I feel a little bit like a snobby little bitch saying this but I rarely encounter absolute dismal failures in the kitchen. They may not be perfect-excuse-me-while-I-tell-the-universe-about-this! but it’s never been inedible or far off from what they’re meant to be. Even with macarons!
But there’s one thing that I tried making that was totally, totally horrible. HORRIBLE.
A sponge cake.
The recipe required the gentle whisking of eggs in a double boiler before combining them with the other ingredients. It was a recipe from the Baking & Pastry book by The Culinary Institute of America so you know, I was like, “THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST SPONGE CAKE IN THE WORLD!”
The thing about that book is all the recipes are meant to make an insane amount of cakes. I think the recipe I used was meant to give me six sponge cakes, so obviously I had to size it down. I’m still uncertain if it failed because I suck or because you’re not meant to size it down but it was a FLAT sponge cake and totally hard. Seriously.
It was so disappointing. I made it twice and both times were disastrous. The worst thing was it was meant to be part of my brother’s birthday cake. I had made him a Black Forest Gateaux because he loves them.
It looks okay, huh? Totally deceiving.
It was actually really yummy apart from the stupid cakes. The cake was filled and iced with dairy-free whipped cream (one of my favourite things!). It’s more like a take on the Black Forest Gateaux because there was no kirsch, but I do think I replaced it with another liquor.. It’s all fuzzy now. I blocked it out of my memory because it was such a mess. The cake would NOT stay stacked, in fact, it slid apart in the fridge and I had to insert dowels to support the cake, and some of the cherries were popping out of the sides of the cake and obviously, I didn’t know how to decorate a cake that would look acceptable for a man. I mean, look at that! Laughable!
It was a NIGHTMARE.
So when I found a whole section of Genoise in the Rose Levy Beranbaum book The Cake Bible, I was willing to squelch my paranoia and fear for the possibility of a triumphant cake.
The reason I picked this recipe was Rose’s description of the cake. “This cake has the light texture of a genoise but is more velvety and moist.” What? Velvety and moist genoise? SOLD!
I’ll admit it was a little terrifying to whip up because it was rather simple. I kept thinking, “Surely it can’t be this easy?” The cake’s ingredients were really interesting too. It required bittersweet chocolate mixed with boiling water. There was absolutely no butter or flour. Just eggs and sugar.
And there was a little warning at the end, “Avoid opening the oven door before the minimum time or the cake could fall.” I was afraid I’d peep into the oven and discover another flat cake.
But thankfully the cake turned out all right.
Better than all right, actually. I was surprised to be staring at this perfect, fluffy genoise. Then I sliced into it and ate some.
It was seriously freakingamazingohmygod good! Because there was no cocoa powder in this, and instead just a really good amount of dark chocolate, the chocolatey taste of this was intense! I used Lindt Excellence 75% cocoa chocolate bars, and it was like eating chocolate, just in a fluffy and light cake form. It had a very mild sweetness as it’s meant to be a base for a Black Forest Gateaux or any other form of ganache. I left it plain, though.
It was a good thing because the next day, I crumbled it into my cereal and Weet Bix breakfast and it was the perfect chocolatey kickstart to my morning. Then I dunked it into my tea and slurped all the crumbs off the bottom of my mug. Mmm.
Sometimes a plain genoise has its benefits.
If there’s one sweet treat that most girls can’t resist, it’s cupcakes. I don’t know what it is about them but all my friends coo at the sight of a pretty cupcake and two seconds later, they’re devouring them. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re mini cakes and a decorated cupcake is really pretty.
There’s been a cupcake boom over the past few years and I’ve sort of jumped onboard the Crazy Cupcake Train myself. I’m a little fussy about them, though. I think that they shouldn’t be too sweet, especially the frosting. I like the cakes to be really moist and fluffy. I think the aroma of a plain vanilla cupcake is important so I don’t like it when cheap butter is used because it doesn’t smell too great. Likewise the vanilla extract.
I’ve tried numerous cupcake stores back in Malaysia and most of them have been pretty horrible. We’re talking disgustingly dry cakes, overly sweet and grainy icing. I really hate when people don’t sieve their icing sugar. I can taste the granules and it’s so unpleasant. And some deck on the icing so high that you can’t really take a bite without smearing your face with icing. To be honest, I’m one of those girls who scrapes most (if not all) the icing off and just have the cake. And if it’s terrible, I don’t finish it.
I’ve made some bad cupcakes myself. Some were too dense, some were too sweet, some weren’t fluffy enough, and the list goes on. And I’ve made way too many overly sweet icing that would knock you over with the intense sweetness taking over your mouth and dominating any other flavour. Horrible!
I don’t think I could call my cupcakes perfect, but I do tend to prefer my own cupcakes to any others I’ve bought. I have to say that My Little Cupcake in Melbourne makes pretty decent cupcakes, though. My tastebuds are just a little more sensitive to sugar. I like to lighten up on sugar when I make desserts, so I tend to find most cupcakes available too sweet for my liking. I have friends who would disagree with me, but it’s a matter of preference.
I had two friends visiting from Perth last week, and a few more friends in Perth whom always leave the loveliest compliments on pictures of my food on Facebook (where I have an embarrassing amount of photos of my food). They’ve never had any of my desserts before and I thought it was time to pass them some cupcakes, especially because it’s been years of friendship and no goodies from me.
I didn’t really have much time to make the cupcakes. In fact, I went grocery shopping at about 11.30 p.m. when the supermarket closes at midnight! It takes about 15 minutes to whip up one batch of cupcakes (excluding baking time) so it wasn’t really a chore or hard work. I wasn’t sure what cupcakes they would like so I whipped up two flavours, the safest choices in the world: vanilla and chocolate.
However, plain ol’ vanilla and chocolate might be a little boring so I decided that a lemon buttercream would be lovely with the vanilla, and I’d put dark chocolate chips in the chocolate cupcake batter, and topped it with a milk chocolate ganache.
It’s no secret that I love me some French buttercream and so I used it again here. This is honestly the best buttercream to consume. It’s amazingly light and fluffy and it tastes really rich. If you’re going to go for buttercream, you may as well go decadent with it. I added the juice and zest of an entire lemon and the acidity brought the flavour to a whole new level. Even though I usually don’t enjoy cupcakes with icing on them, I happily nibbled away on a few of these babies.
Me + citrusy desserts = true love.
As for the ganache, I was initially a little worried because it turned out a little runny and even after half an hour in the fridge, it wasn’t hardening up to the texture I preferred. I think it’s the fact that it’s milk chocolate (I usually make dark chocolate ganache) and the lower percentage of cocoa butter affected the texture a little. It turned out okay in the end, though.
Piping out icing is one of my favourite things about making cupcakes. I know most people hate it, and I did too at one point then I started playing around with icing tips and different buttercreams and it’s actually fun when you’ve got the right consistency of icing to pipe and know which tips to use.
It’s no secret my favourite medium for decorating cakes is actually fondant. Unfortunately for me, when I set out to make these cupcakes, the store that specialises in cake decorating equipment was closed when I got there. So this is actually supermarket fondant and… liquid colouring. Liquid colouring is a total mess with fondant. You’re not meant to add any water to fondant because it becomes sticky and hard to work with and the painful thing about liquid colouring is I needed a LOT to get it to even hit this shade of pink. Thankfully it’s been pretty cold these days, combined with the dryness of winter, the fondant held up okay.
On top of the whole issue with the liquid colouring, I also didn’t have most of my fondant cutters on hand. I had a tin of gradual round cutters, and a set of gradual flower cutters. I saw the round cutters and thought, “Easy, I’ll get buttons of this!” but I was a little worried about the flower cutters. Why? It was just the outline of a flower so I would have to divide the petals up myself and I’m not the most consistent person when it comes to decorating work.
I winged it anyway and used some leftover lemon buttercream tinted blue to make the stitching on the buttons, and whipped up a really small batch of royal icing to fill up the centers of the flowers. As you can see, it was a bit of a botched job because the consistency of the royal icing was a little off and I kept getting little peaks every time I tried to pipe a dot so I decided to just flood it in (but I still had a small issue with peaks!).
I found these adorable Chinese takeaway boxes at the Asian grocer and they fit a single cupcake perfectly. It held the cupcake in place so it didn’t mess up the frosting and it was easy to handle (as it was traveling by air to the girls).
Thankfully, the girls loved them!
The first time I had madeleines, I actually made them myself too. I remember being delighted by the unique texture of it. If you’re Malaysian, I would liken it to kuih bahulu, except the taste is much richer and it’s fluffier.
I recently procured David Lebovitz‘s book, The Sweet Life in Paris, and upon quick perusal through the recipe index, I zoomed in on the Madeleines. I figured his recipe has got to be better than the my first attempt recipe from years ago.
It involved a few more steps than my other recipe but it turned out beautifully. Actually, I wish I had bothered to read through his blog post on it because he recommends a few things that I didn’t do: the freezing of the madeleine tray beforehand as well as at least 3-hour of refrigeration of the batter before baking. I only refrigerated it for an hour before my brain was chanting, “Madeleines, madeleines, madeleinesssss!” like a madeleine-crazed zombie.
What can I say? I’m impatient when it comes to delicious little morsels; especially fluffy, sweet, buttery, zesty goodness in the shape of a seashell.
When I was back in Malaysia, finding madeleine trays was like trying to lick my elbow. Impossible. So when I headed to Singapore, my brother’s fiancee’s mother was kind enough to hop on over to one of their huge baking stores (which I’ve forgotten the name of because my brain is a sieve) and got me two trays. Sadly, I haven’t used them yet but I will now that I have this amazing recipe.
They’re not too easy to find in Australia, too, to be honest. But I got myself an inexpensive, non-stick version from Baker’s Secret, off Peters of Kensington. Oh, Peters of Kensington, what would my kitchen be without you?
You may notice that sometimes I don’t put up recipes, and it’s not because I’m a recipe hoarder or I’m stingy but I observe copyright laws and unless I’ve tweaked it and can claim it was merely “adapted” from the original, I don’t feel comfortable with posting the recipe.
That said, there was tweaking here, but it was merely the addition of vanilla extract. I just can’t leave things well enough alone.
But as luck would have it, David Lebovitz is a very generous (and funny) man, so hop on over here to get the recipe. I highly recommend reading his blog too. His Parisian life is entirely fascinating and he makes the most mouth-watering looking food.
Oh and what became of 24 madeleines? I gave 8 away, and devoured most of the rest myself, with a small sharing portion for Jacey. And I’m already planning my next batch because I need them.
So the last few weeks have been a bit dodgy in our kitchen. I hit a slump as I started to prioritize uni work over spending too much time cooking because I had deadlines to meet. Also, I was living on the last legs of my monthly allowance and I was trying to stretch it out as far as possible so that meant I was doing some crafty cooking of everything that I had in the refrigerator and pantry and not buy anything else. It’s a good idea when you want to empty out your fridge too, I guess.
I suppose now I understand why people say they’re too busy to cook, but most people are busy at work and just lazy when they get home. I’m pretty much chasing a deadline that doesn’t live within the 9-5 work day, and I still cook because well, it’s still better than cheap fast food. This is probably cheaper, to be honest!
All I had in my freezer was a whole lot of prawns without their shells (from the load of Curry Laksa I made – but didn’t post up, but you gotta wait for this, it’s good). And as usual, we always always have a variety of pastas and canned chopped tomatoes in the pantry.
Serves 4 (or 3, depending on how hungry you are)
Prawns – about… well however many you think you need
Pasta – whatever you have on hand
2 carrots, grated
1 tsp sugar
Can of chopped tomatoes
Dried italian herbs
White wine (again, how much you think you need)
Dried chilli flakes
1. Marinade the prawns with a bit of soya sauce and sugar. Trust me when I say this helps make prawns crunchy. It’s a little Chinese cooking method that my mum taught me and the crunch in the prawns is always oh-so-good.
2. Get your pasta water boiling, salted, and chuck your pasta in for 10-11 minutes until al dente.
3. Heat a bit of oil up in a pan (I used a saucepan cos I’m a lazy shit when I’m busy). Chuck in garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent and garlic is a little golden.
4. Chuck in the can of tomatoes and carrots, throw in a few dashes of cinnamon and dried italian herbs. Add in your chilli flakes (I don’t even measure this, I just shake the bottle over the pan – I seem to like sniffling over my meals). Then add your white wine. Bring to a gentle simmer.
5. Add in your prawns and watch it till it’s cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Plate your cooked pasta in a bowl and ladle your sauce over. Sprinkle over with grated Parmesan. If you’re flash, you can do freshly grated but if you’re a student like me, you just get the el cheapo packet where it’s all grated.
EASY. Seriously. Probably took me 15 minutes in total to put together. And so, so good. I had leftovers for another 2 meals which was good cos I that’s what I’m talking about, stretching meals and money ;)
Then there’s this, which was made out of necessity because we ate out instead of eating the chicken I had already thawed so I had to marinate it overnight, and all out of ideas, I put in a bunch of random things and it turned out fantastic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for a very good recipe.
Mix & Match Roast Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables
Serves 2 or 4, depending on how hungry you are
4 carrots, cut at an angle into chunks
4 potatoes, large chunks
12 shallots (but I love shallots so you could go less), halved
Tsao Shing wine
Five spice powder
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Marinade the chicken drumsticks with soya sauce, honey, Tsao Shing wine, a few dashes of five spice powder and some white pepper. Amount? Hm! See this is why I don’t give out recipes based on things that I make on a whim. I’m guessing about 4 Tbsp soya sauce, 2 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp Tsao Shing wine. Approximation. Just go with how you feel, though. You’d usually know what feels too much or too little. Right? Right. Cover with clingfilm, chuck in fridge overnight.
2. Heat oven up to 200˚C. Prepare all your vegetables by peeling and chopping it up as mentioned above. Except the shallow. Leave the skin on for that. Place in a roasting tin, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, glug some extra virgin olive oil over it and give the pan a good shake to coat everything up. If you’re feeling fancy or if you have it, chuck in a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme in there. It’d be good.
3. Place the chicken drumsticks in with the vegetables. The leftover marinade you see in your bowl? Just pour over the chicken and a little over the vegetables too.
4. Pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes. Eat while hot and enjoy.
One of my favourite things in the world is roasted vegetables. Vegetables with a bit of salt and pepper and olive oil and roasted in the oven for 15 minutes is just unbelievable. Simple, easy, healthy. Well I think it’s healthy!
And roasted shallots? God, I hope you’ve had them before. They’re so insanely good. Seriously. It’s all caramelized and soft and fragrant and tastes nothing like a shallot, just sweet and melts in your mouth. So bloody good. That’s why I always go overboard with the shallots because that’s the one thing I go crazy for amongst everything else.
So this is what I do when I’m trying to save money and living off the final few ingredients in my fridge. It’s pretty delicious too so I don’t really mind. I like the creativity involved, too. It’s almost like a mystery box but without the crazy obscure ingredients. I never, never resort to instant noodles. There’s something about instant noodles that makes you feel instantly disgusting and sinful. Not worth it!
People always ask me if I prefer making sweet or savoury food. I’m not entirely sure. I enjoy eating savoury food a lot more but I feel like I’m a very average cook. I can’t cook meat perfectly, I always end up crossing the fine line when cooking vegetables perfectly to slightly-overcooked, and my knife skills are pretty pathetic. I’m a lot more adept in the sweeter side of things, or rather, I feel like I get praised more often for my sweets. Or maybe it’s because all my friends are such sugar fiends and most of them go through the dessert section of every menu before they look at the appetisers and mains. I feel like I do a better job in making desserts look pretty, too. It’s a lot more forgiving and I’m patient with it like piping and fondant decorations.
Now I don’t know which I enjoy more because maybe I’m enjoying the sweet side of things because of the reception it receives rather than true passion for it. It’s an interesting thing to think about, considering what I want to pursue after this year. Can’t I do both, anyway? Do I have to pick?! I hear it’s a personality thing, too but I’m not sure what personality traits determine which side of the kitchen you belong in so that’s pointless information in my head.
My good friend Kristine invited me over to her house for dinner on Friday night. It was the bright spark in my otherwise mundane week. We had been discussing it for a few weeks now and I’d been begging her for some of her lamb curry for a good, long while because Kristine makes the most mouth-wateringly delicious lamb curry ever. In fact, I’m rapidly salivating now at the thought of that delicious pot of curry she served up. Nghhhhhh.
Wait for it…
Let me express what this means: hrnggggghhhh.
I reiterate: HRNNNGHHHHH.
Kristine and Su fed us so ridiculously well. So well that I got home past midnight and was still burping. And disgustingly enjoying the smell of curry permeating through the air. What?! It was a delicious meal! It’s fair to enjoy your body loving it, too. Don’t let your mind wander too far. Have you? Okay, drop that thought.
I made this:
Confession: I’m not a fan of chocolate. Am I hearing expletives and gasps of shock? I know it’s strange but I’m truly not the kind of girl who swoons at the sight of a chocolate cake. I will more likely do a one-shouldered shrug and pick the lemon curd tart sitting beside it. Mmm citrus!
But this cake? This beautiful, majestic cake with the raspberry sauce and whipped double cream? It’s pretty much like doing the nasty with your best friend’s husband if he happened to look like Christian Bale in a fireman uniform, and the entire time he’s yelling at you about how unprofessional you are and all you can think is, “I’ve gone to heaven and God is gifting me with sinful angry sex with this gorgeous (fire)man.”
Basically sin and heaven rolled into one.
Are you still a little distracted by that image I just planted in your head? Let’s not talk about it. We could because I think that Christian Bale is the hottest thing since the sun and I have a little thing (okay, fine, BIG thing) for firemen and that Bale rant that everyone thinks makes him an instant asshole? A total turn on for me. Ahem. Yeah, we really should’ve moved on.
The cake is called the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte and it’s by Rose Levy Beranbaum, off her amazing book The Cake Bible. While the cake is a winner, for me, it’s nothing without the raspberry sauce. It’s just like how Christian Bale is hot, but he’d be 10x hotter if he put on that fireman uniform. And the whipped double cream is how good it would be is while Christian Bale looks like that, he started yelling at you in his sexy angry way. Yeah…
The raspberry sauce was a pain in the butt to make but because it was so delicious, I’d happily go through the torture of sieving raspberry puree away from its seeds. It was sweet and tart and tangy (it had a hint of lemon juice) and it went amazingly with the torte. I decided if I was going to have a dessert so decadently called a Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte (which consists of dark chocolate, butter and eggs only), then I’d go all in with whipped double cream.
To be perfectly honest, I was a little absent-minded when I whipped this cake up and I would like to blame that on my general lack of sleep these days. My first mistake was I forgot to put in any sugar and I had used a combination of 75% cocoa dark chocolate with some 60% cocoa chocolate. It was intense (although I have to say I only eat dark chocolate). Then I forgot to smooth the cake over before popping it into the oven so it had the ugliest crater-like surface. Thankfully my brain kicked in when I was decorating the torte to bring over to Kristine’s so made sure it was bottom-side up so that was smooth and I dusted it with icing sugar to bring in some sweetness, and it made it look so pretty too!
Want to know something else I did? It’s a little surprise for when people actually ate the torte. I sprinkled Maldon sea salt over the top. That little burst of salt with the rich chocolate and sweet-tangy-tart sauce and that mildly flavoured whipped cream?