Curry and roll

Time flies. August celebrates our one-year of being in Boston. That also means that I have been working in the kitchen for the same period of time. No longer am I frustrated with certain outcomes of my culinary adventures but am embracing the uncertainties and amazing discoveries along the way.

But, to be honest, there is perhaps one cuisine that I’m still doubtful of even though it is commonly found in where I live. It is the Indian cuisine, one which is unimaginable without spices. And it is precisely the spices that deter me from attempting the recipes since the complex, multilayered flavours associated with the best Indian food are achieved through careful cooking and the artful combination of usually small amounts of several different spices.

Thankfully, though the spices are varied, you can be sure that the same basic ones are used. In the Indian pantry, the following spices can more often be found and it is advisable to buy whole spices since they can keep longer.

Whole spices:
Dried red Kashmiri chillies | Black (or brown) mustard seeds | Cumin seeds| Fenugreek seeds | Coriander seeds | Cinnamon sticks | Green cardamoms | Cloves | Black peppercorns | Whole nutmeg | Fennel seeds | White poppy seeds | Saffron strands

Ground spices:
Asafortida | Chilli powder | Tumeric

Of the above, how many are you familiar with? I don’t usually buy whole spices, preferring ground ones and I’m thankful to have found this recipe – Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken) which uses ground spices! Obviously, you can try to replace whole spices with ground ones but I’m just too lazy to do the conversion. =p

To complete this dish, I’ve decided to bake some old-fashioned dinner rolls (Source: The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet)

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Joanne Chang’s Sticky Sticky Buns

Ta da! Another Brioche today! And it’s the famous Joanne Chang’s Sticky Sticky Buns! You may ask, “What about yesterday’s loaf of bread?” I’m pleased to inform you that by noon, we were down by one slice.

Yes, we are really bread lovers. I used to worship bread many years ago until I realised too much of it makes me accumulate fats (at least in my case) and since then I had tried to watch my bread intake. However, in recent times, I found myself falling in love with it again, fueled by the ability to bake my own.

Anyway, the freezer had the other 1/2 batch of brioche and after gym, went down to buy a packet of brown sugar before I headed home to bake them. I love the gym – Bodyscrapes Fitness – which cost me $25 for 25 passes. Not bad a deal, isn’t it? I like it that it was not overcrowded, that the machines are new and clean.

Anyway, I was excited to come back to bake my inaugural Sticky Sticky Buns. I hope it to be a success and read the recipes a few times. It was relatively easy. So here goes:

Firstly, prepare the goo. 
170g unsalted butter
330g packed light brown sugar
115g honey
80g heavy cream
80g water
1/4 tsp kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.

This should make about 2 cups of goo (sticky stuff) but I used half the portion and save the other half in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be kept for up to 2 weeks. Well, if you feel lavish about this sweet stuff, you could use it all. I, would rather halve it for the sake of the waistline. =p

You will also need:
1/2 batch of basic Brioche dough
55g packed light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
100g pecan halves, toasted and chopped

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and half of the pecans.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch think. It’s rather easy to work with as it has been chilled. Position the rectangle so that the short side is facing you. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough.

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Starting from the short side furthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. And you need to do so bravely and confidently so that the roll will be tight and you will end up with a nice round spiral. Even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from either side.

Use a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.

Pour the goo (I used half the amount) into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Place the buns , cut side down, and evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about about 2 hours or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft and the buns are touching.

Meanwhile, go for a run and they should look like this when you are back.

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 350F.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Use your sense of smell too! Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter and spoon any extra goo ( I don’t have) and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. It’s true; it’s warm and soft and really delicious. They can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 1 day and then warmed in a 325F oven for 6 to 8 minutes before serving. Which also explains why we need to finish the buns by tomorrow!

BR: Flirting with destiny

Flirting with DestinyFlirting with Destiny by Sara Hylton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Slow-moving and predictable storyline.

View all my reviews

Brioche Loaf

Dear Brioche
I truly do love you.  From the moment I place you inside the oven, you give me nothing but pleasure. Minutes into the furnace, you exude an aroma that only a good loaf of bread can give and so fills my whole apartment. I’m not surprised that the neighbours wonder where it comes from but I’m sure if they follow their sense of smell, they would find the source.

I must admit that in the beginning I find you a little troublesome and difficult to fathom. You consume so much butter and eggs and you caused my beloved standmixer to heat up. The many minutes of kneading also means the same amount of time I stood to watch you transform from a shaggy lump to a smooth and shiny dough. Holding you in my palms is a great delight though. Knowing that you are ready to rest in the air-con is a great comfort for me.

And I couldn’t resist sinking my teeth into you. I couldn’t wait for you to cool in the rack. I’m sorry. Just that the hubs and I had a run prior to your sweating it out in the oven and both of us were hungry as ravenous wolves. I had to slice you. While doing so, it gave me great delight to know that your crust is crispy and yet you are incredibly soft inside. You are awesome, do you know that?

The best part is, you are easy to bake once you came out from the refrigerator. I just need to press you into a 9-inch square and roll you from the edge further from me. Once that was done, all you need is to be placed seam-side down into a well-buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and rest for another 2-3 hours or until you nearly doubled in size.

To make you more shiny, all you need is a gentle brush of a beaten egg on the top and in you go into the preheated 350F oven. And you are good and obedient. You stay in the oven for about 35 minutes before you tell me you are ready! Good o’ loaf. I’m sorry though that I turned you out so soon into the cooling rack. I should have let you cool in the pan  on the wire rack for 30 minutes before turning you out of the pan and continue to cool. My fault, really. But I had a great meal because of you. Thank you so much. I love you.

A fresh start

After contemplating for years…yes, it has been years before I finally decided to join Mac World. I could have done that 4 years ago when I was choosing to buy a new laptop but the change-resistant me wanted to stay on familiar grounds and decided to stick with the usual stuff.

I’ve heard ‘Wows’ from friends who converted to using Mac and assured me that the longest time I need to adjust to the new OS is a mere few days. They raved about it; I was slightly moved but since I’m not too much of a risk taker in certain areas, I stay loyal to Windows.

Since the crash of the last laptop, I had been using the netbook as the backup. Perhaps, it’s time to consider a Mac? There’s discount for students which Ken could use and why not just go down to the store to check it out?

Between Macbook Air and Pro, I would go for the Pro. The hubs helped me find some reviews and comparison between the two and I thought that has been a very helpful exercise. The staff at the country’s biggest Apple store (@ Bolyston) were friendly and helpful (btw, it was definitely the real deal, not like the ones in China). We spent quite some time with Neila as she explained the specs and the workings of Pro before the hubs and I adjourned to Starbucks a few buildings away and what a shock I had. I mean, it’s not really a shock but more of a queer sight – almost every customer in the fully-packed coffee joint was facing a laptop. I should have taken a photo!

We conferred for a while before heading back to the Apple store to make our purchase. I’m excited yet apprehensive at the same time. Apple provides after sales service in the area of training customers to use the product and I thought this is rather cool. Most of the time, we under-utilise technology and having these ‘experts’ to guide us would be real helpful.

Currently, I feel that I’m starting a new life now with my newly-acquired toy. I’m gonna sort out my life in terms of my photos and songs (hehe) and I will step out of my comfort zone to learn.

I’m got nothing to lose and it won’t be tough, will it?

Chicken with Sherry and Mushrooms

Got hold of James Paterson’s Meat: A Kitchen Education and came across the following recipe. It is classified under chicken fricassee which is  chicken simmered with broth, cream, mushrooms, and pearl onions, and the sauce is thickened with egg yolks. It describes a specific technique: cooking partly in fat, partly in liquid. The chicken is lightly sauteed on both sides until it barely begins to brown, the cooking fat is thrown out, and liquid is added. The chicken finishes cooking in the simmering liquid, and the liquid, usually based on broth, is converted into a sauce. A point that he highlighted: Nowadays, a fricassee chicken is almost impossible to distinguish from a sauteed one.

Makes 2 main-course servings

3 – 4 chicken thighs
2 tbsp butter
1/4 dry sherry
140g button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 heavy cream

1. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Use a non-stick skillet just big enough to accommodate the pieces in a single layer, without crowding.

2. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. When the butter froths, add the chicken thighs, skin side down and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the skin barely begins to brown. Turn the chicken over, flesh side down and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the chicken thighs to a platter, and pour the fat out of the pan.

3. Return the chicken thighs to the pan, add the sherry and mushrooms, and place over low heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is just form to the touch. Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover, and place in a warm spot.

4. Add the cream to the liquid in the pan, stir with a whisk to dissolve the glaze and boil down over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce forms a lightly syrupy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Alsatian Potato Pie

Summer is probably not the best time to make pastry dough because the butter melts so fast! Thank God for ready-made puff pastry dough at the supermarket! But it’s definitely more rewarding to make your own and you can be promised a more flavourful buttery dough. For now, I have to be contented with store-bought ones.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook. The pictures are just so attractive and since I have a sudden liking to savoury tarts and pies, I couldn’t wait till cooler temperature to start making them!

According to MS, the Alsatian Potatoe Pie is inspired by the robust cooking of Alsace, a region in northeastern France bordering Germany. This flaky pie contains a rich filling of potatoes, Gruyere cheese, leeks, and garlic-infused cream. Rather than adding the cream to the filling at the beginning, this recipe suggests pouring through the vents on top of the pie only after the pastry has turned golden brown and then baked 10 minutes more. This allows the crust to crisp properly and keeps the potatoes from soaking up all the cream before the pie has finished baking. Makes sense.

3 Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 cup heavy cream
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (would omit this in future; not too my liking)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, and washed well
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg yolk, for egg wash
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 box store-bought puff pastry, thawed
1 1/2 grated Gruyere cheese

1. Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Season water with salt; cook until just tender, 13 to 15 minutes. Drain, and let cool.

2. Bring 3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp cream, the garlic, and nutmeg to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook mixture until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leek; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley; season with salt and pepper.

4. Whisk egg yolk and remaining 1 tbsp cream in a small bowl. On a lightly floured surface, roll out and trim dough into two 13-by-6-inch rectangles. I didn’t roll out my dough and just used the default size (the pack comes with 2 pieces of pastry dough). Set one of them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with half the potatoes, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around and overlapping potatoes slightly. Top with half the leek mixture and half the cheese; season with salt and pepper. Repeat layering with remaining potatoes, leeks and cheese. Brush edges of dough with egg wash. Cover with remaining dough rectangle; gently press edges with a fork to seal. Cut 2-inch slits crosswise in centre of crust, 2 inches apart, to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash. Refrigerate pie until firm, about 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Pour cream mixture into pie vents using a small spoon. Bake 10 minutes more. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Malted Chocolate Macarons

At last…macarons again. This morning has been rather cool and it’s back to baking again!

The hubs thought the ganache made the whole macarons taste less than sweet. “Macarons are supposed to be sweet right?” I thought that it was okay but we all have different tastebuds, so that’s all right.

Not sure how the two of us would be able to finish these macarons but we’ll try. More running perhaps?

Some of my macarons have really awful cracks. Hisako Ogita in her book, I love macarons, suggested that:
1. they are baked without drying the surface of the macarons.
2. I did not use two oven trays when baking.
3. The oven was too hot, and the bottom of the baking sheet got too much heat.

I quite suspect that the heat in the oven was too hot. These days, things get baked faster than expected. Perhaps, it’s the weather?

Pasta Carbonara

These days, it has been so hot that it’s hardly enticing to cook in the kitchen anymore; it’s like a furnace! It’s definitely not a good idea too to bake anything in Summer unless the kitchen has got good ventilation or an a/c installed. But since I’m not so fond of eating out, cooking has to go on.

I stumbled upon this website and the author’s entry about Pasta Carbonara. To be honest, I’m not so much of a pasta person until I came over to the States. I know it’s easy to cook but I find pasta too starchy for my liking. S cooked this dish before for small group gathering and I was won over. Since then, I have become more open to it and in particular, Pasta Carbonara – a dish that is so easy and quick to make.

Beware though, that Pasta Carbonara uses raw eggs. I’ve adapted a little of the recipe found in her blog. Oh, by the way, her pictures are really beautiful and I like her stories too.

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Pain Aux Raisins

Using the other half batch of brioche dough, I went on to bake Pain Aux Raisins for breakfast tomorrow. It’s really convenient to have Brioche dough in the fridge as standby but the problem is, as with all other types of bread dough, you need to let it proof for the second time which takes time. I would much prefer to have freshly-baked bread/pastries for breakfast but it’s a bit impossible unless I have brekky at 11am?

Nonetheless, the smell of bread in the oven is the most inviting and satisfying moment for me; it just makes me happy! Oh! By the way, the pastries taste real good just by heating it up in a 300F oven for 5 minutes. I think I’ve nailed this!


Before and after baking

Recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour
1/2 recipe Basic Brioche dough
1 recipe Pastry Cream (same link as above)
1 cup (160g) raisins (or golden raisins)

1  cup (140g) confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Position the rectangle so that the long side is facing you. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the cream. Starting from the long side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll it tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from either side.

3. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 to 10 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inch wide.

4. Space the pieces, cut-side down, evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.

5. Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 F.

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastries are golden brown on the edges of the spiral and pale brown in the centre. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes.

7. To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 tbsp of the water and vanilla until smooth. Add more water as needed to thin the glaze enough to make it spreadable. The glaze can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

8. Generously brush the tops of the still-warm pastries with the glaze.

9. The pastries are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 300F oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Kidsweek’s over!

It was a response to a call for help and we’re glad we did. We were assigned to a bunch of 4-year-old hyperactive kids who never failed to burn us out at the end of the 3-hour session each day. It’s only 3 hours? Yep! But we were on our toes EVERY single minute and it was really mentally and physically draining. Thankfully, we were paired up with S who was experienced with kids since she served in Sunday School and were given extra help since the in-charge knew that we had a very active group, in fact, the most active 4-year-old group.

Each day, the sequence of activities remained the same – movie, games, craftwork, snack and storytelling – and there’s a constant theme throughout. I love the storytelling session the best because I’ve got to learn how to inject mini activities within the story to keep the children attentive and interested. Would love to learn more!

And each day, I’m amazed by my own hubs who handled the kids well. Though he was tired at the end of each day, he still tried to perk me up. It’s wonderful to be working alongside him all these times, from working in HQ to helping out in church. It’s been a journey of knowing more and more about him, just like our journey with the Lord.

Now, we need a rest from the screaming kids…nah…they’re adorable. =p Will we volunteer again if there’s a chance? We believe we will!

Very hot!

 It’s VERY HOT! We can perspire profusely merely by sitting in the kitchen. The fan gave out hot air and the refrigerator  is crying out loud. Autumn! Please come quickly! We are melting now!

Brioche Au Chocolat

The brioche dough was so much easier to work with after proofing it in the refrigerator. As I rolled it out, I couldn’t help but be marveled and relieved at the same time at how smooth-going it was as compared to the initial dough I removed from the stand mixer bowl yesterday.

1/2 recipe of Basic Brioche dough
1 recipe Pastry Cream
114g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 by 10 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Position the rectangle so that the long side is facing you. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the bottom half (a 20-by-5-inch section) of the rectangle. Fold the top half of the rectangle completely over the bottom half, then press down gently so the halves are smooshed together.


3. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the filled dough into 10 pieces, each about 2 inches wide; each piece will be about 2 by 5 inches.

4. Carefully transfer the brioche to the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.

5. Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 350F.

6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg until blended. Gently brush the tops of the pastries with the beaten egg.

7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. The pastries are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day and then warmed in a 300F oven for 5 minutes before serving.


Brioche (at last)

I decided to wait no more but to start working on my tutorial or notes rather, on Brioche (bree-OHSH). I had my virgin attempt using Francois Payard‘s recipe from his book Chocolate Epiphany and loved the loaf of rich, tender bread. It was decided then that I should bake Brioche again and create different baked goods using the master recipe.

Brioche is made from a rich dough and it’s so called because of its high fat content which comprises a generous amount of eggs and butter. This high ratio of fat makes this dough difficult to work with, but the flavour is well worth the effort. Like all yeast breads, it begins with water, yeast, flour and salt.

The general procedure for mixing brioche dough:

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

2. Hydrate the yeast, then combine it with the flour, salt, sugar and eggs. Mix until a soft dough or sponge is formed. This step gives the fermentation a head start. which in turn gives the finished bread a more pronounced flavour.

3. Knead the dough on medium speed for 15 to 20 minutes until it is smooth and shiny.

4. Add the butter in small increments, kneading until the butter is incorporated before adding more. Continue this process until all of the butter has been absorbed into the dough, approximately 8 to 15 minutes.

5. Cover the dough and ferment at room temperature until doubled. This second fermentation is usually referred to as rising or doubling. The longer this process takes, the more flavour develops in the dough.

6. Punch down the dough, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Punching, which is actually a brief knead (not literally punch!) or fold, deflate the dough, expelling carbon dioxide that has built up and letting fresh oxygen in to feed the yeast, prolonging the fermentation. The dough then doubles again, usually in the refrigerator.

7. Divide and mold the chilled brioche dough into desired shapes. Brush with egg wash or cover lightly and proof until doubled in volume. Do not proof brioche in a very warm place; the butter may melt out of the dough before proofing is complete. Professional bakers use a proof box, in which the heat and humidity can be controlled. At home, we can create a similar environment by simply covering the loaf with oiled plastic wrap.

8. Bake in a moderate oven until the crust is deep golden brown. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes to prevent the loaves from collapsing, then remove the bread from the pans and finish cooling on racks.

Source: The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard & On Baking: A textbook of baking and pastry fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky, Priscilla Martel and Eddy Van Damme.

For this basic brioche, I’m using Chef Joanne Chang’s recipe from Flour since I’ll be baking other brioche treats from the same cookbook. =)

Basic Brioche (Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)

315g unbleached all-purpose flour
340g bread flour
3 1/ 4 tsp active dry yeast
82g sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
120g cold water
5 eggs
310g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until all of the ingredients have come together. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

2. On low speed (2), add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Then, continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium, and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes sticky, soft and somewhat shiny. Then turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute (the mixer’s motor gets hot!). You should hear the sough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl.

4. Place the sough on a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

At the same time, I prepared the pastry cream too so that the next day, I could proceed to making Brioche Au Chocolat. Using the recipe from her cookbook again…

Pastry cream

300g milk
100g sugar
30g cake flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

What do you do with the egg whites then? Guess what? Macarons!

1. In a saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the milk is not boiling). While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt. (Mixing the flour with the sugar will prevent the flour from clumping when you add it to the egg yolks). In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. The mixture will be thick and pasty.

2. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small heat-proof bowl. Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold, or up to 3 days.

Let’s continue with it tomorrow!


What do the Queks do when they have time on hand?

Besides hibernating at home reading, they decided to volunteer at the Church’s Kidsweek camp for the whole of the following week!

They were assigned to be leaders and guides to the 3 & 4-year-old kiddos. Let’s just see how they would survive.

Arghh! What have I gotten myself into??

Revere Beach National Sand Sculpting Festival

On a very hot day,

I used to love spending a whole day under the sun, but the 30-something me tries to limit the human barbecuing session now.

Skin cancer, people!

The Queks under the brolly.

Wishing our East Coast Park has more of these too.

Burger KING

This burger was christened Burger King (I know it’s hardly original) after the hubs took a glance at the scale of the burger buns that came out of the oven. It’s larger than the normal-sized ones and he suggested that I can compete with those at Eagles Deli & Restaurant.

Obviously, I’m in no desire and capacity to compete but am ever eager to create my own burger. Summer calls for all sorts of burgers since it’s the season to grill and barbecue (are they the same?) and so, let me attempt my very first (almost) home-made burger!

Thankfully, ‘The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A year in the life of a restaurant‘ was ready to be loaned and the following recipes came in handy!

House-made buns (Makes about 7 big buns/ 20 small ones)

1 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for coating the bowl
3 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, + extra for dusting
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Put the milk in a small suacepan and warm it over very low heat until lukewarm.  Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir, and set it aside for 5 minutes to activate (yeast is most active btw 90-100F).

Meanwhile, butter a large bowl and set it aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast mixture with half the flour on low speed. Then, over a 1-minute period, add the remaining flour along with the sugar, salt, egg and butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Then turn the speed to high and mix for 2 minutes more. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and set it aside in a warm area for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Divide it into 7 equal pieces (use weighing scale!) and arrange them in a row on the surface. Keeping the other portions covered with a kitchen towel so they won’t dry out, roll each piece into a ball. Leave them, covered on the surface for another 10 minutes to relax the gluten. Then, using a rolling pin, flatten the balls into rounds that are 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, put the baking sheet inside a large plastic bag, and tie the open end closed. Place the pan in a warm area of the kitchen and let the buns rise until they have doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

( I would divide the dough into 18-20 pieces because the recipe yields really BIG buns).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F.

Remove the sheet pan from the bag, brush each bun with water and then sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Slice in half and serve.


Next is the homemade mayonnaise. The following recipe yields 1 cup and will keep up to 3 days under refrigeration.

2 egg yolks
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the egg yolks with a few drops of lemon juice and the mustard in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Start to form a stable emulsion by adding a little of the oil, a few drops at a time, while whisking vigorously. Continue adding the oil in a thin stream-you want to do this slowly to ensure that the oil is fully emulsified into the yolks from the get-go. Once you’ve incorporated about 1 cup of the oil (the mixture should be very thick at this point), add 1 tbsp water and a few more drops of lemon juice. Season with the salt and pepper, and then continue to slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup oil while whisking vigorously.  Transfer the mayonnaise to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Top the bun with cheese, lettuce and tomato slices & cilantro and you are good to go!

My love.

Can you blame me? That after having that unforgettable bowl of ramen at Ippudo, the soul in me still longs for something Japanese.

I need to tell you a place to get nice sushi which doesn’t really cost a bomb; it’s at a corner right smack in Chinatown, downtown Boston, but you might miss it easily since the small store is located inside a building. The sweet hubs googled this place after I told him about my desire for these rolled-up rice and we were back again after our first visit a few weeks back.

Avana Sushi| 42 Beach St
(between Harrison Ave & Tyler St)
Boston, MA 02111

After the departure of the family, I got my hands on Laksa. They have brought the Prima-taste laksa premix and it is the closest resemblance (right down to the taste) I can get. It gets as spicy as it should even without my adding of the belachan chilli. The poor hubs prepared himself by filling a cup of ice and midway through the meal, had to go out to the living room to cool himself in front of the fan. =p Yup, it’s better this way. I certainly do not wish for additional flavour to be added to the bowl of laksa. Heheheh. No cockles I’m afraid but still I was very much satisfied with the result.

I love my Asian food a lot, really.

Brekky for today: Toast with egg mayo with cilantro and pancetta.

Note: Need to learn how to cook laksa from scratch and to make own sushi.


@ South Station Bus Terminal. @ Logan International Airport.

It’s a short but joyful time meeting up with Peg. This ex-colleague is perhaps the few who came up to me and made me feel so comfortable on my first visit to the meeting at TDD. We hit it off well, almost instantaneously, partly  due to her sociable nature and partly because we both shared some similar issues then.

Anyway, I was indeed privileged that she detoured her plan to come back to Boston to look me up, even if it means the meeting up would take only a few hours. She had just completed her presentation/teaching at Worchester (pronounced Wooster) State University, together with Dr Yeap, and I believe she really needs a breather. She shared how Singapore Math (erm, I don’t have a good definition of what that is; it’s just Maths that I grew up learning!) is going to take off all the more quickly in the US and on the many Mathematical concepts that I listened with fascination. Math is interesting indeed!

I wish she could stay on longer but she soon left for NYC for her much needed break and I left to meet up with the family for a last dinner & ice-cream treat in Boston.

This family trip has allowed me to get to know more about my in-laws and myself better. The older folks have been marvellous, just a little too accommodating. I was hoping that they could be more demanding and tell us what they wanted. Alas, they were OK with anything and everything, even if it tires them out from too much walking, esp in NYC. I thought we could have been more open with one another since honesty is the best policy. At the end of the day, all was well and I simply enjoyed chatting and joking with the auntie . Loud she is but totally adorable. When they left for the departure gate this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness. Just a tiny, weeny bit. Not sure if it is Singapore and the familiar life that I miss but it won’t be long too before I say my last goodbye at the departure gate. Hugging her, I told her, “Cook laksa ok?” And a deal was made. There would be laksa at the family Christmas dinner! Soooo looking forward. Hum…hum…hum…bloody red hum!

It’s back to the normal life again. Been lazing around and not working in the kitchen which makes me kind of lost. Not been running too and this makes me feel fat. Ok. I need to start afresh from tomorrow onwards.

It’s summer! Get your butt outta here!

I should have known…

that a mere 5 textbooks would threaten to tip the weight limit of the check-in luggage.

Could all culinary textbooks/cookbooks be converted into e-books pls? Someone pls design an app for them! Or has it already been done?


The morning meeting with the principal of Park Street School has been most delightful and I think I will be meaningfully engaged in the Fall, being attached to the school for my professional development.

Within the hour of discussion, my heart was already beating with excitement as she shared about the school’s reading programme, intervention strategies, phonics & grammar programme and tracking of the reading levels through electronic means. Another meeting was scheduled to learn from the vendors about some IT stuff and I would be all set to start my attachment in September!

I didn’t want to take this lightly. Indirectly, I’m representing my employer ( and fraternity) when we embark on such attachment or any volunteer work. I hope to add value to the school too as we exchange ideas and provide constructive feedback to each other.

Time to go back to study and be updated with all those educational strategies and research. =)

Stepping out of the school and into the city, I was greeted by Farmers’ Market at Copley and went home with a bag of fresh cherries at Whole Foods @ $2.99/pound. Happy!


My friend, Peg, whom I’m meeting tomorrow, asked me to introduce her to some places in NYC since that would be her next stop after meeting up with me. I am in a fix. To be totally honest, NYC is not on my A-list of places to visit…now. Before I first came here, I was looking forward to the trip with much eagerness. Now, I have to think twice. Having just returned from visiting the big apple, I could only say that my satisfaction level is 2 out of 5.

My impression could well be conjured by the company I’m with, the budget for my travel and the types of places I have visited. One thing I’m sure of: If you have the spending power, NYC is a great place to visit. The great fashion houses and Michelin-rated restaurants are congregated in the city and you are spoilt for choices.

Let me attempt to squeeze out a few to-do/visit list:

NYC is not a place to drive in. So the public transport and travelling on foot are ideal. Pace yourself and you will enjoy the many sights along the way.

1. Visit the Statue of liberty. What is a NYC visit without it? The visit itself should take one whole morning if you begin your day at 8.30am. Included in the fare is the ticket to visit Ellis Island. There is a museum there tracing the days of the early immigrants. I thought that the museum is cool but be warned that you will be sapped of energy by the time you reached Ellis island.

2. Take a walk along Brooklyn Bridge. I thought it was kind of romantic (if you do so in the early morning or evening). We attempted that in the afternoon and we were also dried up like ikan bilis. The Manhattan skyline is a wonderful sight to behold.

3. I love Union Square Green Market where farmers and bakers sell their goods! Fresh, colourful produce awake your senses as you stroll through the various tents. I can’t help but be tempted to buy something back. If I were to live in NYC, that would be a place I would frequent.

4. Eat to your heart’s content. If my stomach could take it, I would want to have a bite of those delicious-looking baked goods and all the good food in NYC. We had a few good ones at Ippudo and a restaurant in Chinatown. Love the food trucks too, especially the ones selling Middle Eastern food.

5. Watch a broadway muscial! I haven’t had the chance to do so and let’s hope one day, this little wish could be fulfilled.

6. I’ll be cliche and add Central Park to the list, an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. It’s a good place to chill and relax after walking for miles. It has special meaning to me since that is the place where I had my first overseas marathon – the coveted NYC marathon – and perhaps the last marathon I would run in this lifetime. =p

NYC is a lot busier than Boston and could do better with more cleaning up of the streets and subway tracks. People are always rushing and I certainly hope to see more cheerful faces. Maybe I just have not met them…yet.

That’s all, folks!

Independence Day

Savory item – Ham and mushroom cheese muffins. Off to NYC for a few days. Happy Independence Day, America!

The first time I baked this in May 2010, I cried. The muffins turned out horrid and I had to throw the whole batch away. Something was wrong but I couldn’t figure it out. I decided to try again today since I had ham and mushrooms in the fridge and they needed to be used. Replacing cheddar cheese with Gruyere cheese, the final product was passable though still a bit tough. It reminded me of FFWD’s savory cheese and ham bread which I like. I’m just glad I didn’t have to throw away stuff today. =)

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