Monday, December 21, 2009

Living in Jakarta

I've finally arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia about two weeks ago. Life has been full of activities here and being around my family is such great joy. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to bake very much here. The kitchen seemed very foreign and I have no ideas where things are located. :p

Oh well... I'll take my time to learn my way around my mom's kitchen.

I did make some pie crust this morning for an apple pie and I made some pastry cream for my cream puffs. :) Soo... look out for them soon!

Much love,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Few "MIA" cakes

Many of you must think that I've abandoned this blog. It's been too long since I last posted something of my baking or even informed you all that I'll be out for a bit. Well, just to give an update of what had happened to me since the last post...

1. I quit my job at KPMG Houston
2. I've packed all my personal stuff and shipped them back to Jakarta
3. I'm now bunking at Jane's place (she's so kind to let me stay at her place these last few days I have in Houston)
4. I'm still in denial about going back home (Jakarta) for good in the next 5 days

That being said, I'm still baking. :) Although I haven't baked as much as I'd like to because of many reasons (my last month at work had been crazy long hours; all my baking tools have been boxed up and shipped off; I have no place to bake), but I'm thankful of the several chances I was provided to make cakes and other desserts. :)

This is a cake for Brian's birthday.

This is a cake for Donna's wedding meeting.

This is a just-for-fun shortbread cookies with fondant.

I can't promise that I'll be able to bake and post as often as I did in the past, but I'll continue to maintain this blog and post as much as I can. I have no idea what life holds over there in Jakarta, but I know that if I hold on tight to God, He will lead my life. :) I really hope and pray that I'll grow in Christ in Indonesia and be a blessing to others around me.

Thanks for being so encouraging all these while... :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lemon Butter Cookies

Thinking about baking makes me happy. Reading good cookbooks makes me happy too. Actually being able to bake something good makes me ecstatic! :)

That is the case with these little rounds of buttery goodness. Since I love my Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, I went ahead and purchased abother baking book by Dorie called Paris Sweets. This book is different in that there were no photographs of the desserts at all but instead, Dorie shared stories of the different pastry shops where the recipes were born. :)
Since work has been really busy these few weeks, I haven't had a chance to try the more elaborate recipes from the book. So I picked this lemon butter cookies recipe to try last Friday. The recipe is really simple and Dorie's instructions are always very clear. So I followed the directions step by step and I am VERY satisfied with the results. :)

The cookies crumbles pretty easily. They are not too sweet and when you bite into it, it almost felt like they were melting in your mouth. Yumm! I didn't have the book right in front of me now, so I don't have the recipe to share. But if anyone is interested, let me know. :)

PS: the pictures are courtesy of Alvin. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Opera Cake

As mentioned in my previous blog posts, I haven't been experimenting much with new cakes lately. I'm leaving my work soon (in 2 weeks, to be exact) to embark on a new journey in life. But there's just so much to do in this last weeks at work and the hours have been escalating. Auditing really takes a good chuck (if not most) of my time and I'm not sure if I'm liking the reality of this. After a very discouraging conference call yesterday morning, I really wonder if I have been giving work more time and priority than it deserves.

As I look around at work these past few days, I saw people giving a lot of their time, their life, and their heart away to work. Pushing themselves very hard to please others, to get the work done no matter what, to (somehow) get a little bit more sense of job security. And I wonder if it's all worth it. I believe that we all have one life to live and I hope that I'm living mine with no regrets. But sadly, I have to admit that looking back at life, there are things that I wished I didn't do and paths I wished I didn't take. :( But I'm thankful for my God who is able to make all things new and who will bring to completion the good works that He had started in my life. :) With that, I look forward to life in confidence - knowing that God is in control of every thing in my life.

I am in good hands. :)

Okay. Now about the cakes. :)

Alvin's cousin had asked me if I'd be willing to bake some thank you cakes for them to give away to friends. After several discussions on the type of cakes, they decided that they wanted something mocha. :)

But I don't really feel like making a simple regular mocha cakes, so I decided to experiment with Opera cakes. I got my inspiration from Joe Pastry and started to build my own components for my Opera cake. For those of you who are not familiar with Opera cake, it's a french gateau that's made of 4 layers of Joconde separated by coffee buttercream and ganache and topped with a layer of chocolate glaze. Since it's coffee + chocolate, I figured it's close enough to a mocha cake. :) I was supposed to make 8 of these, but since work had been demanding more and more of my time, I was only able to make 4 this week. I've got 4 more to make this coming week. Yay! Practice makes perfect.

Anyways, here are the recipes for the components that I used.

Joconde (adapted from Joe Pastry)

100g egg whites (approximately 3 egg whites)
15g granulated sugar
110g powdered sugar, sifted
110g almond flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
40g all purpose flour
25g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a 11" x 15" cake pan with parchment paper.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix the eggs, powdered sugar, and almond flour using a hand mixer with paddle attachment at medium speed until light and ribonn-y thick (about 3 minutes). Switch to a spatula and mix in the flour, being careful not to overmix the batter. Fold in the meringue followed by the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 7 minutes or until the top is light golden brown. Let cool in a cooling rack for a minute and then unmold into a parchment paper. Let cool to room temperature prior to using.

Coffee buttercream (adapted from Alice Medrich)

1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
8oz (230g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbs instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tsp hot water

Boil the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pans until it reaches 242F. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until thick and pale yellow. When the syrup reaches the desired temperature, slowly pour the syrup to the egg mixture in a thin stream while continuing to whisk at medium speed. Continue to whisk until the batter reach room temperature. Start add in the butter, one piece at a time, until the buttercream is smooth and silky. Pour in the coffee paste and mix well.

Dark chocolate ganache

75 g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
75 g heavy cream

Bring the heavy cream to boil and then pour over the chocolate. Leave it for a couple of minutes and then stir in a circular motion from the inside out until all the cream and chocolate is well combined. Leave to cool at room temperature until the desired consistency is reached.

Chocolate glaze

150g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
85g unsalted butter
1/2 tbs corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in a heat proof bowl set over simmering water until the butter and chocolate starts to melt. Take if off the heat and stir until all is melted and well combined. If necessary, put the bowl back on the heat but being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Coffee syrup

100g sugar
150g water
2 tsp instant espresso powder

Bring all ingredients together to boil. Let cool before using it on the cake.

Assembly of Opera Cake

Divide the Joconde into 4 equal pieces and if you prefer, you can brush the bottom one one Joconde piece with melted chocolate so that it's easier to cut the cake when it's done. Brush the first layer of Joconde with coffee syrup and then slather a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Place another layer of Joconde on top, brush it with coffee syrup, and then apply a thin layer of ganache. Place the third layer of Joconde on top, brush it with coffee syrup, and put a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Last, place the last layer of coffee syrup soaked Joconde on top, apply a very thin layer of coffee buttercream and pour the chocolate glaze on top. Trim the sides to get a clean view of the layers. :)

I hope that you'll enjoy experimenting with the cake as much as I do! :) Four down, four more to go!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Introducing Two Bites

October is nearing to an end and if you look at the number of blog posts I have this month, it looked like I haven't been baking much at all. Although it is true that I've been trying to cut back on the amount of time I spent baking, I still baked a fair share of cakes and cookies. But since they're simple cakes (like Chiffon or pound cake or black forest cake) that I've blogged about before, I decided to keep them to myself. :p

During the low period in October, several major events happened to the baking aspect of my life. First is the wedding favors that I made for our Pastor's 25th wedding anniversary:

I made about 200 of these cupcake pops as their edible wedding favors. :) This was a very interesting task for me because of many reasons: (a) we're talking about quite a large quantity, (b) it's for my pastor's 25th anniversary, and (c) it's my first "experience" of what it would be to open up my own place.

I started preparing for the cupcakes pops one week before the anniversary. My work had been demanding a lot of my time then (and now still) and so I had no choice but to bake late at night and pull 2:30AM nights in order to finish the order. The strange thing is that I didn't feel tired a all baking the cakes, making the frosting, crumbling the cake, rolling them into cake balls, shaping them into cupcakes, dipping them into chocolates and wrapping them up in their plastics. :) In fact, I felt very energized. It felt like my endorphin levels are high! By the time I wrapped the last of the cupcake pops (with the help of Alvin), I felt very accomplished. :)

Alvin and I couldn't make it to the party since we had to fly to San Jose for our bridal shower; so I didn't get a chance to gauge people's reaction to the mini delight. I just hope that my little pops were well received and well loved. :p

The second big thing that happened this month is two bites.

For now, two bites is an idea, a concept, and a dream.

The idea is mini bite-size desserts that are irresistible.

The concept is two fold: is a small cozy shop that serves mini desserts that are to be enjoyed with a good cup of tea and an ounce of conversations as well as catering for edible favors for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and more.

The dream is for me to bring the idea and concept together as a reality in my life. :)

I need to be praying about this more seriously. I need to be planning about this more realistically. I need to be practicing more often.

If you have any comments/suggestions/ideas about this, please let me know. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pistachio Butter Cookies

I've recently bought a cordless cookie press from Michael's using my 40% off coupon and I am very excited to put it to use. As soon as I get home from Michael's I searched the internet for Spritz cookies recipes and found plenty to experiment with. I started with a recipe from Epicurious and then branch out to make my own recipe. :) And because the holiday season is coming soon, I made snowflakes!

This one is for a Pistachio Butter Cookies:

115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
70g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg yolk
140g all purpose flour
25g finely ground pistachios

Preheat the oven to 325F. In a bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with the granulated sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Then, mix in the salt, vanilla, and egg yolks until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour and pistachios to the mixture and mix in until it is just combined. Pack the dough into a cookie press fitted with the snow flakes disk and press cookies about 1 inch apart onto cool, ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Transfer the cookies to the cooling rack to cool.

I brought these little snowflakes for Alvin's nephew and he likes it a lot! :) It makes me feel very happy when he devours the cookies in seconds and then immediately ask for another one. He hasn't learned how to talk yet but he sure knows how to make his parents (or Alvin and I) knows when he wants something. :p

I am very grateful for Alvin's cousin and her family. Ko Yohan, Ci Lia, Ethan, and Andrew have really brought an extra layer of warmth to our relationship. They make us feel at home and have always served us yummy food after work. :) I'll surely miss them when I move back to Indonesia at the end of this year.

I packed the cookies in goodie bags and brought some to church as well to share with my dear friends who always welcome my homemade goodies. :) I am truly blessed to have so many encouraging friends and "family" around even when I'm far from home.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

It's been a long time since I updated this blog. I apologize for that. It's not that I haven't been baking, but it's just that the things I've baked lately seemed to be simple stuff that's been posted before. :p I've been making chiffon cakes, bolu kukus, muffins, etc but nothing really special. I'm sorry to say that this post is also another simple cookies recipe but I really want to share this with you.

I think I've found my ultimate recipe for chewy cookies. I still remember that I owe someone a chewy cookie recipe and so here it goes. :)

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tbs light corn syrup
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup macadamia, chopped
1 cup white chocolate chip

Preheat the oven at 350F. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer at medium speed, mix the butter, sugar, and corm syrup together until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add in the egg and vanilla extract and beat till well blended (about 1-2 minutes). At low speed, mix in the flour mixture just until all the flour in mixed into the batter. Stir in the macadamia and white chocolate chips using a spatula.

Using a small cookie scoop or 2 small spoons, shape the batter into rounds and bake for 5-6 minutes. The cookies should still feel soft when you take it out of the oven but the remaining heat on the cookie sheet will continue to cook the cookies after it’s removed from the oven. Leave the cookie to cool a little in the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring it to the cooling rack to finish the cooling.

This recipe will go in my permanent recipe folder. :) I think you can easily play around with the recipe to make this a chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raising cookies, or M&Ms cookies. :) The cookies stayed moist and chewy for days without the need to microwave it. It's really like the Nestle Tollhouse cookies sold in malls. :p I highly recommend that you guys try this. :)

Recipe aside, I want to also share a little about the going-on's in my life lately.

The reason that I haven't been on a baking craze this month is mostly re-evaluation of my priorities. Now that I'm weeks away from going back to Indonesia for good, I'm considering more seriously how I should best spend my time. Although baking is a good thing to do (as it makes a lot of people smile when I walk in with a batch of fresh baked cookies in my hands), it's also taking time away from other more important things in my life. I didn't realize that I've been allocating most of my free time in the kitchen making goodies that I missed out on spending quality time with God and Alvin and my other friends and families. So I've decided to scale back a little on my baking in order to make time for the important things in life (not that baking is not, but it's just not #1 in my list). I need to remember that relationships need to be cultivated and that relationships are the treasures in life. I don't want to miss out on that. :)

For all my family and friends that I've neglected this past months (or years), I'm truly sorry. I promise to spend more time with you guys (and still bring some warm cookies and brownies or cakes and other desserts). :)

Love you all!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

i *heart* u

I can't believe that it's the last day of September. Nine months of 2009 have gone by really quickly. It scares me sometimes thinking about it. Looking back to the months that have passed, I wonder what I had done that made a difference. With much regret, not much comes through my mind. But remembering what the Apostle Paul had said about forgetting what is behind and pushing onwards towards the goal, I hope that the last 3 months of 2009 will be meaningful for me and others around me.

This is another cake pop that I made last week but haven't had the chance to post about. :) I really liked these little balls because they're just simply adorable. Although it's now September, but these pops are just crying out Valentines! :p I made these for my girlfriends in my small group. And I think they were just as excited about the cake pops as I am.

I think in my previous posts on cake pops or cupcake pops, I haven't had a single shot on how the inside of these pops looked like. Well, here's one! :)

If you're curious about making cake pops or cupcake pops, check out Bakerella's blog. She has lots of wonderful ideas for cake pops and step by step instructions for them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tartine's Brownies

Although I've been baking this past weekends, they were all stuff I've baked and posted about before. So I won't bore you with those anymore. But I still have some baking that I did last week, which I haven't shared with you about. One of them is this Tartine Brownies. :)

So I just bought two new cookbooks and one of them is Tartine. It's a collection of recipes of the goodies that they make over at the Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, CA. As I read the opening chapters of the book, I grew amazed at how this bakery has grown in size but still able to maintain its authenticity. This bakery was founded by a couple who loves to bake and they insisted on using only fresh, local, and in-season ingredients. This way, they ensure that all their products have awesome taste and a homemade feel. They also make everything they sell on the same day to make sure that everything stays fresh and customers are able to taste the goodies as soon as possible after it came out of the oven. :) I just love how they run the bakery and I'm truly inspired.

I left the book at home and therefore don't have the recipe on hand to share it with you all, but if you're interested let me know and I'll type it in for you. :) This brownies is another long story though. Here goes...

The recipe stated that this brownies is supposed to be fudgy and as such, you cannot use the "thin knife inserted in will come out clean" test. The way to make sure that the brownies are done is if the top has developed a soft crust. It also calls for a 25 minute baking time at 350F. So I followed the instructions carefully - I waited 25 minutes, ensured that a soft crust has developed, and took it out of the oven to cool on a cooling rack. Well, I was planning to bring it to the office the next morning for snacks only to discover that the brownies are way to fudgy! >_< The batter was still like a thick smoothie and there's no way I was able to cut it up into squares. So I left it at home and baked it again at 350F for another 10 minutes as soon as I get home from work. I waited till the next morning to bring to work and discovered that the brownies were still too gooey. *sobs...* Finally, after a third time in the oven for another 15 minutes at 350F the brownies were cut-able. :p


Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cake Pops

Remember I told you that I was making cake pops while waiting on my tiramisu? Well, here they are! :)

There are so many things that I want to share with you about in this post. be forewarned that this is going to be a long one...

First is the story about this book called One Month to Live that my girlfriends in San Jose are using for their small group. I first heard about this book on KSBJ a while a go when they were having a 30-day challenge during the beginning of 2009. I was curious about the challenge but I didn't join in because I was very scared of changing my life drastically. Basically, this book asks the question on how would you live your live if you only have one month left to live. The authors said that in that circumstances, we will have a clearer perspective of life. We will be able to better align our priorities and make room for things that matter. You see, I'm currently sitting in a very comfortable comfort zone and I'm really scared to venture outside. I was really hesitant to read the book or even take up the challenge.

Then, a few weeks ago I found out that my girlfriends are using this book and they've been thoroughly blessed by it. From their story, I learn that our lives is really just a little dash. It's the little dash between your birthday and your deathday. And it is what you make out of the dash that makes life matter. The author of the book also said that many people really aren't afraid of dying, but they are afraid that during that little dash, they haven't really lived at all.

Some of my girlfriends are writing about their journey. You can read their journal here: Nana, Yanny, and Nahing. I'm sure Vicky, Della, and Ella also have lots of stories to share about their journey in reading this book. If and when you meet them, ask them about their little dash. :) I'm really blessed and encouraged by their testimonies that I've decided that I want to join in the fun. So I'll be reading the book to - hopefully starting next month. :)

The second story is about a news that I heard today about one of my dear friend. It was a really sad news that my heart broke and I am left speechless for a while. In the email that she had sent to us, she described the rough situation that she's in. And I have to say, it really breaks my heart that she has to go through this. But as I continue to read her email, I was amazed by her faith in the Lord. She remained faithful in believing that in everything, God works for the good of those who love Him. She remained strong in her faith knowing the God is on her side. At this I am greatly encouraged. She, in the midst of her sorrow, has managed to lift my spirit up. You're in my prayers, sis!

My God is a good God who knows exactly what I need. God's words assured me that nothing can happen that is not within his care. Even when the world seemed to be spinning like mad and I just don't know what to hold on to, God is my refuge and my stronghold.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Lastly, I want to share a story about love. Alvin and I went to our second pre-marriage counseling session with Pastor Somi and we were both very blessed by his guidance and counsel. Pastor Somi has been very patient and loving towards us. :) Anyways, the part that I want to share with you all is his advice to us last Monday in waiting for at least a year after our wedding day before having children. He said that we should enjoy each other first and get the hang of being married. :p I totally agree with that comment! As much as I love kids (and I do love them much!), I want to enjoy being married to Alvin. :) I think that it takes a while to get use to living with another person who has different sets of habits that you do. And that one year will definitely help the transition. :p

Okay.. I sincerely believe that this post is extremely long. I am like Nahing now (i.e. writes a lot). :p

God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed. (Job 1:21)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another Tiramisu

Continuing on another weekend baking madness, I woke up Sunday morning to make the last of 2 chiffon cake orders that's due that morning at church; rushed to church; thoroughly blessed by God; hang out with friends and played with Ethan for a bit; rushed to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for this cake that's due that afternoon. :)

There's something about this month - I seem to be on a mad baking rush every weekend. Not that I mind it at all. In fact, I'm really thrilled when I have a lot of opportunity to bake. It really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. :p

Anyways, this cake is for Rachel's 17th birthday celebration. At first I didn't know what to make. Her mom simply said that anything is fine with her. Although I am very honored that she would trust me with such an important decision, I'm really confused on what to make. Many ideas, very little time. I basically have 2 and a half hour to finish this cake from start to finish. On my way to the grocery store, with the help of Alvin, I finally decided to make this tiramisu cake.

I haven't made tiramisu in a while and this cake is always a favorite for me. I did stop for a moment to consider the amount of rum that's in this cake, but then I thought - a little bit of rum makes everything taste better. :p As I was waiting for the cake to bake, I prepared the cream. As I was waiting for the cream to cool, I prepared the chocolate decorations. By the time I'm done with the chocolate, the cake has cooled and the cream has cooled. I assembled the cake quickly and then slid it in the fridge for a little cooling and mingling session. :p

I got so caught up in action that I made some cake pops in between those waiting time. :) I'll post them up soon. I have to say, making cake pops is truly addictive. In fact, I now have an urge to make some more. :p

Orange n Cream Cupcakes

Another dessert that I made this weekend was for the Longhorn game against the Texas Tech. So in the spirit of UT, I made orange cupcake filled with pastry cream and frosted with orange Chantilly cream topped with orange jimmies. Yes, the cupcakes are bleeding orange! :) I'm sure all the longhorn fans will like this. :p

It had been one fun-filled weekend with Ci En-En, Nana, and Tata visiting Houston but as soon as I sent them off at the airport, my body started screaming out loud that it's exhausted. We had probably about 4-6 hours of sleep over the span of 3 days. But that night after they left, the UT game was going to play. I cannot miss it and Alvin, especially, cannot miss it. :) We had made arrangements to watch the game together with a few friends at Handy's house and I can't possible come with empty hands. So as soon as I got home from the airport, I made these quick cupcakes. As soon as I'm done with them, Alvin arrived to pick me up. Phew! What a hectic day!

But the business doesn't stop then...

The next day's chiffon cake orders have yet to be made. So when I get home after the game, I made one chiffon cake, slept, and dreamed about making the second one the next morning. :p

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Roti Sosis Keju

This past weekend is not much different than the last 2 weekends in September. I baked a lot :) It started with the cupcake pops, then continuing on to this sausage and cheese bread. My recipe for these only yielded 8 breads and I regretted not doubling the batch because the bread was very good. It's really moist and soft, even after 3 days and without reheating in the microwave. I would really recommend this recipe for you all to try. :)

250 g bread flour
60 g powdered sugar
10 g powdered milk
1 packet instant dry yeast
1/2 tsp dough conditioner
2 egg yolks
100 ml water
50 g butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
8 sausages
4 slices cheddar cheese

Sift the flour, sugar, milk, yeast, and dough conditioner together in a mixing bowl. Add in the egg yolks and start kneading the dough using a stand mixer (or hand mixer) with a dough hook attachment. While kneading, slowly pour in the water. Continue kneading until the dough starts to pull from the sides of the bowl. Add in the butter and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 30 minutes for me).

Let the dough proof in a humid and warm place for an hour in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap. When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch the air out of the dough and divide into 8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball and let rest for about 10-15 minutes. When the dough is well rested, roll it into the shape of a long log. Take 1/2 slice of cheese and 1 sausage and wrap them with the dough. Let proof for another hour.

When they are ready to bake, brush the doughs with milk and bake at 300F for 15 minutes.


Cupcake Pops

Ever since I first visited Bakerella's blog, I've been dying to try making these cupcake pops. But for those of you who know me, I'm a little scared of trying new things. I think it's due to the fear of failure for the most part. But when my bff and "Mami" told me they're coming to town and needed some props for our fun engagement photo shoot, they had suggested that I made these. I thought for a while and finally decided that if I'm going to make these cupcake pops someday, this would be the perfect moment. :)

Well, let me back up on my story a little bit to give you all background of the story. My "Mami" is really En-En and she has so much talent in photography. During this year's Ramadan holiday, her and her partner in crime, Tata, came to visit the US once more. Now, back in 2002, En-En made a promise to visit me in Texas someday. So in staying true to her words, she decides to drop by Houston during her trip. Since the more the merrier, Tata and Nana (my bff) also came to join the fun. En-En and Tata had offered to take engagement (or pre-wedding) pictures for Alvin and I. :) Yay! And Nana had offered to be the styling director for this photo shoot. :) Double Yay!

Well, apparently you need props to make photo shoots more fun and memorable. Since I love to bake, they told me to make some pretty cakes as props for the photo shoot. Nana, being the creative person, suggested that I made these cupcake pops. :) So I braved myself to the challenge and dipped some cakes in chocolate. :p

We had so much fun during the photo session and I just can't wait to see the results. When the photos come, I'll be sure to update you all on them. :)

During the photo session... well, more like during the trip to Austin, where our photo session was going to be, 2 of the 4 cupcake pops that we brought as props committed suicide. -_-" Yes, they either exploded or fell down from the stick. We panicked but was thankful that we still had 2 that survived. However, as we hurried to unload stuff from the car to take the pictures, one of them was squished! LOL! We didn't know what to say but simply laughed our heads off. Don't worry, we still had one survivor for the shoot. :)

I want to shout out special thanks to En-En, Tata, and Nana... they're very dear to Alvin and I. We are very thankful to have such caring, funny, patient, and talented friends as you are. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Raspberry and Vanilla Yogurt Mousse Cake

This is my second to last weekend baking projects. A special birthday cake for Cess :)

I can't believe that it's been a year since I made her last birthday cake. Lately I'm starting to realize that things are happening twice in Houston. Time really flies and it just caught me by surprise that I've been here in Houston for almost 2 years now. It's been pretty fun though down here. The weather is quite awful but I believe that as long as you have good friends around, any place is a jolly place. :)

As for the cake, it's made of 4 different components: pistachio dacquoise, raspberry mousse, strawberry sponge cake, and vanilla yogurt mousse. All of the recipes are courtesy of Cannelle et Vanille. :) She has this wonderful blog full of gorgeous photos and wonderful recipes! I definitely recommend everyone to check it out. :)

Here's a picture of the cross section of the cake. :) I think the colors are quite complimentary but I wish there's a little of orange or yellow in the cake. Cess' cousin also brought her a birthday cake from Jungle Cafe and it's just very pretty. The colors are so vibrant and the decorations were real pretty. It's really a reminder for me that I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. :)

One last note before I leave this post -

In reading my daily devotion today, I came across Deuteronomy 6:5 that says "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This is the same message that Jesus taught in the new testament (Luke 10:27)! It dawned on me that the message of love is preached throughout the bible and not just in the new testament. :) My God is a good God who is abounding in love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). Amen!

Trio of Mini Cupcakes

Continuing on my weekend baking, I made tons of mini cupcakes! :) A friend from church is having her baby shower on Saturday and I offered to bring some mini cupcakes. She told me that about 40 people will be coming and that I should bring about 40 mini cupcakes. Because I had fallen so in love with my banana cupcakes, I decided to make more of it! Yes, for the 3rd time this weekend I am making the banana/bluenana cupcakes again!

The recipe for the banana cupcakes was so yummy that I decided to play around with it a little more. So from that recipe, I modified it to make raspberry cupcakes and strawberry cupcakes. I think the results was not too bad. :) I feel quite accomplished with my cupcake project. One batch of the cupcakes make about 50 mini cupcakes. So now I have 100 over mini cupcakes at home (I ate a lot of the bluenana mini cupcakes during the process :p) when I only need about 40 for the baby shower. So I brought the remaining cupcakes to Cess' birthday dinner (I'll post the birthday cake I made for her next).

Anyways, back to the baby shower cupcakes. I mixed and matched the flavors on the cupcakes and decided with these three: strawberry with pistachio, bluenana with vanilla, and raspberry with blueberry. :) I think of the three combo, my favorite is still the banana vanilla mini cupcakes. But then again, I have a bias towards bananas. :p

I'm also excited about this simple cupcake design. It's just a little swirl with my big round tip with a little heart-shaped quins on top but it gives the cupcakes a nice touch of fanciness. :p

And my photographer (Alvin) is back on duty this weekend. :) He took all these gorgeous picture of the cupcakes. He's been playing around with manual white balance and I think he's getting better. We still have a lot to learn about this picture taking thingie, but I'm surrendering the task to Alvin. :p

Even after bringing the cupcakes to Cess' birthday dinner, I still have a few leftover cupcakes. As much as I liked them, there's a limit to the amount of cupcakes that I can consume. So I brought the final remainder of the cupcakes to church for the Sunday School children. Last Sunday was my first time being a Sunday School teacher at IFGF Houston and I love it! The children were awesome and fun - it's such a joy to be a part of their growing up. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

BlueNana Cupcakes - Unfrosted

Another weekend has come and gone by. :) Although this one wasn't as long as the Labor Day weekend, I did a lot of baking again. I had 3 different cake requests on Saturday plus I wanted to make something for the cell group on Friday.

So it started with the banana cupcakes I made on Friday. I had found this recipe for banana cupcakes from 4Goodness Cake a while ago but I haven't tried it yet. So when I saw that my bananas had gotten ripe, I decided to try it out. And I have to tell you... it's the BEST banana cake I'd ever tried. It's so good that I decided to make these for two of the three cake requests on Saturday.

And just so that I don't make the same thing twice in a row, I decided to add some blueberries to the recipe to make this BlueNana Cupcakes for Mery & Ryan. Mery had asked me to make a pandan chiffon cake and some muffins for her wedding committee meeting. But instead of muffins, I made these unfrosted bluenana cupcakes. :) After all, the line between muffins and unfrosted cupcakes is really thin. :p

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Almost Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is my last day driving to Galveston for work (at least for now) and I wanted to bring something for my team as a little farewell gift. I left work at 7 last night and went to Alvin's cousin's house for dinner and to play with little Ethan. When I finally get home, it was 11:30 and I knew that I don't have the time to make something fancy. Plus, I ran out of sugar and therefore had to make a midnight trip to H-E-B. And we all know, there's no such thing as a short trip to the grocery store for me. :p

When I went back home, I browsed through my cookbooks looking for easy but yummy goodies. I soon realize that the time I take to browse, I could have used it to bake. :p Then I remembered these NM Chocolate Chip Cookies that my coworkers had mentioned about. I take a quick look at the recipe, then at my kitchen counter - check! I have all the ingredients on hand. :)

When I was baking these cookies, I had an echo going in my head: "Aim to under bake the cookies!" Yes, to get those chewy texture on the cookies, it is very important to under bake the cookies. When I took the cookies out of the oven, the middle part of the cookies are quite mushy. As the cookies cool, they take on more structure.

By the time I get done with these cookies, it was almost 2AM. I quickly took out my camera and snap some pictures. :) I brought this to work today and I'm hoping the team enjoyed it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes

Today is Jessica's birthday and I really felt that time flew by very quickly. I felt that it wasn't too long ago when I baked her birthday cake last year and now a year has passed. In that one year I get to see her grow and mature :) She's also become one very talented baker! This year I didn't bake her a birthday cake because she had baked her own. It's a very nice basket weave cake with lots of pretty flowers and butterflies. I wish I can show you pictures of the cake.

Even though I didn't bake a cake for her birthday, I still felt that I needed to bring something to today's hotpot bible study session. So I rushed home from Galveston and baked these strawberry cupcakes within an hour. I didn't have time to think too much about how the cupcakes will turn out or what kinds of frosting/decorations I will use. All I know is that I need to make something that can be done in a short amount of time and taste and look decent. So I settled with strawberry sponge cupcakes with strawberry Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. :) It's a very simple cupcake but overall, I think I work rather well under pressure. :p

Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Mousse and Blueberry Jam

I promise that this is my last post on my Labor Day baking frenzy. :p This is the cake that I was talking to you about in my previous post - the first cake that I made for Baby William for which I have not enough faith on and therefore decide to reserve it for the home.

There are several reasons for my doubt in this case:

1. I wasn't able to split the cake layer evenly
2. The blueberry jam that I used tasted too sweet for me
3. The chocolate walls that I used for the cake were very similar to the ones I used for my sis' cake

So Alvin suggested that we just cut the cake and eat it ourselves (and of course share it with our "neighbors"). When I bite into the cake, it really wasn't bad at all. The sweetness of the raspberry jam was toned down by the light taste of the vanilla sponge cake, the tangy taste of the cream cheese mousse, and the fresh taste of the strawberry compote. I actually think that this cake tasted more refreshing than the cream mousseline cake. Although Alvin said that both cakes tasted good in their own different ways. :)

As you'll see in the pictures below, the cake is made of several components. It's made of 2 vanilla sponge cake (there's one cake that was split in half), a thin layer of strawberry compote, cream cheese mousse, and blueberry jam. The cake was topped generously with fresh summer fruits. After I'm done with arranging the fruits on top of the cake, I realized that this cake looks like a typical cake in a Chinese bakery (like Sheng-kee). :p My roommate and Alvin also said the same thing. :)

This was also my first time in making cream cheese mousse. Actually, the ideas for this cake came from my discussion with Bertha a few days ago. She told me that cream cheese mousse and blueberry make a good combination. So I decided to give it a try. I have to admit that it is one good combination and I recommend that others try this too.

Cream Cheese Mousse - adapted from Bertha's advice

225 g cream cheese, at room temperature
75 g powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g heavy cream (yes, the measurement is by weight)

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, salt, and sugar until light and fluffy. Then mix in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, being careful not to over mix the mousse.

Yes, it is that simple to make cream cheese mousse. You can also adjust the sweetness of the mousse by playing around with the amount of sugar in the recipe. :)

I brought this cake over to Alvin's cousin's place and I think the cake was well received over there. :)

Vanilla Cream Mousseline Cake with Fresh Strawberries

This is also part of my Labor Day baking frenzy :) I made this cake for my dear friend's baby one month old celebration. His name is William Watson Lim and he is such a handsome baby! His little fingers were perfect and he has thick black hair. He was sleeping during most of his full month's celebration but he remained to be the center of attention that day.

This cake is actually the second cake I made for this occasion. I didn't have enough faith in the first cake that I made (I'll post this cake next) and so I went on to make another cake. :p

This cake is made of 2 layers of soft vanilla sponge cakes brushed with orange liquor, filled with vanilla cream mousseline, strawberries and raspberries, and then frosted with chantilly cream. I decorated the cake with more fresh strawberries and white chocolate walls. :) When this cake was done, I still didn't have enough faith in the second cake but I didn't have time to make another one. :( So I just went ahead and brought this one to the table.

This was also my first time making cream mousseline. I've never tasted it before and therefore I don't know how it's suppose to taste. All I know is that it's basically pastry cream mixed with butter. So when I saw Cannelle et Vanille's post with vanilla cream mousseline, I immediately tried it out.

Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
250 g whole milk
1 vanilla bean --> I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
40 g sugar --> I used 60 g of sugar
25 g cornstarch
125 g butter, cold and cut into small pieces

Place the milk, vanilla and half of the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a light boil. Whisk together the egg yolks, half of the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. When the milk mixture comes to a light boil, temper it into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk to incorporate and then return this to the saucepan. Cook while constantly whisking until the custard thickens. Remove vanilla bean, if using, and transfer the custard to a clean bowl. Whisk to slightly cool the custard down and start adding the cold butter while whisking. This will cool it down and make it shiny and creamier. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and chill.

I think the cake was quite well accepted by the crowd that day. I felt so relieved and I can finally breathe. :p The cream mousseline was actually really nice. I think I'll experiment with it more in the future.

Also, my dear friend Yenny Kuncoro sent an email a few days ago with a very beautiful note:

Our greatest pride should not be in never failing, but in always rising up again
every time we fall.

I hope that this will encourage you as well as you go about living your lives.

Monday, September 7, 2009

French Brownies

With an extra day of labor day holiday (courtesy of my company's newly implemented policy of mandatory PTO), I spent all day Friday baking. Yes... all day Friday :) I've posted the green tea cupcakes that I made and now I'm sharing this French brownies with you guys.

When I was reading through my favorite baking book, this brownies recipe really caught my attention because of several reasons:

1. It's French - anything French sounds fancy
2. It has rum - I believe that everything taste better with a little bit of rum
3. It has raisins - I'm a big fan of these small bites of delight!

Since I have the time and the ingredients ready on-hand, it only make sense for me to put the recipe to test. :) And the results was awesome! Once more, Dorie does not disappoint. The brownies were perfectly fudgy and not overwhelmingly sweet. You can taste a hint of rum and the occasional raisin discoveries while munching away is wonderful!

Recipe adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1 1/2 tbs water
1 1/2 tbs rum
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300F and line an 8" baking pan with greased foil. Sift the flour, salt, and cinnamon together and set aside.

In a small saucepan, boil the raisins and water together until almost all the water has evaporated. Pour in the rum and let it warm for 30 seconds. Remove the saucepan from heat and ignite the rum to let some of the alcohol burn out. Wait for the flames to die out and set aside.

Melt the chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, being careful not to burn them (try to maintain the chocolate at about 95F-98F). Take it off from the heat and stir in the butter until all is melted.

In another mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until thick and pale (about 2 minutes). Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until well blended. Using a spatula, fold in the sifted flour mixture followed by the raisins (along with any remaining liquids). Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in comes out clean.