Malaysia, July 2007: I was walking around the night market in Chow Kit when I was lured by a brightly pink colored drink.  What is it?  I didn't care, all I knew was I had to have some... yes unlike most people who shy away from brightly colored food...I can't seem to get enough of them.  Excited, I walked up to the vendor, pointed to the drink and bought a glass.  It was delicious!  Refreshing and rich with notes of floral and citrus. I briefly mentioned it in my post about Malaysian street food and found out it was called Air Bandung.  A refreshing sweet milk drink flavored with rose water and tinted a rosy, pepto-bismol pink.  I played with a few recipes and discovered that addition of lemon zest will bring out the flavors of the drink more.  The trick is to not add too should be there but not be there...if that makes any sense.

-1 can evaporated milk
-1 can sugar (use milk can to measure, +/- depending on your taste)
-4 tbs rosewater
-pink food coloring
-zest of 1/4 of a lemon
-water, ice

What to Do:
Rub together the sugar and lemon zest, add milk and bring mixture to a boil, cool, and strain out the lemon zest.   Add pink coloring.  To serve, fill a class 1/3 full with the milk syrup, and water to fill the glass 2/3 full; finish the remaining 1/3 with crushed ice.  Give the drink a quick stir and enjoy!

A Toast to 2010,
May the new year be as Sweet, as Refreshing and as Rosy as Air Bandung.


Let's face it, all Buche de Noel is just a any other cake.  The only difference is that it's made during Christmas time and decorated to look like a log.  I got bored with the same old chocolate icing, scraped with a fork for the "bark" and meringue "button" mushrooms.

I've always believed that if you don't like something; change it. So I did.

Instead of making button mushroom with meringue, I made oyster mushrooms instead.

Yes, the powdered sugar was a bit of an overkill but hey....I was just Playing with My Food!

 I tempered some chocolate and brushed it onto a sheet of parchment...waited for it to set, then peeled it off...and made the cake bark. Arf! :D

If you're looking for the recipes they're here and here.  Have fun and Happy Holidays!

..............just in time for Christmas............

-200g milk
-20g yeast
-1 egg (50g)
-600g bread flour
-7g salt
-80g sugar
-1/2 tsp cardamom
-300g butter
-250g raisins
-50g ea: candied lemon, candied orange
-150g almonds
-50g rum
-400g marzipan (divided into 4 pieces, optional)

Scale the butter and cut it into small cubes, set aside.

Mix together raisins, candied fruit, almond and rum, set aside.

Mix together sugar, salt, flour and cardamom.

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in milk, add egg. 

Add flour mixture and mix until all of the moisture is absorbed. 

Add the butter and mix until dough comes together. 

Lastly, add candied fruit/rum mixture and mix until incorporated.  The dough will be very sticky, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and rest for 1/2 hour.

After resting, liberally dust a work surface with flour. 

Dump the dough onto the table and dust with more flour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces (approx 1lb each).

Shape the dough pieces into small logs.  Using a small rolling pin or the side for our hand; aim for the middle of the log, make a slight impression and slightly roll the dough dough out creating a small flap.  Add a piece of marzipan (optional) and fold the dough "flap" over to cover the marzipan.

Proof for another hour and bake at 350'F until golden.

Brush the cooled stollen with melted butter and dust/roll in powdered sugar. 

Allow the stollen to sit for a day or two for the flavors to mature before serving. 

What did I make for dessert on Thanksgiving?  Pumpkin cheese cake.... a cross between pumpkin pie and cheese cake paired with flavors of maple, chocolate and walnuts, what more can one ask for?

For the Crust:
-4 oz gingersnap cookies
-melted butter

*Crush the cookies, add butter and mix until mixture comes together.  Press mixture into a cheesecake pan to make the curst.

Cheese Cake:
-1lb cream cheese
-300g pumpkin puree
-200g sour cream
-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-4 eggs
-1 tsp cornstarch
-150g sugar

*Cream the cream cheese until smooth, add eggs one at a time, then add sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and cornstarch and beat until creamy.  Add pumpkin puree and sour cream.  Mix until combined.  Fill the prepared cheesecake pan with batter and bake in a water bath, covered with foil at 325'F until the center jiggles like jello.  Chill until sent (a few hours).

Maple Cream:
-2 egg yolks
-150g milk or cream
-30g maple syrup

*Heat milk in a pot.  Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and maple syrup.  Once the milk comes to a boil, gradually add the milk to the eggs (aka tempering the eggs).  Return the mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the cream thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Strain and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tulie Leaves:
Weigh the egg whites (left over from making maple cream).  Scale butter, sugar and flour, each equaling the weight of the egg whites.

*Cream butter and sugar, add butter and flour.  Mix until smooth.  Use a stiff piece of paper to create a stencil of a leaf.  Place the stencil on top of a silpat, use a small spatula to spread a thin layer of the tulie batter over the stencil.  Lift the stencil off the silpat and volia!  You have a leaf.  Bake the leaves at 350'F until slightly golden brown, give them character by shaping them while still hot.

Burshed Chocolate:
Chop chocolate into uniform pieces.  Melt them in a bain-marie over barley simmering water, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted but still contains a few small chunks.  Remove from heat and continue stirring until all of the chocolate has melted.  Using a pastry brush, brush the chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper.  Place chocolate in a cool place to set.  Once set, gently peel the parchment off the chocolate.  Use chocolate as a garnish.

Glazed Walnuts:
-toothpicks or bamboo skewers

*Skewer walnuts onto toothpicks or bamboo skewers.  Place sugar in a pot with a little water (just enough to wet the sugar).  Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to cook until the sugar begins to turn amber in color. Remove from heat and allow the sugar to cool slightly.  Dip the walnut pieces into the sugar, pull the pieces stright up out of the sugar; the sugar should "thread" as it's being pulled from the pot.  If not, the sugar is too hot, wait a few minutes and try again.

It's been raining in Seattle, pretty much nonstop for the last 2 weeks (no surprise there) and I ran out of rainy day projects. Desperate to kill time I dug into my collection of cookbooks and found this recipe for Bánh Bò Khoai Tím (Purple Sweet Potato Rice Cakes). This recipe comes from a cookbook by Gia Chánh Hoa Hường, published in the early 70s. The cookbook belonged to my aunt and was passed down to me when she moved to California to be closer to her kids. Like all traditional recipes for Bánh Bò, the leavening comes from Cơm Rượu (fermented rice). If you don't have the time or patience the fermented rice starter...I guess you can replace it with some yeast and see how it always Play with Your Food!

Translated from the original recipe above:

-150g purple sweet potatoes
-350g sugar
-300g rice flour
-3 tbs Cơm Rượu
-pinch of alum
-180ml water from boiling the potatoes
-2 egg whites

Peel potatoes and measure out 150g. Cut potato into cubes and boil with a pinch of alum until potatoes are tender. Weigh the potato mixture and adjust to the liquid amount to get 330g (150g potato + 180g potato water = 330g). Mix together potato mixture, fermented rice and rice flour until a smooth dough is achieved. Proof overnight.

Beat egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks, add the fermented dough and continue to achieve a homogenous mixture. Proof until batter doubles in volume. Steam in porcelain tea cups over high heat for 12 mins.
About a year ago...actually more then a year ago while I was still in school, I was required to write a response paper to the documentary Craft in America. The topic was to discuss how does Memory, Landscape and Community (themes discussed in the documentary) affect the baker and/or the craft and art of baking?

A few of my thoughts for your reading pleasure....:D

The present is a result of past memories. Our memories play lead on the stage of life and in the world of crafting and baking. Memory is a broad term that has both philosophical and practical importance to anyone who aspires to go above and beyond in what they do. Philosophically speaking, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from. Knowing where you came from involves knowledge of your culture, heritage, and traditions and using them for ideas and inspiration for your work. Only when you understand who you are in terms of what came before you and consciously incorporate these ideas, stories, and struggles into your art does your art become yours. I define art as something that only happens once and captivating art as something that reflects it’s creator in a unique way. As a baker, you can follow a recipe exactly and come up with a decent product, but unless you put your flare into it, your product certainly won’t standout in anyway.

On the practical side, memory is an aspect of knowledge. Knowledge builds confidence, and confidence builds decisiveness. Confidence and decisiveness is your rock so you can be more creative. About 3 summers ago I was learning traditional tailoring from a local dressmaker that had been practicing her craft for 50+ years; since the age 14. She made me memorize all of the formulas for pattern drafting from traditional one piece shirts to 3 piece raglan sleeves with shoulder and elbow darts. Her reason was once you know the rules; you can break them and thus be more creative. Since the technical aspects are already embedded within you, you can concentrate more on making your work unique by giving it a “soul”. The best part is no matter how crazy your design turns out to be it will work out technically because by memorizing the formulas, you’ll naturally incorporate them into your designs as you come up with them. Baking is similar to tailoring because it’s a science as much as it is an art. As a baker, memory is what sets you apart. Having knowledge of recipes and techniques empowers you to add artistic value to an otherwise science project.

Landscape influences our work the same way memory does as it is an endless source of inspiration consisting of vivid colors, unique shapes, intriguing patterns and compelling textures that captivates our senses, giving our work a touch of individuality. Everyone is affected by their surrounds in one way or another. The landscape that surrounds us defines a part of who we are as a nation, a state, a city, a community and as an individual. As a baker, whether you surrender your inspiration to the landscape or capture and tame it into your creations via color, shape, patterns or texture it will speak volumes to your audience about where you came from, and where you’re going.

Landscape and community go hand in hand in defining who you are as an individual. Landscape reflects where you came from and where you’re going while community reflects who you are and what you’ll become. Community embraces the past and fosters the future. Craft forms are passed from generation to generation in the spirit of community and commonality. All craft artists work within a tradition. However, every generation seeks to push the boundaries and change the art form in his or her own way. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to nurture a craft. Community is the foundation of knowledge and inspiration. Like all crafts, baking is nothing new. It’s a craft that’s been and will be passed down from one generation to another with the aid of community. Community acts as a time machine granting us access to the pass, present, and future; endowing us the opportunity to intensely understand, appreciate and develop our craft as a baker.

Memory, landscape and community are vital in any craft. It’s what sets apart baking as an art. They’re not literal topics that can be taught and must be acquired through passion. Memory awakens your senses and works with your surrounding landscape to develop your flare. Community brings it all together, boils it down and distributes the luscious drug known as baking that we’re all so passionately addicted too.
A favorite treat from Northern Vietnam. These mini cakes are best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea. Vietnamese Petit Fours?

-200g mung beans (dried, peel and split)
-150-200g sugar
-1 tbs koh fun
-2-3 tbs oil
-1/2 tsp vanilla, pomelo or mali flower water

What to Do:
Rinse and soak beans for at least a few hours, until they're nice and plump. Drain the beans and steam until tender. Mash the beans and mix with sugar. Simmer the beans over medium heat while stirring constantly for about 20 mins. Meanwhile mix together koh fun and oil. After about 20 mins, add the flour mixture and mix well. Continue to cook for another 10 mins. Add vanilla, and pomelo flower water. Cool until beans are cool enough to handle and press into a mold (if you don't own a traditional mould...use your imagination....*hint hint* chocolate molds *hint hint*.
I went shopping a few weeks ago at a well known Vietnamese grocery store in Seattle; one with an in-store deli. We'll call this place "A". I was standing in the checkout line which happens to be next to the deli when I noticed something out of the ordinary. Three of their employees were literally throwing deli items that they had sitting out into boxes and taking them into storage. While the other two were frantically putting time labels onto their to-go boxed goodies that they had sitting out at room temp.

What the heck? Apparently, a health inspector was on his way to pay the deli a visit. Which explains "clean up" they were doing.

Yesterday afternoon while eating at another well know Vietnamese restaurant in the international district (We'll call this place "B") I suddenly heard the waitress screaming into the kitchen " Tới! Tới!". Curious to see who was coming I turned my head towards the door and sanitation teacher from school....who also happens to be a health inspector walking in. I directed my attention back towards the kitchen ('cause I'm noisy as hell...) and heard "bao tay! bao tay!" (gloves! gloves!).

The fact that place A, was cleaning up, and putting time labels on their food items proves that they possess adequate knowledge of food safety and sanitation. The same goes for place B. I just wonder why they have to/want to wait until the health inspector shows up for them to comply.

In America, 76 million people get food food poisoning each year! Most of those cases can be prevented by following a few simple guidelines.

It's really not that hard....

-Cook foods to proper temperatures.

-keep hot foods hot, at or above 140'F

-keep cold foods cold, at or below 40'F

-Avoid the danger zone, however cooked and ready to eat foods can be stored in the danger zone for up to 4 hours (because it cooked to the proper temperatures, it takes at least 4 hours for bacteria to multiply enough to cause harm)... Seattle's food regulations allows 4 hours in the danger zone but there has to be a method of keeping track of time for each item hence the time labels place A was frantically putting on their food.

-thaw frozen foods in the fridge, under cold running water or in the microwave

-cool foods to at least 70'F within 2 hours of cooking and then below 40'F within the next 4 hours (in a nutshell, what you're trying to do is cool the food item to 40'F or below asap, within 4 hours).

-reheat cooked foods to proper at least 140'F for at least 15 seconds.

-prevent cross-contamination

-don't touch ready to eat foods with your bare hands...or any bare body part....:p

-when storing food in the fridge, store from top to bottom:

cooked and ready to eat foods
whole meat
ground meat

That's basically it...oh yeah there's also...sorting cleaning chemical away from food, keep dried goods (pantry) try and clean, check temp of fridge and freezer every now and common sense stuff.

Food safety is one of those things that people sometime misunderstand. Whether someone is a professional chef or a home cook, food safety is something that they should have knowledge of and proudly apply everyday to their creations. My standards for food stretches beyond taste, texture, aroma, appearance and passion. Whatever it is you're serving up, it shouldn't make you or whoever you feed it to sick in the body and mind!

Take pride in what you make and do it with passion, apply your creativeness and zest and success will be at your door!....and always remember KEEP IT CLEAN! Please, ;)

I'm done! C.O.D. went great. I scored a 94/100. Good

here it is....


Pain au Levain with Bacon Roasted Garlic
-Natural French Style Sourdough with Garlic Roasted in Bacon Drippings-
A sourdough bread leavened by two natural yeast starters. Garlic roasted with homemade bacon is added to the final dough for roundness and balance.

Rendang Bouchees
-Puff Pastry Shells filled with Malaysian Style Beef Curry and Pickled Vegetables -
French viennoiserie meets Malaysian cookery. In this style of curry, meat is cooked slowly in coconut milk until the milk renders oil. Like confit, the oil preserves and contributes unique flavors to the meat. Acar - pickled vegetables add lightness and balanced to the curry.

Phoenix Tart
-Roasted Pineapple with Lime Mascarpone, Pistachio, and Oranges marinated in Spiced Merlot-
In mythology, the Phoenix is a firebird that is born from its own ashes. In this tart, the bottom layer of roasted pineapple and the top layer of oranges represent fire; death and rebirth. The lime mascarpone represents the Phoenix’s soul, pure and bright, untainted by the burning fires.

Quan Yin Cake
-Black Sesame Sponge Cake with Soursop coulis, Coconut and Mango Mousse-
Quan Yin is the Buddhist goddess of Mercy. The Vietnamese names for the fruits used in this cake translate to “Granted Wishes”. This cake is a symbol of Quan Yin’s gift to living beings.

Show Time
-Pear and Kumquat Mousse with Chocolate Sauce, Coconut Loveletters, Cirrus Cheese and Kumquat Cocktail-
The world of drama and pastry are very much alike. In a recipe or a play there are ingredients/actors, method/plot, and an audience. In both worlds props, costumes, sound and lighting all contribute into the audience’s perception and enjoyment. The show begins with Kumquat sauce leading to an explosion, where pear mousse is revealed. Chocolate sauce gives the mousse a unexpected twist. Cirrus, a local camembert cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery creates a turning point as it mirrors the mousse’s creaminess. The performance is wrapped up with a kumquat cocktail, made with homemade rice wine.

Passion After Dark
-Dark Chocolate with Black Tea Ganache, Passion fruit and Pomelo Flower-
Passion…fruit and Pomelo flower unveils itself in black tea ganache after the dark chocolate and melts away leaving a lasting impression. The Chinese characters on the candies spell “east, west and prosperity”. Together, they symbolize harmony between the east and the west; bring prosperity to one another.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me over the years. ;D I couldn't have done this without you. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

you may be wondering what's going on...or you probably already know what's about to happen.

To recap, about a year ago, I started culinary school...or pastry school to be more exact. After 5 quarters of studying and *trying* to master the art of pastry; it's time for me to graduate. March 5 is my "C.O.D." (chef of the day). C.O.D. is the required final project and is composed of the skills and techniques learned, and personal creativity and taste. Within 4 days I am required to make: a type of bread that requires at least 2 days to make (aka a 2 day bread), a
viennoiserie, a decorated mousse cake, a chocolate/candy or petit four, a tart, and a plated dessert. All of which have to be made from seasonal and somewhat local ingredients (from the NW or at least west of the U.S.). Oh boy....

I've actually been looking forward to this for a while and I'm getting more excited as the day comes near. Passion is the name of my C.O.D. because baking is my passion. Combining east and west is my theme. On the menu...we have...

Bread: Pain au Levain with Bacon Roasted Garlic
Viennoiserie: Bouchees with Rendang and Acar
Tart: Roasted Pineapple with Lime Mascarpone, Pistachio, and Oranges marinated in Spiced Red Wine
Mousse Cake: Black Sesame Spongecake base with Soursop coulis, and Coconut and Mango Mousse
Plated Dessert: Pear and Kumquat Mousse with Chocolate Sauce, Coconut Loveletters, Cirrus Cheese and Kumquat Rice Wine Cocktail
Chocolate: Tea Ganache with Passionfruit and Pomelo Flower

Everything must be displayed by 11am on "the day", and will be judged by the chefs that I have been studying under. Afterwards, it will be open to the public for viewing at around 12:15p.m. Viewing is free but samples cost $5 (school's policy) and must be ordered in advanced....anyone want a taste ;p...

Here I go...