Sweet Sticky Sin

Ultimate Sticky Buns

The last time I made Cinnamon Buns, my friend Karen pointed out sticky buns to me. Apparently it was exactly like cinnamon buns, but on speed. Or a sugar high. I read about how it had a sticky caramel glaze with pecans and I pretty much salivated all over my keyboard. True story.

If you want, the recipe is right here. I didn’t bother hunting down dark corn syrup (I used glucose instead) and I reduced the sugar a fair bit because I really don’t like overly sweet things. Even then, I still found the buns really sweet.

I went a bit crazy with the pecans, as you can see. And that’s the sticky caramel glaze. It smelled AMAZING. I used a springform caketin for this and my only advice if you’re doing the same is to double foil the base of the tin and put it on a deeper tray because that glaze is going to find a way to seep out and if you hate cleaning your oven as much as I do, you’d heed my advice.

Fresh out of the oven and it smelled divine. I was dying to pick away at it.

Flipped over with all the glazed goodness oozing everywhere. It was seriously one of those silent foodgasm moments when I had a fresh out of the oven piece. Yes it was really sweet but oh goodness was it ever sticky and the pecans added the crunch I so loved. And the scent of cinnamon that lingered in my apartment for the next 24 hours? Major perk.

Advertisements

Americana

My closest friends know that I have an obsessive personality. I’ve gone through the Top Chef obsession, the Twilight faildom, and most recently I’ve been pretty caught up with Game of Thrones (does anyone else watch this? It’s SO good!) and Southern food. This is probably because I have two really close friends in America and we love talking food, especially when I’m chatting with Jasmine. With the aforementioned Top Chef obsession, I was always curious about this biscuits, gravy, chicken fried steak, collard greens, BBQ, “soul food”, etc phenomenon that had professionally trained chefs drooling and sometimes really cranky. So after a night of too much discussion on Southern food and too much time browsing Epicurious for recipes, I decided I just have to make myself a southern meal one day.

TITLE

Southern fried chicken, biscuits & gravy

That day was yesterday.

I should say that the first thing one should know when thinking about Southern food is all notions of dieting, healthy eating, a trim waistline and especially a fear of pork/lard have to be thrown right out the window and absolutely forgotten. Dismissed and never to be brought up while you’re chowing down on glorious, sinful food.

I even whipped out my deep frier for the first time in years! It ended up using a lot of oil but it was worth it because I love that I didn’t have to deal with painful oil splatters, a greasy kitchen floor or uneven cooking. Deep friers are such handy appliances. Look at that gorgeous golden colour!

A meal of such epic proportions required guests so I asked Tessa and Jason over for dinner. Tessa asked if I needed anything, but as I was strictly sticking to an Americana themed menu, I told her she could supply the drinks. So she brought us sangria! Mmmm. Tessa is the queen of sangria. This was such a good jug of potent deliciousness. We still have some leftover which I’m sure my housemate and I will dispose of safely.

If you’re wondering what exactly this is, I’ll be kind and redirect you right to the recipe. It’s called Chicken Biscuits. Now, I have absolutely no clue what this was meant to taste like, especially the biscuits. I’ve asked numerous friends and I think they all told me it resembled scones but more buttery. I’ve had some dreadful scones in my lifetime so I wasn’t really excited about the idea of scones with my fried chicken. But then I made this biscuits and the moment they were fresh out of the oven, I tore into one and widened my eyes in surprised pleasure. It was flaky on the outside but the inside was pleasantly fluffy. And yes, there was a certain sort of buttery flavour to it that added to its magic. Before dinner rolled around, Jacey and I had managed a biscuit each. Plain!

Let’s talk about this gravy for a while. When I heard gravy, I was thinking of your typical deglazed pan. Then I saw this recipe (which you should click HERE for), I knew it would be spectacular. First of all, SAUSAGE. Looove sausage. And bacon drippings? Hello, sold!

I’m going to go a little off-track and ramble on about some TV show I was watching the other night about raising pigs and slaughtering them and the contents of a supermarket sausage vs a butcher’s sausage and why the price difference is there. I bought sausages from the deli in the market today but I had underestimated my portion by about 100g so I had to run to the supermarket and get some pork sausages. When I tore off the casings of both sausages, I was appalled to see the difference in colour. I wish I had taken a picture now. The sausage from the market was a gorgeous red with not much fat in it and you could see herbs in the mix but the supermarket sausage was pale, a light pink, almost like the colour of chicken. There was SO much fat in there as well and the texture of it was so disgusting; soft and sticky. The butcher’s sausage was firm and didn’t just all out of the casing like guts from a cheap horror film.

Now, although the idea of bacon drippings set my heart aflutter with keen anticipation, I decided it was just ridiculous to buy bacon to render the fat and discard it. I also have a handy tub of duck fat just sitting in my refrigerator for when I want to make roast potatoes (mm!) so I thought, “Hey, I could up the ante on the fat. I’ll make it with duck fat!” and so I did. And it was glorious. Oh the smell of duck fat as it permeates through the air is heavenly. Plus, I loved that it wasn’t a dark, unforgiving taint the way bacon drippings tend to be. I played fast and loose with the recipe too, I think I doubled the flour and the milk. I just went with the texture and taste (and volume!) that felt right.

Before you think me a terribly unhealthful hostess who didn’t provide any sort of colour for her dinner guests, I actually made a really delicious salad. Unfortunately for me and you, salads don’t tend to photograph too well, especially not this one. Also especially when I don’t have a salad bowl and in my haste, I ended up using a metal mixing bowl. All class.

The salad was something I took off the September issue of Delicious. It’s a watercress, fennel avocado, tarragon salad with goat’s cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. I pretty much doubled the salad recipe for four of us but we actually wiped the salad bowl clean. Despite the fact that we were pretty much struggling to finish our dinners!

New York Cheesecake

For dessert I figured it was absolutely necessary to end with a great American dessert: the New York Cheesecake. It was mainly for selfish reasons because I’ve been craving cheesecake for a long time. I hate to admit this on here because I will sound like the biggest snob you’ve ever met, but I hate buying cakes in Melbourne because I don’t think Melburnians know what good cake is. The places I often get recommended to serve dry, too sweet, too ordinary, subpar cakes. They look pretty but they taste like flavoured sawdust. However, when I have a craving for a cake, it’s really annoying to think that I can’t fulfill that craving by just walking out the door and handing money over to a proprietor and getting what I want. I’m always met with disappointment and then I’m fueled with the need to fix my problem by making the dessert I want, and splendidly too.
(Ps. I’ve had some really good cake in Melbourne too, though. Always seems to be of the chocolate variety, though. Burch & Purchese and Le Petit Gateau have made me a happy camper so far)

Long story short: I wanted cheesecake. I had to make it.

I found the recipe in my new favourite cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. All the accolades and praise that has been bestowed upon this book has not done this book enough justice. I don’t know how much more I can praise this book and promote it to friends and family short of buying everyone a copy for their birthdays. If you’re one of those people who hates cookbooks without pictures ( I am sometimes this person too actually), this may be a tough one to follow through with. But then I sat down and just read through the book and I marveled at the well thought out layout, the recipes and the brilliant serving suggestions (they hook you up with other recipes in the book that will go with the dish! Dinner party menu solved!) and I got over my need to see pretty glossy pictures beside every recipe. I have an overactive sense of imagination anyway, it was starting to get blunt in my old age.

Anyway, the cheesecake recipe is called Junior’s Cheesecake and it is wonderful. I messed up because by some fluke, my conversion of ounces to gram came up 100g short and I was too lazy to jump out of the apartment for a brick of cream cheese… I actually made the cake with less cream cheese than was called for. Hey America, how about getting on board with the metric system, huh? I was nervous about it because I was afraid it would be too watery, or it wouldn’t taste creamy enough but thankfully, it was fantastic!

My one gripe is the loose biscuit base without flavour. If you’ve noticed in the picture, there are biscuit crumbs everywhere. The recipe called for crushed graham crackers, patted into a buttered pan base. I was hesitant but thought hey, might be worth giving it a shot and now that I’ve done it, my advice is never ever do this to a beautiful cheesecake. When I make this cheesecake again (and trust me, I will), I’ll be doing the crust the delicious way with melted butter, sugar and a pinch of salt then patted down and either baked or frozen to set. Other than that, the cheesecake was wonderful. It was fluffy and light and just creamy enough.

If you can’t take my word for it, I’ll just quietly tell you that after spooning the batter into the pan and popping the cake into the oven, I brought the mixing bowl over to Jacey to let her have a little bit of batter left in the bowl. She loved it so much that I had to leave my bowl and spatula with her as she polished it clean! She also had a slice of cheesecake all to herself for dessert. And may I quote her praise, “This may be the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.”

Next up from the Southern food recipes I browsed: Fried Oyster Po’ Boys! Mmm!


All Ruffled Up

In recent times, I’ve been alive and well but just extremely lazy when it comes to updating my little site. However, I hope you noticed the awesome header from my talented and gorgeous friend Jiayueh. I am in need of a new layout very desperately, once I sit down and figure out how to do it (I want to throw money at this problem, tbh), and then I can properly credit her for it.

Biggest news of the moment is that my brother got married a little under a month ago and out of nowhere my mum thought it would be a good idea for me to make them their wedding cake. I accepted the challenge gladly although I was very nervous as I hadn’t touched fondant for over a year and things like that is all about practice!

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, though. I mostly worked after midnight with the air-cond on full blast to combat humidity, much to the puzzlement of my family. Actually, they were so stressed out and worried for me, they were constantly asking me if I would be able to finish the cake. So little faith! My biggest concern was covering the bottom cake, which required me rolling out a 1+kg of fondant into a 22″ circle and hoping it didn’t tear as I gingerly placed it over the cake. It took me an hour to cover all three cakes with fondant, surprisingly. I was shocked as I really haven’t handled fondant in too long and even when I used to, I wasn’t the best at covering the cakes without it looking bumpy but I fared well, if I do say so myself.

I started with making the ruffled rosettes. I initially had planned to cover the cake entirely with them so I made 80 of them. It took me a grand total of 5+ hours to make them all. I was worried about the colours being too dark, but I was rather adamant on it being shades of pink. However, I could’ve gone for a more subtle gradience than the look I went for.

Ruffles

I didn’t want them to set too hard like figurines, so it was 100% fondant with no gumpaste at all.

The cakes were a 14″, 10″ and 6″ rounds. My mum and I discussed it and decided we needed a really heavy cake for the bottom tier to withstand the weight of the other two cakes, as well as to remain fresh because we needed to bake it days in advance and we really didn’t want to serve the guests stale cake. So we settled on a Suji (Semolina) Cake, for which the recipe was tripled. So that was 30 eggs and about 3kg of butter. Yeah, healthy stuff!

As for the other two layers, I could bake them closer to the wedding daybut I really didn’t want to do a dark-coloured cake in case my crumb-coating before the fondant layer wasn’t superb and then you could see dark spots under the white fondant. I settled instead for a simple Pound Cake, although I did encounter some problems with baking the cake. I wanted the cakes to be really high as wedding cakes shouldn’t look thin and I really maximised the 4″ height of my cake tins. However, that messed with the cooking time and it was only after I had to slice the cakes in half for the buttercream that I noticed they were still wet on the inside! The horror! I had to re-bake them and it rather devastated me because I think the texture and moistness of the cakes were compromised for it.

So to all the wedding guests, if you’re reading this, I do apologise for the Pound Cake’s texture. I promise I normally make excellently moist and fluffy cakes.

As for the buttercream, I knew that I needed a buttercream with textural integrity that wouldn’t compromise the structure and balance of the cake. I’ve once tried to do a 3-layered cake with too-soft icing and of course the cake slid around and looked horrible. I would not allow this to happen for such an important cake! I also needed the buttercream to set really well so that the fondant layer would go on smoothly. But, it was also desperately important to me that the buttercream taste delicious and buttery. Nothing with too much icing sugar in it and I knew that it had to consist of real butter.

I ended up using a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which was beautiful! Everyone loved the taste of it, even my mother who usually hates buttercream. It was sinfully silky and rich and the meringue helped with the stiffness of the texture. I was surprised it worked because I was fully prepared to go back to my fail-safe Wilton buttercream, which tastes disgusting and is made with shortening but definitely holds a cake well. Thankfully it never came to that!

Ruffled Up

That is the finished cake. It took almost a week’s worth of work (spread out, of course!) because I was actually pretty slack and only did a few hours’ worth of week each day. Some days even less than an hour.

I didn’t end up using all 80 of the ruffles and they’re still awaiting my return in my parents’ home. I’m planning to use them as cupcake toppers when I get back. The best thing about fondant is that it never goes bad. Well, not anytime soon anyway! I assembled the entire cake at home (not advisable for a 3-tier cake, really!) but as part of the groom’s family, I didn’t have time to get the cake assembled at the venue AND get dressed AND play receptionist so I had to risk it and hope that the cake didn’t collapse on the drive to the hotel. I actually drove the car and got my uncle to hold on to the hefty 10kg cake (it’s not light!) and handed it off to the wedding coordinator the moment we pulled up at the hotel with swift instructions NOT to press onto the cake board’s fondant layer and to be extra gentle when placing the cake down and to avoid refrigeration at all costs. Fondant doesn’t go in refrigerators, FYI, that’s why they’re such hard work because they really do need to be on-the-day sort of work as the cakes can go bad so easily.

Wedding cake on display

The bride giving me the thumb’s up after biting into the cake ;)

I was incredibly proud of the finished product (what a project!) as was my mother. She kept telling me how impressed she was that I pulled it off (again, with the faith!) and she was glad that I had attended all those cake decorating courses. The bride and groom loved it, too and from the reviews I got from our friends, they really loved the taste of the cakes too (even the Pound Cake that I was so worried about!).

What an excellent test of time management and persistent hard work. It’s not the fanciest of wedding cakes but it was certainly personal. The best part was it didn’t cost the bridal couple a single cent (wedding cakes in Malaysia of that size cost upwards of RM1000!). I will admit that I completely understand why wedding cakes cost so much. They’re extremely labour intensive and mine was a simple version. I ended up using about 7kg of fondant and about 10+kg of butter, and I forgot to keep track of the sugar and eggs that went into it all.


Lemony Slick-ett of Cheesecake

I am currently nursing a backache and have (personally) ordered myself strict bedrest to soothe the pain so I thought I’d prop up on a few of my cushy pillows and type an entry. I’m thinking I injured myself while lugging around my 31kg suitcase (excluding my hand luggage, overstuffed handbag and laptop bag stuffed with novels). I don’t travel light. Now I can’t even get my t-shirt from the second drawer from the bottom, let alone touch my toes without my knees bending so I’m taking it easy today. This is because I may have exerted myself a little more last night by vacuuming and stuffing my large suitcase into storage.. which required a step stool as I shoved the damned thing onto the shelf above my clothing rail. No, I don’t seem to know any better.

Currently I’m craving some warm pillowy doughnuts covered in chocolate glaze. Fortunately for which I do have the recipe but ugh.. why am I not wealthy enough to have an in-house gourmet chef again?

I’ve also been fantasising about this cheesecake. To be honest, I’ve been fantasising about cheesecake a lot these past few months. It all started when I went to dinner with friends and I was denied cheesecake by my friend whom I was sharing dessert with (they picked an ice cream sandwich instead!) and ever since then I’ve been on this crazy cheesecake obsession. I currently have two bricks of cream cheese sitting in my refrigerator, just begging to be whipped into a sinfully creamy dessert. Oh, tease.

Cheesecake

Lemon Curd Cheesecake

This recipe was based off this recipe which uses key lime but I only had lemons on hand so I made do, and made several other augmentations.

Lemon Custard
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Crust
1 3/4 cups of Digestive biscuit crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest

Yogurt Topping
16 oz Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp cornflour
2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Thin lemon slices

Lemon Custard:
1. Whisk all ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until custard thickens and boils for 30 seconds, about 8 minutes.

2. Set aside to cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. The mixture will continue to thicken.

Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Wrap a 8″ springform pan with 3 layers of foil with 3″ high sides. Butter the pan.

2. Place all 3 dry ingredients in a food processor bowl and blitz. Add in butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until just set, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Leave the oven running.

Filling:

1. Place cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and mix well.

2. Spoon the custard into crust and smooth top. Carefully top with filling. Set cheesecake in a large baking pan, and pop into the oven. Then fill hot water to a jug and add it to the baking pan until the water comes up to 1″ of the sides of the cheesecake pan. (This is easier than filling with hot water then popping it into the oven – someone could get scalded this way but if you want to try it, go ahead just BE CAREFUL!)

3. Bake until almost set but not puffed, and centre moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes.

4. While the cheesecake bakes, make the yogurt topping. Mix all the ingredients together with a spatula. (Alternative you can just use sour cream without the cornflour but I didn’t have any on hand. The cornflour in the yogurt is to help with the texture so it resembles sour cream a little more – yogurt is wetter and looser than sour cream [that’s what she said!])

5. Carefully spoon the yogurt topping over hot cheesecake and smooth the top. Bake until topping sets, about 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes then run a knife around sides of pan to loosen. Cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with lemon slices when ready to serve.

Note: This cheesecake can be made up to 2 days ahead, but keep refrigerated at all times. And trust me, you’re going to LOOOOVE this.

Love the layers

I made it a second time but ran out of Digestives to make the crust so… I whipped up a batch of the oatmeal cookie crust from the Crack Pie recipe. Worked a treat! The yogurt/sour cream topping is also optional but I think it added a nice layer of contrast between the sweet-sourness of the custard, the creamy sweetness of the filling, and this neutral flavour of the yogurt helped balance it all.

It is a really rich slice of cheesecake, though. But that’s just how I love my cheesecakes. Smooth, creamy and sinful. The hint of zest was just an added bonus!

After snapping these photos, I snuck that slice of cheesecake up to my room and devoured it. Mmm-mmm.


Wrapped

I lied. Here’s a final picture post of all the things I missed from 2010, before I move on. Really.

From the Christmas BBQ at Nick’s.

One of the main approaches when it comes to a BBQ for many people is to not BBQ everything. My mother was persistently reminding me to tell Nick that he had to have to get some fried noodles handy. If things can be baked off, do it. Salads, pasta, rice, noodles, garlic bread, etc. should always be on standby because it’s unpredictable how long starting up the grill would take and people might want to nibble on something else while waiting for the meats to be cooked.

This is one of my favourite things to make and it’s always well-received. It’s not some magic trick; the recipe’s right here on Kitchen Wench’s site. It involves a two-day marinade but it is well worth all that effort and space in your refrigerator.

Barbecued Piri Piri Prawns

A quick Google search by Nick gave us this gem of a recipe. It’s ridiculously good. The prawns had so much flavour and still maintained the satisfying crunch that only the best cooked prawns provide. Credit to Dennis who was the Grill Master of the day. Two thumbs up and a very enthusiastic nod of endorsement for this recipe.

Lamb chops and pork + fennel sausages

Another product of a Google search was this recipe for the lamb. Ignore the skordalia bit and the last two ingredients in the lamb recipe. Basically all that was needed was the cumin seeds, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and oil. I really liked this as well. The cumin made it different and wonderful. It was nice not to be faced with yet another Worcestershire + BBQ sauce marinated meat, you know?

Grill at work

Avocado and Corn Salad

Another byproduct of a Google search. I never understand why people think I’m pulling their leg or trying to be secretive when I admit that I usually Google my recipes, not having to rely on a heavy endorsement from someone I know personally. Google does not lie!

Recipe here but in all honesty I could do without the shallots. I liked it fine with, and everyone seemed to love it with so I may be in the minority on this, but I thought it tasted so much better without the shallots. A really useful recipe for anytime of the year, to be honest. This recipe I’m going to store in my repertoire of To Be Used Forever And Ever because it’s fuss-free and bare-pantry-friendly.

Yosa’s amazing Greek Salad

Yosa is an amazing, amazing cook. Seriously. Look at that gorgeous salad! It disappeared with absolutely no trace by the end of the day. I still can’t get over her delicious ham from Christmas Eve dinner. She took the leftovers home and returned with… pea and ham soup! Seriously, how awesome is that? I was more than happy to have it with some crusty bread on one of the miserable rainy days that followed the sunny Christmas day.

There was also a ton more food at the BBQ; a healthy heap of steaks, fried kuey teow, fried noodles, fried rice, and fried mee hoon. There’s a very good reason why we had leftovers to feed us all for a few days after!

And from my kitchen, the last few dishes before the year ended.

Vanilla macarons with raspberry+lemon buttercream

I decided to try my hand at macarons again. I’ve still yet to try the aged egg whites method, which I intend to soon. I keep saying that but I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’ve learned a little more about the little nuances about macarons now that I’ve made them again and the first two trays were a little bit sadder than I’d have liked them to be.

So my tip when it comes to macarons is:
1. Don’t be afraid to leave them in the oven a little longer because I always had a problem with hollowed out centres and I thought I messed up during the macraronage process but nay, it’s the cooking time. My subsequent macarons were perfect!

2. Bake off almond flour in the oven for 5 minutes or so before using. There’s a possibility that almond flour that’s from the supermarket may be a little old and there’s a little too much moisture (oil) that’s been excreted so a quick bake off in the oven ensures that it’s drier and therefore, fresher. Or so my logic claims is a reasonable deduction.

3. Grind almond flour with sugar THEN sieve them all together. Always, always sieve. I didn’t this time around and suffered with the annoying bumps in my macarons.

I have no other tips. I don’t really count how many times I fold my batter before piping them out, I don’t age my egg whites (I use the Swiss Meringue method), and I don’t know what does and doesn’t make feet because I’ve always managed to get feet on mine. And I’ve also always gotten a glossy finish so I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing right here. I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve never failed at making macarons before. They were not store-perfect but they always had the characteristics of what a macaron should be. Kitchen luck!

But as you can see, the consequences of not sieving your almond flour and sugar is the lumps that make for horrible uneven surfaces. Preferably, this tower of macarons would be straight!

For the buttercream, I whipped up a batch of French Buttercream with some lemon juice added. Unfortunately it became a little too runny for my liking so I decided to whip in some raspberry jam. This created a gorgeous red marbled effect in the otherwise cream coloured buttercream, which I kinda loved. The lucky coincidence was that it went perfectly together.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I ended up consuming a lot of this batch of macarons by myself. They were addictive! Plus, macarons are SO ridiculously cheap when you make them yourself. They’re definitely not worth $4 per macaron!

I also recently dabbled in making my own pasta. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This was a semolina pasta and didn’t require any drying time, which was nice. Unfortunately my stupid el cheapo pasta machine didn’t have a spaghetti cut setting, just angel hair and fettucine so I ended up with what looked unimpressively like Chinese egg noodles!

Spaghetti con Pesce D’acqua Dolce

It was a lovely dish with white wine, barramundi fillets (which I destroyed because I simply cannot cook fish perfectly!), prawns and capers. I loveloveloved this dish despite its sad appearance.

I also tried my hand at cooking with rabbit. Melbourne had been unseasonably cool in December and it was actually perfect weather for a hearty ragu! The rabbit was delicious and I loved it, my only complaint is that it is so full of tiny bones! Deboning it was an arduous and slow task that has me second guessing my desire to ever cook this dish again.

However, it is supremely delicious and tender. There was a tiny hint of spiciness to it and just… mmm. The recipe was from the Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook, as was the spaghetti dish above.

And now, we’re done with 2010! Whew!


Waste Not, Want Not

Wow, I’ve been so bad at updating this thing. Here’s the last from 2010 and we can move on to 2011 posts! There’s a few backlogged but I can’t be stuffed anymore. New slate, new beginnings etc!

So the issue we faced after all the feasts on Christmas Eve and Christmas All-Day-Binge-Fest (I swear, I did not stop eating from noon till past midnight!) was the leftovers. We had a few good meals made of leftovers but I decided to help with using up a loaf of bread and 2kg of peaches. Mostly because I knew if I didn’t, Nick would just chuck them in the bin without blinking. The super Chinese aunty in me would not allow for such terrible wastage!

Bread & Butter Pudding

Bread & Butter Pudding

It was pretty obvious to me that a loaf of bread meant Bread & Butter Pudding. It’s one of my throwaway recipes that is good for when you’re lazy and doesn’t necessitate a trip to the supermarket.

Bread & Butter Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

1 loaf of white bread, crusts removed and sliced in two
2 Tbsp cognac
1/2 cup raisins
300 ml cream
300 ml milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
60 gm soft butter, plus extra for greasing
Demerara sugar to finish
Optional: Vanilla ice cream to serve

1. Combine raisins and cognac in a bowl and leave for raisins to soak up most of the liquor.

2. Combine eggs, cream, milk, caster sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a deep bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine.

3. Spread both sides of bread with butter. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Fit bread slices into the dish in one even layer, then top with the raisins. Repeat twice more, or until you run out of bread. Pour the cream mixture evenly over the bread slices and leave to stand until most of the mixture has been absorbed by the bread.

4. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top of the dish and bake until golden and firm, approximately 30 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I love mine served piping hot, fresh from the oven. The beauty of this simple dessert is in the contrast. The hot with the cold, the crunch of the bread with the velvety texture of the ice cream, the doughy bread with the sweet custard and that little bit of liquor to shock your tastebuds. Simplicity is so underrated.

For the 2kg of peaches, I put my “minions” to work, as I called them that day. Mostly because peeling 2kg of peaches was not an easy task and I’m not known for my patience. I happily relegated the task to my kind friends who were eager to help. Despite numerous boil-and-shock trips between the pot and bowl of ice water, the skins on the peaches would hardly budge! Then we had to slice them and GAH there must be an easier way to handle peaches.

Honey Caramel Peach Pie

Honey Caramel Peach Pie

Caramel Peach Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

All-Butter Pastry Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
250g butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup plus 1-4 Tbsp ice water

1. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and with the hell of your hand smear the dough twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather the dough together and press into a ball. Divide in half and form 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

2 kg ripe peaches
2 Tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Cut an X in the bottom of each peach, then blanch peaches in batches in boiling water for 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch thick wedges

2. Toss peaches well with cornflour, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

3. Bring 1/2 cup sugar, honey and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colours evenly, until a dark amber.

4. Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over fruit and toss.

5. Preheat oven to 220˚C. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 13″ round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9″ pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a /2″ overhang. Chill shell pin.

6. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11″ round on a lightly floured surface.

7. Transfer the peach filling to the pie shell, mounding it. Cover pie with the second pastry round. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Brush top with milk, then sprinkle remaining Tbsp of sugar. Cut 3 steam vents on the top with a paring knife or scissors.

8. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 190˚C and continue to bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, or serve warm if you’re impatient (like me).

My pie was decidedly “rustic looking” because I am absolutely horrible at sealing pies but it still tasted good which was all that mattered to me.

It was served with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream and received rave reviews from my friends.

Honey Caramel Filling

It’s actually pretty fun to have so much leftovers that you can host another party just to finish all the food up. Christmas for us was just a never-ending feast, as it rightfully should be.

(Note: The beautiful pictures were taken by Dennis with Nick’s fancypants Nikon D90 camera. These pictures alone have convinced me that I’m in dire need of a DSLR – disregarding the fact that Dennis has a beautiful eye for composition!)


Joyeux Noel 2010

I realise I have been terribly absent and I probably deserve a small slap on the wrist for it. I wish I had an excuse but going beyond, “I just didn’t feel like it”… I have nothing. I don’t really reckon I have a “following” per se but I’ve been questioned by numerous friends about this neglect and I guess it’s time to buck up!

I was busiest in the kitchen during the festive season because Nick hosts an annual Christmas BBQ at his gorgeous abode and I volunteered to help with grocery shopping and marination. I have also infiltrated the inner sanctum of his friends so I was kindly invited to the Christmas Eve potluck shindig for close friends, for which I also cooked some dishes. Then after Christmas, we had to deal with leftovers and the repercussions of overcatering. I’m not complaining, though. It was so much fun and it’s always great to break bread with good company. Mostly because there was always copious amounts of alcohol involved.

(Digression: A guy from the UK made us some Snakebites, a really delicious concoction! It’s half cider, half lager and a little bit of Ribena cordial. DELISH!)

There were two things I had my mind set on when Christmas was around the corner: cute Christmas sugar cookies and steamed fruit cake. The former is always such a cute idea and I’m a sucker for different cookie cutters. And the latter is just such a Christmas thing. I always associate fruit cakes with Christmas and I usually loathe them but my mother makes the BEST steamed fruit cake ever. I nixed the recipe from her book and got baking.

Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies

I have to admit I don’t have a no-fail-go-to recipe for cookies except a chocolate chip one that I found on About.com and when I share the recipe with others they think I’m trying to pull a fast one on them and am actually being a stingy little shit about my recipes. Please believe me when I say that I Google recipes more often than not and they just work and taste good. Not all recipes are duds and it doesn’t have to come from my Grandma’s Super Secret Recipe Archives to be good.

This rolled sugar cookies recipe is from here. Over a 100,000 people have saved the recipe. I was like, “Okay, majority rules.” It’s pretty great, actually. It wasn’t too sweet and the addition of my icing helped add a little more crunch and sweetness to it which was a lucky thing.

The recipe for the icing was from here except I changed the quantities of the liquid to tablespoons after reading the reviews. Just go easy with it. Don’t dump in 2 tablespoons of milk and corn syrup without waiting to see the consistency. I think I went with only a tablespoon of syrup and 1.5 tablespoons of milk.

Icing the cookies was really fun. I knew I didn’t have the patience nor the time to sit around and delicately decorate each and every cookie (I had something like 40 cookies) so this crazy drizzle method worked best for me. It still looked festive and *ahem* “modern”. I especially loved my new reindeer cookie cutters but they were so annoying to use as the antlers broke off every time I lifted my cookie onto the Silpat. In the end, I decided to roll the dough out ONTO the Silpat and removed the excess.

Steamed fruit cake

Steamed fruit cake

The steamed fruit cake was all about rum. In fact, I think it tasted more like rum than cake. That’s a good thing, btw!

One of the most fun parts of the cake-making process for me was making the caramel. I love the scent of caramel and the fact that it lingered on for a few days.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

This was a partial part of the spread for the Christmas Eve dinner. There’s ham on the left by Dennis & Yosa with the most crazy good chilli-mango mayonnaise ever, my two roast chickens and pot of potato gratin above it, Simon’s quiche, and Dennis & Yosa’s grilled vegetables with fried haloumi.

Pauline’s amazing pipis linguine was missing in the pic above.

For dessert we had a gorgeous pavlova made by Kylie.

My cookies and cake also made it to the Snack Table for the guests to graze on while we were getting the food ready for the table.

And if you want to know what silliness ensued in the kitchen… well, the most absurd was cooking the two chooks and the potato gratin in my pretty silk dress.

A+ for looking groomed while cooking!

Kudos to Nick who trusted me not to burn down his gorgeous house, who generously offered his kitchen to my ministrations and who patiently washed dishes that I kept dumping in the sink. And who photographed most of the pictures of the food used here.

Coming up: Christmas BBQ and what I did with leftovers!