Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lunar New Year Classes at Shermay's: MOD CHINOISERIE - From Petits Fours to Plated Desserts

I'll be teaching a demo class specially planned for Lunar New Year at Shermay's Cooking School on 12 January 2008 (Saturday), 13 January 2008 (Sunday), 26 January 2008 (Saturday) and 27 January 2008 (Sunday) - the January schedule has all the necessary booking details. For all inquiries, please call the school at +65 6479 8442 or email

I'm a huge fan of the Japanese-French style of p√Ętisserie, and the recipes for this class very much take inspiration from that exquisite hybrid. Quintessentially oriental ingredients re-imagined by French pastry technique to produce what, for lack of a better term, I like to think of as mod Chinoiserie. Each of the 4 Chinese-inspired petits fours can be served or gifted as is, or used as the core component of a plated dessert, a grand finale to a dinner party, when paired with the various bonus recipes for delicious accompaniments. Designed like a modular system of building blocks, I really hope the various ideas presented will illustrate how a seemingly elaborate composed/plated dessert can be tackled with confidence and ease once broken down or thought of in terms of its various component parts, parts coming together to create a whole greater than the sum of.

The 4 petits fours are:

Jasmine Tea Macaron
Filled with a white chocolate (Valrhona Ivoire) ganache delicately perfumed with jasmine tea.

Mandarin Orange Friand
Ground almonds and a puree of gently poached mandarins ensure a treat that's incredibly moist and intensely citrusy.
Sesame Financier
The classic caramelized butter (beurre noisette) flavour of a financier is given an unusual twist with the addition with toasted sesame oil, which gloriously underscores the deeply nutty aromas.

Almond Shortbread
Very rich, very short and very melt-in-the-mouth buttery.
The bonus recipes for accompaniments include:
Jasmine Tea Panna Cotta, barely set and ultra creamy, to pair with the Jasmine Tea Macaron.

Star Anise Mousse, with its exotic liquorice-like flavour, goes with the Mandarin Orange Friand.

Milk Chocolate Chantilly, based on Valrhona Tanariva 33%, sets off the caramelly, butterscotchy notes of the Sesame Financier thanks to this Grand Cru chocolate's distinctive flavour profile.

Lychee & Rose Sorbet, a very special scoop made from very readily available ingredients, is fabulous accompanied by the Almond Shortbread.
A flavour pairing chart and plating diagrams round out the recipe pack, and will hopefully lay bare the logic behind composing plated desserts based on complementary flavours and textures.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Early Greetings & A Sneak Peek

A week early, I know. W and I leave for Paris today and will be there over Christmas, so I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and happy new year in advance!

PS: I'm really looking forward to 2008, not least because of the planned line-up of classes I'll be teaching here. For a preview of what's in store for January and booking details (classes have just been opened for booking), please do check out the school's January schedule - as it's a seasonal class, the run is limited to just 4 sessions (12th, 13th, 26th & 27th January 2008). I'll put up a post with all the details when I return towards the end of December.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Snowflake Cookies - A Sequel

If you happen to be planning your holiday baking schedule, may I suggest the grand gesture of a single, large decorated cookie for giving away? In comparison to say, 2 dozen shortbread fingers or a whole fruitcake, it has several advantages. For the recipient, it's unusual and memorable. For the baker, it's about embracing the tradeoff between quality and quantity - far fewer cookies to deal with equals more time to lavish each and every cookie with attention to detail, a process that you may likely find far more rewarding than the annual rigmarole that is converting the limited space and facilities of a domestic kitchen into what is in essence a makeshift factory production line.

Thanks to the fabulous Shermay - as regulars to the school well know, the choice range she handpicks to stock her shop shelves with is as much a reflection of her unimpeachable taste and personal style as the very manner of her dress - I am now the proud owner of these snowflake cookie cutters. They're just the thing for creating those aforementioned singular gifts. Crafted by hand from solid copper, these heirloom-quality cutters come in pairs (there're 3 designs to choose from) - a large, dramatic snowflake cutter accompanied by a miniscule one that's designed for stamping cutouts. All in all, a standout addition to my burgeoning collection of copper cutters (I just love the beautiful patina copper acquires with use and age).

You can of course just keep the snowflake whole and keep the decoration simple (see the easy example here) - the deftly defined and unique shape of each cutter gives you the luxury of getting away with the minimum of royal icing work and still creating an effect that's wow - but whilst playing around with the combination of cutouts I could now do, I realized that it could be brought to a different realm altogether. I was so thrilled by my latest toys that I stayed up last night sketching my various ideas on paper and spent this morning baking and decorating the gingerbread snowflakes (yes, I know, I'm such a dork). My happy problem was compounded by the fact that I'm in possession of all the various designs and the possible permutations - you can mix-and-match the combination of cutout shapes - were just boggling (if you reside here, and are contemplating a similar investment, may I also suggest making a beeline for the shop; from what I understand, there're only limited stocks available and they're rapidly being snapped up by the avid bakers in our midst).
Luckily, there was no need to cap it at just a couple of designs. As nature intended, real snowflakes are all one-of-a-kind so what's to stop one from never repeating the same design? Not to mention, it's the perfect excuse for preventing boredom or fatigue from setting in.
The cutouts create an intricate look that's inspired by lace and borderie anglaise. I had chosen a pale palette of delicate robin's egg and Wedgwood blues, accented with plain white. The resulting effect reminds me of vintage Jasper ware, making them ideally suited as edible ornaments for the tree. A white-on-white palette would have an entirely different feel, but works just as well.