Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mocha Muffins

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Hey ya'll! What's cookin'? I've been waking up every morning with no motivation to step into the kitchen. None at all. Zero. Zilch. With my daughter's exams out of the way, I have been going out a lot! Movies, concerts, shopping, dining out ... you name it, I've done it. It's great to be able to chill with friends who I have not seen in a while. The downside is, going out almost everyday can be very tiring! ;)

Of course I have been spending more time with my daughter too. Poor girl was holed up at home prior to the exams (like all 12-year olds in Singapore!), so she definitely deserves nice treats. Both of us had a few girls' nights out so far (cos the boys don't get it). We wined and dined, shopped for her new wardrobe and watched a phenomenal flamenco performance by Ballet Nacional de España, among other things. She's totally loving it, and I must say, so am I! :)

Well, that would explain the sluggish rate of my blog postings for now. I guess with so many fun distractions, who wants to cook/bake and blog, huh? ;) I did manage one day of baking though ... it was raining very heavily and the diva in me didn't want to ruin my nice shoes, so I stayed home. Tee hee! And as always, with gloomy weather, I'd tend to end up working with chocolate. :)

Personally, I didn't think these Mocha Muffins were extraordinary, but they were definitely decent and served their role as comfort food. Perhaps the addition of cinnamon did not quite agree with me. Chocolate and coffee - yes. But throw in some cinnamon? Hmmmm, kinda confusing, no? Also, for some reason, they were slightly on the dry side, so I would recommend having some coffee, tea or milk to dunk them along with.

All right then, till the next post, wishing all of you good food, good wine and good company! Cheers, everyone!

(from Joy of Baking)

Makes about 12 regular sized muffins.

- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk (I used regular full fat milk, or you could try yogurt too)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) safflower, corn, or canola oil (or other flavorless oil)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) strong black coffee or espresso, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (95 grams) whole wheat flour (I used all-purpose flour)
- 1/4 cup(25 grams) cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 cup (205 grams) light brown sugar (can reduce to about 180g or 190g if you don't like it too sweet, and especially if you are going to add chocolate chips)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I would omit this next time)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (100 grams) pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped (I omitted)
- 1 cup (170 grams) cappuccino, semisweet, milk, or white chocolate chips (I omitted)

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Position rack in center of oven. Line 12 - 2 3/4 x 1 1/2 inch muffin cups with paper liners, or butter or spray with a non stick cooking spray.

2. In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, coffee, and vanilla extract.

3. In another large bowl combine the flours, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate chips. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

4. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 18 - 23 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(David Rocco) Spaghetti Aglio Olio

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I was looking through my David Rocco's Dolce Vita the other day for some lunch ideas, but the whole darn problem with that cookbook is that there are just too many distracting photos of David. I found myself focusing on him rather than the recipes.

As usual. Hur hur.

When I finally paid attention to the food, I was too tired (and pressed for time) to try anything fancy, so it was plain ol' simple Spaghetti Aglio Olio that I cooked. Sheesh! I promise I will try - and that's the key word, "try" - to make something a little more challenging the next time because this dish is so criminally easy, I am almost embarrassed to be blogging about it.

(from David Rocco's Dolce Vita, also found at his official website)
Serves 4

- 500g spaghetti (1.1lb)
- 100g breadcrumbs (4oz)
- Small bunch of Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (120ml)
- 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 3 dried chili peppers, crushed (optional)
- Salt to season

(Left) Breadcrumbs which have been toasted with the chopped parsley; (Right) Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
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1. Bring salted water to a boil, and cook spaghetti for about 8 minutes. Remove just before the al dente stage. Drain but reserve a few ladles of pasta water.

2. Toast breadcrumbs along with parsley in a dry saucepan until golden brown.

3. In another pan, heat extra virgin olive oil and combine garlic and chili peppers. Cook for a few minutes or until golden brown. Do not burn the garlic; otherwise it will become bitter.

4. Add spaghetti to the pan with olive oil and mix well. To prevent dryness, ladle some pasta water to the pasta. Cook for another minute or until desired state of al dente.

4. Mix in toasted breadcrumbs and parsley before serving.

Want something a little fancier? Add other ingredients, like mushrooms ... or prawns. I know it's not exactly traditional ... but hey, you're the one eating, so who's to say no? :)

Hungry yet?
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Buon appetito!
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Butter (Almond) Cake

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I love a good butter cake. There's nothing quite like having a rich, velvety slice of golden sunshine with an aromatic cuppa Earl Grey. Once in a while, that is. If only butter cakes weren't so waistline-unfriendly, I'd have a slice everyday.

My fall-back recipe for butter cake has always been this one (I have made an orange version with it too). It has a very high liquid content, and uses the easy "creaming method" which yields a delightfully tender cake that is not too heavy on the tum ... even after the third slice.

I have also tried the "combination method", ie, whip the whites separately before folding them into the yolk/butter batter. This method gives you a taller, fluffier butter cake which is more sponge-like. If I have the time, I always prefer the "combination method" for the finer texture it gives. Yes, I am such a stickler for height and texture! Maybe I will do a separate post on this another day.

BUT, on crazy weekdays, when even washing an extra bowl is a nuisance, the "creaming method" wins hand down. Walkover. No fight.

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This time, I decided to tweak the recipe by just a little. As I had about 50g of ground almond (almond meal) left over from making macarons, I decided to add that into the cake. And it was bree-lee-iant! The cake was moist and buttery, with subtle hints of nuttiness ... not unlike a sugee cake. It was WOW WEE at every bite! ;)

The important thing is not to add too much almonds, so that the flavour of butter still takes centrestage. I thought 50g ground almond was just about right. What a lucky fluke! Of course you can use other types of grounded nuts, although the flavour of the cake will certainly differ. I would personally stick to almonds.

If you need to whip up a simple teatime cake under short notice, give this a try. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much flavour and depth this deceptively plain-looking cake can deliver.

- 145g all-purpose flour
- 50g ground almonds (almond meal)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 170g butter, softened
- 170g sugar
- 1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk (I used 2 small whole eggs and it was fine)
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 12 tbsp whole milk

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1. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Butter and line a 9-inch cake pan.

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

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

4. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla until well-combined.

5. On low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with milk.*
* Split the flour into 1/2, 1/4 and 1/4 portions (approximately). The first time you add in the flour, use the 1/2 portion. The reason for this is because the first addition of flour will be fully coated with the fat and does not form gluten (gluten is what makes a cake tough), so it is a good idea to add more flour at the first stage. I found Joy of Baking to be an excellent resource for butter cakes.

6. Switch mixer to medium and beat for 10 to 15 seconds, just until batter appears uniform.

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

8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until it reaches a dark-gold color and an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

9. Let to rest in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cake stand or platter. Sift with icing sugar if desired.

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