Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies

I know Christmas was over months ago, but after Christmas came New Years', and then the new semester begun, and since then I've been swept up in a sea of Constitutional Law readings (endless!), trying to navigate my way around Corporate Deals, and staying afloat with Equity and Trusts.  2017 started off on a great note - dinner at a homely, yet classy, Mexican restaurant, followed by coffee and a dessert "buffet" at the St Regis lobby with my best takeaway from 2016. I say "buffet" because the cafe side had actually ran out of desserts by the time we reached (it was approximately 11pm), so they offered to let us take whatever desserts we wanted from their buffet selection as long as we could fit them on a single plate.  We had about three desserts on each of our plates. What a steal, and a wonderful New Years' it was. 

These cookies were actually part of a Christmas Dessert Box that I did up for some close friends and family members. Each box included a slice of a baileys white chocolate cake, a stack of these peppermint white chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip oreo cookies, and a cute little cupcake holder of cinnamon-spiced granola! 

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These peppermint-white-chocolate-cookies are really a simple modification of my favourite chocolate-chip-cookies, and they have the same crispy-chewy texture but with a Christmassy feel to them.  Peppermint is a strong and potentially overpowering flavour, so I would recommend adding it with restraint - three-quarters of a teaspoon did the job for me.  Feel free to add more/less depending on your tastes, but always start by adding less than you intend to and taste the dough along the way as you do - you can always add more peppermint, but once it's in, you can't get it out! 

The sweetness of the white chocolate pairs wonderfully with the peppermint - sweeter than your regular milk or dark chocolate, it is perfect for cutting through the sharp mintiness (minty-ness? mint-ness?) of the peppermint.  I like my white chocolate in abundance; just add as much as you'd like.  Give this recipe a go - Christmas may be over but the spirit lives in us all year round, no? 

To make this recipe, just follow my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here, adding a three-quarter teaspoon of peppermint extract together with the vanilla, and replace the regular chocolate chips with an abundance of white chocolate chips. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful 2017 thus far :-) 

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.  

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. 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. 

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! xx 

Giant Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich

I feel as though recess week gives us the illusion of time. We begin it believing that we will be productive and that we are going to get our shit together, but before you know it Sunday will come and nothing will have changed much. Although I seriously hope that the latter doesn't happen... 

Recess week has been off to a great start! Recess week only really began for me when I finished and submitted my LARC assignment, after which I baked a birthday cake for my uncle and went for F1 at night! Caught Maroon 5 live (that was all we really went for) and they were really good. I was so happy that they played so many of my favourite songs of theirs, and I thought it was very apt that we got there just in time for Sunday Morning, which is the first song that Melrose played in our jamming sessions. Went for drinks and supper with Melrose after; it felt incredibly liberating to have a night out after six weeks of school. 

Baked this giant cookie the next day for Clarence's birthday cake! I was initially thinking of baking him a cake cake, but after talking to Josh about it we came up with the idea of this giant ice cream cookie cake, as Clarence loves the ice cream and cookie co sandwiches available at Wildfire! This was hella fun to make and assemble. We used three whole tubs of ben & jerry's strawberry cheesecake ice cream (which was a really good choice) and buzzfeed's method of cutting the tub. 

The ice cream got crazy and started melting all over at one point, and we tried to smush it together with those two knives you see and spread them around as best (and gently) as we could. The base cookie held up damn well (much better than I had expected it to), but I think it was Justin's board that really helped hehe. The board's even kinda aesthetic! The top cookie broke when we tried to transfer it over, unfortunately, so we had to make do by simply piecing it together. 

The candle you see above is one of those trick candles, the kind that are somehow able to relight after being blown out. It was hilarious watching Clarence blow it out again and again, and somehow he didn't even suspect that it was a trick candle (which might have been the best part). Happy 21st, Clarence :-) 

For this giant cookie, I used my cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookie recipe (you can find it here!), omitted the cornflakes, used all brown sugar and shortened the baking time. The recipe makes one giant cookie, by the way! To ensure that the cookie would remain soft, I (somewhat) underbaked it - I recommend a baking time of 13 minutes (the cookie that broke took 12 minutes).  The short baking time is also attributed to the way I baked it, which was by spreading the cookie dough into a large circle on the baking sheet before baking it. Larger surface area + the dough was spread out rather thinly.

Anyway, Clarence really enjoyed the cake, which was lovely to see! One of the best feelings in the world is when people appreciate and enjoy the things you make. Thanks for doing this with me, Josh, and for doing all the hard ice cream spreading work hehe. 

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