Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Picture of the Black Bean Soup

Hello! I'll make this short and sweet. I have forgotten to attach a picture of the black bean soup for my previous entry, so here it is. Boiled a pot of soup and I had it all to myself, what with TW being away.

But it was great, after having bowlful after bowful of soup, I feel that I am fully recharged for another hectic week at work. Though admittedly, I'll only be in the office for 2 days then I'm on leave! Words cannot describe how I feel....seriously...after doing the exhausting split shift for almost 2 weeks, I can't wait to go for this break. 

A break from office work, yes. But work in general, no. I'll be making cupcakes for my brother's wedding; bridal gifts in fact. Not many, about a dozen boxes but it will be my first mass cupcake making project, complete with frosting and all. Excited!...yet I have my concerns. Hmm....

Anyway, I shall tell and show you more when I get back. That's a promise!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Look Ma, cupcakes!

I signed up for a cupcake decorating class with Cake Connection and boy, was it fun! Nancy, the lovely instructor demonstrated the making of the cupcakes and frosting and then she showed us the correct way to handle the decorating tools. Then the real fun began when she taught us how to ice the cakes and pipe some basic designs like the star, rosette, rose, balloon & leaves. We were then given 6 cupcakes each, bowlfuls of pastel coloured frosting & a few decorating tools to start designing on our own. 

It was rather interesting to see everyone's faces as they went about their task, some were smiling and some with wrinkled foreheads. Mine was a combination of both, I was rather wrinkly at first but soon got the hang of it and I was grinning from ear to ear.

At the end of the 2 hour session, this is what I've done. 

took this shot right after the class ended..tsk tsk....

In detail, this is what I've learned in terms of piping techniques. Clockwise from top left;

  • Peachy pink sundae swirl cupcake with silver dragees - using an open star decorating tip 1M. I would love to explain it to you but these guys do it better, Wilton ;) 
  • Lemony yellow cupcake with rosette - using an open star decorating tip 22. Those red flecks are edible glitter.
  • Pretty purple cupcake with flower and leaves - this one's simple. I just plopped a ready made sugarpaste flower in the centre and piped some leaves around it, using tip 67. And some purple glitter to fill up the space around it....
  • Yellow cupcakes with a trio of balloons - balloons were created using tip 12, while the string and ribbon using tip 2. And oh...some yellow glitter all around it. Sheesh...I am really loving those sparkly things.
  • Pink cupcake with purple flowers - using the same 1M tip for the sundae swirl, different technique. And  i just HAD get my hands on the sprinkles. This time I used pink sugar crystals.
  • Baby blue cupcake with stars to form the letter 'L' (don't know why I chose that aphabet though....I must have been feeling the LOVE there...) - using the same tip 22 for the rosette, different technique. And of course, some pink, blue and purple glitter. Gawd, someone call the glitter police!!!
Here's a close up on one of the cuppies;

check out my stars, they remind me of xiao long bao :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Black Bean Soup

I love soup! A bowl of steaming soup makes me feel at home, well taken care of. This is because when I was a kid, grandma would feed my siblings and I a simple meal of white rice with soup. I remember how she would prepare a huge bowl of rice and mix it with soup of the day (most often on the menu was lotus root or peanut), added a dash of soy sauce and lots and lots of crispy shallots. If it was lotus root, she would dice them into small cubes and shred the pork as well. We would run around the living room and she would patiently feed us spoonful by spoonful, until every single grain of rice was finished. Love you grandma!

Here's one of my all time favourite soup. A simple nourishing concoction yet very easy to put together. Here's what I used.

Well we all know that chinese herbs are good for us but how so? Here's how;
  • Red dates -Nourishes blood, calms the mind, fights insomnia and restlessness, delays aging; it also prolongs, enhances and harmonizes the effect of other ingredients
  • Yoke Chok - nourishes stomach and lungs, fights impotence
  • Dong Sum -benefits spleen and lungs, boost immunity, nourishes blood, lowers blood pressure, restores appetite, promotes digestion
  • Kei Chi - benefits eyes, liver & kidney, lowers blood pressure, sugar & cholesterol level
My, I feel enlightened! :)

Now here's what you need;
  • Chinese herbs, as shown above. A little bit of each will do. Rinse before you dump them into the pot.
  • A few pieces of pork (ribs, lean meat or bones)
  • 1 cup of black beans (more if you love beans), pan fried without oil.
  • 2 litres of water
  • Salt to taste (or not, up to you)
fresh pork & pan fried black beans

And here's what you should do;
  • Boil water in a large pot, let it come to a boil then add pork, pan fried black beans and herbs. Simmer for a few hours, till beans are tender. That's it baby!
boil away!

Simple no? Believe it or not, it could be even simpler. Use a pressure cooker to save time. The result is just as good.

And.....I forgot to take pictures of the end result! I think I'll need to add some other herb that aids memory in the future ;)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Bon Voyage Cake

"All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go"........this song is true to TW only about an hour before she boards the Kimono Express. Tsk tsk, that woman. She's not the only one from the office who's leaving for a holiday. PP is going to some exotic destination too! Cow!

Anyway I thought it would be nice to fatten them up before they left. This is especially crucial for TW, because she doesn't fancy the oriental cuisine there. Gotta store some fat to burn over there eh woman :) This calls for cheesecake! 

I bookmarked a wonderful no bake cheesecake recipe from bakingbites quite some time ago and it has been out of sight until yesterday. The great thing about this recipe is, it only requires 8 ingredients. Fantastic!

Here's what you'll need;

the cast of characters
  • 32 pcs of Keebler's Choc Mint Cookies (there are 36 cookies in a pack, just eat the extra 4! Btw, I found the cookies in Cold Storage, Summit)
  • 2 tbsp (about 30g) softened butter (salted or unsalted is fine)
  • 2 packs of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup of castor sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 tsp of gelatine
  • 2 tbsp hot water
You can check out how Nicole of bakingbites makes it here. This is how I went about it;
  • Brush some butter on the sides of a 9 inch spring form pan. (I suppose you could just use a normal baking tin & layer it with foil.)
  • Prepare cookie base. Use a blender to crush cookies in 2 batches. If you are using a food processor, whiz them all at once. (Or you can just put them in a durable zip lock bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. Work those arms baby!)
  • Mix softened butter and crushed cookies with a fork. 
delicious pile of minty chocolate soil
  • Pour mixture into the spring form pan and press firmly. (I used the back of a glass but it didn't work very well so I just got down and dirrrty....with my fingers of course.) Leave it in the fridge till you're done with the filling.
  • Cut up creamcheese into cubes and put them in a mixing bowl. Add in sugar and vanilla essence, beat on low till creamy. Scrape sides of the mixing bowl to ensure everything's well combined.
i used a hand mixer
  • In a small heat proof bowl, whisk together hot water & gelatine. If you still find lumps, put the bowl over a pot of boiling water and keep whisking till it's dissolved. Poor man's double boiler! (If you have a microwave, nuke it in 30-45 seconds intervals. But make sure that your bowl is microwave-safe.) Leave to cool for a bit.
  • Switch on hand mixer and pour gelatine into the creamcheese mixture, followed by whipping cream. Beat on low till mixture is light and smooth.
  • Remove cookie base from the fridge and pour in creamcheese filling. 

plop it in baby!
  • Rap gently on the counter to distribute filling evenly around the pan. This will help to eliminate large air bubbles too. Mine had quite a few.
  • You're almost there! Leave cheesecake to set in the fridge overnight.

take care TW & PP! 
( I tried to arrange choc chips to form the words at first but there wasn't enough space so I switched to chocolate syrup. I snipped off a tiny portion at the corner of a zip lock bag to pipe the words)

the cheesecake was rather soft, you might want to leave it in the freezer for a bit before cutting

I simply love the taste. The mint crust compliments the light and creamy filling perfectly. You should try it soon!