Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jittery, Lemony Chiffon



I can't remember when was the last time I baked a chiffon cake. I only remembered my experience with chiffon has not been a fantastic one. But I do love the challenge of baking them, which explains why I keep going back to chiffon cakes when I run out of baking ideas. Since I have some lemons lying around in the fridge, I decided to try out this recipe which I have bookmarked last year.



To be honest, I was having the jitters when preparing the batter. As usual, I can't tell when to stop beating the egg whites, so I did it entirely by gut feeling. The result was not too bad, and the usual problem of a dense layer at the bottom was non-existent! I was really quite happy with the outcome, although I cheated by using baking powder to make the cake rise. Lol.



Ingredients (16 cm tube pan):

65 g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
26 g caster sugar
32.5ml oil
32.5 ml water
17.5 ml lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon

2 egg whites
26 g caster sugar

Method:
  1. Sieve flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
  2. Separate egg yolks and egg whites.
  3. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add sugar in 3 separate additions and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes sticky and turns pale.
  4. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the water, followed by the lemon juice.
  5. Sieve over the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter. Add in the lemon zest and mix well.
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat on high speed until just before stiff peaks form.
  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. 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 35 ~ 40mins 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 Happy Home Baking's Lemon Chiffon Cake.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back to Basics 3: Cookies



Baking session came early for me this week, on a Friday night. MY invited several of her friends, mostly with no baking experience, for a mass baking session. She cannot imagine the chaos that will be created in her kitchen, so she requested for my asistance. Of course, I'm ever-ready for a baking session. With so many newcomers, we settled on baking simple stuff like banana muffins and chocolate cookies.

This particular recipe was given by her friend, LL. This was supposed to replicate Famous Amos' cookies. I had tried it once earlier this year and it didn't turn out very good, possibly because I had used the wrong type of oats or because I reduced the sugar and chocolate. This attempt is much better and the cookies are really fragrant. As for whether they really resemble Famous Amos' cookies, I can't really tell as I can't even remember when was the last time I ate Famous Amos. I suggest avid bakers to give this a try and give me your verdict. This recipe is in American terms, so for bakers like me who are more familiar with weight, feel free to convert the quantity to grams.

Ingredients (makes a humongous lot):

2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. Cadbury bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)
2 tsp. vanilla

Method:
  1. Cream the butter and both sugars.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together.
  3. Add flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate
    chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Mix.
  4. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees (180 degC).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back to Basics 2: Chocolate Cupcakes



To be honest, I have lost most energy and courage to bake anything fanciful. So this explains my second week (and more weeks to come) of "back to basics". This week, I decided to bake something using cocoa powder, before mine expires in 2 months' time.



I remembered watching a video on chocolate cupcakes on joyofbaking.com some time back and decided to give the recipe a try. I nearly forgot about my cute little square paper cups which I bought specially for the Hokkaido chiffion cakes. So instead of the coventional round cakes, I have square cupcakes.



The preparation of the batter was straightforward and I took care not to over-bake the cakes. Other than the cracks on the surface, I am rather pleased with the outcome. I decided to omit the fattening and sweet frosting and just eat the cake on its own. This recipe is definitely worth keeping!

Ingredients (makes 5 cupcakes):

25 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used natural cocoa powder + 1/8 tsp baking soda)
120 ml boiling hot water
90 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
55 g butter
100 g sugar (I used 85 g)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C.
  2. In a small bowl, stir cocoa powder (and baking soda if using) with hot water until smooth. Leave to cool.
  3. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In another mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg in 2 additions, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well.
  5. Add in flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.
  6. Add in cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
  7. Fill cups until 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 mins, until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Do not over-bake or the cakes will be dry.
  8. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
Adapted from Joyofbaking's Chocolate Cupcakes.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back to Basics: Chocolate Chip Muffins



After a long hiatus, I'm finally back in my kitchen. I have lost all confidence to try new baking projects after such a long break. Thus, I decided to bake something simple: muffins.



I chose the first recipe in my recipe booklet: chocolate chip muffins using the simple muffin method. Place the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another and just mix.



And the most challenging part is to fill the cups without making a mess.



The muffins turned out to be a nice brown colour, but somehow the taste is different from the previous attempts. I guess I have just lost touch with baking. Perhaps it's time to start all over again.

It's been a busy transition period for me: thesis writing, job hunting, thesis submission, finishing the unfinished tasks in the lab, go on a cruise and finally starting my new job. It's the second week into my new job and I have to admit I am struggling to adapt to the new environment and job scope. After 4 years in a research lab, I'm like an alien in the corporate world. Nevertheless, I hope I made the right choice in choosing something away from my comfort zone, before I get too old to adapt to anything new.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back to Desserts



Nothing special, nothing new. Just a simple tiramisu recipe I've attempted 2 months ago. After weeks of absence from baking activities, I decided not to be too adventurous and stick to something simple. The mascarpone cheese is from the leftover from the last tiramisu, which I've stored in the freezer. I know it's not a good idea to freeze mascarpone cheese, but I had intended to keep it for 2-3 months, so I suppose it would be safer to keep it frozen. As expected, there was separation and the texture was grainy instead of smooth. After some googling, I decided to try to strain it with cheesecloth to get rid of the excess moisture. But the texture did not improve even after vigorous whisking. Thankfully, it looked better after mixing with the other ingredients and folding in the whipped cream.

I had planned to make this tiramisu for myself a couple of weeks later, but since I will be away then, I decided to make it this week. It's refreshing to be whipping up something in the kitchen again after the past few hectic weeks of thesis writing and job hunting. Even though I should be doing a final round of proof-reading of my long thesis, I can't resist the temptation to meddle with the cooking utensils. I should let this tiramisu be a reward/ celebration for my completion of thesis, getting a job, and turning one year older!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bailey's Chocolate Cake



Buying alcohol from the airport's DFS seems to be common practise among travellers and that's how my home's stash of alcohol comes from, courtesy of my sister. She has became a wine-lover recently and is always keen to buy different kinds of wine and alcoholic drinks whenever she has a chance to shop at DFS. This also explains the origin of this bottle of Bailey's Irish cream.



I have never liked Bailey's on its own, so I was counting on my sister to finish the whole bottle on her own. Apparently, she isn't a fan too, to the point of asking me to incorporate Bailey's into my baking projects. Other than using it for tiramisu, I really have no idea what I can do with this almost-full bottle of Baileys. I was quite glad to see a recipe of Irish cream chocolate cake that uses a substantial amount of Baileys. Perhaps a good chance to use up a little more of the unwanted liquor.



The cake was easy to prepare, but the outcome was not what I had expected. It's dense and heavy, almost "kueh-like". I still prefer the crumbly classic chocolate cake.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tart, Tangy, Lemon Bars



No, my baking activity is not on hiatus although I haven't been updating my baking projects. It's just that the past 2 baking attempts have not been very successful. 2 weeks ago, I made a no-bake mango yogurt cake wih leftover sponge fingers from the tiramsu. It wasn't entirely a failure, just that the sponge fingers were "swimming around" in the yogurt mixture and te outcome wasn't a pretty sight, so I decided to abandon the photo-taking session. The cake was refreshing and I actually like the soggy sponge fingers.

Last week was my first attempt in making lemon bars. I have bookmarked the recipe for the lemon bars since last year, and I finally got down to baking it last week. The outcome was a total disaster and is a typical example of the saying 厲害就好,不要假厲害. I'm so used to lining baking tins with parchment paper, I decided to do the same for the lemon bars. What a huge mistake that was. The shortcrust pastry pulled away from the sides and bottom from the pan after baking and the filling seeped through the sides and bottom. It was still edible though, just that I had to scrap the lemon curd from the bottom of the cake tin and spread it on the pastry, like butter on toast.

With the failed attempt last week, I decided to give it another try this week, sans the parchment paper.



The shortcrust pastry still pulled away slightly from the pan, but I was positive the filling will not seep through like the previous attempt. As for the filling, I decreased the sugar by a quarter. Perhaps I have beatened the mixture too much, there were ttoo much bubbles.



I should have strained the filling before pouring onto the pastry. The bubbles left an unsightly white film on the surface. Here comes icing sugar to the rescue.



I like the tangy filling and the fragrance of fresh lemons. But the pastry was not as crisp as I hoped it would be.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Birthday Tiramisu



In honour of my sister hitting the big 3-0, I made a tiramisu charlotte cake. Actually, this is also an excuse for me to make my first tiramisu. I first got to know the existance of such a dessert when I watched the Hong Kong movie Tiramisu, starring Karena Lam, Nicholas Tse and Candy Lo. This was back in those days when I did not have an oven and was interested in making this no-bake cake. But I wasn't confident that it will turn out well, so I abandoned the idea. Ever since I picked up baking as a hobby last year, tiramisu has always been on my to-bake list. But because of the high fat content of mascarpone cheese and whipping cream, I have to find a special occasion to try this out.



With my very limited culinary skills, I chose HHB's Tiramisu Charlotte Cake as it does not require any form of cooking, just whisking and assembling. But even that made me sweat buckets. I used a mini 12 cm cake pan and had a big problem trying to line the inside of the pan with sponge fingers. In the end, I gave up and only placed the outer sponge fingers after the filling has set. Instead of espresso, I used instant coffee, which does not have a strong fragrance. I will use more coffee or stronger coffee powder for the syrup next time.

And I'm in time for another entry to Aspiring Bakers #7 – Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.

Ingredients:

Coffee Syrup:
2 tsp coffee powder (will use more next time, or use a stronger coffee powder/espresso)
1 tsp sugar
60 ml boiling water
2 tsp Marsala (I used Baileys Irish Cream)

Filling:
100g mascarpone cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp Marsala (I used Baileys Irish Cream)
100 ml whipping cream
about 18 sponge fingers (savoiardi)
25g dark chocolate, grated
cocoa powder, for dusting

Method:

Coffee Syrup:
  1. Dissolve coffee powder, sugar in boiling water. Leave to cool. Stir in 2 tsp Baileys Irish Cream. Set aside.
Filling:
  1. In a mixing bowl, with a manual whisk, whisk mascarpone cheese with icing sugar, vanilla extract, Baileys Irish Cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the coffee syrup until blended.
  2. Whisk the whipping cream until soft peak (do not over whip). With a spatula, fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Cut off one end of the sponge fingers (for the sides, I used 14) so that each one is about 3" in length. Line the sides of a 12 cm round baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cut sponge fingers into shorter lengths. One at a time, gently dip (do not soak) sponge fingers in the coffee syrup and use them to line the base of the pan.
  3. Pour over half of the filling. Spread evenly. Sprinkle half of the grated dark chocolate on top of filling.
  4. Repeat with another layer of sponge fingers dipped in coffee syrup. Pour over the remaining filling. Spread and smooth the top. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, best left overnight.
  5. Unmold the cake and remove the parchment paper. Transfer the cake to a larger cake board. Place the 3" sponge fingers along the circumference of the cake and secure with a ribbon. Dust the top with cocoa powder and sprinkle remaining dark chocolate on top.
Recipe adapted from HHB's Tiramisu Charlotte Cake.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Going Bananas: Black-Bottom Banana Cake



I think I'm starting to like bananas. As a fruit-lover, I have a long list of favourite fruit, but bananas have never been on my list. My friends MY, XL, TT and XP will also understand why I stayed clear of bananas for the past 2 years. After amost 19 days of banana-binge in Europe, it s enough to make us sick of it. Last week's banana sponge cake marks my first try in baking with bananas. I like the cake so much, I decided to try out other banana-bakes. The only downside of baking with banana is....buying bananas. They usually come in a bunch and I only need 1 or 2 for baking. Although my parents love bananas, they seldom eat them because of their gastric problems and bananas are known to cause "wind" in the stomach. So in the end, I bought one banana from my campus' canteen yesterday and bring it all the way home for today's bake.



The black-bottom banana bars has been highly recommended by many bloggers and it looks like it has taken the flogosphere by storm! SSB, Min, Jess, and Wen are some of the bloggers who have tried and given thumbs-up for this cake. So here's yours truly joining in the fun. The procedure is simple and almost fool-proof. To me, the most difficult step is probably to even out the chocolate and banana layers, but even that is not too challenging.



I ran out of chocolate chips, so I chopped up some walnuts for topping instead. This was meant to be "squares" or "bars", but I baked it in a round tin instead, because cheapo me only own a 7" and 6" round cake tin.



So the final product is neither a "square" nor "bar" but a "wedge". Nevertheless, it still live up to its name of being "black-bottom". I must say, this recipe is definitely a keeper and I'm adding one more thumbs-up to this.

I'm submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 – Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted. I think I'm probably the 101st person to send in this recipe for this event. =D

Ingredients (makes one 6-inch round cake):

55 g butter
30 g sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100 g banana (1 large banana)
85 g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
15 g cocoa powder
Chocolate chips for topping ( I used chopped wanuts)

Method:
  1. Line bottom of cake tin with parchment paper and grease sides of cake tin.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Drizzle in egg, vanilla extract and mashed bananas and beat until creamy.
  4. Sift in cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in 3 additions. Mix well after each addition.
  5. Divide batter into 2. Add cocoa powder to one portion and mix well.
  6. Pour chocolate batter into cake tin and spread evenly with a spatula.
  7. Pour plain batter on top of chocolate batter and spread evenly.
  8. Sprinkle chocolate chips/ walnuts on top.
  9. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg C for 20-25 mins.
Recipe adapted from SSB and Min's Blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

For the Banana Lovers: Banana Sponge Cake



I wasn't planning on baking anything today, but gave in to my mum's naggings. I bought a bunch of bananas on Friday to bake this banana sponge cake. After a bit of researching online, I gathered that bananas used for baking are best to be overiped, aka blackened bananas. So I planned to bake this sometime next week when the bananas have turned slightly black, but my mum insisted that the bananas will rot by next week, so I gave in eventually and pushed this plan forward by 2 days.



In my hasty and jittery attempt, I didn't take many pictures of the process. I'm not good at sponge cakes or anything that requires egg-beating. My experience with the whole-egg method has not been a very good one, with a success rate of about 50%. I was "gung ho" enough to try out HHB's modified recipe and the good thing is her recipe has slightly less oil than the original. I had scaled down her recipe and was intending to bake this in a 7-inch pan, but I was probably still in slumberland, I prepared a 6-inch pan instead. This explains the 3 cupcakes containing the extra batter.



Thankfully, the batter did not deflate much while I folded in the flour and the oil mixture. The boo-boo I made was during the unmolding, when I handled the cake too roughly and it cracked. But nonetheless, the cake is very soft and moist and the banana flavour is rich. Perfect for the banana lovers out there.

Ingredients (makes one 7-inch cake):

2 eggs, room temperature
85 g caster sugar
200 g (2 large ripened) bananas
100g cake flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
50 ml vegetable oil
15 ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
  1. Grease or line a 7-inch pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift cake flour with baking powder and baking soda twice. Set aside.
  3. Mix vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cut bananas into chunks or mash them with a whisk in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add sugar and eggs to the bananas and whisk at low speed to break up the bananas. Whisk at high speed until ribbon stage (Takes about 5-7 mins). Whisk at low speed for another 1-2 mins to stabilize the air bubbles.
  6. Sift in flour mixture in thirds, folding gently after each addition to incorporate the flour.
  7. Pour a little of the batter (about 1/4) to the oil mixture and fold until the mixture is well mixed.
  8. Pour the oil mixture back to the rest of the batter and fold gently until incorporated.
  9. Pour batter into prepared pan and tap the pan to get rid of large bubbles.
  10. Bake at 160 deg C for 40 mins until cooked and surface turns brown.
  11. Unmold and cool on a wire rack.
Recipe adapted from Happy Home Baking's Banana Sponge Cake.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chocolate Chiffon Cake Revisited



I've been wanting to bake another chocolate chiffon cake since my first try last year. That attempt was less than satisfactory: the cake had a very dense layer at the bottom and the texture was rough. But as usual, I had too many projects lined up so I kept pushing this back until this week, when I finally decided to give it another go.



The usual egg yolk mixture and whipping of egg whites. The only thing I did differently this time round is to add cream of tartar to the whites. After several chiffon cake attempts in the past year, I have decided that adding cream of tartar is crucial for stable egg whites, at least for a lousy baker like me.



The 2-egg batter only filled about 70% of my 6" pan. Of course I was crossing my fingers for the batter to rise as high as possible. Well, it did rise, but perhaps not as tall as I would like it to be. The surface did not crack as badly as some of my other chiffon cakes though.



Finally, the unmolding process left the skin on the pan. But at least the surface of the cake is browned. There is still a slight dense layer at the bottom and the cake is not as airy as the perfect chiffon cake. Well, as a self-consolation, this is still an improvement from my previous attempt.

I try to make at least one submission to Aspiring Bakers each month but unfortunately, I missed last month's theme as I am not a fan of cheese. So I was greatly delighted to know that this month's theme is chocolate (I'm a chocoholic)! I'm submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #7 – Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.

Ingredients (makes a 16 cm cake):

A:
2 egg yolks
20 g castor sugar
1/8 tsp salt
20 g canola oil

B:
70g Warmed Fresh Milk
13g Cocoa Powder
*Mix well

C:
60 g Cake flour
1 tsp Baking powder
Pinch of Baking Soda

D:
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
25 g castor sugar

Method:
  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 cream of tartar and beat till soft peaks form. 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 170 deg C for 25-30 mins.
  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.


The election fever is officially over, but looks like the weather is leading a protest: a few days of intense heat followed by a few days of intense rain. Anyway, I sure am glad to see the presence of a few Teochew Muay stalls somewhere on this island, but the next 5 years will be crucial for the stall owners to prove themselves. Good luck and hope that you won't let your customers down!