Archive for the ‘milk (condensed)’ Category

With commercial, sliced bread today full of questionable preservatives (especially calcium propionate, see for example, Fact Sheet on Bread Preservative (282 calcium propionate) and Bread Preservative Research), it’s always good to make your own bread at home if you can. Which is why I’ve been doing quite a bit of bread making recently – with a bread machine, I’m afraid :), and I was quite excited to see this bread recipe in grandmother’s notebook. There being so many different varieties of bread, I wonder what these bread rolls are like? Crusty on the outside, or more like soft buns?

Traditional bakeries in Singapore produced very soft, airy loaves of white bread in a tall rectangular shape. Usually the blackened crust would be cut off and the loaf sliced before being sold. There are few of these traditional Chinese bakeries left these days, and the commercial bread market is dominated by mass-production factory brands like Gardenia. I’m curious as to the origins of these Chinese bakeries (perhaps somewhat similar to the story behind the famous Polar Cafe?)and the broader history of bread in Singapore.

The story of commercial bread-making is a fascinating one as this account of the history of the industrialisation of bread-making in the USA by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, a politics academic, reveals. He mentions that an obsession with the whiteness of bread led to complaints in the first two decades of the 20th century that bakeries were whitening bread with ‘plaster of Paris, sulfate of lime, borax, bone, pipe clay, chalk, alum and other nefarious compounds’. There was even a debate in the US Supreme Court over whether bleaching flour with chlorine gas could be considered a criminal act. More generally, the article ‘traces the articulation of capital and bio-politics over the terrain of baking’.

I don’t recall ever having tried this technique of making a separate ‘yeast dough’ then mixing it into another dough later, even in my days of baking bread by hand (which was almost twenty years ago!). Note also the use of plain flour, as opposed to bread flour which has a higher proportion of gluten to give that chewy texture (as opposed to the crumbly texture of cake). I’ve found that plain flour gives a lighter, more airy texture to bread, whereas bread flour produces a more dense and chewy loaf. Also intriguing is the use of condensed milk in the yeast dough recipe (see here for my historical notes on condensed milk), most recipes call for milk and sugar as separate ingredients.

The four eggs will certainly make this a very rich bread. As I learnt from Prepared Pantry,

Typically, dough for rolls is a little richer—maybe with an egg added and a little more sugar—than most doughs for bread. 

Bread Rolls A

Bread Rolls B

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Grandmother originally titled this recipe ‘Marmer Cake’ and later changed it to ‘Marble Cake’. A search for Marmer Cake recipes on the internet threw up mostly Indonesian websites and a couple of Dutch ones, so I used some online dictionaries and confirmed that marmer is indeed the Dutch word for ‘marble’. I wonder if this cake has Dutch origins? In any case, it has firmly passed into the staple of local kueh – I remember regularly eating slices of marble cake in the primary school canteen.

Some Indonesian recipes for Marble Cake use the word kue, which simply means ‘cake’, but this made me think how when we use of the word kueh (or kuih) in names of foods whilst speaking English, it emphasises the very local origins of the cake; mostly, it’s nonya or Malay/Indonesian desserts that have names which include the word kueh, such as kueh bangkit, kueh lapis, kueh bengka, kueh Ambon etc. But then kueh is really a Hokkien Chinese word 粿, think of ang ku kueh, soon kueh, huat kueh, chye tow kueh, char kway teow (and note the different spellings that have become the norm for different dishes – plus Malaysians and Indonesians each have their own way of phoneticising Hokkien which I’m not so familiar with). [See entry on ‘kueh‘ at SinglishDictionary.com]

And so the name Marmer Kue leads us on a historical journey through the making of hybrid (food) cultures and languages in a Southeast Asia shaped by immigration and multiple European colonialisms.

Condensed milk – another off-the-shelf commercial food product with a very long history, the first successfully canned condensed milk dating to 1885. Read about the history of condensed milk and how it is prepared, how the need for hygenic, shelf-stable milk led to the popularity of condensed milk at the turn of the century, how condensed milk can improve cooking, and the history of brands that are still sold today from two American-origin companies: Eagle (1856) and Carnation (1899, acquired by Nestlé in 1984; Nestlé had previously merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company in 1905).

Do have a look at this wonderful digitised book, The Story of Carnation Milk (1915), which includes all kinds of recipes. Here is the cover:
Carnation Milk Story 1915

Here are some advertisements for evaporated and condensed milk that I’ve found in Singapore newspapers from 1931. The variety of international brands, and the existence of even local trademarks indicates what a popular food product it was. Click on the links for images:
Libby’s Evaporated Milk
Milkmaid Sweetened Condensed Milk
Nestle & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company
and local trademarks of the East Asiatic Company (Aktiselskabet Det Oestasiatiske Kompagni)

What this looks like is the original recipe written up first, and then after experimentation, grandma revised the quantities and noted down the new version on the left hand side page (indicated with arrow). I’ve appended this at the bottom of the main recipe. That is a scary amount of eggs! I never realised Marble Cake was so rich :/….. Plus there are no instructions for cocoa powder to create the marbling effect (*puzzled*)?

[15/1/08 Update: do check grandmother’s alternative recipe for Marble Cake here.]

Marble Cake A


Marble Cake B

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