Thursday, June 30, 2005

What a relief!

Let me tell you what a relief it is not to be able to worry about what I eat.
This entry is not about my recent kitchen adventure. This post is about letting your belly hang over your belt and breathing a SIGH of relief.
I was on a diet for the past two weeks because of a photo shoot where i was one of the 'models'. This photo shoot, scheduled for 3 full days was for an image library that was to be used by the whole of Asia for years to come. The pressure to 'perform' so to speak was HUGE. Top add fear to this huge burden was the fact that day TWO involved a pool shot in a bikini. Imagine the nightmare i've been living in!!

So for the past two weeks, i've avoided carbs for dinner, and generally cut out half my social life declining invitations for late dinners that i knew would leave me crawling into bed filled with alcohol and a heavy meal.

And let me tell you, I was miserable.

I denied myself my constant cravings for dessert (actually, i really should learn how to curb this bad BAD habit), I tried to keep my baking adventures to a bare minimum to avoid tempting myself, even if it meant licking the mixing bowl. I was crabby from the lack of sugar and crabby from waking up every morning hungry and STILL seeing the same old me in front of the mirror.

My End of Diet Fantasy
In the last leg of this marathon of denial (i know, it was ONLY two weeks - but truly, it felt like a gruelling eternity), I was starting to fantasize about the treats I would give myself at the end of this dreaded shoot. There was my chocolate Fantasy - max brenner's Chocolate Heaven in the Esplanade - i was laughing about it to another chocolate fanatic friend that we would skip dinner and have chocolate waffles, the molten chocolate cake and their brownies with ice cream all in one sitting!
And there was all the junk food I was going to allow myself. And the pasta, and the bread, and attempting another batch of cinnamon rolls jam packed with slabs of butter and ENJOYING it without guilt.

And i talked to my boyfriend about going for a REALLY nice meal together at a restaurant and not wondering how much butter went into that delightful plate of scallops.
Already, he had been complaining that i was no fun on a diet. There was so much I could not do.

My list of indulgences started after the 2nd day of my shoot. By this time, I had decided it was too late to diet - PLUS the bikini shot was over. I ended my night at 11pm with a chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream from Haagen Daazs.
on the last day of the shoot, we all had take away Burger King for dinner. A double cheeseburger, onion rings and a large coke. Honestly, it was at this point that I felt like throwing up. It was a big shock to the system, and no matter how nice the idea of junk food when you feel like you've been starving yourself for years, junk food is still junk food. Plastic and chemical and too much of it on a newly shrunk stomach is never a good idea.

In the past 3 days, i have also had a Kit Kat Chunky, mee goreng, durian, some mashed potato with truffle from a dinner i was helping a chef with last night, tarte tartin with pear and ice cream, savouring the charred caramelised puff pastry. I have to admit, I couldn't quite shake off the feeling of guilt after it though.

Tonight, i've got my date at a fancy restaurant which I'm thrilled to bits about. Going to St Pierre with the bf. I first read about st Pierre in the Wall Street Journal before i even moved to Singapore. The food critic had given the restaurant a full 5 stars, rating it as a top notch French restaurant. It'll be interesting to see for myself.

Here's to a weekend of indulgence and enjoying the joys of food!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Malteser Muffins!

Malteser muffins Posted by Hello

These turned out FANTASTIC! And what a great product placement picture for Maltesers hey?
I had held on to this Delicious Magazine with a series on muffins for a while now, ear marking the malteser muffin recipe and their 'ultimate chocoholics' muffin recipe for a serious emergency muffin need in the near future.

The opportunity arose to make it when last week i was given a whole gift box of Maltesers at work (leftover from a delivery that had come in showcasing the 'christmas' selection, and in case i haven't mentioned it, i work for Mars, the company that gave birth to Mars, M&M's, Maltesers, Bounty, Snickers, Dove, Galaxy.... etc etc - and yes, it is tempting to be surrounded by chocolate!)

I had to deliver another batch of muffins for this weekend, and decided to 'take the risk' with this recipe, having no clue whether it would turn out well or not. I might have mentioned in earlier postings before that i had always sought after those perfect domed tops that come billowing out of their muffin cups. This recipe makes those larged domed tops. It uses 1 tablespoon of baking powder (and i use double acting baking powder which probably adds to the rise). On top of that, the tops were crispy - a much desired and loved part of for muffin lovers.

I think having to half fill 3 empty muffin cups with water contributed to the 'crispy tops'. I don't ever get crispy domed tops, and i think this might have been the trick. Because the recipe surprisingly only filled 3 cups of my jumbo sized muffin tin, i filled the remaining 3 with water (i had read somewhere before that one needs to balance the filled muffin tin when in the oven and to avoid burning the empty cups in the tin? - I'm not sure, but i think that was it)

After 20 mins, they came out huge and glorious with large LARGE domed tops. I have to confess that what you see in the picture are actually my second batch of this recipe. The first batch as i said, only made 3 large muffins. Following my policy not to deliver something i've never tried before, i of course was 'FORCED' to try one of the 3 and damn, was it good! Very sweet i must say, so make it if you're craving a dessert muffin. i tried a measly quarter, then wrapped up the remainder in foil and passed it to a girlfriend who had come to pick me up for a party that night (i had made these at 9:30pm on Sat night)

My Muffin Proposal
Now, I'm very proud of what then happened. She brought it to the party, and offered a portion to a guy friend of hers (that i had just been introduced to). He tried it, then said 'I would marry her for muffins like these' to which she said, 'well too bad, she's attached'. and we had a laugh about what a good line this would make in my blog. So there you go. The high point in my muffin career - a proposal from a near stranger.
Even if it was just hypothetical, it feels good to be able to tell the story.

So here goes the recipe!

Malteser Muffins

1 1/2 cups (225g) cups plain flour
1 cup crushed Maltesers, plus
24 whole Maltesers to decorate
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 egg
3/4 sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60ml) milk

Caramel Icing (this is optional of course. I opted not to use icing on mine!)
1 1/2 cups (225g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tbs milk
2 tbs golden syrup
30g unsalted butter, softened

To make the icing, beat all ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease muffin tins.
Sift flour into large bowl with maltesers, sugar, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.
In a separate bowl beat together egg, sour cream, vanilla, butter and milk, then fold mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into muffin pans and bake for 16-20 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool slightly in the pan, then remove to cool completely.
Spread icing over muffins, then decorate with a whole Malteser.

p.s. As i was saying, what you see in the picture were my second batch (made on Sunday). I was craving them so much and had forgotten to take a pic of my first batch! for this second batch, i made them in smaller muffin tins( which meant 6 in total) - so what you see is not quite as huge as what were delivered to the cafe this morning. Having said that, i cut down on the sugar for this batch, which i have to say -resulted in a less satisfactory muffin, so my advise is follow the recipe word for word - and make them in jumbo sized muffin tins!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Honey Toasted Home Made Muesli!

Home Made Muesli Posted by Hello

This recipe was taken once again from 101cookbooks.com which the author had taken from Michele Crantston's 'The Essential Guide to the Kitchen'.

The picture posted on the net was seductive enough to make me want to make it immediately.
I don't normally eat much for breakfast - i have cultivated the habit of fruit and lots of water for breakfast. But the thought of home made muesli sounded yummy. Reading through the recipe, it didn't seem very difficult to make at all.

Instead of Slivered almonds (which i didn't have sitting in my kitchen) i substitued it with pistachios. Instead of dried apples, i used dried apricots and raisins instead.

The result was a toasty muesli PACKED with chewy crunchy goodness. I ate it the next morning with natural low fat yoghurt. Because it's got so many textures thrown into it, I have to say that all that chewing gave my jaw a bit of an ache, but it was certainly satisfying. It's probably not as healthy as it might want you to think - but it tasted so good I had it for lunch as well!

I am definitely going to make this again and again. plus it's a great gift for your breakfast eating friends!

Honey-toasted Fruit Muesli
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Put 5 cups rolled oats into a large bowl. Add 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup triticale (see above note), 1 cup shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Stir to combine.

Heat 3/4 cup honey and 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over low heat. Pour the warm honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until they are well coated.

Spread the mixture on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Add 1/4 cup finely sliced dried apricots, 1/4 cup finely sliced dried apples and 1/4 cup finely sliced dried peaches (heidi note: I used dried papaya). Toss to combine. Store the muesli in an airtight container.

Makes 12 servings.

Kitchen: The Essential Guide to the Kitchen by Michele Cranston (Whitecap, September, 2005)

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread Posted by Hello

I have never had Irish Soda bread in my life, and wouldn't know for a minute if what I made replicated the real deal. This recipe was taken from 101cookbooks.com - a food site I love feasting my eyes on. It was an attractive recipe because i was looking for something to make with my near expiry butter milk,and it was also a loaf of bread that didn't seem to require much time to make. At 10pm, this was an important consideration!

Unfortunately, i didn't have as much buttermilk as what was required - I was short of a whole 3/4 cup full of it which probably had a lot to do with the end result which was extremely dry. I also didn't bake it in a loaf pan as suggested, but 'free form' in two dough shapes.

Later, doing a search on the internet, i found that buttermilk can be substituted with a teaspoon of lemon with a cup of milk - or alternatively, a tsp of vinegar with milk. I'm not sure whether this is a passable substitute, but if it is, it's going to save me a lot of money buying cartons of buttermilk i never seem to be able to finish.

Having said that, i bought salted butter specially to slather on the bread as it came out of the oven - and have to say that it still didn't last very long (fresh bread straight out of the oven , no matter how bad - is still wonderful) - hence the reason I don't have a picture of the 'untouched' loaf. I was down to the last two slices before i realised I hadn't taken a picture yet!

Below is the recipe if anyone cares to try it. I suggest that it's a great one for bread beginners to start with - no kneading necessary, no long waiting period - but warning: you have to like the coarse taste of whole wheat. If you're into fluffy white breads, this is not for you:

Irish Mum's Brown Bread
3 cups whole wheat bread flour (Ross says: this is best when the flour is coarse as opposed to the whole wheat flour you get here which is fully milled. Heidi says: I used a standard whole wheat bread flour which seemed to be pretty finely milled, because that's all I could find, even at Rainbow Foods.)

1 cup unbleached white bread flour (Heidi: I used King Arthur brand)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4+ cups buttermilk
2 ounces butter (preferably Kerrygold)
1 egg

Melt the butter over gentle heat.
In a medium-sized bowl lightly beat the egg and then gradually add the buttermilk all the while stirring to incorporate the egg. Beat in the butter.

In another bowl sift and mix the dry ingredients as best you can (not really a prob if you can't find the coarse flour), and then stir in the buttermilk mixture. If you are using a baking tin the mixture should be on the wetter side - (heidi: like a thick brownie mix, something you could pour into the tin, not scoopable by hand really). If your dough is too dry, mix in small splashes of buttermilk until it is the right consistency.

Cook at 400F for 50 minutes on the middle rack. You want to hear a sort of hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the tin. Resist the urge to take the bread out too soon, or the middle of the bread won't get cooked through.

Makes 1 loaf.

Super Rich Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart Posted by Hello

I have not done justice with this photo. Right now, all you probably see is some brown muck sitting in ratty looking pie crust. But in reality, this was a totally sinful, rich and gooey indulgence of the most wicked variety. And a success at first attempt!

This is the first recipe i have ever made from 'The Art of the Tart' by Tamasin Day Lewis. It's a beautiful book that i had purchased a few months back upon the recommendation of my cousin. Many of the recipes in the book unfortunately, use a lot of recipes that are either not readily available in our tropical climate, or extremely expensive to buy in Singapore (fresh apricots, nectarines, peaches, artichokes, prosciutto).

What to bring for dessert?
I was going to a 'pot luck' BBQ at a friend's place on Sat night. We've had a few 'fancy' barbeques here before and it's a GREAT place - a gorgeous colonial bungalow with an outdoor area complete with a gas fire BBQ pit and a graceful banyan tree shrouding the wooden decked outdoor surroundings.
It was 'pot luck' style and as there were a few cooks in the group, the menu was a little more than the average barbeque fare:

The Menu
Oven baked parrot fish with a chili & 'kicap manis' dip
Lamb wrapped in bacon and rosemary orange puree
Pork Slouvaki
Watercress salad with avocados, cashews and grapefruit
Gourmet pork sausages
Potato salad with capers
Squid with a lemon / mint and chili olive oil dressing (my contribution!)
Pita Bread (cooked on the pit ) - my contribution!
Tofu with spicy thai condiments
Japanese potato

As you can see- even though there were 10 of us - we were all hardly able to move after the 'first' round of goodies were laid out on the table.
I have to say that my contributions were a total success (the squid was divine, and the pita bread- i had made them once before - were a firm favourite)

But what i'm trying to come to is - having thought about what everyone was bringing for the night, i realised there was a large gaping hole in the menu - 'dessert'!
Ideally, something light to finish off the large heavy spread that we had was probably more appropriate, but having seen this chocolate tart in Tamasin Day Lewis' book, I was hooked on wanting to make it.

The Evil Ingredients of this Tart
Let's see- the crust was a 'pate sucree' as they call it - sweet shortcrust pastry with 225g flour, 150g butter,3 egg yolks (i think?) and 75g icing sugar.
The chocolate filling itself required 200g of bitter chocolate, another huge block of butter (another 150g i think?) another 3 eggs, 2 more egg yolks, a big pouring of caster sugar. It was quite positively shocking but you know what - it was worth it.

Another thing- i used free range eggs in view of my vegetarian friend Leslie who has never been able to eat my desserts because she can't eat non free range eggs.

The End Result

I was almost sure this dessert was going to fall apart because the pate sucree was incredibly hard to roll out as it was so buttery and soft. As i tried laying it into the pie tin, it started breaking into bits and i ended up having to patch all the broken bits together in the tin.
However, after baking in the oven (for longer than the 25 mins it had specified in the recipe) the crust came out a nice golden brown with a crisp 'biscuity' taste.

The end result was a super rich Chocolate tart with a crisp sweet biscuit base and a gooey thick chocolate filling. Tamasin Day Lewis described this recipe as 'If there is a heaven, this is it'. It is the ultimate chocoholic's indulgence.
Of course, it helped that I splashed out by using the Lindt Bitter Chocolate (85% cocoa) that i had been saving in my fridge for a few weeks now. My friends are certainly a pampered and privileged lot!

More Cinammon Rolls!

Mini Cinammon Rolls Posted by Hello

This was my second attempt at Cinnamon Rolls. As you might have read from my last posting on cinammon rolls, i was not happy with the 'bready texture' and had wanted to make the bread softer and gooey-er.
I had purchased a roll from a Cinammon shop after my first batch and had broken down the taste sensation bite by heavenly bite, concluding that i had to make my rolls softer and more sinful!

Suggestions from fellow blogger Nic (who i had taken this recipe from) was to use butter instead of milk when brushing it on the dough, and perhaps substituting the oil in the dough with more butter! I was ready to try this - ignoring the issue of well... fat and cholesterol!

Unfortunately, this batch was less appetising than the first. Firstly, i made MINI cinammon rolls - using half the recipe and then dividing the dough into 2 before rolling them out - which meant smaller logs from which to cut from. I'm not sure if this affected the end result (having smaller rolls) but they came out of the oven dry and hard and not gooey at all! I had brushed on melted butter instead of milk - but i suspect now that we don't mean a 'thin layer of melted butter' but actually big chunks of butter (to be left to melt in the oven and bubble out from the little folds of the rolls to dribble down your hand as you eat.... ooohh)
I might also have overbaked them as the tops were browner than the first batch - do you think this could have dried out the bread a bit more?

The glaze however i did get right as you would have seen in the picture above. Thicker sweet glaze with a milky sheen.
I also did a variation with chocolate chips and cinammon - which was lovely, if not for the hard bread texture!

I guess this calls for a THIRD attempt! I gave these rolls to my colleagues - they ate them politely but no one said 'wow - these are great' . no kidding - not one. i am not being paranoid.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wednesday night dinner

Grilled Salmon & Risotto Posted by Hello

I was off from work and figured i had no excuse not to make an effort for dinner that day. I decided to veer off the weekday routine of making healthy salads and decided instead on a salmon and risotto combination.

I had been meaning to make a vegetarian risotto for a while because i had some good vegetable stock frozen in a small tupperware in the freezer (made with a generous portion of leek/ corn/ tomatoes/ bay leaf/ carrot and assorted herbs).
This risotto was a healthy variation (no butter and no parmesan to stir in at the end) - a small dash of olive oil to sautee the chopped onions - and the rest of it was just stirring the carnaroli rice (i had bought this at a gourmet shop a while back) with the vegetable stock.
The peas were stirred in at the last minute, lending additional texture to the risotto and some nice colour!(and i guess it provided some added 'vegetable' nutrition - although i'm always doubtful that frozen peas have any sort of nutrition?)

Easy Peasy salmon
This salmon is the easiest and most delicious thing to make. I had read the recipe in one of my Delicious magazines.
Simply chop up some ginger and garlic, marinate with the salmon together with a dash of sweet chili sauce, (i used the Thai variety) soya sauce and oyster sauce. Leave in the fridge for about half an hour to marinade.

When the risotto was almost ready (it took about half an hour), i heated the grill plonked the salmon under the grill for about 10 mins. There's no need to flip it over or anything of that sort. Just leave it be - you'll know when it's ready when you poke a little at the flesh and the inside doesn't look raw, but pink and juicy. be careful not to over grill it! i'm v particular about overcooked fish, which end up losing their 'juiciness'.

I would like to believe that this was a healthy dinner overall (unless of course you're still on the Atkins mantra - but my thoughts on Atkins - he's dead! get on with it!) and it felt like i had whipped up a fancy restaurant meal right in the humble confines of my home in under an hour.

i ate my dinner in a glow of self satisfaction!

Sunday Brunch

Breakfast Posted by Hello

Roasted Veg Fritatta Posted by Hello

Cinammon Rolls Posted by Hello

The pictures you see here are a result of a sunday brunch last week with another couple. The girl had been a part owner of a peranakan restuarant in signapore, along with a catering business and her eyes had lit up when we met at an art exhibition and i had told her about my 'Soul cravings' idea. we decided to have a 'cooking session' at their place on a sunday morning, and get creative!

We agreed to meet at Jasons (posh supermarket with the best meats) and agreed standing in front of the ham and sausage section that we would cook up a nice juicy chicken sausages, roasted veg frittata, grilled portobello muhshroom and cheese (good Margaret River Port cheddar - one of the best cheddars i know off the shelf) with a baguette.
I must say that most of it was Grace and Holman's idea given that i didn't wake up feeling especially adventurous - plus, my ideas for breakfast were thoughts of buckwheat pancakes, scones and sliced strawberries on french toast.
But we were going savoury, and based on what was already planned on the menu, it looked like we already had enough on our plates!

We brough the food back to their place - and started cooking!
They have a beautiful home - large glass windows, grand spread of trees outside and a cool Sunday breeze. it was perfect for a leisurely Sunday morning.

Roasted Vegetable Frittata
I've never made this before, and it was certainly a learning experience for me as Grace took over the reins. Slice red onions, throw it on the pan with a large slab of butter (having been privy to the goings on in a commercial kitchen, grace told me i really didn't want to know the immensely generous amounts of buter that go into 'restaurant food) - sautee them until they soften.
We sliced potatoes into 0.5 cm thin slices and threw them in, until they too softened.
in the meantime, i roasted a red pepper over a fire until blackened.
Cracked 6 eggs into a bowl, salt and pepper, rosemary and thyme, and chopped roasted pepper, and poured this entire concoction into the pan with the sauteed onion and potatoes. And wait whilst the heat cooks the omellete (how on earth do you spell omellete?) as it solidifies around the onion and potato mixture in the pan, forming a thick layer.

The portobello mushrooms were just placed in the oven with some olive oil and salt i think and came out juicy and tender.

The cinnamon rolls i had brought with me from Saturday's baking project!

All in all, a good hearty combination washed down with a lot of orange juice and good conversation.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My best batch so far

Choc Chip cookies Posted by Hello

My Mission

I've been on a mission to create the best chocolate chip cookies in town.
I have not charted my choc chip expeditions on this blog. There have been numerous batches that have gone unaccounted for. I have a recipe book called 'Great Cookies' - i have probably made 5 attempts from the same recipe - never to complete satisfaction. i've tried another chocolate chip cookie recipe from Donna Hay - not bad, but not perfect either.
A recipe i took from 101cookbooks (taken from David Lebovitz's great book of chocolate) were much loved by a friend of mine who likes chewy choc chip cookies and said they were absolutely fantastic - but for my much tested palate, i'm looking for a crispy chocolate chip cookie- light and 'moorish'.

Famous Amos
I bought a small bag of cookies from Famous amos a few weeks back and have to say that there is nothing quite like it. It's a little paper bag of explosive heaven. Famous Amos cookies have since been my benchmark for the perfect cookie.

I searched the net for the 'famous amos choc chip recipe'(with great doubt that I would find anything 'genuine' given that they MUST guard this recipe with great pride)
i found the one below - which looked rather credible (it said that it was published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution as the actual recipe by Famous Amos). I attempted it last night and have to say that they taste fabulous! I replaced margarine with butter (found it a bit odd that it asked for margarine - anyone have any ideas what cookies are like with margarine?) and halved the entire recipe (i did not want the temptation of so many cookies sitting around at home)
Crispy, just the right amount of sweetness - these were with raisins, which i liked a lot.

One problem though is that i still haven't solved the issue of 'spreading'. I often place the formed dough into the fridge for at least 10 mins before placing them in the oven to bake, but they always seem to spread. I have read numerous solutions on the net - half veg shortening (which i haven't tried), placing in fridge (which i have) - using cold butter straight from the fridge (which i always do)... it's another challenge. For my umpteenth attempt!

Below is the recipe - i would recommend this to anyone with the urge to make a yummy batch! any tips on cookie spreading, let me know!
Famous Amos Choc Chip raisin cookie


2 cups (4 sticks) margarine, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raisins
1 package (12 ounces) semi sweet
chocolate pieces

Beat softened margarine, brown and white
sugars, vanilla, water and eggs in a large
bowl with electric mixer until creamy and
thoroughly blended.

Stir in flour, baking soda and salt until
well mixed. Stir in raisins and chocolate

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto cookie
sheets. Allow 1 to 1 1/2 inches betwwen
cookies for spreading.

Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) for 8
minutes, or until cookies are nicely browned,
depending on how crisp or well done you like
them. The longer you bake them, the crisper
they will be.

Makes about 6 dozens.

Monday, June 06, 2005

O dreaded 'Big N Tasty'

Need i say more Posted by Hello

You're probably wondering why i've posted the unmistakable Mc Donalds logo on my blog. Some of you might even find it mildly offensive. well i thought i should veer of my 'fresh out of oven' path for a bit here and confess my dirty deed for the day.
I was hungry, it was 12:30pm - i circled the basement of the shopping centre i was at, every square foot of it crammed with eateries - I made a quick tour. KFC, Delifrance, Coffee bean, MOS burger, Secret Recipe, Mc Donalds.... Mc Donalds.... hmmm.... Mc Donalds. And so feeling rebellious, i took a deep breath, walked in and waited in line as the throngs of students before me belted out their greedy orders. I already knew what i wanted, but tried very hard in my last few minutes of waiting for the sweaty boy in front of me to make up his mind to talk myself out of it. 'Go on, grab that juicy red apple for $0.50 and walk out of here. Don't you remember Supersize me? remember that stomach surgery and the globs of fat on that guy?'

'Ah yes? oh sure - a 'Big N Tasty' value meal please. er... make that a diet coke.'

And before i knew it, i was carrying a plastic tray and whisking my meal to a corner of the joint.

You're probably thinking 'what's the big deal? the stuff you make is LOADED with butter and sugar and heart attack inducing ingredients ' so what's the big deal about a 800 calorie lunch?
Well, firstly, i just watched Supersize me 2 weeks ago. I realise no one is supposed to eat Mc donalds 3 times a day for 30 days straight, and serves him right for putting on 20 pounds and losing his sex drive. But one can't fault the docu- film? for making you think twice before sinking your teeth into one of their juicy burgers. It drives home the fact that the stuff's just not good for you. Period.
Secondly, i'm due for a photo shoot in about 2 weeks time. i've been chosen as one of the 'talents' for my brand's regional photo shoot - the shoot is costing five countries over $100k and i'm going to be the one the photographers are going to be 'touching up' on photoshop - i should be stuffing carrtos down my throat - not a juicy burger and deep fried potatoes. They're gonna have to clock in some major overtime on photoshop edging out my gut if i'm not careful.
So there you go - pressure not to be doing what i so love - cooking, and eating eating eating!
Thirdly... i'm trying to think of thirdly - but firstly and secondly are probably sufficiently credible reasons to feel real 'naughty' about sitting in the corner on a plastic red chair and unwrapping a mayonnaise slathered burger wrapper. oooh the glee.

It was goood. I have to say i'm a fan of the 'big and tasty' burger. it's divine. but the sad part was feeling guilty the whole time i was eating it. So guilty i got up, got right back in the queue and ordered myself a chocolate hot fudge sundae. How about that eh? it's the whole 'since you're drowning yourself halfway, might as well go all the way'!

Oh well. maybe i'll be good tomorrow. Lettuce and honey red tomatoes. haha. maybe.

The baby's got taste!

Dylan the Muffin Fan! Posted by Hello

My friend Gibble sent this picture to me today of her 5 month old son Dylan and yes, that's my oatmeal raisin muffin that he's eyeing (salivating?) over! i'm sure he was probably thinking of something completely different like 'man, i wish i could have some of my mummy's milk now instead of this weird thing in front of me', but hey - let's leave it for what it might look like - the kid's got discerning taste! and isn't he an absolute squishy bundle of joy?
Gibble was at the cafe that i deliver muffins to on Sunday and ordered one of my deliveries (well, she actually wanted an apple streusel but ended up getting an oatmeal raisin instead!) This picture makes me smile!
p.s. the cigarettes are not Dylan's by the way!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Yummy Cinammon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls Posted by Hello

I love cinammon rolls but have never eaten them often because the ones that are sold at some 'cinammon bun' chains in Singapore are always far too sweet and gooey, leaving me feeling like i have swallowed a ton of butter and sugar.
But I couldn't resist trying to make them for the first time after seeing a picture of 'fresh out of oven' home made varieties by a fellow blogger who had taken the recipe from another blogger called Nic from Baking sheet( for recipe, go visit her link).

They look fantastic - and it was much easier to roll than i had envisioned. The recipe said that it would make 20 rolls. Not knowing if i would like the outcome, i halved the quantity and true enough, it made 10 perfect circular twirls.

My verdict - the texture of the bun was a bit drier that i would have liked. I'm not sure if it's because i added too much flour, or perhaps overkneaded it? I added a bit too much milk to the glaze, hence the glaze was not as 'visible' as it probably should have been, and as per a friend's advise (who ate it for dessert last night with a large dollop of vanilla ice cream) - i could probably have piled on more cinammon. I personally would like to try a variation with chocolate oozing out, and explore a way to make the bun more moist - certainly another attempt for another day.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Apple Streusel Muffins

Apple Streusel Muffins Posted by Hello

I have only recently started exploring the blogs of other cooking / baking enthusiasts. It is certainly a humbling and sobering experience to know that there are so many others out there who are so much more passionate, so much more regular with their updates and so completely involved!
I chanced upon one called bakingsheet (i've added her blog as a link on my site) where i found a recipe for apple streusel muffins that she had learned from a baking class.
I've been looking for new recipes to experiment with for my weekly muffin deliveries and have found that those given on the web with personal commentaries can seem much more credible given the tips and advice that come along with it.
I seem also to have established a regular 'clientele' for my muffins, with the cafe owner frowning once when i hadn't delivered them one weekend 'People are asking for them you know!'
oh well - seems like this muffin 'side business' i have started is going to be a regular weekly commitment.

These apple streusel muffins looked great. Large domed top with a cinammon, walnut and brown sugar crumble topping. The recipe called for oil instead of butter (which i much prefer - cheaper, and also healthier!) - although i only managed to bake 3 large muffins with the recipe, and had to bake another batch (to make another 3) and therefore didn't get to try much more than a bite (the rest of the bigger part of the bite was given to my boyfriend).
From the bite, it seemed pretty good - not overly sweet, complimented by the sweet sprinkle of topping.
I'm trying to figure out what 'streusel' means? anyone got any ideas?

Next project - Cinnammon buns. I have seen them on another blog by another obviously talented and passionate chef called 'thebakerwhocooks' (her link also addeed to my site) - the pictures look absolutely scrumptious! My saturday afternoon project!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake!

Dark Velvet Chocolate Cake Posted by Hello

My First Cake Order

My cooking 'partner' Steph, had been sharing our cooking escapades with a friend that she roller blades regularly with called Gary. During one of their blading sessions recently, Gary said to her that his boss's birthday was coming up - would both of us be up to the task of delivering a birthday cake for her? Steph checked with me, and i said sure - absolutely why not? (i was rather flattered that Gary had so much confidence to order a cake from me - for a boss's birthday no less!)

The best cake i have ever made is a dense, rich chocolate cake i had found on a great baking site called baking911.com The excerpt on the recipe page (by someone called Tami Smith) had said 'This is the recipe i have won many chocolate cake competitions with! ... This cakes is a dense cake, very moist, dark and the essence of a chocolate cake experience. It's not an everyday cake, but better saved for that special occassion'

Let me tell you - the recipe for this cake delivers EXACTLY as she says. It's dense, very moist, dark - a complete chocolate explosion. You know the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally - Meg Ryan could well have been eating this cake. If you're a chocolate lover, this cake is the big Multiple O.

What's different is that this cake contains double strength coffee - which i think makes it darker and denser. It was also advised (on the site) to pair this cake with Chocolate buttercream, for which i used Fine Quality Dark Belgian Couverture Chocolate my friend Mik had carted all the way back for me from London (featured in the background of the pic)

Precious Chocolate
Couverture chocolate basically means 'covering' in French. It has a higher percentage of cocoa butter than ordinary chocolate, making it 'melt in your mouth' and as a result makes for glossier coatings and a richer flavour. It is the most precious thing sitting in my fridge, and my dear friend Mik has been my 'deliverer' of hard-to-find couverture chocolate for a while now. Baking 911.com describes couverture chocolate as 'Mainly used by Professionals' - which always gives me a false sense of superiority as i think to myself 'professional! yes, me, that's me!' as i lick the remains of that divine melted bowl of chocolate.

It's commmon knowledge that the better the chocolate, the better the end result - so for a big project like this (for which i was going to be PAID for, ) i knew it called for me to part with one of my precious supplies of chocolate sitting stashed away in my fridge).

The recipe for this cake is a big one - it makes 2 square tins of cake - but given that my 'brief' was for a party of 20 people, i wasn't even sure if the cake would be big enough (as it turned out, it was big enough for 30!)
I placed a layer of Chocolate buttercream between the 2 cakes, then coated the entire '2 tier' cake with a generous slathering of chocoalte buttercream, hunched over the cake as i tried to make the icing as smooth and presentable as possible with my metal spatula.

I'll have you know that i started making this cake with Steph's help at 10am.
At 2am, i was still laboriously working on the icing, fully conscious of the fact that this was my first 'commercial' order and therefore in need of the greatest amount of 'professional' effort I could muster in my sleep deprived half delirious state.

I had problems with one of the square cakes. i think i had not buttered the base of the tin enough, and despite letting it cool in the pan for over 10 minutes after it came out of the oven (as suggested) it still refused to fall out of the tin. After much shaking about (ok, after a few attempts, i started getting impatient and might have started thwacking it on the kitchen counter top), it finally fell out - but in a bit of a cracked state (understandably), with a big chunk still stuck to the cake tin. It was probably at this point that I might have started hyperventilating a bit (the heat from the oven might not have helped).

Thank god for the Chocolate buttercream, which certainly helped to cover up a lot of the cracks, and after chilling the cake, the butter cream soon solidified and helped to hold the cake together as a big proud square chocolate temptation.

I wasn't as confident about this cake as I perhaps should have been. I had big plans to actually do the 'Happy Birthday Susie' writing on the cake, but was too afraid of messing up the iced cake (with zero experience on writing with icing - another project for another day), and decided i was going to whisk the cake to Bread Talk and beg them to write on it for me before delivering it that day.

I saw Steph that night and told her to sms Gary after he'd eaten the cake to ask what the verdict was from his boss and 20! colleagues. I was actually quite nervous that they might not have liked it as much as I'd hoped, but as it turns out, i had nothing to worry about. They loved it - and his boss was more than happy to take home the remainders of the cake to her family.

So Would i do this again? I'm not sure. It was a hell of a lof of effort and stress to be going through in the middle of the night. But maybe it'll get easier - like everything else, with practise. For now - a weekend delivery of muffins is probably more than i should handle for now.