Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pound Cake

I know it can be a little disturbing to know that I baked in the midst of Chinese New Year, when there are already countless of baked goodies lying around in the kitchen, and more awaiting when we go relative- and friend-visiting over the next couple of days. But really, the irony is that because we are so lucky to have so many different types of CNY goodies, I craved for something different. Pineapple tarts, almond cookies, peanut crisps, love letters for me? No thank you.

I was in the supermarket earlier and spied on something that revoked a fond childhood memory - me surrounding my mother, awaiting eagerly for the icy-cold and semi-frozen slice of Sara Lee pound cake, having been frozen and just thawed enough to cut them into slices. We seldom were given "cold" treats so those moments were rare and cherished.

I made a "Cashew-Espresso Pound Cake" based on a "master pound cake" recipe by Sherry Yard. Her recipe is simple yet she highlights the need for patience to prepare as no leavening agent is used and the cake would have to rise entirely from the air you eventually beat into the mixture. Though this is my time making this recipe, I went with my gut feel (literally), as I wanted something coffee-flavoured for my afternoon coffee break. I added expresso powder and fried cashew nut and the results were not only beautiful to look at but wonderfully satisfying the taste buds. Little bits of cashew nuts can be seen, their physical forms balancing out the overall smooth and dense texture. My cake was supposed to turn out lighter because I used cake over all-purpose flour. In any case, I rather like my result; it was definitely dense and not crumbly, yet not lead-heavy dense.

There was such a wonderful aroma tempting me while the cake was cooling. As soon as I could handle the loaf, nothing could come between me , my coffee and cake. Satisfied, I froze a good half of it, anticipating a repeat of history, except this time, I would be the one slicing and feeding a slice to my mother.

Cashew-Espresso Pound Cake
(makes a 9"x5" loaf)

8 oz all-purpose or cake flour (sifted 3 times)
3/4 cup roasted cashew nuts, chopped
8 oz unsalted butter, softened
8 oz granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
2. Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.
3. Beat butter on high until soft and creamy, about 1 min.
4. Add sugar slowly, over a period of 5-6 mins, beating on high speed.
(remember to scrape the sides periodically; end result should be almost white, light and fluffy.)
5. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next.
6. Add vanilla extract and coffee powder. Mix to incorporate.
7. Add flour and nuts slowly, 1/2 cup at a time.
8. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread the mixture.
9. Bake for 50-70 mins, until toothpick comes out clean.
(If the top is browning too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking.)

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pierside Kitchen & Bar

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I was trying to pin down a place for our anniversary dinner even at the last minute because I just do not feel like Japanese at Tatsuya, my original contender, Tatsuya. I was longing for seafood, like a piece of succulent cod or rare-seared salmon. PS Cafe was fully booked and Ember was closed for a private function. Whitebait would be my last resort as the portion was small and I wanted to try somewhere new. Fortunately I remembered Pierside Kitchen & Bar, where current owner of Ember used to work and was managed by the Marmalade Group. It specalises more in seafood as one can clearly see reflected in the menu and both factors mentioned contributed to a certain level of confidence that things would probably not turn out terrible.

It was a rather romantic setting, just barely lit by a tabletop tealight and us sitting by the lapping waters. The complimentary bread rolls were interesting - little pockets that looked like agedashi tofu initially. The bread was fluffy, not unlike ciabatta and a welcomed change from the usual baguette (or worse, no bread!). There was also an interesting choice of dips - tomato salsa with pesto, rock sea salt and olive oil. I took little time to order. After all, what I was after (cod) was the only and only oven roasted miso cod, new potatoes & sweet peas (S$28). J, on a health kick, ordered another fish entree, the native rockfish, caramelized endive & papaya sambal (S$27).

After what seemed like a long while, our food finally arrived but unfortunately, J was served the sole instead. The waiter had gotten the wrong order but was apologetic and went to get it changed rightaway. Of course, that meant my cod had to take a backseat under the heater while the rockfish was being cooked. That could only result in a piece of slightly overcooked cod. What a disappointment for my cod could have been perfect. By itself, it was fatty and fresh. Each bite coated with a slightly sweet miso paste was heavenly and I savoured every bit.

The rockfish on the other hand, was just acceptable. Being a non-fatty fish and disadvantaged by being slightly overcooked as well, the fish by itself was bland and dry, almost fiberous and needed the help from the accompanying papaya salsa and caramelised endive to add moisture. But personally, I thought the cararamlised endive was rather odd addition. It was tiipping the balance with its sugar.

In any case, we still had a good time. The ambience was perfect - romantic, quiet and we could chat on forever if only the dessert list was more tempting. Luckily, Bakerzin was only a couple doors away and we re-adjourned there instead for a Jivara (S$4.90). The milk chocolate mousse was not cloyingly sweet and the praline crunch base was perfect to break the creaminess. Of course, we also had tea, lavendar for me and perhaps that explains why while I was really enjoying our time together, I was slowly giving way to the Z monster and relunctantly had to leave. It was such a wonderful night.

pierside kitchen&bar
Unit 01-01 One Fullerton
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049214
telephone 6438 0400

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Almost perfect Marble Cake

I put in every bit of my new-found energy to make this marble cake to satisfy my craving. Not surprising, the recipe from Joyofbaking was easy to follow and every step fell in place as if I was an old timer. As soon as I popped the pan into the oven, I started clearing up. That is just me; I like to clean up quickly. Then there I saw it, staring back at me forlornly - my half-empty bottle of pure vanilla extract, questioning me of its existence. Yes, the cake turned out well and as you can see, it was beautifully marbled too. What a shame, it could have been perfect. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

1st time Lime Macaroons, 2nd time Donna Day

Pearl of the Orient is hosting the 2nd edition of "Hay! Hay! It’s Donna Day again!". If you recall, in the first event self-frosting cupcakes. This time, the call is for MACAROONS.

This is my first time making macaroons of any sort and they are not bad. The lime zest definitely lifted the little bites and I would highly recommend the macaroons to be eaten the same day they are baked. Blame the humid Singapore weather but the remaining two went soft by the end of the day. But while fresh, they were fragrant and quite delicious. Still, I am coming as a non-coconut fan, and sadly, I am still not a convert. You may find the recipe from Pearl of the Orient.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Craving for scones

I had been craving for fresh scones and cream for a while now and this morning, I decided enough was enough. My cravings were so strong that I let them overwhelm the need to refer to a recipe. Needless to say, I forgot to add in an important ingredient and ended up with a flat scone. With enough butter, jam and cream, they were still as delicious but nonetheless, a big part of me remained unsatisfied. I had forgotten to add enough baking powder and totally skipped the baking soda.

Oh well, lesson learned -Always come prepared! But here's the correct recipe for your information. These scones are really pretty simple to make and yet very delicious.

Buttermilk Scones

110 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp buttermilk
+ additional buttermilk for glazing

1. Preheat oven to 220C. Prepare baking sheet with a buttered parchment paper.
2. Sift together - flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well.
3. Make a small cavity within the flour mixture and rub in the butter until you end up with coarse meal bits.
4. Add in the buttermilk and mix together so all the crumbs will stick together.
5. Flour a working surface. Turn the dough out and knead quickly so put them together to form a soft dough.
6. You can make round scones or triangular ones. For round ones, either use a cutter or just divide the dough quickly into 6 portions and flatten slightly. For wedges, form a round ball and flatten slightly to about 2" tall. Then cut them into 6 wedges before placing the dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
7. Brush the tops of the scones with buttermilk.
8. Bake for 11-12minutes until the scones sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
9. Enjoy while hot, with fresh cream and thick jam. It's really satisfying!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

PS Cafe

Perpetually on the lookout for simple preparation of fresh ingredients into stunning yet delicious creations, I knew I had pay PS Café a visit. We were led to PS Café at a real last minute because we were both ravenous and yet, wanted to try some place new and I could only think of PS Café at that sheer moment of hunger.

As we drove to the isolated location, we each prayed silently that nobody else wanted to go there. But alas, word spread quickly in the small island and we found the place bustling with life! Without a reservation, we were informed that a table would be available only until about two hours later. But since our hunger could not tolerate that wait and there was just a spot left, though an obscure 2-sitter right at the end of the casual bar area, we quickly agreed, despite the potential discomfort of sitting on those low stools/chairs.

The menu serves up a variety of food, with a few selections from each category – appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, meat/fish and dessert. We quickly decided on a few things, requesting for all to be served up at the same time. We were that hungry! The steak frites (S$9) were thick cut, so only a thin layer on the outside was crispy while the inside remained fluffy and meaty. I liked the presentation of this dish – the frites were contained in a paper cone, in a stand. They were barely seasoned but it could be why there were 2 dips - one was definitely BBQ but the other, a creamy dip, had some sort of spice (perhaps lemongrass). I don’t really know but nonetheless, both were great accompaniment to the fried spuds.

Our obligatory order of greens, “just greens” (S$9) to be precise, was just that. A good mixture of romaine lettuce and mesclun greens, they were coated with a really delicious dressing of sourish, thick balsamic vinaigrette, that was counterbalanced by little chunks of sweet prunes/plums (can’t really distinguish). Even J, the veg-hater, had second helpings!

The mushroom pasta (S$19) was the only slight let-down of the evening. The first few bites left J disappointed and putting his fork down. Having said that, it was not bad as in it was nasty or foul-tasting. It was just a bit under-seasoned. But to be fair, it could be due to my mistake of not tossing the pasta right from the beginning. There were generous parmesan shavings on the top and olive tapanade on the sides, both of which would have definitely help in seasoning the pasta further. Midway through the pasta, I did just that and right away, the pasta upped one notch. While the pasta turned out better, it remained mediocre. You probably would not miss out on much if you gave this mushroom pasta a pass, but just so you know, it was worth ordering just because of the other good things I noticed and appreciated about this dish – generous portions of al dente linguine noodles, just the right touch of dressing and barely oily, very generous amounts of a mixed variety of funghi, and a nice surprise addition of asparagus and colorful cherry tomatos, both hidden out of sight, in the middle.

The winner of the night of definitely the grilled fish of the day (seasonal price), which was salmon. I was shocked to see not just a large slab of salmon, but two! Both were the sizes of about 1.25 times the length of a deck of cards and twice as thick. I am not kidding. The fillets were also cooked to perfection – crispy skin and outside, slightly raw and oh-so-melting-soft insides. It was so good, especially with a squeeze of the grilled lemon half. Not only that, the fish came with a very, very generous portion of Greek salad, with goat cheese, olives and all. If I knew there was to be such a decent amount of greens, I would have given the “just greens” a miss. The picture I took in haste does no justice to this dish, but please understand I was in a hurry to eat.

Needless to say, both of us were stuffed midway through. This was a classic case of “eyes bigger than stomach” but not wanting to waste such delicious food, I finished it all but had to give up dessert as a result.

I was initially fearful how much this meal would have cost us, particularly the fish, given that the small piece of cod was already S$32 at W&K. So you just have to imagine the widest grin on my face, after I did a double-take of course, when I saw the charge on the bill, all for S$24!

It turned out that my virgin trip was such a wonderful experience that I had to fight my selfish-half wanting to hide this from you. But no, good things should be shared with others and I will just have to make sure I make a reservation in advance. In the meantime, I also made a mental note to try the original PS Café at Paragon. That is for sure; I have yet to try the desserts and I heard that the carrot cake was one of the best in town.

PS Café
28 Harding Road
Tel: 6479 3343

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A different spin, a different sponge

I always try to seek a balance in life, including the food I eat. Yes, there is always the temptation to feast on everything that looks tempting and what's life when one cannot indulge on occasions. But when I do have a choice, especially when cooking at home, I will use the opportunity to make something healthy.

I often eat eggs and often not just one but two whites and a yolk. That said, I have accumulated a few egg yolks frozen and needed to be used up quickly. I was quite at a loss because recipes using just the yolks are often rich like creme brulee or pots de creme. Luckily for the power of the internet, I managed to find a relatively healthy recipe for a sponge cake. The cake is light and fluffy and made a really simple, yet comforting tea break for me.

Egg Yolk Sponge Cake

4 egg yolks
2 tbsp boiling water
1/2 cup fine caster sugar
1/2 cup self-raising flour
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Grease and prep an 8" round baking tin with butter and parchment paper.
2. Preheat oven to 180C.
3. Beat egg yolks with boiling water on high until light.
4. Add in sugar and continue beating until double the volume and mixture becomes thick.
5. Sift in the flour; add milk and vanillla.
6. Fold quickly to incorporate the flour.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool in pan completely before removing.

Serves 8 happy recipients.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pineapple Tarts

These are the first batch of pineapple tarts from the pineapple jam my mom and I made a couple days ago. I initially thought I did not have enough jam but it turns out to be just the opposite - too much jam and not enough dough. My efforts this morning yielded 45 tartlets, 11 pineapple "golden pillows" (oblong shaped) and 68 pineapple balls. Just in case you wish to know, they tasted great - crust was firm, with a slight crumb and together with the jam, just delicious!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hungry for more Whitebait & Kale

We needed lunch near town but did not want to fight the holiday crowd in the middle of Orchard area so Whitebait & Kale (W&K) really fits the bill as it was close enough without the crowd as one would actually have to go out of the way to get there. What is unique about W&K's location is that it is in the middle of a medical center compound. It can be a really nice place to chill after office-hours because it is quiet and dimmed slightly. I have been there a couple of times just for dessert and drinks and the times we had food, I remembered reliably good nosh too. The menu is verytypical of Australian cuisine, kept to a true tradition of simplicity and fresh ingredients.

Luckily our last minute reservation was still entertained though there was no more al-fresco available. Beggars cannot be choosers so I took it up anyway. When we got there, we were given a run-down of the daily specials together with the menu. As I skimmed through the simple menu, my slight moment of question why we haven’t been back for a while was cleared up - because well, the menu’s pretty pricy. Appetizers average at about S$20 and mains are mainly in the high twenties or more so, into the thirties.

After a bit of debating, we ordered the specials handwritten on the chalkboard: “beer-battered fish and chips” (S$17) and “Oven-baked Chilean sea bass with pomegranate molasses, fava beans and pickled red cabbage” (S$32) and shortly after, the frying filled the air and we were both hungrily anticipating our food.

Beer-battered Fish and Chips

Fortunately, we were not disappointed. Served together with a small side salad and a bottle of malt vinegar, the fish & chips were simply delicious. The fillets had just the lightest layer of batter and fried evenly throughout to a dark-brown perfection. The fillets were not greasy and remained slightly crunchy even after I doused on the malt vinegar. We can say the same thing for the shoestring fries, also fried to a pleasing crisp and not oily at all. J even thought they could be baked so you can imagine us picking on guilt-free, grease-free and crispy fries. If anything, I could not really detect any beer in the batter for the fish but otherwise, what we had was a really well-done fish and chips.

Oven-baked Chilean Sea Bass with Pomegranate Molasses,
Fava Beans and Pickled Red Cabbage

Despite the initial disappointment with quantity, luckily the quality of the sea bass was the redeeming factor. While the pickled red cabbage was tasty (and that was a given as bacon was used), I was not expecting any meat in this dish but saw those offending bits depite being camouflaged by the purple dye. But other than my personal issue with meat, purple cabbage never tasted so good. The bass fillet was seared to a crisp before finishing off in the oven and was sitting on a small dash of sweet molasses. A miserly amount of boiled fava beans and fresh pomegranate seeds served as garnish on the sides. Succulent and juicy from its natural oils, the bass was not overcooked and each bite was just heavenly and melt-in-your-mouth. No additional sauce or seasoning was required actually, because it was just so fresh and delicious on its own. It was definitely one of the better bass I had thus far, right with the league of Ember and Da Paolo and a whole far lot better than the one I had at Academy Bistro (if that was even really bass I was served).

We walked out both feeling satisfied with the food but the quantity was still an issue with me, but that was why I had an apple tucked in my bag.

Whitebait and Kale
Camden Medical Center
Tel: 6333 8697