Thursday, January 22, 2015

almond tart with sauteed bananas with rum and cinnamon /バナナのラムシナモングラッセのタルト

Good day folks! I now present to you... tart number three!

It's filled with frangipane (almond cream) and topped with thickly sliced bananas coated with a sticky caramel laced with rum and cinnamon that sit atop a generous spread of cream whipped together with the aforementioned caramel. Divine medley of flavours. If coffee was thrown into the mix the result would be explosive! Coffee and caramel and banana are just so crazy good together. I'm definitely going to create a tart with those flavours someday, maybe after I've finished baking this entire book (which won't be long judging by the speed at which I'm tearing through it).

The tart was pretty pleasant overall but I felt that the frangipane was slightly dry. Perhaps I'd overbaked it. I also made the filling a day before and used it when it was a little stiff from the coldness of the fridge - I wonder if that played a part too? Anyhoo, I'll probably give the frangipane another try and see where the problem lies.

So, amongst the three tarts I've tried three different types of fillings, which are the basic ones in the book. I would have to say that the pastry cream is my favorite. I still can't get over how fragrant the rum made it! I'm a little disappointed that not many recipes in the book use pastry cream as a filling but that pretty much means that I'll be baking every single one that calls for it. Looks like choosing what to bake just got easier!

It's pictures galore again today because tarts are just so easy to capture like that. And the fluted edges make them look extra gorgeous! I wish I'd invested in fluted tart pans earlier so that I could have made the previous two tarts using those pans.

Oh and the recipe actually called for persimmons but I substituted them with bananas because it isn't persimmon season. I should have just switched recipes but bananas + caramel + rum + cinnamon sounded too enticing!

Almond Tart with Sauteed Bananas with Rum and Cinnamon /バナナのラムシナモングラッセのタルト
makes a 7 inch tart

For the crust, follow the recipe here. After you've pressed the dough into the tart mould leave it in the fridge to chill while you make the frangipane.

For the frangipane:
60g butter
60g sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp rum
20g cake flour
60g ground almonds

Cream the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg bit by bit and stir in the rum. Stir in the cake flour and ground almonds until combined.

Scrape into the prepared crust and bake at 170C for around 40 minutes or until brown. Cool completely.

For the bananas:
2 to 3 bananas, thickly sliced on a diagonal
4 tbsp sugar
20g butter
1 tbsp rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Place the sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium heat until the sugar has melted and caramelized. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the butter and rum. When the mixture is smooth, return to low to medium heat and stir in the sliced bananas, ensuring that they're evenly coated. Stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the ground cinnamon and remove from heat. After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, chill in the fridge until completely cold.

For the caramel cream:
100ml heavy cream
2 to 3 tbsp of the cooled caramel from the bananas

Whip the cream and caramel until medium stiff peaks.

For assembly:
almond flakes and pistachios, toasted and cooled (optional)

Spread the caramel cream on top of the tart. Arrange the bananas on top of the cream, remembering to make the center a little higher than the rest. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

berries tart /ベリーのタルト

Anddd I'm on to my second tart this week! It's crazy how much I adore this book. The tart I chose to make this time is this berries tart because well, I had some strawberries and cream cheese on hand but truth be told I was dying to make a certain banana caramel one!

The filling for this tart is a baked cream cheese custard. Cheesecake, if you will. It's not too rich nor cheesy (which I like) and just slightly tangy because of the ratio of yoghurt to cream cheese. And it's a perfect contrast to the sweet and juicy berries yadda yadda yadda. Perfect combination - we all know it.

Arranging the fruits was a little challenging surprisingly. You have to make sure that the fruits are arranged somewhat randomly yet neatly. Ideally you shouldn't have gaps between the fruits showing but in my defense this was my first try. So yes to more practice and fruit tarts!

Fruits just make a dessert so photogenic I couldn't help but snap a few more pictures than usual.

Berries Tart /ベリーのタルト
makes a 7 inch tart

For the tart crust, follow the recipe here

For the cheese filling:
150g cream cheese
50g sugar
100g yoghurt
1 egg
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch

Whisk the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until smooth and combined. Whisk in the yoghurt, egg, lemon juice and cornstarch in this order until smooth.

Pour the filling into the unbaked crust and bake at 160C for about 50 minutes or until the filling is set. Cool crust and filling on a rack then refrigerate until completely cold.

For decoration:
any kind of berries

If you're using strawberries, be sure to slice them into half because they may be too big. Try to start laying down the bigger fruits first then use the smaller ones such as the blueberries to fill in the gaps. You should try to arrange the fruits such that they look like they're piled up. Finish with the glaze.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

blueberry custard tart /ブルーベリーのカスタードタルト

I know I'm approximately 11 days late but happy new year everyone! The moment the last minute of 2014 lapsed into the first minute of 2015 I was in Japan (a.k.a. my favorite place on earth) so my 2015 got off to a wonderful start. This also explains the silence for the past few weeks or so but I brought back tons of inspiration from Japan so I'll be updating more frequently from now on, or at least until my inspiration runs out!

Whenever I come back from Japan I'm always more inclined to make desserts that focus a lot on presentation or just sweets with a Japanese twist. I've made quite a number of entremets and swiss rolls as a result but tarts, not so much. I happen to find cakes boring at the moment as well so I bought myself a Japanese recipe book featuring tarts (and a few cakes) that rely heavily on seasonal fruits. I really like this book a lot because the recipes are simple and straightforward and it teaches you how to arrange the fruits in the most beautiful manner which I've been wanting to learn how to for the longest time!

Frankly it was pretty hard to pick which tart to attempt first because all looked so tempting but I settled on this blueberry custard tart because I liked the way the cookies are used as decoration. The cookies are made from the tart dough so you don't really have to invest a lot of extra effort! The tart pictured in the book is embellished with cookies of adorable animal shapes but I didn't have such cookie cutters although I did purchase this cookie stamp set I was dying to try out. It's a hiragana (a type of Japanese alphabet) stamp kit. The words I stamped are かわいい(kawaii / cute) and おしゃれ (oshare / stylish). The cookie cutter provided made cookies that were way too big for my 7 inch tart though.

Although I have a go-to sweet tart dough and pastry cream recipe from Pierre Herme I opted to follow the recipes given in the book, for no particular reason. Honestly, I've always thought that tart doughs and pastry creams couldn't differ much recipe to recipe but wow how wrong I was. I very much prefer this Japanese version; the pastry cream is less eggy, not too rich and very fragrant (must be the rum) and the tart dough, I can't exactly place my finger on it but its taste and texture were spot on for me. But then again, I could just be partial to sugar cookie crusts. And I happened to score some extremely sweet blueberries for this tart so it was definitely an overall winner!

I'm pretty sure that I'll be baking this entire book. Here's to the beginning of the tart craze!

Blueberry Custard Tart /ブルーベリーのカスタードタルト
makes a 7 inch tart
adapted from this book

When you're doubling the recipe for the tart dough, instead of 2 egg yolks use a whole egg. The quantity for the rest of the ingredients can just be multiplied by 2. Also, you have to use caster sugar for the doubled recipe. It's a good idea to make more dough for this tart since you need some extra for the cookies.

For the tart dough:
75g butter
50g icing sugar or caster sugar
1 egg yolk
120g cake flour
10g ground almonds
pinch of salt

Cream the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. If you're using a whole egg, beat it and add it in bit by bit. Stir in the cake flour and ground almonds in 2 additions. Stop once no traces of flour remain. If you stir too much the dough will become too sticky.

Gather up the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, flatten it slightly and store in the fridge until chilled and firm. It'll be best if you can let the dough rest for half a day.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 5mm thickness. Transfer the dough into a 7 inch tart mould. Make sure you really press the dough into the mould. Have the dough extend over the pan a little because the crust will shrink slightly. Lay a piece of foil over the crust and fill with baking beans.

Bake the crust for about 15 minutes at 170C. Remove foil and beans and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. If the crust puffs up halfway during baking just take it out, use the back of a spoon to flatten it and return it to the oven.

Cool crust completely before filling.

For the cookies, roll out the dough to around 5mm thick as well and cut out your desired shapes. You have to adjust your baking time according to how big your cookies are.

For the pastry cream:
2 egg yolks
50g sugar
20g cake flour
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (you can also sub 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract)
180ml milk
15g butter
1 tbsp rum

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the flour.

Heat the milk, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla pod in a saucepan on low heat until the milk comes to a simmer. Before the milk comes to a boil, stream it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. If you're using vanilla extract just heat the milk alone.

Place a whisk over the saucepan and strain the mixture. Place the saucepan on low heat and whisk until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the rum, vanilla extract if using and butter, in this order.

Scrap the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, making sure that it touches the surface of the cream. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature before refrigerating until cold.

For assembly:
70ml heavy cream
2 tsp sugar

Whisk the heavy cream and sugar until the cream reaches medium-stiff peaks. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Or you can just use a spoon if you're not that fussy.

Remove pastry cream from the fridge and stir the cream until smooth. Scrape cream into cooled tart shell, using your spatula to spread it evenly. Top the pastry cream with the blueberries and pipe blobs of whipped cream around the borders of the tart. Place a cookie on each blob.

Consume as soon as possible.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

christmas tree cake.

Merry Christmas everyone! I don't know about you guys, but Christmas is definitely my favorite time of the year. The joyful jingles, the trees adorned with baubles and tinsel and pretty lights, the presents... it's such a magical season! Brings tears to my eyes and all (really) (well sometimes).

So in honour of my favorite day, I baked a Christmas-themed cake. Usually log cakes would come to mind but you know, I'm not a very conventional person so I decided to do a christmas tree version of the swiss roll tower. I didn't use the recipe in that post though; frankly I had to bake in the morning and I knew that if I attempted something too complicated in my half-awoken state I might mess it up. Thus I chose a simpler swiss roll recipe that utilizes only four ingredients, which is pretty much idiot proof. Unfortunately it wasn't the best recipe for my christmas tree cake because the bottom of the cake, which would be the side facing outwards, developed a brown skin that was undesirable because I needed the green to be prominent. I tried to brush off as much of the skin as I could but there were patches of it that I could not get rid off without ripping off a considerable chunk of cake as well. I should have stuck to the recipe I used for the swiss roll tower because the bottom doesn't turn brown at all. Oh well.

The swiss roll is filled with a matcha cream cheese filling as I added a bit of matcha powder into the batter to give the cake it's green colour. I attempted to recreate christmas lights by piping royal icing around the cake and sticking M&Ms onto random parts of the icing. The icing isn't really obvious because I made it a tad too thin. For the ornaments I baked sugar cookies decorated with royal icing and sprinkles.

I'm a little bummed that the cake didn't turn out as well as I envisioned it although it was kinda fun trying to piece it all together. I hope that you guys are enjoying your Christmas baking as well!  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

best cocoa brownies (with sautéed bananas).

Hey all! Just casually popping by to breathe some life back into this dusty space before it turns into a tangle of cobwebs. My creative juices have not really been churning lately so I've been revisiting a couple of old favorites, like these cocoa brownies like Alice Medrich. I blogged about them a few times before but did not quite give them the full attention they deserve so today I shall finally do them justice.

These brownies are probably still one of the best brownies I've ever tasted - intensely chocolaty (although I would cut down on the sugar a bit) and fudgy (try them when they're cold through!). Plus they are a breeze to whip up; this recipe requires really the most basic of brownie ingredients. If the crackly top is a major deal breaker in your book, this recipe does yield brownies of that nature if you whisk the batter a bit longer (I forgot to this time). I imagine it must be air bubbles in the batter that contributes to the crinkly magic.

Aaaand I had to saute some bananas to have with the brownies. Lip-smacking.

Best Cocoa Brownies
recipe by Alice Medrich
makes an 8 x 8 inch pan's worth

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter has melted and mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, incorporating the first fully before adding the second, until the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended. Add the flour and stir until all traces of it disappear.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before slicing. Placing them in the fridge until they're completely cold would make slicing easier.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

banana cake with peanut butter frosting.

Why hello there! It's been a while. Somehow I feel that's the tone I've been adopting for all recent blog entries. It pains me to admit it but my interest in baking has been waning somewhat. But I'm sure I'll get my motivation back when I get to sample some of the finest pastries ever created during my upcoming holiday trip (Japan I'm coming for you!).

The inspiration for this cake stems from pictures of flower-adorned cakes I found on Instagram. I'm actually not really a fan of using non-edible decorations because I feel that there are many other options that can both make a cake look good and complement the flavours of the cake. Flowers and figurines are eye-catching of course but using them feels like cheating (although I make an exception for the miniature reindeers and santa clauses on log cakes). Out of curiosity though, I felt like trying to embellish a cake with flowers just for once.

I decided to get fake flowers so that I could reuse them if I thought them to be acceptable decorations for cake after all. My original plan was to bake a regular round cake (i.e. not using a tube pan) and have the flowers, with their stems removed and all, arranged on the surface and sides in some artsy fartsy manner but I had a change of heart in the midst of brutally twist-snapping the stems off and decided to make use of the cavity of a cake baked in a tube pan. I would position the flowers in the cavity like I would flowers in a vase. To finish I would pipe a basket weave pattern on the sides of the cake because y'know, flowers, basket. Yeah. (I swear that sometimes even I can't keep up with myself.) I'm pleased with the way the cake turned out to be honest. I quite like the combination of colours of the flowers. But when you slice the cake you have to remove the flowers in the centre and poof just like that the magic noticeably disappears.

Well, I wasn't planning to bake a cake solely for experimenting with flower decoration; I wanted an excuse to bake my favorite banana bread again as well. This is my go-to recipe for banana bread - it practically screams banana and is extremely extremely moist. Even if you eat it straight from the fridge when it's supposed to be so cold flavours can't come through very prominently you can definitely tell that it's banana bread with your eyes closed. And I love how the top of the cake gets a little gummy when I wrap it while it's still warm and leave it like that to cool.

Even if you have no interest in adorning your next cake with flowers I sincerely urge you to try this recipe. Peanut butter frosting mandatory.

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
cake recipe adapted from Flour Bakery

I scaled down the recipe by half and baked it in a 6 inch tube pan but the quantities reflected below are the original recipe's. You will need a loaf pan about the size of a 9 x 5 inch.

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the frosting:
refer to this post

Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat the sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in the oil. Add the mashed bananas, creme fraiche and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts.

Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Cool cake completely before frosting.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

classic french croissants.

It's strange that I would attempt making croissants when I can't even roll out cookie dough decently. The power of boredom is amazing. But you know what? I think I've always made croissants out to be more difficult to make than they actually are. Sure they're a little more difficult to master (I think), but they're not exactly something that home bakers cannot and must not attempt for they'll flop for sure. In fact I think I'll give this recipe another go because I accidentally made these smaller than I wanted them to be. And forgot the egg wash.

The step of wrapping the butter in the dough and rolling it out was pretty nerve wracking because the butter was stone-hard as it was stone-cold and certain parts of the dough were thinner than the rest so bits of butter would occasionally poke through the dough. I had to constantly patch those holes up with dough from the thicker portions. The rolling and folding gradually got easier as the dough spent more time in the fridge so discounting the start, I actually thought that the process was pretty fun. I was tempted to create more layers because it was so easy to do so but more layers actually hamper the rise of your croissants so don't get carried away!

Before I embarked on making the croissants I did some research. Tips, basically, on how to avoid a croissant calamity. One particularly useful one I found on a thread was to trim the ends of the folded dough such that dough containing no butter is removed. I think this helps to prevent your croissants from baking up misshapen by keeping the layers of butter and dough even. I ended up with a lot of unwanted dough and I didn't want to waste them so I gathered them all up, braided the pieces and baked them separately.

To be honest, I don't eat a lot of croissants so while I can more or less judge that one is better than the other, I'm not sure what really makes one superior. I felt that these were passable texture wise - quite flaky, not too dense - but there is just something that these are lacking. I'm still trying to figure it out. I have a feeling that the problem may lie in my rolling technique more than the recipe itself. So I don't know if this recipe is the best out there but for record's sake I shall just post it here. If you have any tips on making croissants please share. Similarly if you have a great recipe to recommend I'll be eternally grateful!  

Classic French Croissants
makes 15 regular sized croissants

500g plain flour
140g water
140g milk (can be taken straight from the fridge)
55g sugar
40g soft unsalted butter
11g instant yeast
12g salt

280g cold unsalted butter for laminating
1 egg + 1 tsp water for the egg wash

Refer to this link for instructions with a pictorial guide.


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