Saturday, 25 January 2014

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Today I turn 35.

And today I cross over the mid-life point. They say thirty-five is the start of middle age. It's a strange period. Too young to start talking nagging like your mom. Too old to pull a when-you-are-young-and-reckless late night or do something frivolous. Trust me, you'll regret badly the next day. Hangover make you look worst than leopard tights. Nothing planned are good plans - my kind of ideal nights tend to be on the sofa in front of the television. I run and still feel fat. My Facebook friends are all about the baby pictures. Family tends to come first now. You'll I'll take a day off to bake a cake for yourself.
As much as I’ve crave this extraordinary adventure in life. There are undoubtedly times in one’s life that call for a hunk piece of chocolate cake. Whether you are happy, sad, depressed or stressed. This chocolate cake is exactly what you need. Especially more so for birthdays. Today, I just want my chocolate birthday cake with a candle.

Now that I am thirty-five, being thirty-five didn't matter anymore. I am thankful I woke up to another day with the person I one. I've arrived on this day with many lessons learned and ready to fill my future me with many more years of laughters, tears, optimism and contemptment . Life will only gets better. It does with time.

Happy Birthday to me.

This recipe is foolproof, mix and pour type batter. For this cake to taste extra luxurious, use the best quality chocolate you can find. I use Valrhona with 70% cocoa.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Kueh lapis legit - Spekkoek

Our family have a secret. Every Chinese New Year, we have tons of baking to filled up every non-working hours. Our kitchen turned into underground production house. During these few weeks prior to the big lunar day one, Nobody is allowed to cook because bags of flour and sugar took up every available counter space. The refrigerator is filled with dozens of eggs and butter. There's no space for other food. No one is allowed to eat at the dining table too! We use the table for packaging the cookies into their container. Naming and tagging them for delivery.

Oh yeah! It's all hard work. Rolling, cutting, egg washing every single cookie. We lose sleep over them. We got fat with them (Let's talk about QC, we taste every batch!). We baked churning trays after trays, hundreds and thousands of new year goodies. Last year, we had a successful our Charity Bake Sale raising a hefty sum for Club Rainbow - committed to help children suffering for chronic and life threatening illnesses. This year, although there's no cookies sale (Thank you peeps for sending me enquiries this year), to put things into action, I've signed up to be a volunteer with Club Rainbow. I am sure you all will agree. Nothing is more fullfilling than seeing a smile on an ill child's face. I like to be part of that.

Back to the Kueh Lapis. My grand aunt used to hold to realm to this particular recipe. Year after year, she will bake this laborious cake for everyone. Her kueh lapis is highly praised by everyone. Soon, she had a stream of fans that will knock on her door to buy this cake (Along with her addictive almond cookies, recipe here). After offering to help her with the baking a few years ago, she handed me a piece of hand-written recipe (that's exactly what I was after). Sadly, the recipe don't tell much details but luckily I've remembered every unwritten part of it. So, here you go, enjoy the recipe and happy baking! I promise you. This recipe is very good.

This fascinating Kueh lapis is not difficult to make, but you do need lots of patience. Be prepared to hover next to the oven for a couple of hours grilling each layer of batter. The cake is served in very small, thin slices as it is so rich and fragrant.

Since you are here, also check out the buttery pineapple tart recipe, almond cookies, Danish cookies for Chinese New Year.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Green bean omelette

The holiday season is always magical in many ways - a time to take a little break from the year to share meals, conversations and laughters with people you love most. Looking back upon the year, the uncountable meals shared together made us closer and very much stronger. To celebrate the last few days of 2013. We went home. Hong Kong, in a way, was going home for both of us, more for Michael because he was from there. Less for me because I lived there once.
We didn't dine at fancy restaurants or spent romantic candle twinkling evenings over wine. Instead our holiday drifted down memory lane. We took slow trams watching the city goes by. We dined at old-style Hong Kong cafés. He told me that I must make up my mind quick when we ordered or the servers will give me a crude scolding for being slow to order. I know, I know… don't hurry me! I whispered. If only I can read Chinese as fast as him, I wouldn't miss out on so many good local food when I live here! You see, I don't patronize these local gems, not that me and my expat friends are snobbish but because we had issues with Chinese characters. I still can't read them fast enough.
We walked up the narrow roads, visited his high school (He pointed out the principle office where he visited so often)and roamed his university where he said is the best time of his life. The days were spent strolling through the neighborhood he once grew up in, telling me his stories of favorite hang out joints after school and the pranks the boys played on other classmates. I told him he's a big bully. Over the afternoon, we sat at the café in the university campus and over a slow cup of coffee, He revealed cheekily how he would pick girls up at the library on the next building. Oh, I must say, his open liner was lame. I had laugh hardly imagining how the girl would roll her eyes at this annoying boy.

The places that we went were familiar to me. I always said I might have already met him 10 years ago along one of these streets or perhaps we had bumped into each other cramping together to share a table for a quick meal. I hoped he was one those those I've elbowed with my umbrella on a rainy day. After all, his playground was one long winding round away from Soho. If our path did cross, I know definitely I would snare at this irritating and smelly boy with his stinky friends.

When we came back to Singapore. I cooked him a simple omelette. Green bean omelette is an old favorite of mine. Spilling my side of childhood stories and the numerous time having this omelette over porridge after school. This omelette is home to me.

With the new year, I look forth to many more getaways. I always feel so incredibly lucky to have so many trips together. The trips and meals we shared made us very much stronger. And now, home is wherever we are together.

Green bean omelette is best to go with meatball porridge.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Meatball porridge


Happy 2014! I hope you get to spend the holidays around a table full of good food, lots of champagne and most importantly with people you adore. I had a week full of good things - celebrations, traveling and gatherings with plenty of food. Everyday was a jolly bellies and I am still recovering from all the holiday indulgence (and festive toasts). It's day 3 of the new year now and I am still heavy and reluctant to get back the usual routine. I am sure many of you, are too.

One of my goals for this new week of the year is to eat as light as possible to lose some of the belly space before the Chinese New Year season. It's another two week long of feasting for all Chinese where we unite from where ever we are to have a meal together. And for the first meal of 2014, what more do you crave than comfort food, especially after almost a month-ful of big merry meals. What's your to-go-to comfort food?

Meatball porridge is a nostalgic favorite of mine. A dish that I've grown up with. Memories of the many many uncountable bowls of meatball porridge as a kid and in college where I had made huge pots to last for many winter meals. A cup of rice goes a long way. It's warming, filling and feels like home.

Meatball porridge is part soup and part meal somewhat filling enough to fuel your day. It is deliciously warming and comforting. Especially so if you are still suffering from the festive hangover. Your tummies will be grateful.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Mint chocolate chip ice cream

Christmas is here in just a few days and there's nothing that beats the magic of this holiday. The key to this jolly season is all about indulgence. If you're anything like me, I am indulging more than I should. We can worry about the extra pound later. It goes on the New Year's resolution list every year anyway. Doesn't it always? And we have another 12 months ahead to resolve that extra pound issue.

As we rush off to bake the last batch of cookies and endless hours of prepping in the kitchen. Prepping for the big meal can be sometimes overwhelming but for now, what matters most are the priceless laughters and joy of sharing meals over the dinner table. My table is a happy place and I like it that way.
Words will be few here. Just stopping by to write you this mint chocolate chip ice cream for the dinner dessert before hitting back into the kitchen again. And also to wish you all a wonderful Merry Christmas! See you all again next year.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sticky maple gingerbread cake

I think you are going to love this cake. Sticky maple gingerbread cake is like the king of winter cakes. Goodnessly sticky, dark, moist and deliciously spicy. Humm…there is something just so comforting about it. 

Actually, I did not intend to do any baking this Christmas but since I am running around the kitchen past midnight making slumber tea. And since I've already started on Gingersnap cookies last week, it counts as already having one foot in the Christmas baking bonanza. I thought, what the heck, I might as well use up the molasses and spices. Frankly speaking, my spices are from last Christmas and I am not sure if they can hold up for another year.

I turn to oven dial to preheat.
It's kind of nice to bake at midnight, sliding around the kitchen floor with fluffy slippers. The quiet charm of midnight baking is rather relaxing with no rush in the world. When you pull out cake or cookie pan from the oven, there's this overwhelming sense of accomplishment almost like a runner's 'high' after a 5 mile run so to speak. Is there 'baking endorphin fix'? This feeling can be addictive. 

The scent of gingery spices bringing warmth. To me, it smells of Christmas and with that lingering in my hair and pyjamas when I go to bed, I feel like I might even meet Santa.
This sticky maple gingerbread cake is so easy. Easy as there's no mixing bowl to wash up. Basically, it's just melt, mix and bake; except for the icing bit. Well, that can wait until the morning I suppose.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Gingersnap cookies

I've been a silent follower of a blog - The Sophisticated Gourmet. In his recent post, Kamran writes about heart break and baking. He said heartbreak knows no season or the holidays, just whenever it demanded - even baking scones at 6am. Indeed, baking does heals. His words touched me. His story reminded me of difficult moments in my life. When my heart sunk as deep as the ocean floors. The feeling of heaviness, leaving me breathless for days or even months. And in the mist of all the unhappiness, you'll sometimes forget to smile and neglect the people closest to you. A reassuring smile to them, a sign to them that you'll be fine eventually. I remind myself not to forget. In times like this, our mind tends to be clouded, when we choose to see life one way, letting little moments of joy, as little and brief as it is, to slip by. We forget that sometimes a little smile is all you need to feel better; and the people worrying about you too. To remind us that there's always something wonderful on the other side. The faith; that life will turn out well.

It always does.

It will get better one day and with time, the pain will be eventually be bitter sweet memories. Our hearts will mend and we will learn to love harder, stronger than before. Kamran sums it all well, "we’re the ones that control the entire process. That’s what life is, in a nutshell. It’s about taking what we want out of our lives and learning from each and every one of our experiences.". He's right and it's okay to be sad. It's okay to cry. Take as much time as you need. We heal at different rates.

I replied telling Kamran telling him it's okay to bake even to bake at 3am. Whatever time it's called for. Whenever you have the need. I've a little secret too. I baked when I feel life is not quite right or when work got tough. Butter, sugar and flour makes me feel grounded and the joy of putting all these together, beating, whisking, rolling, to make something wonderful is my escapade. As I was writing this, I've just finished rolling the last batch of cookies at 2am. 


The timer rang. The gingersnap cookies emerged out of the oven perfectly browned, filling the kitchen with smell of butter, ginger and cinnamon; the smell of Christmas to remember all the many years of happiness surrounding this festive season and family. I agree, sometimes to bake is all that is needed to take the pain away. Even if it was a fleeting moment of inner peace and stillness.

Who wouldn't smile at the smell and sight of freshly baked Christmas cookies? Bake some cookies, make new friends. Be positive and share the happiness forward.

Other Christmas cookie recipes to put a smile on your face: Gingerbread cookies and Sugar cookies

Friday, 6 December 2013

Fig and whisky upside down cake




I was wondering lately. If I ever do live in such a beautiful city as Sapporo, what life will be?

For sure it be delightful waking up to cloudless skies. Landscapes that change with the folds of the seasons, from green to amber and white. Maybe I will want to live in a little cute cottage house. I could grow my own vegetables and have a garden. I will have all the time in the morning to enjoy a cup of morning coffee. Cuddle up with a few dogs over the fireplace during winter in the evening. There will be plenty of books to read till I doze off into the starry night. Maybe I'll dabble into art; paint or make some craft work. Then twice or three times a week I will head to town for fresh ingredients. The adventures of the market oh, there's so much ingredients I can explore. Like the big corn or juicy red tomatoes, they are delicious to eat them on its own. There are fresh affordable local seafood stores at every corner - the big crabs or scallops will be perfect for a winter grill. I will also hunt for desserts. Perhaps it's a girl thing - I can't help getting excited with the many bakeries and pastries to try. They are always so pretty. The lightest cream puffs you'll ever have.
On the way back, I'll swing by to the deep blue pacific ocean. Gaze upon the lapping ocean breathing in the fresh air until I am recharged or until my stomach starts to grumble telling me it's time to go home and cook. I am sure I can cook and write better. That will be nice, isn't it? Oh, and I nearly forgot telling you about the Hokkaido fresh milk. It's rich creaminess tasted unlike any milk that I've tasted throughout my entire life. It makes me wonder the real taste of fresh milk. I was puzzled but that's okay because, I can then have soft serve ice creams everyday for breakfast.
On weekends, I could visit the whisky distillery and get a glimpse of this time honored traditional.  I'll discover my favorite blend. I figured out I like my whisky fruity with little or no peat. The Yoichi distillery is one of Japan's most prestigious and possibly the most beautiful in the country. It all started in 1918, when Mr. Masataka Taketsuru (Nikka Whisky founder)  journeyed to Glasgow to study distillation at a number of classic Scotch distilleries. When he returned to Japan he established the Nikka brand and built the Yoichi distillery. You could almost feel impeccable commitment of Teketsuru to Whisky. I reckon it's likewise to people who found their passion - work no longer feels like a vehicle to sustain but every moment of work is a journey that pulls you closer to what you loved and live for. It represents you. I will visit Mr. Masataka Taketsuru humble house. I will be happy to live there too.
Now, let's make some whisky cake.

Part 1 of the Nikka Whisky, Asahi Japan tour: Tokyo Fried Chicken + Miso Coleslaw
Part 2 of the Nikka Whisky, Asahi Japan tour: Ratatouille on hotplate with egg

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