26 March 2013

Hands-on Gourmet Pizza Workshop

2 weekends ago, I attended a Hands-on Gourmet Pizza Workshop conducted by Chef Audrey Tan (Head Chef & Chef-Owner of Freshly Baked) at Shermay's Cooking School.

Why a hands-on pizza class? Well, my house (and kitchen) is currently under renovation and I haven't been cooking or baking for almost 2 months!! I'm feeling miserable (staying with my MIL at the moment) and miss cooking and baking terribly :(((( I seriously need some cooking/baking therapy and I guess the quickest fix is to attend a hands-on baking/cooking class.

I've been wanting to make my own pizza for a long time and even bought a Jamie Oliver baking stone already. It's still in mint condition and I can't wait to try it once my spanking new kitchen is ready (2 more weeks I'm crossing my fingers).

Anyways, it was a fun class and indeed therapeutic, the kneading of dough and all. And I ate lots of pizza! Thankfully the pizzas were cut into small sizes, otherwise it would certainly be carbo-overload.

Chef Audrey taught us how to make basic pizza dough, homemade tomato sauce, robiola sauce and made us many flavours of pizza using both the Pizza Oven "Express Napoli" and conventional oven.

 The all-time favourite Margarita pizza.

Robiola "White" pizza with truffle oil.

All the pizzas tasted scrumptious, especially fresh from the oven. But there was a slight difference the pizzas baked using the Express Napoli and conventional oven. Pizzas baked by the former were more crispy and had that omph factor, more so than those baked using the conventional oven. Well, I don't think I'm ready to have another piece of appliance in my kitchen. Shall see what happens after I try making the pizzas.

 Ingredients prepared for all participants.

 After kneading the dough by hand, shape and divide into 2 portions for proofing.

 My pizza dough, not round shape at all. *Fail*

 Spread some homemade tomato sauce.

 And off to the "buffet" bar to select our ingredients. I forgot to take a photo of how my pizza looked like before going into the oven.

 Tadah, my personal home-made pizza.

And my Robiola pizza, I think I added too little cheese here.

Now, I can't wait to go home and start baking!

17 March 2013

Tokyo Dec 2012 - Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II.

In this Part III and final part of my Tokyo Dec 2012, I'm going to share about my shopping haul!!

Like I said before, Tokyo is a shopping paradise and I always find my luggage packed to the brim for each and every trip :p

Dried silverfish, bought at Tsukiji outer-market. Packed to order, according to weight, I think these were 100 or 200g pack each. I usually add them to fried rice, or stir fried eggs.

Dried Shiitake mushroom, also bought at Tsukiji outer market. They were very plump and fragrant, perfect for braising with meat.

Yuzu, bought at Tsukiji outer market, 100 yen for pack of 3, I bought 3 packs. I made Yuzu Chiffon Cake with these.

New potato and bamboo shoots bought at OIOI supermarket. The new potato was so cheap, 6 for 105 yen!
New burdock root, bought at OIOI supermarket. I like making salads with burdock or cook soup with it.

Nissen Violet Flour - good for making sponge cakes like strawberry shortcake and swissroll.
Caster sugar - this is more refined than brands like SIS, also good for sponge cakes.
They are cheaper by 20-30% than Singapore so no harm buying right :p

My favourite yuzu honey. Happy to find it sold at OIOI supermarket.

The Heinz soups were bought at OIOI supermarket.
The mushroom rice kit, plum rice kit and instant brown sugar & ginger latte bought at Muji.

Snacks galore! Calbee - vegie crisp, jagabee butter & salt flavour, potato chips yuzu & pepper flavour. Muji - pretzel maple syrup & salt, cheese & honey flavoured chips, Japanese plum crackers, Aomori apple waffle.

My all-time favourite yuzu drinks!! From convenience stores and Muji. Muji Singapore currently carries the Soda Yuzu. I checked with the store manager about the Honey & Yuzu; stock is supposed to arrive but so far I still haven't see it.

Lozenges for sore throat, sold at local pharmacies. Very soothing with tinge of flavouring, just like a sweet, unlike the strong flavours of strepsils. Most importantly, very effective!

Financier, bought at Tokyo Solamachi (Sky Tower mall). Tender and moist, nice!

My favourite snack, potato sticks from Potato Farm (Hokkaido brand). It is much nicer than Jagabee! 1000 yen at airport duty free. Saw it at Takashimaya (Singapore), going for $20+ :(((((
Luckily I bought 5 packs!

The Tokyo Banana cream cake is supposedly the most popular gift that people brought back as souvenir from Tokyo.

The Chocolate Banana Cream is a new flavour, not even sold at the airport yet (as of Dec 2012). We found this at Tokyo Solamachi (Sky Tower), luckily we decided to buy there instead of the airport. Chocolate and banana, what can I say, perfect combination! I brought it to a party and all the kids snatched them up in no time.

Yuzu jam, need I say more about my obsession with yuzu :p This can be used for baking too, I think!
Thermo mug and table placemats from Afternoon Tea.

Went crazy at Laura Ashley. These bento boxes were so sweet, especially the mini tubs used for sauces.

And these as well - oven mitt, recycle bag, passholder and ziplock bags.

Flora baking cases from Timeless Comfort at Shibuya Mark City.

And cupcake cases too! So pretty right?

More great finds from Timeless Comfort. I was drooling over them!

Kitchen accessories from Tokyu Hands and Loft.

Basket with cover and wooden plate from Natural Kitchen. 300 yen each.

More cupcake cases. Bought this at Jiyugaoka.

Lovely multi-tab clear holders, from Jiyugaoka too.
Cake pedestal, from 3 coins. 300 yen.

Socks from Muji and Kutsushitaya. I love the pair (bottom) from Kutsushitaya best, it's perfect for wearing with heels or pumps, not visible at all and very comfortable and durable. Those I bought locally tear after just a few times. Regret buying only 1 pair of black and biege.

Pajamas, sweater, clothes from Muji for dear son. Most of them at 20-30% discount.

Packing cubes from Muji. Love these, especially useful for packing clothes/stuff for travel. And cherry blossom shower gel. All at 30% discount.

Plastic dessert cups (comes with covers) bought at Kappabashi. Great for jelly, panna cotta, cold desserts basically... there are 50 pieces per design, thinking of selling some of them.

Christmas theme cupcake cases at 50% discount, bought from Kappabashi. Will be great for Christmas this year (thinking ahead!).

Well, these are part of my shopping haul (I think), hope it has inspired you to go Tokyo too! As for me, of course I would love to go Tokyo again! Anyone wants to engage me as a zakka-shopping guide?

08 March 2013

Tokyo Dec 2012 - Part II

Continued from Tokyo Dec 2012 - Part I

In this Part II, I'm going to share about Day 2 and 3 in Tokyo because there weren't many things to talk about, I was too busy shopping! LOL :p And also because I have already blogged so much about Tokyo in my previous posts. So my focus here would be the new places that I explored this time.

Day 2 was my Jiyugaoka Day. Yep, I always dedicate almost one full day for Jiyugaoka because I'm such a big fan of zakka.

During my last trip to Jiyugaoka in Mar 2012, I chanced upon this cafe only after I had lunch. And I was determined to have my lunch here this time!

The cafe is called Tokyo Sweets Factory, located at basement level, so it's kind of easy to miss if you didn't notice the display boards at the street level.

Their set lunch promo was quite attractive, salad + main course + drink + cake ranged from 1150 yen to 1350 yen ($14-$18).

The cafe was actually quite small, with about six 2-seater tables and one large 6-8 seaters.

Very cozy and nicely decorated.

I guess you can say, very Tokyo-style. A lot of cafes in Japan are tastefully decorated with lovely displays of zakka items.

And to think a small cafe like this has 6 staff (1 manager, 2 waitresses, 3 chefs), service was prompt and friendly. The manager even gave me a nicely packaged floral tea bag as Christmas gift.

Did I mention that the set lunch promo was value-for-money? This was the salad, looked so appetising and tasted so good! The portion was so big that I wondered if I could even take the main course.
Next up, mushroom and seafood pasta in light cream sauce. I seldom eat pasta, not exactly my favourite, but this was really yummy. The spaghetti was cooked al-dente, and the cream sauce complemented the noodles, mushroom and seafood very well!

I was filled to the brim already but I couldn't let my dessert down! The vanilla roll cake was one of the cafe's specialty so I had to try it. Needless to say, the sponge was very tender, fluffy and moist and paired well with the chantilly cream. With a nice warm pot of earl grey, a perfect ending to the lovely lunch. I was a happy gal!

After lunch, it was basically shopping and shopping and shopping till late evening. I dropped my shopping bags in the hotel and met hubby at Shinjuku for more shopping and then dinner.

Had hot plate steak dinner at Shinjuku. I think this steak restaurant is a chain joint or something, forgot the name. The soup, salad and rice were free-flow. Somehow it felt good to eat steak during winter :)

After dinner, we proceeded back to Shibuya Excel hotel as most shops were closed and it was too cold to wander about in the streets.

Day 3 and our last night in Tokyo, we woke up late, and had brunch at this bakery cafe nearby the hotel. It was located near one of the subway lines and I passed by it almost daily. Had made a mental note to try it. Lots of pastries and bread but the sandwich caught my attention. The fillings looked too tempting - potato and beef croquette, mayo egg, bacon and ham. Then the salad also caught my attention, ah, might as well try it too!

After the sumptuous brunch, hubby and I went our separate ways for shopping around Shibuya area. Then met in the late afternoon to go to Tokyo Sky Tree together.

The Sky Tree opened in March 2012, and it's a must visit new place especially when there's a mall, Tokyo Solamachi next to it! Initially I wanted to make reservations at the Sky Restaurant 634 but I heard it's quite impossible as the restaurant was fully booked every day in advance for months.

Anyway, the whole place was so crowded probably due to weekend and Christmas eve. We started walking around the mall at first, and close to 7pm, saw some people moving to the outdoors. So we followed them. Realised that everyone was waiting for the Sky Tree to light up.

I was kind of expecting a lighting show or something, about apparently not. It was just a plain simple light up that lasted like 5 secs? Disappointed. Nevertheless, the Sky Tree looked beautiful.

We proceeded to the entrance of the Sky Tree itself, trying to get tickets to go up to the viewing gallery. There, we found out that for crowd control, there were specific timings to enter the viewing gallery and the timeslots for 6pm to 8pm were all fully booked (via online booking). We could try to queue for the 8.30pm slot at the walk-in counter but when we saw the queue, we were like, ok let's KIV this for our next trip.

Since it was approaching dinner time, we decided to go for dinner instead. All the restaurants had long queues and we had no choice but to join in the line for an Udon eatery. Waited in line for almost 45 mins before we got our seats.

Ordered a Ume udon with a seasonal tempura to share. The soup base for the udon was light and soothing and warmed my tummy. Tempura was also fried to perfection, crispy but not oily.

After dinner, we walked around the mall for a while more before heading back to the hotel for packing, as our flight out was around 6am in the morning.
Well, this concluded my very short trip to Tokyo. In my final Part III, will share my shopping haul. Stay tuned!