26 April 2012

Japanese Swiss Roll and Macaron Demo Class

Swiss roll has always been one of my top to-bake cakes, yet I'm terribly afraid of doing so. Fascinating yet intimidating. What a paradox. Although I have attempted making swiss rolls 2 times using Chef Keiko Ishida's recipe, those weren't exactly successful. My roll cakes turned out a little rough and dry; I simply couldn't achieve the results of the famed tender and moist roll cakes that are sold in Japanese bakeries. So I was really looking forward to this particular demo class at Shermay's Cooking School by Chef Aki Watanabe to see if her recipe/method could help conquer my fear once and for all.

A total of 4 recipes were demo-ed with 2 bonus recipes to try at home.
1) Vanilla sponge cake with Kirsch-flavoured syrup and whipped cream and strawberries for filling.
2) Pink macarons with strawberry jam and butter filling.
3) Matcha sponge with 'fishing net' motif and white chocolate ganache and chunky red bean paste for filling.
4) Matcha macaron with matcha buttercream.

It's been a while since I last attended Chef Aki's class. The last time was her Japanese Homecooking class. She was still as humourous and animated, and I love how she illustrated certain methods with her own cute actions.

There were several steps to making the swiss roll - pate decor (the fishing net motif), cake, whipped cream, red bean filling (store bought) and macaron but she demonstrated all the steps from baking to assembly to rolling very clearly.
Look at how pretty the cake was. The steps for making macaron looked quite simple, seemed much easier than the Italian method that I've learnt before.
Even more sweet and pretty was the Strawberry Shortcake. The method used was different from Chef Keiko's so I was very inspired to try this new method.
Awww... so sweet.
We got to try both the swiss rolls during class.

The matcha swiss roll was flavourful with strong notes of matcha. The cake was tender and moist but slightly more dense than the vanilla sponge. I love the white chocolate ganache and red bean filling! They really complemented the matcha swiss roll very well.

I love love love the vanilla sponge. It was very light and tender and moist all at the same time! Really perfect with the whipped cream and strawberries filling.

All participants brought home a box of macarons compliments of the chef. I love the cutesy pink macarons; the strawberry jam with butter was unique and quite addictive. Both the matcha macaron and goma macaron had very distinct flavours. But I'm not a very big fan of macarons so would probably make the swiss rolls first, and KIV the macarons till some other time.

I am really dying to bake the vanilla swiss roll this weekend. Wish me luck!

P.S. Please DO NOT ask me for the recipes as they are under copyright by the chef and cooking school. If you are keen in attending the class, please enquire with Shermay's Cooking School directly.

22 April 2012

First week as a working mum

The past week has been hectic and overwhelming for me. As it is, starting a new job/routine and managing a toddler/chores are already challenging enough, I had to be caught in train breakdowns on two consecutive days. The train breakdowns were a total culture shock as I had not taken the MRT to work for at least 7 years (previous job I took company bus).

On Tuesday, I was stuck at the Boon Lay MRT station and decided to take a cab after 30 mins of waiting as I didn't want to be late for my second day of work. The situation at the station and nearby roads were chaotic and people were frantically trying to get alternative forms of transport. The cab queue was way too long and not moving at all, so I decided to call a cab but was on hold for way too long. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so I simply went up to people who managed to call a cab to ask if they were going the same direction. There I was, this crazy woman running towards the cabs as they pulled up along the roadside and asking people to share the cab! Luckily after a few tries, I managed to find a couple going to the exact location where I was going =D That said, I was still late for 10 mins :(

Then on Wednesday, I was stuck at Buona Vista station while changing to the Circle Line. It was really frustrating as it was two days in a row and to make matters worse, the communication by the station staff were unclear and confusing! Anyways, I made a new friend who's also working at the same location and both of us decided to take the bus instead of waiting in futile. Goodness gracious, the bus stop just outside the station was like a war zone. Both of us had to jostle our way through the crowd in order to get up the bus. It's like survival of the fitness, where the winners managed to squeeze up the bus.

Ok, enough of my transport rant. I just pray that these two occasions would not be occurring too frequently! Anyway, I was actually glad to be working again, you know being involved in work work. But the downside is, I tend to go into an overdrive and workaholic mode such that I brought some stuff home to read on the first day of work! I must constantly remind myself that, this is just a part-time job, I shall work hard during office hours and switch off to focus on my family after work!!

That said, it's indeed tiring to juggle between work, my attention seeking toddler and housework. After reaching home, I have about 45 mins to cook before dear son returns home, so it's a mad rush. And when he reaches home, it's another mad rush to play with him, wash and dry the clothes and then serve dinner. After dinner, washing the dishes, bath him, read to him and put him to sleep, and then pack his bag for the next day. By the time all's done, it's usually close to 9.30-10pm and I'm busted. But this me-time is too precious, so I tend to do my stuff like surfing net, play iPad games etc before my eyelids couldn't open anymore. I wonder how I'm going to survive in the long run? I guess I will get used to it somehow. Hubby went fishing from Fri to Sat, so I had to manage everything on my own those two days. It was easier when I was a SAHM but now that I'm working, it became quite a challenge. Kudos to the single parents!

Wish that I have more time to bake and blog, but not this weekend since my MIL was sick and couldn't help to take care of dear son. Anyway, I managed to attend a baking class on Japanese Swiss Rolls and Macarons by Chef Aki Watanabe at Shermay's Cooking School today. Hope to blog about the class soon! *yawn* I think I'm getting a bit incoherent, time to rest. Ciao!

15 April 2012

End of SAHM and another Strawberry Shortcake

I'm starting a new part-time job tomorrow!! So today marks the end of my journey as a Stay-At-Home-Mum and a new challenge as a working mum. Well, the job is considered part-time as I'll be working 34 hrs a week i.e. slightly shorter hours each day. At least I could reach home in time to cook dinner and then wait for dear son's return from the childcare centre. That said I would have only about an hour to cook dinner so I guess it's better that I prepare all the ingredients the night before.

Actually after a 2-year hiatus, I do have mixed feelings about returning to the corporate world. On one hand, I miss working and having a salary, but on the other hand, felt a little guilty towards my son and also apprehensive over the upcoming challenges of managing a job, household chores and responsibility as a mum all at the same time. It's also about getting used to a different routine, lifestyle and pace which is a change from being a SAHM. Well, I guess I would adapt in time to come, and hope that dear son could too. I've already converted him from half-day to full-day CC for a week, and he's slowly adapting albeit very sticky to me once he reached home.

The upcoming journey is not going to be a walk in the park, but we'll see how things go. Wish me luck!

Anyways, today is hubby's birthday so it's a perfect chance for me to practise my Strawberry Shortcake. There's only the three of us, so I couldn't possible bake the full original size cake (8")which is too big and too much.

So I simply halved the recipe for the Genoise Sponge and baked the cake in a 7"cake tin. The cake turned out shorter and shrunk a little. As usual I was pretty worried about the texture of the cake, but I had already folded the batter as gently as possible already.

For the chantilly cream, I made only 40% quantity of original recipe as I don't use much cream and always had lots of leftovers (400ml whipped cream, 40g sugar, 40g mascaprone cheese).

With experience from past 2 attempts, the frosting was smoother this time round. I sort of "crumb-coat" the cake first and chilled it for an hour before the actual frosting. The cake looked decent enough but still not perfect. I still think that chantilly cream is not as easy to frost as compared to buttercream. For the deco, simply strawberries, just like the other 2 attempts.

And for the taste test, the cake turned out great this time! Very fine, tender and moist, I believe I have nailed it, at least 80% :)

Overall, I'm quite happy with this attempt. The cake weighs about 900g to 1kg, depending on the amount of strawberries used and serves about 6 pax (generous slice) to 8 pax (small thin slice).

Pardon for the photographs, took very quick snapshots as dear son couldn't wait to get his hands on the cake. He's very into birthdays recently and insisted it was his birthday. Well, technically it's his 27th month birthday, so yes he shared the glory of the birthday song and candle with his daddy.

Ok then, I'm off now. Hope I could have enough time to blog with my new schedule!

09 April 2012

Chicken & Apple Balls

Saw this Chicken & Apple Balls recipe on Food 4 Tots blog recently and decided to make it for dear son's dinner. I've never thought of adding apple to minced chicken, it's a brilliant idea to make the meat balls more juicy with a natural tinge of sweetness.

Didn't follow the recipe to exactness, just "agar agar" (estimate) based on my gut feel. Take for example the red onion, was worried that dear son won't like the pungent smell if I add too much of it and more cheese as he loves cheese.
I used the Furi Furi Girl rice ball tool (bought in Tokyo, use for shaping rice ball) to help me shape the meat balls and the meat balls turned out beautifully. I made them smaller, about 1.5cm in diameter probably.
Verdict? He absolutely loves the chicken balls, with lots of ketchup! I think he had 6 or 7 balls, which was a lot considering he's only 26 month old.

Definitely gonna make these little balls for him from time to time. And probably will add more greens like grated carrot or even broccoli forets to make him eat more greens :p Keen in the recipe? Hop on to Food 4 Tot.

03 April 2012

Blueberry Yogurt Muffin

Dear son loves yogurt, specifically the Farmers Union Greek-Style yogurt so I usually have a tub in the fridge. Recently I had half a tub of yogurt which was about to expire and recalled reading from a blog on a cake recipe that uses yogurt as an ingredient. But I forgot to bookmark the webpage and couldn't find it again. So I did a search and found this Blueberry Yogurt Muffin by Joy of Baking.

Tweaked the recipe a little by reducing amount of sugar, increasing amount of blueberries and use grapeseed oil instead of canola oil. In the end, I like the muffins so much that I baked them 3 times within a week! The muffins also received rave responses from those who tried it =D

The first time I tried the recipe, I was quite sceptical about how the muffins would turn out as the batter was really dry and sticky, somewhat like a cookie dough but much stickier. Usually muffin batter has a flowy kind of texture, so I was pretty worried that the muffin might turn out hard as rocks. Much to my surprise, they turned out moist and tender with a slightly crispy crust! By reducing the amount of sugar, the muffins weren't too sweet and the addition of more blueberries made the muffins even more tender and I could taste the juiciness of the blueberries with each bite. Best eaten warm but they taste just as nice when cold. Best of all, the recipe is easy peasy and can be completed within 30 mins.

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
(makes 12 regular size muffins, preparation time 15 mins, baking time 15 mins)

  • 240g plain yogurt (I use Farmers Union Greek-style yogurt)
  • 1 large egg
  • 60g Grapeseed oil (original canola or corn oil)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 260g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar (original 100g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125g blueberries (original 100g, I used up all the blueberries in a punnet)
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degree celsius. Position rack in the centre of the oven. Line the muffin pan with paper cases.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Remove 1 tbsp of the dry ingredients and toss well with the blueberries. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, oil and vanilla extract until blended.
  5. With a silicone spatula, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and only till the ingredients are combined. Then gently stir in the blueberries. Do not over mix or the muffins will turn out tough. The texture of the dough is dry and resembles very sticky cookie dough. Don't worry, it is normal.
  6. Evenly fill the muffin cases with the batter to almost full as the batter rises only slightly and retains the shape more or less. Using ice-cream scoop will be easier as the batter is very sticky.
  7. Place muffin pan into the oven and bake for 15 mins. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for about 5 mins before removing from pan. Taste best when warm.