Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Peanut Butter Chocolate Lava Cakes

Less than a week left to upheaving my entire life and moving to Kobe for new teaching experiences, understanding the deeper nuances of Japanese culture (LIKE, WHY THE HELL ARE THEY SO NICE?!) and yes, a form of escapism from the norms and expectations in Singapore. Though one of my greatest fears is not being able to bake in Kobe, their houses are notoriously small and my new apartment doesn’t have an oven. (YET!)

Cakes are not to be neglected in the flurry of packing, meetups and last minute errands. Finally got down to making a simple dream of molten chocolate cake -Pee Poo cake! Or officially, (but where’s the fun in that) – peanut butter chocolate lava cakes! I’d like to think of it as a cake one would cozy up to on a rainy / cold day, with Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series at the side. Nothing like chocolate cake to pair with a great book!

It’s dead simple, but pay attention to the steps. The eggs should be whisked to a thick, pale mixture. To enhance the chocolate flavor, I added ½ a teaspoon of espresso powder instead of the usual vanilla. Finally, a heaping glob of peanut butter in the middle of each ramekin, but I think white chocolate ganache or salted caramels would work great too. I adore Nutella, but skip it cos it’s more chocolate than hazelnut, so there won’t be much of a taste contrast in this cake. 

Finally, it’s a lava cake guys, so err on the side of underbaking to make sure you get the goo factor. Skip the powdered sugar and go straight for the vanilla ice cream! MmmMM HELLO HD’S MACADAMIA NUT BRITTLE 8-) (Sidenote : Is there such a thing as good vegan ice cream? A friend brought a pint of vegan Vanilla ice cream and it tasted just.. wrong – diluted and flavourless…)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Lava Cakes
200g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Cadbury 70% dark)
100gm unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon espresso powder
4 heaping teaspoons of smooth peanut butter
1. Preheat oven to 200° C. Generously butter 4 ramekins. Coat ramekins with sugar and tap out the excess. (This step gives the cakes a sweet outer crust!)
2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate, espresso powder and butter until smooth–stirring constantly to avoid burning. Let cool.
3. Place the eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk with a hand mixer until thick and pale. Slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture while whisking until smooth. Gentle fold in the flour.

4. Spoon the mixture into each ramekin. Drop in a generous dollop of peanut butter into each cup and gently press the dollop into the chocolate. Spoon the remaining chocolate batter evenly into each ramekin, using up all the batter. The ramekin should be ¾ full. Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for 16 - 18 minutes until tops appear dry and are slightly puffed. Let cakes rest for about 2 minutes until warm enough to handle and turn out onto a plate for serving and gild the lily with a scoop of ice cream!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Donuts

Every time fall swings by, the most popular baking/dessert blogs would start popping up posts pumpkin themed, from cheesecake to mousses and even pie! I’ve never even had pumpkin pie in my life! When I first got my hands on a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree whilst visiting my sister in the States last year, MY HEART WAS PALPITATING SO WILDLY WITH EXCITEMENT I THOUGHT I MIGHT PASS OUT IN THE BAKING AISLE. No joke. Since then, I’ve been hooked on baking with pumpkin – brownies, cakes and cheesecakes!
I’ve graduated from canned pumpkin puree to making my own (it’s ridiculously easy), because pumpkins are ridiculously cheap and easy to obtain from the local NTUC. My all time favourite recipe has got to be Shauna Sever’s Everything Autumn muffins, deliciously moist and spicy, redolent with pumpkin flavor. Super easy too! The original recipe calls for healthy add-ins like apples, but I love using whatever chocolate I have on hand for an indulgent afternoon snack.
Top with chocolate ganache and crushed Tiger biscuits like I did, or when lazy, slather with Ovalmaltine spread (like I did the second time round, pumpkin + ovalmaltine + cup of steaming Milo = game over) 

Pumpkin Autumn Muffins 
1 ½ cups cake flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (7½ ounces/212 grams) pumpkin puree*
¾ cup (8 ounces/252 grams) pure maple syrup
½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) canola or grapeseed oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped nuts (I used cashew)
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and ginger.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until very smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Fold gently until well blended. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
5. Fill the wells of the donut tin about two-thirds full of batter. Sprinkle a generous tablespoonful of streusel over each muffin. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of several donuts comes out clean. Let the donuts cool for just a couple of minutes in the pan before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Baker’s Notes

1.The recipe actually calls for pure maple syrup, but I used what I had on hand – Gula Melaka syrup. Honey would be an excellent substitute as well.

2. These donuts taste even better the next few days, because the pumpkin rests well with the cake batter and spices. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Black Sesame Coconut Mochi Donuts

Confession time. I’m a youtube junkie. I can spend hours on the internet just watching particularly jovial strangers have a good time cooking up a storm on Youtube. My current favourite channels have to be Cookingwithdog and Ochikeron. YES I AM AWARE OF HOW LATE I AM TO THE GAME, but they literally make me troll the Japanese supermarket for interesting new ingredients to see what I can put in cakes. Check out their clips here and here (love the Tokyo Banana tutorial!) That being said, my recent trip to Nihon in May fostered a new love for goma, black sesame. I’m also a huge fan of glutinous rice (mocha) flour in cakes because it gives it a springy, QQ texture like nothing else! Bet they'd be a great substitute for the chewiest brownies, mmm! 

Fingers crossed that I might be moving abroad soon, so I’m trying to deplete my current pantry store. And voila! – Sesame coconut mochi cakes with a chocolate ganache and peanut butter drizzle. The coconut flavor is twofold with coconut cream and shredded coconut bits added in. After several experiments, a 1/3 cake flour + 2/3 mochi flour ratio is the best for perfect springy but not too mushy cakes. The sesame – frosting pairing is your choice really, but peanut butter and sesame make a really nutty, fragrant power duo!

Sesame Coconut Mochi Donuts
glutinous rice flour
   75g cake flour
   60g black sesame powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
   150g white sugar sugar
   180g coconut / cream

   80g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
   1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
   2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
   ½ cup shredded coconut
1.    Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your donut pan with oil.
2.    In a large bowl, whisk together the two flours, baking powder, sesame seeds and shredded coconut.
3.    In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame powder,sugar and melted butter, then whisk in the beaten eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract and coconut cream until mixed well.
4.   Combine the wet and dry ingredients until mixed well. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until the top is slightly puffed and cracked.

Bakers Notes
1.  A lot of my toppings / glazes are made in small batches, so I eyeball it and don’t have a recipe. For the glaze, I merely mix a 1 : 4 condensed milk : peanut butter till spreadable, and add more milk to thin. The condensed milk provides an extra depth of creamy sweetness!

2.  In Singapore, you can easily buy the chocolate cereal balls from Phoon Huat stores islandwide.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Kahlua Fudge Nut Tart

One of the most memorable interactions I had in Taiwan was with a lady who sold aboriginal beads and helped tell one’s fortune based on a customer’s selection of the beads. Say what you will about the inaccuracies / mumbo jumbo of fortune telling, I’ve always been intrigued by the mystery behind the art of fortune telling and was struck by how accurate my ‘fortune’ was, just from a simple selection of craft beads OR me telling her anything about my life.

  One of my worst and best traits, she said, was the inability to let go of loved ones, even when others have moved on. It really struck home this week, when I cried pitifully in bed last night over a lingering unrequited love.  It’s blatantly obvious that I’m useless at letting go and YES, a perfect example of sad cliché of a girl who knows what’s right but still does the stupid thing and pines for what she can’t ever have. Sigh, at least that’s one thing the OLD Taylor Swift and I used to have in common. DAMN YOU TAYLOR FOR LANDING CALVIN HARRIS!! DAMN YOU FOR BEING SO CUTE (and blonde!!) TOGETHER I CANNOT EVEN BEGRUDGE YOUR HAPPINESS!!

  This tart is a fitting comfort food, a silky (yet not too sweet) fudge filling dotted with toasted hazelnuts and encased in a buttery shortbread crust. Crusts are my Achilles’ heel, but this recipe from Alice Medrich is foolproof – mix, press and bake! The end result is buttery and crunchy! The filling is a cross between a brownie and a mousse, a fudge like consistency that melts in your mouth. I added nuts for some textural balance, but remember to toast your nuts for an added earthiness. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and a must-serve for dinner party crowds you'd want to impress.
Kahlua Fudge Nut Tart (Makes 6 4 inch round tartlets)
For the crust (Adapted slightly from here)
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour

1. To make the tart crust: Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Prick the tart dough with a fork.

2.   Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 180F, or until the crust is a deep golden brown and let cool.

For the filling (Adapted slightly from here)

30g semisweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona), chopped
115g unsalted butter, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup natural dark cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cream
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons Kahlua (Bourbon or rum would be good too)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup toasted hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 160 C

2. In a large heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate and butter over simmering water.

3. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the cocoa and espresso powder, and whisk until blended. Add the sugar, honey, and cream and whisk until blended. Add the eggs, egg yolk, Kahlua, vanilla, and salt and whisk just until blended. Pour into the baked tart shell.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes in precooled crusts, or until the edges are slightly puffed and the center of the filling jiggles slightly when the pan is gently shaken. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 3 days.

Baker’s Notes
1.Use the best kind of bittersweet chocolate you have on hand, the chocolate filling will reflect the richness of your choice.
2.The original recipe calls for bourbon instead of Kahlua, but I used what I had on hand.

3.The sugar content has already been reduced to suit my interpretation of ‘Asian’ sweetness level, so reduce it further at your own risk!