No Frill Baking: Cheesecake Brownies

Today my bestie OWS stopped by my house, and together we made some fantastic cheesecake brownies.

As we speak, the brownies are now chilling in the fridge (they are supposed to be chilled overnight before serving), but when we had a sneak taste just now, they were pretty darn good. So I guess it’s safe to say that it was a success, although I’ll still be updating you guys tomorrow with the final verdict!

Recipe was adapted from the baking master Joy of Baking. She has both a YouTube channel and her own website, that you can check out here! I adjusted the recipe to use more convenient ingredients/quantities, so that there I’m not left with an awkward half-empty container of cream cheese or butter that will probably be left forgotten.

Cheesecake Brownies 
Original recipe can be found here.

This is my adapted version.

Brownie Layer:
113g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
115g bittersweet chocolate chips
125g granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
65g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake Layer:
250g cream cheese
50g granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Extra chocolate chips

To make brownie layer:

  1. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and butter.
  2. Once melted, take the bowl off the boiler. Add in the granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Leave the mixture to cool until lukewarm. (Stick a finger in to gauge the temperature). Then, add in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. At this point, sift the flour and pour it in. Mix well and ensure that there are no lumps.
  5. Deposit the brownie mixture into your baking pan, and make sure to spread it well so that it forms an even layer.

To make cheesecake layer:

  1. Beat your cream cheese with a whisk, until creamy. (Tip: If your cream cheese is too hard, use a fork to smash it down and soften it first, then switch to a whisk.)
  2. Incorporate the granulated sugar well. Make sure not to over mix – your cream cheese mixture should not be too runny.
  3. Now, add in your egg. Mix well.
  4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over your brownie layer. Then, carefully spread it out with the back of a spoon so that it covers the top layer completely.
  5. Decorate the top of your cheesecake layer with the extra chocolate chips!
  6. Put your baking pan into a preheated oven at 160C, for 25-30 minutes. You know that it’s done when the cheesecake layer turns slightly golden.
  7. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results!

***Tip for Singaporeans***:
We all know that cream cheese is really expensive here. If you want to make this without breaking the bank, there is a decently priced cream cheese sold in NTUC FairPrice at $5.80 for 250g. What’s even better, is that it’s on offer now, at $5.15. (Offer ends 30 June). It’s called Kraft Light Phila Cream Cheese (250g round tub). Click here for the link to the listed product on the FairPrice online store.

That said, because this is a light cream cheese, do note that it might not taste as rich as desired because the original recipe by Joy Of Baking specifically asked for full fat cream cheese. I personally think this lighter cream cheese tastes perfectly alright, and will be more suitable especially if you have older Asian parents at home who might be not accustomed to a heavier palette.

Happy baking!

Edit: Tried it today, a little too sweet for my liking. I cut down the sugar in the recipe above.

No Frill Cooking: Thai Basil Chicken (a spin-off)

For those of you that don’t know, I really enjoy cooking.

It’s one of those longstanding hobbies that has a very real reward at the end – a great dish or dessert that I can stuff my face with. No need for a four-month wait to see my scarf finally taking shape, or maybe an even less tangible reward in the form of a ‘revitalized spirit’ (or whatever that is supposed to mean).

Last week, I wanted to try making Thai Basil Chicken. Too bad I had neither the basil nor the chicken. So I made Thai Basil Chicken Without The Chicken and The Basil. It came out pretty damn good the first time, if I say so myself. Yesterday I made it again, tweaking the recipe – cranking up spice level, making the sauce less salty, and adding vegetables to make this a more balanced one-pot meal for the family.

Here I present to you the recipe. If you haven’t noticed, it is in no way authentic, and nor do I claim to know anything about cooking, or even Thai cuisine for that matter. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. Now, without further ado…

Thai Basil Chicken (ish) – Without The Basil and The Chicken

To serve 4 people, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 800g pork shoulder, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 capsicums, chopped roughly
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy suace
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 5 dried chillis
  • 3-4 shallots
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Finely mince the garlic, dried chillies and shallots. (A food processor will make the job easier, but a pestal and mortar will work fine as well.)
  2. In a wok, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add in the minced mixture and stir fry until aromatic, or when garlic turns golden.
  3. At this point, add in your chopped up pork, and brown the meat. This should take around 5 minutes.
  4. Dump in your chopped veges. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine these ingredients to make your sauce: light soy, dark soy, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and water. Pour the sauce into the wok.
  6. Coat the pork and veges evenly with the sauce, then put the lid on. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Make sure to check on it occasionally so that it doesn’t burn!)
  7. After which, check if the sauce is of the correct consistency. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce is still too runny, cook for a bit longer to let the excess water evaporate.
  8. Once done, serve immediately with piping hot white rice.

Viola, you’re done!

if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: The New MRT Map Display Panel

It seems that SMRT has been hard at work lately.

The East-West Line extension will be open to the public on June 18, signal testing is in the works for the North South Line, and it looks like a system update has been implemented for the MRT display of some trains.

While I’m not sure if this new system will be put in place for all new trains, I believe that this will  be the case at least for the North-South Line (or more affectionately referred to as the ‘Red Line’) for now. I had my first encounter with the new system on Sunday night, when I boarded the train towards Marina Bay from Jurong East Station.

To summarise the change simply, the usual physical MRT map pasted above the doors of the cabins have been replaced. In its place is a new electronic screen divided into two segments. The one of the left has has this has a zoomed-in map of the current, and next four stations. The one on the right displays a good-for-nothing island map, with an outline of the island MRT routes running through. After doors open at every stop, the display changes to show a countdown timer until the doors close.

I didn’t manage to take any pictures or videos on that day, but if you need a visual reference, do watch this clip uploaded by Mothership.sg.

Anyway, back to the story. I was horrified by the update – I didn’t see what purpose this change served at all. A summary of the problems below:

Removing the physical MRT Map –
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about making everything electronic – I do belong to the digital age, after all. But there’s really some major problems that haven’t been considered before this change was implemented.

SMRT couldn’t even get their shit together in the past, when all they had to do was switch on the correct lighting indicators on the physical map to show the train journey. Stations were indicated wrongly, people got on the train and got off – thinking they boarded the wrong train because the lighting indicators showed that the train was going in the opposite direction. You had one job back then, and you couldn’t do it. What makes you think you can do it now?

Another problem – what’s your back-up plan if the screens burn?

Only displaying the current and next four stops
What if I want to switch lines? Where is the next interchange? How will I know that?

That fancy island map display with the MRT route running through –
Someone please explain this one to me. WHAT IS THE POINT? The only purpose I can come up with is for aesthetic reasons – and even that leaves a lot to be desired.

The countdown to train doors closing –
I’m not so angry about this one – it is a thoughtful addition – just not well thought out enough. These displays are inside the train…the people concerned about the countdown are outside, those rushing to get into the train. The commuters that are safely inside are already tapping on their phones – they could care less about the countdown and when the train doors close.

— end of rant —

Well, that felt good.

I did some research, and realised that this new electronic system DID have a purpose to serve (shocker, I know). It’s so that the MRT staff won’t have to physically amend the MRT map of every train and every cabin in future, whenever there is a new line/station/interchange. I can appreciate that, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it. There are ways to make a system electronic and more efficient, without making it dumb. MacDonald’s managed to do it with their ordering kiosks. Shopping malls managed to do it with their directories. I believe you can do it too, MRT gods. But until you can come up with something that works, please just focus on making your trains run. That’s all we’re asking for and it’s the least you could do.

 

 

jobless, aimless & bored

At the beginning of this year, I started working at StarHub as one of their call centre temp staff. Last week, I quit – for a multitude of reasons. And now I’m jobless, aimless, and very, very bored.

For the first couple of days of unemployed life, I did nothing but ate, slept and watched (or mostly, RE-watched) dramas. I refined my drama stash (re-downloaded those available in higher quality, deleted some older dramas to make space for the newer ones, etc.). I went out (quite a fair bit), I spent money. A lot of it.

And along the way I rekindled my love for the drama Faith (Korean time travel drama, 2012, starring Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun). The directing and editing leaves a lot to be desired, but somehow watching it again made me love it as much as I did the first time (or even more so).

Oh, and before I forget, I went to watch a Chinese Orchestra concert too! One of the pieces was a medley of the Goblin OST. So much feels, I could barely contain them. Reminds me of why I love live orchestra performances, and how much I adored the Goblin soundtrack. Seriously. Even if the plot might seem draggy (admittedly, it is), it is a very epic drama with very epic directing/editing/acting/soundtracks. Take my word for it. In fact, this rekindled love for the soundtrack might drive me to pick up the piano again to learn the some of the pieces. Both vocal and instrumental pieces were GREAT.

I plan to find and start a new job in July. I’ll probably resume the job search in mid-June – right now I’m not working too hard at it. In the mean time, I might catch Wonder Woman with my sister soon, or hopefully resume swimming regularly because I feel my belly rolls expanding. (For some strange reason, as I type this, my brain affectionately inserts images of korean BBQ…)

Today, I’ll leave you with a quote someone showed me last week. I slept on it and thought it was great.

Everyone can taste success when the going is easy, but few know how to taste victory when times get tough. -Byron Pulsifer

See you soon! -Q