Sunday 27 October 2013

It's really that simple

I don't know why it took me so long to pick up the courage to make something so simple as molten chocolate cakes!

Somehow, I have this false impression that it requires skills and experience of a pastry chef to make them...probably because I only get to eat this delicious dessert during one of those rare occasions when I meet up with my friends for dinners.

Well, although the recipe is so straight forward, I only got it right on the second attempt. The first time I made them, I did the most unforgivable mistake of over just 2 minutes! The cake tasted awesome, but it didn't flow like lava :'(

The second attempt was perfect! This time I made sure my oven was well preheated just to be very sure that the cake would be cooked within the recommended baking time. I removed the cake from the oven once the timer started to beep. The surface appeared barely cooked, it was 'just set'. I was so tempted to put it back into the oven to bake it a little longer!

Besides baking time, the timing to unmold the cake from the ramekin is also one of the critical success factors to note. After removing from the oven, leave them in the ramekins to cool for at least 1 to 2 mins. This is to allow the cake to set a little, it may fall apart if you try to unmold it straight out of the oven. But this doesn't mean you should leave them in the ramekins forever as the cakes are meant to be served warm.

Surprisingly, unmolding the cake is not as difficult as I thought. Just run a knife around the sides of the ramekin, then flip it over a serving plate and remove the ramekin. The cake will not get stuck to the ramekin as long as you have greased it really well. Do be careful as the ramekin will be very hot.

I have also tried serving these molten chocolate cakes in the ramekin...saves me the trouble of unmolding and washing up extra serving plates ;)

Another wonderful thing I discovered about making these lava cakes is, you can actually prepare the batter a few hours ahead of time, keep them in the fridge and bake only when ready to serve. This is really something new to me. Whenever we order this dessert at cafes or restaurants, we were always told to place the order in advance as it would take at least 20 to 30 mins to prepare. So all along I was given the impression that this dessert can only be made and served right away!

As with any homemade chocolate cakes, do use the best quality baking chocolate you could afford. I have made these with valrhona baking chocolates and also Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It must be my unsophisticated palates, both tasted equally good to me even though one is more expensive than the other. I wouldn't attempt to describe how delicious these lava cakes turn out...but the fact that I made them 4 times in a row gets to show how everyone in the family loves it, and of course how easy it is for me to bake them!

If you are a first timer and eager to give this a try, you may want to hop over to my favourite baking website, to watch this video to get an idea how to go about making molten chocolate cakes and to avoid any pitfalls. The video certainly boost my confidence and I am very thankful for the wonderful and generous sharing by Stephanie Jaworsk. I have learned a lot from her website, she mades baking really easy for self taught home bakers like me :)

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

(makes 4 servings)

135g dark chocolate
65g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
45g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25g plain flour

some butter for greasing

  • Preheat oven to 200 degC.
  • Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl by setting the bowl over the saucepan; make sure the bowl is bigger than the saucepan. Stir the mixture to ensure all the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes smooth. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
  • Generously grease the bottom and sides of four 180ml (6 oz) size ramekins with butter; set aside.
  • Place eggs in the mixing bowl of MUM5 kitchen machine*. Attach the beating whisk and beat for a few seconds to break them up. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on speed 3 and gradually increase to speed 6 for about 3 to 4 minutes till the mixture triple in volume, becomes thick, pale and fluffy. Reduce to speed 4 and continue to beat for about 1 to 2 minutes to break up larger bubbles in the batter. When the whisk attachment is lifted, the mixture should fall and leave a ribbon-like trail.
  • Add in the melted chocolate mixture and beat on speed 4 for about 1 minute or until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  • Sieve the flour into the mixing bowl. With a spatula fold in the flour until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Pour batter into the prepared ramekins to about half full.
  • Place filled ramekins on a baking tray and bake in middle rack  in preheated oven at 200 degC for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. The cakes are deliberately under baked. The cake is ready when the outside edges is set (gently touch the edges, it should feel soft but won't stick to your finger) and the middle still looks a little wet.
  • Remove from oven immediately and leave to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or alternatively, run a small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert warm cakes onto individual serving plates and carefully lift ramekin off cakes. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve warm with ice cream or berries.
The batter can be prepared a few hours ahead of time. Leave batter in the prepared ramekins, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature while preheating the oven. Bake at 200 degC for 10 minutes just before serving.

*Note: I used my new Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830 to prepare the cake batter, read my review of this kitchen mixer here.

Friday 11 October 2013

easy does it

Bread making used to be a tedious task when I first started making homemade bread by hand. Kneading bread dough can be very therapeutic, but too often I ended up with very sore arms and shoulder the next day.

Baking bread at home became much easier after I bought my first bread machine. I left the kneading entirely to the machine, no more aching! The machine was so heavily utilised that it went kaput after two years. It was back to kneading dough by hand for a long period before I got another bread maker.

Life couldn't get any simpler when I received my latest kitchen helper, a Bosch kitchen machine. With this new machine, the dough takes a much shorter time to knead as compared to my bread maker.

This wholemeal honey and yoghurt bread loaf was made using the straight dough method, simple and straight forward without having to proof the dough overnight or to prepare any tangzhong or water roux. The recipe is a combination of a few bread substituting or replacing ingredients to suit my aim of making a loaf of homemade loaf bread so simple and easy that anyone can give it a go. Shaping was relatively fuss-free too,  just roll out the whole piece of dough and then roll it up to form a log, no special skills or technique involved.

The bread turned out to be very soft, light and airy. Besides kneading the dough to the right stage, I believe both the honey and yoghurt contributes to the tender texture as well. The bread remained soft even on the 3rd day!

There is no doubt that bread making takes time, yet it is not time consuming. Yes, it takes time for the dough to rise and proof, but the actual process of preparing the dough should not take more than half an hour of your time. Easy does it. Go slow and steady, coupled with a little patience and you will be rewarded with a loaf of freshly baked healthy homemade bread, way superior than any commercial store bought ones ;)

Wholemeal Honey and Yoghurt Bread

(makes one loaf using a 7.5"x4"x4" loaf pan)

270g bread flour
30g wholemeal flour
40g caster sugar
2g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
4g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
70g non fat plain natural yoghurt, room temperature
30g honey
120g fresh milk, room temperature
20g unsalted butter

some rolled oats


(Note: The bread dough is made with Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830, read my review here.)

Place bread flour, wholemeal four, caster sugar, salt, instant yeast, yoghurt, honey and milk (except the butter) into the mixing bowl. Attach the kneading hook and set the MUM 5 to speed 1 to mix the ingredients for about 1 minute. Turn to speed 3 and let the machine knead for about 5 minutes.

Add in the butter and continue to knead at speed 3 for another 18~20 minutes. To test whether the dough is ready, pull and stretch a portion of the dough. It should be elastic, and can be stretched into a thin membrane without tearing/breaking apart easily.

Remove dough from mixing bowl. Dust hand with some flour and shape the dough into a smooth round. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover the bowl with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degrees C) for about 1 hour, or until double in bulk.

Remove dough from the bowl. Dust work surface with some flour and give the dough a few light kneading to press out the gas. Smooth into round, cover with cling wrap or damp cloth and leave it to rest for about 10mins.

Flatten the dough into a disc and roll out into a rectangular shape about 7" by 12". Roll up the dough along the shorter end like a swiss roll to form a log (with a length of about 7" or the length of the loaf pan you are using). Pinch and seal the seams tightly. Place dough seam side down in a well greased loaf pan. Cover with cling wrap or damp cloth and leave dough to proof for the second time for about 40mins to 1 hour, or until double in size. Brush the top with water and sprinkle rolled oats all over.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 minutes or until the surface turns golden brown. Remove from oven, unmold and transfer to rack to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container and best consumed within 2 to 3 days.