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Christmas Is Here: Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

Christmas is just around the corner. Are you busy wrapping up your work to prepare for a week’s worth of feasting and gifting? Well, for me, I have finished work for the year and aside from packing, tying up loose ends, spring cleaning and cooking for dinner parties, I’m mostly relaxing in the apartment, idling when I can and savouring some me-time and time with my husband.

For five years now, Christmas has mostly been rather quiet for us. If we’re not back in Singapore to celebrate the season with our families, we spend the holidays all wrapped up in the freezing cold, with each other in our cosy home. The shops are almost always closed during Christmas Eve and Day in Europe, and unlike Singapore, there’s nowhere to go during the holidays. At first, this came as a bit of a shock, because we didn’t know where to get groceries, or even a bottle of mineral water if we happen to be travelling. Over the years, however, we have come to appreciate the quiet time that is Christmas.

When there is nothing else to distract us, we focus on being with people. I’m not just talking about merry-making, but we catch up, talk about hopes and dreams for the new year, learn more about each other or about our friends and families, and most importantly, we appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful people in our lives. It is afterall the season of Joy and Love.

What better way to spend quality time with people whom you love than to sit around on the floor, huddled together under thick duvets by the drafty windows, laughing over mugs of hot chocolate? What better way to say thank you to your loved ones with a cosy dinner at your home? And what better way to send them home with good memories of the night, each with a bag of warm cookies in hand? I honestly can’t think of better ways to celebrate the season than with good food and good times together, but that’s just me.

Wherever you are, whatever you do and whoever you are with, I hope you enjoy the holidays. And I wish that the new year will bring you love, happiness and good health.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Here’s the recipe for my Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies, if you’re interested:

Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies:
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

230g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g soft light brown sugar
50g liquid glucose
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g 70% chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Lindt)
100g flaked coconut

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Beat butter, sugar and glucose on the stand mixer with a paddle attachment for about 8 minutes on medium speed till creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat at medium speed till combined (scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after each addition to incorporate the unmixed parts). Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the vanilla extract.

4. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the roughly chopped chocolate chunks and flaked coconut.

5. Arrange 6 tablespoon-sized drops of cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Ensure that these drops are spaced well apart (more than 2 inches apart) to allow for expansion. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-9 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. At this point, the cookies will be quite flat, and frighteningly soft and pliable. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

6. You can choose to eat them while they are warm (not hot!) and wash them  down with a glass of cold milk, or have them at room temperature. I like them warm. When the cookies have cooled completely, store them in an air-tight container. These cookies should remain slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Enjoy!

*Updated: This post is 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.

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Death By Chocolate Cake

Would you like to die a death by chocolate cake…? Or more specifically, a death by my Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake? I didn’t know what I was thinking when I decided to whip up this evil thing for a dinner party for our friends, S & C. I probably wasn’t, because I could have killed someone with it.

I think there are different ways to depart this world with this cake. I could have suffocated S or C or M or myself by smothering one of us with the thick, luscious, smooth sour cream chocolate icing, which in a warped kind of role-reversal, is dying to be licked too. I could have choked one of us to death by clogging the throat up with greedy morsels of deep, dense, and very chocolatey cake. Or, I could have dehydrated someone by making one of us weep to death after my rich salted butter caramel has blazed a trail on the tongue, with that tiny savoury-sweet-buttery dribble threatening to leave the corner of one’s lips. Oooh, to kill or not to kill, my caramel has conscience and it ponders.

They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. I say that nothing is ever worth living if  we don’t die a Death By Chocolate Cake. It is an arguably good way to go; you see, you leave this world with your teeth stained with chocolate, no one judges you for that, you get endorphins buzzing in your head, and then you sigh and go to heaven. So, why not?

P/S: No humans were killed in the making and consumption of this chocolate cake, unfortunately…

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Now, go slaughter someone you love with this too (and by the way, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear this evil doing from me):

Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake
(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Makes an 8-inch two-layered, ironically, round weapon

To choke someone with the cake:

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
40g cocoa powder (I used Green & Black)
150ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven (fan-assisted) to 160 degree Celcius. Grease and line two 8-inch sandwich tins.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. Beat in the softened butter to the ingredients in step 2.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sour cream, eggs and vanilla paste till well-mixed, and then add this in a stream-like fashion to the flour mixture from step 3 and beat till everything is well-combined.
5. Pour the batter into the greased and lined sandwich tins (make sure both get equal amounts of batter) and bake for 26 minutes, rotating the cake tins halfway through if your oven has hotspots. You don’t want to overbake these as people might go to hell instead of heaven if you do…26 minutes work well for me, but if you want to check yours, the cakes should just begin to shy away from the edges of the tins, and the skewer should come out almost clean when inserted. Cool the cakes in the tins on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out directly onto the rack to cool them further. In the meantime, work on the salted butter caramel sauce.

To set one’s tongue on fire with the salted butter caramel sauce:

100g caster sugar
55g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
100ml whipping cream

1. Melt sugar and butter in a saucepan, and caramelise to copper colour (be careful not to burn it). Keep stirring during this process, and keep a watchful eye. Add the salt whilst stirring.
2. Scald the whipping cream in another saucepan (it should be shy of coming to a boil).
3. Remove the caramel from Step 1 from the heat, and add the cream. Be careful here, as the mixture will bubble vigorously and might splatter onto you. Stand far far away, with gloves on as you stir the hot cream and caramel together to form a smooth sauce. You don’t want to die looking like a blistered chef, that defeats the purpose of making this cake as the chef isn’t supposed to die. Let the caramel sauce cool down before use. Next, work on the icing.

To smother someone to death with the sour cream chocolate icing:

150g dark chocolate (I used 85% Lindt, broken up into small pieces)
105g unsalted butter
150ml sour cream (room temperature)
75ml whipping cream (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250g icing sugar, sifted

1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a microwave (do this in 20-second blocks because you don’t want to overheat the chocolate and cause it to seize), or if you prefer, do it bain-marie style. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.
2. Gradually stir in the sour cream and whipping cream, vanilla paste and the golden syrup.
3. Slowly add the sifted icing sugar and combine till smooth.

Now, to assemble the weapon:

100g blanched hazelnuts, blitzed to tiny chunks in the food processor

1. Outline your serving plate or cake stand with strips of baking parchment, and sit your cake on top of strips, such that the edges of the cake are actually on the parchment pieces.
2. Spread the cooled salted butter caramel on the first layer, and then top it up with the second cake layer.
3. Pour the chocolate icing over the assembled cake, and let the icing flow down the sides while smoothing the surfaces with a palette knife.
4. Propping up your cake at different angles, pat on the blitzed hazelnuts on the sides, and leave the cake to set in the fridge till the icing is less gooey (it should still be sticky though). Remove the cake from the fridge when this is so. Carefully remove the parchment pieces from the plate/stand. You should get a very neat-looking cake.
5. Now, serve the cake to your unsuspecting guests. Remember, you didn’t hear it from me!



Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache

When the very talented and prolific Shulie, writer of Food Wanderings, approached me on Twitter to do a guest post for her tree-nut free macaron series, I was, first and foremost, starstruck and busy thanking the high heavens that I was hiding behind a Twitter profile in my unkempt getup so Shulie wouldn’t be able to see how flabbergasted I was. Within two seconds of losing my cool, I realised the dangers of crossing into tree-nut-free macaron zone……and right about 3 seconds later, I grew acutely aware of the itch in my hands to experiment in the kitchen again. Just so you know, the adrenaline rush did the trick and I said yes. Of course I would say yes, it’s Shulie, and we’re talking about macarons here!

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am obsessed with eating them, and I am equally obsessed with making them. I’ve created a multitude of flavours over the past year but to make a tree-nut free one sounded pretty daunting to me. I mean, aren’t almonds the very soul of macarons; if we do away with almonds, which are tree nuts, would I still find feet? Would it still be a….macaron?

I was hesitant, and very intrigued at the same time. It would be wonderful to make this work, however challenging it might be, because people do suffer from tree nut allergies (take Shulie’s son for example) and I hate to know that he can’t enjoy macarons if they were made of almonds. So I did my research..if you don’t know already, the tree nut family is annoyingly large. Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia -almost every nut you can think of is a tree nut, except peanuts, which are legumes. Just working out the base of the macaron shells was extremely challenging. Predecessors in Shulie’s tree nut-free macaron series, however have managed to make tree nut-free macarons work using pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanut flour and cocoa nibs. I wanted to add on to this variety and soon found myself browsing the aisles of specialist stores, but the answer was right under my nose all this while – sunflower seeds. Now, sunflower seeds are a good source of nutrients and boast a distinctively nutty flavour with a sweet-ish aftertaste; these were just perfect for the shells. The sweetish nutty aroma was a perfect marriage with the salted white chocolate ganache that have been infused with the deep earthy flavours of black truffles; I was very pleased with these macarons.

I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I have enjoyed making them. Most of all thank you, Shulie, for inspiring me to push boundaries with traditional recipes. I’m glad to have helped create yet another tree nut-free macaron recipe to add to your wonderful series; most of all, I’m happy to be able to offer macarons to everyone who couldn’t have them previously. No one should miss out, and it’s all thanks to your thoughtful initiative, Shulie!

Before you go, you HAVE to hop over here for the rest of the post and I promise you, more photos of my Sunflower Seed Macarons with Black Truffle Salted White Chocolate Ganache await (I am very proud of this food styling approach I used this time….)! You will also get your hands on my recipe, so please go over now! Say ‘aye’ to nut-free macarons, and say hello to the lovely Shulie too! Oh, if you’re visiting from Shulie’s, a BIG hello and warm welcome to you!

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

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

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The Pink Monster Is Here. Again.

My not-so-sincere but sombre apologies to everyone who hates pink. I’ve created a fluffy pink airhead. Yes, I did it again. I mean, I can’t help it, can I? Just look at it, just look at it! Yes it’s pink, but it’s pretty. Like these other ladies who look so alluring in shades of passion. Come on, admit it, you like this. Even if it’s pink… Urgh, forget it, memyselfandI like it, and that’s good enough reason for its existence.

I made Miss Legally Blonde’s reincarnate here, only two days after birthing this pretty lass. Sometime in February this year, I must have been bitten by the lovebug after Valentine’s Day. Pinks and reds were synonymous with amore, as were lychees+raspberries+rose with bites+of+heaven. I couldn’t run away from it. I just had to put these flavours in every single thing I made., well okay, except the curry puffs that sing..(that’s another story). M must have been sick of all these fruity and floral notes in February, not that I really cared…

Making this isn’t complicated at all, contrary to what I thought when I first tried The Ispahan (yes that’s her name). It’s much like making macarons, only bigger! Instead of making a white chocolate ganache base for the filling, I opted for a more weightless alternative – very much befitting an airhead – and made a lychee-and-rose infused whipped cream. This also means that you can’t mature the Ispahan as you do with macarons. The whipped cream is wetter than ganache, and will make the shells soggy. Assemble the Ispahan only when you are about to consume it – that’s the way you should have my version – young and airhead-ish.

Here’s the recipe:

The Ispahan
(Makes 2 Ispahans from 4 shells)

For the shells:

50g egg whites, aged
2g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
60g icing sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid red food colouring (depends on desired intensity)

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 (10cm diameter) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a ‘skin’ is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 11 minutes. Rotate the tray and then bake for another 9 minutes.

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

For the filling:
4 pieces of canned lychees, diced finely
250ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons essence of rosewater
1 teaspoon lychee liquer
1 teaspoon canned lychee juice

1. Whisk whipping cream will frothy, add caster sugar and continue to whisk till thick and of piping consistency. Do not over-whip the cream as it will split.

2. Add essence of rosewater, lychee liquer and lychee juice to the whipped cream and whisk gently to combine.

3. This cream can keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Assembling The Ispahan:

You will need the cooled shells, the cream, 12-14 raspberries and some edible gold lustre.

Note: Only assemble when you’re about to consume or serve this. Once assembled, serve immediately.

1. Pipe the whipped cream onto the centre of the shell, and arrange raspberries around the edge.

2. Add a dollop of diced lychees to the centre of the piped cream (where the large lychee is in the photo –> the intact lychee was added for photo-taking purposes as it looked prettier than a bunch of macerated lychees…).

3. Pipe more cream over the top of the lychee layer (same circumference as the first layer of cream). Also pipe more cream in teardrops between the raspberries.

4. Cover the top with another shell and add raspberries to the top to decorate.

5. Brush the top shell with some edible gold lustre, and dust more lustre on top of the raspberries to create the speckles you see in the photo.

If you love lychees, check out my lychee chiffon cake or my lychee mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures macarons here! I’ve also made a cake version of The Ispahan, which the editors of WordPress.com really liked, so do drop by and have a look!

*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!

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 Prettiest Cake I’ve Made – Ispahan


Mention lychees, rose and raspberries in the same sentence, and the first person you think of is Pierre Hermé, the one pastry chef I truly revere, and the one man I might actually kiss, other than my husband (shhhh, it’s our secret). If you’ve followed this blog since I started, you would have seen how I’ve progressed in the kitchen and how I became increasingly obsessed with macarons and other pastries. Pierre Hermé is the source of my inspiration; his dexterity with pastries is something that I can only dream of, not here but in a parallel dimension. Yes, he is that good.

I love his creativity and his works of art so much that every other friend of mine seems to think I’m a nutcase for his sweets now, and I was very generously gifted one of his cookbooks for my birthday last year. I have yet to actually use any of his recipes, for fear of getting them totalled in an ugly accident that (trust me) will be reality in my incompetent hands; but one day, when I’m good enough, I will plough through each and every of his recipes (they are in French though…) and hopefully, delight my friends with the creations. For now, Pierre Hermé remains a dream that seems too good to be true, and I only aspire to be inspired.

I have managed to tackle the tricky business of macarons, and now, I yearn for more. Iconic and truly delightful, the beautiful combination of lychee, rose and raspberry was first created by Pierre Hermé and it seemed like the perfect way to get started. Yes, my dears, I’m working my way into the heart of Monsieur Hermé.

To you, the Ispahan cake I’ve made here probably isn’t a product of inspiration; the truth is you could probably find it in any pâtisserieBut to me, this cake is a bit of a big deal. I’m used to making slapdash easy-peasy cupcakes, brownies, cakes, cookies and macarons, but an entremet? That’s a tall order. Entremets are refined, very pretty layered and textured mousse cakes that don’t do very well when poked by stubby, careless fingers like mine. Getting them to look perfect is a real challenge for me, and I was terrified of making my first entremet, but I guess, I have to start somewhere if I want to be more prolific in pastry-making. So I hope you’ll see why this Ispahan cake represents a more accessible way in, to that Pierre Hermé cookbook that has been sitting on my shelf for more than half a year, and also to more good things that will hopefully turn up in my culinary adventures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my first entremet to you, possibly not the prettiest cake you’ve seen but definitely the prettiest cake I’ve ever made. It is not perfect, but I hope to make it so one day. For now, the flavours tease and delight, as they should and as they did when I first had an Ispahan years ago. The sweetness of lychees, tartness of raspberries and lingering aroma of rose bring a sensual touch to this cake. It’s hard not to be drawn in, even M loved it. For me, I was extremely pleased to see it come together (as opposed to it falling apart…). Here’s the recipe that I tweaked from Okashi to include the signature Hermé flavours of lychees, rose and raspberries, and I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did!

Ispahan Cake

Makes two 4.5cm (diameter) cakes and one 15cm cake
(adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

Special Biscuit Sponge

15g corn flour
15g plain flour
17g unsalted butter, melted
45g egg whites
40g egg yolks
40g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line 15cm by 25cm tray with baking parchment.
2. Sift flours together, twice, and set aside.
3. Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Add 1/4 of the sugar and beat briefly, before adding in the remaining sugar. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy peaks are formed.
4. Lightly beat the egg yolks, add them to the meringue made in step 3 and gently mix till combined. Do not overmix.
5. Sift the flours again, into the batter from step 4 and fold the flours in gently till batter is glossy. Pour the melted butter into this mixture and fold gently to combine.
6. Pour batter into the lined tray, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
7. Once baked, remove sponge from the tray and cover it with a clean tea towel. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Flavour for the sponge

35g water
12g caster sugar
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. In a saucepan, heat up water and sugar to make a sugar syrup. Remove from heat and add lychee juice, liquer and rosewater essence. Stir to combine. Set aside and let cool.
2. When sponge is fully cooled, cut out (diameter) 4.5cm and 15.5cm round pieces with the mold rings.
3. Brush sugar syrup from step 1 over the sponge cut-outs.

Crème Mousseline

235g whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
20g plain flour
5g corn flour
135g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon lychee liquer
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater

1. Bring milk and vanilla to boil in a saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar till mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add flours to this and mix well.
3. Pour the hot milk from step 1 to the egg mixture, and fold to mix thoroughly. Return this to the saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir continuously. This forms the pastry cream. Beat the pastry cream, whilst in the saucepan, until smooth, thick and glossy. It should resemble the gloopy filling you see in cream puffs. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and transfer the pastry cream to a clean tray. Cover the tray with cling film and let cool in the freezer. Do not allow it to freeze.
4. In a clean bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add the cooled pastry cream and beat until combined. At this point, beat in the lychee juice, liquer and essence of rosewater. This is your crème mousseline.

To assemble

100g raspberries, halved
7 lychees (I used canned ones), drained thoroughly and quartered

1. Place the flavoured sponge cut-outs into the respective mold rings.
2. Pipe a thin layer of crème mousseline onto the sponge. Spread this evenly (you want uniform layers so the entremet looks pretty).
3. Arrange the halved raspberries, cut-side facing out, against the inner surface of the mold ring. Arrange lychee quarters and remaining raspberries in concentric circles as you move inwards from the outer edges. Note that for the smaller mold ring, you won’t be able to put in extra raspberries in the middle, there will only be enough space for lychees.
4. Pipe another layer of crème mousseline on top of the raspberries and lychees and make sure you level this layer of crème (remember entremets need to be pretty and neat when you unmould them!). Place the cake in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Next, prepare the Ispahan jelly.

Ispahan Jelly

70g water
1 tablespoon canned lychee juice
1 tablespoon essence of rosewater
5g sugar
3-4 raspberries, washed
2g gelatine sheet, soaked in ice water to soften
1/4 teaspoon red food colouring

1. Bring water, lychee juice, essence of rosewater, sugar and raspberries to boil, remove from heat and then add softened gelatin sheet.
2. Run mixture through a sieve to remove any debris. Let cool slightly before using (but do not allow it to set).
3. Remove the cake from the freezer and gently pour the sieved liquid on top of the crème mousseline. Leave to set overnight in the fridge (mine took only a few hours, but best to do it overnight).
4. To unmould, warm sides of the mold ring with a warm towel. You will need to do this a few times before you even attempt to unmould it. Unmoulding the cake prematurely will only create mess, so make sure you do this after you’ve warmed the mold ring sufficiently!

If you love lychees, check out my lychee chiffon cake or my lychee mascarpone & Emperor’s Seven Treasures macarons here!

*Updated: This post was featured on Freshly Pressed on WordPress.com! Check out my other Freshly Pressed post hereThis post has also 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.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lime & Ginger Whipped Cream

I’m not always a chocolate-and-cream kinda girl. Sure, chocolate comforts and soothes my soul, but sometimes, I like a little zing in my sweet treats. There’s something about citrusy bites that puts a spring in my step, that makes me feel like spring/summer is around the corner. Perhaps it’s the bright yellows and greens or that burst of orange, but yes, occasionally, I like to dish out sunny cheerful bakes in my kitchen. Besides, M loves tangy treats more than sweet ones, and we were calling out desperately for winter to ‘go-away-already!’ as January slipped by. Those were good enough reasons for me to bring a little zing into our home.

I happened to have some lemons, limes and ginger lying around the pantry, and if you don’t know already, nothing pleases me more than to put something together with what I already have at home. I’ve said before that ‘waste not’ is something I’d like to practise in my kitchen, and it makes me happy that indeed, nothing goes to waste when I manage to conjure something out of ingredients that might have otherwise landed in the bin. Since I always have butter, flour, sugar, eggs and milk in my kitchen, it seemed pretty obvious that I should make some lemon cupcakes with lime and ginger whipped cream.

The lemon and lime combination was a no-brainer. Trying to get the ginger into the party was a little tricky. I wasn’t sure if it would worked, but in my head, a subtle heat that comes through after all that tanginess, seemed pretty damn fine. As I was expecting guests that evening, I didn’t want to overwhelm them with something too adventurous, and added only a teeny bit of ginger juice to the whipped cream topping. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when one of my guests said she doesn’t like ginger and was glad that she couldn’t taste it. You see, I really like ginger myself, and would have preferred a stronger flavour to come through. Oh well, I’m going to be heavy-handed with the ginger next time. Otherwise, the cupcakes were moist and citrusy, and gently perfumed with the smells of summer. The whipped cream lent a certain lightness to the cupcakes, and it made for a (deceptively) guilt-free treat!

Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Cupcakes with Lime & Ginger Whipped Cream
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

For the lemon cupcakes:

Makes 12

120g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
100ml whole milk
20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with muffin cases.
2. Beat flour, sugar, baking powder, zest and butter in a mixer at slow speed until combined.
3. Gradually add the milk and lemon juice and beat at the same time until just incorporated.
4. Add the egg to the batter and beat till mixture is smooth.
5. Spoon the batter into muffin cases until each is 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean after being inserted. Do not overbake as it can dry out. 6. Leave the cupcakes to cool sightly in the muffin pan before turning them out to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the lime & ginger whipped cream:

1 and 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus extra for decorating
1/4 teaspoon juice squeezed from freshly grated ginger (you can increase this to 1/2 or even 1 teaspoon, adjust to taste)
200ml whipping cream
2 and 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar (adjust to taste)
A very, very tiny drop of liquid green food colouring (you want a very pale jade cream)

1. Whisk cream, ginger juice, zest, colouring and sugar till stiff peaks are formed.
2. Frost cupcakes and decorate with sprinkling of grated lime zest.

*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.

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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!

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