Saturday, April 24, 2010

Baking with Friends: Chocolate Torte

Through Facebook, I got to know that MY is an avid baker, especially baking cheesecakes. Ever since I started sharing pictures of my baking stints on FB, she has been actively commenting on my pictures and I have also sought for tips and opinions from her via her FB pictures. With all the active discussions, we were keen to meet up and have a baking session together! We tried to invite the rest of the girls (so that more people can share and finish up the food), but in the end, only XP and XL turned up. But it was good enough, as my kitchen is unable to accommodate more people. So the menu for the day: chocolate torte and pizza.

Contrary to what I have read online, it is actually possible to beat egg whites to stiff by hand, as demonstrated by MY. With her strong arms beating the hell out of the whites, the time taken to beat it to stiff is about the same as me using my electric mixer. Looking at her churning the whites, I finally understand how she managed to break her whisk. But nevertheless, I was really impressed with her. Apparently, she has been doing this all along as she feels that there is better control when beating by hand.
The egg whites were not very stiff, thus it was easier to fold in and there were less lumps. I left the folding to MY as I'm sure she has better technique than me.

This cake is best baked in a springform pan or one with a removable base, but I only have this normal cake tin. Hopefully the parchment paper can hold up the cake during unmoulding.
Unfortunately, the paper did not hold up the cake. We had to flip the cake on a plate before transferring onto the rack. Since the cake did not crack by much, flipping on the plate did not destroy the top by too much. But I would have preferred more cracks, which is how a perfect torte is supposed to be.

After sieving some icing sugar on top of the cake and tying a ribbon round it, I think the cake looks very pretty! We were all snapping away with our cameras.

We cut the cake while it was still warm. Can't wait to try it! The inside looks dense and moist, and we can smell the aroma from the chocolate. By the way, we used chocolate couverture droplets instead of the bar chocolate as stated in the recipe.
I bought vanilla ice cream specially to go with this cake. The cake is crispy on top, dense, moist and warm on the inside. It went perfectly well with the ice-cream. We all had second helpings of the cake. If not for my request to save a slice for my sister, I think we would have wolfed everything down. I would definitely make this again, and hope that I will yield the same, if not better results than this!

Ingredients (makes one 18cm cake):
150 g dark chocolate (I used chocolate couverture)
100 g butter, bring to room temperature
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
70 g caster sugar
30 g cake flour
15 g cocoa powder
Some icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degC. Line the bottom and sides of an 18cm round pan with parchment paper.
  2. Separate egg whites from egg yolks. Bring the eggs to room temperature. Sift together flour and cocoa powder, twice, set aside.
  3. Melt dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl is able to sit above the water and it should cover the pot so that steam will not get inside the bowl). Remove from heat. Add in butter and mix well. Let cool.
  4. With a manual whisk, whisk egg yolks with 35g of the caster sugar, till the mixture becomes thick, creamy and custard like.
  5. Add in the melted chocolate/butter mixture. Whisk till well mixed.
  6. Add in flour mixture and fold gently with a spatula. Set aside.
  7. Place egg whites in a clean mixing bowl, add in 1/3 of the 35g caster sugar. Beat the egg whites till it becomes foamy. Add in half of the remaining sugar and whisk till soft peak. Add in the remaining sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.
  8. Add the egg white to the egg yolk mixture in three addition. Fold in gently with a spatula, making sure all the egg whites are incorporated into the batter. Note that any unmixed egg white lumps may cause holes in the final product.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the cake pan slightly on tabletop a few times to release any trapped bubbles in the batter. Bake at 170 degC for 30 ~ 35 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few moist crumb. The cake surface will start to crack while still in the oven.
  10. Remove cake from oven, leave it in the pan for about 5 mins. Unmould and let cool, right side up (do not invert) on wire rack.
  11. Sift icing sugar on cake surface.
Adapted from HHB's Classic Chocolate Cake/ Torte.

I started to prepare the pizza crust while waiting for the cake to bake. I used the same recipe as my previous attempt. Since I do not have a round pizza pan, we rolled in into a rectangle to fit my baking tray.

The best thing about homemade pizza is that you can add any topping you like. And it's also healthier, as you know what are the things you have added into your food. To decrease the calories intake, I bought low-fat Mozzarella cheese instead of the normal type.

This was not as salty as the ham version and the cheese was not as fragrant as the normal type. But it was still good nonetheless, as we added so much topping on a thin crispy crust.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

As Bad as it Looks

I wanted to challenge myself to make a loaf bread, but since I did not have a loaf pan, I decided to try the recipe which uses a tube pan to make a ring loaf. Moreover, it's a chocolate loaf, which is even better for me. But it turned out to be another disaster.

My arms were aching after 3 hours of lightstick-waving at last night's concert, it was tough kneading the dough. After 1 hour, I let it to proof even though it did not pass the window pane test.
Shaping the dough was a nightmare. I tugged and pulled at it but it refused to keep in shape. It looked worse after the 2nd proofing. The surface was rough and bumpy, I thought it will become smooth after baking but I was totally wrong.

I think I have overbaked it. The top was hard, crispy and bitter. The inside was rough and the smell was weird, sort of like a sourish smell. I wonder if it was due to me kneading the dough on a plastic surface, and the plastic had an effect on the smell. No conclusion yet, the only conclusion was that the bread was not suitable for our consumption.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Muffins Before Mayday

At XP's request to bake her something before Mayday's outdoor concert, I invited her over to my place to bake a batch of muffins together. I used the same recipe as before but reduced a bit of sugar and substituted some chocolate chips with pine nuts. I decided to increase my oven temperature by 10 degrees, and I got dome-shaped muffins! I seriously think my oven temperature is not very reliable.

Thanks to MY's tutorial, I can finally get a muffin in one piece without having to squish and squash the souffle cups. I like this version of the muffins, especially when eaten warm. It's not too sweet and the crunch of the nuts adds more taste to the muffins!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Homemade Comfort: Pizza

After umpteen requests from my sister to make a pizza, I finally relented since I have all the ingredients on hand now.

Making the pizza crust was very straightforward and did not require as much kneading as making bread. The best thing about self-made crust is that we know what goes into it, and the amount of oil used can be controlled.
What's a home-made pizza without overwhelming amount of toppings? Ham, mushrooms, green peppers and loads of Mozzarella cheese = very salty pizza. Not a problem for us, actually. ;)

The crust was thin and crispy and the toppings plentiful. Even my sister gave it a thumbs up. She said it was better than expected and tasted even better than those from pizza restaurants! Finally a nod of approval from her.

Ingredients (makes two 12" pizza dough)
250 g bread flour
1 tsp fast-acting dry yeast
1 tsp salt
150 ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

1 capsicum, sliced
1 can button mushrooms
4 slices ham
1 pack grated mozzarella cheese

  1. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix in the yeast. Make a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil. Using your hands, gradually work the ingredients together to form a soft dough. If the dough is too dry add a few drops of water.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a round ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rise for 1 hr or until double in size.
  4. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it down to release the air. Give it a few gently kneading. Divide dough into 2 portions. Shape into two balls, cover loosely with cling wrap and let it rest for about 10mins.
  5. Roll out each portion to a round, about 12" in size. Place dough on prepared tray.
  6. Spread pizza sauce over the dough to within 1 cm of the edge. Arrange a layer of grated cheese, followed by preferred toppings. Sprinkle the top all over with grated cheese.
  7. Bake in a preheat oven at 200 deg C for 20-30 mins or until the crust has turned golden and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.
Adapted from HHB's Vegetarian Pizza.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joy of Hand Kneading: Buns

This is my second try of the buns with chocolate filling recipe which I first tried last week. This time round, I put in more effort in kneading the dough, but I still couldn't get the dough to pass the window pane test after kneading for more than 30 minutes. I gave up and let it to proof.

After the first rise, I divided the dough equally into 6 pieces by weighing the dough. I can't seem to shape the doughs into smooth round balls though.
After the second rise, the dough expanded by quite a bit. I realised that the size of the doughs were quite different. Was the yeast unevenly distributed?

The freshly baked buns. I added some flour on the buns before baking to give it a rustic feel. Bad move. The flour started flying all over the table when I moved the buns. Taste wise, this was not as dense and chewy as those I made last week. But my mum complained about it being bitter. I'm not sure why as the rest of us did not have this problem. I still wonder if the yeast was unevenly distributed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Not as Good as it Looks: Ichigo Daifuku

I first heard of Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福) while I was googling for a recipe for Japanese strawberry shortcake. I saw beautiful pictures of whole strawberries wrapped in anko (red bean paste) and mochi, but the thought of making it didn't crossed my mind until I saw the recipe on HHB's blog. It looked simple and quick to make, so I decided to give it a try.

The Korean strawberries were so fresh and beautiful, and it was pretty cheap too. The strawberries were probably the only consolation in the final product.
I bought the anko together with the 2 types of flour specially from Daiso. The anko was too wet and soft it was impossible to roll them into balls. I made a huge mess of it, with both my palms covered with anko. In the end I had to refrigerate it to harden it.

I suspect I did not handle the mochi properly. I let it steam on high heat on a wok. Due to my inexperience and hopelessness with using the stove, I did not add enough water and the wok turned dry halfway into steaming the mochi. As a result I had to add water in between, and I'm not sure if I had overcooked or undercooked the mochi. When I took it out from the wok, it was dry and sticky, although adding the potato flour made it smoother and more manageable, it was less elastic as I expected. As the mochi cooled, it was even more difficult to wrap the fillings in.

I thought the picture did not do justice to the product, because it actually looks better than it tasted! The outcome was quite disastrous. The mochi was wrapped unevenly and the taste was very floury. I wonder if it was supposed to be like this or was it because I did not steam it properly. The anko was way too sweet, so sweet that even the tangy strawberry was unable to make up for the sweetness. I think I won't try this again. I have even given away the leftover flour to MY for her to try this recipe.

Ingredients (makes 8 ichigo daifuku):
8 small strawberries
160g red bean paste
100g mochiko(glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
120ml water* (original recipe uses 100ml water)
some katakuriko (potato starch) for dusting

  1. Rinse, dry, and hull the strawberries.
  2. Roll red bean paste into 20g balls (I had to put mine into the fridge for 10 mins as the red bean paste is too soft). Flatten each ball into a small disc and wrap with one strawberry. Keep in fridge.
  3. Mix glutinous rice flour and sugar together in a heatproof bowl. Add water and stir to dissolve. Cover the bowl with heatproof cling wrap or a heatproof plate/cover. Place in a steamer and steam over high heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Dust generously with potato starch. When the mochi is ready, transfer it onto the prepared baking tray. Sprinkle the mochi with potato starch, dust hands with potato starch and pat the mochi to flatten it slightly (the mochi is still hot). Use a pastry scraper or a knife to cut it into 8 portions.
  5. Take one piece of mochi, flatten and stretch it into a round disc, dust off any excess potato starch. Place a strawberry (Step 1) in the middle, with the tip side facing down and wrap the mochi around it by pulling and stretching the mochi. Pinch and seal the seam.
  6. Repeat the same with the rest of the mochi. (Note: Work briskly as the mochi will get less flexible as it cools.) Leave the daifuku at room temperature for an hour to set before serving. Daifuku tastes best on the day it is made. If there are any leftovers cover and store at room temperature.
From HHB's and Cooking with Dog's Ichigo Daifuku.

Knead it: Buns

My family members started to grumble about having to eat my horrible bakes for breakfast. I know they dislike cakes. do I. I'm not a fan of cakes or bread, but I like making them, and for that, I do not mind eating what I bake so I can to improve on the outcome. After 2 weeks of cakes, I decided to give bread a try. This seemed quite daunting as I have never made or seen anyone made bread before. As usual, I started reading up on bread making techniques and ingredients. To start, I bought a pack of bread flour, which has higher gluten content than normal flour, and a pack of instant yeast. I decided to make buns since I do not have a loaf tin. I took this recipe from HHB's blog and omitted the topping, but added in chocolate *again* instead.

I can never get the dough to pass the window-pane test, even after kneading for 1 hour. I suspect either my kneading technique was wrong, or I did not put in enough strength to knead it. I gave up and let it to proof.
It's interesting to see how the dough rises with time. Can't help but took a few pictures every time I passed by the rising dough.

After shaping and rolling in the chocolate chips, it was left to proof for 30 minutes before popping it into the oven.
I realise my oven does not brown food easily, or is it because the temperature is unstable? I had to increase the baking time to get the browned surface of the buns.

This picture does not look very pleasing. Anyway, the bun was too chewy and dense. I suspect I had under-kneaded it. I shall be more diligent in kneading next time round. As usual, my family complained about having to eat my horrible bakes.

Ingredients (makes 6 buns):
150 g bread flour
50 g cake flour
15 g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
130 g milk
15 g unsalted butter
Some chocolate chips

  1. Sift bread and cake flour into a mixing bowl. Add in sugar, salt and yeast and stir. Add in milk and stir. Use hands to gather mixture into a dough. Knead dough for 10 mins.
  2. Add in butter and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Mine didn't pass the window pane test even after kneading for 1 hour.)
  3. Shape the dough into a smooth round ball and place in a mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it rise till double in volume for about 80mins.
  4. Remove dough and give a few light kneading on a lightly floured work surface. Press out the trapped air as your knead. Divide into 6 equal portions and shape into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let the doughs rest for 15mins.
  5. Flatten each dough into a round disc. Wrap chocolate chips into dough, roll up Swiss roll style and pinch the seams in place.
  6. Place doughs seams side down on a baking tray, lined with parchment paper. Loosely cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let dough proof for 30mins.
  7. Bake at preheated oven at 180 degC for about 12-15 mins. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
Adapted from HHB's Garlic Buns.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Second Chance: Chocolate Chiffon Cake

After last week's not-so-fantastic green tea chiffon cake, I'm keen to try another chiffon cake, to do some trial and error. I chose a chocolate chiffon cake recipe so that I will have a easier time eating it if it turns out not so well again. I halved the recipe to suit my 16 cm pan and omitted the chocolate chips. This time round, I made sure I beat the egg whites for a shorter time. But I still had the problem of stubborn egg-white lumps while folding it in.

This time round, I used a funnel to raise the cake pan while cooling so that there will be less condensation. Surprisingly, the cake did not deflate but a lot while cooling.
After cooling, I touched the surface of the cake and to my disappointment, the surface was pretty hard, which was not supposed to be for a chiffon cake!

The unmoulded cake didn't look that bad but the air holes were quite big and the texture did not look very soft.
The reason the surface was hard: see the dense layer at the bottom? That is the reason. And see the big holes? I suppose it's due to the stubborn egg white lumps which I failed to get rid of. The taste was so-so. It was soft initially, but became drier and rougher after a few hours. This time round, I'm thankful to my grandma who finished up most of the cake. I shall take a break from chiffon cakes before my family starts to hate them.

Ingredients (makes a 16 cm cake):
2 egg yolks
20g castor sugar
1/8 tsp salt
20g canola oil
70g Warmed Fresh Milk (I used Meiji)
13g Cocoa Powder
*Mix well
60g Cake flour
1 tsp Baking powder
Pinch of Baking Soda
*Sift twice
2 egg whites
25g castor sugar

  1. Whisk yolks and sugar (in A) with a hand whisk till sugar dissolves and the mixture turns pale and sticky. Dribble in the oil and salt and stir.
  2. Dribble in the chocolate milk (B) and stir well.
  3. Fold in sifted flour and mix well (C).
  4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites till foamy and frothy. Add in sugar in thirds and beat till stiff peaks (D).
  5. Fold in the whites in thirds into the yolk mixture using a rubber spatula till incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into a 16 cm chiffon tube pan. Tap the pan on the table sharply a few times to get rid of air bubbles.
  7. Bake at 180 deg C for the first 10 mins, then turn down the temperature to 170 deg C and bake for another 20 mins. Reduce the temperature to 160 deg C and bake for a further 5 to 10mins to brown the surface.
  8. Remove from the oven and invert the pan. Remove the cake from pan when it has completely cooled.
Adapted from Rei's Double Chocolate Chips Chiffon Cake.