Thursday, January 27, 2011

Almond Cookies

Finally! I finally managed to do some cookies Chinese New Year cookies. My idea is to work on either cashew cookies or almond cookies for a start and I settled on the latter. This almond cookie recipe requires no butter but uses oil instead. Hmm.. no butter? I normally wouldn't go for cookies that are butterless. No harm trying out the recipe since the dough seems easy to make with no creaming required. The best part about making it is that the dough requires no chilling at all!

It wasn't such a bad idea working on these cookies. Even though they lacked the buttery fragrance, the cookies tasted decently nutty and crunchy. After a few days of storage, they still keep their crunch really well. Neat! With the absence of butter, these cookies do not prove to be overly rich to the palate. I do find it a good change from the usual rich buttery cookies that are abound during the Chinese New Year period.

I know it is less than a week to Chinese New Year. I am still holding on to the possibility that I might be opening my 'mini pineapple tart factory' before sunday. Its either pineapple tarts or butter cakes, see how it goes... This might possibly be my final post before CNY, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! Huat ar!

Note:  I will be attempting to improve on the recipe. Find that there is a little something lacking in its taste. Texture wise it is pretty good. Will try to either do a butter version or substitute part of the flour with same weight of ground almond to improve the flavour.

Almond Cookies (recipe adapted from Delicious Nyonya Kueh and Desserts by Patricia Lee)
Serving size: about 50 cookies, fills one small CNY plastic cookie tub
Taste and Texture: Crunchy-crumbly, nutty, non-buttery
Equipment and materials:
1) Mixing bowl
2) Flour sieve
3) Baking/cookie trays
4) Wire rack
5) Measuring spoon set
6) Baking paper
7) Wire whisk

120g diced almonds, toasted
220g plain flour (try substituting some plain flour with same weight of ground almond for richer flavour)
100g icing sugar
105g corn oil
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt + a pinch more
2 egg yolks for eggwash

Making the dough:
Toasting the almonds: Place diced almonds in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper. Toast the diced almonds at 160 degrees C for 20- 25 minutes until lightly browned. This will improve the fragrance of the almonds.

Prepare dry ingredients: Sift flour, icing sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix dry ingredients evenly with a wire whisk. Add in the almonds and mix well.

Forming the dough: Add corn oil to the dry ingredients. Gather the mixture to form a dough. Gently knead the dough to incorporate dough crumbs.

Shaping cookies: Roll cookie dough between 2 pieces of baking paper to about 1cm thick. Cut out cookies with desired cutters. Gather scraps and continue cutting out dough until dough is used up.

Baking the cookies: Brush eggwash onto cut out cookie dough. Bake cookies at 160 degrees C for about 20 minutes. Remove baked cookies and allow them to cool on wire rack completely before storing in air-tight containers.

1) Try substituting some of the flour with ground almond for richer flavour. This may make the cookie melt-in-the mouth since there is less gluten due to less flour used.
2) Cookies taste better the next day.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cream Cheese Marble Brownies


These days, most fellow bloggers seem to be busy with baking cookies for the coming Chinese New Year. In Singapore, you can find most Chinese households stocking up on tubs of cookies and goodies - cashew cookies, green pea cookies, almond cookies, sugee cookies, pineapple tarts etc. Among these goodies, pineapple tarts have to be the most popular. With all these goodies around and the usual Chinese New Year feastings, it is hard to prevent ending up gaining some extra pounds.  

I haven't quite started on any Chinese New Year baking yet and it is rather late to say, since Chinese New Year is approaching in less than 2 weeks time. There are so many goodies that I am itching to try out but I feel that I do not have the energy (or maybe because I am lazy..) to go on a baking spree. As each day pass, I remain clueless as to what goodies to churn out for the coming Chinese New Year. Maybe I will just keep it simple and take things a step at a time. If I do manage to bake anything, I will be participating in Aspiring Bakers Challenge #3.

I am glad to say that my momentum is coming back! Whew.. Time to get the momentum into swing and kick some ass in the kitchen, lol... Two days back, I made some cream cheese marble brownies. Baking brownies is a simple affair as compared to other bakes out there. There was once I made 3 different dark chocolate brownies consecutively in a week. An idea came to mind a few days back. These sweet treats will be great for Valentine's day as an alternative to chocolates.

I passed some of these brownies to my buddy K and my baking buddy Stephanie. Both gave postive feedbacks. K commented that its nice and not too sweet. Stephanie feels that its chocolatey followed by cream cheesey and its not sweet too. It was a bit soft for her though. For me,  I thought that the cream cheese taste came first followed by the chocolate instead. It was quite an obvious layered taste, where one taste came right after the other. The only part that I feel could be improved was the height of the brownies (only about 1 cm tall!). They seemed a little short. Looking at the amount of batter, a smaller pan would be more appropriate.  

Overall, the recipe is not too shabby, yielding tender not too rich brownies that were neither fudgy nor cakey nor dry. The firmness could be altered by controlling the baking time, adding more flour or chilling according to one's preference.

Cream Cheese Marble Brownies (recipe adapted from Biscuit Code by Florence Tan)
Serving size: 20-25 squares
Taste and texture: Fudgy, cheesey-chocolatey
Equipment and materials:
1) 8 x 8 square tin or 9 x 9 square tin
2) Flour sieve
3) Weighing scale
4) Measuring bowls
5) Measuring spoon set
6) Wire whisk
7) Baking/Parchment paper
8) Standing/handheld mixer
9) Wire rack
10) spatula / wooden spoon

Chocolate Batter:
120g finely chopped dark chocolate (about 60%)
85g unsalted butter
95g castor sugar
100g whole eggs, at room temperature
85g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tbs Kahlua/ Bailey's (optional)

Cheese mixture:
60g unsalted butter, soften at room temperature
180g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
55g castor sugar
50g whole egg, at room temperature
2 tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat Oven - Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Melt chocolate and butter - Sit a heatproof bowl over pan filled with water. The base of the bowl should not be touching the water. Place dark chocolate and 85g butter in the heatproof bowl. Bring water in the pan to a low simmer to melt the chocolate and butter douber-boiler). Stir gently to combine. After chocolate and butter have melted, remove bowl from heat and allow it to cool.

Making chocolate batter - In a mixing bowl, whisk sugar and eggs with a wire whisk briefly to dissolve the sugar. Stir in flour and salt to combine. Next, add in the cooled chocolate butter mixture and Kahlua/Bailey's. Mix well to combine. Scrap sides and bottom of mixing bowl to incoporate stray flour and ingredients.

Making cream cheese batter - In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add in egg and beat well to combine, scraping sides and bottom of bowl when necessary.

Baking the brownies - Pour half of chocolate batter into a lined 8 x 8 inch square tin and level the surface. Spread cream cheese batter over the layer of chocolate batter. Scoop teaspoons of remaining chocolate batter randomly over the cream cheese layer. Use a toothpick or knife and swirl to create a marbling effect. Take carew not to over-swirl.

Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C. The top should be crusty and dull. When lightly pressed on the surface, the underneath feels semi-firm. Cool baked brownie in tin for 45mins before removing to cool completely on wire rack. Serve chilled or at room temperature as desired.

1) Chill to get a firm brownie or eat at room temperature if a soft brownie is desired

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oreo Butter Cupcakes

It has been a slow start to a new year where baking is concerned. For the past 3 weeks or so, I haven't been baking as frequently as I usually do. Consider it a little holiday or getaway from everything baking-related; baking, reading my bake books, blog hopping and blogging.

Thankfully, my baking momentum is returning slowly. Ought to grab hold of the opportunity to bake before procrastination sets in. To build up my momentum, I decided to do some Oreo Butter Cupcakes. The last time I did these mini cakes, all my cups overflowed. I was using mini cupcake liners for the first time and was too generous with the batter.

Learning from my previous mistake, I only filled these mini cupcake liners slightly less than the halfway mark. They rose nicely but turned out to be a little dry and were slightly compact, which was entirely no fault from the recipe but rather due to oversight on my part.

As I was unfamiliar with the baking times for these smaller sized liners, I had slightly overbaked my first batch of cupcakes. Maybe it will help to add a tad more milk the next time round to maintain the right moistness.

While I was adding the eggs to the creamed butter, the mixture curdled. The same thing happened the last time when I made these cupcakes. Previously, the mixture curdled when I added in the first egg. This time round, I added the eggs by the tablespoon but the mixture still curdled towards the end. Maybe next time I would ensure that each bit of egg added is well emulsified before adding the next addition.

Curdling is something that rarely happens for me. Hmm, maybe I lost my baking touch.... Or maybe it is the premium butter that I am using. When I used other non-premium butter (bought from Phoon Huat), curdling doesn't pose as an issue at all.... I am quite sure that my butter and eggs were at room temperature.Weird..  

Even though the mixture curdled, the batter turned out smooth after the flour is added. However, all the creaming that is done to the butter has been in vain. I am going to be extra careful the next time round and see if this mishap happens again.

Lessons learnt/ points to note:
1) be careful when adding eggs. ensure each addition of egg is well incoporated before adding the next.
2) add more Oreo.
3) add a bit more milk.
4) check for doneness at 15mins.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy 2011 - Summer Berry Tea Chiffon Cake


Happy 2011! Its a start to a brand new year and I am sure it would be a great year ahead.

It has been nearly two weeks since I last posted. I was supposed to be busy with with my 2nd, 3rd and 4th round of Xmas baking during the last week of 2011 but they never quite materialized. For my 2nd round of Xmas baking, I attempted to make a blackforest log cake for my family but it was a total flop attributed by too many mistakes which snowballed into a big failure. Nevertheless, I managed to make chicken cordon bleu and a hawaiian pizza for my family Xmas lunch. I didn't manage to take any pics of them though, hence there was nothing to blog about...

For the 3rd round of Xmas baking, I wasn't in the mood to bake as I was preparing for a presentation. So, there wasn't any bakes and any entries either....When I was about to commence on my 4th round of Xmas baking, I was down with fever and flu. How unfortunate!   

Now that I have fully recovered, it's time to do some baking and get back to blogging. I have originally intended to submit this Summer Berry Tea Chiffon Cake as an entry for the 1st aspiring bakers in Nov but I wasn't satisfied with the outcome then. The flavour was very pronounced but the texture was overly moist. Furthermore, my chiffon cake dropped out of the tin the moment it was overturned for cooling. This time round, I decreased the amount of liquid and it came out nicely moist and fluffy. Flavoured tea leaves works wonders when it comes to flavouring chiffon cakes. I shall be experimenting with more flavoured tea leaves for chiffon cakes in time to come.

Summer Berry Tea Chiffon Cake
Serving size: 10 -12 slices
Taste and texture: Fruity, soft, moist and fluffy with a little crunch.
Equipment and materials:
1) Stand electric beater/ handheld electric beater
2) Measuring spoon set
3) Spatula
4) Mixing bowl
5) Metal bowl
6) Wire rack
7) 21 cm chiffon tin (oil-free)
8) Balloon whisk

2 x Lipton Craneberry,Raspberry and Strawberry tea bags
65g hot water
60g vegetable oil (corn, canola etc)
5 yolks, at room temperature (use 55-60g eggs)
35g castor sugar
100g cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 egg whites, at room temperature (use 55-60g eggs)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
60g castor sugar

Making the cake:
Prepare Oven: Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

Prepare dry ingredients: Sift cake flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Use a wire whisk to whisk the flour and baking powder to ensure even distribution.

Prepare tea liquid: Soak 2 sachets of tea in the hot water and allow the flavour to disperse in the hot water. Allow tea liquid to cool.

Preparing the egg yolk mixture: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 35g castor sugar, vegetable oil and tea liquid until combined. Add flour mixture to egg yolk mixture and mix until smooth and well combined. Cut open the used tea bags and add in the wet tea leaves.

Beating egg whites: In a metal bowl, beat eggs whites and cream of tartar 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 (60g) slowly at this point and continue beating until egg whites are almost stiff. 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. Take care not to overbeat the egg whites as they will become dry or may water out.

Incorporate 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 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.

Baking the cake: Pour batter into chiffon cake tin carefully and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Cooling and unmoulding: 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.
3) Feel free to experiment with other fruity flavoured tea bags.

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