Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Virgin Attempt

Baos, or chinese steamed buns, have been on my 'to do' list for a long time. I love baos, soft, fluffy and filled with either savory meats like chicken or char siew, or bursting with sweet paste like lotus seed or red bean paste. Actually I'm also not sure why I waited so long to make my own baos, I guess it's because I know it's difficult for me to achieve the same texture as those bought from my favourite bao stall.

Whatever it is, here is my first try at bao making, or rather two tries. I made use of a pretty straight forward recipe shared by a member in KC. The green bean paste-filled bao on the right, is from the first lot, which turned out hard and dense, simply because I forgot to half the amount of flour in the second dough, even though I was only making half recipe. Silly me!

So when making the second batch, I double checked the ingredient amounts twice. It turned out the dough was very soft, making it difficult to wrap the filling, which is chicken char siew. This time, the baos turned out soft and with a little chew as well. Most importantly, they did not turn rock hard after sitting for a few hours. Although it's still far from the texture I had hoped for, I think it's a good start for more bao making.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hot and Steamy

Nothing obsence here, just talking about the good old technique of steaming, which is used widely in Asian cooking. Think dim sum like Har Gow and Siew Mai, kueh kuehs like Kueh Salat and Kueh Kosui, main dishes like steamed fish, savoury glutinous rice and many more. So it’s no surprise that this technique can be used in cakes too. In fact, I had made some steamed cupcakes some time back.

This time my ‘inspiration’ came from the talented Lazychef, Rachel. She had used Dralion’s (a KC member) Steamed Moist Chocolate Cake recipe and made these pretty mini chocolate cakes. Borrowing her idea of making small individual cakes, I baked mine in muffin cups. Thanks Dralion and Rachel.

The cakes turned out great, wonderfully moist and deliciously chocolaty. Do not be fooled in thinking these cakes look dense, in fact, they are pretty light, since I devoured two cupcakes soon after they have cooled. Being a non-fan of frosting(unless it’s a special occasion), I skipped the fudge topping and sprinkled on some icing sugar.

Do give it a try, it’s simple to prepare, you don’t even need a mixer, and takes only 15 minutes to steam (for cupcakes). I kept one aside on purpose, just to see how soon they will dry out. 3 days and it’s as good as freshly made. Maybe it can last longer, that I’m not sure, because by the third day, I had ‘walloped’ the last one standing.

On a side note, my fellow blogger friends, have you ever haad undesirable people ‘barging’ into your blog and leaving non-constructive and negative comments, sometimes even personal attacks? These people either hide themselves under the ‘Anonymous’ cloak, or they use a nickname copied from someone whom you are familiar with. I started out by not moderating comments, until I start getting quite a few of these people on the comments page. Their words are not aimed at helping me improve on my baking/cooking, but they criticize simply because they are not happy. How do you deal with such people? Other than rejecting their comments, guess there’s not much to be done? Or am I opening a can of worms here?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Variants (Recipe added)

Wonder if you ever had this experience: you have a favourite recipe you love and which always work. But sometimes you get tired of making the same thing over and over again, so you start to look for ways to ‘spruce’ things up a little.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing with my butter cakes. It all started with Alice Medrich’s Marble Cake recipe. I love this unbelievably moist and tender cake, so much so that I’ve made so many variations throughout the ‘life’ of this humble blog – orange with blueberries, lemon with cranberries, peanut butter, two-toned. I simply played around with proportion of ingredients and the different add-ins.

So here’s another ‘twist’ to my favourite recipe – Oreo Butter Cake

Now I must start thinking: what is the next 'topping' I can use? Till then, I leave you with a slice of cake ;p

Oreo Butter Cake

225g cake flour (or Top Flour)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
85g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
170g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup(240ml) nonfat unsweetened yogurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
80g Oreo cookies, roughly crushed (I use mini Oreos)

Whole Oreo cookies for decorating

1) Preheat oven to 180C and grease or line a 8-inch round tin.
2) Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3) Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Dribble in eggs slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 mins.
4) On LOW speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in ½ of the yogurt. Then beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining yogurt, and vanilla extract. Finally beat in the remaining flour mixture.
5) Lastly, fold in the crushed cookies.
6) Pour into prepared tin, arrange whole Oreos on top and bake for about 40 - 50 mins till skewer inserted comes out clean.
7) Cool in pan for 5 mins. Unmold and cool completely.

I use a stand mixer for this, which can ‘fold in’ the flour and yogurt gently on its lowest speed. If you cream the butter manually or with a hand-held mixer, after the eggs have been incorporated, use a spatula to gently fold in the flour and yogurt.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What a Cool Dessert!

The dessert I'm talking about is cool - in two ways. First of all, it's really easy to prepare, 30 minutes(okay, the time could be shorter if I hadn't made a mess with the eggs) and they are on the way into the oven.

Alright, before I go any further, here's what I made:

Individual Orange Pudding Cake

This recipe is from Nic. She has made this recipe three times, so it must be really good. So when I saw her last attempt for Lime Pudding Cakes, I knew I had to give it a try. Also, I like the fact that this can be made into individual ramekins which allows me to use my new set of 4 ramekins.

This pudding cake is really interesting. As my spoon cuts through the soft, chiffon-like cake on the top, a smooth custardy pudding awaits beneath. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire cake and was reaching out for the second ramekin. So I quickly put the remaining two into the refrigerator ("see no evil"). When we ate them the next day, it was even better chilled. What a 'cool' way to round up our dinner.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Healthy Grains

Whenever I go 'super-marketing', I usually like to leave hubby at home. The reason being it simply gives me more freedom to 'scrutinize' the shelves for new items, without having a 'stalker'(aka hubby) behind me. I also like to read the contents of the product packaging for its nutritional information and ingredient list. Especially when I buy biscuits and cookies, I make sure I avoid any with the words hydrogenated oils, shortening, margarine and trans fats.

Shortening is a kind of semi-solid fat made by hydrogenation of animal fats, or more commonly vegetables oils. It is widely used in a variety of baked goods, but it is actually not so good for the body. For more on trans fats and shortening, see here.

So here I am, making some crisp savoury crackers without the use of shortening to get a crispy and light texture. Furthermore, this recipe, shared by a good friend in KC, uses wholewheat flour into it. Just what I need to incorporate more whole grains into my diet.

Two of my favourite flavours, sesame and mixed herbs.

I had some with brie cheese too, making it a doubly delicious snack.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cookie Temptation

WhenI saw Nic's Whoopie Pies, I was reminded of Seadragon's Chocolate Kisses à la Oreo Cookies. This had been on my to-do list for quite some time, but somehow I never got around to making this. When I saw a KC member making the Oreo cookies, I knew it must be a 'sign' for me to get my butt off the chair to make them.

These morsels have an intense chocolate flavour. On its own, the cookies are not overly sweet, but when sandwiched using the buttercream, the sweetness from the cream complements the cookies really well. They are not the super-crunchy type that crumbles easily, but are not too soft either. I would say they have the right amount of bite.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Climbing the Ladder

Fougasse is a flatbread traditionally associated with Provence in southeastern France. Also known as the french version of the italian foccacia, fougasse is usually sculpted to form a leaf- or ladder-shaped loaf, making it easy to pull apart for a quick bite.

I used the Pain de Campagne(meaning country bread) recipe in the Bread Baker's Apprentice to give a go at shaping fougasse. According to BBA, this is the perfect dough for creative shaping. Before forming the fougasse, I had to first shape the dough into a batard, let it rise for about an hour, then flatten it into a leaf shape and cut the slits, just before baking.

It was a 'pain' to flatten the proofed batard, because I could see my rolling pin popping those precious big bubbles. At that moment I thought "this is going to turn out into a dense heavy boulder without any crumb to speak of". But since I had already started, I just 'soldiered' on. Surprise surprise! The fougasse still managed to rise in the oven, and look at the porous interior:

Though I'm a bit disappointed with my shaping (the slits closed up, guess I did not pull the slits apart enough), the chewy crumb paired with the crusty exterior makes this loaf just perfect in my opinion.