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Monday, December 27, 2010

New York Central Park - A Little Photo Gallery

CP 8
CP Collage1

I must have traveled to New York more than 10 times over the last 15 years. During the earlier years, I would travel there to visit my grand uncle and grand aunt in Brookyln. I recall how their neighbourhood at Prospect Park populated by blacks and hispanics would morph to become rather hip and cosy. Subsequently, when I started working for my current American employment, I would frequent Connecticut and New Jersey at least once a year. Hence I am not totally unfamiliar with Manhattan. I am very comfortable with the subway and am used to walking 40 to 50 blocks in the city.

My visiting habits in Manhattan has gradually changed over the years. My 'free days' to roam get shorter so I no longer go to the musuems (I lost count of the number of big and small musuems I had visited). I am also no longer excited about department stores like Birmingham, SAKS Fifth Ave etc. Now when I do get to Macy's I would head straight for the household department and I would never pass by a Williams Sonoma store without just popping in for a quick twirl (even though all of them carry the same merchandises). Fine food stores like Dean & Deluca, Zbar and Wholefoods are also my favourite haunts.

CP Collage2

Despite it all, there remains one place which I will always set aside time for when I am in Manhattan... It has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for me... going to Central Park. Summer in Central Park bustles with energy when buskers perform and superfit rollerbladers power glide through the park. Winter in Central Park is a little more pristine and quiet.... the trees are bare, the ponds are frozen...the joggers looking more austere in their long tights, hats and gloves.

I was lucky that the only free Saturday I had was not too cold to walk and sit around in the park for immediately the next day, temperature dropped and the big chill set in.

CP Collage6
I started my walk from Strawberry Fields, the little plot dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. It was only a few days earlier that the public was commemorating John Lennon's death anniversary on the 8th Dec.
CP Collage 3
Loved the rows and rows of benches where people would sit and enjoy the scenery or read...
CP 1-1
Whoever thought of putting the park in the city was brilliant and for me this is possibly the strongest identity of New York City yet....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saying Merry Christmas With Martha Stewart's Ginger Bread Cupcake

Cupcake 7

Cupcake 3

Ginger Cupcake 1

Getting back to blogging after a month long haitus is proving to be harder than I thought. Amidst meetings in New Jersey, shopping in Manhattan and  catching up with friends in Conneticut, I put all blogging activites on the back burner. When I got back a week ago, I found myself drawn into a spring cleaning mode - it all started with the bumper load I lugged back from Williams Sonoma - I desperately had to clear out old clutter to make way.... for shiny new toys. Things got worse when the company's account department cast their ultimatum, warning me that if I do not submit my 9 months' old overdue expense reports, I can kiss all my money good-bye...... that was my week leading up to the Christmas holidays.

As cold as it might be, Manhanttan was absolutely lovely around Christmas and drew visitors like a big magnet. Some highlights of my 3 weeks stay in US included my usual walk in Central Park on the only sunny Saturday before the chills set in, lingered in Williams Sonoma and Wholefoods supermarket, played X-box in a mobile arcade, cooked at the Vikings Culinary Center and ate some good food and...some not so good ones.

Interestingly, I was inspired to bake this Gingerbread Cupcake because of an unpleasant cupcake experience I had in Conneticut. I was told that when well known Cupcake Bake Shop, Crumbs opened one of its latest branch at posh and trendy Westport, it made the neighbourhood quite happy. However, I was skeptical right from the moment I walked into the store. The cupcakes were bigger than my fists and although there appeared to be a myriad of mouth watering flavours to choose from, their 'Signature size', in my opinion, took away their prettiness. We bought 2 cupcakes, the GingerBread and the Apple Caramel to bring home for after dinner dessert. Both were so coyingly sweet that I had to throw out my share after one bite.

The recipe I have chosen today is taken from Martha Stewart's Cupcake cook book. This has to be one of the best cupcakes I have had for a long time.
Cupcake 6

I like this even better than the Donna Hay chocolate cupcake. The Christmasy spices are warm and comforting. Devoid of any milk/liquid or leavening agent, the cupcake turned out to be suprisingly soft and fluffy. If you are still deliberating on what to bake for Christmas, I would strongly recommend this.

Last but not least, before I return to my expense reports, here's wishing all my lovely friends out there a Merry and Wonderful Christmas!

P.S. : Swee San, thanks for the reminder. I will be more than happy to submit this for your giveaway event.
So, officially - This is my entry for the Christmas Giveaway hosted by Swee San of The Sweet Spot.

Cupcake 3 (100)
Recipe : (Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)
1.5Cups          all-purpose flour
2   tbsp           ground ginger
2 tsp               ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp            freshly grated nutmeg
1.5 cups         unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp             unsulfured molasses
4 large            eggs , room temperature
3/4 cup           brown sugar (I cut the sugar by 50%)
1 tsp               Vanilla Extract

For Decorating
Gingerbread Cookie cutouts
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

Method :

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners . Sift flour together with spices.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the molasses, and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and slowly add in flour.
3. Spoon out batter into cupcake liners to 3/4 full.
4. Bake in oven for 25 mins or until skewer inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

113g              Unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
80g                Icing sugar
1/8 tsp           Vanilla extract

Method :
1. Beat butter using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
2. Reduce speed of mixer and add in icing sugar.
3. Add in Vanilla extract and beat until smooth and creamy.

Gingerbread Boy

5.5 cups         All purpose flour
1 tsp              Baking soda
1.5tsp            Salt
1 tbsp plus 1tsp  Ground ginger
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1 tsp                   Freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup                  Unsalted butter
1 cup                  Packed dark-brown sugar
2                         Large eggs
1.5 cups              Unsulfured molasses

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. With the electric mixer on medium high speed, cream buter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined.

2. Divide dough into 3 portions. Flatten in to a disc and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate until firm.
3. Roll out each disc to just under 1/4 inch thick.
4. Cut with mini gingerbread man cookie cutter.
5. Bake cookies until crisp - 8 to 10mins. Cool down and store in air tight tin.                  


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