Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate Lava Cake - Pudding or Cake?

The air seems rather quiet in the regional blogosphere lately. Most blogs which I frequent seem to be taking breaks. I have been taking short breaks myself, doing blog-hopping less frequently and not leaving comments as often. In the meanwhile, I am still baking and trying out recipes as usual and the inspiration for baking never cease to end. For the month of may, I seem to be going on a chocolate streak or rather a chocolate rampage to satisfy the chocoholic in me. 

Now that I have been baking for a while, I have clear vision on the direction I am heading for. The impression of fondant cakes has been stubbornly stuck in my mind recently and I cannot help but want to think of opportunities to get my hands working on them. With that in mind, I will be planning fondant cupcake projects fortnightly or once every month so as to gain some practice and experience. Since my mum's birthday is around the corner, it would be a great theme to kick start the cupcake project. I am excited just at the thought of it. Great man!


When it comes to desserts, I am not a big fan of desserts that are served warm. There are some exceptions though, one of them being the Chocolate Lava Cake or Chocolate Fondant Cake. Even though the name suggests that it is a cake, it is more like a rich chocolate pudding instead. To get the best experience out of your chocolate lava cake, do serve it warm and top it with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream. The coldness and the velvet texture of the ice-cream helps to contrasts the warm-rich-gooey pudding and adds colour to your gastronomic experience. 

With a hint of coffee aroma, this chocolate lava cake is a potent dessert, maybe even too rich for the palate when one asks for additional servings, which is most possibly attributed to the additional 4 egg yolks. Death by Chocolate Lava Cake would serve as a suitable name for this dessert. 

I am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delights May 2011, hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted

Chocolate Lava Cake (recipe adapted from Cooking for Beginners by John Burton Race and Angela Hartnett)
Taste and Texture: Rich and thick-gooey.
Serving size: 4-6
Equipment and Materials:
  • Heatproof bowl
  • Mixing bowls
  • Ramekins or 3.5 inch round tart tins (1.5 inch deep)
  • Saucepan
  • Wire whisk

Ingredients:
  • 185g dark chocolate buttons/callets/pistoles (I used 63%)
  • 180g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 200g whole eggs + 45g egg yolks
  • 2 tbs instant coffee powder (I used Nescafe)
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 80g plain flour

Making the pudding:

Melting chocolate and butter - Place chocolate and butter chunks in a heatproof bowl. Sit the heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water placed over low flame, without the base of the heatproof bowl touching the water. This is known as a double-boiler.  Allow the chocolate and butter to melt, stirring the mixture frequently. 

Adding egg yolks to melted chocolate mixture - When the chocolate and butter have fully melted and results in a smooth mixture, remove the heatproof bowl from the heat. Whisk in the egg yolks into the chocolate-butter mixture until well combined. Set aside to allow the mixture to cool.

Combining whole eggs and rest of ingredients - In a mixing bowl, combine whole eggs, coffee powder, sugar and flour to obtain a smooth mixture. 

Obtaining final batter - Fold the cooled chocolate-butter-yolk mixture into the whole egg mixture and mix well. 

Chilling the batter - Spoon batter equally into prepared ramekins (greased and floured) or tart tins and chill for at least 30 mins. 

Baking the chocolate lava cake - Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Bake batter for 8-10 mins. Serve warm in ramekins/ tart tins or allow the pudding to cool and set for a while before running a small knife round the perimeter and turning them out onto serving plates. Serve with vanilla ice-cream. 

Notes:
  1. Flour the ramekins/tart tins well if you are intending to turn the puddings out. There is less chance of the pudding sticking to the tins/ramekins if they are greased and floured. 
  2. Bake one pudding to test the timing. The middle should be molten and the sides are set. If overbaked, there will not lava gushing out when a spoon is dugged into the middle. 
  3. Do not skip the part on chilling. It helps the pudding achieve its fudgey-gooey-ness. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chocolate Mud Cupcakes - Chocolate Fever

As I am writing this post, I am impatiently waiting for my Google Chrome browser to be allowed access to my blog. It turns out that I have to rely on my backup browser, Mozilla Firefox, to sign in to my blog. 

Sometimes, I wonder. Have we become slaves to technology? Access to the internet and the use of cell phones have officially become our next basic needs after water, food and air. Sadly, I am guilty of being enslaved to technology myself. When my internet lines are down, I feel helpless without access to my Windows Messenger, Hotmail and Blogger. Luckily, I am not much of an addict to Twitter and Facebook yet. Perhaps one reason would be that I am at present not an owner of a smart phone. I have to admit that I am slow in catching onto the technology train, for I am still using a Sony Ericsson non touch-screen flip phone. 

Now that my cell phone is sending me hints of retirement having served a two-year term, I am evaluating my needs and the functionality of various smart phone models available on the market. Apart from the search for a new phone, I am also toying with the idea of getting a new camera. 



My point and shoot digital camera (Sony DSC-T2) has been serving its purpose well when it comes to food photography. There is little need to adjust the manual settings and all I have to bear in mind is the minimizing of camera shake which will cause pictures to lose focus. What caught my attention initially is the touch screen capability which makes navigation throughout the interface a breeze. However, there seem to be a limit to the level of sharpness. Even with the aid of digital enhancement (I do simple edits in Photoshop), some pictures still look a little blurry.


As mentioned previously, I am in quite a chocolate mood these days since May is a month of Chocolate Delights, the theme for Aspiring Bakers May 2011. My idea of an ideal chocolate treat is one that is moist and fudgey/gooey. This Chocolate Mud Cupcake fits the description aptly, with its light moist gooey texture. When eaten warm, it is particularly comforting and even more so when accompanied with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

I am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delights May 2011, hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.   

Chocolate Mud Cupcakes (recipe adapted from Tempt: Cupcakes to Excite by Betty Saw)
Taste and Texture: Tender, gooey with tiny bits of almonds.
Serving size: 10 medium sized cupcakes
Equipment and materials:
  • Cupcake liners
  • Medium size muffin tin
  • Electric beater
  • Spatula
  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring scale
  • Wire whisk

Ingredients:
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 120ml boiling hot water
  • 110g dark chocolate, melted and cooled (I used 63%)
  • 110g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 165g brown sugar
  • 100g ground almond
  • 80g egg yolks
  • 120g egg whites

    Making the Cupcakes:

    Preparing muffin tin - Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

    Preparing egg-yolk batter - In a large mixing bowl, combine the hot water and the cocoa powder. Stir well to remove the lumps and ensure cocoa is well dissolved. Next, add in melted chocolate, melted butter, brown sugar and ground almonds. Stir to obtain an evenly mixed mixture. 

    Using an electric beater, beat in egg yolks on medium low speed, one at a time, ensuring each egg yolk is well combined before adding the next.

    Beating egg whites - In a separate clean metal bowl, beat egg whites on low speed until it turns foamy. Gradually increase the speed to medium high when the volume increases. The egg whites should stiffen in the process and the volume will increase about 6 times. Continue to beat the egg whites until they form medium-firm peaks. This is when the beaters are lifted from the egg whites, snowy egg white peaks are formed and they are slightly wobbly when the bowl is shaken.

    Folding egg whites into egg-yolk batter - Fold one third of beaten egg whites gently into egg-yolk batter to lighten. Incorporate the remaining egg whites and fold gently to obtain a smooth, watery-foamy batter. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl to ensure even mixing.

    Baking the cupcakes -  Spoon batter into cupcake liners until they are nearly filled. The batter will not rise much. Bake cupcakes at 175 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cupcakes will sink noticeably in the middle when cooled.

    Notes:
    • There is no gluten in this recipe. Hence, it might be one factor why the cupcakes tend to sink and shrink.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Homemade Subway Chocolate Chip Cookies


    When Jean posted her chewy chocolate chip cookies, my instincts told me that these are the cookies that I have been searching high and low for. I have always looked forward to chocolate chip cookies that promise a signature subway chew, firm yet almost crisp-free. So far, the chewy cookies that I have tried are too tender for my liking, so much that they are more appropriately described as cakey.  

    Most cookie recipes that are categorized as "chewy" usually consist of a large amount of brown sugar. While it imparts a nice caramel undertone to the cookies, it does not necessary result in cookies that are chewy to the bite. Grasping the baking time for these so-called chewy cookies can be tricky; a short baking time will result in overly tender cookies while over-baking the the cookies would mean that they will become crispy. 

    What caught my attention were the ingredients called for, more specifically melted butter and bread flour. The use of bread flour seems to promise a firmer mouth-feel and there was something alluring about using melted butter, a method of making cookies that is somewhat foreign to me. Perhaps it is this unfamiliarity that draws my curiosity and attention to this particular recipe, hoping that it would churn out results the way I was expecting.


    My expectations were put to the test. The first batch turned out tender in the middle with crisp edges, but they were noticeably firmer compared to cookies I have baked in the past. Great, I am one step closer to my aim.

    Moving on, I checked the results on subsequent batches, extending the baking times. Baking the cookies longer would meant they would turn out crispier on the whole. Making use of the high humidity levels to my advantage, I allowed the cookies to rest in the open for some time for the sake of softening them. It worked, and it work brilliantly indeed!

    The process of firming the cookies up adequately and softening them to offset the crisp churned out cookies that had a firm chew 70% similar to that of Subway cookies. Flavour-wise, they were extremely good since the whole lot was loaded with an abundance of chocolate chips and there was a nice caramel fragrance. What else more could I have possibly asked for?  

    Since the type of fat used is said to determine the texture of cookies, I have always suspected that the type of fat used for subway cookies is something else other than butter, possibly shortening. Now that melted butter works well, I shall not be toying with the idea of experimenting with shortening, margarine or even a combination two fats. 

    Some thoughts on cookies I would like to consolidate and share:
    1. All cookies will firm up when the baking time is extended. However, it does not necessary means that all cookies will becomes crispy when baked for a longer time
    2. Freshly baked cookies have the best crisp. After being subjected to humidity, they lose their crunch/crisp. Simply re-bake the cookies and allow them to cool. The crunch/crisp will return. 
    3. To keep crunchy/crispy cookies well, store them in air-tight containers when they are completely cool.
    4. Not all cookies are created equal. Their texture differ from chewy, sandy, crunchy/crispy, melt-in-the-mouth, crumbly, fudgy to cakey. 
    5. The type of sugars used affect the taste and texture of cookies. Icing sugar are used more for melt-in-the mouth cookies. Plain sugar is said to impart crunch while brown sugar is imparts a chewy characteristic. 
    6. The type of fat used affects the flavour and spread of cookies. Butter cookies spread the most, compared to cookies containing shortening or oil. Personally, I feel that butter imparts the best flavour. 
    7. The amount of chilling time and presence of nuts and chunky ingredients also affect the spread of cookies. Chunky cookies loaded with nuts and chocolate chips do not spread as much as plain cookies. Well chilled cookie dough do not spread as much as cookies that are unchilled. Vary the chilling time to get thick or flat cookies as desired. 
    8. When cookies melt into an oily pool after baking, it means there is insufficient flour. Usually, the weight of butter will not exceed the weight of flour. 

    I am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers # 7 - Chocolate Delights (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted.

    Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from Good Eats by Alton Brown)
    Texture and taste: Chewy and firm. Has a distinct caramel flavour and is loaded with chocolate chips

    For the recipe, refer to :

    My adaptation:
    • sugar cut down to 30g
    • brown sugar cut down to 230g
    • increased vanilla to 2 1/2 tsp 
    • Mixed melted butter while it was warm instead of letting it cool completely
    • Bake 3 tbs sized cookies for 17 mins (or firm enough) at 190 degrees C and allowing them to cool and soften. 
    • Makes about 20 jumbo sized cookies. 

    Note:
    • When overbaked, the cookies turn crisp crunchy. Quite a versatile recipe that yields either firm chewy cookies or firm crunchy cookies. 


    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Double the Chocolate Goodness

    What is the best thing to do when you have a sweet tooth? The answer is - learn to bake. And that was what I did exactly. Now that I have been baking for some time, I can satisfy my sweet cravings whenever I feel like it, customized the way I want it to be.

    Now that this month's Aspiring Bakers theme is chocolate, I have a list of chocolate bakes making their way to my to-do-list. I am so going to abuse my chocolate books for this period of time, one particularly worth mentioning being Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson. The book promises a myriad of lip-smacking chocolate treats, and one treat that caught my eye was a Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe.


    Previously when I made similar double-dosed chocolate cookies, they turned out supremely fudgy,gooey and slightly on the sweet side, very much like brownies in the form of cookies. In contrast, these Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Lisa Yockelson turned out to be firm and sandy (I usually like my cookies to be firmer). There were little pockets of 'molten lava' enveloped amidst the crumbs, thanks to the use of chocolate chunks (I used chocolate callets/pistoles) instead of the conventional chocolate chips. If chocolate chips were used, they would melt to a paste-like consistency instead. 


    On the whole, most recipes from this chocolate compendium by Lisa Yockelson look very promising. However, there tend to be many similar recipes, for example, several recipes on flourless/ near flourless chocolate cakes with little explanation on how the texture and taste would vary. Readers from certain parts of the world might also be short-changed since different varieties of chocolate sweets (Snickers, Reese Buttercups, Heath etc) are often used, but some of them may not be easily available. 

    Even though the recipes I have tried all work out really well, I must say she has a tendency to produce extremely sweet chocolate frostings, some of which require 4-7 cups ( 1cup icing sugar is 100g) of icing sugar. These are the recipes I am never going to try out. 

    I am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted

    Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies (recipe adapted from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson)
    Serving size: 40 cookies
    Taste and texture: Crunchy, sandy, bittersweet chocolatey with pockets of molten chocolate. 
    Equipment and Materials:
    • Stand beater/ handheld mixer or wooden spoon
    • Flour sieve
    • Measuring spoon set
    • Spatula
    • Mixing bowls
    • Wire rack
    • Baking trays/ cookie sheets
    • Baking/ parchment paper

    Ingredients:
    • 220g plain flour
    • 1 tbs cocoa powder
    • a pinch of salt
    • 165g unsalted butter, softened
    • 135g castor sugar
    • 60g brown sugar
    • 50g egg, beaten and mixed with 2 tsp vanilla or 1 tbs Baileys
    • 60g unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
    • 230g coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate in pistole/callet form (around 60%)

    Making the cookies:

    Mixing dry ingredients - Sift the plain flour, cocoa powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk with a balloon/wire whisk to ensure even distribution. 

    Cream butter - Cream butter on medium low speed until fluffy. Add in castor sugar and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Add in the brown sugar and beat for 1 minute. The creamed butter should be sandy and fluffy. 

    Making the cookie dough - With the mixer on medium low speed, add the beaten egg mixture in two additions, ensuring each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Add in melted unsweetened chocolate and beat until combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl of ensure even mixing. 

    Next, add in the flour and mix on low speed until the flour just disappears. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chunks   and ensure that they are evenly distributed. Chill prepared dough for 30 minutes. 

    Baking the cookies - Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Scoop levelled tablespoons of dough onto baking trays lined with baking paper, spacing each dough apart to allow space for spreading. Bake cookie dough for 16-20 minutes at 180 degrees. Cookies will be slightly firm to the touch when done and will firm up further upon cooling. Allow cookies to firm up for a bout a minute or two on their baking trays before transferring them to cool on wire rack. Ensure cookies cool completely on wire rack before storing in air tight containers. 

    Notes:
    • Do a test batch (3 or 4 cookie dough) to determine your ideal baking time and texture. It might not be the same as mine since every oven is different. My cookies usually take 20 minutes to bake. Do note that a longer baking time would result in a firmer cookie and a shorter baking time produces softer cookies. 
    • The 30 minute chilling time prevents the cookies from overspreading. To get nice thick cookies that do not spread much, freeze the dough for 5 minutes after they are shaped. 
    • Unsweetened chocolate is not the same as cocoa powder. 
    • You might want to add more bittersweet chocolate. I will be doing that for my next round. 
    • To re-crisp the cookies, return the cookies to the oven and bake at 180 degrees for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely. The crunch will return. 



    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    Rising temperatures and a Cheddar Cheese Loaf

    General election is officially over. The election heat might be slowly subsiding but the heat from the warm weather these days is getting unbearable. Very often, I have to rely on my fix of iced drinks and my air-conditioner to keep myself cool. I don't usually turn on my air-conditioner when I sleep but I am quite dependable on it now to get a cool, comfortable night of sleep. 


    Even though I am a cake lover, I have not made much butter cakes to date. I was looking forward to make a simple butter cake and this particular cheddar cheese loaf struck my mind. It struck my mind that I had the same book too and it would be a good opportunity to give the recipe a try. 


    Instead of using ready shredded cheddar, I diced a few slices of Cowhead processed cheddar cheese since I had it on hand. I am not sure if it would make any difference using ready shredded cheddar cheese. From my observations, the diced processed cheddar cheese was chewy and did not really melt when the butter cake was baked. The addition added a nice savoury touch and I think it would be good to increase the amount of cheddar used in future. 



    Texture wise, the cake is midway between fluffy and dense. The crumbs are moderately fine and the amount of moisture was at the right level, making the cake neither moist nor dry. As I have mentioned before, it is imperative to use a good brand of butter since it is the key ingredient here and it would determine the characteristic of the cake. Some brands I would recommend are Golden Churn tinned butter, Elle & Vire unsalted butter (very strong, rich dairy taste in bakes) and SCS unsalted butter. Sometimes, I even find Elle & Vire butter to be too rich for my taste buds.  


    Fearing that the amount of batter was too much for my tin to handle, I scooped part of it into cupcake liners to prevent the loaf tin from overflowing. Previously, I was plagued with shrinking cupcakes. What happened then was that the top deflated and sunk while the cupcakes pulled quite noticeable away from the sides. This time round, the top shrank a little, retaining the dome and the sides did not pull away from the cupcake liners. Comparing the two scenarios and base on experience, I observed that :
    • Cupcakes tend to shrink noticeably upon cooling. I noticed that most cakes tend to shrink when cooled. 
    • Cupcakes tend to shrink more (deflate and pull away from the sides) when they are slightly under-baked.
    • The shrinking starts shortly after the oven door is opened and the cupcakes are checked for doneness. 

    Cheddar Cheese Loaf (recipe adapted from Creative Making of Cakes by Alex Goh)
    Serving size: 9 x 5 inch loaf + 6 medium sized cupcakes
    Taste and texture: Buttery and savoury. Neither moist nor dry and midway between fluffy and dense.
    Equipment and Materials:
    • 9 x 5 inch loaf tin
    • Balloon/wire whisk
    • Spatula
    • Handheld/ Stand mixer
    • Baking paper
    • Wire rack
    • Wooden skewer/ cake tester
    • Flour sieve
    • Measuring spoon set
    • Mixing bowls

    Ingredients:
    • 240g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
    • 230g castor sugar
    • 200g eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature
    • 150g shredded cheddar or 8 slices of processed cheddar cheese
    • 120 ml milk, at room temperature
    • 270g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder

    Making the cake:

    Preheat Oven and preparing baking tin - Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 9 x 5 loaf tin with baking paper. 

    Mixing dry ingredients - In a large bowl, sift in flour and baking powder. Whisk the mixture to ensure even distribution. 

    Creaming the butter - In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (as mentioned in how to cream butter).

    Adding eggs to creamed butter - Add beaten eggs to creamed butter in 4 additions and mix on low speed, ensuring each addition is well incorporated before adding the next addition. The batter will become wet as more eggs is added but will slowly firm up when the last portion of eggs are mixed in. 

    Adding flour mixture and milk - Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg-butter mixture. Mix on low speed until the last bit of flour is absorbed. Next, add in half the milk and continue mixing until the milk is incorporated. Repeat the mixing process by adding the next 1/3 flour mixture, followed by the remaining half of the milk, lastly followed by the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incorporate loose ingredients. 

    Adding shredded cheddar - Fold in the shredded/diced cheddar gently into the batter with a spatula, ensuring it is evenly distributed. 

    Baking the cake - Pour batter into lined 9 x 5 loaf tin and 6 medium sized cupcake liners. Bake at loaf tin for 45-60 mins and cupcakes for 20-25mins at 180 degrees C. Remove cake from loaf tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 

    Notes:
    1. I baked the loaf cake first before baking the cupcakes. 
    2. The butter egg mixture may curdle if the butter is not well-creamed, eggs are cold or eggs are added too fast to creamed butter.

    Notice:

    If you wish to post the recipe and instructions online, please give due credit (including original contributor) and do re-phrase the instructions. Thank you.


    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Majulah Singapore, Award and a Banana Hazelnut Cake

    Yesterday was Cooling-Off Day. You might think that the temperatures here in Singapore are climbing to an all-time high and yesterday was a day specially designated for Singaporeans to cool off. Nope. That is not the purpose. Instead, it is the election heat that has been going on for some time. Cooling-Off Day is a day (first time in history) where no campaigning is allowed and voters have this whole day to exercise their thoughts and think of the greater picture for the future of Singapore.

    This year, 2011, is a year that marks the turning point in Singapore politics. With the advent of online social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, political awareness spreads like wildfire these days with the uploading of rally videos and speeches. Instead of the latest celebritity gossips about who's in and who's out, the General Election has became the hottest topic in coffee-shop talks.  

    What marks the difference between this election and previous elections is that Singaporeans are becoming increasing aware of government policies, affairs of state and the importance of this General Election. This is one phenomenon which I gladly welcome. After all, we need to be more concerned about the well-being of our country as a whole instead of remaining politically apathetic. 

    It is the responsibility of every voter to vote wisely. After all, it is our votes that determines the direction that Singapore will head in. As a Singaporean, do you want new amenities for your constituency or would you be more concerned with the bigger issues at hand? These are questions we need to consider thoroughly. Utimately, it is up to individuals to think and decide.    


    This was meant to be posted up in my previous posts but it somehow slipped my mind. I would like to thank Angel from Cook.Bake.Love for presenting this award to me. Thanks a lot for the encouragement, Angel. 


    Now, back to my baking escapades. I was first introduced to this Banana Hazelnut Cake when Edith brought it along for a bloggers meetup. After savouring a slice of the cake, I was impressed and was full of praises for it. When I have a craving for banana cakes these days, this recipe would come to my mind.

    This is the second time I have made this cake. Previously, the cake turned out fluffy but it was slightly underdone. After turning it out of the cake tin, the cake collapsed on one side. I should have baked it longer and let it cool for at least 15 minutes in the tin to allow the structure to firm up a little before turning it out.      


    To avoid the same mishap, I used a loaf tin lined with baking paper and ensured that the cake was fully baked before it was turned out. After the cake was done, I could easily lift the cake out without the need for the cake to cool in the tin and to allow for the structure to firm up.

    There is a noticeable difference in texture this time round as the crumbs are more tightly packed. Nevertheless it was tender due to the addition of sour cream. I had followed the original directions and mixed the ground hazelnuts with the creamed butter. Previously, the ground hazelnuts was mixed with the flour and other dry ingredients. I also observed that I performed more folding of ingredients by hand previously but relied more on the mixer when it comes to incorporating ingredients this time round. That could have affected the crumbs.


    Taste-wise, it is also different from the first attempt since I am using a different brand of sour cream, butter and a different variety of banana. In terms of appearance, I like how the cake bakes to a nice golden-brown hue and the black streaks that are signature to any mouth-watering banana cake. 

    Banana Hazelnut Cake (recipe adapted from Precious Moments)
    Serving size: 10.5 x 6 inch loaf or 9 x 3 inch round cake. Yields 15 - 20 slices
    Taste and texture: Dense or fluffy depending on method of mixing. Carries a rich banana fragrance with a faint nutty note.
    Equipment and materials:
    • 10.5 x 6 inch loaf tin or 9 x 3 inch round tin
    • Balloon/wire whisk
    • Spatula
    • Handheld/Stand beater
    • Baking paper
    • Wire rack
    • Toothpick/wooden skewer
    • Flour sieve
    • Measuring spoon set
    • Mixing bowls

    Ingredients:
    • 240g over-riped bananas, mashed
    • 225g unsalted butter, softened 
    • 220g caster sugar
    • 75g ground hazelnut
    • 150g eggs, lightly beaten and at room temperature
    • 265g plain flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 1/2 baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 200g sour cream, at room temperature

    Making the cake:

    Preheat Oven - Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

    Mixing dry ingredients - Sift plain flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Add in the ground hazelnuts. Whisk the mixture with a wire whisk to loosen the mixture and to allow the ingredients to be evenly distributed.  

    Cream butter - In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (as mentioned in how to cream butter). 

    Adding eggs to creamed butter - Add eggs to creamed butter in 3 additions, making sure each addition is well incorporated before adding the next. The mixture should be smooth. At this point in time the batter should be wet and creamy due to the addition of eggs. 

    Alternating flour mixture and sour cream - Add in 1/3 of the dry ingredients to egg + creamed butter mixture. Fold with a wire whisk or use a beater to mix on medium low speed until dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula and mix in the stray ingredients. Next add 1/2 of the sour cream and fold with whisk/beat with mixer to combine.Scrap sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula and mix in the stray ingredients.

    Repeat the process of mixing the dry and wet ingredients alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. It should be as follows:
    1. Firstly, add 1/3 of dry ingredients
    2. Add 1/2 of sour cream
    3. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients
    4. Add remaining 1/2 of sour cream
    5. Lastly, add remaining 1/3 dry ingredients
    Folding in mashed bananas - For the final part, mix in the mashed bananas with a spatula or wire whisk, ensuring mashed bananas are well distributed.

    Baking the cake - Bake the cake at 170 degrees C for 1 hr -1 hr 15 minutes. Check done-ness by inserting a wooden skewer into the centre of the cake. When done, the skewer should come out clean. Bake the cake for a further 5 minutes just to 'play safe' since banana cakes tend to be very moist and have weak structures.

    Once the cake is baked. Lift out the cake and remove the baking paper. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

    Notes:
    1. Use over-riped bananas for best results.
    2. If butter is not well creamed, it may curdle when eggs are added. Butter egg mixture may also curdle if eggs are cold or added too fast to creamed butter. 
    3. Relying on manual folding using a wire whisk might yield a fluffier cake. 

    Notice:

    If you wish to post the recipe and instructions online, please give due credit (to me and the original contributor) and do re-phrase the instructions. I have taken quite a bit of effort to construct, edit and type them out. Thank you =]



    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Two Bakers and a Cookies and Cream Layer Cake


    Last Saturday was a day which I very much looked forward to. Me and Jean had arranged to meet up and do a couple of bakes. The bakes on our list are a cookies and cream layer cake and a chocolate banana swiss roll. 

    Unfortunately as I was down with Sinus and my nose was like a running tap, the plan for the chocolate banana swiss roll had to be called off. I was not able to focus well while baking. Had Jean not reminded me, I would have carelessly left out the cocoa powder for the chiffon sponge.  


    Combining our efforts, both of us assembled the cake from scratch. Jean layered the cake while I did the frosting. Compared to my previous cookies and cream cake (pictures were lost when my com crashed recently), the frosting was not very well executed. You can see some parts of the cake only had a thin layer of frosting which could barely cover the chocolate sponge in the interior. I was not really in the mood to bother myself with a cleanly frosted cake. 

    When it comes to frosted cakes, I am not quite a cream person. On the other hand, Jean loves fresh cream. For me, if it has to be a cream cake, the fillings and flavours that accompany the cream are crucial. I was kind of skeptical at how the cake would turn out to be initially and I am glad that it turned out great. The chunky Oreo cookie bits softened in the cream filling to a texture similar to that of a cookies and cream ice cream. To enhance the flavour, I added in a bit of icing sugar and vanilla extract. If you are a cookies and cream lover, this is the cake for you. 


    I am definitely glad to have Jean at my place for a nice Saturday afternoon of baking and sharing session. Look forward to our upcoming baking sessions and executing many more bakes. When you have company, you can expect to be more ambitious. 


    I am submitting this entry to Aspiring Bakers #7 - Chocolate Delight (May 2011) hosted by DG from Tested and Tasted

    Cookies and Cream Cake ( Chocolate Sponge Cake recipe adapted from 超人气香港蛋糕56款, Cream filling adapted from My Birthday Cake by Kevin Chai)
    Serving size: Makes a 8 inch round cake. Serves 10 slices.
    Taste and texture: Cake base is soft and moist. Cookies and cream filling is similar to cookies and cream ice cream.
    Equipment and materials:
    • 8 x 3 inch round pan
    • 9 inch round cake board
    • Cake leveller or palette/serrated knife longer than 8 inches
    • Balloon/wire whisk
    • Rubber spatula
    • Handheld beater/Stand beater
    • Baking paper
    • Wire rack
    • Toothpick/wooden skewer
    • Flour sieve
    • Mixing bowls
    • Cake turntable (optional)
    • Star Piping tip (Wilton # 22)
    • Piping bag
    • Coupler


  • Chocolate Sponge Cake (3 layers):

      • 70g egg yolks, room temperature
      • 50g caster sugar
      • 4 tbs vegetable oil
      • 4 tbs water
      • 80g cake flour
      • 15g cocoa powder
      • 1/2 tsp baking powder
      • 145g egg whites, room temperature
      • 50g caster sugar

    Making the Chocolate Sponge Cake:

    Prepare Oven - Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

    Prepare flour mixture - 
    Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and allow the dry ingredients to be evenly distributed.

    Making the egg yolk batter - 
    Place egg yolks, 50g caster sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add in oil and water. Mix well with a wire whisk. Add in the flour mixture and mix to obtain a smooth and thick chocolate batter.

    Beating egg whites - 
    In a clean metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on low speed. Increase speed slowly to medium-high and beat untill egg whites are at soft peaks. Add 50g of sugar gradually and beat untill egg whites are almost stiff and still moist. This is when the beaters are lifted, the egg whites will form peaks that are upright and not drooping slightly. Egg whites will resemble whipped cream.The entire bowl of whites will not drop out when the bowl is overturned. Do not beat until the egg whites are dry and clumpy.

    Folding in egg whites - 
    Using a balloon whisk, fold one third of beaten egg whites into egg yolk batter gently to lighten and combine. Fold in the rest of the beaten whites to combine. Final batter should be foamy and uniform in colour with no streaks of egg white present. Folding egg whites gently using a balloon whisk will prevent egg whites from deflating too much.

    Baking the sponge cake - 
    Pour batter into a greased and lined 8 x 3 inch round pan and bake at 160 degrees C for 25 -30 minutes. Test doneness using a skewer or toothpick. The highest part of the cake should rise up to 4/5 of the height of the tin. When the cake is done, the inserted skewer will come out clean. Cake will shrink from edges and in height on cooling. Unmould sponge cake and leave to cool upright on a wire rack.

    Cookies and Cream Filling:
    • 250 ml chilled whipping cream (diary)
    • 160g coarsely crushed Oreo cookies, cream filling removed
    • 1 tbs icing sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    Whipped Cream Frosting and Decorations: 
    • 300ml chilled whipping cream  (diary)
    • 10 pcs mini Oreo cookies (with cream filling)
    • some finely crushed Oreo cookies
    • 9-10 pcs Oreo cookies to decorate perimeter (cream filling removed)

    Preparing Cookies and Cream Filling:


    Whipping the cream - Place 250 ml chilled whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Beat the cream on high speed until it reaches mousse state. Add 1 tbs icing sugar and continue beating the cream on low speed to dissolve the sugar. Add vanilla extract and continue beating, stopping and checking the consistency every 5 seconds. Beat the cream until it reaches soft peak (80% stiff). Fold in coarsely crushed Oreo cookies into the whipped cream to obtain cookies and cream filling. Set prepared fillings aside for use.    

    Preparing Whipped Cream Frosting:

    Whipping the cream - Place 300 ml chilled whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Beat the cream on high speed until it reaches mousse state.  At this point change the speed to low and continue beating the cream, stopping and checking the consistency every 5 seconds. Beat the cream until it reaches soft peak (80% stiff). Set prepared whipped cream aside for frosting and piping rosettes.  

    Assembly:

    Slicing sponge cake - Slice sponge cake into 3 even layers using cake leveller or long serrated/palette knife. Slice off the part that has domed.

    Preparing the layers - Using the removable base of a round tart tin or a round cake board, slide the tart tin base or cake board under a sponge layer and carefully transport one sponge layer onto a 9 inch round cake board placed on a cake turntable (optional). This method of transferring is to prevent the sponge layer from breaking.

    Dab half of the cookies and cream filling and spread it evenly onto the first sponge layer using a palette knife or spatula.

    Place a second sponge layer (using the tart tin base or cake board to transport) carefully over the first sponge layer and align it properly with the first layer. Dab the remaining half of the cookies and cream filling and spread it evenly onto the second sponge layer using a palette knife or spatula.

    Add the 3rd sponge layer (using the tart tin base or cake board to transport) and align it well with the first two layers. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream frosting on the surface and the sides (perimeter) of the cake to seal the crumbs first (crumb coating). Once the crumb coat is done, add enough whipped cream to the surface and sides of the cake and smooth the whipped cream using a palette knife. Set aside remaining whipped cream frosting for piping rosettes.

    Decorations:

    Piping rosettes and placing mini Oreos - Fill a piping bag fitted with a Wilton #22 star tip with the remaining whipped cream frosting (or any other tip you desire). Hold the piping at 45 degrees to the cake surface and gently squeeze out the whipping cream, applying constant pressure and moving your hands in a circular motion to pipe a rosette. Release pressure and pull the tip away to complete the rosette. Pipe 10 rosettes and place a mini Oreo cookie resting against a piped rosette in a circular fashion (see pictures above).

    Placing Oreo cookies around perimeter and scattering finely crushed Oreos - Place Oreo cookies evenly spaced apart around the perimeter of the cake see pics above). Scatter finely crushed Oreos in the middle of the cake. 

    Notes:
    1. Whipped cream is not stablized and would not hold its shape for too long at warm room temperature 
    2. Try practice piping rosettes on a strip of baking paper 1st before piping on the cake surface.
    3. Cream whipped to 70-80% stiff is ideal for piping, filling and frosting. If it is too stiffly whipped, the cream will not be smooth when piped or may separate when it is frosted (if cream is too vigourously handled).  
    4. Use about 1/2 tsp cream of tartar to stabilize the beaten egg whites if required. It will make folding of egg whites easier.

    Notice:

    If you wish to post the recipe and instructions online, please give due credit and do re-phrase the instructions. I have taken quite a bit of effort to construct, edit and type them out. Thank you =].


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