Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eclair Meets East

Have been missing in action for some time now - for catch up's, meet up's, updates in the blogosphere and the past Daring Baker's challenges. Our bad.

Even fur-cut or better known as a grooming session scheduled for our monstrous-looking precious pea; Rufus, wasn't running on the right time. Planned but things meant to go out of our plan. Consequently, Rufus had outgrew his pure roots; from a white miniature Schnauzer to a white furry Poodle. That's not too bad, we have ventured into a new breed though. Of pom-poms and poodles.

No, we aren't guilt-free yet. Explanations are necessarily needed to diminish our guiltiness - be it lame or logic. We have been tied up with uncountable college's brain-straining workload, final exams and multiple errands for the past months. Past month. Past months sounds better, it signifies us in a word - diligent!

Last but not least, an event to work with; the Arts & Culture @ The Podium, solely organized by the Multicultural Arts Malaysia. Arts & Culture @ The Podium opens during the weekends, every Saturday and Sunday, from 11am - 6pm at Menara Hap Seng, Kuala Lumpur. It is located in Jalan P.Ramlee, opposite Shangri-La Hotel, which is a 10 minutes walk from the nearest monorail station of Raja Chulan. There are various spread of talented artist with their work-of-art, ranging from paintings, sketches, handicrafts, custom-made jeweleries, patch works and independent T-shirt label designers. These vendors are listed as below:

Penny Yuen - Eco Products
Pei Chee - Handmade Cards
Sue - Soft Toys
Agnes - Handmade Accessories
Sarah - Handmade bags
Zou - Handmade scarf and broaches
Ahmad Fauzi, Azhar, Amir - Acrylics Painting
Gajah Gajah Gallery - Native Arts
Fatass Michelle - Cupcakes (Oh, how rude! Nah, just kidding)
Azria - Chocolate Roses
Shermaine Ng - Costume jeweleries
Angkatan Baju Malaya - Independent t-shirt label
Oh Boxes Enterprise - Gift boxes
Heavenly Beauty Enterprise - Wax products
Patches of Love - Patch works
Karen Tan - Handmade earrings
Jennifer - T-shirt printed design
The Kraft Store - craft designer's products
Hermes - Batik Art

Of arts, some may say. We will then labelled our cupcake bakesale as the art in edible form. Edible arts; the cupcakes! We are working it by being adventurous and generous. Generous, ahem.

We are having a bakesale at the podium and will be selling various exotic flavors and old time favourites of cupcakes. In the meantime, here's a few good schweets to be showcased, and yet, more flavors to come:

1. Moist Chocolate

2. Cookie Monster (Flavored Cookies and Cream)

3. Lavande' (Flavored Lavender with Chantilly Cream Filling)

4. Elmo (Flavored Raisin And Rum)

5. The Zombie (Chocolate Brownie
With Cookie Crumbs)

6. Ispahan (Flavored Rose Cupcake With Whole Lychee & Raspberry Cream

7. Green Tea (Flavored Green Tea With Chantilly Cream Filling

8. Red Velvet (Flavored Red Velvet Cake With Chocolate Filling And Cream Cheese Frosting

9. Chickadee (Flavored Moist Chocolate Cake with Banana Frosting)

10. Chocolato (Flavored Moist Chocolate Cupcake With Chocolate Cream Filling

Speaking of which, these cupcakes are priced at RM3.90 each and you can get it from The Podium @ Menara Hup Seng for only:

on every weekends!

Moving onto the next topic, we have been fiddling with puff's batter lately; with the aid of Pierre Herme's eclair recipe from his book collection; a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé . After finding out that Daring Bakers Challenge for the month of August was the eclairs, we crossed our fingers tightly as to walk our plan in order. We planned to post. And this was it, our Daring Bakers Challenge #3.

By proceeding to our third challenge of Daring Bakers, we are too happy for words when we knew that Pierre Herme's book can now put into good use. The very 1st challenge that we have participated were Cheesecake Pops, followed by the 2nd challenge; the Opera Cake. Daring Bakers challenge has always been fun and oh well, challenging. The 3rd challenge was experimental, and was hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. The challenge was made known that the eclairs must include at least one portion of the chocolate family, whereby we were given the option to choose whether to fill the eclairs with chocolate pastry cream or topped with a chocolate glaze with the recipe given, or both.

We have taken a rather exotic route where mix-and-match happens. We opted for something more "Asian" and came up with the Chocolate and Green Tea Eclairs. Alterations were made. The original recipe calls for a chocolate pastry cream instead of the one below; which is the green tea and white chocolate pastry cream.

The beautifully puffed up eclair is paired up with a smooth and fluffy portion of Green Tea pastry cream with a hint of white chocolate sweetness, and then glazed with dark chocolate glazing. The eclairs became iresistible and sinful when green tea were matched up with the whites (white chocolate). Like they say, that is to spice things up.

The eclairs consist of three vital parts; the puffs, the pastry cream and the glaze. Whipping up the eclairs was easy as D-O-G, baking them was tougher than we thought. The last time we tried our hands on the puffs; which was many years ago, we ended up with pretty puffed up cream puffs, but not this time. The first batch was a failed attempt. The do
ugh puffs puffed up (or shall we say, inflate?) prettily and it does looked thrice bigger during the baking session. But good things come to an end when we started to poke our nose and fiddle with the oven door. The puffs deflated, our hearts crushed onto the baking trays and we did shook our heads while checking out on our flat puffs. Flattened puffs were used as disguise for an elongated oval shaped pancake.

By googling back and forth, we were overjoyed and glad to know the problem incurred which made our puffs deflate and deform into something weirder than how the actual pancake would look like. That's what most of our gramps would say, success comes from multiple failures. That proves the point. As for the situation for deflated cream puffs, this is due to the fact that the babies are somewhat premature. Premature babies is a no-no for cream puffs. Thus, it is clearly unambiguous that underbaked is the case. Though the cream puffs may have exceeded the baking time, believe your poochie-instinct that the puffs aren't ready yet unless the puffs are baked until golden brown, firm and has freaky cracks on its surface. The recipe is followed below. We divided it into 5 parts, ranging from part A to part E; which dwells in between of Pierre Herme's Cream Puff Dough, Green Tea and White Chocolate Pastry Cream, Chocolate Glaze, Chocolate Sauce and Ways to Assemble The Perfect Eclairs.

Pierre Hermé’s Éclairs

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (makes 20-24 Éclairs)

A.) Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk

• ½ cup (125g) water

• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

• ¼ teaspoon sugar

• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour

• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
5) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.
6) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

7) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

B.) Green Tea And White Chocolate Pastry Cream

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk

• 2 tablespoons green tea powder

• 4 large egg yolks

• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar

• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted

• 7 oz (200g) white chocolate, melted

• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Mix in green tea powder into boiled milk and stir till combined. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat). Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge. The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

C.) Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé (makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream

• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water. It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

D.) Chocolate Sauce

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

• 1 cup (250 g) water

• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream

• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

E.) Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze

• Green Tea And White Chocolate Pastry Cream

• Cream Puff Dough or Eclairs

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.
4) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Here's a sneak peek of what will prevail the up-coming post (shot below)...

And we will be counting days, just to get our darling Arisa's butt back to Malaysia - 125 days that is. Last but not least, Happy Merdeka peeps.

P/S: Season greetings Holy Molly. Amen. :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wallpapers : Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

Photographed by: Steven Wong
Edited by : Mcwhisky
Location: Kuala Lumpur Bird Park

The original shots are superb. We can't deny that Steven's photos are prettily taken- with right angles, shutter speed, lighting etcetera. Photos were taken by Steven Wong, hailed from a wonderful photoblog: Fragz&Feebz's - which is accompanied by descriptive comments and personal reviews, last but not least, gorgeous crystal clear shots, taken with a camera model of Panasonic DMC-FZ7.

Click on images (or right-click to open link in new tab) to preview the full-scaled shots. These smaller version shots below were too blur, which is an eye-sore. (*pun intended*)

To set these wallpapers on desktop, right-click on the image of your choice and choose "Set As Desktop Background" (or "Set as Background" in Internet Explorer). If the image appears stretched across your desktop background, go to Desktop (on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop), and choose Center as the display mode of the background image.

Comments and reviews about the shots taken by Steven are highly welcomed and very much appreciated. Happy downloading.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Do You Know The Donutman?

"Do you know Ginger?", an adorable yet a chubby girl in her kindergarten pinafore asked in a polite manner, while assuring us that she knew Ginger in her life with her convincing expressions.

"Oh well, Ginger... The ale Ginger, my dead Sharpei named Ginger or the human Ginger?", we questioned back sarcastically as response.

"Oh goodness gracious, you know, Ginger! Don't you know who Ginger is?", she fumes while stomping her feet profusely.

"Okay, wait a minute young girl. Let's play this. Knock, knock", we said cheekily.

"Duh, who's there?", she rolled her eyes and that was real sarcastic, so wanna pinch her fat cheeks.

"No! You lead us! You'll start of with that knock knock thingy", we exclaimed impatiently.

"KNOCK KNOCK!", said the chubby lady in a loud voice.

"Who's there?", we questioned back.

"GINGER!", she scowled.

"Ahhh~ Ginger who?", we said in a melancholy tone.

"GINGER THE BREAD MAN!", she backfires in a fierce and high-toned voice, with that annoying glare that she used to give us.

Yes, that glare, like the prosperous owl above (The very tame and photogenic owl was found somewhere near a park, and we were so lucky to get some shots out of this gorgeous fat bird). Boy, that hits us hard to the rock-bottom of our self-esteems. That was a very good one indeed. We have never know kids nowadays are that good at riddles, jokes and knock-knock's. We were embarrassed by how the knock-knock riddle turned out, and ginger the bread man? Oh gosh. That hits us real hard. We should not have suggested knock-knock's at first.

We were not satisfied by how the kid managed to come up with a rather sarcastic answer, which made us in awe, made her stand out within, outshining other kindie kids. But, it was so unethical to run us down publicly with spoken words, just in seconds. In seconds! We wouldn't even mind if it was in the period of an hour or so. Killing our dignity within seconds is just too overrated and so untrue. ;P

Enough of ginger, the bread man. The word kept popping and wandering in our hollowed minds while we were prepping for a doughnut dough. Mixed feelings and highly possible; the feelings of anger and being embarrassed gradually faded after letting go by releasing our anger on the doughnut dough. Light punches and blows, followed by quick and consistent jabs were thrown onto the poor and innocent doughnut dough. It worked! The tension were released. The dough was doing just fine - no bruises but partly deformed. We then let the dough rise by proofing. After the dough doubles up in size, we proceed to dough-cutting, using a doughnut cutter.

As we were rushing and in a hurry, gingerbread man cookie cutter (pardon us, did we just heard ginger?) was simply used to hasten
things up. We managed to come up with a doughnut shaped gingerbread man. As weird as it sounds, let's put it this way - donutbread man; gingerbread man's blood-related cousin.

The doughnuts taste just like how doughnuts ought to be. The sticky dough produce a lighter and fluffier bread texture, which is perfect for tea breaks. The dough that was ready to be dipped into a pool of hot oil will be handled gently before it gets into the oil. After frying, the golden brown and tanned donutbread man will be powdered by sifted powdered sugar, and best eaten while it's hot - Ouch!

Donutbread Man

500g plain flour
1-1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
50g softened margarine
40g sugar
1 medium egg

1. Place all the stated ingredients in a big bowl. Knead till soft dough are formed. Roll dough into a large gigantic ball.
2. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover it with a piece of plastic sheet. Scrutinize the dough, let it rise for about an hour, where you'll see a double sized dough by then.
3. Next, roll dough into the size of +/-1cm thick.
4. Cut the dough with a small gingerbread man cookie cutter and place them onto greased tray. Cover with a plastic sheet.
5. Scrutinize them closely for about 40 minutes. As long as these uncooked doughnuts rise again, they can be cooked just in no time!

6. Heat oil in a deep pan. Fry the doughnuts in the preheated oil till golden brown.
7. Dip the hot doughnuts into a plate of sugar (granulated or caster will do, brown sugar perhaps?). If you prefer coating the doughnuts with royal icing, chocolate or buttercream, or even icing sugar, coat them after cooling them for a few minutes.

Knock, knock,
Who's there?
Donut who?
Donut, the bread man.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Creme Brulee : The Westernized Egg Tart

In most Asian countries, egg tarts rules when Creme' Brulee tries to invade. However, it goes sideways when it comes to the Western countries, be it urban or sub-urban areas. The chinese egg tart; with flaky and crispy puff pastry, always remain as one of the best egg dessert among the Asians. Moreover, it is commonly served during breakfast; which is during the chinese Dim Sum session. Best eaten while it's hot, and accompanied by a freshly brewed chinese tea.

This may applied on the Westerners as well. A Creme' Brulee would be the one of the hundreds of egg desserts which would score high points and win the hearts of the Westerners. As Creme Brulee has an absolute advantage on showcasing the wonderful color of egg yolks in custard form, overlooking the texture and even the taste of the pastry crust-tart might not be a daunting sight after all.

The scores are in, egg custard work wonders. Just take a look at the evil-looking yet sinful baked cheesecakes which very much resembles the picture and texture of a egg custard with an aroma of full-fat cheese. Eggs play a vital role by adding fats, moisture and also binding the half-set cheesecake by setting up a protein matrix. It is sometimes surprising to find out how eggs consistently and successfully work its magic to the world of baking.

We have always been loyal consumers of chinese egg tarts as we love egg custard pretty much. Thus, not making a Creme' Brulee sounded villainous and silly; of bird brains and pea-sized brains, that is so Homer Simpson. We prepared the Creme' Brulee in 2 sizes, one into medium-sized flan dish and the remaining was as cute as mini cupcake-size.

The medium-sized Creme' Brulee inherits its forefathers' features, which has a slightly burnt top (of burnt and caramelized sugar) while the mini Creme' Brulee replicates the features of the normal sweet-crusted egg tart with no burnt top. We will have the time of our lives downing the egg-bakes one by one, savoring the true delight of Western egg tarts; the Creme' Brulee.

To some, Creme' Brulee might be tad plain to be devoured, but simplicity and the velvety and smooth egg custard filling is the key to a perfect Creme' Brulee. Nevermind the pastry crust first because the egg custard IS the sublime of the entire Brulee tart. It is best eaten while it's slightly cooled to room temperature. While the crust is prepared as thinly as possible, the egg custard on the other hand calls for one who bakes his/her way to generosity. Be generous with the filling. We filled the crust until the egg filling itself leveled with the sides of the crust. Goodness and very luscious brulee we've ever had (Isn't this the first time we had Brulee's?). The full-fat dairy whipping cream and vanilla extract lends a great help, aiding to a very vanilla-ish and silky Creme' Brulee.

The burnt top, made out of burnt sugar or caramelized sugar brought in the extra ummph, which makes the Creme' Brulee tasted pretty good though it's partly cold. The caramelized top can be done by pointing the blow torch towards a pool of brown sugar sprinkled onto the Creme' Brulee's surface. Otherwise, you can caramelized the top by sprinkling a layer of brown sugar on its surface and then, bake the Creme' Brulee in the oven (set at 180"C, lay the Creme' Brulee on the highest rack possible). The mini Brulee's or shall we just name these babies as Creme' Brulee Tartlets, make it to the dinner table while it's half-cooled. Nothing much in comparison except for the caramelized sugar, these Creme' Brulees rocked the dinner tables for good.

Creme' Brulee (Yields: Two 6-inch Creme' Brulees)

For the Tart Crust:
100g butter
50g icing sugar, sieved
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 egg, beaten lightly (for the remaining beaten egg mixture, add into the filling later to avoid wastage)
200g all-purpose flour, sieved

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract until creamy.
2. Add in the egg and mix until smooth. Add in flour and mix until well-blended.
3. Gather dough and wrap with a cling film. Set aside at a cool area while making the filling.

For the Filling:
4 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon custard powder, sieved
375g dairy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. With a hand whisk, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale yellow. Add in custard powder and mix until combined. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, boil whipping cream over low heat. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Gradually add in whipping cream into the egg mixture in a slow stream, while continuously whisking the mixture. Keep stirring until well blended.
3. Strain mixture into a clean saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon over low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove pan from heat. Add in vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Let cool. This will be the filling for the Creme' Brulee.

To assemble:
Portion of tart crust
Portion of fillings
1/4 cup brown sugar
Baking beans (Red beans or green beans can even be used; for blind-bake)

1. Preheat oven to 190"C. Grease the 6-inch flan or pie moulds with melted butter.
2. Divide the pastry dough into two portion as you will need to lay the pastry dough onto 2 of 6-inch flan or pie moulds. Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin to about 2-3mm thick and line onto the pie moulds.
3. Prick the pastry with fork to release air bubbles. Line the pastry moulds with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake at preheated oven of 190"C for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for another 5 minutes. Set on wire rack and let cool.
4. Spoon the filling into the already baked pastry crust until the filling is leveled with the top sides of the pastry crust.
5. Refrigerate the tarts into the refrigerator for at least 5 hours, best for overnight.
6. Remove tart from from refrigerator. Sprinkle the brown sugar on th surface of the tart. Using a blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.
7. Refrigerate for extra 2 to 3 hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and strawberry sauce to enjoy the euphoric moment.