Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

The week has been mad hectic. Been working till 9+pm this week, was seeing double by the time my day ends. Took a breather today by making some muffins. I noticed how I've been falling back on muffins for my baking fix as they are really simple to make.

These muffins served themselves as my sister and my breakfast this morning. Contrary to most sugary-filled chocolate bakes, these chocolatey muffins are only slightly sweet yet filled with rich chocolatey goodness. The buttermilk contributed to the muffins' moist and tender texture. If you can get away with calling chocolate as breakfast, then these muffins are for you!

Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Makes 12 muffins

84g unsalted butter
113g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use half 70% dark chocolate and half 55% semisweet chocolate)
280g all-purpose flour
133g cup granulated sugar
30g cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
300ml buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190°C. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
2. Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined.
5. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Do not overmix the batter.
6. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
7. Bake for about 20 mins, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 mins before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

Given the current massive influx of strawberries in our local supermarkets, I'm gonna include them in this week's bake. Most american recipes calls for strawberries and cream sandwiched between 2 sweet biscuits, which is not too similar to the local version of a Strawberry Shortcake - sponge cake smeared with generous serving of whipped cream and strawberries. And Tish Boyle's take of this lovely cake happens to what I'm looking for.

This is the biggest baking flop I've ever had. The cream was bleeding itself to death. It was too runny and honestly in my opinion, 720ml (unwhipped, to boot) is a lot of cream to have on a cake. My cake was threatening to collapse any moment with the cream sweating all over the place. I ended up cutting it and storing it as if it was a trifle.

Kinda pissed off as I spent a good amount of time and money on this. Bleah. Tastes good though! It's like the Ugly Betty of all strawberry shortcakes. The strawberries plus moderate amount of zesty orange cream, accompanied by fluffy génoise is awesome.

Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book)


Classic Génoise (baked in a 9" springform pan):
100g cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
6 large eggs
150g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I omitted this)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85 unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Position the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 180°C. Grease the bottom and sides of one 9x3-inch springform pan or two 9x2 round cake pans. Dust the pan(s) with flour and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar by hand. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the mixing bowl. Constantly stir the mixture and heat until the eggs are warm. Transfer to the bowl to the electric mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in lemon zest and vanilla extract.
4. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. Repeat sifting and folding in flour two more times.
5. Transfer about 3/4 cup of the batter into the melted butter. Stir until blended. Return to batter and fold in. Transfer batter to the prepared pan(s).
6. If using 9-inch springform pan, bake for 25 to 30 mins and if using two 9-inch cake pans, bake for 12 to 15 mins, until the tops spring back when lightly touched and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean.
7. Cool the cake(s) in the pan(s) on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
8. Invert cake(s) onto the wire rack and cool completely.

Strawberry Filling:
680g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled (total amt needed)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Strawberry Syrup:
66g granulated sugar
80ml water
165g sliced reserved strawberries (from above)

Whipped Cream Filling and Frosting:
57g confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
720ml heavy cream, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1. Choose 8 of the nicest looking strawberries and reserve them for the top of the cake. Slice the remaining strawberries 1/8" thick. Measure out 165g of the slice stawberries and reserve them for the syrup.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the remaining sliced strawberries with the sugar. Cover the bowl and set the strawberries aside to macerate for 2 hours or until they have released their juices.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat.
4. Place the 165g sliced strawberries in the bowl of a food processor or a blender, add the sugar syrup, and process until smooth. Let the syrup cool completely.
5. In a small saucepan, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cornstarch and 120ml heavy cream until smooth. Place the pan over medium-high heat and, whisking constantly, bring to a boil. Allow to boil for abt 15 secs. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.
6. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the remaining heavy cream with the vanilla extract, orange zest, and Grand Marnier at medium high speed until cream just begins to thicken and the whisk leaves a trail in the cream. Add the cooled cornstarch mixture and beat until the cream forms stiff peaks.
7. Using a long serrated knife, slice the génoise horizontally into 2 layers. Place one of the layers cut side up on a cardboard cake round or serving plate. Brush half of the strawberry syrup. Spoon the macerated strawberries, with all their juices, on top of the layer. Spread 2 cups of whipped cream over the berries in an even layer. Top with the other cake layer, cut side up. Brush the layer with the remaining syrup. Frost the top of the sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.
8. Garnish the top of the cake with reserved whole strawberries. Serve the cake immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Honey Corn Muffins

Other than work, this is what I've been busy with and will be occupied with it till mid Feb - Chingay! Practices are so frequent that I no longer have time to run and bake as much as I wil like to. But nevertheless, I thought this show creates a lot of value for the public, and also for my personal growth.

Was encouraged greatly by many participants, they shared with me the their struggles and how they overcome it. You hear stories on how people's parents are battling cancer yet they show up for the practices. One of the admin uncles was admitted into ICU, fell into coma after getting knocked down by a bus during the course of our training. When he finally woke up from the coma, he showed us the "V" victory sign while on hospital bed, captured on video to encourage all of us Soka Chingay participates. Deeply touched and I'm even more determined to do my human revolution.

Am in an item showcased by Singapore Soka Association supported by the Singapore Zoological Gardens and its 'animalistic' counterparts. That explains the Tarzan-and-Jane costumes we were in. Honestly I think we look more like mutated Tinkerbells than Janes.
As promised, a little Chingay preview.

Our float! *proud*

The finale - lanterns lighting up by the Flyer

these little girls are so cute!!

Me: *waving over zealously to everyone on the streets*
Boyfriend: You're suitable to be in a circus.
Me: Try doing this when you are not covered in face paint and wearing crazy costumes like these.
Boyfriend: *grins*

Woke up in the morning, still feeling the ecstasy from last night's rehearsal. Gotta reunite with my oven for a bit, it must have felt lonely for the past week. Baked some corn muffins for breakfast. Tender crumbed corn muffins with a crusty top, buddying up with the floral goodness of sweet honey, they taste really good served warm!

Honey Corn Muffins (adapted from Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito's Baked Explorations)
Makes 12 muffins

2 large eggs
240ml buttermilk
60ml honey
113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
163g yellow cornmeal
105g all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
55g light brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar (I use 4 tbsp)
1 tsp kosher salt (I use table salt)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly butter or spray each cup of a standard 12 cup muffin pan – and wipe out any excess with a paper towel. You can also line with paper.
2. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, add the buttermilk, honey and butter, and whisk again. Set aside.
3. In a larger bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, brown sugar, sugar and salt.
4. Make a little well in the dry ingredients and then pour the wet into the well, and fold together until just combined. Try not to over-mix.
5. Fill each muffin about 3/4’s full. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out just clean.
6. Place on a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Then pop muffins out while still warm and serve with butter (and honey or fruit).


Oh, if they sit for days (they shouldn’t!) – just toast and spread a little butter or jam on – honey or just plain. Toasting will refresh the flavor.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

Following my little resolution to try to make seasonal bakes, I went on an apple (apple varieties are actually in abundance now if you check out the supermarkets) hunt to bake this cake. Had to locate 4 different kinds of baking apples from various supermarkets. It's kinda nerdy, but I actually enjoyed the process of researching on good baking apples. Was kinda disappointed that I didn't manage to find Honeycrisp and had to replace it with Braeburn, but nevertheless I was thrilled when I completed my set of 4. It also garnered curiosity from friends and boyfriend, "What cake is it? Why do you need so many apples?" So ladies and gentlemen, presenting Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake!

On a side note, I HAVEEE to mention this. The cake was rising in a centre for a fair bit in the oven and I was like, woops, forgotten to encircle a cake strip around the pan and felt a bit deflated for a while. When I took the cake out and inserted a knife to check if it comes out clean, the cake went pffffffffffttt like a balloon, sank down and levelled itself out. WOW.

I ripped this recipe off one of my favorite bakers' book. True enough Ms Greenspan's recipes never fail to impress. It's uber moist and rich, yet refreshing with tarty apple chunks with each bite. The caramel under note of dark rum goes perfectly with apples. You can also eat it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, yumm!
Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table)

105g all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (use 4 different kinds-I used Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady)
2 large eggs
150g sugar
3 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and center a rack in the oven. Butter an 8 inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform pan on it. Set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
3. Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1 to 2 inch chunks.
4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, when it’s incorporated, add half of the melted butter, followed by the remaining flour mixture and butter. Mix in between additions so you have a smooth, thick batter.
5. Fold in the apples with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread with spatula so the batter is somewhat even.
6. Slide the pan in the oven and bake 50-60 mins, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for five minutes.
7. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove from the pan. Cool cake until slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the pan, wait until the cake is completely cooled. Slide a long spatula between the cake and pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving platter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cashew Nut Cookies

I know it's strange but I'm actually not a big fan of Chinese New Year snacks despite having a sweet tooth. Not into bak gwa or any candy as well. But wanted to bake something festive just to feel like I'm part of the celebrations hahah! Am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers #3: My Favorite CNY Cookie (Jan 2011).

Was kinda grinning to myself when I packed the cookies in the jars, as they look similar to those which are commercially sold. These buttery melt-in-your-mouth cookies are packed with rich cashew nut flavor and are delicious. My only qualm is they can be tad sweeter, will add more sugar in the future. 恭喜发财!!

Cashew Nut Cookies (adapted from My Kitchen Snippets)

250g all purpose flour
60g corn flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
210g butter (I use unsalted)
100g powdered sugar (to increase to 120g)
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
200g ground cashew nuts
1 egg (beaten for eggwash)
Extra cashew nuts, cut into halves for decoration

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 °C. Sift all the dry ingredients and set aside.
2. Cream butter with powder sugar until light. Add in egg yolk and vanilla essence. Mix well.
3. Stir in the dry ingredients and ground cashew nuts. Mix well. Chill dough in fridge for 40 min.
4. Shape the dough into small balls (11g for me) or roll it out and cut into desire shapes. Arrange on a lined baking tray. Brush with beaten egg and place half cashew nut on top of cookies and press slightly to flatten it.
5. Bake for 15 mins (16 mins for me) or until it is nicely brown. Cool and keep in airtight container.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oolong Tea Chiffon Cake

The start of 2011 has been mad busy for me. Spent the weekend at my crazy friends' chalet, drawing only 3 to 4 hours of sleep per night and had activities lined up back to back. Am also involved in Chingay practices as well since Chinese New Year is approaching. I'll try to sneak in a few pictures of the awesome floats in my next few posts. On top of that I have to work. But there's this intricate sense of satisfaction and happiness derived from being so busy and tired hehe :)
BBQ again~ Pigging out time :/

See what I mean by my friends are crazy

Did a stock take recently on my baking ingredients, discovered that I have a load of threatening-to-expire goods. Boooo. Bought a pack of tea early last year when I was figuring out how to make bubble milk tea at home, turns out that the Oolong tea bags were a little too light for my fancy, so they were chucked aside, long forgotten at the corner of the cabinet until recent discovery.

Adjusted the recipe to fit a 21cm pan. I've actually tried another Oolong Tea chiffon cake recipe before this one and it didn't turn out too well, so was kinda of discouraged. Fortunately, my chiffon cake didn't fall off the pan this time. The tea-ish taste is kinda lacking, but the cake carries a relatively higher water content than other chiffons that I've made, contributing to a moist yet fluffy texture.
Oolong Tea Chiffon Cake (adapted from Sarah Marx Feldner's A Cook’s Journey to Japan: Fish Tales and Rice Paddies, 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens)

3 (2) tbsp of loose leaf oolong tea, or 4 (3) tea bags), divided
160ml (112ml) water
4 (3) egg yolks
100g (70g) sugar (I use superfine)
65ml (45ml) vegetable oil
1/2 (1/3) tsp salt
140g (99g) cake flour

6 (4) egg whites
Pinch of salt
50g (35g) sugar (I use superfine)

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C with the rack in the middle position.
2. Using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, grind 1 tbsp of the loose leaf tea until fine. Set aside. If you’re using tea bags, skip this step.
3. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea or, if using, the 4 tea bags. Cover and let steep according to packaged instructions, about 5 minutes. Strain if using loose leaf tea. Let cool to room temperature. If necessary, add additional water to measure 160 ml.
4. Whisk together the egg yolks, 100 g of the sugar, oil, salt, ground tea leaves and steeped tea in a large bowl.
5. Add the flour and gently whisk just until smooth. Set aside.
6. Beat the egg whites in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed. When the whites become frothy, add the salt. When the whites begin to increase in volume and lose their opaqueness, gradually add the remaining 50 g sugar. Beat until whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry.
7. Fold ¼ of the whites into the egg yolk-tea mixture to loosen the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites just until fully incorporated, being careful not to deflate.
8. Pour batter into an ungreased 25-cm (I use 21cm) tube pan with removable bottom. Gently run a knife or spatula through the batter to break up any large air pockets – be sure to reach the bottom.
9. Bake for 30-35 (29 for me) minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool upside down – suspended over the neck of a wine bottle works best.
10. Once the cake is completely cooked, remove it from the pan by running a knife around the sides and carefully pushing the bottom out. To release the tube portion from the cake, carefully run a knife between the cake and bottom of the pan.