The Science of sweets

Baking is a lot about Science, ya know?

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Jam-packed July

I assume the role of a SAHM (full-fledged) this month. You would have thought that I would busy myself with Faith. Yes, that’s for sure but I took the opportunity to continue where I have left off in my love for baking by going for some intensive cake decorating course. 4 mornings a week, I rushed off to my parents’, dropped Faith with them and dashed off for lessons. I treasured those mornings because they gave me time to myself and the chance to mingle with like-minded people.

20130728-215231.jpgThe last lesson saw me decorating a cake for Faith. For days, I had been making flowers and figurine with gumpaste, covering the cake with fondant and praying that things would go well on Saturday since we were to assemble everything on that day. I did make a boo boo and had to cover the cake again on that day but thankfully all went well. But Yours truly is as clumsy as ever and the figurine did not survive on its way back home – it got crushed by my bag.

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Dear Faith,
The world may not be perfect and life is filled with its ups and downs. But it can be a colourful one if you trust in the Creator. May you bloom where you are placed, and may you be a blessing to others. I thank God for you.

While my full time job is to bring up Faith, I am also pursuing my other dream – baking. I am thankful to have the privilege to produce sweet treats for friends (and being paid for it!), with my first assignment being cupcakes and a chocolate cake.

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So, there you have it, my rather jam-packed July. If I have been missing in action on this space, you can be assured that I am testing recipes or baking for some folks. 😉

Do the right thing

Just a day ago, I learnt a lesson which I want to pen down on this space.

You see, I have been attending some cake decorating classes for the month of July and this place that I go to does not have carpark lots nearby. It is located along the main road but there are private houses behind the shop and those residents park their cars outside their houses (along the road) since they do not have any parking space within their premise (think shophouses). If I am to find a parking lot, I would have to walk a distance. So, as you have guessed it, if there is any parking space outside those houses, I would well, erm, park my car there.

This practice was continued until yesterday when I received a note on my windscreen.

Hi, please park your car along XXX road. As you are NOT a resident, you shouldn’t park here. You are inconveniencing the elderly and invalids. Please do the considerate thing. 

What do you do after you read that note? I can only think of two actions:

1. Ignore since I am not going to be there forever. Besides I am just parking for a few hours.
2. Repent.

To be honest, my heart was heavy as I drove back home. The roads among these houses are narrow and space is a constraint. I am also taking up the parking space of these residents. To some, it may be a small thing. Besides, many are doing the same thing. So why should I pay a few dollars for a parking lot when there is free space for me to park my car? This bible verse came to me straight away.

“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:6-7

It is NOT RIGHT of me to do that.

So today, I found myself a parking lot, paid for it and went for my class. As I walked towards my destination, I saw this old man on his crutches (I met him a few times already for the past few lessons), seemingly telling me that he approved of my actions. Perhaps he is one of those whom I have been inconveniencing all these while.

My spirit is lifted again.

Do the right thing. It’s ok if you think that I’m a fool to do that. I’ll gladly be one for Jesus.

Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes

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These days, I would consider it a luxury if I could squeeze in some time to bake. Faith is more needy than before and wants me to carry her or be beside her while she is playing. My arms are sore since she is no longer light and I really need her to be independent!

Ok, complaints aside, she is still my precious girl. It’s random but I have the mood to bake some cupcakes and decided on Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes.

The recipe that I used is originally from Hummingbird Bakery but I have adapted it by adjusting the sugar level and also using a different tea flavour. After giving some to my cake designing coursemates, they stated that they would prefer a less sweet version of the frosting. So, it’s back to experimenting!

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Makes about 12 standard cupcakes

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey Lavender teabags ( I used Gryphon)
3tbsp just-boiled water
80g unsalted butter, softened
260g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200ml whole milk
2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml whole milk
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter, softened

Two 6-hole muffin tins

Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes. I used Gryphon tea. 🙂

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Preheat the oven to 190°C and line 2 muffin tins with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.

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Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

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While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.

Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.

Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife or like me, using a piping tip!

Wordless Wednesday |My decorating journey

The decorating journey is progressing well and I’m enjoying every lesson. This makes an exciting beginning of my SAHM journey. What’s next, I wonder…

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Linking up with

Focusing on the things that matter

[User experience on Drypers Wee Wee DRY]

Dear Faith
Before you came into this world, many of my closed friends told me that you are fearfully and wonderfully made…

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…and those who are mothers warned me to spend as much time with you as possible because you will grow up in the twinkling of an eye.

How true that is. You are indeed a gift from God and just look at you now – how you have grown!

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You are indeed our little bundle of joy and it only makes sense that Mama and Papa devote time to spend with you so that we could help you build a good memory of your childhood.

As a parent, I worry a lot. I wonder if you have enough for your feed. I fear that you might have sensitive skin. I’m always on the lookout for any allergic symptoms that might develop. The list goes on.

Mama is not a very adventurous person when it comes to changing brands for the things that you are accustomed to.
But I thought I should give Drypers Wee Wee DRY a try.

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And I’m glad I did.

Because you take to the diapers well and they keep you dry and obviously comfortable since you did not ‘complain’.

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No matter how you turn and toss and stretch and stand, there is no leakage (of pees and poos). Even though you have the diaper on for hours over the night and it becomes FULL the following morning, your bottoms are not red and there’s no reaction either. This could be due to the 4-in-1 Botanical extracts (Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Vitamin E and Olive Extract) which helps to moisturize and rejuvenate your skin.

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Mama is obviously satisfied with Drypers Wee Wee DRY and the information on the product above confirms my confidence in it.

So, Mama doesn’t have to spend time worrying about changing diapers and instead can focus on the things that matter – spending quality time with you.

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Mama also wants to witness each milestone that you achieve.

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Dear Faith, know that Papa and Mama love you very much and we will give you the best (within our means, i.e.). Thankfully, Drypers Wee Wee DRY is kind on our wallets and more importantly, it does its work to keep you dry.

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Mama

My dear readers, if you want to have your precious one experience the new and improved features of Drypers Wee Wee DRY, you can request for a sample via their Facebook page. Do visit it for more updates and parenting tips!

Ending this post with a heart-warming video by Drypers.

Disclaimer: Faith is provided with three packs of Drypers Wee Wee DRY (80 diapers for each pack) for the purpose of this user experience post. All opinions are mine.

Wordless Wednesday | A flowery beginning

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I’m a SAHM who occasionally stays at home because I’m picking up where I have left off in my baking journey.

So, I’ve been busy learning. Though the workmanship is still amateurish, I’m happy just being able to make them.

Linking up with

FFWD| Sable Breton galette with berries

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So I know that today’s not Friday but I’ve been so far behind the French Fridays with Dorie project that I have to catch up. Earlier, I have resolved to attempt 3 times a month for FFWD but for June, I found myself struggling due to certain commitments but hey, being late is better than never!

The sable breton galette is such a beauty that I couldn’t resist baking. It would be a good dessert for a gathering! So, the day before, I prepared the dough and the lemon curd since the former needs to be chilled for at least 3 hours. The following day, all I need to do is to bake the dough and then just before serving , top the galette with the lemon curd and beautify it with the berries.

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I suspect I would be making this again. Try it if you have the time for it certainly seeks to please.

A similar recipe can be found here.

I had so much fun whipping up French food with FFWD and I’m encouraging you to do so too! Join us in the fun!

A busy saturday and a madeleine recipe

Saturday is always a busy day for us as we attend church service in the evening and thereafter, host our small group. Yesterday, it got really exhausting since we had a wedding lunch to attend. Thankfully the food was good and little Faith did not act up.

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Made our way to the hotel and took a snapshot of this. I would never take blue skies for granted again after the recent haze experience.

20130707-145353.jpgSince we were rather early for the lunch, we chilled at Joe & Dough and father & daughter spent some quality time together. Faith was eyeing the blueberry yogurt tart which was rather yummy.

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I was brought up with the belief that we should always make our guest(s) feel welcome and ‘full’ as a host so no matter how tired or busy the day could be, I would try to make it a point to bake something for the small group. A few days ago, I finally got my hands on the madeleine pan and well, you guess it right, I made honey-spiced madeleines for my guests. The recipe is taken from my favourite cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Since this recipe requires you to chill the batter for at least 3 hours, I prepared that early in the morning and I just need to bake them in the oven when I got back home in the afternoon.

It was easy to make and the madeleines found their way into my guests’ stomachs quickly so maybe they were good?

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Recipe taken from about.com

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt, and pepper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or use a hand mixer or a whisk; add the eggs to the bowl and beat until the mixture is light colored, fluffy, and thickened, about 2 minutes. Beat in the honey, then the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter.

3. You can use the batter now, but it’s better if you give it a little rest. Or, for real convenience, you can spoon the batter into buttered-and-floured madeleine molds, cover, and chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. (See below for instructions on prepping the pans.) Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

4. When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200C. Butter 12 regular madeleine molds (or 36 mini-molds), dust them with flour, and tap out the excess. (If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, butter and flour it or give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If your pan is silicone, you can leave it as is or, just to be sure, give it a light butter-and flour coating.) Place the pan on a baking sheet and spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one to the top.

5. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when prodded gently. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or room temperature.

6. Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Panda Bread: A failed attempt

Just yesterday, Ruth from the mommy cafe posted a picture of the panda bread on FB and asked if anyone could bake it. It got me excited because I have the recipe bookmarked but never got to baking it. So, I thought I should get down to doing it and perhaps bless her kid with it. A search on the internet resulted in a Japanese website but thankfully there are bloggers who have translated it into English.

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I have consolidated the recipe via two sources: one from here and the other one from a blogger who has baked bread as a project. How cool!

I must warn you that this is a failed attempt, a result of poor technique. The next time I attempt this again, I will not be using the normal loaf pan but the pullman loaf tin.

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Adapted from Taro Taro
Ingredients: Makes a 9 x 5 inch bread

230g bread flour
70g cake flour
30g sugar
90g milk + 1 yolk (30g) = 210g
4.5g salt
20g unsalted butter
4g yeast
8g green tea powder dissolved in 10g boiling hot water
8g cocoa powder dissolved in 8g boiling water

Method:
1. Heat up milk and yolk to temperature of 38C or warm to the touch.20130704-133628.jpg

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the milk and egg. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the butter. Increase the speed to medium-low, and knead for 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, and should be smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little extra flour or water during the kneading process, if necessary to achieve the proper consistency. Do the window-pane test.

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3. Divide dough (about 560g) into 3 parts: 75g for the chocolate, 210g plain and the rest of the dough which is less than 280g for the green tea.

4. Add chocolate to the 75g dough and knead till the colour is even. Add green tea mixture to the 280g dough and knead till colour is even. (I did this step manually).

5. Proof all 3 pieces of doughs on separate greased plates covered loosely with oiled cling wrap for 30 – 40 minutes.

6. Punch air out of dough and proof for another 20 – 30 minutes.

7. Use 90g plain dough for the face and 2 pieces of 27g chocolate dough for the eyes.

8. Fill the hollow of the eyes with 30g plain dough.

9. Roll remaining plain dough over the patterned dough.

10. Divide the remaining chocolate dough into 2 pieces (17.5g each) for the ears.

11. Use 70g of the green tea dough to fill up the hollow between the ears.

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12. Wrap the rest of the green tea dough all around the patterned dough.

13. Place dough into a well-greased loaf pan and cover it with a lid and proof for 50 – 60 minutes.

14. Bake at 200C for 25 – 30 minutes.

Out from the oven and you know it has failed.

Out from the oven and you know it has failed.

Mine looks more like a monster.

Mine looks more like a monster.

Towards better skin with NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum

It’s been 14 days since I started using the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF25. In my previous post, I shared that applying body cream is not part of my skincare regime. However, habits can be formed when one does an activity regularly and that is what happened when I apply the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum for 2 weeks. What helps is having the tube of serum in sight (by placing it near the sink) and I would apply it when I come out of the shower and also once before I get out of the apartment to run my errands.

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I realised it really doesn’t take long to apply the serum on my body and what keeps me going is the refreshing scent and the smoothness of my skin minutes after applying it. I don’t even need to apply any perfume now!

Although I’m a homemaker, I don’t stay at home all the time. In fact, I can be out of the house a lot. A typical day for me sees me going to the wet market in the morning and that’s when I apply the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25. I do have to walk a distance to the market and protection from the harmful UV rays is always welcome. At times, I send Faith to my mom’s to run other errands and yes, even though we are inside a vehicle, our skin still needs to be protected.

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Sometimes, when I’m out for lunch and in the hot sun, that’s when I wish I have brought the tube of NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with me. I can only hope that it still works to protect my skin. In the evening, I would go jogging with the hubs and Faith and if I remember, I would apply the serum (However, this activity was shelved when the haze condition worsened). My skin gets its last dose of the nourishment after my shower in the evening.

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If you can recall, the skin on my hand was rough and there were obvious pigmentation on the first day. The pores were big and I had uneven skin tone. Does it look dull to you too? I think so.

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I applied the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum religiously for the next 7 days and missed applying the serum only once when I was in a rush. The skin feels supple and smoother definitely. The pigmentation has lightened and can you see that the pores are no longer that big? I was rather surprised by the results and this has spurred me to continue using the serum because I really want to know what will happened within these 14 days.

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On the 14th day, although the pigmentation still exists (hmm, can they even disappear?), they are visibly lighter. The skin feels so much smoother as compared to the first day when I tried the serum. I like the fact that my skin is moisturised and it definitely feels more supple. No more rough skin! Overall, the skin does look a bit less dark (can’t really use fairer because I’m not in the ‘fair’ category to begin with).

I must say that the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum works well for my skin and I am satisfied with the results. I’m really not expecting anything spectacular to happen since my skin was rather ‘damaged’ during my 20s; I did outdoor sports a lot without any form of skin protection. However, my skin does improve within the 14 days of using the serum. For a product that is economically priced, it works wonders for my skin.

In short, here’s what I like about the NIVEA UV Whitening Serum:

1. The serum is lightweight and doesn’t feel sticky (very important factor to me). Instead, it is absorbed by the skin within minutes and the skin feels smooth.

2. Love the refreshing scent.

3. My pigmentation is lightened and my pores seem smaller.

4. My skin is protected by the harmful UV rays and it is an assurance for me to know that my skin gets vitamin C to repair the skin cells, especially during the hazy days.

5. No adverse skin reaction!

I will continue to incorporate the use of NIVEA UV Whitening Serum in my daily skincare routine and would recommend it to other mums.

NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25 is available at a very affordable price of $9.55 if you want to purchase one to try.

NIVEA is carrying out an Instagram Campaign from the 3rd week of July to mid August 2013. During this period, all you have to do is to upload sunshots and outdoor activities – pictures that depict your lifestyle when you are out of the house – and insert with hashtags #NiveaSG #UVWhtSerum #Sunnyfun #Sunshine. The best photos with the hashtags enable you to win Nivea NIVEA hampers worth of $188 weekly! This is so exciting and I’m looking forward to your pictures!

I will continue to post pics on how the product works and fits into my lifestyle. Do follow me on Instagram (@lynninpics).

If you miss my initial review on the NIVEA Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25, here it is.

Disclosure: I am participating in a sponsored campaign by NIVEA to try out their Body UV Whitening Serum with SPF 25. Three tubes of the products are provided and all opinions are my own. Do note that results from using any products vary from persons to persons.

Wordless Wednesday | Pursuing my interest

Never mind that I’ve quit my job to look after the little one. Something interesting is coming my way.

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Linking up with

I’m a SAHM now.

So here it is, I’m a SAHM now.

After battling with God (and the hubs) over this for a few years,  I have to say, ‘Ok, I surrender’.

As I recalled my thoughts a few years back, I have to say that even though we could resist, the Almighty still brings us back to where He wants us to be, to enjoy an abundant and fulfilling life, in His time.

Read about them here. Part I: Would you be a stay-at-home-mom?
Part II and Part III

For the past seven months, when people asked me this question, “What do you do?”, I stayed stumped for a moment and replied with a most silly question, “What do you mean?”

I didn’t know what to say. Do I state my profession? Or do I say I’m a SAHM which sounds so alien to me. But now, I can truthfully reply ‘I’m a homemaker’.

It’s not easy going through this period and during service on Saturday, I cried terribly and the hubs asked me what was wrong. What’s wrong? What’s wrong?! Nothing is wrong but the fact that I left my job, a profession that I love and the people whom I have been working so closely for so many years made me uber sad. Perhaps, to dig deeper, my profession has given me an identity of sorts and to strip me of that causes me to feel rather lost.

I have to look at the bright side. It’s all good if it’s according to His will. At the very least, I could take care of Faith full-time and on top of that, pursue my interest which the hubs supports.

He has better!

I’m picking myself up again and to convince myself that I am indeed a homemaker now. No joke.