Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Supremely Fudgy Brownies

Whoever came up with Brownies is truly a genious. How could anyone possibly resist this tempting rich piece of chocolate goodness? Brownies come in different texture. There is the cakey version, the fudgy version and the cross between the fudgy and cake-like. I like my brownies to be fudgy and gooey most of the time. When paired with ice-cream, I will prefer it to be cake-like but warm and very moist, almost slightly gooey.


This time round, I attempted my first recipe from Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate. The book comes with a pretty hefty price of  78 SGD. Luckily I picked it up as a book bargain at Harris at just 30 bucks. As with other brownie recipes, this one was easy to execute, except that the recipe called for unsweetened chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate is one ingredient that is hard to come by and most supermarkets do not carry it.

I have only come across 2 brands of unsweetened chocolate so far - Baker's unsweetened chocolate and Hershey's unsweetened chocolate. I used the earlier as it was recommended by the book as one that is of superior quality. Unsweetened chocolate bars can be found in Cold storage, Ntuc fairprice extra outlets and Sheng Shiong.

As the name suggests, the brownies turned out dense and fudgy with a crunchy crust, exactly like the ones in the book. I have tried several different brownie recipes and this recipe is definitely one of the better ones.

Supremely fudgy brownies ( recipe adapted from Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate )
Equipment: 9 inch square pan

130g plain flour
30g cake flour
2 tbs akalized cocoa powder ( Hershey's cocoa is not akalized)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
120g unsweentened chocolate, melted and cooled ( 4 individually wrapped squares)
4 eggs, 60g each
280g granulated sugar (I cut down on 120g of sugar on my 2nd attempt)
1 1/2tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
2) Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk them together to distribute evenly.
3) Mix melted butter and melted chocolate until well combined.
4) Whisk eggs to combine egg whites and yolks, about 30 seconds. Add in sugar and whisk another 30 seconds.
5) Add the vanilla extract and chocolate butter mixture to the egg-sugar mixture. Stir till combined
6) Add in combined dry ingredients and stir to form a batter. The final batter is smooth and gooey, possibly with some air bubbles.
7) Bake at 160 degrees C for 25 to 35 minutes. If the middle part is still shiny and lava like whereas the perimeter is dull and dry, return it to the oven and bake a further 5 minutes.The colour of the crust should be uniformly dull and the middle part should be slightly squidy as compared to the sides which have a firmer feel.
8) Allow the brownie to cool in the pan, for about 2 to 3 hours before refrigerating for 1 hour.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Butter Rum Cake

After some hesitation on which recipe to try, I decided on a butter rum cake from All cakes considered. I am glad I found another recipe that can put my Myer's dark rum to good use. One litre bottle of rum is enough to last me a year I think, considering that most recipes only require one tablespoon use of rum.  

Having read through the recipe, I converted the measurements from cups to grams. It was somewhat troublesome to do so and I would have preferred recipes to list weight of ingredients instead. The recipe asked for nearly 400grams of sugar. Thats a whooping lot! I cut down some of the sugar and added 2 another tablespoons of rum. I also substituted buttermilk using milk and lemon juice.

With the amount of sugar outweighing that of the flour and butter, the high-ratio method of mixing was employed. The dry ingredients were added to the batter alternating with the liquid.

The cake was then baked in a tube tin and when it was done, the top splitted quite badly. It did not affect the appearance much though since the cake would be flipped upside-down. In the picture above, the butter rum cake looked almost like a chiffon cake. 

When the cake was done, I made the glaze and spooned some of it over a slice. This is the first time I am doing a syrup glaze and I found it was way too sugary sweet without much presence of rum, afterwhich I decided to do without the glaze. Haiz..There goes my butter again... I think next time I will do a taste test whenever I am baking a syrup cake.

Upon my first bite, I found that the cake is similar to a banana cake in texture. Dense, yet soft and moist. Most of the flavour came from the brown sugar and there was a subtle presence of rum, most of which I think was burned off in the oven. The taste is however slightly on the sweet side. I shall cut down more on white sugar the next time.

Butter rum cake ( recipe adapted from All cakes considered)
Equipment: 10 inch tube tin

225g butter, softerned at room temperature
200g caster sugar ( try cutting down on this as cake is quite sweet) 
165g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, 60g each and at room temperature
3 tbs dark rum
330g cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
240ml milk combined with 1 tbs lemon juice

1) Preheat oven to 160 degrees C and grease a 10 inch tube pan with butter or oil.
2) Cream butter with both sugars on medium high speed until fluffy.
3) Add in eggs one by one into the creamed butter on medium speed, beating for 20 seconds after each egg is incoporated.
4) Add rum to batter and beat in to incoporate.
5) Sift flour into a large bowl. Add in the salt and baking soda. Stir using a whisk to combine and evenly distribute the dry ingredients.
6) Add one quarter of the flour mixture to the batter. Beat until just incoporated on low speed. Next, add in one third of the milk mixture and beat until just combined. Repeat this process, alternating dry and wet ingredients. You should start and end with the flour mixture.
7) After all the ingredients are combined, beat the batter on medium speed for about 30 seconds to ensure it is well incoporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once in a while, during the beating process from steps 2 to 6.
8) Pour batter into cake pan and bake at 160 degrees C for 1 hour 10 minutes. Check for doneness after 1 hour by inserting a wooden skewer halfway between the sides and middle. The cake is done when the skewer pulls out clean. If not, return the pan to the oven and check for doneness every 5 minutes.

1) This cake has a nice flavour but it is quite sweet. Try cutting down on the castor sugar.

Book Review - All Cakes Considered

I bought this book along with two other books at 30% off from Borders bookstore. Bakebooks in Singapore certainly do not come cheap. The better well-known ones can easily cost SGD 45 - 60. Very often, the price is enough to make me think twice before buying. After the discount, it was at a more affordable price of SGD 31.

All cakes considered is one book that is distinctively different from other cake books. It is structured in such a way that it feels like a baking journey, filled with anticipation and adventure. The author Melissa Gray narrates her experience of baking and bringing cakes to her colleagues at NPR - National Public Radio, and how her colleagues are wowed by her baked goods.

At the start of the bakng journey, she guides the reader meticulously into baking a sour cream pound cake. Every single step of the instruction is well explained - steps on preparing the pan, creaming butter and how to check when the cake is done. The book starts off with simple cake recipes that require simple techniques. Slowly, the difficulty of the recipes steps up and new baking terms are introduced.

I really like the way she varies her repertoire of recipes. As Melissa mentions, every colleague has different taste buds. Therefore, she tries to bring a different cake each time to satisfy them. To me, her recipes seemed so fascinating that I am at a lost of what to bake for a start. Among the recipes, there is the tunnel of fudge cake baked in a tube pan with oozing cake batter in the middle, somewhat a bigger version of a chocolate lava cake; the Heaven and hell cake - a cake with layers of peanut butter mousse, angel food cake and devil's food cake glazed with a layer of chocolate ganache ; the Agroves manor coffe cake - a yoghurt flavoured pound cake with stewed blueberries and apples and a layer of streusel in the middle, all baked in a tube pan.

Amidst the variety of recipes, detailed explanations and mouth- watering pictures, there is something that I feel is lacking. Regrettably, there is no sight of cheesecakes or cupcakes to make the book more complete. On the whole, it is an enjoyable experience reading All cakes considered - yes,  this book is actually a cake book that one can read. I would recommend it to amateur bakers who will have a much easier time baking cakes for the first time.  

*(Added on 31st Aug 2010) I have tried one of the recipe, a butter rum cake. The taste is good, however, it is very much on the sweet side. After browsing through the book and analyzing the cake recipes, I realised that most of them tend to be very generous with sugar. Perhaps it might be a good idea to cut down on part of it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crazy About Bakebooks

It is hard for me to resist the urge to browse at bakebooks whenever I am near a bookstore or a library. Somehow, I can hear the books calling out to me. Reading was never my hobby. The only publications I was willing to read are magazines and comics. Things changed when I took up baking. Ever since then, I enjoyed reading up bakebooks and online baking articles.

Being a self-taught baker, books and online sources are my best reference materials. There is an endless library of publications for me to refer to. Nowadays, collecting bakebooks is fast becoming one of my hobby. Whenever there is a book sale, I will very much look forward to getting a good bargain at the cookbook corner. Well, there is one coming up soon, the Borders sale at Expo. Hopefully it will not disappoint. One day, I am going to stuff my bookshelves full with purely bakebooks. When that day comes, I think my room will become.. hmm...what shall i call it - a baking library.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Granny Smith Apple Fragrance

I have never preferred baking tarts to cookies or cakes. The pictures illustrated on books always look so tempting and delicious but it always turn out to be a whole lot of work to me when I attempt to bake one.

This time I was determined to bake a proper whole tart. The last time I did so was a lemon tart. It tasted good but the appearance did not turn out ideal.

Preparing the tart crust was alot easier than I thought this time round. Things went smoothly, too smoothly I thought. Then, the not-so-smooth bug came into the picture. I had problems preparing the crumle topping. The recipe asked for softened butter and the crumble topping turned out to be an oily mess. I immediately knew there was something wrong with the recipe. I re-prepared the crumble topping, this time round using chilled butter. It do not turn out to be what I expected. Too much butter I thought, based on my intuition and experience. 

After running a brief search for recipes online, I found out the the recipe I referred to used too much butter. In the end I had to re-prepare a third time and the consistency turned out ok. What a waste of butter!I did not feel so heart-pained for the wasted flour and sugar as butter is the most expensive ingredient here.   

Apple tart recipes in bake books all seem to have something in common. Most of them require Granny Smith apples. I then found out that Granny Smith apples are green apples. And as most people would know, green apples have a tart flavour. For a moment, I thought the apples would still retain their tartness after baking.

On the contrary, the apple pie came out to be apple-sweet with a twist of tangy lemon and there was the subtle aroma of cinnamon circling around. I almost could not resist the moist juicy sultanas hidden among the apples. Looks like it was worth making this tart after-all ~

Lemony Apple Crumble Tart (recipe adapted from Tarts: Sweet and Savoury)
Equipment: 23cm tart tin

Sweet rich shortcrust pastry:
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 medium egg yolks
2 tbs iced water
2 tbs icing sugar
1 egg beaten for brushing base

1) Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl. Add the salt and use a whisk to distribute the ingredients uniformly.
2) Add in the chilled and diced butter into the bowl. Rub the flour mixture into the butter until it becomes like breadcrumbs. There will be some grains that will be larger than the rest. Leave it as that.
3) Next, mix the egg yolks and iced water and add to the flour butter mixture. Use a fork to mix and moisten the dough.
4) Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly using your hands to bring the dough together. Once the dough comes together, form it into a ball and wrap it up with clingfilm. Do not work the dough too long. It will become rock hard upon baking.
5) Chill the dough for 30 mins before using.
6) While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling.
7) When tart is chilled, bring it to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough out to a circle slightly bigger than the tart tin. (Remember to take into account the side of the tart tin as well). Wrap the dough around the roller and transfer the dough to the tin. Unroll the dough and press the dough into place. Use a knife to cut off excess dough from the sides of the tin.
8) Prick the base with a fork all over. Chill the tart for 15 minutes.
9) Preheat oven to 190 degrees C
10) Cut out a piece of foil or baking paper larger than the tart tin. Line the top of the dough with the paper or foil. Fill the tin with baking beans. (Use rice or barley or other dry beans if you do not not have baking beans)
11) Bake the tart for 10minutes. Remove the beans and bake the tart for a further 5 minutes. Let the beans cool. Store and reuse the beans.
12) Brush the base with the beaten egg to cover the fork holes. Put the tart into the oven and bake for 5mins until the base is dry. If  necessary, repeat this step.

Apple filling:
6 Granny Smith apples (or 6 green apples)
60g sultanas
fine zest of 1 lemon (wash lemon thoroughly before zesting)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
55g brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (more if desired)
1 tbs plain flour mixed with 1 tbs castor sugar

Crumble topping :
75g plain flour
75g castor sugar
40g butter, chilled and diced
fine zest of 1 lemon

1) Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into small chunks. I cut the apples into quarters, then half each quarter length-wise. Next, I cut the 2 length-wise pieces into 6 chunks. One apple would give 24 chunks.
2) Place the apples into a big bowl and add the sultanas, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon and brown sugar. Mix them together.
3) Scatter the mixed flour sugar mixture onto the baked tart base. Place the apple chunks on top of the tart. There is more than enough apples to form a layer. Discard the liquid left behind.  
4) Prepare the crumble topping. Mix the flour, sugar and lemon into a bowl. Rub the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Scatter the crumble topping over the apples evenly.
5) Bake the assembled tart at 190 degrees C for 15 minutes then lower temperature to 180 degrees C and bake for another 30 minutes. Tart taste best when served warm.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My 1st Heavenly Cake - Gateau Breton

This is the very 1st cake I attempted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's - "Rose's heavenly cakes". Hence, the entry is titled as My 1st heavenly cake. When I first browsed thruough this baking bible at borders weeks ago, I immediately decided that it would be a book I would want to keep. Having read raving reviews about this author and baking compendiums under her from Amazon and Sunday Times, I understood why she is named the queen of cakes.

As described by Rose, a Gateau Breton is a pastry like crispy on the exterior and has a soft, dense and moist texture. It is a cross between a shortbread and a pound cake. To me it is more like a marriage between the pie and the butter cake. While the pastry was baking in the oven, I could sniff the aroma of  rum when actually the amount of rum included was only a miniscule tablespoon.

When I popped the first morsels into my mouth, I could feel sweetness of butter and rum permeating inside. Hidden among the buttery rum fragrance was nutty hint due to the almonds. Definitely, this is one recipe I would re-cake again.

Among the vast varieties of recipes included in "Rose's heavenly cake", the Gateau Breton is one of the easiest. There are plenty of other recipes which span more than 3 pages and I could imagine the number of hours required to assemble the cakes. Nevertheless, the effort should pay off well.

I shall look forward to my next heavenly cake - apple upside-down cake.

The recipe can be found in the following blog:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cake Project - Awfully Chocolate Banana Cake!

It was a major cake making project that required several hours of committment which served one purpose - a birthday cake for my younger brother. As the name suggests, there is an awful lot of chocolate present in this cake. Layers of chocolate sponge sandwiched with chocolate mousse and fresh bananas finally glazed on the exterior with a lava of chocolate ganache. Awfully sinful indeed!

Once again, credit goes to aunty yochana whose blog I referred to for the wonderful recipe. My previous attempts on egg tarts and pandan kaya cake which came from her library of recipes churned out delicious treats and I was so looking forward to this recipe.

The process of making the cake was a tedious and a not-so-smooth-sailing one. I had some problems making the mousse and the chocolate ganache. The mousse turned out lumpy on the first attempt and I had to chuck the whole thing in the bin. As for the chocolate ganache, everything turned grainy and yucky. Once again, the bin was revisted a second time. There goes my cocoa powder! In the end, I settled for a chocolate butter glaze found on allrecipe as I had ran out of cream.

Decorating the whole cake wasn't an easy affair either. The standing chocolate pieces that circle the cake's perimeter are known as cat's toungue. It was an idea borrowed from a chocolate book that I came across in the library. To do the cat's toungue, I melted chocolate and smeared them onto a piece of greaseproof paper into oblong shapes slightly longer than the height of the cake using a spatula. The melted choclate is then left to harden. I then placed the cat's tongue in my room with the air-conditioner on to set them faster. When left in warm humid conditions, the chocolate pieces will soften and will not hold their shape well. My cat's tongue actually softened and curved outwards from the cake instead of staying upright when I left it on the dining table!

On top of the cake is six piece of square wafer biscuit truffles. Instead of the usual truffles with molten ganache centers, I bought a pack of loackers square chocolate wafers and dipped them in white chocolate. The sqaures were then piped with dark chocolate to give the truffles a finishing touch. The easiest part of all was the piping of words using white chocolate. Tada! My chocolate banana cake was completed.

My family was pretty supportive of the cake. Everyone had a huge slice. Six of us took more than half the cake and it was disappeared without a trace just the next day! Next time I shall double the volume of the chocolate mousse and use a sweeter ganache to coat the entire cake. Yummy!

The recipe can be found from Aunty Yochana's blog:
Awfully chocolate banana cake recipe
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