individual tarte tatin

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*This is another queued post, 3 more days till I’m out of exam hell*

So I was pondering the idea of setting up a separate blog with the same content but in another language, and logged into my blogger account for the first time in 2 years. I could not believe what I found.

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Now, I knew I’d had a few failed attempts at blogging before, but 130 posts!? That is absolutely insane. What, were my fingers typing in my sleep or was I sucked into a time vortex and got transported into an alternate universe? I tried reading a few entries but as expected, it was much too cringe-worthy and whiny that I just… can’t. And to think it was only 2 1/2 years ago – thank goodness for the memory blank because I have zero plans to return to that phase of my teenage years.

I remember when blogging was so cool and popular in early highschool where people would actually bring a journal to school and write down the day’s proceedings and later transcribe it onto their Bebo or Myspace. Naturally I did the same, with no one to talk to – I was in homestay a lot of the time – I put the complainer in me on display so everyone would know how depressed I was.

In any case, I’m hesitant about the second blog thing for many reasons, the main ones being the time and effort to translate manually, and people who know me in real life happening upon it. Sounds silly, but I’m still uneasy about anyone other than strangers reading my pathetic but private and honest ramblings.

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Back to the food. Not all desserts are created equal, but many of them by happy accident. In one variation of the origin story of the tarte Tatin (the one that I prefer), the cook overcooked the butter and sugar for what was meant to be a traditional apple pie. The genius she was, instead of saying ‘oh #&$*!’ and dumping the entire dish in the trash, she tried to rescue it by covering it with pastry – and a classic is born. Maybe one day I’ll set a rice pudding on fire or something and make a name for myself. You never know.

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Apples. Caramel. Pastry. That’s all there is to this incredibly simple but extremely delectable dessert. I used Pink Lady which retained their shape beautifully without losing texture. There is some debate on the subject of which pastry to use: pastry god Pierre Hermé among some others top their tarts with pâte sucrée; while Raymond Blanc & co. are in the puff camp. I suppose the main reason for using shortcrust instead of puff is that it’s more resistant to being soaked by the caramel. But I’d feel sorry for myself if I didn’t use puff, and since these are individual servings, they’d be finished before the caramel had a chance to soggy up the pastry anyway.


Individual tarte tatin
(makes 4, 10cm in diameter)

For the pastry:
1/4 batch of puff pastry or 1 store-bought sheet

For the caramelised apples:
2 large baking apples
squeeze of lemon juice (adjust according to tartness of apples)
100g sugar
1 tbsp butter
pinch of salt
optional flavourings – vanilla bean, cinnamon etc. to taste

If the pastry is frozen, take it out to thaw. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F and place a baking tray large enough to fit all 4 dishes in the middle of the oven, this helps insulate the bottom of the dishes and prevent the apples from overcooking.

Peel, core and slice the apples about 1.5cm thick. Toss in some lemon juice and set aside.

Start the caramel, for which I used the dry method. In a heavy pot/pan, sprinkle the sugar in an even layer and put it on medium heat. Leave undisturbed until the edges start to liquefy, at which point take a heat-proof spoon or spatula and move the melted sugar into the unmelted centre. Stir every once in a while until all the crystals disappear and the caramel takes on a deep amber colour. Take off the heat so it doesn’t burn, and add the butter, swirl the pan to combine. Carefully transfer the apples to the caramel and put it back on low heat. Add the flavourings now if so desired. Stir the apples to coat evenly with caramel and cook for about 5 minutes, just so they too take on the golden colour and are just a little tender.

At this point the pastry should be thawed out, so use the ramekins (or other ovenproof dishes) to cut around the bottom to produce 4 pieces slightly larger than the circumference. Generously coat the bottom and sides of the dishes with softened butter. Lay the apple slices on the bottom of the dishes evenly, attempting to fill the gaps. If there is leftover caramel, drizzle it over the apples. Take the pastry and lay it on top of the apples, tucking the excess into the dish. Prick the top a few times to make steam vents, and place the dishes on the preheated tray in the oven.

Bake for ~20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown, you may also see the caramel bubbling around the sides. Carefully remove from the oven and leave them for 5 minutes to slightly set the caramel. With a knife, run around the the inner circumference of the ramekins to release the pastry and apples. Place a plate on top of the dish, and very carefully and swiftly invert the dish. You may want to to gloves as the ramekins are likely to still be piping hot.

Serve immediately. Amazing on its own or with a dollap of crème fraîche or scoop of ice cream.

apple & blueberry jalousies

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This is the stuff of dreams. Well, my dreams anyway, when I do dream about pleasant things like food and not running around naked and being unaware of it. The thought of apple pies has been latched onto me ever since my mum and sister brought back more apples than we could consume from the farmers’ market. I began reminiscing about, no, lusting after the best apple pies one could wish for. Not from McD, not even homemade, but the famous pie shop in North Yatala just off the motorway.

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Made too much mascarpone filling so the apple jalousie got some too

It’s become a tradition of ours to stop at the pie shop on every journey home from the Gold Coast. Inside the little and always crowded shop, there’s a picture depicting something like a WW2 soldier thinking about Yatala’s pies. It’s become a household joke that when something tastes so good, not even war could distract you from it.

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Unfortunately, I’m still very much neck-deep in SWOTVAC hell where I simply can’t afford to take time out of study to do normal things. To maintain my sanity, I’ve been trying to wrap up the day’s study at about 10:30pm then indulge myself in recreational activities, like baking and reading crack fanfiction.

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Baking in the dead of the night is nothing new for me. It requires the near-ninja skill of keeping noise to an absolute minimum, which means no mixers, no clanging of metal against metal etc. The use of portable LED book lights is also necessary in an otherwise dark kitchen (not recommended as I had to taste jar to jar to find sugar). Naturally that greatly reduces the number of recipes one is able to carry out, but it does have the advantage of coolness in the atmosphere, perfect when one is working with butter.

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Yatala’s apple pies have the signature mound of whipped cream with a pastry lid on top. But while I was searching for ways to prevent the excess juices from the apples from seeping into the pastry, I came across jalousies, and my mind was set. The name of the dessert translates to jealousy in French, and while I try to reserve judgement about things I make, I think the result would’ve inspired jealousy in the 7-year-old me who was very much in a relationship with blueberry danishes, and the blueberry version of this is very close to that.

I’ll do a separate post on the pastry, which is a quick rough puff. Despite the name, it’s really quite similar to the straight laminated puff pastry but is much faster and less technique sensitive.

The BA article talks about how poaching the juicier fruits (apples, pears) helps enhance flavour, draw the moisture out and avoid the pastry being done before the fruit is tender. The results were as promised – the bottom pastry was buttery and flaky, untouched by moisture and the poached apples had an intense fruity flavour without being mushy.

I poached the apples in apple juice instead of alcohol to accommodate for the major consumer of my goods, but feel free to use wine or apple cider instead. Experimenting with different fruits, savoury fillings and nuts would be fun as well


Apple & blueberry jalousies
(makes 2 10x20cm jalousies)
(inspired by Ba Bar’s Jalousie)

For the puff pastry:
1/2 recipe of rough puff pastry

For the poached apples:
2 medium cooking apples
250g apple juice
20g sugar~10 pieces of citrus peel (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1/2 vanilla pod, cut lengthwise (optional)

For the blueberry filling:
80g mascarpone
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1tsp icing sugar
1tsp flour
100g blueberries (fresh or defrosted)

To poach the apples, peel, core and cut into quarters. Further cut each quarter into thirds so you end up with 24 slices in all. In a pot, put in everything but the apples and heat until the sugar’s dissolved. Add the apples and cook on medium heat until tender but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. If you wish, you could reduce the liquid to a syrup and use in other desserts.

For the mascarpone filling, whisk together the mascarpone, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and icing sugar until combined, then mix in the flour.

Preheat the oven to 205C/400F. Roll and cut the (defrosted) puff pastry into 4 equal rectangles approx. 3mm thick, I cut mine 10x20cm. Place two of the rectangles on a lined baking sheet at least 2cm apart.

For the apple jalousie, arrange the poached slices closely and 1cm away from the edges. A sprinkle of chopped walnuts here would be nice. For the blueberry jalousie, spread the mascarpone filling evenly and 1cm away from the edges then place a layer of blueberries on top. Sprinkle blueberries with some demerara sugar if you like.

Egg wash the 1cm margin all around the 2 base rectangles, and gently place the other 2 top pieces on top of the fruit. Press the top and bottom pastry together and make some cuts in the top pastry for aesthetic (I don’t have a lattice roller so fugly slats will have to do) and functional (to let out the steam) reasons. Egg wash the top too, being careful not to let it drip down the sides as it may stick the layers together and hinder maximum puffage.

Bake in 205C/400F hot oven until the pastry has started to rise, about 10 minutes in. Reduce the temperature down to 190C/375F until golden on top, about 20 more minutes. Check that the bottom is crispy, not soggy. If the bottom is still soft, move the tray to the bottom of the oven and let cook in residual heat.

Best served hot with dollop of cream/crème fraîche/ice cream.

apple cinnamon layer cake w/ pear compote

I made a nice cake today.

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It’s the time of year where our favourite fruit – mangoes are starting to come in, other fruits will have to make do while we impatiently await its peak when we can buy them by the tray. In fact, we’re so obsessed that one year my sister requested sliced mangoes on a plate instead of cake; and one time we used the power cut as an excuse to scarf down 5+ refrigerated mangoes before they would supposedly go bad: electricity was back in a mere hour. I imagine there’ll be plenty of opportunity to profess my love for the amazing goodness that is mangoes, but today belongs to the classic apple.

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The idea of apple crisps came from the ever-inspiring Poires au Chocolat. Slow-baked apple thins sprinkled with raw sugar and cinnamon – Emma brushed hers with sugar water but I a) was too lazy and b) thought the larger crystals of raw sugar would add crunch. The sugar, of course, dissolved into the apples – the slightly more complex flavour was the consolation prize.

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I wasn’t too keen on the frosting masking the brown-buttery fruitiness, but still wanted to balance the sweet compote with creaminess in the form of the last of the homemade mascarpone. Speaking of compote, the tender chunks of vanilla-infused pear add a layer of depth texture-wise, contrasted with the grated apple in the cake.

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I don’t know if there’s a discernible difference in the pictures today ̶c̶o̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶s̶h̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶m̶e̶ , but I did actually use a real camera today. A 10+ y.o. Olympus, but still.

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More than often I’m struck with sonder – the realisation that every passerby has a life as complicated, full and real as mine, revolving around countless people and memories special to themselves. It’s the kind of deep stuff I think to myself when stuck in traffic on the bus for 40+ mins – that happened on Thursday.

One of my favourite people who I’m lucky enough to be friends with has commissioned me to make their birthday cake. I was completely ecstatic and honoured, and I still am, but still have a very hazy idea of what it’s going to be. The specifications were only: vanilla, chocolate and caramel with no frosting on the sides. Good thing I still have a month to brainstorm, but any ideas would be really appreciated.


Apple cinnamon layer cake w/ pear compote
(makes a teeny 5″ 3-layer cake)

For the brown butter apple cake:
60g unsalted butter
20g coconut oil (or other lightly flavoured vegetable oil)
80g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
78g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
75g plain flour
35g cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
50g buttermilk (or 25g milk + 25g plain yogurt)
120g grated apple (~1 huge apple or 2 small)

For the cinnamon mascarpone frosting:
100g mascarpone
1 tsp lemon juice
10g icing sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, to taste

For the caramel pear compote:
1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 medium/large pear, cut into small 1cm chunks
pinch of cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Prepare the apple crisps so they can bake while they oven’s preheating and the batter is being mixed. Place slice of apple (no more than 3mm) on a baking tray and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon on top. Put in the oven at 130C/265F and bake until dry and crisp, about 30 mins. Flip the crisps halfway and sprinkle the other half with cinnamon too. Pull the tray out and turn up to 180C/350F.

As with any great cake, start by browning the butter in a pot large enough for the entire batter. Melt butter over medium heat, cover with lid and let it turn brown on medium heat. It’s ready when it’s turned a deep golden colour and stopped splattering. Add the oil, sugar and salt while still hot. Let cool down and add the eggs (to weigh partial eggs, crack and beat 2 eggs until homogenous first) and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, stir just until no more flour is visible. Stir in the buttermilk, and lastly the grated apple (with most of the juice squeezed out).

Pour batter into a lined 5″ tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 mins or until done. Cool completely before assembling.

To make the frosting, stir the mascarpone with lemon juice until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined. Keep in the fridge until assembly.

For the compote, heat the butter on medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the pear and let caramelise slightly, then stir and add the sugar and vanilla and cardamom. Let the pear soften (only one way to test it) until tender but not falling apart, about 8 mins. Let it cool completely.

To assemble, slice the cake into however many layers you like (2 to 4 for my pan size). Spread on 1/2, 1/3 or 1/4 of the frosting on the bottom layer, depending on the number of cake layers. Distribute the frosting so that it forms a rim on the outside so that the inside can contain the pear compote. Repeat up to the top layer, where instead of compote, arrange apple crisps prettily.