Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chiffon in a Cup



Yes, it's chiffon cake again this week. But it's a chiffon cupcake instead, none other than the Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcakes. I had wanted to try out other new recipes but my sister told me she wants to eat these. Well, it's not everyday that she wants to eat things that I cook, so of course I'm more than happy to bake these.



Although this is the fourth time I'm baking these, I yield different results each time. The first time was a total failure because the egg yolks broke while I was separating them. The second time was a success, with nicely browned cakes. The third time was also a failure because it was the first time I used my new oven and I didn't know how to control it.

I was contemplating whether or not to add cream of tartar to my egg whites as I find it easier to whip the whites with it. In the end, I took the risk of not adding any. Well, the same old problem of egg white lumps in the batter appeared. With my very limited baking experience, my guess is that the cream of tartar really makes a lot of difference. Another problem is that as the cakes were rising, some of them had cracked surfaces. I didn't have this problem in my last successful attempt. Could it be because I whipped the egg whites to a stiffer stage this time round? But actually it doesn't really matter since the cakes will shrink and result in a wrinkly surface anyway.



I used half a vanilla pod for the pastry cream. Honestly, I can't really taste the vanilla. It's either I've added in too little or I'm already immune to vanilla.



The cakes sure don't look pretty, but I do like the texture and the taste of them.



The original recipe requires the mixing of fresh whipped cream to the pastry cream. But I didn't want to use just half a carton of cream for this and have no idea what to do with the remaining cream. And anyway, I'm happy with using just pastry cream for the filling.

Ingredients (makes 9):
Chiffon cupcakes:
3 eggs, separated
26 g cake flour
22 g caster sugar (for yolk mixture)
37 g caster sugar (for egg white mixture)
22.5 ml vegetable oil
22.5 ml milk

Method:
  1. Separate egg yolks and whites.
  2. Add 22 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 37 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 pastry cream and decorate with icing sugar.
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
1/2 vanilla pod

Method:
  1. Add sugar to egg and beat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Sift in plain flour and corn flour and mix until smooth.
  3. Scrape out vanilla seeds and mix in with the milk in a pot.
  4. Heat the milk, together with the vanilla pod and seeds, until bubbles appear at the edge of the pot.
  5. Remove the vanilla pod. Pour in hot milk to egg mixture slowly, whisking vigorously.
  6. Strain mixture back into pot.
  7. Cook the mixture over medium flame while whisking vigourously to prevent lumps from forming.
  8. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and the mixture is bubbling.
  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.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coffee Addict, Chiffon Addict



I'm still sore about last week's less-than-satisfactory chiffon cake. I decided to try another one this week, but with a different flavour, different recipe. Since I'm fast becoming a coffee addict these days, nothing could be better than baking a coffee chiffon cake. I'm so glad to see SSB's coffee chiffon recipe. She also uses a 16 cm chiffon tin, so her recipes are perfect for me.



To eliminate the possibility of my oven being the culprit for my failed chiffon cake, I bought an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is correct. I should have done this long ago. The temperature can fluctuate quite a lot, and I practically stood in front of the oven the whole baking time to monitor the temperature and try to correct it by turning the temperature knob.



This time round, I beat the egg whites to almost stiff. It's definitely stiffer than last week's but the peak still have a droop. Jess advised me to beat to stiff, but I'm not confident of being able to fold in the egg whites without lumps. She uses a whisk to incorporate the whites, but I don't have the courage to do so as I'm pretty sure I will deflate the whites with my lousy skills.



The final result? Better than all my other chiffon cakes so far. At least no dense layer at the bottom. It could be because of the more accurate temperature? Or perhaps it's the egg whites? That will need more experiments to confirm. My only complaint is the presence of large holes in the cake. I did bang the tin on the tabletop a few times before baking it. Perhaps it's the presence of egg white lumps. Anyway, I would love to do more experiments with chiffon cakes, but in the meantime, I need to find ways to get people to eat this cake.

Ingredients:

3 small egg yolks (I used small eggs, about 40 g without shell)
20g caster sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
20ml milk
20ml canola oil
40g cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

3 small egg whites ((I used small eggs, about 40 g without shell)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
40 g caster sugar

Method:
  1. Whisk egg yolks and sugar. Stir instant coffee powder with milk until the coffee powder dissolves.
  2. Add the coffee mixture and oil into the egg yolk batter and whisk.
  3. Sift in flour and mix well.
  4. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture is foamy. Gradually add in sugar and beat until just before stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold beaten egg white into egg yolk batter in 3 additions.
  6. Pour batter into 6-inch chiffon tin and bake in preheated oven at 170 deg C for 30 mins.
  7. Remove from oven and invert cake immediately until it is completely cool.
Recipe from Small Small Baker's Coffee Chiffon Cake.


Aspiring Bakers #3: Sugee Cookies



My family and I have never liked eating Chinese New Year goodies, although I do favour sugee cookies, peanut cookies, just a bit love letters and bak kua. Every year we will tell relatives and friends not to get us pineapple tarts and other goodies to save us the agony (and calories) of having to finish everything. This year, to my mum's dismay, we have a tub of peanut cookies and sugee cookies, courtesy of me. If not for the leftover ground peanut and ghee, I wouldn't have thought of baking CNY cookies and crash my diet plans by having to eat all of it myself =P.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy these cookies: not by eating them, but by baking them!



I bought some vanilla pods a few days back with the intention of using it for pastry cream, but when I saw Jess from j3ss kitch3n using vanilla beans for her sugee cookies, I thought I will give it a shot. But somehow the smell of ghee overpowered the vanilla, or perhaps I should have added in more beans. Nevertheless, the cookies are better than my last attempt because I did not over-bake them this time round.
With this, finally I have finished up the leftover ghee and my mum should be very happy know that the green can is no longer lying around in the kitchen =PPP.

Although this cookie is nothing special as compared to the great varieties of cookies that other bloggers have whipped up, I will still join in the fun and send it in to Aspiring Bakers #3: My Favourite CNY Cookie (Jan 2011), hosted by j3ss kitch3n.

Ingredients:
165 g QBB ghee
Vanilla beans from 1/2 vanilla pod (or 1 pod for more intense fragrance)
100 g icing sugar
330 g flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Method:
  1. Scrape out vanilla beans from vanilla pod and add to ghee. Melt and cool ghee.
  2. In another mixing bowl, sift flour, icing sugar, baking soda and salt together.
  3. Pour in ghee mixture and mix to form a dough.
  4. Roll dough into small balls (about 1 tsp of dough) and place on a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg C for 15 mins.
  6. The cookies should not brown.
Recipe adapted from QBB website with some modifications.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hello again, failed chiffon



I had to stash away the idea of a batch of sugee cookies this week because I still have that tub of peanut cookies from last week lying around in the house. To help speed up consumption of my bakes, I'd better cook something which I can eat for breakfast, such as cakes or muffins.

I never had much luck, nor skills, with chiffon cakes. But I always love a challenge, and now with a new oven, I decided to give it a go. Pandan seems like the default flavour when chiffon comes to our mind, perhaps because of the famous Bengawan Solo pandan cake, so famous that I witnessed the Taiwanese and Hongkongers lugging boxes of these cakes at the airport.




The fragrance of the cake comes not only from the pandan leaves but also from coconut milk. But I'm never a fan of coconut milk and I'm already guilty of throwing away a 80% full carton of coconut milk 2 weeks ago. To save me the guilt, I decided to use a recipe which doesn't call for coconut milk, and only pandan juice. To make the pandan juice, I blended 10 pandan leaves in half a cup of water and strained the mixture. But the fragrance was too subtle. I should have bought pandan paste to add on.



I finally bought a bottle of cream of tartar for the egg whites. True enough, with cream of tartar, the egg whites were easier to whip. As with previous chiffon attempts, I stopped at the soft peak stage. I find it difficult to fold in stiff egg whites as there were lumps of stubborn whites in the batter. Or perhaps that was due to the absence of cream of tartar? Or perhaps because I stopped at soft peaks, the cake didn't turn out well? I wish I have an answer.



10 minutes into the baking time and a saw this large crack on the surface. And soon, the surface resembles the Grand Canyon.



As usual, the cake shrunk tremendously and the surface was hard, to my disappointment.



I can't seem to get the sides to brown nicely, whether it was my old oven or this new one. And like previous times, the bottom of the cake has a dense layer.



I had been craving for a chocolate muffin for days. Maybe because I had been watching Nigella Lawson's cooking show for the past 2 days and was reminded of my first bake: her chocolate chip muffins. Although I wasn't particularly happy with my first bake, I decided to give this recipe another go. The result looks nice, but didn't taste as good as I hoped for. It was chewy and dry. Maybe I had stirred it a little too long.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Finishing the Unfinished: Peanut Cookies



When my friends came over for the baking session last week, one of our agenda was to bake peanut cookies. To save me the trouble of getting a dressing-down from my mum for making a mess of the kitchen, I decided to buy pre-packed ground peanuts instead of roasting and grinding them myself. Since I was at NTUC, I decided to check if ground peanuts was available. I must have been in a hurry that day, because I did not realize that the ground peanuts were mixed with sugar. I only realized it when I took them out to bake the cookies.

Of course, it's not the end of the world. I just have to use a lot of "agaration (estimation)" in deciding the amount of flour and sugar to be mixed with the peanuts since I have no idea what the ratio of sugar to peanuts is.



Mixing the dry ingredients with oil was not difficult except that I'm quite appalled by the large amount of oil used. The recipe states that the dough needs to be smooth and the sugar needs to dissolve, but gave up after kneading for 5 minutes even though the sugar did not dissolve.



The texture of the cookie was not what I expected: it was crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. A pleasant surprise, I would say, as I prefer such cookies to the crunchy type. The fragrance of the peanuts only became prominent the next day, but I would have preferred it to be even stronger. Perhaps this is the reason why recipes tend to encourage bakers to roast and grind their own peanuts.

I had intended to use this recipe, but due to my oversight with the peanuts, here's what I did instead:

Ingredients:
400 g prepacked sweetened ground peanuts (Camel brand)
200 g plain flour
50 g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
240 ml canola oil (add slowly, use enough to bind mixture)
handful of halved peanuts
Egg for glazing (I omitted)

Method:
  1. Mix ground peanuts, flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add oil slowly and knead until the mixture comes together in a dough. Test by pinching and rolling a teaspoon of dough into a ball. If it does not crumble, it's done.
  3. Knead the dough until sugar dissolves (mine did not dissolve).
  4. Roll dough into balls of about 2 cm in diameter and place on a prepared baking tray.
  5. Place a halved peanut on top of the dough balls and press slightly into the dough.
  6. Glaze with beaten egg (I omitted).
  7. Bake at 200 degC for 15-20 mins.
  8. Remove and let cookies cool on tray for 5 mins before transferring to wire rack.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's a Brand New Year: Sugee Cookies



On New Year's Day, my friends came over to my place for a long-over-due baking session. We have already decided to bake some Chinese New Year cookies since it's less than a month away. As ambitious as ever, we decided on Kueh Bankit, Sugee cookies and peanut cookies. But as expected, we could only managed to squeeze in Kueh Bankit and Sugee in the limited time we had. It was my first attempt in making these cookies and honestly, I didn't have high hopes for it. Sure, the kueh bankit turned out hard and crispy, the sugee turned out not fantastic either, but we had a great afternoon of chatting, laughing, and wii-playing, followed by a great dinner at 85 market. No better way to spend New Year's Day!

I'm honestly quite disappointed with the Sugee cookies. I was hoping for the tender type of cookies which my aunt gave us many years ago. So when yesterday's attempt turned out to be like crispy butter cookies, I decided to try another recipe today.



This recipe uses a lower ghee to flour ratio, so the dough is not as oily as yesterday's. And there is no egg added as well.



Instead of caster sugar, this recipe uses icing sugar, which explains why the balls stayed in shape during baking. However, I burnt my first batch of cookies. The recipe states 25-30 mins of baking time and I simply assumed that that will be accurate. I couldn't be more wrong. The cookies turned dark and hard after 20 mins of baking.



Perhaps my oven was too hot, so I changed the mode of my oven and baked for 15 mins. The cookies turned out quite well: the compact and tender type which I ate years ago. I still have half a can of ghee left. Probably another round of sugee cookies this coming weekend.

Ingredients:

125 g ghee, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
250 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
85 g icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Method:
  1. Melt and cool ghee.
  2. Add vanilla extract and stir.
  3. In another mixing bowl, sift flour, icing sugar, baking soda and salt together.
  4. Pour in ghee mixture and mix to form a dough.
  5. Roll dough into small balls (about 1 tsp of dough) and place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg C for 10-15 mins.
  7. The cookies should be yellowish and not brown.
Recipe adapted from QBB website with some modifications.