Sunday, June 27, 2010

Butterless Bakes: Oreo Muffins

After last week's disastrous muffins, I decided to modify my trusted muffin recipe and finish up the oreo biscuits and almond nuts with this small batch of oreo muffins. I substituted the butter with canola oil as I was in a rush and I was lazy to melt the butter. Not that I'm complaining, with this I'm eating less saturated fat. =P

I only made 5 muffins, with half an egg. I have no idea how it turns out because for the first time, I did not taste my freshly baked muffins. But it definitely feels softer than last week's.

Ingredients (makes 5 small muffins):
65 g flour
30 g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
30 ml canola oil
60 ml milk
1/2 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Oreo sandwich cookies (with filling removed and chopped)
Some chopped nuts (I used sliced almonds)

  1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, salt, nuts and chopped Oreo.
  3. Whisk egg, milk, oil 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 recipe.

Cookies made from canola oil instead of butter. I was worried about the outcome, that's why I only baked half a batch. The butter counterpart is smoother and more fragrant and the crumbs are softer. This batch is a little too hard and I guess it's because I've overbaked it. It seems like this vegetable oil cookies takes a shorter time to cook than butter ones.

Ingredients (makes about 36 bite-size cookies):
75 g plain flour
75 g rolled oats (I used Quaker)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
75 g caster sugar
25g chocolate chips
25 g chopped walnuts
1/2 egg
60 ml vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
30 ml milk

  1. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, sugar, nuts and chocolate chips in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and milk.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Mix together to form a soft dough.
  5. Using wet hands (as the dough is very sticky), pinch and roll dough into balls. Place on baking tray and press down slighly with the tines of a fork.
  6. Bake for about 10 mins or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
Adapted from HHB's Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Baking with Friends, Episode 3: Green Tea Layer Cake

This monthly gathering really increases our baking desires. After every session, we will start to plan for the next and rattling off potential projects to be made. During our last gathering at Manpuku, we had decided to make a Matcha Azuki layer cake. After searching online for matcha cakes recipes, I decided to stick to the reliable sponge cake recipe from HHB's blog and add in 2 teaspoons of green tea powder to make it into a matcha sponge cake.

As usual, I was my nervous self when beating the eggs and folding in the flour and butter. This is my first time baking in a square pan, so I'm not sure if that will have any impact on the cake.The cake did not rise by a lot and the top was not very even, which explains the domed shape. We did not have time to let the cake set in the fridge, which explains the leaking cream and red beans.

And the 5 of us whacked the cake and finished it within 10-15 mins. The green tea was really fragrant, which makes the cake very refreshing. If only the cream is colder and harder, and more red beans fragrance, and a lighter sponge, the cake will be perfect. But nonetheless, I think it's a great try and experience.

Ingredients (makes one 16cm square sponge cake):

Sponge layer:
100g cake flour
3 eggs, room temperature
90g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp fresh milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp green tea powder

300ml whipping cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
~ 4 tbsp cooked red beans, drained
Green tea powder for decoration
Chocolate for decoration (optional)

Sponge layer:
  1. Sift cake flour and green tea powder for 3 times, set aside. Line bottom and sides of a 16cm (6 inch) square 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.
  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. Drain and dry red beans with paper towels.
  2. Whip the cream till soft peaks form. Add in icing sugar and and whip till stiff. Fold in the dried red beans.
  3. Slice the cake horizontally into 4 layers.
  4. Spread whipped cream on top of the bottom most layer. Place next layer of sponge cake over whipped cream. Repeat with the rest of the cake layers.
  5. Spread whipped cream on top of the top-most layer. Dust with green tea powder and decorate with chocolates if desired.
  6. Place cake in the fridge to set the cake. Slice off the sides of the cake before serving.
Adapted from HHB's basic sponge cake recipe.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Kitchen Mishap

I wanted to try out another muffin recipe and Oreo muffins seems tempting and easy! But I couldn't be more wrong. Just from the picture above, you can see that the muffins turned out to be a disaster. Dry and hard. Last week's muffins were too soft and mushy, this week's muffins were hard and dry.

The batter was so dry, it looked more like cookie dough, even though I added more milk, it didn't help. Or perhaps I stirred it for too long? And I guess I've overbaked it. The weird thing is, I expected it ro rise, but they only rised a little. I wonder if I've misread the recipe. Anyway, I made 8 small muffins and looks like I have to finish them off on my own again.

And I've made these again. At least these cookies helped to keep my spirits up.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baking is Science, Science is Mathematics

Like many chemists, I liken baking to doing chemistry experiments. Of course, in chemistry experiments, you need to be more precise, which explains the use of specific measuring instruments, from beakers to measuring cylinders to pipettes or micro-pipettes, depending on accuracy. And for weighing, you have the measuring scale which can weigh up to 4 decimal places. To scale up or scale down the reaction, all you have to do is to multiply the amount of reagents by n times to suit your scale.

I usually like to scale down my baking quantity because my family doesn't like to eat my bakes, so I have to keep in mind that I may have to polish off everything on my own. The problem with scaling down is that I can't get an accurate measurement of the ingredients. I only own a diet scale, which is impossible to weigh out 7 g of sugar or 3 g of instant yeast. My measuring cup doesn't have markings to tell me where is 5 ml or even 10 ml. Sometimes I do wish I have those lab equipment to help me with the measurements, LOL.

Another thing which I find really frustrating is the use of volume for dry ingredients, which is common for recipes originating from the US. In this part of the world, we are more familiar with weighing out ingredients instead, so usually I will google for an equivalent weight. And to make matters more complicated, different types of flour have different densities, which means different weight for the same volume of flour. So before every new project, I have to do some simple math to simplify the measurements.

To make things easier for me, I shall compile all relevant information here so that I do not have to google every time I start on a new recipe.

U.S. Volume Equivalents:
1/4 teaspoon = 1.23 ml
1/2 teaspoon = 2.5 ml
1 teaspoon = 4.9 ml
1 Tablespoon= 3 teaspoons = 15 ml
1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce = 30 ml
1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons = 2 ounces = 60 ml
1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons = 4 ounces = 120 ml
1 cup = 16 tablespoons = 8 ounces = 240 ml
2 cups = 32 tablespoons = 1 pint = 16 ounces = 480 ml

U.S. Weight Equivalents:
1/2 ounce = 14 grams
1 ounce = 29 grams
2 ounces = 57 grams
4 ounces = 113 grams
8 ounces = 227 grams
16 ounces = 1 pound = 454 grams

Ingredients Weight Metric Conversions:
Granulated and Superfine White Sugar: 1 cup = 200 g, 1 teaspoon = 4 g, 1 tablespoon = 12 g
Light Brown Sugar (packed): 1 cup = 218 g
Dark Brown Sugar (packed): 1 cup = 238 g
Confectioners or Icing Sugar: 1 cup = 115 g
All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup = 140 g, 1 cup sifted = 115 g
Cake Flour: 1 cup = 130 g, 1 cup sifted = 100 g
Whole Wheat Flour: 1 cup = 150 g, 1 cup sifted = 130 g
Bread Flour: 1 cup = 160 g, 1 cup sifted = 130 g
Egg (large):
In Shell = 57 grams
Without Shell = 50 grams
White Only = 30 grams
Yolk Only = 18 grams
Butter: 1 cup = 226 g, 1 stick = 113 g, 1 tablespoon = 14 g
Salt: 1 teaspoon = 6 g
Baking Powder: 1 teaspoon = 5 g
Instant Yeast: 1 teaspoon = 4 g
Cocoa Powder: 1 cup = 112 g, 1 tablespoon = 7 g
Corn Flour: 1 tablespoon = 7 g
Gelatin Powder: 1 tablespoon = 9 g
Honey: 1 tablespoon = 21 g

Online Conversion Tool
Source1, Source2

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chocolateless: Wholemeal Cookies

It's no secret that I love chocolate. Chocolate-anything appeals to me, even chocolate bread. Thus chocolate is a staple in my baking stints. I always have a stash of chocolate chips, dark chcolate and cocoa in my cupboard. But this week, I made an exception not to include chocolate as I haven't fully recovered from last week's sore throat.

Berry jam muffins: I halved the recipe and I used my left over cream mixed with water to replace milk. The batter is very thick and dry, probably due to the use of cream. Although the muffins are soft, the smell of yogurt is too strong. I'm not sure if it's due to the yogurt, but I feel that the muffins are quite mushy, or perhaps I should bake it for a longer time. In any case, I think it's better for me to stick to chocolate ones. Once again, I have flying saucer top muffins, I guess I will stir the batter a bit more next time.

Ingredients (makes 5 small muffins):
105g plain flour
25g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
30 ml canola oil
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
60 ml milk (I used 40 ml cream and 20 ml water)
some Jam

  1. Preheat oven to 220 deg C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl, beat together egg and vanilla extract. Add oil, yogurt and milk, mix well. Add to flour mixture, stir just until blended.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling half full. Add 1 teaspoon of your favourite jam to each; top with remaining batter.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 mins.
Adapted from HHB's Mixed-Berry Jam Muffins.

Wholemeal cookies: I bought a 500 g pack of wholemeal flour for this (yes, I have all sorts of flour in my fridge now). Grainy and nutty texture, which is to my liking =).

Ingredients (makes about 30 bite-size cookies):
50g butter, softened at room temperature
40g caster sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g plain flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
75g wholemeal flour

  1. Preheat oven to 180degC. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and caster sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg gradually. Mix well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract, mix well.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture, add the wholemeal flour. Fold in with a spatula. Mix and gather to form a soft dough.
  5. Pinch and roll dough into small balls and place on baking tray. Press down each ball lightly with the tines of a fork.
  6. Bake for about 15-20 mins until the cookies turn pale golden brown.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave on the baking tray for 2 ~ 3mins (to allow the cookies to firm up a little) before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from HHB's Wholemeal Cookies.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oven's Off-day: Meat Pau

I've decided to work without my oven today. I'm tempted to try out Chinese-styled buns when I saw XP's successful attempts. Honestly, this is more difficult than making cakes, because I have no idea how to prepare the fillings. The preparation of the pau skin is similar to making bread so that is not as alien to me as marinating the fillings.

I have no idea how much soy sauce or salt to add in. In the end I followed the recipe given in the video. I wish I have more experience in cooking, then perhaps I can do a much better estimation.
I don't want to buy a whole packet of bleached HongKong flour just to try this out, so I used plain flour instead, but I know that the buns will be yellowish. I find the dough a bit hard and dry. Again, I can't be bothered with the window pane test and let it to proof.
Wrapping the fillings in is a disaster. But you can't expect much from a first-timer though (excuses).

The steamed buns are huge. I wonder if they have been proofed for too long. Anyway, the skin is too thick and the fillings is very bland. I should have added more soy sauce. Haiz. Looks like I have to polish everything off by myself again. 3 down, 5 more to go.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Take Your Pick: Chocolate Chips Cookies

I was tempted to bake and eat chocolate chip cookies after seeing XP's pictures. So happens that my sister requested for chocolate chip cookies as well. I had intended to take a break from baking today, but it's a rare chance for me to bake something that someone else wants to eat, so I jumped at it and made 2 small batches of cookies.

The first batch: chocolate chips + walnuts + almond silver cookies. I opened up my pack of Hershey's mini chips and I find them not as sweet as the Ghirardelli ones.
With the large amount of nuts, the cookies are not too sweet, which is fantastic for us. The texture is smooth and crunchy.

Ingredients (makes about 24 bite-sized cookies):
55 g butter, softened
50 g caster sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
90 g plain flour
45 g semisweet chocolate chips
45 g chopped nuts (I used mixture of walnuts and almonds)

  1. Preheat oven to 180degC. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg gradually. Mix well after each addition. Add in vanilla extract, mix well.
  4. Sift the flour over the mixture, fold in with wooden spoon or a spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  5. Roll balls of dough and place them onto the prepared baking tray. Leave some space between the cookies to allow for spreading. Flatten each cookie dough slightly with the back of a fork, keeping the shape as even as possible.
  6. Bake for 10 mins or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from HHB's Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies.

The second batch: chocolate chips + walnuts + oatmeal. This is also not very sweet but the texture is grainy and crunchy due to the oats.

Ingredients (makes about 24 bite-sized cookies):
45 g butter, softened at room temperature
12 g caster sugar
12 g brown sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
50 g plain flour
50 g oatmeal or roll oats (I used Quaker quick cooking oats)
10 g semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
25 g walnuts, chopped
30 g mini chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 190degC. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.
  3. Dribble in the egg gradually. Mix well after each addition. Add in salt and vanilla extract, mix to incorporate into the batter.
  4. Sift the flour over the batter, fold in with a spatula.
  5. Add oatmeal, chopped chocolate, walnuts and mini chocolate chips. Mix well with the spatula.
  6. Roll balls of dough and place them onto the prepared baking tray. Leave some space between the cookies to allow for spreading. Flatten each cookie dough slightly with the back of a fork, keeping the shape as even as possible.
  7. Bake for 8~10 mins or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air-tight containers.
Adapted from HHB's Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.

I prefer the oatmeal version while my sister prefers the smoother cookies. And I think I'm addicted to my own cookies...haha. So which would you prefer?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crazy over Yuja: Yujacha Chiffon Cake

The last time I tried a chiffon was two months ago and I've been itching to try another one ever since I read from HHB's blog that beating whites till soft peaks can probably yield better results. Initially, I wanted to use the unfinished bottles of jam to make a chiffon, but I succumbed to the temptation of buying a jar of Yujacha marmalade, I decided to try a Yujacha chiffon instead. I made some modifications for a 2-egg recipe to suit my 16 cm pan.

I can't remember when was the first time I tried Yujacha. I supposed it was at a Hongkong styled cafe somewhere. But I remembered I tried it again in Taipei, in that small cosy cafe up at Jiufen when it was raining heavily. The cold, wet weather, with a small jar of hot Yujacha, that memory will always stay with me. Just a couple of weeks ago, I drank another glass of it at a HK styled cafe and I made up my mind to buy a jar of Yujacha so that I can drink it as and when I like. It's not surprising that I love the sweet, tangy and citrusy taste as I've always love citrus fruits, be it orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, pomelo, you name it. And it's also not surprising that I used up one quarter of the jar in just one afternoon, making a glass of drink, a chiffon cake, and some jelly with it.

I beat the egg yolks much more vigorously this time round. I realised that the lower cholesterol egg yolks are much richer in colour.
This time round I beat the the whites until it was able to hold its shape. I tested it by flipping the bowl upside down. This was actually the soft peak stage, and it's much easier to blend with the egg yolk mixture without any stubborn lumps. But when I poured it into the mould, the batter was quite little. I wonder if it's because my eggs were pretty small?

This time round, I turned up the temperature of my oven to 190C as I suspect my oven temperature is much lower than the setting. I was anxiously monitoring the rising of the cake. The cake expanded by quite a bit but there weren't any cracks formed unlike the previous attempt. When I took out the cake, I got a rude shock: the surface was burnt.

As expected, the cake sank when it cooled. And I seriously need more practice in unmolding the cake. Part of the skin of the cake was left behind on the pan. LOL. This is not a pretty sight.

The cake is soft and cottony, but it's not tall enough. The yujacha smell is too subtle for my liking actually. But I would love to try this cake again.

Ingredients (makes a 16 cm cake):
2 egg yolks
15g caster sugar
35g yuzu marmalade
25ml vegetable oil
35ml hot water
45g plain flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder (estimate)
2 egg whites
35g caster sugar

  1. Dissolve yuzu syrup with the hot water. Leave to cool.
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder together, set aside.
  3. Separate egg yolks from whites and bring to room temperature.
  4. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add in sugar, and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes very sticky and turn pale.
  5. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the Yuzu mixture. Sieve over the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Beat in the sugar in 3 separate additions on high speed until just before stiff peaks form. (I tested by flipping the bowl upside down. If the whites do not drop out, it's done.)
  7. Add the beaten egg white into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  8. Pour batter into a 16cm (6 inch) tube pan (do not grease the pan). Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  9. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 30 ~ 35mins or until the cake surface turns golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and invert the pan immediately. Let cool completely before unmould. To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Release the cake and run the knife along the base of the pan to remove the cake.
Adapted from HHB's Yuja Cha Chiffon.

I can't resist the temptation to try more desserts with the marmalade. I made some jelly with gelatin, but it is taking an usually long time to solidify. Not sure if this is edible.