Dec 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year, everyone!!! I hope everyone has a great New Year...and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to make the French Yule Log. =( To see the other beautiful yule logs, check out other daring bakers' sites.

Dec 19, 2008

Rustic Italian bread

heehee...i'm giddy right now! My babies (aka Rustic Italian breads) just came out of the oven, and they're's music to my ears. They look so beautiful and so huge!! I can't wait to eat them...but I have to wait at least for another 2 hours! I think I should leave the house, the temptation is way too strong. They smell wonderful.

...a few hours later...I finally was able to have my first bite, and a second bite and a third bite..heehee!! It's absolutely delicious. The bread has so much flavor, and the texture is really good too!! I'm so happy this came out so well because it was so very time consuming!!! It's definitely worth it though. I will definitely make this bread again!

This recipe comes from Baking Illustrated from Cook's illustrated, but what inspired me to make this bread is a post from Cookography. After reading such the post, I couldn't resist any longer!! Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try, check out Cookography's website for illustrations on how to shape and turn the dough.

Rustic Italian Bread
from Cookography

11 ounces bread flour (2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
8 ounces water (1 cup), room temperature
16 1/2 ounces bread flour (3 cups)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
10.7 ounces water (1 1/3 cups), room temperature
2 teaspoons table salt

For the biga:
Combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead on lowest speed (stir on KitchenAid) until it forms a shaggy dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer biga to medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until beginning to bubble and rise, about 3 hours. Refrigerate biga at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

For the dough:
1. Remove the biga from refrigerator and it let stand at room temperature while making dough.

2. To make the dough, combine flour, yeast, and water in bowl of the standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead the dough on lowest speed until rough dough is formed, about 3 minutes.

3. Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. (This allows protein in the dough to relax, making for a stronger dough that can rise higher, with a better crust)

4. Remove the plastic wrap over the dough, and add the biga and salt to bowl. Continue to knead on the lowest speed until ingredients are incorporated (dough should clear the sides of the bowl but should stick to the very bottom), about 4 minutes.

5. Increase the mixer speed to low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) and continue until the dough forms a more cohesive ball, about 1 minute.

6. Transfer the dough to a large bowl (at least 3 times the size of the dough) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free spot away from direct sunlight, until slightly risen and puffy, about 1 hour.

7. Remove the plastic wrap and turn the dough following illustrations below on Turning the Dough. Replace the plastic wrap and let the dough rise 1 hour. Turn dough again, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rise 1 hour longer.

8. Dust the work surface liberally with flour. Hold the bowl with the dough at an angle over the floured surface. Gently scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface (the side of the dough that was against bowl should now be facing up).

9. If you want two smaller loaves, split the dough into two equal halves. Use a knife or bench scraper.

10. Dust the dough and your hands liberally with flour and, using minimal pressure, push dough into a rough 8- to 10-inch square. If you are making two loaves, shape each piece into a smaller rectangle.

11. Shape the dough following the illustrations below on Shaping the Loaf, and transfer it to a large sheet parchment paper. Dust loaf liberally with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let loaf rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

12. Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position, and place a baking stone on the rack. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.

13. Using a single-edged razor blade, or sharp chef’s knife, cut a slit 1/2 inch deep lengthwise along top of loaf, starting and stopping about 1 1/2 inches from the ends. Lightly spray the loaf with water. Slide parchment sheet with loaf onto baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet, then slide parchment with loaf onto hot baking stone in oven. If you are not using a baking stone or tile, simply place the baking sheet in the oven.

14. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and quickly spin loaf around half way using the edges of the parchment paper.

15. Continue to bake until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf registers 210 degrees. For one large loaf this will be about 35 minutes longer. For two smaller loaves this will be closer to 30 minutes.

16. When the bread is done, transfer it to a wire rack and discard the parchment paper. Now the toughest part, cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Dec 17, 2008

Pillow cheesecake

I love cheesecake, as you can see from my many cheesecake bakes. My favorite cheesecake so far is the Mascarpone cheesecake, I love how rich it tastes but it also has a very light texture. But when I saw this recipe for a Pillow cheesecake at Tartelette, I knew I had to give it a try.

The technique for making this cheesecake is very different than any other cheesecake I have ever made. She separates the egg yolks and the egg whites. The egg whites are then beaten to stiff peaks, as in a chiffon cake, and they are folded into the cheesecake batter. It creates a cheesecake that has an incredible texture!! Can you see the texture?!!!

I only had two blocks of cream cheese, so I decided to half the recipe. So the verdict, will this now be my go to cheesecake?!! I'm not sure, I still really love the Mascarpone cheesecake but I wouldn't mind eating this cheesecake again. mmmm..yum.

Pillow cheesecake
from Tartelette

Chocolate shortbread base:
125g butter, very cold
40g sugar
150g flour
12g cacao powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Work the butter, sugar, flour and cacao with a food processor or your fingers to get a sandy mixture. Work the dough for a minute. Divide the dough in half. Reserve one half to make shortbread cookie or refrigerate for another time. Press one half into the bottom of a 7” inch spring form pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely.

Cheesecake batter
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter (57g), softened
1/8 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
Zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Combine the cream cheese, butter, sugar, lemon zest, sour cream and cornstarch in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until combine. Do not incorporate too much air or the cake will crack.

2. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are very soft. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whip just until combined. Whip the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold them in the cream cheese batter.

3. Pour the batter over the chocolate shortbread crust. The batter will reach the rim of the cake pan. Wrap your spring form pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, set it in a large roasting pan, add enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the pan. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off, crack the door of the oven open and let your cake cool in there for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and refrigerate completely for a few hours or better yet overnight.

Dec 12, 2008

White batter bread

I have a long list of bookmarked recipes from food blogs all around the world. Anytime I want to make something, I look at my list...and I found this recipe awhile ago from Smitten Kitchen for White batter bread. I have never heard of such a bread and has never tasted it, but it seemed like an easy recipe, so I gave it a go.

The result? hm...I'm not sure what to say about it. I can't say I love it, but I don't dislike it. The texture if almost a cross between a bread and a cake. It's very crumbly and it's very yummy toasted with some butter. It's just not what I would call bread...but then again, it's not quite quick bread texture or cake texture either. The great thing is that it's very easy to make and it's very filling type of bread. Here's the recipe if you want to give it a go.

White batter bread
from Smitten kitchen
total time: 2.5 hours

2 cups warm milk, about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope; some argue it’s actually 2 1/4 tsp. If you have more time, use the lesser amount) active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or vegetable oil

1. Whisk yeast into warm milk and set aside while preparing other ingredients. (About 5 minutes does the trick.)

2. Whisk yeast into salt, sugar and butter.

3. Beat in flour to make a smooth batter, you’ll want to do this for a few minutes.

4. Pour into buttered loaf pan and let rise, covered with a towel or plastic, until doubled.

5. When it’s almost doubled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack at the middle level.

6. When it’s completely risen, place in oven and bake about 30 minutes, until it’s golden brown and firm, and the internal temperature is about 210 degrees.

7. Unmold the loaf and let it cool completely on a rack.

Dec 5, 2008

Triple Silken Pumpkin Pie

This was our thanksgiving dessert this year...only it came three days later!! I have been looking for a perfect recipe for my can of pumpkin and I found it at Dinner and Dessert. I really wanted to make this Triple Silken Pumpkin Pie, but I knew I would not be able to manage it for thanksgiving day...and therefore, it came today!

This is such a yummy yummy pumpkin pie. You can't even compare it with regular pumpkin pies because they are not even on the same level! There are basically four elements to this pie, the crust (of course), the pumpkin custard, the whipped cream, and the caramel pumpkin mousse. Erin from Dinner and Dessert had mentioned that she didn't like how the original recipe's crust came out, so she suggested to use another recipe.

I had this foolproof pie crust recipe bookmarked from the November 2007 issue of my cook's illustrated magazine, so I thought what perfect time to try it! I have to tell you, this pie crust is incredible! It's so easy to make and it came out perfectly! I could just eat the crust by itself. heehee =P Here are the recipes, do try it!

Foolproof pie dough
from Nov/Dec 2007 of Cook's Illustrated magazine
makes two pie crusts

2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
2 tbsp sugar
12 tbsp (1 1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).

2. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup of flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

3. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4 inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Triple Silken Pumpkin Pie
from Dinner and Dessert
originally from Dessert by the Yard

For the Pumpkin Custard layer:
Dough for a single crust pie
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons plain canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
¼ cup sour cream
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon brandy

1. Roll the dough out to a 16-inch circle, 1/4 inch thick. Press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of a 9×2 ½-inch springform pan. The extra dough on the sides will compensate for shrinkage. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and trim away the excess dough from the rim of the pan.

2. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3. Prick the bottom of the pastry a few times with a fork. Line the pastry with parchment paper or large coffee filters. Fill the lined shell to the rim with the dried beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights and gently press the “faux filling” into the corners. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another 7 minutes. (If you are prebaking the dough in a springform pan, increase the amount of weights so that they reach the top of the rim).

4. Remove from the oven and remove the weights and the liner. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, until the center turns golden and looks dry. There should be no sign of moisture. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

5. For the pumpkin custard layer: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the brown sugar, pumpkin, sour cream, heavy cream, and brandy. Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Cover the pan with a sheet of buttered aluminum foil (buttered side down) and bake until the custard is just set, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated).

For the Whipped Cream layer:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraiche
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons maple sugar

1. Combine the cream and crème fraiche in a large bowl, and using a hand mixer, beat until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and maple sugar and continue beating until stiff. Spread in an even layer on top of the cooled or chilled pumpkin custard layer and refrigerate.

For the Caramel-Pumpkin Mousse Layer
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup plain canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)

1. Make the caramel-pumpkin mousse layer: Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Place 2 tablespoons of the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir, then let it bloom (soften) while you prepare the caramel.

2. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine the ¾ cup sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon water, and the lemon juice and cook over high heat until the mixture turns a deep amber color, at about 335 degrees on a candy thermometer. This will take 4 to5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Remove the caramel from the stove and wait until the bubbles subside. Stir in the brown sugar mixture. Add the softened gelatin and stir to dissolve. Whisk in the canned pumpkin and set aside.

4. Using the hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they foam. Add the cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar and beat. Continue to beat, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and shiny, about 2 minutes.

5. Lightly warm the caramel-pumpkin mixture by folding in one third of the beaten egg whites, using a whisk, preferably a balloon whisk. Pour the remaining egg whites over the top and carefully fold them into the pumpkin mixture using a rubber spatula. Fold in the chilled whipped cream.

6. Carefully pour the caramel-pumpkin mousse mixture over the whipped cream layer and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until set. (The pie can be made up to a day in advance.).

7. To serve, gently remove the springform ring from the plate and set the pie on a plate. Garnish with additional whipped cream if desired.

  • The recipe says to pour the soften gelatin into the caramel. This automatically turns the mixture into clumps, and I had to reheat the entire mixture. The next time I make this dessert, I would add the pumpkin puree to cool down the caramel first, and then add the gelatin.
  • For the whipped cream layer, I didn't have any crème fraiche, so I substituted it with sour cream.

Dec 1, 2008

Strawberry shortcake

Today is my friend's 30th birthday and I wanted to make something special for her. She loves strawberries, so I decided to make a simple strawberry shortcake. After I was finished with the cake, I frosted it with a whipped cream frosting, but I thought it looked kinda plain. So I decided to add a little umph. I made a chocolate shell for the border and added a little chocolate decorations in the middle. The result is something that I'm very proud of and I hope my friend likes!

Below is the recipe for the sponge cake that I used. This is the sponge cake that I always use for a light cake. For the filling, I made whipped cream and added some diced strawberries. It's a very simple cake, but very light and delicious. Here's the recipe.

Strawberry shortcake

4 eggs
80g caster sugar
60ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
86g cake flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cream of tartar

Whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Sift cake flour and cornstarch together.

2. Separate egg yolks and egg whites. Using a stand mixer or electric beaters. Beat the egg yolks. While beating the egg yolks, add 40g of caster sugar. Add sugar in one tbsp increments. Beat the egg yolks until it's light and fluffy and the color is a very pale yellow.

3. Once the egg yolks reach that state, mix in the oil, milk and the vanilla. Sift in the cake flour and cornstarch mixture. Gently fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer. Once the egg whites are foamy, add the remaining 40g of sugar in 1 tbsp increments. Beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks.

5. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining egg whites. Pour the cake mixture into a 8" cake pan. Hit pan gently against the counter to remove large bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes.

6. When the cake is finished baking, cool cake upside down in the pan. Once the cake is completely cooled, take the cake out of the pan and cut into thirds.

7. While the cake is cooling, whip the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until it reaches a soft peak stage. Fill the cake layers with the whipped cream and diced strawberries. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the outside of the cake.

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