Saturday, September 26, 2009

Berry berry quite contrary

             Children's day is upon us and what better way to show my appreciation for these little ones by baking. After being told by my 6 year olds that the best part of my butter cupcakes was the frosting when I last baked for them, I decided to teach them about the wonderful flavours that a cake can have. After taking a massive poll, the top flavours that emerged were strawberry and chocolate.

           Which brings me to today's post. I have never made anything strawberry before and this posed as  somewhat of a challenge. I'm a chocoholic and alcoholic. I've probably run the gamut of chocolate during my experiments, white, dark, milk, 60% coco to 90% coco, ganaches, chocolate frosting, fudge, covurture, confectionary.
          In fact, I own three cookbooks dedicated to chocolate. You name it, I've probably done it or have the recipe. Strawberries on the other hand, are rather intriguing. The closest I've come to working with berries( other than jams) were raspberries, which were epically difficult to work with seeing how I pureed them and was left with delicious raspberry snowskin mooncakes and a broken blender.

      Broken kitchen equipment is probably the biggest turn off I reckon. Nonetheless, I love these children enough to want to perfect this.
          I decided I wanted a light, fluffy cake filled with strawberry jam that creamed    screamed lightness yet at the same time create a sensation equivilant of a strawberry field.
         I modified my favourite butter cake( one with a nice sugar crust, good crumb and melt in your mouth texture) to create what I call strawberry cupcake BETA. Beta because I have yet to reach perfection. I was relatively pleased with the results, since it was moist, dense and had an explosion of flavour, plus pretty to boot. Downside was that the parts without the jam were rather lackluster.
           I shared them with my colleagues and they all loved it. My closer friends gave honest ratings and I one said, I quote, " Its fantastic until you get to the bottom. It tastes like flour when you get there" Hahahah. But you live and learn, and I intend to chart my culinary journey via this blog, both triumphs and failures.
          The wonderful thing about jam filled cupcakes is that the longer they sit in jam, the more moist and flavourful they get. I just had a bite and after 24 hours, they were reallly delicious. But I still think it needs a tad more sugar.

           Are you ready for the shape of my heart?

After they cooled, I dusted the cupcakes down with icing sugar and then used a cookie cutter to hollow out the center and piped jam into them. WARNING: The icing sugar melts so I suggest dusting the sugar on the day or just before serving and piping the jam.

This time, I actually bothered to take some process shots so lets take a look

                      Battered and ready for the great bake. After 35minutes...

The spirit of randomness overcame me and I just had to make one that looked like this:


Its a duck in case you's all wondering.

Here's the recipe, suggested improvements in red:

Strawberry Jam filled cupcakes, adapted from
Makes 8 large cupcakes
110g (175g) of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
125g  of butter
200g (225) of white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
(1 teaspoon of strawberry emulsion?)
3/4 cup of milk flavoured with 1/4(1 tsp) teaspn of strawberry emulsion (or strawberry milk)
250g strawberries(diced)
250g of strawberry jam
Icing sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 175 degrees C( 145 for fanforced).

Sift together flour and baking powder

Cream the butter and blend in the white sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Stir until just blended. Fold in strawberries. Fill cupcake liners until 3/4 full.

Bake at 175 degrees C (145 for fanforced) for 35mins or until skewer comes out clean. Cake should spring back when lightly touched.

Once cooled to room temperature, dust cupcakes with icing sugar and hollow out centers with cookie cutters of your choice. Using a small sharp knife, gently dig out the cake that's within the cookie cutter.

FIll piping bag with jam and pipe into hollowed center.

I love culinary experiments. They thrill me to no end.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roast lunch

    Roast lunches are such a typical english thing that it came as no surprise when the gorilla got well excited when I suggested we do one on the afternoon he was leaving.

     I haven't properly cooked in a long time and I don't count all those weird food experiments that I did in the name of diet as proper cooking. It was somewhat daunting to be honest, to whip up a three course lunch when all I've really been obsessed about was baking. Yet the lunch must be done.

        After dancing naked under the street lamps and sacrificing of some virgins, the powers of a sous chef was bestowed upon me.

       I'm kidding. I'm not pagan. Just a little bit nuts.

   After much recipe hunting and feeling somewhat unsatisfied, I sought the help of my father. After all, family recipes are there for a reason and the best way to get your hands on them is to weasel them out is from the source itself. My family is a little odd. My dad cooks, my mom bakes.

    My father is an amazing cook. His turkey is always  tender and succulent, his flash fried frozen chicken nuggets taste like heaven somehow and a plain fried egg becomes a delicacy in his wok. I"m serious. This man is talented. And very saddistic.

       I remember getting yelled at for not slicing the Bang Kwang or Jicama "fine" enough for his peranakan tastes. We were making Kueh Pie Tie and I offered to help with a hidden motive. After four hours of slicing, grating, cutting, more cutting, more slicing, more grating, more..( you get the picture), I was giddy and about to faint. After that ordeal, I decided to try my luck and ask for the recipe.

       Surprisingly, I did not have to sell my soul to the devil nor offer anything. I simply asked and I received. The recipe reads as follows:

POUND 4 cloves of garlic, 3 slices of ginger and a red onion until it turned into mush.

Next, add salt, pepper, chinese wine, msg, light soy sauce and a little sugar to the mush.

Then rub it all over the chicken, under the skin, in the cavity and on the skin.
Let it sit overnight in, get this, A PLASTIC BAG( I kid you not), in the fridge.

Before roasting, rub white pepper with Ajio salt( I'm guessing more MSG)  all over the chicken.  Roast for slightly over an hour and this is what you get:

           Yes, its not perfectly browned I know. Yes, I did roast it for an awful lonng time. So why did it not only not  brown but even had pink bits near the bone of the leg? Why? WHY?

        Because the smart ass in me wanted to roast paper parcel potatoes over the bird, hoping the butter will baste the chicken.

         But no, the parchement was leak proof so it just prevented skin cancer, I mean, the browning of the chicken. I basted the chicken every ten-fifteen minutes or so with margarine( keeps the meat tender according to my dad)  and the meat was really succulent. I was pleasantly surprised and quietly congratulatting myself on the taste and tenderness.

         However the gorilla didn't fancy the taste but was impressed at how succulent the meat was and not so impressed that I nearly gave him semonella.

        As a side dish, I decided to make my favourite Paper Parcel Roast potatoes. These are so easy yet oh so delicious and gratifying. Seriously. Obama ought to feed this to his detractors.

                                     That liquid gold you see is none other than melted butter.

How do you make this? I can't give you exact proportions because I never remember them anyway. I simply add everything till it looks enough?

I'm guessing: 4 cloves garlic sliced, 4 spring onions, chopped butter( 50g?) and salt and black pepper to taste. Place it all on a baking paper and then seal the ends by brushing lightly beaten egg white. Bake for 30mins at 180 degrees celcius.

In lieu of dessert, the gorilla requested another savoury. So side kick number 2 was cheese straws!

That turned into cheese puffs.

My cheese straws had cheese exploding out of them because a) I did not twist the pastry tightly enough b) greed over took my better judgement and I cut 10 strips instead of 24 and c) the cheese fiend in me added more cheese than required.

            Nonetheless, they were comforting and delicious. Who can resist hot puffy pastry filled with gooey mozzerella and sharp parmesan? I even cheated on this one. I used ready rolled puff pastry because I got inspired only that very morning.

Here's what you need:

2 sheets of ready rolled Puff Pastry

1 cup of mozzerella cheese/pizza cheese

1/2 cup of parmasan cheese

1 egg yolk

salt to taste

Brush egg yolk on one sheet of pastry. Sprinkle with mozzerella. Place the second sheet of pastry over the mozzerlla.

With the remaining egg yolk, brush it evenly over the pastry and sprinkle parmasan cheese. Lightly sprinkle some salt.

Cut the pastry in half and stack one half on top of the other, pressing down firmly.

Cut the stack, widthwise into 24 strips. you may want to cut them thinner than you like them because they tend to puff out.

Picking up each strip, gently twist and pull as you do so, pinching the ends to seal them in. Place them on a parchment lined sheet and  bake at 220 degrees celcius for 10 mins.

      It made a rather satisfying lunch which was finished off with some beer and quiet moments. Goodbyes are never easy.
        Often made easier when you know you have a leftover roast lunch waiting for you in the freezer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cupcake Madness

Cupcakes. It seems the whole world has become completely enraptured with them and everywhere you go, everyone is offering these little single serves like the latest must have.

Initially, I could never get my head around them. You see, I've always been a giant slice of cake person, always the first to say, "Forget the plate, just pass the tin around and let's spoon the bloody thing already." Spoon to cake, cake to mouth and mouth to pleasure center.

Besides, cupcakes have always been deceptive. Yes, under that plethora of icing, frosting, glaze, cream and rainbow sprinkles lies a very dry and boring cake. The seduction often ends in an anti-climax, leaving one want for more. Often times, I find myself feeling cheated, like the morning after an impulsive night time tryst with a stranger. But I digress.

This cupcake sojourn of mine all started when a male colleague decided to upstage the bakers and cooks of the fairer sex in the department by turning up with beautiful cupcakes for a company get together. Cupcakes so beautiful that I ignored the little voice in my head and allowed myself to be seduced. Picking it up, I peeled the parched white wrapper off, took my first bite and waited. My body tingled. I was hooked. It was lust, love and obsession at first bite. This single serve of butter cake covered in chocolate ganache was not only delicious but stunning to behold. Yes, one night stands, I mean, cupcakes can be good.

Fired by this revelation, the mad artist in me took over. For days and nights I researched on how to decorate a cake. You see, despite being an avid baker and cook, my food constantly bore this mutant gene I like to call "The Ugly Chromosome or T.U.C". Compelled by the urge to purge this genetic defect, I launched myself into the daunting task of cake decorating. The perfect opportunity came when my favourite aunt's birthday came about and I embarked on a cupcake adventure. I made four different types of cupcakes and then launched on creating four different ways of decorating. Okay, maybe five.

Warning: The following scenes might containt explicit material.

Butter Cupcakes with Marshmellow Flowers

Yup, you read right. I used marshmellows cut up and dipped in coloured sugar for the flower petals. I cut little stems from the remaining marshmellows and arranged the petals to resemble flowers on a bed of piped whipped cream. I personally am not a fan of buttercream. Whipped cream gives an ice cream like consistency when chilled and is light and just delectable. Underneath that whipped lightness is a rich buttery cake that contains more eggs than your daily required amount. Cardiac arrest might ensue.

Gula Melaka( Palm Sugar) Coffee Cupcakes

A heady aromatic cupcake that combines that delectable sweetness of palm sugar and coffee. To me, gula melaka is probably the molasses of the east. Topped with a classic sugar frosting and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. Looking deceptively playful and sweet, it'll shock with its depth of flavour.

Gula Melaka Coffee Cupcakes 2: Swirled and dangerous

Same cupcake swirled with dark chocolate ganache. Might as well play with my left over chocolate ganache and dirty up these pristine looking cupcakes. They look like inkblot cupcakes to me. Quite a cool way to carry out the ink blot test I reckon.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Seriously, if you're going to sin, do it in style.
Imagine a dense moist chocolate cake made with coco then studded with dark chocolate chips and finally doused with a dark chocolate ganache( topping made with chocolate and cream). Then topped with a red rose because nothing screams seduction like a deep red rose.Very Freudian I know. I could go on but nobody needs to read my stream of consciousness.
I used those gum paste ones from a baking shop. Next time, I'll make my own with fondant.

Pretty In Pink aka Bandung Cupcakes

Pretty in Pink aka Bandung Cupcakes:
For those who don't know, Bandung is a popular milky drink made with rose syrup and evaporated or full cream milk, mostly found in South East Asia. Its sweet and rosy and to some, an acquired taste. To me, this is heavenly. This baby is a product of many experiments. Introducing a Bandung Butter cupcake frosted with a lightly Bandung flavoured whipped cream frosting and decorated with silver sugar dragees.

And finally, an overview :


Yes, I had to. Without the money to buy a fancy cupcake tower, I had to create an alternative. Since I've laboured over the art work, I might as well have a display that screams the same. This was made by my equally creative pet gorilla who used a kitchen towel roll, toilet roll and various sized cake boards. He picked a pretty wrapper from Borders and got to work. Nifty eh?

I apologise for the blurry shots because after frosting the last cupcake, it was pretty much pack and go to my aunt's house. After displaying the cupcakes, there was this urgency to eat them and nobody wanted to wait for me to be done trying to get the perfect Food-nographic shot. Ah well.

So who would have thought that something so small and simple could capture one's imagination so vividly? I take it all back. Cupcakes can be good. I'm not cheating on the good ole slice of cake, I'm merely exploring my options.