Sunday, December 21, 2014

best cocoa brownies (with sautéed bananas).


Hey all! Just casually popping by to breathe some life back into this dusty space before it turns into a tangle of cobwebs. My creative juices have not really been churning lately so I've been revisiting a couple of old favorites, like these cocoa brownies like Alice Medrich. I blogged about them a few times before but did not quite give them the full attention they deserve so today I shall finally do them justice.


These brownies are probably still one of the best brownies I've ever tasted - intensely chocolaty (although I would cut down on the sugar a bit) and fudgy (try them when they're cold through!). Plus they are a breeze to whip up; this recipe requires really the most basic of brownie ingredients. If the crackly top is a major deal breaker in your book, this recipe does yield brownies of that nature if you whisk the batter a bit longer (I forgot to this time). I imagine it must be air bubbles in the batter that contributes to the crinkly magic.

Aaaand I had to saute some bananas to have with the brownies. Lip-smacking.


Best Cocoa Brownies
recipe by Alice Medrich
makes an 8 x 8 inch pan's worth

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter has melted and mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, incorporating the first fully before adding the second, until the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended. Add the flour and stir until all traces of it disappear.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before slicing. Placing them in the fridge until they're completely cold would make slicing easier.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

banana cake with peanut butter frosting.


Why hello there! It's been a while. Somehow I feel that's the tone I've been adopting for all recent blog entries. It pains me to admit it but my interest in baking has been waning somewhat. But I'm sure I'll get my motivation back when I get to sample some of the finest pastries ever created during my upcoming holiday trip (Japan I'm coming for you!).


The inspiration for this cake stems from pictures of flower-adorned cakes I found on Instagram. I'm actually not really a fan of using non-edible decorations because I feel that there are many other options that can both make a cake look good and complement the flavours of the cake. Flowers and figurines are eye-catching of course but using them feels like cheating (although I make an exception for the miniature reindeers and santa clauses on log cakes). Out of curiosity though, I felt like trying to embellish a cake with flowers just for once.


I decided to get fake flowers so that I could reuse them if I thought them to be acceptable decorations for cake after all. My original plan was to bake a regular round cake (i.e. not using a tube pan) and have the flowers, with their stems removed and all, arranged on the surface and sides in some artsy fartsy manner but I had a change of heart in the midst of brutally twist-snapping the stems off and decided to make use of the cavity of a cake baked in a tube pan. I would position the flowers in the cavity like I would flowers in a vase. To finish I would pipe a basket weave pattern on the sides of the cake because y'know, flowers, basket. Yeah. (I swear that sometimes even I can't keep up with myself.) I'm pleased with the way the cake turned out to be honest. I quite like the combination of colours of the flowers. But when you slice the cake you have to remove the flowers in the centre and poof just like that the magic noticeably disappears.


Well, I wasn't planning to bake a cake solely for experimenting with flower decoration; I wanted an excuse to bake my favorite banana bread again as well. This is my go-to recipe for banana bread - it practically screams banana and is extremely extremely moist. Even if you eat it straight from the fridge when it's supposed to be so cold flavours can't come through very prominently you can definitely tell that it's banana bread with your eyes closed. And I love how the top of the cake gets a little gummy when I wrap it while it's still warm and leave it like that to cool.

Even if you have no interest in adorning your next cake with flowers I sincerely urge you to try this recipe. Peanut butter frosting mandatory.


Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
cake recipe adapted from Flour Bakery

I scaled down the recipe by half and baked it in a 6 inch tube pan but the quantities reflected below are the original recipe's. You will need a loaf pan about the size of a 9 x 5 inch.

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the frosting:
refer to this post

Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat the sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in the oil. Add the mashed bananas, creme fraiche and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts.

Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Cool cake completely before frosting.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

classic french croissants.


It's strange that I would attempt making croissants when I can't even roll out cookie dough decently. The power of boredom is amazing. But you know what? I think I've always made croissants out to be more difficult to make than they actually are. Sure they're a little more difficult to master (I think), but they're not exactly something that home bakers cannot and must not attempt for they'll flop for sure. In fact I think I'll give this recipe another go because I accidentally made these smaller than I wanted them to be. And forgot the egg wash.


The step of wrapping the butter in the dough and rolling it out was pretty nerve wracking because the butter was stone-hard as it was stone-cold and certain parts of the dough were thinner than the rest so bits of butter would occasionally poke through the dough. I had to constantly patch those holes up with dough from the thicker portions. The rolling and folding gradually got easier as the dough spent more time in the fridge so discounting the start, I actually thought that the process was pretty fun. I was tempted to create more layers because it was so easy to do so but more layers actually hamper the rise of your croissants so don't get carried away!


Before I embarked on making the croissants I did some research. Tips, basically, on how to avoid a croissant calamity. One particularly useful one I found on a thread was to trim the ends of the folded dough such that dough containing no butter is removed. I think this helps to prevent your croissants from baking up misshapen by keeping the layers of butter and dough even. I ended up with a lot of unwanted dough and I didn't want to waste them so I gathered them all up, braided the pieces and baked them separately.


To be honest, I don't eat a lot of croissants so while I can more or less judge that one is better than the other, I'm not sure what really makes one superior. I felt that these were passable texture wise - quite flaky, not too dense - but there is just something that these are lacking. I'm still trying to figure it out. I have a feeling that the problem may lie in my rolling technique more than the recipe itself. So I don't know if this recipe is the best out there but for record's sake I shall just post it here. If you have any tips on making croissants please share. Similarly if you have a great recipe to recommend I'll be eternally grateful!  


Classic French Croissants
makes 15 regular sized croissants

500g plain flour
140g water
140g milk (can be taken straight from the fridge)
55g sugar
40g soft unsalted butter
11g instant yeast
12g salt

280g cold unsalted butter for laminating
1 egg + 1 tsp water for the egg wash

Refer to this link for instructions with a pictorial guide.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

cheesecake choux puffs.


So I've been in a choux puff craze lately, although strictly speaking I've always loved this pastry. I've actually made another batch using this choux recipe before but didn't post it on the blog as the filling wasn't really up to expectations. The choux pastry was so good though that I found myself churning out flavour ideas just so that I could make the puffs again.


This recipe makes 12 largish puffs so I decided to split the batch into two flavours - matcha and cream cheese. For the latter I would top the dough with streusel before baking to give the puff a crunch that alludes to the texture of the base of a cheesecake. Although if I were to make this again, I would bake the streusel separately and fold it into the mousse instead of using it to top the puffs because it burns rather easily. If you're curious about the matcha ones, the mousse is made from instant matcha pudding with whipped cream folded into it, which is why I'm afraid I can't provide a recipe for them. It tasted good though because the pudding mix is from a renowned Japanese brand!


As for the cream cheese mousse, it's more on the tart than the sweet side which I felt complemented the streusel nicely and quite liked even though I'm not a huge fan of non-sweet cream cheese anything. If you like yours sweeter just increase the amount of sugar. Also note that the mousse has a rather loose consistency so you should try to make it in advance and refrigerate it so that it has time to firm up and is easier to pipe.


The choux pastry is probably the best I've ever tried in terms of its sturdiness when baked. Before encountering this recipe I used Pierre Herme's which calls for an equal amount of milk and water for the liquid component. The milk makes the choux more flavourful but also less crisp. The pastry tastes great but I've always wanted the puffs to be taller just because they look more appealing that way and also because you can pipe more filling into them. This recipe here uses only water so the pastry bakes up more firm and they still taste pretty darn good (read: deliciously buttery) despite the lack of milk. I can't say for sure if this batch tastes better than those made using Pierre Herme's recipe but I think it's sufficiently tasty and any flavour compromised for height is well worth it. I think I might give Pierre Herme's choux recipe another go soon before I make any conclusions.

Oh and this recipe is capable of yielding choux puffs taller than these you see here. I reduced the baking time because I was worried that the streusel would be reduced to charcoal if I were to give them a few extra minutes. The streusel may also have weighed the puffs down a bit. I promise that their maximum possible height is actually very impressive.


I can't even imagine how good these would taste in churro form *lightbulb moment*.


Cheesecake Choux Puffs
choux pastry recipe adapted from here
makes 12 large ones

For the pate a choux:
125g water
2.5g salt
2.5g sugar
62g butter
75g flour, sifted
110g egg (about 2 eggs)

For the cheesecake mousse:
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the streusel (you won't use all of it):
22g sugar
23g brown sugar
pinch of salt
37g butter, melted
60g cake flour

Make the mousse: Beat the cream cheese and 1/2 cup cream together until combined. Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Whip the 1/3 cup cream to soft peaks and fold into the cream cheese mixture. Set aside in the fridge.

Make the streusel: Whisk the sugars, salt and butter together. Add the flour and stir until mixture becomes a thick cohesive dough. Set aside.

Make the pate a choux: Preheat oven to 210C. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.

Combine the water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the sifted flour. Mix vigorously until the mixture becomes a smooth dough. Stir it around for another minute before transferring to a bowl of a stand mixer.

Using a paddle attachment, beat the ball of dough until it has cooled down slightly then beat in the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. The resulting dough should be smooth and supple. You may not need to use all the eggs.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a round plain tip. Pipe large mounds of dough (2 tbsp worth) onto the prepared baking sheets. Take the streusel dough, pinch off small lumps of it and scatter the pieces on top of the piped mounds of dough.

Bake until the puffs have risen to their maximum size (around 12 minutes) then lower the temperature down to 160C and bake until the puffs are brown, hollow and crisp (around another 12 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Fill puffs and refrigerate until cold.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

milo nutella cream cheese swiss roll cakes.


Hi all! Have you noticed the new christmas themed blog title that's smaller than it should be because I don't know how to adjust it? You have? Yay! (I really tried my best with the background image but codes are just not my thing.) I even tried adding a widget that would make snowflakes fall but they stopped a third of the way down and that didn't seem quite right so I erased it. I also considered inserting a christmas jingle but I was limited by my non-existent computer skills. You would think that after 5 years of blogging I should have picked up a trick or two but nope. nada. zilch. Oh wait but hey I managed to insert the pinterest function - gigantic achievement there.

In case you're wondering why it sounds like christmas came early for me it's because my exams have finally ended! *fireworks* Having to endure constant studying over a duration of 2 months is absolutely no fun at all. And I wouldn't have to take another test for another 9 months or so so that's pretty awesome.


Now that I've all the time in the world to bake, I made something that's a bit more elaborate than the quick cookies and scones I had to content myself with until recently. Basically what we have here is a milo sponge encasing a nutella and cream cheese filling (I added a few walnuts in the middle to fatten up the roll). I then decorated the slices with soil made up of finely crushed oreo pieces and a tree stump shaped biscuit before finishing with a dusting of icing sugar to mimic freshly fallen snow. There's also a mushroom version of the biscuit which I initially wanted to use but the it was out of stock at the supermarket. This cake is one of my many christmas themed bakes I have lined up for the next few weeks, or at least I think it is - it doesn't really scream christmas, does it? My original idea was to have the cake as a tree stump and little mushroom biscuits grow out of it but since I couldn't find the mushroom ones and used little tree stumps instead... I don't think it worked out quite well. (Well in the first place having fungi grow out of tree stumps wasn't that fantastic an idea either.) Anyhoo, it was fun decorating it all the same!


As much as I like the appearance, I don't find the sponge particularly fantastic I'm afraid. The milo taste was weak and the outermost layer of the sponge itself (the part with a darker shade of brown) was slightly chewy probably because I didn't mix the milo powder in properly, although I must admit I quite like the colour of it because it mildly resembles the bark of a tree. I was initially planning on mimicking a tree stump by covering the outsides of the cake with ganache but what the cake turned out conveniently not needing any extra chocolate make up. If you would like to attempt this creation, I suggest you use a chocolate sponge recipe of your own or if you insist on giving this a shot anyway, I referred to the recipe here sans the decoration bit. The nutella cream cheese filling was great albeit minimalist - it's just a 50-50 ratio of nutella to cream cheese.



I guess that's it from me today since the only thing that needs a recipe is the cake which I don't feel quite comfortable recommending. I hope the next one would be a better success!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

sweet banana and chocolate chip scones.


Mmm I think I'll just let the pictures do the talking today. All I want to say is that these scones are definitely not dense but are in fact delightfully light and fluffy, in case you're worried about the banana puree weighing them down. The taste of banana is indubitably detectable without being too overpowering nor mild, although if you use bittersweet chocolate chips your tastebuds may not be so attuned to the banana flavour and may consequently seem quite faint. Thus I'll advise that you use semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet. Also, these exude the most heavenly aroma once they're baked. I made the dough the night before and popped them in the oven for breakfast - the best kind of wake-up call.



Sweet Banana and Chocolate Chip Scones
makes 8 (large) scones
slightly modified from Baking by Flavour

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsifted confectioners' sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 large eggs
6 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and confectioners' sugar together. Add the chunks of butter and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles sand.

Whisk the eggs, heavy cream and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Blend in the mashed bananas.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, add the chocolate chips and stir to form a dough.

Knead the dough lightly on a well-floured work surface for 10 seconds until it is slightly less sticky. Pat into an 81/2 to 9 inch round disk. Cut into eight wedges and transfer the scones to a lined baking sheet, placing them about 3 inches apart. (I actually skipped the kneading and slicing of the dough and just scooped large spoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet directly.) Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake the scones for 17 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

double chocolate double peanut butter cookies.


I really shouldn't be doing this.

I really shouldn't be baking but I've got the dreaded mid-afternoon slump and nothing from my notes is registering very well nor is it more than a fleeting presence in my cloudy consciousness. At least baking is more useful than taking an undeserved afternoon shut-eye right?


Today I'm going with cookies because I found some Reese's peanut butter chips in the fridge and I have a recipe that I had bookmarked a long time ago that utilises them. This is my first time laying my hands on these peanut butter chips - a historical moment y'all!


So the cookies in question combine the flavours of chocolate and peanut butter, a pairing which in my opinion, is only natural when you think of peanut butter. I could not have thought of a more justifiable way to use these peanut butter chips because these cookies are 101% gold. They are a perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate and have a texture reminiscent of a warm brownie when just out of the oven. And just like a good brownie, these are fudgy goodness when chilled.

P.S. The cookie dough is delicious. Be warned.


Double Chocolate Double Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from here with slight modifications

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

Cream the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until well-combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating to fully incorporate the first before adding the second. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and stir until almost all traces of flour have disappeared. Stir in the chocolate and peanut butter chips until they're distributed evenly throughout the dough and no streaks of flour remain. Chill the dough overnight or for at least 4 hours.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. For each cookie, measure out a rounded tablespoon, roll it into a ball and place onto a lined baking sheet. Space each ball of dough at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges look just set.

Cool cookies on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

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