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I’ve been itching to bake a classic Japanese strawberry shortcake for the longest time but did not quite find the courage to take on the challenge. I have an unexplained fear for anything that require too much whipping, whether it is meringue or cream. I am sure there are tons of other more difficult baking techniques out there that I had no idea of but to a novice home baker like me, light airy sponge cake comes a close second to chiffon cake in the difficulty department. Moreover, leavening agents are typically not used in a classic sponge cake recipe, so the rising depends entirely on how well you mastered the art of beating and folding. Now, I’ve tried making a roll cake that uses a similar sponge cake recipe once before while residing in Japan. It turned out way too hard for rolling and heck it wasn’t even nice eating on its own! Suffice to say, that was my one and last attempt at sponge cake of any sort.

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Some 7 years and a second bump later–both times it happened so I am attributing this recent insatiable need for baking to my being pregnant–i finally plucked up the courage to give it a go. I scoured the Internet for recipes and watched this video countless times before getting started. Overall, for a first attempt, the sponge cake turned out relatively well though I suspect I might have over whipped the cream as it turned out “grainier” than I would have like. What I had not expected however was what a nightmare it was trying to frost a cake with fresh cream in our weather! Both cake and I were literally sweating as I hurried to lather on the cream. Halfway through I even had to pop a half frosted cake back into the fridge for a while to salvage a dire situation.

So yes, I can finally say I baked a strawberry shortcake from scratch. I will likely give it a second try but instead of using a 7″ cake tin and having to bake twice as it yielded a flatter sponge cake, I’d invest in a taller 6″ tin and slice the cake into half hence saving myself the extra step the next time.

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It was May Day and we had no school. A little activity was in need to occupy him in the morning. He’s been humming this tune a lot lately so I decided why yes we could bake a cake and have it for snack when he wakes from his nap in the afternoon.

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Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it, roll it and mark it with a “B”,
Put it in the oven for baby and me. 

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I decided on an easy steamed chocolate cake from my “to-bake” list and after a quick check on the Internet threw up many similar versions of the same recipe, I picked this one to try out. Besides cutting the sugar from 200g to 160g and using low fat instead of full cream evaporated milk, I followed everything dutifully. The result was still an extremely moist and not overly sweet chocolate-y cake. Seriously, this cake can give Awfully Chocolate a run for their money, it is that good! And what is even more amazing is that it is so easy and fail-proof to make. I am totally won over by this gem of a recipe and can see it being a staple around this household from now.

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Behind the scene: sous chef enjoying his own creation and having fun singing to his current favourite nursery rhyme♬

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I dug out a box of recently expired, vacuum packed Arborio rice I bought more than 2 years back and decided to make this long overdue risotto dish. Nothing too fanciful since I don’t want to open a bottle of white wine just for the purpose, and no, no porcini or morel mushrooms here, just an existing stash of dried Chinese shiitake slices reconstituted and dumped unceremoniously into the bubbling rice and broth mixture. Stir in generous portion of Parmesan cheese and one can’t go wrong with this dish. It tasted rich, as would be expected, the bite of the rice was just about right though on the whole it could be a little more wet. Topped with lemon garlic butter grilled shrimp and a refreshing side of green salad and we have a complete meal. YUM.

(Note to self: Reserve a cup of broth to be added just before serving as cooked risotto tends to dry up pretty fast.)

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Tarte au citron

It’s official. I’m on a tart making spree and hot on the heels is this uber tarty lemon of a tart!

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After researching and comparing some recipes, I decided to make David Lebovitz’s tarte au citron. As pointed out rightly, this recipe makes a modest– you can see from the picture the tart shell is only half filled– but very tasty, lemony layer. This was the first time I ever grate a lemon for its zest and the citrus-y smell that filled the air is the most refreshing and amazing smell ever! It is a straightforward enough recipe though I suspect I might have cooked the butter and lemon mixture a little longer than necessary as the resulting filling tasted a little grainier than I would like.

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Overall, with its delightful blend of tart and sweet, I like this lemon curd filling but it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and more agreeable to a lady’s palate.

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Before the discovery of this wonderfully simple tart shell recipe, I had zero desire to dabble in pastry of any kind. It’s way much easier paying for a pretty slice than to go through all the hassle of rubbing cold butter into flour etc. Now I’ve actually bookmarked this for a long time but it wasn’t until last week that I FINALLY got around to giving it a go. The result was a tart crust so easy and so crisp and flaky that the hubby, who is normally indifferent to desserts, declared it the best tart he has ever eaten!

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And so for my inaugural tart, I decided to make a pure ganache filling for my dark chocolate loving family. The ganache is a recipe from a Japanese dessert book and very simple to make as well. One bite and it was sheer decadence!

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The tart was extrememly well received, especially by my Dad. Baked last Tuesday and this was the last wedge the following evening.

A real keeper, this recipe. Armed with it, I can’t wait to experiment with more tart fillings!

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I love mee hoon kueh but the ones outside are almost always MSG laden. And I recall we used to have it at home when we were kids. My mom would boil the ikan bilis and soy bean stock from scratch and served it with a “QQ” mee hoon kueh, a result of the hand knead dough she made. Mushroom slices, minced pork, an egg, leafy greens, topped with generous helpings of fried shallots and ikan bilis. So many years on but tonight’s dinner is still the taste I remember.

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Refreshing Taiwan grass jelly pudding dessert topped with nata de coco and aloe vera cubes. Easily made from packets of grass jelly powder that we always get our uncle in Taiwan to bring over whenever he visits. We used to have this a lot but somehow forgot about it until it’s revival tonight.

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A walk around the food hall at Japanese department stores and you can find the regular daifuku with anko filling (Japanese red bean paste mochi) year round. Depending on season, one may even spot some sakura, yomogi and even warabi mochi fairly easily too. As far as I know, presumably because of the addition of strawberry hence making it far more perishable than the plain red bean ones, ichigo daifuku is still pretty much a rarity here.

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Korean strawberries greeted me whenever I step into my local grocery store these days and I am missing this amazing combination of sweet and tart of red bean and strawberry that I so often devoured when in Japan so I decided to make some of my own the other day. It wasn’t wrapped as nicely as I wanted but it tasted every bit like I hope it would be.

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