Sunday, February 23, 2014

gula melaka granola.


I'm not sure if it's my infrequent posting that has led to a deterioration of my writing skills or the fact that this granola is so darn good that I can think of only very little to say in this post.


I got the inspiration for this granola from love letter cookies leftover from the recently concluded Chinese New Year celebrations. They are really good cookies, but there were just too many. I realised that when crushed, they greatly resemble cereal, which eventually led me to conclude that they would be awesome granola material. My decision to make granola was further cemented when I found a pack of gula melaka in my fridge. Love letter cookies are extremely coconutty and gula melaka and coconut pairs really well together.


Since the granola was taking a tropical turn, dried banana seemed like the perfect dried fruit to throw into the mix. I couldn't find any though, so I got dried mango instead. On hindsight, I should have thought of dried pineapple but I found that the oat mixture itself is so delicious that the fruits are practically redundant. As for the nuts, I chose walnuts and cashews. Macadamia nuts would have been a great choice too!


I feel that I must issue out a warning about this granola - the clusters are tremendously addictive. At first I took a few just to sample, and minutes later I was popping every alternate piece into my mouth as I was transferring them from the tray to a jar. I would say that these are too good to give away, but I think "they are so good that you must give them away" reflects the situation and the extent of its deliciousness more realistically.


Please give this recipe a try! I swear you won't regret it. (And these cupcakes too for that matter.)


Gula Melaka Granola
makes about 5 cups

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup crushed love letter cookies
1 1/2 cup any kind of nuts
6 tbsp chopped gula melaka (palm sugar)
1/4 cup oil
salt
1 cup dried fruits (mango, pineapple, banana etc), chopped

Preheat oven to 160C. Prepare a large baking sheet.

Combine the oats, cookies and nuts into a bowl.

Combine the palm sugar, oil and salt into a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the oats mixture and stir until evenly coated.

Empty the mixture onto the baking sheets, spreading them out evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. Don't disturb the granola too much if you want more clusters.

Cool on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

black sesame cupcakes.


I absolutely adore black sesame. I absolutely adore cake. Put those two loves together and it's little wonder why I cannot resist this black sesame cake. Somehow it has never occurred to me before that I could just make my own version at home. Perhaps it's because it's so good and convenient to buy I couldn't possibly imagine needing to make one myself.


I didn't make these with the intention of besting the one from the cake store; I simply had black sesame paste I had to use up and I figured why not, for the sake of curiosity, see how I fare against the cake that seems so unbeatably good?


My verdict is that these have completely outdone my expectations - they may not have a black sesame taste as strong as the one I bought, but the texture is much more pleasing, less crumbly and more moist. Even though the black sesame taste isn't as intense, it isn't that far off.

So my conclusion for today is that with a little tweaking to the recipe (i.e. experimenting with adding more black sesame paste), I may never need to buy my black sesame cake again *insert smug smile*.


Black Sesame Cupcakes
makes 10

Optional: I hollowed out the centre of some of the cupcakes and filled them with adzuki paste.

For the cupcakes:
120g all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
80g sugar
100g black sesame paste
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk

For the cream cheese frosting:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Bake the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare cupcake tins with paper liners.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together.

Cream the butter, salt, sugar and black sesame paste until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, incorporating the first fully before adding the second.

Stir in the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately.

Divide the batter evenly amongst the paper liners and bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out only with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before frosting.

Make the cream cheese frosting: Beat all the ingredients together until combined and fluffy. Use immediately or chill for a bit until it's firm enough to work with.

Friday, February 14, 2014

earl grey white chocolate bonbons.


Happy Valentine's Day all! I never used to bother making stuff on this day but I decided to this year for an excuse to bake.

Valentine's Day is very much centered around chocolate and I while I had plenty other options (brownies, cookies, etc.), I interpreted the theme in a very literal sense and made chocolates. Well, bonbons to be exact. The shell is made of milk chocolate while the filling is a earl grey white chocolate ganache. I ran out of it towards the end though so I filled the rest with adzuki paste.


This was my first time making bonbons so I didn't quite know how to go about making them cleanly. As you can see, the bonbons are not very level and some of them have frills extending out from the bottom. That, I realised belatedly, is because I had overfilled the shells so the encasing layer of chocolate jutted out from the mold. Not to mention the tiny holes in the shells where the pattern is because I didn't manage to brush the chocolate into the nooks and crevices. Plus, some of the bonbons weren't sealed properly. I think the first thing I can do to make my life easier is to get a proper brush to spread the chocolate evenly around.


The white chocolate ganache is a little fluid so I found it hard to work with, but I like its consistency because you can eat it straight from the fridge and have the centre all melty like it should be. The presence of the earl grey is pretty strong too.


Yes making these can be considerably time consuming and sometimes nerve wracking but I feel like they allow a lot of room for fun and creativity so I'll be using my chocolate molds again really soon!


Earl Grey White Chocolate Bonbons
makes 24

For the shells:
tempered milk chocolate

For the ganache:
35g heavy cream
25g milk
4g earl grey tea leaves
57g white chocolate, chopped finely
15g butter

Brush the insides of the mold with the tempered milk chocolate. Leave in the fridge to set while you make the ganache.

Combine the heavy cream, milk and tea leaves in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, turn of the heat and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. After which, bring the mixture to a simmer again and then strain into the bowl of chopped white chocolate. Stir until the milk-white chocolate mixture is combined. Stir in the butter.

Retrieve the milk chocolate shells from the fridge and fill them with the cooled white chocolate ganache. Be careful not to overfill them. Chill in the fridge until the ganache is set.

Top the ganache with a layer of milk chocolate. Refrigerate the chocolates for at least 1 hour or until completely firm before serving.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

marshmallow cake.


I feel like it has been forever since I last baked a layer cake. The most recent was in December last year. Two months - yup, pretty much an eternity.


The opportunity arose when I found a pack of tricolor marshmallows my grandma had bought, one of her many random but well-meaning gifts. Nobody in my house eats marshmallows as they are really, but I thought it would be such a waste to just give these confections in such gorgeous pastel shades so I decided to use them for baking.


Layer cakes are the ultimate blank canvas for decorating in my opinion. Sure, cupcakes are pretty fun to dress up too but they lack enough surface area. I had tons of fun seeing my passing thought of an idea materialise marshmallow by marshmallow.


Since my main focus for this cake is the marshmallows, I wasn't that fussed about the cake itself and its filling. I used a white cake since I had extra egg whites in the fridge to use up, and I chose the filling of peanut butter and pineapple jam because I had them ready at hand. The cream cheese frosting was because I love cream cheese frosting. Essentially, you can just use your own recipes and use this decorating idea.

Have fun!


Marshmallow Cake
makes a 5 inch cake
white cake adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

You can pretty much use anything you like for the filling because it's not the focus of the cake. I used peanut butter and pineapple jam.

For the white cake:
1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5/8 cup buttermilk
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter

For the whipped cream cheese frosting, refer to this post

For assembly:
twisty marshmallows, as much as you need

Bake the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two 5 inch cake pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour mixture in three additions and milk mixture in two additions alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Do not overbeat.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 25 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean. Cool the cakes completely before filling and frosting.

Assemble the cake: Fill the cake with your desired filling, frost it with the whipped cream cheese frosting and arrange the marshmallows neatly around the sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours before serving.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

oshiruko.


This is just a quick post to revive this increasingly silent blog. I actually wanted to bake something but I decided against it because there were too many calorific goodies lying around in my house already so I went with something that I could finish by myself.

For those who are hearing of this for the first time, oshiruko is basically a kind of japanese red bean soup. I believe zenzai is its more commonly heard counterpart, which is thicker than oshiruko. This isn't a dessert that is designed to wow; it's just something very homey and comforting, which is quite a nice respite from all the rich layer cakes and butter laden cookies.

I served it with some homemade black sesame paste which I think goes really well together with this soup! It's a breeze to whip up - just blend some toasted black sesame seeds with a third of that in volume of caster sugar until it achieves paste-like consistency - so if you have a little bit of time to spare, do try it!

Oshiruko
makes 1 serving

You can adjust the quantity of water as you like to make it thinner or thicker.

100g japanese red bean paste
100ml water

Combine the red bean paste and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat and serve.