28 February 2009

Cupcakes For Tea

Trips to the bookstore rarely see me emerge empty handed, and I say this with a touch of bashfulness because I admit my lack of self-restraint when it comes to retail therapy and especially when there is food porn in question. A recent purchase that had been sitting around on the coffee table for quite a while is 'Indulgence Cupcakes - A fine selection of sweet treats'. Published by Murdoch books, it boasts an array of cupcakes you wish you could just pick out from the book to taste.

While it has some of the usual suspects such as 'Rich Dark Chocolate Cupcake' or 'Chocolate and Almond Cupcake', it also had more intriguing ones like 'Mandarin and Camomile Cupcake' and 'Jam Doughnut Cupcake'. Flipping through the book on a Saturday afternoon, I was undeniably drawn to the former and it helped that the more unusual ingredients the recipe called for - Mandarin oranges and semolina - were things I somehow (still) had around the house.

In 2 hours, I chopped, measured, peeled, zested, blended, gently mixed, piped, baked and washed. The result of all that activity was 18 Mandarin and Sweet Mallow (I replaced the camomile with mallow tea) Cupcakes complete with Mandarin orange glaze.

The cupcake was put to the test when my friend came over for tea that Saturday afternoon, and it passed with flying colours - my gentle mixing of the batter towards the end of the mixing process paid off in a tender and utterly moist-crumbed cupcake. The orange flavours did not leap out onto the palate, but seemed to slowly acquaint itself with the palate, like two toddlers introduced to each other for the first time. Perfect for a light afternoon tea - the cupcakes of course.

Mandarin and Sweet Mallow Cupcakes
Adapted from Mandarin and Chamomile Cupcakes in "
'Indulgence Cupcakes - A fine selection of sweet treats'"
Makes 20 mini muffins
185ml milk
5g sweet mallow tea flowers
150g unsalted butter, chopped
230g (1 cup) caster sugar
3 eggs
2 tsps finely grated mandarin zest
300 g mandarin, peeled, seeds removed
60g fine semolina
155g self-raising flour

155g (1 1/4cups) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp finely grated mandarin zest
2-3 tbspn strained, fresh mandarin juice

Preheat oven to 180 degress celcius, line 20 mini muffin holes with paper cases. (I used medium sized self-supporting cupcake cases)
Place milk and tea flowers into saucepan, bring just to boil. Stand for 5 mins to infuse then strain.
Place butter, sugar, eggs, mandarin zest and mandarin in a food processor and process until almost smooth.
Add milk mixture, semolina and flour, then process until smooth (be careful not to over process).
Pour mixture evenly among cases.
Bake for 8-10mins or until skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cupcake.
Transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

For glaze:
Place icing sugar, zest and enough juice to make a paste in a heatproof bowl.
Sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water, and stir until runny.
Remove from heat but keep the bowl over the water.
Spread the glaze over each cake (do this fast as it hardens up quickly).

09 February 2009

Simply Bread

What makes you want to return to a cafe or a restaurant?

Good food.
Excellent service.
Pleasing ambience.

I am generally put off when certain places are not generous with their servings, serviets and in some places - water. It is one thing to serve smaller portions of that pork belly per person because it is quite fatty and few people can eat more than that anyway, but a totally different matter when some places do not serve tap water and instead only serve bottled water at a cost.

It is great to know that in places such as Simply Bread, one never has to put up with that kind of arrogance. I remember the joy I felt when I found out that the bakery was about to join the neighbourhood. Alright, so 'neighbourhood' is a stretch but in the neighbourhood I stay the pickings are slim.

In Simply Bread, generosity is the order of the day.They are eager to help anyone who seems to have problems picking a loaf to buy. The Bruschetta we ordered for a snack was enough for 2 to share. Juicy chunks of tomatoes tossed through fragrant olive oil and dried rosemary were in abundance. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing tang of the tomatoes and even enjoyed them on their own when all the ciabatta had disappeared.

But what is most irresistable in Simply Bread has got to be the Sticky Bun. Truth be told, I haven't tried very much else. I always resolve to order something different before I enter the bakery, but my determination falters the moment the heavy cinnamon aroma hits my olfactory. The deep, dark caramelised cap belies its soft, almost cakey texture. Not overly sweet but marvellously intense in spices, this is the ultimate Sticky Bun that I've had over and over again everytime I visit.
Of course, serviets and water are free for all.

Simply Bread
1 Fifth Avenue
#01-03 Guthrie House
Tel 6466 7767

02 February 2009

Simply Yummy

Great things can happen when you least expect it. I was meeting a bunch of old friends for a farewell party for one of them who is being posted to Indonesia to work for the next 2 years or so. Someone somehow casually suggested a Peranakan food at Blue Ginger. Even though the image it brought to my head was a little odd, it was a pleasant name and I did not give it much thought.

From the moment I stepped through the doors, everything was pleasant. The service was pleasant. The d├ęcor was pleasant. The flight of stairs up to the second floor was pleasant. The air smelt pleasant. The menu was pleasant. The food presentation was pleasant.

Then I took a bite of the kueh pie tee, and was floored.

It was a simple dish, but virtually perfectly executed and I couldn’t have asked for more.

In fact, the other dishes were similarly simple but delicious. Especially the Beef Rendang, Ayam Panggang, Sambal Terong Goreng (pictured above), Otak Otak, and Chendol. While the prices are just a tad steeper than other Peranakan restaurants I've visited, this was well worth the money.

Blue Ginger
97 Tanjong Pagar Rd
Call - 6222 3928
Fax - 6222 3860

Operating Hours:
12pm - 230pm daily
630pm - 1030pm daily