Monday, 30 August 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut

Ever wonder how the nuts we all love to munch on look like before harvest, yes??? Check this post out.. such a fabulous work of art from nature! :)


Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Friday, 27 August 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - August 2010: Ice Cream Petit Fours / Baked Alaska with Brown Butter Pound Cake

It's that time of the month again... DB challenge is to be revealed! I can't believe how time just swished by so quick. Before you know it, it's December again (well, let's not exaggerate). This month's challenge gave us a choice either to make petit fours, Baked Alaska or both. I decided to go for the Baked Alaska just so I can play with some flames! Before I continue my blog, I shall post the mandatory blog checking lines for this challenge.


Blog-checking lines: The August 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Elisa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elisa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa's challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop".


There's basically three main components to a Baked Alaska; ice cream atop a cake then altogether fully encased with snowy meringue. The meringue is then torched or baked until brown in color; it is sometimes served flambéed. For this challenge, the cake part of our Baked Alaska has to be the beurre noisette (brown butter) pound cake. I have no complaints in using this pound cake recipe; it was a really delectable butter cake with a subtle nutty taste from the brown butter. The taste of the cake actually reminded me of the infamous blue tinned Royal Dansk Danish butter cookies that I used to gorge indulge when I was young; it certainly brought back childhood memories! 

  
I chose hazelnut praline cream cheese as the flavour of my ice cream for simple reasons. Firstly, hazelnut praline to compliment the nutty pound cake. Then secondly, cream cheese because I have bountiful supply of it! I don't know if you have noticed, but most of my blog post for this month had some cream cheese factor. It wasn't planned or anything; I just saw a good 2-for-1 bargain on the grocery. I know two packs of cream cheese is not much, but mind you most of the time I just bake for two, so two packs of cream cheese does go a long way in my household! Lastly, the sound of hazelnut praline cream cheese does make me salivate!


I've prepared the meringue, all my components were set; the time had come to play with my torch (bought specially for this challenge)! I really really had a blast, and it definitely brought out the kid in me. All these flames gave me a fiery urge to go all daring with the glow of heat. The rum was out, and I had a tea cup filled with dazzling blaze of flambéed rum ready to be poured onto the toasted snow. I might have gone overboard though as the scarf I used for the backdrop of my picture caught some flame, so now it has an incy wincy hole. I must admit it was my favourite scarf, so I was really disappointed. I had no choice, but to look at the brighter side of things - my scarf has more meaning to it now than it had! Good self comfort?


Anyway, this was a really fun and exciting challenge. To be honest, when I first saw the challenge, I wasn't all enthused. I was like, "ice cream and cake... didn't we just do that last month?" Nevertheless, I decided to join in the fun, which I'm glad I did. The waves of fire made this challenge interesting! Looking forward to what next month's DB host has up his/her sleeves; hope it's something new!

I sprinkled some hazelnut praline powder on the crater of my Baked Alaska.


Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Monday, 23 August 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes


A week ago, my H bought a 6-cup muffin pan for his Yorkshire pudding project. To our dismay, it wouldn't fit into our tiny oven! Our oven is just the size of an oven toaster. We were really disappointed, but my H decided to make a surgical operation on the pan. He sawed off two of the cups, and it was successful! It's not the most polished muffin pan, but it's usable. Here's a snapshot of it.


So to christen our newly operated pan, I decided to do a cupcake version of the classic American red velvet cake. It's a really really good comfort food, and the sweet cream cheese frosting is indeed the icing on the cake. No wonder it's a popular southern cake.


The actual cake of the red velvet cake is a mild chocolate butter cake. It is said that it got it's name from the distinct red hue attributed from the chemical reaction between the acids (distilled vinegar and buttermilk) and the cocoa found in the cake.  The acids heightens the fierceness of the red anthocyanin found in the cocoa, but nowadays it's the addition of red food coloring that gives its vibrance. Some people even use beetroot to add color. 


All in all, my H's engineering work on the muffin pan was well worth it. And the red velvet cupcakes were a nice celebratory treat to baptize the new addition to our growing pan family. 

Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Kiwi Fruit Tart

Friends were coming over, needed a quick-fix dessert! I didn't want to make simple brownies or cookies; I wanted something easy to make, yet looked like I spent huge effort making. As a result - fruit tart... All I needed was tart shell (I used pate brisee), pastry cream and fruits. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of fruit options to choose from in the store by our house, so I ended up using kiwi (not that it's a bad thing).


So kiwi fruit tart it was. It looked and tasted fantastic. My H and friends seemed to like it anyway, least that's what I think! :p


Components used for this dessert treat:
 Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cheesecake with Oreo Base

Cheesecake is my all time favourite dessert. There are desserts that come and go on my favourite list, but cheesecake has always been a main stay. There are tons of versions of cheesecake; be it differ from texture (dense or light), type of cheese used (cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, quark, etc.), base (crushed biscuits, sponge or pastry), topping (fresh fruits, compotes, nuts, chocolate, etc.) or the flavour of the cheesecake itself (chocolate cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, etc.).


Many countries like Germany, Italy, France, Japan and USA also have their own version of cheesecake. So there's really no fixed criteria of what a cheesecake should be; it's all up to what you fancy. I personally love a really plain cheesecake. I like to be able to savour the essence of sweet cream cheese without the distraction of any sort of topping.  I also prefer my cheesecake to be dense, creamy and a bit tangy. As for the base, a nice crisp biscuit base that can either be plain as it is or mixed with crushed nuts or nougatine. Pretty much my ideal cheesecake is a nice New York style cheesecake.


This version of cheesecake that I made is quite close to a New York style; the difference is the absence of the tart sour cream. It was still pretty good though, and the use of Oreo crust instead of the normal graham cracker crust gives it a nice edge. H and I had to contain ourselves from finishing the whole thing. As good as a cheesecake could be, mounds of calories is an undeniable fact. So we were good and restrained; we finished the cake in 2 days instead!

Bisou bisou,
Charlotte 

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Tiramisu

It has to be said that tiramisu is one of the most well-known and well-loved Italian desserts. It literally translates to pick me up. There are loads of claims to it's origin within Italy; but regardless of where it came from, it is certainly a scrumptious piece of invention!


There's basically five main components in a tiramisu -- lady fingers soaked in espresso and rum; then alternately layered with mascarpone-zabaglione cream; then finish off by dusting cocoa powder on top of the mascarpone-zabaglione cream.

Nowadays, there are many versions of tiramisu, from simplified versions to fancy versions. A lot of people also prefer to use coffee liqueurs like Tia Maria and Kahlua to replace the use of rum and espresso. It's now merely a matter of preference. Important thing is, it has to have a good harmony between the coffee infused biscuits and velvety mascarpone cream.


As for my version, I layered and served my tiramisu in an old-fashion glass. I also didn't have much time to make my own mascarpone, and buying one here is close to impossible. So I substituted my mascarpone with cream cheese. It still tasted divine, our guests loved it anyway.

Yeah, I made this treat because we had friends that came over.  We had an 'English comedy night' as my H would call. It's all good. Even if tiramisu is not exactly English, it went down quite well.

Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Monday, 2 August 2010

Apricot Almond Galette

I was at the local grocery to buy some veg, then at the corner of my eye I saw some orange colored stone fruits. I figured it was apricots, so I got my kor-eng dictionary feature out my phone for translation of the label, and indeed it was! I've only seen / taste apricots in jam or dried form, but never the fresh fruit. So I was really ecstatic to do some sort of dessert with it.


Think, think, think... a pie! But a part of me didn't want to make a traditional looking pie, so I thought a galette (a French free form pie), an apricot almond galette. Sounds good? I thought it was, until I tasted it! It was absolutely horrible; the only thing delicious with the pie was the dollop of whipped cream on the side and the pie crust. The fresh fruit tasted fine, but after baking, it was so sour! I'm not sure if that's a trait of an apricot, but I sure now have a bad impression on baked apricots. Has anyone out there tasted a good apricot pie before? Enlighten me please. I still got a couple of apricots left; they'll just probably end up into jam.


Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

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