The CCC Quest: Episode Five (The best)

... And the best chocolate chip cookies I've made yet!  I really thought I'd found the best chocolate chip cookie recipe when I made my cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies, but it's true that there's always room for improvement. 

It's nice to be back.  A year has passed and almost nine months since my last post (excluding my Shanghai Cafe Diary post, which I've been working on since July this year and only posted a few days ago).  Much has happened in the past year, but I think I'll keep most of it for my 2016 round-up post (and I will get it up... I promise)!  Honestly, I haven't baked as much as I'd like to, which is part of the reason why I haven't been around here much.   I've been hit by a dry spell - lack of inspiration, creativity, drive, and just general feels.  For the past semester (at least), all I've been making was granola - it was my go-to breakfast for a period of time.  I'll post the recipe for that soon enough! 

So the holidays are finally here, after an incredibly trying semester.  Year two is tough indeedles.  I kickstarted my holidays with a two-week internship, which I learnt a lot from!  It was my first proper internship (not counting my pro bono and pre-law internships), and I'm glad to say that this was my best internship experience yet.  It was fulfilling to be able to apply what I learned in school, but it also showed me that there's still a lot left to learn, and the learning never really stops.  It's a steep learning curve ahead, but at least it's pretty interesting and what we learn is useful!  You never know when something might come in handy. 

The festive season is upon us, and we are in THAT week between Christmas and New Years'! It's also the time for meeting up with old friends, and recounting the wonderful (or not so wonderful) year that has just flown by, as always.  One major highlight of my 2016 was meeting a really wonderful boy (though he really is a gentleman). Its' been just over six months since we met, and he makes me very very happy. 

I made these cookies when he brought me to meet some of his JC friends as an early Christmas gift! I made a test batch before the actual bake, and they turned out so well both times that I decided to include them in my Christmas gift box for my friends and family.  According to my favourite guinea pig, each batch has been better than the last! The main recipe's remained the same throughout though, and the only changes I've made has been the resting time and the baking time. 

 Satisfied tummy = satisfied boyfriend :-) 

Satisfied tummy = satisfied boyfriend :-) 

So first up - resting time. It really does makes a difference, and I promise the satisfaction from eating a rested cookie will outweigh the pain in waiting for one! The good news is that you only need to rest the dough for an hour, as I've found that resting the dough for any longer makes a marginal difference and it reduces the cookie's spread. Why would anyone want a puffy cookie, I don't know. A one hour resting time gives the dough a richer flavour, and allows the cookie to retain its lovely thin shape and texture. One hour is also enough time for you to wash up and watch an episode of the mentalist, which is perfect. After the dough is rested, bake it for 14-15 minutes. This is long enough for the edges of the cookie to crisp up nicely, while the inside remains nice and chewy. Very chewy, in fact. A caveat though; the cookies will be rather soft when you remove them from the oven. What you need to look out for is that the edges are of a deeper brown than the center of the cookie, and they should have set a little. Most importantly though, trust your instincts! 

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies YET
Adapted from here

Ingredients: 
❄︎ 226g brown butter
❄︎ 220g brown sugar
❄︎ 80g white sugar
❄︎ 2 eggs
❄︎ a splash of vanilla extract
❄︎ 220g bread flour
❄︎ 80g plain flour
❄︎ 1 tsp baking powder
❄︎ 2-3g sea salt
❄︎ a pinch of cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
❄︎ chocolate chips (as much as you'd like) 

Steps: 

Brown your butter, and leave it to cool while you prepare the other ingredients. 
Whisk the bread flour, plain flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon (if using) together in a mixing bowl. 
In another mixing bowl, whisk the sugars together, breaking up any clumps in the process. Whisk your brown butter in next. Your butter need not be 100% cool! Whisk the mixture vigourously for a minute. Next, whisk in an egg at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. 
Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Incorporate only half the flour mixture before adding in your mix-ins (chocolate chips and whatnot). Once added, continue folding the flour mixture (and the mix-ins) until all the flour has been incorporated. Be sure to fold from the bottom of the mixing bowl so that there's no remaining bits of flour there! 
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour! While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius. 
After an hour, use a tablespoon to scoop clumps of dough onto your baking tray. Send them off to the oven for 14-15 minutes. The cookies should be a lovely golden brown, with slightly darker edges. They should also smell really good. Remove from oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes, before transferring them over to a wire rack. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do! xx 

Nice Cream..?

I've been craving ice cream lately... And when I crave something, I mean intense, i-need-this-now-or-i-feel-like-my-life-will-be-over kind of cravings. Sure, I can't get everything I want when I want it all the time, and a lot of the time I just ~ride it out~ or try to sleep it off and the craving will subside. But it's not a foolproof method.

I still wake up imagining the taste of said craving in my mouth, the smell, the flavours dancing in my mouth... It's painful, sometimes. The other day, I went downstairs to the minimart just to buy a tub of ice cream because I was craving it that badly. It was a tub of red velvet ben and jerry's, which by the way, is better in Singapore than in the US?? I don't know why but I remember excitedly buying a tub in San Francisco before they brought red velvet to Singapore and I was so underwhelmed by it. In fact, I distinctly remember it tasting like raspberries, whereas the one here actually tastes of red velvet. It's even got chunks of red velvet cake inside!

Unfortunately, I can't eat ice cream everyday (well, I could, but) - it isn't advisable to; everything in moderation right? So with that, I thought of this alternative that I've been seeing around on the internet quite a bit - nice cream!

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Touted as a "vegan", healthier version of ice cream, nice cream is basically frozen bananas that has been blended or put through the food processor until it reaches a creamy consistency. It's quick, simple, and actually healthy!

As you can (probably) see, I didn't blend my nice cream very fully and this has resulted in me having some frozen banana chunks in it, but I think I like it that way c: To top it off, I also blended in some frozen raspberries and strawberries to turn it into a berry nice cream! It's berry nice, trust me.

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I suppose things as simple as this don't really require a recipe, as a lot of it is about trusting your instincts and adding more or less of stuff as you wish. But here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Do remember to freeze your bananas the night before! Peel and cut them up into little chunks before blending them. This will also save you the trouble of cutting off frozen banana peel the next day (I'm speaking from experience here). And as always, the riper, the better.
  2. About one medium/large frozen banana will do for one serving, or two small bananas.
  3. When it comes to mix-ins, the world is your blender. If that makes sense. Just add whatever, really. Cinnamon, oreos, BERRIES, watermelon, vanilla extract... Sugar if you would like added sweetness, but bananas are already sweet on their own.
  4. If necessary, add a splash of milk to keep the blending process going. If you find it getting too thin and you would like to thicken it up, blend in some ice cubes as well. c:

Enjoy x

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CROISSANTS

Happy Mothers' Day to all the moms out there!!

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This Mothers' Day, I decided to bake croissants for my dear mommy who just flew back from the USA this morning! She's always flying there for business trips, which kind of sucks because I miss her quite a bit when she's gone, but I know that she does this so that she can provide for us. I'm just really thankful for her. I'm also very lucky in the sense that she's always been very supportive of my sisters and I, and she trusts us a lot and gives us a lot of freedom. She lets us grow and learn from our own mistakes, but will step in when things get too much for us to handle. She can also tell when something's wrong without us having to say anything, and she will always be there for us no matter how busy she is. Mother truly knows best; mother truly is the best. She also has this amazing habit of reading people and being able to tell the good eggs from the rotten ones. Which has led to her giving me tons of great (and 90% spot on) advice, about people and all the other little things in life. Ok I could go on and on about my mom but I'll stop before this post gets insanely long.

Okay so, croissants.

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Here as some lesser-known facts about croissant-making:

  1. You are going to use a hell lot of cling film.
  2. You will need to find something to do for four one-hour blocks, broken up by each turn of the dough.
  3.  One whole day spent on the dough itself, and another morning for the actual croissant-making. You will stop and reflect on what you are doing with your life and time.
  4. Exercise will take place in the form of constantly running to your fridge and back, and the constant dough-rolling.
  5. Flour and butter will go EVERYWHERE.

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The recipe I used is from topwithcinnamon, which I used primarily because of her amazingly helpful gifs! Her gif-making skills are terrific, and they were a good guide as to what to do at each step. They really made this seemingly-impossible task a lot more doable. Instead of making chocolate croissants, I decided to make Nutella ones as my mom is a fan of the chocolate hazelnut spread. I also halved the total recipe as I was afraid that it might turn out badly, and I wasn't very keen on wasting an entire bag of flour on a failed recipe.

BUT! In my application to Yale-NUS, I remember a question that went along the lines of "What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?", and I wrote that I would make croissants, or something to that effect. Well, I finally did and I wouldn't say that these are fantastic, but they are not a failure!

Bless. I'm definitely going to make these again, some time in the near future (before I start school!) and when I do I'll probably make a huge batch of dough to freeze and use when the croissantspiration strikes! You see, they weren't kidding when they said that croissants are a labour of love and in a few months, I'll have the love but not much time to labour...

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I'm not going to post the recipe here as I normally do due to the very minimal changes I made to it. In fact, the main difference between this and Izy's croissants is that instead of the 1 tbsp of chocolate chips, I used 1 tsp of Nutella instead. Anyway, I'm sure the gifs accompanying the recipe will be a lot more comprehensive than anything I could write, so here's the link to the recipe:

For the dough + basic croissants For the chocolate croissants

2. Peanut Butter Nutella Loaf Cake

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Ah, one of my favourite days of the year. World Nutella Day falls on the fifth of February, and is truly a cause for celebration. Started up by Sara from Miss Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso, World Nutella Day brings Nutella lovers worldwide together. Nutella is a symbol of my childhood. I grew up with Nutella, heck, you can practically say I grew up on Nutella. I remember watching Kids Central when I was five and the Nutella commercials would play, and I would most probably ask for a slice of Nutella toast after that. Simple Nutella toasts were my breakfasts for years, and as I grew up they morphed into Nutella Banana Toasts, Peanut Butter and Nutella, Nutella cakes...

You get the idea. I love Nutella.

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Nutella is incredibly versatile. For proof, just head over to the World Nutella Day website where you can stalk the array of recipes at your disposal... And for the record, they all involve Nutella. Nutella is powerful. Who knew that a simple Chocolate Hazelnut spread could have so much influence? Nutella bonds people. If you, dear reader, are a fellow Nutella lover, I can tell that we are going to be great friends. Thank you, Pietro Ferrero and son, for your contribution to the world. Thank you for Nutella.

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So, in honour of World Nutella Day 2015, the second instalment of Loafs of Love is a cake involving a healthy dose of Nutella! You see, Peanut Butter and Nutella is one of my favourite combinations, and I love to have either of them with sliced bananas on toast. So I thought, why not make this into a loaf cake?

Unfortunately, my first bake yesterday didn't quite turn out, for (I believe) I took the cake out too early, which resulted in a mooncake-like texture and taste. It wasn't the best. Also, I suspect it was a poor combination of too many things going on at once that led to disappointment. What a pity, for it was a beautiful cake.

So I tried again this morning, albeit with a different recipe. Yesterday, I was debating between which recipe to use and I went with the one that included bananas as none of my banana recipes have gone wrong so far but hey, I guess there's a first time for everything. This cake has no bananas, not because I was afraid to use them but because I conveniently ran out of them at home, which was just as well.

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What I like about this recipe is the inclusion of a .75 cup of buttermilk. It gives the cake a tangy flavour to it, and a nice tender crumb, thanks to its reaction with the leavening agents that produce carbon dioxide, aerating the cake.  Think (good) red velvet cake - the texture and moisture of a red velvet is partially attributed to the addition of buttermilk! I've learnt to keep an extra pack of buttermilk on hand, just because it's simply so versatile and beautifully enhances the flavours of a simple cake.

Also, instead of the usual butter, I used olive oil in the cake. Yes, olive oil. The original recipe called for coconut oil, but I didn't have coconut oil on hand and I was a little doubtful about the coconut. Personally, I'm not too big a fan of the taste of coconut anyway, although the recipe assured me that the taste of coconut would be completely masked in the cake. I used extra virgin olive oil, for it has the lightest flavour and it's even healthy! This also allowed the primary flavours of the cake to come forward and shine. The use of oil over butter also contributes to the moistness of the cake, something I greatly treasure in my baked goods.

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Anyway, back to the Nutella. It being World Nutella Day, it was important not to skimp on the amount of Nutella involve, hence I just dolloped tablespoons of Nutella on the cake. There's even a layer of Nutella inside the cake! This cake is best served with a glass of milk, and with that I highly, highly recommend that you have this cake with a glass of fresh milk on the side.

In fact, I insist that you do. For this cake is just ten times better with it. The milk elevates it to a whole new level, for it somewhat offsets the heaviness of the peanut butter. This is especially important if you're using crunchy peanut butter, because I suspect it was the use of crunchy peanut butter that contributed to the density of this cake. In fact, please try to use creamy peanut butter, if you can. It would probably make life a lot simpler. But have the milk either way. Please.

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Peanut Butter Nutella Loaf Cake Adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 0.75 cup buttermilk
  • 35g light brown sugar
  • 25g white sugar
  • 85g peanut butter (crunchy or creamy, but i recommend creamy)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 0.25 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil, canola oil, coconut oil, etc...)
  • 188g all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • a pinch of salt (optional!)
  • lots of Nutella

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease your loaf pan.
  2. Whisk the first seven ingredients together in a large bowl. (if you need me to spell it out for you: egg, buttermilk, brown & white sugar, peanut butter, vanilla extract and oil)
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the large bowl and stir. Do not overmix!! The consistency will be reminiscent of your peanut butter. According to Averie, that's okay.
  4. Pour about half to two-thirds of your batter in the pan, and using a tablespoon, dollop Nutella atop that first layer. Eyeball it. When you think you've dolloped enough, spread it around so that it roughly covers the first layer of cake batter. Then, pour the remaining cake batter over the Nutella layer. With the tablespoon, dollop about three large spoonfuls of Nutella atop that. Using a chopstick (although I've heard that a toothpick would work fine as well), make swirls of Nutella.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for about 45 minutes! Be careful when using the toothpick test here, for it came out clean for me at 30 minutes for my cake yesterday (which used roughly the same ingredients and method) even though the cake was not properly baked through yet.
  6. Cool in your pan for about 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling off.
  7. Serve with a glass of milk. Please do, or you might be missing out on some of the best things in life.

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