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Archive for March, 2012

Green Tea and Vanilla Beans Macarons

March 31, 2012 10 comments

I haven’t baked Macarons in ages!

I remember once upon a time, when the macaron craze was at its peak, every other blogger was concocting macarons of every color and flavor.

I sat at the sidelines and gawked. Too chicken to join  in the dance of the Macaron-A. I’ve heard of great tales and failures, and i wasnt too eager to put myself up for disappointment.

I can’t recall what eventually got me in. But if i were to guess, it should have been some leftover egg whites i had.

And really, once u got your feet wet in the dance, there is no turning back. I was sucked in the art of making macarons even as i turned in batches after batches of cracked, feetless, hard macaron shells.

After each failure, i would manically google for answers, and i blamed every possible elements for my demise, be it bad weather, or instability of my oven temperature (which of course werent the case).

Then finally one day, i was met with success. Or at least, my macarons had feet even though they were somewhat lopsided. I was the happiest camper!! It was at least a step up from my previous attempts.

Fast foward today, the theme for the Aspiring Bakers for the month of March is none other than Macarons. I’ve decided to dance along with my version of green tea and vanilla beans macarons.

And i am quite glad that after months upon months of absence from making macarons, my macarons shells still look somewhat acceptable and i didnt have to eat cookies that looked like mini earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Aaaaaaaaaay Macarena to me!

simple vanilla macarons
ingredients

Taken from the baker chick
110 grams blanched slivered almonds or ground almond flour
200 grams confectioners sugar
100 grams egg whites (from 3 eggs, separated 24 hours in advance)
1/4 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
50 grams granulated sugar
vanilla buttercream

instructions
Pulse the almonds/almond flour and confectioner’s sugar several times in your food processor until thoroughly mixed. Place egg whites in a clean bowl and beat using mixers (or whisk) until soft peaks form. Split and scrape the vanilla pod and add the beans and extract to the egg whites. Add the sugar and turn the mixer to high, whisking until you have a glossy meringue with stiff peaks.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites gently, briskly at first to break up the meringue a bit, until thoroughly mixed. It’s important you don’t over mix the batter, but it should be well combined and is supposed to “ribbon” off the the spatula when lifted from the bowl.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe rounds of 1.5 inches along two parchment or silicon-lined baking sheets (leaving space between each.) Let sit one hour at room temperature to develop a shell.

Heat oven to 300. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely and remove from the pan.

To fill, match up like sized cookies and pipe with buttercream or other filling of choice

Ps: For the green tea version, I just added one TBS of green tea powder into the icing sugar and almond flour mix!

Ps: if you are looking to join the fun with the Aspiring bakers, pls head to Alan of travelling foodies by clicking here!

Aspiring Bakers #17 – March Macaron Madness! (Mar 2012) hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies

 

Oh, and on a side note, I have also taken up this new hobby of exchanging postcards. Basically, u send a postcard somewhere to somebody, and someone else will direct a postcard right back at you. It’s pretty easy, not to mention a lot of fun!

You can read about it from Postcrossing.com

And here are the two cards i have received !

This pretty postcard came from Japan. I love how girly and pink this cupcake postcard is! Thanks Noriko! 🙂

 

This is a vintage ad of an extra dry “Rheigold” beer from Taiwan. I am so very much drawn to vintage ads. They have a special look and feel! The sender has been kind enough to comply with my wish of a vintage ad and sent me this! Thanks so much Angel! 🙂

Nutella Bottomed Cake

March 24, 2012 7 comments

I made a boo-boo with this one.

 

Instead of having a Nutella Swirl Cake, I ended up with a Nutella BOTTOMED cake.

Seemed like all the Nutella sank while baking.

I could only think of one reason for this. Homemade Nutella (Yes!I made Nutella from scratch!)

My homemade Nutella was probably denser  than the commercial ones as i have decided to altogether skip a “drizzle hot milk to thin” instruction on the recipe.

I guess the cake batter wasn’t able to put up with all that weight and gave way as the homemade Nutella made its royal descent to the bottom of the pan.

But waitt!! Please don’t give up on it yet!

Although this cake is not picture perfect, i didn’t say it wasn’t delicious. Because it damn well is!

The Nutella formed a very thick, fudgy texture when baked.

It’s like eating a butter cake, with fudge topping.

Just that the fudge TOPPING, happened to be fudge BOTTOMS.

Really, It’s just a matter of the order of the two layers.

No biggie!

Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  3. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  7. 1 1/4 cups sugar
  8. One 13-ounce jar Nutella
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
  3. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
  4. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

 

 

 

Categories: Cakes Tags: , , , ,

Banana Caramel Cream Pies

March 17, 2012 8 comments

While banana cream pies are many and aplenty, banana CARAMEL cream pies are  not. And while a large banana cream pie is to be sliced and shared, my banana caramel cream pies came in mini sizes.

 

I have not exactly mastered the art of making caramel. Some days my caramel curdle, and the milk solids would separate away (does anyone have any insight on this???).

But fortunately, there is no need to that stress inducing scenario today. Because instead of dumping cream into burning sugar, we add chopped bananas. And don’t worry about bananas and hot hot cooking sugar. They wont separate on you.

The recipe for this is a multi steps process. First we blind bake the crust.

 

Then the banana custard goes into it. The banana custard gets cooked twice. Once over the stove, and once in the oven. The custard would already be fully cooked over the stove. The second oven time is just to further caramelize the custard for a deeper flavour. oh yeah.

Top it off with whipped cream, shaved chocolate and toasted almonds,

And we’re good to go!

 

Banana Caramel Cream Pie

Taken from Daily Delicious

Sweet Shortcrust pastry
125g …………………………. Plain flour
25g …………………………… Icing sugar
…………………………………. A pinch of salt
75g …………………………… Unsalted butter, cold but pliable
1 ………………………………. Egg yolk
1-2 tsp …………………….. Iced water
Banana caramel filling
75g …………………………… Caster sugar
25ml ………………………… Water
350g ………………………… Bananas, peeled and chopped into pieces
25g …………………………… Unsalted butter
50ml ………………………… Milk
1 1/2tbsp …………………. Cornflour (cornstarch)
150g …………………………. Whipping cream
Topping
250g …………………………. Whipping cream
30g …………………………… Caster sugar
1tbsp ………………………… Rum
1 ……………………………….. Banana
………………………………….. Sliced almond, toasted
………………………………….. Dark chocolate, shaved

Mix flour, icing sugar and salt together in a bowl, add the butter and rub until combine.
Add  the egg yolk and water, mix until the dough come together.Take the dough out of the bowl and knead until smooth.
Pat into a block, warp and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Roll the pastry out thinly and line 18cm-round round tart pan.
Line the pastry with aluminium foil, and blind bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and cook until a pale golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C.Heat the sugar in a saucepan with 25ml water and boil over high heat until the sugar turns into a caramel. Add the banana pieces and butter, and simmering gently until the banana is soft. In a bowl beat the milk and cornflour until smooth, then take the pan out of the heat, beat the milk and cornflour mixture into the saucepan with the whipping cream.
Return to the heat, cook until boiling.Pour into the pastry case, bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.Whip the cream with sugar, and rum until soft peaks formed.
Spoon the whipped cream over the top with banana slices, dark chocolate, almond and drizzle with the caramel sauce.

Fluffy American Pancakes

March 12, 2012 5 comments

As big as I am on making breakfasts, i have never (gasp!) made pancakes before.

Something about the controlling of a fire on a stove with the simultaneous flippping of runny batter distress me.

But let’s not under estimate the power of lust. I was lusting after a stack of warm pancakes with a pat of butter and a drizzle of caramel, and perhaps some caramelized apples.

And against general belief, lust can be a good thing. Because lust brought out courage. I confronted my fears and conquered.

And as of today, I am a damsel freed of pancake making distress.

And i didn’t need a man to rescue me from it!

Ps: I have been trying my hands at some DIY postcards and came out with this recipe card. It’s my first attempt, and i have come to realize that there are so many wonderful features and “magic tricks” in photoshop that i feel ashamed for under-using them the programme after all these years. I look forward to exploring more with it!

FLUFFY AMERICAN PANCAKES (Taken from junglefrog-cooking and BBC Good Food website)

Ingredients

135 gr plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

130ml milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp of melted butter (allowed to cool slightly) or olive oil, plus extra for cooking

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into a large bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the milk and egg, then whisk in the melted butter.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and, using a fork, beat until you have a smooth batter. Any lumps will soon disappear with a little mixing. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. When it’s melted, add a ladle of batter (or two if you frying pan is big enough to cook two pancakes at the same time) It will seem very thick but this is how it should be. Wait until the top of the pancake begins to bubble, then turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1 cm thick.

Repeat until all the batter is used up. You can keep the pancakes warm in a low oven, but they taste best fresh out of the pan.

Serve with lashings of maple syrup and extra butter if you like. *

* I served mine with homemade caramel sauce and caramelized apples.

Swiss Roll With Mixed Berry Jam

March 6, 2012 5 comments

Beside the New Year’s Day, we Chinese also celebrate another occasion known as the Lunar New Year. The exact date for this celebration is not fixed.

I haven’t got the slightest clue how or what the date calculation is based upon, but it usually lapses from the conventional new year just by a couple of weeks.This year, the Chinese New Year was observed on 22 January 2012.

Which means on top of Christmas and New Year, our holiday season is somewhat extended. Of course, this also means the holiday bulge from the festive eating usually lingers a while longer with us.

Anyways,

Back to Chinese New Year.

It is a common practice for families and friends to send hampers of foodstuff amongst each other during this season. It’s almost like gift exchanging at Christmas.

Usually wrapped in transparent decorative plastic, we are able to see through into the goodies and treats that lay inside each hamper. As a kid, I used to gawk at the goodies neatly assembled within, and however tempted, I never dared to rip any one open without the consent of my parents.

My eyes would “lock” on the items that suited my fancy, and when the day came for the hamper to be unwrapped, I would go straight for these items.

So fast forward to twenty years later, I was visiting my parents’ home this January for Chinese New Year when my eyes locked on fancy jar of jam within a hamper that they had received.

A tall jar of “All natural”, “100% fruit”, “no sugar added” jam.

And like so many years, i still couldn’t bring myself to help myself to it without first asking for permission. Feeling like the kid i was years and years ago, i expressed my longing toward the said jam. And my parents, being the generous souls that they are (bless them!) pushed the entire basket of treats my way, and proclaimed me as its new owner.

I reached home that night, grabbed a spoon from the kitchen and did a taste test. I thought it tasted pretty good. I reversed the spoon, and using its handle (No double dipping!) scooped a tiny amount and popped it into the husband’s mouth.

And what other people valued “no sugar added”, he considered “sour”.

And the “100% fruit”?, he dismissed as “gritty with all the berry seeds”.

Convinced that it was a bad jar of jam, I chucked it to the side door shelf of the refrigerator, where it took up residence for the next one month.

Finally this morning, i decided to act upon it.

I baked a cottony, soft, chiffon swiss roll, and spread the controversial jam into it.

Good enough to eat on its own, the jam was just supplemental. And if you were as fussy as the husband, you could do exactly what he did and scrape away all the jam and worked just on the cake.

I brought the Swiss roll to work. And it seemed like the good and mature people at work were kinder to the jam.

No one made any unfavourable remark.

Because in all fairness, the jam is NOT bad at all,

It’s just that i happen to live with a man with a rather under-developed, child-like palate.

Chiffon Swiss Roll with Mixed Berry Jam

* Recipe to follow

 

Categories: Cakes Tags: , , , , ,

Tamago Nigiri

March 3, 2012 7 comments

Image

So these may not be the best looking tamago nigiri around. But they are my very first attempt at sushi making.

And i must say, i am in awe at how much attention and care the Japanese put to their food. I am not talking only about the arts of making sushi. This general devotion to handling and presenting food is also displayed in Japanese cakes, most of which scream both class and elegance.

Each of this sushi, or rather, nigiri (the specific term used for the rectangular shaped sushi), is molded using a nigiri mold.

The rice was pushed into the mold to take its signature Nigiri shape. The sweet egg omelette (tamagoyaki), is then topped onto the molded sushi and finally a belt of nori is used to secure the egg and the rice together.

These steps sound easy peasy when described, but in truth, i was tearing at my hair trying to assemble them together.

Just by the slightest touch, my fingers would take away some of the rice from the molded nigiris, mishapping them along the way.

I then remembered how an uncle used to go to the rice cooker when he had to seal envelopes, and didn’t have any glue on hands (No, i am not making this up). And the thing is, you cant really free yourself of sticky rice just by wiping your hands on a kitchen towel, there will definitely be some bits left, which leave your fingers semi sticky. You had to go with the soap and water route to get really clean hands. Which i did, and which i was glad i did, cause working with semi wet hands was the way to go! Rice don’t stick to wet hands! Win!

Here are the things i’ve used for this tamago nigiris. Nori sheet, soy sauce, mirin and Japanese rice.It’s a pretty short list.

So go on, get yourself wet and join the fun in sushi making!

Tamago Recipe

(Taken from Momofuku for 2)

* Pls do go to her website for step by step pictures on how to roll the omelette

3 eggs
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce

Crack your eggs and lightly mix them. You don’t want to incorporate air into them so the best way is to use chopsticks: stir them gently without whipping, but make sure that the eggs and yolks are completely homogeneous. Add the mirin, sugar and soy and gently mix in.

Use a paper towel to evenly spread a bit of oil in your pan. Heat it on medium low heat, then add the eggs so they cover the bottom of the pan.

 

After 2-3 minutes, the egg will start to cook and solidify. The eggs don’t need to be entirely cooked, in fact, they should be a tiny bit moist on top so that the egg sticks to itself. Using chopsticks or a spatula, fold the egg over onto itself twice, like how you would fold a letter into thirds. Don’t flip the eggs, just push them to the end of the pan.

Use your oily paper towel to spread a tiny bit more oil in the pan and add a bit more of the eggs. Lift up the log of already cooked eggs so that the raw eggs are touching them. When the new layer of egg is almost cooked, fold the eggs over onto themselves again. Repeat until all the eggs are used. (You might want to keep stirring the egg mixture as most of the sugar in it didnt dissolve into the egg and would collect on the bottom)

Wrap in saran wrap and using a sushi mat, press the tamago into a rectangle shape. (I skipped this step, and as a result, my tamagoyaki werent perfectly rectangular)

Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!

 

Sushi Rice

Taken from Noobcook

*Click on the link for step by step Pictures

– 1 cup of Japanese short-grain rice
– water to cook the rice (usually in the ratio of 1 cup rice: 1 1/4 cups of water)

Vinegar Mixture A (if not using ready-made seasoned rice vinegar)
– 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
– 1/2 tbsp caster sugar (adjust to taste)
– pinch of salt (adjust to taste)

Rinse the rice in several changes of water till the water runs clear. The first few changes of water will likely be quite cloudy (skip this step if you are using pre-washed rice).  Drain the rice in a colander for roughly 30 minutes (I skipped this). Draining the rice is believed to improve the texture and appearance of the cooked rice, but I usually skip this step if I’m pressed for time.

Measure and add water for cooking the rice.

Cook the rice using a rice cooker or simmer over the stove top (I used the rice cooker. Rice was ready in less than half hour).

While waiting for the rice to cook, prepare vinegar mixture by mixing the ingredients in (A) in a small, non-aluminum saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. You may also use a microwave oven and heat using low power for about a minute. The idea is to warm the vinegar just enough to dissolve the sugar, not to boil the mixture. I often use the short cut method of using seasoned rice vinegar (shown above) which has already been mixed with sugar & salt, and can be used straight from the bottle. .

Transfer the cooked rice (while it is still hot) to a hangiri or wide bowl. Pour prepared vinegar mixture over the rice. Stir the rice (gentle slicing action) using a rice paddle with one hand, while fanning the rice with a paper fan on the other hand. Do so until the rice has cooled to room temperature. Fanning the rice gets rid of excess moisture and gives the rice grains a glossy look.

Cover the bowl of rice with a damp slotted cloth (dim sum cloth is perfect for this role) to keep the rice fresh and moist. Use the rice as soon as possible, preferably within a few hours. If you refrigerate the rice, it will turn hard and dry.