Friday, 28 August 2015

cafe food at home

I am guilty again for the long absence. I have no new posts as I have not been baking that often. Instead of baking, I find myself getting more interested in cooking.


Unlike baking, I do not always follow recipes to the t when it comes to day-to-day cooking. I tend to replace or substitute ingredients freely and I could get away with eyeballing the amount of ingredients or seasonings I put in the dish. As such, I find it difficult to share cooking recipes especially when I am not a good cook to begin with.



While I may not be able to spell out the cooking instructions, I thought why not share some of the photos of the dishes I prepared. The quality of the images are not great since they are taken with my mobile phone under very poor lighting condition.



I used a free mobile app to jazz up the pictures and they don't look that bad, at least I am not shy to post them ;)



This is an easy meal I prepared for my husband when he was home for lunch...poached egg and mushrooms served on store bought focaccia. I learned this from a cooking show on tv. For the toppings, I stir fried some button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and bunashimeji with some onions, garlics and seasoned it with salt and pepper. The salad dressing is a simple combo of 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, nothing fancy.

The most tricky part of this meal is cooking the poached eggs. This is the first time I have ever poached an egg. The eggs were cooked using a straight forward method...just bring a saucepan of water to a simmer, then create a 'tornado' with a spoon in the water and put in the cracked egg. No salt or vinegar is needed. Although the eggs turned out looking quite ok, at least for a first timer, the water temperature was a bit too high, the water became so cloudy with egg whites floating all over, what a waste!



This is a visually appealing and delicious meal with a good mix of protein, fiber and carbs. Even though it is something so simple, I can't help but to feel proud of myself to be able to put together a cafe style meal like this at home. All I needed was a nice cup of coffee to end the meal.








Monday, 6 July 2015

Chocolate and Chestnuts Cake


This is a fuss free birthday cake I baked for my teenage child. He didn't want to celebrate the occasion at all, but I thought we should all deserve a homemade treat on this special day.



Over the years, I have learned that a birthday cake for any of my family members would always be a chocolate cake. I don't even have to ask. A chocolate cake, in any form, would be well received.

I didn't decorate the cake as my teenager wouldn't care too much. I didn't have to, as the finished cake was sophisticated enough on its own...both in terms of taste and presentation (just my personal opinion). The cake was made with good quality valrhona dark chocolate with 71% cocoa content. It lent the cake a rich and intense bittersweet chocolaty flavour that suit our palates. The top of the cake was brushed with liquor, the recipe recommends brandy, but I experimented with kahlua. The taste was rather mild and no one could detect its presence. I will try with rum when I make this same cake for my baking friend, hope the liquor flavour would be more prominent. The dark and poke marked surface may not look visually appealing to most people, but somehow, I have a weak spot for rustic, crackly looking simple cakes. The photo of the cake caught my eye when I was flipping through the cookbook. I bookmarked the recipe right away, although I must confess my cake was a far cry from the one illustrated in the cookbook.



Another interesting ingredient that makes this cake special is the addition of whole chestnuts. I like the chocolate and chestnut combo since I love roasted chestnuts, especially those freshly roasted chestnuts from mobile roadside stalls(which sadly, can hardly be seen nowadays). My younger child who doesn't fancy chestnuts told me it is better to leave them out ^^! Nevertheless, the dense but velvety texture of the cake made everyone craves for a second, bigger slice. My sensible kids practised 'portion control' though...making sure there was enough leftovers for their breakfast the next day ;)




Chocolate and Chestnuts Cake

Ingredients:
(makes one 18cm cake)

75g dark chocolate
80g unsalted butter
40g cocoa powder
20g cake flour
3 egg whites
40g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
30g caster sugar
35g milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g ready to eat chestnuts, cut into halves

1 tablespoon brandy, for brushing

Method:
  • Line base and side of 18cm pan(with removable base) with parchment paper.
  • Melt dark chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl is able to sit above the water and it should cover the pot so that steam will not get inside the bowl). Remove from heat. Let cool.
  • Sieve cocoa powder and cake flour, set aside.
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric handheld mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture 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. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy. Set aside. (Do not over beat the whites still stiff, it is better to beat the whites still soft peaks for easy folding with the yolk batter.)
  • Place egg yolks and sugar in another mixing bowl. With the electric handheld mixer (Note: it is not necessary to wash the beaters/whisks after beating the egg whites), beat the mixture on low speed until it turns pale and thick.
  • Add in the melted chocolate and butter mixture, milk and vanilla extract, beat on low speed to combine. Sieve over the flour and cocoa powder, mix with a manual balloon whisk until fully incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
  • Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Add in the chestnuts, fold to combine.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven at 160degC for 45~50 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few moist crumb. Do not over bake.
  • Remove cake from oven, brush top with brandy. Unmould, remove the parchment paper and let cool, right side up (do not invert) on wire rack. The cake tastes best when left over night at room temperature. If stored in fridge, bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
Recipe source: adapted from 自然味の手作甜食, by 青山有纪

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

oil-free chocolate banana muffins


This is my second attempt at baking these oil free chocolate banana muffins. In fact, I made them before baking the oil-free chocolate chiffon cake which I posted earlier. The first attempt was not that successful as the texture of the muffins was a little dense with a slight kueh-like texture.



I am not sure whether I had deflated the batter or was it due to the type of cocoa powder I used. I had ran out of Valrhona dutch processed cocoa powder so I used natural cocoa powder.



I tried making these muffins again right after I got hold of the Valrhona cocoa powder. The second batch turns out really well.



Unlike the usual muffin-method or creaming method, the batter is prepared just like making a sponge cake, that is, beating whole eggs with sugar before adding the liquid and flour mixture.



These delicious muffins were soft and moist even though they were made without any oil. As stated in the cookbook, 好吃不发胖低卡甜点, each muffin is 132 kcal compared to 197 kcal for a similar one made with oil. Once again this recipe shows that it is possible to enjoy homemade goodies which are lower in calories without having to compromise on the taste and texture.




Oil-free Chocolate Banana Muffins

Ingredients:
(makes 8)

100g cake flour
30g cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed valrhona cocoa powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
70g caster sugar (I used 60g)
150g banana, mashed
50ml milk (I used low fat fresh milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum

Method:
  • Sieve together cake flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Sieve the flour mixture twice and set it aside.
  • Place eggs and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, whisk the mixture at medium-high speed till it becomes thick, pale and triple in volume. This should take about 5 to 6 mins. The batter should leave a ribbon like trail when the whisk/paddle is lifted. Turn to low speed, and beat for another 1~2 mins. This is to stablise the air bubbles in the batter. 
  • Add in the mashed banana and Fold in with a spatula. 
  • Add in the milk, vanilla extract and rum (do not pour in one spot, instead, gently drizzle over to prevent from deflating the batter). Fold in with a spatula, do not stir.
  • Sieve over the flour mixture in 3 separate additions. Each time Fold in the flour carefully with a spatula, making sure there is no pockets of flour being trapped at the bottom of the bowl. Do not stir the batter with the spatula, it will cause the batter to deflate. 
  • Spoon batter into paper muffin cups to about 90% full.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 180 degC for 15mins or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out almost clean.
Recipe source: adapted from 好吃不发胖低卡甜点 by 茨木くみ子

Saturday, 13 June 2015

oil-free chocolate chiffon cake

怎么可能?!
无添加奶油 &油还是一样好吃?!


This is the subtitle of a cookbook, which means, 'How could that be possible?! It still tastes as good without adding butter or oil?!'



When my baking friend showed me her oil free chocolate banana muffins made following a recipe from this cookbook, 好吃不发胖低卡甜点 (loosely translated as: delicious low-calories desserts), I got really interested.



I bookmarked a few recipes and one of the first few I tried is this Chocolate Chiffon cake. The ingredients list is typical of a basic chiffon cake recipe, the only difference is, there is no oil in the list. There are no other special ingredients other than the usual eggs, sugar, flour and liquid.



Whenever I make a chiffon cake, I would usually prepare the egg yolk batter first using a manual balloon whisk before beating the egg whites with an electric handheld mixer. The instructions for this recipe however differ from my usual method as is it necessary to use the electric mixer to beat the egg yolks. Without having to wash the whisks/beaters of the mixer, the egg whites are first beaten before preparing the yolk batter. Hence, it is important to get ready the necessary ingredients so that the yolk batter can be prepared quickly, otherwise, the beaten egg whites may probably deflate if left aside for too long.

Other than the sequence, the rest is quite straight forward. Yet, I made a hiccup while preparing the egg whites. I over beat the whites, just slightly, but it still affected the finished product! What a major no no, and really unforgivable for someone who bakes chiffon cakes so regularly. I learned not to take things too easy or for granted, even if I am very familiar with the process.



Since I over beat the egg whites, I deflated the batter while folding the whites to the yolk batter. The finished batter was still thick but it could only fill up the pan to just 3/4 full. The cake didn't turn out as tall but fortunately, the texture was not really affected. Even without the use of any oil, the cake was still moist, soft and fluffy. If someone were to give me this cake to try, I would never be able to detect that it was made without oil. The only tell tale sign is that there wasn't any oil stain on the doily paper which I used to line the cake. Another thing I noticed is, the cake was a little more difficult to unmold, or is it just me?



The book states that 1/8 of this 17cm cake has got 113 kcal compared to 180 kcal for a similar chocolate chiffon made with oil, lower calories without compromising on the taste and texture. I used valrhona cocoa powder which lends the cake a richer and intense cocoa flavour. The cocoa powder also gives the cake a deep mahogany color. The pictures I took show a lighter shade as I had to adjust the brightness and contrast as the original images were too dark. I also took the liberty to add in some rum besides the pure vanilla extract. This recipe is a keeper and it will be my go-to chocolate chiffon cake from now on.



Oil free Chocolate Chiffon Cake (无油巧克力戚风蛋糕)

Ingredients:
(makes one 17cm cake)

4 egg whites (I used eggs with 55g net weight)
45g caster sugar

4 egg yolks (I used eggs with 55g net weight)
25g caster sugar
60ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
55g cake flour
20g cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed valrhona cocoa powder)


Method:
  • Sieve flour and cocoa powder, set aside. 
  • Get ready all other ingredients.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degC.
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric handheld mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture 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. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy. Set aside. (Do not over beat the whites still stiff, it is better to beat the whites still soft peaks for easy folding with the yolk batter.)
  • Place egg yolks and sugar in another mixing bowl. With the electric handheld mixer (Note: it is not necessary to wash the beaters/whisks after beating the egg whites), beat the mixture on low speed until it turns pale and thick. Add in milk, vanilla extract and rum (if using), beat on low speed to combine. Sieve over the flour and cocoa powder, beat on low speed till the flour is fully incorporated. (Note: prepare all ingredients in advance to allow this step to be done fairly quickly so that the beaten egg whites will not be left aside for too long.)
  • Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Pour batter into a 17cm chiffon tube pan(do not grease the pan). Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  • Place chiffon pan in middle rack of oven. Bake at 180 degC for 30 mins. Remove from oven and invert the pan immediately, let cool completely before unmould. To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Release the cake and run the knife along the base of the pan to remove the cake.
Recipe source: adapted from 好吃不发胖低卡甜点 by 茨木くみ子

Friday, 5 June 2015

Pork Floss and Sesame Seeds Cookies


I am on a baking spree since the beginning of the June school holidays, making cakes and cookies for my children to enjoy as they are spending more time at home.



This pork floss with seaweed and sesame cookies recipe is a breeze to prepare. The cookie dough is made using rubbing in method, there is no creaming or beating of butter required. The dough is easy to work with as it is not too soft nor sticky.



These savoury cookies turn out really well...light, crisp that taste buttery and very fragrant. It is a nice change to the usual chocolate chip butter cookies and are great as snacks to be enjoyed at anytime of the day.



Pork Floss and Sesame Seeds Cookies

Ingredients:
(makes about 35 cookies)

260g plain flour
25g icing sugar
120g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons pork floss with seaweed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Method:
  • Sieve flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. 
  • With a fork (or use fingertips), cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. 
  • Add in pork floss, sesame seeds and salt. Mix with hand to combine.
  • Make a well in the centre and add in the lightly beaten egg. Mix and gather the mixture to form a shaggy mass. Give it a few light kneading so that it comes together to form a smooth dough.
  • Flatten the dough to form a disk. Wrap in cling wrap or a place it in a plastic bag and leave to chill in the fridge for about 30 mins. (If the dough is left in the fridge for too long, it will harden, if this happens, leave it in room temperature for a few mins until it is soft enough to roll out.)
  • When ready, roll out dough to about 5m thick between 2 sheets of cut-out plastic bags (or use two sheets of parchment paper). 
  • Cut out cookie dough with cookie cutter and transfer to baking trays lined with parchment paper. Leave a space of about 1" in between each cookie dough. Gather up the scrape and re-roll to make more cookies.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 180 degC for about 20-25 mins until the cookies turn light golden brown. 
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and leave on the baking trays for 2 ~ 3mins (to allow the cookies to firm up a little) before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.
Recipe source: adapted from Little Bear's Kitchen