During the summer walk…

Early summer thoughts

The weather has changed to resemble slightly to the one back home. Hot, a little humid and sunny (read – not good for making pastry in a warm kitchen). We met up with this new guy who recently just arrived from Singaland (and will be enrolling in BC) and we asked him to tag along as we went to Jac’s place to collect some of the stuff that she’s giving away.

And we left the place, grinning, at least for me. I have inherited a microwave oven and lots of foodstuff from her, enough to last me for a while. Time to distribute to friends too; good things must share. Before long, I would be doing the same as well.

Maybe you might say it is a bit early for me to think about these things but really, there’s quite a bit of logistics and mostly the stuff came from the kitchen and books. I hope not to ship though it might be a tad challenging. I thought of selling my beloved Kitchenaid mixer since the voltage is different back home and even using a transformer may not guarantee smooth operation. The hubs said we could buy again when we go back but I guess it would not be the same. It has, after all, a sentimental value to it. Oh well, I must learn not to hang on to things.

And then, I am going to expect more books and a set of knives if my interview with the culinary school is successful and that I am admitted. There’ll be more things to carry home. How to bring them back?

If only we are given more luggage weight/space. But then again, it would still not be enough because we will only buy more and then complain again. =p

Be contented, Lynn.

buh-bye

Desserts at Finale. Good!

There’s a tinge of sadness as I bade my two gal-friends farewell after the dinner meet-up yesterday. We seldom meet but there’s a strong bond among us mainly because we are in similar situations. We left our jobs to accompany our husbands here and a few of us grappled with the transition and in the process, discovered something more about this life we have been living. We realised life can be simple after all if we quit comparing and trying to acquire material things. That life can be wholesome if we take time to be with the family instead of running the rat race.

We voiced our fears of going back, to the life that we were so familiar with and yet dread now.

Goodbye my friends and see you back in a few months’ time.

Yet another season

Yesterday we celebrated the last session of PSIF for Spring before we depart for the summer vacation break. Gosh, so fast!

Early in the year, I was still lamenting about leaving Singaland and looking forward to going back and then all of a sudden, we’re left with six more months and before we know it, we would be back to work.

Six more months and things are getting more exciting and challenging. I’m ready to move out of my comfort zone now and try something new. If I don’t do it now, I may never get the chance to. The time is ripe.

Writing to PED about posting, getting some formal culinary education and the possibility of internship are in progress. Let’s just see how.

And before we knew it, we would be buying our air tix and busy ourselves with packing.

Six more months.

CSCA AB Lesson #4 – Chocolates

It’s no joke dealing with chocolates. Today, every one of us was assigned one item to make and each of us will be involved in one way or another, in creating those hand-made chocolates.

We used the seeding method of tempering (the process of melting and cooling chocolates in such a way that it hardens with a glassy, smooth coat that does not melt easily in the hand) and it basically means tempering a large quantity of chocolate easily by adding solid chocolate to already melted chocolate. Ok, there is a lot of science involved in it and I can only say that temperature and the absence of water are of utmost importance here. We were all doing fine for about 10 of the trays of chocolates until the last 3 trays when the temperature went beyond the stated temperature as we let it go through the double broiler. Arghh…

I know the above doesn’t really make sense because I am still grasping the concept of tempering. All I can say is that I totally appreciate hand-made chocolates and understand why chocolatier affix premium prices on those chocolates you see through the glass counter. It’s hard, hard work. 

And oh boy, what a lot of chocolates we dealt with today…it must have been expensive!

Below is the process:

And we each brought home a box of chocolates and truffles…time to exercise.

FFWD: Bacon and eggs and asparagus salad

Spring is here and asparagus aplenty! What a good pairing of eggs and asparagus. I love the lightness of the vinaigrette as compared to the creamy dressing. The addition of nuts and bacons lends a crunchy effect when eating the greens. It’s a nice combination and I love it!

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie!

Random watch

It’s a random selection and decision to watch this movie. Do you believe in true love? In the show, one chinese saying was used – shi ge nan ren, jiu ge huai. yi ge xiang zuo guai. Sorry, this netbook has no chinese characters installed. Translated, it means out of 10 men, 9 are bad while one has something up his sleeve. Dear ladies out there, have you at any stage of your lives, thought about this? We want to find the 11th guy, the one who is a gentleman, who will be loyal and love you and you alone. Where on earth is this guy??!! Is he extinct?

In the movie, there are two guys who are in love with the lady. One is a flamboyant, assertive man and loves to take charge. Being with this type of men opens you to a whole new world of adventure and uncertainties and well, some of us women love it and our lady felt in love with him . The other is a gentleman and gives the woman the space and time to think through matters and yet chivalrous in the profession of his feelings to her. The showy man loves her but his weakness for women (he chose a fling with a stranger over meeting our lady) does not give our lady the assurance of his loyalty. So in the end, who do you think our lady chooses?

As an onlooker, I was worried for our lady. It’s obvious who is the one who truly cares for her, who will not perform silly acts to get her jealous and who will go to her rescue if she needs a shoulder to cry on. However, our lady was in love with the man who cheated on her (well, he loves her too but he has a weakness) and it really takes great wisdom and courage to choose the right one.

I was reminded of the hubs and the Lord as I cried my way through the end of the story. I have asked myself the above question before and has at one point given up finding the one who loves me truly, for who I am and who will be faithful to the end. Then he appeared all of a sudden and ever so gentle, even in his request for permission to ask me out. He is the one who pursues me first in his humble and gentle manner. No pretense, no flamboyance. It’s a very old-school style of courtship, one which is hardly seen nowadays.

And his character stays true and consistent even in marriage and though I always make mistakes, he’s always so forgiving. Like today, my oversight cost us to spend more on Athan’s European Bakery but he just shrugged his shoulders and comforted me, “It’s ok. We all make mistakes and this is such a small one.” To me, it’s really one that is so glaring; I should have checked! Anyway, I will keep the story to myself. =p

And I thought of the Lord. Do you know the Lord loves us first and pursues us? We are never the ones who seek Him first but He does the acts first, little acts here and there to make you notice Him. When our interest in Him is aroused, He does not grab us by the hand and show us everything we can have if we agree to a relationship with Him. He does so gently and slowly and waits ever so patiently for us to respond to Him. Though we are constantly blinded by the lights of the world, the riches and all its glory, he still waits for us. Though it makes Him sad by how we reject Him and how we live our lives, choosing other things over Him, He doesn’t give up on us. This is our God, the One who loves us first.

I think I’m really loving the script…more on the views of actors.

Siu Mai

Originally, Ching-He’s recipe for her Siu Mai contains pork and prawn. The hubs is allergic to prawns and I didn’t add them in. I suppose you can substitute with bits of carrots, mushroom filling or water chestnuts for that crunchy feel but I was rather lazy and just did the bare minimal. I topped each up with a red wolfberry (goji berry – my mom’s essential eats each morning) to add colour to the Siu Mai. Good as a starter with soy dipping sauces of your choice. I found the skin to be a little hard when I took them out from the steaming as compared to when I boil them in water (wrapped); I prefer the latter.

Random thoughts:

* Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a slightly backward city. Living too long in a highly efficient country ( also less ‘ren qing’) has made me complacent.

* I want to continue to live a purpose-driven life and that purpose can only be given by the Lord God. Thankfully that purpose is not hidden from men; we just need to ask.

* I’m thankful for a hubs who loves and supports me in all that I do. It makes life so much easier.

* I am not a theoretical person. I’m just not good with words.

*  I enjoyed the free online photography seminar last weekend with Penny De Los Santos. Such a skillful and professional  yet humble photographer. I realized my photography is all crap after going through the seminar. Lots to learn and improve.

* I’m thankful for the friends I have, whether in my home country or here. They are all gifts from God.

* I’ve only about 6 more months left in Boston. I need to make full use of the time given. Just a thought: If you are given 6 more months to LIVE, what would you do? I think my answer would vastly differ.

Chicken chow mein

I probably will be cooking more of Chinese food this month and cooking through a cookbook will definitely solve my problem of having to think of meals to prepare (and I really think hard). So it’s Ching-He’s Chinese Food Made Easy again because I love the dishes listed in the book and they are all easy to prepare and the portions are small ((2 -4). Having just come back from a baking course and hungry like a big bad wolf, I just want to make an easy meal. So it’s chicken chow mein to the rescue.

I will be attempting most of the dishes and tweaking a little to give my own twist to it.

The flavour from this dish comes mostly from the five-spice powder which is the seasoning for the chicken. In the original recipe, red pepper is called for but since the hubs and I are not fans of it, I didn’t add the slices. I know it adds colour to the dish so in future to achieve the more colourful look, I would add slices of carrots instead. Also, I found the noodle a little dry and bland and added one tablespoon of dark soy sauce to it. Perhaps, I could also add some tablespoons of chicken stock if I have it on hand.

Continue reading

CSCA AB Lesson #3 – Cakes

Our lesson today was on Cakes but before we got down to business, Chef told or rather, warned us to wear something that we don’t really want and dark as we would be doing chocolates (think ‘mess’). On top of this, we have to be on task or else out we go. I guess it was about tempering of the chocolates since precision is important and tempering chocolate is affected by the temperature. I can’t wait for that class um..because I have NOT done that before.

As a good student (ahem), I read up a little about cakes. Basically, we have butter cake, genoise (sponge cake), angel cake and pound cake (I believe there are more). For each one, there are different properties and before I could consolidate my thoughts (yesterday night), I kind of gave up and retired for the night. Too much information and I figured I would need more time to understand. Too much science for me…

Chef Elise explained a little about cakes and how to actually cover the cake with the buttercream. We were not going to make American type of buttercream which consists of butter and icing sugar (phew!) but we were going for French buttercream which uses whole eggs and egg yolks. Her method is different from the one I attended at LCB. This method uses cake ring and to me, better and more manageable once you get the technique right.

When it comes to choosing, I chose the one that I have not had any experience in. I went for coffee praline cake which is made up of almond praline (what on earth is that?), coffee buttercream (familiar but the method employed is so different) and spice cake (exotic!).

To tell you the truth, I spent a long time before I got down to baking. I was reading the recipe, going through mentally what the process would be like and trying to imagine what the finished product would look like. In the end, I was the last to ensemble my ingredients and I panicked. By the time I did my cake batter, all the oven space was used up = last one to go into the oven. Thankfully, Chef came over a while later and arranged the trays again and squeeze mine in.

Next was the almond praline and I had no idea what it was. By the time I got my ingredients (got the wrong ingredients and had to redo) and wanted to go over to the stovetop, there was no more space left! *cry!* I’m way behind others!

In the end, it was okay. When the praline was almost done and in the cooling stage, I finally understood what it was and was able to picture my cake.

When it was done, it was perfect (to me). It was a piece of art. Chef was happy, my classmates complimented it and came over to take pictures. The baker was happy and chef came over…twice to ask me if I’m happy. Of course I am. I’m ecstatic!

I am weakest with cakes. I dislike assembling and decorating it yet I know it would be totally satisfying once done well. I need to bake more cakes. =)

Lynn's coffee praline cake

Mariela's Tiramisu

Chef Elise's cake

A classmate's cake

The conversion of cups to ounce has really slowed me down. I spent quite some time doing Math! Doesn’t help that the  weighing scale is in ounces rather than in grams!

Remember: 1/2 cup of butter = 4 ounces

FFWD: Spinach and bacon quiche

I’m on time again!

As usual, when it comes to tart, I prefer to rub the dough in rather than roll it out which basically achieves the same result, just that it might not be as neat as it should be. But it’s ok!

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie! It’s fun!


I can do with more spinach the next time. =)

Friday the 13th…

…I was reminded once again of God’s faithfulness. That I should be thankful for little blessings, that life can be an adventure (with all its ups and downs) but all is well because God is in control…all the time.

I am on to something but guess I’d rather keep it under wraps for now until I’m more confirmed about the directions.

On Thursday, a girl in school came up to me and ask, “When are you going back?” “12.30pm?”

“So fast?”

“Why?”

“I like you. You’re fun.”

I didn’t do anything great, merely guiding her to do some classwork. Of course, she felt triumphant when she could do it. But her words made my day. Yes, dear girl, I can be fun, you know? =p

It’s interesting to note that when I was in my usual teacher mode to that small group of kids assigned to me, they were stunned by my firmness and behaved themselves. It’s all the more interesting to see that they were stealing glances at me when the teacher was teaching them and when I gave them a stern look, they stopped their nonsense. That piercing cold look worked wonders. Hah! I do miss the classroom scene. It’s so much drama!

For Ken, it has been a good semester. I’m happy that he did well overall and that he’s passionate about education.

Today’s massage session was good and at a good price, thanks to groupon! And a wonderful lunch at Penang.

Life’s little blessings.

Thank You!

David Lebovitz’s Racines Cake

You absolutely have to bake this cake. When I first received his book ‘Ready for Dessert’, that is the first item that I wanted to bake (as you can see, there are many recipes that I want to try too) because it is so easy to bake and from his description, it really sounds marvelicious!

Racines is a restaurant in Paris and while David was in the men’s room, his eyes caught sight of a recipe for chocolate cake. After he returned from his table. he noticed a chocolate cake with the same name on the menu and so ordered it. It was so delicious, he wrote, that he returned to the men’s room, this time with a pad of paper and pen with him.

The cake is good when eaten on the day it is baked. We consumed it the next day and it was… still good! It was moist and rich with chocolate and not too sweet. If you are not used to cocoa nibs (peeled roasted cocoa beans transformed into chunks), you can opt them out. Okay, my pictures don’t really do justice to the cake but until I have my multi-card reader fixed, I just have to bear with this.

Oh, forgot to say this: for goodness’ sake, use good quality chocolate. =)

Continue reading

Raspberry passion fruit tartletes with torched meringue

This is what I chose to bake for my second class on Meringue, basically because it is the only recipe that used Italian Meringue and I wanted to give it a try. It wouldn’t be daunting as long as I’m under guidance, would it?

I must admit, there was a tinge of fear as I told Chef Elise that I wanted to go for that but her approving nod assured me and I was all set to go. Since the class is only four hours, she handed me the Pate Sable dough which was all done so that I could concentrate on the fruit curd and meringue. So, what I needed to do was to roll out the dough and cut into small disks before placing them into the tartletes, chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes and then blind-baking them.

When the dough was rolled out and being chilled in the fridge (12 of them), I went on to prepare the passion fruit curd.

6 oz. passion fruit puree (I dislike measurement in oz.!!!)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cold cut into tablespoons

In a small saucepan, heat the passion fruit puree and half of the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the puree begins to bubble around the edges. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, yolks, remaining sugar and salt until well combined and homogenous. Slowly pour the heated puree over the egg mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel sauce pan and add the butter. Whisk constantly over high heat until the mixture is thick and the temperature reads 175F or steam rises off the surface.

Strain the curd into a bowl set over an ice bath. Stir periodically to prevent a skin from forming over the top.


While waiting for the puree to cool and the tartletes baked, it’s on to prepare Italian Meringue! Italian meringue is the lightest and, on average, the sweetest of all meringues.

6 oz. sugar, divided, 3oz. and 3 oz.
1 oz. water
4 oz. egg whites (each egg contains 1 oz. of white)

To prepare the syrup, add 3 oz of sugar and the water in a saucepan, preferably with a spout for pouring the syrup in a thin stream. Stir to thoroughly moisten the sugar, then bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir while you are cooking the sugar because syrup splashed on the sides of the saucepan dries and produces unwanted sugar crystals. Yours truly, not knowing this, stirred happily.

At this point, I started to call out to Chef Elise, “I need the thermometer!” She went around and after a failed attempt to fetch the measuring device, “I’ll show you how to gauge without the thermometer.” NICE!

Right after the syrup comes to a boil, some sugar crystals will form on the sides of the saucepan. Chef Elise used a moistened pastry brush (with little water) to wash down the sides to dissolve the crystals. This is to prevent caramelisation, she said.

While the sugar is cooking, place the egg whites into the mixer and whip on high speed until they reach soft peaks. When they reach soft peaks, turn the mixer to medium speed and add the remaining 3 oz of sugar. Continue whisking the whites in medium speed until the sugar mixture is ready/ reaches 245F.

So how to tell when the syrup reaches 245F which is the stage we want the syrup to be at. Initially, the syrup will appear in small bubbles in quick boiling motion but when it is ready, the bubbles slow down and appear to be bigger. This is the stage that it is READY!

Slowly pour the cooked sugar/syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream while you whip the whites at high speed. The meringue will rise and become very light. Avoid pouring the syrup onto the wire whip or it will splatter around the sides of the bowl and whip for 5 minutes on medium speed. Continue whipping the meringue on low speed until ready to use.

To assemble the tartletes, spread 1-2 tbsp of raspberry jam into the bottom of each tartlet shell. Chef suggested that I pipe the passion fruit curd so that it would be neater and definitely more presentable.

And then on to pipe the meringue! Then using a culinary torch, brown the outside of the meringue. I was exhilarated to use the torch and invited my classmates to try it too.

 

What fun!

Braised Pork Ribs with Coca-cola

This dish came rather by chance when Dom sent me an email about the 3rd season of Masterchef in Aussie Land and a recipe that she found interesting. It was fried lamp ribs marinated in coca-cola. I like the idea minus the deep-frying part and sourced for pork ribs instead and found the following recipe from Christine’s recipes ( I love her recipes. Go visit!)

Okay. Now you know I heart cola but that doesn’t mean I consume frequently! All right, that’s besides the point. The dish does not taste of cola though but it was heavenly. The meat fell off the bones and its tenderness melted my heart. This is a must-keep. I won’t follow the recipe religiously though it serves as a guide. Use your tongue/taste-buds instead. It will do just fine, if not better.

Ingredients:
600 gm pork ribs
2 stalks of spring onion, sectioned
4 slices of ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup Coca-cola
1 cup water

Seasoning:
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine or Shaoxing cooking wine
Pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Blanch the ribs  in boiling water for 2 minutes to get rib of any blood and fat. Drain well.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in wok, sauté ginger and spring onion until aromatic.
  3. Add pork ribs, sauté and continue to cook until lightly brown. Pour in the seasonings, mix well.
  4. Transfer all ingredients to a clay pot or a medium pot. Add coca-cola and water. Cover and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the sauce thickens. To me, it is done when the meat falls off the bone easily when I use a fork to remove it and the sauce is right for my taste-buds.

You can add carrots or potatoes or mushrooms too!

Notes on whipping egg whites

Eggs should be separated carefully so that no yolk gets in the whites. Fats, especially egg yolks (which contain emulsifiers as well as fats), interfere with the development of the egg white foam. Even a speck of egg yolk will drastically increase the amount of energy required to produce the foam and will reduce the foam’s stability.

Always use a very clean bowl and whisk to whip egg whites. Do not use plastic bowls since plastic holds fat residue, even after a thorough cleaning.

The fresher the eggs, the more viscous the egg whites. The whites of eggs that are at least 3 days old can actually be whipped to slightly greater volume than those of very fresh eggs. This is an advantage for making souffles, where maximum volume is highly desirable. In pastry making, stability is more important than maximum volume, and whipping fresh whites makes the foam more stable.

While it is easiest to separate eggs when they are cold, it is easier to whip air into warm whites. This egg whites should be allowed to warm to room temperature before whipping.

Use a copper, stainless steel, glass or glazed ceramic bowl to whip egg whites though copper bowls are the best choice. Do not use aluminium, which discolours the whites.

Egg whites sold in a carton does not whip as well.

1 egg white is about 1 ounce.

The addition of cream of tartar while beating egg whites brightens the whites and adds stability. The latter is true for the adding of salt.

Notes gathered from Baking class and The Art of the Cake by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat. 

FAST @ MIT

Festival of Art + Science + Technology| 7 May 2011

Hmm, what are these?

I'm sitting on one of them

Can you locate where we are?

On Meringues

A meringue is simply a mixture of stiffly whipped egg whites and sugar. When baked, it is very light, sweet and usually crisp.

There are 3 methods of preparing meringue batters, depending on how sugar is incorporated – French, Italian and Swiss.

French (or “ordinary”) meringue – sugar is beaten into the whipped whites. We use French meringue to make individual-serving-size desserts, decorations, rounds for layers in gateaux (pronounced ga-to = layer cakes) and shells that are filled with ice-cream or whipped cream and fruits to become vacherins (classic desserts). We also make French meringue as part of the preparation of separated egg sponge cake batters.

Italian meringue – hot sugar syrup is used instead of dry sugar. Used for some decorations and individual-serving-size desserts and as part of the preparation of vacherins shells and as a frosting on some gateaux.

Swiss meringue – egg whites and sugar are combined at the outset and whipped over low heat. Much heavier than French and Italian meringues and is used very little in modern cake making.

Adapted from The Art of the Cake: Modern French Baking and Decoration by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat.

CSCA AB Lesson #2 – Meringue

Another wonderful session in class! Oh! That’s quite a bit to talk about Meringue and I think I shall slowly pen down the notes over the next few days.

Today, every one of us attempted the different recipes on our own. I was the only one to go for Italian Meringue since I have done French meringue when baking macarons. What better way than to try it in class and get the chef to show you the ropes. Smart move, Lynn! I’m proud of you.

Anyway, I’m too engrossed in my work to capture more scenes in the kitchen. I like my performance today and I like it that I was swift in what I did. And if I can choose all over again on what I want to do when I first came over to Boston, I would choose to go to pastry school. I find myself so at home in the kitchen and enjoy the learning tremendously. No, I am not thinking about becoming a pastry chef though this could be one option. For now, I just love the learning. And shouldn’t we be learning for the sake of the love for learning rather than for a certificate or a job prospect and what not?

More info to be updated. For now, I’m saddened by the loss of a capable minister in the election that has just come to a conclusion. But hey, no one is indispensable. The election is over. Now is the time to start walking the talk.

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Finally got hold of David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert. I am baking what many would love – chocolate chip cookies – and I’m splurging today, by using Valrhona’s bittersweet chocolate! This is an indulgence definitely but I’m baking for my dear hubs who loves CCC and it’s all worth it!

I’m baking this using pecans and bittersweet chocolate. DL has recommended 10 minutes for the baking time for soft CCC and I did just that for my first batch. The second batch is in the refrigerator now and according to him and many other bakers, the dough improves with resting for at least 24 hours before baking. And for the subsequent batch, I want it crispier and would bake for a longer time.

  

Continue reading

Tonkatsu with fruit and nut quinoa salad

I suddenly had a craving for Tonkatsu, actually more because I have run out of ideas to cook and also wanted a fuss-free meal. The thought of cooking Tonkatsu came when I saw the box of Panko on the shelf while doing my grocery.

Commonly, Tonkatsu is served with cabbage and tomato wedges. I thought it would not be substantial for the hubs and since I’ve just purchased a box of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), decided to accompany the meat with a fruit and nut quinoa salad. The latter is also a dish that I have missed out on preparing for one of FFWD’s dishes. I didn’t know what quinoa was then and couldn’t find it in the supermarket that I frequent. Today, I chanced upon it!

Quinoa was a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain”. It remains an important staple in South American cuisine, as it contains more protein than most other grains. Its delicate flavour makes it a great alternative to rice or couscous as a side dish, and can be added to vegetables and meat as a main dish.

Continue reading

FFWD: Tourteau de chevre

I confess I’m not good with cheeses. In fact, I only count the common cheeses – cream cheese, mascarpone, cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan –  as friends. All the others are perfect stranger to me. Imagine the agony that I go through when I have to purchase a type of cheese which I am not familiar with; I spent a long time at the counter and asking within me, “Where on earth is xxxx?”

For FFWD this week (yes, I’m on time! Finally!), goat cheese is used. All right, I know this is quite a common cheese but yours truly has no clue but I thought it is a good chance to get acquainted with this new friend.

Tourteau de chevre, according to Dorie, is a cheesecake of sorts and that the cheese was chevre, goat cheese. Unlike the usual American cheesecake we so commonly eat, this is not soft, creamy, moist or even rich. Instead, it’s a fairly dry cake (like a sponge cake, and the hubs thought it smells like butter cake) that you cut into wedges and eat out of hand.

The special thing about this cake is that the bottom is made of tart dough and then top it up with chevre batter, making it different from the cheesecake that we are familiar with.

Something that baffled me. The batter was to be put into a 400F oven for 15 minutes and subsequently the temperature to be reduced to 350F and the batter baked for another 35 minutes. A dark brown , cracked top is what you want to see in the end. For mine, Not only does it not crack, it doesn’t achieve the dark brown status even though I have put in an extra 30 minutes!

Nonetheless, the cake turns out fine. I wasn’t a great supporter of goat cheese (not yet) and prefer the usual cheesecake that I consume. Friends like it though and that’s more important.

Join us for French Fridays with Dorie!

Poppyseed Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

A friend asked me recently where she could find good basic cupcakes recipes which led me to think about the cupcakes that I have baked and their creators.

There are many bloggers out there who do an excellent job in this area. Just look at the nominated list of bloggers in my previous entry; I spent quite some time deciding who to vote for in the various categories!

So, this cupcake is from one of the nominees. I like the crunchy feel of the poppy seeds when you take a bite. I’m fond of cream cheese but quite detest icing sugar and just used a portion of it, about 3/4 cup instead of the suggested 1.5 to 3 cups. Taste for yourself the degree of sweetness that you want. For me, I want the cream cheese and butter flavour to stand out.

And then, of all times, the multi-card reader failed on me and I have to take the pictures using my Lumix. Sigh…

Continue reading

More notes on puff pastry

In the recent puff pastry class, Chef told us that whatever leftover dough that we had (and if we wanted to keep it) should not be crushed into a ball but should be stacked in layers. With that, I brought home mine together with the almond filling that we made for the Pithivier.

Coincidentally, The Sunday Times featured the making of a chicken, mushroom and leek pie using the puff pastry for the layer on top and I decided to make a slightly different version of it, based on what I had in the fridge.

The steps are still similar – browning of chicken thighs (remember not to crowd them!) and then cooking of the bacon. I added Chinese sausages to it and while letting it simmer, tossed in broccoli and coriander. Having a good supply of home-made chicken stock at hand is always helpful for many dishes.

Lastly, I topped it up with the remnants of the puff pastry dough from the baking class and there you are, my own version of humble pie!

create avatar

More notes on puff pastry from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook:

Set aside plenty of time to prepare puff pastry; chilling the dough and letting it rest is very important and should not be rushed. The gluten needs time to relax after rolling or the dough will become tough and difficult to work with. Keeping the dough cold will ensure that the butter layers are even.

When rolling out puff pastry, make sure that your work surface is well dusted with flour. However, before making any turns in the dough, brush off any loose flour with a dry pastry brush. Excess flour can make for tough puff pastry.

To keep puff pastry from sticking, lift the dough periodically while rolling it out. If you can see part of the butter package through the dough, flour that area heavily and continue rolling; the excess flour will act as a natural patch for the dough. Just be sure to brush off the excess before proceeding.

If you will not be using your puff pastry dough within a day, cut it into 1-pound pieces (preferably square). Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator; this will take about 4 hours (you can allow it to defrost overnight if you wish). Don’t leave puff pastry in the refrigerator for more than 1 day or it will lose its ability to puff properly in the oven.

Continue reading

Vote wisely.

I’m not good with politics, whatever politics it might be. I steer clear of it.

But this coming election makes me sit up to want to know more.

I’ve watched some of the speeches, read the thoughts of many, disgusted and touched by their reflections all at the same time.

Be wise, impartial and let not emotions rob you of the opportunity to make Singapore a better home for the citizens. Make informed decisions. In a way, the future of this nation lies in that ONE vote that you are entitled to and we pray for honest and committed politicians in the government, to fight for the good of our fellowmen so that we could advance as ONE nation.

Remember: ONE people, ONE nation, ONE Singapore.

Blogs to vote.

Though I may not be voting at this year’s election, surely I can vote for the following categories of blogs @ Saveur

BEST BAKING AND DESSERTS BLOG
Desserts for Breakfast
Eat the Love
Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings
Joy the Baker
She Who Eats
Sprinkle Bakes

BEST ORIGINAL BAKING AND DESSERTS RECIPE
Beyond the Plate: Bomboloni with Meyer Lemon Curd
Cafe Fernando: Brownies with Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Lace
Seven Spoons: Frozen Eton Mess
La Tartine Gourmande: Spiced Pumpkin Pots de Crème with Sautéed Apples and Pistachios
Sprinkle Bakes: Crown Jewel Cake

BEST COOKING BLOG
101 Cookbooks
I Made That
Lottie and Doof
Smitten Kitchen
Sprouted Kitchen
The Wednesday Chef

BEST ORIGINAL SAVORY RECIPE
Local Lemons: Sweet Corn, Chilis, and Burrata over Fettuccine 
101 Cookbooks: Quinoa Skillet Bread
Delicious Days: Caesar Salad – Kind Of, But Better
Dinner: A Love Story: Baked Sausages with Apples and Potatoes
Eating Brooklyn: Farro Salad with Roasted Red Grapes, Kale and Swiss Chard
Melissa Clark: Braised Pork Shoulder with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Olives over Polenta

BEST FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
101 Cookbooks
Beyond the Plate
Not Without Salt
Seven Spoons
Sunday Suppers
What Katie Ate

BEST FOOD PHOTO
Canelle et Vanille: Pear-Apple-Fennel Salad
Fussing with Forks: Roast Chicken
La Tartine Gourmande: Red Snapper
Nordjlus: Figs
Orangette: Blood Oranges
What Katie Ate: Double Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

BEST WINE OR BEER BLOG Vote in this category »
Alice Feiring
Blog About Beer
Good Wine Under $20
Vinography
Washington Beer Blog
Wine Terroirs

BEST COCKTAIL BLOG Vote in this category »
Alcademics
Cask Strength
Cocktailians
Drink Dogma
Jeffrey Morganthaler
Kaiser Penguin

BEST CULINARY TRAVEL BLOG
David Lebovitz
Eating Asia
My Kugelhopf
Rambling Spoon
Souvlaki for the Soul
Traveler’s Lunchbox

BEST VIDEO CONTENT
Epic Meal Time
Food Curated
Food52
FoodWishes
Perennial Plate
Sky Full of Bacon

BEST REGIONAL CUISINE BLOG
Homesick Texan
Indian Simmer
Jun Belen
Just Hungry
Lucullian Delights
She Simmers

BEST KITCHEN TOOLS AND HARDWARE COVERAGE
Delicious Days: How to Organize Your Spices
Food in Jars: Equipment
Kitchen Generation
Lifehacker: The Geek’s Guide to Rebooting Your Kitchen
Regrettably Edible: Top 11 Crappy Kitchen Tools To Avoid 
The Kitchn

BEST CULINARY ESSAY
Gluten-Free Girl: “Apple Fennel Slaw (New Year’s Cleanse)”
Monica Bhide: “Does a Recipe Need to be Complicated to be Good?”
Vanilla Garlic: “For Many Reasons: Blood and Chocolate”
Bon Appetempt: “In the Kitchen With Grandma”
Leite’s Culinaria: “Saints, Cakes, and Redemption”
Grub Street: “The Crowded Restaurant Conundrum: Why We’re All Gluttons for Punishment”

BEST COOK-THROUGH BLOG Vote in this category »
Alinea at Home
Cookbook Archaeology
Momofuku for Two
Nose to Tail at Home
The Bitten Word
The Way We Ate

BEST SPECIAL INTEREST BLOG 
Alkaline Sisters
Tartelette
Golubka
What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway?
The Sweet Beet
Silvana’s Kitchen

BEST RESTAURANT/DINING COVERAGE Vote in this category »
Immaculate Infatuation
KevinEats
Skillet Doux
The Delicious Life
The Girl Who Ate Everything
Ulterior Epicure

BEST PROFESSIONAL BLOG Vote in this category »
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Cooking Issues
David Lebovitz
Dorie Greenspan
Food52
Melissa Clark

CSCA AB Lesson 1 – Puff Pastry

This weekend had been rather eventful, with a tiring yet interesting Saturday. Well, the Advanced Baking course which I signed up with Cambridge School of Culinary Arts started on Saturday and it has been immensely enjoyable. That evening, we also hosted dinner for our friends which was a result of an accepted proposal submitted to Foodbuzz and which I received a stipend to carry out the dinner.

Anyway, back to Lesson 1 which was on Puff Pastry. Ok, it’s not something entirely foreign to me. After all, I have attempted quick puff pastry before when making apple turnovers but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to learn more and have the experience of baking in an industrial kitchen. More importantly, I hope to learn something useful from the Pastry chef herself.

So, the hubs accompanied me to the school and waited for me for a full 4 hours as I went through the first lesson (so touched!). There were about 9 of us in the class and the chef herself was a graduate from the school and teaches full-time now. And my, the knowledge she has! She rambled on and on and I was furiously penning down new insights. There were two master recipe that we ought to know for pastry – the classic puff pastry and the quick puff pastry. Since the classic puff pastry takes a long time (about 6 hours in total), we couldn’t possibly do that and the alternative was the quick puff pastry. I was a tad disappointed since I had experience with this method and was expecting to learn the classic one (which I also attempted before but with much less success) but we just had to make do since we had time constraint.

After the demonstration and explanation, we were to pair up and attempt one of the recipes listed in our notes. My partner, Mariela, and I chose Almond Pithivier because we had no idea what it is and decided to try it. I realised later that it is a classic French pastry.

One thing good about attending classes is that you have the experts to tell you if you are on the right or wrong track. Obviously I can learn baking on my own but I would not be able to know how much I can improve without an expert’s take on it. I realised that I have to roll the dough till it’s really thin and chef made me feel the difference between Mariela’s and my dough. Oh! Now I know! Puff pastry is hard work! So, please appreciate the effort behind making puff pastry the next time you buy it!

A few things that I have noted (my own notes and perhaps only I would understand):
–  Use puff pastry for huge rise. Otherwise use quick puff pastry since this is the easier way of making it.
– Flour absorbs moisture so keep it in a dry place.
– Gluten needs to rest so you need to place it in the fridge for it to rest.
– Butter needs to be cold and ice water is needed when making puff pastry since the moisture is needed.
– Puff pastry dough is ready when they can hold together without being sticky
– If dough is too sticky, don’t add flour to the rolling pin but to the dough, esp to the buttery side. Use brush to help too.
– Keep dough loose at all times.
– Roll in one direction esp for the first roll. Never roll both in a vertical and horizontal way.
– Keep the width consistent.
– Egg wash: don’t allow it to drip to the floor of the sheet pan as it will prevent your product to rise.

Next lesson: Meringue! I am looking forward already!

Recipe for Almond Pithivier

1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup amaretti (crushed cookies)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 oz. dark rum
1/2 tsp almond extract

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 tbsp milk or cream

In a bowl combine the almonds and crushed cookies. Beat the sugar and butter until light, add the almond mixture, eggs and run and beat until well combined. Freeze the mixture for 20 minutes.

Roll out the puff pastry 3/8′ thick, cut out even number of small circles using cake rings/cookie cutters. With the balls of your fingers, push and pat a disk of dough out onto its baking surface to make an even circle slightly larger than your cutting guide. With a docker or two forks, dock dough all over at 1/2 inch intervals – this prevents the bottom layer from rising too much. Place a round of chilled almond cream on this enlarged bottom layer of dough. Paint the circumference of bottom disc with egg yolk glaze. Place a remaining piece of dough evenly over the almond cream, pressing two layers together. Make a little hole in the top to allow air to escape. The dough may need to be chilled at this point, but if it is still firm, proceed to decorating, then chill before baking.

Glaze the top with the egg wash, take care that it does not drip down the sides of the pastry. A classic Pithivier has a scalloped edge made with a knife all around the circumference. You may also press the tines of a fork all around the outside edge. The usual pattern for the top of a Pithivier is a sheet of swirling spokes, beginning at the steam vent, curving out to the edge. If you prefer, make a decorative pattern with the back of a fork over the Pithivier. Chill the Pithivier in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Bake the Pithivier on a parchment lined sheet pan in a 425F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F and bake 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cendol Macarons

This is inspired by the dessert we often have at the hawker centres back home. To me, the coconut milk taste stands out whenever I consumed it, coupled with the red beans and I love chewing on them. Thus, this is my take on this Cendol macaron.

The basic recipe for the shell is used and coconut buttercream for the filling. To lend a cendol appearance to it, red bean paste and coconut jelly are added. Later, strawberries are inserted to give a more vibrant outlook to the dainty macaron.

Basic recipe (adapted from Macarons by Annie Rigg)

Makes about 40 shells = 20 filled macarons
200g/ 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
100g/ 2/3 cup ground almonds
125g egg whites (aged) – about 3 eggs
a pinch of salt
40g /3 tbsp caster sugar

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and ground almond and sieve it. Set aside.

In a spotlessly clean and dry mixing bowl, put the egg whites and add a pinch of salt. Using  the whisk attachment, beat until they will only just hold a stiff peak (looks like the bubble bath foam).

Continue to whisk at medium speed while adding the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time. Mix well between each addition to ensure that the sugar is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next spoonful. The mixture should be thick, white and glossy. A test to perform to show that it is ready is to invert the mixing bowl. If nothing falls out, you are all set to go!

Fold the confectioners’ sugar and almond mixture into the egg whites. The mixture should be thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Do not overmix! When it is ready, the mixture should drop from the spoon in a smooth molten mass.

Fill the piping bag with the mixture and pipe evenly sized rounds, about 3.5cm across onto the prepared baking sheets. I used the 807 Ateco piping tip.

Tap the bottom of the baking sheets sharply, once, on the work surface to expel any large air bubbles.

Add any edible decorations (I added gold glitter) onto the unbaked macaron shells. The top left one was a mistake; I added too much!

Leave the macarons for at least 15 minutes, and up to 1 hour, until they have “set” and formed a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky or wet when tested with your fingertip.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Bake the macarons on the middle shelf of the preheated oven, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. The tops should be crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool on the baking sheet before inserting the filling.


Coconut buttercream

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g confectioners’ sugar
70ml coconut milk
2/3 tablespoons caster sugar

Beat the butter until creamy and pale. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating well until the buttercream is smooth.

Whip the coconut milk and caster sugar until it turns slightly frothy, and add this to the buttercream. Beat until smooth

Pipe in the buttercream and add the red bean paste, coconut jelly and/or strawberries on the shell before sandwiching it.

Enjoy!

Nonya in Spring

A Foodbuzz 24×24 submission

I find it an obligation, no doubt a pleasant and willing one, to learn and familiarise myself with Peranakan cuisine when I married a wonderful man from that culture. The first time his auntie invited us over for a meal, I didn’t realise that I was in for a shock. Knowing that I was an aspiring homecook, she rambled a string of ingredients (Her Peoh, Buah Keluak, Belacan, Assam paste, Buah Keras…) that went into those wonderful dishes and my head throbbed. She was after all, speaking in a combination of the Malay Language & Hokkien, which I know very little of and I was lost in translation. But goodness! What a lot of ingredients that go into those dishes! However, that does not deter me from wanting to learn. I want to join the ranks of the women in that family who could prepare scrumptious Peranakan cuisine. Of course, I realised later too, that those ingredients do have English names attached to them. What a relief!

The family is coming to visit us in June (we are from Singapore and now in Boston for the husband’s studies) and I thought it timely to assemble a list of dishes that I could whip up for them during their short stay with us. The plan is simple. I would test the recipes in my kitchen and the hubs would be the food taster, giving me his honest feedback.  I though it fantastic as well to invite some of our friends over for Peranakan cuisine, with the blessings of Foodbuzz!

The theme of this dinner is Peranakan (obviously), with a little adaptation from this nonya (that’s what the woman is called in that culture). And since it’s spring, I promise that the dishes would be full of colours and finger-licking-good!

First up is a plate of finger food – boxing chicken. It is given that name because it does look like a boxing glove. Children love this dish as they can hold the wing at the boney end and bite. To achieve the look, hold the wing bone and make a cut on both sides nearest the bone. Then pull down the skin towards the meaty part and wrap the skin over the meat to make it look like a boxing glove. You should marinate at least an hour before. Usually this is deep fried but I prefer to roast it in the oven (save space for the stovetop!).

The main dish for this dinner is Popiah or spring roll. It is a great dish as you can do your own roll at the table, choosing the ingredients that you want in your spring roll, making it a personalised one indeed. It can be both enjoyable and torturing at the same time, especially for those who find it challenging to fit the filling snuggly as they roll  it.

That being said, the preparation can be a chore since the ingredients involve quite a few items. The main filling is made up of shredded turnip and carrots (test your knife skills!), brown fermented soya bean and minced pork. Just a little information on turnips that might be useful for us. When choosing turnips, look for smooth skin. They should feel firm and heavy with crisp green tops. Turnips are, generally, white at the bottom with a light purple blush on the top. Those that are small have the sweetest, most tender flavor. The larger the turnip, the more woody it tends to be. Besides these, other ingredients that go into Popiah include lettuce, bean sprouts, garlic, Chinese sausages, crab meat, coriander, eggs and sweet flour sauce. Are you overwhelmed? This is not all. For the shells or popiah skins, you can either choose to buy them at supermarkets or make them youselves, But I must warn you, it’s not easy!

After giving a short demonstration on how to wrap the ingredients, the dear friends had a go at it. Some were a natural in wrapping, others more inept and created quite a design. “Hey! Yours look like a squarish envelope!” “Doesn’t matter. There’s no hard and fast rule to wrapping!” Definitely, just as long as the roll is made and we are contented with it, who cares?

make a gif

We all needed a break after the two dishes and decided to play a game of Dominion. In the midst of playing, the silent air of contemplation was interrupted by uncontrollable burping.

Now, it’s time for dessert!

And it has to be Cendol! Oh! How the husband and I miss this dessert! While this can be commonly sold in dessert stores, coffee shops and food courts back home, we hardly see it here. Cendol is a Malay dessert that traditionally consists of green mung bean jelly droplets flavoured by pandan leaves, swimming in slightly salted coconut milk and drizzled with palm sugar syrup. Later, when fridges became available, it evolved into ice cendol. Shaved ice was added to suit the tropical weather. More colourful variations are seen these days with new additions such as azuki beans, creamed corn and grass jelly and hey, that’s the way I like it!

So begins my adventure in creating this dessert. Back home, pre-made green mung bean jelly droplets are available at supermarkets  but this is obviously not the case here. Thankfully, it is not too difficult to make and even if you do not have the cendol-making frame to form the droplets, you can substitute using a slotted spoon. Having made these, allow your creativity to take charge and create your own version of cendol! Just remember to keep the three essential ingredients – mung bean jelly droplets, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup. While we do not have shaven ice here, what I did was to prepare the cups of cendol and put them in the freezer for about 2-3 hours to allow the coconut milk mixture and syrup to freeze a little (though not entirely). When you are ready to consume it, use the spoon to mix the contents and you will get the effect of the shaven ice.

When the friends were served this dessert, a guessing game ensued. “What did you put in?” “What’s this green thing?” Is this grass jelly?”

I love it when friends use their senses to identify the ingredients in their food. And I must say, some of them did really well!

Last but not least…

… how can anyone resist macarons? Though it is not part of Peranakan cuisine, surely I can tweak the flavour to add a Peranakan twist to this French cookie!  And yes, you’ve guessed it! I’m making Cendol flavour, largely from coconut milk and coconut gel. And since I absolutely adore red bean paste, I added that as well. Then, I decided to get a bit more creative and added strawberries too! Oh! The many different flavours and colours you can play with macarons!

The night was complete with wonderful company and delicious home-cooked Peranakan cuisine. The husband and I had a great time sharing the culture with our friends and it was a night to be savoured. It was an immense pleasure to prepare the dinner and I dare say that I have a little more knowledge on the cuisine upon researching on it. Thank you, Foodbuzz, for this wonderful opportunity!

More recipes will be posted.

Continue reading