Friday, May 30, 2008

I Want a DSLR!!

The little girl in me is stomping vehemently in contempt. I want! I want! I really really need it!!!
I absolutely, imperatively, must have it!!!

Please forgive my outburst of girlish tantrum. I think I need to get a better camera, I'm increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of my photos. Even after extensive editing in Lightroom, I just can't seem to be happy with them anymore, especially when I'm always looking at other gorgeous photos taken by other food bloggers. Sigh, better start saving up now. A friend of mine is returning to HK sometime this month, so I hope I can get a better deal there.

Or perhaps I can just improve my skills and stop making excuses for taking bad photographs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cupcakes Fit for a Queen

I made these cupcakes late last week. I have had a lot of free time in the past week, mostly because I was told that I do not need to come to work at all last week; the restaurant was way too quiet, and being a part-timer who's paid an hourly wage, I was always the first to feel the punch.

But I wasn't unhappy. It sort of gave me a mini break and gave me time to bake and develop this blog. And, let's just face it, I'm getting bored there anyway. The kind of things they make me do there aren't getting me anywhere. But enough whining.

I was at the newly opened QV branch of San Churro Chocolateria some time ago, with J. He wanted to get a coffee, and decided on a long black with a dash of condensed milk. I, on the other hand, was feeling full and even resisted the enticing cabinet of desserts and chocolates available. I was more intrigued at the way they made the shop's famous Spanish churros. Cutting to the point, I was looking around at their merchandise when I found a free recipe card for their Queen of Spain Cake.

What intrigued me about this recipe is its method of execution. I have, since I started avidly baking about a year ago, encountered many chocolate cakes. However, I have yet to find one made by this method.

Upon making the mixture, I was worried with how thick and dense the chocolate mixture is. Moreover, I could see sugar granules still present in the mixture even after a good 15 minutes of mixing. Afraid that I'll burn the chocolate if the mixture gets too hot, i decided to leave it as it is. It was a really thick mixture, even after the addition of egg yolks. I was beginning to doubt the recipe.

I paced back and forth between my living room and the kitchen as I waited for them to bake. A good 30 minutes later, they came out of the oven. I was a little reassured when I saw them; they looked good enough in terms shape and colour. But what about their texture and taste? I could not wait any longer. I plunged my spoon into one. Seconds later, I was gasping with delight. The cupcake was moist, rich and intensely chocolate-y. I was happy. I had to wait 'til it cools down before trying it with the frosting, but in my opinion, this cake is way better fresh and warm.

San Churro's Queen of Spain Cupcakes
serves 10

250g dark chocolate (preferable 60%)
150g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh coffee
1 Tablespoon brandy
125g almond meal, or hazelnut meal
5 eggs, separated

Combine, chocolate, sugar, butter, brandy and coffee in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in almond meal. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until combined. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites gradually into the chocolate mixture. Do not over-mix. Pipe mixture into cupcake tins, each at about 3/4 full. Bake at 160C for 30 min, or until cake is firm to the touch but still a little soft in the centre.

Rich chocolate frosting

200 g dark chocolate (preferably 60%)
60g unsalted butter

Combine chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally until smooth. Cool for 15-20 min until thickened, then spread or pipe on the top of the cake. If using a star nozzle, let mixture cool a little longer, about 30 min. This extra cooling time will give the ganache enough body to hold the ridges on the star nozzle. However do not let it get cold, as it will be impossible to pipe.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

2 French Classics

To start off on the second post, I thought I would make something different than my usual fare. To be completely honest, I have made crepes a grand total of 4 times, including this one. Considering that they are one of the easiest things to make, I wonder why I do not give them more chances.

It probably has something to do with their plain-ness. Or because I could always get them freshly made with a topping of banana and nutella from the Japanese
Creperie down the street. But it is most probably because they do not pose as much challenge for me as, say, a multi-component gateau or a French macaron.

This humble French snack, however, proved their worth one chilly Melbourne morning when it was way too dreary to even think about changing out of my pajamas to go out and get myself some lunch. I had next to nothing in my fridge, and I wanted something fast to satisfy my grumpy belly. So crepes it was, with bananas, creme fraiche and maple syrup.

Later that afternoon, my grumpy belly started to go on strike again. That was when I remembered a post the generous, talented and simply amazing Tartelette had on Blueberry Pineapple Clafoutis. I have been wanting to make it ever since I drooled over her post a month ago. Also, I have read that clafoutis is basically a baked crepe batter! Fancy that!

I did not have any pineapple or grated coconut that the recipe required, so I just used some frozen berries. The whole 300g packet, actually, which I later found out to be a tad too generous. But well, the more fruits the healthier for me, right? *wink, wink*

serves 8
(adapted from Tempted: 150 very wicked desserts)

125g plain/all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
2 eggs
300ml milk
25g butter, melted

Sift flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Lightly beat eggs, milk and melted butter and pour into flour mixture. Beat until combined and smooth. Set aside to rest for 15-30 minutes.
Melt a little butter in a shallow non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Pour a little batter and quickly swirl the pan to spread batter as thinly and evenly over the bottom. Cook until edges becomes dry and crisp, then use an offset metal spatula to flip it over, and continue cooking until it browns. Transfer to a plate and repeat.

Your first crepe is usually a trial run, so do not worry when the pan is not hot enough and your crepe becomes soggy the first time round.

At the Beginning

Being relatively new to blogging, I struggle on how to begin. I say relatively because I have, for the past year at least, been a quiet observer of the food blogging community. To say that I was inspired would be a major understatement. The beautiful pages that I have seen so far opened up a whole new world for someone as uninitiated as I am.

To be truthful, I do not know an awful lot about computers, and much less about blogging. I do not know how to create beautiful photography or graphics or do amazing food styling, and am only taking my first steps in the pastry arts. So this is a blog that I hope will record my growth, and maybe---someday--- my flight into a career I am obsessively passionate about.

I hope you will enjoy this journey as much as I do.