Thursday, December 24, 2009

Espresso Delights

It's Christmas Eve! Blessed Christmas everyone! Since young, I've always loved Christmas. Though it was never a family culture to celebrate the occasion, I'll always bug my parents to throw a Christmas party. From then on, every Christmas became a family affair, one that I'd always look forward to year after year. There's something about Christmas that make people feel like celebrating, loving and giving. Isn't that wonderful? I think there's no other better holiday than Christmas :).

This year, instead of having traditional roast turkey, we had a Japanese themed dinner with sashimi, sushi, yakitori, chawanmushi and miso soup. To go with the Japanese theme, we had Japanese soft drinks and ume sake. To me, it's the company and the family effort, that really matters to me. Being able to contribute to the family dinner makes me very happy and seeing the happy faces when they opened their cards and presents is absolutely uplifting.

Well, I was supposed to make the dessert for the dinner...but as I've been so tied up over work, I haven't  had time to do so. The dessert crisis was solved when my dad brought back a log cake from his company. Just the exact thing we needed!

Aside from the dinner, I can't have a proper Christmas without making cookies for my dear friends, hence I made these Espresso Delights as Christmas favours to those who are close to me.

I spotted this recipe in the Ultimate Cookies Magazine by Better Homes and Gardens. Combining full-bodied espresso with the mild spiciness of cinnamon and natural sweetness of the bittersweet chocolate flecks, these are absolutely decadent. The cookies are wonderfully crisp, yet melt-in-your-mouth. My pictures really don't quite do justice to them.

Well, I hope my friends will enjoy these little treats. Here's to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Espresso Delights
adapted from Ultimate Cookies Magazine

113g butter
37g powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp instant espresso
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
110g flour
20g semisweet chocolate (finely chopped)

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with a stand mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, instant espresso, vanilla and cinnamon, beat till well-combinged. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in any remaining flour and chocolate.

2. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on a lined cookie sheet. Press to flatten slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookie edges are set and the bottoms are lightly-browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

3. Sift cocoa powder and powdered sugar over cooled cookies a desired.

Yields 24 cookies.

Christmas Favours

This is really last minute, I know. But that's about all the preparation time I had to do up my Christmas favours for my dear friends. I didn't even make anything fancy, just good ol' cookies that are nice and versatile. Well, at least the packaging fits with the Christmas mood!

I hope they'll be happy with these simple treats made with love!

Friday, December 18, 2009


One more week to Christmas! I'm really getting into the mood now. Christmas wish lists going all round the office, dinner prepartions and festive wishes in the plan. This is going to be fun!

I love giving presents, somehow it beats buying things for myself. There's a peculiar joy about giving that makes one feel so blessed. And the season of giving is coming, we are able to give because we have more than enough, with more to spare.

Made Alfajores today, cute little cookies aren't they?

I filled these with nutella instead of Dulce de leche cos I don't have any at home. These were delicious! Soft, buttery, definitely the perfect tea time treat for a lazy afternoon like this. I did, however, have a problem with the cookies spreading too much. I prefer my cookies small and petite, easier on the eye and palate. I couldn't resist using the red and white background for this, really gets me in the Christmas mood! So looking forward to the holidays!


165g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
85g butter
140g sugar
1 large egg
90 ml milk
30 ml orange juice
filling of your choice : dulce de leche, jam, nutella, chocolate ganache

1.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the baking sheet with silicon paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix till well combined. Add in the flour in two separate additions and mix till well combined. Add in the milk, orange juice and vanilla extract and mix till incorporated.

3. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto the lined baking sheet, with 2 inches of space in between the dough. Baking for 9-11 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway in between to ensure even browning. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

4. Spread the filling onto the cooled cookies and sandwich with another. Dust with confectioner's sugar as desired.

Yields 15 sandwich cookies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

French Chocolate Madeleines

Whew! It's the weekend finally! I can almost hear the sound of the jingling bells by now. I'm in a mild panic mode as I've been so busy I hardly had time to sit down and plan my Christmas bakes. Japanese classes are starting again next week and I haven't done my revision. Plus, my Christmas shopping's not done either. Help...

On the bright side, this is going to be a fairly relaxing weekend. I'm toying with the idea of spending some quiet time at a cafe to do up my Japanese notes while watching people pass by. I love people-watching, there's something calming about seeing people whiz by while you're stationary at your seat. Ooh...I'm dreaming about sipping tea and having sandwiches already...

My first encounter with madeleines was at a new local bread/pastry shop. I'm a later bloomer, I know, cos that wasn't that long ago. It wasn't a great experience as the cakes I tried was oily, dense and buttery, very unlike the reviews I've read online. Determined to try making them myself, I pulled out a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my home to yours and made these cute french chocolate madeleines. As I wasn't sure how I'd fare, I used a cheap madeleine pan from Daiso to try this out.

The results turned out lovely. The cakes were light, fluffy and extremely chocolaty. I love it! However, the scalloped lines weren't too obvious as the indentations weren't very pronounced. Well, looks like I have a reason to invest in a proper madeleine pan after all :).

Recipe can be found here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blueberry Crumble Muffins - Butter vs Oil

It's been a hectic week, a rollercoaster week, but it ended really well. I'm heartened, encouraged and very thankful that it did. Looking forward to more good things coming my way :).

Reading through Okashi once again, the blueberry muffin recipe caught my eye. Most likely because of the delicious looking picture, but also because of its lovely brown hue spotted with cream coloured crumble topping. Honestly, I'd always preferred muffins made with oil, as they tend to yield softer, fluffier muffins that I can keep for days without turning hard. I also tend to prefer the muffin method of mixing which blends the wet and dry ingredients separately before combining them together. This particular muffin recipe goes against all of that, using butter in place of oil, and the creaming method instead of the muffin method. It was easy enough to put together and the recipe made just the right amount for 6 muffins.

This recipe yields denser muffins which taste best warm. I love the buttery crumble topping with the added ground almounds cos it gave the muffins a nice crunch. Taste wise, I still prefer my muffins made with oil and the muffin method.

Nevertheless, blueberry muffins are always great for breakfast!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Banana Caramel Swiss Roll - Test of Patience

I was a little hesitant to post this up for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I made this sponge a number of times, and each time, it left me with an airy, rough sponge. Secondly, I'm tired of the multiple tries, hence the lack of energy. Thirdly, I'm not sure if I want to see this anymore. Oh well, I've decided against it and share this anyway. The result you see above is from my fifth and final try. I think this experience is enough to put me off from making swiss rolls for a good period of time. As much as I knew making swiss rolls was a tricky task, I never expected it to be this tricky.

The first time I saw the recipe in Okashi, I knew it was the recipe I had to try. I love Japanese-styled swiss rolls and the various flavour combinations that never fail to get me hooked. Plus, after trying the banana caramel tart from Fruit Paradise (which I totally adored), I had to try this combination out myself somehow!

The recipe for the sponge was simple, using just eggs, pastry flour and castor sugar. The key to achieving a soft, fluffy cake was the right mixing of these three ingredients to form a batter with a ribbon consistency, which, till now, I still can't quite grasp. Hence, my first, second, third and fourth tries yielded me an airy, rough sponge.

I liked the taste of the eggy sponge together with the whipped cream, caramel and banana. But somehow, the texture was wrong, at least to me. Made it a couple more times using the same recipe but varied the beating time for the  batter, yet the results were the same. Disappointed but at the same time determined to get a more cake-like sponge, I tweaked the recipe, added more flour and a little oil. This time round, the sponge's texture was much finer and softer than before.

Alas, a cake-like sponge that's soft and fluffy! The rolling was a breeze and I'm glad, that there were no breaks or cracks. When I feel adventurous enough again, I shall try another flavour combination. I wonder when that day will come...

Banana Caramel Swiss Roll

Ingredients for Sponge:
3 eggs
60g castor sugar
80g cake flour (sifted twice)
20g vegetable oil

for Caramel:
50g whipping cream
50g sugar

for Whipped Cream:
100g whipping cream
1 tsp sugar

2 large bananas

1. Whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Warm the mixture over a double boiler, whisking continuously.

2. Beat the mixture with a stand mixer until light and fluffy. This might take some time, about 10 minutes or so, depending on your mixer. Gently fold in the sifted cake flour with a rubber spatula until well incorporated, then mix in the oil.

3. Pour the batter onto a cake pan lined with parchment. Bake at 180 degrees C for 10-13 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the caramel. Heat the sugar in a saucepan until it caramelises. Carefully pour the whipping cream into the saucepan, stirring until well blended. Set aside to cool.

5. Whip the whipped cream in a stand mixer until soft peak form. Add the sugar and whip till stiff peaks.

6. To assemble, peel the cooled sponge from the parchment and place it on a sheet of clean parchment. Spread a layer of whipped cream on the browned side. Place bananas on one end of the sponge and drizzle the cool caramel over it. Roll up the sponge carefully to avoid any cracks.

7. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing to serve.

Yields a 9' by 12' sponge.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Matcha Chiffon Cakes - The Love for Chiffons

Chiffon, yet again, yes! I know this ain't the most appetising looking cake around, even my mum commented on its lack of attractiveness. But trust me, matcha is great for chiffons. After getting the hang of making my favourite everyday cake, it's only natural that I experiment with a couple more flavours right? So many flavours to try, leaving me spoilt for choice. My recent trip to the bookstore yielded me yet another book - Okashi by Keiko Ishida. I've had my eye on this ever since I saw it at Shermay's Cooking School. I have not attended her classes before but this caught my attention as i've been looking for a book on japanese-french pastries that's written in English and this fits the bill perfectly!

I love this book - love the clean look and layout, the simple yet elegant recipes and the useful tips that provides little snippets of baking advice. It's a no-fuss, straightforward book with a unique, quiet charm really. I couldn't wait to try out the recipes and hence chose to start with one of the chiffon cake recipes - Matcha Chiffon Cake. I love matcha on its own, love its sweet fragrance and how it complements simple Japanese food with an understated elegance. This is my first time using matcha in my bakes and the results did not disappoint. 
I was a little worried about overbeaten egg whites as it ended up as medium peaks rather than stiff peaks, but the cake turned out beautifully well - soft, fluffy and moist. The rich matcha flavour was pleasant, complemented by just the right level of sweetness. I do wish the colour was a little darker like Keiko's cake in the book though. Oh well, until I find a darker-coloured green tea powder!

Reading through the rest of the book now...can't wait to try the rest of the recipes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kueh Bahlu - The Childhood Favourite

When I was a child, I love these lovely lil' cakes called Kueh Bahlu. Everytime I walk past a bakery and caught sight of them, I would squeal in delight and linger a little longer, refusing to go until my mum buys these little cakes for me. Every New Year, grandma would offer these cakes to me without fail, round after round, each time with a sweet, loving smile on her face. She'll always pack some for me and insist I take them home, knowing how much I love them. These cakes brought me many sweet memories...sweet memories of a loving, caring grandmother. Memories that never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Years later, I'm all grown up...grandma has aged significantly too. Yet whenever I see these cakes, the first thing I think of is still my dear grandma...though with a hint of sadness. Visiting her in hospital, she looks a little frail... I really hope she'll get well soon. This New Year, I shall be the one offering these to her. Hopefully it will bring a smile to her face just like how it did to mine.

There's still a couple of months to go before New Year arrives...time to perfect the recipe for these cute little cakes before presenting them to my dear grandma. I can't wait....*smiles*

Monday, November 9, 2009

Marble Chiffon Cake - The Cake That Never Served Its Purpose

I had a purpose in mind when I made this cake. Made for a special day, for a special person. Somehow all that has changed in the past month. I grew up with chiffons. I love chiffons. So much so I can't resist whenever I come across one, yet at the same time, I never dared to make them. This time, I succeeded. My Marble Chiffon Cake turned out beautifully well. And the first person I wanted to share this with was that special someone. Which, unfortunately, didn't happen. Though my love for chiffons waned over the years, it was rekindled again at a special moment, one that I will not forget, one that will be with me for life. You can probably imagine my disappointment, my sadness, when I was unable to share this.

The chiffon turned out light and fluffy, with a nice chocolatey taste. I hesitated at cutting it, pondering for a moment whether I should even try to deliver it...and resisted that thought. Now that the whole cake has been eaten up, I finally had the courage to pen this down. This cake will always go down as the cake that never served its purpose.

Still, I love chiffons. I'm glad this time round it turned out well. Feels bitter...yet sweet...

Marble Chiffon Cake
adapted from Cooking Crave

95g egg yolks
25g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp honey

80g vegetable oil
80g water

95g cake flour

10g cocoa powder
10g cake flour

240g egg whites
120g caster sugar
15g corn flour

1. Whisk together A in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves.

2. Add in (B) in their respective order and mix well at each addition.

3. Fold in (C) and incorporate till the mixture is smooth.

4. Divide the egg yolks mixture into two equal portions in two separate mixing bowls.

5. Mix 10g cake flour into one of the egg yolks mixture and 10g cocoa powder into the other bowl of egg yolks mixture. Whisk the mixture till well incorporated.

6. Beat egg whites in a clean large bowl until foamy. Gradually add in sugar, one tablespoon at a time and finally add in corn flour. Beat till stiff peak form, the mixture should be glossy.

7. Gently fold in half of the egg whites mixture into the cocoa egg yolk mixture and the other half into the plain mixture. Mix till there are no traces of egg whites.

8. Spoon in the plain batter into three or four different corners of the tube pan, then cover with cocoa batter, layer by layer till all the batter has been used. Bake in a preheated oven at 170c for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.

9. Invert the cake immediately on a wire rack until it's completely cool before unmoulding the cake.
Yields one 23 cm cake.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Black & White Banana Loaf

I've been thinking about how and why did I start this blog. For one, I've always loved baking, loved food, love making bentos. But lately, my love for the latter has dwindled. Not that it has disappeared, it hasn't. But it has somehow evolved in purpose. Bentos are great for sharing. I always thought it was lovely to make for someone else, cos of the effort that goes into it - the cooking, the layout, the decoration. It's always a joy to put in effort making something that others will enjoy. For months, I haven't made any bentos. Cos there seems to be no reason to make them anymore. My "bento mate", an ex-colleague, has left the company and someone dear to me ceased to be dear. Hence I'm now able to put my energy into this blog, which I've been preparing to start for some time. Now that I'm neglecting my bento interest, I can finally start this blog and spend my time on this hobby of mine :).

Been so busy the past week that I haven't had enough sleep. There seems to be so many things to do, so little time. But nevertheless, making my own breakfast is a must for me. Nothing beats homemade goodies to start off my day. Looking at the various bloggers that've made this loaf before, the batter does look a little tricky to manage - the most common grouse was that it's too runny. I've cut down on the amount of milk as recommended cos I like my bread soft, moist, yet not too oily. This turned out to be lovely combination of my two favourite flavours - banana and chocolate, with a slight whiff of citrusness...delicious...

This loaf bakes beautifully, though it does take a pretty long time - 1 hour and 15 minutes. And since this is my very first marbled loaf, it still left much to be desired...haha...I've gotta work on my marbling skills!

Black & White Banana Loaf
adapted from Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large bananas, mashed
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of ½ a lemon
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Butter an 8' by 4' loaf pan, dust the inside with flour. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a small bowl, mixed the mashed banana with the lemon juice and zest.

4. Melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the butter together in a microwave oven or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.

5. Working with a stand mixer, beat the remaining stick (8 tablespoons) of butter at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until light and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. The batter will look curdled, and it will continue to look curdled as you add ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the flour mixture, mixing only until it is just incorporated. With the mixer running, pour in the milk, and when it is blended, add the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the mashed bananas. The batter will look even lumpier.

6. Pour a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and stir to blend. Drop alternating spoonfuls of both batters into the prepared pan, then, using a table knife, swirl the batters together, taking care not to overdo it.

7. Bake for 1 hour and 15 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and if the cake starts to brown too much, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chocolate Cream Tart

I'm not feeling good. Haven't been feeling too good over the past few days. Everything seems to be going all wrong. Nursing a broken heart, a failed relationship...patching family ties...and under all sorts of pressure at work. Life at this point, really seems grey and dreary...and I'm desperately in need of a pick-me-up.

Been snacking on chocolates almost every day for the entire week, cos it provides such simple comfort. Whenever I'm unhappy, chocolate perks me up...chocolate makes me happy...chocolate makes me smile, even if it's for a while. My relationship with chocolate is always evolving...and we seem to grow closer with each passing day.

Since I have frozen tart shells in the fridge, I decided to bake this to cheer my sad self up. It was easy to prepare really, especially when you do this bit by bit, separately one component after another. First the tart shell, then the custard cream, and lastly the whipped cream crown. The individual components, though not mind-blowing on its own, came together beautifully to form a rich, chocolaty dessert which impressed with its taste and texture. I took this to my colleagues and everyone totally loved it...yet I got all the credit for it although this is really the result of the detailed guidance from my favourite book. Having gone through quite a couple of recipes from Baking from my home to yours, I must say that the recipes are virtually foolproof. The little tips and details that accompany each step along the way are so meticulously written, that it feels as if Dorie's telling them to you in person. Watching Julie & Julia in the theatre, I feel as if I can somehow relate to Julie in the story and imagine Julia right at the other side of the world. The relationship's beautiful - distant, yet ever so close. The amazing amount of work that goes into writing a good cookbook blows me away. There are many out there who lists recipes without testing them fully. Yet those books which have gone through the full process of testing and refinement are really set apart from the rest of the field. And this book, to me, is a real gem.

I totally loved this pie. The crust was rich, crumbly, almost bitter. The custard was smooth, creamy and luscious. Both combined together perfectly with the whipped cream crown to create a truly delicious tart. After the first bite, I was sold. And the subsequent bites won me heart over coompletely. I really really love this, and surprisingly, so did my mum. She's not a big fan of chocolate, but she actually liked this more than the banana cream pie. Surprise surprise! There wasn't enough to go around and my dad and bro sulked at not having one to try. Hopefully there'll be one more round since I still have tart shells in the freezer! This is one great chocolate dessert that will be a hit at any dinner party. I'm already thinking of bringing this to a party!

Chocolate Cream Tart
adapted from Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan


(For the filling)
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
35g unsalted butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature

1 9-inch Chocolate Shortbread Tart Dough, fully baked and cooled

(For the topping)
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate shavings or curls for decoration, or cocoa powder for dusting


1. Bring the milk to a boil.

2. In a large saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until well-blended and thick. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk, then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

3. Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. Chill the custard in a large bowl of ice water or refrigerate overnight.

4. When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the chocolate cream vigorously to loosen it and to bring back its velvety texture. Spoon the cream into the tart shell, stopping just short of the crust's rim. Smooth the top and, if you are not serving the tart immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap against the cream and refrigerate the tart until needed (or up to 6 hours).

5. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream until it just starts to thicken. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds firm peaks.

6. Spread the whipped cream over the tart and smooth it with a spatula. Serve the tart now or refrigerate it for up to 2 hours before serving. When you are ready to serve the tart, scatter chocolate shavings or curls over the top or, lightly dust the top with cocoa powder.

Yields a 9-inch tart.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lemon Chiffon Cake

I have a love-hate relationship with chiffon cakes. I love eating chiffon cakes, having enjoyed them while growing up through the years, especially the pandan chiffon. Whenever I pass by a neighbourhood bakery, I'm always tempted by the green pandan cake that never fails to perk me up on a bad day. I love its fluffy, light texture that's slightly sweet, yet makes you feel like you haven't eaten much.

At the same time, I hate making chiffon cakes. Perhaps fear might be a better word to describe it. My mum haven't had much success with chiffons and I've witnessed the sunken centres even though they rose promisingly in the oven. I haven't dared to attempt one since, though it is, after all, my favourite everyday cake.

After reading numerous blogs and watching a couple of videos on troubleshooting chiffon cakes, I finally decided to go for it! But my fear of doing injustice to my favourite pandan cake got better of me, haha! I settled for the lemon chiffon cake instead, which looks decent and simple enough for my first try. Lemons are one of those fruits that I like very much in my desserts, their taste and smell simply invigorating.

I used the recipe from Kitchen Corner, and experimented with a change of flavours, using lemon instead of the chocolate in her recipe for a 21 cm tube pan. The sugar content was slightly reduced as well.

And how did my first try turn out? It was alright! No sinking, no major gaping holes. Phew, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. The batter mixing process turned out pretty manageable as well, though the smart alec in me went to tweak the recipe, only to realise that it's a little heavy on flour after I was finished with the mixing and recalculated the proportions. The resulting cake, turned out denser than the usual chiffons I'm accustomed to, though the lemon taste was nice! The denser cake would be great for layered cakes though, as it's stable enough to hold the weight of the frosting and fillings. Well, I learnt another lesson today, which is to STICK TO THE BOOK during my first try at any recipe.

Nevertheless, it was an experiment which didn't put me off from making chiffon cakes again. My unmoulding skills are nonexistent though >.<. I hope I'll get better at this over time...

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Unassuming Favourite - Chocolate Chip Cookies

It all started out when I went to my kitchen one day, looked all over, and found nothing in there that can satisfy my craving for sweets. Banana bread doesn't count as it's breakfast food and hardly sweet enough to be termed as a snack. Hence, the fastest, simplest thing to bake which is, at the same time, disaster-proof and popular with everyone is - the chocolate chip cookie!

The unassuming chocolate chip cookie is hardly plain and simple. Numerous debates have been generated over it including discussions over the use of each ingredient within the cookie. Creamed butter vs melted butter, brown vs white sugar, cake flour vs all-purpose flour and even the size of the chocolate chips has come into question. Now you know what I'm talking about. Though plain and unassuming on the outside, what goes on beyond that exterior is pretty much up to your own imagination.

I've been trying all sorts of recipes for chocolate chip cookies - chewy, cakey, light and fluffy - but I haven't made crunchy ones yet, at least not from scratch besides using the cookie pre-mix. From the discussions I've read, it seems like most people prefer the softer, chewy chocolate chip cookies as opposed to its more crunchy counterparts. For me, it really depends on my mood. I love soft chewy cookies with a hint of caramel brown sugar on days when I need a pick-me-up, but I also love these crunchy cookies that are perfect for the cookie jar. If I'm forced to choose, I would go for the former, simply because it masks the butter taste alot better and the texture's easier on the palate.

Anyway, here goes - my very first crunchy chocolate chip cookie! I used the recipe from Happy Homebaker, and made slight adjustments to make them less sweet. I love the way these lovelies spread out into nice rounded cookies and even left tracks where I pressed my fork against the top. It has just the right amount of sweetness (according to my taste) and a pleasant vanilla taste. For these, I used Valrhona Pearls instead than my usual Ghiradhelli Semisweet/Bittersweet chips. The pearls, being smaller and rounder, look very cute in these cookiee and they were considerably less sweet than Ghiradhelli's as well.

Okay, time to dig in!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Happy Home Baking

115g unsalted butter, softened
100g castor sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g all-purpose flour
125g Valrhona Pearls


1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicon-coated paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

3. Beat in the egg gradually. Mix well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract, mix well.

4.Sift flour over the mixture and fold it in with a spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips.

5. Drop heaped teaspoons of the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving one and a half inch to two inches of space between the cookies to allow for spreading. Flatten each cookie dough slightly with the back of a fork, keeping the shape as even as possible.

6. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies turn golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Yields 26 cookies

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life's Simple Pleasures - Banana Bread

What do I do when I'm sad, disappointed and upset with me and everything else? I'll make some comfort food that makes me feel a little better. Spent the morning on my second macaron experiment, which ended up pretty bitter. My first experiment was a disaster and I was pretty determined to get it right this time. The consistency of the batter did look really promising, but ultimately the baking part failed me, left me a sad and demoralised girl. I really didn't feel like doing anything, just felt like keeping all the recipes and shelving the books to one corner so I won't be reminded of the failure. Then again, the kitchen's already all messed up, with nothing to show, adding to my sadness.

I decided to cave in to my week-long craving and bake some good ol' banana bread. I call it life's simple pleasures, simply because it's so easy to make, with minimal cleaning and fuss, yet tastes so good each time  I make it. Traumatised by the earlier experience, my mind wasn't in it at all. But thank god banana bread is so foolproof, it's hard to go wrong with it. I forgot the trusty vanilla extract, and ended up with pure, unpretentious banana bread - defined by the natural banana fragrance and taste without added flavouring or enhancers.

The sight of the brown loaf rising from the pan had a calm and soothing effect on me. Finally, something that went right today, something good coming out from my oven. I feel so comforted, slightly happier and less traumatised. This can actually taste alot better with a dash of ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. But at this point, anything that smells comfort and taste yummy will do. I was so hungry at this point I had three slices of this at one go. And this was perfect for such times - not too sweet, yet moist and full on flavour. I can jolly well eat this for breakfast for an entire week - no joke.

While the macarons experiment continues to haunt, it's nice to know that I can indulge in good ol' fashioned sweets that can never fail. Probably need to put this episode behind me and start afresh again. Though I wonder how long it'll take for me to muster up the courage to try it out again. The search for the answer continues, with yet another lesson learnt in this confidence-beating journey towards perfecting the art of making macarons. Till then, I'll always find comfort in good ol' banana bread - life's simple pleasures.

Banana Bread
 adapted from Kitchen Corner

60g unsalted butter (softened)
120g all-purpose flour
80g sugar
1 egg
70ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 medium bananas (mashed)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)


1. Whisk butter with sugar until pale.

2. Mix in the egg until well-combined. Add in the bananas and mix till incorporated.

3. Add in the plain flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt mixture slowly, while whisking the mixture. The batter will turn thick and become harder to whisk.

4. Mix in the milk, then fold in the walnuts. Be careful not to over mix or the bread texture will turn tough.

5. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes till a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.

Yields a 18 x 8 x 6 cm loaf.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Banana Cream Pie

I love bananas, I eat almost everything with bananas, and with that, I meant REAL bananas, not banana essence. The difference between the real fruit itself and the essence is stark. I tend to cringe at the latter, yet embrace the fruit in its entirety. I don't know how many times I've flipped through Baking: from my home to yours and wanted to bake this. The recipe looked awesome and the reviews for it are fantastic. As I've never made a pie or a tart before, this seems highly challenging to me. I'm so used to cupcakes, cookies and spooned desserts but a tart? I don't even have a tart pan to start with!

After setting my eyes on making this, I headed to Phoon Huat to purchase the tart making essentials. I bought myself a 7-inch pan and along with it, a whole load of baking UNessentials. I swear the store has some magnetic powers that draws me to everything I see. And you guessed right, the trip left a big hole in my pocket. Time to make good use of all the equipment I got! I'm excited now!

I replaced the flaky crust with the sweet tart dough recipe found in the book and it was pretty foolproof. The texture was easy to press into the pan, though I made it a teeny bit too thin for my liking. I'm just glad it turned out alright and nicely-browned - not too light, not too dark. Next up, the pastry cream!

The instructions for the pastry cream was easy to follow. I love how Dorie makes her instructions so detailed and simple. It was easy to identify when the cream was done. Chilling the cream took a couple of hours, and I was pretty much left with nothing much to do except to keep myself busy with other things.

After assembling the pie, it turned out pretty alright! At least it looks like a pie, a rather decent one in fact. I especially love it when it's thoroughly chilled, so did my entire family, everyone loved it! Keeping my word to someone whom I've promised to make good use of the book, here are the results. I wish you'd tried it, you would have liked it.

This is one pie I'm pretty certain I will taste more of. Surely there will be a next time.

Banana Cream Pie
adapted from Baking from my home to yours

1 cup milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
3 large ripe but firm banana
1 9-inch single crust made with Sweet Tart Dough recipe, fully baked and cooled
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar

For the full recipe, head over to Sing For Your Supper.

Yields one 9-inch pie.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Double Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

Today is my off day. And off day = baking day. Baking is therapeutic. I love seeing how the flour, eggs, sugar and butter turn into delicious works of art upon its exit from the oven. The feeling's simply magical.

I had all the time in the world today. I can decide what time i wanted to wake up, what to do, when to start doing and how long I'll take to do it. I've been looking forward to this day, cos I'm finally gotta take my own sweet time to bake some comfort food for me and my family. It's also the day for new experiments, and that means, trying out new recipes that I've never done before.

You know, I feel really really blessed. The very things I needed and wanted, were those very things that were already put (bought) in place for me. The oven, stand mixer, dslr...all these I have access to, at my convenience and my disposal, without needing to pay a single cent. Ha...this makes me a very happy girl! My mum used to bake ever so often, hence the kitchen is equipped with good quality equipment, and my dad, loves photography, hence the dslr is there! This means I can get to do alllll the baking and photography I want, without paying for the equipment! *squeals in delight*

I've finally decided that I'm hardworking enough to swop my trusty Panasonic Lumix for the Nikon D60. It takes quite abit of effort to stand on the tips of my toes to pull out that black bag from my daddy's cupboard, and more to find the right spot where daylight actually shines into the house. As I'm used to baking at night, getting daylight in my photos is a totally impossible task.

Laying out my current two favourite baking books side by side, one by Dorie Greenspan (which I favour alot more these days) and the other by Martha Stewart. I decided to go for the latter for variety sake. Was craving something suitable for breakfast and tea and hence I picked this recipe.

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of pistachios and was seriously contemplating substituting them with hazelnuts. But since I found it at the baking supplies store, I took a chance and went for it. Sure enough, it did not disappoint. I loved the combination of chocolate and pistachios in this crispy teatime cookie. I used the best quality cocoa powder I could find - Valrhona, together with Ghiradhelli semisweet chocolate chips. Martha Stewart's recipe is a little on the sweet side and I toned this down by using less sugar. Still, it was sweet and I'll just have to reduce the sweetness even more next time. The execution could have been improved though, cos my biscottis came out really long! Nevertheless, I love the deep, chocolaty flavour of this cookie, which perfectly complements a good cuppa coffee. Now I have an excuse to take that midday break. Yay to more tea breaks this week!

Double Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

85g unsalted butter
220g all-purpose flour
50g Valrhona unsweetened cocoa powder
180g castor sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
100g pistachio nuts (toasted)
1/2 cup Ghiradhelli semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Add in flour mixture and incorporate to form a stiff dough. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chips.

3. Transfer dough to baking sheet. Shape the dough into a slightly flattened log. Bake for 25 -28 minutes, until the dough is slightly firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

4. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log diagonally into inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti slices on a baking sheet, with the cut sides facing down, and bake the biscottis for 8-10 minutes, until crisp but still slightly soft in the center.

Yields 12- 14 biscottis.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blueberry Crumble Muffins

Muffins...I have a bittersweet relationship with them really. Bitter cos I never found the perfect recipe that yields me light, fluffy muffins that I can enjoy one after another. And sweet cos I love their airy light texture with a slight hint of sweetness without being too heavy on the palate or overpowering in taste. Hence, I've shunned from baking muffins most of the time, well, until I found this lovely recipe from allrecipes.

As you might already know, I'm a huuuuuuge fan of chocolate, hence most of the sweets I bake will more or less include some form of chocolate in it. I'm a recently-converted blueberry fan though, especially after devouring dozens (yes you read it right, dozens) of blueberry muffins from a local muffin place. And it provided the impetus for me to get off my butt and start searching for that illusive muffin recipe.
I have to admit, this recipe was inspiring. Though not perfect, it yielded light and fluffy muffins just how I'd like it. The crumble topping was new to me, and I totally loved the crispy tops that came out from it...sweet and delicious! The ground cinnamon added a nice, flavourful touch as well.

My only grouse in my latest muffin experiment is that the batter overflowed from the cups. I've had problems with these paper cups before and the recipe called for the batter to be filled to the cup's brim. It's not a good idea to do so. Filling it two-thirds full will be your best bet, allowing sufficient space for the batter to rise, and yielding pretty, domed-shaped muffins. Some of mine are rather flat due to the overflowing batter, which I shall learn from and work on having perfect muffins next time. Nevertheless, preparing this was easy and fuss-free. You can pretty much mix everything by hand with a mixing bowl, without the need to mobilise the stand mixer. Looking at the recipe, I thought it was a little odd to leave out the vanilla extract, so I added them in anyway! Though there's not much need for it as the cinnamon smell was dominant in this recipe. These muffins taste best when warm, I especially loved them when they came straight out of the oven! I'd prefer it if they look a little less brown, though it's mostly due to the brown sugar I've used in place of the white. Colour-aside, these are finger-licking good!

Blueberry Crumble Muffins
adapted from

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

For crumb topping:
1/4 cup white sugar (I used brown instead)
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 tsp ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to  200 degrees C. Line muffin pan with liners.

2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Whisk vegetable oil, egg and milk in a cup. Mix this with the flour mixture. Fold in blueberries.

3. To make crumb topping:, mix together the sugar, flour, butter and ground cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

4. Fill muffin cups up to two-thirds full, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

Yields 10 medium muffins.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chocolate Malted Maltesers Drops

It's one of those days when I'm craving frosted chocolate malt ice cream with Maltesers in it. Oooh...sinful...yet sheer bliss on the taste buds. Chocolate and malt make a fantastic pairing, and this is shown evidently in this delicious cookie.

Using the recipe from "Baking from my home to yours", I tried as far as possible to keep to the original, yet using the best ingredients I can find here. The rich, dark, Valrhona cocoa powder gave these babies a deep brown hue and an irresistible chocolate flavour. After discovering Valrhona, it's pretty hard to switch back to the pre-packed house brand cocoa powder again. The difference in smell and taste is so distinct , it's definitely worth the investment in good cocoa.

The recipe calls for Whoppers, but I used Maltesers instead (due to my craving) and these worked really well for me. Ghiradhelli semisweet chips were added - one of my baking must-haves. I had a hard time searching for this batch of Ghiradhelli chips and finally found them in NTUC. Strangely enough, this cost me half the price of the same pack in Cold Storage. So I grabbed a couple of them for use on days when I'm just itching to bake. If anyone knows where else I can get hold of these chips on a regular basis, do let me know.

Halfway into the 12 minutes baking times, these babies were already smelling good! The resultant texture was soft, slightly cakey, yet fluffy and light at the same time. The cookie's not too sweet, accentuated by the distinct taste of malt and the sweet chocolate chips giving it the richness it needs. These are so good I had two of them at one go, when I usually stop at one.

Taking this out of the oven, I love how these cookies held its shape. They don't spread very much, hence the 2 inch distance between drops of dough can be reduced to slightly over 1 inch. The lovely dome-shaped top makes them look really pretty and fluffy.

The recipe yielded about 36 cookies for me. I prefer my cookies smaller, around the size of the Arnotts Mint Cookies and unlike the large round Subway cookies. Smaller ones are easier on the waistline and are more ladies-friendly, though a box of these normally gets eaten up within 2-3 days...especially with my dad and bro gobbling them down in front of the tv. Well, this gives me more excuses to do more baking and try out new recipes!

Baking is therapy to me. Whenever I'm sad or down, I'm inclined to bake to shift my attention away from my problems and heartbreaks and use the energy on perfecting this work. After seeing the resultant product, I often feel alot better...and seeing my friends and family enjoying the lovely sweet treats really makes my day.

Chocolate Malted Maltesers Drops

adapted from Baking from my home to yours (by Dorie Greenspan)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup malted milk powder (I used horlicks)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
6 ounces chocolate-covered malted milk balls (I used Maltesers)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or store-bought chocolate chips/chunks (I used Ghiradhelli semi-sweet)


1. Line the baking sheets with silicon-coated baking paper.

2. Sift together the flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

3. Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minuts, until very smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed and add in half the dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Mix in the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients until they disappear into the batter. By hand using a rubber spatula, mix in the malted milk balls and chocolate chips.

4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of cookie dough onto the sheets, leaving slightly more than 1 inch between the heaps of dough. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the sheets every 6 minutes.

5. When done, the cookies will puff up and will be slightly soft to the touch. Let the cookies cool on the sheet before transferring them to racks to cool at room temperature.

Yields 36 cookies.


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