Reviving Memories…Pandan Chiffon
For a lot of us, pandan chiffon is one cake which has a special place in our hearts. It is probably THE cake which we eat the most often when we were young, staples from the old- school neighbourhood confectioneries, which were usually characterised by rotating ceiling fans, and small mozaic tile floors. It existed long before the chicken floss coated mayonaise buns, and would probably continue to exist long after the latter fade off one day. Its popularity seem to run alongside other familiar favorites like egg tarts, napkin butter sponge cake and hae bee hiam soft buns.
After baking a yuzu chiffon sometime back, I’d been looking around for a good pandan chiffon recipe. Often times, enjoying a good pandan chiffon is one thing, trying to bake one is another. The latter is often a very frustrating, often nightmarish ordeal, finding the right recipe, getting the right ingredient proportions etc. And what’s more, each of us has a tick-off list of qualities a good pandan chiffon should imbue, and often the yardstick is different and personal. the right degree of “fluffiness”, moisture, sweetness, coconuty aroma, pandan fragrance, savoury (yes! salt is an important component!) and even the level of “maillardiness” (if there’s such a word) which the outer skin should have! And needless to say, the list runs on. What’s more there are often tough choices to make. homemade pandan paste versus storebought pandan extract, freshly squeezed coconut milk versus tetrapak pasteurised coconut cream… decisions, decisions, decisions.
2 weeks back, Eelin from the batter baker made a matcha chiffon and was so elated by the results, she sploshed news of it all over msn and facebook. It sure sounded she made the next major archaelogical discovery after the uncovering of the Qin terracottas. Needless to say, curious me had to know which recipe she used. And I’m so glad I probed on. Tried the recipe last Sunday night and true to her words, the chiffon was delicious! The best I’ve made so far for sure and a recipe I look forward to use as a base for other flavours!
First is to make some pandan paste. A simple but somewhat laborious task of snipping pandan leaves into small thin strips and blitzing the leaves in a food processor with as little water added as possible. This is a method I learnt from Wendy from Wendyinkk.
for making pandan paste from Wendyinkk’s brilliant method of extracting concentrated pandan juice.
15-20 pandan leaves, at least a foot long each and at least 1 – 2 fingers girth wide
rinse the leaves carefully to remove any dirt, soil, spider webs and even mealy bugs especially near the bottom of the leaves where they narrow and join to the roots
using kitchen scissors, snip the the leaves into strips, as finely as possible. This is laborious but worth the effort as it would make the blending process much more efficient later.
place pandan leaf strips into blender and add water until it is just sufficient for the leaves to be blended. The volume of water added needs to be controlled according to the number of leaves used, and the size of the leaves. Add just sufficient for the blades of the blender to run smoothly. Allow it to blitz for at least a couple of minutes until it forms a fine pulpy mash.
Filter the mixture through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth and pour into a clear jug or glass/clear plastic bowl.
Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge undisturbed for at least 2 days. Do not leave it along the latch compartments on the fridge doors as repeated opening and closing with shake the mixture, rendering the process futile.
After about 2 days, the suspension will separate, leaving the concentrated pandan juice should settle to the bottom and an almost clear liquid on top. Carefully separate the concentrated pandan juice from the top clear liquid by either decanting, or what I find easier, using a turkey baster.
freshly prepared concentrated pandan juice should be used within 2 days, or freeze using ice-cube tray for later use.
The recipe adapted from Leslie Tay’s wife’s aunt’s, which he shared over his website. The highlight for this is the use of more egg whites, corn oil and cake flour this recipe called for compared to others.
Recipe (adapted and modified from here) for a 21 cm diameter tube pan
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
60g of corn oil
100g of coconut cream
130g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp concentrated pandan juice
2 tsp pandan paste (see modifications)
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 egg whites
60g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
cream egg yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. It should have more than double its volume
add corn oil, coconut cream, pandan juice pandan paste, pandan paste and vanilla essence.
add remaining dry ingredients i..e cake flour and baking powder until well incorporated
prepare meringue by whisking egg whites at high speed until it turns foamy
add cream of tartar followed by caster sugar in at least 3 additions into egg whites while still beating
whisk until stiff peaks are JUST obtained.
take 1/3 of the meringue and fold into egg yolk-flour batter. do this quickly until a thinner mixture is obtained. This bit of egg white is “sacrificed” for a more homogenised mixture which allows the subsequent meringue additions to be folded in more smoothly
repeated the process with remaining meringue in 2 successions, but this time, folding more slowly and carefully so as not to deflate it too much and destroy the meringue structure
fold until no more egg white bits can be seen. do not overfold as more folding means more deflating
pour batter into tube pan and while grasping tightly to the sides, rap the tube pan against a hard surface to remove any air bubbles. Alternatively, a wooden skewer or satay stick can be used to dredge through the batter very carefully to bring any large trapped air pockets to the surface.
bake in a preheated oven at 170C for about 40 min.
take the pan out once the baking is done and immediately invert the pan to cool.
I heavily modified the recipe, especially in terms of sugar content. even then, I still find it too sweet. will have to tweak it if I try the recipe again.
the cake texture is amazingly soft and moist. Its much closer to what I personally find desirable in a good pandan chiffon. Not meaning to be anal retentive but its still a teeny weeny bit dense. Wonder if has to do with the coconut cream (I used Kara) or flour. I would experiment with substituting half the coconut cream with dried coconut powder and/or cutting back the flour amount by 20% to see if it takes away more of the heft.
ok ok… it looks grotesquely green i know. I added Koepoe Koepoe’s pandan paste when I noticed that the batter wasn’t coloring up much after the concentrated pandan juice was added. But 2 tsps of pandan paste is admittingly an overkill. maybe I would just add 3 tsps of concentrated pandan juice and 1 tsp of pandan paste next time. But aroma is fantastic and far more natural that those by Bake King or Red Man.
Elevate the cake by supporting the “chimney” of the tube pan over an inverted glass. This is to “air” the cake surface so as to prevent condensation from forming.
The cake was baked to the max at 40 min and I’m glad I did. The sides and top of the cake “malliarded” beautifully producing a wonderful aroma from slightly burnt confections. But still the top domed and cracked quite a bit but I’m ok with that.