Monday, January 27, 2014
You will not believe the obstacles I had to overcome just to make these. Firstly, I realised that I had run out of ground almonds, which is one of the essential building blocks of macaron shells. So instead of the 50-50 ratio of ground almonds to black sesame powder I was planning to use, I took a gamble and used only the finely ground black sesame seeds. The macaron batter was markedly more fluid than usual when I made it and I honestly thought that they would end up as a flop but they turned out pretty okay surprisingly. More on that later.
The second thing that sent me into panic attack mode was the fact that I couldn't find my piping bags. You just cannot make macarons without piping them. No. Way. But after 5 minutes of frantic rummaging in my junkyard of a storeroom I managed to locate the final two. One for piping the macaron batter and one for piping the filling. I could have collapsed onto the floor in immense relief. I mean, running out of piping bags is a major crisis in my house. Running out of butter is another. And let's not even mention flour.
I think this batch of macaron shells are possibly the most perfect-looking ones I've ever made. But when I removed them from the silicon mats I noticed that they were also much lighter than usual macaron shells. More fragile, essentially. And the filling made them even more prone to breakage.
That aside, I think these macarons are pretty much one of my favorites ever taste-wise. The black sesame flavour was definitely intense and the slightly tangy cream cheese filling and sweet pineapple paste played against each other nicely.
They're too hard to share.
Black Sesame Macarons with Cream Cheese and Pineapple Filling
makes about 18 macarons
If this is your first time making macarons, you may want to check out this tutorial which I found immensely helpful when I was learning how to make them myself!
For the shells:
62g black sesame seeds
72g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
50g egg whites
a pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
For the filling:
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
Combine the black sesame seeds, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Sift into a bowl.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar, if using, in a bowl. Whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy then turn the speed up to medium-high and gradually add the sugar until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
Add all of the black sesame mixture into the meringue and fold until the batter has the consistency of lava.
Pipe the macaron batter into about one-inch wide rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment or silicon baking mats. Let the macarons sit out for half an hour to an hour, depending on the level of humidity, until the tops feel dry to touch.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 320F. Place the macarons in the oven then lower the temperature to 300F. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let the shells cool completely before removing them from the sheets.
Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until just combined.
Assemble the macarons: Pipe the cream cheese filling onto one shell, place an adequate amount of pineapple paste in the middle; sandwich with another similarly-sized shell. Refrigerate for at least 1 day before eating.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
If you can recall, (if you can't just scroll down or look to the archive column or here I'll give you the link) I made a chocolate cheesecake last week. I ate a considerable amount of it and gave most of it away, but I also sneakily saved a small portion of it to be chopped into small chunks, frozen and retrieved at a later date to throw into a batter of sorts. I've always wanted to stir chunks of cheesecake into batters with the same ease as I do with chocolate chips with added smugness.
Coincidentally, I had a chocolate cake recipe on my to-bake list, which seemed to me to be the perfect pairing for my scraps of chocolate cheesecake. For this momentous occasion, I got out my hello kitty cake pan. It occurred to me halfway as I was mixing the batter that the chunks of cheesecake might sink to the bottom of the pan and mar hello kitty's face, so I implemented my chocolate-chocolate-cheesecake cake idea in the form of two additional muffins at the side.
My chocolate cheesecake was coated with a layer of ganache on top and that ganache, as expected, became all oozy and melty in the muffins. And if you've always wanted to try warm cheesecake, then I guess this is your chance! Overall, the chunks of cheesecake made the muffins noticeably moister than the plain cake itself.
This chocolate cake recipe I used is from Bake It Like You Mean It, and is entitled Aztec Creme Fraiche Pound Cake. The author highlighted the cake's fudgy texture in the book, which I have to say that it is indeed the most appealing aspect of the cake. The batter rose pretty high in the oven and collapsed considerably when cooling; it sort of reminded me of a fallen chocolate souffle cake, the way it behaved (hah) as well as the texture - soft, dense, creamy, fudgy. Pretty much the kind of cake you'll forget to stop eating.
What I didn't quite take to about this recipe is its use of too many spices and too much of them. The cinnamon definitely stood out too much and the lemon flavoring (subbed for the lime oil in the recipe because I didn't have any on hand) was so undetectable I shouldn't have bothered in the first place. I already left out the cayenne pepper because I didn't have any. It's an overly complicated cake.
Nevertheless, for the texture alone this recipe is one worth trying. My advice is to leave out all the extras (i.e. the lime oil, cinnamon and cayenne pepper) and I can pretty much guarantee you a hit.
Chocolate Chocolate-Cheesecake Pound Cake
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup coffee, very hot
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (I used vanilla extract)
1 tsp lime oil
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup creme fraiche (I used sour cream)
chocolate cheesecake, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare a large bundt pan.
Combine the chocolate and coffee. Let the mixture stand until the chocolate has melted then stir to combine.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one a time, beating until each addition has been incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and lime oil.
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cayenne.
Add the creme fraiche to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
Alternatively add the flour mixture in three additions and chocolate mixture in two, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the cheesecake chunks.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Breaking news. This post marks post five-oh-oh! I don't really celebrate every hundredth post but surely the halfway point of a thousand merits a few words of special attention. Pop them party streamers; blow them balloons up! Can you imagine how much I've baked by now? And I actually started baking before setting up this blog so a lot have gone undocumented. I would say that I've exploited my ovens (one broke down - I don't think you have to guess why) quite a fair bit.
It's been almost five years since the birth of this blog so I guess I churn out about slightly more than 100 posts each year. If you've been following me since the days my pictures were about as pretty as trash and my writing so horrendous you could cringe, thank you, from the within the depths of my sugar-loving soul. Really. Because I myself would flee far far away to another tab when I read my old posts and never return to the source of all that awkwardness.
It wasn't planned, but this chocolate cheesecake suits the occasion perfectly in my opinion. Something that requires a little bit more effort and thought invested to mark a marginally special day and special post.
I'm not a huge fan of cheese, and that extends to cheesecake as well. However, a slice of toblerone cheesecake a certain popular coffee chain had on promotion until recently made me relax my stance towards cheesecake - chocolate cheesecake is surprisingly good. The reason why I liked it is because the chocolate overpowered the cheese, although you can still taste enough cheese to call it a cheesecake. There's something the rich tanginess of cheese adds to chocolate - if you like chocolate cream cheese frosting, you would know what I mean.
For this recipe, the chocolate very much outshines the cheese, which suits me very well. It is also extremely rich and creamy despite the fact that I used low fat cream cheese. In fact, I may even venture that it's too rich and creamy, for me at least. The sacred rule for baking cheesecakes with perfectly smooth unblemished tops is to not overbeat the batter, which would incorporate too much air that would expand and fight its way to the top, creating those dreaded cracks and fissures. I diligently abided by this rule and as a result, I found the cheesecake a bit too dense for my liking. If I were to make it again, I would beat the batter a little longer to make the baked cheesecake a lighter and "fluffier". But hey, that's just me so if you like your cheesecakes to be fudgy and substantial, just follow the directions below as per normal.
I messed with the original recipe a tad and folded dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots into the batter to break the monotonous smooth texture. I also added a spoonful of vanilla to tone down the cream cheese flavour (reflected in the recipe below).
The decorating was, and always is, the most fun part and I swear that I was restraining myself. I could have added more toppings, but I reasoned that it wouldn't be a good idea because it would be difficult to break through the barrier of toppings when slicing the cheesecake.
I think this would be a good point to stop rambling at so you can get on with reading the recipe. Happy baking!
makes a 6 inch (taller) or 7 inch (shorter) cake
slightly adapted from here
For the crust:
6 or 7 inch round sweet tart dough, baked and cooled in the pan
For the batter:
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (low-fat is okay)
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the garnishing:
about 3/4 cup ganache, chilled until spreadable
m&ms, chocolate wafer rolls, sprinkles, basically anything you want!
Preheat oven to 350F.
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder and vanilla extract until smooth. Beat in the eggs one a time, until just incorporated. Beat in the cooled chocolate until just combined.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 1 hour or until the center is just set and appears set. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake with a knife; let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.
Frost the sides of the cheesecake with a thin layer of chilled ganache. Press chocolate sprinkles into the ganache. Frost the top of the cake with more ganache. Decorate the top of the cheesecake with your preferred toppings, pressing them into the ganache to prevent them from falling off.
Refrigerate cheesecake again until the ganache has firmed up, about 1 hour, before serving.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
You might recall the cherry chocolate chip cake I made last year. I loved that flavour combination so much that I vowed to recreate it again in cake form or otherwise.
Today is the last day of my long holiday and as armor for the upcoming long term pain and despair, I decided to make pancakes. It's really quite hard to find the perfect pancake recipe. Thick and fluffy pancakes are usually more visually appealing but they more than often not spell dry and way too cakey. While these pancakes are far from inedible, I wouldn't call them my favorite recipe either. For that honor, it would have to go to Alton Brown's pancakes.
Somehow with chocolate chips and cherries already embedded in the pancakes, maple syrup didn't seem quite like the perfect pairing for these. I couldn't go without some form of accompaniment of course, so I got out my jar of Reese's peanut butter (!) and spread a healthy spoonful on the pancakes while they were still warm so the peanut butter kind of became all melty and oozy. Perfect.
Chocolate Chip Cherry Pancakes
recipe slightly adapted from here
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter
chopped glace cherries
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
Whisk the buttermilk, egg and melted butter together.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix just until there are no traces of flour. Set the batter aside for 5 minutes.
Cook the pancakes as per normal but after pouring the batter into the pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips and cherries on top.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Perhaps it's due to publishing relatively more posts in the past week that I have nothing much to write about as a preamble to the recipe. So I'll just cut straight to the point.
In a nutshell, these cakes taste intensely of milk tea, are dense and extremely extremely moist. If I ever need a slightly more unusual recipe to impress, this would be it.
School's starting soon and I can only hope I can post 5 times a month like 2013's average. Ah well.
P.S. I think hazelnuts would be good too in place of the pine nuts. Adding some orange peel wouldn't be a bad idea either!
Honey Milk Tea Pine Nut Pound Cakes
makes two mini loaves
slightly adapted from here
2 tsp black tea leaves
1/2 cup milk
3/4 stick butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
handful of pine nuts for topping the unbaked batter
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two mini loaf pans.
Place the milk and tea leaves in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let tea leaves steep for 1 hour. Strain the milk and set aside. If it doesn't add up to a 1/2 cup then simply top up with more milk.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and beat until incorporated. Beat in the honey and vanilla extract.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the flour mixture (three additions) alternately with the milk (two additions).
Divide the batter evenly amongst the two pans and top with the pine nuts. Bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Surprise, surprise! I made bread after at least a year of not baking any. I feel so out of touch with bread baking but at least I can still recall the steps and dos and don'ts.
I remember that back when I was in a bread-baking craze I searched for recipes that yield bread that is not just soft and fluffy on the day it's baked, but also days after. And amongst many of those recipes I've found, this appears to be one of them, judging from the tick placed beside the recipe title on my handwritten copy.
Although making bread is admittedly time-consuming, the effort needed is definitely not directly proportional and it's a great deal more fun than I remembered it to be. I had a bit too much fun with the fillings - peanut butter and jam, peanut butter and chocolate chips, cheese and butter, and even chocolate mousse cake. For the oval shaped ones, I slathered mayonnaise on all of them, sprinkled sesame seeds and dried parsley on two, and drizzled teriyaki sauce and showered furikake on the other two. (Can I just say that I love the mayonnaise parts?)
Essentially, I would just like to convey that this recipe makes bread that remains soft even on day two. But of course, since freshly-baked bread is always better, just keep the dough in the fridge until you're ready to bake with it. Have fun!
Hokkaido Milky Buns
270g bread flour
30g cake flour
15g milk powder
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
Place all the ingredients in their listed orders in a mixing bowl. With the kneading hook attached, mix on medium speed until the dough comes together. Increase speed to medium high speed and knead until a piece of dough is able to be stretched until it's thin enough to be translucent without tearing, about 15 minutes.
Gather the dough into a ball, cover, and let proof until doubled in size, about 50 minutes.
Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll each into a ball. Let the portions of dough rest for about 10 minutes before shaping.
After shaping, place the dough onto prepared baking sheets and let it proof until nearly doubled in size, around 40 minutes.
Bake at 170C for about 10 minutes.