More bribes for my brother: mac and cheese

I know it sounds like whenever I cook for my brother it is a bribe, this is really not true. No it isn’t. This time it was only part-bribe to let us play videogames when we visited his apartment, and part-thank you for letting us stay in said apartment.

A thank you that I hope lasted at least 4 days, as it was in danger of being finished within one sitting. Please don’t eat 500g of pasta in one sitting, it somehow seems a little scary. Imagine a pasta-monster, and by that I mean a human-sized macaroni with arms and legs. Scary, right? Don’t do it. Even though the mac and cheese is tasty enough to.

Anyway this was a pretty easy recipe which I later passed on to my bro (I was expecting it to be much harder!)

Pasta monster's lair

Easy Mac & Cheese

Adapted from the Kitchn

  • Note the basic ratio of milk to cheese is around 1:1.5 to 1:2, with a couple of tablespoons of flour (any type – corn or normal). 

A 500g bag of pasta – small shapes are better because they hold the sauce
1.5 cups milk
2 – 3 cups cheese – cubed is fine, or grated, it just needs to melt.
2 tablesp flour – corn or all purpose
0.5 – 1 teasp black pepper, to taste
Salt to taste
A dash of chilli flakes
Mix-ins:  see below. I used leeks and lamb sausage.

  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Warm 1 cup milk over medium heat in a pot.
    Mix flour into the remaining ½ cup of milk
    When steam starts to rise from the hot milk in the pot, pour in the rest of the flour-milk mixture.
    Whisk / stir until it thickens to the consistency of cream / custard.
  3. Drop the heat to low.
    Stir in the cheese, pepper, salt, and chilli flakes. Mix until all the cheese is melted.
    Taste and season as needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and dump all the pasta + additional mix-ins into the pot.
    Stir well until the sauce coats the pasta.
    (Eating can start here J )
  5. Optional: Put into an oven proof dish and top with more cheese – parmesan works nicely.
    Put it in a toaster oven / oven at around 200 deg C for 20 minutes or so until the cheese topping crusts and browns.

Mix-ins:

In terms of mix-ins, I added the following:

  • Leeks
    • Wash leeks. Slice and fry in a little oil until soft and a little charred at the edges.
  • Lamb sausages
    • Fry lamb sausages and slice. Set aside.

You can really add anything you like though.

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Gong Xi Fatt Cake

Among other things, Chinese New Year means that people come over and there needs to be food around. Lots of food. 

*takes a bow*

At some point, you or whoever else is ordering the the food will forget exactly how much food they ordered – this happens, it’s normal, and you shouldn’t panic. You definitely ordered enough food.

Despite this, you will still end up making an extra dessert. Extra dessert is always welcome. Especially when it’s the first year you have to give out angpau, and you need a little consolation in the form of cream cheese.

Cream cheese heals all wounds

Yes, that’s two pictures of the orange flower. I’m just a little bit proud of myself 🙂 (context: I’m the least artistic person on the planet)

I have omitted the process pictures, in which I dropped the baking tin on the cake. My baking tin is metal = heavy. This resulted in a really really big dent in the middle of the cake. Like I said, there is nothing that cream cheese icing can’t solve.

Vanilla Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing and Orange “Flower”

Vanilla Cake

Adapted from Hummingbird Cupcakes’ vanilla cupcake recipe, and quadrupled. 

I like this particular vanilla cake recipe a lot, because it’s one bowl with very few steps, and results in a really light and springy cake (and I don’t even like vanilla cake much, it’s boring!)

480g all purpose flour – I have used gluten free with this recipe before
400g caster sugar
160g butter, softened
480ml milk
4 eggs
3 teasp vanilla essence
6 teasp baking powder
1 teasp of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C
Yield: a two layer square monster, 9″

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until the mixture looks sandy. Or, you can use the rub-in method.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Drop in the milk, egg, and vanilla essence. Mix until just smooth, try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Split into two square tins. Fill only 1/2 to 1/3 full, this cake rises a lot!
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. I’d start checking at 35 minutes for done-ness.

Cream Cheese Orange Icing

Adapted from BraveTart’s SMB though it isn’t really SMB anymore given that I used whole eggs. The yolk / white wastage makes me sad, so I only do SMB or Faux French if I have leftover egg parts.

I know it’s a pain, but weigh everything really well okay? Even the egg. I ended up creating an excel sheet to calculate weights based on the weight of the egg parts…super nerd with bad mental maths. Let me know if you want it.

300g whole eggs – this was 3 eggs for me
300g castor sugar
490g butter, softened + cubed
490g cream cheese, softened + cubed
1/2 teasp salt
Zest of 4 oranges – the ones used below for decor

  1. Beat eggs into sugar and salt, until the egg whips up.
  2. Heat over a water bath until it steams, approx 150 degrees C. I just look for steam, I don’t have a thermometer. Whisk continuously!
  3. Once it steams quite regularly, remove and beat until the mixture doubles in volume. Another test for this is to put some between your fingers, and see whether you can feel sugar crystals.
  4. Keep beating until it gets cool, otherwise stick it in the fridge for some time until it gets back to room temperature.
  5.  Once it hits room temperature, dump in the butter and whisk until smooth.
  6. Now you can add your flavourings – namely cream cheese and orange zest. Beat all of them in until smooth, but don’t over mix or the cream cheese will go runny.

Note: my icing didn’t hold well up in the heat after a while, so I might try adding some white chocolate next time to attempt to stabilise it a bit. Suggestions welcome.

Build the beast

About 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented. Be careful not to break the sacs!

  1. Peel and set aside mandarin oranges, after breaking into segments. Leave them on a sheet of kitchen paper, so that all the juices get soaked up and the segments don’t drip all over your icing.
  2. Slather icing between, and on top of all sides of the two stacked cakes. Cool in the fridge in between coats if like me, your icing is a bit drippy.
  3. Arrange the oranges in a pretty flower pattern, and place this (piece by piece, unfortunately) on top of the cake.

The Prince of Battenberg

The Prince of Battenberg was a rather illustrious man. A lover, a singer, a fighter. He protected the Earth from dragons and giant spiders and aliens from outer space. Yes, he did, why do you think we can’t find any of these things nowadays?

How did he do it, you might ask?

Overdid it a little with the food colouring

Apart from his mighty constitution, he subsisted solely on Battenberg cake. And he had a shield with a battenberg design on it. When he was ready for battle, he would close his eyes and crouch behind his shield. The sign of the battenberg would then shoot out of his shield like a laser (think Captain Planet with only 2 colours), and it became a giant multicoloured light sabre. He was then able to yield it like a mega-sword.

As Battenberg cake was the source of his special powers, I thought it was prudent to learn to make one.

They don't need to be super even. Ready to roll This is how we crimp itIf you want the real story of the Prince of Battenberg, you can find it on Wikipedia here. I think mine is more interesting. Though even without his super batten-sabre, Prince Louis was apparently a pretty successful fellow.

Seriously, don’t let other websites fool you into thinking this cake is rocket science. If you can roll out pastry (like make cookie-cutter biscuits and apple pie) then you can totally do this. It’s a cut and paste job, and the marzipan is pretty easy to roll out with a rolling pin.

Psychedelic yet sophisticated

Battenberg Cake

Almond Cake

I used the almond sponge recipe off BBC (tweaked to suit what I had in the kitchen), though any almond sponge will do.
Note that the cake gets better after a few days as the flavours meld. I don’t like almond cake, but I have it on good authority.

140g self raising flour – or normal flour with an extra 2 teasp of baking powder
150g brown sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
1/2 teasp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Baking paper

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C for around half an hour.
Yield: 1 20cm square cake tin, split into two for the 2 colours.

  1. Dump all the ingredients in a food processer and mix until smooth. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. Divide into 2 bowls. Colour one bowl pink and the other yellow. As you can see, I added a bit too much food colouring. This affects cooking time, if you add very little then check whether it’s done at about 25 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking tin. Cut 2 sheets of baking paper to the size of the tin. Fold them in such a way that you get 2 “pockets” for your batter in the cake tin. Make sure you score the corners with the back of a spoon, else your cake won’t have sharp edges and you’ll end up wasting *even more* cake. Fit these 2 pockets into the cake tin (see the picture above if you think I sound crazy).
  4. Pour each colour of cake mix into one of the pockets. Don’t worry, they won’t mix – the batter is pretty thick.
  5. Bake, and leave to cook thoroughly.

I like to build it build it

A pink bar cake – you just made these cakes, you clever fellow
A yellow bar cake
About 500g of marzipan
A few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
Icing sugar

  1. Stack your bar cakes one on top of the other. Using a sharp knife, cut off the edges so they stack together nicely. Then, cut them in half and switch the top and bottom layers on one side so you get a chequerboard pattern of pink and yellow (see pics above if you’re confused).
  2. Heat up some jam in the microwave so it goes a bit runny. Use the runny jam to stick your 4 strips of cake together. You can be pretty generous with the jam.
  3. Powder a surface with a little icing sugar (I did this on a chopping board to minimise mess). Roll out your marzipan, to a size large enough such that you can wrap the 4 strips of cake in it. You don’t want the marzipan to thin or it won’t be able to hold the cake together.
  4. Paint runny jam all over the marzipan.
  5. Roll the cake into the marzipan, trying to keep the marzipan as tight as possible. Once the edges meet, trim the marzipan with a knife so it sits flush with the corner of the cake.
  6. Pinch all the way along the bottom two corners of the cake with your fingers, no one will see this because it’s at the bottom of the cake. Try not to be too violent though.
  7. Roll the cake back right-side up again. Slice off the two ends of the cake so it becomes a nice even cuboid, covered with marzipan on all sides except the ends.
  8. Decorate as you will, sir.

If you leave it to sit, the marzipan hardens and tightens up

Carrots in a Blender

So, to make this you need a blender large enough to hold a whole tub of cake mix. This isn’t a serious problem for me and Mr Chopper, who has a rather large belly. If your blender isn’t big enough then you can remove everything after a bit and continue with a hand mixer. or you can grate the carrots and chop up the pineapple and crush the walnuts separately, like in a normal recipe. Or you can do your chopping in shifts, and mix everything up in a big bowl with a spoon at the end. I think that’d be how I would do it without my faithful friend.

Obligatory prep photo

I just really liked how everything was originally done in a single bowl. You know that one bowl recipes are my favourite.

Icing prep

Also, this cake is so vege-packed that it’s almost a salad. Coleslaw, to be exact, what with all the shredded carrots. Healthy cake.

My dog likes (to play with) carrots

You would eat a salad as a meal. Hence, if this cake = salad, and salad potentially = lunch or dinner, therefore cake = lunch or dinner.

I haven’t included breakfast because I feel absolutely no guilt about eating cake for breakfast.

Here is my pretty, in her lumpy glory

I do dread the day when the thunderthighs come to claim me. In the mean time, let us, with this cake, toast to the strength of the gates of Tartarus.

Sorry bad photo, will upload a nicer one next time

Healthy-as-Coleslaw Carrot Cake

Adapted, barely, from Quirky Cooking. Awesome idea, I love cakes that you can just mix and pour.

200g carrots – peeled and quartered
300g pineapple chunks – if canned, drain well
2 large eggs
40g oil
1 teasp vanilla essence
90g honey
190g flour
1 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp baking soda
¾ teasp salt
75g walnuts, whole OR equivalent weight shredded coconut
40g raisins

Oven temperature: 165 degrees C, for an hour to an hour and a half. Cupcakes only take about 30 to 40 minutes.
Yield: 1 bundt cake, or 12 cupcakes.  Or a large loaf. Don’t use a regular cake tin, or the middle of the cake won’t cook properly. Instead, flour a small glass or ramkin and place it in the middle of the tin.

  1. Grease / flour bundt tin.
  2. Dump the following in a blender for about 5 seconds, and chop until it reaches the texture of grated carrot – carrot, pineapple (if using fresh), eggs, oil, honey, vanilla. Remove and set aside if your blender has a small capacity, otherwise just leave it in the blender.
  3. Blend the following on high for about 5 seconds – flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, walnuts / coconut, pineapple (if using canned).
  4. If you have set aside your carrot mixture, now is the time to mix in the flour et al, pretty thoroughly. Then mix in the raisins.
  5. Bake! Then set aside until it cools / chill it.

Eating suggestion: wait for the cake to cool fully before eating, or put it in the fridge for a bit. This is a super moist cake, so if you don’t do this it will be a little wobbly on the inside.

Orange Cream Cheese Honey Icing 

Adapted from Janie Turner and Sam Joffe in “Fast and Easy Cooking”.

1 tablesp granulated sugar
Rind of 1 large unwaxed orange, thin peelings of skin only – or any other citrus fruit
300g cream cheese, softened
15 – 30g runny honey

Yield: the top of one 8” cake.

  1. Blend granulated sugar with  the orange peelings to get them to squish together.
  2. Add cream cheese and honey, keep blending for about 20 seconds.
  3. If you like, after this you can whisk at medium speed for about 30 seconds to get a fluffier icing. The blender has taken most of the work out of this so you don’t need to do it for long.

Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

Cake Addiction Centre: Patient “Gingerbread”

Welcome to the Cake Addiction Centre (CAC). My name is Lea and my weakness is gingerbread.

As you roam these halls you will see many victims of Cake Addiction. CAC takes care of them all – chocolate fudge, orange, berry, banana choc chip, double chocolate, peanut butter, red velvet, coconut cream, apple, custard, dark chocolate, coffee, pineapple upside down, even carrot cake addicts.

Chocolate cake takes a good many of our people. Good people. Our biggest threats are dark chocolate ganache, and cream cheese icing.

Gingerbread? No, gingerbread isn’t one of our most common addictions here at CAC. I may well be the only gingerbread inmate here at the moment. They usually allow us to conduct the guided tours because we are the most peaceful addicts. Some of them like to fight, especially those addicted to peanut butter or pineapple upside down cake.

What am I doing here, you might ask?

I ate a quarter of a sheet cake in one afternoon. Another sixth after dinner. And another quarter at breakfast the next day. After less than 24 hours, this is what was left of the cake. Suffice to say this cake did not see a second sunrise.

Oops..

I don’t have a picture of the whole cake. I could not control myself. I feel so ashamed.

Gingerbread

Adapted from the Be-Ro Flour Cookbook, 37th edition. Spicy spicy gingerbread and gingerbread people are some of my favourite things about Christmas (apart from mince pies, and crab. Yes, crab). You know how I feel about chilli. Don’t say you haven’t been warned about the possible level of spiciness. I might try adding fresh ginger, if so I’ll update the recipe.

300g flour
6 teasp ginger powder
3 teasp mixed spice powder
1 teasp cinnamon
1 1/2 teasp bicarb of soda
75g brown sugar
150g margarine – softened
225g black treacle
75g golden syrup
190ml milk
3 eggs
75g raisins / sultanas / currents

Oven temperature: 150 degrees C, for 1 1/4 hours. This is 1.5x the original recipe because I like my gingerbread thick and moist, so you might even need a little longer in the oven.

  1. Sift flour, ginger, spice, cinnamon, bicarb of soda, and sugar together. Throw the raisins in here too.
  2. Whisk together the margarine, treacle, and golden syrup.
  3. Add the milk and whisk again.
  4. Beat the eggs into the liquids.
  5. Mix the liquids into the flour.
  6. Pour it into a square cake tin, and bake for around 1 1/4 hours.

Possible pairings: orange honey cream cheese icing (if you insist on icing – I’ll post this recipe in a bit). Totally not necessary, I’m a purist and would be very unlikely to ice my gingerbread.

To try next time:

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of fresh grated ginger
  • Perhaps a teaspoon of black pepper?

Patchwork Apple Pie

Egg wash covers a multitude of sins, and when you’re down to your last egg and making your mum’s birthday pie, forgo tomorrow’s breakfast and just use it on the pie.

Naked apples

Especially if said pie was set to be named disaster-pie rather than patchwork-pie, because for some reason, you didn’t figure out how to roll out the pastry properly. And it wouldn’t go hard, even in the freezer. Tasted good raw though.

You can't see how I wrestled with the crust - I won!

Despite my fiddling, the pie filling turned out really very well – just a little tart. I like it best that way, though other sweet teeth (sweet tooths? No, I think sweet teeth is better) were slightly less than impressed. Too bad, if you want more it sweeter, make your own pie *blows raspberries*

Patchwork pie!

We ate it with cream, and custard (those were the options, not both at the same time).

See what I mean about covering up imperfections?

Patchwork Apple Pie 

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s apple pie, I changed the filling a bit. On a side note, I don’t usually make a lot of Jamie Oliver’s recipes as I’ve always found them rather complicated, but this one is great – he provides step by step instructions, with pictures. I’d totally recommend heading over to his website for that (I recorded it here to capture my minor changes to the filling).

Pastry

250g flour – gluten free works fine here
50g sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
125g cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
A little milk, if needed

  1. Pulse flour, sugar, zest, and butter together in a food processor. Keep going until it looks like sand.
  2. Add the egg, and a little milk if the dough doesn’t come together when you mix further. You may or may not need the milk, depending on the size of the egg.
  3. Put the dough in the fridge for a bit while you make the filling.

Filling

3 green apples – I used granny smith, they were quite small
4 red apples – I used pink lady/braeburn (I think?), again quite small
3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablesp black treacle – molasses would work too
1/2 teasp ground ginger
1/2 teasp cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
A handful of raisins – I used close to half a cup

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. I cut mine into 1/8th segments.
  2. Put the apples and all other ingredients in a pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the apples just start to soften.
  3. Set aside to cool while you sort out the pastry.

Assembly

1 egg, beaten
Butter for greasing
Flour for rolling

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Flour a work surface. Take half the dough out the fridge, and roll it out. Carefully lift the dough into the bottom of a (buttered) pie plate. If you’re useless like me, and use slightly soft butter, you may need to dump it directly into the pie plate and press it out until the dough covers the bottom and sides of the plate.
  2. In go the apples – don’t just drop them in though, you will get holes in your crust. Be gentle!
  3. Take the other half of the dough out the fridge, and roll it out on the floured surface. Try to get it large enough to cover the pie. Lift it on top of the pie. Try not to break it. I didn’t manage this…so I made little coin shaped flat bits with my fingers and tried to get them all to stick together over the apples, like a jigsaw puzzle. As you can see, it works relatively decently. “Rustic”, I believe it is called.
  4. Brush on the beaten egg. If you managed to place your pastry on top of the pie in a single piece, cut a couple of holes in the centre of it so the steam can escape. I did not need to do this.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is brown and firm.

Dough-splosions

This is another classic case of recipe-in-progress that gets posted, so that I don’t forget what I did and what I want to try next time. Don’t ask what possessed me to attempt making bread, I don’t know. No less, bread that I can actually buy from down the road (since I’m still based in KL).

Perhaps stubbornness because I wanted to see if I could do it myself?


Not membrane-like at all. Think I didn't knead enough

I also had a bit of an explosion because I forgot that I was making bread and went off to do something else. Note to self: don’t leave dough alone to proof for 4 hours, it will try to escape the bowl.

Boom!

I made two types of bread, one was cinnamon sugar and the other was cheese sugar. I’ve provided the recipes for both. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as I would have liked, but I think that’s because I kinda don’t know what I’m doing. Suggestions welcome, and I’ll try again soon 🙂

Cinnamon LoafCheese Sugar LoafNot quite fluffy enough - but I think that's my fault

TangZhong (湯種) Bread

Adapted from Do What I Like, though I also looked at Bush Gourmand. I made a bigger loaf and scaled the Tang Zhong for one loaf of bread.

Tang Zhong – apparently this fluffs the bread

130g water
3 1/3 teasp unsifted flour

  1. Mix everything together, and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously.
  2. Keep going until the mixture starts to thicken, and you see streaks across the surface when you drag a spoon across the top (I’ll add a picture next time).
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Bread

500g flour
200g water
10g milk or some skim milk powder – make up the liquid in water instead
2 tsp salt
2 tablesp / 30g sugar – the typical amount in Hong Kong style bread is about double this, pump it up if you’re making a sweet bread
2 tsp yeast
50g melted cooled butter – I just melted mine in the microwave and let it cool to room temperature

2 teasp vanilla essence
2 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp brown sugar
OR
1/4 cup grated cheese
2 teasp brown sugar

Oven temperature: there are options…either 220 degrees C or 180 degrees C (I tried the 220 degrees C here)

  1. Mix flour, water, milk, salt, sugar (30g for cheese loaf, 60g for cinnamon loaf), yeast, melted butter, and tangzhong together in a bowl. Also add the cinnamon and vanilla if you’re making the cinnamon loaf.
  2. Knead until it gets stretchy, the “membrane stage”. I didn’t get there, so pics next time if I do. It also works in a bread machine for 2 cycles, about 10 to 15 minutes if I’m not wrong.
  3. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover loosely to allow it to rise. Leave it there until it doubles in size. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half in a warm room.
  4. Punch the air out, and dump it into the baking tin. Let it rest there for 15 minutes or so. It should pop out above the baking tin.
  5. Now add your toppings:
    1. Sprinkle on the brown sugar for the cinnamon loaf, or
    2. Sprinkle on the cheese and brown sugar for the cheese loaf. I added too much cheese so I had to “rescue” it, hence the crown shaped top. Don’t over-do it so that it gets too heavy or the top of the loaf will slip out the sides of the tin when it bakes.
  6. Bake at:
    1. 220 degrees C for 25 minutes. Then remove the tin, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes so the outside gets crispy. Note that the cheese burnt a little on this setting, so a little tweaking may be required.
    2. 180 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, with the lid of a pullman baking tin closed. I haven’t tried this yet, but the time seems a little short to me – to be updated!

Dirty Old Google, and Cake

Google, you have a problem.

Why? WHY?

Why would you do this to me, google? In the middle of the supermarket where people might see? They will think I’m some really dodgy person who looks up lots of dirty words on my phone in broad daylight, in public.

Before you start calling me a perv or any other slightly more colourful names, note that the reason why I was trying to find out how many inches were in 16 cm was because I was buying new baking tins. Cute, small, cheap Japanese baking tins, just the right size to split one cake recipe into two tiny cakes, one of which can be frozen for a rainy day (like today). They even have little detachable bottoms so they are a bit like mini spring-forms, isn’t that nice?

Cute lil cake tins

No, I do not search for weird stuff on my phone. You try googling “16 cm”, see if you get all these funny links too. I swear it isn’t just me, I tried it on a couple of different computers with similar results.

Anyway. Words don’t do justice to this cake, it tastes awesome. Even people other than me admitted as much. So that means I’m not just tooting my own horn. Snigger. Okay, inappropriate, enough.

All that's missing is a little squirrel Brown butter does not look appealing Hazelnut powder Dry like the desert

But seriously, don’t you think blogging is a little self indulgent sometimes? Who wants to read whatever random drivel I decided to spout, standing on my little soap box in this corner of the web?

I like the spotty batter See the little bit that flaked off? Line your baking tins! I will figure out how to get the hazelnut spread to set soon. I think the oil content was too high Rustically artistic, or messy? Who am I kidding?

It’s okay, don’t feel sad. Eat some cake, you’ll feel better. About yourself and about the world and about everything else, all of which will turn into sunshine and unicorns, after you eat this cake. Seriously. Do iiittttt. And stop thinking about google and dirty words, you’re kinda disgusting.

Sunshine and ponies and butterflies

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Cream Cheese White Chocolate Faux French Buttercream

Bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? The cake is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who originally got it from Sunday Suppers at Lucques). The faux French buttercream is adapted from Bravetart’s recipe, edited slightly because I ran out of butter and reduced to reflect the number of egg yolks I had left.

Cake

140g hazelnuts – I didn’t bother removing the skins FYI, no big deal
225g butter
135g icing sugar
40g flour
5 extra-large egg whites – I used 6 because my eggs were smallish, save the yolks for the buttercream
3 tablesp caster sugar
1 teasp vanilla essence

Oven temperature: 175 degrees C. I used 2x 6 inch pans, it’s probably a good idea to line them if you use anything larger.

  1. Toast the hazelnuts for about 10-15 minutes, until they turn chocolate brown and smell like nutella. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cook the butter over medium heat until it turns brown and smells like toast. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t burn or bubble over, and cooks evenly. Once you’re done, leave the butter to cool. Let it cool to close to room temperature before adding it to the cake batter!
  3. In a food processor grind the hazelnuts with the icing sugar until fine like breadcrumbs. Add the flour and pulse a couple of times to sift and mix. If you’re so lucky as to have hazelnut powder, just sift everything together instead.
  4. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the caster sugar until they are stiff and dry. Stiff and proud like a captured knight in armour, who has lost the battle but never his dignity. Yes, I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels, leave me alone. Turn egg whites out into a big mixing bowl.
  5. Fold in the hazelnut flour and (cooled!) brown butter into the egg whites in thirds, alternating between the two. Be gentle! The egg whites look like they deflate a lot, but that’s alright as long as you’ve whipped them good earlier.
  6. Pour out into a the cake tins, and bake for about 40 minutes, checking afterwards.

Buttercream

6 egg yolks – you saved these from the cake batter earlier, about 100g
100g sugar
200g butter – softened
100g philly cheese – softened
150g white chocolate – melted, whisked, and cooled
1 teasp vanilla essence

  1. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they go pale.
  2. Put everything over a water bath, and heat until about 65 degrees C, stirring all the while. You need to see some steam coming off the top. Once you see the steam, take the eggs off the water bath.
  3. So now you have two choices. You can either whip the eggs until they cool (takes forever!) or you can bung it in the fridge for a bit, have a cup of tea, then come back when they have cooled down. Then whip them on high until the mixture thickens and approximately doubles in volume.
  4. Drop in the chunks of butter and cheese, and keep mixing on high. It should come together and get shiny after a while. If the buttercream gets too runny, put it in the fridge for a bit and then try again once it cools down.
  5. Add the chocolate and vanilla essence and keep mixing. See how it holds its shape much better? I think (not sure) that that’s because of the chocolate.
  6. You’re ready to go ice cakes now. If the icing is a little soft just stick it in the fridge for a bit, it’ll firm up.

Notes: the buttercream recipe makes enough icing to ice both cakes “sandwich fashion” like I did. But, I only torted + iced one cake, and froze the rest of the icing along with the second cake – the icing keeps for a couple of months in the freezer pretty well apparently. I also had a nutella sauce that I put in the centre of the cake, but that was a bit runny so I’d advise just spreading some nutella on the underside of the top tier if you want to match that effect. If I figure out how to get the nutella sauce to set nicely, I’ll add the recipe for that too.

Oddities involving Orange, Cheese, and Raisins

So some people have already told me that this sounds like quite a strange cake. They even went as far as to say something to the effect of: “so if your cake sounds weird, can I always assume in future that the weird bits are things that you added?”

Why yes, you can in fact assume that it was me who created the odd flavour combination. This was originally a plain orange cake, with a chocolate sauce. The recipe’s original creator intended to be one of those wedding cake types that stacks 3 tiers high with white chocolate cigarillos stuck to the outside of it. I just threw whatever was in my fridge into it. Totally not expecting it to taste so good. This is the first cake I’ve ever made that was eaten in its entirety almost immediately. It has a nice crunchy crust and does absolutely not need any icing, being very satisfying all on its own. My favourite kind of cake.

I feel calm just looking at this

Be warned that it’s not mega-sweet, probably because of the orange rind in it. So you feel fresh and happy after eating, rather than sick from overindulgence. This means you can eat more. Again, I like it that way, so there.

It’s the sort of cake you eat in the afternoon, when it’s cold and raining outside, with a mug of steaming tea. You can look out the window in a state of contemplation while watching raindrops falling if you choose, but I think that’s boring and would rather read a book. If you like you can toast a slice and have it with a little butter, but you really don’t need to do that (in fact, I never do that with cake. I feel like it’s a waste of cake. But you could, if you wanted to). I realise that you can eat most cakes in the afternoon with a cup of tea, but you will feel the calmest after eating this one. It’s a soothing, peaceful, unpretentious kind of cake.

Moist crumb and a crunchy crust. What more could you want in cake and life?

It’s also a one bowl recipe, which I made pretty much entirely in a food processor / blender-type creature. Which meant that it took a grand total of about 15 minutes prep time (hence lack of process photos). Serious bonus points awarded.

Whole Orange Cake with Raisins and a Cheese Crust

Yeah so I’m not exactly sure where the original recipe was from, because I only have a photo of the single page in the cookbook showing the original recipe. It’s not my cookbook, and I have no idea who the author is. But….from what I understand, if you change more than 3 major ingredients, the recipe is basically yours. I changed 4 major ingredients and a bunch of proportions, and the method – I suppose that makes it my recipe?

115g butter – softened
115g light brown sugar
2 medium eggs
165g flour
1.5 teasp baking powder
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of hard cheese like cheddar or parmesan – grated using the small holes on the grater. You can use a bit less if you like, but I enjoy the burnt cheese crust
1 orange
2 cups water
2-3 tablesp milk (if needed)
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. Zest the orange. Take the naked orange and it it in the blender with about 2 cups of water. Whiz it a food processor until it is thick and pulpy, then strain the big bits out with a pasta colander (big holes!). Keep 1 cup of liquid aside for the cake. You can drink the other cup if you want, but I wouldn’t, it’s rather bitter.
  2. Chuck the butter in the food processor and whip it a little until it’s a bit creamy.
  3. Dump in the sugar, keep whipping until the mixture goes pale.
  4. Throw in the eggs and about a tablespoon of the flour to prevent curdling. Keep on mixing. Yes, still in the food processor.
  5. Pour everything into a bowl, and fold in the flour, baking powder, salt, raisins, zest, and the cup of “juice” you kept aside earlier into the batter.
  6. Check: is the batter loose enough that it plops off the side of a spoon easily when you pick it up and turn it upside down? If not, add some milk. Keep adding until you get to a slightly looser consistency. You need the batter to plop off the spoon easily back into the bowl. I added about 3 tablespoons of milk.
  7. Put everything into a baking tin, smooth out the batter and sprinkle the cheese on top. I baked for about 45 minutes, but used a shallow baking tin. If you use a loaf tin it might take a little longer because the cake would be thicker. I actually think it’d be even nicer in a loaf tin, because you get a better crust:slice ratio 🙂