A New Year, A New Start

I realised it has been ages since my last post, life really took over. So many things have happened in these past years (has it already been years!?). In a nutshell, I’ve struggled through my Honours courses and thesis, said difficult goodbyes to friends, celebrate my graduation, traveled to parts of Malaysia, India and Indonesia, enjoyed period of nothing-ness. And now, I’m currently based in London doing a Psychology research internship!

I am currently doing research on eating disorders, which is interesting to people because they draw parallels to my love for food. Don’t get me wrong, eating disorders are serious disorders that could be life-threatening, but I am just fascinated with them.

Since I’ve been in London, I’ve gotten more opportunities to cook and bake, since, well, I have to feed myself. No more cheap hawker foods, no more Mbak (a term Indonesians use for “aunty”) who could cook for me; but new supermarkets I get to explore, new ingredients that are difficult to find back home! Also it is really expensive eating out in London, so home-cooked food is often the way to go.

Updates about this blog since my last post!

1. I am surprised that there are still views even though it hasn’t been active, and I’m glad.

2. It has been featured in Singapore’s Weekender magazine a grand total of FOUR times! *dance in celebration*

White Chocolate Matcha Cupcakes in the Weekender Vanilla Bean Mochi Cake in the Weekender Nutella Cupcakes in the Weekender Lavender Shortbread in the Weekender

A commitment for 2014

This new year, I commit to start posting regularly again, this time not only dessert recipes, but also simple recipes fit for poor students like us. Perhaps even restaurant/cafe recommendations in London, for those who are interested. :)

Spoiler alert… The annual World Nutella Day (February 5th) is coming soon!!!

A Tribute to Lavender: Lavender Shortbread

Okay so I was supposed to write a 400-word write-up for school, my fingers finally got typing and I can’t resist not writing a blog entry that I’ve promised my friend since weeks ago!

I’ve been wanting to bake with lavender since I watched an episode of Masterchef Australia (2 seasons ago, I know I’m slow) featuring Fiona’s Chocolate Ganache, Lavender Cream and Raspberry Tart. And I finally got the courage to stomp into Phoon Huat to grab (okay, buy) a packet of dried lavender flowers. It’s really not expensive at all, can be kept in the fridge for a long time, and a little pinch goes a long way in spreading its scent to any dessert!

Image

This shortbread recipe is different from before, it gives a really light and crumbly texture instead of the dense shortbread cookies you see in supermarkets. And the scent of lavender is so delicate it calms you down after a long day of school or work. Best enjoyed with a cup of warm tea, I recommend Earl Grey. :)

I encountered a bit of difficulty with the dough softening too quickly in the warm and humid environment, but it can be easily salvaged by me being less lazy and returning the dough into the fridge when it’s not needed.

Here’s the recipe, with a few tips from me.

LAVENDER SHORTBREAD

(adapted from Dessert First)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour (all-purpose or plain), sifted
1/2 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar, it’s finer than normal fine sugar)
1 tablespoon dried lavender

DIRECTIONS

1. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl till creamy. Add the flour, beat till combined. Add the lavender, and beat till distributed throughout the dough.

2. Scrape the dough mixture onto a sheet of cling wrap, use your fingers to press it into a disk. (The mixture would be slightly soft and sticky, but don’t worry because it will harden in the fridge) Wrap it tightly in the cling film, put it on an even surface (e.g., plate or tray) and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

4. Roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness and cut desired shapes. (Here’s when cute cookie cutters come in handy!) Place on baking tray lined with baking paper and bake till just golden, about 18 minutes. Let the cookies cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring on wire rack.

A Bread Pudding and an Old Friend

First whole day back home and I just wanted to use my kitchen, to be able to make whatever I felt like eating. That meant omelets for my family in the morning and this special dessert in the afternoon. This post is all about my White Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding, with detailed photo instructions, taken by my old friend the Canon DSLR!

White Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Hey, old friend!

So, I was curious about the history of bread pudding so… I googled it. According to the Reluctant Gourmet, the bread pudding was born in the 13th century. It was considered a “poor man’s pudding” because it made use of stale bread. Traditionally, the bread was soaked in milk or water, then sugar, butter, fruit, and/or spices. I absolutely love the idea of using simple and humble ingredients to make some of the best tasting foods ever!

This recipe elevates a humble bread pudding into a sophisticated dessert that still brings you comfort and warmth much like a family dinner during Christmas time. Using croissant instead of stale bread for buttery layered goodness, adding in vanilla bean paste and white chocolate for a lighter creamy custard flavour… Bake it in individual ramekins for classy presentation, and most importantly to set a limit for how much you get to eat!

So get your pen and paper (or ctrl-c and ctrl-v) ready to take some notes!

This recipe makes 4 individual ramekins

WHITE CHOCOLATE CROISSANT BREAD PUDDING

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs
1/3 cup fine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
300ml thickened cream
200ml whole milk
5 croissants
37.5g white chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven at 160 degrees Celsius (or 320 degrees Fahrenheit). Line the bottom of the ramekins with baking sheet circles to prevent the pudding from sticking to the bottom.

Lining ramekins

2. Half the croissants, line them on a baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes or till crisp and golden.

Croissant halves in the oven

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, cream and milk. Continue whisking till well blended.

A lovely teaspoon of vanilla bean paste

4. Cut up croissants into 3 cm chunks. Take half of the croissant chunks to cover the base of the ramekins evenly, sprinkle the white chocolate chunks, and pour half of the custard mixture. Allow the croissants to soak up the mixture.

First layer of custard-soaked croissants and white chocolate chunks

5. Add the remaining croissants and custard. Press down gently to make sure that all the croissants chunks are soaked.

6. Now you have to prepare a water-bath (It prevents the temperature in the oven from getting too hot, which could burn the top of the pudding): Place the ramekins onto a baking tin, then fill the baking tin with boiling water till halfway up the ramekins. Carefully put the baking tin into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard has set.

Puddings in ramekins in water bath

7. To serve, turn the puddings over onto a serving dish. Best eaten warm!

Yummy gooey in the tummy

Tip: If you don’t have ramekins, you could also make this bread pudding in a baking dish, just bake it longer for about 50 minutes, or until the custard sets.

After a long hiatus… The popular banana cupcakes!

5 months away from home in the States, with a lack of baking equipments, settling for hand whisks, microwaves, unfamiliar ovens, loaned baking tins… Still, I have never received so many requests for any recipe (or the cupcakes themselves).

Fresh mashed bananas are the secret to these cupcakes, adding genuine flavour and not to mention the pack of vitamins they contain, the best way to feed kids (including college kids) the fruits they should be eating. Instead of using fattening frosting, try topping the cupcakes of with crispy oat streusel topping with a touch of cinnamon. A plus plus plus is the aroma of bananas and cinnamon that will fill your kitchen (and living room and dining room)… What a perfect start or middle or end to a busy day of work and activities!

Banana Cupcakes with Oat Streusel Topping (and an optional dollop of Nutella)

This recipe makes 12 regular cupcakes

Banana Cupcakes and Oat Streusel Topping

(adapted from Martha Stewart and For the Love of Cooking)

INGREDIENTS

(For cupcakes)

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
5 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(For oat streusel topping)

1-1/4 cup of oats
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius). Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, prepare the dry ingredients. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another bowl, prepare the wet ingredients. Mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. (Tip for mashed bananas: Slice the bananas into a bowl, use a fork to first prick the bananas to break the structure, then press the bananas to mash them. BE PATIENT!)

4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into the muffin cups.

5. For the streusel topping, combine together the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers until crumbly. (Tip for topping: Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Again, be patient!) Sprinkle evenly on top of the muffin batter.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pan, it’s best to eat them warm! :)

I hope you enjoyed the recipe as much as I did! :D

Bet you can’t wait to get your hands on one (or more)!

Introducing Tofu Mousse…

Okay it might seem pretty weird that I haven’t been posting any new recipes these past few months and doing it now right smack in the middle of the examination period. I’ve been pretty busy this whole semester so sorryyyy! And now I need to de-stress and get away from the piles of books and notes on my study table. Plus I can’t wait to introduce to you something most of you would probably not expect… Nutella (Tofu) Mousse!

What kind of person would ever have thought about using Tofu to make a mousse? Well, I don’t know but it certainly isn’t me. The silken tofu actually forms the base of this mousse and gives a pudding-like texture, instead of the usual whipped cream and eggs (like in this Martha Stewart recipe, which I’ve tried and unfortunately failed). And yes I can read your mind (Psychology major, kidding!), no you won’t be able to taste the tofu in the mousse, that would be quite mortifying. The resulting mousse is silky and light, and best of all you won’t feel as guilty as eating a whole portion of cream-based mousse!

If you look at the recipe of a regular chocolate mousse, you’d find that a lot of steps are involved, which means a greater chance of messing something up. It also doesn’t help that the steps are rather complex like whisking egg yolks till pale and frothy, boiling sugar and corn syrup till clear large bubbles form, and then whisking the hot syrup into the eggs… *worry worry worry* and not a relaxation technique suitable for an examination period. To make a tofu mousse, just pour all ingredients into a blender, blend till smooth, pour in individual ramekins!

Just in case you are still unconvinced, here’s a sneak peak at the portion of mousse I had just now:

Nutella (Tofu) Mousse

So, for a fool-proof mousse, why not try a tofu mousse? Your friends/guests wouldn’t even suspect that there is tofu in their dessert :P

Think about it, weigh the costs and benefits, rationalise your decision… while I perfect the Nutella (Tofu) Mousse Recipe, because it’s currently too sweet for my taste. But if you really can’t wait, try this recipe.

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