Friday, December 24, 2010

Bakertan's Christmas Goodies - Chunky Peanut, Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Cookies


The day after I returned back from Bangkok, Stephanie passed me two packs of cookies, along with her mum's stash of xmas ornaments (for decorating my log cakes), a handmade card/cookie tag and a xmas present. She also passed me snow powder knowing that it will come in handy for my log cakes. Thats indeed very sweet (pun) of her. The cookies are cream cheese walnut cookies and orange craneberry cookies. Both cookies are very tender and crumbly in texture (as opposed to firm and crumbly like shortcrust pastry) and I must say they are pretty good. Coincidentally, the cream cheese walnut cookies she made was on my to-bake list and it was the exact same recipe from Martha Stewart. 

For the xmas present from her, I recieved a book (written in chinese) explaining the science of baking. I started reading it on the same day and its indeed very informative. There isn't much pictures but the detailed explanations more than made up for it. Thanks a lot, Stephanie!


This is the last entry for my 1st round of xmas goodies. There will be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round of Dec festive baking coming up. When I first came across the recipe, the name caught my attention and I knew I had to make these chunky peanut, chocolate chip and cinnamon cookies. Instead of the usual crunchy peanut butter cookies, salted roasted peanuts, cinnamon and chocolate chips are added, giving the cookies a whole new depth.

I couldn't really figure out the taste of the cinnamon but it somehow elevates the fragrance of the cookie. Will probably add a bit more the next time I make these. I tried to vary the baking times and found that the recipe works better for a crunchy textured cookie as opposed to a soft cookie.


It will be Xmas in a few hours time. Merry Xmas to all my family, friends and readers! Have lots of fun wining and dining. Cheers and have a wonderful festive season ahead!

Chunky Peanut, Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Cookies ( recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies)
Serving size: 90 cookies
Taste and texture: Crunchy chunky
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) Baking trays/ cookie sheets
8) Baking / parchment paper
9) Balloon whisk

Ingredients:
285g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (can add a bit more)
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g creamy peanut butter
140g brown sugar
80g castor sugar
2 eggs (about 55-60g each)
240g chocolate chips
100g coarsely chopped salted, roasted peanuts
2 tsp vanilla

Making the Cookies:
Mixing the dry ingredients: Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients with a baloon whisk to ensure even distribution.

Creaming butter and peanut butter: In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and  peanut butter for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugars and continue creaming for another 2-3 minutes.

Adding eggs: Add in eggs one after the other into the butter mixture, beating the mixture well before the next egg is added.

Forming the dough: Add in the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mixture and beat on low speed to combine. Stop once the dough starts to comes together. Scrape and fold in any stray flour with a spatula.

Adding peanuts, chocolate chips and vanilla: Fold in the peanuts, chocolate chips and vanilla to distribute them evenly into the cookie dough.

Shaping the cookie dough: Refrigerate the dough for about 15-20 minutes to firm it up. Scoop rounded teaspoons (slightly heaped) of dough and shape them into balls. Place shaped cookie balls on lined cookie trays/sheets and leave some space between each dough to allow for expansion. Flatten them slightly with ur palm.

Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Baking and storing cookies: Bake the cookies at 180 degrees C for 13-16 mins. Transfer baked cookies to wire rack allow them to cool on wire rack completely before storing in an airtight container.

Notes:
1) If cookies soften after storage, bake/toast them for a couple of minutes to re-crisp them.
2) Confirm the baking time by making a test batch of 2-3 cookie dough as the oven temperature and baking time varies from model to model. Once you are satisfied with the texture, use the same baking time for the rest of the cookie dough.
3) The shaped cookie dough balls need to be flatten as the cookie does not spread much during baking, unlike most other cookies.
4) Half recipe to yield less cookies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bakertan's Christmas Goodies - Cornflakes Raisins Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the entire week, I was holidaying in Bangkok. My itinerary was packed with tons of shopping expedittions and endless visits to tourist hotspots. Needless to say, I ended up with near to a dozen t-shirts. There isn't any baking stuff this time. Seems like baking is a rare sight in Bangkok and bakeries are almost nowhere to be found, except the high-end shopping centres.

It was a refreshing experience. Me and my friends navigated our way around taking various modes of transport like the skytrain, MRT, tuk-tuk, cabs, water taxis and not to forget the most basic - walking (lots of it). While roaming Bangkok, we were greeted with the many different faces of the city; street hawkers, thai massage parlours, MRT and skytrain stations, highways, traffic congested streets, night markets, pubs, railway slums, river life, buddhist temples, palaces etc.


Its feel good to be home. The air is clean and I am thankful for the amenitites we have here that make life so much more convenient and comfortable. Sometimes, it takes a short overseas trip to realise that the best place to be is still home - Singapore.

Since I was away for 6 days, it is a bakeless week. I miss my books and baking gadgets and am eager to get back to what I love most. For now, I shall share a bake that I have made previously for my 1st round of Xmas goodies - Cornflakes Raisins Chocolate Chip Cookies.


This is the second time I am making these cookies. After I first made them, I thought I won't be making them for awhile. The same thoughts re-surfaced after I baked them a second time. I have to admit that I love the results that the cookies offer, but dread going through the process of making them. Making 60 of these cookies took me more than 3 hours alone and most of the preparation goes into shaping the cookies.

The efforts are well worth it. The first time I made these, my elder brother and sister-in-law were full of praises for it. This time round, my mum and younger brother loved them to bits. The toasted cornflake exterior pairs off really well with the orange flavoured chocolate chip filled interior, giving a light yet refreshing taste. Do a favour for youself by saving some cookies after baking them, before you regret that the cookie jar is emptied in no time.

Cornflakes Raisins Chocolate Chip Cookies ( recipe adapted from Crazy for Chocolate by Periplus)
Serving size: 60 cookies
Taste and texture: Crunchy-chewy.
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) Grater
8) Baking trays/ cookie sheets
9) Baking / parchment paper

Ingredients:
2 tsp grated orange zest
200g unsalted butter, softened (I recommend reducing this to 160g)
160g castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour
100g semi sweet chocolate chips
100g sultanas
200g cornflakes, lightly crushed

Making the Cookies:
Preparing the zest: Finely grate the zest of a large orange or two small oranges over the sugar. This will allow the sugar to catch some of the orange oil. Rub the sugar with the zest well to infuse the flavour of the orange oil and the sugar. The sugar will become moist and will be tinted orange.

Creaming the  butter and adding eggs: In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes until butter mixture is pale and fluffy. Add in eggs one after the other, beating the mixture well before the next is added.

Adding flour: Sift in self-raising flour and beat on low speed to combine butter-egg mixture and flour briefly. Stop once the dough starts to comes together. Scrape and fold in any stray flour with a spatula.

Folding in raisings and chocolate chips: Combine the raisins and chocolate chips and distribute them evenly.Gently fold them into the cookie dough.

Shaping the cookie dough: Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to firm it up.  Scoop rounded teaspoons (slightly heaped) of dough and shape them into balls. Coat them with crushed cornflakes. Place coated cookie doughs on lined cookie trays/sheets and leave some space between each dough to allow for expansion. Bake the cookies at 180 degrees C for 15-20 mins, until the dough turns golden.

About 10 minutes into baking, the cookies would have expanded and will become sparse/bald as a result. Lightly cover the surface with crushed cornflakes and return them to the oven. Nevermind if they make a mess on the tray.

Cooling and storing baked cookies: Allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack before storing them in airt-tight jars.

Notes:
1) If cookies soften after storage, bake/toast them for a couple of minutes to re-crisp them.
2) Vary baking time to get desired texture. A short baking time will result in a slightly cakey/chewy interior. Longer baking times will result in a full crispy interior.
3) Confirm the baking time by making a test batch of 2-3 cookie dough as the oven temperature and baking time varies from model to model. Once you are satisfied with the texture, use the same baking time for the rest of the cookie dough.
4) Half the recipe to get yield a smaller batch of cookies.
5) The dough is really soft. Refrigeration will make the dough easier to handle and shape.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baking Library Turns Two - 2nd Blogoversary

2009 was a year when I hit the lowest point of my life. My sense of direction, motivation and confidence were lost. I felt that I could not handle any task properly. It was a period of gloom and uncertainty. My fatigue was getting the better of me and I desperately needed a good break. In April that year, I took a hiatus from blogging. It was so long a break that I thought this blog would be closed indefinitely. Meanwhile, I didn't stop baking. I was still trying out recipes and reading my bake books. Sometimes the bakes turn out fine. Sometimes they don't.

Feeling fully recharged, I returned back to blogging in March 2010. The hiatus lasted almost a year. Taking a long break proved to be a wise choice. After the break, I gained a stronger momentum in blogging. Apart from that, I baked more regularly than before and had more confidence to challenge myself and stretch my limits.

I am glad that I made it back to the blogosphere. Blogging has given me a new perspective. Since young, I have never liked writing. The main reason could possibly be attributed to the fact that I don't have a habit of reading books, hence the lack of exposure to various writing styles and techniques. Through blogging and my passion for baking, I learnt to appreciate reading, writing and even food photography better.

2010 is a rather bakeful year for me (cakeful in fact). My first layer cake was born. It was a great feat judging from my own standards. Subsequently, more layer cakes were churned out. I even attempted making a mini teddy bear cake and tried my hands at making log cakes. Although there were other successful bakes like tarts and cookies, cakes dominated my bakes most of the time.

I am thankful to my family members and close friends for being supportive of me baking all this while. Without their encouragement. I would not have come this far. I am also glad that I have made friends through blogging and I have a baking buddy now. Many thanks to my blogger/baker friends for the constant motivation, tips and advice. All of you have truly made my baking and blogging experience an enriching and enjoyable one.

After two years of baking trials and experiments, I am ever more certain of my passion for baking. Baking is an aspect which I would associate myself with in the long run and I would definitely work towards my goal of becoming a pastry chef or a career closely-knitted to baking.

2010 is coming to an end. For me, it is ending on a beautiful note (this is not my last post of the year, lol). With the mood of festivity filling the air, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers, friends and family Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! For the coming year 2011, I hope to buy even more books and increase my baking collection (my collection tripled this year from 20 to 60 books). Most importantly, I hope it will be another fruitful year of baking and blogging. Same goes to all you bakers out there!

Today is the day when Baking Library turns two. Happy 2nd Anniversary (my 1st anniversary crept past quietly since I was taking my break) to Baking Library, my beloved blog! Hope that there will be more anniversaries in years to come and I can keep my momemtum for blogging going strong.

Winner of Bakertan's First Giveaway

My first giveaway has officially come to an end. Thanks to all the participants for being part of this giveaway. I hereby announce that the lucky winner is..........


Congratulations to Hanushi for being the winner in this giveaway! You have the choice of either a pack of crunchy chocolate chip cookies or a baking/sharing session with me =]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chocolate Log Cake 2



This is another chocolate log cake made for my younger brother's party. I was pretty glad that I get to practice on my rolling of swiss roll. This time round, I made sure that the sponge was rolled tightly and it there were no cracks after rolling. However, it turned out to be tightly rolled on one end but not so much on the other end. Nevertheless, it served as a good practice.


After slicing of about one-fifth of the original roll and placing it at the side of the main roll, this is how the log cake should look like before coating with buttercream (coating with chocolate ganache should work too).


There is lesser of a fuss when it comes to doing the frosting for the log cake as compared to that for layer cakes. There is no need for the frosting to be mirror-smooth. After doing the 'tree bark' effect using the tines of a fork, the surface willl look rugged anyway.

To ensure that the buttercream do not make a mess on the cake board, I chucked rectangular slips of baking paper under the log cake. After the frosting is done, the papers are carefully removed and the cake board remained clean.


As depicted in the above picture, the frosting did not make a mess on the cake board, saving the hassle to wipe away any frosting that has stained the board. This trick of using rectangular slips of baking paper picked up from Rose Levy Beranbaum is useful when frosting layers cake too.



Dust the completed log cake with snow powder/ icing sugar to give it a simple snowy feel. Alternatively, decorate it with xmas figurines, white chocolate curls or coloured dragees.

I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #2: Christmas! (Dec 2010)

Chocolate Log Cake ( Sponge recipe adapted from Elegant Swiss Rolls by Kevin Chai, chocolate buttercream recipe adapted from Chocolate Ephiphany by Francois Payard)
Serving size: 10 slices
Taste and texture: Cake base is soft, moist and *slightly chewy. Chocolate buttercream is smooth and chocolatey.
Equipment and materials:
1) 12 x 12 inch pan or 10 x 14 inch pan
2) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
3) Spatula
4) wire whisk/balloon whisk
5) Mixing bowls
6) Heatproof bowl
7) Wire rack
8) Flour sieve
9) Parchment/baking paper
10) Brush for oiling pan
11) Weighing scale
12) 10 x 10 inch square cake board
13) 10 x 10 inch square cake box

Sponge Cake:
250g whole eggs, room temperature (about five 55-60g eggs)
90g caster sugar
95g plain flour (cake flour will do as well)
20g cocoa powder
70g unsalted butter, melted

Swiss Meringue Chocolate Buttercream:
125g egg whites, room temperature
85g granulated sugar
225g unsalted butter, softened but still cold
50g cocoa powder (add more if desired to up the chocolate factor)

Making Cake Base:
Pre-preparation: Line the swiss roll tin with baking/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Combine dry ingredients: Mix the flour and cocoa powder together in a large bowl to ensure they are evenly distributed.

Beating whole eggs: In a mixing bowl, beat whole eggs with 90g caster sugar on medium speed untill eggs are well aerated and have expanded about 4-6 times in volume. The beaten eggs should be thick and fluffy. When the beater is lifted, the falling batter leaves a ribbon-like trail that does not level with the rest of the batter immediately (takes about 20 seconds before levelling with the bulk of the mixture). This is know as the 'ribbon stage'. Continue to beat the foamed eggs on low speed for abother 2-3 minutes. This is to stabilize the egg mixture.

Folding dry ingredients into beaten eggs: Sift one-third of the dry ingredients into beaten eggs. Fold using a balloon whisk, gently and gradually, untill the dry ingredients are incorporated. Repeat the same for the remaining two-thirds of the dry ingredients. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a flexible spatula every now and then to incorporate flour that is stuck to the sides and that which have sunk to the bottom. We want the beaten eggs to deflate as little as possible in the folding process.

Adding the butter: Scoop a small portion of the flour-egg batter and mix it with the melted butter in a medium bowl until smooth. This makes it easier to fold the butter into the main flour-egg batter. Add this butter mixture back to the main bulk of the flour-egg batter. Fold gently to obtain a evenly mixed foamy batter.

Baking the cake: Pour cake batter into lined tin and bake at 200 degrees C for 8 to 12 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted at the middle comes out clean. The top skin of the cake should be springy when pressed and moist and sticky to the feel. Once done, remove cake tin from oven and place on a wire rack. Cover the surface with a sheet of aluminuim foil or baking paper to maintain the moistness. Take care not to overbake the cake. It will turn dry if slightly overbaked.

Preparing the Swiss Meringue Chocolate Buttercream:
Dissolve sugar in egg whites: Place 125 egg whites and 85g granulated sugar in a heatproof bowl. Sit the heatproof bowl on a saucepan filled with water. The base of the bowl should not be in contact with the water. Bring the water in the saucepan to a slight simmer. Use a balloon whisk and stir the egg whites and sugar constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved (no gritty feel when rubbed with your fingers) and the mixture is warm to the touch (test by inserting a finger). Take care not to scramble/cook the egg mixture.

Beating egg whites: Remove the heatproof bowl and beat the warm egg white mixture on medium high speed to obtain stiff peaks using an electric beater. At stiff peaks, the beaten egg whites will not budge when bowl is overturned. When the beaters are lifted from the beaten egg whites, the surface of the egg whites should form stiff upright peaks (not drooping peaks). The beaten egg whites should be cool to the touch (room temperature), not warm like when it was removed from the saucepan.

Adding butter and cocoa: Beat in 225g butter into the beaten egg whites in 3 batches, ensuring each batch is incoporated before adding the next. The mixture will be watery at one point in time. Just continue beating and the mixture will become sturdy, creamy and fluffy. Lastly, sift in 50g cocoa powder and continue beating to obtain a smooth chocolate buttercream.

Assembly:
Turning the cake out: Turn the baked sheet cake onto a piece of baking/parchment paper. Slowly peel off the attached baking/parchment paper from the cake.

Rolling the cake: Apply half the prepared buttercream over the surface of the sheet cake. With the shorter side/breadth facing you (if using 10 x 14 inch pan), roll the cake up tightly to form a swiss roll.

Covering cake with buttercream: Place swiss roll on a 10 x 10 inch square cake board. Slice one-fifth of the log and position this sliced portion at the side of the main roll. This is to give the log cake a branched shape. Chuck rectangular slips of baking paper under the log cake.

Apply a thin layer of chocolate buttercream over the log to seal in the crumbs. Cover the entire log evenly with chocolate buttercream. There is not need for the buttercream to be very smooth. Use the tines of a fork to scratch along the surface of the buttercream to give a 'tree bark' effect. Dust with snow powder/icing sugar and decorate as desired. Carefully remove the rectangular slips of paper.

Notes:
1) Store completed log cake in the refrigerator in a 10 x 10 inch cake box (with 10 x 10 inch square cake board). Allow it to soften at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.  
2) Decorate the log cake with xmas ornaments like santa claus, reindeers and snowman figurines; green/silver/golden mini christmas trees; red and green mini dragees/sprinkles, gold and silver mini/normal dragees; white chocolate curls etc. Most of these can be obtained from baking supply stores (Phoon Huat, Sun Lik etc).
3) I have reduced the amount of sugar by a lot. Do not be tempted to further reduce the sugar.
4) Use good quality cocoa powder like Valrhona for the best results.
5) Chocolate ganache may be used to cover the log cake instead. Alternatively, plain whipped cream may also be used.
6) 200 Degrees C ensures that the sponge sheet is baked at a short time while less water content is evaporated, keeping the cake moist. If sponge cake is overbaked and turns out dry, brush it with a simple syrup to moisten it. A simple syrup consists of equal mass of water and sugar.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bakertan's Christmas Goodies - Chocolate Log Cake 1


I was in quite a hurry to get this log cake done and was rushing off to my first Christmas dinner of the month. Pardon me for the shabbily-taken pictures. Next time, I will take more pictures of the process if time permits and perhaps add some decorations to my plain looking log cake.


As I mentioned in my earlier post, making log cake is easier than you would imagine. Choose your favourite swiss roll recipe. It need not be a chocolate swiss roll. Blackforest, strawberry, matcha and coffee swiss rolls will also do the job. Roll the sheet cake tightly into a log as you would for a swiss roll. Nevermind if it breaks. Simply cover it with whipped cream or buttercream according to your preference and use the tines of a fork to 'scratch' the surface of the frosting along the length to get the 'tree bark' effect. There you have, a rustic homemade log cake.

For this log cake, I chose my chocolate swiss roll recipe and increased the amount of buttercream (reduced sugar as well) so that there is enough frosting to cover the swiss roll. The log cake may be glazed with ganache instead of buttercream.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bakertan's Christmas Goodies 1 - Two Cookies and a Log Cake


Whew, last weekend was a tiring one! For the entire saturday afternoon, I was busy shopping for ingredients at Phoon Huat, Cold Storage and Ntuc. The ingredients I lugged back home weighed almost close to 7kg - flour, butter, cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, whipping cream etc... Luckily I brought my backpack along. 


After taking a short rest, I went to battle armed with my oven, mixer and my arsenal of firepower - flour, nuts, peanut butter, raisins, cornflakes and chocolate chips.  The entire battle lasted 7 hours in total before a truce was called. The battle trophies? 90 chunky peanut, chocolate chip and cinnamon cookies and 60 cornflakes raisins chocolate chip cookies. I have never made this much cookies in a single day in my life! Imagine having to shape all these cookies. Very tedious!


The battle continued on sunday and the battle trophy this time round was a chocolate log cake. I didn't do a good job with the rolling of the swiss roll and it cracked horribly after rolling. Nevertheless, I took it as a log cake practice and slathered chocolate buttercream over the cracked swiss roll. It covered up really well and I was rather pleased with my first log cake.

All the above bakes were meant for my first christmas gathering on sunday evening. It may sound a bit early, but we had no choice since most of us won't be around when it draws close to Christmas. Apart from serving its cause as an aftermeal dessert, the log cake also doubled up as a birthday cake (in advance) for one of my friends. Happy Birthday Queen!

After cutting the cake, the interior didn't look like it was badly cracked. I remember one blogger mentioning that log cakes are very forgiving. They are indeed!  

I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this log cake to my blogger friends Eelin and Sheryl since they are dec babies too. Happy Birthday ladies!


Unlike the same Christmas gathering from previous years, there is quite a bit of sweets and baked goodies going around this time. They are:
  • peppermint candy canes
  • chocolate almonds (made with valrhona, good stuff!)
  • chocolate cream cheese brownies (my friend made it from my cookie book. I'm going to make this one day.)
  • chunky peanut, chocolate chip and cinnamon cookies and cornflakes raisins chocolate chip cookies which I prepared.
  • Christmas tree butter cookie

Christmas sure is a good chance and the perfect excuse to bake. I can already forsee that I will be making christmas goodies for at least 3 other occasions. Its going to be a bakeful month and more cookies, log cakes and perhaps brownies. I think I will probably do 6-8 different types of cookies for this festive season.  

The recipes for the two cookies and log cake will be featured in upcoming posts. Stay tuned...


Friday, December 3, 2010

Bakertan's Very First Giveaway

An idea struck me sometime back. I want to do something different for a change, apart from my routine of bakes and blog posts. A giveaway would be good.

The first thing that came to mind for the giveaway is to present my bakes for the winner. In my opnion, the reason why netizens read food blogs come from the very basis that they have an interest and love for food. Hence, a giveaway in the form of baked sweets would be well appreciated by my visitors/readers.

Another grander idea, something out of the norm, has been circling around my mind for a while. I remember catching a film titled "Pay It Forward" when I was a secondary school kid. It was nearly 10 years back since I watched the movie and I could hardly remember the details. One thing I do recall is the notion behind the phrase - pay it forward. It means doing a good deed for another person and having that same person do the same good deed for others.

Now I am going to apply this concept as "Bake It Forward". Instead of choosing to recieve a pack of baked sweets, participants in this giveaway may choose to have a baking-sharing session with me instead. Hopefully, the interest towards baking will be passed on to others after the baking-sharing session.

To clarify, I do not have a wealth of experience under me. Nor do I have a very well equipped kitchen. I can manage some simple baked goods though and share some useful tips and knowledge that I have picked up. The baking/sharing session is not meant to be a demo class or a baking class, but rather a simple session for baking enthusiasts or those who are interested in baking. No experience is required. For those who are keen to take up baking but have been comtemplating do to so, you might want to have a feel of how baking is like. I will be choosing a simple cookie recipe for this baking/sharing session.

Bakertan's Giveaway
  • One winner will be chosen at random among all participants. To participate in this giveaway, simply leave a comment on this blog post. Your comment must contain the following codeword: "Merry Xmas!"
  • Each participant is only entitled to one chance in this giveaway. Multiple entries/comments will be deleted.
  • This giveaway will close at 12am (midnight) on 12-12-2010.
  • This giveaway is only opened to residents in Singapore.  

The winner of this giveaway may choose from one of the following:
  1. Either a pack of homemade crunchy chocolate chip cookies, OR
  2. A baking-sharing session with me at my humble abode. All costs involved will be borne by me. The chosen recipe would be crunchy chocolate chip cookies. No baking experience is required.
I will be announcing the winner on 12-12-2010 at 12am and he/she would be required to email me.

Disclaimer: I do not conduct baking classes nor am planning to conduct any baking classes/sessions. Please do not email me to enquire regarding this. Thank you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Log Cake Practice - Matcha Swiss Roll


Making Swiss Rolls have never been my forte. In fact, they were my nemesis among cakes. When I managed to get a pleasant looking matcha swiss roll with no cracks, I knew I have conquered them, at least for a moment.


The success in the making of this matcha swiss roll presents itself as a timely arrival for the yuletide season. Talking about Yuletide, Singapore doesn't experience winter. Well in fact, it is summer all year round here. That doesn't dampen our mood and excitement for the Chirstmas season however. We do have our fair share of countdowns and partying.

Log cakes are the choice of desserts when it comes to dining and wining in the month of December. Other sweet goods such as fruit cakes (slightly less preferred), panetonnes and puddings are less common in our culture. 


Actually, log cakes are swiss rolls formed and decorated in the shape of logs. Normally, I would associate log cakes with chocolate. For a change, it might be good to have a matcha log cake. Now that I am successful with my matcha swiss roll, all that is left is to add some red beans, coat it with a layer of frosting and dress it up. 

I am still contemplating on what log cake/s I should make. A chocolate log cake is definitely on the top of my to-do-list. Next up would be either a tiramisu, mocha or matcha red bean log cake if  I can spare the time. I am quite ambitious this december, hoping to make at least 5 different kinds of cookies (definitely includes chocolate chip cookies) and at least one log cake. It is going to be loads of baking.....Wish me luck!

Matcha Swiss Roll (Sponge recipe adapted from 孟老师的美味蛋糕卷)
Serving size: 8 to 10 slices
Taste and texture: Cake base is soft and moist. Matcha buttercream is buttery and velvety.
Equipment and materials:
1) 12 x 12 inch pan or 10 x 14 inch pan
2) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
3) Spatula
4) wire whisk/balloon whisk
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) Flour sieve
8) Parchment/baking paper
9) Brush for oiling pan
10) Weighing scale

Sponge:
210g whole eggs, room temperature (about four 55g eggs)
20g egg yolk (about 1 yolk)
80g caster sugar
2 tsp matcha powder
80g cake flour
60g butter, melted

Swiss Meringue Matcha Buttercream:
60g egg whites
55g granulated sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened but still cold
2-3tsp matcha powder (start with 1 tsp. add more if desired.)

Making Cake Base:
Pre-preparation: Line the swiss roll tin with baking/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

Combine dry ingredients: Mix the flour and matcha powder together in a large bowl to ensure they are evenly distributed.

Beating whole eggs: In a mixing bowl, beat whole eggs and egg yolk with 80g caster sugar on medium speed untill eggs are well aerated and have expanded about 4-6 times in volume. The beaten eggs should be thick and fluffy. When the beater is lifted, the falling batter leaves a ribbon like trail that does not level with the rest of the batter immediately. This is know as the 'ribbon stage'. This will take about 5-8 minutes depending on the type of mixer used. Continue to beat the foamed eggs on low speed for abother 2-3 minutes. This is to stabilize the egg mixture.

Folding dry ingredients into beaten eggs: Sift one-third of the dry ingredients into beaten eggs. Fold using a balloon whisk, gently and gradually, untill the dry ingredients are incorporated. Repeat this twice for the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a flexible spatula every now and then to incorporate flour that is stuck to the sides and that which have sunk to the bottom. We want the beaten eggs to deflate as little as possible in the folding process.

Adding the butter: Scoop a small portion of the flour-egg batter and mix it with the melted butter in a medium bowl until smooth. This makes it easier to fold the butter into the main flour-egg batter. Add this butter mixture to the main bulk of the flour-egg batter. Fold gently to obtain a evenly mixed foamy batter.

Baking the sponge: Pour cake batter into lined tin and bake at 190 degrees C for 8 to 12 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted at the middle comes out clean. The top skin of the cake should be springy when pressed. Once done, remove cake tin from oven and place on a wire rack. Cover the surface with a sheet of aluminuim foil or baking paper or a piece of damp cloth to keep the sponge moist.

Preparing the Matcha Buttercream:
Dissolve sugar in egg whites: Place 60 egg whites and 55g granulated sugar in a heatproof bowl. Sit the heatproof bowl on a saucepan filled with water. The base of the bowl should not be in contact with the water. Bring the water in the saucepan to a slight simmer. Use a balloon whisk and stir the egg whites and sugar constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved (egg white mixture should not feel gritty) and the mixture is warm to the touch (test by inserting a finger). The egg white mixture should not feel gritty.

Beating egg whites: Remove the heatproof bowl and beat the warm egg white mixture on medium high speed to obtain stiff peaks using an electric beater. At stiff peaks, the beaten egg whites will not budge when bowl is overturned. When the beaters are lifted from the beaten egg whites, the surface of the egg whites should form stiff upright peaks (not drooping peaks). The beaten egg whites should be cool to the touch (room temperature), not warm like when it was removed from the saucepan.

Adding butter and matcha powder: Beat in 125g butter into the beaten egg whites in 3 batches, ensuring each batch is incoporated before adding the next. The mixture might turn watery when butter is added. Continue beating and the buttercream will firm up. Beat until the mixture is creamy and fluffy. Lastly, sift in 2-3 tsp matcha powder and continue beating to obtain a smooth matcha buttercream. Add more matcha if desired.

Assembly:
Turning the cake out: Turn the baked sheet cake onto a piece of baking/parchment paper. Slowly peel off the attached baking/parchment paper from the cake. Place a new piece of baking/parchment paper over the sponge. Invert the sponge again, carefully. Now, peel of the top piece of baking/parchment paper. The skin would be stuck to the baking/parchment paper and would be removed.

Rolling the cake: Make a few slits across the breadth of the cake at the side nearest to you with a knife. Apply buttercream evenly over the surface of the sheet cake. With the shorter side/breadth facing you (if using 10 x 14 inch pan), roll the cake up tightly to form a swiss roll.

Notes:
1) Add some sweetened red beans to the matcha buttercream before rolling to get a matcha red bean swiss roll. I omitted this because I could not find any canned red beans.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies


When it comes to cookies, who could resist a chocolate chip cookie? Nope, I can't bring myself to say no. Chocolate chip cookies are so widely accepted that they are thousands of recipes out there, each with its own unique characteristics. For me, the most memorable chocolate chip cookies would be those from Subway and Famous Amos, aptly representing the chewy chocolate chip cookie and the crunchy chocolate chip cookie respectively.  


I made these household favourites for the recent potluck meetup, choosing the crunchy chocolate chip cookies since they store rather well. This very recipe comes from Bakingmum. It's the first cookie I attempted  to bake when I first started out and to date, it's one of the best recipes I have encountered. The magic in these cookies lies in the presence of cornflour, giving the cookies their firm crunch.

Here I present to you, these simple yet fabulous cookies from Bakingmum (I omitted the nuts, added more chips and vanilla), which could possibly pass off as a not-too-shabby version of the Famous Amos cookie. When I passed a pack of cookies to one of my friends, she immediately recognized the recipe even before munching on it. The reason? She uses the same recipe too!  

Chocolate Chip Cookies ( recipe adapted slightly modified from Bakingmum)
Serving size: 40 -50 cookies
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowl
6) Wire rack
7) baking trays/ cookie sheets

Ingredients:
125g butter softened at room temperature
75g caster sugar
60g brown sugar
1 egg, light beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use less if using a good brand) or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
150g plain flour
45g cornflour
1/2 tsp bicarbonanate of soda (baking soda)
pinch of salt
170g chocolate chips

Making cookie dough:
Prepare dry ingredients: Sift plain flour, cornflour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Stir to ensure they are evenly distributed.

Creaming the butter: In a mixing bowl, cream butter with caster sugar and brown sugar untill light, pale and fluffy.

Adding egg and vanilla and dry ingredients: Add egg and vanilla to butter mixture. Mix to get a even mixture.

Add dry ingredients: Next, add in the dry ingredients. Mix and stop once the flour is all absorbed. A soft dough should be obtained. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with spatula

Adding chocolate chips: Stir in the chocolate chips and ensure a well distribution.

Chilling and shaping of dough: Chill dough for 30-45 minutes to firm it up. Spoon heaped teaspoons of dough onto lined cookies trays, leaving some space between each cookie dough. Each cookie should have about 4 chips.To prevent cookies from spreading, freeze shaped cookie dough for 10 minutes (with the cookie tray/s).

Baking Cookies: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Bake cookies for 20-25 minutes or until medium browned.

Cooling and storing: Allow cookies to cool on their trays for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Cool cookies completely on wire rack before storing in air-tight containers.

Notes:
1) If the cookies do soften for some reasons, bake them for 10 minutes at 180 degrees C and allow to cool. The crunch will return.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bloggers Meetup 2.2 - Cook and Feed wth Love Followup

Yesterday, I met up with some of the volunteers from the previous Cook and Feed with Love Event. We didn't have much chance to interact previously, hence we decided on on a followup meetup on 27th Nov 2010 at the function room over at Jane's place.

Similar to my first bloggers meetup, it was a potluck party. I always look forward to potluck parties since they will be lots of mouth-watering food and I would have the chance to bake too. Lets take a look at the goodies:


Lemongrass drink prepared by Jane.


Coffee blondies with walnut toppings by Jane.


Potato Salad made by Sheryl. She used curry leaves and cashew nuts. Very unique and refreshing form the usual mayo-style potato salad.  


Spicy shrimp bread rolls made by Judy.


These pretty looking chocolate cointreau cupcakes with cointreau flavoured swiss meringue buttercream were made by Eelin.


Fruity konnyaku jelly made by Doris.


Cheese macaroni made Doris.   


Blueberry muffins by Edith.


Banana hazelnut sourcream cake by Edith


Wing drumlets made by Josephine. She used teriyaki sauce, worchestersire sauce and lots of other seasonings.


Crunchy chocolate chips cookies prepared by me. I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips for the first time. There was'nt much difference from Hershey's chocolate chips. When I started out baking cookies, these were the first cookies I made.


Hawaiian pizza pie made by me. I used shortcrust pastry and the fillings for hawaiian pizza. The crust turned out ok but the fillings didnt quite work out for the pie (as opposed to a pizza) and was dry.


In total 9 volunteers turned up for the potluck. It was a pity some volunteers were unable to make it for this event. The volunteers present:

Even though we do not know each other well, we chatted as though we have known each other for some time. It is interesting how our common hobby, or rather our passion, binds us together like glue. One thing for sure, these great minds, great bakers, lovely ladies understand what baking truly means to me better than most of my other friends do.

Jane prepared a game of Bingo! where we had to collect signatures from each other. It was interesting because the Bingo squares consist of facts/ tidbits related to us all and I could relate to a few of them, namely:
  • owns at least 40 cookbooks (I have around 50 and the collection is still growing. I actually read my bakebooks before bedtime, lol. I think I'm going to get even more books in Dec.... ) 
  • has other passion besides baking. That will be boardgaming and Stefanie Sun =]
  • likes sports. I enjoy swimming.
  • love to eat bread (but I can't make decent bread as yet, lol. I can eat bread for meals.)

Doris was the winner and she was presented with a jar of homemade madagascar bourbon vanilla extract made by Jane. Neat stuff!  

I am already looking forward to our next event. Imagine us all meeting up to bake all day and night and slog it out in front of the oven and messing around with the ingredients. That will be unimaginably awesome!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

1st Sesion with Baking Buddy: Blueberry Muffins and Chocolate Chiffon Cake


Earlier this August, I received a surprise e-mail from one of my readers, Stephanie. She came to know about my blog through Edith and had read up my post on finding a baking buddy. After some exchange of mails and sharing of our interests and experiences, we met up shortly and began to pass each other our bakes. 

We had wanted to indulge in a baking session together but somehow our schedules never quite matched. So, last friday was the perfect opportunity to realise the plan.

There wasn't much of a plan to start with. I only knew that I wanted to do blueberry orange muffins. After browsing through some books, we decided we would do a chocolate chiffon cake as well.


For the same amount of time we took to prepare the blueberry orange muffins and the chocolate chiffon cake, I would only have been able to bake one of the items. Everytime I bake, there is always tons of preparations waiting for me to carry out. Washing of equipment and pans.Weighing the ingredients. Melting chocolate. Lining the baking pan. Separation of eggs. The list goes on....  I am quite slow-paced and completing these tasks can take me about 30 minutes to 1 hour. With a baking buddy around, all these tasks seemed effortless. 

All went smoothly and it was the perfect note to end our first baking session. The flavour of the chiffon cake was well delivered, thanks to the magic of Valrhona cocoa. One thing that needs to be improved on though would be the mixing of the ingredients. Kevin Chai asked for dark chocolate to be melted with milk but the two do not blend together smoothly, resulting in dark streaks in the mixture and chocolate soil-like particles in the final product. After reading Bee Bee's post on her dark chocolate chiffon cake, I figure that I will avoid this the next time by mixing the oil and the melted chocolate together instead. Will be posting the recipe next time when I have made adjustnents.


It has been more than a year since I attempted making any muffins using the dry and wet method. I was'nt satisfied with the texture of my previous baked muffins. It seemed that they turned dense quickly upon cooling, losing that soft and fluffy appeal. Since then, that poor impression stucked with me for quite a while, until Anncoo's blueberry orange muffins recipe caught my attention.

The muffins turned out cakey with a buttery fragrance, almost as if creamed butter had been used (no butter was used). It was a pity the blueberries tasted quite bland. Nevertheless, the combination of yoghurt, olive oil and orange zests made up for it and contributed their share to the flavour. What I liked best was that the muffins retained their tenderness upon cooling. This is a clear indication that the recipe is a keeper.


That pretty much sums up my first baking session with my buddy. It was fun and refreshing! Definitely look forward to having another bake therapy and churning out more bakes with her.

Blueberry Orange Muffins:


Monday, November 15, 2010

Mocha Cheesecake


What was meant as a Chocolate cheesecake turned out to be a Mocha Cheesecake instead. The recipe asked for a minute amount of instant coffee to heighten the chocolate flavour but it resulted in a mocha-ish flavour instead. 


When I first tasted the cheesecake batter, I was rather disappointed by the mild chocolate flavour. It was nowhere near the richness that I have envisioned. Little did I expect that the cheesecake turned out to be rich and chocolatey with a prominent coffee aroma after the cheesecake was baked and chilled. Lesson learnt. You can never be too sure how your bakes will turn out.

Texture-wise, it was a deviation from the usual dense cheesecake which I preferred. Based on previous experience, chocolate cheesecakes seem to set more as compared to non-chocolate ones. Hence I shortened the baking time for fear that the cheesecake might overset and become rock hard. The result was a gooey-creamy softly set cheesecake instead of being dense, which was a delightful change from the norm. Had it been a non-chocolate cheesecake, the baking time would be insufficient and the cheesecake would not have set properly.

Mocha Cheesecake:  Recipe adapted from Cheese Cake with Kevin Chai
Serving size: 10-12 slices
Taste and texture: Gooey and creamy with a rich mocha flavour.
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
2) Food processor/ rolling pin
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) 7 inch springform tin
8) Baking tray larger than springform tin
9) Aluminium foil

Biscuit base:
130g Oreo cookies, finely ground (cream filling removed)
60g melted butter
1 tbs brown sugar

Cheesecake filling:
500g cream cheese, softened
100g castor sugar
1 1/2 tbs cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee powder
150ml whipping cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
160g dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I used 55% dark chocolate)

Method:
Making the base: Prepare biscuit base as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin. Freeze prepared base for 10 minutes or until ready for use. Alternatively, bake the base at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes and allow to cool.

Preparing the oven: Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Preparing cheesecake filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar, cocoa and coffee powder untill creamy on medium speed.  Beat in the eggs at low speed, one at a time until incorporated.

Next, stir in whipping cream. Finally, fold in the melted chocolate to obtain a smooth batter.

Baking the cheesecake: Pour filling onto biscuit base. Wrap top and sides of spring form tin with aluminium foil as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin. Bake at 170 degrees C for 45-60 minutes in a water bath. The filling should be set near the edges but most of the centre region is still jiggly. The cheesecake will continue to set when cooled.

Cooling the cheesecake: When baked, allow cheesecake to cool in the oven with oven door ajar for 30 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Place cooled cheesecake tin in the refrigerator and chill for 4-6 hours. Dislodge chilled cheesecake from cheesecake tin.

Notes:
1) To slice cheesecake nicely, wipe the knife after each slice with kitchen towel/s.
2) To smooth the sides of the cheesecake, dip a knife in hot water. Wipe the knife dry and run it around the perimeter of the cheesecake. Repeat the step if necessary.
3) Bake the cheesecake for a further 30 minutes to obtain a denser cheesecake.
4) Flavour of cheesecake will continue to mature after 1-2 days of chilling.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stephanie's Birthday Cake


When I knew Stephanie's birthday (my  baking buddy) was approaching, I offered to bake her a cake. After knowing that the cake-cutting will be done at her home, I decided to bake a Strawberry Yoghurt Mousse Cake. If she had decided to have the cake elsewhere, I would not have chosen a mousse cake since mousse cakes do not hold their shapes well and can pose as a serious headache during transportation. There was once I transported this very same mousse cake in its cake ring to a chalet, fearing that the cake will collapse without warming from lack of refrigeration throughout the journey.


Since this was my 3rd attempt on the Strawberry Yoghurt Mousse Cake, I was confident of the outcome, be it the taste and texture. The cake is very light in texture and on the palate as opposed to rich cakes. I remember eating slice after slice of it and almost polished off almost 80% of the cake on the same day when I first baked it. Now you know my verocious appetite for cakes.

When baking layer cakes, the task that always leave me clueless is the decoration. I had no idea on how to proceed with the creaming for this cake. Somehow, my mind was prompted to pipe mini rosettes all around the perimeter and strawberry halves were placed in a circular fashion resting on the rosettes. It is a fuss-free solution and it yields good results.

I am glad that the cake was well received by Stephanie, her friends and her family. Happy Birthday Stephanie! It is always a rewarding experience baking birthday cakes for friends and family members.  


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baking Session with Mum - Marble Shortbread and Brownies


Nowadays, I will offer to accompany my mum to the market to purchase groceries and help her out with the food preparation when she cooks. Since she is working during office hours and hardly have time to prepare meals on most days, I would always look forward to her cooking on sundays. Last Sunday was slightly different from norm as I had the rare opportunity to engage in a baking session with my mum. "Let's do cookies together". She took me by surprise when she came to me and suggested that.

When it comes to cooking, I will take on a supporting role and help prepare ingredients such as peeling onions and dicing potatoes. It was a reversal of roles for our baking session. My mum helped out with the preparation of baking ingredients instead - weighing ingredients and sifting the flour, while I did the mixing.


During the baking session, we churned out marble shortbread and fudgy brownies. The marble shortbread caught my attention when I was browsing through one of my recently bought cookie book. Most of the time, we would only think of or come across marble cakes, cheesecakes or brownies. I thought marble cookies were kind of uncommon. Usually it will bull's-eyes cookies or pinwheel cookies instead.

My mum and younger brother enjoyed the cookies. I love the crunchy-crumbly texture but thought that the taste could improve with a bit more vanilla or some orange zests to bring out the contrasts of the slight bitterness of the cocoa. These marble shortbread are quite simple to make and they store really well in my IKEA cookie jar. 


I reduced the sugar content in the brownies by a-third and the brownies baked much earlier than I expected, catching me off-guard. I had intended the brownies to be 30-40% fudgy but the batter firmed up and crumbs were almost fully developed when I was aware. Thankfully the brownies did not dry out and were still moist even though they were hardly fudgy anymore, probably 5% fudgy at most was too well done for me. This recipe is definitely a keeper as the unsweetened chocolate (vs semisweet/bittersweet chocolates) gave the brownies an intense chocolatey flavour.

Marble Shortbread ( recipe adapted from 三步骤成功做饼干 by 郭士弘)
Serving size: 20 - 25 cookies
Taste and texture: Crunchy-crumbly.
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) Baking trays/ cookie sheets
8) Baking / parchment paper

Ingredients:
150g unsalted butter
85g icing sugar
220g cake flour
1/2 - 1 tsp vanilla extract/ essence
10g cocoa powder

Making the Cookies:
Cream butter: Beat the butter and icing sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes until butter mixture is fluffy. The butter need not be as well-creamed as that for making cakes.

Making the cookie dough: Sift in cake flour and beat on low speed to combine butter mixture and flour briefly. Stop once the dough starts to comes together. Scrape and fold in any stray flour with a spratula.

Divide the dough into two portions, one portion slightly bigger than the other. Combine the cocoa powder with the smaller dough and add the vanilla to the larger dough.

Shaping dough: Combine the plain dough and the chocolate dough. Give it some twists and turns in a irregular fashion to give it a marlbing effect. Do not overmix.

Place dough onto baking/parchment paper and roll the dough into a 1 inch (2.5cm) round log. Refrigerate or freeze until log is firm. Slice the log into rounds of about 1 cm thickness.

Baking the cookies:  Place rounds onto baking trays lined with baking/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and bake for 15 - 22 minutes. Once done, the cookies should be firm to the touch and will firm up further upon cooling. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in air-tight containers.

Notes:
1) If cookies do not firm up well after cooling. It means they are underbaked. Fret not. Simply return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 7-10 minutes, then allow to cool.
2) When cookies are cooled, pressing into the cookies will not yield any dents/ imprints.
3) Using vanilla essence might be a better choice here. I think most of my vanilla extract evaporated while baking, hence I could'nt quite taste the vanilla flavour.
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