A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
The other not-so-secret ingredient needed for making Tiramisu (Daring Bakers' February Challenge by Deeba of Passionate About Baking & Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen) is home made Sponge Fingers, alternatively known as Ladyfingers or Savoiardi biscuits. It's a very simple and straight forward recipe to do. Nothing to be afraid of except maybe if you are afraid you can't get your whites to stiff peaks. A little dash of salt in your whites before you whip will do the trick. One of the little problems I encountered was controlling the batter coming out of my ziploc piping bag. I'm not very skilled at piping my batter yet. LOL! The other is that my sponge fingers were baked earlier than the time indicated. So do watch your savoiardi biscuits in the oven. Other than that, making these biscuits is a breeze.
The other thing I want to draw your attention to is CAKE FLOUR is not self-rising flour. Do not confuse these two. Self rising flour (known as farine à gateaux in France) has baking powder in it whereas Cake Flour has none - contains only plain flour & some corn starch/corn flour.
(taken from Cordon Bleu At Home)
Makes: approx 24 big ladyfingers
My sponge fingers turned out beautifully. It's very soft and spongy on the inside but not crunchy on the outside like it should be. Maybe it's because I didn't sprinkle all the icing sugar on top as indicated. (I only used ¼ of the quantity stated) The ladyfingers taste kinda flat/bland but tasty all the same. It's very eggy - reminds me of Chinese New Year cookies Kueh Bolu. I like to dip mine with tea. I'll definitely add vanilla extract or other flavours when I made these fingers again.
My ladyfingers are baked way before the indicated time in the recipe. Perhaps I made them smaller or maybe my oven is hotter. Anyway do keep a watch out on your spong fingers, if it's lightly brown on top and springy to touch before the time is up, you should take it out.
The Nanaimo bar is a Canadian dessert made up of a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. This no bake dessert is named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia and is popular across North America.
For Top Layer
They are sinfully rich in taste and flavour. We like it but aren't so hot about it, as it is simply too rich and creamy for our taste. Pierre ate 2 slices and he doesn't want to touch it again. Poppet loves the rich creamy taste of it and would gladly eat more if I let her. As for me, I tried to eat more of it as I didn't want to see it go to waste but it is just too rich for my digestion. I'm glad that I have the hindesight to make only half of the above quantity stated. The rest of the bars are in the freezer.
As it is extremely rich, it is probably best to make these bars in very small bite size.
These bars freeze very well, so don't be afraid to pop some into the freezer.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Thoughts are funny - it comes and goes just as it pleases... one minute I was all inspired with so many things to say and to write for my blog... then about 10 minutes later, poof! It's gone, just like that. Euh? Hello? Inspiration please come back! I'm not done with you yet. You hear me? Obviously not! Boo!
I wonder how professional writers work when they are not inspired to write their books or storyline? As much as I command my brain to feel inspired, it's like coaxing a dead battery to come back to life. At least a battery can be brought back from the deads with some juice. Well, I certainly can't shock myself with that kind of juice, I would certainly get a flat liner and worst, get badly burnt. No no no, that cannot work. So what can I do to get myself inspired... I'm still searching - haven't yet been able to pin-point exactly what inspires me. Sometime it's really something simple like watching children playing and laughing, or watching snow flakes falling from the sky - simple kind of pleasure. Other times nothing helps at all.
Like this morning, I was just playing a brain-dead (as Pierre calls it because it's not only addictive but it drains your brain juice) online game like Bejeweled, out of the blue all the emotions, thoughts, recent conversations hit me just like that making me smiles and laugh at my childhood memories & fantasies that I have somewhat forgotten; reminding me what it was like to be a child the same age as my daughter. And those thoughts reminded me of my recent conversations with my Little One that cracks me up with tears and laughter. So how does one gets to note all these thoughts down before they disappear in the thin air? If you do have a solution to that, please share your secret with me.
For the time being, I'll just content myself of dreaming up a thought writing cap that can automatically records downs my stories whenever they cross my mind. With a USB plug to download directly onto my PC, please!
Like my forgotten thoughts, I made these delicious oatmeal cookies a few weeks before Christmas and had forgotten to blog about it. So here it is. Enjoy!
Makes : approx 57 cookies (small/medium)
They are so good - fragrant, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Just the right sweetness. Pierre, who doesn't like oats at all, seems to be devouring it with great gusto like a cookie monster. LOL! Little One is also helping herself to another and yet another of these cookies.
The great thing about an oatmeal recipe is that we make different combination of nuts, dry fruits, chocolates or spices to our liking.
It is important to know your oven well when baking. My oven heats up fast after a while, so I only need to bake my cookies for 11 minutes and it is done. If your oven is not very hot, bake it longer or at a slightly higher temperature.
For creaming the wet ingredients, alternatively you can cream the butter alone until fluffy first, then whip in eggs and vanilla.
If you are adding a lot of raisins, please reduce slightly amount of sugar from the above recipe or else your cookies will be very sweet.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! May all of you be basked with joy, happiness, prosperity, health & laughter all year long.
Woohoo! 2009 ends today. Good riddance, indeed! It has been a long and hard year for not just me, but for everyone around the world. I'm so looking forward to 2010 - it sure looks promising with economy bouncing back more or less globally. Let's usher the new year with a big bang of our own - be it singing, cheering, horning, setting off fire crackers or fireworks or even popping champagne with our family and friends.
Like every year, we celebrate New Year's Eve together with my parents-in-law at their house. Mom-in-law has already prepared half of the dinner (Boudin Blanc and Potato Pie) and dessert (Cherries Clafoutis) for tonight. Mind you, sometimes I think my mom-in-law is Wonder Woman in disguise. LOL! Now she is off for a walk in the woods with Little One who is bouncing all over the house full of energy.
What is a festive celebration without chocolates and cookies (besides good wine and champagne) ? And cookies, we definitely have made. Together with my sister-in-law, we made Amaretti - an Italian macaroon over Christmas. It's incredibly simple to make... you don't even need any baking skills. So if you are a beginner and wants to impress your loved ones during this festive season, try this. It's quite fool proof!
Crunchy outside, soft inside with a strong flavor of almonds: just yummy! You can definitely put these in the "this time it's the last one" sort of treats - can't stop eating them!
The cookies tend to be soft when first taken out of the oven but will harden once it is in contact with air. Do know your oven well and adjust the baking temperature and timing accordingly. If your cooled cookies are not done in the middle due to oven not hot enough, you can always put the cookies back into the oven for a few more minutes.
I noticed that there are many version (with some slight variations of flavouring) out there for making amaretti but I like this recipe the best - it's simple and it tastes excellent.
Last Christmas Little One was a little too young to understand all the fuss about Christmas. Now that she is a little older, she is more curious about it - she even helped me set up and decorate our Christmas tree. My sister-in-law not only taught her to sing 'Petit Papa Nöel' a week before xmas (she has been singing this song non stop since then ), she also talked to her about Papa Nöel (Santa Claus) and how she has to be a good little girl or else Papa Nöel won't bring lots of gifts for her. Mémé (grandmother), bless her sweet heart, bought a Santa suit and got someone to give Little One a surprise visit on the eve of xmas. Little One took a look at Santa and ran hide behind mémé's legs and refused to look at Santa no matter how much coaxing from him or mémé. It was only when he took out a present from his bulging santa sack that Little One started to warm up to him and even gave him a kiss on his cheeks for the present. After Santa left, she couldn't stop talking about Santa.
No festive holiday is complete without cookies, especially when Santa is expecting some, so here's the cookies that I did bake for this occasion.
It turned out pretty good - very aromatic and crunchy but a wee bit too sweet to our taste. - I love the combination of the coconut and pandan flavour with those bits of dark chocolates and nuts.
For those who like their cookies just nice and not too sweet, please reduce the sugar quantity from the recipe.
What a summer we had this year!
Lucky for us, it wasn't too hot in Clermont-Ferrand but down South of France like Oraison or Montpellier where we spent 2 weeks, we felt like we were being baked. We could only go out in the morning from 8 am to 10.30 am. After that, the temperature started going up to 31°C or 33°C. By noon, all of us were already withering from the heat. We were so glad to head back to the house for a siesta before going out again at 4.30 pm. Even at 4.30 pm, the heat was quite unbearable. We went for lots of walks around the town, nearby villages, to the lakes and the seaside. By the way, the drive from Clermont-Ferrand to Montpellier is extremely scenic (I wish I had my video cam) and best of all, the highway is 'FREE' (very rare in France).
Since Monday, we are busy preparing everything for our kitchen to be redone, before we leave for Singapore tomorrow. Yep, we are leaving tomorrow and our luggages aren't even packed yet. Up till this morning, we were still out shopping for our kitchen table top. Talk about stress. Do we really need to do this to ourselves before we leave tomorrow? No, but what choice do we have - the guy who is going to redo our kitchen suddenly called us up 2 weeks ago saying that he can do our kitchen in mid September. We were overjoyed of course given the fact that in France, everything moves so slow especially in the renovation business - the craftsman are hard to get. If we missed this chance, we might have to wait for another 6 months before he could fix our kitchen. Everything is done in such a mad rush. I also learned from my significant other that we had to assemble the kitchen cabinet for the guy to put it in place etc, and that we also have to dismantle our present cabinet ourselves. There I was thinking that the quote the guy gave us included everything like it does in Singapore. Well, guess that's another culture shock for me. Pierre said 'Sure, everything can be done, one just need to pay for it and the price is an exorbitant one ! In France, manual labour is very expensive, that is why everyone tries to renovate their house themselves or with the help of connections and relatives.
I have to thank my parents-in-law for helping us and guiding us in buying all the necessary stuff and my sister-in-law for house sitting for us. THANK YOU!
Before departing for Singapore, I would like to leave you a great cookie recipe that is simple and easy to make. It doesn't take very long to whip it up and bake as well.
Surprisingly delicious and aromatic - it has a full nutty flavour, buttery taste, with delicious bites of mixed chocolates and not forgetting the presence of vanilla flavour as well - wow! Pierre and Little One couldn't stop eating them. In fact, they are fighting over who gets the biggest first. My friends said it is as good as Famous Amos cookies and that I should bake more and sell them from home.
Before this, I never quite succeeded in making chocolate chip cookies but this time around, they came out beautifully and delicious. I'm so happy.
The baking time depends on how hot is your oven. For mine, I discovered that my oven browns them pretty fast and I only baked them for 12 to 13 minutes. The more batches I made, the hotter my oven turns so either I lower my oven temperature or shorten the baking time.
As for the combination, leave it all dark or white chocolates if you like. Try different nuts or add raisins.
The weather has been acting weird for the past few days. We had weeks of very sunny spring weather and flowers were blooming everywhere, including the fruit trees in our backyard (we don't know what kind of fruit trees we have in our garden so that will be a surprise. ) Then suddenly end of last week, it started to rain for 2 days... and turned into snow.... gasp! Within half an hour, our garden was all covered with snow. The scenery was actually very pretty. Little One (LO) saw snow for her first time, and when the snow flakes hit her face and little hands, her expression was truly priceless ... It was like 'hey...what was that?' with a serious frown on her little face. We went on the balcony and let her play with snow. Since she never had snow fight before, I decided to gather a little snow ball and threw it at her ... hahaha ... she was like 'Mommy, why did you do that?' Sister-in-law joined in the fun and soon LO got the idea, however instead of her throwing her tiny snow ball at us, she threw it off the balcony. hahaha Apparently she enjoyed watching it falling down and making a splatter on the floor. Too soon, it stopped snowing and the sun came shinning and melt all the snow.
To chase away this cold weary weather, baking is the way to go : filling up the house with cookie aroma - mmm... yummy ... this recipe is (heavily) inspired by my previous Choc-Hazelnut Scrolls.
My sister-in-law took the first bite and exclaimed 'This is really good. Can I have the recipe please. Super yummy.' I was really taken by surprise and went : 'Really?' :O ... Pierre took one and didn't say anything ... he just chomped down another one, yet another. Little One was happily devouring hers. So I sank my teeth for my first bite... it is really good. Crunchy but not overly crunchy - a bit like shortbread. The coconut aroma just swamped my senses. I have to say the nutella or any chocolate spread goes very well with coconut.
Phew! Finally we have an Internet connection in our house! They sure took their time. We could have had it a week earlier if not for the telecom company which made a (stupid) mistake in transferring the line.
Our move was a nightmare to begin with. On the eve of finalizing the sale of the house, we were busy loading up all our stuff onto the rental truck when we got a call from the notary that the seller couldn't make it the next day to finalize the papers. Mind you, we had our fridge, washing machine, sofas, bed etc. and were nearly done when we got that call. It's not like we are moving to the next street - we are talking about a painful 8 hour drive across the country. Since we had to return the truck the next day 500 km away, we decided to go ahead as planned and try to find a solution with the sellers.
Sadly, we were too optimistic and they were too unreasonable, and it took a lot of phone calls between the two notary and the real-estate agent to convince them to let us unload our stuff in the empty house and stay there till the sale got finalised 2 days later. Despite signing all required documents, they became highly bitter about the whole episode (even though they were the one who created this situation) and made the official transaction a painful ordeal of complains that lasted 2 hours.
I'm so glad everything is over and we got our house. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us but the major stuff have to wait till Christmas is over!
This is the first thing I baked when we installed our brand new oven. My oh my, this oven is fantastic. It warms up faster than my old one that I had a hard time leaving behind in our old apartment. I found this interesting cookie recipe from Beach Lover's Kitchen and modified it a wee bit to my liking.
The banana flavor is somewhat surprising to find in a cookie form, and the texture is soft inside but solid on the outside. Overall a delicious treat I must say
A very over-riped banana is needed to bring out the banana flavour of this cookie. My recipe isn't very sweet so it will appeal to people who aren't too much into cakes and desserts, but there's nothing stopping you from adding more sugar if you want so.
Thanks for all your well wishes. We are all back to our robust health, with a little bit less weight to boot (whoohoo !).
This past week, we have been doing nothing else but packing, packing and more packing. We have sold off our home in Nantes to begin a new chapter of our life in another city. Little One has been very busy helping me packing the books, DVDs, clothes etc. She even helps to hold the box together for me to tape it. What a great little helper!
Our Internet connection will be cut off this weekend and I won't be able post a new recipe until a week or two after. In the meantime, I leave you this delicious cookie recipe.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Baking: 15 minutes
Peanut Butter Filling
For all chocoholics and peanut butter addicts, this is THE cookie for you. It's a rich and sinful treat, a strong chocolate flavor that feels almost like bitting a chocolate bar, with a soft peanut core. Yummy!
Be careful not to overcook them, or else they'll be too hard (although still delicious). 14 min was a bit too much for me, so you might want to keep a watchful eye on your creation.