19 Mar 2011

here's hoping for a better future

A little late into this, but I'm sure all, if not, most of you have heard the news of the recent natural disasters that are occurring in Japan right now. I have friends in Japan who I have gotten to know throughout my high school years and some recently through blogs. Unfortunately, some of them live in the affected areas and knowing I can't physically do anything to help, makes me feel helpless.

I wish I could do more to help, but I can only offer support to my friends, pray for Japan and its people whilst they conquer the crisis and slowly rebuild and of course, through voluntary donations.

A few days into the crisis, a well respected photographer on flickr, Hideaki Hamada has started a project called "Please Donate For Japan Earthquake" in order to spread the donation links through uploaded photographs. In a short period of time, there have been more than 1000 photos uploaded into the group from people around the world. 

I hope you can also join the group and help Japan and its people. 

There have been also some bloggers who are raising money to support the cause. The list does not include all the bloggers, but a few that I have been able to source.

If you prefer not to donate via internet, I have found two places in Melbourne that you will be able to make cash donations.

  • Tokuya is donating 10 cents of every product sold and have a cash donation box on the counter
  • University of Melbourne's Japanese Club fundraiser - see details here

On a side note, these portuguese tarts are one of my grandma's favourite bakes! When I was holiday-ing in Malaysia last year, my cousin and I made at least a batch of these a week and then we eventually got sick of them! That time, we used grandma's homemade shortcrust pastry, but this time round I made my own rough puff pastry (which tastes as good as the real deal!) It was kind of a like a baked creme patisserie and egg tart pastry fusion, only my pastry was thinner.

Making your own rough puff pastry beats buying the frozen pastry sheets as it smells better, crisper and lighter too! Plus it's easier than making real puff pastry :)


pasteis de nata (portuguese tarts)

rough puff pastry
from only the best by Michel Roux

makes 300g, enough for 4 x 12 cm diameter tart tins

I have quartered the amount of ingredients in the original recipe
  • 125 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 125 g well-chilled butter, cut into small cubes (I used unsalted butter)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50 ml iced water

yolk cream
adapted from the Cooking Guide DS

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 120 g sugar (reduced to 100 g)
  • 4 tsp cornflour, sifted
  • 200 ml milk
  • 100 ml double cream (I used thickened cream)
  • dash of vanilla essence

to make pastry:

Put the flour in a mound on the work surface, make a well in the centre and add the cubes of butter and salt. using your fingertips, work the butter and flour together, gradually drawing the flour into the middle.

When the butter cubes are half-squashed and the dough is becoming grainy, pour in the iced water in a steady stream, mixing with your other hand.

Continue to mix the dough with your fingertips until all the water is incorporated.

Then gather the dough and knead it several times by pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand. It should be fairly smooth, but you will still see some small particles of butter. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the pastry into a 30 x 15 cm rectangle. Fold this rectangle into three. This is called the first turn.

Give the block of pastry a quarter-turn, roll it out as before and fold into three. This is the second turn. Lightly press two fingertips into the block to remind yourself that you have made two turns. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Give the chilled pastry two more turns, rolling and folding as before. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days until ready to use.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. 

First, put the egg yolks in the mixing bowl and add sugar, beat well.
Add cornflour to the beaten egg yolks, mix well. Stir in the milk.
Strain and transfer the mixture into a small saucepan and place it over a low heat. Stir with the wooden spatula while gently heating the mixture until it thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat and place it on a wet tea towel. I just put the saucepan over a bowl of cold water.
Stir in a dash of vanilla essence, then let the mixture cool until it reaches room temperature. Mix the cream into the cooled yolk cream.
to assemble pasteis de nata:
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Dust the chopping board and tart tin lightly with flour.
Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin until it is 3 mm thick and big enough to fit over tin with excess dough hanging out. Push the pastry in the tart tin, pressing the pastry against the edges and bottoms of the tins. Roll the pin over the tin to cut the dough and remove excess. 
Divide and scoop the cooled yolk cream into the pastry in each pie tin.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry and yolk cream is puffed and is slightly golden. Increase the temperature to 250°C and bake for a few minutes until tops are slightly darker than golden brown. Watch carefully as they tend to burn easily!