Saturday, December 20, 2014

The season for delicious - Chocolate Almond Sables

It's 6 days to the birth of Christ (the mankind date, at least), and it doesn't just look like Christmas, but sounds and smells a lot like it too.

There are 2 camps of Christmast-ers.

The Gifters - natural-born Martha Stewarts who adore the shopping and wrapping. And then there are the Diss-ers - people who scorn gifting as the commercial witchcraft of the season.

I actually appreciate the act of Christmas gifting, as long as we don't get too carried away.

Giving someone a gift is telling the person they matter to us, and we've put in effort to think about them in the tizzy of festivities.

Of course there are many gift nightmares, things you have no idea what to do with, things that shouldn't have been invented in the first place. But take it in the right spirit - someone thought of you,  and you're lucky enough for someone to care.

I love food gifts.

And when I say Christmas smells, it's really kitchen baking that I'm thinking of.

Make some amazing kitchen gifts of your own:
> Gula Melaka Granola

One of my favorite bakes this Christmas is Bon Appetit's Chocolate-Pistachio Sables - so scrummy.

I've adapted it into Chocolate-Almond Sables because I love a good crunch, and the almonds give a much stronger crackle.

Other cookie recipes to try:
> Double Chocolate Fudgy Cookies
Ombré Swirl Cookies
> Chocolate Chip Shortbread
> Lemon Poppy Cookies

Strictly speaking, these are not your traditional French-style sables (shortbread cookies). But they carry the butter-cookie base that makes them so sabley rich and tender, generously enveloped with rich dark chocolate.

It screams of Christmas!

I've made mine into jumbo logs and sliced them thickly for extra festive indulgence.

So gorgeous for gifting.

They bake into a lovely semi-crunchy exterior, with a mottled crumbly interior that makes them quite addictive.

You can use any sort of nuts you like, just remember to chop them up coarsely so they mix easily into the dough.

Chilling the logs is also essential for a crunchy bake, and when you make jumbos like mine (about 7-8cm), use a big sturdy knife to slice your cold dough - or a big ol' cleaver, much better grip!

Remember friends, think of family and even strangers this Christmas season. Remember to show some love.
> Remembering Robbie Williams

Everyone deserves to be happy at Christmas.

More Christmas goodies for the season:
> Edible Christmas Wreaths
> Red Santa Hats
> Christmas Cake Pops

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Aian't gonna let Christmas sneak away!

Christmas has a way of sneaking up on us.

When the lights and sparkles go up in the streets, we're suddenly startled into the realization that we're almost at the end of another year.

Sudden panic sets in for some of us - where did all that time go??
Are we really done for the year?

Others are a bit more sanguine, resigned to the next month or so of scrambling and racing to accomplish the ambitious tower of job tasks and personal errands we crazily set ourselves.

Whichever the case, let's remember to take a breath and absorb a bit of that Christmas happiness.

Don't let that Christmas spirit sneak away without us paying any attention to it.
Such a waste of the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking to ease a bit of that Christmas shopping crunch?

Chocolate-Almond Sables with Sea Salt, Gula Melaka Christmas Granola or Toasted Herb and Sesame Shortbread make for some pretty nifty scrumptious gifts.

Or bring a Tipsy Bailey's Tart or Rocky Road Christmas Wreath to a party.
Spread the Christmas yum!
> details in image above

More Christmas desserts:
> Death by Chocolate Cake
> Salted Bailey's Mint Chocolate Pie
> Decadent Chocolate Pistachio Torte
> Guinness Beer Chocolate Cake
> Deep Chocolate Ganache Cake with Summer Fruits
> Rich Red Velvet Cake

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween companions

Most people enjoy a good hair-raising scare.

Which is why Halloween is so popular, and heart-splitting horror movies get more freaky each year.

There are a few however, who like hanging out with humans more than with ghouls. Those who get chills when the window shutters flap about for no reason.

Like me.

So instead of disguising myself as Frozen's Anna or a sexy vamp bunny wannabe, and getting my wits scared out in a devil's mansion, I've rounded up a couple of desserts to snuggle up to on Halloween night, when the clock strikes 12.

Till Death Do Us Part

Adios and Ciao Ciao, part of the cultishly popular Tokidoki series, are condemned to wander the earth after 500 years in hell. Could there be a more perfect Halloween dessert??
> Get the recipe for Martha Stewart's perfect chocolate cake.

More night-friendly cakes:

Darkside Chocolate

Chocolate works really well for a night snack. Maybe cuz it's forbidden (says all the healthy folks!), or maybe it's the midnight darkness of the cacao that lures. Either way, this chocolate cupcake topped with dark chocolate ganache, is a definite walk on the dark side. 

Death by chocolate, anyone?

More darkside desserts:

Nighttime Ice-Cream

I-C-E  C-R-E-A-M cravings. They hit at midnight, and they hit hard. If like me, you're not about to venture out into the darkness of Halloween night even for ice cream, you gotta do the next best thing - ice cream cake pops.

You could do ice-cream cone style, like Bakerella's. I had ice cream sticks lying around, so I did the popsicle version. Pretty much the same way you make all your other cake pops - just make sure the cake pop adheres well to the ice cream stick when inserting, press the pop around the base in a little if you need to.

> What are cake pops?
> Making basic cake pops
So-darn-good Rum Balls
> Ride away Bicycle Pops

Deep Dark Double Chocolate Trouble

Wash them down with milk. Or good coffee. Or a smoothie. That's how you need to eat these little devils. This soft-baked cookie is so decadently good, you'll be fighting demons to stop at one. Their cracked tops erupt into soft chocolately chews, and these are made extra large - for double the evil indulgence. 

Get Martha Stewart's recipe here.

Not enough cookies?

Embrace your midnight companions and eat up, welcome to the dark side!

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.


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


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.


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:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A summer carousel

The thing about being so near the equator is that we're perpetually in the sun's path, getting the full-scale blazing love. 

Which is why we don't fully appreciate, or even comprehend summer.

We're too busy trying to stay cool and not inflict tropical humidity wetness to the next person to even think about the summer concept.
> How do you stay cool?
> Best uses of beer

Summer fun? 
More like eternal furnace.

But with all the crazy extreme weather happening around the world, I am very grateful for this somewhat normal summer here in Singapore/Hong Kong. 

So dressed in my best summer singlet and breeziest summer shorts, I'd like to invite you to celebrate the summer sun with a dappy day out to the summer fair carousel, with the happiest little birthday girl!

More summer colors:
> Color me happy!
> A very hungry caterpillar
> A purple green birthday
> Poppin' dots cake pops
> Yellow and green, colors of world cup

Don't believe Wilton products that say 'easy to use' in the instruction manual. You usually need an engineer's degree to assemble their showpieces, after which you'll need to spend considerable time decorating them.

This carousel top took several hours to put together, starting with orange and purple fondant panels.

Red, green, blue, pink and yellow accents are hand-piped with stiff royal icing, make sure you have enough time for everything to dry so that it's all nice and sturdy when you put it on the cake. 

A cheery pop of yellow crowning the cake's top tier, 
as the ponies get a-galloping after their royal icing dries off.

20 little fingers eagerly inching closer to the cake, as the finishing touches go up.

Rainbow cake (recipe here): A perennial favorite with kids, and perfect for the summer carousel party!

I love theme parties, the crazy OCD in me just gets such a kick out of 
matching colors and patterns. The birthday girl's mom did a fantastic 
job getting these cute little buckets for giveaways, every 
child was a SUPER happy child by the end of the party.

Happy birthday, beautiful Ellie!

More happy birthdays:
> A busy day at the construction site
> Dinosaur roarrrr
> Rabbity cake pops

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The softer side of the World Cup

Sports is amazing.

Team loyalties are crazy fierce, fans go to the ends of the earth to support, defend and rally their players.

And as far as beautiful games are concerned, football is king.
Awesome ways to use the football beverage - beer!
> What to do when things get hot (under the collar)!
> Get through the late nights, with chocolate

Sports can divide, sports can unite.
As certain as politics and religion can.

In this World Cup season, I want to celebrate the joys of sports, and the happiness it brings.

Presenting... The green, blues and yellows of.. Henry Hugglemonster!
> Who's Henry Hugglemonster?

> More yellow desserts
Busy day at the construction site
Minions at work
- A Rilakkuma birthday

Right: The real Henry
Left: My version!

I know it's not what you'd associate with football. But besides the colors of Brazil, Henry also does his part rallying little kids in the challenges of life, teaching extermination, diversity and drive.

Just like sports and football do.
You see the similarities I'm sure :)

Happy splash of colors paying World Cup homage 

The starting point: Base cake layers decked with surprise fillings (crushed oreos, chocolate
chips, mango), and chocolate and vanilla buttercream. These get stacked and covered with
blue fondant, before a smaller 2nd tier goes on top.

With a fairly flat top tier, you can try and cover the entire cake with a single piece of fondant
like I did here. If your top tier is high, you should cover the 2 tiers separately and stack them.

Recipe for the cake base:
> Martha Stewart's delectable Chocolate Torte
> Bakerella's amazing Chocolate Cake

Handpainting takes a steady hand, and good spelling.
Practice, practice, practice till you get good at it, like sports!

Final touch: Cake pops for a poppin' backdrop, they add such a wonderful cheer!

Ole World Cup!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cheers to Father's Day!

Yes I know, not all dads take to alcohol like fish to water. 
Very presumptuous.

But because there are SO many gorgeous desserts with such deliciously boozy yumminess, there's really no good reason not to start your dad/baby daddy on a bit of tipple. 

Father's Day is the perfect time for such initiation ;)

And for dads who do love their drinks, this is for you.

Cheers to awesome dads all round!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Awesome ways to use Beer!

Beerfest is in a couple of weeks, and with beer so wildly loved in this hot, hot state of ours, we put on our (still sober?) thinking caps for the 5 Best Uses for Beer:

1) Beer Spa

Detoxification, purification, relaxation and rejuvenation - beer bath enthusiasts can't get enough of submerging into vats of beer - especially when the medical benefits run a mile long on the spa websites. And of course you get your very own beers to chug while immersed in the beer barrel. Let's hope that isn't where the used beer from the earlier beer spas goes :)

> Some of our feel-pretty desserts:

2) Spicy Food

Mugs up if you're ever chased mad spicy food down your belly at the hawker center with ice cold beer, I know I have! Something strangely effective about cold beery bubbles nuking the chilli burn, highly recommended.

> 'Healthy' foods: Fruity cakes & shakes  
> Rustic food: Red velvet cake

3) Polishing Pots


When you've got a bit of leftover beer (how and why that would ever happen, we don't know), don't throw it out. Grab your nearest copper pot, pour on the leftover beer, let it sit for a while and wipe off. Viola, spiffy shiny pot is born. That's what the Idaho Brewing Company claims anyways. 

4) Beer Shampoo

Pour another... for your hair. Yet another way alcohol seems to aid beauty - enterprising personal care companies have kicked beers up a notch and brought them into the daily bath routine with beer shampoos. Silky shiny hair, with beer run-off so conveniently tasty while rinsing off, what's not to like?

5) Guinness Cake

There's ALWAYS a good reason to bring dessert into the picture. Beer + cake = perfect sense. The Chocolate Guinness Cake is velvety heaven on a plate, with a very subtle hint of the alcoholic brew. Nigella has an excellent recipe for an inky black cake, that has a place in every celebration.

The secret to a fantastic Guinness cake: good ol' malted
Guinness and sour cream. That's right, sour cream - it
lifts the cake, injects airiness, and is
responsible for the tender crumb and moist bite.

I love edible science experiments.

The bubbly brew wells up under the chocolatey
egg mixture, giving it lift and lightness.

This next step isn't in Nigella's recipe, but you'll need to sift
the flour well, or you'll end up with little flour craters
that won't break up well because of the beer's airy bubbles.

You can't taste the beer per se, so don't be
 disappointed if you don't get hit with a huge
 slug of Guinness. Its role is in lending texture
and a slight hint of the brew's dark tang. 

Nigella does a beautiful cream cheese
frosting in her recipe, I've swopped mine
out for a rich Bailey's irish cream frosting
 which upps the indulgence level.

To make the frosting: Beat 450g butter in mixer
 till light and fluffy, add 2 cups confectioner's
sugar + 4 tbsn Bailey's, beating for a few min
till fluffy again. This should be enough to
frost and top an 8" cake generously. 

I like to tuck in a bit of surprise when I can,
and this cake has a hidden layer of crunchy
chocolate balls and crushed oreo biscuits to
give it more texture when you bite in.

Style the cake any way you want, the frosting
is a forgiving canvas. Chill the cake to let the
frosting set, bring it out about 20-30 min
before eating - perfect texture.

Experiment and play around with shapes and
sizes, I made some cute tiny sunflower cups
 with the cake batter. They took almost no time
at all to bake (argh yes, I forgot to time them so
I don't have an exact bake time for you), and
taste gorgeous even on their own with no frosting.

More chocolate desserts: 
> 4 Melt-in-your-mouth decadent chocolate treats
> Chocolate cake, 10 years young
> Curious George (sorta!) cake pops
> Chocolate Minion cupcakes