Monday, June 30, 2014

Bread King - as good as my memories of Paris

To say I love croissants would probably be an understatement.  If there's anything that perks up my day immediately, other than 80% dark chocolate and a hot cuppa Yahava, croissants would be it. In my memories of Paris couple of years ago, the most memorable is the 25 croissants/danishes we consumed. I distinctly remember the 1euro plain croissant across the street from our hotel and the pear danish at the patisserie a stone's throw away. On my last day in France, I bought 4 and savored it slowly as I worked away the jetlag back in SG. 

In the last 3 years, many a bakery has started, each with their signature or specialty - croissant. Indeed many are good, with a crisp top and holey crumb. A couple of good ones that popped to my mind are TBB, Poulet (did you know you can ask for plain croissants to take away), and now I proudly include new find of the year - Bread King. 

Their croissant had the quintessential crunch as you bite down, the big holes and a slightly doughy crumb. The best part about it is the buttery aroma that comes from using good quality Brittany butter. It is a croissant that gives you a texture that satisfies, a fragrance that infuses your mouth and an overall taste that satiates. I could eat this plain anytime, everyday.

$3 each, you cannot stop at 1

Bread King is situated somewhat remotely which is yay! for those of us who know of it. They are at a squash and tennis training centre, 43 Burghley Drive, occupying a small area with 6 round tables. On the Sunday morning that we were there, it was fantastically peaceful, with only another couple there and through our 1.5 hours there, many in the know dropped by for their take-away. Good game plan to stock up for the week! The owner Pedro, gave us good tips on how to keep the bread loaves, prevent loss of moisture and the best way to re-heat them. Never knew that spraying a baguette with some water before toasting them again would make them good as fresh again!

As I read the way-too-few reviews on Bread King, the cheese roll was frequently mentioned as a top highlight of their bakes. Fans of cheese that we are, it was the first thing served to us and greedily chomped on within a few bites. Lovely, crispy pastry that wraps a really, really generous filling of emmental cheese, it was savoury and buttery with a crunch. At $4 per roll, it is a steal; indeed a must try. 

The assortment of bread loaves for take-away was already sparse though we were there bright and early. The brioche was already sold out and 2 sourdoughs boules were left alongside a few sticks of baguette. We ordered a King Sandwich on baguette ($12) which has a filling of prosciutto ham, fried eggs, cheese, vegetables and a good dose of some very good quality olive oil and vinaigrette. 

Check out the lines of fat in the ham. Yum. Look at the holes in the crumb, chewy yet with such a crispy top that our mouths felt somewhat sandpapered after the meal, it is again, one of the best baguettes I ever had in SG. 

It would be a tough decision as to which pastries to get for my next meal at Bread King. I cannot decide; I want everything!   

This is the best I can get to my memories of pastries in Paris. Make it your next week-end jaunt!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Soft-baked Chocolate M&M Cookies

It's the nephews' 4th and 7th birthday party. Off to a very adventurous party we went, with bouldering and rock wall-climbing activities slated for the morning. I toyed with the idea of spiderman cookies as with the nature of the party or ironman themed cookie pops as the boys love their action heroes. However, thought of all those coloured fondant that the kids will probably all gobble up happily, regardless of the preservatives and chemicals, puts me off. At least the adults usually know to remove these layers but to a gleeful kid, probably not. 

Decided upon M&Ms as the main cast then as I recalled the boys picking off all those chocolate candies on the cupcakes I baked for their last birthday. Off I went to bake a batch of soft doughy brown-sugar cookies with additional chunks of semi-sweet chocolate for a touch of gooey indulgence. 

These cookies from Sallys Baking Addictions are a breeze to bake. Not even needing a mixer, all it took was 2 bowls and probably 10 minutes to mix everything up. Chill for 2 hours and into the oven they went. The cookies stayed beautifully tall with the M&Ms dotting them prettily. Each tablespoon of dough spread into a regular Scotch tape size and has around 1cm of height to it. The crumb is soft and chewy, which crumbles into big pieces with a little pressure so eat these little gems carefully or you will be spilling and sweeping afterwards. 

I was also initially worried if little children will take to soft cookies as they are probably more used to store-bought crispy sweet cookies. To my delight, I see them biting into these pillowy rounds happily, reaching for 1 after 1 after 1. Caught my little nephew having 4! Hope it was not just the M&Ms he was going after though. 

I do prefer my cookies to have a crisp top though these cookies are probably not meant to have so I may bake them at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time the next I try these. Nonetheless, these are addictive and what was meant to be 65 pieces of servings at the party dwindled to 50 by the time we got there. 

Ingredients (Source)
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 Tsp Cornstarch
1/2 Tsp seasalt
170g unsalted butter, melted
3/4  cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 Tsp vanilla essence
100g chocolate chunks
100g M&M

1. Sift flour, soda, cornstarch, seasalt together.
2. Melt the butter and in a large bowl, mix well with both sugars and egg/yolk and vanilla essence.
3. Mix flour mixture into the butter mixture in 2 addictions, mixing well each time but do not overwork the mixing. 
4. Mix in the chocolate chunks. 
5. Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
6. Before baking, pre-heat oven to 150C top-bottom fan mode.
7. Let the dough relax at room temperature for 10 minutes.
8. Roll into 1 tablespoon-sized dough and press  3 to 4 M&Ms into surface of the dough. 
9. Bake for 12 minutes. Dough will have flatten slightly but remains relatively tall and chunky.
10. Let the cookies rest on tray for 10minutes before cooling. 
11. Eat 1 while it's still a little warm and sigh in satisfaction. 
12. Cool the rest completely and keep them in air-tight containers at room temperature. 

Try not to finish all at 1 go. Try very hard. It's that good. =)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

On a trip to PasarBella one day, I found really reasonably-priced vanilla pods. 4 for $8.90 (I seem to recall) I grabbed, without really know what I would do with them. It has then been on my mind to try a vanilla bean cupcake. Everyone needs a basic cupcake recipe. I've my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes from ThePioneerWoman. My favourite fruit-based cupcake is definitely the Hummingbird or the Sticky Date. Now and then, I like a banana walnut muffin. Guess it's time I venture into the realm of a classic vanilla cupcake. Hopefully one that is soft, light and slightly crumbly yet moist. 

Google for vanilla cupcakes and many versions of "the Best vanilla cupcake" & "the Perfect Vanilla cupcake" popped up. Taste is subjective after all. I supposed I would have to test out a few recipes like I did for my chocolate cuppies. Decided on the recipe by My Baking Addiction. She has many cupcake recipes under her belt and all looks great! In addition, hers is one of the few recipes that uses seeds from vanilla pod. Being a newbie to this pod and vanilla business, I decided to go safe and chose that I can follow, rather than use my own judgement. This is also a white cake recipe which means it omits egg yolks and I've seen many recipes using white cakes which seem to give a lighter and fluffier crumb. 

Took the recipe, did accordingly except to reduce the sugar content as with all US/European recipes I follow as those tend to be too sweet for the typical asian palate (or could be just me!). Then, I brought the remaining of my salted caramel sauce to room temperature and spooned a teaspoon of it into each cupcake, cover back the cup cap and frosted with a vanilla bean SMB. The cake is slightly on the dry and tough side; I wonder if it's the reduced sugar content. Though the salted caramel made up for the dry cake, I would still prefer a softer crumb with more moisture on its own. It could be me baking this for the first time or could be the reduced sugar. May try again by increasing the milk or egg next time. However, the whole flavour combination went quite well, with the salted caramel adding a sweetness to the light and fragrant with vanilla seeds buttercream. Probably worth another try!

Vanilla Bean White Cupcakes (from my baking addiction. Make around 20 cupcakes)
2.25cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon seasalt
1.25 cup milk, room temp
4 egg white, room temp
113g unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Beat softened butter with sugar and vanilla bean seeds until light and fluffy. 
2. Add in vanilla extract and beat till combined
3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add 1/3 to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed.
4. Whisk together sugar and egg whites. Add 1/2 to the mixture and beat on medium speed. 
5. Beat in half of remaining flour mix, then milk mix. 
6. Add the last flour mix and continue to bear. Add the last of the milk mixture and beat until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes. 
7. Pour into cupcake holders and bake at 180C for 22 minutes. 
8. Cool thoroughly.

Salted Caramel Filling (from Kelsey Nixon)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
50g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan or pot.
2. Keep mixture on low heat until sugar is dissolved.
3. Bring to a boil, do not stir.
4. Boil until the mixture turns amber (for around 5minutes)
5. Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Be careful of sputters. 
6. Stir in the butter then the salt.
7. Cool to room temperature before keeping. 
Note: This will make a large portion. Keep the rest in the fridge up to 2 weeks and bring to room temperature or re-heat before using.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Sweetapolita)
5 large egg whites250g granulated sugar340g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or essenceseeds from 1 vanilla podpinch of salt
Note: You will probably use less than half of this portion. Keep the rest in the fridge for 1 week or freezer for up to 1 month. Remove from fridge and rewhip with paddle attachment to make it smooth before using again.

Steps:1. Place egg whites and sugar in a clean and dry metal mixer bowl, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Using the whisk attachment of mixer, immediately start whipping until the meringue is thick and glossy. The mixture should be at room temperature by now (It may take around 10 minutes)
3. Switch over to paddle attachment and on low speed, start to add butter cubes gradually, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture. Add vanilla, salt, and seeds from vanilla bean. Continue to beat on low speed until well combined.

1. Cut a small hold on top of cupcake, dig out some of the cupcake crumbs, insert a dollop of salted caramel.
2. Frost with vanilla bean swisss meringue buttercream.
3. Serve at room temperature so that the salted caramel oozes and is not a chilled ball.