Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Scones

It was a quiet and peaceful Christmas eve. There was no Christmas dinner or any junk food party last night. In fact, this is the first time we are not spending the Christmas with my better half. He is away and had to work through Christmas and didn't get the chance to get back to the hotel until the early hours of Christmas day.

Being a positive person, it means I didn't have to prepare anything special for Christmas night. It was a golden chance for me then, to keep myself busy baking on Christmas eve :)

I managed to make a batch of scones and a test batch of hotdog corn bread which I will share in my next post.

I tweaked the original scones recipe from a cookbook to suit the festive mood. By simply adding some ground cinnamon, walnuts and a light dusting of icing sugar, these scones are great to serve on Christmas day. It would certainly be nice if I had some dried cranberries, but too bad I ran out of any type of dried fruits(!) and had to settle with chocolate chips instead. On hind sight, I believe they would be cuter if I had cut them into smaller rounds.

Never judge a scone from its appearance...I am speaking for myself. I was quite certain that I may have to feed the bins with these bricks of doughs when the exterior 'feel' hard and 'rocky'. Due to the ground cinnamon, they appear a little over baked too, giving the false impression that they would probably taste like cardboard, hard and dry. Thank goodness, after the first bite, it proves that my worries are completely unfound! Unlike the crust, the crumbs is soft and tender. The scones are buttery, yet, without leaving any greasing aftertaste. I adore the walnuts, chocolate chips combo and I am so glad that the cinnamon flavour is not too over powering. These scones taste good enough on its own, without any jams or cream. I had two of these big, delicious scones with my cup of breakfast coffee on a lovely Christmas day. I will always remember this morning in years to come, even if my memories fail me, I can always come back to read this post.

Merry Christmas and an early Happy 2014 to all!

I am submitting this to the "Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013" event which is hosted by Baby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out.

Christmas Scones

(makes six 7cm scones)

220g cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
30g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
100g unsalted butter, Cold, cut into small cubes
40g plain yoghurt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped
50g chocolate chips (can be replaced with dried cranberries or raisins)

extra 1 tablespoon milk for brushing
extra whole walnuts to be used as toppings (optional)

  • Mix together yoghurt, egg and vanilla extract in a bowl, set aside.
  • Sieve cake flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Add in caster salt, whisk to combine.
  • Place cold, diced unsalted butter into the mixing bowl. With a fork or a dough scraper, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. (It is important that the butter be cold so when it is cut into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs. If the butter starts to melt away during this process, stop and place the mixture in the freezer for 10-15 mins to prevent the butter from melting further. Continue the process when the mixture is well chilled.)
  • Make a well in the centre and add in the yoghurt/egg mixture. Give a few quick stir with a spatula. Add in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Fold with a spatula just a few times to make the mixture comes together to form a shaggy mass.
  • Gather up the mixture and place it on a lightly floured surface. Dust hand with flour and give it a few light kneading (not more than 10 seconds) so that it comes together to form a dough. Do Not over work the dough. (Only mix the dough until it comes together. Too much kneading will cause gluten to develop, and the resulting scones will turn hard and chewy. Knead only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.)
  • Pat the dough to about 1 inch thick. Cut out the dough with a lightly floured biscuit cutter (I use a 7cm cutter). Press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting. Dip the cutter into some flour after each cut. Gather scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used. (For easy cleaning and to prevent sticking, I lined my work surface with cling wrap, it is also easier to lift up the scones after cutting.)
  • Place scones on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush top with milk and place one whole walnut on top of each scone (optional).
  • Bake at preheated oven at 180 degC for about 25mins or until they are well risen and the tops are lightly brown. Serve warm.
*Scones are best served freshly baked. Any leftovers can be kept in airtight container. Brush or spray some water over the scones and warm them in the oven before serving.

Recipe source: adapted from Scones and Biscuits by Morioka Ari

Sunday, 22 December 2013

holiday baking

It has been a really busy and eventful month...I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster ride for the most part of it ;)

It started off with the agonising wait for the release of the psle (primary school leaving exam) results, followed immediately by another few days of decision making...choosing the secondary schools for my younger child. We then flew off for our year end holiday trip to Seoul and Jeju. We had a great time visiting or rather re-visiting the places in Seoul, not forgetting the great eating places and the fun self drive tour in Jeju. It snowed when we were in Seoul and it was a winder wonderland at the Hallasan national park in Jeju, the place was covered with thick snow!

I came down with a cold during the trip and developed skin rashes after we came home :( Despite the discomfort from the itchy rashes, sinus and coughing, I still had to carry on with washing and clearing the piles of laundry...the usual aftermath of a holiday trip. It took me more than a week to recover and I went on to work on the year end spring cleaning chores.

My roller coaster ride ended on a high note with the good news that my child has been offered a place in his dream school. It was really icing on the cake as we received the good news on the eve of his birthday.

With so many things going on, it was hard to find time to do much baking. It was even more difficult to keep up with blogging.

Just when I thought my absence would be gone unnoticed, I received a warm comment from a well anonymous reader :) My heartfelt thanks to you for checking on me and my apologies for not updating my blog as regularly as I wanted.

A couple of days ago, I finally managed to squeeze in some time to bake this delicious Blueberry and White Chocolate chips coffee cake. In case you are as ignorant as me, there's no coffee in this coffee cake. The term coffee cake refers to a moist, tender cake that is served alongside coffee or tea during breakfast or anytime of the day. One of the characteristics of most coffee cake is the inclusion of either yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream in the batter. The cake is usually topped with some kind of streusel topping from a mixture of flour, sugar, and butter, or nuts, and sometimes various fruits may be added as well.

I followed the recipe from Baking Bites but adapted it to suit my baking pan, the ingredients I have on hand and reduced the sugar amount. The result was fabulous. I am not sure whether it was the 'drought' (the lack of homemade cakes for the past weeks), both my boys were all thumbs up after they took the first bite once I gave the go-ahead permission to cut up the cake.

The cake was surprisingly moist, tender and even tasted so buttery although I have cut down on the sugar (by at least 80g) and it doesn't calls for much butter. I guess the yoghurt has made wonders again. The blueberries was on the tart side, but the sweet white chocolate chips paired it off really well. You can't go wrong with sliced almonds as toppings, it lends so much fragrance and flavour to this simple and easy to put together cake.    

If you have the ingredients on hand, why not whip this up for your breakfast, tea or after dinner dessert? It will be a nice centre piece if you have guests coming over, and certainly great to bring for potlucks or gatherings during this festive seasons. I am quite certain it will be a crowd pleaser :)

Blueberry and White Chocolate Coffee Cake

(serves 8)

210g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
60g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
120g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup milk
50g (about 1/4 cup) white chocolate chips
80g (about 1/2 cup) blueberries
some sliced almonds
some granulated sugar or coarse sugar


  • Preheat oven to 180 degC.
  • Line base and side of a 7" round pan with parchment paper. (Note: The cake can also be baked in an 8" or 9" round pan, shorten the baking time to 40-45mins)
  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda into a mixing bowl. Add the salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Stir yoghurt and milk together, set aside. (Note: I used 70g Marigold low fat plain yoghurt and combined with slightly more than 1/4 cup low fat fresh milk to yield 1 cup of yoghurt-milk mixture).
  • With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture turn light and flurry.
  • Add in egg and vanilla extract and beat till smooth. 
  • With a spatula, stir in half of the flour mixture.
  • Add the yoghurt-milk mixture, stir to combine (the mixture may appear lumpy at first, keep stirring till smooth). 
  • Add in the rest of the flour mixture.  Stir only until just combined. Do not over mix.
  • Fold in blueberries (if using frozen blueberries, toss with some flour before using) and white chocolate chips to evenly distribute them. 
  • Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread into an even layer. 
  • Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds and granulated coarse sugar.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes (if using bigger pan, shorten baking time to 40-45mins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in pan for about 5 mins. Unmold and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe source: adapted from Baking Bites

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

veggies in a cake

The first time I made this carrot chiffon cake I tested it with my new Bosch kitchen machine.

The Bosch mixer is able to whisk the egg whites a lot faster, and appears to create more volume than a handheld electric whisk. However, having said that, a handheld machine is also equally good for beating egg whites although you will have to hold it with one hand while juggling the other when adding the sugar. I am still not very comfortable with using the Bosch mixer to beat the egg whites as I have this nagging fear that I would over beat it ^^"

As I was writing this post, I was informed that Bosch has launched a special edition collection of coloured variations of the MUM5 kitchen machine. See here for the fun colours available!

My latest bake of this same cake...pardon the poor image quality, I couldn't help but to snap a picture when it rose so beautifully in the oven.

Besides grated carrot, I have also added in some orange it is actually a fruit and veg cake ;)

I have tried baking with a 17cm and a 18cm chiffon pan. The 18cm pan yield a shorter cake though.

I can't remember since when...I have started to use a ballon whisk to fold the egg whites to the yolk batter. I find that it is much easier to fold without deflating the batter with a ballon whisk. Just before pouring the batter into the pan, I will switch to the spatula to make sure the bottom is also well mixed. If you have been using a spatula to do the folding, maybe you would want to experiment with a balloon whisk, hope it works well for you too.

I must thank my cyberfriend VB for sending me this lovely Laura Ashley tea towel :) It comes with a cute instruction on how to cook eggs!

This recipe uses 4 yolks and 4 whites...which is good, as sometimes I find it troublesome either to save extra whites or how to use up an extra egg yolk ^^"

As with any other chiffon cakes, the texture is light and moist. No 'raw carrot smell' is detected and it doesn't taste very sweet, maybe because the oranges I bought were usually very sour. The sweetness is just right for me, but for those who have got sweet tooth, this may not appeal to you?? I could eat a quarter of the whole cake without feeling guilty ;)

I have tried baking this cake with grated carrot (raw) and also cooked carrot (boiled and mashed). Both gave the same result. However, when left for up to 2 days (room temperature), I noticed that for the cooked carrot version, the carrot bits started to 'sweat' (release moisture) and the crumbs near the carrot bits got damped. This doesn't happen to the raw carrot version, so I am sharing the recipe (raw carrot version) with you. Do share with me your experience if you ever have a chance to try this, thank you!

Carrot Chiffon Cake


(makes one 17cm/18cm cake)

4 egg yolks (use large eggs)
20g caster sugar
50g vegetable oil
30ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
80g cake flour
50g carrot, grated

4 egg whites (use large eggs)
45g caster sugar

  • Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl. With a balloon hand whisk, whisk the yolks a little. Add in sugar and whisk to combine. Add in vegetable oil gradually, whisk to combine. Add the orange juice and vanilla extract, whisk to combine. Add in grated carrot. Mix to combine. Sieve over the flour and whisk till the flour is fully incorporated. Do not over mix. Set aside.
  • Place egg whites in the mixing bowl of the mixer, make sure the bowl is clean and dry. Beat egg whites on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage.The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy.
  • Add the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula (or a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Pour batter into a 17 or 18cm chiffon tube pan (do not grease or line the pan). Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  • Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degC for 30 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, when lightly pressed the cake will spring back. Invert the pan immediately and let cool completely before unmould. To remove the cake from the pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Release the cake and run the knife along the base of the pan to remove the cake. Store in air tight container and best consumed within two days.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

It's really that simple

I don't know why it took me so long to pick up the courage to make something so simple as molten chocolate cakes!

Somehow, I have this false impression that it requires skills and experience of a pastry chef to make them...probably because I only get to eat this delicious dessert during one of those rare occasions when I meet up with my friends for dinners.

Well, although the recipe is so straight forward, I only got it right on the second attempt. The first time I made them, I did the most unforgivable mistake of over just 2 minutes! The cake tasted awesome, but it didn't flow like lava :'(

The second attempt was perfect! This time I made sure my oven was well preheated just to be very sure that the cake would be cooked within the recommended baking time. I removed the cake from the oven once the timer started to beep. The surface appeared barely cooked, it was 'just set'. I was so tempted to put it back into the oven to bake it a little longer!

Besides baking time, the timing to unmold the cake from the ramekin is also one of the critical success factors to note. After removing from the oven, leave them in the ramekins to cool for at least 1 to 2 mins. This is to allow the cake to set a little, it may fall apart if you try to unmold it straight out of the oven. But this doesn't mean you should leave them in the ramekins forever as the cakes are meant to be served warm.

Surprisingly, unmolding the cake is not as difficult as I thought. Just run a knife around the sides of the ramekin, then flip it over a serving plate and remove the ramekin. The cake will not get stuck to the ramekin as long as you have greased it really well. Do be careful as the ramekin will be very hot.

I have also tried serving these molten chocolate cakes in the ramekin...saves me the trouble of unmolding and washing up extra serving plates ;)

Another wonderful thing I discovered about making these lava cakes is, you can actually prepare the batter a few hours ahead of time, keep them in the fridge and bake only when ready to serve. This is really something new to me. Whenever we order this dessert at cafes or restaurants, we were always told to place the order in advance as it would take at least 20 to 30 mins to prepare. So all along I was given the impression that this dessert can only be made and served right away!

As with any homemade chocolate cakes, do use the best quality baking chocolate you could afford. I have made these with valrhona baking chocolates and also Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It must be my unsophisticated palates, both tasted equally good to me even though one is more expensive than the other. I wouldn't attempt to describe how delicious these lava cakes turn out...but the fact that I made them 4 times in a row gets to show how everyone in the family loves it, and of course how easy it is for me to bake them!

If you are a first timer and eager to give this a try, you may want to hop over to my favourite baking website, to watch this video to get an idea how to go about making molten chocolate cakes and to avoid any pitfalls. The video certainly boost my confidence and I am very thankful for the wonderful and generous sharing by Stephanie Jaworsk. I have learned a lot from her website, she mades baking really easy for self taught home bakers like me :)

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

(makes 4 servings)

135g dark chocolate
65g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
45g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25g plain flour

some butter for greasing

  • Preheat oven to 200 degC.
  • Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl by setting the bowl over the saucepan; make sure the bowl is bigger than the saucepan. Stir the mixture to ensure all the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes smooth. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
  • Generously grease the bottom and sides of four 180ml (6 oz) size ramekins with butter; set aside.
  • Place eggs in the mixing bowl of MUM5 kitchen machine*. Attach the beating whisk and beat for a few seconds to break them up. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on speed 3 and gradually increase to speed 6 for about 3 to 4 minutes till the mixture triple in volume, becomes thick, pale and fluffy. Reduce to speed 4 and continue to beat for about 1 to 2 minutes to break up larger bubbles in the batter. When the whisk attachment is lifted, the mixture should fall and leave a ribbon-like trail.
  • Add in the melted chocolate mixture and beat on speed 4 for about 1 minute or until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  • Sieve the flour into the mixing bowl. With a spatula fold in the flour until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Pour batter into the prepared ramekins to about half full.
  • Place filled ramekins on a baking tray and bake in middle rack  in preheated oven at 200 degC for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. The cakes are deliberately under baked. The cake is ready when the outside edges is set (gently touch the edges, it should feel soft but won't stick to your finger) and the middle still looks a little wet.
  • Remove from oven immediately and leave to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or alternatively, run a small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert warm cakes onto individual serving plates and carefully lift ramekin off cakes. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve warm with ice cream or berries.
The batter can be prepared a few hours ahead of time. Leave batter in the prepared ramekins, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature while preheating the oven. Bake at 200 degC for 10 minutes just before serving.

*Note: I used my new Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830 to prepare the cake batter, read my review of this kitchen mixer here.

Friday, 11 October 2013

easy does it

Bread making used to be a tedious task when I first started making homemade bread by hand. Kneading bread dough can be very therapeutic, but too often I ended up with very sore arms and shoulder the next day.

Baking bread at home became much easier after I bought my first bread machine. I left the kneading entirely to the machine, no more aching! The machine was so heavily utilised that it went kaput after two years. It was back to kneading dough by hand for a long period before I got another bread maker.

Life couldn't get any simpler when I received my latest kitchen helper, a Bosch kitchen machine. With this new machine, the dough takes a much shorter time to knead as compared to my bread maker.

This wholemeal honey and yoghurt bread loaf was made using the straight dough method, simple and straight forward without having to proof the dough overnight or to prepare any tangzhong or water roux. The recipe is a combination of a few bread substituting or replacing ingredients to suit my aim of making a loaf of homemade loaf bread so simple and easy that anyone can give it a go. Shaping was relatively fuss-free too,  just roll out the whole piece of dough and then roll it up to form a log, no special skills or technique involved.

The bread turned out to be very soft, light and airy. Besides kneading the dough to the right stage, I believe both the honey and yoghurt contributes to the tender texture as well. The bread remained soft even on the 3rd day!

There is no doubt that bread making takes time, yet it is not time consuming. Yes, it takes time for the dough to rise and proof, but the actual process of preparing the dough should not take more than half an hour of your time. Easy does it. Go slow and steady, coupled with a little patience and you will be rewarded with a loaf of freshly baked healthy homemade bread, way superior than any commercial store bought ones ;)

Wholemeal Honey and Yoghurt Bread

(makes one loaf using a 7.5"x4"x4" loaf pan)

270g bread flour
30g wholemeal flour
40g caster sugar
2g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
4g (1 teaspoon) instant yeast
70g non fat plain natural yoghurt, room temperature
30g honey
120g fresh milk, room temperature
20g unsalted butter

some rolled oats


(Note: The bread dough is made with Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830, read my review here.)

Place bread flour, wholemeal four, caster sugar, salt, instant yeast, yoghurt, honey and milk (except the butter) into the mixing bowl. Attach the kneading hook and set the MUM 5 to speed 1 to mix the ingredients for about 1 minute. Turn to speed 3 and let the machine knead for about 5 minutes.

Add in the butter and continue to knead at speed 3 for another 18~20 minutes. To test whether the dough is ready, pull and stretch a portion of the dough. It should be elastic, and can be stretched into a thin membrane without tearing/breaking apart easily.

Remove dough from mixing bowl. Dust hand with some flour and shape the dough into a smooth round. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover the bowl with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degrees C) for about 1 hour, or until double in bulk.

Remove dough from the bowl. Dust work surface with some flour and give the dough a few light kneading to press out the gas. Smooth into round, cover with cling wrap or damp cloth and leave it to rest for about 10mins.

Flatten the dough into a disc and roll out into a rectangular shape about 7" by 12". Roll up the dough along the shorter end like a swiss roll to form a log (with a length of about 7" or the length of the loaf pan you are using). Pinch and seal the seams tightly. Place dough seam side down in a well greased loaf pan. Cover with cling wrap or damp cloth and leave dough to proof for the second time for about 40mins to 1 hour, or until double in size. Brush the top with water and sprinkle rolled oats all over.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 minutes or until the surface turns golden brown. Remove from oven, unmold and transfer to rack to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container and best consumed within 2 to 3 days.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

dessert in a glass

If you are a parent of a P6 student in a local school here, you would probably know why I have been missing in actions for the past weeks ;)

Today marks the beginning of the much anticipated (with stress and agony on my part) primary school leaving examination or better known by the 4 letter 'word', psle ;) This national examination also marks the last leg of my younger child's 6 year primary school education. After crossing this huge hurdle, it is not the end, but a beginning of a new chapter for his next phase of education.

I have refrained from baking or indulge in photography or blogging for the past few weeks...just so that I won't feel guilty about not spending quality time with my child. I am blessed with a boy who has his own initiatives to do his own revisions without much guidance or coaching. He has certainly put in a lot of effort to prepare for this exam. I am truly blessed as I didn't have a hard time too when my elder child took his psle a couple of years back.

History repeats itself while I read through my older post about how my elder child prepared for this much dreaded (by parents) national examination. Just like his brother, my younger son went through the same phase. I would think he is in a much better position than his brother since his mother is 'wiser' and less stressed up and has since learned to be more relax after having gone through the cycle once ;)

Ok, enough of my ranting, and I would like to end this post with a simple, easy to put together yet delicious dessert...No bake cheesecakes in pots!

I bought these tiny pudding bottles when I was in Beijing a few years back. I didn't really have much chance to use them until now. Don't be misled by the photographs, these bottles are really tiny, it can only hold 180ml of water!

Instead of making a big no bake cheesecake, I have used the bottles to make individual portions. The steps are pretty much the same as a no bake cheesecake. First layer the bottom with a biscuit base, followed by the cream cheese filling and topped off with some homemade blueberry sauce. The sauce can be made within a few minutes just by cooking blueberries with some caster sugar.

It is quite a 'light' dessert as I have used non fat plain yoghurt instead of heavy cream. I wouldn't say it is a healthy dessert as cream cheese is really fattening ;) However, since one single portion is really quite small, as long as we eat in moderation, I would think it is still a nice sweet treat to serve your family or friends.

I have also made another version using small glasses and topped it with homemade strawberries sauce. Unlike the blueberries version, the strawberries I bought were a bit too tangy. If you were to follow my recipe and would like to use strawberries instead, do adjust/increase the amount of sugar so that the sauce will be sweeter especially if your have got sweet tooth.

Here's wishing all P6 students, all the best for the psle!

and best wishes to all Mummies,

endure, endure, and it will be over very soon ;)

No Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Pots

(makes 6)

125g blueberries (about 1 punnet)
2 tablespoons caster sugar

75g digestive biscuits (about 5)
25g unsalted butter

250g cream cheese, soften at room temperature
50g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140g non fat plain natural yoghurt (I used one 140g tub marigold non fat yoghurt)

  • Heat about 1/3 of the blueberries and caster sugar in a small pan over medium to low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the berries have broken down. Add the rest of the blueberries, cook for another 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • Melt butter in a small pan over low heat. Crumb the digestive biscuits with the blender attachment of the Bosch MUM5 home professional kitchen machine until they resemble breadcrumbs. Mix the crumbs and the melted butter with a spoon until the crumbs are moistened. Spoon equal portion of the mixture (about 2 tablespoons) into the bottom of 6 dessert pudding bottles or shot glasses (size: 180ml/3 oz). Lightly press down the mixture into the bottom of the bottles or shot glasses. Leave to chill in fridge.
  • Place cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract in the mixing bowl of the Bosch MUM5 kitchen machine. Mix on speed 4 with the silicone flexible whisk attachment for 3 minutes, or until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Add in yoghurt and continue to beat for about 1 minute till the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  • Spoon cream cheese mixture into the prepared pudding bottles or shot glasses (about 3 tablespoons per glass). Leave to chill in the fridge.
  • Top with the blueberry sauce before serving.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

My new kitchen helper

Even though I have been a keen home baker for the past few years, I have never thought of getting a stand mixer, I don't even own a food processor for my daily cooking. A heavy duty stand mixer is neither a need nor a want (^^")

So when Bosch invited me to participate in the review of their recently launched new Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830 and to provide a couple of recipes using this appliance, I was a little hesitant to accept the invitation.

Frankly, I wasn't sure whether I would be using the machine that regularly as I hardly even use my old handheld electric mixer. I really don't like the idea of having a white elephant permanently gracing my kitchen counter. Most importantly, I don't know whether I am capable of providing recipes that could meet Bosch expectations and requirements for sharing on its website.

It was only after watching the food preparation demo videos by Chef John See from The Food Dot, using the MUM5PRO and the MUM8 kitchen machine, that I started to changed my mine. You see, my husband spent a few minutes of his time to watch the videos with me, and after watching Chef See making a loaf of banana bread with gula melaka butterscotch effortlessly using the Bosch MUM8 kitchen machine, we were really impressed. I actually envisioned my husband making a cake for me! For someone who can't even cook decent instant noodles, the act of merely adding ingredients into the mixing bowl and letting the machine do most of the work seems easy enough for him ;)

With the assuring words from my baking friend, I plucked up my courage to accept the offer. I am just a self-taught home baker, and my baking doesn't go beyond the usual simple cakes, cookies and muffins. I feel really honoured to be given this opportunity to take up the challenge of trying out new recipes using the kitchen machine.

I must say I am very glad that I made the right decision when I received the complimentary set of machine. I love the sleek, modern design of this mixer which match perfectly with the 'look and feel' of my kitchen. Best of all, it is not as bulky as I had expected.

This kitchen appliance is more than a stand mixer. With the citrus press, continuous shredder and blender attachments, it works as a food processor, food mixer and a blender as well. Switching from one appliance to another is very easy with the easy lift swivel arm. For someone with no experience using a stand mixer or a food processor, I could handle the machine with ease.

To use it as a stand mixer, the machine is equipped with a silicon flexible whisk, a beating whisk and a kneading hook. This appliance comes with a powerful 900 watts motor (great for kneading bread dough), and has 7 speeds and a pulse function. The base of the machine is fitted with rubber suction feet which provides extra stability.

To me, the citrus press attachment is a great accessory. I can use it to squeeze lemon or orange juice as and when it is called for in baking recipes; then change it easily to the whisk attachment to proceed with preparing the rest of the batter. When the appliance is switched on, the citrus press will spin and all I needed to do was to hold on to the fruit. While testing the citrus press attachment, I discovered an important safety feature...the machine is designed to make sure the accessories are correctly attached otherwise it will not start.

The continuous shredder attachment comes with 3 discs which can be used for slicing, shredding herbs, fruits and vegetables and grating nuts. The plastic blender attachment can be used for blending drinks, puree fruits and vegetables, it can also be used for cutting fruits, nuts and for crushing ice cubes as well.

As a stand mixer, the machine is designed in such a way that the whisk moves in an elliptical motion which ensures every part of the mixing bowl is reached. I used the silicon flexible stirring whisk to prepare a batch of cream cheese fillings. The batter was thoroughly mixed and became very smooth and well blended within a couple of minutes of whisking. I like this silicon edged mixing blade as it can scrape down the mixture as it run along the side of the bowl.

I tested the balloon whisk by making some molten chocolate cakes. The recipe calls for beating whole eggs and sugar together just like making a sponge cake. I set the machine to run on high speed and the batter was thick and ribbon-like after 3 to 4 minutes. The machine could get noisy when it is set to run at high speed. Luckily it is an efficient machine and the batter was ready in less than 5 minutes.

To break up the large air bubbles formed, I turned it to low speed and I could notice the batter becoming more smooth and stable with less foams. This is something I could hardly achieve with my handheld electric whisk. Due to the design of the handheld whisk, even on low speed, the paddle still spin vigorously within its own axis, whereas this Bosch machine is able to move slowly and gently in a larger circular movement. I have also used this whisk attachment to beat egg whites for a chiffon cake. Base on my past experience with beating egg whites with my handheld whisk, this mixer appears to be able to beat egg whites to a much fuller volume.

While preparing the batter for the molten chocolate cake, I had to fold the flour into the mixture. Unlike the normal mixing bowl, the bottom of the mixer's bowl is slightly raised in the middle. This makes folding a little tricky for a first timer as I couldn't scrape the spatula right under the bowl without hitting the raised part. Fortunately, I figured out a way to get around it. I titled the bowl slightly and I was able to fold in the flour smoothly.

Of all the three beaters, I love the dough hook best since I like baking bread for my family. I left the machine to knead a rather wet and sticky dough for 15~20 minutes until the dough reached the window pane stage. The dough became very smooth and elastic and I could pull and stretch it into a thin membrane. My bread machine will need double the time to knead dough to this stage. The maximum speed for the dough hook attachment is speed 3 so there wasn't much noise from the machine when operated at such low speed; and because of the suction feet, it sat very sturdy on my kitchen counter while it knead continuously for at least 15 minutes. The machine didn't feel warm or show any sign of being over heated after being set to run for so long. It also comes with a transparent lid with filler hole to keep flour from settling all over the work area during the initial mixing.

Overall, this Bosch MUM57830 is an easy to use all-in-one kitchen helper. Cleaning up is not very different from what I would do with my handheld mixer or manual whisk. I will certainly put it to good use since I am very happy with the dough kneading function. It is great for beating egg whites too as I no longer have to juggle a handheld mixer in one hand while trying to add spoonfuls of sugar with another. With more practice, I think I could even leave the machine to run on its own while I prepare the yolk batter whenever I crave for a chiffon cake. I will also be able to explore a wider range of recipes now that I have a food processor and a blender :)

I am really lucky to be invited to take part in this review, till now I still couldn't believe I am a proud owner of a new kitchen machine. Good things do come to those who bakes!

PS: This is not a paid review but I was provided with a set of the Bosch kitchen machine for my use when I participated in their review and recipes exercise.

Click here to visit Bosch's recipe page for quick and easy recipes you can prepare at home with a range of Bosch food preparation appliances such as the Bosch ErgoMixx product.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

there's always room for dessert

This is not the first time I made this awfully delicious and decadent chocolate torte. I baked one for my better half's birthday a few months back. Ever since I have taken the first bite, I couldn't seem to get it off my mind...

well, just like any home bakers, we don't need to wait for a special occasion to bake a cake...and,

....there is always room for dessert ;)

This rather rustic, crackly, sunken chocolate cake may look similar to one of my favourate classic chocolate cakes, but take a closer look. Do you notice the black layer at the bottom? It is actually an oreo biscuit base just like the crust of a cheesecake. When I first saw the recipe while browsing a copy of the Delicious magazine, I knew this is the cake to bake for my husband. He is an oreo fiend and what's more, he has two other oreo buddies at home!

Although a picture speaks a thousand words, this photo doesn't do this cake justice, unless one can lick it off the screen. It is dense and yet has a very delicate, velvety smooth texture...'melt-in-your-mouth' are the closest words that I could think of to describe it. Believe it or not, the crunchy crust, which keeps falling off even when the cake was cooling on the rack, is extra icing on the cake!

The original recipe suggests to serve this cake with whisky cream(whipped cream infused with liquor)...but I opted for a scoop of ice cream. I always keep a tub of vanilla ice cream in the fridge, it goes well with most cakes and desserts and it's certainly a fuss-free option than having to whip up a few dollops of cream.

I scaled down the recipe which is meant for 22cm pan to fit my 18cm loose-bottom pan. Some how, looking at the ingredient list, it doesn't use that much fat or least the amount is still within my limits. In any case, I follow the rule of eating every thing in moderation. We don't have to feel sinful to indulge once in while ;)

So, what are you waiting for? Happy Baking!

Rich Chocolate Torte

(make one 18cm cake)

150g oreo cookies
40g melted butter

180g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
50g unsalted butter
50ml coffee
2 egg yolks
45g cake flour

2 egg whites
90g caster sugar

icing sugar (or cocoa powder) for dusting

  • Line the bottom of an 18cm round pan (with removable base) with parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides.
  • Remove the cream from the oreo cookies. Crumb the cookies, either with a rolling pin or in a food processor. Place the crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into the base of the prepared pan. Use the back of the spoon, smooth out the crumbs and press firmly. You can also use a glass (with a flat base) to press down firmly. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30mins.
  • Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a saucepan, stir to combine. Add the coffee, stir to combine. Remove from heat. Let cool.
  • With a balloon whisk, whisk egg yolks gently. Add in the melted chocolate/butter mixture. Whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar amount and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage. The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy. (Do not over beat the whites still stiff, it is better to beat the whites still soft peaks for easy folding with the yolk batter.)
  • Add 1/3 of the egg white to the egg yolk mixture. Fold in with a balloon whisk to loosen the batter. Add the remaining egg white in 2 separate addition, change to a spatula and each time fold in gently, making sure all the egg whites are incorporated into the batter. (Note: take care not to deflate the batter. The finished batter should fill up the pan to at least 3/4 full.)  
  • Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the cake pan lightly on tabletop a few times to release any trapped bubbles in the batter. 
  • Bake in preheated oven at 160 degC for 40 ~ 45 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with a few moist crumb. 
  • Remove cake from oven, leave it in the pan for about 5mins. Unmould and let cool on wire rack. Dust with icing sugar (or cocoa powder) as desired. Serve with whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream. The cake is best eaten at room temperature. If stored in fridge, bring the cake to room temperature before serving.
Recipe source: adapted from Delicious magazine

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Weekend Baking

I have been getting a lot of these honey apricots lately. They are sweet, ready-to-eat snacks for my kids. I don't have to spend time cutting the fruits and unlike juicy fruits, I have no worries of my boy dripping juices all over the couch ;)

My younger child finds it a joy eating these tiny, peachy scented fruits. To him, it is a great accomplishment being able to split the apricot butts into halves with his bare hands.

Weekend mornings are the best time for me to indulge in some freshly home baked scones.

Having baked some apricots square cakes with canned apricots, it is hardly surprising that I started experimenting baking with fresh apricots. The firm texture is certainly a plus point to include them in my weekend baking repertoire.

I prepared the 'dry ingredients' the night before...cutting the butter into the flour mixture before leaving it in the fridge to chill overnight. The following morning, while the oven was preheating, all I needed to do was to add in some coarsely chopped apricots and the liquid ingredients to mix up the dough.

I have a batch of scones baking in the oven in no time. It was a luxurious morning, for me, to be engulfed in the wonderful buttery aroma of scones baking in the oven while I went about rounding up everyone for breakfast.

The fruity flavour of the honey apricots lends a subtly sweetness to these awesome breakfast treats. I usually have my scones plain. I believe homemade scones are delicious without having to load it with any jam or clotted cream. However, this time, I spotted some leftover yuzu syrup in my fridge and it went really well with the scones, giving a nice tangy touch.

There is nothing like having a basket of warm-buttery scones on a Sunday morning. It is a great way to kick start the day...enjoying tender, fluffy scones with a cup of steaming hot tea or a mug of coffee.  I could almost imagine myself sipping tea in the Cameronian Valley...

Apricot Scones

(makes about 6 scones)

220g cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
30g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
3~4 fresh apricots, wash, pitted and coarsely chopped
110g egg yolk and milk mixture (combine 1 egg yolk with enough fresh whole milk to make up amount)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

  1. Sieve cake flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add in caster sugar, salt, whisk to combine. Place cold, diced unsalted butter into mixing bowl. With a fork or a dough scraper, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. (It is important that the butter be cold so when it is cut into the flour mixture it becomes small, flour-coated crumbs. If the butter starts to melt away during this process, stop and place the mixture in the freezer for 10-15 mins to prevent the butter from melting further. Continue the process when the mixture is well chilled.)
  2. Add in chopped fresh apricots. Mix to combine.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add in the yolk and milk mixture and vanilla extract (if using). Fold with a spatula just a few times to make the mixture comes together to form a shaggy mass. 
  4. Gather up the mixture and place it on a lightly floured surface. Dust hand with flour and give it a few light kneading (not more than 10 seconds) so that it comes together to form a dough. Do Not over work the dough. (Only mix the dough until it comes together. Too much kneading will cause gluten to develop, and the resulting scones will turn hard and chewy. Knead only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, dust your hands and the dough with some flour and pat the dough to about 1 inch thick (avoid using too much flour). Cut out the dough with a lightly floured 2.5-inch biscuit cutter (I use a drinking glass). Press the cutter directly down and lift it straight up without twisting. Dip the cutter into some flour after each cut. Gather scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used. (For easy cleaning and to prevent sticking, I lined my work surface with cling wrap, it is also easier to lift up the scones after cutting.)
  6. Place scones on baking tray (lined with parchment paper).Brush the tops with some milk.
  7. Bake at preheated oven at 200 degC for about 25~30 mins or until they are well risen and the tops are lightly brown. Serve warm.
Recipe source: adapted from Okashi sweet treats made with love by Keiko Ishida

Friday, 2 August 2013

It's ham N cheese

It's been sometime since I last posted something on bread buns. I have been making bread, albeit less frequent, but I didn't get around to post them.

After giving up on baking a nice Japanese souffle cheesecake, that doesn't sink like the titanic, I seek comfort by making a batch of bread rolls.

These are ordinary bread buns made with tangzhong or water roux method. The only difference is the way of shaping them to look like roses. I wrapped in ham and cheese slices to turn them into wonderful breakfast items. I tried two different method of shaping and only one of them worked well for me.

These rose buns are made by wrapping the ham and cheese slices with 3 separate pieces of dough, one after another. The texture of the bread was not affected by the layers of dough. They tasted so delicious freshly baked that I gobbled down two in a row, lol!

Care to join me for some tea? No dainty desserts and high quality tea, but I can always offer you a slice of homemade cake or a fat rose bun over a cup of lipton ;)

Ham and Cheese Rose Buns
(makes 12 buns)

tang zhong (water-roux):
20g bread flour
100ml water

bread dough:
195g bread flour
90g cake flour
12g milk powder
30g caster sugar
6g salt
6g instant yeast

60g egg, lightly beaten
65g water
75g tang zhong (water-roux)

45g unsalted butter

6 slices of breakfast ham (round shape)
6 slices of sandwich cheese

to make tang zhong:
Place 20g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 100ml water, mix till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a hand whisk to prevent it from burning. Within 1 to 2 mins, the mixture will start to thicken, stop when you see traces in the mixture for every stir you make with the hand whisk. (Take a look at the video clip here.) The 65degC tang zhong is ready. Immediately transfer the hot tang zhong into a bowl and cover it with a cling wrap, making sure the cling wrap sticks onto the surface of the mixture. This is to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Leave to cool completely before using it.

to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place water, egg, tang zhong (use 75g), sugar, salt, bread flour, cake flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Leave the lid of the machine open (this is to prevent over heating). After about 10mins of kneading, add in the 45g of butter. Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 15~20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

* Place dough in a lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide the dough into 18 equal portions (30g each). Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough into a round disc about the size of the ham. Press out any trapped air as you flatten the dough.

* Place a slice of ham followed by a piece of cheese on a flattened dough. Roll up. Place the rolled dough, seam side down on another piece of flattened dough. Roll up again. Repeat with another piece of dough. Pinch and seal the seams and cut the roll into two equal halves. Place cut-side down on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Repeat with the rest of the doughs.

* Cover doughs with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 12 mins or until golden brown (tent with a foil if the top browns too quickly closer to end of the baking time). Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: adapted from 65度C汤种面包, 陈郁芬

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

square cake

After months of procrastination, I finally gave myself a good kick and got down to bake this beautiful square cake.

I got hooked when I first saw this almond and apricot tray bake from a cookbook dedicated to baking square cakes. I bookmarked several recipes from this cookbook and even went all out to get a 18cm square pan...that was months ago. The next thing I needed to get was the canned apricots. I didn't manage to get it until several months later when I finally spotted it on the supermarket shelves.

The method of preparing the cake batter is quite unique to me. Instead of the usual creaming of butter and sugar batter, followed by eggs...for this recipe, only the yolks are added to the butter mixture while the whites are beaten separately before the two are combined together. The flour is added last. I felt I was switching from creaming method, to chiffon cake making method then to sponge cake method through out the preparation process.

Guess I am too familiar with baking chiffon cakes, instead of adding the flour last, I added in right after mixing the yolks to the butter mixture. I didn't realise my mistake until when I was about to fold the whites to the yolk batter. I was wondering how not to deflate the beaten egg whites if the yolk batter was so dry and thick?

However, it was too late to do anything. I went ahead and surprisingly, I could blend the whites into the batter quite easily. I was expecting the cake to fall flat like a piece of flatbread, but to my delight, it manage to rise and puff up upon baking :)

Even with the mistake I made, the cake still tasted soft and tender, although it appeared to be slightly more crumbly than my usual bakes. The texture was light and not dense as pound cake. I find the cake on the sweet side, but it went well with the canned apricots which tasted tangy! The ground almonds and almond flakes greatly enhances both the texture and aroma, making it a delicious and delightful homemade cake which I will bake again and again.

Apricot Tray Bake

(makes nine 6cm squares)

100g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
30g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites
60g caster sugar

80g cake flour
40g + 30g ground almond (almond powder)

9 apricot halves (canned apricots)
some almond flakes

  1. Wash the canned apricots to remove the syrup, drain, pat dry with paper towel and set aside.
  2. Place butter in a mixing bowl, beat with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk till smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture turns pale, light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add in the egg yolks (a teaspoon at a time), whisking after each addition.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract, whisk to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a handheld electric mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage. The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. The egg whites should appear smooth and glossy.
  6. Add the beaten egg whites into the butter and egg yolk batter in 2 separate additions, each time folding gently with a spatula until just blended.
  7. Sieve over the flour and 40g of ground almond (almond powder). Fold with the spatula until just combined.
  8. Spoon half of the batter into a 18cm square pan (lined with parchment paper). Spread and smooth out the batter evenly. Arrange the apricots, cut side down.
  9. Add 30g of ground almond into the remaining batter. Fold with a spatula until just combined. Place batter into a piping bag (I used a plastic grocery bag). Snip off the tip of the piping bag and pipe the batter horizontally and vertically along the edges of the pan and in between the apricots. Sprinkle almond flakes on the surface of the piped batter. 
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degC for about 30-35mins or until the surface turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  11. Remove from oven, leave to cool for about 5 mins. Unmould and transfer to wire rack, leave to cool completely.
Recipe source: 爱上我的手作蛋糕 by 福岡直子