Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Daring Baker's Challenge

I can't freaking believe its my 6th challenge!! Its scary sometimes when I think about how time flies =)

This month's challenge, hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK, is of Chocolate Eclairs by Pierre Hermé. I have to say I was rather dissapointed when this month's challenge was announced, first because I'm not all that crazy about eclairs [before you shoot me, I like them just fine, I just don't love them], second because I've made eclairs a number of times already.

I was also quite displeased with the recipe, particularly with the given chocolate glaze recipe. It is tedious and complicated and expensive and completely unnecessary. As mentioned in last month's challenge post, I really abhor wastage, and that's what that recipe represented to me. The pastry recipe itself was fairly common, except for the strange instruction to open the oven door early in the baking, which caused my eclairs to deflate a little. Fortunately they recovered.

Despite all my grips, the challenge turned out fairly well. The pastry cream recipe is interesting, much faster than other recipes I've tried. I also played around with the flavor, with pleasant results, as you shall see =)

So, first there was the pastry. Baking them was a breeze, even with the bizarre instruction to open the oven door 7 minutes into the baking. I made puffs out of half the recipe and eclairs out of the other half.
For some reason, the puffs seemed to bake up much nicer. I think these eclairs and puffs look much cuter without the glaze. What do you think?

For the pastry cream, as mentioned, it came together quickly and tasted pretty good. Only complain is that they were a tad too runny. I split them into two batch, flavoring one with passion fruit [pulp of 1/2 a fruit, juice of 1 1/2 fruit] and the other with Kahlua. Both tasted fantastic, but I particularly liked the passion fruit pastry cream. I filled the eclairs with the passion fruit and the puffs with the kahlua.

Somehow, once folded into the pastry cream, the passion fruit loses its almost unbarable acidity, mellowing considerably. The pastry cream takes on the incredible frangrance of the passion fruit, only without the sharpness, so that it only hint of passion fruit and summer, yet lingers pleasingly on the palate. Loooooved it to bits.

I liked the Kahlua cream too, but not as much as the passion fruit =D

Next, for the chocolate glaze. As mentioned, I didn't like the given glaze, so I went for another one I found online.

2 oz. dark chocolate
3 tbspn butter
1 cup icing sugar
couple tbsp water

Melt chocolate and butter, stirring to mix. Remove from heat and stir in icing sugar until desired consistency is reached, diluting with water if too thick.

This recipe gives a glaze with a very nice consistency for the eclairs. It can be spooned nicely on top of the eclairs and it'll hold its shape well. Only problem is that its grainy from the icing sugar, and the chocolate taste is not very strong.

As for assembly, I really don't like the idea of cutting the eclairs in half. I think its messy and the runny pastry cream won't be able to hold its form. So I piped the cream into the pastries by making a small hole at its side. I think it worked pretty well =)

Another problem with this recipe: it made waaaay too much pastry cream. Good thing I really liked the passion fruit pastry cream, because I made it into this:

Canned pear pie with passion fruit pastry cream! I tell you, this pie was off the charts. I think I liked this way more than the eclairs itself, and its dead easy to make. Blind bake a short-crust pastry. Brush pastry with fruit jam. Pile in the pastry cream. Pile in the sliced pears. Seal the fruits with more jam. Ta Da, a fantastic pie!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Yay, we are 43 years old! I love national day, I really do. Yes, I know the government make use of this day to brain wash impressionable kids by filling their brains with cheesy patriotic songs and by placing so many flags all over Singapore that from an aerial view Singapore must now look like a bunched up red and white ball of rags. I also know the whole concept of national day is merely an invented tradition. Still, whether the children's faces are glowing with nationalistic pride or ecstasy at a day off school, the whole country feels I alive on this day, and I love it.

Seems like Yahoo loves it too!

So, the irreverent cook decided to commemorate this wonderful day by baking the only red and white thing she knows, and that is the calzone!

A calzone is basically a folded pizza, which means there will be the obligatory tomato paste and mozzarella. Red and white, get it? I know its lame, but its the best I could come up with =P

Anyways, about the calzone, I really love it! I think I'm never going out for pizza again, I can make it myself! Jaime Oliver would be very proud.


Pizza dough:

1 1/4 cups warm water

1 package [11g] dry/instant yeast

1 tspn sugar

2 tbspn olive oil

2 tspn salt

about 4 cups plain flour

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Leave to foam. Stir in remaining cup of water, salt, oil and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the flour, until smooth. Using the mixer or your hands, knead in the rest of the flour. Not all the flour have to be used up, just until the dough is smooth and elastic and won't take any more flour. Shape dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Divide into 8 balls and roll out into circles. Fill one half of the circle with your filling of choice. [I used tomato paste, shredded chicken, stir-fried mushrooms, and sliced mozzarella cheese]

To make pleated design, start off with the top right hand corner, turning it down and pressing it into the dough. Repeat action until the whole calzone is sealed. Bake in a 220 degree celcius preheated oven until puffed and browned, around 20 minutes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lovely Lemons

In Singapore, we scarcely need to be reminded of summer, since its virtually perpetually summer-ish here. Despite that, I still love how lemons always manage to intensify the feel of summer, especially when they are baked into something delicious!

A while back, I wrote a post about Fresh Lemon Bars, and now, I've found another wonderful way to use lemons, and that is to make them into a versatile Lemon filling! This filling is truly amazing. On the first taste, it is almost too tart to bare, but by the second, third bite, the fresh, clean scent of lemon begins to fill your senses, the tangy sweetness of the filling making another mouthful irresistable. It can be used to fill a variety of things, and from one batch of this lemon filling, I made Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Meringue Pies =D

For the cake, I merely sandwiched the lemon filling between two layers of yellow cake, slap on some cream cheese frosting over the top, and voila, I had a delicious, light and surprisingly sophisticated cake on hand! It took almost no time at all to whip up. Unfortunately, only one slice was left by the time my sister was free to take photos of it, and so I can only present you with this one and only photo =) It is entirely possible to bake a round cake instead, cut 3 layers out of it, then frost the entire cake, instead of the just the top. You'll have a lovely lemon cheese layer cake on hand in the blink of an eye.


Yellow Cake:
1 cups plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
50g butter, softened
120g sugar
2 small eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
* yield 1 30 X 20 cm tray of cake

Combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, before beating in the vanilla. Reducing the speed of the mixer, beat in the flour mixture alternatively with the milk, until just combined, scraping frequently. Bake in a preheated 180 degree celcius oven for around 20 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

You can either make one layer and split that, either with a knife or a piece of dental floss, or bake two layers.

Lemon filling:
3 large lemons
1 tbspn cornstarch
90g butter
140g sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten, set aside in a heatproof bowl.
*yields 1 cup. Only 1/2 cup needed for the cake

Zest and juice lemons. Combine the zest, juice and cornstarch in a saucepan until combined. Add butter and sugar, heat until boiling, then boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Beat a small amount of the lemon mixture into the egg yolks, then pouring quickly back into saucepan, stirring rapidly. Reduce heat to low, cooking until thick, but do not boil.

Once at desired consistency, press a piece of cling film or plastic over the surface of the filling and allow to come to room temperature. Once cool, it is ready to use.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 cups powdered sugar
3 oz cream cheese
45g butter, softened
1 tspn vanilla extract
*yields 1 cup.

Beat everything up in a bowl, scrapping frequently, at midium speed. After 1 minute, continue beating at increased speed until smooth and fluffy.

Don't think I need to go into details on how to assemble right? =D

Once you have the lemon filling on hand, the Lemon Meringue Pie is drop dead easy. This is my first time making LMP, and I have to say, I love the result! Can't believe I've never eaten LMP until now...I also wanted to experiment with tiny LMP, because transporting the whole LMP would have been a nightmare, with that towering cloud of meringue just waiting to slide off the pie at the first opportunity. I'm happy to report that tiny LMP was a success! Gonna be seeing some of those at parties...

1/2 a recipe of short crust pastry [around 250g]


2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

If you've never made meringue a search on google, there are tons of dos and don'ts about meringue on the net, so I'll save myself the trouble of listing them out here. I played around with the pastry this time, making around 6 mini LMP, and around 10 tiny LMP =P

For the mini LMP, simply roll out the pastry, cut circles out of it, and press into a muffin tin, pricking the pastry well before blind baking. To make the base for the tinies, cut rectangles out of the pastry, prick it, then bake it until cooked.

Spoon in the filling, top with the meringue. Make sure the meringue touches the crust, then send into a preheated 200 degree celsius oven, baking for around 10 minutes, or until the meringue is brown. And don't freak out, it won't be crumbly at all, but is meant to be marshmallow-y ;)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Baked samosas

Attentive readers would remember that in my mother's day post, I mentioned that I had tons of phyllo pastry left over from my baklava. What I decided was to make some baked samosas out of them.

Samosas are wonderful finger-sized snacks, with morsels of spicy, savory vegetable or meat fillings wrapped into a triangle of pastry, then usually deep-fried. I don't know how to decribe this delicious traditional Indian snack, except to say that they will condemn the most fastidious diet plans to hell.

Well, my version is slightly less sinful, but no less addictive. I'll pop samosas over pringles or chips any day of the year. Instead of homemade pastry, I used phyllo pastry, and of course, I baked it, instead of deep frying it.



Indian spices [I find that unless you are an expert of spices, any mix of spices will give the exciting spicy kick we associate with Indian food, so no need to be too fussy about what spices you use, just whatever Indian spice you have around, common ones like cumin, marsala, chili, tumeric, etc. I particularly LOVE Indian mustard seeds, not for any particular taste, but for the fantastic popping sensation it gives when bitten into]

Mixture of vegetables [whatever you have on hand. Near anything would work, I used carrots, couple handfuls of mixed veg, and a couple of potatoes]

Onions, diced.



10 sheets of phyllo pastry. Adjust the amount of filling according to how much pastry you have, or want to make.

50g Melted butter OR vegetable oil

First the filling, which is dead easy to make. Dump all the vegetables into a pot, cover with lots of water, and allow to boil away till soft. Drain and mash up all the vegetables to desired consistency, either chunky or smooth.

In a frying pan, heat up a couple tablespoons full of oil. Fry up the spices [I used marsala, mustard seeds, cumin and chili powder] and the onions, watching and smelling carefully not to burn them. Once fragrant, pour in the vegetable mash and stir fry, until everything smells nice and the filling looks dry. Season accordingly, remove from heat and set aside.

On a piece of baking paper, lay out one sheet of phyllo pastry. Brush all over with the butter or oil, then lay another sheet of phyllo pastry over it, to get a 'sandwich'. Brush over the top sheet of pastry with oil/butter again. Cut, lengthwise, into either 8 or 4 strips, depending on the size you want your samosas to be.

Spoon just enough of the filling into the left hand diagonal of the bottom of the strip of pastry. Turn up the bottom corner of the right hand diagonal, covering the filling. Then, pick up the left bottom corner, folding it upwards. Continue to get the triangular shape, until the strip of pastry is used up. Follow with the rest of the pastry and filling.

Place wrapped pastry on a baking sheet. They can be close together and touching, no problem at all. Brush with oil one final time before baking in a preheated 180 degree celcius oven until brown and crispy. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for one day, then reheated in the oven, and will still be crispy =D