Sunday, 29 July 2012

Home-Cooked: Raisin Scones :)

There are a couple of things I've been baking quite a hell of a lot of ;p, much to the chagrin joy of my mum and sis who are inevitably the first people to taste whatever comes out of the oven. The top three things I've baked in the past month would have to be: 1. Citrus Cake, 2. Cinnamon Raisin Rolls, 3. Raisin Scones. The last of which took me AGGGESSSS to get right!! As a pretty amateur baker, most times when things don't turn out as expected I can only think of two reasons - weird recipe or poor technique. So when the first batch of raisin scones turned out stone hard (after repeated stints in the oven until the insides FINALLY baked), I thought, maybe it's the recipe. So I switched to another one. The second time however, it STILL turned out badly. Rock hard and tiny. Not quite the light and fluffy scones I'd been expecting. That was when I googled a bit more about scones and found out a GOLDEN rule for scone-baking: the dough should be kneaded as little as possible!! The more you knead it, the denser it becomes and the less it rises. 

Armed with that knowledge, I'm happy to report that the past two batches of raisin scones have turned out pretty darn awesomely. :D PLUS, I've been using a recipe from that's garnered 4.5 stars (well, they use little fork icons :D) all round.


Tonight's one turned out well! This recipe is just perfect - the scones come up crispy and crumbly on the outside and are soft enough on the inside. And they go so well with some berry jam. I used the recipe from and the only minor alteration I made was omitting the vanilla extract and lemon peel for flavoring along with the beaten egg for coating the scones right before baking. I think it makes the scones a little too brown (bordering on charred!) so without the coating, it comes out evenly browned throughout after 20 minutes of baking, just as the recipe stated. 

I happen to think that the hardest part of baking is actually finding people who are willing to eat the stuff you bake! There's only so much of your own food that you can take and without people to polish off your food, how will you ever move on to another recipe and keep improving?? Fortunately, my groupmates happen to be a bunch of ravenous eaters who have rather non-selective palates and are very easy to please. :) 


I can't believe the weekend's gone by so quickly! These past few weeks of term time have been extremely tiring :( what with waking up extremely early (does arriving at 6.30am in the morning smack of insanity? I think so too!) and going home late. I've never appreciated weekends and the opportunity to sleep in more than I have right this moment. I'm sure things will get better with better time management...and more rest. I've also discovered a great company called The School of Positive Psychology that posts pretty awesome photos on FB that always remind me to keep positive. I think I'm going to pop down one day and possibly take a course or two.


But honestly, one thing I feel strongly about is that adequate sleep is the bedrock for all positive thought. So, it's bedtime for me kiddos. Here's to a great week ahead~! xx

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

when there's a burning in your heart

While on a short walk one day.






(dress and necklace: Madewell, shoes: Aldo, bag: Melie Bianco

On a side note, I do adore all things Madewell. Like this dress that I want to wear for all picnics or tea sessions. :) It's a (not-so) secret desire of mine to be a buyer for a store like Madewell one day. I wonder how I can go about doing that??



I tell myself that one of these days I should just spend an entire day going around Singapore taking photos. :) There are a couple of places that I'd definitely like to go to -- Marina Barrage (where opportunities to take photos of all the kite-fliers abound!), Chinatown, Little India, random neighborhoods...maybe Balestier or Ang Mo Kio... and just see what sort of photos I end up with at the end of the day. I can totally imagine some people saying, "but that's being just like a tourist!". I totally agree. But sometimes, being a tourist is the only way to keep from getting bored with home. As in the case with anything that's longstanding, be it relationships or work or daily rituals, sometimes it helps to take a step back and try to look at it from a different perspective. Who knows, it might elevate things from the level of tolerable to pretty-darn-awesome. 


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Strangers' Reunion

Always happy to discover new places that I LOVE. :)



Strangers' Reunion is now one my new favorite cafes. Tucked away along the stretch of shophouses lining Kampong Bahru road, I find it hard to believe that I never knew this place was there all this time. I went in there during a weekday for lunch with my mum (don't you love days off from school/work?) and it's a very small, cozy place with people coming and going (and always forgetting to close the front door). 



A cafe with decent cappuccino art automatically scores brownie points with me! :) 


Ohhh this was my favorite. Buttermilk waffle with berries, banana slices and a hefty scoop of vanilla ice cream. MMMM. Maybe it's the buttermilk but this waffle was just extremely light and fluffy, yet crispy at the edges. Makes me want to try making waffles for myself. :D 


Roasted pork baguette - a unique twist on roasted pork that's normally eaten with rice and other meats. The baguette was excellent and crispy. Only qualm I had was that the roasted pork is a little hard to bite into easily especially when eaten with the baguette. It would've been easier if the pork was softer/the baguette less thick and crispy. Individually they were good but when combined, didn't quite make for an easy eat. 


Left: I LOVE the clever way they hung these tiny flower vases all over the cafe. :D Isn't it charming? There are so many aspects of their interior decor that inspired me and make me want to do something similar with my own apartment next time. Ohhhh so many things I wanna do with my future apartment. 

Right: Perfect place for a quiet afternoon cuppa. 



Strangers' Reunion
37 Kampong Bahru Road, Singapore 
Tel: +65 9368 3610 
Opening Hours Mon–Sun: 9am – 10pm (Closed on Tue) 

 I should definitely try one of their coffees the next time. Two-time national Barista Champ is no mean feat! 


(dress: GAP, cardigan: Need Supply, Bag: Melie Bianco)

In a nutshell, Strangers' Reunion is just a great place for a peaceful afternoon alone with a book/thoughts/cup of coffee or tea/with friends. I love discovering a new place in SG that I'd love to go back to. It's also because SG's such a small place, there's the tendency for the prevailing sentiment of youngsters towards the city to be that of boredom. But really, there are tons of great places around the corner if we look hard enough. 

Ok enough with that sentimental diatribe. Next time for sure, I'm ordering COFFEE. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Swee Choon Dim Sum

I LOVE it when people visit from overseas. :D It's the perfect excuse/opportunity to take a break from work and go on a FOOD FEST. I'd been meaning to try this place out after hearing so much about how it's one of the best places for affordable Dim Sum in SG. Everyone seemed to have heard of it/been there before. And know how I found out about it? Instagram. :) After stumbling upon someone's photo of dimsum. That's why it's worth 1 billion.



The famous fried mee suah (type of noodles) that I'd read about online. I would say it's worth trying and definitely had a unique taste (who doesn't like something crispy and fried?) but... probably wouldn't go all the way there for it. Could feel my arteries clogging up with every oily bite. O_O 


Fried eggplant with pork floss was nice!


Yeap, we had a great spread. :D See, that's another reason why it's good to have people visit from another country. You can order a ton of stuff that you really want to try and they're enthusiastic about it because it's all new to them and they don't know any better! 

Swee Choon Dim Sum 
187/191 Jalan Besar, Singapore 
Tel: +65 6294 5292 
Mon–Sat: 6pm – 10am 
Sun & PH: 6pm – 12pm 
(Closed on Tue)

Verdict: Decent dimsum BUT not really worth waiting in line for. And finding parking in that area is not easy. Service is good and efficient and they cater for customers queuing outside by providing seats and passing you the menu early on. Still, the dim sum was so-so. If you ask me, I'd rather go back to Victor's Kitchen for the best egg yolk custard buns that I've tried so far. :D 

BTW, recently a friend of mine mentioned that he doesn't agree with how people tend to do research on places to eat at before going there to try the food, because it spoils the experience/surprise. But does it really? In my opinion, I'd rather read up on a place beforehand so that I don't miss out on their best dish/really good recommended dishes which would make the eating experience worth it. What's your take on the practice of checking out eateries/food reviews before trying a new place out? 

EDIT: (29 July 2012)

SO GUESS WHAT. I happened to go back to Swee Choon last night for supper with some friends and I must say that my impression of the food there has gone up a few notches. :P A couple of things that are definitely worth ordering: 

- Xiao Long Bao
- Chicken drenched in some alcohol/Chinese wine? (I have no idea what it's called but it's a cold dish and unexpectedly tasty ;p) 
- Onion pancake -- and this has to be dipped in the chili soy sauce concoction they provide you with. HUGE WIN.
AND, something else even better? I discovered the presence of the "BACK ENTRANCE" to Swee Choon that allows you to bypass the queues up front and sit at the back of the restaurant to dine al fresco. It's really a good option since it saves you time otherwise spent queuing up with the rest of the crowd at the front and you get to enjoy a cool nighttime breeze. But if you're desperate for some air-conditioning then be prepared for the wait! We went at about 11pm and found seats immediately at the back. :D

Thank goodness for friends who know all these secrets. And this makes it way more likely I'll be going back for more. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Pigeonhole

A place that combines a love of coffee, books and art. What's not to like?

I first passed by The Pigeonhole one evening after eating dinner at Group Therapy (another really great cafe at Duxton!) and the first thing that came to mind was, wow, this place is pretty awesome! A quick peek through the window and you'll see a haphazardly cozy space that screams laid-back with a mish-mash of eclectic furniture (including the sort of desks used in schools!), walls covered in posters/postcards/signs promoting local artistes and events, people laying back and chilling out. I admire how the owners started it out with the aim to provide a space not just for people to relax in and have a drink but also for the promotion of the local arts scene - what with readings, open-mic nights, movie screenings and the like. 




There aren't a lot of options on their menu, so we went with Chicken Pot Pie and Mac N Cheese. (Chicken Pot Pie above. It's kinda neat how they incorporated fried youtiao (the pieces of fried dough) into the dish which made for extra crisp but also contributed to it being a rather thick, starchy dish that got a little heavy after awhile.)


A unique twist on the typical Macaroni and Cheese dish! :) I like how the cheese was more of a crumble rather than the usual melted form. For someone who doesn't like cheese very much, I'm glad this one came out more salty and cheddar-like rather than parmesan (that tends to really smell). Interesting taste and I loved the crumbly texture of the cheese, but it could do with more mushrooms or even chicken to make it more substantial. That's just my opinion. ;p After awhile the homogeneity of the taste got to me.


Bread and butter pudding for dessert! This one was good. I love how they made use of croissant pieces as the 'bread' component. Really makes me want to try making some bread and butter pudding as well. NOMz. 


Photobucket Photobucket

Apparently their selection of beers is really good. As usual, I ended up having tea. 




The Pigeonhole
52/53 Duxton Road 
Tel: 62262880 

Verdict: I would definitely go back there but more for the atmosphere rather than the food. It's a perfect place to relax and read on a quiet weekday afternoon. I can imagine it gets a lot more crowded at nights and during the weekend so pick your time to go wisely. 

Just a bit of advice, it's not really the place to bring your mama to if she's not appreciative of second-hand furniture thrown together in a manner that's creative/typifies hipsterdom. Plus, she was right in that it's not a place to go for purely for the food, since it's all stuff that can be reheated upon request. But the bread and butter pudding was good, and really, it's more a place to go to to chill out with friends after work or to lose yourself in a crowd when you need to be alone.


(top and skirt: Urban Outfitters, bag: Melie Bianco)

Outfit for the day. I actually got my hair permed but for some reason the curls aren't really maintaining themselves! O_o I'm hoping they'll last at least a few months. I've resorted to manually curling locks of hair whenever my hair's down and I remember to do so, sometimes receiving strange looks from friends. ;p It's not a compulsion; it's me hoping I haven't thrown XXX amount of money down the drain with this recent perm. 

On a side note, I really want to attend one of those events at The Pigeonhole (open-mic nights etc). I wish I could go out more just to listen to some good bands play sadly, those nights are few and far between. (Dang you, exams!) The one band that I really love listening to is The Next Movement (part of a larger band called Sixx) that plays Monday nights at Wala Wala in Holland V. Ohh I should really go back soon. Their rendition of 'Ordinary People' by John Legend always sends chills down my spine. In a good way. :D 


Sunday, 8 July 2012

a croissant a day

... is something that would be pretty incredible, no? In a way, it's good that there's no bakery that's within walking distance of my place (nahh a Four Leaves outlet doesn't really count!) because I can imagine myself getting one every day for tea and slowly...but surely...expanding...O_O

That said, how lucky are the residents of Tiong Bahru? Apart from the all these awesome eateries and stores, they're now within stone's throw of a recently opened bakery by the Parisian baker, Gontrand Cherrier (who also happens to be Rachel Khoo's good friend! :D according to her little snippets in her recipe book). When I was in Paris just a few months back on the way home from Montreal, Donald and I happened to miraculously step into one of his bakeries in Montmartre and it was one of the best experiences ever. That afternoon, the bakery was quiet and when we entered, there were rows and rows of gorgeous looking tarts, pastries, breads, the WORKS, all ready and waiting for us to pick out and savor. I tried a grapefruit and pistachio paste tart that was SO GOOD (and that was the first time I'd tried pistachio paste!), I was hooked. Naturally, when I heard that he'd opened a bakery in Singapore I was thrilled. And it's part of the Food Collective group of restaurants too. I've only tried Open Door Policy and Barracks@Dempsey but the other places sound awesome too.


Couldn't resist getting a chocolate almond croissant. It looks pretty monstrous right? But I go for taste more than looks when it comes to desserts. After all, most of the time spent eating a dessert is with one's eyes closed. X) This one I must say was pretty decent, but I suppose once you've eaten extremely light and crispy chocolate almond croissants in THE land of croissants, nothing can really compare. This one was just a little heavy/dense in my opinion. That's the problem with eating something really good in a particular place; just like how HK-ers always complain about local dimsum because it can never match up to their standards. DUH. There's no argument there. But in order to still enjoy/appreciate something of decent quality, it's a matter of adjusting your standards and dealing with it.


Couldn't help myself - had to get a chocolate bun too! 


Didn't manage to get that many photos of the place though the branding and interior decor was quirky and slick. I'd definitely like to go back there again to get a closer look at the (maybe more pictures then too!). Also ended up getting a fruit and nut loaf back home which was pretty good. But I would say, for bread, head on over to Baker and Cook! 
Tiong Bahru Bakery 
56 Eng Hoon Street 
Singapore 160056 
Opening Hours: 8am – 8pm 
closed on Tuesdays 

Verdict: I would definitely like to go back again to give it another shot but ONLY when it's NOT SO INSANELY CROWDED!!! 

Yes, you've heard me, unless you've got the patience of a monk or old sweet granny, I would advise you NOT to go on a Sunday late afternoon. I know, what was I thinking right? But my mum, sis and I were all free for tea and this place was new and...I couldn't help myself. In the end, we ended up waiting a fair bit just for a seat and if not for the fact that my sis is an excellent seat-nabbing vulture, we might have ended up waiting for a lot longer. There were just too many people inside, the atmosphere being completely opposite from the peace and quiet in the Gontrand Cherrier bakery that I'd been in in Paris. And the seats are packed rather close so instead of having some meaningful conversation, a large part of the time was spent inadvertently (really!) eavesdropping on the next table's conversation (a group of men who looked like they'd just come back from a Club Med trip). Exciting stuff.


(dress: Urban Outfitters, hat: Brixton, from Rock Star by Soon Lee.)

It's been so so so so so hot and humid lately... so I thought I'd bring out my favorite summer hat. :) I don't see why more people don't wear hats in SG! It's the perfect accessory for outfits and helps with shielding away some sun. I'm still always envious of people who live in temperate countries because of their layering opportunities but then when I snap out of my green-eyed/ heat-induced stupor, I figure might as well make the most of living in the tropics by slipping on a cheery sun dress and getting my Vit D on. 

Monday tomorrow. EEPS. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

DIY: Cake Bunting!

This is one of the best DIYs I've learnt. :) Really easy and it makes for some great appreciative laughs and comments at any gathering.

Presenting, a simple DIY for Cake Bunting!

I only recently came across the term "Cake Bunting" but after a little googling (thanks to Jesse of The Lazy Afternoon for the inspiration!), you sort of get the idea what it's all about. Basically, it's a way of decorating a cake that resembles drapery or streamers used in festive occasions. (Bunting actually referring to the cloth that's used to make flags or the streamers.) 

Before any DIY, it's always good to get a little inspiration. 
Sources: Top Left (oops, accidentally closed the tab for this one!)(got it from google images though), Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right

The possibilities are endless!! You can make your little flags in whatever shape you want - the usual inverted triangle, or even circles/squares/hearts/with alphabets on them...whatever. And you can do one layer or two layers... all up yo you.


Here are a couple of things you'll need: 
1. Scissors
2. Blank paper (preferably thicker/good quality ones) (I just used blank name cards from the stationary store)
3. Washi tape (this was my weapon of choice!)(but of course you can use tons of other stuff like colored paper or colorful cloth, even)
4. String 
5. 2 Bambo skewers (For those in SG, I just got the Satay sticks from NTUC ;p) 


So, WASHI TAPE is another recent discovery of mine and BOY is it AMAZING. It makes cake-bunting SO EASY and there are a ton of other crafts that you can do making use of this Japanese decorated masking tape. I tried searching online for places that sell them in Singapore but it's not really clear online but I did manage to ask Sarah from Sarah's Loft, who very generously shared with me where she managed to get hers last time. :D Thanks, Sarah! 

For the record, here are a couple of places in SG that you can get them:

1. ArtFriend 
Takashimaya Shopping Centre: 
391 Orchard Road, 
Ngee Ann City, 
Singapore 238872. 
Tel: +65 6733 8482.

This has the widest selection of washi tape I've seen so far! :D Pretty awesome selection and they sell individual ones or bundles of two.

2. A "N" BC 
391 Orchard Road 
Ngee Ann City 

This store is actually a few doors down from ArtFriend but for some reason all the listings online that I've checked label it as being in the basement. Better to just head down to Ngee Ann City and check it out for yourself on Level 4.
This has a pretty good selection too and I ended up getting mine from here. Only thing is that they only sell them in bundles of two but at least the paired designs are really nice. 

 3. Made With Love 
68 Orchard Road 
Plaza Singapura 
#03-21 and 03-33 , 
Singapore 238839  

Sadly, this one had the most limited selection of washi tapes! I was rather disappointed because they were all at the little discounted bin and the designs were really basic/nothing very colorful or cute at all. But that could be because I went when they were clearing stock or something. It's a great store for tons of other scrapbooking products though!

DIY Steps:

1. Cut out your string/twine according to how much you estimate you might need based on your cake's diameter.  If you cut it 2 - 3 inches longer than the diameter it should be safe. 


2. Prepare your paper/name cards - adorn it with whatever words you'd like to write/draw on the blank area. 

3. Cut out your washi tape and create a border around the edges of the name cards. (In this case, I wanted to write two separate messages so I made use of two name cards.) Use half the width of the tape on each border of the name card. For the top border, make sure the string is hidden in between the name cards when you paste the tape down. Or if you're using a single piece, make sure your tape covers the string. 


4. Create your little hanging 'flags' by cutting your washi tape into lengths of about 5cm. (Really depends on what pattern you want.) It's easiest to work from the inside out, starting on either sides of your name card. Paste the washi tape strips on the string and fold in half neatly. Cut the hanging strips into triangles. 

Note: When you are pasting your strips of tape on the string, try your best to not wind the string in any direction if possible! I ended up accidentally twisting/winding the string a little when pasting the tape on it and some of my triangles ended up facing upwards, rather than the intended inverted shape. 

5. Tie the ends of the string to the blunt end of your bamboo skewers/Satay sticks. I just tied a dead knot for mine and trimmed off the excess string. You can also paste it on with more washi tape or tie a separate bow onto the two bamboo skewers. 

6. Stick the two bamboo skewers with your bunting in place on either ends of the cake and voila! :) Adjust the height of the sign accordingly. 


This was my first attempt at cake bunting and I used it on the Citrus cake that I'd made for my sister with this recipe. ;p Am pretty sure with subsequent attempts it'll look a lot more slick but I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. I'm just happy because it's so much easier than attempting some form of fancy frosting to decorate the top of a cake. But I hope to learn how to do that due time. 


Sunday, 1 July 2012

à la française: Home-Cooked French Cuisine - Week 4

Well I must admit that my enthusiasm for weekly French cooking has sort of petered of some what... but it's also morphed into an overall near-obsessional zest for baking! :P I've baked at least 3 times a week in the past 2 weeks and it's revolved around a number of recipes that I've been trying to really get better at - raisin scones, cinnamon raisin rolls, citrus cake, brownies... I suppose if anything, I did start out trying to cook/bake French stuff, but now I've sort of gone a little more into just baking all sorts of items, not merely French ones. And it's so addictive that sometimes when I'm really bored in the day, I find myself googling recipes to try out. :D

What I'm going to be sharing today is one of the EASIEST and most REWARDING ones yet! It's Rachel Khoo's recipe for Quatre-quarts aux agrumes or, Citrus Fruit Cake. :D It's SUCH a good recipe. Very very easy to follow and EVERY SINGLE TIME it turns out really good. I was so happy when I baked it for the very first time and it came out exactly the texture and taste that I'd been hoping for and expecting. According to Rachel Khoo, it's like the French version of a British sponge cake and apparently because it's such a simple recipe, all French cooks will have some version of it committed to memory. On the most pared down level, it's basically 1. Flour 2. Sugar 3. Butter 4. Eggs in equal measure. :D


I didn't actually take any step-by-step photos because it was really pretty easy to follow. (But if anyone would like me to, I'd be more than happy to take some and explain a little more.)

Here's the recipe with just a few minor additions (of my own comments).

Ingredients you'll need:

4 eggs 

250g golden caster sugar (I just used regular white sugar) 
250g plain flour 
250g butter, melted and cooled (I would do this at the very beginning! Since you have to wait for the butter to cool, might as well get it out of the way) 
A pinch of salt 
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 unwaxed orange 
1 teaspoon baking power

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and flour a 23 x 12 loaf tin.

For me, I actually used a teeny tiny bread loaf and separated the batter into 3 batches. It's a lot more time consuming but I like being able to control the size of the cake and I prefer smaller cakes (easier to cut and eat). I would both butter and flour the loaf tin (even if it's non-stick) because it just makes the cake come out so much easier after baking.

2. Separate the eggs. In a bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with half of the sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the other half of the sugar until thick and pale in colour.

FYI, don't give up on getting your egg whites nice and stiff!! It just takes a loooot of time. But keep at it. I used an electric beater and probably spent about 5 minutes or more just beating at it at medium speed. Eventually, it really does become nice and stiff, almost like meringue.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, zest and baking powder together. If you haven't tried grating the skin of lemons/oranges, you're in for a workout. It can be TIRING.

4. Fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then pour in the melted and cooled butter, stirring gently until the butter is just incorporated into the mix. Finally ,carefully fold in the egg whites.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the point of a knife comes out clean when inserted in the centre.

I fill the loaf tin up to just about 3/4. You don't want to fill it too full, as I did my very first time because the cake expands and it just ends up looking like it's near exploding if you fill it too high up. Plus, mine takes only about 25 minutes, so you'll really want to just watch it the very first time. When the outer surface of the cake gets brown, you might want to try taking it out and poking a Satay stick/chopstick or knife in to see if the inside of the cake is cooked or not. If it's still mushy and sticks to the implement, put it in longer. And I guess the very first attempt will be the one that gives you a gauge of the duration of time needed to bake your cake using your oven. :) It still tastes fine even if you end up having to put it in and out of the oven a few times. (Unlike cookies/scones that just get way too hard if you keep putting them in and out =( learnt it the hard way.)


Definitely a winning recipe! :D I've made it about 3 times in the past 2 weeks and it's been a great success each time!! If you do make it, let me know how it goes! :) I'd love to hear about it.