17 November 2007

Christmas Special: Cupcakes Class

Despite having a long 'To Bake' list, I couldn't resist the temptation of signing up for Joycelyn's Christmas Special: Cupcakes Class 2007 Edition at Shermay's Cooking School. I couldn't stop marvelling at the cute decorations seen at Joycelyn's blog. I guess even if I don't bake them eventually, seeing how the cute decorations are made is satisfying enough.
The 4 luxe cupcake holiday flavours 2007 edition:
  • White Chocolate (Valrhona Ivoire), Macadamia, Sundried Cranberry & Madagascan Vanilla Blondie
  • Sticky Medjool Date & Guinness Stout Gingerbread with Crystallised Ginger
  • Spiced Chocolate & Sour Cream (using Valrhona cocoa, Pure Coffee Extract and a touch of cinnamon)
  • Pumpkin with Pecans & Rum-Soaked Raisins
Cupcake Toppings:
My favourite cake/cupcake topping - Rich Cream Cheese & Sour Cream Frosting and the ever-so-versatile Classic Royal Icing. (I have a weakness for cream cheese & sour cream frosting :p)
Decorations & Embellishments:
Absolutely Christmassy handmade and edible decorations in the likes of fondant snowman, penguin, igloo, Santa's hat, holly leaves & berries, wreath, bows, gift boxes; as well as royal icing embellishments of snowflake, christmas tree and star...
Despite the luxe-sounding names, the cupcakes look pretty manageable to bake, kudos to Joycelyn for making the recipes so comprehensive :)
With cupcakes as luxurious as these, who could resist them?

The fondant snowman and penguin make such a cute couple :D I think they would certainly be favourites among the kids.
Santa's hat, presents, bows, hollies... anything Christmassy adds to the joyous mood.
There are so many ways of decorating the cupcakes, all depending on one's imagination and creation; and of course lots of patience. Lovely to look at and nice to eat :p
A swirl of icing tinted with green, touched up with an icing star and silver edible embellishment - there you have, an elegant Christmas Tree!

Even a simple dusting of icing sugar in the shape of a snowflake fetches amazing results. Or dress up a cupcake with dried fruits and nuts to make a Christmas fruit cake.
Each participant brought back 4 cupcakes of the different flavours. I couldn't wait to eat them! Personally, my favourites are the Sticky Medjool Date & Guinness Stout Gingerbread (but without the Crystallised Ginger) and the Spiced Chocolate & Sour Cream. Both are rich, dense, moist and tender, characterized with flavours of the ingredients.
Yup, these 2 flavours would be made for my upcoming Christmas party with a group of close friends, topped with luxurious cream cheese & sour cream frosting and not forgetting the cute couple, snowman and penguin. That is, if I succeed with the recipes. Wish me luck!

13 November 2007

Custard Cream Puff

I seemed to be in a baking frenzy this year and especially recently, baking bi-weekly or even weekly (that's a lot considering I only bake once in a blue moon in the past years) and attempting to try out all the recipes learnt at Shermay's Cooking School.

Somehow, baking is therapeutic. The mind is totally focused while preparing the ingredients and seeing the baked products turn out successful gives a great sense of satisfaction. Furthermore, the baking process is a test of patience, precision and planning. I learnt the hard way having had some failures due to impatience, laziness and poor organization. Now I know and I'm trying to improve my work flow.

It's been a few months since I attended Chef Christopher's Retro High Tea class. Have wanted to try the custard cream puff but kept putting it off. In fact, I bought the Bird's Custard powder soon after the class but the can was idling on my shelf for 3 months now.

Finally made up my mind to try it today and it's not that difficult after all :D Was a little apprehensive, especially when the puffs didn't 'puff' up as expected based on the recipe after 10 to 15 mins of baking. In the end, I adjusted the baking time based on gut feel and the puffs turned out alright :) Perhaps my old little oven wasn't hot enough.

Instead of piping large puffs, I decided on mini bite-sized ones that can be popped into the mouth. Piping required some effort though and hubby commented that my puffs looked like a pile of dump but hey they turned out pretty cute ok?

The custard was relatively easy to make but silly me forgot to add vanilla extract, but the custard still turned out yummy :) I quite enjoyed the process of piping the custard into the puff because as you squeeze the custard, the puffs 'ballooned' :p
Instead of 24 custard cream puffs (based on the recipe), I ended up with double the quantity. The mini custard puffs turned out to be quite addictive, I had to resist the temptation to pop one after another into my mouth with the rich and sweet creamy custard oozing out from the puff.
So now, should I try the rough puff pastry so that I can make curry puff and chicken pie? I should, one of these days...

09 November 2007

Japanese Sesame Cookies

Didn't think much of sesame cookies but ever since I tried the sesame cookies made by Chef Keiko during her Jap-French Pastries Class a couple of weeks ago, my impression changed. Surprisingly, the cookie was savoury and crunchy and not too heavy on the palate.
Since the recipe is rather easy, I wanted to try baking it but couldn't find sesame seeds at the supermarkets around my house. Took an opportunity to go to Meidi-supermarket and finally found the jap black and white sesame seeds.
After preparing the dough mixture of unsalted butter, icing sugar, egg yolks, salt, top flour and sesame seeds, I have to set it in the freezer for 3hrs to harden it so that it's easier to slice neatly. Then it's off to the oven with a nice aroma filling the whole house.
Although the shape of my sesame cookies turn out to be a little irregular, but the taste is not bad at all. Another successful bake to add to my list!

08 November 2007

Marmalade Pantry, Holland Village

I love Public Holiday especially if it falls on a weekday. I can bake and cook at my own pace, run errands without a mad rush or simply laze around and do nothing.
Hubby has gone fishing with his kakis in Malaysia; and kindly left the car at my disposal :D which means that I could drive around to different shops I wanted to visit (sometimes it's hard to explain to him about my shopping plans; men just don't get it) and indulge in some pampering too.

Had scheduled a facial at Face Bistro in Holland Village in the late afternoon so I had quite a fair bit of time to spare. Made my way to Bake-It-Yourself (mentioned by Joycelyn during her cookies class) to check out some bakewares and ingredients but to my dismay it was closed. There goes my plan for trying the Decorated Cookies. Or how about Sesame Cookies learnt during Keiko's Jap-French Pastries class then? With that thought, I made my way to Meidi-ya Supermarket to get some Japanese black and white sesame; and also picked up some onigiri (I love onigiri) for my dinner.
After the errands, it was off to Marmalade Pantry in Holland Village (ok, this was supposed to be the subject and highlight of this blog entry but I digress).

Have heard so much about Marmalade Pantry at Palais Renaissance, supposedly a chi chi mall frequented by tai-tais; and that the restaurant is so popular that either you queue and get lucky or make reservations. Hadn't been to Palais Renaissance before, obviously I'm not in that league; just an aspiring tai-tai earning my own keep for now :p

Was definitely excited when Marmalade Pantry opens a branch at Holland Village, my chance to check out the ravings. Since I have not been to the one at Palais, couldn't make comparisons. The restaurant looks trendy with all white-furnishing, kind of casual or at most smart casual setting. Not that chi chi afterall? Menu items look chi chi though. Service-wise was prompt and attentive. Come to think of it, this place feels a little like Greyhound Cafe in Bangkok.

My focus was actually on the Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream which I heard is very good. But I was hungry and wanted to have try something more in the menu instead of just dessert. Ended up with Homemade Dips with Pita Wedges and a Vigorous juice of carrot, celery and apple.The pita wedges were served warm and quite light and chewy. The dips were a little odd though, some minty cucumber yogurt and curried vegetable like masala. A little regret; perhaps I should have ordered something else like a foie gras burger or scrambled eggs & sausages on toast with field mushrooms. In fact, I was going for the miso baked tofu with vegetable tempura & ginger soy but it was sold out.

The Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is to die for!!! The pudding was served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Didn't know what to expect since it was my first time trying this English dessert. I was totally blown away after the first bite. It was moist, tender and full of richness, yet not too sweet. The toffee sauce complemented the pudding really well. The ice cream is no ordinary vanilla ice cream; the taste is much more intense due to the vanilla bean used.

I guess I will be back for the other menu items. As for dessert, it would be a tough decision between something new or the Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Writing this blog makes me crave for the pudding now... In fact, I'm googling for recipes to see if I can try baking it at home.

The Marmalade Pantry
17D Lorong Liput
Tel 64698016

04 November 2007

Christmas Special: Decorated Cookies Class

Although Christmas is 2 months away, many stores in town have already began to deck in Christmas colours. Although we don't have a white Christmas here in Singapore (what a pity!), the atmosphere is still rather joyous. Family and friends would gather for parties, eat some roasts and logcakes, lavish each other with gifts of love... somehow, something is lacking (is it the snow and fireplace?) Or perhaps we are primarily a Chinese-based society where the Lunar New Year holds a much greater emphasis.
When it comes to creativity of Christmas cakes, cookies and chocolates, it feels somewhat lacking. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough or there isn't a strong demand in our domestic market. I had been in Japan for 2 Christmas seasons (2003 - Osaka & 2006 - Tokyo); the variety, colours, flavours and packaging were amazing! I could marvel at the displays in food halls for hours and envied locals in their buying frenzies. If only I could bring back more of those goodies. That said, I'll be going to Kansai region again this December and have a white christmas :D I digress...
Since I'm in such a dreamy Christmas mood, it's certainly apt to attend Joycelyn's demo class CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: DECORATED COOKIES at Shermay's Cooking School. Hopefully I can bake a few batches as gifts for my friends and family before going away :)
In this demo class, Joycelyn illustrated 2 basic cookie doughs - luscious lemon and classic gingerbread and gave us tips on how to ensure the rolled cookies turn out perfect every time. The recipes and procedures "look" simple; I was quietly happy that maybe I can attempt this at home with success.
We were then taught how to make fondant from scratch and meringue powder royal icing which are the 2 main decorating materials that can create amazing results. From there, she demonstrated the core decorating techniques like outlining, flooding, drop-in flooding, over-piping, flocking and gilding. There I realised the decoration involved a lot of patience and meticulous work! Hmmm, second thoughts now?
The entire class went 'oooh' and 'aaah' over the completed stockings, gingerbread boy & girl, christmas tree ornaments and a 3D christmas tree. They were simply too pretty to eat!
Impressive 3D Christmas Tree made by stacking multiple star design cookies of different sizes. An interesting centre-piece, I won't bear to eat it!

Variations in design achieved with fondant and royal icing of different colours. Simple or elaborate designs? It's all up to you!

Are the gingerbread boy & girl sweet? I love the taste of gingerbread with its spicy scent and taste :D Are these ornaments for real? Another conversational piece set to bowl over people.

Joycelyn showed us that just one large decorated snowflake packaged in a red box with ribbons and gift tag is enough to create an impression.

Early Christmas present for each participant - A box of handcrafted decorated cookies baked with love by Joycelyn!

I couldn't wait to get home and finished all of them quickly enough. Love the zesty lemon flavour but my favourite is still the gingerbread :)

Heard that Phoon Huat has ran out of meringue powder. So while I wait for stock to arrive, shall drool over the lovely photos at Joycelyn's blog.