December 2, 2013

Danish Pastries

I've always wanted to bake danish pastries. It's been on my to-bake list ever since, well, I embarked on my baking adventure when I first started this blog. It also turns out that my mother, who has been eating danish pastries as a child, had cravings for these and personally requested them. Which is completely fine by me, as I have no memory of making them let alone eating them before. But I can say it was the perfect opportunity to try them out since I have been procrastinating due to the knowledge that danish pastries involve essentially repeatedly rolling, folding, turning and chilling for the laminating of the butter process which can take AGES for me. Then there's the proving of the shaped dough for about an hour before being baked in the oven until puffed and golden.


For some reason I managed to over-bake the pastries and turned the small pieces of dough into crunchy butter biscuits instead of fluffy pastry. But rest assured, I was able to salvage the larger pastries and devour them with pleasure. I actually made a test batch of these pastries for tasting and thought they were plain and flavourless. Maybe because it was the cheap, low quality unsalted butter I used. Or maybe because it was the lack of salted butter. Nonetheless, I folded another layer of salted butter into the dough and thankfully, its flavour improved vastly. However my limited pastry skills were demonstrated in the lack of precision and some pastries turned out a bit messier than intended. Also blame the fact that the pastry kept melting for some explicable reason even the weather was not hot. Despite these mishaps, they came out delicious straight from the oven, especially when they're warm.


I whipped up a cream cheese filling for the pastries and topped them with some cherries. If you've read my past posts, cherries have become a common presence recently, and this is just another good way to use them up. Funnily I initially made a pastry cream, or in fancy French words, "creme patissiere" but I added to much milk because I thought it was too thick. Oops. Anyhow, go to this great website  for a guide in shaping danish pastries and the recipe for the cream cheese filling just because I'm too lazy to copy everything on here. However, the recipe for the danish pastries and optional pastry cream is posted below. Enjoy!    


Danish Pastries

Adapted from the cookbook, Essential Baking.
Makes about 12 pastries.

Ingredients:

For the Danish pastries,
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (250 g) plain (all-purpose) flour or strong bread flour
  • 1/4 cup (55 g) caster sugar, extra
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125 g each of salted and unsalted butter, chilled (total 250 g butter)
For the pastry cream filling (optional) or use the cream cheese filling, recipe here.

  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) hot milk 

Method:

  1. Stir the yeast, milk and sugar in a small bowl until dissolved. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until frothy and slightly increased in volume.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add salt and extra sugar.
  3. Make a well into the center and add the yeast, egg and vanilla. Mix until it forms a firm dough or alternatively use the dough hook attachment of an electric mixer to combine the ingredients together.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes to form a smooth, elastic dough.
  5. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  6. Meanwhile, roll and shape the two butters together between two sheets of cling wrap into a 15 x 20 cm rectangle and refrigerate.
  7. Knock back the dough in one punch and knead for 1 minute. Roll the dough out to a rectangle of 25 x 30 cm. Put the butter in the center of the dough and fold up the bottom and top of the dough over the butter to join in the center like a letter.
  8. Give the dough a quarter-turn clockwise, roll out to a 20 x 45 cm rectangle. Fold over the top third of pastry, then bottom third and give another quarter-turn clockwise. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding, turning and chilling four more times. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least another 2 hours.
  9. For the pastry cream, put the sugar, egg yolks and flours in a saucepan and whisk to combine. Pour the hot milk over the top and whisk until smooth. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens. Cover and refrigerate to cool.
  10. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F) and line two baking trays with baking paper. 
  11. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle 3 mm thick. Cut 4 inch squares and shape into desired shapes, demonstrated here and place on prepared baking trays. Cover the shaped pastries and leave in a warm place to prove from 30 minutes to an hour until puffed and doubled in size.
  12. Fill each Danish pastry with about 1 tablespoon filling and top with jam, fruit or berries. Brush with egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water). Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool on wire racks and serve warm. 


December 1, 2013

Cherry Miroir


Miroir- translating from French to English is "Mirror" if you haven't figured that out already. And here I am with yet another recipe featuring cherries as one of the prominent stars of the dessert. Mind you, I've been given the task of finding a dessert that would use up most of the rapidly aging cherries, which means a lot of head scratching and confused looks. Although I am aware of the classics such as Cherry Clafoutis, Cherry Blondies and so on, I felt uninspired as I craved something a little more, let's say modern and different from what I usually make. That's when I turned to my trusty cookbook, Essentials Desserts, and landed on this recipe.


I've made several adaptions to this recipe: two, to be exact. Firstly, the Miroir is actually made with raspberries, but since cherries were all I had on hand, I figured that it should be a suitable substitute. Secondly, the dessert is usually made circular in a cake pan, but since my square cake pan was desperate for use, I technically turned this into a slice rather than a cake, if you know what I mean. I also found that the sponge base was very thin and delicate, so I doubled the ingredients from the book in the recipe below.



And after a whole day of pitting and pureeing cherries, which in turn sprayed cherry juice everywhere, including on my poor cat, the Miroir was finally complete in one piece. Not only have I spent copious amounts of time perfecting each layer, consisting of the sponge cake base, cherry mousse and cherry jelly topping, but the time it takes for each layer to set and the whole thing to set overnight in the fridge makes it seem like a massive task for the average baker. But hard work does eventually pay off, right? It certainly did for me as I tried a slice, feeling its light texture like a cloud disintegrate in my mouth. Its silkiness brought about a refreshing quality to the slice, especially since the jelly topping is essentially cherry puree. Overall, its a nice summer dessert that features a modern twist on a classic.


Cherry Miroir

Adapted from the Essential Desserts cookbook

Ingredients:

Sponge base
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 4 tablespoons self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
Cherry mousse
  • 500 g fresh cherries, pitted
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) caster sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup pouring (whipping) cream
Cherry topping
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) cherry puree

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly grease an 8 inch square cake pan (removable base) and line base with baking paper.

2. For the sponge base, whisk eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until thick and fluffy. Sift the flours together, and then fold into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula. Spread evenly into the prepared tin using a small palette knife and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned and shrunk slightly away from the edge of the pan. Remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

3. For the cherry mousse, blend the pitted cherries in batches until smooth and press through a plastic strainer to achieve a smooth puree. Reserve 1/2 cup puree for the topping. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl for 5 minutes, until thick and pale. Bring the milk to the boil and gradually pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir for about 10 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to cool completely. The custard and cherries are shown below:




4. Sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over 1/4 cup of water in a small heatproof bowl and leave to go spongy. Put a large saucepan with about 4 cm water on to boil. Carefully lower the gelatin bowl into the water and stir until dissolved. Stir the slightly cooled gelatin and cherry puree into the custard mixture, then refrigerate for 30 minutes until thick not set, stirring occasionally. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form and fold into the cherry mixture until incorporated. Place the sponge in the base of the prepared pan and pour the cherry mixture evenly over the top. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or until firm.

5. For the cherry topping, sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over 1/3 cup water in a heatproof bowl and leave to go spongy. Put a large pan filled with 4 cm water on to boil. Carefully lower the gelatin bowl into the water and stir until dissolved. After slightly cooled, stir in reserved cherry puree and pour evenly over the set mousse, then refrigerate for 30 minutes until set.

Slice into small pieces with a knife dipped in hot water. Top with fresh cherries, dust with a little icing sugar if desired and serve with cream.



November 19, 2013

Black Forest Cake


I never expected the amount of excitement that would come around getting a new camera. Before its arrival, I spent countless hours watching videos and reading tutorials to prepare myself to step into the wonderful world of DSLR photography. Additionally, I signed up for a food photography e-course by Minimalist Baker and can say that it has been an extremely helpful asset towards exploring the new possibilities brought up by the camera. Prior to that, I used a point-and-shoot camera, which served me well for a few years as a beginner, until I began to recognise its limitations in both image quality and shooting speed. After finally completing school, I gathered the money I saved up for the past few years to invest in a good camera, forming an admiration for the Canon 100D as the smallest and lightest DLSR camera on the market; perfect for my small hands. The camera exceeded my expectations and hopes for beautiful photography, so much so, that I baked my own version of a Black Forest Cake to welcome it as the first of many posts to feature pictures taken with my camera.



The cake itself is adapted from Sweetapolita's one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, wherein it beholds a moist, dark chocolate crumb that is easy to bake as it is to eat. Although the intensity of the chocolate depends on the cocoa powder, it is a great cake to whip up for those sudden chocolate cravings. It is also one of those cakes that stays moist in the fridge for days (if it even lasts that long!), so it is perfectly fine to bake and freeze the cake layers ahead before frosting and decorating. And the frosting, is non other than swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with dark chocolate. Luckily I had planned ahead, using the egg yolks for salted caramel ice cream, which was unfortunately out of the running to be photographed. While the buttercream turned out with a lighter chocolate colour and intensity, it was heavenly silky, smooth and melted in the mouth as if it was made out of chocolate clouds. It's amazing how swiss meringue buttercream can be so delicious without being all gritty and unpleasant like the sugary powdered-sugar frosting.  



Inside the cake is layers of vanilla whipped cream filling with fresh cherries, adding a juicy burst of cherry goodness in every bite. Light, airy, whipped cream accentuating subtle sweetness is a traditional component, yet the combination of it with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream adds a modern take on the classic Black Forest cake. The chocolate trees I had piped for the collar is somewhat borderline between messy and elegant. I mean, it's pretty inconsistent regarding the design and size of each tree. But it does kind of cover up my impatience on getting a perfectly smooth and even surface. Plus I was running out of time to take advantage of the beautiful sunlight streaming through the window. In the end, the piping was messy as the buttercream had become soft by the time I had frosted the cake, but the cake overall tasted pretty good. Also, I noticed that the frosting on the outside of the cake was too thin and needed more frosting to cover up. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it, and hopefully you may want to give this cake a try; its worth the extra time and effort!



One-bowl chocolate cake
Makes one 6-inch, 3 layer cake 
Adapted from Sweetapolita

Ingredients:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of plain (all-purpose) flour (180 g)
  • 1 cup of sugar (225 g)
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (60 g)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder (6 g)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda (6 g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (2.5 g)
  • 140 ml of milk
  • 130 ml of strong, hot brewed coffee OR boiled water
  • 75 ml of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature 
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (15 ml)

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Grease three 6-inch round cake tins with melted butter, placing baking paper rounds on the base of each tin.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  3. Briefly whisk together all the remaining wet ingredients in a jug for easy pouring.
  4. Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, mix the dry ingredients on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly pour the liquid from the jug prepared earlier into the mixture and mix until combined. If there are any lumps, continue mixing until the batter is smooth. 
  6. Evenly divide the mixture between the three pans using an electronic scale, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. 
  7. Rotate the pans in the oven, and continue baking for about another ten minutes. The cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs.
  8. Cool the cake layers on a wired rack for 15 minutes, turning them out to completely cool. If the cakes are domed, you may try to use a clean tea towel to gently push down on the dome to flatten it immediately after they have come out of the oven.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Ingredients:
  • 5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1 cup of sugar (225 g) with two teaspoons taken out
  • 200 g of unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (5 ml)
  • 200 g of chopped dark chocolate (300 g if you want a more intense chocolate flavour)
Method:
  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, or in a microwave, stirring at 20 second intervals until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the temperature reaches 65.5 degrees C (150 degrees F) or until the sugar has dissolved completely and the egg whites are hot to touch.
  3. Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment of the mixer, whisk the mixture at high speed to firm peaks until the meringue is thick, glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral (not warm).
  4. At medium speed, add the butter cubes one at a time, until incorporated. Mix until it reaches a silky smooth texture. If the mixture has curdled, continue mixing until it becomes smooth again. If the mixture is runny, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes and continue mixing until it comes back together.
  5. Add vanilla, and then add the melted and cooled chocolate at medium speed until combined.

For the vanilla whipped cream filling, whisk 420 ml of cold thickened cream, 1/4 cup of powdered (icing) sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with an electric mixer to firm peaks (it should hold its shape) until combined. 

For the chocolate trees, melt 200 g of dark/milk chocolate and fill it into a piping bag with a small, round tip. Pipe trees of about 3 inches tall on a baking tray lined with baking (parchment) paper. Extra chocolate may be melted again and reused for other purposes.

Assembly of Black Forest Cake


  1. Using a cake turntable, place a cake layer on a circular cake board. With an ice cream scoop, add one scoop of whipped cream filling onto the cake and evenly spread it out with an offset palette knife. Spread a few pitted fresh cherries on top and add another scoop of cream on top of the cherries, smoothing it out. 
  2. Repeat the step for another layer, placing a cake layer on top of the cream and adding the cherries.
  3. Fill the spaces in between the cake layers with more whipped cream.
  4. Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add a scoop of chocolate swiss meringue buttercream on top of the cake, smoothing out and applying to the sides of the cake until thinly covered to seal in the crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Add more buttercream to the sides of the cake to form a somewhat thick layer, using an offset palette knife and bench scraper to achieve a smooth surface.
  7. Pipe a buttercream border using a 1M star tip.
  8. Chill the cake to set for at least 2 hours.
  9. When ready to serve, carefully peel the chocolate trees from the baking paper and place them on the sides of the cake.
  10. Serve the cake at room temperature, carefully slicing the cake in between each chocolate tree.





November 10, 2013

Double Chocolate Cake Pops


I made these cake pops in the past weekend for a party, wrapped in cellophane bags with a cute ribbon entitled "EAT ME". I still can't get my head around why I didn't make these treats earlier. But all the steps involved did make it seem a little tricky and fiddly to create; the rolling of the cake balls, inserting the lollipop sticks, freezing them, dipping them in chocolate and finally decorating them with sprinkles. Even with the amount of work to make them, they are worth the effort and seem to be simple and easy to make. For my first try, I think it was a success.


These cake pops were demolished by the kids, I mean everyone thought white chocolate and nutella chocolate cake go hand in hand. Funnily, one of the kids called it as one of those massive chupa-chups "lollipop" before I told her it was basically a cake ball on a stick. Brilliant idea to whoever came up with cake pops.



It was pretty frustrating when some of the cake pops fell apart or refused to be held by a lollipop stick, even after spending some time in the freezer. I was able to save the best ones by re-shaping them into balls and forcing the sticks to hold them in place. I also used small cups to dry the cake pops after dipping them in white chocolate as shown in the pictures, rather than styrofoam which I unfortunately didn't have on hand.

These chocolate cake pops held together by nutella and coated in creamy white chocolate make it the perfect treat for virtually any occasion. I found this easy recipe from Divas Can Cook and you can find her recipe here. Now please excuse me as I go grab one from the fridge...


November 9, 2013

The Best Vanilla Cupcake




This rarely happens to me. You know, when you first taste test a cupcake and then fall in love at first bite. In fact, I'm convinced it's the best vanilla cupcake like, ever. And being myself, the ever experimental baker, I wanted to find another vanilla cupcake recipe that's fail proof with an authentic vanilla kick. So within my 2 years of baking, I've tested many vanilla cupcake recipes I dug out from the internet but this one from Cupcake Project's popular Vanilla Cupcake recipe is certainly crowned the best above the rest. It's got a super soft crumb that melts into your mouth with a true vanilla flavour that's hard to beat. I'm not exaggerating, its the truth. And I strongly suggest you try it, if you haven't already.




And what about the topping to match this perfectly baked vanilla cupcake? Ah yes, and since I am considerate for those who I bake for, I turned to my mother for the details:

Mum: "I want something with white chocolate"
Me: "Like a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting?"
Mum: "No....WHITE chocolate not the one from cocoa beans"
Me: "Okeydokey, the ultimate white chocolate cupcake it is...*runs off to get the white chocolate*

Actually, after the conversation I decided to change it to a vanilla cupcake with white chocolate frosting, as I figured it would be too much of one ingredient. With the white chocolate frosting, I landed into this recipe from Not So Humble Pie that A: involves cream cheese and B: has lots of white chocolate. Perfect. I am quite aware of the effects cream cheese has on piping, but I like that its tangy flavour cuts out some of the sweetness. Unfortunately it came out super sweet, I guess loads of white chocolate + icing sugar = SWEET HEAVENS. So, to solve the problem, I dabbed a little icing on the cupcake and was randomly hit with a brilliant idea of covering it with sprinkles. I mean, who doesn't like sprinkles? It screams fun and celebration when you look at it. It reminds me of the epicness that is fairy bread from my childhood really.




Since I was making this for two people, I slightly modified the recipe by halving the ingredients, and substituting yoghurt for sour cream. This turned out wonderful, so much so, my mother stood up, declared it one of the best cupcakes ever and rated it five stars (excluding the frosting). Oh, and before I leave for another cupcake, here's a little swirl of sweet white chocolate buttercream....


September 27, 2012

Baked Strawberry Cheesecake


This is officially my favourite baked cheesecake. Think of luscious roasted strawberries with juices to die for, topped on a strawberry-flavoured cheesecake. It has ricotta in it, which makes it so light and fluffy compared to the only cream cheese ones. I actually first saw this on Raspberri Cupcakes, and I instantly wanted to make this particular one since I was craving for cheesecake recently. 


Strawberries are in abundance and are so cheap these days, which makes it perfect to use them for a cheesecake. I have never roasted fruits before, so I was a little skeptical of the idea of baking strawberries. But they came out so juicy and succulent, perfect for pairing with the cheesecake. Thanks to Steph (Raspberri Cupcakes), I will be roasting fruit more often now! You might have already seen it, but I tried to hide the ugly cracks on top of the cheesecake with the strawberries. This always happens to me whenever I bake a cheesecake.

 
I decided to use a recipe from Donna Hay for the biscuit base because I had run out of them and was too lazy to bake a batch. It came out fine, but probably next time I would use biscuits and process them up in a food processor for the base. It was just tasted a little bit more buttery to me...other than that, it was perfect, and next time I will definitely remember to buy more ricotta from the store for this cheesecake.



Baked Strawberry Cheesecake
Makes one 8 inch cheesecake

Adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes and Donna Hay.

Cheesecake filling
330 grams ricotta
500 grams cream cheese, softened
1 cup of strawberry jam
1 and 1/2 tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch)
1 and 1/2 tablespoon of water
4 eggs

Base
1/3 cup of almond meal
3/4 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of sugar
90 grams of butter, chopped

Strawberries
500 grams of fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (350 F). Make the base by combining almond meal, flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until a dough forms. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon on the base of a lined/greased 8 inch round springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes until light golden and set aside.

2. Make the filling by placing the cream cheese, ricotta, eggs and strawberry jam in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until just combined. Combine the cornflour and water together in a small bowl and add to the cream cheese mixture. Process until smooth. Pour the filling over the biscuit base of the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour until golden and a little wobbly in the center. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for another hour. Transfer to a wired rack to completely cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (390 F). To make the strawberries, hull and halve the berries and place them in a roasting pan. Add the brown sugar and toss to combine. Pour over the vinegar and toss again. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the berries soften and the juices are present. Allow to cool completely, then arrange on top of the cooled cheesecake before serving.






 

September 16, 2012

Neapolitan Layer Cake

 
So I was invited to a party last week. I was so excited about it that I planned what to make 3 days in advance. It only seemed fitting that a neapolitan cake would wow the guests and act as a thank you gift to the party host for inviting us. Distinctive layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry that is most familiar to me in my childhood (actually in ice cream form and yes, I was spoilt for the amount of ice cream I was allowed to have). Strangely enough, I remember only eating the chocolate part and leaving out the rest for my mum. But now, I love neapolitan ice cream in its whole form and eat every part of it (my favourite is still chocolate!).


I was only able to take photos of the cake before transferring it to the cake carrier so that's why the frosting-covered baking paper is still stuck to the cake (I use it to easily lift the cake onto the container). So I would like to apologise for the mess I had to capture, which honestly is quite embarrasing to me...but the main component in the pictures is the cake, right?


So would you like to see what's hidden in this cake? Here it is, the three neapolitan layers! I was surprised to see it look so similar to its ice cream form, and it seems that my hard work has paid off. I had some problems with the strawberry swiss meringue buttercream, but it came out all right at the end. I think it was due to the amount of strawberry puree and butter it had in it. The cake was also a little dense, but it was a real crowd pleaser and by the end of the day, there was none left...not even crumbs. I was so happy to see people enjoying the cake and commenting on how good it looked. Looks like I'll have to make this cake again soon, applying some changes to the recipe.


Since I followed the recipe from Annie's Eats and only made minor changes to the cake (I didn't add strawberry gelatin to the strawberry layer), I will direct you to her site which has all the detailed instructions and information you need to make this. Check it out HERE.



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