Wilton Decorating Courses

My finale cake from Level 2, royal icing and basket weave

Today is my last day of cake decorating, completed Wilton Course 3 – yay!

To beef up my decorating skills, I joined the Wilton Course Level 1 in May, learning to pipe and frost cakes with buttercream icing. Verdict : Fun but frosting too sweet for most Asian tastebuds! I learned a lot about the different tips providing different effects on the cake – it is a like a whole new world just opened up to me! But one thing I learned is and got confirmed again, I have no patience and you need it here!

I continued to Level 2 and 3 with Tricia Tjhin (my Level 1 was with Melena Yeong, another great teacher at B-I-Y at Bukit Timah Road). In Level 2 I was taught to handle royal icing. Verdict: Easy cleaning, dries very fast, less messy but still very sweet).  As for Level 3, I learnt how to handle fondant and made fondant roses and more royal icing flowers like the lily and morning glory, tiering cakes. Verdict : More polished look with fondant, and great pairing with royal icing to make a beautiful tiered cake – so wedding cakes, here I come! Learnt more flowers of course and borders.

My finale cake from Level 3, fondant cover and roses, with royal icing borders and design

So will I continue to Level 4? Not likely, I think I have had enough of flower making, more interested in practising to make figurines and models with fondant and royal icing. I will be snooping around for books and magazines or maybe YouTube videos to learn up more!

All in all, I had great fun and definitely am more confident in dressing up my cakes. Will certainly be experimenting on various frostings while only adding buttercream/fondant/royal icing for more complicated designs in order to provide the picture perfect cake!

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Slow Food

Some of you may have heard of the Slowfood movement started by Carlo Petrini, in Bra, Italy. It is a brilliant concept especially in the worldly sense of a gourmet foodie. They have several key objectives expounded , for e.g.  Terra Madre, help and educate communities to get back in touch with the agricultural roots in a sustainable way with fair trading practices to support them, encouraging bio-diversity and preserving food heritages around the world. That was the evolution of slow food.

Initially, it started with the aim to fight against the rise in popularity of fast food, the way we eat where most do not appreciate or care where their food comes from. The whole concept of going back to basics and eating simple but good food has lost its way in our fast paced lives.  A sad phenomeneon. This is very much in line with my own personal beliefs of physical well being through wholesome food.

I considered to be a member of Slowfood for a while now, there is even a convivium here in Singapore  http://slowfoodsingapore.com/?page_id=7 , whose theme appears to revolve only on enjoying good and fine food, not that it is all wrong. Quoting and unquoting their website ” dedicated to the enjoyment of fine dining and good company” which I felt fall short of addressing the social issues of eating well ( although rather a good idea to rediscover and encourage slow cooking and the finer art of dining).

Singapore being dependent on imported raw ingredients I truly believe can play a big role in demanding their suppliers to farm ethically, clean and with fair working conditions. Singapore is a wealthy nation , it can afford to be more socially conscious as a foodie society. Everyone here claims they love to eat, and live to eat – imagine the influence they could have in instilling Slowfood’s true principals of clean, organic, preserving tradition and eating sustainably to their neighbouring countries and of their suppliers?

I did not join this convivium as it did not really appeal to my beliefs, but I did finally become a member of Slowfood Italy.  Let’s eat with conscience and know and demand quality food that is sustainable and clean. It is not easy, but if it helps heal the earth and promote better lifes, I think that is worth it. So check this out : http://www.simplesteps.org/food

The latest newsletter had a personal editorial from Carlo Petrini, which I would like to share as it is timely what he is calling for:

The tradition of the “Virtù Teramane”, still celebrated in early May each year in Abruzzo, central Italy, is one of those popular rituals from the past that pushes us to think about our present and our future. The peasant society around Teramo that created this virtù, a kind of stew, no longer exists, but it still offers many lessons for these wasteful and careless times we live in. If back then they had to “make a virtue of necessity,” today it is virtue that has become a necessity.
This dish was skillfully prepared by local women who created a complex soup from the bits and pieces left in the store cupboard from the winter months, like dried beans, different pasta shapes and scraps of pork, which were not always easy to incorporate into regular dishes. The first spring vegetables from the garden were then added, along with fresh legumes, fresh pasta and other meat such as pieces of ham and fried meatballs. There is no single recipe for virtù. The skill lies in turning an endless list of ingredients into something more than just a simple soup, something balanced and delicious.
Virtù is illuminating because it teaches us the value of saving, of reuse and recycling. It is a hymn against waste, but also a symbol of sharing and belonging to a community. In fact, families would traditionally offer their virtù to their neighbors and relatives. Forgetting someone often led to quarrels and even the deterioration of relationships.
When someone tells me that good food is expensive, I like to tell them about Virtù Teramane, because first and foremost it is a dish of rare quality. And if once it was truly a zero-cost dish, even now its ingredients are not going to break the bank. But rather than trying to replicate it perfectly, let’s grasp the meaning behind this tradition. We need to go back to cooking that incorporates leftovers, to being thrifty with the food that we have and being prepared to pay a fair price to farmers. Virtù teaches us that food is precious and that we can create wonderful meals from what’s left over. It also takes us back to the social significance of food, to a reciprocity that in times of global crisis becomes a revolutionary economic force. In our own small way, let’s seek to recreate virtù at home, and let’s start now. Let’s begin the fight against food waste. Do it for yourself, for the planet and for those in great need. Let’s renew tradition and show just how modern it can be.
I would like those great creative chefs out there to think for a moment about cooking with leftovers and come up with some new recipes for us for reusing the ingredients we have at home. But most of all I would like the Terra Madre communities to tell us about their traditional recipes using leftovers so we can share them with the whole network. This is how to move from making a virtue out of necessity to understanding that virtue (and virtù) is a necessity.

Carlo Petrini
Slow Food President

Final Cake Decorating Class

By now, I should be an expert on buttercream roses, well I am getting there. For our final day at class today, we all had to make a cake, torte it , frosted and prepare decorations for the cake. Part of the compulsory item is the rose. We had to make 5!

I even had ants all over the floor yesterday, while trying to perfect my wilton rose. Imagine how stressful that was. I managed to clean the kitchen up and my roses improved somewhat – incredible feat considering I was so stressed out on Tuesday when I made a batch of icing to practise on the roses. I still think I have an issue with my homemade icing, too stiff as the petals kept breaking up at the edges. I have to get better at it.  That is for another day.

So I made 10 roses, baked a cake, torte and iced it and ready for today. Here is the finale cake – decorating went slightly overboard!

The cake before I went overboard

 

And now after

That is just the beginning, I hope more professional looking cakes are to come – but for now I am taking a short break from buttercream! 🙂

My El Bulli Day

23rd April 2010  – goes down as the highlight of my culinary world, meeting Ferran Adria (El Bulli fame) close up and personal. For the World Gourmet Summit 2010 in Singapore, Ferran was invited to give a talk about El Bulli’s past, present and future, in conjunction with Spain’s Tourism new advertising campaign to lure more Asian travellers to the country . It was broken down to 2 sessions. The first was held in Capella on Sentosa on 22nd April while the second installment was at the Singapore Repertory Theatre, the following day.

Ferran spoke spanish and with the help of a translator he explained his concepts and philosophy about his method of food preparation. He cited Michel Bras as one of the leading creative thinkers in the culinary world – came up with the notion of a ‘biscuit de chocolat coulant‘ – a chocolate dessert, hard on the exterior but liquid in the centre, now copied world wide by every high end to low end restaurants, dessert makers and chocolate factories!

Ferran of course, a cutting edge creative thinker in his very own right – molecular gastronomy has impacted fine dining all over, his techniques are now being copied by many michelin star restaurants. Incidentally El Bulli is  a 3 michelin star restaurant in Spain, close to Barcelona. But alas, in February 2010, Ferran announced he will close El Bulli forever in its current form likely in 2012, and reopenning it as an academy instead.

So yesterday was super special to meet and hear the maestro speaks about his passion, his team and his techniques, his favourites are siphon, liquid nitrogen and the dehydration method of preparing food. The visuals of his food preparation is out of this world.. truly. Textures and techniques are so very core of his cooking. He admitted though, his own view of the world has widened since, he realised the soya sauce he has in his home and have been using,  was  not the best and the humble miso is more sophisticated that is appears, the many types you can find in Japan and the quality is so variable, the best ones are truly the best – Europe has never seen or tried it before. We continuously learn something new each day, even the maestro.

Photo from Blog Paradizo.Com

It was his first time in Singapore, I am sure he will be drawing a lot of inspirations to his kitchen or academy in the future to explore further how science, technology and nature can excite our senses even more. That being said, I concluded although the much coveted table in El Bulli is prize winning to be joyful over, I doubt I will make it there in time before it closes.

Not all is lost, there are many trained proteges of Ferran around that may provide us the glimpse of that world. To be honest, this type of food disconstruction meal may not be everyone’s idea of good food or fine dining, it is more of a space exploration, a discovery journey when you do decide to venture into the world of El Bulli. And that I think is something one should try at least once during their lifetime. Anyways, I know I would be happy to go back to Cinc Sentits for high end comfort food in Barcelona if all else fails, run by the Artal siblings.

Finally I met Ferran and got his autograph, for all his fame – he appeared to be truly humble and extremely passionate. That is a true sign of a genius.

Mad About Macarons

macaron

Paulette Macarons

The world it seemed has gone mad about macarons.  I don’t blame her, I am too. Cupcake craze is yesterday  – today they are these dainty sweets. Both are rather similar, pretty to look at and heavenly in taste – although not entirely the same thing, one is a cake while the other is , well a macaron, light as a feather and yet it can satisfy your sweet craving to the fullest.

I have to admit I am more fascinated by the way they look and I love their diverse fillings and somehow they don’t feel as heavy as your regular cupcake. I guess it does depend on what craving you are trying to fulfill. They are made of sugar, egg whtes and finely ground almonds and you can add a variety of flavours and colours to them. As for the filling, any combination you can think of , I supposed goes!

Of course they are french – and they are all over the place today. Thank god for that. Some interesting recommended macaron shops around are:

If you find others worth trying out, do drop me a note, a macaron crawl is in the waiting..

Madeleine’s Madteater

madeleine

In 20 days we are packing for our next posting, this time to Singapore. This weekend though, we will make a quick hop over to one of my favourite cities of the world – Copenhagen to see family and friends before our final departure to the Far East. Which came to mind, a different, interesting dining experience I should share with you. For those of you who love food and are looking for something a little more unusual (no, not like eating scorpions or strange body parts of animals) but a rather nouvelle way of dining where you get to taste and almost play with your food.

When visiting Madeline’s Madteater, I felt like Alice in Wonderland attending one of Madhatter’s tea parties. It is like having all your senses bombarded at the same time, with the core focus still being food. By the way, it is not really a MAD THEATRE but a food theatre (play of words, as ‘mad’ means food in danish).

Madeline’s Madteater is a unique and unusual culinary experience with experimental theatrics thrown in to heighten one’s experience with the subject – food. Depending on the theme, the diners have no choice but to get involved.

This one, run by some danish people – decided to combine food and theatrics to heighten our senses while dining.  ‘The Senses’ was the theme I attended 4 years back with a friend. We had Gotan Project playing in the background, and a white screen surrounding us with dancers sprawling across it while having our appetisers – candy beetroot dipped in salt! Check their website out :  http://www.madeleines.dk/

madeleine

The people behind Madeleine’s are Mette Sia Martinussen and Nikolaj Danielsen as they work together with other well known chefs, scientists and musicians to create this masterful dining experience. 

Madeline’s Madteater has been focusing mainly on all five senses as their main theme. Their latest project, however requires their guests fast on the day of their visit, to encourage physical and spiritual nourishment combining with taste to produce an even more heightened dining experience. Crazy? Yeah but fun and you actually get to eat some good food too.

I Cannoli Siciliani

 

cannoli

Photo from http://www.croce-delizia.blogspot.com

Finally we watched the trilogy ” The Godfather” – how appropriate, the fact we are based in Venice today, ok, ok , probably more so if we had been living in Palermo or somewhere in Sicily. I think what was most amazing besides watching this classic of a family drama of the Corleone family, was seeing the actors especially Al Pacino aging perfectly for each part of the trilogy as Michael Corleone. Ottimo!

Unfortunately I could not forget the cannoli they kept serving up in the movie.  Not likely I will be going to Sicily in the very near future hence the hunt for a cannoli recipe has begun. I found a few youtube videos but since I do not have any aluminium cannoli tubes, I would just have to wait for another day when I’ve managed to get my hands on some, that or an actual box of cannoli from Sicily, whichever comes first – hopefully the latter, so I know how an authentic and very good cannolo tastes like . Why? So that 1) I can compare with the generic cannoli I have tried to see what standard I should judge a perfect cannolo to be 2) and should I be brave enough to make them meself.. how far I am from perfection. As for the recipe, there are several on the internet – hmm this I suspect will be a long on-going project.

For now I just have to settle with this photo  from a beautiful food blog (unfortunately in Italian) I stumbled upon while looking for a cannoli recipe.