topped with cream. If you have a deep bowl, build a 2nd layer and you will need more cake, split the pears and custard between the layers. You can also make small individual serving, by using 1 thin layer cake, 2 pear halve and top with custard! Happy Holidays!

Classic English Trifle

1/4 of a 11x9" yellow cake or other cake of your choice, you can also use 1/2 package of lady fingers.
1/2 jar seedless raspberry jam
3 cans 15oz pear halves in light syrup, well drained
4-5 table sherry or grape juice (for a non-alcoholic version)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp Bird's custard powder
2 cups 2% milk
1 pt heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confection sugar
1 tsp vanilla 
Slice the cake in 1/2"x1.5" slices. the cake slices will depend on the size of your bowl. Line the bottom of the bowl with cake. Spread 3/4 of the jam on the cake. I would deliberately let some jam show on the side of the bowl to add colors.
Drizzle with sherry or grape juice. Let the cake soak in the liquid. Set a side
 Layer the pear halves on the cake base. Arranging the pears from the outside in, so that you see the pear layer
In a large bowl, mix custard powder with 3-4 tbsp of cold milk till it form a smooth paste. Side ahead 
 In a med size saucepan, heat the reminding milk with sugar, till hot. 
Add the hot milk and sugar mix to the custard paste, keep stirring to combine. 
Return the custard mixture to the pan and cook over low heat till thicken, about 10-15 min. Stir constantly. The custard should coat the back of the spoon
Finally fold in vanilla
 Pour the custard over the pears and cover, you do not want the custard to get too cold, it will form a "skin" on top.
Cover with a plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap against the custard to avoid the "skin" to form
Chill the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. Spread whipped cream on top. Pipe some around the rim and decorate with the remaining jam to add the festive touch

Serve 10-12


Friday, December 28, 2012

Carrot Tea cake with cream cheese frosting

Christmas time was busy baking time for me. For years, I would make quick bread and cakes instead of purchasing something in the store. With the years gone by, I would actually have a request list! As usual, I made a few loafs of eggnog bread, the pumpkin gingerbread. The most requested was always my Hawaiian banana bread. Out of all these baking, I made a carrot tea cake for my fellow yogini/ photographer friend Jeffrey Austin. I have known Jeffrey for many years and I know he loves carrot cake. He was hosting a Christmas party at his home. I thought it would be a good host gift. I made it in a bundt pan and did a soft cream cheese drizzle to make it more festive.

The recipe is an adaptation of the Carrot Tea Cake from Martha Stewart. I added another cup of carrot so that it would be moist. I also used a couple of rainbow carrot from the Co-op. They have more flavor and sweeter in my opinion.
Carrot tea cake with cream cheese drizzle

1/2 cup (4oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs - neatened
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups packed peeled and grated carrots

3 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 oz butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of confection sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or cream

Pre heat oven to 350F. Spread and flour a 12 cup bundt pan and set aside
In the medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside

In a large mixing bowl/mixer,  cream butter with brown sugar till light.
Add eggs, one at a time. Mix well
 Slowly add in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time
Mix well, add vanilla.
 Remove batter from the mixer and fold in carrot.
  Transfer carrot batter to a bundt pan and bake for 45 mins till the cake spring back when pressed in the center or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. The cake will not raise to the top of the pan, it will be about 1/2 way.
 Let the cake cool and remove from the pan and let it cool.
To prepare drizzle:
Cream cream cheese, butter and sugar in a medium size bowl.
 Mix well.
 Add vanilla
 Check the consistency of the drizzle, you want this to be thick, but not "solid" so that you can spoon the mixture over the cake. Add cream/milk as needed.
 Drizzle the cream cheese mixture over the top of the cooled cake, let the drizzle runs down the sides of the cake. Chill in the fridge for about an hour to set the cake.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar to add a festive touch

Serve 6-8


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pumpkin Gingerbread - 2 in 1 Holiday treat

Pumpkin bread and Gingerbread are 2 of our holiday favorites. However I made pumpkin bread a few too many times than usual this year, so we are a bit tired of it. Here it is at Christmas time I am working on all the bake goods to be delivered during the week, I made 2 batches of Eggnog brands, the 1st wave of  the classic Hawaiian Banana bread that so many requested. I am now waiting for the rest of the banana to ripen so that I can finish the rest of the requests.  Then here is it the pumpkin and gingerbread, so here it is, I combined both and made a pumpkin gingerbread. I must say this is one of the best "crazy" thing I experimented with . It is so delicious to go with mule wine or apple cider. This is more a quick bread than the dense classic gingerbread, if you want you can certainly take replace the vegetable oil with apple source, then you will have a fat free bread!  The house smells like Christmas when the bread is in the oven! 

Pumpkin Gingerbread
1 15oz can pumpkin
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
4 eggs
3 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grounded ginger
1/2 tsp clove
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp granted fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
Pre-heat oven to 350 or 325 if you are using the dark pan
Spread 2 9x5 loaf pans or 2 6 cups small bundt pan or 1 12 cup bundt pan.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and all the ground spices (except the fresh ginger). Set aside
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, pumpkin and molasses. Mix well
Slowly add in 4 beaten eggs. Stir well.
Add in grated ginger. Mix well
Fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture, add 1/3 at the time till all flour is mixed in.
If desire, fold in chopped ginger.
Divide the batter between the pans or in 1 single bundt pan (Since I am making these for gift, I would always make a tester loaf so that can check the quality. I didn't completely divide the batter)
Bake for 45 min for the smaller pans or 70 mins in the large pan till the cake spring back when lightly pressed in the center or till a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
Cool for 5 mins, remove from the pan.
Dust with powder sugar, slice and ready to serve!