Myers + Chang

For the longest time, I have wanted to dine at Myers + Chang because I have been to Flour Bakery and loved the experience. Of course, I do adore Joanne Chang and would like to support her by dining at the restaurant that she and her husband managed.

So after a much needed massage which relieved the numbness in my right shoulder blade, we went over to the dining place. It was a 20-minute walk from Bolyston T-station and we could easily have missed it in the already dark 5.30pm evening.

The interior decor was what the hubs described as kitsch. It was dim and I wonder  if they were saving electricity. The friendly waitress came over and knowing that we were first-timers introduced us to the Cheap Date Nights’ menu only available on Monday and Tuesday at $40 for 2. We decided to go for that since we were thinking that the food should be good and it’s the Pig Out menu that we chose. As the name suggests, we were served the different parts of pork prepared in the various methods.

To be honest, I was disappointed. The food was salty and I couldn’t see what I was eating since it was way too dark. I wasn’t attracted by the presentation since I couldn’t really see well in the dim light. It could well be just a clump of pork and other ingredients on the plate. We thought that the bbq pork was charred (this we realised when the meat entered our mouth and not through visual). The portion was huge for us and in the end, we had to pack all of them home.

So now, these packets would serve to be our lunch and dinner. $40 for three meals for 2 people. Not a bad deal.

Raspberry bran muffin

19 more days before we depart and bid sayonaro to Boston. Looking at the current state of the kitchen, I still have a lot of things to clear. Flour, noodles, rice, sauces…I probably wouldn’t be able to clear them before that date. Nonetheless, I will keep on trying!

If there’s anything that I will miss during my time here, it would be the many wonderful friends that I have made and baking. The company makes a difference wherever you are and to be able to meet so many fun-loving and God-fearing friends is just a precious gift from the Lord. They are just…different.

Baking. Oh! How I will miss this new-found hobby when I go back home. Not that I will totally abandon it, but I also know that work will constitute a large part of my life and along with all other commitments, baking has to take back seat. Now with about 2 weeks to go before I depart from my beloved standmixer, all the more I will want to spend more time baking.

This recipe is created because I didn’t have some of the ingredients from another recipe. So, I decided to just play around and see if it works.

I guess it does. Muffins and cupcakes are just some of the things that you wouldn’t mess up terribly even if you are a novice. As an amateur, the first baked goods I made were muffins and cookies and they turned out okay. This one is moist, not too sweet and delicious. I wanted to stop after having the first bite but I failed.

Since this is just an attempt, I halved the original amount for baking 12 muffins. Using the standard muffin pan, I was able to yield 8 in the end.

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooked
1/8 cup brown sugar, plus more for topping
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 large egg
1/4 cup honey (didn’t really have enough amount and top it up with light corn syrup)
1/8 cup canola oil
1/2 cup all-purpose oil
1/2 cup FARINA (wheat germ), lightly toasted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 cup raspberry

 1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Place cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan (you won’t yield all 12).

3. In a large bowl, whisk by hand the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add the egg and whisk to combine.

4. Add the honey and canola oil. Whisk until emulsified.

5. Add the flour, FARINA, baking soda, and yogurt, and whisk together just until combined.

6. Fill in the muffin cups about 3/4 full. Top with the raspberries. Crumble a little brown sugar on top of the fruit.

7. Bake in the oven until the cake springs back and the tops are golden brown about 20 to 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

This past week…

…has been busy but meaningful.

Monday. Met with up with Y to have lunch and hear her share about her new-found faith. Had a good time of catching up. Wonderful.

Tuesday, we held a surprise birthday party for A, one that was initiated by her hubs. The preparation work was quite a bit, having to teach and film him baking and in the end, had to bake the cake for him as he was held up by his work and then rushed to complete the video. But I guess it’s all worth it since our friend was really blessed by the surprise. As long as she’s happy… =)

Wednesday, had the Taiwanese gals over to learn how to bake macarons. Again, there’s some hiccups but guess we more or less realised what caused the ‘imperfections’ in the macarons. Fun time with them and learnt some new things from our nurse friend, C.

Thursday. Thanksgiving. J invited us to her place for dinner and what a wonderful time we had. Personally, I had a good chat with her MIL who misses home so much. I don’t know why I can connect with her. Maybe she’s very much like my own mom and I do miss her too. Thankful to make new friends and be amused by little Arata.

Friday. Black Friday. Time to do some shopping! The hubs and I went downtown to purchase some clothes and we were tired after the few hours of shopping. In the evening, it’s dinner at our wonderful friend’s place and fellowship with brothers and sisters! I like!

Saturday. N came over to do her paper and with her staying with us the whole day, it gave us the urge to do our work as well. No lazing around. Time well-spent. Baked French Apple Tart again. And this time round, all the apples were used up! Yay!

Sunday. God is glorified through LC’s testimony during her baptism. What a transformation, in just a few months! God is indeed real and very much alive! It’s a wonderful privilege to witness her baptism, together with all the other precious brothers and sisters.

Another busy week ahead. Breathe in..breathe out!

I’m thankful for…

[via]

1. a wonderful husband who loves me and supports every decision and venture I undertake.

2. a group of God-fearing brothers and sisters who have become family to us in this country.

3. the opportunity to learn and explore cooking and baking during this past year. I’m definitely more confident in the kitchen now.

4. good health.

5. the opportunity to have my TWA at PSS.

6. a job that is waiting for me and the privilege to work with my ex-colleagues again!

7. my family who has mostly been supportive in the decisions I made.

8. friends back home. They have been a constant encouragement via email and fb.

9. my country.

10. the Lord God on whom I can depend and who is so real in my life and loves me dearly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s sooooo good to be able to stay at home and do what you like. Such a relaxing day, and it’s hard to come by. Baking macarons to the songs of Michael Buble, I can’t help but be thankful for the wonderful company of the hubs who periodically reaches out and sing those jazzy songs into my ears.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Note to self:

Use double trays during baking.
Set oven to slightly below 300F.
Rest macarons shells for at least 30 min before baking.
Don’t be afraid of the macaronage. Just mix well!
Use silpat rather than parchment paper, if you can.

Giving thanks

This week is going to be busy, as with the Americans because Thanksgiving is round the corner. Families come together, united as one again.

Chanced upon this video. It’s on John 3:16. While we Christians know this verse by heart, I’m not sure if we understand the profound message behind it. If we know the heart of God, we would examine our lives and live as He approves. He’s always watching us, and I wonder how many times I have hurt Him by my careless words and actions.

This Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of His great love for me. In life, we will encounter difficult situations, people who are a thorn in our flesh. But I want to be reminded that He gave His life for us, all of us and that will give me the strength to love them and live a life so abundant, as He promised.

Because He first loved me.

I’m giving thanks for this life I’m having. Thank you God.

Nigella’s Devil’s Food Cake

I must say I got an immense sense of joy when I looked at the finished product and all the more satisfied when the scraps and frosting entered the mouth. Heavenly!

This cake was baked at the request of GT who shared a most wonderful piece of news to me on Monday evening. While I didn’t have the privilege of leading our dear friend to say the sinner’s prayer, all of us did have a share in introducing Him to her and I’m only glad to bake her a cake to celebrate this wonderful occasion.

Initially I had wanted to bake the yellow cake but this recipe somehow came to
my mind. The ingredients needed were not complicated but most importantly, good dark chocolate had to be used.

The cake was easy to bake and the result was a decadent, moist cake and the frosting really delish. I like it that the recipe doesn’t use powdered sugar but more of butter and dark chocolate. The texture was smooth and it was not too rich like most American buttercream.

I certainly hope the intended recipient will like it. =)

Source: Nigella’s Devil’s Food Cake

Serves 10 – 12
for the cake:
1/2 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown/muscovado sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9tbsp/ 126g) soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

for the frosting:
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (171g) unsalted butter, cubed
311g best-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or 2 cups chips)

2 x 8-inch round cake pans

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/ 350F. Line the bottoms of both cake pans with baking parchment and butter the sides.
  2. Put the cocoa and 1/2 cup dark muscovado/brown sugar into a bowl with a bit of space to spare, and pour in the boiling water. Whisk to mix, then set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating well until pale and fluffy.
  4. While this is going on, stir the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in another bowl, and set aside for a moment.
  5. Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar – mixing all the while – then drop in 1 egg, quickly followed by a scoopful of flour mixture, then the second egg.
  6. Keep mixing and incorporate the rest of the dried ingredients for the cake, then finally mix and fold in the cocoa mixture, scraping its bowl well with a spatula.
  7. Divide this fabulously chocolatey batter between the 2 prepared pans and put in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Take the tins out and leave them on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes, before turning the cakes out to cool.
  9. But as soon as the cakes are in the oven, get started on your frosting: put the water, 2 tbsp dark brown/ muscovado sugar and 1 1/2 sticks butter in a pan over a low heat to melt.
  10. When this mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirling the pan so that all the chocolate is hit with heat, then leave for a minute to melt before whisking till smooth and glossy.
  11. Leave for about 1 hour, whisking now and again – when you’re passing the pan – by which time the cakes will be cooled, and ready for the frosting.
  12. Set one of the cooled cakes, with its top side down, on a cake stand or plate, and spread with about a third of the frosting, then top that with the second cake, regular way up, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides, swirling away with your spatula.

Reminder to self: Frosting will take time to reach a state that is desirable to frost, about 2 -3 hours in Spore context. Do make before baking, perhaps.

Monday’s not so blue

Finally, the day has arrived – presentation on Singapore Education System at BC. For months, a few good men from our org have been planning and communicating with one another on this. The mix of undergrads and grad students was a good one since most of us have been in HQ before and could lend different perspectives when we prepared for the presentation slides.

Yesterday, it was at BC and a few weeks later, Harvard.

KJ was our representative and though only a few turned up, we were glad that at least some were interested in our ed system.

Okay. Actually the highlight was not the presentation. Celebrating KJ’s belated birthday at FuGaKyu Japanese Cuisine was. Okay, to be precise, it was the food that got our full attention that evening. The sashimi, tempura …were delish! Pity that the ramen was a disappointment. Ippudo’s still the best!

The dinner was most enjoyable because of one joker in our midst. That one, is very powerful! =)

Sizzling in the kitchen

Yesterday was the last time we help to prepare food for the 100 people in the fellowship. It wasn’t easy doing that, having to purchase the ingredients a day before, marinate the meat (depending on what you were planning to cook) and then the actual cooking.

But it was all a lot of fun, and a lot of perspiration and stress. Given about 2.5 hours to do everything, it’s a race against time for us amateurs. At the end of it, everyone enjoyed it and was satisfied. Oh! The joy of cooking!

Have decided to document the last session with pics. For memory’s sake.

The pots and pans are super big and heavy. You need muscles in the kitchen and being tall has its advantage.

  
We had our fill first before getting started. The fried carrot cake at the Vietnamese Sandwich store reminded me of home and HK.

SL wanted to make 宫保鸡丁. What a lot of chicken to be diced.

  
Getting down to work. Testing knife skills.

The cooks started to cook while the rest continued to prepare the ingredients.

Hard at work @ 11.50am.

  
The kitchen is a busy place especially when the time draws near for lunch.

The fruits of our labour. Serving time. Filling hungry mouths.

More pics here.

Tata

Time to say goodbye. You have served me well over these past two years. I depended on you for my full and half marathons and you have not given me any problem. You are good. I love you.

Now, rest in peace.

Bak Kut Teh

I’ve never been fond of this Chinese soup which is popularly served in Malaysia, China, Taiwan, the Indonesian island of Riau and of course, Singaland. Perhaps, it’s because my mom doesn’t really cook this at home and thus I have little opportunity to appreciate it. The most recent time I had Bak Kut Teh was when a colleague brought me to the one along Keppel Road. That one…was good!

In an attempt to finish whatever food and pre-mixes that I have in my cupboard, I came across the one for Bak Kut Teh. The good folks at home, whoever they are (CG or in-laws), have mailed it to us, along with other packets and I thought it timely to make this dish!

And it’s real easy. I just have to dump 2 packets of the bag of spices ( star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds) in 1500ml of water, boil it for 30 minutes before adding soy sauce, dark soy sauce, garlic and the short ribs into it and simmer for 1.5 hours (remember to remove the scum!). The instructions on the packet suggested 1 hour but I want my meat to be fork-tender and adding 30 more minutes makes a good result. I also added another star anise and more Chinese pepper because I like it peppery. It turns out so delicious! Yum yum!

Such a simple dish and to be able to share it with the hubs is pure bliss.

 

TGIF

make avatar The thing about a self-directed work attachment is that you have to come up with your objectives. The organisation will try its best to make sure you learn all that you want but there will come a point when the activities become fewer and learning, stagnant. It’s time to rack the brain again to think of what to learn next. And, yes, I do need the discipline to write the report and read the incoming reports. =p

WA @ PSS: Art Lessons

For the past couple of weeks, I have been spending time with Louisa, the Art teacher in PSS. She is an enthusiastic teacher and cannot stop sharing with me about the different techniques of Art. While assisting her, I had a good glimpse of the Art curriculum and was really marvelled by it. I only learnt some of the techniques in Secondary school! And judging by the works of the students, they were of really high standards.

I believe when the teacher sets high expectations and guide the students in achieving them, there is no limit to how much one can achieve.

First up, I was walking towards the Specialists’ room (for Spanish, reading specialist and drama teacher) when I came across this piece of mural. It looks a tad messy but it does show some images of Boston in Fall. And then when I look at who were the creators, I smiled. It’s the Kindergarteners!

Yesterday, when I went in to help Louisa, the first class was the Kindergarteners. They had their oil pastel drawings returned and this time round, they are going to paint over them. The results were amazing…for Kindergarten level!

  
The students adding paint colours to the drawings.

An artist in the making. When I chatted with her, she told me that her mother used to be an artist herself!

After the class, Louisa shared with me the techniques of drawing using pencils, chalk and paint. The Art curriculum in the school includes foil, claywork and using recycling materials, amongst others. She was so passionate that she kept on sharing, even when it ate into her ‘free’ time.

According to Louisa, these sets of painting palettes are good!

  
Left: Louisa showing me the light and dark tone in drawing a vase.
Right: A Kindergartener’s work using foam and paint.

A student working on foil.

As Louisa shared, I got more and more interested in Art and to link with other subjects. She was sharing with me that Art can be infused into all subjects (of course) like social studies and Science. And I have seen with my own eyes how she integrated Art into these. Since the students studied the different era like the Romans and the Greek, they got to create works representing those eras. Louisa also taught them the different periods in Art History, like the Modern Art, the Baroque, the classics, etc. Whoah! All these in elementary school! Amazing! I don’t even know the different periods in art and have to educate myself through going to the museums!

The Art curriculum in PSS is really very rich and I have invited Louisa to come to my school next year to share with my Art teachers. And I certainly hope that it will work out!

Below is a 8-minute clip on what she shared with me in class on 9 Nov 2011. The password is ParkStrSch.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Macarons

I shall persevere, until the mystery of the finicky ones is solved.

I have had successes with them but the recent failures had only serve to spur me on to bake more often, test the recipes and discover what the plausible cause(s) of failures would be.

Since I had bought a bottle of raspberry jam two days ago, I thought of the wonderful combination of white chocolate ganache and raspberry jam. The filling wouldn’t be too difficult to make. The tricky parts as usual, were the whipping of the egg whites and the macaronage.

This time round, I decided to pay more attention to everything, including having the exact weight of the egg whites and blending the almond flour and powered sugar using the food processor. I realised then that I have been using less egg whites for the past few attempts! Goodness! Soo desne!

Everything seemed to go smoothly. The pre-baked macaron shells sat neatly on the baking sheet waiting to be dried. Then in went the sheet pans at 325F. About 12 minutes later, they came out…uncracked yet without the feet! Oh my goodness! What’s wrong again?

Perhaps it’s the temperature? I adjusted a little. Since the oven did not have digital reading, I would have to gauge by trial and error. The second sheet pan went in and the macarons came out, uncracked and some with feet. Hmm…better but still not well done. Tempered with the temperature again until I decided to use double sheet pans.

And it worked! Too bad this was the last batch!

The rest was easy. This time round, the macarons were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Wonderful!

Note to self:
1. Use temperature of 310F for about 12 minutes for this oven.
2. Buy oven with digital reading.
3. Use double sheet pans during baking.

Hmm…what flavour shall I bake the next time?
Oh! I realised I have baked 10 different macaron flavours! Yay! #6 of the to-do list is completed!

White Chocolate ganache
150g white chocolate, finely chopped
5 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Put the cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat until the cream has come to the boil. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and leave to melt for 1 minute. Stir until smooth then leave to cool. Cover and refrigerate until thickened.

TEDxBoston Food Sleuth Adventures

I was fortunate to participate in TEDxBoston Food Sleuth Adventures yesterday. The series of adventures are a great way to interact not only with revolutionary hosts but also with members of the TEDxBoston community.

Our host for this adventure was Clover and if you know the name, it had everything to do with food, glorious, food in the company of like-minded people.

A few days before the actual event, we were given a list of ingredients to choose to buy. The ingredients should be obtained as close to their places of origin as possible. No supermarket, no grocery stores. The aim of the activity was to get the participants to investigate and learn about the ingredients by asking questions, sample fare just after picking to see if it tastes different (arugula and mesclun do!), and document the experience with photos , videos, notes, sketches, poetry, anything that inspires us.

For fresh produce, we have to go to the farms, orchards and urban garden or even at your own backyard (for herbs)! Other places include artisan creamery and for spices, the closest we can get to the original source would be the merchants themselves.

I chose to buy Allspice at Christina’s Spice at Inman Square since I wouldn’t be able to drive all the way to a farm, orchard or creamery. But what a discovery I made at Christina’s! There are so many different types of spices in the shop, many of which I do not know! Apart from spices, they also sell different kinds of tea leaves and sauces and extracts. If you can’t find a particular spice in the supermarket, the odds are they will have it here. Fascinating place and what’s worth sharing is that the prices are cheaper!

  

 

So, even though I was there to buy one type of spice, I stayed there for a while, marveling at the goods and came out with more than Allspice. Thankfully, the hubs was equally fascinated and enjoyed the experience.

The adventure continued yesterday at Cloverflagship restaurant at Harvard Square. It was a time of mingling with the participants and food sourcing superstars like Jessie Banhazi of Green City Growers fame and Amy Traverso, Senior Lifestyle editor, Yankee magazine and Author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook and to hear Bettina’s passion around food. We also got a chance to work in the kitchen and learned from the chef himself! What a wonderful evening of learning about food from one another!

  

Thank you, TEDxBoston for an amazing adventure!

Genes

Recently, Shaws gave out some paper ‘board game’ and stickers to their customers. I think you have to find the match to some boxes or something much like the monopoly game that McDonalds once gave out (as you can tell, I’ve absolutely no interest in them).

After coming back from the supermarket, guess what happened?

Oh my! This scene reminded me of my FIL who used to participate in the McDonalds’ monopoly game. Like father, like son. =p Thankfully, my FIL is a wonderful man and so is his son.

Bathroom

Bathroom concepts which I like.

While at CHil Design Group contemporary bathroom
FORMA Design
custom marble tile, bamboo cabinetry contemporary bathroom
FORMA Design
XStyles Bath Design Studio contemporary bathroom

French Apple Tart

It was poptart that I wanted to bake initially. The Pate Brisee is in the refrigerator, all ready for me to be used. Then I came across a beautiful picture in November 2010 issue of Saveur and changed my mind instantly. The presentation is too pretty and the recipe too easy not to bake.

The original recipe is by New York City chef and author Sara Moulton. I will have to tweak a little since I’m not following hers from scratch.

For the filling, you will need:
7 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and halved ( I used whatever apples I have in the fridge),  1/4 cup sugar (but I only used about half of the amount), 1/2 cup apricot jam.

With Joanne Chang’s Pate Brisee, I transferred it to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into a 13″ circle and then transfer to a 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom. I have a 10″ tart pan though so I had extra dough at the end. Trim the edges and chill for 1 hour.

how to make a gif

Heat the oven to 375F. Working with one apple half at a time, thinly slice into sections, keeping slices together. Press sliced apple half gently to fan it out; repeat with remaining apple halves. Place 1 fanned apple half on outer edge of the tart dough, pointing inward; repeat with 7 more apple halves. Separate remaining apple slices. Starting where the apple halves touch and working your way in, layer apples to create a tight rose pattern. Fill in any gaps with remaining apple. Sprinkle with sugar and then dot with remaining butter. Bake until golden brown, 60-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat apricot jam in a small saucepan until warmed and loose; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl and set aside. Transfer tart to a wire rack; using a pastry brush, brush top of tart with jam. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with whipped cream, if you wish.

Obviously, the presentation could be better. But considering that this is the first time I’m attempting, I’m going to accept it and give it a ‘satisfaction’ grade. Presentation aside, this is really delicious.

Pâte Brisée
Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for 8 pop-tarts or one 9-inch double-crust or lattice-top pie

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 228 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface (at Flour we call this “going down the mountain”), until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.

Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Step-by-step

We are one step closer to owning our apartment!

1st appointment is over! Thanks be to the folks at home and CG!

Middle East Restaurant
472, Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA