Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.
Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.
Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.
At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.
Some things I learned:
- Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
- I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
- I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.
Chinese Swiss Roll
- 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
- 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
Filling & Garnish
- 1/2 c whipping cream
- 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
- Icing sugar, optional garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.
- In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.
- Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
- Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
- When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
- Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.
Earlier this week, I had a hankering for Pad Thai. It’s one of those dishes I’ll occasionally order out, but had never bothered to try making myself. My method for attempting new dishes usually consists of reading at least a half dozen recipes, noting the ingredient and method similarities, and then adapting to personal taste and what is in the fridge. For example: pad thai typically contains firm tofu (which I love), but I had a smidgen of ground pork that had to be cooked. So that went in. I also had a bunch of mint and cilantro from some other dinners we’d eaten earlier in the week, so that got added. Finally, I am a firm believer in pre-seasoning proteins (in this case, shrimp and pork), so that step was added as well.
One ingredient I didn’t substitute was the tamarind (some recipes call for lime juice, but I don’t think it’s an adequate substitute). I’ve never worked with tamarind before, and the only tamarind the local Asian market had was the whole pods. I used the instructions here to turn it into a pulp. It was a fairly messy process, but the flavor was definitely worth it.
Adapted from Saveur | Serves 4
- 8 oz. dried flat rice stick noodles
- 3 tbsp. tamarind pulp
- 3 tbsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 2.5 tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce), divided
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. Thai chili garlic sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tsp sugar, divided
- White pepper
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 oz. ground pork
- 2 tbsp. dried shrimp, soaked and chopped if large
- 6 stalks Chinese chives or 4 scallions, green part only,cut into 2″ pieces
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1/4 c mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- At least 1 hour before cooking, marinate shrimp with 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Marinate ground pork with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
- Dissolve tamarind pulp in 1 cup hot water in a small bowl, then strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on pulp with the back of a spoon to push most of it through. Discard seeds. Stir sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and chili garlic sauce into tamarind liquid and set sauce aside.
- Soak noodles in a large bowl of hot water until pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Cook shrimp until pink but not completely cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
- Add remaining 3 tbsp oil to hot skillet. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry until soft, about 10 seconds. Add ground pork and saute until mostly cooked, about 1 minute. Move ingredients over to the one side of the pot and add the lightly beaten eggs. allowing to set slightly and then stirring to scramble. When eggs are about halfway cooked, add dried shrimp, chives, half the bean sprouts, half the peanuts, the noodles, the sliced omelette, and the reserved sauce and stir-fry, tossing constantly, until noodles absorb most of the sauce and sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Garnish each serving with the remaining bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and peanuts and serve with limes and sriracha.
This is one of those simple, homey dishes that is a snap to put together when you don’t have much time to cook / feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. While the taste is best if you can marinate the chicken ahead of time, you’ll still get good results if you do it even just 1/2 an hour before cooking. Serve with plenty of rice and some variety of Asian veggies, and you’ve got yourself a Hong Kong cafe-style meal.
Creamed Corn Chicken
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 slices ginger
- 1 can cream style corn
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T oil
- Salt, to taste
- Sugar, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 1/2 t sugar
- 1 1/2 t shaoxing wine
- Dash of white pepper
- Dash of garlic powder
- 1 t cornstarch
- At least an hour before cooking (or overnight), combine chicken pieces with marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
Heat oil in medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring frequently, and season with salt, sugar, and white pepper.
When ginger and garlic become aromatic (~2-3 minutes), add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides are browned and chicken is nearly cooked through (~4-5 minutes).
- Add cream style corn and soy sauce. Lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat. While stirring constantly in one direction, add beaten egg. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove ginger slices. Serve over rice.
Turnip cake (lo bak goh) is one of my favorite dim sum items. I love the crispy exterior, soft middle, and medley of savory Chinese tidbits — Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and shrimp. Lo Bak Goh is also a traditional Chinese New Year dish, so in honor of the upcoming holiday I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make, and when you do it yourself you can adjust the amount of “goodies” inside to suit your preferences (i.e. more mushrooms, more sausage…I added some dried scallops this last time to make it even more decadent). You can also easily double or triple this recipe, though I recommend cooking up each cake separately to make the ingredients easier to combine.
A few tips: there are some weird ingredients, but all should be available at your local Asian market. When choosing daikon, look for short, heavy ones. When cooking the turnip in step 4, your turnip may give off a lot of liquid. If your mixture looks really soupy, hold back some of the liquid when combining with the flour mixture (you probably want about 1/2 – 3/4 c total – just enough to create a very thick batter). You can always add some liquid back in. Or if your daikon seems dry, add a tablespoon of stock or water to help everything come together. Finally, though extremely delicious, cooking turnip cake tends to let off…pungent odors. So you may want to leave ample time to air your place out if you’re planning to make this for company. 🙂
Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Goh)
Makes one 8-inch pan | Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
- 1 Chinese white turnip (daikon) – about 2 lbs.
- 170 gm rice flour
- 4 Tbsp wheat starch
- 1-2 links Chinese sausage (lap cheung)
- Handful of Chinese dried shrimp, soaked
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
- 2 scallions, minced
- 3/4 c chicken broth
- 1 T vegetable oil
- Pinch of white pepper
- Salt to taste
- Blanch Chinese sausage boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes for cleaning and easy chopping. Drain well and finely dice. Peel the turnip and grate into thick strips (I used the large holes of a box grater). Rinse and coarsely chop dried shrimp.
- In a big bowl, mix the rice flour with wheat starch well.
- Sauté Chinese sausage over medium heat. Toss in dried shrimp and mushrooms, and continue to sauté until aromatic, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
- In the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil and sauté minced scallions. Add grated turnips. Season with white pepper and salt to taste. Pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and cook until tender and translucent (~5-10 minutes). Remove from heat.
- Add rice flour and wheat starch to the daikon mixture and quickly combine into a thick batter. Add sausage, shrimp, and mushroom mixture and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 8-inch pan. Steam over high heat, covered, about 45 to 60 minutes. Check the water level and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water. To test for doneness, insert a chopstick into the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked through. Let cool.
- Cut into pieces and fry both sides until golden brown. Serve hot, accompanying with chili sauce or with soy or oyster sauce.