Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Penang Road Cafe

It is barely 11am and it has been pouring since 7:30am. The office is cold and the tasks at hand are tedious and daunting. I am procrastinating and feeling sort of peckish since 45 minutes ago. Suddenly I wish I could teleport a big bowl of steaming hot Penang assam laksa right in front of me.

Copious amounts of mackeral, some shredded but some intentional large chunks, soup just lightly sour enough to further whet up my appetite and not extremely sweet though additional 'hay gor' could be added if one so has a sweeter tooth. A big bowl it was, but don't be misled because the quantity of noodles were just nice for me.

Penang Road Cafe
Novilla Ville (opposite Novena Church)
Tel: +65 6256 3218

Closed Mondays

Fashion Moment: Shopping time!

Ok I'm going to attempt to sell some of my items on this blog.
If you trust my style and taste, check it out :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Happy Crab

I don't know how the crab could be happy dead but at least it did not die in vain. *smiles*

At $25 for the king size crab (out of 3 sizes on sale), the crab was about 700-800 grams and full of creamy and rich roe. The meat was slightly overcooked but was sweet and fresh. Not to mention, the seasoning on the crab was salty and moreish. What I did not like was the crab wasn't cleaned fully on the insides so the dead man's fingers were all intact and if you are extra lucky like me, some mud left to prove it's a mud crab.

Credit goes to the man from Recent Runes who suggested dinner at this casual eatery. I may be taking too much liberty to speak on behalf of the Imp but I think we really enjoyed the night.

What's there not to like? We had a couple of bottles of white wines that paired beautifully with the crab, and drunken in Riedel glasses no less. Then dessert was an amalgamation of sweet things brought with love. There were four cakes bought by the imp from our local patisserie and she didn't just bring cakes but made sure we had proper metal utensils and printed napkins to boot! Only she will take all the trouble to do this. Thank you my dear friend. The cakes were surprisingly decent (I say that because we started with low expectations). Our favorite was definitely the matcha pound.

(my) Highlights of the night included the imp taking TWO bites of my macaron of rose and lychee. I know she doesn't have much of a sweet tooth so thank you for indulging! Ivan, whose mac standard is uber high, shot it down as expected :)

I also had the luxury of tasting my first malt whiskey liqueur that burned but yet went down smooth and had a subtle coconutty and sweet finish. Delicious!

The conversations were mostly entertaining and funny but some parts were solemn and taught me a few lessons, mainly, to always be myself and not compromise!

The night was decidedly fun when we adjourned to Fatty Weng a couple of doors down to have meal #2. Lovely "yau ma tei" and deep fried oyster. Hmmm.

I am on a diet to lose a couple of kilos but for a night like this, my diet can take a day off.

Happy Crab
Guillemard Village
102 Guillemard Road
Singapore 399719

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recipe: Rose and Lychee Macarons

Well, I got on the macaron baking bug a couple of weeks ago, starting with a recipe I got off a trusted blog (refer to my first post here).  It could be considered a success and I was exhilarated. 

On the second attempt however, my macarons flopped big time, deflating literally, including my ego as well.  I pressed ahead, marketing them as meringue sandwiches instead :)  After all, I made really yummy salted caramel, courtesy of Pierre Herme, for the filling.  I say, anything with that damn caramel would be tasty!

But secretly, I was disappointed with the results.  I refused to say die and tried baking the damn 'rons for the third time, just one day after.  This time, I made some slight modifications.  Luckily, third time's a charm and them salted caramel macarons turned out relatively unscathed.  Not the best, but definitely not a disaster.

Inspired by the "new" recipe, I embarked on my fourth macaron baking attempt.  Out came my spanking new bottles of rose and lychee flavorings and with a tiny touch of red food coloring, I got lovely rose shells and a lychee buttercream.  I am fairly confident the modified recipe is relatively fail proof (barring any uncontrollable acts of God a.k.a. atmospheric and weather conditions of course) and here I'm sharing with you so you can go forth and start your own macaron obsessions. 

Ingredients for shells (makes 10-12 macarons)

75 grams finely ground almond (I bought mine from Phoon Huat)
75 grams icing sugar
56 grams aged egg white (egg white that had been left out at room temperature for at least 2 days)
red food coloring (1 tsp for liquid, 1 tip of a toothpick if you are using powder)
1 tsp rose flavoring
75 grams granulated sugar
19 grams plain water

1. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together into a medium size mixing bowl.  Set aside.

2. Place egg white into a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Add red food coloring and rose flavor into the egg white, and start whisking on medium until lightly frothy and soft peaks are formed.  Set aside and start preparing sugar syrup.

3. Place granulated sugar with water in a saucepan that is easily managed as you need to pour the syrup into your egg white mixture. 

4. Boil on low heat until sugar is melted and a thick syrup is formed.  Strictly speaking, you want to achieve a soft-ball candy stage (about 114C) but in the absence of a food thermometer, I find you can eye-ball it.

5. When you get a thick syrup with a consistency almost in between maple syrup and honey, remove from heat immediately and slowly drizzle down the sides of your mixing bowl containing the egg whites, continuously whisking on medium speed.

6. After all the syrup has been incorporated, turn up the speed to high, beat for another 3-4 minutes until the egg whites become glossy and stiff peaks are formed.  The true test is to turn the mixing bowl upside down, nothing should move or fall out.

7.  Whisk in 1/4 egg white into your dry ingredients and blend until a thick paste is formed.

8. Repeat with another 1/4 egg white and slowly start to lighten the paste with a "folding and turning" motion.

9.  Do the same with another 1/4 egg white and your paste should slowly be more lava-like.  Before you add the last 1/4 egg white, test your batter's consistency.  If you scoop and drop some batter, does it disappear slowly say in 15 seconds?  If yes, you are good.  If no, add a bit more egg white to further lighten up the batter.  If the converse is true, i.e. the batter disappears very quickly (in like 5 seconds), you have over beaten the batter and you will not have success.  Don't throw out the mixture - bake them as you would and you have made almond meringue cookies :)

10. Once  your batter is ready, put them into a piping bag and a 0.9cm to 1cm tip.  Pipe them about 1.5 inches (I use the length of time I used to say "1,2,3") and about 1.5 inches apart.  They will spread slightly.  I bought Silpats which are God-send except they don't exactly fit into my oven properly.  I only recently found they sell non-stick baking paper (I bought mine at Phoon Huat as well).  DON'T USE REGULAR PARCHMENT PAPER unless you want to send them into the trash bin :)

11. Most bakers reecommend banging the sheet of piped macarons a few hundred times to remove the air bubbles.  I tried doing it, and not doing it.  The 'banged' ones turned out flatter with a smoother surface.  The 'unbanged' ones didn't spread out as much and had a more rounded look but a rougher surface.  Take your pick.

12.  Leave the macarons to air until a skin is formed.  In the Singapore environment, I leave them out for at least 50 minutes.  Touch them lightly and they should not stick to  your fingers.  That's when they are ready.  Meantime, you can prepare your buttercream (see below).

13.  Preheat oven right about 45 minutes into your waiting game.  This will save you some electricity.  Preheat oven to 160C and then bake your macarons for about 14-15 minutes.  They are done when you touch them and they are lightly springy.  For the flatter macarons, bake them ~1 minute less.

14.  Remove from oven when ready and let cool completely before filling them shells with the buttercream.

Ingredients for Lychee Buttercream

120 grams unsalted butter, softened
1.5 tsp lychee flavoring
3 cups of icing sugar

1. Beat butter with 2 cups of sugar and lychee flavoring.
2. add more sugar if neccessary to achieve a good frosting consistency.

15. Identify similar sized shells and start pairing them side by side.

16. Pipe (or if you are lazy like me, use a teaspoon) a generous dollop of buttercream down the middle of the one side of the shell.  "Kiap" with other shell.

17. Age in the fridge overnight.  The shells will soften and meld with the cream and you will have a lovely lovely macaron to eat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend 24

This weekend saw me waking up early on Saturday with a busy day ahead. It started with a DIY mani pedi session; can't wait to break into my new OPI color (in "walk in barcelona" if you must know). Such a sweet nude color with a slight pink undertone. I accompanied the folks to the bank and encouraged them to walk the two blocks instead of the wheels.  So the trio took the opportunity to pass through our neighborhood wet market.  Oh, how I missed the smells and the colors of life!  For a short flutter of moment, I wished I was a a secret home kitchen or SAHW so I could shop for fresh ingredients everyday.  Such happiness that would be.

It was off to Jing's in the afternoon.  That dear girl with a big heart will be departing for Brazil to take up a Christian leadership course and in her honor, we had a farewell get-together where she requested macarons, specifically salted caramel ones for her going away pressie. Well, I stayed home Friday night to slog and it turned out what I made was really awesome meringue cookies ! ;) It was a fantastic crowd that afternoon and I hated to leave but I had to rush off to dinner.

It was Dad's birthday and I decided we celebrate his day with a scrummy dinner at The Boathouse.  Thanks to D and his suggestions, we had an absolutely wonderful dinner.  Note the giant norwegian scallops appetizer was superduper yums, so be sure to order them if you are there.

Wished the night could have ended there because I was sooo sleepy after the heavy meal but no, it was off to the last event of the day, another birthday celebration and this time a young woman fiesty and cool.  Happy birthday J - hope you will take our pressie on all your future travels!

Luckily Sunday was more chill.  No, not literally as the weather was nothing but scorching.  So I was glad I decided to wear my new jumpsuit.  Very cooling indeed! Caught up with my friend Alex and Zhen over brunch at PS Cafe Harding and made a new friend in the process. On that note, please avoid PS Cafe on Sundays! It was like a refugee camp at the entrance, crowded with people waiting for their seats. We had to wait a good 40 minutes for ours. Not too bad with good company and conversation. But was it worth it? Well, my caesar salad was good (imagine: chunky crunchy croutons, fresh romaine lettuce, generous shavings of parmesan and ginormous large portion) but not thaaat good.

The weekend ended on a good note. I can't "scrape" the cookie meringue episode from my memory so I had to try again Sunday night.  Off to Phoon Huat to stock up on ground almond (note: buy extra fine, not regular).  Success never felt so sweet (pun intended)!

How did your weekend go?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fashion Friday - The Bib

Bought this neutral bib necklace made of alternating pieces of chiffon and mesh since forever but didn't get a chance to wear it until today.   You see, I don't have many plain black clothing (other than a couple of really nice work dresses), and I love bright happy colors.  But I have to attend a wake after work so I have to be practically dressed.  Admittedly, I still want to make Friday more fun despite needing to don the black garb.  Tata!  Bib necklace to the rescue.  Slightly loud but not in your face, I can easily take it off later just before I reach the solemn event. 

Bib Necklace $29.90 Isetan Nex 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recipe: French Macarons

One can probably learn a few things about me through my blog.  For one, I bake more than I cook.  And if you drill down my baking repetoire, you'd notice I bake mostly 'fail-proof' and comforting sweet things like cookies, cupcakes, muffins, tea loafs etc.

Once in a while, I might try something a little more challenging but nothing too challenging like French entrements and macarons.   Those, I leave them to more accomplished bakers and jealously live vicariously through them and their blogs.  I knew I would never attempt those, for the fear of failure.  Plus, I am really not a big fan of macarons anyway.  They are often much too sweet for my liking.

But recently, an ex-colleague of mine, not a regular baker mind you, attempted to bake macarons and on her third count, she had really decent results.  Yes, she MMS'd me the photo evidence so I could tell.  Truely, I was really happy at her success.  It built up her domestic confidence by tons.  At the same time, I  cannot help but feel slightly competitive, wondering whether I could do it too.  Is it really childish?  Sigh, I know!

In any case, I'm grateful that her success provoked me to step out of my comfort zone as I prepared myself for the macaron challenge over the past week.  I read and re-read instructions and tips.  The only thing I didn't do was to buy proper piping bags and tip.  I made do with a plastic bag (bad choice as I could not control the piping properly).

Unfortunately, the first batch of macarons that came out of my oven looked like crap.  They cracked up so badly I should have thrown them out and stopped right there.  But I didn't and a quick post on FB provided unsolicited but useful tips.  And I pressed on with the second batch.

Tata!  The second batch turned out pretty decent, I say!  Oh, I love Silpats!  Removing the macarons was a breeze.

I filled them up with a couple of fillings - peanut buttercream and dark chocolate ganache. Haha, and I don't even like macarons so these test batches are going to D, my guinea pig.

I used a Pierre Herme recipe that I got from here and it looks like I'm going to get to practice again because my good friend Jing has just requested for macarons as her farewell present (she's leaving for bible college, God bless her!).  Ooooh, I hope I get better!  Next time I'll try rose macarons so I can color the shells and make proper buttercream.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fashion Friday!

Inspired: Edible Favors

I have been surfing too many design and lifestyle blogs. Too many for my own good I want to say, but then if I didn't, I wouldn't have come across these favor ideas! I say if I get married one day, I'll like to make my wedding favor personal and these are some really good ideas!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Fashion Moments

So I have been really bored and whiling away time in front of the computer.  Every site seems to direct me to some half-yearly sale...  Well, after indulging in harmless online window shopping that won't hurt my pocket, I have put together some things that caught my eye and caused my heart flutter just a little....

Fendi's Peek-a-boo bag.  Not exactly this shade of purple but a bit more plumish would be perfect.
Miu Miu's Tuplip Bag that could also double up as a clutch.  For some reason, I am very taken by the peachy gold color, and the cut-out detail on the strap. Tres chic!
Fend's Multicolor Sandals.  The pseudo-wedge look is an updated twist to the classic wedge look and I love the bright colors.

YSL Y Clutch from the ChYc line.  I like its no frills classic look that is updated with a subtle and understated Y logo in tortoise.
Balenciaga's Classic ballerina in Cloud.  What a lovely color!