Chocolate Never Disapppoints

The thing about keeping up with social media is that you tend to go through everything you wrote or uploaded in the past decade or so. While things I’ve written in my adolescence have since been buried, I think I only grew up in the last three years or so.

I used to write a lot. I wrote my heart out. I wrote my mind out. Writing kept me sane and my mind vibrant. I was always on a verbal diarrhoea. Writing was my way of communicating, even as a child. I was always told to keep my mouth shut, so I turned to writing. As I grew older however, I learned to keep quiet – even in my writing.

You see, I discovered photography. I discovered that life will always be throwing rotten lemons and tomatoes at you. I realised that no one really gives a hoots ass about what you have to say. Whatever struggles or cause you’re fighting for, there will be others who say you’re in no position to say the things you write about. I just gave up with writing because I could not deal with the naysayers.

Photographs, on the other hand, are amazing. They say a picture says a thousand words, which means with all of my photos combined, I would have published 10 papers or perhaps 3 novels. In another life, I could be a children’s book author if I had not been told that my stories were too wild, imaginative and far fetched without a local context (this happened to me when I was eight). In another life I could have been a journalist, if I had not been told that I don’t fit the bill as one. In another life, I would not have been the me I am today.

Perhaps I will continue disappointing those around me, or maybe I was meant for the thug life. Nothing good ever comes easy, am I right? I’m far from the success I want for myself. It’s not fair for someone else to tell me that I’m done and or that I should slow down. I will walk even faster, run if I must (though I literally hate running), just to prove a point that nothing good ever comes easy, and that time truly heals all wounds.

Just when we think we’ve figured things out, the universe throws us a curveball. So we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find our way back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way. Sometimes it just has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.

– Grey’s Anatomy

I do find happiness in unexpected places. Some places, morbid. Others, bright and cheery. Whatever curveball the universe sends to me, I’ll be ready in a heartbeat.

Very Fudgy Chocolate Muffins

Adapted from Bright Eyed Baker

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Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 cup natural cocoa powder, sifted

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)

1 1/2 cups sour cream (I used 1 1/2 cups milk with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

10 1/2 ounces chocolate chips and/or chopped chocolate (I didn’t measure the amount of chocolates I used!)

Method

  1. Beat oil, sugar and vanilla together till fluffy.
  2. Add in eggs and yolk, gradually.
  3. Add in all the dry ingredients except for the chocolates, and alternate with the sour cream.
  4. Beat until well combined.
  5. Add in chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Serve with ice cream!

Sea Salt Chocolate Tart

I miss baking. I had to force myself to get off my lazy arse to bake this. And that’s only because I had chocolates and some cream lying around in the fridge which I had to use before the expiry date. I’ve been very productive with my photography business, and I cannot thank God enough for making it happen for me.

If you noticed, I uploaded a few of my older articles onto this blog. I figured rather than let the articles go to waste, I should be letting you all read them! Sigh, blogging is so much more difficult now that there’s Instagram and Twitter. Wait, do people even use Facebook anymore?

This shall be a really quick post because as much I would love to share what’s been going on for me, I think I’ll let the photos do the talking again. Have fun with this recipe! It was major yums anyways.

Sea Salt Chocolate Tart

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Tart base (Taken from BBC Good Food)

225g plain flour

100g unsalted butter

A pinch of salt

3 tbsp cold water

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp water and mix to a firm dough.
  3. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

Chocolate filling (Adapted from Jamie Oliver)

300g double cream

2 tsp caster sugar

A pinch of fine sea salt

200g 70% chocolate

  1. Heat the oven to 180 deg.
  2. Roll out the pastry made earlier onto a floured surface.
  3. Cover with baking paper, fill with dried beans and bake blind for 10-15 minutes, remove beans and bake again for 15 minutes until golden.
  4. Put the cream, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to the boil.
  5. Remove as soon as the mixture boils up.
  6. Off the heat, add the butter and chocolate. Stir until blended.
  7. Pour the chocolate onto the tart, and chill at room temperature for 2 hours before refrigerating it.
  8. Chill overnight. Sprinkle sea salt before serving.

Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcakes

Lately, there has been a craze for kampung cupcakes in Singapore. Furthermore, since Halalfoodhunt has been running for the past six months, people have been coming to me to ask for such kampung cupcake recipes. Alright, let pause for a while and allow me to explain what kampung cupcakes are.

Kampung cupcakes are cupcakes inspired by flavours of traditional Malay kuih such as ondeh-ondeh, kuih talam, putri salad and many more.

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When I first discovered about kampung cupcakes, I was apprehensive about making them. As much as I appear to be modern and all, I still love my traditional Malay kuih the way they are. Then, I succumbed to peer pressure and relented. I had to try making this ondeh-ondeh cupcake, especially since Fluffbakery keeps having their sold out. I totally winged this recipe. I made minor adjustments to a vanilla cupcake recipe, and basically followed my gut. So before I forget the recipe (I have a habit of not taking note of my recipes), here it is.

Feedback from my friends is that the taste of coconut is not overpowering, and the infusion of gula melaka and real pandan extract makes you forget you’re eating a cupcake. I hope this recipe will work fine for you!

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Ondeh-Ondeh Cupcake

makes 12 cupcakes

Real Pandan Extract

1 huge bunch of pandan leaves, cut into smaller pieces

1/2 cup water

  • Blend the pandan leaves and water together in a blender.
  • Strain the pandan juice through a fine sieve, or a cheesecloth if you prefer.
  • Squeeze out as much juice as you possibly can.

Pandan Cupcake

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups caster sugar

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons real pandan extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt through a fine sieve. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk and the pandan extract.
  6. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl and beat for another minute or two until the batter is well incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter equally into a muffin tin that has been lined with cupcake liners.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Ensure that the cupcakes are cooled down to room temperature before you core and fill them.

Pandan gula melaka filling

200g gula melaka, cut into smaller pieces

150ml water

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

  1. In a pan, add the water to the gula melaka and let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes, or until all the sugar has been dissolved and the sugar solution thickens.
  2. Let cool to room temperature before adding the desiccated coconut and mix it well.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup desiccated coconut

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar and vanilla on medium high until stiff peaks.
  2. Gently fold in the desiccated coconut into the cream.
  3. To assemble, core the cupcakes, then fill in with the filling and pipe the coconut whip cream on top as desired.

The Perfect New York Cheesecake

I’ve made a few cheesecakes in my life. Some of them dry and heavy, others too sweet and tangy. Yesterday, I made the perfect New York Cheesecake. It came out with a beautiful flat top, no cracks and a perfect height for my liking. I was almost in tears.

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I realised the secret was a lot of patience. All in all, a cheesecake is very easy to make. It is how you bake it that makes a difference. I’ve tried making cheesecakes with and without a water bath, and at different temperatures. After watching a few YouTube videos, I finally found the perfect method. I was jittery throughout the 2 hours the cake was in the oven so I had to force myself to keep calm and watch an episode or two of Orange is the New Black on my laptop. But trust me. It was worth it.

This is probably the only recipe I know by hard because it’s actually my sister’s recipe. Hehe perks of being bullied into helping them I suppose.

New York Cheesecake

200g chocolate digestives (I used the ones from Marks and Spencers)

80g melted butter

3 packs of Philadelphia cream cheese (softened to room temperature)

200ml Bulla Premium Sour Cream (you can use light sour cream too)

1 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

juice from half a lemon

3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blitz the digestives in a food processor. Add the melted butter and mix well. Press the biscuit base into the base of the spring-form pan to form a crust of about 1 centimetres. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar till fluffy, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  4. Gradually add eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to mix everything well.
  5. Add in sour cream and give the batter one last mix.
  6. Before pouring the batter into the spring form pan, wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminium foil. This will prevent any leakages or any water from the water bath leaking into the pan.
  7. Place the spring form pan in a bigger baking pan. Fill the bigger pan with hot water.
  8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan. Make the top as neat and smooth as possible. Cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil.
  9. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour. After an hour, continue to bake but remove the aluminium foil on top. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the top has a nice brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  10. DO NOT TAKE THE CAKE OUT OF THE OVEN. Switch off the oven, and leave the door of your oven slightly ajar by placing a wooden spoon to keep it open. Leave it in the oven for another 45 minutes. This will prevent the cake from cracking due to the sudden change in temperature.
  11. Take the cake out and remove from water bath and let it cool for another 2 hours before placing in the fridge overnight.
  12. Cake is best served chill with coffee on the side. Enjoy!

There’s Always Room for Cake

Last Thursday, I turned 24 years young. The week leading up to my birthday was a bit crazy because I was busy with my 24hourselfie project. If you haven’t seen it already, do drop by and take a look. It’s my interpretation of what self-portraits are.

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Of course, I squeezed in time to bake my birthday cake. This year, I decided on Pick Yin’s Ombre Pandan Cake with Gula Melaka Frosting, although I decided on a cream cheese based frosting. Meringues still scare me. Sigh. Anyways, the cake is best eaten at room temperature, or heat it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds if you’ve placed it in the fridge for a while. I still have difficulty in convincing my family to eat it because they are hardcore chocolate lovers, and they were expecting a Red Velvet Cake (which is so 2012). Another sigh. But trust me, I’m a true PBG at heart. This is for you non-chocolate lovers.

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Pandan Ombre Cake with Gula Melaka Frosting

For the extract

  • 15-20 pieces mature pandan leaves, washed and snipped into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons water

Whiz everything up in a blender. If you’re feeling rajin, you may use a pestle and mortar. Sieve the liquid and let the extract settle for a an hour. The dark green extract should settle at the bottom of the bottle and that’s what you need.

For the cake

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup/2 sticks/227 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated/castor sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk (if using canned/boxed coconut cream, thin out slightly with milk to make 1 cup)

Heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease and line 3 8-inch round baking tins with greaseproof paper. Sieve flours, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Beat butter and sugar till creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Then add coconut milk and dry ingredients alternately into the batter. Roughly divide batter into three different bowls. I added 4 teaspoons of green extract PLUS a teaspoon of green coloring (I wasn’t happy with the intensity) into the darkest layer, then 2 and a half teaspoons into the middle layer, and finally 1 and a half teaspoons into the lightest layer. Make sure all batter is well combined.

Pour batter into the prepared tins and knock the tins on your countertop to knock out all the air. This will help you to get a flat cake. Bake in oven for 30 minutes, no more, no less.

For the frosting

  • 2 blocks Philly cream cheese (softened at room temperature, cut into cubes)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used Red Man)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 100g Gula Melaka
  • 1/4 cup water

In a heavy-based saucepan over medium low heat, melt the gula Melaka with the water. Stir till all the sugar has melted, then let it reduce slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely to room temperature. The caramel will thicken more as it cools.

Beat cream cheese till fluffy, add in vanilla essence and cream. Whip until stiff peaks. Add in gula melaka and whip till well combined.

Magnolia Bakery’s Orange Vanilla Cupcakes

Every September, I am reminded of Earth, Wind and Fire’s September. It’s a much happier song than Wake Me Up When September Ends. Like seriously.

Anyways, I bought myself At Home with Magnolia from Book Depository some time last month. I meant to buy The Complete Magnolia Bakery cookbook, but as usual, I forgot about my ability to read and purchased the wrong book. It was a detour from my main intention of going on Book Depository – I needed to purchase The Cuckoo’s Calling – and hence buying the wrong book was the retribution. I’ve not tried any other recipe from Magnolia Bakery before, let alone taste the actual cupcakes. Since I can’t fly myself to New York right now, I might as well make myself some really good cupcakes. I’m so over the Red Velvet and Salted Caramel cupcake phase. THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN RED VELVET CUPCAKES, PEOPLE.

Moving on. Someone gave Ibu oranges during Eid when she had her friends over (happening sia mak aku), but she’s too terrified of sour oranges (so am I, actually) thus I decided to salvage them oranges and make them edible. I was initially skeptical of the recipe, both the cupcake and the frosting. I was *this* close to making my normal Chantilly cream frosting, but I figured WHY WASTE THE MONEY BUYING THE BOOK, THEN? I have to keep forcing myself to break the norm and actually challenge myself. Even when it comes to cooking and baking.

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I reduced the amount of sugar for both the cupcakes and the frosting because I know how sweet-toothed American recipes tend to be. Needless to say, I don’t think I need to fly myself to New York now. These babies will suffice.

Orange Vanilla Cupcakes

1 and half cups self-raising flour

1 and a quarter cups plain flour (I used cake flour)

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 cups sugar (I used 1 and 3 quarter cups)

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

4 large eggs

1 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  • Preheat oven to 175 deg centigrade. Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and zest gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the orange juice and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Frosting

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup whole milk (DO NOT USE SKIM/LOW FAT MILK. I REPEAT, DO NOT)

1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  • In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously and mix until fluffy, for 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  • Add the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably white in color. Add in a bit of coloring if you’d like. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (I skipped this step!). Use immediately to frost the cupcakes.

PS: I finally made myself a wooden board for my food photos! 😀

Salted Caramel Cupcakes


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Finally, I made my favourite salted caramel cupcakes again, and had the discipline not to eat them all just so I could take a pretty picture. Well, not really a pretty picture because I was losing sunlight. I made them at the spur of the moment when I realised I had a full jar of salted caramel sauce in the fridge. Too good not to make use of it!

This recipe is a little tricky, I admit. It’s best if you make the salted caramel sauce a day or two ahead of making the cupcakes. Put the sauce in a pretty jar in the fridge and then take them out 2 to 3 hours before you want to frost the cupcakes.

My recipe is a little different because I don’t add the sauce into the cream frosting. I simply drizzle the sauce over the cupcakes because the sweetness is already very strong. You won’t need to add them into the frosting, trust me. I got the sauce recipe from Brown Eyed Baker last year and I’ve stuck to it ever since.

Salted Caramel Sauce

2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature – I used Red Man whipping cream (from Phoon Huat)
1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt) – I used normal salt, I’m not too particular!

  1. Heat up a medium sized pot and add the sugar. You would want to keep a close eye on the sugar, you want it caramelized, not burnt. It will clump up but keep stirring and it’ll eventually melt down into a liquid. 
  2. Once the sugar has melted and looks reddish brown, add the butter and whisk constantly.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the whipping cream and salt. Keep whisking until everything has come together into a thick viscous liquid.
  4. Set the sauce aside for 10-30 minutes before pouring it into a jar. Refrigerate when not used.

You can take a look at her blog, she has more detailed steps with pictures (I’m sorry I’m not patient!). Good luck!

Vanilla cupcakes

Recipe is from 200 Cupcakes by Joanna Farrow – A friend gifted this to me for my birthday!

150g lightly salted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

175g self-raising flour

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  1. Line a 12-section muffin tray with cupcake liners.
  2. Put all the cake ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  3. Divide the batter between the sections and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degree centigrade for about 20 minutes or until risen and just firm to the touch.

Fresh Cream Frosting

This is my personal recipe, I took quite a while to perfect it and get the same consistency. It’s delish, trust me!

1 cup whipping cream – I used Red Man from Phoon Huat

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Whip ingredients in a bowl with an electric mixer for about 7-9 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to OVERBEAT or you’ll end up with butter!

Fudgy Brownies

It’s the morning of my first exam for my almost final semester in university, and I’m pretty darn excited for it. I just cannot wait to finish the exams and start baking again. I have, over the past two weeks, baked out of stress, out of the need to release the tension. But they have resulted in flat cakes and dry cupcakes. Well, at least I got to spend time in the kitchen.

This is another recipe off my tumblr. I made it sometime in February this year, for fun and decided to give them away to random uni-mates I bumped into in school. Las year, I did a fundraiser with a group of friends and sold close to thirty boxes of these babies. Trust me, they are super delish, and cheap too if you ask me!

I got this recipe from the Joy of Baking. It’s the same brownies recipe I used for the bake fundraiser I had last year. I altered the recipe a bit and trust me, this is the best brownie recipe evaaaa.

Ingredients:

5 ounces (150 grams) Dark Chocolate (I used Cadbury Old Gold cos they were on sale!!)

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons (15 grams) cocoa powder

1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar

1/2 cup (100 grams) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 large eggs

3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a nonstick cooking spray) an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar . Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour, salt and chocolate chips (if using).
  3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out witha little batter and a few moist clumps clinging to it. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled. These freeze very well.

I have to make do with updating this space slowly with old content, but I’m hoping to try out some new recipes and take new photos once the exams are over. And boy, I am so excited! Happy Monday everyone! And for those of you taking your exams, may the odds be ever in your favour! 😉

Banana White Chocolate Chip Muffins

I thought I’d update this space slowly with whatever I have been blogging over at tumblr. I realised the wordpress format is a lot more friendly for sharing recipes. I have been baking and cooking a lot for the past two or three years, and I think my food photography skills has improved fairly well. First up, banana white chocolate chip muffins!

I don’t usually buy muffins at cafes or coffee joints because of the floury texture that’s usually filled in them. This muffin recipe promises you a light, banana-filled texture with each bite. I find white chocolate chips more suitable for this recipe, but feel free to substitute or add semi-sweet chocolate chips and nuts to your liking. If you insist on using white chocolate chips, however, use Hershey’s. The chips don’t melt in the oven and they taste oh so good. Also, be sure to use ripened bananas. I buy ripe bananas that are only a dollar per bunch for baking purposes only. Leave them in the fridge to blacken for a day or two, and then you’re ready to use it.

Ingredients:

½ cup softened butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup mashed banana

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 tablespoons milk

½ cup white chocolate chips

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar together till fluffy, then gradually add the egg. Mix in vanilla essence and milk. Stir in the mashed banana, flour and baking soda till the batter is even.

Divide batter equally into the muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the muffins are dry to the touch.