28 July 2010

Marbled Milk Cupcakes

I'm looking forward to dinner with friends tomorrow evening.
And why? Cos I just found a good excuse reason to bake :)  And, of course, because I'll have lovely company to share dinner with tomorrow.

Here's how the Marbled Milk Cupcakes were made:

140g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g sugar (up to 150g if you like it sweet)
50g butter
120ml milk

Optional for marbling:
2 tbs chocolate chips
2 tbs of milk

Step 1:
Sift flour, baking powder and salt two times.
Set aside.

Step 2:
Whisk eggs and cream of tartar till light and fluffy.

Step 3:
Gradually add vanilla extract and sugar and continue beating till batter is glossy.

Step 4:
Combine butter and milk, and heat till just before it boils.

Step 5:
With a balloon whisk, gently fold in flour, alternating with milk mixture.

Step 6:
For marbled cupcakes, melt choc chips with milk and blend well. Scoop out half the batter and combine with choc mixture.

Step 7:
Fill paper cups, alternating spoonfuls of each batter. Then run the end of a chopstick through the batter to create swirls.

Step 8:
Bake at 170 degC for 18-20 min or until done.

This recipe can be used as a sponge cake recipe too. Just bake for about 5 or more minutes till done.

26 July 2010

Peach Yoghurt Cake

What a wonderful way to start the week!
With sweet peaches and tangy yoghurt, all Monday blues are forgotten with a bite of this butter cake.

115g butter, room temperature
100g sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
5 tbs oatmeal or ground almonds
150g plain flour + 1.5 tsp baking powder
150g yoghurt (plain or fruit)
sliced peaches (optional)

1 - Cream butter, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract till light and fluffy.
2 - Add eggs one at a time and blend well.
3 - Add remaining ingredients, alternating between wet and dry. Mix till well combined.
4 - Grease and line a baking tin (I used a 8.5x4" loaf pan). Pour in half the batter and spread evenly.
5 - Arrange peach slices on the batter, then top with remaining batter.
6 - Bake at 170 degC for about 40 min or till done. (Cake will start to shrink away from sides of pan.) If your cake starts to brown before it's done, tent with foil.
7 - Remove and cool in pan for 5-10 min before unmoulding.


24 July 2010

Schiacciata Con L'Uva

Sounds sophiscated ... It is in fact a focaccia with grapes, where the fillings are traditionally made from raisins, or the last season's grapes while the new season's grapes are used to adorn the top. Tasty and flavourful, and it is a great conversational piece for home parties or gatherings.

Making this bread needs advance planning and an awful lot of time. The recipe uses a starter, which takes a portion of the yeast and flour to ferment between a few hours up to a few days. Using a starter usually results in a bread with an open, airy texture and is richer in flavour. I did an experiment once to test the effect of a starter and there is a huge difference in the flavour!

For the starter
0.5 tsp dried yeast (I used instant yeast)
150ml water
125g strong white flour

For the dough
1.5 tsp dried yeast
200ml water
375g strong white flour
1.5 tsp salt
3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp olive oil

For the filling and topping
200g raisins
A glass of Vin Santo (or another sweet dessert wine)
500g seedless black grapes
3 tbsp demerara sugar (natural brown sugar)

To make the starter: Sprinkle the yeast into water. Leave for 5 min. Add flour and mix to form a thick batter. Cover with tea towel and let it ferment for at least 12 hours and up to 36 hours, until it forms a loose bubbling batter.

To make the dough: Sprinkle the yeast into 100ml of water. Leave for 5 min. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Pour in the yeasted water, caster sugar, olive oil and the starter. Stir in remaining water to form a soft sticky dough. Knead by hand or a heavy duty mixer until smooth, silky and elastic. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave to rise until double in size, about 2 hours. Knock back and chafe for 5 minutes, then leave to rest, about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal sized pieces. Roll out both pieces.

To make the filling and finally the completed bread: Marinate the raisins in the wine for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain them thoroughly. Spread the raisins evenly over one piece of dough. Put the second piece on top and pinch the edges together. Cover with a tea towel and prove until double in size. Cover the top dough evenly with the grapes, lightly pressing them into the dough, and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake in pre heat oven for 45 minutes until the crust is golden and the grapes slightly brown.

(Recipe from Bread, baking by hand or bread machine, by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno.)

Banana Cake Muffins

I had 1 egg left in the tray and 1 banana leftover from my Banana Chocolate Cake sitting all alone in the freezer....

Perfect for a banana cake muffin! So called because the recipe is actually for a banana sponge cake, but since I don't have a small 6" pan, I used my muffn pan instead. And what I ended up with was soft fluffy banana muffins.

This recipe is so simple, all it takes is a few utensils (aka less washing up) and 10 minutes to put everything together. 30 minutes later, sink your teeth into your bake!

the wet stuff:
1 egg
75g sugar
1 tbs condensed milk (or maple syrup)
1 tbs milk (or cream / yoghurt / sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
90ml oil
1 banana

the dry stuff:
125g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 - Beat egg and sugar till light and creamy. (I just used a balloon whisk, but you can use a mixer if you're in the mood for more washing.)

2 - Add the rest of the wet stuff and mix well.

3 - Combine dry stuff and sift into wet stuff. Fold gently with balloon whisk till just moistened.

4 - Pour into baking pan. Bake at 160 degC for about 20 min, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I drizzled some of the leftover chocolate from my Almond Cointreau Cheesecake, and promptly tucked into the muffin.

Almond Cointreau Cheesecake

I made a batch of almond biscotti some time ago, and it turned out a disaster! I must have overbaked it and sliced it so thick, biting into it was like trying to eat a rock. But I didn't want to waste it all, so i kept it in the fridge, thinking that one day I'd figure out how to 'recycle' it. 

And, today, the opportunity presented itself. I could make it into cheesecake crust! Just blitz the biscotti in the food processor till they resemble fine crumbs, and use it like crushed Digestive biscuits for the crust. For an extra edge, I added about 2 tsp of cocoa powder to get a chocolate almond crust. I thought this would be a nice complement to the chocolate topping I had in mind for the cake.

Let's get started!

200g crushed biscuits (e.g. Digestive, Oreos)
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
90g butter, melted

Mix everything together. Then press into your baking pan. (I used a 9" springform pan.) Chill in refrigerator while you make the filling.

750g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
150g sugar
1.5 tbs cornflour
1 tbsp Cointreau (or 1.5 tsp vanilla extract)
3 eggs

1 - Beat all ingredients except eggs till smooth and creamy.

2 - Add in eggs one at a time and mix till just combined.

3 - Pour filling into baking pan.  The filling should smoothen itself out.

4 - Bake in a water bath at 150 degC for 30-40 min or until the centre is almost set. (The cake will continue to bake from its own heat.) Then allow the cake to cool in the oven with the door ajar for half hour or so.

5 - Cover with foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.

Chocolate topping:
2 tbsp chocolate chips
1 tbsp milk

Melt chocolate chips and milk in a double boiler (or just microwave).  Stir till well combined and glossy. Drizzle onto the top of your cheesecake in any pattern you fancy. Cover and return to fridge till ready to serve.  This is best done after the cake has chilled so that the chocolate sets up nicely and doesn't run or soak into the filling.

Water bath disaster:
I have a confession to make....  I had a disaster with this water bath method!! 
I wrapped my springform pan with 2 layers of foil, but the water still seeped into my pan and the crust became soggy :(  In future, I'm gonna ditch the water bath method and try the steaming method instead - placing the pan of water in the rack below the cake.

Apparently, this will not affect the texture of the cake much. If anyone has tried this steaming method with/without success, let me know please.

UPDATE: Despite the water bath disaster, the cake turned out pretty good =D  The crust dried out a little after spending a night in the fridge, and the texture of the filling was just right. The beneficiaries of the cake were all smiles after they each had a slice. What a relief!

20 July 2010

Beef & Vege Pie

Who loves pies?

There's just something about homemade pies that warms my soul, especially on a cool rainy day like today. I have fond memories of my trips to Australia, where some of the world's best pies are served in a dizzying array of flavours!

My own homemade pie is, of course, nowhere near that standard. But we all start somewhere, so here's my shot at a beef pie...

Pie Filling:
Unlike baking, my cooking is almost never to recipe. You can vary the ingredients according to your tastes, and you can add anything you like or omit the stuff you don't like. So, here goes:
* Meat of your choice, minced or cubed (you can use beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or even ham)
* Vegetables (e.g. peas, carrots, corn, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, etc)
* Onions, chopped
* Liquid (e.g. tomato puree/paste, milk, or canned soup)
* Herbs (e.g. basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, curry, whatever you fancy!)
* Salt & pepper to taste

1 - Fry onions till soft, then add meat and cook till almost done.
2 - Add vegetables and cook.
3 - When almost done, add liquid and herbs of choice and cook till it boils. If the mixture is too thin, simmer till it thickens, or add some slurry or instant mashed potatoes. 
4 - When done to your liking, set aside while you prepare the crust.

Pie Crust:
* 120g butter, very cold
* 260g flour
* 80ml cold water
* 1/2 tsp salt

Makes about 4 small pie crusts.
If you are serving the pies in ramekins, you can also omit the base and just have the crust on top. In this case, halve the recipe.

1 - Cut or rub the butter into the flour and salt until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.
2 - Gradually add teaspoonfuls of cold water and stir till the dough comes together.
3 - Knead it a few times. Then divide into 4 parts. Further divide each quarter into 2/3 (for the base) and 1/3 (for the top).
4 - With a rolling pin, roll each portion out to circles.
5 - With the larger pieces, line the base of your ramekin or pie shell. You could even use large muffin tins!
6 - Fill with pie filling, and top with smaller piece of dough.
7 - Using a fork, press the edges to seal in all the juicy goodness. But don't forget to poke some steam vents on the top. Brush with egg wash or milk (for that glossy brown effect).

Bake at 200 degC for about 20-30 min, depending on the size of your pie. Since the filling is already cooked, your pie is done when the tops are nicely browned.



Crusty Tips:

* Place the butter in the freezer for about 10 min, then grate it over the flour. The flour will coat the small bits of butter and with a quick stir you'll instantly get that bread-crumb texture. Sure beats using all that effort to cut the butter with a fork or pastry blender! It also avoids melting the butter with your warm fingers with the rubbing-in method.

* Alternatively, just blitz the flour and butter in a food processor, then drizzle cold water until the dough comes together.

19 July 2010

Peaches & Cream

Inspired by Bakertan’s beautiful Puffy Strawberry Napolean Shortcake, I decided to attempt a somewhat scaled-down version. I’d never had the courage to embark on such a complex baking project before, and it was daunting. But I decided I would not limit my repertoire to just plain simple cakes. I should face up to the challenge!!

So I studied his (very long) recipe intently, and decided I would use peaches instead of strawberries, omit the puff pastry, and coat the whole cake with cream and ground peanuts. Plus a tweak here and there.

Here’s how I spent the most part of my Saturday…

Making the sponge cake:

5 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
50g sugar

5 egg yolks
50g sugar
60ml oil
60 ml water (I replaced 10ml with liquor for that extra punch)
1½ tsp vanilla extract

110g cake flour
½ tsp baking powder

Note: I chose to make the batter in 2 separate batches (2 eggs then 3 eggs), but you can make the cake in 1 batch and slice it in half lengthwise.

For (A) – Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar till foamy and soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, and whisk till stiff peaks form.

Tip: When whisking egg whites, making sure that they are at room temperature will result in maximum volume. Also make sure that your mixing bowl and beaters have absolutely no oil/fat on it.

For (B) – In a separate bowl, combine all ingredients and beat till creamy and fluffy. The mixture should have increased in volume by about 4 times.

For (C) – Combine flour and baking powder thoroughly.

Sift flour into egg yolk mixture and fold very gently using a balloon whisk till just combined. A balloon whisk (vs a spatula) cuts through and combines the mixture more effectively, while minimising the loss of air.

Now, still using the balloon whisk, gently fold in the egg whites till the batter has a uniform colour.

Pour into a greased 8” baking tin, preferably with the bottom lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 160 degC in a water bath for 30-35 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

When done, remove from baking tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Making the whipped cream:
* 400ml whipping cream, very chilled
* 2 tbs icing sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract

1 – Place your metal mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer for at least half hour.
2 – Combine all ingredients and beat till creamy and stiff. Do not overbeat or the mixture will separate into butter and milk.

Preparing the peaches:

For convenience, I used sliced peaches from the can. Drain the excess syrup first.
Chop up several slices to smaller bits. These are for the cream layer between the 2 sponge cakes.

Putting it all together:

1 – Place a small amount of cream on the cake board, then position the first cake layer in the centre of the board. The cream will act as a glue and hold the cake in place.
2 – Slather on as much cream as you like on top of the first layer. Then sprinkle the peach bits over the cream. Top with more cream if desired.
3 – Place the 2nd sponge layer on top.
4 – Spread cream on top and around the sides of the cake.
5 – Sprinkle ground peanuts (or any nut of your choice) all over and remove excess.
6 – Using your creativity, decorate with peach slices or any fruit of your choice.
7 – Place in cake box and store in the fridge till ready to serve.