Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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:
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):
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, November 7, 2014
Hey everyone! I managed to find a small pocket of time amidst the hectic studying to make breakfast today so since such occasions are rare these days, I decided to go all out and make waffles! I think it must have been at least a year since I used my waffle maker and I had to spend at least 15 minutes restoring it to a sparkly clean condition. I'll spare you the details.
This is my favorite recipe for waffles to date because they're fluffy but not overly so (waffles that are too airy aren't very satisfying in my opinion) and they have a great buttery flavour. They also aren't too eggy, which I think we all agree is a very important point, so there's no need to pour in buckets of vanilla extract.
And as always, I topped my waffle off with a scoop of ice cream! Yes, ice cream for breakfast. Because there's never an inappropriate time for ice cream in my books.
adapted from here with slight modifications
makes 8 waffles
2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 stick butter, melted and cooled (or use a 50-50 ratio of butter to oil if you don't like your waffles too buttery and rich)
Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk the wet ingredients together and pour into the flour mixture. Stir until just combined and set aside while you preheat the waffle iron.
Pour about 1/2 cup of batter into the waffle iron once it's ready and bake according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Today I came across a quote that spoke to me on many different levels:
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you com alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman
And then I found another quote:
"In quoting others, we cite ourselves." - Julio Cortázar
In the words of Bernie Kropp of The Incredibles, "Coincidence? I think not." (Or perhaps it could be - after all, I was looking at a compilation of at least 50 quotes.)
I told myself a few days ago that after the last cake I made, the oven mittens have to be put away, the spatula kept securely in its drawer. No I may not touch the butter, cookies are for eating and not for making tart crusts. Chocolate should be kept cold, not thrown into a warm bowl to be reduced to a delicious puddle.
Just 3 more weeks, a petrifying thought, yet in equal measure exciting. Just 3 more weeks and life will go back to normal. To the normalcy of 8 hour sleeps, indulging in fiction and not research papers, to step out of the front door into the embrace of fun activity without every step taken being leaden with bricks of guilt.
Just 3 more weeks. Time is ticking away. The countdown is starting to hit a desperate note. A pile of notes beckons yet here I am still typing. Forgive me for from this point I shall hurry.
Decoration: Pocky sticks of strawberry and chocolate in their respective shades of bright pink and dark brown to be arranged side by side around the borders of a freshly frosted cake. Focus of the cake. Ribbon optional.
Cake: A mixed berries yoghurt cake. Fluffy, fruity, pocky-cake-worthy. This echoes the strawberry pocky.
Filling: Chocolate cake that has been reduced to crumbs, mixed with a generous amount condensed milk and a spoonful or two of milk. Tastes like fudge but with texture; a great way to use up leftover cake apart from making cake balls. I confess that I made cut-out chocolate cake hearts to be baked with the yoghurt cake batter but I totally forgot about their existence. Baking when I'm barely awake always results in a mishap or two - yet I never learn.
So here's the recipe, have fun!
makes a 5 inch cake
For the cake:
2/3 cup mixed berries yoghurt (feel free to use plain though)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
For the filling:
leftover chocolate cake, crumbed
For the frosting:
3/4 stick butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
pinch of salt
4 boxes of pocky
Bake the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare three 5 inch round cake pans.
Combine the eggs, 1/4 of the yoghurt and vanilla.
Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low speed until combined. Add the butter and remaining buttermilk and continue to mix until everything is moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 minutes after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.
Divide cake batter evenly amongst cake pans and bake for around 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool cakes completely.
Make the filling: Mix the chocolate cake crumbs and enough condensed milk to form a paste. Add a splash of milk to loosen if too stiff.
Make the frosting: Beat the butter until smooth. Add the icing sugar and salt and beat until light and fluffy.
Assemble the cake: Trim the tops of the cakes if necessary to make them flat. Take the first layer of cake, spread half the filling on top, place the second layer on top of the filling, spread the remaining filling on top and finish with the last layer of cake.
Frost the outsides of the cake with the frosting. It will just be a thin layer but that's sufficient for getting the pocky to stick to the sides. Arrange the pocky sticks around the sides of the cake. Refrigerate cake until frosting has firmed up before serving.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Two days ago on the 16th of October, I finally graduated from junior college. (And then returned to school the next day for some mandatory briefing which was totally anti-climatic.) I have never known a more grueling time than these two years. All the late nights rushing out homework which resulted in precious breaks spent in a state of comatose, all the math quizzes and essays handed back with single digits scrawled in angry red ink, all the trudging up and down flights of stairs that seem strangely steeper on days I clocked in only a grand total of four hours of shut-eye; I'm so glad that I won't have to go through this experience again for at least a good few months but there remains the one final hurdle separating me and 12-hours-of-sleep-a-day paradise - an exam known affectionally and ironically as "As".
For the last official day of school, I baked this cake sorta as a parting gift for my friends and classmates because of the symbolic meaning of kit kats in Japan. Kit kats are pronounced as kitto katto in Japanese, which loosely translates to good luck. The vegan chocolate cake wasn't my original intention; I wanted to bake a sour cream cake instead but the fridge was out of eggs. My mum neglected to mention that she used up all of the remaining 8 for her cake after I'd madly rushed to the supermarket after my graduation ceremony with only 15 minutes to spare before closing time. Best mum award.
I was worried that the cake might not well-received but it turned out okay. The cake wasn't as chocolaty as the chocolate cakes I usually make but other than that slight drawback, it's pretty good for a vegan recipe. The amount of flour that goes into this is pretty shocking but if you take care not to overbake it the cake won't turn out anywhere near dry.
*Ending abruptly because my linguistic creativity is momentarily stumped*
makes an 8 inch cake
adapted from the Flour Bakery cookbook
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp molasses (I left out)
kit kats, for decorating
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare an 8 inch round or square cake pan.
Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder.
Whisk the water, oil, vanilla and molasses together in a separate bowl.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix until the batter is smooth and homogenous. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean, about 20 minutes.
Cool in the pan until the cake is slightly warm, decorate with the kit kats and refrigerate. The heat from the cake will cause the chocolate to melt slightly so when you refrigerate the cake and the chocolate firms up again, the kit kats will stick to the cake.