Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My love affair with Bagels

Bagels! Posted by Picasa

I fell in love with Bagels when i was living and studying in London. There was this dinky little Bagel shop sandwiched in between 2 giant retail outlets just off Oxford Street. It was just round the corner from Top Shop. I tried a toasted poppy seed bagel with bacon and blue cheese for the first time, wrapped up in foil, a warm little package with the blue cheese threatening to ooze out the sides of the bagel.
It was chewy, crunchy on the sides (toasted) and the combination of blue cheese with bacon was nothing short of perfect. plus it was cheap!

Another memory of bagels would be trotting down to a jewish bakery near where i was living with my boyfriend (then) in London, and buying a bag of warm just out of the oven bagels for breakfast. I would take it home in its little brown paper bag, and
Eat it with butter and a glass of orange juice- it was a good life!

Baking Bagels
So when i bought my first book on BREAD, bagels were one of the first things i wanted to make. Bagels don't come by often in Singapore. You do find those Frozen ones in some supermarkets, and i dare say they are not too bad, but really - what can beat freshly baked bagels made by Your very own proud self?

This is probably the 4th time i have made bagels. This is the first time however that i have experimented with different toppings.
THe batch made 6 bagels - i made 2 with onion toppping, 1 with sesame topping, another with poppy seed topping, and 2 plain.

I ate the first one, plain, standing in the kitchen, impatiently split into 2 with my bread knife, the bagel still so hot out of the oven it burnt my fingers. I slathered on the butter and the cream cheese, and had my little piece of heaven.

If you could capture this feeling in a bottle, it would sell by the millions!
Recipe in a sec!

More bagels to come!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fourth and Fifth Session at the French Kitchen

I have been juvenile. I didn't manage to post my French kitchen session last week - so i'm just going to combine my stories of the past 2 weeks in today's posting.

Last week, i had talked to one of the chefs about the French Laundry by Thomas Keller. He had said it was the book he referred to most often. (All the chefs in the kitchen turn their noses up at Jamie Oliver and other similar 'celebrity chefs' poo-poo-ing at them for not having done their 'time' in the kitchen and not being 'real chefs'. They have something in common with Anthony Bourdain then!

I told him i had just purchased the beautiful book and everything in it looked AMAZING but oh-so-scary to make. I told him i had wanted to learn how to make Basil Oil (it looks great on a plate, and adds that extra panache to a lovingly cooked meal - i cant wait to try it! ) He said thomas Keller's recipe didn't quite work - that he would teach me Dean's version when i came next Tuesday (Dean is the Souz Chef).
So yesterday, true to his word, I walked in, Dean said 'I hear you wanna learn how to make Basil Oil'. I gave a big over eager smile (i wasn't sure if they would entertain my little requests!) and hence came a quick and simple demonstration!

I'm writing it down now just so i don't forget:

Basil Oil Recipe

Take a big bunch of Italian Basil - pluck leaves from their stalks.
Place in a big bowl.
Heat a pot of water until boiling.
Prepare a large bowl of ice cubes (make sure there are lots of ice cubes)
Heat a pot of extra virgin olive oil - take it off the hob when it's warm.

Pour boiling water over Basil.
5 seconds later - dump half the ice cubes into the bowl.
Transfer everything to the large bowl containing half the remaining ice cubes.
Remove basil leaves from ice bowl and dry them on a kitchen towel.
(its ok to squeeze them in the towel - they will look limp and tired - no problem)
Keep squeezing until they are dry.
Dump basil leaves into blender. Pour in warm olive oil.
Blend until the oil turns green.
Pour basil oil through a fine mesh sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.
Let oil drain through towel + sieve. Keep basil oil and store!

Useful tips: Dont leave the boiling water in the basil leaves for too long. If too long, leaves will turn black. blanching it will allow the leaves to release their flavour. Dumping it in cold water allows you to refresh the leaves.

I have tasted this oil, and it tastes really strongly of basil! it's fantastic!

Temper of the chef
Yesterday, i also witnessed Billy Idol losing his temper. He seems like such an upbeat good natured guy, but boy - can he look PISSED when the occassion arises.
2 incidences- a customer had asked for Tuna Medium rare- he had cooked it well done. The Tuna came back with a stern remark from the waitress 'Chef. Read your orders properly next time. I had stated Medium rare'.
Billy Idol threw a bowl into the sink with a loud clash -and clenched his jaw. I think this was his mistake. And if he was pissed, he was probably pissed with himself, but boy, you really did feel like a dark thunderous cloud had fallen over the kitchen. Spilling over with blonde rage, eyes looking crazy angry, he fixed the tuna. The kitchen fell into a hushed silence. The Tuna was sent back out.

Second occurence - a customer had asked for Cod with no miso. This cod was sent to the wrong person (waiter's fault). Waitress came back to whisper the problem to Billy Idol. After he realised he had no more cod left -, he slammed his hand on the steel surface of the plating section, said a whole string of swear words in French and put on the blackest angriest face i had ever seen (apart from the ones i've seen on my dad!). The waiter who had made the mistake came in, he stared at him and said to the waitress- can you please show him were seat 7 is !!

So there you go - the Chef has some characteristics of what chef's are meant to be like after all! (fits of rage! passionate outburts! combustible anger when things do turn out). Im still a die hard fan of his though. At least it is clear he strives for perfection and the eagerness to please his customers.

And it is also clear his staff are eager to please him.

One of the new chefs in the kitchen (graduated straight from Cordon Bleu in Paris) presented to him a ravioli dish. I expect this was his little 'innovation'.

Billy Idol tried it, mused over it for a second, then said '3 things':
One. Creativity - i give you zero.
Two. Lobster Ravioli is not very original
Three. However - I like the flavour of the bisque. The flavour is good. (he tries it again) - i like it a lot. We can use this flavour combination.

Throughout this time, his staff have all stopped their work to listen to what he had to say.

It is clear that his opinion is valued and his compliments cherished. The new chef looked pleased. Ultimately, Billy Idol had ended his 'review' on a positive note.

Buckwheat Cakes
One of the chefs (sweet French guy) had these mini brown muffin shaped things sitting on his side of the kitchen. I stared at it (and prodded it when i thought he wasn't looking). He saw and asked me to try it.
It was sweet - a hybrid between cake and bread. He said it was real easy and sliced out a piece into several piees and left it on the counter, saying to everyone in the kitchen 'Dont touch. This is for Chef. Don't eat!' (another proof that the staff are very eager to please Billy Idol).

Sweet French chef starting writing down the recipe on a piece of paper and presented it to me (i had not even asked for it!)

recipe Posted by Picasa

here it is! (coincidentally, i have 2 packets of buckwheat flour in my pantry - a gift that my luvvie had carted back from Australia on his last visit - along with the cherished Kitchenaid. I had thought about making buckwheat pancakes with them, but i think this might be the better option!)

Buckwheat Cake Recipe
125g Buckwheat flour
220g Caster Sugar
2 tblspoon yeast (dried)
1 pinch salt

Dry mix all above ingredients.

In a mixer, add 3 eggs and 10 cl of sunflower oil.
Mix till the mixture changes colour.

Place in 160 degree oven for 35- 45 mins.

It looks terribly simple, but if his memory is so good, i'll certainly put my faith in it and give it a try. Besides, Buckwheat is gluten free - so no guilt! (well, apart from the sugar and eggs and oil!)

I actually have a lot more to say, but i think this might be boring most to death.

Last words:
Foie Gras terrine (stuffed with dried figs) tastes so creamy it's like eating pure butter! i was happily enjoying my handout from one of the chefs until he said 'it's very fattening. Foie gras is 90% fat.'

gee thanks.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Devilish Chocolate cupcakes

devil's cupcakes! Posted by Picasa

These were made for a friend's 30 something birthday- my friend Mik who LOVES chocolate and stares at anything i make with chocolate in it with huge goggle eyes. When i make anything without chocolate, he stares at me accusingly and huffs 'Where's the chocolate?"
So it was without question, that my birthday creation for him would have to have chocolate in it. I had initially wanted to make him a killer choc mousse cake that i had recently seen in 101cookbooks.com - but with my newfound obssession with cupcakes, having only made one batch (see Cupcakes posting!) and with some friends requesting for more, it was a natural choice - Chocolate cupcakes!

I found this recipe from a blog i had discovered called www.chockylit.blogspot.com
For anyone who has a penchant for cupcakes - this lady makes the most BEAUTIFUL ones. All fancy and dressed up and fit for royalty. She has some fantastic pictures of cupcakes that are enough to get one on the roll! I highly recommend all to visit her blog for cupcake inspiration of the most divine kind.

I would say the chocolate cupcake itself was nothing out of the ordinary (v simple to make too!) but it was the icing that really made the kill. In combination, it hit the spot. And with my rainbow coloured sprinkles, it looked like kiddy party treats - perfect for a bunch of 30somethings who were children at heart really!

close up Posted by Picasa

Below is the recipe (taken from www.chockylit.blogspot.com)

Devil's Food Chocolate Cake
makes 24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Measure out into cupcake pan lined with cupcake papers. A 2" ice cream scoop works great for this. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream
enough to lightly frost 24 cupcakes

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
4 cups confectioner's sugar
~1/4 cup milk

1. Beat butter on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Add cocoa and 1 cup of sugar and beat until incorporated
3. Add half of the milk and the remainder of sugar and beat until incorporated.
4. Continue to add milk until you get to the consistency you want.

the 'grown up version' Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A 'Group Trip' to Tekka Market

It was a Sunday morning and we were all seated in front of a hawker stall at 10am looking sleepy over our cups of hot tea. 10am on a Sunday for us partying urbanites is early. REAL early. 7 of us had decided to gather at Tekka Market, my favourite market in Singapore (not that i have been to that many mind you). I have raved about this market before. It's like a disneyland for food lovers. The tomatoes are a bright cherry red, the greens look like they've been plucked from a farm nearby and the herbs come in wonderful fresh big bunches (a complete contrast to the limp plastic packets you find in Cold Storage at double the price). Some of the seafood are still leaping about in their steel containers, seemingly fresh out of their once cosy 'water beds'.

We were all here to shop for a Sunday dinner at a friend Mik's place that was to be his official 'house warming' cum Pictionary night. It all started out innocently enough when i walked into his new home and blurted out 'Oh what a great kitchen! it opens out to your dining room! that's fantastic! Let me cook here sometime. We can get a small group together, buy the ingredients together and I'll cook'!
Mik was very quick to jump on this offer, but dinner for 6 turned out to be dinner for 15, at which point we decided it was going to have to be 'buffet' style, requiring a few pairs of hands for the grocery shopping.

My friend Steph and I have been here several times now, (but this time, we had 5 more friends in tow!) so we were the 'market veterans' leading the troupe! We proceeded straight to our favourite vegetable seller (unfortunately i dont have a picture of him! His name is Desmond). A man who lets us leave all our purchases at his stall whilst we move on to the meat and fish sections. He's also the man-of-the-house who has the bunches of rosemary, dill, Italian Basil and Flat leaf Parsley - in fresh 'oh it smells so good' bunches. We bought a whole variety of vegetables from him (planned for our dinner) with me snapping up some vine ripened cherry tomatoes for myself (i had tried it at Saint Pierre a few weeks back and they tasted sublime!)

A vegetarian friend Leslie went crazy buying out a bunch of Free range eggs (in NORMAL sizes, as opposed to the mini sizes you get at supermarkets). I had to stop myself from buying the fresh aragula (i so desperately wanted them, but really could not think of a time within its short shelf life to eat it!).

friendly cod man Posted by Picasa
This is the friendly cod man. They sell it frozen (all cod coming into Singapore is frozen), at half the price of other 'butchers' i have enquired with. You can get him to slice it at the width specification you want. He smiled patiently as we 'hmm'd and hummm'd' to whether we should buy 4 or 6 pieces. Steph bought up 6 pieces, and i have been badgering her about wanting to come over for dinner ever since!

fish at tekka Posted by Picasa

A sample of some of the fresh 'just out of the sea' fish displayed in stacks for purchase. We ended up buying 15 King prawns (at about $1.20 each - but they were really HUGE) and some squid for a seafood dish we were planning to make.

Leslie our vegetarian friend was pescitarian until she discovered diving. So im not sure how she felt about the near dead fish seemingly gasping their last breath!

the butcher! Posted by Picasa

The butcher here (we've bought from him twice now - the last time was the ox tail)sells just about everything from the happy cows from all over the world (Tenderloin from Brazil, Sirloin from Australia, ox tail from New Zealand). It was like the United Nations of Cows - in their afterlife. The only thing he didn't seem to have was veal bones. (i wanted to buy this to make Veal stock for a more indsutrious cooking adventure.)
We were planning to make a beef roast, and he quickly recommended that sirloin was the best cut for this. We bought up 2kg and we were on our way!

I have to say we were very efficient about this. We had a shopping list, we had a menu planned. The rest of it was just to unload at Mik's place, and meet later at 4:30pm to start the preparations!

The Dinner Buffet aka Feast fit for the famous

So after our market excursion (with me blinding my favourite market sellers momentarily with my flashing camera - like mad market frenzied tourist), we re-grouped at 4:30 at Mik's place to start the preparations.
i had spent a good portion of the previous Friday night discussing the menu with another cooking enthusiast friend - Eugene. With so many people to cook for, we knew we didn't want to cook anything that was too time consuming or difficult. We wanted variety and ease without comprimising on taste, plus we needed to juggle the logistics since we knew we only had one oven and one grill. Not forgetting catering to the meat lovers, the vegetarians and the sweet toothed!

The Great Big Menu
We finally decided on the following:


Bacon wrapped Enoki mushrooms (we decided this was a breeze to make - only requiring short grill cooking time)
Assorted Crostinis (this is something i've made before. Pretty easy to prepare and always fun for guests to nibble on before dinner. Also a vegetarian option.)
Prawn and squid cooked with lemongrass, chili and garlic sauce.
(not much cooking time required, cooked on the hob - great with bread).

We were happy with this choice. Each of the starters offered a variety of flavours, not too heavy to kill the appetite for mains and easy enough to cook without breaking into too much of a sweat!

(We had vetoed ideas like baked baby potatoes with blue cheese topping - blue cheese expensive, and not always agreeable to everyone )

After another round of debate, we agreed on the following:

Roast Beef (This was Steph's idea. She wanted to try a roast beef recipe that she had seen in one of her cooking mags. At first we were going to opt instead for a honey glazed roast pork that Eugene had insisted was really easy and cheaper than beef, then finding out this required a BBQ grill, we reverted back to initial option of a roast beef)
Roasted Vegetables (veg and beef could go into the oven at the same time, simply chop, season, add some olive oil and roast!)
Pasta (a simple spaghetti and tomato dish as the carb option - I decided it was important that this didn't clash with the star dish of the night- the beef! and hence needed a v simple pasta recipe)
Mixed Salad - for the vegetarians and an option to accompany the big beef dish. Steph immediately said she would take care of this - her famous avocado, pineapple with lettuce and a sweet vinagierette salad.

We had wanted a fish dish (thinking a salt crusted baked salmon would have been beautiful - but none of us knew where to get a big bag of rock sea salt!) we couldn't think of other 'big fish' centrepiece dishes that would have complemented everything else, so the fish idea was scrapped.
Steph had initially thought of a chicken green curry dish (easy to make, can be made in advance) but we vetoed that idea eventually given that it didn't quite go with the other western options on the menu.

The Dessert
Apple Crumble

This was a pretty simple choice. My friend Audrey had been wanting to make it for a while, I wanted us to make it together, it was easy to prepare, not too heavy after such a big meal - perfect.

roasted veg Posted by Picasa

These were the roasted vegetables before they went into the oven. We had yellow and red capsicums, aubergines, courgettes, and mushrooms. Seasoned with thyme, basil, salt, pepper and a big dash of olive oil.
We had a slight problem with this dish. After a good hour in the oven, it came out looking soggy, sweating away in a pool of its own watery liquid. We figured this could have been a result of one of two problems:
1) We didn't sweat the aubergines long enough (i think we only sweated it for like 10 mins, when it should rightfully be 30 mins)
2) We added a whole bunch of veggies that tend to be watery in nature (although i don't think this is it).

We drained some of the water, added more oil and salt and baked it some more. It tasted fine, but not as flavourful as it should have been i think!

testing temperature! Posted by Picasa

We learned some important lessons with the roast beef.
1) Roast beef is really easy to make! Simply season with salt and pepper a few hours before hand. Stick in oven for over 1 hour.
2) As you can see from the pic above, we were trying to test whether it was done or not. I had brought along my meat thermometer (i had bought this to measure the temp of water for my bread baking expeditions) and stuck it into the centre of the sirlion. The temperature rose to 50 degrees celcius.
We all stared at each other wondering aloud the significance of this number. Eugene and I looked at each other and said '50 degrees seems really hot doesn't it?' Audrey looked at it quizzically and said, 'i think it's ready. It looks ready!'
Steph rummaged frantically through her beef recipe and said 'found it! 50 degrees is rare!'
Audrey said 'It's done! its done! Rare is good!' (she's the one that eats her beef almost alive). I agreed, not wanting to overcook the beef and figuring that letting it sit would allow it to cook some more on the inside. We all agreed those who wanted it medium could eat the outside bits.

And that was all there was to it! Season, stick in oven for about 80 mins. and voila! A rare perfectly cooked Sirloin!

Roast beef!  Posted by Picasa

the feast! Posted by Picasa

prawns Posted by Picasa

crostini Posted by Picasa

spread Posted by Picasa


vanilla cupcakes Posted by Picasa

On Sunday afternoon, i developed a dying need to make Cupcakes. I'd been wanting to ever since i watched an episode of sex in the city where Carrie Bradshaw bit into a scrumptious looking cupcake topped with a big tower of pink icing (it looks especially good when you see skinny women in high Manolo's and tight dresses bite into something that makes most people look like tubs of lard. But hey! its TV!)

I had been to the 'baker who cook's' site where she had made some vanilla cupcakes that looked yummy. She had taken the recipe from Food Network, so that's what I did! (Recipe posted below).

I wanted to make these and whisk them over to a friend's place where 4 of us were gathering at 4:30pm in the kitchen to prepare for a huge buffet dinner for 15 people and thought we could all chomp on it as we worked away at the chopping board.

I added some peach dye that i had bought a while back. These dye's are potent! Just a small little drop is enough to colour an entire huge bowl of icing. It would have been nice to sprinkle some multicoloured watchamacallits (you know what i mean) on top of these, but thats for another time!

I also need to figure out how to put on the icing in a more presentable manner. I have yet to figure out how to use the piping bag with the different cone attachments. As you can see in this picture, its not all that impressive, but believe me - the reception to it was great. The 'chef's' for the night (and even those who weren't! appreciatively gobbled them up).

This cupcake recipe for me is perfect. Simple butter cake that tastes great even on its own - plus the icing adds just the right degree of sweetness.
They look so cute, and there are so many variations to the toppings that they really make for eye candy. Something that's cheery enough to make even the most reluctant of us, smile.

I am telling you, I am on a new mission. As a friend has been saying to me for a while now, Cupcakes are the new muffin.

And you're gonna see a lot more postings on cupcakes soon!

Vanilla Cupcakes
Yield: 12

2 cups sifted cake-and-pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 x eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, softened
5 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla


Vanilla Cupcakes
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using electric mixer on low speed, mix in butter, milk, eggs and vanilla; beat on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Spoon into 12 paper-lined or greased muffin cups, filling about three-quarters full. Bake in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool completely. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 2 weeks.) Variation: Chocolate Cupcakes - Reduce flour to 1 cup and baking powder to 1/2 tsp. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and 1 tsp baking soda to dry ingredients. Sift before adding butter and wet ingredients.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing
In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours; let come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Beat slightly before using.) Makes about 3 2/3 cups, enough for 12 cupcakes.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A weekend food fiesta

i have eaten so much this weekend i feel like i need my stomach pumped.
Firstly, there was this fantastic Birthday BBQ at my girl friend's place on Saturday. It was a potluck and everyone brought their little contribution to the table.

friands Posted by Picasa

Friands for The Birthday BBQ
I of course had volunteered to bring dessert, and the birthday girl (my yoga buddy) had requested for friands - something i had never made before. In short, friands are like mini muffins - except that they don't contain egg yolk (only whites) and have an important ingredient- almond meal. I was later told by another Australian girl (they seem to be very common in Australia) that they have special friand moulds which are oval in shape (i had baked mine in a round mini muffin tin instead).

The ones i made were White chocolate friands that i had coincidentally found in a friend's old gossip magazine (they include the token recipe for the domestic gossip goddess in you!). It involved a shockingly large amount of icing sugar (and a strangely small amount of flour), grated white chocolate ( i bought a big block of Cadbury's) and a generous slathering of white chocolate icing (the recipe called for heavy cream melted with white chocolate, but i didn't have cream, so i just made do with melting white chocolate in the microwave, which still turned out fine!Tip: don't think you can melt chocolate directly in a pan over heat. It starts to burn!)

The recipe only made 9 friands (the recipe said it would make 13!) so i didn't get the chance to try it (there were at least 15 people at the BBQ) and as a result, everyone seemed to be keeping an eye on a piece of this mysterious white chocolate coated treat throughout the afternoon, with many grabbing one even before they were finished with their mains. The appreciative 'Mmmms' as people took their bites were enough for me.

And the ultimate icing on the cake was when one of the guys there took a bite and said 'God Bless You' with a smile. I am not religious and he is not a priest, but it was enough. Who needs to try a home made friand when you get appreciation like that!

I'll post the recipe and pic in a sec!

An original salad

I tried a delicious salad at the BBQ that i want to write down before i forget
It had the perfect combination of crispy and crunchy, sweet and tangy. It was gorgeous:

White Cabbage, thinly sliced
Crispy egg noodle, crushed (the dark mustardy yellow type you find in a circular shape)
Spring Onions, chopped
Sunflower seeds
Pine nuts


Soya Sauce
Olive Oil
Finely chopped shallots

(I think that was it! he had told me verbally as i was chomping away)
Combine all ingredients -EAT!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Almond Biscotti

biscotti Posted by Picasa

I've been wanting to make biscotti for a long time. For me, it sits in the category of 'fancy biscuits' - fancy because you don't normally get to buy it off the supermarket shelves and because it's normallly available at coffee outlets like Starbucks and Coffee bean (at $2 for a stingy little stick!)

I have 2 books with biscotti recipes - Great Cookies by Carole Walters and Baking with Julia (using it yet again!). THe ones featured by Carole Walters required a few more ingredients that i didn't have, so i opted for the simpler recipe, which were hazelnut biscotti (featured in Baking with Julia) - except i substitued the hazelnut with almonds.

The results

It was quite a breeze to make this. Minimal mess, no butter needed and not much preparation time required. The end result was good, although i probably would have preferred a version with some raisins / dried fruit in it (or chocolate!).
Biscotti I suppose is a fairly dry biscuit, and pretty hard in texture. It's good dipped in coffee (to soften it up a bit for those of us with less than hardy teeth) - and i suppose that's a good reason why biscotti is often only found at coffee outlets!
i wouldn't say it's 'moorish', nor am i confident that all too many people would go crazy over it.
Still, it was a great afternoon for some solitude, sipping coffee with a home made biscotti in front of the tv watching Carrie Bradshaw wax lyrical about life love and men!

Anyway, i'll post the recipe shortly!

Another Sunday delivery

lemon poppy seed muffins Posted by Picasa
Ever since i complained aloud to some friends about the unavailability of poppy seeds in Singapore, i have had the good fortune of having friends cart back a few bottles for me on their travels. I had 2 more bottles sitting in my cupboard and 2 lemons sitting lonesome in my fridge. So what better combination than to create lemon poppy seed muffins for my weekend muffin delivery.

Except that this time, i used the Lemon poppy seed CAKE recipe taken from the CAke Bible (from Epicurious.com) instead of the Lemon Poppy seed muffin recipe i have from my muffin book. This recipe has already been highlighted in my previous post on poppy seeds.

I modified it slightly with a lemon icing glaze. I loved it. Although i'm still not sure people of Singapore are as keen on poppy seeds as they are on chocolate!

Saturday brunch

Cheese sandwich Posted by Picasa

I know this probably doesn't look all that good to you. But believe me, it's a little lunch that completely hits the spot. This was a modified idea from one of the first cookbook purchases I had ever made called the Zingermann's Guide to Good Eating. I have found it completely educational on the beauty of good basic ingredients from salt to pepper to chocolate to cheese, covering everything from it's history and origins to the different varieties available.

This is an indulgent sandwich - indulgent because there's cheese (extra mature cheddar cheese is a big bonus), egg and butter - and not necessarily in stingy amounts either. But that's exactly why it hits the spot! Not to mention i had some of my whole wheat bread leftover and it was DELICIOUS toasted. So do try it someday!


Toast whole wheat bread (white bread is fine too).
Whisk 2 eggs, add in a pinch of salt.
Dip bread in egg mixture.
Heat a non stick pan, add some butter.
Place one piece of bread on pan. Place sliced extra mature cheddar cheese on top of bread. cover with the other piece of bread (creating a sandwich)
Leave for about 1 minute. Flip bread over and cook the other side.
Remove from pan when you see the cheese starting to melt.

Drizzle sandwich with generous amount of honey.

Eat immediately!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Third session at the French Kitchen

So this time i spent Tuesday night helping out (well, trying not to get in the way) of the wonderful hustle and boisterous bustle of the kitchen. I was greeted with big smiles,which is just simply wonderful. It is often more than i can say for what greets me in my day job! And so a simple beaming smile can win me over. (I am easy to please obviously)

Tuesday night meant a busier night at the restaurant (busier than Monday's anyway) and I had billy idol in the kitchen most times overseeing the crew.

This time, i walked into gospel music blasting on the radio. i looked around to see whether the chefs had changed - but nope , still the same zany bunch. The gospel soon moved on to R&B, which soon moved on Rap - so i knew i was back on familiar ground.

So what did i do this time?
1) I cut chervil into small little leaves (for the garnishing) - watched them soak it in iced water to maintain the freshness

2) I watched one of the chefs make a salad dressing that consisted of throwing 2 shallots, 2 cloves of garlic, some sugar, salt, about 5 almonds, a generous portion of balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a blender - blend it all together. He let me try a taste of it which tasted simply gorgeous. I'm writing it down before i forget. I will certainly try it this weekend.

3) I put a watermelon through a meat slicer, (emptied through the middle so that they sliced into thin watermelon 'rings'). Billy Idol took pity on me looking so useless, hopping gingerly from one foot to the other looking overly eager I'm sure. He asked me to 'do zees' (as he demonstrated the slicer ) - i caught a look of horror cross the pastry chef's face (like she was thinking this was not a job for the novice). but hey I managed!

4) I shaped the watermelon slices into a rose - coiled, layer upon thin layer to form a multi 'petalled' centrepiece - this was the most interesting and fulfilling job for the night!. It really looked like quite a tough little job to be given to me, but Billy idol was kind enough to pretend he had the confidencec in me to try it. And i managed! i was so proud i wanted to point and yell loudly to everyone 'isn't this beautiful? praise and acknowledgement please'! Perhaps there were a few passing looks of approval verging on nonchalance!

So everytime an order came in for watermelon and salmon (it's a starter) - that was my job!

5) I learned how to swoop a squeeze bottle around a round plate to line the inside circle of the plate with yellow sauce (for pure decorational purposes!)
Billy idol would show me how to do it once, then ask me to try. I would try one, make an unsightly mess of it (you would think it'd be a piece of cake, but it's not! Takes a sure hand and some practise), and he would say 'Try another plate. We have lots of plates'. And i would have to pass the plate to the dishwasher, apologizing to him profusely for having to wash it for no good reason at all (apart from my beginner's incompetence). I would finally get one done that got his approval, and i would then be on my way to placing my watermelon flower ornament on my decorated plate.

6) I learned what a 'sweetbread' was. The real food connoiseurs amongst you might be rolling your eyes thinking 'how could you not know this'. Honestly, i thought it was, literally, a 'sweet bread' (and i was wondering why it was the night's special)!
The souz chef disappeared around the corner of the kitchen, returning to show me what it looked like (Raw). Basically, it's a gland in the throat area of an animal like cow, calf, lamb and considered a delicacy. But by appearance alone, it looks like a small organ of sorts, white, wobbling slightly on the tray. not very appetising i have to say! (but then, none of these 'delicacies' usually look all that great)

Billy idol offered me a generous portion after it had been seared on the pan (with a lot of butter I suspect). I took a big bite, with Billy Idol looking on expectantly with pride i felt obliged to say 'hmmm.' (and other enthusiastic yet non committal sounds like that). He said 'taste sweet yes?' to which i replied, well... 'milky' (i'd obviously said the right thing because he nodded enthusiastically and said 'yes, yes!' and i added 'tastes a bit like liver too' and he said'yes yes! becauses it's an organ..'

And hence was my initiation to sweetbread.

7) i tasted organic red grapefruit for the first time. Cold, a juicy explosion of chilled pulp and juice, sweet with a tang of bitterness. Gorgeous as i sucked it's flesh off the skin and let the juices drip down my wrist in all it's pure glory.

The kitchen staff were in good spirits this time - a mad zany bunch where at one point, one of them started moo-ing from his corner, followed by another joining in, and soon i was surrounded by a bunch of guys making 'moo-ing' noises! (i have no idea why!)

I'm looking forward to next week!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Whole Wheat Bread

2 loaves! Posted by Picasa

Some people go to church on Sundays. Some go roller blading. Some have long brunches over champagne (the posh ones!)
I wake up and make my entire Sunday into a day of baking. Somewhere in this twenty something year old body (closer to 30 than 20 mind you), i have evolved from hungover on Sunday to a Sunday baking maniac.

i fear that i am evolving faster than I had imagined. I just hope this party chic hasn't hung up her dancing shoes for an apron for good just yet. I'm starting to wonder if listening to 'intelligent dance music' and dancing to it in the kitchen counts as striking a middle ground?

anyway - back to this Sunday. I decided that i was going to dive into my Baking with Julia cookbook (this purchase is turning out to be really excellent value for money). As i was flipping through it, contemplating the ingredients i had on hand, the time i was going to have to juggle for whatever choice i was going to make, who i was going to give the baked results to, i ended up settling on Whole Wheat bread - a good handy loaf to have on hand over the new few days - good breakfast and sanwich fare, and not particularly complicated.

(halfway through the first rise, i decided i might as well make a bigger mess of my kitchen by embarking on the sticky bun recipe - posting below)

You might have read in an earlier posting about my white bread adventure(from the same book). I have to say I prefer that to how this one tastes. Maybe because this is essentially healthier, and much as I try, i have not re-trained my palate to appreciate whole wheat breads better than the less healthy alternative.

The recipe called for 1 tablespoon of malt extract, which I didn't have, so I left that out altogether (i'm not sure what effect this might have had on the end result). But otherwise, they came out of the oven looking golden brown and wholesome-ly glorious. I had 1 slice with butter, another slice with butter AND honey. A 3rd slice with peanut butter and honey. And a final slice with cheese, tomato and honey. At which point i was officially quite repulsed at my impulsive act of gluttony.

But can you blame a girl who simply can't resist her own sweat filled creations on a Sunday afternoon?

Whole Wheat bread Posted by Picasa

Sticky buns without the Pecan

sticky bun Posted by Picasa

I actually bought the book 'Baking with Julia' BECAUSE of the recipe in the book for sticky pecan buns.
I had made two attempts at Cinammon buns and had been disappointed with the texture of the bread, which had turned out hard and not as 'fluffy' as I'd liked.
I had suspected that adding more butter would have been the secret magic ingredient. Little did i know how much butter this recipe actually called for!

brioche dough Posted by Picasa

This recipe firstly called for a Brioche dough to be made. The pic above is the brioche dough after 2 hours of 'rising' time. It almost looks like a bubbling frothing monster from 'butter' land doesn't it?

Brioche is a light but RICH French bread made with eggs and butter. The crumb is supposed to be delicate and pale yellow in colour. ( i haven't yet tried Brioche because whilst i made the dough, it was soon turned into a sticky bun - which involved adding in a lot more butter / sugar/ cinammon/ rolling and folding etc etc)

Interesting trivia - Marie Antoinette's famous phrase 'Let them eat cake' as callous advise to starving peasants before the French Revolution, was actually a MIS-translation of what was actually reported in French, which was "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" -'Let them eat brioche.'

Scary to think how you could be mis-transalated in your death.

A whole ten and a half hours
I'm not kidding - i have not made anything else in MY LIFE that took so long.
I started at 2pm - i put the dough into the oven at midnight.
You're probably thinking i fell asleep somewhere in between.
Nope. Followed the recipe word for word.

There was a lot of waiting time - i have to admit. But making something like this takes a commitment of an entire day - just WAITING for it to be ready.

Let me break it down for you.
2pm. Prepare a sponge. Wait for 30 mins.
2:30pm Start adding flour/ eggs / sugar etc to sponge. Start mixing.
Add butter, one table spoon at a time - continue mixing for another 30 mins.
3pm - let brioche dough rise for 2 hours.
5pm - deflate dough. place in fridge for 4 hours.
9pm - take dough out of fridge. roll out, put on more butter, fold fold, wrap and place in fridge again for another 30 mins.
9:45pm - take out of fridge. Roll out again. brush with egg - sprinkle on follings, fold again, roll into log. place in freezer for 1 hour.
11pm - take out from freezer - slice, place in cake pan. (and just when you think it can FINALLY go into the oven, recipe says... WAIT 2 HOURS FOR rolls to expand in
cake pan.

I couldn't believe it.

And to top it off, recipe ended with 'once removed from oven, cool on rack. Do not eat immediately as sugar from oven can be scalding.' (something along those lines) but all i remember thinking was - AFTER ALL THAT, YOU'RE TELLING ME I CAN'T EAT IT RIGHT AWAY? Damn.

Soft soft bun
Don't mind my bitching. Having said all that - the bun texture (and yes, i pretty much snatched an impatient bite of it straight out of the oven) was soft and fluffy with a hint of buttery crumb (oh, so well disguised despite the truck loads of butter that went into it!! I am almost tempted to say i will never buy another cinammon bun again from a shop -EVER. but i know i would be lying. deep down under my ever expanding waist line).

I didn't have any pecans, so i subsituted mine with sliced almonds - i'm sure it tastes better with pecans though. And whilst this wasn't a recipe for cinammon buns, i know i could probably just pile on the cinammon, and it would be perfect.

This time, i brought it to work the next morning and my colleagues all nodded their heads in approval, making lots of appropriate lip smacking sounds.

Would I make this again?
For the results - yes. But for the time and trauma of having to handle so much butter.... i don't know. Give me some time to get over it.
Lucky i have another log sitting in my freezer!