Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Edible Christmas gifts: devour, digest, gone!

Christmas is pretty much my favourite time of the year. 

I could go on, but I think I've narrowed it down to three main reasons: 

1) It's Jesus' birthday
Granted - it's an arbitrary date, but dates are really just numbers. What rocks is that we welcomed a pretty big rockstar light years back, in a dingy manger. That little tot came to save our little hinnies, I'm forever grateful.

Plus, I love birthdays. Winner winner.

2) Everyone is so much more relaxed
It's the end of the year. Work winds down, what can be done has pretty much been done, no one really wants to fix 7am conference calls anymore. 

In other words, everyone is so much less crabby, so much more cheery.

I like that.

3) Much ado about gathering
There's a legit reason to feast fantastically, with the people in our life, near and far - all in the name of Christmas. Oh and of course, with plenty of dessert

There's always a fine line between over-doing this special holiday with excessive fuss, and showing a little love to people dear to us. 

But I think it's a blessing to be able to pass on some smiles and let folks know we care - not just at Christmas, but every other chance we can. But heck, since we're talking Christmas, it's just about the right time now.

Edible gifts are perfect for minimising clutter (devour, digest, gone!), and bear so much warmth and spirit. 

It's a holly jolly Christmas with the privilege of festive treats, share that Petite Pops cheer all round!
> Details in mailer above

What do you get with Petite Pops desserts?
• Small batch baking      The only good way to do quality control.
• Good ingredients          Real and delicious, no further preservatives added.
• Fresh                              Made only when orders come in.
• Balanced                       A little naughty and a whole lot nice. Less sugar & fats,                                            while balancing the yum.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lazy-day bread

Like lazy brunches, weekends are made for laze-around baking.

Not too tedious, not too fussy.

But tasty and smelling good.
Baking smells are one of the most amazing aromas on the planet.

They trigger people and faces, memories.
Family, friends.
A warm, snug heaven.

Good things.

My brother-in-law was roasting up a slab of really mouthwatering beef, and I thought some good ol' bread would be just the thing to go along.

Bread can be a little time-consuming to make. But choose the right recipe and you actually get to sneak in a few chores and bits to be done around the house while waiting for the yeast to work on the dough.

Not a bad deal.

There are a few ways to impart the needed air into your bread - kneeding, time or agitation.

This recipe from The Splendid Table is fairly fuss free, and you can play with flours, grains (whole grains are fantastic for fibre!) and flavors when you've tried it a couple of times and comfortable with how it behaves.

The early parts of the recipe takes a little patience, but really - it's an amazing science experiment in motion, watching the puff and fall of yeast working it's way through the pale dough.

And then it's finally time to slash the dough.

A strangely satisfying 10 seconds criss-crossing the pillowy softness to create escape for the mad hot steam as it bakes.

And this is why I make my own bread.

To crystallise the comfort and warmth of family, into something tangible, something to share.

Eat well, eat sensibly, eat with your friends and family.
Happiness guaranteed.

Live well and balanced:
> Honey Walnut Cake
> Whimsical yoga, balanced desserts
> Treats for 2015
> YOLO = granola
> Chocolate's like salad

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bringing on my Emmy bling

It's almost Emmy night, 2 day countdown!

Snacking while watching the Emmys:
> Chocolate Almond Sables
> Sesame Ginger Cupcakes, Ginger Crunch

So many things we love about the Emmys...

Predictable clockwork wins we saw from miles away, crazy audacious losses (McConaughey didn't win Lead Actor in a Miniseries??), remembering insane talents like Robin Williams.

And priceless gems making entertainment history - yes, that Ellen selfie, we're still talking about it.

Oh yeah....

Photo from The Hollywood Reporter

Not forgetting the best value-for-money hosts in Hollywood for the night who have to sing, dance, reel off scripted jokes to make sure the most glitteratti audience on the planet laughs loud and long.

And so much bling!

Gorgeous suits, flawless gowns, the most handsome people draped in bling, all gathered in one room.

I want to live that fabulous life too.

But since I'm not even remotely close to celeb-ship in this lifetime, I'll settle for bling desserts.

Gold and black.
Studded with more gold, dusted with gold flecks.

Sounds almost glitzy fabulous.

Good enough for me, I'll take that.

I'm warming up to gold recently, it's quite a sexy sheen.
Elegant in such an... elegant way.

I used to think gold was 'old'.
Guess I'm getting old, might as well embrace it.

Stay gold everyone, place your Emmy bets and let's hope Adam Sandberg nails it!

Celebrate, woot woot!
Welcome, 2015
Fairytale weddings
A lovely elephant day

Indulgent desserts
Chocolate indulgence
Chocolate Pistachio Torte

More Cake Pops:
Bicycle challenge, accepted!
Pony pops

Friday, August 21, 2015

Teachers ought to get some thanks... actually, some really big thanks

If you've ever tried teaching kids (or even getting them to put on clothes), you'll know it takes Mother Teresa patience and a good head of hair on your shoulders - for literal pulling. 

Teachers deserve a Nobel prize. 

But since that's beyond sane discussion (and my limited baker means), let's focus our sights on something more achievable - Granola.

Say 'thanks' this Teachers' Day with heart-healthy Chocolate Granola! 

Full of nuts and seeds, and a little chocolate for good measure. 

Brain food should always be this yum, and appreciation should always taste this good.

Feed the brain, say thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday logic: Eating chocolate is like eating a salad

This is how it goes: Chocolate comes from cocoa, which makes it a plant.
So that makes chocolate = salad.

I didn't come up with that, but I'm buying it - it's genius!

And with that gleeful thought, let's dive headlong into chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

First up: a good ol' chocolate cake.

Plan, simple.
A slice or two for dessert with the family.

There are so many ways you can go with a chocolate cake.
Light and fluffy, dark and decadent.
I like mine moist and earthy, not too heavy.

The Italian Dish, Food 52 and Bon Appetit have great fail-safe recipes, not too fussy, easy eating.

Nigella does a kickbutt Guinness Chocolate Cake that's my go-to, packing flavor and warm fragrance. If you prefer a super dense version that's really more like a torte, Martha Stewart  does it really well (but of course).

For friends or family who are gluten intolerant, Jamie Oliver and A Girl Defloured have you covered.

All these recipes can have their sugar, butter, creams reduced so experiment and find the right proportion for you.

You can stop right there if you're keeping balanced on a lean-eating week, chocolate cake tastes just fine on its own, and you get to sneak in a few more slices. It's all about keeping the intake even.

But if you're buying the whole chocolate = plant spiel and looking for some frosting to be the icing on the cake, check Williams Sonoma's recipe out, it's da bomb and so easy to make.

Now - on to more chocolate matters.

I love giving little packages as gifts. Small desserts are much more tedious, but so darn cute it's totally worth it.

Chocolate Cake Balls are absolutely gorgeous little chocolate gems, "double-chocolated" in a creamy chocolate coating. YUM.

Use your favorite chocolate cake recipe, roll them into smaller balls of fun and dip them in good quality melted dark chocolate.

If you're talking to an all-adult crowd, I strongly recommend turning them into Chocolate Rum Balls - the same way you'd make regular cake balls, but using rum as your binder when you roll them up.

These little bombs are quite indulgent, so just make sure you run a couple more minutes or keep lunch light so you have some caloric space for these sweet babies. It's all about the balance.

That's it for today's episode of Friday logic, I know it all made perfect weekend-sense ;)

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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A pop of green... or four - St. Paddy's Day!

Time to Wear the Green, it's St. Patrick's Day!

Hong Kong had its first St. Patrick's festival over the weekend, and it's inspired me to share the love for green - an oddly strange choice of color that actually works on desserts.

What's St. Paddy's day without some chocolate and beer?
> Guinness Chocolate Cake
> Death by Chocolate
> Chocolate Pistachio Torte
> Deep Chocolate Ganache Cake
> Darkside Chocolate Cupcake

Reds, pinks, yellows, browns and oranges are naturals with cakes, they bring cheer and brighten desserts immediately.

Blues and peaches fall into my "hmm" category. Blue has been officially named the worst color to have in foods (not my words, it's those tests out there they've carried out!) - off-putting and not quite appealing. Peach is just kinda ho-hum to me, not much personality.

Greens and blacks are in that sweet spot: done right, they'll add pizzaz. Done wrong - and they'll look radioactive or depressed.

Color your treats:
> Color me happy!
> The colorful Robin Williams
> A summer carousel

So let's hustle up some green - good for the eyes, good for nutrition - just like veggies are ;) and get our green on!

Green Tea & White Chocolate Cookies

Green tea's a natural when you're talking green in desserts. They're more predominant in Asian desserts like chiffon cakes, and I used mine in bite-sized cookie poppers. The great thing about green tea bakes is they tend not to be overly sweet because of their natural bitter edge from the tea flavors, and have so much character so you don't want to drown them in sugar.

> Get the recipe here
> More Asia-inspired treats:

Minecraft Cake

Making cakes for kids often makes me the 'hip one' because they want their cakes in all the latest game and toys characters, and I rely on them to bring me up to speed on the hottest. I can say with 'authority' (ahem!) that Minecraft is in with the kids now, and I had so much fun building this cake for an 8 year old's birthday. 

I made the mistake of using the paint technique for the mosaic tiles - making long slabs of fondant, scoring them and hand-painting each square a different shade of green. It seemed a good idea when I researched the techniques, but this only works for much, much smaller cakes when just a couple of squares are painted. It takes all day to paint a cake this big, takes ages to dry and the long fondant panels break easily. So I was really better off making each individual mosaic square in different shades greens. 

You learn, and you learn to laugh about it - about many deranged hours ;)

Cartoons, characters and toys:
> Invasion of the Minions
> Who's Henry Hugglemonster?
> Elmo cake pops
> Rilakkuma cake pops

Lime Top Cupcake

I like contrasting colors so they don't all scream for attention, and this red velvet cupcake goes just beautifully with the pale green buttercream frosting. The colors were perfect for the Christmas season when I made them, and you should get creative and experiment with different flavors for the buttercream. We eat with our eyes as much as our tongue, so go with flavors associated with green - like mint, lime, basil, green tea - and they'll match visually.

Kermit-toned Cake Pops

Cake Pops are a ton of fun, you can pretty much do anything you want with swirls and designs, and something about little desserts on sticks makes them just irresistible. My cake pop idol Bakerella does an amazing job creating the most unexpected itty bitty balls of fun perched precariously on rainbow hued straws and sticks, she's da bomb.

Cake pop fun:

Happy St. Patrick's day, remember to load up on 'em greens!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Surviving the lunar new year - have your cookies and eat them!

The year of the Sheep / Goat / Ram - somewhat confusing, but all applicable for the lunar new year - is just two weeks off, time to get snacking!
> Treats for the arduous journey, happy 2015
> Color me happy, it's 2014!

Cookies and traditional desserts are a staple at every Chinese home - a way of welcoming visiting well-wishers, and feed festive once-a-year-gamblers that get hungrier as the stakes go up and coins change hands.

As a new generation (I would like to think!) Asian household, we've tried to do away with clutter.

Keeping things simple, cherishing the space.

There are however, a few very delectable (yes, all edible once again, a running theme I realise) key elements of the lunar new year that you just can't dispense with. The convivial spirit is never the same.

Add caption

1) Bak Kwa: barbecued sweet pork slices
No one understands the insane phenomenon of queuing for hours at the most popular stalls, paying double the usual prices - when bak kwa is there for the taking any other day of the year. But the craze continues, and the chinese new year festivity is all the rowdier and happier for it.

> Which bak kwa to get in Singapore?
> Not too many options in Hong Kong, but there's always good 'ol Bee Cheng Hiang

Image from Gallery Funny Game

2) Mandarin oranges
Like bak kwa, the mad scramble for mandarins takes some strategic planning (not too early, they'll rot before you get to give them out; not too late - none left for you!), and hefty muscles. Be smart and know what you're grabbing at the markets, not all oranges are created equal.
> Meet the oranges that wink

Image from

3) Lo Hei
Insanely messy, ridiculously rowdy and superbly delicious - tossing yu sheng is mandatory during the luar new year. Do you want to be the shmuck who misses out tossing in some good fortune? And be honest - no one actually knows the right phrases for each stage in spite of the collective brave shouting of unintelligible gibberish, as you try to outdo your neighbour tossing higher with each round. Here's an awesome guide to doing lo hei like a boss.

4) New Year cookies
Hands up anyone who's managed to NOT put on weight during the chinese new year. Yep, pretty much zero. I've always advocated balance - food, life, work, sports - everything. So balance is the way we're gonna take on the new year feasting, you can have your cookies and eat them! Toasted oats and nuts are the healthy way to go. Coupled with reduced sugar and butter, you've got yourself some pretty scrummy treats that taste fab and keep you fitting the same pair of pants you walked in with pre-cookies.

Make smart choices this lunar new year, gong xi fa cai everyone!

I'm joining Best Recipes for Everyone Jan & Feb 2015 Event Theme: My Homemake Cookies by Fion of XuanHom's Mom and co-hosted by Victoria Baking Into The Ether.

Link to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan / Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Also linking this post to "Cook & Celebrate: CNY 2015" event organized by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Treats for the arduous journey, happy 2015!

Happy 2015!

If you're anything like me, you're probably running behind on your to-do errands, and that resolution list should definitely be retitled '2016' - by the time I get to it.

But that's ok.

It's alright to take some time to catch your breath, to relish the threshold of crossing into a brand new year.
> Ringing in the year with cake pops

I've been catching up on some reading over the holidays, and reminded that the essence of anything we do is really to be in the moment.

Each step is there for a reason, to make a difference.
Savor it. And then move on.

Starting a whole new set of 365 days is a big deal, so let's take a little time out to let that sink in. It'll refresh and refocus us, and we'll get to what we need to do in just the right time.

I'm still working on my 2015 Inspiration List for now.

This is by no means a rattling of resolutions, but really things that I want to remind myself to do as I barrel into the year.

I'd probably fail at half of them, and forget the other half.

But I do find myself needing inspiration and reminders, especially as the year chugs along.

It's easy to get swept up in things we're doing, work, obligations and even fun.

I've learnt over the years, that it helps to have a couple of little lights to point us back to path along the way, remind us of what it is we WANT our year to be like.

5 things on my Inspiration List:
1) Be grateful
2) Live healthily
3) Make a difference
4) Enjoy what I'm doing/baking
5) Feel joy about something - everyday

It's still a work in progress, but this is where I'm at for now.

I'll continue refining it along the next 358 days.

And as you work on your lists and resolutions, I know you're gonna be needing a bit of encouragement.

Here are 5 little treats to keep on hand for the arduous journey ;)


These little bites are crunchy and light, perfect with some milk or cocoa. And the best part? The dough can be made ahead, so you're never left without.  

And they're just perfect for packing into little bags to share with a fellow resolution-maker.

> Recipe from Martha Stewart

Ombre swirl cookies


Mix it up with any sort of herbs you like, this recipe from Bon Appetit brings out a nice savory fragrance balanced by a barely-weighty shortbread. And if you don't have caraway seeds, toasted black sesame seeds work perfectly well too, adding a pinch of earthiness.

More shortbread recipes:
Chocolate chip shortbread
Chocolate-almond sables - shortbread cookies


One of my fave snacks, just can't get enough of these. Swap the almonds out for any other nuts you prefer. These sables have such a chocolately fragrance, I make them jumbo for indulgence, but they work just as well in teeny bites.

> How to make these delectable beauties
> Double chocolate cookies - equally irresistible!


I love making cookies either extra large for giant yumness, or bite-sized poppers - so easy to eat, no crumbs, no fuss. These (recipe here) go wonderfully with a hot cup of tea, or if you have milky chai on hand - even better!

> Make some Chai Granola to go along


These are dangerous. They carry a hint of the Asian palm sugar (gula melaka), settling subtly and making merry with its bowl mates. You could eat a whole jarful of this without feeling anything close to sick. So addictive. Good thing they're packed with oats, nuts and coconut - so it's good for us!

> Make your own gula melaka granola

> More granola recipes:
   - Chai Honey
   - Deep Chocolate

These are all bites that keep well so have them handy in a jar, and good luck with your list-making and inspiration in the new year ahead!