31 July 2011

Handmade Fettuccine al Funghi Portobello

Simple Sunday night dinner, made with handmade fettuccine in parmesan cream sauce, bacon and mini portobello mushrooms.

My DIY Card Holder

Coincidentally, I did a little piece of handicraft today too! I have been looking for a nice card holder to contain all my shopping discount / loyalty cards. I wasn't able to find anything nice, so I decided to make my own.

I have a weakness for Japanese fabric (and washi paper) and anything with butterflies print on it. I completed this in a neat 15 minutes, using fabric sticker. All I need to do was to cut and stick the fabric onto the clear multi-card holder I bought from Popular. As the kids say it, it's "easy peasy lemon squeezy".

My other hobby....

Besides baking and cooking, my other loves include knitting and sewing.

Looks like I'm born in the wrong era, wrong country.  I should be a country girl living on a farm!  LOL.  I wouldn't mind, really.  Except that I would still need the internet :)

I've been wanting to get a nice holder to store all those plastic bags we collect from our grocery shopping.  But as I couldn't find a nice and cheap one, I decided to convert an old skirt with lovely prints to a simple holder.

Grabbed my old skirt from the "to donate" box, tailor's chalk, scissors, and sewing machine.  A quick measure, snip, and stitch... voila!  Stuff the plastic bags from the top, and when you need one, pull it from the bottom end.

One skirt was perfect for two of these.  Now I have two pretty (and cheap) plastic bag holders.

Now what else can I recycle....


26 July 2011

Mini Sugar Donuts (baked, not fried)

Wanna hazard a guess on the size of these donuts?

I'll give you a hint... 8 of these little ones were made from the regular sandwich-maker that fits 2 slices of bread.

The answer: Each little donut is a mere 4 cm in diameter.
These should be called Donut Pops!

I think these are just too cute! Perfect for kids and the young-at-heart :)

Mini Sugar Donuts
Makes about 30 minis.

1½ cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g butter, melted
¾ cup milk
1 egg

For dusting:
Castor sugar or snow powder
Cinnamon powder (optional)

Turn on the donut machine to preheat.
Meanwhile, whisk all ingredients together till you get a batter that resembles pancake batter - thick but pourable.

When the donut machine is heated, scoop, pour or pipe batter into the moulds, close the lid and cook for about 2-3 min. (It's inevitable that the bottom half will be browner than the top.) When donuts are a nice golden brown on either side, remove from moulds and cool them on a wire rack.

When donuts have cooled, combine sugar and cinnamon powder in a plastic bag, dump in some donuts and shake till they are coated with enough sugary goodness to your liking.

Ready for some mini donuts and a cuppa coffee?


25 July 2011

Wholemeal Bread (sponge starter method)

After my success with the water roux method of bread-making, I thought I'd give the sponge method a try. 

My first attempt last week resulted in a disappointing loaf. The recipe for the sponge had such a high proportion of flour that the sponge didn't develop the way it's supposed to be. So it took forever for the dough to rise, and the resulting loaf was dense.

This time round, after more Googling - what would we do without Google these days - I reduced the flour for the sponge starter, and it foamed up beautifully. However, I still didn't get the nice rise I got from my water roux loaf. Could it have been the wholemeal flour that caused the heavier and denser dough? Or was it the method?

With the water roux method, the bread also lasted several days, retaining it's soft and fluffy texture. But for this sponge bread, it turned dry and crumbly after two days. Does this happen for you too?

Many of you have a lot more experience in bread making than I do. So if you have any tips for me and the other readers, or if you'd just like to share your experience, I'd love to hear from you. Which bread-making method do you favour? What's the 'trick' to soft fluffy bread - is it the method, or some secret ingredient?

Here's the recipe I used...

Sponge Starter:
65g bread flour
20g sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
125ml warm water

50g wholemeal flour
170g bread flour
1 tsp salt
10g milk powder
1 egg
2 tbs water
20g margarine

Combine all sponge starter ingredients and set aside for about 30 min till foamy.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in another bowl, then add the starter. Mix everything together till a dough forms. Knead for about 10 min till dough is smooth. Then place in a well-oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap and let it rise for about 45 min till double in size.

Punch down the dough to release the air. Let it rest for 5-10 min.
Shape dough into a loaf and place in a greased and floured loaf tin. Let it proof for about 30 min till double in size. Before baking, sprinkle some flour over the top (optional).

Bake at 180*C for 30 min.
Remove from loaf tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


Carrot Pasta

Remember my post on my new toy - the pasta machine?

I decided to be a little adventurous and experimented with a flavoured pasta. I thought I would get nice orange-coloured pasta... but in the end, I got what looked more like ee-mee.  LOL!

Nevertheless, hubby still gave the thumbs up for taste and texture. Looks like the remaining pack of dried pasta in the pantry will be sitting there for quite a while longer...

For this batch, I doubled the recipe here. But instead of using 2 eggs, I used 1 egg and replaced the second egg with the same amount of carrot puree. Perhaps next time, I'll add some tomato puree to see if the orange colour will be enhanced.

Stay tuned for more pasta dishes  :)

22 July 2011

New Toy!

I've been toying with the idea of a pasta machine for a while, having seen all the rave reviews about the superior taste and texture of homemade pasta vs store-bought dried pasta.  It's too expensive to buy fresh pasta here in Singapore, so the next best thing is to make it yourself.  Imagine all the possibilities - spinach pasta, carrot pasta, wholemeal pasta, chocolate pasta, porcini pasta... the list is endless!

After almost having a heart attack from hearing that the KA pasta attachment is $300, I promptly settled on a manual crank pasta machine, like this Italian one I found for a more affordable $60.  I am just so thrilled with my new toy!  Can't wait to try all the different pasta flavours.

The pasta machine is really easy to use. Feed it through the rollers from the widest to thinnest setting till you get the thickness you desire, then pick either the vermicelli or fettuccine cutters for the final step.

Basic Pasta Dough
Makes enough for 2, or 1 very hungry person.

1 cup durum wheat flour (or semolina flour)
1 egg
1 tsp salt
drizzle of olive oil
water, as required

Make a well in the middle of your bowl of flour.
Crack an egg into the well. Add salt and olive oil.
Then slowly stir in the flour till a dough is formed.  If it feels too dry, add water till you get a firm but smooth dough.  Knead till it comes together.
Rest the dough for about 30 minutes.

Flatten or roll out the dough into a disc, then feed it through the rollers at the widest setting. Slowly work your way through the narrower settings till you get the thickness you desire, flouring the dough as required so it doesn't stick to the machine.

Finally, feed it through your choice of the vermicelli or fettuccine cutters, and you get beautiful fresh pasta.

If durum wheat flour is not available, use bread or plain flour.  But your noodles will probably end up tasting more like mee pok or mee kia.

Now, don't fret about having to repeat this whole process every time you crave for pasta. Just make a larger batch and freeze whatever you don't use.  The next time you want a quick pasta fix, just thaw the amount you need and cook it for about 3 minutes in salted boiling water till al dente.

Once you give this a try, you will never want to pick up another pack of dried pasta.

11 July 2011

Fondant Garden

My 2nd attempt at fondant.
Happy 60th Birthday, Mom!

05 July 2011

Water Roux Buns

Highly encouraged by my successful Water Roux Bread, I eagerly repeated the recipe, but this time I made buns.  You know those familiar buns we get from the bakeries with creative and amusing names in our neighbourhoods?  That is my goal.

Well, it doesn't quite look as attractive and as professional as those in the bakeries, but I think I'm getting there (I hope).  I reckon for smaller pieces of bread, the temperature needs to be dropped 10*C to 170*C.  And I probably should not be lazy and give the bread an egg wash before it bakes.

There'll be more water roux.  It's the best thing since baking powder  :)


03 July 2011

Almond Crackle Log

~~~Almond Crackle Log~~~
~with fresh blueberries and rum infused raisins in rich chocolate cream~

Ingredients (meringue):
  • 70g almond meal
  • 4 egg whites
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Ingredients (filling):
  • Chocolate butter cream
  • Blueberries
  • Raisins

  1. Preheat oven at 150 degree Celsius.
  2. Line baking tray with baking paper.
  3. Whisk egg whites until soft peaks and gradually add sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Whisk until stiff and glossy.
  5. Fold in almond meal, cocoa powder, cornstarch and vanilla essence.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes until meringue is set and lightly golden.
  7. Lay a large sheet of baking paper on a work surface and invert the cooked meringue on top.
  8. Peel off the baking paper and set aside to cool.
  9. Prepare filling of choice and spread filling evenly over the meringue.
  10. Gently roll up the meringue. Cut into slices and serve.

Recipe is adapted from Hazelnut Crackle Log from the book "Food for Friends - Desserts. Easy Recipes. Techniques. Ingredients.", by Murdoch Books.

Water Roux Bread

I've finally found a bread recipe that works well for me. Or maybe it's the method.  Either way, I'm sticking to this recipe/method, as it has turned out so well for me.  

See?  It even looks like a loaf from the bakery!  I am totally convinced that the water roux method works miracles.

bread dough after proofing, and just before it hits the oven
This recipe makes a standard size loaf of bread (about 20L x 10W x 12H cm).


Water Roux:
20g bread flour
100ml water

Whisk flour and water till lump-free, then heat it over low heat till it thickens and becomes a paste. 

Set aside to cool to room temperature. Or refrigerate overnight for use the next day. Bring to room temperature before use. (Water roux may be chilled for up to 3 days. After that, it will likely turn bad.)

Bread Dough:
Water roux (from above)
4 tbs milk
5g milk powder
1 egg
1.5 tbs oil
270g bread flour
30g sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast

Combine all ingredients till it forms a dough.
Knead till smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to proof in a warm area for about 40 min till it doubles in size.

Punch down the dough and knead it lightly a few times.
Roll out or flatten the dough, then roll it to form a log.
Tuck in the ends, and place it in the middle of a greased loaf pan.
Proof for another 30 min till it doubles in size and fills the loaf pan.

Before baking, brush with eggwash (for a nice golden tan). I like to just dust some flour over the top for a more rustic look.
Bake at 180*C for 25-30 min till the crust is golden brown.
Remove loaf from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. It pays to be patient at this stage. Slicing the bread while it's still warm will only result in gummy sticky slices of bread. Be patient.


Crumpets are made from yeasted batter and cooked on a hot pan, usually eaten warm with butter, honey and / or jam. Its texture is spongy and is characterised by holes on top which is perfect for absorbing butter and honey. For those of you who have not tasted one before, you can imagine it to be rather similar to English muffins ...

This recipe is definitely a winner. It is so easy to make and yummy! Best of all, you don't have to worry so much about proofing, kneading and whether the bread will turn out soft or not.

Ingredients (makes about 15 crumpets):

  • 173 grams (1 & 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 228 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 2 grams (3/4 teaspoon) cream of tartar
  • 17 grams (1 tablespoon & 1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt - I cut this down slightly
  • 443 grams (2 cups) room temperature water, plus more if necessary
  • 7 grams (2 & 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) sugar
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • Unsalted butter, for greasing cake rings136 grams (2/3 cup) room temperature milk

  1. Whisk water, yeast and sugar in a medium bowl and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place the all-purpose flour, bread flour, cream of tartar and salt in a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
  3. Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture and mix on low speed to combine. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  4. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and then pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the batter. Stir gently to combine. The batter should now be the consistency of pancake batter. If it's too stiff, your crumpets won't have enough of those characteristic bubbles and holes.
  5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Grease several 4-inch cake rings with butter.
  6. Place the cake rings in the skillet and pour some batter into each ring until three quarters full.
  7. Cook till holes begin to form on the surface, 7 to 8 minutes.
  8. Remove the rings, flip the crumpets and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until nicely toasted.
  9. For longer storage, freeze in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to a month. To defrost, place on the countertop for 15 to 30 minutes, and reheat in the over for 5 minutes before serving.Serve immediately with butter and honey or jam. For local flavour, try gula melaka.

Recipe from Simple Great Breads - Sweet and Savory Yeasted Treats from America's Premier Artisan Baker, by Daniel Leader with Lauren Chattman.

02 July 2011

Lemon Pasta + Alaskan King Crab

I can't believe how easy and delicious this pasta dish is.  It is now my favourite pasta dish (to eat and to cook).

With lemon and butter as the base, it's a no-brainer that the best accompaniment to this is seafood.  I chose Alaskan King Crab, with bacon bits as a garnish.  You could also use prawns, scallops or squid, but make sure they're as fresh as possible.

Lemon Pasta + Seafood
Serves 2.

150g angel hair pasta
crab meat, prawns, scallops or squid, enough for two
few rashes of bacon, chopped to small pieces

2 tbs butter
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp dill tips (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta till al dente and cook seafood, then set aside.
In a skillet, fry bacon till crisp.  Remove bacon bits, keeping the bacon fat in the pan.
Add all other ingredients and heat through.
Add pasta and seafood into pan.  Stir till pasta is evenly coated.
Divide evenly onto serving plates and garnish with bacon bits.