Da Paolo’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk, again

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This afternoon’s lunch may look like a melted chocolate sludge with light brown liquid on the side in a steamed-up plastic container but it is actually Da Paolo’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk that had been heated up a tad longer than expected. I was not complaining because it was exactly what I needed then. I spent the morning detoxing and my sugar level was at an all time low so this hot square of moist, ultra tender chocolatey brownie bottom and almost-scorching melted caramel awoke my senses and lifted me up instantly. The monotony of the sweetness was interrupted by the little crunchy feuilletine and bigger peanut chunks which made every bite as exciting until the end. It was a blissful afternoon thereafter.

[Update] Yes, I know. This, for lunch, is terribly unhealthy. There is zero nutritional value and the badness of sugar is all over the internet. But this sin has satiated me. It is now 5:18pm and I have not craved for anything, not even an mid-afternoon snack, since then. In fact, what I am craving for now is a long comforting jog.

Chinese New Year 2014 Part 1

Three glorious days of feasting, gambling, and constantly surrounded by love. That was how I started my new year. I was utterly exhausted come Monday. Who knew sinning could be so tiring? However that did not deter me from spending my Monday afternoon in PS Cafe enjoying brunch with my best friend, and aimlessly walking around Orchard Road for five hours..

This year in particular the food astounded me. My Aunties’ cooking finesse was most clear to me this year. In every house I was greeted with a large table of food of every variety, and all cooked with the utmost love. Only perfect homely mostly-Chinese food was served. It was as if the aunties were secretly competing and seeing who could pull out all stops. While I was glad the weekend was over and I could finally take a break from eating, the spread and dedication my Aunts put in were most memorable.

For my family’s turn, my Mum order Fatty Ox Hong Kong Roast Meat who came down and catered food for us. It blew me away. Freshly roasted duck, chicken, roast pork, and braised beef brisket was served alongside perfectly cooked Wanton Noodles with a bite. Then there were these Wanton filled with nothing but juicy seasoned minced pork.

My body took a full two days to clean out the long week of food but it was all so worth it. Here are some pictures from last weekend.

Reunion Steamboat dinner at my 5th Uncle’s place. The preservative fishballs filled with mentaiko were most memorable.
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On the first day, as per tradition, we visited my maternal grandmother who lives with my eldest Uncle. And there was homemade Apple Cider. The alcohol content was potent, the set up so ghetto, and couldnt be a better way to start the year. Also on offer was a Mongolian Goat’s Milk Wine that looked exactly like white wine but tasted nowhere close. It was a surprisingly smooth wine that left a minty refreshing aftertaste.
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After that it was onwards to my paternal 5th Uncle’s house, and my Aunt cooked up a storm since 6am. So much was on offer that I could not finish trying all.

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In the evening we hightailed to my paternal eldest Uncle’s house. My eldest Aunt surprised us with her delicious olive fried rice with crunchy peanuts. Her KL Hokkien Noodles were such a hit but it was the braised pork belly in black soy sauce that hit the spot for me. Thinly-sliced, lustrous belly that has been briased for hours in this thick rich soy sauce with hints of black vinegar and five spiced powder – very impressive. Her chicken curry was thick and coconuty, my favourite consistency for curry. Her Buddha Jump Over the Wall contained a large juicy chicken and hidden underneath were gems of abalone, pork belly, chinese mushrooms, and ginseng. Again, impossible to eat all.   

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The next day, my 4th Uncle hosted us for lunch and dinner. A lot of people were craving for her prawn mee but it was her filipino-style spaghetti that really got me hooked. Minced chicken and button mushrooms in a subtle sweet spaghetti sauce. The homemade “Bubur Pulut Hitam“ refers to Black Glutinous Rice porridge, I coveted. Subtly sweet and so thick it was almost impossible to stir. The perfect dessert.

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For dinner, there was a Penang buffet spread outdoor but indoor was where the feast laid. Homemade Laksa, more pork belly in soy sauce paired with the biggest fluffiest pau I ever had. Chicken and beef satay from Gim Moh Market was such a standout, and those Peach Buns filled with sweet lotus paste and salted egg yolk to celebrate my Uncle’s birthday were close to perfection. Just enough sweetness contrasting with the saltiness.

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On Sunday, I gave up house visiting in the morning and afternoon as my stomach could take it no more and I had to prepare myself for….
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Fatty Ox Hong Kong Roast Meat.
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There was some serious meat overload.
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My first bowl of meat on top of yellow perfect noodles.
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Detoxed with my best friend on Monday at PS Cafe. The Chocolate Cake standard has dropped, the truffle fries portion have been significantly reduced but the ability to lay on the seat for a full two hours without being disturbed made it all so worth it.
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Chinese New Year Cake Bonanza!

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When my sister suggested we set up a Dessert Table at our place when my relatives came over for the annual Chinese New Year house visiting, my immediate response was “sure!”. She gladly prepared two items (which later and wonderfully turned to three), and I prepared three. It was an easy task for me. I have held three open house cakes parties efore, and served up five different cakes each time. No matter how many it all boils down to planning, planning, and planning. But this time around, I surprised myself by finishing all three by 10am on the day itself. It probably wasn’t the best idea since I spent the greater part of the afternoon hovering around my cakes, picking at the crumbs – generally being all greedy.

However deciding on the three cakes was hard! I have many favourite recipes and many more on my bucket list. As usual, I flip-flopped between the lists many times until two days before when I forced myself to concretized so that I could churn out a grocery list and baking schedule. In the end, I decided on Roasted Blueberry No-Bake Cheesecake, Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake from her newest “Cakes” book, and a Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake from “The Clandestine Cake Cake Club” cook book.

My Mum specifically requested for the Roasted Blueberry Cheesecake which turned out to be the first cake that was wiped clean from the cake stand. It never fails to surprise me how popular and well-received the cake is. Maybe so because I would never have believed my own recipe would be so successful. This time around I amped up the blueberries; three boxes instead of the usual one or two. This was achieve a fuller more decadent look. While the onslaught on blueberries was most inviting, it did not hold up well outside the fridge and “bled” into the cake. Although it did not deter my relatives, I reckon tidying and neatening up is the way forward.

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The Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake was exactly as the title called it and blew me away again! This time I splurged on some very expensive, healthy dates, and it almost turned the cake into a human being. When warm the tenderness of the cake and the deep sweetness from the dates sang in my mouth. When cool, the dates deepened in flavoured, turned earthy, and continued to sing in everyone’s mouth. I served alongside Toffee sauce in a teapot set over a little burner so that it would always be warm. Again, a hugely popular decision. The toffee sauce was made using muscovado sugar – another indulgence but boy was it worth it! It was sweet but not cloying so. The sweetness was not as jarring compared to the use of brown sugar, and it was a milder and smoother form that continued to develop in the mouth.

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Oh, and when the cake was fresh out of the oven, I did a toffee soak. I used a pastry brush to brush the toffee sauce over the top of the cake, and when the cake was slightly cooled I turned it over and did another soak. The way Serious Eats wrote about. This ensured a glossy moist sticky cake that shined bright like a diamond.

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The date cake was tight; a textural success.

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I baked Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake in a bundt pan purely for a variation-in-appearance purposes. I poured a cream cheese glaze over and let it flowed down sensually. Finally, inspired by Sticky Fingers Bakery I topped roasted shredded carrots which I had reserved earlier from those going into the cake, and sprinkled pearl sugar over for a glamourous look.

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My cousin declared this cake to be better than Cedele’s. I am not going to take much credit for this as Martha is always reliable. All I did was follow the recipe to the tee and success ensued. Moistness, texture, multiple flavours from the variety of spices in the recipe, and the earthiness of the carrots were all present. It was a no holds barred carrot cake recipe that was intended to astound and definitely achieved it.

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The recipe resulted in mammoth amount of batter which I delightfully baked into mini muffins and were the most ideal snack poppers.

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My Favourite Red Velvet Cake Recipe

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Over the years I have made changes to my original Red Velvet Cake recipe so as to suit the ingredients available in my kitchen. Strangely, almost always, the cake inevitably turns out as good or even better with the changes. Some changes I observed include: a spongier more pillowy texture through the addition of corn starch, a more vibrant bright red from a particular brand of red food colouring,  and a richer cocoa flavour from a specific cocoa powder and an extra ingredient. This is exciting as I never know what the final result might be except that I never have to fear less of a cake results as the lack of butter never runs the risk of a failure.

Last year I ended up with a radically different recipe and after following the recipe strictly for several bakes, a beautiful perfect red velvet cake results. Qualities that embody a perfect red velvet cake include: a rich cocoa taste, pillow-like moist sponge cake, and a fresh vibrant red.  The picture above shows an example of the result of this recipe without any frosting. I served this during one of my first Vainilla Cake Club sessions and on the side was a perpetually hot coconut rum sauce. They both went so well together.

After much research, I realised the technique and method involved is equally as important as the recipe itself. Methods such as:

  • adding corn starch to all purpose flour, instead of cake flour, leads to a spongier texture;
  • combining first the red colouring and cocoa powder to form a smooth paste, before adding into the batter, makes  a huge difference and a way of creating a vibrant red cake;
  • a teaspoon of instant coffee granules brings out the cocoa flavour even more;
  • apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar adds more flavour to the cake;
  • Bake King’s Cochineal Red gives the cake the most vibrant fresh red;
  • buttermilk made combining whole fat milk and apple cider vinegar results in an equally beautiful texture without affecting the taste; and
  • dutch processed cocoa powder gives the richest cocoa flavour.

And so without further ado, here is the recipe with detailed instructions:Read More »

Amok on a Saturday

20131109-142729.jpgNow that I have stopped work and preparing for my exams in two weeks, I decided to meet up my best friend for brunch at PS Cafe. I thought long and hard about where to go since it has been forever since my Saturday afternoons were free. With the plethora of new cafes popping up in the past year, I was spoilt for choice. But it was the complimentary magazines, hearty portions, and wide range of cakes that made me run back to PS Cafe. Read More »

Biscoff Espresso Icebox Cake

20131109-150824.jpgWhen I served this “cake” during the third Vainilla Cake Club, immense guilt overcame me for several reasons. First, it was not a cake. It was more like an assembly of ingredients to form a structure that resembled a cake. I guess it could be me associating cakes to sponge-based but hen again, there are tons of cakes that require no flour so after a while this guilt passed. Second, it was dead easy. It was literally grab ingredients, stack and assemble, and put into the fridge overnight to set. Before serving I topped it off with home-made Salted Caramel. I decided to make my own as I wanted to prove to myself that it was a) easy, and b) that it would actually be salty to qualify for its name and fame. During the party, this cake was so popular; many people raved about it especially the Salted Caramel. Hence I have put up the recipe below for future references.Read More »