Archive for the 'Baking' Category

Three jars of this are in the freezer

Easter is coming up, and I want to make a baked yeast item, but I doubt I will be able to actually do that. Sad! I probably have not celebrated Easter ever since I got out of grade school, so the whole coloring egg business is a nostalgic childhood memory I would want to relive again.

It’s deliciously crunchy as is, but I still like to soak it in milk just like I would with müsli.

Instead, I am trying to make useful things, out of which this granola is one. Shii inspired me to make my own müsli, and I decided to use a granola-type recipe which calls for more honey and much longer baking time, creating a more crunchy end product. The result may be just a little bit less healthy than your average müsli, but you can’t really go wrong with a bunch of whole oats, hazelnuts, honey and some dried fruits. I read somewhere “If a granola bar tastes good, it’s not healthy” – certainly that does not apply to this handmade variation.

Without a doubt, my biggest addiction

You may remember that I have recently made lemon squares. This time, we had these organic lemons (exactly 2 of them) which look like they are going to start molding soon. So what do I make? Lemon squares of course. I love lemon bars to the point that I have a hard time making anything else when confronted with lemons, amongst all lemon-y items they are by far my favorite things, and that is despite my incredible love for lemonade. The downside of that is that lemon squares always disappear within 24 hours of their production… how dangerous.

I couldn’t wait till they cooled down before cutting into them, but actually the custard set perfectly.

In comparison to the last lemon bars I have made, I would say that putting in an entire lemon makes the result a little bit too tangy and bitter. (It’s possible that the lemon itself was to blame though – its rind to juice ratio was unusually high.) However, I much prefer this crust made with melted butter. It crumbles more nicely and overall has a better texture. Ah, I want to make more of them already! Next time I will combine David Lebovitz’ crust and the ‘original’ custard from Just Hungry. Perhaps that would be perfect.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

These last days were so filled with exciting dates – a birthday, Chinese New Year and, of course, the celebratory date we love to hate, Valentine’s Day. All I knew was that I wanted to try making a cake with the rice cooker to see how it works, and it had to be a chocolate/strawberry combination. After all, the stores are filled with strawberries dipped in chocolate so the combination might just as well be the most Valentine-y thing ever.

Why are strawberries associated with Valentine’s Day anyways? What about raspberries or cherries?

I chose to make a chocolate ganache as outer crust (such that the cake looks like a chocolate cake after all), and a buttercream with strawberry pieces in the middle. Even though I tried to use our cupcake book for the buttercream, I ultimately eyeballed the ingredients (butter, confectioner’s sugar and light cream) and whipped it until it had a spreadable consistency. Buttercream is so delicious and works well with a cake which only has 2 tablespoons of butter to begin with.

Note to self: Cocoa is kind of grey.

The rice cooker cake actually came out… acceptably. I put in more sugar than the recipe called for (since that one was designed to be frosted with whipped cream) but it was still not particularly sweet. It’s a spongy but dense cake, just as expected, and it looks like pretty much every other rice cooker sponge cake out there. The texture is feels very Asian and soft. While the cake itself is small and does not have much butter or any other fat, it definitely calls for fruit or chocolate or whipped cream toppings.
Considering that we only have a small rice cooker, the shape also came out to be rather – uh – round. Everybody said it looks like a super-sized macaron! XD Also, while I do want to try making cheesecake in the rice cooker, I think rice cookers are ultimately best used for cooking rice. It’s an expensive delicate appliance we have there!

Birthday cakes must be elaborate

I have to admit that I had no idea this cake would take that long though. There are a few French cakes out there (namely Opera Cake and Buche de Noel) which I decided I do not want to make because of the unreasonable effort put into it. When I had to confront the question of what to make as a birthday cake, I remembered how I had a mille crepe cake in Japan. While the cake was pretty, it was clearly mass-produced stuff taken from the freezer with a rather bland taste. Nevertheless, I love the concept and decided to make one.

The caramelized top is awesome.

Upon reading several articles using this New York Times recipe, I decided to stick to it and make a very ‘simple’ version. Since this is basically crepes and cream, there are million ways of dressing it up – strawberries on top, chocolate hazelnut cream instead of buttercream, bananas and chocolate, blueberries and maple syrup… But I wanted to know what the pure taste of butter and heavy cream can do for you.

Apparently the cake is great with Nutella!

In the end, the cake turned out absolutely perfect! It turned into a tall cake with a nicely flat surface and the slight unevenness of the crepe border makes it look like ruffles. Taste-wise the cake is surprisingly better than the sum of its parts. I thought the crepe itself was too heavy and sweet, while the buttercream (prior to adding heavy cream) tasted like mere pudding. As a combination, however, the whole thing attains a subtle exquisiteness I can hardly describe. It turns out crepes go amazingly well with cream! Even though I am tempted to make a chocolate version of this cake one day, I strongly doubt that it will happen anytime soon. It is, after all, something like a 5 hour endeavor.

22 layers for a 22 year birthday.

I want a room for food photography

Unfortunately, the house we live in has terrible lighting conditions. Basically, there is just not enough sunlight coming in. This is not really a problem as long as there is one room which has sunlight sometimes during the day, but it is certainly never the kitchen. As a result, most food photos are taken under subpar lighting conditions and therefore never really look that great. We should do something about that.

It took less than 24 hours for all of these to be gone.

Lemon squares – well what can be said about them besides the fact that I absolutely love them? They are amongst my favorite pastries besides cheesecake and anything with strawberries. What’s more, you can make them (mostly) with artificial sugar! The recipe is very simple and in fact I chose it partially for this reason. The recipe on Smitten Kitchen calls for double as much butter (terrifying!) and David Lebovitz’ recipe uses an entire lemon and the food processor which I did not want to bother with. One day I want to try those other recipes too, but my gut feeling tells me already that simplicity is just as good. We will see.

Things I never blog about…

…because they don’t really look that nice, or because they disappear so quickly. Banana bread or pound cake are the kind of things that don’t look so great, and scones are the kind of things that typically disappear before I could take a picture. Both banana bread are just so delicious and comparably healthy – they are the kind of thing I can whip up quickly and enjoy as a pre-breakfast snack. (Pre-breakfast takes place sometimes between 5am and 7am, whereas breakfast is more like… 10am.)

As a matter of fact, these are the last two of the batch.

When my parents came over, they gave me a scone pan (technically it was not a scone pan but I am using it as such) so I knew I absolutely had to make some. Later on, there were some organic blueberries on sale… coincidence? Ever since I tasted one of Starbucks’ blueberry scones for the first time, I had been in love with scones. The recipe is pretty much the same, and one can easily substitute whatever scone type we are talking about with blueberries, e.g. by kicking out the vanilla and the glaze in this recipe, or replacing the chocolate chips in this recipe (in fact, chocolate chip scones are amazing too!), or ditching the streusel in this recipe. Even though I really like picking scones when I need a snack from Starbucks, luckily handmade ones are just as good.

I will try to make them cuter next time

When compared with the user examples linked from the recipe, arguably mine are amongst the worst looking. I made them in the same loaf form as I always make my banana bread (which never got a blog posting even though I have made it a million times by now), and I chose to be rather soft. The result is a perfectly brioche-like airy, fluffy and not overly sweet bread. (It only contains about a tablespoon of sugar for 300g flour after all.) The subtle taste of matcha and chocolate do really well for this bread. In terms of taste and consistency, I would say that my version turned out really well.

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

Unfortunately all these nice qualities make it harder for the bread to be formed – and to keep its shape. The matcha part of the bread was rising a bit too much, squishing the white parts down… As a result, we have a somewhat squishy Panda face. Sad! For the great taste, however, I would totally make this bread again.

More Christmas cookies

So, amongst the big three Christmas items – the gingerbread house, the buche de Noel and the stollen, I have yet to decide which one I want to make this year. I have made stollen before and you should make gingerbread months in advance, so this year the most viable thing to do appears to be a buche de Noel. But oh wow how complicated can it get? I am shocked to say the least. At the same time, after gotten so into cookies with the Gourmet cookie book, I have now stumbled upon this article. Dangerous!

I know they are not very shapely, but there is a taste-looks-tradeoff here!

This year, I asked Shii for recipes and this is the result: 43 Vanillekipferl (even though I halved the original recipe) and 9 macaroons. The Vanillekipferl recipes call for egg yolks, so I decided to make some coconut macaroons with the egg whites. All in all, everything came out quite well. I mostly eyeballed the macaroons and they came out a little overly sweet (I didn’t realize I used sweetened coconut flakes), and the Vanillekipferl turned out so much better than the ones I made years ago. I think the reason is that this time I made them in the food processor and with vanilla extract, creating a nice and crumbly cookie with a strong vanilla flavor. Excuse me while I get another one of these cookies…

Christmas time is Plätzchen time

I have recently purchased the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook on a whim, as it was on sale. Unlike what people say on Amazon, I find the cookies absolutely delicious looking and loved the historic aspect of it. Considering that Gourmet magazine died, the cookbook will always stay up to date, which is a bonus in my book. It already is a little piece of history. I am in the process of making a list of recipes I want to make from the book, and I already know that it will be quite a lot. I cannot wait!

In the transparent cookie box these cookies look like a million eyes.

The one recipe which inspired me to buy the book in the first place is precisely these little trios. I have always loved cookies with jam, and these come in such stylish presentation. Taste-wise they were almost what I expected. The dough itself is extremely buttery, making this the perfect butter cookie not unlike the ones you can buy in stores – except they are so much more delicious and hold their texture so much better. After 3-4 days, they still taste wonderful and the texture is almost unadultered. It took quite a bit of time to make them, but it’s so worth the result which is pleasing to both the eye and the tongue.

Happy Hanukkah!

For the longest time, I have not really been as smitten with the smitten kitchen blog as most people seemed to be. I think I made a few things based on her recipes, and they didn’t turn out that well. But, for some reason those recipes always sound so immensely good, hence I am giving it another go. I have been inspired to make some Jewish dish to celebrate Hanukkah, and what is better than a cake?

I actually have a proper cake stand now. Next time!

The original inspiration actually came from this article and the fact that I had 2 Granny Smith apples in the fridge. I have been wanting to make something with them for awhile, and now finally found a good opportunity to. All in all, I used the smitten kitchen recipe except I used a variety of apples (Granny Smith, Gala and something else) and heavily decreased the amount of sugar. 2 cups sugar for a cake with 2 3/4 cups flour? Are you kidding me? I think I put in just a little bit over 1 cup.

OK I should have had my coffee black. But café au lait goes better with the cute mug!

I also have a tendency to cut apples very economically, or so it seems. Whenever I make something with apples and stick to the amount given in the recipe, I end up with way more apples than needed. So I ended up using 5 apples instead of 6 (having eaten apples on the go while cutting them). All in all though, the cake came out perfectly. It is really just as moist as they all say, and it goes absolutely perfectly with a cup of black coffee. This recipe IS a keeper.