Feb 29, 2008

French Bread-Daring Bakers

You probably can't tell from the photo..heehee..but the challenge this month is French Bread.. only mine looks like little French piggies...but I love my little French piggies!!! I was really excited when I saw this month's challenge. As much as I love to bake desserts, I always enjoy baking bread. Even though this recipe is very time consuming, it's really worth it!! I have already made this bread twice!!

The first time I used the Kitchen Aid..but the second time I kneaded the dough myself. I have to say I enjoy kneading much more than watching the dough hook swirl!! The bread came out great. I think I still need to work on the shaping part, but the taste was great!!

This recipe is 14 pages long, so I'm going to direct you to Breadchick for the recipe. She added a lot of great tips for bread baking success. I must've read the recipe 10 times before starting the first time. If you're going to attempt this recipe, I suggest you watch this video of Julia Child baking French bread with Danielle Forestier.

I really recommend this recipe to anyone who want to make their own bread. It's really rewarding. Although it is time consuming, most of it is wait time, not active time. The first time I made the bread, I had a rubik's cube to keep me company. The funny thing is when the bread was ready to come out of the oven...so was my rubik's cube!! I don't know what I was more proud of!

Feb 21, 2008

Chocolate covered caramels

I was doing my daily food blog reading, when I saw these beautiful caramels calling out to me from Taste and Tell. I saw those perfect cubes of caramel and I thought they would be great dipped in chocolate. I intended to make these as valentine gifts for my ladies...but...life got in the way, and I didn't have time to finish them by the 14th. They also didn't turn out as pretty as I wanted. The caramels were really sticky and soft. It was hard for me to get them to stay in the square shape.

I have never made caramel before, actually, I have never made any type of candy before. It was really fun to make the caramel. I felt like I was back in high school doing a science experiment or something. The caramel was pretty simple to make. They're really delicious on their own, but it's even better covered with some dark chocolate. The recipe listed below is half the original.

Shirley’s wonderful caramels
adapted from Candymaking by Ruth Kendrick

1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 of a 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (7 oz)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
tempered dipping chocolate, if desired

1. Butter a 9x9 baking pan; set aside. In a heavy 6 quart dutch oven, combine corn syrup, condensed milk, milk, cream, butter and sugar. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. If sugar crystals are present, wash down sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.

2. Clip on candy thermometer. Cook, stirring constantly, to 240 degrees or soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour without scraping into the prepared pan. Allow to stand at room temperature overnight. Cut into about 1 inch rectangles or squares. Wrap in waxed paper or dip in tempered chocolates. Makes 60 pieces.

3. Caramels will be less sticky and easier to cut if you resist temptation and wait 24 hours after they are cooked. A heavy, sharp knife or metal scraper does a neat job, easily and efficiently.

  • I think the next time I make these, I might line the pan with a piece of parchment paper. My caramel stuck to the pan even after I buttered it.
  • I find that if you oil your knife or metal scraper a little bit, the caramel won't stick as much.
  • The original recipe adds 1 cup of nuts with the vanilla.

Coffee Chiffon cake

Making chiffon cakes is very addicting. I think it's because of the height. I haven't always had success with chiffon cakes, and this is completely due to the fact that advertisements lie!!! When I first bought a tube pan, I bought the nonstick tube pans. The descriptions says it's perfect for making chiffon cakes and angel food cakes. NOT!!! When you make chiffon cakes, it's imperative that you have a surface that will stick. The reason is because both chiffon cakes and angel food cakes have to be cooled upside down. If you have a nonstick tube pan, the cake will fall out of your pan. If the cake is not allowed to cool upside down, you'll have a dense cake. The pan that I use is one from Wilton's and I love it.

The original recipe for this chiffon cake is called Espresso Chiffon cake. But because I didn't have any instant espresso, I used instant coffee, and doubled the amount for extra flavor. This recipe comes from Just Baking. It's a pretty straight forward recipe, and the result is great. This is a very light cake, not too sweet. It's great for a snack.

Coffee Chiffon Cake
Adapted from Just Baking

4 tablespoons instant coffee
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup unflavored vegetable oil (canola or safflower)
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (separated into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
6 extra large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325.

2. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and cut out a hole in the middle to fit the center tube of the pan. This cake is baked in an ungreased pan because greasing the pan would keep the batter from rising and gripping the sides of the pan as the cake bakes.

3. In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, dissolve the coffee powder in the water, Add the oil, vanilla and egg yolks. Whisk until well combined.

4. Over a large piece of parchment paper or bowl sift together the flour and baking powder. Add 1 cup of sugar and salt and stir together. Make a well in the center of the mixture by pushing the dry ingredients towards the side of the bowl. Add the coffee mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir together until thoroughly combined.

5. Place the egg whites in the grease free bowl of an electric mixer or in a large grease free bowl. Using the wire whip attachment or a hand held mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Slowly sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue whipping until the egg whites hold glossy and firm, but not stiff, peaks - about 5 minutes.

6. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter in 3 to 4 stages, blending thoroughly after each addition. Transfer the batter to the tube pan. Use the rubber spatula to smooth and even the top.

7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and invert it over a cooling rack onto its feet or over a funnel or a thin necked bottle. Let the cake hang to cook completely. Don’t set the pan on a cooling rack on its base. This will cause the cake to collapse onto itself.

9. Don’t shake the cake out of the pan before it is cool. Once the cake is cool. use a thin blade knife or flexible blade spatula to run across the outer edge and the inside tube to help release the cake from the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack, then reinvert onto a serving plate.

  • The original recipe puts a caramel or a chocolate glaze on the cake. I prefer mine plain. If you want the recipe for the glaze, go to Just Baking.

Feb 12, 2008

Black and White Rice Krispies treats

These rice krispies should be called pimped up rice krispies treats!! I made these rice krispies treats for a office meeting we have tomorrow. But I keep eating the edges..rationalizing that I'm cleaning up the edges, so it will be nice for the meeting!! =P I think a quarter of the pan has been "cleaned up" now. I better stop.

I highly recommend these rice krispies treats, they are the best I've ever had. As you can see, there are two layers. When I first saw these rice krispies treats on Baking Bites, I thought the bottom layer was made with cocoa puffs. But if you look at the recipe, you'll see that it's melted chocolate added to the marshmallows. Ingenious!! It gives the chocolate part a rich chocolate flavor. In the plain layer, she adds a teaspoon of vanilla to it, giving it a subtle vanilla taste!! It's such a great blend!!

Black and White Rice Krispie Treats

Baking Bites

4 tbsp butter, divided
1 1/2-oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups mini marshmallows (or 40 reg marshmallows), divided
6 1/2 cups Rice Krispies/rice bubble cereal, divided
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Line 18 muffin tins (1 1/2 standard 12-cup trays) with paper liners.

2. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt 2 tbsp butter, dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Stir frequently to fully incorporate cocoa and to prevent scorching. Add 2 cups mini marshmallows and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and melted. Add in 3 1/4 cups rice krispies and stir to combine, making sure chocolate covers the whole batch. Stir in mini chocolate chips and divide mixture evenly among prepared muffin tins, filling each 1/2 way up.

3. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt 2 tbsp butter and mini marshmallows in microwave for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are fluffy and butter is completely melted. Add in vanilla and remaining 3 1/4 cups rice krispies and stir to coat every rice krispie (feel free to scrape in a little bit of vanilla bean, if you like).

4. Divide evenly among chocolate-filling muffin tins, filling each the rest of the way up.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or let set at room temperature before serving.

  • I didn't add in the additional 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips because I didn't have them. I thought the regular sized chocolate chips would be too big.
  • I put my rice krispies treats in a 9x13 pan and cut them into squares. I think I might use a 9x9 pan next time to give the treats some height!

Feb 11, 2008

Coconut tart

My friends and I had dim sum this weekend. When we were about to leave, my friend asked me what these tarts were. I told her that they are coconut tarts...all the while remembering that I have a recipe for coconut tarts and still have lots of shredded coconuts left from the shortbread cookies. I decided to make these when I got home. These are not quite the same as the ones from dim sum. Next time I make these, I would definitely chop up my coconut more. I think it's a lot finer in the restaurants. But overall, these were very tasty, and easy to make.

Coconut Tart
from Angie's recipes

180 g All-purpose flour
35 g Icing sugar
1 small Egg
10 g Custard powder
90 g Butter, chilled

100 g Grated coconut
40 g Butter, melted
40-45 g Sugar
1 large Egg
2 tbsp Condensed milk
2 tbsp Water

1. Sift flour, icing sugar and custard powder together into a mixing bowl.
Rub in butter, using paddle of mixer or by hand, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in egg. Mix until the pastry begins to form large lumps. Press together gently with your fingers to form the pastry into a ball.

2. Chill pastry dough for about 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix all ingredients for the filling. Set aside.

3. Divide pastry into 10 portions (approx. 35 g each). Press pastry evenly into tart molds. Trim the edges to remove excessive dough. Prick base of each tart with a fork. Fill tarts with filling to about 90% full.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until pastry is cooked thoroughly. Leave the tarts in molds for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.

  • Use finely shredded coconut for a fine texture. I used shredded coconut and the texture was not quite right. Maybe grated coconut is different...

Feb 3, 2008

Strawberry shortcake cheesecake

For my dad's birthday, I wanted to make a special cake for him. I couldn't decide on a cake until I came across the Junior's cheesecake cookbook. While browsing through the book, I found a recipe for a Strawberry shortcake cheesecake. The cake looks so beautiful in the picture, I had to make it!!

This cake was a bit time consuming to make. You really need to plan ahead because the cheesecake layer needs to be refrigerated overnight. I made the cheesecake layer and the sponge cake part the night before, and assembled it the next day. The result was great!! This cake is really delicious, but oh so rich!!! I highly recommend this book, there are so many tips for making a good cheesecake. As you can see in the recipe below, they are very detailed in their instructions. All in all, this was a great find!!

Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake
Junior’s cheesecake cookbook

Cheesecake layer:
10 oz (1 cup) frozen whole strawberries, thawed and drained well
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp cornstarch
3 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 to 4 drops red food coloring (optional)

For the sponge cake (2 layers):
2/3 cup sifted cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
5 extra large eggs, separated and at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp pure lemon extract
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp cream of tartar

to assemble and frost:

2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 tbsp unflavored granulated gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1 quart heavy or whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Makes one 9-inch three layer cake, about 5 inches high

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of one 9-inch springform pan and two 9 inch round layer cake pans. Wrap the outside of the springform (but not the cake pans) with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides. Very important: line the bottom of all three pans with parchment or waxed paper (do not let the paper come up the sides).

2. Pulse the thawed strawberries in your food processor until smooth (you need ¾ cup of puree). Stir in the 1 tsp of cornstarch and set aside. It will thicken slightly as it stands.

3. Put one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. Beat in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each. Beat in the cream just until it’s completely blended. Be careful not to overmix! Fold in the strawberry puree, plus the food coloring, if you wish (use just enough to tint the batter light pink).

4. Gently spoon the batter into the springform, then place it in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes 1 inch up the sides of the springform. Bake the cake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is set, about 1 ¼ hours. Remove the cake from the water bath, transfer the tin to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan for 2 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold, about 4 hours. Then freeze overnight until ready to assemble the cake.

5. While the cheesecake is cooling, make the sponge cake layers. Check that the oven is preheated to 350 degrees and that the water bath has been removed. In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. While the mixer is still running, slowly add 1/3 cup of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts. Sift the flour mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand, just until no white flecks are visible. Blend in the melted butter.

6. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean medium size bowl and, using clean, dry beaters, beat the mixer on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry). Fold about 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then add the remaining whites. Don’t worry if you still see a few white specks-they’ll disappear during baking. Divide the batter evenly between the two layer cake pans and bake until golden (not wet or sticky) and the center springs back when lightly pressed, about 12 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto the rack and gently peel off the paper liners. Let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until ready to assemble the cake.

7. on the day you plan to assemble the cake, hull 1 quart of the strawberries, then cut them into ½ inch pieces (you need 2 cups). Reserve the remaining berries for decorating the cake.

8. Make the frosting. Place the gelatin in a heatproof measuring cup, stir in the cold water, and let stand until it swells and thickens. Cook in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds or over a pan of simmering water for about 1 minute, until clear and completely melted. In a medium size bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on high until it thickens and soft peaks just begin to form. With the mixer still running, add the sugar and beat just until the cream stands up in peaks (don’t overmix or the cream will curdle). Beat in the vanilla. Add the melted gelatin all at once and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Refrigerate the cream for at least 30 minutes (preferably no longer than 1 hour) in two bowls: 2 cups in a small bowl for piping decorations on the top of the cake and the remainder in a second larger bowl for frosting the cake. Meanwhile, remove the frozen strawberry cheesecake from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

9. Place one layer of the sponge cake, top side down, on a cake plate. Spread evenly with a thin layer of whipped cream frosting from the large bowl and half of the strawberry pieces. Release and remove the ring of the springform, then remove the frozen cheesecake from the bottom of the pan. Peel away the paper liner and place top side down on top of the frosted bottom layer. Press the cheesecake down gently, just enough so the two layers stick together but not enough for the filling to come out the sides. Top the cheesecake layer with some more whipped cream from the large bowl, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining strawberry pieces. Top with the second cake layer of sponge cake, top side up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the whipped cream in the large bowl.

10. To decorate, hull the remaining quart of berries and halve them, from top to tip. Place a ring of berries around the bottom edge of the cake, tip ends up. Using 5 or 6 berry halves, make a star in the center of the cake, pointing the tips of the berries away from the center. Fit a pastry bag with a medium closed star tip or medium open star tip and fill the cream from the small bowl. Pipe shells or rosettes around the top edge of the cake and make a large rosette on top of the strawberry pieces.

11. Refrigerate the cake until serving time (it takes at least 2 hours to allow the cheesecake to thaw enough to slice easily. Use a sharp straight edge knife, not a serrated one. Cover and leftover cake and refrigerate. Do not freeze this cake.

  • I didn't use that much frosting in my cake. I only used about 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream for the whipped cream frosting. I thought a quart was a little bit of overkill.

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