Thursday, 29 May 2008

Our Travel Footprints

By the time this post is published, I will probably be looking out from the window...

and we should be landing in a short while...

and begin our much awaited holidays. It has almost becoming a routine that we visit California once in every two years. If not for the long flight, I bet we would have returned to this place much more frequently!

Not unlike our previous trips, we will make it a point to include many outdoor activities for the kids...lots of rounding around in the park, hiking, picinics, kite flying...

and a mini golf session is a must...

and cherry picking at Brentwood!

This has to be one of my favourite outdoor activities!! I am looking forward to stuffing myself silly with all these cherries again!

and not forgetting these sweet and juicy peaches.

The main highlights of this visit will be a round trip to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. The last time we went to Lake Tahoe was almost 8 winters ago. I am sure the place will be equally beautiful during the summer.

This will be the first time I will be entering Yosemite by the Tioga Pass entrance. My husband was so happy to know that the Tioga Road has opened and much earlier this year! He can't wait to show us the beautiful scenery along this road that literally cuts across the park from the west to the east.

For the past weeks, I have been reading up on the various hiking trails at the Yosemite. This time round we will give the Mirror Lake trail a miss. I think we are really fortunate to be able to visit this lake twice, both in the winter and in the summer!

I will love to go up to the Glacier Point again.

This photo was taken at the Glacier Point...the view is really incredible, isn't it?! It's really worth the one hour drive up from the valley to the summit. You get to see the entire valley from up here.

We are planning to take the trail to the top of the Sentinel Dome this time...I read that it's quite an easy one-hour trail and I am looking forward to experiencing the panorama views from the summit. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we have enough time to take another hike...up to the top of Vernal Fall. I'm sure it will be fun to be so close to a water fall.

Another place that I will really love to visit is the Big Sur along Highway One.

We never seems to be able to make the trip down ever since we went there several years back! I just want to show my younger boy the magnificent views from the various vista points along this scenic drive. To me, this is the most scenic drive on earth! Somehow, I know, we won't be able to include this place in our trip this time...there are simply too many places to visit and too little time :(

Besides all the sightseeing, we will be indulging ourselves with food that we have been craving for the past two boys have already drawn up a list of eating places that we must go...Krispy Kreme donuts, Popeye's chicken, In & Out burgers, etc, etc.

I will be back in a couple of weeks' time with lots of photos and stories to share with you :)

Saturday, 24 May 2008

For the Love of Muffins

I love baking muffins, and nothing beats having a homemade muffin over a cup of hot coffee for breakfast!

Whenever I need to bake something quick and easy, muffins would always be the number one choice. It is also a great way to use up whatever ingredients before the expiry date ;)

I made this batch of yummy muffins following a recipe which is meant for a chocolate chips & crumble muffins. Instead of chocolate chips I replaced it with some left over peanut butter chips. I was quite happy with how the muffins turned out, it was worth the little extra effort required to make the chocolate crumble toppings.

I was quite pleased with the series of photos I took too :) No, I am not referring to the sharpness, the colour and exposure of the images...they failed very badly in these areas. The only thing I liked about the photos was that they were able to capture how 'voluptuous' these 'mountain-high' muffins turned out when I took them out of the oven ;)

By the way, did you know that there were actually three muffins in the above image?

This recipe calls for rubbing in the butter to flour instead of the usual way of using melted butter or creaming butter with sugar. The resulting batter was rather watery as compared to the usual thick and gooey mixture which I was more familiar with. I filled a few of the muffins cups almost to the brim (I used only 10 muffin cups instead of the recommended 12), as such a couple of them had batter spilled over the cups...looking not too different from a volcanic eruption!

I had some difficulty rubbing in the butter while making the chocolate crumbles...I guess the flour was too little for the amount of butter used. Most of the crumbles were really huge!

This recipe yields soft and fluffy muffins, although they were not as moist as what I would expect. The peanut butter chips and the chocolate crumbles really enhanced the texture and flavour of the muffins. I love the slightly crisp crust most :)

Peanut Butter Chips Crumble Muffins

(makes 12)

250g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g butter
100g soft light brown sugar
150g peanut butter chips or chocolate chips
2 eggs, lightly beaten
225ml milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the Chocolate Crumble Topping:
50g plain flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
40g butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar


  1. For the chocolate crumble topping, sift flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Mix in the sugar and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and the peanut butter chips.
  3. In another bowl, mix eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid mixture all at once into the dry ingredients. With a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until just combined. Do Not Over Mix. The batter should remain lumpy.
  4. Fill paper muffin cups with batter sprinkle with the crumble toppings. Bake in a preheated oven at 200degC for 18-20mins, or until well risen and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Let cool completely.
Recipe source: adapted from Muffins Galore, Catherine Atkinson

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Yummy Blog Award

I received this Yummy Blog Award from Sunshinemom recently! Thanks so much for passing on this award to me! Although I secretly think that I don't really deserve this award (these four Chinese words describe how I feel: 受之有愧!)...but I certainly don't mind bagging an award, as I have not received an award for ages ;)

Ok, here are some rules for the ‘Yummy Blog’ award Receiver :
The person who receives the award should display the "Yummy Blog !" logo on their blog and also the meaning of the award which is:
"Yummy blog award is the award given to the blog with most yummy recipes/photos."

The receiver should also quote their favorite yummylicious :) dessert(s) that they have ever prepared/eaten. Don’t restrict yourself to any dessert, chocolate bars also welcome. Also the receiver should pass on the award to four other bloggers whose blog they find "yummy" and let them know about the rules.

My favourite dessert is:

Ice Kacang! A multi-coloured 'mini-ice mountain'...which is made of ice shavings, topped with colourful red and green sweeteners, condensed milk and corns . At the bottom of the ice, is a plate of red beans, grass jelly, tiny jelly cubes and some attap chee (seed of the attap or nipah palm). This has been my No. 1 favourite dessert since young!

It's my pleasure now to pass the award to these truly deserving Yummy Award Recipients:
1. Anne of Simply Anne's for all her gorgeous cakes!
2. Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn for her yummy ice creams, breads, pies, cookies, cakes, etc, etc, etc!
3. Mandy of Fresh from the Oven for her wonderful dishes and lovely cakes and cookies!
4. Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen for her devilious-looking chocolate cakes, cookies and lots of other countless delicious dishes and recipes which she has been sharing with us. Most of all, I really appreciate her forever encouraging words and comments that she has been leaving with not just me, but many other fellow bloggers!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Simple Wholemeal Bread

Made this wholemeal loaf a few days ago. It's a simple almost no frills everyday kind of bread. The steps involved in making this bread are quite easy. The only thing that you need is lots of time and patience. This bread uses a 'sponge dough' method...which requires 90mins of extra proofing time as compare to other breads that use the 'straight dough' method.

I read that the 'sponge dough' method would yield a softer bread texture. The crumbs was indeed light and soft, and the bread stayed fresh and soft for 3 days. I didn't even have to toast it before serving. It tasted great with my favourite blueberry jam, and I love the nice fragrance from the wholemeal flour. Even my kids, who don't really fancy any kind of wholemeal grains in their bread, didn't make a single complain :)

Simple Wholemeal Bread


120g wholemeal flour
85g bread flour
4g (1 tsp) instant yeast
130g water

85g bread flour
15g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10g milk powder
50g water

15g unsalted butter

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in (A) in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in the water. Mix by hand to form a soft dough. Place dough in a mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it rise for 90mins.
  2. Place the ingredients in (B) in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Add in the soft dough in Step 1.
  3. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. After about 8mins of kneading, add in the 15g of butter (Ingredient C). Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 10mins.
  4. Stop the machine and place dough in mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it rise till double in volume for about 60mins.
  5. Remove dough and give a few light kneading on a lightly floured work surface. Press out the trapped air as your knead. Divide into 3 equal portions and shape into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let the doughs rest for 15mins.
  6. Flatten and roll out each dough into an oval shape (20cm by 10cm). Roll up swiss roll style and pinch the seams in place. Place in a pullman tin (size, 7.5"x4"x4", well greased), seams side down. Cover the lid and let dough proof for 60mins or until the dough rise up to 90% of the height of the tin.
  7. Bake at preheated oven at 190 degC for about 30mins.
  8. Remove from oven and unmold immediately. Let cool completely before slicing.
Recipe adapted from 孟老师的100道面包

Monday, 12 May 2008

Peach Marshmallow Cake

I have not been baking anything for the past week as I was busy coaching my two kids for their school's mid-year exams. We were so glad when it was finally over! Instead of taking out the oven to bake something, I chose to make a chill cake as I thought it would be good to have something nice and cold as dessert.

The recipe is taken from Baking Mum's Strawberry Marshmallow Cake...I always admire her great cooking and baking skills, and she has shared many wonderful recipes in her blog. I did a peach version as I didn't have any strawberries in the fridge. The base of the cake was a layer of crushed digestive biscuits. The filling was made by melting marshmallows, milk, gelatin and cream, before topping off with fruits and a layer of jelly. Don't you think it is a rather interesting combination? This is in fact my second attempt. The first time round I didn't have a chance to take any photos to blog about it as I brought it to a friend's gathering. The cake was well received by both adults and kids.

I have come across many photos of cakes and tarts decorated beautifully with fruits. Although most cookbooks will show you how to go about making the cakes, so far I have not come across any, that clearly spells out how to go about arranging the fruits on top. So it took me a good few minutes of thinking to figure out how to arrange the peach slices on this cake.

I first tried out the arrangement on a plate, about the size of the finished cake, before attempting to arrange them on the actual cake. By doing so, I found out that in order to have a 'rosette' in the centre, it was easier to first arrange the outer ring of peach slices. This way the peach slices would be able to 'support' the rosette. As for the rosette, I worked from the outer 'petals' inwards...over lapping the slices one after another...and you need to use fairly thin slices, especially for the inner most piece, as you need to be able to bend and curl them a little. (Slice the peaches if the ready sliced ones are too thick.)

According to the recipe, this chill cake seems pretty easy to make. However, I thought it can get rather tricky when it comes to finding the right time to arrange the fruits and pouring in the jelly layer. If the fillings was chilled for too long, the jelly layer may not adhere to the, once you slice the cake, the jelly layer may separate from the fillings. The jelly has to be cool off completely before pouring it over the filling, otherwise there would be bits of fillings melted away and the jelly layer would not be 'crystal clear'! I also discovered, to my surprise, that melting the marshmallow was not that easy either! They didn't melt that quickly as I would expect. I had to keep stirring the mixture to prevent it from getting burnt at the bottom. I would suggest using a big enough saucepan to boil the ingredients for the fillings...the first time I made this, I used a small saucepan and had to change to a bigger pot halfway! I hope this will be helpful for those who are keen to give this cake a try.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Chocolate Chips Swirl Bread

This chocolate swirl loaf was baked 2 weeks ago. I didn't manage to post this until today. I have been lacking behind in my blog seems that I am baking faster than I could write about it!

Unlike all my previous attempts on bread making, this is the first time I've tried using a 'roux' to make a loaf. In the past, whenever I came across any bread recipe that requires the making of a water roux, I would give it a miss, as I have no idea how to 'cook' the water roux to the right consistency and temperature. I decided to give this recipe a go as the method of making the roux for this bread seems simple enough for me. All that's required is to cook a slice of shredded Cheddar cheese with some milk, then add in the flour and stir to form a soft's almost like making a roux for a cream sauce for a pasta dish. The soft dough is then chilled for an hour before it is added with the other ingredients. The rest of the steps are not very different from the usual bread that I have been making. After using the bread machine to do the kneading, the dough was divided into two added with chocolate chips, the other with cocoa powder. After the first rise, the doughs were rolled up together and baked in a pullman tin.

The texture of the bread was almost the same as the Marble Bread I made earlier...soft and yet there was a slight chew to it. I would say it was quite a tasty, hearty bread...especially when the slice was slapped with a generous helping of nutella :)

Chocolate Chips Swirl Bread


1 slice Cheddar sandwich cheese
70g fresh milk
20g bread flour

260g bread flour
40g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (4g) instant yeast
130g water

20g butter

25g chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water

  1. Tear Cheddar cheese into pieces. In a saucepan, over very low hear melt the shredded cheese with the milk. Stir till the cheese is melted. Add in the 20g of bread flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the mixture becomes very thick and resembles a soft, wet lump of dough. Let cool. Cover with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 60mins.
  2. Place the soft dough in Step 1 together with the rest of the ingredients in B in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine).
  3. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start.
  4. After about 8mins of kneading, add in the 20g of butter (Ingredient C). Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 10mins.
  5. Stop the machine and remove 200g of dough from the bread pan and set it aside.
  6. Add cocoa powder and water (ingredient D) into the dough that's left in the bread pan. Re-start the machine and let it knead for another 5mins.
  7. While the machine is working, manually knead in the chocolate chips into the dough that was removed from the machine.
  8. Place both doughs in 2 separate mixing bowls, cover with cling wrap and let them rise till double in volume, about 80mins.
  9. Remove doughs and give a few light kneading for each dough. Press out the trapped air as your knead. Shape into balls and cover with cling wrap, let the doughs rest for 15mins.
  10. Flatten and roll out the cocoa dough into a 20cm square, and the chocolate chips dough into a 16cm square. Place the chocolate chips dough on top of the cocoa dough. Roll up swiss roll style and place in a pullman tin (size, 7.5"x4"x4", well greased). Tuck the ends down. Cover the lid and let dough proof for 60mins or until the dough rise up to 90% of the height of the tin.
  11. Bake at preheated oven at 180-190 degC for about 30mins.
  12. Remove from oven and unmold immediately. Let cool completely before slicing.
Recipe adapted from 孟老师的100道面包

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Chocolate Gateau

I don't know about you, but I love looking at images of plain looking cakes. I am always mesmerised by the awesome looking, golden crumbs on a cake surface.

I made this chocolate gateau a couple of days ago. As usual, I was attracted to the recipe by the beautiful illustration. It's a flourless chocolate cake, ground almonds are used in place of flour. I was very pleased with the outcome...its appearance improved gradually as it was cooling off. I actually liked the bulging rim, I call it the 'hat', that was formed on the top ;)

I would prefer to have the cake plain, but since this is a Me cake...yes, I made it just for myself...I thought I should coat it with a layer of chocolate ganache. I have meant to make it a very simple cake without any decoration...but since I was left with some chocolate ganache, I piped a 'rosette' on it. Yes, I know, I need more practise on my piping ;'p

With my lousy frosting skill, the cake appeared distorted...and the photos I took were terrible. Thanks to the strong light rays from the scorching sun, my photos were mostly over-exposed. It got worst when the glossy chocolate ganache bounced off light all over :(

The cake tasted really really goooood!! It was awfully chocolaty, and the texture was very smooth and velvety. I am sure any chocolate lover will fall in love with it right away. It certainly helped to lift up my spirit a little, as there is really nothing to be happy about, if you have reached the age when our government automatically covers you under the ElderShield :,(


150g dark chocolate, broken up
75g golden caster sugar (I used light brown sugar)
150g unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon runny honey
4 large eggs, separated
200g ground almonds (almond powder)
75ml milk (I used low fat fresh milk)

chocolate ganache:
100g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Line the base of a 20cm cake pan (with removable base) with parchment paper, grease the sides with butter and set aside.
  2. Separate egg yolks from whites when the eggs are still cold. Set aside to bring to room temperature.
  3. Place chocolate, sugar, butter, honey in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir frequently till the ingredients melted. Let cool.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl. With a manual whisk beat in egg yolks and ground almonds, then stir in the milk. (Just a few stir should get everything incorporated. The mixture will be rather thick at this stage.)
  5. In a clean, dry, grease free mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff. With a spatula, Fold In the beaten egg whites in 3 separate additions, into the cake mixture. (Ensure all the whites are fully incorporate into the cake mixture after every addition.)
  6. Pour batter into prepared cake pan (the final batter will be less thick). Give the pan several sharp taps on a work top to bring up any air bubbles that may be trapped in the batter.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 35-40mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool in the pan for about 1omins. Run a thin-bladed knife along the sides of the pan, unmold and cool right-side up.
  9. Dust with cocoa powder before serving. Alternatively, if desired, spread with chocolate ganache. To make chocolate ganache: bring the heavy cream to a boil, remove from heat and add in chopped chocolate. Stir till chocolate is melted. Let cool for a few mins and spread over the cake.

    Recipe source: Gorgeous Cake by Annie Bell