Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maple Mousse in an Edible Chocolate Container, A Daring Bakers Challenge

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at

So I made these today. On the day we had to post them. The actual recipe called for maple mousse in ham containers... and since I don't eat ham and to be honest found the meat/maple taste mixture a bit odd, I opted to make edible chocolate containers.

I had seen a technique for this in one of my many cookbooks and decided to recreate it with some variations of my own.

For the edible chocolate container:

200g milk chocolate (I used Van Houten's baking chocolate)

Turn small glass bowls upside down and place on a tray.
Scrunch up some baking paper and form it over the upside down bowls.
Melt the milk chocolate on a double boiler and leave to cool for five minutes.
Pour the melted chocolate over the bowl covered with baking paper. Use a spatula to evenly coat the bowl with the chocolate. Leave to set for half an hour and then place in a fridge for two-three hours to completely form.

For the maple mousse:

1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
4 large egg yolks
1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to
temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5
minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and
check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the
gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten
raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the
remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

The maple mousse was heavenly. I don't think I've had anything moussey apart from chocolate or lemon mousse and this just gave me the idea that I can make tons of different types of mousse! And all sorts of flavours! The more cream I added, the lighter the color became, but the taste stayed wonderful.

Here are some pictures, which I'm not too happy with.. they took me a total of 3 minutes to snap. I'm still horribly jet-lagged and just wasn't bothered to spend lots of time taking photos. But enjoy.

OH! And the edible containers? Yeah, make sure you pop them back in the fridge after each attempt to peel the paper off. Chocolate bits kept on breaking off and the entire thing was starting to melt in my hands, so I put them in the fridge after every attempt to peel and eventually peeled the whole thing off while it was all still the fridge.. I was half in the fridge as well...

My Foodie New York City

I spent the past week in New York City exploring all its delights with around twenty friends from university. We were attending the National Model United Nations Conference and found the entire experience, both the conference and the city, to be exhilarating. While the conference did not allow much time for serious foodie expeditions, I did manage to come across some wonderful delights which I am sharing with you now:

1. Teuscher Chocolates, 620 5th Avenue, New York

Absolutely delicious truffles and an even more amazing window display for Easter. It's located in a wonderful spot between 5th Avenue opposite Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center. 

2. Rock Center Cafe, 620 5th Avenue, New York

Looking over the ice rink, you have to take a special elevator to the basement to get to this cafe. The cafe is wonderful and the ambience is lovely. Best of all is this dessert which was two whoopie pies sandwiched with a coconut cream layer in between. And that chocolate glaze? Heaven. 

3. Tartinery, 209 Mulberry Street, Nolita, New York

Wonderful for a light lunch, Tartinery is super fab, sleek, and modern. The best part is the seating area in the basement- it's wide, bright, and airy. I had a roasted vegetable tartine which tasted fantastic.

4. Breakfast at a diner on Broadway and Times Square.

I cannot seem to remember the name of this diner, I guess because we were all super-hungry and rushed in as soon as we saw it. But the pancakes were WONDERFUL. I was caught between choosing this (old-fashioned pancakes) and their lemon and ricotta ones.. for once, I decided to go with the "safe" option. My friend had the delicious chocolate pancakes below.

5. Fluffy's Cafe, 855 7th Avenue

Good, cheap, filling, and wholesome food. Fluffy's had a wonderful variety of wraps, sandwiches, and baked items. The cafe was supercrowded and I had to improvise by sitting on the counter. One thing I noticed about NYC was that there were a lot of wraps everywhere- and being my favourite sandwich- I was in heaven! My friend had this gorgeous chocolate cake below. My sandwich was already devoured before I had the energy to dig out my camera.

6. The Halal Guys- 53rd and 6th, New York

The longest lines ever outside this place- and well worth it- or so everyone I knew told me. I was attempting to be vegetarian that week and didn't try the meat. Although now I wish I had.

7. Ray's New York Pizza, 736 7th Avenue, New York

Wonderful pizza which we first had late at night the day we arrived and once again at 11pm when my friend and I were super hungry. Yes, they sell you one slice (you can obviously have more) but that one slice is sooo filling and delicious.

8. Sarabeth's, 40 Central Park South, New York

WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL French Toast. It was soo good and crispy and sweet but not too sweet and HEAVENLY with the fresh strawberries. I want to make French Toast like that. And their jam was the icing on the cake. They had an apricot and orange flavoured one and a raspberry and rhubarb if I'm not mistaken. My friend recommended this restaurant to me before we left Dubai and I made sure I went there to try it early one morning. GREAT breakfast. GREAT jam.

9. Armani Restaurant, 717 5th Avenue, New York

On our second last day in New York, I had some last minute shopping to do.. (I always have last minute shopping to do...what gives?)... anyways, on our second last day in NY, I quickly took the bus to 5th Avenue to finish some retail therapy...and halfway through I felt very hungry.. shopping is an exhausting activity, let me tell you. I wanted a good place to eat, I wanted to sit down in a nice, quiet restaurant and relax for a while, and savour my meal.. unlike the other days when all I was doing was rushing everywhere. And so I spotted Armani Restaurant. And there I discovered the best bread I have ever had. They brought a little basket filled with around five different kinds of bread, each more amazing than the other. There were parmesan flavoured breadsticks, sage flavoured bread like pappadums, and best of all, soft bread that was baked in a cupcake tray (I could see the paper case lines) and was savoury but had the slightest hint of a raisin flavour. It was mindblowing. Yes, I do realize I'm talking about bread. The bread went amazingly with this tomato gazpacho that was courtesy of the chef, and the risotto reminded me so much of the one I make back home. All good, but nothing beat the bread.

10. Novella, 191 Grand Street, Little Italy, New York

I went here for lunch with three really good friends and although the food was good, the service was horrible. The food took more than half an hour to bring (AFTER we got our appetizers) and the staff were extremely rude. I asked one waiter for the bill and he gave me a dirty look and walked away. Before that, when I asked for chili flakes, I got the same expression. It didn't bother me much though. I just wanted to have a good time with my girls and eat. Which we did. The food was good. I had the spring vegetable pasta with pink sauce (although I couldn't reaaally see the pink sauce). The bruschetta we shared was very, very good, especially the one with avocado on it, and the artichoke starter was lovely as well.


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a quick roundup of my foodie picks of NYC (without prior research or true exploration).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Floral Pastel Feminine Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a friend's surprise birthday party that was yesterday. I wanted to go for something cute and pastel. And I wanted to use both the new fondant cutter set and drying roll slider that I had got. And so I came up with these. Light and moist with a vanilla buttercream topping. Only when I was icing the last batch did it strike me to add more icing sugar and see how the texture would change. Adding more icing sugar made piping the buttercream a lot better, the shape held more strongly since the buttercream was stiffer.

Here's the recipe I adapted from Magnolia's Bakery and The Hummingbird Bakery:

Yields about 55 mini cupcakes or 24 regular sized cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes
1 cup butter, softened
1 and a 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 and a 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
2tsp vanilla extract

Combine the flours in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, gradually add the sugar to the butter and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Add a third of the flours to the butter mixture, beat well. Follow with a third of the milk and vanilla. Repeat until all flour and milk are incorporated. Spoon into paper cases and bake at a preheated oven of 180C.

Vanilla Buttercream
85g softened unsalted butter
350g icing sugar, sifted
30ml milk

Beat the icing sugar with the butter until fully incorporated. Gradually add the milk while beating at slow speed until mixture comes together and is of the right consistency. Once all the milk has been added, increase the speed to high and beat for a couple of minutes.

To decorate, color the icing whichever colour you like. I used Wilton's gel food colouring in sky blue, creamy peach, and ivory. Use any piping tip ( I used a small and medium sized star tip) and piped a border and kept going further in until I had a little pile of icing at the top.

For the fondant decorations, color some fondant in the color of your choice by applying a little gel colouring to the fondant with a toothpick. Keep kneading the dough until the color is even throughout. Roll out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cut out shapes of your choice. If you'd like the shapes to be inverted, place them on a sloped or curved surface and allow to dry. Simply place the fondant decoration on top of the buttercream. To stick a smaller fondant decoration over a larger one (as in the picture above) use a little melted white chocolate or egg white. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Custard Cake with Honey Buttercream and Maltesers

CUSTARD. CAKE. MALTESERS. Enough said. But I'll say it again. CUSTARD. CAKE. MALTESERS.

Yes, this cake is THAT good. Extremely moist with a hint of custard flavor with a honey buttercream that wonderfully complements it. And what could be better than crunchy Maltesers? (Insert your preferred choices here).

This cake is a melt and mix cake. Which means, *drumroll* no mixer! Yes I am still mixer-less. I'm looking into some good mixers to buy but don't know which options to consider. Is a KitchenAid good? I've heard so much about it and seen how well it works. I'm also considering KRUPS or Kenwood. I just want a mixer whose whisks/paddle attachment reaches the bottom of the bowl to fully incorporate all the butter/sugar/whatever it is that I'm blending. What mixers are your favourite?

For the cake:
1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup custard powder
1/2 baking powder
125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk
For the honey buttercream and topping:
60g unsalted butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
2-3 teaspoons honey
1 packet Maltesers

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin, line with baking paper.
Sift flour, custard powder, and soda in large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center.
Melt the butter and sugar in a small pan over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved; remove from heat.
Combine eggs and buttermilk in small mixing bowl. Add butter and egg mixtures to the dry ingredients.
Using a wooden spoon; stir until combined; do not overbeat.
Spoon mixture into prepared tin; smooth surface. Bake for 35 minutes.
For the honey buttercream, beat the butter and sifted icing sugar until light and creamy. Add the honey and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Spread buttercream on top of cake with an offset palette knife and arrange Maltesers around.

Double Chocolate Cinnamon Muffins

Why is that whenever a recipe has the word "cinnamon" in the title, only 1/2 a teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of it is listed in the ingredients? In my opinion, for a dish to have the word "cinnamon" in the title- it needs around a tablespoon- at least!

And so when I read the recipe for 'chocolate "cinnamon" muffins' in my Marks and Spencer cookbook, I scoffed.  Half a teaspoon? Really? Ohh no, I'd add three more teaspoons, yes I would.

And that's what I did. Cinnamon works really well with cocoa powder.. And makes your kitchen smell like heaven. I just wish our oven was in the inside kitchen so that the whole house could smell like muffins. Or whatever it is that I'm baking. But an outside kitchen does have its benefits- especially when you have guests over and don't want the house smelling like onion and garlic.

But back to muffins, I love making them, perhaps because I don't make them that much. And also, the super-risen texture of it makes them look wholesome. There are so many ways that you can vary muffins, and make them savoury, unlike cupcakes, so that muffins make a great snack any time of day.

Anyways, without further ado, I present to you my modified version of chocolate cinnamon muffins.

butter, for greasing
225g plain flour
55g cocoa powder
1tbsp baking powder
4tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
115g soft light brown sugar
160g chocolate chips
2 eggs
250ml milk
85g butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in sugar and chocolate chips.

Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl then beat in the milk and butter. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten liquid ingredients. Stir gently until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spoon into prepared muffin tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until well-risen and firm to the touch. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar if desired. (which I did but didn't take pictures of because the muffins were already in my tummy).


I got an idea for "gourmet" muffins.. I wanted to serve these with a scoop of vanilla icecream and some caramel or butterscotch (or even chocolate) sauce drizzled along the middle of the muffin and ice cream scoop....something like my version of a peach melba.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Mediterranean-infused baking break.

On no, I still love cakes. But I thought that it was about time I fed myself something other than sugar. And what better detoxifying food than tomato? Tomato is known for its amazing anti-oxidant capabilities. And I'm still coming to terms with the fact that it's actually a fruit. And so, tonight I made tomato bruschetta and roasted capsicum with tomato, olive, and tofu. Yes, that tofu does seem a bit odd in the rest of the Mediterranean set-up doesn't it? But trust me, it's goood.

The bruschetta was very simple to make and the best part is that you don't even need to cook anything. Except for the baguette.. which can be toasted.

Tomato Bruschetta
1 French baguette
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsps dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh basil
2-4 tbsps olive oil.
1tbsp pine nuts

Cut the baguette into even slices and place in a toaster or grill pan until crisp.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
Arrange the baguette slices on a platter and spoon equal, generous amounts of the tomato mixture on top of each slice.

Me attempting to create abstract art with balsamic vinegar...
Now is that easy or what?


Roasted capsicum with tomato, olive, and tofu

2 red capsicums, cut in half and deseeded
1/3 cup sliced black olives
2tsps dried oregano
2tsps dried coriander
2tsps dried chives
1/4 cup tomato paste
2tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, chopped
100g tofu, cut in cubes
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Place the halved capsicums on a baking tray lined with foil and roast in the oven at 200C for 10 minutes.
Place the olives, oregano, coriander, chives, tomato paste, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor and blend until a thick paste is formed. Be careful not to blend the olives completely.
In a large bowl, mix together the olive and tomato mixture with the cherry tomatoes and chopped tofu.
Spoon equal amounts of the combined mixture into the capsicums and place in the oven at 180C for 15 minutes. Enjoy warm.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quadruple Chocolate Madness

Close your eyes and imagine this: three layers of chocolate cake, filled with chocolate mousse in between, topped with a rich dark chocolate ganache with some milk chocolate shavings. Oh, and some dark, milk, and white chocolate truffles. Something akin to heaven, is it not?

Yesterday at a cake decorating class that some of us food bloggers are taking, our lovely instructor/chef gave us the idea of using chocolate mousse between cake layers instead of buttercream. And so I closed my eyes and imagined this. I also imagined something else, but that's going to be in another post.

I had some leftover cake I wanted to use up so what I did was whizz it in a food processor until I got cake crumbs. With those crumbs, I made truffles. And then the rest of the cake came together. I made the chocolate cake and the truffles last night and made the mousse and ganache and shavings this morning.

My favourite caster sugar to use is Tate and Lyle. But for some reason, the packet I used yesterday was rock solid. The sugar was one huge block and not grains of caster sugar. I placed it in a sandwich bag and beat it with the bake of a measuring cup. Very effective at stress-release by the way. That technique was somewhat effective but there were still some major cubes of sugar. And oh, I'm still mixer-less. I tried my best to break up the sugar cubes with my whisk while I will creaming it with the butter and that broke it down further although not completely. Anyways, this sugar cubiness somehow resulted in the cake not being cut evenly. So instead of having three neat layers filled with lots of mousse in between, I ended up with something very droopy. But it tasted wonderful. And it looked home-made.

Here's the recipe:
For the chocolate cake:
125g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup cream (preferably Nestle)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin. 
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and extract, beat until combined. 
Add sifted dry ingredients and cream and beat on slow speed until combined. Increase speed to high until mixture is smooth. 
Spoon mixture into tin and bake for around 45 minutes. 

For the chocolate mousse:
300g plain chocolate, in pieces
 284ml double cream
250g mascarpone
3tbsp cranberry juice
1tbsp vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a double boiler until it's melted and smooth. Remove from heat. 
Add cream, mascarpone, juie, and extract to the chocolate and mix well until smooth. 
Refrigerate for five to ten minutes. 

For the ganache:
200g dark chocolate (preferably 70%)

Melt the dark chocolate on a double boiler until smooth.

For the truffles:
300g vanilla cake crumbs
2 tablespoons strawberry jams
3 tablespoons cream (again, preferably Nestle)
60g melted unsalted butter
300g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cranberry juice
100g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
100g white chocolate

Mix together cake crumbs, jam, cream, butter, chocolate and juice; stirring until moistened. 
Refrigerate for half an hour. 
Roll teaspoons of mixture onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Refrigerate for a further 10 to 15 minutes. 
Melt the white, milk, and dark chocolates separately. 
Dip a third of the truffles into the melted white chocolate, a third into the melted milk chocolate, and a third into the melted dark chocolate. 
Leave to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. 
Refrigerate until firm and needed. 

For the chocolate shavings: 
50g milk chocolate

Melt the chocolate until smooth. Spread evenly over a piece of baking paper. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then refrigerate until firm. With a flat bladed spatula, gently scrape at the stiffened chocolate to create chocolate shavings. 

To assemble:
1. Cut the chocolate cake into three equal layers. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
2. Place half of the chocolate mousse mixture on top of the base cake, top with another cake layer, the remaining chocolate mousse mixture and the final cake layer.
3. Prepare the chocolate shavings mixture except for the part of scraping off the shavings themselves.
4. Melt the dark chocolate, leave to cool for about 3-4 minutes and then pour all over the chocolate cake, allowing to drip down the sides.
5. Then, create the shavings and quickly place over the cake. They melt in your hands.
6. Place three truffles of different colours over the cake and serve!

The cake is best served immediately while the chocolate mousse mixture is still cold and while the dark chocolate ganache hasn't hardened.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

On how I made a three-tiered cake by hand.

Wednesday evening and I'm baking a cake. A five layered cake. But a small cake. 5 inches in diameter. It was my idea of a little masterpiece. Two chocolate layers sandwiched with a rose flavored layer in between and flanked with  two vanilla cakes. And iced with a pale pink frosting. And LOTS of Maltesers..

Let's just say the Maltesers never made it to the cake... because they ended up somewhere else.

Right when I was creaming the butter for the frosting, my trusty 15 year old Kenwood mixer broke down. Somehow. The beaters won't beat.. and when I place it in flour or butter it makes an extremely strange wheezing sound. Sigh. I guess it's time to invest in a more high tech mixer. As a result, I couldn't beat the frosting that well AND I ran out of icing sugar.. 1 kg of it. Yep. So the cake never fully iced.

halfway done icing

But I am happy with it. Although it needed more icing to cover all the sides, it looked very neat. The flavours were the best part. And I'm extremely glad that I FINALLY attempted refrigerating a cake before and after crumbcoating it. It works like magic.

Anyways, I cut the cake into a top three layers and a bottom two.. just to make it easier to cut.. and so that I feel less guilty when eating it.

And ANYWAYS, next thing I knew it was Thursday and I was in the kitchen trying to make four vanilla cakes. Sixteen eggs, four cups of butter, eight cups of sugar. A health freak's worst nightmare. But I wanted to make a gradiented three layer cake. YES! But ohh, I forgot one thing... I didn't have a MIXER! What was I to do? Keep everything back in the fridge and abandoned my cakey dreams? NO. I'd mix it by hand of course... why, I'd get an arms workout! No need to head to the gym! I can work out in my kitchen! (And obviously have it come to zero benefit since I've started eating buttercream with my bare hands).

And yes, I made the cakes by hands. Thank the Lord though that it was only two batches of the vanilla cake that I needed to fill all the tins I had prepared. So yes, no sixteen eggs, no four cups of butter, and no eight cups of sugar.

And so this was the initial idea for my cake (although don't you find that sometimes - or MOST times- the idea you started off with always gets changed a little?): Three vanilla cakes, each of a different size, each halved and filled with chocolate buttercream and each covered with fondant. The largest one would be rose pink, the middle one pale pink, and the smallest one white. I'd tie a ribbon around each cake and make some lacey designs with royal icing.

Most of that happened. Up until the royal icing, the cake was going just as I had planned. But then I had to make royal icing. And without a mixer, that didn't work. And so all my ideas of completely abandoning a mixer and reverting to the "authentic" and "rustic" way of baking were shelved. How would I whisk egg whites to firm peaks?! I hadn't even thought about that. I had been too caught up in my daydream of being Henry VIII's pastry chef for his wedding to his seventh wife. Yes, I realize that one must have one's head on one's shoulders, and one's feet on the ground.
Yes, everyday IS cake day. 
So the royal icing was thick. And the cake was too narrow for lacey designs so I decided to make dots all around it. Thank God I had the good sense of first practicing with the royal icing on parchment paper. The mixer was sticking to the nozzle of the piping bag and not staying on the parchment paper/cake. (ooooh did I tell you that I finally conquered my piping bag fears? I no longer only use the mechanical kind!) :) So yes, the idea of dots were abandoned. But I am happy with the cake.

So here are some of my little words of wisdom about baking:
-You don't have to have a mixer. You actually feel quite accomplished once you bake something with your bare hands (and maybe a spatula).
 -Never fear piping bags. And no matter how much of an expert you think you are with them, always practice the pattern you're aiming for first on some scrap baking paper.
-Refrigerate cakes before coating with fondant.
-Yes, it's wonderful to deviate from the recipe and be creative, but sometimes these cookbook writers do talk sense. For example, when they tell you to coat a cake with boiled APRICOT jam before placing fondant, then use APRICOT jam. Do NOT use strawberry jam because then you know what.. you're going to end up with dark blotchy bits under your pearl white fondant. BAD IDEA. (Thank God the blotchy bits of my cake weren't that visible!)
-When lining a cake with ribbon, melt some white chocolate and sporadically brush tiny amounts all around the edges of the cake, then line the ribbon around. If making a tiered cake, start and finish the ends of the ribbon in a straight line.

The ravaged cake.