Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome 2012!

A year has passed and it is time to usher in a brand new year. Goodbye 2011 and Welcome 2012! With the birth of a new year, I guess it is a habit for many of us to set new year resolutions. I am not someone who would obediently follow the resolutions that have been set. Hence, my resolutions shall be kept to a minimum and as simplistic as possible. All I wish for in 2012 would be to continue my explorations in baking and continue penning my thoughts here. Even if there would be lesser entries, it will at least keep the blog going and remind me of my love for baking, and not to forget the sharing of this satisfying therapeutic activity.

Since mid-2011, there has been a change of priority in my life. Life became busier with work involvement and social activities, making baking a luxury activity to indulge in whenever I have the spare energy and time. Hence, that explains why my frequency of blogging dwindled for the past few months. On the other hand, I am not quite sure if age is another factor for the diminishing energy level. Sometimes, I feel like lazing and sitting in front of the TV lying on my comfortable sofa, switching from channel to channel, watching any programs that arouse my attention. Well, maybe its just plain old lazy me, trying to make excuses for myself.

On New Year's Day, I was browsing and reading my past entries. It has been a good three years since I started baking and blogging. As I was looking at the bakes I have made over the years, the nostalgia reminded me I have came quite a way (not very long it might be), starting from scratch. Thanks to the constant encouragement and affirmation from my family, friends, colleagues, fellow bakers and readers, I am able to sustain this passion and keep it going.

Looking back into 2011, the following is a roundup of some of the bakes:









Baking, to me, is my comfort zone. It is also a sense of assurance, motivation and self confidence. I have always enjoyed the process of reading recipes and trying out bakes of all kinds - cakes, cookies, tarts, just to name but a few. It is especially gratifying when the bakes turn out great. That would mean I have treats to savour on afterwards.

As of now, I have not exactly tried out that many things. There are still tons of recipes out there beckoning to me, especially those from the bake books sitting on my book shelf. These recipes alone would suffice to last for a decade or two if I were to bake one recipe a day! Therefore for this 2012, I will continue on my journey for improvement, explore more bakes and strive to be a better baker.

Before I end off with my first post of the year, I would like to share another of my Xmas bake of 2011, a Cookies and Cream Log Cake.


Spreading the cookies and cream filling onto the chiffon sheet.


The rolled up Swiss roll, a log cake in its "naked" state.


Cross section of the log cake, before frosting. Needs more practice on my rolling skills



The final product after frosting. Homemade cookies and cream log cake for all occasion, with no snow man or any Xmas decorations. 

Although it is only the second week of the year, the Chinese New Year is fast approaching already. Hopefully, my "CNY factory" will be faithfully churning out some goodies over the weekend in preparation for the festivities. Peanut cookies, Pineapple tarts, Sugee Cookies, Almond cookies, Kueh Lapis..... I am coming for you!

(recipe for log cake to be posted on a later date)



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Xmas 2011 and a Mango Mousse Log Cake

Merry Xmas to all of you out there! (I am still bathing in the mood of the Xmas as I am posting this. Hope it is not too late for greetings.) Christmas is one festive holiday in the year which I always look forward to. Somehow, the joy factor rises to an all-time-high and everyone seems to be pretty much hyped up and all ready for the arrival of this great festive season.

When it comes to the month of Dec, my mind would be preoccupied with festive shopping for gifts and not to forget, Xmas bakes! I had a couple of ideas for Xmas bakes this year - brownie cupcakes with chocolate peppermint patty center, mint chocolate cookies, Christmas tree cupcakes; but I decided not to make it an tiring affair. Instead, I made some orange cranberry shortbread and a mango mousse log cake since R2E2 mangoes are in season.



While I was doing grocery shopping for a Xmas potluck, R2E2 mangoes were going on sale (2 for S$6.55). Unable to resist the urge, I picked up two of these cheery-summery looking stone fruits and the idea of making a mango log cake was waving at me.

These days, I am more inclined towards eating mangoes that are plump and have reddish-orange skins. Such mangoes tend to be sweeter and more fragrant than the usual yellow coloured varieties like the Thai honey mangoes, which are a little lacking in fragrance.



It might prove to be tricky for some people when it comes to removing the skin from the flesh, but this can be easily done with some clever manoeuvre of the knife and a spoon. First, slice the mango following the curve of the stone on one side, sticking as close as possible to the stone. Repeat the same for the other side. You will end up with 3 sliced portions of mango, as shown in the first picture above. To remove the skin from the two portions without the stone with ease, simply use a spoon and dig as closely to the skin as possible starting from one end, until a whole chunk of mango is released from the skin. This chunk can then be used for diced easily for use in cooking or baking. I remember watching a chef preparing mangoes and have been using this method ever since. 



Compared to layer cakes, log cakes are much easier to prepare. They are in fact Swiss rolls disguised with an exterior of cream frosting. While I was doing the rolling, it reminded me of a failed attempt of a black forest log cake the year before. Previously, the filling was too runny and it made the rolling difficult to execute, causing the end product to be a mess. 

The same thing happened a second time. The mango mousse filling was a little runny and after rolling the sheet cake, some of the filling were 'pushed out' of the Swiss roll. Luckily, it didn't turn out a big mess and was decent enough to be frosted into a log cake. Next time, I would do the following:
  1. Slope the filling towards the side to be rolled so that there is less filling on the ending side and the mango mousse would not be pushed out after rolling.
  2. Omit the last row of diced mango and  mango puree.
  3. Chill the mango mousse with the sheet cake and toppings so that it would be much easier to roll and the filling would not be so runny.  
 


Since the idea of doing the log cake was a last minute gut-feeling affair, I was unable to grab hold of Christmas log cake toy decorations. I had to borrow a stash of it from my baking buddy. Guess what? I returned her the toy decorations, but on top of the mango log cake. 

I made some observations when frosting the log cake with dairy whipping cream. All along, I have been faithfully using diary cream. When whipped and frosted, the appearance always look somewhat clumpy and un-smooth, unlike the smoothly frosted log cakes/cakes found in bakeries. I have been told that log cakes in bakeries are frosted with fresh cream. However, the so called 'fresh cream' from these cakes taste more like a cross between buttercream and dairy whipped cream, which puzzles me. 

All this while, I have never used non-dairy cream or whip-topping cream which are non-dairy in nature, but my experience tells me that dairy whipping cream taste nothing like buttercream and whipped fresh cream is no where as smooth as buttercream. Hence, I cannot help but suspect that the cream used for giving cakes that smooth appearance is actually non-dairy cream or whip topping cream and nothing like fresh cream as what some bakeries have claimed. Perhaps my dear fellow bakers can share your experience with use of whip topping cream and non-dairy whipping cream.  

Mango Mousse Swiss Roll/Log Cake (Sponge recipe adapted from 孟老师的美味蛋糕卷)
Serving size:10-12 slices
Taste and texture: Cake base is soft, moist and fluffy. Mango mousse filling is fruity, smooth and light.
Equipment and materials: 

  • 12 x 12 inch pan or 10 x 14 inch pan
  • Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater 
  • Spatula
  • Wire whisk/balloon whisk
  • Mixing bowls
  • Wire rack
  • Flour sieve
  • Parchment/baking paper
  • Brush for oiling pan
  • Weighing scale

Separated-egg Sponge Cake Ingredients: 

  • 40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 80g egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 170g egg whites, at room temperature
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 60g cake flour, sifted

Mango Mousse filling:

  • 180g fresh mango puree (Use a good variety of mango for best results)
  • 180ml dairy whipping cream
  • 70g mango, diced
  • 50g fresh mango puree

Whipped Cream Frosting:
  • 250ml whipping cream (dairy or non-dairy)

Making the separated-egg sponge:
Prepare Oven and line pan - Preheat oven to 190 degrees C and line tin with baking/parchment paper. 

Preparing the egg yolk mixture - In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 25g castor sugar. Whisk the egg yolks with a beater on high speed until the yolks have increased in volume, are paler looking in colour and thickened. 

Beating egg whites - In a metal bowl, beat eggs whites starting with low speed. When the egg whites turn frothy, slowly increase the speed to high and beat until egg whites are soft peaks (egg whites form peak that is drooping). Add the sugar (75g) slowly at this point and continue beating until egg whites are nearly stiff but still moist and not dry. This is when the bowl is overturned, the egg whites would not budge. Egg whites will form shiny and creamy upright peaks when beater is withdrawn. Take care not to overbeat the egg whites as they will become dry or may water out.

Folding egg whites into egg yolk mixture - Fold one third of beaten egg whites with a balloon whisk into egg yolk mixture to lighten and mix well. Incorporate another one third of the whites. Lastly, add the rest of the egg whites and fold gently to obtain a smooth uniformly coloured foamy batter. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula to ensure batter is well mixed. 

Adding flour and butter - Fold flour gently into the whites-yolk mixture in 3 batches with a balloon whisk, turning the bowl as you fold. Ensure that there are no visible traces of flour before adding the next batch. 

Once the flour has been incorporated, scoop a portion of the mixture into a small mixing bowl and combine with the melted butter. Fold this mixture back with the bulk of the flour-white-yolk batter to obtain the final batter. 

Baking the cake - Pour batter into a 12 x 12 inch tin or 10 x 14 inch lined swiss roll tin. Level the batter and bake for about 12 minutes. Start checking for done-ness at 9 mins. Cake is done when inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow sheet cake to cool. 

Preparing Mango Mousse:
Whip180ml of dairy cream until is reaches mousse state, about 70% stiff (before soft peak stage). Fold the  whipped cream into 180g of mango puree until well combined. Set mango mousse aside. 


Preparing whipped cream frosting: 
Before whipping the cream, chill the mixing bowl and beaters. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip 250ml of whipping cream on medium speed until it becomes mousse-like. Turn the speed to low and beat until it produce soft peaks. Do not beat it too stiff as the whipped cream will turn grainy when frosted.  

Assembly:
Turning the cake out - Carefully turn the cooled 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. 

Applying the filling - Dab a layer of mango mousse onto the cooled sponge sheet. Ensure the starting end has a thicker layer of mousse and the ending side has a thinner layer of mousse. 

Place a row of diced mango onto the mousse layer near the starting end and another row in the middle. 

Using a spoon, scoop the mango puree and form a stream of puree between the two rows diced mangoes. Add another stream of mango puree further down the second row of diced mangoes. It will look something similar to that as shown in the 6th picture above, without a 3rd row of diced mango and 3rd stream of mango puree. 

Rolling the 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. Allow swiss roll to chill in the refrigerator until mousse filling is set. 

Frosting the log cake: 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 whipped cream over the swiss roll, ensuring all sides are covered with cream. Use the tines of a fork to scratch along the surface of the whipped cream frosting to create a 'tree bark' effect. For a snowy effect, dust with snow powder/icing sugar and decorate as desired. Carefully remove the rectangular slips of paper. 

Notes:
  1. Serve log cake chilled. Mango mousse filling would not hold its shape well at warm room temperature for long. 
  2. Dairy or non-dairy cream may be used. 
  3. Whipped cream will continue to firm up when frosted, hence take care not to whip the cream too stiff. A softly whipped cream, slightly flowy with soft peaks (about 70% stiff) is ideal. 


Friday, December 16, 2011

Savoury for a Change - Chicken Pies


It is time for a change! As sweet-toothed as I may be, I cannot be relying on my sweet bakes to fill my stomach or replace my daily meals. With some inspiration from Masterchef series and suggestions from H, I decided to do a savoury bake, and chicken pies shall be on the menu. 


Since the preparation of the filling involved cooking, there is no hard and fast rule with regard to the ingredients used. Instead of using frozen mixed vegetables, freshly diced carrots were used instead. I also made a couple of tweaks to the pie crust recipe and the chicken pie filling proportion. 

For a first attempt on chicken pies, I am rather comforted by the flakiness of the pie crust. Despite the moist filling and an absence of a blind-baked pie dough, the pie base had not turned soggy at all. Perhaps the baking of the pies on a preheated baking tray placed in the lower rack of the oven might have helped, a tip I picked up from my stash of baking books. 


Even though I am now into my third year of baking, every baking session is still like a new lesson to me. Recently, I have learnt how to make better use of the oven rack position to my advantage. In the past, I have always baked all my goods in the middle rack. It works well for cakes most of the time. However, that is not quite the case for tarts in my case. To get a nice finish for my tarts, it is necessary to bake them nearer to the top heating element of my oven so that they can brown nicely within a much shorter time. Else, the tart crusts would turn out to be creamy white and hardly brown, like the ones in my nutella cream cheese tarts.

To me, most pie dough recipes look all quite the same, be it the ingredients used or the proportion of ingredients. However, the handling of the pie dough makes so much difference when it comes to determining  the pie crust texture. Unlike cakes where it is often necessary to ensure that ingredients are evenly dispersed within the batter, there is no need for even dispersion of ingredients in pie dough. The uneven dispersion of different sized butter pebbles in the pie dough allows for a flaky texture, when the butter turns into steam in the process of baking.

Chicken Pies (recipe adapted from Baking Mum)
Serving size: 9 three-inch pies
Taste and texture: Flaky buttery pie dough with moist chicken pie filling
Equipment and materials:
  • Flour sieve
  • Balloon whisk
  • Measuring spoon set
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wire rack
  • Fork
  • Pastry blender (optional) or two sharp knives
  • Clingfilm
  • 3-inch individual tart tins

Flaky pie dough pastry: 
  • 250g plain flour 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 170g chilled unsalted butter, cubed 
  • 1 egg yolk, chilled
  • 4 tbs plain yogurt or sour cream, chilled
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Chicken Pie Filling:
  • 150g potato, peeled and cubed
  • 50g carrot, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cubed
  • 260g chicken breast meat, cubed 
  • 110g canned (drain water solution away) or fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 120ml homemade or store-bought chicken stock 
  • 1 tbs cornflour mixed with 2 tbs water to form a solution
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Making chicken pie filling:

Oil a pan with some cooking oil. Place the cubed potato and fry over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add cubed carrots and frying the mixture for another two minutes. Set carrots and potatoes aside.

Next, sauteed the onions until soft and fragrant. Add in chicken breast and mushrooms. Cook the mixture for about 2 minutes.

Lastly, add in the cooked potato and carrot. Pour 120ml of chicken stock and allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 4 minutes, without covering. Allow the liquid to reduce. When most of the of liquid has reduced, add the corn flour solution to the thicken the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. The chicken pie filling should be a mixture of ingredients coated with a thick sauce.

Making the flaky pie dough pastry:


Mixing dry ingredients - In a mixing bowl, sift in flour. Add in salt. Whisk with a balloon whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Forming the pastry - Cut chilled cubed butter into flour with a pastry blender until there is a mixture of different sized flour-coated butter 'pebbles' and fine flour-coated butter 'crumbs'. Alternatively, rub the cubed butter into the flour with your clean hands. Mix the egg yolk with the yoghurt/ sour cream. Drizzle in the yolk + yogurt/sour cream mixture use a fork to moisten the flour-coated butter 'crumbs'.

Gently gather the crumbs and knead briefly so that the crumbs come together to form a dough. Wrap dough with clingfilm and chill dough for at least 30 minutes. To save time, freeze dough until it is firm enough to handle.

Making the chicken pies - Divide dough into 9 portions. Pinch about 2/3 of one portion of dough to roughly form a ball using both palms. Place the dough ball on one palm and use the other to flatten it evenly, big enough to fit into a three-inch tart tin. Place the flattened dough over the tart tin and press it in place, ensuring thickness is even throughout.

Spoon and compact cooled chicken pie filling onto pie dough base. With the remaining 1/3 of one portion of dough, roll it into a rough shaped ball and flatten it until it is big enough to cover the fillings. Cover fillings with pie dough and press down to seal the edges. Repeat for the remaining 8 portions of pie dough. Chilled ready-to-bake chicken pies for 20 minutes.

Baking the tart crusts - While chilling ready-to-bake chicken pies, preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Brush egg wash onto the chicken pies. Using a fork, prick over the top of each chicken pie, allowing air to escape and ensure pie dough do not rise much.

Place chicken pies onto a preheated baking tray and bake for about 30-35 minutes in the middle rack or until tart crusts are golden brown. If pie dough do not brown after 20 minutes into baking, transfer to upper rack and bake a further 10-15 minutes to achieve a golden brown appearance. Allow chicken pies to cool slightly in tart tins before removing them from the tart tins to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve chicken pies warm.

Notes:
  1. For better flavour, marinate chicken breast or add some herbs when cooking the filling.
  2. Increase the proportion of chicken breast used if a more meaty filling is desired. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cupcakes with a twist - Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes & Raspberry Swirl Cheesecakes

Lately, I have been rather addicted to TV programs featuring food and cooking, namely the US Masterchef and the Australia Junior Masterchef series. Although gluing myself in front of my television set has made me somewhat a couch potato at times, watching these programs allow me to be exposed to the food culture of other national boundaries.

It is no easy feat taking part in these culinary competitions. Imagine the immense pressure faced by the contestants given the allocated time, not forgetting that there are judges breathing down their neck and monitoring their every progress as they prepare their food. What amazes me is that these participants are left on their own to mastermind their culinary creations, without the availability of recipes to refer to. I can hardly imagine myself baking a cake or making a dessert without any recipes to refer to. My mind will just be a total blank. It just didn't come across to me as something quite possible, especially when there is a hundred and one things to learn and so many precise measurements when it comes to desserts.


Since I do not cook often, I very much hoped that most of the challenges will come in the form of desserts or bakes. Watching these participants toil their hearts out in the kitchen, I have my utmost admiration towards their passion and love for everything food. 

I am glad that being a couch potato has helped me re-ignite my love for food and the process of creating them, which are usually in the form of bakes. However, remaining a couch potato will not help me improve my baking skills in anyway. There is a need to practice. A whole of it it in fact. 

Practicing means finding more opportunities to try out recipes. Since the cupcake mood is still ongoing, I figured I would try out even more recipes from my Martha Stewart Cupcakes. Instead of the usual cupcakes, it will be with a twist - cupped cheesecakes.  


Making cheesecakes in cupcake form is definitely a clever idea. Whoever thought of it is a genius. It is so much easier to do these mini cheesecakes in a water bath and there is no need to spend more than 2 hours to bake a thick and dense 8 inch or 9 inch round cheesecake in a springform tin. Each batch will probably take at most 30 minutes and the chilling time is subsequently reduced due to the significant reduction in size compared to a full-size cheesecake. Furthermore, these dainty looking cheesecakes look perfect for parties and gatherings or as giveaways.

Not all was a success though. The Oreo mini cheesecakes turned out thick, dense and creamy with a slight vanilla flavoured tang, indicative of a good cheesecake. Although the raspberry swirl cheesecakes were a nice sight to look at, the tart berry flavour did not quite come through. With a little nip and tuck on the recipe, the results should be promising.

Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes ( recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)
Serving size: Makes 13 standard size cupped cheesecakes
Taste and texture: Dense, thick and creamy with a slight tang.
Equipment and Materials:
  • Standard size muffin tin
  • Cupcake liners to fit
  • Measuring scale
  • Measuring Jug
  • Flexible spatula
  • Handheld beater/ stand beater
  • Mixing bowls
  • Large baking tin/tray used for water bath


Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
  • 13 whole Oreo cookies and 7 Oreo cookies coarsely chopped (with filling removed)
  • 500g Philadelphia brand cream cheese, room temperature
  • 110g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs (55-60g with shell), lighten beaten
  • 140ml sour cream

Making the cheesecakes

Prepare oven and muffin tin - Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Mixing cream cheese, sugar and vanilla - Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Beat cream cheese until fluffy on medium-high speed. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until combined. Add vanilla and mix well. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl with a flexible spatula to incorporate stray ingredients.

Adding eggs and sour cream - Add the eggs in four parts and beat until batter is evenly mixed. Lastly, mix in sour cream on low speed and beat until combined. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl.

Removing air bubbles from batter - Using a spatula, push the batter against the wall of the mixing bowl, attempting to flatten the batter and remove air bubbles. Repeat to get rid of most of the air bubbles. This will prevent air bubbles from rising to the surface and bursting while baking, creating little craters. 

Adding chopped Oreos - Fold in coarsely chopped Oreo cookies and ensure they are evenly dispersed. 

Diving the batter - Place a whole Oreo in each muffin liner. This will act as the cheesecake base. Divide the batter into 13 muffin liners. 

Baking the cheesecakes - Place muffin tin filled with cheesecake batter over a large baking tin. Pour hot water into the baking tin. This is known as a water bath, ensuring that the oven maintains a moist environment during baking and helps to churn out smooth cheesecakes. 

Bake mini cheesecakes in the water bath for 22-25 minutes at 160 degrees C or until cheesecake filling is fully set and not jiggly. 

Once cheesecakes are done. Allow them to cool  in the muffin tin completely before chilling them for 2-4 hours to allow the texture to firm up. For best results, chill overnight.

Notes:
  1. Since I only have a single 6-hole muffin tin, I baked the rest of the cheesecakes in souffle cup liners placed on mini tart tins (prevent souffle cups from becoming wet due to direct contact with water bath) which are placed in the water bath. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

In the mood for Cupcakes - Red Velvet and Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

After two bake-less weeks, it is time to ride on the baking mood. Somehow, I am very much into the making of cupcakes this week. It might come across as a little late for Aspiring Bakers, but I am enjoying myself to the brim nevertheless. So far the count is three, and I have a good feeling the number will be on the rise. 

 

Once again, I have been tasked to help with cupcake making. Due to my friend's relentless nagging for Red Velvet Cupcakes, I finally threw in the towel and decided to embark on this activity that somewhat spells 'Radioactivity', due to the awkwardly deep red colour of these cupped treats. The colour of my cupcakes did not turn out as truly red as I only had 'Xmas red' Wilton gel colour on hand. 

Using the recipe from my newly arrived Martha Stewart Cupcakes from Amazon, the texture turned out to be amazingly fluffy even though there is no creaming of butter involved in the entire mixing process. Texture wise, it is definitely a yes from me. Taste-wise, I wished it had been richer or more vibrant. Then again, I have not had much encounters with Red Velvet cakes hence little room for comparison to know what is considered to be a good one. Perhaps the cream cheese frosting will give it a more rounded flavour on the whole. 

For the cream cheese frosting, I confirmed my hypothesis that Tatura cream cheese (from Phoon Huat) is indeed not a good brand for use in frostings. It created a messy lump when I tried to do peanut butter cream cheese frosting and the cream cheese frosting for the red velvet cupcakes looked kind of lumpy/ somewhat curdled/ loose (a little dough like) and did not pipe out as ideally as I would like it to be, compared to when I was using Elle & Vire cream cheese. However, when doing cheesecakes using Tatura cream cheese, the results are not too shabby.

I made a astounding discovery relating to these red velvet cupcakes. When eaten straight from the fridge chilled, the cupcakes remained tender and fluffy like they just came out of the oven. Because of the chilling, the cream cheese frosting has a nice firm texture, almost like a cheesecake layer which makes the cupcake even more so enticing.  




Besides acceding to my friend's request for red velvet, I managed to convince him that these Chocolate Mud Cupcakes are truly to die for. The texture is moist, fudgy and it resembles a cross between a fluffy cupcake and a souffle, due to its flour-less nature and the incorporation of beaten egg whites. To go along with the chocolate cupcakes, I piped 'piles of chocolate dung' and spooned spiked piles (for a simple homemade look) onto them, which are actually Dark Chocolate Frosting from Martha Stewart Cupcakes.

Comparing this Dark Chocolate Frosting with the Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, the former is a dark chocolate buttercream that holds its shape well when piped while the latter (much higher chocolate content) is a fudge-like chocolate goodness that spells awfully chocolate.

Hmm.. After taking a bite into one of the chocolate mud cupcakes, I realised the frosting layer is too thick and it overshadowed the richness of the chocolate mud cupcakes. The frosting by itself is actually not too shabby. However, the morale of the story - keep these chocolate mud cupcakes unfrosted and frost other less rich cupcakes instead. Lesson learnt. Apparently, stacking one rich flavour onto another rich flavour doesn't quite work out!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting ( recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)
Serving size: Makes 9 standard size cupcakes
Taste and texture: Fluffy and moist cake texture.
Equipment and Materials:
  • Standard size muffin tin
  • Cupcake liners to fit
  • Flexible spatula
  • Handheld beater/ stand beater
  • Wire rack
  • Wooden skewer/ toothpick/ cake tester
  • Flour sieve
  • Piping bag
  • Large round piping tip
  • Mixing bowls


Red Velvet Cupcakes
  • 150g cake flour
  • 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 180 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, at room temperature (55g to 60g with shell)
  • 1/4 tsp red colour (gel)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 125ml buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 240g cream cheese, straight from the fridge
  • 100g - 200g icing sugar (or add more if desired to obtain firmer but sweeter frosting)
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Making the cupcakes

Prepare oven and muffin tin - Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Prepare flour mixture - Sift cake flour, cocoa powder and salt into a large bowl. Using a balloon whisk, whisk to combine and allow the dry ingredients to be evenly distributed.

Mixing oil, sugar and egg- In a mixing bowl, beat oil and sugar until combined on med-high speed. Add in the egg and continue beating until mixture is smooth, for about 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl well with a flexible spatula.
Alternating flour mixture and buttermilk - Turning the mixer to low speed, add 1/3 portion of the flour mixture to the oil-sugar-egg mixture and beat until well combined. Next add in half the buttermilk and mix well. Continue the alternating addition of flour (3 additions) and buttermilk (2 additions), starting and ending with flour mixture. Batter should be well combined and smooth. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl well with a flexible spatula during the mixing process to incorporate loose ingredients.

Adding baking soda and vinegar mixture - In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar. The mixture will foam. Add it to the batter and mix for 20 seconds on medium speed. 

Baking the cupcakes - Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 4/5 filled. Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes at 180 degrees C or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. 

Preparing Cream Cheese Frosting

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy and smooth on medium speed. Turn to low speed and add in 100g of icing sugar. Mix to obtain a smooth frosting. To obtain a firmer frosting, add more icing sugar to desired firmness at the expense of sweetness. Add in vanilla and mix well. Frost red velvet cupcakes as desired. 

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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: 9 standard size cupcakes
Recipe: Refer to Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Frosting ( recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)
Quantity: Makes enough to frost 16 cupcakes
Taste and texture: Chocolatey and buttercream-like. 

Ingredients:
  • 30g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 80ml boiling water
  • 300g unsalted butter, softened
  • 70g icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 450g dark chocolate (50-60% cocoa mass), melted and cooled

Making the dark chocolate frosting:

In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and boiling water to obtained a smooth cocoa liquid. In a large mixing bowl,  beat butter and icing sugar on medium-high speed until butter mixture is pale and fluffy. Turning to low speed, add the cooled melted chocolate and mix to obtain a smooth mixture. Lastly, add in cocoa mixture and beat well. Frost cupcakes as desired. 

Notes:
  1. Red velvet cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting need to be kept refrigerated. 
  2. Leftover/unused cream cheese frosting and dark chocolate frosting should be kept refrigerated in freezer bags/ piping bags/ ziplock bags. 
  3. Serve red velvet cupcakes chilled. The cream cheese frosting will be firm and the cake will remain moist, soft and fluffy. However, allow the chocolate mud cupcakes to rest at room temperature for some time to allow it to soften before serving.
  4. Chocolate Mud Cupcakes will shrink in size when cooled, creating a sunken crater. This is perfectly normal. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes



A friend of mine had asked me for a favour. He needed to do a cake for his friend's birthday. After some discussion, I recommended that we do a batch of carrot cupcakes, using my trusty Rachel Allen's Carrot Cake recipe which never fails to yield the most tender, fluffy and flavourful cupcakes. 


According to him, these carrot cupcakes were sweeter and not as spicy as compared to the ones found in Cedele. From my recent maiden experience with Cedele's carrot cake, I found that Cedele's carrot cake is actually less spicy in taste, making me wonder if there is actually something wrong with his tastebuds or if the problem lies with mine. I could only sense a faint hint of cinnamon in Cedele's version. For Rachel Allens's carrot cake, it uses ground nutmeg and mixed spice in addition to cinnamon. I also believe that Cedele's carrot cakes are baked using white sugar whereas these carrot cupcakes are baked using brown sugar, hence the colour disparity between the two.

Frosting wise, Cedele's cream cheese frosting is purely vanilla flavoured and has a firm cheesecake-like texture. On the other hand, Rachel Allen's cream cheese frosting has a vibrant character due to the marriage of flavours attributed by vanilla and orange zest and the texture is smooth and less firm (because I cut down on icing sugar). 


While doing the cream cheese frosting, I noticed that different brands of cream cheese do play a part in determining the texture. Using Elle & Vire cream cheese, the frosting turned out to be fluffier, softer, smoother and it was a breeze piping swirls with it on the cupcakes. Phoon Huat's cream cheese seemed to produce a firmer frosting frosting which is less smooth and did not look like it will pipe well into swirls. 

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting ( recipe adapted from Bake by Rachel Allen)
Taste and Texture: Moderately-spicy, moist, fluffy and chunky with moist plump raisins and crunchy walnuts.
Serving size: about 10 cupcakes

Making the carrot cupcakes:

Baking the cupcakes - Follow the recipe and directions in Carrot Cake. Instead of baking the batter in a loaf tin, spoon the batter into a standard muffin tin lined with cupcake liners. Bake the cupcakes at 180 degrees C for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Decorating the cupakes - Spoon cream cheese frosting into a piping bag attached with a large star tip. Pipe swirls of cream cheese frosting onto the cupcakes in a circular fashion to create rosettes.


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