Friday, August 26, 2011

(David Lebovitz) Chocolate Bread

Chocolate Bread?
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I hardly have any luck baking breads, which is why you hardly see any on my blog. Nine out of 10 times, it will be a disaster. As such, when I do bake breads at all, I tend to limit myself to the easiest, simplest recipes I can lay my hands on.

I was intrigued by this Chocolate Bread by David Lebovitz because it was a no-knead recipe. You only need to use a spatula and fold the dough over and over within a bowl. Hey, right up my alley! ;) It's not that I don't like kneading, it's just that I don't like the mess that comes with it. Anyway, everything went well all the way to the oven, and I thought to myself, "Yay! This might just be one of those odd occasions I'm actually gonna get it right."

Until I sliced it open. It was all ... cake. HUH?

I didn't think I did anything wrong, so I went back to that post and trawled the comments section. Then I realised it was meant to be that way. In David's own words (in his reply to someone): "It does not rise as much as traditional bread, I think because of all the chocolate in it. It should be ... somewhat like a yeasted cake."

Whew! All is not lost, and there is still hope for me.

But did I like it? Uh, no. I wanted bread. BREAD, people. I'm talking pull-apart, tear-away-as-you-eat BREAD. I wanted long, beautiful gluten strands. I wanted ... oh, nevermind.

My children, though, had no problems finishing it, especially the youngest, who demanded twice, "I want some more CAKE."

'Nuff said.

(from David Lebovitz)

- 3/4 cup (180ml) whole or low-fat milk, heated until just tepid
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 6 tablespoons (75g) sugar
- 4 tablespoons (55g) butter, salted or unsalted
- 3 ounces (85g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups (280g) bread flour
- 1/4 cup (30g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces, 90g) chocolate chips or coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup (70g) toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Add one tablespoon (11 g) sugar, then set aside in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface.

2. While the yeast is activating, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and 3 ounces (85 g) chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

3. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, mix in the remaining sugar, the instant coffee (if using), the egg, vanilla, and sea salt.

4. Stir in half the flour and cocoa powder, then the melted butter and chocolate, then the remaining flour mixture, stirring until well-incorporated. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat for five minutes, until smooth. If making by hand, mix vigorously with a flexible spatula for the same amount of time. The dough will seem quite moist, resembling sticky brownie batter when ready.

5. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

6. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan.

7. Stir in the chopped chocolate and nuts, if using. Then use a spatula to fold the dough over on itself in the bowl for about thirty seconds, then transfer it to the buttered pan, pressing a bit to spread it to the corners. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.

8. Ten minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.)

9. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it feels done and sounds hollow when you tap it. You can stick an instant-read thermometer in the bottom if you’re unsure; the bread is done when the temperature reads 180ºF (82ºC).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Orange Cupcakes With Orange Curd Cream

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Good grief, Sunkist. What have you done to your oranges??? These must be the sourest navel oranges I have ever tasted. When I bit into the orange, I literally went into shock. The orange was so acidic and sour, I swear I heard my oesophagus sizzle and burn.

I cut open a second one to try, and again ... sour as a lemon! *grimace* What would you have made if you had some impossibly sour oranges on hand? Pray tell. I could only think of using them for baking, so Orange Cupcakes with Orange Curd Cream made their way to our table for tea that day.

(adapted slightly from here)

Orange Cupcakes
- 195g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 170g butter, softened
- 225g sugar (I reduced to 190g)
- 1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk (I used 2 whole eggs this time, because they were so small)
- 1 1/2 tbsp orange zest
- 12 tbsp whole milk (I used 6 tbsp milk + 6 tbsp juice)

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1. Preheat oven to 190°C and line your muffin tins.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Using a mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy for about 2 minutes.

4. Beat in orange zest, then egg and egg yolk. If the mixture curdles, just add 1 tbsp of flour and continue mixing.

5. On low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with milk.

6. Switch mixer to medium and beat for 10 to 15 seconds, just until batter appears uniform. The batter should look thick and creamy.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with spatula or knife.

8. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until it reaches a dark-gold color and an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

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Orange Curd Cream
- Orange Curd (substitute lemons with oranges using this recipe)
- Freshly whipped cream

1. After you have whipped your desired amount of cream to soft peaks, add in the orange curd and fold to combine. Cover and refrigerate immediately.

2. It depends how strong you want your cream to taste of orange but I would suggest a ratio of 1 part curd to 3 parts cream (approximately). It worked just right for me. I would also suggest that you consume the cream the same day you make it because it doesn't keep.

Since I had some orange zest leftover, I used it to sprinkle all over the frosted cupcakes (if you can even call that "frosting"!) and topped them with whole walnuts.

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Just in case you much prefer lemons to oranges, I have an all-lemony version right here. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cook & Share a Pot of Curry

It's Cook & Share a Pot of Curry Day! For those of you unaware, it all started here. As of today, more than 61,000 people have signed up to be part of this event on its Facebook page.

There is even a curry song on youtube which, although unrelated to this event, became a hit with many Singaporeans. I was so tickled by it. :) And then there is mrbrown's brilliant curry night. Listen to it if you haven't already ("For Freedom! For Justice! For Curry!").

This is what I made, at my daughter's request - chicken curry. She adores her curry, as all of us Singaporeans do. Vegetarian? No problem! Look here.

This is the rempah I made the night before. It's tiring but worth every effort. Besides, I've got biceps to show from all that pounding! ;)

I love my curry. But more than that, I love my multi-racial, multi-cultural Singapore. Cook & Share a Pot of Curry today, folks ... wherever you are.

As I tweeted this morning - Singapore's gonna smell awesome today!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(Delia Smith) Coffee & Walnut Cake

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This is a very special post for me because I finally overcame my mental barrier and shot my photos in 'manual'. This has been something I promised I would do ever since getting my DSLR some 14 months ago. But I have been so used to shooting in 'aperture', I never really bothered getting out of my comfort zone. Inertia can be a very powerful thing.

Well, I certainly hope that with more practice, I will understand more thoroughly the concepts of photography ... just like the way I'm finally beginning to fully grasp the science of baking. Yes, it has taken me a long time (and many, many setbacks) to get here but like Abraham Lincoln once said, "I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards." Onward, I go. Majulah! :)

And now the cake.

This is a simple Coffee & Walnut Cake that I made one afternoon. It is a sponge cake that was originally meant to be sandwiched like a Victoria Sponge (the filling and topping are made using mascarpone), but I chose to make it as one single cake, and let it go bare and naked. ;) I didn't have mascarpone, and I didn't fancy driving out just to get some. Besides, I reckoned, this being a nutty cake, it would be more filling than a regular sponge, and I was right. I think with the mascarpone, you'd no doubt get a prettier cake, but also one that would be much heavier. It's really your call. :)

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The recipe comes from Delia Smith, of whom I am a fan. Heck, if I had a posh British accent like her, I would be talking all day. ;) I'd stop blogging and turn to vlogging, just so I can hear myself speak. Heh heh! Anyway, you can view the video here, or follow the drill below:

(from Delia Online)

- 110g / 4oz self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 110g margarine (whipped vegetable fat), at room temperature (I used unsalted butter)
- 110g / 4oz golden caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp instant espresso dissolved in 1 1/2 tbsp of boiling water
- 50g / 2oz finely chopped walnuts

For the filling and topping
- 250g / 9oz Mascarpone cheese
- 1 dessertspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 rounded dessertspoon golden caster sugar
- 8 walnut halves
- Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC, 325ºF, gas mark 3

The texture of this cake is light and airy, and the nuttiness really stands out. If you don't want to add any coffee, it's fine. You can omit that, and get a regular walnut cake. But I would suggest adding 1 to 1 1/2 tsps of vanilla extract or rum in its stead. This is a great no-fuss cake to serve at teatime.
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1. Take a very large mixing bowl, put the flour and baking powder in a sieve and sift it into the bowl, holding the sieve high to give it a good airing as it goes down. Now all you do is simply add all the other cake ingredients (except the walnuts and coffee) to the bowl and, provided the margarine is really soft, just go in with an electric hand whisk and whisk everything together until you have a smooth, well-combined mixture. This will take about 1 minute but, if you don't have an electric hand whisk, you can use a wooden spoon and a little bit more effort. What you should end up with is a soft mixture that drops off the spoon easily when you give it a sharp tap. Then add the coffee mixture and the chopped walnuts and whisk them together.

2. Divide the mixture between the prepared sandwich tins, spreading the mixture around evenly. Then give each tin a sharp tap to even the mixture out and place the tins on the centre shelf of the oven and bake them for 30 minutes.

3. While the cakes are cooking you can make up the filling and topping, and all you do here is place all the ingredients, except the walnut halves, in a bowl and whisk them together till thoroughly blended. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill till needed.

4. When the cakes are cooked, ie, feel springy in the centre, leave them in their tins for about 30 seconds then loosen the edges by sliding a palette knife all round and turn them out on to a wire cooling rack. Peel off the base papers carefully and, when cool sandwich the cakes together with half of the coffee cream, then carefully on top and spread the other half over.

5. Finally, arrange the reserved walnut halves in a circle all around. It's a good idea to chill the cake if you're not going to serve it immediately.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mooncakes By Jewels Artisan Chocolate

Look at my special delivery this morning! The kind folks at Jewels Artisan Chocolate sent me an assortment of mooncakes for sampling. Hurrah! Look how lovely they are:

These are the mini snowskin ones. The one in white is Champagne Ganache Truffle (which I absolutely adore), while the black one's their star creation - Korean Black Garlic. Yes, you heard right. Garlic. In a moon cake. It certainly makes for a curious combination, doesn't it? But lest you bolt like a vampire, let me assure you that there is hardly any smell or taste of the offending herb. It's just one teensy clove of black garlic embedded within, which, in all honesty tasted like a pickle. That said, I'll be the first to admit that I'm very partial to anything champagne, so do try both versions for yourselves. ;)

Here are the traditional mooncakes in Double Yolk and Mashed Yolk. Much as I am a fan of snowskin mooncakes, I simply cannot imagine celebrating Midautumn Festival without the traditional ones. These were very nice too! Smooth white lotus paste enveloped in an impossibly thin skin ... exactly the way it should be.

To see all the available flavours - and there is quite a selection - swing by Jewels Artisan Chocolate's Facebook page. You'll be able to see the different cross-sections of each mooncake as well as their respective prices.

And to get your stash, visit these sales locations:
- Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road #02-31/32
From 12 Aug to 11 Sept 2011

- Takashimaya Square
Basement 2 Ngee Ann City
391 Orchard Road
From 18 Aug to 11 Sept 2011

- Entertainment Centre Atrium (in front of Carrefour)
Suntec City Mall
3 Temasek Boulevard
From 29 Aug 2011 to 11 Sept 2011

Much thanks to Jewels Artisan Chocolate and Ms Nicole Lee of Sirius Art for sending these samples.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls

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I remember very fondly, the basement of Wisma Atria circa 1992. There was a shop selling cinnamon rolls, and once you stepped out of the train at Orchard MRT, you'd be greeted by the amazing sweet scent of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Do you remember? :) Those were my student days, and I believe if I didn't have an allowance to manage, I would be splurging every cent on cinnamon rolls each time I went to Orchard.

Now, if you love cinnamon rolls, but have never tried baking them, you're in for a treat. This recipe is simply the best. Confirm, double confirm! ;) I love that I can just use plain* flour and skip kneading altogether ... yet the dough magically comes together like a fluffy dream.
* By the way, I used bread flour on my second attempt, and found that it did not make much of a difference in texture. So yay!

The recipe comes from Ree (The Pioneer Woman), who always does these amazing step-by-step photos. But I also have to thank Ann (Pig Pig's Corner), for scaling down the proportions to a more manageable serving quantity. It was her adapted version that I followed. It was enough for my family's teatime snack, plus some leftover for breakfast the next day.

- For Ree's original recipe, click here.

- For Ree's notes on the recipe, click here.

(Adapted version from Pigpigscorner ... thanks Ann!)

- 1 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
- 2 2/3 cups plain flour (+ 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 100g unsalted butter - melted (you don't have to use up all the butter if you don't want to ... I didn't)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Cinnamon powder (I used 1 tsp, but more or less is up to you)
- Sultanas (optional)

1. Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan.

2. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool for about 30 mins.

3. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but not hot, sprinkle in dry yeast. Let this sit for a min.

4. Add 2 2/3 cups of flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

5. Add 1/3 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. At this point the dough will be quite sticky, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two. This will give you a firmer dough. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down.
* Note: I made the rolls immediately without any chilling.

6. When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Form a rough rectangle with the dough. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape.

The amazing soft-as-baby-bottom no knead dough. I love. Ahhh ...
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7. Drizzle melted butter* over the dough. Now sprinkle sugar** over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon powder and sultanas.
* Go easy when you do this or you'll have butter dripping all over the place!
** I mixed my sugar and cinnamon together in a big bowl, before sprinkling.

8. Starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

9. Cut the roll to approximately 1 inch thick and lay them in a greased baking tray. Leave a little space in between the rolls for them to rise.

10. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 mins or until they look bloated, then bake at a 180℃ pre-heated oven until light golden brown, about 20-25 mins.
* I only let them rise for 10 mins and into the oven they went! Ooops.

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I chose not to make the maple frosting, opting instead for a simple icing sugar version. In the end, it was not necessary because all of us, with the exception of my daughter, preferred our rolls plain and simple. Icing tends to kill the original taste of cinnamon sugar and produces rolls which are cloyingly sweet. Well, that's just my personal opinion, anyway.

The second time I made these rolls, I omitted the frosting but increased the brown sugar and cinnamon powder very slightly. It tasted a lot better this way, methinks. ;)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Claypot Loh Shi Fun

"Loh shi fun literally means rat noodles. The noodle got its name from the way it looks as its shape resembles that of a rat’s tail. Loh shi fun is white and semi-transparent, and is made mainly from rice flour and corn flour. It is also smooth in texture. The noodle may be stir fried or served in soup, but the most common method is to serve it in a claypot."

Ahhh ... Loh Shi Fun (老鼠粉)! I grew up referring to it as Bee Tai Mak/Mee Tai Mak, and as a child, I wasn't too fond of it, to be honest. I associated it with "sick food" because it would only make its appearance whenever I was unwell. My grandmother would prepare a clear broth, boil the noodles along with some minced pork, drizzle a little soy sauce, and I would subsist on the same dish for the next few days.

Yes, it is perfect food when you're feeling poorly - but I'd have to look on painfully at my cousins chomping their fried chicken wings with grubby, oily fingers.

If I recall correctly, I never touched Loh Shi Fun again once I started school. By that time, I had moved back with my parents, and my mother - who can live on bread alone - changed my de facto "sick food" to ... surprise surprise ... sandwiches. Hur hur. And that was that. No more Loh Shi Fun for the next 3 decades or so. Not that it mattered!

Then recently, I spotted this Claypot Loh Shi Fun recipe, and decided to give it a shot. It looked and sounded so appetising, and very different from the version I used to eat. The recipe calls for prawns and pork. I used prawns, but substituted the pork with leftover fried fish from dinner the night before. They were batang fish steaks - very firm and which hold their shape even after I broke them into chunks with my fingers.

Actually, you can pretty much use any ingredient(s) you like - mushrooms, fish slices/chunks, squids, whatever floats your boat. It certainly makes for a simple and savoury one-dish meal. Definitely not "sick food" by any standard!

There are chunks of fish buried in there, somewhere!
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(from Debbie Teoh at inSing)

Serves 2

- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 small cloves garlic, chopped
- 80g minced prawns (I used whole prawns instead)
- 80g minced pork (I used overnight fried fish steaks, and broke them into large chunks)
- 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
- 300g Loh Shi Fun, rinsed in hot water and drained

- 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce (I changed this to almost 2 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp light soya sauce (I reduced this to just a dash, and used fish sauce instead)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp Chinese wine (I found this too overwhelming and would suggest cutting it down by half, or just a dash)
- Salt to taste (I didn't need this)

- 1 egg
- Spring onions
- Shallot crisps
- Sliced red chillies with soya sauce (optional)

1. Marinate minced prawns and pork with salt and pepper, set aside. If you are using whole prawns or other types of seafood, marinate them for about 10 mins in a little bit of light soya sauce, and a dash of Chinese wine.

2. In a bowl, combine seasoning ingredients and set aside.

3. Heat claypot with oil and sauté garlic until light browned. Then add in marinated meat/minced prawns/squids/fish chunks etc and give it a stir. Now, add Loh Shi Fun and seasoning ingredients.
* If using whole prawns, cook them first, remove and set aside. Then cook the rest of the meat/seafood.

4. Bring to a boil. Once the raw ingredients are cooked and the noodles are soft, adjust seasonings to taste.

5. Turn off heat, crack an egg and cover pot with its lid.

6. Stir the half cooked egg around just before serving. Top the dish with whole prawns (if using) and garnish with spring onions and shallot crisps.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cream Cheese Chocolate Cake

Cream cheese was on sale at the supermarkets recently, so I stocked up on a few boxes. Sometimes I shudder at the rate at which my children consume dairy products. The amount of fresh milk, yogurt, butter and cheeses they go through in a week is mind-boggling. Often times, I would catch my daughter (she, in particular, adores her cheeses) reaching for the Pecorino, and chomping down hunks of it at the fridge door. Back when I was little, I only knew "cheese" as Laughing Cow and Kraft. She, on the other hand, knows her Brie from her Gorgonzola. Lucky kids today, don't you think?

Ah, I digress.

This Cream Cheese Chocolate Cake is very different from all the other chocolate cakes I have ever baked. The crumbs were very tight and compact ... almost like spongefoam. Taste-wise, it was passable. I wouldn't say it was bad, but considering the recent competition from that scrummy Cream Cheese Pound Cake and that divine Flourless Chocolate & Almond Cake, this one doesn't stand a chance.

In all honesty, if I had cream cheese on my hands, I wouldn't make this again. It would be a 3-cornered fight among Japanese cheesecake, Cream Cheese Pound Cake and mashed potatoes. Which one gets your vote? ;)

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Still for what it's worth, here's the recipe for those who want to give it a shot. I did see some good reviews on the Internet ... but then, maybe they haven't met The One yet.

(from Paula Deen and seen at
Serves 12

- 1 cup butter, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup cocoa

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease/spray a 10-inch Bundt* pan.
* Obviously, I made cupcakes.

2. Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cocoa. Add about half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat well. Add remaining flour mixture and beat well for about 2 minutes.

4. Pour batter into Bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done.
* If you are making cupcakes, they are done in about 25 minutes, so please keep an eye on the oven.