Sunday, September 29, 2013
Baking is an art form; I doubt anyone would dispute that. I wish though, that I could be more artistically inclined like being able to draw. I can play the piano- I took lessons before- but I don't know if I have the potential to be good at it because I gave up when the theory exams got too hard for my liking. As for dancing, I used to be rather shy so I didn't bother trying to pick it up. Thinking about it, I have kind of deprived myself of chances to experience the arts haven't I? Dang it.
Anyway, the reason why I said that I wanted to be good at another art form apart from baking is because, you know how sometimes you get so frustrated that you just want to do something with your hands (that is not punching the wall/window/others)? If you could draw you could just grab a pencil and a paper (actually the paper is not mandatory- vandalism of any available surface is perfectly fine in great fits of anger in my opinion) and channel your inner Picasso; if you were good at playing musical instruments you just have to grab them and play your heart out; if you were good at dancing, well this is the easiest, just move! Baking is not so quick as a form of stress relief. You have to assemble and weigh your ingredients for starters, and then you have to clean up. You might end up becoming more stressed when you get to the cleaning up bit. Let's not forget that if you're not at home, you have to find yourself a kitchen first.
Bottom line is, I just feel so restricted whenever I need to vent my frustrations. Oh no wait hold on. It just occurred to me as I'm writing this that writing is an art form. Genius me. I just wrote the above paragraphs for nothing. Oh well thank goodness that I'm decently fluent in English.
To offset that slightly negative and totally random discussion above, let's have something cheery, colorful and sweet i.e. waffles! These waffles rock because they form this hard crunchy surface when cooled and are tender and fluffy on the inside. The occasional punctuation of sprinkles add another dimension of texture. The flavour can get a bit monotonous after a while but that's okay- just bring on the toppings!
Cake Batter Waffles
adapted from here
makes 4 round ones
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate each fully before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
Alternately stir in the flour mixture in 3 additions and milk in 2, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
Preheat your waffle iron.
Pour the appropriate amount of batter into the waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
How long does it take for you to register that something is beautiful?
Many a times we can just walk past a bunch of flowers and we'll proclaim how pretty they are. Maybe we'll snap a picture or two and then just walk away. But do we really leave with the feeling that we have just encountered some pretty flowers? Just last week I was at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay. I came across this rather large flower with purplish hues and petals so symmetrical it's a wonder it's not fake. It looked so perfect it stopped me in my tracks. But only as I continued to stare and marvel at the little details did I realise how gorgeous it was. I may have thought that it was pretty at first but without paying a bit more attention I wouldn't have realised the full extent of its beauty.
That's the problem isn't it? Our lives are so hurried today that we barely have time to stop and appreciate the beauty around us. We could have been becoming accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle- walking fast, talking fast, reading fast. There could be many reasons.
Okay now I'm going to say that the above is just one of my many random thoughts that passes through my cluttered place of a brain, in case you ask what connection do flowers have with cookies. So yeah hey, random.
Actually this thought came to me as I was browsing instagram. I came across a user whose profile wrote "I like pretty things", and personally I like pretty things too, but what was my definition of pretty? So many people like pretty things - it's only natural - but what we see as pretty can't be the same right? I would like to say that I'm perhaps a bit more fussed about what constitutes as pretty or not. Similarly, I'm able to feel the ugliness of something (which does not have to be extremely repulsive, it can be pretty normal looking I guess) so intensely I can't even stand the thought of looking at it. So maybe I have a higher standard as to what I consider beautiful? Is this a perfectionist mindset? I wouldn't be surprised if I am one really.
Extremely disjointed frame of mind today, sorry.
So anyway, cookies. These are the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had. Extremely peanut buttery, thick, soft, not too oily, a little salty to go with the sweetness- what more can you ever ask of a peanut butter cookie? Make these.
Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 40
adapted from here
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
coarse salt, for sprinkling on top of the unbaked rounds of dough
Preheat oven to 170C. Prepare baking sheets.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together.
Cream the sugars, peanut butter and butter together until creamy and smooth. Beat in the egg until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the dough slightly. You can press any decoration you want into the dough at this point as well.
Bake between 10 to 12 minutes. Quickly sprinkle over the salt while the cookies are still hot.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
So in my last post I talked about my instagram addiction to getting more followers. Well today, I feel like talking about instagram too, but not about the followers thing.
Instagram is fun, it really is. I also see it as a truly wonderful app. Sometimes when I open it, I just marvel at just how a simple tapping movement on a 2D icon can transport you to a place where you can communicate with so many different people. Sure, the Internet is pretty much the same thing but I think there's a degree of intimacy that makes this transcending of geographical boundaries a lot more apparent.
Instagram is an incredibly easy way for you to share photos, and pretty ones with the help of filters to boot. And you only have a small square area to show what you captured to the world, so it's a lot easier to compose your pictures, or at least that's the way I feel. I realised that these features of instagram has made me lazy in improving the quality of my photos. When I use my DSLR to take pictures for this blog, I have to drag out my special wooden table and before that, clear whatever junk that's sitting on it and wipe it down, and then get out whatever plates and props that I need before I can finally start snapping pictures. (And I have to move everything back afterwards.) So after a long period of not using my DSLR, instead filling that void with lots of picture-taking with my phone for instagram, I felt a tug of reluctance when I had to get my DSLR out for these pictures you see in this post.
And I was shocked, and ashamed. I used to enjoy taking pictures with my DSLR so much, I couldn't imagine that the day where I wouldn't want to use my DSLR would come so quickly. Luckily once I started aligning my eye with the camera hole and positioning my fingers around the camera body just so, the feeling of familiarity and excitement came gushing back again.
I think, as much as I enjoy the convenience instagram provides for picture sharing, nothing (I hope) can replace the feel of churning out photos that reveal careful thought and planning behind them. I'm not the best photographer, but I know that well-composed photos are not just what they are at first glance. Every detail matters, and every detail has been planned for meticulously. Some pictures have a piece of cake on not just one plate but two- the two plates would be stacked on top of each other- and whether you know it or not, the addition of a second plate, as extraneous as it seems, contributes to a more aesthetically pleasing picture.
I know one thing's for sure though, that instagram can never substitute my love for blogging simply because it's a platform for you to share pictures, not thoughts that can run on forever. Blogging gives me a way to dump all my verbal vomit- I talk way too much and want to talk way too much to ever limit myself to a medium that only allows me to share a few sentences, max. (I don't think instagram has a word limit but I it isn't nice to bombard people with too many words when the focus is supposed to be the picture.) And I do appreciate what Blogger allows me to do what instagram doesn't. I think you can tell by the length of my recent posts and the thought I invest in them that I enjoy writing extensively.
So at the end of the day, what I'm trying to say is that while I love instagram, it's hardly every going to distract me from blogging. Yay! But if you've noticed that I post less frequently now compared to last time, it's because of school (urgh), not instagram.
Speaking of school, when I showed my friends some photos of my bakes they said that I should just quit this study prison and set up my own bakery. I feel so flattered! I love it when people can identify my dream without me having to tell them- one of the highest compliments ever. Oh, reminder for self: I should totally talk about my dream bakery in the next post.
Okay so now about these caramel coconut cluster bars. I have no criticism for these. If you like coconut, caramel, chocolate, buttery crunchy shortbread and good food, you will love these! The caramel is worth mentioning because it isn't the hard and super chewy kind; it's soft and you can easily bite into it even when it's refrigerated. Good stuff.
Caramel Coconut Cluster Bars
makes 24 bars
slightly adapted from Baked Elements
3 cups flaked sweetened coconut, toasted and divided (I used desiccated)
For the cookie base:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel layer:
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
chocolate chips, as much as necessary to cover the surface
Make the cookie base: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the vanilla and flour and beat until just combined.
Pat the dough into the prepared pan, prick the top of the dough with the tines of a fork and bake the crust for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel.
Make the caramel layer: Combine the corn syrup, both sugars and 2 tbsp of water in a medium saucepan. Set the saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugars dissolve. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 240F to 245F.
Meanwhile, stir together the heavy cream and condensed milk.
When the mixture reaches the right temperature, remove from heat and stir in the cream mixture and butter until combined. Return to heat and bring the mixture back to 250F without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt and 2 cups of toasted coconut.
Pour the caramel directly onto the cookie base and quickly spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of tasted coconut and chocolate chips over the surface. Let the bars cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Slice and serve.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I am starting today's post with a long story today! So please bear with me, or just scroll down.
So if you've noticed my not-so-subtle urges for you to follow me on instagram embedded in posts recently (if you've followed me, thank you so much!), then you would know that I've just started owning an instagram account. I resisted owning one for so long because firstly, I don't have 3G and I think you would agree with me that one of the many pleasures of owning instagram is being able to post pictures relevant to your activity on the spot. There's greater enjoyment in posting the picture while you're still "in the moment" so to speak. If I own an instagram account, I would have to snap the picture and upload it when I get home or when I have access to wi-fi. It's not like it's an extremely bad thing but that would mean that I can only post at certain times and not too many at once, or risk spamming my followers.
The second reason as to why I was reluctant to sign up with instagram because I hate all that anxiety that comes with the need to become popular, or having many likes and followers. I've experience it before, and probably still do, with this blog. When I first started, I was obsessed with getting as many posts out and as many readers as possible. Every new high on my stats board sent coarses of adrenaline rushing through my bloodstream; every new follower gained could leave me giddy with happiness for hours. Just as these new "breakthroughs" made me so happy, every dip in readership, every follower lost could send me into spirals of disappointment. The loss of followers had a more profound impact.
Very soon, I found myself blogging just to get more noticed. I posted nearly every day at one point and then I stopped to ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" What is the point of blogging if quantity usurps quality? (I mean, I'm sure that some justification can be found for this but for the sake of argument...) I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences this when you first own a blog. I actually browsed through some blogs at their very beginning in the past, and I found that people tend to post more at the start.
Essentially, I let the stats board take away some of the joys in blogging by becoming obsessed with becoming more "popular" each day. And as much as I told myself not to let it bother me, that content is more important, I can't help but check the stats board the first thing I do when I log into my Blogger account. (I still do it now.) I didn't want the same thing to happen to me when I get my instagram account. Till today, I feel a small twinge of jealousy when I notice the mountain of comments on a popular blog's post or the insane number of likes a post gets of Foodgawker; I've been blogging for close to three years now so I'm pretty sure I would fall into the same trap with instagram. Plus, I feel that there is more pressure on instagram to rise to fame and popularity. The number of followers is so clearly displayed on every user's profile page it's hard not to notice, and to be jealous about especially if yours is way inferior. Of course, I do acknowledge that not everyone feels this way. Maybe it's a teenage thing.
And you know what? After reflecting so much and trying to stop myself from having a "I wanna be popular" mindset I realised that yes I am obsessed with getting more followers on instagram. Sometimes I find myself subconsciously thinking that liking photos may get users to notice me and like me photos and follow me back (I am quite proud of my photo feed- can I say that?). But the thing is, is wanting to be popular all that bad? Hmm... That's some big plate of food for thought. I shall save my response for the next post.
But as of now, as superficial as it is, I get a heady rush of excitement whenever I gain a new follower. So if you will, you can find me @carramellatte.
I am so not getting twitter.
So hey I nearly kept to my promise! I said that the following post wouldn't feature chocolate and the only chocolate elements here are the chocolate glaze and white chocolate shell of the peanut butter cup. In fact, two of the cupcakes didn't have any chocolate glaze so I would say that I sort of made the mark?
You know that a cupcake is truly photogenic when you can be a crazy lunatic with the camera and manage to capture a beautiful picture every time. These cupcakes are so insanely gorgeous! Maybe it's because I've not baked in such a long time that I'm so overcome with emotion but seeing these cupcakes make me so darn proud of myself! What would my life be without baking? What would I have become? (I'm pretty sure that the answer is useless with a capital u.)
|can we have a moment of silence to revel in the beauty of these cupcakes?|
These cupcakes are so soft and moist I swear I thought I underbaked them. They also have a nice buttery eggy flavour that would make them absolutely. perfect. if not for the fact that they're still a tad sweet even after I'd reduced the sugar. But hey, that's easily remedied right? This recipe is definitely one of the best vanilla cake recipes I've ever tried and I encourage you to try it too!
I'm not so quick to dub being "easy to make" as one of a recipe's merits because I firmly believe that a good recipe is worth slaving over and laboring for. But in cases when you get an urge to bake in minutes nearing midnight (yes this is the story of these cupcakes) and really don't know how soon you will just feel like hitting the sack, leaving a recipe half-finished, this is definitely one you can count on for fast and delicious results.
Vanilla Peanut Butter Cupcakes
cake recipe adapted from here and peanut butter frosting recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes 20 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar (reduced from 2 cups)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
For the peanut butter frosting:
2 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
pinch of salt
3 tbsp heavy cream
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 375F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the water. Stir in the flour, sugar and sour cream until well blended. At this point, the mixture should be cool enough so as to not cook the eggs when you mix them in. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla extract, baking soda and salt until evenly combined.
Divide the batter amongst the paper liners and bake for about 16 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out mostly clean with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: Cream the butter, peanut butter, salt, heavy cream and vanilla extract until combined. Beat in the icing sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Use immediately or chill for a while until firm enough to work with.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
So we've seen ombre cake layers and ombre frosting. Now how about ombre filling?
There are 6 layers of chocolate cake and 5 layers of chocolate cream cheese filling. I don't know how much better it can get than this but it actually can! The chocolate cream cheese filling is designed to have varying amounts of chocolate to achieve a beautiful gradient effect with the darkest and most chocolaty filling at the bottom, working its way up to the top with an off-white filling sans chocolate (okay then you can't exactly call it a chocolate cream cheese filling too). To top it off, you drape the entire thing in chocolate glaze. Can you say oh. em. gee.
I wished I could have been a bit more meticulous and made the cake neater and more even but unfortunately I'm not the most skilled with a knife. I was trying to slice the baked cakes horizontally into half (I deviated from the recipe's instructions and made 3 cakes) but my eyes weren't quite level and I ended up sawing the cakes in a downward slanted motion. Um, not good. I had uneven cake layers as a result with some parts so thin that the edges were sort of fraying and crumbs were dropping with every brush. And then, impatient human I am, I decided to skip the freezing process for some of the layers of filling that would later help keep it from oozing out from the sides as you stack the next layer of cake on. As you can pretty much guess, there was so pretty messy oozing.
After I stacked the filled cakes, oozing filling and showering crumbs and all, I took a step back and decided that I should just go for a rustic look. Hah.
To be honest, this cake is more about the concept than the taste (although it does taste good- so moist!), so you can just use your own favourite chocolate cake recipe. I say this because while it is a decent chocolate cake, it's crumbly and frankly quite annoying, and if I could I would replace it with a chocolate cake that would hold together better. I would advise using an oil-based chocolate recipe versus a butter-based one because the denseness of the latter when cold could make the cake quite heavy going. I mean, we are talking 6 layers.
I really hope this cake goes viral! It's a marvel once you cut yourself a slice. I should think of other flavour variations for this gradient-filling-concept. Hmm... caramel? Raspberry?
P.S. I kinda noticed that almost of my recent (er, used loosely) few recipes are chocolate so I'm going to try do a non-chocolate post next! And soon!
P.P.S Follow me on my instagram, please and thank you!
Mocha Ricotta Tower
makes an 8 inch cake
slightly adapted from Bake It Like You Mean It
For the cake:
2 cups cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup strong coffee
2 eggs + 2 egg whites
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the filling:
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 cups heavy cream, divided
1/4 cup butter
46 ounces cream cheese
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp strong coffee, cold
5 tbsp icing sugar, sifted and divided
For the coffee simple syrup:
1 cup coffee
1 cup sugar
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 6 8-inch round cake pans.
Whisk the cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt together. Whisk the coffee, eggs and egg whites together. Whisk the coffee mixture and cocoa powder mixture together.
Whisk the sugar, oil and vanilla extract until combined. Add the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Add the flour mixture in 3 mixtures and buttermilk in 2 alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Divide the batter evenly amongst the pans and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
Make the coffee syrup: Heat the coffee and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Cool before using.
Make the filling: Combine the chocolate, 1/2 cup of cream and butter in a heatproof bowl and heat over a pan of simmering water until completely melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
Stir the cream cheese and vanilla together until smooth. Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly amongst 5 bowls.
To the first bowl, add half the chocolate mixture; to the second, add half of the remaining chocolate mixture; to the third, add half of the remaining chocolate mixture; to the fourth, add half the remaining chocolate mixture and 1 tbsp icing sugar; to the last bowl, add 2 tbsp icing sugar. Stir each bowl until just combined. Add more chocolate to any bowl that looks too light so that the colors graduate naturally. Refrigerate the remaining chocolate mixture.
Whip the remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, coffee and remaining 2 tbsp icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Divide the whipped cream evenly amongst each of the five bowls and gently fold into each of the mixture.
To assemble: Place a cake round on a cake board. Brush an even layer of coffee syrup onto the cake. Spread the most chocolaty filling evenly on the layer and place in the freezer for 15 minutes, or until firm.
Place the second cake round over the filling and press gently to adhere. Brush with syrup again and spread the second most chocolaty filling evenly on top. Freeze again for 15 minutes, or until firm.
Repeat for the remaining layers in order of the most chocolaty to least chocolaty filling. Brush the top layer of cake with coffee syrup too before freezing for 15 minutes. After which, refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove the reserved chocolate mixture from the fridge and stir to a spreadable consistency. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of chocolate. You're finally done!