banana chocolate chip loaf cake

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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.

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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!

chocolate orange chiffon cake

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When it comes to chocolate cakes, I belong to the rich & dark camp. My favourite kind of chocolate cake is one made wholly with high percentage dark chocolate, but without the dense structure of say a mud cake, I prefer a light soufflé texture almost to juxtapose with the deep, adult flavour.

I’ve been making a particular chocolate fallen cake for years, which I’m still in love with and tastes even better chilled when it becomes denser. Today I made it slightly differently, in the form of a chiffon cake with orange undercurrents from the orange zest, juice and diced peel which help cut through the sophisticated yet generally bitter chocolate.

 

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Since I had just enough leftover lemon buttercream, I sandwiched it in the middle to further enhance the citrus flavour which in my opinion, is a perfect marriage with the chocolate.

 

chocolate orange chiffon cake

40g dark chocolate (approx. 70%)
38g heavy cream
3 egg yolks
42g sugar
36g mild-flavoured vegetable oil
juice of 1/2 an orange + plain yogurt = 60g
33g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar/drop of lemon juice (optional)
small handful of diced candied orange peel, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C and line the bottom of a cake tin if it isn’t loose-bottomed, without greasing the tin at all. Coat the orange peel with about a tablespoon of the flour in the recipe.
Melt the chocolate with the cream under gentle heat (bain marie/water bath/microwave on low power) and set aside to cool slightly. Beat the yolks with half the amount of sugar until the sugar granules dissolve and the mixture thickens and pales in colour. Slowly stream in the oil while whisking to emulsify. Add the cooled but still liquid chocolate cream into the yolk mixture, followed by the juice and yogurt. Sift in all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
To make the meringue, start whisking the whites on medium speed, then increase the speed as bubbles start to foam. Add the cream of tartar/lemon juice if using, and the remaining half of sugar a little at a time. Continue whisking until medium-stiff peak is reached.
Fold 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk batter to incorporate, followed by orange peel and the rest of the meringue in batches. Pour into the tin, smooth the top and bake for approx. 30-40 minutes until the top bounces back when pressed.

lemon opera cake

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Two days ago, walking home from doing moderately strenuous exercise at my old junior high, my sister and I caught a fruity scent in the winds. Much to our surprise, we looked down and found fallen, bruised star fruits on the pavement. There had been a wild fruit tree behind our house and we never knew for 10+ years. We (well, me) jumped as high as we could but could only literally get the low-hanging fruit, the baby ones.

 

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bottom to top: base chocolate, joconde biscuit, lemon buttercream, jb, lemon ganache, jb, lb, chocolate glaze

 

Having two homes on either sides of the equator is a curious thing. It means that instead of spending Christmas in the heat waves of Australia, we get to experience winter twice. Not that it gets particularly winter-y here for the best part of December and even January, but I am one that prefers slightly cooler weather. Something having to do with hot baths, I imagine, but it is also excellent conditions for baking. Instead of standing in 40C Australian kitchen watching room temperature butter melt and fighting away flies, I can do what I like most in peaceful solitude.

 

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look who’s mastering the art of cutting even pieces… not

 

The cake came out really well, I thought, the tangy buttercream refreshing against the dark chocolate and roasted almond. I could’ve just made the buttercream and be more than satisfied, but now there’s a whole cake to go with it! You don’t have to use roasted almond meal, of course, as it has a much more pronounced flavour than raw, I’m just going through an obsessive phase with that stuff right now.

 

lemony opera cake (6 servings)

For the joconde:
83g almond meal (I roasted mine beforehand, just to experiment)
50g icing sugar
80g whole eggs
16g cake flour
2 egg whites
12g sugar
13g butter

For the lemon ganache:
55g dark chocolate (or mixture of dark & milk)
35g heavy cream
10g fresh lemon juice
8g honey
10g butter

For the lemon buttercream:
2 egg yolks
80g sugar
15g heavy cream
30g lemon juice
150g unsalted butter
25g egg whites
vanilla extract and salt to taste

For the base chocolate:
60g dark chocolate
1 tsp flavourless oil

For the soaking syrup:
30g sugar
30g water
1tsp lemon zest

For the chocolate glaze:
100g dark chocolate
170g heavy cream
15g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180C and line an eighth sheet pan (or 24 x 34 cm). To make the joconde biscuit, sift the almond meal and icing sugar together, and whisk in the eggs, followed by sifted cake flour. Melt the butter and leave to cool. Beat the egg whites until foamy and gradually add the sugar to form medium-stiff peaks. Introduce the whites to the almond mixture in stages, trickling in the cooled butter, and mix until just even. Spread onto the sheet pan and bake for approx. 10 minutes until the centre springs back to the gentle touch. Lift out cake with parchment and cool completely on wire rack before slicing into 3 equal rectangles (cuts parallel with shorter edges).

For the ganache, boil the cream and lemon juice and pour over the chopped chocolate. Don’t disturb for a minute then stir to mix, add honey and butter, mix again. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

For the buttercream, whisk the yolks with half (40g) the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has turned pale and fluffy. Boil the cream and lemon juice in a pot, and slowly stream into the yolk mixture while whisking the yolks constantly. Pour everything back into pot and whisk on low heat until the mixture reaches 82C, or thickened to leave an open channel when you drag a finger through the back of your spoon/spatula. Put plastic wrap directly on the surface and cool completely. Beat the butter until lightened in colour and airy, then add in the cooled lemon curd and beat together. Make an Italian meringue with the egg whites and remaining 40g of sugar by beating the egg whites to soft peaks and slowly adding sugar syrup (sugar cooked with enough water just to wet it to 115C) while still mixing, and whisk further until stiff peaks form and the bowl is no longer hot. Fold the meringue into the butter and lemon curd mixture, cover and set aside at room temperature.

Add the oil to the melted dark chocolate to make the base chocolate.

Boil the water and sugar together, then add in the zest. Cool to room temp.

For a simple glaze (traditionally a mirror glaze but I’m opting for a ganache type glaze to make a pattern), boil cream and pour onto chopped chocolate. Stir to combine, add butter, stir again.

Assembly: brush the bottom of one of the joconde strips with the base chocolate, in an even thin layer. Flip the strip upside down so the melted chocolate is in contact with a lined surface. Chill to set the chocolate. Then, brush the cake with lemon syrup, and spread half of the buttercream on top in an even layer, about as thick as the cake layer. Gently place a second strip of cake on top and chill to set the buttercream. Once set, brush the second piece of cake with syrup, and spread the lemon ganache on top (should be spreadable, not runny or solid). Place another piece of cake on top. Chill to harden ganache. Brush on syrup. Spread on the remaining buttercream (needs to be as smooth and even as possible, especially if just pouring glaze on top and not making a design like I did). Chill the entire cake thoroughly before pouring the glaze. Warm the glaze to about 44C, and pour over the entire cake. Quickly level out with a straight spatula twice (back and forth). Should set almost immediately if the cake is cold. Trim off the edges to reveal the layers and cut to desired sized pieces.

a very matcha entremet ft. azuki & chocolate

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If this isn’t the most Asian thing I’ve done on here, I don’t know what is. (Well, apart from all the Asian-style bread that I’m so keen on making lately…) An entremet featuring the family favourite flavour (dat alliteration, I should ditch dentistry and become a poet instead), matcha, with guest stars azuki beans and chocolate.

After two days of semi-intense work, I had an off day yesterday where I was indulged in piggishness (at the best buffet in town, no less, which happens to have a dreamy dessert bar), and did practically nothing substantial other than start my first ever batch of sourdough starter, fingers crossed it doesn’t just turn into a big jar of moldy raisins.

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As I haven’t made proper multi-component desserts in a while, I thought I would make something with matcha and azuki. Cliché and predictable, I know, but to me they’re a match made in dessert heaven and I can never have too much of it. I immediately turned to Foodagraphy. By Chelle. who seems to worship matcha even more than I do, and was captured by her matcha azuki entremet. So I went to work right away, and voilà, a few hours later was rewarded with one of the most matcha-y desserts one could envision. Just sweet enough and the slightly bitter matcha flavour perfectly balanced by the sweet azuki beans, with a chocolate undertone – I think I might’ve had a Ratatouille moment, as it reminded me of why I was drawn to homemade desserts in the first place.

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p.s. sadly I do realise that my matcha cream looks a bit melty, that’s because I didn’t chill it long enough (at least 4 hrs ~ overnight is best). It does taste good though :L


Very matcha entremet
(makes one 25.5 x 9.3cm cake or 10 servings)
(adapted from Foodagraphy. By Chelle. who adapted from Kanae Kobayashi)

For the chocolate sponge cake:
40g chocolate
23g heavy cream
102g or 3 egg whites
45g castor sugar
23g cake flour

For the soaking syrup:
20g water
20g sugar
dash of liqueur (optional, I used strawberry)

For the ganache:
40g dark chocolate (~70%)
63g heavy cream

~1/2 cup of azuki bean paste, chunky or smooth

For the matcha mousse:
3g powdered gelatine
5g matcha powder
20g sugar
82g whole milk
63g heavy cream

For the matcha cream:
10g sugar
3g matcha powder
105g heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 170C/338F and prepare a lined baking sheet large enough to fit two 25.5 x 9.3cm rectangles. I find it easier to use the sheet upside down if it has rims when I’m removing the cake once it’s baked. To make the cake, first pour boiled heavy cream into chopped chocolate and stir to combine, then set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the sugar until you get stiff peaks. Fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture (cooled but not too firm to work with, if it’s firmed up just heat it for a few seconds and stir). Halfway through folding add in sifted flour, fold that in as well and continue incorporating the rest of the meringue. Spread the batter evenly onto the sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the middle bounces back when gently pressed. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

While waiting for the cake to cool, you can make the syrup and ganache. Boil the water and sugar together, then add the alcohol if using, and set aside. Boil the cream and pour over the chopped chocolate, cover for a minute then stir to combine, cover and let cool to room temperature.

When the cake has cooled, cut two 25.5 x 9.3cm rectangles out of it (or other desired dimensions) and lay the first piece into a mousse ring. I use cardboard fence lined with clingfilm because I’m poor, it does the same job. Brush the first layer with syrup, and spread half of the cooled ganache onto it, then all of the azuki bean paste. Spread the remaining ganache onto the azuki paste, top with the second layer of cake and brush with more syrup. Cover and chill at least 2 hours till firm.

Only start preparing the mousse when the cake is almost done or is done chilling, as it will start setting as soon as it’s mixed. Sprinkle the gelatine onto cold water and let it bloom for 5 minutes. Meanwhile start boiling the milk. Whisk together the sugar and matcha, and slowly stream in the hot milk while whisking so that there are no lumps of matcha. Add in the bloomed gelatine while the matcha mixture is still hot, and whisk to combine. Whip the heavy cream to semi-stiff peaks, and bit by bit fold it into the room temperature matcha mixture. Pour the mousse from a height onto the cake, to eliminate air bubbles, you can also tap the pan. Refrigerate again for 2 hours for the mousse to set.

For the matcha cream, whisk together the matcha and sugar, and slowly add cream while whisking to avoid lumps. When all of the cream has been added, whip it to semi-stiff peaks. Pour it on top of the set mousse and chill at least 4 hours to overnight. Decorate however you wish, or leave as it is. I mixed a bit of smooth azuki bean paste with whipped cream and squirted it all over, because it’s my mission in life to pretend to be fancier than I really am.

chocolate orange wreaths

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How I’ve missed you, silly little blog. I know, it’s only been what, five days since my last post, but I feel holiday syndrome is kicking in and with it, lethargy. One-sixth of the way through uni break, and I’m the opposite of mindfulness. When the exams finished some weeks ago, I told myself, as I always do, that I’d be up to all sorts of fulfilling and interesting things, that I’d lay off my laptop, find a job, attend church in secret, anything other than staying home all day. Well, look where we are today, still no job apart from the usual big sister duties and no sizable achievement other than having binge-watched some 6+ shows.

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It’s not that I haven’t been trying, I really have, in fact I’ve had 3 interviews in the last week, and keeping myself busy in the meantime by running errands. By that I mean going to the market every morning and praying that my embarrassingly limited Taiwanese won’t inspire touristy vibes. I haven’t been languid on the baking front though, and have been studying up on bread-making (you’ll remember my last failed attempt at making baguettes), cos I suck at anything requiring patience, and my latest undertaking really tested it to the limit.


While I was making these, I kept marveling at how much butter the brioche dough can contain – so much that it hardly needed any flouring of surfaces as it’s almost self-greasing. Also, I was nervous that my stand mixer was going to go up in flames/short-circuit/explode/quit as a result of the extraordinarily long kneading time. But my patience was rewarded, as I did every step as instructed. You would not believe the amount of disbelief and doubt expressed by my family every time I challenge myself to the not-so-fail-safe realms of baking, this time was no exception.

“It looks so complicated, why do you have to make something so hard?”

“So that if I fail I can at least say I really gave it a shot.”

I’d like to think that I’ve outdone myself, which is no giant feat, and I could definitely use a lot more practice in shaping, but people who aren’t myself exclaimed that they smelled downright amazing. As for myself, I sneaked a piece as soon as they were done, and almost cried at how utterly soft and buttery and chocolatey it was. I guess all that butter paid off. (As an aside, I got my sister to sous-chef and she literally got tired standing there adding the heap of diced butter.)

Note: the recipe is borrowed from the amazing hint of vanilla, and as clear and concise and her instructions are, boy does she make it sound easy 😉 The only differences I made were scaling the quantities down by 7/8 for exactly one sachet of yeast, brushing the dough with cream in place of an eggwash, and adding orange zest to both dough and filling.

chocolate chip cookies

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They almost didn’t make it all the way to baking, that’s how much cookie dough (fine, and chocolate chips) I sneaked. This is why I’d never be able to work in a professional kitchen and maintain food safety, my saliva would be on every piece of equipment.

It’s birthday season again! Tomorrow we celebrate my sister’s step into the deep dark void known as teenagehood. The cake is in the making (which I shall post about tomorrow), but she was also not-so-subtly hinting/demanding/threatening that I make something for her to share at school. To win her brownie points with potential group project members, no doubt.

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Everyone likes chocolate chip cookies. They’re quick to mix which is appreciated on a hot summer’s day like this. Although, thanks to the heat, my frozen logs of dough were the consistency of soft butter by the time the last few slices were cut.

For the majority of the cookies I baked them more on the crispy side for easier maneuvering for my sister to distribute. The rest were softer in the middle for the chocolate lava effect that I lust after.

For added complexity of texture and flavour, I like adding nuts to my cookie dough. They don’t intrude upon the chocolatety flavour so much, but provide decent crunch. This time I added some almonds, pistachios and coconut cream coated peanuts just because we happened to have them around. Hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans etc. would be nice as well.

To personalise them further, I finely ground a few pieces of blackened orange peel and added that, which added a deeper, earthier tone than the straight up brightness that zest tends to add.

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was I really this bad at portioning/spacing the dough apart?

One last thing: have people come up with an unanimous choice of flour to add to their cookies? Some recipes call for bread flour for a chewier cookie, while others swear by pastry flour for a more tender crumb. I compromised and went for an intermediate protein content, as I don’t want to feel like I’m chewing on a piece of steak, nor is a cake-like texture ideal for something that should have a bit of body to them.

 

Not-so-classic but still my fav choc chip cookies (yielded 29)

115g unsalted butter
90g brown sugar
80g white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest
5g salt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
175g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
200g chocolate (I used 70% dark)
up to ~110g mix-ins

Measure out and bring all the ingredients to room temperature, which takes all of 10 seconds in Brisbane weather. If you’re adding nuts you may like to toast them first. Chop the chocolate into ~1.5cm pieces, and roughly chop the nuts.

Rub the zest in with the sugar until the oils from the zest come out and moisten the mixture. Cream the butter, salt and sugar mixture together until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the egg and vanilla, give it a spin to emulsify. Sift the flour and soda together, add them in and mix on the lowest speed just until the flour is gone. Stir in the chocolate and nuts.

You may notice the dough is not quite stiff, it therefore needs to chill before baking. There are a couple of ways to do this. 1) Cover the bowl and refrigerate the entire dough, and portion out with a scoop/spoon later; 2) Portion them out now on the tray and refrigerate the covered tray; 3) Spread the dough out on baking paper in a thick snake and twist to form a log, which was the method I used. Make sure the logs are thoroughly chilled and hardened before you try to cut, otherwise you’ll have a hard time portioning equally like I did.

Slice 1cm rounds and place them at least 5cm apart on a tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for 15-20 minutes, depending on whether a softer or crunchier cookie is desired. They’ll harden considerably upon cooling, so don’t let them completely harden in the oven or they’ll be very dry and abrade your gums.

Cool on the tray until okay to handle, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (though I can never, ever wait).

Dough can be stored salami-style in an airtight container/bag for a few months.

nutella birthday layer cake

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Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of a dear friend who finally turned 18 last month. It was a real testament of her trust (albeit blind) in me that she commissioned me to the honourable task of making her cake. I was flattered, excited, then scared. I’m still astounded that it wasn’t all a pile of goo by the time I got there, that it somehow survived in the 35°C heat and 1.5hrs of train ride. Many a times it could have gone south; the cake tearing, the frosting melting, me accidentally dropping it etc. but by some miracle it all went to plan.

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billowy glossy meringue is hard to come by

Because of the aforementioned insane temperatures, the stability of the buttercream was my #1 concern. It had to withstand the heat and be able to take on flavours well, so I opted for what is theoretically the more stable Italian meringue buttercream. It did take ages, though, for the heat from the boiling sugar syrup to dissipate before I could add the butter, which was threatening to puddle any moment.

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The cake layers consisted of hazelnut sponge cake, brushed with syrup of course to keep them from being sucked of moisture (just like my skin). This was where my powers of improvisation came into play. With no food processor and whole nuts, it’s amazing the blender didn’t start producing black smoke and explode, or that it didn’t turn into nut butter.

Was this challenging? Not really, as it would’ve been otherwise quite an enjoyable process if not for the damn heat. I felt accomplished, actually, as I’ve never had cause to feed more than 5 people, let alone a whole party. I thought I was going to burst from intense anxiety when people took their first bites, even though I already knew it tasted pretty good (no scraps went to waste), but thankfully my friend was very happy.

Happy birthday, you smol child.

 

Hazelnut layer cake (makes 3 8″ layers)

For the hazelnut sponge cake:
Follow this recipe

For the soaking syrup:
50g water
50g white granulated sugar
Hazelnut liqueur, optional

For the marbled Italian meringue buttercream:
3 large egg whites (~120g)
150g white granulated sugar
45g water
pinch of salt
170g unsalted butter, room temp.
dash of vanilla
~150g nutella
~150g dark chocolate

Ferrero Rochers, to decorate (optional but why wouldn’t you)

To make the sponge cake, I just followed these instructions. If like me, you can’t find ground hazelnut, you can grind your own. Roast the hazelnuts before grinding for maximum flavour, and rub off the husk by rolling in a tea towel. Pulse the nuts in a food processor, which would be preferable, but just a regular blender worked for me. Only pulse a little at a time and stop as soon as it turns into a meal, any longer and it’ll turn into nut butter. I added a couple spoons of the flour in the recipe as a precaution, as it helps absorb some of that oil from the nuts.

For the syrup, simply boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved, then add the alcohol once it has cooled, if you like.

To make Italian meringue buttercream, start by placing the water in a deep saucepan with a candy thermometer, followed by the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. In the meantime, start whisking the egg whites with the pinch of salt on medium speed. When the syrup has reached 116°C/240°F, take it off the heat and start streaming it very slowly into the egg whites while the mixer is on. Aim for the sides of the mixer bowl instead of the whisk as the hot syrup could splash back. Once the sugar has been poured in, turn the mixer on high speed and whip until the bowl returns to room temperature. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together/emulsifies, at which point I added the vanilla. I like to then beat it with the paddle attachment to aerate it a bit so that it’s fluffy and almost white.

Because I was going for a marbled effect, I roughly split the buttercream into 4 portions and added nutella to one, and cool melted dark chocolate to another. I then took the cake layers out of the freezer where they’ve been chilling, and brushed them with the syrup. The layers were then filled with some of the first portion of vanilla buttercream and some crushed Ferrero Rochers sprinkled on top. The entire cake was then covered with a thin layer of crumb coat, with the remaining vanilla buttercream from the same portion (so now there’s 1 equal portion of each flavour) and returned to the freezer for 10 minutes.

Once the crumb coating has firmed up, I swirled together the vanilla, nutella and chocolate buttercream, but barely so that the colours are still distinct from each other. I didn’t do this very well as you can barely see the white in the finished result. I then applied it onto the cake (just with an offset spatula) in a roughly even layer. I used a decorative comb to drag out patterns on the sides of the cake, and then the top. For the final touch I sprinkled on hazelnut bits in a feeble attempt to cover up my mistakes.

Then say a prayer and hope it doesn’t get smudged on the train on your way to the party.