Sunday, 21 August 2011

Chocolate Pavlova

A quick post about my last baking in England before I leave for China. I made this pavlova for my in-law's around three years ago and they absolutely loved it! So since I'm back for a visit, they've asked me a couple of times to make it again. Honestly, I have absolutely no objections making this pavlova recipe; it's a no-fail crowd pleaser. It has an absolutely light, crunchy, at the same time, almost marshmallow-like soft meringue base that's topped with luscious whipped cream and strawberries. This marvellous chocolate pavlova is Nigella Lawson's recipe. The original recipe actually uses raspberries, but my in-laws prefer strawberries. Again, no-fail, meaning my in-laws ecstatically devoured this scrumptious pavlova. 
 Pavlova is a classic dessert made in honor of a Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. This dessert is made with a meringue base (which the creator thought resembled the ballerina's tutu) that is then topped with whipped cream and any fruits you desire. There is still an ongoing argument as to whether this lovely dessert was made in Australia or New Zealand. Regardless of where this dessert was born, it definitely is a classic because of the simplicity yet overwhelming goodness.
Anyway, I shall end this post as I have to finish packing for China. Another country for new adventures!

P.S. Since I'll be moving to China, I would have limited access to certain websites, Blogger being one of them. So if I am a bit slow or delayed with my blog posts, you know why, but do stick around because I will find ways to keep on blogging.

Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Friday, 19 August 2011

Banoffee Pie

It has been a busy day for me so far, doing last minute errands since we're leaving England this Sunday. Thank goodness I still managed to squeeze in some time to bake for my H's friend, K, despite running around like a headless chicken. I had a tub of leftover toffee that I made for my mum-in-law's birthday cake, so to make use of it, I decided to make banoffee pie.
 Banoffee is a portmanteau word (combination of two words) from banana and toffee. Banoffee pie is an English dessert created around 1972. This lovable dessert is typically made out of banana, toffee and cream with a biscuit or pastry base. Some versions of this pudding may contain the addition of chocolate or coffee. 
A photo of how I assembled my version of banoffee pie

My version of banoffee pie consists of a plain biscuit and crushed hazelnut base that was then covered with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache then topped off with bananas then with toffee then lastly with whipped cream - yummy! I wish I made extra for self-indulgence.

Components used for this dessert treat:
Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Fondant Cake - Vanilla Cake with Toffee Buttercream and Roasted Hazelnuts

It was my mum-in-law's 60th birthday recently, and obviously, I wanted to make her a special birthday cake. It didn't take me a long time to think of a fitting cake design; she absolutely loves reading so my design naturally led towards a book themed cake.
I did have a little trouble while I was making this cake. The fondant book cover part of the cake kept on sagging down. Good thing my idea of putting a piece of paper while the fondant hardened kept the book covers sturdy. The bookworm on an apple came as an afterthought. What happened was, I had a little cake batter left in my bowl, so I decided to bake them into cupcakes. I really didn't plan to use the cupcakes, but for some odd reason a light bulb just lit with the idea of turning them into an apple; the nerdy worm was just crying to be created once I had my apple covered in luscious red.

The whole family, especially my mum-in-law really loved the whole cake design. I was so pleased and proud of it as well, if I may say so myself. I actually have two favorite parts from the cake - the page details on the books and the apple with the nerdy worm. As for the actual cake, I made three tiers of vanilla cake that was sandwiched with toffee buttercream and roasted hazelnuts. I don't really impose myself onto people to give me feedbacks on what I bake, so just by the look of things, I would say I think most of the family liked the cake.

Components used for this dessert treat:
Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Fondant Cake - Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes and Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream Filling

The cake and cupcakes all set-up for the party (name smeared)
Our friend L's mom had her 60th birthday bash yesterday. Timely enough, H and I are here in England for it. Knowing that we will be here for the partly, L asked me if I could make his mom's 60th birthday cake, and I happily obliged. L also told me he would cover the cost for the cake, thus making this cake my first ever cake sale! I know I didn't exactly gain any profit from this cake, but the bottom line is I got a free baking session, so I'm happy.
A dozen of chocolate cupcakes and a dozen of lemon cupcakes - all filled with raspberry buttercream and decorated with fondant roses and royal icing '60' scribbles
Working on this cake wasn't exactly smooth sailing. There were a few factors that made this cake a challenge for me. First, I was baking and creating this cake in a new environment, meaning kitchen's not mine. Second, I didn't have my baking equipments and utensils with me, so I had to improvise a lot. Third, I didn't really know where to get the best deal for ingredients and where to buy the exact ingredients and baking utensils I wanted, so I had to settle and cobble together what is available in the stores I know. Last, the thought of baking the cake for someone's milestone birthday, and having people that are not family or friends eat my cake was definitely nerve wrecking. Despite all these, everything came together in the end. Most important of all, L's mom was happy with her cake. Many guests on the party also enjoyed the cake, and were giving me positive reviews.  
The cake and cupcakes ready for delivery
For L's mom's 60th birthday cake, I decided to make a six-inch square chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling, a dozen of chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling and a dozen of lemon cake with raspberry buttercream filling. At first I was thinking of just making all the cakes chocolate, but I figured some people would not really be partial to chocolate cake so I decided to make a lemon cake variety to hopefully accommodate everyone's palate. As for the design, I wanted something the celebrant would adore. I browsed through some of her photos on facebook, and I noticed she likes wearing purple and is not afraid of floral prints on her dresses. After that little research, I finally came up with a design concept that L's mom really appreciated.
Not only did I enjoy making the cake, I'm absolutely delighted that I was part of someone's milestone birthday. It was really a pleasure and an honor.

Components used for this dessert treat:
Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Lemon Cake with Blackberries and Cream Surprise

My H's friend, M, invited us for dinner last night. She cooked chorizo pasta, which was absolutely delicious, and I volunteered to bring afters (Bristish slang for dessert). I made lemon cake, but it was not just a cake; it had blackberries and cream in the center. I got this idea from a picture on a magazine I was reading the other day. I got so amused by the cake because of the illusion of a simple cake, but it had more to it once you slice a piece.
 Secrets behind the deceptive plain-Jane lemon cake 
We all enjoyed the cake. It was a perfect light finish to a gorgeous meal. The trio combination of lemon, blackberries and cream worked harmoniously well together.

Components used for this dessert treat:
  • Freshly Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Blackberries
Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Travel Food Blog: Dubai

H and I are now in England to visit his family, but before coming here, we had an almost twenty-four hour stopover at Dubai. We took advantage of the opportunity, and looked around the city and joined a desert safari tour as well.

Two of my friends from university, E and M, are both living in Dubai, and they showed us around Dubai from morning until the afternoon; it was really lovely and generous of them. I don't think we would have enjoyed exploring the city as much if it weren't for them. They took us to see Burj Al Arab, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, the gold souk, a mosque, and even took us for a boat ride along Dubai creek. It was so much fun!

We had our lunch at a Lebanese restaurant at the food court in Dubai Mall. I was completely salivating because I've been looking forward to taste authentic Middle Eastern food for the longest time!
Here are some of the salads that the restaurant offered. It looked so green and enticing.
I ordered a tub of moutabbal, which is made out of pureed eggplants. It tastes very similar to baba ganoush. The addition of pomegranate seeds to the mashed eggplants definitely gave this dip an extra yummy goodness!
For my main meal, I had lamb kofta served with parsley salad, parsley pizza and chips. Although, I'm not sure how authentic this combination of a meal is to Middle Eastern cuisine as it had chips, but it sure was tasty.
My H had lamb shawarma.

E, M, H and I really enjoyed the Lebanese feast with buckets full of interesting and fun conversation. Unfortunately, all had to end as H and I had to go to the hotel where we will meet our desert safari tour group.
While we were waiting for our tour guide, I indulged with an ashtalieh overmoze. It's a milk-based dessert with almost similar texture to a panna cotta. I'm not sure how this would traditionally taste like or how it would traditionally be served with, but this version I had was absolutely divine! The pot of milk had a nice hint of orange blossom; the honey, bananas and ground nuts gave a nice texture and flavor to this treat. 
The desert safari tour was extraordinary! H and I had so much fun, and really enjoyed the whole experience. We had an hour ride of dune bashing; after which, we were taken to a campsite in the middle of the desert where we were able to enjoy different Middle Eastern culture like camel riding, henna tattoos and shisha. We were also greeted by yummy vegetable fritters, chicken shawarma, tea and coffee.
This is a picture of the campsite. We had our buffet dinner here while being entertained by belly dancers and tanoura dancers.
The buffet dinner in the middle of the desert was something I would do again. The buffet spread included salads and hummus for starters.
Rice, three kinds of curries and an array of grilled meat were also part of our dinner feast.
We definitely enjoyed our day trip in Dubai. It was just a day, but we were overwhelmed with so much cultural experience. Dubai is definitely a place I would want to visit again!

Bisou bisou,
Charlotte

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