Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My first Macaron!!

I did it! I finally did!!

I had been pondering about making macarons ever since I can think straight after the birth of Nathalie. But I had read many horror stories about this cranky little biscuit. About how it refuse to develop feet, become lumpy or too flat or crack, etc. I just did not pick up the courage to try it.. until yesterday.
Thanks to Pook from dailydelicious who gave me precious advise and also for the recipe that I used from her lovely blog. And my hubby who got me the red bean paste. I made my first macaron - green tea with red bean paste.

I followed the recipe closely. Using the food processor to further grind the almonds with icing sugar and green tea powder. Then painstakingly sift the dry mixture.
After about five minutes in the oven, the little discs developed feet!! I was so glad I danced round the kitchen.. ha ha.

Lovely feet...

Thought the green was too intense, but what the heck.. its got feet! Filled with store bought red bean.

Still in the Christmas mood...

The truth is, I've never tasted macarons before, so I have no idea if mine passes the taste test. I heard it is supposed to be a little crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Mine was not that crisp, but was indeed moist and slightly chewy inside. Hubby loves it. Friends thought its too sweet. Not too sure if it was the filling that was too sweet or the little discs.

My daughter is now asking for pink ones. So do expect more macarons coming up ... after I age those egg whites.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Girly cupcakes

Was invited to a friend's daughter's birthday party recently. I volunteered to bake the girl's birthday cake. The mother was looking at Cheryl Shuen's cupcakes and adored her beautiful designs. I was afraid of not meeting expectations, so I did lots of research and did these test cupcakes.

Unfortunately did not take pictures of the final cake!! Make a couple of changes - used dark brown and gold cupcake liners for a more polished look. Also added more colours - pastel orange and pink as background.

Made two flavours of cupcakes - orange vanilla and chocolcate with maraschino cherries. The chocolate ones were very tasty, the maraschino cherries gave it a very nice flavour. I think I ate about four of those cupcakes, its a feat for non-cake lover like me.

Choc 'n' cherry cupcakes
adapted from '500 cupcakes and muffins' by fergal conolly
makes 18 cupcakes

225g self raising flour
4 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar (I reduced by 25%)
225g unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, lightly beaten
90 g chopped cherries (Recipe uses fresh cherries, but I put in about 15 chopped maraschino cherries instead)
2 tbsp kirsch (I omitted)

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees
2. In medium bowl, sieve flour, cocoa and baking powder. Set aside
3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Add eggs a little at a time, beating well with each addition
5. Add flour mixture, mix till well combined
6. Fold in cherries
7. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases
8. Bake for 20 minutes
9. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes
10. Pour a little kirsch over each cupcake
11. If using muffin tins, remove the cupcake and cool on rack

I did not make the topping, as I decorated with fondant. But if you use this topping, it will taste and look like a black forest cake, but in miniature.

For the topping
200ml whipping cream
3 tbsp icing sugar, sieved
18 whole cherries
100g dark chocolate bar

1. Whip the cream and icing sugar together until slightly stiff
2. Using a vegetable peeler, shave curls of chocolate from the bar
3. Garnish the cupcakes with a dollop of cream
4. Place a cherry in the center and chocolate shreds around it

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!!

I've been busy, busy, busy. Did quite a fair bit of baking for our cell group's party on Christmas eve. I made marshmellow snowman, a nativity-themed cake, croissant butter pudding and Christmas chocolate cupcakes. But alas, was too caught up and did not take pictures!!

So I assembled this easy dessert to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Strawberries with lots of white chocolate cream, sandwiched between puff pastry and dusted with icing sugar. Yum!

Update (3 Jan) : Managed to retrieve some pics from mobile phone. Here's my nativity cake and christmas cupcakes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bread basket

I love bread. Much more than cake. Although I love and enjoyed cake decoration, I hardly ever eat more than a slice of cake each time. But bread is different. I can have them every day for breakfast, lunch and tea.

Baked double portions of bread the other day. Just normal sweet bun dough, but shaped and filled differently. Ended up with one whole basket of bread! I gave away most. I had great success this time, the bread was fluffy and soft. Most importantly, it remained so for 2-3 days!

Here's my bread basket.

I made raisin buns...

... almond twists

and sausage buns.

The almond twists are a little dryer than the raisin and sausage buns, I guess its because the raisins and hotdogs impart moisture to the dough and keeps it more moist.

My bread recipe is from Creative Culinaire, where I took my bread baking course. The course is certainly a good investment, gives me a lot more confidence when baking bread.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Little Nathalie not well again...

Nathalie started running a fever on Sunday evening. Non of us in the family has the flu nor fever, so did not know where she got it from. We monitored her through the night, thankfully the fever never went pass 38.5 degrees.

We waited till Tuesday to bring her to PD, as Monday was a public holiday. PD advised to admit her into hospital! I was shocked, never realised that it was that serious. PD advised that fever might be dangerous for infants and could be due to 1) viral infection (least serious), 2) urine infection, 3) blood infection or 4) brain infection (most serious). As she was still alert, the last possibility was ruled out, praise God!

We decided against admitting her, so we proceeded with urine and blood test.

The urine test did not hurt her, though we had to wait a long time for her to urinate into the bag. But the blood test, a needle inserted into the back of her hand, ouch! My MIL say this is the most painful way to draw blood, double OUCH!

Hubby activated cell group for prayers. We are so blessed to have a group of prayer warriors.

Blood test revealed that she has a viral infection. Thankfully, the fever subsided within the day. But thereafter, she broke out in rashes all over face, body, limbs. Consulted PD again. Since there is no fever, dengue is ruled out, asked to monitor her situation.

Today, the rashes had subsided somewhat. Praise the Lord for His mercy. Will continue to monitor her and keep her in prayers.

Puff pastry stars

Ready-to-roll puff pastries are so convenient.

When my son's school end party called for some snacks, I relied on the ready-to-roll puff pastries to tide me over this requirement. Since its for little children, I decided against cutting them into strips. Instead, I used a star shaped cookie cutter and made crispy and sweet little stars.

A little more work, but the result was cute. As for the little scraps in between the cutouts, I baked them too and they made it safely into my tummy. Yum!

Come to think of it, if dusted with a little icing sugar, they will make a pretty 'christmas-y' snack.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Croissant Butter Pudding

We Singaporeans are a lucky lot. The neighbourhood libraries are stocked with the most fabulous books! The network of libraries allow us to borrow a book from one library and drop-off the book in any other branch. We can reserve a book online and designate where you want to pick up the book. We can extend the loan online if it takes longer than expected to finish the book. We can also have SMS reminders prior to loan due date. And all these, for free! Now that the school holidays are in, we can borrow double the usual quantity of books. So between me and my kids (btw, a child can apply for a library card the day he is born), we lugged back 25 books. :-)

One of the books I borrowed was James Martin's 'Dessert'. I had no idea who he is, but the pictures in the book looked really good. Further reading reveals that he is an accomplished chef and now a successful presenter of food shows on BBC. In this book, he mentioned that one of the dishes that made him famous was the Croissant Butter Pudding. And it started out as a mistake! Three dozen croissants was ordered but 33 dozen was delivered! So he invented this dish totally out of necessity.

I was inspired by the story of how a mistake turned good and of course the really nice, delicious looking pictures. So this is the first recipe I selected from this book.

My pictures did not turn out good, but taste wise, its superb! My first pudding actually and my husband loved it. Try it, think you'd love it too.

Serves 4

500ml milk
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
3 whole eggs
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
6 large croissants
25g sultanas
25g butter, melted
175g white chocolate, cut into shards
75ml whisky
icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the vanilla pod and gradually bring to boil
3. Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a food mixer bowl and mix gently using the whisk attachment on a low setting
4. while the cream is heating, slice the croissants and place in oven proof dish, slightly overlapping the pieces. Sprinkle with sultanas and pour over the butter
5. once the cream has boiled, take it off the heat. Add the egg mixture and chocolate and stir well. Place to one side off the heat to allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the whisky to the cream mixture. Using a sieve, strain the cream over the croissants and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until almost set.
7. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Caramelise the topping using a very hot grill or, if you have one, a blowtorch. This is best served at room temperature, with a spoonful of ice cream.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Moist, fluffy soft banana cake

When I read this blog entry on Chubby Hubby's blog, written by his wife S, I knew I had to try baking this cake. And I am very glad that I did. I baked all of 24 cup cakes and ate more than half of it myself! Six were polished off when they came out of oven, two by me, two by my children and another two by our two domestic helpers.

The cakes were very fluffy, soft and light. The only misgiving is that I did not have enough bananas as indicated in the recipe, else I bet it will be even more fragrant.

My Mother-in-law’s Banana Cake (MIL refers to Chubby Hubby's mummy)

Makes 20 to 24

21⁄4cups (295g) flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1⁄2tsp salt
1cup (210g) sugar
240g unsalted butter
4 eggs, beaten
4 bananas (roughly 375g), mashed
5Tbs milk
1tsp pure vanilla essence

Sift flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl.
Cream butter and sugar until creamy white.
Add beaten eggs a little at a time. Beat well after each addition.
Add vanilla, milk and mashed bananas.
Fold in flour and blend well.
Pour mixture into muffin cups and bake at 180˚C for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Actually I have one question for seasoned bakers out there, there are many varieties of banana , which is the best for baking?

Do teeth die?

We have our cell group bible study every Friday.

My 3 year old daughter was heard asking one of my cell member's daughter, who had lost her two front teeth, 'How come your teeth die?'.

Ha Ha!