Dim Sum and Desserts

It had been so nice this week to catch up with many of my closest friends.๐Ÿ˜Š But, before I leave London for a couple of weeks, I met up with my best friend for one delicious food date. We (or rather I lol) decided to visit Yauatcha in Soho, a Chinese restaurant that specialises in contemporary dim sum as well as high-end patisserie.๐Ÿ˜‹ Got to say I felt right at home here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Seafood Black Truffle Dumplings
Lobster Dumplings with Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe)
Prawn and Tofu Skin Cheung Fun (Steamed Rice Rolls)
King Crab Xiaolongbao
Spicy Fried Soft Shell Crabs

I really enjoyed the Cheung Fan and the black truffle dumplings (though my friend who didn’t like the flavours of black truffle preferred the lobster dumplings and the Cheung Fan.๐Ÿ˜‚) Not only were the dishes really delicious, but they also filled me with many memories from my childhood growing up in Hong Kong. The Cheung Fan (steamed rice rolls) in particular was a common street food I used to eat regularly back then after school.

Strawberry Zhu: Vanilla and Almond Sponge with Yuzu, Strawberry and Toasted Rice
Mango Lime Mallow: Mango Mousse and Coconut Sponge with Lime Marshmallow and Candied Ginger
Matcha Lychee Pot: Yogurt Panna Cotta with Lychee, Matcha and Watermelon

The desserts though were something that I was the most excited about coming into this place and they certainly did not disappoint. I had the Strawberry Zhu and the Matcha Lychee Pot. I was very impressed by the classic strawberry and cream combination in the former. The flavours worked very well and I particularly enjoyed the surprise of the strawberry-shaped chocolates which were also filled with a strawberry sauce.๐Ÿ˜‹ (I didn’t realise they were not real strawberries until I bit into them.๐Ÿ˜‚) The Matcha Lychee Pot was very light and refreshing, and almost remained me of a granola and yogurt pot but much more refined. The jelly component especially was very delightful to eat.

The only downside here was that this place was a bit expensive. Still, it didn’t stop us going for a frozen yogurt afterwards.๐Ÿ˜‚

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend ahead of you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Day 4: The Next Julia Child…?

Bonjour from Paris again! The hot weather stepped up to an even greater level today (setting a new record of 39C…!๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ˜ฐ๐Ÿ˜ฐ) Despite an exhausting day yesterday, I still made sure that I headed out early to visit Angelina (near the Louvre) which my best friend suggested was an ideal place for breakfast/brunch. It took me ages to find it as well since somehow I ended up in the wrong part of the road. (I blame my maps app!)

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is my favourite breakfast dish. The crispy bacon and toasted bread accompanied well with the soft poached eggs and the silky hollandaise sauce. ๐Ÿ˜‹As I was eating it, I was trying not to think about the amount of butter and fat in the dish…๐Ÿ˜“

Fraisier (hazelnut biscuits with vanilla cream and fresh strawberries) and Douceur abricot-miel (Pistachio biscuit with apricot jelly and honey mousse)

The shop had a large range of patisseries to choose from, but I decided on these two. I absolutely loved the Fraisier! โค๏ธโค๏ธ The light vanilla cream with the biscuit was such a great combo, and the tangy sweetness of the strawberries cut right through. ๐Ÿคค (I actually wanted another one lol!) The Douceur abricot-miel was good but a little on the heavy side for me personally. Though, they both looked stunning! ๐Ÿ‘

I also tried their signature chocolate drink. (It was way too hot for hot chocolate, so I went for cold instead. ๐Ÿ˜‚) Rich and velvety, I would say it was definitely one for chocolate lovers. Though for me, it was slightly too dark and bitter… ๐Ÿ˜…

After being roasted in the heat at the Catacombs yesterday, I decided to take a more indoor approach today. (Quite honestly, I was very sick of the heat by now!) However, I did managed a quick stroll around Tuileries Garden where a carnival was being held. (As to who would want to go on rides under this heat, I had no idea!) The walk didn’t last long at all before I ran into Carrousel du Louvre to avoid the intense heat… ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ The park would have been nice to visit in fall season.

After a nap in the hotel, I headed to my most anticipated event in my entire trip and that was to attend an amateur cooking class! ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿณ So the class I went was run by L’atelier des Chefs (a friend who speaks French recommended this to me) and unfortunately they don’t run any English classes. But when I asked for information yesterday, they said that they do get a lot of tourists attending and most people can follow without even speaking any French, so I decided to give it a try anyway.

Including me, there was a total of ten people in the class (and I was pretty sure that I was the only tourist ๐Ÿ˜‚!) I was the first person to arrive (probably looking a bit too keen haha), and the reception lady was incredibly welcoming to me and said, ‘For this evening, treat this place as your own home and look around however you want!’ (Aww! โ˜บ๏ธ) The two-course menu we made were king prawn skewers with fennel salad & mashed potatoes and also an apricot Tarte Tatin. Despite being pretty much muted for the duration of the class (everyone was speaking French, I couldn’t join in the conversations lol…๐Ÿ˜…), the class was very enjoyable! We cooked the dishes simultaneously so they would be ready to eat at the same time, and we started with preparing Tarte Tatin first. For a baker like me, I was super excited!

Everyone would take turns trying out the individual steps, and we were all so gracious in passing stuff to each other and letting other people had a go. It felt like we were a big family cooking together for a family gathering meal.โ˜บ๏ธ (I was like one of those wind up toy repeating ‘merci’ every few minutes. ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿ˜‚) Though, I felt a little awkward when my ‘perfectionist’ side came out as I was adamant in arranging the apricots in a flower pattern (you can see at the bottom right on the photo) when everyone else was dumping theirs into the mould… ๐Ÿ˜…

With the Tarte Tatin ready to go in the oven, we started dicing up the potatoes for the savoury course. And to be frank, I was really embarrassed by my appalling knife skills (as my mum would agree…) and the chef had to warn me to be careful with my fingers. ๐Ÿ™ˆ Here is also a video of the chef demonstrating how to peel and de-vein the prawns. (I know my mum would love to have all the heads we ended up throwing away! ๐Ÿ˜‚)

I hate this mandoline!! ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ˜ก

I felt quite comfortable with preparing the prawns as it was something I did before. (Really reminded me of Hong Kong where we used to cook the fresh prawns we bought straight from the market. โ˜บ๏ธ) The fennel though was a different story…

While I had seen many times of people using a mandoline on TV, I had never used one. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ The chef stopped me to show me how to hold the fennel correctly so I didn’t slice off my fingers, and even then I was struggling with it so much that I abandoned using it altogether and used the knife to chop up the fennel. I thought I was doing a decent job until I looked around to see how everyone cut their fennel very thinly and mine were large chunks! ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ I tried to trim mine down but they were still nowhere near as thin.๐Ÿ˜• (The guy next to me was chopping them up so quickly and skilfully, I literally wanted to find a hole and hide! ๐Ÿ™ˆ) Most of the group then went to the stoves to help with the cooking, and I was still chopping up the fennel! ๐Ÿ˜‚ (I was actually really embarrassed about adding my large pieces of fennel into the bowl…) I guess Julia Child must be shaking her head at me… ๐Ÿ˜…

With the prawns and mashed potatoes ready, we moved on to plating. (I was like in my head, ‘Yes! Forget stupid knife works, this is something I am good at!’ ๐Ÿ˜‚) I was again being such a neurotic perfectionist, I was the last one to finish plating. ๐Ÿ˜… (Literally digging through the bowl to find spinach leaves of similar sizes lol…)

King Prawn Skewers with Fennel Salad and Mashed Potatoes
Apricot Tarte Tatin

But, finally after all the hard work, it’s tasting time! Bon appetite! ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿ˜‹

(And after the dinner, I also got a souvenir for myself! ๐Ÿ˜‰)

Day 3: Tomb Raiders

It was a really warm day in Paris today with the temperature reached 38C in the afternoon! ๐Ÿ”ฅ ๐Ÿ”ฅ Undeterred, I started my day early and visited the area around the Hรดtel de Ville, and also dropped by for a look around and some food in the Bazar de L’Hรดtel de Ville (a department store).

Following a suggestion made by one of my work colleagues, I next headed to Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel famous for its beautiful stained glass. They were absolutely breathtaking! ๐Ÿ˜ฎโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ Being under 26 and from Europe, I was even able to skip the long queue! (Though I did ask a member of staff if UK still counts as part of Europe now despite the current political climate… ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚)

I also dropped by the Notre Dame which was nearby. Obviously the fire meant that it is now out of bound, but I still had the image of Quasimodo singing ‘Out There’ here from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The feel~ ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽถ

Now, moving on to my main event today, which was to visit the Catacombs. This was the location all of my work colleagues who I spoke to recommended to go. To head there, I took the RER (the regional train) from Notre Dame. And the station entrance was an elevator hidden in a back alley!

A hidden passage? ๐Ÿค”
The elevator takes you right down to the platform ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Setting the feel for the Catacombs, I was excited as soon as we arrived at the station gate. But as I dug my hand into my pockets, I noticed that my 3-day train ticket had gone missing! ๐Ÿ˜ญ I searched all the pockets and my bag, and I could only conclude I must have dropped it somewhere earlier today. ๐Ÿ˜“ Could this be a bad omen…?

Nonetheless, I decided to head to the Catacombs first and worried about the journey back later. But my excitement was quite diminished when I saw the massively long queue outside the Catacombs entrance. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

Where is the end of this lineโ€ฆ? ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ

I guess my stubbornness took over and I decided to queue regardless. The weather was burningly hot and I was directly under the sun. The queue was also moving at an extremely slow pace due to the Catacombs only being able to hold a maximum capacity of 200 people on top of visitors with fast passes being prioritised. Many people either gave up and those who remained like me gradually got exhausted and frustrated after standing in the heat for so long. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

In front of me stood a pair of brothers who came from America, and behind me there were an American girl (who I later found out is now studying in China) and her Chinese friend. After two hours of just glancing at each other and making only very small talks, we gradually shared the same dislike of the heat, and started to have many deep conversations. ๐Ÿ˜Š We chatted about where we were from, our general lives and shared how we were all here in Paris for holiday. (The older brother of the two boys told me the Catacombs was the attraction he wanted to visit the most which was why he was so adamant about queueing!) The brothers were planning to visit the Louvre with their parents tomorrow and the two friends will be going to see the Eiffel Tower – both had got tips from me after what I learnt yesterday! ๐Ÿ˜‚ We even talked about American and European politics and so much more. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜†

Finally, after a ridiculous 4 and a half hours in the heat, we were finally let in to buy the tickets. ๐Ÿ˜ฉ But because of the capacity issue, we were let in gradually: the brothers went ahead, followed by me in a few minutes, and the two friends weren’t long after me. The five of us though were able to meet back down underground and we explored the Catacombs together! ๐Ÿ˜ We were literally laughing and joking around like old friends that have known for many years not mere hours. I felt so blessed by the company! โค๏ธ

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine how one could possibly walk alone here with all these skeletons around! ๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿ’€ It was a damn creepy place! (And hopefully I won’t be getting nightmares tonight…) But, with my new friends, this was one fun adventure underground that I would really missed! ๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜† I was so sad when I had to say goodbyes to these people who I just happened to cross paths today. ๐Ÿ˜” (The brothers both shook my hand when I left.) I wondered had we all met in different circumstances, would things be any different? (I did ended up bumping into the brothers again though when they struggled to find their way back to the entrance of the Catacombs where their parents were to met them – the exit was a whole street away from it, so I helped them to find their way back! ๐Ÿ˜‚)

To finish my day, I visited a patisserie shop called Thevenin nearby, and I literally just made it in time before it closed.

I bought the raspberry & chocolate entremet and also the passion fruit, mango and coconut entremet. The latter was absolutely scrumptious! ๐Ÿ˜‹ I also got some unexpected delicious Chinese takeaways from a restaurant just a few shops down, and I could tell you I devoured everything when I got back into the hotel room! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Away We Go

Finally, my summer holiday has officially begun! And as if my holiday hasn’t come quick enough, I am already packing for my trip to Paris tomorrow. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have always been very excited to visit the city again since the last time I was there when I was 4 years old, and now at last it’s happening! Hopefully, I will have plenty to share with you guys about it. ๐Ÿ˜Š

One of the things I am most looking forward to now is to see all the amazing pรขtissiรจre in Paris, and I am hoping I will learn something more about them while I am there. So, meanwhile, here is a quick throw back to an entremet I did a while ago.

This entremet is composed of a raspberry mousse with a layer of vanilla sponge, sandwiching two layers of jellies, one blackcurrant and one clear strawberry. The entremet is topped with a tempered chocolate flower. For those of you who may have seen the recipe of my mango mousse cake, the recipes for the individual components follow almost the same method. (Here is the link ๐Ÿ‘‰ https://tangosbaking.home.blog/2019/06/29/its-a-long-hot-summer/) To make the raspberry mousse, replace the mango purรฉe in the recipe with a raspberry purรฉe. The vanilla sponge is the same recipe without the desiccated coconut, and the blackcurrant jelly is made using blackcurrant juice. The glaze is made from raspberry purรฉe. This entremet is also moulded using a silicone mould. Also a quick tipโ€“ when demoulding, dip the mould quickly in warm water to loosen the mouse up, then you should be able to get a clean finish when removing the entremet from the mould. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do you have any travel plans in the summer? Let’s share in the comments section! ๐Ÿ‘

Pillows and Marshmallows

Last night I dreamed I ate a 10-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone.‘ Have you ever dreamt about marshmallows? Tommy Cooper once did at the cost of his own pillow. As I am leaning against my pillow, almost half dozed off, I thought I would share the recipe of my homemade marshmallows.

It’s probably unsurprising to know that I am always a big fan of sweet treats, but this is my first time making any kind of confectionary. And surprisingly, these pillowy blueberry marshmallows are rather easy to make. I can say my friends and I had fun eating them while dipping them in our hot chocolate and coffee yesterday. (It’s quite a sticky business though! ๐Ÿ˜‚)

The recipe is adapted from the book ‘Pรขtisserie’ by William and Suzue Curley. The recipe starts from making a blueberry purรฉe, but you can also adapt it for other kinds of fruit purรฉe to create marshmallows of different flavours! ๐Ÿ˜‹

Blueberry Marshmallows

Quantity: 1 tray

Ingredients:

For the blueberry purรฉe:

150g blueberries

15g caster sugar

15ml water

1 tsp lemon juice

For the marshmallows:

110g blueberry purรฉe

10g leaf gelatine

225g caster sugar

135ml water

38g egg whites

Icing sugar, for dusting

Cornflour, for dusting

Method:

1. To make the blueberry purรฉe, place blueberries, caster sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to boil and crush the blueberries as you are cooking them. Pass the purรฉe through a sieve and set aside.

2. Soak the leaf gelatine in cold water and set aside.

3. Use 110g of the blueberry purรฉe to make the marshmallows. (You can save any leftovers to eat later, for example, putting it in plain yogurt!) Place the purรฉe in a saucepan and bring to boil.

4. Squeeze off any excess water from the leaf gelatine and add it to the purรฉe. Stir until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Set aside.

5. Place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and heat to create a syrup.

6. In a large, clean mixing bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks.

7. Mix the syrup with the purรฉe mixture. Then add it to the whisking egg whites. Continue to whisk until smooth and cold.

8. Mix equal amounts of cornflour and icing sugar together. Sift into a bowl.

9. Line a small baking tray with baking paper (choose one with enough depth). Dust it with the cornflour and icing sugar mixture, saving some for dusting the marshmallows later. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the tray and spread evenly.

10. Place in a fridge for about 1-2 hours, or until set.

11. Once set, cut into cubes of marshmallows and roll in the dusting mixture before serving.

Have a sweet marshmallow dream! (Excuse me as I doze off on my pillow ๐Ÿ˜ด…)

Facing My Macaron-er Fear

Everyone has a fear. Sounds like something from a horror movie, right? (Not that I would know ’cause I refuse to watch horror movies most times haha.) But, to my fellow cooks and bakers out there, is there a dish that no matter how many times you tried and tried to perfect, it still seems to remain the bane of your life? Your ultimate culinary nemesis? The Nightmare on Elm Street that keeps waking you up? Well, for me, that thing is macaron.

I had my fair share of failures when it comes to this little, adorable French dessert. Cracked top, footless, underbaked, and even macarons as flat as pancakes. For a period of time, I even tried to avoid making them altogether as I can’t stand the thought of it! However, yesterday I decided to face my fear of macarons once again. The result? Three trays of macarons that have almost all cracked! ๐Ÿ˜ญ (I think it’s to do with my oven temperature being too hot. Though because I don’t have a conventional oven at home, it’s hard to adjust accordingly… More on that later.)

Luckily, I still managed to salvage a few. The filling is a dark chocolate ganache with a strawberry jam centre.

They are not perfect, but nonetheless, they are still miles better than the ones I used to make years ago. The recipe I used is by Cupcake Jemma. And quite honestly, having tried quite a few recipes, it’s by far the best one I discovered. I would really recommend it to those of you who are interested in making macarons. See the link of her YouTube video here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSOJMcvDec

Here are a few tips I have picked up that I would suggest to pay close attention to:

1. ALWAYS sieve the ground almond and icing sugar to avoid a lumpy surface.

2. This recipe uses an Italian meringue, which I think it’s much better than recipes using French meringue. Supposedly, it gives the macarons more stability. Regardless with the science behind it, I can tell you I have had much higher success rate with this method.

3. Take great care when you fold the meringue into the ground almond mixture. Over-mixing and under-mixing can become big problems for your macarons.

4. Make sure you leave enough rooms when you are piping your macaron batter. Reason see below.

5. Tap your baking tray on the surface to let out air bubbles. Because the macarons are likely to spread a bit as you tap the tray, it’s important you leave rooms when piping. I particularly like Jemma’s idea of using a cocktail stick to pop any air bubbles lurking inside the macarons. It ensures a smooth surface.

6. Make sure you leave the macarons to dry so a skin is formed on top. (Test it by the finger method mentioned in the video.) This ensures the distinctive feet of the macarons will be formed during baking. As they mentioned, it does depend on the environment you are in. In UK, it’s really quick because we have a very dry climate. When I was visiting Hong Kong, it sometimes took over an hour even with air conditioning!

7. The oven temperature is very important (as I have painfully learned). Oven too hot will result in cracked and browned tops, whereas oven too cold will result in footless macarons.

I have a small oven at home, so adjusting the temperature has proven to be difficult. I have tried to bake the macarons at the bottom of the oven and placed another tray on the rack above to block out heat coming from the top, but neither seems to result in much changes, so would love to hear any suggestions or advices on that.

Do you have any tips of making macarons? What is your biggest cooking/baking fear? Let me know in the comments!

Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates

As the famous quote in Forrest Gump goes, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’. Life can get tough at times, but those sweetest and happiest moments also sometimes come at the most surprising times. However, one thing for certain is you can never have too much chocolates. This rich and moist chocolate cake covered in velvety chocolate ganache will be a delicious treat at any time you desire. In fact, life should be filled with chocolates!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cake:

225g self-rising flour

85g cocoa powder

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

220ml milk

20ml flavourless oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

60 ml hot water

Chocolate Ganache:

240ml double cream

200g dark chocolate, chopped

20g unsalted butter, softened

Decorations (optional):

Coloured fondant, purple and green

White chocolate, block

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
  2. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl.
  3. Add all the other cake ingredients, apart from the hot water, into the flour mixture. Mix until it is well combined.  Then, gradually add in the hot water and mix until smooth.
  4. Grease the cake tin, and pour the cake batter into the tin. Bake the cake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out completely clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin before icing.
  5. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the double cream in a saucepan to boil.
  6. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  7. Add the butter to the ganache mixture and whisk until it is fully incorporated.
  8. Leave the ganache to set at room temperature for about 1-2 hours before using it to ice the cake.
  9. Using a peeler, scrape the white chocolate block to create white chocolate shavings. Shape the coloured fondant into flowers and leaves.
  10. Decorate with coloured fondant flowers and white chocolate shavings before serving.

Home Is Always Where It Starts

They once said, ‘Click your heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like home” and you’ll be there’. When I moved away from home, I was hungry for more in life. New job, new friends, new relationships and everything more. Three years in, I feel unhappy and frustrated at my job, whilst those around me go through new changes and challenges. But as I sat here feeling unfulfilled about my life, I always try to remind myself about how far I come. How far away from home I am.

Being in the city has its quirk of seeing many things that remind me of home, but food always come first on my list. My mum and I always have a fondness for angel food cake. This light yolk-less sponge paired with whipped cream and passion fruit curd is quite literally a recipe from the heaven. To paraphrase Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I say ‘Eat your cake three times and say ‘There’s no place like home” and you’ll be there’.

(Courtesy of Mary Berry’s recipe on BBC Food: https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/angel_food_cake_with_04002)

Lemon passion fruit angel food cake 2