Archive for the Desserts Category

Jamie O’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , on June 23, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Chocolate brownies. You either make them, or you break them. I have seen countless recipes on the Internet, and I have tasted as many different interpretations of them as well. The thing about chocolate brownies is that they’re very much like coffee – everyone has their preferences. Some like them with nuts, others like them plain; some barely display a hint of chocolate in them, others are loaded with so much chocolate I swear my nose would bleed on the spot; these are the worst ones – floury, dry, and just plain awful.

And then there are Jamie Oliver’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies, which I swear are BLOOMIN’ BRILLIANT indeed! Very much THE BOMB.

Now these brownies are loaded with everything unhealthy. For a recipe that makes approximately 20 brownies (little ones at that), it has a record-breaking 250g of butter, 300g of sugar, 200g of chocolate and 4 eggs. That makes for a LOT of fat per brownie, virtually artery-clogging stuff. But oh golly these are truly the best brownies I have ever tasted! They are moist, fudgey, the perfect degree of chocolateyness (if there is ever such a word), yet firm without being at all too crumbly.

I did have to bake it an extra 10 minutes as the mixture had barely set, but I have a feeling that my oven was to blame for that. I also realised that the brownie does firm up when cooled, so even if your test skewer came out unclean, that’s no harm done (in fact you’d probably get an even moister, fudgier end-result). Mine was very slightly on the dry side, perhaps a little too long in the oven, but I suspect the amount of fat in the mixture made up for it and yielded the most tender crumb.

I also sprinkled a little magic over the brownies before baking them – a mixture of light brown sugar, cocoa powder, and yes, fleur de sel.


Chocolate Guinness Cake

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , , on March 23, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean
Chocolate Guinness Cake

Chocolate Guinness Cake

Curiosity got the better of the cat and I ended up making the chocolate Guinness cake. It turned out very well, although the taste of Guinness wasn’t as prominent as I’d have liked it to be. Nevertheless it made for a great chocolate cake – moist, dense, and sinfully fudgey.

I especially loved the cream cheese icing that was smothered over the cake. The slight tangy-sweet cloud of cream cheese+icingsugar+cream, calorie-packed as it was, seemed to soften yet highlight the intensity of chocolate in the cake (and trust me, it was VERY chocolatey).

It was at its best straight out of the oven, but I’ve had it in the fridge for the last 2 days and it is still delectably moist and fudgey even when cold.

Would I make it again? Yes I would, but only if I weren’t serving it to a group of girls on a diet. Does Nigella ever make anything healthy?

Which Chocolate Takes The Cake?

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , , on March 20, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

We’re celebrating JC’s birthday tomorrow, and I have volunteered my cake-baking expertise (or lack of) to make her a birthday cake. This is a perfect excuse to try out the treasure of chocolate cake recipes in Nigella’s Feast, but this unfortunately leaves me with another problem: which recipe should I try?

There’s the chocolate espresso cake that I made the last time (that was highly successful and a show-stealer, and is almost fail-proof), and then there’s the chocolate Guinness cake, the honey chocolate cake, etc.

I love the chocolate espresso cake for its moistness. Flavour wise, it was intense almost to the point of being dense, yet it was light and airy too (lots of eggs and only a few tablespoonfuls of flour – you do the math); at the same time the Guinness cake sounds intriguing enough to attempt, and I have read many a rave review about the cake.

So I will head home tonight and contemplate which cake my dearest JC would be getting for her birthday. That leaves me with one last consideration: how kosher is it to serve a Guinness cake at your Bible study meeting?

Truffle Love

Posted in Chocolate, Recipes with tags , , on November 19, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

We realised it was B’s birthday 2 days ago, thanks to my wonderful Facebook reminder. After cracking our heads as to what present to get her (and she pretty much has everything; what she wants and doesn’t have, we probably can’t afford!), we decided to make her some lovely home-made chocolate truffles.

We flipped a couple of recipe books (Gordon Ramsay, Vue de Monde, etc) but found the Alton Brown recipe from Food Network the simplest and least fussy of all.

We heated some double cream, melted some butter, and poured the boiling fat over a bowl of Monsieur Truffe’s 70% cocoa chips. Stirred and cooled it over a bowl of ice, and there we had our ganache! It was absolutely easy peasy and such a delight to make!

A whole bowl of ooooozey chocolatey goodness!



We also had 3 types of coatings – the classic Belgian (couverture chocolate coating dusted with cocoa powder), blitzed pistachios, and lastly some more Monsieur Truffe cocoa chips that we massacred in the blender. My favourite was the classic Belgian truffle, although I enjoyed all 3.

Pistachio Truffles

Pistachio Truffles

Classic Belgian truffles

Classic Belgian truffles

Packed the gems in a spanking new Decor container, tied it up with a ribbon, and voila!

Birthday Box

Happy Birthday B!

And now let’s just hope she enjoys the truffles. They were made with love!

Gânache Revisited

Posted in Cafes, Chocolate, Desserts with tags , on July 15, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Last Saturday evening while on our way to the Jman’s surprise party, I managed to convince him to stop by Gânache to stall for time, while the other guests were still streaming into the restaurant. This diversion was dead easy, and took no effort on my part to get him away from the incomplete party.

This time, unlike the last, we were there for the chocolate. No fancy-schmancy cakes or hot chocolate. We just wanted chocolate (of course, we didn’t have that much time on our hands either). We had a look at the display and were pleasantly surprised by a couple of new sightings on the shelf, despite most of them bearing an uncanny resemblance to the display at Koko Black. But I digress.

To cut the long story short, I was impressed. Most worthy of mention is the salted almond chocolate. The salt on the chocolate, as alien as it may sound, was most delicate and wonderful. The juxtapositioning of savoury and sweet was perfectly balanced, enhancing the flavour of chocolate in your mouth. Oooh, it was absolutely stunning and a clear winner in my books!

We also tried the figaro – fig, nuts and I-can’t-remember-what-else chopped roughly into a semi-pastey state, then wrapped under a ring of dark chocolate. The Jman thought it was quite interesting, but it didn’t sit too well with me. Then again, it was probably more of a personal preference than anything else.

The Jman’s favourite was the chocolate bar with cocoa nibs. That was my next favourite after the salty almond one. With a 60% cocoa content, it was sufficiently intense without being overpowering nor cloying. Even his grandma liked it!

I’ve got the feeling that Mr. Backes is starting to outdo himself, and I’m secretly pleased that he has just taken himself a notch higher. I’m also secretly hoping he doesn’t expand his business at all, as that almost always spells an absolute disaster in the making.

And by the way, has anyone gotten wind of Monsieur Truffe’s flagship store/cafe yet? The last time we spoke to him, he made mention of the possibility of a store/cafe in some place (I shan’t name it for his sake), but I’ve driven up and down the stretch of road and have yet to find it).

Cooking Backlog and the Bistro Flu Experience

Posted in Asian Cooking, Baking, Chocolate, Desserts, Food Reviews, Restaurants, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

“Water, water everywhere
But not a drop to drink”

This could be said for myself in the case of blogging – I’m surrounded by computers and Internet access everywhere, but I’ve nary had the time to sit down and blog, much less download, edit, and upload photos of my gastronomic endeavours in here.

Nevertheless, it’s not been all that still in the kitchen front. I’ve spent the weekend catching up on my cooking at the expense of vacuuming my carpet, but at least I am happy as a clam and so is the Jman.

The Foodworks store near my place had these lovely skinny chickens (they even had less fat than some of the free range ones I’ve seen!) on offer (2 little chooks for $10) and I couldn’t resist so I bought a pack and went home to cook Hainanese chicken rice, complete with the zinger-of-a-chilli-sauce and ginger sauce.

Guess who was a happy man?

[stay tuned for recipe!]

Weekend @ Bistro Vue

It was our 4th anniversary last weekend, and to celebrate the occasion, I baked him a tray of fudge-coated mocha cupcakes and arranged them into the number “4”…at the risk of looking/sounding tacky (as you can see, I’d already exhausted all creative avenues in the first 3 years). I had a bit of an (mis)adventure there: the first batch I made were a total flop due to not one, not two, no not even three, but FOUR factors that could’ve possibly contributed to the disaster. I haven’t decided which was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I’ll leave you to decide for yourself:

  1. I used duck eggs (after reading about it from Haalo‘s)
  2. The duck eggs I used were twice the size of normal eggs and I altered the recipe accordingly (to the weight, that is). I could’ve mis-measured the ingredients!
  3. I had a dumb blonde moment and kept thinking that 2oz off oil equated to 2 tablespoons. Guess who had a rubber cake?
  4. I handwhisked everything (although I can’t see why this would be a problem)

It was about 1pm when I was done with the first batch, and 3.30 by the time I decided that I would have to make a second attempt. It would’ve been a shame if we’d gone by our fourth anniversary without something, wouldn’t it? So between then and 5pm, I went and made a fresh batch of cakes and a fudge frosting a la Awfully Chocolate.

The result (I went back to using chicken eggs) was beautiful although the rushed frosting job meant less-than-perfect-looking cakes, but thankfully the Jman is not particularly fussed when it comes to the aesthetic department.

Later that night, the Jman took me out for the REAL celebration at Bistro Vue (kid sister to the highly-accoladed Vue de Monde, but more on that later). Through the course of dinner, we discovered a couple of interesting things about ourselves, our Vue de Cuisine (which means view of the kitchen, figuratively – sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), and how our literal view of the kitchen from where we were seated served more as a bane than a balm to our whole dining experience.

We were seated right in front of the kitchen window which was far too noisy. We could hear too much shouting, the head chef for the night seemed to be running on the edge, and the overbearing noise was nothing like what we remembered in our past visits. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the best spot for a romantic 4th anniversary dinner although I’m sure that the couple schmoozing at the corner of the restaurant might beg to differ.

In short, we found that the restaurant is no longer as good as what it used to be (we saw limp soufflés being served!), and the bread was no longer to-die-for (we even thought it was a little bit stale). This, I confirmed with the baker-of-a-Jman, was not a figment of my South-Beach-permeated imagination.

For starters, I had the escargots with chicken spring rolls. I loved the escargots, and wished I could just have an order of them. The spring rolls were nice, light and crispy but it was a little too Asian for me. The Jman ordered the French onion soup; he loved the soup, but hated the puff pastry on top and wistfully wished that it was served fitted with a perfectly-cut round of real toast instead. I liked it anyhow and had no complaints.

Then we had our mains. He ordered the wagyu sirloin to be done medium rare, while I ordered the prawn salad (hello South Beach). Unfortunately his steak came out medium (almost medium-done) instead, which he lamented was a shame because he could feel the tenderness of the meat trapped in its overdone state. Pity, pity. The real winner of the show, however, was the prawn salad – a generous serving of 7 perfectly-grilled HUGE prawns served on a tiny bed of mash and salad leaves. They were thick, fat, juicy and sweet, almost like mini lobsters but even better. We enjoyed them tremendously and wished for some more!

Dessert, unfortunately, was the least impressive of the lot and a very sad way to end off the meal. It was my fault as I insisted on dessert, thinking that a fine meal like this would be sad without one. Typically, I’d have made the natural selection of the soufflé au chocolat, but since (1) I was full, (2) there was chocolate cake back home, and (3) the last 2 soufflés I saw were limp, we chose the lemon cake with banana and coconut sorbet instead.

We were sorely disappointed: the lemon cake was too dense and too sweet. The rum on the banana was overpowering. The coconut sorbet tasted like frozen coconut cream. We didn’t end up finishing our dessert and left the place feeling a little…unsatisfied. If anything, it was the impeccable service of our Very Tall Waiter that saved the day.

So what went wrong? Was it a case of a “bad hair day” for the chef? Are they new and inexperienced? Or heavens forbid, complacency?

We initially made plans of saving up for a grand dinner at Vue de Monde one day, just to experience it for ourselves and see what the hullaballoo is all about. Apparently it’s one of those 100 things you’ve got to do before you die and I’ve really been looking forward to it. Well, we’re not all that sure now, and we’re thinking that that money might be put to better use by getting us two-thirds way to a KitchenAid mixer.

I’ve also since nicknamed the restaurant to Flu de Monde, or Bistro Flu in this case, after having that notoriously familiar feeling of the flu when I went home that very night. Familiar because it was the exact same feeling I had the first time I went there half a year ago, and was struck down with the worst-ever case of the flu that very night. It was the flu that I’ll never forget as it left me incapacitated for two full weeks and it sucked dry my year’s supply of medical leave. Was it the cassoulet? Or was it the frites fried in goose fat?

Thankfully, “the feeling” went away with my arsenal of peppermint tea, vitamins and supplements.

Perhaps it’s my impending trip back home, or it could be the weather, but I felt like something Chinese, something familiar, yet something different and something I’d never tried before.

So I made “claypot rice” (sans claypot), or “one-pot rice” as better known in some other parts of the world. The Cantonese call this “sar poh fun” (claypot rice) or “yao mei fun” (tasty rice), and this basically consists of any marinated meat mixture cooked in the rice. The authentic ones, traditionally, have chicken pieces, Chinese sausage, waxed meats and mushrooms in them and are cooked over very high heat before it is simmered. The result is a smoky one-pot treasure bursting with flavour and a charred crusty layer of rice at the bottom to boot.

I will post the recipe of what I cooked last night (as well as my chicken rice recipe) in my next post, although it is a pared down version of the Real McCoy that you get in hawker centres in Singapore. The bonus of this recipe is that you really don’t require special equipment, and ingredients are pretty standard fare in anyone’s pantry.

Gânache Chocolate is the New Black

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags , , on May 24, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Everyone, I’m pleased to announce that the new Old Koko Black is back. Walking past the Gânache Chocolate‘s brightly-lit signboard on the bustling Toorak Road, one could easily mistake this shop for another one of those try-too-hard mass-market chocolatiers who promise the world but leave you with pittance. The signboard is too modern for something as sexy and French as chocolate, in my humble opinion. “Meh.“, I tell the Jman. But after reading about it over at Syrup & Tang’s, I realise that this new kid on the block is no small player. (Ah, classic case of never to judge a book by its cover!)

Arno Backes, one of the founding chocolatiers of Koko Black, is the mastermind behind all this. For those who remember Koko Black in its heydays before it went mass-market (and sadly downhill as with any establishment that branches out), when it was still confined within its tiny four walls on Bourke Street Arcade, Koko Black was the chocolate shop of the moment (Monsieur Truffe aside). I remember the hot chocolate back then – wonderfully rich, with the fruitiness of the cocoa dancing in your mouth with each sip that you take. It was divine, it was the best hot chocolate I’d tasted. Sadly, when I returned a few years later, Koko Black’s hot chocolate had been reduced to nothing more than chocolate syrup in over-frothed, overheated milk. It was flat, it had a horrid aftertaste. Worst of all, unsuspecting customers still went back for more, validating its worst-ever recipe for success.

The truffles, too, were no longer carried out of the chocolate room on trays; they are now taken out of boxes from the chiller underneath the counter, a sign that these little gems are no longer made on the premises. They are, shock-horror, mass produced. While they are still miles better when pitted against the plebian Cadbury bar (although I have to qualify I am a sucker for Cadbury chocolates too, albeit on a different plane), and are enough to satisfy my chocolate cravings, it no longer possesses the element freshness I once remembered it had. It was that element that differentiated it from every other chocolatier in Melbourne. As Syrup & Tang puts it very succinctly, it is heading down the slippery slope of becoming the Starbucks of chocolate.

And so last night, the Jman and I paid homage to Gânache Chocolate to decide for ourselves if we were going to like this new kid on the block. Stepping through the interiors of the shop, one would immediately pick up a few striking similarities to Koko Black (sorry that I keep comparing, but I can’t help but notice the similarities) – the dark-wooded panels, display shelves, high ceilings and the hoity-toityness that comes along with anything French. I liked how the tables were tucked behind the shop, giving its patrons that little bit of privacy, but the deafening silence of the place made me feel like a giant rampaging through the corridor as my heels click-clocked their way to the table.

We placed our orders with Arno who, I must say, had the most impeccable manners to match up to the aura of the place. I spied the cake display and picked the most chocolatey one available, a chocolate brownie (which really was more like a chocolate truffle cake). We also had the hot chocolate that would have been unforgiveable not to order. I was surprised at how long our orders took to arrive, seeing how the shop had no more than 10 customers, but they finally came anyway. Perhaps all of us 10 customers came at the same time, because the table next to ours that came later received their orders fairly quickly.

I sipped the hot chocolate first. It was good. It was as good as what Koko Black used to serve. Inside my mind I was secretly applauding profusely as I heaved a sigh of relief that FINALLY, Melbourne has regained a decent hot chocolate. It was smooth, rich and chocolatey, yet not cloyingly sweet to sicken me. The cake, however, was slightly under my expectations. It was good, or at least decent, but perhaps not as intense as I would have liked it to be. Given that this was the only chocolate cake available (the others being fruity ones or chocolate mousses), I thought that this would be the one to steal the show, but it didn’t. It didn’t have the lingering chocolate sensation that most kickass chocolate cakes would give you the satisfaction of, the same feeling that I got out of Grossi Florentino’s chocolate marquis (which sadly, they no longer make) or the chocolate truffle cake at The Westin, Melbourne. Even the Gateaux Chocolat and Le Royale at Canelé Pâtisserie in Singapore did it better for me.

That said, I believe that Gânache Chocolate has a lot of potential. As long as they focus on doing what they do best, polish up on the rough edges and avoid going down the slippery slope of expansion, they can still sit at the helm of being the best commercial chocolatier in Melbourne (as long as we consider Monsieur Truffe to be in a league of its own, that is) now that Koko Black has relinquished the top spot with its numerous outlets (ouch that hurts) mushrooming up all over the city. That, my friends, has always been the recipe for disaster.

Truth be told, I am cynical that Gânache Chocolate will ever be better than what Koko Black used to be; it can only be as good as, unless fresh blood is pumped in. But for what it’s worth, Arno’s a winner in my eyes because his chocolates are freshly made on premises, and because his hot chocolate is pretty darn good. I just hope it stays that way because I’m not sure if my weak chocolate heart could bear the heartbreak of another disappointment.

Welcome back, Arno. You were sorely missed.

Gânache Chocolate
250 Toorak Road
South Yarra 3141
(03) 9804 7485