Thursday, 17 September 2015

Chinese Steamed Cake/Ma Lai Go 马来糕



Don't be fooled by the name. It didn't originate from 马来 or Malaysia (Ma Lai Go basically means Malay cake in Chinese). This is not one traditional Malay kuih but a Chinese invention made popular in dim sum restaurants. I am not sure why it is called Ma Lai Gou or Malay cake, but hearsay, it is because of its colour that resembles the skin of the Malays which is brownish in nature. 

There are generally two versions of Ma Lai Go - the easier non-yeasted version and the yeasted darkish version. I am sharing with you the yeasted version, which is also the dim sum restaurants' version. 



What is the difference, one may ask? Well, this method is more complicated, needed a long time to make and involves many steps. This method not as forgiving as its other non-yeasted counterpart as it involves fermentation and therefore, is sensitive to its surrounding temperature. It easily takes more than 24 hours to get a soft and tasty Ma Lai Go. Like the non-yeasted version, this method uses baking powder as well but it also contains yeast that contributes to those lovely streaky holes you see on the cake not unlike that of a honeycomb cake. What intrigues me about this cake is that it would turn brown naturally without the use of any browning agents like brown sugar, palm sugar or dark soy sauce (yes, I chanced upon some recipes which use that). I am attracted to the meticulous fermenting process that is needed to give this sponge its unique taste. An lastly, I absolutely love, love, love the soft, fluffy but at the same time springy texture. And all these can only be achieved with the yeasted method. Of course there is no right or wrong but personally, I vouch for this instead of, in my opinion, another steamed egg sponge. 









After two 'bogus' recipes, I am finally satisfied with this recipe by Amy Beh that is posted by Food Maestro. I almost shed tears of joy when that limp batter was transformed into a basket full of puffy springy sponge. As I did not have an 8 inch bamboo basket, I used my 7 inch bamboo basket instead, scooping out some of the batter into mini silicon cups. To my surprise, the batter in the mini silicon cups browned evenly whereas the one in the bamboo basket needed a much longer time. Towards the end, I opened the basket cover to let in more steam to encourage the colour transformation. So, if you are not particular about the shape of the sponge, I would advise you to put into something smaller. It saves a lot of time and gas. Remember to give the batter a lot of space to rise and for the steam to work its magic. My steamed cake was a bit cramped even with the extra taken out.


All in all, this recipe is a keeper!



Chinese Steamed Cake/Ma Lai Go 马来糕

Adapted from Amy Beh, recipe from Food Maestro

Makes an 8 inch sponge

Dough Starter Ingredients

150 g low protein flour/pau flour

2 tbsp sugar
75 ml warm water
1 tsp instant yeast

Mix all ingredients into a smooth dough. Put dough into a bowl and cover with clingwrap. Leave dough for at least 12 hours. I left mine for 24 hours. The longer it is, the softer your cake. 

Sponge Ingredients

180 g castor sugar
35 g custard powder
35 g high protein flour/bread flour
2 tbsp milk powder
5 eggs
100 ml corn oil
50 g butter (I used 30 g), melted
2 tsp alkaline water (I used 1 tsp)
2 tbsp water (I added on my own)

Raising agent

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cooking Instructions


After 24 hours fermentation
1. Prepare starter dough. Let it rest for at least 12 hours. Sift together flour, custard powder and milk powder. Line bamboo basket with baking paper.





2. Beat eggs and sugar and gradually add in add in your dry ingredients (the sifted flour). Continue to whisk until creamy and pale. Gradually add to starter dough and mix until it is smooth. At this point, you might want to change your mixer from whisk to dough hook if you have. Have someone hold the mixing bowl if you are not using a stand mixer as the bowl might move. (The original recipe calls for the dry ingredients to be added to the dough starter first and then the eggs. This would create a tough dough which is very difficult to beat into batter form without being lumpy. You have to use a dough hook attachment first and then change to a whisk). 





3. Gradually add in oil. Cover batter with clingwrap and let it rest for at least two hours. I left mine overnight in the fridge and further in room temperature for 2 hours. 







3. When you are ready to steam the cake, add in alkaline water and mix until combined. Sift in raising agents and combine well. Pour batter into bamboo basket lined with baking paper.


4. Steam in boiling water in high heat for 30-40 minutes. Do not open your steamer for the first 30 minutes. Make sure you have enough water so that it wouldn't run dry. I steamed mine for thirty minutes but the sponge was only slightly browned. I lifted the cover and continue to steam until the sponge changed colour which took about 10 minutes. The cakes in the silicon cups were cooked and browned in 10 minutes. 



Note: 
Make sure you put plenty of water into the steamer. I burnt my wooden basket when the water dried out in my first attempt.

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