Monday, 31 March 2008

Oreo Muffins with Peanut Butter Chips

I bought a pack of buttermilk recently and used it on 3 separate occasions.

I first made a batch of buttermilk muffins following a recipe I copied from a magazine.

I replaced the chocolate chips with Reese's peanut butter chips...I finally chanced upon these at Cold Storage (Vivo city) a couple of months back...and I have been saving them just for this recipe! Knowing that the use of buttermilk will make bakes very tender, I had very high expectations for these the fact that the recipe was contributed by a local bakeshop and muffins are their speciality. So you would imagine how disappointed I was when the muffins didn't turn out as expected. They were slightly dry, even fresh out of the oven :(

Next, I tried making some buttermilk biscuits...hoping that I could yield a batch of nice, buttery biscuits just like those from Popeye's or Mcdonalds. It turned out to be a complete flop...they looked and tasted more like dinner rolls instead! I read that buttermilk biscuits are supposed to be very easy to make...but it proof to be a great challenge for me to cut out the sticky dough into rounds. I guess I have to read up more on these before my next attempt.

On the last day before the leftover buttermilk expires, I managed to squeeze in sometime to bake these Oreo muffins...

We actually came up with this recipe over a cup of Oreo Mcflurry! When we got home, I retrieved this very much trusted muffin recipe and adapted it according to my family members' wish list. I replaced the milk with buttermilk, and added in crushed oreo cookies and the peanut butter chips. I did noticed that the recipe calls for baking soda...which goes hand in hand with buttermilk. The original recipe calls for melted butter...since I was short of time to melt and let the butter cool off, I replaced it with sunflower oil.

These muffins didn't look very pleasing due to the crushed oreos. Nevertheless, they tasted very delicious...moist and fluffy. Not only were they soft and tender, they were also packed with can't go wrong with peanut butter chips and oreos?!

It was only while trying to compose this post that I learned from the joyofbaking site, that, besides buttermilk, using oil instead of butter will yield very tender oil prevents the development of gluten in the flour.

If you were to ask me how I would rate these muffins...I would say these are the sort of muffins I can give away with confidence to my friends...of course, provided they like Both oreos and peanut butter ;)

(makes 12 muffins)

250g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g Reese's peanut butter chips
8 oreo sandwich cookies (remove fillings, coarsely chopped)
1 egg, lightly beaten
60ml vegetable oil
175ml buttermilk
125g granulated sugar

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180degC (350 degF).

  2. Sieve together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl. Add peanut butter chips, crushed oreo biscuits and mix with a spatula. Make a well in the centre.

  3. Place egg, oil, buttermilk and sugar in another bowl. Mix (with a manual whisk) until thoroughly combined.

  4. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients. With the spatula, gently fold all the ingredients to form a wet batter. Just mix until the flour are incorporate into the batter. DO NOT Over mix. The batter will appear lumpy.

  5. Spoon batter into paper muffin cups. Bake for 20mins until muffins turn golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

  6. Let cool on a wire rack.
Recipe source: adapted from Bread baking by hand or bread machine, by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Pizza Express

During the recent one week term break, I grabbed the opportunity to play around with another pizza dough recipe. I have always wanted to try my hands on a homemade thin-crust pizza, and this recipe was the answer to my search.

The recipe requires only a few basic ingredients, and the amount is just right for our family. It only requires 250g of flour to make two 12 inches pizza doughs. After comparing the instructions for this recipe and the previous one that I have tried, I noticed that in order to get a thinner crust, the pizza will have to be baked right away after the topping has been added. Allowing the dough to proof for another 15mins or so before baking will create a slightly puff-up crust.

According to the instructions, I was supposed to be able to roll out the dough into two 12" rounds. Somehow, I didn't manage to reach that size...not even with the help of my younger matter how hard with pulled and tugged...the dough kept shrinking back. The furthest we could go was about 10 inches. It was easier for the 2nd portion though...probably it was left 'relaxing' on the table for almost 15mins while we were wrestling with the first one ;)

For the first pizza, I used the usual Hawaiian toppings which are my kids favourite.

For the second one, I made it into a vegetarian pizza. I added in my favourite fresh button mushrooms, green and yellow bell peppers and some tomatoes. I was totally clueless whether this one would be it was the first time I tried using these combination of ingredients.

Well, I was glad to hear that my elder boy gave very good ratings for this veggie version :) In fact, he told me he preferred this over the ham & pineapple toppings. I love the natural juices and sweetness from the fresh ingredients...and the these toppings were real simple to prepare as there is no cooking involved.

The crust was rather thin...although it was still a far-fetched from those biscuit-like thin pizza crusts. My elder boy told me he still prefers a deep pan pizza...and he declared that "the crust must be crispy on the outside and yet soft on the inside!" ;'(

(make two 12" pizza dough)

250g bread flour
1 teaspoon fast-acting dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
150ml lukewarm water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Grease two 30cm (12in) round pizza trays. (I used a baking tray, lined with parchment paper).
  2. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix in the yeast. Make a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil. Using your hands, gradually work the ingredients together to form a soft dough. If the dough is too dry add a few drops of water.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a round ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rise for 1 hr or until double in size.
  4. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it down to release the air. Give it a few gently kneading. Divide dough into 2 portions. Shape into two balls, cover loosely with cling wrap and let it rest for about 10mins.
  5. Roll or press out each portion to a round, about 12" in size. Place dough on prepared tray.
  6. Spread pizza sauce over the dough to within 1 cm (0.5 inch) of the edge. Arrange a layer of grated cheese, followed by preferred toppings. Sprinkle the top all over with grated cheese.
  7. Bake in a preheat oven at 200 degC for 15~20mins or until the crust has turned golden and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from Fresh Baked by Louise Pickford

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Monkey's Favourite Cake

Over the past two years, it has already became a family routine that we visit the library almost every weekend...and I must say, the library can be a dangerous least for a cookbook lover like me!!

I simply couldn't resist the temptation to try out the various recipes whenever I leaf through pages and pages of beautiful illustrations and photographs of gorgeous desserts. Be it cakes, breads or muffins, they have never failed to entice me to make an attempt to replicate what I have seen. Some of them may not eventually appear on my breakfast table, but at least the recipes are safely kept in my folder...waiting to leap out anytime when the opportunity arise. As a result of my frequent visits to the library, it has become very matter how hard I try not to notice...that my BMIndex has been 'bullish' ever since. I bet this index will remain bullish, judging at the rate that I am going ;(

I have been quite lucky be able to pick up very brand new cookbooks at the library, which means that there will be less chance of me looking at a book that comes with several missing pages!

I happened to pick up this newly published cookbook "Cooking for Kids" a couple of weeks ago. What caught my attention half-way browsing the book was the name of this cake....Monkey's Favourite Cake! After reading thru what are the ingredients that go into the making of this cake, I was immediately sold. This recipe was placed right on top of my ever growing to-do list!

You see, although this is simple banana cake, it comes with fillings! I thot it was really unusual and I like that the filling is made with not only mashed bananas but also some ground almonds. I was a little greedy and thought that I could use a large banana instead of a small one as stated in the recipe. It was a mistake. The filling was too 'runny'...I tried to salvage by adding more ground almonds to the mixture. Fortunately, by doing so, I was able to adjust the consistency to get a thicker paste.

It's a very simple and straight forward cake to make. The cake tasted delicious with the fillings. The only fault I could find was that the fillings turned to a darker shade when I left the cake overnight. Even though with lemon juice added, it didn't really preven the banana from turning black...maybe I should have added more lemon juice?

(make one 18cm cake)

125g butter, room temperature
125g caster sugar
125g self-raising flour
2 eggs, bring to room temperature, lightly beaten
2 large bananas, mashed
icing sugar for dusting

50g ground almonds (toast at 100 degC for 10mins)
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 small bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Grease and flour the sides of a 18cm pan. Line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Sieve self-rising flour, set aside.
  3. Toast ground almonds at 100 degC for 10mins, stir it halfway to ensure even toasting, set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  5. Slowly dribble in the eggs gradually, mix well after each addition.
  6. With a spatula, fold in the sifted flour. Mix until flour is fully incorporated into the batter.
  7. Add in the mashed bananas and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degC for about 30-35mins until the cake springs back when lightly pressed, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven, unmold and let cool.
  10. To make the filling, mix ground almonds with icing sugar (sifted), then add mashed banana and lemon juice. Mix to form a smooth paste.
  11. Slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers. Sandwich the layers with the filling. Dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Pandan & Coconut

What do you get when you pair off pandan leaves with coconut milk?

What comes right to my mind are: Nasi Lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves), Kaya jam, Chendol and Pandan Chiffon cake. Do you know of other dishes which are created using these two ingredients?

To make a pandan chiffon cake has always been on my to-do fact it is meant to be my first chiffon cake. I didn't get around to do it as most of the recipes call for the use of pandan juice, which you get by blending the pandan leaves with some water. Well, a blender is something that I do not have...and don't think I will buy one in the near I know myself too well ...this piece of equipment will likely end up sitting in some dark corners in my kitchen cabinets.

With much encouragement and useful tips from my cyberfriend, vb, I managed to get around with the problem. The solution is this Koepoe Koepoe brand of pandan essence...with this, pandan juice is really not necessary.

Armed with the recipe shared by Baking Mum, I went about making my first pandan cake. Although her recipe is meant for a 18cm pan, I made the same amount for my my 16cm pan, and baked the remaining batter with muffin cups.

Hoping with greed to achieve a 'tall and mighty' cake, I filled my tiny pan almost 90% full! As a result, the cake surface erupted and cracked all over. The batter simply didn't have room to expand! Thanks to my equally tiny oven, I forgot to 'tent' the cake with a foil before it got burnt a little :(

The bottom or rather the top of the chiffon cake was much better...

except for the holes that I have made while trying to unmold it before it was completely cool off. You really need tonnes of patience with chiffon!

Other than the not too desirable appearance, the cake was moist, fluffy and 'springy',best described by the Chinese term "弹性". The 'sizzling" sound made while I was slicing it was very obvious. Yes, if you listen carefully, there is this sound produced when u slice a chiffon cake...not sure whether this is a good sign though? The pandan taste was not that apparently as I would expect...maybe it was because I only used 1/4 teaspoon of the pandan essence instead of recommended amount. I was advised by vb that too much of the essence, will make the colour of the cake looks like some science experiment went wrong, which I strongly agree!

As the recipe only used up 100ml of the coconut milk...I had to think of ways and means to use the balance 100ml...and so, I came up with this pandan loaf:

I fall back on this rather well received and reliable milk loaf recipe... I replaced the fresh milk with the remaining 100ml of coconut milk and top up with 50ml of water. Just like the chiffon cake, I only added in a 1/4 teaspoon of the pandan essence.

I played around a little with the shaping of the loaf bread...

I happened to come across this shaping method, which is actually meant for a bun, from a cookbook...after rolling out the dough into the shape of a large rectangle, I cut stripes on the shorter side of the dough, before rolling it up like a swiss roll. It was quite a futile effort as the stripes were not that prominent after the loaf was baked.

Once again, this recipe didn't fail me. I am not sure whether you will be convinced, just by looking at these photos, that the texture of this bread was almost comparable to it's chiffon counterpart.

It was light, soft and very airy. Although the pandan essence was very subtle in this loaf, but the overall taste was simply fabulous, especially with a generous spread of kaya jam. Another great way to combine pandan with coconut!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Red Bean Braided Bread

A few nights ago, as usual, just before bedtime, my little one snuggled up beside me...him pretending to fall asleep, and me enjoying some 'quiet moments', flipping through a cookbook I got hold from the library. By the time I got almost to the end of the book, I came across the photo of a braided bread. After reading through the instructions I thought I should give it a try as I have not tried shaping this kind of loaf before. Even though there were no illustrations accompanying the instructions, I was quite confident that I knew what it meant.

I didn't use the recipe from that bread machine cookbook as it was meant for a large loaf. So I went back to this basic sweet bun recipe which apparently was quite well received by a few bloggers who have tried it. For the filling it was none other than red bean paste since I have got a can from Daiso recently.

I used my bread maker to knead the dough as I wasn't really in the mood to do any kneading manually. I set the machine to knead for at least 30mins before letting the dough to proof at room temperature. On hindsight, I should have let the dough proof in the machine, as the weather was quite gloomy and cool, it didn't double in size until 2 hrs later. Thankfully it was one of those rare occasion when I was enjoying a rather leisurely afternoon, and I could afford the time to let it proof forever.

Making the plaits was rather uneventful...something which I didn't expect, as I thought it would be quite a difficult task, although I must admit that the dough was a little soft to handle. The only difficult part was trying to transfer the braided dough onto the baking sheet...I have only myself to blame as I was too lazy to flour my table top before rolling out the dough. I can't remember ever since when I have developed this bad habit?! All else went well, and for once, my elder boy commented that the plaited dough looked very pretty...yes, he actually praised me. I don't know about you, but that was a real big pat on the shoulder.

I must have mentioned several times before that I do not like the glossy appearance on the surface of my I ignored the egg wash completely and simply sprinkled sesame seeds over the surface just before baking. To save myself from the agony of hovering over the oven the entire time the bread was baking, I set the alarm clock and went about to do my chores.

When the baking time was up, I was so pleased to see two nicely puffed up braided bread. There is nothing more satisfying than breathing in the sweet smell of freshly homemade loaves!

Not unlike all my previous postings...I shall end this post with a short review on the taste and texture of this bread. Here's the verdict: I like the slight crisp on the crust and the texture was quite soft. The taste was almost similar to those red bean buns available at the neighbourhood bakery shops. I find the canned red bean paste a little too sweet for my liking, but the sweetness was just right for my kids' palette ;)

(make 2 small loaves)

150g bread flour
150g cake flour
5g active dry yeast (I used instant yeast)
3g salt
125g milk (I used low-fat fresh milk)
1 egg
60g caster sugar
50g butter

red bean paste
white sesame seeds for topping


Kneading by Bread maker:
  1. Place all ingredients into the bread pan according to the sequence as stated in the bread maker. Set to DOUGH function.
  2. Let the machine run for the first 10 mins. Turn off machine, re-start and set to DOUGH function again. Let the machine complete the kneading cycle (20 mins).
  3. Remove dough from bread plan, smooth into a round ball and place it in a lightly greased mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel or cling wrap. Allow the dough to rise until double in bulk. This will take about 1~1.5 hrs.
  4. Take out the dough and punch out the gas produced. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal portions. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a rectangle, about 12 by 9 inches. Spread red bean paste in a 2~3 inch strip lengthwise down the centre.
  5. On each side of the filling, make 1~1.5 inch wide diagonal cuts in the dough. Starting at the top, fold dough strips over filling, alternating left and right sides. Seal the seams tightly. Repeat the same for the other portion. Transfer both dough on a greased baking tray (or lined with parchment paper), cover with a clean towel and leave to rise for about 45mins.
  6. Glaze with a little beaten egg and a drop of milk (or water). I omitted this step.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for about 30~35 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degC until golden brown. Let cool on wire rack.
Kneading by hand:
  • Mix all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre. Add in milk, egg and butter. Mix into a dough.
  • Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until the gluten is fully developed and the dough is elastic, smooth and non-sticky. It will take about 25~30 mins to knead the dough by hand. Initially the dough will stick on to the work surface. Do not be tempted to add more flour. After continuous kneading, the dough will no longer stick to the work surface.
  • Continue from step 3 above.