Sunday, January 18, 2009
Isn't this just the most sweet and beautiful dog you have every seen? I recently saw one in person, and it was just a beautiful. The Irish Setter has this hair on its breastplate that gets really long. It reminded me of one of those guys with the long Irish-red beards. Or like ZZ Top.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Monday, January 02, 2006
First and foremost, Happy New Year’s everyone. I hope all your holidays have been crammed full of laughter and happiness, family and love – and that the New Year brings with it much more of all those things to every one of you.
Every New Year I look back on the old one with mixed feelings: I’m happy the tragedies are past, sad the joys ended too soon and anxious to see how well we’ll do with this fresh start.
All the best, you guys. May 2006 and the years beyond it only improve for all of you.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I don’t usually like to complain about cooking mishaps, since I already whine a lot about my personal life on this blog (hey, its cheaper than therapy). Some fiascos, however, just beg to be immortalized in a post and filed under categories with names that explicitly describe things I should never be allowed near again. And what have we decided I should not allowed near today? Alcohol.
So my mom sends me her famous Christmas fruitcake recipe and tells me to soak the dried fruit in brandy for ‘a little bit’. Easy, except that ‘a little bit’ could mean anything. For example, while it may mean half and hour to her, it could also mean a day or so to me. Can you see where this is going?
If you can’t, I’ll spell it out for you: my raisins hit the sauce big time.
Even worse, they are now refusing to give up the brandy they so readily soaked up, putting the bar tally at about a litre of booze short and my cake batter in serious jeopardy. This is clearly going to go either of two ways: One, the liquored-up batter will ignite in the oven and burn down my apartment. Two, I might end up with the best cakes ever and even be able to sell them on the street as the Christmas equivalent of special brownies.
I’ll update with the results when I’m done baking, though I hope the sound of fire trucks in the middle of the night won’t give anything away.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Normalcy and what constitutes it may be extremely subjective, but when I was little, I was a self-proclaimed expert on Normal. Normal, I believed, was simply everything I wasn’t. I don’t mean that in a smug way – not meeting my standards of Normal wasn’t exactly an instant boost of self-esteem. To make matters worse, all my friends were blissfully Normal. They looked Normal (Chinese), had Normal family units (both parents and even a sibling or two), and were Normal in school (straight A’s). Being Normal may not have been something they prided themselves on, but I was too busy being envious to notice.
I did everything I could think of to fit in with the rest of the island: I picked up the local patois and spoke it with gusto, straightened my curly hair by means of caustic chemical treatments, and failed to mention that I only saw my dad on weekends. These and other measures I took to achieve normalcy were not only pathetic, they plain didn’t work: I wasn’t fooling anyone.
Though I certainly didn’t see any silver linings back then, some good did come out this uncomfortable phase of my life: it was during this period that I discovered baking.
While it may be news to some that I wasn’t actually born with a spatula in hand, readers from Singapore can probably sympathize. Given the sweltering tropical climate of the island and the fact that most kitchens (mine included) are of the open air variety, it’s understandable that baking isn’t as common of a practice in Singapore as it is in North America. Add to that equation a mother who was, more often than not, away from home on business trips and it becomes perfectly clear why I was such a late bloomer in the baking department: the opportunity just never presented itself.
When it finally did, however, I was ready for it. I watched my mother like a hawk as she made the cookie dough, hovering around her elbows like some short, nosy apparition. Though the whole process was very exciting, time slowed to a crawl when my mother leaned over to show me how to shape the dough. I remember everything about that moment in great detail – the heat of the kitchen, the squish of the cookie dough between my fingers, and how lucky and loved I felt at that moment to have my mother make time to bake with me. That instant, frozen forever in my memory looks to me like a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell drawing. How ironic that such an atypical activity for my mother and I was what made me feel, for the first time in some way, Normal.
The ending to this story is, as all good endings are, a happy one. While I still don’t meet my old standards of Normal, my standards have since changed. I’ve learnt to celebrate rather than hide my unique features, have realized that my loving two-person family unit makes much more sense than a dysfunctional three-person one, and have enrolled in design school where – guess what? – I’m finally racking up some A’s. As for the baking, it goes without saying that it’s a regular activity now, though I’ll never take its humble, Normal beginning for granted.
These Skor cookies are a spin on a chocolate-chip cookie recipe. They may look Normal, but don’t be deceived – their crisp sugar cookie looks hide huge chunks of chocolate and toffee that give the cookies a nice chewy texture in some spots. Part childhood nostalgia, part grown-up indulgence (because only adults should be allowed near this much sugar), these cookies are a nice blend of Normal and Different – something I think everyone can definitely appreciate.
Normal Different Skor Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
8 Skor candy bars, crushed up (don’t substitute with Skor bites – they don’t have as good of a chocolate-to-toffee ratio!)
1. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl.
2. Add your egg and vanilla and mix till smooth.
3. Sift in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and mix on low till blended completely.
4. Toss in your Skor chunks and mix them in by hand.
5. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet (Silpats are preferable because baked-on toffee can be a pain to remove) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
6. Cool for a couple of minutes before eating – molten toffee is not your friend, no matter what you’d like to believe. Enjoy.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Though generally considered a rather humdrum event, moving is (so I’ve been told) the third most stressful experience that one can go through. I only mention this conversationally, but first and second are death and divorce. In my case, this stress was multiplied by two: in the past two weeks, I’ve had to not only pack and move my apartment but my brother’s as well.
Death and divorce? Take your best shot.
Maybe I shouldn’t complain – after all, I’ve had my share of silver linings through the setbacks. I managed to snag the last-four-in-the-country dining chairs I wanted, finally have the chocolate brown bedroom I’ve always dreamed of, and had the Arco lamp I ordered come in three weeks before schedule. Finally, more motivation to put some effort into getting all our things unpacked!
That reminds me – the second my kitchen is set up, I’ll finally be able to participate in the kitchen meme I’ve been tagged for…provided my internet guy comes soon and reestablishes my access to the real world, that is. Till that happens, don’t give up on me just yet – I’ll be back in the kitchen in no time at all.
Friday, October 21, 2005
For me, chocolate is an obsession, an addiction, a passion. Besides being a significant part of me physically (hips – need I say more?), chocolate as an element has, over the years, become interwoven with so many memories that I now find it quite hard to separate myself from it emotionally.
Chocolate was there the night my god brother and I stayed up well past our bedtimes, cloistered in the kitchen making milkshakes out of anything sweet we could find. It was all over us when our mothers finally discovered what we were up to, and was smudged across our very faces that contorted horribly as we tried to feign innocence while holding back laughter at the same time.
When problems in our lives weighed too heavily on our shoulders, chocolate was always present – in the form of Irish Cream brownies – during the long sessions of mutual commiseration M and I shared. Crumbs of it were in the water of her pool the night M and I swore to never let physical distance change our friendship. It was smeared into our clothing as we hugged each other goodbye. It was promised a place of honour in our next meeting, whenever that happened to be.
In my fondest memory of it to date, chocolate in a luxurious molten state oozed out of the warm cakes N, G and I would share as we swilled champagne cocktails and allowed our giggles to drift through night air tinted blue with cigarette smoke. It was there- in that cake, served with 3 forks – each time I would return home to see them. It was there to mark summers of adrenaline-fuelled euphoria, to kick off nights of parties that always ended too soon. It was on our table the night we toasted to a lifetime of summers just like that one.
Chocolate was there tonight as part of a comfort food lineup D and I shared as we bemoaned family, school, boys and life in general. It was eaten in the kind of silence only good friends would find comfortable – the kind that is inevitably followed by hours and hours of talking about somethings and nothings and everything in between. It was a non-verbal way to tell D to cheer up: that no matter how unbearable life seemed at times, she’d always have friends like me and chocolate.
For R, my god brother who I think of every time I have a tooth-achingly sweet milkshake, for M who brownies just don’t taste the same without, for N and G who at the same time live far away in person and close to me in my heart, and finally for D whose happiness I am wishing for: should any of you ever decide to make this dessert, may the memories associated with its chocolate content be as rich and sweet as the confection itself.
Molten Chocolate Memory Cake
For the cake:
1 egg white
1 pinch cream of tartar
4 tbs sugar
½ cup chopped dark chocolate
4 tbs cocoa powder
4 tbs butter
1 pinch grey sea salt
For the cream:
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbs icing sugar
2 tsp orange liqueur
1. Microwave chocolate, cocoa powder, salt and butter together till melted, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
2. Meanwhile, whisk egg white with cream of tartar still frothy, then add sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.
3. When chocolate mixture is melted and smooth, add into the egg whites and whisk gently till just combined.
4. Grease 4 small ramekins (about 2 inches diameter) and coat with granulated sugar.
5. Ladle batter in till ¾ way full, and bake for in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes (or till tops are set, but insides are still wet).
6. While the cakes are baking, add icing sugar and liqueur to cream and beat till stiff.
7. When the cakes are done, invert carefully onto plates and serve immediately, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.