Archive for the ‘Family & Friends’ Category

Sharing the Love Through Sweets

April 15, 2010

Laz, Young’s hubby, has always been such a kind and wonderful supporter of my baked good. He is so sweet and always has a nice word for whatever I bake. For that reason, I seldom appear at their place without a sweet treat in tow.

Now that they are in Beijing, I have decided a good way to share, other than me sending them cakes and bakes through post, is to give them simple recipes of healthy cakes, so they can bake it on their own!  🙂

So, Young and Laz, just for you… my new series called Share a Cake with Young and Laz!

OKay, before I start… I know some of the pics I post will have my dear photographer Young cringing. Stay with me, cousin! I am slowly, SLOWLY getting the hang of it. Hey, anyway, I am a baker, not a photographer!  😉

Torta di Mandora

Or Moist Almond Cake. Beautifully moist with a hint of citrusy goodness from orange and nutty flavour from ground almonds.

I love cakes and I do bake often because I need to fill Rui’s lunch box everyday with something. I would rather make him some healthy snacks than to feed him something store-bought. At least I know every single ingredient that goes into my food and I am sure there are no chemical nasties and unneccessary food colourings.

Because of the regularity of my baking schedule, I do make an effort to look for recipes with less or no butter, for simple health reasons (CH is a believer of The China Study). Rather than baking with margarine, I would rather bake with healthy oils.

This lovely cake fulfils both my health requirements and my innate glutton. Made with olive oil, it is light and fruity. The addition of orange juice and zest further enhances the fruitiness. And like all cakes made with ground almonds, it has a great bite and an incredible fragrance that even my fussy PROFESSIONAL baker dad loves.

This recipe is now marked as “well worth repeating” in my ratty note book. The next time I make this, I will substitute flaxseed meal for one or maybe two of the eggs.

I made this cake without the glaze but it is highly recommended by many bloggers out there. Try it and let me know if it is worth the time browning the butter!  🙂

For the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup ground almond

1  1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 large eggs 

 3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

1) Grease and flour a 7-inch round cake tin

2) Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius

3) Sift the flour, ground almond, salt and baking powder. Set aside

4) In another bowl, by hand or using a handheld beater, beat the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is light and lemony

5) Beating the egg mixture at a medium speed, slowly add the olive oil, vanilla extract and the orange juice and zest

6) With a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture

7) Scoop mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester come out clean

For the glaze:

2 tbsp browned butter

1 cup icing sugar

3 tbsp milk

A few drops of lemon juice

1) Mix all of the ingredients together and spread on top of cooled cake

2) Savour or gobble!

Nostalgia is Sweet

March 7, 2009

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The sure sign of getting old is when you started to feel nostalgic and get all misty-eyed when things from your younger days make an appearance.
When I saw the tray of Hainanese kueh at my neighbourhood sweets shop, I knew I have to confirm my not-young-anymore status.

I stopped in my tracks in front of the tray of kueh individually and neatly wrapped in banana leaves. This is the kueh from my childhood, the ones which my granny would happily churn out during special occasions and when one of her grandchildren (that would be me) begged for a taste.

Well-made Hainanese kueh, aka, the version churned out by Granny, is irresistible – a layer of chewy, gooey, steamed glutinuous rice flour skin, enveloping gula melaka-sweetened coconut filling. The very sight of the kueh filled my heart and mind with warm memories, and my tummy with a mighty strong craving! I bought three and happily went home, planning to savour them after dinner.

Being the glutton I am, I eagerly bit into one of the kueh but was left with an overwhelming disappointment. I was no kueh snob but these were just… bad! While they looked exactly like what my Granny used to make, it is an insult to even compare these to hers. The glutinuous rice skin was tough and chewy in a wrong, wrong way. The coconut filling had just one taste – it was sweet, flatly so, with no nuances. It didn’t even taste like coconut! It tasted like… sweet sawdust. The texture was wrong and the taste was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

It was then, I realised, I should start to learn cooking from Granny – can’t call myself a true-blue Hainanese girl if I can only eat chicken rice and Hainanese kueh-kueh without knowing how to make them. Gamely, my feisty Granny agreed.

When I watched my Granny prepared the coconut filling, I came to understand that satisfying my childhood craving was not an easy task. It took experience, skill and patience. To prepare the filling, my Granny started with melting a mixture of muscovado sugar and gula melaka in the wok, while I pound a two-inch piece of ginger to extract the juice and a one-inch square of the skin of dried mandarin oranges. The ginger juice and powdery dried mandarin orange skin was added to the sugar mixture (mighty yummy-smelling by now!), then the coconut (Granny had expected me to grate the coconut myself, so the filling will not too mealy. I cheated with supermarket-bought grated coconut – not okay by her, but fine by me, the greedy slob).

 

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When the coconut filling was cooling, Granny kneaded glutinuous rice flour with water and canola oil. to make the “skin”. Despite me trying to convince Granny that as an experienced bread-maker, I am good at knreading dough, she insisted on doing it herself. I watched humbly, as I could never argue with her number of years of experience.
Then came the tough part. Granny expertly wrapped the coconut filling with the glutinous rice dough, then wrapped the almost-finished sweet in a strip of banana leave, to prevent the dough from sticking and to impart the fresh, green fragrance of the leaves to the kueh. Sad to say, the two kueh I wrapped came loose while they were steaming.

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I downed two kueh when they came out of the steamer. Oh, yummy! This was exactly what Hainanese kueh should taste like! The skin was delicate and chewy at the same time, the coconut filling is not just sweet with a molassy tone but it was infused with a slight tang from the mandarin orange skin and ginger juice added a certain je ne sais quoi.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have the recipe. Well, while I know the steps, I couldn’t catch up with Granny throwing a handful of sugar here and a dizzle of oil there. What can I say – the experts work from experience and have no need to follow recipes.

Maybe I ought to ask her to show me how to make the kueh again!  🙂

 

Happiness is…

September 22, 2008

 

… running free in a lovely green field…

… looking for creepy-crawlies…

… and splashing in the pool with Auntie Crystal!

A Special Passionfruit Moment

September 7, 2008

I want to pen this down before I forget about this incident. It happened on 22 August, a Friday afternoon when I was preparing dinner and my beloved Granny was sitting in a corner of the kitchen, talking to me.

We had an early lunch that day, so I thought granny would be hungry by that time. I turned and saw a stash of passionfruits which I kept to eat with yogurt. I casually took one wrinkled and perfectly ripe purple-skinned fruit, and sliced it into half. Together with a small metal spoon from the drawer, I gently put the two halves of passionfruit into Granny’s wrinkled and heavily veined hands. 

She looked at the purple fruit and said in wonder, “What are these? I have never seen these before!” I told her it was a passionfruit and urged her to spoon the orangy sweet-tart flesh and seeds, and taste it. She did and immediately, her gentle eyes widened and sparkled. She exclaimed, “This is delicious! I have never tasted anything like this before!”

I smiled, waited and watched her spoon another spoonful into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed with a swoon. She took another spoonful and then another. The pulpy flesh and seeds disappeared quickly and she sighed with satisfaction.

“It’s sweet and tart and is absolutely delicious!” The feisty lady repeated.

I smiled with an inner warmth as I watched this lady, who had changed my diapers when I was a baby and rubbed ointment on my bumps and bruises when I fell, revelled in her moment of discovery.

I am filled with gratitude, even till today, that we were able to share this special moment of discovery, of tasting something for the first time, together.

Come Fly With Me

July 27, 2008

 

With the year-round humid weather and unforgiving temperature, we are never fans of local attractions or places of interest. We nevertheless made our way to the Singapore Flyer last June. Being on top of the world (the flyer) and taking into the views around the business district enticed us. Of course, how could we deprive the little one of such an experience – not that he would remember anything!  😉

My dear friend HL brought her little one Xavier along with us. Baby X, as I always call him, is two months younger than Rui. Aren’t his eyes and ears the cutest?  🙂

Now that we’ve done the Flyer, I guess we could give places of interest and attractions a rest, till Rui is old enough to pester us for a trip to the zoo/national parks. Well, we will sit back now and deal with it then…  🙂

Rui’s Birthday Feast

July 3, 2008

Like I mentioned, Rui’s birthday bash was really Daddy and Mummy’s party. Or in Chez Lim, every family member’s party, with the little one oblivious to the fuss.   🙂

The two grandmas picked his outfit to be worn at the party.

My helper picked the shoes.

Daddy prepared the guest list.

Mummy prepared the food list.

And I think, Mummy had the most fun preparing for the bash!

For Rui’s party, I didn’t want to do a lunch or a dinner party, with catered food like bland noodles or soggy deep fried food and syrupy punch… no, no, no… too predictable. I wanted to do a tea party, with luxurious but fun desserts and yummy sweets. I visualised a buffet table lined with colourful, bite-sized desserts, elegant finger sandwiches and little squares of exquisite chocolates, with a cupcake tier as a centre piece.

Coincidentally, one of J’s friends, a really nice lady, GH’s son shared the same birthday as Rui. She asked me to make a cake for her boy and I suggested the idea of a cupcake tier. She gallantly accepted the idea and graciously allowed me the freedom to do whatever I feel was best. 

I started work on the cupcake tiers a day before the party, painstakingly handcrafting both the cupcake tiers from cake boards, styrofoam, the cutest pokka dot felt and lovely satin ribbons. I basically made GH’s son what I had prepared for Rui – two tiers of cuppies and a top-tier of fondant-covered cake (for cake-cutting). The two sets of cakes were differentiated by colour scheme.

And the flavours of the cuppies? Simple but crowd-pleasing vanilla, some of which were infused or swirled with fruit puree to become a fruity-flavoured vanilla cake, and chocolate, of course. The top-tier cakes were a super moist carrot cake, delicately spiced with ginger and iced with orange cream cheese icing – a recipe modified from Martha Stewart.

 

Besides the cakes, our friends at the party were also treated to:

– jewel-like pink and cream macarons (vanilla with salted caramel – I could taste these in my dreams… mmm…), fresh fruit tarts, durian puffs and brownie bites (made from a batter which includes cream cheese), courtesy of my dad’s magic kitchen

– finger sandwich (some savoury to counter the sweet)

– deep-fried (fresh and crispy!) vegetarian snacks for veggie friends (you know who you are… 🙂  )

– Godiva chocolates (If I don’t spoil my friends, who will… wink, wink…)

Though some of our older relatives missed the usual savoury buffet fare, I was glad most of our guests enjoyed the food and one commented that he felt like he had gone to sugar heaven! Haha…

And the birthday boy? He got a bite from one cuppy. The rest was too sweet for him, so one bite was all he got this year.

Well, there is always next year!  🙂

Rui’s New Friend!

May 3, 2008

J came to visit today with her four boys – Hang, Xiang, Xuan and her big “boy” TH.   🙂

Xuan was born about one month before Rui. Though he’s smaller in size than Rui, Xuan is an active and alert baby, with large, round and inquisitive eyes. He seems more aware of his surroundings and is more agile than my big baby. J said that’s Xuan’s survival instinct – he needs to be more alert and aware, so as not to be bullied by his two older brothers! Haha…

Don’t the babies look adorable together!?

How time flies! Both babies will be celebrating their first year birthdays soon.

Two naughty babies tearing the house down!

Tea and Sympathty

April 13, 2008

There are some friends in life whom I see once a year, or maybe even once in two years. However, that does not make us any less familiar with each other.

Maybe it is because we share the common history of working in the media (Oh, the pain we suffered as pawns of a monopoly! Oh, and the guilty pleasure of gossiping about ex-colleagues! Ha!). Or maybe it is because we are at the same point of our lives now – fussing over the husbands, grumbling about the in-laws and complaining about some idiot neighbours. Or maybe – I would like to think that this is the case – we are just fated to be great friends!  

Whatever it is, I had such a great time when QH and the ever so busy, and may I say, increasingly elusive S, came to visit last evening. QH had a request to make Black Forest cake and of course, who could say no to a sweet request.

QH already knows how to make simple butter cake but would like to learn how to make cream and mousse based cake. Black Forest cake is her choice and my choice of the recipe came from Pierre Herme.

Our version of the cake is a wonderfully rich cake with unbelieveably rich chocolate sponges (trust the French to put 18 egg yolks and 150g of butter into the sponge to make just one cake! But what the heck, we are sharing the cakes and the taste is AMAZING!) and luscious whipped cream. Too bad, as usual, I factored too little time to complete the cake, so when we cut it, it wasn’t chilled enough and the chocolate cream came oozing out. And… hence the lack of a good pic.

It was like the good old times again when we were single, as we chatted over steaming cups of tea (Mariage Freres’ – my latest obsession! More on that later) and enjoying the Black Forest cake. Never mind, the last time we met was months and even years ago, nothing beats old friends. We offered each other a sympathetic ear (career development, or the lack of it in my case, in-laws and dumb neighbours) and cheered each other on (my slow-to-pick-up cake business). It was fantastic catching up!

I hope to see both the girls soon again. In the meanwhile, let’s keep in touch regularly through emails and SMSes.

And QH, I hope your hubby is impressed with your maiden effort of a cream-based cake!  🙂  You are welcomed to come anytime for another cuppa and cake!

 

To Brisbane, With Love!

April 13, 2008

Time flies, no matter which part of the globe we are in. Cousin YX was all apprehensive about her internship to Brisbane in January. With a blink of the eye, it is already mid April now and she is having one hell of a time there!   :

I can tell from my conversation with her that the experience has given her new perspectives on certain issues, and best of all, cooking is no longer a mystery to her (I am going to get it from her for writing this! Haha!).

I had wanted to travel to visit her but work and my little one have prevented me from doing so. Frankly, I cannot bring myself to be away from the little monster… Well, it’s okay. YX will be back sometime in May, so we will have more than enough time to catch up. Meanwhile, here’s some pics of Rui, for the aunty who dotes on him so much!

Take great care of yourself, YX!

Steamed squash is the worst thing in the world!

The porridge Granny feeds me now is more agreeable!

I play on my own in the study while daddy is fussing over some numbers on the computer.

I always try to stay awake to wait for Daddy and Mummy but sometimes the ZZZ monster catches me before I can runaway…

Project Wedding Cake – Completed!

March 31, 2008
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My hands trembled ever so slightly while I stacked the fondant covered cake layers on top of one another. I pleaded silently to the cake – Today is Cousin Y’s big day! Please don’t collapse and spoil the wonderful evening for her!

After months of plotting and planning, the first wedding cake I’ve ever attempted finally materialised! Not in my dreams, as it had been for the longest time, but in reality, occupying a spot on the raised platform at the al fresco area at One Rochester, and ready to share the spotlight with the fabulously svelte, gorgeous and glamourous bride and the handsome groom.

Of course, the cake could never upstage the lovely couple, but I beamed as it made its grand entrance onto the raised platform, and I was so proud of it as guests wandered around the cake to take pics and complimented it. 

This project is not the result of my effort alone but it materialised only with the help and enthusiasm of my wonderful friends. The lovely flower arrangement on the top layer, its complementing adornment of pearls and crystals (gave the cake a dose of sophistication to complement the graceful couple!) came from the creativity of SM and YR. And of course, there to provide (very strict) guidance was my dad who had impatiently rolled up his sleeves to help when he saw me fumbling with the fondant.  

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What a wonderful and satifying experience it was – to see the couple cutting the cake to the applause of the guests. It was especially meaningful – I made the cake and I did it for someone very dear to my heart!  🙂

Here’s wishing the lovely couple all the happiness in the world for many, many, many year to come! Y and L, all the very best to you both!