Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Highlights 2013 | 回顾 2013

The year 2013 has finally come to an end. Here is a lookback at what I did for the past year. Wishing everyone a happy new year, stay healthy and happy, and may all your wishes come true!

Cakes and Breads

From left to right, top to bottom:
Baking with Rice Cooker

From left to right, top to bottom: 
Aspiring Bakers #31 - Bao Ho Chiak

From left to right, top to bottom: 
Chinese New Year Cookies

From left to right, top to bottom: 

Turkish Beef Borek and Spinach Borek

I made a turkish beef borek and a spinach borek a few days before Christmas and nearly forgot about it. Let me quickly blog it down before the year ends. It was quite difficult for me to find the filo dough (filodeeg) here in Belgium and I had to drive to neighbouring villages and look through 2 carrefour supermarts before I could find a pack. 

1,99 euro for a pack of 10, that was not too expensive so I bought 2 packs. But I only used a pack of 10 for 2 boreks, which was actually not enough, since each borek required at least 7 pieces of filo dough, but I didn't wanna open a new pack, that was why both of my boreks especially my spinach borek was so thin. :)

Recipe adapted from here, for 4 servings.

I am submitting this dish to Asian Food Fest - West Asia Month, hosted by Shannon of Just As Delish.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

I nearly chucked this Christmas Log Cake on Christmas Eve.

This is probably my 4th time making a swiss roll in my entire life, I had only succeeded rolling a swiss roll twice without cracks, once for my giraffe swiss roll which I did ages ago, and another for last year's christmas log cake. I always regard the swiss roll as one of my nemesis in baking, I hate it when everything is smooth-sailing until the minute I roll the cake, that kind of sinking feeling when you know that all your efforts have gone down the drain...

Luckily this is supposed to be a christmas yule log cake (bûche de Noël) and I can cheat and camouflage the cracks by covering it with chocolate ganache! Although I was quite fond of my cocoa tree log pattern I had baked earlier. Unfortunately it will now be covered by an extra layer of ganache and will never ever see (christmas) daylight again.

See my baked cocoa tree log pattern, it was so lovely but it cracked when I attempted to roll it! I think I might have wasted too much time as I started late in making the cocoa buttercream filling and as a result the swiss roll was already cold and not so easy to roll. Either that or I was simply too stressed out because my hubby was hurrying me to feed the kiddies lunch (it was already 2pm on Xmas eve) and yet I was not done with the rolling. So I kind of rushed through everything and the results turned out appalling of course. It pained my heart to see my swiss roll crack! My swiss roll suffered yet another blow when I wrapped it up to chill in the fridge. As my fridge was full due to all the christmas goodies, I had to place it among some fruits, unfortunately an orange fell and made a dent in the middle of the log cake. Double whammy on Xmas eve! This was supposed to be my birthday cake but ended up I can only eat it after patching with ganache on Xmas Day. :(

You can also see my inexperience when I cut part of the swiss roll to make the branches. At first I thought I cut it too thin, then when I cut it again, I realised it was too thick and the proportion looked weird, so I had to stick it back with chocolate ganache, haha!

Anyway, it was a good learning experience. I hope to make the baked cocoa tree log pattern again for next year's christmas log cake and I wish I will have more luck rolling it successfully. That will be my project for next year - a successful christmas log cake and birthday cake! :-)

Recipe adapted from 孟老师的美味蛋糕卷

(a) Cocoa Tree Log Pattern (可可木材蛋糕卷 p156)
25g unsalted butter at room temp 
20g icing sugar, sifted
25g egg white at room temp (1 egg white = 40g)
20g cake flour or any low protein flour
5g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1. Allow the unsalted butter to soften at room temp. 

2. Then mix the butter, icing sugar, egg white, cake flour and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl, and mix well using a egg whisk or spoon.

3. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the cocoa batter into a lined and lightly greased swiss roll tin, and smoothen the batter evenly. (Note that the quantity of the cocoa batter is very little.)

4. Using a cake decorating scraper or a fork, make zig zag markings on the cocoa batter, and allow it to harden in the freezer for at least 15 min.

(b) Sponge Cake - Egg Separation Method (分蛋式海绵蛋糕 p68)
30g unsalted butter at room temp
80g egg yolks at room temp + 15g brown sugar, sifted
(1 egg yolk = 20g, about 4 egg yolks)
130g egg whites at room temp + 70g brown sugar, sifted
(1 egg white = 40g, about 3.5 egg whites)
45g cake flour, sifted

1. First, heat up the butter in a mixing bowl over a water bath (pot of boiling water beneath) until fully melted. I melted my butter for 20-30 sec in a microwave instead.

2. Then add the egg yolks in a mixing bowl placed over a water bath, add in sugar and use a egg whisk to whisk continuously until everything has melted and the batter becomes creamy in colour and thick in texture. You need to constantly stir otherwise the egg yolk may become cooked.

3. In a separate mixing bowl (dry, clean and grease-free), add in the egg whites and beat with a cake-mixer using low speed until bubbles appear and the batter becomes frothy. Slowly increase the speed to high, while adding sugar in 3 additions. Beat the egg whites until stiff peak is achieved. Finally reduce the speed to lowest speed and beat for 1 min to remove bubbles in the batter. Do not over beat.

4. Take about 1/3 of the egg white batter, add to the egg yolk batter and mix swiftly and gently with a rubber spatula. Then add in the remaining 2/3 of the egg white batter, and mix everything gently.

5. Add in the sifted flour in 3 additions, and mix gently until smooth and well-combined.

6. Add in the melted butter and mix well.

7.  Pour the final batter onto the Cocoa Tree Log Pattern in the swiss roll baking tin (taken just 5 min ago from the freezer), and use a scraper to smoothen the surface evenly. Lightly tap the baking tin on the table-top a few times to remove air bubbles.

8. Place it in a preheated oven to bake at 190C for 12-14 min. 

9. Once the swiss roll is ready and out from the oven, hold onto the baking paper sticking out and lift the swiss roll out of the baking tin. Carefully invert it it onto a cake rack with the Cocoa Tree Log Pattern facing up. Gently peel off the baking paper. The place another piece of baking paper on top and flip it back such that now the pattern is facing down. Now the swiss roll is ready for the filling to be applied. 

10. Once the filling is applied, wrap the swiss roll in a layer of clipwrap and chill it in the fridge.

(c) Easy Cocoa Buttercream Filling (p 156)
100g unsalted butter at room temp
30g icing sugar, sifted
55g fresh milk at room temp
10g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1. Allow the unsalted butter to soften at room temp. First use a spatula to mix the butter with icing sugar in a large mixing bowl. 

2. Then using a cake-mixer, increase the speed from slow to fast, and beat till light and fluffy.

3. Add in the milk slowly a little at a time and mix well.

4. Finally add in cocoa powder and mix until well-combined.

(d) Ganache For Covering Blemishes (adapted from Vivian Pang Kitchen)
200g dairy whipping cream
100g chocolate for baking, chopped finely 
(I am using callebaut fondant chocholate)
1 tbsp honey

1. Pour half of the whipping cream into a pot and let it come to a boil. 

2. Pour the boiling cream into a mixing bowl containing the chopped chocolate. Mix quickly using a fork or egg whisk. Add in 1 tbsp of honey and the rest of the whipping cream and mix until everything is melted and a smooth mixture is formed.

3. Keep the ganache mixture at room temp until its consistency has become thickened and more viscous. I chilled it in the fridge for 5 to 10 min before I started applying onto the log cake.

4. Before applying the log cake with the ganache, cut out 2 parts of the log cake to form branches on top and at the sides, and stick the branches to the main body by using the ganache. 

5. Then place the log cake on a cake rack which is then placed on top of a big plate or a piece of clingwrap, such that the ganache will flow down the cake rack onto the plate or clingwrap without dirtying the table-top. Once a layer of ganache has been applied, use a fork to make tree bark pattern on the log cake. Then chill the finished log cake in the fridge for the ganache to harden.

I am linking this post to Bake-Along #56 - Christmas Log organized by Zoe of Bake For HappyKids, Joyce of Kitchen Flavours and Lena of Frozen Wings.

Also linking this post to Cook Your Books #7 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

And to Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013 hosted by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year !!!

Photo credit : My snow-clad backyard in Dec 2009.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Turkish Baked Beef Pasta (Firinda Kiymali Makarna)

This is a turkish pasta dish called Firinda Kiymali Makarna and it is actually my first time trying out a turkish dish. I wanted to make some turkish borek, but somehow I couldn't find the filo pastry (filodeeg in dutch) at my nearest Carrefour supermart, so I changed my plans and decided to make this pasta dish for dinner instead. This pasta was very easy and though I didn't put enough salt, I was quite happy with the results especially since His Majesty (my son) asked for a 2nd helping. He especially liked the cheese crust! :)

Adapted from turkishcookbook.com, quantities doubled, for 5 - 6 servings.

400g spirelli pasta
400g minced beef
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 big onion finely chopped
1 big carrot, peeled and grated
1 can of tomatoes, 400g
1 tsp paprika powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1.5 cups of grated mozzarella cheese

1. Cook the spirelli in a big pot of slightly salted water till al dente. Drain the water and set the pasta aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a non-stick saucepan, drizzle 2 tbsp of oil, add in the chopped garlic and fry till fragrant. Add in chopped onions, fry for a while before adding in minced beef.  

3. Then add in the carrots, canned tomatoes, paprika powder, dried oregano to the minced beef and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 8 to 10 min.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

5. Take the beef mixture, add in the chopped parsley, mix everything together with the spirelli pasta and pour the pasta into an oven-proof pyrex dish. Mix the beaten eggs and grated mozzarella cheese together in a bowl and spread the cheese mixture over the top of the pasta.

6. Place the dish in the middle of the oven at 200 degrees celsius for 15 min or so until the top crust turns golden brown. Remove from oven and serve while hot.

I am submitting this dish to Asian Food Fest - West Asia Month, hosted by Shannon of Just As Delish.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Christmas Fruit Cake in 3 Ways (Oven, Rice Cooker and Steamer)

Christmas is just around the corner, how is your preparation for this festive season? I am sharing with you a easy Christmas Fruit Cake that can be made in 3 ways - in the oven, in the rice cooker and in the steamer. And what's more, it doesn't require a cake-mixer, not even a handwhisk! Just boil, stir and bake or cook! So there is absolutely no reason for you not to make this cake, unless you don't have a liking for fruit cakes, even then this cake may change your perception of how a fruit cake would taste like, really. 

I happened to see this cake recipe on my FB feed a week ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. It was posted on the Joy Of Baking website and it came with a video. This is a British Christmas Fruit Cake which is meant to be baked in an oven. I thought, why not make it into a steamed cake or a rice cooker cake, so that people with no ovens can also make a good cake for Christmas? 

So that was I set out to do. I tried to look around for more steamed fruit cake recipes to have a rough gauge of the time required for such a fruit cake. After comparing with another 2 other recipes, one from Amy Beh and the other from Alex Goh, both of which stated a steaming time of 1.5 to 2 hours in a steamer, I estimated that I should at least cook for 1.5 hours in my 5.5 cup rice cooker. 

I was right, and after 90 min in the cooker, I had a beautiful Christmas Fruit Cake in front of me. Oh, did I tell you that I got a new singing Cuckoo last week? Not the singing bird, but a Korean Cuckoo rice cooker. But this cake was made using my old workhorse, little white Toshiba, which is now 100% dedicated to trying out new rice cooker cake recipes. 

According to Joy of Baking, this cake tastes even better as it ages with time. After cooling, you should wrap it up tightly in clingwrap and it is best eaten at least after 1 day. So I made it on Tues night, wrapped it up and left it at room temperature overnight and ate a few pieces on Wed and Thur and I still have some left for Fri. It is really rich, moist and quite heavy, and just a little piece will make you feel full. I like the soaked raisins and the flavour of the spices really brings out the best in the cake. If you like it laden with alcohol, you can lace the cake by drizzling a small spoonful of Brandy or Grand Marnier over the cake every day. 

[Important : I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do, and I would be happy if you could give credit where credit is due, and link back to this post if you do make this cake and share it on your blog or facebook. Remember plagiarism is not the best form of flattery.]

Recipe adapted from Joy Of Baking

180g light brown sugar
240ml water
55g butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon *
1/2 tsp ground cloves *
1/2 tsp ground ginger *
300g raisins

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
195g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted with flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g mixed candied peel, chopped

1. In a large saucepan or pot, add brown sugar, water, butter, spices and raisins and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let it boil for 5 min, then remove from heat and allow it to cool till lukewarm.

2. Stir into this mixture, the lightly beaten eggs, sifted flour + baking soda + baking powder, vanilla extract and mixed candied fruits. Mix gently with spatula or spoon until everything is well-mixed. For rice cooker, pour into the greased rice cooker pot and cook for 1.5 hours; For steaming, pour into a greased 18 20 cm or 7 inch round cake tin and steam over high heat for 1.5 hours; For baking in the oven, pour into a greased loaf pan (recommended 9 x 5 x 3 inch) and bake in a preheated oven at 350F or 180C for 50 to 65 min. When it is done, remove from rice cooker pot/steamer/oven and let it cool on wire rack. Cover with clingwrap and store for a few days before serving. This fruit cake can be frozen.

Diameter of cake is 14 cm at the base and 17 cm at the top. Height of cake is about 7 cm.
- The only major changes that I made to the recipe were to reduce the brown sugar from 210g to 180g, the addition of 1/2 tsp of baking powder, the omission of salt and changing the method from baking in oven to cooking in rice cooker, all else remained the same. I also cut down the amount of cinnamon and ginger from 1 tsp to 1/2 tsp each, but this was a matter of personal preference.

- If you don't have either of the 3 spices or all 3, you may replace with 1.5 tsp of ground mixed spices. I didn't have ground ginger powder, so I replaced it with finely chopped fresh ginger. The ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger really adds an extra dimension of flavour to the cake, especially the cloves and ginger. Of course, you can adjust the amount and proportion of spices to your taste, by just adding a little in the beginning, then tasting the batter while cooking it on the stove, and adding more as you like.

- If using a rice cooker, cook for about 1 hour 30 min. Note that the cooking time will vary, depending on the brand, model, capacity and technology of your rice cooker. For mine, I pressed "Cook" a total of 6 times (8.30pm => 9.00pm => 9.17pm => 9.34pm => 9.51pm => 10.08pm), the first time took 30 min and the subsequent times took 17 min each. Pls take good care of your rice cooker and allow it to rest in between to prevent over-heating if it gets too warm. If you are not sure as to whether your rice cooker can be heated up for more than 1 hour, I would suggest either you make a smaller cake (say 3/4 of the ingredients) OR allow the rice cooker to rest in between, which means pressing "Cancel" and let it rest for 5 to 10 min before restarting "Cook", this should be done at half way or at 1 hour. I don't wish to be responsible for any damages to your rice cooker during the festive season. :p

- If using a steamer, steam at high heat for 1 hour 30 min +/- 10 min. Cover the top of the cake loosely with aluminium foil and allow enough space for the cake to rise. The water in the steamer must already be boiling before you put in the cake and if you need to add extra water, only add hot boiling water in the steamer. 

- If using an oven, bake in a greased loaf pan at 180C for 50-65 min. 

- Regarding the use of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and baking powder and whether they are interchangeable in this recipe, note that the original recipe (baked in the oven) only stated 1 tsp of baking soda, I added an extra 1/2 tsp of baking powder to make the cake rise better in the rice cooker as I don't like cakes which are too dense. You may choose to add only 1 tsp of baking soda as per the original baked recipe. For your info, baking soda is 4x the power of baking powder, and is only used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients, in this case raisins and mixed fruits. Too much baking soda can cause the cake to taste soapy. If you only have baking powder and no baking soda, do not attempt to use 4 tsp baking powder to substitute 1 tsp of baking soda (base on the logic that baking soda is 4x stronger), because too much baking powder not only causes the cake to become bitter-tasting, it will also cause the batter to rise rapidly and then collapse suddenly. In this case, you should add about 1.5 to 2 tsp of baking powder, that is if you don't have baking soda at home. But I would recommend adding the baking soda in this recipe as it will give a better rise for such a rich and dense cake.

If you are using self-raising flour, there is no need to add extra baking powder and salt since SR flour itself contains baking powder and salt. I omitted the addition of 1/2 tsp of salt simply because I forgot about it.

The total amount of raisins and mixed candied peel is 300 + 150 = 450g. Instead of 150g of candied peel, I added 75g of a mix of dried cranberries, cherries and orange peel and 75g of dried apricots. If you wish to add mixed nuts, you can substitute the candied peel with mixed nuts, but note that this cake should have more raisins than nuts as it is the soaked raisins which make the cake moist. You can add a mixture of light and dark raisins so that the cake would look prettier. Note that you should only soak the raisins, and not the candied peel or the nuts. 

PS: I must say that although I took great pains to test and try out each and every rice cooker cake recipe, I cannot be responsible for making sure that it will turn out well in each and every rice cooker, I never promise that and I never will. And since this is a cake that requires cooking for 90 min in the rice cooker, I wanna add an extra clause to say that I will not be responsible if anything happens to your rice cooker during or after baking this cake, in case I get blamed (I sometimes get nasty comments) for causing accidents in the kitchen. =)

I am linking this post to Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013 hosted by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Steamed Matcha Green Tea Cake

To get rid of my expiring "Red Man" matcha green tea powder bought from Phoon Huat, I decided to steam a matcha green tea cake this morning. I went back to my trustworthy match green tea pound cake recipe which I have used for making my matcha green tea rice cooker cake, cos that is the only way I know how to get rid of excess green tea powder, haha.

I haven't been steaming cakes using the steamer/wok for quite a while, and I forgot that if you steam at high heat, the surface of the cake will become very wrinkly, funny that it wasn't so for my steamed banana cake. And I had to add water half-way through steaming cos the water was evaporating so fast that there wasn't much water left. So these are clearly 2 disadvantages of steaming a cake in a steamer vs making it in a rice cooker. 

Anyway, here is a picture of my steamed matcha green tea cake, I am showing the bottom part of the cake, not the wrinkly top part. The taste is the same as the rice cooker version, but I would much prefer to make it in a rice cooker. Making it in a rice cooker is certainly more convenient, since I don't have to wash the steamer, and there wouldn't be so much water vapour dripping from my kitchen hood, even though it was turned on the whole time. 

Recipe adapted from my baked matcha green tea pound cake and my matcha green tea rice cooker cake. I hope you enjoy this lovely cake!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bulgogi / Korean Grilled Beef

I haven't been cooking korean dishes lately, it's been exactly a year since I made my first kimchi. I wanna make kimchi this winter, but I am either busy, sick or plain lazy to get started. But yesterday, I decided to make a korean dish which has been on my to-do-list for quite some time. 

So I asked dear hubby to go to the butcher to get some thinly sliced beef. As usual, I wasn't quite sure what they call it in Dutch or Flemish, I only knew it had to be beef sirloin or a prime cut of beef, and furthermore it had to be sliced very thinly. It took me quite some time to explain to my hubby what I wanted. In the end, we concurred that "rosbief" would be the correct description of what I needed for making bulgogi or korean grilled beef. Hubby came back from the charcuterie section of the supermart (strange but he didn't visit the slagerij) with a packet of what seemed to be paper-thin sliced beef that was cooked around the edges, complaining that it cost him a BOMB! Well, 29 euro per kilo or 17,50 euro for 600 grams was really quite expensive, in my opinion. He said this type of thinly sliced rosbief is usually what people in Belgium buy to put between their bread, and it is known to be expensive. What? Isn't it raw in the middle? I wouldn't eat raw beef with my sandwich, or raw horse meat. There are people who eat raw horse meat with their bread in Belgium. For me, it is like yucks, no way!

Anyway, here is how it looks like. In case any of my belgian or dutch friends wanna cook korean bulgogi for dinner, you know what to get from the slagerij. It is called "rosbief".

This korean bulgogi or korean grilled beef was actually quite easy to prepare. You need to marinate the meat well in advance, preferably overnight, but I only did it for 6 hours. I baked my beef spread out evenly in a big flat non-stick pan, and it only took me 4 to 5 min on medium-high heat. Since the beef slices were paper-thin, you shouldn't cook them for too long, otherwise the meat would be too tough and not juicy and succulent. I would say this is a fuss-free dinner for busy working mothers, since you can marinate the meat the night before and it will only take you 5 min to grill in a pan after you come back from work.

It was really good, thanks to the recipe from Aeri's Kitchen. Luckily my expensive rosbief didn't go to waste! I find the beef juicy and succulent, I could taste a tinge of sweetness from the sugar and pear juice, I could also taste the zingy flavour of onions and spring onions and the fragrance of the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Initially I thought 6 tbsp of soya sauce was too much and I wanted to cut it down, luckily I didn't. It was just nice, not too salty. I am definitely gonna try this over and over again.

This dish goes well with steamed white rice, but you can also put it between a baguette with some sliced tomatoes and lettuce (check out this bulgogi sandwich recipe). We had the bulgogi with thai rice, and a mixed salad with cherry tomatoes, a typical east-meets-west fusion-style dinner.

Recipe adapted from my favourite korean blogger, Aeri's Kitchen. Her recipes are very precise in terms of measurement, and I have never gone wrong following her recipes.

Main Ingredients
500g of thinly sliced beef (beef sirloin or any premium cut of beef)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 small carrot, chopped into matchstick size

6 tbsp light soya sauce
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp pear juice (I used juice extracted from 1/2 a pear, it was a western type of pear and not an asian pear as stated in her recipe. You can use apple too)
3 tbsp chinese cooking wine or sherry (or water if you cannot take alcohol)
3 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1.5 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 pinch of ginger powder (you can use fresh finely chopped ginger)
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil

1. In a big bowl, mix the sliced beef, onions, carrots with the ingredients of the marinade and mix well. Marinate it preferably overnight, if not at least half a day. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave it to chill in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

2. Heat up a big non-stick pan to medium-high heat and drizzle 1-2 tbsp cooking oil, then add the marinated beef and spread it over a thin layer. Stir and toss the beef to make sure all sides are cooked well. Do not over-cook! It only took 4 to 5 min for my beef as they were sliced paper-thin. 

Note: I used 600g of sliced beef and the marinade did not seem to be enough, and I had to increase the marinade proportionately. So I think 500g of beef would be better for the amount of marinade stated above.

I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #37 - Korean: The Feast of Hansik (Nov 2013), hosted by Grace of Life Can Be Simple.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RCC #8 - Rice Cooker Zebra Cake or Marble Cake?


The happiest thing in life is to have your kiddies surround you as you open the lid of the rice cooker, the moment of truth awaits all of us every time, imagine the feeling of excitement and trepidation! But I had to be on high alert, because my kiddies were pretty fast, in fact my boy was about to use the rice cooker spoon to scoop up the cake just like how he always sees me scooping up rice, and my girl wanted to touch the cake with her little hand. :p

Now what should I call this, a Rice Cooker Zebra Cake or a Rice Cooker Marble Cake? In any case, this is what I would consider a successful rice cooker cake. In terms of taste and texture, it is much much better than my very first rice cooker marble cake, although the steps are slightly more complicated, but it is worth all the effort. It is of course a completely different recipe than the previous one. I am glad to know that butter cakes (or marble cakes for that matter) can indeed be made successfully in a rice cooker, and they taste as good as those baked in an oven. In fact I feel that they retain the moisture much better. Further more, butter cakes baked in oven usually have a very high chance of cracking on top, but not so if you make them in a rice cooker, they will never crack! This is certainly one advantage of baking in a rice cooker! 

This time round, the base of my rice cooker cake didn't turn out to be as flawless as all my rice cooker cakes. It wasn't because I didn't unmould it properly. My rice cooker cakes don't need special skills to unmould. Well, read on and you will know.

I dunno how long I can keep making cakes in my little rice cooker, look at all the blemishes. I dun think it is a result of me making cakes in my rice cooker, I think it is just normal wear and tear, afterall it is already 5 years old. I can't remember when the first blemish appeared, but it just got bigger and bigger, and other blemishes quickly followed suit. 

My friend told me that a rice cooker salesman once advised her not to rinse and wash rice in the rice cooker itself but in a separate bowl, so that there will be less friction and scratching on the non-stick coat. But it is too late for me. I just have to do whatever I can to preserve its current state until I have the opportunity to buy a new one in Singapore, which is probably another year away. Whatever it is, this rice cooker will always occupy a special place in my heart. Why? Because it was a present given by my mother 5 years ago, part of my dowry gift actually.  It has always occupied prime real estate on my kitchen counter top, it has its moments of glory, it has seen better times than this, but it will never be forgotten even as it breathes its last breath. Oh, I am getting sentimental again. :(

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FAQ - How to Make Cakes in a Rice Cooker

Ever since I started my journey in rice cooker baking a year ago in Oct 2012, I have received a lot of questions and feedback regarding my rice cooker cakes, and so I have decided to compile a list of FAQ (frequently asked questions) to help those who wish to learn how to make/bake/cook a cake in a rice cooker.

Honestly, I am not an expert on rice cookers and rice cooker baking, and I don't consider myself as one, since I only have experience in using one particular brand and model, but I have fiddled with my rice cooker frequent enough to know the tricks and pitfalls of rice cooker baking. What I write here is based on my own experience and feedback gathered from my readers. If you have other queries which you would like to be added, kindly leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer. All readers are welcome to chip in with their comments or suggestions if they have differing views or opinions. I hope this can be a forum for rice cooker lovers to share their experiences.

1) I don't have a rice cooker with "Baking/Cake" function, can I still "bake" a cake in my rice cooker?
Yes, of course you can. My rice cooker is without cake function, and all my rice cooker cake inventions are cooked using the "Cook" function. Most of the readers, who have succeeded in making my rice cooker cakes, used rice cookers without "Baking/Cake" function too.

2) My rice cooker is not the modern type of Japanese microcomputer fuzzy-logic rice cooker with multiple functions. It is the old-fashioned type with only 1 button, can I still use it?
If your rice cooker is not of the latest technology, does not have a non-stick pot and has only 1 button, it may still be possible. There are a few readers who have tried using very old rice cookers with 1 button and it worked for them. The only way to know is to try it out to see if it works, but you have to grease the inner pot well and watch closely to make sure it doesn't get burnt/charred. If need be, you may need to flip the cake over when the batter has hardened into a cake, to reduce the chances of the cake getting burnt/charred. (Note: it is pointless to email me to ask if a particular brand or model will work, because I frankly do not know.) [Update] : Pls pop over to this link to read my friend Nasifriet's solution to making RCC in her 19-year-old traditional rice cooker. She used "double protection", a layer of aluminium foil plus another layer of parchment paper on top, to make sure her cake doesn't get burnt.

3) The "Cook" mode has switched to "Keep Warm" mode after 15 min and I tried to place a small piece of cardboard at the "Cook" switch to force it to remain in "Cook" mode. After another 10 min, I noticed a burning smell coming from my rice cooker.
For some rice cookers, you may have to wait for a few min before you can re-press the "Cook" button, if not you may risk breaking the rice cooker. Every time the "Cook" mode switches to "Keep Warm" mode, press "Cancel", try waiting for 5 min and then re-press "Cook" again. For one reader, it even took her 2 hours as she had to wait each time for the cooker to restart. But if you have tried the above, and your rice cooker cake still turns out charred or burnt, then maybe your rice cooker is not suitable for making cakes.

4) My rice cooker has a "Baking/Cake" function, how long would it take for such a rice cooker?
It depends on the brand, model and capacity. Most of the time, the "Baking/Cake" function allows the cake to be cooked slightly faster than the regular "Cook" function. Most of my rice cooker recipes are 1 hour recipes based using "Cook" function on a 5.5-cup cooker, so it may take less than 1 hour if you are using the "Baking/Cake" function in a 5.5-cup cooker, but not always. Some readers with such rice cookers of the same capacity reported taking 1 hour, while some others took 45 to 50 min, it really depends. Remember the stated 1 hour timing varies depending on brand, model and capacity, it is to be taken as a guideline and not meant to be blindly followed.

5) What is the brand, model and capacity of your rice cooker?
The brand is Toshiba, model RC10L-MI, 5.5 cup capacity, purchased in 2008 in Singapore. It has functions such as "Cook", "Quick Cook", "Keep Warm", "Timer", "Congee", "Steam" and "Soup", but I only use the "Cook" function for making cakes. (I am not a paid ambassador of Toshiba rice cookers, I happen to use Toshiba because it is the rice cooker that I have at the moment.)

6) What would you recommend as the easiest cake to make for a 1st-timer? I do not own a cake-mixer and I have never ever baked a cake.
I would recommend RCC #4 - Steamed Moist Banana Cake, followed by RCC #6 - Moist Chocolate Cake, these are cakes which do not require the use of cake-mixer, and both cakes have a steamer recipe too in case you want to use a steamer or wok. Baking experience is preferred but not required for these 2 starter cakes. After you have mastered these 2 recipes, you can proceed to other recipes such as matcha green tea cake, butter cake and japanese kasutera cake.

7) Why are your rice cooker recipes always based on a 1 hour time period? 
My 1st 2 rice cooker cakes were taken from a rice cooker manual and are meant to be cooked within 1 hour, the 1st one was not successfully cooked within 1 hour, while it was difficult to replicate success for the 2nd one. For my subsequent cake recipes, they were adapted from successful steamed or baked cake recipes in my blog. I went to great lengths to specially calculate the quantity of ingredients so that they did not exceed the amount of ingredients as stated in my 1st 2 RCC recipes, so that they can be successfully cooked within 1 hour in my 5.5-cup Toshiba rice cooker. 

8) What if I have a rice cooker with a 8-cup or 10-cup capacity? 
If you have a 8-cup or 10-cup rice cooker, since the base of the pot will have a larger surface area, hence your cooking time may be shorter and your cake may end up flatter. Since rice cookers vary in brand, capacity and technology, always test out your rice cooker with a tried-and-tested recipe to estimate the time required for your rice cooker, and use it as a benchmark for other recipes with similar amount of batter.

9) I made a cake successfully using a 10-cup rice cooker, it took less than 1 hour, the taste was good but it was very flat, what should I do?
Try increasing all the ingredients proportionately, say by 25% to 50%, to achieve a bigger and taller cake, of course the time taken will be longer too. All the rice cooker recipes in my blog are based on 5.5-cup capacity. There was a lady who doubled the quantity to make the banana cake in her 10-cup capacity Toshiba rice cooker with baking function and it took her 1 hour 30 min.

10) How do I know if my cake is cooked, can I open and peep, will the cake collapse?
If the cake is not a sponge cake or chiffon cake, opening the rice cooker should not cause the cake to collapse, but if you open it too often, it may affect the cooking time and will cause condensation to fall back on the cake. If you are unsure about how your cake would turn out or how long it would take, I would suggest opening the rice cooker to check at about 5 to 10 min before the suggested time is up. Then finally, when the time is up, you can use your finger to press slightly on the surface to see if it is wet or firm, and then use a toothpick to check if the cake is well done. I know when the cake is cooked when I can smell the aroma wafting from the rice cooker before the time is up.

11) Why does the top of the rice cooker cake look like a moon-crater? How do I make it look more presentable? 
This is a typical feature of a rice cooker cake. The bottom of the cake,however,  is very beautiful and crusty. For presentation, I always turn it upside down with the crusty bottom facing up. 

12) What are the advantages of making cakes in rice cookers? Are all cakes suitable for making in a rice cooker?
Many households in Asia do not own an oven, especially in Japan where kitchens are very tiny. If you are a student living in a dorm, or if you are studying/working overseas, you may only have a rice cooker instead of an oven at your disposal  in your appartment. Or if you are a novice baker and haven't set your mind yet on buying an oven. Or if you are on holiday travelling in a camper and a rice cooker is the only thing you bring along but you would like to make a cake for somebody's birthday. 

Making cakes in rice cookers can be very easy and fuss-free once
a) you have established that your rice cooker is capable of making cakes;
b) you have mastered one or two tried-and-tested recipes;
c) you know your rice cooker well enough such as how much time is required and how to adjust the recipe to suit the capacity of your rice cooker; 

It is easy to wash up, you don't have to buy additional baking tins, you don't have to preheat, you don't have to adjust the temperature, just keep an eye on the timing will do. However, not all cakes can be made in a rice cooker. Usually steamed cake recipes can easily be converted to rice cooker recipes after proportionately adjusting the amount of ingredients, since rice cookers make use of the basic principles of steaming just like steamers (more advanced rice cookers use either fuzzy logic or induction heat). But the same cannot be said of other cakes such as butter cakes, sponge cakes and chiffon cakes, which have to be thoroughly tested and the amount of ingredients suitably adjusted. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Last Garden Update for 2013

Too many backlogs, too little time and too much lethargy, that's the current problem I have.

This photo was taken on 2 September, the day I harvested my spaanse pepers or spanish green chillies. I got a total of over 50 green chillies, and I got my boy to pose them for me. The last time I blogged about them was in July 2013.

Not knowing what to do with so many chillies, I packed some in a package and mailed them to my blogger friend, Nasifriet, who stays about an hour's drive from my place, and she made very good use of it. She made a therapeutic pandan chicken curry out of it. And for the rest, I brought them to Singapore (I was surprised that they could last 3 to 4 weeks in the fridge), and gave them to my Aunty who used them to make some really spicy chilli paste. :)

As for my pumpkins, unfortunately there wasn't a good fairytale ending to them. They were harvested while I was away in Singapore, having unfortunatly succumbed to the cold belgian frost in October. Due to insufficient sunlight (my pumpkin plot was in the shade most of the time) and too much rain, they really suffered from stunted growth, and many were devoured by garden pests such as slugs even before they would step into adulthood. :(  

I will see if I can snap some pictures later to show you how small they have grown. Next year, I really must pick a sunny spot in order not to suffer the same heartache as this year! :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Failed Experiment - Apple Cake in Rice Cooker

Hi Hi,

I am back, after a LONG absence of 5 weeks. I was in Singapore for 3 weeks, came back 2 weeks ago on 27 October just in time for the 1 week autumn school vacation, took me 1 week to unpack and settle down, and before I knew it, I was down with flu for another week.

So today, I finally decided to shake off my lethargy and restart my engine on baking again. Quite a few readers have asked me to post more rice cooker cake recipes for them to try. In fact, I have been poring through quite a few recipes I found on the internet. But honestly speaking, it is not easy to get a cake to work in the rice cooker. If you think baking in a rice cooker is easy, think again. More often than not, it is a lot of trial and error. So is it by pure stroke of luck or ingenuity that I could get my rice cooker cakes #2 to #7 to work (with the exception of my very first cake) the first time round? Haha :)

Anyway, let me show you a picture of the very small rice cooker apple cake which I attempted today. 

When I first saw the picture of the cake on internet, I was immediately attracted to it. But the amount of ingredients kept me baffled; so much milk, so much flour, just one egg and so little sugar. I should be warned but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Looks good on the outside? It didn't have the typical brown crust of all my rice cooker cakes. The inside was revealing...

Dense, soggy, and pudding-like. Let's take a look at the top of the cake then.

Equally shocking. It looked uncooked. It was a disappointing cake that took me a full hour and yet ended up uncooked. I don't think it will be cooked even if I extend the cooking time by another 30 min. It just couldn't make the cut as my RCC #8. Tastewise, it was not sweet at all. Luckily I didn't have to chuck it in the bin because somehow my kiddies liked it and finished half the cake. Maybe they were famished?

This will go down in my baking history as my 2nd (or maybe even 3rd) unsuccessful rice cooker cakes. Hmmn, maybe I should go and dig out pictures of the previous failed rice cooker cakes and publish them too.

Needless to say, I won't publish the recipe link. Maybe it worked for the original blogger, but not for me. :)

辛苦你了,小白! It has been a long day for you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hokkaido Milk Loaf (Tangzhong Method) ~ 北海道牛乳面包 (汤种法)

This bread needs no introduction, I'm sure lots of people have heard about it. This recipe was all the rage as early as 2008. It has been on my to-do-list since I have gotten hold of this book 65°C 汤种面包 (陈豫芬/Yvonne C) eons ago. I can't remember exactly when, but I think I must have lugged it back from Singapore 2-3 years back, a book (among many others) which my sis bought on one of her frequent biz trips to Taiwan. I dunno what took me so long to attempt this bread, not that I am chinese-illiterate, quite the reverse. 

Anyway, I realise I have been making breads using Alex Goh's Sweet Bread Dough for far too long, it's a recipe that I am very used to, having made tens of breads and buns using the same recipe. Now it's time to try out another good sweet bread dough recipe. The very famous Hokkaido Milk Loaf. I am glad I made the switch, albeit 2 years late, but better late than never. I think I would have to try out Alex Goh's Sweet Bread Dough one of these days together with this Hokkaido Milk Loaf in order to compare the softness and fluffiness of these 2 breads. I think the Hokkaido Milk Loaf may win because of the high milk and whipped cream content, I am not sure. I don't think the difference lies in the "tangzhong" method versus the "scalded dough" method, I think the difference lies in the milk and whipped cream content. Hmm, now I have another pet project in mind, to change the water to milk/whipped cream in Alex Goh's recipe and come up with an improved version of the sweet bread dough recipe, haha. :)

Note the surface was slightly wrinkly bcos I covered the loaf while it was still hot with alum foil while I went picnicking with the round bread, resulting in condensation. Silly me!

I am gonna state down the amount of ingredients both for making 2 loaves versus 1 loaf, to save me from making the same silly mistake again.  You know what, I originally intended to make just one loaf, but I didn't jot down the halved quantity, I just looked at the original recipe on my tablet and did the mental calculation on the fly, everything went fine, until I forgot to halve the yeast, salt and sugar! Shit, got to double the flour and other ingredients again, thank god I haven't started my bread machine yet. I think human minds cannot do mental calculation when they are under stressed conditions, at least mine couldn't. Talk about multi-tasking, I am apparently not very good at it! 

I adapted the recipe from Christine's recipe although I do own the book, reason being the original chinese recipe in the book does not tell me how long I need to knead the bread, it only says to knead until "完全阶段". I didn't have the patience to read through the front part of the book which describes in chinese what the various stages are in kneading. But now I understand that "完全阶段" means to knead until stretchable like a membrane with smooth edges round the holes (完全阶段=可拉开的薄膜,破洞边缘为光滑状), whereas "扩展阶段" means to knead until stretchable like a membrane with rough edges round the holes (扩展阶段=可拉开的薄膜,破洞边缘为锯齿状). It sounds almost exactly like my Alex Goh's sweet bread dough recipe where you can test the stage of the dough with either the membrane test or the poke-a-hole test. Alex Goh uses the "scalded dough" method whereby 70ml of boiling water is added to 100g of bread flour and mixed into a rough dough, which is then covered and placed in the fridge for at least 12 hours. On the other hand, Yvonne C's "tangzhong" method requires mixing 50g of bread flour with 250ml of water in a pot over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches a temp of 65C, or until lines appear in the mixture as you stir with a spoon. 

The texture of this Hokkaido Milk Loaf was, needless to say, very soft and fluffy, and it remained so even on the 2nd and 3rd day. I baked this last Saturday and we finished off the round loaf during a picnic on the same day, whereas I had a chance to taste the rectangular loaf on the 2nd day and 3rd day. It was still very soft, because I kept it wrapped in 2 layers of clingwrap and then in a bread bag.

Recipe adapted from Christine's recipe

Ingredients for Tangzhong (sufficient to make 2 loaves)
50g bread flour (1/3 cup)
250ml water (1 cup)

(Note: proportion of bread flour to water should always be 1 part bread flour to 5 parts water. However do not be confused with the volume/density of bread flour versus that of water, since 1 part bread flour is 1/3 cup whereas 5 parts water is 1 cup.)

1. Mix water with bread flour and stir well until it is no longer lumpy. Cook over medium low heat in a non-stick pot, stirringly constantly with a wooden spoon/rubber spatula/egg whisk, to prevent burning and sticking to the pot.

2. The tangzhong (汤种) mixture is ready once it achieves the temp of 65 degrees celsius or once you notice that "lines" start to appear in the mixture every time you stir it. At this stage, the tangzhong should have the consistency and texture of glue. 

3. Remove the pot from heat immediately and transfer the tangzhong into a clean bowl, and cover with clingwrap sticking onto the surface of the tangzhong  to prevent it from drying up. The "tangzhong" can be used as soon as it cools down to room temperature. You can keep it chilled in the fridge for 2-3 days but discard it as soon as the mixture starts to turn grey. 

Ingredients for 2 loaves (about 1080g in total)
540g bread flour
86g caster sugar
8g salt or 1.5 tsp (1 tsp is about 5.5g)
9g milk powder or 1 tbsp (1 tbsp is about 10g)
11g instant yeast or 3.75 tsp (1 tsp is about 3 g)

86g whisked egg or 1.5 egg (1 average egg is about 60g)
59g whipping cream
54g milk
184g tangzhong dough
49g unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for 1 loaf (about 540g)
270g bread flour
43g caster sugar
4g salt or 0.75 tsp 
4.5g milk powder or 0.5 tbsp
5.5g instant yeast or 1.8 tsp 

43g whisked egg (3/4 of 1 egg)
30g whipping cream
27g milk
92g tangzhong starter dough (see above on how to make tangzhong)
25g unsalted butter, melted

1. First add all the wet ingredients except the butter (egg, whipping cream, milk, tangzhong) into the bread machine, followed by the dry ingredients (bread flour, sugar,  salt, milk powder, yeast) and select the "dough" mode. Do not add the melted butter yet. Only when all the ingredients come together to form a rough dough, then add the melted butter and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. (Based on my experience with Alex Goh's sweet bread dough, I let it knead for 2 dough cycles, i.e. 2*20 = 40 min in total. My dough mode is 20 min kneading + 10 min rest + 20 min kneading, but I always skip the resting and restart the dough mode again. I tested the dough at 30 min, but it was still very sticky, so I decided to stick to 40 min kneading.)

2. Cover the dough with a greased clingwrap and place it in a warm enclosed space to let it undergo the 1st proofing, about 40 min. (I made the quantity for 2 loaves and I proofed the dough for about 40min.)

3. Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 if you are making 2 loaves. Punch down and deflate each dough and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll it round, cover with clingwrap and let it rest for 15 min at room temp. (The total weight for 2 loaves was about 1080g, divided by 2 = 540g per loaf, divided by 3 = 180g per portion. I let them rest for 15 min at room temp.)

4. On a clean floured surface, roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Fold 1/3 from the left edge to the middle and another 1/3 from the right edge to the middle, and seal both edges in the middle. Turn it the other way round so that the sealed edges are facing down. Roll it flat so that it stretches to about 30cm in length.  Then flip it back again so that the sealed edges are facing upwards, and roll the dough into a cyclinder, like a swiss roll. Do it for all 3 portions, and place the pieces into a greased loaf tin, cover with greased clingwrap and let it proof in a warm enclosed space for the 2nd proofing, for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. (I only have a 400g pullman loaf tin, so I put 3 pieces into the pullman loaf tin. For the other 3 pieces, I sliced each piece further into 2, so that there were 6 pieces, and I placed them facing upwards in my 8-inch chiffon pan. I was rushing for time, so I only proofed both breads for 40 min, ideally you should let it proof for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.)  

5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Brush the surface of the bread with egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 min, or until it turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack for cooling.  (I baked both my breads in the lowest shelf of the oven for 30 min. Halfway through, I took out the breads and applied the egg wash a second time. Do note that you should only apply the egg wash gently with a baking brush on the top surface of the bread. Do not press too hard and do not allow the egg wash to drip to the sides, otherwise it will be difficult to unmould the bread later.)

Wanna see other hokkaido breads I have baked?
- Hokkaido Wholemeal Milk Loaf that can do Yoga (16 May 2014)
- Hokkaido Wholemeal Milk Loaf Horlicks Version (11 June 2014)
- Hokkaido Milk Loaf Straight Dough Method Using BM (13 Aug 2014)
Hokkaido Wholemeal Loaf (Tangzhong Method) using Pain de Campagne Flour (22 Sep 2014)

I am submitting this post to Bake-Along #52 - Hokkaido Milk Loaf organized by Zoe of Bake For Happy Kids, Joyce of Kitchen Flavours and Lena of Frozen Wings.


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