Category Archives: Let’s Learn!

How To Conduct a KL Greet (via KL Greeters Network)

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Being a KL Greeter is a great way to get to know the city and re-learn to fall in love with it all over again.

If you would like to volunteer as a KL Greeter, or if you are looking for a KL Greeter to assist you with your visit, go to  http://kualalumpur.greeters.info/

HOW TO DO A KL GREET?

I received a lot of questions about this. But first, let me explain to you what this thing is all about.

The Global Greeters Network is a worldwide network of volunteers that take tourists around their cities and teach them the basics like how to use train system, read maps, places to eat etc. You spend between 2-8hours per greet, depending on how much time you have and what the guests want to see.

There are many ways to customise a Greet. But the basic preparation would be to arm yourself with the KL Tourist map and LRT/GoKL map (easily available at info counter in KL Sentral). Then, map out where you want to take the guests and use Wikipedia and Google Maps to aid you; once you get the hang of this it should be a cinch.

Find out what the guests want to see, their dietary requirements, age group (kids need toilet breaks!) and find out where is the nearest washroom, money changer and prepaid card booth. Teach them how to use GrabCar or how buy LRT tokens and simple phrases like terima kasih, campur-campur, -lah, alamak and so on.

My standard 2-hour Greet would normally cover the following:

00:00 Meet at KL Sentral

  • Go to the information counter in front of McDonald’s and request for the KL City Map.
  • I usually bring a marker pen to mark interesting locations that the guests may want to check out at their leisure.
  • I also mark out KL Sentral and the nearest train station to their hotel and remind them that if they are lost, simply find the pink LRT line and pick KL Sentral as the destination where they can regroup and get their bearing.

00:05 General Briefing

  • I will explain about what we are about to do and the places that we are going to visit to check if these are okay with the guests. I change the itinerary if they would like to see anything specific.
  • If the guests are unfamiliar with taking public transportation, I spend a little time to teach them how to buy LRT tokens and show them how to use the GrabCar app.
  • If all is well, we will then buy a token to go to Pasar Seni LRT Station (Central Market).

00:10 Pasar Seni LRT Station

  • During the ride, I point out the old KTM Railway Station, talk about its architecture.
  • Point out the Klang River and explain the origin of the name Kuala Lumpur.
  • Explain a little bit about KL/Malaysia history (major tin exporter, turn agriculture, turn manufacturing and k-economy).
  • Point out Kompleks Dayabumi and its Islamic-inspired architecture.

Arch Collection Kebaya

00:15 Central Market (Pasar Seni)

  • Before entering CM, give a little backstory about the building and what the guests can expect to see in there.
  • Start with the shops on the LEFT side: the shop lanes are divided into 4 categories – Little India, Malay Street, Little China and Peranakan.
  • Explain a little bit about the various races and cultures, the rise and fall of Melaka, colonization by the various European super powers (and the reasons why).
  • Bring them to the Arch Collection shop on the RIGHT side to show the guests examples of wood carving. I always point out the Baju Kebaya and the traditional Malay House.
  • Somewhere in the middle lane there is this great little (un-named) stall that sells various figurines in traditional costumes. This is good stop to show the guests our traditional and matrimonial costumes. The shopgirl is very nice so don’t be shy to ask for her permission to use her stall as a showcase.

00:45 Central Market Annexe Gallery and Flea Market

  • If they have interest in arts and books, take them to the Annexe Gallery.
    Then turn right into the open flea market on Jalan Hang Kasturi and walk all the way down to Jalan Tun H.S. Lee to get to Petaling Street.
  • Usually this is when I will ask the group if they would like to stop for a quick teh tarik and roti canai break. Btw, being a greeter is a voluntary thing therefore you should not expect your guests to pay you for your time or expenses. If you were the one who suggested the stop, please pick up the bill. If the guests request for it, do pay for your own meal.
  • Explain about roti canai and teh tarik and other kinds of food that are staples to the Malaysian diet like nasi lemak, laksa, durian etc. I usually order 4 kinds of drinks and ask the guests to try them: teh tarik, milo ais, nescafe ais and teh o ais. This is a good time to whip out any youtube video on teh tarik so that the guests can see how it is made.

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00:50 Petaling Street

  • This is where you can coax the guests to try various street food (if you are up to it). I usually use this time to let them soak in the sight and atmosphere.
  • If the guests are interested in buying anything, help them to haggle.

01:00 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee – Guan Di Temple

  • Explain about the road and why it was renamed Jalan Tun H. S. Lee.
    Talk a little bit about our road to independence, integration and so on.
  • Stop at Guan Di (aka Kuan Ti) Temple on the left side of the road.
  • Explain about the two lions and the Door Gods that are guarding the door, and about Guan Di deity.
  • During day time, usually guests would spend quite a bit of time here to take photos.

01:15 Jalan Tun H. S. Lee – Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

  • This temple is only about a minute’s walk away from Guan Di Temple.
    You will be asked to remove your shoes before you enter. It is customary to donate a small amount of money when you retrieve your shoes.
  • Briefly talk about its history, point out deities and scenes from Ramayana; segue into Thaipusam and Batu Caves, puja prayers etc. To be honest, this is where I am weakest so I need to learn more about this temple so that I could be more accurate when talking about it to the guests. The temple itself is calm, serene and magnificent.

01:30 MRT Pasar Seni or Pasar Seni LRT Station

  • Walk towards the end the road and then turn right at the traffic light. I usually ask guests if they would like to take the MRT to go to Bukit Bintang, or if they would like to go to KLCC Twin Towers. For this article, let’s assume they choose KLCC.
  • Go back to Pasar Seni LRT Station, point out the free GoKL bus and explain to them that they can hop on/off any time and to refer to the KL Map in order to check the area that individual buses cover. If guests would like to go to Little India, I would take them to Brickfields (via Nu Sentral) and end the Greet there.

01:35 KLCC LRT Station

  • There are several things to do here. Check if they want to go to the Petronas Galeri, Petrosains, Observation Deck, MPO or Akuaria; tell them the entrance fees to help them consider if these are right for them.
  • Take them to KLCC Park lookout point so that they can take photos of the Twin Towers; if the greet takes place at night, take a break and sit on the steps by the fountain to enjoy the light show.

02:00 KLCC C Level (Concourse), near Maybank/Guardian

  • Point out the route to Akuaria/KL Convention Centre and give them directions to Pavilion/Bukit Bintang.

That’s it. The Greet ends here. I normally teach the guests how to do salam the Malay way, ask them to text or call me if they get lost or need assistance, wish them happy holidays and let them be on their way.

QUESTIONS?

These are the Top 3 questions that I get whenever I do a greet:

  1. Why does everyone in Malaysia seem to be able to speak in English
  2. How are Malaysians able to accept and be respectful of each other’s religion? (Usually asked after we go to Guan Di Temple and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.)
  3. How do Malaysians learn to live together when there are so many different races and cultures? (Always when we stop for a teh tarik and roti canai break.)
  4. Bonus question: As a Muslim woman, don’t you think wearing the hijab is repressive and a means for the religion to control woman?

I have also been asked about the palm oil controversy (the unethical clearing of forests and that palm oil is bad for you), the quality of water (somehow, European travel guides mislead tourists into believing that our tap water is dangerous — I was told that some of the guests were even advised to use bottled water to brush their teeth and to never order iced drinks coz you could get a tummy ache!), and of course, Islam and life as a female Malay Muslim.

Keen? You sign up as a Greeter, then once you are vetted, the network will start sending you requests that match your preference. If you want to join me in my next Greet so that you can see how it is being done, hit me in the comments section!

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Filed under Let's Learn!, Travels

The Indie Writers and Publishers

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(Books featured from L to R: Tenggelam Timbul by Tok Rimau, Stingarden by Sinaganaga, Ka-Wah by Pipiyapong, Rok n Roll Lu Memang Brader by Zanbassist and Monolog Seorang Lelaki by Azzam Supardi. Get the books from Sindiket Sol-jah or Studio Anai-anai by emailing them at sinaganaga1547@yahoo.com or clashead@gmail.com)

The Kuala Lumpur Alternative Book Fair took place last weekend. My friends the Sindiket Sol-jah and Studio Anai-anai boys were there to peddle their wares. I had things to do and a movie to catch but in the end decided to spend my Sunday at the Annexe Gallery in Central Market with them, mostly because I was interested to observe the scene and see how these people make a living.

These, I must say:

  1. Duality: Writers are no different than other people who practice creative arts such as painters, songwriters, sculptors etc. They take something internal and personal, regurgitate it into a form that is (somehow) recognizable, and then share it with the world. In the same sense, they open themselves to the possibilities of rejection and scorn and failure for doing something that they love. Well, who doesn’t? The writers that I met are some of the most eloquent, gregariously funny and self-deprecating people around – yet they loathe to talk about their books, almost painfully shy, a little embarrassed maybe with the attention and the fact that they have a physical manifestation of a piece of themselves on display – ready to be traded for a few Ringgit. This duality, while charming, is not unique and is not new. It happens to all of us and to the best of us. Get over it.
  2. Fake It: If there is one lesson that I learned from my years and years of being around rockstars, watching them, emulating them, working with them, it would be this – showmanship first, skills second. A writer is a performer, not just in the performing the act of writing itself. You are a performer in the literal sense. A reader doesn’t just buy a book. She buys your thoughts, idealism, personality, hopes and fears. She identifies with you, sees a connection, finds her own voice through the words you chose. So, when you are out there, give them a show. It is okay if you fumble (it’s charming, trust me), and it is certainly okay to be awkward and uncomfortable and for all these flaws to show. You need to be able to face your public, tell them why you should matter to them and make them feel special. Learn to write memorable (and personal) autographs, pose for photos, ask questions and answer them, be a little cocky and believe that the whole world is in love with you. Every rockstar I know fakes this, and no one can tell the difference.
  3. Stake a Claim and Own It: The alternative book industry is hard, particularly when a previously successful business model is copied by others, making it harder and harder to be heard and be noticed. So, own it. Make each book event a big deal and a serious deal. Arrange for readings, live performances, meet-the-fans session, live-tweet it or even stream it online somewhere. Be on time, look good, smile. Get hot girls to man the booth, dress your area up outrageously that your neighbours complain to the organisers, create feature walls, give free ice cream. Make people want to come and see you and stay and open their wallets and pick up a book and go home with a memory of what great time they had at your booth.

And that, as they say, is that.

BeFunky_Summer_1.jpgSol-jah’s at work with Ana Raffali during a MASKARA night. Photo (c) Sindiket Sol-jah’s blog.

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Filed under Happy, Let's Learn!, Pop Goes the Fiction!

Six-Sided Dice

dice

When I was much younger I used to work for this Japanese company during semester holidays. The first year I was hired as a temp through the local Labour Dept to fill-in the receptionist post as she was on maternity leave. My job consisted of answering calls, patching them through, greeting visitors, arranging interviews for potential employees – all the mundane things that receptionists are supposed to do.

There were two Shahruddins in the company, one was the Chief Engineer, the other was the line supervisor on the shop floor. One was management and the other was union. The Union Din used to hang out around the reception and bitched about Management Din – it was the usual laundry list of complaints: too much work, too little pay, uncaring bosses et cetera. Being a temp, I had a lot of sympathy for Union Din, as I too had too much work and paid so little. I had very little contact with Management Din, but the stories I heard was enough to make me suspicious and wary of him.

After 2 months the receptionist came back to work. I must say this for myself, even when I was just a temp receptionist, I was a kick-ass temp receptionist. The (then) Managing Director, Mr Kuwabara, decided they wanted to keep me for good and offered me a (bonded) scholarship and an internship with the company for the years to come.

The next year I came back for the internship. This time they placed me in different department each month i.e. Purchasing, Accounts and Logistics & Procurement. Then, other HODs discovered that I was good for other things too. Management Din was one of these HODs. He involved me in Budget Planning, ISO 9002 implementation, put me through Kaizen training, the works. But soon the holidays were up and I had to go back to school. The Managing Director again took me to dinner and asked me to come and join them again the following year.

So I went to work for them again for the 3rd time. By now, people were familiar with me. I still handled the reception from time to time when the receptionist went out for lunch. But the bulk of my work was HR-related – from organizing events like Family Day and annual dinner to doing payroll and calculating overtime for the factory folks. That meant I had access to time sheets and performance evaluation reports; and I sat in management meetings to help take notes though I was too junior to understand what was discussed.

One day as I was handling the reception, Union Din came and started to chat. I understood his issues clearly and perfectly. But because I was (by then) familiar with Management Din too and with his budgets and plans for the shop floor including his limitations and the challenges that he faced, I no longer felt any animosity or anger or suspicion towards Management Din. It took me 3 years to reach that point, but I remember thinking to myself how different a story sounds when you have a better understanding of the situation from both sides. It didn’t mean that I have less sympathy for Union Din or that I needed to take sides; it simply meant I grew up and understood that it would always be a question (and a struggle) of balance – be it a balance of power or money or fame. Both Dins wanted the best for the company and for themselves; both had a idea of how the other should operate; both had issues and problems to manage. They talked and debated and argued; and I am quite convinced they hated each other’s guts, but that’s the way it is – you win some, you lose some. You just have to learn to deal with whatever life throws at you.

Anyway, by the end of the 3rd year’s internship, I had been exposed enough to understand that working in the manufacturing sector or in certain professions was not my cup of tea; I had also figured out that wanting to do something is not the same as successfully doing something. So I went to see the MD to thank him for the opportunity and told him I would not be taking the scholarship and would not be continuing my internship with them next year. He still took me out to dinner; and told me that I should do what was best for me, and that I if apply myself the same way I did when I was temping as their receptionist, I would be fine wherever I go. He asked me what I learned from the three years that I spent with them. I said I learned that there is always two sides of a story. He laughed and said that is true, and there is always 6-sides to a dice, but only one can come up at every throw.

There is a moral in this story somewhere.

Feel free to disagree.

_________________________________

Photo (c) Clker.com

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April 22, 2013 · 1:31 am

Baking Series: Super Easy No-Knead Bread

My first post for the year 2013 and it is about baking!

I have been baking a lot of bread lately. This easy recipe from Jezebel.com wins the prize for the simplest, tastiest loaf of fresh bread that a novice like me can make at home. You need only 4 ingredients:

  1. 3 cups of warm water
  2. 1.5 tablespoon of yeast
  3. 1 tablespoon of salt
  4. 6-6.5 cups of all-purpose flour

In a tall, airtight container (like the ones you use to store powder milk or dry pasta or water), mix the warm water with salt and yeast and let them bubble away. Then dump in all the flour and mix thoroughly til there is no flour pockets left.

Loosely seal the top and leave the dough on the kitchen counter for about 1-2 hours till the dough has risen all the way to the top. Then, seal it tightly and put it the the fridge overnight. This dough makes about 2 loaves of bread and can keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

That’s it. You are done with the prep.

Easy No-Knead Bread

Whenever you want to have some bread, preheat the oven to 230 Celcius. Depending on the kind of oven you have, you may want to adjust this. I use a cheap electric oven and its temperature is not exactly accurate, so I check my bread from time to time to make sure it doesn’t burn. Anyway, lightly oil the loaf pan, I just use regular sunflower or palm oil, then take the chilled bread dough out of the fridge and use your oily hands to scoop out the dough and form it into a loaf. Using a sharp knife, score the top – this step is completely unnecessary but I do it anyway to make the bread prettier.

Bake for about 30- 35mins; to crisp the sides, turn up the heat to 250 Celcius during the last 5 mins. The baked bread will have a hollow sound when you tap it. I let it cool a little bit on the counter before attacking it, and I keep the leftover in the fridge.

VARIATIONS

I have used same basic recipe and exchanged the ingredients to make all kinds of bread. Here’s the substitution list:

  1. Potato Bread – swap 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of instant mash potato.
  2. Wholemeal Bread – swap all flour with wholemeal flour, which I warmed for 5 mins in the microwave before dumping it into the mix.
  3. Mixed Grains Bread – retain same wholemeal recipe, just add in about 1 cup of  (combined) rolled oats, seeds and nuts into the mix. I do a quick egg wash and stick some of the nuts and seeds on top of the bread, then bake as usual.
  4. Almond Meal Bread – swap 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of almond meal.

You can eat the homemade bread the same way you would storebought bread. The texture is chewy and rough (I don’t know how to explain it but it is not smooth and silky like the white bread you buy from the shop) like the kind of rolls you get at hotels or restaurants. I usually cut it thickly and use it for open-face sandwich, my current favourite being the apple and cheese mustard sandwich.

Apple and Cheese Mustard Sandwich

APPLE AND CHEESE MUSTARD SANDWICH

Mix a tablespoon each of grainy mustard and plain yogurt with a few drops of olive oil and lemon juice and pepper to make the dressing. No salt please. Slice apples thinly, any kinds of apples can be used.

I assemble them in this order, but you can use whatever order you like: a thick slice of bread, dressing, emmental cheese (doesn’t matter whether it’s the grated kind of the sliced kind); I blast this in the microwave for 20 seconds. Then pile on apple slices and pickles (optional). If I have the ingredients I usually make a little salad of diced tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, cranberries and almond flakes on the side using the same mustard dressing that I use on the sandwich. Yum.

If you are using this recipe(s) to make your own bread, let me know how it goes!

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Filed under Baking Series, Let's Learn!

The Cupcake Slayer Pt III: The Replacements

I had a hankering for brownies recently and a good friend of mine shared this recipe for Gluten Free Brownies from Annabel Karmel. See original post here.

brownie in baking tin

My 6th brownie batch cooling on the kitchen counter.

Ever since the brownie bug bit me, I have baked 6 batches of it: 4 of them using the Annabel Karmel recipe that I could not praise enough, the other two was using a simple all-in-one brownie recipe for the Brownie-in-a-Jar mix that I have been packing for friends.

For the first two I bought all my ingredients (except for eggs and brown sugar) from Pusat Bekalan Bakeri (www.bagus.com.my). Both times, the brownies came out marvellously. Though I overbaked the second batch a little bit (and I blame the oven for that), the brownie was very good.

For the rest of the batches I used various ingredients in my effort to diversify, and also because I didn’t have time to go to the bakery supply shop. These are what I found out:

  1. Muscovado sugar definitely can be replaced with brown sugar. You  hardly notice the difference. Much to my surprise, Giant carries muscovado sugar. Look for organic molasses sugar, the packet costs about RM12.90 for 1kg.
  2. Unsalted butter is much better than salted ones. The only problem is price as unsalted butter may cost as much as RM9.99 a piece. That’s about 3 times regular, salted butter.
  3. Almonds are no walnuts. I could not find walnuts one day so I bought slivered almonds instead. I didn’t like that batch at all. Walnuts, I discovered, are expensive. A small 300g packet can cost RM15. Since I like my brownies with nuts, this is a choice that I always make.
  4. Buy the best chocolates you can find. The biggest difference in taste is the quality of chocolates that I use. I bought store-brand chocolates for my 5th batch as it didn’t carry any other kind of baking chocolates. I could only manage maybe 2 slices and then binned the rest. Low quality chocolates are too sweet and taste too  much like sugar; you won’t get that chocolate-y, silky flavour from them. A bar of 113g Hershey’s baking chocolate costs RM13; the 300g chocolate chips is RM20. If you have to skimp the rest, make sure you use most of your budget on getting the best chocolates your money can afford you.
  5. Flour is the same everywhere. I’ve used Pillsbury, I’ve used Cap Sauh. They are all the same.
  6. Baking powder, on the other hand, is not. This is the thing that surprises me the most. This item is cheap, costs no more than RM3-4 at the bakery supply store while generic ones is about RM2 a bottle. The rising quality and taste of the brownies were different from one bottle to another.
  7. Don’t leave the brownie batter sitting idly on the counter for 15-20mins because you forgot to heat up the oven. You will undo all the good work done by the baking powder. So, after you have finished measuring the ingredients and before you crack the eggs – turn on the oven!
  8. Check the brownie time to time as it bakes. Having a cranky, un-precise electric oven like ours can post various problems. You can overbake, temperature can be too high or too low etc. So check it every 5mins or so. Leaving it baking happily on its own for 25mins can result in a burnt brownie.
  9. Don’t panic when the brownies settles down a bit when you leave it to cool. This is perfectly normal. If you want to make it look prettier, make some fudge and slather it all over the brownie, or simply dust some icing sugar on top. And if for some reason the brownie doesn’t turn out as well as you’d like them to be, keep them in the fridge for at least 2 days, then slice it thinly and bake in low heat (150 Celcius or so) til its crispy and you’ll have yourself some delicious chocolate biscuits to dunk in your coffee (tips from Aten).
  10. And yes, lining the baking tin with aluminium foil does make it easier for me to peel the brownie off.

Hey look at me, all brownie-baking expertlike now :)

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The Cupcake Slayer Pt II: Brownie-in-a-Jar

Brownie-In-A-Jar

I had a hankering for brownies recently and a good friend of mine shared this recipe for Gluten Free Brownies from Annabel Karmel. See original post here.

My brownie frenzy continues. I made the Brownie-in-a-Jar above for a friend by re-purposing an old spaghetti jar. I used a regular tea cup as the measurement device and fashioned a funnel using A4 paper. I forgot to pat down the ingredients before layering them so the layers are uneven. It doesn’t matter since all these dry ingredients will go directly into one bowl anyway.

The whole idea of a brownie premix is to make it as simple as possible for the intended recipient. Hence, I used this recipe by Maisy and Grace instead of the Annabel Karmel one (which is my favourite). I think it makes a cute gift, even for those who don’t bake, as the recipe is easy enough for a child to follow and doesn’t require any special equipment apart from a bowl, a baking pan and an oven.

The Brownie-in-a-Jar Recipe

In a jar, layer the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup walnuts/pecans (optional – replace with chocolate if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips/chunks/buttons

Baking directions:

  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius
  • Line an 18x28cm (or similar) baking tin with baking paper
  • Empty contents of jar into mixing bowl, mix in 3 lightly beaten eggs and 1 cup (225g) of softened butter.
  • Spread into baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes

UPDATE

Before I went ahead and gifted the jar, I decided to try the recipe myself. The result was alright, but not great – the brownie is too sweet and some of the sugar granules did not melt so you can feel the crunch of the sugar as you eat it. I also find it a little too oily.

So I baked it again using slightly modified ingredients.  I disregarded the original  baking directions completely, that’s why you see it being crossed out above. The resulting brownie with my modifications tasted so much better, with better texture and “squidginess” and less oily too.

This was how the modified recipe and instructions look like (my addition/changes in italics):

The Brownie-in-a-Jar Mix

  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt

These 3 items are sifted together and then layered as 1 item.

  • 1 1/2 cups muscovado sugar (interchangeable with light brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped into smaller chunks
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips/chunks/buttons

All dry items are layered carefully in a mason jar (a large Prego spaghetti sauce jar seems to be the right size).

Then, I typed and printed the following which I pasted onto the jar.

What U Need

  • 1 Brownie-in-a-Jar mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of butter (about 200-225g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g white chocolate chunks

How to Make It:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160oC, line and grease baking pan and dust with icing sugar or a little flour.
  2. Dump Brownie-in-a-Jar mix into bowl.
  3. Melt butter in microwave or stove (medium heat) til it starts to bubble.
  4. Pour super hot melted butter into mix and whisk til thoroughly combined (Important! You’d want the sugar to melt properly). Depending on mixer, this can take between 3-8mins.
  5. Beat in vanilla extract then add eggs one by one; keep beating til all is totally mixed in.
  6. Pour into baking pan and bake for 30-35 mins. Check every 10mins to make sure you don’t overbake. The edges of the brownies should be set with satiny top crust, but when you press it the middle is still soft.
  7. Cool completely before removing brownie from pan. Cut into squares, dust some icing sugar on top and enjoy! Tastes even better when refrigerated overnight.

Below is how the completed jar looked like, decorated using bits of old decorative wrapper that I found in the house.

The wrapper around the body of the jar is unnecessary coz you want people to see the nicely layered Brownie-in-a-Jar mix. But I did a terrible job at removing the old Prego sauce labels I decided to cover up the blotches this way. I also add the same decorative wrapper at the mouth of the jar, secured it with a rubber band and then screw on the original lid tightly.

The baking instructions were too long to be printed and tied to the lid as a card, so I stuck it to the body of the jar as well. I was impatient as you can see the  wrinkles.

Nevertheless, the final jar looks presentable and I was quite happy with the final baked goods.

IA Brownie-In-A-Jar Mix

***********************

Clockwise from Top Right: Aten’s 3-in-1 decadent dessert (triple chocolate brownie with caramel toffee and pavlova meringue), Brownie Bar Maker, a brownie neatly wrapped in foil and  a square muffin tin.

It has been bothering me that I am unable to cut my brownies into sharp, clean squares. My friend Aten gave me a few tips, I list them below together with other tips that I found online:

  1. Keep the brownies overnight and then cut it with a really sharp knife.
  2. Try a denser brownie recipe (I am still waiting for Aten to give me this).
  3. Line the baking pan with foil (instead of baking parchment), lift it from the pan and then slice it with a long, heavy knife in one smooth motion.
  4. Use a pizza cutter. Neat.
  5. Cut the brownie while it is still slightly warm using a plastic knife.
  6. Give away the brownie in the pan it is baked in. Daiso sells 6″ round silicon pans for RM5 each that are the perfect gift size. I suppose loaf pan works too. If you want to keep the pan then you can just wrap the brownie (uncut) with clingfilm or foil, wrap it again with decorative paper or  doily and slap a ribbon on it to make it festive.

I looked up brownie bars online and saw a few nifty ideas that I can consider.

  1. I can buy a Brownie Bar Maker, price starts from USD15 online. If you are thinking of getting me a gift, get me this.
  2. Use square muffin tins instead, price starts from USD9. It makes the brownie looks like mini cakes but I suppose that’s perfectly fine. I think I can find this from the bakery supply shop near my house.

Lastly, if you are looking for muscovado sugar, I discovered that Giant stores carry it under the name Organic Molasses Sugar (molasses sugar is another name for muscovado sugar) for RM12.90/kg packet. Taken raw it tastes like a lighter version of gula merah (palm sugar), though I doubt if you can interchangeably use palm sugar in recipes that call for muscovado sugar.

I get all my bakery needs from a shop called Pusat Bekalan Bakeri; you can also shop via their online store at www.bagus.com.my.

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I have a few empty jars lying around the house so I rinsed them in order to use them to pack my Brownie-in-a-Jar mix. While waiting for them to dry, an idea struck me and I tried using one of those disposable containers instead.

The container I used is a bit higher than the usual size sold at the stores so there is still some empty space on top. It originally housed the chocolate buttons – I was measuring the items then decided to just reuse the container rather than take a new one from the pantry. If you use the normal-sized one, the recipe above will fit just nicely. You can buys these at retail hypermarkets, usually sold in a pack of 10’s, 20’s, 50’s and 100’s; some sundry shops sell them too.

If you can’t find any containers around, I guess you can make like Musang Berjanggut and just mix everything in a ziplock bag.

Add some wrapping paper and tie a ribbon around it with the baking instructions, I think this can be a handsome gift for the the Ramadhan season.

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The Cupcake Slayer: The Brownie Awakening

I had a hankering for brownies yesterday and a good friend of mine shared this recipe for Gluten Free Brownies from Annabel Karmel.

The recipe:

Gluten Free Brownies

Ingredients
200 g (7 oz) plain chocolate, cut into chunks
200 g (7 oz) butter, cut into 1 cm (1/2 in) chunks
3 large eggs
175 g (6 oz) light muscovado sugar
110 g (4 oz) gluten-free plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
a pinch of salt
150 g (5 oz) white chocolate, chopped
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted. Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter into a suitable bowl, microwave for 1 minute, stir then microwave in 10-second blasts until melted. Allow to cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and frothy. Stir in the chocolate and then sift and fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and a large pinch of salt. Fold in the white-chocolate chunks.
Line a 28 cm x 20 cm (14 in x 8 in) cake tin with baking parchment, with the parchment coming up the sides of the tin. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20–25 minutes, until a crust has formed but there is some give underneath when pressed. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly in the tin. Don’t worry, it will sink and crack a little.

Remove from the tin and cut into squares before serving. You can dust with icing sugar if you wish.

Being a non-baker, I was apprehensive about baking my own but the ones I bought from stores were so unsatisfactory. My friend reassured me that this recipe is foolproof and a novice like me need not be alarmed. So I tried it today.

This was the result:

Brownies made using recipe by Annabel Karmel

It tastes really good. It is not so compact and squidgy like the ones you buy from stores, but rather fluffy and moist. Maybe I didn’t whisk the sugar and eggs long enough; I think 8mins were the recommended length, I called it quits at a little under 3mins. Nevertheless, a success!

I made some modifications to the recipe:

  1. I used plain flour instead of gluten-free flour. Just regular Cap Sauh flour that you can buy for RM1.80 a packet at the sundry shop. I sifted it twice with baking powder (regular one too, not gluten-free), cocoa powder and salt to make sure there was no lumps.
  2. I substituted muscovado sugar with regular light brown sugar (the one that sells for RM2 a packet). Actually we have muscovado sugar in the house but I couldn’t remember where I stored it til I made the batter. Muscovado sugar has high molasses content so the flavour will be more intense, but using brown sugar is fine too.
  3. I used milk chocolate and white chocolate buttons instead of bars. So the chocolates were completely melted instead of remaining as chunks in the brownie. Maybe I don’t chop the white chocolate buttons and drop them as is into the batter next time?
  4. I sprinkled toasted walnuts on the baking tin before I poured in the batter. I did this because I wanted the walnuts to be on top of the brownies when I flip it out of the tin. I discovered a mistake – I didn’t chop the walnuts into smaller pieces so it was a pain to cut the brownies into nice squares afterwards.
  5. Apart from lining the baking tin with A4 paper (I didn’t have parchment paper – well we do but again, I couldn’t find it til after everything was over), I also dusted it with a little icing sugar. I can’t remember who taught me this but it made peeling off the paper from the brownie much easier.

Since I have some ingredients left I think I will attempt to make some brownies again for the next couple of days and see which recipe is the best for me. Who knows, baking brownies could (finally) be my legitimate excuse to have a kitchen in the house :)

Try it and tag me with yours, I’ll add the pics in this post as we go along. Hey I can’t bake or cook and I did just fine; it’s time to bake yours now!

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