Sunday, January 10, 2010

mini treats

Some two to three weeks back, I received an SMS from a uni classmate to bake some stuff for a taste-test session. My friend got to know someone who works for an organisation which intends to start a nice chill-out cafe. They're looking for home-bakers who could possibly in the future, use their kitchen facilities and supply yummy home-baked treats to the public. I said YES! immediately.

I had not much idea what the concept really was and so, I decided to and was tasked to start with something small and simple and that'd be muffins. Muffins are extremely easy and versatile and the combinations are endless once you've found a real good base recipe.

Since it was going to be a taste-test session, I made them mini, so the testers could taste it whole, without feeling really bloated, not forgetting that there are other items to be tasted as well.

 I had previously had an order for some cookies and cheesecakes. So, I took the opportunity to bring some of the cheesecakes for the taste-test session as well. Too bad, no pictures of the cheesecake as I was in a hurry to leave before any photographs could be taken. I baked the cheesecakes in cupcakes cases which:

1. Is small and easy to eat, hence people might be more receptive to buying it off to just satisfy a craving
2. It takes ALOT less time to bake as compared to a whole cake which means you can whip up many many more batches as compared to baking whole cakes.

Well, I have no business experience and I can safely say I'm a total noob at such marketing and branding stuff..but those were my two points  two cents worth of opinion..

Nonetheless, my sister's boyfriend managed some really good pictures which were taken right outside my house at the small mini garden. Muffins are traditionally breakfast foods, so what better way than to photograph it in a garden accompanied with some milk? Sounds like a really nice and relaxing way to start a fresh,crisp morning.

The verdict? The boss liked it because of the nice, permeating buttery fragrance! I recalled trying this recipe sometime back with canned blueberries. My sister complained of the lack of blueberry flavour. So this time, I experimented with using blueberry pie filling and I think I'm almost there. Probably a little blueberry jam would do the trick? The chocolate chip was as usual, as always, a hit. Everyone loves chocolate, don't they? But of course, as with everything else, there are always exceptions.

In any case, I'm geared for more taste-testing sessions of what might sell in a nice chill-out cafe..and of course, I need to find my signature pastry. I've been thrown this question more than 3 times now "What's your signature bake?" and all I could revert was a jaw-dropping, blank face. I think it's high time I perfected and created something unique to ME.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010

It's 2010! In fact, it's the second day of 2010 and days are already going by in a flash! I was on a unintended mini hiatus for blogging for various reasons and I felt I was losing my mojo for writing. Not that I write with exiciting content and flowery language, but I felt the flow. It was nice to be able to vision what I'd be writing whilst photographing certain things and nice to write in an honest, "me" way.

I've had friends coming up to me saying I write pretty well, but seriously, I don't. My english ain't fantastic and my grammar is just terrible. But I guess what makes my posts readable is that I type what I think. Or rather, you'd probably be able to imagine me talking to you, in real person. ok ok, I'll cut praising myself.

Well, just as I thought I lost my blogging spirits, each visit to my own blog, yes, I am that lame to visit my own blog several times a day, reminded me of why I started out this blog initially. I wanted to share my experiences and hopefully my experiences will help others who just sparked their passion for baking. I don't think I've achieve much of that in 2009 but rather, I detoured. So with the coming of 2010, there are as usual, a truckload of resolutions. To keep things simple and realistic for the nth time, I am going to work hard on posting more recipes and tips for baking. Not that I'm a guru of any sort, but rather, I just share what I learnt along the way.

Work has definitely slowed my baking stints but it is not, and i'm not, going to let it diminish forever. Several events have taught me hard and I believe it's all because I jumped on the band wagon too fast than I could have caught up or handled. I fell, I tripped and lost sight of it, but I am not going to let it affect what I set out to do. It's back to basics in 2010.

Enough of nostalgia and I-don't-know-what-you-are-saying riddles. To end off 2009 (yes, I know it is already over) and to welcome 2010, I've decided to finish up my 2009 backlogs and welcome 2010 with open arms.

I envisoned baking up a storm last Christmas but once again, fell short of what I plan to do. What's new anyway. I still managed baking, but it was a mini baking class for a church mate, JiaJia, who planned to bake on her own to be given away as Christmas gifts. Why would I not jump at igniting a spark of baking passion in someone else? I did, and I almost regretted. It was a busy weekend and weekends were all I had to rest and recuperate for the next working week. Since it was a promise, I had no choice but to force myself and I was glad, she made it. Almost all by herself. I was a bad teacher as I was busy making macarons for a friend's macaron order while I left her all by herself, struggling with the hundreds of cookies =X

That's my church mate JiaJia

I am always amazed at how things turn out with unexpected rewards and I guess these are little things in life that provides you with the zeal to move on and venture into more exciting fields. Right, I was kinda exaggerating. All I wanted to said was that, I finally got the chance to use the Disney cookie cutters that I bought during my Taiwan/HK trip. HA~

                                                                        3D Mickey

3D Winnie

Jiajia spent a total of 2 days, baking and decorating those cookies. I wanna take this chance to apologise for not being able to give my utomost guidance during her cookie baking/decorating session and am really thankful for her independence during which I kinda 'neglected' her. I hope she had fun and will definitely continue baking!

Enough of Christmas, the year end is always jammed pack with activities, not only because New Year follows closely after Christmas, but also because my Ah Ma's (Grandma) birthday follows closely. The dates are different every year as she celebrates her birthday according to the Lunar Calendar. This year, we had it right smack in the middle, after Christmas and just before the New Year.

I probably forgot to mention earlier that, I received an order for EIGHT durian cakes from my aunt of which she intended to give away as gifts to her clients. I was up to my neck baking those cakes but thank God for D who help me ALOT. Well, I shan't dwell into details, but yea you get the point. I had made 6 in total and *ah hem* was tasked by my mum to make one for my Ah Ma's 85th Birthday.

I think it's no mean feat to be able to live so long, especially since she is diabetic and I've always admired her for being able to raise 10 kids in those tough times. My mum didn't come from a well-to-do family, but they survived. My mum is often being applauded for giving birth to 4 kids and I just can't imagine how my Ah Ma managed 10. Anyway, I agreed, almost immediately when my mum requested and once again regretted. Yes, yes, poor time management. I asked for it. So, I took urgent leave to make it up. Right, which do-do in the right state of mind would do that yea? Well, I did. Yes, I'm that do-do.

But it was well worthed. Once again, I had to engage the help of my holidaying sister and her boyfriend to do up the final touches of the cake. And I must say, it was during this big celebration that I felt my worth as a "baker" coming back and yes! I'm all geared for more kitchen experiments in 2010! Woo Hoo!

You can never go wrong with a Durian cake, in Singapore, at least.

Making the cake was a breeze but it was the decoration that was a headache. fresh cream decorations are the most challenging, while at least to me, in Sunny Singapore. Even though it has been raining cats and dogs these days, it just doesnt seem to help. Whipping cream over a big bowl of ice certainly helps (i've tried) but it wasn't justified for using so much ice just for cream. -_-'''

So let me just say, that I got the cake all covered and as smooth and perfect as I could managed. But, the cream quit on me when I was just about to pipe it. I finished every last bit of cream I had and it seriously pissed me off. Thank God for the packet of sponge fingers lying around and sisters lying around (oops I meant sisters who were free and watching tv) to help. I got the sides settled. So now what? I decided to sprinkle a pathetic amount of cocoa powder (just like how Jane's Cake Station does it) and use my gold and silver dragees to form the phrase "Happy Birthday Ah Ma". Halfway through, we had to abandon the idea. The wet cream seems to be seeping the colours out of thsoe sugar balls and the words would probably become all blurry and gooey the next day.

okok, to cut the long story short, we decided on sprinkling crushes oreos and somehow designing it. I was tired, moody and pissed with the cream (yes, I was pissed it with the whole night) So I left the design to my sister and her artistically talented boyfriend. And so, that explains the durian cake which totally doesnt look like one. I remember reading that oreos goes well with durian from HHB and so, readily agreed on that idea. After all, what else could I do?

I went to the dinner place right after work and was greeted with nothing but praises regarding the cake. Like I said, how wrong can we go with Durian in Singapore? But I'd really like to give credit to my sister and boyfriend for all that help they put into the decoration, for without it, the cake would probably be lifeless. A cake can look good naked, but not all cakes suit that style. Some cakes look better complicated, but some simple cakes are enough to bring a smile. Pardon my lousy attempt to rhyme. But yea, nothing beats a merry joyous birthday celebration.

I managed to get a picture of the insides because we were simple too full from the 9 course dinner and we "da-bao-ed" the cake. If you're wondering, this picture isnt taken by me. Well actually, the cakes pictures weren't taken by me, but by my sister and her boyfriend. And I must say, he's got a knack for taking photos. And why didn't I realise such a sexy background that existed in my house? *doinks*

Two thick layers of pure, creamy durian sandwiched between 3 layers of light vanilla chiffon. Simple, unpretentious and ultimately goodddd

I'll leave you with another alluring picture of this durian cake and the recipe for this winner durian cream recipe before I retire to bed. I am not at liberty to disclose the recipe for the vanilla chiffon, but any good sponge would suffice.

Rich, Creamy Durian Filling (Good for cakes or puffs alike)
recipe enough for an 8" round cake

1 kg Durian Puree
10-15 tsp Heavy Cream

Blend durian puree and heavy cream together until well combine.
Spread even layers for durian cake or simply pipe filling for durian puffs.

The more cream added, the less thick the filling will be. For a lighter taste, whip 200-300ml of heavy cream and fold into the durian puree.            


Friday, January 1, 2010

A daughter's love for her mum and brother..

This is a real back-dated post. I had done up this cake on 5th December 2009 and now, in a blunk of an eye, it's already 2010.

What could a pink and blue cake possibly signify? Either a brother-sister cake or a boyfriend-girlfriend cake?

Well, a church mate, P, approached me to ask if I could bake a birthday cake for her mum and brother. And that they both shared the same birthday! Hmm could you imgaine giving birth on your own birthday? I wonder how that felt..=p

I agreed almost immediately and regretted as the days drew near. (as always) But this time it was worse! You know, it really is harder when specifications to the cake design are not spelt out, and things were made complicated when the same cake was intended for 2 people. not brother-sister, not boyfriend-girlfriend but mother and son.

How on earth do you decorate a cake meant for a mother and her son?! I was almost desperate and it seems the design could only lean towards either party, meaning, either a real feminine cake OR a boyish cake. But that's not the way it should be!

I frantically searched all over and recalled CherylShuen designing a cake meant for a twin. A boy and girl twin. There I have it, separate the cake! Time was running and I only had in mind for simple designs and this was the best I could have come up with. And someone, working on inspiration is wayy faster than you think. I torted, filled, crumbcoated, covered and decorated the cake all in 1 hour. I was almost amazed at myself. Of course that didnt include cleaning up haha!

I wasn't at home on the day of delivery so I had to trouble my sister again, to do it for me. I was really really glad that the cake was well-received when P's mother got "jealous" over the cake as everyone started snapping photos of the cake and kinda "ignored" the birthday stars. hahahah!

Whatever it was, the greatest reward is not having a beautiful, flawless cake, but rather, the reward lies in the appreciation of your hard work, no matter good or bad, pretty or ugly.

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