But forget movies, food that disappoint is what truly infuriates me.
Din Tai Fung should never, ever, be put up high on the pedestal of any print media. Fancy them making me eat cold Xiao Long Baos! Who needs to wait long on a hungry stomach, only to be served something beyond mediocrity when something better can be done easily at home?
Max Brenner. Chocolatey fudgy goodness. Hah! That’ll be the day. Everything from A to Z is ridiculously expensive here, you’d think the standard would match up to prices. Besides, you get what you pay for, right? Nuh-uh. No way will you get your money’s worth here at Max Brenner’s. If their “fudgy” chocolate cake can’t be good enough, there’s nothing more to say of the rest of their menu. I rest my case.
La Petite Cuisine, a small establishment set up by a round, pudgy French chef. Service is terrible and the food is not fresh. And people still flock over! God didn’t give us our 5 senses for nothing. Enough said.
I may not be a food critic. I may not be a Patricia Wells or a Terry Durack. But I sure do know my food. It’s a rare occasion when I raise my thumb up after a meal at a restaurant or the day-to-day hawker center. I’m rather particular over what I eat and what I pay for. It’s not an everyday thing that I spend on something really good. At the end of the day, I’m only a poor student-cum-intern. What’s one to do to eat something affordable and palatable?
I detest phony food reviews that take you to the worst places imaginable. It only pulls the credibility of the source so low that you wonder, who’s to trust? Because really, we have that much money to waste on another confounded restaurant.
Why go into the food business when you know that, one, you can’t cook to save a life, and two, you have no idea what quality is? Such is the case for most of the cafes, restaurants or food courts here. It baffles me how people dare serve baloney and how others accept it willingly. Has our taste made a turn for the worse?
Whatever it may be, no one can tell. But what I know for sure, is to trust yourself. Sometimes, going gourmet isn’t dressing in your Sunday’s best with your favorite clutch and all, and making reservations at the most chic Michelin-starred restaurant in town. Being a real gourmet is all about your senses and your passion for real food. It’s important to know the bits and pieces of what we eat, why raw vegetables should taste sweet, why your eggs should never smell, and why western wine should never be taken with seafood.
Besides, food is a universal language. From the simple nomads in Tibet to the hasty crowd in New York, food is what brings in people from all walks of life. It brings family together at Christmas and Chinese New Year, and it brings friends together on special occasions. Sometimes, it brings one and one together, over a box of bittersweet chocolates.
Trusting yourself is when you know what recipe to pick, and what quality ingredients you wish to include. Making a simple chocolate cake, may not be so simple after all. You have to source for the best chocolate bars, the highest quality cocoa powder, the sweetest butter you can lay hands on, and the freshest eggs you can find. For most of it, money is an issue, especially with me. What I’m most willing to splurge on is chocolate and vanilla, for obvious reasons. For the real chocolate lover, Hershey’s is a thing of the past and in comes Valrhona, one of the best baking chocolates around. To truly appreciate vanilla for what it is, stay away from plastic-tasting vanilla essence, buy the real stuff. I use Madagascan Bourbon, which is more assertive than floral Tahitian.
I’m a huge fan of David Lebovitz. His recipes are reliable and the results are stunning. At least, so far, I’ve not been disappointed. These cupcakes are adapted from page 38 of his book, Ready For Dessert. I took his cupcake recipe, pumped some lemon curd into the cooled cake, and piped the cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream. The cake is moist and tender to a tee, and the tangy lemon curd complements the chocolate fabulously. The frosting is light, buttery, and not too sweet.
Till I improve it further, it is my idea of a perfect cupcake.
You won’t be disappointed.
from David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert
makes 12 cupcakes
1 1/4 C (175 g) All-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C (250 ml) strong brewed coffee
6 tbsp (50 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 C (115 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temp
1 1/4 C (275 g) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F or 175 C. Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
To make the cupcakes, into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium saucepan, heat the coffee until almost boiling. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cocoa till dissolved, then add the butter, stirring until melted. Whisk in the brown sugar and let cool until tepid. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Don’t overmix.
Divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake until the cupcakes feel just set in the center, 20 to 22 minutes. (It really depends on your oven. The temperature of your oven may not be the most accurate. Gauge for yourself.) Let cool completely.
Too fill the cupcakes with lemon curd, use a sharp knife to cut a 2 inch (5 cm) cone shaped hole in the center of each cake. Remove the plug-like pieces. Trim off the tip of each plug to create a disk-shaped piece that is 1/3 inch (8 mm) thick. Save these disks for capping the filled cupcakes.
Divide the curd among the cupcakes, then gently press the caps into the filling. They won’t fit perfectly, which is fine, and some filling may bulge out.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
makes about 4 1/2 C
5 large egg whites
2 cups (4 sticks or 1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
- Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
- Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
- Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
- Pipe onto your cupcakes with your favorite tip, and you’re good to go!