Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Day/Pistachio & Cherry Cream Cake

It is that day of the year again, where I wake up and run to the mirror to see a year older face staring back at me. I love my birthdate as it is exactly the middle of the calendar year when everyone else takes notice whether they are reviewing what they have done for the past 1/2 year and make new plans for the remaining 1/2 year of the calendar months.

It is like a determining time factor to recap, review and resolve and true enough for me, I plan and set goals for myself to achieve before the next year's birthday.

I would like to thank my family, far and near and also all my friends who have sent their greetings. Watching the news reporting bizarre deaths and passings of well known celebrities these past 2 weeks reminds me life is very unpredictable and I am thankful to be able to celebrate today with my family and although no fancy celebration, the thought that I can rule the whole day my way makes this one day a very good one!

This year I made my own birthday cake. Part of the reason is Missy E's birthday is just 3 days after mine and buying 2 cakes will be asking for trouble and I don't like the idea of sharing birthdays as I truly believe that particular whole day should belong to the birthday person only. Afterall, I will find any excuse to make a cake and at least for my own birthday, I dare to attempt my own cake and I only can blame myself if it doesn't turn out good!

I opted for a chiffon cake and perked it up a little with whipped cream frosting, infused with pureed cherries and added chopped pistachio to the cake itself. Fresh cherries are in abundance now and I love its deep dark red that exudes the juiciness that the fruit itself contains. I pureed almost 40 cherries to yield 1 cup of its flesh and liquid. I was hoping that the frosting would turn out more darker in hue but I only managed to get a lilac pinkish after adding almost 3/4 cup of the puree. I didn't strain nor pass the puree through a sieve as I love the bits and pieces of the cherries to be blended into the cake itself.

As for the cake itself, making chiffon cake was my first time and I was quite taken aback on the amount of eggs and sugar in the recipe. I am not sure on how the marbled effect turns out inside the cake when I scooped and swirled a few tablespoon of the remaining cherry puree onto the cake batter inside the cake pan prior to putting it into the oven. The texture of the cake came out fine, although not very smooth on the outer surface as those commercial chiffon cakes. I guess that was why frosting was created, to cover up uneven spots on cakes.

I guess my fear of making birthday cakes is when the frosting and decorating parts are concerned. Although I would love to practise piping and frosting everyday, there is just no reason to whip up a big pile of buttercream or whipped cream to do that. Another reason why I always make mousse cakes, just mold and no hand controls with piping bags. The cherries decorated the cake nicely, with their little individual stalks resembling candles and the plain round piping tips are always useful when I need to hide my non-perfect frosting on the sides of the cake. Can't wait to cut it and have a big slice!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Almond Strawberry Cream Cookie

Currently I am hooked to Martha Stewart's Cookies Cookbook. Perhaps it is the big pictures of the cookies or perhaps the many types and shapes that I haven't made or tried out yet, I simply cannot leave that book alone. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook was out recently and having checked through it, I still prefer the Cookies one.

I adapted 2 recipes from this book and tweaked them a little to make these cookies. Besides Macaron, this is my first time using almond flour in another cookie. Added to the all purpose flour, it kind of produced a crumbly and sandy cookie which is firm and yet melts away in the mouth. I used a drop of almond extract to boost the taste and smell of the cookies. The sugar content for these cookies is very little, hence the filling must be sweet to make up for the taste.

Instead of the raspberry cream suggested by the book, I made up a strawberry version, using 1 cup of pureed strawberry with a little sugar added to it and melted the white chocolate over a double boiler before adding heavy cream to it. The color of the cream turned out the perfect pink and it firms up in the fridge after at least 45 mins.

These cookies baked really quick and must be removed from the oven as soon as the 15 mins is up or else it browns quickly and the speckled effect created by the almond flour will not be noticeable. A small flower cookie cutter can make an ordinary cookie looks so much nicer and the lovely pink filling simply oozes through the flower pattern to fill it up and create a flower motif. As much as I wanted to pile up on the filling, this was not a good idea as the cream filling must only fill up to 3/4 full of the flower pattern or else overflowing will occur and affect the appearance of the cookie.

Cookie Ingredients :

1-1/4 cup all Purpose Flour; 1/2 cup almond flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 cup butter, r.temp; 2 tbsp sugar; 1/8 tsp almond extract

Filling Ingredients :

1 cup fresh strawberries (yields 3/4 cup pureed); 2 tsp sugar; 5 oz white chocolate; 1/4 cup heavy cream


Method:

Cookies :

1)Sift the all purpose flour together with the almond flour and salt.

2)Beat the butter and sugar till pale and light. Add in the almond extract.

3)Fold the flour into the butter mixture in batches.

4)Mix into a flat disk and wrap up with cling film and let dough rest in fridge for 30 mins.

5)Take out and roll the cookies out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. The dough tends to get wet and slightly sticky, apply flour sparingly to the roller. Cut out with size 1-1/2 inch fluted round cutters, makes 35 to 40 cookies. Take half of the cookies and punch with a smaller cookie cutter for the center part.

6)Place all cut out cookie dough on lined baking sheet and let them rest for another 15 mins in the fridge. Preheat oven to 350F.

7)Bake for 12 to 15 mins. The cookies will look pale and sandy. Remove from oven immediately and let cool completely on cookie rack.


Strawberry White Chocolate Filling :

1)Puree the strawberry with the sugar. Pass the puree through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.

2)Simmer some water in a pot and break the chocolate bars into pieces and place them in a separate bowl, that is bigger than the rim of the pot. Place the bowl of chocolate on top of the pot and turn down the heat so water continue to simmer. Stir the chocolate till melted.

3)Remove from heat and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Lastly, stir in the strawberry puree and stir till wholly blended. Cover with cling film and let the cream set in fridge for 1 hour.

To Assemble : Spread a tsp of filling onto the whole round cookies. Top them with the cookies that have been punched out in the middle. Serve within 1 day or contain in a container and keep in fridge for 3 days.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Strawberry Cheese Cake

Strawberry is the fruit of the season and everywhere I go, I see the pretty red fruit. It is very easy to discern from my blog that I love red and strawberry is the fruit that I wish I can pick all year long as its color is simply stunning to my senses and its abundance during this summer time makes me want to whip up any possible cakes, cookies or desserts just to incorporate the loveliness of this fruit.

After a week of rain, we finally went strawberry picking yesterday. And like a kid lost in a candy store, we always go overboard in picking and end up with more than we can consume. I prefer to pick smaller sized ones as they tend to be sweeter and the juice is more concentrated. And of course when I have a dessert in mind, I want all the berries to be all uniform for a better presentation.

Frankly speaking, I didn't have a clue on what to make with them and the idea of having to munch on almost 8lbs of strawberries for the entire week daunts on me after the picking! I am not going to make another tart and it must be either cake or cookies this time and I simply came across the Strawberry Shortcake character at the bookstore before we went on our weekly daily grocery shopping. Yes, inspirations come from everywhere and certainly that cute little girl character with the big strawberry patterned hat got me thinking! Strawberry cheesecake came to mind and off I went to get a pack of cream cheese.

Cheesecake was once my favorite cake and of course, during those times in Malaysia, it was a luxury to have a cheesecake. The richness of the cream cheese with additional added eggs and egg yolks and sugar, slowly baked in a water bath just makes the whole cake so decadent. Like they said, when you are young, you go for everything and now in my more conscious mind and not so ideal mass body index, those rich cheesecakes will remain a luxury treat to me but at least the yearning for it has subsided and I can take a lighter substitute without any regrets of letting go a damn good cheesecake!



Terri, a fellow blogger from my hometown in Malaysia who never fails to awe me with her kitchen repertoires and whatever she writes in that feisty blog of hers, had a very good recipe for Mango Cheesecake and I followed her recipe through, substituting strawberries in place of the luscious mangoes. For this cake, I used a lot of strawberries! Firstly, I pureed around 300gm/8oz/half lb of the strawberries and passed them through a sieve before adding it to the beaten cream cheese with sugar. And then, I baked a plain genoise cake for the base and this time, the cake really turned out a perfect sponge cake, all spongy and yet firm enough to contain a total of 38 strawberries that I placed on top of it prior to making the mousse part of the cake.
I like the idea that the combination of the cream cheese with yogurt and whipped cream yield a very light in the mouth mousse. Calories counting wise, I can't be bothered as the cholesterol level had been reduced with the non existence of eggs. Mousse cakes are usually very time consuming to make but this one was very quick, from the baking to the assembly, it took me only 2 hours. The strawberries themselves already created lovely patterns inside and outside the cake and I only shaved some white chocolate to mimic the straws that lies on the ground of the strawberry fields. My only regret is that I didn't leave any mousse for extra coating on the cake after I removed it from the springform cake pan, leaving noticeable patches here and there on an otherwise very good cake. The taste of cheese is very subtle, the cake was easy to cut into despite the presence of many strawberries inside as they too firmed up a little together with the mousse while in the fridge. After all that strawberries, I still have perhaps 4lbs of them sitting in the fridge. Time to think of the next baking!

Friday, June 12, 2009

June Bento Days (2,3,4,5,6)

The on and off of the June showers with cooler temperature has given me lazy bones the whole week. Still overjoyed with Missy E's brilliant performance in her first piano recital and excited with the upcoming trip to Washington DC, it looks like June will be the month that I just wonder around and not do anything in the kitchen. There were a few days that I thought blogging is starting to die down in me already! Still , as long as there are Bento to be made, cakes to drool over and interests in baking and cooking not lost nor forgotten, I believe my blogs will survive for some time!

Throughout the whole week, I have been getting up early and preparing Missy E's Bento lunches for her camp week at school. Of all my Bento gears, I love the small picks the most. They just can brighten up any boring looking meal and these Bento were much more simpler than some of the previous ones that I made for my kids. I didn't make many cute characters this time and used the punches and picks to maintain the children Bento character.



Monday, June 8, 2009

White Bread

Other people do have guest bloggers on their blogs and websites. I have a guest baker.... my father in law! I always insist those bread making books available in HK are always better and he bought me a new one this year. As much as I wanted to get my hands on trying out the new recipes, I didn't have time and perhaps a bit lazy during the summer months. And so, he went ahead and made the first bread from the new book and indeed very good bread.

This bread was made up of 2 dough, the first one was made earlier and let rest in the fridge overnight to slowly rise and the second one made on the day itself. Both were then mixed together using the Kitchenaid Mixer, rested and rise again before shaping into desired moulds. The only setback in making these breads were that they needed a lot of rolling to release the built up of gas inside of them. And perhaps my father in law is a bit slower than me, it seemed to me that he took the whole day to make these breads.

Since I played no role in making these, I cannot blog more except to click some beautiful pictures!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Bento Days (1)

Seems that I am slowing down on cooking and blogging these days. Apart from being lazy, my father in law's annual visit from Hong Kong tend to make me rest a bit from all the cooking as he takes over with the dinner preparation. Every year for 6 months, we dine on authentic Cantonese food and mind you, for a 70 plus old man, he can really cook!


With Missy E's preschool graduation coming up and her first piano recital after that, all I do everyday these days is monitoring her progress while juggling on how to start Prince D with a bit of homeschooling. The potty training is still no where near complete success and I wonder if he ever gets it till he goes to kindergarten! Till then, I can only learn to manage a possibility of high blood pressure chasing him to the bathroom every time I sense those squatting and quiet at the corner moments!


A big thank you to my sis in law in HK and my cousin Agnes and Auntie M in Malaysia for getting me some Bento gears. And I thought I had too many baking pans and moulds till I started to sort out and assemble tools by categories. The Bento gears are sure catching up! Still in my slow mode, I only did a Bento for Curry today despite Missy E asking for one. Well, next week will be payback time when I have to pack her Bento everyday for a week's camp!




Contents of Curry's Bento Box :


Panko deep fried pork Cutlets(Tonkatsu) with Japanese brown sauce; Pan fried long beans with tomato; Japanese omelette with nori pieces; radish; rice


I love Tonkatsu and will eat it everyday if I can! Japanese bread crumbs or Panko is the best invention in my opinion and it just yields a more crunchier and lighter coating for deep fried food. I marinated the pork in mirin, soy sauce and pepper overnight and drenched them in beaten egg and panko before deep frying them on medium heat. I am yet to learn on how to do the ever so neat looking Japanese Omelette with the new rectangle frying pan. Looking at the Bento that I have made so far, I think I go over the top with colors and hopefully to tone it down a bit in future. Sometimes it just looks so busy!




Monday, June 1, 2009

Dango

One look and these looks like chinese Fish Balls!

I saw these type of Wagashi when I was living around the area of Kyoto, Japan but never got around to try them. Kyoto is a beautiful place, blending the old and new with serene temples, back streets full of old traditional shops selling potteries, ceramics and also food, traditional sweets or modern horseradish/Wasabi flavored ice cream.

There is no flavor in these balls itself which are made of brown rice flour together with glutinous rice flour and the black sauce which is made up of equal parts of soy sauce, sugar and mirin (Japanese sweet seasoning) imparts the hint of dark heavy syrup sweetness into it.

The addition of brown rice flour to the glutinous flour reduces the chewiness texture and produces a firm middle with a slight chewiness on the outside layer of the dango. The making of the dango balls took only 10 minutes and the cooking of the sauce around 10 mins too. The only thing is the coating part which got a bit messy as the sauce thickens when it cools. Overall, these dango were fun to chew on as a light snack with no trace of fat at all but I would buy a daifuku if both were available.


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