The CCC Quest: Episode Two

My sister made banana bread yesterday, which was great because I have been craving banana bread for quite a while (especially after seeing it on so many menus in Sydney!), although I did have it once on my trip.

What wasn't so great, though, is that she used up all the all-purpose flour that we have left in the house. And I wanted to bake Sally's salted-caramel stuffed chocolate chip cookies, especially after finding rolos in Australia! I don't think we have these in Singapore, so I was rather excited. Thankfully, I discovered a new pack of bread flour in the kitchen cabinet and a quick google search showed that Alton Brown's The Chewy recipe called for bread flour over all-purpose flour!

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These cookies are my new favourite cookie. I'm so happy with how they turned out! They are incredibly close to being my ultimate chocolate-chip-cookie, but I feel that this experience had been somewhat affected by the addition of the rolo to give it that salted-caramel inside. They made the cookie too thick, and unnecessarily messy. My sister suggested that I add half a rolo instead of the whole thing next time, which is a great idea. The whole rolo in the cookie tasted great, though. Haha I'm really happy with these in general! 

Once again, I took it a step further and browned the butter. I swear I'm absolutely hooked on brown butter. It's so magical. I feel like once you've got the hang of it, you simply can't stop. Also, this time, I decided to exercise patience and chilled the dough for an hour before baking. I'm not very sure how much of an impact it made - next time I think I shall make one batch without chilling and another with, and compare them from there. 

bless the salted caramel insides

bless the salted caramel insides

I'm in a bit of a baking mood after watching seven episodes of the Great British Bake-Off on the flight back, and quite a number of Masterchef episodes while in Sydney. Yesterday, I went down to the library to borrow six cookbooks to browse through, and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes! With about two months of freedom left, I really want to make the best of my time doing what I love. 

ALSO, after a lot of pondering I've decided to move my site to squarespace! I really love the clean, minimalistic layout I can have with my blog, and I like how the images automatically fill up the width of the page. It was a peeve of mine back with wordpress. I'm quite happy with this investment I've made! 

<u>Alton Brown's The Chewy with a twist</u>

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter
  • 33g white sugar
  • 67g brown sugar
  • half an egg + half an egg yolk*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 170g bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • chocolate chips
  • approx 10 rolo candies

*this odd measurement came about as i halved the original recipe. to get half an egg + half an egg yolk, simply crack one egg and one yolk into a bowl, beat it together and pour about half of it into another bowl.

Method:

  1. Brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. 
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. 
  4. Whisk the sugars into the butter, followed by the egg mixture. 
  5. Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture, leaving visible streaks of flour before you pour the chocolate chips in. Mix everything until just combined.
  6. This is the part where you exercise patience! Chill the dough for an hour. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius. Line your baking tray with baking paper.
  7. Weigh out approximately 50g of rolo plus cookie dough. Then, divide the cookie dough in half, and sandwich the rolo in between. Seal the edges by pressing the cookie dough around the rolo with your fingers, and roughly roll it into a ball. 
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes, let it cool, and enjoy!

✿ Pear Frangipane Tart ✿

Today, I quit my job.

I had been working there sine January this year, after IB results came out, in a bid to gain some experience of what it's like working in f&b and to do something productive with my time. It was at one of my favourite cafes, doing the usual service stuff - taking orders, serving coffee, and lots (and lots) of washing.

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I guess it was a decision based on various situations and things that have been bugging me for a while. I mean, this job had its fun moments, and I have met a lot of really great people along the way. People that were fun to work with, who looked out for each other and really showed me what it meant to work in a team. It also showed me how much work goes into the day-to-day running of a cafe and especially some of the workings on the back end. Things aren't always as perfect as they seem to be, but I guess that's usually the case for anywhere and anything. I think I was talking to someone once, or I read this from somewhere - passion is actually derived from the word pasi, a latin word that means "suffering", or "enduring". I guess passion and hard work should really go hand in hand, and if you truly have a passion for something, you won't mind going through shit for it. For me, I guess I drew a line as to how much shit I was willing to take. Quitting won't always be a viable option, especially when I enter the workforce upon graduating University, but I shall exercise this freedom while I can.

After talking to a number of baristas and cafe owners for The Local Barista (a website thing I'm working on), I realised how important passion is, but also priorities. I have so much respect for all these people whom I've talked to, because the amount of dedication they have and the amount of effort & hard work put in is simply astounding. To me, they really embody what it means to truly have a passion for something as they didn't just sit on their butts and wait for success to come to them, or for other people to get it for them - they worked to get to where they are today, and they keep going. Honestly, it's awfully inspiring.

With the (somewhat) extra time I have now (or one less commitment), I am going to make the best of all the time I have left! One of my May resolutions was to bake and blog more, so here I am trying to keep to it. The one thing I fear, however, is baking merely for the sake of baking. I remain thankful for the random bursts of inspiration once in a while, or for the baking feels that hit me ever so often, little things that keep me going.

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Last night, I felt like baking a tart. I've seen frangipane things going around before, but I was always somewhat confused because frangipane doesn't involve frangipanis (the flower), but it is actually an almond cream! I decided to top it with pears because well, I like the sound of a pear frangipane tart and the other option that I thought of was berries, but I had none at home.

Ah, pears. An all-time favourite fruit of mine.

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Tart-making seems so simple, but it feels like there are so many steps that could go wrong along the way. I was so afraid that my pie crust would rise awkwardly as I didn't have the beans to hold them down. I also had to hand-press the pie crust in as I had made the dough the night before, and when I wanted to roll it out the next morning it was solid and taking way too long to thaw. So, I broke little chunks off with my hands and just pressed them in, bit by bit. I was also afraid of the frangipane tasting a bit weird, as I put the cream in the fridge to set a little after making it but every time I checked on it, there seemed to be a little bit of unmixed egg yolk. I would then mix it in and it would all look fine, until I checked on it the next time! Thankfully it baked up alright and more importantly, tasted good!

I'm in a bit of a tart-making mood lately so do hit me up if you're willing to be a tester of tarts :-)

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Pear Frangipane Tart

For the crust, recipe adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 190g all-purpose flour
  • 60g almond flour/ground almonds
  • 130g butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk

(note: on hindsight i feel like i should have added some sugar (because i substituted the icing sugar in this recipe for almond flour), so do feel free to add that in.)

Steps:

  1. Mix the flour and almonds together.
  2. Using your hands (or a pastry cutter, but I used my hands and it was a lot of fun and turned out great), cut the cubed butter into the flour/almond mixture until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. It should be soft and somewhat crumbly.
  3. Add in the egg yolk and somewhat knead it into the dough, until completely mixed in.
  4. Knead the dough a few more times, making sure to absorb up any unmixed bits of flour or almonds along the way. Wrap it in clingfilm and keep in the fridge for at least two hours before baking. I kept mine overnight.
  5. The next morning, roll it out if you can and line your nine-inch tart pan. OR, you can manually press it in. Poke holes in it with a fork (this process is called docking, apparently) to let the steam out as the crust bakes - bake it for about 20 minutes.

For the pears, recipe from here

Ingredients:

  • 2o0g pears, any kind, sliced
  • 4 cups (950ml) of water
  • 225g sugar (i used 180g white, 50g brown)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the water, sugar and lemon to the boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the pears and let it simmer on medium heat until pears are tender, stirring and turning occasionally. Let the pears cool in the syrup.

For the frangipane, recipe from here

Ingredients:

  • 90g softened butter
  • 60g white sugar
  • 75 ground almonds, blanched or unblanched
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • a dash of vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add in the ground almonds, followed by the cornstarch, egg + egg white, and lastly, vanilla extract. Mixture may look curdled, but it's really just the almonds. Chill in the fridge and stir occasionally (in case of that bit of egg).

To assemble:

Take your pre-baked pie crust out of the oven, and let it cool for a while. About 5 minutes before baking, take your frangipane out of the fridge while you take the pears out of the syrup. Spread the frangipane in an even layer atop the crust, and arrange the pears above that however you like the look of it. Bake for approximately 55 minutes, and let cool.

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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

A week in stuff

In hopes of not losing touch with my life and forgetting what I've done (in pictures), I'm going to try to upload some pictures of stuff that goes on, on a weekly basis.

Also to keep this thing alive. Been trying to get my baking spark back, but time is always a constraint! Funny how I thought I had so much time to do things with this break, but time is actually running out... At a really fast pace...

Lunch at Equinox with Mommy

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Walking around the CQ; Havelock area

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So daddy came back with two blocks of chocolate cream cheese one day as they were on sale and expiring soon... I tried to bake something with them - it was a little hard and I was honestly quite afraid to as I had never even tried chocolate cream cheese for myself before.

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Chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel & bananas on top

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And the next day, I made cinnamon rolls!!

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Initially, I added waaaaaay too little flour to the dough (I misconverted the cups-to-grams thing as I didn't convert it for bread flour), and essentially messed the whole thing up. So, I had to start again from scratch. Going to try baking these (or at least, a variation of it) again, sometime this week! Will share the recipe once I've worked the kinks out. Really happy with how these turned out, though! Especially for a first attempt.

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Cinnamon Rolls

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Solo lunch trip to The Bravery after collecting my passport one morning, makes me wonder why I don't do this more often

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Went for a walk with mommy at Hort Park one morning, walked to Gillman Barracks where we had breakfast at the Red Baron (a new cafe!!) 

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Post-lunch surprises with the best friends at Rise and Grind Co - another new cafe! 

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xx