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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