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!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For a Change: Matcha Chocolate Steamed Cakes



I have to admit, I've neglected my oven in favour of GE news. In fact, I have neglected almost everything, included sleep and thesis writing (my boss won't be too happy to hear about this), in favour of GE news and rally videos. After 2 weeks of hiatus, I'm still neglecting my oven, because I've decided to go for a change: steamed cakes.



The only other steamed cakes I've made were the traditional huat kueh. But I have always wanted to try out some steamed cakes recipe as I'm actually quite fond of the mango steamed cake from Four Leaves bakery. I saw this lovely cake from Ellena's blog and Nami's blog and decided to tweak Nami's recipe to a matcha chocolate swirl cupcake.



I'm not very satisfied with the outcome and will make a few changes the next time I make this: I'll try using cake flour instead; I'll add in more sugar; I'll add in more milk as well as the batter is quite dry.

Ingredients (makes 7 muffin sized cakes):

Matcha batter:
75 g plain flour (will try cake flour next time)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp matcha powder
1 egg
2 tbsp milk (will add more next time)
2 tbsp sugar (will add more next time)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Chocolate batter:
75 g plain flour (will try cake flour next time)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sugar (will add more next time)
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:
  1. Prepare 7 muffin cups and line them with paper liners. Prepare steamer.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and matcha powder together.
  3. Whisk together egg, milk, sugar and oil.
  4. Add wet ingredients from 2 to dry ingredients from 1 and mix.
  5. Repeat above steps for chocolate mixture.
  6. Spoon matcha and chocolate batter aternately into cups. Swirl using a toothpick.
  7. Steam on high for 10-12 mins.
Adapted from Nami's Steamed Cake.


How receptive are you to changes? I have to admit, I'm not very receptive to changes, so much so that I am always reluctant to step out of my comfort zone. However, when I realize that things are not going in the right direction, I know that change is needed.

We have all been eating at the bak chor mee stall (in reference to mrbrown's brillant podcast) for 51-52 years. To be honest, I'm sick of bak chor mee. The stall uncle is arrogant, the quality of the noodles is dropping, the price keeps going up and the stall is getting too crowded. When the uncle realized that he may be losing customers, he started to threaten us and called us "daft" and "noisy" and tried to "bribe" us by promising to add more ingredients into the bak chor mee . On top of all these, he started bad-mouthing other stalls, calling their stalls "slums" and even launched personal attacks on the other stall owners. When he realized that all these may not work, he started apologizing to customers in a bid to win them back. I know this bak chor mee stall has what he calls "track record", because they have been around for many decades. But so what? 50 years ago, this bak chor mee stall also did not have any track record to start with!

This year, we the customers are pretty lucky. Other that the bak chor mee stall, we have other choices. For my area, it's the peranakan stall (although the chio-bu helper is not in this area). I'm more than willing to give them a chance, just like I did 5 years ago. Of course, I don't know if their nonya kueh tastes good because I've never eaten at their stall before. But I would like to give it a try, only then can I compare it with the bak chor mee. Too bad my area doesn't have Teochew muay, but I do hope people in areas with Teochew muay stalls will patronize them.

Everyone is entitled to his opinions, but I feel sad when I see my friends who complain about the bak chor mee stall but yet cannot be bothered to check out what other stalls there are. I guess they are probaby those who do not want change or are afraid of change, or even worse, afraid that the bak chor mee uncle will come after them. I can understand, for some areas, other stalls looks like they will bound to cause you to "lao sai", so for those areas, I have to agree that the bak chor mee stall is the better choice, but for the other stalls with promising cooks, I wish customers will give them a chance. Of course change can proceed in 2 directions: for the better, which of course is good; or for the worse, which I think will let customers realize what is good for them, and emerge stronger than before. Another group of customers are those who sing praises of the bak chor mee uncle and insist on patronising his stall. I have no comments on this group as they are entitled to their own preference.

Today is the day where we all make our choice. I really really hope that there will be a variety of stalls all over Singapore. My worst fear is for the bak chor mee stall to dominate every single corner of this country. If that is so, I cannot foresee any bright future for this place, for future generations of Singaporeans, for my family, and for myself.