November 24, 2014

Sweet NZ: Brownies Kukus and Life Drawing Class

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"Emma Watson"
November 2014--haven't finished yet :)
I am feeling guilty that I have neglected this blog and its readers for a very long time, and I am sorry for that. Life has taken me to a different direction, to where I have never expected before. The good thing is, I am still on the creative field.

Lately, I have been joining a life drawing class which is taken place at different locations on different days, depending on who's hosting at whose place. This is a new experience for me, totally different from food preparation, washing dishes, or pulling out weeds. It is a paper-and-pencil stuff (or speed painting, if you must), in an artful sense, that requires a good eye for details. Just like food photography in principle, only I do not need food stylists to work with.

Honestly, I don't know how to catch details from life drawing before, and I have no clue any other drawing technicalities it may require. But I remember one saying: 'Don't think, just draw." And so, I learn by doing.

"Three Angels", dedicated to my three darlings.
8 November 2014
I have no accredited art background, except a few short consultations with an art teacher when I was at school, but I love arts. 

Drawing is no stranger to me, though. I have loved drawing since as far as I remember my childhood. My mother once said, I liked sitting on my desk for hours, and all she could see from behind was the movements of my hands and shoulders. She said, I used to draw a picket fence house on a hill, surrounded with animals and roses, or fish in an ocean, magazine models, and landscape.

I one time had had my drawing displayed at my school art exhibition to raise money when I was still at the primary school. It did not sell, but I was so proud of myself to see my piece of work was hung amongst the greatests--from my child eyes--, and I was only 9! It was a drawing of three colourful fish in the ocean, with all other deep sea creatures, using colouring pencils and crayons. I remember it well since my art teacher approached me and informed me that she would include the drawing that I was working on on the exhibition. 

Balinese Dancer.
October 2014.
I have not been drawing as much during my twenties and thirties, since I was too busy with works, trying to earn a living. Perhaps an absent-minded doodling here and there. However, the addition of children in my life has somehow opened up my interest in arts to a new window of world, in a sense of 'I can do something with it'. Although I have not been practicing quite as much, I can feel it like my own skin. 

Now, I have arrived to a new door. I want to illustrate children's books one day. Have a look at my works on my Instagram @pena_ilalang if you like. Should there be any of you need help with illustration for children books, you may contact me. I am sure we can arrange something.

Life Drawing, Ararimu, Auckland
Right now, I am sort of figuring out how to do it. At the meantime, teaching my children the technicalities of drawing as part of their homeschooling subject, the parts that I know, I am allowing myself to sharpen my skills which have been buried in too much ignorance of the importance for sodding years. Eventually, I really want to dig myself deeper, build my own style, and allow my expressions be read by audience. Wish me luck.

So yeah. There's where I have been.

But you know what? I still cook and bake. And garden. We share plates at the drawing class, so I am not really too far away from food and its enchantment, you see. I still take food photos, although only taking it from my iPhone. The thought of having an SLR and a huge 100mm f/2.8L on my hand is still a bit too much to bear at the moment. Even a smaller 50mm f/1.4 is still feeling too awkward for me. Sigh. I am still not getting my mojo back for shooting food with proper cameras these days, please don't ask why.

Last week, we had a really nice lunch. It was like a Christmas table. There was bread, cheese and crackers, croissants with ham and cheese, steamed asparagus in butter sauce, zucchini fritters with tomato salsa, and bottles of good wine (judging by a group of smiley faces with twinkle eyes around me--since I don't drink, I wouldn't know). I brought my homecooking to the table, too: samosas, pecan brownies, and caramel slice.

Brownies are so simple to bake. They are also pantry-friendly. Once you have flour, cocoa powder, eggs, butter or oil, and sugar, you can bake a brownie. And of course, dark/milk/white chocolates, nuts, fruits or even vegetable like beetroots, can deepen the flavour and add interests in texture. 

I have baked many kind of brownies in years, Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies,  Brownies (all kind), and brownies which are kept off the record--either they are burned to bone dry or my batteries are flat-- and my favourite brownies of all Nigel's 24-carat Brownies, but do you know you can steam brownies? Well, better believe it if you don't. Because I have tried it, and it is not disappointing. 

It is dark, chocolaty, and moist. It's like fudge brownies and it's more cake-like rather than common shiny crust brownies. I think the combination of butter and oil gives this brownie lovely texture that it isn't dry even when it is a day old. 

I have to modify the recipe since I don't use cake emulsifier like most bakers in Indonesia do, and use extra egg yolks instead. I also use Whittaker's 72% dark chocolate to intensify the texture, and use extra dark chocolate to layer it.  

Brownies Kukus2

Brownies Kukus (Steamed Brownies) by Ny. Liem
shared by Nath Bangun
modified by me

6 large eggs (add 2 egg yolks, since I do not use cake emulsifier)
225 gram caster sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tps vanilla (extract)
125 gram plain flour 
50 gram Valrhona cocoa powder
125 ml cooking oil 
50 gram margarine or butter 
100 gram dark chocolate, chopped
60 gram dark chocolate, extra, chopped


Heat a steamer, bring the water to a rolling boil. Wrap the lid with clean teatowel (this is to prevent any water accumulated on the inside lid dropped on to the batter).

Grease a loaf tin with margarine or butter, line with baking paper (I use two round 15 cm small tins), grease paper with margarine. Set aside.

Sift together flour and cocoa powder. Melt butter and dark chocolate, let cool, then mix well with oil.

Beat eggs, sugar and salt until fluffy and pale, add in vanilla, mix well. Fold in flour mixture, stir well with spatula or with a mixer on low speed. Add in the butter, oil and chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Pour mixture half way into tin/s, steam on medium heat about 15 minutes, sprinkle extra dark chocolate on, and pour in the remaining brownie mixture. Steam until cook through. Remove from the steamer, let it cool.

We ate them warm.
It is an old photo that I haven't posted yet, but it is legally mine, so I am sending it to Alessandra Zecchini for Sweet New Zealand event this month