Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lemon Lavender Cookies

Oh, how time flies! At the blink of an eye, it's the end of August now. It's been 9 months and 9 days since this blog was conceived. For Chinese, the number 9 sounds the same as "forever" and I wonder how long I can sustain this interest in baking and blogging.

I have a bottle of dried lavender waiting to be used. Drinking lavender tea is an acquired taste, initially it was like drinking air freshner, but after a while, it was quite soothing. Afterall, it's property is calming and it's supposed to be pain relieving too. I cannot remember what other flower goes well with lavender so I have been drinking it on its own.

So naturally when I saw a recipe using lavender, I was intrigued and keen to try it out. Besides, it also calls for lemon. Since taking up baking, I realised that I love citrus fruits, especially lemon and lime. Their zest add to the aroma during baking. Even the lavender gave off a wonderful aroma, but it does need some getting used to.

I first saw it on Mandy's blog and later on Happy Home Baking's blog. I encountered a similar experience as HHB, where the dough was really soft. I had some trouble rolling and wrapping it with cling wrap. Fortunately, after a little struggle, I managed to wrapped them up and placed the 2 rolls into the freezer.

I baked them after 45 mins to 1 hour. I could not wait to taste it, and tried one as soon as it was cool enough. It simjply melted in my mouth! As for taste, let's stick with "acuquired" taste.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

I have been looking out for a good oatmeal cookie recipe to try for the longest time. I was addicted with oatmeal cookies after tasting those made and sold at Wooden Spoon, a small bakeshop at Beach Road. They sell the most incredible scones, yum yum. These scones are sold out by lunch time. On one occassion when their scones were all sold out, I could not walk away empty handed. So I bought a box of their oatmeal cookie and boy was I blown away when I tried one.

When I saw this recipe on Amanda's blog, I told myself that I had to try it one day. Since it's the eve of Teachers' Day celebrations in schools, I told myself to just go ahead to bake them. I was keen to try the recipe and suspected that my girl would probably ask me for something to bring. And true enough! She asked if she could bring the cookies for her teachers while I was making the dough. She said she needed 8 packets, then she wanted 2 more for her primary school teachers. Later, when her friend found out about the cookies, she asked if she could have one to give to her CCA teacher as well.

In all, we packed about 11 packets (about 5 to 6 cookies each) and my girl brought the balance to school to share. By the time everything was cooled and packed, it was past her bedtime. I had to grab my camera and stole a few shots quickly.

I followed Amanda's recommendation of reduced sugar (I used 155g of brown sugar) and 2 tsp of cinnamon powder. Air was filled with slight aroma of cinnamon but I could barely taste it. If I have time to bake them longer, say at least 15 mins, they would probably be more crispy. It's a good recipe, give it a try!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anko Soy Parfait

I once heard a relative comment that since she could not (or did not enjoy) cooking, she decided that she would focus all her efforts in perfecting different desserts. I thought that was a pretty good strategy as her mother-in-law is a really fantastic cook among the relatives. So, no point competing in the same area, right? Since venturing into world of baking and desserts, I have learnt these are not "easy" to prepare and call for lots of 功夫 (skills).

I won't say that I have a sweet tooth and in recent years, I've cut down on sugar so much that I take coffee and soy milk without sugar. Since taking up baking, I've consumed more sugar, much to the detriment of my initial goal of keeping my weight consistent (ideally, no weight gain, but honestly, how can that be possible?) So, it's always a challenge for me to balance sweetness so that whatever is prepared would appeal to everyone (so that I won't be the ONLY person eating it). My girl always says "Mummy, it's only sweet to YOU..."

Back to this latest trial. I first saw it on Florence's blog after this year's Chinese New Year. I thought it was an interesting recipe and would probably be a talking point at dinner parties. I finally found the chance to give it a try.

In terms of preparation, it was really easy! As I wanted it to appeal to more people, I used Meiji low fat milk instead of sugar-free soy milk. Even then, the taste of soy was still prominent. It tasted very much like silken 豆花 (bean curd). However, I found it too sweet especially when taken with the anko (azuki bean paste). I used Japanese canned anko, available at Daiso, and didn't expect it to be so sweet as well. I'm wondering, what else I can pair this soy parfait with...

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Decorated Cake

After various attemps, this was the cake I baked for my son, who turns 10 today. The cake was presented on Saturday, when we invited some close friends over for a small celebration. He insisted on putting mini oreos on the sides. I had originally wanted to decorate it like Mandy's. But my boy simply refused to let me use the chocolate wafer sticks.

For the cake, I followed HHB's ever-reliable sponge cake recipe and simply replaced 10g of cake flour with 10g of Varlhona cocoa powder. Somehow, when I touched the cake, it didn't appear to be as soft as the vanilla version. I followed a fellow blogger's suggestion to apply chocolate ganache and creme chantilly on the cake. I realised afterwards that I should have been a lot more generous with the creme (non-diary whipping + sugar + a dash of rum).

As this would be my first attempt in covering the cake, the creme was all over! I also made the mistake of using a cake base that was too small! After covering whatever I could all around the cake, I had to think of something to hide the top! Laying more oreo would be what my boy would have liked but it would be an overkill. Nuts were out of the question as the kids dislike having nuts on or in cakes. So, I thought of covering with cocoa powder instead, and it worked.

At the end of the whole exercise, my boy declared that he wanted a store-bought cake for the small gathering. I was devastated! Naturally, I could understand that he was bored from tasting all the trials -- I had been practising Rei's chocolate yogurt cake recipe. The first one failed as I got a real hard but super chocolatey kueh. The second attempt was slightly more successful but the taste of yogurt was a tad too strong. So the boy probably concluded that this cake wasn't up to standard to "face public scrutiny".

However, on Saturday, after he bought his birthday present, a DS Lite games cartridge (and he is now targeting the PSP) he totally didn't want to spend more time looking for a cake. He just wanted to go home! I was like what? Now you want mummy's cake, omg, will the cake be up to expectations as I had baked it on Thursday? ...

As expected, the cake was a little dry and the oreo biscuits were, well, soft. I had placed a layer of Loacker dark chocolate waffers in the middle. I suspect that I should have broken them up as suggested by a fellow blogger. In all, it was a good exercise as I had learnt many valuable lessons for future cakes and decoration. Bracing myself for my girl's cake in two weeks and she has decided on a non-bake/chilled cake, in the likes of strawberry hearts, without the strawberries.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peach Ice-Cream Cake

Oh, I'm so proud of myself on two counts: first, for successfully baking a wonderfully soft sponge cake (thanks HHB for the recipe) and secondly, for pulling off the assembly of this cake. It's a big sigh of relief as my earlier trials of baking a sponge cake, let's just say they were nowhere near "successful".

I must say, the cake needs to be further decorated before it can "face the world". For home consumption, it was enough. We don't need any more unnecessary calories tagging on. As we were too eager to taste it, the cake was still fairly frozen. Before consumption, it should probably be thawed :P Ice-cream is homemade as featured previously.

I have trying out and practising to bake birthday cakes for my two darlings' birthday. Boy's in August and two weeks later in September, for my girl's. While I have partly succeeded for my girl's (sponge cake portion only :S I'm still not sure what to use as fillings!) I am still trying to bake a chocolate cake that meets my boy's liking (first attempt turned out like a kueh...)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oxtail Stew

This is one recipe that I've been searching for the longest time. Basically, everyone at home loves beef stew and I have been looking for different recipes that will interest them.

The first beef stew was tomato based with lots of vegetables. I got really tired of that recipe fast. Then I learnt of a recipe from a friend's mom, and that one soon became a fast favourite of my girl. She doesn't eat much meat as a young child. But she loved beef stew, I suspect it's due to the soft and tender beef.

When I served them this dish tonight, they quickly endorsed it as a "keeper". As usual, mashed potatoes is a must have to accompany any beef (or oxtail) stew. I started cooking the stew since last night. I also added potatoes, carrots and turnips into the stew.

I got the recipe from Kitchen Capers. Thanks Gina!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mini Chocolate Muffins

I won't claim that I am proud of this batch of mini muffins, especially since it's for my girl's cca party (finally). The original item just won't cooperate and due to the late notice ... "mummy, the party is tomorrow (8 Aug), what are you baking for me?"

"Omigosh, tomorrow? That's like how much notice?" I thought. The poor girl didn't know as they kept postponing the party, which was also a farewell party for the teacher-in-charge. I was planning to try this recipe out that night as I was looking around for something interesting and found this on Happy Home Baking.

Muffins are supposedly "easiest to bake" but somehow, I still have not gotten the hang of doing it right. This is my archilles' heel and I tend to over-mix most of the time. I can't seem to be able to accept that small lumps of batter is FINE. While I had long stopped stirring/mixing, I could have inadvertently "stirred" the batter some more as I scooped the batter to till 40 mini cups.

My girl said they looked "normal" as, I guessed, she was hoping to dazzle her friends with some extraordinary items baked by "my mummy". ("So good, your mummy bakes everyday!") I felt so lousy for not being able to live up to her expectations. I read somewhere, that women tend to want to please everybody. As (working) mothers, we have even more people to please, don't we?

After I had finished packing these into a box for her, I realised that I had planned to make these. Rei's little girl had such a good time decorating them. When I told my girl about this, she said "then you should have!" My heart fell further and I knocked myself for not remembering them. I told her that I will make them for her next party.

That's why this post is so late ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Musing about Granola

Is it muesli or granola? I thought granola came in the form of a bar, while they are called muesli when they are uncooked and not bound together. After keying in the question "difference between muesli and granola", there were several results and I went with this one.

Since this has been coated with maple syrup and honey and toasted, it fits the description of granola. I need to get a special gift, something which is home-made would be best. It's for my colleague, JT who will be quitting to play mom to her fast growing boys. Eldest will be going to army soon, number 2 will be sitting for A levels next year, and the youngest will be doing PSLE in 2 years, just like my boy. Guess if one has been experiencing fatigue at work, it's best to either take a break or just call it quits. My colleague is fantastic at what she does and she has been carrying out her craft with her heart and total commitment. So much so that she must have felt she had been short-changing her boys. Mothers will always feel guilty if their kids had to take a back-seat while they build their career. I'm glad JT is able to be there for her family although I'll miss having her area at work. She is so kind and easy to work with, she has never given me any hard time. There are very few like her at work.

I came across this wonderful granola recipe at Grace's Kitchen Corner. I bought mainly organic ingredients such as rolled oats, sunflower seeds, and raisins. I also added dried cranberries and apples, as well as chopped almonds and walnuts. I used the remaining maple and honey syrup I had in the fridge to bound these altogether. They were then toasted for a while.

I was surprised by the taste and texture. While muesli tends to be a little dry and somewhat "raw", this granola is crispy and a little sweet. My girl could not resist and tried some. Being a non-nut lover, she found it a little too "nutty" for her. I may try it with yogurt tomorrow as breakfast. I deliberately added lots of dried fruits, not only for texture but also for colour.

11 Aug: This morning's breakfast, granola with yogurt and blueberries :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vanilla Yogurt Pound Cake

I baked this pound cake so many weeks ago but didn't have time to post it. A very sweet cyber friend (you know who you are) shared this secret recipe with me, thanks! It's a very delicious and simple pound cake, and I love it.

Unfortunately cannot post the recipe, but you should be able to guess what went into baking it. Use only good quality stuff and your pound cake will be most delicious.

Happy National Day!