How To: Tiramisu

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Tiramisu. What’s not to love about layers of soft sponge fingers soaked in espresso and a boozy mixture of Marsala wine, rum and brandy. Swathed in a lush, velvetly and delectable Italian custard and mascarpone filling. It’s like all the good things in life (edible, of course) came together in a single dessert. Well to be honest, I’ve had some truly unforgettable ones, others that were mediocre and a couple of unfortunate times which could only be described as disastrous. All these while, making tiramisu seemed so intimidating that I’ve never thought about making it myself.

It all started when I was thinking about what dessert to bake for a New Year’s party. Now, there’s no way I’m gonna cheat here and take the easy way out (aka store bought savoiardi or ladyfinger biscuits). Baking the ladyfingers was easy – basically a sponge cake batter piped into little ‘fingers’, dusted with a little powdered sugar and baked. I like my Tiramisu to be intense. So in went the espresso, liquors and copious amounts of them. 3 attempts later, I must say that they have gotten closer to the Tiramisu of my dreams but, not mhmm.. perfect yet. I’ve gotten quite a few compliments that night and had request to make them again. So for now, I’ll just have to keep tweaking the recipe to satisfy the perfectionist in me!

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Persimmon & Chocolate Cupcakes

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Cupcake baking yet again, and this time more fruit pairings. This is really becoming somewhat of a Cupcake Chronicle. Anyway, it’s the time of the year again when these orange-hued juicy fruits, bursting with sweetness come back into season. I used hate persimmons because of their pulpy and squishy flesh but I’ve since grown to like its unique taste and best of all, it’s supposed to be really good for you! It was my first time baking with persimmons, so I wanted to keep it really simple to let the natural sweetness of the fruit shine. Vanilla Bean & Honey Cupcakes were filled with a persimmon puree centre and topped off with more sliced persimmons. Sugar was sparingly used and floral honey was added to barely sweeten them. For the frosting, a rosette of whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache was piped on each cupcake to temper the sweetness of the fruit. Biting in one, the fudgy melt-in-your-mouth frosting gives way to a light cake which surrounds a jam-like centre, infusing the cake with flavour. On hindsight, I should have added more persimmon puree to the middle (to achieve a runny oozy salted egg custard bun effect) but oh well, there’s always next time!

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Fruit & Nut Granola

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Breakfast is definitely the meal I cannot go without, no matter how late I eventually crawl out from underneath the covers. Hooray for all-day breakfast!! Since the semester has began, (with that comes the mad rush to get to uni on time) my to-go breakfast has been granola + yogurt and a cup of coffee. As much as pre-packaged cereals (my fav has got to be the Sweet Home Farm granola) are convenient and so darn tasty, nothing beats an organic home-made batch with only the things you love!

Easy, I promise this is possibly the simplest recipe here. Organic rolled oats, sunflower seed kernels, macadamias, walnuts and sesame are measured out. Combine some organic molasses cane sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, honey and a little water over the stove until it becomes smooth. Mix in a generous tablespoon each of pure vanilla and cinnamon, with a pinch of sea salt. Stir everything together to coat the oats and nuts evenly. Spread evenly on a baking pan and baked at 160C til they all turn golden brown, crunchy and delicious (: Finally, toss in the organic raisins and dried cranberries. I like have mine with yogurt and sliced bananas on top, enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake + Guanaja Mousse

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Death by chocolate. Think, a dense, fudgy base of flourless dark chocolate torte. Top that off with an ethereal layer of rich silky Guanaja chocolate mousse. Rich and lush as it melts in the mouth. The circle of fresh blueberries, with their burst of tanginess refreshes the palate between mouthfuls. Mhmm.. there is a reason why this cake is tiny, about 4.5 inches in diameter.

The contrast between the two components somehow works beautifully together. Oh, not forgetting the mix of bailey’s irish cream, whiskey and kahlua thoroughly infused into the cake. Next is the Guanaja mousse which, despite it delicate whipped texture, packs some pretty intense flavour. The smooth, velvety nature enhances the bittersweet flavours of this indulgent cake. Something which I felt was lacking was a crunch or crisp — maybe a praline feuilletine layer at the base the next time?

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Tarte au Citron

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There are a million and one different lemon desserts out there but my favourite has got to be the humble lemon tart. Just the plain ol’ lemon tart without all that fancy schmancy burnished crown of meringue. It scores with its minimalistic and elegant appearance. Not to mention the beautiful sunny, pastel-yellow filling. Sometimes, I do a ‘cheater’s version’ by simply topping a baked tart shell with homemade lemon curd. However, this French Lemon Tart totally knocks it out of the park.

A buttery crisp shortcrust tart, imbued with the unmistakable scent of vanilla, surrounds a softly-set, lemony custard filing. I used my absolute favourite Pâte Sucrée and adapted Thomas Keller’s recipe for the lemon filling (I’m such a fan of Kelle! French Laundry, Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery are on my to-visit/eat list/bucket list) This lemon tart is deceptively simple to make – which is unfortunately both a good and dangerous thing. A slice of the tart, plain and unadorned is yummy on its own. Sifted powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate across the top would add a nice touch, but why go to such lengths? Now, I think I have found the lemon tart.
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Cinnamon Rolls

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Those swirls of tender, pillowy soft rolls with ooey-gooey swirls of cinnamon-sugar, walnuts and raisins. Pulling apart fluffy layers dripping with caramelised goodness. Who needs therapy when you’ve got them? After having one-too-many cinnamon rolls/sticky buns from bakeshops around, I was convinced that these golden brown deliciousness can never enjoyed as often as I would like, without bursting a coronary or even a button for that matter.

Instead of unknowingly shovelling an insane amount of butter, white refined sugar, bleached flours into our mouths (Cinnabon, i’m looking at you!), I decided to make my own.

First, was to work out a recipe that would produce soft, fluffy base without being laden with fat or filled with weird food additive (like bread improvers, softeners, etc.. wth, really?) A tablespoon of fresh orange zest added a little extra something to the dough. Then, for the filling: cutting down the unnecessarily large proportion of butter. (Side note: an obscene amount of butter in a recipe seems to give most people an assurance that it would turn out ah-mazingly good. So wrong!!). To up the flavour quotient, I finally settled on a mix of spices + good french butter + dark brown muscovado sugar. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and a little black pepper. Unorthodox, but it works. Lightly toasting the walnuts and pecans greatly enhances their nutty aroma. Oh, then there are rum-soaked raisins. I also skipped the signature cream cheese icing – no way was I going to douse all those rich, warm, earthy flavours with a blanket of sweet frosting. After a number of tweaks and alteration to my recipe, here it is — Cinnamon rolls/buns (my way)
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Fig & Apple Cupcakes + Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

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Another off the list! I love figs and apples, but combined together in a cupcake? Seems unusual but I was dying to test this flavour pairing out. Moist vanilla bean buttermilk cupcakes were filled with a fresh apple-fig compote, buried in the batter before baking. While the cupcakes were cooling, I got to work on the frosting – a satiny, light and not-too-sweet swiss meringue buttercream flecked with tiny specks of Madagascar vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. Apart from my absolute favourite cream cheese frosting, this sure is one of my most loved cupcake frosting of all time. It delivers a luscious and silky mouthfeel that’s most importantly, stable enough to hold up in our sweltering heat and humid weather. No doubt this takes quite abit of work to make (from the meringue to the seemingly endless process of whipping it where it turns from a soupy, curdled mess to a billowy cloud of frosting), but the efforts are always worth it. Finally, the frosted cupcakes were garnished with a little slice of dried fig and a spiced caramel drizzle.
Despite being one of the most complicated, multi-component cupcakes I’ve done so far (cupcake base, fruit compote filling, frosting and caramel drizzle), I was surprised that it didn’t take as much time as anticipated. Here you go, another original cupcake creation – the Fig & Apple. I’m super excited the share this recipe. Do try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

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Blueberry Crumble Muffins

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Blueberry crumble in a muffin. Heaps of crunchy, buttery crumble topping over the fluffy and moist interior studded with blueberries. ‘Nuff said!

// Edit: this is dedicated to my friend Vee (and her obsession with blue coloured food). Blue Velvet Cupcakes? Yeaap next on my to-bake list! Now, I just need to remember to pick up some gel food colours soon (:

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Italian Herb & Onion Focaccia

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It seems like I hardly feature anything savoury over here. Apart from having an incredibly sweet tooth, I rarely gravitate towards baking savoury items like quiches, meat pies, etc. For a change, here’s something that I’d made some time back during my bread-making phase. After several attempts (and filling the pantry with all sorts of flours for breads) I decided to take a rest from the usual crusty artisan free-form loafs and bake these Italian Focaccia instead.
Aromatic with a nice bite, they were even better dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. However, these were a little dry the next day and not as chewy as we’d liked (maybe my proportions were a little off?) Well, at least they did make an awesome sandwich when lightly toasted with some Emmental cheese, smoked ham and peppery arugula/rocket leaves!
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Mango Pudding

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This post has been largely influenced by all the scrummy mango sticky rice I had during my trip to Bangkok last week! Mango pudding is such a classic dessert at Chinese restaurants. Softly-set, chilled pudding infused with the heady aroma of mangoes. A while ago, we had a little stash of Indian Alphonso Mangoes which were on the verge of over-ripening. In a bid to use them in a recipe, I decided to make Mango Panna Cotta. The traditional mango pudding recipe called for agar agar which might result in a tough, rubbery texture if not handled properly. No way was I gonna waste the delicious seasonal fruit on something that might go wrong. So I adapted the recipe by adding mango puree and coconut milk. The result? A silky, soft creamy pudding with intense mango flavour. I might have gone a little too heavy handed on the sugar, so feel free to cut back depending on the sweetness of your mangoes!

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