Jun 27, 2012

Las Chicas

This is essentially a Part 2 of my friend's 23rd birthday celebration. The first was my attempt at making Martha Stewart's Dark Chocolate Crepe Cake.

My friend just turned 23 on Monday and to kick-start the day, we went to this Mexican brunch place at Balaclava. Or for those of you who are bad with directions or place names, like yours truly, it is apparently around St. Kilda area. 

When they decided where to go for brunch, I as per usual went onto Urbanspoon to find blog reviews about this place, Las Chicas. Sadly, almost every blog I came across did not have a menu! I now understand why no one attempted to post up the menu. There were about...5 pages?


So I am going to be a bit more hardworking and actually post up the menu (probably because I am now on winter break and have absolutely nothing to do).





 

Yeah. There are actually 6 pages. Not 5.
I really liked the location of Las Chicas despite the fact I had to travel a bit (not much of a traveller). Not only is it right next to the train station, but there is also a tram stop right in front of the cafe. So getting to the cafe was pretty simple.



It was nice and spacious inside. A definite bonus. (: And apparently there was a back area but because it was full, they gave us a seat inside, which I am thankful for because it started pouring after awhile.



The coffee was good. It wasn't acidic, but nutty and creamy. I would have liked it to be a tad bit hotter. A little mental note. Request for the coffee to be slightly hotter next time round.


I was also fascinated by the bottle that they used to serve drinks. It was an Aboslut Vodka bottle! I am now thinking how many bottles did the staff consume because there were quite a few tables in the cafe. Hehe. 




After reading a few food blogs, I made the decision on ordering Las Chicas style steak sandwich. I wouldn't say it was the best steak sandwich I have ever tasted, but it definitely was decent. The one thing I didn't like about the sandwich was the wasabi mayo. 


I just don't get the whole adding wasabi into your dish, like the wasabi potato mash I had at Twenty & Six Espresso. Personally, it just kills the meal after awhile because you start choking on all the wasabi you consumed. Other than that, the pieces of steak was nicely cooked and the bread wasn't over toasted.


The other dish that I managed to taste was the Brekky Bruschetta of scrambled eggs on a bed of spinach and sourdough multigrain, finished with pesto and pine nuts. I felt the scrambled eggs were a tad bit overcooked. So did my friend. But it wasn't a bad dish.



Unfortunately I did not try the other few dishes but from my friend's comments, they quite enjoyed their meal. And I have seen tons of blogs with these dishes in them and the reviews so far were pretty good.




All in all, it was a good brunch. Location was good. Coffee was good. Decent food. Reasonably priced. Friendly staff. Good company. What more can you ask for?

Las Chicas
St Kilda
203 Carlisle Street
Balaclava
VIC 3183
(03) 9531 3699

Las Chicas on Urbanspoon

Dark Chocolate Crepe Cake

I love birthdays. I really do. Just yesterday a few of us celebrated one of my dearest friend's 23rd birthday.


Honestly, I suck at getting people presents. I am always worried if I buy them something that they already have, or I buy them something that they probably do not like.

But, I still wanted to do something special for her birthday. Something a bit more personal. And since she is a dessert/chocolate-lover like me, I decided to make her Martha Stewart's darkest chocolate crepe cake.


Originally the recipe yields about 30 to 40 pieces of crepe, depending on how big your pan is.

But my sister suggested why don't we make 23 crepes instead?

A 23-layered crepe cake for the 23 year old. 


I had a lot of fun making this because it is very different from baking a normal cake. You make the batter, pour it in the tin, chuck it in the oven and then decorate the cake. Simple. But with a crepe cake, you are slowly assembling the cake, making sure each layer is even and has enough filling, piecing it all together. 

It was even more fun making this cake because my sister joined in and we took turns in flipping the crepes and were laughing hysterically at one another trying to flip the pancakes. After 3 to 5 attempts, we finally came up with our first successful crepe and it progressed from there.

So don't stress when you are flipping the crepes! You do need to get into the rhythm of things before you get that first perfect crepe. After that, everything will go smoothly. (:

The cake does look daunting and the recipe IS long, but it really isn't too bad! So, give it a go! And if you ever have a very very bad chocolate craving, this will more than definitely satisfy it.

After making the cake, I realized that some things should be left out or should have been done differently. So, the recipe I am posting here today is an altered recipe. But if you want the original recipe, click here.

Dark Chocolate Crepe Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Crepe batter - preferably make it the night before you want to make the cake

Ingredients

1/4 cup water
6 oz. cold unsalted butter, cubed
8 oz. dark chocolate (I used 50% cocoa), chopped roughly
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
6 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla essence

  • Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan and add butter one cube at a time, whisking constantly. Once all the butter has been melted, add chocolate and stir until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a rather big bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine milk, eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  • Add milk mixture to the flour and whisk until smooth.
  • Stir in chocolate mixture.
  • Pour into a container and refrigerate overnight. (You can refrigerate for 2 hours also if you're impatient.)
  • Next day, sieve the batter to remove any lumps.


Now to cook the crepe, technically you should use a crepe pan. I mean, there is a reason why the crepe pan was invented. But, since I did not have one, I just used a normal non-stick frying pan and I still achieved pretty yummy crepes. So you could save yourself the trouble of going out and buying a crepe pan. But if you have a crepe pan, or crepe machine for that matter, by all means, use it.

So to cook the crepe...
  • Lightly coat your pan with melted butter and heat it over medium heat.
  • I used a soup scoop to pour the batter in, just to make sure I use even amounts of batter. 
  • I used one scoop. But just make sure that you have enough batter in the pan.
  • Scoop the batter into the pan, swirl the pan to coat all areas and leave it to cook for about a 45 seconds to a minute on each side.
  • You want that slight bit of crunch at the edge.
  • Once it is cooked, transfer the crepe onto a cooling rack. Or a plate.
Note: Crepes can be made and kept in the fridge for up to one day.

       


Final batch
Just to be on the safe side, we made 30 pieces in case something went wrong with the layering.

For the hazelnut filling, I halved the recipe since I had only 23 layers. But the recipe below is for the full 30-40 pieces of crepes.

Hazelnut Filling - to be used immediately

Ingredients

6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
14 oz. unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup Nutella
pinch of salt
  • Whisk egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Set it over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar has dissolved.
  • Remove from the heat and place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  • Beat egg whites and sugar on high speed until slightly stiff peaks are formed (approx. 5 mins)
  • Switch whisk to paddle attachment and change speed to medium.
  • Add butter a few cubes at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • Add vanilla, Nutella and salt.
  • Continue to whisk until mixture comes together.

Note: In the original recipe, cream was mixed into the filling but I omitted it from the recipe here because it caused my filling to split (above). My filling was perfectly fine before the slightly whipped cream went in. I recommend you don't add in the cream but if you really insist, then go for it. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Assembling

Because the cake needed to go into the fridge after I layered them, I used cling wrap to fold my crepe cake together. So tear a rather large piece of cling wrap and set it on a plate. 

Start the layering by placing a piece of crepe on the cling wrap, and then a full tablespoon of filling onto the crepe. Spread the filling over the crepe, making sure that you leave just a bit of space at the edges so that the filling does not overflow once you start to layer on more pieces.

Once you are done, cover the cake with the cling wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

In the mean time, you can make the glaze and candied hazelnuts for decorating the cake later on.



Chocolate Glaze

Again, I halved the recipe while making the cake but I am giving you the full measurements.

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups pure cream (35% fat)
1 tbsp corn syrup (Substitutes: honey, maple syrup, treacle)
pinch of salt
10 oz. dark chocolate (70% cocoa), roughly chopped
  • Heat the cream, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan until it's gently simmering.
  • Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.
  • Let it stand for 5 minutes and then stir until completely smooth.
  • Let the glaze cool completely before using.
Candied Hazelnuts

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsps water
2 oz. hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (can be kept as whole)
  • Spread the hazelnuts on a piece of baking paper.
  • Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Do not stir the sugar or it will crystallize. Just gently swirl.
  • Let the syrup boil until a nice brown caramel forms.
  • Pour the caramel over the hazelnuts, make sure you cover the nuts.
  • Let it cool.
  • Break or chop the brittle into any shape or size you desire.


Final assembling

Spoon glaze on top of the cake and spread it with a spatula. Spread the glaze at the sides of the cake to coat it completely. Sprinkle candied hazelnuts on top of the cake (if you did grind it up). Refrigerate for about 30 minutes until the cake has set.


Jun 22, 2012

Chin Chin

It was one of those really long, overdue, old-fashion, girl's night out, so we decided to have dinner at Chin Chin. We knew that it was going to be extremely crowded, despite the fact that it was a weeknight, (could you expect any less?), so we aimed to reach the restaurant by 5.30. ish. Which we did!
But alas, it did not matter. Because there were already heaps of people queuing up (if you do not like to wait, go at around 3 or 4 and you'll be guaranteed a seat on entry). By the time we reached the waitress, it was packed and we were on the waiting list. Thankfully neither one of us were really hungry. So my friend put her name and number down for a table of 3 and was told to expect a text message when our table was ready.

So we decided to go sit at a cafe for drinks while awaiting that very important message. In the end, we went to Lot 7, which was just a few blocks down from Chin Chin. After almost 2 hours, we finally received a text saying our table was ready! I guess once you have good company, a 2-hour-wait does not feel very long.
We got into Chin Chin, sat down and started scanning through the menu. The more famous/common dishes were still on the list, like the kingfish sashimi or caramelized pork belly. Then there were those other dishes that looked unknown to me.

In the end, we ordered 5 dishes between the 3 of us.

Our first dish was the kingfish sashimi, served with a lime and coconut dressing. I have read a lot of good reviews about this dish and it was my first time trying the dish. I was impressed. But for those of you who do not really like sour-y things, I suggest you either don't order this dish, or pick a piece of fish that was not fully immersed in the dressing. Because it really packs a punch.
The next dish was a morning glory veg, we still need our greens. Something you could probably cook for yourself at home. 
We then had a handmade crab and pork patty. Not bad. But not memorable.
Our fourth dish, was fried quail with siracha sauce on the side. This was definitely one of my favourites of the night. If only the portions were bigger!
Lastly, we had the caramel pork belly. Honestly, I still do prefer Red Spice Road's caramelized pork belly, but my cravings were definitely satisfied. 
Overall, it was a good meal, great service and a perfect G.N.O.. Definitely a place to try at least once. (:

125 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 8663 2000

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon