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Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Bubbly Choc

aero chocolate bubbles

Memories can cut across generations in a family. So can a love of certain food, in this case chocolate.

The Aero chocolate bar was a huge favorite of my Grandmother and my Father. I enjoyed it too as child around them, although I believe I enjoyed its bubbly texture that can only be found in an Aero bar, rather more than the taste.

I haven’t had them for many years. Then I excitedly came across Aero chocolate bars at a European-style deli in Los Angeles. And this time, I could appreciate the creamy, smooth flavors – and still enjoyed the bubbles.

Aero was launched in 1935 in North of England, and its unique bubbly texture made it a big success. Glad it is still bubbling around.

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kuih or desserts from Malaysia

A selection of Malaysian desserts in petite-sized servings. A favorite is the layered jelly (on the right), especially the one with the creamy white layer, made from coconut milk.

 

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cake treat

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personality insight

I came across an interesting study which indicates that people with a sweet tooth are nicer people.

Researchers from North Dakota State University and Gettysburg College reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that people with a sweet tooth tend to be more agreeable and also more willing to help others.

Well, I sat down and thought about all the people I know known for their sweet tooth, and I think there might be some truth in this correlation.

But then again, I might be a tad biased as in our family we have had three generations of folks with a sweet tooth, and needing a dessert or a touch of sweet to end lunch or dinner.

And I am one of them. Sometimes, fruit can do the job, but definitely not all the time. We need a real dessert made with sugar and everything nice that comes with it. It could be something simple like a piece of chocolate or something more elaborate like the traditional Malay cakes.

One of my Mother’s favorites was ice cream with canned fruit cocktail. This dessert reminds me of the 70s, and sometimes, I serve it with vanilla ice cream for a bit of retro fun.

I like the traditional Malay name for dessert pencuci mulut, which is translated to mean something to cleanse the palate. It sounds courtly, and also makes it sound as if dessert has a beneficial function!

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good for you chocolates

I never thought that I would actually reach out for dark chocolate.

Sometimes, self-deception can be good for you. I mean, for small things. Like food that is supposed to be good for us.

We’ve all been encouraged to eat healthy. And something that is good for us is antioxidant, a substance or nutrient that can protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. Besides fruit and vegetables, experts say that dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants.

It used to be that dark chocolate comes mainly in bars, with a taste that’s not really inspiring. But in the recent years, our favorite chocolates are also available in dark chocolate version. And they taste pretty good, too.

So now, when I reach out for that bar of Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, or a box of Dark Chocolate Raisinets, I tell myself that I’m doing something good for my health.

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Traditional Malay dessert

He has the recipe for the most popular putu piring in Singapore. The cakes are made in this steamer.

When the weather gets hot, thoughts turn to light-colored, soft desserts. I often think of putu piring, a Malay cake that is so fluffy and has a melt in your mouth quality.

Putu piring are round steamed cakes made from rice flour and gula Melaka (palm sugar), and best eaten when they are still warm.

This is one of my favorite foods, and when I am in Singapore, I always make a beeline for the putu piring in the Haig Road area.

Malay cakes

A great combination of fluffy rice flour dough and rich palm sugar.

That is, before the line starts at the putu piring stall in the Banquet Food Court. (I believe the food court now has a new name.) If you arrive after 3pm, be prepared to wait in a long line, with people of all races and age groups. Now there are two locations, this one as well as a stall in the Teh Tarik Café, which is also in the vicinity.

One time when I was passing the food court when it was closed for renovations, a man stopped me and asked where was the putu piring stall. He seemed rather panicky, and explained he came from the other side of the island and had not been in this area for a while. He had a wide grin on his face when I showed him the other location of the putu piring.

An unofficial poll of friends and family points to this putu piring as the best in Singapore, and dare I say, the best in this Southeast Asian region. So I made it a point to talk to the owner/founder of this successful enterprise.

He is a hands-on owner and is often seen helping out his employees. The gentleman prefers to be known as Mr Putu Piring rather than by his first name, and has been making and selling putu piring in the Geylang area for 15 years.

I was very pleased to learn from him some interesting facts behind this dessert. According to him, the word putu is a Sanskrit word for rice. Piring is a Malay word which refers to a saucer, and originally, saucers were used to mold the cakes into the round shapes. Hence, the name.

palm sugar

The secret is in using the best ingredients, including the best palm sugar.

The ingredients are simple: rice flour, gula Melaka (palm sugar), grated coconut and pandan leaves. Basically, a mixture of rice flour with a filling of palm sugar in the center is patted into the molds and then steamed through to form the cakes. The cakes are served with grated coconut containing strips of pandan leaf to add a fragrant note.

When asked about the secret of his success, Mr PP says: “It is crucial to use the best ingredients and to stay true to traditional methods.” He also wants to maintain the quite amazing price of three small cakes for a dollar. And he is happy that his daughter Noraishah, who studied culinary arts and worked in Boston, is now part of his team.

Talking to him, I realize that  the ingredients of his success are those that have stood the test of time: quality, value, and a deep appreciation of one’s heritage and roots.

traditional Malay dessert

Putting the ingredients together.

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Each honey has its own distinctive flavor and bouquet.

I learned to appreciate monofloral honey at a farmer’s market in Los Angeles. I found out that while most commercially available honey is blended from two or more kinds of honey, monofloral honey is made primarily from the nectar of one type of flower. Each monofloral honey has a distinctive flavor and color, and can even differ from year to year.

At the farmer’s market food stand set up by a Californian apiary, we sampled different types of honey. I really liked the orange blossom honey with its fresh taste, and I was hooked.

So imagine my delight when driving along the Ventura freeway, I saw a sign “Bennett’s Honey Farm – Honey Tasting Room”. That definitely called for a detour.

In the retail store/tasting room, there was a table where visitors can sample the varieties of pure honey from Bennett’s Farm. The friendly staff encouraged us to taste as many flavors as we liked as each one has its unique personality and bouquet. Bennett’s offers these honey varieties, from the flowers of: orange, sage, wildflower, avocado, eucalyptus, buckwheat and clover. Orange and sage are among the most popular with the visitors who stopped at the farm.

There is a live working bee hive in the store.

I chose the wildflower honey for its light, delightful taste reminiscent of flowers, as well as the avocado honey. Avocado honey is gathered from California avocado blossoms and the avocado honey I tried had a wonderfully unique, buttery taste and was much darker in color. One of the staff said that this year’s batch was exceptionally good that even folks who said that they don’t normally like avocado fruit enjoyed the avocado honey. In fact, it is so rich that even half a teaspoon of the honey is enough to satisfy as a dessert.

It was a fun experience, learning more about honey, a food source that has been cherished for its nutritional and medicinal qualities since ancient times.

Everything connected to honey.

Visitors can also pick up honey skincare products and candles.

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Unfinished projects, plans not put in motion yet. July, the real half-way mark of the year, often makes us look back at these things. We may feel some guilt.

This is one of my favorite summer photos, taken at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, California

This is one of my favorite summer photos, taken at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, California.

But then nature is good to us: because July is such a lovely month, we tend not to dwell on our procrastination and shortcomings. Waking up to blue skies and the chirping of birds, it’s easier to feel optimistic and be kind to ourselves.

July is also the National Ice Cream Month. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July as the National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. This year, July 19 is the day to celebrate this treat that we never outgrow.

The  International Ice Cream Association lists vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan as America’s top favorite ice cream flavors. My favorite is mint chocolate chip.  I like mint in my toothpaste, my chocolates,  tea and cocoa…so you can see why it’s my choice.

If you want a fancy ice cream creation, I think you can’t go wrong with bombe alaska or baked alaska.  I remember the first occasion when my parents let me order it at a restaurant.  Since then, I’ve always associate this dessert with celebrations.

Baked alaska is  a clever mix of ice cream placed on pieces of cake, and covered with gcreammeringue. The dish is then baked for a short time in the oven. Somehow, the meringue acts as an insulator, and the ice cream does not melt. The alaska is immediately served, and you get both the browned meringue and the cool ice cream in one heavenly spoon.

Exotic, fancy, or just a simple scoop – ice cream warms the heart while it cools you down.

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