Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunday morning with OZ Specialty Coffee and Yahava Koffeeworks

 
Are you a coffee fiend and need a big cuppa every morning to start your day? I do. And I usually wish for a strong dose, none of those watered-down versions or mixture bags. My daily morning cup is a usual black. At the arrival of weekends, I like to indulge in a aromatic cappuccino. And with the very cliché but true "Recent proliferation of cafés", its easy to explore different cafes but definite hits and misses in accordance with individual preferences of their caffeine fix.
 
Last weekend, we went in search of a early café breakfast and arrived at OZ Specialty Coffee, opened since November 13. It's at Thomson V Two, a condo in a part of Sin Ming that's a stone throw away from the Upper Thomson foodie stretch. Opened daily from 9am, me and hub were there at 910am Sunday and through our 2-hour stay, there were about 4 other groups of people so it was a lovely quiet morning. The café is the usual small setup, with a row of bar seats inside and pretty white tables outside. We sat outside, watching the little traffic on the roads. While it is quiet, it's not a place we could really stay to enjoy a cup and a read due to the presence of mosies. Good for a lazy morning of available seats and good food, before you start the weekend ahead.  




Food wise, OZ serves a small but very well-done range of breakfast items and coffee from Pacarama, Thailand, which is described to be rich and nutty. I'm really not an expert in deciphering coffee blends and their nuances so all descriptions are based on my personal preferences.
 
The coffees arrived amidst our 10 minute wait for the food. It's pretty in it's white cups and milk swirls, however both hub and I felt that the ratio of milk was a tad high, overpowering the coffee. It also makes for a light cup by my standards and not sufficiently strong for me, a self-professed coffee addict. I'm sure it appeals to many others though, as could be read from the many fantastic reviews on their coffee!
 
We love the waffles, which was crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside. We wonder if it's yeasted; it is seemingly so when we looked at the slightly holey structure of the interior crumb. Slightly sweet, it was a good accompaniment to the scrambled eggs. I would return just for the waffles! We also had the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on a toasted brioche with arugula. It was great as well, with a generous dose of salmon. I just wish the brioche was thicker or perhaps it was just weighed down by the filling. The portions are kind of small but at a very reasonable price, 2 coffees and 2 breakfast items only totaled $26. It was also sufficiently filling which means we did not over-eat as it sometimes happens with the larger portions that come with higher price tags anyway, at other places.
 
Thumbs up for the great breakfast but I would look elsewhere for my much-needed caffeine fix, which we did rectify rightaway by going to
 
Yahava KoffeeWorks
 
It was on my to-go list for the longest time but it's kind of hard to reach without a car as it's nestled deep within upper Thomson, at Jalan Gelenggang. We were super glad to have made the trip there, which was actually just another 5 minutes drive from where we were in Sin Ming. This is a huge place by the usual café standards, and is 1 serious coffee-brewer. You have to visit, to check out their full range of coffee beans, their vast array of equipment, both big and small and you could really take your pick. They have 1 corner for coffee-tasting and appreciation classes and their baristas are very friendly and willing to share their knowledge and tips with us.
 
We ordered 2 mid-sized cups, which is only $5.50 each and huge and so pretty when they arrived. I love these colorful mugs, and love their coffees as well. It has a strong aroma and slides very smoothly down the throat. They have a small selection of toasted sandwiches and pies as well as cakes, not a big bunch of food but the focus is on coffee. It's also generally pretty quiet and we spent a good 2 hours there with our coffee and books. It's probably going to be our frequently-visit list from now on!

 
OZ Specialty Coffee
11 Sin Ming road
#01-13 Thomson V Two 
Weekdays 12noon to 12midnight
Weekends 9am to 12midnight
 
Yahava KoffeeWorks
4 Jalan Gelenggang
Opened daily 9am to 6pm

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chocolate cupcakes with Mini Reese Cups


Do you have lots of chocolate left over from Christmas? And now that CNY is coming, I'm sure the stash of chocolate will just kept increasing! I need to finish my many little bags of chocolate, some of which are reaching almost 1 year in storage age. Out comes my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe again, this time with a milk chocolate buttercream frosting and with a whole mini Reese in the cupcake.  

The peanut butter chocolate added a sweet saltiness to the cupcake which was a pretty pleasant surprise to unknowing audience. I used milk chocolate as I thought the lighter colour of the frosting will go highlight the mini pink hearts better. The end result was that the overall frosting was a tad too sweet, compounded by hearts which are little bites of sugar on their own. So,  I probably should live with the darker colour of the dark chocolate frosting next time. 

On a side note, am super loving these rainbow cupcake liners. Colourful and cheerful, they make nice cupcake gifts to brighten any one's day!






Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kueh Bangkit Wannabe - Parmesan Cheese Cassava Cookies

This is not a frequently seen CNY cookie. I'm not even sure it entirely qualifies but hey CNY is all about eating and delighting your visitors with angpows, tea and snacks, so I guess anything small, dainty, baked, kept in a plastic container with a red top works.

I first had a taste of these cookies few years ago at my mother-in-laws' place. They were teeny but packed a punch in taste as the sharp cheese hits the taste buds followed by the melt-in-the-mouth sensation. Entirely addictive.


I can't describe my own baked version in this way though, mine are a little crispy on the outside, tasted somewhat mellow in the cheese department but do melt in the mouth after that crisp. Guess my 100g of parmesan cheese may still be a little too faint as most of my test tasters are not able to guess the flavour with the first bite. It kind of takes 3 cookies before the mind can link the scent with the tongue. Most comments on these cookies were that they are similar to kueh bang kit. 



I love it that they can be rolled out and cut into shapes easily. The cookies hold the shapes well and only expanded a slight bit upon baking. They also bake up really fast, 8 minutes then flip the tray and another 8 minutes. I made 2.5 batches of the recipe and filled up 5 bottles of around 70 cookies per bottle.


Recipe (adapted from cornercafe.wordpress.com)

Ingredients:
170g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
160g sugar
2 eggs, separated
400g tapioca flour
3 pandan leaves
100g grated parmesan cheese
30g coconut milk powder

Steps:
1. Fry the tapioca flour with cleaned and dry pandan leaves until the flour is dry and very light. Be careful not to let the flour turn charred. I had some that turned a little cream colored when cooked too long.
2. Let the flour cool and sift to get 310g after sifting. (you can start with less than 400g. I used more as mine flew all over the place and out of the pan so I ended up with just the sufficient amount of sifted flour needed)
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix in until incorporated.
4. Mix the flour, cheese and coconut milk powder in a separate bowl and stir to mix well.
5. With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture gradually. At this stage, the mixture will look crumbly.
6. Add the egg white and mix well. I removed the beater and fold in the remaining bits that was not mixed in well together.
7. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes, it will be easier to roll and cut.
8. I like to roll fist-sized dough between 2 parchment layer, then cut out the shapes and dropped them on a lined tray.
9. Bake in pre-heated oven, top-bottom-fan mode 150C for 16 minutes. Turn the tray around at 8 minutes. They will remain beautifully pale with visible yellow shreds of cheese.
10. Cool completely before keeping them in air tight containers.


Happy Chinese New Year!

Submitting this to:
"Bake Along", hosted by Joyce from Kitchen FlavoursLena from Frozen Wings and Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Espressolab - superb service!

I love going to cafes. It's not just the good coffees and mostly artisan bread but it's also for personable service staff and a cosy comfortable environment. Expressolab is one that fits all the criteria for me. The cosy arm chairs in various colours and magazines for browsing sets the scene, the coffee is pretty good by my standards and I love the sundried tomato bread that wraps my juicy roasted chicken with a lemon mayo sauce. Above all things, what appeals to me most from my experience at Expressolab is the superb service of the staff. Though it was a weekday, the staff offered me a choice of the weekend brunch if I wanted it since the cafe was not crowded at that time and they can do it for me. That was nice! I still chose a sandwich as I really wanted to try the sundried tomato bread. Since I don't eat bacon, they also offered me a choice from any of their meats available in replacement. That was nice again! When my friend came later, the cafe staff also offered the same choices and took the initiative to let her know that I've made changes in my choice of main and she can do so too. Nice!!





Though I must say my favourite sandwiches are still Sarnies and The Humble Loaf, I would visit Expressolab again for the cosy cafe feel and great friendliness. My only wish is that they could increase their selection of desserts. 

Expressolab
13 Bali Lane

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Green Pea Butter Cookies


Its the season of eating again and its right after a festive fattening Christmas! Whilst X'mas was about log cakes, butter cookies, grilled meats and sauces, Chinese New Year is about steamboats, ferrero rochers, bak kwa and baked cookies. Speaking of cookies, there are all sorts of them, with the most popular probably being pineapple tarts. That's an annual event for my family for the last 21 years and counting, baking and bottling hundreds of them for each family member's enjoyment. 

This tart baking session is led by my aunt and since we get a good and delicious supply for every CNY, I try to do a couple of other baked goodies. My next personal favourite cookie is green pea cookies, and I've had the best from a chinese pastry shop in Midvalley, KL when I was working there. Back for the last 2 years, I've always been on the search again, for those that melt in your mouth, has a nice crunch from the pea bits and has just the right level of saltiness. So far, it's been elusive. I tried making my own last way but it fell way short of being perfect. It was at best, passable.



So, as 2014 CNY rolls around, I tried again! This time, I used my cornflake cookie base since that has been a hot favourite amongst my bakes and do have a crunchy top with a melt in the mouth cookie base. Instead of rolling the dough balls in cornflakes, I added 140g of crushed pea bits into the mixture and bake the rounds that's pressed down lightly with a fork. 


The cookies did turn out with a crunch however, not as melt in the mouth as the usual cornflake cookie. I'm guessing that it's due to the addition of the crushes peas which absorbed some mixture. In my next bake, I would add a little more egg and perhaps a wee bit more butter. I like the speckles of green and the extra hard crunch from the not-so-crushed parts of the green peas. However, the flavour of the green peas did not shine through, it was a rather subdued taste. I'm wondering if its because I should have used green pea powder instead of grinding the coated peas or perhaps its this particular brand of peas that did not taste very strong which is also what I felt when I tried the peas on their own. Overall, it's still a yummy bake, just need a couple more tweaks to enhance the recipe.



Ingredients (Makes around 40 cookies)
113g unsalted butter (softened, remove from fridge and cut into large cubes 20 minutes before using)
80g fine grained sugar
30g egg (around 1/2 a large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence 
113g self-raising flour 
28g cornflour
140g green peas, crushed to a mix of fine and coarse bits using the blender or food processor

Steps:
1. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and creamy in texture. 
2. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another minute.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours together. 
4. Add flour and crushed peas to butter-egg mixture and fold in until incorporated. (Do not use mixer to beat it in)
5. Shape into balls and lightly press down with a fork
6. Bake in pre-heated oven 190C (Top-bottom mode) or if baking 2 trays at 1 time, use 170C (Top-Bottom Fan mode), for 14 minutes. Turn the pan around at 7 min (half way mark) to ensure even baking. 
7. Remove from oven when top is browned and still slightly soft to the touch. It will become crispy when it cools. 
8. Store immediately in air-tight containers once cookies have cooled. 

Submitting this to:
"Bake Along", hosted by Joyce from Kitchen FlavoursLena from Frozen Wings and Zoe from Bake For Happy Kids

Monday, January 6, 2014

Raw Cake Attempt #1 - Pineapple Coconut


Its my first attempt at making a raw cake. Once again, the inspiration was from 2 very fantastic cakes we had in Austria. They were smooth, creamy and absolutely delicious, in addition to being healthy (I assumed the health factor since it was supposed to be a vegan cafe).  That sparked my interest and start to reading and collecting of recipes. However, the procrastinator in me took 6 months before trying it out! Armed with lots of nuts, coconut in many forms and half a ripe pineapple, I took out my trusty Cusineart blender and went ahead.


The base crust was made with almond meal, desiccated coconut and dates mixed in a blender and pressed into the cake pan. The filling was a blend of soaked raw cashews, fresh coconut flesh and pineapple, with a little honey and just under 1/3 cup of coconut oil. After chilling in the fridge overnight, I added a bunch of mixed berries on top which runs as they defrost but nonetheless adding pretty streaks down the sides.


As for the taste, I'm afraid I will need to try a few more times before it gets more acceptance, even from myself! I could stomach approx. 3 bites. and my hubb helped with 2 slices. I like the crust but the smell of the coconut oil jumps out with each mouth of the filling. I supposed it could be an acquired taste but I've had 3 friends tried it and all do not take to the taste as well. I guess my next trial has to omit the coconut oil altogether.

Hmm.. now I wonder what do I do with the rest of the 1L coconut oil. It's expensive. Darn!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Plain - Cafe at Craig Road


On the first morning of 2014, tab on your FB app and there appears posting of various friends all about their first meal of the year. So, I jumped on the bandwagon and took lots of pictures on my first breakfast of the year too!

Hubb and I started the morning at The Plain cafe, right on the dot of 1030am when they opened. There was already 2 other even earlier birds sipping on their great-looking coffees. Love the decor of the place, simple, cosy, and not so packed with tables that you can hear your left and right clearly. We were especially taken with the huge wooden table and the 1 simple tree centrepiece. 


The menus are written on chalkboards placed around the walls; just as we are perusing the items, the friendly crew approaches and ask if we would like to start with any coffees. Start we did indeed, with a latte ($4) and a generra ($5), which is mocha with a good hint of orange from the peel in it. The latte was good, the generra was fantastic. It was thick, creamy and fragrant with a fruity scent, almost like a dessert drink. My only wish was that they have it in a larger size option. I finished the cup in a jiffy.


And..ordered another coffee, a cappuccino ($5) this time, in the larger size. Really much bigger, very satisfying. 


Woohoo, the food arrived, mine was the Darling Egg ($7.50), single serve (pic right on top). The poached egg was round and fat, oozing a yellow goodness onto the sweet roma tomatoes and crusty sourdough. The hubb had the beef pastrami ciabatta ($9.50), toasted to a crisp, filled with a generous dose of rocket leaves, well-complemented by sweet semi dry tomatoes. Very good. I already know I'm going for a turkey ciabatta on my next trip.


Total bill was only $31 for our 3 drinks and 2 breakfasts, very reasonable. The cafe has been in business for 3 years and I guess it will stay around for very long! Yummy!

The Plain Cafe
50 Craig Road