Sunday, 18 January 2015

an easy crowd pleaser

I made these easy muffins for my younger child's school outing yesterday. He was supposed to bring sandwiches but we would need to be out the whole morning, I thought it was not a good idea to let sandwiches go without refrigeration for hours especially in hot weather. Upon checking with the organisers, he told me it would be ok to bring muffins instead.

I would love to bake a batch of our favourite blueberry muffins but I decided to opt for a guaranteed crowd pleaser...chocolate-chocolate chips muffins :)

Most chocolate flavoured muffin recipes which I have came across seem to use quite a substantial amount of sugar and fat. I believe they would yield really moist and rich chocolate crumbs, but I prefer something lighter and yet taste as moist and chocolatey. I played around with my usual 'go-to' muffin recipe, substituting a few tablespoons of the flour with cocoa powder and used an extra tablespoon of sugar so that the muffins wouldn't turn out too bitter-sweet.

The result was indeed very satisfactory. The muffins turn out moist and tender despite using less sugar and oil. I guess the yoghurt really works wonders as a great substitute for butter and oil in baking muffins and cakes. The sweetness was just right for us and I love the chocolatey flavour which was further enhanced by the chocolate chips. Just like any easy muffin recipes, these muffins took me no time to prepare. The most important thing was, I didn't have to worry about my boy returning home with a box of leftovers ;)  

Double Chocolate Chips Muffins


(makes 15 small muffins)

240g plain yoghurt (I used low fat yoghurt)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons canola or corn oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
230g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
120g* caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g~60g mini chocolate chips

*note: use extra 1~2 tablespoons more sugar if you prefer it to be sweeter

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, lightly beaten egg, oil, vanilla extract until just combined.
  • Sieve flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda into another mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt and whisk to combine.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined. Do Not over mix. (Note: stop stirring once the flour incorporates into the batter, but do check that there is no pockets of flour at the bottom of the bowl). 
  • Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Do Not over mix the batter. The finished batter should appear thick and lumpy.
  • Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, fill it to about 3/4 full.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 190degC for about 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs or almost clean (do not over bake). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Orange and peach yoghurt cake

Here's sharing with you an easy to prepare, moist and delicious orange flavoured yoghurt cake which I made using my Bosch Maxomixx hand blender set. This simple cake is made with basic baking ingredients that are readily available and it takes no time to whip up.

I topped the cake with peach slices which makes the cake a delightful and refreshing treat that pairs well with a hot cup of tea especially on a cold, gloomy afternoon.

Its sunny disposition brightens up my morning and it is pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate...

the golden crumbs tastes tangy and sweet while the scent of the orange makes one feels joyful...what a great way to kick start the day.

The batter is prepared using the creaming method, that is, beating butter with sugar to incorporate air into the batter. The batter will turn pale, increase in volume and become light and fluffy. I usually leave the butter to soften in room temperature (which is around 28-30 degC) for 15 to 20mins. During this time, I will gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients. The butter should be firm and easily leaves an imprint when you press a finger into it. It is important not to leave the butter out for too long especially if the weather is hot, if the butter appears greasy or becomes too soft, it will not be able to hold too much air or give as much volume when creamed with sugar. As a result, the cake may not rise that well during baking.

The next step is whisking in the eggs. Patience is key. Add the eggs in several portions and whisk well each time it is added. Adding eggs too much at a time will cause the batter to curdle. Using room temperature eggs will also help to prevent curdling. If the batter starts to curdle, add some flour to the mixture to stop it from curdling. Do not try to continue to whisk a curdled batter as it will make worst.

Due to the 'runny' consistency of beaten eggs, I tend to pour too much eggs into the batter. However, with a hand held whisk, I can prevent curdling as I could easily manoeuvre the whisk over the batter so as to incorporate the eggs a little at a time. The balloon whisk attachment of the Bosch hand blender works like a charm. If the butter is still too cold or too firm, I could use the turbo button or pulse function to beat the mixture as it provides more power. The balloon whisk is also much easier to clean as compared to the paddles of my handheld electric mixer.

The final steps involved whisking in some orange juice and zest, followed by flour and yoghurt. I added the flour alternate with the yoghurt to prevent curdling and also for easier mixing.

The finished batter could fill up slightly more than half the height of my 7 inch round pan.

The cake rose beautifully and the crust baked to a nice golden hue.

The texture of this zesty cake is tender and moist, smells good and is full of orange flavour. Everyone in my family loves it. It is going to be another great add-on to my baking repertoire, something which I will turn to whenever I feel like baking on a whim :)

Orange and Peach Yoghurt Cake

(makes one 7" cake)

150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes (leave to soften at room temperature for about 15~20mins)
120g caster sugar
2 medium sized eggs, lightly beaten (about 100g without shell)
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
200g cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
120g plain yoghurt
some canned peach slices

  • Grease the sides of a 7" round pan with some butter, dust with flour. Line the base with parchment paper, set aside.
  • Cut canned peaches into 8 slices. Rinse, drain and pat dry with paper towel, set aside.
  • Sift cake flour and baking powder together, set aside.
  • Place butter in a mixing bowl. Using the Bosch MaxoMixx hand blender with the whisk attachment, whisk the butter using speed 8 for about 1 minute. Add in the caster sugar, whisk until the batter becomes pale, creamy and fluffy (takes about 2 mins). Stop in between to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Add in the beaten eggs in a few separate additions, whisk well each time the eggs is added.
  • Add in the orange juice and orange zest, whisk to combine.
  • Sift in half of the cake flour/baking powder mixture. With a spatula, stir until the flour mixture is incorporated into the batter.
  • Add in the yoghurt, stir with spatula until just incorporated.
  • Sift in the rest of the flour mixture, stir until flour mixture is just incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix. Scrape down the sides and the base of the mixing bowl to make sure there is no residual flour mixture.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan. Spread and smoothen the top with the spatula. Arrange peach slices on top. 
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180deg for 50-55 mins till the top turns golden brown or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove cake from oven, let cool slightly for about 10mins. Run a knife along the sides of the pan (use oven mitten as the pan will still be hot). Invert the pan onto a plate or baking tray. Remove the pan and the parchment paper on the base of the cake. Place cake right side up on a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar before serving, optional. The cake can be stored in room temperature for a day, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge, let the cake returns to room temperature before serving.

Friday, 28 November 2014

just one bowl

I serve this simple rice bowl dish whenever my children are home for lunch especially during the school holidays. It is something that can be put together in a jiffy as my mornings tend to be shorter during this time of the year. We have the luxury to sleep in, unlike during the school terms we do not have to start our day at the crack of dawn.

My children are not fussy when it comes to home-cooked food...they will finish whatever I prepare for them. They like their greens, can take spicy food and have no issues with brown or multi grain rice. It is a different story when it comes to eating out though. When they are given options, they can make things difficult.

The stir-fried pork slices was marinated with ready-made sauce (I used CJ Bibigo Korean bbq marinate and cooking sauces) which makes cooking convenient and quick. While my children like the sweet and savory flavour, I prefer to use a combination of two sauces, its original and hot and spicy sauce for that extra kick. The sauce doesn't make the dish too salty and certainly lends it a better flavour, something which I am (a lousy cook) not able to replicate by using soya sauce, salt or sugar.

From the photo, somehow, the broccoli looks raw, but the florets were actually blanched till fork tender. The open secret to make blanched vegetables stay green is to add some salt to the water that is used to boil the vegetables.

I liked to serve this dish with Gim (laver dried seaweed) a type of crispy, roasted Korean seaweed that goes really well with rice. It is also a great dinner option on days when we would rather have a lighter evening meal, or occasionally when I only have to set the table for two...which I believe will become the norm in time to come...

Monday, 24 November 2014

fuss free comforting soup

As the weather gets cooler during this rainy season, my thoughts turn to warming stews, porridge and soups. With my kitchen helper the Bosch MaxoMixx hand blender set, I am now able to make thick, creamy soup with great ease.

I have been making this fuss free Pumpkin soup ever since I store the handy MaxoMixx hand blender in my kitchen drawer, alongside with my daily cooking utensils. This handheld device is indeed so much easier to clean, store and retrieve than a stand blender. Besides blending soup, it is very convenient for making smoothies as I can use it to purée fruits right inside the serving cup.

This pumpkin recipe calls for just a few basic ingredients which is readily available at the local supermarkets. The soup is quick and easy to put together with just a few simple steps. To reduce the cooking time, I cut the pumpkin into thin slices instead of cooking them in chunks. The most difficult part of preparing this soup is 'peeling' or removing the skin of the pumpkin (^^!)

It takes only about a couple of minutes to cook the onions and not more than 5 minutes to cook the pumpkin till soft...

and under a minute to purée the mixture till smooth...

Fresh milk is added to lend it a nice creamy flavour and it is a healthier option than to use thickened cream or double cream.

The soup is ready when it starts to simmer and comes to a full boil. Season with a pinch of salt and some pepper and it is all ready to be served.

This warm and comforting pumpkin soup is really delicious. The soup is thick and yet doesn't taste rich or greasy. Nothing beats a bowl of hearty homemade soup that is pleasing to the palate and enjoyed by both young and old in the family.

Easy Pumpkin Soup

(serves 2)

600g pumpkin
25g yellow onions, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh milk
pinch of salt

  • Peel and deseed pumpkin, cut into thin slices.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan. Cook the chopped onions on low heat for about 1 to 2 mins, until soft. 
  • Add the sliced pumpkins and give it a few quick stir. Add in the water and bring to a boil. Leave to simmer for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally until the pumpkin turns soft.
  • Turn off the heat. Using the Bosch MaxoMixx hand blender, purée the pumpkin using speed 4 until the mixture becomes well blended. 
  • Turn to medium-low heat and add in the milk, stir to combine. Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Serve with croutons or pumpkin seeds or crusty bread.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Apricot Soufflé Cheesecake

Whenever I start harboring thoughts of giving up blogging altogether, all I needed to do was to try something new(to me) it a new ingredient, a new baking method or a new recipe.

I happened to come across this Apricot Soufflé Cheesecake recipe from a cookbook which I borrowed from the library(the second time) and somehow it caught my attention this time...I have no memories of it when I first borrowed the same book a couple of years back (^^")

There is nothing new in this recipe...there is no new ingredients since I have already tried baking with apricots. There is no new baking method involved as the preparation is similar to baking a chiffon cake. The only new things I could think of is the combination of apricots with cheesecake, and baking cheesecakes in ramekins.

The cheesecake rose beautifully, well above the rims of the ramekins while they were in the oven. They started sinking as I left them to cool. I wonder, if I had given each of them a bang on the table when they were right out of the oven, would it help to prevent them from sinking that much?

It is stated in the cookbook that this dessert is best served before the cake starts shrinking and sinking, which means it is best served warm or almost immediately when it comes out of the oven, just like a soufflé. I didn't have the chance to sample the cake while they were still all puffed up. By the time I was done taking pictures, the cakes were well sunken. Nevertheless, the texture was still soft, fluffy and moist. I offered one to my younger child and he ate it in silence. We were not on speaking terms that day as he felt that it was unreasonable of me to scold him for not taking care of his things ;( Anyway, he devoured the cake in no time and I noticed him licking up the crumbs from the ramekin. Under normal circumstances, he would have asked for a second helping. I broke the silence and offered him another serving. He gladly took it and enjoyed the very last crumb, still in silence.

I kept the leftovers in the fridge for my elder child. When left to chill over night, the texture became rather dense, tasted rich and quite similar to a new york style cheese cake. I personally prefer the lighter version but my younger child liked both.

If you are keen to give this a try, I would suggest to use fresh apricots instead of canned ones. The canned apricots I bought was a tad too sour for my liking. I think to replace the apricots with peach slices or even strawberries would be a delightful variation as well.

Apricot Soufflé Cheesecake

(makes 8)

250g cream cheese,  cut into cubes, room temperature
30g caster sugar
30g butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract (optional)
45g cake flour
100ml milk

2 egg whites
50g caster sugar

8 apricot halves, canned or fresh
some extra butter for greasing
some icing sugar for dusting

  • Preheat oven to 170 degC.
  • Grease 8 ramekins with some butter, set aside (size of ramekin: diameter 9cm, height 5cm).
  • Sieve cake flour, set aside.
  • Wash canned apricots halves (to remove the syrup), drain and set aside. If using fresh apricots, use a knife to cut around the fruit, break into halves and remove the pit. Wash, drain and set aside. 
  • With an electric whisk or stand mixer, beat cream cheese in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add in the caster sugar and beat till smooth, stop to scrape down sides of bowl when needed. Add in the butter, beat till smooth.
  • Add in the egg yolks gradually and beat till incorporated. Beat in the vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, if using.
  • Add half the amount of flour, beat till incorporated. Add half the amount of milk, beat till incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour followed by the remaining milk. (Note: when beating in the milk, the batter may form small lumps initially, continue to beat and the lumps will dissolve. Alternatively, add in the milk gradually as you beat to avoid lumps from forming.)
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric whisk on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to medium-high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture in separate additions and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage.The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. Turn to low speed and beat for another 1 to 2 mins (this helps to stabilise the air bubbles).
  • Add the beaten egg whites to the cream cheese mixture in 2 separate additions, each time fold with a rubber spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Pour batter into the prepared ramekins till 80% full. Place ramekins in a baking tray.
  • Place on middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 mins. (Note: the top may start to crack, but it is perfectly alright.)
  • Remove ramekins from oven and top each ramekin with an apricot halve. Return ramekins into oven and continue to bake for another 15 to 20mins until golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and leave to cool slightly. Dust with icing sugar, optional. For light fluffy texture, serve immediately. Alternatively, for a dense cheesecake texture, leave to cool completely and chill in the fridge for about 2 to 3 hours, best overnight, before serving.
Recipe source: adapted from 起司蛋糕,信太康代