Tag Archives: baked goods

Portuguese Egg Tarts

Portuguese egg tarts. Mmmm. My love affair with them began many years ago. I shan’t try to talk about it again (with stars in my eyes, if I might add), but suffice to say that after my trip to Porto, I am irrevocably in love with these wobbly golden nuggets. I was determined to learn how to make Portuguese egg tarts but was discouraged by the fact that puff pastries are difficult to master. Many a times, people have suggested using ready-to-roll puff pastry, but to me, that defeats the purpose of learning to make something from scratch. After all, pastry wasn’t something I had attempted properly before (except when I was a kiddo, when dad taught me how to make croissants – I learned nothing because I was not interested) and it remained something that I would like to master.

So on a crazy day in January, I decided that I was going to conquer it all – pastry, custard, the works. I flipped through one of my birthday presents  – Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess – and found an exceedingly simple recipe. I was skeptical that something as delicious and layered as puff pastry could be made so easily, but hey it was Nigella’s recipe, and she has a knack of simplifying the most laborious tasks, so I went with her, bought a tonne of butter and some strong white bread flour. After a quick long-distance phone call to my dad to ask about the principles of making puff pastry, there was no looking back. I was ready to roll, quite literally.

Pastry making wasn’t daunting at all. It was quite an experience and really quite satisfying for a bake geek like me, as I worked through the dough and thought about what my dad mentioned during the phonecall. Seeing the layers come together thrilled me to no end, and watching the pastry huff-puff into a beautiful shade of fluffy gold was nothing short of…orgasmic (excuse me). Funnily, it was the custard that got me a little flustered. I was so intent on getting the pastry right that I neglected the custard. A few seconds of looking away was all it took for the custard to scramble ever so slightly while it was cooking, I was a little miffed at myself but thank goodness, I could salvage it by running the custard through a sieve to pick the scrambled bits out. It was mostly smooth, with some bits that escaped the clutches of the sieve, I wasn’t completely happy with it, but I knew that I was being careless more than anything else. Anyway, my point to you is, don’t ever look away when you’re cooking the custard, tend to it like your life depends on it or you’ll find yourself scrambling to save a kitchen disaster you could have averted by simply paying attention, something that I was clearly incapable of….

Now, before I leave you with the recipe, I urge you to try making puff pastry. It’s therapeutic, fun and this recipe worked beautifully. The pastry was flaky, buttery and puffed really well; I used it to make chicken curry puffs (post to follow soon), and it was mind-blowing. Try it, you won’t regret ditching the ready-to-roll pastries.

Here’s the recipe:

Portuguese Egg Tarts

For the puff pastry:
(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Makes 10 tarts (each to fill a hole in a standard muffin tray)

150g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices, cold
2 teaspoons lemon juice
7-8 tablespoons iced water

1. Freeze flour and butter together for 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 210 degrees Celsius.

2. Briefly pulse this mixture in food processor with salt. The butter should still be in good-sized chunks and should not be disintegrated.

3. Turn out the pulsed mixture to a large bowl, add juice and water. Go easy on the water, you should only add a little bit at a time, until it’s just enough to bind the dough. 7-8 tablespoons of water worked for me, but you may need less or more, so be careful here. At this point, don’t worry if the butter chunks are still visible, they’re meant to make their presence felt. This is key to getting the pastry to puff and form layers at the later stage. Wrap the dough up with cling film and freeze it for 1/2 hour.

4. It is important to work very quickly at this point, to prevent the butter from melting. If you feel that the butter isn’t cold, feel free to pop the dough into the freezer for a bit, before continuing with any of the steps. Cold butter is absolute key to getting good puff pastry. Dust a clean working surface with the bread flour, roll out the dough into a rectangle. This will be a little bit difficult because the butter chunks are still there. Don’t worry about getting a homogeneous layer, because you’re not supposed to at this stage. Fold the rectangle in 1/3 sections, like you would a business letter (basically, left and right edges of the rectangle should be folded inwards, and you should get a folded pastry that is 1/3 of the original size). Turn the folded ‘letter’ such that closed end of the ‘letter’ faces you. Roll the pastry out to flatten it. Fold the left and right edges in again, like what you did before, ‘business-letter’-style.

5. Repeat the roll and fold, then finally roll the pastry out again. By doing this, you’re creating invisible layers, the cold butter when heated in the oven, will help with the puffing to create separate layers of pastry. If the butter melts at any point when you’re working with the dough, the flour absorbs it and you will end up with greasy, soggy pastry, which is not what you want.

6. To create concentric layers for the egg tart (notice how the pastry layers puff outwards in circles?), roll up the rectangle along the length of the pastry like you would a Swiss roll. Freeze this roll for another 1/2 hour.

7. Grease the holes in the muffin pan with butter. Cut the roll into 25-30g portions. You should see circular layers on the cross-section of the dough (see photo of dough above). Making sure that the cross-section is facing up (like in the photo), press the dough evenly into each hole until a lip forms slightly over the edge of the hole. You will find that the rest of the dough pieces will start to feel greasy as the butter melts, so it is a good idea to pop the dough pieces into the freezer as you work on each muffin hole.

8. Finally, place the muffin pan into the freezer for about 15 min. If you have extra pastry dough, don’t worry, just keep them frozen and you can use them another day. I kept mine for a few weeks and they were still very good when I made curry puffs. In the meantime, prepare the custard.

For the custard:
Makes about 7 tarts (I was putting a recipe together randomly for this and didn’t manage to make enough for 10, feel free to scale this up or scale the pastry portions down).

100ml whipping cream
100ml whole milk
Pinch of salt
Dash of ground cinnamon
1 strip of lemon peel (about 5cm by 1cm long)
50g caster sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks

1. Lightly beat the 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks together and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, dissolve sugar in milk and cream. Do not bring this to boil. Add salt, lemon peel, cinnamon, followed by the beaten eggs. Keep stirring while cooking till the custard coats the spoon. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot as the eggs might scramble. Strain the custard to remove the lemon peel and set it aside to cool.

To assemble:

Spoon about 2 tablespoon of the custard into each of the pastry-covered holes in the muffin pan (each should be 2/3 full). Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes, then using the broiler function, bake it for another 2 minutes. This should brown the custard further in patches, which are characteristic of Portuguese egg tarts. Remove the tarts from the oven and let cool slightly as they will be too hot to eat. But have them warm, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profile on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Look Ma, No Cracks!

Nope, I’m not back in the kitchen, not properly or full-time-ish anyway, but I’m picking out the pictures and recipes that have been collecting dust in my drafts (bin) since… alphatime. So just this January (aka, yonks ago), I bought myself a Kate. No, not Kate Spade – that’s an old joke (for non-Singaporeans, just google Kate Spade and elections, then go figure…). No, it’s not Kate Middleton either – that’s much too posh (say it with you mouth in a perfect O) and I certainly can’t afford the ring that comes with her. But this, oh this cranberry sexy thing is what I’m talking about. This blushing new bride was admired for right about less than a day, and then, as Madonna coos, ‘like a virgin, touched for the very first time’, she was no longer. Ahem.

Kate lost it, *coughsiamtooembarrassedtosayitoutloudcoughs*, to the most perfectly bronzed Swiss dude that stepped out of my kitchen. Hairless, poreless, smelling like the tropics (think coconut!), and with skin that puts most people to shame, I’d say he was the perfect thing to hook up with Kate. Yes I am the dreamcatcher dream matchmaker, thank you very much.

Anyway, getting these two hotties together could have gone either way for me – ego-boosting or soul-destroying. I’m glad it was the former because I’ve always had a fear of Swiss dudes, and to me, it’s just so darn hard to get the skin right. Too much tanning, and one winds up looking like cracked dirty feet; too little and one looks like erm, alabaster me or the equivalent of a pink baby pig. But Kate seemed to bring a little bit of lady luck with her, for I have conquered the Swiss that had long refused to tame in my hands, and now he’s just…..perfect. Poreless, scrumptious, soft and so delicious with all that toasted coconut whipped cream within. Oops, did I just say whipped cream? Sorry, Kate, everyone seems to know your ‘preferences’ now…

Here’s how to get YOUR Swiss dude that smells and tastes like a beach holiday:

Pandan soufflé Swiss roll with toasted coconut whipped cream
(adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

For the roll:

1 egg
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
35g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
10g corn flour
60g coconut milk
3 egg whites
85g caster sugar
1 teaspoon pandan extract
1 tablespoon pandan juice (6-7 pandan leaves, finely chopped and pounded with 1 tablespoon water, squeeze juice out and pass through sieve to remove any debris)
1/2 teaspoon green liquid colouring

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12 inch by 9 inch cake pan with baking parchment, making sure the edges high enough to peek out from the tray as you’ll be using these to handle the sponge later.
2. Combine 1 egg, 3 egg yolks, vanilla, pandan extract, pandan juice, green colouring in a small bowl and lightly beat to incorporate. Set this mixture aside.
3. Sift flours together twice, and set aside.
4. Heat butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add sifted flour to melted butter and cook till you get a dough that comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove this dough to a bowl, and add the egg mixture from Step 2 in small amounts. Gradually mix the dough and egg mixture into a smooth batter with each addition. Add coconut milk to the batter and combine well. Strain the batter through a sieve and set the batter aside.
5. In a clean bowl, whip up egg whites till foamy. Add half of the sugar and beat for a few minutes, then add the remaining sugar and beat till stiff and glossy peaks are formed.
6. Gently fold one-third of this meringue mixture from Step 5 to the batter from Step 4 till roughly incorporated. Fold in the remaining meringue until just incorporated. Pour this batter into the cake pan and smooth the surface out with a scraper. Bake the sponge for 18 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven, loosely cover the cake with a piece of aluminium foil and place it on a cooling rack to cool completely. Remember to keep the foil on, so the moisture won’t be lost from the cake. This will prevent the sponge from cracking when you try to roll it.

For the sponge filling:

200g whipping cream, cold
2 tablespoons caster sugar
25g dessicated coconut
5g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

1. Melt unsalted butter in a shallow pan, add a pinch of salt and lightly toast the dessicated coconut in it. The coconut flakes should turn golden brown.
2. Beat whipping cream and sugar till just about stiff. Do not overbeat this as the cream will split. Gently mix in the toasted coconut, and set aside.
3. Peel the baking parchment off the sponge, and carefully turn the sponge over such that brown skin is in contact with the peeled parchment (or use a new parchment if it’s easier to lay that out). Lift the cooled sponge (using edges of the baking parchment) onto a clean tea towel. Gently roll the sponge up using the tea towel as a guide and hold it loosely for a minute or two. Unroll the sponge again, remove the baking parchment, and leave the sponge on the tea towel. Spread the cream evenly across the green surface of the sponge (I like to have the browned skin outside the roll) with a spatula. Using the tea towel as guide, roll the sponge up again, carefully re-positioning the towel as the cake comes into contact with the cream. You don’t want the cream to get on the towel! Cut the edges of the roll to make it pretty and neat, and there you have it, your very own Swiss stud!

If you like pandan and coconut flavours, don’t forget to check out my pandan chiffon cake here!

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

A Sexy One for M

Crimson lips on porcelain skin. Blood-red satin skimming luminous legs. Bold, yet shy. Sexy, yet innocent. Red versus white. Yes, beckoning, and alluring. Call me the open-minded, generous wife, because I brought Sexy back for my dear husband. M was craving for it, and yes, I am not quite a sexy being, but surely I could give him someone something else that fits the bill? It was his birthday, for crying out loud!

We were watching food porn one evening. Sexy filled the bigass screen with her equally voluptuous assets. M got a little hot under the collar, and blurted, ‘Can I have a {Sexy} for my birthday, pleeease?’. Yes I was a little jealous, but the man has his needs and the way to a man’s heart is surely through his………*ahem*.

So I did it. The frumpy ‘housewife’ made Sexy and let the husband do whatever he wanted to it, errrr, I mean her! He certainly was very forward; he ate her and declared that she was one of the best he has ever had. Good-looking, tender, bends to his will, gives, deep, dark, voluptuous, tangy and sweet.

Poor me. I think the girl with the perfect everything actually exists.

Here’s how if you want to make whip up a Sexy. By the way, I was being rude. Even hotties have a name – Red Velvet in this case.

Red Velvet Cake
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

For a luscious body:
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring (only Dr Oetker’s suits her)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 quantities cream cheese frosting (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius (fan-assisted). Grease a cake tin (with removable base, 8-inch diameter) with unsalted butter.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer with paddle attachment till light, pale and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and beat until everything is well incorporated.

4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder, vanilla extract and food colouring to make a thick dark paste. Add this to butter mixture and beat briefly until well-combined. Slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until the remaining buttermilk and flour have been added. Add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar at this point and beat the batter until well mixed.

5. Tip mixture into cake tin and bake in preheated oven for 40 min. Turn oven up to 160 degrees Celsius and bake for another 20-22 min. Test if the cake is cooked using the skewer test – it should come out clean. Leave cake to cool slightly in tin before turning it out onto cooling rack to cool completely.

6. Once the cake is completely cooled, cut the cake into three layers.

7. Sandwich the layers with cream cheese frosting, and dress the cake all up in more frosting.

Cream cheese frosting:

300g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g full-fat cream cheese, cold

1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until well-combined.

2. Add icing sugar and beat till completely incorporated, and that frosting is light and fluffy. Do not overbeat as it can become runny. Add more icing sugar if you like it to be sweeter, or ease up if you prefer it to be less sweet. Do note that the lesser sugar you add, the runnier the frosting will be.

Enjoy her company.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream

Seeing is believing, and in this case, tasting is believing. Here, we have a Japanese Cheesecake. Lighter on the palette and boasting fluffier naughty bits than its Western cousin, it deceives you into thinking that it is good. But no, if you look beneath its angelic exterior, you will find that the cream, the cheese, the fattening bits are all in there; they’ve only been whipped into shape by egg whites. The mere incorporation of air fools us into thinking that the Japanese Cheesecake is healthier….but is it?

*pause for dramatic effect*

OH BUT WHO THE HELL CARES?! Sorry for the outburst but okay, maybe I ain’t sorry, Japanese cheesecakes are just too good to ignore, alright?! I first had one when Fiesta (a Japanese sushi chain in Singapore) churned out all sorts of flavours many moons ago. My favourite was the plain one, and it was impossibly light and creamy. I remember wondering, ‘How does a cheesecake get so light?’. Back then, I was a real noob at baking, and I didn’t know how to make a cheesecake, let alone a Japanese one. It took years for me to figure it out.

Incidentally, I have recently been the worst nightmare of eggs. I dismember them, I turn my nose up at the yolks and I go in for the kill. I whip the egg whites till they beg for me to stop, and then I coerce them into macarons and chiffon cakes. When M’s birthday came around, he requested for a cheesecake; all I could think of was to fashion a Japanese cheesecake out of ‘em poor egg whites. Dictator of eggs or not, I was scared shitless. I had no idea how the cake was going to turn out, I was convinced that it would be a flop, quite literally so. Thanks to a trustworthy recipe, the Japanese cheesecake was anything but. It was light and somehow creamy at the same time. Biting into it is very much akin to pinning a cloud, impossible but so very gratifying when you do so. Think cotton candy, but on a cheesecake. You sink your teeth into a whole chunk, only for it to pull a disappearing act seconds later, and then two days later, you find an even bigger paunch (for those who find a paunch that wasn’t there in the first place, good for you because hey, you don’t have a jelly belly to begin with). That, my dears, is the prestige worthy of Houdini. Just be careful not to suffer a death by Japanese cheesecakes; dangers do lurk in magic, even if it’s light and creamy.

Here are the recipes. The ones in parentheses were the first quantities I tried when I was practising. By following the recipe, and changing it to include the ones in parentheses, you’ll get a creamy, slightly heavier cake with an egg-ier flavour. I preferred the other recipe (turned out to be similar to the original recipe by Alex Goh, it is also the one that I followed for M’s birthday cake), which yields a lighter and less egg-y cheesecake. I also frosted the cake with rose whipped cream; the addition of rosewater masks the otherwise distinct milky taste of whipped cream and gives an understated hint of fruitiness to the creamy cake. You could add rose essence instead of essence of rosewater to give it a more floral kick. I would, if I had rose essence in my pantry.

Japanese Cheesecake with Rose Whipped Cream

Japanese Cheesecake
(adapted from Alex Goh’s Fantastic Cheesecakes)

Ingredients that yield a lighter cake:

160g full-fat cream cheese
25g unsalted butter
100ml full-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
40g plain flour
20g corn flour
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
100g caster sugar

Ingredients that yield a creamier, egg-ier cake:

160g full-fat cream cheese
80ml whipping cream
25g unsalted butter
50ml full-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
40g plain flour
20g corn flour
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
80g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees Celsius (fan). Grease and flour an 8-inch cake tin (with removeable base) generously. Wrap the sides of the cake tin in aluminium foil.

2. Sift flours together and set aside. Beat egg yolks in another bowl and set aside.
3. Melt cream cheese, milk, butter, vanilla paste (and cream, if using) in a double-boiler (over barely simmering water) until smooth. Leave mixture to cool slightly.
4. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar till foamy, then add pinch of salt and caster sugar. Whisk till you get soft peaks.
5. Mix the sifted flours into the cream cheese mixture until relatively smooth. Then, mix in the beaten egg yolks until well-combined.
6. Next, gently fold 1/3 of the meringue from Step 4 into the mixture from Step 5. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until batter is well-combined.
7. Place the cake tin (which has been wrapped with foil) in a deep oven tray, pour batter into the tin, and gently rap it on the tray a few times to get rid of air bubbles.
8. Place the tray with the tin into the oven, and carefully pour boiling water into the tray till water level is about one-inch high. Do not be overzealous with the pouring, in case the tin starts floating and water seeps in.
9. Bake for 35 minutes at 140 degrees Celsius, with a piece of foil loosely covering the top of the cake tin. Remove the foil after 35 minutes (or when cake has risen and threatens to stick to the foil…), and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Switch off oven and let the cake cool in the oven, with the door left ajar for 1 hour. You might want to do a skewer test before the cooling process, the skewer should not be wet, and should be almost clean.
10. Remove the cake from the oven, and turn it out to a cooling rack to cool further.
11. Frost with rose whipped cream (recipe below).

Rose Whipped Cream
250ml whipping cream, cold
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. Whisk whipping cream till frothy, add sugar and whip till thick and of piping consistency.
2. Add essence of rosewater and whisk briefly to combine.
3. Frost cooled cheesecake. Plonk some raspberries on the cake. Dust the raspberries with some edible gold lustre, and there you have it, magic!

I have been working on a fundraising event on my blog for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. You can visit this post here to find out more details. I’m pledging a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor who donates before 31 March 2011, so please, please dig deep and help! – Updated: We have a a winner, and we raised £1510!!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

The Pleasure Monger Turns One!

Slightly more than a year ago, I was pessimistic, tired and really quite despondent as things on the PhD front were nothing short of a catastrophe. M, being the thoughtful, optimistic and patient husband he is, constantly told me to put my chin up, to remember that life is more than the lack of results in my research. He reminded me that we were in a good place, experiencing life overseas, seeing, tasting and cooking things that we might never have encountered if not for our time in London. He encouraged me to keep a diary of these things we came across, an online diary that is The Pleasure Monger today. And so I did.

On 14 February 2010, we were at home. We just had a home-cooked dinner and I was brainstorming on the name for my blog. Lots of names came up, including Rubs Tummy, Licks Lips etc. But only one represented the broad number of topics that I would like to write about. After deciding on the name, I whipped out a pen and paper and started doodling the logo. I decided to write about food, fashion & beauty, and marriage, each of which are represented by a cupcake, lipstick and a diamond ring that you see on my blog header today. I scanned it in, photoshopped it (that’s why it looks so horrible, because I’m clueless at graphic design…), and put it up. The Pleasure Monger was born with me sitting in my pyjamas, on the floor at the coffee table, in our tiny flat in London. The rest was history.

I became happier after writing. I had an avenue to turn to when I was feeling bogged down. I found a passion in telling my stories to no one in particular (in fact, there were just 15 visits a day on my blog in the first month), and I started paying attention to the good things that I was somehow blinded to prior to all this. In a way, you could say that I was awoken. Suddenly, I realised that I am in a good place. Suddenly, I realised that the small things can make me happy – walking down the streets, chancing upon a beautiful dress, watching the buskers perform, having a delightful pastry in a quaint tearoom. I paid a teeny bit more attention to how I dressed up and took care of my skin. I shared snippets of my life with M. I moaned and laughed at the silly things that happened during my PhD. I ate, I cooked and I baked. I’ve even started dabbling in very amateur food styling and food photography.

It’s the 16th February 2011 today. I just closed a chapter in my life, well, namely the trying chapter known as the PhD. I started on my first job in a completely new line of work. I feel less like a child, and more like an adult. I could write more about fashion & beauty judging from the arsenal of stuff I’ve accumulated since last year. I am getting better in the kitchen. I met quite a few cool bloggers and fostered friendships with them. I am more in love with M than ever before, and I know that our relationship will continue to grow in so many ways. I have seen so much over the last year. I travelled quite a bit. I had an informal interview with two of the greatest chefs in the world. I am taking nicer food photos and inching my way through the world of food styling. My work here has gained so much more exposure that The Pleasure Monger now receives over 20000 hits a month. It has been an incredible journey and I can’t wait to get to the second birthday. There is just so much to learn.

I don’t know how this year is going to pan out. Maybe people will jump on to other blogs and stop reading mine. Maybe more people will identify with what I write here. Hopefully I’ll make more friends and get to know even more amazing people. But one thing’s for sure, it’s been a blast and I love what I do, so I hope to continue doing this.

There are simply so many things I want to say to everyone. There are so many old entries that I want to revisit with you. I had half a mind to do a round-up post but that would be too much because really, all I want to say is thank you for sticking around to read what I have to say and thank you for sharing your life with me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my email exchanges with some readers who have taken the time out to write to me. And really, The Pleasure Monger wouldn’t have turned ONE two days ago without your support.

I shall leave you with one of my favourite photo shoots from last year for my Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste and Matcha/Plain Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting. Yes it’s quite a mouthful, but it represents what the last year has been for me. Colourful, pretty, tasty and pretty much damn awesome.

Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste and Matcha/Plain Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Red/Matcha Velvet Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Paste

Makes 12 (adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

 

60g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
10g cocoa powder (or 10g matcha powder if you want to make Matcha Velvet cupcakes)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
12 teaspoons store-bought adzuki bean paste
1 quantity whipped cream cheese frosting (see below)
12-hole cupcake tray lined with muffin paper cases

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer with paddle attachment or handheld electric whisk on medium speed till light and fluffy and well mixed.

3. On high speed, slowly add egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

4. In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder (or matcha powder), and vanilla extract to make a thick dark paste. Add this to butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. repeat this process until all buttermilk and flour have been added. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat until you have smooth even mixture. On slow speed, add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. beat until well mixed, turn up speed and beat for couple more minutes.

5. Spoon mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full, bake in preheated oven for 18 min or until sponge bounces back when touched. Skewer inserted in centre should come out clean. Leave cupcakes to cool slightly in tray before turning them out onto cooling rack to cool completely, then spoon out some crumbs from the top of the cupcake and fill the well with 1 teaspoon of store-bought adzuki bean paste. Frost the cupcakes with whipped cream cheese frosting.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup whipping cream
10g matcha powder (if making Matcha frosting)
Edible gold/sherry lustre

1. Beat icing sugar and butter together on medium slow speed until mixture comes together and is well mixed.

2. Add cream cheese all at one go and beat till completely incorporated. Turn mixer up to medium high speed and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, for at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat as it can become runny. Add matcha powder if you would like to make matcha frosting.

3. Whisk whipping cream till light and fluffy in a separate bowl. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture till smooth. Dust with edible lustre if you like.

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

What I Have Been Up To and…My First Guest Post!

I miss you guys, I really do. So here I am, clearing the cobwebs to say……I’m STILL alive and that I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I’ve got tonnes of comments and emails to reply to (I’m sorry, please give me some time). I have not baked or cooked anything recently. The last thing I made was tau yew bak  (braised pork belly), which took me 4 hours on Chinese New Year’s Eve and that was it. So it must have been a week? And that’s a ridiculous record in my books because it means that I’ve been feeling pent up from the lack of my favourite activities. Nothing remotely interesting happened over the last week. I’ve just been holed up in the study, poring over mountains of journals and books, with a pencil and my laptop fired up to get me to the finishing line. I shan’t say too much here, all shall be revealed by the end of this week. And yes, hopefully, you’ll see me resurrecting my annoying self on Facebook, Twitter and the blog when ‘things are revealed’.

It sounds like I had a sucky week, eh? That was pretty much the case, except for the one thing that I’ve been looking forward to for a month now. You see, I started putting my heart, soul and food (but of course..) out for the world to see on 14 February 2010. As the first birthday of my blog approaches (I’m thinking of making something to celebrate this, any ideas?), I marvel at the journey that I’ve been on for the past year, especially with regards to all the cooking and baking I’ve done. Personal growth as a humble home cook aside, I’ve also had the great fortune of meeting quite a few bloggers through all that writing. One of them is none other than Notabilia, who has invited me to pen my very first guest post. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the birthday celebrations for my blog, so thank you for this party, Notabilia.

For this month’s ‘Cooking With…’ instalment over at Notabilia’s, I created a fusion pastry of sorts, something that is inspired by my home country, Singapore, and my current time in London. Over the years in Europe, I’ve become acquainted with beautifully crafted pastries that have not seen the light of day in Singapore.

One of the pastries that has me eating out of its hand (or feet, you’ll see why) is the French macaron. I became enamoured with these delicate babies when my friend took me for birthday tea at Ladurée in Harrods slightly more than a year ago, and it is an understatement to say that my life was changed after that. A few months later, I took the first bite of Pierre Hermé’s ingenious creations, and I became obsessed, in the most psychotic of ways, with these almond cookies. I endeavoured to make them in my kitchen, the first time without incorporating almonds, and without using the proper method. They were delicious but were without feet. Then I tried making them again, this time using the proper method, and lo and behold, I got lucky. One macaron flavour then paved way for another in my kitchen. I was making them regularly in 2010, constantly thinking of new flavours to try out, and I am always excited to get my hands dirty.

So what are these feet that we’re talking about? You know the ruffle-y bit underneath that smooth surface, the bits that are getting cosy with the filling? That’s the feet. Getting them to appear is a bit of a terrifying, stressful venture that drives bakers nuts, and yes, all macaron aficionados should inspect these cookies for proper anatomy. So we’ve got the appearance sorted. How about the taste? Well, a macaron should have a crispy exterior that yields to a slightly chewy centre, and then the shell should cave to the most luscious cores, such as creams, ganache etc. The difficulties are apparent in making a macaron. We need to master the perfect balance between crisp and chewy textures, and we need a good filling. We also need feet. Such a massive amount of effort goes into making these babies that it’s no wonder bakeries hold these ransom for exorbitant amounts of cash. It is also for this reason, that I have gotten round to making macarons at home.

I’m happy to say that feet are aplenty since my first proper attempt, and I hope they continue to pitter-patter their way through my life or at the very least, take The Pleasure Monger to its second birthday (you see, the business of getting feet or no feet seems to be jinxed and I hope that I didn’t just do my luck in). Enough about macarons and getting all nostalgic on my side, let’s bring you over to my first guest post at Notabilia’s to have a look at the recipe! In the meantime, wait for my return!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

Chinese New Year: Bake, Learn, Laugh and Eat

I’ve had the great fortune of meeting the lovely E of heavenwildfleur in person on a few occasions over the last couple of months and certainly feel very blessed to have made a wonderful and incredibly talented friend like her. When she invited me to her place for a bake day in the weekend leading to Chinese New Year, I couldn’t possibly say no, could I? So I kicked my books aside, packed my baking tools and some ingredients, and barged my way into her very lovely home. The rest was baking history, really.

We searched high and low for reliable recipes for two of the many Chinese New Year goodies that we wanted to snack on, the mandatory pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit, a coconut biscuit that crumbles pleasurably and melts in your mouth. Luckily for us, there are some very trustworthy Singaporean bloggers we can rely on, and we turned to The Little Teochew for pineapple tarts and Lily’s Wai Sek Hong for kueh bangkit.

We started off at about 11.30am with the pineapple tarts and soon I found myself bringing the tart dough together whilst E got on with cooking the tapioca flour for the kueh bangkit. It was a lot of fun, and very eye-opening too as it is the first time that I’ve baked with someone (so talented and knowledgeable to boot), so it was incredible (for me, not sure if it was the case for E….) to banter over bakes and cakes. I learnt a lot during this session and realised the value of discussing recipes. Most of the time, I bake on my own, mutter to myself when something goes wrong and try to rectify mistakes alone. Talking the recipes (and life) out with E really helped and lent a new dimension to the bits and bobs of baking! It was also very fun to think out of the box and brainstorm ways to shape the pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit without proper moulds. If you would like to know, we used standard cookie cutters for the tarts and made a depression in the middle for the pineapple jam using the end of a rolling pin. As for the kueh bangkit, we made gnocchi-like shapes, round ones, rectangle ones, curry puff-like ones (don’t ask) before settling on moulding the dough into ‘windmills’ and making the indents with tines of a fork. In a way, we took ‘hand-made’ to the next level with these goodies.

You would think that with all the discussion, two pairs of hands, one talented brain (E’s) and one puny putrefying lump of neurons (mine), we would have triumphed over the recipes and emerged with perfect trays of pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit. I kid you not but it took us 3 trays of tarts and 2 trays of kueh bangkit before we mastered the baking times and temperatures. My lump of neurons must have let E’s brain and the recipes down. Numerous attempts, tonnes of squatting down in front of the oven, lots of laughs and a bak kut teh lunch later, we dusted our hands at about 5pm with 100 pineapple tarts and 90 pieces of kueh bangkit. The sun had set by then and though two of us whipped out our ginormous DSLRs to capture our deeds (what did you expect when you put two food bloggers together?), I didn’t manage to get nice pictures of the trays of goodies laid out in their naked glory (E, post your pictures please….), so I packed some home for the shoot on the next day.

If you swung by to eavesdrop on how the recipes went, I can tell you that they were pretty reliable! The goodies didn’t taste like how we would have liked them to be on the day they were baked, but having let them ‘rest’, they were way better on the next day. We think they are probably like macarons, since they taste better after being rested. We have no idea why but are happy that our efforts didn’t go to waste. We did make some changes to (or would tweak) the recipes to make them work better in our hands. I had to add one more egg yolk to the pineapple tart dough to bring the crumbs together before letting the dough rest. E found that it might be better to remove the pandan leaves after the third round of cooking so they don’t burn and overpower the coconut flavour in the kueh bangkit. We also had to adjust the oven temperatures and baking times. As promised, the pastry for the pineapple tarts was crumbly and flaky (although I did think that it could do with a more buttery flavour) and the kueh bangkit had a pleasant texture to it, slightly crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. These recipes are good templates to work on with future attempts. I think they are keepers, alongside with that for my clementine macarons, and I would certainly revisit them when I bake for Chinese New Year again!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.