Friday, August 26, 2011

August 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge - Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Pity the competition is only for people in Canada and the United States. =\

A plate of goodies! Truffles and chocolate bark is pure love.

Anyhow, say hello to my new layout! =D I was inspired by the blogs I always frequent and decided that my blog needs change - a new direction, a new vigor, a new life. Although blogging takes quite a bit of time, but it's always such good fun! Shall push on forward with this new commitment (and hopefully still get decent grades in school. =S)

So this month's challenge was candy making. We had to make 2 different candies, with 1 compulsory one being either a truffle or a filled bonbon and the other one as whatever we liked. Since we were already handling 1.7kg of chocolate (yes, 1.7 kilo-freakin-grams), might as well use some of those for chocolate bark right?


1/5 of the mess

To say that we made an epic mess of the kitchen is really playing it down. Even natural disasters don't create such a carnage, really. We had chocolate everywhere! The microwave, the stove, the 3 bench tops, the sink, the table, the chair, the fridge handle, our fingers, my face, my foot, my camera....

The side of my lips, accidentally of course.

Bonbons are chocolate coated candies. And "bon" means good in French.

From Wikipedia of course!

Basic recipe for truffle

1 3⁄4 cup (420 ml/9 oz/250 gm) Dark/Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup (160 ml) Double/Heavy Cream (36% - 48% butterfat)


1 3⁄4 cup (420 ml/9 oz/250 gm) Milk Chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120 ml) Double/Heavy Cream (36% - 48% butterfat)


1 3⁄4 cup (420 ml/9 oz/250 gm) White Chocolate, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup (60 ml) Double/Heavy Cream (36% - 48% butterfat)

Use the best chocolate you can afford yeah. Cheap chocolate tastes terrible and especially in a recipe like this where you only have 2 ingredients, the quality of the chocolate POPS OUT so loudly. Lindt, Green & Blacks are my go-to brands. =)


1. Finely chop or grate the chocolate
2. Place in a heatproof bowl 3.
In a saucepan, heat cream until just about to boil (it will start bubbling around the edges of the pot but it shouldn't boil vigorously)
4. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate
5. Gently stir the mixture until all the chocolate has melted and it is smooth

: If you end up with pieces of chocolate that won't melt, put the bowl over simmering water (but not touching the water) and stir gently until it‟s all melted

: Be careful if you do need to heat it over simmering water, if the mixture gets too hot it will split and you‟ll end up with gooey chocolate swimming in oil, so don‟t overheat the ganache, steam from a gentle simmer is all you need.

Of course this is a blank canvas where the truffle can be customized to any flavor you like! For liquer flavors, just stir in 2 tablespoons (or more. or less, but thats blasphemous) of your intended liquor (mmm Whiskey... =D) into the stirred ganache. For infusions such as tea, coffee or spices, put the intended flavors into the cream when you are bringing it to a near-boil. Then, allow the mixture to sit and steep so that all the flavors will be released into the cream. Then, strain the mixture to get the infused cream! For spices, do not add too much as a little amount of spice goes a LONG way.

Also if you'd like to coat your truffles with chocolate, just melted at least 400g of chocolate for easy handling. You could also temper the chocolate for better finish and texture but we didn't though.

In our first mould, ice cube trays - chilli cinnamon truffle, coffee cardamon truffle

Spiced chocolate tastes truly magnificent. I used to be an anal chocolate purist and never believed in flavoring chocolate. But after trying chilli cinnamon chocolate, my eyes were opened for the very first time and it was like a moment of enlightenment. *signals light-dawning-from-cloud effect* Chilli cinnamon chocolate is a personal favorite. We steeped the cream for 20minutes with 3 cut chilli padi and 1 cinnamon stick, crushed and broken into many small pieces. For coffee cardamon, we steeped the cream in 1.5 tablespoon of crushed coffee bean and 8 crushed cardamon pods.

Salted caramel filling. Yumsssss

Sweet + salty + chocolatey = ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Chocolate hazelnut crunch! Who needs ferrero rocher with their measly ONE hazelnut when you can roll your truffle and put 4? =D

With a new mould this time, we put in fresh cut strawberries and crushed pistachio.

Chocolate bark with dried orange peel, almond halves and fennel seed

For our 2nd candy, we made chocolate bark with the leftover melted chocolate. Just spread the melted chocolate on a sheet of baking paper and throw whatever you love on top of it. Our latest flavor obsession was orange, almond and fennel. The fennel seed adds a liquorice flavor that dances off the tastebuds gently. Really yummy!

Packed into a pretty box for as a present for a friend!

Pressure points and top tips! (from trial and error) =D
1) Repeat after me. I must use the best chocolate I can afford.

2. Ensure that the melted chocolate do not contact with water or it will become unusable for chocolate coating purposes.

3. Be daring with the flavors, but do not complicate the story. There's only so many flavors typical tongues can figure out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Plaisir Sucre - Sweet Pleasure, it really was.

from top - toasted hazelnut, tempered chocolate sheet, chocolate creme chantilly, chocolate ganache, hazelnut praline feuillantine, hazelnut dacquoise.

My very first entremet - a gorgeous 5 layer chocolate dessert from an esteemed pastry chef, Pierre Hermes. Man was this a lot of effort. Took me a good whole day, plenty of equipment, plenty of chocolate, plenty of stray chocolate and of course plenty of finger picking and licking.

When I first saw the recipe on Evan's blog, I knew that I HAD to make it. I've always been an avid reader of her blog. Her food styling, her pictures, her interests in complex desserts and flavors and her talents just never cease to amaze and inspire me. I wish I had as much finesse as her but I know I'm way too new to attain the magic her hands possess. But it's alright. I'll get there some day!

Gosh I can't even achieve the same effect as her pictures even when I shamelessly copied the positioning. HAHAHA. I've got SO MUCH to learn, and so much more to experiment before I can carve my own style, be it in food styling, photo composition and placement and even blogging styles.

Back to the entremet now. The taste was divine - indulgent, rich and chocolatey. Exactly what I absolutely adore in a pastry. The hazelnuts were an excellent complement, naturally. The textural elements were amazing - the crispy feuillantine, the crunchy chocolate sheets, the light creamy chocolate creme, the thick ganache, the nutty hazelnut dacquoise all played together like a perfect symphony. This was truly a spectacular creation by a spectacular man in the industry. And I can only look forward to trying the real deal from the man himself, someday.

The looks have so much more to improve though, on my part. I didn't know how to slice nor store them appropriately so the dacquoise layer got a little sticky and began losing some of its edges here and there. I didn't know how to slice it cleanly as well so there weren't beautiful lines and angles (which I personally believe is critical in displaying finesse and mastery. After all if it's ugly, then what am I paying for, right? Here is the original from Pierre himself!)

It took so so SO much restraint to not finish them all instead of sharing them with my friends. I remember my sister's face when she first tried it. With wide eyed wonderment and conviction, she said "eh that pastry is Very good. Very good. omg its Very good". =)

The recipe itself assumes some basic knowledge in handling of each component and hence, is very skeletal. I'll share some tips though, things that I've encountered along the way.

Adapted from Evan's blog, from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermes.

Makes 8 3 x 11cm entremet, with plenty of components left overTempered milk chocolate sheets
at least 450g milk couverture choc. please splurge and get a good chocolate. =D The actual

Chocolate creme
143g milk choc, splurge and get good chocolate!
218ml whipping cream

Hazelnut dacquoise
35g ground hazelnuts
50g icing sugar
45g egg whites, room temp (about 2 egg whites)
1.5 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned & halved

Hazelnut praline feuillantine
100g nutella or hazelnut praline paste
25g milk choc, melted & cooled til lukewarm
1/2 cup rice krispies or 1/4 cup feuilletine flakes. wafer crumbs work as well. just something to give a textural crunch would suffice! =D
1/2 tbsp butter, melted & cooled

Milk choc ganache
95g milk choc (get good ones once again! =D)
83ml whipping cream


1. Temper the chocolate. For milk chocolate, the chocolate has to be melted to no more than 49C, then cooled to 27C, then warmed to 30C. The chocolate at 30C will be liquid and flowable. Upon cooling, the tempered chocolate will have an excellent bite (snap, they call it) that is texturally superior to chocolate that isn't tempered. Visit this site for a step by step photo tutorial on how to temper!

2. After tempering, spoon them into your mouth with a ladle spread them unto a plastic sheets preferably (I used plastic sheets that printing places use to cover the front of booklets) in a thin layer and score the 3cm by 10cm rectangle shapes. I spread the mixture onto 4 A4 plastic sheets and scored roughly 8 rectangles on every sheet. Be careful here cause they break easily. Not that I minded the extra pieces to eat... The remainder can be refrigerated until needed.

2. For chocolate creme, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place them into a large clean dry bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and then pour them over the chocolate. After 15 seconds (to let the chocolate gets warmed up) stir the mixture with a clean dry utensil until homogenous and then cover the bowl with plastic, allowing the plastic to touch the surface of the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for 5 - 6h at least. Before using, whip the mixture until almost firm then re-refrigerate if not using immediately.

3. For hazelnut dacquoise, sift ground hazelnuts & icing sugar together & set aside. In a clean dry bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy and then gradually add in sugar and whisk until stiff peaks. Fold the hazelnut mixture into the whites gently until all the hazelnut mixture has been incorporated and then spread the mixture evenly onto a 8-inch baking tray lined with parchment paper. Scatter hazelnut halves on top then press down slightly. Bake in a preheated oven of 165C for 25-30 mins or until browned. Leave to cool. The dacquoise will deflate after cooling so don't worry, you didn't fail!

4. For hazelnut praline feuillantine, place nutella/praline paste in bowl then add in the remaining ingredients the order they're listed. Mix well then spread the praline evenly onto the dacquoise, working from the center and spread as far as it will go to the edges. Refrigerate the spread praline feuillantine for at least 30 mins to firm up. More importantly, resist spooning them into your mouth because you WILL end up with nothing left and may have to remake the entire batch of praline feuillantine.

5. For the choc ganache, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place them in a clean dry bowl. Bring cream to a boil and then pour the heated cream into the bowl of chopped chocolate. After 15 seconds, stir the chocolate and cream mixture with a clean dry utensil until the chocolate is completely melted (or when the lumpy bits have been eaten). Allow the ganache to cool & thicken or refrigerate until a pipeable consistency. If overchilled, just let the ganache sit out for a while and it'll soften back. If you're in a cold country, you could warm it up in the microwave in 10 second bursts.

6. To assemble, slice the dacquoise&praline feuillantine into 11x3cm rectangles. I managed to get 7.5 of them. Oops ate the other half. Then, pipe a thin layer of ganache over the dacquoises. Place a milk choc sheet on top, shiny side up and pipe another thin layer of ganache onto the chocolate sheet. Place another chocolate sheet over. Pipe a line of chocolate creme on top of the chocolate sheet and top with one last piece of chocolate sheet. Decorate with toasted whole hazelnuts if desired. I cemented them into place with chocolate ganache.

LOVE how this picture makes me go weak in my knees. And my heart muscles as well I reckon.

Pressure points and top tips! (from trial and error) =D

Tempering chocolate
1) Start with at least 400g so it's easier to handle and temper correctly. A thermometer is recommended, unless of course you've been tempering chocolate all your life and you KNOW what temperature it is at by just the sensation on your fingers and lips (you WILL dip your lips into chocolate when you are tempering. I can't be the only one in the world that does that, right?!)

2) Youtube it and read up on tempering chocolate thoroughly so you know what you have to achieve.

3) Lay a HUGE piece of parchment paper on the surface you're working on. Licking parchment paper after tempering seems more dignified than licking the table.

4) Ensure that everything that the melted chocolate touches is dry = free from ANY water at all. If not it'll cause the chocolate to sieze (become chunky and chalky) and render it completely unusable in its state.

5) When the chocolate gets chilled in the fridge, it distorts and bends. I used a flat weight (a frozen pizza pizza box) to weigh on top of the chocolate in the fridge so that I will still have my straight rectangles

Chocolate creme chantilly

6) Please chill it sufficiently. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better. If not, it won't hold its shape when its beaten and all you'll have is a lump of chocolate butter that doesn't fluff. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing of course... But that's another recipe already I reckon.

Hazelnut dacquoise
7) It's just like making macarons or meringue. I folded the hazelnut powder mixture until it has just disappeared. It doesn't have to be over babied.

8) The dacquoise will be sticky when it has cooled down for too much and is difficult to handle so don't be surprised that it sticks to the paper!

Overall there isn't much to look out for since each component on its own is very basic. But the beauty is in the composition of the entire entremet itself. Sweet Pleasure, it really was. From the making, to the plating, to the eating, right down to the sharing. Some people may find it too rich and cloying for their liking though (which happened to me and I had some half eaten entremets left over) but not for me. If I am going to spend some of my calorie credit, it better be on something rich, indulgent and chocolatey. =)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pizza Dough, with love

Portobello, field and white button mushrooms in garlic, plenty of mozzarella, simple bechamel sauce base and sprinkled with alfalfa sprouts

Sorry for being stupendously late, yet again. I don't know why but I can't seem to arrange a time to just sit down and write an entry. I'd like to think that I have too many social activities on my hand that distracts me from cyber world. But alas, I was just procrastinating and reading recipes online, one after another, and another, and another.

As usual, I was trawling about my favorite food websites Tastespotting and Foodgawker when I saw a deluge of peanut butter pies, with the captions all ending with "for Mikey". And it wasn't long before I found the root entry that resulted in all the pies being made and posted everywhere.

When I first read it, I felt a sense of helplessness for Jennie. It was flat out depressing. Then, I began reading the entries of the people who made and posted the recipe, entries of people who knew her personally, entries of people who didn't know her personally, entries of people who wanted to give her the emotional support that she needs. I want to do it too! She needs it! She deserves it. My condolences and my heart goes out to Jennie. Stay strong, live strong, love strong. I didn't make the pie, but I reckon a couple like them needs no pie. The message that she wants to share has already made it's impact. I may not have a pie for Mikey, but I have my pizzas for Mikey.

And then I felt a pang of fear in my very own heart. It was a heavy sinking feeling, from my heart, to my gut, and probably even sank to the peripheries of my toes.

I'm so far away from home, from the people whom I love dearly, and from the people who love me dearly. Too far, just too far. Whoever said Perth is near to Singapore is lying. In times like these, even an adjacent room which I can't access is too far, much less an entire Indian Ocean.

That night, I skyped my family, and I teared. I don't want to be so far away! I silently screamed. I heard their voices, and I hear familiarity, comfort, warmth, love. I want to hear their voices everyday, yelling at me, telling me what to do, nagging at me, snapping at me, with the knowledge that in an Asian culture, all these are expressions of love. I foolishly hated every moment of those situations, and I still do. But when it's no longer available, I find myself longing for it.

The line that really hit me hard was when she said "I haven't made it in a while, and I've had it on my to-do list for a while now.

I kept telling myself I would make it for him tomorrow."

It resonated with me, because my inspiration and my motivation to cook comes from the people around me. It's my personal expression. I cook, I feed, I love. It's how I love people, it's how I give my love, and it's how I want to love.

Mussels and scallops with onions, tomato base and fresh basil leaves

My family has been asking me to cook/bake many things. Many many things. My Dad's pretty chill and doesn't request, but I know he'd love a good hot piping bowl of instant noodles, can of beer, and some good ol cheddar sausages. Or for more finesse, a good roast pork with crackling. My Mom has a major sweet tooth, major pastry tooth, major laksa tooth, major bread tooth and requests for them. I probably inherited my food cravings propensity from her. My sister loves pretty and yummy and indulgent pastries, good ol Sunday brunch menu items, and requests for anything that tastes yummy. And many times, I just postponed what they craved, for what I wanted to experiment. They enjoyed it nonetheless, and I enjoyed the process of it.

Turkey ham with spinach, mozzarella and blackberry jam. My favorite. The crunchy, the chewy, the cold, the hot, the savory, the sweet

But looking back, I wished I made more of what THEY wanted.

I now want to share a recipe that I've made twice now. Jamie Oliver's Pizza Dough recipe. I'm pretty sure any pizza dough would work just as well since my untrained tongue can't really tell much difference. But I know the toppings are the ones that I can manipulate and make a world of a difference. But the reason why I want to share this recipe is because this recipe holds a special place in my heart. This really got me from enjoying cooking, straight to Loving cooking. Of the 3 meals I made in Singapore for my family in the Winter holidays of 2011, I remembered this meal the best because my family loved it to bits. BITS. Which made me love this to bits. Which made me love making this for others to bits.

The above 3 pictures were the pizza I made for my family. There was supposed to be a 4th pizza, which was Honey lemon basil cream cheese with white peach and blueberries, but I unfortunately burnt the crust. Drats. It was such a good combination!

The steps for the dough was pretty straightforward. Mix them all together and let them rise. The only trick here is to ensure that your yeast is alive and working. Just buy a new batch if you haven't used the previous batch for a long time or it wasn't stored in the freezer and has been around for a long time. The recipe itself could have made enough thin crust pizzas for 12 hungry people to eat to a comfortable satiated level.

Hawaiian pizza, with 3 slices of mushrooms experimentally placed at the side.

When I came back to Perth, we threw a pizza party for our small circle of dental classmates and their endeared ones. It was such a lovely gathering, with once again, an outpouring of love

Digging in to our first pizza of the night

Food's good, company's good, always a winning combination.

Me eating a pizza and trying to pull a very very stubborn piece of mozzarella from the pizza

We were also very fortunate to taste the cooking of a chef in training! Here's his creation, which he came up together with his loved one as well..

Salt&pepper chicken with pesto base, mozzarella and crumbled hardboiled egg. And the creators of that brilliant pizza was...

Need I even come up with a caption for this? Picture speaks a thousand words.

Whilst I try and recreate a flavor which my family loved so much.

Turkey ham with raspberry jam, rocket and mozzarella

Always a joy seeing people love the food you make, giving the most sincere smile at that moment because the reflex action simply never lies..

Richard's special. The efforts of a guy who has never cooked anything other than a tuna banana omelette. Pesto, cheese, ham, cheese, mushrooms, cheese. And it tasted so good.

And of course, snucking some dough from the pizza party and making it for our own personal meals (my housemate and I).

Frangipane pizza with strawberries, almond flakes, icing sugar and honey macadamia ice cream.

Spiced apple crumble with walnuts, raisins and mixed berries ice cream

Because we both have a sweet tooth going on.

Pumpkin, eggplant, herbed tomatoes and fetta with mozzarella. Because we both love eggplant and pumpkin.

There are so many other condiments, flavors, textures, pairings and experiments and combinations that are out there to enjoy with something as versatile as a pizza dough that I can only imagine this thread getting longer and longer, and longer, and longer.

And I look forward to seeing the joy on the person's face when I manage to come up with another good combination, because that's the joy I want to spread, the love that I want to share.

I love you, you, and you. =)

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