Friday, November 26, 2010

Choir Camp!

Four weeks have quickly passed since I joined the church choir.  This evening we begin Day 1 of the choir camp which runs through Sunday.  We are rehearsing for this week's beautiful anthem New Jerusalem (sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), worship songs plus our carolling songs!  What makes this experience really special is that my daughter Alethea is joining us for carolling.  It's been fun practising at home. 

To commemorate this weekend, I decided to bake a treat for the members who have been working SO hard.  Here's what I made...

I used a sweet dough for the crust using my French butter which turned out really nice.  Not oily at all, fragrant and light.

After the crust cooled completely, I melted my 57% Valrhona chocolate and lined the bottom of the crust for just a nice hint of chocolate.  Then I spread my French cream cheese that was beaten with French butter, icing sugar, vanilla extract and a little Brown Brothers Cienna wine.

Then I topped with whatever fruits I had.  Colourful, eh?  I love it!

Since I baked 4 tarts for the choir, each was decorated differently.  I only photographed two.

For my leftover dough, I made mini tarts for ourselves to "test."  Alethea had a grand time decorating them and I think she ate 3 in an hour!  We had a blast practising our songs and decorating our tarts.  Now the weekend will be complete if only it will snow...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oatmeal Sandwich

You will remember I was on a baking spree this week!  This morning, I toasted two slices of my homemade oatmeal multigrain bread and made a luncheon meat omelette.  It was delicious!  For this lot of baking I added flaxseed, almond and sunflower kernels for added fibre and nutrients.  It didn't change the taste nor texture of the bread.  In fact, it added a bit more flavour.

I made the loaves of bread smaller than store bought size because I find it much easier to handle. This sandwich is only the size of my palm (minus the fingers!).  Homemade bread seems to be much more substantial than store bought ones.  Two slices leave me quite full.

If you haven't tried baking bread, do try it out!  It's therapeutic, healthy and satisfying.  Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

American Carrot Cake (specially for Li Ling)

Cake Batter
300 gms flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon powder
100 gms white fine sugar
200 gms Muscovado sugar
269 gms safflower oil
200 gms eggs without shells
2 tsp vanilla extract
454 gms coarsely shredded carrots
142 gms raisins

This recipe will make two 9x2-inch round cakes.  Prepare cake pans with butter and parchment paper for the bottom.  Pre-heat oven to 175 dec C.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. 

In the mixing bowl beat the two sugars, oil, eggs and vanilla on medium speed for about 2 minutes or till lighter colour.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Add the carrots and raisins/nuts and beat for about 12 seconds.  Scrape down the sides.  Divide the batter into half, scrape into the cake pans and smoothen out the top.  It should be under half full.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester in the centre comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre.    Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then unmold them.  Cool completely on the rack (make sure the cakes are upright).

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 packs of Philadelphia cream cheese (cool)
1/3 cup good quality unsalted butter (softened)
Icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese and butter till smooth and start adding the icing sugar a little at a time (half cup) until you get the sweetness you want.  Too little sugar will cause the cream cheese to be less stable or too soft to frost the cake.  Last of all add the vanilla extract.

Make sure the cakes are absolutely cool when you frost them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Banana Bread (Quick Bread)

This morning, my son had to wake up at 5.30am for his school attachment and since I had a few very ripe bananas in my kitchen, and I had some time before my gym class, I decided to bake banana bread!  Sorry I forgot to take photos except for these.

One recipe yielded 3 small loaves as seen here.  I can't believe the bread is SO light, it feels like chiffon cake!!  I've tried many recipes before and some were better than others, but this one must be the best.  Since last week I've been using Elle & Vire or President butter for all my baking, and so far the cakes and breads have turned out much nicer, more tender, tastes so much better and not so oily.

You can see the lighter colour bits are the bananas.  I added raisins too.

2 eggs
1 cup Muscovado sugar
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts or raisins (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F and use a 9x5 inch loaf tin.
Use the creaming in method.  Bake for an hour or so.

I am presuming you know how to bake so am not adding the method here. 

For my friends out there who love to bake a great cake, I challenge you to know more about your ingredients before choosing a recipe or even changing anything in the recipe.  I learned so much in the past few weeks, especially about butter (there are different grades with diffferent percentages of fat), cheese, sugars, leavening and flours.  There's lots of information on the internet so take advantage of that. 
Meanwhile, I'll continue my research and will post recipes when I feel that I've found a great one.  If you know of great recipes, share them with me too!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Remember I made a large oatmeal with wholemeal loaf (no cinnamon) on Monday?  Well, I kept it in an air tight box until this morning.  It was a dream to slice.  I toasted two slices, slathered on a little bit of olive oil margarine and homemade marmalade (sorry no photos!).  It was delish!  Here's a photo after I sliced it.

It had a light, airy texture, some crunch to it but not too much, and was a little heavier than the regular brand of store bought bread but nonetheless very satisfying.

I think I'll experiment with more grains.  This means I don't have to fortify the bread with chemical vitamins.  Try to make your own bread and let me know how it goes!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oatmeal and Wholemeal Bread

Yes, I'm afraid I've been smitten by the bread baking addiction bug!  It's a lovely cool day today and bread baking is usually not recommended but I went ahead anyway.  I used the same recipe as last night's but made some changes like using some wholemeal flour and darker brown sugar (Muscovado).  Here are the photos!

After heating up the milk, I poured it into my mixing bowl where I already had my oatmeal, butter and sugar.  I stirred occasionally so the brown sugar could dissolve properly.  I waited for about 30 minutes or till the mixture is warm to the touch but not hot.  Then I added 2 cups of flour, the yeast and beat till mixed.

I then kept adding cup after cup of flour using the mixer hook until the mixture was sticky but not wet (low speed please otherwise your kitchen and you will turn white!).  Then on medium speed I kneaded it for 8 minutes. This is what it looked like after 8 minutes.

I transferred the dough to my table with lots of flour.  The mixture was quite sticky but I just made sure I had enough flour under the dough.  I then covered it with a damp tea towel until it double in size, about 90 minutes.

Here you can see how the dough has doubled.

I poked holes with fingers to show you how airy it had become.  I then measured out the dough on my digital weighing machine (yes, I'm a perfectionist!).

Here's a mini oval loaf just put in...

Here's what it looked like after 30 minutes.

I made one in a tart pan (the ones with the removeable bottom).

After baking, it looked really nice.

Here's the mini oval loaf.

And the one in the tart pan.  Nice, eh?

One thing to note about baking bread with no stabiliser (chemicals).  It may be a bit denser than what you're used to buying from the store.  But the good thing is, you know exactly what you put in it!  For me, I used organic ingredients.

I hope you get inspired to try it out!  Don't be discouraged if you don't get the exact results you want.  Try again and again.  Get used to working with the bread dough.  It's really fun to make and to eat too!  Let me know how it goes.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Bread

Thank you to those who responded to my breadmaking day!  You've asked for the recipe, here it is.  I presume you know how to make basic bread.  Do remember that your mixture cannot be too hot otherwise you will kill the yeast!  Too cool and it won't rise so much.


4 cups (32 fluid oz) very hot milk (not boiling)

2½ cups (11 oz/311 g) old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup (2 oz/62g) oat bran or extra oats

1/2 cup (3½ oz/96 g) packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz) unsalted butter ( used Elle & Vire because it's not so oily and tastes wonderful but you can use any good quality butter)

1 Tablespoon (3/8 oz/11 g) instant yeast (the kind in the box)

6 to 7 cups bread flour (6 cups = 1 lb, 15 oz/871 g)

1 Tablespoon (5/8 oz/20 g) salt

1.  Combine oats, oat bran, brown sugar, and butter in a very large mixing bowl. Add hot water and stir until combined. Let it sit until about 80°F, about 30 minutes or warm to the touch.

2.  Combine yeast with 2 cups of flour and stir into oat mixture. Continue stirring in flour one cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Either transfer dough to a well floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or use the hook attachment of your mixer and beat for 8 minutes.

3.  Sprinkle flour in the dough bowl, place the dough in it, liberally dust it with flour, and cover it with a damp tea towel.

4.  Ferment (first rise): Approximately 1½ hours if dough is at an optimal 70 to 75°F. When the dough is ready, you should be able to push your finger deep into it and leave an indentation that does not spring back.

5.  Divide and shape into loaves (mine were 310gm for tiny loaves, 550gm for medium loaves and the rest went to the normal loaf).  You can shape it into anything you like!  For the cinnamon bread, see below.


1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 tblsp ground cinnamon

Soft butter

1.  Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside until the dough is ready to be shaped.  (Turn on your oven to about 160 deg C or 325 deg F).

2.  After measuring out the dough, use your hands to flatten into a rectangular shape.  Add small scraps of soft butter to the dough, leaving one short end clean.  Use a spoon to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the rest of the dough.

3.  Starting from the top short end (the clean end is to seal the dough), roll tighhtly until the clean end and use your fingers to press and seal the dough.

4.  Turn the shaped dough so the sealed end is at the bottom and put into the buttered loaf tin or parchment paper on a pan.

5.  Cover with a damp tea towel and let it prove (2nd rise) until double its size.

6.  Bake for about 30 minutes, making sure the top doesn't burn.  Different ovens heat differently.  If the top starts to burn, use a small piece of aluminium foil to put lightly on top.  Adjust your oven heat accordingly.

7.  I usually know the bread is ready from the wonderful smell!  If you tap it, the bread will sound hollow.

8.  When the bread is ready, brush some butter on top to make it shine.  Cool for at least 30 minutes before enjoying the fruit of your labour!

Sorry I've no step-by-step photos.  Will try to take some when I make my next batch!

Baking Day

My usual Monday routine is spending time with my husband, going to the gym and having a leisurely lunch to catch up.  However, today turned out to be an extra busy day for him starting at 9am and ending at 9pm or later.  So to keep myself occupied, I decided that I would try out new recipes!

This was what I baked in the morning.

I baked a rich, chocolate bundt cake. It turned out really well. It was moist, tender and very fine. Since my son was going to school late today, I decided to pack 16 slices drenched with icing sugar and chocolate syrup for his friends. He came home and reported that they really liked it.  Unfortunately I had to pack the cake for him very quickly and forgot to take photos.

In the evening I baked BREAD!  It's been a long time since I made bread and it turned out to be a success as well.  I tried an oatmeal cinnamon twist bread recipe and like it so much I think I will use this often.  
Here's a small loaf and a tiny loaf (single serving).

This recipe yields quite a lot of dough so I made a large (normal size) oatmeal plain loaf for those who don't like cinnamon,  4 small cinnamon twists loaves and 5 tiny ones (picture above).  I had expected oatmeal bread to be a little dense but these turned out to be quite light and airy.  If I have guests for dinner and am serving a western style soup, I'd probably baked tiny loaves so each person has a personal loaf of bread to accompany the soup course!

I must say the smell of bread baking in my kitchen is quite addictive!  I feel like making MORE bread!  Maybe I'll make some for the choir this Sunday.  How does 60 tiny loaves sound?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Baking Supplies

After weeks of experimenting with butters, sugars, cheeses and chocolates, I've decided on what I'd use in all my future baking.  It was quite a fun and interesting journey for me going to many places to try different cakes and desserts.  Some well known cafes didn't even know what their cakes are made of!   I suppose we can't blame them because they don't bake their own goods.  It also boils down to what we really want in our food.  Cheap may not mean good, and expensive may also not mean good!

Anyways, from now on, if you order any of my cakes you can expect these new ingredients because I liked them the best.

This package comes only in 1.36kg size!  I'd have to make plenty of cheesecakes or frosting using this one pack!

I really love the taste of this butter and will use it for buttercreams.  It is one of the more expensive brands around.

This butter will be used in all my butter cakes.  It's less oily, light, sweet, fresh, fine and makes a lovely cake.  When I bake with this butter, the whole house smells amazing (my teenager daughter will wake up from her sleep to come out to investigate what's baking in the oven!) and I simply love it.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be revising my cake prices and also coming up with new flavours.  Stayed tuned!