Saturday, February 20, 2010

If you can't do what you imagine, then what is imagination to you?

The Opportunity: Bring in a plate of food at work in celebration of Chinese New Year.
The most prominent thing for me about Chinese New Year is colour. From red envelopes to red dates, the tear-jerking gold joss sticks, the reddish brown suckling pig, the loud fireworks and elaborate costumes of the prancing lions bursting the senses with vibrant sights, tastes and sounds. So red and gold it is.
The Evaluation: Proceeding with Mah Lai Go which is an Asian version of a sponge cake but steamed and golden. My friend's recipe's pictures looked good, but I am missing ingredients. A couple of hours were then wasted trawling through the Internet for easier recipes, even stumbling upon some aproned woman on YouTube. But seriously, who's got 2 oz of lard lying around?
Finally stumbled onto a recipe with only 3 ingredients - authored by none other than Poh from Masterchef. Her grandmother's recipe consists of self raising flour, eggs and sugar, in equal amounts. The pictures presented a snow-white cake with a bread-like texture. Am slightly worried but appearance is secondary and Poh always messes around with recipes anyway.

The Execution:
The recipe was simple enough, 1 cup of each: eggs (~5), self raising flour and sugar. Probably best not to experiment with 5 eggs at a time...

Batch 1: To try achieve a more darker/golden coloured cake, I substituted with dark brown sugar first. Using an electric blender, once the sugar was added, it went everywhere. Which of course, lead to the discovery of an ant posse invasion, taking another 15 mins for them to vacate the premises.

Back to baking, home made self raising flour (also documented in the recipe) was added along with red dye then poured into silicon moulds and into the steamer with fingers crossed.


Batch 1 Result:
Definitely red in colour, except they're dense... like rubbery dense...? Fail.

Batch 2: Now using caster sugar as stated from the original recipe. Also changed over to a whisk. Simon on The Cook and The Chef made stiff peaks by hand so it's definitely possible (one imagines)!

20 mins later, the eggs have multiplied in volume; more than Batch 1.
Mixed in remaining ingredients and added dye to the bottom of the moulds for a change. Stick the next batch in to be steamed.

Batch 2 Result:
too rubbery and wow, even uglier than before. Epic fail. It's time to admit defeat.
The Post Implementation Review:

  1. Silicon moulds don't work for steaming, the moisture stays with the cake.
  2. 1 egg probably doesn't equate to 1/5 cup of sugar...
  3. The iPhone camera under this lighting sucks.
  4. If these for whatever reason happen to fall on the floor, how high will they bounce?
  5. Have never witnessed people jumping from their seats demanding Mah Lai Go at Yum Cha, why would colleagues be any more interested now?
  6. Bakeries selling fresh egg tarts open early enough before work starts.
The conclusion: I imagined there was a genius baker lurking within. Failing that, following a recipe seemed simple enough. Even though what we dream and what actually eventuates may not always align, keep on experimenting.

Congratulations on the first 100 posts and here's to many hundreds more!


  1. Bravo Bisycl! What a great attempt, so sad they didn't turn out but it's the great scientific method that always works, test and analyse, retest and analyse and you'll have it perfect for next year! In yum cha places do they steam the cake in towels to absorb the extra moisture? I believe a new line of research is required!

  2. Without failure, one will never understand the true meaning of success! Bravo for trying! Hope your work colleagues appreciated the effort you went to! :D

  3. Thanks guys. Yeah, my colleagues definitely enjoyed the fresh egg tarts, so it's all good. :)

  4. Congratulations on your 100 posts! :D And just so randomly, I just had to add that I have 2ozs of lard in my fridge. Seriously. I just burst out laughing when I read that. But I'm aware I'm in the minority there :P

  5. Can't wait to see what you do with the lard Lorraine!

  6. OH NO I typed a super long comment and it got erased!! DRAT! Anyway, WELLDONE on trying so hard! I would've popped off to the dimsum trolley and got me a big hunka of warm soft fluffy love. I especially love those with the custard in the middle. I made these once and didn't compare!