Thursday, December 30, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake and New Year Resolutions

I was on a break from work for almost the whole of this week, yet the days scurried by and it's almost the end of 2010, wow. In real life, this was definitely my best year yet. Though busy, but I enjoyed every single moment of it, really. In baking, this was a year of breakthroughs - I never thought I'd ever produce an entremet but I did, never thought I would have the patience and determination to pull off daunting bakes yet I did with mum's constant help and encouragement.

To end off the year, I made a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake using Patisserie Glace's sponge recipe and the stabilised whipped cream recipe from here. Korean strawberries were in season, popping up in my face everywhere from supermarts to fruit shops and makeshift fruit stalls.

I couldn't resist, grabbed two punnets of varying varieties and promptly set out to make this. The recipe was a breeze to follow, but I can't say the same for the decorations part. It took me two tries to get the little cream dots to look decent and the lines to look straight. Well, I'm glad it at least turned out alright! I might have went overboard with the cream and spread too much between the layers...hopefully it'll taste alright! *fingers crossed*

**Update: Ok, my friends have tasted the cake and gave the thumbs up for the sponge and cream! Feedback was that the sponge is light and fluffy and the cream was lovely :).

Ok, now time for New Year resolutions. I figured I would like to at least write down some of the baking resolutions for the year ahead to keep me a liiiiittttle more here goes!

1. Pâte à choux
I tried this once but it didn't turn out too well! Hopefully with more practice it will succeed.

2. Tiramisu
One of the most popular desserts among my circle of friends but I never got around to making it!

3. Bread
Another one of my must-fulfill resolutions! Been saying I wanna bake breads for far toooo long...

4. Puff Pastry
Mille-feuille is one of my all-time favourite desserts! With berries!

5. Plasir Sucre
Possibly my favourite entremet and I've been eyeing the recipe for the looongest time! Time to get the book and start making this already.

Hmmm, I probably have a ton more of these at the back of my head, but I seriously "intend" to finish all these in the New Year! Off with the fickle-mindedness and time to be more focused! Heh.

Happy New Year everyone!

Strawberry Shortcake

3 medium eggs
60g sugar
15ml warm milk
60g cake flour, sifted
20g unsalted butter, melted
[Whipped Cream]
2 tsp gelatin powder
8 tsp cold water
1.5 cup whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

250g punnet of strawberries, sliced and whole

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the bottom and sides of a 15cm cake pan with parchment.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is combined and mixture is warm to the touch.
3. Transfer mixture to electric mixer and turn up to medium speed. When the mixture is white and fluffy, add the milk and beat for another 1-2 minutes until it's light and fluffy again.
4. Add the flour and gently mix in one direction until well incorporated. Do not overmix.
5. Do the same with the butter.
6. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 17 minutes. When it's done, remove from oven and cool on wire rack. When cooled, slice into 3 layers.
[Whipped Cream]
1. Chill mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Put the cold water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and let stand for 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
3. Remove mixing bowl and beaters from freezer. In the mixing bowl, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and whip until slightly thickened. Then, while beating slowly, gradually pour the gelatin into the whipped cream mixture. Then whip the mixture at high speed until medium soft peaks.

[To Assemble]
1. Spread a layer of whipped cream onto the bottom layer, top with sliced strawberries and spread another layer of whipped cream on it. Sandwich with a layer of sponge.
2. Repeat step 1.
3. Cover the rest of the cake (top and sides) with whipped cream. Decorate with remaining whole strawberries.

Yields a 15cm round cake.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and My First Buche de Noel

Merry Christmas! Just had the awesomest Christmas family dinner ever. My mum whipped up a couple of dishes, a Roasted Rosemary and Honey Mustard Pork Loin and Grilled King Prawn Thai-Style Noodle Salad, bought some Fresh Oysters as well as Salmon and Scallop Sashimi, and put together a simple Vegetable Salad for the big day. All I had to do was to make sure I have a dessert in time to end off the meal!

My mum's a real genius, and often, a perfectionist and an over-doer. But that's also what I love about her...haha. I merely suggested having a simple, home-cooked Christmas dinner and she went over the top and spent two whole days shopping for ingredients and putting together this delicious spread.

Appetisers from top: Grilled King Prawn Thai-Style Noodle Salad, Fresh Oysters, Salmon and Scallop Sashimi

The sashimi were fresh and good! Didn't touch the oysters at all cos I really detest oysters...but they do look good!

This was my favourite dish of the night - Grilled King Prawn Thai-Style Noodle Salad. The sauce was absolutely delicious! Restaurant-standard definitely :).

The mains - Roasted Rosemary and Honey Mustard Pork Loin, was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. I love the flavourful and tender meat with juicy insides...super yummy!

Vegetable Salad, for a balanced meal  :).

And you know what, this totally blew me away:

A Tropical Fruit Punch, done in a fresh and novel way! It was basically orange juice and pineapple juice with pineapple chunks and fresh blueberries, topped with a starfruit slice! This is super delicious and cheery!

After seeing the amount of effort she put into the dinner, I feel a little bad about my dessert. I "cheated" and left out one of the layers as I was too busy running around doing things and errands the entire month. Hence, this was what I ended up with:

A pure chocolate Buche de Noel, comprising chocolate mousse, chocolate hazelnut praline feuillitine, chocolate caramel ganache and chocolate dacquoise decorated with hazelnut praline pieces and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. It was pretty simple and straightforward to put together, since I "cheated". The overall taste was good and my family members each had two slices at a go, which is really good to see! I'm glad they enjoyed it. Given a second try, I would have loved some raspberries or liquor to give the chocolate noel a little more kick.

Despite the mad rush to get all the presents and cards together, this is my favourite Christmas of all time. The times spent with my friends, family and loved ones were so so precious. I wish every Christmas can be like this, or even better.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Favours - A Sweet Way for Giving Thanks

Feeling really really tired at this point in time but felt I had to pen this down somehow. I had the awesomest Christmas party ever just an hour ago - one with awesome people within whom were awesome hearts. These were people in whom God is very real in their lives, and they were the very same people who are very real in my life. I really appreciate them for who they are, how they inspire me to be who I can be and the vision they've put in my life.

The Christmas Macarons I shared in my last post, they were wiped out within seconds, literally. I was really awed by their response, even overwhelmed to a certain extent. It was definitely worth the time and effort put into making three different batches of macarons (yes I made three - mint dark chocolate, orange hazelnut dark chocolate and hazelnut praline to be exact) - just to see how much they enjoyed them.

Besides the macs, I also put together these chocolate almond rounds, baked using the same recipe I used the last time round. These were hardy enough to withstand the movement and shaking without breaking, yet are delicious enough for a midday snack, hence the choice. I found these lovely plastic tube boxes at Phoon Huat, jazzed them up a little with doilies, ribbons and stickers...and there you have it - Christmas Favours!

My favourite part of Christmas giving is always in the wrapping of presents. I didn't have time to shop around for presents and thought this will make fast and personal handmade gifts. I'm glad they turned out pretty well and conveyed my thanks across to the ones who matter to me. It definitely does not mean that those who don't receive it don't matter. Each and every one of you who've come into my life, you matter to me. With my limited time and resources, this was the best I could do to convey my thanks in action.

Using the same boxes, I filled them with some of my favourite candy for some of my favourite people as well! Don't this look cute too?

Now I wish I'd kept some candy for myself!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Macarons - Tis the Season to be Jolly lalalalala lalalala

Tis the season to be jolly lalalalala lalalala...hoho Christmas is coming! In just 10 days time! I'm starting to panic...I have tons of presents I haven't buy, many favours and desserts (including a Buche de Noel) I haven't planned nor prepared for, and cards to write! Ahhhhh!

Okay I need to calm down, I pray that everything turns out well and the tasks get done eventually. Haha...I kinda feel better now :).

My first Christmas bake this year is Christmas Macarons. I just love the very festive colour and flavour combination - red and green shells with mint chocolate ganache - totally gets me into the Christmas mood! These are actually made for an upcoming Christmas party this about being last minute!

Interestingly, my red and green macaron batter were of slightly different consistencies even when they were from the same batch. The red shells turned out alot nicer and smoother with prettier feet compared to the latter...I wonder why.

The filling for these Christmas Macarons caused me a little bit of trouble. I tried 3 types of chocolate - Ghiradhelli 72% dark chocolate, Valrhona Manjari and Valrhona Equatoriale. The first two were wayyyy too bitter. I was so upset that i used up two of my favourite chocolate without any success. In the end, I had to make an additional trip down to the bakery store to get Valrhona Equatoriale, which turned out perfectly matched with the peppermint essence.

Anyway, minor setbacks aside, these are such a joy to photograph! I hope my recipients will enjoy them as much as I do :).

I'm submitting this to the Christmas giveaway hosted by Swee San of The Sweet Spot. She has a really lovely blog, do hop over to visit!
Oh, since this fits the Aspiring Bakers theme for the month, I'm also submitting this to the group! Check the the link here to participate!

Christmas Macarons

150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
120g egg whites (divided equally into two portions)
150g granulated sugar
40g water
1/4 tsp cherry red powdered colouring
1/4 tsp green powdered colouring

[Mint Dark Chocolate Ganache]
80g Valrhona Equatoriale 55% dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
80g heavy cream
10g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp peppermint essence

1. Pulse the ground almonds and confectioners' sugar together in a food processor. Sift together the blended mixture and divide into two equal portions. Set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook till the sugar syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, beat 60g of the egg whites in the electric mixer on medium speed till soft peak form. When the sugar syrup is ready (both should come together at about the same time), pour the syrup in a steady stream into the egg whites with the mixer running on low. Increase the speed to high and beat till you get a thick, glossy meringue and the mixture is cool to the touch (around 10 minutes).
3. Mix half of the remaining egg whites with the first portion of the almond/sugar mixture, and the other half of the egg whites with the second portion of the almond/sugar mixture. Add the green colouring to the first portion, and the red colouring to the second portion. Fold in half of the meringue into each mixture. Fold gently till it flows like lava, with a thick, steady stream flowing from the spatula. Be careful not to overwork the batter as a couple more turns will result in over-runny batter.
4. Transfer the batter into piping bags fitted with big round tips. Pipe onto pre-drawn circles on parchment paper. Leave it out to set for around 25-30 minutes before baking it at 150 degrees Celsius for 13 minutes.
5. Once done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the parchment onto a cooling rack. Let cool for a few minutes before removing the shells from the parchment.

[Mint Dark Chocolate Ganache]
1. Warm the cream in a small saucepan. Pour the cream into a bowl containing the chopped chocolate and let steep for a minute before stirring. Stir in the peppermint essence until a smooth ganache is formed.
2. Let the ganache cool till 40 degrees Celsius, then stir in the unsalted butter until smooth.
3. Pipe a dollop of the ganache onto the red macaron shell and sandwich with a green macaron shell.
4. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Yields 30 macarons.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Valencia - An Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Entremet

Wow, it's December already! And it seems like everyone is in the holiday mood :). In recent weeks, I've received requests from some of my gal pals to visit my place for a baking session, one of it from the birthday girl herself. She wanted to bake an orange-flavoured cake, hence I searched the net and my books archive to find a suitable recipe for the occasion. I've been eyeing this Sadaharu Aoki's Valencia recipe on Evan's blog for ages, but never got around to it cos of all the "new" ingredients I needed to buy - like almond paste, orange marmalade, feuilletine and cognac. In the end, I decided to leave out the liquor and plunge into this seemingly complicated 5-layer entremet anyway!

The girls' schedules are really challenging to coordinate. We finally decided on a weekday night, with around 2.5 hours to play around with. I made the almond paste from scratch (it's alot cheaper this way), as well as the hazelnut dacquoise and chocolate almond sponge layers beforehand, while the girls made the hazelnut praline feuilletine, milk chocolate mousse and orange mousse layers within 2 hours...amazing! As a result, we completed the most complicated entremet I've ever done...almost like a milestone!

Tonight, we will be celebrating Christa's (very belated) birthday. Lacking ideas, I stuck a Happy Birthday tag onto the cake so that it looks like a birthday cake! I seriously need to go for some cake decorating lessons before all my cakes start to look the same! I also trimmed the cake to a smaller 6-inch size as there's only going to be 3 of us at the cosy celebration. I cut the rest into slices and topped them with a shard of hazelnut praline each :).

If you noticed, I actually made the orange mousse thicker, 1.5 times the amount in the written recipe, for more citrus oomph. The entremet ended up really tall, which my mum wasted no time in pointing out =.=". I can't even cheat a little with my mum watching us so closely...roar. After tasting it, I find it really good! The different textures and flavours melded well together, much tastier than a recent cake I purchased of the same flavour combination.

Can't wait for tonight! We're going to this quaint cafe called The Garden Slug :). I hope the girls will like this too...excited!


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