Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fougasse (French flat bread)

I recently tried my hand at making a starter dough as well as a traditional French flat bread called Fougasse - pronounced as "foogass".

One of the distinguishing characteristics of fougasse is that it is often baked into a shape that is somewhat like a tree, with one end resembling the trunk and the wider opposite end being more or less round in structure. Fougasse can be used as a tasty accompaniment to both hot and cold soups, as well as create sandwich like snacks for the family. For mains, it goes very well with most pasta dishes as well as creamy casseroles or stews - great to mop up all the tasty gravy too! Fougasse (French flat bread)



Fougasse (French flat bread)
Adapted from From “Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets”
Makes 2.1kg loaves of bread

For the dough starter: (this needs to be prepared a day before)

5g fresh yeast
135ml cold water
100g strong white bread flour, preferably organic
100g rye flour

For the dough:

680ml tap water
940g traditional white bread flour, preferably organic, plus extra for dusting
130g rye flour
15g fine sea salt (do not reduce your salt, otherwise the bread is quite bland)
22g fresh or 11g dried yeast

For the fougasse topping:

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp finely minced garlic
3 tsp finely chopped black olives
3 tsp of thinly sliced sundried tomatoes in oil
-3 grindings black pepper
Sprinkle of sea salt for topping


1) .For the dough starter, whisk the yeast into the water until dissolved.

2) Mix the white and rye flours in a separate bowl until well combined.

3) Pour the yeast mixture over the flours, whisking well to form a thick paste. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to ferment for at least 6 hours and up to 18 hours at room temperature. You can use dried yeast but you will only need half the quantity. Yeast is dormant at 4C, active between 20-40C and destroyed at 45-50 C. Using a dough starter in bread making gives a greater complexity of flavour; as the yeast activates and feeds on the natural sugars present in the flour, over time it produces a distinctively tangy or sour taste.

4) For the dough, line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.

5) Add the water to the fermented dough starter and mix well to combine.

6) Place the white and rye flours into a food processor, set with the dough hook. Add the salt to one side of the bowl of the food processor, then add the yeast to the other side, being careful not to let the salt and yeast touch at this stage. as the salt will attack the yeast and damage its ability to ferment.

7) Add the starter dough mixture to the food processor and mix on a low speed for 5 minutes. The slow mixing process will give the flour the opportunity to fully absorb the water. (I used my KitchenAid for the kneading process – use the dough hook)

8) Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl of the food processor and from the dough hook, then continue to mix on a medium speed for a further 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The faster speed will warm the gluten in the flour making the dough elastic and creating the right environment for the fermentation to happen.

9) Scrape the dough into a neat ball and cover the bowl with cling film. Set aside to prove at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

10) When the dough has proved, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface using a scraper if necessary. Cut the dough into four equal pieces.

11) The dough can be shaped in any way you choose. For a fougasse-style loaf, line four baking trays with baking parchment.

12) Roll each piece of dough into a triangle shape and place one onto each baking tray. Make a cut all the way down the centre of each dough triangle, without completely cutting through the dough. Make 3 deep slashes on either side of the central cut, cutting all the way down to the baking tray, then pull the dough apart slightly to create holes.

13) Brush the fougasses all over with olive oil, then randomly scatter and gently push the remaining fougasse topping ingredients evenly over the dough. This is to ensure that the topping sticks to the dough whilst it is proofing. Set aside to prove for 30-40 minutes.

14) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250C/475F/Gas 9 or to its maximum setting (this is critical as the temperature will decrease significantly when you open the door) and place a baking tray in the middle of the oven and a roasting tin on the bottom.

15) Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking tray in the middle of the oven, using the greaseproof paper to transfer them and pour 50ml/2fl oz of water into the roasting tin on the bottom. This will generate steam within the oven creating a good crust on the bread.

16) Bake the fougasse in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through. (The loaves are cooked through when they make a hollow sound when tapped on the undersides.) Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

17) Extra fougasse can be frozen for about one month. Thaw and reheat in oven to serve.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crispy Pork Belly in Milk

I have been eyeing this recipe from "The Free Range Cook" series which is aired on my local cable for almost five months now.  I finally decided to try out the recipe and got myself to a local supermarket. 

You should have seen me at the meat counter peering at the slices of pork belly and trying to decide which piece looked the most succulent.  I took several pieces out and turned it this way and that before deciding on my purchase.  I must have stood there for at least ten minutes looking like a really picky shopper!

RP Belly 2

Overall this recipe turned out quite interesting.  During the cooking process expect the milk to develop a skin and turn brown, somewhat caramel like.  Although the recipe tells you to throw out the milk after the dish is done, I kept some of it and reduced it down further over the stove top.  I used the sauce as gravy to the pork belly.  I also made an apple cinnamon sauce to go with the meal as well as roasted pumpkin with mustard seeds.


RP Belly 5

Crispy Pork Belly in Milk
Recipe Adapted from Annabel Langbein "The Free Range Cook"


1 to1.2 kg pork belly with skin scored
Freshly ground black pepper.
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
3 - 4 fresh sage leaves.
2 to 2 and a half cups of fresh milk


1)  Preheat oven to 240C.

2)  Pat the skin of the pork dry and season the flesh side with pepper and half the salt. Place the sage leaves on the bottom of a baking dish and put pork on top, skin side up. Score the skin with a very sharp knife.  Season the top with the remaining salt.

3)  Roast for 20-25 mins at 240C until the skin is starting to blister and crackle. 

4) Remove the baking dish from the oven and slowly pour the milk around the meat to come about half to two thirds of the way up the sides of pork.  Do not let the milk touch the skin otherwise it will loose its crackle.

5) Reduce the oven to 160C and roast for a further 1 and a half hours or until pork is meltingly tender.

6) Check the level of liquid during cooking and if it has evaporated add a little more to the pan.  Remove pork from oven, lift out from dish and allow it to cool. Discard the liquids as it breaks into curds.

7) For easy cutting place the meat flesh side up on a chopping board and use a heavy sharp knife to cut into slices 3-4cm thick. Serve warm or room temperature.

RP Belly 4

RP Belly 1

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes

Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes seem to be the latest craze with Singapore food bloggers and I am probably one of the last few to be actually trying out the recipe.  When I first had a taste of this cupcake, I sort of compared it with a chiffon cake with fresh cream filling.  In fact it is pretty close to it.  The method of making the cupcakes is a chiffon method using oil plus requiring the egg whites to be whipped and folded into the cake batter.


After trying out this recipe from Nasi Lemak Lover, I came across another blogger who had actually made a comparison of two Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcake recipes, one of which is this one.  Check out the comparison Here!


Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes
Makes about 10 cupcakes
Recipe Adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover

Ingredients for the Cupcake:

3 egg yolks
1/8 tsp of salt
20g vegetable oil (you can also use corn/canola/sunflower oil)
20g milk
25g self-raising flour
105g egg whites (about 3 eggs)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
40g castor sugar


1) Whisk egg yolk with salt. Add in oil and milk and mix well.

2)  Sift flour and baking powder into the egg yolk mixture.

3) Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy and then slowly add in the sugar and beat till soft peaks

4) Fold in half of the egg whites into the cake batter and mix until incorporated using a whisk or spatula. Then add in the other half and mix them evenly (do not overmix - you want to maintain the volume of the cake batter).

5)  Fill the mixture into the cupcake liners.

6)  Bake at pre-heated oven at 160c for 20mins. Leave to cool completely before filling.

7) Make a small hole at the middle, pump the custard cream into the chiffon. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Custard Cream Filling:


30g non-dairy whipped fresh cream, cold from the refrigerator
1 tsp custard powder

Add the custard powder to the fresh cream and whip until it is almost stiff peaks.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

French Macarons with Capuccino Ganache

I have been baking macarons for the last two weeks and have finally achieved zero spoilage.  This is truly a breakthrough and I am really happy about it.   If you have yet to try your hands at making macarons, make sure that you do lots of research first before starting.  Although macarons have no more than five ingredients to making the shells, the methods itself is somewhat tricky.  I would say that they are really fussy cookies! 

I recently came across this Site which gives you a run-down of the "do's" and "don'ts" ... mainly "do's" to having successful macarons.  Hope this helps with your adventure. 



French Macarons with Capuccino Ganache
Makes about 30 filled macarons
Macaron Template

For the Macaron Batter


98g almond powder or almond meal
98g icing sugar
67g egg whites (aged 2 - 3 days in the refrigerator)
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp egg white powder (dehydrated egg white)
Food colouring


1) Combine the icing sugar and almond flour in a food processor.  Pulse until fine and powdery.

2) Remove and then sift into a dry bowl.  Set aside.

3) Add the egg white powder to the caster sugar and stir with a spoon until mixed through.

4) Place egg whites into another clean bowl.  Beat with mixer on medium.  until frothy.  Then add in the cream of tartar and beat until it is mixed - about one minute.  Then slowly add in the sugar with egg white powder.  Switch to high and continue beating until medium peaks.

5)  Then add in the food colouring and continue to beat until stiff peaks.

6) Add 1/3 of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold to combine. Then add in the rest.  Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip, pipe 1.5 cm rounds onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

7) Once you have finishing piping all the macarons lift each baking sheet with both hands and then bang it down on the counter (you need to get the air out of the batter). 

8)  Rest the macarons for an hour to develop a skin on the surface. 

9)  Preheat oven to 150°C. Bake for  about 15 minutes (baking time can be varied, from 12-15 up to your oven) or until firm to the touch. Mid way through baking, rotate the pans.

10) Remove from oven and cool on trays. Slide a knife under each macaroon to release from paper. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or until ready to assemble. Once assembled put the macarons into the refrigerator.  Best eaten a day later so that the flavours will develop.


Capuccino Ganache


85g heavy cream or thickened cream
120g mixture of dark and milk chocolate
1/2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder (or instant coffee powder)
15g unsalted butter at room temperature


1) Place the chocolate into a bowl with the coffee powder.

2) In a saucepan, heat the cream until it comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and pour into the chocolate.  Let sit for a minute before stirrring to mix well.  Add in the butter and continue to stir until mix through.  Leave to cool before refrigerating.  Once the ganache has hardened slightly, you can use to sandwich the macaron shells.




Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken

I recently started a herb garden and I am glad to say that my plants are triving.  So now whenever I am in need of fresh herbs for cooking, I just head towards my planters and snip whatever I need.  I don't exactly have a garden as I stay in an apartment - so my herbs are actually grown in pots.

So it came about two weekends ago that I decided to make do a simple lemon (which I usually would have stock in my fridge) and thyme roast chicken.  This is truly a simple recipe and absolutely delicious.  It makes a great Sunday lunch or dinner for the whole family.

thyme chic 1

thyme chic 3

Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken


1 whole chicken (approx 2.25kg), cleaned and pat dry
1 head of garlic, broken into pieces (do not remove the skin)
2 lemons, cut into half
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 onions, sliced into 1/8
4 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp salted butter
1.5 cups cooked baby potatoes, slightly smashed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Additional olive oil for drizzling


1) Place the lemon juice, olive oil, sweet paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. into a bowl.  Mix the marinade until well combined.  Rub all over the chicken and leave for about an hour.

2) Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

3) In a roasting pan, layer the potatoes on the bottom, cut onion and 2/3 of the garlic cloves.  Add 3 pieces of the lemon halfs into the pan.  Roughly pull the leaves off half the thyme and rosemary sprigs and strew them over the vegetables.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and black pepper.  Using your hands mix everything together and spread the mix out.

4) In the cavity of the chicken, stuff in half a lemon, the remaining garlic, the thyme and rosemary sprigs.  Push the butter under the skin of the chicken. 

5) Truss the legs with some string and tuck the wings under the chicken.  Place chicken on the bed of vegetables in the roasting pan, breast side up.  Add a final season of salt and black pepper.  Drizzle additional olive oil over the chicken.

6) Roast the chicken for about an hour until it is cooked.  If it starts to brown too much, place a foil over the chicken and continue to roast in the oven.

7) To serve, either carve at table or cut into 8 pieces and place on platter.  Serve vegetables separately and pour the gravy into a gravy bowl.



thyme chic 2

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Noah's Ark .... a Cake or an Ark?

I have not made a fondant cake for a long, long time and decided it was time to put in some practice.  I decided to try out this particular design from "Cake Shaping" by Helen Penman which I had borrowed from the local library.

The fondant is home-made and the cake itself is a chocolate sheet cake.  The original design had a pair of hippos but somehow I could not manage to get the hippo's face.  After several attempts I gave up and went with little piggies instead

Noah's 1

Noah's 4

Noah's 5

Chocolate Sheet Cake
Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed), sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (75 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Grese a 8 inch (20 cm) square cake pan,

2)  In a bowl stir together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the melted butter, water, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.

3) With a fork, mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.


Noah's 3


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Passionfruit Bars

There is something about passionfruit that evokes beach, holiday retreats and chilling by the pool.  I am guessing it has to be the sheer name of this fruit. 

Passionfruit is a small, spherical fruit. It is dark brownish purple when ripe,and green when unripe. The fruit contains many small, black seeds covered with the fruit's flesh. It is tart and sweet. The seeds can be eaten or used for various cooking recipes. Because of its unusual taste it is probably used much more in desserts than actual dishes.  It also makes a great fruit juice on its own or as a cocktail, mixed with other fruit juices or alcohol.


Pfruit bar 1

Passionfruit Bars
Recipe Adapted from Use Real Butter

Ingredients for the Base:

300g all purpose flour
70g confectioner’s (icing) sugar
250g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients for the Filling:

6 large eggs
320g castor sugar
55g all purpose flour
1/1/2 tsps baking powder
2/3 cup passion fruit puree
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

For the Base:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. For the cookie base, mix the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a medium large bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2) Grease thorough a 9x13 baking pan, then place parchment paper on top with sides hanging out (for easier removal of the bar after baking).  Then grease one more time.  Press the dough into the base of a 9×13 baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden. Remove from oven.

For the Filling:

1) Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Whisk or beat the eggs until slightly frothy. Gradually whisk in the sugar. Then beat in the flour and baking powder until well-mixed.

  2) Add in the passion fruit purée, lemon juice and whisk or beat until thoroughly combined. Pour the filling over the crust in the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top of the bars are golden brown and the center is firm.

3) Cool completely and refrigerate for a few hours before slicing into squares. Makes 2 dozen 2×2-inch squares.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake!

This cake was made early this month for my boss birthday.  For the last 5 years, I have been baking a cake for her B Day whenever she happens to be in town.  This year I made a 3-layer Dark Chocolate Cake with Fudgy Chocolate Frosting ... absolutely delicious and oh so sinful!  Unfortunately I was unable to cut this to show you the layers - so you will just have to make do with photographs of the whole cake itself.


Dark Chocolate Cake


312g plain flour
420g caster sugar
2 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
120 grams unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
150 ml vegetable oil
280 ml buttermilk (make your own using fresh whole milk plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice)
4 eggs at room temperature
260 ml hot strong coffee
2 tablespoons of vanilla


1) Preheat oven to 180°C and grease/ line three 8-inch cake tins.

2) In large bowl, sift in all the dry ingredients. Into another bowl, add all the wet ingredients and give it a quick whisk.  Then add the wet ingredients with the dry and whisk for about 2 minutes until well combined.  The batter will be quite liquid.  Measure out equally and pour into prepared baking tins.

3) Tap the tins on the counter a few times to get rid of the air bubbles.. Bake each layer for about 20-25 minutes, rotating once (if necessary). Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes out barely clean. Refrain from overbaking. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan before over-turning.

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting
Recipe Adapted from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book"


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Put chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and place bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from the pot and set the chocolate aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat at medium speed untl light and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the cooled chocolate at low speed, mixing until blended and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat until slightly aerated, about 2 minutes.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Irish Love Affair with Rachel Allen

Last Saturday I attended a paid event show-casing one of my many favourite chefs, Rachel Allen. Her latest program which is currently aired on BBC Lifestyle is called "Rachel Allen: Easy Meals".

Born and raised in Dublin, Rachel Allen left home at 18 to attend the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. There, she began to hone her skills on food, "growing it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it and,crucially, enjoying it."


In this series, Rachel Allen brings us to her home town and shares her expertise with the audience. Rachel shares the secrets of her approach to delicious but fuss free food, perfect for the hectic lives we lead, through a collection of simple but sumptuous recipes.  Each show is themed around a particular occasion or cuisine: Oriental Feast; Sunday Lunch; Take a Few Ingredients; Easy Indian; Lazy Sunday Mornings; Cooking for a Crowd; Quick Easy Baking; Romantic Dinners; Middle Eastern Spice; Cook Ahead; Speedy Sunshine Food; Inspired Italian; Easy Christmas.

I have seen a few of the show's series and I love the simplicity of the dishes she whips up. She also gives tips about ingredients as well as information on how ingredients are grown as well as a visit to a local cheese factory, how local sausages and meats are cured and made.




The event was organized by Starhub, a local cable network provider.  About 170 people attended the function, all foodies for sure. Heh if you weren’t you definitely would not be there would you?  It was held at The Jewel Box, a splendid venue which is atop Mount Faber with commanding views of Sentosa Island. I was even vowed by their washrooms as it too had full height glass windows (with the exception of the toilet cubicles) and an amazing view of Sentosa skyline.


During the two and half hours, Rachel Allen interacted with the audience and she even had an omelette cooking competition going with two participants from the audience, both of whom received a personal signed copy of her “Easy Meals” cookbook.




The meal served that night was a scrumptious three course dinner from Rachel’s cookbook. She even demonstrated one dish which was the Apple Tart. The recipe for the tart dough seems so easy and the pastry was amazing. I was expecting the bottom crust to be slight soggy as it was a closed tart and no blind-baking was done. But the pastry was not soggy at all – in fact it was so soft and crumbly … simply delicious!

Overall I loved how the event went. Maybe I am bias because I do like Rachel Allen. Her personality was exactly how I had imagined her to be … easy going, ultra friendly and very approacheable.

Salad with Beetroot, Toasted Hazel Nuts and Cashel Blue Dressing - for starters


Roast Duck with Gravy and Sage and Onion Stuffing Served with Cucumber Pickle, Buttered Cabbage and Granny's Roast Herbed Potatoes - for the main


Apple Tart - to round off the whole evening


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marble Cake

Alright it is another Marble Cake recipe!  You have probably come across so many by now especially if you are not a novice baker. 

The first time I tried out this recipe I made a big boo-boo.  I missed out on adding the baking powder and thought that the cake would turn out tasting really horrible.  Surprisingly it did not.  I even took it to the office and my colleagues liked it. 


The second time I baked this again, I made sure I read the ingredients properly and ticked each one off as I assembled everything together.  The recipe has a few more steps than most usual marble cakes but I have to say that it taste really good.  I actually prefer it the day after as the oil from the butter seems to make the cake more moist and flavourful. 



Marble Cake
Recipe Adapted from Here


8 large eggs, separated
200g castor sugar
340g unsalted butter
255g all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp orange zest


1) Preheat oven at 180C (165C for convection fan) with a wire rack in the middle. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with parchment, butter and flour. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

2) Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment till light and fluffy.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar till light. Gradually add this into the butter and beat on medium speed till just incorporated.

4) In a separate bowl, with a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in the meringue into the egg yolk mixture in 3-4 batches.

5) Add in the dry ingredients gradually until just incorporated. Divide the batter into two, 3/4 in one batch and the rest in another bowl. Add the orange zest into the larger batch.  Then sieve cocoa powder over the lesser batch and fold to mix well. 

6) Pour batter into tin, alternating between the two mixtures, starting with the yellow batter and ending with the cocoa mixture. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

7) With a long skewer, swirl around the batter to create the marble effect. Bake for 40-55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean.



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