Tuesday 16 July 2013

square cake

After months of procrastination, I finally gave myself a good kick and got down to bake this beautiful square cake.

I got hooked when I first saw this almond and apricot tray bake from a cookbook dedicated to baking square cakes. I bookmarked several recipes from this cookbook and even went all out to get a 18cm square pan...that was months ago. The next thing I needed to get was the canned apricots. I didn't manage to get it until several months later when I finally spotted it on the supermarket shelves.

The method of preparing the cake batter is quite unique to me. Instead of the usual creaming of butter and sugar batter, followed by eggs...for this recipe, only the yolks are added to the butter mixture while the whites are beaten separately before the two are combined together. The flour is added last. I felt I was switching from creaming method, to chiffon cake making method then to sponge cake method through out the preparation process.

Guess I am too familiar with baking chiffon cakes, instead of adding the flour last, I added in right after mixing the yolks to the butter mixture. I didn't realise my mistake until when I was about to fold the whites to the yolk batter. I was wondering how not to deflate the beaten egg whites if the yolk batter was so dry and thick?

However, it was too late to do anything. I went ahead and surprisingly, I could blend the whites into the batter quite easily. I was expecting the cake to fall flat like a piece of flatbread, but to my delight, it manage to rise and puff up upon baking :)

Even with the mistake I made, the cake still tasted soft and tender, although it appeared to be slightly more crumbly than my usual bakes. The texture was light and not dense as pound cake. I find the cake on the sweet side, but it went well with the canned apricots which tasted tangy! The ground almonds and almond flakes greatly enhances both the texture and aroma, making it a delicious and delightful homemade cake which I will bake again and again.

Apricot Tray Bake

(makes nine 6cm squares)

100g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
30g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites
60g caster sugar

80g cake flour
40g + 30g ground almond (almond powder)

9 apricot halves (canned apricots)
some almond flakes

  1. Wash the canned apricots to remove the syrup, drain, pat dry with paper towel and set aside.
  2. Place butter in a mixing bowl, beat with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk till smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture turns pale, light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add in the egg yolks (a teaspoon at a time), whisking after each addition.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract, whisk to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage. The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy.
  6. Add the beaten egg whites into the butter and egg yolk batter in 2 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  7. Sieve over the flour and 40g of ground almond (almond powder). Fold with the spatula until just combined.
  8. Spoon half of the batter into a 18cm square pan (lined with parchment paper). Spread and smooth out the batter evenly. Arrange the apricots, cut side down.
  9. Add 30g of ground almond into the remaining batter. Fold with a spatula until just combined. Place batter into a piping bag (I used a plastic grocery bag). Snip off the tip of the piping bag and pipe the batter horizontally and vertically along the edges of the pan and in between the apricots. Sprinkle almond flakes on the surface of the piped batter. 
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degC for about 30-35mins or until the surface turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  11. Remove from oven, leave to cool for about 5 mins. Unmould and transfer to wire rack, leave to cool completely.
Recipe source: 爱上我的手作蛋糕 by 福岡直子

Tuesday 2 July 2013

muffins with a little power

I have not been consistent in keeping up with my blog lately. As much as I wanted to put up a blog post at least once a week, somehow life gets in the way. I am more than happy that the one month school holidays is finally over, I am able to do a lot more when the kids are in school :)

I don't want to bore you with yet another post on muffins, but pardon my lack of skills and creativity, I do not have talents to go beyond baking the usual muffins and simple cakes!

These plain jane muffins are neither eye catching or looks mouth watering...but, they certainly are worthy of my calories...

Sometime back, my baking friend has kindly given me a pack of Chia Seeds...something which I have not heard of before I hit the search button. These tiny seeds is packed with a wealth of nutrients and minerals and is also a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fibre. When combined with water, the fiber in chia seed will cause it to swell up to form a layer of gel around it, which is known as chia gel. So if you eat chia seeds or chia gel (chia seeds soaked in liquid or any beverage), it will keep you full (so that you will eat less) making it very nutritious and healthy for your diet. Because of this gel-like property in chia seeds, it can easily be used in baking to act as a binder or thickener and can be used as a good substitute for eggs. The nutritional value of any meals, beverage or baked goods can be easily enhanced with just a sprinkle of chia seed.

Hope you are convinced by now that these plain-janes are worth a lot more than their appearance. Besides chia seed, I have also packed in banana and walnuts into each of these little cuppies.

These wholesome muffins are soft and tender with just the right sweetness. I really like the interesting combination of texture of the soft, fluffy crumbs with the walnuts and nutty chia seeds. Chia seed is actually tasteless, but I like the crunch it offers when each bite. Besides vanilla extract, I have also added some rum (it was the first time I am using rum in baking), but guess the amount was too little (only half a teaspoon) for me to be able to detect its presence. I was really hesitant as I wasn't sure whether it would be too strong a flavour for my kids, will be more generous the next time.

Banana Walnut Chia Seeds Muffins

(makes 8 muffins)

150g cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
50g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
50g vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large over ripped bananas, roughly mashed
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon chia seeds

  1. Sieve flour and baking powder, set aside.
  2. Roughly mash bananas with a fork.
  3. Place sugar, eggs in a mixing bowl. Whisk with a balloon whisk to combine.
  4. Add in oil, vanilla extract, whisk to combine.
  5. Add in mashed banana, stir with a spatula to combine.
  6. Add in chopped walnuts, chia seeds and sieve over the flour mixture, stir with spatula until just incorporated. DO NOT Overmix. The batter should appear lumpy.
  7. Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, fill to ¾ full.
  8. Bake in preheated oven at180degC for 25mins until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack, leave to cool completely.