Thursday, February 24, 2011

Japanese Souffle Cheesecake

I need a baking scale, I need a baking scale, I need a baking scale. Is the mantra that runs through my head every time I attempt one of these seemingly simple yet rather elaborate recipes which require more or less EXACT measurements. Not having a scale is a rather big setback, if you like me, enjoy light fluffy cakes. However, I share this because the end product wasn't too bad, if you like moist cheesecake that is.

As always I cobbled together several recipies, keeping in mind my fincky oven and lack of a scale...Most recipes give you g(gram) measurements. Yet I do not have a scale, but I do have all the ingredients. This makes me ambitious and experimental. So if you HAVE a scale, please by all means go and look at this sane recipe by all means. If you are like me and begrudge even the 7X7 in that a scale would take up in your kitchen, by all means try it. After all, you can't call yourself a budding cook/chef without having had a few failed souffles. ^^

Now for the final warning. Something I wish other bloggers did before posting beautiful pictures of their "easy" delicious food. You should have a mechanical beater for this. I do not have one, as a result I now have two tiger balm patches in strategic places on my upper right arm, you do the math. The amount of money I spend on palliative care for the aftermath of baking could have bought me a reasonable beater. I don't make excuses for myself, just noting the facts. -_-;;

I also learned that corn flour came be cornmeal (used for muffins to accompany chili) or cornstarch. Cornstarch is what is used in this recipe.

1 C whole milk
8 oz Cream cheese softened ( one small block at the supermarket)
4 Tbsp butter softened
6 egg yolks
4 Tbsp cake flour
2.5 Tbsp corn flour (aka cornstarch)
1tsp baking soda
zest of one lemon (optional, but I found it added a refreshing taste to the creaminess)
6 egg whites (chilled)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1C Caster (confectioner) sugar

The recipe calls for a double boiler, but things like that can be substituted for a metal or glass bowl placed above simmering water. Making sure the water doesn't touch bottom on bowl.

1. Pour Milk into bowl over double boiler. Add creamcheese and stir until incorporated. Add butter until incorporated. Set aside and cool before adding yolks and stirring smooth (if added too soon, the egg yolks will cook, this is bad, very bad). Add lemon zest and set aside.
2.  Sift Cake flour, cornstarch, and baking soda together. Add mixture to cooled creamcheese mixture little at a time making sure to incorporate fully (no lumps smooth silky batter).
Preheat oven to 300-350 F (you know your oven, I set it to 300 at the beginning, but it was taking to long so I upped it to 350 to brown the tops)
3. Take chilled egg whites and beat until you get a froth (by hand it took about 4 min) Then sprinkle cream of tartar and beat until stiffer. Then add the caster suger a little at a time until stiff glossy peaks form. ( I won't say how long this took, but family members came home to find me prostrate on the cold marble kitchen floor)
4. Fold the beaten egg whites into the creamcheese batter. DO NO mix, FOLD The mixture should roughtly triple in mass.
5. Pour into two 11X22 inch pans that have been lined with parchment paperor individual muffin tins lined with muffin paper, and place in a shallow waterbath that rises to the middle of whatever you are using. Bake for 50-60 min. Slide skewer in center, should come out with only few moist crumbs.

Warning: This is a deceptively light tasting cake, despite the creaminess, but you see how much creamcheese and butter not to mention sugar goes into two loaves. I made it as afters to roast chicken thighs with root vegetables and steamed stringbeans, so in the ringing corridors of my mind, the vegetables might cancel out the creamcheese. ^^.

The pic isn't all that great, but I grabbed a couple before both loaves disappeared.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Okay my brain and my hands are officially not connected; or is it my mouth and my brain, or my brain and my stomach? Knowing that winter-time has a detrimental affect on the waistline doesn't really click with the fact that dark, dreary and cold weather, much like what we've been having, makes one look for comfort food. While I am all for healthy comfort foods...there are times that all that goes out the window and all gloves are off. This is usually following a spectacularly irritable day. Hey, no judgement. You have you're vices I have mine.

So this pound cake. I was trolling the sites for something that would make a suitable dent in my diet when I came across Sweet Kat's Best Sour Cream Pound Cake. Sour Cream and pound cake many of you might be saying, but don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

I tweaked it a little considering the astronomical amount of sugar that went into it and used half sour cream (for the tang) and half yogurt (for the moistness). It was fortunately/unfortunately delicious, and disappeared at an inhuman rate. As a matter of fact the remnants disappeared into my sister's mouth as I walked into the kitchen and she gave me the most innocent look possible (which she should know doesn't work on me).

Anywho, I liked it and tried to cut thin slices for snacks...just that it doesn't really matter when you keep coming back for second...third...fourth helpings...Good with a cuppa milk or a cuppa joe.

1 1/2 C All purpose flour
1 1/2 C sifted cake flour ( Again I used Presto, which does have baking powder but I added a quarter teaspoon more)
1/4 tsp. baking soda (if you are not using self rising cake flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1 C (2sticks) unsalted softened butter
1 2/3 C granulated sugar ( I know this sounds like a lot but I think I will use even less next time, to see if I can get away with it)
6 large eggs (I actually used medium ** leftover from tea eggs I tried to make)\
1/2 C Sour Cream (lite-yeah like it matters :P)
1/2 C Yogurt (Non-fat was fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp honey ( was an interesting twist that makes me think I could get away with less sugar, plus also adds moistness..YAY)

1. Measure out and sift all dry ingredients together.
2 IMPORTANT: This cake must fall out of the bundt pan without too much persuasion so grease with a cooking spray and sift some flour to cover the grease and set aside. ( I used a quarter tablespoon of butter and coated it with a couple pinches of cake flour.  Preheat oven to 325 F (However, I totally spazzed and set it to 375, it makes for a faster cake. Thank god it didn't burn)
3. Combine sour cream, yogurt, honey, and vanilla in separate bowl, set aside.
4. Cream together softened butter and sugar together until fluffy. (I did this manually. Those that have a beater or a Kitchenaid, thank you lucky stars.) Then add the eggs one by one incorporating into the buttercream after each egg. It should double to triple in mass.
5. Take a rubber spatula (this part requires speed and coordination) combine 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients with the creamed butter and eggs then a 1/3 of the wet ingredients (sour cream etc) and fold quickly. Alternate adding the rest of the dry and wet ingredients by thirds . You should have a pretty dense sticky looking batter by now.
6. Pour and spread evenly in the pregreased 10 inch bundt pan. Smooth out the top. Bake in 325 F oven for 60-70 min ( or 375 F for 45 min)
7. Let cool for 30 min outside of pan and sift some confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar) on top for extra happiness.

Make a cup of coffee as best as you know how and enjoy (preferably taking it like I take mine, black.
Also even better after it cools

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Apple Galette

Christmas is a season of joy, mirth, and giving. Furthermore, it is apparently a season of potlucks. I love the idea of a potluck. Especially in the case of a really gracious hostess(es) who can devote their attention to entertaining rather than worrying about the food. Potlucks also give me a new crowd of tasters to see if the things that I whip up in the kitchen are actually good enough to share with a wider audience, or in this case palete.

So this year I chose one dessert item and I vowed that I would make it over and over until the ration of flaky crust to moist apple topping was as close to perfection as I was going to get. This thing was Apple Galette. One of those random things that you watch someone make on television, at an ungodly hour, because so-help-you-god you can't make yourself watch another hour of news and you think to highly of brain cells to resort to daytime television.

I happened to watch this on a program called Test Kitchen. This show has it's perks since it explains what is happening to the food as a result of what you are doing to it. It actually made me want to go and find out the difference between the amount of protein in different flours and how it affects bread. As someone who might convert to bread-ism, as a religion, if such a thing does not already exist (I take my bread seriously) a short tutorial is vastly enlightenling.

Anyway back to Galette. I never imagined I would make this as I watched the show because:
A) I didn't know, or ever recalled seeing, something called instant flour.
B) I don't (and this is a sore point) have a food processor.
C) It involved something called frisage, which was referred to as a french pastry technique and I immediately imagined having to attend classes at the Cordon Bleu Institute.

Nevertheless, Thanksgiving rolled by and a request for Apple pie was made. I have nothing against apple pie, mind you, just I don't think I have ever tasted one which blew my mind. I love apples and I like pie, but together they seem to form a gooey (at times) over sweet mass with an occasionally passable crust. So I remembered this Apple Galette and how crisp and non-gooey it looked. Thinking "If it turns out bad, no one need know about it, and the racoons in my neighborhood can share the bounty of the holiday season."

Warning/Note/Enticement **This recipe calls for a lot of butter...a lot of butter. It is deceptively light flaky and crusty but probably carries the equivalent calories of its cousin....the apple pie. On the bright side, it is less sweet than most apple pies I have partaken of. On that note, I would like to try this recipe one day with Irish Butter...hehehe. Suddenly the line from Milton's Paradise Lost comes to mind, Satan says "Better to rule in hell, that serve in heaven." ^^

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C Wondra flour (Pillsbury Instant Flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter , cut into 5/8-inch cubes (1 1/2 sticks)
7-9 tablespoons ice water

Apple Filling
1 1/2 lbs apples (3-4 medium or 4-5 small) Golden Delicious is my choice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 C Sugar
2 Tbsp apricot preserves
1 Tbsp water

**The butter and water should be put in the freezer before you start.

1. Combine all dry ingredients for crust and sift together then scatter butter pieces over flour and cutuntil butter pieces are size of large pebbles. I did this manually. Hooray to the power of determination...omg I need to get a food processor. I tried it other ways but using a handheld cutter actually does help me determine how well the mixture has come together. Butter should be pebbled sized and the mixture crumbly.

2. Sprinkle  water over mixture 1 tablespoon at a time until dough begins to hold together when pinched. The amount of water is not always going to be exact I have used as little as 5 Tbsp and as much as 9 depending on the flour and even the weather. (the 5 Tbsp happened when it was rainy outside).

3. On a work surface and gather the crumbly dough into a line (I just shifted it onto some parchment paper) and apply this method called Fraisage. Basically, you run the heel of your palm down on the mound and moving it into another mound. If I remember correctly it is to flatten out the butter and make the layers more flaky. There should be some videos on you-tube.  ^^
Work all the dough and form into a square and wrap in cling wrap, refridgerate 30 min to 1 hour until firm.  (yes chunks of butter should still be visible)

4. Preheat over to 400 F.

5. Cut apples lengthwise into quarters and then into into 1/8in thick slices.

6. Place the chilled dough on a 16 x12-inch piece of parchment paper and dust with flour. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/8 inch thick and fits the paper, dusting top and bottom of dough and rolling pin with flour. Trim the edges to fit, and roll up and inch of each edge and pinch to create a 1/2 in thick border

8. Start in a corner or start in rows and layer sliced apples to form even row across bottom of dough, overlapping each slice by about one-half. Keep in mind that the way you place them is decorative so layer them quickly but carefully. Overlap each row by half. Sprinkle top with small cubes of butter (See pic above...I know ^^) and sprinkle with sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake until crust is golden brown 45 to 60 minutes.

9. To get the nice glaze in the pic combine the apricot preserves and water in medium microwave-safe bowl.  and zap for about 1 minute. Brush the apple portion with glaze an let cool for awhile.

I like mine just as it is but some ppl seem to like vanilla ice-cream on top ^^.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cake

Baking is somewhat cathartic. Not only do I get to beat something til it foams, if I follow the instructions and apply a little imagination where I can't, I am left with something that is for the most part edible.

For those that know of my pre-holiday fiasco, which amounted to me misplacing my wallet right before a trip, you already know the reason why I took particular joy in breaking eggs and whipping cream. For those just hearing of it, and those who have unfortunately shared the experience at least once in their lives it is one of those moments where you wish the earth would just open up and drop you not so gently on your head.

While tearing madly through the streets in search of my patent green leather wallet (miss that more than anything else) in trashcans and under buses, and calling to cancel cards and such I had a brief moment of clarity wherein I thought to myself, " I  could sit down in the middle of this crowded street and cry, thereby drawing attention to myself, and possibly motivating a well meaning but opportunistic person to come forth and hand my wallet over..." Okay, then I had a laugh (probably creeping out passerby anyway) and finished the thought with "or I could take care of this mess, go enjoy my trip and get back and bake a cake". Obviously the latter won out.

Much thanks to M for answering the call of a much harrassed baker who could not find a non-stick angelfood tin on short notice (an truthfully balked at paying the 28 bucks for a "designer" one she happened to see).

Matcha Chiffon Cake with Fresh Cream and Berries

1 C+2 Tbsp sifted cake flour (I used Presto which comes with baking soda and salt thereby uncomplicated my life, but if you use just pure cake flour add a half teaspoon of each)

2 Tbsp Matcha powder ( I added an extra half tablespoon)

2/3 C confectioner sugar

4 large egg yolks
100 ml water
60 ml oil (I used canola but any light tasting oil will do)

5 egg whites (chill in fridge before using)
1/2 tsp of cream of tartar (available near spice rack in most chain supermarkets)

D: (Fresh cream)
2tsp water (microwaved until hot)
plain gelatine
2 C Whipping cream (heavy cream)
1/2 C confectioner's sugar

**Note I used more matcha powder and less sugar than a recipe I was mimicking since we aren't fond of oversweet desserts. Turned out perfect, not bitter but with a definite matcha taste and complimenting the fresh cream and natural sweetness of the berries nicely.

*** I highly recommend having a handheld electric beater for this (if not a kitchenaid **DROOLS**) but it is possible to do it manually. I won't say it will leave you all warm and fuzzy inside but it is possible.

1.Sift together all A ingredients in one bowl. Preheat oven to 300 F.
2. Beat all B ingredients, trickling oil in at the end as you beat the mixture to create an emulsion. Add to A ingredient bowl and fold quickly until you get a green (brown, depending on the quality of your matcha powder) batter with no streaks. If you mix this too long you will get a denser cake.
3. Whip all C ingredients in a chilled metal or glass bowl until stiff peaks form (aka you can hold the bowl upside down without destroying your kitchen and sanity). Then gently fold the foam into the green batter just until there are not streaks.
4. Pour evenly into non-stick angelfood or bundt pan. Place gently in oven (middle rack) for 45-50 min until top is brown (and probably cracked) and cake springs back slightly when pressed.
5. Take out of oven and hang upside down. (I used a perrier bottle for this) Cool completely before using thin flexible knife to jimmy it out of the pan.

6. While waiting for cake to cool prepare cream. Just heavy cream and confectioner's sugar will make a perfectly delicious cream but I wanted mine to be a bit more stable so the cream did not dissolve and run into the cake, so I added the gelatine water.
Conundrum: Gelatine will not melt in cold water. Cream will not whip if it is warm.
Solution: zap water to boiling, furiously stir in a quarter tsp of gelatine powder and let cool to about room temp, while constantly checking to see if it is setting. When the cream is super cold add water a little at a time as you whip (despite pleas of mercy from arm muscles). Helps (if only mentally) to keep the whisk in the freezer before doing this too.

7. Go wild decorating with the berries. I had really fresh, beautiful (expensive) raspberries and blueberries which I dusted with confectioner sugar to mimic snow...turns out for those of us on the East Coast I needn't have bothered, since as I write, we are snowed in.

Chiffon cake is ideally light, airy, and chewy; and while I admit my decorating skills could use some practice, the cake was the last word in yumminess.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Welcome to my version of staring into the void

"If you gaze long enough into the void, the void will gaze back into you" ...

Yes, months of freelance writing and editing has finally made me revert to quoting Nietzsche. To make time spent procrastinating from actual work more organized I have devised a way to both share information with people who share my interests and perhaps learn from my mistakes.

These eclectic interests encompass avid reading (which as become slightly more discriminate since childhood, when I was known to read the backs of shampoo bottles), frenetic knitting ( periods of which I have been known to sleep knit), cooking / baking (it's like taking chem all over again sometimes, but with much tastier least most of the time), dragonboating (a new non stationary activity which will require me to do less of the previous interest.., and hopefully photography if this blog progesses.