Tag Archives: Baking

A Sweet Farewell to London…and Some News

I’ve procrastinated long enough on this teeny announcement. Or two teeny announcements, if you will. Some of you, whom I know personally, are already in the loop but I thought eight months is a long time to go on the blog without actually talking about it even in the most cryptic manner, so it is time to spill the beans. I had wanted to protect my privacy and keep the news all to my selfish self. The last I heard though, some naysayers have already caught wind of this anyway and I’ve been told by my loved ones that I should share the news because readers (who are still sticking around…I’m very happy to know you are, given that I barely wrote anything in the first three-quarter of 2012) would want to know, so here goes…

…I’ve moved back from London to Singapore for good, since eight months ago…and…I’m pregnant!

After five long years in London, I’m finally back home. Suffice to say that everything and yet nothing has changed since 2007. Suffice to say that I’ve done a whole lot of growing up in the UK, seen countless beautiful sceneries whilst travelling, made the most wonderful friends in the five years, tasted a decent portion of good food, started a blog that I thought no one would want to read, cooked/baked/photographed/styled my way from complete noob to amateur-amateur, interacted with the most amazing chefs, built a home from scratch (literally) and learnt a hell lot on ‘How to Live Life to the Fullest, Responsibly So 101’. I also found time to fall deeper in love with my best friend, get married, graduate with a doctorate and have a baby.

London is a big part of my life.

When it came down to the last second, to leave my home of five bittersweet years, I was devastated. The exit from London was pretty hasty. I quit my job, found out I was expecting (and hence decided that I should return to Singapore prematurely to prepare for delivery, I was supposed to leave London only in the summer of 2012), moved to Boston for six weeks as M was posted to Harvard, flew back to London for a night, switched my bags out for summer clothing and everything that I might need back home before speeding back to Singapore the next day. I didn’t really have time to say goodbye. To-date, I still keep the bucket list I had drafted for London and I hope that I will be able to return to the city one day to check the items off the list. I couldn’t even attend the Olympics events that I had bought tickets for.

The next months went by in a blur. There was so much to do with my relocation. I had to get my accounts, documents and life in order. I missed M terribly when he returned to London to finish up his studies. I went through pregnancy alone, save for support from my family and in-laws. None of the relocation bit, physical or emotional, was easy. The days started looking brighter when M came back, triumphant as a fully-qualified doctor after five gruelling years in med school. He packed up our flat in London as hastily as I had left UK, attended his graduation ceremony with his parents but without a very pregnant me, flew back to my arms in Singapore, sorted out whatever I couldn’t handle and supported me through the last trimester.

We had a heart-to-heart talk yesterday night before we fell asleep at 3.30am. It’s been a while since we chatted this much, for four hours in fact. And we both realised how different life is in Singapore. London was a dream. We lived life to the fullest, laughed and cried the hardest, seen the best and went through the worst. It was a city where we grew up the most as individuals and as a couple. It was our first real home together. Coming back to Singapore makes for an almost surreal dive back into reality, where we are suddenly challenged with obligations and responsibilities to others other than two of us, issues to do with fitting into the local culture and soon-to-be parenthood. Even though Singapore is our home, we haven’t got the slightest inkling as to what lies ahead and we will need to do to rise up to the challenges. One thing’s for sure; we are back now and we will make our lives here work. We will carve out new memories, strive towards new goals and conjure new dreams.

To celebrate the chapter that was London, and welcome the new that is Singapore, I prepared my very first dessert table before I left UK. I was challenged in every way, as I have been during my life in London. Different pastries and desserts to make on limited resources, thinking about what really mattered to me that would fit in with the theme, and putting it all together so it makes sense and gives heart. So there you have it, a blue-white-red presentation of a Victoria sponge, Marmite cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and macarons with rose buttercream, a true culmination of something that is quintessentially English, a little bit of what I have learnt to love and another that is a little cosmopolitan owing to the time I spent in Europe. I’ve also scattered the cards, letters, notes and gifts from family and friends around the entire dessert table just for…the two of us to enjoy. Shame I couldn’t offer the sweets to anyone else. Oh well, maybe next time.

Happy homecoming to us, and may we meet again, my fair London.

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Read on for my new journey as a mother.

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A Call For Celebration: The {Red Velvet Cake} Edition

Boy meets girl. They kinda like each other. They like each other enough to want to get hitched. Wedding bells rang. Then there was one of us. And another. And another. Decades later, they welcomed a grandchild. 39 years on, the boy and girl still love each other very much. I don’t know what their secret is to a long, successful marriage, but I know we have lots to learn from them.

Said boy and girl are my dearest Dad and Mum. For decades, they have stood by each other and raised the three of us, my brother, sister and me. They taught us to respect people, love others, work hard towards our goals, do the best we can regardless of the outcome and be gracious towards those who are unkind to us.

In a society flecked by fleeting relationships and featherlight commitment to people, it is hard not to be astounded by a couple’s 39 years of love, sheer hard work and understanding (not to mention doing this with three impish children in tow). How can we not celebrate?

I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than with a Red Velvet Cake. It is something that my parents have not heard of, and I thought it would be lovely to surprise them with something novel, just as how they have taught me new things every day of my life. It doesn’t help that a Red Velvet Cake is a stunning cake to look at and an equally delicious one to have when done properly. I tried my best to do the cake justice and I’m glad that this version brought a sense of wonder and satisfaction to my parents with its perfectly moist crumb and tangy, fluffy frosting.

Happy Anniversary, Mum & Dad! You are our role models and we can only aspire to be half as awesome as both of you are.

P/S: Pardon the mismatched styling – all my props are still in transit…..

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*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Decorating at Bea’s of Bloomsbury

You know that I have a rather hefty backlog when I write about something that happened…(more than) a year ago. I’m truly embarrassed but erm, better late than never right? Right.

I have been rather busy, just not in the kitchen, unfortunately; for the record, I’ve only baked thrice this year, all for M’s birthday. Lately, a spin round the bakeries had me thinking about cakes again. Baking remains very much a passion of mine, and I do hope to do it on a more regular basis when I have the time and resources. Nailing recipes for the right taste and texture aside, I do love to try and churn out pretty treats, something that I don’t achieve very often with my meagre talent for craft. As such, I have always yearned to attend a decorating course to help me along but these are often costly ventures that add up and being a miserly self-taught baker, I dropped the idea very quickly.

I was thus absolutely delighted when E invited me for a cupcake decorating class at Bea’s of Bloomsbury. She had won four passes and thanks to her, I got to attend my very first decorating class! I made my way to the bakery at Holborn on a weekday, eagerly anticipating the lesson to come. We were going to learn all about buttercreams, ganaches, and decorating techniques; all these fitted perfectly into my agenda. I was also excited to get to see and work in a professional kitchen.

We took down recipes on how to create the perfect frosting, made our own piping bags, practised writing with ganache, and of course, worked on perfecting rosettes and what-not on the cupcakes. I haven’t got the piping perfect, but oh well, I had loads of fun decorating my cupcakes! We even got to take two dozen of these babies home (vanilla and chocolate ones, smothered in an assortment of dark chocolate ganache, praline Italian buttercream and raspberry Italian buttercream). I particularly enjoyed the chocolate cupcakes, which were moist, very dark and chocolatey, yet fluffy. The frostings were wonderfully light and not the least bit cloying – my colleagues were a big fan of the raspberry buttercream, while I loved the praline.

Now, all this talk about baking and decorating is making my stomach groan. Excuse me while I go rummage in my kitchen for some emergency sweet treats, before somebody gets hurt.

*Updated: This post is featured on Tastespotting. Check out my profile on  Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

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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…

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

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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!



Happy Birthday, My Little Red Dot

London. A city where M and I chase our dreams, and perhaps even living other people’s dreams. It is fun and exciting. There’s always something to do. The summers are so irresistible and pretty that they make up for all the crap weather that rain relentlessly on us during other seasons. One smells freedom in the air – there are barely any boundaries to what we can do and where we can go.

Sounds perfect, no? Here’s the newflash – nothing is and ever will be. Despite everything we’ve got going on over here, all the milestones that we’ve crossed, and everything that we’ve achieved, we miss home dearly. We miss Singapore.

Some have fondly christened Singapore ‘The Little Red Dot’, for its incredibly small size, so small that it only appears as a red dot at the tip of the Malaysia Peninsula on the world map. But small it might be next to giants in the neighbourhood, Singapore is a whole lot of everything for us.

Singapore is love. Our family and friends are there. Our parents in particular have supported us in all the tough choices we’ve made, even though it is not easy for them. This year, I lived out one of my worst fears when bad news hailed from home. I’m just thankful to the big man upstairs that everything has blown over, and that home will always be home, with my family smiling back at me whenever they pick me up from the airport. Those smiles, hugs and the tender strokes on my head when I am feeling down, they are so very precious.

Singapore is everything else and beyond. Stability, efficiency, safety, we’ve got it going as perfectly as any other country can even dream of.

Think about all the social unrest in other cities. Right now, I’m thinking of the London riots and I shudder at how a developed city could descend into such chaos. Then my thoughts wander back to Singapore and realise how fortunate we are. As M put it very succinctly in one of our conversations yesterday – in London, we have to look out for places that are safe; in Singapore, we have to look hard for places that aren’t.

Things work as efficiently as they can possibly be in Singapore. Public transport letting you down? Trains not coming on time? The city crippled because of strikes? Trains packed to the point where you have to wait ages to board another one? Try living here. Getting banks/organisations to do what you went there to do – try waiting and people even die here while waiting in hospitals. I was in a horseback riding accident once and guess what, the nurse-led unit said I had to be flown to another city in UK to get an X-ray done. Go figure. (Well come to think of it, at least I could be flown, in other undeveloped countries, people walk for a day to get a checkup and even to give birth.)

My point is, every country has its trophies and skeletons. London offers many opportunities, both for carving out a livelihood and for leisure. It gives us freedom, the room to be creative and to think out of the box. But it is freckled. I’m sure there’s much to complain about Singapore too, seeing the debates that recent elections have sparked off. We don’t have that much freedom, we are controlled, some even say we’re puppeted, but I love The Little Red Dot nonetheless. After all, it is home. We have much to be proud of for a young, miniscule country with no natural resources whatsoever next to global giants. Our forefathers built our country with their very hands and little else. I hope we can go on and do the same for our children. Here’s to 46 years of independence and magnificent strides into the future, and more to come!

Happy Birthday, my Little Red Dot. We’ll be home soon.

[Photos: Palm Sugar and Coconut Salted Butter Caramel Macarons specially made for this occasion, from yours truly to you]

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

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

 

My Curry Puff Can Sing

M really, REALLY loves his curry puffs. That was the first thing I learnt about him when we were dating. Actually, maybe it’s one of two things that I first knew about M. The other is chicken curry, but since chicken curry is inside a curry puff, I suppose I could call it The First One-Big-Thing I knew about M. Now, M loves a good curry puff so much, that sometimes, I’m not sure which or who he would save in a fire – a puff or me. I’m not offended, because I mean let’s face it – a curry puff looks good and tastes good blistered and flaky – I can’t possible pull that off.

For his birthday last year, M asked me if I could make curry puffs for him. Well, I procrastinated, for a year, but thank goodness, my in-laws bought some Mr. Ting curry puffs and asked my parents to bring them over when they visited us in London. It was a sweet surprise for M. Almost a year later, I decided it was time to honour the request of my dearest husband. M decided to take part too, as he’s personally vested in this, so he made the chicken curry (a very thick version so we can pack it into the puff, you don’t want the curry to be making the pastry soggy…) with LOTS of tender, loving care. I’ve never seen him so focussed on getting the curry perfect for puffs. As for me, I used some of the pastry that was left over from making Portuguese egg tarts, and made more fresh puff pastry to accommodate the big pot of curry.

The result? Suffice to say that we were excellent partners-in-crime. The curry puff was perfectly flaky and fragrant, and yes, I would even go as far as bonkers-land to tell you that my curry puff ‘sings’! If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Yet, no frying was needed! This is definitely one of the best kitchen collaborations between us. We wolfed down two immediately, and exercised some self-restraint by popping the rest in the freezer. These kept well for a few weeks, all you have to do is to thaw the puffs out for a few minutes, and bake them as and when your craving hits.

The recipe for the puff pastry is the same as the one for my Portuguese egg tarts, except that I scaled the proportions of the ingredients up to match 200g of strong white bread flour. This should make about 10 large curry puffs. At Step 7 of the recipe, after cutting the pastry roll into 30g portions, with the cut side facing up (the orientation is very important because you want the flakes to appear like scales of a fish on the puff), press down each portion with the heel of your palm and roll out till you a circular pastry dough that is 12-15cm in diameter. Arrange the curry (preferably with a thick potato base i.e. add lots of potatoes in while cooking the curry, then mash the curry to create a thick luscious and dry-ish gravy) on one-half of the pastry circle, leaving a space round the edges for sealing. Bring the two halves of the circle together and seal by making indentations with the tines of a fork. Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes. If you want to keep them, freeze them before baking and let thaw for a few minutes (not too long though because you don’t want the butter in the pastry to melt – if that happens, the pastry wouldn’t puff up nicely and that means your puffs won’t sing like mine do, no Grammies!), then bake as per instructions.

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Just Because I’m Hungry

I was looking through the thousands of food photos (I’m not kidding, I think I have accumulated at least 10000 this year…) that I’ve taken, and went cannibal-listic when I came across this one. I made tau yew bak (braised pork belly) as a supplement to the steamboat reunion dinner for Chinese New Year in February 2011. After hours and hours of patient simmering, I was pleased to know that friends really loved this dish, and even complained that there wasn’t enough. The pork belly practically melted in the mouth, and I wish I had put on a pot of this for dinner tonight. With a steaming hot bowl of rice please.

And I want this too – a heap of cornflake caramel drops, my favourite snack to make for Chinese New Year. So easy to make and even easier to devour…

Someone feed me please, because I’m too lazy to cook tonight!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

Also check out my other food adventures.