Friday, April 26, 2013

almond joy tart.


I'm procrastinating by typing out this post. I'm really supposed to be doing math homework now but just the mere thought of it repulses me. Oh math, the bane of my existence. Along with my sweet tooth.

Why do we need to do all those complicated math problems when we have such miraculous technology that is capable of solving any sum we key in anyway? Speaking of which, I have no idea how to work a graphic calculator. It's the technology idiot in me. My future is doomed.

P.S. Is anyone else feeling unsettled at how techno-centric the world is progressing towards? I for one like certain things to be kept simple like the way they were.

Okay. I need to make this short and snappy because my math homework isn't going to get itself done.


This tart basically consists of a tart base containing ground almonds, a white chocolate ganache with shredded coconut folded in and a chocolate ganache. There is supposed to be a whole almond topping off each tart but I didn't have any.

I tampered with the recipe a little (typical me) by subbing the white sugar with brown and using ground almonds instead of grinding whole ones down like the recipe instructed. I also used desiccated coconut instead of shredded because that was what I had.

The almonds weren't very discernible, and I think that's an understatement. Maybe I should say that I couldn't taste them at all, whatever traces of them being masked by the heavy flavours of chocolate and coconut. I would prefer the filling to have less coconut because it soaked up a lot of moisture from the ganache, making it rather dry. The thin layer of chocolate ganache on the tart's surface was barely enough for me- I found myself craving more chocolate to go with the tart. I rectified that issue by grabbing a few stray M&Ms from the fridge.

Overall, it's a pretty okay recipe but it could be made better with a few tweaks here and there.


Almond Joy Tart
makes 6 individual 4-inch tarts
adapted from Baked Explorations

For the almond tart dough:
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole toasted almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the coconut filling:
8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp light rum

For the chocolate glaze and garnish:
2 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 whole toasted almonds

Make the almond tart dough: In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg and set it aside.

Pulse the almonds and sugar together in a food processor until almonds are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse again until just mixed. Add the butter and pulse until sandy. Pour in the egg and pulse until the dough just begins to cohere into a ball. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or overnight. (Alternatively, divide the dough into 6 equal portions and press it straight into the tart pans- my lazy method of choice.)

Divide the chilled dough into 6 portions and roll each portion into a 5 1/2 inch circle that is 1/8 inch thick before pressing into a 4 inch tart pan. Place the tart pans in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Line the tart crusts with aluminum foil and fill each one 3/4 full with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the coconut cream filling: Place the white chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it comes to a simmer than pour it straight into the bowl with the white chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 30 seconds before stirring the mixture until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the ganache for at least 4 hours or overnight before proceeding.

Whip the white chocolate ganache until soft peaks form. Fold in the coconut and rum. Divide filling evenly among the cooled tart shells and place them in the fridge while you make the chocolate glaze.

Make the chocolate glaze: Place the milk and dark chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl.

Heat the heavy cream until it is just about to boil then immediately pour over the chocolates; stir to combine. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Remove the tarts from the fridge and spoon glaze evenly over each one. Top each tart with one almond and refrigerate again until the glaze has set, about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

almond and bittersweet chocolate nugget cookies.


These are one of those photos that are hurriedly shot before the fleeting moments of sundown came to pass, again. The sun was setting and the sky was dimming by the second, casting a grayish hue on my standing-height Ikea table, which was where I was going to shoot the cookies. I moved quickly. I grabbed the best-looking cookies and set them on a pink flowery plate I had grabbed from my display cabinet and given a quick wipe just moments before. Positioning two slightly off-centre then leaning the third against the foundation of sorts, I was ready to bring the plate to the table.

My camera was sitting on another table where the TV was at. On the way to my Ikea table, I casually swiped the DSLR from where it was at with my free hand. Finally, the cookies and camera were ready. I was ready. It was time to shoot.

I battled against time and fought hard against the annoying little voice in the back of my head.

Horrible composition. Too close! Zoom out, zoom out! That angle is boring.

I could have done better, I believe. But I'd also like to believe that these pictures are not bad given time constraints. Hah. Anyway, the taste of the cookies is more important, no?


Instead of whole, chopped or slivered almonds in the recipe, the almond component is actually flaked almonds, which you have to admit is pretty unusual. They act almost like rolled oats, giving the cookies this flakiness that results in bits of cookie breaking off from time to time with every bite. Also, there is almond extract, and you can taste it. I sort of like almond extract in small doses, but it's not the most popular flavoring so if you absolutely abhor it, you should leave it out or reduce the amount by half if you make these cookies.


These cookies prove to me again that chocolate chunks are superior to chocolate chips- you just can't get that melty ooze from chocolate chips once the cookies are cooled. I would replace chocolate chips with chocolate chunks in all future chocolate chip cookie recipes but sometimes, the convenience is so hard to beat.

Oh, sloth would be the death of me.


Almond and Bittersweet Chocolate Nugget Cookies
makes 33
adapted from Baking by Flavour

1 1/3 cups + 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter
2 tbsp + 2 tsp shortening
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch nuggets
1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted and cooled completely

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together.

Cream the butter and shortening until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg, almond and vanilla extracts. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate, coconut and almonds until evenly distributed.

Spoon rounded 2-tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until just set and pale golden around the edges. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

chocolate coconut cream batter pie.


Looks like a giant misnomer, doesn't it? Like, how can this be pie? Alas, the devil is in the details. It's a chocolate coconut cream batter pie. I'd say that the recipe title did a pretty good job of enticing me into baking it by including the word pie.


Think of it as a crustless pie. More accurately though, it is to me, a huge circular coconut-cream-cheese-swirled brownie. It probably even is. I knew beforehand that this would come out looking nothing remotely like a proper pie but I still can't help feeling disappointed. The word pie connotes crusted treats with fillings ranging from creamy to fruity to chocolaty, and in some cases even toppings- a picture of decadence and grandeur, so placing "pie" in this recipe title really unconsciously set me up for disappointment. Because when you place "batter" next to "pie", honestly, "batter" disappears.

I feel like I've been hoodwinked.

I'll give full marks to the recipe title for creativity though.


The slightly tangy cream cheese swirl is dotted with chocolate chips and M&Ms. The M&Ms aren't supposed to be in there but I figured that I would like a bit of colour. Nah, just kidding. I just wanted to use up the pathetic 2 tablespoons worth of candy left in the fridge. As usual, the colours ran, and it was painful to watch streaks of red, blue and green contaminate the pale yellow of the cream cheese as I stirred, but I think the colours made the final product look prettier.


I'm hankering for more coconut flavour though. There's only so much desiccated coconut can do (I was supposed to use sweetened flaked coconut but I doubt there would be much of a difference). I need to make something that is crazily coconutty soon. Like a coconut cake with coconut milk in the batter and frosting, because the real magic likes in coconut milk. Uh huh.

Oh coconut, me loves.

Oh yes, before I forget, the brownie portion isn't bad too. It's dense and fudgy and chocolaty enough- a great pairing with the cream cheese swirl.


Chocolate Coconut Cream Batter Pie
makes a 9 inch pie
adapted from Baking by Flavour

For the coconut cream topping:
4 ounces cream cheese
3 tbsp vanilla-scented sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
large pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut

For the chocolate fudge brownie batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup vanilla-scented sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 inch pie pan.

For the coconut cream topping: Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the egg yolk, flour, vanilla and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips and coconut.

For the chocolate fudge brownie batter: Whisk the eggs to blend. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla until mixture is lightly thickened. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate until homogenous. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.

Scrape the chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate batter and use a knife to lightly swirl the two together. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

antique caramel cupcakes.


Fellow sugar lovers, comrades in carb crime, synced minds of the sweet. Have you all seen this? The piping is just simply adorably fantastic. As you can imagine, I fell in love with it. I wanted to imitate it. I tried to copy it. But I failed.

I tried out that piping technique on these cupcakes here and my flowers look nothing like the ones on her blog. I do think that one or two flowers were at least not painful to look at but my first one was atrocious.

Okay. I need to chill. It was my first attempt after all.

Chilling.


Anyway, I think these cupcakes could do better in fulfilling the concept of caramel cupcakes. The cake portion itself wasn't particularly flavorful, but then again, the main focus could have been the frosting. So let's talk frosting. The frosting was pretty good, but there could have been a deeper caramel flavour to it. I find that the cream cheese was competing with the caramel, hence slightly muting caramel-iness of the frosting. Of course, it may be perfect in others' opinions- many friends gave rave reviews, in fact- but if it's a caramel frosting, I would like it to scream caramel.

I say caramel but it is actually made from butter and brown sugar. I often see this kind of "caramel" used to refer to caramel, but shouldn't caramel be made from just sugar and perhaps a splash of water? What are your views?

By the way, sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of the cupcakes after you frost them. It makes a world of difference.


Antique Caramel Cupcakes
adapted from Baked Elements
makes 20

For the cake:
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
pinch of salt
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp white vinegar

For the caramel frosting:
1 1/4 stick butter, divided
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until combined. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in vinegar and stir into the batter until just combined.

Divide batter amongst the cupcake liners and bake for about 12 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out mostly clean, with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter until melted and combined. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in cream. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely. To speed up the cooling process, I placed the bowl in the fridge. You can also make this before you bake the cupcakes to save on waiting time.

Cream the remaining butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and salt and beat until mixture is smooth and combined. Stream in the caramel mixture and beat until incorporated. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth. At this point, if the frosting is too soft, refrigerate until it is firm enough to use. Then, frost away!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

jumbo creme egg stuffed chocolate chip m&m cookie.


Okay, so I made these cookies with two objectives in mind. One, to test out this chocolate chip cookie recipe that seems pretty popular and two, to see what would happen to creme eggs when they're baked.


I guessed, hoped, that they would bake up super gooey and melty but well, as you can see, the artery-clogging hydrogenated fats injected into these thumb-sized chocolate eggs did an outstanding job in keeping their shape intact. I mean, it would be totally yay if we had to eat them as they are- they wouldn't turn into unrecognizable mush at room temperature, but they don't function very well as a chocolate chip substitute.



The cookie itself, I dunno, it has been too long since I last ate a chocolate chip cookie to do a comparison so I can't really tell if it is better than all my other renditions of the chocolate chip cookie or not. What I can say though, is that these cookies baked up really nice and puffy. Beautifully circular too. If I must pass a comment, I would take the risk and say that the chocolate chip cookies I made containing browned butter had a deeper caramel flavour than these.


At the end of the day though, there is hardly such a thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie, non?


P.S. I honestly wish that the colours of the M&Ms wouldn't run.


Jumbo Creme Egg Stuffed Chocolate Chip M&M Cookie
adapted from here
makes 8

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup M&Ms
8 Cadbury creme eggs

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt together.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Divide the dough into 8 portions. Wrap each portion of dough around a creme egg. Chill the dough until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bake for 13 minutes or until barely golden brown around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

coffee and milk chocolate chip cake.


As I type, there is an annoying fly ricocheting against the walls of my room, the ceiling, my cupboard and god know what else. You know, it's one of those big ones large enough to cause distress. Whenever it hits an obstacle, the beat of its wings can be distinctly heard. I left my windows wide open but apparently it's not taking the hint. Why am I not surprised. If it even had an inkling of IQ it wouldn't be flying into walls all over my room.

Good lordy lord I just saw it crawling on my windowsill.

Woo hoo I just crushed its irritating presence into a wad of tissue paper. In the rubbish bin it sails. Good riddance.


Okay. Now I can type about cake in peace. This is cake is really as straightforward as its title- a coffee-flavored cake with milk chocolate chips suspended throughout. There is a coffee wash brushed across the surface too. The coffee wash is basically coffee liqueur, coffee and sugar stirred together. It doesn't have to be heated to dissolve the sugar. In fact, the undissolved crystals of sugar are the very reason why I love this coffee wash. When you apply it onto the cake's surface, it forms a thin crust and gives a little crunch to the cake. I made a rum pound cake with a similar glaze before and it was fantastic too. You should totally try it. Highly recommended.



I would like if the cake itself had more coffee flavour but I had no other complaints. It is very flavorful and not overly sweet. I bet white chocolate chips instead of milk would go wonderfully with the cake as well. Or perhaps caramel. Try these suggestions and let me know?



Coffee and Milk Chocolate Chip Cake
makes a 10 to 12 inch bundt cake
adapted from Baking by Flavour

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 tsp instant espresso powder
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening (I just used all butter)
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
2 cups mini milk chocolate chips

For the coffee wash:
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coffee liqueur, like Kahlua
2 tbsp cold strong coffee (I just used more coffee liqueur)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 10 to 12 inch bundt pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg together.

Whisk the buttermilk, vanilla and instant espresso powder together.

Cream the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add in the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate the first before adding the next, until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the buttermilk mixture in 2, alternating them. Fold in the milk chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean, with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake in the pan for about 5 minutes before unmolding onto a rack.

Make the coffee wash: Combine the coffee liqueur, coffee and sugar together in a bowl.

Brush the wash onto the surface of the cake. Cool completely before slicing.