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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

monster cookies.

I wonder how recipes get such wildly weird names.

Monster cookies, hello dolly bars, snickerdoodles...

Okay, monster cookies are still within the "normal" range but what's so monstrous about them? I'm intrigued.

So I pottered about the kitchen, the Baked cookbook exposed to the dangerous elements of beaten eggs and flour, determined to unravel this mystery.

Few hours later, (there was a chilling time) and I had chubby little stacks of oatmeal cookie lookalikes. I gathered, based on the ingredients, that monster cookies are basically peanut butter oatmeal cookies with a touch of flour, and tons of chocolate add-ins. Chocolate and peanut butter? Mmm... sounds good.

Sadly, I wasn't impressed. I found myself searching for that peanut butter kick, and the cookies seem undecided- chewy or cakey? On day 1, I hate to admit it but scarfing one down was almost a chore. The oatmeal wasn't softened enough, and it tasted like undercooked oatmeal. Next.

Day 2, the texture improved alot. The oats were much softer, but the cookie fell apart easily. The third day the cookies had a cakey texture. Very much more palatable but I had to ask myself, Weren't they supposed to be chewy?

The recipe had corn syrup, but a ridiculously small amount.

1/4 teaspoon.

Are you kidding me? For 36 cookies? The vanilla was only 1/4 teaspoon too.

And if really chewy cookies were desired, a higher proportion of brown sugar to white sugar could be used. But instead, it was a 1:1 ratio. Me, being a supporter of crunch, rather enjoyed the slightly crisp outsides but because oatmeal cookies are best super chewy or crisp all the way through, it's best to avoid letting the cookies get brown for a good chew. But the lack of browning translates to a lack of crunch too. So, bottom line is substitute more white for brown sugar.

I actually decreased the total amount of sugar by 1/4 because I didn't want to get a sugar high, especially with the chocolate chips and Reese's pieces. And yes, the recipe said m&m's but honestly, without the Reese's pieces I wouldn't taste any hint of peanut butter in these cookies at all.

Oh dear, I've spent this entire post bastardizing this recipe. I mean no harm towards the good people at Baked, but as much as I adore their cookbook, there are better monster cookies out there, I'm sure.

Monster Cookies
adapted from Baked

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
5 ¾ cups rolled oats
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
¼ tsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chunky peanut butter
1 cup (6 ounces) milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) M&M’s * or Reese's pieces

In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add the oats and stir until combined.

In the bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and pale in color. Add the sugars and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Scrape down bowl and add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth (about 20 seconds) and scraping down bowl after each addition. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Scrape down bowl and add peanut butter. Mix on low speed until just combined, add the oat mixture in three additions, mixing on low speed until just incorporated.

Use a spatula or wooden spoon and fold in the chocolate chips and M&M’s. Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate for 5 hours. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use ice cream scoop to scoop out dough into 2- tablespoon size balls on two baking sheets – 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Let cool on pans for 8-10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, April 22, 2011

toast point apple tart.

I want to kick, maul and bite myself.

Because I just made a friggin' delicious tart...

and murdered it singlehandedly.

I love Dorie, she's my personal idol. And if she has a book with the words Paris and Sweets, you can bet your oven that I'll find my way to her book somehow.

Usually when I come across any apple tart/pie/puff recipe, I flip right past them without a second glance. But this recipe was calling out to me, the words almost flashing from the page. Within the next five seconds, I dog-eared the page.

This tart, as you can probably imagine, is no ordinary apple tart, what with the words toast point in them already. That's right. Slices of bread buttered to death, toasted, sliced into triangles, and arranged among the chunks of juicy, caramelized vanilla apples sauteed in butter.

And let's not forget the most important part. The caramel cream. Oh yeah.

The caramel cream...

Which I destroyed! Arrggh! May the pastry god strike me.

The recipe called for heavy cream, 1 egg and 3 yolks among the ingredients but I had no heavy cream (what is wrong with me?) and only 3 eggs. The egg problem I solved by replacing 2 yolks with 1 egg but the heavy cream part got me. I couldn't go out to buy some, so I improvised by swapping it with evaporated milk.

I knew that evaporated milk wouldn't have enough fat in it to set the cream properly, at least I thought so,  so I added cornstarch to the mixture. While the recipe let the caramel cream be after tempering the eggs, I poured my version back into the pot to thicken, just in case. Finally, I had something like pastry cream, only much looser. I smiled to myself then, thinking everything would turn out all right.

Only it didn't.

Because my cream was already thickened, it didn't need as much time in the oven as the recipe called for. Instead of 45-55 minutes or so, I only needed 15. As a result, my crust was still anemic and pale, possibly a little soft at some points. My cream was supposed to flow into the little nooks and crannies between the apples and toast points, but it remained as a thick layer of gloop right on top of everything.

What a world of difference mine turned out from this! I wish the book had some pictures to at least give me an idea of what it should look like.

But it set in the end, and that's probably the most important. No point baking a tart when you can't slice it. Anyway, the upside is that the crust won't turn soggy as quickly. Aah... I feel better now. Sort of.

What I'm truly disappointed with is the richness of the cream which is entirely my fault. It was, well, lacking in body, something only heavy cream and the proper amount of egg yolks should have given. I should have made it another day when I had all the ingredients but dang, I was just so impatient to bake it. The caramel cream would have been a hit. Honest.

Okay, now its time to talk about the good stuff. I love the sauteed apples. True, I might have overcooked it to the point of near mushiness by accident because I left the lid on, but it was the best part of the tart. This is proof that apples can taste good without cinnamon. Those toast points that got submerged in the cream became soft but not mushy, quite like bread pudding. I bet leaving it overnight in the fridge and re-warming the tart the next day would truly give you a bread pudding tart texture. Dorie's sweet tart dough can be a little hard to work with- it's rather wet, but it didn't shrink much in the oven. That's good news!

I did another thing differently- buttering the bread with salted butter instead of a mixture of sugar and unsalted butter to provide a contrast between sweet custard and salty buttery toast points. The bread I used was wholemeal instead of plain, which I would stay far away from if given the chance, but it works wonderfully well here.

I think the word "tart" for this one is a misnomer. It's tall enough to be a pie!

Tarte aux Pommes au Pain de Mie (Toast-Point Apple Tart) 
Makes one 26cm / 10-inch tart 
[Adapted from Lenôtre, in Paris Sweets, by Dorie Greenspan] taken via Dodol & Mochi

For the apples:

900g Golden Delicious apples
30g unsalted butter

25g castor sugar
Pulp of 1/4 vanilla bean

  1. Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut each quarter in half, set aside
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the bubbles subside, toss in the apple slices; cook and stir till the apples are lightly browned and almost cooked through.
    Sprinkle over (A), let cook while stirring until sugar caramelizes the apples. (If you're using vanilla extract, leave vanilla out totally for now; only stir in vanilla extract to coat well before dishing the caramelized apples out instead.) Then with a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to a plate and let them cool till room temperature; discard the vanilla pulp. Set aside for use later
    The caramelized apples can be prepared up to six hours ahead--but do keep them lightly covered at room temperature. 
For the toast:
30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
23g light brown sugar

4 slices firm white/country bread, with crusts removed if they are too hard
*I used homemade wholemeal bread without the crusts removed as mentioned. Greenspan even suggested cinnamon-swirl raisin bread works well, too!
  1. Preheat the broiler/grill in your oven, or you can make do with a toaster oven. Meanwhile, beat (B) together till blended
  2. Spread sugar-butter mixture on each side of the bread slices, then place them buttered side up on a nonstick baking sheet and toast the bread under the broiler. Turn the bread over to toast the other side.
    Cut each slice of bread in half on the diagonal and set aside to cool till room temperature
For the caramel cream:
315g heavy cream 

1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
65g sugar
Pulp of 1/4 vanilla bean
  1. Bring the heavy cream to a full boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk (C) together till thickens and looks slightly pale in a medium bowl
  2. Whisking the egg mixture gently all the while, gradually mix in the hot cream into the eggs--this is called tempering. Skim off bubbles if there is any; rap the bowl of cream-egg mixture against the counter to get rid of excess bubbles. Set aside 
To assemble: 

1 partially baked 10-inch / 26cm pâte sucrée tart shell (recipe here

20g walnut pieces
20g moist, plump golden raisins
  1. Place the parbaked tart shell onto a parchment paper-lined insulated sheet to get ready
  2. Line up the caramelized apple slices in parallel rows in the tart shell--have one row support the next and all the slices face the same direction
  3. Once the apples are in place, arrange the toast triangles decoratively among the slices next--with the broad base of the toast against the tart crust and the points up.
  4. Scatter over (D) across the toast layer, then discard the vanilla pulp and pour in one-third to half of the crème caramel--it will spill over if you have it all poured in now!
  5. Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven to bake the tart on the middle rack at 165C/325F for 10 minutes. The cream should be set enough for you to pour in the remaining till it's reached the rim of the tart at this point.
  6. Bake for another 40-45 minutes/till a knife inserted in the center comes out clean--the cream should shimmy the way a quiche filling does.
  7. Transfer the tart--still on its baking sheet--to a cooling rack and let it rest till just warm, when it's at its best!
    Best serve the tart the day it was made while still warm.
This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

brewer's blondies.

I dunno... if I can call them "blondies" that is. I think they're more somewhere in between a cookie and a blondie. How about clondies?

Why do I say that? 

Well, they had such a hard crust on top, like the kind you see on cookies. I'm not sure if it was my oven, but I do like a crunchy crust. They were also a little cakey, yet dense. And definitely chewy. Sort of like a chocolate chip cookie. Only in bar form.

The batter was really thick. I mean really really thick. It was practically cookie dough batter. Trust me, I could actually shape the batter into the pan, never mind scrape. Perhaps that's why the blondies had cookie-like qualities. Because they practically are!

But do I like them? Hmm... They're good, but not great. The malt didn't stand out enough in the batter itself though. Most of the malt comes from the maltesers. The toasted walnuts were a genius idea. I think brown sugar has an affinity with the toasty flavour of the walnuts. 

The only thing I did differently was to reduce the amount of sugar. Because with maltesers and chocolate chips, there's plenty of sweetness to go around already. And I still felt I could reduce more!

The recipe said that they're best when warm, and if you so will it, a scoop of cold creamy ice cream. I like the sound of that.

But if the freezer is oh-so-tragically out of ice cream, a pinch of salt sprinkled on top works wonders too.

Brewer's Blondies
from Baked

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 3/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup malted milk balls, coarsely chopped in a food processor*You can put the maltesers in a ziploc bag and bash them up with a rolling pin if you don't have a food processor. Great stress relief technique!
3/4 cup (9 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and malted milk powder
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on the medium speed until completely combined.  Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. 
Add the flour mixture in two batches and beat until just combined.
Add the malted milk balls, chocolate chips, and walnuts and beat until just combined (about 10 seconds).  The mixture is really thick.  
Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan and use and offset spatula to spread it evenly.
Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the blondie comes out clean.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

spinach quiche.

Sometimes I look at all the things I have baked (and consumed) and wonder how many packs of butter and sugar have been wiped out. So I thought, maybe just for this once, I should bake something savoury. Quiche was on my to do list for ages so the perfect opportunity had arrived.

Quiche has a so-goood-but-so-baaad crust, but its semi-healthy too. Which means you can get away with having a huge chunk. Well, I did anyway.

When I think quiche, I think vegetables. I toyed with the idea of adding grilled eggplant, roasted asparagus, or even roasted red peppers but I finally decided on good old spinach because it was the easiest. Just boil and you're done. But one thing to take note of, especially if you're using fresh spinach, is to squeeze the life out of it. Otherwise, all that excess liquid would turn the crust to mush.

I wanted to try a quiche without cheese for a change, since every time I order a quiche outside, it always has some dang cheese. Personally, I'm not a cheese lover, but I agree this time that a quiche should have cheese in the filling because without it, its just not rich enough. Unless your ratio of eggs to milk is high of course. Mine was 2 eggs to a cup of milk.

The most unfortunate thing happened when the quiche was halfway through baking- there was a leak! I swear I didn't notice a crack when I par-baked it! Maybe it was that tiny one, but it didn't go all the way through. Anyway, the egg mixture flowed out from the sides of the pan and pooled around the edges. Ugh. Luckily, only some managed to leak out before the custard set.

I actually used a spring-form pan because I didn't have a 6 inch pie plate. Despite the boo boo, I think a spring-form pan is a pretty good substitute if you're short of a pie plate.

A quiche is pretty simple so I won't post any recipe but just to let you know, I used an America's Test Kitchen one. But if you're looking for a good basic crust recipe, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

matcha madeleines.

To cut a long story short, I had a container of egg whites and matcha powder. And then, there was this link. So yeah, I pretty much decided to make matcha madeleines using that recipe adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's White Velvet Butter Cake.

The bad news is that they looked horrible- I overfilled the pan, thinking that the batter would rise up instead of spread out, like my previous experience with madeleines. I saved my butt by using mini muffin pans for 12 madeleines. But then, they cannot be called madeleines anymore, can they? More like financiers. Or maybe just cupcakes.

The good news? A super soft cake with a melt-in-your-mouth crumb and a green tea flavour that really stands out. The last thing you want is a green tea cake with a scent or taste of matcha that barely lingers.

I'm posting the recipe as it is so if you want to make madeleines as well, bake them for about 12 minutes or so. How many would depend on your restrain on not overfilling the molds. I still find it hard to shake off that mentality that more batter= bigger cake instead of overflowing disaster!

Matcha White Velvet Cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's White Velvet Butter Cake

3 large egg whites, room temp
2/3 cup milk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract *I omitted this to let the matcha flavour pop more
2 cups cake flour, sifted into the cup and leveled off
1 cup superfine sugar
2 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 Tablespoon Matcha

Preheat the oven: set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, 3 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla just until lightly combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the batter in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Divide the batter evenly and add the Matcha to 1/2 of the batter. Mix until well incorporated. Pour into two separate greased 9 inch springform pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Invert the cake on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

mississippi mud pie.

Not your everyday mud pie, but then again, who eats mud pie everyday, because guess what. There's no coffee ice cream and whatnot in it. It's one of Baked's two versions of this super sinful pie, with the standard oreo crust but with a fudgy flourless chocolate cake baked into it and then topped off with chocolate pudding and a healthy bowl of whipped cream. vanilla pudding. Because as much as chocolate is comfort food, I'm not that crazy about it. I know, I know. Shocking, isn't it?

Notice how I made them in individual portions again? That's right. I'm a selfish pig who hates sharing her desserts. Ha!

This pie is edible proof that you can make an oreo crust with double-stuffed oreos. I just crushed them as usual, and because there's enough fat from the cream filling, I omitted the butter and the crust managed to hold together well enough. But in my excitement that it actually worked, I forgot to bake it after freezing it. I'm sure there's no harm done, but perhaps the crust would have a more pronounced oreo-ness? Even though double-stuffed oreos work, there's a difference in taste. The crust isn't as chocolaty because of the higher cream-to-cookie ratio. I would prefer to stick to normal oreos.

The flourless chocolate cake. Hmm... It's my first experience having one and it was dense yet creamy at the same time. Baked's recipe called for espresso and its powder form in the batter but because I scaled the recipe down so much, I really couldn't bother to whip up 1 tablespoon of espresso. So instead, I added more instant coffee powder. Personally, I think they went a little overboard with the coffee. It tasted more like a mocha torte than as an accentuation to the chocolate.

I love Baked. But you know what, their recipes, while innovative, doesn't mean that they are the best out there. Remember that I said I replaced the chocolate pudding component with vanilla? I used their vanilla  budino recipe in the last chapter of Baked Explorations. Yes, budino is pudding but to them, budino is budino. It didn't have enough vanilla flavour, to be honest. My tastebuds have been spoiled by my trustworthy pastry cream recipe.

Mississippi Mud Pie (B)
adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
yields one 9-inch pie
For the chocolate cookie crust:
16oz (one package, 35-40 cookies) chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, crushed
5T unsalted butter, melted
For the flourless chocolate cake:
4T unsalted butter
6oz bittersweet chocolate
2T plus 1t instant espresso powder
1/4c strong coffee, at room temperature
1T vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1c sugar
For the chocolate pudding:
3/4c sugar
1/2c dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4c cornstarch
1/4t salt
4 large egg yolks
2-1/2c whole milk
3T unsalted butter
2t vanilla extract
3oz bittersweet chocolate
For the whipped cream:
1-1/4c heavy cream
2T granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, a layer of parchment cut to fit the bottom and another layer of spray.
In a food processor, pulse all of the cookies (with filling) until they become small crumbs. Pour into a bowl and add the melted butter. Stir together to evenly distribute the butter. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and using the bottom of a glass, press the crumbs in an even layer across the bottom and 1/2-inch from the top of the outside ring. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, then into the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack while you prepare the cake layer.
Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together over a double boiler and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, coffee, salt and vanilla and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer* fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2-cup of the sugar until the mixture has doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Add the coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary to make sure everything is well mixed.
In a separate, very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy (this is possible to do by hand, but much easier using an electric mixer). Then add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.
Scoop 1 cup of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter until they are almost completely combined. Add the remaining whites and carefully fold together. Do not rush this process, the whites ensure lift in this dense cake.
Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for 38 to 42 minutes. The cake may not look finished when the time is up, but it should look slightly set and jiggly in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool. As the cake cools, the center will cave in. This is normal — it is making room for the chocolate pudding layer. Once cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Off the heat, in a medium saucepan mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look a little lumpy, so do your best to break down the lumps. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until completely combined and free of lumps.
Put the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, whisk constantly for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the butter, vanilla, chocolate and whisk until combined. Let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes, then press a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Let the pudding chill for at least 3 hours.
Stir the pudding, then pour on top of the cooled cake trying to stay within the cookie crust border. Use an offset spatula to create an even layer. Refrigerate or freeze for about 15 minutes while you prepare the whipped cream.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Spread the whipped cream across the pudding layer, unmold the cake and serve right away.

Friday, April 8, 2011

new york crumb cake.

It's my 100th post!

I didn't choose to make a crumb cake specially for the 100th, but it so happens to coincide with it. And it so happens to be a heck of a delicious piece of cake.

This cake does not consist of a layer of cake then a layer of crumbs. Its a layer of cake and a layer of crumbs and a layer of crumbs. When I scattered the crumbs over, I was thinking there is no way I can even see the cake under all these. Turns out that the cake has a strong defiance to being squashed under a valley of crumbs, and has pretty much evened out the ratio.

When we think crumb cake, usually the crumbs take the cake, and the cake layer is nothing more than ordinary at best.

Not with this cake.

This recipe has a unique way of making the cake batter- whisking the dry ingredients together, then dropping in the butter pieces one by one to make some sort of streusel-like mixture. Then, the eggs and vanilla are mixed in, then the buttermilk. This technique results in a tender cake since the fats from the butter coat the proteins in the flour, ensuring that there would be no overworking of the gluten. Or something like that.

Although this cake doesn't have a buttery fragrance like a yellow cake, there is a faint appealing scent of vanilla and is no way meant to be just a carrier for the crumbs.

If you ever feel like throwing the bowl of crumb mixture onto the cake, and send it on its merry way into the oven out of frustration, I won't blame you. To make those little nuggets of sandy-brown deliciousness, I spent close to half an hour shaping them. Yes, just shaping. And I did a half recipe. Good luck to you. But all the effort is worthwhile when you get to tuck in into big crunchy crumbs instead of little scattered ones that are more suited for the birds.

I made a batch yesterday. And its already gone.

New York-Style Crumb Cake
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May 2007 (although I took the recipe from America's Test Kitchen, the recipes are the same)
Serves 8 to 10
Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough cake. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the cake, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. This recipe can be easily doubled and baked in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. If doubling, increase the baking time to about 45 minutes. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)
1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.
3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

five spice powder.

I realized that five spice powder may not be a common pantry ingredient. I didn't have it on hand either. But instead of rushing to the stores, you might want to try making your own. It's not that difficult and its much fresher too!

I got this recipe from No Recipes, a wonderful blog which is a personal favourite of mine. One of the reasons why is because of the blog name itself. It's so ironical when it contains a slew of recipes that leave you salivating at your keyboard. But try not to do that. It's hard to wipe the drool off.

Chinese Five Spice Powder
adapted from No Recipes

3 pieces whole star anise
20 cloves
3" long piece of cinnamon stick or 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 Tbs Sichuan pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp white peppercorns

Toast all the spices either in a hot pan or in a toaster oven being careful not to burn them. You’ll know they’re done when they start giving off a wonderful aroma.
Put the toasted spices in a spice grinder, a blender, or a food processor and blitz until it’s ground into a fine powder. I did mine in a pestle and mortar. Don't grind while the spices are still warm!
Pass it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any big pieces and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

five spice roasted nuts.

Nuts are perfect as a gift when you want to give something edible. As long as the receiver doesn't have any unfortunate nut allergies, of course.

Nuts don't melt. Nuts are easy to pack. Nuts are addictive-ly good.

But you can't give normal nuts. It's just wrong. At least to me. I had to make them special. 

I didn't want to make them sweet, so I settled for a five spice version I saw on Pinch My Salt. They were salty and peppery, and definitely not your boring old sugar coated nuts. Give them a try! You may just want to keep them all for yourself.

Chinese Five Spice Roasted Nuts
adapted from Pinch My Salt
2 cups raw nuts- any nuts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 packet stevia (or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss the nuts with the olive oil.  Spread nuts out on a sheet pan in a single layer. (Keep the mixing bowl handy – you will need it again.)  While oven heats, mix the spices, salt, and stevia (or sugar) in a small bowl; set aside.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and carefully pour the hot almonds back into the mixing bowl.  Sprinkle spices over the nuts and toss well with a spoon.  Pour the seasoned nuts back onto the sheet pan and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let nuts cool completely on pan.  Store cooled nuts in a covered container.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


This definitely isn't surprising, but these are definitely miles ahead of any store-bought plastic-wrapped bagels abandoned on supermarket shelves. These are the real deal. 

For starters, these bagels have so much depth and flavour to them. It's like a rustic french loaf, only in doughnut shape. Of course, this means that you can't just bang them out in one day. You gotta make the sponge, rest the dough in the refrigerator overnight yadda yadda yadda... But the good thing about bread is just letting it do its thing. Mix the dough and leave it alone. Full stop.

I like my bagels extra chewy, and my jaw got a good workout from these. Well, perhaps a little too chewy. You see, when I dropped in the bagels to boil, obviously the temperature would drop and the water was no longer at a boil anymore. In fact, it wasn't even a simmer! So back then I thought them I should boil them longer to make up for the temperature difference. And flipping the bagels with just one slotted skimmer isn't as easy as it sounds. And I lost track of time. You get the idea.

This recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible has an interesting addition of black pepper that I'm not sure I appreciate. For starters, black pepper studded bagels don't go so well with cream cheese and apricot jam, which is how I ate mine anyway. At least that's what I think. So if you're not a black pepper fan, leave it out.

P.S If you've not tried cream cheese and apricot jam together before, you have not lived yet!

Somehow, my bagels didn't appear as wrinkly or shriveled as other bakers'. Does anyone know why?

To me, the most fun part about baking bagels is seeing them grow from dense little mounds of pale dough to golden brown chubby rings.

The bad thing about bagels is that they have a short life span, so I suggest you freeze extras for later consumption right after they've cooled if you're not planning to eat them straight away. Oh yeah, split and toast them too. Always toast them!

Levy’s bagels
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
 via amateurgormet
Makes 5 bagels

Make the sponge
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 liquid cup plus 2 tbsp water at room temp
1 1/2 cups King Arthur high-gluten flour, or bread flour
In mixing bowl place the yeast, water and flour. Whisk about 2 minutes until smooth; scrape down the sides. Cover with plastic wrap.

Flour mixture
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp King Arthur high-gluten flour, or bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 Tbsp malt powder or barley malt syrup
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
In medium bowl, whisk 1 cup, the yeast, malt, sugar, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle flour mixture over the sponge - don't stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 1-4 hours. **For best flavor, let ferment overnight in the fridge**

Mix the dough
Mix at low speed (#2 on Kitchen aid mixer) for a minute, then up speed to medium (#4) for 10 minutes. If the bread doesn’t pull away from bowl, add 2 tbsp flour. The dough should be very elastic and should jump back when pressed. Knead more flour if the dough is tacky. More flour will make a heavier, chewier bagel.

Let dough rise
Place dough in greased bowl and let it rise at 75 degrees for 1-2 hours, or till doubled. Deflate the dough. Give envelope turn and set back in container. Let it rest at least 4 hours, or overnight for most flavor.

Shape dough
Transfer dough to an unfloured counter. Cut into 5 equal pieces. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Shaping method #1
Draw up the sides of the dough into a ball.
Make a hole with index into center of the dough.
Stretch the hole to a 2 1/2 inch hole.

Shaping method #2
Roll the dough into 12-inch rope.
Make ring by overlapping the ends by 2 inches.
Press down and rolling the dough.
** Don't flour the counter when shaping bagels using rolling method or bagels will not be sticky enough to seal the ends**
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees 30 min before baking. Have the over shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone before preheating.

Boil the Bagels
Water Bath:
2 Tbps molasses
1 tsp baking soda
Bring large pot of water to boil. Stir in molasses and baking soda. Transfer the bagels one a t a time without crowding. If they are slightly underrisen, they may sink first but will rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side. Longer time will make a thicker crust. Remove the boiled bagels and place them on a parchment or on unfloured towel to drain.

Glaze bagels
two large eggs
1 tsp cold water
Whisk together egg whites and cold water. Pass through a sieve into a bowl and brush each bagel with glaze. Brush with a second coat of glaze and sprinkle toppings of your choice over the bagels.

Bake the Bagels
If using baking sheet, place directly on hot oven stone. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temp to 450, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off oven and let them remain for 5 minutes. Then open the door and leave the bagels in the oven for five minutes.

Cool bagels
Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Bagels keep well at room temperature for a day in a paper bag.

Friday, April 1, 2011

oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies.

It's about time!

This novel idea has been floating around the tons of blogs for ages and I just can't stand the idea of being left behind. You know what they say, better late than never.

They were fun to eat and make for sure, with a double-stuffed oreo treasure in the middle of each giant blob of cookie dough. The slightly melty cream filling of the oreo was the winner. Some people might not like the idea of using more flour to create a stiff cookie dough as they belong to the "chewy" type and a stiff cookie dough would create a more sturdy, crunchy cookie. But that's perfect for me! I'm a "crunchy" girl.

As we all know, with chocolate chip cookies, it's all about the brown sugar. Well, apart from the chocolate chips. I tweaked the recipe, which is from Picky Palate by the way, the original creator of an oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie, by swapping the amounts of each type of sugar called for. Meaning, the initial amounts of 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of white sugar were switched around to become 1 cup of brown sugar and 3/4 cup of white sugar.

While I was pleased with the addictive crunchy outer shell, I found the cookie to be quite sweet overall. I mean, with chocolate chips and oreos, I would advise you to reduce the amount of sugar to about 3/4 the original amount, unless you have a really sweet tooth. The funniest thing is, I found it a tad salty too! It must be the kind of salt I'm using. This has occurred more than twice already and I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the salt level in the recipe.

Oh yeah, I chilled the dough so that the cookies would not spread much. It's not necessary but I like to make cookies ahead.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from Jenny of Picky Palate
Just a quick note: These cookies are quite sweet and I would suggest you cut down the overall amount of sugar maybe to 3/4 the amount of the original
2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar *I used 1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar *I used 3/4 cup of white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz bag chocolate chips
1 pkg. Oreo cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer until well combined.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda.  Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined.  Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie.  Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo cookie.  Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo cookie is enclosed with dough.  Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
Makes 2 dozen large cookies.

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday.