Thursday 22 August 2013

there's always room for dessert

This is not the first time I made this awfully delicious and decadent chocolate torte. I baked one for my better half's birthday a few months back. Ever since I have taken the first bite, I couldn't seem to get it off my mind...

well, just like any home bakers, we don't need to wait for a special occasion to bake a cake...and,

....there is always room for dessert ;)

This rather rustic, crackly, sunken chocolate cake may look similar to one of my favourate classic chocolate cakes, but take a closer look. Do you notice the black layer at the bottom? It is actually an oreo biscuit base just like the crust of a cheesecake. When I first saw the recipe while browsing a copy of the Delicious magazine, I knew this is the cake to bake for my husband. He is an oreo fiend and what's more, he has two other oreo buddies at home!

Although a picture speaks a thousand words, this photo doesn't do this cake justice, unless one can lick it off the screen. It is dense and yet has a very delicate, velvety smooth texture...'melt-in-your-mouth' are the closest words that I could think of to describe it. Believe it or not, the crunchy crust, which keeps falling off even when the cake was cooling on the rack, is extra icing on the cake!

The original recipe suggests to serve this cake with whisky cream(whipped cream infused with liquor)...but I opted for a scoop of ice cream. I always keep a tub of vanilla ice cream in the fridge, it goes well with most cakes and desserts and it's certainly a fuss-free option than having to whip up a few dollops of cream.

I scaled down the recipe which is meant for 22cm pan to fit my 18cm loose-bottom pan. Some how, looking at the ingredient list, it doesn't use that much fat or least the amount is still within my limits. In any case, I follow the rule of eating every thing in moderation. We don't have to feel sinful to indulge once in while ;)

So, what are you waiting for? Happy Baking!

Rich Chocolate Torte

(make one 18cm cake)

150g oreo cookies
40g melted butter

180g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
50g unsalted butter
50ml coffee
2 egg yolks
45g cake flour

2 egg whites
90g caster sugar

icing sugar (or cocoa powder) for dusting

  • Line the bottom of an 18cm round pan (with removable base) with parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides.
  • Remove the cream from the oreo cookies. Crumb the cookies, either with a rolling pin or in a food processor. Place the crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into the base of the prepared pan. Use the back of the spoon, smooth out the crumbs and press firmly. You can also use a glass (with a flat base) to press down firmly. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30mins.
  • Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a saucepan, stir to combine. Add the coffee, stir to combine. Remove from heat. Let cool.
  • With a balloon whisk, whisk egg yolks gently. Add in the melted chocolate/butter mixture. Whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • 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 amount 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. (Do not over beat the whites still stiff, it is better to beat the whites still soft peaks for easy folding with the yolk batter.)
  • Add 1/3 of the egg white to the egg yolk mixture. Fold in with a balloon whisk to loosen the batter. Add the remaining egg white in 2 separate addition, change to a spatula and each time fold in gently, making sure all the egg whites are incorporated into the batter. (Note: take care not to deflate the batter. The finished batter should fill up the pan to at least 3/4 full.)  
  • Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the cake pan lightly on tabletop a few times to release any trapped bubbles in the batter. 
  • Bake in preheated oven at 160 degC for 40 ~ 45 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few moist crumb. 
  • Remove cake from oven, leave it in the pan for about 5mins. Unmould and let cool on wire rack. Dust with icing sugar (or cocoa powder) as desired. Serve with whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream. The cake is best eaten at room temperature. If stored in fridge, bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
Recipe source: adapted from Delicious magazine

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Weekend Baking

I have been getting a lot of these honey apricots lately. They are sweet, ready-to-eat snacks for my kids. I don't have to spend time cutting the fruits and unlike juicy fruits, I have no worries of my boy dripping juices all over the couch ;)

My younger child finds it a joy eating these tiny, peachy scented fruits. To him, it is a great accomplishment being able to split the apricot butts into halves with his bare hands.

Weekend mornings are the best time for me to indulge in some freshly home baked scones.

Having baked some apricots square cakes with canned apricots, it is hardly surprising that I started experimenting baking with fresh apricots. The firm texture is certainly a plus point to include them in my weekend baking repertoire.

I prepared the 'dry ingredients' the night before...cutting the butter into the flour mixture before leaving it in the fridge to chill overnight. The following morning, while the oven was preheating, all I needed to do was to add in some coarsely chopped apricots and the liquid ingredients to mix up the dough.

I have a batch of scones baking in the oven in no time. It was a luxurious morning, for me, to be engulfed in the wonderful buttery aroma of scones baking in the oven while I went about rounding up everyone for breakfast.

The fruity flavour of the honey apricots lends a subtly sweetness to these awesome breakfast treats. I usually have my scones plain. I believe homemade scones are delicious without having to load it with any jam or clotted cream. However, this time, I spotted some leftover yuzu syrup in my fridge and it went really well with the scones, giving a nice tangy touch.

There is nothing like having a basket of warm-buttery scones on a Sunday morning. It is a great way to kick start the day...enjoying tender, fluffy scones with a cup of steaming hot tea or a mug of coffee.  I could almost imagine myself sipping tea in the Cameronian Valley...

Apricot Scones

(makes about 6 scones)

220g cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
30g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
3~4 fresh apricots, wash, pitted and coarsely chopped
110g egg yolk and milk mixture (combine 1 egg yolk with enough fresh whole milk to make up amount)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

  1. Sieve cake flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add in caster sugar, salt, whisk to combine. Place cold, diced unsalted butter into mixing bowl. With a fork or a dough scraper, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. (It is important that the butter be cold so when it is cut into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs. If the butter starts to melt away during this process, stop and place the mixture in the freezer for 10-15 mins to prevent the butter from melting further. Continue the process when the mixture is well chilled.)
  2. Add in chopped fresh apricots. Mix to combine.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add in the yolk and milk mixture and vanilla extract (if using). Fold with a spatula just a few times to make the mixture comes together to form a shaggy mass. 
  4. Gather up the mixture and place it on a lightly floured surface. Dust hand with flour and give it a few light kneading (not more than 10 seconds) so that it comes together to form a dough. Do Not over work the dough. (Only mix the dough until it comes together. Too much kneading will cause gluten to develop, and the resulting scones will turn hard and chewy. Knead only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, dust your hands and the dough with some flour and pat the dough to about 1 inch thick (avoid using too much flour). Cut out the dough with a lightly floured 2.5-inch biscuit cutter (I use a drinking glass). Press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting. Dip the cutter into some flour after each cut. Gather scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used. (For easy cleaning and to prevent sticking, I lined my work surface with cling wrap, it is also easier to lift up the scones after cutting.)
  6. Place scones on baking tray (lined with parchment paper).Brush the tops with some milk.
  7. Bake at preheated oven at 200 degC for about 25~30 mins or until they are well risen and the tops are lightly brown. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from Okashi sweet treats made with love by Keiko Ishida

Friday 2 August 2013

It's ham N cheese

It's been sometime since I last posted something on bread buns. I have been making bread, albeit less frequent, but I didn't get around to post them.

After giving up on baking a nice Japanese souffle cheesecake, that doesn't sink like the titanic, I seek comfort by making a batch of bread rolls.

These are ordinary bread buns made with tangzhong or water roux method. The only difference is the way of shaping them to look like roses. I wrapped in ham and cheese slices to turn them into wonderful breakfast items. I tried two different method of shaping and only one of them worked well for me.

These rose buns are made by wrapping the ham and cheese slices with 3 separate pieces of dough, one after another. The texture of the bread was not affected by the layers of dough. They tasted so delicious freshly baked that I gobbled down two in a row, lol!

Care to join me for some tea? No dainty desserts and high quality tea, but I can always offer you a slice of homemade cake or a fat rose bun over a cup of lipton ;)

Ham and Cheese Rose Buns
(makes 12 buns)

tang zhong (water-roux):
20g bread flour
100ml water

bread dough:
195g bread flour
90g cake flour
12g milk powder
30g caster sugar
6g salt
6g instant yeast

60g egg, lightly beaten
65g water
75g tang zhong (water-roux)

45g unsalted butter

6 slices of breakfast ham (round shape)
6 slices of sandwich cheese

to make tang zhong:
Place 20g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 100ml water, mix till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a hand whisk to prevent it from burning. Within 1 to 2 mins, the mixture will start to thicken, stop when you see traces in the mixture for every stir you make with the hand whisk. (Take a look at the video clip here.) The 65degC tang zhong is ready. Immediately transfer the hot tang zhong into a bowl and cover it with a cling wrap, making sure the cling wrap sticks onto the surface of the mixture. This is to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Leave to cool completely before using it.

to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place water, egg, tang zhong (use 75g), sugar, salt, bread flour, cake flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Leave the lid of the machine open (this is to prevent over heating). After about 10mins of kneading, add in the 45g of butter. Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 15~20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

* Place dough in a lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide the dough into 18 equal portions (30g each). Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough into a round disc about the size of the ham. Press out any trapped air as you flatten the dough.

* Place a slice of ham followed by a piece of cheese on a flattened dough. Roll up. Place the rolled dough, seam side down on another piece of flattened dough. Roll up again. Repeat with another piece of dough. Pinch and seal the seams and cut the roll into two equal halves. Place cut-side down on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Repeat with the rest of the doughs.

* Cover doughs with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 12 mins or until golden brown (tent with a foil if the top browns too quickly closer to end of the baking time). Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: adapted from 65度C汤种面包, 陈郁芬