Friday, July 29, 2011

Nothing makes me happier...

... than to be inspired by great photographs.
... than to be in the arms of a loved one.
... than to have a belly-jiggling, choking laugh with friends, family and at that odd cat video.
... than to have my morning cup of coffee.
... than to have Sunday breakfasts/brunches/lunches (depending on what time we manage to pull ourselves awake.
... than to walk hand in hand with him, in the rain, in a city we love, with the world dashing about around us.
... than to have a hot bath when it's so, so cold.
... than to be playing crossword puzzles and laughing at the words we come up with.
... than to rediscover old photos and smile at the recollection of a memory of a much simpler, innocent time.
... than to read the last page of a good book and feel satisfied.
... than to dream and dream.
... than to have time to myself to dance around the room and blast music.
... than to race across the carpark, although he always wins.

and most of all,

nothing makes me happier than to be genuinely happy, filled with love in the world, feel the restlessness of wanting to be something better and the busyness of a very good day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Late Night Cravings: Choc Mint Brownies

I swear, this is not going to turn into a baking blog although, I have been pretty obsessed with food photography blogs that I've stumbled upon while looking for recipes.

I think it is because we're right smack in the middle of Winter now and all I want to do is to keep warm and have something that will insulate me a little better. Apart from the compulsory quilt (and extra blanket), what better way to fatten yourself up than with desserts - both cold and hot? :)

Tonight while looking at some of the most delectable food blogs (with pictures to match) I started craving - as in, really craving - for a rich, moist chocolate brownie. Then I came across this chocolate mint brownie recipe and I knew I just had to bake it. Like now. Nevermind that it's 11 o'clock at night and nevermind that I have not ran in a couple of days.

Brownie. Now.

And so I did. But after tonight, I'm placing a ban on myself. No more junk food (except that mandatory ice-cream at work, heh) especially this late at night. My sweet tooth has gotten the better of me and I'm noticing it in my waistline.

Before the ban though I'm allowing myself to indulge! Thus the recent baking spree. And without further ado, chocolate mint brownies (in a cup)!

Brownie layer:
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
114g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
250g granulated white sugar
1tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (70g) all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Mint layer:
2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (115g) confectioners sugar
1tbsp non-fat Greek yoghurt (Or heavy cream)
1/2tsp peppermint extract
Chocolate glaze:
3 ounces (90g) semisweet chocolate
1tbsp (14g) unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 160ºC and place rack in the center of the oven. Line a 9x9 inch (23x23cm) baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour and salt and beat until smooth and glossy and comes away from sides of the pan. Pur batter evenly into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheater oven for 25 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from the sides and edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to completely cool.
Mint layer:
1. With electric mixer, beat ingredients until smooth. Add a little extra cream if frosting is too thick. Spread evenly over cooled brownie layer.
2. Place in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes or until firm.
Chocolate glaze:
1. In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter.
2. Spread over mint filling and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until chocolate glaze starts to dull.
As you can see, my brownies didn't consist of three layers. Firstly it was because I didn't have a small-enough pan to bake my brownies in so instead, I used my muffin tray. Secondly it was because I got lazy and I didn't want to wait for another 30 minutes just to have that chocolate glaze!

The brownies were quite good. I added a lot more peppermint essence into my frosting because I like mine a lot more minty. I liked that the outside is crispy and the insides oh so soft and chewy! :) Not the best brownies I've had but for a quick fix, it was pretty good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Robocog, Surry Hills

It had been a long week for me and I just wanted a day to unwind and relax before semester starts again. I start work late on Sunday which gave me a fair amount of time to do just that. The weather forecast for the week had been rain, rain, rain but on Sunday, it was just a bit chilly - a great day for hanging out with friends for Sunday brunch! :)

A friend suggested Robocog Cafe in Surry Hills for brunch and I was more than happy to see it scored a whopping 97% on UrbanSpoon. But honestly, I'm happy wherever there's good coffee and salmon eggs benedict.

Upon reaching the little cafe with the white picket fenced patio and wooden tables, my stomach was already growling in anticipation for food. It was more lunch than brunch by the time we got there and I was just thankful that we managed to get a table despite the place being quite packed.

Although small, the cafe managed to maintain a bright and airy feel. Its walls are painted white and were decorated with an assortment of - you guessed it - robots and cycling paraphernalia. I have a thing for quirky, fun decoration and Robocog ticks this box for me.

I had their salmon eggs benedict but stole a bit off everyone else's plate too. It could be that I was just hungry but everything tasted really good to me.

Having a hearty (yummy) meal always makes me happy after. I had such a nice time catching up with friends and lunch was just the icing on the cake. Would definitely come here again to try the rest of the menu.

Robo Cog, 249 Riley St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9281 2880

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Week in Point Form

1. Cravings for all things sweet - Macarons, strawberries, cupcakes, creme brulee, bars of chocolate, ice-cream.

2. Hi Tempura crunchy seaweed. Yum.

3. Winter is making me so lazy. But the cold is perfect for snuggles and warm cups of hot chocolate with marshmellows. Oh, and spicy-sour tom yam.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

5. Breakfast.

6. Late night MasterChef sessions with the boyfriend. Go, Billy!

7. Art. Photography. Origami.

8. Franz Kafka

Friday, July 15, 2011

Inspired by: Elisa Mazzone

Elisa Mazzone is an Australian illustrator whose works feature soft colours, feminine figures and embellishments.

My (sort-of) take on her artwork:

Pencil on paper; edited on Photoshop.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Packing on the Winter weight

With leftover egg yolks from my macarons, I decided to go ahead and bake this very simple dessert - the unpretentious crème brûlée.

Awesome Thing #990: When you come home from work, eat dinner and you find that you're just in time to watch your favourite TV show.

I don't get very much free time these days because I've been working so much. On most days I work from the afternoon to about 10.30 at night. And that's probably why I now appreciate my free time a lot more than I used to! I find myself packing a lot in to the little hours I have left in my day doing the things that I love. These days, I bake a lot and watch TV during dinner (an indulgence I don't always get). My absolute favourite days are ones when I can come home in the evening and have a nice home-cooked dinner with not much to do after. :) Really, we take these little things for granted - until they become a rarity.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Macarons with White Chocolate and Strawberry Ganache

The title sounds very Master Chef-y doesn't it? I think it's because macarons (Even just its name) have this ability to fancy up just about anything. This sandwich of a sweet filling between delicate cookies not only looks like the prettiest little thing but is so packed with sweetness has got me craving for some! And today being my only day off from work in such a long time, I thought I'd spend it doing something productive.

I have had this packet of almond meal sitting in my pantry for the longest time. I've been wanting to make macarons but just reading recipes has put me off attempting to bake them. So many problems can arise in baking such an innocent looking thing - crumbly dome, no feet, dry meringue, over-beating egg whites, under-mixing ingredients, air pockets in the meringue and the list just goes on. For someone as amateur in the kitchen as me, it's no wonder that the technical side of this dessert scared me off. But my craving for something sweet has been so overpowering (Read: Period cravings) I just HAD to make some!

And this is how they turned out:

Recipe is from here!

As you can see, my macarons had cracked domes and no feet which is such a disappointment! :( The foot of the macaron is what makes them look so cute - like a fluttery skirt around the dainty cookie. I had to bake three batches before I could get them to look anywhere near perfect looking like a macaron!

The first one (With the egg whites left to sit overnight on the kitchen countertop), my batter was too watery because I didn't beat the egg whites long enough and they spread like goo on my tray. But after letting them sit for about three hours I decided to bake them anyway. This batch was the most surprising because not only the shell was smooth but little feet formed around each dome! Unfortunately they were just too out of shape and too thin to put the ganache in between.

The second, I didn't want to leave the egg whites sitting for another whole day just so I can bake them again! I read here that it's not compulsory anyway so I just used the eggs right away. I also didn't leave this batter to dry out as long as my third and the domes didn't crack but they didn't have feet around them.

The third (Second photo) was possibly the worst batch in terms of looks. The shells of every macaron was cracked and still NO FEET. But they retained their shapes and were my most consistent ones that I decided to turn them into macarons anyway.

My verdict is that macarons take such a long time and it's a trial-and-error process that requires a lot of patience! But was it worth it? YES. Because they all taste SO GOOD. Even the boyfriend loved them and he's not much of a sweet tooth! This recipe that I followed made some very nice-tasting macarons which are not overly sweet (Like how macarons tend to be). The ganache was so yummy I could have scooped it in spoonfuls and ate it just like that! Overall, I'd definitely make them again if I have the time and it could possibly be as soon as my next day off. I would think that once I get the shells perfect, it would be such a sweet success! Literally.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The boyfriend had two surprises for me after work two nights ago. One was coming to my workplace to walk me home; and two - ingredients for baking red velvet cupcakes! I have a feeling this was because he saw contestants on the MasterChef program bake them for one of their challenges but you know what, I'm not going complain about the lack of originality when I'm getting cupcakes to eat.

We started baking at about 12a.m. I know, so absurd. But it's never too late to bake a sweet treat, I think. Here are the pictures and recipe:

2 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
60mL red food colouring
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vingear
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream cheese icing:
450g cream cheese, softened
120g unsalted butter, softened
1teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix food colouring and cocoa powder to form thin, smooth paste. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down bowl frequently with a spatula. Add one third of the flour mixture into batter, beat well. Next add half of the buttermilk and beat.
6. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of the buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined.
7. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine.
8. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between cake pans (Or muffin cups) and bake at 180ºC for 25-30 minutes, or until skewer stick comes out clean.
9. Cool cupcakes before icing.
10. For the icing, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth with electric mixer. Add in icing sugar, salt and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy.

I decided to be a bit stingy on the icing because I usually dislike any kind of icing on my cake. But this recipe was so good! Immediately regretted not making more for the cupcakes! The cupcakes turned out quite well, the entire batch is nearly gone now. This recipe is so simple even an amateur baker like me can do it (Granted I had help from the boy)! The only thing that I was a bit iffy about was that the recipe needed SO MUCH colouring, it was almost scary. But I'll let loose this time, only because they were yummy.