Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!


From my family to yours, 

Have a Blessed Christmas!


Thank you so much for a great (blogging) year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Arrowroot (Uraro) Cookies

Uraro or arrowroot cookies are common giveaway treats in the Philippines.  As the name suggests, these cookies are made from arrowroot flour which gives them their distinct delicate and powdery texture.  This year, as part of my homemade presents, I baked a batch of these cookies and packaged them in pretty Christmas cookie tins I found at ALDI.


A cookie press is ideal to use for the arrowroot cookie dough.  I pressed mine into Christmas tree shapes!


While these cookies are simple and easy to make and are very inexpensive, I know that the labour that goes with baking from scratch and packaging them beautifully, with the recipient in mind, is incomparable to any store-bought present. Don't you think so?

Perhaps you still have time to make them for someone this Christmas or if you don't, anytime is perfect anyway!  Try it sometime.

ARROWROOT (Uraro) COOKIES (makes 100+ pieces)

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups arrowroot flour**
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavouring
2 large eggs, room temperature

**if you cannot find arrowroot flour, cornstarch is an excellent substitute.

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

In a large bowl, whisk together the arrowroot flour, plain flour, and baking powder.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the maple flavouring.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Gradually beat in the flour mixture.  Stop mixing as soon as everything has come together cohesively.

Press cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets. (If you don't have a cookie press, just roll the dough into one inch balls then press with a fork.)


Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes.  Let them cool on the sheet for about  5 minutes, then carefully move them to a wire rack to cool completely.



Made without the use of a cookie press.

Keep in cookie tins or airtight containers. Yummy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hokkaido cake

People often ask me if they can use chiffon cake recipes to make cupcakes.  I always tell them I personally don't do that as the cupcakes would most likely sink. I never would have wanted to try until I read about the Hokkaido cake recently.

Image credit: The Pickiest Eater in the World.  The Hokkaido
cake as introduced by The French Baker in the Philippines in 2012.

Apparently, the Hokkaido cake is very popular in Asia.  It is basically just a chiffon cake baked in squarish baking cups, filled with whipped cream, then garnished with fruit and dusted with icing sugar.  Every recipe I've seen of this cake on the internet "warns" of the fact that the cupcakes would sink a little bit once out of the oven. The sinking is part and parcel of the process and nothing that affects the beauty and taste of the finished cupcakes.

Yesterday, I had the chance to try making the cupcakes.  When the cupcakes came out of the oven, they were all puffy and tall.  Too tall actually, that I thought I had overfilled the baking cups.


Then, as expected, when they cooled down, they all collapsed and had wrinkly tops. :(  I really hate it when that happens.  But then again, the cupcakes all settled to a nice height.


Some even separated from the baking cup :((  I hate that even more!


Filling with whipped cream caused the cupcakes to expand a bit so they sort of became puffed up again! The icing sugar dusted on top hid more of the imperfections and so the finished cupcakes ended up looking like this...






For anyone who loves chiffon cakes like me, you'd actually know what to expect of the cupcake.  It was beautiful of course - fresh, clean, with a very subtle sweetness!  You won't be able to stop at just one as it is really light.

By the way, see those strawberry slices on top? Would you believe those were from a single strawberry?

How huge is that!!!!

Here's how I did it.  Give it a go sometime!

HOKKAIDO CAKE (makes about 12 square-shaped cupcakes)

For the chiffon cake:

{A}
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3/8 cup white sugar

{B}
¼ cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

{C}
4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

{D}
3/8 cup white sugar

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine {A} well. Add in {B}. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. 
4. Arrange 12 square baking cups in a baking tray.  Scoop batter into each cup, filling to about 3/4 full. (I used a 2" ice cream scoop and each of my cups needed two scoops.)  Bang the baking tray gently to release any air bubbles in the cake batter.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups whipping or thickened cream, chilled
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl then beat till stiff.  When ready to fill cooled cupcakes, transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a small plain round tip. (I used Wilton #12.)

To assemble the cupcakes:

1.  Insert the piping tip into the center of the cupcake and gently squeeze out the whipped cream until it oozes out the top.
2.  Dust the cupcake top with powdered/icing sugar.
3.  Garnish with a slice of fruit.

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake (Part 2)

When I first started making cream cheese frosting, it was always on the soft side. I would either have to work fast before the frosting completely melted or I would ditch piping swirls and instead just make simple round blobs.

A lot of people recommend adding more powdered (icing) sugar to frosting until you get a consistency stiff enough for piping.  As if powdered sugar didn't have any taste!  Adding more sugar = more sweetness.  Not good.

More powdered sugar is NOT the answer.  While most recipes will tell you to use softened cream cheese, I've discovered that if you use it straight from the fridge, you will end up with stiff frosting that's perfect for piping.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(Will frost about 20 cupcakes)

Ingredients:
1 bar (250g) cream cheese, cold, cut up into small cubes
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered/icing sugar, sifted

Procedure:

In a medium bowl, beat the butter for a few seconds.  Add in the cubed cream cheese and vanilla extract.


Beat until combined.


Add powdered sugar in 3 additions.  Beat only until the mixture is smooth.  Overbeating will make the frosting go soft.


Now you have stiff cream cheese frosting that's perfect for piping those high swirls!  Easy.


Top with sprinkles then it's done.  Perfect!
Ready to bake?  Red velvet cupcake recipe can be found here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake (Part 1)


My family is absolutely sick of red velvet cupcakes.  Even the mere sight of them.  I think we got tired of the cupcakes more from seeing them so often in our kitchen rather than from actually eating them.

I baked plenty of ugly red velvet cupcakes in the beginning - sunken centers, lopsided tops, overflowing, cracked domes, etc.  Many bakers (even professionals!) say it doesn't matter what the top looks like because you are going to cover it up with frosting anyway.  I don't agree.  I needed to find out how to do it right.  The first step, of course, was to find the "best" recipe.

If you type in "best red velvet recipe" on Google, you will get countless matches. The label "best" is very relative after all.  I did a Google search a few years ago and it led me to this recipe.  It is the one I have been using ever since.  I like that it uses butter rather than oil as I find cupcakes with oil too wet, moist and heavy.  A minor change I have done was lessening the red food colouring to 40 mls (from 60 mls or 2 oz). 60 mls just seemed too much for me. One thing I'd also like to mention is that I have been strict with using only real buttermilk.  I found that when I used a substitute of milk and vinegar or lemon juice, the result wasn't as good.  But that's probably just me.

Having a good recipe is not the be all and end all.  Correct technique is as essential.  To help you make great red velvet cupcakes, I will show you a step by step plus give you some tips!  NOTE: I will not write the recipe here.  It is not mine.  Personally, I don't like it when people copy my recipes onto their own websites.  Even with a link back, if the recipe is already here, then there is no reason for you to check out the link, is there?  Having said that, I urge you to head on over to Pinch My Salt when you're ready to bake.

Here goes!

1.  Mixing the dry ingredients.


Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together into a bowl then use a whisk to combine thoroughly and to aerate.  Note that I mix in the cocoa powder at this point instead of with the red food colouring (as stated in the original recipe).

2.  Creaming the butter and sugar.


New bakers usually get confused as to what "creaming" means.  It simply means beating the butter and sugar together until it becomes light and fluffy and the colour becomes a very pale yellow.  Start at a slow speed then gradually increase to medium high. If you use caster sugar, the process will be shorter as the sugar dissolves more quickly into the butter.

TIP: If the weather is cold and your butter and sugar is taking forever to reach that fluffy texture, try hovering a hair dryer on low setting over your bowl.  This will warm up your butter and bowl and will speed up the process.  Trust me, I do this all the time.  Just be careful not to melt it!

3.  Adding eggs, vanilla extract and red food colouring.


Add the eggs one a time.  Beat at medium-low speed only. Add the red food colouring gradually with mixer speed down to low.

4.  Adding the flour mixture and buttermilk.


With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Do this in three additions and mix only until combined. You may find that the flour mixture has a tendency to fly all over the place so it is a good thing to probably cover the mixer bowl with a tea towel before you turn the mixer on.

5.  Mixing the baking soda and vinegar.


When you mix these two ingredients together, the mixture should fizz and foam.  If it does not, your baking soda must be old.  Discard and quickly buy new baking soda!  Better yet, if you haven't used your baking soda in a while, check it first before even thinking about baking,.

6.  Final mixing.


After you have poured the baking soda/vinegar mixture in, beat your cake batter for about 30-40 seconds only.  The longer you beat, the tougher your cupcake will become.

7.  Filling your cupcake cases.


The best way to ensure your cupcakes will be the same size, more or less, is to use a 2" ice cream scoop.


You will be able to make about 20-22 cupcakes.

8.  Baking.

Check your oven's accuracy with an oven thermometer.  Bake your cupcakes in the middle rack, one tray at a time.  You can also turn your trays around halfway through to ensure even baking.

Following the steps and tips I have outlined here, you will hopefully get beautiful-looking and wonderful tasting cupcakes like these.


PERFECT!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In My Absence

I know it's been a month.  Sometimes when there's just too much going on, it's when you don't know what to write about. Ironic, isn't it?

In September, I started selling cakes again. I promised I would be taking it easy this time around but well, who does ever keep promises?  I started slowly but things quickly picked up when people heard I was back. So here I am again, making lots of ube and caramel cakes, cupcakes, macarons, and even when I said, I would say no to customized cakes, I still did a few.  Here are just some of them.

I reckon this is the best rendition of my caramel cake so far.

Nutella macarons.
Peanut butter macarons.
Baby shower banana cupcakes.
Red velvet birthday cupcakes.
Despicable Me-themed birthday cake.
Trash pack-themed cake.
I got sick too.  I had flu-like symptoms for a week.  Started with a really bad sore throat, back and headaches then later progressed to coughing and losing my voice.  But who gets to rest?  Not me.  I literally lived on Panadol, Strepsils, Vitamin C, and sore throat gargle. It was the only way I could get through the sickness without lying down to recuperate.

Fortunately, I was back to my healthy self by last week.  Last Saturday was my youngest son's 12th birthday.  We don't usually throw birthday parties but since Matthew's the youngest, he's had the privelege of inviting friends over for the last 4 years. It was kind of a bittersweet celebration for me knowing this would be the last time we would be having a children's party for our kids.

Oh yes, the birthday cake.  After contemplating on making a Pokemon-themed cake (as Matt's birthday present was the new Pokemon Y 3DS game), I decided to try something different. Matthew thought it was so cool.  So did his friends!

An ombre cake in shades of green! 
I learned this frosting technique from YouTube.  It took a lot of effort but the result was truly lovely, don't you think?

The cake is Buko Pandan.  I must say I didn't only enjoy staring at this cake, I liked eating it too!
I made black bottom cupcakes and macarons as well.
Just as I am writing this, there's an ube cake baking in the oven.  I have more to do this week.  I am not complaining. Just praying that I will always be able to do my best (and that I won't get sick again).

Well, that's about it for now.  I hope to be back real soon.  If I don't, at least you know, there's a lot going on around here that's keeping me away from the keyboard.  The list of things to do just never ends.

Have a good week!



PS.  By the way, for those interested to buy the printed Frosted Heaven book from BLURB, use the promo code OCTOBER20 at the checkout to get a 20% discount. Code valid only until the end of the month.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Special Ensaymada

I suppose everyone who has a favourite, tried and tested ensaymada recipe will claim that theirs is the best.  I know I would. I grew up eating only one kind and naturally, it was the standard by which every other version was compared to.

To me, the best ensaymada is soft but not too airy or cake-like.  Golden (from a generous amount of eggyolks and butter) and not pale yellow.  Buttery, sugary, and balanced off with some saltiness from a strong, tasty cheese topping.


I've learned that to achieve this perfect ensaymada, there can really be no shortcuts.  I have tried other recipes with shorter processes and different proportions of ingredients but the results didn't quite make it to the standard I was used to.  I once tried a recipe with mashed potatoes.  It yielded pillow-soft ensaymadas but to me, although they were good, they were more like cupcakes in texture.

So, yes, I have decided to stick to the real thing.  It is more tedious to make, requires more patience but the end result is definitely worth it.

A few notes:

1.  If the yeast doesn't foam, discard then start again.

2.  The proving (rising) times listed in the recipe are just guides.  These will vary mainly due to the temperature of your environment.  Rather than depend on time, concentrate more on how your dough looks like.

3.  If the weather is cold, try proving your dough inside the oven.  Turn the oven on at 200 deg C for 1 minute.  Turn off then place your covered bowl inside.  (I usually repeat this process after an hour if my dough hasn't risen enough yet and the oven has gone cold again.)

4.  To be sure that your ensaymada is fully baked, use a cooking thermometer.  A baked roll should have an internal temperature of about 88-93 degC (190-200 deg F).


5.  To make half the recipe, use 8 eggyolks (4 each for Stages 2 and 3).

SPECIAL ENSAYMADA (makes 20-24 medium-sized ensaymadas)

From top left (counterclockwise): Newly-coiled dough; risen dough; just out of the oven; buttered and sprinkled with sugar; cut in half; ensaymada with cheese topping

STAGE 1

In a small bowl, combine: 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 100-110 deg F or 38-43 deg C)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Let stand until it bubbles, about 15 minutes.

Then add:
1/4 cup room temperature or slightly warm whole milk
3/4 cup bread flour

Mix thoroughly then let rise to about double in volume, about 30 minutes.

LEFT: Foamy yeast mixture; RIGHT: yeast mixture with the addition of milk and bread flour, now double in volume

STAGE 2

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
8 eggyolks (at room temperature)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup bread flour
mixture from Stage 1

Mix, cover, then let rise to about double in volume again, about 30-60 minutes.

LEFT: with eggyolks, sugar, bread flour and mixture from Stage 1; RIGHT: after mixture doubled in volume

STAGE 3

Add, one by one, to mixture in Stage 2:
9 eggyolks
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 cups bread flour

Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix until everything is well incorporated.  Switch to a dough hook, then gradually add up to 1 cup more of bread flour until you achieve the right consistency of a soft and quite sticky dough. (You may not have to add all of the extra flour.  Do not be tempted to keep adding flour or you will end up with a heavy dough).  If the dough is too sticky to handle, leave it for a few minutes then knead again until manageable.

Alternatively (if you do not have a dough hook), transfer the dough onto a slightly floured working surface then knead the mix manually while gradually adding the extra bread flour.  Knead until the desired consistency is achieved.

Form the dough into a ball then let rise in a lightly greased bowl, about 1 1/2 hours.  Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a clean towel.

LEFT: with the addition of more eggyolks, sugar, butter and bread flour; RIGHT: after kneading, ready for proving
After proving

STAGE 4

Punch down the dough. Divide into equal portions.  For medium-sized ensaymadas, a portion would be around 70-80 grams.  You will be able to make around 20-24.  For muffin-sized portions, about 25-30g is enough.

From top left (clockwise): portioned dough; flattened and stretched; buttered and rolled; coiled; shaped like an "S"
Grease ensaymada moulds or muffin pans.

Get one portion and flatten with a rolling pin. (Again, if the dough is too soft or sticks to the rolling pin, leave it for a few minutes then try again.) Start rolling lightly then more heavily until dough is fully stretched lengthwise.

Brush dough surface with a generous amount of softened butter.

Carefully roll the dough from one end of the long side to the other end.  Shape into a coil with outer end tucked in.  You can also form the roll into an "S" shape.

Place in mould.

Once all portions are shaped, let sit, covered loosely with cling wrap, to rise for the last time, about 2 hours.

Coiled dough after proving. As you can see, the coils look like they have melded.  If the coils are separated and distinct, it can mean that too much flour has been added and the ensaymadas might be tough.

BAKING

Bake ensaymadas in a preheated 300 deg F (150 deg C) oven for 20-25 minutes.

Nice and golden!

You can tell that it's soft just by looking at it!
Let cool for a few minutes then remove from moulds.  When completely cool, brush with softened butter, sprinkle with sugar, then top with grated aged edam, vintage, or extra tasty cheddar cheese.

If not eating immediately, wrap ensaymadas individually in wax paper.


Before eating, you can microwave an ensaymada for about 15 seconds to warm it up and to melt the cheese.

Enjoy with coffee or hot chocolate!