Tag Archives: baked goods

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.

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year

As Chinese New Year approaches, you’ll see a flurry of activities in every Chinese household. We spring clean to rid of ill-fortune and welcome good luck. We deck our homes in red and gold, both auspicious colours for the Chinese, to celebrate the most important traditional Chinese festival. We cook, we bake, we feast and we grow fat with our dear family and friends, all in the name of the new year. It is a time to gather with loved ones, particularly so on the eve of the Chinese New Year when we have reunion dinners with our families. It is a time when we say, out with the old, in with the new. This spring festival lasts for fifteen days, and is so important that even those away from home will endeavour to keep to the traditions of preparing ourselves for a blessed year ahead. Like us.

As we bid farewell to the Year of the Tiger and give a warm welcome to the Rabbit, we find ourselves somewhat wedged in no man’s land for Chinese New Year. This is the 4th year that we’re spending the festival overseas without our families. Nobody kicks up a big fuss over Chinese New Year in London, you don’t feel the excitement in the air, in fact, you wouldn’t even realise that the Chinese are celebrating it unless you set foot into Chinatown. That is where you will see families huddled into crowded supermarkets, peering into baskets and baskets of goodies, filling their trolleys up with groceries and cartons of mandarin oranges, and yes, you might even catch the occasional Chinese New Year song. But once outside of Chinatown, everyone is oblivious to the festival. The only way you’ll experience it is if you step into a Chinese home, such as ours.

Although our home severely lacks decorations, we are on our way to putting up three miserable couplets that we bought years ago. I haven’t managed to get a bunch of pussy willow, and doubt I will have the time to do it. I even contemplated putting up red packets (known as ang baos) on my Christmas tree, which I’ve only taken down last week. We haven’t bought any groceries appropriate for the new year. The only things that hint at the festival are a couple of red packets that we received from our parents, and a heap of oranges and clementines in our fruit basket. Traditionally, tangerines are a symbol of good luck and oranges are that of wealth. You will find that many food items we consume or exchange with family and friends are a symbol of either, or that of good health, happiness etc. These items are chosen as such because their names sound like the respective blesssings in Chinese. We couldn’t get tangerines, but all the same, clementines are a type of mandarin oranges, so that’s good enough for us.

During Chinese New Year, we visit our family and friends to wish them a blessed new year, and to catch up on our lives. No one shows up empty-handed and it’s important to bear gifts as a show of goodwill. These gifts are typically returned in other forms, depending on what the host family has purchased, really. Of these, the most important ones are oranges or tangerines. These are given in pairs, and for the more superstitious host families, never show up four oranges as four sounds like death in the Chinese language. The host families will return the oranges from their own stash to you, and this means that they give their blessings to you too. As you can see, oranges are a staple during the new year, and this, my dears, is the source of my inspiration for the Year of the Rabbit.

With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to put a twist in the traditional Chinese New Year snacks. Instead of pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, love letters and what-not, I decided to make some clementine macarons to welcome the new year. In a way, it is a perfect {fusion} representation of our circumstance as we are celebrating Chinese New Year in London. I put a dash of grated clementine zest in the macaron shells and made them a beautiful sunset shade of orange with the wonderful bottle of food colouring that Dad gave me in December last year. I also filled the shells with an orange buttercream that has been infused with orange zest and orange and lemon juice for the citrusy fragrance and tartness. The flavours worked beautifully (although they turned out a little sweet because my oranges were unusually sweet) and I think they make rather pretty gifts. So if you would like to present something different to your loved ones this year, why don’t you make a box of these clementine macarons instead? The possibilities are endless, really. You can make the buttercream however sweet or tart you want, and you could even make pineapple macarons in place of pineapple tarts.

I’m really happy with these macarons and wish I could box them up and give them to our families. But everyone’s 6000 miles away and besides, M and I might just finish the whole stash before our friends come over tomorrow night…..Oh well, there’s always next year, and the year after…..

For now, the plateful of clementine macarons do well to brighten up our currently un-festive home. That, and a bunch of oranges and a couple of red packets. Oh, and the couplets too. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I wish you prosperity, good health and happiness for years to come. Have a good one, and eat loads on our behalf!

Here’s the recipe:

Clementine Macarons with Orange Buttercream

For the macaron shells:
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)
Makes 34 shells

66g egg white, aged
2g egg white powder
60g caster sugar
90g almond flour
110g icing sugar
1/3 teaspoon grated clementine zest
A few drops of orange food colouring

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Blitz almond flour, icing sugar and grated orange zest to combine and make the meal as fine as possible. Sift blitzed ingredients together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool.

For the Orange Buttercream:

100g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
3 teaspoons orange juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
2/3 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange-infused milk (leave 1 tablespoon orange zest in 2 tablespoons of milk in fridge, overnight)

1. Beat butter and icing sugar together till creamy.

2. Add juices and zest and beat till smooth.

3. Add milk and beat till combined. If this is too runny, chill buttercream before piping onto shells.

4. Fill cooled macaron shells with buttercream and sandwich.

Enjoy!

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.

 

The Lil’ Nubbins I Call Cream Puffs

I had an insatiable craving for cream puffs, particularly the ones from Beard Papa. If you haven’t tried their cream puffs, I’m talking perfect flaky crowns of golden happiness giving way to an atomic explosion of weightless vanilla cream. Ahhhh…

So I thought I might try making cream puffs at home, having had a series of successes with goodies that came out of my oven. I wasn’t all complacent of course, I was just quite encouraged that I may somehow, succeed at making flaky cream puffs but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t approach the recipe with a bagful of nerves. After all, having made cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes and macarons, I’ve come to recognise that pastry-making is a different dynasty of its own. Pastries freak me out,  I mean on the baking front of course; as a result, my personal encounters with pastries have been far and few between in the kitchen.

When I was a kid, I tried to make croissants with my dad. We were experimenting at home, and Dad made it work. Needless to say, I didn’t understand any bit of the technique, and I forgot everything except that layers and an obscene amount of rolling were involved. I was happy to just.eat.

Umpteen years later, I was dating M and I truly wanted to impress, so I foolishly attempted to make chocolate-filled doughnuts. Choux pastry was needed and I did all I could. I certainly didn’t impress and chucked the whole lot away. This attempt left me less than enamoured with pastry-making. When I learnt that choux pastry was once again required to make cream puffs, I felt deflated to say the least, but like I said, I was high on the baking luck I was running on for the past few months. I decided to give it a go. Will fortune favour the brave?

If we’re talking about flaky Beard Papa-esque cream puffs, no, fortune was downright cruel and delivered a sucker punch to my face. But if we’re talking about the slightly chewy, airy sort that are sold in most bakeries everywhere else, then I guess I hit the jackpot. I filled these little ugly nubbins with a simple and light crème Chantilly, dressed them up in a little bit of icing sugar so they won’t seem so naked and rude, and enjoyed them the minute they were clothed. Sad to say, they weren’t very delightful after refrigeration. When I feel like making cream puffs again, I’ll look into recipes that work well with refrigeration.

Here’s the recipe:

Cream puffs filled with crème Chantilly
(adapted from Ina Garten’s profiteroles recipe)

Makes 12

For the puffs:
125ml semi-skim milk
1/2 cup plain flour
60g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium eggs

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Place butter, milk and salt in a saucepan on medium heat, bring to boil and remove saucepan from heat immediately.
3. Stir in flour and mix till incorporated, put the saucepan back on the heat and stir continuously for 5-6 minutes until mixture turns dry (stops sticking to pan).
4. Place the dough into a food processor, and adding 1 egg at a time, pulse to form a soft but very, very thick paste. If you can achieve this with just 1 egg, you don’t have to add the other egg. The paste shouldn’t stick to your fingers when you touch it.
5. Pipe the paste when it is still hot (essential to help it rise) and bake immediately. I piped the paste in swirls with a 2cm nozzle onto a lined tray, and pushed the tips (that will be left behind when you stop piping) in with a wet finger. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave the puffs in the closed oven for another 5 minutes.
6. Remove the puffs from the oven and make a small slit at the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Cool the puffs on a cooling rack and fill with crème Chantilly. Finish off with a dusting of icing sugar and serve immediately.

For the crème Chantilly:
125ml double cream, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
15g icing sugar

1. Beat the cream and vanilla till frothy and add sugar.
2. Continue to beat mixture till cream thickens and forms stiff peaks. Fill the puffs with the cream when puffs are cooled.

I hope you enjoy making these!

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

Also check out my other food adventures.

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Get Cracking for Christmas with a Chocolate and Coconut Roulade

So we have been back in sunny Singapore for almost a week now, and yes, I have been rather quiet on the blog as I have been whisked away to a flurry of culinary activities. I haven’t been cooking or baking, just eating LOADS only to realise that my old pair of jeans doesn’t fit anymore – oh, the horror!!! I have covered all the local dishes that I want to eat in just one week. I’m even doing repeats on the hawker rounds. Do the math and you’ll realise why I’m exploding in my jeans. In some ways, I wish I’m stuck in the snow blizzard, which is all the rage in London now, so I might be snowed in and be deprived of evil things I call food. But given the foodie I am, my pantry will be bursting with things I could work with to create meals befitting the holidays, and I’d still be fat anyway. Can’t win, can I?

Case in point: Just before we flew back to Singapore, we had some coconut milk in the fridge, and of course the baking aficionado in me always ensure a plentiful supply of flour, eggs, and what-not in the pantry. I needed to clear the perishables, and I wanted to make something for Christmas before I lost the sole governance of my cramp but beloved kitchen, so I dived into my recipe books and searched for ideas.

Two Christmases ago, my cousin, MS, visited us from the States and I had made Delia Smith’s flourless chocolate log cake for the occasion. I remember approaching the recipe with much excitement as I was told that flourless cakes are incredibly light. It was also my first time making a log cake and I was rather nervous about rolling the cake up. The nerves were probably very, very appropriate because I was a novice then and naturally, the cake cracked when I rolled it up. My ego was bruised after that attempt, so was M, almost physically so, because I had thrown a hissy fit after disfiguring the poor cake. Although the log cake was delightfully light, airy and chocolatey, I refused to make one again because I was afraid of screwing things up. This year, I summoned the courage and gave the elusive log cake another shot.

M bought me a chocolate recipe book (Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce) about a year ago, and I have neglected it since I wasn’t confident of tempering with chocolate. I decided to try out the roulade recipe in the book this year and thought it would be lovely to give the cake a tropical twist by filling it with whipped coconut cream. It was a perfect idea, in my opinion. I could use up the residual coconut milk in the fridge. I could practise the ‘never-say-die’ attitude and try making a beautiful log cake. And I could have a little Christmas with M before we returned to Singapore.

But things are never quite perfect in reality. I did finish up the coconut milk. I did have a little Christmas with M. The roulade rolled up beautifully when it was warm, but when I rolled it again after the cake was cooled, it cracked! I was upset but to be honest, I kinda expected it. I am nowhere near being an expert at baking even though I have improved over the years. Thankfully for M, I am a lot more mature now and have learnt not to throw too big a tantrum if I fail in the kitchen. The roulade was delicious though. It was very moist and light, and insanely fragrant with the whipped coconut cream filling. I would say that the chocolate and coconut combination is a dream and really, a small stroke of genius. M loved the imperfect roulade very much. I loved it too, but I think I would be a teeny bit happier if the roulade didn’t crack. Third time’s the charm, and hopefully, I will make a perfect log cake on my next attempt.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Roulade with Whipped Coconut Cream Filling

For the log:
(adapted from Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce)

4 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
90g plain flour
10g cornflour
10g cocoa powder
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 and 1/2 tablespoons milk
10g icing sugar
Salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12inch by 8inch baking tray with parchment.
2. Beat yolks and caster sugar till mixture turns very pale and fluffy.
3. Sift and mix flour, cocoa powder together.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix till combined.
5. Add butter and milk, and beat to combine.
6. In another bowl, beat egg whites with icing sugar and pinch of salt till stiff peaks form.
7. Gently fold egg whites into the mixture from Step 5 until incorporated.
8. Spread this mixture evenly into the lined baking tray and bake for 11 minutes in preheated oven. Remove the tray from oven and cool the cake in the tray for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
9. Flip the cake onto a clean tea towel, leave the baking parchment on, and roll the cake up. You might need a rolling pin in the middle to guide the rolling. The tea towel should now be on the outside of the roulade and the baking parchment should be in the centre.
10. Hold the roulade in the log shape for about 2 minutes, unroll the roulade and cool completely before filling the cake with the coconut cream. My roulade rolled beautifully when it was warm but cracked when I re-rolled the cake after it cooled completely. Next time, I might leave the cake to cool in the log shape before unrolling it to fill, although this might affect the texture of the cake.

For the whipped coconut cream filling:
(own recipe)

280g unsweetened coconut cream (the part that settles above the water when you leave a can standing for a few days in the fridge)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Beat ingredients till light and fluffy.
2. Fill the cooled roulade, and roll roulade up.
3. Decorate with a sprinkle of icing shade and dark chocolate shavings if you like, just like I did!

Store the finished roulade in the fridge, and serve chilled.

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, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Homemade Scones For Tea

I was watching Nigella Lawson work her easy-kitchen magic on telly about two weeks ago, and there she was, waxing lyrical about the scones that she was about to make. She promised that the scones take only 15 minutes to materialise, and I was almost convinced that I should make them sometime soon.

You see, I am one who needs to be inspired to make something. Without inspiration, my cakes turn out dry, my macarons look like pimply teenagers and I sulk for the rest of the day just because. Where does this inspiration come from, you might ask? Sometimes, I just want to make something pretty. Most of the times, I want to feed people I love with good things. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing my family and friends enjoying what I made. Sad to say, we don’t get many opportunities to have people over all the time, and the only person I do really feed is my husband, M.

Since the feedback on my food is only about as varied as M’s fervent nods or halting ‘erms’, I am also inspired by practicality. Having learnt a lot more about baking and cooking over the past year, I have grown to love looking into my pantry and rummaging for stuff to make something delicious. The idea that I am making full use of whatever’s left in the kitchen and the idea that it could turn out to be something out-of-this-world excites me. Yes, I am a miserly food geek.

For the scones this time, I’m inspired by everything. Nigella Lawson made the baking look effortless. I had shortening that I bought for making mooncakes a while ago (and I couldn’t find any recipe else to use it in…). I also had one egg left, a little bit of butter much neglected in the fridge, lots of flour and milk just dying to be used before it expires. M loves a good scone. My sister-in-law was also chatting to me about how much her boyfriend misses scones. It was the perfect time to whip up some for an English tea-esque lunch to test Nigella’s recipe.

The recipe turned out to be beautifully easy. I put everything together very quickly with minimal effort, and the scones were ready to be devoured in all of 15 minutes, just as Nigella had promised. The scones were golden, nicely risen, slightly crusty on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside. We slathered the warm innards with butter and golden syrup or jam (we didn’t have clotted cream). It was divine! It costs nothing more than 50 pence to make six of these babies, so why in the world would I pay £5-20 for an English tea session outside the comforts of my own home? I say, make your own, save some money and have them warm and fresh, something that you can’t quite get when you’re out.

Here’s the recipe.

Scones
(adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)

165g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/3 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
8g vegetable shortening, cold and diced (I used Trex)
17g butter, cold and diced
100ml milk
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Line baking tray with parchment.
2. Sift flour, salt, bicarbonate and cream of tartar together.
3. Rub in shortening and butter into dry mixture.
4. Add milk and mix briefly for the dough to just come together as a sticky mass.
5. Add a dusting of flour to a work surface, and knead dough very gently till the dough just about stops being sticky (the dusting of flour will help reduce the stickiness).
6. Roll out to 2.5 cm thick and cut out with a 5.8cm cutter (mine has a crinkle edge and the 5.8cm refers to the round cutter that is found on the other side of the same mould). Brush with egg wash. You should get 6 scones out of this.
7. Plonk the dough pieces on the tray and bake for 9 minutes until golden and nicely risen.

Enjoy!

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Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

When the Mactweets Challenge: MacAttack #13 came around, I knew it was time to get some egg whites out and age them a little. We were warned that this was the 13th challenge, you know, the unlucky number for some, and guess what, I had a bit of an unlucky start this time! I was all ready to whip my egg whites up for Fall-themed macarons, and as luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, I spilled the aged egg whites before I could even grow feet on the macs. My clumsy hands in an over-packed fridge were very much like bulls in a china shop, I knocked the whites over, mopped up the gooey spill and mourned the tragic loss of my aged egg whites. I was ready to throw in the towel and skip this challenge but macaron gurus, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Eunice from Heaven in a Wild Flower assured me that fresh egg whites will whip up nicely anyway. Heeding their advice, I cracked some new eggs and separated the whites from yolks. There was no looking back and I was glad that I listened to them.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For this month’s challenge, we were asked to create macarons that spoke of what Fall meant to us. The first thing that I thought of was a piping hot cup of Japanese green tea in my cold, cold hands! I admit I did dream about sipping on a mug of hot chocolate about two seconds after I thought about green tea, but I felt that hot chocolate was a little too much for autumn, and better appreciated in the bitter cold of winter. I had wanted to make a matcha & white chocolate mascarpone filling (which I made last month and friends loved them), but I had a tin of adzuki bean paste in the pantry, just dying to be married to matcha already. I couldn’t deny a match made in heaven, could I?

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Whilst I am not a big fan of winter in London, I quite like autumn. Yes, most of the trees are bald in the blink of an eye, but the occasional tree is decked out in warm gold leaves that turn a seductive shade of mahogany. To me, it is the rarity of this sight that makes London very beautiful despite the cold and the ubiquitous bare trees. Regrettably so, it can get too cold to wander along the streets, and when that happens, what I love most is to curl up in my couch, with a duvet draped round my legs and a cup of hot Japanese green tea to sip on. With every cup of green tea, I also insist on having something sweet to nibble on. This is the ‘way of life’ that M and my sister-in-law, M have instilled in me. Both Ms are true connoisseurs of teatime accompaniments and I am glad that I have been well-taught.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For about two months now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with matcha, and have made cupcakes, polvorons, macarons and more cupcakes with matcha (posts to follow soon). There’s nothing I like more than having matcha-based pastries with hot green tea. The flavours are strong, yet subtle and so very alluring. Here, the sweet earthiness of adzuki beans are perfectly balanced with the bittersweet matcha & white chocolate buttercream. If you love matcha as much as I do, you might want to get cracking on these macarons in your own kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

For the macaron shells (makes 22 shells):
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)

55g egg white (these are not aged, and will turn out a little more chewy)
3g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
80g icing sugar
1 teaspoon green food colouring
Black sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Sift almond flour and icing sugar together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on the shell.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool. (I also dusted the shells with a little bit of edible gold lustre, they do give a nice sheen but they didn’t show up well on the pictures..)

For the Matcha & White Chocolate Buttercream:

55g white chocolate
40g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
5g matcha powder (you can add more if you like a stronger flavour, as the sweetness of ready-made adzuki bean paste can differ – See ‘Assembling’ section below)

1. Melt white chocolate and butter and leave to cool.

2. Beat in icing sugar and matcha powder until well-combined and creamy.

Assembling macarons:

1. Spoon matcha cream onto one shell.

2. Add one small dollop of adzuki bean paste on top of the cream.

3. Sandwich, and you’re done!

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Hope you enjoy making these and let me know what you think of the recipe!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey. And if you can’t get enough of matcha, you might like my Lychee Chiffon Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream Frosting.

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!

 

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Even though I don’t like winter very much, the last of autumn has to be given a proper farewell. In my opinion, there’s no better way to do it than to put a little bit of pumpkin in everything. Well, not everything, but you know, compatible things. Things like dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Yum.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I went into pumpkin overdrive lately, and bought one too many pumpkins. I made a pumpkin & walnut cake with cream cheese frosting for Halloween out of one, and the other was just sitting there on the table, sulking and looking very much neglected. It looked very handsome, nonetheless. Sunset orange, smooth, not the least bit scarred and very hard-muscled – literally. Oh well, someone’s gotta do the job and stick the knife in.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I really dread gutting a pumpkin. I’m the opposite of a gym bunny and carving a pumpkin gives me such an unpleasant and dangerous workout. The knife has to be exceedingly sharp, because the skin’s just impossible to get rid of. And I have to go in with such force, that many a times, I have almost lost a finger. Yes, gutting a pumpkin intimidates me. I spent a good half-hour wrestling this one to get to its flesh. Urgh, it was so not fun.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

But once I got to the core of the problem (pun intended), I blitzed the pulp into purée, made the most complicated version of brownies I have ever baked (usually brownies are so very easy because you just dunk everything in), and made M very happy with my take on Autumn’s farewell. Admittedly, I wasn’t very happy with the brownie when I sneaked a piece fresh out of the oven, whilst it’s warm and soft. It should be good, but it tasted half-hearted, like what Deb from Smitten Kitchen said. Neither chocolatey nor pumpkin-y. I was so disappointed. I chucked it in the fridge, hoping to never see it again, not knowing that the fridge and some sort of ‘ageing’ process were about to work its magic on these brownies. M and I had it for dessert after dinner that night, and I was just picking at it absent-mindedly when M exclaimed, ‘This is some good, really moist brownie!’. I was in a bit of a disbelief, thinking that he probably wanted to make me feel better. I took a bite, and damn, he was right! They were very dense, moist, and chocolatey, with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was how the cream cheese swirl got lost in the flavours (possibly because I used medium-fat cream cheese, rather than full-fat….silly Sainsbury’s ran out of the full-fat one, and also because I made very little of the cream cheese swirl).  It was still a solidly good brownie, nonetheless and I felt better about the day’s effort.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Here’s the recipe.

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirl
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen for brownie, and David Lebovitz for the cream cheese swirl)

Brownie part:
175g plain flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
160g 70% chocolate (I used Lindt)
205g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
295g pumpkin, blitzed in food processor to form purée
80ml sunflower oil
2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
40g blanched hazelnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Swirl part:
165g medium-fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 6 by 10 inch pan with baking parchment. Ensure parchment covers the sides of the pan too, so it’s easy to lift the brownie to cooling rack when everything’s done. Grease the parchment with some butter.
2. Combine plain flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Melt chocolate and unsalted butter to form a smooth mixture, and set aside.
4. Mix pumpkin purée, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg together and set aside.
5. Beat caster sugar, eggs, vanilla paste until fluffy and combined.
6. Add the flour mixture to egg mixture and beat till combined.
7. Meanwhile, beat the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl till combined and set aside.
8. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the chocolate mixture (from Step 3) and mix well.
9. Add the remaining (should be about 1/2 cup) flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the pumpkin mixture (from Step 4) and mix well.
10. Add a layer of chocolate batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 8 ) to the lined pan, followed by a layer of pumpkin batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 9). Repeat for another layer of chocolate batter. Now add the remaining pumpkin batter in blobs, alternating it with blobs of the cream cheese mixture (from Step 7). It is vital to work quickly because the chocolate batter sets pretty easily.
11. Swirl the mixture in the pan with a small spatula, making sure to work through to the bottom layer as the chocolate batter is quite dense. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.
12. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until set, whichever comes earlier.
13. Cool slightly in pan, then lift parchment out to cool brownie on a cooling rack.
14. Refrigerate when brownie is completely cooled, for flavours to develop and cut to serve. I think this would work well with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream too.

Hope you will enjoy making this! Feel free to leave comments!

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, Tastespotting and Photograzing. Check out my profiles on PhotograzingFoodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!