Monday, September 26, 2016

Peach and Cream Syrup Cake

I have a lot of cake tins. I can't help but impulse buy when I saw something that I don’t already have. I got to have it, I said. I would need it in the very near future and who knows it might not be available then, I debated. I would be wishing that I brought it in the first place and I would be full of regrets forever, I reasoned.

So it's no surprise that I got a kugelhopf/ bundt tin. To be fair, I have every intention of making kugelhopf. But when I saw this interesting peach and cream syrup cake recipe, my kugelhopf tin was screaming to me. I could visualise the beautiful pattern imprinted on the cake. It would be beautiful with nothing else.

This peach and cream syrup cake has a wonderful tender crumb, almost fudgy even. With the peach syrup that absorbs into the cake, you know it's going to be good. You might think that it will be too sweet like most syrup cakes, but it's not. And the cream! Please whatever you do, don't skip the cream. The cream adds a wonderful lightness and creamy component to the cake. And it's a peach and cream cake afterall.

Peach and Cream Syrup Cake
(Adapted from Delicious Magazine Australia October 2016)

Peach Cake
700 grams canned peaches in syrup (400 gram drained weight)
200 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, softened
200 grams caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 eggs
200 grams almond meal
225 grams plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250 ml buttermilk
Additional melted butter and flour for greasing

Peach Syrup
300 grams reserved peach juices/syrup from cans
50 grams caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Vanilla Cream
300 grams thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

To make peach cake:
Preheat oven to 180C conventional (or 160C fan forced).

Brush 26cm bundt pan generously with melted butter, dust buttered pan with flour, shake and tap the pan over the sink to remove excess flour. (Note: Don't be tempted to skip this step even if you have a non-stick bundt cake pan.)

Drain peaches, reserving syrup. Whiz the peaches in a food processor to a smooth puree. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until thick and pale. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the almond meal, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. With the motor running on low speed, add dry ingredients and buttermilk in 2 batches until just combined. Stir through peach puree until well combined. Spoon mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with a spoon. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is still hot, poke a few holes in the cake with a toothpick, and pour two third of the hot peach syrup over the cake (see steps below on how to make the peach syrup). With the cake still in the pan, set aside to allow the syrup to absorb completely, about 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack set over a baking tray, drizzle remainder of the peach syrup over cake, and allow cake to cool completely.

To make peach syrup:
Combine reserve peach juices/syrup, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

To make vanilla cream:
Whip cream and vanilla until soft peak.

Serve cake with vanilla cream and a couple of peach slices.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hazelnut and Chocolate Chips Flourless Cookies

These flourless cookies are probably the easiest thing I have ever made. It's one of those mix-everything-in-a-bowl type recipe. These cookies are amazingly good for something that requires so little effort. They are crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. I love the classic combination of hazelnut and chocolate which always reminds me of nutella. I added a touch of salt in and on these cookies because I believe that the salt brings these cookies to another level. The salt is totally optional though if you are not a fan of sweet and salty.

I can't take credit for this recipe of course. It's a Donna Hay recipe which was featured in a weekend paper (Sunday Times?) a couple of weeks ago. I was curious, and I had all the ingredients in my pantry. I'm glad that I tried it because this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Hazelnut and Chocolate Chips Flourless Cookies

Makes about 12

175grams (1 3/4 cup) hazelnut meal (ground hazelnut)
40grams (1/4 cup) cornflour
110grams (1/2 cup) caster sugar
60grams (1/3 cup) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
100g unsalted butter, melted and allow to cool slightly
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150grams dark chocolate chips
Flake sea salt to sprinkle

To make Hazelnut and Chocolate Chips Flourless Cookies:

Preheat oven to 180C conventional (or 160C fan forced).

Place the hazelnut meal, cornflour, caster sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine.

Add butter, egg and vanilla extract and mix well to combine.

Stir through the chocolate chips.

Roll 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball. Repeat with remaining dough.

Place the balls on baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, leaving 8cm between each ball to allow room for spreading.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly on trays before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle a small amount of flake sea salt over cookies while still warm.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fancy "Green Apple" Apple Tart

I had this idea of making an apple tart that actually looks like an apple for a while now. Well, I can't take all the credit. The idea was inspired by a couple of patisseries that did that, and I thought it's probably something I can recreate quite easily at home. So there you go! Not bad at all, if I may say so myself. Haha.

The hardest part of making this tart is the pâte sucrée. I did a post on making pâte sucrée last week. The other components for this tart are pretty easy, I promise.

The dome part of this tart is an apple vanilla bavarian cream. Bavarian cream is like a custard based mousse. Hidden under the dome is homemade vanilla apple compote.

I'm really happy with the glazing. Look how shiny it is! I could almost see my reflection. A note about the glazing - you will need several coats to achieve the glaze. Just pour the glaze that is collected at the bottom of the baking tray back into the jug, pour over the domes again, keep repeating. You will probably need to do this about 10 times.

Fancy "Green Apple" Apple Tart

Makes 6 tarts

Pâte Sucrée
See link here.

Bake the pâte sucrée on the day when you are ready to assemble the tart. I used 8cm diameter tart rings.

Apple Puree
250 grams granny smith apples (about 3-4 apples, see notes below)
25 grams caster sugar
25 grams water

To make apple puree:
Note: Weigh out 250 grams of apples after peeled, cored and cut into 2cm cubes.

Combined apples, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until apples are very soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer to food processor and puree. Makes about 1/2 cup apple puree.

Apple Bavarian Cream
2 sheets gelatin
2 egg yolks
50 grams caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
1/2 cup apple puree (see steps above), room temperature
200ml whipping cream

To make apple bavarian cream:
Soften the gelatin in a bowl of cold water.

Whisk egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds in a heatproof bowl until pale and creamy. Add apple puree, and whisk to incorporate. Place bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, whisk constantly, until the mixture reaches 85C. Remove from heat.

Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin. Stir gelatin into the apple mixture until gelatin completely dissolves. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Place the mixture over a bowl of water with ice. Stir mixture until it cools to room temperature. (Alternatively, place cling wrap over surface of mixture, and place in freezer for about 5-10 minutes until it cools to room temperature.)

Meanwhile, whisk cream to firm peaks (be careful not to over-whip). When the apple mixture cools completely, carefully fold whipped cream into the apple mixture with a spatula until combine.

Spoon the apple bavarian cream in the cavities of 70mm diameter semi-sphere silicon mold. Wrap the mold well with plastic wrap, and freeze until completely frozen.

Apple Compote
1 sheet gelatin
250 grams granny smith apples (about 3-4 apples, see notes below)
25 grams caster sugar
25 grams water
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped

To make apple compote:
Note: Weigh out 250 grams of apples after peeled, cored and cut into 2cm cubes.

Soften the gelatin in a bowl of cold water.

Combined apples, sugar, water and vanilla pod and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until apples soften slightly, about 5 minutes. The apples should lose the crunch, but still firm and not mushy. Remove vanilla pod.

Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin. Stir gelatin into the apple mixture until gelatin completely dissolves. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

4 sheets gelatin
250ml water
250 grams caster sugar
A couple drops of green food coloring

To make glaze:
Soften the gelatin in a bowl of cold water.

Combined water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until sugar dissolves, and allow to bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin. Stir gelatin into the sugar syrup. Add food colouring and stir to combine. Pour glaze into a jug and set aside to cool to room temperature (20ish degree celsius) before use.

To assemble:
Spoon apple compote into baked tart case. Set aside.

Unmold the apple bavarian cream domes, and place on cooling rack set on a baking tray. Pour room temperature glaze over the domes. Note about the glaze- the first pour/coat of glaze will seems like it's not sticking to the dome. You will need to pour the glaze over the dome a few more times, letting each coat to set for half a minute before the next pour.

Carefully place the dome over the tart case. Stick a pretzel stick on top of the dome.

Allow to thaw tart before serving. (Note: Takes about 20 minutes to thaw at room temperature depending on the weather. Or 2-4 hours to thaw in the fridge.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Crust Pastry)

Next week, I will be sharing a very special recipe – a tart of sort. It will be a secret for now. In the meantime, I thought I will first share the basic of making pâte sucrée (sweet crust pastry) which I will be using for the tart.

I have two go-to pâte sucrée recipes. One is a lot easier and I like to use that for filling that needs to be baked, like my classic lemon tart and passionfruit tart.

This pâte sucrée is my favourite of the two even though it requires a few more steps, and the pastry is harder to manage especially on a hot day. But it’s worth the effort if done right because this pâte sucrée is more buttery, richer and crisper. Just like the ones that you get from a good French patisserie.

Lining the tart ring is still a challenge for me, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

A tip for making this pâte sucrée- avoid making this on a hot day especially if you have little experience with making pastry. If the pastry becomes too soft to handle, put it in the freezer for a minute until it’s firm.

This recipe makes a big batch. My advice is to make the full batch, divide into portions, and freeze the portions that you won’t be using. It keeps well in the freezer.

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Crust Pastry)
(Adapted from PS Desserts)

360 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, softened
150 grams pure icing sugar, sifted
4 egg yolks
50 ml cold water
500 gram plain flour, sifted
a pinch of cooking salt

To make pâte sucrée:
Place the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Mix together at a low speed until the icing sugar is incorporated into the butter and the mixture is smooth. Take care not to aerate too much. You don't want it pale and fluffy. This step should not take you more than a minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the 4 egg yolks and water.

With the mixer on low, add the egg yolks and water mixture to the butter mixture bit by bit. At this stage the mixture may look as through it has separated (see photo below). Don't worry, it will be fine once the flour is added.

Now turn off the mixer, then tip in the flour and salt. On low speed, work in the flour and salt until the mixture just comes together and is crumbly. Do not overwork at this stage as the gluten in the flour will activate and the pastry could become tough. This step should only take about a minute.

Tip the contents of the bowl onto a work surface. Working very quickly, gather the pastry together into a smooth ball. Divide the pastry into half. Pat each half into about 3cm half rounds. You don't want a big boulder otherwise it will make it harder to roll out the pastry. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled all the way through. (This pastry freezes well. Freeze the portion you don't use. Remove from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge before rolling out.)

Lining the tart rings:
Once the pastry has chilled (at least 30 minutes), roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 2mm (1/16") thick. For a larger tart, roll the pastry out to 4mm thick.

If the pastry becomes too soft after you rolled it out, freeze the pastry for a minute until firm but still pliable. Cut pastry large enough to line the tart ring. Ease the pastry into the ring, and gently press the dough to the corners of the ring. It is extremely important (and the hardest step) to make sure the pastry is perfectly flush along the corner and sides of the ring. Make sure not to make too much indentations with your fingers. Trim off the excess pastry. Prick the pastry with a fork.

At this stage, I usually like to cover the pastry with plastic wrap and freeze it overnight. I find that baking the pastry from when it’s completely frozen helps minimize shrinkage.

To blind bake:
Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced.

Scrunch up a piece of baking paper, straighten it out, then line the paper over the frozen tart shell (I prefer using baking paper to foil because it doesn't stick to the pastry as much.) Fill with uncooked rice all the way to the top. Bake for 18 minutes (or 25 minutes for larger tart).

Remove from oven, tip out the rice and remove the baking paper. Return to the oven for 5 - 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

I love these simple little cakes. I know they look quite plain, but trust me, they are absolutely delicious. The best thing about them is that they are so easy to make.

In Australia, friands are typically baked in small oval cake tins. You can of course bake these in standard muffin pan.

Now on the topic of brown butter (beurre noisette) vs melted butter. The brown butter apparently gives a nutty note to the cake. I found that it didn’t make a whole heap of difference worthwhile the effort of browning the butter. Well, that’s my opinion anyway. So melted butter for my friands it is.

Of all the different favours I have experimented with, my favourite is still the classic blueberry and lemon. When baked, the blueberries will burst and become jammy and delicious.

These little cakes are best served still warm from the oven, with the crust crisp and the centre moist and light. Having said that, they are just as wonderful after a day or two.

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

Makes about 5

100 grams icing sugar
25 grams plain flour
85 grams almond meal (ground almond)
Zest of 1 lemon
120 grams egg whites (about 3 eggs)
100 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 85 grams blueberries
About 1/4 cup almond flakes

Additional butter and flour for prepping the cake pan. See method below.

To make Blueberry and Lemon Friands:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius conventional (or 180 degrees celcius fan-forced).

Rub softened butter in the holes of the friand or muffin pan, and dust each hole lightly with flour. Tap the pan, upside down, over the sink to get rid of excess flour. Set aside. (Note: Don't be tempted to skip this step even if you have a non-stick pan. It not only helps to guarantee that the friands won't get stuck in the pan, the butter and flour will give a nice golden crust all over.)

Combine icing sugar, plain flour, almond meal and lemon zest in a large bowl. Set aside.

Lightly whisk egg whites in a separate bowl until they form a light foam. (Note: It's important not to over whisk the egg whites or you will rubbery friands. This step is only for breaking up the egg whites slightly so that it can be folded into the dry ingredients easier.)

Tip egg whites and cooled melted butter into the dry ingredients. Using a spatula, lightly fold the mixture together until just combined.

Divide the batter into the holes of the prepared pan up to 3/4 full. Drop about 6 blueberries in each hole. Lightly crush almond flakes with your fingers and scatter over the cake batter.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out clean.

Serve warm with a light dusting of icing sugar.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hazelnut Opera Cake

Cheers to a new year! I hope you have enjoyed the festive season, and all pumped for the new year? I know I am! Bring it on 2016!

This is my first blog post of the year. So it should be about cake. Of course.

This one I'm excited about. Hazelnut Opera Cake. My take on the classic opera cake.

My hazelnut opera cake consists of 5 components - hazelnut joconde, coffee kahlua syrup, nutella spread, coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache glaze.

I found that getting the ratio of the components right is the trickiest part of making this cake, and also the most important as it has a huge impact on the overall balance of flavours. I tried to make the joconde and buttercream the same thickness at about 5mm. For the nutella layer, I found that it's best to keep it about 1mm or it can be too sweet and overpowering.

I kept the decoration simple with a light sprinkle of coffee beans, cocoa nibs and almond meal.

Hazelnut Opera Cake

Makes one 15cm cake

Hazelnut Joconde
125 grams icing sugar, sifted
125 grams ground hazelnut (hazelnut meal)
40 grams plain flour, sifted
160 grams whole eggs, room temperature
30 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100 grams egg whites (reserve yolks for the buttercream)
30 grams caster sugar

Coffee Kahlua Syrup
125 ml water
80 grams caster sugar
125 ml espresso
2 tablespoons kahlua

Coffee Buttercream
2 teaspoons coffee granules
2 teaspoons hot water
60 grams egg yolks
100 grams caster sugar
30 ml water
225 grams unsalted butter, softened, cut into small cubes

Chocolate Ganache Glaze
125 grams dark chocolate
20 grams liquid glucose
130ml whipping (pouring) cream

You will also need Nutella.

To make hazelnut joconde:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius conventional (or 180 degrees celcius fan-forced). Line two 35 x 22cm baking trays with baking paper.

Using an electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk icing sugar, hazelnut meal, flour and whole eggs for 10-12 minutes until the mixture is light and aerated. With the mixer still running, slowly add cooled melted butter to the mixture until incorporated. Set aside.

Using an electric stand mixer, with a separate clean dry bowl and whisk, whisk egg whites until foamy. Gradually add in caster sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Using a spatula, fold in a third of the stiff egg whites into the hazelnut batter to loosen. Carefully fold in the rest of the stiff egg whites.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking trays to about 5mm in thickness. Bake until golden brown and the sponge springs back when pressed gently. This should take about 12-15 minutes.

To make coffee kahlua syrup:
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add espresso, and leave to cool. Add kahlua.

To make coffee buttercream:
Combine coffee and water, set aside.

Place yolks in the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment.

In a small sauce pan, bring caster sugar and water to boil without stirring. When the temperature of the syrup reaches 115 degrees celsius, remove from heat, start mixer at high speed, pour the syrup in a thin stream into the yolks, and whisk until thick and cools completely. It should take about 10 minutes.

Start adding small lumps of the softened butter a little at a time, whisking well after each addition and scraping down the bowl from time to time. When all the butter has been incorporated, add coffee mixture, and continue to beat until light and aerated.

To make chocolate ganache glaze
(Note: Make this after you have assembled the cake and the cake has been allowed to firm up in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You will not need to use all the glaze.)

Melt chocolate over bain marie or in microwave.

Stir glucose and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until glucose dissolves and mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat. Gradually add hot cream to the chocolate, mixing continuously to form an emulsion. Let cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Use immediately.

To assemble:
Cut hazelnut joconde into 3 squares (about 17 x 17cm).

Place one of the squares on a baking paper, brush square generously with the coffee kahlua syrup. Spread a layer of nutella (about 1mm thick). Spread coffee buttercream over (about 5mm thick). Repeat with second square, syrup, nutella, buttercream. Repeat with last square, syrup, buttercream.

Cut the cake with a 15cm cake ring. Leave the cake in the ring, remove scraps, and place in fridge to set for at least 1 hour.

Prepare chocolate ganache glaze, pour a thin layer on top of cake, give the cake a few firm taps on the kitchen bench until the glaze evens out, return cake to fridge for at least 1 hour. Demould and serve.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brandy-snap Basket

Brandy-snap basket with vanilla ice-cream and strawberries will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was the dessert that we had on our wedding day. It was our 4th year wedding anniversary last Friday (OMG, has it really been 4 years?). So I thought I will attempt to recreate this very special dessert. It came out perfect on my first attempt. A little fussy to make, but not difficult at all. I do love the delicate lace-like texture of the basket.

Brandy-snap Baskets
(adapted from Matt Moran When I Get Home)

Makes about 10-12 baskets

120 grams unsalted butter, softened , room temperature
140 grams brown sugar
180 ml liquid glucose
2 teaspoons brandy
140 grams plain flour

To make brandy-snap baskets:
In an electric stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add glucose and brandy, beat until well incorporated.

Using a spatula, carefully fold in flour until just combined.

Cover and refrigerate for an hour until firm. Don't leave the mixture in the fridge for too long or it will be too stiff to work with.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius conventional (or 160 degrees celcius fan-forced).

Using a tablespoon, scoop out a tablespoon of mixture. Roll out the mixture between two sheets of baking paper to about 10cm diameter and 1mm thick. For a neat finish, use a large 10cm cookie cutter to make 10cm round, scrap off excess around the cookie cutter. If the mixture gets too soft to work with and sticks to the baking paper, put it in the freezer for 1 minute to firm up.

Place the disc on a baking tray line with baking paper. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown. The disc will starts to bubble, creating the beautiful and delicate lace-like texture. Keep a close eye on it as it will start to burn very quickly.

Remove from oven, and cool for 15 seconds. Working very quickly, place the disc on an upside-down bowl or mug. Carefully peel off the baking paper, and press the sides of the disc to form a basket. Set aside to cool.

Repeat steps above with the remainder of the mixture. (Note: Keep the mixture in the fridge while working on the disc.)

Store in an airtight container until required.

Serve with vanilla ice-cream and fresh strawberries.