Monday, May 23, 2011

a bundle of nerves!

I can't believe how long it has been since I neglected this blog. It was close to being banished away forever and ever more. But fear not, I've always still reminded myself of why I started writing initially. Though I have not been trying out new recipes lately, nor have any exciting new baking experiments or techniques to share, I have still honed my baking skills, just in a entirely different aspect.

Well, it's with GREAT pleasure that I title this post "a bundle of nerves" as I calmly and excitedly announce a piece of news which contributed to my long absence. I'M GETTING MARRIED! Yes, you heard me! I'm getting married in just about a month's time and preparation is at its peak where I start fretting over so many details!

Since we're on the topic of weddings, I'd still love to stick to something baking-related. I had a crazy month of May attending THREE weddings, one after another on the first 3 weekends of May. Its with great pleasure, stress and fun that I had the honour to provide cupcakes and a wedding cake for 2 of the weddings. =D


A really cool, classic elegant wedding held at St Andrews Cathedral. I share a pretty long friendship with this friend of mine which dates back to our Secondary school days =)




She chose to have a cupcake tier with a cake right on the top tier. Design is inspired by hello naomi which featured a post on Brides.com here! I enjoyed every moment of decorating the cupcakes as there almost endless design possiblities! 



Really glad that the couple loved it and it was how she envisioned it to be! Congrats to you two lovely peeps! =D 


This pair of really cute funky couple whom I knew from a marriage prep class are one of the nicest, sweetest people I've met. In fact, all the couples in our prep class are really really nice and I'm glad to have attended each and everyone of their wedding! 

The groom is such a sweet guy, he wanted to surprise the bride with a real wedding cake. If you haven't know, a real wedding cake costs a bomb to have, well at least, here in Singapore. This 4-tiered wedding cake was the "tallest" cake I've made to date as I have only attempted maximum of 3-tiers prior to this! 

I definitely had wedding  cake-making jitters while I planned and executed the cake making schedule. Do not belittle the stripes! They look simple and gorgeous but they took me half a day to complete!!! I delivered the cake unstacked and only assembled it on the spot. Thanks to my handy tools and lovely assistants, we set it up in under 30 minutes and phew! The cake stood tall and straight for a good 4 hours or so =D

So now, having slogged for 2 of my friend's wedding, should I too slog for mine? I really wish too and D is discouraging me =p Any suggestions? Any experienced baker brides? I'd love to hear a comment or two =D

Till then....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CHRISTMAS!


Christmas is just around the corner and after all the dazzling goodies and log cakes, I must say I still love cookies the best! Though I haven't really been to orchard road to soak myself in the Christmas atmosphere and pretty lights these cookies sure edged me into the Christmas mood. From the dough, to the aroma when they're baking away in the oven, till the time their out and finally with that icing that makes all the difference (appearance I mean)! I'm so lovin it! =p



I'm ashamed to say that after years of baking, its my very first making a gingerbread man (though not gingerbread flavoured) but hey! it's still a milestone isn't it. haha. And the thought of those few wiggly lines, dots and ribbons making the whole gingerbread come to life, I couldn't contain that excitement and I knew I had to make a few more batches to give away as gifts. 

D was also really psyched when he saw those lying on the baking tray and immediately asked if I was free to bake some for his colleagues! Though it meant I had to spend more time baking extras (other than the order on hand), but it also meant some fun time together! Well, now I'm toying with the idea of making these for my friends. Packed nicely in a plastic pack, sealed and tied with a pretty ribbon, just how I love it!

Now, I hope I've spurred YOU (yes, you who is reading this post now) to get crackin and make some homemade goodies for your friends. Though "inexpensive", but sure packs a load of love and sincerity. No?

Recipe below!

Gingerbread cookies

Ingredients:
100g Salted butter, cubed and softened
  80g Caster sugar
    1   Egg Yolk
190g Plain Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (or Vanilla bean paste if you have)

Method:
1. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until well combined. 
    *Mixture doesn't have to be light and fluffy as we do not want the cookies to expand too much 
      during baking
2. Stir in the egg yolk until well combined.
3. Add in the flour, 1/3 at a time until a dough is formed. If dough is too soft to handle, cling wrap the dough and place it in the refrigerator for about 15-30 min to allow it to firm up a little. 
    *I usually split the dough into 2 and refrigerate one portion while I start working on the other. 
4. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchement paper in between 2 chopsticks (one pair) to ensure uniform thickness.
5. Get your favorite cookie cutter and stamp away! Gather the scraps and re-roll until the dough is used up. 
6. Place the cut-out dough on the baking tray and bake at 180C for 10-15 min (longer baking time require for larger cookies) or until the edges are lightly browned.

variations: 
Chocolate cookie
*Use 20g cocoa powder + 170g Plain flour instead

Orange/Lemon cookie
*Use 1 tsp or orange/lemon oil + finely grated zest of 1 orange/lemon

Royal Icing recipe

Ingredients:
2 tsp   Meringue powder
2 tbsp Water
165 g  Icing sugar

Method:
1. In a small mixing bowl, mix together meringue powder and water. Using an electric mixer, whip will soft peaks form.
2. Add icing sugar gradually and mix on high speed until medium peaks. *This consistency is good for piping
3. To colour (or flood the icing), add water, bit by bit until you get a consistency that resembles a syrup. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

Bloggers Meet-up!......in KL!!

I can't imagine how long has it been since I last blogged. So much has happened during the time I was absent and I must say that one of the best things was that I got to meet so many wonderful people during my short short trip to KL! I got to meet so many great bloggers from Malaysia (Wendy from table for 2 or more, Swee San from  and me, being REALLY honoured to be the FIRST singaporean blogger some of them have met! *drum roll please* =ppp

photo courtesy of Swee San

Photo courtesy of Pei-Lin

They are such amazing people, it must be one of the best things that happened to me while blogging! Travelling up north and meeting a bunch of strangers isn't the wisest thing to do. But, boy, was I glad I took the "risk"!

Pei-Lin was really nice and wanted me to have some real authentic malaysian food. Well, if you know Singapore and Malaysia well enough, you'd find it hard sometimes to distinguish the local hawker fares. We have much in similarity when it comes to food (with the exception of the price ) that sometimes it's a little difficult to trace the authenticity. But I learnt one thing on my trip up north this time is that, Hokkien Mee in Singapore = White and Malaysian Hokkien Mee = Black. Hang on, while you try to say "but". I know we do serve black hokkien mee in Singapore. However, the noodles used in Malaysia to fry the hokkien mee is different and somehow, it looked like udon to me when it was first served. Now, THAT'S a difference, right? One other thing I realised is that I think we're heavier on the seasonings here in Singapore. Despite calls to healthier eating habits, I think we do add a tad too much salt into our food. 

photo courtesy of Pei-Lin

Don't be fooled by the colour appearance of this dish, if you think it packs a punch of salt, you're wrong, but it does indeed pack a punch of flavours! What's really amazing is that it actually doesn't come with that bitter noodle after-taste you often get (if you know what I mean). To top off the goodness, the tiny pieces of fried pork lard, fried to crispy perfection was the oomph! you'd get in a mouthful! Well, of course, as the cardiologist would advise, we'd better stay away from lard for the better of our hearts. But hey! it's ok to indulge once in a while isn't it? =X

After the wonderful meal and relaxing trip, I was back to busy busy life as usual, typical city people and *ah hem* of course, with a tiny lazy bug planted deep within, this post got neglected and so was my poor blog. Besides the fact that I was lazy, the conversations that revolved around blogging, baking, food and more baking, made me ponder alot about the nature of blogging. The unspoken rules, manners, must-dos, don't-dos, suddenly made blogging seem like a daunting and scary thing to do, start or continue. 

And of course, I concluded on my own that blogging has evolved over the years and what initially started out as a "online diary", "personal log book", "personal journal", "a place to keep track of fill-in-the-blank", sometimes evolved into a responsibility (not for oneself, but for others) or even as a marketing tool. 

I have to admit that at some point in time, I felt pressure to increase readership and to make it more "happening". But at the end of the day, I want to still be able to enjoy blogging as much as I did before. I did not want blogging to become a pressure, a "homework" that I had to hand in every other few days, nor did I want it to be a burden of some sort. I don't doubt the internet as a very useful, fast and efficient tool, but I still do believe in blogging with sincerity and honesty. 

Note: 

This post is purely based on my personal opinions and generalisation and no particular person, blog or organisation were intended at. Any similarities, likeness are purely conincidental. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A prelude..

Well, before I get crushed under the amount of fondant I'm dealing with, let me sneak in a quick post. A short, quick one before I get busy and have no time for my blogoversary.

I haven't been treating this blog very well for some time now, but I still want to thank every single person out there who has came and who are still coming to read my shout-outs and ramblings. I hope those who have found my blog helpful in some way or another, be it related or non-related to baking, continue to spread and share the knowledge , tying in with the spirit of Christmas (which is to come).

There are just a few quick "announcements" I have to make =) Firstly, after struggling for months at my job as a laboratory executive, I finally made a decision to leave my footprints in the laboratory and continue my journey elsewhere. Here comes the exciting part! I am officially baking at Whisk and Fold (as a community baker) and my goodies are officially, legally up for sale!!  We're now operating from a NEA licensed kitchen which is also halal certified! 

Visit our website (www.sweetcouturecakes.com) for more details on how to place your orders! 

Continuing on this piece of news, we're also about to launch our christmas goodies in a week or two, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates!

Till then, an early happy blogoversary to loving baking! =D

Thursday, November 4, 2010

long overdue

If ever there was an overdue fine imposed for blogging, I would have lost my entire life savings by now. But, thank goodness no such rule was ever imposed, not now, and I hope, not ever.

However, that still doesn't give me an excuse to not to post as frequently. There were many changes and many still on-going, the thought of trying to juggle many things at once proved even more difficult and challenging than I thought. Since when has life has been a bed of roses? Sure enough there were good times, but it is also the bad times that made the good times seem even better. No?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not in some dire situation now nor am I facing bankruptcy. Just my two cents worth after busying around in a entirely different way. And as with all life matters and activities, it's a love-hate relationship. 

Anyhow, I havent been able to bake for leisure and for fun for sometime now, but I have definitely some backlogs that I've yet to clear. A colleague actually asked if she could come over to my place to bake a cheesecake for her boyfriend's birthday. Naturally I'd be more than happy to agree. Not being a cheesecake expert, she actually thoughtfully researched and e-mailed me 2 recipes she carefully selected out of the thousands.

So I decided to bake both at home, let her taste test and see which made her jump for excitement. 


First up! Chocolate marbled cheesecake. I never really had any affinity with beautiful, jaw dropping marble swirls and this was my *ah hem* lousy attempt in doing so. This cheesecake is pretty dense and rich with a distinct sour tang from the sour cream. The recipe actually called for creme fraiche but I decided it wasn't cost effective,hence I replaced it for sour cream. 


Next up! A rich, dense chocolatey chocolate cheese cake. The base was made with digestive biscuits with sugar and cocoa powder. The 100% chocolate cheesecake was a tad too rich for my liking and in my opinion would have scored a better rating if the base was a normal fragrant digestive biscuit base. Despite the full chocolate cheesecake, it was surprisingly better than the marbled cheesecake. 

So, we agreed that if you marry the both, base from number one plus cheese part from number 2, you'd get a winner. Of course we felt the whole chocolate thing was a tad too dull and plain and we played around with ideas such as, to add some ferrero rocher into it etc. 

And obviously, I haven't got to that part. I'm still clinging on to this thought though and hoping that it would materialise one day. =p


Have you ever had friends who known you for a lifetime and have seen your recent craze in this mad indulgence in baking and all that photos you posted on the blog, BUT, have never ever seen or tried your yummy bakes ever?

It's funny how I'm frequently caught in such awkward situations. Friends whom I've known for life have yet to taste a single cake/cookies/anything-i-have-baked. 

Deciding that it was too much for her to bear, and to show her unwavering, loving support she requested me to bake a black forest cake for her. And to be honest, I've never quite got around to baking a black forest cake. Although, it's kinda like THE birthday cake most of us used to get during our birthdays.

Nonetheless, I was happy to have embarked on this maiden attempt and have found this magical kirsch gel thingy that is packed with such strong alcohol content. It wasn't as difficult as I imagined and the chocolate curls really did save my life for the botched sides. They certainly are an easy way out for beautifying a cake =p

More details on the recipes soon! For now, I've gotta run!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chocolate crunchy mousse


I've been away for a while, but I haven't been idling! I have a few bakes that has been sitting in a folder on my desktop for a while now. If I wasn't going to post them any sooner, it may have been never. 

I wonder how many of you ever had a slice of the Guanaja, a chocolate cake from Rive Gauche. I had mine first at a friend's birthday dinner and fell in love with it ever since. That bittersweet chocolate accompanied with the slightly sweet and crunchy biscuit base was to-die-for. It had almost been forever that I tried to get the praline biscuit bottom right and I never truly succeeded. The next time I had a chance to sink my teeth into these delectable slices was during my younger sister's birthday back in April when I decided it was the best excuse chance to get this as a birthday cake for her. Everyone raved about the cake and as for me, I sat near the cake, chomping down as many as I could, hoping no one had really noticed.

The next few months were pure torture whenever I thought of and craved for this cake and finally my wish came true when my cousin bought that same cake for his sister's birthday in July. 

The attraction of this cake continued to mystify me despite the various attempts are trying out to formulate its composition. Finally! The opportunity emerged when I had much success with the Japanese dark pearl. I realised that the Japanese dark pearl was able to stay nice and moist despite being in the fridge which meant it could be the perfect sponge base for the cake I was dreaming of. Needless to say, the dark intensifying chocolate taste in the cake itself meant that I need not worry about bland chocolate flavours in the mousse.

I had, on many occasions, tried searching for a good praline feuilettine base to to no avail. I read that people replace feuilettine with cornflakes and I've tried and failed. The cornflakes were too hard to bite into and the corn taste was just too overpowering. I knew that if I didn't try it soon, it'll never happen. So, I went ahead, searched for various recipes and mixed and match, altered this and that. 


TA-DA! Here it is! My very own version of "Guanaja" which I call, "chocolate crunchy mousse". Now, I've got the taste right, but the presentation failed. The ganache topping cracked real badly over a night in the fridge. I have desperately tried searching for an answer but have found nothing really helpful. All I could speculate now is the temperature of the cake, ganache and fridge. The only logical explanation I have is that, the cake shrunk whilst in the fridge which caused the semi-set ganache to be "torn apart" during the contraction.

Does anyone out there meet with similar problems? Hopefully someone could point me to the right direction =)

Till then...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Japanese Dark Pearl Cake




For some unknown reason, baking with chocolate always seems like a whole new science to me. Sometimes the recipe works, sometimes it doesn't. And as such, recipes with melted chocolate always leave me procrastinating, longer than usual. 

This Japanese Dark Pearl cake is no exception. I recalled being soooo intrigued by Bee Bee's post, that I jumped right at trying it out. Baking chiffons has always been a challenge to me, and I dare say, many other home bakers as well. Heard of those horror stories of cake collapsing, shrinking, fell like a bomb from the chiffon tin, I've been there, done that. Having had much success with an orange chiffon, then a pandan chiffon, I wondered if I could move on to the chocolate chiffon. 

Well I thought with a scoff, that's simple, just substitute part of the flour with cocoa powder. Ain't that easy? No. Not until I saw aunty yochana's post of this mysterious Japanese Dark Pearl Cake via HoneyBeeSweets.
I saw the texture and colour of Bee Bee's cake and it was simply screaming "chocolate overload!!!". How else would you get such deep, intense chocolate flavour with just cocoa powder in a chiffon?! Duh, melted dark chocolate!

I jumped right at the chance to try it out, it was the moment recipe I was waiting for. Then I read the comments at aunty yochana's and saw a number of "failures" and the debate about whether there was enough flour. I left a comment at Bee Bee's and her success was an assurance to me, so ahead, I went. I can't remember exactly what was I trying to bake or assemble, but I recalled being totally defeated while mixing the batter. The flour was soooo little, the chocolate relatively more and the egg yolk/cocoa batter was so thick and gooey, my arms ached while mixing them together. Even my whisk threated to fall apart because of its sticky pressure.  For some very odd reason, I can't recall what happened after that. I couldn't even remember if the batter made it into the oven, and if it did, did it even made its way to our tummies. I could only conclude that the failure was so disastrous that my memory had even refused to recall that sad episode.

 
I chanced upon this Dark Pearl Cake back right where I first saw it last night and was determined to make it right this time. I must say that the bad experience hit so hard, I had trouble sleeping. Wondering if it would be a success and wondering if I would be wasting a good 150g of Valrhona chocoalte. -_-'''

By the time I gathered enough courage to go ahead with this once-failed-cake , I had to realised that:

1. my cream of tartar expired. Just great
2. I had ZERO baking soda. even better

I was stunned and literally stared at the bowl of melted chocolate. I thought "It's might not work anyway, just do it. And if it works, all the more better isn't it?" . How naive isn't it? Read on..

Since the failure of the last attempt, I decided the batter had to be much much lighter for it to have a slight chance of succeeding. So I decided to whip the egg yolks till ribbon stage and fold in the rest of the ingredients of the "cocoa batter". Things started to look a little optimistic when I saw a familiar "egg yolk batter" density. Being afraid that it would deflate fast, I rushed to wash the mixer attachment and went on at lightning speed with the whites. uh-oh. Mistake. No cream of tartar remember? 

I almost freaked out when I saw the once familiar lumps of egg whites, turning from a cloud of white to a puddle of almost deflated foam. Yikes. I stopped immediately and knew it was over-beaten. It's either gonna rise super high and collapse like the twin towers or it's not gonna rise at all. But I can't afford to dump all of it into the bin now! What a waste it'd be. So I went ahead with it, folded it in with much difficulty because overbeaten whites are so lumpy they are hard to incorporate without trying to break them up with more force. I ended up with a more watery batter than the usual chiffon batter, said my prayers and off in the oven it went. 

Surprise surprise! It rose, and almost to the brim in fact! But, the battle ain't over until the cake is out and cooled. And so I waited, and waited. The cake came out, though badly cracked, I couldn't care less. Not in comparison if it would survive the cooling. overturned. 

The cake shrank, no doubt, but not terribly or badly, just the way some chiffons shrink upon cooling. and yay! It hung on until it was time to unmould and my my, look at that tender crumb.Boy! was I glad I did not give up. As adventurous as it may sound, I start to wonder if it would have overflowed if I had baking soda and if the whites to beaten to perfection..hmmm

Nonetheless, the recipe proves to be a bake-able one. 

Looks can be deceiving so the ultimate test still lies in the taste buds. And this sure is a winner. Though, I must say it's quite unlike most chiffons. It's not as light, it carries a certain body to the cake but definitely very very flavourful with a deep, dark intense chocolate sensation. Contrary to belief, the chocolate in the cake did not make the texture dry. In fact, the cake is so moist, I could literally hear the "whoosh" as my fork went through the cake as I ate. 

And of course, don't take my words for real. Try it yourself and be convinced! 

Japanese Dark Pearl Cake

Cocoa Batter:

150 gm. Chocolate - chopped (I used 70% Valrhona Chocolate)
90 ml. water
100 gm. corn oil ( I used sunflower oil)
25 gm. cocoa powder (I used Valrhona Cocoa powder)
65 gm. cake flour
1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (substituted it with double action baking powder)
115 gm. egg yolks (I used 6 egg yolks)


Egg White Batter:


225 gm. egg white (~257g egg whites which is approximately 7 egg whites)
100 gm. castor sugar (I used raw sugar)
a pinch of salt (forgot to add it)
1/8 tsp. of cream of tartar (omitted it)



Method:
(1) Melt chocolate and stir till smooth. Add in cornoil slowly, stirring all the time till smooth. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and stir till smooth.   Whisk the egg yolks with ~30g of sugar (from the 100g) until pale and fluffy (ribbon stage). Whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together and mix together with the chocolate-oil mixture. Fold the beaten yolks slowly into the mixture, taking care not to deflate the mixture.

(2) Whisk egg white with cream of tartar till frothy, then pour in sugar gradually and then add in the salt. whiks till a soft peak is formed.
(3) Fold egg white into the egg yolk mixture and then pour into a 23" to 25 "  21" round chiffon cake pan.

(4) Bake at 175C  170C for about 45  40mins. or till cooked. till skewer inserted emerges with loose crumbs attached.

(5) Invert cake onto a cooling rack until completely cooled. Remove cake from pan and serve.

*Changes I made are in Italics.
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