Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Seventh Heaven

The Christmas season is such a fabulous time to go cookie-cutter hunting. Every mall and store would be selling rows and rows of such wonderful hollow metallic assortments, all bent and twisted to form anything you can dream of... and more.

So with a sparkling sack of cookie cutters stashed away in my Christmas cupboard, I've embarked on a sugar cookie frenzy and have begun rolling out buttery mounds of biscuit dough, stamping them into a mélange of wintertime patterns, then embellished with shimmery brown specks of Demerara sugar and magical golden dust.

"...and you can almost hear the choirs of angels singing..."

There's something ethereal and enchanting about that sentence that still captivates me even though I have to admit that it has already been four days since Christmas. But I guess there's always the New Year to excuse myself for my whimsical musings...

Mmm... Talk about being in seventh heaven.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cooking Up Some Positive Energy

Contrary to what others may think of baking - a positively discomforting experience of someone slaving away in a hot kitchen over stoves and stoves of hot liquid and sticky gooey batter - I, on the other hand, find it fascinatingly wonderful to spend the entire day in my pastry lab, whisking egg whites into soft, frothy peaks, and watching summer berries and granny smith apples bubble away in a pot until it all turns into a sweet heavenly glaze. The feeling I get from it is almost... liberating.

And today was one such day. I woke up feeling peculiarly unsettled... almost bothered really, by a series of unfortunate events that have plagued since I returned home for the winter. Nothing much that I'd like to share on this entry - at least not for now. But I decided that a couple of hours in the pastry lab would do the trick. So I started channeling those (slightly) negative energy to brainstorming for creative ideas on what to concoct.

There's something fascinating about Indian food that compels me to it. I love the chewy, dense texture of naan bread - especially over a piping hot bowl of coconut curry and its medley of aromatic spices. So I decided on a banana and strawberry naan bread with a dark chocolate-Grand Marnier-orange sauce. And to my cocoa and fruit laden flat bread, I also spooned a couple of creamy, ivory-colored nuggets of cottage cheese specked with earthy crimson cinnamon dust... then baked them till everything just caramelizes and the bananas turn soft and deep golden.

Next on the list was a simple shot glass filled with a potpourri of textures and flavors... the crunchy graham cracker crumbs, dark and dense chocolate sauce, two mini mounds of macadamia and espresso ice cream, and topped with a tropical and summer-inspired fruit compote. This is what I call happiness in a shot glass.

Since I had quite a bit of the summer fruit compote left, I decided to roll out some puff pastry to make mini fruit compote tarts topped with a buttery crumble. I wished the puff pastry turned out crisper, but nonetheless, the bite-sized fruity nugget was certainly mouthful of bliss.

And I'm feeling better already..!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And I Can Almost Hear The Choirs Of Angels Singing...

I've always had a soft spot for pastry. Since young, I would find myself fascinated by the nimble hands of bakers and pastry artists sculpting beautiful little pieces of edible art, then line them all up like pretty maids in a row on those sturdy wooden shelves, and just letting me admire them sitting there, glowing and gleaming in their shiny fruity glaze under the amber hues of the display lights.

And after watching Julie & Julia on the plane back from New York City, I'm inspired to do the same as Julie did. So here I am, creating my very own virtual canvas where I can paint my culinary creativity, make my imagination tangible, and share with the world this loving relationship I have with pastry.

Let's get the basics down first:

I call the kitchen I work in my pastry lab.
I'm superbly inspired by Nigella Lawson. She is such a beautiful woman that brings so much love and passion to food - it's highly infectious.
I'm born and bred in Singapore, but am presently attending college in New York.
And today is a special day. It's my dad's birthday! Plus, it's Christmas time, so I've been going crazy in my pastry lab whipping up sugary treats over and over again. I find it immensely liberating to just totter about the kitchen and dabble in some culinary treats and tricks - as amateur as they may often be but nonetheless still exceedingly enjoyable.

I find it a necessity to bake a sugary treat whenever I'm meeting friends - and that happens a lot over Christmas time. Let's see, so far I've made little cherry chocolate cupcakes, cranberry banana and white chocolate muffins, almond biscuits, granny boyd's biscuits, classic chocolate muffins and brownies, sugar cookies, panna cotta with cherry compote...

My mom is yelling at me for making her gain a kilogram ever since I returned home for the winter break (which was just last Tuesday).

Nevertheless, Christmas morning without a sugary treat is like eating a bagel without cream cheese. So I woke up yesterday morning and whipped up some classic Grand Marnier-infused dark chocolate muffins with my special chocolate peanut butter swirl chips and shimmering gold dust. Watching those golden powdery gems fall against the dark brown chocolate mounds reminds me of Nigella doing the same on her Christmas fruit cake...

"...And you can almost hear the choirs of angels singing..."

Have yourself a merry little Christmas and a wonderful New Year!