Monday, March 30, 2009
When you are not waking up to a gorgeous man beside you, this might be the next best thing. During assignment time, instead of the usual all-nighter, I prefer to pull an earlybird-er (is that even a word??). My brain usually works better on odd hours. But after a long day at work, my brain usually shuts down, so I prefer to catch up on my beauty sleep, and wake up really early instead and try to cram in as much research or typing as I can before I go to work. Other than that, all nighters usually equals to my face on top of the keyboard during the day anyways.. so I don't think I want to loose my job over uni. In the spirit of assignment week, I made a morning teacake to pull me from my blanket in the morning. Especially lately the mornings has becoming colder by the day. I smell winter is around the corner.
I bought Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours from Amazon a month ago and been waiting for just the right moment to use it. One of the very first recipe that caught my eye was the plum dimply teacake. I first intended to make this recipe when I still have some apricots in the fridge, but never got around to it until the apricots went mushy. So this time, equipped with 7 almost over-ripenned plum, I'm determine to make this recipe before another fruit get wasted in my pantry.
The recipe is a breeze to make and it doesn't require fancy ingredients, the plums were as fancy as it gets, the other ingredients are basically staples in a typical home baker's pantry. It made quite generous servings. I divided mine in 2 medium sized loaf pan since the only rectangle pan I have still have lasagna in them.
Paired with a pot of tea or coffee, this teacake makes the perfect treat to waking up at 4 or 5am in the morning.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
That's right folks.. It's that time of the month again. Time for another tasty challenge. Daring Bakers went the savoury route this month instead of the usual sweets. Lasagne of Emilia Romagna.
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
Lasagne was the first dish I asked my mom to teach me before I moved out of my parent's house to fly 3000 miles away to Melbourne 7 years ago. I barely know my way in the kitchen back then. Baking brownies and cookies was as far as I get in the kitchen. I always loved her lasagne for its extra cheesy, creamy taste from the bechamel sauce she made from scratch. She always use packet of dry lasagne and bottled tomato pasta sauce, but it was still sooo good.
There's a couple of stages to this challenge. One, we have to make homemade lasagne sheets, then we have to make the beef ragu sauce and the bechamel sauce. A long and lengthy process, but it was worth the effort and I actually find it quite therapeutic. Especially when I needed to escape from my assignments even just for a while. And to think that I have dinner/lunch sorted for a couple of days, is just what I need when I'm planning to bury myself in my books to do this essay due next week. It's only a minor one, but coming from a design background, essays, especially a marketing one, is not a minor thing to do. I need colours!! not words.
I decided to change a couple of things to the recipe. I don't like veal, and too lazy to go to the store to get some facon (M won't speake to me if I put pancetta in this one, he loves lasagne), so I opt out these two and use only minced beef in the ragu. I also added heaps of mushrooms in the ragu. As I said before, I love my lasagne very cheesy.. so only natural for me to add heaps of cheese to the beschamel sauce. Was quite surprise when I saw the bescamel sauce does not include cheese! Sorry if I crossed anyone for changing the recipe =).
The main thing that went wrong in making this recipe was when I was about to make the lasagne sheet.. got my dough ready.. and when I was about to take out the pasta machine, only then I realized it was GONE! The very moment I actually need it and it wasn't there. The pasta machine doesn't belong to me you see. It was my housemate's boyfriend's. But it had resided here in my kitchen since last November, and I thought it was staying here for good. I did notice that my housemate stopped by at the house last Friday, but didn't think she took the pasta machine (eventhough we're housemates, we rarely see each other at home). Oh well, back to rolling pins and a lot of elbow grease then.. I had some doubts about the spinach pasta since I hate spinach, but in the end I decided to have it a go and boy it tasted good!
I'm eating a plate right now while writing this. Yumm yumm.. Thanks again ladies for the tasty challenge! Can't wait for next month's.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I might have mentioned a couple of times my lack of experience working with icing sugar. Let alone decorate a whole cake with one. That's why this beginners course in cake decorating is perfect for me. Hopefully it can avoid any more dramas like when I made this bow. I've been an avid admirer of Paris Cutler's work and her uber fabulous cake shop, Planet Cake in Sydney. So when I found out that they're doing cake decorating courses here in Melbourne, I signed up straight away without realizing that I would actually be on the first class in Melbourne.
So I spent my Saturday kneading icing like there's no tomorrow. My petite figure made this process quite hard as I don't have as much strength in every turn as a normal person does, and there's always the issue with the bench height =(. Nonetheless, it was a super fun day! and the fact I manage to escape from the scorching 33 degrees weather outside is always a plus.
I won't bore you with my ramblings, I'm just gonna show you with the pictures of the cake and our class that day. Thanks Handi, Fran and Paris for the amazing day and all your tips. Hopefully I can come back to do the other courses. =)
My heart actually aches when I cut the cake. But the chocolatey goodness of the cake instantly soothes it down. I can't say the same for my arms though. For the next two days, I feel like I'm armless.. Seriously can't feel anything from the shoulders down to my finger tips, very sore!
To see other wonderful creations from Planet Cake, buy their newly published book.
Friday, March 27, 2009
This day is unfortunately also the day I made reservations at Oyster little Bourke for the Express Lunch thing, part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. But this time, I won't be talking about that lunch, I'll blog about it another time.
We finished shopping way ahead of time. I had more than 1 hour to kill before lunch. A sweet treat and a good cup of coffee is in order to lift my mood a little bit. I always wanted to try Sweet Source in Carlton North, a little sidetracked, but it was so worth the trip.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Caramel must be one of my favourite flavour of all time. Caramel cakes or caramel sauce smothered in ice creams, pancakes.. you name it.. I don't know whether it's existed here in Australia, Alpenliebe caramel candy are still my favourite.
I've been meaning to try to make fleur de sel caramels ever since I've seen it in blogs everywhere. I tried looking for fleur de sel here in Melbourne, but so far hadn't had any luck. I tried Essential Ingredients, Simon Johnson and the newly opened Jones the Grocer at Chadstone, but still empty handed. Before my trip, I made a special mission for myself to look for fleur de sel when I'm in Singapore, since I've seen a couple of patisserie in Singapore had mentioned some fleur de sel desserts. I found a couple of gourmet food store in Singapore that I haven't heard before.. To my liking, Singapore has transformed into a foodie heaven!! Perhaps the high number of Western expats residing in the country has lead this small country into it's development. There I was, dragging my parents to the different food stores from Paul de Gastronomie in Paragon, Culina in Robinsson Walk, Jones the Grocer in Denshaw St and finally found one jar (the only one left I might add) at Culina on Denshaw St. I actually jumped up and down when I saw the jar. I also picked up a Vanilla fleur de sel, tempted to buy the lemon one, but I can always made one myself from the plain fleur de sel.
This caramels are quite soft.. Not exactly what I thought it would be. I was kind of expecting that Alpenliebe type of hard candy, not the soft toffee. But the caramelly taste is very addictive! Seriously, M had to hid the jar to keep me from finishing it all by myself. Perhaps next time I will cook it a little bit longer to make it harder. This recipe is seriously easy to make! The only thing you need to be carefull of is not to burn your sugar. A good quality thermometer will do the trick. I made two batches, one with plain fleur de sel and one with vanilla. Really hard to differentiate the two other than a speck of vanilla beans on some of them. Perhaps I should add one vanilla bean to the sugar to make the vanilla taste even stronger.
Fleur de sel caramels
from Gourmet, October 2004
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I've been craving for tapas lately, however, my wallet is not liking the sounds of Movida or Match Bar & Grill. A little over my budget at this time of the month.
The bar is neatly tucked in an alley just in between L'incontro the Council House. It has a relaxed atmosphere and a homey feel to it. Decorated with Victorian regalia, Cabinet successfully blends essence of the past with aspects of today in both its environment and their food. Large blackboards in change for the traditional paper menu, and spare seats hanged on the wall give this place a retro-chic feel.
Chef Kath Lunny's brilliant share menus are perfect for nibbles and perfect compliment to the delicious cocktails and wide range of Australian wines. For a more serious snacks, they offer flatbreads treated as crunchy thin pizza crust with various toppings such as roast duck, mushroom and plum sauce or Tandoori chicken with red capsicum and cashew nuts. We had the antipasto platter to share and I tried their mini steak sandwich. The beef are very tender, but I had trouble popping it in my mouth at one go, but when you tried to bite it in half, I just end up with a mess. Perhaps I need a bigger mouth.
I am yet to try to sit in the balcony since it seems to be used for private functions everytime I stopped by. Perhaps third time's a charm?
Cabinet Bar & Balcony
11 Rainbow Alley
(cnr little collins & swanston) Melbourne, Victoria 3000 ph. (03) 9654 0915
Monday, March 9, 2009
Pomegranate might be one of the fruit that I least have contact with. I actually quite like the taste, I just don't really like the gritty texture of the seeds. One thing I like the most from participating in these food blogging events are the chance to try to cook with new ingredients and try new recipes.
I first discovered ITB (In The Bag) event during one of those blog surfing. What makes this event even better is that it requires minimal commitment. I decided to give it a try this month since I'm in such a baking frenzy mode lately. This month's ingredients are pomegranate, passion fruit and white chocolate in honour of st. Valentine. I think I'm more excited about the chance to cook with pomegranate more than anything else. I hit the internet in no time. I don't have a lot of cook books, so I always turn to the online world for recipes. It's not that I have something against cook books, but it's just that I always find myself not knowing which one to buy, and if I end up buying one, it seems that it will only going to sit pretty on the shelf collecting dust rather than accompanying me at the kitchen. But i'm happy to say that after I start this blog, I'm more inspired to try new recipes than ever before. Mr. Amazon just delivered me 4 new cookbooks yesterday, and 2 of them are by Dorie Greenspan =). Don't be surprised if you see me doing a lot of her cakes in the near future.
Back to the ITB event.. I found some interesting salad recipes that uses pomegranate in them, but I'm pretty sure passion fruit and white chocolate won't go well with that. Eventhough you don't necessarily have to use all the ingredients, but I want to find something that can incorporate all of them. In this case, I think something sweet is the most appropriate. Then I came accross this icy pop recipe. It's perfect, quite simple to make and the yellow and red colour from the fruits will make one pretty icy treat. Enrobing the icy pop in white chocolate makes a nice touch to this dessert. You can say it's the tropical-white chocolate version of Magnum. I left some plain without the white chocolate. I actually prefer it like this, light and fresh.. the white chocolate tends to add a slight richness to it.
P.S: I got one more good news.. I finally found my charger!! turns out that I did leave it at my friend's place on new year's eve. I asked him to look for me coz that was the last time I used it, but he said he couldn't find it. M and I stayed over at his place last night after too many hours from playing Wii and there it was, sitting pretty beside the TV, still plugged in where I last used it. I guess he lied when he said "I've looked everywhere for it", he's just plain lazy!! hopefully this will cure my bad habit of leaving things everywhere..
Pomegranate & Passion Fruit Icy Pops
Adapted from POM wonderful recipes (http://www.pomwonderful.com/)
3/4 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 large pomegranate)
1-2 ripe bananas
3/4 cup of passionfruit juice (from 4-5 passionfruit)
1-2 ripe bananas
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
250g of white chocolate for coating
Prepare the simple syrup by boiling water and sugar in a heavy based pan. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Blend the passion fruit and banana together until smooth, put in one bowl. Do the same with the pomegranate. Add about half of the syrup to the pomegranate juice and the other half to the passionfruit juice. Adjust the portion as you like, your passion fruit may need more sugar than the pomegranate, as it usually more sour. prepare moulds or plastic cups and fill about 1 tbs of pomegranate juice. put in the freeze till it slightly hardens. Add 1 tbs of passion fruit juice and return to freezer to harden again. when it's still quite soft in the middle but hard enough to keep the popsicle steady, insert the popsicle. You can create any pattern you want, you may want to create stripes, marble effect, etc. When it's frozen completely and you have reached the last layer, melt and temper your white chocolate. Dip the icy pops and let the excess drip. The chocolate usually will set straight away since the icy pops are cold.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Just something from the archive that I didn't get a chance to post. I made this cake for a friend's birthday a little over a week ago. The 24th February to be exact. If you've been paying attention, yes, this would be my 4th cake for February. This time I went with an all time classic, something I know everyone would like, chocolate cake.
My housemate first introduce me this chocolate cake around 3 years ago when she made it for a friend. She told me she got it while watching Oprah. It's one of those Oprah's favourite kind of thing. The cake is very dense, almost flourless bmaking it very rich and moist. What differentiate this cake from any flourless choc cake out there is the texture of the cake. Eventhough the mid section is moist, it has a crispy skin that surrounds the cake. This in my opinion is what makes this cake the best chocolate cake. Crispy outside, and moist chocolatey goodness when you bite through. That paired with the whip cream and chocolate sauce.. a true chocoholic dream come true. These texture is in result of the baking technique. It is first baked for 20 minutes in high temperature, then the temp is lowered every 30-40 minutes. Follow the recipe exactly, and you can taste the benefit later. ike the Valentino cake , the chocolate is the key ingredient here, so best to use the finest chocolate, and prefereably couverture. I used my all time favourite (after Valhorna), Lindt couverture 65% semi sweet chocolate.
When making a cake for a guy, I tend to find trouble in decorating the cake. Every decoration I made always ended up very feminine. So this time, I did something fun and quirky. I made a bunch of tuxedo strawberries and some chocolate scribbles for the side of the cake. Here's a video of detailed step by step instruction on making the tuxedo strawberries on YouTube.
The Man Who Took The Cake
by Barbara Kafka, as published in Oprah Magazine, October 2004
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for pan
- All-purpose flour for pan
- 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped
- 6 large eggs , separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Place chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is almost melted. Add butter and stir until mixture is completely smooth. Remove pan from heat, discard simmering water and replace it with warm tap water. Place chocolate mixture back over water and set aside.
In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg yolks at medium-high speed until light and lemon colored. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar until mixture becomes very thick. Switch mixer to low speed and blend in chocolate mixture and vanilla.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form again. With a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites until just blended. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake cake 15 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 300° and bake an additional 15 minutes. Reduce temperature again to 250°; bake 30 minutes. Turn off oven, leaving door ajar and let cake stand in oven for 30 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack, cover pan with a damp cloth and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and cool completely. Remove side of pan. Cake will have a crust that cracked and collapsed as temperature was reduced; gently remove top crust and discard.
To make whipped cream: Bring a small skillet filled halfway with water to a simmer. Fill a glass measuring cup with 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle gelatin over it; let stand until gelatin softens, about 1 minute. Place measuring cup in simmering water and stir until gelatin completely dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream at medium-high speed until thick. Gradually beat in dissolved gelatin. Beat in sugar until stiff peaks form; chill.
To make chocolate glaze: Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge of pan. Pour hot cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and forms a smooth glaze; let stand until cool enough to mound slightly with a spoon.
Meanwhile, with a long serrated knife, gently cut cake in half horizontally to make two even layers. Place one layer on a serving plate and spread a 1/2-inch layer of whipped cream over it. Gently place remaining layer on top. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining whipped cream, making it as smooth as possible. Freeze cake for 30 minutes.
Remove cake from freezer and pour chocolate glaze over top. Smooth with a spatula, allowing excess glaze to drip down sides of cake. Refrigerate cake at least 1 hour before eating. Makes 20 servings.
Last Friday night, M and I had our belated Valentine's dinner. Not because we were too busy that we put it of almost a month later, we just like to avoid the Valentine's rush. This is how we normally celebrate Valentine's day, a flower for me, and a nice quiet dinner a week after. We always try to look for something new that we never tried before. Well, this would mostly be on my part, he is not fuss about the type of restaurants, as long as it's not gonna cost him and arm and a leg. After much consultation hours in various blogs and my trusty little foodie bible The Age Good Food Guide, I condures up a little list of restaurants I find interesting and worth trying. Amongst them are The Italian, The French Brasserie, Panama Dining Room and Matteo's. The French & Italians are quite pricey, and considering my budget this month, I decided to put it aside. I'm leaning towards Matteo the minute I read their menu and see "Oysters in six ways". My favourite!!
You can imagine my rage when I look at the menu on the day, and that appetizer is none existence!! What a way to ruin my mood! But I was already hypnotize from the ambience of the restaurant. From the outside, it's nothing to be impressed about, Matteo's is located in the middle of residential area in Fitzroy North where it's habitant is more quirky than posh. So to have a sleek decor with warm purple tone throughout is quite a nice surprise. Their food was fantastic too! I read in the book, Matteo's take pride in serving modern Western dishes with a slight Asian edge. Even the bread basket had an asian touch to it. Instead of the usual olive oil dip, there's a sprinkling of what it appears to be some dried wakame with toasted sesame seed. Sprinkle that on top of your butter on a crusty artisan bread and your tongue is happily dancing around in seaweed heaven.
We ordered the fish plate for appetizer served three ways (no photos of this I'm afraid, I was too busy eating). all three of them had a very unique and tasty dressing one is more thai oriented, one Japanese with a definite hit of wasabi, and one is chinese. yum yum yum.. For the main course I ordered the wagyu beef with pea mash and wagyu croquette and M had the sesame glazed Balmain bug tails, seared scallops & veal sweetbreads in a Yakitori sauce, Asian coleslaw with shredded pork & jellyfish (minus the pork of course). He didn't feel like ordering dessert, but being the sweet tooth, I ordered the warm, dark chocolate fondant pudding, coconut milk gelato. I had doubts of the coconut milk gelato, but boy was I mistaken.. It was DELISH! very creamy and light, a perfect compliment for the rich, sultry, gooey chocolatey goodness of the fondant. To wrap things up, M had a glass of latte and he said it was really good coffee. I can only sniff it's aroma since I'm giving up coffee as one of my things to sacrifice during lent.
533 Brunswick St
Fitzroy Ph: (03) 9481 1177
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
This is why I only get 2 hours of sleep last Saturday
This is why I have a huge dent on my savings
This is why I was happy last Saturday..
No... I didn't get married...
These are the two icing sugar figurine I made last Saturday. I found some great baking workshop at the Greensborough cake decorating centre. And this bride and groom workshop, was my first.. I never had any proper training in baking. The thought to become a professional patisserie chef had crossed my mind more than a dozen time. I have been passionate about baking and desserts for as long as I can remembered, but I'm afraid of taking the fun out of it if I become a professional and have to do it everyday, then it will become a routine. Or.. It's plain cowardliness... and.. I don't think I can say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of an office, the 9-5 work, dressing in stilettos and pencil skirts. I know, I'm a freak! So, these workshops and numerous cake, pastry & chocolate one day courses is my way to satisfy my passion in baking.
Since mid last year, I've done around 6 courses related to baking and dessert making. I enjoyed every last bit of them. Looking at the dent on my savings because of it on the other hand, I'm not particularly happy about. Finding these workshops as quicker & relatively cheaper version, makes me very happy.
I don't do a lot of work with icing sugar before. The bow I did for my wreath cake is about the most encounter with icing sugar decoration I have ever had. I did enroll for a cake decoration class that covers all sugar & fondant works, but it is not till April. So with little to no knowledge in working with icing sugar, I went to this workshop. It runs for 2 hours for 2 Saturdays.. and last Saturday was the last one. Even from the first class I felt lost. The minute she mentioned CMC, my mind goes "CM.. whaa?". Turns out that's the stuff that will make your icing to harden. No wonder my bow was slowly deflating even though I left it to dry for almost 2 days. But.. the confusion didn't stop there. I was sooo worried when my groom shows obvious wrinkles when he dries. The teacher said it might have been my kneading.. My favourite one was when she said "You all must know how to make a piping bag out of parchment paper by now?" I guess I can.. If you call making a cone out of baking paper and stapling the two ends together is a piping bag.. Didn't want to be a smart ass, I started shaking my head. She was quite stunned. Haha.. turned out 4 out of 6 of us didn't know how *phew*. Gosh, don't I have a lot to learn.
Though both of them turned out superrr cute, there's a lot of room for improvements. The grooms suit is a definite one with the wrinkles. Her dress is much better, but her boobs.. oh her boobs.. don't get me started on her boobs. Theoretically, putting her boobs so close together when she's naked is ok, but when you actually put the dress on stlightly higher than it should be and forgot to shape her body before the icing dried up, her boobs looked weird. It looked like she squashed her boob with a very bad push up bra!! One more thing, I wished I had taken more time drawing the eyes, the bride has eyes that are located on her cheeks, and the groom.. he looked a little too feminine. Oh hell, I can list ten more things that are not right about them. I'm just being too hard on myself. For a first try, I should be quite happy with myself. Just practice, practice, practice..
P.S: please don't mind the blue hue in my photos.. I was using my friend's camera since I still can't find my charger, and wasn't really sure how to set the WB.. but now I know how *too late like always*.