Friday, May 30, 2008

Plumped Plum Marries A Big Fat Tart

Recently, we have been occupying most of our time collecting good reads, streaming the very talented and charming David Archuleta's performance cum shows and experimenting tarty bakes. Lives get busy and healthy (think of going for walks and jogs every other morning for 2 hours straight with the girls, and more trekking to come on weekends), updating blogs came off pretty infrequent, which is something bad, we reckon. Well, speaking of good reads, let's just forget about Danielle Steel, J.K Rowling, J.R.R Tolkien and Dan Brown this time, and hop onto the other genre which is very much related to the world of pastry and baking. For the record, we're still craving for Kim Young Mo's hard-to-get cookbook, after hustling all over the town's bookstore for a wider huntdown. Not getting Kim's winning cookbook was not as devastating as we would have predicted though, since other cookbooks came along at the very right time.

Most of our profit made from the sales of our cakes and cupcakes were happily exchanged with few other good reads - be it a local cookbook or one that's distributed internationally. And yes, we spent on one which we found it to be quite pricey (RM188), as we thought it was a steal since it was left alone in one piece, with no clones left; Pierre Herme's Chocolate Desserts. As we stroll along the aisle of the bookstores's bookshelves, we bumped into Daniel Tay's new book; Just Desserts and Other Baked Treats for the price of RM 88.80. Without hesitation, we grabbed along the 2 reads - what we would love to have in our personal bookshelves. We haven't had the time to lay our hands on any of Pierre Herme's recipes, unlike what we have already done on Daniel Tay's book. We must say that Daniel Tay's recipes came off pretty delicious. We've altered one of its tart by substituting apples with juicy red plums as we would love to have plum tart for brunch.

The original sable dough, which weighs in at 1.2kg was supposed to be the base for two 11-12 inches wide flan pan. We halved the dough recipe to spare extra cup of flour for the apple and plum cake. We have not heard of sable dough when it comes to tart-making, and efforts for spending on a bar of pure french butter didn't hurt much either as we totally agree that these are the best flavorsome melt-in-your-mouth tart that we've tasted. Unlike the very usual shortcrust tart, this has made a cut - think of melt-in-your-mouth butter shortbread which has a light crisp texture on the outside, fully engrossed with the aroma of pure unsalted butter. If you're eyeing for crusty and hard in texture tarts, Daniel Tay's sable dough tarts will not fulfill your request, but it will definitely made it into your baking wish list.

Wait! There's more plus point if we speak of the sable dough. We, basically don't fancy making pies and tarts as we find the sides of the tarts were usually messily trimmed and we were obviously disturbed by it; which looked unprofessionally done - or shall we say; unimpressive. It used to be an excuse to dodge request for tarts, but this ain't going to happen no more. The sable dough was perfect and less time consuming; no gentle hands were needed to smoothen out or trim the sides of the dough when it has been laid onto a tart or flan pan. It is easily handled since it is pliable and smooth, thus, small cracks can be hardly noticeable after side-trimming was done with a pastry cutter or even a knife.

The verdict of the tart; we would say the overall tart was indeed tasty. The fillings; which is known as almond cream in the book blends in well with the sable dough tart. Almonds and butter will come into our mind when this grand tart runs into our taste buds; which we find that is the two main flavor that plays a distinctive role in this tart itself.

The baked-in fruit toppings vary from pear to peaches, and not to be left out; plums! As for other options like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries; it will be laid onto the tart once the tart is fully baked - bake the tart with its fillings, let cool and topped with your choice of berries, brush with apricot glaze and serve.

Almond Plum Tart (Adapted from Daniel Tay's Just Desserts And Other Baked Treats)

175g unsalted butter, barely thawed for about 10 minutes in room temperature
250g all-purpose flour, sifted
A tiny pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
35g finely grounded blanched almond
1 egg, medium-sized, lightly beaten

1. Cut butter into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, icing sugar and almonds and mix with an electric mixer at medium speed to form a smooth dough.
2. Beat in eggs and mix on low speed until smooth.
3. Cover dough with cling film and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before using.

Almond cream:
125ml single (light) cream, leave to thaw at room temperature for 10 minutes before use
180g grounded almonds, finely grounded
30g corn flour, sifted
150g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
200g icing sugar, sifted
2 eggs, medium-sized
2 tablespoon rum liquor

1. Place almond, corn flour, butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat for about 8 minutes until batter is free from lumps.
2. Add in eggs one at a time to avoid batter being curdled. Beat until smooth. Add cream and rum and stir until smooth.

1 portion of tart (recipe above)
1 portion of almond cream (recipe above)
5 large plums, cored and thinly sliced into wedges form
Apricot glaze, for glazing

1. Preheat oven to 170"C
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out sable dough into a 0.5 cm thick sheet, large enough to cover the base and sides of 12 inch tart pan. Line pan and trim edges to neaten.
3. Spoon in almond cream and spread cream out evenly with an angle palette knife.
4. Arrange wedged plums on top of the cream. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tart has turned golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside on wire rack to cool.
5. Brush the top surface with apricot glaze. Serve warm, best with a cup of freshly brewed unsweetened tea.

Just in case there are abundance of red juicy plums on the kitchen counter, fret not. Get down and dirty for the next baking session; which may sound like baking from scratch. A loaf of tea cake; which may sounded similarly to a plum cake.

We have stumbled upon Nigel Slater's plum cake recipe, from The Kitchen Diaries, and it was undoubtedly good, moist and refreshing. We altered the recipe a little by adding slices of apples on the top of the cake (that is how the lonely green apple ended its life, how sweet) and decrease the number of plums to 5.

Fresh Plum And Apple Cake (adapted from Nigel Slater's Fresh Plum Cake, The Kitchen Diaries)

75g butter
75g caster sugar
1 egg
35g all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
90g almongs, finely grounded
5 plums, stoned and cut into 1 inch cube
1 green apple, Granny Smith's, cored and cut into thin wedge slices

1. Preheat the oven to 180"C.
2. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. We used a loaf tin, which measures at 16cm x 6cm.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg. Fold in flour, baking powder and grounded almonds with a spatula. Fold in the plum pieces into the batter with the spatula.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and arrange the sliced apples on top of the batter.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool slightly in the tin. When the cake is warm to touch, remove the cake from the tin and cool on wire rack. Serve warm with tea. Yield 6 slices.

Well, we now love brunch and tea-times.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tr'opera: Tropical Opera Cake

Our Daring Bakers Challenge #2

From the reference above, it seems that we have now proceeded to our second challenge of Daring Bakers. We are too happy for words and greatly satisfied with our 2nd challenge. The very 1st challenge that we have participated were Cheesecake Pops, and as of this month's challenge, it was our most fearful cake of all time, the Opera Cake. An Opera Cake, consisting of the main jaconde sponge, intensified flavorful syrup, buttercream, mousse, ganache and also glaze, with the usual rectangular shape as part of its identifiable features. We have always been keen to make perfect buttercream with only butter itself, and not buttercream which need to be folded with stiff egg whites. Speaking of the grand Opera cake, which involves jaconde, our unskilled physiques on whipping up a fluffy jaconde wasn't that good either. The last time we tried our hands on jaconde sheets, we ended up feasting on hard tuiles. Over baked, that might be the answer. Wait a minute, it might as well be over whipped egg whites since the batter had sunk quarterly after a few rounds of fold-cum-mix sessions with the rubber spatula. To bake or not to bake, that will be the question this time round.

The 2nd challenge was hosted by Lis and Ivonne, together with the other two newer members of DB; Fran and Shea. Baking an Opera Cake (which is originally made with chocolate, almond and coffee, with coffee buttercream) is kind of challenging, but baking an Opera Cake with light flavors and light colors (white chocolate, vanilla, lemon etc) is way upon challenging - which made this DB Challenge truly a challenge. On the same week itself, which is most probably the first week of the month of May, we sat and brainstormed the availability of flavors to be used to re-create the new Opera Cake quietly, right in front of our computer desk. Matching and pairing up the flavors was neither easy, the unsuitability of two distinctive and individual flavors might lead to bad repercussions; which spells opera cake disaster. We gathered resources and feedbacks from the kids. One suggested that the question should be served to Mom. And why Mom, we wondered for a while. Mother's Day's on the 12th of May, we were too old to be blamed - forgetfulness. That's it! Mom will then decides the flavor of this Opera Cake, specially created for her, with flavors quoted by herself.

Mom hinted that she would love to have a Mother's Day Cake which consists of real chunky hazelnuts to bite on, uber green kiwis to chowed on, white chocolate mousse to licked on and a refreshing cake which will take in passion fruit puree as well. That sounds interesting, think of bright colored fruits, well - think tropical! Thoughts of a soul which undoubtedly belongs to a novice baker whispered softly; that is a very daring move when it comes to a whole new creation of an opera cake. Daring, and our minds are mentally challenged.

The original opera cake recipe was based on Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty's Chocolate Passion. Alterations were made, starting off with the jaconde itself. The original jaconde calls for almond meal, but we go otherwise - hazelnut meal, since Mom does not favor almonds. We have
made our very own hazelnut meal to substitute the almond meal.

Hazelnut meal in our local bakery store (Malaysia) was known as grounded hazelnuts and it is blended not as fine as what most hazelnut meal was.

For homemade hazelnut meal; blend a pack of hazelnuts by an electric blender while gradually adding teaspoonfuls of flour to avoid oily paste, and last but not least, sieved the finely blended hazelnuts by spoon-pressure through a flour sifter.
Voila, hazelnut meal! Next up, the buttercream were infused with kiwi puree and passion fruit puree. On the other hand, the syrup was made out of honey with a hint of Australian wine.

As we were afraid that the tropical opera cake might taste too bland, the search for another tropical fruit as the cake's fillings were held. Ripened Alphonso mangoes goes in perfectly! We omitted the white chocolate mousse as there were excess of buttercream left in the refrigerator. The glaze was made out of white chocolate, and the temptation to brush on a thin layer of light green colored apricot glaze were done as well. As to finalize the Tropical Opera Cake as a product, slices of kiwis and halved mangoes were arranged on the surface of the cake. The recipe below will bring about 6 parts; hazelnut jaconde, honey syrup, kiwi and passionfruit buttercream, white chocolate glaze, mango cubes, and the way the cake being assembled.

Part One: Hazelnut
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature)

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched hazelnuts
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs

½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2. Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3. Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the hazelnuts, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to over mix batter)

7. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8. Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmould.

10. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

Part Two: Honey Syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

½ cup (125 grams) water

⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Australian wine

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Part Three: Kiwi & Passionfruit Buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

¼ cup (60 grams) water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

2 kiwis, pureed and strained through sift (juice wanted)
2 passionfruit, medium-sized, pureed ( juice wanted)

1. Combine the sugar, water and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3. While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4. When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6. While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7. With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8. At this point add in your kiwi juice and passionfruit puree. Beat for an additional minute or so.

9. Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

Part Four: White Chocolate Glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish assembling the cake.)

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1. Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Part Five: Mango Cubes

(Note: It’s best to cubed the mangoes before assembling started.)

5 large Alphonso mangoes

1. Peel the skin of the mangoes with a vegetable peeler.
2. Cut the mangoes with a knife in the size of 1 inch cubes.
3. Set aside.

Assembling the Opera Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

  • Jaconde
  • Honey syrup
  • Kiwi and Passionfruit buttercream
  • Mango cubes
  • White chocolate glaze
  • Some light green colored apricot glaze (optional)
  • 1 large Alphonso mango for decoration (optional)
  • 2 large kiwis for decoration (optional)
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
3. Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the honey syrup.
4. Spread about one-third of the kiwi and passionfruit buttercream over this layer.
5. Place half of mango cubes onto the buttercream.

6. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the honey syrup.

7. Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and spread remaining mango cubes on the cake.
8. Then top with the third square of jaconde. Use the remaining honey syrup to wet the jaconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of jaconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

9. Make the white chocolate glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
10. Once set, lightly brush top of the glaze with the green colored apricot glaze. Topped the cake with sliced mangoes and sliced kiwis.
11. Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

As for the leftover jaconde, we assemble 4 layers of jaconde brushed with honey syrup, with slices of kiwis in between of the kiwi and passsionfruit buttercream, and topped off with the white chocolate glaze. The other opera cake to date; a Kiwi Opera Cake! We feasted on this baby and was fully satisfied with the result. The buttercream was creamy and not overly sweet, and we recommend that the Opera Cake should be eaten at room temperature. Or maybe slightly cold.

After a bite out of the Tr'opera Cake (Tropical Opera Cake), we make comparisons and came to a verdict that the Tr'opera Cake tasted way better than the Kiwi Opera Cake. The very sweet and juicy Alphonso mangoes were addictive, which turns out to be the main attraction of the cake. After combining the three tropical fruits; mango, kiwi and passion fruit (which is also Mom's favorite), there was no doubt that the thirst-quencher cake tasted refreshingly luscious, best eaten in hot and humid weather. However, we will definitely increase the amount of whipping cream in the white chocolate glaze as many had told us that the glaze is too sweet. Oh, here goes the meassage; Happy Belated Mom's Day, Mom! And to all mommies out there!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Going Bananas Over Bananas

Our evil eyes stare coldly at the almost-ripened bananas on the kitchen counter. We don't fancy almost-ripened ones when it comes to making banana bread or even banana cake, thus, we dump them into the refrigerator to further ripen the bunch of bananas that we have. Fully overripe; that's what we love to have our hands on. The darker and the browner the bananas are, the better the cake turned out to be. Cakes or breads baked using awfully dark brown (the best one were all blacks) and mushy bananas appear to be more good-looking, in terms of more refined banana strands can be seen, which we find it beautiful.

One do still wonder be it banana bread OR banana cake, both were almost the same. Almost, what say you? We can't even differentiate what's the difference and the unlikeliness between these two bakes; the refreshingly sexy and fancy banana cake and its handsome cum down to earth twin brother; the banana bread. Now, that's one shallow and ambiguous comparison to date. Simply, banana bread which is baked in a loaf pan, is in the middle of a bread and a cake texture with a low intensity of pure banana flavor. On the other hand, the banana cake is more to the crumbly side, most of the cakes were pretty-looking and sweet, which kids would love. We love to have both as they were great accompaniments to a hot cuppa.

As for the past week, we rendered into dozens of Cavendish bananas to enjoy the very well-defined banana week. Packed with extra calories and a few extra pounds, we wouldn't mind either since we were then crazy over bananas - especially caramelized bananas and banana milk shakes.

We were thinking, since it was a balmy banana week, participating NQN's Banana Bread Bakeoff Event will be fun and definitely motivating. It can keep track of where all the black bananas have gone to, while sparing us extra reasons to bake more banana breads and even cakes. After the banana week were all over, our bleary red eyes paid off as we were about to post three adapted recipes, hailing from various sources; banana bread with caramelized walnuts and caramel icing from Ma, up-side down banana cake from Women's Weekly, and last but not least, a loaf of simple yet refreshing banana and coconut bread adapted from a local cookbook; which is Delicious Cakes by Amy Heng.

The outcome was a blast-off. We totally had fallen for Ma's not too sweet caramelized walnuts and the moist banana cake itself, and also the upside-down banana cake. As for Ma's banana cake, we were very lucky to stumble upon her very own piece of cookbook - full of comprehensive written notes and recipes that were meant to be the family's favorite. As the bread was moist, soft in texture and pleasant-tasting, it was a definite keeper. As for the not-too-sweet caramel icing, it blended well with the bread as it was a softer icing. The caramelized walnut lends a big help of crunchiness to the entire bread. The banana bread can go with or without the icing and caramelized walnuts, but be sure to take a sip of a just-brewed hot cuppa for the extra umphh.

Ma's B
anana Bread with Caramelized Walnuts and Caramel Icing

For the banana bread:
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 2 cups of mashed overripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup fresh milk (mix with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes)
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • pinch of salt
1. Prepare all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven at 175"C or 350"F.
2. Grease and lined parchment paper into a loaf pan; 9x5 inches.
3. In a medium bowl with electric mixer of a whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar for about 3 minutes till light and creamy. While the mixer is still creaming the butter mixture, gradually add in the eggs and continue mixing to avoid curdling.
Add in the mashed bananas and mix till incorporated.
4. In another small bowl, mix sifted flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. This will be the flour mixture.
5. Fold in the half of the flour mixture into the batter, followed by half of the milk, until combined. Scrape the bowl. Fold in the remaining flour mixture and the remaining milk into the batter. Fold until the batter is smooth.
6. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bring into the preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes where the surface of the bread will be golden brown or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread.
7. Cool bread in tin for about 5 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack. While cooling, proceed to the icing and caramelized walnuts, which is optional. (recipe below)

For the caramelized walnuts:
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium, heavy based saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to boil. Boil for 10 minutes, occasionally swirling the liquid around the saucepan. When the caramel mixture has turned dark brown, remove from the heat.
2. Quickly mix in the walnuts into the caramel and toss the walnuts until coated evenly. Spoon the caramelized walnuts onto the surface of the cooled banana bread.

For the caramel icing:
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
1. Combine the sugar and whipping cream in a medium, heavy based saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to boil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture had turned golden brown. The mixture will be soft and slightly thick. Remove from heat and stir the icing continuously until warm to touch.
2. Pour the icing onto the bread. Allow to cool.

Caramel and now what? The other banana baked goods winner was the upside-down TOFFEE banana cake from Women's Weekly. Toffee is sure to made us all go happy, as we are caramel and toffee fanatics. With slices of bananas and soft toffee as toppings, it was indeed sinful. Not very rich but still, sinfully tasty.

The cake was not as sweet as we have expected and our helpers convinced us that this upside-down cake is better than any upside-down cake that we have approached. It was very light and fluffy. Slices of bananas were laid onto the surface to enhance the distinctive banana flavor. After the cake was left for days, the top becomes pudding-like texture. So, gobble down everything as it is best eaten on the day it was baked. In this cake, vegetable oil was used instead of cubes of unsalted butter.

Upside-Down Toffee Banana Cake (adapted from Women's Weekly; Best Food Desserts)
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 2 medium bananas (400g), sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup (165g) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
  • 1/3 cup (50g) self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice (we substituted with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon powder)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup overripe mashed bananas
1. Preheat oven to 180"C. Grease deep 22cm round cake pan; line base with baking paper.
2. Stir caster sugar and the water in a medium saucepan over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves; bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, without stirring, about 10 minutes or until caramel in color. Pour toffee into prepared pan; top with sliced bananas.
3. Combine eggs, oil, brown sugar and extract in a medium bowl. Stir in sifted dry ingredients, then mashed bananas; pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven about 40 minutes. Turn onto wire rack, peel off baking paper; turn cake top-side up. Serve cake warm or at room temperature with thick cream, if desired.

The last banana baked good was the Banana and Coconut Bread, for the ones who like it plain. The bread was not as moist as Ma's Banana Bread. This might be the pure banana bread; drier, less crumbs and denser; a basic recipe from Amy Heng's Delicious Cakes. It was plain and we would like to stress on the importance for a hot cuppa to go along with this bread. Besides, this bread itself calls for corn oil, banana essence and ovalette or emulsifier; a thick light orange gel.

However, alterations were made by adding 1/2 cup of dessicated coconut and 1 cup of 1/2 inch cubed bananas. Cubed bananas were incurred to moisten the bread as we prefer moister ones. Besides, these chunky cubed bananas made good surprises in a loaf. Omit the cubed bananas if you prefer having a simple yet light banana bread. The original recipe do also call for evaporated milk, which lends a pleasant aroma to the bread. We also stick to the original recipe by not substituting the ripe bananas with the overripe ones. It will yield 2 loaves of banana bread though.

Banana and Coconut Bread (adapted from the original recipe of Amy Heng's Banana Bread)
  • 5 eggs
  • 15g ovalette or emulsifier
  • 230g caster sugar
  • 170ml corn oil
  • 230g cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon double-action baking powder, sifted
  • 250g ripen bananas, mashed
  • 60g evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon banana essence
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup of 1/2 inch cubed bananas
1. Line and grease two 9 inches rectangular pans.
2. Preheat oven at 180"C.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, ovalette and sugar at a high speed until light and fluffy.
4. Gradually beat in the oil, flour and baking powder at low speed until just incorporated.
5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in mashed bananas, evaporated milk, baking soda and banana essence. Mix until combined.
6. Fold dessicated coconut and cubed bananas with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour into two prepared pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes
or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread. Cool cake on wire rack before turning onto serving tray.

Happy baking and Happy Ma's Day!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rice Krispies : The Rich Or The Delicate?

Rice krispie were some what new to us. Love the cushy popping sound that rice krispie make though. Most of us here do not really enjoy cumbersome procedures and instructions, mainly when it's coming from book recipes. We do think that rice krispie bars are too complicated to be done; the inner soul of a novice baker convinced us that it is. Surprisingly, it took us about an hour plus to get 2 trays of rice krispie bars - proven that rice krispie bars ain't that troublesome. Strolling down one of the aisle of a nearby bakery mart, we were stupefied and dumbfounded when we saw the price tag of a huge pack of rice krispie, let's say 500g in weight for just RM3.80. It was a steal, definitely cheaper than what we have thought. Out of curiosity, we've spent on a pack of it. At least, just if lady luck and the kitchen god aren't with us, the ruined and disastrous rice krispie bars will only cost us a few penny. It is money, but the highs and lows are the one that counts. Toying around with rice krispie bars during bored weekends, what's not to be excited about?

As 500g of plain rice
krispie are considered as abundant compared to most of the recipes we've gotten, we go full force with two different rice krispie recipes for the sake of wiping all of the krispie out of our food cabinet. The first batch of rice krispie dawdled around in the line for Chocolate and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars. It was a pure crowd-pleaser and a definite keeper. Our dead beat faces were all enliven after ONE bite. Chewy, with a perfect blend of peanut butter and chocolate chips, it can't be wrong! It was really good. Hands down, as words can't enlighten how great these krispie bars tasted. Stumbled upon the lord of sugary dessert which is Chocolate and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars recipe from Monkey Eat Food. The original recipe was known that it was from How It All Vegan Cookbook and it can be found from Monkey Eat Food. We altered the recipe a little as we found out that sprinkling the chocolate chips layer by layer will be less messy and the intention for licking the wooden spoon will be less encouraged. In addition, we have added a coat of chocolate frosting on the surface of the rice krispie bars to fulfill our sugar-high pulses.

Chocolate And Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars (adapted from How It All Vegan)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies or puffed rice cereal of your choice
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, mix together the sugar and syrup until hot and bubbly.

2. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter; stir in together until well mixed.

3. Pour the puffed rice or rice krispies into a large bowl. Stir in the peanut butter mixture and mix together well with a large wooden spoon until combined. The rice krispies will be coated evenly with the peanut butter mixture.

4. Pour half of the mixture into a 9x13-inch or 8x14-inch pan and press flat with the wooden spoon. Sprinkle 1-1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Pour the remaining mixture and press flat with the wooden spoon. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Press flat with wooden spoon so that the rice krispie bars have a leveled surface. Place the rice krispie bar with the pan intact on wire rack to cool while proceeding to the frosting-making.

5. For the frosting, melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, without touching the water. Stir until combined. Quickly pour onto the rice krispie bar. Let cool for 1 hour on wire rack before cutting into squares.

6. Cut into dainty 2-inch blocks with a sharp knife as these bars are super rich. Enjoy!

Next up in line; White Chocolate And Rosewater With Pistachio Rice Krispie Bars. We tried to toy around with the original white chocolate rice krispy bars by infusing rosewater extract into the white chocolate frosting and adding pistachios into the bars itself. Compared to the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars, the white chocolate bar is more crunchy and less chewy. The pistachio nuts were lightly toasted to garner a fresher-tasting bar. Pairing up with the rosewater infused white chocolate frosting, it's a great combo to play with. Snapping off the white chocolate bar while digesting the previous chocolate bar were unforgettable, as the white chocolate bar is pleasant-tasting and light in flavor, while the chocolate bar is super rich. Yin and yang - perfect balance.

White Chocolate And Rosewater With Pistachio Rice Krispie Bars
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 280g (10 oz) white chocolate, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 cups rice krispies
  • 1 cup pistachios, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosewater extract
  • 125g (4 oz) extra white chocolate, chopped finely
1. Grease a 9x9 inch square pan with vegetable oil.
2. Place condensed milk into a medium saucepan. Heat over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Stir in the 280g white chocolate and butter, keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and incorporated. Remove from heat.

3. Mix the rice krispies and pistachios in a large bowl. Pour the white chocolate mixture into the rice krispies and pistachios. Mix with a wooden spoon until the rice krispies are coated evenly with the white chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Level the surface by using the wooden spoon to flatten the surface. Set aside on a wire rack.

4. For the frosting, melt the 125g white chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, without touching the water. Stir until smooth. Add the rosewater extract into the melted white chocolate. Pour onto the rice krispie bar. Let cool and let the white chocolate to set for about 30 minutes on wire rack before cutting into squares. It makes about 20 squares. Happy baking Krispies!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Apple Pie Fantasy

Have been tempted into baking pies lately, and we thought, why not an apple pie since apples and pie tarts are one perfect match made from the worthy dessert heaven. We WILL definitely starve the whole day just to grab a bite out of the to-die-for apple pie. That will probably be one halcyon moment that we would love to have. Our ideal and perfect apple pie, which is still no where to be found, is one with loads of medium cooked apples and caramel filling, encased by a very buttery layer of flaky crust (of fat lard), topped with a streusel-like flavored cinnamon top-crust. Last but not least, home-churned creamy vanilla ice cream to top the good-looking hot pie; that's basically a great apple pie to die for. If that is what a good ole apple pie ought to be, perhaps, opting for Emeril Lagasse's recipe will do us something good. After googling and checking around in Emeril's cookbook, it seems that we must spend on dozens of granny smith's apples in order to try Emeril's variations of apple pie. The notable celebrity chef has came up with recipes like Big Apple Pie, Apple-Raspberry Crisp with Oat Topping and also, the simple Apple Pie with Lard Crust. Definitely will work our hands on Emeril's apple pie soon, as the recipe's name itself sounded tempting.

As for our previous attempt on an apple pie recipe, we hooked up with the Apple-Caramel Crumb Pie from a book titled 500 pies & tarts, written by Rebecca Baugniet, from PageOne. Love the book as we are given variety of alternatives and ideas to revamp and alter the original recipe. We garnered juicy red apples and a tub of finely milled cinnamon from a nearby mart for the luscious apple pie. Rebecca Baugniet's apple-caramel crumb pie consists of thick chunky red apples coated in caramel and topped with streusel-crumbs. Before starting off with the apples, the crust were kneaded and lined onto a 9.5 inches of pie dish. We opted for two pie dishes; measuring at 5 inches each, because we were dying to see how a flat surface and crumbly surface of an apple pie would affect the appearance of the entire apple-caramel crumb pie.

Apple-Caramel Crumb Pie (adapted from Rebecca Baugniet, of 500 Pie & Tarts)
For the basic crust (for a 9.5 inch pie dish)
  • 140g (5 oz) plain flour (sifted)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60g (2 oz) cold vegetable shortening (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 60g (2 oz) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ice-cold water
  • Extra flour to flour surface
  • One 9.5 inch (24 cm)pie dish
  • Rolling pin
1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and butter to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two knives in a criss-crossing motion, blend the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it has a consistency of damp sand, with a few pea-sized pieces of butter and shortening remaining.
2. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the vinegar and water
either with a fork or a wire whisk. Slowly pour egg mixture over the flour, stirring only the mixture is moist. The dough should stick together and be able to hold the form of a ball.
3. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and smoothen the ball of dough with a rolling pin so it forms a flat disc that fills the corners of the plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of half an hour.(If it has been chilled for a long time, it may need to soften slightly by placing it in a room temperature before use.)
4. To roll out the crust, unwrap plastic and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough from the centre of the disc to the edge, until the crust is the desired thickness. (usually 1/8 inch or 3mm in thickness.) If the dough is sticking on the rolling pin, try placing a sheet of plastic wrap over it and then rolling it out. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the crust into the 9.5 inch pie dish by rolling it onto the rolling pin and then positioning it over the pie dish. If the crust is sticking to the rolling surface, carefully separate it by sliding a sharp knife or metal spatula between the crust and the rolling surface. Carefully press the dough into the pie dish. If any cracks appear during the transfer, use lightly floured fingers to push the seams back together.
5. Crimp the edge decoratively and chill in the refrigerator.

For the fillings
  • 8 cooking apples (we used red and juicy apples, apples are peeled, cored and sliced into 1 inch cubes)
  • 35g (1-1/4 oz) flour
  • 280g (10 oz) granulated sugar
  • 60ml (4 tablespoon) water
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon water, extra
1. Preheat the oven to 190"C or 375"F.

2. Place the apple cubes in a large bowl with the flour. Toss the flour and apple cubes to coat evenly. Set aside.

3. Combine the granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of water in a medium, heavy-based saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, occasionally swirling the liquid around the saucepan. When the caramel mixture has turned dark brown, remove from the heat. (We've burnt our caramel mixture and the outcome was the full flavor of bitterness. Hence, before the mixture turns into dark amber, quickly remove from heat and keep swirling the liquid around the pan. The mixture will slowly turns into amber while undergoing the process of cooling off.)

4. Warning: Overcooking caramel mixture will result in tough and hard caramel candy when the caramel mixture cools off to room temperature.
5. After cooling the caramel mixture for a few minutes, add in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter and the extra 2 tablespoons of butter; swirl the liquid and combine. Return to the heat and stir until smooth. Pour the caramel over the apples and toss with metal spatula to coat evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes, while the apples release its juices.

For the streusel topping
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) plain flour
  • 55g (2 oz) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (the original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp, but we've choose to have 1 tsp instead)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1. To prepare topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until large clumps form. Set aside.

To assemble

1. To assemble the pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator.

2. Spoon the caramel-apple mixture into the pie crust.

3. Sprinkle the streusel topping or crumble over the apples. You can also smoothen the streusel out (picture on the left) if you prefer over the sprinkling method (picture on the right). We are quite fickle-minded. Thus, we chooses the smoothen and sprinkling method since we have 2 mini apple pies.

4. Bake the pie for 1 hour or until the apples are soft and the crumb topping is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The apple-caramel crumb pie is best served with a scoop of home-churned pure vanilla ice cream, which equals perfecto. The streusel topping was so good as it's crunchy and sweet, filled with a hint of cinnamon. The filling - the caramel lends a great distinctive flavor to the not-too-soft and juicy apples, which blends in well just fine. The crust was not as flaky as what we have expected for; it was a bit to the moist side. One can gobble down the entire apple pie from the top to the bottom of the crust as the caramel and the streusel topping were addictive. The quest for the hunt of a perfect apple pie is still on the run. Emeril Lagasse's will be next!