Thursday, December 28, 2006

Level 2 Finished

I'm referring to the Cake Decorating Course by ICCA, Level 2, which was supposed to be using Royal Icing as the main medium. Overall, the course was far too flowery, and on hindsight, a bit pricey, but it was quite fun, though I don't envisage myself plunging into the decorative cake business, especially not the flora and fauna aspect of it.

For our finale, we learnt the art of basket weaving, as can be seen from above. It is a tedious process, and really, quite superflous in my opinion. Then again, I am not into intricate delicate designs, hence my continuous quest for a course that offers 3D semi crude modelling of objects, such as cars, toys, ducks, etc.

Using the flowers that we've made over the duration of the course, we had to assemble of graduation cake, with the basket weave around the sides, and flowers on the cake. Those two birds were literally killed with one stone. The maid had careless tossed the container in which they were roosting upside down, hence smudging the royal icing. I tried to make another pair, and AGAIN, the maids murdered the birds.

Now, this cake was made by my classmate, Paige. I reckon it was by far the most elegant, and her petal work for the roses is quite fine. I've made a loose arrangement with her, to order from her should any of my clients require pretty flower cakes. No way you're get ME doing a cake with basket weaving and flowers, unless I've retired and am swatting flies.

Voila, the aerial view of all the finished cakes.

The next level is fondant, but again, its flowers. Argh!!!! What is the obsession with flowers. I want to make carpenter tools, hammers, chainsaws, electric drills, and army soldiers killing each other, ....not FLOWERS!!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Inundated At Yuletide

I'm not referring to the Johore floods, which are in itself shocking.

Let's see, as a result of all that baking last week, I've had oven burns, sugar burns, (this is the WORST, aitelyu!!! Searing hot, and immediately your skin begins to "bubble")....used up at least 4 trays of 30 eggs each. Shall I show off and put up the orders for last week? I think so lar, since it's my highest so far.

100 cupcakes, bannoffee pie, 3 chilled lemon cheese cakes, 2 mudcakes, 5 carrot cakes, 3 walnut cakes, 25 pieces of flourless choc cake, 1 sticky date pudding, 4 rum & raisin pies, 1 pumpkin pie, 2 brownies, 1 chocolate cake, 1 oreo cake. On top of that, there were the non commercial orders of 1 large 2.5kg cheese cake, and 2.5kg brownie for church. And the christmas fare, such as mince pies, savoury pies etc etc. I even had to turn down last minute orders for yule logs. Apologies to the person concerned.

Frankly, I don't mind taking a month of baking for now. I am thoroughly exhausted, and the sight of an oven is enough to make me wanna go scuba diving.

There were baking disasters as well during the course of baking. On Friday morning, the cream cheese frosting for my 4 carrot cakes absolutely refused to turn out. Wrote off 1 kg of cream cheese and started anew, but even the second attempt was fiddly. Taste wise it was fine, but aesthetically, gosh!!!!

The first batch of toffee for the sticky date pudding order was also botched. That's when I got the sugar burns. 2nd attempt was fine. And yesterday for Christmas, I completely left out a whole tub of sour cream in my Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake, rendering it way toooo dry. Guests were too polite to say anything....

Home made mince pies ready for baking....(mince from a bottle, but kah liew, with loads of brandy)

Ready mince pies with 1st time attempt pumpkin pie. Used butternut pumpkin, which is like 4 times the cost of normal pumpkin, but every nice taste.

Pumpkin Pie

The Cleaning Up was like this almost every day. Thank goodness for domestic help, or I think I really wont bother doing this as a hobby.

Ah, apart from the usual baking, I'm also finishing off my Level 2 Wilton Cake Decorating Course. Quite honestly, I am not keen on these flowery things at all, and my workmanship is crude and indelicate. But if I want to do the b***** sugarpaste course, I have to go through level 2. Anyone ELSE can teach me how to make fondant easily? Operative word is EASILY.

Those flowers are supposed to be, from top, apple blossoms, roses, PANSIES, daisies and daffodils. Roll eyes.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sorry For the long Absence

Aiyo, it's not that I haven't been baking, in fact, more than ever before. So much so, since it's always the same old things, recurring orders, I don't even have time to experiment with new stuff, such as the Lemongrass Mango Tart recipe which Boolicious sent to me. The macerated fruits for my catholic fruit cake are still in the tub, and with Christmas just around the corner, looks like I won't be serving matured fruit cake. Probably for Chinese New Year then.

All these grand plans of making gingerbread cookies, decorated, are quickly dissipating before my very eyes, and the irony is, I have more cookie cutters now than I have ever owned. Oh well, as people remind me, I'm lucky that I can actually earn some money from a hobby....most people spend money on their hobbies.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Azrah's Thai Cooking Class, Part 2

My next goal in life, by the time I am 45, is to have reached Celebrity Chef status. I'm not ambitious, so just locally would do me fine, but of course, I wouldn't refuse the chance to become an international celebrity. My own cookshow, FROLIC WITH'll take on the format of more Nigella type, ie, in a home setting, with kids running around. Might have to find some fake kids to run around, if mine aren't photogenic enough. They must be all fat, and we shall be the FATBOYBAKES FAMILY.

And then, I shall run culinary classes for Tai Tais and See Lais, different rates, of course. I recently found out the difference. A See Lai is a middle class housewife with lots of chores. A Tai Tai is a rich married woman who just goes to daytime gym classes, and attend cookery classes and go for facials. According to the article, that is. Then there'll be also the odd guy or two who will attend, like me. I heard of this woman who refused to let her son enter the kitchen, for fear that he'll end up cooking for his wife, and she cannot stomach watching her son slave in the kitchen while daughter in law gets a home call massage. How chauvinistic is that. Back in the prewar days, I'd probably have been running a hainanese coffee shop.

Anyway, yar, back to celebrity chefs, my thai cooking class was run by :

She also has another book on the shelves, for vegetarian cooking. Now, the thing about celebrity chefs is, they must appear unfazed, not a hint of sweat, to drown the mascara, (like Nigella), and make the cooking look as if they were cooking maggi mee.

In the 2 hours we were there, she managed to whip up, effortlessly, (she was all dolled up, apparently had to go out after that)

Kerabu Meehoon....SO easy, and SO yummy

Pineapple Fried Rice

Fried Fish ala Thai Style

Pandan Chicken, including how to wrap the darn thing

Red Curry Chicken

and also a raw papaya kerabu, which I don't have a photo of. And doing some mental arithmetic in my non chinese ed head, I figured, wahhhh, if she ran classes like that two or three times a week, eat no finish man!!!

And, being a celebrity chef, she even had a participant from Germany there yesterday, who heard about her thru the hotel concierge. Terror or what!!!! (She's actually an Indian national, residing in Germany). Keep your eyes peeled. Am gonna do a homemade video and send to 8TV for audition.

Why I think I can do this?

1. I'm quite used to speaking to large crowds, having taught English before, and other subjects, and also having emceed/spoken at like 25 weddings.
2. I got the build for a chef. Tetsuya after all is quite plump. And so is Jamie these days.
3. I can speak the programme has to be in english, with malay and chinese subtitles.

But meanwhile, I better go brush up on my culinary skills.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Graduation Day At ICCA

It's darn scary how quickly time flies. I still remember vividly reading snowdrop or spot's link to ICCA, visiting the place, and now, I've finished the level 1 decorating course already, which took 4 weeks. Conclusion, well, the course is well worth the money, I reckon, and I had a great time, barring the one day when I was suffering a massive hangover after my 40th bash. A few of us have already signed up for Level 2, which begins this week. Level 2 is Royal Icing, and while it is not my preferred medium, I have no choice, because Sugarpaste is level 3, and like university, you can't go to 3rd year without finishing 1st and 2nd.

The class is really quite "international". We had a lady from Brunei, who apparently has been staying in a hotel for the entire month, just for this course. Another chap from Sibu, who owns his own cake shop there, (I feel a lot better knowing that he's a professional, coz his workmanship was very good, and I was feeling inadequate), and another lady from Hong Kong. Another lady from Philippines I think lives here. Her roses were exquisite. Dual hues, and another batch with a violet outline at the white petals.

For our "graduation" cake, we had to assemble our pre made roses, aka the Wilton Rose, onto a pre iced cake....which we are supposed to have done ourselves. Oh, speaking of cakes, UGH, I decided to use up this block of buttercup (which I've been meaning to experiment with pastry) for the buttercake. Dunno if it's the recipe or the butter, but UGH, you could smell that fake butter subsitute oil thing, and the texture of the cake, well, this is one cake you certainly don't have to have and eat. So children, don't stinge on butter, use the real thing, if you're making butter cake.

For our last lesson, we learnt how to do these sweet pea flowers, bows, leaves, before finally assembling our piece de resistance.

Actually, I thought when all the cakes were put together, it did look rather charming. Eliza Doolittle would have approved, so many flowers. I announced to the instructor that I was only going to do the bare minimum to pass, as I had done in university.

Well, I have concluded that I am no artisan, and I'd rather just concentrate on dessert cakes, that require little embellishment, such as my latest favourite recipes, eg, chocolate mud cake, and baked orange cheese cake, below,

but I guess since I am taking orders, the odd birthday cake order might pop up, and it helps to be able to ice a cake and plonk on some basic deco, (now can even do roses). But if you want those character shape pans, with the trillion bits of flower icing, err, please don't call me.

I still think the money is in sugarpaste. 3 D objects, no need for Michaelangelo type sculpturing skills, etc.

Last Friday, Best Man (as in my Bestman at wedding), bought me 40th dinner at Cilantro. I had a choice of 3rd floor, Lafite, Prime, or anywhere, basically, but I always enjoy Cilantro, especially if someone else is paying, coz the food seems consistent, and excellent.

My scallop and rocket starter.

Wife's angel hair and scallops starter. Divine!!!

Pan Seared Foie Gras on Duck Breast. Kill the duck, gouge out its liver, and use the carcass. Very good.

Wasabi encrusted wagyu Beef Cheek. Also tried bestman's wagyu syabu syabu. The latter is better. The cheek is too meaty, and a bit gelatinous. But I was a wagyu virgin, so it was a great experience.

Black cod in bean curd skin. (foo choke) Godma doesn't eat red meat, so her choice is limited.

The dessert platter. Orgasmic. Banana souffle, chocolate cup cakes with earl grey ice cream, kahlua ice cream with coffee jelly, and something something I can't remember.

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.