FFWD | Rice pudding and caramel apples

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I’m late again! But it’s better late than never.

I’d never thought that I would like rice pudding but I thought I should just try this and surprisingly it’s good. Rice pudding or riz au lait as Dorie revealed is what little children grow up on and what adults crave for when they want comfort. This rice pudding can be served in little canning jars or martini glasses.

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For this recipe, Arborio rice is first precooked in water then in milk to achieve a creamy and slight chewy state. This is quite an easy recipe though it takes time to make it. And since I’ve no martini glasses, I’ll reuse my jam jars. ;p

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This is a weekly attempt at French food via French Fridays with Dorie. If you are interested in French cooking, why not join us?

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Cake Topper/ Doll Making Workshop

IMG_2562Hello! How adorable are these wooden dolls which act as cake toppers too!

I first caught sight of these dolls such as this through etsy as I was looking for cake toppers a few months ago. They can be rather expensive and I was looking to doing them on my own. However, due to a lack of time, I couldn’t source for the materials and gave up the idea until Jasmine ran a giveaway on her FB page. Participated but didn’t win. However, that did not deter me from joining the workshop. Da man knew that I love to attend such workshops and gave his blessing while my in-laws and he took over to care of baby Faith. It’s ME time! Woohoo!

So, I made my way down to A for Arbite which is the hosting site for the event. I was the first to arrive for the workshop (eager!) and had a quick bite before the class commenced.

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Liza and her family came shortly and what a joy to have great company!

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The workshop was conducted by Wei Mum of Little Craft Loft and I was so amazed by the ‘barang barang’ that that were needed to do up these dolls. When I say ‘amazed’, I mean I’m captivated because all the stuff are what you will use when you do craftwork = KAWAII! They include cloth, stickers, ribbons, etc.

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So, the steps (in summary) involved in making these dolls:

First, you outline the facial features.

First, you outline the facial features.

Then, you paint it and glaze it.

Then, you paint it and glaze it.

Prepare the clothes!

Prepare the clothes!

The finishing touch.

The finishing touch.

Wei Mun is a very patient instructor and because of that, I enjoyed the session a lot. I’ve got great company – Liza and her hubby, Winston, and little Xander! My lunch was paid for by this generous and funny family too. How blessed I am!

LIza and Winston

LIza and Winston

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So, the cake toppers were done and they will be part of the cake which I will be baking for Faith’s first birthday. What a good way to spend my weekend and a very relaxing one to have my ME time. Love it!

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Do check out Little Craft Loft for more updates and perhaps you might want to make these dolls yourself!

Tiramisu Charlotte Cake | A tutorial

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I made a Tiramisu Charlotte Cake at a request of a friend. It’s meant for her sister-in-law who loves Baileys Irish Cream and because of this order (which was made way in advance), I had my brother purchase a bottle of the liquor when he came back 2 months ago from overseas. Oh, the things you will do to bake a cake.

IMG_7744So, this is not the first time I make a Charlotte Cake. I made a Strawberry Mousse Charlotte Cake when my sister and her family were back and also once for da man for V-day. However, each time, I used the store-bought ladyfingers because well, it’s definitely more convenient to do that. This time round, I thought I should just go the extra mile to bake them as I find it will make a prettier cake. I had also seen how this was made during my advance baking course at CSCA so I thought I should just go through the notes and bake it again, this time without Chef E around!

It takes quite an effort and to me, the piping has to be good. Since they are rather molten, it can be quite a mess if you fumble. I also did a test-run for this cake as I’m not sure if the amount of liquor is sufficient and in the end, have to double the portion of the Irish cream, following this recipe.

My friend wanted to bring the cake in to Malaysia and that means I have to think of keeping this cake in a cold box. I had fun scouting for a 8 by 4 inch box for this 6-by-3-inch cake. As a general guide, you need a cake board 2 inch wider than the one you are baking. So if I am baking a 6-inch cake, I would need an 8-inch cake board and box.

The next thing is to look for ways to keep the cake cold. I was reminded by how my box of Royce chocolates were kept in an aluminium-foil-type of packaging complete with ice packs and thought I should follow suit. Daiso to the rescue. Da man told me that they sell stuff like that and we trooped down one fine day to look for them.

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And in the end, this is the how the cake was wrapped, packed and delivered.

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(Adapted from Miette and CSCA’s class notes)
Enough to make a 6-by-3 inch charlotte cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a pencil, draw two 3 1/2-by-10 inch rectangular templates on the paper, one above the other. Turn the paper over and press against the bottom of the pan so you can see the pencil lines you made.

2. Fit a piping bag with a medium round tip (1/2 inch). Sift the flour into a bowl and set aside.

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3. Using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar on medium-high speed until thick and ribbony. Set aside.

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4. Using a standmixer, combine the egg whites and the remaining caster sugar in the bowl and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the yolks in three additions, just until no streaks remain.

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5. Sift one-third of the flour over the egg mixture and fold in gently. Fold in the remaining flour in two more additions, until just combined. Fill the piping bag with the batter. Pipe each finger using the lines to guide you and leave a little space between each finger so that they will join together when they bake. If there are pointed peaks after you have piped each ladyfinger, simply wet your fingers and press the peaks down lightly with your damp fingers (see above right). Dust the tops of the pipped batter with confectioners sugar. Let the unbaked cookies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

IMG_7683* You would need to refill the piping bag. To avoid making a mess, secure the bottom of the piping bagwith a clip while refilling. Release the clip at the bottom once you have refilled and secure the top part so that the batter will not overflow as you pipe.

6. Preheat the oven to 180C.

7. Dust the ladyfingers again with confectioners sugar and bake until just beginning to turn golden. My oven took about 15 to 20 minutes so do use the colours as a guide. Transfer to wire racks to cool. As soon as they are just barely cool, use immediately or wrap in plastic wrap. Be careful not to let the bands break apart. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 days.

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* To assemble using ladyfingers even for the next day, freeze them when they are cool. (Ladyfingers stale quickly unless soaked with a dessert syrup). Place them in a plastic container with waxed paper between the layers and freeze them for no more than 10 days.

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For the remaining batter, I bake it in a 6 inch springform cake tin for about 30 minutes. Once this is baked, let it cool and you are good to assemble.

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You would need to cut the cake into thin slices as the different layers.

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These will be needed as you assemble. For the actual measurement, refer to my previous post on Tiramisu cake.

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Let it chill for at least 4 hours before removing the cake from the tin. I chill it overnight.

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mise en place

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Assemble! I top it with valrhona cocoa powder and chocolate shavings.

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Friday in pics

My sis and her family went back after more than a week of visit. *sobs* I’ll sure miss them! But thankfully, it won’t be long before we meet again! Yay!

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Buh-bye! See you in December, my adorable little frequent flyers!

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Since da man is on leave today, we took the opportunity to roam T3 and had our brunch. I love local food like these anytime!

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Da man and I went for a slow, slow jog at East Coast Park, my favourite playground while Dad looked after her. At long last, a jog! Make it more often, please!

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Faith got her first taste of egg today. I wanted to see if she reacts well to it before her next visit to the PD. Hopefully, she is ok with it!

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That’s it. TGIF! It is passing all too soon!

Motherhood Thoughts on a random Friday

A few things I’ve learnt after becoming a mother. In random order:

1. Gym membership is a waste of money. 

Ever thought of wanting to go back to the pre-pregnancy weight and thought you might need external help… like a gym membership? The idea is good but I soon realised that I don’t have the time to do so. It’s tough too having to think about childcare for the little one. By the time you send the kiddo to someone else’s place and then head straight to the gym, you are half-dead. How in the world would you have the energy to work out?

I have signed up for a half-year membership and I have only gone to say, maximum, 15 times. Man! Each visit costs so much in this sense. What a waste of my money.

And I reach my pre-pregnancy weight through doing household chores and running after Faith. Free of charge.

2. Massage/Spa package is totally worth it.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the above. Do you have a tired body? I have, constantly. Aching one? Yes, all the time. And I find rest in the hands of my masseuse. Period.

3. SAHM does not have a lot of time to go out with friends.

This could just be my own experience and I’m not speaking on behalf of any other SAHM. Each day of my life is packed, like looking after Faith (that is a 24/7 business), cooking for the family, cleaning the house and staying sane by baking. I do treasure my moments with da man as we find that we hardly spend quality time with each other. So, I’ve learnt to understand my mommy friends more and know that it can be difficult to ask them out. Actually, this does not just apply to SAHM. It applies to moms/parents in general. Somehow, I feel, it can be worse for FTWM. Just guessing…

4. The toys I bought for the kiddo may just be what I like and not what she prefers. 

You know what? Faith doesn’t really like the toys I bought for her. Like the cute pinkish bunny which I find so adorable? She doesn’t even like to hold for more than 1 minute, let alone cuddle. I keep trying to get her to be interested but she threw it aside when I handled the bunny to her. Poor bunny. My dear Faith prefers to play with the real stuff in the house, like laundry basket, my room slippers, cables, keys…

I think I just don’t know how to choose the appropriate toys for her. FAIL.

5. Put on makeup when you go out OR Take care of your skin before it’s too late. 

I don’t really like to put on makeup because I dislike the feeling of something on my skin. Our humid weather further discourages me from doing that. *Think perspiration and melting makeup*. However, I soon realise that with a lack of beauty sleep and hydration and sometimes poor nutrition, I can look terrible. The skin becomes dull, the dark eye rings and eye bags get worse and your lines (wrinkles) deepen. So, it’s the makeup to the rescue. Either that or it’s time to take special care of your skin. Ignore what the hubby says about ‘I still love you anyway’ because seriously, can you even accept this type of aging? It’s certainly not graceful!

IMG_7747Ok, gtg. Faith is fussing.

Linking up with:

Waterplay at Changi City Point

Call me a mountain tortoise and I won’t be angry with you when it comes to places to hang out in Singapore. Fact is, I really do not know a lot of attraction spots or places for the kiddos to play and have fun.

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Yesterday, I followed my sis and her family to Changi City Point so that the kids can have fun at the water playground. She stumbled upon this when they had dinner the night before at the food court and the playground is just located outside! So, the nephews wanted to have some waterplay and we followed suit.

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I’ve not been to a lot of water playgrounds but I thought this one is quite spacious and fun. It has water jets and cannons for kids who want to get wet and wild. There is also a dry play area that has fun climbing structures. We were there at 5pm and there weren’t a lot of people at that point in time. My eldest nephew, Dallen, became excited all at once and set off to play while Faith and my younger nephew, Dayen, needed some time to reach that excitement level.

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Faith didn’t seem to enjoy water now which I thought was weird. Months ago, when we were at the waterplay area near the Siloso Beach, she was having real fun but now, it seems that she is scared of water. I have better do something about this!

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Both Dayen and Faith needed to be carried. Why don’t they like waterplay? Maybe they didn’t have the mood to play then?

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There is a changing area near the playground which helps a lot since the area can get rather windy and you wouldn’t want your kiddos to catch a cold. Once you step into the food court, it’s even worse. So please do bring along a sweater for the young ones.

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I like it that we can just proceed to any one of the many eateries in Changi City Point after the waterplay. We chose the Koufu Food Court which is spacious and serves a good variety of food. Oh yes, parking lots are aplenty which is another plus point!

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The 3 House
Level 2
Changi City Point
5 Changi Business Park Central 1
Changi East
S486038

Sibling <3 and a Chocolate Tartlet Recipe

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It’s amazing how kids can gel a family together.

Growing up, my siblings and I weren’t very close. Each of us is very different in character and we valued the space that we gave to one another. That also translates to little communication among us. However, that changed when we have kids.

Perhaps, it’s because we are living apart. Bro is in Shanghai and my sis is in Jogjakarta and the distance does make the hearts grow fonder. We want to be updated on one another’s progress and how the kids are doing. Thankfully, apps like WeChat helps to connect us virtually.

So, while each of us is unique in our own ways, we are ultimately a family who cares for one another.

These chocolate tarts seem to resemble us. While on the outside, we may be different – each with his or her own character and personality – we are similar on several notes, sharing bittersweet memories of growing up and the “never-give-up” spirit from mom.

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The tarts are simple to make and it’s important to choose the best and freshest ingredients (i.e. butter, chocolate, eggs) and allow them to shine! Once you have baked the tarts, all you have to do is to pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache (chocolate + heavy cream) onto the tarts. You can eat the tarts as they are or if you want a little variation, decorate the tarts with fruits (like strawberries or pears or top them with chocolate shavings or cocoa nibs. I think it’s all up to your creativity.

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Chocolate Tart Recipe
Pate Sucree Shells*
150g bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped ( I used 72% Valhorna covertures)
1/3 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)

The chocolate ganache can yield about 5 3 1/2 inch tartlets.

*Pate Scree Tart Shell
(makes two 7-inch tart or ten 3 1/2 inch tartlets)
Adapted from Miette Cookbook

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour20130925-213628.jpg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
226g cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 whole block)
2 large egg yolks
4 to 8 tbsp heavy cream

1. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tbsp of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. I took about 5 tbsp. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you need. I used the pressing in method to press the dough into the tart pans. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 180C.

5. Fully pre-bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Every oven is different. For me, I tend to put to bake for a tad longer, sometimes up to 20 minutes. I will always look at the colour to determine if the tarts are baked to my liking.

6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling with the chocolate ganache.

7. While the shells cool, make the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it begins to boil remove from heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

8. With the tartlet shells now cool, pipe or spoon the chocolate ganache onto the tarts.

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Have fun baking!

Faith @ 10 months old

20130920-204541.jpgDear Faith
You turn 10 months old today! How exciting! It’s 2 more months before you have your first birthday!

This month, you have been really active. You crawl faster and your reactions towards your surrounding are sharper. You treat your home as your playground, crawling all over, under the tables and chairs, and using them to help you practise your standing up. Mama didn’t really want to restrict you and let you roam around. I figure I cannot set a boundary for you since I value freedom myself and I hope you have fun exploring all the different parts of the home.

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I think you are a fun-loving girl. For two weeks, the teachers at BSF’s infant class have been telling me that you laughed and played a lot, to the extent that you wouldn’t want to take a nap. You are a happy child and love your snacks now. But it seems you have more preference for the biscuits to the puree that Mama made for you. Not good, you know? Mama has started introducing you to threadfish porridge but I think you need time to get used to the taste?

Tasting threadfish porridge for the first time

Tasting threadfish porridge for the first time

You have started to communicate more by participating in conversations with the adults. Although we don’t know what you are babbling about, we are always amused by your input. One evening at CG, you went on and on with your rambling and we got distracted by you! But how adorable you are! You have also started to respond to prayer whenever Mama starts with, “Dear God…”. You literally stop and listen and when I finish with an ‘Amen’, you laugh. You know that is a prayer right?

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One thing you taught Mama is that you don’t really fancy toys that much. You are much entertained by boxes, tissue papers, plastic bags…things that make sound. This certainly is good news. There are really a lot of things to explore outside, say for example, nature and Mama can’t wait to bring you on some trails. Also, I realised you want our company more than anything else. Our presence is what you want, not the toys. Noted.

Oh yes, Mama thinks you love the kitchen. Whenever Mama is in the kitchen, you will come in and play with whatever things that you can lay your hands on. Maybe when you grow up, you help Mama bake some goodies to bless others?

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Oh yes, you have been upgraded from the infant car seat. How awesome is that? Mama actually prefers that you are seated facing the front now as you fuss less which is bliss for me.

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May you continue to be a happy child. Know that you are a beloved child of ours and of God. 😉

The Swiss Bäcker

If you stay in the eastern part of Singapore and are looking for a decent breakfast place, consider this eatery at Frankel Ave – The Swiss Backer.

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Da man and I stumbled upon this cafe while I was pregnant and craving for a good morning meal. We were are early risers (normally around 5am) and definitely would appreciate cafes that operate early in the day. This, opens at 7.30am. Woohoo!

This time round, when we visited The Swiss Backer, we were pleasantly surprised that they have just undergone renovation and I must say, this is an awesome move. The whole place looks brighter with the full glass windows and the service, still as good. There is a corner with kids’ stuff which we used to entertain Faith and I do sense a family-friendly environment.

A raised platform space to accommodate big crowd.

A raised platform space to accommodate big crowd.

Aromatic artisan bread

Aromatic pastries

Desserts

Desserts

There is now more selection in terms of food though I still prefer their aromatic bread to their desserts.

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So these are what we have ordered, not much different from what we used to order. We are just hmm…creatures of habits I guess. ;p

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Faith was getting quite restless after having her fill and her ‘music-making’ session using sachets of sugar. So da man took a book from the children’s corner and read to her. That lasted for about 2 minutes only. ;p

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We did have a good breakfast and I thought this place is worth recommending!

The Swiss Backer
97 Frankel Avenue
Singapore 458222
Open: 7.30am – 7.30pm

Linking up with

Fruit tartlets

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In an attempt to make different bases for tartlets, I went on to try out Pate Sucree. Since coming back to tropical Singapore, I have stopped making pastry, sorta. Occasionally, if I bother, I would make chicken pies or pineapple tarts using pastry.

So, the interest to bake tartlets increases by leaps and bounds and the next one to be baked is fruit tartlet.

I have chosen to work on Pate Sucree as I need a rich and buttery pie dough and one that is firm enough to hold moisture so that the tart won’t get soggy even after it has been filled for a day.

This time round, I’m not too pleased with the end result of the shell as I thought I could have baked it a while longer. Perhaps the next bake! 😉

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(makes two 7-inch tart or ten 3 1/2 inch tartlets)
Adapted from Miette Cookbook

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
226g cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 whole block)
2 large egg yolks
4 to 8 tbsp heavy cream

1. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tbsp of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. I took about 5 tbsp. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide the dough to make the portions you need. I used the pressing in method to press the dough into the tart pans. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork an dplace int he freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 180C.

5. Fully pre-bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling and proceeding with the recipe. Store fully baked shells, wrapped tightly in plastic, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* To store unbaked, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 2 months.


Creme patissiere
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½ tsp vanilla extract
250ml milk
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ½ tbsp cornflour
1 ½ tbsp custard powder
14g unsalted butter

1. Add the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, cornflour and custard powder together with a whisk until smooth and creamy.

3. Pour half the boiled milk into the mixing bowl containing the egg mixture and whisk together. Now pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan where the remaining milk is.

4. Over low heat, whisk the mixture until it thickens and starts to bubble.

5. After about 5 minutes, the heat would have cooked the cornflour and custard powder and become thick and rich. Remove pan from the fire.

6. Add the butter and vanilla extract and whisk it in until melted to further enrich the creme and make it extra glossy.

7. Transfer the creme patissiere to a bowl and immediately place a sheet of clingwrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool completely before using.

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Lastly, just assemble using your favourite fruits!

Teach as you bake.

I love teaching because I see the value of education for it enriches and empowers one.

That is one main reason why I chose to become a teacher in the first place.

Then I got interested in baking and realised that it isn’t as daunting as I thought it to be.

When friends told me that they dare not bake and wanted me to share with them, I couldn’t resist.

It’s always good to empower people, even in baking.

In Boston, I started giving one-on-one baking tutorial…

Teaching Y chocolate cupcakes

Teaching Y chocolate cupcakes

And macarons...

And macarons…

And then a pair…

Teaching the gals potato gratin and macarons

Teaching the gals potato gratin and macarons

And subsequently, a group.

Teaching the folks raspberry sandwich biscuits

Teaching the folks raspberry sandwich biscuits

Teaching macarons to a group of lovelies

Teaching macarons to a group of lovelies

So, I thought, “Maybe I can continue to teach baking to whoever wants to learn how to bake a certain item?”

It happened yesterday when i invited two ladies to bake Lemon Meringue Tartlets since they expressed much enthusiasm in my pictures (posted on FB).

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I enjoyed myself tremendously. There is nothing like seeing a person become more confident in doing a certain task after showing her the ropes. Satisfaction to the maximum.

Perhaps, I can teach baking at my home… for a small fee?

Do you think this is feasible?

* By the way, I had a good photographer friend, Mabel, on that day who has an eye for details so Natasha could document her learning from the pictures captured.
Awesome.

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Finally, a staycation.

stay·ca·tion

noun: a vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions.

You have to know something about me. Every time, da man suggested a staycation which involves staying overnight at a hotel, I would reject him because I don’t see the point of forking out hundreds of dollars for a room when we have a roof over our heads. However, that changed after we have had one last week.
I had been feeling rather exhausted since Faith started her habit of waking up in the middle of the night. You could imagine dark eye rings, puffy eyes and an extremely tired body. Da man decided then that we should have a staycation and checked us into Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). Along with the package was a day pass to Adventure cove and a $50 food voucher.
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Our staycation started on Monday afternoon after da man came back from work and started his leave. We treated ourselves to lemon tart and a chocolate tart from Paul’s Boulangerie Patisserie before treating ourselves to a spa treatment at Aveda Spa. I have to mention that the tarts from Paul are sooo delicious and it is a personal goal to reach such a standard in my baking attempts.
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The following day, after having breakfast at Tiong Bahru Bakery, we headed to Sentosa. It was a rainy day but thankfully, there was much shelter at Resorts World Sentosa. As we could only check into the room at 3pm, the only thing we could do was to visit the hotels under RWS and to take the Sentosa express (train) to the various stations (and take pictures)!
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And finally, we could check in! Equarius Hotel is located furthest away from the congregation of hotels at RWS. I was told that this is the newest hotel and caters more to couples and folks on business. We had wanted to book Hard Rock Hotel or Festive Hotel but was informed that they were fully booked. Well, it turned out to be a blessing actually. Here’s why:
1. Equarius hotel brands herself as a haven for nature lovers and it is shown through their interior design. Canvas paintings of nature were hung along the aisle and one is greeted with lemongrass scent as you explore the hotel. It does give me a sense of tranquility, no doubt. It’s just what I need in a getaway!
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2. The rooms are big. And thankfully we were also given a room with a garden. The toilet is spacious, with double vanity areas, tubs and separate showers. The bathtub is huge, big enough to accommodate all three of us and we had fun in it. A big bathtub is important at this point in time since Faith is still young and may not enjoy much in pools. A bathtub would be a good alternative!
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3. Adventure Cove is just round the corner. In fact, all we took were just a few steps as it is located just beside the hotel. Adventure Cove is quite a fun place to go to and I believe you can spend hours in it. However, our princess fell asleep 30 minutes into our visit and we had to call it quits. Anyway, many of the activities are not suitable for a kiddo like her. Perhaps, the next time!
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4. Cosy breakfast at Forest restaurant. All right, I certainly don’t think the breakfast spread is anything to boast about but it’s the setting, the peace you get as you savour your breakfast. 😉
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Love looking at kitchens. This one is neat and clean!
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5. Friendly staff. ’nuff said. I like it when I see smiles rather than frowns. Oh yes, we were greeted by the staff whenever we met them on our way. This is what I call manners.
Equarius hotel does not have her own swimming pools, making it a push factor for families to stay there. However, you could still enjoy the pools from the neighbouring hotels without additional charges. What you need to do is to walk a longer distance but hey, they are actually not far from one another to begin with.
The staycation certainly gave me much rest and time with da man. If I was to stay at home or spend the night at home, the tendency is that I would busy myself in the kitchen or doing some household chores instead of spending time with him.
Now, I do see the value of a staycation.
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Signing off!

Friday the 13th’s baking: lessons learnt

The thing about baking is that it continues to baffle me no matter how many times I bake a certain item. Each time the result is different, depending on the weather, the temperature of the oven or ingredients or even the temperament of the baker. It humbles me, no doubt, and thus I stay intrigued by this craft.

Yesterday, I was to bake two items. One was a birthday cake in the form of Captain American’s shield likened to the one that I had baked earlier. The other would be 15 lemon meringue tartlets for a lady who requested for them via my FB page.

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I had baked these two items before and thought I could relax as I know the various steps involved. For the cake, I chose to bake a Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake which was different from the vanilla sponge cake that I used to bake. It was easy to bake but this cake is much more fragile and needed much tender loving care. So, I sliced and soon realised it was not a good idea; it broke into pieces, and thankfully, big ones. The show went on and I didn’t slice the second one and went on to assemble.

Lesson learnt: Don’t slice Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake. It is itself rather decadent already and doesn’t need to be sandwiched with layers of buttercream. 20130914-151857.jpg

Another problem arose when it comes to icing. I had made Italian Meringue Buttercream and gotten quite comfortable with it. The issue is with the addition of colours. What I needed were red and blue but after adding Wilton’s colours, I couldn’t get the shades that I wanted and panicked. What was worse was my colours ran out and I had to rush down to get more. Only then did I realised that to get the strong red that I wanted, I had to buy Wilton’s red-red and not just red. Ahh… So, in future, I should really consult this chart.

And I thought this guide on Wilton’s colours is helpful too.

In the end, the colours on the cake weren’t what I wanted but I certainly hope the chocolate truffle cake would shine!

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On to the tartlets.

I had baked the lemon meringue tartlets with success (IMHO). I love the crispy crust of the graham crackers and thought I should bake them using the same base too. However, I changed the brand of the honey and then the problem started. The crust no longer gave crispiness but a little chewiness instead. Softer, most definitely but the taste is still the same.

And then, the customer decided to collect the tartlets earlier. Uh-oh! I have wanted to assemble one
hour before the collection but by shifting the time earlier, I would have to rush and when I rush, the results could be rather undesirable.

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The lemon curd was made a day earlier and that’s fine but I had to make the meringue before the assembling and then I panicked. When I made the sugar syrup, I didn’t stir to dissolve the sugar and in the end, I had grainy meringue. Threw one batch away because it didn’t get to stiff peak (something must have gone wrong!) and did the second one and I just didn’t dissolve the sugar in my haste!

Lesson learnt: Dissolve sugar and confirm time for collection!

The kind lady had to wait 30 minutes for the tartlets and I really felt bad about it. On top of that, since it was a rushed work, the designs weren’t fantastic. Sorely disappointed! I hope tarts would still bring smiles though.

* I didn’t get to take a shot of the completed work. Sigh!

So, I realised yesterday was Friday, the 13th. Bad day for baking! Okay, I just want to blame it on something. I’m bad, I know.

A father’s love

During my course in MLS, the profs always used videos to get us thinking about issues that we were discussing.

Today, I stumbled upon this and made me think of my father’s and Father’s love for me.

I teared.

Awesome week ahead!

I’ve been wanting to post this but I forgot.

Have a blessed week!

20130909-073121.jpg[inspired by ecro.dyndns.org]

FFWD | Fresh tuna, mozzarella and basil pizza

I know I have been distracted from fulfilling FFWD weekly so I’m doing catch-up now.

Love these simple-to-make pizzas.

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I went to the supermarket today and the one I visited did not sell sushi-grade tuna and since I love salmon more, I have tweaked the recipe to include salmon instead. No basil as well so I used mushrooms instead.

IMG_7084This recipe uses frozen puff pastry as the base so you could imagine how fast this meal can be created. After cutting out 4 to 5 rounds from a sheet of frozen puff pastry, bake them for about 15 minutes till they are well-browned and crisp. Thereafter, just top each round with sauteed onions and mushrooms (in my case), sliced salmon, cherry tomatoes and season with a little salt and pepper and extra-virgin olive oil. Oh, don’t forget about the mozzarella cheese!

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This is my version.

This is a weekly attempt at French food via French Fridays with Dorie. If you are interested in French cooking, why not join us?

A lazy Sunday and a steamed asparagus & fish recipe

How many of you actually take Sunday off and eat out?

I do but when the refrigerator is filled with perishables waiting to be cooked and consumed, I can’t bear to leave them alone. So on this rainy and therefore lazy Sunday, I decided to let the oven do the cooking so that I don’t have to use too much effort to clean the kitchen.

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The FIL is coming over for lunch so I thought of potato gratin ( our family loves it) and a steamed asparagus and fish dish which I saw from here and I thought I should seriously cook it myself.

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The potato gratin is mighty simple. All you need are potatoes, heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes into thin slices then lay them out on a baking dish. Meanwhile, heat up the heavy cream (I normally use up 200ml) and cloves of garlic (if you like them, put more!). As you arrange the sliced potatoes in slightly overlapping concentric circles, spoon over some warm garlic-infused cream and season each layer with salt and pepper.

This time round, I’ve decided to put some cauliflower on the top layer before dusting the top with gruyere cheese. You can top it up with some herbs too! Bake in 175C oven for about 45 minutes. The dish is done if you can manage to poke a knife through the potatoes easily.

Moving on, we have the steamed fish. First, I place some asparagus on a parchment paper then lemons on it.

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Next are the fish fillets. Make sure you sprinkle some salt and pepper on them! The next time I bake them, I think I would squeeze the lemon on the fillets since I love the taste of lemon.

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The last part would be to put a dollop of butter (about 30g of it) and sliced garlic on the fillets before wrapping it up.

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Bake it in a 200C oven for about 12 minutes and you would have a scrumptious meal!
I garnish it with coriander leaves.

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Enjoy!

Bringing up Faith

I’ve always been curious about how the Japanese bring up their kids, especially after an incident when I got to observe how a Japanese boy behaved during playtime with his peer of another nationality. His actions surprised me.

You can imagine my joy when I chanced upon this book during a visit to the National Library. I wasn’t looking out for parenting materials but more of cookbook (what’s new?) but this caught my eye. After flipping through a few pages, I knew I had to borrow it.

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The author, Christine Gross-Loh, is born in the United States to South Korean parents. Her own family spent several years in Japan and from then on, she started taking an interest in looking at how parenting differs in various countries and how other cultures, apart from the US, foster resilience, creativity, independence and academic excellence in children.

I am just at the beginning pages of the book and I’m already intrigued. Perhaps, I’m just uninformed but it is interesting to learn that most Japanese parents she met felt it was important to get kids accustomed to less from the start. It is better for their characters, their imagination, their resourcefulness and their future lives not to experience immediate or excessive material gratification. It isn’t tasteful to spend money to accumulate lots of possessions for the child, many parents believe and having less enables the kids to appreciate what they do have. So, the few toys that the kids have are well played and cherished.

Another point which confirms what I saw in the kid from that past incident is that the Japanese sees scarcity and sharing as one crucial key to cooperation and relationship building. The kid I met shared his toys willingly but his peer didn’t want to share! Poor him. He went to his mother but was immediately pacified when she talked to him. No tantrums whatsoever.

Another interesting information about them. At restaurants, Japanese children didn’t seen dependent on toys to distract them as they waited for their meals. They are accustomed to less being more and could occupy themselves with a mere piece of paper – folding it, drawing it, etc. A toy could be played for hours as they thought of variations on how to play with it.

In summary for that chapter on ‘Why are we drowning in stuff?’, she mentioned that every child needs things within reason, but not every want is a need. Saying no is the hardest part of being a parent but it’s our job as parents to set those boundaries so we can teach kids how to set them for themselves. If we say yes too often, we’re depriving our kids: of knowing how to be satisfied with less; of freedom from unmanageable clutter; of the satisfaction of working toward and saving up for something they really want.

So this is just the iceberg and I have gone on to the chapter on ‘How parents around the world teach their kids to eat.’ Interesting read, I must say and I cannot decide if I should just continue to borrow the book or to purchase it.

There is much to reflect on because as new parents, I felt it is important that we think of the values that we want to impart to our children and with that, teach them through our actions in our daily activities. It can be difficult, I feel, in our society where consumerism rules but as da man told me, “We just have to explain to her as she grows up, why we do things differently from others.”

While I continue reading this book, I leave you with a quick-fix healthy meal – a Japanese one.

Chicken and onion (scallion) buckwheat noodle soup (for 1 portion)

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Bring a pot of water to boil and add the buckwheat noodles. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain very well and place it in a bowl.

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Slice chicken fillet at a steep angle to make wide slices. Sprinkle the salt on the slices and leave for 15 minutes.

Put the salted chicken and water in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, silken tofu and scallions and simmer until the scallions are soft.

Ladle the soup mixture over the noodles and garnish with shredded seaweed and crushed chili pepper.

That’s it. No measurement. Just estimate. =)

The pink cake

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I’m so happy that a friend allows me to bake a cake for her 4YO daughter’s birthday. I mean, who would be so daring? Few want to take the risk.

I have not met the young girl but browsing her pictures from FB, I could see a beautiful and sweet 20130906-202058.jpgchild. The mother describes her as mischievous and asked me to experiment! Be fun! Be creative! Cake can be in pieces (jus not crumbs).

I like such responses but also worry if the daughter would like my design. I had wanted a garden design for her and perhaps make a figurine since I want to show the free-spirited side of this child, enjoying playtime in the nature. So I made ladybirds and bees, flowers and leaves.

A few weeks later, the mom said the girl would like the cake to be pink.

Gosh! Pink? Pink garden?

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Hmmm…. it’s back to the drawing board again. A garden with pink background doesn’t really seem realistic. Thankfully, there was an order for Hello Kitty cupcakes and I was experimenting with the recipes and the toppers and decided that the little girl should have a few of those just in case she doesn’t like my cake.

In the end, I have decided to make a vanilla sponge cake with different shades of pink/red. It will be coated with italian meringue buttercream and the border covered with multi-coloured sprinkles.

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So the work actually started a week before with the ladybirds and bees, the cake 2 days before. The cake was covered with the buttercream a day before and the final assembling took place on the day of collection. I feel if the cake is allowed time to bind the flavours, it will turn out better.

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Yup, the cake is made in stages. Slow and steady. This also allows for mistakes to be rectified.

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So, I wasn’t very satisfied with the cake design, to be honest. After the cake was completed, I took a look at it and realised that the side wasn’t smooth. I didn’t use a benchscraper to do the job! What was I thinking of? I also wanted to design such that the flowers seemed to be falling off but well, the combination of icing sugar flowers and fondant ones didn’t really look like a good match. The fact that my fondant flowers softened because of the rainy weather didn’t help at all!

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When I packed the cake, part of me felt relieved, the other part frustrated. I could have done better. Hump!

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In any case, the cakes were sent out and I hope the girl loves them.

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Update: So my friend sent me pics of the cake during the birthday celebration. And of course, helpful feedback which is so important to me. At the end of the day, the birthday girl was very happy and ate the kitty and the ladybird (both fondant). I wanna faint. Too much sugar!

[Foodie Fridays] Banana cake topped with caramel sauce

I am thankful that people have started ordering baked goods from me in a slow but steady manner. Thankful because baking keeps me sane from taking care of the baby. It is a hobby which is definitely not cheap. Apart from the ingredients and electricity bills, certain apparatus has to be purchased and all these cost money. So, the little cash received from baking them is helpful, no doubt. More importantly, I’m able to continue learning through baking.

So, more orders result in a messy kitchen and since mine is not a big one, it has extended to the dining table. Yes, it’s a mess and at times I couldn’t stand it. To add to that, we have toys strewn on the floor, thanks to little Faith, not forgetting the drools as well.

I’m heartened that I’m not alone in this journey. After reading about other moms’ posting on this, like A and J, I felt a little better. Surely I cannot possibly expect the house to be spick and span all the time; I certainly will be very busy!

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I took a picture of this while baking for an order in the morning. Yes, it’s messy. So be it.

Let’s talk about the banana cake topped with caramel sauce. When it comes to banana cake, I always go back to Joanne Chang’s recipe which is Flour‘s famous banana bread. It’s tried and tested deliciously good. My friend wanted caramel sauce on it and even pointed me to a recipe by Bourke Street Bakery. So, I’ve heard a LOT about this bakery as I surfed the Internet recently and did their caramel sauce. One day, I’ll visit the bakery (yup, I make it a point to do this sorta stuff when I travel).

The review? From my whatsapp:

“Everyone likes the cake”
“It goes fabulously with coffee.”
“I’m on my 3rd slice”
“Thanks for the cake. They all said it’s lovely!”

So, here goes. I’m sharing the recipe with you. I think it’s good too.

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Flour’s Famous banana bread (I think it can be called a cake too)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cups canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 350g)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (or replace with sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (I used pecan nuts before. Good too)

1. Preheat the oven to 160C degree. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Sift flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl.

3. Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat the eggs and sugar together over medium speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. (This step will take longer with a hand mixer)

4. On low speed, drizzle in the oil slowly. Adding the oil too quickly could deflate the air you have beaten into the eggs. Add the bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla and mix until just combined.

5. Using a spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the wet ingredients. No streaks of flour should be visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

6. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until it is golden brown on top and the center springs back when you touch it. Let it cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack then take it out of the pan to finish cooling.

7. The bread can be stored wrapped tightly at room temperature for several days or it can be well wrapped and frozen for up to two weeks. Thaw the bread overnight at room temperature for serving. But it is best eaten on the day it is baked.

Caramel sauce (adapted from Bourke Street Bakery)

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200ml double cream
100ml water
300g castor sugar
80g unsalted butter

1. Pour the cream into a saucepan over high heat and bring it almost to boiling point. Put the water,sugar and glucose syrup in a sauce pan and stir until sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir and just allow it to cook for about 7 – 10 minutes or until the liquid is a caramel colour. Mine took quite long so the best is to gauge by the colour. Remove from the heat.

2. Pour the hot cream into the pan with the with the caramel. It will bubble up so be careful. Place it back onto the heat and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and then whisk in the butter

3. When the cake is ready, take it out from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the tin and place it on the platter. To serve, poke about 40 holes into the cake using the skewer. Pour the caramel sauce over the top of the cake while it is still warm. Best eaten warm. If left overnight in the fridge, then just microwave it for about 20 seconds.

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Linking up with

Food for the face

When Florinda asked the community of Mom bloggers if anyone would want to try some skincare products, I thought ‘why not?’.

She founded Style Essence which represents Mary Kay products and I have gone to her makeover session, bought some stuff and loving them. The products are not overly priced and work well. That makes me want to try their skincare products as well.

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I know good hydration and sleep will do the job of keeping the skin supple but I don’t think I can afford good, uninterrupted sleep when I become a mother. Go ask da man if you don’t believe. So, nowadays, I have dull skin and the worse are my eyes. I don’t know what had happened but it seems, the crow’s feet or wrinkles (whatever) got worse and more visible. HELP!

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I don’t know if these products from Mary Kay would help but let’s just try. We have quite a few items here which is worth $673:
– Plus+ Day Treatment SPF30
– Plus+ Night Treatment
– Plus+ Intensive Serum
– Plus+ Correcting Eye Cream
– True Dimension Lipstick

Today shall be the day! START!

Wordless Wednesday | home-made

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I’m going to bake a banana cake soon which requires creme fraiche in the recipe. Well, we can replace it with sour cream but we can make creme fraiche just by adding 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and leave it at room temperature over 24 hours until it thickens.

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I had berries – blackberries, blueberries and raspberries – left from previous baking. In the fridge, there are also mint leaves and after scrapping the seeds off from the vanilla bean pod today, I thought of making a drink from all these good stuff. Just add some sugar to water, boil it and infuse the pod and mint leaves in it. Thereafter, pour the mixture into a bottle with all the other fruits in it and a few drops of freshly- squeezed lemon juice and leave it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

And hey, you have a refreshing and wholesome drink!

Linking up with

Needs of a child

 

It’s not something new but I thought I should just place it here so that I can refer to it. ;P

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The life of a SAHM

“Sometimes, I feel my life is just so shitty!”

This was the remark I made to da man on Sunday, when I was exhausted and rather sick.

I am into my 3rd month of being a SAHM and if anyone thinks that life is oh-so-good, then let me give you a glimpse of my life. Today, I recorded what I did via Instagram and decided to blog about it.

5am. My day starts. This is the time that I can have to myself, have a proper breakfast and a cup of coffee, browse some cake designs and websites. If the feeling to poop comes, that is a bonus (sorry to be crude). Today, I spent the morning thinking about a cake design which has to be baked and delivered on Friday.

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7am. Faith woke up and after cleaning her, she had some play time on the mat.

8.15am. Went to the supermarket to do grocery and Faith fussed and cried on the way back, exasperating me. I looked like an auntie, messy hair and hands full of bags.

9.30am. Reached home, Faith was still in the carrier and felt asleep with all those movement as I kept all the grocery into the proper place. Time to DO SOME WORK before she wakes up again!

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Faith’s food supply is running out and so I need to replenish. Placed her in the cot and prepared her food and at the same time, started baking chocolate cupcakes in an attempt to test a recipe.

So in that ONE HOUR, I managed to prepare her meals. For the record and for memory’s sake, they are:
1. Carrot, broccoli and toufu
2. Pumpkin and broccoli
3. Fish porridge

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I don’t have a helper so I’d need trusty helpers aka appliances to assist me. And you would have guessed it, the kitchen was in a mess. WAR ZONE. My mind was also filled with a list of things to do. No time could be wasted. It’s just that ONE HOUR!

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10.30am. Faith woke up. Since I was in the midst of preparing fish porridge, I just let her have some. This was the first time that she had meat. Yup, I know I’m late in introducing her to meat. *bad mom*! As usual, Faith took a small and conscious bite, tasted it and gave me a happy look. Yay! I think she loves fish! Hurray!

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*Ding! The cupcakes were done!

Next was to prepare lunch which was Teochew-style fish porridge for dad and I. Faith didn’t want to sit on the high chair anymore, preferring to roam in the living room. So while I was preparing lunch, I was also attemping shuttle-run kind of style, shuttling in and out of the kitchen to make sure that Faith stays clear of the danger zone. This girl knows that I would stop her at certain places and deliberately go near them, stop in her tracks and look for me. She must be thinking that this is a game!!! I was really tired!

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Meals at my place have always been one-dish type because they are easy and fast to prepare. By 12pm, lunch was made and consumed as I washed the dishes so that I could send lunch over to dad’s.

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1pm. After dad had his lunch, he took over and I could go out to purchase some baking stuff and went back home to finish the cupcakes which I was experimenting and then it’s back to dad’s to pick Faith up.

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4pm. It’s back home and Faith got really active at this hour. It wasn’t until da man came back that I could prepare dinner.

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You’ve guessed it. One-dish meal again.

6pm. Da man took over while I showered and had some time to do some baking preparation before Faith called for me again.

8.30pm. Faith slept. I took some time to blog.

10pm. Zzzzzz….

So, that’s my life on a typical day. I do complain and rant but at the end of the day, when I think back, there is really nothing more rewarding to know that your child is a happy kid and is growing well.

And then all is well.

Raspberry and blueberry friands

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Since I have quite a fair bit of egg whites left after the baking session, I decided to do something with them. Macarons? Nope. It will involve too much work and I’m too tired to make such an attempt. A good alternative would be friands, small almond cakes with a crisp crust, but exceptionally light and moist on the inside. I do have blueberries on hand and I thought I would bake Rachel Allen’s raspberry and blueberry friands. All I have to do is to get some raspberries from the supermarket.

It’s quite an easy bake. Do try!

Ingredients:
7 egg whites, about 250ml20130901-210242.jpg
150g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting (I used snow powder to replace some amount of icing sugar)
50g plain flour
100g ground almonds
100g butter, melted
24 fresh raspberries
24 fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl using the standmixer (whisk)/ handheld mixer and whizz, until the egg whites are foamy but not holding stiff peaks.

Sift in the icing sugar and flour, then add the ground almonds and melted butter and stir just to combine. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each three-quarters full, then add two raspberries and two blueberries to the centre of each cake, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a light golden colour and slightly springy to the touch.

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Remove the friands from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tray, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Arrange the cakes on a plate and dust with icing sugar to serve. If not eating immediately, store them in an airtight box, where they will stay wonderfully moist for up to three days. However, for our tropical humid weather, I would suggest finishing them up asap.

Family fun at River Safari

IMG_2248The family spent the last day of August at River Safari, all thanks to the SIL whose workplace was holding its Family Day.

As it was a weekend, you could expect a huge crowd. We reached the park at around 9am and followed the trail where it leads the visitors to learn about the various famous rivers like the Mississippi River and Mekong River, to name a few. It was rather educational, giving snippets of information on them. However, there simply were too many people on that day and stopping to read could be a real pain.

 

The highlight was perhaps the famed pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia and it makes us wonder how they are related to rivers. Hmm…

Anyway, we managed to catch both Kai Kai and Jia Jia. The latter who is more introverted went back to her comfort zone after roaming out of her den once. Kai Kai was just basking in the sun.

There were only two eateries at the River Safari and it makes much sense to pack your own food (to avoid queuing for long)! It’s definitely more economical this way too. 😉

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River Safari was mostly sheltered so visitors don’t really have to worry too much about rainy days.

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Remember to bring your own food! These egg tarts were supplied by Mabel!

Not all facilities are in operation currently. Perhaps, when the Amazon River Quest boat ride and animal exhibits along this ride are available (later this year), it will be more worth it to visit. Oh yes, I would definitely go on a weekday morning in future.

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