Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trip to KL Part 2: Convo Day!

   I've been tardy. And lazy. I stopped posting a while back and now I'm trying my best to get the mood back. It. Is. Hard. 

  This is what I've been up to while I was gone (from here, anyway)
   1. Attended an interview. Boy am I glad that's over!
   2. Attended two weddings. Two of my best friends are now married. I feel old.
   3. Visited my Tok Aji and Tok Hajjah (my grandparents) up north. 
   4. Baked. A lot. 
   5. Did some translation work (and got paid for them).
   6. Tested for and got my driving license. Alhamdulillah. Yahoo!
   7. Getting bald... I mean bored while waiting for posting results.

   None of the activities are reason enough to have neglected this blog. Anyway, here's the long due Part 2 on my convocation.

   I know not many people read this blog, so I feel rather more comfortable in sharing some extra exciting -now stale- news regarding convocation because I know not many people will read about it. (Weird reason?) I know though, that those who do will be very happy for me.

   1. I was  awarded Best Student for my programme (Teaching English as a Second Language a.k.a. TESL
   2. I was chosen to deliver the valedictorian speech

   It was definitely a day to be remembered! I received an email several weeks before convo day explaining that I'd been selected as a candidate for the speech. So I drafted a speech, wen to the selection session (after getting all 'nerved' up for it), received an email informing that I'd been selected, went to a training session, went to collect my robes etc. This involved a lot of trips from Kelantan to KL and back to Kelantan, and mind you, each bus trip took about nine hours. Nine LOOOONNGGG hours. I'm officially (and have been for quite some time, actually) sick of long bus trips. Sick!

   Finally the big day came.. and ended. It was a happy, happy day and whenever I think about it,  I feel quite dizzy and can't quite believe the rizk Allah gave me. He has been so generous to me, and I feel truly humbled. 

People waiting to go into the hall.
      I don't have any photos of when we were in the hall, and anyway we weren't allowed to take photos. I got to know a few people, other students who received awards, and Masya-Allah, most of them go two to three awards each! I felt quite small in comparison, but I still felt grateful for the honour I was given.

   When it was time for the speech, I walked gingerly up the steps, praying all the way through that I wouldn't stumble.

My friend took this with her phone. Sneaky, hehe.
   Alhamdulillah, it went well. At first I stumbled a bit, and when I was supposed to give a nod of acknowledgement to the rector, I did a sort of awkward jerk instead of giving a graceful nod. I supposed my screws were tightened too tight, haha. 

   It seemed that I managed to make a lot people cry. I remember one of the trainers telling me, "If you can make people cry... well, you'll have made an impact." It was a huge pressure on me. I'm not big on making people cry OR on crying in front of people. Fortunately, I managed not to cry, but when I mentioned my parents, my throat sort of closed up and I had to choke a bit to get my voice through. Whatever happened, I'm glad people like the speech. That was what I prayed for. That the speech would be meaningful, beneficial and would touch people's hearts. Alhamdulillah.

   After the ceremony ended, we went for a special lunch. I couldn't eat, I never can when exciting things happen which is a pity.

That's Im, one of the award winners, and her parents
   And when we finally went out of the hall, there was a  surprise waiting for me!

Thank you Little Siser and Littlest Brother!
That bear is seriously huge! Seriously!
[Sidenote: I wanted to put a picture of Little Sister holding the,m, but she'd kill me. She almost did over the one I put in the last post. Haha.]

   They were so excited in planning what to get me that they only had these for lunch:

Iced Milo & sandwiches
Mushroom soup & garlic bread
   After that, we took photos. Lots and lots of photos. But I shall only post a few ( and be careful no post any that shows my face too clearly hehe).

Glad I made you happy :)
My beautiful friends
Some of my good friends
I particularly like this photo, for some reason
   It was a lovely day. I met so many people, old and new, and believe it or not learned many new things. Alhamdulillah once again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trip to KL Part 1: Kelantan-Terengganu

   My laptop is finally... well, usable. It seems that the part which connects the motherboard to the keyboard is damaged, so if I want to get that fixed, I have to get a new motherboard. Which costs around RM200. Gulp. So, for now, I'm using a USB keyboard that Dad bought. It's quite pretty:

(I'll add a photo later]

   Thankfully, I didn't lose any of my data, alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), so even without a camera I can still post a few updates with the hundreds of photos of things I've baked in the past months. However, in honour of the special occasion that took place two or three weeks ago (yeah, stale), I'm going to post some posts unrelated to baking, though perhaps a cake or two will make their appearance I hope that's okay.

   And what occasion is that? My convocation day! After six years of training, I finally made it. My family was quite excited as at first we weren't sure whether they could make it to IIUM, but alhamdulillah with Big Sister's help they could. Littlest Brother was especially excited about going to KL and to IIUM. Little Sister went too, but Little Brother had to take his PMR and therefore had to stay at home. PMR is quite a big deal, and I felt guilty about leaving him at home all alone to face it, but he was very noble about it and said that Mum and Dad should definitely not miss the occasion. Big Sister had a seminar so she couldn't go, but she lent her camera. Yeeehaaa.

   We had a good journey, which started at 10 a.m. on 8th October 2011 (my convo was on the 10th). First we went to Dungun, Terengganu to pick up Little Sister. I slept most of the way there because I didn't sleep the night before, preparing some... well, stuff to take and to leave for Little Brother. Watch out for it below.

   Terengganu has a lot of beautiful mosques. Below are some pics (sorry they're not great photos). I'm afraid I forgot to note down the names though, I'll do that next time. I've included some explanation on some of the terms for my non-Muslim readers.

   My favourite was this. It's so clean and white and beautiful. I love how it stands out against the blue, blue sky.

This is where the men take their wudhu'.
Taking the wuhu' involves a series of steps in cleansing some parts of the body.
It is compulsory before making the prayer.

This is  the tower where the mu'azzin  makes the azan (call for prayer).
At least that's what they used to do in the old days, I think, so that people can hear you.
I think they use a special room with a microphone and speakers now.
The mu'azzin is the person who makes the call for prayer.

   We also got to see The Crystal Mosque, but didn't get to take a very good photo, so here's one I found on the internet:

   It's very beautiful, but most importantly I hope a lot of people go there to pray. Mosques (or masjid in Malay) are houses for worship, so people should go there to worship Allah, right?

   We finally reached UiTM, the Dungun Campus. My sister is so lucky! They're within walking distance from the beach. It's practically across the road! Imagine being able to look at this everyday:

   I'd like to sit on that seat and just look at the sea, every single day...

   And here is the reason we have to go all the way to Terengganu before going to KL!

Hello, Little Sister!
   We couldn't possibly miss having a picnic by the sea when we're by the sea, so that's what we did. Momsie had packed a meal for us. And I made... cake and cinnamon rolls! The rolls I will write about in another post, but the cake... well, you may remember this monstrosity that I made:

   Well, the night before we left I didn't sleep much.I stayed up making the rolls and two DFCCs- one to leave for Little Brother and one to take with us! Unfortunately, a lot of mishaps occurred during the making, which will take too long to talk about, so this is the slightly degraded, disfigured-looking version that we brought along:

   Here is Littlest Brother greedily snacking on it:

   My family just cannot get enough of this cake. If you say the word "Cake" to their face, I can assure you that this is the cake that they will think of, hehe. We kept snacking on it all the way to KL, and while we were picnicking by the beach, we even drew the attention of two little boys, who, quite unashamedly, came up to us and asked for some. Haha. Here they are, I've forgotten their names:

   And here we are digging in:

   And don't forget the cake!!

   And I will now leave you. To make up for the lack of baking chit-chat, here's a few photos of stalls tat sell keropok losong and all sorts of local snacks and delicacies. These shops or stalls can be found all the way by the roads along the beach in Terengganu:

   The shops look more or less the same, don't they?

   Bubbye, Terengganu! We enjoyed visiting you!

   [If you don't mind, I'd like to make a Part 2 for my convocation report! Hehe...]

   p.s. Little Brother managed to finish the whole cake I left for him in three days. All by himself! Well, there was one, tiny slice left, but still...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Pie with Oil Crust and a History of (my) Pie Making

   During my pie making frenzy (which started sometime in August) I made nearly or maybe even over 30 pies up to the last pie. I've lost count! It started with failures especially in the crust department, but I persevered (which is a dignified way of saying sweating and biting my lips to keep myself from saying anything particularly offensive to the pie dough while rolling and re-rolling it) and Alhamdulillah, after a number of attempts my efforts started to produce better and better results. I had never made my crust (or any pie for that matter) on my own, and the last time I'd made them was years and years ago, when I was shorter and skinnier (though most of my friends would disagree) and ahhem with more pimples. Ahhh pimples and acne and whatever you call them. Such wonderful times we had together! (Coughs). Anyhow, I digress. Back to pie talk.

   That being said, I did a lot of research and studying (another dignified way of describing enjoying myself while browsing the internet looking at food). I made y first apple pie. Epic failure. I used shortening for the crust, and it would NOT brown. I baked it for so long, the apples dried  up. I despaired and gave up on ever making pie again. My second attempt was this lovely pie from the Homesick Texan (which is a lovely, original blog), but though the chocolate part was quite lovely, the crust was a flop. However, it gave me a little spark of hope and I thought that i'd try once again.

   Next, I made this lovely Chocolate Marvel Pie. I used the basic pie crust recipe from Betty Crocker's Pie & Pastry Cookbook, but I used butter instead of lard (which we don't take because from my understanding it's made from pig fat) and shortening (which I used in the Epic Fail pie crust and, yes, how did you guess? FAILED.) I'd watch a video by Joy the Baker & Jill Donenfield, looked at some step-by step tutorials (one such being this) and devoured the BCP&P Cookbook, and at the same time, I happened to come across some deep dish thingy in my Mum's kitchen store which I figured I could use to bake a pie. So I did. And though the crust slipped down the slippery slope of the deep dish, leaving barely an inch deepness of a pie crust-ness for me to pour my chocolate filling-ness, it was delicious and most importantly, the pie crust browned quite beautifully (though with lots of air bubbles because I hadn't pricked it enough). 

   And that, was the beginning of my pie-making frenzy. Some of the pies I wrote about and posted on this blog, but most of them were quickly finished before i could take any photos. There was also, ahhem, the matter of not having a camera until Big Sister lent hers (and it's still in my hand.... laughs an evil and witchy laugh). Below are some of the pies that I remember having made in the last 4 months:

Chocolate Marvel Pie (around 3? Or 4?)
Apple Pie (I've lost count of the numbers. Maybe around 10? Or more?)

   And that's all I can remember. With practice, my efforts in making the crusts got easier produced better results, and I started experimenting with different types of crusts. In this post, I'll share the Oil Pie crust I made, the recipe taken from the BCP&PC. I won't say it was a complete success (details to follow) but it was another step in my pie making adventure so it was pretty good. I made a 10-inch crust, but as usual here are the measurements for both 8 or 9-inch and 10-inch crusts.


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup salad oil (I used corn oil)
2-3 tablespoons cold water

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil (I used corn oil)
3-4 tablespoons cold water

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup salad oil (I used corn oil)
4-5 tablespoons cold water

1. Mix flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
2. Add oil and using a fork, mix until particles are the size of small peas (which takes some time and didn't exactly result in p's in the s of sp's, but I got a crumbly mixture which I think is okay)
3. Sprinkle water over mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix using fork until flour is thoroughly moistened and dough almost cleans the side of the bowl (you may add 1-2 tbsp oil id needed).
4. Gather dough into hands to form a ball.
5. For one-crust pies, shape dough into a flattened round. For two-crust pies, divide dough in half, place each half cut side down and flatten into a round.
6. Place flattened rounds between two pieces of waxed paper (which I didn't have- i used greaseproof paper and it worked).
7. Wipe table with a damp cloth to prevent the paper from slipping. Roll pastry 2 inches larger than your inverted pie pan. Like so:

8. Peel off top paper:
and transfer the pastry by placing the pastry paper side up in the pan.
9. Peel  of the paper and carefully ease the pastry into the pan.

   And there you have it. Next, do one of the following steps and bake your oil crust pie:
(a) FOR 2-CRUST FRUIT or MEAT PIE: Fill the pie with your pie chosen filling (for this pie I used the filling from this pie). Roll top crust the same way as bottom crust. Cut slits on top (I punched in a few apple-shaped patterns using a cookie cutter, like so:
Trim pastry and bake according to the recipe for your pie.

(b) FOR BAKED PIE SHELL: Bake pie crust for 12 to 15 minutes at 475F or 245C. (Mine usually takes longer. Like 20-25 minutes). 

   Now, though the crust was quite easy to handle... until the time came to transfer it into the pie pan. I probably need more practice. The top crust tore a bit, and I patched it up, but basically it looked like this:
(Excuse the chunks of margarine, I forgot to dot the filling with them before  putting the top crust on)
   I was a bit doubtful, but into the oven it went:

   And it stayed there for so long, the filling dripped out of the torn parts of the crust and onto the bottom of the oven. Yikes. The reason? The crust would NOT brown. If it did, it took a very, very long time to do it, nearly 1 1/2 hours I think. I was afraid the filling would dry out, but fortunately it didn't. Instead, it turned out into this thick, gooey caramel-ly goodness. Pheeww!

   Mum said it was okay, but that she preferred the usual pie crust I made. The oil recipe resulted in this crumbly, semi-crisp, semi-soft crust. It was quite delicious, and a change from the ordinary butter crust and I liked it. This spoonful says: "Here's to more pies in the future!"
p.s. Yup, the dates on the photos tells you that I made this nearly 3 months ago. Then again, I'm no sure when I'll try making an oil crust again, so here  they are. I should probably start cropping my photos and learn to do a bit of editing, bu I'm too lazy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Short update

Just a sort note to say that:

- I won't be able to post any updates for a while because my laptop went and gave up on me. Huhu. Need to get it fixed first.
- I haven't posted any updates because I was busy with convocation, but as soon as my laptop is all right I'll post about that. I had a good time- my siblings gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers and a HUGE teddy bear, haha
- I'm giving Big Sister's camera back to her... even though my photos were kind of lousy, I still had pictures to post and that's better than nothing. It won't be as fun posting about my baking adventures without any pictures to accompany the text though.

So tata for now! I feel bad if people come here and find that there's nothing new to read, but at the moment it can't be helped. Thank you though, for all your lovely, lovely comments, I truly appreciate it! I'll make my best effort to still go and visit your blogs- hopefully my laptop will be okay soon! Until then, take care!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Apple Pie(s)

Sorry. It's not a very good picture but I like it anyway.
I'm quite proud of the crust for this pie, it looks lovely and flaky (I think) and it is too.

   It's about time I talk about my apple pie. Apple pies, that is. I think out of all the things that I've made so far, apple pies (or most pies for that matter) are the most rewarding. It took me quite some time to learn how to make the pie crust. The first time I made them on my own was such a failure than I chickened out and stopped trying. Then, after a long time, I tried again. This time it browned, at least, but was too crumbly to be called a proper pie crust. Then I tried again. And again. And again.

   Each time I made a new pie, things got better. I learned where I made my mistakes, and made sure (or tried to) not to repeat them. I learned how to make sure the dough was not too sticky, nor too tough to roll out. It was a long and hard process, but it was worth it. Now, I just jump at the chance of making pie whenever I have enough ingredients (which, at the moment is not often- I haven't made pie for a few weeks now). I've yet to master the art of pie making, but I revel in the thought that there's so much more to explore about it.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the uncooked crust, but I think this was the best crust I'd made up to that time (for my 6th or 7th pie, I think)
We don't have a proper working space for rolling out pastry or kneading bread, so I use this round, tin tray of Mum's which works quite well.

Wonky lattice top.
I wish I had one of those crimp cutters or whatever they're called.

   Most of the recipes that I used for the pies came from Betty Crocker's Pie & Pastry Cookbook, which is a wonderful book. Ever since I remember- well, ever since we purchased the book (secondhand from a car boot sale at Scotland) I've stared and stared at all the lovely and mouth-watering pictures. I read through the recipes,  imagining myself making them. I never did though, until that first disastrous pie. I'm glad I got the courage to try again. It was worth it.

My sifu for pie-making!
   I meant to blog about each pie that I made so that I could take note of my improvements and mistakes, but what can I say, I've yet to become a consistent blogger (while I can say that I have 2 other blogs to write in, it's not a good excuse because I don't post updates all that often over there either), so I'm putting photos of apple pies that I've made altogether in this one post. Next time... we'll see...

I think this was the very first apple pie I made (on my own, anyway)
Look at my wonky lattice top!

makes 1 10-inch pie (with some leftover pastry)

Pie Crust
Pastry for a 2 crust 10-inch pie

Pie Filling
8 cups thinly sliced pared apples (about 7 medium-sized ones)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I put nearly 2 tsp, hehe)
a dash of salt
3 tablespoons margarine/butter

Heat oven to 425F/220C.

Roll out pastry and use to line pie pan.

Stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix with apples in a large bowl. Turn filling into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot with butter.

Cover with top crust (with slits or holes on top to allow steam to escape). Seal and flute. 

Cover edge with a strip of aluminium foil to prevent excessive browning; remove 15 minutes before end of baking time. 

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is beautifully browned and juice begins to bubble through the slits/holes in the top crust.

Serve warm, with ice-cream if desired.

p.s. I wouldn't worry too much about getting the measurements right for the filling. Just follow your instincts (and tastebuds, of course!) as well as what you have

Custard Sauce
* This is my own recipe! Hah. Well, I based it on the lemon chiffon filling that I made for the Lemon Chiffon Pie, but this is pretty much my own invention. I'm sorry if it doesn't work if you try it, but it was pretty okay when I made it.

Makes one cup.

1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon custard powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

Beat egg lightly in a bowl and add milk. Beat mixture until well combined. Add custard powder, sugar and salt. Mix until well combined. Strain into a saucepan. Turn on heat to low or medium-low. Stir constantly until mixture is thickened (shouldn't take long). Pour over your slice of pie and enjoy!

1. I actually put in two tablespoons of sugar, but I realised that I'd forgotten to strain the egg+milk mixture only after I'd combined all the ingredients, so I strained the whole mixture then, and of course there were bits of granulated sugar left in the strainer. So I think only one tablespoon really went into the custard. It was just sweet enough for me, but you can always increase the amount to two tablespoons. I think the best thing to do would be to strain the sauce after you've combined the egg, milk and custard so that you won't have any eggy or custardy lumps. Then you add the sugar and salt.
2. The sauce shouldn't harden up with just one tablespoon of custard powder, but if it does, just add a little milk to soften it a bit. No biggie.

   Some more pictures... yeah I know, I should get rid of the date stamps or cut them out, but I'm too lazy to do that! 
Two pies I made for Big Sister to take back to KL.
She wanted two. Two whopping pies!
Being the NICE little sister that I am, I made two. Which one looks better, do you think?
There was too much juice. Though I wish I needn't write 'too much'.
I think this happened because I mixed together the apples and flour+sugar etc. too early.
I put them aside, and when I was ready to use them, they had A LOT of juice.
Being me, I felt that it was a shame to throw the excess juice. Wrong decision.
Look at what happened below.
This picture can either gross people out, or make them drool.
The latter happened to me. Though it spoiled the pie's looks (it'll never get a prize for Most Beautiful Pie), I love the how the juice caramelised through the crack. It's such a pretty colour.
   With cake, there is a time when I feel, "Ok, that's it, I've had enough cake for this week!" but so far, it hasn't happened with pie. Should I ask Dad to get some apples on his way home for work? Haha.

Another pie.
Don't ask me why I punctured so many holes on the crust, but I did.
It also happened that I forgot to dot the apples with margarine before covering the filling with the top crust.
So I poked some margarine through the holes.
Some mistakes turn out for the best reasons, huh? (Or not, haha)

   Other pies I've made and posted about:
   Vanilla Cream Pie
   Chocolate Marvel Pie
   Lemon Chiffon Pie
   Peach Pie

   Oh, and just thought I'd share here that my convocation day is on October 10th. Yay! I'm still waiting for a job placement, so preparing for convocation is providing some fun for me. I went to IIUM to get my robe on October 1st, so I got to meet some of my friends, which was really fun. 

   This is what I'll be wearing! I forgot to take a picture of my own robe (didn't want the bother of having to repack it, anyway) so I took this picture from the website:

   Ooohhh!!! It's just 5 days away! I'm nervous. I hope I don't trip myself up on stage. Or have my face freeze when taking the scroll. Or drop the scroll after receiving it. Ahhhh!!! I'm scared!

  But I'm still looking forward to it! :D