Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baking Eating Making Using Macarons



Macarons...again. Not that I like to eat them, but rather, I like to make them. This week, I used a different recipe from my usual and changed it to matcha flavoured ones.



I was too lazy to bring out my blender to grind the almond meal, so that explains the rough surface. This recipe uses less caster sugar, so I'm worried about a less stable meringue. And true enough, the batter deflated more than usual. The shells were thinner than my usual ones, but at least they didn't crack like my first attempt.



The shells were chewier than my usual ones and I do prefer these chewy ones. To balance off the sweetness of the shells, I added very little sugar to the red bean paste. As you can see from the picture, the red bean paste is dry and not creamy. I was contemplating whether or not to make red bean paste buttercream instead of using all red bean paste. In the end, to save the calories of the fat, I decided on the latter. Since the paste is quite dry and crumbly, sandwiching the shells with it is tougher than usual. Overall, the macarons are still very sweet. But at least the red bean paste somewhat balanced off some of the sweetness. Update: I really should have made the buttercream instead. The moisture in the bean paste made the macaron shells soggy in a few hours.



To continue on the macaron craze, I have turned to crocheting a macaron, well, sort of.



It's supposed to be a macaron coin purse. I got the design from a book I bought in Taipei last year. Of course, this looks very different from the picture in the book. I would love to think of the pouch as a chocolate flavoured macaron with chocolate ganache filling and the mini one attached to the zip as strawberry flavoured with buttercream filling. Lol.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

And Life Goes On: Marble Cake



Life goes on, and so do my baking sessions. After last week's yogurt cake, it's another yogurt cake this week. That's because I bought a twin pack of plain yogurt and I don't like to eat plain yogurt on it's own. This is not exactly a yogurt cake, because it is actually a low-fat marble cake which uses yogurt as one of its main ingredients. I used the recipe from Mandy's blog which was adapted from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts.



Clumsiness took over me today as I dropped my electric beater on the floor resulting in butter and sugar on the floor and walls. Luckily, I've only lost a small fraction of the batter. I'm more worried if my beater suffered any trauma.



I've never thought that marbling can be so difficult. I simply cannot decide where to place the dollops of brown and white batter to get a nice marbled surface! In the end, the surface looked hideous. Not that I really care, since I'm going to slice it up straight away anyway. The cake rised quite a bit in the oven and resulted in a cracked surface.



Looks like a volcanic eruption to me, lol. I guess I was too conservative on the marbling. There were still large patches of brown and white areas. In addition, there were large holes in the cake. The cake is a little dry as compared to store-bought marble pound cakes. But with the much lower amount of butter used, I'm not really complaining.



Ingredients (6" cake pan):

130 g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coffee powder
15 g cocoa powder
2 tbsp water
95 g sugar
1 egg, lightly beatened
42 g butter
120 ml plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line base and sides of a 6" cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine coffee powder, cocoa powder and 25 g sugar with 2 tbsp water. Stir and mix until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and remaining sugar (70g) until light and fluffy. Dribble in egg slowly and keep beating.
  5. On low speed, beat in 1/3 of flour mixture. On medium high speed, beat in 1/2 of yogurt. On low speed, beat in 1/2 of remaining flour mixture. On medium high speed, beat in the rest of yogurt and vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in remaining flour mixture.
  6. Measure out 3/4 cup of batter and mix into the cocoa mixture in step 3. Set aside.
  7. Use a large spoon to fill the bottom of the pan with 3/4 of white batter placed in dollops. Cover white batter with dollops of chocolate batter. Top chocolate batter with white batter such that some chocolate batter shows through.
  8. Use a table knife to marble batters together in zigzag or circular fashion.
  9. Bake at 180 deg C for 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool for 10-15 mins before unmolding.
Adapted from Mandy's Low-Fat Chocolate Marble Cake.


It's the first working week without my grandma. The house is quieter, without the shuffling of her bedroom slippers as she walked around in the house, without the songs and dialogue of her favourite drama series 愛, without the sounds from her radio which accompanied her to sleep every night. Athough we are now busier than before with additional household chores which my grandma used to help out with, our house has been more peaceful than usual. There was no losing of temper for the past week, which was quite a feat for our bad-tempered nature. If there is one thing to be learnt from the whole ordeal, it is to cherish the people close to us. I know that sounds cliche but it is now that I fully understand this, although it may have been too late. Nevertheless, I consider each day spent with my family as a gift, and will enjoy such days as much as I can.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Extremely Long Week



Every year in the March-April period, my family will have 3 birthdays to celebrate: my mum's in March; and my dad's and grandma's in April. During my mum's birthday last month, my grandma reminded us to get my dad a cake this year because he is turning 70. My dad hates cakes with whipping cream so I had this coffee yogurt nuts cake in mind. I had wanted to scrape plans for this cake after my grandma's passing last Sunday, but my mum asked me to go along with the original plans.



This is the first time I'm dealing with crumble cakes. It takes some effort to make the crumble and cake batter separately, but the steps are relatively easy. I bought a bottle of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract 2 weeks ago and only tried it out for the first time today.



I find the most challenging part to be to assemble the cake in alternating layers of crumble and cake batter. Some of the crumbles was disturbed while I was trying to spread the cake batter evenly, but overall, it still looked acceptable. Another challenge was the unmolding. The bottom most layer of crumble was very fragile so the unmolding had to be done very carefully.



I haven't tried the cake yet, so no comments on the taste yet until either tomorrow or Monday. Looks wise, this is still within expectations. The recipe was taken from From HHB's Coffee Yoghurt Cashew Nuts Cake, but I've halved it and baked it in a 6" pan instead. For convenience, I've copied most of the instructions and halved the ingredients below:

Ingredients:

Crumbles:
50g digestive biscuits (crushed)
25g walnuts, lightly roasted and chopped coarsely
25g light brown sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1g cinnamom powder (I omitted this)
25g butter, cold

Cake batter:
75g butter, soften at room temperature
50g caster sugar
1 eggs, lightly beatened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
100g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
75g plain yoghurt

Method:
  1. Mix crushed digestive biscuits, light brown sugar, chopped walnuts, cinnamon powder, instant coffee powder in a mixing bowl. With finger tips, rub in the cold butter until the mixture becomes crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Sift cake flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix in vanilla extract, salt and mix well.
  5. Add in the eggs gradually, mix well each time the eggs is added.
  6. With a spatula, stir in the cake flour/baking powder mixture. Stir until the flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter.
  7. Add in yogurt in a few separate additions, stir well each time the yogurt is added.
  8. Line the bottom of a 15cm (6") springform pan or a loose bottom pan with 1/3 of the crumbles. Spread evenly and press firmly with the back of a spoon.
  9. Add in half of the cake batter, spread evenly with the spatula. Sprinkle the top of the cake batter evenly with 1/3 of the crumbles. Add in the remaining cake batter, spread evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the remaining crumbles.
  10. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170deg for 30-35 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Remove cake from oven, let cool slightly and unmold. Allow to cool completely before slicing/serving.
  12. The cake can be left in room temperature or left to chill in the fridge. If allowed to chill, let the cake returns to room temperature before serving.

Finally, details regarding my grandma's passing will be written in the next section of this entry. It's going to be a very long one, so read it if you are extremely, extremely patient.