Monday, November 26, 2012

Dad's French birthday dinner!

The first time I dined at a French restaurant was a few years ago. I was maybe 10 years old? I'm not quite sure. It was at The Brasserie. I remember the desserts from there; sorbet and chocolate tart. My dad really liked that restaurant, he dined there a few times with my mum and my sister. But, unfortunately, The Brasserie closed and has been replaced with Bistro Guillaume. 

My sisters took our family out for French food at Bistro Guillaume. For my dad's birthday! From what I can remember, the interior hasn't changed much from the Brasserie, but it's quite pleasant. We sat outdoors, which was really nice. It's still spring, and it won't be long until the hot, blazing summer nights, so my dad wanted to take the opportunity of sitting outside. We normally don't, since my mum doesn't like the cold. 

Credits to my dad!
My dad had escargot (snails) as an entree, and I tried one for the very first time. I never knew snails tasted that good.

Uh my sister's finger got into the picture.. But I think Mum and Dad look real great. 
 I had steak frites. Simply delicious. The meat was cooked to perfection (my favourite, medium rare!) and the fries were really nice and crisp. However, I won't say that they are the best fries I've ever had. Believe it or not, I personally find that the best fries come from Charcoal Chicken, a take-away chicken shop. I think they use chicken salt. And they produce the best, thick, crispy and just-enough-salt chips. Anyway, the chips at Bistro Guillaume were still very nice! Ooh, the bearnaise sauce went well with the steak. Just enough tang.
You know it's a good meal when you polish the whole plate. 
My second sister had the half a roasted chicken with jus and Paris mash. I tried some and quite liked it! I really liked the jus and the mash was extremely creamy. 
 My mum had the duck, but I didn't try it. She said it was quite good though.
OF COURSE, we had to get dessert. After all, the French are known for their patisseries. 

We got the special of the day, the Valrhona chocolate tart with lavender ice cream. A chocolate tart starts off with high-quality chocolate; this chocolate tart certainly delivered the standards of what a superb chocolate tart should be. The pastry was buttery, crisp and matched well with the intense flavour of the Valrhona chocolate. The lavender ice cream was surprisingly nice. I thought it would taste like soap.

 We also got the profiteroles with vanilla bean and hot chocolate sauce. I wasn't able to get a shot before the waiter poured over the hot chocolate. Heavenly.
 It was a really nice day. I love it during evening in the city. Especially during spring and autumn.
 I made a masterpiece. No, not really. Just a vanilla cake with coffee buttercream. My mum did all the decorations. The coffee buttercream is so, so, so, so yummy! I will sure do a post of cupcakes with coffee buttercream. You see, I don't like coffee itself. At this age, I find it horrible, icky and bitter. I tried a cup from the Nespresso coffee machine we have at home, and I nearly spat coffee out after I had a sip. Though, I'm quite certain that my tastebuds will change in the future.
 Happy birthday Dad! I love you so much, thanks for being the typical Asian dad (studies, studies, studies), being always so hilarious when you mishear things (e.g, we were talking about pasta on Masterchef, and the judge dropped a plate of pasta because he was being dramatic about it being 'disgustingly good' and then Dad's ears perked up and he said "Char kway teow?? He dropped char kway teow??!??" ), but most importantly, for being my role model. I hope that one day, I will become somewhat similar, to the super-nerdy-genius you.

Bistro Guillaume on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cookies and cream cheesecake cupcakes

 I've only made cheesecake bars and mini cheesecakes. Not an actual real big cheesecake. #projectforsummer 

These are perfect to bring for parties, and so much fun to make! What makes it real fun the bottom of the cupcake, which is a whole Oreo, which acts like a base. I'd normally put an Oreo crust, by actually crushing the Oreos with some butter and digestive biscuits, but this time I decided to put an Oreo instead.

I just can't get enough of Oreos!

Have you met anyone who does not like Oreo cheesecake? I sure haven't. The weird thing is, my dad will not eat any other cheesecake besides my mum's Oreo cheesecake. What is your favourite cheesecake? 

These are so easy to make, the hardest part is waiting for it to sit in the refrigerator for 4 hours. What helps, is when you bake at night! Bake at night, wait for it to cool, refrigerate and go to bed. 

Oreo Cheesecake cupcakes 
Recipe from Martha Stewart via Handle the heat 

*Makes 30 (I only made half) 


42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds (4 8-oz packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 275°F (135 degrees Celsius). Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.
2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.
3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.
4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.
*I mixed by hand. I've become a little bit lazy to take out the mixer. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chocolate cupcakes with Nutella cloud frosting

I'm a chocoholic. I love chocolate on chocolate. So how does a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting on top appeal to you?

I don't know about you, but chocolate on chocolate cupcakes just grabs my attention. Move over vanilla, I need my chocolate dose! 

Btw are these images too big? Should I reduce them to the normal size I normally do?
These chocolate cupcakes came out really moist with a really good flavour of chocolate. I mean, reaaaaally good flavour. Though, with this frosting, next time, I'd probably increase the amount of cocoa to make it a bit more rich. The frosting is quite nice, but I think there's a little bit too much Nutella for my liking. I'd probably go from 100 grams of Nutella to probably like even about a tablespoon? You can omit it if you like.

But this frosting pipes out beautifully. Probably one of the best chocolate frostings I've ever made! I made rose swirls with my favourite icing nozzle, Wilton 1M. 

Chocolate cupcakes with Nutella cloud frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita

For the cupcakes:
3/4 (95 g) cup all purpose flour *
3/4 (150 g) cup white sugar
1/4 (30 g) cup dark cocoa powder *
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk *
1/4 cup brewed coffee or espresso, hot
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* I used self-raising flour instead of all purpose with the baking soda and baking powder.
* For the cocoa, I only had Van Houten, so I just did about 1/2 cup instead.
* Buttermilk can be substituted by putting a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon into one cup of milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes, until it curdles.
*  I also didn't need to use the mixer. I just used a large bowl to mix all the ingredients.

For the Nutella Cloud frosting:
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool
1 and 1/2 cup (190 g) icing sugar (confectioners'), sifted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (125 g) premium bittersweet chocolate. Chopped, melted and slightly cooled.
1/3 cup (100 g) Nutella *
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch of salt

* I would use probably only about a tablespoon or 2 of Nutella next time

For the cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 degrees Celsius) and line a muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt.
3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Divide batter evenly among the liners. The batter will be quite liquid-y.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack until completely cool.

For the frosting
1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
2. Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the Nutella, milk and a pinch of salt, and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
4. Frost onto cupcakes with a spatula or fitted nozzle

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chocolate chunk cookies

I don't know if it's just me, but I have always preferred chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips in my cookies. I think this may be because of what Aunty Soo Suang said. Aunty Soo Suang makes the most incredible double chocolate cookies, her baking and her cooking is really good. I can recall too many occasions where she has brought so many delicious things (like mango pudding and chicken cacciatore).

I shaped these balls quite small because I put a tad too much baking soda. 
Anyway, she told me that the packaged chocolate chips isn't exactly 'real deal', well most definitely not as real as the normal chocolate bars because chocolate chips are meant to retain their shape while baking. Which means that they contain less cocoa butter. And really, I just love the oozey chocolate chunks in cookies, rather than in bits. Though, it's not to say that I hate a good old cookie with chocolate chips.

Fresh out of the oven
These cookies are crisp on the outside, and chewy in the middle. The best kind of cookies. Buttery, melty chocolate. These remind me of Subway cookies. Pretty much a replica actually. I have been a fan of Subway cookies for years. Apparently they just buy the dough from somewhere, rather than make it themselves. But their cookies (my favourite is double chocolate) are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. So delicious. 

I wonder how cooks like Giada De laurentiis can stay so skinny. I try to refrain myself from eating all of my baked goods as much as possible, BUT IT'S TOO HARD. Maybe I shouldn't even take a bite and just give it all away. But it's worth the calories, I mean, once in a while you know? Food is a girl's best friend. 

How is this possible? 
 I really need to go on a refined-sugar cleanse pronto.

These are like giving you a hug. Please do make them, they really are so, so, so good. Let me know how your results turn out. 

Chocolate chunk cookies

Adapted from Our Kitchen

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt *
1/2 tsp baking soda
170 g unsalted butter, melted and allowed to cool a little
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (I reduced to 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chunks (dark, white, milk, whatever you like. I used dark and milk.), roughly chopped to give large irregular chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees Celsius on Fan bake and arrange the oven shelves so they are spaced evenly at about 1/2 and 2/3 down the cavity and the hot air can circulate freely around them. Lightly grease or line two baking trays.
2. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda into a medium sized bowl.
3. Combine the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl. Add the eggs, extra egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
4. Add the flour and chocolate chunks and stir until just combined.
5. Divide the dough evenly into twenty pieces and roll into balls. Space them evenly on the oven trays, allowing plenty of room for them to spread. Bake for between 15-20 minutes until light brown.The darker the cookies, the crisper they will be.

* P.S, I never ever put salt in my baking goods because I don't feel like there is the need for extra sodium.
I also had to refrigerate the dough for a while because my mixture was too sticky. Also, a great tip is to freeze your cookie dough. You can stash it in there, take it out whenever and bake the cookies! Just let the cookie dough defrost and come to room temperature though.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Double chocolate banana muffins

I've been on a bit of a muffin kick lately. I made some blueberry muffins the other day (they are too ugly to be photographed), made cupcakes (though you wouldn't technically call it a 'muffin'. By the way, I think I have too many parentheses) and today, I made some double chocolate banana muffins.

I found this recipe of Sally's baking addiction. I am a huge fan of her blog! They're actually called 'Skinny chocolate banana fudge muffins', and well 'skinny' you may ask? Half whole wheat and half all purpose flour. No oil or butter. Instead, you use applesauce. I've never tried adding applesauce until now, and I'm wondering why I never thought of that before. Applesauce is too easy to make, and is a great replacement instead of the fatty butters!

My muffins turned out incredibly moist, with a good flavour of chocolate. The amount of cocoa powder used is not too bitter. However, they were a bit sticky. I think this was probably due to the size of my bananas. Next time, if I have really big bananas, I will add more flour to the batter. I also added some raspberries, chopped walnuts and almonds. I've always believed that raspberries and chocolate are a heavenly delightful combination. I made that chocolate tart with raspberries earlier this year for Mother's day, and it was divine.

In addition to my muffins, I also added some dark chocolate chips! 

Perfect for my recess at school. 

Skinny Chocolate Banana Fudge Muffins 
makes 12 muffins
  • 3 large bananas
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar *I reduced to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping
*I didn't use a whole cup of chocolate chips, only about two table spoons. I added some nuts and some raspberries. 

Preheat the oven to 375F (180 degrees Celsius) degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups. Set aside.In a large bowl mash the bananas with a fork.  Mash them very well – no big lumps.  Stir in the sugar, egg, and applesauce.
Sift* the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder into the wet ingredients. Lightly mix to combine.  Fold in chocolate chips. The batter will be a little chunky. Do not overmix.
Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups – fill them all the way to the top.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Muffins stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
*Be sure to sift your dry ingredients together to avoid pockets of cocoa powder lumps

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oreo cupcakes

As you can tell by now, I love Oreos. I have some Oreo truffle balls to share soon. Mmm.

Baking cupcakes are always so much fun! Especially frosting. I obviously still have some work to do on my frosting skills (I've only recently started using icing nozzles. I used to just spread frosting on a cupcake like there was no tomorrow.).

This is my all time favourite vanilla cupcake recipe. You can't go wrong with this recipe. It's not too sweet, even my dad likes it (without the frosting)! It also has a distinct taste of vanilla. It uses vanilla bean paste, instead of the normal vanilla extract. Vanilla bean paste just enhances the vanilla flavour, and tastes so great! I chose an Oreo cream cheese recipe, as I'd happily pick cream cheese over buttercream for cupcakes.

Vanilla cupcakes
Adapted from Taste

*Makes 24 cupcakes

200 g butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (370 g) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract) 
4 eggs
2 3/4 cups (405 g) self-raising flour
1 cup (250 ml) milk

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350 F). Line 24 1/3 cup (80ml) muffin pans with patty cases
2. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Add the flour and milk in alternate batches and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
3.  Spoon mixture evenly among the patty cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Once cooled completely, frost with an icing bag attached with a nozzle (I used Wilton 1M) or spread with a spatula or knife.

Oreo cream cheese frosting
Adapted from the Cupcake project
8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter (57 grams), room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar (use more or less depending on how stiff you want the frosting to be) *
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/4 cup crushed Oreos 

1. Whip cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
2. Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time.
3. Add vanilla extract.
4. Gently stir in crushed Oreos.

* For the powdered sugar, I only used 2 cups. 
* I did about 1 cup and a bit more of oreos. Though, I will still consider putting even more so that you can taste more of the oreo flavour.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Avocado pasta

Simple, tasty and nutritious. Could those words appeal to anyone any better? 

It's a Friday night, and normally I would go out for dinner with my parents or takeaway Subway. But I opted out for something simple. Avocado pasta.

I know what some of you  might be thinking (for example, my parents). GREEN PASTA? WHAT IN THE WORLD? SIMPLE? 

But this literally takes minutes to make. '15 minutes' the recipe says. All it is is blending avocado, garlic, lemon, boiling some pasta and voila! 

It is so creamy, the texture you would normally get from a creamy pasta that has lots and lots of cream. But like one of my previous posts, I said that avocados has plentiful of benefits! If this pasta is too vegetarian for you, you can add some meat or whatever you desire like mushrooms, tomatoes etc. I would've liked to add some onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. Maybe even some chicken, but I was too lazy!

15 minute avocado pasta

Adapted from Oh she glows

  • 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, to taste 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used wholemeal penne)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.
3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
Please note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce. Please serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

French toast

I have discovered the wonderfulness of brioche. I had my first taste just recently when my oldest sister brought home some brioche from a French bakery in the city. I've been reading everywhere that it makes the best French toast. I couldn't agree any better!

The other times I've made French toast were with normal, bread slices; the ones I use for sandwiches. They were pretty ordinary. But brioche just takes it to a whole new level.  I'm also starting to conquer my fear of recipes involving yeast, so I can take on some cinnamon rolls, pizza and breads like challah and brioche.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cookies and cream cookies

This is not your average, typical cookie. It's a cookie, IN A COOKIE. 

 Cookies and cream; one of my favourite ice cream flavours. I am also obsessed with anything cookies and cream flavoured. I love my oreos alright! 
 These cookies give off the best aroma. Every bite is full of oreo chunks; perfect for any oreo lover. 

I adapted this recipe from Kirbie cravings 

*I made this with about 1 and 1/4 cup sugar, but next time I'll reduce it under 1 cup, but not too much, otherwise there could be a drastic change in the texture.

Cookies and cream cookies
Yields: 2 dozen

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar *see note
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
14 oreos (or more. I put about 18) 

1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 degrees Celsius with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients until dough is formed. Add oreos directly into batter and beat on medium high speed until oreos are crushed and blended into dough, Roll dough into balls about 1 inch to 1/12 inch (2.5 cm to 4 cm) in diameter and place onto ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
3. Bake about 11-12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden around the edges. Cookies will be initially puffy when taken out from oven, but will flatten after they cool

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gallivanting in Melbourne

I went on a food adventure in the city with my friends whom I've known since primary school, and also with their friends. I go to a different school to them, so I rarely see them! 

First we tried Harajuku Crepes in Melbourne central. I shared a chocolate crepe with strawberries and some chocolate drizzled and ice cream! My friend, Anika doesn't really fancy cream, and neither do I, well in a huge quantity. So we didn't get the cream. The crepe tasted pretty good, obviously the combination of strawberries and chocolate always work. The only thing is, I'd say that the place is over-priced for what you get. Average price for a crepe is about $6-7 dollars, but I suppose that's the typical pricing for crepes around Melbourne. 

Harajuku Crepes on Urbanspoon
While they went to Starbucks, I went to the small Cacao Green next door (there's one on Bourke street which is the bigger one.) and I tried a new flavour, mango! It is probably the best flavour I've tasted so far. Pomegranate is pretty good as well, but I prefer the mango. It reminds me of mango pudding! I had some mochi as the topping.
I had Malaysian food at Mamak. I was surprised, because I honestly don't expect much of Malaysian food in Melbourne. Sure, there are some good restaurants, but they will never live up to my reminiscent taste of authentic KL-style food. Since I didn't expect much, I just shared roti canai with my friend, Nikita and the roti canai. What can I say? Probably the best I've tasted in Melbourne! The roti was very flaky, crispy and dough-y. Amazing. Definitely coming back sometime soon, probably will get some teh tarik along and even roti tissue! I highly recommend this place for Malaysian food.
My friends had nasi lemak. I tried some; a good typical nasi lemak. I love the ikan bilis (anchovies) with it!

The works of roti.
Mamak on Urbanspoon

We shared a dessert pizza at 39+ pizzeria. A pizza with nutella, strawberries and ice cream! Bellissimo! (Totally just Google translated that). Though, to be honest, I think it's only because of the combination. The pizza base was way too hard and burnt, we were struggling with our fork and knives to cut through. I think I could easily make that at home myself. I have learnt how to make pizza dough. All you do is bake the pizza crust, then slather with Nutella and fruits. Dust with icing sugar. Simple.

Anyway, it's quite weird, considering the raving reviews about it online. And we found the service rather quite, I don't know, kind of rude? Maybe it was just on that day.

+39 Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Then we went back to Kingsway, and we went to some random Japanese restaurant (I forgot the name, will be updating soon once I find out the name of it) that just opened. 
Some noodles yumm!
I tried a yakatori skewer and a chicken skin skewer.
I shared the matcha creme brulee and some cheesecake! A spin on the classic French creme brulee!Very interesting, and of course, TASTY.
I also had a bit of my friends' mochi.