Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

It’s my sis’ birthday tomorrow and I thought that I should bake her a birthday cake since mom’s cooking dinner this evening. Naturally, the Japanese Strawberry Shortcake came to mind because my nephews love strawberries and our family prefers light cakes anytime. Thankfully, I have strawberries and whipped cream in the fridge so it makes decision making easier.

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I went ahead and used the traditional sponge cake method. 6″ cake pans were used since I did not want a big cake. That said, I do have a tall 6″ cake in the end.

(A)
4 eggs
120g caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

(B)
110g all-purpose flour (sifted)

(C)
70g melted butter

1. Whip (A) until light and fluffy

2. Stir in (B) and mix until well blended.

3. Add (C) and mix well.

4. Pour the batter into the greased pans. Bake at 180C for about 20 min or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes. Remove them from the pans immediately when done and let cool.

I’m used to using IMBC and was rather hesitant about using whipped cream because my kitchen is really warm. Since there is no harm in experimenting and because it’s really for family, I decided to give it a try. Using 300g of whipped cream, I used the balloon whisk and whisk it till stiff peak. Preferably, the metal bowl should be cold but I forgot to keep it in the fridge before that. But hey, it still works. And I’m pleasantly surprised that it holds well even when it’s kept out of the fridge for half an hour (before the cake cutting).

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My folks said the sponge cake is rather light but I think it can go lighter. The next time I experiment with it, I might use cake flour and add a little glucose to see the difference it will make. Also, the whipped cream is a tad thick so I should just reduce it by a wee bit.

familypic (2)In any case, I’m glad to have baked this cake. It’s been a while since I last baked a cake for a birthday celebration. And more importantly, it warmed my heart to see the folks enjoy this dessert.

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Baking with a toddler

This is not so much a post about a recipe but thoughts about spending time with Faith on a one-to-one basis. Quality time, so they say. You might be surprised and ask, “But you are a SAHM! Of course, you should be able to spend more time with her!” That is true, of course, except that there are dishes to clear, toilets to clean, floors to mop and meals to prepare, just to name a few. And all these take time.

However, as I take a step back, I realise that Faith desires to work on stuff together with me, remembers those incidents and narrates them in her own way. She actually enjoys those activities! So, I’ve decided household chores can wait a wee bit and start focusing on building wonderful memories for her by getting her involved in the KITCHEN.

If you know me, I love baking and cooking and I think such an interest can be felt by the little one. She observes me daily in the kitchen and then recently, keeps telling me, “I want to see Mama doing.” I believe the hands-on baking workshop at the Colgate event and the recent cookie baking and decorating session I had with her have fueled her interest.

I might as well get her involved then. Which turns out to be really awesome.

So our recent project is to bake some savoury cupcakes together. To be honest, they are not the most delicious but I guess they are nutritious enough for the little one. I packed in salmon and spinach in it but I think adding bacon would really enhance the flavour (but I try not to use processed meat).

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What you would need
:: 1 1/4 cups of organic unbleached plain flour
:: 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
:: 1 cup grated vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, chopped vegetables, etc
:: 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
:: 50g cooked salmon or chicken meat, finely chopped
:: 1 egg
:: 1/4 cup of milk
:: 50g unsalted butter, melted
:: olive oil or butter to grease the pan

** Original recipe from Beanstalk magazine (the magazine for early childhood practitioners and parents)

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease the cupcake pan with olive oil or butter.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. I got Faith to do this step and nearly fainted because her aiming is really bad but I had to put on a calm and joyous front.

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3. Add grated veggies, meat and cheese. Toss well to mix.

4. In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter together.

image5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ones, stir until just combined. Do not overmix as your cupcakes will be tough.

6. Spoon into the cupcake pan. I used a mini cupcake pan as mini ones can be easily handled by the little girl when she’s consuming them.

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7. Spoon into the cupcake pan.

8. Bake for about 15 minutes for mini cupcakes or 25 minutes for the regular-sized cupcakes or until golden brown. insert a toothpick into one of the cupcakes. if baked through, the toothpick will come out clean.

I must say I was nervous the whole time Faith handled the equipment. I don’t really welcome mess but we all know it is inevitable especially when working with young kids since their grip and coordination skills are not there yet. I have to remind myself to have fun with her.

An attitude of fun creates a positive atmosphere.

image{via SunshineInkStudio from etsy}

Apart from that concern, it is really a worthwhile activity to work on. As we baked, we conversed and i told her the names of the various ingredients and methods like whisking, stirring, pouring, etc and she could remember them! What a useful practical lesson!

I believe we would do more of such activities again. Why don’t you do so with your kids too? 😉

Easy and delicious recipes that we could work on together (for now):

:: Mini quiche

:: Broccoli, cheese and mushroom easy pies

:: Pizza

:: Pasta pies

So, stay tuned!

Yogurt bread

All thanks to the little one, I have found another bread recipe that is both suitable and easy to bake. It’s also a bonus that they are really, really very soft!!!

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The other day, I was mentioning how Faith does not want to drink milk anymore to my Church’s cell group members and one of them, an early childhood educator, shared a recipe with me. It’s from her coursemate who always feeds them with bread and other goodies. So I popped over to the link and love the ingredients used – yogurt and milk! They are what Faith needs now!

To make the bread more substantial in terms of taste and nutrients, I have added 1/2 tablespoon of Chia seeds and 1/4 cup of raisins.

This is my version:

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250g bread flour
15g castor sugar
3g salt
3g yeast

(B)
100g flavoured yogurt ( I used Yoplait’s yogurt @ room temperature)
60g fresh milk (at room temperature)
25g egg (about half an egg)

(C)
30g butter at room temperature

(D)
1/2 tbsp Chia seeds
1/4 cup raisins

1. Place ingredients in (A) into the standmixer and using a dough hook, mix them for about 10 seconds.

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2. Add in ingredients in (B) and mix, on medium speed, until a dough is formed.

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3. While continuing to mix, add in (C) and mix on high for about 5 minutes. Towards the end of the mixing, add (D). When the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl anymore and has passed the window pane test, it is ready.

4. Turn out the dough and give it a final few kneads, shape it into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or cling-wrap and leave it to proof in a warm place till double its size (about 1 hour).

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5. When proofing is completed, punch down the bread dough to release the air.

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6. Divide the dough into small portions of about 70g. Shape each portion into a smooth ball and placed them into a loaf pan.

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7. Cover the loaf pan with a cling wrap and allow the dough to go for second proofing until double its size again.

8. Egg wash the top of the buns.

9. Bake in preheated oven at 170-180C for 20 minutes until the top turns golden brown.
10. Remove bread from loaf pan to cool completely.

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I suspect I will be using this basic dough for other flavours! Yay!

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And this is Faith, enjoying {shredding} the yogurt bread.

Japanese-style Strawberry cake | Keiko’s vs Ochikeron’s

I’ve been searching for recipes for light and fluffy sponge cake the past week. Fact is, the sponge cakes I have baked recently were rather firm to the touch and when you sink your teeth into a slice, you feel that you have one lump of stuff in your mouth. I also realised that many, like my mom, prefer their cakes to be light and thus my quest for suitable recipes began.

I had baked the Japanese-style Strawberry Cake using La Fuji Mama’s recipe before and I thought it was good enough. This time round, I used Keiko Ishida’s recipe and I though the result is the same as the previous one. Alas, my mom, my most valued critic, told me that the sponge is not soft enough. Can you imagine my frustration???

IMG_9181Decided on this design after reading this.

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Nearly forgot to take the pic of the interior – the last piece.

The following video is a close representation of Keiko’s genoise sponge recipe. The sponge is soft but I would have wanted it to be softer. I’m not sure if it is supposed to turn out like the above though.
You can find a similar recipe here.

So, I went to do some research again. On my tabs, there is this recipe that I’m supposed to try and I decided to use hers.

And so, I used an 8″ springform pan to bake the cake. It yields one with a height of 1.5cm tall. This won’t do if I want to make a proper cake. So I made another round of batter. The sponge cake turns out soft and fluffy and I think mom would approve of it!

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The recipe can be found here.

Overall, I prefer Ochikeron’s recipe which works wonderfully well for a 6″ cake. It is straightforward and fuss-free. I did use a standmixer to make the egg mixture which is much faster than using a handmixer (my arms hurt!). Her sponge cake is softer and overall, a light and well-aerated sponge cake results.

Disclaimer: I think you have to try the recipes for yourself and determine if my analysis is right. : )

Will post the adapted recipe next!

Friday the 13th’s baking: lessons learnt

The thing about baking is that it continues to baffle me no matter how many times I bake a certain item. Each time the result is different, depending on the weather, the temperature of the oven or ingredients or even the temperament of the baker. It humbles me, no doubt, and thus I stay intrigued by this craft.

Yesterday, I was to bake two items. One was a birthday cake in the form of Captain American’s shield likened to the one that I had baked earlier. The other would be 15 lemon meringue tartlets for a lady who requested for them via my FB page.

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I had baked these two items before and thought I could relax as I know the various steps involved. For the cake, I chose to bake a Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake which was different from the vanilla sponge cake that I used to bake. It was easy to bake but this cake is much more fragile and needed much tender loving care. So, I sliced and soon realised it was not a good idea; it broke into pieces, and thankfully, big ones. The show went on and I didn’t slice the second one and went on to assemble.

Lesson learnt: Don’t slice Belgian Chocolate Truffle Cake. It is itself rather decadent already and doesn’t need to be sandwiched with layers of buttercream. 20130914-151857.jpg

Another problem arose when it comes to icing. I had made Italian Meringue Buttercream and gotten quite comfortable with it. The issue is with the addition of colours. What I needed were red and blue but after adding Wilton’s colours, I couldn’t get the shades that I wanted and panicked. What was worse was my colours ran out and I had to rush down to get more. Only then did I realised that to get the strong red that I wanted, I had to buy Wilton’s red-red and not just red. Ahh… So, in future, I should really consult this chart.

And I thought this guide on Wilton’s colours is helpful too.

In the end, the colours on the cake weren’t what I wanted but I certainly hope the chocolate truffle cake would shine!

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On to the tartlets.

I had baked the lemon meringue tartlets with success (IMHO). I love the crispy crust of the graham crackers and thought I should bake them using the same base too. However, I changed the brand of the honey and then the problem started. The crust no longer gave crispiness but a little chewiness instead. Softer, most definitely but the taste is still the same.

And then, the customer decided to collect the tartlets earlier. Uh-oh! I have wanted to assemble one
hour before the collection but by shifting the time earlier, I would have to rush and when I rush, the results could be rather undesirable.

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The lemon curd was made a day earlier and that’s fine but I had to make the meringue before the assembling and then I panicked. When I made the sugar syrup, I didn’t stir to dissolve the sugar and in the end, I had grainy meringue. Threw one batch away because it didn’t get to stiff peak (something must have gone wrong!) and did the second one and I just didn’t dissolve the sugar in my haste!

Lesson learnt: Dissolve sugar and confirm time for collection!

The kind lady had to wait 30 minutes for the tartlets and I really felt bad about it. On top of that, since it was a rushed work, the designs weren’t fantastic. Sorely disappointed! I hope tarts would still bring smiles though.

* I didn’t get to take a shot of the completed work. Sigh!

So, I realised yesterday was Friday, the 13th. Bad day for baking! Okay, I just want to blame it on something. I’m bad, I know.

The pink cake

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I’m so happy that a friend allows me to bake a cake for her 4YO daughter’s birthday. I mean, who would be so daring? Few want to take the risk.

I have not met the young girl but browsing her pictures from FB, I could see a beautiful and sweet 20130906-202058.jpgchild. The mother describes her as mischievous and asked me to experiment! Be fun! Be creative! Cake can be in pieces (jus not crumbs).

I like such responses but also worry if the daughter would like my design. I had wanted a garden design for her and perhaps make a figurine since I want to show the free-spirited side of this child, enjoying playtime in the nature. So I made ladybirds and bees, flowers and leaves.

A few weeks later, the mom said the girl would like the cake to be pink.

Gosh! Pink? Pink garden?

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Hmmm…. it’s back to the drawing board again. A garden with pink background doesn’t really seem realistic. Thankfully, there was an order for Hello Kitty cupcakes and I was experimenting with the recipes and the toppers and decided that the little girl should have a few of those just in case she doesn’t like my cake.

In the end, I have decided to make a vanilla sponge cake with different shades of pink/red. It will be coated with italian meringue buttercream and the border covered with multi-coloured sprinkles.

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So the work actually started a week before with the ladybirds and bees, the cake 2 days before. The cake was covered with the buttercream a day before and the final assembling took place on the day of collection. I feel if the cake is allowed time to bind the flavours, it will turn out better.

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Yup, the cake is made in stages. Slow and steady. This also allows for mistakes to be rectified.

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So, I wasn’t very satisfied with the cake design, to be honest. After the cake was completed, I took a look at it and realised that the side wasn’t smooth. I didn’t use a benchscraper to do the job! What was I thinking of? I also wanted to design such that the flowers seemed to be falling off but well, the combination of icing sugar flowers and fondant ones didn’t really look like a good match. The fact that my fondant flowers softened because of the rainy weather didn’t help at all!

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When I packed the cake, part of me felt relieved, the other part frustrated. I could have done better. Hump!

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In any case, the cakes were sent out and I hope the girl loves them.

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Update: So my friend sent me pics of the cake during the birthday celebration. And of course, helpful feedback which is so important to me. At the end of the day, the birthday girl was very happy and ate the kitty and the ladybird (both fondant). I wanna faint. Too much sugar!

Raspberry and blueberry friands

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Since I have quite a fair bit of egg whites left after the baking session, I decided to do something with them. Macarons? Nope. It will involve too much work and I’m too tired to make such an attempt. A good alternative would be friands, small almond cakes with a crisp crust, but exceptionally light and moist on the inside. I do have blueberries on hand and I thought I would bake Rachel Allen’s raspberry and blueberry friands. All I have to do is to get some raspberries from the supermarket.

It’s quite an easy bake. Do try!

Ingredients:
7 egg whites, about 250ml20130901-210242.jpg
150g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting (I used snow powder to replace some amount of icing sugar)
50g plain flour
100g ground almonds
100g butter, melted
24 fresh raspberries
24 fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl using the standmixer (whisk)/ handheld mixer and whizz, until the egg whites are foamy but not holding stiff peaks.

Sift in the icing sugar and flour, then add the ground almonds and melted butter and stir just to combine. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each three-quarters full, then add two raspberries and two blueberries to the centre of each cake, pressing the fruit lightly into the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a light golden colour and slightly springy to the touch.

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Remove the friands from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tray, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Arrange the cakes on a plate and dust with icing sugar to serve. If not eating immediately, store them in an airtight box, where they will stay wonderfully moist for up to three days. However, for our tropical humid weather, I would suggest finishing them up asap.

A birthday cake for Lester

Our family celebrated the birthday of one of my nephews with a birthday cake, baked by the resident baker, yours truly. It was a simple cake because there is no point making a elaborated one since the family has gotten tired of eating what I bake (sad). The easiest and tastiest cake I can think of is Nigella Lawson’s Devil’s Food Cake. This cake can be baked in the morning and assembled from afternoon onwards.

In baking chocolate cake, there is no greater crime than using poor quality chocolates. For this cake, I used valrhona’s covertures (72%) and cocoa powder. The figurine was made a few days back since it has to be dried. I surrounded the figurine with digestive biscuits, making it look like sandpit since I hope Lester will enjoy his childhood! For the border, I used Wilton grass tip No. 233.

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While it takes not too long to bake the cake, the chocolate ganache takes a long time to reach a desired state for frosting ( I didn’t put it in the fridge to quicken the process). This time round, the whole amount of ganache was used in covering the cake. Decadent indeed.

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The various pieces to be assembled.

I did have fun designing and baking these cakes.
Now, I need more brave souls to allow me to bake for their birthdays.
Anyone?

A custom-made cake : hits and misses

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When a friend asked me if I would take up the challenge to bake a cake for his 5-year-old boy, I agreed rather readily. His request: A cake in the form of Captain America’s shield. No fondant. At least 2kg. To feed about 20 people.

Captain America? Who on earth is that?

And, thanks to google, I got the idea and came up with a draft.

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The actual work started a few days before the birthday celebration. I would be using 2 cake boards – one for the cake, the other as a background. The square board is to be covered with fondant with the wordings in blue. And then, the drying process begins.

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I had originally wanted to do a vanilla sponge cake with various colours (red, blue, white) but the daddy thought that the kids would not appreciate such an effort and so I stuck with the original. I thought the cake slicer and the lifter are of great use. It certainly makes life easier for me!

Another thing that I found out is that my mixer cannot do a good job in making a 10-inch cake batter; it overflows! So, now I know. The cake batter has to be divided to be baked in the oven as it certainly will overflow due to the rising agent.

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So, a fondant cake is NOT welcome and the better choice would be buttercream. I do not want to use royal icing as it will be too sweet for the kids. Of the 3 types of buttercream, I chose to do Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) as it is the most stable and can withstand our tropical humid weather. Thankfully, I had learnt this method during my baking course at CSCA so it wasn’t that foreign. Having said that, I still did it with much trepidation. Thankfully, it was a success and the next step is to moisten the cake with sugar syrup.

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It’s a breeze covering the cake with IMBC. To make things easier for me, I use a special big tip to help me with the sides of the cake. Definitely easier. Reminder to self though: don’t be stingy with the buttercream. I had the tendency to ration the use of it and then in the end, realised that I had so much left. Spread more!

Crumb coat was done!

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Next is the design. So I do not own a compass to draw circles and have to rely on whatever circular stuff that I could get hold of. After that, piping gel was used to trace the design and to transfer it onto the cake. Please don’t ask me why I used a dark colour. I really do not know what had gotten to me to use such a colour. I SHOULDN’T!

After that, it was all about piping – stars and circles. Testing of skills.

If I am to bake another cake again, I’ll make sure that I will make myself free the day before collection. As I had a family outing, I had to place the cake in the refrigerator but when I took it out , there was condensation and it doesn’t really look too good on a cake with IMBC.

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I learnt and hope that you won’t make the same mistake as I.

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😉

Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes

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These days, I would consider it a luxury if I could squeeze in some time to bake. Faith is more needy than before and wants me to carry her or be beside her while she is playing. My arms are sore since she is no longer light and I really need her to be independent!

Ok, complaints aside, she is still my precious girl. It’s random but I have the mood to bake some cupcakes and decided on Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes.

The recipe that I used is originally from Hummingbird Bakery but I have adapted it by adjusting the sugar level and also using a different tea flavour. After giving some to my cake designing coursemates, they stated that they would prefer a less sweet version of the frosting. So, it’s back to experimenting!

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Makes about 12 standard cupcakes

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey Lavender teabags ( I used Gryphon)
3tbsp just-boiled water
80g unsalted butter, softened
260g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200ml whole milk
2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml whole milk
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter, softened

Two 6-hole muffin tins

Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes. I used Gryphon tea. 🙂

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Preheat the oven to 190°C and line 2 muffin tins with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.

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Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

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While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.

Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.

Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife or like me, using a piping tip!

Wordless Wednesday | A flowery beginning

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I’m a SAHM who occasionally stays at home because I’m picking up where I have left off in my baking journey.

So, I’ve been busy learning. Though the workmanship is still amateurish, I’m happy just being able to make them.

Linking up with

A busy saturday and a madeleine recipe

Saturday is always a busy day for us as we attend church service in the evening and thereafter, host our small group. Yesterday, it got really exhausting since we had a wedding lunch to attend. Thankfully the food was good and little Faith did not act up.

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Made our way to the hotel and took a snapshot of this. I would never take blue skies for granted again after the recent haze experience.

20130707-145353.jpgSince we were rather early for the lunch, we chilled at Joe & Dough and father & daughter spent some quality time together. Faith was eyeing the blueberry yogurt tart which was rather yummy.

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I was brought up with the belief that we should always make our guest(s) feel welcome and ‘full’ as a host so no matter how tired or busy the day could be, I would try to make it a point to bake something for the small group. A few days ago, I finally got my hands on the madeleine pan and well, you guess it right, I made honey-spiced madeleines for my guests. The recipe is taken from my favourite cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Since this recipe requires you to chill the batter for at least 3 hours, I prepared that early in the morning and I just need to bake them in the oven when I got back home in the afternoon.

It was easy to make and the madeleines found their way into my guests’ stomachs quickly so maybe they were good?

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Recipe taken from about.com

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt, and pepper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or use a hand mixer or a whisk; add the eggs to the bowl and beat until the mixture is light colored, fluffy, and thickened, about 2 minutes. Beat in the honey, then the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter.

3. You can use the batter now, but it’s better if you give it a little rest. Or, for real convenience, you can spoon the batter into buttered-and-floured madeleine molds, cover, and chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. (See below for instructions on prepping the pans.) Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

4. When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 200C. Butter 12 regular madeleine molds (or 36 mini-molds), dust them with flour, and tap out the excess. (If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, butter and flour it or give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If your pan is silicone, you can leave it as is or, just to be sure, give it a light butter-and flour coating.) Place the pan on a baking sheet and spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one to the top.

5. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when prodded gently. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or room temperature.

6. Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Panda Bread: A failed attempt

Just yesterday, Ruth from the mommy cafe posted a picture of the panda bread on FB and asked if anyone could bake it. It got me excited because I have the recipe bookmarked but never got to baking it. So, I thought I should get down to doing it and perhaps bless her kid with it. A search on the internet resulted in a Japanese website but thankfully there are bloggers who have translated it into English.

pandabread[source]

I have consolidated the recipe via two sources: one from here and the other one from a blogger who has baked bread as a project. How cool!

I must warn you that this is a failed attempt, a result of poor technique. The next time I attempt this again, I will not be using the normal loaf pan but the pullman loaf tin.

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Adapted from Taro Taro
Ingredients: Makes a 9 x 5 inch bread

230g bread flour
70g cake flour
30g sugar
90g milk + 1 yolk (30g) = 210g
4.5g salt
20g unsalted butter
4g yeast
8g green tea powder dissolved in 10g boiling hot water
8g cocoa powder dissolved in 8g boiling water

Method:
1. Heat up milk and yolk to temperature of 38C or warm to the touch.20130704-133628.jpg

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the milk and egg. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the butter. Increase the speed to medium-low, and knead for 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, and should be smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little extra flour or water during the kneading process, if necessary to achieve the proper consistency. Do the window-pane test.

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3. Divide dough (about 560g) into 3 parts: 75g for the chocolate, 210g plain and the rest of the dough which is less than 280g for the green tea.

4. Add chocolate to the 75g dough and knead till the colour is even. Add green tea mixture to the 280g dough and knead till colour is even. (I did this step manually).

5. Proof all 3 pieces of doughs on separate greased plates covered loosely with oiled cling wrap for 30 – 40 minutes.

6. Punch air out of dough and proof for another 20 – 30 minutes.

7. Use 90g plain dough for the face and 2 pieces of 27g chocolate dough for the eyes.

8. Fill the hollow of the eyes with 30g plain dough.

9. Roll remaining plain dough over the patterned dough.

10. Divide the remaining chocolate dough into 2 pieces (17.5g each) for the ears.

11. Use 70g of the green tea dough to fill up the hollow between the ears.

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12. Wrap the rest of the green tea dough all around the patterned dough.

13. Place dough into a well-greased loaf pan and cover it with a lid and proof for 50 – 60 minutes.

14. Bake at 200C for 25 – 30 minutes.

Out from the oven and you know it has failed.

Out from the oven and you know it has failed.

Mine looks more like a monster.

Mine looks more like a monster.

Wordless Wednesday | Pursuing my interest

Never mind that I’ve quit my job to look after the little one. Something interesting is coming my way.

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Wordless Wednesday | Mixed berry tart for a {b}very busy day

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Back at work in the morning.

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Can’t resist this as I head back home to fetch Faith

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A guest’s coming over so this is a real fast and easy dessert to make

Mixed berry tart
1 pack ready puff pastry, thawed if frozen
250g mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
Berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries – whichever you can get your hands on)
Confectioners’ sugar
Fresh mint leaves, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Lightly oil a large baking sheet.

2. Place puff pastry onto the prepared baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.

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3. Bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown (I took more than that). Flip the pastry over, then press down all over to flatten. Bake fore 5 more minutes, until the pastry is flaky, cooked through and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cook completely, about 1 hour.

4. Beat the mascarpone with the vanilla extra until smooth. Spread it evenly over the pastry.

5. Place the fruit in a bowl and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Toss gently and then spoon over the mascarpone cheese. Decorate with the mint.

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Mocha cake

After a few sessions of the Parenting with Confidence workshop, I have decided (in my heart) that our family should celebrate the little things in life. They could be achievements (big or small), certain important dates in the calendar and well, birthdays. You see, the hubs and I are not huge about such things. Both of us (or rather I) would talk about them without really doing anything special for that particular occasion. Say, for example, the hubs’ birthday. I asked him how he wanted to celebrate it and he shrugged his shoulders. So, I spent that day doing up my hair. No celebration, no cake. It’s just a normal day. And the trip down to the hairdresser was a desperate call to the ‘shedding’ of my hair rather than making myself look presentable to the hubs (*think I’m a present to the hubs! hah!). Blame it on the hormonal change.

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Then there was the recent Mother’s Day. In jest, I asked the husband what he would give me as my present and he would give me all sorts of answers like ‘all I have is yours‘. So, I didn’t really get anything for that important day, perhaps just a prayer by the church leaders for all mothers. Nah, I’m not sore about it but a {belated} present would be nice. *hint*.

So, May has ended and June is marching in in all its excitement. School holidays! Hurray! And then the hubs told me he wouldn’t be applying for leave. Oh well. See, we are really not excited about anything. But like I have mentioned, I have decided that we should make it a point to celebrate little things in life and I did what I have set my heart to do – I baked a cake to celebrate the birthdays of our May babies in our cell group. Since both of them are male, a manly sorta cake, like a Mocha cake, would be fitting? However, that would mean that the kids could not have a bite. Oh well, can’t please everyone all the time.

I encountered problems with this recipe. The cake needs more time, double the time in fact, to bake in the oven. The best test, definitely, is to insert the satay stick or toothpick into the centre of the cake and when it comes out clean, it is done. My decorating skill, as usual, sucks big time and I didn’t do a crumb coat before covering the cake with the frosting. Not enough time. Boo!

Nonetheless, I did produce the cake, and we did sing birthday songs for the brothers. Yes, the hubs is one of them and hey, he has a cake after all! So, where’s my Mother’s Day present? Hur hur?

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Mocha cake (Adapted from Cakes: Delicious recipes for a happy life by Marina Neri)
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Blackberry and Lemon Muffins

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The other day when I was shopping for grocery, the blackberries were on sale. Thus far, I have baked with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries but none with blackberries and decided to buy one (small) box.

So what can you bake with them? I could mostly think of using them as decorations on cakes or cheesecakes but then decided on doing something simple like muffins. This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes and I thought the muffins lack something crunchy and topped each up with a pecan nut. 🙂

I’m not sure if I like these muffins but here you are. Hope your Monday has been great.

Blackberry and Lemon Muffins
[Yields about 18 muffins]

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Grated zest of 1 small lemon, about a heaping tablespoon
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
8 Tbsp warm melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh blackberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Prepare 2 muffin tins with 18 liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, butter and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix together just until evenly combined. Add the blackberries and gently fold into the batter. Careful not to over mix, that can cause tough muffins.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for just a few minutes, until the muffins are cool enough to handle and transfer to a wire rack.

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Food Revolution Day

It’s Food Revolution Day today! For the uninitiated ones, Food Revolution Day is a chance for people all over the world to come together and stand up for good food and essential cooking skills. It’s a chance for people to come together in homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day is a global day of action to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone.

The theme for this year’s Food Revolution Day is “Cook it. Share it. Live it” and here I am, sharing with you what I have prepared for breakfast today – my Asian-inspired Sliders

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I’ve been meaning to make sliders or mini-burgers for a while and wanted to do every thing from scratch. Yes, even the bread. So, I chose to bake Brioche through Dorie Greenspan‘s Around my French Table as part of the French Fridays with Dorie project.

IMG_3803Err…yes, food education starts early for my little one. Faith was so amused by the flapping of the dough that she chuckled the way through. The mom felt bad for the Kitchenaid though since the dough took soooo long to be ready. Well, that’s brioche for you. Be patient and you will reap the reward.

From the recipe, I should be able to yield 2 loaves of brioche but I decided to apportion about half of it to shape it into burgers while the rest into a loaf.

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The best thing about baking bread is that your kitchen will be perfumed by the aroma that it gives when it is in the oven. *Drool*

With my bread ready, I went on to make the lemongrass-infused pork patties. They are not at all difficult to make if you have the right tool, the Philips Chopper! I just put all the ingredients into the chopper and within minutes, the patties are shaped and ready to be cooked.

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About 400g ground pork
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/3 cup shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small stalk lemon grass, minced (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
1/4 cup coriander stems, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp cornflour
Light cooking oil

1. Combine first 8 ingredients gently in bowl being careful not to overwork or meat will bind up and become tight. Season lightly with ground black pepper.

2. Divide the mixture into 8 patties (depending on how big you want) – first forming gently into balls and then flatten gently as to not overwork mixture.

3. Heat oil in a large saute  pan and saute until just cooked through – about 2-3 minutes per side (depending on thickness of the patties; I used 5 minutes per side).

To assemble everything, I added cheese and Alfalfa sprouts to complete my asian-inspired sliders! Asian because of the ingredients used – lemongrass and fish sauce.

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The hubs love it but he probably is not in the least interested in how to make this dish so I’m sharing with you!

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