Wednesday, 26 December 2012


It's Christmas. I was invited to a potluck Christmas lunch and it took me no time to come up with the idea of baking a yule log, or Bûche de Noël, as the French would call it. I've never made a yule log before seeing as I only started baking in February this year so this was my very first opportunity to bake for Christmas!

Friday, 21 December 2012


 Puff pastry. Yet another thing I've wanted to make for ages. I've made croissants before and I know both require the same technique of laminating a dough. I've been curious as to how one could possibly do 6 single folds without tearing the layers. This is because my experience with making croissants has taught me that three turns is about the most the dough can take without starting to get too elastic and stiff to role out (even with appropriate resting).

Anyway I went ahead and guess what it was so much easier to roll out than the croissant dough! And I did all six turns in one day without any tearing (OK, maybe just two tiny tears at one stage). Could it be due to the absence of yeast as compared to the croissant dough? Or maybe the hydration ratio? Or the fat to flour ratio? Who knows. It turned out great and I was happy.

I divided the dough into three portions and used one for my vol-au-vents. The scene of my home-made puff pastry puffing up like a balloon was a joy to watch.

I filled the baked shells with a goats cheese/Camembert mousse and topped it with a piece of oak-smoked salmon and a sprig of dill for decoration.

I chose to make them square instead of the traditional round shape simply because I prefer the neater look of square vol-au-vents. It was a bit of a pain to cut the squares out with a pizza cutter though as I didn't have any square cutters.

And just so you know, there was no soggy bottom. :)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chocolate Entremet

I first came across this cake on Youtube (one of the few sources that I gain my baking inspirations from). It's quintessentially French and is composed of many different layers of mousse, cream (Cremeux, or Crème Fondante), Croustillant/Feuilleté and sponge. The idea is to produce contrarsting textures from the creaminess of the mousse to the crispiness of the feuilleté, silkiness of the cremeux and finishing off with a  tender sponge base. All these enclosed in a rich and velvety chocolate ganache and coated with a shiny glaze.

The making of an entremet requires a methodical approach. All the layers have to be made individually prior to assembly and frozen before masking with the ganache and the final glazing with the glaçage.

The end result is this:

I have to confess that I did spend HOURS making this. The exact amount of time involved was in the range of 10 hours. Yes, 10 whole hours. Here's the rant: I only had three mixing bowls, work surface the size of an exam desk, fridge space big enough for a packet of crisps and a freezer compartment with a shape that doesn't fit my baking tray. On the other hand, I had to make the seven components of the cake separately and froze them as I went along. That meant I had to wash my mixing bowls seven times and dry them in between washes. Also the... OK I won't bore you further with my endless rant. Essentially it would have only taken me half the time had I had enough mixing bowls to make all the layers in one go and do the washing up at the very end instead of an interrupted work pattern. Extra fridge and freezer space would've helped too. The joys of being student baker who shares one tiny fridge and freeer with three other fellow students.

Surprisingly it turned out pretty close to what I had in mind:

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Good old no-bake lemon cheesecake

I know I know, two entries in a row, i.e; two bakes in one weekend. A bit too much don't you think? Well it couldn't be helped since I had wanted to make the chocolate tartlets for ages and it just happened that my flatmate's birthday is on the coming Monday and he requested for a no-bake lemon cheesecake. I have a bad habit of going for the more technically challenging bakes and ignoring the simpler stuff. It was almost like a perfect excuse for me go back to the basics.

The recipe couldn't have been simpler. As always I wanted to make mine look slightly different from the ones I normally see so I decided to go with an oblong shaped lemon cheesecake instead of a round one. That was partly because I've previously bought a terrine mould that had so far been sitting there collecting dust. In simple terms, I just wanted to make myself feel less guilty for buying something that I don't even use. :)

Here's the cheesecake:

Chocolate and Raspberry Tartlets

There is something about working with pastry that always makes me feel relaxed and calm. Could it be the gentle process of rubbing butter into the flour until it resembles fine sand? Or perhaps it's the noble thought of myself making my own pastry instead of taking the shortcut by going shop-bought? Whatever it is I decided a week ago that I was going make some tartlets. I have been telling everyone in the hospital about my plan for the weekend and I simply couldn't decide between chocolate and raspberry tartlets or go with the strawberry ones.

I ended up choosing the former simply because chocolate and winter, sorry, I mean the Great British Autumn, always seem to be the perfect combination. Although strawberries are strictly speaking not in season it amazes me how the supermarkets never fail to put them up on the shelves even in the coldest months of the year.

Enough background, here are the tartlets I made last weekend:

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Retrospective entry:

Scotland - Inverness  (July 2012, Summer)

Having rested for a few days after our trip to London, my mum and I were off traveling again. This time, it's the highlands. First stop, Inverness.

The weather in Inverness was gloomy and drizzling when we arrived at the airport. Not the best start one might think. That said there's something about the Scottish accent that always cheers me up and the local people were just so friendly!

We took the bus as advised by our B&B owner and it didn't take long for us to find our B&B. It was that evening when we had the best meal throughout our journey in Scotland, in an Irish pub. I am aware of the inappropriateness of dining in an Irish pub while in Scotland but I guess the food speaks louder than anything and even after trying a few other restaurants we ended up going back to the same pub on the last day.

                                                        Roast Pork Loin

Flowers in a Basket

The last weekend was manic. First of all my placement in Somerset has come to an end and as with any placement, it meant I had deadlines to meet. The presentation went well in my opinion, and I don’t think I could’ve done anything differently. I was glad that I went with a Sexual Health topic since no one could ever get bored of it. Presentation sorted, I still had to finish off my portfolio which was due on the coming Monday. If that wasn’t enough I was also hosting a tea party for my belated birthday since I wasn’t in Bristol to celebrate with my mates two weeks back.

I came across the whipped cream cake during my usual aimless procrastination search for baking inspirations while revising for Obs and Gynae. I’m sure you’d agree me that the cake itself sounds so absolutely delicious. Strangely I had never heard of it prior to that and its recipe wasn’t particularly popular on the internet either. Being adventurous as always I decided to give it go and this is what I ended up with:

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Retrospective entry:

London: July 2012, Summer

It’s finally summer, the only time when students are truly allowed to relax and not have exams to worry about. I was extremely pleased to have my mum come ever to me and we went on to travel for a bit in the UK. Our first stop was London. It was a trip to re-ignite the nostalgic memories for my mum as she used to be a Londoner. Other than a few trips down memory lane I insisted to bring my mum to Cote Brasserie, where I have had impressive baguettes before, although that was at a different branch. Lunch turned out fairly good but the baguette wasn’t as good as the ones I remember, with bits of tough crusts. That said, at the price of about 15 quid for a two course meal it was well worth it in our opinion.

Calamari Rings

Some sort of paté but I can't remember it anymore

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Croissants, yet again

I believe there are things that one can never quite get fed up with. One of which is a good croissant. Here I am, stranded in a small town that I'm currently placed in. Feeling sorry for myself I decided to bake something, although I practically had nothing to work with, not even a baking tray! That meant I needed to forget about anything to do with cakes and patisseries. It wasn't long before I thought of making a laminated dough, and croissants sprang to mind. Partly due to the fact that my mum has been churning batches after batches of croissants lately back home. Secondly bread/viennoiserie making in general don't require fancy equipments. I just had to get my hands on a baking tray, a rolling pin, parchment paper and cling film. Plus the ingredients are simple enough: flour, yeast, butter, sugar, salt and milk. And it just happened that my flatmate's got a weighing scale too.

The rolling and folding process was extremely therapeutic, it's been more than 2 months since I last made croissants after all. Unfortunately I did have to experiment a few times with the tiniest oven I've ever seen before I got it about right.

Things I've done differently this time:

1. I made these croissants in two days instead of 3. In fact I could have done it in one full day. I prepared the dough, chilled for 4 hours, did the first and second turn, chilled it for an hour and did the third turn. On the second day I simply rolled it out, shaped the croissants and proofed them.
2. I simply left the croissants to proof on the kitchen surface loosely covered with a carrier bag and they proved very well after 2 hours. There was no need to proof it at warmer temperature and the dry air didn't seem to affect it at all.
3. Tried proofing my croissants slowly overnight. Don't even try! It doesn't work, I ended up with saggy over-proofed croissants. 

While I was asking the supermarket assistant for instant yeast he unexpectedly brought with him a staff who works in the bakery and offered me fresh yeast! I have no idea for whatever reason it was so unexpected that I actually said no to that. Silly me. I could have just asked for some and do the conversion of instant yeast to fresh yeast later. But I'm never good at thinking on my feet so I turned down the offer and told him I wasn't familiar with fresh yeast so I'd rather go for the dried version.  Did I mention he offered the fresh yeast to me for free as well?

Anyway I've got over that. At least now that I know where to get hold of fresh yeast I can always go back to ask for some. Not sure what difference it'd make with the use of fresh yeast though?


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Red Velvet #2

So the medics society has organised a bake off to amass enough cakes to feed the first years. In return the medic bakers are in for a chance to win a top prize of 50 pounds. Frankly I have always wanted to take part in a baking competition of some sort and I have been shamefully spending hours thinking of how I was going to decorate my cake. I knew I wanted to bake a red velvet cake since that's the best cake I've ever made and is a family favourite. The issue was to decorate it in a way that's pleasing to the eye as well as to the taste buds.

In the end I decided to pipe some rose swirls using the cream cheese frosting on the sides and decorate the top with some macarons.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

An update

It's been a while since I posted anything after my red velvet cake. The last week has been absolutely manic. A journey back to the UK took me almost 24 hours. I had a cold throughout that journey. My term started the day after I arrived with lectures from 8 to 5. On top of that I just found out that my results this year will contribute the most to my degree's final classification. Did I mention the pressure? If that's not enough I was greeted by a broken oven door on the first day back in my flat.

But I do believe there's a silver lining to every cloud. At least I'm now back on my proper degree and I'm currently learning about some very interesting subjects (hint: women and babies). On top of that my landlord has allowed me to use her oven (which is a million times better than the other standard student flat oven) while she tries to either fix the oven or get a new one. The temptation now is for me to bake some of the croissants that I've made and frozen much earlier in June before I left the country. Should be interesting since my landlord's got a fan oven which should theoretically allow my croissants to bake more evenly. I will, however be on placement somewhere 2 hours away from where I currently live and so it'll be a while before I do any serious baking.

While I was at home during summer I managed to bake a chocolate and caramel cake, which I (at that time) thought was too ugly to be taken picture of, which in hindsight I regret. I also made more croissants few days before I left home and they were very well received, which is always a good ego boost. :D

Anyway here are the pictures:

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Red Velvet Cake

It's been ages since I last updated. Come to think of it my last update was more than a month ago! I have been traveling quite extensively in the UK with my mum followed by visits to my friend and grandma in my home country before I came home. Being on term break and at home has allowed me to venture into my very long to-bake list and get one ticked. I suppose anyone who has seen a red velvet cake would never forget its strikingly red appearance. I'm no exception.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Gateau Opéra

I can't quite remember when was the first time I heard of this French classic. What I do remember is the first time I saw it on a TV show (MKR Australia) where it was so beautifully presented and just blew me away. And that's also when I finally decided to re-create those beautiful slices of gateau that I saw on TV. But this is no ordinary gateau, it has quite a few elements to it which have to be prepared separately and assembled towards the end.

Gateau opera, in a nutshell, is a chocolate and coffee cake. It consists of three main components: A joconde sponge, or almond sponge, layers of coffee buttercream and a rich and velvety chocolate ganache. I do find myself to be quite particular about how the things I bake look on the plate these days and what I always do is a quick google image search to find some inspiration. Sadly 90% of what I saw (or more) simply did not fascinate me. And having spent some time researching the recipes, I decided to change the recipe slightly in an attempt to produce a better looking cake. Normally, the recipe would require a coffee syrup to be brushed onto the sponge layers but I find that doing this would produce a sort of dirty looking sponge due to the colour from the coffee powder. I substituted the coffee powder with rum instead, which in my opinion never goes wrong with chocolate anyway, and best of all it's colourless so I could preserve the natural golden colour of the sponge. The second thing that I changed was the flavour of the chocolate ganache, if you've read my previous entries you'd have known that I am now a big fan of earl grey and chocolate, and so I decided to add some depth of flavour to my ganache by infusing the cream with some earl grey. Lastly, most recipes call for the use of chocolate ganache (same thing used in the layering of the cake) for the top. Being particular about presentation as always, I decided to go with a more glossy chocolate glacage instead. That way I would get a better finish and produce a shiny surface at the top, like this:

This was also my first time piping words and drawing treble clefts on a cake. Some turned out better than the other.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Croissant Recipe

Be warned: This is a very long recipe. Recipe by Hamelman.

Makes 24 croissants

A)     Detrempe:

12 g dried/instant yeast
140ml cold whole milk
140ml cold water
42g melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
504g plain/ all purpose flour
12g salt
80g caster sugar

B)      Butter block  - 280g

C)      Egg wash – One large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk

Sunday, 17 June 2012


I don't know if it's pure chance or a hidden character of mine to pick on the difficult options when I start doing something for the very first time. I picked macarons when I first started baking seriously back in February and now I have chosen croissants as my first challenge for 'bread' making, or viennoiseries , specifically. In this occasion, though, a big driving factor was the fact that a loved one of mine loves to eat croissants.

The whole process of making laminated dough like croissant dough appeared daunting to me when I first looked into the recipe. I had never made bread before in my life and I had absolutely no idea how proofing works or how to roll a bread dough. My only experience of rolling a pastry was with the shortcrust pastry that I made for the lemon tartlettes.

The results: Failed two times and got third time lucky. :)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Macarons, take three.

Did I say I'm just a teeny bit obsessed with making macarons? Macarons and I have come a long way. I have baked these sandwiched french almond cookies for more times than anything else. Having said that majority of my previous attempts employed the french meringue method, which I now find inferior to the italian meringue method. I tried out the italian meringue method once before (see my other entry) and have since become a convert. A friend of mine invited me over for dinner tonight and there I thought 'Here comes the opportunity to put my macaron baking obsession to good use'. I personally think that macarons make a great gift for any occasion and look fairly impressive as well. I also wanted to seize this opportunity to re-create the flavours of the macarons that I had at Pierre Herme's london outlet that totally blew me away; the milk chocolate and earl grey ganache and rose-jasmine white chocolate ganache. I didn't have any rose essence lying around so I turned it into a pure jasmine white chocolate ganache instead.

As always, I could not resist snapping pictures of my baked products:

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lemon Tartlettes

It's been about a week since I last baked. I made a trip to London to visit a friend earlier this week and gained lots of baking inspiration. My friends and I made trips to Laduree and Pierre Herme's london outlets and even visited Le Cordon Bleu's London campus. The quiche lorraine that I had at their cafe was excellent! I was also fortunate enough to have tried Pierre Herme's Rose and Jasmine macaron and I liked the earl grey infused chocolate macaron too! It's just a matter of time before I try to re-create those flavours myself. I also bought a book by Michel Roux on pastry from Harrods at a tenner. There's simply so much I want to bake and fortunately I've got the next few weeks all to myself so the oven will be my best mate for a while.

I've wanted to make lemon tartlettes even before I finished my exam in May. I like the fragrance of lemons but what I like even more was to use a blowtorch to make burn marks on meringues. :) Being a beginner in baking I had practically none of the equipments required, no tart tins, no blowtorch. I suppose baking can be a very expensive hobby especially at this early stage, but I see this as an investment provided I take good care of all my baking utensils.

The result:

Monday, 28 May 2012

Macarons, Italian Meringue Method

I must say that having made macarons quite a few times before I am now more keen to bake something new, something I've never made before. However the thought of having more than 100g of egg whites sitting in my fridge from the making of creme patissiere and creme caramel just doesn't sit well with me. The fact that they're 'aged', i.e; left in the fridge for a few days, worries me even more as it's a fine line between aged egg whites and their rotten cousin. And so I decided to make some macarons, since aged egg whites are perfect for the recipe. In an attempt to learn something new, I (finally) decided to have a crack at the Italian meringue method, which most professional pastry chefs use and widely acclaimed to be superior to the French meringue method, which I had been using all this while. The reason I avoided the Italian meringue was because it requires a syrup to be made and brought to 118C and pouring it into the half whipped meringue to produce a cooked meringue prior to incorporation into the dry ingredients. This method is ideal for someone who owns a stand mixer as it means you could multi-task more easily, since the meringue has to be whipped to soft peaks while the syrup is cooking (for which you have the measure the temperature). Anyway with God's grace I somehow pulled it off. And I must say I'm now an Italian meringue convert. :)

Crème caramel / Crème renversée

I like custards, especially when they're baked well. The silky smooth, melts in your mouth texture coupled with the fact that it is served chilled make creme caramel the perfect dessert for a hot summer day like this. Creme renversee is how the Parisians would call this dessert although strange enough it's more commonly known as creme caramel elsewhere in the world. It belongs to the same family of baked custard as Creme Brulee and Pot-de-Creme but is the lightest of all. The recipes for creme caramel differ greatly as the amount of eggs(whites and yolks) can be easily adjusted to suit different taste buds. The more yolks you use the silkier and more delicate the texture will be, although it also makes the pudding set less well. I have been experimenting with different recipes a few times before my exams started and thought I'd give it another go now that exams are (unofficially) over. Raymond Blanc's recipe calls for whole eggs with extra yolks but I find the texture less silky and delicate compared to the yolks only recipe. That said, however, the yolk-only recipe that I used produced very unstable pudding and easily fell apart on turning out from the ramekins. And so I experimented with additional yolks until I got the result I wanted, like this:

Friday, 25 May 2012

Profiterole Swans!

Exam is now unofficially over. Unofficial in the sense that I still have one more paper to go next Friday but it doesn't require any revision on my part since it's about data interpretation. What a relief! I was on the verge of a mental breakdown yesterday after spending the last 2 months revising for the four papers that I have just sat for over the last week. Anyway I promised myself I'd bake something today and so I did. I made profiterole swans, or, swans made out of profiteroles, filled with whipped cream. The profiteroles weren't perfect because this is my first time baking them in specific piped shapes so I literally had to rely on my baker's instinct to decide when to take them out. The creme patissiere that I initially wanted to use was good when I made it but turned too solid after I refrigerated them. Not sure if it's meant to be like that. The whipped cream turned out over-whipped as well and I think I'll go with double cream instead of 'whipping' cream next time since ironically double cream has higher fat content and should be better for whipping. Overall, a little disappointing but the swans looked good nevertheless. Or shall I leave that to you to judge?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The countdown has started

I will be sitting for my second to last paper tomorrow and I cannot wait for it to be over! The paper after that does not test one's factual knowledge which means my revision pretty much ends the minute I finish the exam tomorrow!!!!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Exams, exams, exams...

It's exam season and I've got four papers coming up having just done one on Monday. I've got another paper this week, two more next week and by then I would be relatively free as the last paper can't be prepared for. Would definitely like to bake something then. The trouble is to find a recipe from the my two-page long to-bake list.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

French Macarons vs Macaroons

So just to clear things up: Macarons are not the same as MacaroOns. In the UK, people tend to ascribe the name macaroon to the french-sweet-hamburger-like-confectionery, which is actually called macaron in french with a single 'o'. Macaroon (double 'o') on the other hand is a meringue based coconut confectionery and is more popular in America. Both are meringue based cookies but the final products look VERY different from each other.

French macarons that I've made recently, compare this with the coconut macaroons below

First entry of the blog: Cheesecake with a (massive) twist

So it's summer, the season of sunshine and the much dreaded exam period for a Uni student. Sounds a little random you might say, in which case may I gently remind you to read the title of my blog. Yes, I literally just started out baking about 3 months ago, reason being I was under too much stress from writing my final year dissertation. I wanted to find a way to get rid of the stress without getting wasted at the pubs. Long story short, here I am 3 months later still extremely into baking and in fact I consider this as one of my favourite hobbies now! Not sure if it's going to last after my last exam in June but judging from the way it is now I'd imagine myself doing this for quite a while!

Enough introduction, here comes the cheesecake. It's got a massive twist to it because it's not heavy and dense like the conventional NY cheesecake. It's not as creamy either. In fact, it's got banana and caramel in it. And it doesn't even have the traditional biscuit base. You might be tempted to stop reading by now but do bear with me.

This cheesecake has got a souffle base, i.e; it has got meringue incorporated to give it the rise. As a result, it has a very fluffy and soft texture and extremely light. In fact, the actual name for this type of cheesecake is cotton soft Japanese souffle cheesecake. Imagine cheese souffle but a sweet version. 

I've made this cake a couple of times before I decided to add my own twist to the flavour and the two random flavours that sprang to my mind were banana and caramel,. I must say I am fairly particular when it comes to the aesthetic side of baking and I always try to find ways to glam up my bakes. There's no exception to this one. I came across this guy on Masterchef whose name I've forgotten (sorry mate!) making some ornaments out of caramel and I thought I'd it a go based on what he did on the show!