May 30, 2010

Wedding lunch at the Peninsula hotel

The Peninsula Hotel is the oldest and most historic hotel in Hong Kong, dating back to the heyday of the British colonial era here. The British surrendered to the Japanese here in 1941. More recently, a scene from the Batman Dark Knight movie was filmed on the hotel's rooftop helicopter pad. Also, the Felix bar was designed by Philippe Starck and is famous for its men's bathroom which have ceiling-to-floor glass overlooking the harbour.

I attended the wedding and lunch reception of a Cornell classmate here today. The menu was pretty good. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves (though I did not take a photo of the lobster consommé, it was excellent too):

May 22, 2010

Mulled wine pear chocolate tart

This is a layered tart, only the second tart I've ever made (the first was a free-form French apple tart last week, post to come). It was inspired by a similar tart made by Tamami-san, an amazing Japanese lady baker in London (originally inspired by another tart in a book about chocolate).

The layers of this tart are:
  1. pears poached in mulled red wine (sliced and arranged to look like a rose or chrysanthemum)
  2. chocolate ganache
  3. chocolate pie crust

Layer 1 - Mulled wine poached pear: 1 bottle of wine, 1 sachet of mulling spices, several medium to large-sized pears, halved and cored. Bring wine and mulling spices to a boil, then simmer pears for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your pears. Don't let your pears become mushy otherwise you'll have trouble slicing them thinly. Take out the pears and let cool. Reserve about a bit the mulled wine for making the glaze later (feel free to drink some hot too!). If you reduce the wine even further, it would make a fantastic sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream to eat with this tart :)

Layer 2 - chocolate ganache filling:
  • 100g good dark chocolate (70% min. cacao solids) , break up the squares, don't put the whole bar in one huge chunk!
  • 100ml cream (can use British double cream but I used Paul's Australian heavy UHT whipping cream but unwhipped, I heard you can use butter or condensed milk instead but the flavor won't be as complex)
  • a 2-inch square knob of butter (this makes the ganache more glossy)
  • tablespoon of Marsala wine (optional), I guess you could use sherry or other sweet alcohol if you wanted :)
Adapted from a recipe on the Scharffen Berger website. Melt all of this together in a small pan over a pot of simmering water. Mix until melted and combined (keep stirring! there will be a moment when the cream and choc suddenly come together and no longer be chocolate bits bobbing about in cream; it's a beautiful thing to behold)

Layer 3 - chocolate pie crust (makes 2)
I followed Nigella's chocolate tart crust in the raspberry chocolate tart recipe from How to be a domestic goddess but I was too lazy to bake blind or to bother with all that covering with tin foil and using baking beans, so my crust came out a little crumbly and graham-cracker crust like instead of smooth pastry, but that was OK with me. Still tasty! :)
  • 175g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa powder (I used Cadbury's in the orange tin, nothing fancy)
  • 50g sugar (I used raw cane sugar instead of white because that's what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp iced water
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut up the butter into small cubes and add into the bowl until the mixture looks crumbly. I don't have a food processor so I rubbed in the butter as if I were making crumble topping. Beat the egg yolk and iced water together. Add to the bowl.

Turn out the mixture and form two flattish disks. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge until hard. Take out of fridge, roll out to slightly larger than the tart tin. Fit into tart tin (the ones with removable bases are great). Pastry dough is fragile but it's easy to patch up the holes!

Freeze the whole thing for at least 30 minutes until crust feels hard. Bake in a 180C oven for about 15 minutes. Take out and let cool completely before removing from tin (since the crust has so much butter, there's no need to grease the tin and it should come out easily).

Assembly: After baking the pie crust by itself in the oven, I poured in the cooled room-temp chocolate ganache and let it set in the fridge for a further hour or so (more won't hurt). When the ganache filling has hardened, take it back out. Slice the poached pears thinly and then arrange as desired on top.

Serve slightly chilled, with some good vanilla ice cream. Mulled wine sauce is also a distinct (and highly recommended) possibility.