Festive Treats 2011 - Chewy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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It's time of the year for my JC friends annual year-end celebration once again. We used to exchange gifts among ourselves, but nowadays we focused on getting gifts for the kids instead. Nevertheless I still wish to bake something for my dear friends; last year I baked Carrot & Walnut cupcakes. This year, I had many ideas like macarons and cake pops... but in the end settled for a Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie which is more manageable than macarons and cake pops (after considering the tight schedule; I still had to bake a Sticky Date Toffee Pudding, and Lychee Rose Cupcakes). Moreover, ever since I baked my first salted choc chip cookie, I was obsessed with it.

I first came across this idea of topping sea salt on chocolate chip cookies from Delicious Day's blog. I do like salted caramel treats so I thought this would be a worthy recipe to try. And try I did. Her recipe is slightly different from the usual, bread flour is used and butter is first browned before adding to the batter. The result was a very fragrant and scrumptious cookie. I love how the sea salt hit you subtly amidst the sweetness of the chocolate chip. I tried looking for fleur de sel but couldn't find so had to settle for Maldon Sea Salt flakes which is already quite a good quality sea salt.

I mentioned in the previous post that I adore ice-cream scoop as a baking tool now. Yep, besides cupcakes, I love using the scoop for drop cookies. How else could I get uniform sizes of dough neatly onto the baking sheet? To get small size cookies, I actually searched high and low for an extra small ice-cream scoop and finally found a 32mm size one at Tott. The ice-cream scoop I have at home is 44mm by the way. Yes, I only own 2 scoops in case you'd think I own a dozen :p I'm considering for an even smaller size ice-cream scoop as these cookies (using 32mm scoop) spreaded to about 5cm in diameter after baking which is still too big for my liking. Saw a 25mm size one on Amazon and still considering whether to buy :p

For this batch of giveaways, I adapted Chef Joycelyn's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that I learnt in her class two years ago. I baked them for a shorter duration to get the chewy texture which I like! Couldn't stop pigging on the cookies :p

Chewy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 62 pcs using 32mm ice-cream scoop)

Ingredients
  • 210g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 240g chocolate chip/Valrhona Perles
  • Maldon sea salt flakes or Fleur De Sel
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and both sugars in a mixing bowl until well blended, stopping to scrap down the bowl as necessary.
  4. Add egg and vanilla extract, the batter will look curdled.
  5. Add flour mixture in three additions, mixing until just combined.
  6. Add chocolate chips/baking perles using a spatula, until evenly distributed.
  7. Clingwrap the bowl of dough and refrigerate at least 30 mins. *If chilled overnight, thaw the dough for 15 mins before use.
  8. Using a 32mm ice-cream scoop (for uniform size) or two teaspoons, scoop up balls of dough and space them apart from each other (as the dough will spread) on baking trays lined with non-stick baking parchment or Silpat mats. Keep remaining dough in fridge.
  9. Sprinkle sea salt flakes according to preference over the balls of dough.
  10. Bake the dough for 13 mins (to get a soft and chewy texture of cookie).
  11. Repeat steps 8 to 10 for the remaining dough.
Although I already reduced the sugar by as much as 100g in total, I still found the cookies quite sweet, probably due to the baking perles. Probably would reduce the sugar even further next time.


As for the packaging, initially I wanted to get glass jars from Daiso but couldn't find the time to make a trip there. Then I thought of small round plastic containers but those could only hold four cookies per container (I'm packing six each). After digging my cupboards, I found that I still have a pack of clear plastic bag as well as some cute sticker labels. Viola! Here they are. I wanted to write "Chewy Salted Choc Chip Cookies" but realised after writing two labels that I wrote as "...chocolate cookies" missing the chip. Oh well. Anyway, hope that my friends would like those cookies as much as I do.

Lychee Rose Cupcakes

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Hubby and I had a really peaceful, silent night on Christmas eve and a quiet Christmas Day =D (as we left dear son with his grandma over the weekend). Our family isn't big on Christmas so no celebrations or anything, just enjoying the much-appreciated me-time to indulge in our own favourite activities. Before dear son came along, we would be having a winter holiday somewhere around the world. Oh well...

I spent the whole of today baking, and wrapping presents for a gathering with my long-time JC friends tomorrow. Really looking forward it. Will talk about the baked treats I prepared for this year's gathering in the next post :)

First up is this Lychee Rose Cupcake that I've KIV-ed for a long time and finally got down to baking it last week. Today is my second time, fine-tuning the recipe based on my first attempt. When I first saw the recipe from Evan's blog, I was really intrigued by the pretty pink hue of the cake, but was hesitant as the measurements are given in cups (too used to grams), the use of self-raising flour (seldom use), rose syrup (our family doesn't drink cordial and 1 large bottle is really a lot albeit the small quantity used in the recipe) as well as rose water (hardly use too).

I had to convert the measurements painstakingly into grams which was a little confusing as there are many types of conversion tables on the internet. Also invested in a bottle of Rose Brand (the glass bottle one) Rose Syrup and Nielsen-Massey Rose Water. I guess I can make rose syrup drink or even bandung drink from time to time now, and attempt recipes that use rose water more often now.  Evan's recipe yields 24 regular sized cupcakes which are too many for me, therefore I also cut the recipe by half. In addition, I also reduced the amount of sugar further since lychee inside the cupcake is already quite sweet.

During my first attempt, I added too much batter into the cupcake holder and the batter overflowed, this time, I managed the proportion quite well and the cupcake rose into a beautiful dome. I only had to trim a little of the top so that my frosting can sit nicely. For the frosting, I simply whipped some unsalted butter, cream cheese, icing sugar, rose syrup and rose water (without rasberry puree or jam as suggested).

On a separate note, I totally adore using ice-cream scoop to scoop batter into the cupcake holders. Previously, I used a spoon and spatula but it could get a little messy; with the use of an ice-cream scoop, I just scoop and click, absolutely fuss-free. Yeah! Now I understand why Chef Joycelyn loves using ice-cream scoops (she mentioned before in her class that she owned many different sizes of scoops). What I don't understand is, why does a stainless steel ice-cream scoop cost so much, about $23? Wow. Whatever, it's one of the baking essentials like Microplane, Silpat that I have to have :p




Lychee Rose Cupcakes (makes 12 regular size cupcakes)

Ingredients
  • 94g self raising flour
  • 62.5g plain flour
  • 12.5g ground almond
  • 125g unsalted butter, slightly softened at room temperature
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 48g fresh milk
  • 30g rose syrup water (10g rose syrup, 20g water)
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 12 pcs canned lychees (cut lychees into half if the lychees are big)
  • Frosting: 35g unsalted butter, 135g cream cheese, 40g icing sugar, 1 tsp rose syrup, 1/2 tsp rose water
Steps
  1. Preheat oven at 170 degree celsius.
  2. Rinse 12 pcs of lychees, pat dry with kitchen towel and set aside. *I use 6pcs and halved them as the lychees I got are big. It's advisable to dry the lychees so that the cake doesn't turn soggy.
  3. Sieve self-raising flour with plain flour, then mix well with ground almond and set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar using a mixer until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time and mix until combined.
  5. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating between milk and rose syrup water. Fold in batter until just combined, do not overmix.
  6. Scoop 1/3 batter into cupcake holder, top with lychee and pour in another 1/3 batter (total height should come up to slightly less than 3/4 of holder).
  7. Bake the cupcakes for 20-25mins, until skewer inserted comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  8. Whip unsalted butter, cream cheese till light, then add icing sugar, rose syrup and rose water, and mix till creamy and fluffy.
  9. Shave top of cupcake (if necessary) and pipe frosting onto cupcake as desired.


Taste-wise, I thought the combination of lychee and rose is a matchmade in heaven, and the aroma is really intoxicating. The cake is tender and moist, complemented by a juicy lychee innard. Yums!

These cupcakes are made for a group of texas poker friends that hubby is meeting tonight. Hope they will like it :)

Macau-Hong Kong Sep 2011 - Part II

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Continued from here.

Couldn't remember how long the ferry journey took, all of us were concussed :p Anyway, upon reaching Hong Kong island, we took the subway to Causeway Bay station where our hotel, Holiday Inn Express is located. It was too early to check-in, so after leaving our luggage at the hotel, we went to a nearby eatery for our late lunch.


My char siew and prok dumpling noodles. Not bad, char siew tender, and dumplings juicy. The noodles were those HK-style chewy type but I found them a bit dry.
The century egg was so good that we ordered seconds. The egg was very fragrant and the yolk slightly mushy.
Deep fried dumplings. These little buggers were good! Crispy on the outside and juicy inside. Was perfect with a special sweet chilli sauce provided.
As usual, some veggies. The kailan was fresh and crunchy. Somehow, the veggies in Hong Kong all look fresh and plump and tasted very sweet and crunchy.

After lunch, all of us went separate ways for shopping. Hubby and I went to the seafood delicacies street 海产街 to pick up some sea cucumber, black fungus as well as some Lap Cheong (chinese sausage).
Overwhelmed by the different types of Lap Cheong available. Decided to buy a few of each type.
Then we went back to Holiday Inn Express and met our friends for some desserts. This dessert shop at level one of Holiday Inn Express is apparently very famous for the desserts and usually there would be long queues.
I ordered a bowl of mango pomelo with sago. Not bad, quite smooth and creamy with sweet bits of mango, tangy pomelo and sago.
After our dessert, we finally checked into our room. Holiday Inn Express is basically a no-frills budget hotel but we were pretty impressed by the quality.
After resting and washing up, we headed out (yet again) for dinner :p
Our dinner place is highly recommended by our friends' friends (who are staying in Hong Kong for work) who brought us to Tung Po Restaurant located on level three of a hawker centre near North Point 北角station. This restaurant turned out to be the best of the best food that we had eaten for this trip. Till now, we still missed this place dearly and hope to return one day :)
Reservation is strongly recommended especially for weekends. As you can see, the place was very crowded and I really like the boisterous atmosphere where people dine, chat and yum seng without care.

Steamed Mantis Shrimp 濑尿虾. This is considered a delicacy in Hong Kong.
The meat was very juicy, sweet, succulent and firm. So much nicer than lobster!
Squid ink noodles with squid balls. This was actually quite tasty, especially the bouncy sotong balls but I ate only a bit for fear that my whole mouth and tongue would turn black. LOL.
Steamed clams in chinese wine. These were nice, despite their small sizes, very juicy and chewy with hints of alcohol.
Stir-fried morning glory with nam yee. Likewise the veggies very fresh and I love the special nam yee sauce.
Oh!!!! This deep-fried abalone was sooooo yummy! I thought that it would be tough and hard to chew but I was wrong! The skin was slightly crispy with perfectly tender and juice meat. Wish I could have more! This would be a dish that I would order again next time I go back.
Deep-fried river fish. Another nice dish, with a perfectly crispy batter and tender fish meat. Tossed with some spicy pepper salt which gave a very nice kick to the tastebud.
Roasted chicken with garlic. This was yummy! Perfectly roasted meat with paper thin crispy skin topped with bits of fried garlic. The chicken meat was tender and juicy.
Steamed bamboo clams with garlic and spring onions. The clams were very fresh and chewy. But the star who stole its show was a different rendition, making this dish paled in comparison.
Stir-fried bamboo clams in spicy bean sauce. Wow, this was so much better than the steamed version. I mean, the steamed version was already very tasty but this, was a notch better with the compliments of the spicy bean sauce.
Although we were literally bursting at the seams, we just couldn't resist this steamed rice in lotus leaf. I could smell the fragrant of the lotus leaf the second it was opened. The rice absorbed the flavours of the chicken, mushroom and lap cheong, and was so soft and fluffy. It gave a warm and fuzzy feeling, and even though I was so full, I had 2 bowls of this! Such gluttony but I just couldn't help it :p And the meal wasn't very expensive, I think S$20-30 per person, well worth it for such quality food and cooking.

If there's a reason to go back to Hong Kong again soon, it has to be this restaurant! As we left, we saw other tables ordered deep-fried pig's trotters and vowed to try it the next time.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest and wash up and then went to a nearby spa for some foot and shoulder massage.
Totally knocked out as the therapist soothed our tired muscles. Thereafter, headed back to the hotel and promptly KO-ed.
The next morning, all of us woke up late and went to a nearby restaurant for dim sum brunch. Please don't be shocked by the following photos. We really ordered a lot of food for just five of us. Confession: we ordered more food than what was pictured (too embarassed to declare LOL).



We thought the quality was so-so only, as our tastebuds were already quite jaded from the past two days of feasting. After the brunch, we went for some last minute shopping before heading to the airport to catch our flight home.

Overall, it was a very intensive and sinful (imagine the amount of calories and cholestrol we piled on) trip but truly enjoyable!


Resources:

Macau-Hong Kong Sep 2011 - Part I

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Hubby and I went on an intensive 3D2N trip with a few Uni friends to Macau and Hong Kong back in Sep. It was basically a EAT and GAMBLE PLAY trip, and unfortunately we didn't shop much due to time constraint. Food was indeed the highlight and we went to many makan places that were really impressionable. So I'm going to focus a lot on food for this update with lots of yummy-looking photos to whet your appetite :p

We took an early morning flight via Tigerair and reached Macau in the late morning. Our friends actually departed a day ahead of us and so we took a free shuttle bus to meet them at the hotel. As it was still too early for us to check-in, we decided to head off to Rua Do Chunha 官也街 for lunch. It was also a little early for lunch, so we walked around and went into a little cafe for some luncheon meat and egg sandwiches 餐蛋治. Oooh, I love luncheon meat and egg sandwiches from HK, they are just so yummy! Forgot to take photos in my frenzy to gooble down the sandwiches.

Finally we headed to Seng Cheong Restaurant which was recommended by hubby's cousin. Apparently the specialty here is Crab Porridge. Sounds decadent already ya?


Deep-fried calamari. The calamari was fried to a perfect crisp and tasted so good with its chewy (not tough) texture. The dipping sauce was a little salty and sour, great combination!
Some veggies for a balanced meal. Stir-fried broccoli with baby clams. Nicely cooked too with a delicious sauce.
Here's the highlight, Crab Porridge. What can I say? The porridge tasted so sweet and fresh! Must be hours of slow cooking with the broth of chicken/pork with crab? It was so yummy that I had 2 bowls.
Steamed river eel in fermented bean and chilli. The eel looked menacing, I thought it would taste a little fishy but surprisingly not. Probably due to the use of fermented bean and chilli. The meat was quite tender as well. Not too bad.
Stir-fried spicy chicken. This was good, chicken meat was really tender and the sauce was tantalising.

After the satisfying lunch, we went casino-hopping and finally settled down at Wynn for Texas Hold'em Poker. Couldn't remember how long we played at the table, but by the time we realised, it was already past 8pm and we hadn't even checked in yet. Haha.
We decided to go for dinner first at a nearby restaurant, which served quite good food. We concluded that most restaurants in Macau/Hong Kong serve reasonably good food.
Stir-fried Kailan with garlic. Juicy and crunchy, nice.
Soothing and nourishing soup. Hong Kong/Macau people are really expert in boiling soup.
Shark's Fin broth with rice 鱼翅捞饭. The shark's fin broth was served in a hot stone bowl, we were supposed to pour the broth over rice for this. The broth was rich and went well with rice indeed.
Hong Kong/Macau is famous for its roast meats and so we simply had to try. The duck meat was juicy, tender and succulent. Thumbs up.
Seafood delicacies 包罗万有. A hot stone bowl full of seafood like scallops, abalone, sea cucumber and etc. Such decadence but actually not very ex.
We were greedy after whacking the duck meat and ordered some roast pork and char siew. The char siew was very nice, sweet and juicy. The roast pork was crispy but a tad too saltish.

Finally after the sumptious dinner, we headed back to our hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Macau to check in. But after washing up, we went back to Wynn Casino for more Texas Poker. Haha. Yes, we were crazy as it was already close to midnight. Well, since we were leaving for Hong Kong island the next day, we just had to maximise our time!
The deluxe room at Hard Rock Hotel was really spacious and well-appointed.


Such a pity that we spent so little time in the room. While the hotel is nice, it's located at the City of Dreams at Cotai, whereas our preferred casino is Wynn at the main Macau island. Probably next time we will stay directly at Wynn instead of having to travel a long distance between the hotel and casino.
We played till about 3-4am until almost KO. Headed back to the hotel and slept till late morning for check-out.
After check-out, we took a free shuttle bus to the ferry terminal bound for Hong Kong - our next leg of the trip. Had these scrumptious Portuguese egg tarts for brunch on board the ferry :p

The next post, I'll cover the Hong Kong leg of the trip, which was basically FOOD, FOOD and more FOOD. LOL :p Stay tuned!