Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Miscellaneous Food: Best Sweet Treats

Inspired by a recent sugar rush and a recent headline article about a Singaporean gigolo selling his consulting services like a Dragonfly version of Hitch, I decided to come up with a list of desserts that I actually think about from time to time. Like being in a 15 hour airplane ride and suddenly thinking of the aroma wafting off my favourite Japanese garlic fried rice. (The headline picture is from Miette Bakery in San Francisco and yes, I do think about their cakes from time to time, despite being half a world away).

These are real desserts in our own fair city that you have to drive out for, not brilliant commercial inventions like Mini Magnums (white magnums are God's vanilla pod-ed gift to Europe's tourist attractions) or Haagan Daaz's chocolate-upon-chocolate chip ice cream, or when my fingers itch for a packet of chicken Twisties or Mamee. So, the next time you are craving something sweet or want to please a girl, try something off this list. Oh and feel free to add comments telling us where to find your guilty sweet treat, or if you are aghast that we've left your favourite off the list.

In no particular order:

(1) Cream puffs from Choupinette, #01-01 607 Bukit Timah Road
Cutely-named Sweetie pie, this little bakery cum french bistro makes some of the most wicked pastry. Some of the selection is a bit crumby but the two outstanding ones are the chocolate and coffee eclairs and cream puffs. They may not be the prettiest nor the cheapest but they are chock-full of rich, pure dark chocolate and french pastry cream. Worth burning the calories over. $5 for a cream puff or eclair.

(2) Passionfruit cupcakes from ETA Artisan Sweets, 32 Holland Grove Road, Henry Park Apartments
Eileen's bakeshop has the motto of "we believe in purity of taste and the art of eating well. Our sweets celebrate the nourishing goodness of natural flavours through the use of only the finest ingredients - Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, French cream, pure sweet butter..." and this is particular true of her passionfruit cupcakes.

Tangy and topped with passionfruit curd and a dollop of vanilla buttercream, this is possibly the most well-made and satisfying cupcake to be had in the island. There are many cupcake flavours but passionfruit is the best, followed by lemon, call before you go to ensure there are any left as production is limited for freshness. $3.50 per cupcake.

(3) Salted Caramel macarons from MadBaker, http://www.madbaker.net/
Sadly, this is no longer available except on an incredibly special order, as MadBaker has a different kind of bun in the oven. If you can get your hands on them, consider yourself blessed. Karen is a genius with all things sweet but her macarons are the most ridiculous. Culled from a painstaking process of minute trial and tweaking and made from an exhaustively finely-milled and triple-sieved process, these are without doubt, the best macarons in Asia. Believe me, I've tried 90% of the macarons in the world and these are truly world-class.

(4) Passionfruit Meringue, The Patissier at 18 Ang Siang Road or 4 Mohd Sultan Road
Inside the quaint peranakan-tiled shophouse, this still, contemplative cake boutique has lovely creations of pure spun sugar goodness. One of their famous cakes is the Passionfruit meringue cake, which is like a tall sponge pavlova, sandwiching berries and passionfruit pulp. Sweet, tangy, creamy and crunchy, all in one bite. This is a great birthday cake but has to be eaten on the same day to maintain the texture. $37 for a 6inch cake and $6 for a slice.

If you're looking for something cake-like but not as sweet, try the Scoop Cake or Light Chiffon Cheese Cake at Tampopo at Liang Court or Takashimaya. The only casual Japanese restaurant to maintain a full-time pastry chef, (Akemi in her pre-Tampopo honed her skills in soft and moist pastry at Provence Bakery in Holland Village), it's no wonder that the Japanese sponge and chiffon cakes are out-of-this-world light and satisfying.

(5) Basil Ice Cream, 2am Dessert Bar at 21A Lorong Liput, Holland Village
This second story purveyor of late-night sweets is a comfort corner, tucked away and helmed by my girl, Janice. What makes the place and desserts sophisticated and timeless is that she offers up the fruits of her Cordon Bleu culinary training and her work in New York at Room 4 Dessert and WD-50. I was going to put on this list her thick, hot chocolate and churros, which is what I always have when I go there (remember to order extra churros) but the one item that really made me pause was her Basil Ice Cream. The taste is extraordinarily evocative, like you want to melt it on pasta. Desserts are $13-15 per plate.

(6) The Ugly Cake, NYDC Cafe at Holland Village, 30 Lorong Mambong or 501 Orchard Road #02-19 Wheelock Place
This cake is also called the elmer fudge, a dense mocha cake with palette-slapped american chocolate frosting. A very pure chocolate cake and frosting that is as good as it is unpretentious. Served warm and soft, with a comforting scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it makes all problems and rainy days melt away. Could be less but I remember something like $12/cake slice and accompaniments.

If you're looking for a high-end chocolate cake, then I would suggest Truffs at 179a Telok Ayer Street, helmed by chocolate man Ei Liang. Although truffle chocolates are his specialty, he also makes a rich, powerful chocolate sponge layered with that top quality ganache. Pricey at $70 a cake but worth the splurge for that special occasion.

(7) Crepe Suzette, The White Rabbit at 24 Harding Road
I have a sentimental weakness for this European-inspired dessert, I think it stems from when I was little and my dad would let me order this in restaurants as a treat so I could watch the cart come by- there was always something velvetly romantic about the copper crepe pan, the melting of the thin crumbly layer of sugar and the caramelization of the orange juice and Grand Marnier.

There are a few places that make crepe suzette in Singapore, mostly old steakhouses like the Gordon Grill at Goodwood Park Hotel and Lawry's Steakhouse at the Ion Orchard. I chose The White Rabbit given the good ambience and beautiful setting, it is a dessert for two after all. $18/plate of 2 crepes.

(8) Durian Crepes, Goodwood Park Hotel at 22 Scotts Road
The durian festival at Goodwood Park Hotel lasts from April to almost August, so it's really more of a fiesta than a festival. The specialties includ the durian mousse choux-pastry, the Durian Puff, Durian eclairs, Durian crepes, Durian streudal and even Durian kueh dadar.

If you are a fan of the King of Fruits, you'll not want to miss the original Durian mouse cake topped with cubes of light vanilla sponge, or the durian crepe sandwiched with a thick layer of creamy, smooth D24. $8.50 a slice/ $48 whole/ $2.20 per puff

(9) Sugee Cake, Chin Mee Chin at 204 East Coast Road
This old-school confectionary has been around for almost 100 years, peddling their traditional raisin buns, luncheon meat buns, kaya kopi breakfasts and shophouse flies. The one thing I love here and which warrants the long drive out, is the sugee cake, chock full of probably 20 eggs and oozing slightly of oil onto the grease-proof paper wrapping. Almost savoury in its richness, the nutty crumb will have you eating way more than is good for you. Sinful! From memory, I think the price was $18-24 for a regular sized low-height sugee cake though you'd better go early, the baker only makes a few batches a day.

(10) Iced Teh Tarik at Amoy Street Food Center, Syed Mohamad Drinks #01-67
I'm sure most people have heard about the many specialties on offer at Amoy Street Food Center like the Han Kee Fish Soup, Teochew porridge or Thunder Tea Rice but when it comes to sweet, it doesn't get any sweeter than the Teh-Peng, or Teh-Ice at Syed Mohamed Drinks.

Teh Tarik translates as "pulled tea", the preparation of passing thick and frothy tea from one metal mug to the other with a "pour/pull" action that cools and aerates the tea. I'm really picky with milk tea, it has to be orange tea dust for a lovely copper colour and the flavour of the tea must be stronger, yet balanced by the sweetness of the milk. It must be a Sarabat (from the Arabic word "to drink") stall, traditionally run by Indian Muslims.

This place is a thriving, hugely profitable stall and no wonder, their Teh Tarik, Teh Halia (he blends fresh ginger daily) and Teh Ice or with less sugar, Teh C(Si)Peng drinks are refreshing and a real boost to the start of your day. Move over, Mr Teh Terik Cartel.

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