Saturday, January 28, 2012

angel food cake.


What if one day, you find yourself with a kilo worth of egg whites? Scary thought, huh. There's only so many egg white recipes you can think of.

And guess what, I'm living a nightmare.

Okay fine, not exactly a nightmare. There are plus points. Like... being able to make macarons without having to think up of ways to use up the egg yolks! Or swiss meringue buttercream! Or a white cake...


But I had to use up the egg whites faster somehow, and what better way to do that an angel food cake, the guzzler of egg whites? I heard that it's pretty sweet so I came up with a plan of attack- grilling. Grilling caramelizes the outside so that it becomes crispy while the inside is still nice and fluffy. And it turned out to be a great move too because I underbaked the cake so there was a lot of moisture still trapped inside.

What ever you do, please do not underbake this cake, by accident or not! When I turned mine upside down to cool, the cake actually loosened itself from the pan and plopped onto my cooling rack because it was so heavy from the excess moisture. Naturally it ended up being denser than it was supposed to be and some parts of the cake were still damp and sticky with sugar.

So I sliced and grilled the cake, and the texture was so much better but damn, it was still too sweet for me. It's like eating cotton candy, in terms of both saccharine sweetness and texture. I guess we gotta try french toasting it...


Angel Food Cake
recipe taken from here

1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Add half the sugar to a bowl with the sifted cake flour. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the egg whites, water, extract and cream of tartar. Whisk on medium speed until foamy. Slowly add in the remaining half of the sugar, whisking continuously, until medium peaks form. Sift the flour mixture over and fold it in. Be careful not to deflate the batter.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. For this sort of cake, it's better to overbake than underbake.

Cool upside down on a cooling rack until completely cool before removing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

supernatural salted peanut butter brownies.


I'm not bragging or anything by adding the supernatural to these supernatural salted peanut butter brownies. In fact, some of you may find the title somewhat familiar if you've made Nick Malgieri's supernatural brownie recipe.

I've made some pretty awesome brownies before but they're always of the dense fudgy genre. It took me a while to realize that I actually prefer brownies that are half-cakey half-fudgy with that marvelous sugar crust on top. Nick Malgieri's recipe seemed promising so I decided to give that a shot. And while I'm at it, why not add a salted peanut butter swirl?


I wouldn't say that these brownies were exactly what I was looking for but they are delicious in their own right too. They're not too dense, but they're not cakey enough either. That's probably because I underbaked these more than I should. I guess old habits die hard.

My tastebuds have been spoiled by the cocoa brownies' intense chocolaty-ness so these paled slightly in comparison in terms of flavour. I have to say though, I loved the peanut butter swirl! It's a tad salty and totally reminded me of the middle of a Reese's peanut butter cup. Just a little caution: for some, it might make the brownie seem not sweet enough.  


Supernatural Salted Peanut Butter Brownies
makes a 9 x 5 inch pan
brownie portion adapted from here

Note: For the best flavour, bake 1 day before serving.

For the brownies:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup flour

For the peanut butter swirl:
1/4 cup commercial peanut butter
3/8 tsp salt
1 slightly rounded tsp icing sugar
1 tbsp milk

To make the peanut butter swirl, combine everything in a small saucepan and heat on low heat, stirring, until combined and loosened. Add more milk if necessary. Set aside while you get on with the brownie batter.

Butter and line a 9 x 5 inch pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water and let the mixture cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk the egg, sugars, salt and vanilla until foamy and slightly pale and lightened up.

Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Fold in flour until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Randomly top with dollops of the peanut butter mixture then use a knife to swirl it into the batter.

Bake at 350F for 17 to 20 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Don't overbake. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely before cutting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

peanut butter thumbprints.


I always thought peanut butter and jam goes best with each other but there are some others who go for peanut butter and chocolate instead. Or even peanut butter and nutella.

To test the peanut butter-nutella pairing out, I decided to bake some peanut butter cookies as a vehicle for spoonfuls of that chocolate-hazelnut spread. Just giving myself another way to consume jarfuls of peanut butter and nutella spreads other than shoveling them in with my dessert spoon.


These peanut butter cookies are crunchy through and through. Perhaps they weren't supposed to be like this because I replaced the whole egg with the equivalent amount of egg whites instead but I've always preferred crunchy cookies anyway. I thought they could use a little more peanut butter oomph but as a complement to the nutella, they were acceptable.


I would still prefer the all-time favourite paring of PB and J but these peanut butter nutella thumbprints aren't half as bad especially with an extra sprinkle of sea salt on top.


Peanut Butter Thumbprints
adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
makes 50

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter (the commercial kind please)

nutella, jam, etc for filling

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and blended. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Blend in the dry ingredients just until combined.

Spoon level tablespoons of dough 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Using you thumb or the back of a measuring spoon, make a depression in the center of each cookie about 1 inch in diameter.

Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until they are firm and golden brown at the edges but still soft in the center. When the cookies come out of the oven, reinforce the indentations with whatever tool you used before. Cool the cookies completely before filling with your desired filling.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

pierre herme's macarons- inca.


This is the funky macaron flavour I was talking about. Actually, it isn't so out there after all, even if it does contain avocados, bananas and chocolate.


Avocados are pretty tasteless, so these macarons are more like banana and chocolate macarons. Which, when you think about it, is already quite a popular pairing.

 

Friday, January 20, 2012

avocado gula melaka smoothie.


There was an Indonesian restaurant I used to frequent in the past that had this amazing avocado dessert. It was like a smoothie of sorts with a mocha fudge sauce rippling though it. I quickly got over the weird fact that it was a dessert made from a vegetable once I took a sip because gawd it was so damn delicious.

Right now, the restaurant is no more so I told myself that I absolutely had to recreate my own version at home. This recipe I sourced out of many slightly differing variations looked promising to me, so I decided on this one.

It's really simple. Just throw everything into a blender and press a button. Mine was quite thick so instead of drinking it, I ate it with a spoon. But you could always thin yours down with some milk if you can't be bothered with utensils. How much condensed milk you choose to put in will depend on how milky you like your drink. Personally, I wouldn't add too much because the smoothie would end up being to rich, given how filling avocados already are in the first place.

I topped my smoothie/pudding off with generous spoonfuls of really easy to make gula melaka syrup, but if you've got the time, I strongly encourage you to try this with mocha fudge sauce. You'll love it.


Avocado Gula Melaka Smoothie
serves 1

1/2 a ripe small avocado
1/2 cup ice
2 tsp ~ 1 tbsp condensed milk

gula melaka syrup, recipe below.

Throw all the ingredients, except the syrup, into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and drizzle over as much gula melaka syrup as you desire.

Gula Melaka Syrup

75g gula melaka, chopped finely
1/4 cup water

In a small pot, combine the gula melaka and water and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

double chocolate loaf with peanut butter cream cheese spread.


With my obsession with Pierre Herme's recipes lately, the two books I've gushed so much about just a few months back, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Baked Explorations, have been left untouched for quite a while. I thought that it was about time I made a reacquaintance.


The double chocolate loaf was a breeze to whip up because it uses the muffin method of stir and dump. I thought that with that much sugar in the recipe, the loaf would turn out really sweet but I was wrong. Still, if I could have cut down the sugar by a bit so the intensity of the chocolate would be stronger.

Although the batter was reasonably thick, most of my chocolate chunks ended up sinking to the bottom. I would advise you to toss them in a bit of flour before folding them in.


The accompanying peanut butter cream cheese spread was one of the main reasons I chose to bake this. What would life be without P.B? Anyway, the spread was more like cream cheese laced with peanut butter instead of PEANUT BUTTER cream cheese, you get what I mean? I would very prefer a 50-50 ratio of peanut butter to cream cheese. But that's the peanut butter fiend in me speaking.

The book recommends using creamy peanut butter but I went with chunky just to add a little crunch to break the monotony of creamy smoothness.


Double Chocolate Loaf
makes a 9 x 5 inch loaf
adapted from Baked Explorations

For the loaf:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the spread:
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the loaf: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Combine brown sugar, sugar, cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk to blend, then add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Whisk until combined.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out mostly clean but still with crumbs attached. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the peanut butter cream cheese spread: Cream the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar together in a bowl until incorporated and lightened up.

Monday, January 16, 2012

pierre herme's macarons- medelice.


Medelice macarons- macarons that are filled with a sunshine-colored tart lemon cream and have a hazelnut praline pressed in the middle.


I'm not the biggest fan of lemon but the hazelnut praline idea was too good to pass up. So while I loved the praline, I was only neutral to this macaron as a whole. Perhaps citrus lovers would be more inclined to this creation.


Tastes aside, I can finally say that I've conquered the macaron! This batch of macarons had no air spaces in the shell like the previous ones. 100% success! I'm so happy happy happy...


P.S. The next flavour I'm making is going to be exotic... 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

mozart.


This is another recipe taken from my much beloved Desserts by Pierre Herme book. It's quite obvious that I tweaked the assembly of the entremet. For one, it's supposed to be a whole cake and I've made them into individual ones. Secondly, I cut down on one of the layers of cinnamon dough. All because I usually can't find anyone else to share the calories with. (The rest of my family consumes only modest amounts of sugar. I, on the other hand...)


Okay, let me give you the breakdown. Originally, it's supposed to go like this: cinnamon tart dough, chocolate-apple mousse, cinnamon tart dough, chocolate-apple mousse, cinnamon tart dough, chocolate shavings, sliced apples, etc for decoration. As you can pretty much imagine, it's a tart lover's dream.

I love crunchy crumbly tart crusts, but I know that too much of a good thing can be boring. Plus, if I'd used three layers of tart dough in my down-scaled cakes, there would hardly be enough room for the mousse. And I find that even after I left out one layer, the crust to mousse ratio is still pretty darn high. I would definitely prefer more mousse.


You must be thinking, won't the middle layer of crust get soggy after sitting in the middle of two layers of mousse? Nope, at least not before 24 hours, which was when I ate my cake. I can't say so for sure for after 2 days though. Anyway, the crust did absorb a bit of moisture, and surprisingly, that extra bit of moisture did wonders for the crust! It wasn't too crunchy and dry, it was... the perfect texture for a tart crust. It's not much to go on, but I don't know how to explain any further.


As a whole though, the entremet wasn't particularly memorable. There are far better recipes in the book. It feels almost cruel to say this but it's true.

Friday, January 13, 2012

savory cheese and chive muffins.


Hey all, how are the new year resolutions going? Honestly, I don't believe in those I'm gonna eat healthier sort of resolutions- those were made to be broken.

But making these savory muffins doesn't mean my non-existent faith in those resolutions are wavering. I just thought that making something that's not loaded with sugar would be a nice change. Besides, I had tons of cheese in the fridge waiting to be used. Or perhaps a more accurate way to put it is tons of cheese starting to go mouldy. 

The muffins were soft and fluffy and loaded with cheese. How cheesy it will taste depends on what kind of cheese you use though. I used a mild cheddar so it wasn't overly cheesy. And I should have added a touch more salt.

The original recipe recommended adding chopped toasted walnuts into the batter but I was too lazy to do that so I left it out. If I could hit the rewind button, I would definitely include those. Oh, and add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes too. Some tart-sweet flavours would be a great addition.


Savory Cheese and Chive Muffins
adapted from here
makes 9

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, depending on how salty the cheese you're using is
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 generous cup coarsely grated Gruyere, Comte Emmental or cheddar cheese
2 ounces Gruyere, Comte, Emmental or cheddar cut into small cubes
1 bunch chives, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk the eggs, oil and milk in another bowl.

Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix together until moistened then stir in the grated and cubed cheese, chopped chives and optional walnuts to form a thick dough. I recommend adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes too! Don't overmix.

Bake for about 14 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  The muffins will keep for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

melody.


Before I became obsessed with Pierre Herme's macaron book, I was infatuated with his dessert book. Since my supply of ground almonds has temporarily run out, I decided to turn back to making cakes for a while.


I call this Herme's recipe, but I've altered it so much that it's hardly recognizable when compared to the picture in the book. Melody is supposed to comprise of, from bottom up- a cinnamon tart base, genoise, twenty-hour apples, cinnamon-caramel bavarian cream, another tart crust and some finely sliced apples arranged in a concentric circle as decoration. What my version entails is a much simpler one- cinnamon tart base, hot milk sponge, sauteed poached pears and the bavarian cream. The sponge was a leftover from my swiss roll and the pears took only a few minutes rather than the twenty hours needed to prepare the apples.


I believe I let my caramel go darker than it was supposed to. My bavarian cream is a coffee-colored one while the one in the book appears to be custard-colored.

One of the things I like about Herme's recipes is that they don't add unnecessary sugar. So I can eat my dessert without spiraling into a hyperactive craze later on. And that's always a good thing because I eat a lot of desserts.


You know why I chose to use just 1 tart layer instead of the original 2? Because I want to use it in one of his other recipes which I will be making very soon! Stay tuned~    

Friday, January 6, 2012

berry surprise cake.


It's time to take a break from macarons and get my daily dose of sugar in the form of cake!

The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan and once I saw the title, I knew I had to try it. Originally, it's a sponge cake that's been hollowed out and filled with a refreshingly tangy cream cheese mousse and raspberries before being cleverly covered up with a sliced layer of cake and then christened with mounds of freshly whipped cream. Love.


I read about some serious sinkage problems with the sponge post-cooling so I decided to bake it in a chiffon pan to minimize the likelihood of a crater in the middle of the cake. And also because I didn't want to hollow out the cake and waste all that sponge. Baking the cake in a chiffon pan would already provide a convenient hole to pour all that delish cream cheese mousse in.

I realized that my hole was too small and narrow to store all that mousse so I used a 3 inch cutter to get a bigger storage area. I halved the recipe and baked it in a 6 inch chiffon pan, by the way. I took some of the cut out sponge and pressed it in the bottom of the hollow center just to create a base so that the mousse doesn't leak out.

Since we're talking about mousse now, I feel the need to point out that I increased the sugar as recommended by other bloggers. However, I think that's not entirely necessary unless you would prefer the mousse to be more sweet than tangy. I made it a little less guilt-inducing by using low fat cream cheese and swapping the cream that's supposed to be mixed in with the cream cheese for low fat milk. The best part is, it still tastes great!


For decoration, I used slightly less whipped cream than instructed in the recipe since I was only going to top the upper half of the cake and because I had to stuff as much mousse as I could in a limited amount of space, I left out the berries that were supposed to go inside the cake and used them to decorate the top instead. It looks much prettier anyway.

I think I need to cut myself another slice now...


Berry Surprise Cake
recipe taken from here

For the cake:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp kirsch, chambord, framboise or raspberry syrup (I didn't have so I omitted)

For the filling:
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used low-fat and used it straight from the fridge)
1/2 cup (I subbed with milk) + 2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar (extra tablespoon optional if you prefer it on the sweet side)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup cold heavy cream
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 1 1/2 pints fresh raspberries, for filling and topping (I used a mix of berries)

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour the insides of a 8 x 3 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and whisk to blend. Put the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water and continue to whisk until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is just warm to touch, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in vanilla.

Using the stand mixer, whisk the egg mixture on medium speed until tripled in volume and forms a ribbon that holds its shape for about 10 seconds when the beater is lifted. Switch to a spatula and sift over half the dry ingredients and fold in gently. Fold in the cooled melted butter then sift over the remaining dry ingredients and fold that in too.

Bake for 30 to 33 minutes or until the top is springy to touch and the sides are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before unmolding and letting it cool completely. The cake will cut more easily if you let it stand overnight, wrapped and kept at room temperature.

For the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl, stir in liqueur and let syrup come to room temperature.


For the filling: Beat the cream cheese until soft, smooth and fluffy. While beating, gradually add the 1/2 cup cream, sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream is absorbed and the cheese is smooth. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Pour the remaining 2/3 cup cream into the same bowl and whip until it holds form peaks. Stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture then fold in the rest. There's no need to wash the bowl- you'll be using it for the topping.


For the topping: Just before you are ready to assemble the cake, whip the cream to medium peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until stiff. Cover the cream and refrigerate.


Assembly: Using a serrated knife, slice off the top 1/2 inch of the cake and set aside. With the knife, cut a circle that's 1/2 inch away from the edges of the cake, stopping between 1/4 and 1/2 inch from the bottom. Carefully pull out the cake within this circle. Transfer the cake to a platter or cardboard round.

Brush the inside of the cake with syrup and spoon a thin layer of filling over the bottom. Toss in 1/2 pint of the berries and cover with the remaining filling. Lift the reserved top layer onto the cake and press it down gently.

Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Finish with some raspberries and refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (or for up to 6 hours) before serving.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

pierre herme's macarons- tout paris.


This is my what, third, macaron post in a row already. I'm telling ya, they're addictive.

These tout paris macarons have a chocolate caramel ganache and a chocolaty rice krispie square sandwiched between each pair.


The chocolate caramel ganache was such a pain. After stirring the caramel into the chocolate, it started to seize up and turn grainy. I put more elbow grease in it and horror of horrors, the caramel started to separate from the ganache. I tried to work it in again as best as I could, including reheating the mixture but nope. Nada. Nothing worked. Finally, I thought of using a blender but even that failed me.


The ganache ended up being something more like a chocolate taffy- pliable and shiny. I was seriously doubtful that something that can be used as play dough would taste good. But hey, surprise! It wasn't chewy at all and the caramel gave a nice depth to the ganache. I adored the crunchy chunk of rice krispies in the middle. The only problem is, I had to let the macarons mature longer due to the low moisture content in the ganache, 2 days instead of 1.

And it's worth every minute.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

pierre herme's macarons- balsamic.


I like weird and funky creations because it's always a surprise when you taste them. Like these balsamic macarons. Some of you may wrinkle your nose in disgust and wonder what on earth is it doing inside a macaron but the moment I saw the recipe, it was already bookmarked in my head.


But you need not worry- these macarons aren't the experiment-gone-wrong kind of funky. In fact, I really like them. The pairing of chocolate macaron and white chocolate balsamic ganache is somewhat similar to the dark chocolate and raspberry combination. In other words, delish.




When I made the ganache on day one, I honestly thought that it would be horrible. The balsamic smell was quite strong, and although the book stated that ideally, we should use a special 25 year old one from Modena, I forged on because I'd never get that fancy balsamic vinegar anyway and I really wanted to try this macaron.


Luckily, the overpowering vinegary smell faded the next day, probably because the ganache was chilled. When I bit into it, it was the perfect tartness with a lingering hint of balsamic. This just might vie for first place with the pistachio macarons.

So, ketchup macarons next time? 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

pierre herme's macarons- vanilla bean and strawberry and vanilla.


2012 is here! And I made some macarons to celebrate!

There are two kinds but both are using the same shell so it wasn't much of hassle. I even cheated with the strawberry and vanilla macarons. I was supposed to make a strawberry gelee of sorts but because I would have to make such a small quantity, I just used strawberry jam in its stead. But I don't know how it worked out because all of them were gone before I got to one. So I guess the jam replacement worked out well!


Besides the strawberry gelee, the S & V macarons also had a layer of vanilla bean ganache, which is the same as the vanilla bean macarons'. So you see, really no trouble at all making two kinds.


Being such a vanilla junkie, I thought I would worship the vanilla bean macaron but nope, not really. It was good, but vanilla and almonds doesn't go together as well as say... raspberry and almonds.

Still, I'm really happy with the vanilla bean batch because they look beautiful! If you would allow me to say so. I finally figured out the reason why my macarons didn't succeed in the past- temperature. My oven was way too hot even at 150C for these little babies so the temperature that works best is 140C. And I used to follow recipes that said to bake at 160~170C... no wonder they failed.


There's still a bit of air pocket inside the shells but I think that's because I overbeat the egg whites- way to much air. Or maybe because I don't mix the almond meal, icing sugar and first portion of egg whites together first. But the book didn't say to do that! I think... Almost everyone does that too though... Hmm...

Alright! Next batch~ Oh by the way, if you're interested in the shell recipe, there's one here. Just omit the colorings for a plain one.