Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Daring Baker's Challange!!

Omg, I'm finally part of the Daring Bakers!!! My first challenge!!

And this month's challange is The Perfect Party Cake, hosted by Morven of Food, art and random thoughts.

Frankly speaking, this is exactly the kind of recipe I would have flipped past with a snort if I had seen it in a cookbook; and, my impression of it did not change after I had completed the cake. Its just so...plain. I know Morven allows for a change in flavor, but I feel that I should still keep to the general idea of the flavor combination, how boring to only eat what I like right?

Despite all that, I have to say I really did enjoy the challange!! Sorry Morven for all the criticism, its only because I'm a picky bugger =P From this challange, I got to make my first layer cake, [which I never do], finally try out the cooked méringue I've always wanted to try, and, even though I had to wake up at 6am to bake this, I found that baking in the early morning is kinda fun! Also, despite the recipe's warning against refrigeration, I found that it tasted better after some time in the fridge! The buttercream firmed up nicely, and the cake cut much more easily [yes, Sok Yee, you told me so =P]. All in all, I got everything I wanted out of the challange, a chance to try something new =)

And finally, to the cake itself, and I'll let the pictures do the talking. [The recipe's really long, if you want it leave a comment =D] The only changes I made to the recipe is to change the lemon flavourings to orange [I had no lemons but tons of oranges at home], used blueberry jam, and to half the recipe [not only is my family not into cake, but I'm also highly suspicious about how it'll turn out]

The cake didn't rise much at all...I attribute it to too much beating after the flour is added...

I was perplexed by my floppy and runny buttercream, because I thought I had followed every word of the recipe and beat it for what seemed like eternity. But after reviewing the video another daring baker had helpfully supplied about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I realised I probably didn't beat it nearly enough. I am so trying this recipe out again. The buttercream tasted a lot better than I expected it to =)

Now, isn't that a sight that reminds you of all those childhood mornings at the breakfast table?

My lopsided layer cake; I think the too-wet/slippery buttercream caused the cake layers to slide around...Also, as you can see, the buttercream was so soft it was barely clinging onto the cake. It did seem to harden up a bit after a good 8 hours of sitting around.

My horrendous pipping skills up on display...

Want to see how others baked the same cake?? Visit the Daring Bakers blogroll!!

P.S. Thank you-s to Sok Yee, Arthur, Wei ying and Cherylyn, for bravely trying out my cake, even though it looked absolutely disgusting after being bumped around in the train!! You guys are the best =)

P.P.S. On a completely random note, if you happen to be baking in a very smoky environment and wonders if the smoky taste and smell will be imparted into the cake, I'm happy to say that it will not!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fresh Lemon bars

I love going to the beach. Singapore's an island country, so we have plenty of beaches. I live 30 minutes away from Sembawang beach, and I go there as often as I can. I sit and watch the sea, listen to the waves gently lapping in, and smell the barbeques families fire up all around me, for hours. Its feels fantastic just to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, to give my ears and my mind a break from the constant stream of mp3, television, radio and internet that so dominates modern life. But what is a good beach outing without something delicious to nibble on?

This is where these amazing FRESH LEMON BARS come in. I find that bars are the best kind of food to bring to the beach. They can be made in advance, in case you are anxious to get to the beach early to snatch that prime picnic table. They taste perfect at room temperature, which means that transporting them is no problem, and also they can take a few hours of sitting in the sun. They are also easy to eat, no need to bother with cutleries or even napkins. On this particular day, I arranged a picnic with a dear old friend at the popular East Coast Park, and I made a batch of these beautiful fresh lemon bars as my contribution to the picnic.

I don't usually take to citrus flavoured baked goods, not because I have anything against citrus [I love them, actually], but that I find that they always taste somewhat bland, the wonderful tangy citrus flavour never really coming through. This recipe, however, proved to be the exception. Without the aid of any extract, it managed to be extremely lemony, tangy and lemon-sweet all at once! So give it a go, because its wonderful =)


210g plain flour

70g powdered sugar

150g cold butter cut into small pieces

2 large lemons

2 large eggs

190g granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the flour and powdered sugar, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour mixture into a baking pan, press in firmly, and bake until light brown in a preheated 180 degree celcius oven.

For the filling, from the lemons, grate the skin [grate only once from each surface to avoid getting the bitter pith] and squeeze the juice, keep aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs on high speed until thick, around 3 minutes. Add in the lemon zest and juice, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and 3 tablespoons of flour, beating until blended. Pour filling over the warm crust and bake for around 15 minutes until set. Once done, sift 1 tablespoon of powder sugar over the warm filling, then let cool completely on a wire rack. Just before serving [or leaving for the beach =P], cut into bars, and they are ready to be consumed!

*This was done a while back, only got to posting it now =) Its such a delightful recipe, can't bare to not post it!

** Recipe from Good Housekeeping: Great Baking.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CAKEY brownies

As a baker, its practically an obligation to know how to make brownies, and I feel that mine are really pretty good, though I'm sure those who tried it today would complain a little =P I'm well aware of the problems with today's batch, and I'll explain them in a moment! But usually, my brownies are crumbly and moist, with tiny pockets of chocolate bits, melty if the brownie is warm, or just a nugget of dense, slightly bitter chocolate if the brownie has cooled.

One thing about my brownies though, they are absolutely, unquestioningly, CAKEY. None of that fudgy nonsense will ever emerge from my kitchen by choice, I can assure you [unless if someone really important requests it =D] As I'm sure my team mates are tiring of hearing, I abhor the whole idea of eating virtually uncooked batter, and fudgy brownies top the list of uncooked batter.

The recipe I use is adapted from the Deep dark cakey brownies recipe from Diana's Dessert, an amazing website. Basically, the only changes I made to it is the addition of cocoa powder and chocolate chips. I find that cocoa powder gives the brownies an extra velvety texture, and the chocolate chips make these dark brownies ever MORE chocolaty, if you can imagine it =)

Today is the first time I'm using silicon bakeware, given to me by my fantabulous cousins [THANXXXXX!], and its really as it is advertised, very convenient and completely non-stick. However, one little thing the pamphlet neglected to highlight, and which I had to find out after I burnt my brownies and from the internet, is that because these silicon pans heat up faster than the traditional metal/glass ones, baking time has to be reduced by 5-10 minutes. And therein lies the reason for the slightly too dry brownies, not to mention its unsightly appearance, as I had to slice off the burnt parts =P Another notable event from this baking sessions: measuring cups RULE!! Another perfect gift from my cousins [I am so lucky, I know], I have always felt them to be too much trouble, and also that they can't be that accurate. But after trying them out with the brownies, I find them to be soooo handy! No more measuring on the kitchen scale! And they are indeed accurate =) And so, from now on, I will give some measurements in cups, but together with the metric volume if I have them, and only on ingredients that you can adjust the amount of safely =)


* by the way, Diana's has this amazing conversion calculator that I would have absolutely died without, give it a go!

113g dark chocolate, melted

113g unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup/225g granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla essence

1/4 cup or 60ml milk

50g plain flour [reduce a little to make way for the cocoa]

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts [nuts lovers, you can safely add a whole cup; this is very conservative. Nut haters can omit it]

3 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 cup chocolate chips

*On another matter, I think I have a solution to the unsoftened butter! Simply cut it down to as tiny as you can, then start smushing it around with a spatula or scrapper until its soft! Isn't really that fast, but better than sitting around waiting for the dame thing to soften right?

Cream sugar and butter, then the eggs, one by one. Then add vanilla and milk, beat some more until smooth. Next, beat in the melted chocolate until it thickens a little, around 5 minutes. Dump in all the dry stuff at once [remember to sieve the cocoa! And since you have to sieve the cocoa already, might as well do all the other dry stuff right?] and mix thoroughly. No need to be extra gentle with it, but neither should you take out your frustration with your boss on it. Pour into your baking pan and smooth out the edges, bake in a preheated 180 degree celcius oven until the top is nice and hardened [you know, that nice crunchy part on top everyone likes? Pop a piece of foil over it if it starts to burn], and a skewer inserted comes out without any batter stuck to it.

Icing sugar over the top is optional, I usually don't do it, but I was covering up the butchered surface of the brownies from where I removed the burnt bits.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Quiche Lorraine

This one's by request of my sister [and probably the last bake-off I'll have in a while, since school starts tmr], who has been bugging me to make quiche ever since she 'discovered' it. I'm happy to comply, since I hardly ever bake savory items, not that I don't like them, just that somehow they don't look as appealing. A quiche is basically an egg-cheese savory tart/pie concoction that comes in all flavours. I would have preferred a salmon quiche, but my sis wanted bacon, so here we are.



215g plain flour

100g salted butter, chilled [here you want a little taste to your crust]

Some cold water


3 bacon rashers, chopped to your liking

80g grated cheese of your liking; I used Cheddar

3 eggs

185ml cream or milk

1 large yellow onion, sliced

Ok, the pastry is basically a short crust pastry, and in the apple crumble post I have already detailed how it is done, so refer there if you need to.

Here, though, the pastry needs to be blind baked before the filling is added. This is usually done with very wet fillings, or fillings that can't be baked for too long. Both applies in this case, as the egg + milk mixture is extremely wet, and can't be baked too long as you want a bit of wobble to it.

To blind bake, roll out and fit pastry to pan. [Here I would suggest using a cake pan instead of a flatter pie plate, unless you have a deep dish pie plate, as there are quite a lot of liquid. Mine was too shallow, and though I didn't add everything, the filling still overflowed. Not very pretty.] Trim off excess, and prick the base of the pastry liberally. This is to let off steam as it bakes so that the pastry stays nice and flat, instead of bubbling up. Let bake in a preheated 180 degree celcius oven until the pastry leaves the sides of the pan.

For the filling, fry the bacon and onions together with small amount of oil until to your liking. I like my onions completely cooked, with its heat all cooked out so that its sweet and soft. Once done set aside to cool.

Beat your egg and cream/milk together, set aside, and its ready for assembly. Spread the onion-bacon mixture evenly over the base of the tart shell, sprinkling over half of the cheese evenly as well. Pour egg + cream/milk mixture over the filling, and top off with the rest of the cheese. Pop back into a preheated 180 degree celcius oven and bake roughly 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is nice and browned. And your quiche is ready to be served =) Serve within the same day, though I feel that it tastes best warm and leftovers must be kept in the fridge. Simply reheat the leftovers in microwave/oven/toaster when you want it, and it'll still be great.