Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Raspberry marshmallow friands

I've been on a bit of a baking spree, eh? Last night, I took a break from baking cupcakes and decided to try a recipe from marie claire style: desserts. Part of my criteria in picking a recipe to try is 1) it has to sound yummy, 2) it has to use ingredients that aren't too chi-chi and are easily available at any supermarket, and 3) it has to be easy to make.

I had no idea what friands were, but judging by the picture, friands looked like mini-muffins. A search on the web revealed that friands are kind of like tea-cakes, with a dense and pretty moist interior, and made with almond powder. As with so many recipes, I found that following it to the letter would not provide the same result as what is shown in the picture. Actually, my friands look nothing like the picture. Hmmph. If you're interested, here's the recipe, modified to suit my tastes and kitchen:

Raspberry marshmallow friands
Makes 12
1 cup plain flour
1.5 cups icing sugar
100g almond powder (the book says hazelnut meal, but I used almond instead. Also, the almond taste came out too subtle, so I'd actually go with half a cup more)
0.5 cup desiccated coconut (I skipped this, since I don't like coconut)
5 egg whites
180g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100g raspberries
50g small pink marshmallows, chopped (I'd say you can add more marshmallows if you want to)
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 deg. (Book says 200 deg, but I think that's a little high. I'd rather bake for longer at a lower temperature to risk burning)
  2. Sift flour and icing sugar together. I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again: sifting icing sugar is a pain in the bum!
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. This means you have to beat them until they get really light, white and frothy. It could take a while.
  4. Fold into the dry ingredients, together with the melted butter.
  5. Set aside 12 raspberries, and fold the rest into the mixture.
  6. Spoon into tins (make sure you grease them!)
  7. Press a raspberry into the top of each friand. The book mentions pressing a halved marshmallow onto the top as well, but I don't recommend that. My marshmallows just melted into an awful brown gooey mess.
  8. Bake for 20 min or until golden and starting to come away from the tins. I made the mistake of taking them out a little too late, as I thought they still looked a little moist.
  9. Leave to cool, and once ready, dust with icing sugar to serve.

They don't look too pretty, but at least they tasted pretty good.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Your own homepage on Google!

This may not be news to you, but I've just been introduced to iGoogle. It's a page which you can customise by adding whatever content you like, like news, games. It's a great way to put online apps you use regularly onto 1 page. For myself, I've got newsfeeds from Channel News Asia and BBC, a world clock meeting organiser, currency converter, babelfish translator, my delicious list, gmail, and a fun widget that calculates the number of calories I consume a day. And just for kicks, I've put daily puppy onto my page too, just cos I love doggies.

Updated (31/7): What I also love about this are the themes you can pick to decorate the top of your page. The one I'm using now is called "Tea House"and at various times in the day, you can see that the cute little fox is doing different things. In the late afternoon, he's feeding the ducks and at night, he goes to bed. If you keep watching him, you'll also find him picking fruit off trees, having breakfast and going for a little boat-ride in his mini-lake. Kawaii!

The images change every 2 hours, but if you're lazy and just want to see the little fox's entire day of events at one go, visit here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Go go gadget

Every so often, I get struck by gadget lust…

External hard drive
All the better to save my music and videos in!

Apple’s standard issue earplugs are ok, but some of the music in my ipod (particularly the classical music) deserve better earphones.

MP3 player
It’s pretty hard to trump Apple, but LG’s player is really making me consider switching.

Digital camera
My current Sony cyber-shot is serving me well, but it doesn’t take very good close-up pictures.

Mobile phone
Probably the gadget I need the least out of this list. I still like my silver Motorola Razr, but LG and Samsung’s new slider designs really have me drooling.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Net-a-porter sale

I love visiting Net-a-porter, but for a mere mortal like myself, I can't even afford it at 50% off, but if you're looking for something special, it might be worth your while to have a look. Most of the items above are at half price.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Secret ingredient: Rose

Format swiped from Lucky magazine

While the rose has never been my favourite flower (give me orchids any day), I have recently become quite enamoured with the scent, after smelling a very exotic and unusual mix while in Paris in April, so now I'm constantly on the search for products with rose in them.

1. Juliette Has a Gun perfumes: the scent that sparked it all. 2 rose scents are available and definitely won't make you smell like grandma: Lady Vengeance (pictured) has Italian rose, vanilla and patchouli while Miss Charming has a more innocent smell, with Moroccan rose, wild strawberry and lychee. Also try: Penhaligon's Elisabethan Rose for a sweeter and more straight out traditional rose scent.
2. Kiehl's Rosewater Toner: Great for oily skin, feels fresh and leaves a faint trace of rose scent after applying.
3. Laneige Multi Glam blusher in light rose-rose: My go-to blush for everyday use. Also try: Nars Outlaw blush for a more glam, night-time look.
4. Benefit Benetint: The famous formula of crushed rose petals gives a pretty rose stain on cheeks and lips. Also try: Benetint lip balm with vitamin E and SPF 15.
5. Marks & Spencer Rose deodorant: Forget Dove or Impulse, I think M&S makes the best deodorants.
6. Original Source Rose & Aloe shower gel: Always a guilty pleasure to splurge on nice smelling shower gels. I recently discovered this in Cold Storage supermarket. While it doesn't really smell like rose, I do like the relaxing scent.

Also, while it is completely unrelated to beauty products, let it be known that my favourite macaron flavour is rose.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ah Pa-ree: Cafe Les Philosophes

I have one last recommendation for relatively reasonable places to eat while in Paris. Les Philosophes, a cafe situated along the main street in Marais, was recommended by our charming hotel receptionist, who said he spent many weekends sitting there with friends with a glass of wine.

We took a taxi there, arrived at a packed cafe, and were told (rather brusquely), that there was no space inside. After some waiting around, We took matters in our own hands and got a table outside the moment it was vacated.

I decided to go with our hotel receptionist's recommendation of getting the duck salad with goat cheese. It was most definitely the right choice as the duck was beautifully tender, the mix of greens and dressing just right, and the goat cheese wonderfully satisfying.

I think it's because I'm not too fond of custard, but I wasn't crazy about the Iles Flotante (Floating Island), a French dessert which consists of light frothy meringue on top of a sea of creme anglaise .

This is the dessert I picked for myself - a pot of chocolate mousse which came with a very yummy wafer-thin buscuit cracker to dip in. Very filling though.

The best of all the desserts! Unfortunately I can't remember what kind of cake it was, but it's enough to know that because there was chocolate in it, it was good!

Les Philosophes
28 Rue Vieille du Temple, Marais
Metro: Hotel de Ville

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This July, I am into...

Listening: Khalil Fong(方大同), Clazziquai’s new album, Take 6’s Greatest Hits
Eating & baking: macarons from Gateaux Fabulous, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes
Wearing: shift dresses to beat the heat, stackable rings, Mr Frosty eyeliner and Big Beautiful Eyes from Benefit, Acerola face wash and yummy face masks from The Face Shop
Carrying: new Balenciaga motorcycle bag
Watching: King Lear, Transformers
Kdramas: Coffee Prince, Thank You, Bad Couple, Sang Doo, Let's Go to School
Resisting: shopping (I’m on a fast!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chocolate strawberry cupcakes

Last night, I managed to forgo my nightly dose of kdramas and made some cupcakes instead. I have a renewed interest in baking now that I've been introduced to a great baking supplies shop along Seah Street, and when we had to go there on an errand a couple of days ago, I picked up some cute sprinkles which just begged to be used immediately.

I've had Elinor Klivans' book for quite a while, but never got round to making any recipes in her book, always choosing to look at the pretty pictures and reading the recipes and descriptions. So this was the perfect opportunity to break out the book and start baking. It also helped that my colleague had a go at one of the recipes the day before and they turned out really good.

For my cupcakes, I went for a Nigella Lawson recipe for chocolate cherry cupcakes. Nigella's recipe calls for cherry jam, but I substituted that for a jar of Bunalun strawberry and vanilla jam I had lying around the fridge instead. The substitution worked well, but I think I added too much jam (and sugar), so the cupcakes didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. They were a little hard on the outside, and not quite cooked enough on the inside. I'll have to experiment a bit more with the measurements to get it right.

As for the frosting, I went with the chocolate buttercream recipe in my book. Having looked around at a lot of frosting recipes on the net, I've noticed that insane amounts of sugar that go into it; I guess Americans have a really sweet tooth. Also, with our climate, a lot of the frosting recipes don't work so well here. But I was very pleased to see that the chocolate buttercream held up quite well, and didn't melt into a gooey mess.

Chocolate strawberry cupcakes
Makes 10
125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I used Valrhona Guanaja)
150g caster sugar (although I'd recommend no more than half a cup)
500g strawberry jam (I'd go for a little less)
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
To make, follow Nigella's directions on her site.

Chocolate buttercream frosting
Note: this makes an insane amount of frosting, so I recommend halving all the portions
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Hershey's baking chocolate, they come in handy 1 ounce bars)
1.5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Cadburys)
2 cups powdered/icing sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
0.5 cup whipping cream (I used UHT whipping cream)
  1. Melt the chocolate over a water bath, and set aside to cool once fully melted.
  2. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together. This took quite a long time, and my arms hurt after all that sifting.
  3. Mix the butter, sugar and cocoa powder together in an electric mixer on low speed. It will start out being lumpy, but don't panic! It'll turn out nice and smooth in a bit.
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate.
  5. Add the whipping cream and vanilla essence and beat on medium speed until everything becomes creamy and the colour lightens
Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes and decorate as desired. Offer to family and friends and bask in their praise.

PS: If you're interested in the vanilla frosting, you can try this recipe from Martha Stewart. It's a little too soft and sweet for my liking so I would reduce the amount of sugar used. The batter for the yellow cupcakes is really good though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lunch at Ember

For my father's actual birthday (we celebrated it officially with dinner at Au Petit Salut earlier), we went to Restaurant Ember at the Hotel 1929 for lunch last month. We hadn't gone back there in the last 2 years, so it was about time to pay another visit.

There's a very comprehensive set lunch menu, which allows you to pick from quite a variety of starters, mains and desserts. Overall, the food is still good, but it seems to be lacking a little of the refined taste it used to have; in fact, I don't recall the dishes being this salty.

Starters (L): my father had the foie gras, while (R) I had the soft shell crab. He wasn't terribly impressed by it, while I enjoyed mine. The crab had the right amount of crunch, and the wasabi mayo that accompanied it gave it an extra bite.

Pan seared chilean seabass with mushroom and smoked bacon ragout, truffle yuzu-butter sauce. Overall very tasty, but too salty. Didn't take pictures of my dad and sister's mains, cos they had already started eating. I'm not a very good food blogger. :)

For dessert, my father had the banana tart with lavender ice cream, while I had the molten chocolate cake. The staff were nice enough to add a candle to his dessert. Both desserts also were not up to scratch, with the banana tart being a little too dry, and my molten cake a little too floury and not a very satisfying chocolatey taste.

I've always liked the food and ambience at Ember, so was quite sad to see that the standard of food seems to have dropped. Ones hopes that the standard is better at dinnertime. With cheaper lunch deals in the area (like Oso and Le Papillon), I'm afraid I won't be back here for lunch in a while.

Hotel 1929
50 Keong Saik Road
Tel: 6347 1928

Monday, July 09, 2007

Erin hearts Target

These are my picks for the newly announced Target Go International collaboration with French designer Erin Fetherston. The cream coat is a definite no-go for Singapore, but if I were to live in a country where the temperatures dipped below 15 deg, I'd get that fer sure. This collection comes out in Nov, but in the meantime you can wait until July 15 for the Libertine collection to be released.

Get the big picture goodness at Nitrolicious.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dinner at Au Petit Salut

For my father's birthday dinner, I brought him to the newly moved Au Petit Salut. It was a fantastic meal; service was excellent, food very delicious and dessert so sinful. I'd go back again!

Sorry, no pictures of starters and dessert. Too busy eating.

Au Petit Salut

40C Harding Road (Minden Cluster)
Tel: 6475 1976

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Browsing Face Hunter

I don't visit Face Hunter as often as the Sartorialist, but I do like to drop in every now and then to see the zany and creative outfits. These are a few which caught my eye (borrowing Sart's style):

(L): Those shoes! (R): The mix of greys!

(L): That skirt! (R): The coolness of it all!