Monday, November 29, 2010

Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia

The spate of baking I've been doing lately... (like the cakes featured in my 2nd last post here) and last Saturday, a chocolate cake, 2 fruit cakes and 35 muffins emerged from my oven ... this could be inspired by a recent visit I made to the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia.


Thanks to Jade Wong of Mustard Tree Communications, (through the kind recommendation of FBB) I spent a delightful afternoon at the Academy.  The moment I walked through the glass door, I was bowled over by the wonderful aroma of BAKING... you know, that oh-so-delicious aroma that can only come from baking a concoction of butter, flour, eggs, sugar and goodness-knows what else (yummy stuff, of course!)

The Academy houses an impressive 8,000 sq ft which had been assigned to a Chocolate Room, Bakery Room, Pastry Kitchen, Pastry Room, Weddine Cake Room (with ceiling mirrors!), Chef's Lounge and classrooms.


The Academy's main focus is to train students through their Certificate programs:

* 3-month Certificate Program in Pastry & Bakery (Full time)
* 3-month Certificate Program in Pastry & Bakery (Part time)
* 3-month Certificate Program in Bakery (Full time)
* 9-month Certificate Program in Pastry & Bakery

Academy Pastry Arts-1

Students and participants will be personally trained and coached by pastry and bakery champions ensuring hands-on teaching, practice and repeated exposure to the best pastry techniques, pastry tools and ingredients.  Believe me when I say they use only top-notch ingredients (like Varlhona chocolates) and the Academy is fitted-out with the most modern state-of-the-art equipment.


Helmed by the affable and charming Chef Guillaume Lejeune as the Director of Pastry Studies, who comes with more than 13 years of international experience in teaching, demonstrating in Hospitality Institutes as well as hands-on experience within Michelin starred hotels and restaurants in France, the Middle East and Asia, you know you are in pretty good hands!

Academy Pastry Arts-2

Existing professionals and pastry enthusiasts can also go for short-term courses whereby you can learn how to bake:

* Cheesecakes
* Chocolate for Beginners
* Chocolates & Pralines
* The Art of French Pastries
* Tea Cakes, Cookies & Bars

Their fees are very reasonable, ranging from RM150 (half day), RM250 (full day) to RM500 (2 days).


On the day I was there (together with a few other bloggers), we were treated to a short lesson on "How to Bake & Decorate a Gingerbread House"!

Academy Pastry Arts-3

Actually, to save time, the ginger bread house pieces were already baked and ready.  After the informative demo by Chef Lejeune, it was our turn to decorate our houses!  The "cement" used to glue the walls and roof of the gingerbread house is made from beaten egg whites + icing sugar.  Chef Lejeune showed us the technique of creating "icicles" that should hang from the roof beams...

Academy Pastry Arts-5

Sift some icing sugar over the house for that "snow" effect... and then proudly presenting my handiwork...


... standing next to WMW's house...


As Christmas is just round the corner, you may be interested in their "Christmas Delights" class on 13 & 14 December 2010 (one time only!).  We were treated to these Christmas delights baked by Chef Lejeune and his students...

Stollen - so fragrant with spices and dried fruits!

If one is not enough for you, have a whole basketful!


How about some Christmas Cookies? Cardamom honey and Lemon Cinnamon flavoured...

Academy Pastry Arts

A beautiful and ingenious way to stack up your cookies...


Tell me, can you ever, ever resist something like this...


Chocolate Moelleux - sinfully rich chocolate cake with a moist melted centre, topped with raspberries and edible gold bits!  Such luxurious indulgence!


I am definitely going to sign up for some classes soon because I want to learn  impress people by making Petit Fours like these... haha!


Thin chocolate shell holding a dollop of whipped ganache (passionfruit + vanilla), biscuit joconde, guimauve (that square of yellow spongey melt-in-the-mouth delight), topped with chocolate fan-like shaving and raspberry - heavenly!

Another variety is this... the Strawberry version:


It was a wonderful decadent afternoon spent at the Academy, in the charming company of Chef Lejeune and Hanne Landgraf (Customer Relations Executive) and fellow bloggers WMW, Jason, Li Chuen and Edwin...

Academy Pastry Arts-4

I can't wait to go back there and get my hands-on sessions!


The Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia is located in Wisma Thrifty, right across the Petaling Jaya Hilton:

Lot 2-A, 2nd Floor
Wisma Thrifty
19 Jalan Barat
46200 Petaling Jaya
Contact:  Mobile +6017-3252395
Tel: +603-7960-3846 / Fax: +603-7960-3848

*Thank you, Jade - for this lovely experience!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Fuzhou Restaurant


Since we are on the RED trail, I just had some lovely RED Wine Meesuah last week.  Cooking with red wine - the very red home-made wine prepared from red rice and glutinuous rice, not the typical western red wine from grapes, is typical of Foochow or Fuzhou cuisine.

The Fuzhou aka Hockchew people originate from the Fujian province of China.  In Malaysia, they are located predominantly in Sibu (Sarawak), Yong Peng (Johor) and Sitiawan (Perak).  There are many special foods associated with the Fuzhou people but undoubtedly their very famous dishes would be those that are cooked with their red wine.  Traditionally, the wine is made from fermenting a mixture of blended red rice bran and cooked glutinuous rice.  This rice mixture must be kept in a very clean ceramin urn, with some filtered water and left to ferment for about 40 days!  The resultant wine is then filtered and it can keep for a very long time.  The wine residue, known as "wine lees" is not discarded - in fact, this concoction is used in cooking many of the typical Fuzhou dishes.  You can actually packets of dried wine lees from Sitiawan and Fuzhou shops.

Old Fuzhou-1

Take, for example, the Red Wine Chicken Meesuah.  Besides using the wine, some of the rice residue is also added for more colour and flavour.  The distinctly sweet and sourish, slightly fruity aroma of the red wine had infused into the thin rice vermicelli and every slurp of the smooth slithery noodles was like a toast on the palate.  I love the still-crunchy black fungus and the succulent pieces of chicken, while well-cooked, did not disintegrate in the pot.

The wine lees (residue) was used in a number of Old Fuzhou's signature dishes.  While meesuah is a well-known and popular item, the Fried Rice was something I have not tried before.  Fried plainly with just some eggs and spring onions, the dish did not detract from its main attraction, ie the red rice residue which imparted a lovely earthy, slightly sourish, flavour to the rice.


The lovely owner of Old Fuzhou strongly recommended that we try their Pork Slices with Hamchoy (pickled mustard leaves).  It was certainly a a great choice.  Slices of lean pork were stir-fried with bits of hamchoy with wine lees.  Very simple, very basic.  This would go wonderfully with white rice.


Fuzhou Fishballs - soft bouncy fishballs with fillings of minced pork in the centre, cooked in a sweet light soup.  How comforting.  I love fishballs (good ones, of course) and with the added bonus of minced pork in the centre, I'm happy with my soup!


The Fuzhou-style of Oyster Omelette ("orh chien") is quite different from the Hokkien-style, which is softer, more gooey due to the use of tapioca flour.  In Old Fuzhou, you get the fluffy crispy version.  Just look at how light & fluffy the omelette is - achieveable, with some skills, when you fry the eggy concoction in some very hot oil!


Eat your Orh Chien with chilli sauce... not any chilli sauce...


... it must be this particular one: Kampong Koh Garlic Chilli Sauce!


I always buy at least 10 bottles of these whenever I go to Sitiawan... or "tumpang" my colleagues who go there!

The only non-Fuzhou dish we had that evening was this Vinegar Pig Trotters...because it is a favourite dish of our Fairy Godmother of Makan.  Vinegar Pig Trotters is really such a popular dish, cooked and eaten by every Chinese community here that I'm not sure where it really originated from.  It's popular among new mothers during the post-natal period... but it has evolved into an everyday kinda dish - you don't need an occasion to eat this, really.  Since when do the Chinese need an occasion to eat?  And to eat Pork, at that!


Old Fuzhou's version is pretty commendable... the trotters were cooked soft enough (but not falling-off-the bone kinda soft) and would go sublimely with a bowl of white rice.  It could do with a bit more ginger though, preferably Bentong ginger and perhaps a dash of gula melaka too.  Yes, that's how I cook and love my pig trotters, heh!

Old Fuzhou

Old Fuzhou is tucked in a quiet corner in Damansara Kim (opposite the Super Tanker Restaurant), with ample parking.  Do check this place out when you have an urge for good old comfort food, of the Fuzhou kind... expecially now when the weather has turned kinda rainy - red wine warms the body and soothes the soul. 

My appreciation to Marian Eu for this heart-warming Fuzhou experience :-))

Old Fuzhou Restaurant
81 Jalan SS20/11
Damansara Kim
47400 Petaling Jaya
Tel:  7725-5527

Red Eggs


We all know that the Chinese celebrate the one-month "birthday" of a baby by serving red eggs (and pickled ginger and yellow glutinuous rice with curry and red angkoo kuihs! - but that's another story, hehe!).  We Chinese love the color RED as it embodies happiness, good fortune and EGGS have always been a symbol of Life.  It isn't surprising at all to note that the traditional red-dyed eggs are not only featured in babies' one-month celebrations, they are also served during birthdays, well... because birthdays are also a celebration of "renewed life", no?   I remember my mother used to prepare 2 red eggs for my birthdays when I was a kid and it was something I always looked forward to.  It was quite a thrill for me to crack open the red eggs and they tasted so good when eaten dipped in some soya sauce.  Yes, life was much simpler back then.

Eggs play a pivotal role in Easter celebrations: whether from folklore or a religious point of view, the egg is widely used as a symbol of life renewed.  Did you know that the Greeks also dye their eggs red for Easter?  It is their brightest symbol of Greek Easter, representing the blood of Jesus Christ and rebirth.  It's interesting to know that the Greeks make their own traditional natural red dye by boiling onion skins and vinegar! (I must try that out one day). 

Anyway, what got me interested in this red eggs story is that recently I was asked to make them.  You see, I have seen and eaten so many red eggs in my life but I have never ever attempted to make any!  My colleagues wanted to give something "traditional" to a few birthday people and naturally, red eggs was suggested and somehow, the task fell on me.  It may sound simple - I mean, how difficult is it to dye some hard-boiled eggs red, right?  I wanted to make sure they turn out a deep red, not pink or various shades of pink & red.  Yes, I'm sure you have seen poorly-dyed eggs which have uneven red/pink/white patches all over.


I sought help from Twitter and Google and went looking for good red dye in the shops.  I learned that adding vinegar to the dye solution helps in giving better coverage and even-ness of colour.  Oh yeah, I followed every instruction to the "T".  The tricky part was actually in how or where to place the eggs for drying after dyeing, heh!  The guidelines were to place them on a wire tray, which I did... but then I found out that resulted in some "blotches" at the points where the eggs touched the tray. how so how??  Well, I did my best to rub & massage those spots to even out the blotches but still, there were some blemishes left. There must be some way to hang or suspend the dyed eggs so that they don't come into contact with anything while drying out??!  Any sifu out there who can enlighten me on this?

Looking at the eggs, I think I should have smoothened out the shells first with some sandpaper before dyeing them... to reduce those natural dots and ridges which are still visible.


So, whose birthday is next so that I can practise my Red Eggs skills?  Any takers here?  ;-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let us eat Cake!

Should there be a reason for eating cake?

No, not really.

Not when you get one of those baking bugs biting you!  I can go for months without turning on my oven... but when the bug bites, I can be baking more than one cake a day.  That's what happened today.

First of all, I have a slab of cream cheese sitting in my fridge, fast approaching its shelf life and I had to do something about it.  Having bought some couverture chocolate recently, I whipped up a chocolate sponge and cut it into 4 layers.  Now what shall I put in between the layers... something which goes with that cream cheese?  Rummaging through the larder & fridge, I found walnuts, almonds and a pack of Oreos.  So I decided to whip up the cheese with some cream and chocolate... sprinkled some toasted nuts ... decorated it with the Oreos wafer rolls... and this was the result...

The Christmas mood has permeated the air... so I guess now is as good a time to bake a fruitcake as any.  Having soaked the mixed fruits in brandy for the past few days, I added a little "twist" to my recipe and came up with a light version of the traditional fruitcake... it's not totally densed up with fruits... it's buttery, spicy, zesty, nutty and best of all, very much brandied! (used up half a bottle of brandy to soak 1kg of mixed fruits!)


So... do we still need a reason to eat cake? :-))

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Hairy Encounter @ Elegant Inn

It's been a crazy crazy couple of weeks!  I've been meaning to share this much earlier but somehow had to put this off due to work backlog and stuff.

Since my first visit to Elegant Inn, I've been back there a couple of times... mainly to bring family and friends who've been rather impressed with my 1st review of this place.  In my first visit here, we had the opportunity to try out their Hairy Crab Set, minus the crab at that time because Hairy wasn't available then - he was probably undergoing the final phases of maturity in Lake Tai or Lake Yangcheng in China! 


Known also as the Chinese Mitten Crabs (due to the thick layer of hair on their claws), the best hairy crabs reputedly comes from Lake Yangcheng, nearby Shanghai.  However, these prized crabs from Lake Yangcheng are now snapped up by the Chinese population and it's not likely there's any left over for the export market - this is what the lovely Jeannette Han imparted to us.  Most likely the hairy crabs we get here are from Lake Tai.

Of course the hairy crab is revered for its divine roe... flesh aside.  And for that, you would think that the female crabs are the ones that are served.  Wrong.  Actually, it's the male crabs that often made their way to our dining tables!  Jeannette explained that female crabs are rarely marketed because, firstly, the taste & aroma of their roe is an "acquired" preference - it's more gooey, sticky and more "intense" in flavour which not many people would like.  Secondly, most female crabs are better left alone in the lakes to "go forth and multiply" - otherwise, how to ensure that there's sufficient crabs for the next season's harvest?

In most restaurants, the proper "weaponry" (well, they certainly looked like weapons to me!) is provided for you to extricate all the roe & meat from Hairy.  There's a pair of pincer+scissor-like weapon which seemed intimidating enough and another 2-prong fork which also looked pretty lethal.  Oh well, if these seem scary to you, just use your fingers and teeth, no worries!

Hairy Crabs at EI

The 6-course Hairy Crab Set @ RM118++ per person comes with:

*Twin delight Platter of Smoky Prawn Cake & Crunchy E.I. Nachos
*Double-boiled Shark Cartilage Chicken Soup with Shark's Fin & Bamboo Pith
*Seasonal Greens with Japanese Oyster Sauce
*Braised Rice with Whole S.African Abalone

There's one change in the Braised Rice though... from the earlier review, this was served with cubed seafood but now Elegant Inn has gone 1 step higher by serving a Whole South African Abalone!


...and of course, HAIRY himself!


Actually, at closer range, Hairy does look pretty scary, don't you think?!  Hairy looked like some mean alien creature.


Not convinced?  This is WHY he's called "HAIRY"...


But don't let those hairy legs throw you off because they are full of juicy succulent meat inside!  Be sure to use your weapons/fingers/teeth to prod/suck/push every yummy morsel out!


If you are squeamish about "dismantling" Hairy, worry not - the friendly service crew at Elegant Inn would be more than happy to do it for you... and they do an excellent job!

Hairy Crabs at EI-1

What you have to do after that, is... just dig in!  Look at that clump of to-die-for roe! (Get your anti-cholesterol pills ready lah!)


Hmmm... if you are a crabby fan, one Hairy is really not enough!  Hold those roe in your mouth, savour it with your tongue, for as long as possible... coz there aint much of it from one Hairy, I tell ya!


Ohhh... did I mention that there's a set of Dessert included in the Hairy Crab set??  Oh yes, there is!


There's Double-boiled Ginger Soup with White Fungus & Red Dates and Crunchy Nutty Sesame Ball!


Here I would like to make a confession.  Whenever we are at Elegant Inn, we cannot, just cannot NOT order a plate of their Salt & Pepper speciality...


Being the gluttons that we are, this time we HAD to order ALL 3 of their signature Salt + Pepper items (@RM16 per item) ... namely their HK Silver Fish, Homemade Tofu and Cuttlefish!  Arghhhh... such succulent chewy divinity!


And if you still have room in your tummy and a carbs-lover, you should not miss their Signature E.I. Fried Rice (RM22)...


This is not just any fried rice, ok!  Jeannette took pains to explain to us that their chef used 2 types of rice (freshly-cooked rice and day-old rice) and fry it at varying temperatures to achieve that just-perfect texture of the resulting plate of yummy rice.  The grains are separated, yet not too dry nor chewy.  Sounds simple enough... but this perfection can only be achieved with real skills.

Hairy Crabs at EI-3
Jeannette with her langchai Chefs:  Chef James Theng and Chef Leong

The Hairy Crab promotion should be on until December, so if you are thinking of making your acquaintance with Hairy, do give them a buzz to book your Hairy as supplies are brought in fresh daily and may run out fast.

Elegant Inn Hong Kong Cuisine
2.01 2nd Floor, Podium Block
Menara Hap Seng
Jalan P Ramlee
50250 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-2070-9399 Fax: 03-2070-9398