Tuesday, 28 December 2010

OH CRUMBS!



Nope, this isn't a UFO! It's a chocolate cake in a bundt pan!

Today I had the good fortune of having Jenny, Sally and Serena over for lunch.  Even though they didn't stay very long (since Serena had to return to work) and lunch was only a humble affair of plain porridge with four simple dishes, I think it is safe to say that everyone had a great time. It is, afterall, not everyday that we have so many GPs sit around the lunch table all at once.

For dessert, I made a cake 

Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake with Cheesecake Swirl
Adapted from Baking for All Occasions: A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Flo Braker

Makes one 9-inch Bundt

Cheesecake Swirl
225 grams cream cheese at room temperature
50 grams caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
15 grams ground hazelnut
2 tablespoons dried sour cherries (I used orange-flavoured dried cranberries)

Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake
65 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
180 ml warm water
260 grams cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
170 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
300 grams caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
170 grams sour cream

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven at 180 degrees C (or 165 degrees C if the pan has a dark finish). Lightly butter and flour a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.

For the cake batter, whisk together cocoa powder and warm water in a medium bowl until well blended. Set aside to cool. Have all of the remaining ingredients at room temperature.

To make the Cheesecake Swirl:  In a medium bowl, the cheese with a rubber spatula just until the cheese is smooth and creamy. Beat in the sugar until blended. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined and creamy. Stir in the nuts and cranberries until evenly distributed. Set aside.

To make the Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake: Sieve flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy and smooth then add sugar, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Continue to beat until the mixture is very light in colour and texture.

Add eggs very slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale ivory in colour. Add the vanilla and sour cream to the cooled cocoa mixture and stir to combine. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with the cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing after each addition only until incorporated.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it with the rubber spatula, working from the centre outward to create a slightly raised ridge around the rim. Carefully spoon the cream cheese filling over the batter, trying to contain it within the rim. The idea is to keep the filling from touching the pan so it will remain concealed when the cake is finished baking. Spoon the remaining batter over the filling and smooth the top.

Bake the cake until the top springs back when pressed lightly and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out free of batter, 60 – 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan.


The cake would've been perfect if not for the crumbs.  I've no idea what went wrong!  As we ate, we left crumbs on the plate and crumbs all over the table - and on the floor!  Did I over-baked it? The GPs, being people who focus on the big picture, didn't fuss about the small stuff like crumbs.  Instead, they made very nice comments about how wonderful the cake tasted and how great everything was.  Seriously cannot ask for better friends.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

MARYMOUNT GET-TOGETHER

I cannot believe that I haven't posted anything since I return from Sydney. After the vacation, I dived right back into work.  One major event was the office move, when I packed 18 cartons single-handedly.

On Sunday right after the move (Nov 28th), Suit Mooi hosted a get-together for ex-Marymount girls at her home in Pebble Bay.  It was all rather exciting because I haven't met some of the girls in 30 years! 

Each person brought something edible. 


Is it my camera, or is everything brown and green?


Some of my best friends during those good 'ol school days.

There's no use denying it - even after 30 years, we're still gorgeous.

A momento from our gracious hostess.  Thanks, Suit Mooi!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A WEEK IN OZ

When Tammy suggested a trip to Tokyo I declined immediately.  I could see it already: Winter Blues. Heavy Clothing. Mall Hopping.  Not my idea of fun.  

Being the introvert that I am, I'd rather be at my aunt's place in NSW: hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city, fresh air, good food, free lodging, sleeping in, relax the mind.  A true break.

I guess it all sounded rather appealing so Tammy decided she'd forgo Tokyo and came along with me to Sydney.

The doing-close-to-nothing week flew by much too quickly.  Instead of hopping from mall to mall (as it usually happens during a holiday with Tammy) we took this vacation slow and easy, sleeping in late for two mornings in a row.  Just a little bit of sightseeing for Tammy, who is visiting Australia for the first time.





But most of our vacation time was spent in the Central Coast, where my aunt and uncle resides.



I love spending time with my aunt and uncle at home in Gosford. Each night I slowly fall asleep to an insect concerto, and awake every morning to the song of birds - and freshly squeezed orange juice!


Whenever I visit, my uncle would cook up a storm!  He used to be a chef so you can imagine the feasts we had every evening.  And then there are the fresh Australian produce and amazing seafood, and veggies straight from my aunt's own backyard!

I'm not a good cook but my contributions are not to be dismissed.  I helped water the vegetable garden, washed the veggies after my aunt had harvested them, laid the table while my uncle cooked, and most importantly, wiped out every last bit of the sumptuous spread that my uncle put on the table every night.



All this time, my poor friend took ill and spent many hours either in bed, or laid out in front of the TV.  She didn't do enough shopping while we were in Sydney so she was suffering from withdrawal symptoms (my version of the story).  She caught a cold during the 10-hour flight from HK to Sydney (her version). 

One afternoon my aunt and I baked Lemon Yogurt Muffins. By then Tammy was well enough to sit with us at the dining table and I bullied her into translating the recipe into Chinese for my aunt.

Tammy had been facing a hard time at work and was feeling depressed.  My aunt strongly believed that sunlight would chase away the blues so she and my uncle drove us to the beaches in Terrigal, sand dunes in Biribi Point to be greeted by sun, sand, sea and clear blue skies.  We even caught the Pelican Feeding at The Entrance.  

All in all, I had heaps of fun and was thoroughly spoilt!  Even though it's probably like my 5th visit to Australia, there are several "firsts" that happened on this trip: for the first time I didn't go about chasing down koalas and wombats; the first time I actually bought wine; a first time to visit  medical clinic in Australia - thanks to Tammy.  I thought it an interesting experience for you see, here in Singapore every GP comes with its own pharmacist so we're able to collect our medicine right after we consulted the doctor.  In Australia you'd see the doctor, after which he'd write you a prescription, which you then drive to the nearest pharmacy to have your prescription filled.  It doesn't matter if you have a high fever or you are far too weak to drive.  You still make that trip to the pharmacy.

Small matters like that make me appreciate Singapore a whole lot.

I hope you get well soon, dear Tammy.





Sunday, 24 October 2010

THE MOUSE AND HIS CHEESE


A gift from Susan, this timer travelled from NY to Singapore.

The Japanese have their own take on the Cake Salé.  Today I'm using a recipe by Takaaki Nishikawa(西川功晃).  Nishikawa is Consultant to Singapore's Bread Society and author of several books on the subject of breadmaking. Some say that it isn't easy to master Nishikawa's bread formulas because of the high level of hydration.


Nakashiwa's Cake Salé recipe consists ingredients such as sun-dried tomato, pickled carrot, pancetta and balsamic crouton. I stuck with the simple ham and cheese - just so I can get a direct comparison between this Cake Salé  and the one I made previously.


Cake Salé recipes usually calls for baking powder but Nishikawa uses baking soda and yeast as raising agents. The dough is allowed 40 minutes of proofing time before it goes into the oven, resulting in as a loaf that is sponge-like.


咸蛋糕 La Cake Salé
Adapted from a recipe in 美味44變: 麵包料理的搭配新技法 by 西川功晃 Takaaki Nishikawa

Makes two 16.5cm x 7.5cm (6.5" x 3") loaves. Foil loaf pans that measures 20.5cm x 11cm at the rim would also work.

3 eggs
150 grams all-purpose flour
10 grams baking soda
2 grams instant yeast
50 grams olive oil
50 grams milk
150 grams ham, diced
150 grams Cheddar cheese (half coarsely grated and half diced)

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat your oven at 180 degrees C. Generously brush loaf pans with butter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then add the olive oil, milk and yeast and mix together using a spatula.

Sift the flour and baking soda together. Add into egg mixture.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until just combined. Pour into lined loaf tin.

Leave to proof for 30 – 40 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 180 degrees C oven for 25 minutes.



Thursday, 30 September 2010

NEW HEART

I didn't blog for several weeks because my laptop suffered a heart attack. Last weekend I finally brought it down to HP for a health examination and just as I had expected, it needed a hard drive transplant and could not come home for 3 days.

Fortunately, unlike my laptop, my father passed his CT scan with flying colours today.  He's definitely rosier and is talking about a family holiday!

Went to HP this afternoon to bring my laptop home.  I missed it so much!  I couldn't resist checking my emails as soon as we got home, and found 49 new messages waiting.  Tsk!  I need a life.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

SUNSHINE IN MY LIFE

Whenever I gaze upon a painting by Canadian artist Coplu, I'm reminded of sunshine and Happy Feet.

My favourite Coplu painting depicts a lone man playing the violin to a heart-shaped balloon that seems to be floating away, and he is trying to woo Love back with a serenade. "Oh, so lonesome!" I cried when I first laid eyes on it. At least, that was how I interpreted it.

It is in a gallery called Ode To Art that I first came across the whimsical artworks by Coplu. I fell in love with the vibrant colours and cartoon-like figures (usually of a couple or a man) all paying homage to Dreams and Love. 

When my work day ends, I enjoy strolling by the gallery window, where the latest and most prominent pieces are displayed, and smile at each Coplu artwork. Occasionally one of the pieces would disappear and my heart would sink a little.  I would then move to the gallery entrance and peer inside hoping to catch sight of the missing piece. “Ah it’s still there!” and I my heart does a little tap dance. Most of time, it meant the painting had been sold and my heart would weep a little.  Unlike Coplu who is selfless when it comes to love, I am unable to let go.

You see, I later learnt that the painting that I like is entitled "Emanticipation of Romance".  "Emanticipation" means "relinquishing control".  So in reality the little man was setting Romance free, bidding goodbye graciously with a D Major.  Truly heartwarming.

I dream that  I would one day bring Coplu home.  In the meantime,  晴晴 (true to her name) brought the sunshine with her when she arrived last month. 





After some prompting, the promising young artist shyly affixed her signature. Some day in the near future she’ll be as sought after as Coplu.  (Go, girl!)

But remember, you saw it here first!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

FRENCH-STYLE SAVOURY CAKES



My father hasn't been in the pink of health lately. I took the day off work today to accompany him to the hospital. They've now fixed him up for CT colonography early September.

We got home a little before 3 this afternoon and I made these French-style savoury (salty) cakes.

Savoury cakes, or cakes salés are quite the trend in Parisian bakeries. They're quick and easy, perfect for light lunches or picnics, or presented as amuse-bouche to accompany apéritif. They're a great way of using up leftover chicken, beef or cheeses. It's really worth a try. If you prefer individual portions, you can always bake them in mini muffins tins. The original cake salé recipe calls for Gruyère and ham. I used Cheddar and luncheon meat.


Savoury Ham and Cheddar Bread
Adapted from this recipe in nytimes.com

Makes two 16.5cm x 8cm x 7.5cm loaves or
two 18.5cm x 9.5cm x 5cm
one 20.5cm x 10cm x 5.5cm

250 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
170 grams luncheon meat, cut into 1/4" dice
200 grams Cheddar cheese, half coarsely grated and half cut into 1/4" dice

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. Generously brush loaf pans with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk flour with baking powder, salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk eggs, then whisk in milk and olive oil.

Using a rubber spatula, fold wet ingredients into dry until barely mixed. Fold in luncheon meat and cheese.

Scrape batter into loaf pans and smooth top.

Bake loaves until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around edge to release. Turn out loaves onto rack to firm up before slicing, about 30 minutes; using a serrated knife, cut into slices.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

TREATS FROM MAKI: PATISSERIE SADAHARU AOKI

Several years ago, as I was reading about the renowned Matcha Opera Cake at Pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI, I had a strong urge to fly to Paris or Tokyo just for a bite of it.  Then one day I heard that Mr. Aoki has opened shop in Taipei.  Frankly I'm a little bit jealous of the Taiwanese.  They already have Paul and Boite de Bijou and now they have AOKI.

This week, Maki took great pains to ship me a Aoki's green tea goodie - a Matcha & Azuki Bean Cake - all the way from Tokyo!  How did you read my thoughts, Maki?

You can tell from the lovingly wrapped package that such pride is put into every item that leaves the premises. 


Of course, the thoughtfulness and sincerity of the giver cannot be ignored.  I only hope these photos will do the gift justice!




Let me assure you that it tastes as good as it looks! 

I was expecting the matcha to be slightly smoky and bitter in taste but there was none of that.  I also thought the azuki beans would be extremely sweet but they weren't.  I had no idea it would be so light!  Yummy!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

CHILLICRAB AND THE COOKIE MIX

Once upon a time, ChilliCrab was "made redundant" of her job.  It wasn’t the end of the world but it was a low point in ChilliCrab's life.  She was scared.  At the same time she was also felt relief because she was free !  Free to do whatever she desired.  Free to run her own business even. 

Running a business?  Well, while waiting for a new job to fall right into her lap, ChilliCrab decided to sell cookie mix.  Cookie Mix in a Jar, to be exact.  It seemed easy enough to do - you weigh out the ingredients and layer them inside a glass jar. Then tie on a tag containing directions.

But it was tougher than it seems, especially when the orders for Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Mix started pouring in. Every week, ChilliCrab had to purchase the ingredients needed for the Cookie Mix. Losing her day job had turned ChilliCrab into Scrooge! She refused to spend money on bus fare and delivery. So she takes a 20-minute walk with her little shopping cart to the nearest supermarket. Then she walks all the way with her full trolley.


Then, there were glass jars to purchase. The most suitable jars were sold at IKEA, which is a long way from ChilliCrab’s home. At first it was easy enough to lug 6 or 12 glass jars on a bus. As more orders rolled in, ChilliCrab could no longer carry 36 glass jars up the bus so she had no choice but to take a taxi. Even then managing 3 large cartons of jars proved too difficult for ChilliCrab. Fortunately, Chillicrab has a wonderful cousin who was willing to contribute free labour.

Chillicrab’s mom and dad weren’t very supportive of the home business at first.  It took a while before Papa Crab became impressed as he watched how hard ChilliCrab at work to fulfill orders.  With all those jars queuing in the ‘production line’, Mama Crab became excited too. Every evening after dinner, she would take a few empty jars out at a time and painstakingly scrubbed each one squeaky clean.

It was Joanne who bought the very first jar of Cookie Mix in a Jar from ChilliCrab. Then Kenneth bought 12 for the girls in his office. M. Thomas bought 30 to give away at a Christmas dinner. ChilliCrab’s aunt took orders from her friends at church. Even if there was only one order, she happily drove by to pick it up from ChilliCrab’s home.

Running a home business (or any kind of business) is no mean feat.  ChilliCrab is very blessed to be surrounded by good, helpful souls who are good at lots of things. Just like Olivia!

Yesterday while ChilliCrab was cleaning out her pantry, she found a little less than half a packet of rolled oats, just enough for one jar of Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Mix! 

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Sunday, 20 June 2010

THE PIG THAT WON'T FLY

Dear GPs,

This little pig cried wee wee wee today.

So many things went wrong. I had intended to give Piggy wings but was forced to forgo them because I was already having a hard time with Piggy's snout.  It kept sliding off!  I contemplated on using the stapler.  In the end, I used Super Glue.  (Kidding!)

At one point I got distracted by Mom making fishcakes and failed to watch the clock.  As a result, Piggy got badly burnt in the oven.


Since last week's fish-shaped buns were filled with tuna, I felt that it be apt to fill Piggy with a pork filling. My initial thoughts were on Mushroom and Bacon, or Ham and Cheese. Serena suggested luncheon meat whilst Moon felt  bakkwa would give Piggy that Singaporean edge.


During our morning stroll on Tuesday, Mum asked me, "What kind of bread will you be making next?"

"How about Char Siu (BBQ pork) Bun?" she asked while I was still contemplating.  She even gone on to suggest, "I'll take care of the filling, you make the bread." That threw me right off because Mum and I seldom see eye to eye on culinary affairs.  She cooks Chinese dishes, I bake Western-style cakes.  She prefers them savoury, I like sweets.  She doesn't interfere with my baking, I stubbornly stay out of her kitchen when she cooks.

I guess you can say we're both pig-headed. 

SaveSave

Friday, 18 June 2010

HOW TO BE A GUINEA PIG

On weekends, I look for willing food tasters to try my baked goods. Most of the time, they are my parents and few colleagues. Not long ago, I also roped in a childhood friend. I can't be certain if she is a willing Guinea Pig (GP) but I didn't give her a chance to decline the honour.

Recently, my colleague Serena has expressed her desire to sign-on as regular GP.

In order for you to qualify as a GP, you must
(1) preferably work with me in the same office or conduct activities close by my home. (In the case of my childhood friend, she attends pilates classes in the community centre across the street from my house)

(2) live within close proximity of a GP (in this instance, I mean a good doctor)

(3) be brave in the presence of creativity

(4) be able to give constructive comments after you've tried out the said creative foods

(Words like "lousy" "awful" "like Styrofoam" are not constructive comments and will result in immediate disqualification)

Only those with strong stomachs and undefiable courage need apply.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

屈原卖粽

五五端午节。雨。 屈原为何投江自尽?因被朝廷冷落而患了忧郁症吧? 如果屈原地下有知,看到今天的粽子五花八门,里面包的是鲍鱼和海参,粽子商机那么旺,会想: 当年何必投江? 辞了政去卖粽子也很好啊!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

TAILS!


What the fish! Those fish-shaped buns on my last post were subjected to an incredulous amount of ridicule. 

"Why haven't they got tails?"  being the most popular question.

"They look like pineapple tarts!" claims Serena.

Maki must have secretly rolled her eyes when she saw the 'fish'.  ("Maybe Fun doesn't know what a fish looks like!")  Since she has a sweet nature she does not call me stupid outright (which I downright appreciate).  Instead, she directed me to a Japanese website that contains step-by-step demonstration on how to form a kawaii 魚の形パン(fish-shaped bun).   Even if you don't understand Japanese, you'll won't be totally at sea.



Fish-shaped Buns with Spicy Tuna Filling
Makes 12

Spicy Tuna Filling
2 cans tuna flakes in water, drained
2 small red onions, chopped
Olive oil
Mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
Anchovy paste
Dried chilli flakes

Bread Dough
270 grams bread flour
30 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 grams (3/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 egg (about 60 grams)
130 grams water
30 grams butter, softened

Finish
Eggwash

To make the Spicy Tuna Filling: Mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.

To make the bread:  In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, stir all ingredients (except the butter) together on low speed until everything comes together.

Then mix in butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead dough until smooth, elastic and comes away from sides of bowl in a ball. Dough should be soft and pliable.

First proof. Shape dough in a boule fashion place in lightly greased bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in microwave oven to proof. To create a warm environment for successful proofing, put a mug of hot water beside the dough. Close the oven door and leave to proof for one hour.

Using your index finger, make a hole in centre of dough. If indentation remains, dough is ready for next step.

Divide and rest. Gently deflate dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Form each into boule fashion. Cover with wet towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Now fill and shape.

Second proof.  Lay the “fish” on baking tray. Cover with wet towel and leave to proof for 40 minutes or until the “fish” double in size.

Bake. Meanwhile, place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven at 200 degrees C.  Before baking, brush each “fish” gently with egg wash. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until light golden.



They have tails - and its all thanks to Maki!  Now people are complaning that the buns have way too much filling.  Really, there's no pleasing these people is there?!  The trick is to stop trying to.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

WHAT THE F***


In case you are wondering, these are tuna buns in the shape of fish!  Sure, they look like puffers than a regular fish.  How would I have known that they would all lose their tails during the proofing process?!

Inspiration for these cuties came from a book I recently borrowed from the neighbourhood library.  These days I no longer purchase a new cookbook for the sake of 2 or 3 recipes inside. At the risk of sounding cheap, I usually check out a library copy beforehand to determine whether a book is worth buying.

Last week, while I was browsing in my favourite section in Kinnokuniya Orchard, I came across a woman who had an array of cookbooks laid out on a table before her. In doing so she managed to cover most of the New Arrivals that were occupying the table in the first place. Oblivious to incredulous stares from shoppers around her, she fervently copied recipe after recipe from the cookbooks onto a writing pad. And as if that wasn't despicable enough, she started to dictate (quite loudly, if I may add) to a friend using her mobile phone!

I'm kinda relieved to know there’s a cheaper someone out there. :)

I've been dying to spin my new toy since it was delivered last week.  The KA works like a dream when it comes to kneading bread dough.

Tuna Bun
Inspiration for fish-shaped bun from [日式面包]by邱勇灵/ 屈礼芬
Makes 12

Tuna Filling
1 can tuna flakes in water, drained
Mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
Anchovy paste
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bread Dough
270 grams bread flour
30 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 grams (3/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 egg (about 50 grams)
140 grams water
30 grams butter, softened

Finish
Raisins
Egg wash

To make the Tuna Filling:  Mix all the ingredients together.  Set aside.

To make the bread:  In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, stir all ingredients (except the butter) together on low speed until everything comes together. Then mix in butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead dough until smooth, elastic and comes away from sides of bowl in a ball. Dough should be soft and pliable.


First proof. Shape dough in a boule fashion place in lightly greased bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in microwave oven to proof. To create a warm environment for successful proofing, put a mug of hot water beside the dough. Close the oven door and leave to proof for one hour.

Using your index finger, make a hole in centre of dough. If indentation remains, dough is ready for next step.

Divide and rest. Gently deflate dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Form each into boule fashion. Cover with wet towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.


Fill and Shape. Roll each dough portion into oval disk. Fill each portion with tuna filling and form into desired shape. Raisins form the “eyes”.

Second proof.  Lay the “fish” on baking tray. Cover with wet towel and leave to proof for 40 minutes or until the “fish” double in size.

Bake. Meanwhile, place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven at 200 degrees C.  Before baking, brush each “fish” gently with egg wash. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until light golden.

If you want to try a hand at making these fish, be sure to roll the tails flat during the shaping stage.  Otherwise you'll end up with tail-less fish like mine!
 

HOMEMADE FISHCAKES - THE PREQUEL

This is a prequel to my post in February on Homemade Fishcakes.  Here are some shots of my mother making fishcakes from scratch.

Fillet the fish - a Yellowtail is best

Remove flesh from skin

Add salt water as you mince.  Keep going.  It will come together in a cohesive mass.

Pick it up and smack it on the chopping board about 10 - 15 times.

看到了没有? Nice and jiggly. Now wet your hands before shaping into fishcakes.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

THE LITTLE SHOP OF DESIRES

Today marks my 7th year with the company I work for.  Not many employees stay more than 5 years in an ad agency. What can I say, I'm a rare breed.

Just recently my very nice French boss presented me with a cheque for $1000 which was meant to be my 5-year long-service award. However, an unwritten company policy (I wonder which 笨蛋approved it) dictates that the employee would receive her 5-year award only at the end of her 6th year (duh!)

If you have $1000 to spare, what single item would you splurge it on? Desire posts this question as she lures me into her charming little shop. Here's a woman truly after my own heart. Every object that I’ve ever dreamed of owning is here!

A gorgeous bracelet catches my eye. I want to try it on but it sits regally on the upper-most shelf that is way beyond my reach.

Oh look, the Ferragamo bag that I like! And isn't that the camera I’ve wanted for some time? There they lay on a tall shelf, side by side, beckoning me. Surely if I stand on tip toes, with fingers outstretched, I would be able to attain them! Alas no, I’m still a little short.

So many fabulous things, too little cash! I was fishing for my credit cards when Reality steps in. He grabs my arm and drags me roughly aside.

“Hey!” I protest. “You hurt me!”

“I do that sometimes,” he admits but offers no apology.

“What do you want?” I hiss, folding my arms across my chest. He reminds me that the Bvlgari B-Zero bracelet, Ferragamo tote and Canon 500D will all have to wait. He is right, of course. I know I need to face him squarely.

With Reality in check, I begin to lower my sights to focus on the objects that are truly accessible. He finally allows me to walk away with this:

KitchenAid KSM150 Mixer in Apple Green. Usual price: S$899. Available at TANGS for S$699 and a further 10% reduction during the promo period. Free delivery. Citibank cardholders earn 12% rebate on the card.

He keeps me grounded, this Reality. At times I’m grateful that he's by my side. Desire ignores me completely now. I watch and she seduces another wide-eyed customer with her dazzling smile. I tell Reality that Desire resembles Temptation very much in looks. He nods.

“Cousins,” he grins, and marches me out of Desire's lair.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

BEATING THE HEAT


Ever since Tammy and I shared a chocolate profiterole in agnès b. le pain grille last month, I wanted to try a hand at making my own.

Today I used a recipe from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. After I chanced upon the book at our local library I couldn't put it down. I'll definitely be making more recipes from this book in the future.

I know I should make a pastry cream to complete my profiterole but today I just couldn't bear the thought of having to slave further in our very hot kitchen. Our little island has been hit by heat wave recently. Even the occasional rain doesn't cool us down. I'm craving for ice cream - lots and lots of ice cream - to pair with my chocolate profiteroles. I wanted it so badly that I made a special trip - braving the intense heat and scorching sun - to the supermarket just to buy a tub of Ben & Jerry's.

To combat the severe heat and humidity, I placed a large stainless steel mixing bowl into the freezer before I took off for the supermarket. Afterwards, I scooped the Ben & Jerry’s into the chilled vessel, then let it remain inside the freezer for a few hours. Just before eating, I placed the choux puffs on top of the ice cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Pâte à Choux
Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Makes 24 smalls puffs

50 grams unsalted butter
Small pinch of salt
125 ml water
85 grams all-purpose flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
5 grams baking powder

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven at 220 degrees C.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sieve flour and cocoa powder in a bowl.  Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine butter and salt with water, and bring to a boil.  Add flour, then reduce heat to low, and vigorously mix ingredients with a spatula until dough starts to come together in a thick paste and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan.

Remove dough from heat and transfer dough into a mixing bowl.  Add eggs one at a time.  Do not add an egg until the previous one is completed incorporated.  Mix until dough forms a smooth mass.  Add the baking powder.

Pipe or spoon the Pâte à Choux on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 190 degrees C, and continue baking until choux are all puffed up, and feel dry, about 10 minutes.  Let them cool on the baking sheet before freezing.

Ice cold chocolate choux puffs and ice cream is a match made in heaven! Mom and Dad ate 3 choux puffs each with their ice cream.  I had 2!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

HONG KONG: GIANT SOUFFLE

So this is the Giant Soufflé (梳乎里) at 太平馆


Ally claimed she could eat one all by herself.

"I think one isn't enough for all 5 of us," Tammy was quick to add.  How come they seemed to have forgotten that we already ate 2 rice dishes, a pig trotter, Swiss Chicken Wings, as well as a broccoli dish beforehand?! 

Still, if everybody thinks we should order two - TWO! - who am I to object? Have you ever seen anything like it?  I mean, look  at the SIZE of that thing!  It's twice as large as my head.  And did you know that each Giant 梳乎里 contains 8 eggs?


Out of this world - fluffy, silky, and very very light.   I bet if you bit into cloud it would feel just like that.


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Friday, 16 April 2010

HONG KONG: TIME OFF

For those of you who have been asking about photos of the trip, I'm afraid I took very few. Here's the view from my room at the Hotel Panorama, Tsim Sha Tsui. I was allocated a corner room on the 31st floor. The fog lends melancholy to the early morning.



Bumped into Chocolate Rain whilst wandering alone in TST.  I love the quirky artworks!





Came upon these while walking aimlessly around TST.  At first glance I thought they were real bread.  I don't know what these rubber buns are for but their expressions really crack me up.  Maybe that's exactly what they're made for: to give us a chance to laugh out loud.