Friday, October 21, 2005

SHF #13: Dark Chocolate

cake, originally uploaded by emily loke.

For me, chocolate is an obsession, an addiction, a passion. Besides being a significant part of me physically (hips – need I say more?), chocolate as an element has, over the years, become interwoven with so many memories that I now find it quite hard to separate myself from it emotionally.

Chocolate was there the night my god brother and I stayed up well past our bedtimes, cloistered in the kitchen making milkshakes out of anything sweet we could find. It was all over us when our mothers finally discovered what we were up to, and was smudged across our very faces that contorted horribly as we tried to feign innocence while holding back laughter at the same time.

When problems in our lives weighed too heavily on our shoulders, chocolate was always present – in the form of Irish Cream brownies – during the long sessions of mutual commiseration M and I shared. Crumbs of it were in the water of her pool the night M and I swore to never let physical distance change our friendship. It was smeared into our clothing as we hugged each other goodbye. It was promised a place of honour in our next meeting, whenever that happened to be.

In my fondest memory of it to date, chocolate in a luxurious molten state oozed out of the warm cakes N, G and I would share as we swilled champagne cocktails and allowed our giggles to drift through night air tinted blue with cigarette smoke. It was there- in that cake, served with 3 forks – each time I would return home to see them. It was there to mark summers of adrenaline-fuelled euphoria, to kick off nights of parties that always ended too soon. It was on our table the night we toasted to a lifetime of summers just like that one.

Chocolate was there tonight as part of a comfort food lineup D and I shared as we bemoaned family, school, boys and life in general. It was eaten in the kind of silence only good friends would find comfortable – the kind that is inevitably followed by hours and hours of talking about somethings and nothings and everything in between. It was a non-verbal way to tell D to cheer up: that no matter how unbearable life seemed at times, she’d always have friends like me and chocolate.

For R, my god brother who I think of every time I have a tooth-achingly sweet milkshake, for M who brownies just don’t taste the same without, for N and G who at the same time live far away in person and close to me in my heart, and finally for D whose happiness I am wishing for: should any of you ever decide to make this dessert, may the memories associated with its chocolate content be as rich and sweet as the confection itself.

Molten Chocolate Memory Cake

For the cake:
1 egg white
1 pinch cream of tartar
4 tbs sugar
½ cup chopped dark chocolate
4 tbs cocoa powder
4 tbs butter
1 pinch grey sea salt

For the cream:
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbs icing sugar
2 tsp orange liqueur

1. Microwave chocolate, cocoa powder, salt and butter together till melted, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
2. Meanwhile, whisk egg white with cream of tartar still frothy, then add sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.
3. When chocolate mixture is melted and smooth, add into the egg whites and whisk gently till just combined.
4. Grease 4 small ramekins (about 2 inches diameter) and coat with granulated sugar.
5. Ladle batter in till ¾ way full, and bake for in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes (or till tops are set, but insides are still wet).
6. While the cakes are baking, add icing sugar and liqueur to cream and beat till stiff.
7. When the cakes are done, invert carefully onto plates and serve immediately, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Quintessential Fall Cookie

cookies, originally uploaded by emily loke.

Cheerfully hued and joyfully rotund, pumpkins are hard to hate. It may be the fact that they are so often endowed with faces that I attribute certain human characteristics to them, but the sight of them lined up in store windows always makes me think of them as caricatured individuals in a rather comical family. There’s the mother – round and upturned with humour, the father – dapperly wearing his stem like a shrunken top hat, the baby – squat and lumpy, the daughter – looking as though she’s sucking in her tummy…Well, you get the picture.

After that analogy, it seems like such a shame to admit the use of canned pumpkins in my baking, but short on time and long on impatience, it’s usually my only feasible option. Forced to use the first half of the can for a good-but-predictable pumpkin pie, I was determined to redeem myself with the second half and put it to good (slightly-more-creative) use: Pumpkin Spice Cookies! My obsession with these cookies is hard to explain. They’re soft, and I hate soft cookies. They’re iced, I think iced cookies are too sweet. They’re rustic (read: ugly) looking, and I’m really anal about presentation. So firmly do they go against my ideals of what a good cookie should be that it usually takes a lot of coaxing on A.’s part to get me to even consider making them – even though it’s no secret that when they’re done, I can mow through a plate of them without help.

With the help of my trusty KitchenAid mixer and my good friend D., the cookies were made so efficiently that only the rate at which the first batch disappeared could possibly have been faster. Squishy and heaped with haphazard dollops of saccharine icing, I still have no idea why I love these cookies – I just do. Sort of sounds like my attitude towards my roadkill fur coat from Kensington, actually…but I think I’ll save that story. A girl’s got to have some secrets!

Love-Hate Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups flower 

1 tsp baking powder 

1 tsp baking soda 

1 1/4 tsp salt 

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon 

1 1/4 tsp ginger 

3/4 tsp nutmeg 

1 ½ sticks butter softened 

2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar 

2 large eggs 

1 1/2 cups pumpkin mush
3/4 cup evaporated milk 

1 Tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Cream butter and brown sugar
2. Mix in all wet ingredients, blend till smooth (don’t worry if it looks like it’s separating).
3. Mix in all dry ingredients, blend till smooth.
4. Cram batter into a piping bag and pipe 1 ½ inch cookies about an inch apart on a lined baking sheet.
5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 12 minutes. When done, cookies should feel springy when pressed.

Icing ingredients

4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
10 Tbs butter 

5 Tbs Evaporated Milk 

2 Tsp Vanilla

1. Stick butter into a saucepan and cook till brown.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, pour melted butter over icing sugar. Scrape burnt bits into the bowl.
3. Add milk and vanilla and blend till smooth
4. Slap on top of cooled cookies.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In The Pink Roundup

It’s finally done!

I couldn’t understand why people kept saying “good luck with the roundup” till I started – it’s hard work! Thanks for your patience while I took my dear old time muddling through it, and to A. who is the most tolerant tech-support guy I know. Special thanks really has to go out to Jennifer, our Domestic Goddess, who gave me the advice I needed to grow In The Pink from an Idea into an Event, Ronald who graciously gave this event real estate on the Is My Blog Burning? website, and to Sam of Becks and Posh fame who hawked the virtues of this event not only on her blog, but on also Food Blog S’cool (no doubt breaking some school rules).

There was a point where I was convinced this event wouldn’t happen, and it probably wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for all of you and your words of encouragement, support and wisdom. So thank you, participants, just for participating! And for not only sharing your pictures and recipes, but also for opening your hearts to us and sharing your stories as well.


Sue from Snackish whipped up an extremely unusual drink called Agua de Tuna (translation: tuna water) – but before you judge it by it’s name, head over there and check it out!

We won’t know how Michelle’s Rhubarb Schnapps will turn out till about 6 weeks from now, but be sure to check back with her at The Accidental Scientist to find out. All we know for sure right now is that it’s so pink, it’s glowing like a lava lamp – gorgeous!


The earliest entry (a whole 10 days, how’s that for organized?) came from Keiko, who made a Raspberry Mousse with Almond Sponge. And just like all her other creations on Nordljus, this one is gorgeous.

A deliciously creamy looking Shrikhand arrived from Smorgasbord’s Bilbo, who says this is the first foodie event s he’s participated in. Hope we’ll see you in more roundups!

Johanna, The Passionate Cook, contributed homemade(!!) Strawberry Marshmallows– sure to make everyone feel guilty for using the store-bought variety…she makes it sound so easy!

All the way from New Zealand, Barbara from Winos and Foodies mixed good cooking with good advice and not only posted a picture of her Pink Cupcakes, but also posted a couple of breast cancer information links.

From Switzerland, Dilek contributed not one, but two desserts, both of which look delicious: a Pomegranate-Rose Panna Cotta, and a Hazelnut Tart with Figs (and was even thoughtful enough to include some interesting information on pomegranate juice)!

Not to be set back by an empty fridge, a determined Zorra from Aubergine made Pink Raspberries Mascarpone Dream. I only wish I could be as creative when faced with only 4 ingredients and a deadline!

Fellow Singaporean (yay!) Mia, a.k.a. the Skinny Epicurean, tried her hand at making individual Azuki Mousse Cakes. Though she claims they didn’t turn as planned, they look adorable and are certainly an admirable first attempt at single-serving desserts!

Stella, from Baby Rambutanmade and dedicated a really yummy-looking White Chocolate Pound Cake with Dark and White Chocolate and Pink Frosting (phew!) to the memories of her grandmother and aunt. Did anyone else know that one of her sons is a food-psychic?

Though Cathy (of A Blithe Palate) originally intended to make some elaborate creation, she eventually settled on making a heart-shaped (and prettily pink!) Coeur a la Crème– a beautiful dessert with a touching dedication.

Jennifer from Taste Everything Once got really creative with pink peppercorns and made a tart, sweet and Peppered Raspberry Sauce to go with vanilla ice cream – how inspired! Next thing you know, they’ll be selling the stuff at Williams-Sonoma…

Niki from Esureintes has put a pseudo X-rated spin on her post by featuring some very promiscuous fruit. Though she says her Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly have been getting some (unwanted) attention from all sorts of perverts, it’s really just a lot of good, clean, foodie fun!

Though she claims she used to hate the colour pink, Jennifer not only incorporated three shades of pink into her Pink Ribbon Shortbread, but accessorized them with a pink bow and a beautiful pink tea set. They clearly don’t call her the Domestic Goddess for nothing!

When reading Vicki’s pink post (scroll down her main page to find it) take her advice: be patient and go through the steps instead of cheating and scrolling down all the way. The mouthwatering Pink Surprises (did you really think I would tell?) are worth the wait!

From Germany, we have Küchenlatein’s Ulrike who shares with us a recipe for a delightful Pink Grapefruit Ambrosia. Its very thoughtfully been posted in English for our benefit, and is accompanied by a simple yet extremely effective picture of the final product.

Meet Zsofi, who blogs in Hungarian from Brussels on Chili & Vanilia. If you think that sounds exotic, wait till you hear what she whipped up: a batch of pleasingly pink Pomegranate Mascarpone Ice Cream!

Gulsen’s artsy picture of some beautiful Pink Pralines with Almond Paste and Whole Almonds makes them look like they came from a professional confectionary – I wish my efforts with melted chocolate looked as proficient!

Though Stephanie, The Happy Sorceress, claims this was a last-minute effort, her Pink Chocolate-Covered Caramels look beautifully ethereal. Maybe it’s the effect of the crystal they’re displayed on, or maybe its magic – have a look and decide!

Anne of Anne’s Food tried to make two pink dishes, but decided that the Strawberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate Ripple was the only one worth posting about (it does look yummy). It seems you really can never go wrong with desserts!

I’ve always been a fan of molten chocolate cakes, so when Emily of Baking Beast turned up with a lovely Soufflé Cake, I was drooling! Though she says she cheated on making the sauce, it’s so pretty that I’m inclined to forgive her – what do you guys think?

Sam of Becks and Posh has really outdone herself with these alluring Rose Pink Marbled Meringues. I’ve always likened meringues to edible clouds, and these, captured in two lovely pictures, are no different – don’t they look like pink-tinged clouds at sunset?

From Food Chronicles, Robyn made what looks like a positively sinful Red Velvet Cake with Pink Buttercream Frosting. Though she’s quick to dismiss it as a last-minute attempt, it’s still very impressive! The site she linked to her entry was incredibly moving, and she’s right: we need to find a way to make these stories stop.

Adam of Big City Barbeques may not be a regular food blogger, but very nicely made some sort-of Lingonberry Panna Cotta – the result of a failed attempt at a lingonberry mousse – to show his support. His antics resulted in a few dings in my Kitchenaid mixer bowl, but looks like I’ll have to forgive him since it was all for a good cause!

Embarrassingly, the last entry received was my own – a Raspberry Ruby Cheesecake, dedicated to my mom who is a breast cancer survivor. Before you protest the title of my dessert, let me defend myself: you may think of rubies as red, but most of them are actually pink!

From Weekly Dish, Jennifer (a.k.a the culinary bookworm) doled out a fantastic mixture of sweet memories and sassy Pink Amaretto Sorbet. The recipe for her beautiful pink dessert is preceded by a very touching dedication to both her grandmothers, which clearly came straight from her heart. The lovely photo of the dessert ties everything in by showing her sorbet served in her grandmother’s crystal glasses.

If anything remotely medical (breast self-examinations included) makes you feel squeamish, then Raquel from Raquel’s Box of Chocolates has a solution: handing out Cupcakes as reminder to women to self-examine. Picture these as the adult version of the lollies we used to get as kids at the doctor’s office - can't wait for your next appointment, can you?


Fallen Souffle’s Jennifer originally wanted to make something sweet, but instead decided to go the savory route and made her yummy looking Rigatone with Pink Sauce even more special by dedicating it to her mother in law, Laura.

A savory use for strawberries? I didn’t think the existed until I read about Nic’s inspiring and unusual Roasted Strawberry and Tomato Salsa. Nic also has linked a very interesting and exciting news article about a cancer vaccine. It just goes to show you: there IS a cure for breast cancer…we simply have to find it.

Though we’ve all had kitchen setbacks, it takes lots of creativity and determination to turn a fiasco into a feast. Lucky for us, A Veggie Venture’s Alanna has these qualities in spades – as evidenced by her Survivor Soup. Who would’ve guessed it used to be a casserole?

Even if Becky from Two Foot Kitchen hadn’t admitted that pink was her favourite colour, I think we’d all be able to guess: for her entry, she managed to incorporate three different pink foods into one dish (and they all look delicious)!

Don’t let its whimsical colour fool you – this dish is seriously good for you! From One Hot Stove, Nupur contributed a Beet Raita that cleverly features two ingredients with anti-cancer properties: cumin and vegetables.

Kudos to Sarah from One Whole Clove, who didn’t let low temperatures stop her grilling! She made Shrimp with Raspberry Dressing– a pink-on-pink colour combination that’s so cheerful I’m sure it would combat any bad-weather blues!

Mel of Mel’s Kitchen made some Salmon Cakes for the event – despite the fact that her husband doesn’t eat fish! (Don’t feel too bad for him – she made him some chicken breast!)

From Notes from the Cape, Craig submitted some very imposingly titled fish, or rather: Pink Norwegian Salmon with Chili Jam. He’s even included a picture of the fish before it was grilled for those who might doubt the final dish’s pink quotient!

A lovely Orange, Beet and Fennel Salad arrived from Kelli over in Quebec. Though she says some recipe modifications were needed to appease some picky eaters, it seems the salad was well received (and I can understand why - the combination of beets and oranges sound really yummy)!

Sweet and Savory:

This event certainly has a few overachievers! Ruth from Once Upon a Feast came up with an entire pink meal! If you’ve never seen pink mashed potatoes before, here’s your chance to be amazed.

Alice from My Adventures in the Breadbox made good use of her piping bag for her first entry, a batch of Filled Cupcakes. Unsatisfied with only one entry, Alice also turned in a moulded Salmon Mousse on Dill Pizelles that she made from scratch. (See what I mean about overachievers?)

Brett, from In Praise of Sardines, also planned an Entire Meal around pink ingredients, which was served up with not only a touching story, but also a call to action…which sparked some fierce debate in the comments section!

That’s it for now, but I’ve heard people remarking that they are sorry they missed the deadline, so if anyone reading this (or someone you know) would still like to participate, I’d be happy to extend the deadline for a week or so and add your entries to this roundup as I receive them. Also, if any corrections need to be made, let me know!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In The Pink, Finally*

pink, originally uploaded by emily loke.

As a campaign, breast cancer awareness struck a chord within me at a very young age. I was only twelve when my mother was diagnosed with the debilitating disease - young enough to be thoroughly bewildered and confused by what was happening, old enough to know that what I was being told by doctors and relatives were diluted truths at best.

Though nothing I had gone through could have ever compared to the strain – both physical and psychological – that my mother faced during that period in her life, it was a very bleak time for me. As the only child of a single mother, I didn’t see a sick parent lying in a hospital bed; I saw my entire world crumbling around me. Each day that I left home to visit my mother in hospital, I would take mental pictures of every room in a desperate act to preserve my home in memory in case her conditioned worsened and I was sent to live with relatives.

Not only was I scared for my future; I was also convinced that I was to blame for her cancer. I had one day made the mistake of asking my aunt for real facts about my mother’s illness – only to be told that it was the stress I caused my mother that had led to her development of breast cancer. At night, I would cry silently into the hospital-issued pillows on the couch I slept on while praying that my mother, whom I did not wish to worry further, would not hear me.

My mother went on to completing a course of radiotherapy after her lumpectomy, and slowly but surely made a full recovery. Though life quickly returned to normal after that, I never let myself forget how close I had come to losing my mother – and how fortunate we both were that she pulled through.

What really spurred me to the advocacy of breast cancer awareness was the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and guilt that I had felt then, and the wish that nobody else would have to suffer similar consequences for being ignorant about the disease. Breast cancer awareness may not be a cure, but it can be a starting point to healing.

This post and following dessert is dedicated to my mother, whose life I am thankful for every day.

Raspberry Ruby Cheesecake (recipe makes 1)
For the crust:

3 digestive cookies, crushed
2 tsp butter, melted
1 tsp brown sugar

For the raspberry cheese:

1/3 of a 250g tub of cream cheese
6 raspberries, mashed
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp flour
2 tsp egg white

For the topping:

¼ cup lychee juice
¼ cup pomegranate juice
½ cup water
2 tbs sugar
½ packet gelatin powder

1. Mix the melted butter and sugar into the cookie crumbs, and push firmly into bottom of a small cake ring (I used a square cookie cutter). Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
2. When cool, slide crust out of mould and set aside.
3. Beat all ingredients for the cheese till combined, and pour into greased mould. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
4. Meanwhile, combine topping ingredients in a small pan and heat on high, stirring, till gelatin and sugar have dissolved. Pour into a bowl and leave it to set in the fridge.
5. When the jelly has set, mix it up with a fork into rough chunks.
6. When the cheese has baked, allow it to cool and deflate before attempting to remove it from the mould.
7. To assemble, set cheese on crust and top with jelly chunks. Garnish with white chocolate curls if desired, or serve with a chocolate sauce if you like your desserts really sweet.

*I must apologize for the tardiness of this entry. As the hostess of this event, it's extremely embarassing to be this late in posting both my own entry and the roundup. Their delays are both due to an unexpected and unavoidable trip I had to make back home. I truly am very sorry this took so long.