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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Rich Moist Brownie

Brownie has always been my favourite dessert for a long long time... since I was a teenager. That was until I baked my very first brownie in 1999. I remember being so elated when I saw a TV program showing the viewers how to make it. It was so simple that I couldn't believe it. Immediately the next day, I went out and bought the necessarily ingredients. Happily and excitedly I measured and stirred the batter. All the while thinking to myself : 'Gosh, my very first brownie. I can eat as much as I want without having to pay a bomb for it.' Everything was going smoothly until it suddenly sank hard in my brain how much sugar, not to mention butter was in the batter. Well, that's basically it. It literally killed every desire or craving I have for brownie from that day onwards. Honestly, I didn't even took a bite of my brownie. My family loved it although they find it a bit overly sweet. I swore off brownie, really.

Even to this day, I don't crave for it. But what do you know? Life is funny. A few years later, I met my brownie match... in Pierre. He loves brownie to bits. Well, I think cheese cake takes 1st place. And now, our Little One loves brownie too. Over the years I have made a few brownies but none tasted as good as this recipe. Yes, I broke my brownie swear and tasted it for all of you - it was awesome! So good that I even forgot it was calorie loaded and ate more than I should. It's very addicitive.

Rich Moist Brownie

Adapted from 'Je veux du chocolate!' by Trish Deseine

Ingredients
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 125 g sugar
  • 120 g dark chocolate
  • 90 g butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
Rich Moist BrownieRich Moist Brownie
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Grease a square baking pan - about 20 cm in diameter. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate in microwave oven or bain-marie. I melt mine over a steamer. Let it cool a little.
  4. Stir in the beaten eggs, then the sugar and lastly the plain flour.
  5. Add in the roughly chopped walnuts.
  6. Pour the batter in the greased pan.
  7. Bake it for about 30 minutes. It should be crispy on top but moist on the inside.
  8. Let cool a bit before savouring it slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
The Verdict

Crispy on top, rich & moist inside... sinfully delicious. Full of chocolatey flavour with a bit of crunchy nuts in the mix. Top it with a layer of chocolate icing ... sends you to chocolate heaven. One can never get chocolate intoxication, can we?

Rich Moist Brownie
Notes

The original recipe uses 225 g of white sugar - it might be a wee bit too sweet for non-sweet tooth people. Instead of walnuts, use other type of nuts, especially hazelnuts.

Rich Moist Brownie
6 comments on this post.

Thick & Fluffy Pancakes

Time flies fast. It is almost a year since I last wrote an entry on my blog. So what had happened to me, you might wonder? In short, I was depressed for quite a while after we moved to Singapore. Why wouldn't I be happier in my homeland surrounded by friends and family? Theoretically I should be but sadly, I only felt lost and lonely. Everything was familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. I don't know how to explain that feeling. I was happy to find my old friends yet somehow I couldn't seem to connect with them anymore. Strangely, however, I connected better with my new expatriat friends, with lots of things to share and talk about. Besides that, I also had problems with cooking in Singapore: I don't know how to cook anymore - products are different here. Also, to cook western food is a very expensive affair. It is much cheaper to eat out than dine in. With Asian produce easily available now, one would think I would have dived right in and cook up a storm of Asian cuisine. Nope! The craving or inspiration wasn't there at all. Neither did I have any baking spirit. It was like suddenly everything zapped out of me.

What zapped me out of it all this is work. I have to thank my better half for pushing me to that direction. I didn't like the idea at first as that meant I would have less time with Little One and I was afraid of neglecting her. I still do fear that but on the brighter side, I found myself again - the independent, carefree & happy Cooking Ninja with a zest for life. I have started baking again and now I itch to cook again... feed who? My little family & my new colleagues, of course.

To celebrate the newfound me, I would like to share with you this delicious pancake recipe that I found online but I adapted it a little. Everyone loves it, young or old, except Little One (much to my disappointment). Why? Because it is too soft in the middle, mummy. Erhm...that's the way it should be, sweetie!

American Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy

Serves 4 peoples

Ingredients
  • 1 2/4 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vingear or white vingear
  • 2 cups plain flour or half plain, half wholewheat
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp melted butter (optional)
Directions


  1. Mix milk and vingear in a big bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes. This is to sour the milk.
  2. In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt).
  3. Whisk eggs & butter (optional) into the milk.
  4. Slowly stir, little by little, the dry mixture into the wet ingredients. Whisk until there are no more lumps.
  5. Let the batter stand on the kitchen counter for 5 minutes or more.
  6. Heat up your pan with a little oil over medium fire, spread a scoopful of batter or 2 table spoonful of batter on the pan.
  7. Cook until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake. Flip it over with a spatula. Let it cook for a minute or until light brown on the underside.
  8. Serve hot with either maple syrup or Nutella.

Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy
The Verdicts

These pancakes are thick, light and fluffy - just what I craved for. They are so good and addictive that my better half could simply eat all of it even though he was already full. They are quite stuffing however as they are so thick:-)

Notes

The pancakes taste better if you let the batter stand for awhile before cooking it. If you are short of time, then ahead to make them immediately after everything has been combined. They still taste good.

I have made it with or without butter and I didn't find any difference in taste. So these days I just omit butter when making them.

You can replace the milk and vingear combination with buttermilk. As for vingear, if you don't have apple cider vinegar, try it with white or any other fruity vingear, but not balsamic vingear.

Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy
7 comments on this post.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

A new year a new beginning... so the saying goes. Seems like it is ringing true for us right now.

When we left France for our summer holidays in Singapore, little did we know we will be staying here for good. You see, Pierre's application for his Employment Pass (EP) to work in Singapore has been dragging on for nearly a year without any fruitful outcome. Would you believe that even on the day we went to collect his precious EP, the lady officer scrutinized the approval documents from top to bottom again, letter to letter, as if trying to hunt for another potential flaw that would make the EP null and void. Now collecting that little green credit size card stating Pierre is now a legal alien at another counter took less than 30 seconds (I kid you not). Needless to say, Pierre could hardly believe his eyes, kept saying 'pinch me, please. This is not a dream right. This card is not going to disappear over night right.' Slap him I did.

So what have we been so busy next? Well, last minute rushing here and there, getting documents done to enrol Little One into the French school. Why not a local school? you might ask since Singapore education system is one of the best in Asia. We would dearly love to (and it would cost a lot less) but sadly we couldn't as within 2 months here, Little One had already partially lost the ability to converse in French with her grandparents on the phone and she couldn't even remember simple words like "bird", "I love you", etc. in French. In the event that we had to move back to France in a year or two, getting her back into the French system would be a real issue. So French school it is for her, no matter if it costs us an arm and leg!

And now we are busy house hunting for our nest. So far it is either the apartment/house isn't to our liking or the asking rental price is way too high - classic. Tomorrow we have another viewing of an apartment. Let's hope we will find a place that fits us soon!

To celebrate this beautiful new beginning of our life here in Singapore, I present you this delicious chocolaty cake with chocolate ganache. I learnt to how to make this cake from Kim Cabe of our little ateliers culinaires group in Clermont-Ferrand.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

(Adapted from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

prep: 15 minutes
cook: 1 hr, 5 min
other: 15 minutes
serves: 12

Ingredients
  • 1½ cup (200g) semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate bars, 54% cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter, softened
  • 1½ cup package light brown sugar or ¾ cup light brown sugar, ¾ dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs (I used 3 medium eggs)
  • 2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) container sour cream or Bridélice, crème légère, 15% or crème fraîche)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz (200g) package semisweet chocolate (dark chocolate, 54%)
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Melt chocolate in a bain-marie ie. using a bowl and pan/pot. (Make sure the bowl fits snugly over the pan) Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pan/pot containing hot water. The hot water mustn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the pot of water to a simmer. Stir gently as it melts with a wooden spoon or spatula. Remove from heat once all chocolate pieces are melted. Gently stir until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Whisk butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.
  5. Stir in melted chocolate, whisking just until combined.
  6. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, alternating with sour cream (or crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until blended after each addition.
  7. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow and steady stream, beating at low speed until just blended. Then stir in vanilla.
  8. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 60-65 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.
  10. Just before serving, garnish it by dripping small spoonfuls of choclate ganache around edge of cake.
  11. Enjoy!

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.
Chocolate Velvet Pound CakeChocolate Velvet Pound Cake
The Verdict

The cake on its own is very chocolaty and velvety - soft and moist like a dense sponge cake. Each bite of this cake with the chocolate ganache gives you an orgasmic chocolaty bliss! OK so maybe I'm pushing it a little, but it's really good:-)

I have made this cake twice and each time, it was a total winner with everyone young and old. The 1st cake was for home and it was quite massacred by me (I turned it out a wee bit too early when it was not cooled down yet) but nobody minded the ugly presentation. And the cake was devored in no time at all! The 2nd one was for Little One to celebrate her birthday in school with her teachers and classmates. I made 2 cakes and it was all polished up. The teachers loved it and asked me for the recipe.

Another idea is to make this into a layered cake with the chocolate ganache. It'll be the ultimate heavenly chocolate cake. Can one get enough of chocolate! Clearly NO.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

I have baked once in a 10 inch tube pan and the other time, it was in 2 smaller heart-shaped baking pan. However with smaller pan, please adjust the baking time accordingly.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake. Alternatively I used a 64% or higher dark chocolates and add 1 tablespoon of icing sugar (powdered).

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake
22 comments on this post.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Everyone of us (yes, you included indeed!), at some point in our childhood been eager to grow up. Impatiently waiting with batted breathe for that birthday to come. Remember how excited we were, jumping with glee and joy, in a rush to blow those birthday candles and wishing our birthday would last forever. We were so proud that we couldn't wait to tell everyone we are a year older. Such forgotten fond memories of the yonder years! Many birthdays came and went, so did my enthusiasm about birthdays until Little One came along. Remembering how excited and determined I was to make her perfect 1st birthday - never mind that the only cake I could bake at that time was Quatre-Quart (French Pound Cake) and it was Pierre who taught me how to bake it. I didn't even know how to make a crème chantilly (Pierre had to teach me that too).

Well, Little One is no different. She was over excited and so desperately wanted to be 4 like her best friend, Lise, that she asked me this question almost every day since January: 'Am I 4 yet, mommy? Is today my birthday?' Each time I would say 'Not just yet, poppet. You'll be 4 in 5 months time.' And then came the same wailing scenario 'Mommy, I want to be 4 now like Lise. Why can't I be 4 now? No, mommy I'm not 3½ years old. I'm 4 today just like Lise because I say so.' I have since learnt to be creative in my reply 'Yes, you are almost 4. In x months or x weeks' to keep my little camper happy.

This year Little One celebrated her 4th birthday the big way - a big birthday party at home with her friends (8 kids including her). In France, the parents will drop off their kids with a birthday present at your doorstep and come to fetch them home at the end of the party. Each kid is then sent home with a little goodie bag of gifts & candies (a birthday party souvenir). I like this concept very much as the kids didn't leave home empty handed. So for the next 3 hours or so, you are in charge of X number of kids in your house.

Yes my house was really noisy with kids running here and there! We had everything planned right down to games, gifts, etc...but do the kids really care? NO! Their longest attention span with pinning-the-donkey-tail game (supposedly a game that kids love most) - lasted only like 5 minutes. They preferred to chase each other around the house, playing big-bad-wolf with some kids hiding under the fairy tent while others were upstairs playing in Little One's room. So why bother stressing up myself to baldness thinking up different types of games? One surprising thing that stumped us all was that the kids loved storytelling. They couldn't get enough of that. (Yes, beats me too) They also loved fishing for presents - patiently queuing for their turn. They had so much fun at the party that they didn't want to go home. Then a few weeks later, she celebrated her birthday again in school with her friends and teacher. And Yes! Little One goes around proudly telling everyone who cares (or not) to listen to her: 'I'm 4 years old today.' Never mind that she doesn't even know them at all. What about presents, you might be wondering? APLENTY from family & friends to a point that she now expects more presents to come every day since she is now 4 years old every day. This was her bestest birthday ever... for now.

Now for the birthday cake, as much as I love my chocolaty & moist chocolate cake that I baked for her every year, I felt it was time for a change. So I asked my in-house gourmet, Pierre, who voted for his favourite Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Life's a Feast. I have adapted the recipe into layered cake with crème patissère covered with chocolate ganache.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake (with crème patissère & chocolate ganache)
Ingredients

Sour Cream Cake

  • 1½ cups sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour (spooned in and leveled)
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (omit this if you are using salted butter)
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter or semi-salted butter (soften, room temperature)
  • 1¾ cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g (12 oz) semisweet dark chocolate (I used dark chocolate, 54%)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Directions

Make the French pastry cream(crème patissieère) first before making the cake. That way, the pastry cream can be chilled in the refrigerator and will be ready for laying.

Making Cake

  1. In a small bowl or container, stir the sour cream (or crème fraîche) and the baking soda together and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  3. Butter two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
  4. Mix together the flour, baking powder & salt (omit it if you are using semi-salted butter) in a big bowl.
  5. In another big bowl, whisk the softened, room temperature butter (cut into cubes) until it is smooth and lightened in color.
  6. Add the sugar, 1 or 2 tbsp at a time, and beat it for 6 to 8 minutes until it is light and very fluffy.
  7. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking it for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla.
  8. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with sour cream (crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until it is just blended after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
  9. Spoon the batter equally into two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan and even the top out, leaving some room on top of pan for cake to rise during baking.
  10. Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes in the preheated oven. The cake is done when it is risen and the top is golden brown and springy to the touch or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  11. Leave the cake to cool on racks for about 15 minutes before turning it out of the molds. Let the cakes cool completely before filling and covering it with chocolate ganache.
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place 1 heart-shaped cake on a cake plate.
  2. Using the back of your spoon or spatula, spread a generous layer of pastry cream (crème patissière) on top of the cake.
  3. Delicately place the other heart-shaped cake on top of the filling.
  4. Spoon and spread the top of the cake generously with chocolate ganache, letting it spill naturally over the sides of the cake.
  5. Arrange the strawberries along the edge of the heart-shaped.
  6. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served.
Strawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream Cake
The Verdict

In a classic layer sponge cake, it is usually all about the cream and other fillings, and the sponge cake is secondary (who eats plain sponge cake anyway). This cake however, stands on its own - moist, fluffy yet dense and lightly flavoured in taste complimenting the pastry cream, strawberries and chocolate ganache. Even with all the complimentary toppings and filling, this cake remains just nicely sweet. So if you have a real sweet tooth, please add more sugar to the above recipe.

This cake was so delicious that Pierre requested the same to be made for sister-in-law's birthday. Alternatively, you may also include a layer of sliced strawberries on top of the pastry cream as I originally intended to do but in my hurry to get the cake done, I forgot about until I had covered it with chocolate ganache.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

The original recipe bakes in a 10 inch angel cake pan for about 1 hour and 10 minute. I usually roughly estimates the baking time when I bake this recipe in smaller cake pan. And whatever leftover batter I have, I made them into muffins.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake and then let it chill in the refrigerator.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
13 comments on this post.

Chocolate-Pear Cupcakes

What do you know - it's the time of the month again - the Velveteers' Challenge (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I). This month we decided to go nutty fruity to lift up our spirit to welcome summer after a long spell of rain and gloomy weather in Europe. At the beginning, I had in mind to make something with cheese, nuts & fruits but I got seduced by Aparna & Shellyfish chatting about their moist, oh so heavenly tasting cupcakes. So curious was I to know if their cupcakes are that good that I started dreaming of it. Soon, my imagination took a different angle - imagining all sort of ways to improvise over the Velveteers' project. Et voilà ! An adapted recipe was born.

I made these cupcakes earlier but didn't have time to post it as I was in the rush to put the house in order, before I left with Little One for a long weekend trip to visit friends and attend a little boy's (Noah) birthday party in Nantes. This time, I was able to meet Jamie of Life's a feast for lunch, had our dessert at her place, met her shy Man & handsome (very French) son, Clément, and of course her adorable but very shy Marty (ooh, I so love Marty). After dessert, we went for a "walk" (I mean shopping spree). I had in mind to shop for a few things for Little One's birthday party but in the end, I bought some tops and a dress for her instead. Jamie got herself a great bargain - a Curnonsky's cookbook for 10 €!! I'm so dying of jealousy! Little One & I had a wonderful time in Nantes and wish that we could stay longer than just over a long weekend. I would also like to thank my wonderful mother-in-law Michèle & sister-in-law Irène for driving us to Nantes and back to Clermont-Ferrand and for taking care of Little One the whole Saturday so that I could spent the day alone with my girlfriends.

Chocolate-Pear Velvet Cupcakes

(Adapted from Aparna's Cinnamon Cupcakes)

Makes: 8 - 10 cupcakes

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups cake flour (sifted and then measured)
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 100 gm butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup demerara (or light brown) sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups milk (room temperature)
  • 1 pear (peeled & cut into 4 or 8 parts)
  • walnuts (roughly broken up)

Caramel Sauce

  • sugar
  • water
  • about 2 tbsp salted butter
  • about 2 tbsp cream or crème fraîche
Directions
  1. Sift together the flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with milk. Starting and ending with flour. Beat just enough to combine the ingredients and do not overmix. After all the ingredients are in, beat it for just one minute.
  5. Divide the batter equally between 8 to 10 paper lined cupcake tins (depending on the size of your tins) so that each one is 2/3rds full.
  6. Lightly insert a slice of pear in the middle of the cupcake.
  7. Bake the cupcakes at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes till done or a skewer inserted in them comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out and cool completely.
  8. Spoon some caramel sauce on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle some walnuts on top of the caramel sauce. Then drip some caramel sauce all over the walnuts.
Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

Making the caramel sauce

  1. While your cupcakes cool, you can start preparing your caramel sauce.
  2. Put some sugar and enough water to wet the sugar in a small pot and heat it up on medium heat.
  3. Sugar will dissolves and when it turned into bubbling brown and golden, turn off the heat.
  4. Quickly stir in the salted butter until combined.
  5. Put the pot back on stove under very low heat and stir in the cream.
  6. Continue stirring until you get a thick consistency like crème patissière.
  7. Voilà, your caramel sauce is ready for your cupcakes.
Chocolate Pear Cupcakes
The Verdict

The cupcake is very soft & moist like a sponge cake with a light touch of chocolate flavour. The pear compliments the chocolate cake very well. Everyone loves the cupcakes and the caramel sauce with walnuts topping. I'll make it more chocolaty next time.

Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food & cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

9 comments on this post.

Pandan Jam (Screwpine)

It's strange how food craving can drive one to do things that he would never thought of doing, like learning how to cook Char Kway Teow (a local favourite dish in Singapore), or my mom's Nonya Chicken Curry, mutton curry, Assam Fish, Steamed Fish (Teochew Style), Sweet & Sour Pork, White Peppered Pork Slices (my childhood favourite), Chinese Steamed Buns, etc. Had I still been living in Singapore today, I would have never learned how to cook all these dishes as they are easily and cheaply available at home. The things we easily take for granted until we live overseas!

A few weeks ago, I had a sudden craving for a home local jam called Kaya (coconut-egg pandan jam) - my childhood favourite jam. Making this jam at home requires hours of standing, stirring and watching over it on the stove, letting it cook slowly and thicken like a thick custard. It can easily get scorched if one gets distracted from the job. I have seen my mom make this before at home and trust me, it's a very long process. I don't know why but I found myself talking about Kaya on twitter with Davina & Su-yin. Sweet & lovely Su-yin upon learning my plight kindly shared with me her secret Kaya recipe. To say I was overjoyed is an understatement... I was over the moon about it! So excited I was when I got her recipe, that I immediately set out to make it, only to realize that I had no coconut milk in my pantry. Arggh! I was so determined to have my jam that I just went ahead and made it with full cream milk. That's how desperate I was. LOL! When one is that desperate and craving for their home food, nothing gets in the way!

I only have this to say: Thank You, Cravings! If not for you, I wouldn't have discovered this delicious gem 'Pandan Jam' which I'm so addicted to right now. LOL! So readers, food cravings is definitely good for you - it spurs you to explore, create & improvise with whatever you have in hand and a new dish is born. Below is the recipe of Pandan Jam adapted from Su-yin's recipe. I love the colour of this jam - it reminds me of my wonderful 2 weeks vacation in Ireland in '97. Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day and we are celebrating Paddy's Day Food Parade over at The Daily Spud.

Pandan Jam (Screwpine)
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • 120 g full cream milk (half-cream milk will do too)
  • 1½ - 2 tbsp custard powder
  • 1 tsp pandan essence or a few pandan leaves
Directions
  1. Mix a bit of milk to the custard powder in a bowl - stir well to ensure there's no lumps, then stir in the rest of the milk. Set aside.
  2. Whisk eggs, pandan extract and sugar in a pot until combined. Add the milk mixture to the egg while continue to stir until it blends together.
  3. Put pot on stove, continue whisk it over low heat until it begins to thickens and resemble a thick custard. (takes about 4-5 minutes)
  4. If mixture is lumpy, whisk it with an electric handheld beater in the pot, giving you a smooth texture.
  5. Let it cool and keep it in a air-tight container in the refrigerator.
  6. To serve: spread the pandan-egg jam on a slice of bread alone or with butter.
The Verdict

It's surprisingly very good. Rich in pandan flavour (that's to be expected of course) ; the texture is very smooth like a very thick custard as it should be and deliciously good. I was hooked on this jam immediately and couldn't stop eating slice after slice of bread with it. The aroma of this jam even rouse Pierre out of his office upstairs to check it out. Little One loves it too.

Pandan jam (screwpine)
Notes

Right after the jam is done, it tastes a wee bit too sweet for my taste. However, after it has been refrigerated, strangely it doesn't seems to be overly sweet anymore - I have no idea why. If you don't like it to be too sweet, do reduce slightly the sugar quantity in above recipe.

17 comments on this post.

Crispy & Light Waffles

Yesterday we celebrated mother-in-law's 65th birthday. Little One was all excited wanting to put on her best dress - the chongsam that my sis bought for her to wear during Chinese New Year. So she was all pretty and dressed up, patiently waiting for grandparents to arrive and playing on her own while I was tackling lunch. What a little sweetheart!

For the Aperitif, we had Hummus & Pita. I had made Hummus a day or two ago so that's chilling in the fridge, but nearly forgot to make my Pita. Phew! My parents-in-law loved both but they marvelled at my delicious Pita the most, asking me for the recipe. Hehehe! For the entrée, mom-in-law brought 3 ramekins of snails bathed in... mmm... delectable... butter, garlic & herbs. Only 3 of us had this delicious dish while Pierre stayed clear off it. He doesn't like snails or oysters - 2 of my favourite & yummy friends. LOL!

Then came the Main Meal, I made Szechuan Prawns & stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with rice . As mom-in-law wanted something exotic & spicy, Pierre suggested this dish as it has been a year or so since I last made it, plus his parents like this dish very much. This time around, I used ready-cooked prawns bought from the supermarket and used chives instead of scallion/spring onions. Chives are less flavourful than spring onion but it's a good alternative. I tried cooking both prawns and brussels sprouts & rice at the same time but ended up in a slight disaster with frying pan slightly over turning with hot oil on counter top. With limited space for wok, pans'n pots on the same stove top, it's not surprising! So I ditched that multitasking plan and finished cooking rice & prawns before tackling the vegetables later on. I sincerely don't know what's so bad about brussels sprout that a lot of people don't like: it's fresh, crunchy and delicious like cabbage. Little One hardly ate her lunch because she had too much of hummus & pita but all the same, she ate the brussels sprouts that I put on her plate (she refused to eat it during dinner however), while Pierre avoided it like the Black Plague.

As for the dessert, birthday girl wanted Tiramisu for her birthday cake. Originally I wanted to make it from scratch but in a simpler version, then I realized the day before that they were coming for lunch on Wednesday instead of Thursday as I thought. So changed of plans and made everything with store bought sponge fingers & mascarpone. I made this tiramisu in 22 cm springform cake pan lined with baking paper on bottom and sides, and it turned out more beautiful than I thought. We could clearly see the pretty built-up layers of the tiramisu. It was scrumptious as expected but poor Pierre complained that it was not sweet enough for him (I think he had too many of DB's tiramisu challenge).

We almost forgot the presents for her. Unfortunately mine didn't arrived on time. Shh... I got her Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. Hope she likes it and is able to use it sans problem (don't forget she's French and reading texts in English isn't easy). So we only have Pierre's gift to present to her... She opened it, looked at it thoroughly, looked back blankly at Pierre 'What is this thing? Are you sure it's for me and not something for your dad?' LOL! The look on her face was priceless! You see, Pierre got his mom a small external hard drive for her to backup her data from her laptop - a very useful gift. When we told her what it is, she said 'You got to be kidding me, right? I don't even know how SMS works, how am I going to use this?' Guess either Pierre or my father-in-law have to give her some crash course on using her gift.

So what has all this got to do with today's recipe? There's no connection really. Just thought since we are talking about this delicious full course lunch, might as well add in a heavenly breakfast that I did a while ago. I found this recipe last year online and decided to try it out. Boy, was I glad to have found it - it's the best waffles I ever had in my life. I tried turning this into pancakes one day but it didn't turned out as well as waffles. Guess it is just a waffle recipe. If they are this good, what took me so long to blog about it you might asked. Well, each time we made this, we kept stuffing our face too fast to remember to take a picture for the blog, that's why. LOL! Pierre made a little sacrifice for this, waiting patiently for me to finish photographing his waffles before chopping it down in seconds. Below recipe is my adapted version. Do try it today ; I promise you won't regret it!

Crispy & Light Waffles
Ingredients
  • 1 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 4 tsps baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or flavour of your choice
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup (113 g) butter, melted
  • 1¾ cups milk or buttermilk
Directions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix well together all dry ingredients.
  2. Separate the yolks and whites. In a separate bowl, whisk whites until stiff; set aside.
  3. Beat the yolks a little bit with a fork before adding to the dry ingredient mixture.
  4. Pour in a bit of milk at the time into the flour mixture and stir to avoid lumps. Add in the rest of the milk & cooled melted butter while continuing to stir the mixture until everything blends and no lumps.
  5. Gently fold in stiff egg whites into mixture.
  6. Ladle mixture into hot waffle iron and bake.
Crispy & light waffles
The Verdict

They are perfect, soft if you cook them a short time, crispy if you wait a little bit longer. Heavenly with Nutella spread...just can't stop eating these waffles. Be warned, they are so good that you might over eat and ruin your appetite for lunch!

Notes

The batter remains good and makes delicious waffles in the even after sitting out on the kitchen counter top the whole day. I have also kept the batter in the fridge overnight and it still stays good.:-) If you are living in a tropical climate, it's best to keep the batter in the fridge rather than leaving the batter in the kitchen the whole day like I did.

Crispy & light wafflesCrispy & light waffles
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Red Velvet Cake (with beetroot juice)

Red Velvet Cake (RVC) is a mysterious cake to me. Why? Because lots of people crave and rave about it, not to mention even bake it and eat it. But not me.... why not? I don't really know but that bright blood red looking slice of layered cake simply doesn't turn me on. Quite the opposite: my immediate thought was that there must be a horendous amount of food colouring in it. So how come I'm making one today? Well, it all started one day while twittering: Davina, who loves RVC, upon hearing that Aparna & I have never made one before, urged us to try it. That got Aparna & I talking about it, how did RVC got it's red colour, it's origin etc. Little did we know that our curiosity would turn into adventure with Alessio & Asha on board (aptly named the " 4 Velveteers"), each of us trying to make au naturel RVC.

So what is Red Velvet Cake? It's apparently supposed to be a rich, moist layered chocolate cake with a dark red, bright red or red-brown colour with either cheese or buttercream frosting - very popular in Southern U.S. The red colour in question comes from either uses of food colouring to get the artificial bright red colour or chemistry reaction between ingredients to get the natural crimson colour - the acidic vinegar and buttermilk brings out the red anthocyanin in the cocoa. From what I understand, with the use of more alkaline « Dutch Processed' » cocoa, the red colour is more prominent. It is said that the natural tinting might have prompted the name 'Red Velvet' or 'Devil's Food' and other similar names for chocolate cakes.

My quest to make an au naturel RVC took me through a sea of recipes on the net - all demanding a lot, I mean really a HUGE, amount of food colouring like 6 tbsp to 4 bottles of food colouring. All the recipes are quite similar from one to another so I decided to ask Davina for her favourite recipe. And this is what I used and adapted from there.

Red Velvet Cake
Ingredients
  • 207 g cake flour (not self-rising flour)
  • 113 g butter (melted)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 4 eggs (separate egg yolks and whites)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 9 tbsp beetroot juice
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 180 ml buttermilk

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  • 180 ml heavy whipping cream or crème fraîche
  • 114 g cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 114 g mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • a few tablespoon beetroot juice
  • 55 g icing/powdered sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven at 175°C (350°F - gas mark 4 ).
  2. Lightly greased 2x 22 cm cake pan, lined the bottom with baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix well the cake flour together with the cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk until it is light and double the volume.
  5. Slowly beat in the cooled melted butter and beetroot juice.
  6. Fold in the flour mixture into the batter until combined.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a dash of salt until the peaks are stiff.
  8. Gently fold it into the batter until all is combined.
  9. Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool on the wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting it.
  11. Once the cake is cooled completely, spread a layer of cream cheese-mascarpone frosting on top of the 1st cake. Gently placed the 2nd cake on top of the 1st cake, spread a layer of frosting on tope and the sides.

Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

  1. Process your cream cheese and mascarpone cheese either in a food processor or handheld mixer until smooth.
  2. Add beetroot juice, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth.
  3. Add in the whipped cream, whisk until stiff peaks form. Your frosting is ready to be used.
Red Velvet Cake
The Verdict

The cake came out surprisingly well. There is indeed a hint of red colour - not the chemical red kind. It's more of a earthly red tone - I kinda like it. Maybe it would be dark red if I had added beetroot puree instead of juice only.

The cake has a kinda spongy like texture which is quite nice, however it is lacking in the taste department. There was only an extremely light hint of chocolate taste in the cake but Pierre would beg to differ on that, finding it really bland. LOL! The frosting is OK but we aren't a big fan of rich creamy frosting like this either.

Do I want to make another attempt to experiment with it to get a better taste and colour? No, I don't believe it is even worth it. When I asked Pierre that question, his immediate reaction was: 'Oh, no. Please get over it and move on.' LOL! That sums up how much we love this cake. So we still don't understand why all the Red Velvet Cake lovers out there are willing to hand out their money for an artificially heightened Red Chocolate Cake. If it is chocolate cake you want, might as well get a real rich chocolately cake sans 4 bottles of food colouring in it, no?

Notes

To make your own cake flour: for every cup of plain flour, replace 2 tbsp of it with cornflour or cornstarch. Sieve it together at least 5 times or more to make sure it is well incorporated together.

To make beetroot juice: Cut your beetroot (cooked) into small pieces, process it in food process until it is a puree. Put the beetroot puree in a muslin cloth, twist it and press out the juice.

Red Velvet Cake

Now that you have seen mine RVC, let's check out the other 3 Red Velveteers: Aparna (her eggless RVC using beetroot puree), Alessio (using his genius brain to create his raspberry RVC) and Asha (tried her hands at chemistry) and see how their experiment turned out.

Psss... this is just the beginning of the adventures of us 4 Velveteers. Remember to keep a look out... you'll never know what we are up to next!;-)

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Graham Crackers

Canada, here we come! The 2010 Winter Olympics is coming soon to Vancouver. And in honour of this great event, Lauren of Celiac Teen, host of January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge chosed Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks.

Nanaimo Bars, pronounced Nah-nye-Moh, are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country.

I'll be splitting the challenge into 2 parts:

  1. Make graham crackers from scratch, gluten-free if possible
  2. Nanaimo Bars

When I saw that we were going to make them from scratch, I was so excited. Why? Because I have never tasted one. The only graham crackers I know is what was mentioned in the cookbook. The challenge here is to do a gluten free crackers but I don't have glutious rice flour nor sorghum flour, so I made it with plain flour. The other slight modification I did was to reduce the quantity of sugar in the recipe after hearing from fellows DB that it was too sweet. The other minor problem that some DB participants faced was the very sticky dough and how tricky it was to roll it out. So when I did mine, I was expecting a sticky disaster, however much to my surprise, it turned out to be a breeze to make. Although my dough was slightly sticky like everyone else, I didn't need a lot of flour to roll out the dough. Oh, lucky me! Now without further delay, here's the recipe with reduced sugar quantity:

Graham Crackers
Ingredients
  • 303 g (2¼ cup ) plain flour or gluten free flour
  • 100 g (½ cup) dark Brown Sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 100 g (7 tbsp) Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) Honey
  • 5 tablespoons (75 ml) cold Milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla Extract
graham crackers
Directions
  • Put the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the food processor and pulse on low to incorporate.
  • Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is fine and crumbly.
  • Stir honey, vanilla and milk together in a small bowl or glass.
  • Add it to the flour mixture, process until the dough comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
  • Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.
  • Sprinkle an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary.
  • Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
  • Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius°C (350°F - gas mark ).
  • Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
  • Prick the crackers with a fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
  • Bake for about 11 - 12 minutes or until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
graham crackers
The Verdict

The crackers are very crunchy, very aromatic and not overly sweet, yet a bit tough to chew. I love the fragrance and taste of honey mixed with dark brown sugar. They are so good that Pierre and Victoire finished half of the biscuits during tea time and asked me to make extra for our cookie jar. They are simply addictive. One can just chomp chomp them down without thoughts.

Notes

If you cannot find gluten free flour, mix 1 cup (138 g) sweet rice or glutinous flour, ¾ cup (100 g) Tapioca Starch/Flour & ½ cup (65 g) Sorghum Flour or brown rice flour or millet flour.

If you use solid type of honey like I do, process it with the flour mixture making sure it is well mixed before adding in the butter cubes. Original recipe uses frozen butter but I didn't in mine and it still turned out good. Perhaps if you are living in a tropical climate where butter melt faster, it's a good idea to use frozen butter for this.

Alternatively you can roll the dough out in between two baking papers if you find it too stick to roll out. You can cut it out in any cookie shapes you like. To fork it or not is also up to you. If you like, you can also add other aroma like cinnamon, nutmeg, or four spice or whatever you like. The graham crackers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

graham crackers
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Lemon & Orange Cheesecake

Last weekend, I belatedly asked Pierre what he wanted to have for his birthday on Monday (yes, I lower my head down in shame). Bear in mind, it was on Saturday that I asked him that question and the whole of Europe was still suffering and buried under the big bad FROST. Before he could reply, I thought I should first warn him that the fridge was empty. Strangely that didn't seemed to faze him at all. Deep in his food world, he said 'For dinner, I would like either a tarte flambée or moghlai murgh. And for my birthday cake, take your pick of either that delicious caramelized walnut apple pie of yours or a cheesecake.' Obviously all of these implied some grocery shopping, and I know how much he loves shopping during the weekend...NOT! No problem - we just rushed on Monday afternoon instead at the store's opening... which means I was left with little time to cook.

So mad rush all monday afternoon, starting at 4 pm to make Birthday Boy his favourite cheesecake - in between answering the needs of Little One who got home from school and not forgetting taking photos of process. I so totally stressed myself out over it. Why? I don't know. Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me wanting everything to be perfect for Pierre. Plus the fact that I'm testing out a new recipe on his BIG DAY doesn't help at all. OK perhaps a little background on this cheesecake fiasco might help you to understand why I was freaking out.

In France, it is hard to find a perfect cheesecake (which isn't a local pastry). Most of them, the texture is rather mousse-like which we don't like at all. We are forever hunting for that New York Cheesecake texture. After a while, we gave up and decided to bake one ourselves. I mean how hard can it be, right? LOL! If only we knew before hand. Well, the big problem is that there's no such thing as cream cheese or cottage cheese here. So weeks after weeks, we tried one recipe after another, fiddling with the ingredients to get the RIGHT ONE, trying different sort of fresh cheese mixed together, but it seemed to elude us forever. As luck would have it, the last experimental recipe gave us a glimpse of hope but the texture was too firm. So we psych ourselves to give it one last try - now this is the joke of the century! We both thought one of us noted down the changes we made to the last recipe - none of us did! Arrggghh! Since then, we never found the courage to start all over again. And that was 4 years ago.

Anyway, I managed to get the cheesecake in the oven by 5.30 pm, using an experimental cheese mix. Then I went on to prepare dinner, moghlai murgh which was almost ready when Little One declared she wanted to go to bed (she caught a bad case of flu). So by the time we had her fed, put her in bed early, it was already quite late. We ended up having a late dinner, just the two of us... unfortunately the cheesecake wasn't chilled yet - to our great disappointment especially the Birthday Boy! Poor Pierre only got to eat his birthday cake the next morning. Although he loves the cheesecake, I realized that orange flavour isn't his cup of tea. *sigh* Guess I'll just have to make it up to him by making his favourite waffles for breakfast.

Roselyn of Travels with a Gourmet was kind and generous to share her delicious Lemon & Orange Cheesecake with me to realized Pierre's dream cheesecake. The below recipe is an adapted one to deal with the lack of cream cheese or cottage cheese.

I'm sending Pierre's cheesecake (his sweet comforts) to this month's Sugar High Friday #61 - Sweet Comforts, hosted by Kate of A Merrier World. SHF is a monthly dessert event created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess.

Lemon & Orange Cheesecake
Ingredients

Pie Crust

  • 200 grams of milk biscuits
  • 40 grams granulated white sugar
  • 113 grams salted butter (melted)

Cheesecake

  • 200 grams fromage blanc en faiselle
  • 500 grams mascarpone cheese
  • 150 ml thick crème fraîche / double cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (approximately)
Lemon & Orange Cheesecake
Directions

Making Pie Crust

  1. Grease and line the bottom of 19 cm diameter springform cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Break up the biscuits into pieces, process it together with sugar in the food processor until it's crumbly. Add melted butter and pulse it a few times until all is well mixed.
  3. Press a few tablespoonful of the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the springform pan. Turn pan on the side and press some crumbs all the way up on sides of the springform pan. Let it chill in freezer while you prepare the filling.

Making the Cheesecake

  1. Preheat oven to 140°C (275°F - gas mark 1).
  2. Mix the mascarpone cheese and fromage blanc together until it is smooth
  3. Stir in the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and the zest of the orange & lemon. Whisk until it is combined.
  4. Mix in the crème frâiche or double cream and the lemon.
  5. Lastly stir the cornflour into the mixture until it is well incorporated.
  6. Take the frozen base and wrap (twice) the tin in aluminum foil on the bottom and sides. Make sure it is well wrapped so that water doesn't seep in.
  7. Pour in the cheese mixture and shake the tin gently to settle the cheese in.
  8. Fill a large roasting pan with hot water. The hot water should reach halfway up the cake tin.
  9. Gently lower the cake tin into the roasting pan. Then carefully place the roasting pan into the oven.
  10. Bake for about 1 hour 20 minutes or until the top feels firm and doesn't stick to your finger when touched.
  11. Then turn off the oven and leave the cake in the oven to cool.
  12. Once cool, carefully remove the ring of the springform from cake. Slowly and carefully slide the cake from the springform tin onto a big dessert plate. Leave the cheesecake in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight (best).
  13. When ready to serve, heat a knife or spatula in hot water before slicing the cake.
Lemon & Orange CheesecakeLemon & Orange Cheesecake
The Verdict

Yes! This is IT! We strike gold - creamy, soft yet thick at the same time (not mousse-like nor too firm in texture) and not overly sweet. It's very fragrant with a mix of lemon and orange flavor. The sweet-salty (salted butter) crust brings this cheesecake to another dimension in taste. It's ooh-so-heavenly! Like I heard someone once said 'a very good cheesecake is better than sex'. Oops...did I just said that! No I mean 2nd closes, no I mean ... nothing ...oh well, you know what I mean, do you?

Pierre who is a cheesecake fanatic (and hard to please) gives this cake 2 thumbs up. Little One wanted this again for her tea-time and as dinner, even my parents-in-law who aren't cheesecake fans are converted.

Lemon & Orange Cheesecake
Notes

The above stated baking time is just an estimate as I had some hiccups while baking it. If the middle of the cheesecake is very wobbly when shake slightly, bake it for another 15 minutes or so until the centre feels firm to touch.

Lemon & Orange CheesecakeLemon & Orange Cheesecake
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