Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Nathalie!!

Actually her birthday is on 2 October, a Friday. But we had an early celebration yesterday with family members and friends. Nathalie was truly a bundle of joy, she was friendly with everyone and had loads of fun.

I invited a friend and her family to help me with the decorations, unfortunately they could make it. But look what they sent me - a complete decoration pack!!

1) Birthday Banner : 'HAPPY' done by the very creative son, 'BIRTHDAY' done by the artistic dad, 'NATALIE' done by the beautiful daughter, banner assembled by the very talented wife

2) Ribbons : beautiful pink, yellow, green ribbons. Loads of them. One set of them even linked up for the cake table.

3) Balloons : '1st birthday balloon', lots of cute little balloons and complete with balloon pump

4) Table cloth : pink and white table cloth for the cake table

5) Stationery : scissors, double-sided tape, extra heavy duty double sided tape, etc. How thoughtful!

Thanks Andrew, Kris, Wei Ian and Rae. I am so grateful!

As usual, I spent my whole morning and afternoon creating the birthday cake. The main cake is a 10 inch carrot cake. I omitted walnuts this time simply because I ran out of walnuts. I think it tasted better. :-) Nathalie has a favourite lion puppet which I tried to re-create here. Teddy is to fill some empty space. The yellow flowers adorning the side of the cake is marshmellow.

Here's my little princess in the same dress as the sugar figurine.

For our group pictures, she was always smilling and waving. She has this totally adorable 'Miss Universe' type wave. :-)

OK. Back to the cake. A 10 inch cake is definitely not enough for my 40 guests. So I made some chocolate cupcakes filled with M&Ms. The M&Ms were a mistake. The cupcakes were speckled with blots of blue, green, yellow, red.... I though the M&Ms won't melt as they were bakable ones, but they failed me. However, I did manage to dress all 18 cupcakes prettily, each one a different design - flowers, ribbons, animals and even a basket.

Each child had their own favourite and thankfully no clashes. My favourite is the little lion. Took me 1.5 hours to decorate them all. Unfortunately I did not have the time to take a picture of each cupcake.

Here's the cake and cupcake assembled.

Here's my prayer for my little princess.

Lord, we thank you for this little bundle of joy. You have given us the most perfect gift. We pray that you cover her with your mercy, wisdom and protection. Have mercy and heal her of her allergies and relief her from the itchiness and rashes that bothers her ever so often. Give her the wisdom that comes from knowing and fearing you. Cover her with your protection, that she may grow up healthy and strong. We ask for all these in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Fuss Flaky Apple Turnovers

A couple of months ago, I attended the Pastry making class at Creative Culinaire. I learned how to make danish pastries and criossants and finally knew the difference between criossants and puff pastry. I had once tried to use ready-made puff pastry to make croissants and wondered why it did not rise. Through the class, I learned how terribly tedious it is to roll, fold, chill, roll, fold, chill (multiply that like 3 times) the dough. I have not had the courage to attempt it at home yet.

So when I come across this recipe from King Arthur Flour, I was really glad its so simple. Its called blitz puff. It uses the blender to cut the cold butter quickly without melting it. King Arthur Flour website is great! It has all the pictures and details so you know if you are on the right track. I must remember to keep going back there for other recipes.

The smell in the kitchen was Sooooooo good when the puffs were baking in the oven that it in itself was worth the effort (also because the effort was so minimal).

You need to work the dough very quickly. Especially in hot and humid Singapore, or else the butter will melt and end product will not be flaky anymore. Further, the dough is really really soft. So soft that you'd think that its impossible to roll. So you need to be really generous with the dusting of flour. Keep picking the dough up and dust the bottom so that it does not stick to the table.

I made mine into apple turnovers, inspired by the very talented Lily Wai.

Mine did not look half as flaky as Lily's nor King Arthur's, nonetheless, it was DELICIOUS! My entire family loved it. The first batch I made was almost wiped out soon after it emerge from the oven and that was about 10pm at night. My son ate two. I made them again for my son and daughter's school picnic.

Replicating the recipe here for your easy reference and mine too.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cold butter
1/2 cup sour cream

1) To make the crust: Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
2) Cut the cold butter into large cubes, blitz it together with the flour using a blender till it's unevenly crumbly, with larger bits of butter remaining intact.
3) Stir in the sour cream. The dough will be craggy, but cohesive.
4) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and bring it together, if necessary, with a few quick kneads.
5) Pat the dough into a rough square, then roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle.
6) Dust both sides of the dough with flour. Starting with one of the shorter (8") ends, fold it in thirds like a business letter, flip it over (so the open flap is on the bottom), and turn it 90°.
7) Roll the dough into an 8" x 10" rectangle again. Fold it in thirds, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before using.

3 tablespoons Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen or apples - peeled and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, to seal pastries (optional)

*If you use cornstarch, you'll want to dissolve it in a little cold water, rather than stir it into the sugar.

1) While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Mix the sugar and ClearJel till well combined. If you're using cornstarch, mix it with enough cold water to dissolve.
2) Add the sugar mixture to the raspberries, tossing to combine. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon (and the cornstarch/water mixture, if you're using cornstarch).
3) Heat the mixture in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring, till the berries soften and fall apart. The mixture will be thick and jam-like, even though it doesn't really warm up much; this will take under 5 minutes. If you use cornstarch, cook and stir till the mixture bubbles and thickens. You can prepare the filling up to several days before; cover and refrigerate till you're ready to use it.
4) You can also do this in a microwave; heat till the berries soften, then stir till they fall apart and the mixture thickens, like jam.

1) When you're ready to assemble the turnovers, preheat the oven to 400°F or 200 C. Roll the chilled dough into a 16" square. Cut sixteen 4" squares, for small, triangular turnovers. For round turnovers, use a turnover press to cut nine 4 1/2" rounds. Re-roll the dough scraps, and cut 4 or 5 additional rounds, as many as you can get out of the scraps.
2) If desired, for a tighter seal, brush two adjoining edges of each square (or half of each circle) with 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water.
3) Place about 2 teaspoons filling slightly off-center in each square. Or about 4 teaspoons slightly off-center of each round; a level tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
4) Fold the turnovers in half. If you've cut the dough in squares, fold in half diagonally, to create triangular turnovers. Press the edges with a fork to seal.
5) Place the turnovers on a baking sheet, preferably one lined with parchment to catch any spills. Bake in the preheated 400°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're a deep, golden brown; you may see some of the filling beginning to ooze out.
6) Remove the turnovers from the oven, and cool on a rack.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

'To die for' Blueberry Muffins

Just came back from a short holiday in Malaysia's Genting Highlands and feeling more tired than before. It really was quite hard work to be on holiday with three young children. Thankfully we had two helpers with us and they were really great help.

Spent all three days at the theme park, both outdoor and indoor. Gabriel's favourite was the junior bumper car and Samantha loved all the sweets that she get to eat while Nathalie enjoyed the ferris wheel rides. When it was time to come back to Singapore, Samantha was the most reluctant. She asked if she could just go home for three days and be back again. :-)

We spent sometime with a cell member, Angeline and her family today. They have a girl aged six and she 'clicked' really well with Samantha. After lunch, Sam was invited to their home and she agreed! As we saw Samantha leave with them, we could not help but felt that our little girl had indeed grown up. Soon, she may be ready for sleepovers, how fun!

I baked some muffins for Angeline and her family. I had baked these previously for a school picnic and they were really good! I found the recipe in Allrecipes and it's called 'To die for blueberry muffins'. The muffin is really soft, with a crisp topping. I love it when it is slightly warm. I just put them into the toaster oven for a few minutes in the morning.

I baked them small for the kids and for some of the muffins, substituted blueberries with chocolate chips.

I baked my first batch in my new red silicon muffin cups.

For the mini ones, I baked them in a tray. Not sure what you call these tray, I don't think they are meant for muffins. But it has 12 shallow rounds, which is great for small muffins with lots of topping. :-)

Here's the recipe adapted from Allrecipe.

(Makes about 8 regular muffins)
190 g all-purpose flour
150 g white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
80 ml vegetable oil
1 egg
80 ml milk
145 g fresh blueberries
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the topping
100 g brown sugar (orginal is white sugar)
40 g all-purpose flour
55 g butter, cubed
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
3. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. I put it into the mixer with the k beater and mix for a little while.
4. Add vegetable oil, egg (lightly beaten) and milk and mix this with flour mixture.
5. Fold in blueberries.
6. Fill muffin cups right to the top (the second time, I fill it about 3/4 instead so that the toppings do not grop off the muffin when it rises), and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

To Make Crumb Topping:
Mix together sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon with fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.
(Note - its quite a lot of crumb topping for 8 muffins, so you may actually halve this recipe)