Tuesday, September 29, 2009

good things come in small packages

These things are addictive...

It's easy to think that you're not snacking since it's so small...but then before you know it, you've easily finished three pieces!

The first time I saw these mini pancakes on bakerella, I marvelled. What ingenuity! She's always coming up with mini cake ideas and this is a winner yet again. Who would've known something so simple could be so good.

Not only is it easy or quick to make (under 30 mins!), it's fingerlicking delicious! With or without maple syrup :)

I made these last night to warm up after a week of not baking. My friends and I went to sydney and gold coast for our midterm break. Sad to say, I didn't get to try the famed pancakes on the rocks in sydney. Even so, I thought baking this quite made up for the fun :D

Mini Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins
(Puffins for short!)
adapted from here
(makes 24 mini puffins)

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tbsp maple syrup, extra for sauce
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Sift.
  • In another bowl, stir buttermilk, egg, maple syrup and melted butter until just combined.
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • Bake for 8-10 mins

Thursday, September 17, 2009

in pursuit of the perfect sponge...

Baking does have its ups and downs. I'm not a genius at it so I do have a whole list of things I still can't bake properly. Like scones. Or bread. Or sponge cakes...That's why I named the blog 'in pursuit of baking'. I love to bake but I'm also very new at it. There is still a lot for me to learn, and I'm not there yet. Your thoughts, tips and pointers are greatly appreciated! And if you've tried the recipes, do let me know how it turns out and how it can be improved :)

Although sponge cakes may look simple, they're one of the hardest things to make. My journey in baking sponges has been filled with more troughs than peaks. The first two times I made them, they're dense as rocks (such an irony! lol). The third time, they're more fluffy. This time, even though it's soft and rollable, I'd like it "spongier" :D 

The reason why sponges are hard to make is because it does not use any raising agent such as baking powder or baking soda. It depends entirely on beaten eggs! I read up a few articles here and there and all pointed to the same secret ingredient: Air. You have to beat enough air into the eggs and sugar, and keep the air when folding in the flour. If only manuals can magically empower me with the ability to look out for and create the consistency! I guess practice and practice makes better. But so far, I've found these tips very helpful:

Start with eggs in room temperature (they will rise more easily)

Beat the eggs and sugar at HIGH for 6-8 minutes, then continue beating on LOW for 2 or more minutes. 
(I first found this tip in happyhomebaking and it made all the difference between the 2nd and 3rd sponge cake; when a sponge cake recipe requires tripling in volume, around 8 mins of mixing is needed! And this is electric mixer duration. The second stage of mixing is to get rid of the large air bubbles. The end result should be a smooth, thick, white batter which forms ribbons on the surface when you lift up the beater; Happyhomebaker also has a video on it).

Triple-sift the flour and fold it in with a metal spoon (to keep more air in)

Completely cool the butter (or it'll make the cake more pancake

When folding in the butter: either i) mix a little of the cake mixture to it first before combining everything or ii) pour it down the sides

Beat the eggs and sugar on simmering water for the first few minutes.
There are probably more but I haven't come across them yet. 

Having some cream cheese mousse left over from Saturday's baking, I decided to try my luck at making a swiss roll...I found the recipe on Martha Stewart's website and her video clip shed light on how to roll a sponge. I didn't know there was such a technique! Even if you're not baking, it's worth checking out!

Overall, I'm pretty happy about how my first swiss roll turn out and I had fun rolling it :D I'll just have to work on how to make it "spongier" and more airy next time :)

Martha Stewart's Jelly Roll
adapted from here 
(serves 8 to 10)

(For Cake)
2/3 cup of all purpose flour (sifted)
Pinch of salt
3 large whole eggs + 2 egg yolk
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Matcha powder for dusting (if whipped cream/jam filling, use confectioner's sugar) 

(For Filling)
Green tea cream cheese mousse
Or just whipped cream and strawberry/raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 220C and line baking sheet on a baking tray. 
2. Whisk in the flour and salt together in a bowl.
3. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over (not in) simmering water, whisk eggs, yolks, and granulated sugar until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch. 
4. Take out and beat on high speed for 6-8 minutes until mixture is pale and thick. 
5. Turn speed to low and beat about 2 minutes more.  
6. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture; using a large rubber spatula, carefully fold. When almost incorporated, pour melted butter down side of bowl; gently fold to combine.
7. Bake: Using an offset spatula, spread batter evenly into prepared sheet. Bake cake until golden brown and springy to the touch, 6 to 7 minutes.

1. Meanwhile, dust a clean kitchen towel with matcha powder. 
2. After the cake is done, run a knife around sides of cake and invert onto the prepared towel, and remove baking paper.
3. While the sheet cake is still warm, gently roll starting from one short side, into a log, incorporating the kitchen towel. 
4. Let the cake cool completely, rolled. (This will give the cake a "shape memory", so it will be easier to roll again with filling.)
5. Unroll cake. Spread with filling, leaving a 1cm border on all sides. 
6. Roll cake to enclose filling (without towel), starting with a short end. 
7. Wrap the towel around rolled cake, securing with clips or clothespins to help retain the shape.
8. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours). Dust with matcha powder, cut into slices with a serrated knife, and serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

135 little pieces

Sunday was my first turn at hospitality in church and I had to prepare food for 120-something people. Even if I could buy ready-made food, I thought I'd challenge myself and see whether I could bake for a crowd.

After considering a few alternatives, I settled with profiteroles. I've made 30 of them for cell group before, and they turned out good. I thought I'd double the recipe and make it twice. 

It was harder than expected. The main challenge for profiteroles is the way you spoon them onto the baking tray. It cannot be placed flat. It must be spun. It must be spun up. Why? Otherwise they won't rise. I haven't mastered it completely but thankfully out of 140ish, only 8 of them were flat. This and the fact that my oven can only fit one tray at a time took up most of the hours. Still, I enjoyed baking 135 pieces a lot! I also found a few new fillings that are good for keepers along the way :) Here are the recipes... 

(makes about 3 dozen 4cm puffs)

I. Basic Choux Pastry
Adapted from "Singapore Heritage Food" by Sylvia Tan 
1 cup water
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour (sieved)
4 large (600g) eggs

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Put water, salt, sugar and butter into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. When boiling, turn of the heat and immediately put in all the flour
4. Stir with a wooden spoon until flour forms into a ball and leave the sides of the pot. Cool.
5. After cooled, place dough in a mixing bowl.
6. Using an electric beater, running at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, blending well.
7. Mixture should look smooth and glossy at the end 
8. Using two teaspoons, spoon out balls onto tray (spoon it as close as possible, don't spread out but spread/spin it up).
9. Bake until golden brown, 20-30 mins (I like mine more golden and crispy, so it's around 25 mins). 
10. Remove from oven, cool.
11. Make a slit and fill in with your choice of filling.

Choux pastry is the basic profiterole. But then again, a profiterole is not a profiterole without its filling. Traditionally, it's filled with cream or custard. I like something different, something fruity or cheesy :) Thanks to a friend's suggestion of using jam, this first filling was born...

II. Filling

a. Raspberry Whipped Cream
300 ml thickened/whipping cream
2.5 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g raspberry jam (you can use strawberry or blueberry, but I think the sourness of raspberry balances the sweetness of the cream very well :)). 

1. In a medium bowl, add sugar and vanilla extract to the thickened cream.
2. Whip until soft peaks form (the best whipped cream is when you whip it until soft peaks that are just under stiff peaks; don't be afraid to continuously check the consistency. if you fail, try and try again; this requires experience/trial and error).
3. Fold 200g raspberry jam into the whipped cream. 

The last time I made a cream cheese filling I was so daring that I entirely used my feeling. Some commented it was too heavy though...Thankfully, I have found a cream cheese mousse recipe here which works very nicely. I added a twist to it :D 

b. Green Tea Cream Cheese Mousse
250g cream cheese, room temperature
60g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g heavy cream, by weight
3 tbsp matcha powder 

1. Whip cream until soft peaks.
2. In another medium bowl, add sugar, salt, vanilla extract and matcha powder into the cream cheese.
3 Whisk until well combined.
4. Fold in whipped cream

The third filling's something fun that I came across while browsing the other day.  

c. Black sesame Ice Cream  
You dont' need an ice cream machine though. How? Click here.

III. Extras
Just for extra taste and decorations, melt 200g of dark chocolate and dip each profiterole.
Other alternatives: milk/white chocolate, caramel

Oriental flavours

Love black sesame/green tea/red bean ice cream, but can't find one where you're living? I know how you feel. It sure is difficult to find a good black sesame or matcha ice cream here in Melbourne. There used to be one in Crown Hotel's food court. Unfortunately, the Japanese stall was renovated and it scrapped its ice cream section when it reopened...

If you're stuck in a place which doesn't sell those ice cream flavours in abundance or up to standards, don't fret! Just make one yourself.

Good news is...

you DON'T need an ice cream machine
you DON'T need to beat the custard
you DON'T even need to make the custard

Too good to be true? Not at all, there is a shortcut (i.e. cheat :D) 

Green Tea Ice Cream
This is the ice cream search which brought it all to light. I was browsing a food blog the other day and stumbled upon THE green tea ice cream recipe here. Ingenious! I adapted it to the black sesame ice cream below.

Black Sesame Ice Cream
1/2 liter Vanilla ice cream (you don't need to get a superb one. any cheap vanilla ice cream will do coz you don't want that strong vanilla taste ;))
3 tbsp black sesame powder 

1. Slightly melt the vanilla ice cream (20-30 mins; if your're in a tropical place probably less)
2. Add the black sesame powder
3. Mix them thoroughly
4. Refreeze 

Ogura Ice Cream
As of this entry, I haven't actually tried this. But I think it might work. Get canned red bean from your asian grocery. Start with the 1/2 liter vanilla ice cream first and add 2-3 tablespoons. Adjust it to your taste. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2 ways with Red Velvet~

Don't be alarmed... It's not blood...It's not red paint either...
It's a batter for Red Velvet Cupcakes!

I've only recently discovered that such a cake exists. Red is such an unnatural colour to see in a cake. Something like blue ice cream. I didn't want to make it at first because I'm not very keen with food colouring...but something about that red colour drew me...Especially with white cream cheese frosting...yum...it's so much like an Indonesian flag...

What exactly is a red velvet cake? After reading up a few entries, I found that this cake came from the Southern part of the United States. The cake, without the colouring, is actually chocolate cake. But some recipes omit the cocoa. In the end, I decided to try out Martha Stewart's recipe adapted here and added 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. If you like a stronger chocolate taste, I suggest add 3 or 4.  

Here are the results...

So now, what next? What are the two ways with red velvet cupcakes?
Way #1
Leave them as cupcakes.

I wish I have a piping bag so the frosting would be neater..but still I think they look pretty nice. Minimalist :D The red sprinkles are actually the crumbs of the cupcake itself. If you want to see what the inside is like, here...
Way #2
Now, the 2nd way is MUCH MUCH more interesting. Make red velvet chocolate balls! It's all thanks to Bakerella for the idea.
You will need:
1. 8 red velvet cupcakes
2. 1/2 cup cream cheese frosting (if you don't have a very sweet tooth, I suggest use 1/3 cup of frosting or just cream cheese)
3. 200g chocolate (cooking dark or milk, those with not too much sugar; personally and after some of my friends' suggestions, dark choc works better)
4. Some white chocolate (optional, for decorations)
And you will have to:
1. Crumble the cupcakes into a large bowl
2. Add 1/2 cup of the cream cheese frosting and mix
3. Roll mixture into quarter siz balls and place on baking tray
4. Chill for several hours (or if you're in a hurry, freeze for 15 mins).
5. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.
6. Using a spoon, roll balls in the melted chocolate and lay on aluminium foil/baking sheet
7. Melt white chocolate the same way
8. As soon as melted, quickly use a small teaspoon and flick it over the coated cake balls. Decorate as desired.

9. Leave to cool for a few hours or overnight until hardened. (for those of you in summer or a hot country, if leaving out doesn't harden the chocolate, place them in the fridge).

Here they are...

Great for snacks or potluck desserts :)....

Snacks to go...or...

Gifts for your friends and loved ones :)
Wouldn't they be perfect for Valentine's Day?

Monday, September 7, 2009

one secret ingredient to fluffy pancakes is...

yep. it's buttermilk.

Ever wanted to make pancakes as fluffy as the stores but at the comfort of your own home? or those with a certain zing to the taste? well buttermilk's the answer. R and I finally get to cook a real breakfast in weeks and I stumbled upon this recipe from a magazine I bought AGES ago.. like in 2005..lol.

The article saved the day. Firstly, I could use the leftover buttermilk from the red velvet recipe(post to come!) and secondly, breakfast was delicious! So buttermilk, which is originally the leftover milky liquid from churning cream to butter, works wonders for baking pancakes, scones or cakes.

Its benefits are three-fold. When mixed with baking soda, it produces more carbon dioxide gas so the batter rises higher. Plus, its acidity breaks down tough gluten in flour (so that the goods are soft, rich, creamy) and the sourness adds a pleasing, subtle tang. It's that good that this recipe does not even require sugar! Perfect for careful eaters like me:)

Buttermilk Pancakes
(makes 12-14 10cm pancakes; serves 2-3)
adapted from "Fine Cooking: Winter 2005

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1 large egg
1 tbsp canola/safflower oil
1 cup buttermilk
Pure maple syrup or fruit jam

1. In medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt until well blended
2. Add the egg, oil, buttermilk and whisk only until no dry flour is visible (the batter should be lumpy)
3. Heat a griddle over medium heat until a spinkle of water sizzles gently across the surface
4. Lightly oil the surface and drop the batter by generous tablespoons about 5cm apart onto the griddle
5. Cook each pancake until the bottom is golden brown, tiny bubbles appear around the edges, and the edges look dry. (tiny bubbles is important! shows that pancakes will rise, which is also another element to the flufiness)
6. Flip and cook until center rises and is firm when poked

and voila!

Breakfast is served :) Drizzle with maple syrup and/or add fruit jam~

Courtesy of a friend who experimented, pancakes made using the normal recipe (whole-milk and melted butter) can also be fluffy. Buttermilk is just one way. If you like your pancakes fresh and tangy, use the recipe. But be warned, not everyone likes the subtle sourness. It goes well if you want to mix fruits in the batter. For pancakes with chocolate, you probably should stick to a whole-milk pancake recipe.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Today was my sister R's birthday.

People usually surprise the birthday girl/guy with a cake they never expected. I, on the other hand, asked her what she wanted. Weird u can say, but hey it is her day and I want it to be something she likes. That's where Tiramisu comes in.

My surprise though is in the decoration and the giving. For the cake, I went back to Happy Home Baker's recipe here. This is the second time I tried it and it didnt disappoint :) It really is a foolproof recipe! it's quick, it's simple but it yields fantastic results! for all you first time or novice bakers like me, this is one of those few cakes with minimum techniques/experience but maximum WOW :D hehehe...

For decorations, I replaced the sponge fingers w/ hazelnut spiral wafer biscuits. I also added melted chocolate between the middle cream layer for extra taste. I think the cake's a great basic to try out any decoration ideas you have. You can add strawberries in between the layers or try and make chocolate shards for the sides. Maybe even bake profiteroles and stack them around the top. I'll try that next time.

Anyways, I came up with a story of having to meet someone for breakfast to take the cake early without her noticing and we managed to successfully surprised her with it after the church service :)


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