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Finally made a trip to the newly opened Japanese supplies baking store in Hong Kong! This is the official website of the store. http://www.tomizawa.co.jp/

Got my hands on all the stuff that I have been wanting to get but have not because I didn’t know where to get them before. Stuff like gelatin sheets, kinako (soy bean powder) and even 和三盆 sugar! My absolute favourite sugar/candy that I never fail to buy when I am in Japan. I shall dedicate another post to it. This is about my first attempt at baking a chiffon cake. With my son. He is almost two years old now and has experience in bread making in school, so I figured we can have a mother-and-son baking day once a week from now on.

ImageThat’s right. It’s a chiffon cake (not!). It didn’t rise as much as it should and it was neither light nor airy like chiffon. Numerous steps have gone wrong along the way.

1) 60ml of water and 60ml of oil seem to result in a way too watery batter, so I had to try and remedy it with more flour.

2) The egg yolks had some egg white in it and the egg whites have a little egg yolk in it. Apparently, in cake making, one has to be really anal about this separation of yolks and whites if you want your cake to rise properly.

3) Because of No.2 above, the egg whites wouldn’t transform into stiff white peaks despite beating them for a long time. I gave up and folded it into the batter anyway.

Image

The resulting cake, though not “chiffon-y”, was not bad tasting. The balance of sweetness and the nutty aroma of the soybean was well balanced. It was a little on the dense side, but sufficiently moist. The red bean cream, made from mashing red beans and mixing it with whipped cream, complemented the cake quite well, giving it additional richness and a creamy feel.

For a very long time, I have always preferred black grapes (and Kyoho grapes) to green and red grapes. I generally find red and green grapes a little too tart for my liking, so unless they are peeled off, I would rather not. However, I was eager to try Muscat grapes (green), which are well-known for their slightly musky aroma and not easily available all year round.

About 1 or 2 years ago, I had happily bought some Alexandria Muscat アレキサンドリアムスカットgrapes. Supposedly top of the class, but I remembered them as being rather disappointing for their price.

So when I saw the Shine Muscat grapes, I was eager to give Muscat grapes a second chance. Shine Muscat is a hybrid class that is relatively new, but certain reviews that I read online rated them very highly for juiciness and sweetness up to 20 points (i.e. extremely high on the Japanese scale). Given the price that I bought them for, which is the highest that I have ever paid for grapes so far, I found them disappointing yet again. I must admit that they were not tart like the usual green grapes, so you don’t feel like you need to spit out the skin or peel them off. They were also very large in size, comparable to Kyoho grapes – the largest green grapes that I have seen so far. They also gave a nice, firm bite. However, while they taste pleasant enough, I don’t find them particularly memorable in any sense. Unlike the top class Kyoho grapes, which give you a burst of rich wine flavour when you bite into one, Muscat grapes taste rather mild in comparison.

 

The first dessert that I am introducing is from Petrus – the impressive looking Perigord strawberries with burnt meringue and (if I remember rightly) lime granita. I have heard of the name Perigord before, but not sure what what it is good for. Apparently, it is a region of France well known for its traditional cuisine and several high quality produces such as foie gras, black truffles and now I know, strawberries too. It is the only European strawberry patented with an official quality label.

The second dessert, also from Petrus, is Elderberry mousse with sorbet, bits of jelly and purple candy. The sorbet was actually the highlight of this dessert for me rather than the mousse. I forgot its flavour, but it was really good! It was more like ice-cream, the smooth and dense kind, though I previously thought that sorbet is a kind of flavoured ice concoction without dairy content. It was surprisingly refreshing and not heavy at all. I love the purple candy rocks for its deep purplish hue. Think there must have been a proper name for it even though it tasted just like a sugar candy. Again, like the appetiser in the previous post, the dish looked like a wild summer (going to Autumn) garden to me.

The next two desserts are creations from Amber. The most intriguing one was the Victoria pineapple with sea salt, espelette chilli and extra virgin olive oil ‘caviar’. I thought the addition of chilli in a dessert was rather adventurous. Turned out that it was not spicy at all. It is a variety of chilli pepper traditionally cultivated in the Espelette region of France and harvested in late summer. The mock caviar had me fooled for an instant since it looked exactly like some kind of fish roe to me when it was actually extra virgin olive oil – very clever!

Finally, I am introducing a de-constructed Mille-Feuille made up of raspberry sorbet and pulp with lemon verbena pastry cream. Lemon verbena is actually a herb/plant that happens to emit a lemon-like scent, hence its name. I must say that this was slightly disappointing for me. The pastry sheets were good though – sweet and crispy. I wish there were more of them to balance out the sourness of the raspberries, the sorbet and the cream.

Overall, I would say that at Petrus, their food presentation, while not being disrespectful or sounding negative, struck me as being somewhat ‘old-school’. Perhaps, that is in line with their overall theme, including their service style and the look of their interiors. Amber is definitely the more contemporary one. But one more Michelin star didn’t make an impact on me, I had a enjoyable time visiting and experiencing the two French restaurants.

 

 

Have never tried French food before till now, excluding those pseudo Western-French-Italian ‘fusion’ type of restaurants that are all over the place, that is. Have never felt compelled to as well. So when we went for our first date at a French restaurant  – at the one-starred Petrus no less – I was brimming with curiosity.

Let’s start with an appetiser. Heirloom tomatoes, bits of sardine and peppercorns sitting on top of cucumber jelly. Have heard someone raving nuts about heirloom tomatoes before, so it was a no-brainer to choose this appetiser. The dish was decorated like a summer garden! However, the tomatoes turned out to be quite below my admittedly inflated expectation. Fresh, yes. Juicy, yes. Spectacular tomatoey flavour, no. Sardine on jelly was cute though. Hubby loved the pop of the peppercorn.

Next appetiser was from our second outing to another French restaurant, this time, it was the two-starred Amber (secretly evaluating whether two stars beat one star, nah, just kiddin, we just want to have another go at French cuisine). The appetiser was Grey mullet bottarga with potatoes, baby leeks and green beans. Bottarga, I have later found out, is the pressed dried roe of the fish. A pity though, you can’t really tell the bottarga from the picture here.

I don’t normally write about food that I have tried at restaurants and such. The next few posts coming up are also not meant to be any sort of critical reviews of the food items, but more of a sharing since they are all beautiful and interesting.

Came across two items at a cafe restaurant when I was at Taipei National Palace Museum recently.  I love the name of this cafe restaurant – 三希堂 – very poetic. Later, I found out that it is named after the study room of Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

First, the Sugar Soaked Round Kumquat. I just had to try it. Kumquat is a kind of mandarin orange. It was true to its name, the kumquat felt dense and heavy when lifted, just like it was soaked. In the mouth, it was a super sensation. Heavy with cloying sweetness, yet the fragrance of the kumquat came through, and it was just a little tart as well. Perfect size, which is quite small. Perfect for my sweet tooth.

Next was the Sweet Potato in Lemon Syrup. Sweet potato is a definite must-try in Taiwan, it is one of more popular produces. This one was a yellow sweet potato. Pairing it with lemon got my curiosity – sweet and sour – how would the result be? Again, it was wonderful, from presentation to taste. It was served in a perfectly sized glassware, its shape reminiscent of one of the artifacts that we have just viewed. The syrup was lightly and refreshingly lemony, without the sourness, which complemented the starchy sweet potato really well.

It isn’t often that I come across tasty Chinese desserts that are also presented in a contemporary and thoughtful manner. Highly memorable and worth commending, in my opinion.

The humble ginger is used to being in the background. It is typically present in very small quantity, to add a hint of colour or spicy aroma, or for a practical purpose such as removing a strong fishy or meaty odour. This time, in this traditional Hong Kong confinement (refers to the 1 month period after a woman gives birth) specialty, ginger takes centrestage.

8 catties (approx. 4kg) of premium ginger here! Every single one looks fresh and plump, not injured and shriveled up.

Next, peel them with a paring knife instead of a peeler. It works better due to the odd shape of the ginger.

 

Do not throw away the peels. They should be sun dried till they are very dry, then add them to boiling water to make ginger infused bath water.

Roughly cut up the ginger into smaller pieces, pan fry them with a little oil and salt, then pour them into an earthen pot with sweetened vinegar, making sure the vinegar sufficiently covers the ginger and bring to a boil.

Boiling away in the pot.

You may wonder how anyone can possibly eat a dish made from only ginger and vinegar. Think of the concoction as a kind of stock base. It has to be prepared about 1 month in advance,  then it needs to be boiled once a week to keep the stock fresh and to fully draw out the flavours. When the stock is ready after 1 month, chicken/pork/trotters/eggs can be added to create a rich and nourishing dish for the woman in confinement.

Healthy people not in confinement can have it in small to moderate quantities as well. It is well known that ginger improves blood circulation, cell metabolism and appetite, has anti-bacterial properties, warms the body and prevent colds. Truly an underrated vegetable.

For others who find vinegar too pungent to take, here’s a simple recipe for making Ginger Milk. Equally nutritious!

1/3 of a normal sized ginger

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon honey

Pour milk into pot, add thinly sliced ginger, warm it up using slow heat.

When it is very warm (not boiling), turn off the heat, then stir in honey.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/health/view/1142941/1/.html

Lots of food for thought here. Re-examine your dietary habits today. 🙂

I Win!

Hey! I got my hands on one of the Taiwanese 愛文 mangoes! Otherwise known euphemistically as ‘I Win’ mangoes in English. It has a vibrant reddish, orangey and slightly yellowish colour that is unlike most mangoes. It is also rounder in shape than most.

Once cut open, wOoOoo! Rich, succulent golden flesh says hello to me! I cut it into criss-cross cubes, which you can then easily turn it upwards and eat straight off the skin, or you can use a teaspoon to scoop the cubes up. It was a fully ripened one, so it gave off a strong mango fragrance. I decided to forego using the teaspoon and took a bite straight off. How the deliciously sticky nectar flowed! I slurped and licked away every drop of the liquid. The taste of an ‘I Win’ is exquisite – rich, smooth, juicy, very sweet, not as acidic and fibrous as some other mangoes.

This is the third pound cake that I baked using the cake mixer – it follows a basic butter pound cake, then I chose to add some chocolate chips to it. If you stir in choco chips into the dough and pour the mixture into the cake tin, chances are that they would all sink to the bottom of the cake. So the way to keep the choco chips evenly distributed evenly throughout the cake is to pour the dough into the cake tin first, then drop/press the chips in lightly all over.

The second trick is for making sure that the cake swells up nicely in the middle. To do that, think opposite. If you want the cake to rise in the middle, it is the middle where the dough should be at the lowest level in the tin. Instead, the dough should be at its highest at both ends.

The third trick is for creating that ‘burst’ look on top of the cake.  After putting in the cake to bake for about 7 minutes, dip a knife in warm water and use it to slice across the dough mixture lengthwise, then continue to bake. The cake would then miraculously turn out with the desired ‘swell and burst’ look instead of looking like a flat block at the end.

Best to serve and eat it immediately after cutting. Exposing the cake to the air too long would dry out the cake and make it taste a little hard. If you want to save the cake (it keeps well up to 3 days at room temperature), use cling wrap, or an air tight container.  This would help to keep the cake moist and soft.

 

 

Update

Dear all,

Many months have passed since my last post on this blog. A lot has happened. On the work front, I have been busy working freelance on a new restaurant project. On the personal front, I have been busy making preparations to welcome the little one, now about 8 months in the womb. But mostly, I have not updated the blog simply out of laziness. As my blog depends on hubby for his wonderful photography, his inaction plus my laziness have led to the current state of the blog. It is a bit of a shame really, since there are actually lots to share about. So I am now attempting to rev up the engine again, so you can expect to see some action here every now and then.

Update on the kitchen front:The handle on my soup ladle broke after more than 3.5 years in service, so we had to get a new one. Hubby insisted on a 1-piece ladle with a floral print, and so I let it be. I exchanged some credit card points for a cake mixer (yes!). Been wanting to get that for a while now, and have used it for a grand total of 3 times so far.  I have given away my electric steamer to my mother-in-law since the apartment that we moved to comes with a built-in Siemens steamer.  That said, I have not gotten round to making those cute little steamed cupcakes that I mentioned in my last post since I was distracted by my new toy (the cake mixer), then I felt like having cookies, then I was inspired by a fabulous Chantilly cream sponge cake, and so on.

On this season’s fruits, I have noticed a trend of Taiwanese fruits being marketed as cheaper alternatives to Japanese fruits, typically 20%-30% cheaper. Using Japanese methodology and Japanese varieties, they may be ‘second class clones’, but are definitely credible alternatives. Kyoho grapes and champagne (yellow) watermelons are good and juicy. Taiwanese mangoes are also reputed to be very good. ‘Aiwen’ 愛文 mangoes and ‘Golden’ 金黃 mangoes are very popular every summer, the former in particular, seems to be more limited in supply here, are quickly snapped up and not easy to get hold of, but is possibly one of the best mangoes that I have ever tasted. Taiwanese mangoes are highly favoured by the Japanese people (they place bulk orders through mail order catalogues!), though the cultivation of which, is not to their credit this time. ‘Aiwen’ mangoes seem to have been introduced to Taiwan from Florida in the 1950s. So, if you do come across it in your local market, grab it!

With that, I shall end my little update here. Hope to get my new posts up very soon, so do check back in a while!