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Monday, November 24, 2008

A Tatter's Cake

Recently, I have just picked up a new craft, tatting. It is an art of creating lace with just a simple thread and a shuttle or needle. I must say this craft is intriguing and addictive. Last Saturday, members of this interest group (Shuttles & Needles) which I joined had a small gathering. I thought it would be great if I make a cake of the same theme. To be honest, I have no inkling of needle tatting. So if the loops I made for the needle is incorrect, I apologise.

This cake was fun and pretty straight forward. I cut out the shuttles freehand and made a hole so that the thread can thread through. I made the incomplete lace with a real shuttle and wind the remaining thread on the ones made with gumpaste. After the needles dried, I had to thread it. My hands were trembling when I did that. I was afraid that the thread might break the needle. It's a relief that it didn't happen. I used silver dragees and sprinkles to represent beads. I don't think it would be wise of me to try replicating beads using gumpaste. That would have killed me. The most daunting part was winding the yarn to cover the lump of gumpaste. The gumpaste was first colour-matched with the yarns and painstakingly wound. After the first 2, I sort of gave up. Doing this at 2 a.m. sent me seeing stars.

The end result was somewhat satisfactory with some flaws here and there. I had some of the crumbs this morning, leftover when I levelled the cake and it tasted moist. That is when I realised my mistake. I should not refrigerate the cake after covering it with buttercream. I thought it would be better if the buttercream hardens a little before I lay the Marshmallow Fondant. Not only the cake tasted abit drier, the fondant sweats. Fortunately, the ladies were gracious enough to say it tasted and looked good.

So here's the recipe which I used as a cake base.

Mocha Pound Cake
180g Butter
180g Fine Sugar

1/4 Tsp Salt
1-1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
100g Evaporated Milk + 1-1/2 Tbsp Coffee Granules (dissolved)

160g Cake Flour
40g Cocoa Powder (I used Valrhona)
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/8 Tsp Baking Soda

*Sift together

3 Eggs

1) Prepare and grease a 7 inch round pan. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.C.
In a mixing bowl using a hand held whisk, cream butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla essence and whisk well.

2) Add in coffee solution and whisk till incorporated. Add in flour mixture, using lowest speed, mix well. Add in egg and beat well after each addition.

3) Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or till skewer comes clean. Tent the cake if necessary. Overturn the cake onto a cooling grid.

You can serve it as it is but I made Coffee flavoured Swiss Meringue Buttercream to go along with it.

Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Adapted from Taste Goblet's blog)
4 Egg White
3/4 Cup Fine sugar
200g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Pinch of salt
1/4 Tsp Cream of Tartar

2-1/2 Tbsp Coffee Granules + 3 Tbsp Evaporated Milk (dissolved)

1) In a heat proof mixing bowl, add egg whites, salt and sugar and place over simmering water.
With a hand whisk, beat continuously, heat until egg whites are hot and all the sugar is dissolved.

2) Remove from the heat and place on the mixer. Whisk on medium speed, add in cream of Tartar and whisk until meringue is stiff, and the mixing bowl is cool to the touch. The meringue should look shiny and sticky.

3) Using medium speed, add butter, a few cubes at a time, till butter is incorporated. The mixture, at some point of time will look curdled and separated. Continue beating and it will come together again.

4) Increase the speed to high, add in coffee solution and beat till smooth.

I forgot to take a cross-section of the cake and of the gathering. Guess my mind was on strike due to the lack of sleep. Ah Boy is teething and having some discomfort. After I finished with decorating the cake, he woke up and fussed for a couple of hours before I could hit the pillow. @_@

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crunchy Chocolate Chips Cookies

I think I made these cookies last week. Well, I couldn't remember which day exactly. Must be the age thing. I was busy with Ah Girl's cardigan, I can't seem to find the motivation to bake. And there was work. As there was a class party at Ah Girl's school, I decided to bake cookies for them. It was a perfect excuse. I, of course, consulted 'her royal highness' before embarking on this baking project. The thing is that; Ah Girl has this selective sweet-tooth. There are only few certain cakes and cookies that she would eat. Not at all adventurous. However, to my surprise, she loves 潮州甜豆沙饼(潮州劳饼), those Teochew traditional cakes. Perhaps it is time for me to explore into that area?

Back to the cookies. Ah Girl has suggested that her friends should have Chocolate Chips Cookies. I have made Chocolate Chips Cookies a couple of times but did not yield the texture I was looking for. I prefer my cookies crunchy. I do like chewy cookies too but I have made some which became soft too quickly. I googled and found this recipe. I am glad that I tried. This recipe is a keeper. I tweaked the recipe a little and the cookies remained crunchy on the third day. I later discovered that the cookies were wiped out by the other kids and teachers and my dear girl didn't even had 1 cookie. She said she was distracted by the fishballs her classmate contributed. Photobucket Okay, so I saved some for us. While she nibbled and returned half of it back to me, Ah Boy ate 2 in 1 go. Ah Boy! Mommy loves you!! *Muak x 5

Crunchy Chocolate Chips Cookies (adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s cookies)
125g Butter, at room temperature
125g Fine Sugar
105g Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tsp Vanilla Essence

190g Plain Flour
30g Cornflour
1/2 Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp baking soda

*Sift together

135g Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
50g White Chocolate Chips (I ran out of Semi-sweet chips so I subbed with this)

1) Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius. Line baking trays with baking sheets.

2) In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar till fluffy and pale. Add egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until blended.

3) Add in flour mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon until just blended. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.

4) Wearing gloves, shape the dough into small balls and place on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

5) Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool briefly on the sheets before transferring them to the racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers when cooled.

*Note : I am using a convection oven with fan thus I have lowered the required temperature. If you are using a conventional oven, suggested temperature is 180 deg.C.

Happy baking!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

7 Useless Information About...

... Rei.

I have been tagged by for the same meme by Jane and Yuri. I am supposed to state 7 random facts about myself and pass on it on to seven fellow bloggers. Thanks to them both, now you will get to know 7 useless information about me. Ahahah.

1. I have never cooked deep fried food for my kids so far and intend to keep it that way. I am a firm believer of 'to eat right, you have to start 'em young'.

2. I am against eating foie gras, soft shell crabs, frog legs and exotic animals. And I am working towards saying ‘No’ to shark’s fin at wedding dinners.

3. My favourite flowers are Jasmine and Chrysanthemum but have never received any of them as gifts, even though I requested.

4. I am academically inclined towards physics, chemistry, biology and psychology. I don't really do sports except swimming and archery.

5. I studied Mechanical Engineering and aced in workshop practical such as welding, turning and milling but my work has nothing to do with it.

6. I was not a coffee drinker until I worked as a part-time waitress at UCC café. I was in charge of brewing coffee using a siphon. I'm addicted to the smell of coffee since then.

7. Almost never watch horror movies and have irrational fear of clowns and monkeys (or people who personify them).

I would like to pass this tag to the following fellow bloggers.

1. Ganache Ganache
2. Bento Pet
3. All Things Purple
4. Rojak Rendezvous
5. Feed My World
6. Greg & Nee On The Go!
7. Love In The Kitchen

Here are the rules for tagging:
Link to my blog (tagger) on your blog.
Give seven facts about yourself.
Tag another seven bloggers by leaving a comment on their blogs and letting them know they were tagged and listing them (and their blogs) on your blog.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chirashi Zushi

Chirashi Zushi (ちらしずし), also known as 散寿司 is the ultimate Japanese party food if you asked me. There is actually no strict rules in preparing this and can be very versatile. All you need is sushi rice and various toppings that you like, may it be raw or cooked. If you want to prepare raw fish, just make sure they are fresh and properly chilled. If you use a nori sheet, you can make them into Maki rolls (卷き) or Gunkan (军舰).

I usually serve this like buffet-style. I will prepare all the toppings and lay them on the table. The guests will just choose what they want on top of the rice. For the above, I prepared the following (clockwise) :

1. Prawns
2. Grilled Unagi
3. Shredded Egg Omelette
4. Sakura Denbu
5. Flying Fish Roe
6. Nori Strips
7. Crabmeat
8. Salmon Roe
9. Cucumber Slices
10. Julienned Takuan (pickled radish)

The most time consuming preparation is the prawns and crab, especially the crab. I had to steam then de-shell them. It can be quite tough if you don't have the right tool. There is a type of scissors for crabs but since I don't have it, I used a satay stick to help me. I didn't prepare any raw fish unfortunately; 1) I don't have a sharp sushi knife for cutting fish, 2) old folks don't take raw fish too well. A sharp knife is necessary for cutting raw fish, else it will leave the slices unappetitising and it is a shame to waste good, sashimi quality raw fish.

This is how I make my sushi rice.

Sushi Rice
Wash rice as per instruction on the package.
Cook 2 cups of rice with dried kelp (5cm length, optional) in rice cooker. Remove kelp after rice is cooked.

Vinegar mixture (This can be adjusted to your taste)
1/4 Cup of sushi vinegar
2-1/2 Tbsp fine sugar
2/3 tsp of salt

1) Stir the vinegar mixture till sugar and salt dissolve. Sprinkle some vinegar mixture onto big mixing bowl (use glass ones, no plastic or metal).

2) Scoop out the hot rice into the bowl. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture on the rice, using a rice scoop to stir well. In another hand, use a fan to fan it (or you can mix the rice in front of the electric fan). Remember not to mash up the rice. When done, cover the rice with a damp cloth.

I much prefer arranging the ingredients using a square container.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Strawberries Cheesecake

Last Saturday was my sis, S's birthday. After having Lemon Curd Cheesecake I made for sis J in August, she requested a strawberry version for her own birthday. Her birthday and mine is just 10 days apart. Coincidentally, my kids birthdays are also 10 days apart. Well, for my birthday, I didn't have any cakes. I didn't want to bake myself 1 either. Instead, I was treated to having durians. That, coming from a durian-hater IH.

This cake is quite popular among friends and I have got quite a few orders since its debut in August. I am glad to make this cake for S. It meant that there is another way for me to decorate cheesecake. I had wanted to cook my own strawberry jam for this cake, but I think it would a waste of the fresh berries. So I changed the game plan a little. I experimented with a few cutters before settling for this six-petal one. I pureed about 320g of fresh strawberries for this cake. The strawberries were halved and placed upright on the biscuit crust. All in all, I think I might have used at least 450g to 500g of strawberries. I am very happy with the result and will be adding this to the menu.

As much as I enjoyed the process of making this cake, I hope S liked it and that it met her expectations. Happy Birthday!

*Update to add recipe*

Strawberries Cheesecake
Base :
120g Digestive Biscuits, crushed finely
40g Softened butter

Filling :
8 to 10 Strawberries (depending on size), sliced into half
100g Cream Cheese, bring to room temperature
100g Yoghurt (Paul's set yoghurt)
70g Fine Sugar*

1 Tbsp + 1/2 Tsp Gelatin
3 Tbsp Boiling Water
*make sure the gelatin is melted and kept warm

200g Strawberry Puree**
200ml Non Dairy Whip Cream, whipped to mousse state and chilled

Topping : (Optional)
Some strawberry slices
1 Packet of Tortally Jelly (Strawberry flavour), use as per instruction but you won't be using all

1) Prepare a 7 inch loose base round tin. Mix the crushed biscuits and butter in a bowl. Transfer to the cake tin, using a small spoon to press the base evenly. Chill in the fridge for later use.

2) Arrange the halved strawberries against the tin. In a mixing bowl, using a electric whisk, whisk cream cheese, yoghurt and sugar till mixture is creamy and no lumps. Pour in the gelatin mixture, using a hand whisk to incorporate well. Add in strawberry puree and whipped cream, stir well.

3) Pour into the prepared cake tin, using a spatula to level the surface. Set the cake before decorating with strawberry slices and jelly. Leave to chill for at least 3 hours. Remove from tin.

*Note : As the strawberries were rather tart, I adjusted the amount of sugar accordingly.

**Note : To make strawberry puree, simply take 320g of fresh strawberries, blend well and sieve.

I do apologise for not being able to disclose much about the decorating method as I am selling this cake in this pattern. Appreciate your understanding.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Orange Chocolate Brownies

Made this for the same Filipino party some time back. Besides coconuts, I think Filipinos/Flilpinas love chocolates. Adults and children will swarm around those who bring chocolates home as gifts. I know of 1 helper around my neighbourhood, she brought home close to 8 kilos of chocolate when she went home for holidays. I don't know if anyone suffered from nosebleed. I was told that some chocolates in Philippines are brittle as the chocolates were mixed with flour. Perhaps that is why one has to bring 8 kilos of chocolate back to Philippines.

I am a hoarder and collector. I like to collect recipes, cook books, crochet patterns. My birthday, last week, I received 5 cook books, 2 crochet pattern books and 1 pattern book on tatting from friends and family. Earlier, a friend sent me a bread slicer from Australia. I just like to tell you all how much I appreciate them. You people really know me. I hope I can put them into good use. The following recipe is adapted from 1 of the books (Brownies, by Linda Collister) which I left there collecting dust for a while. I thought rich, chocolate-y brownies would be a good idea for a Filipino party.

Orange Chocolate Brownies (adapted from Cranberry & Dark Chocolate Brownies)
200g Plain Chocolate, break into smaller pieces(I used Cadbury Old Gold)
200g Butter, diced to small cubes

3 Eggs
170g Fine Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange

200g Plain Flour
100g Diced Almonds (original recipe used cranberries)

1) Prepare a 8 x 8 inch square pan. Preheat oven at 170 degree Celcius.

2) In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate and butter over a pot of simmering water. Leave aside to cool for use later.

3) In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Add in zest and whisk till mousse-like. Pour in chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour, add almonds and mix well.

4) Bake for 20 minutes or skewer comes clean. Do not overbake it. Leave to cool in pan and cut into squares. Or you can serve warm with ice cream.

I love brownies but I seldom bake them even though they are quite easy to put together. Due to the chocolate content, it is considered as 'heaty' food. I will have to take plenty of water after consuming.

Happy Baking!