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Creamy Avocado Pesto Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto




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This avocado pesto pasta with crispy prosciutto is super creamy, delicious, and full of nutritional values; basically, the addition of avocado takes the pesto game to a whole new level.

This avocado pesto pasta with crispy prosciutto is super creamy, delicious, and full of nutritional values; basically, the addition of avocado takes the pesto game to a whole new level. The buttery, sweet taste of avocado goes incredibly well with the salty parmesan cheese, and of course, a generous amount of basil leaves would freshen up the overall taste. I made this pasta a while ago but never got the chance to photography it properly. Luckily, this Sunday afternoon, I got my own personal space without school and work and simply enjoyed playing with food in the kitchen (although my peace of mind got disrupted when I accidentally broke my wok’s lid and all the all the glass shattered into a million of pieces..). Oh well.



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When it comes to savoury, I am all about taste and efficiency, and this pasta dish is no exception. To make the avocado pesto sauce, all you have to do is blend all the ingredients in a food processor until it reaches the consistency you want. I personally wouldn’t go too far on that, because I want to have some texture left to bite on. Toss the sauce with the cooked pasta and you are good to go. To give my pasta little bit of crunch, I also made some crispy prosciutto that complements well with the sauce. Yeap, that’s pretty much it. So if you’re quick, this pasta can be done in 15 mins. Try this recipe and let me know about your thoughts! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 servings of bowtie pasta

Toppings

  • a few pieces of prosciutto
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Pesto

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nut
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package instruction. Reserve some pasta water. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, cook the prosciutto in a sauce pan on medium-high heat until fragrant and crispy. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, put all the pesto ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a food processor or blender. Blend until generally smooth (you can retain some texture if you want). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce in the sauce pan. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out by adding some reserved pasta water. Serve immediately with the crispy prosciutto and some fresh basil leaves.

Yum




1 comment
Japanese Salmon Fried Rice




Happy Mother’s Day!



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With the aroma of spring onions, garlic and ginger, this salmon fried rice is packed with Asian flavours and it is so flavourful, delicious, and deeply satisfying as a quick-mix meal. Also, it uses minimal ingredients and takes little time to make – excluding the time to cook rice, it takes literally less than 30 mins to finish. Funny enough, this Japanese Salmon Fried Rice was made because I overcooked my salmon fillets one night; just before I surrendered and decided to eat the salmon anyway, my body refused and the idea of breaking the salmon into small pieces to make fried rice popped up. That’s when magic happened.  

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I came up with this recipe taking reference from Just One Cook Book. People usually say it’s best to use leftover rice to make fried rice so that all the grains can remain separated. However, let’s face it – sometimes making fried rice is a last-min decision just because WE CRAVE FRIED RICE AND WE WANT IT TODAY. If that’s the case, you can simply reduce the amount of water used to cook rice ( 85% water :  100% rice) and quickly pop them in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of ingredients.



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To me, the essence of the seasoning of this fried rice has to be sesame oil. Confession: I love adding sesame oil whenever I make Asian dishes, because its strong nutty taste enriches and brings out all the flavours of the dish. Also, I’d recommend using tamari soy sauce as it comes with a stronger taste and aroma.

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If you are an international student like me who loves food, you’d understand how essential it is to do meal prep cost-effectively without sacrificing taste. In Australia, a pack of salmon fillet costs me approximately AUD13. Yes, compared to other meat types like chicken, salmon still remains a luxurious option. But when you think about it, this salmon fried rice can possibly be splitted into 4-5 portions to freeze, so budget-wise it’s not too bad at all :). Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

Ingredients :

  • 3 cup cooked rice
  • 460g salmon fillet
    • Marinade: 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper)  
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced  
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • white pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line the baking pan with aluminum foil. Prepare the marinade and coat the salmon fillets evenly with it. Place the salmon on the foil and loosely wrap it to prevent it from drying out in the oven. Bake for 15-20 mins until cooked through. Let cool and break the salmon into small pieces for later use.
  2. While the salmon is cooking, add 1 tbsp of oil to the wok and heat the wok over medium high heat. When the wok is hot, add the eggs and mix with a spatula until the eggs are almost cooked. Take the eggs out and set aside.
  3. Add another tbsp oil to the wok, add spring onions, ginger, and garlic. Stir-fry until they’re nicely coated with oil and you can smell their aroma.
  4. Add the rice and break the chunk of rice with your spatula. Stir fry until the rice is nicely separated and well mixed.
  5. Add the prepared eggs and salmon pieces to the rice and break them into smaller pieces as you continue to stir fry.
  6. Season the fried rice with sesame oil, soy sauce, white pepper, black pepper and salt. Enjoy while it’s hot.






5 comments
Taste of Summer – Coconut Lime Cupcake with Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Lime curd filling

I understand that cupcakes don’t appeal to everyone. I get that; the huge pile of buttercream can look quite intimidating if you have had awful experiences of eating overly sweet and dense buttercream sitting on some dry sponge cake before. But I promise you that these coconut lime cupcakes are nothing like that – the swiss coconut buttercream is light in texture while rich in flavour; and thanks to the addition of coconut milk, the cake is incredibly moist and the lime curd inside will definitely give you a little surprise when you bite into it. And don’t forget they are the combination of the two refreshing flavours that make you want to devour it with a glass of gin and tonic in the summertime (or anytime..)!

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The idea of making these cupcakes emerged when I saw the coconut lime cupcake by the Scran Line https://www.thescranline.com/coconut-lime-cupcakes. I got especially excited when I happened to have a bunch of limes left in my fridge. This cupcake recipe is modified from my own trusty cupcake recipe. I always prefer to away away from the traditional American buttercream because I simply find it too heavy in texture and taste, and the meringue lightens up the richness of butter brilliantly. I tried to incorporate as many lime and coconut components as possible and the outcome didn’t disappoint me!

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It seems that It’s been a while since I last talked about my school life. I just had the first two weeks of school (intermediate level), and we’ve already made a wide variety of pastry/dessert items. I am going to attach the images of my products at the end of this post so you will have a better idea. At this early stage, the difficulty of the items we’re required to make each lesson is not necessarily higher (so far..), but we have to work at a much faster pace to get more things done in the same period of time. I guess the school is gradually trying to get us used to the real working environment where time management is everything.

The other difference between basic and intermediate is that there are more assessments – on the second week, we were assessed on making a roulade with strawberry and cream filling. I don’t have much experience in making roulade and the last time I made one was ages ago, so I was a little nervous. The trickiest part of making a perfect roulade lies in rolling it up well to create the swirl while maintaining the shape and keeping the outer layer intact without any crack. To achieve this, the sponge cake has to be baked properly – if underbaked, it will become too sticky; if overbaked, it will crack. My first roulade during the practice session cracked on the surface. So during the real assessment, I made sure I didn’t overbake my roulade and I would pre-roll it when it’s freshly baked to create the “rolling memories”, a trick that I learnt and mentioned in my Black Sesame Swiss Roll Post before. Luckily, I passed the assessment but I know there were a few flaws that I must correct next time.

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We will be making Danish Pastry tomorrow and I am so pumped for it! Hopefully I can share the results with you later. May you all have a good weekend!

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Sacher torte

Madeira_Cake

Madeira Cake

Bienenstich(Beesting)

Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)

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Bagel (cream cheese, smoked salmon, chives) , Apple Strudel

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Savarin with Chantilly Cream and Fruits

Ingredients (make around 15 cupcakes):

For the cupcake

  • 190g all-purpose flour
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 115g butter, softened
  • 30g coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 120ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the buttercream

  • 5 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 280g butter, softened and chopped into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the lime curd

  • Juice and zest of 3 limes
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 60 cold butter, chopped into small cubes

Instructions:

For the cupcake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175C) . Line pans with cupcake liners.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift and combine flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt. These are your dry ingredients. Set aside.  
  3. In another mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, oil, and sugar on medium high speed until creamy and smooth. This will take around 4-5 mins.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating for 1 min. Add coconut milk and vanilla. Continue beating for 30 secs.
  5. In 3 batches, pour the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture, and gently stir with a spatula until incorporated. Don’t overmix.
  6. Fill cupcake liners to nearly full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake’s centre comes out clean.

For the lime curd

  1. Prepare a double boiler. Fill a saucepan with 1-1.5 inches high of water and bring it to simmer. Find a heatproof bowl that fits in the saucepan without directly touching the water.
  2. Put all ingredients except the butter into the heatproof bowl. Using a whisk, stir the mixture continuously and gently to slowly cook the eggs. The lemon curd is ready when it starts to thicken up. This process will take about 5-7 mins. Remove the bowl from the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the cold chopped butter into the mixture. Mix until the butter completely melts. Let cool and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Buttercream

  1. Add  egg whites and sugar to an oil-free bowl. Using a double boiling method, gently heat the egg whites mixture up, while whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140F (60C).  The sugar should have completely dissolved at this stage.
  2. Add the hot egg white-sugar mixture to your electric mixer mixing bowl (oil-free). Whip on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels cool (this is very important, otherwise the butter you’re about to add it will melt). This will take about 7-10 mins.
  3. Turn to medium-low speed, gradually add the softened butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until a silky smooth texture is reached. Add coconut milk, lime juice and salt, and beat until well combined. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembly

  1. When the cupcake is cooled to room temperature, use a corer to remove the centre of the cupcake to insert lime curd later.
  2. Fill the lime curd into a piping bag with a round tip. Pipe into the cored cupcake until it just starts to ooze out.
  3. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes with your favourite piping tip, and sprinkle lime zest and desiccated coconut on top as decoration if desired.

Yum




4 comments
Earthy Soul – Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse with Baileys Ladyfingers (topped with chocolate soil)




If you’re hosting a party soon and looking for a fancy-looking dessert recipe to impress your hungry guests, you’ve found the right place. This Hazelnut Bailey Chocolate Mousse Cup is made of the same rich & smooth hazelnut dark chocolate mousse used for the chocolate semi-sphere I shared before, with devilicious baileys-soaked lady fingers layered between. You think it cannot get any better? How about if I tell you it’s finished off with some crunchy hazelnut chocolate soil on top? Conventionally, people would put mint leaves onto the “soil” but I didn’t have any mint that day so I skipped it. Dig into these layers with a spoon and I promise you it’s one of the most satisfying feelings ever.



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I came up with this idea when I was asked to prepare party food for a bunch of young adults. I got so pumped and I thought about what would make the best dessert to get the party going? Alcohol. Duh. Rum, Cointreau, limoncello and Coffee Liqueur are the to-go alcohol that I would use for desserts, but it’s about time I tried THE renowned Baileys, a creamy and smooth Irish whisky-and-cream-based liqueur that is usually served cold (with ice-cream, yum!). As you can all imagine, Baileys is delicious just as it is, but it goes extremely well with chocolate too. I didn’t hold myself back when I was dipping my ladyfingers into Baileys (I mean, why I should I?), so there could be 2 shots of baileys in each cup and everyone loved it. But you’re wary of getting your friends drunk, do try to limit yourself with it.

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I made my own ladyfingers this time using the recipe by Anna Olson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezR5UUqiOJc), as I always preferred making things from scratch if possible. But if you’re running out of time or feeling a little bit lazy, feel free to get them in supermarket. For those who don’t know what a ladyfinger is, it is essentially a simple sponge biscuit that resembles the shape of a large finger. It’s commonly used in layered dessert such as Tiramisu, and all sorts of parfaits; or it can be dipped in chocolate and enjoyed as it is. I love it for its subtleness and versatility. Make this boozy mousse cup and get indulged in all the creamy chocolatey goodness!

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Ingredients (make 10 mousse cup):

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 35 caster sugar
  • 25g nutella

Ladyfingers (modified from http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipe/chocolate-dipped-lady-fingers/12698/)

  • ½ cup (64g) all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbsp (63g) cornstarch
  • 3 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 9 tbsp (113g) sugar
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar

Hazelnut Chocolate soil

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 50g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 50g  hazelnut, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions:

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse

  1. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate on low heat until melted. Let it cool slightly. Stir in butter and nutella. Set aside.
  2. Using a whisk, lightly beat egg yolks until pale and creamy. Add to the chocolate mixture, mix well.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg white until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat egg white to stiff peaks.
  4. Gently stir in the chocolate-egg yolk mixture (in three additions) into the egg whites, mix until no obvious egg white is visible.  
  5. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ladyfingers (extracted from http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipe/chocolate-dipped-lady-fingers/12698/)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and set aside. Whip the egg yolks with 3 Tbsp of the sugar until thick and pale and they hold a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy, then slowly add the remaining 6 Tbsp of sugar and continue whipping until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.
  3. Fold the whites into the yolk mixtures using a whisk, then fold in the flour until just incorporated. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe lady fingers onto the prepared trays that are 4-inches long and an inch apart (they will spread a little once piped). Bake for about 8 minutes, until the fingers are an even golden brown. Allow the fingers to cool completely before removing them from the trays.

Hazelnut Chocolate soil

  1. Using a double boiler or microwave, melt butter and allow it to cool to room temperature.
    While the butter is cooling, put sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a mixing bowl.  Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
  2. While whisking, slowly add the melted butter into the sugar cocoa mixture. Continue to mix until the mixture resembles dark soil.
  3. Add the chopped hazelnut and mix to provide the soil texture. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assemble

  1. Put the hazelnut chocolate mousse in a piping bag with a plain round nozzle, pipe the mousse into the bottom of the cup. Then, break the ladyfingers into pieces (I broke one ladyfinger into 3 parts) and soak them generously in Baileys, and put them on top of the mousse.
  2. Repeat step one to create alternating layers of hazelnut chocolate mousse and Baileys-soaked ladyfingers, with the hazelnut chocolate mousse as the top layer in the end (Save half an inch of space for the chocolate soil).
  3. Cover the top hazelnut chocolate mousse with chocolate soil. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 
Yum




12 comments
Zuger Kirschtorte with a raspberry twist (with review of the 1st week of final practical assessment @LCB)



Hello again, I’m quite excited about this post because I just had my first practical assessment week and I could do a little review (YAYY!!). One major part of this week’s assessment is making French puff pastry, which was needed to make vol-au-vent, bouchee, and palmier. Learning to make puff pastry myself was quite a journey; yes, it is a long and technical process but hey, it’s actually very fun and rewarding when you see the result. Although I still panicked everytime I used the dough sheeter ( the chance of dropping the pastry on the ground is so high, well at least for me, if you don’t pay enough attention), I successfully produced puff pastry products that rose beautifully and were flaky and buttery :). Sorry that I didn’t take any pictures of them as I was too preoccupied that day.

Other assessment items for the week include linzer torte, baklava, coffee eclairs and fruit flan. I didn’t get to practise on linzer torte because I got sick last week; luckily, it was a rather straightforward dessert with an elegant look. Also, we had to make baklava, a rich buttery dessert made of layers of filo pastry filled with grinded nuts soaked with syrup. I wasn’t a big fan of baklava as I found it too heavy when I first tasted it a few weeks back then, but I realised that it tasted so much better when served cool/cold.

Linzer Torte

Zuger Kirsch Torte (with raspberry twist) 3

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Coffee eclairs and fruit flan were the last assessment items for this week. As we did a lot of mise en place the day before (i.e. pastry cream and sweet pastry dough), it was the most relaxing day among all. When I made my eclairs yesterday, my choux pastry got too liquidy as I added too much egg. So I had to quickly make another choux pastry without falling behind my schedule too much. Luckily I got back on track and got to finish and present my items on time. What a relief!

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At this point, you may wonder what we will be mainly making for our final assessment next monday. It’s Zuger Kirschtorte. Zuger Kirschtorte is a traditional layer cake from Switzerland with layered with japonaise (almond-meringue),  kirschwasser flavoured génoise  sponge, and buttercream. Normally, the outer layer of the cake is coated with flaked almond as well. I absolutely love this cake because of its intricate complexity – it is layered with various elements working together to create beautiful textures and flavour combinations.

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For the recipe I am sharing here*, it holds the essence of the cake with a raspberry twist. I decided to incorporate raspberry to the cake for three reasons. Firstly, the buttercream has to be pink for the final assessment, maybe for aesthetic reasons (?), so I reckon raspberry would be a good choice to fit the color. Secondly, the tangy and sweet flavours of raspberry would complement the richness of buttercream perfectly. Thirdly, they look so damn good as decoration no? This cake is perfect for celebration, especially when it’s in this ridiculously adorable pink color haha. Finger crossed that I can successfully finish making this cake next monday! Enjoy the weekend 🙂

*Recipe and Instructions given are adapted from those provided by Le Cordon Bleu.Zuger Kirsch Torte (with raspberry twist) 2

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Génoise  sponge

Ingredients:

 

  • 100g whole eggs, room temperature
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 65g plain flour
  • 20g melted butter

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Preheat oven at 190C.
  2. Grease and line a 6 inch pan.
  3. Using an electric mixter, mix eggs, vanilla, and sugar on medium speed until thick and pale (or ribbon stage is reached).
  4. Fold in sifted flour and melted butter alternatively. Gently mix until no flour is visible.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan.
  6. Bake at 190C for 15-18 mins until golden brown, or when a skewer inserted into the cake’s centre comes out clean. Let cool and unmold the cake. Cut a slice of the cake (around 2 cm thick) with a serrated knife; set aside.

 

Japonaise

Ingredients:

 

  • 95g egg whites
  • 60g caster sugar
  • pinch of cream of tar tar
  • 20g corn flour, sifted
  • 95g ground almond
  • 70g caster sugar

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Preheat oven at 170C.
  2. Using an electric mixer (make sure the whisk and bowl are oil-free), beat egg whites and cream of tar tar on high speed until stiff. Gradually add in sugar and mix for another 2 mins.
  3. Mix corn flour, ground almond, and caster sugar in a bowl. These are your dry ingredients; set aside.
  4. Fold in half of the egg white mix to the dry ingredients. Mix gently.
  5. Add the remaining egg white mix and gently blend until just incorporated. Important: be as gentle as you can in this step. Don’t overmix to avoid the mixture from becoming too thin.Put the batter into a piping bag with a plain round nozzle. Pipe two 6 inch discs onto silicone paper.
  6. Bake at 170C for 20-25 mins until golden brown.

 

Kirsch syrup

Ingredients:

 

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g water
  • 30ml kirsch

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Bring the sugar and water to the boil.
  2. When cooled, add the Kirsch.

 

Raspberry vanilla italian buttercream

Ingredients:

 

  • 160g caster sugar
  • 40ml water
  • 100g egg white
  • 250g unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped to small cubes
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • few drops of red food coloring

 

Instructions:

 

  • In a medium pot, boil sugar and water.
  • When syrup reaches 110 C, start whisking egg whites with an electic mixer on high speed.
  • When syrup reaches 118C, add syrup in a fast stream (be careful with the hot syrup!) to the egg whites. Continue whisking until the mixture is light and cooled to room temperature.
  • Add butter to the italian meringue piece by piece. Add raspberry jam. Continue mixing until no butter cubes are visible, and the buttercream is smooth and creamy.
  • Set aside for frosting.

 

Homemade raspberry jam (can substitute store-bought jam):

Ingredients:

 

  • 125g fresh raspberry
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 

Instructions:

 

  • Bring sugar and raspberries in a saucepan on high heat for around 2 mins until all sugar has dissolved. Mash raspberries with a fork as you go.
  • Turn to medium heat, continue to cook the jam until it’s thickened enough to your liking.
  • Turn off heat. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  • Transfer the jam into airtight jar for later use.

 

Assembly

  • Assemble gateau using two discs of japonaise sandwiched with raspberry jam, buttercream and Genoise sponge soaked with kirsch syrup.

In other words,

 

  1. Firstly put a disc of japonaise as the cake base.
  2. Then, pipe 1 cm thick of italian buttercream. Spread raspberry jam on top of italian buttercream.
  3. Add the sponge cake. Generously brush the kirsch syrup onto the sponge cake until it’s well soaked.
  4. Repeat step 2.
  5. Put the 2nd disc of japonaise on top of the sponge cake.
  6. Frost the cake with italian buttercream and decorate it with garnishes to your liking.

 

Choice of garnish

 

  • Flaked almond
  • Fresh raspberry
  • Chopped roasted pistachios

 

 Yum




6 comments
Drunk in Style – White Wine Poached Pear Almond Tart




It’s been a while, everyone. I am really glad that I’m finally sharing a recipe I learnt from school with you all. This week, our teacher demonstrated how to make this French-style white wine poached pear almond tart (Pear Bourdaloue); I absolutely loved it and I knew I had to recreate it for myself.

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Making tarts hasn’t been my strong suit, because up until now I haven’t fully grasped the techniques of handling and rolling pastry. Thanks to school, I had to squarely deal with all my weaknesses and practice. Cope with the huge difference between last year’s baking experience and that of this year isn’t easy either. In LCB, I am constantly introduced all sorts of pastry items that never existed in my world due to my limited exposure to the culinary world. Honestly, the feelings of inadequacy could be overpowering at times, but so is the sense of excitement burning in my heart that I know I just have to keep learning and getting better. For those who are curious about what I’ve made at school for the past few weeks, I’ve attached couple photos at the end of this post as promised. 

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About the tart itself, I know in many sense it matches with autumn theme more, but when you want to eat tarts who cares about the time? Sweet and soft pears shall be the star of this tart – they are beautifully spiced by cinnamon and cloves, with the addition of tangy, sweet flavour thanks to the white wine, as well as lemon and orange peel. Poaching pears requires correct time, temperature and patience. You want soft, sweet, flavoured pears that are not cooked to become mushy in the end. Having the pears together wIth the nutty almond cream at the bottom is simply delicious. I like having this tart when freshly baked (preferably with vanilla ice-cream on top, yummmm), but it’s purely my own preferences. I hope you will enjoy this recipe! 

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White Wine Poached Pear (Can be made the night before)

Ingredients:

  • 6 fresh pears
  • 500ml water
  • 500ml white wine
  • 250g sugar
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • peel of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or  1 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 clove (or ⅛ tsp ground cloves)

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients (except the pears) in a pan.
  2. Peel and core pears, gently poach (NOT boil) pears in syrup.
  3. Cook the pears for about 1 hour until they are soft. Use a stick to test every once in a while to see if the pears are done.
  4. When done, take out the pears from the pan to stop the cooking process. Reserve the liquid. When both the pears and liquid have cooled, let the pears continue soaking in the liquid. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

Sweet Pastry Dough (this recipe makes two tart shells):

Ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 142g sugar
  • 90g eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 375g bakers flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 45g almond meal

Instructions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer until well combined.
  2. Adds eggs (one at a time) and vanilla. Mix.
  3. Mix in sifted flour and almond meal to form a dough.
  4. Wrap it with plastic and keep in refrigerator to set and rest for at least 30 mins. (the gluten in the dough needs to rest or the pastry will shrink when baked)
  5. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  6. Lightly flour your working surface. Roll out the pastry to 2.5-3mm thickness. Line a 8 inch tart pan with sweet pastry. Poke littles holes with a folk on the pastry’s base to avoid air bubbles from forming when the pastry is baked. Refrigerate to rest the pastry for 20 mins.
  7. Bake the pastry for 12-15 mins until golden brown.
  8. Let cool and set aside.

Almond cream

Ingredients:

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 120g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 20g baker flour
  • 120g almond meal
  • 20ml rum (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar by hand of a mixer until well combined.
  2. Add vanilla, and eggs (one at a time). Mix well.
  3. Add flour, almond meal, and rum (if used). Mix well to form a paste.
  4. Set aside until ready to use.

Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Fill the tart with the almond cream generously.
  3. Put the poached pears on top according to the design you want.
  4. Bake for approximately 25-35 mins until golden brown.
  5. Sprinkled toasted almond on top if desired.

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Yum




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Chinkiang Vinegar Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs (鎮江糖醋排)




TIME FOR SAVORY! I know, I know, I’ve been sharing dessert recipes to the point that my life appeared to consist of nothing but sugar and butter (aka a standard baker’s life). Well, I do cook as well. So if you’re looking for an easy Chinese dinner recipe for a family feast, you found the right place.

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The reason why I finally decided to post a savory dish on my blog is that it means something more than just one of my favourite chinese dishes. It is a dish that represents the start of my true cooking journey. This dish was among the very first dishes I made on my own for a purpose: international dinner, a “tradition” that everyone had to follow in our shared student apartment to showcase our own home cuisines way back during my exchange. I had panicked so much due to my lack of cooking experiences at the time (I tried to look up as many Chinese/HK recipes as I could online and I felt as f lots of my brains cells died in the process haha). But, phew, I did a pretty good job in the end and my friends were all impressed! Many had asked me why I became so passionate about cooking, and now you know why.

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Back to the actual food. To me, hands down, the thing that I like the most about Chinese cooking is its extensive use of “Sweet & Sour” – I know you feel it too, it is truly addictive. The proof is its popularity in the Chinese take-outs in foreign countries. Honestly, as someone who was born and raised in Hong Kong, I still can’t resist ordering sweet and sour pork every single time I dine in a Chinese restaurant.

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Regarding the dish, please don’t worry about the sauce being overly sour, because the sourness of the Chinkiang (or Zhenjiang) vinegar will be nicely balanced by the sweetness of sugar to become the yummiest sauce ever. Just prepare yourself a bowl of rice to have with it and you’re so good to go. I made this for my family and fingers crossed that they’ll like it. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork ribs, each cut into 3 pieces
    • Marinade:
      • 2 tbsp corn flour
      • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
      • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 small ginger piece, cut into thin slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
  • 2 shallots, cut into thin slices
  • 1 large onion (or 2 small onions), cut into small chunks
  • 1 1/2  tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) Chinkiang  vinegar  
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1 rock sugar (but if you don’t have it, use 4 tbsp raw sugar instead)
  • some roasted white sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. Wash the spare ribs under running water, drain and dry well with kitchen towel.
  2. Cut each spare rib into 3 sections
  3. Marinade the spare ribs with corn flour, light soy sauce and white pepper for at least an hour.  
  4. Heat your pan with medium high heat. Add in spare ribs, cook each side for 2 mins until golden brown.
  5. Add in gingers, garlic, and shallots, stir well and sauté until they become fragrant.
  6. Add Shaoxing cooking wine, dark soy sauce, and sugar, stir well.
  7. Add Chinkiang vinegar, water, and sugar, stir well.
  8. Bring to boil, braise over low heat for 30-45 mins until ribs become tender and sauce thickens.
  9. When served, sprinkle roasted white sesame seeds on top.
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The Cool Beans – Tiramisu Macaron with Coffee Mascarpone Buttercream Filling




I’ve waited SO LONG to have this post about THE intimidating macarons. I don’t know about you, despite how lush and tempting macarons Look, I often find them too pricey to bring home as a student. So, I might as well learn to make them myself, right?   

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It’s no exaggeration to say that these tiramisu macarons are heavenly. Tell me, how can you resist it when you get a crispy coffee-flavoured almond meringue shell with a marshmallow interior, with some creamy rich and creamy mascarpone cheese buttercream layered between? The bitterness from the coffee justly tones down the macarons’ high level of sweetness that’d be considered a put off for certain people.  Have a bite and you’d be brought straight to Paris.

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I am quite a perfectionist when it comes to baking. This is a double-edged sword, because while it always pushes me to strive for the best result, sometimes I could just break down for a not-so-good-looking muffin. However, ironically,  here I am, ready to talk about the making of macarons –  something that constantly forces me to deal with imperfection.  Sometimes I’d pipe out macarons that aren’t the same shape and size on the baking sheet; sometimes the macaroon shells would crack when I was eagerly peeping through the oven door; sometimes the famous and essential “feet” simply wouldn’t show.  In other words, there are  tons of reasons for me to face frustration when making these little treats, or for me to doubt myself. But there’s one thing that I know for sure –  to master anything I have to start somewhere, and coming to terms with initial failures is the way to go because that’s how I figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.

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If I have to mention the most important thing that I have learnt about making macarons, it’d be it is not as hard as it seems, yet it has to be made with absolute precision. In order to create the smooth top shell layers and the little famous “feet”, you must rest the macaron for at least 30 mins before baking, and make sure the oven is kept at low temperature (i.e. 150C). Also, as many would agree, when compared with the traditional French meringue method, using the Italian meringue method produces more stable result. If you feel uncertain about reading the written instructions alone, do check out some tutorial videos with clear demonstration online (The Scran Line is  good source where you’d find lots of creative macarons recipes). I hope you will try it out for yourself! 😉

Ingredients:

Yields about 20 Macaroons (40 shells)

  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 80 g egg white, separated into two portions, 40g each 
  • 32.5 ml water 
  • 2 tsp instant coffee, melted in 1 tsp water

Filling:

  • 100 g softened butter
  • 100g mascarpone cheese
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp (5ml) coffee liqueur

Instructions :

Macaron shells:

  1. Place the icing sugar and almond flour in a food processor, and pulse for 30 seconds until well combined and fine in texture. Sift the flour-sugar mixture through a sieve into a mixing bowl, and pour in the first portion of egg whites. With a spatula, mix together until well combined. You can still be quite vigorous at this stage.
  2. Now you prepare the syrup. Put sugar and water in a small saucepan and do NOT stir. Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118C. When the syrup reaches 115C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of egg whites to soft peaks on a medium speed.
  3. When the sugar reaches 118C, pour it over the egg whites (pour the hot syrup on the side of the mixing bowl to avoid cooking the egg whites). Turn the mixer to high speed and continue beating for about 5-7 mins, until the meringue is cooled down to 50C and glossy stiff peaks have formed. In two additions, add the meringue over the almond mixture, and, using a spatula, gently fold in until combined and smooth. Work the batter until it flows in very thick ribbons when the spatula is lifted.
  4. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment. Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter to flatten the macarons and to remove air bubbles.
  5. Tap the tray on the work surface covered with a kitchen cloth. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes, until a skin forms on the shells.
  6. Preheat the oven to 150C, then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Out of the oven, slide the shells on to the work surface. Let cool.

Coffee mascarpone buttercream filling:

  1. Add softened butter and mascarpone cheese to a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on a medium speed until smooth.
  2. Add icing sugar and coffee liqueur, continue beating for an extra minute until combined and smooth.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble:

 

  1. Place the mascarpone buttercream filling into a piping bag topped with a rose nozzle and pipe it on the inside of the macarons and sandwich them together.
  2. Serve macarons at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Yum




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Sunflower Love – Japanese Mini Cheese Tart with Milo Crust




Good news – there are finally some good tarts made in Charlotte’s kitchen!! I haven’t updated the blog for nearly two weeks, because 1) life outside was so eventful that my kitchen lost its allure to me temporarily (trust me it’s really big thing for someone like me who always prefers to stay home) and 2) I had been trying to figure out the best method of making these little japanese cheese tarts so that I can share this recipe with you guys.

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If you are a fan of Japanese desserts, cheese tart shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to you. People are crazy about it, but who can blame them? Taste wise, the tart marries sweet and salty brilliantly. Texture wise, the contrast between the buttery crispy crust and the lava-like cheesy filling probably creates the most unforgettable tart eating experience. I once tried it in Japan, and I simply couldn’t get over it ever since.

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My take on this tart overall is pretty straightforward, except that I added some milo powder into the crust for a little malty, chocolate twist. If you follow the instructions carefully, making the tart filling shouldn’t be hard either – it basically resembles making custard with the use of a double boiler, so that things can be cooked evenly and gently without cooking the egg. The cornflour and egg will thicken the mixture considerably so that you can easily brush egg yolk on it before baking.

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One thing I must remind you here is, that no matter how eager you want to see the result, please be patient to let tart crusts cool and dry up before filling them up. I was impatient before and the tart ended up tragically soggy (yeah you don’t want that). Thanks for reading and I hope you will make them soon!

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Make 10-12 mini tart

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cup (188g) all purpose flour (+ 2 tbsp for kneading)
  • 25g milo powder
  • 1/2 cup (115g) cold butter, cut into small cubes  
  • 1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • salt

For the filling:

  • 110g cream cheese
  • 110g mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp (28g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 50g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 1 egg
  • 12g cornstarch (corn flour) (sifted)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Extra egg yolk for brushing

Instructions:

For the filling:

  1. Using a double boiler, heat and melt cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, butter until smooth.
  2. Add sifted cornflour and icing sugar, and mix well.
  3. Add egg, and mix well.
  4. Stir in milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, and mix well.
  5. Let the custard cool for at least 15 mins before putting them into a piping bag tipped with a round nozzle. Chill it in the refrigerator for later use.

For the crust:

  1. Blend together flour, milo powder, sugar, salt, butter with a pastry cutter or a food processor, until the mixture becomes coarse meal with spea-size butter lumps.
  2. Add egg and vanilla, and stir until incorporated.  
  3. Put the mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Add the extra 2 tbsp flour onto the dough surface. Knead the dough for a few times until the dough is brought together and no longer sticky. Press it into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 mins until firm.
  4. Roll out dough into 3-4mm thick with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface and fit into tart pans. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Now, Preheat your oven to 375F/190C.
  6. Bake tart shell for 15-18 mins . Let them cool in the pan until they’re cool enough to handle. Take the shells out of the pan and let them cool completely on a wrack.
  7. Now turn up the heat of your oven to 446F/230C.

Assemble:

  1. Pipe custard into the cooled tart shells, brush egg yolk on the surface.
  2. Bake for 6 mins on the top shelf (to facilitate browning). If you prefer a runnier texture, try 4 or 5 mins. Enjoy!

Yum

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Because Why Not – Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Cake with Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream Frosting




This joyful looking cake came into existence for two reasons. First, apparently I loved making chocolate desserts too much and I must stay away from it (right?). Second, it doesn’t hurt to go for some classic sometimes. By classic, I mean the marriage of salty and sweet – Peanut Butter & Jelly – made famous by Americans. Of course, this combination shouldn’t be limited to a breakfast/snack sandwich; think about it, if it works brilliantly between two slices of bread, it surely can make a great cake too.

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I originally designed this layer cake for my friend’s birthday, and this is a new recipe modified mainly to improve the cake’s texture. My first PB&J cake was bit on the dry and tough side. Therefore, in my second attempt, I put in more eggs and oil, and I also decided to fold meringue into the cake batter at last instead of incorporating whole eggs. Such changes increased the volume of the cake with richer taste and finer structure.

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One indispensable component of this cake is the jam. The slightly tart strawberry jam with a citrus touch perfectly undercuts the richness of the buttercream. People who have been in my baking life would know that I always prefer making things from scratch, for I want to have great control of my baked goods (here comes the even greater satisfaction afterwards!). I couldn’t resist making my own strawberry jam for the cake (see note for instructions), but again, you can by all means purchase your favourite jam :). Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

(make one 6-inch cake)

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ cup (188g) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup (58g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) crunchy peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup (75g) granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites + 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream Frosting:

  • ¾ cup (150g) white granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tar tar
  • 1 ½ ( (345g) cups unsalted butter, softened  
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) creamy peanut butter

For the homemade strawberry jam (or ½ cup store bought jam)

  • 250g  strawberries
  • 4 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest of

Toppings:

  • Fresh strawberry slices
  • Extra peanut butter swiss buttercream

Instructions:

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
  2. Line one 6 inch cake with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly sift in and combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. In another mixing bowl (make sure it’s oil free), add egg whites, icing sugar and cream of tar tar. Using an electric beater, beat on high speed until soft peak forms. Transfer the meringue into another bowl; set aside.  
  5. Using the same mixing bowl you used to make the meringue, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed for 4-5 mins until pale and fluffy. Add oil and continue beating for 2 min until incorporated.
  6. Add eggs yolks, one at a time, peanut butter and vanilla. Continue to beat at medium speed until well combined.
  7. Add the prepared dry ingredients into the mixture in three batches. Mix on low speed until no flour can be seen.
  8. Finally, gently fold the prepared meringue into the cake batter with a spatula. Mix gently with folding motion until just incorporated.
  9. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared cake tin. Tap the pans several times to break any air bubbles. Bake for 50 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake’s centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in their pans, then take them out and put them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the peanut butter swiss buttercream.

For the Peanut butter Swiss Buttercream:

  1. Add  egg whites and sugar to an oil-free bowl. Using a double boiling method, gently heat the egg whites mixture up, while whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 140F (60C).  The sugar should have completely dissolved at this stage.
  2. Add the hot egg white-sugar mixture to your electric mixer mixing bowl (oil-free). Whip on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels cool. This will take about 7-10 mins.
  3. Turn to medium-low speed, gradually add the softened butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until a silky smooth texture is reached. Add vanilla and peanut butter, and beat until well combined.
  4. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes with a round tip for later use.

Assembly:

  1. Level the cake layers by slicing the top curve of the cakes with a sharp knife to achieve a flat surface.
  2. Cut the cake into three even layers.
  3. Peel the parchment paper from the base of the cake layers and place one layer onto a plate or a cake board placed on a revolving cake stand (if you have it).
  4. Now we do the crumb coat first.
  5. Pipe a generous amount of frosting evenly on the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting carefully and top it a thin layer of strawberry jam.
  6. Top it with the second cake layer and repeat step 5, and top it with the third cake layer.
  7. Frosting the top and sides of the cakes. Get a nice, smooth coat of icing with a bench scraper or a spatula.
  8. Put the crumb-coated cake in the refrigerator for an hour to get the frosting nice and firm. Once the cake is chilled, frost your cake evenly with another layer of frosting using the same method. Get rid of all the peaks and blemishes in the process.
  9. Pipe dollops of cream onto the cake, put thin strawberry slices and spinkle cocoa powder as garnish if desired.
  10. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour.

Note:
Instructions for the homemade strawberry jam: 

  1. Prepare the strawberries by washing them and drying them with a kitchen towel. Remove their stems. Crush strawberries in batches or cut them into small cubes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 5-10 mins until the jam has reached 105C, then turn off the heat.
  3. Let the jam cool to room temperature. Put the jam into jars and refrigerate until ready for use.

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