Monday, August 31, 2009

DIY Pastry Tool

Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts to make, be it the traditional coffee kind or my own green tea version. I also like to make a stenciled pattern on top with icing sugar, after the coco powder or green tea powder, to give it a little something extra.

In the past, I've always had to ask someone to help me with this taks, either to hold the stencil or to do the dusting. The problem with that arrangement is that most people who are not pastry chefs, or surgeons, don't have steady hands. My helper gets really nervous when I ask her to hold the stencil just above the cake, without either touching the cake or moving the stencil. Her hands end up shaking violently. But when I asked her to do the dusting while I hold the stencil, she ended up dumpling mounds of sugar in some places and skipping other areas altogether. Trying to point her to the right direction without moving the stencil was next to impossible because you essentially have to hold your breath in order not to move the stencil. The husband faired slightly better but he's not as readily available.

Months went by where I had to put up with substandard stenciled pattern. Then I remembered one of my pastry students who always commented that there should be a tool for every pastry need. I started looking around the kitchen for something that can be turned into a tool to facilitate this particular pastry task. Lo and behold, the toasting rack for the microwave oven!

I attached three binder clips to the stencil, then attached the clips to the three legs of the rack with rubberbands, adjusting the length of the bands by wrapping them around the legs so the stencil would be suspended at the right height. I then carefully slid the tiramisu under the stencil and Voila! A DIY stencil sling!

Is it too premature to apply for patent?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Convert Your Friends into Twilight Fans

Like I said, I’ve turned into a Twilight fan. For three weeks after I came back from New York, I lived and breathed the Twilight saga, reading the books over and over again, watching the DVD, listening to the soundtracks, and searching any Twilight related video clips on YouTube. Yeah, I know, it’s all a little bit obsessive. The worst part though, is that I don’t have many friends who’ve read Twilight, it being a teen novel and all, which made it hard to share my obsession. So, what’s a girl to do, but to try to convert all her friends into fans, just like her? And what better way to do it than to throw a Twilight-themed girls’ night complete with a screening of the movie?

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: send invitation to all your girlfriends regardless of whether they’ve read Twilight or not. After all, the goal is to have as many of your friends as possible with whom you can discuss and obsess over Twilight together, so new blood (no pun intended) is crucial.

Step 2: get your friend who owns a cooking school to send her chef to cook the “bloody” feast for you. Who can resist a gourmet meal cooked by a handsome chef? So he’s no Edward Cullen, but in real life we have to make do.

Step 3: fill your place with as much greeneries as you can so it resembles Forks, the little town the book is set in that’s perpetually green and luscious.

Step 4: conjure up the idea to make a cake that look like Edward’s meadow and reincarnate Edward and Bella in fondant, despite the fact that you’ve never made any human figurines out of fondant before and that fondant literally melts in Singapore’s heat and humidity. To quote Edward, “Mind over matters.”

Step 5: play the soundtrack and Debussy piano music to set the mood.

Step 6: details, details, details. This includes the red apple, which is on the book cover, and represent the forbidden fruit; flowers that smell good and aroma candles to simulate Bella’s floral scent; drinks that look like blood, such as sangria and watermelon juice; and last but not the least, dress up in your vampire chic best! You want to make Alice proud.

Step 7: channel Siobhan’s ability so you can will it to rain after three straight weeks of sunshine and scorching heat. It wouldn’t be Forks if it weren’t wet and gloomy!

Et Voila! You have yourself a bloody good time with friends and virtually all of them are now converts. The next time you throw a New Moon party, nobody will be going, “Aren’t vampires supposed to kill people?”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Confession of a Twilight Fan

It all started on a long-haul flight from Tokyo to New York city. I already had plenty of sleep from Singapore to Tokyo so I was wired. After watching Gran Torino and Benjamin Button, and even a stupid Jim Carrey movie called the “Yes Man.” I was left with either watching a LOT of Clint Eastwood oldies or the teen vampire flick Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I love Clint Eastwood in his early days, before he got all wrinkly and grey, but I wasn’t in the mood for a dirty Harry marathon, so Twilight it was.

And THAT is how I became a fan.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it was that grabbed me so forcibly, despite the postage-stamp sized monitor. It was as if I could physically feel the pain and torture that Edward and Bella were going through, never mind vampires don’t exist in real world and I’d never had the slightest interest in any vampire-related subject before.

When I reached NYC, I brought up the subject with my friend C, who happened to be a Twilight fan. She said she read all four books in four days, and went back to read them again the minute she finished. My interest was piqued and I contemplated reading the books as well.

A few days later, I met up with two other friends J and M, who are familiar with Twilight (maybe familiar is to put it mildly). J was so engrossed in the books that she spent an entire weekend in Bali, at a nice resort, doing nothing but reading the books one after another, completely ignoring everything else. She even confessed to pulling into an empty parking space once she was back in Singapore, in order to finish the last book before she went home, where she couldn’t ignore her duties as a mother.

By this point I had already bought the first two books and was waiting to finish another book before embarking on this surely to be addictive and all-consuming journey. Sure enough, once I started reading I simply couldn’t stop. It wreaked havoc on my biological clock, having just gotten over the jetlag from the trip to New York, I now voluntarily turned my schedule upside down again, for Edward.

It took me longer to read the books than my friends said it would, mainly because the story line was so gripping that I found myself skipping ahead, just a few paragraphs down the page, to find out what happened, before returning to the earlier part and read through the whole thing again. So in essence, I was reading the book twice as I go along.

A week later, I emerged from the fantasy world of vampires and werewolves, but I wanted more. So I read Midnight Sun as well, on Stephenie Myere’s website. After that, I went back and read the four books again, slower this time. Then I read Midnight Sun for the second time, along with Twilight (this would be the third reading now) so I could cross reference and find out exactly what Edward and Bella were thinking at the same time.

If all of this sounds a little bit obsessed, let me come out to say that I am perhaps the person who’s astonished by this the most, because before this, I had never been a fan of anyone or anything. I don’t have a favorite actor or actress, no favorite sports team, composer, band, or even a fashion brand. I don't swoon, ever! I used to wonder if there was anything wrong with me. The funny thing is, I didn’t like Robert Pattinson as Cedric at all in Harry Potter. I thought he wasn’t handsome enough for the role. Then when twilight came out, his pictures were all over the place, on the red carpet, at awards ceremonies. I still didn’t think he was good looking at all. But when I saw him as the brooding, pale vampire, everything changed. In interviews, he’s funny and self-deprecating, which is always attractive in a guy. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also musically talented. He plays the piano and guitar beautifully, and has a really soulful singing voice. AND he wrote and sang two of the songs in the movie. Now that is HOT. I never used to understand the screaming fans or the people who wait for hours just to get a glimpse of their favorite star. Now I can sort of see it. I’m absolutely positive that I’ll still be too mortified to join the throngs of teenagers to wait for Rob Pattinson on location, but I am pretty sure I’d be tempted to enter a silent auction to win a chance to be serenaded by him on the piano. If only I could get that as a birthday present, hmmm

For the record, I am not the only mature, intelligent woman to be swoon by Edward. In fact, all my friends who are already Twilight fans are all medical professionals, almost all happily married. Of course the husbands don’t understand how we could be so wrapped up in the make-believe world of vampires and werewolves, and the books are meant for teens for crying out loud! But my friend C summed it nicely when she said that it was like crack, you just can’t help yourself. And she is exactly right.