Tag Archives: baking

It’s been a long time…

…since I last posted anything.

I guess I’ve been pretty busy – I’ve done a lot since I last wrote, including teaching English at an international school, moving countries and starting a PhD. I’m actually sitting in the PhD office right now, looking out the window at chirpy undergrads heading to their lectures. It’s a nice campus, with nice people and I think I’ll be alright. So far, I’ve managed to break through the shy/can’t-be-bothered wall that usually stops me from being sociable and I have to say, I’ve met a nice bunch of people that way.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe for a Chinese/Japanese fruit cream cake that I’ve made a few times. Growing up as a child in a very Asian environment, this cake automatically screams birthday to me. It’s made up of a light sponge, with chopped fruit and cream sandwiched between two layers. Then the entire cake is covered in a light, creamy icing and topped with more chopped fruit; as you’ll see in my pictures, sometimes the sides get a bit more decoration by way of sliced or chopped nuts. There are many variations out there, using different fruit and sometimes flavoured creams, but what I’ve made can probably be regarded as the classic version.

Continue reading It’s been a long time…

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Flowers and scones: in the midst of summer

As I type right now, I look up occasionally and see the heavy raindrops pitter-pattering outside the doors leading to the garden. It’s a strange sort of rain – heavy, but not a proper downpour, and the sky has that weird quality of being almost overcast, but not quite. The sun’s managed to peek through a little so overall there’s a rather dreamy feel to it.

I’ll stop rambling on about the weather now, even though it was what originally inspired me to write this post. The past month or so has been filled with mostly glorious (read: sunny) weather, although I do draw the line at 30°C heat in a country that’s built around a climate that doesn’t usually stray over 20°C.

However, the upside of all that heat was lots of flower photos…
Continue reading Flowers and scones: in the midst of summer

Skinny cheesecake

Last week I made this cheesecake twice, the first time to try out the newly discovered recipe, and the second because I enjoyed the first attempt so much. Also I had friends over.

We had oven baked “fried” chicken, using a recipe I saw on the Food Network on a show called Not My Mama’s Meals. They call it Unfried Chicken, and I was amazed that it isn’t actually the grease and oily skin that makes a good piece of fried chicken, rather it’s the crunch, which the cornflakes manage to produce very well.

However we dove into the chicken so quickly that I completely forgot to take pictures, so I’ll move on to the cheesecake I made instead.

I found the recipe on a blog called Parsley, Sage & Sweet; this post in turn came from another blog called Cook Book of Trial and Error. I was attracted to the idea that you could make a decent cheesecake from a cheese that is pretty much fat free (the quark I bought has 0.2% fat), and the comments seemed promising.

Still, I was rather skeptical, but it was an easy recipe to put together and quark is cheaper than regular cream cheese, so I thought it was worth the attempt.  Continue reading Skinny cheesecake

Banana muffins

As I ran through the ingredients for this recipe again, I realised that I’d made a vegan recipe! I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, so I don’t usually look out for vegan recipes although I do consult blogs dedicated to vegan food as I love the creativity needed to make a nutritious yet tasty meal without meat.

I found this particular recipe because I ran out of eggs and the shops close at 4.30pm on Sundays. I’m going for an interview early tomorrow morning so I wanted take a packed breakfast with me, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted muffins, specifically banana muffins, as I have a couple brownish bananas in the kitchen.

The original recipe was simple and I only made a few changes, mainly substitutions because of ingredient availability, with the exception of two: I omitted baking soda because I felt that adding it might make it taste funny (I’ve had bad experiences with excessive baking soda). I also added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon because I like the taste. Continue reading Banana muffins

Spring, with a whisper of summer, via brownies

Admittedly not my most original baking post as I made brownies, again.

In my defence, it’s a different brownie recipe, and one I made without the convenience of my scales or measuring spoons. I was over at my best friend’s flat and she doesn’t own scales, measuring cups or spoons. It’s amazing how dependent I’ve become on my baking equipment, when only a few years ago I didn’t even know that measuring spoons existed.

So I stepped into her kitchen and asked for the scales. Scales? What scales? Fortunately her flatmate owned a measuring jug. Then it was on to Google to find out the equivalent of a cup to mls on the jug. I have a funny feeling that the quantities I ended up with may not have been exactly what the original recipe called for, but the end result was still delicious.

This time the only change I made to the original recipe (apart from my suspect measuring devices) was to add about 50-60 g of dark chocolate chips to the brownie mix. Other than that the recipe is exactly as Deb, of Smitten Kitchen  posted it, here.

I used the melting in the microwave method as I didn’t really feel like setting up the water bath. It came out fine, as the following pictures can attest. Continue reading Spring, with a whisper of summer, via brownies

Spring (and shortbread) madness

So spring has finally arrived. It seems as if everything and everyone is making the best of the warm(ish) weather, and I am no different. I’ve been for long walks and picnics in various parks and just generally chilled. For now, I just intend to make the most of my free time, so in addition to working my way through the library and making a few stabs at my own writing, I’ve also walked around the city sketching whatever catches my eye. Looking at my surroundings with an artist’s eye really does make a difference – so many things stood out that I previously did not notice.

I often have my head in the clouds, but I do want to share some pictures that I feel best sum up my wanderings over the past week:

Image Continue reading Spring (and shortbread) madness

Blue skies and whole wheat apple muffins

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Last week I found that I had a surplus of apples which coincided with an odd muffin craving. Even though I didn’t have any paper cases I wanted muffins so much that I risked baking them straight into my non-stick silicon muffin tin. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as non-stick as I thought it was; however I managed to rescue most of the muffins.

I followed the recipe, which I found from Smitten Kitchen exactly as it was posted, with one exception: I mixed a little demerara sugar and oats and sprinkled this mixture on top of the muffins just before I put them in the oven. I rather like extra texture it gives, and besides, it just looks plain nice!

The muffins were lovely and moist and using dark brown sugar gives them an extra level of flavour that regular castor sugar just doesn’t have.

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As for the picture of the blue sky, I took a few pictures in the morning just after I ate breakfast the other day and I thought the sunrise was worth sharing. I love the way the clothes pegs hang at different angles – their silhouette and those of the bare trees stand out so well against the tail end of the sunrise.

Cinnamon and chocolate

I had some friends over for New Year’s Eve. We just wanted a quiet night, chatting and maybe playing on the Wii, as I think none of us really wanted to brave a night out at the local clubs (and judging from the broken glass paving the streets the next day I’m glad we didn’t).

So we ordered some pizzas, everyone brought drinks and I baked.

The first cake I made used another recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini – Yogurt Cake.

It’s a recipe I’ve used countless times since I found it, purely because of it’s versatility and simplicity. In the past I’ve thrown in handfuls of tart blueberries in the batter. I’ve also made a plain cake and served it with crème fraîche and blueberries on the side (yes, I have a thing for blueberries).

However this time I thought I’d make a more wintry cake and so I added a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. On a whim, I also sprinkled the top with a mix of demerara sugar and more cinnamon.  The cake came out moist, as usual, but this time it also filled the kitchen with the lovely scent of cinnamon. It was like Christmas all over again!

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The cake is fine by itself but I imagine a small scoop of vanilla ice cream would go well with it. Then again, vanilla ice cream goes well with most cakes.

The second cake was a variation on the Brown Eyed Baker’s Best Brownies, which in turn was originally from Hershey’s.

Where the recipe states to use two eggs, I’d run out of eggs and so substituted the second egg with about two tablespoons of whole milk, in an attempt to make up the volume. As usual I replaced the cup of sugar in the original recipe with 150 g of soft brown sugar and finally, I chopped up about 150 g of milk and plain chocolate and folded it into the batter.

The results were delicious, especially when eaten warm.

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The brownies disappeared rapidly although I think it’s down to chocolate being a general favourite with my friends, rather than any spectacular baking skills. But the point of this is I’m glad my experiment with an egg substitute turned out so well. I doubt I’d be brave enough to do that with any other cake but I hope to one day reach a point when I can make up my own recipes.

Reflections and Christmas baking

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As I write this post it is drizzling outside, but thankfully I live in an area unaffected by the floods; my prayers and best wishes go out to all those who do.

Every year, the Christmas season seems to bring either great joy or great sorrow to people.  I was a teenager when my grandmother died in hospital on Boxing Day, but on the flipside, she died surrounded by her family, comfortable and warm, after a Christmas Day spent with her family and friends. She had lived a long life and seemed quite ready to move on.

I won’t be going any further with this, but instead prefer to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May you all find some shred of happiness and peace, no matter the circumstances.

Onto the baking side of things.

This year hasn’t been the busiest for baking, but I am trying out new things. In the past I’ve generally kept to cakes and cupcakes, but this year I thought I’d diversify. In preparation for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner, I made chocolate tarts. I used a combination of recipes – the pastry from Chocolate & Zucchini and the filling from Gordon Ramsay on BBC Good Food. I also used a bit of Green & Black’s espresso dark chocolate to replace the equivalent quantity of plain dark chocolate because I think coffee really enhances the chocolate. However after I did that it occurred to me that using flavoured chocolates is an easy way to adapt this recipe to your personal taste. The coffee taste is subtle but there is still enough to make the tarts a little bit more special.

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Chocolate tarts with a hint of coffee

– Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini – Absolute Chocolate Tarts and Gordon Ramsay – Gordon’s chocolate tart

Makes 5 tarts (using 10 cm tart tins)

Ingredients:

Chocolate tart shell:
200 g plain flour
100 g castor sugar
100 g butter, cut into small cubes
Remove a heaping tablespoon of flour and substitute with the same quantity of unsweetened cocoa powder (approx. 15 g)
Splash of milk

Chocolate filling:
50 g milk chocolate
50 g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids)
50 g espresso dark chocolate (I used Green and Black’s)
100 mL double cream
50 mL whole milk
1 egg
1 tbsp golden castor sugar

To make the shells:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa powder together in a bowl. Once mixed, add the butter to the bowl and work the ingredients together. Add a splash of milk and continue to mix. The finished mixture should resemble coarse sand.
  3. Divide the mixture and press evenly into tart tins using fingers.
  4. Prick the bases of the tarts a few times with a fork to allow air to escape when baking. Alternatively, line with parchment paper and baking weights.
  5. Blind bake for 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
  6. Once baked remove and cool on a wire rack.

To make the chocolate filling:

  1. Turn the oven down to 150°C.
  2. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place into a mixing bowl. 
  3. Bring the milk and cream to a boil. Add slowly to the chocolate, stirring to melt and mix with the chocolate. Once this is all mixed, whisk in the egg and castor sugar.
  4. Allow to settle to minimise the number of air bubbles in the final product.
  5. Pour slowly into tart shells, filling them almost to the top.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool.

Gordon Ramsay recommends serving this dusted with grated white chocolate, cocoa powder or icing sugar and decorated with chocolate curls. I will be serving this tomorrow with a dollop of crème fraîche and raspberries.

I admit that my chocolate tarts aren’t the prettiest, but I’ve tried one (I made a spare) and they do taste good. The presentation will come with practice.

I’m off to a Christmas Eve party in a bit and I do have to get ready so I’ll finish here. So for those who are already celebrating Christmas, Merry Christmas again, and for those who are not yet, I hope you have a great Christmas.

God bless!

Baking therapy

So today I had two lots of disappointing news. I won’t bore you with the facts but suffice to say it definitely crushed me today.

Well, I got home and then immediately started baking. First I started with shortbread. It’s a simple recipe, with only three ingredients: butter, sugar and flour. The recipe is one from the ever faithful BBC Food website and every time I make it the shortbread comes out perfect. Also, while the original recipe suggests dusting with icing sugar, I didn’t have any; however castor sugar seemed to work just fine.

I’ve been making the shortbread as presents and this picture was taken after I’d wrapped them, so I had to hastily unwrap one for the camera.

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Next I decided to make Baci di Dama cookies. I was reading a blog written by a chef called David Lebovitz. He’s American but he lives in Paris and the pictures of the food he makes never fail to make me salivate. It might just be because I have a huge sweet tooth and he tends towards cakes and desserts.

Anyway, I’d spotted the recipe for these cookies and have been meaning to make them for ages, but the main ingredient is hazelnuts, and I keep forgetting to buy some.

Well, I finally got round to it and decided that today would be as good as any to finally make these lovely cookies. The dough was fairly simple and kneading it by hand was strangely satisfying. While dividing the dough into marble-sized balls, I couldn’t resist trying it. After all, it was simply hazelnuts, butter, sugar and flour. Delicious.

Another note is that I made my cookies with wheat flour, which was the alternative to the rice flour recommended in the original recipe. As I’ve not tried the rice flour version I can’t really compare the two, but the cookies I made tasted and looked fine to me.

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Baking each batch only took about 11 minutes per batch and I made 4 trays of hazelnutty goodness. After they were baked I let them cool, and then sandwiched melted dark chocolate between two dome-shaped cookies. This is the result:

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I have to admit that dinner tonight consisted almost entirely of ‘misshapen’ shortbread and Baci di Dama cookies. Well, I did have an apple, a pear and an orange. That’s already three of my five a day!