Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chocolate Cream Puffs

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Each time Joe goes to visit his Grandma, I often try to make an effort to bake something. I have never met this lady although Joe and I have been together for over 4 years now.She sounds so adorable and funny. She is a pretty hardcore Republican, though. This much I know.

I enjoy baking cakes but the kitchen has to be spotless before I would consider embarking on a major baking project. It almost feels like I need my mind to be uncluttered before I can start baking especially if it is something challenging. Otherwise I fall apart and so does my project.

I had a pretty exhausting work week, involving a Seattle turn, an Aruba turn, a Montego bay turn and the crew desk even threw in a Baltimore turn in there just for fun. So yah, that was what I did the last 5 days.

So the apartment is a little dishevelled and plus Joe had  made cabbage rolls last night and the kitchen was not in the pristine condition that I often like it to be.

After flipping through a few cookbooks and numerous websites, I decided on cream puffs also known as profiteroles.

I made the pate choux (choux pastry)  and baked the shells the night before. Choux pastry needs to be baked immediately so that it will rise nicely.

This morning  I intended to make the both chocolate pastry cream and vanilla pastry cream. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I only made the chocolate pastry cream.

The chocolate pastry cream is so easy to make it is just like making the standard pastry cream and the only difference is that you add melted bitter sweet chocolate just as your pastry cream start to thicken.

Once the filling was ready, I filled the shells generously.

I later drizzled the cream puffs with chocolate glaze.

Chilled the cream puffs for an hour and BAM! Tender custard-like shells with and explosion of chocolate goodness in each bite.

Learning to love Bulgur and Quinoa

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One of those days when my body craves for something semi-healthy. It is like the body has had enough junk stuffed into it and it screams for some nourishment.

I have learnt to love bulgur and quinoa. I  probably have a tendency to over-cook it as I don’t really care for measurements when I am cooking. I like to eye-ball it. As long as it tastes and looks good who cares if it was done right. Yes, I am superficial like that.

So what’s on the plate?

I stir fried some shrimp and baby spinach with my favourite sambal. I like my food to have a little spice. Otherwise ” I can’t get no satisfaction…”

Then there is a relish to add a little freshness and crunch. I chopped some cucumbers, apples, onions, cilantro and seasoned it with a pinch of salt, pepper and lemon juice.

The bulgur and quinoa I cooked in chicken stock, chopped onions, smashed garlic, a little tumeric, paprika, salt and pepper. Once it is almost cooked, I add fava beans, olives, raisins, sunflower seeds, cilantro, lemon zest and juice. 

Yum!

So refreshing on a not so typically hot spring afternoon in Chicago.

Heaven served on a plate (Nasi Lemak)

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Comfort food is not mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich or mashed potatoes. …. it is a plate of steaming Nasi Lemak. Rice cooked in coconut milk and subtly perfumed by Pandan (Screwpine) leaves and Ginger. Heavenly. The perfect sides that accompany this fragrant rice are Sambal Udang (Spicy Shrimp), Rendang Daging (Spiced Beef in Coconut Gravy) and a fried egg. Traditionally you have an accompaniment of cucumbers too cool off some of the heat from the Spicy Sambal but I was out of cucumber so Stir Fried Green Beans had to do. Also typical with this delicious Malay anytime-of-the-day-meal is a side of crispy anchovies and toasted ground nuts. A complex balance of heat, sweetness, saltiness and creaminess.

Yum!

Almond Praline Cheesecake

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Every once in a while I have a hankering for cheesecake.

My idea of a perfect cheesecake is one that is rich, creamy and luscious in flavour but has a contrasting light and fluffy almost pillow like texture.

The perfect cheesecake does not have deep seismic cracks on it. It is smooth and bump free. Whenever my cheesecake have gaping holes on its surface, my heart cracks the same way. I feel like I have failed in my mission. I feel a little disheartened. With a tinge of guilt and shame I try to cover up the botched job. It looks attractive again but no matter how great tasting the cheesecake is, deep down I know the truth and it hurts.

Joe loves Key Lime Cheesecake and I have made it several times. There was this one night that I decided to make some for a neighbour’s party. It must have been past 11pm when I started to embark on my cake making. In my dimly lit kitchen I followed the directions on my hand written recipe note-card.

Joe's Favourite Key Lime Cheesecake

The next night after sending the cake down and missing the party because of work, I realised that I had put twice as much key lime juice as what the recipe had called for. I shuddered in horror. Our neighbours were nice and polite and never mentioned anything about how sour it was. Shit happens.

So on a dull Sunday morning where I sit on reserve awaiting the dreaded call from the crew desk, I figured I would have enough time to amuse myself by baking a cheesecake.

I began scouring for cheesecake recipes. I then found a recipe that I thought Joe might enjoy. Joe likes cheesecake and he likes peanut brittle. So it was decided then an Almond Praline Cheesecake. I had a bag of slivered almonds that needed to be used from the days of my obsession with all things Macaron.

So I spent the morning toasting almonds in a pan, beating cream cheese and eggs and later on making the praline. I was excited as I watched the cheesecake bake in the oven.

There is an unexplainable joy in watching your cake rise in the oven and not have it form a volcanic mound in the middle or crack open.

I have learnt from my numerous mistakes.

(1) Let the cream cheese get to room temperature.

(2) Do not over beat the mixture.

(3) No matter how anxious one gets, DO NOT open the oven door till the timer beeps.

(4) Let the damn cheesecake cool in the oven for 30 – 60 minutes.

The Almond Praline Cheesecake turned out crack free. It was perfection in its looks. I was almost a little sad to have to cover the top of the cake with the Almond Praline. It was like plastering make-up on a flawless natural beauty. Sadly it had to be done for the greater good.

The cheesecake was truly decadent. Luscious and creamy yet when you sink your teeth and tongue into it, you hear and feel the soft collapse of air with every bite. The Almond praline added a little crunch. It made the already rich cheesecake even more decadent. An after thought was that perhaps I should have added a pinch of salt for an added contrast to the praline.

Irregardless, one slice is all you need. Bliss.