Enough about the weather report, onto the meat now.
There is a bakery in a city of Bandung, Indonesia called Bawean or Sweetheart. This bakery is so famous and I've been hearing lots of things about this particular bakery. I for one, never been there and when I heard so many good things about it, especially about what they call "Mocha Nougat Cake", I just had to try making it at home. From what I heard, this is one of their most popular cakes, it has three layers of vanilla sponge, filled with very strong rum custard, covered in mocha buttercream and crushed nougatine. When I say strong custard, I really meant STRONG. I never prove it of course, but I have quite a few friends coming from the city and the first thing they say when describing this cake is that this cake is strong strong strong in alcohol. I mean literally, it's so strong that it's bitter and the alcohol goes straight into your nose on your first bite. Many said that they feel tipsy after a slice or two, but strangely, people kept coming back and makes you wanting for more.
I was really skeptical putting a lot of rum in the filling as I personally don't like cake that has too much alcohol in it. I love putting alcohol in my cake as a taste-booster, but when it starts to overpower the taste, that's when I draw the line. I say if you like your alcohol, that's fine, but why not go drink it straight from the bottle rather than spending hours or days making a cake that taste completely like alcohol? It's just a one-person opinion though :D. I did however put a good dose of rum in it, just not too boozy yet.
I won't post the recipe just yet. The recipe still needs tweaking :)
We started the planning on and off for about a month maybe, from setting up a date where everybody can make it, the place, food, budget, gift, etc. It was a little challenging finding a place that could hold up 50 people, but fortunately, one of us has a club house in their house area that can be reserved with no charge. It is a big room with a kitchen (and a fridge) and bathroom, it also has two long tables, which is perfect for any of our party that almost always involves around 50 people :D. We don't have any particular theme for this party, which makes it easier somewhat so that my ideas are not limited to certain color or theme.
- Chinese-style fried noodle (home-made)
- Assorted stir-fried veggies and meatballs (home-made)
- Panda-Express Orange Chicken
- Panda-Express Beijing Beef
Dessert and Drinks:
- 6" fondant cake
- Indonesian cheese-cake squares
- Fruit platter
- Chocolate-dipped strawberries
- Guava and strawberry punch
There was a surprised baby shower in the office for our dear friend, V, on Wednesday. The baby is due on late April-early May and this week will be her last week at work before she's gone to her 5-month leave and we want to send her off and wish her a healthy baby. I was initially given the responsibility to make a cake but this plan got changed last minute because I didn't have enough time to make one big cake, so I offered to make just a small and simple dessert. It took me quite some time deciding what I would make, this part is one of the longest parts in making cake for me (the other one would be the deciding how to decorate it) until on Monday evening, my friend asked me on gchat about eclair. Right at that time I knew that cream puff is what I'm gonna make. I don't know what took me so long deciding, I was thinking macarons, mini lemon tarts, and some other over-the-top stuff, but not one time did I think about cream puff, which is weird since this was my first dessert of choice whenever I'm pressed with time. Well, it has been quite a while since I made my last cream puff too and so I was set.
I really recommend you making it soon if you need something special for a party/gathering, but yet simple and satisfying.
Pate a Choux:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk (can be substituted with water or combination of both)
1 cup all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400F
Melt the butter, milk, and salt together in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Add the flour all at once and stir with wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Remove from heat and mix until slightly cool. Add the eggs one at a time, completely incorporating the previous egg before adding another.
Place a spoonful of batter or use piping bag on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350F and continue baking for about 30-40minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool. You can make this one day in advance and keep it in an airtight container until ready to use.
I used instant Jell-o pudding (reduce the amount of milk a little to make it thicker)
Grand Marnier, to taste
pastry cream (I'm not suggesting using instant Jell-o pudding for durian filling)
Topping (for the strawberry cream puffs):
Slightly-sweetened whipped cream
Grand Marnier, to taste
First of all, I want to wish everybody a Happy Easter! No, this post is not anything about Easter at all although seeing many blogs posted their cute little Easter cakes and eggs made me so itchy to make one of those too, but as time would have it, I could only do so much :).
It feels like the sunshine that appeared for a week or two before was just a quick dream or a short teaser. I woke up one morning only to find that Winter is definitely back again. Gloomy days, rains, and cold winds are what we have been seeing for the last week and a half. I took out and wore my wool jacket again today in sadness as it was really cold here in San Jose. I drove home Sunday afternoon while it's raining hard listening to Bryan Adams singing in the radio and followed by "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield. Yes, a pocketful of sunshine is what I need. I came home and hurried to bed to find warmth and comfort under a thick blanket and took a nap for two whole hours, it was certainly the perfect weather for nap and it felt good.
A few weeks ago, my sister in law had the idea of celebrating her husband's (a.k.a my brother) birthday in their backyard with close friends.
"Lets pimp the backyard and have a sit-down dinner outside!", she said.
She had been dying to use her backyard for outdoor dinner since forever and I guess this is the perfect time for her to finally use it. Their backyard is not big, it's small and long, had a jacuzzi on one end and that's it. There's a deck in the middle of the yard which is perfect to place a long table for dinner. After probably 2-3 weeks of occasional planning, I was in charge of the food (from appetizer to dessert) while she was in charge of the decoration. She was definitely in her forte in the decoration department, she knows what she wanted it to look like.
Planning the menu was a little hard for me, there were too many things going on at the same time (the previous birthday cake was one of them) that I only had a very limited time to plan, shop and actually make it, I was definitely on a roll, using my time as effective as possible to get a lot of things done. The entree was decided on the morning of the D-day, the appetizer was decided while we're shopping for ingredients at a grocery store on the same day, the dessert was ready in the morning too and wasn't decided until the day before. I really hoped I had more time to make a better one, but I was forced to settle down by something simpler due to time constraint.
Appetizer: Bacon-wrapped asparagus spears; warm french bread with olive oil-balsamic-herb dipping sauce
Entree: Cajun Pasta with chicken and teriyaki meatball
Dessert: Mango panna cotta verrine and chocolate-mango macaron
Drink: Fruit punch (made using guava-passion fruit-orange concentrate and lemon-lime soda)
We had about a few hour window when he was out doing something and came back. He was told that they were going to have a nice dinner outside but guess what he found at home? He was certainly surprised (in a good way)! The only downfall to the party was the weather, it was cooollddd..... but we can't complain afterall as for more than a week, it was the only day that wasn't raining.
I chose mango panna cotta verrine because it's simple to make, I've made it before in both mango and strawberries (meaning, no experiment needed) and mango happens to be the birthday boy's favorite fruit (it runs in the family :D). For this reason too, I used this opportunity to try out Boiron mango puree that I had been hearing so much. I've always used Alphonso mango pulp for all my mango dessert and I had no complain at all, but I can't help to try this line of mango puree and see if the hype is true. To my surprise, when I opened the package, the smell and the color was almost exactly the same as the Alphonso mango pulp I've been using. It was actually a relief, I was afraid that I would like this puree so much (more than the pulp) that I would have to order online everytime I want to use it, silly me. Oh and I used creme fraiche this time instead of yogurt to add to the panna cotta. It wasn't planned really, the yogurt I was about to buy only comes in a big tub. Despite being cheap anyway, I would then have to use up the rest of it, I can't just throw it away, then that's when I spotted the creme fraiche. I've always wanted to try using it, I know it tastes like yogurt and a lot more expensive but I just had to satisfy my curiosity and plus, it was the perfect amount that I need, so no leftover I need to worry about :).
The macaron flavor combination was inspired by Vi at L'Atelier Vi. It was love at the first sight when I saw her post a while back, and since mango was the theme of the dessert, this fits really well. I used Pierre Herme's recipe that I had posted before and added cocoa powder to it. The end result wasn't as dark as I would have expected. I made Italian Meringue buttercream that I flavored with mango puree. While it was delicious on its own, however I could barely taste the mango flavor combined with the chocolate macaron. I definitely need to increase the amount of the puree next time, I'm still curious with this combination that I'm intrigued to make a cake with this two combination in the future, making sure that the chocolate won't overpower the mango.
Back to the dinner party, everyone helped making the food and the decoration and I could really say that we're all had a wonderful time together. J wanted to have a yellow-green-orange-white theme and I guess we achieved the theme without looking too colorful and still look elegant. The calla lilies were picked from my other brother's garden and it fits perfectly to the party. Calla lily is one of my favorite flower for its white and green color and especially the elegance that it has.
It was a very tiring day but I was so glad that it was a success! It was definitely different than the usual potluck or the get-together we usually have. I have everybody to thank for, for this dinner, so thank you guys for making it happen!
Happy Ending :)Mango Panna Cotta Verrine
inspired by Cannelle et Vanille
Yogurt Panna Cotta:
200g heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
3/4 tsp. gelatin powder
1 tbs. water
100g whole milk plain yogurt (I used creme fraiche)
Combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom. Melt it in a microwave for about 7 seconds to melt it. Once the cream comes to a boil, add the melted gelatin, stir and remove from the heat. Let cool in an icebath, stirring occasionally until it comes to room temperature. Add the yogurt or cream fraiche and mix well. Pour into the prepared glasses and refrigerate until set.
150g mango puree
20g sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of your puree)
1.5 tsp. gelatin powder
1 tbs. water
250g heavy cream, whipped to soft peak
Bring half of the mango puree and sugar to a gentle boil, add the melted gelatin (same method as above), add the rest of the puree and cool in an icebath. Fold in the heavy cream. Pipe (or use spoon) the mousse on top of the panna cotta and refrigerate.
100g mango puree
15g sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of your puree)
1/2 tsp. gelatin
1/2 Tbs. water
Boil the mango puree and sugar together, add the melted gelatin (see method above). Let cool in an icebath and spoon it on top of the mango mousse.
I double this recipe to make about 12-5.5oz glasses in the picture above. If you have fresh mango, you can put mango cubes inside the glasses too to provide textural balance. Unfortunately, mango wasn't quite in season yet here.
use recipe here and add 20g cocoa powder to the dry mixture.