Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hiatus & Big Change

Happy New Year all!

I know it has been a long hiatus since my last posting. The guilt never fails to creep up on me whenever I think of this blog. But I have a beyond good and valid reason for my disappearance!  Believe me...  

B and I are in hopeful and cheery anticpation of a little new addition to our family in May!  We are taking our first baby steps into parenthood, and boy...though the little one has not quite joined us in the real world yet, B and I have gone through a series of ups and downs in the past 4.5 months. But we believe that this new year will be a better year, filled with God's goodness and mercy. 

present from elder sis to baby
these were bought before we knew baby's gender
we were going for the muji look!

Undoubtedly, my daily activities and movements have been dictated by this little being.  I was down with wretched retching for the first few months which left me so sick and tired.  There was nothing much that I could do except read and sleep.  The sight of food turned me off most of the time, which needless to say, made it completely impossible to continue with this food blog.  It was so bad that I stopped purchasing my staple food magazines.  Am I ever so glad that I have since parted with those times of outflowing, and back with my voracious appetite.  

So why didn't I come back to my blog sooner?
Hmm... The burgeoning tummy has made it much tougher than expected. I've tried photographing some cookies that I baked for Christmas, but nearly passed out with exhaustion from moving tables, props, etc.  Aah...I know it sounds like such an exaggeration, and I don't deny that... 
The truth is that it is a whole mix of inertia, festive distractions and a change in focus for me.  Somehow, motherhood is looming all over my mind now, and I can't seem to escape it. B has been urging me to come back to photography and blogging, and I have hesitated in agreeing to give it a shot.  So, please be patient with me as I slowly gather myself together.  I hope I haven't lost it yet.. (that's every artiste's greatest fear.. hahahah!)

Alright, I hereby promise that I will do a post on the cookies that I baked for Christmas!  In the meantime, allow me to have my Mozart break with baby.  I love feeling the kicks in my tummy.... one of the greater joys in pregnancy..

these i bought after knowing the baby's gender
no prizes for making the right guess!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Perfect Day with Sticky Date Pudding


My idea of a perfect day would be one that is cold and rainy.  I imagine myself in tartan pyjamas and comfy woolen socks, waking up with messy bed hair. With a cup of hot steaming tea, I creep up to the attic, nestle myself in a big old arm chair and bury my head in a good novel.   Sounds idyllic? Extremely. Especially since I have no attic, no big old arm chair and no tartan pyjamas.   
Two things I have though, a good novel and strong, aromatic earl grey tea.  I am currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am only a third through the book and it is a wonderful read so far.  Everytime I read a good book, I marvel at the author's writing and creativity.  I have no ambitions on being a writer, but I do wish to possess good writing and story-telling skills.  The ability to arouse emotions and capture interest through the use of words is such a gift.  I will be extremely contented the day I can write like Jane Austen. (This girl can dream.)
What would make my perfect day even more perfect? A delightful warming dessert to go with my tea.  Now, it would never have crossed my mind that I would be able to make sticky date pudding if not for a friend from secondary school.  I had the notion that it is a luscious and ridiculously complicated dessert which you can only order in restaurants or cafes. Contrary to what I thought, it is relatively painless and easy to make. 
A couple of weeks back, my friend had a few of us over at her place.  We all brought our little contributions to the potluck, but she bowled us over with her sticky date pudding.  She is very much a baker as I am a dreamer, so do hop over to her blog to check out her bakes.  She pens the recipes down with so much detail that I would be an absolute clod if I failed at this simple cake.  I have to confess that I bungled at making the sauce.  Mine turned out as butter-scorched instead of butterscotch sauce.  I guess that makes me half a clod.
Butterscorched or butterscotch, it was a wonderfully heartwarming treat since the cake is served warm with a generous drizzling of sauce, and usually topped with scoop of vanilla ice-cream. 
Imagine.  Cold day, out-of-bed hair, tartan pyjamas, attic, old arm chair, good novel, cup of hot tea and a warm, decadent sticky date pudding served with ice-cream. Utter bliss.  My perfect day.
Vanilla ice-cream with butterscotch sauce.
When I am too slothful to bake, ice-cream is a good enough to make my perfect day.
Sticky Date Pudding (Recipe adapted from here)

270g pitted dates (I used King Soloman Deri Dates)
1 1/4 cup water
1 tsp bicarb soda
60g unsalted butter, chopped
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180C.

1. Place dates and water in a pot, bring to boil on high heat.
2. Add bicarb soda and unsalted butter. Remove from heat and cool for around 10 min.
(be careful, the mixture will bubble up when soda is added, make sure the pot has sufficient height)
3. Blend the mixture with a hand blender (I used my food processor)
4. Add the eggs and vanilla essence and blend to combine, short few pulses is sufficient.
5. Mix all flour and sugar in a separate bowl and ensure that sugar has no clumps.
6. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and fold in to combine.

Pour into lined 8-in pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. I tent it after 30 minutes to prevent a charred top.
(If using muffin cups, bake for 25 - 30 minutes)
I made half the above portion in a 15-inch pan and baked for 40 minutes.

Butterscotch sauce:

180g thickened cream
160g brown sugar
150g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil. Simmer at low heat for around 5 minutes, constantly stirring the mixure until it thickens.

(I scorched my sauce!  It turned out fairly dark. So be careful here and put it over really low heat)
Once cake is done, cool for 10 minutes. Poke numerous holes in the cake and drench the sauce over cake. This ensure that the dates become sticky with the caramel sauce.

Drizzle more butterscotch for that additional buttery sweetness.
Serve warmed with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for best enjoyment.
The sauce can be refrigerated and stored for up to 2 weeks. Reheat before use.
Puddings can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and warm before serving.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Cycling Find...

gorgeous enamel tiffin carrier

In the recent months, cycling has claimed the top spot in our activity list.  My hubby (whom I shall refer to as 'B' from here on) and I have been traveling around the island on our bikes during the weekends and enjoying every moment of those rides, except for the days when we over-estimated our endurance levels.  Those were times when we kicked ourselves for not getting foldable bicycles.  

Going around on two-wheels has provided me with the opportunity to experience Singapore anew.  That statement might sound somewhat exaggerated, but it truly has.  We have more time to take in the sights, sounds, of the areas we are exploring.  Somehow, without the layer of tin enclosing us, we get absorbed into the atmosphere and vibrance of the neighbourhood very quickly.

We visited Joo Chiat last weekend, an area that still retains the quaint charm of old Singapore.   I have a penchant for five-foot ways and old shophouses, and credit has to be given to Sir Stamford Raffles for designing our streetscape as such. 

The beauty of cycling, much to the horror of B, is the ease of dismount whenever I see something that catches my eye.  And what a great find I had at Joo Chiat!  We cycled past a row of shophouses, and came by this shop, Bangku Bangku (located at 317 Joo Chiat Road).  Had to dismount, no questions asked.  The shop sells interesting and pretty antique furniture and furnishings, as well as leather accessories such as bags and pouches. I couldn't leave the shop empty handed, so the first visit saw me walking away with a leather saddle bag.  However, a classic white and blue tiffin carrier caught my eye, and I returned to Bangku Bangku the next day to purchase it.  I'm not too sure if I will actually use it.. An impulse buy? Yep, as much as I hate to admit it, I think it is.  But I am a total nut for enamel and vintage pieces.  It doesn't help that B shares the same weakness too.      



Monday, September 3, 2012

A New Beginning... Again

little parting gifts for my teammates

So I called it quits again. 

Am I proud of myself?  Definitely not.  Am I relieved?  Yes, very much so.  

Ever since I started work back in end February, everything pretty much felt like a whirlwind.  Most people would say that working 9am-6pm, five days a week, is normal.  But strangely, I couldn't handle it.  I took part in this normalcy for 6 months, but it didn't get any normal for me.  My being felt foreign.  I couldn't control my time, couldn't govern my mind from whirring away with thought after thought, worry after worry.  Needless to say, it did not take me long to decide to lose this job before I lose myself.  I was in an organisation with a great social mission, I had good teammates that I got along fine with (I think... I have to admit that I was rather reclusive), but there was just one piece that did not fit the puzzle - the work wasn't right, for me.  

Before you race up to me to give me a smack on my bottom or deliver a lecture on what a big bag of lazybones I am, take the queue.. behind my dad, my mum, my grandma.. the list goes on.  What I will say to everyone is.  I am not lazy, I am not a pampered brat, nor have I decided not to work. 

I am idealistic. I am dreamy. I am still searching.

When will my search end?  I do not know.  I know that it's time for me now to sit still again and watch the clouds roll by, pick up my favourite things and remember what makes me happy and centred. 

some of my favourite things ~  I heart my stamp set. I heart my ball of twine.
I heart my box of penguin postcards.

A couple of months ago, after a hiatus of not taking photos and neglecting this dear blog, I picked up a couple of food magazines.  My eyes welled up when I saw the gorgeous food photos. 

Idealistic.  Dreamy.  Still searching.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Singapore!

This is home, truly
Though there are days I grouse
I can't imagine living anywhere else
Happy 47th, Singapore!
May the reds and whites fly on.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weekend Breakfast & The Family's Latest Craze

I didn't make any plans for a big cook out during the past weekend and decided to photograph my very simple breakfast of french toasts just for practice.  I am starting to get a kick out of inserting text into my pictures, so yes, the intent is there to spend the next couple of weeks brushing up my photoshop skills.  Note the word 'intent'.  

I mentioned to all that I will show our latest family craze.  So here it is, presenting my dear travelling buddy that has taken me to places faster than my little feet can, for the past two weeks.  After we had the taste of the Parisian bike-riding lifestyle, we couldn't resist getting bicycles when we came home.  At this juncture, I have to give due credit to Paris' Velib bicycle network.  Such a brilliant concept, it made travelling within Paris such fun and such a breeze.  

This is technically the first vehicle which I officially own, and yes, like every first time vehicle-owner, I am very proud of her... She's pretty, smooth and makes travelling sweet....

Presenting *drumroll*  PETITE BIANCO

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back to Basics - Ultimate Victoria Sandwich Sponge

Alright.. it's back to basics for me.  I've never tried baking a full-sized sponge cake before.  It was a "now or never" moment for me.  And I am over the moon, especially after stacking the top layer of cake over the bottom. I'm thinking of the birthday cakes, baby shower cakes (?) that I can bake in future..  I think we should celebrate every occasion with a cake!  Ok.. the imagination is running wild here.

I know I've been very tardy with my posts these couple of months and I'm absolutely appalled by my own lack of discipline.. ah... the laziness and distractions that quietly crept into my life... Just to let you in a little.  My hubby and I each made a 'decadent' acquisition recently, and they have both been our main occupation or pre-occupation this whole week..  I shall introduce you to our dear Petit Bianco & Mocha Grande in my next post (have to take decent pictures of them..)  In the meantime, try your hand at this classic sponge cake!

Ultimate Victoria Sandwich Sponge (adapted from Jamie magazine)
This classic cake is, of course, named after Queen Victoria, the only monarch to reign longer than the current Queen.  It's relatively easy to make but does have a few quirks: you need to get as much air into it as possible, and be mindful of its sensitivity to variations in heat.  Know your oven well and invest in an oven thermometer!
Serves 14 (I think it serves 8-12)

225g unsalted butter, cubed and softened, plus extra to grease
225g white caster sugar (I reduced to 200g, I think I could have reduced it a bit more)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
225 self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
A splash of milk

- Preheat the oven to 180*C.  Grease and line the bases of 2 round 20cm sandwich tins.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla extract.
- Gradually mix the beaten eggs into the creamed butter and sugar. (Don't worry if your mixture curdles, mine did). Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon until just incorporated (don't overmix).
- Stir in a splash of milk to loosen the batter, then evenly divid it between the 2 cake tins.  Bake the cakes in the oven for 22-25 mins, until golden and cooked through (to test, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake; it's ready when the skewer comes out clean.) Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Once completely cool, sandwich with your choice of filling, or your own favourite (jam is the traditional choice for a Victoria sponge; whipped cream is optional)