Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mulled Wine & Garlic and Parsley Hearthbread

These two items have been a staple on my Christmas menu for years now and this morning, I cooked-up these two as a last minute contribution to a pot luck Christmas party. The hostess was serving lamb and another guest was bringing mince pies, so I thought the hearthbread would be good to mop up the lamb drippings while the mulled wine is excellent with mince pies. Wish I had photographed them better and individually but I was pressed for time this morning.
Let's start with the Mulled Wine. I love to use Merlot for this because it's a light enough wine to complement the spices, orange and tea. A Sauvignon is too overpowering for "mulling" but this is just my personal opinion. Plus, I usually reserve the Sauvignon for Sangria ;-). It really is very easy (or you won't see me doing this every year). Dump everything into a pot and heat it up. I let it simmer and not over boil it  because I like to have a teeny tiny element of alcohol left in it instead of letting it all evaporate. Then turn off the heat, drink warm and be merry!
Next is the Garlic and Parsley Hearthbread. I have since renamed this to Garlic and Cheese Foccacia. Everything's the same as the recipe, except I lightly saute the chopped up garlic in olive oil instead of the whole fiddly garlic preparation in foil and processor. We prefer to be able to taste the garlic. Spread the garlic oil all over the bread dough AND sprinkle finely-grated Parmesan. If I happen to not have Parmesan, I sprinkle salt flakes. That makes the hearthbread yummy even on its own. Yes, I also find that foccacia is more understandable to my guests than hearthbread.

Passionfruit Cheesecake

I thought I'll never get a chance to do this cheesecake because I haven't seen any passionfruit being sold in our local grocer. When I chance upon them last week at a supermarket, I grabbed a box of 6 fruits. I knew how they looked like inside but had no idea how the whole fruit looked like. I haven't seen them before! I even had the impression that passionfruit was an imported fruit until my dad and cousin enlightened me when they were over for the cheesecake. Apparently, the fruit is rarely found now because no one grows them as much as they used to umpteen years ago. One can still see them once awhile in a wet market. Nonetheless, I doubt I'll do much with passionfruit in future. It is a very sour fruit! The cheesecake base was great made with the passionfruit juice I yielded using the food processor. Only complain I have is that the the double cream called for in the recipe resulted in a very soft centre. I couldn't bake it any longer because the top was browning too much. I did bake a little longer than the stipulated time but the centre still didn't set enough. The cheesecake tasted light and un-cheesy. Pleasant to the palate actually -sans the extra passionfruit on top of the cheesecake!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mini Lime-Syrup Sponges

I don't know why I don't recommend this cake often enough to my clients. My records showed that the last time I baked this cake for a client was a year ago! It's always lemon, lemon, and more lemon cakes.... The texture for this sponge is very much like my Moist Lemon and Lemon Poppyseed Cake. Light, soft, moist and very delightful. Ms Lawson uses the same recipe for the drenched Lemon-Syrup Cake by the way. Since I was  to bake for a client yesterday for a small wedding cake (see Purple & White Hantaran Cake), I decided to do this cake. For one, it's brushed with boiled Lime syrup and that'll help keep fondant cakes moist for a couple of days. Fondant (sugar paste) dries out cakes. The cake is to be picked up on Thursday for a Saturday wedding, so it has to stay moist and yummy at the same time until Saturday! Don't be taken back by the use of limes. We have limes in abundance here and they aren't as tart as the lemons, much cheaper, too. Tangy but not tart. So, that makes the cake palatable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cheese, Onions and Potato Pies

It was one of those nights when I was at loss for a dinner idea and wasn't keen on eating out either. I had some bangers in the freezer but did not have enough potatoes for mash. So, I decided to use the potatoes for a couple of accompanying pies with the bangers. Pies, despite them being the yummiest "fast food", there's nothing fast about them except in the speed they enter your mouth. They involve a lot of fiddly prep work especially if they're small pies. Nevertheless, I love this recipe....separately. The pie crust is short as expected but rivals the new Hot Water Pastry I learnt from Donna Hay a couple of days earlier. And the potato filling - yum x 100. I prepared the filling while the dough was resting. After rolling out the dough, I stole a tablespoon of the cold filling and it was the best potato salad I've ever had! The cubes of boiled potatoes were completely flavoured by the two cheeses I used - Red Leicester and (very) Mature Cheddar bound by 3 tablespoons of cream, fresh chopped onions and parsley. Yes, I did tweak the original recipe but not on purpose. The creme fraiche I had in the fridge had gone bad, so I used the pouring cream I had. I did not have any spring onions and since my family never had any trouble with chopped up raw onions (we're Asians), that was used instead. You can taste every flavour in the filling when it's cold. Once baked, the flavours were muted. The pies were fine with the bangers and HP, but not exceptional. It was a good carbo accompaniment though but personally, not pie on its own. Pie filling however, which I have now christened the Double Cheese Potato Salad, is excellent on its own.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Coca-Cola Cake

Hmmm...what can I say about this cake? Rather what the kids said about this cake...."Huh? Coca-Cola cake? Where's the Coke?". That's what I thought, too. Don't get me wrong, love the texture of this cake. As usual, Nigella aced in this bit of the creation. It was absolutely soft and moist, not dense at all. But flavour-wise, it lacked big time. Couldn't taste any distinct Coke flavour (no, I didn't use Diet Coke or Coca-Cola Light) nor the chocolate (used Valhorna cocoa). Just, plain. Yes, even the icing didn't help. Royal icing as usual is very sweet and it didn't complement the cake at all. Just, plain AND sweet now. Maybe Coca-Cola isn't what it used to be anymore? Missing the secret feel-good ingredient?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fresh Gingerbread With(out) Lemon Icing

Another melt-and-mix kind of cake and awfully easy if you have all the ingredients at hand. I was a little apprehensive when it came to baking this. One, there was too much of a good thing in its ingredient list. Especially in the sweetener department. Though the recipe didn't call for white sugar, I got a bit concerned as I had to tip in nearly the whole tin of golden syrup and a bottle of molasses (I had this in hand, so replaced the treacle) after the muscovado sugar! Secondly, the whole runny batter business always gets me worried. I know I should have complete faith in Nigella's recipes by now as they've not failed me so far in terms of the finished product. But, fears like these comes second nature after many years of runny batter=soggy, dense cakes!! Nevertheless, the whole process went on without a glitch and popped the roasting tray into the oven for about 45 minutes. Kids went "phieeeuuuww" when it came out of the oven. Let's just say the smell of the molasses over-powered the whole gingerbread. I suppose treacle would have been a little lighter. But the texture and taste of this gingerbread was divine. Perfectly soft and light, yet moist. Very good tea cake but not something you can have slice after slice. A bit much. Perhaps a good slather of zingy lemon icing would have done the trick?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cherry-Almond Cake

This morning's breakfast - Cherry-Almond Cake. Another very easy cake to do with satisying results. The cake's every bit an almond cake- nutty, gritty and crumbly (not too dry though) and is pleasant with a cup of tea. Children and the MOTH dug out the dark pitted cherries and left them at the side of the plate...sigh. But I loved them and thought they added a nice flavour to the otherwise ordinary-tasting almond cake. Think I'll pass a few slices to grandma Ivy who loves anything almonds (and apples). See you at school, Ivy!

Rosebud Madeleines

Been meaning to bake these forever but I never got around buying a madeleine tin. I had intentions to get an antique madeleine tin when I was in Paris. But we didn't have time to check out the marchés or go to Le Halles where all the cookware shops are. Sigh. Well, I suppose I'll need to plan for another trip then! Back to these Rosebud Madeleines. I ended up buying a silicon 28-cavity madeleine mould. The upside of using a silicon mould is that you don't have to grease and flour the mould as you would with a regular tin. The downside is the groves in the cavities aren't as deep and I didn't get the nice shell design. Nevertheless, the results were good. It's a very simple batter recipe but the key is to let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Just like pancakes, the batter needs to bloom so you get it spongy. I found a lovely bottle of organic rosewater from Ben's General Store (also bought a bottle of orange blossom water) and love the subtlety of it fragrance in the madeleines. They're quite addictive if you asked me and I intend to make more the next time. I ended up with only 25 madeleines with a single recipe here. Ordinarily, madeleines are plain and eaten with a cup of coffee or tea. You'll see some even dunking them into their beverages! But, I'll be tinkering with more of these soon and swap the rosewater for orange blossom, lime zests, honey or even cinnamon...

Banana Bread

If you've been following my attempts, you'd realise the number of times I've put off baking the banana bread. I don't mind banana cakes but banana bread? Hmmm....not my kind of food. Anyway, yesterday seemed appropriate since the whole family was down and out for 2 weeks with viral fever and we had to (I mean, I had to play "responsible mother") eat somewhat bland food (think cream crackers and water). With the leftover bananas, this was easy enough to whip up within an hour. I left out boiling and steeping the sultanas in bourbon for obvious reasons but kept the walnuts. My loaf only took 45-55 minutes to bake. Funny since the recipe says 1 to 1 1/4 hours. But I was glad it was done sooner. The verdict - everyone ate at least 2 slices each at 3pm because we didn't have lunch (we had a heavy breakfast) and there was a soda bicarb aftertaste. There was only 1/2 a teaspoon in it but somehow, we could taste it. Could have done with more sugar in it. I think we all agreed that we'd prefer the banana cake.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Madeira Cake

Little Miss (she's 8) has been talking about baking a cake on her own for a long time and I always have a reason for not letting her do so. While the idea is great and learning how to bake is practically a given past-time with me as her mum, I think of the possibility of batter in my mixer's engine, eggs in crevices on my scales, the mess and clean-up after. My kitchen, utensils and equipments are spotless and in tip-top condition... In short, I'm a tight-ass with anything to do with my kitchen. Anyway, this Sunday felt like one of those I-don't-care-to-be-prissy days and I told Little Miss that she can bake a simple cake. I picked the first recipe in the book -Nigella Lawson's mother-in-law's Madeira Cake. Madeira Cake historically for me was always a dry cake. Made it a couple of times, always using different recipes thinking that it could be me or a missing link in the ingredients but they were all the same. Dry.

Well, Little Miss got to try this version and she aced the whole process from weighing to pouring the batter into the pan. The cake baked beautifully and rised as photographed in the book. She was awfully pleased and so was I! We decided to let it cool through the night and cut it this morning for breakfast. As you can see, we got good cuts which should mean that the cake isn't too dry. Little Miss and Young Master had a slice each. Little Miss said it was ok (quite softly) while Young Master said out loud that it was too dry. The MOTH kindly said that the taste was nice but too crumbly. As for me, I just made a cup of tea and had a slab. I'm with The MOTH. It tastes good with the tinge of lemon but still too crumbly and dry. Now, to assure Little Miss that that's how Madeira Cakes are and it's got nothing to do with her skills!

Boston Cream Pie

What a mix-up last Tuesday was... I was supposed to bake some Red Velvet Cupcakes for an order and there must have been an invisible kitchen gnome shading my eyes because I weighed and creamed ingredients for a Strawberry Shortcake sponge, thinking it was for the Red Velvet until I was looking for the buttermilk volume!! Sigh... I had to go on despite discovering this at 3/4 of the process, and went on the bake the 9" sponge. So, I had this huge sponge cake with no strawberries in stock. I don't really fancy eating plain sponge for the rest of the week so I had to think of some filling for that cake. The book has a section on sponges and Miss Lawson featured a couple of suggestions to fill the basic sponge - jam and cream, butterscotch and the Boston Cream Pie. The fillings are simply chocolate and creme patissiere. I have some good bitter dark chocolate which I love to use to complement sweet cakes and beautiful vanilla beans for the pastry cream. I can't comment on this sponge because it wasn't Nigella's recipe but her pastry cream recipe was spot on. I've never had any problem making creme patisserie, thankfully, but her recipe seems fool-proof even for beginners. So, I say give it a go and don't worry too much about the curdling or scrambling the eggs. Just follow her instructions carefully. The melted chocolate is as with any ganache. Simple and straighforward.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

It's been a long time since I last baked something from HTBADG and updated this blog...blame it on the BLTs. They've gone on a strike and all my pants are groaning about them. Instead of spreading the extra 2kg evenly, they've decided to convene at all the wrong places. Sigh, the MOTH was right - straight from the lips, right to the thighs. I have a great suspicion that with age, my metabolic rate's slowing down and all these yummy bakes are taking a longer time to burn! Anyway, I'm back and am choosing to blame the 2kgs on happiness. Even better, as my accupuncturist said, my system's healthier now and am absorbing nutrients better. Hah!

So today, we have the Norwegian Cinnamon Buns. Looking at the recipe, I was a bit worried if there was an error in the type of flour being used. I mean, they're buns=bread, so I expect to use bread flour as is with previous cinnamon buns I've baked. Nigella used plain flour with lots of yeast. In case, it really was an error, I did half a recipe. Well, it turned out great! The texture of the buns were much like brioche- much softer though and just as light. I baked it for tea and right out of the oven, we were in cinnamon bun heaven. Definitely a keeper and I'd add chopped nuts the next time I do this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Baked the London Cheesecake yesterday and Young Master asked if that was for us...well, no. He, being a big cheesecake fan was obviously disappointed. Though I had extra cream cheese and sour cream (which I usually would prefer not to keep too long once opened) and the spring- form pan was being used, I kind of mumbled something along the lines of "I'll think of something" to him. Well, a couple of pages forward and there we have it! Mini-cheesecakes for school fetes. I didn't want to use the recommended mini muffin pan, those are just too small for my big fingers to press the crumbs down. I had some mini quiche tins and used 12 of them instead. Followed a single recipe for the base but doubled the filling. With that, I got a 50/50 ratio of base and cheese...much to our delight. We love thick crusts. These are very convenient, in fact, too convenient....... TO EAT!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chocolate-Marsala Cake

This is a near-flourless cake with only 5ogms of flour used and it's actually a very light cake. Very aerated from whisking the eggs till tripled its volume and I used bitter chocolate instead of dark for this cake. I didn't know what to expect from this cake but was pleasantly suprised that it was very good with a cup of tea. The cake tastes kinda moussey. Nice. I was glad I didn't make the chocolate marsala ganache for it because (1) I didn't quite like the smell of this liquour (which I did pour 3 tablespoons over the hot cake as instructed) and (2) love the crusty top. I'd make this again but without pouring the marsala on it and fold in the flour better - was too lazy to switch to a larger bowl, hence a couple of flour lumps which "irritated" the little folks in the house.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Store-Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake

If you like the Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes, you'll like this. I remember baking this 9 years ago for Young Master's playgroup when it was my turn to bring snacks for the children and mums. The cake was polished off its plate within minutes! I had since then renamed this cake to Dark Chocolate Orange cake/cupcake because I use 70-75% dark chocolates and premium marmalade (both not very "store-cupboard" then, though they are now staples in my larder). I once used Seville orange marmalade and it was even better. It pretty much stuck as being THE cake to bring whenever it was my turn. When the children outgrew playgroups, I stopped baking this cake. Don't know why but I'm very happy to have revisited this. I had an order for "something different" and I made these for the client. It's moist, wholesome and decadent. Even if you're not a fan of marmalade (like me), you'll still enjoy this cake because it tastes nothing like marmalade on bread. It's just Dark Chocolate Orange Cake.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

These are soooooo good. So very decadent, light and dense at the same time, and so full of flavour. The key is in using the best dark chocolate you can find (and afford) and organic black cherry or morello cherry preserve with no added sugar whatsover. I've tried it with the less elegant confections and the results were no where near this. These are great for a fancy dinner party at home because they look glossy, elegant and taste like a million bucks. They are expensive to bake but it's not like you do it every other day and it's a real treat for us adults. Yes, don't like them. Something about it tasting like port. That's great news for me!

Cappuccino Cupcakes

I love this more than the Espresso Cupcake. The golden coffee sponge is so light and fluffy that when picked up, the cupcake actually feels light! I've always baked and served these without the icing. Why? White chocolate is used to make the icing. A little info: white chocolate isn't actually chocolate. It's cocoa butter. So the flavour's very milky and disgustingly sweet. It's always very fiddly to cook or bake with white chocolate or even to temper it because it's volatile and you'll need to always adjust the sugar you use. But for the benefit of many, I did the icing this time. It was interesting....the sour cream took the sweetness of the white chocolate many times away but the powdered sugar required to thicken the icing and turn it from opaque yellowish to white pretty much doubles the original sweetness. I stopped sifting them in once it was sweet. I didn't want to ruin the great cupcake's taste with royal icing! So, you can see underneath the sifted cocoa is the thin layer of opaque white chocolate icing. Love, love, love Cappuccino Cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Last weekend, mum organised a family gathering of sorts and she requested that I bring some cupcakes over for dessert. Instead of whipping up our usual favourites, I thought I'd revisit some of HTBDG's cupcake recipes. The first was this - Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing. I didn't quite remember if I've done her recipe for this before but once I've finished them, and tasted one. I knew I had and it wasn't really good (for me, at least). It tasted extremely healthy! Crunchy and lots to chew. The saving grace is the cream cheese. Well, cream cheese makes everything yummier doesn't it? Let's put it this way, it wasn't "luscious and sweet and treaty" as the book wrote. It was breakfast scourge as the book said it wasn't. I'll stick to my own luscious, sweet and treaty carrot cake recipe thank you very much.

Cornish Pasties

Ms Lawson specifically insisted on using lard when making these pasties. She said, "...Cornish pasties are not fancy French baked goods meant to exude the flavour of expensive butter, and lard gives you the fluttery lightness you need." She's spot-on. Let's start with the pastry. It was light and almost biscuity. I expected pastry made from lard to be oilier but it wasn't at all. If anything, it was dry. I made them to be fat daddies as she recommended and you need light cold fingers to handle this pastry. But they held the filling in very well. For the filling, a tablespoon of lard was again recommended to cook the beef. I got some resistance while browning the diced beef and with the onions, potatoes and swede that followed after that, it was drying out. With the heat down, I seasoned the mix with mace, mustard, salt and pepper and let it slow cook for about 20 minutes. The filling didn't have much flavour except smelling annoyingly porky! I don't like that smell at all... I'm not sure if the British pigs are less porkier than ours to have lard used in both the pastry and the filling but I'd stick to using olive oil for my beef next time. So, to save the filling I added Worchesteshire sauce. That gave it the aroma I was looking for and some moisture. The pasties baked beautifully and we had it for dinner with a bowl of creamy mushroom soup. I didn't have time to cook some brown sauce to pour on the pasties and we found it too dry to eat it on its own. The kids even suggested that I add mushrooms in the filling. Aren't they smart? Mushrooms will produce some liquid when sauteed and that'll help moisten the dry filling. All in all, these pasties were too rusticly English countryside for me... J'aime goût de beurre chers (I like to taste expensive butter).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Torta Alla Gianduia

Too complicated sounding? Less fancily, Nutella Cake. Yes, a large jar of that sugar-laden chocolate hazelnut spread went into the cake. But you know what? Didn't taste the Nutella at all. By not having anymore sugar added to the mixture and using dark chocolate, the cake was perfectly balanced. In fact, I could taste the dark chocolate (100gms) more than Nutella (375gms) in the cake. I expected the cake to be much lighter with the whisked egg whites folded into the mixture but it turned out to be a dense cake, as you can see. But I could be wrong because after I topped the cake with ganache and hazelnuts, I popped it into the fridge. In our weather, ganache don't do very well at room temperature. It could may well be softer had it been outside. Nevertheless, it's a cake that has to be to be taken with coffee or tea. It somewhat lack the wow factor though... and I opened a new bottle of Frangelico for this! Looks like I've got to have the girls over and have a couple of shots each!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

London Cheesecake

Hah! After the New York Cheesecake, trust Nigella to come up with her native version - the London Cheesecake. Comparatively, this is way much easier to do than the New York cheesecake. For one, I spent less time on it (5 hours on New York!!!) and the result is a luscious and smooth cheesecake. The lemon juice in it plus the sour cream topping counter-balanced the sweetness and over-cheesiness which you usually get when 600gms of cream cheese is used for a small cake. The cake was cleaned out off the fridge within a day....that's how much you can eat when it tastes so divine, yet you feel that those 3 slices you took only went to your toes!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


As planned, here's another all-American favourite- Brownies. Like Nigella said in her intro to this recipe, I wonder why people don't bake brownies. They're the easiest to make right after muffins (actually, much easier than muffins!). In fact, whenever anyone asks me how to get started on baking at home, I always tell them to start with brownies. They are no skills involved in making them. Just melt and mix. Once they're ready and cooled, they cut beautifully and everyone loves a good slice of sweet chocolate. Even better with good vanilla ice-cream! They're also easy to manipulate for variation - toss in walnuts, pecans, raisins, chocolate chips or whatever you fancy or happen to have in the fridge. I once dumped in a cup of mini marshmallows for a Christmas party at home and they were fantastic! So, get your favourite chocolate out and start melting! I'm having bitter-chocolate brownies next ;-)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

American Breakfast Pancakes

It's 4th of July weekend and what's for breakfast this morning? Good ol' American Breakfast Pancakes. My lot are pancake people so whenever pancakes are on the menu for breakfast, they'd wait that extra 30 minutes (because they have to) just for a light and fluffy short stack. Young Master decided to be adventurous this morning and had a different topping for every piece of pancake - blueberries, strawberry jam and peanut butter. His conclusion was to stick to the proven combo of lots of butter and maple syrup. Me? I love them with blueberries ON TOP of "lots of butter and maple syrup". Yumm.. thinking of Brownies tomorrow to continue on with the 4th of July-all-American-favourites-theme.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Another Sunday evening, poring over recipes in How To Be A Domestic Goddess for next morning's breakfast...we haven't had cake for breakfast for some time now so it came down to either the Banana Bread or the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Icing. Obviously the chocolate cake won hands down. (This is the second time the Banana Bread didn't make it to the kitchen! I wonder why??? ;-p). It wasn't a difficult recipe but Nigella used an unconventional method which worried me for a bit. All the dry ingredients were put into the mixer first, followed by the soft butter on it. THEN cream. Funny isn't it? Nonetheless, I started the mixer on slow to bind everything together before increasing the speed for creaming. No mess. The liquid ingredients were hand-whisked in my large Pyrex jug before they were poured into the mixing bowl to combine. The recipe didn't state how long or till what stage the mixture should look like, so I did a gu-esstimate. As usual, I didn't have enough sour cream to make the icing... well, that's the official line to my icing-loving daughter. The batter was good for an 8" round pan and this morning, we had yummy chocolate cake with milk for breakfast. As with any Sour Cream Chocolate Cake, the texture is always softer and moist albeit a tad crumbly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jam Doughnut Muffins

Another 6am morning with nothing on the table for breakfast...and muffins are the easiest and quickest to do within 30minutes. These Jam Doughnut Muffins are even better because there's no need to melt butter at all. Just vegetable oil. I made them into mini muffins and was too stingy on the strawberry jam filling. Should have put in 1 teaspoon worth instead of half. Despite that, the muffin was no less attractive on its own. It was soft, tender with a touch of doughnuts. I didn't melt butter for the muffin tops or rolled it in fine sugar either...too much work for 12 mini muffins. Just dusted icing sugar on them and they were all gone by 9.30am!

Chocolate Cheesecake

It seems like ages ago since I last baked something isn't it? True, true... while the children were on their 2-week mid-term break, I took a little break, too. The MOTH scored major points with me when he suggested that I take a holiday sans kids!!! I was like - serious? Short of asking him what wrong did he do ( him to bits), truth was, I wasn't going ask too many questions or pretend that I'll miss the kids (oh, all right...maybe a tiny bit) because I may just lose the opportunity altogether! Wicked.... Long story short, the MOTH applied for a couple of days off from work to babysit HIS children and I booked my ticket for a long weekend Down Under. So before I left (call it my guilty conscience or what not), I baked this don't-forget-to-miss-me Chocolate Cheesecake. It was very, very good. I attempted to marble the cheesecake instead of folding it in evenly but my heavy-handedness in dolloping the melted chocolate messed it up. So I had some wodges of chocolate amidst the smooth cheese. Clearly, nobody noticed the botched job because the three enjoyed it so much that the whole cake was finished before the weekend ended. Or reckon they had it as 3 meals a day??

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chocolate Macaroons

Now, here's one macaroon that doesn't intimidate the baker. If you've enjoyed eating them but hadn't the nerves to attempt to bake them yourself (it's a whole lot cheaper!!), try this recipe. If you can get over the fact that a macaroon is a macaroon, that yours aren't going to look anything like Laduree's and it's just going to end up in the mouth all the same... then do this. Using the French macaronage method, these taste delightful despite its lacking in the looks department - mine looked like whoopie pies here. It isn't as chewy as the French macarons because these are airier but not dry. I've been (luckily) successful in the 3 times I made French macarons (pieds and all) and I'd say these are lovely macaroons made without the stress!
p/s: Don't ask me why there are 2 spellings for this confection. The French spells it macaron, the Australians say that macaroons are made with dessicated coconut while macarons are just ground almonds and Nigella in her book spells it macaroon.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Ooooo...these are yummy (glad I baked THIS instead of the banana cake). It's dark, moist and kinda sticky, squidgy in a good way. Who would have thought something so luscious could come out of a watery batter?? I must say that I was very worried when the mixture turned out watery. I hadn't had very good experiences with liquid batters for cakes and when Nigella mentioned that the mixture will be "fairly liquid"... that's an understatement. It was watery but I went on to pour it into my lined loaf pan anyway (even put a tray under the rack in the oves as recommended for fear of spilling over as it rises). It rose nicely, spilled a little on one end but nothing severe. I left the loaf to cool overnight because Nigella said that it will improve. We had it for breakfast with milk (kids), coffee (the MOTH) and tea (me), it was a nice.

Banana Muffins

I had quite a bit of very ripe Pisang Mas (small and very sweet local bananas) in the freezer for weeks now and hadn't gotten round using them until now. Kids were having their mid-term exams the whole of this week and yours truly had to be the drill master aka most-hated-mum-of-the-week. Nonetheless, there were 2 recipes in the book using bananas and I opted to do a batch of muffins instead of a cake (had another plan for this). Muffins as I've mentioned before are the easiest to do - no need to wait for the butter to soften or the drag the mixer out. Just a melt-and-mix process. The muffins turned out fine and wholesome. Honey were used instead of sugar and that gave it a nice fragrance. Very good for children who wrinkle their noses at the smell of bananas.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Essential White Loaf

I know in my earlier post (My Brown Bread), I said that I will never attempt to manually knead bread. Well.....if you know me, you'll know that I don't give up that easily. I'm a control-freak to a certain degree and to realise that I'll always need a machine to knead my bread? Not good. So, on Sunday night after dinner, the MOTH suggested that he'll take a drive out to buy some dinner rolls for breakfast on Monday morning. That's like telling me I'm uptight. I react and I react quickly. Out came the mixing bowl, measured the flour and started mixing and kneading. I didn't use all 500g of white flour. Halved it with wholemeal flour...couldn't resist sneaking in fibre into the kids' diet. I also used only water instead of potato water. I kneaded, and kneaded. It's actually quite therapeutic and while I was at it, I suddenly remembered what a French chef said in a magazine about doing the window test! That's it! That's what I forgot to do the last time. To know if your bread dough has had enough of kneading, stretch a piece of the dough. It should not tear when stretched out. It'll be like a thin membrane. After a good 20 minutes or so of muscle-work, it was good. Left it for 30 minutes to rise, shaped it into rolls, rested it again and baked the rolls for 15 minutes. The bread was perfect. Soft crust with tender crumbs.


Ohhhh...these are super! Super easy to make, super sweet and super indulgent! Just thinking of it is makes my tooth ache. I finally had a chance to play with my new candy thermometer here! It's very easy to cook and no skills involved if you're using a thermometre. Otherwise, you'll need to drop a small amount of mixture into cold water and see if it balls up to know if the fudge's ready to come off the fire. These will be great as Christmas or party giveaways.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Brown Bread

I had a free Monday (kids were home) and decided to do some muscle work. The book's recipe for the Essential White Loaf is very simple and the following My (Nigella's) Brown Bread is exactly the same except for replacing the white flour with a mix of rye, wholewheat and white. We're experiencing extreme hot weather now and I thought it'd be a great idea to make bread (temperature's good for rising bread). I usually use a machine to knead bread doughs due to the time factor but yesterday, I was in the mood for kneading. Trouble is, I underestimated the term "15-minute kneading" and it's effect on my arms in this heat! And because I chose to do the grain bread, there's a whole lot more strength required than kneading a white dough! Never again! I also opted the 2-hour warm rapid rise instead of the cold rise overnight in the fridge. The result - a very dense loaf with hard crust. I think it would have been better if it was left to rise overnight in the fridge to allow the gluten more time to work. Plus, the bread was awfully salty! Maybe she meant 1 teaspoon of salt instead of 1 tablespoon??

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lemon-Raspberry Muffins

Raspberries are one of those fruits that turns into mush when baked. So, these muffins are actually very good for young tots and the elderly. It's wonderfully light and soft. In our household, there aren't any young tots. So, it's difficult to con them into getting their coloured fruits via these muffins. My tweens got Chocolate Butterscotch Muffins instead, for breakkie this morning. The "elderly" on the other hand (the MOTH and I) savoured our fruity breakfast muffins. I just made a cup of tea and am having my third!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

It's Good Friday morning and I felt like having freshly-baked Blueberry Muffins for breakfast, so out came the mixing bowl. These muffins are my perennial favourites. They're very light and with those fat blueberries in them.....yum. Least we're getting our purple food group quota met today ;-). I spooned them into mini muffin cups this time for a "mouthful of bursting berries". Honestly, they're more pleasurable to eat in this size plus, I got some really cute polka dot muffins cups in pink and green. Was dying to use them... very Easter-ly themed. Maybe I'll bake a batch of the Lemon Raspberry later in the day??

Monday, April 18, 2011

Small Mushroom Tarts

I'm eating this as I type. What a great lunch! These little pies are scrumptious. In the book, the small tomato and muhroom pies share the same polenta pastry for their base. Just like the Johnnycakes, polenta (or maize meal) adds some grit to the crust but not too much for the young ones to notice. I chose to do the mushroom version instead of using tomatoes and olives because the latter isn't popular with under-18s. I used fresh shiitake and white button mushrooms for the base filling that was sauteed with butter and garlic. Followed by a layer of parmesan. I'd definitely shave a bit more the cheese next time. Topped it with sauteed Portobello mushrooms and a squeeze of lemon. Didn't add the créme fraiche because I was bringing it to school for the kids' quick lunch before Taekwondo. The cream will turn sour in our weather. I'll double the recipe next time if the MOTH's home for lunch.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cinder Toffee

Since the Spanish Macaroons didn't go down well with the children (that's okay because now there's more for me!), I thought I'd do something more down their alley - Cinder Toffee. I've seen this done on telly but nothing prepared me for the real thing than actually doing it. Nigella did give very precise instructions in the recipe and excellent descriptions on the "special effects" coming from this honeycomb but I still let out a couple of "whoa!"s and "oohhh"s... Do use the recommended size of pot and tin because by using anything less, you're in for a big mess. When the caramel's ready, get your kids in to watch you ceremoniously whisk in the bicarb. There's a happy song somewhere when you see the caramel foam all the way up to the rim of the pot. It does turn into a sudsy and opaque golden cloud. If you don't want to encourage the kids to bounce off the wall, halve the recipe.

Spanish Macaroons

We're out of Parisien Macarons in the fridge and the kids are feeling the loss... so yours truly thought, what a great idea to try out these Spanish Macaroons. It is a WHOLE lot more easier to make than the macarons. Ingredients are the same just a hundred times less fiddly to prepare. Completely done within 30 minutes. Results are as promised - sweet with tender chewiness. It's nice to be able to chew on the ground almonds with a hint of orange and cinnamon. I like it but the kids...well, let's just say they were very polite about it and gently suggested that I do the French macarons the next round.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I don't know who Johnny is but I think he may be a Mexican. This is basically griddle cakes with cornmeal added to the batter. More cornmeal than flour. So, the results are gritty pancakes. No complaints about them because it's a good way to get grains into the kids' diet. But I'd highly recommend them as a savoury breakfast option instead of matching them with maple syrup or chocolate sauce as you would with regular pancakes. It's great with streaky bacon and scrambled eggs. The Johnnycakes must be eaten hot off the pan, get them a bit more brown and crispy at the sides. I had a couple at room temperature with syrup...yukks. So I went back to the stove and made a few hot ones. Slap a chunk of butter and raspberries ....very good. Had to be the raspberries' tartness with the salted butter, strong flavours - excelente!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lily's Scones

Nice and crusty on the outside yet soft in the inside BUT we all agreed that my usual scones are better than these. Lily's scones are just too dense. They're very filling and too floury-smelling. Scones are known to be a "force to reckon with" if you bake. There's always the issue of over-handling etc. But I'm pretty sure I handled it as little as I could and it did rise beautifully with satisfying results. Maybe it'll be better with dried fruits in them and cut smaller instead of using the 6.5cm cutter as suggested. No one asked for seconds...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Boxing Day Egg-and-Bacon Pie

Another keeper this one! The pastry is buttery yet, crispy at the same time compared to the usual shortcrust I make for pies. The kids loved it for lunch on Friday and instead of using panchetta and spring onions as the recipe suggested, I used Spanish bacon, turkey ham cubes and a mix of brown and white mushrooms. Great flavour and I also added extra eggs on top of the 2 suggested. They held the filling better. We'll definitely have this again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins

Made these disgustingly sweet-sounding muffins for tea yesterday (with leftovers for breakfasts this morning) and guess what? They're not that sweet after all! At the thought of 3 full-size bars of Snickers and half a cup of peanut butter in these 15 muffins, I pretty much resigned that this was going to be tooth-achingly sweet and rich to the last morsel... But it was a delightful treat. You can smell the peanut butter, taste the caramel chocolate and just a right amount of nutty crunch without loosing the fact that it's a muffin. Absolutely great for breakfast more than least for me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Espresso Cupcakes

I've made these Espresso Cupcakes a couple of times and strongly recommend them. I had an order for a baby shower and I decided to make these for the ladies. They were to be covered in fondant for the theme so I didn't make the dark chocolate icing to go with them. If you're going to bake them, don't fill the cups two thirds as you would with other cupcake recipes. Leave it at half filled because they rise quite a bit. That's why they're absolutely light and fluffy. A nice contrast for something with such intense flavour.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Norwegian Mountain Loaf

Nigella describes this bread best "nubbly Northern European breads which are dense and virtuously substantial". By the looks and tastes of it, this heavy loaf is truly packed with goodness and full of flavour. The kind of loaf you'd bring if you go camping in the mountains. I had one loaf (made 5 small loaves from this recipe) for lunch with a dipping bowl of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Perfect combo. Be forewarned that the dough is awfully sticky. I replaced the porridge oats with rolled oats, wheat germ with pumpkin seeds, linseeds with sesame seeds and added kibbled rye as well. With these replacements, I drenched the grains in a little water and let them sit for 30 minutes before I started. Oh yes, I also added a tablespoon of molasses to overide the 'husky' smell you usually get from multigrain loaves.

Baklava Muffins

I didn't sleep too well last night and got up at 5am this morning. I know I'll pay for it by 2pm later :-p. Chuck the laundry into the washer and decided to bake some Double Chocolate Muffins for the kids' breakfast before school. Well, it was either that or cereal....(I can already hear them whining about it). Muffins are the easiest to whip up and within 30 minutes, they're out of the oven. Since I still had an hour before I go waking up the kids, I thought about the MOTH. He really shouldn't be indulging in those muffins, he could do with being less hyper... So, I had a choice of Nigella's Blueberry Muffins or Baklava Muffins. I opted for the Baklava. The muffins were great. Absolutely wholesome yet light for a good breakfast. Love the crunch from the walnuts-cinnamon-demerera mix. I forgot to take the honey out of the fridge so no runny honey on them when they came out of the oven. That would have given the muffins the extra punch. Without it, it was purely a health nut's breakfast muffin. The MOTH of course, had to be convinced that he needed the Omega-3 and Apple Cider Vinegar (used it to make the buttermilk) more than the sugar and milk in the chocolate ;-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New York Cheesecake

Yumm...the New York Cheesecake is exactly what Nigella said it would be "that airy lightness". I can tell you now that those so-called New York Cheesecakes you get out there (least the ones I've tried) - are just wannabes. With the 750gm of cream cheese in there, this cheesecake didn't taste one bit the type of cheesecake I'm used to - the creamy rich and dense version. Definitely one cheesecake that you can easily go for seconds. Though the next time I bake this (yes, this recipe is a keeper), I'd use the water-bath. The top cracked after just 30mins in the oven and the recipe called for 60 to 90 minutes of baking time, 2 hours of resting in the oven (door closed) and another hour cooling outside before it went into the fridge. Yeah, nearly 5 hours for this cheesecake. But well worth the time and fiddly preparations.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How To Be A Domestic Goddess

The Book- How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson This was my first celebrity cookbook and in 2003, was my most expensive. I simply love baked goods and desserts, and it's only natural that I chose this book to do a Julie-Julia project with it. Adding to that, I owe Nigella a cup of tea for inspiring me to eventually take my love for baking to the next level and "taking ownership" of my initials D.G. I shall be going through every single recipe in this book in no particular order and shall document them here. Unlike Julie Powell, I'm not giving myself a timeline to finish the project. It's meant to be fun!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doing A Julie-Julia

Julie Powell started The Julie/Julia Project in 2002 to tackle 536 recipes in 365 days. Basically trying out every single recipe in Julia Child-Louisette Bertholle-Simone Beck's Mastering The Art of French Cooking and chronicle them via a blog. I have volume 1 of that book and you know what? I take my hat off to Julie for having the patience to go through that now nearly 50 year old, recipe book! Don't get me wrong, the book is wonderfully-detailed and would be perfect for a new bride who wants to learn the ropes of cooking per sé. It's just too detailed for me, too much to watch out for that it can become quite stressful cooking... Though, after playing housewife in the last 12 years, I still do enjoy leafing through the book and picking up a few pointers here and there for my day-to-day cooking. See...that's the problem. I have a lot of such books - recipe books. I LOVE books and I LOVE good recipe books. And I think I LOVE collecting recipe books. To be fair, I do cook and bake from these books or else, how would I have managed to cook 9072 meals (minus the weekends ;-) in the last 12 years? The important thing is that the family is still happy eating stuffs that come out of my "crappy outer borough kitchen". Bottomline: recipe books are good investments IF you use them. Otherwise, they'll just be what your interior designer ordered to have your kitchen look like a kitchen.

Now, back to the Julie-Julia Project. After re-reading Julia Child's My Life in France a couple of days back, watching the movie Julie&Julia again and staring at my rows of recipe books, I thought what Julie Powell did was a great inspiration! I need to do something like that. I need to do something fun. I need to do a Julie-Julia.