Sunday, 28 June 2009

Back again - just in time for another Daring Baker's challenge!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Hello! Its been ages I know. The last few months have been manic and the baking, I'm sad to say, has fallen by the wayside. I've been slowly getting back into it and I've made it in time for the June Daring Baker's challenge - Bakewell tarts!

Having lived in London for the past 2.5 years, I've seen Bakewell tarts in various shops and menus and have always known they are a classic English dessert. Surprisingly, though, my curiosity has never gotten the better of me and I've never actually tasted one! So, now seemed as good a time as any to give it a go.

The recipe we were given was really easy to follow and I must say I was extremely happy with the way the tart turned out. It wasn't just that it was yummy, but I thought it looked quite good as well! Like something you could have bought in a store. Now I suppose whether this is a good or bad thing really depends on your perspective. M and I are always having little debates about this - he believes that home-baked goods should look slightly imperfect and that they were made at home while I, on the other hand, believe that they should look professionally made even when made at home. What do you think?

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds
Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

TWD: French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

Its insane how quickly time passes. It feels like not too long ago it was just Christmas and now we are already firmly in the middle of March! In times like this, when I am feeling stressed and busy, I sometimes wish I were still a child, when life was infinitely simpler. Although I can't go back in time, I find that there are certain foods that remind me of my childhood and never fail to bring a smile to my face. One of these foods is pound cake. 

I grew up on the Sara Lee variety. My mom was not a baker and to a child like me, it tasted absolutely delicious. Now I find it much too sweet and heavy. This week's recipe, although not technically a pound cake, certainly reminds me of one. But where the Sara Lee pound cake is too sweet, I found this just right and instead of being heavy and dense, this cake was nice and moist. 

The best testimony as to how good this cake is? One day after I baked it (and it does taste better the second day), we only had half a loaf left!

For recipe, click here.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Chocolate Valentino Cake with Malted Milk Ice Cream

This month, the DB assignment came in 2 parts. We were asked both a make a version of a Chocolate Valentino cake, using our favourite chocolate, and an ice-cream, in any flavour of our choice. Now whenever I see an assignment like that, I think "What fun!" I get to make what I like to eat instead of having it dictated to me. It does, however, create a little bit of a dilemma as there is just so much to choose from! After stressing somewhat over the myriad choices, I finally settled on a milk chocolate Valentino cake and a malted milk ice cream from David Lebowitz's book, The Perfect Scoop.

Now I know its likely that not everyone likes the flavour of malted milk, but I just absolutely adore it. If I'm honest, I guess it transports me back to my childhood when one of my favourite drinks was Horlicks - served either hot or cold. I've had some great Horlicks gelato / ice-cream back in my native Singapore but for some reason, have never experimented with making my own. This it seems, was my chance.

I chose to leave out the malted milk balls, not because I don't like them, but because I really like my ice creams simple (i.e., without add-ins like chips, pretzels, cookie dough, etc.) This is in direct contrast to M's preferences but hey, I'm the one making the ice cream!
The ice-cream was absolutely fantastic - extremely creamy with a healthy does of malt flavour. As for the cake, it was simple enough to make. I chose to make them in mini-heart shapes, in keeping with the name of the cake. Although my cakes deflated slightly after coming out of the oven, they tasted delicious. A perfect canvas for the malted milk ice cream.

Chocolate Valentino

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of your favourite chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Malted Milk Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebowitz

1 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup malt powder
6 large egg yolks

Warm the half-and-half with the sugar in a saucepan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, vanilla, and malt powder. Set sieve on top.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Add the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof plastic spatula. do this until the mixture gets thick enough and coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the sieve and whisk it into the malted milk mixture. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill mixture in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Makes about 1.5 quarts

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

So what do you get when you leave a TWD assignment till the last minute? Having to improvise recipes, that's what! Given I had procrastinated all weekend, I didn't get round to making this week's pick of Caramel Crunch Bars till Monday night. Reading through the ingredient list, I quickly realized that I didn't have any Heath toffee bits in my pantry. To be honest, even if I had read the list beforehand, I wouldn't know where to buy them here in London. I know you're going to tell me that I can make my own toffee, but that just wasn't the quick fix solution I was looking for late on Monday. 

So instead of the toffee bits, I sprinkled my bars with chopped hazelnuts. I have to say, I really enjoyed them this way. The bars are thin but the caramelized base paired perfectly with the thin layer of chocolate and nuts on the top. I suppose they might be better with toffee bits on top, but part of me wonders whether it would actually be too sweet. I guess there's only one way to find out - bake another batch!

For recipe, click here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

TWD: World peace in a cookie

I'm a cookie gal. I love all kinds of cookies and generally speaking, the more chocolate the better. As such, this week's TWD pick was right up my alley. Although I'm not a stranger to this recipe, being a big Pierre Herme fan, I just couldn't pass up the excuse to make these again. Yes, they are that good. Trust me.

These World Peace cookies, aka Korova cookies, are the brainchild of the aforementioned Pierre Herme. They are a crumbly chocolate sablé studded with chocolate chips and enhanced with fleur de sel. Essentially, they are a sophisticated French twist on the good ol' American chocolate chip cookie.

If you've never tried chocolate chip cookies made with fleur de sel before, you're really missing out. There's something about the slight saltiness that makes the cookies simply divine. M's verdict on these cookies? He thinks they really could bring us one step closer to that ever elusive world peace.

For recipe, click here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tuile cups with stewed apples

After the really complicated pick for December's Daring Baker's challenge, I was really excited to see that this month's recipe, which though requires some technique, was decidedly less involved. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

With so much choice, I was a little hard pressed as to which one to make, but ultimately decided to go for the plain Tuiles. Now I've made tuiles just once before, so by no means am I an expert in this. It took several batches of tuiles before I was finally happy with the thickness, the crispness, the browning at the edges and the shaping of them. I made both the regular curved shapes by draping the tuiles over my rolling pin, and also made tuile cups by putting them into a scalloped silicone baking mould.

Since the challenge called for something fruity and all I had in my kitchen at the time were apples, I simply stewed some apples and put them in the tuile cups. To finish, I gave them a light dusting of cinnamon.

From The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeinck

5 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake tuiles in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Yields: 20 small tuiles/6 large

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

TWD: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

Its Tuesday again, and that means its time for yet another Tuesday with Dorie post! Out of all the cookbooks that I own, that is without a doubt, hands down, my most used one and its thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of this group. This week, the chosen recipe is Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread.

Like so many recipes that I get to make as part of the TWD group, this is probably one that I wouldn't have chosen on my own. Yet, many times after making these recipes, I come to realize what I would have missed out on. This was another one of those.

The chocolate and ginger combination worked really well here, with the sweetness of the chocolate icing helping to tone down the tang of the ginger. I did, however, choose to leave out the crystallized stem ginger as I was afraid it would be too "gingery". I didn't miss it, but fans of ginger may want to throw them in for that added kick!

For recipe, click here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

It may be a new year but the TWD-ers are still working through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours! This week's pick was Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins.

Now, having had a break for the holidays, which though extremely restful and nice, I was itching to return to my kitchen and my beloved baking equipment. In addition, I was dying to test out some new kitchen gear which I had received as Christmas presents (Thanks guys! You know who you are). 

Since I've only been back in London a week, I still haven't quite gotten my routine down yet, so today saw me rushing home from work to whip up this recipe and put up this post! Thankfully, being a muffin recipe, they were in the oven in no time.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of cornbread. I'm even a lesser fan of Mexican food and related flavours, so today's recipe wasn't really for me. Still, I'm glad I made these for it gave me a chance to use the brand new plates that I received as a belated wedding present from M's aunts and uncles.

For recipe, click here.