It has been one year ho! Quite the year indeed.
Full of surprises, full of promises, full of discoveries. And, dotted with beautiful memories all along. One full, charming year since the debut of Plateful. Yes, it is Plateful’s first birthday, er, anniversary—whatever.
The journey has been exhilarating, challenging, educational, to say the least. Somewhere along the route all this recipe sharing, prop hunting, styling and framing for photography, and the communal joy of connectivity gathered momentum and became my way of life. A guilty pleasure. All thanks to you.
It is amazing how fast time goes by. It was around this time a year back, on December 29, 2010 to be precise, that my blog went live with 5 delicious recipes and a welcome message. It was a means to an end to fill the void that came with unemployment and the gift of copious time attached to it. Little did I realize that I was embarking on a journey of self-discovery. Roughly 365 days and I still can’t believe that I’m doing this. How can I when I was always this shy person who was intimidated by public speaking, let alone felt comfortable with anyone invading my personal space? How can I fathom that today I’m baring my thoughts and soul to this world, one recipe at a time, that too using this viral medium—cyberspace—and enjoying every bit of it. Strange, but true. Surely, by no stretch of the imagination did I ever consider being the curator of a blog in a social platform with the immediacy of reaching a great audience beyond national borders, and moreover, to be able to cultivate a virtual community of readership. I haven’t quite got the hang of it. Nonetheless, today, this space is my alter ego—a friend when I need one, a genuine camaraderie when I yearn for companionship. I’m so grateful.
Going back, life was pretty solitary in the blogosphere at the beginning. I used to fret, fret, fret over the number of readers and languish over the lack of comments—duh. But luck was on my side and over the next few months the community began to grow, slowly but surely. Friendships were formed with each recipe I documented, each story I shared. Mind you, blogging has been sporadic most times—but, elevating to the core. I enjoy the nurture of creativity, sense of belonging, rich networking opportunity and the pride of achievement this space has bestowed upon me—it’s priceless. Like no other I’ve experienced before. Period.
Design was one interest I always wanted to pursue, and art was my passion right from childhood. Besides, I loved reading and writing, and always nurtured this silly dream of publishing—as if I had any skills in that department! Admittedly, I never really ventured into any of these interests, discounting the journals I kept—hidden away—when I was young, or the petty writing I did for magazines at school, or the pleasure of art—drawing, to be precise—I engaged in as a hobby until I walked down the aisle. Perhaps not surprisingly, these interests fueled what I am doing now—writing, food styling and photographing. Blogging has become a wonderful outlet for my latent passions, empowering me to hone these skills with each new post I share with this world. Well, you know, food blogging is so much more than just knowing how to cook delicious dishes—sometimes it's a struggle, other times easy as pie. But all the time alluring, thanks to you.
Ever since the inception of Plateful, I’ve turned into this styling enthusiast and photography freak. Really. Guess what gives me the most thrills, other than being behind the lens of course? Prop hunting! It might sound a bit cheesy, but rummaging through shops for suitable props gets my adrenaline going, overtime. Over the course of the year, I have come to appreciate photography like never before. With each passing day, I learned the significance of composition and lighting. Suddenly I was like bye-bye flash and hello there, sunlight! I submitted my photos for critiques and benefited from each feedback I received. I entered contests and was rewarded with quite a few recognitions. I was thrilled to be on the panel of judges for one of the most popular online food photography events—DMBLGiT (Does My Blog Look Good in This)—thanks to Nags, this past November. My December 2011 DMBLGiT win (thank you Arundhuti!) was like icing on the cake—a curtain call to end a terrific one-year milestone that started with my interest in the bewitching art of food photography and styling. And yet this's just a beginning. I’m self taught and still learning. Above all, I truly wish to enhance my skills as I continue this exciting journey.
Throughout, my handy Canon Powershot SX 200 IS has been a steady companion, sharing my little delights and woes. Don’t get me wrong, I do take pride in the fact that I was able to come this bit with a compact point and shoot camera—no tripod, no artificial lighting, or the much coveted D-SLR camera and Photoshop software. But, oh boy, I do fancy buying and shooting with a good SLR camera, and then tweaking my shots in Photoshop to add personality. Sigh. The web is a treasure trove of inspiration and I’m so inspired by quite a few blogs I’ve stumbled upon, as well as a few of the amazing talents behind the screen I've met and befriended on social network platforms like twitter and facebook.
I want to dedicate this post to all of you—my most wonderful community of family, friends, long-term visitors and new ones on board—whose constant support is of great value to me, to Plateful. I’m forever touched by the beauty of your words; overwhelmed by the love and generosity you show me. Each note I receive for the recipes you try, the photos you like, or even a scribble to say hello—it gives me joy, it means a ton. It is my confidence booster, I must add. YOU are what makes Plateful. You are my strength and inspiration. Without you, this journey is incomplete, this victory hollow. I know I can never thank you enough for enriching my world and sharing a bit of yours with me. Still, my heartfelt thanks for being such a positive influence in my life.
As I begin a new year, I don’t have much in terms of future aspirations. But eventually, I do hope to streamline this space—set parameters for my posting schedules, work on the much delayed “about” section, organize and update my recipe list. Yes, I do hope to bring some structure to this personal canvas and make it a lovely spot in terms of design, recipes, photography and writing. A space I’d love to create, a space you’d love to visit and linger.
Now, this special occasion deserves a lovely bouquet, a gift certificate for something special, or at least an invitation to dinner. But alas, I only have this simple dessert to share with you today. As a token of my appreciation. I hope you like it.
For all fans of brownies and cakes, I have this treat for you. It is deep, dark, dense and very, very chocolaty—mini brownie cakes with a chewy crust and flecks of hazelnut! Oh, and dressed up with this absolutely delish milk chocolate ganache, smooth chocolate pearls and chocolate hearts. Serve it with plenty of berries and who could ask for more in one small plateful!
This one is super, super easy and you can make it in a snap. A treat for serious chocoholics!
The original recipe calls for baking in muffin pan. The choice of doing them in two small spring-form cake pans was entirely mine. However, if you don’t have small spring-form pans, use muffin pans. All ingredients are mixed in a single bowl—see, I told you it’s easy.
Now for a couple of notes to help your brownie making go without a hitch. The most important point to note is the baking time—you really don’t want brownies to be over baked and dry. A good brownie should have a nice, moist center. That is, when you insert a wooden skewer or toothpick you need some moist crumbs on it. You don't want the skewer to come out clean, which means it's over baked. So err on the conservative side with timing, and check after 10 minutes of baking, as most ovens behave differently. Also remember, the better quality of the chocolate you use, the better the end result. I used Lindt 85% cocoa dark chocolate for the cake—it's very rich and intense without being too sweet, is low carb and has a hint of bitter aftertaste. If you are not a fan of bitter dark chocolate, I'd recommend going for 70% cocoa, or even 50% cocoa depending on your preference for sweetness.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe:
Intensely Chocolaty Hazelnut Brownie Cake
Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Madeleines, Muffins & More
Makes 2 mini cakes, or 8 medium muffins
Makes 2 mini cakes, or 8 medium muffins
Prep time: 15 min, cooking time: 20 min
80g butter, chopped
150g good quality dark eating chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt Excellence)
1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
50g dark eating chocolate, chopped, extra
Preheat oven to 2000C/1800C fan–assisted. Grease two small spring-form pans, or eight holes of a 12-hole medium (80ml) muffin pan; line bases with rounds of baking parchment.
To roast hazelnuts, place on an oven tray at 1800C for about 5 minutes, or until browned lightly. Turn out onto a clean tea towel and rub the warm nuts in the towel. Discard the skin that comes off and then coarsely chop them. Set aside.
Combine butter, chocolate and sugar in medium heavy-based saucepan; stir over low heat until smooth. If you are using a microwave, like I did, place butter, chocolate and sugar in a large microwave safe bowl and cook, uncovered, on high (100%) for 2 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in egg, extract, sifted flour and cocoa, then extra chocolate and hazelnut. Spoon mixture into prepared pans and gently spread level using a palette knife.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, but is not wet. Start checking on it after 10 minutes of baking—you really don’t want them to be over baked. If they do, they will dry out, toughen and become tasteless as they cool. The center should be nice and moist. Now stand in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
Serve with chocolate ganache (recipe below) or ice-cream, and plenty of fresh berries.
200g milk eating chocolate, chopped coarsely (I used Cadbury’s Diary Milk)
2 teaspoon caster sugar
½ cup (125ml) double cream
Chocolate pearls (I used Godiva milk chocolate)
Place cream, sugar and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and cook, uncovered, on high (100%) for 1 minute. Remove from oven and stir until smooth. Let cool completely. Beat the cooled mixture in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Spread the top of each cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache using a spatula to make simple swirls, or fit a large piping bag with a large fluted tube and pipe generous swirls. Decorate with little chocolate confections like chocolate pearls and hearts.
So here’s a special toast on completing one-derful year. Here’s to Plateful. Here’s to you. Here’s to many more wonderful years around food, photography and fond memories.
I stop with a beaming smile and heavy but happy heart.