Saturday, March 27, 2010

Leaping Forward to my First Chiffon Cake: Green Tea Chiffon Cake

Ever since I gained interest in baking, I've researched online on the different techniques of baking. One of the most common is that of baking a chiffon cake. Chiffon cakes are so delicate, a small mistake and the cake will be a flop. I've read many recipes and troubleshooting tips before I had the courage to try one. For me, the most difficult steps in making this is the beating of egg whites and folding it into the batter.

My mum has a large tube pan which she used to make pandan chiffon in. For her, she has never succeeded in making a good one as the cake always turns out to be too wet. I decided not to use her tube pan in case the cake turns out to be a flop and I had to finish the whole cake by myself. So I got a 16 cm chiffon mould instead, which requires a 2-egg recipe.

While in the oven, the cake raised by quite a bit but I did not see any significant cracks on the surface. After cooling, the sides got pulled away from the pan. After some googling, I found that I could have over-beaten the egg whites. Also, I had difficulty folding in the whites because there were always bits of stubborn lumps in the batter.

This was supposed to be a green tea chiffon cake by the way. I used the green tea powder I bought from Japan, but it is not of good quality. Even as a drink, the green tea fragrance was very faint. I used about 3 sachets of powder in this cake, but there is hardly any fragrance of the tea. And the colour is an unappealing brownish green. And I don't see the golden brown surface of typical chiffon cakes on my cake. :`(

The texture is also unlike a chiffon cake. It's more like a sponge cake. It is also a little wet. I wonder if I have overfolded the whites, or is it because the cake was too close to the table while it cooled, leading to condensation? In the end I finished about half the cake, and my family members had to help me with the rest, to their dismay.

Ingredients (makes one 16 cm cake):
2 egg yolks
20 g castor sugar
25 ml corn oil
35 ml warm water + 1 tsp green tea powder
50g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 egg whites
20 g castor sugar

  1. Whisk ingredients (A) with hand whisk till sugar dissolved and the mixture turns pale and sticky.
  2. Drizzle in ingredients (B) in the respective order and mix well before adding the next item.
  3. Sieve in ingredients (C) and mix till no lumps.
  4. Beat egg whites with electric beater till frothy and add in sugar by thirds until stiff peaks form.
  5. Put half portion of egg white into yolk mixture and fold witth spatula. Fold in remaining egg whites.
  6. Pour batter into a 16 cm chiffon cake pan, bang the pan on a hard surface several times to release the bubbles and bake at 170 deg C for 25 minutes or till cooked.
  7. Invert cake immediately to cool completely.
Adapted from Small Small Baker's Green Tea Chiffon Cake.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sweet, Moist and Utterly Sweet: Chewy Chocolate Chips Cookies

My sister has been bugging me to bake these cookies ever since she has gotten the recipe from her friend. She had tasted those baked by her friend and found them to be very tasty.

I bought a new pack of chocolate chips as I only had very little of it left after baking those muffins. I decided to give those expensive chips a try. Turns out that they were bigger than what I had at home, which was to my horror, as I can't imagine seeing large spots of brown on my cookies or muffins.

The cookie dough was easy to prepare and handle. Just cream the brown sugar with butter ,then stir in the rest of the ingredients. The coffee powder added made the cookies more fragrant.
I personally think that the chocolate chips were too large. Although it shouldn't affect the taste but it is not very pleasing to the eye.

The cookies were very chewy due to the use of purely brown sugar. It was fragrant because of the addition of a little coffee powder, but it was too sweet. Probably because the chocolate chips themselves already contained some sugar, and the amount of brown sugar used was also quite a lot. I would definitely reduce the amount of sugar and substitute some with white sugar to make it less chewy, and replace some chocolate chips with nuts so that the sweetness will be reduced.

115 g unsalted butter
200 g light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla essence
200 g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
225 g chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and coffee powder in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla essence and mix well.
  5. Stir flour mixture in. Mix in chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into balls and place onto prepared tray. Flatten slightly with fingers.
  7. Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden brown.
  8. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Adapted from a book owned by a friend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cat Mountain King Puffs: Durian Puffs

After our successful cream puffs last month, we decided to make durian puffs. Yesterday mummy and I went to get durians and mummy got the Mao Shan Wang durians without hesitation. It costs $18! What a waste to use it for durian puffs, but mummy insists it won't be a waste.

The puff pastry was disappointing as the first batch deflated a little when I lowered the temperature. I guess I should have waited till the pastry turned brown before lowering the temperature. I did that for the second batch and it was better. We only mixed a little cream with the durian as we did not like cream and would prefer more durian taste. Turns out the puff is a tad too dry with too little cream. But I actually don't mind because I hate the fatty taste of cream. Thankfully the durians were fragrant and sweet!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mummy!: Strawberry Cake

After the failed attempt last week, I was determined to try again this week, to the horror of my mum and sister. They dreaded any cake-making attempts from me as they will be asked to eat the cake, regardless whether it was a success or not. But with a researcher's mindset, if you don't try, you will never know where the problem lies.

The sponge cake rose twice as high as last week's. This time round, I made sure the eggs were not cold, I beat it for 5 minutes, until the batter was quite stiff. I could write the figure 8 on the batter without it disappearing for a few seconds. Did I overbeat it? Anyway, I quickly folded in the flour and butter, trying my best not to deflate the batter. But inevitably, the batter still got deflated by a certain amount. But at least this time round it filled about 60% of the cake pan. I baked it for 30 minutes but it seems a little wet in the centre. I increased baking time for another 2 minutes before removing the cake pan and unmolding it. During the cooling process, the cake deflated by a little, but at least it was still soft and light.

Next up was the whipping cream. It was another disaster. I do not have much experience with whipping cream, thinking that it will be okay to use a hand-held electric mixer to whip it till stiff. I was totally wrong. I managed to get it to soft peaks, but it turned into butter before I managed to see the stiff peak stage. So I wasted one carton of whipped cream. I had to go to the mart to get another carton. This time round, I placed the bowl in ice bath and only used the electric mixer to whip till soft peaks. After that I used the manual whisk. After whisking for a minute or two, the stiff peaks appeared. But I still suspect I may have over whipped it as the cream became grainy while I was frosting the cake. Maybe I should just get non-diary whipping cream next time.

I never knew it was *that* hard to frost a cake. As we are not fans of whipping cream (plus the amount of fat content), I tried to use as little cream as possible. But that was not easy as the cake crumbs will start to mix with the cream. And the more I tried to smooth the cream, the more the cream became butter-like. In my hasty assembly, I managed to put the second layer of cake lop-sided ala Leaning Tower of Piza, which maked it even more difficult to frost. As usual my decorating skills were not fantastic. There were so many gaps between the strawberry pieces, I decided to chop up some chocolate to cover it and add colours to the cake.
Not too bad for a second attempt I guess. I will try again when I have another chance. The taste was better than I expected. I'm glad to get positive feedback from my mum and grandma. But my sister says the cake is not as soft and fluffy as those bought outside, and it's a tad too sweet. Oh well, I will try again, if anyone wants to eat, that is.

Lessons Learnt: Try to heat the egg mixture for a bit before beating. Perhaps that could increase the volume of the cake. Try not to whip cream for too long, or perhaps just get non-diary cream. Cool the cream in the fridge before and after whipping. Assemble the cake properly before frosting.

After this successful attempt, I shall reveal the source of the recipe. I got this strawberry cake recipe from Happy Home Baking blog. This is my favourite baking blog because the pictures are beautiful and the cakes all look so good! And most importantly, the recipes are very detailed and very informative.

Ingredients (makes one 18cm sponge cake):
Sponge layer:
100g cake flour
3 eggs, room temperature
90g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pack of strawberries (about 250g)
200ml whipping cream
1 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons hot boiling water
Chopped chocolate for decoration (optional)

Sponge layer:
  1. Sift cake flour for 3 times, set aside. Line bottom and sides of an 18cm (7 inch) round pan with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 170degC. Position rack at the lower bottom of the oven.
  2. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7 mins, until the batter turns pale, becomes thick, double/triple in volume and is ribbon-like (the beater should leave a ribbon-like trail when the batter is lifted up). Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. Whisking at low speed helps to stabilise the air bubbles in the batter.
  3. Sift over cake flour into the batter in 3 separate additions. With each addition, use a spatula, gently fold in the flour until well blended. Take care not to deflate the batter.
  4. Mix the melted butter, milk and vanilla extract in a bowl. Pour 1/3 of batter into the melted butter mixture and fold.
  5. Pour the butter and 1/3 batter mixture back into the batter and fold gently until well blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30~35 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Unmold and invert onto cooling rack, cool completely.
To Assemble:
  1. Dissolve caster sugar in hot boiling water, set aside to cool.
  2. Reserve 10 strawberries for decorating the cake. Slice remaining strawberries into thin slices.
  3. Slice sponge cake horizontally into 2 layers.
  4. Whisk cream with an electric mixer till stiff peak.
  5. Place bottom sponge layer cut-side up on a cake board or serving plate and brush the surface with the sugar syrup. Spread on some whipped cream and arrange the strawberry slices over the surface. Spread over with some whipped cream.
  6. Brush the cut-side of the top layer with the sugar syrup and place it over the bottom layer.
  7. Frost sides and top of cake with whipped cream. Decorate as desired and garnish with reserved strawberries and chopped chocolate.
Adapted from HHB's Japanese Strawberry Shortcake.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Getting Over a Disaster

I am becoming more ambitious. I am now not satisfied with just muffins and cookies, I want something a birthday cake. Next week will be my mum's birthday, what better chance than to bake a birthday cake! As this will be the first birthday cake I am baking, I will need trial run in case things fail.

And true enough, this session just proved Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong".

Firstly, I forgot to bring out the eggs the night before. So I took them out in the morning, but I did leave them for 30 minutes before starting to beat it. The recipe says "beat till ribbon stage". I used an electric hand mixer and beat it for about 3 minutes before checking it. It did form a "ribbon", so I decided to stop beating it and fold in the flour. The first sign of trouble came. The batter volume decreases as I folded in the flour. By the time I poured it into the cake tin, it only filled one inch of the tin. Apparently the batter has deflated.

It was only one inch tall and it was overbaked: hard and crumbly.
Of course, the texture was very dense. But still, I went ahead with the icing hoping that the icing might save the cake. For cake frosting, the cream needs to be whipped till stiff stage. I used my electric mixer and whipped it, but I realised it could only go to the soft peak stage. I saw some curdling and immediately stopped whipping. I suspect I have over whipped it. But I still gritted my teeth and apply the icing. The icing had difficulty staying on the cake as it had became watery.

This is the outcome of the total failure. To add insult to injury, the expensive strawberries were not fresh with some rotten parts. Total failure. But I wasn't going to give up. I will try again...soon. Just let me get over this disaster first.

Lessons Learnt: Defrost the eggs. Beat the eggs for a longer time (5-7 minutes). Do not overfold the flour. Bake for 30 mins at 170 degrees and check the cake before extending baking time. Do not overwhip the cream.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Clearing Up a Mistake: Chocolate Chips Muffins

This was actually not on my "to-bake" list. However while I was making the Shiroi Koibito the week before, I accidentally mixed the flour and sugar together! Thus, I can only think of using it to make muffins.
After the ultra-sweet and chocolaty double chocolate muffins 2 weeks ago, I decided to try the chocolate chips muffins recipe. The recipes on this website are fast becoming my favourite due to its detailed explanation. I halved the recipe and omitted the cinnamon topping.

I think they look pretty good despite the flying saucer top. I suspect it's my oven temperature.

The muffins were still too sweet. My family members and I do not have sweet tooth, so I need to cut down on the sugar or maybe add some nuts. I will definitely try this recipe again.

Ingredients (makes 10 small muffins):
60 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
120 ml milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
130 g all-purpose flour
75 g caster sugar (can be reduced further)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
90 g semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, salt and chocolate chips.
  3. Whisk egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract in a bowl.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Do not over stir.
  5. Spoon batter into paper muffin cups until 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 20 mins or until skewer inserted into centre of muffin comes out clean.
  7. Cool on wire rack.
Adapted from Joyofbaking's Chocolate Chip Muffins.