Saturday, December 31, 2011

strawberries and milk verrines.


Usually, puddings don't appeal enough for me to make them but I wanted to try out the slanted layering pattern. And I happened to have some strawberry puree kicking around. So.


I totally dig the milky layer. It has a good hit of condensed milk flavour and it's so smooth and creamy. The refreshing strawberry layer balanced the milkiness well but because there's lemon juice in there, regular milk will curdle. I didn't think of that when following the original recipe so my strawberry layer ended up with tiny unpleasant curds in it. If you swap out the regular milk for evaporated milk however, I believe it shouldn't curdle so I've reflected that change in the recipe below.


Strawberries and Milk Verrines
fills two 200ml glasses
adapted from here

Pink layer:
75g strawberry puree
18g sugar
3/4 tsp lemon juice
40ml evaporated milk
2g powdered gelatin
1/2 tbsp water

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. In a saucepan, combine the strawberry puree, sugar, lemon juice and evaporated milk and heat on low until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and add in the gelatin. Stir until the gelatin dissolves and set aside to cool. Pour into a glass and refrigerate until set.

White layer:
100ml milk
1 tbsp condensed milk
1/2 tbsp sugar
3g powdered gelatin
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Sprinkle powdered gelatin over water. Combine the milk, condensed milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat on low until the sugar dissolves. When it comes to a simmer, add in the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Off the heat, add in the vanilla and set aside to cool. When completely cool, pour over the pink layer and refrigerate until set.

Strawberry jelly layer:
3 tbsp strawberry jam
1 tbsp water

Combine both ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until the jam liquifies. Set aside to cool before spooning into the glasses.

Friday, December 30, 2011

brown sugar white chocolate and macadamia cookies.


Even though my blog's name is Crumbs and Cookies, you might have noticed that there aren't a lot of cookie recipes around. Cookies, I think, is the most dangerously deceptive creation in the baking repertoire. They are so simple, so unchallenging, that I hardly make them anymore. I've turned into a sadist monster who enjoys assembling component after component just for a single dessert.

But, if I finally get down to making a batch of cookies and nibble on one barely minutes out of the oven, I'll find myself residing temporarily in some sugar nirvana. Which, I should add, sometimes cannot achieved by some of the labour intensive desserts I make. As the cookie in my hand disappear to mere crumbs and a heavenly aroma on my fingertips, I reach for another one. They're so uncomplicated, yet able to reduce the willpower of a person to shreds of nothingness.

I must admit, sadly, that I don't really anticipate the baking of cookies anymore. If there's one word I can use to sum up the process of me making them- uninterested. I eye the ingredient list and quickly memorize the quantities. I mix up the dough with an expressionless face and shut the door of the fridge in its face. The next day, I portion out small mounds of dough and freeze them for a little while because the dough would have warmed up some. While its sitting in the freezer I preheat the oven, and when the oven beeps, I send the tray of unbaked cookies in without a second look. I'm almost embarrassed that I assemble these cookies like a heartless robot. There's such a lack of passion and interest which is why I hardly bake them anymore.


Although, something in me awakened when I smelled these cookies which were nearing done. That homely comforting aroma made me glad that I'd gotten down to making them. I would have never attempted these if not for a request by a white chocolate macadamia cookie fanatic. I think I just might be making another batch of cookies sometime soon.

These cookies taste amazing. Instead of a mix of white and brown sugar, the only sugar they contain is brown. Unfortunately, I'm still unable to replicate that elusive Famous Amos cookie, but I love these all the same. I added tons of macadamias and white chocolate so that the dough wouldn't spread much and at the same time, add crunch because they're made with only brown sugar so they're unable to get really crisp.

I think the Famous Amos cookies contain a lot of butter, which makes them really crisp crunchy. They definitely contain a mix of white and brown sugar, I just know it. They have a shortbread kind of texture so I'm going to try something similar to a shortbread recipe next time. More cookies- and I'm finally excited about it!


Brown Sugar White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
makes 30 small cookies
adapted from here

56g butter, at room temperature
60g brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 egg
88g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup white chocolate chunks
1/3~ 1/2 cup chopped macadamias

Cream the brown sugar and butter until slightly pale. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Mix in the white chocolate chunks and chopped macadamias just until uniformly mixed. Transfer the dough into a smaller bowl and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Portion out the cookies dough onto the baking sheet and freeze while the oven is preheating. Bake at 180C for 15-18 minutes until very brown for crunchy cookies, about 10 minutes for soft ones.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

黒豆ロールケーキ kuromame swiss roll.


Another swiss roll! Which nearly managed to roll perfectly if I had not made those slits at the end. It's true that some shallow slashing can help the initial rolling but I guess I made it too deep by accident so a bit of the cake broke off completely. I'm going to stop making slits and trust the recipe next time.


The sponge I chose was a hot milk sponge cake. It has a lot more flavour from your average sponge recipe and much moister too. But I still think it needs help from some form of moisture because if you stick your fork in it, it will crumble. The good news is, it disappears with a slight pressure from your tongue, leaving behind a milky buttery flavour.


Because I had some more kuromame in the fridge, I decided to add them to the sponge. Unfortunately, I forgot about them until the moment I placed the pan in the oven so I had to scramble to drop those little black beans one by one onto the batter. They sank, as expected, but they didn't sink all the way to the bottom. That's why some of them appear to be half-hidden. I initially wanted to arrange the beans on the pan before pouring the batter on top of them so that they would show up nicely but...


Instead of just filling the roll with whipped cream, I made a milk jelly too to be nestled in the center of the swiss roll. The block of milk jelly turned out to be too large for the cake so it didn't roll up nicely, even smooshing out some of the minimal whipped cream I'd applied first. If I had to choose, I would rather stick with only whipped cream because like I said, the cake needs more moisture and the jelly will hardly help in that area. Plus, I kind of regretted making the jelly. It's my take on the green tea milk jelly I found here and because I left out the matcha and didn't add any other flavorings, it turned out a little bland. It wasn't sweet enough too.

And the texture didn't really sit right either. It was way too creamy and stiff, probably because there's cornstarch and gelatin. If it was made without the cornstarch, the jelly would retain a bit of wobble and be less compact, which would be ideal.


Kuromame Swiss Roll

I've made changes to what I think will be a better milk jelly in the recipe below.


For the cake:
1/2 + 1/6 cup cake flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 eggs
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 175C and line a 7 x 11 inch baking pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt twice. Combine the butter and milk in a saucepan and heat just until the butter has melted. Leave the saucepan on the stove, you will need to heat it up again later.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract in your mixer until frothy. Slowly add in the the sugar and keep whisking until the eggs have tripled in volume.

Sift one third of the flour mixture into the eggs and fold it in with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture in 2 additions.

Reheat the milk mixture until it comes to just under a boil. Pour into the batter and fold it in.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Loosen the sides of the cake from the tin and invert it on another piece of parchment paper. Remove the other piece of parchment used to line the tin and roll up the cake tightly from the short side. Let it cool before filling.

For the filling:
100ml whipping cream, whipped

For the milk jelly:
1/2 tbsp gelatin softened over 1 tbsp of water
40ml milk
25ml whipping cream
10g sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Put the milk, whipping cream and sugar in a saucepan. On low heat, whisk until the sugar dissolves. Heat the mixture until it comes to a simmer and add the softened gelatin and vanilla. Stir until the gelatin dissolves and pour into a small rectangular and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

pierre herme's macarons- pistachio and mosaic.


I recently got myself the english version of Pierre Herme's macaron book and I couldn't wait to try out the recipes! The first four tries were flops. The feet always ended up being frills and after a bit of research, I realized that my oven temperature was too high. So I brought it down and ta-daah~ beautiful-looking macarons! The green ones, that is.


I had to punctuate my excitement when I found out that the shells were hollow. I wanted to scream and tear my eyes out because after 5 batches of macarons in 4 days and not a single one turned out completely successful, well how can you not? I attribute the hollowness to a temperature that's too low but if I raise the temperature, the foot will splay out again! I'm really in a fix here...

pistachio- mmmm....

I couldn't bear to throw the failed batches away so I filled the better looking ones anyway. The most perfect looking ones- the green- got a pistachio white chocolate ganache and the white ones were supposed to be filled with a pistachio cinnamon ganache and a kirsch cherry. Unfortunately, I completely forgot about the cherry until I'd pressed the two halves together so I guess I would have take a bite of the macaron, then a cherry. Aargh! How much do I want to ruin this for myself?


The pink ones, which look like frisbees to me, had a dollop of strawberry jam as the filling. I'd always preferred fruity fillings with macarons rather than ganache because macarons are mostly made of almonds and almonds go well with bright clean tastes. And also because I couldn't be bothered to fork out so much effort for failed macarons.

mosaic

Oh guess what. I left the pink ones in the fridge for too long so now they're all soft and soggy. Bleh. I totally forgot that jam-filled macarons mature a lot faster.


Right now, I'm baking at a temperature of 135C so I'm going to try to up the temperature to 150C to see if that hollow problem goes away. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

kolaches.


I was flipping through The Pastry Queen the other day, and then I knew why there was such a following for it (Project Pastry Queen, anyone?). The recipes were innovative and interesting- I'd unconsciously bookmarked several of them as I turned the pages.

One of them was kolaches. When I saw the picture of lined-up pillows of dough dimpled with peach filling, I was intrigued. I wondered how bread with such a foreign sounding name would turn out, so the recipe anchored itself at the top of the to-bake list. At the end of the recipe, there were a few variations given. Most of them were typical bread fillings but there was one that caught me eye- egg.

The egg would be poured into the cavity of the dough and baked until set. It was described as a superior of Mc D's Egg Mcmuffin. I gave it my own twist by adding a small cube of cheddar cheese in the middle, and dolloping a huge glop of ketchup once the egg has set but a few minutes shy of being done.


The other version I did had a milk filling which I used before in my kuromame milk buns here.

As expected, the kolaches turned out to be appropriately Texan-sized, even after I'd scaled it down. I didn't make the whole recipe- that would be quite insane, frankly. I did an eighth of it, which is supposed to yield 2 large kolaches. Instead of portioning 2 balls of dough, I did 3, and as you can see, they are still huge!

Unfortunately, the saying bigger is better is not always true. The buns weren't as soft as I would like and tends to be dry at some places. To me, this is the sort of recipe that scores for its novelty factor rather for its taste.


Kolaches
adapted from The Pastry Queen
makes 16-18 huge ones

For the dough:
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, warmed to 110-115F
1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115F
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
anything you fancy, from jams to the egg variation (instructions below)

For the streusel topping: (I omitted)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg, for egg wash

Sprinkle the yeast over warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer until it foams up. Turn the mixer to low and add the milk, melted butter, eggs and sugar until mixed. Whisk together the salt and flour and add to the mixer in two batches, mixing only until just combined. The dough should be wet and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and refrigerate covered overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Divide the dough and place the portions on a lined or greased baking sheet. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Using your fingers, make an impression in the centre of the ball and stretch out into a round, creating a well to hold your filling.

Pulse the flour, sugar, and butter in your food processor until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

If making egg kolaches, crack an egg for each kolache into a bowl and whisk to break up the yolk before pouring into the indention of the dough. You can also choose to add other ingredients like ham, red peppers, anything you fancy. If using other fillings, place a heaping spoonful into the centre of each dough ball. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 375F.

Sprinkle the streusel topping over the kolaches. Whisk the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water and brush over the sides of the kolaches.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until browned. Let the kolaches cool for 20 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be kept tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

c is for christmas and cookies.


Merry Christmas everyone!


It's not my tradition to bake cookies for Christmas but my cousin practically demanded for them, and not just those easy drop cookies, but checkerboard cookies. Since it's Christmas, I decided to push myself a little and I make a whole variety of shapes out of a same dough.


I got the dough recipe from Sweetapolita because she claims that it's her favourite reliable sugar cookie dough. The only changes I made were to sub half the sugar for brown sugar and omit the lemon extract, adding almond extract instead.


Brown sugar definitely made a more flavorful cookie and although the cookie dough was redolent of almond before baking, it disappeared after. Perhaps I should have added more but I was afraid of making it taste too artificially of almond.


As great as it tasted, the dough was finicky to roll. It would start turning sticky within minutes of rolling. It may not be the recipe's fault because I live in an incredibly hot and humid climate, even if it's cooler this time of the year. That's why my candy canes turned out so horribly- because the slim cylinders of dough were melting in my hands despite freezing them before handling. That candy cane you see there is probably the best one I made, out of the five I made myself persist through before slapping the remains together in defeat.


The dresses were the most frustrating ones. They nearly convinced me to never make roll-out cookies again. But I shall see about that.


The checkerboard cookies were weird. The green and yellow parts managed to alternate themselves but the red remained in one straight line. I did rotate the strips, naturally, which is why this remains as a mystery to me...


I had alot of fun making these cookies. I might attempt more shapes next time. Definitely with a more stable dough.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

chocolate cherry chocolate chunk muffins.


I trust Dorie's recipes 100% but myself less than an hour after waking? Zero. Nada. Zilch. I don't know what was I thinking that convinced myself that I could pull off a third of a recipe with drowsy movements and a growling stomach. I always make some kind of slip-up when baking in the morning. And yup, the record continues...

I miscalculated the amount of cocoa powder and put in way too little. Such a pity because this muffin would have been intense and chocolaty. Besides that unintentional blunder, I swapped half the melted butter for applesauce, giving the muffins a lighter fluffier texture. I'd intended to cut down some calories, not really caring about what the applesauce would do to the muffin but I have to say that I do prefer fluffy muffins so I have no regrets.

A word of warning: these muffins are a lot less sweet than the usual ones so if you have a sweet tooth, you should up the sugar. But I find that the intensity of chocolate comes through better if you show some restraint with the sugar so I wouldn't increase it. And if you love rivers of melted chocolate ribboning through a muffin, you would have to add more chunks of chocolate too.

I hid a dark cherry in the middle for a nice surprise although skipping that and applying cherry jam to a split muffin would be nice too.


Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins
makes 12
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

6 tbsp unsalted butter (I replaced half with applesauce)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Divide cupcake liners in a 12 hole muffin pan.

Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients and the butter mixture over the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes (about 15 if you've used applesauce) or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out mostly clean with moist crumbs attached. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding the muffins.

Friday, December 23, 2011

strawberry sakura clear water sponge cupcakes.


I think sakura is one of the most prettiest flowers in the world. I've always wanted to see them for real but the timing is never right. And after seeing some bloggers like she who eats bake with them, I wanted to make a cake, cookie, whatever with sakura too. So I had to get my hands on some sakura, and I managed to find a small pink packet while browsing through a supermarket in Japan.

They came salted, preserved. I had to wash off the salt with boiling water before I used them for anything. Once they hit the hot water, it turned a light pink. And then I dried them on a paper towel, I could smell them. Slightly floral and something else. I couldn't define it.


I wondered what I should bake with them. I didn't know what went well with sakura. So I used the colour scheme as a starting point and paired the flower with a strawberry cream as a frosting. But frosting must come with cake, no matter how redundant it may seem at times.

No dainty delicate flower could be associated with something like deep dark chocolate so I decided to go the lighter route- with a sponge cake. I'd chanced upon a pretty promising recipe a few months ago and it would be the perfect opportunity to test it out.

I baked the cupcakes, cooled them, hid a small teaspoonful of strawberry jam in the middle, swirled frosting over and around it, then arranged a petal of sakura on top. It's the very kind of cupcake you would hold in one hand, paper liner halfway peeled down, while pinching off tiny bites with delicate fingers. You would be reclining in a chair, feet up, licking the fruity cream off the tips of your fingernails.


I loved the sponge cake. It wasn't just a vehicle for the cream and sakura. It was part of the whole ensemble. Soft, fluffy, spongey- like a marshmallow in cake form. It's a little eggy so if you can't stand that sort of taste, add a bit of vanilla extract to the batter. By the way, the cake will fall after it comes out of the oven but don't worry, it's supposed to be that way.

I didn't make the cream, I kinda poached it from my mum and it complemented the cake nicely. Surprisingly, the sakura was still a tad salty. I should have soaked it longer. It didn't have much taste but it smelled nice. A bit of a disappointment, sadly. Ah well, it makes for a nice decoration.


Clear Water Sponge Cupcakes
recipe adapted from The Little Teochew

(A)
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
50ml corn oil

(B)
50g cake flour

(C)
3 egg whites

(D)
50g sugar
pinch salt

Beat (A) till combined. Sift in (B) and mix just until the flour has dissolved.

Whisk (C) until frothy, add in (D) and beat till stiff peaks.

Fold the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture in 3 additions until well combined. Be careful not to deflate any air. Spoon the batter into paper cups until 60% full.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150C for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

cocoa marshmallows.


Usually, we have hot chocolate with white cloud-like marshmallows. But how about a reverse? Milk with dark chocolaty marshmallows.


These marshmallows aren't as sweet as their pale cousins because of the amount of cocoa in there and they're also springy and fluffy. The kind that you wish you had a life-size version of so that you can hug it to sleep. Or pillow fight with it. Or jump on like a trampoline.


Oh and they melt really quick too so you have to be fast to catch them in that half molten half fluffy state once you plop them on your hot milk. If you're a bit too slow, that's okay. At least now you have chocolate milk!


P.S I used these cocoa marshmallows to top off my hazelnut milk instead of just using regular milk. Can someone say Nutella milk?


Cocoa Marshmallows
recipe adapted from Not So Humble Pie
yields a 7 x 11 x 1 inch pan

For the cocoa slurry:
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
2/3 cup boiling water

For the base:
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup corn syrup (I actually got away with half because I had that much left)
1 1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt

For the bloom:
4 tbsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract

For coating:
cocoa powder

Prepare a 7 x 11 inch pan with a little oil or nonstick spray. Wipe out the pan to remove the excess.

Prepare the cocoa slurry by combining all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisking until no lumps remain.

Prepare the base by placing all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and heat to 260F without stirring over medium heat. While the base is cooking, prepare the bloom. Combine the water and vanilla in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and set aside.

Once the temperature of the base reaches 260F, remover from heat and gently stir in the lump of gelatin. The mixture will foam up a bit. Add the cocoa mixture and stir until smooth before pouring the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.

Gradually bring the mixture to high speed because it will splatter. Beat the mixture on high speed until light and fluffy, like marshmallow cream, about 18 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Cut and coat the marshmallow with the cocoa powder. Store marshmallows for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

sticky chocolate cake.


Sticky. Chocolate. Cake. Now that's some attention grabber.

You know what's that secret ingredient for guaranteed stickiness? It's prunes. Yeah. But there's no need to make a face like one. You can hardly taste the ones that are blended into the batter. But some are left in bite-sized pieces to be dispersed throughout the batter so if you really can't stand them, sub in chopped chocolate chunks because chocolate is healthy too. To defend this shriveled fruit, it's packed with fiber so it's good for your, erm, digestive tract.

Oh have I mentioned this- this recipe has no added oil or butter. Talk about good-for-you! Now go ahead and have two. Like me.


I sadistically upped the calorie count for my serving by stacking two cupcakes on top of each other, glued together with whipped chocolate ganache. You should really frost this with ganache. There's actually quite a small amount in the cakes themselves that they need some serious chocolate boost.

P.S. Please don't pull my hair out if your skinny jeans don't fit after that.

I cannot be more sure that piping bags and me don't jive. Even ganache got stuck in the tip and blocked up the passageway like the mucus does to your nasal airway during a bout of flu. And you know why? Because some chunks of chocolate didn't melt completely! I'm gonna slap myself.


So since I couldn't pipe, I had to frost with a spatula. Halfway through, my mom stole my spatula so I had to frost with a butter knife. A butter knife. The fact that the cupcakes didn't have smooth surfaces to begin with made things a lot more challenging. My stack of cupcakes became a mini leaning tower of Pisa and bumps frequently peeked through the frosting. Without the glaze on top, this would be an ugly stump of a cake.

But ultimately, the cakes tasted good, and that's what that really matters.


Sticky Chocolate Cake
makes 6 cupcakes
adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

For the cake:

110g plump dried prunes, pitted
40ml brandy such as Cognac or Armagnac
60ml buttermilk or plain yogurt
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup or treacle
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
75g bittersweet chocolate (I left this out and frosted with whipped chocolate ganache)

For the syrup:

25g brown sugar
40ml water

Preheat oven to 350F. Insert paper liners into a 6-hole muffin tin.

Take half of the prunes and chop it into tiny bite-size pieces. Place the chopped up pieces in a saucepan with the brandy and heat until just slightly warm. Set aside to plump up.

Put the remaining prunes and buttermilk in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg, brown sugar and maple syrup, beating well between each addition.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't overmix. Fold in the chopped chocolate. Fish the prunes from the brandy (reserve the brandy) and fold them in too.

Divide the batter among the cupcake liners and level the batter. The batter will be stiff and would not spread out on it's own. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the syrup. Add the brown sugar and water to the brandy in the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat immediately.

When the cupcakes come out of the oven, poke a few holes and brush with the warm syrup with a pastry brush until saturated. Let cool slightly before transferring the cupcakes to a cooling rack.

Monday, December 19, 2011

there's more than tastespotting.

Let's face it. I'm not that good a photographer. More often than not, the pictures I submit are brutally rejected by Tastespotting.

"composition"...


"lighting issues"...


"blurry/unsharp picture"...

I would say that only 50% or less of my pictures actually make it out there for everyone to view. Sure, everytime a picture appears in the "declined" page, it stings. But I can totally understand. Okay, maybe just sometimes. Tastespotting's got standards to uphold. I can't deny that Tastespotting has good quality photos, something that really makes me enjoy browsing through.

But what if you try and try and try but still can't get that picture through? Well, here are your answers. I found this incredibly useful page with links to other foodie websites to which you can try uploading your photos to. I've not tried but they should have the bar set lower than Tastespotting's or Foodgawker's. Kudos to Cook and Be Merry for creating this list!

1. Kitchen Artistry
2. Tasteologie
3. Dishfolio
4. Dessert Stalking
5. Food and Fizz
6. YumGallery
7. eRecipeCards
8. Finding Vegan
9. Refrigerator Soup
10. Liqurious
11. Tasty Days
12. Savory Sights
13. TasteFix
14. Opensource Food
15. Foodieview
16. Knapkins
17. Foodepix

18. Photograzing 
19. Tasty Kitchen 
20. TasteStopping (nope, this is not Tastespotting with a spelling error)
21. Food Porn Daily


And of course, there's Foodgawker too.

I don't mean for this post to serve as any form of attack on Tastespotting but I would just like for everyone to have some alternatives. Many of us have innovative recipes to share but may not have the photography skills to get them posted on sites which place much emphasis on the quality of the image. Hopefully more great ideas will be floating around with other sites to turn to!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

黒豆ミルククリームパン kuromame milk pan.


If there's anything that I love more than cakes, it's bread. And I mean yeasted ones, not those loaf-shape cakes masquerading as bread. I adore anything from those rustic chewy loaves to sweet pillowy buns but I happen to be more biased towards the latter because I have a not-so-secret sweet tooth and I ate more of those as a teeny tot.


I've made lots of bread before I started blogging. There were some truly memorable ones- super fluffy and soft but they hardly compared to this one. These buns managed to stay soft not just for the few hours after baking but also way longer than that. This is what sets this recipe apart from the other ones I've tried. I bet the buns could have been even softer if I'd baked them for 8 to 10 minutes instead of the 12 instructed. Basically, you don't want them to colour or you'll have that hard crust.

I filled these buns with a milk cream and topped them off with japanese black beans which are mildly sweet. This combination is inspired by my recent trip to Japan where I bought a bun with the same description. If you're wondering how black beans and milk can go together, it really does! You have to try it to know it. Plus, there's a bakery here in Singapore that does a mean ミルクパン that I absolutely love so I was pretty darn excited about these buns.


I think this is my favourite amongst the buns I've made so far. The milk filling could have been a little richer just like the bakery's but there's no harm done. I should have found a way to cram more black beans on top. Yumm-eh. Next time, I'll cut down on the baking time to get some truly super soft buns.

This has become my favourite basic (not sweet) bun dough recipe. I hope that you give this a try too!


Basic Bun Dough
slightly adapted from Kokken69
makes about 480g of dough

Water Roux:

50g bread flour
75g boiling water

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover with clingwrap and store in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Bread dough:

6g active dry yeast
160g bread flour, plus extra flour if needed
40g plain flour
20g sugar
2g salt
50g lukewarm water
1 egg
40g unsalted butter, room temperature

Milk cream filling, below
Some sweetened black beans

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes or until it begins to foam up.

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, sugar, egg and yeast with water. Start mixing at slow speed for 2 minutes. Add salt and continue to mix until the a ball of dough is beginning to form.

Add the water roux and continue to mix for 3 minutes. Add the butter and increase the speed. Continue kneading for about 15 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and is able to pass the window pane test. Place dough in a separate bowl, cover with clingwrap and allow to proof in a warm area until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into six 80g portions and set aside on 2 lined baking trays (I used a silicone mat to avoid a hard crust on the bottom) for 10 minutes for the dough to relax.

Flatten a piece of dough and spoon about 2 tbsp of milk filling in the centre. Seal the edges tightly and replace it back on the baking tray. Repeat for the remaining balls of dough. Brush the surfaces of the dough balls with an egg white and press some sweetened black beans in. Press down lightly with the lightly-oiled bottom of another baking sheet and leave it like this while the buns proof again until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Transfer the buns with the baking sheets still pressed on them into the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Milk Cream Filling

20g cake flour
25g sugar
1 tbsp skim milk powder
170ml whole milk
15g unsalted butter
a few drops of vanilla extract

Whisk the cake flour, sugar and skim milk powder together in a bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the whole milk until simmering and pour into the dry ingredients. Whisk until the dry ingredients have dissolved then pour it back into the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for until the mixture has thickened. Pull the saucepan off the heat and stir in the unsalted butter and vanilla extract. Set aside to cool before refrigerating until set, at least 2 hours.

Friday, December 16, 2011

eggless vanilla cupcakes.


I've not quite found my go-to vanilla cake recipe yet, but I made one very near perfection before. What I'm looking for is a recipe that has a clear vanilla flavour. To achieve that, there must be no egg yolks or butter. The cake must not be yellow, in a sense. Because if it is, it's a yellow cake, not a vanilla cake. Ha ha.


This recipe being vegan, naturally has no eggs nor butter in it. It fits my criteria for what I think would be the ultimate vanilla cake, so I gave it a go.

I divided the recipe by 4, since I only wanted to try it out. That left me with 20ml of oil to add in. When I first saw the recipe, I thought of substituting half of it with applesauce but because 20ml is such a small amount, I subbed in the full amount with applesauce instead. There was a faint apple-y hint which I didn't quite mind since the vanilla scent was way stronger than that but I was more concerned that my substitution could have altered the structure of the cake.


See, my cupcakes rose beautifully in the oven, spreading out instead of up which would give me a nice wide surface to pile on the frosting(!). But when I took them out, they sank. Not much, but noticeable. My heart on the other hand, sank like the titanic. It wasn't just because the cupcakes turned out somewhat deflated, but also because I could tell the insides were a bit gummy when I inserted a skewer.


Usually, I like a little gumminess, especially in muffins but this was way too much. It was very gummy and dense. The worst part is, I could hardly taste the vanilla. I could smell it, but my tastebuds couldn't detect it. Which is such a pity because there was tons of vanilla in there. The good news is it wasn't too sweet and thank god for that because the frosting definitely fulfilled that department! The frosting was much sweeter than I could handle, and I have a pretty high tolerance of sugar. Maybe it's because I've not made the classic icing-sugar-and-butter buttercream in a while.

I was really hoping that this cupcake would be the one but I guess not.


Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12
slightly adapted from Love and Olive Oil

Perhaps doubling the amount of baking powder would yield better results?

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin or two 6-hole ones. Line with paper liners for easy removal.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add the wet mixture into the dry and mix until just combined. Divide among the paper liners. Bake for 20-22 min or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Rum Frosting
adapted from Sweetapolita

1 stick + 2 tsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp rum

Using an electric mixer, whip the butter for 8 minutes on medium speed using the paddle attachment. It will become very pale and creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and cream on low speed for 1 minute before increasing the speed to medium, beating for 6 minutes. The frosting will become very light, creamy and fluffy. The frosting is best used right away.