Monday, November 25, 2013

Chocolate Sponge Cake with Butterscotch Popcorn, Walnuts and Honey Flakes

Hands up! Who loves Garrett's Pop Corn?

10000 hands out of 10001 will probably be raised. Me.. I was never a popcorn fan, with my teenage movie dates subjected to soggy (aka Lao Hong) popcorn, limited to either sweet or salty in flavors. So, when Mr. G. popcorn appeared in the Singapore scene, I was not interested. Total L.A.G.G.A.R.D that I was, it was probably 1 year or so later when I had my first bite at a friend's place. Man.... I fell in love. Those caramel-coated macadamia nuts, the how-does-it-stay-so-crispy popcorn are simply finger licking additive, as most people and the long queues can attest to.

That was the inspiration for this post. I love having textures in my cakes, especially a crispy layer to accompany a soft and moist cake. What better way than to have a bite of cake with a mouthful of crispy popcorn, nuts and cereal. I wanted the crisps to be the highlight of the cake, therefore piling them high up on the cake which tantalises the eyes in addition to sweetening the tongue. Indeed, I thought the look was pretty appetizing, with layers of chocolate whipped cream and a glaze seemingly oozing from the nutty mix.

However, my thoughts didn't literally translate into reality. I popped the buttered popcorn, mixed them with a generous portion of walnuts and cornflakes, coated them with a light layer of butterscotch sauce and sent them into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. To the top of my chocolate sponge cake they went, piled high like a crown.

The nuts and flakes baked to a golden crisp beautifully.. crunchy and aromatic. The popcorn was another story; still as listless as the usual microwaved popcorn, in other words, kinda Lao Hong. My first foray into the world of corn didn't pop.. but oh well this experiment tells me that walnuts and cornflakes go beautifully together. I'm already envisaging another cake, maybe a salted caramel cake, with caramel-coated walnuts and corn flakes.

Chocolate Sponge Cake (Source)
3 Eggs
75g sugar
45g cake flour
10g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
30ml warm whipping cream (microwave high at 20s)

Oven 180C, 2x6inch cake pan, lined on bottom. 

1. Sift cake flour, cocoa powder and salt together
2. Whisk eggs in a mixer on high speed until it lightens in colour.
3. Add the sugar to the egg mixture and mix on high speed until it reaches the thick ribbon stage (Where the batter will flow from the beater in a thick lava layer)
4. Add the flour into the egg-sugar mix and fold in to just combine. 
5. Take 1/4 of this mixture and stir into the warm whipped cream. 
6. Pour the whipped cream mixture into the rest of the batter and fold to combine 
7. Pour into pan, tap on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, when the top is slightly browned and spring back to your touch. Cool completely. 

Chocolate Whipped Cream
300ml heavy cream
1/4 cup sifted icing sugar
100g melted and cooled dark chocolate

1. Place the mixing bowl and beater into the freezer 15minutes before whipping the cream. (This helps to accelerate the whipping process and prevent curdling)
2. Whip heavy cream on high speed until it reaches a creamy state
3. Add the icing sugar and mix on high speed until it is stiff and in a whipped state
4. Add the cool chocolate and gently beat in on low speed until it's incorporated (Alternatively, fold the chocolate in but be careful not to let the cream curdle)
5. Keep in fridge until ready to frost the cake

Chocolate Glaze 
50g dark chocolate, chopped into pieces (I used 70% cocoa)
100ml heavy cream

Simply melt the dark chocolate and cream together in a bowl set over simmering water. Do not let any water or vapor get into this mixture. Cool slightly to a temperature just warm to the touch and use immediately.  

Walnuts-Popcorn-Cornflake Mix
1 cup of popped popcorn
A fist of walnuts
1/2 cup of honey cornflakes (I used Nestle Honey Flakes)
1/4 cup of butterscotch sauce

1. Pop the popcorn and let it cool slightly
2. Mix the popcorn, walnuts and cornflakes together and coat them with butterscotch sauce
3. Bake at 175C for 20 minutes but stir occasionally to prevent burning
Note: My popcorn didn't turn crispy so I would suggest to omit the popcorn or trial and error other ways of making them crunch.

Assembly of Cake
1. Sandwich a layer of chocolate whipped cream between the 2 layers of sponge.
2. Frost the outside of cake with the chocolate whipped cream and leave in the fridge for an hour to set. 
3. Before pouring the chocolate glaze, freeze the cake for 15minutes to prevent the chocolate glaze from melting the cream. When ready to pour, remove the cake from the freezer and pour the slightly warm chocolate glaze over the top, nudging the sauce around the edge of the cake to let it flow over. 
4. Pile the nut-mix on top of the cake and chill the cake for another 30minutes to let the glaze set. 

Serve slightly chilled. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Girly Sugar Cookie Pops

This is my first attempt at making decorated cookies with fondant. It's for a little girl's gift to her classmates, therefore the theme of girl characters. I'm never good with decor, preferring to perfect the cake's taste and texture, playing around with fillings and frosting to enhance the flavors, relying on premises of rustic (aka home-style and far from store-bought) for decor.

I tried one time with royal icing, mixing a thick and thin icing, flooding the cookie, piping shapes and OMG, what a nightmare for me and my clumsy fingers. Flooded area looks grainy, faces are definitely not round and piped eyes look more halloweeny drippy than sweety big.

16 cookies later, I g.a.v.e. u.p.

Packed everything and have my nieces and nephews have a go at it, with an impromptu cookie decor session that they thoroughly enjoyed and were able to give as little presents to their kindergarden classmates.

Back to my cookies, I've an order to once again, Mr Google and it's family of many helpful, passionate bakers came to my rescue. There were plenty of techniques videos, cookie tips and inspirational pictures, both with royal icing and fondant. I conclude that I can probably work with fondant after having done an Angry Bird fondant cake before.

On to the adventure I went, baking the cookies a night before and printing lots of little girl pictures for reference. I referenced the cookies from Sweetapolita, my favourite site for decor ideas, she's uber inspirational. The cookies tasted really great. The shapes stayed and I added a fair bit of orange zest, giving it a fruity essence as you crunch into it. The only little bit of challenge was in determining the thickness of cookie and timing needed to ensure its crunchy but not burnt. I had batches that look nicely baked but it was not as crispy as a sugar cookie pop needs to be as it has to stay on the sticks. Finally determined that a nice timing was 25 minutes for my cookies which will have a slight browning at the edges but nicely crisp and tasty upon cooling. Perfect for a cookie pop!

Cookie Recipe: (source)
Ingredients (makes around 25 to 27 large round cookies)
227g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
200g fine white sugar
1 large egg, cold
375g plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt (sifted together)
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
zest from 2 mid size oranges

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy with the paddle attachment.
2. Beat in the cold egg.
3. On mid speed, add the flour and salt and let it mix until just combined.
4. Add vanilla essence and orange zest and let it incorporate.
5. Take 1/2 the dough and  mix into a ball on a piece of parchment paper. Cover with another layer of parchment paper and roll it out to the thickness desired. Do the same with the rest of the dough. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
6. Remove 1 tray at a time and cut out cookie shapes, lay on baking tray lined with paper. Place them back into the fridge and let it firm up for another 30 minutes.
7. Once the cookie shapes are chilled, gently insert the stick up to the middle of the cookies. At this point, place them into the freezer and start the oven at 160C.
8. 15 minutes later, slide the cookies straight from freezer into the oven, bake for 13minutes, flip the tray and baker another 12 minutes. Edges should be slightly brown, top should still be beige in colour whilst the bottom of cookie would be light brown.
9. Remove from oven and let it stay on the tray to cool before removing. It is still a little soft when straight out from the oven so removing it from the tray may break them.
10. Cool completely before starting the decor.

To decorate the cookies, let them cool completely and ensure it's dry and crispy. Colour the fondant in desired colours by kneading them with the colours until well blended. Place coloured fondant under wrap at all time to prevent drying out. Take out bits of fondant as needed, roll them out on a surface dusted with icing sugar and cut shapes out. Dab a teeny weeny bit of water of the back of the fondant and adhere them to the cookie.

Let cookie and fondant dry totally before packing them into cute little bags as gifts!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Molten Passionfruit Curd Cupcake

The curd came first. Ever since I saw a passionfruit sponge cake from Mr Jones cafe in bangkok, looking so light and delectable, I've been wanting to create a version of it. So I thought, the hokkaido cupcake recipe which is really soft and just slightly sweet, would probably be the best accompaniment to a sourish sweet passionfruit curd.

Indeed, it came together in a almost-perfect pairing. The cake is cotton soft, and filled with the creamy curd that flows out just like a molten cake. Soak the cake up with the passionfruit lava and its a burst of sweetness with a tinge of sourness in the mouth. I just find the curd a tad too creamy for my liking, may want to even out the number of yolks and whole eggs the next time.

I also topped the cake with a stabilised whipped cream rose however, I find that it distracts from the passionfruit curd, wiped it all out and topped with another thin layer of curd instead. Much better.

Passionfruit Curd
160g passionfruit flesh
2 eggs
4 yolks
200g sugar
60g butter
Juice from half a lemon

1. Whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together. Add all remaining ingredients except lemon, mix well and place in a pot over simmering water.
2. Stir gently and constantly until the mixture thickens. It took about 20 minutes to reach the stage where it flows like lava.
3. Remove from heat cool slightly and add lemon juice to taste. I added half a lemon to give it a more sour kick.
4. Pour into a jar and let it cool completely before refrigerating it.

The cotton cake was repeat of my Cotton Yogurt Cake. The crumb is tight and very soft. Hub and I couldn't stop eating these cakes, devouring 3 at 1 go!

Cotton Yogurt Cake
Egg Yolk Mixture
65g sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 egg yolks
1 full egg
80ml plain 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 15 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.

Turn the cupcakes upside down after removing it from the oven to reduce the shrinking. After they had cooled totally, I cut a little slit on top and pipe the curd into the middle, place it in the fridge and serve slightly cold. Totally delicious.