Friday 27 November 2009

Just a Slice of Cake

The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me. Too many things have happened...and it was only yesterday that I managed to feel 'settled down'.

My oven was left in the cold for weeks. By right, it would still be sitting inside the dark cabinet for another month or so. I had to take it out to bake a sponge cake just so that I could use up the last tub of mascarpone cheese.

I was a little astounded when I found myself harbouring the dreadful though of baking a sponge cake from scratch! I really would love to use ready-made sponge fingers to make a Tiramisu, but it was almost impossible for me to find time to get a pack from the supermarket. Since I was left with two eggs in the fridge, I forced myself to take out all my baking barang barang (colloquial Malay for personal belongings) to make the sponge layer for a Tiramisu Torte. Fortunately, the joy of baking came back when I went about preparing the batter...half an hour later I received an instant sense of reward when the cake started to emit a nice egg-y, vanilla-y aroma when it started to brown. This great sense of satisfaction propelled me to went on to prepare the cheese filling with a little more zeal ;)

Even though I have rekindled my love for baking, I doubt I shared the same enthusiasm when it comes to blogging. If not for the nice layering of this torte, I wouldn't even be motivated to retrieve my camera from the dry box.

The taste of this homemade cake is simply awesome. Very refreshing and not too rich. The sponge layers are light and airy, and I must say it is way better than ready-made sponge fingers. My effort was not wasted...the three of us finished up half the cake in one setting.

We will be away from home for the rest of the year. I hope I will be able to continue to blog about my cooking and baking in a foreign land.

In the mean time, here's a slice of my cake to share with everyone of you who never fails to stop by to give me your kind words of comments and encouragement. You are the ones to keep me going, thank you!

(After note: I think I wasn't clear in my post, I will only be away for the rest of 2009, will be back before the new year.)

Tiramisu Torte

(makes one 18cm cake)

Sponge Cake:
2 eggs, room temperature
70g caster sugar
60g cake flour
20g unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coffee Syrup:
1 tablespoon instant espresso/ strong coffee powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream

250g mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
3 tablespoons coffee syrup
200 ml non-dairy whipping cream

cocoa powder, to dust


To make the sponge cake:
  1. Sift cake flour, set aside. Line the sides and bottom of a 18cm (7 inches) round pan with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 170degC.
  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 trail 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. Sift over the cake flour into the batter in 3 separate additions. Gently fold in the flour with a spatula each time the flour is added, taking care there is no trapped flour at the bottom of the batter. Take care not to deflate the batter.
  4. Add the melted butter, fold gently with spatula until well blended
  5. Add in vanilla extract and fold in gently with spatula.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Unmold and invert onto cooling rack, remove parchment paper and let cool completely.

    To make the filling:
  7. Dissolve instant coffee powder, sugar in boiling water. Leave to cool. Stir in 1 tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream. Set aside.
  8. In a mixing bowl, with a manual whisk, whisk mascarpone cheese with icing sugar. Add in vanilla extract, Baileys Irish Cream and 3 tablespoons of the coffee syrup (Step 7) whisk until blended.
  9. With an electric mixer whisk the non-dairy whipping cream until stiff peak. With a spatula, fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture. Leave the mixture to chill in the fridge if the sponge cake has not been cooled off.

    To assemble:
  10. Slice off a thin layer (about 1~2mm) around the sides of the sponge cake. (This is to ensure that the sponge layers will be slightly smaller than the cake order to allow the filling to coat the sides of the cake nicely.) Then slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place one layer of the sponge cake in a 18cm pan (with removable base, or use a cake ring). Brush the surface of the sponge layer with the remaining coffee syrup (Step 7).
  11. Spread about 1.5 cups of filling evenly on the sponge layer, ensure all the gaps at the sides are filled. Tap the cake pan lightly on the table to ensure there are no trapped air pockets.
  12. Brush both sides of the second layer of sponge cake with the coffee syrup and place it over the filling. Spread with 1.5 cups of the remaining filling. Tap the cake pan lightly on the table to ensure there are no trapped air pockets.
  13. Leave the cake (covered) to chill in the fridge for at least 3~4 hours.
  14. Remove cake from fridge. Dust with cocoa powder and unmold. Decorate as desired. Keep the cake in the fridge before serving,

Thursday 5 November 2009

Baking with Kids

It seems like I am running into this dangerous situation that I will probably abandon this blog for good. It also doesn't help that we will be away for most part of the year-end school holidays.

I have been wanting to write up this post since last week, but only managed to upload some photos. I can draw up a long list of excuses to justify my tardiness, but I don't think this is fair, especially to those of you who come visit my blog thousand apologies!

To make things worst, this post is not something is just an 'extension' from my previous post ^_^"'

Whenever both my kids are at home on a weekdays, we would always make it a point to make homemade pizza for lunch. As usual we made two of them had to be my kids' all-time-favourite, the Hawaiian pizza...with lots of ham and pineapples as toppings.

The other pizza dough was topped with "whatever I can find" ingredients....mushrooms, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, black olives and some left over minced meat.

I made the dough using a new recipe from a cookbook I bought several months ago. There are two basic pizza dough recipes to choose from....thick or thin crust. From this cookbook, I learned that the difference between the two depends very much on the ratio of the bread flour to plain flour used. The greater amount of bread flour will produce a thicker and more bread-like crust since bread flour has got a higher gluten-level. I have also read that some traditional wafer thin crust pizza will use only plain flour, I have always thought that all pizza doughs are made with bread flour, how ignorant of me! For the thick crust recipe a lot more bread flour than plain flour (5:1) is used, whereas the thin crust recipe uses much less (1:2). I went for the thick crust pizza this time.

While I was gathering the ingredients for the dough, my younger kid came along and offered his help...and upon his request, I let him do the mixing. Since my hands are free, I took the chance to take a video clip of the entire mixing process :)

The crust was not as thick as I thought it would be. I was expecting something like a thick focaccia...probably because I have rolled it out too thin. I must say we pretty like the texture, not too thick and yet not too thin! Just to let you know I very much prefer my "whatever I can find" pizza to the ham and pineapples version ;)

Thick Crust Pizza

(make two 10" pizza dough)

250g bread flour
50g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
180ml lukewarm water

  1. Place bread flour, plain flour, salt, yeast and dried mixed herbs (if using) in a mixing bowl. Mix well with hand. Make a well in the centre and add olive oil and water. Using your hand, gradually work the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10-15mins 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.
  3. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it down to release the air. Give it a few gentle kneading. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Shape into two balls, cover loosely with cling wrap and let the doughs rest for about 10mins.
  4. Roll or press out each portion to a round, about 12" in size. Place dough on baking tray lined with parchment paper or on a greased pan.
  5. Spread some pizza sauce over the dough to within 1 cm (0.5 inch) of the edge. Arrange a layer of grated cheese (I used grated mozzarella), followed by preferred toppings. Sprinkle the top all over with grated cheese.
  6. Bake in a preheat oven at 220 degC for 15-20mins or until the crust has turned golden and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from 美食新煮张, 手工面包&三明治