Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lessons learnt: Bubbles and crispiness of Breton galettes

Things I have learnt with my limited experiments with trying to make Breton galettes (savory crepes) so far:

1. Liquid batter: The more liquid-y the batter, the more bubbles created when the batter hits the hot pan. I would dilute the batter to the consistency of somewhere between heavy cream and full-fat milk.
2. Hot pan: Need pan to be quite hot to induce the bubbles when batter is poured onto the pan. I keep it around med-high, and lower it slightly only as the galette is almost done
3. Mucho butter on pan: Copious amount of butter on hot pan isFull key to a crispy galette. But in the end, crispiness will reduce significantly when galette cools. So more butter may-may not be needed upon re-heating
4. 100% buckwheat batter didn't work for me, as galette became so fragile. 50/50 with AP flour worked for me. Adding 1 egg per 1 cup of flour also helped keep batter together. Next time, may want to try keeping batter overnight to strengthen the bonds.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Strawberry Kefir (Yogurt) Cake

This was one of the best cakes I've made so far, in terms of taste, freshness and simplicity. First saw an instagram posting by brunetkablog of this cake that she baked herself, she then kindly referred me to a pretty Polish baking blog for the recipe (thank you, googletranslate!).

The cake itself is light and not overly sweet, the texture reminds me of a soft/pillowy pancake. The texture benefits from the use of kefir, which is a thick fermented milk drink that tastes abit like yogurt (it can easily be substituted with a mix of yogurt and milk - see below instructions).

But the best part of the cake for me is way the juices from the fruits infuse into the cake, without making it overly soggy. It's the perfect summer snack or breakfast cake.
And it is super easy to make!

I'm going to translate the recipe here (I've corrected some of the mistakes I made in the previous translation).

Strawberry Kefir Cake

Translated from Zjemto Blog

3 large eggs
1 cup of kefir (or substitute with 3/4 cup plain yogurt + 1/4 cup milk)
1/2 cup oil
2 1/2 cups A.P. flour (spoon and sweep)
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2.5 cups (or 500 grams or 1 lb) of sliced/cut strawberries (fresh or frozen)
Powdered sugar to sprinkle over the completed cake.

Preheat oven at 355 degrees Farenheit.
Grease and line a rectangular 24 x 32 cm pan or baking dish, or a 9.5 x 12.5 inch sheet pan, with parchment paper (like you would line a pan to bake brownies).
Mix baking powder and flour, and set aside.
Lightly beat eggs with whisk or fork (try NOT to beat too much air in)
Add sugar, oil & kefir and whisk until combined.
Add flour & baking powder, and stir until combined.  Batter will be quite thick (don’t worry).
Pour batter and spread evenly into prepared pan. 
Spread out the cut strawberries evenly over the surface batter. Push each them down slightly so that they lay snug into the batter but you can still see the surface.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes (skewer should come out clean). 
Leave in pan to cool.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over cake before serving.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Fresh from the oven, glazed hot cross buns

As Easter approached last week, I was reminded of the delicious, comforting taste and aroma of hot cross buns that I used to have while studying in Sydney many years ago. I remembered the bread buns to be slightly sweet, with lots of raisins and a faint tinge of gingery/cinnamony spiciness, and of course the distinctive white cross on top.

The buns are traditionally eaten hot/toasted with butter/jam, during lent through to Easter. There are also many interesting superstitions surrounding it, for example that baking and eating them on Good Friday, will bring good luck or ward evil spirits (I baked prepared mine on Thursday and baked and ate some on Friday ^_^).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Soft Bread Machine Sandwich Loaf (Sponge Method)

I have this obscure/old link and Yahoo article to thank for revealing the secret of a soft bread machine loaf.  Prior to this, all my loafs came out rather dry and became very crumbly and easily disintegrated when sliced the following days. For a while I thought that maybe it was because I was using AP Flour instead of Bread Flour, so maybe with the lower gluten content plus the shorter rise time in the machine, contributed to the crumbly texture. But I was curious, if there was somehow a way to get around this without having to buy bread flour (my husband had just bought me a 25lb bag of AP flour from Costco, following the bread machine purchase :).  I tried the tangzhong method, didn't make a big difference. Tried adding egg and milk, no difference to texture, just ended with a yellow eggy bread.

Until, I stumbled upon that link above, which basically uses a kind of sponge method (to allow extra fermenting time to improve gluten formation and flavor), but was easy enough to execute (dump everything to the machine, and use the delayed baking timer function). And, wow! Not only was the bread soft/fluffy and tasted much better, the crumb stuck to each other proper (did not disintegrate when sliced), and as a bonus, it stayed fluffy at room temperature for days! I added some raisins, and that also worked really well for flavor and color enhancement (bread looks a bit darker, as if it used some wholewheat flour :). Definitely a keeper recipe, that I hope could also help all of you out there trying to obtain a soft bread machine loaf!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Double Layered Cherry Rum Chocolate Cake

Made this chocolate cake for my husband's birthday, a couple of weeks ago. It was my second experience making chocolate cake and I would say it turned out pretty well. The cake itself was very nice (recipe from Epicurus), very moist, tender and porous, chocolaty but not overly dense (dare I say it's pretty light but moist). It soaked the cherry syrup very well, which really complemented the cake, adding freshness and moistness (I do wonder if I should try a boiled syrup recipe next time). Dare I say that, it tasted almost like my favorite chocolate cake from this Singaporean baking chain called "Awfully Chocolate", called the "Cherry Rum Chocolate Cake".  The cake tastes best after the third day in the fridge, somehow the flavors has somehow molded better, so a note to self is maybe to make the cake a day or two in advance.  

One thing I noticed about the cake itself, it was somehow crumbly when cut, ie. it doesn't really hold its shape too well when cut, partly maybe because it is very moist. I could try maybe refrigerating the cake first before pouring the cherry sauce and applying the ganache, or even maybe add one more egg to the recipe?

The chocolate ganache recipe that I used (not from Epicurus), turned out pretty good and complementary, quite similar in texture to the AC's cake (slightly pudding-y), though somehow it was not dark as I would have liked. I wonder if using dutch processed cocoa powder would make a difference?

Although the recipe was simple enough, it took me 4-5 hours to complete the whole thing. And the kitchen was like a shipwreck during the process. But I attributed that to my clumsiness and inexperience. Hopefully the next time I attempt this again, the kitchen would look calmer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Revisiting the Sweet Martabak: the science of bubbles / honeycomb, a work in progress

I'm still not satisfied with my Martabak recipe. There are still many things bugging me with this dessert.

1. I got my bubbles (pinholes) using baking powder, but
a) why are so many recipes using only baking soda?
b) my bubbles (recipe using baking powder at 3x the amount of baking soda) seem rather big (pinholes) compared to those authentic martabaks

- Baking soda: apparently it can also produce bubbles (CO2) in absence of any acids, if heated to at least above 160F (NaHCO3 + heat → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2) This is at least the science between the honeycomb candy, where the soda is added to a heated sugar & water mixture. Maybe this is the science behind the martabak recipes using baking soda. Now if this is the case, somehow I have to heat up the batter fast enough to activate the soda before the batter coagulates.
- Baking powder: I suppose this is a more full proof way of obtaining the bubbles, but how do I adjust the measurements? An aside, I noticed a lot of the Vietnamese pandan honeycomb cake recipes call for single acting baking powder, and many mistakenly think that that is equiv to baking soda + cream of tartar (fast acting acid, which activates immediately upon contact with moisture, and therefore must go to oven immediately, else you loose your bubbles).. Asian/European single acting powder like Alsa actually uses slow acting acid (Sodium acid pyrophosphate), which actually activate mostly when heated. Therefore if substituting with homemade single acting powder (baking soda +cream of tartar) you need to mix this last, right before putting batter into oven.

2. My martabak seems too soft, texture is not as springy/chewy as the authentics.
- Does the water ratio matter? ie. less means more chewy
- Does the amount of egg matter? ie. less more chewy? or more more chewy?
- Would adding tapioca flour help?
- Need to note the tradeoff with having a chewy cold martabak that doesn't soften when reheated

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chouquettes (Sugar Puffs)

These dainty and light sugary snack reminds me of my days in Fontainebleau, France as an MBA student there. It would be my comfort snack, that I always get from the campus bar (yes, we there was a bar in the campus building, where students we could get coffee, ice cream, sandwiches and snacks and probably alcohol too though I don't remember ^_^) in between the afternoon classes.

These chouquettes are basically mini-cream puffs (the french call it pate-a-choux) without any filling, but that are covered with lots of coarse sugar bits. When I started my attempts at baking, it was one of the first thing I though to try, after the less satisfactory batches of blueberry muffins and banana bread. To my surprise, it was not difficult to make at all! I did get lucky by getting good tips beforehand (watching youtube demonstrations was also useful), but once you get a hold of the one/two key tips, it's such a delight to make, especially for one who does not have an electric mixer and minimal baking tools such as myself! It has become so far, my favorite thing to bake!