My Favourite Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe

chocolate-chip-cheesecake

Two of my fave things in a cake – cheese and chocolate!

Once in a while, I get this sweet tooth craving. Which is weird because I usually prefer salty snacks to desserts. Think murukku, salted peanuts, roasted cashews and the like.

But when I get into that mood, I go into the kitchen and whip up a cake or sometimes two. I figure that if I am firing up the oven, I might as well batch bake some yummies.

Since it’s only me and Nic and eating an entire cake is out of the question, I usually freeze half the baked cake. Cakes freeze well without any loss in taste or texture. I learnt this from some American blogs I read. They freeze everything – raw cookie dough to stews and more.

Anyway, last night I got into this cheese mood. I dug around my fridge and realised I had some mascarpone and some cream cheese. It was either tiramisu or a cheesecake.

I decided to make a cheesecake since I was dying for some creamy dessert. I usually bake after dinner so it was by 10pm or so that I started pulling out my springform pan.

The funny thing is this: I have always eaten great cheesecakes but never baked any until the last 2 years. No, I am not kidding. My aunt bakes a mean cheesecake with canned peaches. My sis bakes delicious blueberry cheese tarts.

My springform pan sat in my cabinet for a long time before I decided one day to just test out some cheesecake recipes. I guess I was inspired by a good friend’s cheesecake which she brought to a potluck party some time ago. I loved the creamy goodness of it all and gobbled a good many slices!

I love this recipe because I just need my measuring cups and my good old electric mixer (I still have my Elba handheld mixer – I want to get a stand mixer but I simply have no space in my kitchen for yet another kitchen appliance).

choc-chip-cheesecake

best choc chip cheese cake recipe

Actually a cheesecake is easy and quick to make. Let your cream cheese sit at room temperature for 1 hour before you start so the cheese is soft. I’d adjust the sugar and condensed milk quantities if you prefer it to be less sweet.

I used my own homemade vanilla extract (just slice up 2 vanilla pods, stick them in a glass bottle and pour in enough good quality vodka to cover the pods and let this sit in some dark cabinet for 4 weeks or so. You’ve just made your own vanilla extract. You’d NEVER buy the commercial stuff ever again, I swear). As you can see, I like homemade stuff (yogurt, for instance).

OK, enough blabbering.

Here’s the recipe. For the baking part, pre-heat your oven at 150C as you prepare the cake.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake Base: 

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp white sugar (use brown sugar if you prefer less sweet)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Van Houten brand)
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix all the above and press into a 9 inch diameter springform pan. Leave aside.

Cheesecake Filling:

250 gm cream cheese, at room temperature
400 ml condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp flour

1. Beat cream cheese with mixer until smooth. Gradually add condensed milk.
2. Add vanilla extract and eggs. Beat on medium speed till smooth.
3. Toss 1/3 of chocolate chips with flour. Pour this into cheese mix.
4. Pour mix into the cheesecake base. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips on top.
5. Bake at 150C for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cake to cool in oven for another hour.

 

Have a go at this recipe and let me know how it goes.

(But if you’re simply too buggered to bake a cheesecake, get some darn delicious slices from Moody Cow if you’re in Penang. Their salted egg yolk cheesecake is to die for. Parking is a terrible thing on Transfer Road so it’s best to go with a friend and you can hop into the shop and get your cheesecake fix.)

Next round, I’ll share my tiramisu recipe.

best-choc-chip-cheesecake

Bon appetit!

Childhood Food

I wanted to post up stuff about my trip with my parents to Hong Kong but honestly I got a little lazy since I had to resize the bunch of photos.

Anyway.

That will have to wait until I am in a less lazy mood. Actually it’s not that I have nothing to say. The problem is, I have plenty of things I want to write about. But the thoughts and ideas fly by like mozzies.

I was a facilitator at a Lean In Forum in early July (and yes, that begs for a post of its own) at Hard Rock Hotel. Don’t ask me why it was at Hard Rock. It just was. Apart from the godawful long drive from my place in Bayan Baru all the way to Batu Feringghi, I just think it would have been a lot less of a hassle if it were held in say, E&O Hotel or Eastin Hotel.

But more of that later.

Today I had an interesting conversation with Nic at dinner. It’s kind of strange saying that as I am my husband’s business partner and if I am not out and about meeting potential clients, I am mostly with him. For breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.

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The Curry Mee Tragedy

I never knew how much I loved my Penang curry mee until my favourite hawker died.

Yes, she died.

Not while cooking curry mee, of course.

 

Penang curry mee in Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Yummiest Penang curry mee with some teh C on the side

You see, Nic and I have a ritual on Sundays. We potter into town and have a totally “ah pek” breakfast. I call it “ah pek” breakfast because it involves an old corner coffeeshop with loud patrons speaking Cantonese, hawker fare which are deemed typical of Penang and yes, it also involves some old-style kopi and tea.

We sit about this coffeeshop, enjoying its ambience – the sights and sounds of a regular coffeeshop can be quite comforting.

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My Indian Roots

Chicken paretel that tastes as good as it looks

Chicken paretel that tastes as good as it looks

I tell people I have Indian roots. And if you know me, you probably know it’s true even though I look 100 per cent Chinese.

My Indian roots aren’t due to some inter-marriage or something.

My Indian roots come from growing up in a small town like Banting, where we had Indian neighbours on both sides.

My two best pals are Indian – one is a Ceylonese Christian (who hated to be called “Lain-lain” on her IC) and the other is Hindu. Many of my school friends were Indian. That is what real unity is about.

But that is what growing up in the 80s was all about.

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Turning Pizza Ingredients Into Bread

After a long hiatus, I am back to using my bread machine. It’s been staring at me long enough anyway on the kitchen counter.

Freshly baked tomato bread from my bread machine

Freshly baked tomato bread from my bread machine

Of course the other reason is, I ran out of bread flour. Can’t make bread without bread flour. So I had to wait until I went downtown (meaning go into George Town) before I could bake some bread.

The place I normally go to is Sim Company on Carnavon Street. This shop is an institution for baking supplies – you name it, they probably have it. They are the old school type of baking supplies store and if you look at their “staff”, you will know why. They’re all in their 60s. Some can be grouchy as hell. But if you know what you want, you just go and grab what you want and pay.

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A Second Life For Carrots

I don’t like to throw away stuff, especially stuff that’s still usable.

This goes for food. And this reminds me of Mary, a good friend who refuses to discard chocolates from her fridge. I can be like Mary too.

I can feel extremely guilty about throwing away edible food. Must be all those years of my dad admonishing me to finish up food on my plate as a child because “the kids in Africa are starving”. Mentally I have that picture of a starving African kid each time I throw food out.

The one with the bloated tummy and huge, limpid eyes.

Now it’s better because the food goes into my compost pots in the garden. At least they’re turned into fertilizer. That’s a second life for food.

Ever since I got myself a juicer, I’ve been churning out fresh carrot juices about twice a week (when I am not too lazy to wash the machine!).

I never knew having carrot pulp could be such a guilt trip. It does when you have pulp from 5 Australian carrots staring you in the face, daring, simply daring you to chuck them into the compost bin.

So I refrain. I pack the pulp up into plastic containers and freeze them.

In the end, I realized that I could do something with the carrot pulp. I could make carrot cake!

You see, back in the days when I didn’t have a juicer, I would grate carrots by hand. Terrible job, that. Hated that but loved chomping on freshly baked carrot cake.

So now I solved my carrot cake woe. I had plenty of carrot pulp to make carrot cake with. (I am not a big fan of cheese frosting so I omit that plus storing cake with frosting is one mean, messy job.)

So here’s the carrot cake recipe which I fall back on because it’s simple and tastes great. I actually stumbled on  a secret tip that makes carrot cake moist….the addition of green apple. That’s also because I juice carrots and green apples together in one go (yes, to make a healthier juice than say, just carrots).

A moist and yummy carrot cake made from carrot pulp

A moist and yummy carrot cake made from carrot pulp

The sweetness level is just right because I can’t stand overly sweet cakes. That’s why I make cakes with brown sugar.

I love this quick cake because it is easy to mix up and easy to eat. What’s not to love about a cake like this? And it contains carrot pulp and green apple pulp which means extra fibre and health-inducing qualities.

All you need to do for this carrot cake is to mix all the ingredients

All you need to do for this carrot cake is to mix all the ingredients

(And I add beetroot pulp to chocolate cakes but that’s totally another story for another blog post.)

Moist Carrot Cake

130 gm self raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

130 gm brown sugar

2 cups grated carrot (or carrot pulp from 5 medium size carrots + pulp from 1 green apple, if you like extra moistness)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 eggs, beaten

150 ml vegetable oil or melted butter

1/4 tsp salt (omit salt if you’re using salted butter)

1. Preheat oven to 180C . Grease and line your pan. Or if you’re like me and can’t be bugged with greasing and lining, just grease your pan and sprinkle flour all over the greased pan. Shake off excess flour but ensure flour coats the bottom of the entire pan.

2. Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground cloves.

3. Mix in sugar, carrot pulp, walnut and raisins. Pour in eggs and oil (or melted butter).

4. Plug in your electric mixer. On medium speed, beat this mixture until well-combined about 3 minutes.

5. Pour mixture into your pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until your cake is done.

Frosting option:

Once your cake is cool and removed from the pan, you can make your frosting. In a mixer on high speed, whip 60 gm cream cheese with 30gm butter and 1 tsp lemon juice. Add 2-3 tbsp icing sugar and whip till smooth. Smooth over your cooled cake.

Pour into a pan and bake for 20-25 minutes and that's it!

Pour into a pan and bake for 20-25 minutes and that's it!

Chicken Poo Leaf & A Sassy Penang Nyonya

The thing about Penang is, I don’t know how I know the people I know but I can tell you it can be quite discomforting to know that people know me!

Convoluted? Not really.

Not when these people tell me that “Oh, I’ve been reading your blog for ages and now I know you’re the blogger!”

I don’t know if that’s good or not.

Because you know and I know that I write for myself mainly. I write because it keeps my writing chops lean and mean. It keeps me sane in the insane world of marketing and business and new projects and my women’s entrepreneur group and all that.

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A Matriarch’s Cuisine of Love

It’s only when guests or friends come to Penang that I make that mad effort to find new places to dine. Most times, we’re lazy and eat around our area which to me is rather sad and boring. I mean, how many times can you eat “chee cheong fun” for breakfast before you kind of roll your eyes and wish this dish was never invented?

Little Kitchen, Noordin Street, George Town

Little Kitchen, 179, Noordin Street, George Town, Penang

My area, Taman Sri Nibong, isn’t exactly crawling with lots of eateries.

So it gets fun when guests arrive. A few days ago, Nic and his Mensa Penang friends hosted Patrick, a fellow Mensan from Hong Kong.

It was Patrick’s first time in Penang. We thought it would be fun to take him to a Nyonya restaurant in George Town. But where? Nic’s favourite Nyonya restaurant, Hot Wok, had closed down about 2 years ago so there went the first choice on our list. Nyonya Breeze in Straits Quay was a little too modern for my taste, at least for this round.

I quickly scanned CK Lam’s food blog and found an interesting one. “Let’s take him there,” I enthused to Nic.

That’s how we ended circling Noordin Street three times before we finally found a parking spot near Hotel Grand Continental. The hotel was just one street after the Nyonya restaurant called Little Kitchen @ Nyonya. Don’t ask why it’s so oddly named.

Conceptually the restaurant was interesting. It is a Straits Chinese shop house some 135 feet long which belonged to a 4th generation Straits Chinese family. They still reside on the first floor. This family runs the Nyonya restaurant with the matriarch as the head chef! (She was this smiley Auntie in her 70s.)

Ulam appetizer with two types of sambal belacan

Ulam appetizer with two types of sambal belacan

So what’s unique about this place? Plenty of character I can tell you.

The main business (yes, the Nyonya food isn’t the main business and I will tell you why in a bit) is their birds’ nest business.

This family trades birds’ nests – the kind that most Chinese elders will give an arm and a leg and two best jade bangles for. So you can actually buy the birds’ nests in dried form from them or pre-order and have them double-boil the birds’ nest dessert for you (available for dine-in or take-away).

So the Nyonya food is more like a hobby for this family.

Nic and our Hong Kong Mensa friend, Patrick

Nic and our Hong Kong Mensa friend, Patrick

This we found out from the Auntie’s son – a chatty guy in his 50s. He must be recounting the history of the 7 year old restaurant to so many customers that the stories simply flowed out easily. And he is a veritable trove of birds’ nest facts, trivia and how the Chinese grew so mad over drinking and eating birds’ nest. The other way to locate this restaurant is to look for “Birds Nest Heaven” – the alternate name of the shop.

An array of Nyonya kuih to whet the appetite

An array of Nyonya kuih to whet the appetite

Anyway, he said that his family really didn’t need to run a Nyonya cuisine restaurant. His grandfather and father had done well for themselves back in those days of trading that the family was well set for life.

The only thing was, with his father’s demise some 10 years ago, his mother felt an inexplicable sense of loss. You see, in those days, his mother cooked every day for his family. Specifically his father never had to eat out. He had breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared lovingly by his wife.

Plus as her children had grown up, they ate out more than they ate in. Hence, the matriarch felt abandoned – no one appreciated her cooking any more.

So the children got together and hatched a plan to keep dear old Mum happy and cooking up all her favourite Nyonya dishes.

That was how Little Kitchen was born or at least that’s how Mr Loh, the son, tells it.

The second hall where we dined

The second hall where we dined

When you step into the restaurant, it does feel like you’re dining in someone’s home. We were ushered to the second hall which had an air well.

What I liked was that we were served tiny slices of Nyonya kuih as well as raw sliced cucumber, baby brinjal and four-angled beans with sambal belacan as appetizers.

The other unique feature is that all drinks were free flow – nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water. These were in traditional hot water flasks and you could drink all you wanted for RM4 per person. Funny how free flow of drinks could make me so delirious!

Free flow of nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water in Chinese flasks

Free flow of nutmeg, ginger, Chinese tea and plain water in Chinese flasks

The food portions weren’t exactly large although they were tasty and had a true home-cooked feel. We ordered pig stomach soup with gingko nuts (although it had Szechuan vegetable too which is a first time tasting this vegetable in a pig stomach soup), fried paku or fern shoots in sambal hae-bee, sliced pork with cincalok, mixed vegetables, acar fish and asam prawns.

Mother-of-pearl day bed, one of the antiques in the restaurant

Mother-of-pearl day bed, one of the antiques in the restaurant

Later the affable owner came around to explain why his dishes were small in portion and a tad more pricey than most. Then again, he did say he was “rather choosy with his clientele” preferring those who could appreciate the food and not just bus-loads of tourists who eat and leave.  Not that his place could accommodate bus-loads. At most there were 6 to 7 tables.

Mixed vegetable stir-fry and pork cincalok

Mixed vegetable stir-fry and pork cincalok

As someone who goes to the wet market (yes, I do cook), I know how pricey fish, pork, chicken and vegetables cost these days.

Anyway he justified it by saying that his mom insists on the best cincalok, the freshest ingredients and all so these add up. Plus he served us on true-blue possibly heirloom/antique porcelain plates – perhaps harking back to the days when his grandfather used to run a restaurant on No.7, Leith Street!  (Upon looking under the plates, Patrick says that they were from Jingdezhen, a city in China famous for its fine quality chinaware!)

Look at the original floor tiles so telling of a Penang Nyonya shophouse

Look at the original floor tiles so telling of a Penang Nyonya shophouse

Dining at Little Kitchen was an experience that wasn’t just about the Nyonya cuisine and food tales.

Sure the food’s on the pricey side (the bill came up to RM208 for the five of us, plus drinks and 2 bowls of black glutinous rice dessert) and it wasn’t classy like some of the newer establishments. (This is Ji Tiao Lor after all.)

Labelled herbs in pots to show you what's used in Nyonya cooking

Labelled herbs in pots to show you what's used in Nyonya cooking

Yet in its homely way it was charmingly Chinese – much like dining at your favourite aunt’s home.

Whatever it was, I left feeling satisfied and perhaps made a mental note to revisit, if only for the unique tale it has to tell.

Colourful pickles in jars

Colourful pickles in jars

Nothing Beats A Harvest

Did I tell you I have a pomegranate tree in my backyard?

pomegranate fruits

Ruby red pomegranate arils, fresh off the tree

It’s about 5 years old – a tree that I grew from some leftover pomegranate seeds from a huge pomegranate I bought at one of the fruit stalls at Lorong Kulit.

In the initial years, it was a spindly thing.

At that time, I was still living in my old apartment. Where the balcony was the only space for plants.

pomegranate fruits

They don't look very ripe but they are. How do you know when it's time to pluck the fruit? Look at its bottom. If it's brownish black, it's time to harvest.

But the sun never reached into the innermost corners of my balcony so the poor spindly thing was trying hard to grow.

I brought it over when I came to this new apartment, located on the ground floor.

I had a backyard. Hallelujah! (And I’m not even Christian).

So I planted the spindly thing in a larger pot, put heaps on compost on its roots, and left it in the open. With plenty of rain and sunshine.

And that thing grew and grew.

Pretty much like the beanstalk in Jack and the beanstalk fairy tale.

And the ugly duckling turned into a marvellous looking thing, with crimson flowers that eventually became pomegranates.

So there’s the story of why you should never give up on your plants.

pomegranate

Do you know how you can get the arils out nicely? Peel them in a basin of water.

It bore (and still bears) rose-coloured fruits about the size of a small apple.

Now I know why everyone wants to be a farmer on FarmVille. I don’t like playing the game or playing pretend farmer.

I like doing the real stuff – getting my hands dirty, get sad if my plants start wilting, getting triumphant when my plants flower and fruit.

Best of all, I love tasting and reaping the fruits of my labour.

pomegranate tree

My pomegranate tree is about 5 feet tall

I love it that my pomegranates (as well as my pandan, mint, curry leaves, serai, basil) are all organically grown. Safe for consumption.

I have this indescribable pleasure when I can go to my backyard and pluck a fruit off a tree and eat it!

That’s as natural as it gets.

No carbon footprint issues. No worries about fruit contaminated with chemicals. No worries about eating fake fruits (with China being such good copycats, it’s probably a matter of time when they do make fake fruits!).

No pesticide, no chemicals. Just good old soil, plenty of self-made compost, rain (or water) and sun. Nature supplies the bees, insects and butterflies to help with pollination.

I am now trying my hand at growing a few papaya trees and a tomato plant.

I think when I grow old, I shall buy a plot of land or at least get a house with a huge garden and plant all the fruit trees that I love. I often keep the seeds of fruits and vegetables that I eat, just in case one day I decide to sow the seeds.

close up of the pomegranate tree and fruit

A close up of the pomegranate tree and fruit

I think we all need a connection to the food we eat. Through gardening and planting, we somehow get that gratification. When I tuck into my pomegranate arils, I give thanks because I am so amazed that from just a few components (soil, water, etc.) we are able to enjoy a magnificent array of fruits. The very same ingredients that makes a durian makes a pomegranate.

I find that amazing.

But gardening also teaches me patience and that I am not a master of the universe.

Gardening teaches me that plants grow in their own time and with the seasons. You just can’t control or rush them. They flower in good time. They are unhurried.

Unlike us humans.

We want everything fast. (Isn’t that one reason why we complain about ugly holes in our sawi and then proceed to say, oh wow, why do farmers spray pesticides on vegetables?)

So what fruit trees have you grown? Or trying to grow? Do you grow or eat pomegranates? Would love to hear your gardening escapades too!

Two Buttery Delicious Recipes

I’ve always wanted to bake a butter cake but somehow, some butter cake recipes are to be dumped. (I’ve tried a few and most turned out either too dense or too dry. I simply can’t stand a dry butter cake!)

Butter cake recipe

Golden butter cakes are to die for!

Nic loves butter cakes. He loves anything with butter. He’s such a butter fiend that we can stockpile butter in the freezer. Each time we shop in Jusco or Tesco, he’ll comment that butter wasn’t this pricey when he was a kid. Still he’ll buy at least 3 blocks of butter.

So when there’s a butter sale, we buy butter and keep them. (Anyway we shop infrequently too so having more butter than less is always good – since I have those mad moments when I’d decide to bake something, anything after dinner. I am fortunate I live in my own home and no one can tell me I can’t bake at 11pm. My sis who lives at home with my parents sometimes get the nags when she starts having that itch to bake at 11pm.)

Easy butter cake recipe

Yes, not many slices were left - shows it was really delectable

And so, butter tales aside, I’ve finally found a butter cake recipe I can live with.

I am not sure where I got this from as I often trawl blogs and websites for recipes – and these days with Pinterest (yup I am on Pinterest too), it’s a lot easier as everyone shares delicious finds.

The cake got the nod from Nic. Actually I’ve reduced the sugar – we normally take less sugar in our cakes if I can help it.

Then, two weeks ago, I went home to Banting to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday. It was a family affair – just my sisters, parents and my nephew and niece.

Back home, my sister introduced me to yet another butter cake recipe. This one, Mei says, was so scrumptious that her 9 year old son ate it all! Now my nephew is one picky boy. He’s mostly vegetarian because he can’t stand chicken or fish or anything weird (our regular food is weird to him). He can eat chicken rice without the chicken. He loves KFC cheesy wedges but that’s about all he really likes. So if he eats up most if not all of a butter cake my sis makes, it must have been really superb.

So Mei taught me the butter cake recipe which she obtained from a very dog-eared copy of Amy Beh’s recipe book.

This cake turned out wonderfully well. It was supremely light and tasted almost like a moist Japanese cheesecake. It had a bounce (which my first butter cake didn’t have) as a result of having meringue folded into the cake. It was a keeper and a winner. And this is one cake you can whip up quickly too.

I didn’t take photos of this moist and light butter cake as we were all so busy eating it! Promise to post when I next bake it which should be in the next few days as I am dying to eat this lovely butter cake again.

OK, now onwards to the recipe.

Butter Cake One
(this recipe is the denser butter cake recipe, the one I first made)

  • 250 gm butter
  • 150 gm castor sugar (originally was 200 gm but I never liked overly sweet cakes so I reduced it)
  • 250 gm self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp soda bicarbonate
  • 1/2 tsp orange essence (added to eggs)
  • 1 tbsp condensed milk mixed with 6 tbsp hot water

1. Preheat oven (180C) and grease a square tin. (I am normally rather lazy and just grease and lightly flour the tin. This method works just as well as the parchment paper. Plus I don’t waste paper.)

2. Beat butter and sugar till fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in flour and soda bicarbonate.

4. Stir in milk to combine.

5. Pour into tin and bake for 25-30 mins depending on your oven.

Butter Cake Two

(this is the lighter, fluffier butter cake that my sis made)

  • 250 gm butter
  • 100 gm castor sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150 gm self-raising flour sifted with 1 tsp salt
  • 5 egg whites + 25 gm castor sugar (beat till stiff peaks form – or a meringue, as it’s called)

1. Beat castor sugar and butter until fluffy.

2. Add egg yolks one at a time and continue beating.

3. Add lemon rind and vanilla.

4. Fold in flour followed by meringue.

5. Pour into a greased and lined 20cm pan and bake in a preheated oven for 25- 30 minutes or until cake is done.