Archive for the ‘pastry’ Category

I posted grandma’s Crisco shortcrust pastry recipe earlier. This one uses another vegetable shortening, Spry, which was Crisco’s main competitor. Read more of my earlier comments on these vegetable shortenings also here.

The recipe’s list of ingredients states ‘butter’ next to ‘Spry’, though the ingredients refer only to Spry. As I noted in the Crisco pastry recipe, grandma taught me to make shortcrust pastry with ‘half butter, half Crisco’, so similarly, in this recipe, grandmother might have meant to use a combination of butter and Spry.

This pastry can be used as the pie shell for the many pie recipes in grandma’s notebook.

Shortcrust pastry

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I have been waiting to get to this recipe :). Cream puffs were one of grandmother’s favourite things to make as she found choux pastry very easy to produce. I don’t recall her ever making them for me, but she often recalled how as a teenager in the early 1930s, she learnt to make them at YWCA cooking classes. Having perfected her cream puff making skills, she would make them for the tea parties her father held at their home every weekend for his friends and business clients.

Having heard her talk about cream puffs so much, a few years ago, I retrieved her cream puff recipes (there are a few more in this recipe notebook which I shall post later) and made my first attempt at choux pastry. It certainly wasn’t as easy as grandmother had led me to believe! At this time, grandma was already aged 90 or so and she couldn’t remember the finer points of choux pastry-making to guide me along, so I tried to read up on the web in addition to using her recipe notes. I was so frustrated with the results of my first attempt, that I immediately made a second batch, which I was even more disappointed with! But grandma was very happy I was baking her pet dish and gave the thumbs up to my mediocre cream puffs.

Actually, this is a recipe for choux pastry, as there are no instructions for the cream filling. Grandma told me to use Nestle tinned cream, as that was what she used in the past, and it’s still easily available in Singapore supermarkets.

Note the two sets of measurements, the ones on the left are one-third of the amounts on the right.

[28/12/07 update: see grandma’s alternative instructions for choux pastry here.]
[30/12/07 update: another recipe for cream puffs with custard filling here.]

[22/7/08 update: if you are really keen to go into the intricacies of making choux pastry, have a look a the tips here, and the recipes here and here.]

Cream Puff

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This is one of the only pie recipes here with instructions for making the pie shell. It’s basically a shortcrust pastry using vegetable shortening (such as Crisco, see my comments here.)

Giveaway sign of an American recipe: the word ‘Jell-O’. In Singapore, we’ve always followed the British usage – ‘jelly’.

Also, the inclusion of vanilla ice cream. From the sound of it, one is expected to have ready-made commercial ice cream available. I’m amazed to read on this page about the history of ice cream that commercial ice cream production began as early as 1851, in Baltimore, USA. (See also here.) For commercial ice cream to be sold in the tropics, refrigeration was all important, and of course this depended on the generation of electricity. Cold Storage supermarket got its name in the days when refrigerated foodstuffs were something special. As company website says,

Established in 1903, Cold Storage was the child of the Industrial Revolution and Pax Britannica, when Singapore was the “Clapham Junction of the Eastern Seas”. Together with electricity and refrigeration, it allowed European agents of change – the colonial civil servants, merchants, miners, planters, traders – to acclimatise to living in the tropics. It can thus be said that if there were no Cold Storage the modern history of Singapore would probably be quite different.

As early as the 1920s, Cold Storage in Singapore was already mass producing ice cream for sale, not just at its own retail outlets, but also at local provision stores and cafes. You can see from the following ads (published in the Malaya Tribune newspaper in from 1925 to 1929) the names of places where Cold Storage ice cream was available, as well as the fact that there were many varieties including Eskimo Pie (1925), Neapolitan (1929), and vanilla, strawberry, lemon, coffee, tutti-frutti, pineapple, banana, maple nut, raspberry, cherry nut, chocolate and fruit salad flavours (1929)!!

Cold Storage ice cream 1925

Cold Storage ice cream 1925 B

Cold Storage ice cream 1929

No wonder grandma always had a penchant for cassata ice-cream, layers of different flavoured ice-cream a bit like Neapolitan. As a child in the 1970s, I remember she would always order cassata for dessert (and I hated the bits of fruit inside the layers :P — only peach melba no nuts no cream for me, thank you).

I’m sure grandmother has a recipe for ice cream somewhere in her notebook…. and here it is :).

Date Nut Parfait A
Date Nut Parfait B

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As I’ve posted so many pie recipes already, it’s about time I put up grandma’s pastry recipe so that you can make the pie shells!

My childhood is filled with memories of homemade shortcrust pastry. We had regular servings of apple pie made by Ah Kum Che but actually, I loved the plain shortcrust pastry more than the pies :). Extra pastry cut into biscuit shapes were made for me, sprinkled with granulated sugar on top but I preferred them plain – please don’t adulterate my wonderfully ‘short’ pastry with hard crystals! I can’t quite remember now how old I was when I learnt to make shortcrust pastry, certainly my first baking adventures are an enduring memory of my pre-school years, but probably I only started seriously making shortcrust pastry after Ah Kum Che retired and I had to find some way to fulfil my craving for pastry biscuits and once-a-year Christmas mincepies (we always used ready-made supermarket mince, Robertson’s brand – which I now realise, reading through grandma’s recipes, was a convenience strategy that grandmother didn’t hesitate to use).

Anyway, grandma’s instructions to make shortcrust pastry with ‘half butter and half Crisco’ in order to get a really ‘short’ texture has always stayed with me. As you can see, this recipe asks for all Crisco, no butter. I’ve never tried it that way myself.

Crisco was introduced in 1911 as the first shortening to use only vegetable oil. In the early days, the cans came with recipe books to teach consumers how to cook with this new product. See the Crisco history timeline here, together with pictures of the first advertisement, the first cookbook, early manufacturing and more. I have also commented on Crisco in other entries on this blog, such as here.

Crisco, being a type of hydrogenated vegetable oil, originally contained four grams of trans fats per tablespoon, but since January 2007, Crisco has been reformulated to contain ‘zero trans fats per serving’ (read the press release), which doesn’t necessarily no trans fats at all, simply that one serving has less than the mandatory minimum required for the item to be declared on the nutritional label (see here).

Reading this review of the new Crisco, it seems to me that even if I did follow grandma’s recipe, the results would never be identical to hers because the very nature of the key ingredient has changed over the years according to new developments in nutritional science and food technology.

Personally, I think I’d rather stick to butter rather than an industrial product like Crisco. I haven’t made shortcrust pastry in recent years, I hope my future Crisco-less attempt will be as good as the shortcrust pastry I remembered in the old days…!

[Update 17/11/07: read all about shortcrust pastry and making the perfect pie crust here. Thanks to Ann Mah for the link, and her report on how well it worked with my grandmother’s Pineapple Pie recipe.]

Crisco Pastry

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Finally, this is the last in the series of pie recipes, all of which sound very American in origin! I’ve written here about the possible source of this influence on my grandmother.

You might want to compare this with the Pineapple Pie/Tart recipe I posted earlier. Read more about the history of the pineapple and its connection with colonial Malaya in that post too.

In addition to canned pineapple, another commercial, packaged product used in this recipe is Carnation Evaporated Milk. I wrote about processed milk earlier here.

Pineapple Filling

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This one is interesting because of the use of ‘quick cooking tapioca’. I had always thought this was a western name for what is more commonly know in Singapore/Malaysia as ‘sago’ (here, ‘tapioca’ immediately brings to mind the entire root vegetable, not processed pearls). However a quick search on the internet reveals that sago and tapioca pearls are similar but not identical. Apparently they can be used interchangeably. I have no idea whether the ‘sago’ I have been eating in kueh-kueh all these years is technically from the sago palm or from the tapioca (cassava) plant!Incidentally, one of my favourite childhood desserts is sago pudding, which is not commonly sold at food stalls or restaurants. It’s so simple yet so delicious: chilled sago mounds sitting in a swirl of coconut milk and gula melaka sugar **yummmm**.

For a long time I didn’t realise that those chewy, ‘QQ’ pearls in bubble tea are actually made from tapioca too – humongous cousins of the teeny little sago pearls in sago pudding! Read more here about bubble tea pearls and the difference between American and Southeast Asian perceptions of tapioca/sago pearls.

Cranberry Orange Pie

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Yet another one in the series of pie recipes.

[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]

Pear Almond Pie

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Peach Banana Pie

Another one in the series of pie recipes. Most of them seem to involve a combination of delicious-sounding fruits; somehow the double-barrelled, hyphenated names are very alluring :)!

[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]

Peach Banana Pie

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