Monday, November 21, 2011

japanese strawberry shortcake.

The japanese version of strawberry shortcake utilises a sponge cake instead of a scone. I can think of no other dessert more ethereal than this; with the moist and tender cake, layered with chantilly cream and sweet strawberries.
For the longest time, I had been struggling with this dilemma. I liked the idea of using chiffon for cream and mousse type cakes. However, the only problem was that the cake was so delicate that it was difficult to slice horizontally; and i always wound with with wonky layers. To overcome this, i simply divided the batter amongst 3 pans and voila! no more layering.

50 gm sugar
50 gm canola oil
50 gm cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, separated
1 whole egg

a. Cream 3 egg yolks, whole egg, oil, 25 g sugar, flour and powder in a bowl till thick and creamy.
b. In another bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with the remaining sugar till stiff. fold a little of the meringue into the mixture from (a) to lighten, then fold in the rest carefully using a large whisk.
c. Divide mixture equally amongst 3 seven-inch round pans. Bake at 160 C for 15 min or until baked. Once baked, the cakes must be cooled upside down to prevent collapse of the delicate structure. R2move the cakes 30 mins later.

Chantilly cream:
2 and 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
5 tbsp icing sugar
2 and 1/2 tsp of gelatine dissolved in 6 tbsp water
scraping of 1 vanilla bean

a. Stir the icing sugar and the vanilla seeds into the cream.
b. Beat the cream, when it starts to form soft peaks, pour in the gelatine in a thin stream and continue whisking to stiff peaks.

if your strawberries are sour, macerate them with sugar for 30 minutes, then drain the juices.

a. Layer each cake layer with a portion of cream and sliced strawberries. I find using a mousse ring the easiest for this; I simply pour the cream in and use a spoon to level it out.
b. Pressed toasted almond flakes up the sides and decorate as desired.

Friday, August 26, 2011

plaisir sucre..

Plaisir Sucre (sweet pleasure) is the third pierre herme recipe i've tried. the first was the chocolate sables and the second, the lemon tart. i've put off doing this recipe for so long because i'd no experience with tempering chocolate. i don't know why milk chocolate is harder to temper than dark... i only successfully tempered it on my 3rd try. to temper it, i melted 150 g of chocolate to 120 F, remove from stove, add remaining 50 g of reserved chocolate to the melted chocolate, and stir until the temperature drops to 83 F (it takes about 30 mins of stirring, so you'll really get defined forearms from this... hah!), once it reaches that temperature, put the bowl of choc back on the simmering water and let it reach 86-87, don't go higher than that! and your chocolate should be tempered and ready for spreading on the acetate sheets...
the other five components weren't too difficult (hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate ganache,chocolate whipped cream, praline feuilletine (I sub-ed with crushed corn flakes).. it seems like a lot of effort but it was worth it when a friend proclaimed 'the best dessert i've ever had'. since this was my first time, making it - it seems kinda a clumsy attempt. i would make the dacquoise layers thinner next time and the ganache was kinda drippy too.. i would make a slight adjustment to the recipe in future.

Monday, August 22, 2011

a thousand leaves.

I've always adored the flaky and ethereal quality of puff pastry and wanted to make a millefeuille. But to rush off to the supermarket and buy ready made pastry would be cheating, no? So I decided to make my own. There is something infinitely satisfying about making puff pastry.. and seeing all the beautiful layers rise like magic in the oven.

For the creme patisserie, I used Michel Roux's recipe but made a few substitutes replacing part of the milk with double cream for a richer taste. You definitely do not want to use low fat milk to make pastry cream!

The completed millefeuille. Now this can come out from some chi-chi patisserie. Even Mum who isn't a big fan of desserts gobbled this right up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

say cheese..

I have to say every baker must have a good cheesecake up their sleeve. Since trying this recipe, I haven't been tempted to try anything else. Sour cream really elevates the flavor and gives it a really creamy soft texture. for those who love 'dense' cheesecakes, this is not for you. but i like this one as you can eat a whole slice and not feel queasy. and to make it even more decadent, I baked this with chunks of brownie in the batter.

This is my first experience with tempering chocolate. Of course, you can use plain melted chocolate, but it won't set and it just won't shine (or heaven forbid, chocolate cake covering) I don't know why I was so hesitant to try it before; it really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. For these chocolate dipped berries, 200 g of chopped dark chocolate couverture was used. 2/3 of that goes into a glass bowl over simmering water and melted to past 105 F. Upon reaching that temperature, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chopped chocolate into the melted chocolate and start stirring like mad. When your temperature gets between 88 to 89, you are ready to start dipping. My biggest worry was whether the temperature would spiral down too quickly but I was quite surprised to find that the chocolate does maintain its temperature for a while. If it dips down below 88, simply place it over the simmering water but don't let it get above 90. Sounds tricky I know, but it wasn't so bad.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pie it.

I must admit I'm not a fan of lemon meringue pie, but it is a classic and I like to master the classics. I hate the strong eggy taste of traditional lemon curd so for these tarts, I used a vegan recipe stiffened with agar. It turned out divine, without that dreadful eggy taste, but I would probably dilute the lemon juice next time; I like my lemon desserts verging on the sweet instead of the puckeringly sour. For the meringue, I used the italian method. the last time I used the french, the meringue collapsed in a matter of hours in this humidity.

These caramel and chocolate tarts were done for a recent order. I was very happy when a customer gave me some positive feedback, saying these brought her right back to Paris. I was initially quaking in my boots when I learnt that she was there for many years. She must have had the best of the best, and here I am - still an untrained pastry novice, what hope did I have? Lol. but thankfully she loved them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I can't believe I've neglected this blog for quite a while now. yes, I've busy in the kitchen as usual but sometimes I'm so lazy to write about what i've been doing, you know? anyway, these are some of my projects lately.

The recipe for these brownies comes from the BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking Cookbook. The batter called for both cocoa powder and expresso powder to be added so the resulting brownie is very dark and rich. Out of all the brownies I've tasted, this one came out the least sweet, a plus for those who like less sweet things but I'll probably add a bit more sugar next time..

I've always wanted to attempt an opera cake, but i didn't want to do the classic coffee version, so I thought of matcha. I was surprised by how easy it was to do and how delicious the results were. Normally, I'm a big hater of buttercream but it paired really well with the green tea joconde and bittersweet chocolate ganache. One word though - when the recipe calls for soaking the cake layers with syrup - make sure to do so liberally - these type of cakes really come alive with moisture. I will definitely do this cake again and Im thinking of a caramel and white chocolate version this time... I also thought the cake was kinda tall, Upon further reading, I found out that an opera cake should not be more than 3 cm in height, so I reduced the quantity of the batter the second time round and this is the result.

These are some recent macaron orders. The purple-black ones are filled with olive-oil and vanilla ganache - a pierre herme recipe I always wanted to try. If you love olive oil, you'll be over the moon. But the taste wasn't really for me, I guess. It tasted good right after being made but the olive oil was so overpowering..

Am I the only person obsessed with the perfect pie crust?? I've found a combination of shortening and butter gives the flakiest results (I don't like the idea of using lard). The recipe for this pie crust comes from It will be my go to pie crust recipe from now - it's so delicious! The only thing that wasn't delicious were the granny smith apples I used - it was so sour; I think I'll do a sweet-tart apple mix next time. And the crust turned out to be soggy and uncooked on the bottom. so the second time, I baked - i placed the pie pan directly on the bottom of the oven, brushed egg white over the crust and sprinkled cookie crumbs before piling on the filling. this time, it worked like a charm :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Making macarons can be addictive. oh dear.

Since switching to italian meringue, I've been having more success with my shells. my last batches with french meringue - the batter settled into misshapen blobs and I've no idea why. The only thing I found is that with italian meringue, the shells take longer to mature. The macaron must really be aged for 2 to 3 days before it is at its best. My favorite flavour is the purple one... cassis. The red one is chilli chocolate; most people would balk at the idea of chilli in sweets, but rest assured I use the littlest amount to impart a slight tingle to the palate - in fact, most people won't know there's chilli inside until I tell them.

This is my new flavor: key lime pie. I initially wanted an edge of coconut to it so I added some coconut cream to the ganache filling too only to find out later I couldn't taste any coconut! I prefer to use ganaches for fillings as curds will reduce the macaron into a blob of goo in no time.

I also used to have a problem with hollow shells; I used every temperature setting but the problem remained. But this lovely lady, Thip ( solved my problem. She told me that my batter was not deflated enough during the macaronnage process and I had to keep pressing the batter down against the side of the bowl with the spatula. since taking her advice, I've found out that the air pocket problem was resolved although I still get them on bad days.

Friday, May 6, 2011


After a recent 2 day stretch of baking non-cooperative macarons, I decided to throw in the towel for the time being and turn my focus on doing other things, before I pull out all my hair in angst :(
I'd been wanting to make financiers for a while, after acquiring this silicone financier pan. The only thing was I had no idea how it would taste like. the recipe called for two forms of butter: plain melted butter and clarified brown butter to be added to the batter. I have never made brown butter before (made by heating butter till the milk solids settle to the bottom and the mixture turns brown) and as I took a whiff, notes of caramel, coconut and vanilla came wafting up my nose. Whoa.. pretty intriguing stuff. So this is the end result - it tastes like an extremely rich butter cake, though I'd probably use pistachios or hazelnuts next time.

Meanwhile, I was in the mood for some Japanese style strawberry shortcake but I was wondering what to use for the cake. The biggest problem I always have with making sponge cakes is achieving a super light and tender texture. I liked the texture of bakeries where the crumb was tight, but the crumb of all my foam-cakes, regardless of whichever recipes I use, always turn out very loose. I'd been told that commercial bakeries actually use a lot of emulsifiers to make it soft, so probably achieving that texture is difficult (?) at home, unless one uses Ovalette or other emulsifiers. Anyway, I decided to make a genoise, as seen here. While it came out soft and wobbly on the day of baking, the next day it was a different story despire soaking the cake in a tonne of syrup, the texture left much to be desired. I would try the whole recipe again using Wondra flour, if I can find it!

So this is what I've been working on for today.. salted caramel and chocolate tarts. This is really one of my favourite desserts and a little goes a long way. You can't really see it from here but it has 3 layers: the caramel at the bottom, a chocolate cremeux in the middle, and a glaze on top. If anyone wants the recipe, i got it here:
I followed the recipe to a T, but doubled making the amount of caramel and I would probably reduce the glaze recipe by 1/4 next time and it would just yield about 12 individual tarts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


If pastries can be models, I guess macarons can fit the bill. I can never resist taking pictures of these vividly coloured beauties (albeit with my crap phone camera).

These purple macs are cassis flavored. I'd initially toyed with the idea of an entirely jam filled macaron but decided I didn't want it to taste too cloying so I just added 3 tbsp of blackcurrant preserve to my regular white chocolate ganache. These have been aging for about a week now, and the interior tastes just like heaven.

The light green ones are pandan, my most popular flavor to date. the darker ones are pistachio and rose. I guess what makes all my mac fillings so nice is that I only use natural flavors. that means: real pandan leaves not fake extract. I use rosewater, not the artificial extract. Real preserves and real fruit purees, never chemical essences. I've been toying with the idea of getting fruit powders (to flavor the shells), but they can only be got online and is rather expensive. They've an amazing range of fruit powders though ranging from banana to raspberry.

The only thing I don't like about macarons is the amount of food color that goes into making them; I just don't like the idea of using anything artificial but with macarons - it really can't be helped as you need something vivid to bring out their attractiveness. Again, there are organic and natural colors available online but once again, they are horribly expensive.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I haven't been in the mood to bake any complicated cakes lately, but yet I've been craving for cake. good old-fashioned cake without any complicated layers or fussy embellishments so I decided to whip up this orange cake. This is one of my favourites, after the simple sour cream pound cake is baked, a hot orange syrup is poured all over the cake and the cake is left to absorb the goodness. A slightly damp, very moist crumb is the result. This cake is very dangerous to the waistline; I've never met anyone who didn't ask for seconds!

This is my first time making a whoopie pie. I've never had one before so I really didn't know what to expect. I used the recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum's 'Heavenly Cakes' but used a plain 7 minute frosting instead. While it was tasted just ok, I thought next time, I would use a more decadent filling to bring out the taste - perhaps cream cheese, caramel or a chocolate ganache.

Friday, March 18, 2011

thoughts on italian meringue.

After trying italian meringue macarons a few times, I've to concur the french meringue macarons taste so much better. It has a more delicate, airy, melt in your mouth quality. A freshly baked french meringue macaron shell is more fragrant compared to the italian one. The italian one, i cannot smell the nuts and the taste is like artificial candy - it is so horribly sweet. Interestingly enough, the sweetness dissipates slightly after the macaron is matured.. hmm. The only good thing about the italian ones is that the shells are so smooth with that perfect egg shell feel.
I also noticed the hollow pattern in french and italian meringue macarons to be different. For me, French meringue macarons tend to be hollow right under the shell and if you press too tight at the top, the whole thing will just collapse in. As for the italian meringue macaron, the hollow is centered right in the middle with pieces of 'meat' here and there. As the shell is quite sturdy - to me, the hollow problem is not so obvious. However, italian meringue macarons can taste 'crunchy' if the syrup is taken too far. Some recipes suggested 244 F and some 230 F, which left me initially confused. Now I just use the 230 figure because at 244, the shells came out really rock hard crunchy despite maturation and as I am using a thermapen, I don't think my temperature is wrong.
Hollows - ahhhh!! The bane of my existence. Despite 'thinking' I had fixed the hollow problem in the previous entry, my resulting batches have all turned out hollow. And I've no idea what went wrong. Perhaps time to invest in a new oven? I'm using a really really small and crappy one at the moment.
Anyway these are some macarons (made with french meringue) for an order not long ago. ( Flavours: turquoise - caramel, pink - rose lychee, green - pandan)Thanks guys for your orders and for the customer who called for a hantaran order, they are time-intensive to make - so i do require a week's notice :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

more flavors.

So I've been busy working on new flavours. I wish my macarons look better as they taste! You can't really see it from here but they are slightly deformed on the top. I don't know why when I bake them, some of them depress very slightly in the centre, almost like a tyre going out of air. Could I be I didn't age my egg whites enough? (I use 24 hour aged ones). Anyway deformed or not, they still taste great.
Green - White Chocolate ganache infused with screwpine leaf (pandan). We are lucky we have pandan leaves growing wild in our backyard. everytime I need some, I just go out and cut some.
Yellow - hazelnut shell with dark chocolate and nutella ganache. I can eat dozen of this flavour combination. I simply adore hazelnuts!
Pink - It's hard to find passionfruit in Brunei but luckily, I saw some in the supermarket a few months ago. I immediately juiced and froze it. I've been meaning to try the popular milk chocolate-passionfruit combo I'd seen in blogosphere. I'm lucky to have tasted pierre herme's mogador macaron before but it was the only combo that didn't work for me. I found passionfruit goes really weird with milk chocolate, maybe white chocolate would be better? I know of others who love it though so maybe it's just me..
Brown - Chocolate Macarons with Milk Chocolate and Chilli Ganache.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The accidental macaron and thoughts.

Salted Butter Caramel Macarons

Macarons with Rose Buttercream

It was all an accident. While making some macarons one day, I couldn't find the low, circular metal stand I use to place the baking sheet on in the oven. So I used a higher stand and guess what? The hollow problem was gone!
All this while, I'd been wondering what the air pocket in my macarons were due to. How could it be after whipping up hundreds of batches, I've never once got a perfect batch? I had sifted, measured and folded everything correctly - surely the mistake couldn't be on my part. It all came down to this: The position of the tray in the oven. Using a higher or lower rack to bake your macarons will definitely have an effect on the macarons. Here are a couple of other tips that helped (for me). I can't comment on every factor out there but if anyone had the same problems like I did, I hope what I'd experienced will be of some help.

(1) I bake my macarons at 150 C for 18 min. Every oven has its own idiosyncracies so you have to find what temperature works for you. A friend of mine used 170 C but for my oven, it burns the macarons after just a few minutes. I cover the above rack with aluminium foil to prevent the colour of the macarons from fading. This is a must for me.

(2) I always do my macarons in an air-conditioned room (living in a tropical clime). I've found that without it, the macarons do not dry and form skins even when placed under a fan. I've had macarons 'drying' for one entire day under a fan and yet they still cracked when placed in the oven, because the humidity in the air affected with the ability to form skins. The drying time is again, individual, but in my case it takes 45 min to an hour before I pop them into the oven with confidence they will not crack. For me, resting for the macarons to dry out is very important - it will ensure crack free macarons.

(3) Lopsided macarons (when they decide to put on sun hats) are due to leaving them to dry out for far too long. I get lopsided macarons when I leave them to crust over for more than 4 hours.

(4) When the feet of your macaron splay out, it is not aesthetically ideal. You have to lower your oven temperature.

(5) If you have any problems with hollows, you may (1) rap the pan sharply on the table a few times after piping the shells to remove air bubbles, then prick them with a pick (2) adjust your temperature or (3) adjust position of pan in the oven. Also, an undercooked macaron will definitely be hollow. I find there is a very fine line between being slightly undercooked and just done.

(5) After being filled, macarons must be rested in the fridge for at least 24 to 48 hours, and then brought to room temperature 2 hours before eating. This is extremely important. Newly filled macarons taste dreadful because they are too crisp. Once the shell absorbs the moisture from the filling - the transformation will make the macaron snap delicately like an egg shell upon bitin,g into a moist and tender interior.

(6) I'm using French meringue because I find it yields a more tender and melt-in-your-mouth macaron. I have not much success with italian meringue (my shells always end up crunchy even after maturation) but I will keep practicing the technique more in future.

Review: The salted butter caramel is incredibly rich and to die for. I much prefer this over say a caramel buttercream because I feel the former has a more decadent flavour and as for the rose, - as I've mentioned before I'm not a big fan of buttercream but somehow this seems to work - the sensous feel of the rose perfumed buttercream absolutely melts in the mouth :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

on croissant making.

Brushing egg wash on the shaped croissants.

Layers of laminated dough in the pain au chocolat.

This is my third attempt on making croissants and it seems I shaped the dough better this time. I remember my 1st attempt on croissant making was a complete disaster. Making the croissant pastry is akin to making puff pastry and involves rolling a slab of butter into a yeasted dough, folding it in thirds, rolling out, rotate, do another turn and in between you chill the mixture 4 times. It was a disaster because I was working in a warm environment and the butter kept oozing out of the dough until the whole thing disintegrated in a gloppy mess. Moral of the story: Work in an cir-conditioned room and keep on dusting your workplace and your hands generously with flour. If you do get leaks, simply patch it up with a bit of flour.
Anyway, after 3 times - I quite enjoy making them now. They are not too difficult to make but making it is a fairly intensive process - you need at least a full day. The positive thing is that the end product tastes so much better than the ones in the freezer section of the supermarket. Flaky, buttery and moist insides - what's not to love?

Friday, February 4, 2011

in the mood for pecan pie.

A pecan pie is the quintessential American classic. However, the first time I tried the recipe, my teeth almost fell out. I like sweet things but this was wayyyyyyyy so sweet that my pulp cavities were tingling. A few adjustments later, I've reduced the sweetness level to acceptable for me. And not being a fan of deep dish monster pies, I did individual tartelettes. The following recipe does enough to fill six 8 cm tart rings or a shallow 9 inch tart pan. The crisp shortcrust, the buttery pecans, the gooey caramel filling - can you say heaven?

6 pre-baked tart shells (use your favorite shortcrust pastry)
2/3 cup golden or corn syrup.
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs.
1 and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.
2 tbsp melted butter.

1. Melt the butter and let cool.
2. Whisk the sugar lightly with the eggs, add in the syrup and whisk.
3. Whisk in the melted butter.
4. Toss in the pecans and stir.
5. Spoon mixture into the tart shells.
6. Bake at 160 C for 18 minutes till filling has puffed up and set.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

in the mood for lemon tart.

When it comes to lemon desserts, people are divided into 2 camps. either they hate it or they love it. I've eaten my fair share of horrid lemon desserts; the usual complaint being it being far too sour to be palatable.
I am very particular when it comes to the lemon curd; it cannot be too sour nor can it be too sweet. fortunately, this tart has just the right balance. The custard is seductively smooth and creamy almost like eating the lemony version of a creme brulee.
For this lemon tart, I took the recipe from here: I halved the filling recipe for the lemon curd and it made just enough to fill about 6 eight cm diameter tartlets. The filling will soften the pastry over time so it's best to eat the tart as soon as possible. When making custard type tarts, I like to wrap the tart mould in aluminium foil and let them stand in a roasting pan filled with warm water. I find the filling will bake and set more evenly but that's just me :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the humble chocolate chip cookie.

O Chocolate Chip Cookie, how do I adore you? Let me count the ways..
I've always felt every good baker should have an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe up his or her sleeve. I've tried out so many recipes before but this remains my favourite one. They are thin, but not too thin and best of all - they are giant sized. You want them to be soft and chewy so overbaking them is a big no-no. Definitely good for sharing but you won't want to share once you take the first ecstatic bite :)


4 and 1/2 tbsp of butter
5 ounces of 70% dark chocolate chopped into rough chips.
1 cup plus 2 tbsp of plain flour
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar


1. Cream butter and sugar till light. Add the egg and vanilla.
2. Stir in flour and soda.
3. Toss in the chocolate.
4. Chill at least 30 mins (Some people suggest overnight or even up to 3 days but I do not like how dry the cookie dough will become).
5. Drop by tablespoons into golf sized mounds on cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 150 C for 12 min. Cookies will still look slightly undone but will firm up as it cools.

Monday, January 17, 2011

thoughts on macarons.

Here are some macarons I made over the weekend. The beige ones are filled with pink vanilla buttercream. I used a whole vanilla bean for the cream but it still tasted bland to me. Which reminds me why I don't like buttercream - I think next time, I'll do it as a white chocolate-vanilla bean ganache. But the texture of the macaron shell though was lovely, it simply melts in your mouth.
My favourite flavour by far has to be the orange ones filled with salted butter caramel. I really have to stop myself polishing off the whole lot :)

Remember my very first attempt making macarons? Those horrid brown ones only serve to remind me what a long way I've come.
I still have not resolved the air pocket problem though... after trying the french meringue method a gazillion times, I've always encountered a gap, ranging from slight to very obvious, between the shell and the foot. Reading across all the info by macaron makers online, I found at least two who said they have never resolved the air pocket when it comes to the french method but when they used the italian method, they do not get hollows. I will try the italian method next month when my thermometer arrives.
Anyway, hollow or not - these bottoms of these shells can be pressed slightly to make way for the filling and when bitten into, I don't think anyone is gonna notice. I've tried macarons at two places in Brunei - the first had really glaring air pockets and the second had textures really tough and chewy which wasn't ideal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

in the mood for blueberries.

Yesterday, while in the grocery aisle - I came across some fresh blueberries. I must confess that I'd never had a fresh one before; up till now - I've always used frozen ones for baking. The blueberries were mildly sweet - I had expected them to be sour so that was quite a pleasant surprise. Immediately - I thought of whipping up some of my favourite muffins.
There are many versions of blueberry muffins, but I enjoy the ones made with butter and not with oil. The addition of sour cream makes these muffins oh so moist and tender. I've forgotten where the recipe comes from, however, it's taken from a book of scribblings LOL.

2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 carton blueberries.

1. Cream butter and sugar till fluffy. Add the eggs.
2. Then, add the vanilla and sour cream - beat till incorporated.
3. Stir in the dry mixture and then toss in the blueberries.
4. Fill muffin liners about 1/2 full, then bake at 175 C for about 20 minutes till a golden crust forms on top.
5. Remove from oven and dredge top with icing sugar if desired.