Some comfort worth sprinkling

How are you?

If you’re anything like me and alternating between two realities of “occasional unsettling fear” and “snoozy TGIF feelings” every day, then we’re on the same boat. And maybe we can all be in both places these days and that’s okay. At the same time, I’ve been trying to practice social distancing as much as possible and embrace working from home (new discoveries include finding the noise from our dryer running in the background to be quite soothing when I write emails).

It’s quite unsettling that we somewhat have an idea of what’s going on but at the same time don’t have any of the answers. I personally think that this whole experience is the jarring reminder we all need that there are things in life which you are in control of, and those you’re not. Shit happens, but you can always control your attitude and how you deal with it.

It’s uncharted territory for us all and we’re all experiencing some disruption one way or another. Weddings get postponed, flights get canceled, and birthdays are spent at home. But in what is true and good news, if there is anything this whole event has taught me, is that 1). we’ve got each other while we navigate through this weird and temporary reality together, 2). some folks really can’t live without toilet papers, and 3). we’ve got plenty of time to bake.

As baking is what I do best in times of ease and times of trouble, here’s a foolproof tiramisu recipe worth making (heads up: very easy, requires no baking but a lot of patience), just to give you another reason to stay home. Hoping you’re all staying healthy and cozy indoors and finding the little things that bring you joy: it could be doing your nails, FaceTiming your friends and family back home, or maybe you want to sit on the couch and stare at the ceiling for 45 minutes, I’m not here to tell you that’s a bad idea. Sounds pretty chill if you ask me.

Be well, stay in, and see you on the other (brighter) side. X

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Ingredients:

125ml strong black coffee
3 tbsp Amaretto, brandy, or Kahlua (optional)
2 eggs
4 tbsp caster sugar
250gm mascarpone cheese
300ml double cream, whipped thick
50gm plain dark choc, chopped (I used 54%)
50gm plain milk choc, chopped
50gm white choc, chopped
2 packs of Italian Ladyfingers
Cocoa powder for sprinkling

Mix the black coffee with the amaretto or brandy (if I’m not self-isolating I would run off to the nearest BWS and get myself some liquor for that kick, but this time I just make a strong espresso base).

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and thick.

Put the mascarpone in a bowl and stir in a small amount of the egg mix. Fold in the rest, then the whipped cream.

In a large serving dish, dip the sponge fingers quickly into the coffee and liquor mix, then layer the sponge fingers as the base. Spread half the mascarpone on top, then sprinkle over half the white choc and dark choc. I substituted this with some Daim chocolate my housemate got me from Sweden.

Repeat the layers using the remaining ingredients and sprinkle the remaining chocolate and cocoa powder.

Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or even better overnight.

Served best with a cup of black coffee with a dash of milk!

Donna Hay’s Classic Chocolate Mousse

Summer is well within our grasp and we’re certainly enjoying our long weekend life here in the Down Under.

I remember getting a few questions about this chocolate mousse when I posted a picture of it on an Instagram story a few weeks ago. So while it’s not every week I get an extra day to just sit in my aircon-blasted bedroom, (finally) declutter my bathroom sink, and recover from yesterday’s island trip sunburn – I reckon sparing a few minutes of my Monday afternoon jotting down a chocolate dessert recipe wouldn’t hurt.

I had brought over a dozen bars of chocolate back from my Europe trip last month and I’ve been constantly finding time and excuses to try out any kind of chocolate-involving recipes (not that you need any reason to have a chocolate fix). 

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite Australian bakers Donna Hay with some tweaks I picked up from Nagi’s mousse recipe from recipetineats to make it the proper French way – but still very much approachable (I’m all about her foolproof methods). It only requires a few (just FIVE) ingredients that I’m sure you already have sitting in your fridge right now. Make it make it!

While it would work with all types or any supermarket-bought baking/cooking chocolate, I would recommend splurging a little bit if you can get your hands on a really good quality dark/bittersweet chocolate for this one. The richer the better. A little bit of indulgence every now and again can’t be bad for the soul, you know. 

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Ingredients

200G DARK CHOCOLATE, CHOPPED

20G BUTTER

3 EGGS, SEPARATED

1 TABLESPOON CASTER (SUPERFINE) SUGAR

1 CUP (250ML) THICKENED/WHIPPING CREAM

FRUITS/CHOCOLATE SHAVINGS TO TOP

Method

  1. Place the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Ohhh melty chocolate.. the things I can do with you are endless.
  2. Stir through the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture and set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  4. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
  5. Fold the whisked egg whites through the chocolate mixture, then the whipped cream. Spoon into serving glasses and refrigerate until firm. The recipe recommends a 5-hour minimum, but I did overnight just to be safe.
  6. Top with more whipped cream and any fruits or chocolate shavings to serve (because there’s no such thing as too much chocolate).

Two Thousand and Nineteen

Hello hello sweet pumpkins.

Can you believe we’re settling into another decade already? It honestly feels very much like a privilege this time around with everything that’s been going on (Australia’s record-breaking bushfires, ongoing conflicts on the other side of the world, and I could easily go on but let’s not turn this into a depressing post).

I know I hadn’t gone back here for the latter half of the year as I’ve had some personal crap that I needed to deal with, and at the same time blessed with work that kept me occupied with travels and exciting new projects. 2019 was a lot, and I wanted to take a moment to thank myself for staying reasoned and grateful despite the roller coaster of emotions I had to go through. Relieved to say I’ve made peace with all that’s happened and I’m starting the new year on a very hopeful note – you too you too. 

While it’s going to be impossible for me to sum up a decade, here in no particular order, are some of my favorite moments from 2019: an impromptu day trip to see the sunflowers in January,  spending Mom’s birthday in WA, trying out new recipes, late night conversations in the balcony, countless picnics by the beach, swimming in Lake McKenzie, spending Christmas with my family in Europe, and simply finding comfort in familiar faces. The year was far from perfect, but you always find magic in the mundane, and life is always worth celebrating again.

Have an amazing 2020, X.

Processed with VSCO with fv5 presetAllora, Darling Downsphoto7My birthday barbeque in March with a viewProcessed with VSCO with kp5 presetA birthday cake that I baked with a friend without a recipe but turned out amazing
(I wish I’d jotted down what I did)
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Summer dipping in waterfalls (Mount Tamborine National Park)
Processed with VSCO with 9 presetA sweet long weekend in Bali
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One of the best books I read last year: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
IMG_4260Attending my first press conference in Melbourne
Processed with VSCO with c5 presetPlenty sunshine on the first day of spring and making the most of this one before she went back for good Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetAnother Melbourne trip: speaking as a guest panelist in Monash UniversityProcessed with VSCO with ke1 presetRoad tripping Fraser Island and swimming in Lake McKenzieProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetAnother wonderful week back home
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Western Straya

To celebrate my mom’s big 50th last month, I treated her to do one of the things she loves and does best: adventures. With me living in Brisbane and her in Jakarta, Western Australia seemed like a good idea (it’s equally half-way for us both), so I booked her a return ticket to go to Perth with my dad and brother to spend the long-Easter-weekend together. My sister couldn’t tag along but she was having the best time on a school trip to Japan, so I’m not exactly sad for her.

While I’ve actually explored a great deal of Perth with my mom back in 2015 – before I even moved to Australia, we’ve always wanted to explore the southern part of this state, particularly the famous Margaret River Region. Here’s the low-down on everything we did during our 5 days stay in WA, from chasing Quokkas to sipping one of Australia’s finest wines.

Rottnest Island

We kicked the weekend off straight with a day-trip to Rottnest Island, a 30-minute ferry ride off the coast of Perth city (learn from me and have some breakfast before you board – seasick with an empty stomach is no joke).

There’s frankly no other way to describe this island than absolute paradise. Rottnest is made for exploring on two wheels there are no cars on the island. We hopped on from one beach to another, picnicked by the waters, and expended any leftover energy we had left with leisurely bike rides around the island.

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Lastly, you can’t mention Rotto without bringing up the island’s cheekiest locals – Quokkas. They’re practically everywhere – I saw one trying to sneak into the general store near the jetty, one napping peacefully, completely undisturbed by the holiday crowds. These little guys are definitely one of the highlights of the trip and it’s unlikely that you’ll leave without bumping into them.

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The Margaret River Region

After a full day at the beach, I did not exactly look forward to a three-hour drive to the Margaret River – where we were staying for the next three days. But it was worth every minute of it. We stayed in the chalet-style Premalaya Wellness Resort in Yallingup and it was the pure sanctuary that we all needed. We fell asleep to the sound of frogs & crickets and woke up to the sound of native birds with a whispery breeze of the Indian Ocean. I easily switched off from the crazy world where uncomplicated living has somehow been forgotten. It was a place to just be. 

You can probably tell from the photos that the weather had quickly changed from being freakish warm to cloudy and grey the very next day. Luckily, I remembered to check on the weather and made sure to pack everything from bathing suits and shorts to turtlenecks and heat-tech leggings. (I’m always one to learn from mistakes – one time I had packed a suitcase full of summer outfits and zero warm layers when I flew from 23 degrees Brisbane to an 8 degree Adelaide and no clue that a storm was going to hit.)

The Margaret River is already known as one of the most scenic regions in Australia and home to some of the best wines in the world. So it was only appropriate that we spent the next few days vineyard-hopping, sipping Rosés straight from the source, tasting fresh local produces, and exploring seaside cliffs all in the same day.

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Fremantle

For my brother and his love of seafood, I knew I had to take him to the old town Fremantle. We went to the same fish market and sat at the exact same spot my mom and I sat down when we were visiting back in 2015 – and it kind of took a nostalgic toll on me.

My trip to Perth 3 years ago was quite a significant one as I was getting ready to move there to continue my final two years of university. But things didn’t work out. Just when I thought I was all set and ready to go (a few weeks before my departure to be exact), things took a different turn, and I found myself in the complete opposite end of the continent – Queensland.

As I walked by the pier, there was this funny feeling that comes when you look at places you thought you belong and realize how things don’t always work out the way you think they should; but sometimes plans fall apart so better things can fall together. Looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful that what happened, happened – because it led me to this life that I’m living now and I wouldn’t change one thing if I could.

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Perth 

We were back in Perth just in time to celebrate Easter and my mom’s birthday. It was our last full day together before we went our separate ways again, so all we wanted was some easy, laidback, quality time. We drove up to Kings Park and set up a little picnic on one of the hilly spots, got a mini chocolate cake for mom from a nearby café, and spent the rest of the afternoon overlooking the city and making the most of our time together. As I’m writing this, I’m already counting days to our next reunion and of course, more adventures.

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The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need to Know

I’m always constantly on the quest for finding the perfect, failproof classic recipes – from brownies, sponge cakes, to chocolate chip cookies. Also, it should come to no surprise that I take every chocolatey snacks very seriously.  So when a friend introduced this recipe as her holy grail, I knew I had to make it too. They turned out amazing with the perfect consistency – a little crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside.

The process itself isn’t difficult or time-consuming, although they require some serious patience when it comes to chilling the dough before baking it (the recipe calls for only 1 hour, but I would recommend chilling it for at least 24 hours, preferably up to 36 hours to guarantee that crispy-exterior-chewy-inside texture). Do keep in mind they only last for 3 months (but who’s really counting when my housemates nearly inhaled all of them in one night).

There aren’t many ways to improve a classic chocolate chip cookie until I read about adding a sprinkle of sea salt from this other recipe (you know it’s legit when it was featured in the NY Times Cooking website). I know how crazy this sounds, but just do it, and thank me later. It makes all the sweetness sing, and I’m definitely never skipping this step again.

Another key to the magic here is the addition of cornstarch – which when mixed into all-purpose flour, actually becomes cake flour! (another secret tip I just learned from my friend). I know I’ll always be prepared with some extra cookie dough from now on, for days when nothing could beat the feeling of discovering a bag of some frozen ready-to-bake chocolate gems in the freezer.

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Advice from a Sunflower

I know I haven’t been sharing a lot of personal stuff lately, but there are currently things that have been bugging me that I needed to get out of my system. It’s kind of hard to grasp that I turn 23 in two weeks time. It feels like only months ago where my 18-y.o. self would sit down with my girlfriends in my room after school and talk for hours about what we’d be doing in the next 5 years.

23 felt like a lifetime away.

Yet here I am 5 years later, nearly a year out of college, diving head first into adult life and trying to make a life of my own 3000 miles away from home. The truth is reality bites. Life gets cluttered with work, bills, savings, and it didn’t exactly come with a manual to tell me how to get my shit together. 

It’s a weird time to be alive. 

Being the oldest one in my family (the oldest grandchild from both of my parents’ sides for that matter) and seeing some of my friends getting married and starting a family, I’m kind of constantly under the assumption that I need to have it all figured out by a certain age or otherwise I’m forever stuck in a rut.

There will be lots of changes, unknown circumstances, and a lot of confusing experiences. So here’s a note for myself to look back on whenever I get tangled in all life’s uncertainties: always be grateful, have faith in yourself, remember that life’s not a competition and that you don’t have to have it all figured out by now. And you might never will, and that it’s okay too.

And when you’re feeling a little lost, I want you to take a second to look back to this warm summer drive to Allora under Brisbane’s January sun. May this sunflower field serve you as a kind reminder to always be bright and to hold your head up high no matter what life throws at you.

Because seasons may change, but you will always get to bloom again.

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A KitKat Themed Weekend

I just got home from the gym on Sunday morning, when my roommate handed me over a piece of folded paper torn from an Indonesian magazine and said “make me this.” I was nothing less than confused at first to see a page full of some random massages parlors’ ads, but on the other side was a recipe for KitKat brownies (also found here). It was a rather perfect timing since I had been looking for something to bake on the weekend (despite just coming home from the gym, naturally).

It was essentially a classic brownies recipe with some chopped KitKats added to the mixture and as toppings too. It was a delicious mix between chewy and crunchy, and I couldn’t think of better snacks to bring into the office the next day (got to start Monday mornings right).

Ingredients:

115 gr unsalted butter
200 gr dark cooking chocolate, roughly chopped
3 eggs
225 gr granulated sugar
130 gr plain flour, sifted
20 gr cocoa powder, sifted (I used Nestle’s baking chocolate powder)
150 gr Kit Kat, chopped into cubes

  1. Preheat your oven to 190’C. Prep a 18x18cm dish with some baking paper, making sure to cover all the sides.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the sifted flour and coco powder (dry ingredients).
  3. In a pan, melt the unsalted butter and dark chocolate over medium heat. Stir continuously until it is shiny, smooth. Once completely melted, lift off the heat and let it cool for a bit on the counter.
  4. Mix in the granulated sugar using hand whisker or electric mixer on low. Let it dissolve into the warm chocolate mixture.
  5. Mix in 3 eggs into the wet ingredients.
  6. Mix in 1/2 of the dry ingredients and 1/2 of the chopped Kitkat into the wet mixture. Whisk briefly with a spatula until everything is just incorporated. You don’t want to over-mix.
  7. Pour mixture into the prepped baking dish and sprinkle over the rest of the KitKats on top.
  8. Bake in preheated oven (190’C) for 20 minutes on the top rack of your oven.
  9. Transfer the dish to the middle rack and lower heat down to 150 ‘C. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Let brownies completely cool before cut and served.

Ps. best served with a heaping spoon of vanilla ice cream!

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