Monday, September 29, 2014

Sometimes YOLO is code for Granola

Ok that's probably quite a stretch... 
But what I'm saying is, we're hard-wired to seek comfort.

We do the whole YOLO / bucket list thing, searching for new thrills, loving new adventures. 

But when it comes down to happiness, it's often the dead-easy parts of life that do the trick.


Like a cup of good coffee.
A hot bowl of chicken soup.
Fried chicken that crunches.
Juicy steak.
And of course, brunch.

(I am all about food, I realize!)


All the in-built yearnings.
Nothing fancy.
Just a whole lot of comforting good.

The whole idea of brunch is a soothing indulgence.

A precious weekend treat of taking things slow. Not having to scramble, eyes half-closed, jostling with scores of fellow un-deads.

Brunch is wickedly set in the middle of breakfast and lunch, just to say - I get to eat at a weird time, and no one's gonna stop me.

I love a good hearty full brunch of eggs, bacon, toast, beans and sometimes - even fries.
Fries go with every meal. Truth.

But some brunches are stay-in days. When you're too lazy to get into decent clothes, or when it's raining outside.

Life's answer to stay-in brunch comfort: GRANOLA.


I'm a shameless granola hussy, for 3 simple reasons:

1) Crunch = good
It's a party in your mouth. There's crunch, there's flavor - I'm sold. I was born with a tooth for the crunchy (fried food, chips, nuts - you name it), and granola has awesome crispy texture with such amazing flavors folded into their tiny nuggets of crunch. This may be a sign - I need to start Granola Anonymous.


2) Sweet, salty, sour
Have I mentioned how versatile granola is? There's not a single flavor dimension that cannot work with these grains. I made some super fabulous sweet granola below - Deep Chocolate Crunch and Chai Spice Honey - look out for posts on some savory ones soon!



3) Trickery
And because I snack so much, granola is a fab way of tricking my brain into believing I'm eating my fave crunchy snack, but with the bonus of amazing nutrients and none of the evil trans-oils and salts.

I feel healthier already, just thinking about it!

Totally planning to granolarize the kitchen again, can't wait.


CHAI SPICE HONEY GRANOLA


A wonderfully fragrant mix from the Inquiring Chef, this is a granola that is subtle and strong at the same time. The spices impart a beautiful tang to the grains, and you could eat this on and on... and on without getting tired of it.



































Vary the spice mix as you like, I went with about 3/4 the quantities and found it to be quite the perfect balance.






































The granola itself is pretty much up to the grains and nuts you like. Almonds are great for adding a sharp crunch, either whole or slivered. The coconut oil is interchangeable with vegetable oil or any other light oils, and I made mine with rolled oats (instead of a mix with quick-cook oats), and it turned out just as delicious.

More desserts like this:
> Summer cakes & shakes
> Sesame match cupcakes, Zingy ginger crunch


DEEP CHOCOLATE CRUNCHY GRANOLA



I call this an indulgent granola because it's not something you can eat everyday, even if you declare every day Brunch Day. It's got a deep earthy chocolate crunch that is such a treat, but keep reminding yourself - step away from the bowl




















And I'm saying this as a friendly baker-warning, and a recovering sore throat victim - you SHOULD NOT be finishing this all in one sitting. It's a dangerously addictive granola that needs to be paced out.

Take my word for it.


































Here's the recipe from Peaceful Cooking, I've adapted parts of it to make a blend I like:

Halved the amount of brown sugar, reduced the honey slightly, omitted raisins (I find the blend sweet enough as is). The chocolate chips melt when I stir them in, giving the grains a nice chocolately coat that I love. If you like them whole, stir them in after baking instead. Both instant and regular oats work for this recipe, you just need to vary the baking time a little to the crunchiness you like.

More chocolate desserts:
> Death by chocolate cake
> Guinness chocolate cake
> Chocolately love
> 10 years young

Monday, September 15, 2014

Give in and indulge, give me chocolate!

After a heady few weeks of continuous cholesteral-busting mooncakes celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival's full moon, a detox is in order.

> More summer treats    
- A summer carousel
Awesome ways to use beer
- Desserts for a hot day
- Color me happy, it's 2014!
- Ombre swirl cookies
- Sweet, sweet strawberries
- Summer day out on the golf course

But because I'm greedy and itching for some good chocolate, I decide to ditch good sense and take the path of indulgence instead.


'Indulgence' (noun): Liberal or tolerant treatment

Yep, that about sums it up.

So gingerly (guiltily... same thing) edging my gym shoes under the shoe cabinet, I reach for my valrhona chocolate and stealthily cart my Kitchenaid onto the kitchen table.

Let the indulgence begin!
> Another indulgent treat: Rich red velvet cake


This is truly a freeform cake. 

Embellish as much or as little as you like, go all out or cut back like a good girl.

All up to you.
All depending on how indulgent you want to be.


Start off by building the layers. 

Bake up some good chocolate cake (Martha Stewart's amazing recipe here), and while it's cooling off, get the frosting going.

> More chocolate goodness

I've been on the hunt for a good buttercream recipe for a while, and I think I may have finally found THE ONE from the amazing I Am Baker.


My issue with most buttercream recipes is the cloying sweetness it usually involves. 
I treasure my teeth - that's all I'm sayin.

But this recipe has the right balance of stiffness (for piping), and tastes absolutely heavenly. 
I mean, serious pillowy silken-ess.

The very first buttercream recipe that I actually enjoy eating by the spoonfuls, on its own. 

I'm in love.

Spend some time whipping up the egg whites (5-6 min) till they reach a fluffy almost-whipped-cream firmness. That's key.

I also prefer using the double broiler method for melting the chocolate, gives a more uniform heating and no lumps in your mixture. The microwave method works better when you're working with very small amounts, like in cake pops.

After that, freeform as you like assembling the cake.

I'm on an indulgence spree, so I nestle chocolate chips between chocolate frosting layers.


Time to ramp things up.

Enter stage left: Chocolate ganache. 

Any and everything tastes good with ganache. It's a synch to make, and you need just  3 basic ingredients which you'll probably have in the kitchen anyways. 

Let it cool to the right pouring consistency (just a couple of minutes after taking it off the stove), and work fairly quickly drizzling it down the sides of the cake before it starts solidifying. 

I find the best way to do this is to start pouring onto the middle of the cake and slowly edge your way out. 

Use a spatula to guide the ganache down the sides, tilt the cake as needed to encourage 'lava flow'. Just make sure you hold on tight to the cake, I've had a couple of butterfinger slip ups and the cake came crashing down arghhh.

Heart-breaking.


And because we're on a rampage, we need more chocolate.

Enter stage right: Gold chocolate rocks that go round the cake border, chocolate buttercream from earlier that gets piped onto the top.

Each buttercream rosette is crowned with a chocolate malt ball, and I could have stopped right there and we'd have a perfectly scrumptious cake.

But we're in the mood for indulgence, right?

No room for unadorned cake real estate. 

More rosettes go on, more malt balls. 

Think our job here is done. 

I present 'Death by Chocolate': Chocolate cake with velvety chocolate buttercream and chocolate chips, covered with chocolate buttercream, sprinkled with gold chocolate rocks, drenched with dark chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate rosettes and malt balls.

Who says you ever need to stop?

*dust hands*



Friday, August 15, 2014

The colorful Robin Williams


Photo from Parade

It's not like we were friends, it's not like we met regularly for coffee. 
He didn't even know I existed. 

But I certainly knew Robin Williams; through his films. 

Death is never easy. 

And when it's a person who's familiar - even if it's remotely, through a movie screen - the sadness feels a little more personal.

Robin Williams struggled with many inner demons, but he single-handedly brought SO much joy and laughter to so many people who encountered him, on and off-screen.

I just caught Patch Adams again on the movie channel last night, and it definitely did justice bringing the real life Williams to reel life. 

In celebration of this wonderful man's colorful personality, today's post is about a rainbow balloon cake. 


Particularly since the tear-jerker Pixar animation UP, balloons have come to represent hope and positivity.
















The skyful of balloons air-lifting Carl's house in search of Paradise Falls... forever etched in our minds as we futilely fought back tears for his missing Ellie...



There's a certain freedom in balloons as they flit and float over everyone and everything, going where no one else goes. 

Their haphazard abandonment carries such carefreeness, just what we're wishing for the iconic comedienne especially now. 

These little fondant figures with their gold shimmer, hold the key to a blue open sky filled with innumerate round bubbles of dreams, as colorful as Williams himself.


Surrounded with fluffy white clouds of royal icing and white fondant cut-outs, the future is always open - for you, for me, for cakes and desserts, for dear Mr Robin Williams. 


More summer colors: