✿ 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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2. Peanut Butter Nutella Loaf Cake

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset HAPPY WORLD NUTELLA DAY! 

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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Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset This recipe has been a personal favourite of mine for years now.

But over the years, the cookies have evolved from a melty mess to cookies that stood up straight in the oven, withstanding the 190-degree oven temperature. While I am still trying to find out how to achieve that perfect round cookie shape that is just right, I think I have found a way to salvage their shape. And if anything, these cookies taste just as good as ever.

Cheesecake is one of my favourite things of all time. There's something simply magical about cream cheese that I can't quite explain - that beautiful balance between tangy and sweet; the texture that can be whipped and transformed into something as bewitching as a cheesecake. Or these cheesecake cookies. Oreo cheesecake cookies.

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I practically grew up on Oreos. Cookies and cream was (and still is, one of) my favourite ice cream flavour and for six consecutive years, I had island creamery's Cookies-and-Cream flavoured cake for my birthday cake. Loaded with Oreos, it was the best thing ever. Give me a tub and I could single-handedly finish the whole thing. Sorry not sorry.

These cookies are loaded with Oreos as well; the batter to cookie ratio may be a little imbalanced but who could complain about more Oreos?

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Oreo Cheesecake Cookies Recipe adapted from here

Ingredients:

  • 113g butter, room temperature
  • 90g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200g white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125g all-purpose flour
  • 12 oreos (add more or less if you wish!)

Steps:

  1. Take your butter and cream cheese out of the fridge to soften! Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius.
  2. Using a paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well-combined.
  3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract, mix again until well-combined.
  4. On low speed, add the flour and mix until the flour is just incorporated.
  5. Mix in the Oreos using a spoon/spatula. Try not to eat the dough! This cookie dough is especially tempting given that there are no eggs in the batter, but try, ok? (read: eat limited tablespoonfuls.)
  6. I used a tablespoon to scoop balls of dough onto my baking sheet, before baking in the oven for about 12-15 minutes (I put mine in for 14). Basically, until your cookies brown a little around the edges.
  7. Cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Enjoy!

[note: my cookies did not seem to be flattening, so at about the 10th minute I used a small fork to press them down, giving the cookies a nice fork-shaped imprint on the top of each cookie!]

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