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. 

Sydney Travel Diary (i)

I'm really enjoying this break I have before University. Almost halfway through the year and I daresay it's been a pretty good year thus far. Trying to learn not to sweat the small stuff and have a good detox before school starts. I'm also very privileged that I get to travel a fair bit during this period as well, breaks from Singapore are doing me good (especially since I will be spending the next five years studying here instead of my original plans to go to the UK)...

So. My first trip out of the country this year was to Sydney, Australia! This was my fourth trip to Sydney, and the last time I was there was in August 2012, over the long weekend from Hari Raya. When I was in Grade 10, we took our Chinese IGCSEs in May, while we took the rest of our exams in November. I had decided to challenge myself (lol) and take First Language Chinese. It was a bit of a risk as no one in the previous year had scored an A or A*. As a result, my mom told me that she would bring me on a trip to Hong Kong if I managed to score an A or A* and miracle of miracles, I did. But I went to Sydney instead of Hong Kong as my dad was going on a business trip there so I could just tag along. :b

On this trip, I travelled with one of my best friends of mg, Stace :-) We were accompanied by Ryan and Leonard (Ryan's friend who stays and studies in Sydney). It was a wonderful break from the heat and humidity of Singapore - the weather in Sydney hovered around 11-19 degrees, save for the first day when we were greeted with "the coldest morning in four years". What a welcome. 

We flew over via British Airways, and we had a very pleasant flight there (at least I did). It was a night flight, so I slept for the bulk of it and watched two and a quarter episodes of the Great British Bake-Off. We were lucky enough to get front row seats, although getting the entertainment screen up was a bit hard as the button was so stiff! Stace and I tried so hard before giving up and asking one of the stewards to help us, upon which he effortlessly pulled the screen up. Magic, he called it.

IMG_0249
IMG_0249

We headed to the fish market for breakfast after dropping our bags off at Leonard's. It was a lovely walk from his place (albeit a very cold one). We made a pit stop at a cafe called the Pigeonhole along the way, where Stace and I got coffee and Ryan had tea and an almond croissant which was the best almond croissant that I have ever tasted.

Onward to the fish market! It was just as I remembered it from my last visit. Ryan and Leonard got most of the food. I only had one slice of sashimi (which was fresh and lovely) but I have come to the conclusion that sashimi is best not eaten in the morning... My tummy felt a little funny after. 

After the fish market, we went to the Sea Life Aquarium to see the friends of the fish we just ate. The aquarium was painfully underwhelming... It might have been the effect of the complete lack of sleep (for Stace and Ryan) and an insufficient amount of sleep (for me) as well as the fact that pretty much half of our time spent in the aquarium involved walking up and down numerous ramps to get from one exhibit to another, surrounded by oldish, industrial-looking walls, painted a grisly, dismal blue. 

We walked back to the apartment after, but not before stopping by a playground with a spider structure which we played on, and Woolworths', where the guys bought an ice cream called golden gaytime (for real). After which we slept most of the afternoon away. :b 

Dinner for the day was at Rockpool Bar and Grill, our most expensive meal of the trip. The wagyu bolognese that Stace and I had was pretty good though (and the cheapest thing on the menu) heh. OH, and this was the restaurant at which I got carded. We ordered wine and I was asked to show my ID as I guess I don't look 18... At least it means that I look young? 

IMG_0356.jpg

Walked back, and that was the end of our first day! 

The effects of the night flight stayed with us (or me, at least) and resulted in me getting up at a horrifying 10:45am that morning. At 8:45am in Singapore it would have been okay, but as Sydney is two hours ahead of Singapore, 10:45am is horrifying, especially while on holiday. What a waste of the morning! 

The guys got up early to cook breakfast for us, which we ate before renting a car to go to the Adriano Zumbo Patisserie! This was one of the places that ranked pretty highly on our to-go list, as Adriano Zumbo is a famous patisseir from Masterchef Australia. 

We didn't realise that the patisserie had no seats, it was a takeaway concept so we decided to just buy a number of different things back to the apartment to eat. We ordered a lot of things to try, pictured above and arranged by Stace, Leonard and I! 

Of everything we ordered, I liked the cakes the best. We had the V8 passionfruit (the orange-yellow square at the bottom of the picture) and the 'Ed, it's been a long time' cake which was like an opera cake (to the right of the passionfruit cake). I loved them both, they had a lot of different textures going on and tasted fantastic on the whole. You have to eat the different layers at the same time to get the full experience!! 

The zonut and the palmier were from the bread and pastry display. I felt that the zonut had too much sugar on the top, and I felt like I was just eating plain sugar at certain points. The custard inside was good though, creamy and it contrasted with the crisp texture of the zonut beautifully. I liked the palmier; it reminded me of TBB's Kouign Amann. I think some would find it too sweet though. 

The rest of the desserts weren't that amazing (to me, at least) - I didn't eat much of the quiche but the guys seemed to like it a lot, I think I would have enjoyed the one bite I had a lot more if it was hot. The lemon meringue tart was weak, both in terms of the filling (a tarter, more lemon-y one would have been nice) and the pastry - the meringue felt too light; the crust too soft. Stace and I had the zumbarons at night, and they were ok to me - I heard that they were disappointing for some but I guess having little-to-no expectations of something helps. I had the salted-butter-toast one or something like that and I quite liked how it tasted faintly of butter toast. Ryan had the salted caramel popcorn one the next day and he discovered that taking a bite of the macaron/zumbaron along with a sip of champagne is a delightful way of eating it. I can attest to that. 

After our pretty-much-a-pastry-and-dessert-lunch, we took the train down to Circular Quay, with the intention of visiting the Taronga Zoo. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was 2 something and we were told by the ticket man that there wasn't much of a point in going, as the zoo would close at 4:30 that day. 

So we hopped on a bus to Bondi Beach! It was a 45-minute journey (I think, I can't quite remember) from the city, but it was a lovely journey. My favourite part about road trips, bus rides or train rides above ground is looking out of the window, admiring the sights and just letting my mind wander. It's one of life's simple pleasures. 

Bondi beach is beautiful. (Loving the alliteration going on in that sentence). I've come to realise that I do love the beach, and I love the sea - I just don't want to swim in it. I think the idea of swimming in the sea with fishes and all is a lot nicer than the actual act of swimming, maybe until you see these animals up close but I'd rather stay dry. This might change in the future, but right now, this is how I feel about it. 

This is the part where I'm going to spam photos because you can never have enough pretty photos of the sea. 

We decided to stop by at a cafe for some fish and chips while walking along the beach! Bondi has a lot of street art (or beach art?) lining the walls just on the outside of the beach, and some of them really are pretty cool. 

We had initially planned to go on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk which was about 6km long and would have taken us about an hour or so, but by the time we were done with our late lunch/tea we were advised by the kind service staff at the cafe that it would be better to walk another day as the sky would turn dark before we could finish the walk. 

And that's how we ended up on the rocks, watching the sunset. It was quite a lovely sight. 

When the sun set, we made our way back to the city to try Pancakes on the Rocks (for dinner, because breakfast for dinner is the best thing ever), where we were greeted with a line that snaked out of the door. Well, expectations were certainly raised then. Did you know that Pancakes on the Rocks was a 24/7 joint? We only found out when we reached the front of the queue. If only we had known just a bit earlier... To be fair, however, the queue did move rather quickly! 

I had the Pancakes with sausages, grilled tomatoes and scrambled eggs. I really wanted to try the banana pancakes, but I needed something savoury after all those sweet treats in the day. I quite liked what I had, my scrambled eggs were sufficiently runny, and the grilled tomatoes were delicious. I don't think they're very consistent, though - Ryan's side order of scrambled eggs arrived dry and looked overcooked. Also, beware of the bacon - I didn't try any myself, but the others agreed that it was very salty and it was alluded to as the trigger for Stace's cough. The pancake itself was very much like a McDonald's hotcake, but fluffier, larger and with a little more flavour. Good thing I like hotcakes. The serving is huge, by the way - I could only manage one pancake! 

The journey back to the apartment was an incredibly cold one, it was unusually cold that night. Stace even had to stand outside a restaurant's fire display to warm herself up, much to the amusement of the family waiting outside. :') 

I've decided to split the trip up into three parts since it was a six day trip, so I'll cover two days per post! And in other news, after spending the whole morning on Corel Painter, I've finally managed to get my blog header done! Really pooped but feeling fulfilled at the same time. Sad to say, technology is not my best friend. Still trying to touch up various odds and ends and this is still a site-in-progress, but I think it'll be worth the effort when I'm done. :-) 

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!

IMG_1381.jpg

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!

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!

FullSizeRender 25

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

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

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

Life is full of hits and misses and sometimes, you have to take a shot in the dark.

And you never really know how those turn out. It's a lot of risk-taking and finger-crossing and internal prayer-saying - and if you're lucky, you get a hit. Hopefully in your life you have more hits than misses, but if anything, I'd hope the hits are always worth the misses.

FullSizeRender 29

I had a hit today!!

Oh, happy day. I had initially planned to go for a run at 730 and then come home, make some pancakes and do some work. But how often do plans turn out the way you want them to, anyway. I woke up at 10 and went out for coffee with my mommy instead, at Dutch Colony - a favourite haunt of ours. I love our morning coffee runs, and a jolt of caffeine is one of my favourite ways to kickstart the day. Gets my mind going, brain cells working. A buzz of energy. Also, time spent with mommy is always time well-spent. Good mornings, indeed.

By the time I got back, it was time for brunch... Lunch... Whatever. I'm sitting at the dining table typing this out as my parents are eating their lunch (traditional "popiah") and eating... Pancakes. Pancakes all day, everyday, no?

FullSizeRender 31

FullSizeRender 27

Gonna blog the recipe down, so I know where to find it in the future. I hope it hits you as well as it did me. The original recipe calls for low-fat milk, but I substituted this for buttermilk so that I would have fluffier pancakes, pancakes with a little more rise. Also, a shoutout to my friend who bought me a lovely bottle of maple syrup from Canada - thanks to him, I've got the real deal. (It's amazing, by the way!)

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

recipe adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 95g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk
  • a dash of vanilla extract
  • 20g melted butter

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and baking powder.
  2. Mash the banana in a small bowl. In a measuring cup, measure out your buttermilk, pour in the egg, vanilla extract and banana. Whisk it all together.
  3. Add the buttermilk mixture and the melted butter to the dry ingredients, fold in until just combined. The batter will be thick, lumpy and slightly wet. It's ok.
  4. Heat your griddle over a low-medium heat, and melt a pad of butter over it. Ladle your pancake batter onto the griddle, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Depending on the size of your griddle, you can cook more than one at a time. Efficiency!
  5. Top with sliced bananas, maple syrup, whatever else your heart desires. I added some granola for a bit of crunch.

FullSizeRender 26

P.S. I got a Townske account, and I'm currently working on a few guides for Singapore - most of which have to do with food and cafes, do check it out sometime! You can check it out here:

http://townske.com/trufflebeth

P.P.S I just watched Taylor Swift's Bad Blood music video, and I am in LOVE.