June 7, 2009
Teng Ei Liang destresses by making chocolate treats for his friends on weekends
By Huang Lijie
Hotel development manager Teng Ei Liang has his mother to thank for inspiring his love for baking. But not because she is a particularly skilled baker.
The 29-year-old bachelor says: 'I used to accompany my mother to baking classes when I was about eight years old so she could baby-sit me at the same time. But she didn't always remember every step in the baking process, so I ended up helping her during class.
'We learnt to make all sorts of cakes from Opera to mango mousse.'
At home, when his mother tried to replicate the recipes she learnt, she would ask him to help her bake.
And he never protested.
'Then, it was just about having fun, playing around with the cream, making things that looked nice and tasted good.'
His friends learnt of his baking skill when he made tiramisu from an aunt's recipe for a party.
He says: 'I was about 14 years old then. My friends liked the tiramisu so much that they asked me to make it for every pot-luck gathering and birthday celebration.'
He made the treat all the way until he entered university and even gave lessons to close friends who wanted to learn how to whip up the dessert of espresso-soaked sponge fingers layered with mascarpone.
He says: 'I've made so many that I am now extremely scared of its smell.'
When he was not busy making tiramisu, he tried baking other treats such as swiss rolls and black forest cakes. For these, he relied on recipes from the baking classes his mother attended, as well as recipes from his maternal aunts, who are also avid bakers.
Indeed, he was so passionate about baking that he wanted to enrol in the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school to study pastry-making after completing national service.
But his parents preferred that he pursue a university degree, so he followed their wishes and studied finance at the Singapore Management University before working at the Singapore Tourism Board as a manager for attractions development.
Unable to shake off the call of cooking school, he left his job in 2007 and signed up for certificate programmes in basic cuisine and patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu's London campus.
He paid for the courses, which cost about £7,000 (S$16,000) then, using mostly his savings and some financial help from his parents.
Of the five months he spent in culinary school, he says: 'It was tiring because I would be in the kitchen from 8am to 7pm but it was also a lot of fun because everyone in class was passionate about cooking.'
After completing his courses, however, he left with no illusions about embarking on a career as a patissier, a cook or a restaurateur.
He says: 'I realised I had learnt only the basics and there was still a lot more to learn.'
Nonetheless, he was excited by a new skill he picked up at Le Cordon Bleu - making chocolate truffles.
He says: 'I've always loved chocolates but before my patisserie course, I had no idea how to make them and I always thought it was daunting and involved rocket science.'
The chocolate truffles he made for friends as gifts were so well received that word soon got around and he found himself getting orders from friends for his handmade orbs of cocoa goodness.
Unlike his experience with tiramisu, though, he says he is not sick of chocolate truffles even though he makes them almost every weekend, spending about six hours spread over two days making about 1,000 pieces.
'There's something therapeutic about making chocolates. It may be mundane to roll them out one after another but it helps clear my mind, especially after a long day of staring at the computer.
'And I still steal a few pieces to eat every time I make a batch of truffles for friends.'
The chocolate hazelnut tart recipe which he shares below marries his love for chocolate with the basic tart shell recipe he learnt at Le Cordon Bleu.
MAKE IT YOURSELF: CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TART
200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
10ml water (if necessary)
190g dark chocolate
80g hazelnut praline paste, available in speciality baking stores
60g paillete feuilletine (crushed wafer flakes), available in speciality baking stores
150g whipping cream
15g liquid glucose, available in speciality baking stores
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C.
2. Sift flour, salt and sugar into a big bowl.
3. Add butter and combine the mixture with your hands until it resembles coarse crumbs.
4 Form a well in the centre of the mixture, pour in the egg and vanilla extract and combine with your hands to form a smooth dough that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too crumbly, add water to it gradually.
5. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
6. Roll the dough out to 2mm or 3mm thickness and line it on a tart tray with a 20cm diameter.
7. Prick holes on the base of the tart dough with a fork.
8. Cut open an oven cooking bag and place it over the dough, making sure it is large enough to cover the edges. Fill the covered surface with dry rice or beans. This ensures that the crust holds its shape during baking.
9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the oven before removing the oven bag with the rice or beans. Bake the tart shell for another five to 10 minutes until golden brown.
10. Allow the tray to cool at room temperature before removing the tart shell and chilling it in the refrigerator.
11. Melt 40g of dark chocolate and praline paste in a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water. Stir to mix well.
12. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature before adding in the paillete feuilletine. Mix well.
13. Spread the chocolate mixture on the base of the tart with a spoon to half the height of the tart shell. Make sure the chocolate layer has a smooth and even surface.
14. Place the tart in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate sets.
15. To a pot, add cream and liquid glucose, stir and bring to a simmer over low heat.
16. Crush the remaining 150g dark chocolate in a bowl before adding the simmered mixture.
17. Allow the mixture to sit for five minutes before slowly stirring it until a smooth chocolate ganache forms.
18. Pour the ganache into the tart, filling it up to the brim. Smooth out the surface using a spatula.
19. Place the tart in the refrigerator for about four hours or overnight until it sets.