A custom-made cake : hits and misses

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When a friend asked me if I would take up the challenge to bake a cake for his 5-year-old boy, I agreed rather readily. His request: A cake in the form of Captain America’s shield. No fondant. At least 2kg. To feed about 20 people.

Captain America? Who on earth is that?

And, thanks to google, I got the idea and came up with a draft.

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The actual work started a few days before the birthday celebration. I would be using 2 cake boards – one for the cake, the other as a background. The square board is to be covered with fondant with the wordings in blue. And then, the drying process begins.

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I had originally wanted to do a vanilla sponge cake with various colours (red, blue, white) but the daddy thought that the kids would not appreciate such an effort and so I stuck with the original. I thought the cake slicer and the lifter are of great use. It certainly makes life easier for me!

Another thing that I found out is that my mixer cannot do a good job in making a 10-inch cake batter; it overflows! So, now I know. The cake batter has to be divided to be baked in the oven as it certainly will overflow due to the rising agent.

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So, a fondant cake is NOT welcome and the better choice would be buttercream. I do not want to use royal icing as it will be too sweet for the kids. Of the 3 types of buttercream, I chose to do Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) as it is the most stable and can withstand our tropical humid weather. Thankfully, I had learnt this method during my baking course at CSCA so it wasn’t that foreign. Having said that, I still did it with much trepidation. Thankfully, it was a success and the next step is to moisten the cake with sugar syrup.

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It’s a breeze covering the cake with IMBC. To make things easier for me, I use a special big tip to help me with the sides of the cake. Definitely easier. Reminder to self though: don’t be stingy with the buttercream. I had the tendency to ration the use of it and then in the end, realised that I had so much left. Spread more!

Crumb coat was done!

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Next is the design. So I do not own a compass to draw circles and have to rely on whatever circular stuff that I could get hold of. After that, piping gel was used to trace the design and to transfer it onto the cake. Please don’t ask me why I used a dark colour. I really do not know what had gotten to me to use such a colour. I SHOULDN’T!

After that, it was all about piping – stars and circles. Testing of skills.

If I am to bake another cake again, I’ll make sure that I will make myself free the day before collection. As I had a family outing, I had to place the cake in the refrigerator but when I took it out , there was condensation and it doesn’t really look too good on a cake with IMBC.

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I learnt and hope that you won’t make the same mistake as I.

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😉

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Cheesecake overdose

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I’ve had enough of cheesecake for now.

You see, a few weeks ago, a friend has asked me to bake a strawberry cheesecake to celebrate her hubs’ birthday. I agreed readily since I have baked it before. However, this time round, because I would be paid for baking that cake, I jolly well do a good job and make sure that the cheesecake delights rather than disappoint.

There are a few specifics. My friend wanted a 6-inch cake and with big juicy strawberries. The cake must be rich as well since her hubs are all into indulgence of the calories.

Therein lies the problem. Many recipes that I come across are designed for 9-inch cakes with few for 6-inch. So, I would have to come up with one for this custom-made cheesecake. Another problem that I have is I don’t own a 6-inch springform pan (I have 7-inch and 9-inch) so I would have to improvise (couldn’t get a 6-inch one in time).

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Basically, I took 3 days to come up with one recipe that I could be pleased with. This cake has to be at least 2 inches tall and filled with the cheesy flavour. So you could imagine how much stuff is packed in. In one of the recipes that I tested, I put in cut strawberries (sprinkled with flour) into the main batter but because they are moist, they don’t give the effect that I want. Then I thought of swirls but discarded the idea eventually as my artwork isn’t that stellar.

After two failed (according to my standard) attempts and a stomach filled with cheesecake slices, I managed to bake the ideal ones for my friend. Hopefully the hubs will like it.

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This is the adapted miette‘s version. It’s rather light which is good for the weight-watchers. However, a rich cheesecake is called for so this won’t do.

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It’s best to bake cheesecake in a springform pan. Since I couldn’t get hold of a 6-inch one in time, I used a cake pan with a removable base. The result is uneven sides as depicted in the first picture. ;( But otherwise, I didn’t encounter cracks for this cheesecake.

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As I delivered the cakes (she ordered two) to my friend each of more than 1kg, I could at last heave a sign of relief. No more cheesecakes for now! But I shouldn’t really get a 6-inch springform pan with the money collected from the cakes. To more baking adventures!

Cheesecake topped with strawberries
Yields a six-inch cake

190g digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar

2 blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup sour cream/ heavy cream (I did a combination)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

PREHEAT oven to 180°C (middle rack). Mix digestive biscuit crumbs, melted butter and sugar. Press firmly onto bottom and up the side of pan; set aside.

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BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream/heavy cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour into crust.

BAKE 1 hour 10 min or until center is almost set. Turn oven off. Open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight (better). Loosen cheesecake from rim of pan; remove rim. Top cheesecake with strawberries just before serving. Pour a little heated strawberry jam over the fruits.

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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.

My entry for Tefal Cooking Challenge

This is a post that I have entered for the Tefal Cooking Challenge. I must say it gave me some healthy stress and through the experience, I learnt how difficult it is to create your own recipes. Thank God for the hubs who doesn’t mind eating the same stuff over and over again.

Do go to the website and vote for the cooking blogger whom you think deserve to win. Who knows, you might get yourself a Tefal blender by doing that. 🙂

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The cooking demonstration by Chef Jason and Benson had inspired me, to a great extent, to provide healthy food for my family. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of work to achieve that. I just need to be more conscious of the ingredients that I use and how I cook the various dishes. Obviously, I hope to have good ideas in coming up with innovative dishes like the chefs but it will take quite some time to achieve that. Nonetheless, I’m taking baby steps and am thankful to the folks at Tefal for gifting us with the Comfort Touch frypan and saute pan to work with.

Inspired by the chefs, I have designed a three-course meal based on what I have learnt from the cooking demonstration and guided by my belief that wholesome home-cooked food can be made fuss-free; it shouldn’t be time-consuming. The three dishes are Scallops on Toast, Couscous Salad with Seared Salmon and Chocolate-Strawberry Crepes. Each individual dish is filling enough to be consumed as a meal if you are a small eater. I hope you will like the recipes and try them out at the comfort of your home. Quoting from Curtis Stone, “A home-cooked meal is always worth the effort. Food simply tastes better- and is better for you- when you make it yourself.”

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Personally, I benefitted much from cooking using Tefal frypan and saute pan and have gone on to create many other recipes for my family. I find that less oil is needed for certain dishes and my food cook faster and more evenly. Cleaning the pans doesn’t take too much effort since food doesn’t stick to them. It has been a real pleasure using them and do check them out yourselves.

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Scallops on Toast

My first dish is Scallops on Toast. I simply love how easy and fast this dish can be made and adore the flavour created when the kafir lime leaves and rosemary sprigs interact with the olive oil and white wine. The frypan heats up pretty fastand the scallops are cooked evenly. Do pay attention to the scallops as you do not want to overcook them. When you spoon the final product on the toasted bread and take a bite, you can be sure your effort is worth it. This makes a good breakfast, don’t you think?

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Scallops on toast

2 slices of country bread
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 rosemary sprigs
Kafir lime leaves (about 7)
6 scallops
3/4 cup dry white wine
Extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp for dressing
Pepper to taste
Wasabi sprouts for garnishing

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1. Toast the bread. Set aside.

2. Heat the pan to medium heat and add in olive oil. Saute the rosemary sprigs, lime leaves and then garlic.

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3. Add the scallops and saute for about 2 minutes and then add the white wine. Cook the scallops (both sides) for a few more minutes until they have just turned white and springy to the touch. Do not overcook.  *Remember to stir often and watch carefully so they do not overcook.

4. Add pepper if desire. Plate the scallops on the toasted bread and spoon with all the juices over it. Add the extra virgin olive oil and garnish it with wasabi sprouts.

Couscous Salad with Seared Salmon

My second course is Couscous Salad with Seared Salmon. Couscous is a type of grains that provides a good source of fibre and cooks under a few minutes. The ones that I’m using for this recipe is those tiny grained Moroccan couscous that has been pre-steamed so all you have to do is to mix it with boiling water or chicken broth and a little extra-virgin olive oil, let stand for a few minutes, fluff the grains with a fork and serve. I used Tefal Saute pan to cook the couscous as it comes with a see-through glass lid that enables me to monitor the cooking progress.

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However, if you are like me who love spices, you could follow the recipe below and for a complete meal, top it up with seared salmon. On initial glance, it might seem like a chore to cook this, judging by the many spices used but once you have amassed the ingredients, it is really easy to make this dish.  It can be rather satisfying too!

Couscous Salad with Seared Salmon
(Makes 3 servings)

1 cup chicken broth or water
1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt (you can skip this)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1 cup couscous

1/4 cup moist, plump raisins
1/4 cup small Japanese cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup carrot, trimmed
1/4 cup chickpeas

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
Some fresh lemon juice or as needed
Extra-virgin olive oil or as needed

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1. Bring the broth/water, 1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, the ginger, tumeric, cinnamon and cumin to a boil in the saute pan. Whisk the broth to ensure that the spices have dissolved. Then stir in the couscous and turn off the heat. Scatter the raisins over the couscous, cover the pan and let sit for 10 minutes.

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2. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the vegetables and chickpeas. Taste the couscous. Combine lemon juice and olive and add into the couscous if needed. When you are ready to serve, add in the coriander leaves.

For the seared salmon

You will need salmon, salt, pepper and olive oil.

1. Rub a little salt and dash of pepper on the salmon.

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2. Using the frypan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. When the pan is hot, sear the salmon. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, it might take between 5 to 20 minutes to cook it.

3. Lastly, just assemble the salmon on the couscous salad and serve.

Chocolate-Strawberry Crepes

Now, does your stomach still have room for dessert? I have decided on doing crepes since I want to show off the non-stick capability of the frypan. Chocolate pairs well with strawberries and fill the crepe with mascarpone cheese that is combined with strawberry jam and the fruit itself and you will have a delightful end to your 3-course meal. I prefer to make this in advance and place it in the fridge before serving it. And if you so desire, drizzle some chocolate ganache over the crepe.

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Chocolate-Strawberry Crepes
(Makes about 10 crepes)

4 large eggs
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup buckwheat flour/ all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Olive oil

Filling:
30g strawberry jam
250g mascarpone, at room temperature
4 big strawberries, hulled and cut into small cubes + more for garnishing

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1. For the crepes: Combine the eggs, milk, flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. Whisk by hand until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Place in the fridge for an hour (if you can).

2. Preheat the frypan over medium-low heat. Using a paper towel, dab it with olive oil and brush the frypan with it. The frypan is non-stick so you don’t need a lot of oil.

3. Add 1/4 cup of batter and quickly tilt the pan to form an even coating of batter on the bottom of the pan. If you are like me who is not good in tilting the pan to form a good round shape for the crepe, use a heat-resistant spatula to smoothen the batter. Cook until set, about 1 minute. Using the spatula, carefully loosen the sides and gently flip the crepe over. Cook for 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining batter and butter.

4. For the filling: Mix the jam, mascarpone and strawberry cubes in a small bowl until smooth.

5. Spread each crepe with 3 tablespoons of the jam mixture leaving a 1/2-inch border. Fold the two opposite ends of each crepe inward and roll into a tube shape. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Cut each tube into half and arrange the crepes on a serving plate. Garnish with strawberries and if you so desire, decorate it with chocolate ganache.

Once again, I want to shout a huge thank-you to the folks at Tefal, omy.sg and ONAKA restaurant for this wonderful opportunity to apply what I have learnt. These few weeks of researching and creating these dishes have certainly been enriching and the journey to cook healthy dishes has just begun.

Tefal cooking workshop @ ONAKA

It’s 4pm on a serene Saturday and nestled within the PSA building, five bloggers were getting ready to learn wonderful cooking techniques from the chefs at ONAKA restaurant using Tefal Comfort Touch Frypan. The cooking workshop is a collaboration between Tefal Singapore and omy.sg and I am privileged to be one of the bloggers attending the event.

IMG_0567Held at ONAKA (which is an acronym for Optimum Nutrition And Kitchen Arts), the head chef, Jason Vito, and sous chef, Benson Tong showed their passion for cooking healthily by their deliberate choice of the ingredients used and providing us with nutritional knowledge of the food as they cooked. It was much like a Science lesson. As they demonstrated a three-course restaurant quality meal using the Tefal Comfort Touch Frypan, I am assured that good food is within the reach of any homecook. 

I. Garlic prawns on toast

ONAKA’s belief in eating consciously and living mindfully naturally extents to the quality and ingredients used in their food preparation. For this dish, rye bread is used for its many benefits over white bread. Did I mention that they bake their own bread at ONAKA?

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Heating up the Tefal Comfort Touch Frypan, Chef Jason added olive oil and saute the rosemary, kaffir lime leaf, garlic and chilli. Turning the heat to high, prawns were then added to be seared which turned red within minutes. Lastly, white wine (Chef used drinking white wine) was added and the restaurant was IMG_0646suddenly perfumed by the savory aroma and filled with sputtering music. My senses awoke and appetite whetted.

Before platting the prawns on the rye bread, Chef Benson showed us that even without a panini press, we could achieve the same result for a toasted rye bread using the frypan and he’s right, it worked well! With a sprinkle of extra virgin oil and lime juice and a brilliant use of blended soy lecithin and lime juice as garnishing, a very delectable garlic prawns on toast was presented before us. And it’s not surprising that we polished it off within minutes.

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II. Roasted Mushroom Soba

The next dish would require more time for preparation since the mushrooms have to be roasted to remove its strong smell since some may not like it. However, once the ingredients are ready, the cooking time should just take about 10 minutes.

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From the look of the ingredients and the name of the dish, you might think that it is rather Japanese, no? Well, it is essentially Japanese, in my opinion, but Chef gave a twist to it by adding truffle oil during plating, thus staying true to their incorporation of “East meets West Healing Kitchen” concept.

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The dish is quick and simple to make, as I have mentioned, as long as the ingredients are ready and mise en place. Chef first blanched the soba in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Then, he added olive oil to the heated pan and sauted the roasted mushroom. Mirin was poured in and subsequently dashi and tamari (soy sauce) were added to taste. Finally, the cooked soba was added to the stock and brought to boil before Chef plated the dish and garnished it with nori, daikon cress and truffle oil. Yes, it’s that simple! Is it possible to make this dish at home? Absolutely! What’s even better is that this dish can be made just by using one frypan! I love it too that the Chefs at ONAKA create recipes that could be re-created in the comfort of our homes and kitchens. Awesome!

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Don’t you love this roasted mushroom soba? You can tell from the picture that it is a healthy dish – good for our stomach! Have I shared that ONAKA means “stomach” in Japanese? Oh! Just for information’s sake, Chef shared with us that the best dried konbu has to be from Hokkaido.

III. Butternut Squash Pancake with Banana Ice Cream

Desserts! Who can resist? I must warn you that this portion is big and good for four people. I could have this for my main actually. IMG_0728

Butternut squash was used instead of pumpkin which was stated in the recipe. And why not since the former is sweeter and definitely a winner. If you do not know how it looks like, here is a picture, together with the rest of the ingredients. The fun-loving Chef Jason decided to add a face to the squash and the latter came alive with a smile.

The preparation time for this dessert takes about 60 minutes since you have to roast the squash and rest the batter. Just some additional knowledge – when we mix the batter ingredients, it is advisable not to mix it too much as overmixing causes carbon dioxide to escape, resulting in flat, tough pancakes. The presence of carbon dioxide creates light, fluffy pancakes. The batter is then rested in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow more carbon dioxide bubbles to develop. According to Chef Jason, baking powder is added so that a fluffier pancake can result.

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Using the Tefal Frypan, Chef Jason heated it up to medium hot, added some oil and then a ladder of batter and let it fry for about 2 minutes. 8 to 10 pieces of roasted squash were then added to the batter. Chef commented that the pancake should not be too cooked since by doing so, it would result in a dry pancake. After ensuring the bottom of the pancake was well cooked (you should see a brown side), he did the flip.

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I thought the flip fully showed off the frypan’s non-stick capability. Not a trace of batter was stuck and the bottom of the pancake was beautifully and evenly cooked. The frypan’s awesome!

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Once that was done, the rest was simple. Just cut the pancake into eighths and garnish with banana ice cream and mixed berries.

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Thanks to the good folks at Tefal and omy.sg, we could enjoy this terrific cooking experience with the affable chefs at ONAKA who were so willing to share their culinary knowledge with us. I am indeed motivated to cook healthily for my family and now equipped with Tefal Frypan and Saute-pan, I felt almost empowered and definitely encouraged to come up with wonderful dishes to share with you!

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Join me in this culinary journey and do check back soon. I will be sharing a creation of my own recipe with you.

Read the experiences of the other bloggers on the official website.
More pictures of the workshop are on my FB page.

Amour doux (Project Food Blog entry #1)

Amour doux. Sweet love.

It all begins with love – a love for that special someone, the kind of love that will compel you to go the extra mile, despite the troubles. 

My mom showed me that kind of love, right from the kitchen. Nope, she’s not a housewife; she helped out in my father’s business. Despite her busyness, she dutifully prepared the basic 3-course Cantonese meals, without fail. I remember the Chinese lunchbox which she would bring to school when I had extra lessons during that crucial year in elementary school. All my classmates had canteen food; I had home-cooked food and the envy of both my classmates and teachers. Mom didn’t believe in splurging us with gifts because such practices would turn us into spolit-brats. However, she indulged in giving us the best in the meals she prepared and even though she’s such a proficient cook, she would survey our facial expression for feedback in her culinary arts.

As I get older, I came to appreciate all that she has done and understand why she would stand in the kitchen for hours, toiling in the heat. It’s all because of love. Today, I cook and bake to see that kind of smile on my husband’s face, that kind of delight in his eyes. I cook and bake for friends and loved ones and always return to the original kitchen, to the arms of its owner just so that the food that I make could create a smile on her face, and of course to receive her critique too.

Many chefs continue to toil in the kitchen because they want to make people happy with their food; their smiles are their rewards. In the same way, this blog is created to share the love with many others in this culinary journey. We may not be connected physically but the sharing of resources, the joy and the pain pull us all together and bind us as one family.

This blog is special and unique because the food is created from a labour of love. With it comes many sweet memories only the owner could experience. They could be food consumed when she’s young or with her loved ones or bites that she had when she’s on the road. With such memories, she tries to recreate those dishes and gives her own perspective to them. And this blog will continue as long as there is love, love for the culinary arts, love in the heart of the owner, as well as in the recipients of her labour.

This blog also tracks the culinary journey I am embarking through self-study and from the many aspiring cooks out there and especially from the special women in my life, namely my mom and Ken’s auntie who showed me, along with the cuisine that they cook, the heritage that is connected with it – Cantonese and Peranakan.  It is my desire that I would learn to master these two cuisine and pass on to the next generation.

This entry is also dedicated to my beloved husband who supports me in all that I’m doing. I wouldn’t have gone this far without his encouragement and love.  Thank you for the love that you have showered upon me. I thank God for you.

And now these three remains: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Credits:
Pic of tiffin from http://www.happytiffin.com/latch-tiffins/three-tier-tiffins.html

Foodblog

It was rather recent that I got to know of this website foodbuzz where you can find a community of food bloggers. There is one contest called project food blog in which bloggers will attempt some challenges pertaining to food. I thought it was quite fun but didn’t think I would actually enter for contest. Whether or not I take part, I would still try those challenges on my own.

However, I received an email from the editorial team, encouraging us to participate. The hubs was always such a great cheerleader and urged me to sign up. So here I am, entering. Whether or not I proceed to the next stage, I would still challenge myself. It would be great fun, I’m sure.

Some of the challenges include:
– Setting a food blog
– Tackle a classic dish from another culture
– Hold a party for my friends and family & to share the hosting secrets on the blog
– Create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial
– Create my own version on the same recipe
–  Choose a recipe from my blog archives and make it come to life on video
– Create a sweet or savory baked good featuring one or more of the following seasonal ingredients
– Do a restaurant review

Adventures’ starting! =)