Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kooka Cafe at Purvis Street

Bacon, Spinach and Mushroom Quiche $9
After a whole week of stress from work and a morning of Pivot tables, I am so glad to lounge at this laid-back cafe with hearty food and a good cuppa!

Arriving around 1pm, Kooka Cafe was pleasantly quiet and exudes a rustic charm with wooden tables & chairs, plentiful jars of cookies lining the walls, abundance of fruits laid out and a wide range of cakes & pastries displayed. The lady owner was very patient as I asked for recommendations of her bakes, taking time to introduce each item, the key ingredients, resulting texture, level of sweetness and even the way it would be served. Very warm and makes you feel like you are just visiting a friend's place.

Having had fabulous barcook bread for breakfast already, I chose a quiche as opposed to my usual preference of sandwiches. Morever, I read that all the cakes and pastries are home-baked by the owner. How she can single-handedly bake everything is a  wonder, I usually take 3 hours to bake and frost ONE cake. Totally admire her determination and efforts!

The quiche arrived with a generous serve of salad with tiny bits of garlic and juicy cherry tomatoes. Quiche was fantastic, only slightly creamy, adequately bouncy with a hearty serve of spinach and and mushrooms! The crust was winning, flaky yet sufficiently crusty, it remained crispy and the buttery fragrance shone through delightfully.

The cuppaccino was pretty ordinary though. It's kind of light and maybe it was my request for skim milk that resulted in the foam being slightly less than fluffy. Or.. it could also be me having had Chye Seng Huat coffee before, so it's difficult to find a good match in most other cuppas!
Orange Almond Cake $6
Wooo, can't leave and live without a sweet ending, the owner's first recommendation was this Orange Almond cake. It's served warmed, with cream on the side and it's extremely moist! Indeed not overly sweet as per recommended, the orange shone through and you would not tire of the cake even bite after bite after bite... TWO thumbs up!

Overall, a very delightful find on a Saturday afternoon. I will definitely return for the good-looking sandwiches and that chunky banana pecan slice I spied in the chilled display.. or that little round dish of apple crumble!

Kooka Cafe
18 Purvis Street 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Almost Puff Pastry Apple Pie

What the husband wants is what the husband gets! Though it's more of by the way since I was preparing a dish for a friend's housewarming party, it served 2 occasion in one bake!
I typed apple pie into Google and being an all-american favorite with many french versions as well, there were lots of recipes to choose from. Previously, I've done apple pies with a bottom crust only, mainly using a sweet almond pastry crust which is a hardy pie crust with a good bite to it. This time, I tried a flaky crispy pie crust from one of my favorites bloggers - Brown Eyed Baker. Her recipes are clear in instructions and pictures are instructional as well as inspirational.
Hers is a hand pie version which looks super yummy and definitely way better than my amateur attempt. For mine, I adapted it slightly and multiplied the quantity to make 1 9-inch double-layered pie and 1 8-inch latticed pie. For the filling, I used back the same recipe as in my Apple Frangipane Tart. The end result was well-liked by the hub, and me! It was indeed flaky, and crisp on the top layer, very much like a puff pastry without all the work of folding butter within the layers. I think one key trick is to really ensure all the ingredients and tools are kept cold at all times. Try to make this on e rainy day or a cold environment!
Due to very limited dough quantity as the greedy me was trying to make 2 pies, the crust turned out too thin. Would make it much thicker in the next attempt.
Flaky Pie Crust (Adapted from here)
Makes 1 8-inch double crust
2.5cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
227g unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup iced water
1. Place flour and salt in a bowl, keep cold in freezer for 30 minutes
2. Cube the butter and keep cold in freezer for 30 minutes
3. Mix yoghurt, lemon juice and ice water together
4. Make a well in middle of flour mixture and add the butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until large lumps are formed.
5. Form another well and pour half the yoghurt mixture in. Stir in with a fork. Pour in the remaining yoghurt mixture and stir to form a large ball. You should still be able to see specks of butter in the dough.
6. Divide dough into 2 and wrap each in clingwrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I left mine overnight. Dough remains slightly soft and can be easily rolled out through to the 2nd day.
When ready to bake:
1. Pre-heat oven to 220C, with tray placed on the lower rack of the oven to heat the bottom crust (to avoid a soggy bottom layer)
2. Butter the tray and roll out one disc of dough, patting it snugly into the tray.
3. Top with apple filling and layer the 2nd piece of dough on top. Wet the perimeter of the dough and pinch to seal the 2 doughs together.
4. Brush with egg wash and spinkle with sugar. (if the top tier is a full crust, cup 4 to 6 openings on top before baking to allow steam to escape. Not applicable for lattice-topped pies)
5. Bake for 20 minutes, carefully move the tray to the middle of the oven and tent with foil to prevent a charred top. Reduce temperature to 190C and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil in the last 5 minutes to get a lovely golden brown top.
- Work quickly to prevent butter from melting. If butter seems to be melting at any point, place everything back in the freezer to cool before working on it again.
- Do not use hands at all times as the butter will melt very fast in our hands.  
- For one of the pies, I cut and fold the dough once, as an experiment. Indeed the dough rose more than the others. If you have time on hand, go ahead and cut-stack-wrap-chill couple of times.
- To roll the dough out, I like to roll them between layers of clingwrap, which makes it easy to peel off the table, prevent dough from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Line the table with clingwrap, scatter flour generously and place dough onto the floured cling-wrapped table top. Cover with another layer of clingwrap and roll the dough out.
Overall, a very delightful apple pie. Loved the crispiness of the top though the bottom was still slightly soggy. The apples had also boiled down to a mash whichas I was hoping for a chunky apple pie filling. how can I do that since I cannot blind-bake the pie? Anyone knows how I can do that? I'm already using a mixture of Granny Smith which breaks down easily and fuji apples that usually do not.
Try it out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Smitten Cafe @Robertson Quay

On a public holiday, we expected the popular stretch of cafes at Robertson Quay to be packed to the max. Thankfully, our destination, Smitten Cafe is pleasantly quiet though I'm not sure if that means good for us but weeeeell, not so good for the owners..

It's a cosy little place with 3-4 tables indoor and a larger number outside the shop but still under shade. Since we alreadg had lunch, we ordered only a cup of drip coffee. Coffee was not bad, with a strong aroma, but not particularly memorable. What stuck with me was that it was served with a delightfully pretty tray of sugars and milk. Gers just love fancy sweet looking accessories!
The beverage menu has a much wider selection than the food items and there's a range of cakes and cookies available in the chilled display.

Love the jars of iced water. Filled with orange slices in one and strawberry in the other, the light flavor and colourful trays attracted me to pour cups of water!
Some very interesting and complicated looking machines.

A thoughtful act by the owners - a good selection of magazines for customers to read as they chill out
Not exactly a place I would choose for lunch or dinner, but good to visit if you are within the area and everywhere else is crowded.

a Pictorial reminder of a rose swirl cupcake frosting

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of baking with good girl pals, for a joyous baby shower occasion.