I want to make cupcakes!

Sophia’s been addicted to baking these days and often at inconvenient times such as just as guests are arriving and I’m out of butter. So my counter now is wholegrain pancakes mix. Add a cup of mix with an egg and some milk and there’s wholesome batter for delicious pancakes in minutes. A relatively healthy snack and fun bonding activity.

Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone!

Unfortunately my hot cross buns this year are looking really sad with only crosses cut out in them but not the icing sugar crosses.

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I was feeling rather miffed that I had to work today and couldn’t even buy icing sugar but as i walked out of the office to grab lunch I saw a motorbike lying in the middle of the road with pieces all over and it just struck me how fragile life was and how I should be grateful that I’m alive, living in relative comfort and most important of all, blessed with the most perfect daughter (in my eyes).

Chinese New Year is round the corner!

Does this mean Sophia will be “3 years old” soon? I thought I must have been dreaming when I remember the bizarre method of counting age that old people told me about when I was young being that babies are born 1 year old and a year is added on at the turn of each lunar calendar year, but WIkipedia confirmed that this was not one of the instance where the lingering baby brain was at work. Its true! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_age_reckoning) Hence, according to the Chinese (I am one and proud of it), Sophia was 1 year old as of 3 Jan 2011, 2 years old as of 3 February 2011 (apologies for the earlier mistake about her turning “2” as of her lunar calendar birthday) and will turn “3” on 23 January 2012. Or wait, is it 9 Feb 2011 and 29 January 2012 respectively because the 7th day of the chinese new year is supposed to be “ren ri” literally translated to “human day” which is short for “everyone’s birthday”. Something like that. I’m really not the expert on Chinese tradition.

I’ve always liked Chinese New Year. When I was young, it meant I got new clothes, got to eat lots of new year cookies and sweets, played with tones of sparklers and most importantly received “ang pow” being red envelopes filled with token sums that are actually quite substantial to children. Now it means I still get new clothes (yay me!) and got to dress Sophia up in the cutest chinese outfits and show her off to all the relatives. Staying in Chinatown makes it all the more fun for me as the festive markets and performances and street decorations are just round the corner. On the important days like the eve of chinese new year I even get to hear the firecrackers from my home (firecrackers are generally banned in Singapore because of the number of injuries they used to cause). Pity Sophia is too young to understand all these.

Despite my love for baking, for some reason this is actually the first year I’m making some chinese new year goodies myself. Behold, Elaine’s cashew nut cookies:

Cashew Nut Cookies

Traditionally they’re meant to be crescent shaped but I don’t happen to own a crescent shaped cookie cutter so I topped each scalloped round cookie with 2 nuts instead. I think that worked pretty well too. I was actually inspired to bake these after tasting sample cookies from a rather upmarket cafe which turned out to be the worst cashew nut cookie I’ve ever tried and thinking to myself I surely can do better. And on my first try I did do better, despite using crappy NTUC butter. The second batch was baked using proper Australian butter and are much better.

Now I have a whole year to build up enough courage to attempt my favorite chinese new year cookie – pineapple tarts. The pineapple jam is the hardest part and I should know since I burned myself numerous times making blueberry jam for Sophia’s birthday. The blueberry jam isn’t half as thick as what the pineapple jam needs to be but the boiling bubbles already spluttered like mad. Of course, pineapple jam is available in ready made form but to my mind that defeats the purpose because what defines a good pineapple tart is the combination of buttery pastry skin and the perfect tart and fragrant pineapple filling. Commercial filling is just too sweet.

Homebaked goods as gifts – cheapskate or thoughtful?

Corn muffins

Scones

Here are just some stuff I have given as “gifts” to people on various occasion. You have also seen the tigger cookies and sakura cookies I made for Samuel and Sophia’s birthdays respectively. I must confess that in part I was just using the occasions as excuses to indulge in my favorite hobby of baking but at the same time I also thought they were more meaningful gifts than store bought items that may well end up not being useful either. At least food you can eat. Or chuck if it tastes bad without feeling too wasteful. But then when giving out these gifts I can’t help worrying whether the recipients will think “so lame” or “how cheapskate”.

What do you think? Homemade gifts – cheapskate or thoughtful?

The mad baker woman

I’ve been bitten by the baking bug these days and extra time at night has been spent baking rather than uploading photos. I’m sorry. I’ve also been hit by a persistent dry cough and a stomach upset from eating the very popular tom yum sliced fish noodle on phillip street, the coffeeshop next to the equally popular duck rice place. As a result I’ve been exhausted. And I haven’t bought a present for Sophia’s cousin whose birthday party is this weekend. I better come up with something good quick!

On a happier note, Sophia has been growing so well. She can now stand and walk holding on to things very well. And Gong Gong apparently has been showing her the animal flashcards a lot because she keeps pulling them out from the bookshelf. She can now identify the common animals (common as in apearing frequently in her books and toys) like lion, giraffe, bear (favourite), dog, cat, rabbit etc. And she screams really loudly when she sees the koala bear. Now I can’t imagine bringing her to the zoo. She’ll probably be noisier than the monkeys.

I really can’t wait for her to start speaking in proper words. She’s still stuck at bear (clearer than before, sounding like bea rather than bar), mum-mum (which is not technically a word and which she says only when she’s really really hungry), ma ma (only when she really wants something from mummy) and bird (which sounds like “boar” but we know she means bird because she says it animated whenever she sees a bird). There’s also ‘ta ta ta ta” which apparently has no english equivalent but is an expression of excitement, like when she sees a video of all the dogs at K9 campus. I wonder whether I should start her on baby sign language but I think she has already used up the most important one (milk) for “twinkle twinkle little star”. And grandma is trying to teach her “smelly” to indicate that she has pooped but it looks too much like bye-bye to me. Oh and her “come over” and “hello” looks like bye-bye too. Its all in all too confusing for me.

Anyway, it may be good that she can’t express herself properly yet. Then I can pretend not to know that she wants a share of the ice cream we’re happily eating!

Current favorite cookbook

My favourite cookbook is not one of those celebrity chef’s book, or something published by a famous restaurant or bakery but rather trusty ol’ Edmunds cookbook which my bestest kiwi friend brought back from New Zealand for me on one of her trips home. This book is choked full of simple, down to earth recipes of things you can actually whip up without having to go to the supermarket and buy a bunch of ingredients which you will use a tablespoon of then leave to mould in the corner of your fridge. What’s more, the recipes work. And very well. Remember the corn muffins that failed? I scored the internet for a recipe that would solve my problem of gritty cornmeal bits but none seem to even contemplate that as an issue. But Edmund’s recipe was a sure winner. It called for heating up of the milk then adding the corn grits into the milk along with oh I don’t remember what. My point was that this was the clear solution to the problem. The warm milk was sure to soften up the grits and it did exactly that. All I needed to do was to work in some honey into the recipe to get an even better tasting muffin.
 

Edmunds

 

Corn muffins

Far from perfect. As you can tell from the pictures. But nevertheless, a good start from the baking hiatus ever since Sophia was born.

"Kenny Rogers" corn muffins

The inside is not “cakey” enough. Not that its very dense but it doesn’t crumble the way I think corn bread should. That’s not to say I recall ever having eaten cornbread in my life but somehow I have a feel about how its taste and texture just by looking at pictures and this is not it. I can also bite into the corn grits even though I’ve already used fine ground cornmeal. Something is not quite right here.

Actually the recipe felt odd. Google Kenny Rogers corn muffins and you will find multiple sites with the exact same recipe. I shall not replicate it here because its on so many sites I don’t know which to credit! The first step involved mixing the fat (butter) and sugar directly with the eggs and the salt is also thrown into this mixture instead of being mixed into the flour. Step one hence yielded a very lumpy suspension of butter in egg instead of a smooth mixture. More typically the fat and sugar is mixed together then eggs are added and I usually end up with a smooth mixture. Not blaming the recipe for my failure. Just saying.

Does anyone have any solution to my corn muffin issue? I think step 1 to fixing it should be to get the hubby to bring me to kenny rogers for the real deal by way of research.

Btw, I halved the recipe and yielded 10 when its supposed to yield 6 muffins. Guess 1 Singaporean muffin is roughly equivalent to 2 American muffins.

I also did japanese cheesecake yesterday and it was an even bigger failure. To start with some yolk accidentally got into the white so the white refused to be beaten up properly. Then I didn’t tent properly so part of the cake got stuck to the foil. I ended up with a cake that collapsed and had an ugly patch. How sad. Usually this recipe (google japanese cotton soft cheesecake) is really easy! I’ve never failed with it. There’s always a first I guess.