Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Another Year of Baking

Somehow the clock seems to tick at a faster pace in the cyberworld than real life. It has already been two years since I started this blog. In fact, I'm two days behind my 2nd Blog Anniversary ;')

Looking through the photos of my homemade bread, cakes, cookies and tarts, I realised that I have made lots of stuff over the past 12 months. Without this blog, I would never ever be able to document the joy and pleasure that I have experienced over the year.

I have never known that home baking can bring so much nice feelings throughout the entire process. I treasure the peaceful and serene moments when I go about the preparation...be it whisking a bowl of egg whites...or working hard on a lump of wet and sticky dough. I enjoy each 'aroma therapy' session when the cake is baking in the oven while I went about doing my other daunting chores. What a bliss to be wrapped around with the sweet scent emitting from the oven...be it coming from the chocolate, banana, vanilla or lavender...but of course, there's always the occasional burning smell which would send me dashing into the kitchen ;'p

It brings me immense satisfaction whenever the cake came out nice and fluffy...or that loaf of bread turn out a perfect square when I slide open the lid of the pullman tin. Not forgetting the excitement when I unmold a chiffon cake; and the overwhelming stress of having to swipe the palette knife over and over and over again to make the frosting appear as smooth as possible on a birthday cake. I guess the most rewarding part of the whole process is the great pleasure it brings when I see my loved ones wolfing down my 'labour of love'.

Even failures or kitchen disasters of any kind, have taught me several good lessons...although I have to confess, it takes more than a day for me to get over the great sense of disappointment from any failed attempts.


video


To mark the occasion, I have compiled my baking repertoire into a little slide show. I find this the best way to condense a selection of some of the better cakes & bakes that I have done over the past year...into a one minute video clip.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has dropped by this blog, especially to all those who have taken the time to leave behind their encouraging words and lovely comments. I also appreciate readers who have asked me questions...I try my best knowledge to answer them...and it is through the process of finding out the right answers, it has widen my knowledge and insights into the world of baking. Since it is the season of giving, I have decided to send a little gift to a fellow blogger pal. It is a small way to show my appreciation, and I hope I will be able to do the same thing next year.

And here's to another wonderful year of baking and blogging!

Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

My White Christmas!

I spent a quiet morning on Christmas eve hopping from one blog to another, reading how others are celebrating this festive seasons; and admiring gorgeous cakes and cookies created by my favourite food bloggers. This is so different from how I had spent the many past Christmas eve mornings. In the past, a typical Christmas eve morning would be spent attending Christmas parties in the office, sending e-cards and well wishes to friends and colleagues while listening to the never-ending Christmas songs over the small radio on my desk. The afternoons would then be spent grabbing last minute food items at the supermarket. Our Christmas eve dinners were mainly off-the-shelve food such as frozen pizzas, ready-cooked roast chicken and canned soup. Even though I have been cooking for my family for the past few years, last night's dinner didn't go beyond the usual meatball pasta, oven roast chicken, Waldorf salad and I still depended on Campbell's clam chowder to complete the meal ;')

This is the third year that I have spent the Christmas eve afternoon making a cake for Christmas day. Ever since the first time we spent a wonderful white Christmas several years ago, I have always been dreaming of spending the next Christmas in snow. Since there is zero chance of a white Christmas here, I created my own winter wonderland!


Unlike the first log cake I made two years ago, this cake was made by rolling up layers of chocolate sponge cake to create a 'stump'. I should have cut the sheet of sponge cake into 4 strips instead of 3; as I ended up with a rather tall cake :( I whisked a cup of non-dairy whipping cream and divided it into two portions. For the filling, instead of using melted chocolate, I experimented by folding in two tablespoons of nutella spread to one portion of the whipped cream. It was a good choice as I could smell the sweet aroma from the nutella while I was mixing it into the cream. Rolling the strips of sponge layer was not easy...there were cracks here and there. However, I wasn't too concerned about it since the entire cake would be covered with more whipped cream. Even the frosting was easily accomplished, there's no need to worry about making the surface very smooth...that's how forgiving a log cake is! I piped the 'rings' of the tree with a tiny teaspoon of nutella, some sprinklings of chocolate shavings (by grating a chocolate coated espresso bean) and a few 're-cycled' ornaments completed the picture. With the artificial snow (thanks to Flickr), my white Christmas really came true!

The sponge layer was soft and not dry. The nutella cream filling was really amazing!! This cake is so delicious that my husband kept asking for more.


Here's a slice of cake that I would love to share with all my readers and fellow blogger pals. Thanks for all the well wishes and lovely comments you have left in this blog. May you have a wonderful Christmas with your love ones...be it snowy, sunny or rainy! Merry Christmas!


Christmas Log Cake

Ingredients:

70g cake flour
15g cocoa powder
3 eggs, room temperature
90g caster sugar
2 tablespoons fresh milk

filling:
300ml non-dairy whipping cream
3 tablespoons nutella spread


Method:
  1. Sift cake flour and cocoa powder, set aside. Line a 9" x 12" (23 x 30cm) Swiss roll tray with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 180 degC.
  2. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7 mins, until the batter double in volume and is ribbon-like (the batter should leave a ribbon-like texture when the beater is lifted up). Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. Whisking at low speed helps to stabilise the air bubbles in the batter.
  3. Add sifted flour mixture into the batter in 3 separate addition. With each addition, use a spatula, gently fold in the flour until well blended. Take care not to deflate the batter.
  4. Add the milk, fold with spatula until well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the tray. Spread and smooth out the batter evenly. Bake for 10~15 mins*, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove tray from oven. Remove sponge layer from tray (with parchment paper still in tack), place it in a plastic bag**. Tie the plastic bag and leave it to cool. (Instead of using a plastic bag, I cover the sponge layer with another Swiss roll tray.)
  7. Prepare filling: whisk non-dairy whipping cream in a mixing bowl till stiff peak. Remove half of the whipped cream and set aside (for decorating the cake surface). For the remaining half, add in nutella spread, mix with a spatula and blend well.
  8. When the sponge layer is cooled, remove the parchment paper and turn the sponge layer with the 'skin' side up. Slice the sponge layer into 3 equal long strips (cut along the long side).
  9. Spread some nutella filling on the first piece and roll up. Place the roll vertically on a serving plate or cake board. Spread some filling on the second piece, use it to join the first piece and continue to roll it. Do the same for the third piece.
  10. Spread the cake surface with the whipped cream. Use the tines of a fork to draw lines on the surface to create a tree bark effect. Pipe some nutella spread on the top of the log cake and sprinkle with some chocolate shavings. Decorate with ornaments as desired.
NOTE:
*Do not over bake the sponge layer, otherwise it will turn dry and may crack upon rolling.
** The reason for doing so is to keep the sponge layer moist for easy rolling.

Recipe source: 点心达人, 轻松学 / 小川智美著

Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Birthday

I knitted this pair of booties for my younger child while he was still save inside my tummy. Earlier this year, I found them hidden in a huge pile of baby clothing while I was sorting through the various items to give to my newborn nephew. I guess I hardly let my child worn these booties as seven years have passed and yet they look as good as new! I was a little sad when I wasn't able to find the other pair that I made for my elder child :'(

While we went through a rather dramatic emergency cesarean section when the elder one was born, the birth of my younger son was rather 'uneventful', although his was also a cesarean birth. I remembered when he was 3 days overdue I was still hoping for a natural birth. I had this thought that I would be a 'lesser mother' if my child is not able to arrive to this world via the 'proper channel'. My doctor had advised me not to wait any longer than the next 3 days, and he hinted that I would probably have to face a double whammy if I insisted to wait for a natural birth.Those words have finally convinced me that I should go for another cesarean section. We decided to wait till the ultimatum date for the operation plus it was considered a 'good' date, since it is so easy to remember 21-12-2001! It was also such good timing as the three of us were able to bring home on Christmas day what turns out to be our fountain of joy. Since that day, he has given us so much joy and laughter.


It was a couple of weeks ago when we were at their cousins' place, my boy pointed to a Domo Kun flush toy and told me he would like me to bake him a Domo Kun cake. You may not be familiar with this hilarious-looking creature, even for me (I do keep myself very up to date with the latest cartoon characters and toys!) I have only seen it on tv once. It was a short animation and was aired to fill the gaps between programmes. If you are interested, you can read more about this weired looking creature here.

Fortunately, Domo has got very simple features...two popping eyes and a humongous mouth with sharp pointed teeth. Since it would be my very first attempt to make a 3-D cake, I told my boy I would give it a try, although he better be prepared that if things don't work out, we would have to go for plan B...ie to get those ready-made cake from the nearby bakery shop.


Since I do not have a large pan, I made the cake by baking two separate sheets of sponge layer. I drew a template on a baking paper and used it as a guide to cut out the sponge cake. The sponge layers were then filled with whipping cream and peach slices (according to the boy's request!). The surface was coated with a thin layer of chocolate ganache and I took two chocolate-coated coffee beans to make the eyes. I melted some white chocolate and added a drop of food colouring to form the mouth. The teeth were simply cut out from a bar of white chocolates.

This must be the ugliest and yet most adorable cake I have ever made!


It is no surprise that my boy received a Domo Kun flush toy on his birthday. I compared it with the cake I made, and I realised that I have made the teeth too huge and the entire mouth should have been sunken. Anyway, my boy was very happy with the result, to him it looked perfect...and the cake grabbed the most paparazzi attention during the party!


The boy had such a wonderful time...he was so tired and felt asleep in my arms while giving me his goodnite hug ;)

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Cake of the week

I wonder whether it is because of the holiday seasons, I have been making cakes after cakes instead of the usual bread and buns which I much prefer. It could also due to the fact that we are not at home most of the time. Even if we were to spend the entire day at home, I would be caught up doing thousand and one thing...except bread making! I guess I have to wait till the new school term before I can spend some quiet moments sinking my fingers into a lump of pillowy soft bread dough.


Here's my bake for the past week...a Walnut Crumble Cake. This is something which I have made once, and have since been wanting to bake again and again, and yet, every time, I would put the thought aside. According to my standard, this cake uses way too much butter! Yet, it was such a delicious cake that I have to fight off my constant craving for it! Lady luck came, when a close one came visiting. I jumped on the opportunity and baked the cake right away and merrily gave away half of it!


The only difference from the earlier version is that I managed to use walnuts for the crumbles. Besides the chopped and toasted walnuts, the crumbles was made by mixing some melted butter, instant coffee power and crushed digestive biscuits. The crumbles looks so promising just by looking at the list of ingredients, don't you think so?


I didn't regret making this simple and yet very delicious cake again. The cake looks dense but it is surprisingly very light and moist. It has got very fine crumbs and I simply adore its soft, smooth and velvety texture. The layers of nutty and crunchy crumbles sandwiched between the cake batter created a lovely contrast...making one slice of it such an enjoyable treat :)

Incidentally, I was very delighted to know that the photo of this cake was voted 3rd place on this flickr group for the best pictures of the week :D


While I was checking my inbox two days ago, I was very happy to hear that my blog posting of the Santa Clause cake I made last year, has been featured in the photo gallery of decorative Christmas food under Channel 4's food website. Channel 4 is a UK tv channel which transmits across the whole of UK. It is a great honour to be featured in their website!!


Another good news I received on the same day, was an email from the Savannah Children's Choir. I have earlier agreed to let this organisation use my photo on their website and poster for one of their fund raising events: "Let Them Eat Cake!" I am so pleased to hear that the event has helped the choir raised over a thousand dollars. Although I did not contribute in anyway to the success of the event, still I feel so honoured to be able to be 'involved' in one way or another.

I hope I don't sound like I am bragging too much here!! It has never ever occurred to me that this humble little blog of mine could reach so far beyond our little sunny island. It's really amazing how blogging has bring a world much much closer! All those wonderful food blogs and professional food websites out there have certainly widen my horizon, especially for a culinary idiot like me ;')

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A Chocolate Lover's Cake

This is a very much delayed post...it should be up since last week, and yet I could only squeeze in some time this morning to sit down to work on it. It's so ironical that I seems to be more busy during the school holidays. Before the start of the holidays, I even put together a 'master plan' on the list of things I need to get done during these 6 weeks. There is this long list of things to-bake; a schedule of outings for the kids; and an ultimate ambitious one: a long list of spring-cleaning chores! So far I could only manage to complete the top 3 tasks on each list...and we are now left with 3 more weeks before the beginning of the new year!

Anyway, back to what I am suppose to blog about...


a chocolate birthday cake I made for my two friends. Their birthdays are only 3 days apart...and it has already became a yearly affair for the past 8 years or so that we have a get-together during this time of the year. This time we gathered at my place for dinner, and one of the birthday gals had requested for a chocolate cake. I must thank her for having such faith in me that I could come up with something decent for their birthdays.


To play save, I went back to the same chocolate gateau recipe, since I had already attempted that cake twice. As usual, I frosted the cake with chocolate ganache and covered the sides with lots of chocolate chips. It was a fool-proof and very easy cover-up job.


With some left over ganache, I piped...what else?! but the usual 'stars' for the border. I wonder when I would be able to pipe those beautiful 'shells' instead!


Since I know that my friends are chocolate lovers, I topped the cake with some Ferrero Rocher. I tell you, these rocher worked like magic...they turned an otherwise rather boring and plain cake into a much elegant piece. The outcome was a bittersweet, rich, dense and fudgy cake.

It was a great evening catching up with on another. Judging from the responses, the cake was well received by my guests. This is the kind of cake which I think any chocolate lover wouldn't be able to resist a slice ;)

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Matcha & Adzuki, Again

After making a few exchanges on making a Swiss roll with one of my blog visitors, You Fei, she got me interested to make a roll cake myself. Thanks You Fei!

With some left over adzuki red bean paste from my last bake, I decided to make a matcha and red bean roll.


It was many months ago when a blog visitor requested that I provide step-by-step photos to illustrate how to go about making a Swiss Roll. As much as I love to take photos along the way while I am making the cake, sometimes it is really not feasibly. First of all, I do not have a tripod to fix my camera, so I could only rely on my two extra pairs of of hands...which are somewhat not very reliable when it comes to taking clear photos! Since my boys were at home, I took the opportunity to get them to take video clips instead of photos while I go about making the sponge layer.

The following short video clip was taken by three different persons at different stages. The first part on whisking the egg mixture was done by me! Yes, I was holding the electric mixer on my right hand and taking the video with the camera on my right. Luckily, this movie maker software allows me to clip away unwanted frames! When I was folding the flour and butter, I got my younger boy to take the video. I can't use most of the video footage as half the time he was pointing the camera to the side of the mixing bowl! Fortunately, I did sense that he could be too short to get the full view of what was going on inside the mixing bowl, I tilted the bowl several times towards the camera lens. The last part on rolling up the sponge layer was taken by my elder boy. Although he took a pretty good video, I had to turned it into several photo frames instead. The reason was, my pair of hands look super super Ugly from the video!!! It was a horrendous sight! They looked worst than a pair of hands of an old granny...they were all wrinkled, rough, thick & fat, and overly tanned :'(

It took me great pain and hours just to crop away all the unwanted 'scenes' and frames...and I'm glad I am finally able to put together quite a decent looking video clip ;)


video


The other good thing about the software is that it allows me to 'Mute' the audio sound, otherwise you will be hearing lots of giggling, some nonsensical exchange of languages among the boys, and the constant "Is it done, is it done yet? When can I stop (taking the video)?!" and things like "Yummy! yummy!...mummy, mummy, I know what you are making! You are making muffins, right?! I can smell muffins!" ????!!!


I guess the greatest fear of making a Swiss roll is having it cracked all over when you are at the very last stage...that is, the rolling of the filled sponge layer. So far, I have attempted to make a roll cake for 5 to 6 times. I really have to count myself very lucky that most of the time, I managed to roll it up nicely, except for once or twice when there were some slight cracks here and there. I do not have any secrets to it, but I think it helps if one were to follow the recipe very closely. In fact I find that this applies to all kinds of cakes and breads. Since baking is a Science, it is thus very important to follow the instructions carefully and pay great attention to the little details. I do hope the attached video is able to give some 'insights' for those of you who are interested to make a roll cake. Happy baking and rolling!



Matcha & Adzuki Red Bean Roll

Ingredients:
3 eggs, bring to room temperature
65g sugar
80g cake flour
2 teaspoons matcha powder
20g unsalted butter, melted

Method:
  1. Sift cake flour, set aside. Line a 9" x 12" (23 x 30cm) Swiss roll tray with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 180 degC.
  2. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7 mins, until the batter double in volume and is ribbon-like (the batter should leave a ribbon-like texture when the beater is lifted up). Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. Whisking at low speed helps to stabilise the air bubbles in the batter.
  3. Add sifted cake flour and matcha powder into the batter in 3 separate addition. With each addition, use a spatula, gently fold in the flour until well blended. Take care not to deflate the batter.
  4. Add the melted butter and fold with spatula until well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the tray. Spread and smooth out the batter evenly. Bake for 10~15 mins*, until the surface turns golden browned or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove tray from oven. Remove sponge layer from tray (with parchment paper still in tack), place it in a plastic bag**. Tie the plastic bag and leave it to cool. (Instead of using a plastic bag, I cover the sponge layer with another Swiss roll tray.)
  7. Upon cooling, remove the parchment paper, and turn the sponge layer with the 'skin' side down on a sheet of clean parchment paper. Spread with adzuki red bean paste(or any filling as desired) and roll up the sponge layer by lifting it up with the parchment paper. Place the rolled cake seam side down.
NOTE: *Do not over bake the sponge layer, otherwise it will turn dry and may crack upon rolling. ** The reason for doing so is to keep the sponge layer moist for easy rolling.

Recipe source: 点心达人, 轻松学 / 小川智美著