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Monday, March 30, 2009

Chocolat et Café

Have seen many bloggers posting recipes of cupcakes. That is a good advantage for those who are really into cupcakes to actually do experiments with various recipes and come out with their own formulated ones. Subsequently if they post those new recipes, everyone of us will benefit from them all over again. And soon enough, a circle of neverending cupcake learning community will be formed!

I am one of the cupcake lovers, who also happened to have craving for chocolate cupcakes recently. Initially planned to crown my cupcakes with tangerine cheese cream from one of the appetizing recipes found on the Net, but then it wasn’t the season of tangerine. So I had to figure out the replacement. My bet was coffee butter cream. Nothing can go wrong since both chocolate and coffee compliment each other to deliver the most of both taste and aroma.

Makes 11 cupcakes

1. Chocolate Cupcakes
Prepare: 11 muffin paper cups (diameter 2 ¼ inch, height 2 ¼ inch) and a large baking tray

- All purpose flour > 120 grams
- Cocoa powder > 44 grams
- Baking powder > 1 teaspoon
- Baking soda > ½ teaspoon
- Salt > ¼ teaspoon
- Milk > 190 ml
- Vanilla essence > 1 teaspoon
- Butter – soften > 90 grams
- Granulated sugar > 187 grams
- Eggs > 2

- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Place 11 muffin paper cups on the baking tray with adequate gap between one another.
- Mix all purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift.
- Separately combine milk and vanilla essence.
- Place softened butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat at low speed until both ingredients are fully combined. Change to high speed and cream for 5 minutes.
- Change speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time.
- Adjust speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in a few additions. Continue to beat until batter is smooth.
- Spoon batter into each muffin cup until ¾ full.
- Bake at 180°C for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the cake turns out clean.
- Remove from stove and cool on wire rack.

2. Coffee Butter Cream
Makes approximately 450 grams

- Egg yolk > 20 grams
- Whole egg > 60 grams
- Water > 90 grams
- Vanilla powder > 1 teaspoon
- Sugar > 124 grams
- Salted butter - room temperature > 250 grams
- Coffee flavoring > 1 tablespoon
- Mocca paste > 1 teaspoon
- Chocolate coloring > 1 teaspoon

- Combine egg yolk with whole egg. Whip moderately with fork until frothy. Set aside.
- Mix water, sugar, and vanilla powder. Bring to boil until it reaches 118°C. Remove from fire and quickly place hot syrup in a mixing bowl.
- Pour egg mixture into hot syrup while whipping with cake mixer at medium speed. When it is fully in, switch to high speed and continue whipping until cream is cool and thick.
- Add butter into cream and whip until hard and smooth (approximately 5 minutes).
- Fold in coffee flavoring, mocca paste, and chocolate coloring. Mix thoroughly.
- Pop a star piping nozzle into the piping bag and fill with coffee butter cream.
- Pipe cream on top of chocolate cupcakes.
- Decorate more as desired. Serve.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Grin Comes Broccoli!

When last month I was sending the post "To Start with Broccoli" I knew for sure that I would be experimenting with broccoli again. Just never thought it would be so soon.

While a day earlier I was asking my date regarding what food we should be having for a nice romantic home cooked dinner, all I got were a grin and comforting words: "Whatever you cook tastes good for me". Ha ha what a indecisive flirt!

Anyway to make things simpler, I handed over the Italian cooking book after we narrowed down our preference to Italian food. Still no decision was made. Being assertive on my end, I made the suggestions after a few flips and finally settled with Smoked Ham Spaghetti with Broccoli and Pumpkin Soup with Orange and Thyme.

Serves 3 persons

- Dried spaghetti > 150 grams
- Broccoli – cut to florets > 100 grams
- Water > 1 ½ liters
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
- Olive oil > 1 tablespoon
- Butter > 1 tablespoon
- All purpose flour > 1/8 cups
- Milk > 1 cup
- Whipping cream > 1 ½ tablespoons
- Nutmeg powder > 1/8 teaspoon
- Fresh thyme - pluck leaves from stalk > 1/8 teaspoon
- Pepper > 1/8 teaspoon
- Cheddar cheese – grate > ½ cup
- Smoked ham – cut into square strips > 50 grams

- Boil 1 ½ liters of water and salt. Add spaghetti and broccoli. Cook until spaghetti just firm to the bite. Drain spaghetti and broccoli separately.
- Stir in olive oil into drained spaghetti and stir so strains will not stick together. Set aside.
- Preheat pan and melt butter. Add all purpose flour and stir quickly to mix well.
- Lower the heat. Pour in milk. Continue cooking and stirring for 15 minutes until thick and smooth.
- Add nutmeg powder, thymes, pepper, and whipping cream and mix well.
- Fold in spaghetti and stir well. Add grated cheddar cheese and stir until cheese completely melted.
- Toss in broccoli and ham strips.
- Serve hot with crusty bread.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"All I Care about is Love"

It is funny how drinks are named. Somehow on my first testing as I am experimenting with the colour and taste, that name will just occur in parallel with my senses. Don't even need to think harder, it is like the name automatically attaches itself to the taste, aroma, or color, mostly the taste. And for that moment, I register it as a reference name in my mind and be able to use it later to revisualize it as an object or something abstract, like a feeling, a quality, or mood.

Strawberry can never go wrong with anything. Everybody knows that, and I just love it. And for the mix of strawberry with banana added with a twist of bailey calls out a musical mood with an image of Richard Gere as Billy Flynn (Chicago) singing his lines " I don't care about expensive things ….. Cashmere coats ….. Diamond rings ….. Don't mean a thing ….. All I care about is love ….. That's what I'm here for".

Makes any sense? Try it and let your drink speak for you!

Serves 2 persons

- Strawberries - slice > 150 grams
- Banana - slice > 1
- Dairy whipping cream > 3 tablespoons
- Granulated sugar > 2 1/2 tablespoons
- Water - 2 tablespoons
- Bailey liquor - 4 tablespoons
- Ice cubes - 2 cups

- Mix all ingredients in a blender and whiz till fine.
- Decorate with strawberry slices and add ice cubes as desired.
- Serve.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Crisp, juicy and tart, Granny Smith are excellent apples suitable for cooking, baking, and eating raw. Vivid light green is its color, the history brought it back to Australia in the year 1868 when Maria Ann Smith propagated a chance seedling and that was the time Granny Smith, followed the name of its propagator, was first cultivated.

Compared to other kinds of apples, Granny Smith is the most suitable for making apple pie due to its firm texture and sharp taste. Conveniently available in supermarkets throughout the year makes it a great choice for baking and cooking in any occasions.

Serves 8 persons

1. Crust

Prepare: one 7 inch cake ring, covered bottom and sides with aluminium foil.

- All purpose flour > 105 grams
- Granulated sugar > 42 grams
- Butter - room temperature > 86 grams
- Egg yolk > 1
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Ice cold water > 1 1/2 tablespoons

- Combine flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a bowl and mix into a dough.
- Beat egg yolk and cold water with a fork until frothy.
- Add egg yolk mixture into dough. Mix well.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 190 degree Celsius.
- Roll pastry dough into thickness of 0.4cm, enough to cover the base and sides of cake ring.
- Bake blind at 190 degree Celsius for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

2. Filling

- Granny Smith apples - thinly slice >2 big apples
- Cream cheese - soften > 160 grams
- Icing sugar > 21 grams
- Egg > 49 grams
- Granulated sugar > 64 grams
- Vanilla essence > 1 teaspoon
- Cinnamon > 1/2 teaspoon
- Nutmeg > 1/8 teaspoon
- Flaked almonds > 21 grams

- Preheat oven at 175 degree Celsius.
- Mix cheese cream, icing sugar, egg, and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
- Fold into the baked crust.
- Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Add apples and toss until spices cover apples thoroughly.
- Arrange apple on top of filling. Spread flaked almond.
- Bake at 175 degree Celsius for 1 hour and 15 minures or until the crust is brown and apples turn soft and cooked.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool on wire rack.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Lava

The first chance I had to bake a chocolate pie came two weeks ago when I wasn't really in the mood for anything chocolatey. But two things occured right at the same time: an exciting date and a close friend's visit. So there I was right in my kitchen carrying out a baking mission to welcome both parties. To my surprise I discovered that both love chocolate. Therefore, what flavour would be best to bake but a chocolate pie?

Found my desired recipe but didn't really fancy the topping which happened to be meringue. Why not compliment the milk chocolate filling with a top layer of soft flowy dark chocolate coating that looks like lava? I could imagine it flowed and melted gently once it touched the tounge, which seemed perfect. A slight bitterness blended with milky sweetness...

Serves 10 persons

1. Crust
Prepare: 7 inch cake ring - cover base and sides with aluminium foil

- Chocolate cookies > 180 grams
- Butter - melt > 45 grams
- Almond > 20 grams

- Place chocolate cookies and almond in a food processor and crush until fine.
- Pour into a mixing bowl and blend with melted butter to form crumbs.
- Press crumbs into base and sides of the cake ring.
- Refrigerate.

2. Filling

- Egg yolks > 3
- Granulated sugar > 4 tablespoons
- Corn flour > 4 tablespoons
- Milk > 450 ml
- Dairy whipping cream > 150 ml
- Milk chocolate - melt > 100 grams

- Preheat oven to 160°C.
- Mix egg yolks, corn flour, and granulated sugar. Whip until pale and thick. Set aside.
- Take crust out from the fridge.
- Heat milk and whipping cream in a saucepan until almost boiled.
- Gradually pour into the egg mixture whilst stirring with a whisk.
- Return to saucepan. Cook and stir constantly until it is thickened. Remove from fire.
- Fold in the melted milk chocolate and stir until chocolate completely melted.
- Pour chocolate filling into crust about 4/5 full.
- Bake at 160°C for 30 minutes.
- Leave to cool.

3. Lava Top

- Dark chocolate > 65 grams
- Dairy whipping cream > 45 grams

- When cake is cool, cook whipping cream until boiled.
- Fold in dark chocolate and stir until chocolate entirely dissolved.
- Pour chocolate on top of cool cake. Refrigerate.
- Decorate with strawberry slices and chocolate ornaments.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When Couscous Meets Ginkgo

If you are in Asian country and bored with the routine of consuming rice, try couscous! The staple of North African cuisine and the national dish of the countries of Maghrib (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia), couscous is granular semolina, the term for the more coarsely ground than normal wheat flour, a result that is obtained by sifting out the finer flour.

Similar to rice, pasta or bread, couscous is a highly nutritive product made from wheat or other cereals with the capacity for long term preservation. In Asian countries, dried couscous comes in nice packages and is mostly found in supermarkets. Light yellow in color and aethetically appealing, this nutritious grain simply needs basic cooking. It can be served for everyday meal or a luxury feast, a main course or dessert, and go well with vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, or even merely butter or fresh fruits.

The part I love most about it is the short cooking time. It is suitable for what I call "practical meals just in time to catch my favourite TV shows". Try and see whether you like it...

Serves 2 persons

- Couscous > 200 grams
- Water > 325 grams – 390 ml
- Carrot – dice > 80 grams
- Potato – dice > 50 grams
- Fresh ginkgo nuts > 30 grams
- Black raisins > 30 grams
- Butter > 40 grams
- Dill/Laos coriander leaves – chop > 1 stock
- Sweet Thai basil – pluck leaves from stalk > 2 stalks
- Fish sauce > teaspoons
- Sugar > 1 teaspoon

sweet thai basil

- Cook water, carrot, potato, ginkgo nuts, raisins, and sugar in a pan until boiled.
- Remove pan from heat. Add couscous, stir to mix and cover pan for 10 minutes.
- Open cover. Couscous grains now have grown almost tripled.
- Bring pan back to heat, add butter and fish sauce. Stir until butter is completely dissolved. Remove from fire. Add sweet Thai basil leaves.
- Place on a serving plate. Sprinkle with chopped dill leaves.
- Serve.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Grandma and Her Pickled Tofu

Pickled tofu used to be a warm companion to our breakfast, especially when my grandmother was part of this morning ritual. We would all sit there enjoying our simple congee cooked with sweet tapioca - the way my grandmother loved it. Sometimes we also had salted eggs and fish steamed in black soya beans, but sometimes we didn't. Simply congee with pickled tofu. As plain as it was, we all truly enjoyed it and never complained a word.

While recently researched for my blog, I stumbled upon a Thai Chinese cooking book and it comprised one of the most interesting recipes catching my attention. That was Fried chicken in pickled tofu. That brought back my memory of our kitchen filled with my siblings' laughters and my grandmother's voice. How I miss her!

Grandma, in Heaven you are.... this dish is dedicated to you!

Serves 3 persons

- Chicken breast - cut into moderate pieces > 250 grams
- Pickled tofu > 1 1/2 pieces
- Water > 1 tablespoon
- Black mushrooms > 50 grams- Water > 1 tablespoon
- Yellow chilly - slice small > 2
- Garlic - peel, chop small > 8 cloves
- Vegetable oil > 2 tablespoons
- Red chilly - slice lengthwise > 1
- Green chilly - slice lengthwise > 1
- Squid/fish sauce - 1 tablespoon
- Granulated sugar > 1/2 tablespoon
- Thai basil - pluck leaves from stalk > 1 stalk

pickled tofu

- Dissolve pickled tofu in 1 tablespoon of water.
- Ground yellow chilly and garlic until fine.
- Saute grounded chilly and garlic in vegetable oil until fragrant. Add chicken meat and black mushrooms. Fry until cooked.
- Fold in dilluted pickled tofu, red and green chilly slices. Finally spice up by adding squid/fish sauce and granulated sugar.
- Before remove from fire, fold in Thai basil leaves.
- Serve.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Gift of Relish

On top of sweetness and saltiness, sourness is the true gift of relish. Imagine the universe of taste merely consists of sweetness and saltiness, how boring all foods and drinks will be - my apology for ignoring bitterness since not many people seem to enjoy it anyway.

Well, back to sourness, if you happen to be in Thailand you will encounter all sorts of food which have distinctive sour taste, or in some cases extremely sour taste. People seem to enjoy everything that is sour here, from the famous Papaya Salad, Tom Yum Soup, Thai Spicy Seafood Salad to raw mangoes. Some friends commented that most Thai girls are slim and slender due to their sour diet. Is it true? No idea. But they do seem to consume lots of raw mangoes :-)

That brings me to a sudden craving for lime cake. A buttery lime cake deliciously glazed with thick lime syrup. Every wrinkles creased at the sides of eyes as I bite into the sourness are truly expression of my passionate enjoyment. As I looked into the recipe, an adequate portion of coconut milk was added to make the cake creamier.

Serves 10 persons
Prepare: Rectangular cake tin size: length 19cm, width 9 cm, height 6cm

1. Lime Glaze

- Lime juice > 24 grams
- Granulated sugar > 30 grams

- Mix both ingredients in a bowl and stir until sugar completely dissolved.

2. Lime Cake

- All purpose flour > 132 grams
- Baking powder > 3/4 teaspoon
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Butter > 83 grams
- Whole eggs > 1 1/2 or 76 grams
- Granulated sugar > 150 grams
- Fresh milk > 75 grams
- Coconut milk > 3/8 cup
- Lime juice > 15 grams
- Lime zest > grate lime > 10 grams

- Mix all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt together. Sieve.
- Cream butter and lime zest until pale and thick. Set aside.
- Preheat oven at 160 degree Celsius.
- Beat eggs and sugar until pale and thick.
- Fold in fresh milk, coconut milk, and lime juice. Mix well.
- Add flour into creamed butter and mix thoroughly.
- Finally add egg mixture into creamed butter as well.
- Bake at 160 degree Celsius for 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from baking tin and leave on wire rack to cool.
- Brush top and sides of cake with lime glaze. Repeat until glaze is finished.
- Keep cake in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight.
- Serve in room temperature.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

..... In Harmony

Can't resist strawberries, especially their shapes, textures, and colors. From all kinds of fruits I have ever used to decorate cakes, strawberries are doing the greatest magic to enhance their look and edibility. Regardless whether it is for cold or hot desserts, strawberries bring the beauty and attention under the spot light.

Strawberries also carry very strong taste and aroma. The reason why I think I could never get enough in combining it with a variety of fruits to discover new and interesting flavor. Recently I tried mixing it with apple and this was what I got... the feeling when everything is ......... in harmony.

Serves 2 persons

- Stawberry - slice > 135 grams
- Fuji apple - peel, core, slice > 1
- Coconut milk > 1/4 cup
- Water > 1/4 cup
- Granulated sugar > 2 tablespoons
- Ice cubes > 1 cup
- Coconut white rum > 2 tablespoons

- Mix all ingredients in a blender and whiz till fine.
- Decorate with apple slice and add ice cubes as desired.
- Serve.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

An Incidental Nap

While I was approaching last weekend, I thought it would be nice to invite a friend for a trip to the local market, buy vegetables, cook, and eat together. As enthusiastic as I was, I came out with 3 different recipes which I wanted us to have for an enjoyable Saturday lunch. You know, like eating and chatting, and eating and chatting ....

Responding to my invitation, my friend, W came to stay over on a Friday night so we could carry out our cooking plan on Saturday morning. When the morning came, I already had lots of things in my mind - recipes, photo shoots, and this post. Plenty of things to juggle before a simple walk into the market. But I was relieved since W agreed to give a hand and seemed to be quite into it!

Only when it came to the preparation stage, things changed. Just half an hour before we were supposed to cut, chop, slice, and all those actions, he lied down on the couch and slept. I was quite discouraged for a while but then I managed to pick myself up, back into my cooking mood... and back into my chopping board. And there I was doing the preparation and cooking with utmost joy, but only with one difference: I was cooking 1 recipe instead of 3 :-)

When W woke up from his 'incidental' nap it was just time for us to eat the dish since I already managed to snap some shots for this post. Ha ha thinking about it, I will definitely do it again.... just with a different friend ... and no incidental nap, please!

Serves 2 persons

- Big green eggplant > 2
- Boiled egg - halve > 1
- Dried shrimps - ground > 1 tablespoon
- Mint leaves - pluck from stalk > 1
- Shallots - slice > 3

- Lime juice > 2 tablespoons
- Granulated sugar > 1 tablespoon
- Squid/fish sauce > 1 tablespoon
- Red chilies - slice > 2

- Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius.
- Prepare spices by mixing lime juice, sugar, and squid/fish sauce. Keep stirring until sugar dissolved. Fold in red chilies. Set aside.
- Bake eggplants at 200 degree Celsius for 15 minutes until cooked. Leave to cool.
- Peel eggplants, halve, and cut into 2 inch length.
- Stack up baked eggplants on a serving plate. Then crown with boiled egg.
- Sprinkle with sliced shallots and grounded shrimps. Then pour spice sauce thoroughly.
- Finally garnish with mint leaves.
- Serve.