Friday, August 19, 2011

Classic Lasagna with a Side of Roasted Vegetables

I think this is perfect for an indulgent and filling weeknight meal. For me, indulgent weeknight meals are those which COOK ON THEIR OWN! Where you have to let something simmer for 45 minutes, let it bake for an hour... roast it for two.. That way you've cooked, you have a good meal, and you have time to do other things while it cooks on its own.

The following is a classic lasagna served with roasted potatoes and carrots a la herb (yeah I invented that last bit).

I love the messy, splattered effect you get when you bake something big like this. Such a homey feel.
Classic Lasagna

2 tablespoons oil
30g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
500g lamb mince
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can diced tomatoes
250ml cranberry juice
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
One packet instant lasagna sheets
60g butter
40g plain flour
560ml milk
100g grated Parmesan cheese

-Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based pan and cook the onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat until softened, stirring constantly. Increase the heat, add the mince and brown well, breaking up any lumps of fat. Add the tomato paste, can tomatoes, juice, and parsley and season to taste. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a medium pan over low heat. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to heat and stir constantly until the sauce boils and thickens. Simmer for another minute. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste. Place a piece of plastic wrap on surface of sauce.
-Preheat the oven to 180C.
-Take a large, ovenproof dish and place a thin layer of the meat mixture over the base, top with bechamel sauce and layer the lasagna sheets over that. Repeat the process until all the ingredients have been used up and the final layer is bechamel.
-Spread the grated Parmesan cheese on top and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until top is golden and cheese has melted.

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots with Fresh and Dried Herbs

2tbsp olive oil
Two medium potatoes, roughly chopped
Two medium carrots, cut into chunks
30g butter
Salt and pepper
1tbsp mixed dried herbs such as basil and chives.
2tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped

Grease an overproof dish with half the olive oil.
Arrange the cut potato and carrot chunks onto the dish and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Cut the butter into chunks and scatter around the dish.
Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with dried herbs.
Bake in an 180C oven for one hour or until vegetables have softened and cooked through.
Before serving, scatter coriander over dish.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Two Tiered Wedding Cake with Fondant Roses (TUTORIAL)

I've been dreaming of making tiered cakes for sooo long.. And I've had a few experiences doing so but never really professionally. But ever since I've started looking through pictures of tiered party cakes I've began to daydream. And daydream. And daydream. And get this unrelenting urge to sit (or potter around) in the kitchen for hours creating one of these beauties.

I made the following cake over three days although if you wanted to, it's quite possible to make it in one day. I baked the bottom tier cakes on Thursday, the top tier cakes on Friday morning, did the dowelling, stacking, rolling fondant, and roses on Friday night and put the final touches with the pearls and royal icing Saturday afternoon.

I am by no means an expert at this and being an amateur baker, I want to show that these kind of cakes aren't difficult to create at all. They're challenging, and that makes it all the sweeter once you get the results you want. I wanted to make a cake which was entirely my idea and not copied from any of the books and so I came up with this. I also wanted to start off making two tiered cakes because I wanted to take it slow.. and gradually build up skill and also because.. I mean, seriously, I have no idea how I'd manage to get a four tiered cake eaten up (not by myself.. obviously...)

This is the first time I'm writing up a detailed tutorial so please bear with me if anything doesn't make sense (ask if you're confused).. obviously by saying this I'm assuming all my readers are going to get this wonderful streak of inspiration and go off to the kitchen.. but I don't think that's going to be the case..

And so here's the tutorial:

A cake board
Measuring cups and spoons
Two bowls
A whisk
Four cake tins (two 6" ones and two 8" ones)
Baking paper
A cake leveller
An icing turntable
An offset spatula
A rolling pin
A sharp knife
3 dowel rods
Sandwich bags
A cake fondant smoother
Ribbon of your choice
Piping bag
1.5 icing tip/nozzle
Pastry brush
Unused makeup blusher brush

For the bottom tier: 
1.5 cups self raising flour
1.25 cups plain flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the top tier: (identical.. and you'll have enough leftover batter to make one batch of cupcakes)

1.5 cups self raising flour
1.25 cups plain flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the buttercream
50g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
Pink gel food colouring

For the coating and roses
1/2 cup apricot jam, boiled, strained, and cooled
1.5kg marzipan
1.5kg white fondant (ready to roll icing)
Light pink gel food colouring
Rose gel food coloring
500g icing sugar

For the royal icing and pearls
1 egg white
200g icing sugar
Juice of one lemon
One packet edible pearls (preferably white)


For the bottom tier: 
-Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 8" cake tins. Put the flour together in a bowl and mix well together.
-In a separate bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar a quarter cup at a time and beat well between each addition until sugar dissolves and mixture becomes fluffier and paler.
-Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add a third of the flour mixture and beat well, followed by a third of the combined milk and vanilla extract mixture. Repeat until all flour and milk has been incorporated into batter.
-Spoon into cake tins and bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For the top tier

-Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line two 6" cake tins. Put the flour together in a bowl and mix well together.
-In a separate bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar a quarter cup at a time and beat well between each addition until sugar dissolves and mixture becomes fluffier and paler.
-Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add a third of the flour mixture and beat well, followed by a third of the combined milk and vanilla extract mixture. Repeat until all flour and milk has been incorporated into batter.
-Spoon into cake tins and bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For the buttercream
-Beat the butter until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until mixture is of a sandy consistency. Add the milk and beat until incorporated.
-Add the coloring and keep on beating for five minutes until mixture gets fluffy.

Assembling and coating the cake
-Refrigerate the cakes for around half an hour before assembling them. Refrigerating cakes makes them harder and much easier to handle.
-Split each cake into half so you get a total of four layers for the bottom tier and a total of four tiers for the top tier.

-for the bottom tier
-Place the bottom-most layer of the bottom tier on an icing turntable and with an offset spatula, spread the top with buttercream.
-Place a second layer on top and repeat until you reach the last top-most layer for the bottom tier. Do not put buttercream on top of the topmost layer of the bottom tier.
-Brush the cake with the boiled, strained, and cooled apricot jam.
-Knead half the marzipan until soft and pliable and then roll out onto a surface liberally dusted with icing sugar (trust me when I say you're going to need  a collective of 500g of icing sugar just to dust the surface- don't underestimate it! you don't want fondant sticking to the surface after you've wonderfully rolled it out). Remember to roll out marzipan to cover a slightly larger cake than the one you're actually covering. Having extra-long marzipan or fondant on your cake prevents it from folding over each other and skirting and makes for a smooth, straight finish. You can always trim the excess off with a knife (and then you have excess marzipan/fondant to make roses with!).
-Gently lift the marzipan using both hands and rest the marzipan on your wrists. and lower forearm.
-Place the center of the rolled out marzipan onto the center of the cake. Smooth down over the edges with your hands and then trim off the excess with a sharp knife. Smooth with an icing smoother.
-Brush the marzipan-coated cake with boiled, cooled water.
-Knead the fondant until pliable. With a toothpick, add streaks of the baby pink food coloring and continue kneading until color is even throughout. Roll out on a surface VERY LIBERALLY dusted with icing sugar until, again, slightly larger than the size of the cake.
-Gently lift up and place on top of the cake. Smooth with the icing smoothener. Trim off the excess and smooth again.

-for the top tier
-Repeat the steps of the layering and coating the bottom tier.

-stacking the cakes.
-Place three wooden or plastic dowel rods into the center of the bottom tier cake. Measure the height of the cake on the dowel rod with a pencil. Remove the dowel rods and trim to the size of the cake.
-Do that with all three dowel rods and place in the center of the cake forming a triangular shape.
-Lift the top tier and gently place it on top of the bottom tier.

-"ribboning the cakes"
-Take the ribbon and place it around the base of bottom tier, measuring how long it should be. Cut out the required length.
-Dab a little royal icing or buttercream on the cake where the ribbon will be placed.
-Place the ribbon around the base of the cake and make the end of the ribbon slightly overlap with the start of it. Dab in place with a little more buttercream.
-Do the same for the top tier.
-Take the makeup blush brush and dust the cake off any icing sugar.

-for the roses
-Color the leftover marzipan rose pink and shape a little bit of it into a 4mm diameter sausage. Keep the rest in a plastic bag or tightly wrapped in foil to prevent it from drying out.
- Take the sausage and cut off the ends. Then cut the remaining sausage into six slices with a 3mm width each.
-Take a plastic ziplock or sandwich bag and open the sides to make it into a foldable plastic folder. Place the six slices evenly spaced out inside the sandwich bags, with the rounded sides facing away from you and the flat sides facing towards you.
-Place the top half of the sandwich bag over the bottom half and press down and flatten each slice with the base of your thumb (no, that isn't the part of your thumb right under your nail but the base of the thumb by the wrist).
-Then run your actual thumb around each piece to smoothen the edges.
-Take the smallest petal and roll it around on itself so it curls.
-Then, take the next smallest petal and place it around the rosebud. Keep on working your way outwards using slightly larger petals each time until you use up the six.
-Repeat to make five more roses.
Place around the cake as you see fit. Or do it like I did: two on top, one in the middle, and two at the bottom.

-for the royal icing and pearls
-Beat the egg whites till the soft peak consistency, add the sifted icing sugar and beat in until incorporated. - --Add the strained juice of half a lemon and beat in.
-Add the color with a toothpick and beat in until smooth and not too runny.
-Prepare a piping bag with the 1.5 nozzle and spoon in the royal icing. Secure the piping bag.
-Holding the piping bag at a 60 degree angle to the cake, pipe around 5 or 6 round pearls onto the top of the cake in front of the roses.
-Don't pull the piping bag away as soon as the icing starts coming out of it otherwise you'll end up with sharp studs instead of pearls. Instead, wait till the pearl is formed and then gently release.
-Once you finish the pearls on the top tier, ice the top of the bottom tier (you'll only be able to have access to the outer edges of it due to the top tier placed above it).
-Once that's done, with your fingers, gently add the edible pearls on top of each pink royal icing pearl. You'll have to work fairly quickly because the royal icing hardens fairly quickly and crusts if you apply too much pressure.

And you're done! As you can tell from the pictures, I'm having issues getting the icing completely clean and smooth without cracking a bit. First, I need to knead the colour in a lot more so little white streaks don't show. Plus, I also need to not put SO much icing sugar on TOP of the fondant when I'm rolling it out. It's important for it to be under but not on top. But I had to re-knead the fondant around three times before I could lift it without it breaking. I had to keep adding more icing sugar for that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tomato and Eggplant Burek

The food I find the most aesthetically pleasing is Mediterranean food. The colors, the textures, the different consistencies... all make for some wonderful eye candy. And the flavors are no less satisfying.
Feta cheese, tomatoes, capsicums, olives, eggplants, artichokes, goat's cheese, cherry tomatoes, spinach... I could go on and on and on..

Today, I made some burek. At least that's how I think it's spelled although I see BOREK everywhere. Anyways, same thing. Good food. And what I was glad about was that I made the pastry myself... I didn't get any filo pastry or anything of the sort. And it isn't really filo pastry.. anyways, on to the recipe..

75g butter, melted
80ml olive oil
185g plain flour
250g tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 tsp ground cumin
300g eggplant, cut into tiny cubes
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 lightly beaten egg

Put butter, oil, and 80ml water into a large bowl and season with salt. Gradually add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to form an oily, lumpy dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Knead gently to bring the dough together, cover with plastic, wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Plunge the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for one minute, followed by plunging them in a bowl of cold water the next. Remove and peel the skin off.. chop roughly, discarding seeds.
Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion and cook, stirring, over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add cumin, cook for 1 minute, then add eggplant and cook, stirring until eggplant softens. Stir in tomato and tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until mixture is dry. Stir in coriander and leave mixture to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C and grease two baking trays.
Roll out half of pastry onto floured surface until 2mm thick and cut out rounds with a 3 inch cutter. Place a teaspoon of tomato and eggplant mixture on each round and fold the dough over. Crimp and seal with a fork and wash with beaten egg.
Bake in the top half of the oven for around 15 minutes until pastry is browned through.
Serve hot, with a spicy sauce if desired.

Vegetarian Paella

I love the idea of seems so those huge vats, with wonderful red and yellow colors- and to be honest, rice mixed with meat and vegetables is almost always good. Risotto, biryani, and... paella! I've never had it though since I'm allergic to shellfish and I've been looking for a vegetarian recipe for quite a while. Yesterday at 5AM, I was flipping through some cookbooks and came across this one and immediately decided to make it.

I was quite happy with the result (although I forgot to season! did that at the end >_<) but somehow I feel as though adding diced tomatoes would enhance the flavor.. that and some pieces of chicken. I knew that paella used arborio rice but I was concerned when the recipe said to leave the stock and rice mixture to simmer without stirring- continuously- like you have to with risotto.. I kept on thinking it would stick to the bottom of the pan but it didn't!

The recipe is fairly simple and quick and can be ready in an hour and a half, maximum.

750ml vegetable stock
500ml water
1/8 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp olive oil
120g baby eggplants, quartered
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped finely
1 green capsicum, chopped finely
1 red capsicum, chopped finely
1 yellow capsicum, chopped finely
2 tsp paprika
250g arborio rice
150g frozen peas
120g green beans, chopped and trimmed
1/4 cup black olives
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped.
1 tbsp pine nuts

Bring stock and water to a boil. Add saffron threads and remove from heat.
Heat oil in a saucepan and cook the eggplants until softened and browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
In same pan, cook onion, garlic, tomatoes, capsicums, and paprika until onion softens.
Add arborio rice and stir to coat in oil mixture.
Pour in the stock and water mixture and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed and rice is tender- around 30 minutes.
Add peas and beans and cook, covered for 10 minutes- stirring occasionally.
Add coriander, olives, and pine nuts and stir through.
Stand, covered, 5 minutes before serving.

As you can tell, I didn't spend any time food styling- too eager to try it haha

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crème Brûlée

So who here doesn't like crème brûlée? Hardly anyone, as far as I know- maybe even no-one. Alright, well maybe I'm generalizing. But I, for one, love crème brûlée. There's something about biting into crisp, tart topping followed by a wonderful creamy goodness. I love creamy desserts: panna cotta, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, all of that.. and this is one dessert that I will undoubtedly order if I happen to see it on a menu anywhere.

And crème brûlée is wonderful to serve at a dinner party. It sounds so elegant and sophisticated. Alright, let's admit it- anything in French sounds elegant and sophisticated. Imagine this scenario: "Oh, what do you have for dessert?" "Umm, a pound cake." How does that sound compared to "crème brûlée"?

With a name like crème brûlée you'd think it would be extremely difficult to prepare but it isnt.. it has four ingredients.. it can be part of one those Australian Women's Weekly books called "TAKE FOUR INGREDIENTS" or "QUICK SUPPER TONIGHT".

The two places which I've found have really good crème brûlée in Dubai is La Petite Maison in DIFC and The Market Cafe in Grand Hyatt. La Petite Maison's is quite a large serving and you might need around 3 people to share it but the Market Cafe one is in individual little glasses. Both amazingly good.

And quite surprisingly- although I had this intense love for crème brûlée- I never made it. I kept on thinking I'd need a blowtorch and there was this whole hassle of getting one and setting it up.. and then making sure the water comes halfway up the ramekins etc... anyways I never really had this intense urge to make it until a few weeks back.

You really don't have to read this italicized bit- it's just a little story of my hunt for the Crème Brûlée Set.

A few weeks back I was in Divertimenti on Marylebone High Street in London. Divertimenti is this absolutely fantabulous kitchen store- until this year I only knew about the Brompton Road one but when I stumbled across the Marylebone one early one Saturday morning I was smitten. Huge, airy, bright, and fully stocked with all sorts of kitchen gadgets, Divertimenti is a shopaholic-cum-chef's (aka my) dream store. I saw a crème brûlée set and was instantly attracted to it. A nice compact little box with four ramekins, a wire rack, and an oven dish... all very nicely and ergonomically structured so when you add the water they're held up halfway around the ramekins. All very nice. I decided I would buy it- but not right then. When I went back a week later (after having thought of it countless times and somehow fallen in love with it), it was gone. I spent ages describing it and asking if the Brompton Road branch had one. Which apparently they did.. except with three ramekins instead of four. NO PROBLEM, I said. I'LL TAKE IT. 

And so during my lunch hour, I walked down from work to Brompton Road's Divertimenti and asked about the crème brûlée set. They had kept it aside and brought it out for me. As soon as I clapped eyes on it I was disappointed. It was just a normal oven dish used for crème brûlée- none of that fancy schmancy wire rack holder thing going on. I decided then that I would hunt this crème brûlée set down. And so I was told that Peter Jones might have it. So there I went, somewhat ricocheted back to Sloane Square which was close to the office. Checked with Peter Jones, they had nothing. They didn't even know such a thing existed. I was then told to go to David Mellor across the street (I did even though I highly doubted they would have it)- which they didn't. Then I heard that there was a wholesale catering store on Shaftesbury Avenue which might have it- and so after work I went there. They had no idea what it was. 

Anyways by now my rational little self kept telling my other more idealistic more dominant self that maybe I should give up. I mean how important is a little crème brûlée set? I admit, it isn't- but I'm the kind of person that if I decide I want to do something, I will do it. Even if it has to take me halfway across the world, or in this case all over central London. I kept admonishing myself, telling myself that I had become a slave of capitalism and materialism. That what kind of a person was I that I had to have this crème brûlée set or else I'd be eternally restless. There were more important things in life, Sid. But right now, this was an interesting adventure that would have been entertaining regardless of whether or not I found that blessed set (although if I didn't find it that would sort of have been a buzzkill).

Anyways, I gave up actively searching for it- but I kept an eye out wherever I went. Harrods, no. John Lewis, didn't even try. But one day, several days later, I was in Selfridge's- just walking around- when I remembered that Crème Brûlée Set. I had forgotten about it, to be honest. And so I tried my luck. And there it was. In Selfridge's.. five minutes away from my apartment. 

Anyways so back here in Dubai I decided to make Crème Brûlée. The recipe at the back of the box was extremely simple- I modified some of the measurements and I am sharing it here with you today. And getting a blowtorch is a good idea. The first time I made it, when I wanted to burn the sugar on top I put the ramekins in the top half of the oven for a couple of minutes but then it turned into a pudding/souffle kind of weird mixture. Not good. So get a blowtorch. But be careful how you use it. I also tried using both a cigarette lighter and a candle lighter but neither worked.


6 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
240g heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 tsp granulated sugar (for the topping)

Preheat the oven to 160C. Fill an ovenproof dish halfway up with water.
Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and thick. Add the cream and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Spoon into the ramekins and place the ramekins into the oven dish filled halfway with water.
Place in the oven and cook for around 35-40 minutes until the edges are set but the middle is slightly loose.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the oven dish.
Remove the ramekins from the dish and refrigerate for around 6 hours.
Half an hour before serving, sprinkle 2 tsp of granulated sugar on top of each ramekin and with a blowtorch, caramelize/burn/whatever-you-want-to-call-it the sugar.  Make sure you move the blowtorch in circular motions over the ramekin to equally caramelize.
Re-chill in the oven until you're ready to serve.

It was the first time for me to use a blowtorch and somehow most of the golden dark bits ended up in the center of the Crème Brûlée instead of all over. It still tastes really good though!

Tip: if you get little shot glasses, you can even make mini versions of these- which will look wonderful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken and Tomato Curry

This reminds me of home-cooked food. The kind of food I grew up eating. Salan, chawal, daal, biryani, kabab, pulao. In other words, desi khana. I don't cook subcontinental food that much because I often want to try making things I haven't eaten a lot while growing up. New, different food- unchartered territory; and so I submerged myself into the world of risotto, tofu, pastry, and mousse. But ever so often, it's nice to go back to your roots and eat something which reminds you of your childhood- and to add a little something of your own in it. Whenever I do cook desi food (or subcontinental food for all of you who don't know what desi is), I thoroughly enjoy it. I find it extremely simple to prepare (maybe that's because I'm half Pakistani) and the house ends up smelling wonderful. I never, ever get that aromatic smell when I cook other dishes such as Italian, Chinese, Mexican, or Thai.

And so here is the extremely simple chicken tomato curry I made today. You can serve it with rice, or naan, or just on its own really (which is what I did). It's a curry without the whole swimming in gravy thing going on. It's moist and will do wonderfully to mix with rice but is fine enough to eat on its own.

6tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 green capsicum, chopped finely
2 tsp cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 can diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
350g chicken mince
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
600ml chicken stock

Heat half the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and capsicum and stir until softened. Add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cumin seeds and stir until fragrant. Season. Add the diced tomatoes and stir on medium heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the garlic cloves in a separate saucepan with the remaining oil. Add the chicken and spices and stir continuously, breaking up any lumps. Cook for around 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken mixture to saucepan with tomato mixture and add chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, covered.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

So the two things which make up the title of the cake are actually in its topping. But it's still a chocolate and raspberry cake. You know how people say rice or pasta are like these somewhat flavourless dishes which means you can experiment a lot with them? I think the same way about vanilla cake. Well obviously it's sweet, you putting ketchup as frosting won't really work, but it's quite a good base if you want to get creative on the sweet side of the tastes spectrum.

I found this wonderful chocolate and raspberry jam from Cocomaya in London and ever since I bought it a couple of weeks back, I've been dreaming of using it as frosting on a nice bundt cake. I love the way icing/glaze just drizzles down in a bundt cake. I've never had mine look that professional but I'm hoping to get there. I used a spoon and then an offset spatula when I frosted mine. I think if you're using a runny glaze simply pouring it down the cake will achieve a nice old-fashioned look but my topping was more of a thick frosting so I had to apply it using a spoon.

230g unsalted butter, softened
230g caster sugar
4 eggs
230g self-raising flour, sifted
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
-for the frosting
70g heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup raspberry and chocolate jam (if you can't find the jam I think you can achieve something similar by mixing equal parts nutella and raspberries and whisking it together with around 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream)

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and lightly flour a bundt cake pan.
Beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well after each addition. Add the sifted flour and fold in using a metal spoon. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well together. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 25 minutes. Once baked, allow to cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting: 
take the chocolate/raspberry jam and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and beat until color has lightened and mixture has become fluffier. Gently spread over top of cooled cake. Arrange raspberries around center and in the middle of cake.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Swirly Glittery Cupcakes Tutorial

OK, well this isn't exactly a tutorial if there aren't step-by-step photos. I made these without the intention of blogging about them but a lot of people have been wondering how to get swirly frosting that holds its shape.. and even to get the rose-like look on them. So I decided (since these looked so pretty) to share these pictures with you and also explain verbally (as best as I can) how to get frosting like this.


1. I never make frosting with measured or weighed ingredients. I use my intuition- or I just see how well it's progressing.. But let's say for ingredients- I use 50g of unsalted butter (give or take 20g either way) that is softened. It is extremely important for the butter to be softened. I then mix in around 350g of icing sugar that isn't sifted. For one, I find sifting icing sugar extremely frustrating- you get little icing sugar smoke all around you. And two, I don't think the sifted factor makes much of a difference.

2. For cupcakes like these, you need frosting that is "tough".. or more solid.. Runny frosting won't do. Once you've mixed the butter and the icing sugar, add around 2-3 tablespoons of milk and beat well until combined. Add the gel food coloring at this point. Gel is best since you only need to add a very small quantity for strong color, and its nature doesn't change the consistency of the frosting-whereas liquid coloring would.


3. The longer you beat, the more fluffy and incorporated the entire mixture will become.

4. If the mixture is too runny, keep on adding more icing sugar to tighten/harden it up until you reach what you think is the right consistency. A lot of this is done by eye.

5. Take a piping bag (plastic or paper one) and pop a 1M nozzle inside. This is the most important part. It has to be 1M otherwise the size/shape of the piping will be different. Hold the piping bag open over a jug, and with a spatula, pile in the icing. Make sure that the piping bag is a bag which is floppy and not one of those mechanical syringe like ones. It's more challenging to use an actual piping bag but the results are so much better because you have a lot more control over it.

6. Hold the cupcake in your left hand if you are right handed and in your right hand if you are left handed and with the piping bag (nicely secured at the top) in your dominant hand, pipe from the center, bringing the bag around like you're drawing a snail pattern anticlockwise. Loosen your hand as you reach the outer edges of the cupcake (this will create somewhat larger swirls which will overlap creating petal-like features).

7. Release the piping bag from cupcake once you have covered the entire cupcake. Do not abruptly pull away as that will show on the cupcake. Instead, "seal" the frosting in by making the last bit of piping extremely thin and tight.

8. For the glitter, take a very thin (un-used!) paintbrush and open a pot of EDIBLE glitter, Dip the brush in the surface of the glitter in the pot. Bring the brush (whose tip is now coated with glitter) over the cupcake and with your index finger tap the brush. This will release all the glitter from the tip of the brush onto the cupcake. Tap the brush lightly while moving your hand around the entire cupcake so the glitter doesn't end up all in one place.

9. If you're using edible pearls, carefully place them around the swirls with your fingers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake/Ice Cream Cake

A two-in-one! Which is fabulous? Sometimes I really do believe that making mistakes has its benefits- Such as this time when the mixture curdled (and the dish ended up becoming an ice-cream cake almost magically!)

So this is actually a cheesecake which works as an icecream cake if you just tweak a couple of the steps around..

The basic recipe is here:

115g digestive biscuits, crushed
4tbsp melted unsalted butter
2tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
800g mascarpone cheese
200g sifted icing sugar
175 plain milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
Juice and rind of one orange

Grease a 8" cake tin.
Place the crushed biscuits, cocoa powder, and melted butter in a bowl and stir until well combined. Line the base of the cake tin with biscuit mixture and press with the back of a wooden spoon to flatten.
Mix the icing sugar and mascarpone in a bowl with the melted chocolate (the heat from the chocolate will melt  the mascarpone and make mixture smooth and runny). Mix until just combined to avoid mixture from curdling.

If you're making the cheesecake:
Place the chocolate mixture in the cake tin and refrigerate for at least 5-6 hours.

If you're making the ice cream cake:
Place the chocolate mixture in a heatproof bowl (in stages if bowl doesn't hold entire mixture) and set over a pan of simmering water till mixture melts and becomes liquidy and runny. Wait for it to slightly cool and then place it in the cake tin. Place in fridge till chilled and then in freezer for 3 hours.

Yes, it's starting to melt but doesn't it look soo good?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mini Chicken Quesadillas

These are the tiniest little quesadillas ever- they're bite-sized and fit comfortably in your fingers. And that makes them super-dangerous: you can eat the whole plate and not even realize it. They look like food for dolls- tiny little miniatures you'd find in a dollhouse..

They're also super simple to prepare and if you don't like the miniature size, you can just make them large, normal-sized quesadillas. You get about 35 pieces of minis.

7 flour tortilla wraps
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
450g chicken mince
400g can chopped tomatoes
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Using a 3cm cookie cutter, cut out rounds from each tortilla wrap. One regular sized tortilla yields around five mini circles. Place them on to baking trays.
Heat half the olive oil in a pot and cook the onion and capsicum until onion has softened. Then, add the garlic cloves and spices and cook for two minutes, until fragrant. Add the chicken mince and the remaining oil and cook for 8 minutes until browned. Break up any lumps. Add the can chopped tomatoes and bring to simmer for around 20 minutes.
Spread one teaspoon of the chicken mixture on half of each round. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each round covering all sides.
Bake in a 180C oven until cheese melts. Once melted, remove trays from oven and fold over to create a quesadilla.. the melted cheese will hold the whole thing together. 


My friend demonstrating how tiny the quesadilla is. 


I've been wanting to make profiteroles for the longest time ever. I had never made them before and the technique seemed so different from other things I had baked. I just love those quirky little tips you get when it comes to making certain things, like knowing that the macaron batter is ready when it slides off the spoon like a ribbon. Or in this case, when a wooden spoon stands upright in the choux pastry. And I think the part I was most looking forward to injecting the custard cream into the little spheres. What I didn't realize however was that I wouldn't know when I had injected enough pastry into each profiterole. But I just kept on squeezing it in. Surprisingly these are extremely simple to make and really fun, too. I think my favorite time is watching them rise in the oven. They go from tiny little spoonfuls of batter to puffy little dough balls. Like magic!

for the choux pastry:
50g unsalted butter
90g plain flour, sifted twice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
for the filling:
375ml milk
4 egg yolks
90g caster sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
for the topping:
110g dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 210C. Place the butter in a large pot with 185ml of water and stir until butter has melted and mixture is reaching a boil. Remove from the heat and quickly beat in the flour and then return to heat until mixture comes together and leaves sides of pot. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and gradually add the egg, one tablespoon at a time, beating well throughout. Beat with a wire whisk until mixture is thick and glossy and a wooden spoon stands upright in the center of the mixture. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto two lightly greased baking trays, leaving room for spreading. Sprinkle with water (steam helps profiteroles rise) and place in oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the custard. Put the milk to boil in a pan. Meanwhile whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Whisk in the flour. Pour the hot milk slowly onto egg mixture, whisking constantly throughout. Return milk and egg mixture to pan, stir constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Let boil for around one minute, while stirring constantly and then stir in the vanilla essence, transfer to a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave to cool in a refrigerator.

Once it's cool, place the mixture into a piping bag and with a 1.5 nozzle, gently pipe cream filling into the sides of each profiterole. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and oil in a bowl over simmering water. Once profiteroles are filled, dip the top of each one in the melted chocolate to coat the top half. Leave to set.

Best served cold, in my opinion.

What I did with the leftover filling and chocolate topping...