Saturday, May 31, 2008

Duo and Novel

What do you know? I cracked open an egg and I got another double yolks! Hubs said hens could have been genetically engineered, otherwise how to get lower cholesterol and more what have you in the eggs? Besides, these hens need to produce eggs on a larger scale as well as quicker pace, don't they? This time though, the yolks are visibly smaller. It came from a no-frills packet from ShopNSave. Now that has become a fave supermarket for me. I will gripe about the staff another day, when they really piss me off big time.

Thanks to the helper at home, I got a new rice-cooker that bakes. It was something that I had been thinking about ever since I laid eyes on it as I walked past the demo counter at the Tangs basement. Then, however, I had no reason to indulge. I found out a few days ago that the base of pot of the old rice-cooker had scratches, and one really huge one too! Once such non-stick coating is scratched, they cannot be used anymore! As usual, helper didn't breathe a word about the scratches. I saw it with my own eyes when I scooped the last bit of rice out of the pan the other night. I was fed up alright. But what's done cannot be undone, so it's water under the bridge.

Just last week, the toaster decided to konk as well. My girl had wanted to toast some popcorn chicken and found that no matter which plug was used, the toaster just won't work. Well well, time for a new toaster? I was only thinking of using hubs' Esso Smiles points to redeem the toaster. He said we should just save the Smiles points for petrol. So we went shopping *grin*

We didn't find any suitable rice-cooker nor toaster at Carrefour (Suntec City). I thought I would be able to get bargain stuff there, guess I thought wrong. So hubs said we should check out Harvey Norman at Millenia Walk on the way to the car (parked at Marina Square).

To our surprise, we saw that rice-cooker that bakes going at a bargain price of under S$60! I was quite sure it could easier cost over S$100 especially at Harvey Norman. My boy was really clever, he said that "mummy will surely like this, cos it bakes!" Sweet boy he is. I tried to look at the "normal" and no-frills ones, but they cost more that this!

Next was the hunt for a toaster. Choices were eliminated by cost, and it's not easy to find anything below S$50 any more. But one caught our eyes. We have never heard of that brand, but hey, who cares, right? Other than a knob for timing, there is temperature control, as well as control of top/bottom/both heating! It's a dream! My brother bought one a few months back and I was tempted to get the same one. I had just taken up baking then and could use a "real" oven. But the toaster was working fine then, besides, that oven was simply too big for my tiny kitchen. But today's find fits snuggly. It's known as an electric oven, not a toaster lol.

I am one happy girl today. Although I baked, I didn't use either of these new gadgets...

PS: I needed 4 images to make this poster. So I chose to include the cover of a book I had borrowed from the library. I liked it so much that I went round looking for the book. I finally found a big bookshop at the basement of Cathay Cineleisure that carried books from this publisher. I was told by the staff there that the bookshop and publisher are owned by the same people!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Streusel Topping

First I must say that I have been quite intrigued with cakes with streusel toppings. After watching Anna Olson bake her Blueberry Buckle, I felt I had enough confidence to eventually try it. It was still among the list of many on the to-bake list. Until I saw HHB's peanut butter chips crumble muffins.

They looked so inviting and the rubbing-in method caught me. I bought this cutter-looking thing which Anna had used on the show. I found it recently and was looking for an opportunity to use it. So I went about happily to get started. I had even put the block of butter in the freezer to keep it hard.

I worked according to the muffin recipe, starting off with the chocolate streusel topping first. I suspected there wasn't enough butter, or it was simply because I wasn't used to using the cutter to "rub-in" the butter. As I couldn't get bread crumb texture, so I started to use my hands. Lo and behold, the butter melted! What a mess that was, I quickly put that into the freezer.

Then I worked on the cake portion. This time, the rubbing-in went well. Could be that I put the butter into the fridge while I weighed the other ingredients. Then it was time to mix the wet and dry ingredients. This was where I encountered problems. Perhaps there was too much liquid, as I had combined the beaten eggs with the milk. I added the liquid slowly and the mixture became pasty. That was when I fumbled and poured the rest of the liquid into the mixing bowl. I had a sticky paste floating in the puddle of liquid. What was I to do? So I tried my best to integrate the two, and "do not overmix" was hanging at the back of my head. I decided to stop when the mixture was no longer two distinct texture, paste in liquid. It was still fairly liquid at that point.

I poured the batter into a loaf pan, as my boy doesn't like individual cakes. (I found out that he was lazy to peel off the layer of paper.) After that I added the chocolate streusel topping, which had hardened nicely in the freezer. I broke them into smaller pieces and laid them on top.

The cake rose to quite a height, and gave off a very chocolatey fragrance. I didn't use any special cocoa powder, just plain old Van Houten. I'm not sure if the gooey texture of the cake (in the mouth) is due to over-mixing. The cake is not dry, but the crust is hard as I had to bake it for almost 45 minutes. I learnt that streusel topping isn't very friendly for whole cakes as the top fell apart when I sliced the cake. Many lessons in bake, next time I would bake this as muffins, definitely.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Stripes and Lines

Aren't they cute? And no, zebra is not my favourite animal. I love giraffes and these gentle giants remind me of someone who sparked this soft spot for the spotted darlings. Every time I see a giraffe, I would be reminded of Y. After the giraffes, zebras come in a close second. I am simply mesmerised by their stripes...

Back to today's bake. My girl asked one day if I knew how to bake zebra cakes. Then I saw Aunty Yochana's post about her unsuccessful attempt in making the stripes. So, I searched the internet for a suitable recipe.

My first stop was Kitchen Capers and I found one very easily. However, the recipe uses emulsifier and I went about looking for another workable recipe. Then I came across one at Recipezaar which uses yogurt and no butter. However, there wasn't any reviews so I thought I should search some more. I landed on Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook and found another easy recipe. Just so you know, there are various versions of Zebra Cakes using ingredients from cheese to crackers :S

It appears that many bloggers have tried it and gave the thumbs up. So I set out to try it, all the while praying that all will go well. On the "surface", I thought I did well. Perhaps I was a little too enthusiastic about chocolate as there was simply so much to use. Looking at the photo, you'll understand what I mean. It's a far cry from the original, definitely.

I'm sure I have over-beaten the batter as well. There were several cracks at the top. As I was too afraid to disturb the stripes, I didn't bang the pan against the table to remove the air bubbles. As a result, there was a huge air pocket just beneath the top.

While I was cooling the cake, hubs wanted to try the cake. After that piece, he asked for another! Wow! Personally, I wasn't satisfied with the result, no fault of the recipe's. I had added another tablespoonful of flour hoping to thicken the batter. I think I will compare this recipe with the American Carrot Cake recipe, and see if I can improve on the texture. Other changes I made was to reduce the amount of sugar from 250 g (same amount as flour!) to 220 g. The aroma of chocolate is tantalising yum yum...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cream Cheese Cupcakes

This is one recipe that I would use again and again, especially after several failures with the chiffon cake. Besides, since it is a public holiday today, I had promised some friends that I would bake something for them. Not that I don't enjoy baking for my family, it's just that they could have grown sick of sampling all the bakes.

Back to my "comfort" bake for today. I first baked it in March when I saw the recipe on Peony's blog. The recipe came from a book which I had borrowed before, Tempt by Betty Saw. Several recipes in this collection caught my attention and I went about looking to buy the book. Having borrowed the same book on two occasions, I took that as a confirmation of interest :D

I used the juice and pulp of one passionfruit today, in place of the lemon juice. As I had a pumnet of blueberries in the fridge, I simply washed them and dropped two into each cupcake. I had read about how the juicy blueberries will give off juices during baking and could not wait to see the results. Boy, was I impressed.

I had a slight scare after adding the eggs to the cream cheese mixture. The recipe indicated 2 medium eggs of 60 to 65 g each, and I had used 80% of the recipe. I could not decide as I had eggs of two sizes, 55 to 60 g and 60 to 65 g. So, I estimated 1.5 eggs would be needed, and used one egg of each size, how ingenius right? Anyway, when I saw the mixture curdled, I stopped adding eggs. I didn't want to introduce too much liquid as I was going to add the passionfruit pulp and juices. After adding the flour, I kept stirring it, hoping that the curdling will disappear. I could have overdone the sitrring.

Phew! All's well that ends well, I hope. The cuppies are as soft as the picture above. An absolute winner in terms of taste and versatility. The flavour I baked last time was lemon. Oh yeah, I used cream cheese spread for this as well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

You must be wondering what's the corelation between this picture and the title. Following the success of the Banana Chiffon Cake, I was so elated that I kept trying different flavours. The one flavour that I wanted to try was chocolate. From the near success of the White Mocha Chiffon Cake, I was determined to try a chocolate flavoured one.

Sad to say, I tried baking a chocolate flavoured chiffon cake TWICE, without success :( I followed closely to Rei's recipe, adding only more sugar.

My mistakes? For the first try, I was in too much of a hurry. I rushed home from work and set about weighing the ingredients and beating the yolks then the whites. I did all these before I had dinner. I learnt from this experience, never to rush a chiffon cake. Even though it rose beautifully, it was under-cooked.

For today's experience, I reminded myself not to rush through the process. I took my time and did everything according to how it's suppose to be done. I even checked the oven temperature and timing meticulously. However, I thought I got a whiff of something burnt in the air! Since the cake has risen reasonably high, I decided to lower the temperature a little. I increased baking time by another 5 minutes. I even let the cake cool inverted, in the warm oven, with the door ajar, for another 5 minutes before taking it out to cool, inverted of course. I only unmoulded the cake after more than 1.5 hours. Guess it's not meant to be as it was still under-baked! I will try again, but probably with another flavour. I bought some pandan leaves, perhaps I should try something that I had near success, huh?

Back to the picture, for the 2 attempts outlined earlier, I needed 10 eggs. Lo and behold! One of the eggs yielded 2 egg yolks! Wow! This was my second encounter, my first happened on my birthday. My daughter had her first encounter last night when she ate one hard-boiled egg with 2 yolks. She was tickled too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Bake Cheesecake

This is one good looking cheesecake, definitely one to bring to a party or to delight guests. It is also relatively easy to make. It's been so long since I tried making no-bake cheesecake. Lately, the availablity of passionfruits is so inviting and many bloggers have used this exotic fruit.

The recipe is available at Kitchen Capers, a forum where wonderful recipes reside. The original recipe calls for ginger biscuits to be used as crust. I took the easy way out and used a ready made short crust. Big mistake, as the crust could not hold the cream cheese layer.

I also made a healthy change to the recipe, not so much because I wanted to. I didn't have any sour cream last night, so I used the cup of natural yogurt found in my fridge. I bought some really fragrant mangoes as well and the whole combination worked excellently.

I served it at a family gathering this evening. The ladies gave very good reviews of it, with some asking for the recipe. I felt that this is an easy way to dress up the ordinary marshmellow cake. Simply add a layer of thinly sliced managoes and topped with passionfruit pulp. To make the pulp stay, these could be added to some jelly or gelatine. I will definitely try to perfect this as I really love the end result. Tastes delicious too!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another Pie

I noticed that whenever I'm baking something, eg, bread, chiffon cakes or pies, I'll keep baking the same thing, but either in a different flavour or with another ingredient.

After baking that Chocolate Cherry Pie for E, I automatically selected to bake this pie for K, who will be celebrating her birthday on 19 May. I was delighted to be invited to a surprise birthday party in her honour. Unfortunately, I had to miss the youngster's party due to family commitments. To make up for it, I baked this for her. Well, I do have to keep my online shopping buddy happy so I will still be invited to future shopping sprees... Thanks S for helping to pick this up for her as well.

I have also been toying with a very lazy idea of using ready-made crusts. So, I picked up 2 ready crusts and shamelessly used one for this Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. Sorry K and party that I chose this shortcut :P

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients for Filling
150g Pumpkin
100g Milk
50g Whipping Cream (I used Nestle Pouring Cream)
70g Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Corn Flour
½ tbsp Flour 60g Dark Chocolate, melted*

1. Steam the pumpkin until soft. Set aside to cool and mash it.
2. Mix milk, whipping cream, sugar and egg until well blended. Add in the melted chocolate and mix until well combined.
3. Add in corn flour and flour, blend until even mixed. Sieve the mixture, then mix it with the mashed pumpkin until well incorporated.
4. Pour the filling onto the half baked pastry and bake at 190 deg C for 30 minutes, or until the filling is set. Decorate with shaved white chocolate.

*Melted chocolate can be omitted. Add in ½ tsp of ground cinnamon to make traditional pumkin pie.
Recipe is also from Alex Goh's Temption of Chocolate.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chocolate Cherry Pie

I made this pie for someone who inspired me. She is one passionate lady with a super big heart. Being Italian helps, of course. I was invited to her first talk to launch her book, Stella's Mum Gets Her Groove Back. Yes, she is none other than Elisabetta Fronzoso.

I met her, and her wonderful husband, Leonardo, through a course last year. I was struck by her passionate and approachable nature. In the three-day course, I realised that I had found the "inspiration" that I had been looking for! Perhaps I didn't require any external inspiration and I was capable of inspiring myself! Along with that, I discovered that people around me, ie my children, would benefit from this new found inspiration.

Then I got passionate about baking and I was waiting for an opportunity to bake something for this wonderful couple. I could not think of anything suitable until I saw this recipe in Alex Goh's Temptation of Chocolate...

Chocolate Cherry Pie
Ingredient for fillings
120g Butter
100g Sugar

2 Eggs

40g Flour
80g Ground Hazelnuts (I used ground almonds)
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

Some dark cherries, stoned

1. Prepare a semi-baked 8-inch round sweet pastry.
2. Cream (A) until light then add in (B). Cream until smooth. Lastly add in (C) and mix until well-blended.
3. Place the above filling onto the semi-baked sweet pastry and arrange the dark cherries on top and press it lightly.
4. Bake at 190 deg C for 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Remove it from the pan. Brush it with apricot glaze.

*Pie crust recipe from here

I received an sms from E to say that the pie was delicious. I had enough to make 2 pies and will share the other one this weekend at a party. About the book, I do hope that you will get a copy of it when it hits the bookstores at the end of the month. Should you be interested, please leave a comment as well. E is really an exceptional woman and she is spearheading a very meaningful movement known as Stella's Mum Pay It Forward Projects (website still under construction).

Note: I am not paid to advertise E's book and projects. I am just inspired by her passion and desire to Pay It Forward.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Banana Chiffon Cake

Hmm, I'm so pround of myself! I've finally done it, I can now say that I have successfully baked a chiffon cake! In terms of taste and texture, I am very very happy with this cake. Especially after 2 back-to-back dissatisfactory results.

Bananas are quite tricky, evident from the last 2 cakes, my anniversary banana cake as well as the hummingbird cake. I realised that the variety of bananas used for these cakes (local name is "ang bak jio") were extremely mashy and caused the cakes to be very sticky. While the banana cake was somewhat dense, the hummingbird cake was "sticky". I have to admit that in an attempt to not waste the bananas, I had used one too many.

So, for today, I followed closely to Rei's recipe, but added a little more sugar (5g) as the bananas were not sweet, as well as 1 tsp of banana essence. I used the small bananas (baby petey) from Phillippines, available at Shop n Save. I was a little worried, as the eggs I used this time were extra large. I had wanted to use only 4 egg whites, but decided I should add another. The batter filled a little more than 80% of the tube pan.

From today's experience, I found that my oven's temperature can be quite a challenge. For future baking, especially for chiffon cakes, I will preheat the oven to 200 deg C, bake for 20 mins at 180 deg C and another 25 mins at 160 deg C. I covered the cake with foil after 25 mins and left it covered till the end. I turned the cake over to cool inside the oven for about 20 minutes, while we had dinner.

I am happy that I achieved this result today. See what my kiddos made for me :) Happy Mothers' Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hummingbird Cake

Now I've tried it too but honestly, I'm not impressed. Perhaps the problem lies with my baking skills. I much prefer the taste and texture of my American Carrot Cake. I suppose for those who haven't tried the carrot cake, this cake is fine. I only frosted one loaf, which was given to a very good friend of mine. Hope that the cake tastes more exquisite due to the frosting. I won't know and probably too shy to ask ...

I followed the original recipe quite closely, and for frosting, I used kwf's recipe. For my next try, I may use 100 ml of milk instead of pineapple juice. I believe the milk will give a better bite. I am somewhat dissappointed with the two cakes using bananas, not sure why these two cakes didn't work out.

I may try Aunty Yochana's Steamed Soft Banana Cake as I have another 5 very riped bananas left. Or I could try this recipe again, but cinnamon goes better with carrot, not bananas.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Special Day

I thought about it for the longest time -- what to bake for such a special day? Afterall, it's our 15th wedding anniversary. It's really an ahcievement, when I think of the number 15, it does sound BIG. But the years passed almost like a blink of an eye. Afterall the kiddos are 13 and 10 this year. Boy, I feel so old ...

Back to the bake. After all these baking from November 2007, there wasn't one item that hubs enjoyed as much the Banana Cake. He even asked me to bake one for his colleague a few months back. So, I baked us this cake. However, I must have used too many bananas as the cake turned out to be very densed. Not crumbly as my previous attempts.

We took the day off to chill, his work is so stressful and the hours are long. He easily clocks 60 hours a week. We went to Vivocity for lunch at Sushi Tei. We spent some time walking about Vivocity and made our way home. That was what we did to "celebrate" our 15th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

White Mocha Chiffon Cake

I used the same recipe by Rei to bake this White Mocha Chiffon Cake. I wanted to bake something for my wonderful mom for Mother's Day. So I embarked on this second cake, improvising as I went along. I replaced the orange juice with unsweetened soya milk (that was what I had in the fridge, healthier than fresh milk anyway) and some super duper white mocha powder.

Well, I made the same mistake as Orange Chiffon Cake this morning. The cake collapsed as well, and has a similar cheesecake texture. This one was even more underbaked :( I had to put it into a warm oven for a few minutes *sobbing* However, my boy LOVED it, he said it reminded him of something his kindergarten used to serve them on Mondays. What a sweet boy, he is in P4 this year. My girl likes the cake too, but said that she may not eat it any more if I rebaked it.

I'm glad I used a good quality white mocha powder, although I added another pack of 3-in-1 coffee as well (to enhance the coffee flavour). The result was a tasty cake, not too sweet either. I was so hopefully when I took the pan out of the oven (see the picture on top left), look how tall it was in the begining! Imagine my disappointment when I saw the cake (picture on top right) after I came home from dinner. My heart sank, just like the cake. I went on to unmould it, cut it and taste it. That was when I knew I didn't bake it enough. It was too moist and soft while it was tasty.

Now that Rei had diagnosed my possible "problem areas" I should try again. Next time, I should preheat the my (Sharp) micorwave/convection oven* to 200 deg C, then bake at 200 deg C for 10 minutes then 180 deg C for another 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 160 deg C for another 10 minutes. Her idea of tenting the cake initially is good and I may retain that. After 40 minutes, I would bake at 130 deg C for another 7 to 10 minutes to brown the top. I hope this will work, keeping my fingers crossed.

At this point, I should place a question here for all my shifus: This happened for all 3 recent chiffon cake. The egg yolk mixture became lumpy when flour was added. I tried to add flour in batches, there wasn't any difference. As a result, I tried to press the mixture against the side of the mixing bowl. Not sure if that would cause "overbeating" of flour or egg yolks :S

*I have to rely on an oven thermometre to help me with this. I realised how off the temperature was today!

Orange Chiffon Cake

I was on fire today, I baked TWO chiffon cakes using the same recipe. Thanks Rei for the great recipe. While linking to her post, I read her reply to my comments. From Rei's analysis, she pointed out where I could possibly have gone wrong. Indeed, I suspected as much, I had not baked it enough :( The texture turned up looking like cheesecake... Of course, the cake collapsed as well.

Even though it was underbaked, the cake is still edible and soft. I will have to increase sugar when I next use this recipe as Rei's family does not have sweet tooth. Also, this time I had used some mandarin oranges which I bought from the supermarket. They were sooo sour and I figured the only way to finish them up would be to bake with them. As I was a little conservative with sugar, the result was still not up to mark, in terms of taste. Also, the mandarin oranges were quite soft and getting the zest was quite a challenge. Having my helper zest the oranges was probably a mistake, as there is a bitter aftertaste.

Verdict for this cake, if one were not an expert on cake, one would probably not be able to tell the hosts of mistakes in this bake. Afterall, the cheesecake texture wasn't all that bad. I could also try one of Anna Olson's switch up techinques to glamourise this humble cake :)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Pandan Chiffon Cake II

I am a happy gal, I can now say I have tasted a small success with the Pandan Chiffon Cake compared to my previous attempt. This time, I tried using a recipe posted on KC by Gina.

The recipe calls for mixing blended pandan leaves with milk instead of water. Also, there is one more egg and less flour. Sounds good to me! With this try, I discovered that pandan leaves from the supermarket are bigger than those I bought from the market. Perhaps that explains the fragrance of pandan. I brought some to the office this morning to share but ate 3 pieces at one go. I saved the rest for some friends, and the pandan fragrance permeated the air around my workstation the whole morning. I could hardly concentrate and it being the day after public holiday and with so many people out of office, didn't help, at all.

The cake is tasty and fragrant. I am sure the milk and extra egg helped. I like the idea of it having so little flour as well. The cake is soft as well and even my daughter loves it. She asked me to bake it again, wow!

I had a chat with Rei and she told me that chiffon cakes are addictive. I'm sure they are addictive to eat as well as to bake. I was so motivated, I went to PH at Jurong East and bought a 21-cm tube pan, with removable bottom. I had resisted from buying it for so long. I'm so happy to finally buy it. There was so much residue on the bundt pan* when I unmoulded the cake last night. That was after cooling the cake for at least 1.5 hours. I told myself that I would get a conventional one so I can run a palatte knife along the sides. Gina told me that with a silicon pan, one can press the sides of the pan to remove the cake. How come I didn't think of that?

*I bought the bundt pan from Robinson's at the members' preview sale early this week. It costed less than S$10 and there was an additional 20% discount. That was a real steal and I also bought a 22-cm springform pan as well. I have set my eyes on this cheesecake (from KC).