Saturday, July 31, 2010

Buried Treasure - Lychee Butter Cake

Earlier, my friend helped me to buy 3 blocks of Elle & Vire butter from Sun Lik. Each block only costs S$3.20 whereas it is selling at Carrefour outlets for S$5.20. As it is manufactured in France and french butter are considered premium, I was looking forward to see if it would make any difference in my bakes. 

I chose a lychee butter cake recipe from one of my books: Baking with Fruits by Kevin Chai. It was weird that the recipe did not ask for any leavening agents. From a previous experience, a cupcake which I attempted from Martha Stewart's recipe which too did not ask for any leavening agents turned out to be dense. Hence, I tweaked the recipe to obtain a cake with lighter texture, omitting the almonds and cornmeal, substistuted an egg yolk for a whole egg, added some lychee sryup, used self-raising flour instead and increased the proportion of ingredients. The changes were so much that the recipe I formulated was no longer an adaption from the original. Rather it was a whole new recipe inspired by the original. 

Following the pictures from the book, I placed drained canned lychees evenly on top of the batter. The lychees were supposed to be visible on top after baking, looking somewhat like a lychee version of  a pastry fruit cake. However, the batter rose and buried all of them. I then realised why the original recipe did not ask for any leavening agents. Perhaps that was the trick to keep them in place. Nevertheless, I did not regret my decision. I would rather have a cake with a more desirable texture rather than one that is pleasing to the eyes but fail to satisfy my palate.  

The end result was a nicely browned lychee butter cake with slightly uneven top due to the batter rising and making its way about the lychees. Anyway, that did not matter much since the cake was going to be sliced up anyway.

My efforts were rewarded as I dug into a rich and fragrant butter cake. The lychees were a little soft though and tasted mushy. Well, lychees are definitely unlike apples which can keep their firmness well after baking. I guess this is why apples are a favourite fruit choice among bakers, including me.

Among the brands of butter I have tried, Elle & Vire is certainly quite outstanding. I could taste the richness of the sweet unsalted butter, or maybe my palate was tricked by the salt and the lychee syrup. Anyway, I am pleased with my new found lychee butter cake recipe. If there is anything that I need to change, it would probably be using smaller bits of lychees instead since the lychee wholes do not hold well to the butter cake after slicing.

Lychee Butter Cake (Recipe inspired from Baking with Fruits by Kevin Chai)
Serving size: 20cm/8 inch square cake, 16 slices
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Measuring spoon set
3) Spatula
4) Mixing bowl
5) Wire rack
6) 20cm (8inch) square pan
7) Flour sieve
8) Parchment/baking paper
9) Brush for oiling pan
10) Weighing scale
11) Balloon whisk
12) Aluminium foil
165g unsalted butter, softened
135g castor sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature ( 55-60g each)
1 egg yolk
3 & 1/2 tbs lychee syrup (from canned lychees) 
175g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 can tin of lychees, well drained. Slice each lychee whole into 3 smaller pieces.

Baking preparation: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 20cm/8inch square pan with baking paper.

Prepare dry ingredients: Sift flour into a large bowl. Add in salt and use a whisk to combine the flour and salt, ensure the salt is evenly distributed.

Making the batter: In a mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until pale and fluffy, as mentioned in How to Cream Butter. Add in whole eggs and egg yolk one by one to the creamed butter. Beat on medium speed until each egg is combined before adding the next. Scrape the sides and bottom of mixing bowl with a spatula after the third egg is beaten and combined. Beat the mixture for a further 15 seconds. Next, add in the lychee syrup. Beat until combined.

Incorporating the flour: Lastly, add in the flour mixture in two batches. Beat until the first batch flour of flour is absorbed before adding the second batch. Once the second batch of flour is absorbed, scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula to incoporate stray flour. Beat for a further 30 seconds to ensure batter is smooth and well mixed. Do not overmix or cake will be tough.

Adding the lychees: Fold half of the sliced lychees into cake batter and ensure lychees are evenly distributed. Pour into prepared tin and level top with a spatula, Spread the remaining lychees evenly on the top of cake batter.   

Baking the cake: Bake at 180 degrees C for 40-45 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer. It should come out clean. If not, return to oven to bake untill done.

1) Top of cake may brown faster than it is being cooked. If this happens, use a piece of aluminium foil to cover the top of the square pan.

2) 3 whole eggs can be used instead of using 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk. Having more whole eggs will result in a stronger structure and hence a less tender product. I substituted the egg yolk for whole egg to give a slightly more tender product.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cheesecakes and Baking Tips

When it comes to cakes, Cheesecakes belong to a league of their own. There are mainly two types of cheesecakes: baked and unbaked (also known as chilled cheesecakes). Cheesecakes are often flourless. However, some baked cheesecake recipes do call for small amounts of plain flour or corn starch to hold the cheesecake together and give it a more cake-like texture.

A water bath is sometimes used for baked cheesecakes. This involves the cheesecake tin submerged in a larger pan filled with hot water. Using a water bath promotes a moist environment and encourages even heat distribution, resulting in cheesecakes with creamier texture. Compared to the conventional butter cake, baked cheesecakes are actually baked custards, albeit creamier and denser. On the other hand, chilled cheesecakes often calls for whipped cream and gelatin powder to hold the structure. In fact, the texture of unbaked cheesecakes very much resembles that of a firm gelatinous cheesy mousse.

The main ingredients used in cheesecakes are cream cheese, eggs and sugar. The choice of cheese may differ slightly with some recipes suggesting ricotta, cottage or mascarporne cheese. Sometimes, it is a mixture of two types of cheese. Most people may be more familiar with the American style cheesecake which usually calls for sour cream or whipping cream as the liquid ingredient. American style cheesecakes are rich and dense whereas the Japanese cheesecake (also known as cotton cheesecake or souffle cheesecake) is light, velvety and cake-like.  

Cheesecakes may or may not come with a base. The base may be made from digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ground nuts, brownies, pastry or sponge cake.

I am a self-confessed cheesecake lover who loves to bake and eat cheesecakes. Having baked quite a couple of cheesecakes, the following are my observations and tips on baking/making cheesecakes. Hope they are useful to you: 

1) When cheesecakes are baked and come into contact with cold air suddenly, they may be subjected to cracks on the surface. This happens when the oven door is fully opened after the cheesecake is baked. To prevent cracks from surfacing, the baked cheesecake should be cooled in the switched off oven gradually for sometime before being removed to cool on a wire rack.

2) Cheesecakes baked in a water bath are less likely to experience cracks on the surface. The entire cheesecake would have a more uniform density and texture as opposed to cheesecakes baked without a water bath. Cheesecakes baked without a water bath would have tough and dry edges. Nowadays, I bake all my cheesecakes in a water bath.

3) When using a water bath, be sure to wrap 2 or more layers of aluminuim foil around the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent water leaking into the pan.

4) When a cheesecake recipe calls for whipping cream, do not overbeat the mixture when the cream is added. The cream may separate and result in an undesirable grainy texture.

5) When beating in eggs or liquid ingredients into cheesecake mixture, beat on low speed and mix until combined. Do not overbeat as air will be incoporated into the batter, resulting in a sunken cheesecake when cooled. Run a spatula through the cheesecake mixture in a zig zag manner to eliminate some of the air bubbles or rap the cheesecake tin on a solid surface and allow air bubbles to rise to the surface.  

6) Cheesecakes are done when they appear to be softly set and will jiggle slightly (centre is less set and  more wobbly compared to edges) when the pan is moved. The baked cheesecake will continue to firm up as it cools down after baking and when it is being chilled in the refrigerator. Personally, I like my cheesecakes to be softly set throughout the surface without the centre being more wobbly (when using a water bath).  

7) Baking times will affect the density of the baked cheesecake. Cheesecakes that are baked longer will be denser and dryer. Vary the baking time (shorten or lengthen)to get your desired texture. Cheesecakes that are overbaked will turn out dry and tough whereas cheesecakes that are underbaked may not hold their shape well (very watery in texture) when sliced. It will be easier to vary baking times using a water bath without drying out the cheesecake.

8) When using a water bath while the recipe does not call for one, the baking time will be longer.

9) When buying cream cheese, select the ones in rectangular blocks rather than those in tubs (more for cheese spread). The composition of the cream cheese in these packagings are different.

10) A good brand of cream cheese to use would be Philadelphia cream cheese.

11) Cheesecakes store for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. Cheesecakes can be frozen to last longer.

12) Always keep cheesecakes in the refrigerator and serve them chilled. According to some sources, the flavour of cheesecakes mature as the number of days pass.

13) When using vanilla, use the best quality vanilla to give the cheesecake a full bodied aroma. The difference in quality of vanilla used in cheesecakes is noticeable.

14) For unbaked (chilled) cheesecakes, the quantity of gelatin used is often crucial in ensuring that the cheesecake sets well. Ensure that gelatine is well dissolved using a bain marie/ double boiler but do not over heat the gelatine mixture.

15) To cut cheesecakes into neat slices, wipe the knife with a kitchen towel after every slice.

16) To give the cheesecake a smooth finishing around the perimeter, dip a knife in hot water. Dry the knife with a kitchen towel and run around the sides of the cheesecake. Repeat the step if necessary.

Baking cheesecakes is an uncomplicated affair. There are hardly any major disasters to send you on a panic. Whether you are a seasoned baker anot, it will be a good idea to include them on your baking list. So, why not get some cream cheese and start baking one right away?

The above are based on my observations and experience. The tips provided, while they work well for me, may not be suitable for everyone. Feel free to provide suggestions, opinions or comments on this article.

Useful References:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Earlier, my apple-upside down cheesecake vanished without a trace. This time round, I made sure that the same thing would not happen again.

I baked a cookies and cream cheesecake meant for my friend's birthday. To me, cookies and cream cheesecakes are no different from Oreo cheesecakes. If it has to be a chocolate sandwich cookie, the choice would be none other than Oreo.

Unlike the previous attempt, I decided to tweak the filling a little and simply added some finely ground Oreo cookies to the filling, hoping to achieve a texture similiar to that of cookies and cream ice cream, cream coloured with tiny flecks of Oreo. I ended up being too generous with the addition and the cheesecake filling turned out to a greyish-brown hue.

When the cheesecake was cooling down on a wire rack, the filling appeared to have totally set. From my previous experiences,  baked cheesecakes were supposed to be softly set instead while cooling on the wire rack. It then ocurred to me that I have probably overestimated and overbaked the cheesecake. Pressing down on the surface of the cheesecake with my index finger, the surface was dry and would not give way under pressure. It seemed as though  the cheesecake needed no further chilling in the refrigerator for the final firming up. Even though I had the hunch that the cheesecake would turn out rock hard after chilling, I chucked the cheesecake into the refrigerator as usual.

Decorating the cake was easy. It only involved placing Oreo sandwich cookies near the edges round the cheesecake. Some finely ground oreo crumbs were sprinkled in the middle for a final touch. After everything was in place, all I had to do was wait for the results.

Before the cutting of cake, I warned and apologized to my friend that I might have overbaked the cake. It turned out that my worries were unfounded. Whew! The Oreo cheesecake was desirably dense and smooth in the mouth. Nope, not dry at all as I had thought. I had been duped. 

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake a.k.a Oreo Cheesecake: ( Recipe adapted from Cheesecake Seduction by Catherine Lau)
Serving size: 12 slices
Taste and texture: Dense and thick but not dry. Shorten baking time to get a less dense and creamier texture.
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
2) Food processor/ rolling pin
3) Measuring spoon set
4) Spatula
5) Mixing bowls
6) Wire rack
7) 9 inch springform tin
8) Baking tray larger than springform tin
9) Aluminium foil

Biscuit base:
200g Oreo cookies, finely ground (cream filling removed)
90g melted butter
1 tbs brown sugar

Cheesecake filling:
500g cream cheese, softened
120g castor sugar
200ml whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
10 g Oreo cookies, cream removed and finely ground (This is optional. I used 30g Oreo sandwich cookies with cream removed and the cheesecake filling turned out very dark as depicted in pictures)
9 oreo sandwich cookies with cream filling, coarsely chopped (use hands to break into coarse bits) or 90g coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with cream removed.

9 Oreo sandwich cookies
1 Oreo sandwich cookie, cream removed and finely ground

Making the base: Prepare biscuit base as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin. Freeze prepared base for 10 minutes or until ready for use.

Preparing the oven: Preheat oven to 150 degrees C

Preparing cheesecake filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar untill creamy on medium speed. Add whipping cream and vanilla extract to cream cheese mixture on low speed. Beat until smooth and incorporated. Do not overbeat else the cream may separate (due to excessive beating), resulting in a grainy batter. Lastly, add the eggs and beat until combined on low speed.

Adding in cookies to cheesecake filling: Add in the finely ground cookie crumbs from 10g Oreo cookies (with cream removed) to the prepared cheesecake filling. Next, mix in the finely ground cookie crumbs a little at a time. Stop adding once you are satisfied with the colour. The objective is to obtain a texture similar to cookies and cream ice cream with tiny flecks of Oreo cookie. (This step is optional)

Lastly, fold in the coarsely chopped cookie bits, with or without cream filling as desired.

Baking the cheesecake: Pour filling onto biscuit base. Wrap top and sides of spring form tin with aluminium foil as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin. Bake at 150 degrees C for 1 hour 15 minutes in a water bath. The filling should be set and will not jiggle much when pan is moved.

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

Decorating the cheesecake: To decorate the cheesecake, place the 9 Oreo sandwich cookies near the edge and around the cake. Sprinkle with oreo cookie crumbs in the centre. Serve cheesecakes chilled.

1) To slice cheesecake nicely, wipe the knife after each slice with kitchen towel/s.
2) To smooth the sides of the cheesecake, dip a knife in hot water. Wipe the knife dry and run it around the perimeter of the cheesecake. Repeat the step if necessary.
3) This recipe uses 3 to 4 tubular packs (150g per tube) of Oreo cookies.
4) I baked the cheesecake for 1 hour 45 minutes resulting in a very dense texture. Any longer and the cheesecake would dry out.

Instagram link:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Preparing a Cheesecake Tin and Water Bath

Preparing the cheesecake tin requires some effort. Firstly, a piece of aluminium foil is placed over the base of the springform tin. The springform ring is then placed over the foil and secured onto the base, sandwiching the aluminium foil. 

Next, the biscuits are whizzed in the food processor into fine crumbs. Biscuits can also be placed in a ziplock bag and crushed into crumbs using a rolling pin. Melted butter and brown sugar are then added and mixed with the biscuit crumbs until well combined. The sandy mixture is then pour onto the base of the springform tin which was line earlier with foil. Using the back of a spoon, the biscuit mixture is flattened uniformly. Once the biscuit base is prepared, Freeze it for 10 minutes or until cheesecake filling is prepared for use.

After the cheesecake filling is prepared, the filling is poured onto the prepared biscuit base. The bottom and sides are then wrapped with two layers of foil. This is to prevent water from the water bath leaking into the cheesecake base. The prepared springform tin is placed onto a larger baking tray/tin and is placed into the oven. Hot water is poured onto the baking tray up to one-third the height of the springform tin. This is what is known as baking using a water bath.

A water bath helps to maintain a moist environment and uniform distribution of heat during the baking process. The resulting cheesecake will be creamier, without the presence of dry sides and surface. Waterbath baked cheesecakes are also less susceptible to big cracks upon cooling.

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Where is the Cake?

Frankly, I have a confession to make. Over the weekend on saturday, I was in the midst of a battle in my kitchen in the wee hours. The cause that broke the peace at such late night ? An upside-down apple cake. It was'nt just any apple cake. To be exact, it was Rose's upside-down apple cake.

Who is Rose you may ask. She is none other than Rose Levy Beranbaum, a name I have learnt to remember by heart, an established baker and cookbook author. Among her works are The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible and last but not least the highly acclaimed Rose's Heavenly Cakes.

Before the cake was done, I was expecting the cake to be good. When I took my first bite into the cake, 'good' was probably an understatement. It was mind-blowing. I was amazed at the ultra-light texture of the sponge and the caramel baked apple top. Lovely~! Once again, I forgot to include an ingredient this time - vanilla. The exclusion of vanilla did not mar my experience. Even without vanilla, the cake had tasted so superb. I helped myself slice after slice and stopped at my third serving. At that moment, I wish I had my camera around. Sorry folks! I will re-cake this soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Madeira Cake

It seems like I am on a baking spree this week, having baked for 4 days consecutively in a row. Since the mood of baking was present, I decided to make good use of it. From my tiny little library of aboout 30 bakebooks ( it is still growing), I lifted out this tiny handy booklet called Cakes and Slices and chose the Madeira cake.

When I first baked the Madeira cake, I thought it is just a lemon butter cake. After doing some reading, I found out that the Madeira cake is named after the Madeira wine.  The Madeira cake is a sponge cake commonly flavoured with lemon and is traditionally used in English cookery ( according to Wikipedia).

Based on my last experience, the cake turned out dry but has a nice buttery lemon flavour ( I forgot to man my oven and overbaked for 15 minutes, lol ). Hence, I tweaked the recipe a little and added 4 tablespoons of lemon juice instead. This resulted in a moist lemony cake with extra tang. The tang would linger in the mouth for a moment after the cake is swallowed. I was definitely too generous with the lemon juice.  

The cake did not brown nicely as compared to the previous. One reason could be the reduced amount of sugar and the shorter baking time. It was done in 45 minutes when the recipe stated one hour. My last cake was baked for 1 hr 10 minutes, hence the dry texture. 

One bite into a slice of the cake reveals a firm yet soft texture. However, the extra tang of the lemon juice has snatched the glamour from the butter. Next time I would reduce the amount of lemon juice to balance the butter lemon fragrance.

Madeira Cake ( recipe adapted from Cakes and Slices )
Serving size: 7 inch or 8 inch round cake, 10 -12 slices
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Measuring spoon set
3) Flexible spatula
4) Mixing bowl
5) Wire rack
6) 18cm or 20 cm round pan
7) Flour sieve
8) Parchment/baking paper
9) Brush for oiling pan
10) Food grater for zesting lemon
11) Weighing scale

180g butter, softened
175g castor sugar
3 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
185g self raising flour, sifted
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (grated over the sugar and rubbed with sugar using hands)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preparing the tin: Line the base of a 18cm or 20cm round pan with parchment/baking paper. Grease the tin with oil or butter.

Preparing the oven: Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

Creaming the butter: In a mixing bowl, beat butter on low speed until it is creamy. Add sugar rubbed with zest into butter and beat until sugar is evenly distributed. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until butter mixture is pale and fluffy. Refer to How to Cream Butter for detailed explanations.

Adding eggs and lemon juice to creamed butter: Add beaten eggs to butter in 3 portions. Beat each portion until incorporated before adding the next portion. The butter and egg mixture should be well combined. Next, add lemon juice and mix well.

Adding flour to egg-butter-lemon juice mixture: Add sifted self raising flour in 2 additions, beating the first addition until absorbed before adding the second. After the second addition of flour is absorbed, scrape sides and bottom of mixing bowl with a flexible spatula. Beat for a further 30s  to obtain a smooth and well combined batter. Do not overbeat at this point in time after adding the flour or the cake will be tough.

Baking the cake: Pour batter into prepared cake tin and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Cooling and unmoulding cake: Run a spatula along the perimeter of cake to unmould cake. Cool cake upright on a wire rack.

1) Rubbing zest and sugar will release more lemon flavour into the sugar and cake.
2) The taste matures and is even better the following day.
3) To add moisture, the recipe can be tweaked by adding yoghurt, sour cream or milk.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Cream Butter

Creaming butter is one of the most basic techniques in baking. Most cakes and cookies would require the butter to be well creamed so as to achieve a tender fluffy baked product. Well creamed butter is especially important in cakes.

To cream butter well, the butter has to be first softened at room temperature. How do we know if the butter is soft enough? To test the softness, use a butter knife to cut into the butter. When the butter offers little resistance, it is soft enough to cream. Do not over soften the butter such that it turns oily. The butter will not cream well.

Butter is usually creamed with castor sugar. Castor sugar is used as it has fine grains and hence a larger surface area. When the butter is creamed with the castor sugar, the sugar grains cut through the butter and aerates it, creating air bubbles. These air bubbles help cakes to rise and maintain a light texture. Icing sugar is not recommended for creaming as it does not aerate the butter well. On the other hand, using coarse sugar will result in baked products with coarser texture.  

Firstly, beat the butter on low speed briefly so that it becomes creamy. Add in the sugar and continue beating on low speed to combine. When the sugar is evenly distributed, increase speed to medium and continue beating.

Initially when the sugar is added, the texture of the butter is somewhat sandy. As we continue to beat the butter, the sugar seems to dissolve into the butter. In the midst of the beating process, stop the beater and use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to allow stray sugar and butter to be incorporated.

Further beating of the butter will result in an increase in volume and the butter will become creamy and less sandy. Notice that the colour of butter will start to pale.

Finally, when butter is properly creamed, the colour will be off-white. The resulting texture is thick and creamy like mayonnaise and is only slightly sandy/gritty since the sugar may not dissolve completely. At this point, the volume has increased noticeably. Do not continue to cream the butter or it may soften and all efforts will be wasted.

In recipes where the amount of sugar far outweigh the amount of butter, the thick and creamy mayonnaise texture would not be possible to achieve. The volume of creamed butter in this case would still increase but will be far more sandy rather than creamy.

Creaming of butter can be done with a wooden spoon, a handheld beater or a stand beater.

Useful References:
1) Baking911: Creaming Butter
2) Epicurious: Video on creaming butter

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The Meaning Behind Baking Library

Baking Library was born on 12 Dec 2008. I was racking my brain for a name that represents me or my ideals. One thing I knew for sure is that the first word has got to be the word 'Baking'. After some deliberation, I decided on the name Baking Library.

Why Baking Library of all names? Since my birth month is in October, my horoscope is Libra, thus that making me a Libran or Librarian. At the same time, I am also a bakebook collector, trying to grow my library of bakebooks. Hence, I started out with my blogging persona as the Baking Librarian. As time past, the name changed as my friends started to call me Bakertan, which signifies who I truly am, a homebaker with the chinese surname 'Tan' and at the same time an aspiring baker/pastry chef =].

Most importantly, this blog was created to serve as a platform to impart and share knowledge with others. My idea back then was to transform this blog into a comprehensive library where readers can refer to for tips and techniques, preparation of ingredients and baking pans, things that can go wrong during baking and how to prevent them and an array of usuable recipes to select from.

When I first started out baking, I realised that it is not easy to figure out the instructions on cookbooks and online references. There would be some baking terminologies which only experienced bakers would understand. After searching high and low for the answers online and from bakebooks, I learnt to overcome the knowledge barrier. With this in mind, I hope to be as precise as possibly when explaining the instructions for my recipes so that the occasional baker or first-timers would have an easier time to grasp. Do bear with me if I end up being long winded though.

However, with the level of experience I have at hand currently, I cant really impart but can only share my knowledge with others. The section 'Baking Tips and Techniques' was created recently for this purpose. In time to come, I hope that I will improve by learning from the online community and my valued readers. Do feel free to comment or provide advice along the way as I embark on this learn and bake journey.

Its going to be a long road ahead for the transformation. In a few years down the road, I hope to see my blog heading in the right direction. Pray that I dont lose my momentum for blogging in the meantime.

For any use of the pictures, recipes, instructions and information found on my blog, please give due credit wherever possible. Thank you.

Any queries or feedback may be forwarded to my mail at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hello! Pandan Chiffon Cake

Whew! I am finally done with my cheesecake order. Glad that my friend's colleagues and boss liked it. They mentioned that I can start selling it outside. That was a sign of relief and at the same time some encouragement to me. Even though I have a certain level of confidence in my New York cheesecakes, there was this concern circling me. They had to be at least decent tasting to others as I do not want to embarrass my friend. As to whether I would want to start selling it, it would be highly unlikely. Currently, the only orders I would entertain would be from friends and family members.

Now that the cheesecake baking marathon is over, it is time to bake stuff for my own consumption. Its been ages since I said Hi to my long time friend - the Pandan Chiffon Cake. This was the very first baked good that was produced by my oven after several failed attempts.  

Pandan is a common name known by southeast asians. It is also known as Screwpine to western countries, just like chinese sparsley is known as coriander or cilantro. In Singapore, we use it mainly to prepare Nasi Lemak, peranakan kuihs (colourful and dense chewy snacks), curry and not forgetting our signature green pandan chiffon cakes. Very often, pandan leaves are used in conjunction with coconut, just like the combination of rum and raisins. When the two are combined, a 'lethal' and highly addictive flavour is developed.

I came across a pandan chiffon cake recipe from Tested and Tasted and decided to try it out. The recipe was provided by Judy Koh from Creative Culinaire in the Sunday Times Lifestyle section. Something was puzzling me when I was browsing the recipe. It uses 4 egg whites but uses a 23cm chiffon pan. Previously, I have baked chiffon cakes which required 5 egg whites in a 21 cm pan and the size was just nice. The instructions also stated using a temperature of 190 degrees C which is much higher than what was expected.

Sticking to my instincts and experience, I baked the batter in a 21cm pan at 175 degrees C and reduced it to 170 degrees C. It rose to half the height of the pan, which was something I expected. Afterall, it could'nt have risen higher than a chiffon cake that uses 5 egg whites. Judging from the height of the finished cake, baking it in a 18cm pan would be more appropriate.

When the cake was done, I inverted the pan and rested its 3 'legs' on 3 round pans. Overall, the combination looks like a metal drum set. The cake turned out quite alright, except it sunk a little towards the inner perimeter, which was a first for me. Perhaps I should have stuck to 175 degrees C all the way. Looks like I have lost my mojo for chiffon cakes. Despite the slight imperfection, the cake was polished off in less than 3 hours. I ate three fifths of the light textured snack and my younger brother ate the remaining 4 slices in one shot just before he was tucking in to his takeaway economic mixed vegetables rice which was meant for dinner. So I inquired if he was hungry or the cake tasted good. He gave a unreserved reply agreeing to the latter - 好吃~

Pandan Chiffon Cake (Recipe slightly adapted from Judy Koh's recipe in Sunday Times Lifestyle section)
Serving size: 8 -10 slices
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
2) Measuring spoon set
3) Spatula
4) Mixing bowl
5) Metal bowl
5) Wire rack
6) 18 cm or 21 cm chiffon tin (oil-free)
7) Balloon whisk
5 pandan leaves
3 tbs water
50g egg yolk (about 3 yolks)
30g castor sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbs + 1 tsp corn oil
2tbs + 1 tsp coconut milk (I used packet coconut cream)
1/4 tsp pandan paste
55g cake flour
120g egg whites at room temperature (about 3 to 4 egg whites)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
40g castor sugar
1) Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
2) Wash the pandan leaves and cut into thin strips. Blend with the water. Add more water if needed. Pass the pandan puree through a sieve and set aside 3 tbs of the pandan juice.
3) In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 30g sugar, salt, corn oil, coconut milk, pandan juice and pandan paste until smooth and combined.
4) Sieve cake flour into egg yolk mixture and mix until smooth and combined.
5) In a metal bowl, beat eggs whites, cream of tartar and 40g sugar starting with low speed. When the egg whites turn frothy, slowly increase the speed to high and beat until egg whites are at stiff peaks. This is when the bowl is overturned, the egg whites would not budge. Egg whites form shiny and creamy upright peaks when beater is withdrawn.
6) Fold one third of beaten egg whites with a balloon whisk into egg yolk mixture to lighten and mix well. Incorporate 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.
7) Pour batter into chiffon cake tin carefully and bake for 40-50 minutes.
8) Invert chiffon cake tin to cool before unmoulding.  

1) Chiffon tin must be oil-free. Do not grease, line or flour the tin.
2) Metal bowl for beating whites and beater must be oil-free. Egg whites should be at room temperature. These are necessary to obtain maximum volume for beaten egg whites.

Say Cheese ~~~


A good friend of mine asked for my help in baking cakes for her colleagues as her internship is coming to an end. So I asked her what type of cakes she would like me to do. She replied cheesecakes and so the order is firmd up. I needed to bake 27 slices of New York cheesecakes and that would mean a total of three 9-inch round  cheesecake.

The baking of these cheesecakes would take a total of two days. Why two days? I only have one 9-inch springform pan, meaning only one cheesecake can be done at a time. The first and second cheesecake each took me about 9 hours including 45 minutes of preparation time, 1 hr 40 minutes of baking, approximately 1 and half hours or cooling and 4-6 hours of chilling in the refrigerator. It may sound daunting but do not be fooled by the long period of time needed to complete one cheesecake, most of it is actually waiting time. As I am writing this post, my third cheesecake is waiting in the oven.

When it comes to cheesecakes, I totally adore New York style cheesecakes. These baked goods are dense, creamy and vanilla scented flourless cakes. A good cheesecake needs to be baked in a water bath as the water bath helps to keep the baking environment moist and allow an even distribution of heat. The resulting cheesecakes would then not turn out dry at the top and sides, develop sunken centres or run risks of cracking while cooling off. As vanilla is the main flavour here, it is imperative to use a trusted brand of vanilla extract to give that rich full-bodied aroma.

New York Cheesecake
Serving size: 12 slices
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
2) Measuring spoon set
3) Spatula
4) Mixing bowls
5) Wire rack
6) 9 inch springform tin
7) Baking tray larger than springform tin
8) Aluminium foil

Biscuit base:
200g digestive biscuit
2 1/2 tbs brown sugar
90g butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:
500g cream cheese, softened
40g butter, softened
140g sugar
280g sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

1) Prepare biscuit base as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin.
2) Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
3) Beat cream cheese and butter untill creamy on medium speed. Add sugar and beat until combined.
4) Add sour cream and vanilla extract to cream cheese mixture on medium low speed. Beat until smooth and incorporated.
5) Lastly, add the eggs and beat until combined on low speed. Use a spatula to run through the filling in a zig zag manner to eliminate air bubbles.
6) Pour filling onto biscuit base.
7) Wrap top and sides of spring form tin with aluminium foil as mentioned in Preparing a Cheesecake Tin. Bake at 160 degrees C for 1 hr 40 minutes in a water bath.
8) When baked, allow cheesecake to cool in the oven with oven door ajar for 30 minutes.
9) Remove the tin from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
10) Place cooled cheesecake tin in the refrigerator and chill for 4-6 hours. Dislodge cheesecake from cheesecake tin. Serve cheesecakes chilled.

1) To slice cheesecake nicely, wipe the knife after each slice with kitchen towel/s.
2) To smooth the sides of the cheesecake, dip a knife in hot water. Wipe the knife dry and run it around the perimeter of the cheesecake. Repeat the step if necessary.
3) This recipe uses only 2 eggs and it easily yields a denser cheesecake using a shorter baking time. Some cheesecake recipes with the same amount of cream cheese use up to 4 eggs and generally yield softer creamier cheesecakes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time for cookies - Lemon Shortbread

Last week, I received a surprise email from a fellow blogger friend - Pei-Lin from Dodol & Mochi. What was surprising was that she was planning to come down to Singapore in August and she is inviting me together with several SG food bloggers for a Blogger's Meetup.

I almost jumped with excitement at the thought of Pei-Lin coming over and attending the meetup. This would be my first time meeting her in person and my first blogger's meetup. Woah, two first times at one go! It would be an enriching experience meeting up like-minded people who have the same interests in food. Keeping my fingers cross that day will come soon..

It has been a week since I baked anything. When it comes to baking, I am indecisive. Most of the time I would not bake something I have carefully planned. Having said that, the Lady Baltimore cake which I intended to do has been shelved for nearly 3 weeks. Coupled with the fact that I have endless recipes waiting for me to try them out, making a decision is never an easy chore.  Indecisiveness + recipe overload = headache!

In the end, I settled for a simple lemon shortbread recipe. In the past, I have always thought that shortbread =  a type of bread. How naive I was. Shortbread is a cumbly textured cookie which comprise of a few very basic ingredients such as sugar, butter and flour. In my case, lemon zest, salt and rice flour were added.

The addition of rice flour served its purpose well. Previously, I have made lemon shortbread without rice flour and they turned out crunchy. However, these cookies did not keep the crunch well. It did not take long for these lemon shortbread to lose their crunch in the unfriendly humid weather. It was an awkward outcome. On the other hand, this batch of lemon shortbread using rice flour fared much better. They turned out to be more crumbly than crunchy and did not turn soft easily.

Lemon Shortbread ( recipe adapted from I Can Bake by Agnes Chang)
Serving size: 20- 24 squares
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Grater with fine holes
4) Measuring spoon set
5) Spatula
6) Mixing bowl
7) Wire rack
8) baking trays/ cookie sheets

125g unsalted butter
70g caster sugar
120g plain flour
60g rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (grate lemon zest over sugar)
caster sugar or demarara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1) Sift both types of flour into a big bowl. Add salt and use a whisk to ensure mixture is evenly distributed. Set aside.
2) Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium speed for 2 minutes until butter mixture is pale and fluffy
3) Add the flour to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure loose flour is incorporated.
4) Turn the dough into baking/parchment paper and roll the dough into a 1 inch x 1 inch (2.5cm x 2.5cm) square log. Refrigerate or freeze until log is firm. Slice the log into squares of 1 cm thickness. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
5) Place squares onto baking trays lined with baking/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and bake for 18 - 25 minutes.
6) Remove cookies and leave to cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container when completely cooled.

1) Rub the lemon zest and sugar to impart more flavour to the cookies.
2) If log is too firm it may become brittle and hard to slice. Let log soften a little until it is easier to handle.
3) You may choose to roll the dough into a circular log instead of a square log. If doing so, give the log a quater-turn periodically as you slice it to maintain the circular shape.
4) Alternatively, roll the dough between 2 sheets of baking/parchment paper. Chill dough until firm and stamp out shapes using a cookie cutter into attractive shapes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Banana Kueh with Chocolate Frosting?

What was meant to be a banana cake turned out to be a banana kueh instead. I had planned to try out the banana cake with chocolate frosting from Nancie McDermott's Southern Cakes. Borrowed the book a second time and I was tempted to at least try out one of the promising cakes.

I can only say my journey was wrought with perils. Only several hours after I assembled the cake did I realise I made a grave mistake. I added too much buttermilk, thinking that the cake required 1 cup when the recipe stated 1/2 cup. This was a blatant mistake. No wonder the cake did not seemed to rise much. There was far too much liquid for the amount of raising agents.  

Problems did not just stop at that. While making the frosting, the cocoa and butter mixture turned into an oily messy instead of a shiny essence as described as in the book. This was a familiar sight as I had such encounters previously. Determined to produce the frosting, I re-attempted and this time round I did not follow the instructions in the book. What I did was melt the butter first then added the evaporated milk and the cocoa powder. This should had been the proper method. There were still random grains of unmelted cocoa lying around but I decided to proceed with the addition of icing sugar. It was like undissolved bits of Milo powder when room temperature water is used.

I was skeptical about the amount of icing sugar used. It says 4 cups which is about a whooping 460g of sugar needed. In the end, I only used 300g of icing sugar to allow the frosting to reach a fudgy consistency. When I sampled the frosting, it was disgustingly sweet! Imagine even a sweet tooth like me cannot stand the sweetness. Nevertheless, I assembled the cake and prayed that the overall taste would not be so sickly sweet afterall. Thankfully, the sweetness of the assembled cake was mellowed down to an acceptable level, albeit it was leaning towards the sweet side. Perhaps due to the chilling of the the cake overnight, it tasted like a chocolate frosted layered banana kueh. Interesting~ 

My Lessons Learnt:
1) Read the ingredient list CAREFULLY.
2) Melt the butter first before adding the cocoa powder. Do not dump both the butter and cocoa together to melt.
3) Avoid frostings with ridiculous amounts of sugar.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I attempted baking bread for the first time time few days back using a sweet butter bun recipe. Well it was'nt exactly the first bread attempt to be exact. I had made pizza dough prior to that. However I would'nt consider pizza dough to be a proper 'bread'. Before I had time to take pictures of the butter buns, they were all gobbled up. These buns pretty good when they were fresh out of the oven. When the buns were cooled, they did'nt taste as fluffy. This is something I need to improve on when making bread again.

While I looked through the ingredients I had on hand, I was deciding on whether to use the crumbly cream cheese which were meant for my previous blueberry cheesecake. After some deliberation, I decided I would go ahead and use it. The cream cheese might not look appealing physically but it did not mar the taste of the baked goods.

The recipe to work on this time round is lemon cream cheese cupcakes. I love to bake cupcakes. There is much less clearing and washing to be done and the preparation time is kept to a minimum. Just imagine having to wash the beaters for 2 to 3 times just to make a cake sometimes. Thats tedious!

I pretty much looked forward to the end product of the baking session, wondering how a lemon cream cheese butter cake would taste like. The verdict? Truly delicious cupcakes that are soft and fluffy, way softer than the usual butter cakes. Its texture will mislead one into thinking its a sponge cake. I guess the addition of cream cheese works wonders in this recipe.These cupped snackers are kind of like a cross between a lemon butter cake and a light textured lemon souffle cheesecake. Looks like I have found a worthy use for my crumbly cream cheese afterall.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes ( recipe adapted from Tempt: Cupcakes to Excite by Betty Saw)
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater or wooden spoon
2) Flour sieve
3) Grater with fine holes
4) Measuring spoon set
5) Muffin tin with holes 5cm in diameter measured from the base
6) Spatula
7) Mixing bowl
8) Cupcake liners/paper to fit
9) Toothpicks, wooden skewers or cake tester
10) Wire rack
Serving size : 11 - 12 cupcakes

135g Self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g butter, softened
90g cream cheese, softened
140g caster sugar
2 eggs (55g to 60g per egg)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon (grate lemon zest over sugar)
1 tbs lemon juice

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
2) Sift flour and baking powder into a big bowl. Use a whisk to ensure mixture is evenly distributed. Set aside.
3) Place butter and cream cheese into a mixing bowl. Beat untill creamy.
4) Add in sugar and lemon zest and continue to beat until cream cheese mixture is creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes on medium high speed.
5) Beat in eggs into cream cheese mixture one by one and continue to beat till smooth and combined.
6) Add in the flour mixture and lemon juice. Beat until batter is creamy smooth and combined on low speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula during the beating process to incoporate stray flour and ingredients.
7) Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Spoon batter into cupcake liner till 2/3 full.
8) Bake for 18 minutes. Test for doneness using a toothpick or skewer. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in cupcake center comes out clean .
9) Leave to cool on a wire rack. Keep in airtight containers for up to 3 days.

1) Grating lemon zest over sugar captures more of the lemon oil that is released while grating.
2) You may want to rub the zest and the sugar to release more lemon oil.
3) For moister cupcakes, fold 3 tbs sourcream or yoghurt to the batter, alternating with the flour
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