Monday, July 8, 2013

Pistachio Loaf

Finally!! A moist loaf cake. Baked this delightful loaf for my parents when they had guests staying with them for the week. Mum wanted some "breakfast" cake and I thought this would be good for the senior citizens. It's light and moist-ier (if there is such word,) than the earlier loaves I've tried from Hummingbird Bakery. Still crumbs quite a bit but an improvement. The elderlies enjoyed it because they love nuts in basically everything. So, this was ideal breakfast for them with a cuppa. I didn't do the icing sugar glaze because they didn't want unnecessary sugar in their food. Not too bad, this one.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mocha Cupcakes

These cupcakes were beautiful! Beautiful to touch (spongy) with beautiful flavours (hot chocolate powder + coffee = yum). One problem though. It was too sweet. The children were fine with it but the MOTH and I couldn't have them neat without a cup of green tea. I even recall chatting with the MOTH about these cupcakes (and the Hot Chocolate Cupcakes baked sometime ago,) that I've actually reduced the sugar required by about 50gms. Yet, it was still too sweet. So I put a note on this page to reduce more sugar.....until 2 weeks ago, I noticed something. I took the same organic hot chocolate powder out to sift onto some frosted cupcakes and guess what was left on the sieve? Sugar. That explains it all! There's sugar in it and I didn't sift the hot chocolate powder when I used it for those two cupcakes. I don't even know if there's always been sugar in hot chocolate powder but I will check the labels on a couple of brands to be sure, the next time I'm in the supermarket. My bad.

Coffee And Chocolate Loaf

This. Is. A. Very. Dry. Cake. Not at all "dark, moist and delightfully rich" as the author of Cake Days described. The loaf did bake well and cut well but texture-wise, it didn't cut it for me. The flavour was good with the strong coffee (I used instant espresso) but I'd very much prefer a moist loaf like Nigella Lawson's Quadruple Chocolate Loaf. Now, that was a good one. So, this is the second loaf I've done from this book and it's still dry. Well, the base recipe is same anyway so I was expecting any other results. Their lemon loaf may be different though. I peeked at the recipe earlier and found sour cream in its list of ingredients. Promising...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pea, Ham And Feta Cheese Muffins

So it was another late school morning of lunch tennis in my head -pasta - pie - pasta- pie- pasta -pie while looking through Dorie Greenspan's French stew recipes for dinner and Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days for cupcakes to bake for breakfast the next day. Yes, that much goes on in my head practically everyday at 9am with my cup of Earl Grey and breakfast. It's food in my head throughout the day! I flipped page after page and found this in Cake Days. Now, this is a lunch idea. Pasta & Pie's game ended abruptly and will seek for rematch soon, I'm sure. But today (that day *eyes rolling* 19th of April to be specific, I date recipes so I know when was the last time I baked/ cooked it) was going to be savoury muffins for lunch. I had the staples required in the freezer and muffins are simply the easiest to whip up. The recipe suggested the use of a mixer but I'm an old girl when it came to muffins. It's all in the hand spatula. Don't over-mix or you'll end up with muffins you can pelt rude-Mr Smith-across-the-road with. The savoury bunch turned out nice texture-wise but tasted under-seasoned. Feta cheese didn't cut it for me. Way too mild (but healthier, I guess). The ham was so-so. Here's what I'll change the next time I bake this for lunch - use half feta and the other half of a sharper cheese, replace the ham with browned chopped bacon and open a can of soup for dipping. Oh, stop being judgemental....what's an occasional can of Campbell's compared to the bags of Lays you've been having in front of the telly the last couple of nights watching Wimbledon?    

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beetroot And Chocolate Cupcakes

Remember the last post when I wrote about using beetroot as natural food colouring to replace red food colouring for Red Velvet Cupcakes? Well, here's how beetroot in a cupcake looks like. Serious! No kidding! In fact, the recipe for this cupcake is quite similar to their (Hummingbird Bakery's) Red Velvet Cupcakes except for the liquid used. No buttermilk and butter here but sunflower oil instead. It's expected because this is a vegetable cupcake. Cakes baked with vegetables are usually better off with oil instead of butter and milk. This is a food processor cake (which I quite like nowadays with my very limited time in between school runs), hence relatively easy when you get to dump all the ingredients in and blitz! Now, prepping the beetroot is a whole other story. Lots of work - boil the beetroots, peel, stained my nails and shirt then liquidise them before you can use it. So, get that part done earlier...a day earlier if that'll help. The cake turned out pretty good. You hardly taste the earthy beetroot. So I say, this is the perfect cupcake to hide good ol' beetroot in it. I didn't tell anyone including the grown MOTH, what this was. They all walloped it like it was any dense chocolate cake....dimwits. They didn't think I'd betray them this way.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm really way behind in updating my blogs... March experiments in July entries, sigh. But like the MOTH encourages - better late than never (he's master procrastinator), as long as he's getting fed. Coincidently, Red Velvet's one of his favourite choice of cakes. Purely because of how I always present the cream cheese for these red cupcakes. I fill the inside of the cakes ;-D The recipe from Hummingbird is pretty much the same as any Red Velvets. The only thing I'd say more for anyone baking these red cakes is on the colour. There's much talk about shunning excessive use of colouring in food and frankly, I couldn't agree more. Rainbow cakes are a rage here and if you see how vibrantly coloured those layers of cakes are, you can't help but cringe. I did one last year at my daughter's request for her birthday and was very careful in the amount of colouring I used. The result was less exuberant (first and last time I did that).

The sliced cake.

The whole cake.

Red Velvet is all about the red. Despite any opinion you have about the use of food colouring or the bad press about it, Red Velvet cakes are all about the red. Period. Any replacements for the red food colouring you plan to use is just not going to cut it. Beetroot is the most popular vegetable used to replace the food colouring and frankly, that little cake will be called the Chocolate Beetroot Cupcake. It honestly is! No two ways (or names) about it. The cake will never be that red whether you're using purple or burgundy beetroots.  Essentially, the Red Velvet is a moist and denser chocolate cake with red colouring. It's simply a variation of the chocolate cake, creatively birthed by the American Southerners. Key point I'm trying to make here is moderation. The occasional use of FDA-approved (US) colouring isn't going to kill you (but the made-in-China cheap red colours will!!!). No one eats a whole Red Velvet cake every week (if you do, you're just asking for it..). So, please buy a FDA-approved, reputable tub of red colouring in Cherry Red or Christmas Red for your Red Velvet Cake. It will cost you but you'd want a piece of mind when you have a piece of that cake because you'll need at least 30-40ml (about 2 tablespoon) of colouring to get that rich hue. Bear in mind that good food colours still stain (especially blue and red) BUT they stay on less than 12 hours. I know this because I use a lot of colours for my work and my fingers get stained all the time. However, after a couple of dishwashing sessions in the day, they're gone. I've had colour stains that lasted days and seen children with tongues coloured for days, too! Have fun baking your REAL Red Velvet! 

Apple And Walnut Cupcakes

Had a request in March for a child's party cakes and the little boy's mum said that he loves fruits and nuts in his cakes. Now, that's a rarity for a boy of 3. Fruits AND nuts? I mean, that combo is usually preferred by senior citizens! Nonetheless, the party had more adults than children anyway so this cake was right. I tried out this new recipe from Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days a couple of days earlier and unlike most cakes with apples, this version doesn't require pre-cooking the apples. A relief actually, because for cupcakes, I didn't think adding a process of stewing apples will encourage anyone to start baking it. So, I chopped the green apples into 1cm cubes and stirred them into the batter with the chopped walnuts. Standard baking time for cupcakes, no more and the result surprised me. I had expected a wet cake. Nothing like that at all. It was  spongy-fluffy, moist (not wet) and full of flavour. The apples in it weren't soggy either. It's a pleasant tea cake and I didn't need to whip up the cream cheese icing for them. It was fine as it is. When the time came, I baked these cupcakes again and covered in in fondant with the superhero designs the young lad wanted. Guests loved it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fresh Gingerbread With(out) Lemon icing

Woke up at 5.30am two weekends ago and couldn't go back to sleep, so I decided to bake something for Sunday breakfast. It's not Christmas but I fancied something wholesome and comforting. This recipe was categorised under "Cooking for School F├ęte" in Nigella Lawson's HTBADG book and I could see why. It was so easy to slice them in slabs and old-fashioned enough to get them sold! As its name, the recipe called for fresh ginger. Fresh ginger is abundant here and it's important to note that you use fresh young ginger. We get both types here and old ginger is usually used in cooking but for baking, you need to use the juicy young ones. The method is melt-and-mix like for brownies, quick and simple. I didn't do the lemon icing. It wasn't necessary at all in my opinion. It's just a tablespoon of lemon juice in icing sugar and water. Nothing great. The children enjoyed it as much as we did, especially when we had it warm. Have to remember to bake this during Christmas.

Orange, Almond And Yoghurt Loaf

I received a beautiful recipe book from Little Miss for my birthday early this year and I've been marking the pages for all the cakes and loaves I planned to try out. I don't know why I bothered because I wanted to bake everything from the book - Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery. Little Miss saw me browsing this thick hard cover treasure in the book store during the holidays and asked if I liked the book. Well...who wouldn't. It's such a beautiful book, very much like Jamie Oliver's Jamie At Home recipe book. But the key thing was it had some lovely cake recipes using very easily-available ingredients. Plus, I've been long curious about this American bakery's success in London! I wanted to know what they were serving in the UK (just like I got Magnolia Bakery's book just to find out what they served in the US!).

Back to my birthday present...well, Little Miss conspired with the MOTH and got the book. I was over the moon, of course...yes, it takes very little to please me these days. I'm always happy receiving recipe books *hint* (not from the MOTH though, in case he gets any idea from this easy way out of his gift-giving years ahead) but this was extra special because of the little card that came along with it.

I know...doesn't that just make you want to bake and feed her all the cakes in the world?? Yes, she loves cakes and all things sweet. Sugar is definitely doing something right in her! So, I started with Orange, Almond And Yoghurt Loaf. I had leftover yoghurt... It was an simple loaf recipe and turned out to be a good tea cake. Flavours weren't strong. The orange didn't stand out, but the ground almonds and flakes used on the cake did. The little amount of yoghurt used for the cake was enough to keep it moist but it was a bit crumbly due to the ground almonds. Very light cake though.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pink Grapefruit Tart


I got a few pink grapefruits awhile ago and because they are such tart fruits, I didn't fancy eating them like I would an orange or slice it into salads. Just too zingy for me. I had just received the spring issue of Donna Hay magazine and they had a few pages dedicated to Citrus Tarts- How To Cook. What a coincidence! I made the sweet shortcrust pastry which was easy with a food processor then went on to cook the custard. Recipe was typical with cream, egg yolks and sugar. Added grapefruit juice into the custard, whisk them together and pour the custard though a sieve into the blind-baked tart shell. The whole tart on it's own was pleasant. Not at all citrusey which was perfect for the children. But I followed Donna Hay's recommendation to eat it with freshly-sliced grapefruits and cream. Epic-tart!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chocolate Fruit Cake

Nearly forgot about this cake! I took the pictures with my phone and not the camera, so it was forgotten until I was updating my Great Bakes blog awhile ago that I remembered. I was baking so many rounds of the Traditional Rich Fruit Cakes in December for Christmas that I honestly was bored with them. Don't get me wrong, my recipe for the traditional Christmas cake is two thumbs up and the cake is moist with plump fruits and full-bodied. There's no cheating when it comes to baking fruit cakes. A month of soaking the fruits in brandy (or rum, or whiskey, even had X.O one year) and 5 hours of low temperature baking (time would depend on size of your cake, mine's 9x9 inches). This chocolate Christmas cake isn't very chocolatey to start with, in case you don't fancy steering far from the traditional flavour of fruit cakes. It just has enough chocolate flavour in it for you to think, "Oh, there's chocolate somewhere in here!". The cake is also very moist and I like that it doesn't taste brandy-ey like most fruit cakes do. With Tia Maria or Kahlua, these coffee liqueurs add depth and wholesomeness to the cake. I had a small slab or two every evening with Mulled Wine. Bliss. By the way, I can't remember which book did this recipe come from. I'm pretty sure it's Nigella Lawson's but I can't recall which one. It could be Feast but I can't find it, so far ....hmmm. Wait! Found it! It is from Feast.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cranberry Bakewell Tart

So, the jam's cooked and I cooled it overnight in 2 sterilised jars. I got started with making the pastry. Since I started using the food processor for my pastries years ago, I've never needed to sought for another alternative nor any reason to not make my own pastry. The tedious part of pastry-making has always been rubbing cold butter into the flour. With a food processor, I first dump all the dry ingredients and pulverise them, then pour in the mixed liquid ingredients to combine them. Take it out and form it into a disc and chill. You can always do this a day in advance and keep it in the fridge until you need to use it. The frangipane filling is also an easy and versatile filling. In this tart, it was a necessary secondary filling. The cranberry jam sits on the pastry case and the frangipane filling on top of it. With the frangipane, much of the cranberry tartness is countered. Least, we don't cringe with every bite. In Feast, Miss Lawson royally mixed some instant royal icing and spread them over the tart when it was completely cooled. That's too much sugar for me. I settled for sprinkling handfuls of flaked almonds on the frangipane filling before putting the tart into the oven. It was a beautiful tart. Tasted divine and highly addictive. The buttery, yet crisp almond pastry was perfect and both filling complemented each other exceptionally.

Cranberry Jam

Like Nigella Lawson has put it aptly, "If it's Christmas, it must be cranberries...". I would have shy away from cooking any jam because by looking at the recipe ingredients, I'd have turned the page when I see the word "pectin". Pectin is a thickening cum gelling agent that can be commercially-found in supermarket aisles (apparently...) but we don't find them here. The mentality here is basically, why bother cooking jam when you can buy a good jar organic preserve for only US$10 or a St Dalfour for only US$2.99 during sale? I agree in that sense but you see, pectin is actually a naturally-occurring substance from fruits if you cook it long enough, continuously stirring at low heat with sugar. This labourous effort of standing next to a hot stove,  getting splattered with hot jam while you're stirring is quite a put-off and it does take a long time. The pectin occurs when all the vitamins have been cooked out of the fruit and then will it start to thicken. So, if you use a pre-prepared pectin, you'll have your jam thicken in a much shorter time and use a lot less sugar.
The reason why I cooked this jam was because cranberries are pectin-intense. The pectin is released (as in jam will start to set) once the berries have burst. So, it didn't take as long. Sure, it's still a hot stove (I use a flame stove) and there were quite a bit of hot splatters when the berries started bursting but it wasn't a tiresome experience. Though I used equal amount of sugar to cook the cranberries with, the tartness of these berries still ruled the main flavour of the jam. And I loved the insanely rich and festively red of this jam!

Snow-Flecked Brownies

Hi!!! I'm back...I think. I've been consumed by new school routines at the start of this year and I don't see how that's going to slow down in the coming months or years for the matter. I've been neglecting my much loved hobby of cake decorating since January, taking orders only to fit around my schedules. It's a tough call but my family commitments are priority. That also means that I've not given up sneaking in time to bake for the children and the MOTH. There's only that many days they (or I,) will tolerate bread and cheese or cereal and milk. I'll be writing about those little trysts I've had with my Kenwood later on...AFTER I finish the 2012 Christmas posts!

Snow-Flecked Brownies- Think I baked these for my visiting nieces and nephew a couple of days before Christmas. The lot came over for a pre-Christmas brunch and I cooked up an Italian spread for starters and mains, and chose an American brownie and British dessert pie for dessert. The base recipe for these brownies is the same as the one from Nigella's HTBADG. Straightforward melt-and-mix formula with an extra cup of white chocolate buttons. The children loved it to the last crumb but as you would know by now, with my aversion to white chocolate, I found that addition to be an overkill. I'm prejudiced...I love them dark and handsome, not in white shiny armour.