Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Daring Baker's Challenge

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Thank you Hilda and Marion, it sure was a hell of an experience making this cake!

The most important thing I learned about this dessert is that it was NOT made for the tropical climate. REALLY. 5 minutes after I removed it from the freezer after freezing overnight, it looked like this:

So, let me run through the layers here. From the top, dark chocolate icing, raspberry mousse, vanilla creme brulee, Feuillete insert with cornflakes, dark chocolate ganache, and finally almond dacquoise. Decorated with some coloured buttercream icing flowers and leaves.

I have to say, some of the layers are absolutely drop dead gorgeous, like the mousse, the dacquoise, and the ganache. But, altogether, I just don't think they go very well. It is a real killjoy to slide through the icing and the mousse only to hit the rock hard creme brulee and feuillete, and then to have to hack through them, destroying the bottom layers in the process.
I definitely would not make the cake in its entirety again, but for a super decadent treat, I can imagine myself making the mousse, then ribboning the ganache through it to make raspberry dark chocolate ganache ice cream. YUMMMMMMMY.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas cookies

My first time making christmas cookies, and it was a total blast! I tried my hands at two kinds this time, good old traditional cut out sugar cookies, and something a little more chic, stain glass cookies

The cookie base for both cookies were the same, a fairly standard sugar cookie recipe from foodnetwork. This gives a very soft dough, so it must be well chilled before anything can be done with it.

Since it was my first time at cut-out cookies, I had no idea it was so hard! At least for the first 20 minutes :P It takes some practice, and tips are always useful, but on the 21st minute, I started to realise it wasn't that hard afterall!

I have a couple of tips of my own, so here goes.

  1. It is REALLY important to dip your cookie cutters in flour after every cut. It stops the cut-out from sticking to your cutter.
  2. When rolling out your cookie dough, flour the rolling pin instead of the dough. As in, hold your rolling pin over the plate/whatever holding your 'flouring' flour, sprinkle generously over the rolling pin and rub the flour all around the rolling pin. Do this as often as it is necessary, some times after every roll. This way, less flour gets into your dough in the course of rolling, since less flour sticks to your pin.
  3. For the finicky excess parts of the dough u need to pick out from your actual cut-out, use a toothpick or cake-pick. Works like a charm!
  4. I know everyone emphasizes this, but I figure one more time can't hurt. Absolutely important that dough is chilled EVERY step of the process before it goes into the oven. Above mentioned finicky parts comes out easier when the dough is chilled too.

Because the sugar cookie plus the icing would've been sweet enough to send me to a nasty corner of the moon, I used my own icing recipe, which substitutes lime juice for water. Icing is really simple, and hardly requires a recipe. Take a couple tablespoon of liquid, water, juice, whatever, and mix in icing/powder sugar until desired consistency, either stiff enough to stand, or just spreadable, to your preference. Just remember that even a couple tablespoonful of liquid takes a whole lot of icing sugar to soak up. 2 tablespoon of liquid can give you up to 500g of icing sugar, so only make however much you need. I made way too much, and stored the rest in the fridge. Not sure if they'll still be usable, will update on that :P

Now, for the stain glass cookies. Aren't they ADORABLE??? I've read about these cookies for a long time, but never imagined that I could actually pull them off, despite assurances from writers that they are dead easy. Sugar and I have always been uneasy friends. But, they are simply too cute to resist, and so I tried them. And guess what? THEY REALLY ARE EASY. Recipe's here, same as the sugar cookie one, but again, you hardly need one.

Don't worry about getting your candy crushed extra finely, unless you want to do intricate-finicky stain glass miracles with them. The sugar will melt and fill out all the crevices nicely, so just roughly crushed will do. If you want some ideas beyond the really plain ones I have here, just google stain glass cookies, and you'll get tons of images of BEAUTIFUL cookies, truly works of art.

So, despite never considering myself as a particularly creative person, I had a hell of a time decorating these cookies =)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November Daring Baker's Challenge

First things first:

This month's recipe courtesy of :

Author : Shuna Fish LydonHosts

Co-hosts :,,, and

I don't know how to say this nicely so I'll just come out and say it. I hate this cake. Separately, the components are ok. In the words of Joey Tribiani, caramel syrup? Goooood. Brown butter frosting? Gooood. Salt? Very good. Chocolate ganache filling? Excellent. All together in a cake? Not so good.
One good thing about this challenge is the awesome caramel syrup recipe! Not only does it taste great and is super easy to make, when the water is added to the syrup it makes a sound like an explosion, loud enough to make any blood-thirsty girl happy.
On the bright side, many other daring bakers seemed to like it a lot, so maybe its just me =)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

Tunnel: exams

Light: Christmas!

I don't usually celebrate Christmas, not even sure if I like it. Its crowded everywhere and most people don't even celebrate it for religious reasons anymore. Not that I'm a devote Christian, I actually describe myself as agnostic/pagan most of time, another reason why I don't celebrate Christmas.

But this year, some how I just feel like celebrating Christmas. I like some parts of Christmas, like the music, the movies, the food. While nothing's confirmed yet, I think I'll do a Christmas bake-off series this year! Straight after exams, I'm going to buy myself a Christmas cookbook and cook up a storm! Something to look forward to =)

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I am so excited about this biscotti recipe! Its FANTASTIC. Its fast, its traditional, it tastes great, AND its looks great. This is like the dream biscotti recipe, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Check out the raving reviews from hundreds of other bakers!

So, as you can tell, I got the recipe from, from the user Jandee who says she got it from a co-worker. The recipe is for an original biscotti, with only a little anise essence for flavor, which means you can modify it in any manner you desire, my absolutely favorite kind of recipe.

Instructions and tips and whatever are on the website, so check it out there. For this batch, I added 2 tablespoon of expresso and roughly a cup of walnuts. Unfortunately the coffee didn't come out strong enough, but it did impart a lovely brown colour. Words of advice: the dough is incredibly sticky, but it's perfectly alright, if a little impossible to shape with hands. Just pile it onto your baking tray and smooth out into desired shape and you'r in business =) Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Baker's Challenge

I'm not going to bother telling you guys about my busy month, I've finally realised that every month is a busy month. But I do have to apologise for the shoddy post and photos this month, because both my sister and I are exhausted from school work, and finishing the challenge was all I could manage.

As for the challenge proper, despite the wonderful feedbacks from other daring bakers, this is neither the easiest nor best tasting pizza dough I've tried. It takes 2 days to cold rise, is incredibly sticky and for some reason, browns reluctantly. The tossing method, however, is interesting. Not only did I never imaged that I would attempt such a thing [and it is arguable that what I did can hardly be called tossing], it did result in amazingly thin crust, thinner than I have ever gotten anything to be. Unfortunately, due to my horrendous tossing skills, some parts got too thin, and fared rather badly under my juicy seafood topping.

I did 3 flavors, seafood, hawaiian, and banana. Seafood because I've never had a good seafood pizza outside, Hawaiian because my mom asked for it, and banana because I wanted to try a sweet pizza.

I thought the seafood turned out divine, brine-ny, succulent and literally over-flowing with topping, far better than anything I've ever had outside. I used prawns, mussels, button mushrooms and cheese with a sauce of tomato and garlic.

The hawaiian was good too, especially because I didn't go as crazy with the topping, the crust had a chance to bake properly without being drowned in juice. I topped it with black pepper ham, pinapple chunks, mushrooms and cheese, with a plain tomato sauce.

As for the banana, my sister thought they were the best, and they were rather delicious, despite the horrendously burnt cinnamon. This one I brushed with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon then top with sliced bananas. Any idea how I can incorporate the cinnamon without burning them?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stephen Moyer

I don't wax lyrical about anybody very often, but when I do, I mean it. I just really really want to say that Stephen Moyer is such an under-rated actor. He is SO SO SO SO good at acting, he sends chills down my spine with one look. Yes, he's hot too, but I am serious when I say I adore, more than anything, his acting skills. I don't know why, before True Blood, he has only been cast in two-bit B-grade shows. I think Starter Wife is great, but Moyer's character in it is just plain stupid, and doesn't showcase any of that great acting skills of his, portraying him as nothing more than a piece of meat. Seriously. So if you have some time to spare, and you like vampire/supernatural fiction, check out True Blood, its the best I've seen in a looooong time.
P.S. Its just a little R-rated...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things that make me happy in the morning

Ok, I don't think I need to go into details on how to make these, its pretty basic, but I do have a tip that'll have breakfast on the table in 10 minutes. Ready for it? Here it is: cook everything in ONE pan! Fry the defrosted ham first [pour hot water over to defrost in 10 seconds], then the eggs, and finally, mopping up all the juices, 'toast' the bread in the pan as well. Its not that much faster than a toaster, actually, but it gives a better crust, and smells so much better.

I think breakfast is the meal I like to cook best. It always feels like the most cheerful meal of the day to me. I mean, you've just woken up, your stomach is growling, and NOTHING is better than a nice warm plate heaped with all your favorite breakfast stuff and a glass of juice. Muffins, eggs, harshbrowns, sausages, bread, jam, butter, scones, etc etc, everyone has at least one thing they will like. =)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Taiwan May 2008 Part 4

Last part of Taiwan! After Hualian, we returned to Taipei, which I had already introduced a little in the first part. We saw all the touristy stuff, did all the touristy things, but managed to fit in a few other things slightly off the beated path.

Scenery along the railway between Hualian and Taipei. Beautiful coastlines

Audrey enjoying a bowl of beef noodles from a stall we found in the local wet market. We had no idea when we went in, but a couple of chatty customers [who were surprised we could speak Chinese and wanted to find out more] told us that the stall was supposed to be really famous. Note the giant bowl of salted vegetables beside Audrey!

The famous, or infamous, Toilet Restaurant. As I suspected, food is definitely not a top priority in a theme restaurant.

Can you believe these things are dustbins?

JK harassing a pigeon in the Zhong Zheng Guang Chang/Zi You Guang Chang

A drink Audrey was absolutely obsessed over in Taiwan. And I mean OBSESSED. She drank like around 4 bottles a day, and then went around buying out every bottle she could find and brought back to Singapore around 15 bottles. Its essentially a plum flavoured drinkable-jelly drink.
Danshui, which we went with Claire and Sandy, 2 other Taiwanese we met through couchsurfing. Thank you for showing us such a great time! Danshui is basically the Taiwanese version of the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, and I love that place!

We went there on a Sunday, and the place is packed, which I think is the best way to see the place, people milling around, band playing, atmosphere festive.

The street food selection is mind boggling, rivalling any night market. I'll show only a fraction of what we saw and maybe half of what we ate =P. This is grilled fresh squid, juicy and smoky, very very nice.

Passionfruit snow cups. There were like a zillion flavours available.

Chips on a stick.

And the next day, our last day in Taiwan, guess what we did? We met up with all our friends in Taiwan [minus Kimble], and we went to KTV!

All who know me knows how crazy I am for KTV, so it was a perfect end to the trip!

Back to the hotel for some last minute packing

While Pippin sat watched and laughed

All our Taiwanese friends sent us to the airport! Soooooo nice of them =)

Rice box we got from the train station on the way to the airport. BEST rice box EVER. It was soooo good, I devoured it in minutes. Doesn't look like much, but its divine, and deserves a whole photo and a glowing mention.

And thus we ended our trip, the last thing we saw of Taiwan not of some dingy airport, but of friends who made the trip what it was. So go to Taiwan, and make friends! Cause the people in Taiwan are truly the best thing Taiwan has to offer =D

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taiwan May 2008 Part 3

I have officially reached the end of my patience with posting day by day, so from now on I'm just going to do the highlights.

Pippin, my lovely teddy who follows me everywhere. He had a nice time in Taiwan too =)

This is taken atop the 狮头山, or Lion's Head Mountain in Miaoli, which Kimble brought us to climb. The mountain is full of temples build in a variety of style and period.

Somewhere in Miaoli. It was a lake with a little stone island in the middle, and the locals fish there.

Moving on! I have to say, Taiwan has a fantastic train system, even if it is a little hard to get to certain areas, and is probably impossible to navigate if you can't read or speak Chinese.

And our next destination: the scenic 日月坛, Sun Moon Lake. That place is amazing, very beautiful, very relaxing, great weather. Best way to go around is to rent an electric bike. There are also many small, family-run hostels there, generally of excellent standards and good value, especially during off-peak seasons.

Next stop: Alishan, one of the most famous destinations in Taiwan. I'm sorry to say that it was quite a disappointment, at least for us. We had the most appalling luck. This is a picture of the view from the top of the mountain at around 5am, right around when we were supposed to be able to catch a spectacular sunrise. But due to the heavy fog, and the impatient train who wouldn't wait, we left without catching a glimpse of the sun.

The famous Alishan ricebox, which tasted like crap.

Redeeming features of Alishan: truly spectacular trees, so tall they seem to reach into the skies.

Moving on: to 绿岛, Green Island! Hands down, my absolute favorite destination in the entire trip. Relax, we didn't take these little boats to the Island =) The ride was bumpy, and yes, I threw up. Eating breakfast before the ride was a very bad decision. Standing on the deck, instead of sitting inside, seemed to make the ride more tolerable.

I loved EVERYTHING about Green Island [except for the proprietor of our hostel, who was a little evil. Don't stay at Jack's!]. The gorgeous seasides, the sleepy, peaceful little town, the close-knit small town community and the friendly population. I'll be seeing you again, Green Island.

Something unusual: seaweed iced dessert! Tasted very normal, actually, except for the addition of stringy seasweed, which has no taste. But still very cool. Did I mention how much I adore this place?

A short distance from Green Island is Hualian, a coastal city. First night there, we visited a night market by the seaside, at the 南滨公园 [Nan Bin Gong Yuan].

Part of our dinner

Watermelons were in season while we were there, and gigantic watermelons could be seen everywhere. Fresh, juicy chilled watermelon will be offered in every household you visit.

Another famous destination: Taroko National Park. Again, not quite what it's made out to be. And, please don't go up there without an exit strategy. The guidebook may say that you can flag down a bus off the park, but I can tell you from personal experience that is not viable. We had to hitch-hike out of the dame place.

Freaky kid who picked us up in front of the night market and followed us around, trying to sponge food and games off of us.

Game machine with cigarettes as the top prize!

If you are in Taiwan or going to Taiwan, and you are reading this, please help me eat an extra helping of breakfast and Soybean milk =(