fresh strawberry cake w/ cardamom

IMAG2836.jpg

During my routine solitary stroll through the city (when the sun’s not out to murder me) last week, I heard an angelic voice call out from within the market “3 punnets of strawberries for 6 dollars! 3 for $6”. I instantly snapped out of my usual zombie state and charged right through the crowd in search of the source of the voice. Because. There’s no better cure for yet another failed Valentines’ Day than a mound of strawberries, right??

IMAG2835.jpg

After eating an entire 500g punnet plain, I thought I’d better think of a way to use up the rest before I acquire an allergic reaction à la Hummingbirdhigh. Following an extensive recipe search through my favourite blogs, I decided on Pastry Affair’s Fresh Strawberry Cake as it incorporates fresh whole strawberries into a whole wheat cake.

Btw, do I need to address the fact that the last time I blogged about food/a recipe was… almost a year ago? I can’t believe myself – someone I know in real life found out about it and I panicked and went into hibernation until now. I’ve missed rambling and taking pictures of my attempts at making edible food without fear of being judged (my readership isn’t so impressive that I have haters yet). Every view, like and follow I get still puts a smile on my face; it’s strangely comforting.

IMAG2832.jpg

Fresh strawberry cake w/ cardamom (I made 1 9″ round cake and 2 cakelettes)

(adapted from Pastry Affair)

100g butter, softened
147g granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 large egg whites (105g)
1 tsp vanilla
52g flour
105g whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cardamom pods, cracked open and seeds grinded to a powder
210ml milk
393g strawberries, washed and hulled

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter and flour a 9/10-inch cake pan.

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients and milk alternatively starting with dry -> wet -> dry. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Plant the strawberries cut side down into the batter, distributing them evenly throughout the cake. Sprinkle cake with roughly a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the centre springs back when pressed lightly. Cool before slicing and serving.

Advertisements

german chocolate cupcakes

IMAG1510[1].jpg
I made cupcakes. And lemme tell you, they were goooood. After a long, hard last day of a long, hard week, all it took was some baking for me to de-stress. Yes, I’ve been away, but for legit reasons – we started seeing patients! A particularly noteworthy, much dreaded milestone was reached Monday morning when, at 9am, I led my first ever living, breathing human patient into my allocated little cubicle. Not gonna lie, for the entire appointment I thought I was going to shit my pants and run out crying, swearing to leave dentistry for good. It was extremely nerve-racking, which given the circumstances is perfectly normal, but I tried my hardest to put on my most professional face, instead of doing the whole eyes staring wide in horror thing that one tends to gravitate towards under extreme stress.

Other than a lot of waiting for my supervisor to come by and check every step, and a few minor brain-farts, it was fine – I did it! No manslaughter was committed, no one got jabbed by a bloody needle; although a nervous breakdown was imminent…

IMAG1511[1].jpg
Of the million things that Australia has yet to catch up to the rest of the world with, German chocolate cake is certainly one of them, in my experience. Ever since I heard of it, I’ve been intrigued by the supposedly amazing gooey coconut-pecan filling. I finally went down to business with them last time after spotting pecans that were on sale, and you can guess how many times I resisted the temptation and failed to sneak bits of that caramelly filling while I was making the batter. I even poked holes in the centres of each cupcake and filled them with leftover caramel from the marshmallows I made before (that recipe will eventually get up on the blog… one of these days… maybe), but even then they were overly sweet, thanks to the dark chocolate and the other complex flavours from the roasted coconut and pecans.

IMAG1508[1].jpg
German chocolate cupcakes (makes 12)

For the chocolate cupcakes:
125g or 2 extra large whole eggs
60g white sugar
20g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12g cocoa powder
60g just-boiled water
56g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter, softened
100g flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
118g buttermilk (or 50% milk, 50% plain yogurt)

For the filling:
50g sugar
25g water
45g sweetened condensed milk
50g glucose1 tsp vanilla
25g butter
pinch of salt
25g toasted flaked/shredded unsweetened coconut
48g chopped pecans

For the chocolate buttercream:
110g unsalted butter
60g icing sugar
pinch of salt
40g dark chocolate
20g heavy cream

To mix the batter, whip the eggs with the sugars and vanilla until the foam barely drips down when you lift the whisk (ribbon stage). Pour the hot water over the cocoa and stir, then add the chocolate to melt. To the chocolate mixture, whisk in the soft butter until combined. Stream into the egg mixture while folding gently but efficiently, using big strokes from the bottom of the bowl, being careful not to deflate the eggs too much. Sift the dry ingredients together and add about 1/3 of it to the batter, again being very gentle. Add in half of the buttermilk, fold to combine, add 1/3 of the flour again, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Scoop evenly into lined cupcake holes and bake in a preheated oven at 175C for 21-22 mins or until springy to the light touch. Leave in pan until cooled enough to touch, then cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling, boil the sugar, water, condensed milk, glucose and vanilla together until it thickens a bit, approximately 3 mins. Then add the butter and salt and boil for a further 30 seconds before adding the coconut and pecans. Cover and cool completely before using.

For the buttercream, whip the butter by itself for a few minutes until the colour lightens, then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Boil the cream and add it to the chocolate to make a ganache, and add it to the butter-sugar mixture once it’s completely cool (can place in freezer for a minute to speed up process), along with the salt. Beat until the mixture is a homogenous, glossy, chocolatey, delicious cloud.

Scoop about a tablespoon’s worth of filling onto each cupcake, then pipe a ring of buttercream around it. Homemade chocolate sprinkles to serve.

apricot almond brown butter Hamantaschen

IMAG1438[1].jpg

I know, the name is a mouthful, and so if was a mouthful that I stuffed into my mouth as soon as these came out of the oven, possibly causing an ulcer or two.

Phew, I’ve been procrastinating again, haven’t I? How is it that the last time was just beginning of the semester and here I am, freaking out about seeing my first ever patient next week? Let’s hope the next time I post isn’t when I graduate *shifty eyes*.

I’ve made quite a few things – cupcakes, hot cross buns, etc. in the meantime, but just didn’t bother chronicling them, I suppose. I’ve still got the photos so could still post them one of these days, but I thought that I should go with today’s fresh bake instead.

IMAG1439[1].jpg

These smelled downright illegal from the beginning when the butter starts to brown to the final baking. Traditionally, hazelnuts are more often paired with apricot but almonds are still pretty damn delicious (how can it not be? the filling is basically frangipane). The enveloping cookie is very crisp, met with the soft, fragrant filling with a sweet fruity surprise in the centre – perfect way to start the Easter break.

 

Apricot almond brown butter Hamantaschen (makes ~41)

For the brown butter dough:
114g unsalted butter
120g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
290g flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

For the almond brown butter filling:
85g toasted slivered almonds/almond meal
1 tsp flour
pinch of salt
40g icing sugar
60g of the browned butter from above
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla

~80g apricot jam

First brown some butter. Place the unsalted butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter starts to melt, then bubble violently, then turn brown with a butterscotch aroma. At this point take it off the heat immediately and set aside to cool completely. Measure out 60g of the browned butter and place in a different container to chill until solid, this will be used in the filling.

Once the browned butter in the pot has cooled, whisk in the sugar, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until no more flour is visible. Turn out onto some clingfilm, pat the dough flat and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

In a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together until the almonds turn into powder. Add in the solid browned butter and pulse until it disappears, at which point add in the remaining ingredients and process until a thick paste is formed. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Working with about a quarter of the dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3mm uniform thickness. Take a circle cutter that is roughly 7-8cm in diameter, cut out the dough and place them on a lined baking sheet, spaced slightly apart. Scoop about 1/2 tsp each of the almond filling and apricot jam into the centre of each circle. Lift up the sides and pinch into a triangular shape, making sure to seal the edges. Continue to roll out dough and remaining scraps until there is no more dough or filling. Chill for at least 20 minutes before baking in a 180C oven for about 15 minutes or golden. Let cool in the pan for a minute then transfer to a wire rack to crispen up.

plum crumb buns

IMAG1422[1].jpg

Wow. I’ve been away from blogging so long I almost don’t remember how to do it. Not that I was particularly good at it, but I do feel responsible to make sure to provide the recipes with some company in the form of writing. So, Jane-The-Virgin-style, let me catch you up with what’s been happening aka excuses why I’ve been procrastinating: uni started two weeks ago, and since then we’ve been immersed in training for clinics which has been hard most of the time and boring the rest, it doesn’t make any sense, and then I’m looking for a dental assistant job because everybody has/has had one, and then there’s my brother and stuff. But. I have been making food. Regardless of the results, it’s therapeutic and calming while working with my hands; much unlike holding a drill and literally making a hole in people’s skulls.

Funny story, during the first week our course coordinator had us write in on this virtual blackboard thing the things that concerned us the most going into patient clinics. Literally, the most popular result was… manslaughter. Then it was HIV and getting sued. We sure are a confident bunch, as you can tell. I’ve definitely learned in my time in clinics that the more I suck, the more I appreciate the times where I don’t suck.

IMAG1421[1].jpg

 

Going back to the food (lol), project crumb bun was a long time coming. Sure, I’ve had lots of crumb cakes, but have been intrigued for time now by how the texture of a yeasted bread would work with a thick layer of crumbly topping. I’m glad I tried, because we’re kind of obsessed with them right now. The light cinnamon flavour combined with the tangy, juicy fruit laced with a hint of lemon is to die for, like, this is really good (my mum said so too so it’s true).

 

Plum crumb buns (makes 12)

For the bun part:
78g lukewarm water
7g dry instant yeast
1 egg + lukewarm milk = 100g
35g sugar
58g unsalted butter
3g salt
220g all purpose flour plus extra

For the crumb part:
80g unsalted butter, cubed and cold
60g sugar (can be mixture of white & brown)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
80g flour

For the plums:
4-5 plums
1-2 tbsp sugar
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon

First activate the yeast in the lukewarm water, with a pinch of the sugar in the recipe, whisk briefly and let bubble for 5 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the room temperature butter. Mix until it becomes a homogeneous mixture, about 4 minutes. If it’s too sticky to form a ball of dough, add extra flour a tablespoon at a time, stop when the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl but is still moist. With the mixer on, add the butter bit by bit, then continue mixing until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed. Take the dough out and turn it to tuck it in, lightly grease the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover and proof in a warm place until it doubles in size, about an hour.

To prepare the plums, de-stone and slice them into thin slices. Toss with the other ingredients until the juices start to come out. Set aside.

To make the crumb topping, mix together the dry ingredients. Either with your fingertips or on a mixer, incorporate the cold bits of butter quickly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Refrigerate.

Grease (and line if you like) a tin that measures approx. 20 x 25cm (or similar area). Roll out the proven dough on a lightly floured surface to the size of the pan, then transfer it into the pan, pressing in the corners. Cover and proof again for about 45 mins. Start preheating the oven to 180C at 35 mins.

Drain the plums and spread them in a single layer on top of the dough. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top and bake for approx. 40 minutes or longer, until the top, as well as the bottom, are nice and golden (no soggy bottom). Cool at least 30 mins before portioning and serving. Drizzle with a simple lemon juice-icing sugar icing if desired.

banana chocolate chip loaf cake

IMAG1408[1]
Uni finally re-starts after an almost painfully long hiatus, and ironically I am not ready. In just one month’s time we’re supposed to be seeing real, breathing, feeling human patients for the first time after poking in the mouths of plastic manikins for the past two years. There’s so much we haven’t learnt… clinic etiquette, local anaesthesia administration, taking x-rays and impressions, not to mention I desperately need to brush up on the masses of knowledge that I’ve let go of *sigh*.

Although I don’t expect schoolwork to become so intense to the point I need to give up baking, at least for a little while anyway, I also need to stick to the promise that I’m gonna devote more time and effort to my studies (and God, and friends and family). So as a rough estimate, my postings are probably going to reduce to one per week. Wish me luck! I’m really hoping for a progression in my attitude from the previous semesters, as I know third year is no easy demon to slay; and that tears, sweat and blood will be shed.

IMAG1407[1]

 

For this humble and comforting loaf cake, I took my original brown butter banana cake and glammed it up with some chocolate chips in the batter, with almond flakes on top (also drizzled with chocolate but forgot to take a picture). I also altered the method to beating the eggs to ribbon stage first, emulsifying with the cooled browned butter then adding in the rest of the dry and wet ingredients alternately. I think it makes for a fluffier cake and more tender crumb – already looking forward to toasting a slice or two for breakfast tomorrow!

strawberry shortcake

IMAG1403[1]
Akin to the impossible reality that there are actual humans on this earth who do not prefer chocolate (HOW!?), my brother is physically repulsed at the mere thought of strawberries. Despite generally not being a picky eater, he would rather swallow a can of pickles than smell a strawberry. It’s pretty inexplicable to me, to say the least, as I love strawberries and love baking with them. My birthday cake last year was a Fraisier cake, not to mention strawberry shortcake has featured twice on our picnic menu.

So of course my baking debut since coming back to Australia would be a strawberry shortcake. I’ve been meaning to make one but sadly it wasn’t a good season for strawberries in Taiwan. But hey, I get to fancy it up with my newly acquired ring mould (which I’ve wanted for ages… before now I would use loose-bottomed cake tins without the base or a cardboard fence to make entremets and it never turned out nearly as neat as it did with a proper ring mold this time). And in all honesty this is not only one of the best-looking cakes I’ve made (minus the rough icing job), but one of the best tasting too with the addition of crème de fraises.

IMAG1404[1]

 

Fancy-ish strawberry shortcake (6″)

For the genoise cake:
3 eggs
80g sugar
75g flour
20g cornflour
pinch of salt
20g milk
20g butter
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
red food colouring (natural gel/paste preferred)

For the filling/decoration:
300g heavy cream
1~2 tbsp sugar
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
1 pint strawberries, chopped into ~1cm cubes
1 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a 11 x 17″ (or similar) baking sheet with parchment paper. Get above a pot of simmering water (only about 1″ – so it doesn’t come into contact with the mixing bowl above it), and place a heatproof bowl (I just used my mixer bowl) with the eggs and sugar in it. Immediately start moving the eggs around whether by whisking or stirring so they don’t scramble, and continue to do this until the sugar has dissolved and the eggs at about body temperature. Whisk the now warm egg and sugar mixture to the ribbon stage, about 10 mins, then stir on low speed for another minute. Sift in the dry ingredients a third at a time, folding gently by hand after each time and stop when no more flour can be seen. Melt the butter with the milk, and combine it with about a cup of the batter. Then pour that mixture back into the main batter and fold gently from the bottom just until even. Divide the batter in two and mix the liqueur and colouring into one of them so that half the batter is plain and the other strawberry. Spoon the alternate colours onto the baking sheet, then swirl them with a finger, making sure you touch the pan as the side touching the baking paper will be on the outside. Even the top out (it doesn’t matter if the colours bleed into each other on the top) and bake for 15-20 mins or until the centre is spongy when touched.

In the meantime, prepare the bits & pieces for assembly. Whip the cream, sugar and strawberry liqueur together to soft peaks. Cover and store in the fridge until needed. Save two good-looking strawberries for decorating the top of the cake, and macerate the rest with sugar and a little liqueur if you’d like. Wait 20 minutes then drain the strawberries, saving the syrup to soak the cake with.

Cover the cake with another sheet of parchment and flip the entire thing over in the pan so as to avoid tearing the cake. Peel off the bottom parchment that was underneath the cake, flip that piece of parchment upside down so the clean side is now touching what was the underside of the cake. Trim long strips of cake with a width that is equal to the height of your ring mold, and fit around the circumference of the mold once. Remove the ring mold temporarily to brush the cake with syrup, and to use it as a guide to cut 3 circles that are slightly smaller. (There wasn’t enough for 3 full circles so my bottom layer is made up of scraps). Place the long strip back against the internal circumference of the ring mold, followed by the bottom circle of cake. Brush bottom cake layer with syrup, and spread on ~1/3 of the whipped cream, followed by scattering ~1/3 of the chopped strawberries. Repeat this twice more, except when you get to the top layer, spread the cream on even and flat, saving some for the decoration. Using a small cookie cutter as a guide, place on the remaining strawberries carefully and remove the cutter. Pipe blobs of cream around the edges and on top of them place on the strawberry wedges.

japanese cheesecake sandwich

IMAG1390[1].jpg
More often than not, I just can’t make a pretty cake to save my life. Whether it’s underbaking, water leaking, over soufflé-ing, overbrowning, etc., I have yet to make a cake whose appearance I am truly 100% happy with. The same goes for my ongoing mission to perfect the look of my Japanese cheesecakes; I even took extra precautions to make sure it comes out looking perfect this time, like greasing and lining the tin, sieving the batter, baking low and slow… all for it to bake perfectly for the initial 20 minutes or so, followed by an exponential growth in the vertical direction. It puffed up majorly, which a soufflé is bound to do, but simultaneously formed crevices the size you’d fine in Antarctica on the top – there goes my post title ‘picture perfect Japanese cheesecake’.

So I tried to make up in taste where looks fail, and did what is rarely done, which is to fill a cheesecake. It kind of makes sense, as this style of cheesecake is light as a sponge cake and so is much easier to handle than if you were to try and fill a traditional baked cheesecake. Also I have to say that this recipe is probably the best out of, I don’t know, ten that I’ve tried; there’s not one single pocket of unmixed meringue or any lumps, and is satisfyingly fluffy with a mild tang of the cream cheese. Why line up for an Uncle Tetsu when homemade cheesecakes easily rival it?
Japanese soufflé cheesecake sandwich (6″)

For the cheesecake:
110g cream cheese
60g whole milk
20g unsalted butter
2 yolks
20g cake flour
15g corn flour
2 whites
54g white sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice or pinch of cream of tartar

For the filling:
50g heavy cream
1/2 tsp icing sugar
2 tbsp jam

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 6″ round tin and place it on top of a towel inside a larger tray, and fill the larger tray with an inch of cold water (the towel just stops the tin sliding around). If using a loose bottomed/springform pan wrap foil around the pan securely, though I find that water still manages to seep through so I use a one piece tin.

Gently melt the cream cheese, milk and butter together in a double boiler/bain marie or hot water bath and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the yolks, doing it quickly to avoid scrambling. Add the sifted flours and whisk till smooth. Beat the whites and sugar together by hand (I find it easiest to control the stability of the meringue that way) on top of the double boiler from earlier, whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice/cream of tartar and beat until glossy and still droopy, closer to medium peaks than firm.

Pour the batter into the prepared in from a height, then tap the tin a few times to release air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes at 180C, or until the top of the cake starts browning, then turn it down to 150C and bake for a further 40-45mins or until slightly jiggly in the middle when shaken. Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from tin and cool completely, then transfer to the fridge to chill at least 4 hours before cutting/eating.

If filling, whisk the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks. Add vanilla here if desired. Cut the chilled cake in half and spread the whipped cream in an even layer. Spoon on blobs of jam, and swirl into the cream. Replace the top of the cake, chill a bit to firm up the filling before slicing.