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Archive for May, 2008


It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. My sincere apologies to all! I have really been busy but the real reason why I haven’t written in a while was because I’ve been really demotivated the last couple of weeks. Before going to Melbourne, I was all fired up and was really excited about the prospect of coming back from my trip and sharing with all of you my many discoveries. However, upon returning, I was thrown straight back into work and have found myself to be tired, moody and moodless all the time. Every time I sat in front of the computer wanting to write something, I find myself closing the window and laying back in bed. On top of it all, I’ve been busy with Ah Koh’s wedding. It’s this Saturday but I feel like I’m so unprepared for it. Planning and managing the entire thing is not an easy task, and in addition to that, I’m making the wedding cake as well. Hence my stress level right now is really high.

Anyway, enough of my whinging. It’s once again the time of the month to disclose May’s DB challenge….round of applause for……L’Opéra!! This month’s challenge was co-hosted by the founders of DB -  Ivonne and Lis – so it’s no wonder that such an exquisite dessert was picked. 

I was really excited when I found out what May’s challenge was to be. A couple of months ago, Ryan brought back this low-sugar dessert recipe book his mum had given him. In it, there was an Opéra cake that looked simply scrumptious. Since then, I’ve been doing a little bit of research on it but didn’t bring myself to try it as it looked really complicated. When May’s challenge was announced, I knew this was my chance! And just in time as well ‘cos Ryan’s birthday was in May! :)

Just a bit of history on the cake…L’Opéra is a classic French dessert created by Louis Clichy, who called it the Clichy. However, it was popularized by the Parisian pâtisserie Dalloyau as the Opera cake and is now mostly known by that name.  It is a combination of delicate almond biscuit or joconde, chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream, and chocolate glaze. This month however, in line with the LiveSTRONG theme, the DB-ers were told to go untraditional and make an Opéra Cake that is both light in flavour and colour. 

Hhmm…so what am I going to do? Initially, I wanted to make a pandan or a mango based Opéra. But after some thought, I decided I’ll go traditional and use chocolate..only this time I’ll use white chocolate. I really liked the recipe by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty but decided I’ll try to put my own stamp on it. In the end, I decided I’ll make a White Chocolate Raspberry and Macadamia Opéra. 

You’ll notice that my joconde is a bit browner in colour than most people and this is because I used raw natural almond meal for it. It’s a little bit different from the almond meal you get from the supermarket which are ivory/pale yellow in colour. Now came the part of baking it. As my oven is one of those turbo ovens which are really small, I couldn’t exactly follow the recipe given. Since I didn’t have a jelly-roll pan, and also because I had been busy working and didn’t have time to make the cake in advance, I decided to just put all the batter in an 8″ square tin and risk it. Fingers crossed, hopefully, I’ll still be able to split the cake into 3 layers. The recipe said it should take about 5-9 minutes to bake, but mine took nearly 45 minutes! Oh no…this had better not flop on me as the Ryan’s birthday day was the next day and I didn’t have time to make another cake! And let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to waste another dozen of eggs! God was indeed on my side (and a good thing too)! I decide on a rose essence and when making it, my house was just enveloped in this overwhelming smell of roses. I did encounter a slight problem with the white chocolate ganache. As most people already know, white chocolate ganache due to the fat content of white chocolate is not easy to make (or should I say I’ve never succeeded in making a good white chocolate ganache). As I was beating it with my electric mixer, it started to curdle and went all lumpy. Uh oh…where did I go wrong? Immediately, to the computer I went and straight to the DB forum. Hhmm..anyone else with the same problem? Ah..yes..a fellow DB-er shared that if I continue to beat it, it’ll go back together. I was a bit sceptical. But what choice did I have? It was either that or waste nearly 200gms of white chocolate! Well, the end result was not too bad. It did actually all come together and phew was I relieved! I decided on a simple deco as Ryan is into simplicity and voila..my finish product!

Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

Joconde

Ingredients:

  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (225 grams) almond meal
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).  
  • Line an 8″ square tin with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
  • If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!). 
  • Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Pour batter into the tin and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface.
  • Bake the cake lightly browned and just springy to the touch. 
  • Put the tin on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the tin. Cover with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the tin over, and unmold. 
  • Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature. 

Syrup

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup (125 grams) water
  • ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. of rose essence
Method:
  • Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Buttercream
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar 
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) water 
  • Seeds of one vanilla bean 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup raspberry pulp
Method:
  • Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
  • Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) 
  • While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
  • When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden! 
  • Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
  • While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass. 
  • With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny. 
  • Beat in raspberry pulp for an additional minute or so.
  • Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces white chocolate
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
  • 1 tbsp. Amarula liquer
Method:
  • Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
  • Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
  • Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse. 
  • If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
  • If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Glaze
Ingredients:
  • 14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped 
  • ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
Method:
  • Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth. 
  • Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake.  Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. 
  • Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling:
  • Divide cake into 3 layers. 
  • Place one layer on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
  • Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
  • Top with the second layer of cake. Moisten with the flavoured syrup.
  • Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third layer of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
  • Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
  • Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
  • Serve the cake slightly chilled.
Now that I’ve finally made an Opéra, it really isn’t as difficult as it looks. The recipe looks long and complicate but in actual fact it’s sorta like making any other cake. The flavours this time around were quite nice but next time, I’m going to try making a traditional Opéra as I’m sure I’ll love the taste of chocolate and coffee combined even more. :)

 

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Hola mis amigos! :) I speak Spanish when I’m excited! Haha! :) Tomorrow I’ll be off for 3 days filled with shopping and eating! Woohoo! I figured in the midst of my frantic life, I should perhaps update my blog or else you guys might think I’ve been kidnapped or something! :)

It’s been a couple of busy weeks for me again. I’ve recently embarked on a career change and am at this moment still sorta bumming around, trying a little bit of everything. The last couple of weeks have been packed with interviews after interviews, cake orders, wedding preparations (not mine!) and starting my new casual job. So, as you can see, I’ve had quite a bit on my plate. 

I’ve just completed 2 orders for a green tea cake and 1 for a strawberry sponge cake. Every time I make a green tea cake, I tend to favour the nature theme when decorating. To me, I feel that green tea with its healthy image should match something with natural beauty. This time, since its autumn, I decided on the theme of autumn leaves – bright red, orange and yellow leaves on a greenish background..hhmm…NICE! :)

  

I used white chocolate for the leaves and dyed them yellow and red. YQ told me that when she brought it to work, her colleagues were afraid to try them as they weren’t sure what it was made of! Finally, someone was brave enough to pick at one of it only to discover it was white chocolate! Haha! Goes to show that a little courage can bring you great surprises! :)

 

Another secret fascination of mine is for sakuras a.k.a cherry blossoms. I’ve always found these flowers really pretty and fascinating due to its short blooming time. Sakura is the Japanese name for cherry trees and its blossoms. It is a common flower in east Asia such as China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. It has different symbolic meanings in different countries. In China, cherry blossoms symbolize feminine beauty, the feminine principle or love in the language of herbs. In Japan, they are believed to represent the transient nature of life. The beauty and extremely short life of the sakura has often been associated with mortality. The Japanese used sakura to motivate nationalism and militarism among its people during World War II. Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes before embarking on a suicide mission, or even take branches of the trees with them on their missions. A cherry blossom painted on the side of the bomber symbolized the intensity and fragility of life.    

I remember as a kid, whenever I watched a romantic movie or tv series featuring sakuras, I’d often wished I was the actress. In those movies, there is often a scene where a guy and a girl will stand under a sakura tree and it’ll start shedding and the girl will twirl around in delight as the flowers fall all around her. The couple are so in love with each other and joy just radiates from their faces. Like every other girl, I wish I could have such a romance! To be really honest, I still do harbour hopes of one day being able to be like those actresses and live out this secret dream of mine. 

Since I’ve yet to experience my childhood dream, I’ll have to be satisfied with other methods! :) I know I’m in the wrong season (sakuras bloom in spring and I’m in autumn now), but I couldn’t help but deco Ryan’s order with them. It’s my first time doing flowers as a deco and I was pretty nervous. I have to admit this was not one of my best creations but it was enough to satisfy a little girl’s dream of beautiful flowers and handsome princes! :)

Just like every little girl had dreams of being swept off by a knight in shining armour, every little boy has dreams of war, fights, and racing through the storms of life. Just today, I completed an order for a strawberry sponge cake for Thomas who was turning 10. It’s been a long time since I was 10 and it was challenging thinking of how to deco the cake. My initial plan was to do an elegant, classic design topped with chocolate, strawberries and marshmallows. But then I thought, would a 10 year old like that? Hhmm….off I went seeking advice from others. Alan, as expected voted for the classic elegant design but Krystal felt I should make a cake that would please a 10 year old and not his parents. She had a point. So what to do? Well, this was what I did…TADA…a racing track!

Due to time constraints, I was unable to make sugarpaste/marzipan cars so had to settle for supermarket jelly cars. They didn’t appear too appetizing to me but who knows what a 10 year old might think. All I can pray is that Thomas enjoyed it and had a great birhday. :) *Fingers crossed*

 

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