Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Classic Chocolate Cake with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cream

This chocolate cake is baked to award my two daughters. They helped in cleaning the house by tidying up their study room.  It feels good to spruce up and clean up the house to welcome New Year.

2013 has come to an end.   On one hand,  I am  full of anticipation for what New Year has to offer.  On the other hand,  I feel nostalgic as I reflect the past year.  I guess it's common for adults to have mixed feelings about New Year. As for kids, they are always so happy. A piece of simple homemade chocolate cake can put big smiles on their faces.


I am not a big fan of chocolate cake. That's why I have never blogged about a chocolate cake before.   I chose this cake to get started as it's so easy.  Just like baking a butter cake, all the ingredients can be processed in a electric mixing bowl.  No extra step such as melting chocolate bars.  However, the cake is smooth, melting and chocolatey. With peanut butter cream frosting,   it tastes especially luscious.   My daughters love it.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER CREAM
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)


Ingredients
  • 170g butter, softened        
  • 1½ cup (265g) brown sugar       
  • 2 eggs        
  • 1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda       
  • 1½ cup (375ml) milk       
  • 2¼ cups (335g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted       
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder, sifted        
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa, sifted
chocolate peanut butter cream
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g peanut butter (creamy)      
  • 2 cups (320g) icing sugar mixture, sifted
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa, sifted
  • ¼ cup (60ml) milk


Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 160ºC (320ºF). Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well.
  2. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and add to the butter mixture with the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat until combined. Spoon into a lightly greased 22cm-square cake tin lined with baking paper.
  3. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.
  4. For the frosting, beat the butter and peanut butter until pale and creamy. 
  5. Add the icing sugar, cocoa and milk and beat until fluffy. Spread over the cake. 


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Korean Mixed Fruits Rice Cake Bars

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all my lovely readers!  Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

Today is Boxing Day, a day for us to spend with family and friends and eating up the leftovers :).  I have 200g mixed fruits, left from baking two Christmas fruit cakes last week (one for my family, one for my colleagues. It was a hit in the office, everyone loved it). Have you tried flavorful Korean rice cake bars? 

Korean rice cake bars have wonderful coconut milk and fruity flavour. They are crispy on the outside, and chewy  gooey inside. Trust me, they are perfect party starters!

I love this recipe, it's so simple and the filling can be adapted to any choice of nuts and dried fruits. You can adjust the amount of sugar depends on the sweetness you desire. For me, I did not add sugar at all. The flavor came from the moist and juicy fruits!












KOREAN MIXED FRUITS RICE CAKE BARS

Ingredients
  • 200g store-bought mixed fruits (rum soaked)
  • 2 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • ⅓ cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • walnuts (coarsely chopped), dessicated coconut for decoration

Directions
  1. Combine and mix together all the ingredients for the batter in a large mixing bowl: glutinous rice flour, milk, coconut cream, baking powder and vegetable oil (The consistency will be similar to pancake batter)
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  3. Add the mixed fruits, mix until just combined.
  4. Line a 10x10 inch baking pan with non-stick baking paper. Pour the batter into the pan. 
  5. Top with walnuts and desiccated coconut. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Do a skewer test, if the skewer comes out clean, it means that the rice cake are cooked through
  6. Cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or cold.



Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mini Blueberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is the most popular dessert in my family.  When we have cravings,  these individual mini cheesecakes are all we need to feel satisfied. Topped with fruit jam, they look elegant, and taste fabulous.


I always use my 6 cup muffin pan to prepare these mini cheesecakes.  With one pack of 250g cream cheese, they are just the right portion sizes for my family. 

Use crushed Oreo biscuits and butter as the base.
 Top with cream cheese mixture. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 160°C.
 Cool and refrigerate for a few hours. 
When ready to serve, top with fruit jam. 

It's quick and easy. Bon appétit !


MINI BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
(Adapted from Christine's recipe)


Ingredients

For crust
  • 120g Oreo biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (30g)

For filling
  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg

For decoration
  • blueberry preserve
  • fresh blueberry

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, add biscuit crumbs and melted butter. Stir until combined. Divide the mixture between muffin tins lined with paper cups. Press down firmly to make crust.
  2. In a bowl add in softened cream cheese,  sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Add egg one at a time, beat well.
  3. Divide cream cheese mixture between the muffin cups. Fill almost to the top.
  4. Bake in the oven preheated to 160°C for about 30 minutes, or until center is almost set.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6. Top with blueberry preserves and fresh blueberry before serving.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Cake - December Potluck at IHCC

One more week to Christmas. Can't believe it's end of the year again. Driving on the road, saw some cars decorated with reindeer antlers. They certainly make everyone smile while zooming around the city. 

The famous reindeer decoration is invented by Sue Valeri shortly after 9/11 happened. She envisioned the car flags , which were used on car windows to show patriotism, could be antlers at Christmas time, bat wings for Halloween and bunny ears for Easter.  These delightful decorations have since then gained popularity during holiday seasons all over the world.


The reindeer antlers are sold out in many supermarkets here. It's a bit too late to transform my car into a reindeer sleigh this year, but it's never too late to bake my favourite Christmas Cake.

Indeed, I always bake this cake a few weeks before Christmas.  Soak the mixed fruit in rum for a week before baking, and sprinkle a tablespoon of rum everyday to provide the moisture after baking.  The cake is rich, dark , moist and smells lovely.  I enjoyed preparing and baking the cake as much as tasting it.

The recipe is adapted from Donna Hay. The original recipe calls for brandy, I replaced with rum. I baked the whole cake in a Bundt pan, which brings more festival feelings.

It's Potluck time again at I ♥ Cooking Clubs, just in time for the holidays! Click the link and check out all the fabulous treats that everyone made.


CHRISTMAS CAKE
(Original recipe can be found from Donna Hay website)

Ingredients
  • 400g store-bought dried mixed fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, papaya, lemon peels)
  • ½ cup (125ml) rum
  • 1 cup (175g) brown sugar 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (227g ) 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 100g chopped nuts (almond, walnuts)
  • 4 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • Icing-sugar for dusting       

Directions
  1. Place fruit mix in a bowl and pour over rum.  Cover and allow to soak for at least 8 hours and up for a week.  
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C. .
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add egg one at a time, beat well.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon powder, milk,  and soaked mixed fruits. Mix until just combined. 
  5. Spoon into a well greased Bundt Pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cakes are firm. While still hot, splash cake with a tablespoon extra rum. Allow to cool.
  6. Dust icing sugar for decoration. 


Monday, 16 December 2013

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Do you know the coldest temperature ever recorded in Singapore? It's 20.6 deg C on 2 Dec 1964. That's amazing for a place situated near equator!   Though it happened almost 50 years ago, it's generally cooler in December with average highest temperature of 29.9 deg C.   On a cold rainy day like today, enjoy a steaming bowl of homemade soup, it not only warms the body, but also the soul.
 

After almost 3 months since I noted down creamy pumpkin soup recipe, I finally made it last Saturday.  I was surprised and delighted how inexpensive and savoury this creamy soup was. The wonderful thing is , it did not take too much time as I thought.

I used microwave to cook the pumpkin. Chop it roughly, put into a container with some water. Heat up for 10 minutes. The pumpkin chunks are cooked through and can be peeled easily.

In a saucepan, fry onion and garlic with olive oil until fragrant. Add store-bought chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add cooked pumpkin, heavy cream and season with cinnamon powder, nutmeg, salt and white pepper.  Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, or  until it reaches a thick consistency.  Transfer to a food processor to puree until smooth.  Hearty delicious pumpkin soup is ready to serve!

To make it vegan, you can replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth, the heavy cream with coconut milk.  Make it as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Your taste buds will be grateful!
 
 
CREAMY PUMPKIN SOUP
(recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
 
Ingredients:
  • 500g-600g pumpkin, cut into chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed 
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • white pepper, salt to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parsley leaves for garnish

Directions:
  1. In a microwave safe container, add pumpkin chunks and some water. Heat up for 10 minutes or until pumpkin is cooked through.
  2. Remove from microwave, peel the pumpkin chunks, and smash with the back of a ladle. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, fry the onion and garlic with olive oil until fragrant. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add cooked pumpkin and heavy cream. Stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper and salt.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until reach creamy consistency.
  4. Transfer the soup to a food processor, puree until smooth. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with parsley leaves. Serve immediately.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Fill the Tins with Blueberry Jam Sandwich Cookies

My cookies tin is empty now. The classic chocolate cookies I baked a few days ago went really fast.  Need to fill the cookies tin again.  Otherwise, Santa would  have nothing to snack on when he drops by my house on Christmas Eve :). 


These blueberry jam sandwich cookes are so adorable. Dust with icing sugar,  they remind me of  beautiful, glimmering snowflakes swaying to the ground on an icy day.  I start missing winter already...

Even though Santa loves chocolate cookies more, I am sure he would be delighted with these crumbly cookies as well. With a glass of warm milk, it would be a delectable treat on a moonlit night!


BLUEBERRY JAM SANDWICH COOKIES
(Recipe adapted from William-Sonoma)

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup (180 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups blueberry or other fruit jam
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together the butter and lemon zest until light.
  3. Add the granulated sugar and beat until completely incorporated.
  4. Add the whole egg and egg yolk and beat until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Gather the dough into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  5. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
  6. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Using decoratively shaped cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 10-15 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool.
  9. Spread the jam on the bottoms of half of the cookies, spreading it lightly at the edges. Top with the remaining cookies, bottoms down.
  10. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fill the Tins with Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's said that on Christmas eve, children in the United States and Canada leave cookies and milk by the chimney for Santa Claus as he may get hungry while delivering all those presents. How sweet!  Wondering what is Santa's favorite cookies? Has his taste changed over the years?


During this jolly festival season,  no matter what our religious beliefs, we enjoy meeting friends with delicious food and gift-giving.  Cookies are perfect as a gift or as a snack to serve at gatherings.  To fill my cookies tins, I baked Shortbread cookies last week. This week,  I chose classic chocolate chip cookies made with butter and brown sugar.  Simple and flavorful. Could these cookies be Santa's favorite?  I am not sure, but my daughters, who are huge fans of  homemade Famous Amos Cookies, finished one batch of  them, hot freshly from the oven !

If you find it hard to get into the joy of the holiday,  make these easy cookies at home and fill a nice cookies tin. It is a delicious and a festive way to get in the spirit of Christmas!

In I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are busy Filling the Tins with Donna Hay's recipe. This chocolate chip cookies recipe is another good and foolproof one.  If you prefer soft and chewy chocolate cookies, add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. That's the only change I made.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Recipe from Donna Hay)
 
Ingredients
  • 180g unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup (120g) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (300g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch (optional)      
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped

Directions      
  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy.
  2. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and beat until a smooth dough forms. Fold through the chocolate.
  3. Roll 2 tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and press to flatten. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden.
  4. Allow to cool on the trays.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Oven-Baked Matchstick Rosemary Potatoes

Try this oven-baked matchstick potatoes. It's fast and fabulous!  I baked them this morning before preparing our Sunday brunch.  It's a great snack and a much healthier choice as compared to traditional french fries. With olive oil, you don't have to worry about the calories. Healthy and delicious!


I used 800g Holland potatoes bought from supermarket, peeled and sliced.  Tossed with olive oil and salt.  Baked for 30 minutes, added 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Continued for another 5-10 minutes. Rosemary gives off herbal and subtly menthol fragrance, smells so fresh! Research said the smell could boost your memory and enhance the ability to remember events and to complete tasks at particular times. No wonder I texted a group of friends for the upcoming Christmas gathering, in the midst of baking these lovely matchstick potatoes! The memories of those days working in the training field kept flashing in my mind this morning :).

Let me share with you a few tricks before you start baking these potato sticks.

- Use parchment paper to line your baking tray, otherwise potatoes may stick to your baking tray and not easy to scrub them off.
- Do not toss the potatoes during baking so the side that’s touching the parchment paper will get nice and crisp.
-Turn on top grill for 2-3 minutes before take out the potatoes from the oven. This will make your potatoes nicely browned.  

Well, if you are familiar with Donna Hay, you would know her recipes are perfect for the busy cook, without any compromises in terms of flavour and good looks. Yes, matchstick rosemary potatoes is one of those fast and fabulous recipes. This week in I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are cooking a dish that is less than 30 minutes to make. Though this snack took a little longer than 30 minutes to serve, it actually took me only 10 minutes to prepare, and my oven did the rest of the "work" for me.

MATCHSTICK ROSEMARY  POTATOES
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)

Ingredients
  • 800g potatoes, peeled and sliced       
  • ¼ cup (50ml) olive oil
  • salt to taste 
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC (425ºF).
  2. Place the potato, oil and salt on a baking tray and toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, add the rosemary and cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden and crispy. Serve immediately.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

If you like shortbread, this recipe is the one!  Compared to Scottish shortbread I made last year for Christmas, I had doubts these would be any good with only four ingredients. However, these cookies are just incredible. They taste like Chessmen cookies from Pepperidge Farm.

You've got to use really good quality ingredients, like SCS unsalted butter and real vanilla extract. Otherwise, the flavor maybe ruined.  I’d say these shortbread cookies are fantastic, but I have a confession to make. I inadvertently made a major change to the recipe. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter. That means two sticks  (227g) of butter. For some reason, though, I was thinking it was one stick of butter. So I only used ~120g of butter. The cookies were still very, very good and were well received.  If you want a reduced fat version, try making it with just one stick of butter.  The dough is dry and crumbly, which made it easy to cut out with cookie cutters. With 2 stick of butter, I guess you would have to use cookie press as the dough would be sticky. After all, cookies like this is meant to be shared for a special occasion. They are crunchy on the outside with wonderful butter flavor.  After bake, I sprinkled with coloured sugar, which made them a blissful gift for Christmas!

 
I would definitely make again with some strawberry or bluberry preserves in the center. These cookies are great for decoration.
 
SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients
  • 1 stick (120g) butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F(180°C).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in vanilla; add flour and mix well.
  3. Cut out cookies with cookie cutter, and place onto the baking sheet.   
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown on the bottom .

Original recipe from allrecipes.com.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff) with Custard Filling

Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff) is a luxury dessert that can be easily made at home.  Since I have seven egg yolks left after making "beauty" dessert, I decided to use them to make custard filling for Pâte à Choux (cream puff).   There is nothing like homemade creamy, milky and buttery custard to go with choux puff - it's so nice!   
 

I like to use microwave to make custard, very convenient and can save a lot of time.  Within 10 minutes, smooth and creamy custard is ready (see recipe below).  As for Pâte à Choux,  you will never go wrong with Michael Rulman's recipe. He blogged about Pâte à Choux twice in 2009, and the entries were posted in his cooking books, one of which is Elements of Cooking.  He applies his famous ratio into this recipe: equal parts water and egg, half as much flour and butter. That's it. 

For those who are not used to piping bags, I suggest you use ice-cream scoop.  It really works well.  Dip the scoop in the choux paste, and plop the ball on the baking sheet. You’ll end up with balls of choux paste all the same size with rounded top. They look much like tiny cabbage after baking. You know what, the word choux in French means cabbage :).  

 
These golden puffs are light and crisp. With delicious custard filling, it's a double treat!  They are easy to make and gone really fast.  A great dessert to serve your family and friends.
 

EGG CUSTARD (MICROWAVE VERSION)
(Recipe adapted here)

Ingredients
  • 250g milk
  • 50-60g egg yolk (~ 3 eggs)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g cake flour
  • 10g corn flour
  • 20g butter (unsalted)  
Directions:
  1. Heat up milk in microwave for 3 minutes, or, bring to a boil.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar. Add in cake flour, corn flour and mix well.
  3. Add boiled milk slowly to the flour mixture, stir well.
  4. Transfer to a microwave safe container, cover with cling wrap. 
  5. Heat up for 5 minutes (take out and stir every one minute) until reach desired consistency.
  6. Take out from microwave, add melted butter and mix well.
  7. Set aside.
Note: I doubled the ingredients to use up my 7 egg yolks.


PATE A CHOUX (CREAM PUFF PASTRY)
(Recipe from Michael Rulman)
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup eggs (4 large eggs)
Directions
  1. Bring the water and butter to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour and stir rapidly. The flour will absorb the water quickly and a dough will form and pull away from the sides. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a bowl if you're using a hand mixer. 
  2. Add the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste. The paste will go from shiny to furry, slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated. The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.
  3. Spoon  or pipe it onto a baking sheet . Remember to press the peaks down with a moistened finger.
  4. Bake in a hot oven (425 for 10 minutes, 350 for another half hour or so, is ideal) .
Note:  I  used ice-cream scoop at step 3.



Sunday, 1 December 2013

Coconut and Prawn Soup (Steamed)

Yesterday, we watched two movies in a roll. One is The Hunger Game: Catching Fire, chosen by my elder daughter. Another one is Frozen, chosen by my younger one. Initially, I tried to convince them to watch only one of the movies. However, they both preferred the one they chose, and did not want to give in. Since it's school holiday now, I decided to watch both movies, and really glad we did that. "Fire" and "Frozen" are equally fantastic and entertaining! No wonder they set worldwide box office record.
 

Speaking of entertaining,   I Heart Cooking Clubs also set Easy Entertaining as the theme of the week.  It's to cook a dish that is perfect for serving to guests but, easy to prepare.  

Coconut and Prawn Soup recipe from Donna Hay's website caught my attention as it calls for red curry paste. I bought a jar of red curry paste and cooked Thai Red Curry Fish not long ago.  Thought of cooking the same dish again to use up the leftover paste, but coconut and prawn soup sounds a better idea.  I whipped up the soup in about half an hour, easy and delicious! 

The soup is steamed in a large casserole dish. To serve your guests, you can divide the soup between 6 x ½ cup-capacity (125ml) ramekins.  Served with lemon wedges, the soup tastes fresh and sumptuous!

Here is how I prepared the dish:

Wash the prawns and peel them with tails intact. Place in a large dish.
Wash the oyster mushrooms, grate the ginger, chop the scallions.
Mix coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, ginger and scallions.
Pour mixture into the dish, and steam for 15 minutes.
Serve warm with lemon wedges. 

Here is the recipe: 

COCONUT AND PRAWN SOUP
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)

Ingredients
  • 2 cups (500ml) coconut milk  ( *I used one cup coconut milk and one cup of evaporate milk as I only have 1 cup coconut milk left)      
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3cm piece (15g) ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 12 oyster mushrooms
  • 12 green (raw) prawns (shrimp), peeled with tails intact 
  • micro herbs and lime wedges, to serve ( * herbs ommited as I don't have on hand

Directions
  1. Place the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce and ginger in a large dish and mix to combine.
  2. Place the ramekins in steamer steam for 15 minutes or until prawns are cooked through. serve warm with lime wedges.
For original recipe, clcik here.


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