Thursday 26 May 2011

Journey down the baking trail: Cookies

I am moving an inch at a time on my baking trail. I have not been baking much for the past few weeks...was busy catching up with things that I have left watching tv drama and keeping up with the household chores.

I have been wanting to make these melt-in-the-mouth German cookies when I first saw it at my baking pal, Sherlyn's blog. I bought the bag of potato starch weeks ago, but it was on a spurt of the moment that I decided to bake them...even though I was recovering from a fever. My younger son as usual, was always keen and eager to help me with baking, and lately he is into cooking. I have to thank him for being a very caring child. Besides gladly playing nurse, he was very spontaneous in helping out with simple chores when I was sick.

It was a hot and humid evening when we went about whisking the butter and the sugar. After adding the flour mixture, we couldn't really form a dough...the mixture was still batter-like instead of doughy. I was certain that I didn't get the measurement wrong. The only thing I could pin-point was the additional one teaspoon of vanilla extract I added in. It could also be due to the weather, the room temperature was 31.5 degC...the butter was already very soft to the extend of appearing greasy when I was done with the mise en place...and there was nothing much to prepare since there were only 4 ingredients!

I decided to let the dough chill in the fridge and it was a good thing I did. We could finally form the mixture into cookie doughs. Due to the extreme heat, the dough started to soften as we continued to work them into small rounds. I was expecting the cookies to spread upon baking but all of them turn out well. The cookies were nicely baked...slightly pale on top but the bottoms were lightly browned. These delicate cookies certainly live up to the name...the buttery crumbs simply melts away in your mouth! My boys found them so addictive that they couldn't help popping one after another into their mouths.

Since there are so many recipes on my to-do list, I usually do not go back to the same recipe again too soon. These cookies are so good and so simple to prepare, I was addicted to baking them. I made another batch again two days later, but this time I mixed in 1 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder to half of the dough,

and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the other half. I made the doughs much smaller so that my boys could easily pop them into their mouth without leaving crumbs all over. The dough was easier to shape due to the 'drying effect' of the matcha powder and the chocolate dough was also quite dry as I have added too much cocoa powder.

As suspected, the chocolate cookies tasted bitter...would have to cut down the cocoa powder or use more icing sugar if I were to make these again. I paired them with a cup of slightly bitter coffee, and they didn't taste that bad...what to do, no one wants to eat these chocolate ones :'(

These matcha morsels are pretty nice with just a hint of matcha flavour lingering on the background. Nevertheless, my boys still prefer the plain, vanilla ones.

I packed some for my cake friend, and carried it with the greatest amount of care during the journey. However, just before I gave it away, I dropped the whole bag and the cookies were all crusted. I was so devastated and there was no one to blame but myself! Anyway, I was feeling very thick-skinned that day and went ahead to give it away. I couldn't imagine how my friend picked up the bits and pieces of cookie crumbs, lol! Fortunately, I learned later that she has actually made these cookies before, otherwise I would not have done justice to these delicious cookies.

Melt-in-mouth German Cookies 德式酥饼

(makes 60 pieces)

125g butter, soften at room temperature
40g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
125g potato starch
80g cake flour

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and icing sugar till light and fluffy. Add in vanilla extract (if using) and mix well.
  2. Sift in potato starch and cake flour. With a spatula, mix to form a soft dough. Note: if the mixture appears too soft and wet to shape, leave the dough to chill in the fridge for about 10-15mins .
  3. Roll dough into small balls (about 2cm in diameter), arrange on lined baking pan and press lightly with a fork (dip the fork in water after each press to prevent cookie dough from sticking to the fork).
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 170 deg C for 15 mins, upper rack (need not bake till cookies turn brown).
Recipe source: adapted from Small Small Baker

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Lost and Found...My blog post on '水正果 Sujeonggwa'

My latest blog post on Korean Sujeonggwa (Cinnamon Ginger Tea with dried persimmons) was gone missing after Blogger did a scheduled maintenance last Thursday. I noticed most of the regular blogs I visit do not have the problem of missing posts. I waited patiently for Blogger to restore everything but every time I checked my blog, the post was still not restored. For the past few days, I have been searching on the internet to see whether I am able to get around the problem. I did manage to find some possible solutions but it didnt work for me...I googled for the missing post and tried going to the cache link to retrieve it, but I didn't have luck. This morning, I googled again, and was happy to find another alternative solution. I managed to find the full post from 'Goolge Reader Feed'!

For those of you who have got missing posts, this was what I did: I was logged on to Blogger (which means I am signed in to my Google account), then I opened another new tab on my web browser. I searched using Google with key words "Goolge Reader Feed". I clicked on the first search result with the link:, and there right in front of me was all my recent blog posts. When I clicked on the link of my missing post, the entire blog post appeared, and I could copy and paste the text into a new post.

I am re-posting the blog post here as I treasure every blog post I wrote :)


每当考试季节的来临也是意味着我恶梦的开始。万事起头难,通常我都得经过一番拉锯战,加上‘威逼’之下(我不用’利诱‘, 我是不吃这一套的),我家那两个少爷才会乖乖就范,专心备考。还好,值得欣慰的是,一旦定下心,不论大小都会全神惯注,专心温习那一大堆的课本和作业!他们的毅力有时真的令我很惊讶!在这么酷热的天气下他们还能精神奕奕,而我这个名副其实的陪读妈妈却半躺在一旁对着不停向我招手的周公直点头。

今年老大升上中一,我老早就和他讲明,他得自己保重,自己安排时间温习,不能再依靠老妈的督促。不过有时他还是把我当成他的活动字典和不用插电的’专用‘网络维基!外表愚钝(就是blur blur 那种lor),不善言辞的他,成绩不算优秀。去年经过那一轮艰辛的小六会考的历练,他总算领悟到一些读书心得,加上他还蛮勤奋,勤能补础,希望他中学的成绩不要太惨不忍睹。


这几天,为了解热,我不是煮薏米水就是菊花茶。好想来一杯自制冰凉的韩国茶--水正果! 可是市面上已经找不到韩式柿饼(柿饼就是晒干的柿子,韩式柿饼是半干的),我又不想用 made in China 的。。。所以现在只能望梅止渴lor。。。


水正果有点微辣又有甜味,非常生津止渴。尤其喉咙干痒时喝下一杯,感觉真的很爽。为了不要口感太辣,桂皮我没煮太久,而且我用冰糖(多数食谱都用红糖)所以我的水正果茶颜色比较淡没那么深褐色。想学如何煮一锅水正果茶可以查看这个 video clip (从03:20分开始) 或这个和这个食谱。希望你会和我一样喜欢这个饮品。

Thanks to VB, my cyberfriend, I was introduced to Sujeonggwa, a type of Korean cinnamon ginger tea with dried persimmons. It is a delicious beverage and very refreshing especially when served chilled. This tea is made by simmering cinnamon and ginger with sugar added to sweeten it. Upon cooling, dried persimmons are then added and left to soak for a couple of hours. The drink is usually served with the persimmons and some pine nuts as garnish. Hop over to this video clip(starting from 03:20min) or this video by Maangchi if you are interested to learn how to prepare this drink.

Su jeong gwa


50g ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 litres (8 cups) of water
30g cinnamon sticks (about 5 to 6 sticks)
some rock sugar, adjust to taste (original recipe calls for 175g brown sugar)
3 dried persimmons
some pine nuts

  • Place ginger and water in a pot or a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn to low heat and let it simmer for 20-30mins.
  • Rinse cinnamon sticks and add to the mixture. Return the mixture to a boil and remove from heat. (Note: I let it simmer for about 5mins.)
  • Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Discard ginger and cinnamon sticks. Return the mixture back to the pot, add the sugar and bring it to the boil. When sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and leave to cool.
  • Wash the dried persimmons, remove the calyx and add to the cooled mixture. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  • Remove persimmons from the mixture and cut into bite size. Serve the drink with the persimmons and some pine nuts as garnish.
Recipe source: adapted from Step by Step Cooking Korean: Delightful Ideas for Everyday Meals by Lee Min Jung

Wednesday 4 May 2011

of Birthdays and Baking

It is the time of the year again...

when I am 365 days older...but not necessary wiser....

when I just have to make a cake for myself, not because I love baking so much...but it seems like the only right thing to do...

when I always begin the day with the wrong mood, usually with a hint of resentment...but always went to bed all soaked up in a sweet feeling...

Before I share with you my birthday cake for this year, I will like to mark this occasion with a small roundup of the birthday cakes I have made so far...

My maiden birthday cake...a Dorie Greenspan's Devil's Food White-Out Chocolate Cake. Just like the Chinese saying "初生之犊不畏虎" which has the same meaning as 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread'...looking back, I was indeed a fool...trying to do something so challenging with the little baking knowledge and experience I have. It is no where close to the gorgeous cake on the front cover of Dorie Greenspan's 'Baking: From My Home to Yours'...what a disgrace to the author!

The following year, I celebrated my 40th year on earth with a dark, rich (how I wish it was someone tall, dark and handsome!) and very decadent Chocolate Gateau. It was a break through for me as it was the first time I tried piping rosettes with melted chocolate. I remembered trying so many times to produce the best looking rosette I could manage, that the chocolate started to harden and I had to give up when the fat appeared to separate from the cocoa, lolz!

One year later...having gone through enough baking failures, I attempted a Tiramisu Charlotte Cake that looked quite presentable with the clever 'cover ups'. The taste was so good that I wasn't afraid to make the same thing again for my close ones' birthdays.

This strawberry mousse cake seems to mark the beginning of my baking skills going down hill. I cringe whenever I am reminded by how 'coarse' the mouse layer was! The cake has also taught me to be more humble...that is, I have to treat all recipes with respect. I shouldn't play around with ingredients too much especially when dealing with delicate cakes.

pardon the lousy on the picture to view a higher resolution image

This the latest edition to my list of birthday cakes...a no-bake Tofu Cheesecake. This time, I followed the recipe closely, the only deviation was, I used another recipe for the biscuit crust. Making the cake was smooth sailing...except having to run out at the last minute to get gelatine powder after a fruitless attempt rummaging through my cabinets of baking stuff. I popped the cake into the fridge to set before we went out for lunch. I had planned to get some fresh strawberries on our way back to make some berries sauce to go with the cake. Another lesson not take it for granted that your local supermarket would carry strawberries all year round. I couldn't find any strawberries, not a punnet on the shelf, neither could I find any suitable fruits to use as garnish. We went home empty handed, and I thought I was going to have a plain cake for birthday until I remembered I came across a marshmallow fondant recipe a few days ago. I was happy that the pack of coloured marshmallows sitting in my cabinet came in handy. I melted three pink marshmallows over a pot of simmering water, then added 40g of icing sugar (the sugar amount is double the weight of the marshmallows), and kneaded it into a small dough. I spent the next half an hour making fondant roses with my younger son...while the elder fellow kept stopping by to steal a piece of dough before popping it into his mouth.

pardon the lousy on the picture to view a higher resolution image
Thanks to Bakertan for sharing this video on how to make a rose out of fondant. I saw the video sometime back, and based on what I could recall (I didnt even bother to watch the video again), I made the first rose. Since it was the first attempt, it wasn't that nice to be granted the lime-light spot in front. The second rose, facing right at the camera was pretty well least for a first timer who has zero experience with fondant. Just like the video demo, I didnt use any tools, or roll out the dough evenly. I simply pinched pieces of dough, flatten it (without using any cling wrap since it is not sticky at all) into petals and stick them together into a rosette. The smaller rose on the left was done by my younger child. The petals were not as thin but I would think his motor skills is actually not too bad. Besides he has some 'prior experience' making a small rose with jumping clay, the day before. 

There were only enough marshmallow fondant to make 3 rosettes...and I placed them on top of my cheesecake right after they were made. To my surprise, the roses started to sweat due to condensation. It wasn't something I least expected even though I have read about 'sweating fondant' especially in our humid weather. It was quite heart breaking having to watch the pretty roses sweating away :'(

As usual, before we cut the cake, I was 'showered' with presents from my boys. I saw my little one making this tiny froggy the day before, they should know that they can't hide anything from me ;)  My elder son gave me something 'intangible'. A piece of music...the classic birthday song which he 're-arranged' with some music was a string ensemble with 'violin', 'viola' and a 'cello' (I think?).

I managed to take a clearer picture of a slice of the tofu cheesecake the following morning. The cake was smooth and firm...not velvety soft as silken tofu. The texture wass closer to a firm tofu...probably because of the amount of gelatin used. It is an 'adult cake' actually...because it tasted quite tangy, thanks to the generous amount of lemon juice. My younger son only took a few mouthfuls before he scrapped off the filling and transferred it to his daddy's plate. He told me he liked the crust better, haha. The rest of us fell in love with the tanginess! The cake tasted so refreshing and delicious that we couldn't stop at just one slice...there were no tofu taste though. We had to caution each other of the amount of calories in order to refrain from taking the third piece. The only 'compliment' I got from my better half was...the crust was very professionally didn't fall apart easily like all the previous no-bake cheesecakes I have made. What a great pat on the shoulder! As for the marshmallow tasted great when dry...almost like eating a piece of 'crushed and flattened' cotton candy. However, after left to perspired profusely, the fondant rose tasted like...according to my elder son's though eating a piece of '大白兔奶糖' (a kind of milk toffee)!

It was an experience playing with fondant...something which I never thought I will make because of the high sugar content. Although I am likely out of my mind if I were to make a cake covered fully with fondant, I won't dismiss the idea of making tiny edible cake toppers whenever I run out of idea to decorate a birthday cake ;)

Tofu Cheesecake

(makes one 18cm round cake)

95g digestive biscuits, finely crushed
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

6 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons gelatin powder
250g cream cheese, soften at room temperature
150g silken tofu
45g unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
5 tablespoons caster sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice

Line the base of a 18cm round pan (with removable base) with parchment paper. Combine crushed digestive biscuits, light brown sugar and melted butter together in a mixing bowl. With the back of a spoon, press the biscuit crumbs firmly onto the base of the prepared pan. Chill in the freezer compartment for at least 1 hour. (To ensure the crust is even, I used the base of a flat-bottom glass to press down the crumbs.)

Measure warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin powder (without stirring). Set aside to allow the gelatin grains to bloom.

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, silken tofu and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides if necessary. Add in sugar and beat till fully incorporated. Add in lemon juice, beat till fully incorporated.

The gelatin should turn spongy by now. Stir the solution with a spoon. (Note: not all the gelatin powder was fully dissolved when I made this, but it was not a problem as the mixture was added to the cheese batter through a sieve). Pour the gelatin solution through a sieve into the cream cheese batter. Beat the batter till fully incorporated.  Stop to scrape down the sides when necessary. (The finished batter is rather thin and runny.)

Pour the batter onto the chilled crust based. Tap the pan lightly on table top or smooth the surface with a spatula.  Refrigerate until set (at least 4 hours).

To unmold, place pan on an inverted glass (or a canned drink or any canned food). Carefully slide the removable pan downwards to release the cake. Transfer cake together with the base to a serving plate.  Serve with fresh berries sauce.

Recipe source: adapted from Food & Travel magazine