Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Sweet Summer Ending

"Change is the only constant."

Change is always a challenge, and my recent globetrotting journeys have made these challenges all so tangible for me. And as much as I always like to think that every next trip back to school would be slightly easier for me to stomach than the last, I admit that I can't seem to get over this initial inertia every time I walk through those departure gates.

Well, it's a season finale for my pastry escapades back home. I spent the final day in my pastry lab whipping up some mini cream scones spotted with cranberries and raisins - a homemade birthday present for Matt's mother. (Tsk, gone are the days of using 'brownie points' to keep score.) The scones came out perfectly - a light, flaky crust exuding rich amber hues, and a moist, fluffy interior studded with the sweet berries. And I even made cream cheese and blueberry jam (also from scratch, by the way) to compliment those miniature golden medallions.

I'm starting to miss home even before I have to leave. My winter holidays were embellished with an array of rich, joyful moments spent with people that I truly care about - especially my family. Living away from home, I have to endure the occasional bouts of homesickness, but at the same time, it has made me cherish them so much more.

So till I begin my new patisserie adventures halfway round the globe, let me wander off one final time in this tropical world of sugar, spice and...

...yeap, you've got it - everything nice.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When The Italian Meets An Oriental Beauty...

Just as I've promised, here's an update on the signature Italian dessert done two ways: The Classic with a heavy dose of fine espresso and Kahlua, and the Asian inspired, which I'd like to aptly name as The Jade Beauty. Infused with herbal green tea and my all-time favorite Azuki beans, it is a treasure trove of decadent pleasures hidden under those emerald sheets of cream cheese...

I actually have to admit that I am rather pleased with myself. Both tiramisus came out exceptionally divine. The night of chilling did well for melding all those wonderful ingredients together - the lovely lady fingers had ample time to soak in all those fine booze while resting amongst the silky layers of ivory Mascarpone cream, creating this explosion of sublime flavors for a rapturous tastebud awakening after my 8-hour eating hiatus.

The green tea tiramisu was purely an experiment that turned out to be an oriental beauty. I was wondering around my neighborhood baking store and the little bottle of matcha caught my attention. "Hmm, if Starbucks' Green Tea Frappuccino can taste so good, I wonder how green tea would taste in a tiramisu..." And for those who know me well enough, I simply adore Azuki beans, so it was without question that I'd throw those miniature roseate nuggets in for some extra goodness. A jade beauty indeed... Mmm-hmm...

Tsk, all this sugar talk is getting me high. It's time to channel my sugar spike towards a midday jog around the park. I'm trying to soak in as much sunshine as I possibly can before winter strikes again in three days time. School's starting on Monday!

My Whirlwind Romance... With Food

I've been meaning to write about my pastry escapades since a couple of weeks now. The winter holidays have been just amazing, or as Alvin would say - and I quote, "YUM-mazing!"

Kudos to my Makansutra Singapore 2009 guide book (coupled with my innate curiosity to explore fine, fabulous grub), I have spent my tropical days back home charting my very own "Die, Die Must Try!" culinary extravaganza, titillating my taste buds with the potpourri of Uniquely Singapore local fare - from one of Joo Chiat's finest Cze Char stalls, to the award-winning Hill Street Fried Kway Teow tucked away in a nondescript hawker center at Bedok South, that of which Anthony Bourdain has blissfully sank his teeth into and declared, "How can something that looks so messy... taste so good?" And, despite my bursting belly and shrieking inner conscience that I have to double my jogging distance the day after, temptation got the better of me, so we settled for an after-dinner curbside D24 durian indulgence that I, till today, have to admit was worth every caloric morsel. The aromatically pungent fruit gleaming in its vibrant lemony custard skin was gorgeously sweet and moist... (Oh, please don't get me started...)

After my month-long love affair with K F Seetoh's recommended grub - which I have to confess may be bordering the line of gluttony - I would expect some sort of deep, pregnant guilt to sink right down to the pit of my stomach... but perhaps the term 'bottomless pit' fits in aptly right now.

Yeap. The guilt just goes right through.

So on the contrary, my culinary and pastry explorations have taken off to greater heights. I have been ranting and raving about using my Morrocan tagine (courtesy of the best girlfriends ever), so weekend dinner parties have given me ample avenues to experiment and display my inner craze for all things sweet and savory. And having been inspired by Julie & Julia, I did a modified take on Julia Child's celebrated Beef Bourguignon recipe with the help of my handy tagine. I know it's suppose to be a pastry blog but we need some splashes of salt to tickle our Umami taste buds, don't we?

Fabulous, just fabulous.

Nonetheless amidst the recent whirlwind cooking adventures, pastry was - and is - and will always be my kind of soul food. Apologies for the lack of photographic displays, but I've managed to dabble in multiple dessert creations - from Gordon Ramsay's most YUM-mazing Chocolate Fondant (translation: molten chocolate lava cake), to Piña Colada panna cottas, Spritz cookies and blueberry jam. The latest creations that I just embarked on this afternoon were two versions of Tiramisu - the classic Italian, and a Japanese twist using matcha and Azuki beans. I promise more updates on the creamy duo tomorrow after they enjoy a night of chilling (both literally an figuratively).

So in the meantime, goodnight, sweet dreams and enjoy a couple of Nigella's Totally (decadent) Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies and a rich, frothy glass of cold milk...

XOXO darling!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Wonderful... Or Not?

Have you experienced one of those quirky and almost bothersome days where you've fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning only to find yourself waking up less than 5 hours later, and realizing you can't seem to return to slumber land no matter how snug and cozy you try to be or how much personal meditation you place on falling asleep again? And to make things worst, it's the weekend.

Last night was one such night. It's times like these that you wish the big, fuzzy Z monster was lying under your bed ready and waiting to pounce on you and cradle you to dreamland.

After the whole week of festive eating - or gorging I must admit, I was awoken early at the crack of dawn only to find myself feeling somewhat nauseous. Perhaps the nasty aftermath of a holiday-season gormandizing extravaganza.

And since my early awakening has given me so much time to kill before my tea and dinner date with Matt later on, I was contemplating whether to assume the passive role of a couch potato and check out the New Year programs on the telly, or spend some time in my pastry lab (despite the odd bout of queasiness in me).

Well, I decided to multi-task. Us girls all excel in that, don't we darlings?

There's a certain calming quality about an old-fashioned pound cake that reminds me of simple pleasures and classic breakfast or teatime treats. Kids love it, grannies adore it, and so does everyone else in-between. And I guess I've had one too many decadent meals these past couple of days that a simple cake will suffice.

This morning, I've made mine with a slight earth brown marbling of dark chocolate, which I find so appealing against the pale custardy tones of the traditional batter. Adding a handful of freshly-grated lemon zest also gives the cake a zingy, citrus touch that works excellently with the bittersweet chocolate. And I just love the crisp, faintly burnt crust that evokes such a wonderful aromatic smokiness when paired with its light, fluffy interior of moist cake crumbs.

As much as I have always agreed with Mae West that too much of a good thing can be wonderful, I think this festive season has convinced me that no matter how gratifying holiday meals can be, I'll somehow or another find myself running back and finding gastronomic solace in the simple pleasures of everyday comfort food...

Scones With Your Tea, My Darling?

I was invited by my girlfriend to a tea party on New Year's Eve. So I thought I'd have a share in the festive spirit and bring over some of my own high tea creations. And what's a lovely English afternoon tea without some classic cream scones?

They actually came out better than I expected. The light and flaky crust glistened with shades of amber and gold (thanks to the double egg wash), and the interior was moist, crumbly and specked with shriveled nuggets of burgundy-colored raisins - the slight tanginess complementing the rich cream crumbs perfectly.

Hmm, I think I will bake this more often.