Monthly Archives: January 2010

pilgrammage to fatty crab in petaling jaya (肥佬蟹海鲜楼)

g and i have been friends for over a decade now.  and, just about from the moment i met him, he’s been going on and on and on about fatty crab, a restaurant in his homeland of malaysia.  he dragged us over to zak pelaccio’s nyc rendition when it opened up a few years back — a decent effort but a far cry from the real thing after having tasted it.

over the holidays, hubby and i followed g home to malaysia and made a pilgrimage to fatty crab together. it’s a grubby sort of place — plastic chairs, flourescent lights, open air, the aroma of roadside durians wafting together with charcoal and spices of satay grilling under a make-shift chimney.  you order off of a simple menu written in bold letters plastered on the wall. most guests don’t even bother to look at the menu.  they’ve memorised it, and they know what they want.  we went there for the food, and that was all that really mattered.

g recruited his brothers to accompany us to fatty crab, so that we could order more.  he teased us with a few appetizers to hold us over while we waited for principle act.  the chicken and beef satay — grilled roadside by a woman who looked as if she had been doing so for ages — tasted moist, smoky and imbued with the aroma of coriander, tumeric and lemongrass. the chicken wings were piping hot, lightly fried but heavily seasoned, and scrumptiously delicious.    i found it hard to resist the urge to stuff myself on the appetizers . . . fortunately, a few moments later, the main dish appeared at our table.

the famous fatty crab arrived richly lacquered with a divine sauce — sweet, spicy, tangy.  i’ve been trying to re-produce it at home without much luck. if memory serves me correctly, it tasted like a cross between sauteed shallots, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet chili sauce, and bean paste with a soft halo of crab essence. g’s brothers tell me that the sauce is a closely guarded family secret and only family members are allowed back into the room where the sauce is prepared.    just about every table orders toast with which to sop up the amazing sauce.  you take the toast, and you just about dip it into the sauce like a spoon.  g also ordered a simple steamed version of the crab so that we could taste the sweetness of the crab flesh and all its succulent juices.  but really, everyone goes for famous fatty crab chili sauce.

we finished finally, a huge happy and slobby mess with sticky fingers, still picking out the specks of crab shell that had lodged itself in random places on our attire.  we didn’t mind.

Restoran Fatty Crab SDN BHD
No 2, Jln SS 24/13 , Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya (about a 40 minute subway ride from KLCC; 20 minutes by car)
(603) 7804 5758
Tuesday to Sunday, 17:30 – 23:30
Closed Mondays

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scratch-made croissants

i swore after making croissants from scratch in pastry class that i’d rather shell out $3.50 for a single croissant from ceci-cela than make croissants from scratch again.  but then, somehow in the past few months, i seem to have accumulated all the special ingredients for making really good chocolate and almond croissants — plugrá european style butter, bâtons boulangers, mandelin almond paste — and making croissants from scratch didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore.  plus, i had hubby around on the weekends to enlist as a human dough-rolling machine.

ps1. the resulting croissant from the scratch made dough below is a lot flakier and crunchier than the pillsbury pre-made croissant dough.

ps2. and yes, your home will smell like a french bakery afterwards.

Croissant Dough
(adapted from the french culinary institute; makes 20-24 croissants)

Bread Flour 500g
Sugar 65g
Salt 2 tsp
Beurre en pomade 40g (take the butter and squish it between the palms of your hands until it feels like the consistence of hair pomade; lovely, no?)
Yeast 25g
Warm Water 125g
Milk 125g
Butter 300g (european-style highly recommended)
  1. Dissolve the yeast in water.  It is ready to use when the yeast starts to froth and foam.
  2. In the bowl of you stand mixer with the dough hook set at a medium speed, combine the flour, sugar, salt and beurre en pommade.
  3. Add the milk and yeast water. Mix the ingredients together until it forms a fairly cohesive piece of dough.  (It will appear lumpy at first).
  4. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it is a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick (roughly, 12 x 20 inches or so).
  6. Place the 300g of european-style butter between plastic wrap.  Roll out the butter until it fits over 2/3 of the croissant dough (you’re aiming to make a 12 x 14 inch rectangle or so).  [Note: it’s often times easier to roll out the butter if you press down or whack the butter block at first to flatten it slightly].
  7. Fold the unbuttered top 1/3 of dough down on the middle 1/3 of the buttered dough.  Then fold the bottom 1/3 buttered dough on the top of the other 2 sections.  Turn dough so that it is perpendicular to you.  Gently, press down on the dough to press it together.  You’ve just finished your first “turn” of the dough.
  8. Return the dough to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.
  9. Fold and roll the dough while chilling in between turns 2 more times.  Make sure when you’re folding the dough that you are tucking the seams of the prior turn inside the dough (i.e. the seam should be facing you as you make your new fold).
  10. When the turns have been completed, the croissant dough can either be frozen until ready for use or rolled out to make croissants.

Shaping and Baking Croissants

  • Take the croissant dough from above and roll it out into a rectangle that is about 3/8 inch thick. [Yes, a dough rolling machine would be really useful for this step.  It is laborious]
  • Place the rolled out dough on a piece of parchment paper and chill it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Chocolate Croissants

  • Rectangular shaped chocolate croissants are quite a bit easier to make in my humble opinion than the crescent ones.
  • I use chocolate batons (like these from cacao barry) that can be ordered from a specialty store in the US.  I’ve seen them carried in well-stock supermarkets and gourmet stores in both europe and japan.   Regular chocolate isn’t made for withstanding the high temperature of baking and will readily ooze out of the croissant when you bake it.
  • To shape a chocolate croissant, cut out a piece of dough using a sharp knife that is as wide as the chocolate baton that you are using.
  • Place the first baton near the edge of the dough and roll the dough over the baton to cover it.  Next, place a second baton next to the dough covered first baton.  Roll the dough over the first baton.  Cut off the excess dough at the end.  Use some egg wash to stick the tail end of the croissant to the body (make sure the tail end is tucked under the body).  Set the croissant aside on parchment paper and let it rise until it has roughly doubled in size.

Crescent Shaped Croissants

  • Cut your dough into long and narrow isosceles triangles with a base that is roughly 3 inches and a length of 7-8 inches.
  • Make a one inch incision at the center of the base of the triangle.
  • Lifting the edges closest to the incision, fold the 2 flaps upwards.
  • At this point, you can stuff the croissant by placing a bit of almond paste, cheese or whatever, at the top of the incision and alongside the fold flaps.  Then, continue to roll the dough upwards.  The tip of the triangle should be securely tucked under the croissant.  You can either leave the 2 ends of the croissant straight for curve them together for a more rounded croissant.
  • Set the croissant aside on parchment paper and let it rise until it has roughly doubled in size.

Baking the Croissants

  • When the croissants have doubled in size,  brush them lightly with egg wash.
  • Bake at 380ºF for 20 minutes until golden brown.

pear granola a la nigella

the thing i love about nigella’s granola recipe (yes, the one that everyone raves about all over the net) is that it features apple sauce as a substitute for copious amounts of oil.  yes, it’s healthier, has got more crunch, but more importantly, it is a very good recipe for expending excess pears! [i’ve only got 3 more pears left, btw, after this].  i suppose the other fantastic aspect of her granola recipe is that it’s one that you can very easily adapt to make your own or personalise for a dear friend.

Tribeca Pear Granola

Rolled Oats 450g
Sunflower Seeds 120g
White Sesame Seeds 120g
Pureed Pears 225g (about 2 pears)
Cinnamon 2 tsp
Nutmeg 1 tsp
Barley Malt Syrup 130g
Honey 4 tbsp
Light Brown Sugar 75g
Chopped Pecans 100g
Salt 1 tsp
Canola Oil 2 tbsp
Dried Cranberries and/or Currants 300g
  1. Mix everything together, except for the dried fruits. (this is important! if you bake the dried fruits, they will turn out to be these hard inedible specks ruining the consistency of your granola).
  2. Spread evenly only two baking sheet — preferably non-stick and with sides.
  3. Bake at 325ºF for 1 hour, stir halfway through
  4. When room temperature, add in dried fruits and mix together.
  5. I usually store my granola in a ziploc bag.

a chocolate pear cake

4 down, 5 to go! [pears that is]

the other day, i had an inkling for chocolate cake…so i made some.  it turned out to be super rich, dense and gooey.  in fact, it tasted quite a bit like a giant fudgy brownie.   i thought those pears sitting on my counter top would taste quite splendid in chocolate cake, so off i went.  first, i poached my pears.  to economize, i stole about a cup of chateauneuf du pape that hubby had popped open the other day and then brewed up some earl grey tea for the rest of the poaching liquid. then, i set about finding a recipe for a dark but fluffier chocolate cake.  i settled on flo’s dark chocolate cake.  the cake itself turned out to be moist and fluffy but a bit of a misnomer.  i expected the recipe to produce a richer, darker cake with a strong chocolate intensity more akin to a german chocolate cake or a sacher torte, but got more of an all-american chocolate cake.  still, the cake is light, fluffy and easy to eat. one could probably even stack  and frost the cakes to make a lovely chocolate pear layer cake!

A Chocolate Pear Cake
(makes 2 nine-inch round cakes; nb: there appears to be a flaw in flo’s original recipe *gasp*. i’ve read the recipe many times, and while it gives directions for melting chocolate, it doesn’t exactly say when one is supposed to add the melted chocolate to the batter.  i decided to add the melted chocolate in along with the warm coffee in the last step. let me know, if you come across a revised version of this recipe.)

Unsweetened Chocolate 85g (I used extra bitter couverture chocolate). If not using pistoles, chocolate should be coarsely chopped to aid melting
Cake Flour 225g (2 cups)
Baking Soda 1 ½ tsp
Salt ½ tsp
Sour Cream 1 cup (225g)
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
Unsalted Butter 170g (1.5 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar 400g (2 cups)
Eggs 3 large ones
Warm Coffee 240 g (1 cup)
Pears 2 whole pears, pitted and sliced into eighths.  Poaching optional
Almonds ¼ cup
  1. Butter the springform cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate either over a water bath OR in the microwave. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter with the paddle attachment on medium speed until it becomes creamy and satiny.
  5. Add in the sugar and beat until the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy.  You may need to stop the mixer to intermittently scrape down the sides.
  6. Then, add in the eggs, one at a time.
  7. Next, with the mixer on the lowest speed, add in the flour mixture (from step 3) and sour cream in two to 3 additions, about 1/2 to 1/3 of each at a time. Mix until just incorporated.
  8. Finally, add in the vanilla, warm coffee and melted chocolate.  Flo recommends stirring in the last step with a rubber spatula, but I think one can get away with using the stand mixer set a the lowest speed.
  9. Pour into cake pans.  Place the sliced pear eighths in the circular patter on top of the cake batter and then sprinkles some sliced almonds on top.
  10. Bake at 350ºF for 40-50 minutes.

a rustic pear cake

2 pears down, 7 more to go!

i bought a big sack of pears because i suddenly felt inspired while walking down the fresh fruit aisle.  they’ve been mellowing out on my counter top for the past 2 weeks before i decided to put them to use.  flipping through dorie greenspan’s book baking from my home to yours, i came across a fig cake recipe.  i thought the cake portion, which contains corn meal, would make a great rustic base for showcasing the sweetness and fragrance of ripe pears.  i added some sliced almonds too for crunch. and yes, it’s much easier and faster to make than a traditional pear tart. yipee!

A Rustic Pear Cake

AP Flour 1 ½ cups
Yellow Cornmeal ½ cup
Baking Powder 2 tsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Sugar ¼ cup
Lemon Zest ½ lemon
Butter 1 ½ sticks (12 tbsp) – cut into cubes
Eggs 3 large ones
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Fresh Pears 2 medium sized ones – peeled, cored and cut into cubes
Sliced Almonds 1/4 cup
  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper
  2. Using the paddle attachment, mix together lemon zest and sugar until fragrant
  3. Add in butter and beat until light and fluffy
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated
  5. Add in vanilla and beat for 2 more minutes
  6. With the mixer set to the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, and cornmeal)
  7. Pour the batter into the springform pan.  The batter is very thick and you may need to use an offset spatula to even the batter out.
  8. Sprinkle the fresh pears and sliced almonds on top of the batter
  9. Bake at 350ºF for 55-60 minutes

pandan coconut bread (香兰椰子面包)- twist and loaf roll

so i got to wondering, as i’m wont to do. instead of making a whole bunch of small rolls, as i did with the prosciutto shallot rolls, would it be possible to take the dough and fashion it into a loaf-sized roll? i also recalled seeing a recipe for a coconut twist bread in alex goh’s magic bread cookbook that i wanted to try.  why not, why not kill two breads with one stone, so to speak?

Pandan Coconut Roll Loaf

i prepared one recipe of alex’s basic sweet bread dough and divided it in half (measure out 480g for the twists and use the rest for the roll loaf).  i used half of it to fashion the pandan coconut roll loaf and the 2nd half to make the pandan coconut twists.  my little experiment with the roll loaf worked.  i shaped the roll loaf using the same method as described for the prosciutto shallot rolls, just on a larger scale and with a different stuffing.  i’d say though that the loaf came out more oval than round. i’d imagine that if one endeavored to make an even larger roll (using perhaps all of the sweet bread dough, rather than just half), the resulting loaf would probably come out even more oblong than round.

because of the size of the loaf (roughly 8×6 inches), the baking time needs to be adjusted.  a roll loaf made out of half of the basic sweet bread dough recipe needs to be baked for 30-35 minutes at 350°F.

Pandan Coconut Twists
(for 16 twists)

Basic Sweet Bread Dough Recipe 1 full recipe
Pandan Coconut Filling
Butter 70g
Sugar 120g
Egg 1 large one
Shredded unsweetened coconut 110g
Milk powder 50g
Pandan paste 1 tsp
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in egg.  Beat until smooth.
  3. Then, add in coconut and milk powder.  When well-combined, add in pandan paste.  Mix until the green colour of the paste is evenly distributed.
  4. Shape the coconut filling into sixteen 35g balls and set aside.
  5. Next, divide the sweet bread dough into 60g balls.
  6. To shape the twists, take a 60g ball of dough and flatten it until it is a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. I used a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
  7. Place the 35g ball of coconut filling in the center of the flattened dough.  Cupping the dough and coconut filling in the palm of your hand, slowly pinch the sides of the dough together until the coconut center is completely covered.
  8. Next, roll out the filled dough with a rolling pin until you have an oval shape about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide.
  9. Roll up the dough like a swiss roll.
  10. With the seam of the roll as the underside, use scissors to make 8 cuts in the top of the dough.  the cuts should go about 3/4 of the way down but should not cut through the dough entirely.
  11. Using your fingers, twist one cut portion of roll to the left and one to the right, until all 8 cuts are twisted in an alternating fashion.
  12. Place each roll on a parchment paper lined pan, and allow it to proof until it has roughly doubled in size (about 45 minutes with the oven set to the proofing function).
  13. Brush with egg wash and bake at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

baumkuchen (バームクーヘン) @ holländische kakao-stube

i have many sweet obsessions and chief amongst them by a long stretch is the baumkuchen — a golden “tree” cake made with almond paste in the batter, lovingly baked on a spit, which when cut reveals hundreds of thin layers.  i found myself in the isetan shinjuku food halls over the holidays, and upon stepping into it, i immediately proclaimed to hubby that i was in heaven.  for fear of losing sight of me as i ping-ponged around from exquisite gourmet food vendor to vendor, hubby agreed to wait for me in front of the mochi stand.  i spent about 30 minutes surveying the landscape.  i probably saw proper kobe steak, the most perfect fruits and vegetables, creamy tofu and all that, but i only really had eyes for the baumkuchen!  and my, there were a lot of baumkuchen brands at isetan.  (yes, you also can get 100 yen baumkuchen in the local convenience stores and they’re pretty commonly found stateside as well in asian supermarkets for under $5.  it just isn’t the same.  a real, freshly made baumkuchen will probably be around 1,000 yen and up, for what seems like a sliver of a slice). prior to my isetan trip, i had tried the baumkuchen at club harie, madame shinco, karl juccheim, and the variety at minamoto kitchoan (available stateside but goes for double the price in japan). this time around, i saw several more brands of baumkuchen that i had never seen before. there were chocolate flavored baumkuchen, chocolate covered ones, as well as mini-ones stuffed with strawberries, chestnuts, and more.  i was not just in japanese sweets heaven, i was in baumkuchen paradise.

i zeroed in on one particular shop:  holländische kakao-stube.  apparently, isetan shinjuku hosted the only holländische kakao-stube in all of japan. in turn, the tokyo store was some sort of franchise or licensee of the original holländische kakao-stube in hanover germany, one of the oldest sweet shops in all of germany.  (as a side note, when i looked up the hanover mothership online there was no mention of baumkuchen at all on their website.  was this just a clever marketing ploy? did the japanese baumkuchen branch just want to buy instantaneous heritage?)  holländische kakao-stube at isetan attracted a very long line.  75% of the shop’s pastries were some sort of baumkuchen variety.  there were a few cookies and danish-looking things on the side.  among the baumkuchen offerings, were the plain baumkuchen with a sugar glaze, a chocolate glazed one, and one that looked like a flat baumkuchen with a chocolate topping.  that flat version was called baumurinde and had won several prizes.  there were fancy metals displayed next to it in the pastry case. the clerk asked me what i wanted.  i first pointed to the baumurinde, they were out.  then to the sugar glazed baumkuchen.  they were also sold out. bummer!  the only thing they had left was the chocolate glazed baumkuchen. i said that i’d take one.  i gave the clerk i think something like 2000-2500 yen.  she handed over an extremely well packaged cake with a deep bow from the waist — now that’s service!

when i got back to nyc, i unwrapped the cake.  did i say that it was really well packaged?  the cake itself was vacuum sealed, tied with a bow, and then placed in a foam cushioned box.  it even survived the trip from tokyo in my suitcase, completely intact with not a scratch on to it. when i cut into the cake, the chocolate glaze crackled (a sign of well tempered chocolate).  it may not have been my first choice or 2nd choice at the store, but it tasted like heaven — cake, which without the use of cream layers, tasted absolutely creamy, smooth, like a cup of warm tea cupped in my hands on a cold day.

nb: yes, i’ve tried baking baumkuchen at home before, but it really doesn’t come out right without the proper equipment.  you need a baumkuchen machine.  a commercial one from japan goes for about $6K and takes up about as much space as a baby grand piano.