Proust’s Remembrance, Revisited

Following the previous delightful attempt at baking Earl Grey Madeleines, I’d decided to return to the basics i.e. revisit the recipe for the traditional recipes which prompted Proust’s provocative description.

Below is yet another excerpt…

 …when one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreay day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin…”

–  Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

The more I read excerpts available on the internet, the more curious I get about this book. I really should remember to pick up this book the next time I visit Kinokuniya, my favourite bookstore.

Recipe: Traditional Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 55g all-purpose flour
  • 1g baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 65g caster sugar
  • some lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Prepare a madeleine pan by buttering the pan, dust the insides with flour and tapping out the excess. No preparation is required for silicone moulds.
  3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Rub the lemon zest into the sugar in a medium bowl until well distributed.
  5. Add the egg into the sugar and beat on medium speed until mixture is thick and light.
  6. Add in the vanilla.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatular until well-mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter until well-mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you want your madeleines to turn out with a more pronounced hump characteristic of madeleines, you can cover the batter-filled pan with cellophane wrap and refrigerate overnight).
  10. Transfer the madeleines to cool on wire rack before storing them in an air-tight container, although madeleines taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven.

Yield : 12 petite madeleines

Madeleines are not tedious or require much elbow grease to prepare or bake, but somehow I don’t come across many online bakers who bake them. Perhaps they too, like me, have very little patience. For starters, it’s just not in my nature to let something sit in the chiller overnight just to ensure that the madeleines achieve a more pronounced hump, but I did. Several times to boot!

Ah well, the lengths I would go in the name of a fastidious baker.

Tokyo Delights I

On our recent trip to Tokyo, we made time to visit Aoki Sadaharu and Hidemi Sugino’s pâtisseries. Sadaharu has 2 outlets in Tokyo – one in Yurakucho and one in Isetan Shinjuku. Naturally we chose to patronise the outlet at Isetan Shinjuku because Isetan is a much easier landmark to locate than a rather non-descript building in Marunouchi. And so, on the second day of our vacation, we dropped by Isetan Shinjuku with much expectations. I’ve heard so much about his matcha and yuzu eclairs I could hardly contain my excitement as we circled the basement level of the massive shopping mall looking for the elusive outlet.

After circling the plethora of counters and shops all selling Japanese sweets and cakes, we gave up and made a beeline for the information counter. Better to ask for help than to lose precious time searching for the outlet ourselves.

It was easy enough to locate the outlet after we obtained directions from the information counter. And so, I stepped into the outlet with much fervour. Two things struck me the moment I walked in – the pastries were expensive, and the display counter looked… empty. It must be no later than 4pm, but the eclairs were sold out, and they were left only with 1 salted caramel tart. I was inconsolable.

It was decided that a return, at an earlier time, was in order. Or better still, we should visit the main outlet even if it meant having to brave Yurakucho, Tokyo’s business district which we are rather unfamiliar with. Because our schedule was quite full the next few days, we only had the opportunity to go a looking for Sadaharu’s pâtisserie in Yurakucho a week later. And boy, were we lost.

Fearing a long queue and potentially a sell-out of the eclairs again, we looked exactly our part – 2 casually-dressed tourists running amok amidst well-dressed-in-business-suits Japanese. Or perhaps I should correct that: the hubby was running around frantically looking for the pâtisserie fearing my disappointment again while I strolled on, stopping ever so often to take shots of anything which caught my eye.

With some difficulty, we finally located the pâtisserie. And the hubby shot me a murderous look as if saying ‘I thought you say there is going to be a long queue? Who are you kidding?!’

I shrugged and stuck out my tongue.

Because we just made a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market prior and had a delectable sushi breakfast, we really hadn’t the appetite for much sweets. After much contemplation, we ordered a chocolate eclair, matcha eclair and salted caramel tart. The yuzu eclair apparently, if my limited grasp of Japanese didn’t fail me, has been removed from their line of regular pastries.

We took our time, and thoroughly enjoyed the pastries. And the much celebrated matcha eclairs are… to die for. I would have gone for seconds if I weren’t already full with my sushi breakfast. A real pity, that was. There were so many things I wanted to try but I just wasn’t ready to stuff myself to surfeited collapse.

We bought some of their BonBon Chocolat as souvenirs for good friends because they were decidedly the only items that have expiry dates beyond Dec 2010. And below is a parting shot of the pâtisserie. For sure, I would revisit the next time we swing by Tokyo again. I have not had my fill yet.

As for the special trip made to Sugino’s Patisserie, I’d just decided it deserves a separate post of its own.

Swirling in Raspberry

I had some raspberry purée sitting in the freezer compartment and it was nearing the expiry date. And so I went on a sort of rampage trawling the internet for any recipes requiring it. This recipe I found is meant for a full-sized cake but a sudden stroke of genius must have hit me; I decided to convert the recipe into cupcake portions instead.

Recipe: Raspberry Swirl Cheese Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 10 whole Oreo cookies, crushed
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted
  • 360g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/4 cup raspberry purée

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Prepare 8 cupcake cases (each of 1/2 cup size) and lay them on top of a small cookie tray.
  3. Mix the melted butter and oreo cookies in a mixing bowl till bonded. Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 cupcake cases (about 17g each).
  4. Wrap a glass with a plastic sheet, and make use of the base to compact the crust.
  5. Bake the crust for 5 minutes, then remove it to cool completely.
  6. In one large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  7. Add in the sugar in a slow, steady stream and beat until just combined.
  8. Add the eggs into the mixture one at a time, making sure that each addition is well-incorporated before adding another. Add in the vanilla essence.
  9. Pour the batter onto the baked crust till about 7/8 cup full.
  10. Add 1 tsp of raspberry pureé on top of each cupcake and use a wooden skewer to swirl carefully through the cheese batter.
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just set.
  12. Switch off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the cupcakes cool completely in the oven before removing.

Yield : large cupcakes

The cupcake cases I used were about the size of 1/2 cup. If you are using the smaller cases which fit snugly into those 12-hole muffin pans, then you probably can make about 12 cupcakes. Just remember to adjust the amount of raspberry purée required, downwards. Also, take special note that the baked cupcakes should be kept away from the cool outside air as much as possible while cooling, otherwise it would sink in the centre. And, avoid putting too much pureé in the centre lest the same happens.

The cheese layer was a still a little soft and jiggly after cooling down; I think I could have baked it a little longer. But honestly, I quite liked this texture – soft and smooth like puddings, and best eaten straight out of the cupcake case with a dessert spoon!

Feel free to go ahead and make changes to the base of the cupcakes or even the raspberry purée. You might just create a cupcake which you can truly call your own.

Proust’s Remembrance, with a Twist

Whenever madeleines are mentioned, French author Marcel Proust shall come to mind, for he single-handedly immortalised madeleines outside of France. How so, you might ask? In Proust’s monumental novel ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (sometimes also known as ‘Remembrance of Things Past’), he described his first awakening ‘encounter’ with madeleines over tea.

Below is an excerpt…

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

–  Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Indeed, we come to the conclusion that Proust’s little episode with the madeleines brought about some involuntary memory of his childhood. I could identify with Proust, for I too, have a food which would bring on involuntary memory of my childhood – I associate steamed egg cakes (known as ‘gai dan gou‘ to me when I was young) with my late paternal grandmother, who has left us for a decade now.

Recipe: Earl Grey Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 1 sachet of Gryphon Earl Grey Tea
  • 55g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp floral honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Melt the butter and empty the sachet of earl grey tea leaves to infuse for about 5 minutes before straining and discarding the leaves. Leave butter to cool.
  3. Prepare a madeleine pan by buttering the pan, dust the insides with flour and tapping out the excess. No preparation is required for silicone moulds.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  5. Add the egg into the sugar and beat on medium speed until mixture is thick and light.
  6. Add in the floral honey and vanilla extract.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatular until well-mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the cooled melted butter until well-mixed.
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If you want your madeleines to turn out with a more pronounced hump which is characteristic of madeleines, cover the batter-filled pan with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight).
  10. Transfer the madeleines to cool on wire rack before storing them in an air-tight container, although madeleines taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven.

Yield : 12 petite madeleines

These earl grey madeleines are not the typical madeleines we usually see. You see, I’ve always been more of a tea rather than coffee person, and earl grey teas are always quite my favourite. I would just have to attempt this recipe and I am proud to declare that the madeleines do turn out quite okay.

If you have an issue with the glossy sheen on the madeleines, then take note not to use silicon moulds. I could live with it, for I much prefer the sheen over the laborious task of buttering or flouring the crooks and crevices on a metal mould for madeleines. Entirely your call.

Everyone who is in the know will tell you that madeleines are best eaten fresh out of the oven for they notoriously turn stale rather rapidly. In a nutshell, madeleines don’t keep well so do not attempt to keep it beyond a day or they won’t taste as well as they should. In fact, baked madeleines should be stashed away in air-tight containers once cooled if they are not to be consumed immediately.

Wotcha Matcha

I have an unhealthy fixation for anything to do with Matcha. And no, it cannot be green tea leaves but Matcha – the finely-milled Japanese green tea powder. You know, the type which is used in the elaborate Japanese Tea Ceremony. Well then, you must have come to the conclusion that Matcha must not be cheap. That’s right, Matcha is generally more expensive than other types of tea, which is why I usually only stock up my precious stash whenever we visit Japan. It is rather expensive to acquire the quality types in Singapore.

And it is a given that I would always be on the lookout for any recipes that involved the usage of Matcha, in this case Matcha cookies.

Recipe: Matcha Cookies

Ingredients

  • 180g all-purpose flour
  • 20g Matcha
  • 160g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg, room temperature
  • 50g sliced almond

Instructions

  1. Sift together the flour and Matcha in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until texture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the egg and mix until fully incorporated.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients and stir lightly by hand with a rubber spatula until smooth. Gently fold in the sliced almonds.
  5. Form into 2 rolls on waxed papers and chill overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  7. Line a baking sheet with baking paper or silpat and set aside.
  8. Slice the chilled batter thinly and place them on the baking sheet.
  9. Bake for about 12-15 minutes
  10. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack to cool.

Yield: 15 cookies
[credits: Japanese Green Tea Hibiki-an]

Three kinds of people make up the world, well, at least to me, that is. The first kind do not like in the least bit anything to do with Matcha – they find the herbaceous taste offensive; the second kind do not mind their lives with or without Matcha; and the third kind, like me, cannot get enough of Matcha – we crave for Matcha like vampires crave for blood. Ermm… alright, that’s not a very apt analogy but you get the idea.

If you belong to the first group, do yourself a favour and skip this recipe. For people belonging to the second group, my guess is that you do not have Matcha readily available at home, and the price of Matcha would put you off trying out this recipe anyway. So that leaves us with the third group, the half-crazy group of us who treat any recipes with Matcha with utter reverence. You must try this recipe! But go ahead and half the recipe. I did, because the whole recipe would have used up too much of my Matcha. You see, I prefer to reserve my Matcha for drinking.

The cookies are not in the least crunchy and crispy, like other cookies we are used to. They are more, for lack of a better word, cake-like. You would have to try it to know what I’m talking about. One thing for certain, I will not be sharing my Matcha cookies. I have to confess that I am rather selfish where my Matcha is concerned.

Season’s Greeting!

Blowing Raspberries

I tried making this non-bake cheesecake slightly more than a couple of years ago for E, a very dear friend. Searching for a simple cake recipe suitable as E’s birthday cake proved to be quite a challenge because 1) I am really bad with cakes so I really require an easy no-fuss recipe and 2) the birthday girl to-be doesn’t fancy chocolate or creamy cakes. Knowing how much she likes tea, I scoured my books and trawled the internet for cakes that use tea leaves as alternative flavours, something along the line of Earl Grey Tea and the likes, but to no avail. Out of desperation, I abandoned the thought of a tea-flavoured cake and went for the final selection of a Raspberry Cheesecake. In my defence, this cake is really neither chocolatey nor creamy so it still fits the requirements. Kind of.

Recipe: Chilled Raspberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

Chilled Raspberry Cheesecake

  • 13 (200g) digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish gelatin
  • 300g cream cheese, softened
  • 125g sugar
  • 200-350g raspberry pureé
  • 125ml whipping cream

Jelly Top Layer

  • 1 packet of Tortally Raspberry jelly crystals
  • 1 tbsp fish gelatin
  • 200ml hot water
  • 200ml cold water

Instructions

  1. Prepare an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Mix the melted butter and digestive biscuits in a mixing bowl till bonded.
  3. Lay the mixture onto the pan until it covers the entire tray, using the back of a spoon to press the mixture down, till about 2 cm thick. Chill in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
  4. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a bowl and set aside until it turns spongy. Place bowl over hot water until the gelatin mixture turns clear.
  5. In another large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese till smooth.
  6. Add in the sugar and beat the batter till light and fluffy. Set aside.
  7. Add the dissolved gelatin mixture to the raspberry pureé in a separate bowl and mix well.
  8. Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the raspberry pureé mix to the whipping cream.
  9. Combine the raspberry mix with the cream cheese mix.
  10. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust and let it set for at least one hour in the refrigerator before pouring the jelly layer.
  11. Melt the jelly crystals and gelatin in hot water till dissolved. Add in the cold water. Let cool before pouring onto the chilled batter.
  12. Chill overnight until firm before serving.

Yield : 8-inch cake

The cake was quite a hit at the gathering for several reasons – it was delicious without being too rich, and it helped that the cake looked decently attractive enough to entice many non-cake lovers to give it a try. There was no leftovers to be handled at the end of the gathering. If anything, I take that as a sign of the cake’s popularity.

I plan to revisit this recipe soon, and I would probably make some improvements to the recipe, for example increasing the layer of raspberry layer to 1.5 times the current height and replacing the heart sprinkles in between the layers with strawberries or other fruits.

Ho Ho Ho Horlicks!

A few years back, these whimsical Horlicks Doggie Cookies were all the rage on the internet. Every other respectable baker I knew was trying it out and giving their verdict on the recipe on their own sites. Seeing how cute the cookies looked, I wasted no time in joining the bandwagon as well. I just had to satisfy my insatiable curiosity – how would Horlicks, my favourite drink from my childhood, taste like in a cookie?

Recipe: Horlicks Doggie Cookies

Ingredients

  • 200g top flour
  • 25g corn flour
  • 25g milk powder
  • 180g butter (Golden Churn recommended)
  • 80g horlicks
  • 100g large chocolate chips
  • some mini chocolate chips
  • a pack of Koko Krunch

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 140°C.
  2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper or silpat and set aside.
  3. Sift together the top flour, corn flour and milk powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and Horlicks in a large mixing bowl for about 3 minutes at low speed. Take care not to over-beat.
  5. Add in the sifted dry ingredients and beat for about 1 minute to form dough.
  6. Divide dough into 11-12g each.
  7. Add 3-4 large chocolate chips into the divided dough and roll into balls. Place them neatly onto the baking sheet.
  8. Use the mini chocolate chips as the ‘nose’ and add 2 Koko Krunch for the ‘ears’.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the cookie is golden brown in colour.
  10. Remove baking sheet from oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Yield : 25 cookies

My verdict? These cookies are as good as they could get! Just steer clear if you’re not a big Horlicks fan.

These cookies are simply super-duper c.u.t.e., and I’m positively sure they will be such a hit with young children. I’m most certainly too late to get into my nephews and nieces’ good books for Christmas this year, not to mention that we would also be out of town. However, I am absolutely determined to become their most favourite auntie again during Lunar New Year next year!

If you are, like me, in a situation where you have several young children to please, then this recipe is a keeper for sure!

Melting Moments

This Melting Moments recipe is my personal favourite because as the name suggests, it simply melts in the mouth. I tend to like pastries and the likes that are not saccharine sweet, and this is one of the few savoury recipes I treasure. Once you’ve started popping one into your mouth, you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished the last of the lot. This, you can be rest assured.

Recipe: Melting Moments

Ingredients

  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • 75g corn flour
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 55g icing sugar
  • pinch of fine salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare a baking tray lined with Silpat or non-stick baking paper.
  3. Sift together the flours.
  4. Sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add in the butter and salt to the sugar and beat the mixture till light and fluffy.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract.
  7. Gradually add in the sifted flours until combined.
  8. Place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle and pipe 1-inch rounds onto the prepared baking tray.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden.
  10. Cool the cookies on the baking tray.

Yield: 45 cookies

I like baking these cookies as a simple treat for family and friends because preparing and baking them are rather hassle-free. It helps that the requisite ingredients are easily always available in any baking enthusiast’s refrigerator, including mine. With such a simple recipe, you won’t need much elbow grease too.

If you like having your cookies turn out looking like roses, use Wilton’s 2D tip like I did. I must caution though, that this recipe churns out batter of rather stiff consistency, so expect the ‘roses’ you pipe to have jagged edges.

These cookies keep well, for a couple of weeks in an air-tight container. Since Christmas is around the corner, this recipe is a good start if you want to please family and friends alike.

Happy baking!

Swirling in Nutella

This simple tried-and-tested recipe is always a crowd pleaser. I’ve noticed that adults and children alike simply cannot get enough of the nutella swirled into the cupcakes. It is galling for a non-nutella fan to fathom the fervent devotion we fans have for this chocolaty hazelnut spread. While I can’t speak for other nutella fans, I do know why I love it thus much – it brings back fond memories of my happy childhood.

Recipe: Nutella Swirl Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 550g all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 280g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g white caster sugar
  • 6 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g nutella, approx.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Prepare 25 cupcake liners on 2 baking sheets.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking power and fine salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl till texture is light and fluffy.
  5. Add in the eggs, one at at time till fully incorporated.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract.
  7. Gradually add in the dry ingredients into the wet mix in 3 portions, till well-mixed.
  8. Fill each cupcake liner with batter till about 3/4 full. Top up with a dollop of nutella each, then use a toothpick to swirl the nutella into the batter.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before storing.

Yield: 25 regular cupcakes

Honestly, I found the sugar content in this recipe a tad too high for my liking. Indeed, the cupcakes turned out somewhat sweeter than my tastebuds would allow. Feel free to reduce the amount of sugar to 280g. Reducing it any further could affect the consistency of the batter, and in turn, how the cupcakes turn out.

If you’re not much of a nutella fan, you could belong to the other camp – the peanut butter lover – and never the twain shall meet. Or perchance, you belong to the rare minority who loves both nutella and peanut butter, just like the hubby. Whichever the case, no one goes away disappointed, for peanut butter works just as well as nutella in this recipe.

Have fun, and drop me a note to let me know how much you love this recipe!

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