Aspiring Chef and her mini birthday cake project

4 Apr

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Sorry, for the radio silence for so so long.  So what have I been up to?

I am working part time now and that really gives me more time to bake and take up short courses. I have also completed my Wilton decorating class and I am starting my PME Sugarflower Course. This is a 25 hours class and I must say that the class is really fun!

So with my new set of skill, I have decided to try and make a mini birthday cake for a friend.  It was a chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream. I also made a miniature figurine dressed in a pokka dot skirt!

I took 2 days to complete the figurine and just a day to bake and cover the cake with fondant. It was kinda of fun and I think it was a pleasant surprise to the birthday girl.

Happy Birthday, M!

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Home-Made Macarons and Mont Blanc

24 Jul

Mein and I went over to Wey’s place, one of the weekends, for a ‘macarons making’ party. Although I have been to macarons making class at Palate Sensations, I find Wey’s macarons much prettier than mine.  Her macarons shells are consistence whiles mine varies batch to batch. So I’ve decided to ask her for help. She showed us how to make the macarons shells using Italian Meringue method.  I was taught to use the French Meringue method. We really had a lot of fun that day!  Wey also gave me a mini surprise birthday celebration that day.  She bought me a lovely chocolate cake. A wonderful and sweet day!

I was so inspired and motivated after the “macarons making party”, I have decided to try making them by myself.  Gosh, I must say it was very tiring but I am encouraged by the final product!  These are Earl Grey, Raspberry and Salted Caramel butter cream macarons. The shells are much more prettier than my previous few attempts.

I also made some Mont Blanc a few weeks ago. Mont Blanc is a French dessert made of sweetened chestnut puree.  According to Wikipedia, the name Mont Blanc came from Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and the European Union, as the piped chestnut puree topped with powdered icing sugar resembles a snow-capped mountain.  As I did not have any powdered icing sugar, I could not ‘snow capped’ my Mont Blanc.

I did a lot of reading up in search of the perfect Mont Blanc recipe, in the end, I have to use recipes from various recipe book and piece it up like a jigsaw puzzle. I must say it tasted perfect.

The base is an Almond Tart and I piped pastry cream on top of the almond tart.Most of the bakeries use whipped cream but I prefer pastry cream as the cream gives a better overall taste. It is also important to make sure that the thickness of the tart shell is evenly spread. I actually weigh each shell dough before pressing them into the mould! But it think it is worth it because the tart turn out beautiful! Finally, I finish the dessert by piping the sweetened chestnut puree.  I sweetened the chestnut puree by mixing the chestnut puree with pastry cream.

A tray of nicely pressed in tart shells.

I brought them to office for my colleagues, glad that they all loved it!

Beef Daube aka Beef Stew

22 Apr

I would describe my relationship with boeuf bourguignon as love at first taste. I will never forget how the meat just melt in my mouth! Ever since, I was on a mission to hunt down the best beef stew recipe. I chance upon this great recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Around my French Table. It was easy to make and the meat was tender and the carrots were bursting with wine.  It was simply delicious! I will definitely make this again.

Beef Daube

(from Dorie Greenspan, Around my French Table) 

Ingredients :

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch wide pieces
  • 3-1/2 pound beef chuck roast, fat and any sinews removed, cut into 2- to 3-inches thick
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic head, remove the papery peel only and halved horizontally
  • 1-1/2 pounds carrots, halved crosswise, halved or quartered lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 bottle fruity red wine, 750 ml
  • A bouquet garni – 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig rosemary and the leaves from 1 celery stalk.
Method :
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.
  2. Over medium heat, toss bacon into a cast-iron pot. Cook until the bacon browned, then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Pat dry the beef between sheets of kitchen towels.  Add 1 tb of oil to the bacon fat in the pot and warm it over medium-high heat. Then brown the beef, in batches, on all sides. Do not try to brown too many pieces at one time as you may end up steaming the meat. Make sure each piece of beef gets a good color. Transfer the browned meat to the bowl with bacon and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the oil in the pot (do not removed any browned bits stuck to the bottom), add the remaining oil to the pot and warm it over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the onions and shallots, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until onions soften, add in the garlic and carrots. Give them a good stir, making sure that they are coated with oil.
  6. Pour in the brandy, turn up the heat, and stir well to loosen whatever may be clinging to the bottom of the pot. Let the brandy boil for a minute, add the browned beef and bacon to the pot.
  7. Pour in the wine, toss in the bouquet garni and give everything a good stir. In the recipe, it recommended to tie the bouquet garni together in a dampened piece of cheesecloth.  I did not have any cheesecloth at that moment, so I just toss in all the herbs.
  8. When the wine comes to a boil, cover the pot tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and the lid. Put the pot in the oven and allow it to braise undisturbed for 1 hour.
  9. Take the pot out of the oven, remove the lid and the foil, and stir everything up once. If the liquid is reduced by a great deal, add just enough water to cover the ingredients. Re-cover the pot with the foil and lid, put back to the oven and cook for another 1-1/2 hours. At this point, the meat should be fork-tender, if not, cook for another 30 minutes or so in the oven.
  10. Taste the sauce.  If you like the sauce to be a little more concentrated, pour it into a saucepan and reduce the sauce over high heat to the consistency you like. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!

Macarons Maddness

6 Apr

I’m going thru a macaron making craze.

2 weeks ago, I made a box for Mein’s birthday, an assortment of flavor. There were earl grey, green tea with chestnut buttercream, lemon curd and chocolate with salted caramel macarons.  My favorite is earl grey, it taste like HK milk tea. Rich and creamy!

One would need lots of patience and time to make this delicate dessert. Never attempt to do this if you are in a hurry as you may end up being disappointed with the final output. It is also a great girls bonding activity because you simply just bake, rest and talk while waiting for the macarons to be ready.

Before you start the macaron making process, you need to :

1. to decide on the flavor, color and fillings for the macarons.

2. you need to age the egg white a day before. What do I mean by aging the egg whites?  In simplicity term, you would need to separate the yolk from the white and keep the white in the refrigerator overnight.  By doing this, the egg white will whip up more stiffly and hold its shape better while baking.

Why it’s such a great bonding activity? Because :

1. you will have fun, grinding the dry ingredients and mixing them together.

2. you will have fun, pipping out the shells.

3. you will have fun, chatting/gossiping while waiting for the shells to dry.

4. you will have fun, finding identical shells and sandwiched them with the filling.

At the end of the day, you can sit down and relax, and enjoy the delicate dessert with a cup of hot tea/coffee.

Oh, one last thing, you have people to share the washing up!

An Italian affair : Cacio e pepe

29 Mar

Over the weekend, I went to an Italian restaurant at Rochdale Road. Well, those of you who stay around Serangoon/Upper Paya Lebar may be familiar with this road. However, when I was first told about this place, I was like “hum?! where is this place?”

Anyway, the restaurant is Cacio e pepe at 4 Rochdale Road. We ordered quite a number of dishes, some were really good, some were alright but the desserts were a great disappointment.

Okay let’s talk about the hit. For antipasti, we had 3 servings of Calamari Fritti, 2 servings of Portobello and 2 servings of Vongole & Cozze.  All the antipasti that we tried were great especially the Portobello.  As for the Calamari, avoid dipping the sauce if you are not into too spicy stuff. After a while, we just ate the Calamari neat.  The Vongole & Cozze was nice too, like clams in wine. *yum*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calamari with special chef sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Portobello mushrooms baked with crab meat and prawn finished with rich gorgonzola sauce. *YUM*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sautéed clams and mussel simmered in a white wine sauce

For the mains, we had Prosciutto Parma Ham Pizza, Risotto Granchio, Gnocchi Marinari, Spaghetti Carbonara and Home-made Pappardelle con Salsa di Tartufo. For the Prosciutto Parma Ham Pizza, the crust was alright but the cheese was a bit salty for our liking. The Risotto Granchio (Risotto in tomato sauce with crab meat, zucchini with white wine cherry tomato) reminded me of wet cooked rice fried with tomato ketchup. I will definitely not order that again. The spaghetti carbonara was a bit dry.  Maybe we did not order the right dishes, but will I go back to try again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry guys, only managed to capture a picture of the pizza.

For the desserts, we had Lava Cake, Rum Lava Cake and Tiramisu. The ice cream that came with the Lava Cake tasted weird and the tiramisu was such a disappointment for an italian restaurant!  I think I can do better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disappointing Tiramisu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lava Cake

As for the service, there were only 2 waitress that noon. Not really attentive as it took them quite a while to get us extra napkins. We also ordered coffee after the meal and 2 of our orders were kinda of forgotten.

I probably will not go back as I think the place is a bit out of the way for me and I think there is really nothing great that makes me want to go back again. However, if I stay around that area, maybe I will give it a try again, maybe

Cacio e pepe

4 Rochdale Road

Tel :  6281 1905

Service : 2.5/5

Food : 3/5 ( Decided to give a 3 as the antipasti were good and maybe I ordered the wrong mains that day.)

Bananarama : Double Chocolate Banana Tart

22 Mar

The books that I ordered from Amazon arrived 2 weeks ago. One of them was “Around My French Table” by Dorie Greenspan. As I was flipping thru’ the book, a few recipes caught my attention and one of them was the double chocolate banana tart.

So I decided to make the tart last weekend.

Whole Tart :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half Tart :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To make a 9″ to 9-1/2″ chocolate tart shell, you need :

  • 1-1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (valrhona preferred)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 9 tbls cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 large yolk

Method :

  1. Add flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and mix the dry ingredients well by pulsing a few times. Add cold butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. At this stage, you may have some pieces the size of peas.
  2. Add yolk to the flour mixture a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. After all the yolk has been added, process in long pulse until all ingredients are well-blended.
  3. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk, wrap it with cling wrap and chill it for a couple of hours.
  4. Take the dough out from the fridge and roll it out evenly between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Turn the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic often so that it does not roll into the dough and form creases. Roll the dough until it is 1/4 “- thick and at least 12” in diameter.
  5. Fit the dough into a well-battered tart pan. Trim off excess dough and prick the crust all over and freeze for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. (I would recommend that you freeze the crust overnight)
  6. Bake the frozen crust at 190C for 25-30 mins or until cook.
  7. Transfer the tart shell to a cooling rack and allow the crust to cool before filling it up.

While cooling or baking the tart, you can prepare the caramelized bananas filling. Side view of the tart with the caramelized bananas :



 

 

 

 

 

 

To make the caramelized bananas, you need :

  • 1 ripe but firm banana
  • Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1-1/2 tbls unsalted butter
  • 3-1/2 tbls sugar

Method :

  1. Cut the banana into 1/8″-thick slices and toss them with lemon juice to prevent them from blackening.
  2. In a large skillet (non-stick preferred), over high heat, toss in the butter. When the butter melts and starts to bubble, add the sliced bananas. Make sure that they are coated with butter.
  3. Sprinkle the sugar over the butter-coated bananas and cook, turning, until they are golden and caramel-coated on both sides.
  4. Transfer the caramelized bananas to a plate lined with parchment paper and pat them gently on both sides with paper towels to remove any excess butter. Cool to room temperature.

To make the bittersweet ganache, you need :

  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbls heavy cream
  • 4 tbls (1/2 stick) unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces, room temperature

Method :

  1. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir the chocolate and cream together using a whisk or spatula until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
  3. Stir in the butter, piece by piece.
  4. Arrange the caramelized bananas in an even layer over the bottom of the crust, then pour over the ganache.
  5. Place the tart in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour to set the ganache.

To make the banana topping, you need :

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam, strained
  • 2-3 ripe but firm bananas
  • Fresh lemon juice

Method :

  1. Bring the apricot jam to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Peel the bananas and cut them in 1/4″-thick slant slices. Toss them lightly with a little  lemon juice, making sure that the sliced bananas are not too wet.
  3. Arrange the bananas slices in concentric circles over the top of the tart, starting from the outer edge and slightly overlap the slices in a circle. Continue building concentric circles, having each circle slightly overlap its neighbour.
  4. Brush the bananas with a thick coating of hot jam, glazing them evenly.
  5. Allow the glaze to cool and set.

Poached Eggs : Domestic vs Professional

19 Mar

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with my friends at this small cool cafe at 50 Craig Road, The Plain. I love the ambience but maybe they could change the music they play, maybe?

Well, I ordered a flat white and darling’s eggs. Darling’s eggs is basically poached egg over a slice of sourdough toast with ham, cheese and roma tomatoes.

I’m so inspired by the tasty poached eggs that I have decided to my own version for breakfast this morning.

So this is the cafe version:

and… this is my version,tartar!

I’ve been attending foundation french cooking classes at Palate Sensation for the past 8 weeks and was taught to make eggs benedict aka poached eggs during one of the lessons.  The trick to making great poached egg is the vinegar in the boiling water. The acidity of the vinegar will help to breakdown the protein faster, thus cooking the eggs faster. This will prevent the egg from overcooking.

To make poached eggs, you need :

  • Good quality eggs (I would recommend using organic eggs)
  • Water and Vinegar, 1 cup of water to 1 tbl of  vinegar

Method :

1. Crack the egg into a bowl. I would not recommend cracking the egg over boiling water. Can very messy and may not give you the best looking poached egg.

2. Add vinegar to water and bring to a simmer. Before the water hit the boiling point, add the egg. Using a spoon and gently ‘gather’ the white together.


3. Scoop the egg with a perforated  laden.

4. Serve while hot