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!

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