Tuesday, May 31, 2011

lemon blueberry cupcakes.


Oh yum. This is probably the best lemon cupcake I've ever had.

It's Dorie's recipe for Perfect Party Cake, puckery lemon curd and creamy blueberry cream cheese frosting all wrapped into a tiny package.

Is it possible to love Dorie even more? Her recipes have never let me down yet and this cake is out-of-this-universe divine. It's a white cake, elevated with the use of lemon zest and essence but I didn't have any essence so I left that out and upped the zest. And the cake is tender, fluffy, moist and all the adjectives that can be used to describe an awesome cake. It's not often that I say this but I will eat this cupcake sans frosting. That's something. Because we all know that cupcakes are just an excuse for frosting. Lots and lots of frosting.


You know how cream cheese frosting can go all soupy on you, and you grit your teeth in frustration and shove the whole bowl into the fridge and will it to firm up or you'll resort to some unspeakable violence? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. I noticed that everytime I start beating the cream cheese, full-fat or low-fat, it lightens up beautifully without turning soupy. But then, once the icing sugar goes in, everything goes wrong. I did a little research, and here's what I found:

 "The issue is the sugar, it's hydroscopic, attracts water molecules and tends to melt when it comes in contact with moisture; that would be, the moisture in the cream cheese. Powdered sugar doesn't melt as much as granulated, but you'll always have soft icing."


Aha! But cream cheese frosting has to have icing sugar, so I chanced upon this technique which basically recommends beating the frosting for a lesser amount of time. Did it work though? Not for me, probably because I used a low fat cream cheese from the tub, which can be another factor for soupy frosting. I have a hunch that this technique really works as my frosting wasn't as liquid-y as usual.




I winged it for my blueberry cream cheese frosting recipe because I couldn't find a recipe that used dried blueberries without tons of butter. I threw a handful of them while the mixer was running until I found the colour I wanted. Looking back, I should have pulverized the blueberries in a blender or something first- it was so hard to pipe! In fact, it was impossible to pipe. The berries got stuck at the tip and I gave up and just used an ice cream scoop instead. Lesson learnt- use a fat tip.


My attempt at the lemon curd was even more laughable. I combined all the ingredients in the saucepan as  the recipe directed and forgot the lemon juice until about halfway through. Then I made the huge mistake of not stirring the mixture for a few moments when it was on medium heat. I very nearly ended up with a lemon omelette. Worse still, I actually let it boil, and the sugar may have caramelized a bit because after an overnight chill in the fridge, I had a thick, jammy lemon curd. I mean really really thick. Ah well, at least it tastes good.


So here is my new go-to white cake recipe- the best and flawless component in this cupcake.




Perfect Party Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours
makes 20


Ingredients
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract


Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.


Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. 


Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter, and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and will aerated.


Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool. 



Sunday, May 29, 2011

lenox almond biscotti.


Biscotti recipes never catch my interest but because I needed to use up some cornmeal, I decided to give Dorie's recipe a whirl.

This is one of those unsuspecting recipes where you don't expect much out of it but you just can't keep going back for more. This biscotti has butter and eggs to keep it tender, unlike the traditional tooth-chipping Italian kind, but retains the crunch factor because of the stoneground cornmeal, even if you don't bake it a second time. The almond extract sort of creeps up on you- at first there's this vague fragrance that's hard to identify but moments later bingo! It's almond! And because the extract is quite sparingly used here, you don't get that horrible almond aftertaste when you use too much.

Just an invitation to have more.


Lenox Almond Biscotti
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From my Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.

Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.

If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees F.

Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet — this time standing them up like a marching band — and slide the sheet back into the oven.

Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

strawberry frozen yogurt.


I love love love frozen yogurt but they're so expensive, so I wanted to try making my own. I've always wished for an ice cream maker but unfortunately I don't have one so thank goodness for David Lebovitz's tips for poor deprived people like me to produce ice cream or gelato or frozen yogurt or whatever without an ice cream make no commas intended. Sorry. Sugar rush.


Despite the step by step instructions, frozen yogurt made without an ice cream maker is, to be expected anyway, inferior to ones that are made with an ice cream maker. Although I must admit that I love retrieving the container from the freezer every half an hour, whisking the ice crystals from the sides, seeing the mixture thickening before my very eyes. It's a very satisfying job, and I bet people like me who love to stir things would enjoy it too.

balsamic strawberries

I wouldn't say that the texture I got was that bad. It was fluffy and not very icy, but not creamy enough.  If you can resist the temptation, let it melt a bit first, the texture improves tremendously and the flavour comes out more.


I didn't follow David's recipe per se- I knew I preferred milkier frozen yogurts so I changed the ratio of strawberries to yogurt to 1:1. Initially, he called for a pound of strawberries, that's 2 cups, to 1 cup of whole milk yogurt. I tweaked it by using 1 1/2 cup of strawberries to an equal amount of yogurt, changing the sugar level as well. I'm glad I did because I actually found that I wouldn't mind making the frozen yogurt even milkier after I made my changes.

My favourite pairing with strawberry frozen yogurts is oreos. You know how people love vanilla and chocolate together? Well I think fruit and chocolate go together even better. You have to try strawberries and oreos. It rocks.


It's strawberry season! What would you make?

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
adapted from The Perfect Scoop
makes 1 quart (1 litre)

1 1/2 cups or 360g fresh strawberries
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
2 teaspoons of vodka or kirsch (optional but I omitted)
1 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt * I used low fat and I didn't mind the difference
1 teaspoon lemon juice


Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is almost smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.



Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions or follow David's instructions here if you don't have one.

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday and Sweet Tooth Friday

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the best chocolate cake (so far).


I need you to stop doing whatever you're doing, and get your screen and your butt into the kitchen and start making this chocolate cake. It's that good and I don't lie... at least when it comes to cakes. And this is coming from a non-chocolate cake lover. Not that I hate chocolate cakes, but I find them so mundane, so boring. I'd very much rather say yes to something vanilla. Yes, I belong to the vanilla people. But I'm praising this cake to the heavens now, and that's something.


It's dense, but not very. It's fudgey and it's definitely chocolaty. Not to mention easy to make too. I love this cake so much that I can bear to leave it's side for one moment.

To fill this, I used a cocoa frosting recipe from before. The very same batch I made last time actually- I forgot that I froze some! Luckily, even after more than 3 months it was okay. In fact, it was even better! There was no more grittiness from icing sugar like before. For the other frosting, I used a meringue one from Dorie's devil's food white-out cake. The main idea was to use no butter at all since I was running low and because I have a fear of frostings using too much of it. I can't say I like it that much since it's practically devoid of richness but it's a good recipe to have on hand if you're cutting down on fat.


By the way, I have this irritating problem. When I use only-whites recipes, I would usually plan on how to use the yolks. But at that very point of time I want to use yolks, I completely forget which recipes to bake! And vice-versa. So now because of the meringue frosting, I have 2 yolks sitting in the fridge (I halved the whole recipe). Does anyone have any ideas on how to use up the yolks? And if you know how to finish up those whites as well, please do share.


Beatty's chocolate cake
butter for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee *I used 2 teaspoons of instant coffee in 1 cup of boiling water



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Meringue frosting
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large) 
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract 


Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable—don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

cornflake, chocolate chip and marshmallow cookies.



How does Momofuku come up with these weirdly delicious cookies? Marshmallows in cookies? How about those Blueberries and Cream ones I made earlier?


For all you chewy-cookie lovers out there, this is important, so listen up. The secret to an extra chewy, give-your-mouth-a-workout cookie is... Marshmallows! You heard me. Those innocent white pillows melts and integrates into the cookie dough when baked, lending it's melty gooey quality to the final cookie, and keeps it that way hours out of the oven. Don't even try to pick it up even after 5 minutes out of the oven. It's used to being treated like royalty and won't stand for being manhandled. Try, and it'll stubbornly cling on to the baking sheet. Keep pulling, and it'll stretch itself to it's limits, transforming from a round cookie to an oval one before your very eyes. Cunning. Very cunning. In the end, you'll give in like how a frustrated mother does to her whining children and let it be for another 5-10 minutes or so. Take me seriously because I was using a Silpat.


I'm a crispy cookie girl, and these were right up my alley. I mean, just look at them! What are they, pancakes? And look at those golden brown edges. Ooh... my favourite bit. And when you get to the paler middle, there's that tooth-yanking chew that I usually abhor but I it's an exception this time. Try it, and you'll know why.



Although these were quite the delicious buttery frisbees, I think they're too buttery. Firstly, they spread too much. Definitely a sign of too much butter. Secondly, my cookie actually left an oil slick on the plate, so I'll decrease the butter to 3/4 cup next time. Also, I decreased the the amount of each kind of sugar by 1/4 cup. I know that's a lot, practically almost half the total in fact, but there was so much sweetness going on from the chocolate chips and marshmallows that I didn't miss the extra sugar.


If you like chewy cookies, you definitely must check this out.

Copycat Momofuku Milk Bar’s Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookie Recipe

Yields 24 big cookies

Caramelized Cornflakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
6 tablespoons milk powder
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons melted butter
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 275˚F.
2. Lightly crush the cornflakes in a bowl.
3. Mix together the milk powder, sugar and salt.
4. Pour the butter over the cornflakes and sprinkle the dry ingredients on top. Toss until evenly coated.
5. Spread out cornflake mixture on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the cornflakes have a deep caramelized colour.
6. Remove from the oven and cool completely before use. This recipe will make about 1 1/2 cups.

Cookies

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt * use 1 teaspoon if you’re not a salt fan *Use 1 teaspoon. 2 is way to much!
1 cup unsalted butter *I would cut down to 3/4 cup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar *I would reduce both sugars by 1/4 cup each
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 large egg
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups caramelized cornflakes
Directions
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream butter, sugar, and corn syrup until well combined. Add egg and mix.
3. Add flour mixture and mix. Add in chocolate chips, marshmallows and caramelized cornflakes. Scoop dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
4. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Recipe taken from here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

mini donut muffins.


Ooh these are dangerous... I told myself two. Just two.


But no, I took three.




Coming out of the oven, they looked like unassuming little stumps. Little baldies, as I would call them. But wait. Let's give them a little love. A swim in melted butter and a bath in cinnamon sugar, and they'll love you as much as you love them. I stress that you must have them warm, when the outsides are still crunchy and the inside is moist and fluffy.

I have to admit, I was just that little disappointed with this recipe. The muffins themselves were bordering on bland- not buttery enough, and they were missing that something that made a donut a donut. I scoured blogs for the answer, and guess what? Nutmeg.


I went to the kitchen and found my bottle of ground nutmeg, and I sprinkled a few pinches on. Then I took a bite. Wham! The flavour explosion hit and I sat upright in my seat. That's it! Now that's a donut!

So in short, for a great donut, lots and lots of butter and nutmeg. You can't go wrong.


Mini Donut Muffins
makes 24 minis or 12 normal sized ones
recipe adapted from Making Life Delicious

Ingredients
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup low fat buttermilk
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon sugar:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan or your mini muffin pan.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Combine the buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and 1/4 cup of melted butter in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. They are still muffins, remember? Lumpy batter is perfectly acceptable.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for about 13 minutes for normal sized ones, lessen the baking time accordingly for smaller ones. The muffins will spring back when pressed if they are done. Cool in the pan for 3 minutes or so or until they're cool enough to handle, toss them about in melted butter and then the cinnamon sugar. Eat immediately.

Although they can be kept for 6 to 12 hours, they are really best just out of the oven.

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

green velvet cake.


Help!

My frosting curdled! I don't understand. I made this flour frosting before but it was totally fine. The last time I did not beat the frosting again after chilling but I did this time. Is that why? Before I sent it in the fridge, it looked okay, curdle-free state and all, and when I took it out to beat again, the whole bowl of frosting turned into tiny little lumps in a matter of seconds! I kept going and going, but it only seemed to be getting worse, and it was becoming soft and soupy again. Or perhaps it was because my butter was too cold when I incorporated it? Any frosting doctors around to help?




Apart from the frosting boo boo though, I was pretty pleased with the rest of the cake. I used the red velvet cake recipe from Baked, and it was definitely much more chocolaty as compared to a normal red velvet. Yes, they did it on purpose, and I'm not complaining. Red velvet cake always seem to be stuck in limbo to me. Chocolate? Nah. Tangy buttermilk-y? Not quite. The good folks from Baked gave their version a much needed push towards the dark side, I'll say.

I like the crumb a lot. It's the kind that disintegrates upon a stab with your fork, the kind that melts away in your mouth. The frosting was a giant failure, but luckily, I didn't fill the cake layers with their cinnamon frosting. I used a cinnamon pastry cream instead which I preferred immensely in comparison. I think pastry cream should definitely be the way to go for cake fillings. Easy to make, significantly less butter (yay waistline!), and indulgent enough so you don't feel deprived.

Oh and I discovered a new way to eat pecans- buttered pecans!


RED HOT VELVET CAKE WITH CINNAMON BUTTERCREAM
Yield: 1 (8-INCH) CAKE


FOR THE RED HOT VELVET CAKE LAYERS

1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 tablespoons red gel food coloring
1/4 cup boiling water 
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces 
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 1/2 cups cake flour 
1 teaspoon fine salt 
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon baking soda

FOR THE CINNAMON FROSTING 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (1 cup)
1/4 cup heavy cream (3 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
Red Hots (cinnamon imperials) candies, for decoration

MAKE THE RED HOT VELVET CAKE LAYERS
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and boiling water. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir the buttermilk and vanilla into the cooled cocoa mixture.

Sift the flour and salt together into another medium bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, to the egg mixture in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda and stir until the baking soda dissolves; the mixture will fizz. Add to the batter and stir until just combined.


Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

MAKE THE CINNAMON FROSTING
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly: then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

blueberry and apricot little cakes.


I got intrigued when I came across a recipe called soft apple cakes in Paris Sweets. I imagined a flat topped cupcake with a custardy interior and a golden brown surface, and little chunks of sweet apples peeking through. Halfway through making it though, I realized that it used a sponge cake method, and that could very well be what I was going to end up with.


Seriously? A sponge cake?!


I felt a little cheated. The recipe glorified it such that a sponge cake was the last thing on my mind. I had my doubts as I mixed the batter.

How great can a sponge cake be?


Well, an hour later, I had my answer. Beautiful little cakes with no sinkage at all, spongey and fluffy crumb, and a faint fragrance of vanilla that set them apart from regular sponges we use for cake bases. But still, they are sponges, so they were a little drier than your average cake. I had another one the next day, and it absorbed some of the moisture from the fruits so it wasn't as dry as the day before.


I think soft apple cakes really meant how the apples softened up after baking, I can really think of no other explanation.

I had my first one with some creme anglaise, so it was like a cake in vanilla soup. Oh how I love creme anglaise.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

brioche plum tart.


I'm having so much fun with my new camera. At the very least, I don't have to worry about the focus. I love that technique where the subject is in focus while the background is blurred. It's so hard to achieve that with a normal digital camera. But, with better pictures now, I'm extremely indecisive. It's so hard to pick just that few! So please bear with me when you see some repeats.


The brioche dough was easy to work with, probably because it's a "poor man's brioche". The smaller quantity of butter made it the easiest brioche I've ever worked with. No extra flour needed. Nope. Nada. And there's no stress because it rose beautifully, unlike some doughs where I had to sweat buckets in panic because there's only 0.1% change in volume from 3 hours ago or something like that.


Usually, you'd pair a fruit with it's respective jam, but I bought plums and used strawberry jam instead because I had no plum jam. It was fine, but I wonder how plum jam would taste like? The recipe said to bake the tart until it's brown and sounded hollow when tapped, but with my past experience with breads, especially sweet breads, it's much better to stop baking it before it turns such a deep brown because that means the inside would be quite dry. That certainly was the case with this tart (the parts of the brioche that weren't in contact with the fruit were dry and cakey) so I would underbake it next time- just till it shows a little hint of brown, so that the inside would be soft and moist.

Although, doing so would sacrifice the crunchy outer crust. If you're not going to eat it after more than 1 hour out of the oven, however, I'd suggest sticking the underbaking.


I paired it with some creme anglaise I made yesterday. Oh yeah.

Brioche Plum Tart

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/3 cup whole milk, just warm to the touch
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
about 14 ripe plums, preferably italian prune plums
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts, almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plum jam
To make brioche: Put the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until the yeast is dissolved.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and fit the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one.  Working on low speed, mix for a minute or two, just to get the ingredients together.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 7 – 10 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape down the bowl and the hook, until the dough is stretchy and fairly smooth.  The dough will seem fairly thin, more like a batter than a dough, and it may not be perfectly smooth – that is fine.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 30 – 40 minutes.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap into the bowl.  Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.  Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours.  Then if you’ve got the time, leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight – it will be tastier for the wait.
To Make The Tart: This tart looks prettiest when it’s made in a fluted pan.  You can use either a 9-inch metal tart pan with a removable base or a porcelain baking dish, the kind sometimes called a quiche pan.  Generously butter the pan.
Press the chilled dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides – don’t worry if it’s not even.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the dough is in the refrigerator, prepare the filling.  Halve and pit the plums.  If you are using large plums, cut each half into 2 or 3 slices.  Set aside.  Toss the chopped nuts with the sugar and set aside.
Remove the tart pan from the fridge and push and press the dough up the sides of the pan.  Spoon the jam onto the dough and spread it over the bottom.  Arrange the plums cut side down in a concentric circles covering the jam.  Scatter over the nut mixture, and cover the tart lightly with a piece of plastic wrap.  Place the tart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Uncover the tart and bake for 20 minutes.  Cover it loosely with a foil tent to prevent the crust from getting too dark, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the crust is firm and beautifully browned – it will sound hollow when tapped.  Transfer the tart to a rack to cool at least 45 minutes before serving.


Linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

creme anglaise.

Do you notice something?


I got a new camera- a Canon DSLR! Wooh! I'm so excited I'm bouncing up and down in my chair as I type. Finally I can properly learn how to take good pictures like the good folks from cannelle et vanille and evan's kitchen ramblings. But I'm actually more stressed now because I can't blame it on the camera when the pictures turn out crappy. ><

Back to creme anglaise. It's basically something very much like pastry cream, only less thick and require that element of patience that I sometimes seem to lack. If you turn up the heat to full blast to cook it, you'll pretty much end up with scrambled cream sauce. Yuck. Luckily, if you have a instant read thermometer, it makes life so much easier. Just cook it until the sauce reaches 170F and take if off the heat immediately. The temperature will still rise. It doesn't look very thick at first, but that's why you have to refrigerate it overnight, so that it'll become thicker.

Cold creamy creme anglaise. Yum.




Creme Anglaise
very much adapted from Davidlebovitz.com

Ingredients
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt 
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
Combine the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Make an ice bath by nesting a medium-sized metal bowl with a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Set as mesh strainer over the top. Warm the milk until it is warm but not hot. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warmed milk, whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook over low to moderate heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the
bottom, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Immediately strain the cooked custard through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice. Stir the creme anglaise with a clean spatula to help cool it down. Once cool, refrigerate overnight.
Makes 2 1/2 cups

Monday, May 9, 2011

creme caramel.


My first taste of creme caramel was, funnily enough, in Japan. It was in this tiny glass jar, with a red metal lid. The bottom layer was a deep dark caramel while a pale yellow custard filled up the rest of the jar. I dug in, as carefully as I could with the most petite spoon ever. I scooped up my first flawlessly smooth bite. It gave the tiniest little wobble. I swallowed, and the custard glided down my throat with a faint vanilla fragrance lingering in my mouth. I had to have more. But this time with some of that caramel below. It was heart-wrenching, to have to brutally cut through this jar of perfection to reach the bottom, but I did. And the moment I retrieved my spoon, the dark amber liquid flowed up through the fine cracks, tainting the eggy yellow pudding with streaks of brown.

In a desperate attempt to heal the broken picture, I hurriedly scooped a bigger bite of caramel and pudding. It was sheer bliss. Who knew pudding could be so satisfying? The caramel was sweet, but bittersweet. Instead of overwhelming the delicate pudding, it enhanced the vanilla flavour even more.

Nowadays, we can find so many different flavours of creme caramel. Strawberry, chocolate, green tea, sesame... Well, it was mostly invented by the Japanese, but I'm sure we've heard of coffee and pumpkin too. But I think the original is still the best.

The water bath is crucial. Only half of my pudding was protected by the water bath so the unprotected half had holes that marred the surface, and the texture was not as silky too. I think 180C is too high a temperature too, 150C would be better.

Creme Caramel
recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes 8 servings

To make the caramel:
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Water
Combine the sugar and water in a pot and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 350 degrees. Pour the caramel into the ramekins and allow it to set until hardened.

To make the custard:
3 cups Half and Half *I used whole milk because I prefer a lighter consistency
3 Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
2/3 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla 
dash Salt
Heat the half and half until it reaches a simmer. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl. When the half and half is steaming, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Strain the custard into a large measuring cup or pitcher. Pour into ramekins. Pour boiling water 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekin. Cover with foil. Bake in 350 (I would go for 300 and extend the baking time if necessary) degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a knife in the center. Knife should come out clean when removed. Remove the custards from the hot water bath and place on a rack. Allow the custards to cool for 1-1/2 hours before refrigerating. To remove, run a knife around the sides of the ramekin. Place a plate on top and invert the plate. Lift the ramekin to remove the custard and caramel.

Friday, May 6, 2011

butterscotch pudding.


Puddings are like the backstage crew.

They usually play a supporting role while cakes and tarts take centre stage.

Like, the pastry cream for your tart. Isn't it just like a pudding in disguise?


Puddings aren't glamourous, but they are comforting. When I desperately need some edible form or relaxation, I don't think of cake. I think of bowls of creamy cold custard and a spoon. In my case, I'll probably need a ladle. Other than that, perhaps a good baking book with tons of pictures, a comfy sofa and presto, instant remedy.

As my venture out into the pudding world, I decided on a butterscotch pudding. Who doesn't love deep caramel-ly flavour? I topped mine off with toasted pecans, but I bet buttered pecans would be even better. Or how about some sauteed bananas in rum? Ooh, I should have done that. Most people would top their puddings off with whipped cream. Maybe some chocolate shavings too?

Dang it. It's so hard to choose. Just pile them all on!


Butterscotch Pudding
4-6 servings
Adapted from Ripe For Dessert 
4 tablespoons (60g) butter, salted or unsalted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2½ (625ml) cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the eggs.
3. Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.
4. Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey and vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend as indicated above.
6. Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.


This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

pierre herme's tarte au cafe.


I was so excited to come across this recipe when I read Paris Sweets by Dorie. I had a vanilla tart back in Paris last year also by Pierre which was phenomenal! And I mean out-of-this-world uber-delicious friggin' awesome! I gathered that this coffee tart was like a cousin of the vanilla tart, but definitely much easier to make. So coffee tart it is then!

First, there's the pate sucree, and then a layer of coffee ganache, ladyfingers soaked in espresso before finally being crowned off with a coffee cream. The real version had an additional component of a coffee glaze but the recipe didn't mention it and I couldn't find the recipe for that online either.

I intended to make a batch of Dorie's sweet tart dough, but I ran out of icing sugar. Just how is that possible? Even so, I continued with my original plan and while the final result was passable, some of that crumbly texture was sacrificed.

You know what's so great about this tart? There's probably only 80g of sugar in total, original 9-10 inch size. But of course, that's excluding the white chocolate in the ganache.

The coffee in the cream is really strong and with very little sugar, I was hankering for something sweet after 2 to 3 bites. I actually ransacked my fridge for chocolate chips and maltesers. I'm sorry. That should be a crime.

That's why the coffee ganache is so important. It's more than just a layer of protection for the crust to prevent it from becoming soggy because of the espresso, it also adds that sweetness that you will definitely want. Speaking of espresso, I went a little crazy with soaking the ladyfingers in it and I could see little puddles of coffee pooling around the sides of the tart. Luckily for me, the tart shell didn't soggify. Phew! 



And I over-whipped the coffee cream on my first try. Garrgh! I need more practice. I kept whipping the mixture but it didn't seem to lighten up even after a 4 to 5 minutes so I kept going and going... until it curdled. I had to make a new batch, but this time I didn't chill it as long. Maybe 6 hours? The coffee cream wasn't as stiff as my first try and it lightened up much quicker. Rather than risk more curdled cream, I didn't carry on whipping it to stiff, pipe-able peaks and spooned it into molds instead. Which explains the dome versus the disc shape made by others.

I managed to save the first curdled batch somehow and put them into adorable espresso cups. My father polished one off, despite staying away from sweets. Or at least, he tried to.


Tarte au Cafe
makes one 9-10 inch tart


1 9-10 inch sweet tart shell, fully baked

Coffee Cream:
1 1/2 tsp gelatine
30 ml cold water
500g heavy cream
20g sugar
12g ground espresso coffee

Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water and let it stand for 5 minutes.
Dissolve it in a microwave for about 15 seconds.
Bring the cream to the boil with the ground espresso, then let it stand for a minute or so before straining it through a cheese cloth to get rid of the residue.
Stir in the sugar and gelatine mixture.
Refrigerate it for at least 6 hrs, then whip it until soft peaks form.

Coffee Ganache:
300g white chocolate, preferably valrhona ivoire
215g heavy cream
20g ground espresso

Heat the cream up with the ground coffee.
Strain it and add to the white chocolate. Stir until it is fully incorporated.

To Assemble:
10-12 ladyfingers, split lengthwise
1/2 cup brewed espresso, cooled

Fill the tart up with the ganache, then line the top with the ladyfingers.
Soak them with the brewed espresso.
Lastly, top the tart with the coffee cream.

The tart can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours.


This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

japanese strawberry shortcake.


I love chocolate and peanut butter and all that rich, heavy stuff but sometimes we just need a break from those.

So how about some cake with fruits and whipped cream instead?

I love Japanese cakes. They're not as rich or dense, but still immensely satisfying. The Japanese are true geniuses. They can take simple things like sponge and cream and make them phenomenal icons in the pastry world. Like mont blanc and of course, strawberry shortcake. And how about their souffle cheesecake? It's mind-blowing. It's the only sort of cheesecake I like.


I've always wanted to experiment with other kinds of sponge instead of the classic genoise, so I picked an American sponge cake recipe from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball for this cake. There's no added fat, and it uses a chiffon method. It also has added water to it to make the sponge even softer. He uses twice the amount of egg whites to yolks.

And true enough, it was like a cloud. You know how sponges always have to be soaked in syrup? This one didn't and definitely doesn't need any. In fact, after I layered on the fruits and cream I was afraid that it would become too saturated with moisture! But then again, I've never made an American sponge but I guess that because its meant to be eaten on its own, the recipe has already been tweaked to something like a chiffon. The sponge was so incredibly soft that the middle completely collapsed on me after I took it out of the oven! Haha so that's why the recipe intended for it to be made in a tube pan. My bad.


Comparing the american sponge and a normal genoise, I think I prefer the latter even though the former had a deeper, more vanilla-y flavour. A plain base is the best since the chantilly cream would already be flavoured with more vanilla and sugar.

I don't plan to post the sponge recipe because I don't think its best for a strawberry shortcake, but I will post the chantilly cream recipe. It's stabilized with gelatin and it's a handy recipe to have around if you want to avoid weeping cream, especially if the cake has to be assembled many hours before.

Since this was so light, I had two slices at one go!


Stabilized Whipped Cream 
recipe taken from here

2 tsp gelatin powder
8 tsp cold water
2 cup whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Chill mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Put the cold water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and let stand for 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Remove mixing bowl and beaters from freezer. In the mixing bowl, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and whip until slightly thickened. Then, while beating slowly, gradually pour the gelatin into the whipped cream mixture. Then whip the mixture at high speed until slightly stiff.