Having your cake and eating your tart too


(Ananastaart : Pineapple Tart)

Brown food, it has to be acknowledged, is not the easiest thing to capture in enticing light. For someone who bakes, golden brown is probably one of the most attractive colours you could pull out of the oven. But for someone who also tries to take pictures of their baked goods, the same colour can be quite challenging to make look appetising.

I’ve noticed that I bake a lot of brown things, and that’s probably why I end up baking more than I blog. Let’s just say, for the majority of the time, I’d rather be eating than trying to take pictures of brown food 🙂


(Engadiner Nusstorte : Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie)

This Engadiner Nusstorte, made a week ago, was so delicious that I struggled to hang on to that last piece in order to take a picture. Early on in the week, I sternly pointed to the remaining slice in it’s plastic container, declaring to B that it was Strictly Photo Pie, so Hands Off. Even so, I managed to secretly (I think) shave bits off the slice until it was nearly in danger of becoming non-existent. Not long after a picture was finally taken and the pie was relegated back to Edible status, the slice disappeared.

The reason why I was so adamant about taking a picture this time was because I wanted to highlight a cookbook I bought recently, that has rapidly become one of my current favourites : Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra.

I love a cookbook that respects baking audiences enough to use not only cup measures, but also weight measures in grams and ounces. It also scores highly with me if it happens to feature a collection of interesting pictures, and not just ones that have been styled to the hilt. For example, check out p301 to see how kataifi pastry is traditionally made.

It also extends beyond what you’d expect from a typical baking book. There are none of the usual suspects here – no chocolate brownies or endless variations on a single cupcake recipe. Instead, Warm Bread and Honey Cake plays host to a fantastic collection of unusual recipes such as a pink-tinted Caribbean coconut roll (Salara), Chilean layered ‘drunken’ apple cake (Kuchen Borracho), Chinese steamed red bean buns, a whole chapter on Turkish sweets and savouries, and many lovely looking Dutch recipes (the author also has a book on Dutch baking called Windmills in my Oven).

Not to mention the pineapple cake tart above either. Cake and tart in one hit? What’s not to like? It was delicious, but perhaps slightly overshadowed by the power of a pie that encases nuts and toffee in a single breath. The recipe for the pie is below.

Swiss Walnut and Toffee Pie :
(Engadiner Nusstorte or Bündner Nusstorte, from Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

Pastry :
300g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g butter, chilled and cubed
100g icing sugar
1 egg, beaten

Filling :
250g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey, light corn syrup or liquid glucose
150ml double (heavy) cream, warmed
250g walnuts, coarsely chopped [Note : I used macadamia nuts]

Make the pastry first. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and rub in until well incorporated. Or simply put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then transfer to a bowl.

Reserving 2 tsp egg, add the rest to the bowl and use your fingertips to bring it together. Add a few drops of water if necessary. Cover with clingfilm and chill while you make the filling.

Have a pair of oven mitts standing by. Put the sugar, water and honey in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it continue to boil until it becomes a dark golden colour. Stir from time to time.

Put on the oven mitts and pour the warm cream into the saucepan in a steady stream, stirring continuously. It will hiss and bubble ferociously, but the mitts should protect your hands and arms. Keep on stirring the mixture on medium heat until it is creamy and slightly thickened. To test, pour 1 tsp onto a cold saucer and tilt it after a few seconds. The mixture should spread slowly and not disintegrate into rivulets. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the walnuts, coating them well. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Grease a 24cm springform tin.

To assemble the pie, the pastry should be chilled but still malleable, or it will break when you roll it. Divide the pastry into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger portion between two sheets of clingfilm to a 30cm circle and use it to line the tin. (Use the bottom sheet of clingfilm to help move it, removing the sheet once the pastry is in place). Press the edges of the pastry against the side of the tin.

Scrape the filling onto the pastry. Level the top as well as you can, but don’t apply too much pressure, or you may tear the pastry and the filling will leak out. Fold the excess pastry inwards over the filling.

Roll the second piece of pastry to a neat 22cm circle. Trim if necessary. Moisten the edges of the pastry base in the tin with a little water and position the second pastry circle on top of this. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Brush with the reserved egg and prick with a fork in several places. If you like, you can score a plaid pattern onto the surface with the fork.

Bake for 35-40 mins, or until golden brown. Leave to cool until lukewarm in the tin, then loosen the sides, release the clip and carefully transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Back to it, a pillow cheesecake and a giveaway.


(Helen’s Pillow Cheesecake with salted butter caramel sauce)

So I woke up this morning and wondered where on earth my holiday had gone to. I looked for it in all the typical places – the back pockets of my favourite pair of jeans, behind the door, under the couch – before realising that just like the last cookie in the jar, my holiday had already been consumed.

With typical perfect timing, my oven has also chosen this very moment, to break down. This oven, the sun, all pushing me towards the inevitable conclusion that is, the start of work.


In examining the remaining crumbs of my holiday, I realised that despite it’s brevity, there’s probably not much I could complain about. The weather had been kind, I managed to squeeze in some face-time with a few close friends and I started and finished two books (The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Surrender by Sonya Hartnett); an accomplishment these days when cookbooks are my main distraction.

Countless days of sleeping-in aside, my employers might be quite glad to hear that I’ve missed work and am actually looking forward to returning. Not to take anything away from the fact that I loved the kicked up feet, the new indent I’d made in our couch and the pleasure of forgetting-what-day-it-was. Some people have claimed I perform best under pressure and while I’ve vocally pishposh-ed their opinion, I’ve also quietly thanked them for the compliment. In our industry, to be told that you perform well under pressure is like getting the cherry bonus in a game of PacMan. (Confession : I don’t play PacMan particularly well).

I have decided to commemorate my return to work with a post and a giveaway. Since I’ve been on holiday (read : lazy), I haven’t been taking many pictures, so had to dig up a photo taken late last year of a cheesecake I made after coming across an old post of Helen’s. You can find the recipe here, and believe me when I say, this recipe is as much about the cheesecake as it is about that salted butter caramel sauce. Do not attempt to make one without the other!

As for the giveaway, I have to admit that this blog has never been able to afford giveaways. Lemonpi started out as a personal journal and I’d like to think it will always remain that way. I have no grandiose plans for it. It just is, and while it remains fun, it will continue to exist. So for my giveaway, I’m offering free compassion* to every reader who leaves a comment. If compassion isn’t your thing, then I hope you at least got a free smile for the day, from reading this post.

*Compassion is limited to one comment per reader only.

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Heart beats for cake


(Adzuki bean with vanilla, and hazelnut Pocky)

If you
If you could
If you could only
If you could only stop
If you could only stop your
If you could only stop your heart
If you could only stop your heart beat
If you could only stop your heart beat for
If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart
If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart beat.

–Too many birds, Bill Callahan.

Do you ever feel like sometimes you love a song so much that it’s hard to describe what it’s like to hear it. Is it like falling in love? That electric feeling that jolts your heart when fingers touch. That first kiss. The inexplicable sense of everything being right in the world.

My current obsession is Bill Callahan’s album, Sometimes I wish We were an Eagle. It is on rotation in my house every day. If I’m not listening to it, I’m humming it quietly under my breath – as I traipse down the street, while I wait on the platform for my train, or when I’m dealing with someone I do not enjoy interacting with. During these moments, Bill whispers. Joyfully.

I dread the moment I become oversaturated on Bill and finally get sick of that album. Later down the track, I know I can come back to it and rediscover how great each song is. And the heart will beat faster again.


(Black mochi cake with sesame)

Several bags of glutinous rice flour later, and I’m still not sick of mochi cake yet. I first made one from Elizabeth Falkner’s book, but did not like the result. My next attempt, using Food Librarian’s recipe for cherry mochi cakes was very successful. It planted the seed of interest, and the fact that her recipe is the easiest “one-bowl-wonder” ever, further enabled my obsession. I have also since adapted the recipe to suit my preferences, resulting in a slightly lighter and less sweet cake, which still maintains that elusive diplomatic balance between a Western cake and an Asian chewy dessert.


(Mochi blondie)

If like me, cake governs your heart as much as music does, then this recipe is for you. Once you’re hooked, you’ll probably find yourself playing around with the ingredients. Substitute mochiko for black glutinous rice flour or green pandan rice flour (both available from Thai grocery stores). Or substitute thin coconut cream for evaporated milk, throw in some cherries and top the batter with shredded coconut or chocolate chips, and you have a mochi cake version of the Cherry Ripe bar. Or add some melted white chocolate, and fold in white chocolate buttons and macadamia nuts, and you have a chewy mochi blondie.

Make this, and when you taste it, you will know what I mean. Mochi cake, be still, my beating heart.

Mochi Cake :

225g mochiko [I use Thai glutinous rice flour, available from most Asian grocery stores, to great effect]
85g unsalted butter, melted
175g caster sugar
187g evaporated milk (1/2 can)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
additional ingredients of choice eg. fresh berries, chocolate, nuts

Preheat the oven to 175’C. Grease and line a 12 x 8 x 1.5 inch rectangular baking tin.

Sift the mochiko and baking powder together. In an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the melted butter, then the evaporated milk and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and any extra ingredients you wish to incorporate into the cake. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake on a rack, then remove from tin and cut into desired shapes.

Variations :

Mochi blondie : Reduce sugar to 150g. Melt 100g white chocolate with the butter and proceed with the method above. Fold extra white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts into the batter at the end, if desired.


(::vanilla pannacotta, adzuki brownie, black mochi cake, adzuki snow, soy caramel dust, homemade Pocky)

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