Tiramisu Take 2

I tried making Tiramisu last Saturday. This time, I added more Baileys to the mascarpone cheese. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how much Baileys I added! I think I added about 150ml. The cheese mixture became quite watery… I was worried that the cream mixture would be too watery. Fortunately, it wasn’t. Perhaps that was because I increased the cream to 600ml. I bought 2 bottles of 300ml cream. As I didn’t want any left-over cream, I whipped all 600ml.

I just tried the Tiramisu tonight. I think the liquor taste is more pronounced this time, compared to the previous attempt. I’m happy the way it is, although I think I won’t mind if more liquor is added.

No pictures…as I was too excited to try…

Some notes:

  • I added approximately 150ml of Baileys to the mascarpone cheese mixture. Best to taste to check whether it is to personal preference.
  • I used 600ml cream. This could help in mitigating the mixture becoming to watery.
  • I only prepared half the syrup, and it was sufficient. There were left-overs, but it was more manageable than the previous attempt.
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Mount Cocoa

Doesn’t this look like a mountain spewing chocolate lava…?

Chocolate lava cake is my favourite dessert – simply because I can get the maximum chocolaty effect. That’s why I was determined to learn how to bake this favourite dessert of mine.

Through research on the internet, I found out that there are 2 methods of baking this cake:

  1. cook the batter till the outsides are cooked while the interior is still molten.
  2. place a chocolate truffle in the middle of the batter. The chocolate truffle will melt, producing molten chocolate.

My favourite cookbook writer – Delia Smith – has a recipe for this type of chocolate cake. My first attempt did not produce a lava flow as I had forgotten to take into account that my pudding basins were smaller than Delia’s and did not adjust the cooking time accordingly.

My next attempt was more successful:

  • I omitted the brandy – it doesn’t appear to affect the taste of the cake.My pudding basins had a capacity of 125ml. I baked the cakes at 200 deg C (oven dial at 200 deg C) for about 6 minutes, using both top and bottom heat elements.
  • The basins should be filled nearly to the top as the cakes only rise a little during baking.
  • It’s done when the top looks cooked – when you shake the mould, the mixture does not quiver. The cake also shrinks from the side of the mould.
  • The tops should also look firm to touch (please don’t press to hard, or else the thin crust will be punctured!). The toothpick test won’t work because the centre of the cake is molten chocolate.

I had also varied the recipe by including Marks and Spencers’ Brandied Cherries (those chocolates with brandied cherry in the centre) into the batter: spoon batter till basin is about ¼ full, place chocolate on batter – do not push down, as we want the lava to be concentrated in the centre of the cake, pour more batter till the basin is almost full, the batter should cover the chocolate, bake as per normal. This variation tastes great – like a black forest cake!

This is a great dessert to serve at small dinner parties: can be prepared in advance (batter can be refrigerated and it takes a minute or 2 longer to bake), fast to cook, no fancy deco required (maybe a vanilla ice-cream) and chocolate is usually a crowd-pleaser! Well, at least the puddings pleased my hubby, mother-in-law and eldest sister-in-law… 🙂

Taking Baby Steps…

I started practising hiragana. To-date, I’ve practised writing about 30 hiragana “letters”. There are about another 40 to go… Practising how to write really helped me to read hiragana without the help of romanji!

My colleague even bought a Japanese writing book for ages 4 – 6 from Japan to encourage me learning. I glanced through the book…it looks difficult! Nevertheless, I think I shall first master the 75-odd hiragana “letters” before venturing the writing book.

Let me send my best regards to my readers…. よろしく!

Wuthering Heights…

I first did this for 2007 xmas and brought it to a xmas party. The log was well-received, despite the obvious lack of looks – it really looked like a pool of mud. I also did it for a family xmas dinner and my brother christened it “Wuthering Heights”, as if a log which had crashed during a thunderstorm….haha…so you can imagine, how terrible it looks.

The recipe is from Delia Smith. Ingredients and method are pretty straight forward, but the result….the cake always seemed too soft to roll! As a result, part of the mousse was used to cover the whole log and to patch the chipped away pieces….and as a result, “Wuthering Heights” emerged….

I am determined to get this recipe right and this time, I think I took a big step forward. The log looks kind of presentable, huh… (see picture at the beginning of the post)

This is really a delicious and wicked chocolate sponge – there’s no flour, no oil, just eggs, sugar and cocoa – filled with lots of thick cream and chocolate mouse, topped with icing sugar….yum! It may sound rich, but the cake is surprisingly light. Oohhh… I can’t wait for its debut later this evening at my family’s reunion dinner.

A cross-section of the log…

Calla’s notes:

  • I bake at 160 deg C for about 25 – 30 min.
  • When the cake is cool, put it into the refrigerator to firm up.
  • Perhaps next time, I will leave it to cool in the oven, as the top becomes sticky as it cools….wonder why…. Then when it is completely cold, to put in the refrigerator.
  • Best to do one day in advance so that the finished cake can firm up in the refrigerator.

Where’s the itsy bitsy spider?

(My project to document my observations of past bakes)

Here’s the web, but where’s the spider?

Well, I was trying to display my artistic talents in decorating the cheesecake lol… This was achieved by pouring alternate layers of batter into the centre of the pan and then using a toothpick drawing lines from the centre to the sides to create a spider-web effect.

This is a cranberry swirl cheesecake that I baked for my mother-in-law who requested for a citrusy cheesecake. As I had Crabtree & Evelyn cranberry sauce, I decided to make use of that. I adapted a recipe on the Epicurious website which had good reviews.

Well cheesecakes are really capricious….One time it baked nicely without any cracks…another time, it cracked despite having the same temperature etc. Wonder whether I had overbeaten the mixture 😦

The above picture was my first attempt…smooth top and crack-free…but I wasn’t so fortunate for the second attempt…

The cross-section… pardon the untidiness….

This was also the first attempt…I didn’t manage to take pics of the cross-section of the spider-web cake…

Looks aside, the taste was great: smooth, creamy….yummy! Hubby, mother-in-law and sister-in-law liked it…I think I will use this recipe as my base for future cheesecakes…

Here’s the recipe I used, which is adapted from the Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake with Cranberry-Raspberry Compote recipe on the Epicurious website:

Base

200g Chocolate biscuits, without the crème (I used Oreo brand)

50g melted butter

Line the base of an 8″ springfoam pan with aluminium foil. Wrap the outside of the pan with another layer of aluminium foil.

Crush the chocolate biscuits finely. Mix melted butter with crushed chocolate biscuits. Press biscuit mixture onto the pan. Place pan in the fridge.

Filling

750g cream cheese, at room temp

170g caster sugar

4 eggs, each weighing about 60g – including the shell, at room temp

230g sour cream (I used “light” with no adverse results)

60g whipping cream

1tbsp vanilla essence

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

16 oz ready-made cranberry sauce ( I used Crabtree and Evelyn brand)

Cube the cream cheese. Beat it using a mixer at low to medium speed till the cheese flicks easily off the spatula. Scrape down the sides and bottom of mixing bowl frequently.Add in caster sugar and beat at low to medium speed. Make sure that there are no lumps.

Add in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla essence. Mix till just combined at low to medium speed and ensure that there are no lumps.

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix till just combined at low speed.

Transfer 1/3 of batter into another bowl. Add cranberry sauce and mix till just combined. Add orange zest to the remaining 2/3 batter and mix till just combined.

Remove pan from fridge. To create the concentric effect shown in the first picture, pour in alternate layers of the cranberry and vanilla batters into the centre of the pan. When all the batter is poured into the pan, hit the pan on the kitchen counter-top to remove air bubbles. Prick any visible air bubble that rise to the top of the cake with a toothpick and smoothen surface.

Boil water. Place pan into a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan till it covers half the height of the cake pan. Remember to top up the roasting pan with boiling water during the baking.

Bake at 150 deg C for about 2 hours. To test whether the cake is done, shake the pan gently, the sides should be firm while the centre is still wobbly. Switch off oven and leave the cake in the oven for at least an hour (You may remove the water bath, or you can leave it in the oven). Remove the cake from the oven – the centre should no longer be wobbly – and complete cooling on the cooling rack and thereafter keep it the fridge overnight. Remove the cake from the pan the next day.

Bon appétit!

Note: The cooking time and temperature actually depends on individual oven. For my oven, although the dial is at 150 deg C, the oven thermometer indicates about 100 deg C – perhaps it’s due to the steam from the water bath. It took about 2 hrs of baking time for the cake to be done.

 

Japanese Beef Curry from Shiseido

I had previously asked a Japanese colleague to recommend me his favourite commercial curry mixes as my hubby loves Japanese-style curries. Lo and behold….when he returned from Japan for a short trip last week, he bought me 3 highly recommended beef curry mixes. I was so happy! Hubby was even happier… He was so excited that he cooked one of them yesterday.

This curry mix is from Shiseido – yes, the famed Japanese cosmetic company. My Japanese colleague explained to me that the Shiseido shop in Ginza has a café which is famous for its beef curry. Hence a mix was created for the customers’ convenience.

Here’s the box of curry mix…was told that it wasn’t cheap….

Front of the box…

Back of the box…

The ingredients…Clockwise from left: big onions, beef, carrots and potatoes

The finished product…

The verdict…

The sauce was in a paste (liquid), which Hubby found more tricky to cook. He preferred to cook from a block (solid) – his favourite brand to date is Vermont (with a hint of apple and honey), also recommended by the same Japanese colleague.

Taste-wise, Hubby and I found little differences between Shiseido and Vermont – perhaps we couldn’t read the Japanese instructions and simply relied on instinct. Now, I’ve found an online translation website and I’ve learnt how to write hiragana, I can translate using the website 🙂.

Well for the time being, Vermont brand is our favourite due to ease of cooking…. Perhaps when I go to Japan, I will purchase the Shiseido curry mix and give a try again…

Let’s see how the other 2 brands perform.

As Fluffy as a Cloud…

(My project to document my observations of past bakes)

As my grandparents-in-law require soft foods, I was racking my brains what baked goodies were suitable for them. As I was surfing the internet for ideas, I thought, “Why not cupcakes – they are likely to be soft and being small makes it easier for the grandparents to eat?”

With that thought in mind, I looked for cupcake recipes to try. This lemon cream cheese cupcake was not my first choice. I tried another one, but it turned dry and dense after a day. I needed something that could keep soft and fluffy for at least a day when I bring the cupcakes to Malaysia. More about that cupcake in another post.

The lemon cream cheese cupake is from Betty Saw’s book “Tempt Cupcakes to Excite” and is posted on the net by various bloggers. I’m glad that the texture remained soft and fluffy even after a day! Also, I think the taste is good – full of lemony and creamy goodness. However, the sides and bottoms browned too fast – looks burnt, but doesn’t taste burnt (phew!). Think that’s because my mini muffin tin was the non-stick, black version. I will bake at a reduced temperature of 160 deg C to overcome this. Also, I will fill the muffin tins to about ½ to 2/3, so that the cupcakes will not rise over the paper cases and become too brown….

On another occasion, I varied with orange, but I think lemon is the best!

I present to you lemony goodness on a cloud…

Going Nuts

(My project to document my observation of past bakes)

In addition to chocolate chip cookies, I also baked peanut cookies as gifts. I was inspired to bake a cookie that I think my dad will like – at least he likes peanuts… The recipe was obtained from Karlskrona who posted on the Imperial Kitchen (thanks, Karlskrona!). The recipe was certainly quite simple, really a 1-bowl cookie. It certainly didn’t take long to churn out the following:

Here’s a close-up….

Looks pretty, but hubby and dad thought that there could be more peanut flavour for the initial attempt. Also, the cookie was too crunchy for my liking – I like this type of cookie to be melt-in-the-mouth.

For the second attempt, peanuts were roasted (thanks, hubby!), peanut butter was added, balls were smaller and cooking time reduced. The results: more peanutty flavour and a melt-in-the mouth texture. However, I think I did a lousy job in glazing the cookies… Somehow, it didn’t have the lovely golden brown sheen…

It took me three attempts to recreate the flavour I like…

Calla’s notes on the recipe (I quartered the measurements):

  • I used deshelled peanuts in this recipe. I roasted them in the pan, leave it to cool, then grind.
  • I added approximately 3 tbsp peanut butter to enhance the peanutty flavour (re: ¼ recipe). Skippy peanut butter produces excellent results. Peter Pan peanut butter was not bad either.
  • I used 85ml ground peanut oil to bind the dough together (re: ¼ recipe). This has to be monitored. I started off with 50ml, then add bit by bit till mixture binds into a dough that wipes the sides of the bowl clean.
  • I baked at about 160 deg C for 10 min, rotating the tray approximately after 5 min. I didn’t use the top heating element this time, as I felt the oven was too hot. Perhaps that’s why the tops did not have the sheen.