Thursday, November 23, 2006

The 400 Cupcakes

Before I start with the cupcakes, I absolutely HAVE to mention that I had the rare honor of meeting up with Food Blogging Legend, Masak Masak aka Boo_licious. For a full account of food and company, and stunning photos, please go to her blog. It was great to finally meet her and see that brilliant food photographer in action. She made it look so easy, taking stunning shots of food. Sigh.

Back to the 400 cupcakes, actually, they turned out more like muffins than cupcakes, for the simple reason I used muffin cases instead of cupcakes, BECAUSE, cupcakes casing require moulds, and if I were to rely on my 2 muffin pans, I'll be baking for 10 hours.

As it is, this was how we proceeded:
6.20pm - Client collected 2 lime tarts which were baked earlier.

6.31pm - Start of the maiden batch. Daughter lines trays with muffin cases, I measure, sift, mix batter, wife & daughter pour batter into muffin cup. First round experiment, too much batter, cupcakes overflowed, stuck together, one big nebulous mess. Salvaged the overgrown ones into cupcake cases.

7.30pm - Break for dinner....cupcake tally thus far, about 66...

9pm - Legs giving way, but I think we probably reached the halfway mark. Sms the Vacation Bible School (VBS) director to ask if he minded if we didnt ice it, as baking alone was a mammoth task. He suggests they ice it themselves. What a brilliant idea.

9.30pm - Check email, send out emails for parents.

10.30 pm - The end is in sight, but made too much batter. Had to use up remaining batter in normal cupcake form, as the 400 muffin cases gone liao. Start mixing the blue mint icing, after maid sifted icing sugar. Turned out quite nice. If they run out they can substitute with toothpaste.

10.45 pm - Last of the muffin casing cakes come out, allowing me to chuck in my lemon meringue pie, which was a commercial order.

11.15pm - My work is done, left wife to tend the remaining few cupcakes. Shower, feel human again.

Batter bowl. Handmixer at rear to give sense of scale

Ready To Bake

Arctic Blue Mint Icing (Theme for VBS is Arctic Edge)

What happens to a woman after 9 months of pregnancy?

Total raw material consumption:
5½ kg flour
2 kg cocoa powder
7 kg sugar
2.5 litres oil
5 litres milk
5 litres water
60 plus eggs
2 bottles vanilla
250 gms baking soda
125gms baking powder

Forgot to blog about my Thai cooking class, which I sneaked out of office on Monday afternoon to attend, just down the road, with renowned local chef, Azrah Khan. RM250 for 10 dishes, 2 classes of two hours each.

Pros are pros la (professionals, not prostitutes), and in that 2 hours she managed to effortlessly, without apron, and without a stain on her, to whip up, 50 over kueh tacos, (premade pandan casings, though we did learn how to make em. ), Otak otak, Green Curry Chicken, Steamed Fish A La Thai style, and Tom Yam.

Otak Otaks. We learnt how to make the banana leaf casings too.

Green Curry Chicken.

Did you know Tom Jones went to Thailand and became a Buddhist, and even changed his name? It's now....
Tom Yam

I must get myself one of these fish platters, apparently from old town or chow kit.

Ah, yes, the above is my first attempt at baked orange cheese cake, which my mother requested last Monday. Since she raved so much about it, (dunno if it's the blood is thicker than water bias), I've made another one for tonight's family dinner. I didn't get to try it the first time, and it was a bit overcooked, coz I was juggling a family photo shoot (imagine popping in and out of kitchen, checking the oven, in a full lounge suit), and the baking time. It cracked a bit on the surface, hence had to do the make up thing and use some kumquats to hide the cracks.

Will let you know what IIII think of the baked cheesecake. (Actually these days I no longer into cheese cakes. Used to love them when I was younger. Bonton was THE benchmark those days. Their sicilian cheesecake was to die for, and my favourite baked cheesecake is from Park Royal Hotel, the strawberry baked cheesecake. Divine).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Isthmust, IS MUST.

Further to my earlier post (chialamak, so formal, I hate letters with those "further to this and further to that), I think I simply have to blog about this place, coz honestly, and though the owners are my close friends, honestly honestly, it was one of the best culinary experiences I've had in a long long time. It's the kind of food that really tickles and tantalises your palate, but yet, it is food that you'd go back (or at least I would) repeatedly for more. There are some places, yar, it might have been interesting culinary experience, but I can only eat it say once a year. Not so with Isthmus. Of course, the sterling company and the fantastic margarita already gave me a predinner buzz....

Oyster shots with Vodka, Sake and other delish stuff.

Mmmm, I can't remember what it's called, but it was darn good. It's kinda like a large gnocchi.

Oooh, avocado something something, with that gorgeous green sauce.

I'm not a real lamb person, but this lamb shank, is really really good. Falls off the bone, exceedingly tender.

Prawns in screwpine leaf. (Pandan leerrrrrr) Prawns very fresh (and big). Very tasty. Sort of a fancy har loke, with bursts of different flavours.

Pan Seared Salmon I think, with a lovely sweet sour sauce. I not a salmon person, so this wasn't my favourite, but for the ichthomananiacs, go for it.

This is one of my favourites. If I were alone, I'd order this as my mains. Steak, so tender you'd almost swear it was a form of wagyu or something. Seriously, bovine fans, mmmmmm.......

Citrus Salad. Pomelo is really an underused and underrated fruit, though most of the time, overpriced. It goes really well in salads. So does watercress. But I guess being chinese, we are used to yee sang, and should know this for a fact.

Lime Tart with Kumquats. First bite seems really sour, but as you work your way along, it's actuall very palatable. Love that citrus sauce surrounding it. You know how some orange sauces can taste like Haliborange.

Moist chocolate cake, nice and light.

What a great dinner it was. As I said, ISTHMUS IS MUST.

Moving along, to an earlier topic, my ICCA (I just found out it stands for International Centre for Creative urm....Art???) Wilton course that I'm taking.

We had to prepare an iced cake for homework, using the Wilton Buttercream recipe, which contains no butter, only shortening, and is supremely gross to eat, for adults. This was my iced cake. Was so exhausted from baking over the weekend, asked wife to whip up a plain butter cake for me to ice.

Then we practised in the class how to pipe stars and stripes. Expect me to ice a whole cake with these little stars ah? FORGETTTTT IT MAN!!!!!!They do have tips that can pipe 3 stars at a time but STILL!!!!

Then they teach us how to transfer a pattern template to your cake, for icing, using piping gel.

And the finished product. Of course, using the same technique, you should be able to transfer any design onto a cake, iced with that particular Wilton Butter cream recipe, coz it contains meringue powder, which in turn, makes it easier for the jel to stick

These below aren't nipples. They are the base for the Wilton Rose, which is touted as their pride and joy. Not being a flower person, I have little interest in this aspect of the course, but since you need to do it to graduate, I just hope my roses would not resemble a tit with peeling skin.

Another cake order (this was before the Wilton course) was 40 cupcakes, for some birthday. From the icing, you can tell WHY I need to go for a cake decorating course. Honestly, I have no patience for all this intricate work. Incidentally, I need to bake 400 cupcakes for my church's vacation bible school, themed Arctic Edge. I think to ice it with buttercream would be suicide. Anyone knows a simple icing sugar icing with mint? I was thinking of just adding water, icing sugar and peppermint essence. Will it work? I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Congratulations On Your Opening

To my dearest dearest friends, KSL and Mr K, may I offer my heartiest congratulations on the opening of your new restaurant Isthmus, which I am sure will offer a host of dining pleasures, to the socialites and non socialites, gourmets, gourmands, gluttons, plebians of KL.

We await with great anticipation for the grand opening.

Anyway, guys and girls, it's a lovely set up, in the new Northpoint buildings, next to midvalley megamall. Basically it's on the route to Seputeh, if you're going around the megamall loop, and is on the ground floor, where the large open courtyard is, and as you enter, its in the building on the left, ie, block B I think. The restaurant is called ISTHMUS, and is affiliated to that chain of restaurants in Melbourne, Isthmus of Kra, Monsoon and Madam Fang. (ie, one of the owners owns or used to own those restaurants). I hear their trademark baked oysters in terra cotta plates will be featured here as well.

The last few days have been brisk baking business. People, ALL my free time, time that used to wallow around watching sitcoms, dvds, ALL OF IT, has disappeared, this week. I mean the usual routines of bringing the kids to the mall on Mondays, and inlaws dinner, and movie premieres (Casino Royale last night) can't be compromised, of course, but spare time, ZILCH.

In the last 48 hours, I've had to bake the following: 2 brownies, 3 chocolate oreo, 1 lemon tart, 1 walnut coffee sourcream, 1 chilled lemon cheesecake, 1 savoury chicken ham and mushroom quiche, and in the next 24 hours, 40 cupcakes, 1 walnut coffee, 1 lemon/lime tart, 1 more oreo, 1 arghhh, what was it, I can't even remember now....oh, orange cheesecake, AND I have to experiment on a baked orange cheesecake for my mother, AND I have my icing homework to do by tonight for the ICCA course tomorrow. Argh, my recorded Seinfeld backlog is increasing, and so are the 30 unwatched DVDs. Nothing new displayed down here, that hasn't been displayed before. Clockwise from left top, walnut coffee sourcream, choc orea, lemon cheesecake, lemon tart, and centre is the chicken quiche. Still got time to blog, should be thankful la.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chocolate Oreo Cake, Best Seller for the Week

Considering I make this quite often, I never actually get to try it, coz it's hard to do test cakes for these layered cakes. However, yesterday, I had an order, as well as a freebie, for my bro in law's birthday, so I actually got to eat the cake. I was surprised actually, at how it tastes rather good, if I may masuk bakul angkat sendiri. It was moist...I'm not sure where the moistness comes from, as the sponge looks rather dry to me, and not too sweet.

One of the areas that I reckon vastly needs improvement is the icing on the cake, ie, the chocolate ganache. I dunno how the commercial ones get such a perfect surface. Does anyone or can anyone enlighten me on the process? I want a finish like secret recipes chocolate banana cake. Smooth chocolate. Mine looks like a teenager with bad skin, all pock marked. I tried using the spatula dipped in boiling water, which I learnt from my Wilton ICCA course, but that applies for buttercream icing.

Ah, more about the Wilton ICCA Level 1 cake decorating course. I've attended one class so far; it's very interesting, but I have to say, Wilton is to cake baking what Roman Catholicism is to Christianity. Very concerned about externalities, and very by the book kinda thing. Oh, and the ingredients prescribed, are of course, from Wilton. Our "homework" for the next class is to bring an iced cake, using the method and icing we learnt in Lesson 1. Frankly, I think between us floggers, people like Boolicious, snowdrop and spot, we could probably start our own denomination in the baking/decoration world.

Last Sunday, for my wife's niece's birthday, we revisited an old haunt I haven't been to since our courting days. ie, circa 10 years ago. Hard Rock Cafe. Being lunch time, I couldn't eat anything heavy, so I had the spaghetti marinara, which I found a tad sour/salty. For RM30, they could have been a bit more generous with the seafood, and not bombard the plate with squid. Unless marinara is italian for calamari. Oh, hangon, marinara probably IS italian, what am I talking about.

I managed to catch a shot of the fajitas that the group of lady guests ordered to share. Reason I wanted a record of this is so I know what I missed out when I serve mine. Well, I think I forgot the shredded cheddar, and shredded lettuce. But mine usually has sauteed onions. Ah well, now I know.

Imagine, those days, when we "frequented" Hard Rock, I barely stepped into the kitchen. Now, I am virtually a slave. Heck, the maid quickly retreated to bed and turned off all the lights before I could ask them to do any further washing up, on Monday night, as I was slaving away at 10.30pm. Let's see, I had to make a Lemon Meringue Pie, A Sticky toffee date pudding, 12 cups of tiramisu, 2 sponge cakes, and 15 scones. Was slaving from 6.15 to 7.30pm, and again from 10-11pm. Actually, quite efficient la hor. Oh, did a stupid thing. Was lazy to chop the chocolate, so tried using the food processor....which little did I know, is fragile as ....
I heard something go PIAK, and that was the end of the food processor. When I opened it the next day, I saw that the "fan belt" had snapped. So, children, do not put hard chocolate in your food processor, unless it's industrial strength.

I have to make 40 cupcakes this weekend for a birthday. Help, any icing recipes that can keep overnight without refrigeration? (Dont want refrigeration coz the cupcakes will be hard, and pickup time is 10am on saturday morning, so I can't do it on Sat morning itself)

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Not That I Haven't Been Baking

Sorry for the long silence, any of you regular readers, real or imaginary, out there. It's not that I haven't been baking, it's just that I keep forgetting to take photographs. Anyway, what I've been doing recently, is making extra mini loaves, from the main batch of orders, firstly as a "quality control" thing, so I get to taste, and secondly, to feed the family, AND bible study group.

Sad to say, there has been nothing new in my repertoire lately. Have been catering to the same old same old. Last weekend, I had to prepare the Roast Duck Pasta for a friend's housewarming, together with a salad, mee siam (which the maid made), lemon meringue pie, AND, I experimented with a moist yoghurt chocolate cake, (as in there's yoghurt in the cake), and inspired by masak masak's review of the zangtoi choc banana cake, attempted to intersperse the chocolate cake with layers of banana and chocolate cream, and topped with a chocolate sauce. Again, I forgot to take pictures. But I did get a shot of the host and the birthday girl, with the cake. It doesn't say very much though.

Now, I found the the chocolate cake a tad dry, but that might be because I got the corners. The inside parts were better. I don't know if people were being polite or what, but generally the reviews were good. And it was finished. Then again, there were 30 people.

Samples of Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting, (from top, clockwise), sticky toffee date pudding, and banana walnut loaf. Might not be able to get a sense of scale here, but the loaves are quite small. Maybe 6" x 2 1/2 ".

I have to say that the sticky date pudding is rather good. It would be better served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I recently bought a large bag of walnuts from Chang Tung. During the Raya period, there seemed to be a nationwide shortage of walnuts, which I needed for the carrot cakes, so I ended up buying them at Carrefour, at RM48 per kg. It's a lot a cheaper at the bake shops, I think it's like RM39 per kg at Chang Tung. It was still out of stock in Bake With Yen last week. Anyway, I then researched the internet, as I was snacking on them, (the walnuts) to see if they are good or bad. Turns out, it seems to be a miracle nut. Omega fatty acids, good for heart, bla bla bla....So, I've been embellishing my lunchtime salads with them, liberally.

Yesterday, I was at a friend's raya open house. Now, when I first laid eyes on these technicolor kaleidescopey layered cake, I was thinking, aiyo, looks terrible. But I have to say, one bite dispelled all doubt. They were rather delectable, with various flavours assaulting the palate. Since there were lots of other guests, I didn't bother putting them on a plate and photographing them.