Saturday, December 25, 2010

And it's Christmas: Checkerboard Cookies



I have never celebrated Christmas. To me, it's a time where I have to buy useless gifts, receive useless gifts and fall victim to exorbitant dinners. Still, many of my friends are excited over Christmas because it's the season for celebrating romance, friendship and kinship.



This year, I had a fantastic Christmas present: a new oven. My mum bought this yesterday because she decided that our old one is too lousy, and after constant urging from me, we finally carried one home on Christmas eve.



Every oven is different. It took me many months to get to know my old oven and now, I have to start from scratch in getting to know this new one. There are many functions and I have no idea which is the best for which. The first thing I baked with it is this Hokkaido Chiffon Cake (again!!). The result is not good: the cake is a little soggy and did not rise very well. Of course, it could be because I don't have good skills, but I partly suspect I have used the wrong function on the oven.



I have bookmarked this checkerboard cookie recipe for a few months but never got around to baking it because I know it will be extremely tedious. And sure enough, it took me a whole afternoon to make these. The dough is too soft and sticky, it is extremely difficult and time-consuming to shape them.



As a result, the patterns are not very even. In the end, I gave up on wrapping the strips with a thin layer of dough, which explains those bare ones. I will seriously think twice about baking these again.

I plan to give some of these away as they are really way too much for me to consume. Even though Christmas is almost over, this can still be considered as Christmas goodies. Merry Christmas everyone!

P.S. Since the deadline for the "Aspiring Bakers #2: Christmas! (Dec 2010)" event hosted by Passionate About Baking has been extended, I will be participating with this entry!

Ingredients:

Vanilla dough:
150 g cake flour
80 g butter, softened at room temperature
60 g icing sugar
25 g egg (about 1/2 an egg)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate dough:
130 g cake flour
20 g cocoa powder
80 g butter, softened at room temperature
60 g icing sugar
25 g egg (about 1/2 an egg)

Method:
  1. Slowly whisk butter and icing sugar till even. Do not beat the mixture.
  2. Add egg in 2 additions and mix well after each addition.
  3. Mix in vanilla extract.
  4. Sift in flour and mix with spatula until even. The dough will be soft and sticky. Place dough in fridge for at least 30 minutes. to firm up.
  5. Repeat above steps for chocolate dough, replacing flour in step 4 with flour and cocoa powder.
  6. When the dough is sufficiently firm, remove around 1/4 of vanilla dough and 1/4 chocolate dough for wrapping. Place in fridge to prevent softening.
  7. Roll the remaining 3/4 vanilla dough and 3/4 chocolate dough into 1 cm thick rectangles. Place vanilla dough on top of chocolate dough. You may brush some egg on the chocolate dough before stacking so that the dough will stick together.
  8. Place the stacked dough in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to harden.
  9. Remove the hardened stacked dough and slice into 1 cm thickness strips. Stack 2 strips together so that they form checkerboard pattern. You may also brush egg wash on the strips to help them stick better.
  10. Roll the reserved 1/4 dough into 0.2 cm thickness. You may want to do so between plastic sheets if the dough is too soft and sticky. Wrap the checkerboard strips carefully with the dough and remove excess dough. You can omit this step if you are only making the bare cookies.
  11. Freeze checkerboard dough strips for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Slice the hardened dough strips into 0.5 cm thickness cookie dough.
  13. Bake at 190 deg C for 12 minutes.
  14. Let cool completely before storing.
Adapted from Junzhi's 双色小棋格饼干.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Black and White: Sesame Cookies



I had a hard time deciding on what to bake this week. Usually, I will have a long list of ideas and couldn't make up my mind. But this week, I have no ideas at all. I was craving for chocolate muffins, but I decided not to bake anything heaty as my whole family is down with the "heaty syndrome". Then perhaps a batch of corn muffins then. But you know I won't be satisfied with just baking muffins, so I added in a batch of sesame cookies from a new book I bought during my recent trip to Taipei.



Using the same recipe as before, I reduced the honey this time round to half of the original. Somehow I don't like the smell of the honey when used in baking. By reducing it, the smell is reduced, but at the same time, it became rather tasteless.



I bought 2 baking books from Taipei, both in Chinese. I'm ok with reading the ingredients and instructions in Chinese. In fact, I like Chinese recipes because they usually use less sugar, which is suited to my asian tastebud. Both books have very elaborate recipes, to the point that I feel intimidated by the long list. For a start, I chose the easiest recipe: cookies.



I'm a fan of sesame, either black or white, either sweet or savoury. I had fun baking these and I love piping the dough into small discs. I have to admit they look pretty good! But taste-wise, it's not really fantastic. Well, still...it's sesame!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fairy Back from Leave?: Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes



After last week's not-so-successful attempt, in addition to my sister's encouragement (surprise surprise), I decided to give the Hokkaido chiffon cupcakes another go.



This time round, I used my hands to separate the egg yolks and whites instead of using the shells. I managed to do it sucessfully for 2 out of 3 eggs. The egg whites were more "normal" this time round. It managed to beat to a soft peak stage and is easy to fold into the egg yolk mixture.



I bought the square baking cups specially for these cakes. Firstly, I think the square cups are really cute. Secondly, I was hoping that using these will increase my chances of success since bakeries use these to bake their chiffon cupcakes as well. And true enough, the cakes didn't collapse! Though I'm not sure if it's due to the cups or because I got the egg whites right.



The custard was better this time round because I made a one-egg batch instead of half an egg. With a larger amount, it's easier to control the cooking although there are still some lumps. Need to improve on it. Since the cakes did not collapse, that means there is plenty of room for the custard, and I definitely did not stinge on it. I piped each cake with so much custard, I actually ran out of it even though I made a one-egg batch. Apparently, my sister loves this cake. She ate 2 at a go. Wow.

Ingredients (makes 6):
Chiffon cupcakes:
2 eggs, separated
17 g cake flour
15 g caster sugar (for yolk mixture)
25 g caster sugar (for egg white mixture)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp milk

Method:
  1. Separate egg yolks and whites.
  2. Add 15 g caster sugar to egg yolks and beat. Add in oil and milk and mix. Sift in flour and mix till even.
  3. Beat egg whites till frothy. Add in 25 g caster sugar in thirds until soft peak stage.
  4. Fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture in thirds until even.
  5. Pour into baking cups until 60% full.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg for 12-15 mins until golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool before piping in custard.
Adapted from Junzhi's 北海道戚风蛋糕

Custard:
250 ml milk
1 egg
30 g sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
  1. Add sugar to egg and beat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Sift in plain flour and corn flour and mix until smooth.
  3. Heat milk in a pot until bubbles appear at the edge of the pot.
  4. Pour in hot milk to egg mixture slowly, whisking vigorously.
  5. Strain mixture back into pot.
  6. Cook the mixture over medium flame while whisking vigourously to prevent lumps from forming.
  7. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and the mixture is bubbling.
  8. Stir in vanilla extract.
  9. Strain into a bowl and use cling wrap to cover the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.
  10. Let cool before chilling in the refrigerator.




Lastly, my huat kueh finally decided to smile. My mum requested for me to make these to that we can use it for prayers...but I'm not sure if this is really up-to-standard. I suggest she get store-bought ones.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fairy on Leave



My baking fairy (if I actually had one) apparently went on leave this week. I thought chiffon cupcakes should be no issue for me since I had done chiffon cakes a few times before. But this week's attempt was full of boo-boos.



The first sign of trouble came while I was separating the eggs. I took out 3 eggs to defrost although I intended to use only 2. But the first egg yolk got smashed while I broke the egg shell. No choice, that will go into cooking the custard. The second and third eggs were no better. Both yolks broke during separation. Although I managed to salvage most of the whites, there was traces of yolk in the whites. Of course, I still went ahead with the project. I did manage to beat the whites to soft peaks, but I seriously doubt the outcome of the cakes.



The batter was less than I expected, but it looks reasonably light and fluffy. The smell of the cakes baking was actually very nice, even though no flavouring was added. Then my worst fear came through: the cakes shrank significantly when they were out of the oven. One of them shrank so much, the texture of the cake is almost like kueh. I suspect it's due to the egg whites.



Then cake disaster number 2: cooking custard. I never had much luck with using milk for custard. It's always lumpy and too milky for my liking. After straining, it still looks decent, but I would rather use orange juice for custard.



Since the cake collapsed, there was not much room for the custard. I had to try my best to "force' the custard into the cakes. Tastewise, it isn't too bad, but I had expected it to be lighter and fluffier. Surprisingly, my sister quite like the cakes!