This was only the second time I made my own kaya. I remember how tiring it was to constantly stir the rich egg jam from the first time round and was therefore not in a hurry to do it again. This time though, I was in the mood to have a go at making KL-style kaya swiss rolls. And as I have not come across an acceptable commercial kaya there was no choice but to make my own.
I used an old family recipe that Chan-Che dictated down the phone to me years ago soon after I became married and domesticated. It's simple, she said, take one bowl of sugar, one bowl of eggs, and one bowl of santan. My, they sure don't stint on the unhealthy stuff in the olden days. The first time I made it, I thought she meant "take a bowl of whole eggs" but when I checked with her, she emphasized that the bowl measures cracked eggs, literally as many eggs as it takes to occupy the space in the bowl! Another thing, this makes a brown kaya, not green. Our recipe does not call for pandan leaves, simply not done, said mummy.
I started by measuring out a medium sized bowl of freshly squeezed santan (coconut cream), then used that same bowl for eggs, and finally the sugar. Incidentally, the eggs I bought from the egg seller at Whampoa market were rather odd, about half of them came with twin yolks.
The santan went into a double-boiler bowl. A double boiler is simply a metal bowl set atop another pot bubbling gently with boiling water. Traditionally kaya is cooked in a typical yellow-enamelled double boiler that is still sold in Singapore, but I found that it was difficult to control the heat with that beast so this time I used my good pots which turned out to be a better idea. Anyway I am running ahead of myself, we haven't started on the cooking yet.
The eggs and sugar went in next, but before this can be done these two ingredients have to be combined and sieved through to remove any lumps and bumps. An optional and quite tiresome step.
The mixture was cooked slowly over the gently bubbling water until it thickened, constantly stirring to remove any lumps or prevent curdling. With the yellow double-boiler this process took me nearly 2.5 hours and I was dripping in sweat by the end of it. My three-ply cookware (Tupperchef) managed it in a relatively painless half hour. Meanwhile, in another saucepan I made caramel with 1/2 cup of fine sugar. When the kaya thickened the caramel was added to give it a richer darker colour. I made too little caramel as I was worried about getting sugar burns, next time I will double the amount. The heat was turned off once the desired thickness was reached.
It didn't look pretty but tasted very good, very rich, sweet and custard-like. Excellent eaten with toast though I have to say, my favourite is to sandwich a generous layer between two cream crackers with or without a thin slice of cheddar cheese for that sweet-salty combination. Or, in this case, we could spread some over cake.
I used Judy's recipe for log cake, a recipe which turned out quite well when we first tried it ( quite tender and tasty especially with my boozy apricot cream cheese filling). This time though, I couldn't get it right even with two attempts. The first time resulted in an oily cake, the second had one too many flour pockets. I wasn't about to make a third so we used the floury cake. It rolled up good and looked OK but was rather dry. I can just imagine everyone surreptitiously picking out the swirly kaya bits and chucking the cake pieces, I certainly would if I were them. Sigh, it looks like we have a long way to go in the swiss roll category.