An apology, and some onde onde.

I’ve been an AWFUL blogger lately. I’ve almost completely ignored the blog, and I’m honestly surprised that people even still visit (thank you for visiting!). Apologies to everyone, but because I’m now a student again, I suspect my blog posts this year will be more sporadic than usual… there was a reason why I only started my blog after I graduated after all! Having said that, I’ll be making some changes to the way I blog to maximise the number of posts I’m able to produce.

It all sounds rather lame, but I’ve been rather preoccupied lately, and not just with my attempts to study (which are supplemented by large quantities of coffee, tea and snacks). I’ve been pondering what we should do after this year, and it’s all boiled down to ‘should we leave, or should we stay?’. As most of you know, I grew up in Malaysia and moved to England some years ago for educational reasons. But now, 9 years later, I must admit the time has come where I’m thinking it might just be time to move back closer to home… Age does funny things to you, eh? 😉

But of course, admist all this pondering, a girl still has to eat. And a girl will still have random cravings for food.

My latest food cravings have mainly been centered on food from home. I think it’s because I’m missing home, and the closest thing to “transport” me home (apart from a 15 hour flight) is the food I grew up eating.

Onde-onde is a Malaysian snack which most Malaysians know and love. It’s made from a few key “Malaysian” ingredients – aromatic pandan (screwpine) leaves, grated fresh coconut, and palm sugar. It’s not all too dissimilar to glutinous rice balls (tang yuan), as it’s also made from glutinous rice flour. The only difference is that instead of using water to make the dough, you use “pandan juice”, which is extracted by whizzing the pandan leaves with water.

The pandan juice makes the onde-onde appear a vibrant “kermit” style green colour, and no there’s no food colouring used here! It’s all natural, and because the pandan leaves are so fragrant, you get the most wonderul aroma from these little morsels of deliciousness.

Onde-onde are filled with palm sugar which melts during the cooking process. The sugar bursts out in an explosion of flavour when you bite into them, and you must be careful to not eat them when they’re too hot as you might very well scald your tongue! This sweet liquid, combined with the chewy glutinous covering and flaky grated coconus truly provides an excellent combination of textures that is typical of onde-onde. My only gripe about making onde-onde is the grating/chopping of the palm sugar which can be tiresome, as I buy them in large blocks. I always fear for my fingertips when I am chipping away at the palm sugar blocks!

If you’re a fan of mochi or tang yuan – do try this, and provided you like coconut I am certain you will love onde-onde.

Onde-onde
Makes approximately 20-24 balls, depending on size

  • 250 glutinous rice flour
  • 10 pandan (screwpine) leaves
  • 190 ml water – use 200ml water if you are not using the coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk (optional)
  • 70g palm sugar (chopped or grated into fine pieces)
  • 150g dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1. Using a food processor, whizz the pandan leaves with the water. Strain the mixture, squeezing as much liquid out of the leaves as you can. This is the pandan “juice” that you will use to form your onde-onde dough.
2. In a large bowl, mix the pandan juice (and the coconut milk, if using) with the glutinous rice flour. Knead the mixture until it forms a smooth dough. Although it may initially seem like you don’t have enough liquid in the dough, resist the temptation to add in too much extra water, as it will make your dough too soft (which later leads to difficulties in wrapping the palm sugar).
3. Pinch off a round of dough, and flatten it in your palm. Place a teaspoon of chopped palm sugar in the centre of the dough, wrap it up carefully, then roll it lightly to form a round. Do be delicate when doing this as it doesn’t take much to break the skin of the onde-onde. Be sure to seal the dough tightly, or it may burst during the cooking process and cause the sugar to leak out.
4. Repeat until all the onde-onde dough has been used up.
5. Boil water in a medium sized pan. Cook the onde-onde in the boiling water. They are ready when they float to the surface of the water.
6. Whilst the onde-onde are cooking, mix the dessicated coconut with the salt in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
7. Remove the onde-onde from the water, and roll it in the dessicated coconut mixture.
8. Leave to cool slightly (the melted palm sugar is hot!), then eat.

Akelare, San Sebastian

It has been a while since I last blogged, hasn’t it? I’ve been so caught up with lectures (I’m a student again for this year) and doing various bits of work that all the typing I’ve really been doing is the typing of my study notes! But a girl has to take a break once in a while, so I thought I’d blog about the epic meal we had at Akelare in San Sebastian. I can’t believe it’s been two months since I was there – how time flies.

Akelare is one of the many Michelin starred restaurants in San Sebastian (this region has the greatest number of Michelin stars per capita than any other city in the world), and holds three stars. The kitchen is led by Pedro Subjiana, who along with Juan Mari Arzak are known as the “founding fathers” of Basque cuisine.

Akelare is situated atop a hill – giving you stunning views of the Bay of Biscay underneath. I truly believe that the whole experience starts during the drive up to the restaurant, where you start to get glimpses of the magnificent view that awaits you. I mean, just check out the endless blue seas and skies! We left it a little late to book, so unfortunately did not get a window table, but got a table in the little ‘gazebo’ area of the restaurant.

We were there for lunch at 1pm (when the restaurant opens), and were the first people there… which was good as I could wander around taking photos! Whilst I was doing this, one of the lovely waiters came up to me, and offered to bring me on a tour of the kitchen.

The kitchen staff were having a coffee before the lunch service began –  I thought it was quite nice that they took the time to have a coffee together before the madness enfolds.

They also have a test kitchen in the restaurant – which I absolutely fell in love with. It would be hard to not be inspired to create delicious dishes when you had the amazing views of the Bay of Biscay right on your doorstep. There was also so much light in the kitchen, which I always think is important. I would love to have a kitchen like this in my own home, preferably with the views as well. 😛 One day, one day.

What I liked about Akelare’s tasting menus was that they offered 2 different ones: Menu A (Aranori), and Menu B (Bekarki). They allow each person at the table to choose their preferred menu, which I thought was a nice touch. Naturally, we each chose one menu – meaning we got to try a wider variety of dishes. Akelare also offers an a’la carte menu, which looked equally enticing.

To start off, we were served a set of ‘amenities’: On the back row from left to right – Tomato and basil gel, Idiabazal cheese moisturiser, Mouthwash cocktail. On the front row, from left to right – Onion sponge, Sea bath salts.

This was such an innovative appetizer, and I absolutely loved it. We were asked to squeeze the tomato and basil gel onto the onion sponge, and then to pop into our mouths. And oh man it was SO good. The onion ‘sponge’ bread was fantastic, and actually tasted like a sponge – it was crispy and was very flavoursome. I would do anything to learn how to make it (this turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the meal). The tomato and basil gel was also delicious, and I found myself squeezing it onto my spoon just so I could have more! If only actual handwash gel was edible, and tasted THIS good.

I also enjoyed the sea bath salts, which was essentially dried prawns in an edible plastic container. The mouthwash cocktail was made from sparkling cava – definitely the most tasty mouthwash I’ve ever had! 😛

The second appetizer: Oyster in an edible shell – the ‘shell’ melted away when you put it into your mouth, revealing a juicy fresh oyster within.

We snacked on some warm bread and olive oil whilst waiting for our first courses. Whilst the bread was good (we had a selection of traditional white, ciabatta, and multiseeded breads), the olive oil was fantastic – it was definitely THE best olive oil I have ever tasted. I mean, I would choose this olive oil over butter, and I love my butter. Upon questioning our waiter, we were told that this was an arbequina extra virgin olive oil, and some post-meal googling enlightened me to the fact the arbequina is a type of olive that highly aromatic, and is grown in large amounts in Catalonia region of Spain.

Aranori: Prawns and french beans cooked in “Orujo” fireplace. The prawns were cooked/flamed with wine, in a Le Creuset pot filled with volcanic rocks. They were then served with green beans, cream of green beans, and a powder made from prawn shells. The prawns were just slightly undercooked, were very fresh, and was delicious paired with the prawn shell powder.

Bekarki: Xangurro in essence, its coral blini and “gurullos”. This was a piece of crab claw meat cooked in crab juices, served with a crab roe blini and pasta which was shaped like rice grains (gurullos). The gurullos was a revelation – it was cooked al dente, and was lighter than normal rice. In a way, it was similar to orzo, just with a slightly different shape.

Aranori: Molluscs in fisherman’s net. This was a very flavoursome dish which tasted like the sea – a selection of shellfish (clams, squid, scallops and mussels) served underneath a ‘net’ made from rice flour.

Bekarki: Razor shell with veal shank. I never would have thought that razor clams could go so well with veal – but you know what, it did. It was served with a cauliflower mushroom which had a similar texture to chinese fungus. Overall, this dish was a great contrast of textures and flavours.

Aranori: Pasta carpaccio, piquillo and iberico, with parmesan shavings, truffles, and mushrooms. Whilst this might sound rather boring, it was actually one of my favourite dishes of the meal. The pasta was infused with the flavours of piquillo peppers and Iberico ham. I would happily buy this pasta and eat it plain, as it was so delicious.

Bekarki: Sauteed fresh foie gras with ‘salt’ flakes and grain ‘pepper’. The people of San Sebastian are huge fans of foie, and it appears in the menus of most restaurants, and of course Akelare was not to be an exception. The waiter poured over ‘salt’ and ‘pepper’ onto this dish, whilst saying “don’t worry, it will taste good”… it turns out that the ‘salt’ was actually flakes of sugar, whilst the ‘pepper’ was black rice grains. Absolute genius.

Aranori: Cod tripe. This was a piece of perfectly cooked bacalao, with a crispy and smoky skin. It was served with ‘tripe’ made from cod and veal, and finished off with a white tomato juice.

Bekarki: ‘Fried egg’ with green peas, and little farm vegetables. The fried egg was actually a poached egg, which was then tempura fried. I was amazed at the skill involved in cooking this, as the yolk was still perfectly runny. There was also a tempura-ed spring onion, and a mix of peas and broad beans. This was a nice refreshing dish, which was very welcome after the richness of the foie gras.

Aranori: Whole grain red mullet with sauce ‘fusili’. As with all the seafood dishes we ate, the red mullet was cooked perfectly. It was served with ‘fusili’ which were filled with a variety of flavours – parsley, soy, and garlic. This dish was called ‘whole grain’ red mullet because all parts of the fish was used: the head, bones and liver were used to form the red paste you see on either end of the plate. It tasted a bit like a very flavoursome and fishy tomato puree!

Bekarki: Turbot with its ‘kokotxa’.  This dish was made from various parts of the turbot, and it was served in 3 preparations: the fillet, a crispy “chip” made from turbot skin, and the ‘kokotxa’ (“cheek”) – turbot don’t actually have a ‘kokotxa’, so this was made from something else.. I just can’t remember what it was!

Aranori: Charcoal grilled lamb with the wine lees. A piece of charcoal grilled lamb loin, served with red wine sediments (the powdery red bits), a plum sauce (maple coloured), and a red wine reduction (dark red coloured). There was also a green tea and red fruit sugar “netting” that was served with this – I didn’t feel that this added all that much to the dish, and don’t think I would have missed it if it wasn’t there. Everything else was excellent though.

Bekarki: Roasted suckling pig, with tomato “bolao” and Iberian emulsion. The pieces of sucking pig (belly and loin) was first cooked in an Iberian ham broth, then finished in the oven. Whilst the pork tasted fantastic, it did lack a perfectly crispy crackling (it was slightly chewy in some parts) which was a shame. The tomato “bolao” was a sugary tomato “ball” which had a crumbly texture. This actually worked well with the rest of the dish, rather surprisngly!

Aranori: “Xaxu” and coconut iced mousse. The “xaxu” is a specialty of the Gorrotxategi patisserie in Tolosa, and is a creamy almond tart with a runny ‘egg yolk’ filling which was recreated specially with their permission. It was flanked by two blocked of coconut iced mousse, which was essentially a foamed coconut ice cream – I kid you not when I say it tasted like air. So. Damn. Good.

Berkarki: Milk and grape, cheese and wine in parallel evolution. This was one of the most innovative cheese courses I have ever seen, where we were instructed to start eating from one end of the plate where the cheese was lighter in flavour – the flavour and intensity of the cheese then increased as you progress throughout the plate, thus the “evolution”.

From the bottom of the plate:
– Grapevine, curded sheeps milk & walnut (this was very light, and went well with the powdered walnuts)
– Powdered fresh cream with chives & grapes (this was one of my favourites, as I felt the powdered cream just had the right hint of “dairy” to it, and paired well with the sweet grapes.
– Quark cheese with nutmeg and pink pepper aroma, must of tapoica & tomato
– Idiabazal semi-matured cheese with quince jelly & wine dust (this was my other favourite of the lot, as the nutty Idiabazal complemented the sweet quince jelly very well)
– Torta of Casar’s grape with soaked raisins in Pedro Ximenez
– Brandy sirpo with Gorgonzola cheese ice cream (I normally am not a fan of blue cheese, but this ice cream wasn’t as overbearing as the cheese itself, so I did actually enjoy it. Couldn’t eat too much of it though!)

Aranori: A different apple tart. This was a similar to a millefeuille – where two sheets of puff pastry were sandwiched with some apple cream. This was then covered with some specially made edible apple paper. I LOVED the edible paper, and wished that I could steal some from the kitchen and bring it home with me. I mean, that could be like my perfect “so-called healthy” snack!

Berkarki: Citrus shell and chocolate shaving. This was a sugar seashell filled with citrus cream, chocolate “cotton candy”, cocoa ice cream, and the crispiest chocolate curls I’ve ever tasted. Although flavoursome, it was surprisingly very light for a chocolate dessert, and didn’t fill me with a “jilak” (overwhelming) sensation you get sometimes when you eat a chocolate dessert. The sugar seashell was a little too sweet for me though.

We finished off our meal with some tea, and “bon bons”. The bon bons was served in a bowl covered with an edible paper, which the waitress slashed with great style before opening it up to reveal the goodies within (truffles with a liquid cherry/chocolate mousse centres, berry marshmallows and passionfruit pate de fruit). Oh and of course, the paper was edible – you can’t see much of it in the photo because errr… I ate most of it before I remembered to take a photo.

So yes, that was our meal at Akelare, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. The service was absolutely impeccable, and the food was both beautiful to look at whilst being delicious. In fact, I actually ate MORE than R, because he was too full by the time we finished our mains (i.e. I ate most of the FOUR desserts) – so yes, I do have a humongous appetite, thankyouverymuch.

Akelare also does an a la carte menu, and we fully intend on revisiting this fantastic restaurant to try this out if we’re ever in San Sebastian again – that’s how much we loved this place. Definitely a perfect place for a special meal, and definitely more affordable than Michelin starred food in London.

Akelare
Paseo Padre Orcolaga 56,
20008 San Sebastian
(+34) 943 31 12 09
akelarre.net

For the love of chocolate

I’ve always loved chocolate – it’s the one thing I always have a stash of, and is something that I always turn to in times of need. Be it a simple dark chocolate bar, or more fancy truffles – they all work for me. Strangely enough, I find that I prefer milk chocolate when I’m stressed, but that I prefer dark chocolate when I’m snacking ‘just because’. Maybe it’s the extra sugar content in milk chocolate that I crave in times of stress? Who knows.

If you’re as variable as me when it comes to choice of chocolate, it would seem sensible to have a collection of each – just so there would always be a choice of chocolate to suit my mood. 😉

This is why Hotel Chocolat’s Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection is perfect for someone like me. It’s one of chocolates available from their summer selection, which features more light and fresh flavours. It features a beautiful range of chocolates, which are packaged beautifully as what I have come to expect of this brand. I mean, check out how pretty the Summer Sizzler Peepster is! I’m such a sucker for well packaged items, haha.

But back to the Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection. It not only contains a mix of white, milk, and dark chocolate… but is also imparts a touch of summer (like its name suggests) by taking inspiration from classic summer desserts.

My personal favourite is the Lemon & Passion Fruit Tart – which combines the zesty notes of lemon with passion fruit, all encased in a white chocolate cup. Now I normally find white chocolate WAY too sweet, but somehow when paired with the lemon and passion fruit – it works. I think the sweetness of the white chocolate is offset by the acidity of the fruits, and makes for one very delicious bite.

The other flavour that I enjoyed was the Red Berry Mousse, which features a tangy raspberry and strawberry mousse in a milk chocolate shell. We all know the strawberries and chocolate go very well together, and this particular chocolate emphasizes that fact. I preferred this to the Summer Pudding, which is a white chocolate truffle which features the summer fruitiness of raspberries and strawberries. I thought the Summer Pudding was a little too sweet for me – but bear in mind I’m normally not a white chocolate fan… I know one of my girlfriends would ADORE this.

The other flavours were: Eton Mess, inspired by the classic British dessert with strawberry buttercream, meringue and strawberry pieces. There were actual meringue bits in the chocolate, which was a very nice surprise, but again it was too sweet for my non-white-chocolate palate.  There was also the Coconut Bombe, which features the sun-kissed flavours of coconut encased in creamy white chocolate. The coconut pieces that the truffle is rolled in adds a good crunch that contrasts well with the smooth chocolate.

The Chocolate Brownie was exactly what its name suggests – smooth praline encased in a milk chocolate casing… and it’s even shaped like a mini brownie! Chocolate Mousse is the only dark chocolate creation in this selection: a dark chocolate mousse encased in a crisp dark chocolate shell. I liked this, but somehow it wasn’t very ‘summery’. I suspect that is why dark chocolate isn’t used very much in the selection box.

The Neapolitan is much more summery, and revisits the classic ice cream flavours of vanilla and strawberry, which is paired with some mellow milk chocolate. And it’s incredibly pretty to look at as well, with all that pink and white.

If you prefer chocolate bars to truffles, Hotel Chocolat’s Purist bars are just the thing for you. These Purist bars feature some of the world’s rarest, most sought after cocoa – and I must admit I never knew that chocolate could taste so different. I tried three from the Purist bar selection: 70% dash of milk (Rabot Eastate, Saint Lucia), 72% dark organic (Alto El Sol, Peru), and 65% dark 120-hour (Island Growers, Saint Lucia).

I also learnt a new term – “conching”. Conching is the process of mixing and agitating the chocolate in a container filled with metal beads, which helps to evenly distribute the cocoa butter within the chocolate. Prior to conching, chocolate has an uneven and gritty texture. Conching basically produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. When mixed in this way, the chocolate ends up with a very mild yet rich taste. (Thank you Wikipedia for educating me, as you always do.)

So you can imagine how good the 120 hour conch bar is… the flavours in this were intense yet subtle. I honestly have not tasted chocolate like this before (but of course, I’m not a world expert on chocolate) – it had so many flavour components that made for a very pleasant eating experience. Hotel Chocolat state that the chocolate has multilayered notes of raisins, figs, tobacco, honey and grapefruit – I couldn’t really taste figs, but I definitely tasted a hint of grapefuit, raisins and honey.

The bars are also presented beautifully, and the insides of packaging gives a brief explanation about the origin of the cocoa beans and where they have been processed. I daresay any chocolate lover would really enjoy receiving this as a gift, as it truly opens ones eyes to how diverse chocolate can be.

To see how well the chocolate would fare in baked goods, I decided to make some brownies. I decided to make them into mini-bites, because I own a mini brownie tray, and because they look SO much cuter in miniature size! I used the 72% dark organic Purist bar for the brownies, which is described as an elegant and fruity dark chocolate with flavours of red berries, raisins, vanilla and coconut.

The brownies turned out very well, and were little chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re very rich, so I’m very glad I made them in small bites. I always know when a sweet baked item is a success, because R asks for more (unlike me, he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth) – and R asked for more of these. The chocolate was absolutely delicious, and definitely had a hint of fruitiness to it which elevated the taste of the brownie.

If you decide to make these brownies (and you SHOULD!) – be sure to use good quality dark chocolate. There isn’t much flour in the recipe, so the chocolate truly is the star here. I used the Purist bar which is 70g, and I adapted the recipe to suit this. Feel free to increase the amount of ingredients to make a larger stash – you basically use a 1:1:1:1 ratio of chocolate:butter:sugar:eggs. Simples.

Brownies
Adapted from Alain Coumont’s Communal Table: Memories and Recipes

  • 70g dark chocolate (I used Hotel Chocolat’s 72% Purist bar)
  • 70g butter
  • 70g eggs (I used one large egg)
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • pinch of cornflour

1. Break the dark chocolate into pieces, and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the butter to the bowl.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter over a bain marie (place the bowl over a pot of simmering water), until both ingredients have melted. Mix well, and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Sieve the plain flour and corn flour together, and stir with the sugar until well combined. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the bowl containing the melted chocolate and butter. Mix well.
4. Add the egg to the mix, and stir until well combined. Set aside for 15 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 150’C.
6. Spoon brownie mixture into individual moulds – the original recipe uses cupcake cases, but I used a mini Brownie tray. Bake for 20-25 miinutes, until the tops of the brownie are shiny and slightly firm to touch.
7. Leave to cool slightly, and eat!

Milo ice cream

Every so often, I make something that makes me REALLY excited and happy. If you recall, I received an ice cream maker from the Fairy Hobmother not so long ago, and I was itching to make some ice cream. And so I did.

The first batch of ice cream I made was a vanilla and raspberry swirl ice cream… which I ate straight out of the ice cream maker as I could not bear to wait a few extra hours to allow it to solidify further (the ice cream comes out of the ice cream maker in a ‘soft serve’ type texture you see).

Photo courtesy of nestle.com.my

Two days later, I decided it was time to make some ice cream yet again, and this time experimented with incorporating Milo into the ice cream custard mixture. For those of you who don’t know what Milo is… where have you been?!! Kidding. 😛 I daresay any person who’s from South East Asia (and I even dare to say Australia) grew up with Milo, which is a chocolate and malt powder which is mixed with milk/water (and a touch of condensed milk *cough*) to make up one of the best ‘hot chocolate’ drinks EVER.

The Milo truck used to come by our school all the time, giving out cups of ice cold Milo on a hot humid day (let’s face it, when is it not hot and humid in Malaysia?)… fond memories. 🙂 According to the Milo website, Milo contains ACTIGEN-E®, a combination of 8 vitamins and 4 minerals that helps to optimize the release of energy from food. These are the B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Biotin); Vitamin C; Calcium; Magnesium; Iron; and Phosphorus. This is supposed to give one the energy to get through the day’s activities uninterrupted. (I tend to drink it before I sleep though, so I can’t vouch for this energy thing).

Most of you Malaysians and Singaporeans out there may also remember all those Milo ads on the television with their tag line of “It’s marvelous what Milo can do for you!”. I suspect it’s not as “marvelous” for you when you eat it out of the tin with a spoon on a regular basis (like me), but you know what, it’s so good that I can’t stop myself from doing it.

So yes. I MADE MILO ICE CREAM! I churned the ice cream at 11.30pm, and could not bring myself to eat ice cream just before going to bed. Also, I did want it to solidify a bit more so it could reach the right ice cream consistency. So this meant that whilst at work the next day, all I could think about was my Milo ice cream. I kid you not when I say the journey home from work never took so long (and it only takes me 20 minutes), as I was so excited about trying it. Ah, the little pleasures in life. 😉

The moment I got home, I rushed to the kitchen, opened the freezer, dipped a spoon into the ice cream, and….. BLISS. I absolutely loved how it tasted, and had to stop myself from eating up the whole tub pre-dinner.

Later that day, I was more civilized and served the ice cream in teeny little bowls I bought when I was in New York, and topped the ice cream with… you guessed it, MORE Milo. What can I say, I’m obsessed.

I adapted David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream recipe to make this, and I must say it is an excellent recipe. It made for a very creamy and decadent custard base, which is the key to a good ice cream. I can’t wait to try out some of his other recipes, and I can imagine that each and every one is just as good. He wouldn’t have such a bestseller ice cream book otherwise!

I actually made 2 versions of the Milo ice cream – one was a pure Milo ice cream (i.e. all brown), and also a mix of vanilla and Milo ice cream (i.e. a mix of a white and brown). I suspect it’s not that obvious because of the copious amounts of Milo I sprinkled over the tops of the ice cream…

I believe I will be eating a whole lot of ice cream in the near future. Thank goodness it’s summer, which gives me a slightly more valid reason to do so. 😀

Milo ice cream
Adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Scoop

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Milo
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract (alternatively, use seeds from half a vanilla bean)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks

1. Set up an ice bath by placing ice and water into a large bowl.
2. Pour the double cream into a bowl, and place this bowl into the ice bath.
3. Warm the milk, salt, sugar, Milo and vanilla bean extract in a pot over medium heat.
4. In a separate bowl, stir the egg yolks together. Gradually pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
5. Pour the egg yolk/cream mixture back into the pot, and cook over low heat, stirring the whole time. Cook until the mixture thickens to a custard consistency –  it is ready when you can draw a clean line through it on the back of a spoon, using your finger.
6. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir constantly over the ice bath until cool.
7. Refrigerate the custard/cream mixture until thoroughly chilled. Some recommend doing this overnight, I only left it to chill for 4-5 hours.
8. Churn the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturers instructions.

p.s. If you don’t have an ice cream maker but still want to revel in homemade ice cream goodness, try this recipe for semifreddo. It’s a no churn recipe that gives rise to something very similar to ice cream, and is just as delicious.

Of spring, Easter eggs and yellow daisies

I’ve always been intrigued by decorated cookies, especially ones which are intricately decorated in the most beautiful designs imaginable. However, I never attempted them as I felt they would be 1) too sweet, and 2) too much work.

But sometimes, curiosity makes you do things you thought you wouldn’t do…

In celebration of the oh-so-lovely weather, I decided to try making some decorated cookies last weekend. As Easter was fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to make Easter egg shaped ones. And so I did.

My initial plan was to make a whole range of Easter egg designs… in a number of colours. But, I changed my plans very swiftly when I realised that I had about 80-90 cookies to decorate. I kid you not when I tell you that piping decorations on anything more than 40 cookies will take a toll on your shoulder muscles. My shoulders were aching the day after I made these, and it made me have total respect for professionals who do this on a daily basis – they must have arms (and shoulders) of steel!

Having said this, I still had a complete blast making these, and will definitely be making more in the near future.  Whilst I was pleased with how these turned out, I wasn’t altogether satisfied with the royal icing recipe and my rather amateur-ish designs. All the more reason to make some more very soon! One thing I will do next time around is to make less cookies so I can focus more attention on the actual decorating!

Oh, and I also made some yellow daisies, because flowers and the colour yellow are totally what spring is all about anyway. 😉

Happy Easter, everyone!

Sugar cookies
Adapted from this recipe on All Recipes

  • 340g butter, softened
  • 1 cup caster sugar*
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 1/2 cups plain flour, plus more for rolling

1. Sift the baking powder, flour and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl, until it becomes pale and creamy. I used my stand mixer and the paddle attachment. You can just as easily use a handheld mixer, or even a wooden spoon if you have strong arms!
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing after the addition of each egg.
4. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract, and beat until just combined.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, and mix until well combined. Cover with clingfilm, and chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour. (I chilled my dough overnight.)
6. On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to a thickness of your liking (usually between 0.25-0.5 inches). I suggest working with a small proportion of dough each time – I divided mine up into four batches to ensure the dough was always nice and chilled.
7. Cut the dough with the cookie cutters of your choice, and place them 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking trays.
8. Bake the cookies in a oven preheated to 190’C for 6-8 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges. Leave to cool completely before decorating.

* To ensure the resulting cookie wouldn’t end up too sweet, I reduced the amount of sugar used to 1 cup (from 2). I’m glad I did, as I felt that the cookies would have been waaaay too sweet otherwise, especially when paired with the icing. Do feel free to use more sugar though.