TWD: my therepeutic treatand yet again, a TWD bake marks a milestone in my life. The last paper.. the final ordeal in those wretched lands. What better way to reward myself then with a messy affair of massive chocolate proportions? and to top that all of, a vibrant blue flame of caramel gushing with thick pyroclastic clouds of rum. A bedazzling cataclysm.
Thanks Kim of Scumptious Photography for picking this week's recipe. Sorry for being a bad girl though, spied on the left over vanilla shortbread dough in the freezer and decided to use that instead of mixing up a new batch. Lazy, yes I know. But mind you, we're talking about the afternoon 3 hours after my last paper! The flambed bananas in rum were a lovely touch of intensity to the entire sweet deal. Halving the recipe, I made mine in 2 four inch tarlet trays instead of the 9 inch; skipped the heavy white frosting and went for a showering of white chocolate shavings, still adhering to the black tie dress code.
A million thanks going out to Kim again for the lovely choice, the chocolate cream was a delight by itself, but paired with the drunken likes of the flambed banans each slice bathed in sticky caramel stickness and a buttery shortbread crust, this was indeed a treat for the senses.
And with this sweet ending, may new beginnings pave their way.
Build me up buttercup
Cause all you need on a dreary monday is a decadance of colors.
A nutty spectacle of intoxicatingly sweet roasted pears and hazelnut cake batter. A celebration of the humble packham pear, a slow ripening variety of pear which becomes slightly soft and deliciously juicy when it reaches it's primal shade of glorius yellow. It certainly was a joy for afternoon teas and late night snack; warmed to a kicking revival in the oven.
On a seperate note, I apologise for my less than eloquent posts these days. Been experiencing a mighty bout of word constipation lately. Blame it on the exams. Catching up with notes on Mao Zedong and the cultural revolution and even UAV navigation systems ain't doing anything good for the articulate (but now, more strangled) mind. Can't wait for the refresher trip down under. My brain could probably use a good unclogging. Images of the red rock in all it's solitary glory, miles and miles of untouched landscape, beautifully lonely beaches and Gordon Ramsey at the Good Food and Wine Festival makes me just want to shout out loud!
Till then... forlino, cats the musical and beer fest...
Pear and Hazelnut Tart
recipe adapted from Donna Hay
90g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup hazelnut meal ( can be sub. with almond meal)
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 Packham's pears, peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup brown sugar, extra
raw sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees celsius. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process till combined. Add eggs, hazelnut meal, flour, baking powder and lemon rind and process till combined. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 9.5 cm x 33cm loose bottom fluted tart tin. Place the pears and extra brown sugar in a large bowl and toss around to coat. Press the pears into the tart mixture and bake for 35-40mins. Sprinkle with raw sugar and allow to cool with tin. Serve with double cream.
The Cake Slice: Chai Cake with Honey Ginger CreamIf there one drink that I could manifest myself in, that would definitely be chai latte. With rich flavors of spices, pockets full of cardamon, star bursts of cinnamon, and the provacative hint of ginger, star anise and cloves; chai might just not be everyone's cup of tea. However, sweetened to the correct degree with a peaks of frothy milk, the bracing cup of spice is tuned to a mild and somewhat soothing beverage. Soothing the palate and easing to the heart.
This month, after an autonomous voting, the cake slice bakers have decided on the Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Cream. I was thrilled to the core... my mouth working up an appetite just imagining the flavors manifest itself in a cake. Chai tea had always been a staple in my pantry as I had the penchant to dip the spice-y tea bags into boiled milk sometimes. However, due to other commitments, I was a little slow to jump the gun, but nonetheless thankful that I chose to carry out with the cake. It was luscious.. almost reminiscent of a red-velvet cake sans the dramatic dyed effect. The honey ginger cream cheese frosting, played up with a notch more of cream cheese and reduction of powdered sugar created a slightly more spreadable cream cheese frosting. Lovely.
Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Cream
From Sky High:Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
1 and 1/3 cups of milk
6 chai tea bags, without added sweetner, such as Tazo
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 and 3/4 cups of cake flour*
2 cups of sugar
4 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom**
1/2 teaspoon of salt
8 ounces of unsalted butter at room temp.
[*1 cup of cake flour is equal to 3/4 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.]
[**Cardamom substitute is an equal amount of brown cardamom OR equal parts ground nutmeg and cinnamon OR equal parts ground cloves and cinnamon]
1) Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Grease the bottom ans sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Grease the paper as well.
2) In a small saucepan bring the milk to a simmer over low med-low heat. Add the tea bags, careful not to let the paper tag fall into the milk. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and squeeze out the milk. Let the chai milk cool completely.
3) In a medium bowl mix the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the chai milk. Whisk together.
4) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining chai milk, on med-low speed. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions scraping the between additions. Divide the batter evenly among the pans.
5) Bake the cakes for 26-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.Remove cakes from pans and peel off parchment paper. Cool completely.
6) To assemble the cake place one layer flat side down a serving plate and top with 2/3 cup of icing. Spread to the edge and repeat with second layer. Place third layer on top and spread the remaining ginger cream on top allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the cake like icicles.
Honey Ginger Cream
2 and 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
6 ounces of cream cheese at room temp.
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temp.
1/2 cup of honey (any kind as long as liquid)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to blend together, then scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse until smooth.
A Visit to the Old Classics
It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon - and I need something sweet. The tenacious cravings in me growing larger by the minute. I cut myself a slice of scalloped chocolate pecan strip, drip a tea bag into my mug and then retreat to the corner of the room with my stash.
sometimes all it takes is an old fashioned sweet treat to appease those nagging cravings.
When it comes to desserts, "homey" sweets tops my list. Think along the lines of toasted coconut, rustic tarts and buttery streusel scattered everywhere... *ahhh*
My new discovery which happened to be an age old classic made popular in the 1940s and '50s is the yeasted coffee cake. These yeast-based cakes (using yeast as a leavening agent instead of the usual baking powder) are made with dough rich in eggs and butter . They were usually filled with cinammon, nuts, raisins and dried fruits and topped off with irresistibly heart-arresting butter clad streusel crumbs.
My first attempt inspired by Carole Walter, is a scalloped chocolate pecan strip. Essentially a yeasted cake with chocolate filling and toasted pecans made for a pleasant surprise. Finished off with a simple vanilla glaze, it certainly left me a bit bedazzled.
Yeast has officially become my best friend.
And on top of that, I'm in love with yeasted coffee cakes. The aroma of fresh bread, interrupted with a spongy rich cake texture within and crispy bits throughout. What more can you ask for?
All it needs is some human touch
Date: 050409 (Sunday)
Venue: Da-yi-ma's House
Event: Jonathan's Birthday
Dress code: It's a mad house. dress appropriately...
finally, a non food-related post on the blog. Guess the blog is just a little ill-stricken from four-seasonal feastings. Takes a little family maniac to remedy!
After our sumptious dinner(no photos to boot). Photo-taking with the birthday boy commenced. Now, this process can be just a little chaotic when you have missing people, upset little girls and flashing lights. Wonder what's all that about? take a look...
Er-yi in an attempt to make the world a better place by shining a light on the faces caught in the darkened spots of the photo. Hilarious!!!
"Cousins!" the role call for the little ones who instinctively crawl into place without much herding needed. Apparently, we have greatly reduced in strength with the elder ones spread over the world. Ben kor kor in Dubai, Velda in India and Kor in Melbourne (out in the wilderness somewhere). You were missed!!! Meanwhile, we've got the other halves to replace you guys in the shot!and the last few shots, saved for the old foogies! These people are probably the driving force behind the whole photoshoot in the first place. The place is literally a mad-house when it comes to occasions like that!
Desserts commenced with a towering platter of fruits, nectarines, honey mangoes, sweet rock melon and mutated strawberries! Not forgetting the birthday cake and an apple pie! Gosh... the table was a flurry of activity as the centerpiece spinned in a rainbow of colors. That essentially, was the essence of dining at my aunt's place. You never leave the place feeling unsatisfied.
oh Duke-y!!! Alright, that was a random call. But isn't he sweet when he's asleep...
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
-- Jane Howard
Look, I guarantee there'll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you're the only one for me.
perhaps the most honest proposal ever... but not any less sweeter.
Hibiki: An Hour of Mad Frenzy
1 hour, 60 minutes , 3600 seconds. A full encircling of the minute hand around the clock, an almost lackadaisical process considered by many. But things just weren't the same. Not since we rested our tushies on the comfy sofas lining the modern lit restaurant. No, it ain't your typical laid-back lunch. This was a race for time... and one at the expense of our stomach linings.
I usually would condone the idea of a lunch constrained by time limits. Especially with the settings of an ala carte buffet. Owning the characteristics of any typical 'Kiasu' Singaporean, I suppose anyone would tend to over order in a bid to get back his/her money's worth. But with a clear warning from the kimono-clad maître d' that unfinished food will be charged to the bill according to ala-carte prices, we held back our reservations and seriously.. I mean seriously contemplated the menu.Hibiki has began offering ala carte buffet lunch and dinner sets at $20.90++ and $26.90++ since a while back. I would guess that it was a move made, in order to grab a piece of action in the realm of executive and business dining. The push factors for me in contrary were, a reasonable price tag, an extensive menu and a hungry boyfriend kicking from his nagging cravings for Japanese cuisine. Now, who would deny that my visit is unjustifiable?
The meal started off with a pot of Genmai Cha ($5.00, unlimited refills). The tea, served as a great compliment to most of the other dishes later, as it had a cleansing yet refined undertone to it. This provided the drinker, a teasing of the taste buds via the roasted rice grains soaked with the tea leaves. A gem in my books definitely.
We had sashimi moriwase (salmon, maguro, tako and sweet prawns). All were excellent of course, most probably since it was a friday and fresh fish leaked into Japanese eateries on Thursday. With the thick, fatty cuts of fish tickling our sensitive taste buds. We were geared up for more! So on with the Ebi Tempura, Soft Shell Crab Temaki, California Maki, Yasai Tempura, Torinabe, Agedashi Tofu, Nankotsu Karaage, oh gosh.. was I blabbering?
How about a thumbs ups for all the better food items? The Soft Shell Crab Temaki was gorgeous.. with deep fried soft shell crab, still warm and crackly wrapped in japanese vinegar-ed rice, cucumber sticks and a devilish dab of mayonaise, this could have easily been one of the best I've ever eaten. No kidding... the assorted tempura was again nicely done with the batter being light and fluffy.Food aside, one thing that grabbed my attention about the place, was its sophisticated touch of style. The use of heavy colors and modern furniture that spun a tale of modern meets chic. All was appeasing.. from the glass entrance to the leather couches, the glittery cutlery and the whimsical transparent tea pots. It created an atmosphere so endearing, so at ease that it made tucking into the fine cusine so much more pleasurable.
From the outdoor grill to the large section of sumiyaki items on the menu, one could generally make a sensible assumption that this was probably the restaurant's speciality. As such, I conceded and called for the Yakitori, Tsukune, Nasu Miso, Salmon and Tebasaki. The yakitori was acceptable; the tsukune bordered on tasteless; the salmon was excellent in terms of exection and spot on in the taste department, the salmon flesh possesing an amaingly sumptous texture almost like melting whip cream in the mouth; the Nasu miso (japanese eggplant with a generous slathering of miso paste) was definitely up my alley as the salty paste complimented the soft egg plant slices perfectly.
The other sides were served, and the circus act ensued with a mixed performance of arts and flaming fireworks on our palettes.
One argubly cunning dish would be the Nankotsu Karaage, well, if you didn't have a linguistic background in Japanese, You probably would not have a clue that this was essentially chicken cartilage. Darn it... and I though I could get some decent fried chicken here. *rofl* Worth trying if you are not irked by chicken 'spare parts'.
Worth commending, are the Agedashi tofu and Torinabe, the former as pictured above, had deep fried skin that essentially wasn't too gelatinous. As a result, the freshness of the tofu and the right seasonings came into play, boosting the dish from it's humble standings to something out of proportions in my ideals. Nearing the end of our meal, with the clocks ticking on us, our waitress set down the gargantuan pot of hot soup. A homely scent whiffed thru my nostrils, and before I knew it, my exhausted appetite was back up and running again. The soup, had an amazing clarity to it, the sweetness of the broth coupled with the essence of the chicken was indeniably comforting.
A quick time check revealed that it was already 2 40pm. Wait a minute? Isn't the restaurant supposed to close at 2 30? Surprisingly, there wasn't an ounce of anxiety in the air. The maitre d' returned a smile of assurance when I expressed my uneasiness at being the last table still seated within the inner compounds. With that, I kicked back my heels and slurped down my last spoonfuls of chicken broth. Rubbing my tummy in sheer satisfaction."You must have our yuzu jelly for dessert," the waitress behind us said.
Of course we had to have that. Yuzu lemons hail from Japan exclusively, tart in flavor, it closely resembles a grapefruit with overtones of Mandarin Orange. Rarely eaten as a fruit itself, Yuzu lemons are priced for its aromatic zest used to flavor desserts and garnish dishes. The Yuzu citrus jelly was the final and most dramatic curtain call I had ever encountered in a dessert of sorts. With jelly cubes filled with the tangy essence of the lemons and further studded with yuzu lemon rind, it made for a certain kind of flavor combustion. Paired with fresly granited ice shavings, it was indescribable. How an ingredient so simple could present such delicious results.
All I wanted was an encore...
Hibiki (Cuppage Terrace)
21 Cuppage Road
Tel: 6736 0326
My apologies going out to the TWDers.. the Banana Cream Pie was a no show on the table this week due to other baking 'must-do's' and an otherwise crazy work schedule. (as i type this entry, my eyelids enter a viscous cycle of drooping followed by violent twitching upwards).
Instead, here's the Toasted Lemon Almond Bars for this month's cookie carnival guest hosted by Holly of Phe.mom.enon .
With a recipe boosted by a book with a hell of a reputation (in my opinion at least since I've wanted to own The Sweet Melissa Baking Book for the longest time...), I was all ready to take on the challenge after having been on a rather long and embarrasing hiatus from the event.
The comeback recipe... a gorgeous toasted almond lemon bar featuring lemon curd on a shortbread crust. I chose to bake mine in a tart shell as I just had to make sure that every piece had an additional crust to it! No biasness going on over here...
The end result wasn't one that was all favourable with me. The lemon curd turned out to be just a little chewy...almost like a kueh. *strange...* The shortcrust base though... was a God-sent with the added frangrance of almonds pushing the entire dessert just over the border of satisfactory.
A chilled slice for a sinful supper anyone?Toasted Almond Lemon Bars
From The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy
Makes 1 dozen bars
"Everyone loves lemon bars. I make mine extra special by adding toasted almonds to the shortbread crust."
For the Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 Tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
For the Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 7 lemons)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
To Toast the Almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden and you can smell them. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Before You Start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 - inch pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Make a parchment "sling" by cutting two pieces of parchment paper, measuring 16 1/2 inches long by 12 inches wide (you can also use aluminum foil). Place one piece across the length, and the other across the width of the pan, with the excess hanging over the edges. You will use this sling later to lift the finished bar from the pan. Spray the sling with the cooking spray.
To Make the Crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, almonds, and salt to combine. Add the cold butter in pieces and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball.
2. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the sides. (This crust, once it is baked, needs to act as a liner in which to pour the liquidy lemon filling. So be sure to do a good job of pressing the dough up the sides - no cracks!). Cover the dough with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights ( you can use dried beans or uncooked rice as pie weights as well). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Carefully remove the pie weights and the liner and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the whole crust is golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
To Make the Filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the almond extract and flour, and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice, and whisk to combine.
To Complete the Bars:
1. Pour the lemon filling into the prepared crust. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm and lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
2. When cool use the parchment sling to lift the entire bar from the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice into twelve 3 x 3 1/2 - inch bars. Remove from the pan and, using a small sifter, dust with the confectioners' sugar.
The bars keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not unwrap before defrosting. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.
Big D's Grill: I pouted, I smiled, I whimpered, I swooned
Pout, was what I did to get my boyfriend to accompany me down to the latest assest in Blk 46's foodcourt which beared host to a darn good fish soup noodles and an ayam penyat stall. Big D's Grill, which probably is representative of the in-house chef Damien De Silva certainly made a statement as I caught sight of a towering statue of a man hidden behind the counter.
Smile, was what I did when I pictured tucking into a plate of their famous crabmeat linguine. The spicy red sauce staining my lips and a a surge of raw emotions running thru me as pasta, chunky crabmeat and chilli flakes came together in perfect unison.
"I'm sorry ma'am but we're out of Crabmeat Linguine today," touted the sales staff as I directed my gaze to it's elusive name on the menu.
*My heart sinks to the bottom of the torrent sea of emotions*
Whimper was what I did after I got hold of the news. Poor boyfriend.
Soon, the food we ordered were laid across the table tops. Distracting me from the cloud of smoke that had arisen from the next table. Darn smokers!
Swoon, was the tiny mutters of ectasy that escaped my lips as I stuck a fork through the mountain of cheese and eggplant in my eggplant parmigiana. Almost like a vegeterian lasagne, the eggplant parmigiana was a constructive meal built from foundations of fresh tomato paste, eggplants and cheese (a mixture of parmesan and mozeralla) layered on top of one another.Comfort food at its best they say. The bf had his grilled chicken leg which in my opinion was one of the most suculent pieces of grilled chicken I had in my life. But of course I had many atrocious versions. This was tantalizing with aromas of thick rich smoke perforating the meat during the cooking process. It was tender and juicy.
Overall, this place may seem to offer fare at non coffee-shop prices. But with the amount of customers it was reciving on a monday night, I guess it would probably stick around for a long time.
~3 days later~
I was standing over the same greasy floor. Seating on the bright red stools, this time with a placement card with the number 01 embossed on it.
A plate of crabmeat linguine in all it's red-hooded glory met my eyes. My salivatory glands were immediately working at full force.The Big D's version, was unlike any I have had before. Combining a tomato paste like conccotion with the crabmeat and a teasing touch of spiciness. The linguine was done al-dente; that was one quality checked off the list. This however fell a little on the 'dry' side of the spectrum for me as I much prefer my crabmeat linguine to carry a bit of sauce. The crabmeat came in shards... again another gripe of mine as I liked them in chunks. All in all, a little disappointing for me, but then again what can you expect for something worth $10.90?
*reminices about the la cantina's version.. swoons*
Big D's Grill (Holland Drive)
Blk 46 Holland Drive, #01-359 , Singapore
Bittersweet Symphony: Nibby Ice Cream
I didn't grow up covered in chocolate though I have indulged in wishful thinking that I had once worked in a truffle production line as a child. Rolling truffles with my bare cool hands in the midst of winter. Clouds of cocoa powder like mist hanging in mid-air.
All but a dream of course. But what's wrong with a little day-dreaming now and then?
I did, however had many close encounters with my now 'archilles heel' as a kid. Like the time I was caught in my crib in a brave attempt to wrestle a square of cadbury chocolate down my tiny throat; only to turn a shade of stunning blue. Greed.. it does all kinds of things to you.Thank goodness for some quick action hailing from my domestic helper, I was saved from some premature death.
Nowadays, with chocolate appearing in more varied and sophisticated forms, my tastes headed westwards... all the way to the heart of France. Still, my choice for superior chocolate remains suprisingly simple. Both nose and a full lingering finish.
And that's when I stumbled upon cocoa nibs - pure chocolate goodness in it's rawest form.
Only up to these days have cocoa nibs attained a 'cult' status. This cult includes Michael Recchiuti, San Francisco chocolatier folding caramelized nibs into white chocolate bark; Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake, sprinkling them over salads and adding them to streusel; Farallon pastry chef Emily Luchetti, stirring them into chocolate chip dough and scattering them on top of brownie batter; and of course, Medrich herself, who adds them to pecan butter cookies and steeps them in cream before whipping it. (don't you get the shudders from imaging all of those already?!)
Nibs are perfect for the role of juxtaposition of bitter and sweet. Adding an almost raw, pure flavor of chocolate instantly without the distraction of sugar. At words of raw chocolate goodness, I surrendered.
Nibby Ice Cream
The nibs are steeped in the cream and milk base, then strained out before the mixture is churned, imparting a subtle flavor that's closer to malted milk than to chocolate. Adapted from "Pure Dessert" by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2007).
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Instructions: Bring the cream, milk, nibs, sugar and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing on the nibs to extract all the liquid; discard the nibs.
Refrigerate the cream mixture until thoroughly chilled. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions.
Serve soft or transfer to an airtight container and freeze until the ice cream is hard enough to scoop.
Here, a lesser writer would surrender to cheap hyperbole, and say something like, "Chocolate changed the very course of my enstrangled life."
Chocolate changed the very course of my enstrangled life.