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Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake : So Good You'll Won't Regret Baking It

Chocolate makes the world little extra special.

Try eating a chocolate bar or basically any chocolates in a packet in this sunny, butt scorching island of Singapore and you'll know how frustrating it is to do so. It's melted, gooey and just a sweet pool of mess. That's why I stash my chocolates in the fridge - or rather, freezer - because I love that clean snap that comes when breaking a piece of chocolate, it's oh so sweet.

Chocolates are part of what I call happy foods. Who needs happiness when we have chocolate? Okay, I kid. But chocolate makes me happy, that I won't deny. And when chocolate meet baking, something amazing happens - chocolate cakes are born. Now we have the sweet component, let's bring it up a notch with a salty element and what's more exciting than salted caramel?
Chocolate and salted caramel is a match in heaven. Having it in a slice of cake? Divine. This cake exceeded all expectations and had us swooning over it at first taste. The chocolate cake was moist and had a really nice crumb structure while the salted caramel buttercream was literally the icing on the cake - it made an ordinary chocolate cake, an extraordinary one.
Chocolate And Salted Caramel Cake 
(Adapted from Fold In The Flour)

Ingredients (makes one 6 inch / 15 cm cake)

200g self raising flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
4 tbspns cocoa powder
4 medium eggs
225g softened unsalted butter
225g soft light brown sugar
1 tbspn milk

Salted Caramel
125g caster sugar
60ml water
80ml double cream
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn vanilla extract

For the Buttercream
salted caramel sauce
160g softened unsalted butter
350g icing sugar
a little milk to slacken if necessary

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease and baseline three 6 inch (15cm) cake pans. 

First make the salted caramel. Put the sugar into a saucepan along with the sugar and place over a medium heat. Be very careful during this process, as boiling sugar is extremely hot. Swirl the pan to mix if necessary rather than stir, as stirring may make the sugar clump together in crystals again and ruin the caramel. Bring to a boil, and then allow to bubble until the caramel turns a lovely amber colour. Remove from the heat and carefully add the cream, stirring it into the caramel. The mixture will bubble up and spit, so again, be careful. When you have a smooth sauce, add in the salt and the vanilla. Continue to stir until smooth, then leave to cool.

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. This will take a good few minutes as you are looking for the sugar to have completely mixed in so it's not grainy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add the milk and mix in. Add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix until just combined. Divide equally between the three tins, smooth the top of the mix so it's as level as possible, and then bake in the centre of the oven. They should take 20-25 minutes (mine took 23), so check them towards the end of the cooking time. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. 

Place the tins on a wire rack to cool. Once they are just warm to the touch, run a palette knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, and then turn out onto the rack to finish cooling.

Once the caramel is cool, you can make the buttercream. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer and using the paddle attachment give it a little whizz so that it smooths out. Add about half the icing sugar and blend in. You may need to scrape the bowl at this point to ensure the butter is fully mixed in. Add the caramel and mix in. See what the consistency is like, but you should be able to add some more icing sugar at this point. Beat for a few minutes so that it is really smooth. Pipe, decorate and serve with love.

Sugar & Spice Nougat : Premier Handmade Nougats Air Flown from Taiwan!

It's slightly chewy, milky, sweet and laced with chunks of roasted almond. It's air flown, made with love and handcrafted. Does it appeal to you? If it does, you would probably enjoy Sugar & Spice's nougat which are, made with french milk powder, butter and specially chosen roasted California almonds and, delightfully chewy. 

I am one who enjoys nougat, hard crunchy nougat I mean; I've tried the soft ones before and they were either too soft or cloying sweet. But this was different, it was chewy but not that soft till it yielded a simple bite. As it dissolves on your tongue, the taste of fresh diary is evident and this is complemented by the crunchy and fragrant almonds in every few bites. This particular nougat appears to be very popular in Taiwan amd is air flown here when you purchase it so you can be assured of its freshness. It changed my impression of soft nougat and perhaps it'll make you a convert too. Do try it and let me know!

 *Note : Nougats were sponsored but all opinions and views are honest and solely mine.

Special thanks to Hsien Yun for the nougats

21 On Rajah : Mediterranean Food And Communal Dining

Balestier has always been the place for bak kut teh, tar sar biah and your budget hotels but things are changing with the arrival of Days Hotel and the soon to be completed Ramada Hotel at Zhong Shan Park. I love the layout of the small park and there is you'll find 21 on Rajah, the hotel's restaurant.

The minimalistic - white and blue - decor of the restaurant is beautiful in its own simplicity. 21 on Rajah is a gem that serves up fantastic Mediterranean cuisine in the midst of our colourful Singapore dishes. I'll be frank with you, the seafood dishes are the highlight here along with excellent appetizers, ending off on a sweet, decadent note with their wonderful desserts. 

The appetizers fulfilled their role of whetting our appetites and made me even more excited for what's to come.
We had Crostini of Smoked Eel that was smoky and savoury, accompanied by the crunch of the crostini, made this a flavourful starter with enough texture for enjoyment. 

The Poêle of Duck Liver with Sweet Pear (first photo) made me very contented. The duck liver here had a much milder flavour compared to the renowned foie gras and simply melts in your mouth.  
Next up on the appetizer was a little amusing for me, it was Grilled Chicken Satay in Balinese Spices.  Now this is no normal satay. Tender, well seasoned and come paired with the ubiquitous smooth and creamy peanut sauce, this is authentic Balinese satay. Definitely an upmarket satay but the price is justified by its taste.

Lastly we had the Pawn and Bacon Roll. The tempura batter is prepared a la minute so as to ensure every bacon roll comes out of the fryer light and crisp. Good quality control equals quality products, there's no denying this.

Finishing the tantalizing appetizers, I was feeling ravenous about the mains already. The mains came simultaneously and tasting the Moroccan Harira with Chicken and Garbanzo Beans first, I was hit with a wave of aromatic Moroccan spice blend that was concocted by the chef himself. This will be easily accepted by Singaporeans because it reminded me strongly of something homely - curry. A little pity that the chicken was too tough though. 
The Jumbo Prawns with Dill and Saffron Paella touted as a signature dish didn't have a big impact on me. Decent, but not life changing is what I would say.
This little pot of Stewed Fillet of Danish Cold Water Halibut "Lisbon Style" has a long and fancy name but it's there for a reason - the Chef uses quality ingredients - and indeed produces quality dishes. The fish fillets were tender and sweet, very fresh and well cooked indeed.
This pot of Marseilles Seafood Bouillabaisse was the hightlight of the main dishes for me. In laymen terms, this is a pot of seafood stock but a really really delicious pot of seafood goodness it was. Besides the generous portions of seafood, the stock was packed full of the umami flavour from the seafood. A must order when you dine here! 
Now, we all have different stomachs especially when there comes a need to fit in desserts after a meal right? The desserts here were equally impressive as the appetizers and mains. We had a pot of Chocolate Fondue with a platter of goodies. You see the truffles in the centre? Yes I believe they're placed there for a reason and a good reason to be take centre stage too. They're to-die-for. So rich, creamy and chocolatey, it stole my heart.
In addition, we also had Pannetonne Bread and Butter Pudding with Dates that would make for a light and delicious dessert. 

And if you still have space, you can go for the Dark Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Coulis. The gooey, flowy centre makes my heart skip a beat and is absolutely mouthwatering with the bed of vanilla custard, spoonful of raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream.

I'll go back for another night of dining in a heartbeat, so what are you waiting for?

21 On Rajah
Days Hotel Singapore on Zhongshan Park
1 Jalan Rajah
Singapore 329133
Tel: +65 6808 8847 
Opening Hours
Lunch: 12 – 2.30pm
Dinner: 6 – 10.30pm

Best Peanut Cookies : Chinese New Year Baking

It's going to be Chinese New Year in a few days time, hooray! If you're doing some baking, either for the fun of it, for the love of it or both, I highly recommend you trying out this peanut cookie recipe. Not only will you stop buying the manufactured ones from outside but you'll also have a hard time to resist them once the first one melts in your mouth. I've tried both variations, substituting icing sugar with castor sugar and vice versa, and personally I still prefer the absolutely melty and gorgeous ones with icing sugar. 

These peanut cookies will raise the standards for all peanut cookies and if you need a little more crunch, I'm sure you can try adding 1 tsp of baking soda! I'm not going to try to sell them to you anymore because you'll understand once you bake them yourself.(:

Traditional Chinese Peanut Cookies (花生餅)
(Adapted from Dodol  & Mochi Who Adapted from Amy’s)

* This recipe yields a rather big batch. *

600 g raw peanuts — preferably skinned
* I buy skinned large ground nuts, or kacang tanah besar in Bahasa Malaysia. *

325 g sugar — separated
* Sifted powdered sugar for a superfine, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Caster or granulated sugar for that little crunch in the melt-in-your-mouth cookies. Either way, they're good. *

375 g all-purpose flour — sifted once
½ ~ 1 tsp salt
* I like mine saltier with 1 tsp salt. *

3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
* Amy uses 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter and 1 Tbsp softened unsalted or salted butter. Albeit optional, I don’t think they should ever be skipped! *

Enough neutrally flavored oil - **I used around 350ml of oil.
* E.g. corn, sunflower-seed or rice-bran oil. Note: You’re going to need quite a fair amount of it. *

Enough peanut halves — skinned

1 egg — at room temperature
Pinch of salt

  1. Instead of roasting them in a wok with all the constant stirring and “shoveling” for a good chunk of the hour, I toast the peanuts in baking sheet(s), in an oven of 180°C for 15 minutes. By then, they should smell nuttier and look somewhat toasted. Remove the nuts from the oven and set aside to cool in the sheet(s) completely before use.
  2. In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulverize the toasted peanuts with about 60 g sugar until you get a finely ground texture, though, slightly larger bits here and there are inevitable. The cookies will turn out fine anyway.
  3. Combine the ground peanuts with the remaining sugar and (A), then mix in the peanut butter until it is well dispersed in the mixture.
  4. Mix in enough oil to the peanut-and-flour mixture, working it ever so slightly until you’ve gotten a dough that doesn’t fall apart and doesn’t stick to your hands badly. No fixed and fast rules here. Dough too wet and sticky? Mix in additional flour! Dough too dry and crumbly? Mix in more oil!
  5. Divide the dough into walnut-sized portions — or slightly smaller, if that’s what you prefer. Roll each into a ball and place on parchment-lined baking sheet(s). Gently press a peanut half slightly in the center of each of them.
  6. Lightly beat together (B) and apply this slightly salted egg wash on the shaped dough.
  7. Bake at 180°C, for 20 ~ 25 minutes, until the cookies look golden brown and slightly crackled. Don’t fret! The cookies will “shrink” up a wee bit as they cool.
  8. Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the baking sheet(s) for 5 minutes or so to set their underside. Then, carefully transfer the cookies to the cooling racks and let cool completely before storing airtight. These peanut cookies in fact taste better as they age.
** My personal notes.

* I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover*

Bake For Chinese New Year : 5 Easy Goodies

In a couple of weeks' time and Chinese New Year would have dawned upon us and I'm really looking forward to it. It's not just about the holidays, the new additions in the wardrobe or the relatives that you visit once a year but the new year goodies and feasts! Homes would be stocking up the dry goods and new year necessities now so don't miss out on new year's baking! 

I was scouring the Internet for new year's baking and found it pretty challenging to find a list of things to try out especially if you're keen on doing so for the first time. Fret not, I'm here to help!

Pineapple Tarts
This is symbolic of Chinese New Year and are seen in almost every, if not all, household during the festive period. Buttery, sweet and a little sourish, these are so morish, you would have popped few into your mouth without much awareness by now. A definite must-try on every baker's list this festive period!
(Photo Credit : Dodol & Mochi)

Peanut Cookies
Peanuts might not appeal to all but this is yet another common and mouthwatering festive cookie which bakers should put their hand into trying if they keen. Your friends and relatives will thank you for it, also try it for yourself, you might just fall in love with peanuts after this.(:
(Photo Credit : Nasi Lemak Lover)

Crispy Almond Butter Cookies 
Look at the photo, don't the cookies look so crunchy and buttery. This is one of the top things on my baking list this coming New Year so try it out yourself too if you're keen!
(Photo Credit : My Sweet Hut)

Cornflake Cookies (Honey Joy)
I've tried making this various times myself and I can assure you that this is quick, simple but very delicious! In no time at all you'll have a few containers full of this. Why waste the time and money to go out looking for this when you can make this yourself?
(Photo Credit : Singapore Shiok!)

Sugee Cake
This is a traditional Eurasian cake that usually appears during festive periods such as Chinese New Year. I haven't tasted it before and so am very keen on baking it myself. I'll let you know how it goes at a later time, but you can definitely try baking it for yourself and let me know! 

Have a great time baking up these treats and let me know if you have any must try recipes! 

God bless. 

Top 5 Eats In London : Delicious & Delectable!

Fish & Chips
This is an old british classic and is probably so well known that an introduction is unnecessary. A fillet of the fish of your choice and hand cut chips, both deep fried to a crisp, what could be simpler and more comforting? The Brits don't season their batter so you'll have to give a good squeeze of malt vinegar and a few good shakes of salt and pepper like they do, or you'll start complaining that the fish & chips taste bland!

Recommended : Golden Union Fish Bar, 38 Poland Street Soho, London ; Sea Shell Restaurant 49-51 Lisson Grove, London.
With the most famous macaron stores, Laduree and Pierre Herme, having outlets in London, what's there to hesitate when you can't get them in Singapore and you don't have to go the extra miles to Paris to get them. They're worth every effort to locate them, all you need is a bite and you'll be sold, I promise. Note : I much prefer Laduree's macarons over Pierre Herme's though! 
Chorizo Bun
The day before heading to Borough Market, I made the effort to checked the place up online and was duly rewarded for doing so. I was processing through the pictures and words when I picked up the words 'Chorizo Bun' and knew I had to taste it. I practically made this my mission and hunted it down even though I didn't mange to find it initially and was thoroughly disappointed but managed to spot it just as we were about to leave the place. The setup was simple : a crispy bun sandwiching rocket, a grilled capsicum and a pan fried chorizo. The taste? Superb. Pan frying the chorizo released all its flavour and the bun is just the right tool to soak up the flavourful oil. 
Pierre Herme's Desserts
Life is not the same anymore after tasting Pierre Herme's desserts. Touted as the Picasso of the pastry world, his every dessert is a masterpiece, this I concur. I had the Vanilla Tart and it was sublime. No mastication was require, every forkful just melted away on my tongue. Mmmm... definitely must try!
I am Asian and I need rice or noodles. You can wax lyrical all day about al dente pastas, super thin crusted piazzas, creamy risotto or tender, well marbled steaks and roasted potatoes but you know you're Asian when the craving for rice or noodles hits you hard on the 3rd or 4th day. We were so glad and thankful for some delicious Asian food in a land or potatoes and fish and chips. Wagamama is the place to go to satisfy your craving for some Asian dishes, I highly recommend their yakisoba! 

Kith Cafe : Your 'Getaway'

School has just started and the stress is mounting already. If you're like me, looking to escape from the noise and stress of a city dweller... Well, it's simple, start your day with a good breakfast or a lazy brunch at Singapore's many little cafes. Nothing beats a good breakfast to give your day the extra boost you need!

Kith Cafe at Park Mall's perfect for a little escape, the cafe's spacious and quiet. Food wise, I didn't go for much that day just simple toast and eggs. But I did like the atmosphere very much so I'll probably head back on an occasion to try out other stuff available on their menu. 

Kith Cafe
9 Penang Road
#01-01E Park Mall
Tel: 6338 8611
Open daily from 8am to 10pm
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