A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
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.
Sour Cream Cake
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 Chocolate Ganache
Assembling the Cake
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.
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.
For our June challenge, the 4 Velveteers (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I) picked Mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable (we settled on that because all 4 of us reside in different parts of the world so seasonal fruits/vegetables differs from continent to continent). For me, mint doesn't pose a lot of problem now as I have learnt to use it in some dishes ever since I live in France. Now if I was still living in Singapore, that would be a different story for mint is not very much used (or none at all) in Chinese cooking or dessert. At the start of this month challenge, I had in mind different ideas about what to do with mint and fruits or vegetable but in the end, somehow I got swayed to making Ichigo daifuku, a Japanese dessert. Ichigo what? I hear you. Don't worry, full explanation below. Don't ask me how that came about for I still have no idea. It just popped up in my head one day and refused to go away until I made this dessert. Ok, now let me introduce this infamous Japanese dessert, mochi.
Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. Traditionally, it is made and eaten during Japanese New Year but these days it can be eaten all year-round. This dessert is very popular in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand etc. There are many different types of mochi sold, for example:
This is a surprising dessert for most westerners as the mochi is soft and chewy, a far cry from cakes found around Europe and North America. The combination of strawberry and Nutella is actually pretty nice with a minty green tea taste. I also made some with just Nutella filling. Little One loves both version. This mochi is so soft and melt in your mouth that it's quite addictive - I kept eating them while making my Ichigo daifuku.
The original recipe said to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes at 800 watts but mine was cooked by 2 minutes. It could be that my microwave oven is higher than 800 watts (I thought). So I would suggest to try it at 1 minute 30 seconds first and proceed another 30 seconds until it is cooked.
I don't know if it is true or not but it is said that the green tea for baking is more fragrant and green in colour than the drinking matcha type. I didn't have any of the baking type in my pantry and I just used the normal matcha I have on hand. And I didn't use spoon, just pinch a bit off and roll it into a ball. It's a bit sticky so make sure your coat your fingers/hands with some cornflour.
As for the filling, you can put any filling you wish - it can be ice cream, ground peanuts, jams, fruits, palm sugar, sweet shredded coconut etc. If you want just plain mochi flavour, just omit mint and matcha (green tea).
The 4 Velveteers
The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) host 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:
* Aparna created Apple Tomato & Grilled Paneer Salad
* Asha created Potato Frittata with Garlic Scape and Mint
* Alessio created Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce
Last Sunday, all mothers and mothers-to-be celebrated Mother's Day in France. This year, Little One's class, together with their teacher, made a lovely heart-shaped card with a poem and a hanging mirror with crystals all around it. What a lovely surprise gifts! Little One had been so excited about it and couldn't wait for Mother's Day to give it to me. The poem says 'There are millions of bees in hives, there are millions of birds in trees but there's only only 1 mommy.' Although it's not written by her, still I can't help being all weepy about it. Yes, us women and our hormones...
To celebrate this special day, we decided to make a lovely strawberry tart with crème patissière as strawberries season has just began. They are still kind of expensive but heck, why not indulge ourselves?
This is a very simple yet tantalisingly delicious tart to put together. Definitely an all time family favourite.
Pâte Sablée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)
Making Crème Patissière
Assembling Strawberry Tart
This is one of Pierre's favorite dessert: it is sweet and provided you put it in the fridge before serving, very refreshing as the water and crème stay cool. All those components (crust, crème patissière and of course strawberries) actually can be eaten on their own, but together they also form an amazing combination!
If you have a food processor, to save time, process the dough ingredient with it. And if you can't bake your dough on the same day, wrap the raw dough pasty in a cling film and put it in the refrigerator - it can stay there for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months. When required, simply defrost it slowly in the refrigerator.
Strawberries are very perishable, so only purchase them a few days prior to use. Choose those that are firm and have shiny deep red colour with attached green caps. When buying prepackaged strawberries, make sure they are not packed tightly and the container looks clean (no sign of stain or moisture). Before storing it in the refrigerator, check for any strawberries that are mouldy or damaged. Remove them from the the good ones or they will not contaminate others. Store them unwash in its container in the fridge.
Summer is finally here - hot blazing sun that can burn your skin if you aren't careful and gives you a headache if you stay outside too long without your hat. Up at the mountain lodge, we get to enjoy the nice sunny weather with nice cool breeze. The bright morning sun warms up the house pretty fast... lucky for us, the old thick walls of the house keep us cool.
Summer season also means bountiful harvest of fresh fruits like cherries, raspberries, prunes, figs, strawberries etc. Knowing that Little One loves strawberries, the ever dotting grandparents bought several packets of local strawberries - very fragrant, juicy and sweet for her. Little did they know that I baked a huge coffee cake for everyone while I didn't realized that they had baked several Cherry Clafouti (my parents-in-law bought 10 kg of black cherries from a local farmer). In the end there were lots of left-overs that nobody could finish. The poor strawberries were starting to look very tired and we needed to salvage them. We toyed with several ideas and in the end the hot day won its way - a sorbet they shall become. We initially thought of making just plain old strawberry sorbet but the basket of black cherries on the table kept teasing us - so we twisted the idea and decided to try a Strawberry-Black Cherry Sorbet. Should be a delicious combination!
What a refreshing dessert to have right after lunch. I love the combination flavour and taste of strawberries and black cherries. However I find that this sorbet is a bit too sweet for my liking but the rest of the family seems to like it just fine. I think the sweetness comes from the fact that the black cherries are well riped and are a lot sweeter than the normal red cherries. Something to think about in my next attempt.
Note that your sorbet might taste sweeter when frozen, so adjust the acidity and sweetness of your sorbet to your taste.