Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cotton Yoghurt Cupcake - my version of a Hokkaido Cake

My favourite sweets during my 6 months in KL last year were the delectable cakes from RT Pastries. They offer a variety of delicious cakes, rolls and pastries. My 2 favourite items from them are their Hokkaido cakes and Swiss rolls. Their Hokkaido cakes have received rave reviews in the blogosphere and are indeed deserving of their praises. They are soft and bouncy, light with a touch of sweet whipped cream, melts in your mouth with every bite. Check out these 2 pictures I took of the Hokkaido cakes from RT pastry; tear-away soft! Their Swiss rolls are superb as well, soft but substantial, innovative in their varied flavors and filled with a light delicious cream. If you ever happen to be in KL, it's a must to grab a box or 2 of Hokkaido cakes, the vanilla ones are the nicest, and try their wholemeal or chocolate Swiss rolls. Fingerlicking smacking good!
Back in Singapore now and have not been back to KL in the last 14 months; I'm missing their cakes. There are many recipes for Hokkaido cakes online and most use a chiffon recipe, which I've tried but they are somehow not as spongy. Recently chanced upon a cotton cake recipe that looks really good. Tried it once, it turned out damp and heavy; tried it twice, it was soft, bouncy and really good but the cake collapse; 3x lucky, my 3rd try turned out pretty ok by my own standards. It was light and soft, abit denser than the usual chiffon but I prefer it this way as it lends a yummy melt in the mouth soft texture.
My Version
Recipe (Source) :
Ingredient List
Egg Yolk Mixture
65g sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 egg yolks
1 full egg
80ml plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
45ml mild tasting oil (I used Sunflower oil)
1 tsp lemon juice
Egg White Mixture
5 egg whites
65g fine grained sugar
Oven Temperature 150C, place a pan of water at bottom of oven floor. I used 6 metal tart cups and placed 4 at the corners and 2 in the middle.
Prepare 16 cups on a tray, no need for greasing.
1. For yolk mixture, sift flour into a big bowl and add salt. Make a well in the middle.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together until slightly thick. I used a hand held electric whisk and beat for around 2 minutes.
3. Set it aside and in a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until frothy and add the sugar slowly. Beat until stiff peaks.
4. Wash your hand up to the forearm clean and dry
5. Fold half the egg white mixture into the yolk mixture with your hand
6. Add the yolk mixture into the remaining egg white and fold until well-incorporated but not deflated. It should still be a airy and light batter.
7. Spoon into cups until 2/3 full, smooth the top and steam bake for 25 minutes.
1. If baking into whole cakes, use a 9in square deep pan. I used a 8inch round pan in my 2nd try and the cake rose way too high, and collapsed while it was still in the oven.
2. Place bakes at mid-low level in the oven, I find that this prevents the bakes from browning too fast.
3. I used Greek yogurt which is creamy and thick, which I find that it makes the bakes soft and bouncy, as opposed to the few occasions I used normal plain yogurt (Emmi's or Magnolia) which makes the cakes too wet and they do not rise very well.
4. It's the first time I tried folding by hand and I find that this is indeed more effective. It's faster and the egg white mixes easily into the batter, which is the key to folding egg whites so as not to deflate them with too much handling. I like it this way!
This was the picture of my 2nd bake which collapsed but the crumb was indeed soft as cotton! I layered them with a spread of our precious raspberry honey from a farm in Italy. Hub and me finished half the 8in cake in minutes!  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Humble Loaf - Simple and Tasty, one of the best!

The title kind of says it all. Simple & tasty, with very good bread which are chewy and crunchy. I like how they use few but generous doses of ingredients for each of their sandwiches. This means that you can fully taste the goodness of the main filling with the rest as complements to a fulfilling wholesome meal.

The humble loaf is situated in Katong Shopping Center, which as many bloggers have already described, a rather old building with many maid agencies. The shop is at basement 1, near the foodcourt stretch. There are many corners in the building, just look for the foodcourt and from there walk straight (back facing the foodcourt), along the left stretch of shops. Soon, you will smell a buttery freshly baked fragrance and just follow along. (BTW, the buttery smell is coming from the old-school bakery next door)

The shop is rather small, with 3 tables and a row of bar seats. We were lucky to get a table, with already 4 patrons in the house, ard 1pm. By 130pm, the shop was pretty full with another group of 4 and some single customers at the high seats. Menu is on a chalkboard on the wall with a good selection of sandwiches and drinks. There are some pretty interesting choices; my friend had the Shoyu coffee which the shop lady described as almost like a salted caramel coffee taste. It was indeed salty; kind of an acquired taste. Interesting but not something I would order again. My cappuccino was fine though, pretty normal.

As for the sandwiches which we came for, my friends had the Ham and Peach & Beef Pastrami. I order the herbed Mushroom. The portion is huge and very well worth their prices. Huge slabs of crunchy walnut bread enclosed the thick filling; mine had the mushrooms well roasted in what I think is a vinaigrette and herbs dressing, with the gruyere cheese melted nicely.


My friends finished off their sandwiches rather quickly too so I guess they must be good as well. They had only good comments for the sandwiches too! The not-so-humble eggs in the top picture was well-reviewed by many other bloggers. It's 2 eggs baked in a ramekin, topped with ham, olives and green onion. The overall taste was good; but it's kind of expensive at $6 for this portion size. You will probably still have to order something else to complete the meal.

We packed back a loaf of sundried tomato bread too. The fragrance that emits upon cutting into it was delightful and the crumb is chewy with a soft crust. It's $6.50 for a very large loaf, do buy home a loaf or 2; they are yummy.

Before you head home, drop by the old-school bakery next door where the buttery smell is from. They have really good apple and banana tarts. The uncle told us that they were rated as the top banana pie by Today just recently. It's $2.20 per slice. They are good but all 3 of us prefer the apple pie which as a melt in the mouth butter crust that complemented the apple & raisin filling very well.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Durian Layered Cake - Happy Birthday to my Pa Pa!

Ever since I tried making cakes with minimal butter and low sugar, my parents have started trying my bakes. It's been years of baking and finally they are accepting my cakes. Hah! I hope to think that it's due to my improvement in baking; though it's probably just expansion of my repertoire into chiffon, sponge and fresh cream. My first birthday cakes for the family was a banana chiffon cake for my dad, then a hummingbird cake for my bro and a taro sponge cake for my mum. All were surprisingly finished by the family!

My dad's birthday rolled around this year amidst a durian frenzy. Stalls were hawking durians at $1, $2, $5, $10 everywhere. As we were growing up, my dad has always been bringing home treats of durians every season. He knows that we all love durians, and he will buy many durians each time despite his days of slogging in the sun day in day out, working hard for every dollar that help raised us 3 kids. We relish each bite of durian every time, waiting eagerly after dinner, where my dad will whip out the long sharp knife to pry each durian apart for us.

Without hesitation, I decided to try making a durian cake for my dad. Off to the durian stores I went 1 night before his bday, and bought 9 durians, which yielded 450gm of pulp and some leftovers for hub and me to enjoy. Do you know that drinking water straight from the durian shell and washing your hands from water flowing through the shells remove the smell totally? Even as the durian seller packed the seeds for me, I asked to bring 1 shell home for washing. It works every time!

Durian Filling:
To prepare the durian filling for the cake, it's very simple. It's just a matter of whipping cream into a thickened state and mixing the pulp in. I used 450gm of pulp, 150gm of whipped cream.

The ratio of cream can be adjusted to preference. My ratio of cream to durian is pretty low as compared to many recipes found online but I like it this way as every bite yields a decadent mouthful of durian pulp. Chill in fridge until ready to use.
Layered Sponge Cake:
I'm constantly in search of a soft sponge cake or chiffon cake for layered cake recipes. There are so many that looks great in food blogs, but my baking skills probably has not reached nirvana when its come to sponge cakes. Yet to be able to bake 1 that is soft as cotton, this bake has however seen much improvement. It's soft and not as eggy as usual sponge cakes, slightly sweet (some will probably prefer it sweeter) but still a tad heavy for a cream cake. It's a pretty tasty cake, would probably go well as a vanilla sponge cake with just a simple jam or fruit puree, more like a European style cake. It could also be due to my stirring the flour a little too much which cause the gluten to develop and ended slightly hefty as the original recipe looks really good and airy. Check the original one out! I will probably try this again and do as little stirring as possible.
Mixture 1
210g Top Flour
30g Corn Flour
2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
6 egg yolks
90g sugar
130ml full cream milk (I used Meiji)
90ml sunflower oil (or any other mild vegetable oil)
Mixture 2
6 large egg whites
75g sugar
Oven 160C, Top-Bottom heat
2 8-in round baking pans (No need for greasing or lining)
1. Sift both flours and baking powder into a big bowl
2. Add the yolks, sugar, milk and oil and mix until incorporated but do not over-mix
3. In a clean grease-free mixing bowl, whip egg white until slightly frothy, add sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks. Test it by flipping the bowl upside-down and the whipped egg white should not fall out.
4. Fold Mixture 1 into whipped egg white over 3 times. It should still be a light and airy batter.  

5. Pour into the 2 pans in equal amount, bake for 40minutes.
6. Once baked, remove from oven and tilt over immediately, to let it hang and cool. Do it 1 pan at a time, keeping the 2nd pan in the oven when tilting the first one. (I removed both at the same time, the 2nd one collapsed slightly as I took some time to position the first one)
Whipped Cream Frosting:
Keep mixing bowl and beater in the fridge to cool them.
Whip 300ml of whipped cream with 1/4 cup sifted icing sugar (more if you like it sweet) and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Keep in fridge until ready to use.

1. Using a slim knife, cut carefully around the pan and below the pan to remove the cake.
2. Ensure that they are fully cooled. Cut them into 2 layers each. You can also use satay sticks to stick at the same height around the cake. Place a long serrated knife on 2 sticks at 1 time for balance and accurate height, then slice around the cake and through it.

3. Fill each layer with a thick layer of durian pulp cream. I find that the cream layer is too thin. Probably I will only use 3 layers of cake next time or increased the durian cream amount.
4. Seal in the cake with a crumb coat of whipped cream only. Leave it to set in fridge for at least 30min.
5. Last step is to frost it as desired.
My frosting skills is really amateurish. I could never get a clean and smooth sheen on the final layer despite watching many youtube tutorials. I guess it's about practice practice and practice! One lesson I learn from this session is that mixing colours into the whipped cream after it's been whipped is really risky. My first batch curdled badly as I tried to get my gel colours to spread evenly into the frosting by stirring it vigorously. The cream just suddenly separated. Realising my awful mistake and fact that I've already whipped all my cream, I changed from blue gel to blue liquid colour and carefully and slowly stir in the colours. The darker blue still curdled a little, as can be seen above, whereas I didn't dare to stir anything more into the light blue thus it was a little more light green than blue. So note to self is that I should drop the colours into the cream while it's whipping and just whip different coloured batches one at a time.
So.. after working at it from 9am to 3pm (with waiting time in between), I'm finally done with a 4-layered durian cream cake for my dad!

Happy Birthday PA PA!
The final verdict was that the cake was not bad, but the sponge is a little heavy. Since I baked it and I'm the baby sister of the house, guess no one would say much otherwise. Ha Ha! Mum did say that this is nicer than the orh nee cake for her. I would probably have to further improve the softness of the cake and add more durian cream next time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

One-dish dinner: Oyakodon

I love 1-dish meals! They are easy, fast and usually healthy and satisfying too. It also helps that it means there are less dishes to wash. Today's dinner is a chicken, egg and mushroom rice bowl. It's meant to be a Japanese dish but I did not have some of the ingredients and just substituted with available sauces which still tasted pretty darn good if I may say so myself. It cooked up in less than 30 minutes; Hubs and me both cleaned out our plates in 10 minutes! A dish that I have to note here for future reference.

Ingredients (Adapted from here)
Serves 2
3/4 cup of uncooked Japanese rice - soak for 30 minutes before cooking in rice cooker
4 tablespoons Mirin (I don't have sake so used more mirin versus original recipe)
1 tablespoon Jap soya sauce
3/4 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon concentrated chicken stock (I didn't have dashi stock so used Maggi)
1 big onion, sliced
2 chicken thighs, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
2 eggs, do not beat, only use chopsticks to swirl the egg yolks around 2-3 times to lightly break them
handful of coriander, chopped

Add mirin into a large heated saucepan; it will simmer up very quickly.
Add soya sauce, sugar, water and stock, bring to boil.
Place onions into the mixture then place chicken on top. Cover with lid and let it boil over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
Add mushrooms and simmer another 3 to 5 minutes until when the onions are soft and the chicken are almost cooked.
Slowly let the eggs flow into and around the pan to set almost fully.
Add coriander, simmer 1 more minute and remove from heat.
Spoon over cooked sushi rice, pour all remaining sauce in too. I find that the rice soaks up the sauce and is plump and juicy!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hearty Dinner : Vegetable Medley Stew with Whole Wheat Cornbread

I've bookmarked corn bread and stew recipes for a long time. My first tomato stew was a Tuscan egg stew at Wild Honey, absolutely 1 of my favourite cafes. It was delicious and lingers in my mind since 6 years ago. Pinterest is a great source of recipes and I've had several pins of stews and breads. Just what finally inspired me to do it today of all days?
Today, I had injections to the sides of both my knees, apparently they had undergone early wear and tear due to the angle of my slightly bowed legs. In pain for a month and finally dredged myself to the doc, in my yoga wear, ready to go Bikram afterwards. Hah! The end result was a stern warning from the doc in resting them legs for 2 weeks. Bummer. I then walked aimlessly around the malls and acquired a stainless steel WMF frying pan that can go into the oven. Yay it's something I've been looking for.
I really ought to stop buying kitchen gadgets. For a household with a grand total of only 2 persons and cooking incidences of approximately once a week and baking frequency of 2-3 times a month, I've loaded cupboards with at least 1 wok, 2 pans, 1 griddle, 3 pots, 1 crockpot, 2 casserole dishes, 1 pizza pan, 5 baking pans, 1 loaf pan, 4 silicon bakeware and miscellaneous other cooking apparatus. I've got my new Cuisinart blender last week too! yay, time to keep the hand blender back into the dark. My most frivolous purchase must be the soy milk maker! ha ha, probably used it 3 times only.
Anyway, tada! I've a pan that can baked immediately. 30minutes into my pins and decided on the below.
Assorted Vegetables Tomato Stew (Source)

1 eggplant, cut into strips.
1 cup pumpkin cubes
1 onion, cut into rounds
3 cloves garlic, crushed or cut
1 can whole tomatoes in sauce
1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
Half a ripe avocado
Handful of coriander
Mixed herbs
Pepper and Salt to taste
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to oven with fan on 200C.
1. Heat olive oil in frying pan, sauté garlic and onions until fragrant, add a splatter of mixed herbs.
2. Add the cubed pumpkins and pan fry a short while, around 3 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and all the sauce in the can.
4. Cover well and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until pumpkins are a little soft but not very soft or they will melt into a mush after baking.
5. While the stew is simmering, slice eggplants, wash and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Lay them side by side in the casserole. 
6. Apply a layer of the stew, place mushrooms and chopped coriander above the eggplants and cover with remaining stew. (I didn't have enough stew to cover the eggplants as my dish was too large)
7. Cover with foil and place in oven to bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
8. Top with sliced avocado and I've also added a small layer of minced chicken leftover from last night's dinner.
Whole Wheat Corn Bread (Source)

Ingredients / steps:
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all together in a large bowl
1 cup milk
1.5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg
Mix all together in another bowl
Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir to barely mix, do not over mix.
Add 1 cup of corn kernels and a spray of black pepper, stir to combine.
Heat an oven-proof skillet with a light coat of olive oil. (My skillet is 20cm and just the right size)
Pour batter into skillet and balance the batter out.
Bake in pre-heated oven with fan at 200C for 20 minutes. (I baked this together with the vegetable stew)
The stew was good, with sweet pumpkins and eggplants that still retained the shape and soaked in sauce. The sauce was lightly tangy from the tomatoes, so add sugar or ketchup if you like your stew sweeter. The cornbread has a nutty taste and crisp top, well-designed to soak up the sauce from the stew. Approved by the hub! 
Above would serve 4 pax.