Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's raining, we need Honey Walnut Cake. Pronto.

It's been raining. And raining. A whole lot.

The first black rain of the year hit Hong Kong. Trees were uprooted, urban and rural floods ruled the streets.

Out came my rain boots, and I dug deep to find the biggest umbrella I had, dragging out caprices, shorts, skirts - anything that wouldn't get dipped through the waters.

Days like these, you need soothing.
Warm comforts.
Dry feet.
Clothes that didn't drip.

I had my mandatory cup of coffee, but something wasn't right still.

Days like these, we need to stay calm, and eat cake.

I need a warm slice, a rustic comfort.

Honey Walnut Cake.
That's what I need.

And so it was.

Jamie Oliver (via Ella Miller of People We Love) has an amazing recipe packed to the gills with the richness of honey, and the aromas of cinnamon. Studded with walnuts, there's texture and there's a hint of a crunch.

The unexpected hit of bananas imparts a rich fragrance that makes the cake feel like Christmas, and the zingy citrus lifts the sweetness into a tongue-pleasing balance.
> Zingy ginger crunch

The recipe is built around the festival of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish new year - hence it's dairy-free. I tried mine out with regular good quality milk and butter, reduced the butter and sugar by about 20%, and the cake turned out as beautifully.

Make sure you grease the pan very well, or turning out the cake will be a colossal pain.

The syrup at the end is a vital part of the process.

In my quest for balanced baking, I constantly look for ways to cut the sugars and butters in desserts, but this last bit of syrup-ing is totally worth it.

More balanced treats:
> Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day
Gula Melaka granola
Chocolate & Chai granola
Treats for the 2015 journey
> Herb sesame shortbread
> Chai spice cookies

The good thing is I've managed to make it work without added sugar - just honey, thinned out with lemon juice works perfectly.

The honey-lemon mixture imparts a moistness that makes each bite so mouth-watering, and extends the shelf life of the cake without it drying out.

Top with lemon zest, stud with dried roses - you're good to go.

Eat this warm if you can, with a hot cup of coffee, tea or chocolate.
I find this to be the perfect eating condition.


Taste of home

This is a cake that keeps well (keep covered on countertop, or in fridge if you really need to stretch it out) and can be made a couple of days in advance for a fuss-free party.

To clear skies ahead!
> Desserts for a hot day
> Awesome ways to use beer

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Whimsical yoga, balanced desserts

I have a love-hate relationship with the sun. 

There's definitely something to be said for skies streaked with bright rays.

Kids get to gander about outdoors, cold drinks and ice-creams galore, fantastic days out at the beach.

And as wiser-than-we-give-credit-for Steve Martin said: 
"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night." 

Sunshine makes for happy days.

There's just this slight problem in the tropics. 

Oh. The. Humidity.

An unbearable permanent state of wretched drench-ness that wraps around like a persistent soggy fur coat that wouldn't come off.

Well, since sunny days are here to stay, we decided to make the best of it with a happy day Partner Wellness Workshop! 

Win-sie - the marvelous force behind Whimsical Yoga - brought everyone together with light-hearted stretching, bending and balancing, with an unplanned bonus of a roomful of laughter as everyone relaxed and self-consciousness fell away.

We shook off routine stresses and swapped it all out for the openess of a morning's whimsical yoga.

And with all that hard work, we had to get in a bit of sustenance - of course, right?

The Petite Pops dessert table had Chocolate Fridge Cake full of crunchiness and texture,  completely addictive Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar) Granola and Raw Peanut Butter Oat Balls bursting with nutrients.

'Balanced Desserts' were the order of the day - you need a bit of naughty, to go with the nice. 

No one wants to eat food that doesn't taste good.
Dessert's got to make you sing, got to make you want to come back for seconds. And thirds. 

Try these balanced desserts out for yourself:

And we got right to it - hands on, all 10 fingers, diving right in.

We carved yoghurt-filled strawberries, had a go whipping up no-bake Oat Balls, and built our own parfaits - heaping on tons of natural, tasty toppings that were just that little bit wicked, and a lot nice.

Set aside a little time to live well, eat well each day if you can. 

A bit of away-from-device time, a smidge of exercise, a smattering of good eating - desserts, of course. 

And when you can, ramp it up a little.
Labor Day's next week and there's no reason not to live well, eat well across that nice long weekend. 

Kick it up, balance life!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My own little tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Photo from Vulcan Post & Chan Chun Sing

It's been a sombre week.

Mr Lee's chair sits empty today.

Around the world, many are feeling the weight of Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew's passing, keenly missing the man who impacted so many with his one singular life.

I too, feel tears welling up several times over the course of each day, as I cling furtively to reports and updates online and on TV, never feeling further from home even as I'm a stone's throw away living in Hong Kong.
> Signing the condolence book in Hong Kong

By no means is this meant to even match the gravity of losing one of the most courageous people to have existed; not by a long shot.

But in my own small way, as a baker, I'm remembering Mr Lee with a simple cake - his favorite, chocolate.
> Remembering the colorful Robin Williams

Celebrating a life worth respecting

I'm choosing to celebrate his life and acknowledge the impact and the good he's done. 
I take comfort in his reunion with his soulmate - his wife and tower of strength - Kwa Geok Choo.

With a little cake. 

An unfussy, to-the-point but memorable cake packing a punch. 
Like the indomitable Mr Lee.

Photo from The Straits Times

He valued highly the merits of hard work, and the environment had always been a key focus for him. He pioneered the amazing green powerhouse that tiny Singapore now is, even when the world told him it couldn't be done.

In keeping with his environmental emphasis, I will be making an extra effort to observe Earth Hour this Sat Mar 28, 8.30pm local time.
> Many other ways you can help beyond just observing the hour

I hope you will too.

Mr Lee's physical light might have gone out, but his legacy is an ever enduring sun that never sets.

And it's in our hands to keep it well.