Sunday, May 30, 2010

Baking with Cream: Cream Crackers



I bought a 1-litre carton of heavy cream for the eclair filling. I'm not sure how long the leftover cream can last, thus it's a race against time to finish that whole carton. The only recipes that came to my mind were cream crackers and ice cream.


Seems like the size of my cup and that of the recipe is different. I had to add additional cream in order for the dough to come together. I used my new pie cutter, which I had no idea why I bought it, to cut the dough into squares.
Baking each side for 10 minutes, I get these soda-crackers-like cream crackers. Not fantastically good, but good enough for me.

Ingredients:
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup heavy cream

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl, stirring with a fork.
  4. Slowly add the cream while continuing to stir. Mix well until the dough holds together in a ball. Add more cream slowly if the dough is too dry.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a thickness of about 0.5 cm.
  6. Use a pie cutter to cut into small squares.
  7. Place the crackers on the cookie sheet, and prick the center of each cracker thrice with the tines of a fork.
  8. Bake on one side for 8 minutes, turn the crackers over with a metal spatula, and bake for 6 to 8 minutes more, or until the crackers have several golden spots and are slightly colored on the edges.
  9. Remove and place on a rack to cool.


By the way, I have made my first batch of green tea ice-cream as well. After watching a youtube video on making matcha ice-cream without having to cook custard, I decided to give it a try with my leftover cream and green tea powder which nobody wants to drink. Since I do not have an ice-cream maker, I adopted the "whisk every 30 minutes" method.

Ingredients (makes 500 ml ice-cream):
60 g caster sugar
250 ml low fat UHT milk
150 ml heavy cream
~2 tablespoons green tea powder

Method:
  1. Dissolve sugar and green tea powder in milk.
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks.
  3. Mix cream and milk mixture and stir. The mixture will be lumpy.
  4. Place in freezer for 30 mins. Remove and whisk it.
  5. Repeat for every 30 minutes until you get sick of it. I did this for 9 times before giving up.
Adapted from Cooking with Dog's Matcha Ice cream.

The outcome is not too bad. It's not too sweet and the green tea fragrance is strong enough. But the ice cream is very hard and I can taste bits of ice crystals. Of course, I shouldn't expect too much from this easy method of making ice cream without an ice-cream maker.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Éclair Encore



I was thinking of making eclairs a few weeks ago because I wanted to try cooking the pastry cream, but my sister wants to use fresh cream instead. She wins, because these are actually made for her friends, so she shall have the final say, and she is actually also helping me to cut the preparation time. I used the same recipe as the cream puffs I made on my first try. But this time round I piped them into eclairs instead.


The first arm-breaking stunt of the day: mixing the choux pastry dough. This time round, I am more comfortable with piping. At least I can pipe the batter into longish shapes now.


Second arm-breaking stunt of the day: whipping cream to stiff by hand. I'm very sure I'm going to have muscle ache tomorrow. I seriously think that the baked choux pastry looked like mini baguette, lolz.


Piped with cream and topped with chocolate ganache. A little too much cream actually. My sister complains that the cream is too stiff and not sweet enough. Haiz.



In addition to the eclairs, I decided to bake a chocolate cake coated with chocolate ganache as I wanted to use up as much of the whipping cream as possible. It will be Bing's birthday next week and I actually wanted to bake a cake for the occasion. But in the end, I ate a slice of the cake tonight. Haha. That's because I'm not confident it can be a birthday cake, so I decided to taste a slice of it before letting anyone else eat it.

Firstly, I suspected I had overbeaten the eggs. I used the handheld mixer and beat at high speed for 5 minutes, but when I held up the whisk, instead of seeing the ribbon stage, it looks more like a stiff peak stage. The batter was very thick, too thick in fact, because I can't draw the figure 8 without the batter breaking off. I suspect I had overbeaten it as I was only working with 2 eggs and 5 minutes may have been an overkill. Either that or because the eggs were low cholestrol ones.

I baked it in my new 15 cm pan, and the cake turns out to be 1 inch tall. It wasn't very hard but I suspect it would be dense. When slicing the cake into 2 layers, I used a small knife and as a result, the cake layers were very uneven. When applying the ganache, the cake soaked up the ganache as it was very runny. Glazing the top of the cake was also a big mess. Not sure if this cake will be edible, I tried a slice and it was surprising pretty good. Nothing can go wrong with chocolate, really. Though the sponge layer is really quite dense, the rich chocolate ganache makes up for it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baking with Friends - Episode 2: Strawberry Mango Layer Cake



Our baking gathering is at MY's place this time round. Her kitchen is really very similar to mine! But I feel that hers is more spacious and easier to move around. Our menu for the day: Strawberry Mango Cake with Sponge Fingers, Smoked Salmon Pizza and Mushroom Pizza. MY and I went to get the ingredients for the pizza before we gathered at her place. We shopped around in 3 supermarkets before getting all the things we want.



TT was the first to arrive at MY's place. As a former F&N teacher, she knows quite a bit of theory on baking, so we got her to help us in the cake batter. We used the 3-egg recipe in my previous strawberry cake attempt as MY has a 18 cm pan but not a 20 cm pan The eggs were very difficult to beat up, as compared to my previous attempt. In the end we beat the eggs with the electric hand mixer for about 20 minutes before it finally became thick and creamy. No idea whether it's because we used brown suger, or because the we did not defrost the eggs fully. But in any case, the batter did not deflate while folding and it did rise while baking.

The rest of the girls subsequently came while the cake was baking in the oven. We got everybody's help in decorating the cake. MY whipped the cream by hand, and I see that it's actually not necessary to use the electric mixer for whipping cream. Whipping by hand actually gives better control and she's got the nice stiff peaks which I have never acheived before. Frosting the cake was again, very difficult. But since we were using sponge fingers, we couldn't be bothered about the sides. We got JX and XP to help with cutting the sponge fingers while MY frosted the cake with whipped cream and TT and I put the fruits onto the cake. Dusted with icing suger, I think the cake looks beautiful!



The mangoes were sweet and the strawberries not too tangy. The sponge cake was so-so, but not too bad. Even though we thought we had used a lot of whipped cream, we realised it's not as much as those store-bought cakes. So we can imagine how much whipped cream they actually used to frost a cake.

We started preparing the pizza dough as we waited for the sponge cake to cool.



The pizza dough was quite a disaster as it took nearly 3 hours to proof to about 1.5 times of its original size. I suspect it's the yeast. I doubt we killed it, because the water we used was just lukewarm. Probably the yeast itself was already dead. But in any case, the toppings we put onto it just made up for any flaws in the crust. One packed of smoked salmon for one pizza. Can't get this anywhere else! I personally liked this a lot. The saltiness is not a problem for me and MY, but XP's tolerance for it was at her limit.



We bought fresh button mushrooms for our second pizza. Logically, we washed the mushrooms as they did not seem too clean. But the mushrooms absorbed some water and while baking, a lot of water was produced! The crust became wet and got stuck on the parchment paper, and worst of all, the water dripped onto MY's oven.

Our second batch of mushroom pizza was better as we dried the mushrooms with paper towels and we "protect" the oven with a tray lined with aluminium foil. Still, there was water produced but at least the crust was still edible. The topping was overwhelming was we tried to use up the remaining ingredients for the pizza.

Lessons learnt: After washing the mushrooms, let it roast dry in the oven before using it for pizza topping. More cheese for MY's pizza, less cheese for the rest of us.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sidekick: Almond Crisps



Since the chicken pie requires one egg yolk, I have an extra egg white. I decided to try the almond crisps recipe.


The batter was supposed to be runny! I have no idea why mine became a dough instead.
Instead of using a spoon to spread it, I had to use my fingers because the dough is too thick to use a spoon.



It became more like cookies than crisps. Haiz.

Savoury Bake: Chicken Pie



Finally. I finally got the courage to try a pie. The biggest challenge is of course to fry the filling. I gave my mum the job because I'm sure if I were to try it, the whole pie will be inedible. After 4 hours in the kitchen, my first chicken pie is done.


Potatoes, carrots, button mushrooms, chicken, onions and hardboiled eggs.
Rolling out the dough was quite tough as the dough is soft and tears when I lift it up. I forgot to poke holes on the base before spooning the fillings in!


I made one big 21 cm pie instead of 6 small ones. I copied the decoration from Happy Home Baking blog.
After extending the baking time for countless times, the top finally browned. But when I cut it, the inside of the crust seems under done. After popping into the oven for another 20 mins, the crust still seems under done, but I wonder if this is normal, as the filling is wet.



We just ate it as it is. The filling is ok, but the crust is quite buttery.
Probably won't try this again unless someone requests for this. Too tedious.

Ingredients (makes one 21 cm pie):
Pastry:
150 g cold butter
250 g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
1 egg yolk
A pinch of salt
100 g yogurt

Fillings (adjust to own preference):
Diced potatoes
Diced carrots
Sliced button mushrooms
1 chicken breast, diced
1 hard boiled egg
1 onion
Seasonings (oil, salt, soy sauce, corn starch, pepper)

Method:
Pastry:
  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt. Cut cold butter into mixture until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  2. Add in egg yolk and yogurt and gather into a soft dough.
  3. Put dough into refrigerator for at least 30 mins.
Fillings:
  1. Fry onions in oil until fragrant.
  2. Add in potatoes and carrots and fry till soft. Add in chicken meat and fry till cooked. Add in sliced mushrooms.
  3. Add seasonings and water.
  4. Boil and peel an egg and slice into 8 pieces.
To assemble:
  1. Roll pastry dough to 5 mm thickness.
  2. Cut dough to slightly larger than pie pan diameter. Place dough into pie pan and press down onto base and sides of pan. Poke many holes on bottom of dough with a fork.
  3. Spoon in fillings and boiled egg.
  4. Cut another piece of dough to the size of the pie pan. Place on top and decorate as desired. Poke holes on the top of the pie.
  5. Bake pie at 180 deg C for 30 mins or until golden brown.
Adapted from My Culinary Journal's Chicken Pie.





Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Loaf of Bread



I finally got a chance to use my Pullman tin! I had wanted to bake the chocolate torte since it's mother's day, but I think we are having a chocolate overdose, and my mum would probably be happier if I DON'T bake a cake. So it's the best chance for me to bake a loaf of bread with my new Pullman tin.


Here it is. A bread tin with a lid, though the sliding of lid is not very smooth, but I will make do with it.


This recipe has egg in it. As a result, the dough was wetter and harder to handle initially. But the dough is softer and smoother, so I do hope the same goes for the final product. This time round, I added in flour to the liquid in 2 batches, so that I could stir the semi-liquid dough for the gluten to develop (hopefully) first before adding the rest of the flour. I weighed out the dough so as to divide it equally into 3 portions.


I actually had a big problem with shaping the dough. It was difficult to keep the dough in shape. I tried my best, but the result is this ugly swiss rolled dough. After re-looking at some other bread recipes, I realised I forgot to fold in the sides of the dough before rolling up, thus resulting in these ugly rolls. After proofing for 1 hour, the dough climbed to about 80% of the tin. Ready to be baked.


I did not put the lid on initially as I wanted to monitor the browning of the surface. But I was surprised by the quick browning. I put the lid on halfway into baking as I was afraid it will start to burn.
The freshly baked loaf smells nice, looks not very perfect and I hope it tastes nice too.



The sliced bread looks good. It's very soft and tastes pretty ok. But not sure how it will taste like for tomorrow's breakfast.

Update: The bread still tastes ok on the next morning, but my sister commented that the smell of milk is strong. And my mum says it's not soft and asked me not to make bread again. Haiz. ='(

Ingredients:
140 g fresh milk (I used low-fat UHT milk)
35 g egg
25 g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
250 g bread flour
1 tsp Instant yeast
40g unsalted butter

Method:
  1. Sift bread flour into a mixing bowl. Add in sugar, salt and yeast and stir. Add in milk and egg 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 60mins.
  4. Remove dough and punch out the gas. Divide dough into 3 equal portion. Roll and shape into balls. Let the doughs rest and relax for 15 mins. (this 'relaxing' time is needed so that the dough will be easier to roll out and shaped).
  5. On a lightly floured surface, flatten one dough and roll out into a longish shape. Roll up the dough swiss-roll style. Do the same for the two remaining doughs.
  6. Flatten the rolled-up dough and roll out again into a long rectangular shape. Roll up tightly, and make as many rolls you can, swiss-roll style for the second time. Do the same for the two remaining doughs.
  7. Place doughs in lightly greased bread tin/pan. Let the doughs proof for the second time, until it fills up 80% of the tin/pan. Cover with cling wrap.
  8. Bake at pre-heated oven at 190 deg C for 30 to 35mins.
  9. Unmould the bread immediately when removed from the oven. Let cool completely before slicing.
Adapted from HHB's milk loaf.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Brownie in a Ring: Nut and Chocolate Chips Brownie



I wanted to try out my new Pullman tin, but I'm having an exam on Monday, which leaves me no time to make a loaf of bread. So I decided on this nut and chocolate chip brownie recipe from HHB's blog. The best thing about this recipe is that it uses vegetable oil instead of butter. I halved the recipe as I know I would probably have to eat most of it.


I used my leftover chocolate couverture. I wanted to get a block of chocolate for baking some time back, but the chocolate only comes in blocks of 1 kg, so I thought I should just get a small packet of chocolate. The only type of chocolate in packet form I saw was the couverture. I had no idea couverture is different from normal chocolate until I did some read up on the net. But nevertheless, I still used it for this recipe.
I finally got to use the walnuts I bought a few weeks back. I added in more walnuts and less chocolate chips, in the hope of reducing sweetness of the sugar.


The final batter was this gooey mixture. I did not have a square pan and the new Pullman tin was too tall, and my 7 inch cake tin seemed too big for the batter, so I decided to use the tube pan instead. But after pouring in the batter I realised it might have been too small.
The batter kept rising and rising in the oven. I tested it many many times with the skewer and it never came out clean. I know it should not be clean, but I suppose it shouldn't be too gooey as well? I extended the bake time by 5 minutes and took the pan out when it had became less wet. The crust was nicely formed but the brownie was quite tall.



I unmoulded it when it was still warm and it was a total mess. The brownie was very very moist and crumbly and it did not help that the tube pan was difficult to handle. The warm brownie tasted good, moist and chocolaty with the crunchy walnuts. But after it has cooled, it became drier and crispier, though heating it up and eating it with ice cream still made it a good dessert.

Lessons learnt: Use a normal cake tin or square pan instead of tube pan. Even though the batter seems uncooked, it is normal and can be removed from the oven when the baking time is up. Unmould and cut the brownie when it has fully cooled.

Ingredients (makes 8):
75 g semisweet chocolate, chopped
60 ml sunflower oil
100 g light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
30 g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp chocolate chips
40g chopped walnuts

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degC. Grease a 6 inch cake pan.
  2. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat together oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate then beat well until evenly mixed.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder into the batter. With a spatula, fold thoroughly until all the flour mixture incorporates into the batter.
  6. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Mix well.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Spread the mixture evenly to the edges. (The mixture is rather sticky and gooey.)
  8. Bake for about 30 ~ 35 mins until the top is firm and crusty. Cool in the pan before cutting into squares.
Adapted from HHB's Nut and Chocolate Chip Brownie.