Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Call me a Timbuktu'er, I never had flourless chocolate cake. I have heard a hundred times that people went ohh-ahh over it. I read the recipe a while ago. The fact that eggs are main ingredient ....er...this doesn't impress me very much. I was visioning eggy taste with some kind of dry sponge, nothing fancy.

Until one day I met with a diner/food guru who writes food-related articles in a magazine. She said that she looooooove flourless chocolate cake. Okay , that's it. I will bake this myself. I 've got to trust her taste buds. Why not, she is a guru.
The recipe I tried was of Martha's web site. There are several great recipes available but I chose this one because less butter is required. Reason? I know you can guess. And of course, there are many others who prefer butter-rich recipes, but ....let me tried this one , the photo on Martha's looks really nice.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan, and line with parchment cut to fit. I also lined parchment paper on the side so that it's 2-inch higher from the pan as the batter tends to double in the oven (then deflates when cold). See below is my first batch, without extra parchment wall. The batter almost overflew.

Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Or, for me, I microwaved them in low heat, just half melted.

With a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale and creamy. Add espresso and salt, and beat for 1 minute, just to combine. Add vanilla and chocolate mixture, and beat for 1 minute.

In a clean bowl , whisk egg whites until foamy. Slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. The first addition, I used whisk, to make chocolate mixture thinner. It's okay if the batter deflates a little, whisk in gently just until blend. Do not overwork, white streaks left in the bowl are so okay. Now switch to spatula, add the more whites, fold in gently but quickly, turn the bowl while folding.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. When it was baking half way through, I could see the batter almost double in volume and that my extra walls of parchment paper came in to play. 10 minutes later, my kitchen smelled like chocolaty heaven. Once done, the side will slightly shrink from edge. To check the doneness you can insert too pick and see if it comes out clean.

Let cool completely in pan on a rack. The cake will defalte in the center, that is how it is suppose to be. Remove parchment. Be gentle as the cake is fragile.

I skipped The Glaze as mentioned in Martha's website. But it would be nice for decorating. Here is glaze recipe.

Make the glaze: Place chocolate, butter, and vanilla in a bowl, set aside. Bring remaining ingredients [cream, sugar, espresso,salt] to a boil, stirring, remove from heat, and pour the boiled ingredients over chocolate mixture in the bowl. Whisk until smooth. Serve glaze warm with cake.

Verdict: Anyone see me tasting my first-bite would have called an ambulance. My pupil overwhelmingly dilated with surprise. The bite was tiny but the tasted was packed. It's chocolaty and very very and very light. I drifted away.

I baked this goodie on March 18th. It was not weekend but it indeed was a special occasion. It was my mom's birthday. Her favorite cake is always something associated with fruits i.e. fruitcake, orange-curd cake, blackforest (of course with cherry filling). She also like chocolate cakes especially the fluffy one. I am so sure she and her gangster would love this.

This is my mom, my sister, and me, 9-month old.

Some facts about my mom vs. her culinary world

- She collects baking wares. (repeat.... "collects").

- She bought a then-state-of-art oven in 1980s, but she never used it. I found this treasure "x" years later when I was 18, And that was my starting point of baking addiction. Note that it is not common in Asian household to have an oven. Free-standing style could be bought in store, with limited choices. Built-in oven was considered luxurious. So imagine 20 years ago (!) As if she knew, I would use it more frequent than my MP3. And I have to tell her, the oven is worth every penny she spent.

- Not long after I discovered the oven, I digged out for more, I found a hand mixer and some other rusty items, and a swirling copper whisk ! I tried to find a photo of that wierd-looking whisk which is non-existent nowadays.

One week later, I found a bag of expired pancake flour. OMG, since when did she became a amateur baker. As far as I recall, she was a busy entrepreneur who had two little monsters running around.

- Don't scream if I tell you I am still using "that" oven and "that" hand mixer I digged out from store room. And yes, everything you see on this blog was baked /made/whisked out of almost-20-year-old oven hand mixer. So far, they serve me very well. They are Moulinex's.

- I recalled that, the one and only cake my mom baked was made out of instant cake flour (I think when I was in pre-elementary school and my sister was a third grader?) It was dense and burnt. Well, the oven was good for reheating pizzas but not baking (which is why it burnt). My mom gave a piece to my sister to taste. My sister vanished quickly without a trace. I tasted and I told my mom that it tasted really nice and yummy. What happened next? my mom told me that I was lucky and that I could have to whole tray of (burnt) cake. I stood there trying to figure out what to do....I cried (come on, I was six!)

- She is really good at making ba-jang or Zong zi 粽子, steamed sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves with marinated pork and mushroom. I am certain she could made her fortune out of this if she turned this hobby into business.

- A few years ago, I told her I needed to lose weight. She prepared such healthy and unbelivably delicious breakfasts for me and my sister every day. I lost 4 pound in 2 months without being bitterly skipped meals.

- My mom complained whenever I baked at midnight. She feared of short-circuit as the oven was old. Ya, she has made her point. Unfortunately, I got inspired by nice-looking photos in my cooking book at 10 pm and...I do what I have to do....sorry.

- My old habit persists. Whenever I have free time on weekend, I digged out in store room with the hope to discover interesting (unused) baking equipment.

- I never could have found out what I love to do until that "oven-discovery" day. Thanks mom.

I wish I had a few candle on the cake. The piece below contains zero calories, if you consume it by eyes only.

Mmm..should I sing a birthday song a bit?

(me singing) Happy Birthday to you...Happy birthday to you....Happy birthday...happy birthday..y...y.

Happy birthday to Mami..i..i.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie

When I was in college, I recalled my Sunday mornings started with a 4k jog. You know, every girls want to get tiny, including me. What I did after the regular jog was irregular. I drove to my favorite bakery house and had a piece of blueberry cream cheese pie. Oh no, don't judge me as yet, until you try this. Don't' ask me if I succeeded in getting slim. Well, I was not in a bad shape after all.
Prep time: 1hr and 2-3 hr to chill

Pie base
200 g graham cracker or cookie crumb
100 g butter, soften or melt it in to room temp liquid.

250 g cream cheese, room temperature (I use Philadelphia, don’t use low-fat)
200 g sweetened condensed milk
75 g lime juice

Topping- 1 can of cherry filling. (I used up 350 g for topping)

9-inch removable pie pan or disposable foil pan

Put crackers in electric mixer, pulse until become fine crumbs or until sandy, set aside in a medium bowl. Soften butter in microwave under medium heat. It is okay if it melts, but try not to over heat it. Pour butter on the cracker crumbs, mix with spatula or if you don’t mid getting your hand greasy, feel free to play with it. Mix these thoroughly, ensure no big chunk of butter left.

Now, grab about ¼ cup of the mixture, squeeze it lightly in your palm and see if it holds together nicely. If not, add 10 g-15 g of melted butter. The ratio of butter: cracker I have here yields pretty good base. But again, it depends on crackers available in your neighborhood, if they have low fat content, you may add more butter. However, I find out that more is better than less. Imagine when you cut the pie and that the base falls apart in crumbs, that wouldn’t look very nice huh?

Press crackers in removable pie pan. I prefer to press firmly against bottom and sides. In a 9 inch pan, pie crust will be 0.5 cm thick and the sides are 1 cm high. If you use 8-inch pan, you’ll have a little thicker crust. Wrap with plastic and rest in fried until firm, around 1-2 hours.

Filling – I use Philadelphia cream cheese. which comes in a 250 g bar. Once, I tried the low-fat version. It turned out cream cheese batter was too runny. And no matter how long I refrigerated it, it was not firmed and could not hold the topping. Meaning?….cherry sank to the bottom and create bruise -looking pie.....which suits for Halloween.

Before you beat cream cheese, ensure it is soft enough to twist. I usually bring it out directly from the fridge and warm in microwave under low heat for 1 minute. I mixed with hand mixer for about 10 minutes until fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk. Beat until well blend. Scrape the side and bottom of the bowl. Continue beating until there are no lumps.

Gradually add lime juice. My advice for those who don’t like sour taste is to add half portion, beat until just well blend and taste. For me, I would go for the whole 75 g (4 limes). I love tanginess. It goes so well with mild sweet cherry topping. So I didn’t scale back the lime. Note also that the sourness varies with seasons and locations. I made this a few times and it is difficult to keep it tastes the same every time. For me, I just trust my tongue, mix-in ¾ lime juices, then taste, and gradually add juice depends on my mood at the moment.

Pour cream cheese batter in prepared pie crust, chill until firm, preferably 2-4 hr. It is important to let it completely set in fridge, otherwise it won’t be able to hold cherry topping.

A few hours later, lay cherry topping softly and evenly. Refrigerate until serve.

This goody can be made one day ahead.

Cut into 10 pieces : 330 calories per serving . Meaning, my 4 k run is pretty much to make room for a small piece of pie....which is .......WORTH IT!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Strawberry roll with sweet coconut topping

The strawberry roll itself is really good. It is even better with the coconut crust. Ya, I've just made coconut cake a few days ago. I'd call it a coconut week.

Oh by the way, Last week was international women day. Salute to you all, ladies ! I know you are grabbing forks, but does anyone making tea? Come on dig in!

You know what, I never liked jam roll. It's not attractive. I have no idea since when I like it. But I've been making 4 pans of rolls within these two weeks. I think it is a real challenge whether or not I would roll it up nicely without breaking the sponge, let alone leave the brown skin in attached nicely on it. It really is.

Taste wise, the strawberry roll itself is good, not overly sweet given jam layer is extra thin. It comes to a surprise with brown coconut crust. Seriously, I haven't thought that a jam roll could be any fancier then putting butter cream on top .... but this brown coconut thing is interesting, don't you think?

Here goes the recipe


150 g of cake flour ( I replaced 30 g with corn flour for milder texture)
6 egg yolks
80 g water
50 g sugar
2 tsp baking powder
100 g vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

6 egg white
50 g sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar ( I skipped this)

Filling - 1 cup of your favorite jam + 1 tbsp of lime juice.

100g butter, melted
60g sugar
2 eggs
120 g dried coconut flakes
30g milk
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Grease 9x12 inch roll pan

Sift flour and baking power, set aside.

In a big bowl, mix in yolks, oil,50 g of sugar, water,vanilla. Whisk until sugar crystals dissolve. Whisk in the flour lightly until well incorporated or until no lumps.

In another bowl, whisk egg whites, cream of tartar and 50 g of sugar until it forms soft but stable peak. Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into flour+egg mixture, using whisk. This is to make flour mixture a bit runny so that it is easier to fold in the rest of the whites.

Fold in the rest of white, in 3 batches, using spatula. My technique is to cut in the middle and fold along side while the other hand is rotating the bowl. Do the cut-fold-turn quickly but gently. To check, drag spatula in the bottom of bowl if there are flour lumps. Again, do not overwork, as the cake relies on egg white bubbles to rise, folding too much will deflate them. Plus, overworking will agitate the gluten, the cake may turn a bit rubbery.

Once done, pour batter in prepared tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from tray and cool down on rack. Do not leave this on hot tray as it continues to cook that way.

Flip and roll- cover cooling rack with plastic wrap. Now the flipping part, you have to be quick. One hand over the cake, flip, then lay the sponge cake on working table. Or you may cover the tray with plastic wrap, put the rack over the tray , then flip.

Now imagine you are about to roll up, arrange the long side (12 inch) facing you. Start rolling up by pulling plastic wrap and roll up firmly. You can see how to roll up the roll here. . What I did differently from the clip are that I rolled up from the long side while youtube clip started from the short side. And I used plastic wrap instead of tea towels.

Let it sit for a while about 1/2 hr, to let it curl up. Then, unroll it, spread jam thinly and evenly. Roll it back to shape firmly and wrap with plastic wrap. Set aside while preparing topping.

Preheat oven to 200 c.

For the Crust - mix everything in the bowl. Beat until well-incorporated.

Spread crust mixture over and on the sides. Return to the oven, place on the top rack, and bake until the crust turns brown.

Once done, it tends to loosen up a bit. Don't' worry, I just let it cool down until okay to touch. Then wrap it up firmly with plastic wrap to reshape it. I put in the fridge for a while until it cools down completely or until serve.

My kitchen smell nice for hours!

The roll is good for a few days in the fridge. Lovely is it?

Coconut Cake

I missed fresh coconut badly. If you happen to visit Thailand, do not hesitate to try one(s). I'm sure you'll get addicted to it, just like me.

Too bad I live in a city where coconut is considered an exotic fruit. All I have was dried young coconut meat I bought from Thailand. Nowadays I've seen quite a few bakery shops make this kind of cake, and of course they are so..o..o good. I tried to replicate one with vanilla sponge, filled with self-made coconut creme paste. Here is the recipe.

For the sponge
(A) Ingredients - The Dries

90 g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
35 g sugar
1/4 salt

(B) Ingredients - The Yolks
4 egg yolks
32 g coconut milk ( I replace this with unsweetened condensed milk, or just milk)
25 g coconut juice ( I replace this with water)
32 g vegetable oil

(C) Ingredients - The Whites
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp creme of tartar
35 g sugar
Preheat the oven at 180 C. Prepare 9x12 jelly roll pan with wax paper, greased.

Sift together the dries (A). Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together (B) ingredients, just to incorporate until sugar crystals disappear. Don't need to whisk until it gets fluffy though. Set aside.

Put (A)-the dry ingredients into (B) egg yolk mixture. Well, some prefer to do the other way around, by putting the wets to the dries as the flour won't dust up the counter top. For me I prefer to wet one bowl. Gradually whisk together make sure there is no lumps left.

In a big bowl, whisk 4 whites and creme of tartar together until it forms white foam. Gradually add sugar and beat until it forms soft peaks when you lift the whisk.

Fold in the whites mixture to the egg yolks mixture. But wait, the egg yolks mixture is thick and the whites mixture is thin. Folding these together all at once need more strokes thus deflate the batter. In order to get the same consistency, I scooped out 1/4 of whites in the the egg yolk mixture then use the whisk , stir lightly. Now the batter is a bit runny, fold in the whites ,in three batched. Use spatula to mix in each batch just to incorporate. Each time you add the whites, it is okay that the batter leaves whites streaks. Try to fold quickly but gently as possible. The final add should yield consistency batter with no lumps of flour or streaks of whites.

Pour in prepared pan, put in the lower rack for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.

Let cool completely on the rack.

Coconut filling
125 g of coconut creme (I used milk)
125 g of evaporated unsweetened milk (I used milk)
150 g of young coconut juice (I used water+2 tablespoon of sugar)
40 g sugar
15 g corn flour
1/4 salt
1-1.5 cups of young coconut meat
30 g butter


1 cups of White chocolate bits , melted
2 tbsp of milk
2 cups of Coconut flakes

Put everything in the pot except coconut meat and butter. Stir well. Put on double-boiling and stir continuously. The golden rule of making this, as most of you are well-aware, is to pay full attention so as to not getting it hard-cooked. I don't have double boiling, so I put the pot on direct heat on a very low low heat (unless you have quick hands). Ya...keep stirring. And no....don't pick up any phone calls, you can do that later. Once it is thicken remove from heat for a while, stir for half minute. Put it back to heat, it will be creme-liked. I tasted creme at this stage, while continue stirring to check the doneness. If you taste the floury / starchy taste in your mouth, put it back to heat.

Once done, stir in butter until incorporates well. Then stir in the coconut meat.
To assemble the cake, cut the 9x12 inch cake in half so that you yield two 9x6 inch cake sheets. While the filling still warm, spread it on the cake evenly. Put the other half on top, press gently.

To make topping, microwave white chocolate bits and milk in medium heat until they melt. Stir until they are well blended and have nice spreading consistency. Brush it on the top of of cake. Immediately sprinkle coconut flakes on top and press gently.

Leave until completely cool before you make the first cut.

Notes on coconut - Coconut meat I used in this recipe is of the young ones. If you go the the supermarket and see brown/hard shell coconut without its fluffy-spongy white jacket, it is an aged coconut. Its meat is used to for coconut creme which is high on fat content. The juice of aged coconut is not editble/drinkable.

If coconut is not avalilable in your area. You can whip up whipping cream and fold in flaky coconut. This is good for filling and topping as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sesame Walnut Bread

I am huge fan of nuts and I am a chewing-monster. I have been planning this for a big while but never had a chance. Making bread is somehow time-consuming (3-hr prep time). I am agree .... but the result worths it.

Walnuts go so well with bread. No reason, they just good with bread texture. Imagine if I put almonds (?) ehhh...na ! peanuts...ehh...ne! My favorite walnut bread is store-bought which is very very and very buttery. Since I intend to make a loaf of hearty bread, I put just enough butter as you can see in the ingredients below
500 g of wheat flour
140 g of cold water
5 g of instant active yeast
3 g of bread improver ( you can skip this)
1 egg
80 g of brown sugar.
1/2 cup of ground black sesame
1/2 cup of lightly roasted walnut (broken into pieces by hand)
a pinch of salt
Filling - Mix everything together to form paste and set aside.
3 tablespoon of melted butter
1 cup of ground black sesame.
1/2 cup of lightly roasted walnut (broken into piece by hand)
1/2 - 1 cup brown sugar - depend on your preference
Put together dry ingredients in the bowl, except salt and ground black sesame and walnuts, stir briefly. Add salt, this is to ensure yeast and salt are not put next to each other. Stir in 135-140 g cold water and 1 egg. Knead roughly until the dough comes together in one lump, 2-3 minutes. Don’t worry if the dough seems dry and tough. It will be pliable once add butter. Add soften butter. Continue kneading until the dough is flexible enough to stretch into window pane. I used small hand mixer with dough hooks, it took me around 20 minutes. Once I kneaded with hands, it took pretty much the same time, but my shoulders were worn out. That was a great work out but I would prefer that off-the kitchen.

Sprinkle ground sesame on the dough and knead by hand until well blended. The dough now turns to grayish/ spotted dough. Be careful though, the more you add dry ingredients like ground sesame, the dryer the dough becomes. So, be sure to stop if the dough is not workable with your hands or it will become a brick. My experiment, next time, I will make it a pitch dark bun, I wonder how far I can go.

Form a ball and put the dough in a well-greased bowl, wrap with plastic. Let it rise in a warm place for 30 min. My kitchen was 12 C , way to cold for the yeast to leaven. So I warmed up the oven to 160 c for 3 min then turned off , splash some water to make fog. I doubt if one-day my mini-oven would go short-circuit as water leaks into the place where it is not supposed to be!. Anyway, I get used to stick my hand in the middle of oven, to feel it's not too hot. This is just to mimic a cozy home for my lovely dough. Kids...don't follow my instruction on this and you should not do this at home. This applies strictly on my oven , it is difficult to advise how long you should turn you oven on though. If you have thermometer, the ideal temperature for the unbaked bread to rise is around 80F or 27 C , preheat the oven accordingly.

I put the bowl in the middle rack. Be sure to put some cloth under the bowl as it tends to be overheated by direct contact to the hot iron grid that supports the bowl.

Before I go further, you can follow instruction from baking911 on how to let the dough rise in the warm oven. Be careful, I have made many disasters before. Okay, I see your curious eyes...what I did was turning on the oven a few minutes, splash water in. The oven was then foggy and temperature in the oven was rising...great! I put the dough inside. Then someone called, I thought it was a just 4 minutes, I came back, and dough surface was cooked. I was C-R-U-S-H-E-D. I wish I had an undo button, but too bad this was at no point of return. What did I do? First, screamed. Second, put myself together and third,.....everything went to the trash. And believe it or not, I did that twice ! Raise your hand if youhave made the same silly mistake. (dang it! no one?)

Once the dough has rest for 30 min, it should be 1.5 or 2 times of original size. Lightly sprinkle flour on table. Deflate the dough. Knead the dough briefly. Why? As we rest the dough, yeast is digesting sugar. Kneading the dough will re-distribute yeast's food evenly after the its big meal. Remember we have another rest , once we shape up the dough.

Break or chop 1/2 cup of walnuts, knead into the dough briefly. Roll out dough to a rectangle shape, 1/2 inch thick. Rotate the dough every other few strokes. This helps the dough rise evenly in the oven and also helps ensure it is not stick to table. Sprinkle some flour under the dough as you go.

Spread the filling , leave out 1/2 inch edges on all four sides so that you can seal. Roll up as tight as possible , push it forward with the lower part of you palm. Imagine now you are making strawberry roll. Seal up the edge to nicely.

If the rolled dough is kinked, you can straight it up. For final touch, cover it up with rolled oats or other grains of your choice such as sesame. Just lightly brush the dough with water, roll it over the oats.

Let the dough rise in warm place, cover with greased plastic wrap or damp cloth for 1 hour. The dough will double in size or maybe 2.5 times if your kitchen is hot and damp.

Put on the lower rack, 180 C for 20-25 minutes. If you have needle thermometer, you can check the doneness if the center of the bread reaches 88-99 C (or 190-210 F).

Let cool on the rack. Sesame smells so nice. It really is nice. I mean it. Ah ah! don't cut it while hot, it will ruin the textture and I call it disaster number two.

I myself like it a lot. My colleages love it....and no I didn't pay them to say so.....no no...never.!