Monday, 31 August 2009

Baking with Blueberries

Here's sharing with you yet another baking repertoire with blueberries.

I first saw this Blueberry Breakfast Scones recipe from one of my favourite food magazines. I couldn't help but to copy down the recipe right away. It was only then that I noticed it is actually from Bill Granger! Although I have read his books, Bills Food and Bills Open Kitchen, I have not tried any of his recipes...knowing that I am a lousy cook, I simply don't have the guts. However, I was so inspired by his gorgeous blueberry scones that I went to get some blueberries just so that I could try out the recipe.

I thought I would have made the scones right away. But it turned out that I was busy coaching my kids for their term-end exams and other unexpected upcoming events that I left the blueberries sat in the fridge for almost a week. When I finally found time to get down to making these scones, I realised that I did not have any cream at home. I looked inside my fridge for a suitable substitute, and I almost gave up when I saw a tub of blueberries yogurt. But it was a fat-free yogurt, wouldn't I be stretching it too far to use it in place of the cream?!

It was quite unlike me that I chose to go ahead to use the yogurt as a replacement. I like to stick to recipes and follow them to a T, especially when it is the first time I am making anything. I guess I must have been so desperate to be able to bake those scones! I am not sure whether it was the yogurt or the measurement of the flour amount, the dough turned out to be rather wet and sticky. I went on to pat the soft and sticky mess to a round disc and even managed to 'cut' the dough into wedges using a spatula. Due to the sticky dough, the surface of the finished scones didn't look anything close to those from the original recipe :'(

Nevertheless, the scones tasted surprisingly delicious. Although they didn't have a strong buttery flavour which I was expecting from scones, they were soft, fluffy, and the blueberries remained sweet after baking. The scones tasted especially good when they were served warm. You can find the original recipe here and I hope you'll enjoy the video clip as much as I do :)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Matcha Delight

I had made plans earlier to make a tiramisu torte for a potluck party. However, it was later decided that the gathering would be at a restaurant instead, so I was left with a tub of mascarpone cheese and a pack of sponge fingers.

Just when the expiry date of the cream cheese was up, I managed to use it to make a green tea version of the Tiramisu Charlotte Cake with a new can of matcha powder.

I tweak the recipe a little to incorporate the matcha powder in the filling and the syrup for dipping the sponge fingers. When mixing the mascarpone cheese, I first experimented with one teaspoon of matcha powder. The green tea flavour was not as prominent as I like it to be. So I added in another teaspoon and the taste was just least I know my kids would be able to accept it without any complaints. However, with that extra teaspoon of matcha powder, the mixture turned grainy and I started to get worried.

I guess my 'make-believe' baking fairy has returned from holidays, after mixing the whipped cream to the mascarpone cheese mixture, the resulting filling became very smooth and the colour has changed into a nice pastel green.

Instead of using dairy cream, I made this green tiramisu with non-dairy whipping cream which is lighter and less rich.

I didn't have any idea how to go about decorating the cake. In the end, I took a small piece of baking paper and cut out some simple flowers to use as stencil. I wish I could do better with the decoration...but, with my limited skills and lack of artistic talent, I guess I would not be able to create anything better than this ;')

Although I have not tasted any green tea tiramisu before, I must say this concoction turned out to be a great dessert. So simple to prepare and yet tasted deliciously light and refreshing. All of us like the distinct matcha flavour, including my younger kid who is never a matcha fan ^-^

Matcha Tiramisu

(makes a 7" cake)

250g mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons matcha powder
200 ml non-dairy whipping cream

Matcha Syrup:
1 tablespoon matcha powder
1/2 cup (125ml) boiling water

about 24 sponge fingers (savoiardi)
extra matcha powder for dusting

To make the Matcha Syrup:
Dissolve matcha powder in boiling water. Leave to cool.

To make the Filling:
In a mixing bowl, with a manual whisk, whisk mascarpone cheese with icing sugar and vanilla extract. Add in two teaspoons matcha powder and mix until blended.

With an electric mixer whisk the non-dairy whipping cream until stiff peak. With a spatula, fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture.

To assemble the cake:
Cut off one end of the sponge fingers so that each one is about 3" in length. Line the sides of a 7" round baking pan* (with a removable base or use a springform pan) with the sponge fingers. You will need about 17 sponge fingers (depending on the type/brand). If the last sponge finger cannot fit in nicely, trim away part of it to fit it in. Save the leftover small pieces.

One at a time, gently dip (do not soak) sponge fingers in the matcha syrup and use them to line the base of the pan. Or you can use a brush to brush the sponge fingers with the matcha syrup. Cut the sponge fingers into shorter lengths if necessary. Use the leftover pieces to fill the gaps.

Spoon over half of the filling. Spread evenly. Repeat with another layer of sponge fingers and spoon over the remaining filling. Spread and smooth the top. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, best left overnight.

Just before serving, unmold the cake and dust the top with matcha powder.

*If you do not have a springform pan or a pan with a removable base, you can improvise by lining a normal round pan with a large sheet of aluminium foil. Give allowance of about 1~2 inches for the foil to hang over the rim of the pan. Place a cake board inside the lined pan. Follow the steps above. To unmold, simply lift up the cake from the pan by gripping the foil. Transfer the cake onto a serving plate and carefully remove the foil.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Blueberry Chiffon Cake

Beware! This post contains images which may kill your appetite!

I do not consider myself a particularly lucky person in life. So far, I have not won any prizes from any contest or lucky draws...I used to be able to bring home only the door gifts from annual D&Ds! Yet, I have to regard myself a very lucky person when it comes to baking. Most of my bakes turn out satisfactory, if not edible. I even have luck on several occasions when I was either making something I have not attempted before, or I have not even tasted the food prior to making it. Since I lack the skills and knowledge in the baking arena, I believe there is this little baking fairy who lives in my kitchen. It always watches over me whenever I was up to no good...experimenting with flour, butter, sugar and eggs ^_^

I didn't have much luck with baking chiffon cakes recently, the picture speaks for itself. I guess the baking fairy must have gone for holidays? I tried baking this blueberry chiffon cake with my last pack of blueberries. All went well during the preparation of the batter...I am quite certain that the egg whites was well beaten, I didn't deflate the batter too much when folding in the whites to the yolk batter either.

After spending 10 minutes in the oven, the cake rose high up beautifully, I thought I am certainly going to get it right this time. The reality is, the cake started to deflate in the next few minutes and eventually it sank almost to the rim of the pan and refused to budge from there onwards, and there was still another 20 minutes to go before the baking time was up. Even the sweet aroma (I suspect it was from the blueberry juice I used) from the cake while it was still sitting in the oven failed to lift up my spirits.

Just like the Chinese sayings, "祸不单行" (it never rains but it pours)...when I release the cake from the pan, I was greeted with the most unpleasant- looking cake I have ever made :"'(

The top was dotted with blueberries...lumps of blueberries to be exact. Do pardon me for sharing these poor quality images. I usually don't like to take food photos in the evenings due to the poor lighting condition. But I had to take out my camera immediately to commemorate the disaster I have created ;')

I managed to take photos of the last two slices on a bright day. The cake texture was so there was this dense layer again at the bottom of the cake :( Fortunately, the taste was acceptable, although the blueberries created a horrific sight on the cake surface, they remain sweet after baking. I will probably stay away from making chiffon cakes for the time least not until my baking fairy returns.

Blueberry Chiffon Cake

(makes one 18cm cake)

100g cake flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
50ml vegetable oil
75ml blueberry juice or water
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

3 egg whites
40g caster sugar

  1. Wash and drain blueberries, pat dry with paper towels and toss them gently with one tablespoon of flour (extra).
  2. Sieve flour, baking powder together, set aside.
  3. Separate egg yolks/whites and bring to room temperature. (It is easier to separate eggs when they are cold.)
  4. Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl, add in sugar and with a manual whisk, whisk till the mixture becomes sticky and turn pale.
  5. Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time till the mixture is well combined. Repeat the same with the juice or water. Sieve over the flour mixture and whisk until flour mixture is fully incorporated into the batter. Add in blueberries and mix well.
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat on high speed until just before stiff peaks form.
  7. Add the beaten egg white into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  8. Pour batter into a 18cm (7 inch) tube pan (do not grease the pan). Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  9. Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 degC for 45 ~ 50mins or until the cake surface turns golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and invert the pan immediately. Let cool completely before unmould. To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Release the cake and run the knife along the base of the pan to remove the cake.
Recipe source: 好想为你亲手做出美味的甜点! 检见崎聡美著

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

One-Dish Wonder

The beauty of a 1-dish meal...

easy to prepare, and super-easy to clean up!

I am blessed with non-fussy eaters at home, they eat whatever meals I lay on the dining table, except for the occasional groans whenever I serve congee or porridge for lunch. I am not shy to say that I take advantage of those forgiving taste buds. Whenever possible, I'll go for simple dinners which need minimum preparation...which also means minimum skills required. That's probably why my culinary skill never seems to improve over the years ^_^

Baked rice happens to be one of our favourite 1-dish meals. However, I try not to turn it into a regular item in our dinner menu. I believe this dish is quite fattening...with the cream and cheese that goes into it!

We had this seafood baked rice the other night. Loaded with fresh prawns, lala (clams), sotong (squids) and fish fillet. I couldn't get salmon, so I had to settle for batang (Spanish Mackerel).

This 1-dish meal did a great job of uniting the savoury flavours of the various seafood ingredients. The rice was full of flavour after soaking up all the natural sweetness from the prawns and clams. It will certainly quench any seafood lover’s appetite...and of course, I love seafood ;')

Seafood Baked Rice

(serves 4)

2 cups** uncooked rice
200g prawns, with shells
100g clams
1 squid, cut into thick rings
200g fish fillet, cut into thick slices
some mixed vegetables
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125ml) water
salt and pepper
some grated mozzarella cheese

  1. Wash and cook rice with rice cooker.
  2. Wash and prepare prawns, clams, squid and fish slices.
  3. Heat up a large, deep pan, with some cooking oil. Stir fry minced garlic and add in the seafood ingredients. Add in the mixed vegetables. (Do not cook the seafood till done as it will continue to cook in the oven.)
  4. Add in the cream, stir well. Add in water and bring to a boil. (Note, always add cream BEFORE water, otherwise the mixture may not be smooth.)
  5. Add in the cooked rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and let it cook for 1 to 2 mins or until the sauce is almost fully absorbed by the rice.
  6. Place rice into a heatproof baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 degC, till the cheese turns golden brown. Sprinkle with some dried parsley. Serve immediately.
    Note: ** refers to the rice cup that comes with the rice cooker.

    Recipe source: adapted from 懒人焗烤