Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

Today is D-DAY for posting my very first Daring Bakers Challenge! And boy was it a challenge! This month's challenge is hosted by Lisa and Ivonne (the co-founders of Daring Bakers). Also there was a slight twist to this month's hosting.

Fran of Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful were also invited to co-host this month's challenge.

When I first received the email early this month from Lisa with the details of the challenge I was apprehensive ... can I do it or not! The challenge called for Daring Bakers to bake an Opéra Cake.

Whatever is an Opéra Cake ..... I really had no clue. Thus the pictures which Lisa included in her email certainly helped me with the visualization. I've never done anything like this in my short baking career - the ingredients and instructions already blew me away! In fact I've never baked a layer cake as well! Now what have I signed myself up for ....... I had to read the entire email at least 5 times before it sank in.

So what exactly is an Opéra Cake? Well it's a cake that is made up (usually) of five components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse). My head's already in a swirl!

I decided to do a scaled down version which required me to bake a normal joconde and then cut it into smaller shapes - I went with a hexagon cutter as round and oval shapes were quite common.

Traditionally, a joconde is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But this month's DB challenge called for a light coloured Opéra Cake. Luckily the recipe could be broken up into portions so it was much easier. I did the buttercream ealier in the week and fnished the rest of the cake on a Saturday night. My husband watched the telly whilst I busied myself away in the kitchen. He did help at one stage when I had problem trying to take the joconde out from the tray. I decided to omit doing the mousse, so it was 1 step less for me. For variation, I added to some of my cakes a layer of raspberry puree on top of the buttercream.

We had the cake on Sunday morning and the remaining I took it to office. It was immediately whoffled away by everyone ... YUMMY was all I heard in between mouthfuls of cake.

Ingredients for the joconde:
(can be made 1 day ahead)

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


1) Divide the oven by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and another in the lower third of the oven.

2) Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3) Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5) If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6) Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix).

7) Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8) Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven.

9) Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and un-mould.

10) Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

Ingredients for the syrup:
(can be made 1 week ahead)

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)


1) Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2) Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Ingredients for the buttercream:

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
Scrap the seeds of one vanilla bean (or alternatively use 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)


1) Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2) Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3) While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4) When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5) Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6) While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7) With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8) At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9) Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

Ingredients for the ganache/mouse:

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)


1) Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.

2) Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.

4) Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.

5) If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.

6) If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.Ingredients for the glaze (best to make this when you are ready to assemble cake)

Ingredients for the glaze:

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)


1) Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.

2) Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.

3) Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

To assembling the Opéra Cake

1) Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2) Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

3) Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

4) Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

5) Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

6) Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

7) For the final layer, spread the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) on top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

8) In the meantime make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Off-Roading in Selai

A few years back my husband and I, together with a few friends from an SUV car club were very into the off-roading experience.

Unfortunately Singapore being a small island with a city infra-structure set-up does not have much spots where off-roading enthusiats could indulge in such sport. So the nearest place for us would be to hop across the border into Malaysia. The southern tip of Malaysia which is the state of Johor has many natural forested areas such as Endau Rompin.

Endau Rompin is located on the Johor-Pahang border - this 2½-century-old extensive lowland forest is home to several rare and endangered species. This park is popular with conservationists and nature lovers who enjoy the wildlife and virgin environment.

Endau-Rompin National Park is made up of a lush, pristine tropical rainforest. Covering an area of 48,905 hectares (800 sq. km), it is the second largest national park in West Malaysia after Taman Negara. With rock formations dating back some 248 million years, Endau-Rompin is mostly hilly with some prominent sandstone plateau.

Our very first trip was to Selai which is located at the western gateway to Johor's famed Endau-Rompin National Park. It is still a pristine lowland tropical rainforest. It actually encompassed two-thirds of the Park's - 48,500 ha area of 260 million years old rainforest in the world!

Selai lies in the core area of Endau-Rompin National Park, at the foothills of Gunung Tiong (1024 m high). The vegetation here is untouched by man preserved virgin and pristine for centuries.

Hiking across Selai entails scenic river crossings via rope bridges and hopping along the boulders that dot the Selai River. No matter how long you trek, the exhilarating sound of water rushing over rocks is never far away. There are no less than 20 waterfalls around the park and the most spectacular is Takah Tujuh or Takah Tinggi that spreads over an elevation of seven tiers. It has such an atmospheric quality that the Orang Asli (local aborigines) says spirits dwell in its upper reaches. Hornbills flying across the river during the fruiting season can be vocal and a breathtaking sight.

The terrain here is rugged, the facilities minimal and basic making the whole experience as authentic as it can get.

The biggest waterfall along Selai River is perhaps Takah Tinggi. This waterfall is estimated to be 100m high and the huge volume of water thunders down the two cascades of the waterfall. Another very beautiful waterfall that can be visited is Takah Pandan. This waterfall is smaller than Takah Tinggi but is almost just as high.

Although there are not many biting insects in the national park, there are a lot of leeches. The rain during the monsoon season can be very heavy and flooding may occur. Luckily we didn't visit during the monsoon season. However during our trek into the jungle to discover the waterfall, we were drenched by sudden rain storms and it made the trek extremely muddy and slippery. We also encoutered lechers and a few of the guys were bitten.

Because of the rains, the trek to the waterfall took us almost 2 hours geting there and another 2 hours on our return journey. At one point I slipped whilst manouvering through some rocks across a small waterfall and my husband had to jump in to save me from going down stream. That "save" was an expensive one because it damaged his PDA which was kept at his back pocket

We managed to get some video clips of our trip.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Matcha Ice-Cream

Over the last 2 weeks the weather here in Singapore has been extremely hot and humid. Even in the evenings, the temperature does not seem to drop much. My air-conditioner is on almost all nights now just to get some relief from the heat.

We've been guzzling ice lemon tea and anything cool from the fridge. Ice-cream is also on the menu and we just finish off the last of the Hagen daz ice-cream that was sitting in the fridge. Actually ice-cream is really not that difficult to make - maybe this could be another venture for me.

Unfortunately I don't have an ice-cream maker but this should not be a deterrent. There surely must be recipes out there that needn't call for me running out to the nearest electrical shop to get one.

The idea of making matcha or green tea ice-cream came to mind whilst I was shopping at a Japanese $2 shop called Daisho. Every item in the shop cost $2 ... and I mean everything! I added a can of adzuki beans into my grocery basket. This will do well with my next project.

The recipe was simple .... just required a little bit more effort i.e. taking the ice-cream out of the fridge every hour and half to give it a stir. We had a first taste of the ice-cream this afternoon - my husband said it was good but a little bit sweet. Next time round I will definitely reduce the sugar.

(recipe from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking)
- enough for 4 scoops of ice-cream

2 tablespoons green tea powder (matcha)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream


1. In a small bow, mix the green tea powder with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and remaining sugar.

3. Pour the milk into a small pan and gently heat taking care not to let it boil (ideally the temperature of the milk should be 176 degrees F).

4. Remove the from the heat and mix a few spoonfuls of the warm milk with the green tea powder and sugar in a small bowl. When you have a smooth paste, add it to the remaining milk in the pan, then gradually combine with the egg yolk mixture.

5. Return mixture to the stove and heat slowly over low heat (take care not let the mixture boil), until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine sieve, and allow to cool completely.

6. Lightly whip the cream and then add it to the cold green tea-milk mixture.

7. Transfer the mixture to a large container and [chill in the fridge for about 2 hours] and then transfer to the freezer. As ice crystals start to form, remove, and mix well with a spoon (use a spoon and stir very vigorously) to break them up and return the mixture to the freezer.

8. Repeat this a few times as it freezes to ensure that the ice cream is smooth.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fried Beehoon

Beehoon is a local Singapore term for rice vermicilli. It's a common and favourite dish which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even supper. It's also a favourite of my husband's.

Whenever I can't think of what to make for dinner, I'll do a fried beehoon and he'll finish off a huge plate of this. I would usually keep the ingredients simple, nothing fanciful but with lots of veggies.

1 packet Bee Hoon (I used the "Two Red Chilli" brand)
1 packet dried taupok (fried beancurd puffs)
1/2 cup of shelled shrimps
1 cupful of beansprouts
1 handful of chye-sim
1 medium sized Beijing cabbage (you could substitute this with Chinese cabbage)
3 Pcs Fish cake sliced (optional)
Garlic chopped
Soya sauce to taste
1 cube of Knorr's chicken cube
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 table spoon of oil


1) Soak one packet of Bee hoon in container with tap water for 25 minutes. Then drain away the water and put beehoon aside.

2) Wash & drain cabbage - sliced into 1/2" strips.

3) Deshell the prawns.

4) Add oil to wok. Fry sliced garlic in low heat till fragant and lightly golden.

5) Add in the cabbage, prawns and taupok. Add in Knorr's chicken cube, a bit of salt, soya sauce and pepper. Add 1/3 cup of water and stir fry for 3 minutes.

6) Add bee hoon and stir fry for another ten minutes. Then add in the sliced fish cake (optional), beansprouts and chye-sim and fry for 5 minutes.

7) Taste, add more soya sauce and pepper if needed.

8) Garnish with cilantro and fried sliced shallots. Serve with sliced red chillies.

Kitchen Cleaning Tips

(extracted from Busy Cooks)

Cleaning up the kitchen is part of cooking. Not only is it easier to cook and bake in a clean kitchen, but clean surfaces and storage containers will keep your family healthier and safer.

Make cleaning second nature and you'll save time and money.


* Have a place for everything. It's much easier to use a utensil or appliance, clean it and put it away when it has a home.

* Don't mix ammonia and bleach because it will create toxic fumes.

* Identify spots in your kitchen that accumulate clutter and take a few minutes every day to clear those spots and place objects in their correct homes.

* Try to end each day with a clean, empty kitchen sink. Run the dishwasher before you go to bed and unload it first thing in the morning.

* A sponge is actually a great way to spread germs. You may want to use paper towels instead, discarding them after cleaning each surface, to totally prevent cross-contamination.


* To quickly clean burned food on a pan, add some dish soap and 1/2" of water. Bring to a boil, then let the liquid cool in the pan. The burned food will be easy to remove.

* When food spills over and burns on the oven floor, sprinkle a bit of salt on the mess. The smoke will be reduced and the spill easier to clean after the oven cools.

* To clean your microwave oven, mix together 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice or vinegar and 2 cups of water in a 4 cup glass microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for two to three minutes. Carefully remove the bowl and wipe the microwave with paper towels. Repeat as necessary.

* To clean sluggish drains, pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain. Let this mixture foam for a few minutes, then pour 8 cups of boiling water down the drain. to flush it. Do not use this combination after using any commercial drain opener or cleaner.

* Put lemon or lime pieces through the garbage disposal every few days for a clean fresh smell.

* Clean your coffee maker every few weeks by filling the water reservoir with equal parts white vinegar and water and putting it through the brew cycle. Then use clean fresh water and repeat the brew cycle to rinse the machine. Repeat with fresh water two more times.

* If you don't have a self-cleaning oven, scrape up any large spills, then spray cleaner inside the oven, close the door and let it sit overnight so the cleaner has time to work.

* To clean a blender, squirt a few drops of liquid soap into it, fill halfway with warm water, cover and blend away the mess. Rinse and repeat if necessary.


* For your own window washing solution, mix 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol in a 1 quart spray bottle. Fill up with water.

* Dry baking soda cleans chrome perfectly.

* Cream of tartar and water mixed to a paste will clean porcelain.

* A paste of baking soda and water will clean coffee stains.

* Plain liquid Ivory soap mixed with water is one of the best all-purpose cleaners. You can keep this solution in a spray bottle, but only use a bit of soap or the mixture may become too foamy to spray.

* Dissolve 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water for a good general cleaner.


* Clean up spills as they occur so you won't be faced with one huge cleaning session.

* Did you know that you use 20% of your utensils 80% of the time? Any tool or appliance which doesn't get used during a week of cooking should be cleaned and stored to save counter and cupboard space and cleaning time.

* It's easier to clean a grill if you do it after each use. Also oil the grill rack before each use to make cleanup easier.

* Wash as you go. Fill one half of a double sink or a separate waterproof tub with hot soapy water and drop in utensils as you use them. Food won't dry on the utensils and cleanup will be a breeze.

* Once every 7-10 days, remove all the food from your refrigerator, wipe down the inside with warm soapy water, clean all the shelves and trays, then replace the food. As you work, check expiration dates and discard food past those dates. Place an open box of baking soda in the back of the fridge.

* Once a month, remove all the food from your pantry, wipe down with a clean damp cloth, check for spoilage and expiration dates, then replace items in their designated places.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mini Baked Cheesecakes

Although I bake, my husband doesn't eat any of my creations. He is not a cake or cookie person. I'll give him a taste but all he says is "it too floury ..." Huh, what's that!! Hello, of course it's floury - it's a cake and one of the main ingredients is flour. What can I say .... I'm certainly not getting any feedback from him as to whether it's nice or not! I've given up hope on him. My brother-in-law is the same as well which is one of the reasons my sister seldom bakes. His comment is "it's too eggy!!" Men!

So what do I do - I bake and take it to the office. So far I've not had any rejects, just ... oohhhs!!

However there's a some desserts my husband will take ... ice-cream, jelly and anything with cheese in it.

So to take pity on him I decided to make him some cheesecake. Rather than make a no-bake refrigerated one, which is what I would usually do, I tried a baked mini cheesecake. It was easy to make and furthermore easy to serve - no messy cutting whatsoever. I served it with slices of peaches but any fruit will work just as well.

Makes 10 - 12 mini cheesecakes

(recipe from Exclusively Food)


150g Nice biscuit (or you could use digestive biscuit)
70g melted butter


250g cream cheese, softened
75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 large egg (weight about 59g)
200ml (1 Tbsp) lemon juice
100ml (5 Tbsp) thickened cream


1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius (160 degress Celcius fan-forced)

2) Line 10 holes of a muffin pan with muffin cases.

3) Finely crush biscuit in a good processor or blender. If using processor, add the melted butter to the crumbs and process until well combined. If using blender, tip the crumbs into a bowl and then stir in the butter.

4) Divide biscuit mixture evenly among the cases (about one firmly packed Tbsp per case. Firmly press mixture down with the back of a teaspoon until smooth. Set bases aside whilst making the filing.

5) Beat cream cheese and caster sugar in an electric mixer or food processor. Stop the machine a couple of times to scrape down th sides and base of the bowl. When the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, add egg and beat until combined. Add lemon juice and cream and beat until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among cases.

6) Bake cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes.

7) Remove cheesecakes from pan, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Cheesecakes are ready to serve when they are cold and set. Remove cases before serving. Cheesecakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Night at the Races

I had the priviledge to be invited last Friday night to a dinner cum races at the Singapore Turf Club. I've never been to the races before so it will definitely be an eye-opener. I felt like a country pumpkin attending a ball.

We had the best box in the house - the Singapore Turf Club's President's box. It had the full view of the track with the finishing line. If the box is not occuppied by the President, it would be rented out to the public.

Horse racing in Singapore has had a long and illustrious history, beginning in 1842 with the formation of the Singapore Sporting Club by a group of racing enthusiasts. During its varied and colourful past, the racecourse grounds had been used for an array of activities ranging from polo matches to the landing of the first aircraft in Singapore.

In 1924, the Singapore Sporting Club changed its name to Singapore Turf Club, to better reflect its role. Since then, the Club has moved to its current premises in Kranji, with the SGD 3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup being included in the prestigious World Series Racing Championship.

There was a total of 10 races being run last Friday starting from 6.30pm , every half hour intervals.

My husband and I arrived around 8pm to join the group. The 4th race was on at that time. The box was large enough to comfortably accommodate around 50 people. It had a viewing gallery with 3 rows of leather chairs at the front of the box (which was framed with full height glass from ceiling to floor). The view of the track was fantastic ..... words are hard to describe especially as I've never been to the tracks in my whole life.

As the night went on, we even got caught up in betting. At first I didn't even know what to do but managed after a while. I asked around and everyone had different methods - none logical at all. Would you call betting on your favorite jersey, name of horse, didn't like any jockey wearing pink, etc as logical! What the heck .... I decided to go with name of the horse!

The minimum bet was $5.00 and you could either bet on 1st placing, placement (which means a 1st, 2nd and 3rd placing) or a combination of both. My 1st bet was on "Future Mission" running in Race 5 - I placed $5 for a win - he was one of the favourites. At the start of the bell, he was either 1st or 2nd but half way around the track, he ran out of steam and started to fall behind the pack. I lost on this race but was smarter in placing my bets in the next 5 race. I went for placements after that.

Overall after betting $5 on each race, I was still in the profit. It's definitely not a vice which I will pick up but it was fun for that night.

Below is my best winning for the night - for $5 my gross return was $49. Not bad!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Happy Mother's Day" Means More

A poem to my mother and all mothers reading this blog ...

"Happy Mother's Day" means more
Than have a happy day.
Within those words lie lots of things
We never get to say.

It means I love you first of all,
Then thanks for all you do.
It means you mean a lot to me,

And that I honor you.
But most of all, I guess it means
That I am thinking of
Your happiness on this, your day,
With pleasure and with love.

Classic Pomodoro

My husband and I always have problem on week-ends as to whether we should eat in or out. He'll say "no worries dear, anything is fine with me - eat out is easier, then you won't have to cook". But even with eating out, we can't decide where .... can be frustrating at times!

The beauty of pasta is that from such a simple dish, an infinite variety of meals can be made. It adapts as easily to quick sauces as it does to long-simmering, thick ragus. This week-end I decided on a simple tomato base recipe. I used penne for this recipe.

We had recently gone for a health screening test and my husband's results came back showing that his cholestral level was above the maximum range. This is not good. The doctor said he's got to watch his diet and do more exercise.

I tweeked the original recipe a bit by added 150gm diced bacon, an additional onion, slightly more garlic (both of us love garlic), a cupful of sliced button mushrooms and a cupful of green peppers. The original recipe is as below.


60 mil (1/4 cup) olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 x 400g (14 oz) cans chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste (puree) - add more if desired

bouquet garni (or you could use mixed Italian dried herbs)

3 tableshpoon torn basil leaves

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)


1) Heat oil in a deep frying pan and cook the onion over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the tomato, tomato paste, bouquet garni and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens, stirring occassionally. Add the basil and if the sauce is too tart, a pinch of salt. Remove the bouquet garni.

2) Toss through the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.


To make a tomato and cream sauce, stir in 125 ml (1/2 cup) cream after removing the bouquet garni and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Raspberry Swiss Roll

I was in a baking mood tonight!

I guess non-bakers will be surprised as to how I can gather enough energy after a full day's work in the office - 8am to 6pm, and then put in another hour or 2 in the kitchen. I even managed to include 30 minutes to walk my 2 doggies prior to baking. They were certainly happy that "mum" was in a upbeat mood tonight!

This evening I contemplated between doing cupcakes or something easier - with less cleaning after that. I hate washing up ... I really do! So I picked the 2nd option and decided to try a swiss roll. I've never done one before and didn't even know where to start. But then again I'm always up for a challenge.

I browsed the internet (what would we do without the internet!) when I got home to search for a raspberry swiss roll recipe ... don't forget I still have quite a bit of raspberries left over from my previous two baking escapades. All the recipes that I came across had similar ingredients and method of preparation.

I must say that I was very pleased with the outcome .. it was light and the raspberries went very well with the sponge cake. I'm certainly going to try variations of this in the future. For the filing, I used 1 cup frozen raspberries, added 1/2 cup sugar and brought it to a slow simmer until the sauce thicken a bit. I added about 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to further thicken the jam.


3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tspn vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose
1 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
Powdered Confectioner's sugar - for dusting
2/3 cup spreadable raspberry jelly/jam (or any other filling of your choice)


1) Heat oven to 375 deg F.

2) Line a baking pan, preferably (15 × 10 × 1) inches, with cooking parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.

3) Beat eggs in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed for about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored.

4) Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.

5) Beat in water and vanilla on low speed.

6) Finally add the flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until batter is smooth.

7) Pour into the prepared pan, spreading out well to form a thin even layer. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (NOT MORE) until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

8) Spread a clean kitchen towel on the platform and sprinkle some powdered sugar on it. Now loosen the edges of the cake, then turn the whole pan upside down upon the towel. Carefully remove the paper from the top.

9) Trim off the hard edges of the cake, and while its hot, carefully roll cake lengthwise from one end to the other. Keep the roll as tight as possible, but apply very little pressure so as not to crack the cake a lot.

10) Refrigerate the rolled cake for about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from fridge and unroll it gently and remove the towel.

11) Beat the raspberry jelly/jam slightly to soften; it's better to use a spreadable jelly. Now spread it evenly over the cake. Do NOT use a lot of jelly as it would ooze out of the cake once you finish rolling it up again. Now again roll up the cake, which should be fairly easier this time.

12) Serve with a dusting of icing sugar. If not serving immediately, place roll in the refrigerator - dust with icing sugar only when ready to serve.

Check out below clip:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gum Paste Roses

I'd realise that Singapore weather is really not friendly at all to fondant. The fondant roses that I had made previously started to melt the very next day. I guess it didn't help as well as end April - early May was reported to be the hottest days (33 Celsius) since beginning of the year. Furthermore we're not getting much reprieve until June, which also happens to the the hottest month in the year.

The alternative would be to use gum paste. Although gum paste does have sugar it's really not edible. But it was really easy to work with and mould the roses. Here's some pictures of the end result ... I thought it was so much better than my earlier attempt and will be trying my hand at other creations.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Homemade Black Coffee Jelly

My hubby and I are both coffee lovers. We can easily drink 2 to 3 cups each on week-ends and coffee is such a versatile ingredient used in desserts - cakes, ice-cream, jelly ......

I even tried using it as a potpurri in my wardrobe ... my clothes ended up having a faint coffee smell after a few days. I abandoned the idea after that ... haha!

Any way I decided to try my hand at dishing out a coffee jelly dessert - as if I have not had enough of cafine! I've not had this dessert for a long long time ... probably more than a year ago at Coffee Bean. I'm not even sure if it's still on their menu now.

It's so easy to put together and can be whiffed up within 15 minutes. Pair it off with a good vanilla ice-cream and you'll have an elegant dessert to serve up to your guests. I omitted adding the liquer.

Homemade Black Coffee Jelly
(serves 4)


2 cups (500 ml) strong black coffee
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp gelatine
1 tbsp rum or liqueur


1) Put the coffee, except for 2 tbsp and sugar into a saucepan, and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Cool.

2) Soften the gelatine in the reserved coffee in a small heatproof container.

3) Stand the container in a pan of hot water and stir until dissolved.

4) Add the rum or liqueur. Strain into a wetted mould and leave in fridge for 1-2 hours to set. When ready for serving, turn out on to a plate and decorate with whipped cream. Alternatively you can serve it with a good vanilla ice-cream.

Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cupcakes

I had more than 3/4 packet of frozen raspberries left which I had bought for an earlier cake for my Wilton class. Rather than let it continue sitting in my freezer, I decided to use some in a chocolate cupcake recipe.

What a great combination this would be .... imagine the sweet sourness of raspberries infused with bitter chocolate! It's a definite win-win combination!

And what a way to get my chocolate fix on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Hmmm. also how convenient that I happened to have some left over buttercream icing which I coloured in a light pink colour for the topping, just the right colour to pair off with the dark chocolate and the redness of the raspberries. I decided to keep the icing simple as the main actors are after all the bittersweet chocolate and raspberries.

Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cupcakes
Makes/Serves: 18 cupcakes


8 ounces 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, divided
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup Clover Honey*
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 pint raspberries


1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) Cut 2 ounces of chocolate into 18 pieces; set aside.

3) Place 6 ounces of coarsely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave 30 seconds on high; stir well. Microwave 30 seconds more on high and stir until all lumps are gone. If more melting is necessary, microwave in 10-second increments and stir until all lumps are gone. Chocolate should not become too warm.

4) Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

5) In a mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Add honey and melted chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time.

6) Add half of the reserved dry ingredients to the butter mixture; mix on low until just combined.

7) With mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients until just combined.

8) Place a tablespoon of batter in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin tin. Add one piece of chocolate and 2 to 3 raspberries to each cup. Fill muffin tins two-thirds full with remaining batter.

9) Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove to wire rack; cool. Frost with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, if desired.

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting


1/4 cup Clover Honey*
8 ounces 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, optional


1) Combine honey and chocolate in a medium bowl, set aside. In small, heavy pan, heat whipping cream over medium heat until bubbles just begin to form. Pour over honey-chocolate mixture and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth; cool. Refrigerate until chilled, 1 to 2 hours.

2) With an electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture until frosting is fluffy.

*Any mild-flavored honey such as Clover may be used.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Baked Donuts

Who doesn't like donuts .... not any one that I can think of.

Donuts seems to be latest craze in Singapore. I remember the very 1st donut shop which opened up in Singapore. It's called Donut Factory. Their donuts came with all sorts of toppings - they even had a wasabi donut. Who would have ever thought of adding this to a pastry!

Customers would line up for an average of one hour just to buy a dozen or two of these goodies. The queques put me off and I only managed to gather some patience to join a Q after more than a year .... by then other donut shops started popping up all over the island!

But just think, donuts are fried ... is this healthy?? Hmmmm .... I guess having 1 or 2 a week ain't that bad right??

So ever thought of having a baked version - it'll definitely be much healthier but will it taste good? So when I came across this recipe whilst browsing through Tartelette's blog - it looked yummy from the pictures -I decided I must give it a try. The donuts turned out more bread-like texture than actual fried donuts. It tasted pretty good fresh from the oven, especially with a sprinkling of sugar and lots of cinnamon!

Baked Donuts
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)


1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon


1) Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer.

2) Stir in the yeast and sugar and set aside for five minutes or so to let it proof.

3) Stir the butter into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture.

4) With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. Adjust the dough texture by adding flour a few tablepsoons at a time or more milk. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth.

5) Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.

6) Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place, and let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

7) Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. With a 2-3 inch cookie cutter, stamp out circles in the dough . Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. If you cut the inner holes out any earlier, they become distorted when you attempt to move them. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.

8) Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8 mins.

9) While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

10) Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in the melted butter and a quick toss in the sugar bowl. Eat immediately if not sooner.Makes 1 1/2 - makes about 2 dozen medium doughnuts.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My New Oven

I am today the proud owner of a new 42L Delonghi table top oven. I've been contemplating over the last couple of months on getting a bigger oven to replace my 20L Tefal oven which is 5+ years already. My current oven is still in good running order except that it only allows me to bake a maximum of 6 cupcakes any one time ... so you can image how long it takes for me to churn out 2 dozen of these treats ....

Today I made the final decision of going out and getting it ... no more "let me think about it ... maybe next month .... maybe when we move house ....maybe, maybe, maybe!"

My hubby and I went to Courts this afternoon which is a big electrical store not far from my home. I've already checked out a few ovens and nothing comes close to Delonghi in terms of size and function - further more it has an "oven fan" function which helps to circulate the internal heat evenly. Most ovens, including my current one, is hotter on one side ... my cupcakes turn out more gloden one side compared to the other.

The oven cost me $599 (Singapore Dollars) less 8% discount ... I think it's going to be worth every cent. We lugged it back in the car and immediately started to take it out of the box. Even my shitzu Milo lent a hand ... ooops I meant paw!

My hubby helped to re-arrange my kitchen counter-top. Since the new oven is almost twice the size of my Tefal, it's going to take up even more space in my already miniscule kitchen ... But after moving some things around, it's really not too bad! Can't wait for weekend to try it out ....

Here's a pic of my new oven .....

And putting the old Tefal to rest ... (R.I.P.)

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