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White chocolate gets little attention to its darker, richer counterparts. As some purists would say, white chocolate isn’t true chocolate because it’s derived from cocoa butter than solids. Yet all the same, it’s still part of the cocoa bean.

As a kid living in Toronto, it was a treat when my cousins and I were handed $20 and allowed to walk to Maxim’s cafe after dinner for dessert. We’d always order a slice of cake each and a fancy beverage. From the cake display I would always choose a milk chocolate mousse, orange chocolate cake or the white chocolate cake because I loved how it was frosted and smothered with a blanket of white chocolate curls. I would wash it down with iced chocolate with whipped cream (oh the joys of a child’s metabolism… DANG IT).

Anyhow my Sunday afternoon (a hazy golden day) was spent listening to Stan Getz and white chocolate. This creamy subject resurfaced when a colleague of Belgian descent (who doesn’t like chocolate ironically) requested a white chocolate-base dessert about a month ago. I have no expertise in cooking with it, but after doing some research I ended up making this:

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE W. WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE


Find the recipe here

I made a six inch along with one four inch and heart shaped one to divide between other friends. I made some slight alterations to the recipe according to the reviews and recommendations which you will see in the following:

TIP FOR PURCHASING WHITE CHOCOLATE
I highly dislike the taste of cheap white chocolate which is like eating melted candle wax, so when baking, please only buy the good stuff. Make sure cocoa butter is the first ingredient listed on the bar of chocolate to ensure that you aren’t getting some vegetable oil substitute. White chocolate should not be white: it should be ivory in colour.  I used a random brand (Isis) I found from City Super. Yes, I trust it a little more because it’s chocolate from Belgium so if anyone complains about the taste, I can just blame it on the product origin. =P

TIP FOR MAKING THE CRUST:
In Hong Kong we only have digestive biscuits, but in the States I used graham crackers. To crush the biscuits, use a pestle: hold a stack of cookies firmly in the other hand and work your way from the side and inward. You can see the biscuits look as if they are fused as one. This is A LOT more effective  and thorough than using a plastic bag and banging randomly trying to crush as much as possible. I used to use the back of a Chinese soup spoon, but I’ve realized why Julia Child said a mortar and pestle is so important. Life is a lot easier with this simple instrument. Melt slightly less than a quarter cup of butter, pour it in to the base containing the crushed biscuits and press it into a flat disk to cover the entire surface area.

TIP FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE BRANDY SAUCE
Um I made this cake on a whim so I wasn’t really prepared with all my ingredients hence why this took me about 4-5 hours in total. I hate the smell and taste of alcohol but absolutely adore it when it comes to baking. The brandy sauce requires a lot of grated white chocolate (2 cups) so to cut cost, I halved the recipe because I know Chinese people aren’t big fans of alcohol-based desserts and sauces. I must say though, the brandy sauce MAKES this cake by enhancing the white chocolate flavor subtly with a little alcohol. I purchased that small bottle of brandy from Twinsco, a special baking supply shop in Yau Ma Tei. I reused a Japanese pudding cup to store the sauce in. Quite pretty with the touch of green!

I’m impatient so I often let my cakes cool outside after they’ve adjusted to room temperature. This one is sitting perched on my balcony railing and the empty space you see is actually the sea. That cake better not fall, it’s a long way down.

TIP: PRESENTATION COUNTS
So the cake itself isn’t the prettiest thing. I’m not a fan of dousing the whole cake with brandy sauce (I like to leave it up to each individual’s preference), and after failing at making whipped cream (accidentally heated up the cream first for a second and realized it wouldn’t whip up at all),  I went searching for other last minute alternatives. I didn’t want to put fruit on top either because the yellow of the surface would look rather odd with the ivory yellow (pure aesthetics talking). I decided to do it like I did with my previous chocolate cheesecake recipe: grate white chocolate on the top. Use the side of the knife and slowly push against the surface until it starts ‘peeling’. I also found this darling cake wrap with a lace print at my local $10 dollar shop and I like how it echoes the color of the grated chocolate on top! Doesn’t it look pretty pro as if I bought it from a bakery?

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I took it to the office and my colleagues LOVED it. I said it was a successful first try at white chocolate and one of them said it was “VERY successful” As one of them put it, the cake is “above Starbucks and below Mandarin Oriental hotel”. I guess my next goal is to beat Mandarin Oriental. Another tip, as many people have said in the reviews, double the white chocolate if you like a stronger taste otherwise it is quite subtle (I guess that’s where the brandy sauce comes into play). My critics liked it that the white chocolate took a backseat to the taste of the cream cheese so I guess it depends on your palate. Do use a bain marie for both melting the white chocolate and baking the cake. Overall, it’s a safe cake to make particularly because of the flawless surface (no cracks!!!) and the texture of the cake is neither too hard nor pudding-soft. I had to adjust the cooking time depending on the size of the cake. The miniature ones were done in about 50 minutes, the large one took about 1hr 15 minutes because of its height. =)

Rise and shine to the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. My Saturday morning and afternoon was spent rolling out batch after batch of melt-in-your-mouth decadence. A short stack of chocolate chip cookies!

I dedicate this post to a couple who really helped out a clueless freshman back in my days at Parsons. They kept me company, helped me set up Time Warner internet in my new place and took me around whenever our cousins came by to visit. To top it all off, as fine food lovers, they were the ones who introduced me to New York’s finest restaurants, cafes and chocolatiers. They gave my tongue a culinary tour through Patsy’s pizzeria to Zoe in Soho for french toast, to foie gras in the Lower East Side to Zaiya for lunch at Bryant Park for a few bucks which became a Tuesday ritual with my other friends. We discovered Balthazar’s banana tart together one afternoon wandering and ended up getting two for tea because it was just that good. I don’t think I really understood great food until they took me on it and in essence they taught me how to eat. And this couple not only shares a love of food but a love and fondness for one another. And it is to my delight that that couple, after six years of dating, is getting married this weekend (finally!) here in Hong Kong and I am to be their photographer this Sunday. Presenting the couple to be when they took me out for pizza at Isola last week!

A couple of wedding photos from today!

One particular place they introduced to me to which became a perennial favourite, was Jacques Torres. They have several stores but the one I go to is on 350 Hudson Street. It’s a bit in the middle of nowhere but I’d go there to buy chocolate souvenirs whenever I made a trip to Toronto. I’ll do a post on that in the future but all the photos of the place are on my external after my move to a Macbook Pro (thanks dion for your help!). My recommendations? CHAMPAGNE TRUFFLES. They’re about two bucks a piece but seriously one of the best truffles I’ve ever had. Jackson purchased my parents a small box and we could not stop popping them into our mouths. As my mom said, it’s hard to go back to normal chocolate after you’ve experienced New York boutique chocolate.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

I stumbled upon this recipe surfing on the internet and thought it would be a lovely surprise to give to my cousin, Michelle, as a present since she’s mentioned how much she’s missed Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies. Alas by coincidence, she too found the recipe the same week as I did so it wasn’t much of a surprise. They’re not the grandma, cutesy, Girl Scout kind. They’re unapologetically rich and sophisticated- requiring one to eat with a large napkin because with every touch, chocolate fingerprints are left everywhere. At the store they have the cookies on a hot plate so for a few dollars you can devour one perched on a stool in front of their hot chocolate bar.

What sets this cookie apart are the ingredients. This diva cookie requires 72% dark chocolate, preferably from Varlhona (that set me back about $120 HKD for the required amount) and the sinful amounts of butter that is whipped into clouds to make them irresistibly melt-in-your-mouth. The lovely addition to this recipe is a sprinkling of sea salt to the top of each cookie prior to being whisked into the oven for the salt contrasts with the sweetness of the chocolate. For my cookies I used 72% Varlhona feves (chocolate disks), organic butter from the US and sea salt from Okinawa, Japan. Classy!

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The end product is more like a chocolate swirl than it is a chocolate chip. Here are a few tips I can offer after I completed several batches:

1. Depending on your oven, I baked them for about 15 minutes rather than 20.

2. Bake less for each batch. The cookie dough balls melt and spread out as soon as they reach the oven which is why they are so round and flat

3. You don’t need to purchase chocolate chips that are round and small. Mine look like oversized cacao beans. Don’t worry, they melt and blend in with the dough once in the oven so it’s actually better when you go bigger.

4. The recipe says it makes about one and a half dozen. I got 28 cookies.

5. ALWAYS EAT THEM WARM.

6. Have a lot of napkins ready. I was constantly washing my hands every time I touched them.

7. Buy the best chocolate you can afford. It makes a difference.

8. Serve with ice cream.

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I just came back from the wedding and I got my cousin and her husband’s seal of approval! We stuck several of them in the toaster oven and they said they taste exactly like the ones from Jacques Torres and better than any other cookie sold in Hong Kong. Success!

Above, packaged cookies with handwritten note on a lace doily.

I took a ridiculous amount of pictures for this post. Not a surprise of course, to up the anti, the couple generously bought me a lens of my choice as a graduation present and ‘compensation’ and thanks to another cousin (Edwin!) who recommended me to get the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5…. which is why you now see some awesome Alice in Wonderland distortion!

** One picture ain’t showing up on my laptop right now- hopefully WordPress will fix itself. My internet keeps crashing on me -_-



I was supposed to post this entry prior to my trip to Korea but alas my habit of last minute packing ate up my time, so here is the recipe I said I would post during Christmas a loooooong time ago but never got around to doing it.

Despite procrastination, this cookie recipe deserves a special shout out.

I’m not really  a cookie person. I’m not a cookie person because I’m not a snack person. Snacks, as adorably enticing they are, are impulsive hors d’oeuvres to whet the appetite but don’t satisfy. When I see a bag of mini Kit Kats on my desk, their existence aggravates me because it’s taking up potentially saved space. So I try to eat them all to get them out of my way.

I’m a cake person. I’m a cake person because dessert is a main course for me. I don’t snack because I don’t find sweets satisfying so I eat a heavy, ‘big’ dessert to feel full. That way, I know I should stop whereas if I snack, that ‘full feeling’ never comes so I’ll keep snacking. Snacks are cheap, easy thrills while a well made dessert is the consumption of miniature art and richness. I seriously think that may be the reason why I can stay relatively thin while eating dessert/baking. Baking is literally my form of exercise and a distraction from being on the computer all the time. From sourcing all my ingredients at various grocery stores to washing the dishes to grating carrots, they all require manpower.

Anyhow, because I am a cake person and not a cookie person, this recipe is the perfect synthesis between the two: a dessert snack.

For those who love carrot cake, check this recipe out. It’s exactly like carrot cake but better. How? It’s ergonomically designed to be taken on your next picnic, compact enough to be carried anywhere easily and can be shared individually. They make great presents particularly because it’s a twist on the traditional carrot cake and requires less ‘frosting’ for the health conscious while keeping the vitamin A element to it. It’s a comfort food but bite size and easily consumed. Not to mention a sandwich cookie trumps a plain biscuit in terms of decadence. It tastes like a bite-size version of all the goodness that Christmas brings thanks to the warmth of the cinnamon, nuts and brown sugar. And best of all? It’s super easy to make! Yum.

When I first found this recipe on epicurious, I made it three times during Christmas for family and friends (my aunt and cousins loved them!). I recently made them again for my colleagues when I visited Korea as a gift since I didn’t know what Hong Kong sweets to get them. Alas it was quite humid when I baked them so they were slightly damp by the time they arrived in Seoul.

You can find the recipe here

**TIP: make smaller cookie balls because when they bake, they’ll spread and rise slightly so you can get more cookies out of one recipe. You can see that in my pictures above.

**TIP 2: I followed my own recipe for the filling which is just a brick of Philly cream cheese mixed in with approximately 3/4 cup icing sugar (I never measure… just toss in whatever looks okay). I also whip a little cream (yet again this is all improv so I would guess about 1/4 cup) and fold that in at the end with a splash of vanilla essence.


Don’t forget about the packaging! I found these adorable white gingham cups with scalloped edges at my local dollar store! Well, they’re $10 stores here. =P

Sitting in the fridge

Snack time.

Bah humbug. I’ve been failing a lot these days.

Okay it wasn’t a failure, it was just that for one, I’m not really into pudding based desserts and second, the graham crust kind of collapsed (but that’s what happens when you make a crust out of graham in the form of a tart).

Pardon the melancholy, but at times I wonder why I bake. Do I bake because I’m lonely- to fill up times of confusion and anxiety? Baking allows me to pour all my thoughts into a singular focus and action. With the control and ability to predict the relationship between butter and sugar when whipped, can I say that I love baking because of its expected outcome?
People say it’s good to have hobbies that don’t exist/rely on people yet I wonder if my tendency to bake is a reaction to social isolation. I’m not looking for pity, I know making friends takes time so I’m saying this as matter of factual be it the one who is reading is a family member, a friend or a complete stranger.

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Anyhow, no more contemplation.

Happy birthday, Chris! It’s my brother’s birthday today. We used to call him the ‘Chocolate Monster’ for obvious reasons. I think I now surpass him in the consumption of cacao. I guess this post will go in honor of his twenty year reign of terror- I mean ‘love’- in our household.

If watched the movie, Julie and Julia (yes it’s pretty much all I talk about these days having seen it a total of five times. I feel like it’s the story of my life minus the imaginary friend, the absence of NYC, the husband and the huge fan base. I take it back, it’s nothing at all like my life), there’s one part where she tells her husband,

“Chocolate cream pie! You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.”

That it is. May I just add that you have to add corn starch into the mix to make it thick. I guess the screenwriter thought corn starch wouldn’t sound too romantic in a script so they omitted it. =P I was perusing through the Epicurious Valentine’s Day recommended recipes and came across a recipe for chocolate cream pie. A vivid image of Amy Adams spooning dollops of chocolate pudding into a crust in a glass bowl (I should have kept it in its shell), instantly flashed up and I knew this was my next recipe of the week. And the ingredients are pretty basic so all I had to get were the eggs and the milk.

Breakfast slice

Can I just say that after finding out Brit-owned Cadbury was bought by Kraft (rah rah Americans!), I’ve been on a rampage to buy the last few bars of the real English stuff before Kraft starts substituting the one and a half glasses of cream for powdered milk. Anyhow, I bought a bar of ‘Old Gold’ which is essentially 70% intense dark chocolate by Cadbury with the intentions of making the molten lava cake with it again. However I decided to use it for the cream pie and when I melted it, it melted away into a gastronomic poetry. That didn’t make sense but what I mean was that it went from bar to liquid so beautifully: there weren’t any lumps in the pot and the chocolate had a thick glossy, mirror finish.

The only part I really messed up on was that I should have just left the tart shell in the mold rather than taking it out. I decided to substitute the chocolate wafers for digestive biscuits to balance out all the chocolate filling. The shell is too fragile for it to stand alone particularly when the pudding and whipped cream go on top and start pushing the sides over.

Weighing in

The process of collapse

I was already rather annoyed that one part split as soon as I placed it on the cutting board and then it continued to crumble as I poured the filling in. I only continued to get more annoyed as I tried to take a shortcut to sprinkling the cocoa on top which as you can see, turned into a big cloud on top rather than light and powdery. Sigh. As my aunt says, it should be 50/50. She just tried and said it was really good and suggested that I make it into a cookie pudding instead or mini tarts because this one crumbles too easily with the graham crust. If anyone likes chocolate cream pies, I’ll try a different formation, but since I don’t know anyone who does I will archive this recipe for the future.

That's how the cookie crumbles -_- Not happy. Chocolate pudding/cream set aside

If you’re a fan of chocolate pudding, this is for you. I remember as a kid I used to love those chocolate pudding cups for snack. Now I prefer mousse which tends to be less thick and ‘gooey’. This was my first time tasting chocolate cream pie and I must say, the filling is absolutely divine with a rich DARK chocolate (using milk chocolate will be too sweet). However I am uncertain of how this is a ‘beautiful pie’ according to the writers of the recipe- it resembles a glob on top of a curved cookie. I’m also not a big fan of puddings (I prefer a dense wedge of cake) so after having a slice, I felt quite full.

Chocolate Cream Pie breached!

It’s an easy recipe so you have my blessing, try it, but make sure to keep the crust in its bowl/shell/mold. Here’s the link to the recipe I used: Epicurious Chocolate Cream Pie

** Edit: actually after letting it sit for a few hours in the fridge, the moisture of the pudding locks into the crust so it fuses into one dessert rendering it easier to cut and of a better presentation than when I first tried it.

Whew! I’m finally done writing this. It took me three evenings to compile, edit and write this one entry! Get ready for some image-heavy review/recipe.  And get ready as I stuff this entry with a lot of cheesy puns. I actually, sad to say, chuckle as I write them.

Comic-cute entrance on the 15th floor

I thank my Chinese-reading cousin for introducing me to this upstairs cafe called ‘Hit the Road’ located in Causeway Bay. Upstairs cafes are popular here in HK due to lack of space and astronomical rental prices of pedestrian level units. From what I gather, they predominantly target the youth who want a place to hang out, have a few drinks and snacks, play board games and chat without being hurried/driven out like a typical ‘cha chan teng’ (HK local cafes where the old women start asking you if you want the bill when you’re about 3/4 through your meal and persistently ask until you finally consent).

Kitsch cute

Hit the Road is an upstairs cafe located in Causeway Bay with the charm of a Korean drama (the happy ones that is). Painted in antique white, every edge is highlighted in black to give the interiors a cartoon, graphic effect. ‘Staircase walls’ act as dividers between the various tables. The seating is spacious with few tables and a bar area which faces the cupboards/kitchen area where the concoctions are prepared. The furniture, polka dotted couches, sailboat-print armchairs and cushiony backyard chaises are clustered around the periphery with tilted windows overlooking office buildings.

E.T. and too-cool-for-school Spongebob

The beauty (and I am speaking pure aesthetics right now) lies in the details that are seen in every nook and cranny. Tin Tin and his dog are perched along the ledge divider where a white board is suspended above that serves as a TV through the projector that broadcasts old black and white films. Along the window ledge, camel stuffed animals, Miffy potted plants and miniature whitewashed lanterns rest next to the customers (interestingly enough, the cottage-cuteness of these are juxtaposed by the pop culture toys such as Spongebob and ET) . Both magazines and books are available for perusal as you enjoy a fresh cup of joe. An austere canopy of snowflakes in the same linear aesthetic as the interiors overlook the customers and the walls are punctuated with text in a hand painted script font that read ‘Sweets’ or ‘Cakes.’

Home is where the Heart is.

If I were to comment on anything, the cottage-country kitsch of this cafe has its charm and a must for anyone who loves fairy tale Korean chick flicks movies like ‘The Naked Kitchen’ or ‘Antique Bakery’. The decor is definitely geared towards girls and reminds me of many neighbourhood cafes in Korea, but  you’ll see an equal number of guys trying to impress their girlfriends by wooing them with cute interiors and sweet treats. Not a bad idea.

my mom! This is where we sat- except it was hard to eat with that type of furniture

Perhaps I should start speaking about the food.
We booked a table for 7pm (that’s when they open for dinner). I recommend reserving as this is a new establishment and when I first tried to get in with my family, they didn’t even look at us because they were so busy. Turnover is slow due to the social nature of an upstairs cafe and the sparse seating. To make it comfortable, the tables are quite far apart thus the place is busy practically every night.

reminds me of France.

Cream soup in a cup

I can only speak for dinner: Hit the Road offers set dinners that include a soup, tea/coffee and main course. We ordered a slew of desserts after. Appetizer was a cream-based soup served in a large mug and wooden spoon to my mom’s delight because if it came in a bowl, we’d have to bend over the low tables to slurp. Now, we could simply hold it by the handle and eat away without hunching over. For savouries, my mom ordered a spicy cinnamon pork leg that came with fries and salad. The dish itself was extremely dry because they literally give you a few drumsticks. My friend had clams in pasta with tomato sauce. According to her it was really good. I had chicken with a cream sauce base pasta. Mine was quite delicious- the pasta was perfectly al dente and the chicken was thick but tender (my biggest beef with chicken is when it’s dry and thick) and the sauce to spaghetti ratio was right without making the meal too heavy.

Fresh Clams served with Spaghetti in White Wine and Cherry Tomato Sauce $98HKD

Honey Grilled Chicken served with Spaghetti in Cream of Garlic $98 HKD

Spicy Cinnamon Pork Legs served with French Fries & Salad $106 HKD

Add $9/$16 for a drink upgrade.

Add $20/$25 for a dessert.
Now the fun part. Desserts we shared: apple crumble, earl gray cheesecake and molten chocolate cake. The first was somewhat forgettable: our American palate wants a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complement the heat of the crumble. The earl grey cheesecake had the fragrance and taste of tea which I really liked although perhaps it could have been a little less dense. On to the last dish….

Apple Crumble

Earl Grey Cheesecake (polka dot chocolate sauce!)

According to Open Rice, the latter was considered by some, the most amazing chocolate lava cake they had ever tasted. Now although molten chocolate heart cakes are extremely popular in Asian fusion restaurants, I seldom order it because:

1. It’s a classic, therefore not really exciting. I like trying new desserts and new ideas. New flavors.
2. Since it is a classic, it should be made properly: the shell should be a little crunchy but when you sink your teeth into it, the exterior should quickly give away to to the warmth of the inside that overflows outwards. Like the human heart, the beauty of this cake is, in essence, its vulnerability. It should have a tough exterior, able to withstanding anything, but once acquainted, you perceive its fragility. Oh yes, dessert can be purely philosophical.  Anyhow, I’ve had my share of bad molten chocolate cakes to realize, if I am to eat dessert, I want something new that’s been badly done rather than something badly done that I have certain expectations for because I already know what it should taste like.

Melting Heart Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Bomb

And that is the reason why I never order melting heart cakes (I use the names interchangeably: molten,lava,melting,heart,cake). Back to Hit the Road, we didn’t see the cake on the menu. Apparently you have to ‘special request’ it (I guess it’s the ‘insiders’ thing. I feel like we’re part of the cake club now!). It was quite well done: rich and thick, it reminded me of my times well spent in NYC’s Max Brenner’s. Although the ‘lava’ wasn’t piping hot, the shell gave away beautifully, spewing out ribbons of dark chocolate. Drool. People hate feeling full after dessert, but I love that sinking feeling as I swallow it. It means the chocolate is rich and thick and positively worth eating.

As I leave the review to go onto the recipe, I will leave these last remaining remarks on Hit the Road:
1. Make reservations
2.If you don’t get seated on the comfy couches, be prepared to hunch over these awkward round tables like we did at the back.
3.Allot two hours for dining. We only saw about three people working there and they wait tables, cook and make the drinks. Anyhow, just enjoy the atmosphere and take it slow. The old woman downstairs won’t like it if you sit and chat with a friend rather than asking for the bill.
4. Request for the melting heart chocolate cake.

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No I’m not done yet. Are you still alive? =P

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Melting Hearts

Although it’s still two weeks away, consider this an early Valentine’s Day post. I once was looking at a fashion editorial spread with a title that caught my eye: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Though the clothes had nothing to do with the title, it was so beautifully put. If only that could be expressed through food: the bittersweetness of love, the fragility of the heart, the intensity of a relationship, the fullness of connection, the surprise of a spark, the mystery of chemistry and the richness of romance.

An army of cake cups donated graciously by my aunt!

What could be better than dark chocolate and attempting what I just ate for dessert? For a while now, I’ve actually wanted to dabble in making a molten chocolate cake. This tale is not really of success but more of experimentation. I followed this recipe by flagrante delicia called This is not a Coulant!.

Sadly no Wonka ticket.

Melting chocolate in a self-made double boiler. Make sure none of the water gets into the chocolate or else it'll seize!

For one thing, I bought the wrong butter. Note to self: NEVER EVER buy Ambassador’s butter ever again (this only really applies to me in HK). It’s crumbly to the point I can’t even whip it to break it down.
Second: I accidentally bought 52% dark chocolate rather than the required 70%. Apparently, only the finest chocolate would do. I guess any heart would require the best (sorry I’m really full of cheese, I mean, chocolate. Time for a fondue party.)
Thirdly, BUTTER your cups (and sprinkle cocoa inside instead of flour which may whiten the cooked cake) so that you won’t have grief when you try to coax the cake out of the womb. Whenever I turned mine over, the fragile tops burst and let out all the goodness that was stored up inside. I’m still unsure about whether you should bake the cake right out of the freezer OR let it sit until it becomes room temperature before putting it in the oven. That is my question out to the void, because I am concerned that the temperature shock of removing the cakes out of the oven, causes the tops to collapse and therefore, allow the insides to come out. How to solve this???

After being frozen overnight.

Why is one forming a bellybutton?

I don’t know but since I had eight cakes, I tested six thus far.
The first two went in right away from freezer to oven. One was okay (it ran a little) and the other, we had to give a blood transfusion because the top cracked. In other words, we literally spooned all the guts back into the cake. Not pro at all. It was really delicious though.
The third time I made it, there was still a chunk of butter inside. Never again will I buy Ambassadors. Presidents or pricey Horizons.
The fourth and fifth time, I left the cakes to set to room temperature before putting them in the oven. I also dropped the temperature by a half and let the oven door open so they could adjust easier to the cooler environment. They set faster but they didn’t flow as nicely as the first two tries.
The sixth one, I did another freezer to oven except tried to take it out earlier to avoid cracking. Unfortunately due to not buttering the sides of the cups, I accidentally pierced the side and tried to save it by sticking it in the oven hoping that it would just ‘heal over’. However while we were taking pictures, the melting heart cake turned to normal chocolate cake with an extremely gooey center. ARGH.

Ok, slight collapse. Apparently it's natural.

I wasn't lying when I said the bellybutton fell out and we scooped it back in somehow.

I’d also like to know how to make the insides piping hot without having it form into a solid. I guess that is where the ganache of a coulant can provide a better result as opposed to the cheater’s way of doing it with one recipe. Then again flagrante delicia could do it. DANG IT. Back to the drawing board. It looks alright here but I want it to be effortless: easy, simple therefore a classic. I will make it again with better butter, darker chocolate and greasier cups.

The first two tries.

FINALLY. It looks decent with a little powdered sugar on top and on a Vera Wang plate

She's a heartbreaker!

Guts and Glory!

None of the recipes I have seen thus far, have techniques and tips on how to REMOVE the cake without the cracking and the spewing. I would like to learn this final step. I have two more tries. What next?

Victorious Agnes

So... full...

Oh but they’re delicious. A lot of eggs, but delicious. Agnes ended up doing ten minutes of hamster running inside the apartment. Perhaps I’ll try making them again for our Valentine’s Day party. =D

Now when I think about it, the melting heart cake could be the best physical realization of love. What a deep dessert.

So my parents bought two cartons of strawberries and five mangos the day I had to make the cake. I was planning on stuffing the Napoleon with mango but decided not to in the end thus we had a lot of fruit leftover.

The dilemma was that though we had eaten one mango, the three leftover ones that were bought from the ‘upscale’ grocery store were incredibly small and sour while the remaining good one was from the street market. I decided to slice up the mangos and make a tart using a hybrid of recipes that I like.

A Work in Progress

I need to learn how to slice mangos nicely or find a mango that tastes as good as it looks. So far the Filipino one are the most fragrant with the sweetest taste while Mexican ones are large (easier to slice) but down in scent and flavor.

Sorry I know the tart isn’t pretty because I was dealing with overripe mango that turned into blobs as soon as I sliced its tender flesh, or they were so unripe that they looked yellow compared to the orange of the ripe one. But it did taste really good. Next time: more mangos and less cream (although I could eat that with a spoon). I will also practice slicing mangos.

Please take a slice

MANGO TART

Crust

I consider the crust I made for the Poached Pear Wine Tart as my standard recipe now. It’s got that buttery shortbread taste that feels like you’re eating a cookie but bette. I won’t post it again, so refer back to here: Poached Pear Tart Crust

Filling

Seriously the BEST filling I’ve ever had.  I’d use this to pair with any kind of soft, sweet sour fruits. A little lemon and ginger counteract the creaminess and sweetness of the medley of cheeses. Omg, I could eat it by the spoonfuls. And it’s so easy! Taken from this recipe: Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart in Gingersnap Crust

  • 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese*
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

    Assembly

    Fill tart with cream and slice mangos. Arrange as you like. You can dice the mangos into cubes or try slicing them. Eat.

    The mini- we ate this one while watching HK dramas as soon as it was assembled

    Wedgwood in daylight

    Napoleon filled with vanilla custard and diced mango. Topped with cream and strawberries.

    Okay…. and we’re back!
    Well after having a week of stomach flu, I’ve returned with two and a half days and three recipes!
    My parents are in town and they brought me the dvd I requested: Julie & Julia.
    I watched it last night- it gives you those warm, fuzzy feelings: the romance that food brings people together, the joy of cooking and creating and the reality of relationships and jobs and using food as an escape. Although when Julie wrote her blog, she was ahead of the blog trend and now there are hundred thousands of food blogs, this film reminds me of why I should write: for the pleasure of baking for the people nearest and dearest to me and not to gain a faceless fan base. Anyhow, onward to food:

    It was my aunt’s birthday (coincidentally her name is also ‘Julie’. We were joking we should do a chinese version of the blog) this past Saturday so a few of us, including my parents, decided to surprise her at home with a cake. However when I was trying to figure out what cake she would like, the only answer I could come up with was: Napoleon.
    The Napoleon is a flaky puff pastry base cake sandwiched between layers of custard cream and dusted with powdered sugar sold near the cash register at your local Chinese bakery (I am speaking solely from Hong Kong, I am aware that its roots are not from China)

    Lighting the Candles

    The problem with puff pastry is that making it from scratch takes literally hours and hours. Butter is rolled into the dough, chilled for three hours, another wedge of butter goes in, is chilled and so forth, until the dough becomes layers upon layers of delicately flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry. Its why Parisian croissants are so decadent. It’s why Chinese egg tarts are so sinful. Now, with ‘modernization’ we have pre-made, frozen sheets of puff pastry:

    Pre-made puff pastry

    And it comes organic too.
    However I have to conclude that this project was a semi failure.
    First and foremost: there weren’t any instructions. Nil. Nada. It just read ‘perfect puff pastry every time’. Except there weren’t any steps on how to prep it (I read online that you had to prick it with a fork prior to baking) nor was there even a suggested temperature. Bad design.
    Organic=healthy. Puff pastry was never meant for the health conscious but since my aunt likes organic, we got it for an additional $20. The problem? Tough, chewy pastry. I felt like I was eating a hybrid of gum and croissant.

    One day, one day, I will make my own puff pastry. My grandmother said she used to know how to make it. I am in awe:

    A midnight snack whilst baking. Now this is the real deal when it comes to flaky pastry (using pig fat of course- that does not faze me from eating my egg tart)

    The initial design

    Since this was a surprise party, I had to make the puff pastry layers at my other aunt and uncle’s place in Causeway Bay. My friend brought all the telltale components back with her such as the pastry sheets and the fruit while I brought back very standard fare such as flour, cream and vanilla so that the birthday guest wouldn’t guess what we were up to when she opened her fridge. On the day of her birthday I flew back home after work, met up with my friend’s mom and got the custard and puff pastry back and proceeded to build the cake. The first custard was a failure- I’m not sure why. I guess it’s my unfamiliarity with a new kitchen plus following a recipe I’ve never done before. The second one was fine which I did at home in the comfort of a kitchen I know. The above image shows the initial design of the cake: layers of vanilla custard and dollops of whipped cream with icing sugar dusted over a lace doiley. I didn’t really like the 2d effect so I wiped it all off and opted for more dollops of cream and sliced strawberries.

    We surprised her while she was out for dinner with my other two friends at a Shanghainese restaurant. As they returned from the dinner, they called us and we lit the candles and dimmed the lights. I’m happy to say that when she came in to the obnoxious voice of me trying to belt out ‘happy birthday’, she was surprised.

    The birthday girl and her gifts of Wedgewood x Vera Wang

    My aunt once mentioned that she wanted dessert plates, cups and saucers to enjoy my desserts on. We decided to give her the full experience by purchasing her two cups and saucers, six dessert places and a tea pot from Wedgewood in collaboration with Vera Wang. The best thing about the gift? A two year warranty: smash a cup, bring the pieces in and they’ll give you a new one free of charge. That’s service. Now, to find room to place all these things in the kitchen. I can already foresee some precarious stacking.

    Sawing at the layers

    I’ve learned my lesson: use the real deal puff pastry. Use a puff pastry that has instructions.
    Google ‘napoleon custard’ if you want the recipe for the filling. I wasn’t a huge fan of the custard so I won’t post it here. Expect a new recipe very soon! ^^

    A slice of cake looks best on beautiful porcelain

    One big mess

    Retro chocolate: also the bottom cake shows you what happens when you don't use a bain-marie

    Oreos and Milk is like Bread and Butter

    Oreos.
    They’re America’s favourite cookie.
    The chocolate chip cookie, or should I say the Chips Ahoy is Oreo’s fierce competitor.
    But Oreo’s advantage is that chocolate is its name. Unlike chocolate chip cookies which exist as vanilla batter which just so happens to have a sprinkling of chocolate on top for goodwill, Oreos ARE chocolate (forget artificial flavoring for a minute). Not only are they chocolate, but when they open up to you, they reveal their vulnerable frosted innards.
    The Oreo is a cookie. But more than that, the Oreo is a cookie sandwich. How could the chocolate chip ever compete with a cookie that is also a sandwich? You take a bite: the surface splits like cracked earth in the desert, A split second later your teeth sinks down into an oasis of frosting like sugary snow, and sinks deeper down until it hits another sedimentary layer of chocolate cookie. Oh did I mention the poetic beauty of a black and white cookie? It’s simple, it’s understandable, it’s graphically compelling and it’s so easy to digest, you can’t help but pop a few too many into your mouth in one sitting.
    And who could forget the Oreo commercials? It has been permanently embedded into my mind that you must drink a glass of milk and dunk your Oreos in until the surface resembles cookies and cream ice cream:

    The 'bain marie' which consists of a large pot of hot water to prevent the surface from cracking

    The Oreo is not only a snack. It is a childhood snack embedded with nostalgia, sunbathed memories of sitting in mom’s kitchen with legs dangling from the wooden stool. And childhood memories are the most powerful selling point of the Oreo.

    My ode to the Oreo came recently after a request for an Oreo cheesecake from my host’s goddaughter whose birthday was fast approaching (this was Dec 22). She liked the crunch versus cream element of the Oreo especially combined with the density of a cheesecake but I decided to kick it up a notch by adding one extra ingredients: Baileys.
    While I don’t drink because I have yet to develop a taste for the bitterness of alcohol, I do love a little wine in my dessert (see poached pear tart for ref). Baileys transforms a kid-oriented dessert to one that could be accepted at a fancy dinner party in the Upper East Side. The bitterness of baileys balances out the sweetness of the cookie.

    Hot Pot Extravaganza (this picture looks like an ad for a restaurant)

    Here’s the Oreo Cheesecake recipe that I used and tweaked. Just add Baileys and lessen the amount of sour cream. Enjoy!

    Pac woman eats her babies. 😄

    Ah ha!

    Try HK #3 amongst the other two Red Velvet casualties from past failures

    I finally conquered the Red Velvet cake!

    I take no prisoners. Dessert photography is always so rewarding 😄 coughdioncough

    Being the third and final round, I finally obtained the red hue without sacrificing the taste or the texture. This time the cream wasn’t salty and the cake wasn’t too dense. I decided to make a smaller cake and use the leftover batter for cupcakes which are easier to divide and give away to certain individual.

    Cupcakes!

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    Only in HK will you find setting fireworks off the tallest financial buildings NOT a fire hazard (back right buildings). Welcome to China.

    In light of the East Asian games which commenced today in Hong Kong, here are some photos of the fireworks. Hong Kong hosts the East Asian Games of 2009 that brings together countries such as Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taipei, China and Guam together to compete in the name of ‘sportsmanship’.

    Traffic with the LED 'junk' boats crowd around the IFC in anticipation of the fireworks show