Tuesday, April 09, 2013
(Urghh... *groans* what now? Why's she suddenly so chirpy?) I hear some of you go. To tell you the truth, I just survived an hour long of knuckle press massage yesterday evening. After just two weeks into the book prep, I was rewarded with tight back muscles and restless sleeps. I need to sound like Tweety Bird and write about something yellow for a bit, just so some degree of sanity is restored and you will actually have a book to frown at next year.
Apart from agonizing over recipes, prop curating and photos, I resigned to the fact that I actually need to have an organized kitchen now more than ever, so a good few hours were dedicated to throwing out expired jars of why-did-I-buy-that condiments, dried out spices, apparently a small bottle of rice I've forgotten about after making risotto once and only God knows what else. My precious real estate of counter top space on the trolley had to be reclaimed at the expense of putting away two (yes, two) Chemex coffee cones on the top of the fridge (this is where rarely used things in the kitchen gets sent to slowly rot, I'm sure you'll agree?) and baking trays where they belong - in the you-won't-believe-what-a-mess-it-looks-like baking cupboard.
Did I hear you say "Show us the photos?" Well, soon. Maybe. I promise. While I figure out where to chuck my 2,567 pairs of cutlery all threatening to sag my top drawer and how to organize a still growing set of food props which has by now invaded the bookshelves in the hall. Then there's this corner next to my oven cabinet where a pair of stacked chairs are now drowning under piles of dry groceries, a tabletop fan and two kilos of cocoa powder plus a mortar and pestle underneath. "Photos or it never happened!", you demand. Give me some time. I need to mull over it.
What did our mothers work with in their kitchen? My mother never needed a food processor, 10 coffee makers (we're dangerously getting there), a stand mixer with 50 accessories and 2 bowls, a vegetable peeler, zester... you get the picture. Now I'm a little disturbed my blender doesn't come with a dry grinder (actually I'm more disturbed by the fact that I actually overlooked the fact while purchasing it). Have we, in the process of evolving into modern times cooking techniques, be more and more dependent on technology, not necessarily towards better food?
Those who are in the know will agree sambal taste better when pounded with granite and the nasi lemak it accompanies much better slurped off fingers than cutlery. Fried chicken with a pair of knife and fork? After reading Jane Kramer's A Fork of One's Own (which I highly recommend for anyone who cooks and eats), I began to understand, why, despite it's size and (perhaps ill perceived) shortcomings, I love the kitchen I have.
While I don't have floor to ceiling glass doors, an island, a dishwasher, an oven that cleans itself or an eleven-foot solid wood dining table right next to an open-plan shelving system with rotating pull-out racks and a coffee machine nook, this small space is where the magic happens. My little sanctuary with small windows and overhanging laundry is where my sweat flows along (what I hope to be) creative juices.
As a consolation to myself, I can proudly say till today I don't find a need for any more knives than a good, sharp, chefs knife, a serrated bread knife, a small paring knife and a heavy, bad-ass Chinese cleaver. The latest addition of things-I-don't-need-but-have-to-own is a clay pot. You will see why in a year.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Adapted from Isabella's Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, first seen here.
Yield 12 standard size cupcakes
Note: While the Junior Masterchef's challenge was to finish the dish in 40 minutes, I was in no such hurry, so I passed the lemon curd twice (lumps do form when you cook it over direct heat) and used a more stable and delicious Italian meringue instead.
- 250 mililiters/1 cup thickened cream
- 220 grams/1 cup caster sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 225 grams/1 1/2 cups self raising flour
- Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- 125 mililiters/1/2 cup lemon juice
- 100 grams butter
- 110 grams/1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
- 6.6 ounces/186 grams sugar
- 3 ounces/84 grams water
- 90 grams/3 egg whites
- pinch of cream of tartar, optional
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Place 12 cupcake liners in a 12 hole 1/2-cup capacity muffin pan. Place cream, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add flour and zest and continue whisking until mixture is thick and smooth. Divide mixture between prepared liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes spring back to touch. Cool in muffin pan.
Make the lemon curd: Meanwhile, heat lemon juice and butter in a small saucepan and simmer until butter has melted. Add sugar, egg and yolks and cook, whisking continuously until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Pour into a wide bowl to cool. Refrigerate to cool further while preparing the meringue.
Make the meringue: Combine sugar and water in a small pot over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pot. Without stirring, bring the syrup to a boil and let it cook gently until the temperature reaches 115°C/240°F. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, begin whisking the egg whites when the syrup just begin to bubble on the stove. Start whisking on medium low until the whites begin to foam all over, then increase speed to medium high. Whisk until medium stiff peaks form and stop the mixer.
Once the syrup has reached 115°C/240°F (soft ball stage) and the whites have been whipped to soft peaks, restart the mixer and gradually pour the syrup in a small stream into the egg whites, whisking on medium high continuously. Be careful not to allow the sugar syrup to fall on the beaters. Continue whisking until the bowl of the mixer is at body temperature and not warm to the touch anymore. (This took me a good 15 minutes.) Prepare a piping bag with a swirl nozzle attached and fill the bag with some of the meringue. Meringue keeps well in a sealed piping bag at room temperature for at least a few hours.
Assemble the cupcakes: Cut a small hole off the top of each cupcake (I used a 1-inch diameter round cookie cutter) and fill with 1-2 teaspoons of the lemon curd. Pipe a swirl of meringue on the top of each cupcake. Brown the meringue with a blow torch or and place under a medium-high grill for 60-90 seconds or until golden.
Do ahead: Cupcakes and curd can be made 1 day ahead. Italian meringue is best made the day off, it will hold its shape well till the next day at room temperature.
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“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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