Dark chocolate orange tart

Dark chocolate orange tart cover


I think little introduction is needed for a dark chocolate and orange combination. There’s just something about the two that brings out the goodness in each other. The delicate orange flavour against the dark and rich dark chocolate is a sheer delight to all senses.

I made a dark chocolate orange tart awhile back. It was extremely delicious and it was quickly devoured the moment I brought it out – with people returning for seconds.

Dark chocolate orange tart 3


I used a chocolate shortcrust pastry for the tart base. While a pâte sucrée would work as well, I think a double chocolate combination would make the tart doubly good. Does anyone disagree?

The best way to infuse the chocolate with orange flavour is to use its zest. The orange oils from the zest is strong enough to perfume the ganache when the zest is infused in the cream.

I don’t believe that zest should be grated into cream/ganache. While I would readily do that for a citrus cake, there are places where grated zest should not go. Mousses, creams, and ganaches are a few places that I can think of that grated zest has no place in. I find it puzzling when people grate a whole orange into a chocolate ganache. Maybe I’m being particularly  precise here; I strongly feel that while you would want the flavour of the zest, you wouldn’t want to comprise on its smooth, velvety mouth-feel.

Lastly, I know some people love a milk chocolate and orange combination. My personal preference swings in favour of the dark variety. Nonetheless, you can most definitely make this tart with either variety of chocolate. Either way, you would end up with a really delicious tart.

Dark chocolate orange tart 2


 Recipe:Dark Chocolate Orange tart
Makes a 9 inch fluted tart with a few extra small individual tarts

Chocolate shortcrust pastry
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu recipe

This is a very basic recipe for a chocolate short pastry. It uses icing sugar which makes the dough a little softer and harder to handle but it will reward you with a extremely crumbly tart.

140g Plain flour, sifted
25g Dutch-processed cocoa power, sifted
60g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), sifted
pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, cubed
30g egg yolks, room temperature
1 tbsp whole milk (add more if needed)

Method: (I use the Rub-in method)

1. Place sifted dry ingredients into a bowl and use a whisk to ensure it’s uniform.

2. Using your fingers, rub in the chopped butter into the dry ingredients until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture.

3. Add in egg yolk and milk and incorporate into mixture. The pastry dough should come together into a ball. Do not overwork the mixture. If the dough still feels slightly dry, you can add in a little more milk.

4. Flatten the dough into a disc and cling wrap it. Put it in the refrigerator to chill and rest for at least 1/2 hour.

5. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until 3mm thick on a floured baking parchment so that it doesn’t stick. Transfer the rolled out pastry dough into your fluted tart tin gently and push the dough against the sides of the tin. The dough is quite soft so do work fast especially if you are doing this in a warm environment.

6. Chill the tart in the refrigerator until firm for about 15 – 20 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Line the unbaked tart with baking parchment and fill it with uncooked rice, beans or baking weights. Blind-bake the tart until it is dry for about 20 -25 minutes.

Dark chocolate orange ganache

375ml double cream
orange zest from about 1.5 oranges
1 tbsp glucose (optional)
1.5 tbsp Grand Marnier (or use any other orange liqueur)
375g dark chocolate, chopped ( I use Valrhona 55%)
candied citrus peel for garnish (optional)


1. Remove the peel from the orange in thick strips. Use a paring knife to remove the pith (white parts) from the peel, leaving the zest.

2. Place the cream into a pot and heat it until about 50 degrees celcius. Place the orange zest in and allow it to infuse for about 30 -45 minutes. This can be done ahead of time.

3. Place the pot back on the stove and add in the glucose before bringing the cream to a boil.

4. Add in Grand Marnier liqueur then pour the cream (straining the orange zest) over the chopped chocolate. Stir with a spatula until well-incorporated.

5. Fill tart shells and refrigerate until set.

6. Top your dark chocolate orange tarts with candied citrus peel before serving.

Dark chocolate orange tart 4 Dark chocolate orange tart


Posted in Baking, Tarts & Pies | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Summer salad with shallot white wine vinaigrette

healthy salad with homemade vinaigrette

After a heavy bout of feasting, I usually crave for healthier foods. On these days, I like turning to salads for a light but delicious meal.

Most people think it is easy to put together a salad – it’s probably the easiest thing for a person who doesn’t cook to prepare. While that is true, I find that we tend to over-complicate our salads – by adding too much ingredients (that may or may not work) that we have in our pantry or fridge.

I really do not believe that a salad is the best place for random leftovers in your fridge. Fried rice or a frittata would probably be a better idea.


I often find the best salads to be uncomplicated – made of a few key ingredients that compliment each other, in terms of textures and flavours.

You don’t need a recipe to make a salad but what I like to do is to consider a few things when building my salad:

the base of the salad

Will you be using leaves to bulk up your salad. And if you are using leaves, what leaves romaine lettuce? baby spinach?

the dressing of the salad
Think about the flavour of the dressing – it can’t be too strong for delicate ingredients. Secondly, think about whether the dressing will be able to coat the ingredients well enough. For eg, a vinaigrette won’t coat romaine lettuce well.

the textures  in the salad

I find that it helps to add different texture element to the salad. It helps make it more interesting. For eg. Crunch can be added by using toasted nuts/seeds or homemade croutons

the colours of the salad
We feast with our eyes first so it’s important to have varied colours in your salad.


This summer salad I made is perfect especially on a warm and humid day. I shredded some leftover roast chicken that I had, throwing together some mesclun leaves, with walnuts, sundried tomatoes and sweet cherry tomatoes. I put it together with a shallot and white wine vinaigrette.  It is definitely simple.

But in this case simple is good.
summer salad
Some tips of making a salad:

1. Ensure your salad leaves are very dry
I find that it is best if your salad leaves are very very dry. I like to wash them, spin them dry in a salad spinner (a few times) before leaving the leaves in the crisp drawer of the fridge to dry a little more before using. If they still have moisture, I’ll dry them with kitchen towels. It’s not nice using soggy leaves so it is vital that you don’t skip this step.

2. Season every component of the salad
I find it best if you season with salt (and/or pepper) for every component of the salad before tossing them together so every ingredient is well-seasoned.

3. Dress your salad only when you are ready to eat it
A lot of people would already know this but I can’t emphasize how important it is not to dress your leaves way ahead of your dinner. They will go all limpy, soggy and you wouldn’t want that.

4. Use only as much dressing as you need
You do not have to pour all the dressing you made on the leaves. There should only be enough dressing to coat all the ingredients but it shouldn’t leave a pool of dressing at the bottom of your salad bowl.

5. Pour the dressing on the side of the bowl instead of directly on the leaves

I’ve picked up this tip from Chef Thomas Keller’s book. This would allow you to coat the leaves and salad ingredients more evenly.

shallot white wine vinaigrette




Recipe: Summer salad with shallots white wine vinaigrette

I didn’t want to put down this recipe initially because there isn’t much of a recipe. Instead I’ve written about how I typically build my salad. 

Here’s just a simple list of ingredients that I’ve used for this particular salad – as you can see, is not much. I’ve also included the recipe for the vinaigrette which was great for this particular one.  Hopefully, this would be an inspiration for your salad making f

Mesclun salad, washed and thoroughly dried
leftover roast chicken, shredded
sundried tomatoes, sliced
cherry tomatoes, halved
walnuts, toasted

1. Season the different components of the salad.

2. Place ingredients into a salad bowl. When ready to serve, toss the salad thorougly with the shallot white wine vinaigrette.

Shallot white wine vinaigrette:

1 part white wine vinegar
2 parts extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, sliced finely
1 tsp Dijon mustard
herb de Provence (or any dried herbs)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Pour the white wine vinegar into a bowl. Add in the shallots, Dijon mustard, herb de Provence, salt and pepper and whisk well to combine.
2. Slowly whisk in the wine until the mixture is well-emulsified and smooth. Taste and season if needed.


salad vinaigrette

Posted in Salads, Savoury | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Pineapple tarts (version 2.0)

Homemade pineapple tarts cover

Hi there,

If you have been following my instagram account (Do say hi!), you would know that I’ve been busy  making pineapple jam and pineapple tarts for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

It has been two weekends of making the pineapple jam (see this post for recipe) and the making and rolling of the tarts. I’m all done and ready for Chinese New Year now with these addictive mini domes of deliciousness.

I’ve decided that I should share this revised recipe, an updated version from my previous recipe.  This is everything the first version is but better – more buttery, more crumbly, a little richer.

The tops may look a little cracked but that is only because the pastry is so crumbly and so short that it crumbles in your mouth the moment you tip that pastry in. And yes, it is definitely better to eat this in a single mouth or you will have to be prepared to sweep up crumbs off your floor.

Homemade pineapple tarts 4

The pastry dough is easy to make. I make it like how I do with a tart – using my hands and working the dough as little as possible.

The dough is easy to handle and roll once it is chilled well. This rolling activity can be one that involves your family (or kids!) as it is not a difficult task (although it can be terribly tedious to do all alone).

I didn’t make that much tarts this year – just enough to feed the family and more. I used 7 large pineapples to make 2.4kg of jam. I didn’t keep track how many tarts I ended up with because I’ve been very guilty of eating as I make them.

Happy baking and eating these tarts!

Happy year of the Goat to all my readers! Hope you and your family would have a prosperous and joyous Lunar New Year.


homemade Pineapple jam


Homemade pineapple tarts 1

Homemade pineapple tarts 2

Recipe: Pineapple tart pastry ver 2.0
Enough to make 65-75 pineapple tarts

I’ve updated my pastry recipe from my previous post. This one is slightly richer and more buttery. Now, let’s make some tarts!
Feel free to double the recipe to make more tarts! You can always make the pastry beforehand, keep it chilled in the fridge for up to a week before rolling them out. Alternatively, you can freeze the pastry for up to a month.

If you are brave enough to make your own pineapple jam, please head to my homemade pineapple jam post.

340g plain flour
5 tbsp/30g cornflour
6 tbsp/45g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
260g unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
approximately 2-3 tbsp of iced water

For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt (for flavour)
a dash of milk (will help darken the colour of the crust)

1. Sift the dry ingredients, whisk them together to distribute them evenly and then put it in the freezer to chill for about 5 minutes. You can do this while you prepare your other ingredients.

2. Add the cut butter to the dry ingredients. Using the rub in method: Use your fingertips to rub in the butter and dry ingredients together until it resembles breadcrumb texture. Shake the bowl every now and then to bring the larger lumps of butter to the surface. You can also use a pastry cutter or a food processor. It will still look a little dry at this point.

3. Add in the lightly beaten egg yolks and vanilla extract and combine it with your hands or pastry cutter. Add in about 2-3 tbsp of iced water at this point. – but only as much water as you need until the pastry comes together and forms a smooth dough. Try to work the dough as little as possible as you do not want to overwork the gluten in the flour.

4. Divide the dough into two flat discs and cling-wrap it. Leave it in the fridge to chill and rest for at least an hour.

To assemble pineapple tarts:

about 700g pineapple paste or homemade pineapple jam

egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp full-cream milk
pinch salt

1. Portion dough out into 11g portions. Portion out pineapple jam/paste into 8g portions – you can choose to use a melon scoop if it helps speed things up then use your hands to  roll them into balls. You can do this in advance and chill in the fridge for them to firm up so they will be easier to work with.

2. Dust your work surface with some flour. Roll out dough with a rolling pin under cling wrap (so it doesn’t stick easily). Place pineapple ball in the middle of the dough. Use palms to make a ball and shape it into a dome shape.

3. Space the rolled tarts about 1/2 inch apart (it doesn’t spread). Chill the tray of unbaked tarts for about 15-20 minutes for them to firm up and to relax the gluten. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius.

4. Whisk together the egg wash until well-combined. Brush the tops of the tarts with egg wash. Be careful not to drip excess egg wash onto the baking paper or it will burn.

6. Bake your pineapple tarts on the center rack of your pre-heated oven (180 degrees celcius) for about 22 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. For the last 5 minutes of baking, shift the tray of tarts to the top rack so that the top continues browning but the bottom does not burn.

*Tips for making pineapple tart pastry:

1. Like working with any form of pastry dough, you should work the dough as little as possible. You don’t want to develop the gluten if not the pastry will be very tough.

2. Always give your pastry dough time to rest in the fridge. Again, we are resting the gluten and keeping the dough chilled would mean that the butter in the dough would not be melting.

Homemade pineapple tarts 3


Posted in Baking, Chinese New Year, Pastry, Tarts & Pies | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Bilbao (Spain Part III)

Bilbao Guggenheim

I believe that most people think of Frank Ghery’s Guggenheim museum when they think of Bilbao. For people who are into football, they would also know of Athletic Bilbao, one of the better teams, in the La Liga (The Spanish football league). I’m not well-acquainted with football so J was the one who told me this little fact.

We enjoyed our three short days in Bilbao so much so that J declared that Bilbao is one of the place that he doesn’t mind retiring in. I told him I’ll meet him in San Sebastián for dinners if that happens.

Bilbao is the largest city in the Spanish Basque country and also the fifth largest urban area in Spain. Though it is very big, it is still pretty walkable in the main areas.

We took a short flight (1 hr 10 mins) from Barcelona to Bilbao because the train takes about 6.5hrs! So flying it is. When we arrived in Bilbao centre, it seemed pretty quiet as compared to bustling Barcelona but there were many modern buildings around.

Our favourite way to take in the city is to walk and so we did once we settled down at the hotel. With a foldable map in hand, we took an evening walk by the Nervión river that cuts through the city. It was nice and breezy, late autumn evening, with the sun beginning to set on our backs.

We saw many interesting modern buildings like the tallest building in Bilbao,  the Iberdrola Tower, standing majestically by the river at 165m, curved and covered with 4,800 panels of glass; it was an impressive sight. One of the more memorable bridges we walked by was the White bridge (Zubi Zuri), designed by renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava. Zubi Zuri is beautiful, very modern with plenty of curves and little straight line. It seems like Bilbao can do no wrong with her architecture; every piece seems to be a work of modern art.

Bilbao 1

Then we crossed the river via Zubi Zuri and arrived in Casco Viejo (the historic old quarter). It was a huge contrast to all that modernity we have seen so far. But I like the old town – there are seven original streets (Las Siete Calles) from the 1400s in the centre of the Casco. This area is pedestrain only which made it very easy to walk along these narrow lanes and admire the colourful low-rise buildings full of character and stories.

Bilbao 2

Bilbao 3

The next morning, we took a walk to the Plaza del Funicular in the centre of an old Bilbao. We then took a ride on the old Artxanda Funicular to the top of Artxanda Hill. The ride on the Furnicular is a little like travelling back in time with a good dose of old-fashioned fun. Both the journey (a short four minutes) and destination is rewarding. The panoramic view of Bilbao city flanked by green mountains with stream of river through its veins – very beautiful on a clear day.

Bilbao from the top

Bilbao view from above

And of course, we set aside a full day to visit the Guggenheim museum. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since I caught the programme “Spain- On the road again” where Mario Batalli and Gwyneth Paltrow visited Guggenheim with Frank Gehry.

The exterior of Guggenheim is imposing and you will most definitely spot it without having to look for it on a map. It is almost a case of all roads lead to the Guggenheim, if you know what I mean.

The interior of the museum is just as beautiful. You can see Ghery’s vision through the use of curves and glass panels – almost fish like.  But I think you will get a better understanding of his work if you listened to the audioguide provided at the museum.

The works featured in the museum deserves a mention (though I think many people flocked to the Guggenheim mainly for its architecture). One of my favourites in the museum is a steel installation by Richard Sera called “A Matter of Time” – This was commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum and the dominating set of sculptures were actually made for that particular (and very huge) gallery space.

I won’t go into detail about the exhibits there because I’m no art aficionado. All I can say is that I had a good time at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Bilbao Guggenheim 3 Bilbao Guggenheim 2

Guggenheim interior

While I don’t know much about art, I can say that the food at the Guggenheim Museum is top-notched. Yes, we made reservations at the 1-michelin starred Nerua for lunch. It is small space so reservations are necessary. We didn’t manage to eat there on the day that we were at the Guggenheim but went back the next day after making reservations.

Firstly, they would give you a tour of their open-concept kitchen. It was fascinating to see the chefs preparing for service and our friendly guide gave us a rundown of the different stations. We also had our amuse bouche right by the kitchen station, just when it was done.

Neura kitchen


We opted to do the 6 course tasting menu for lunch and were off to a good start with some warm homemade bread.

While there was not much of a decor to speak of (the room was bare; plain white walls, tables with white table cloth and minmalist wood chairs), the food couldn’t be further away from being austere.

The first course was sautéed leeks with grape, fish stock and parsley – sounds peculiar but the flavours were very coherent and the plate was pure delight.Neura Bilbao 1




The second was seared Iberian pork with broccoli, chevil – tender but full of flavours, so far so good.

Neura Bilbao 3

The one that really blew my mind was the grilled hake served with spinach, coconut and watercress. We don’t really get hake here and this one was cooked just right and the flavours of spinach coconut and watercress seem to marry themselves very well to the fish, bringing out its sweetness and firmness of the flesh.

Neura Bilbao 2


The mains was a simple grilled beef tenderloin paired with a more interesting red beets gnocchi and roasted pepper juice. I do love the sweetness of the red beet gnocchi that goes with the red meat. Did I also mention how soft yet chewy these beet gnocchi are – they go so well with the grilled beef tenderloin that was done to perfection.Neura Bilbao 4


And when we got to dessert, we were already pretty full but extremely happy with the meal. The kiwi and shiso ice cream was wonderful, the shiso flavour complementing the kiwi in the loveliest way – I really hope that I can try to recreate this ice cream soon.

Neura Bilbao 5

The last dessert was pure chocolate with a spicy marzipan sand.I think many restaurants like to go with chocolate because in many worlds, chocolate can do no wrong. In this case, I agree. This dessert was dark chocolate creameux paired with a “spicy marzipan sand”. It was a good ending to the meal without being overly sweet, the spice kicks in  towards the end in a good way.

Neura Bilbao6



We said our goodbyes to Bilbao after the meal at Nerua and headed to the bus station towards San Sebastiàn. The three short days in Bilbao was way better than anticipated.

Till today, J still talks about moving to Bilbao from time to time.

Getting there
Flights via Vueling take about 1 hr 10 mins.
From Bilbao airport, you can take a short bus ride via the Bilbao Termibus to the city centre (only 9km away) with stops at Gran Vía 79, Plaza Moyua and Alameda Recalde 11.
Train from Barcelona-Sants station take about 6hr 30 mins.

Take the ALSA (7 Eur) or PESA (12 Eur) bus from Bilbao (From the Termibus station) to San Sebastiàn
The journey takes about 1 hr 20 mins (check for timings because some buses have fewer stops)

Things to do

Take a ride on the Artxanda Funicular to the top of Artxanda Hill
Cost about a Euro one way. Check out the website for more details for opening hours.

Spend an evening at the Casco Viejo (the historic old quarter) shopping for souvenirs or to do some pintxos hopping

Take a walk down the Nervión river through the heart and soul of Bilbao

Visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Opening hrs: 10 am to 8 pm (Tue to Sun), do check for closings on holidays.
Admission fee: 10 Eur for adults but may vary on programme. Vist the website for more information.

Where to eat

Avda. Abandoibarra 2, 48001 Bilbao, Spain (At the Guggenheim Museum. Entrance to the restaurant is separate from the museum)
Tel: 0034 944 000430. Website for more details and reservation.

Bilbao 4

Bilbao 5


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Yuzu panna cotta

yuzu panna cotta 2

I would admit that I’m not a fan of panna cottas. And let’s just say “not a fan” is putting it mildly. It’s the dessert that I most often gloss over in any dessert menu.

I did have that one panna cotta that left a deep impression. It was part of the degustation menu at Aria in Sydney that I had probably five years ago. When I read “panna cotta” on that menu, I was frankly disappointed and I remember thinking, couldn’t have Chef Matt Moran come up with something more exciting?

It ended up as the best panna cotta I ever had; it was a memorable vanilla panna cotta with strawberry jelly that my best friend I still reminisce about fondly till this day. Sure, it was safe in terms of flavours – strawberry and vanilla but it was what I desired after a heavy and rich meal.


Since I had some fresh yuzu fruit left, I thought that maybe I should make a yuzu panna cotta. In my mind, the delicate and refreshing flavour and its light texture would make a good dessert.

The problem I faced was trying to decide on the “sauce” to go with this yuzu panna cotta. I thought a berry compote would detract the flavour of the yuzu; I experimented with a lemon caramel sauce but tossed that out because the citrus caramel while nice, overpowered this delicate yuzu flavour in the panna cotta.

In the end, I went with a simple yuzu simple syrup and gave it some candied lemon peel as garnish. The flavour of this panna cotta is simply perfect – delicate and light and the texture of it is how panna cotta should be – creamy and smooth; it gives a slight wobble as you give the plate a light shake.


If you are pressed for time and still want to make dessert for a dinner, a panna cotta is probably the answer. It is easy and quick to put together, can be made in advance (overnight) and with light flavours would make the perfect ending to a heavy meal.

I think that I’m slowly but surely changing my opinion of panna cotta…as long as it wobbles.

yuzu panna cotta 3

yuzu panna cotta


Recipe: Yuzu panna cotta
Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s BBC recipe
Makes 6 small stainless steel moulds

I used a few small stainless steel jelly moulds for this and only half-filled these moulds as I prefer having a small portion of panna cotta.

You don’t have to oil it as the panna cotta comes out easily when you dipped the moulds in hot water for a few seconds. You can even serve these in little shot glasses if you don’t wish to unmould the panna cotta.

If you cannot find yuzu, you can make a citrus panna cotta with any other citrus fruits. Lemon would be perfect! I serve these with some homemade candied citrus peels – refer to my recipe here.

300ml double cream
75ml full cream milk
100g caster sugar
zest of 1 yuzu fruit (use a knife to cut the peel off, remove the pith)
Juice of 1 yuzu fruit
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1.5 gelatine leaves (Gold strength)

1. Place cream, milk into a pot and heat it up until it is warm to touch. Place yuzu zest to allow to infuse for about 30 mins.

2. Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl with cold water (I use room temperature water with a few ice cubes) and set aside.

3. Add in sugar to the above pot and bring to a boil. When cream comes to a boil, add in the juice of the lemon and yuzu and stir until combined. Simmer for a few minutes.

4. Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze off any excess water. Stir it into the hot cream mixture. Let the mixture cool down completely, give it a good whisk, before straining it into a jug (removing the yuzu peel).

5. Pour the mixture into the moulds (about 85ml per mould) and refrigerate for at least 5 hrs (until completely set) or overnight.

6. To remove the panna cotta from the moulds, dip the moulds into hot water for a few seconds and then turn it out on your serving dish.

To make a simple yuzu syrup:
Alternatively, you can make a simple lemon syrup. Use the juice of half a lemon. Because a yuzu fruit yields less juice than a lemon.

50g caster sugar
50ml water
juice from a yuzu
zest from half a yuzu (use a paring knife to remove a strip of zest without pith)


1. Place sugar and water, zest of half a yuzu, and heat until it comes to a boil, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Squeeze in the juice of half a yuzu. Taste and add more yuzu juice, to taste.

 To serve:

1. Spoon the yuzu syrup over the yuzu panna cotta and topped with some candied citrus peel.

Posted in Baking, Desserts, Plated desserts | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments