Sunday, February 15, 2015

Coconut Pandan Cupcakes with White Chocolate Lemon Ganache

Tau Hway.
Pandan Waffles.
Pineapple tarts.
Kueh Bangkit.

The list of my favourite Asian sweets are endless, but my point being that they aren’t given enough spotlight in the blogosphere, and even cookbooks! So when I happen to chance upon a well written, beautifully photographed Asian dessert book like Allanbakes Really Good Cheesecakes, I get all giddy with excitement because it’s a chance to combine Asian ingredients ( think mangoes, coconuts, lychees ) with Western techniques.

The NLB in Singapore is extremely up to date with the latest cookbooks and I happened to chance upon Our Sweet Kitchen, by two Vietnamese authors. It’s a beautiful book with glossy pictures and even better – desserts from all over Asia! Next on my to do list – a caramelly Leche Flan from the Philippines and Banana Bread Pudding from Vietnam. The blogging / cooking world has been all abuzz about using natural, local ingredients. We don’t get much of that in Singapore, given that we have close to none natural resources. But baking with regional recipes and tropical ingredients is probably the next best thing, right?

Pandan waffles are one of my favourite treats to eat, I devour several weekly (YUM). So these cupcakes are heaaaaaaven~~ because they’re light and fluffy because of the whipped cream. Interestingly, all the fat content is derived from the whipping cream as there’s no butter OR oil. Coconut and pandan are a no brainer, so to punch up the flavor, I’ve tossed in an extra ¾ cup shredded coconut and some coconut flavor. The ganache is my new favourite, the temptation to lick it by the spoonful is overwhelming. It’s sweetened by the white chocolate and given a zesty tinge with the tropical spices and lemon.

Whipped Coconut Pandan Cakes (Makes 10 cupcakes)
Loosely adapted from Our Sweet Kitchen by Chi Anh Dao & Hoang Ang Nguyen

For the sugar syrup
25g water
25g brown sugar
¼ teaspoon coconut flavor

1. Boil the 3 ingredients together until the liquid comes to a boil, and let cool.

For the whipped cream cakes
1 cup sifted plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
125ml whipping cream
100g castor sugar
½ teaspoon coconut flavor
½ teaspoon pandan paste
¾ cup sweetened desiccated coconut (Extra for sprinkling)

1.  Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease baking pans or line 10 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Whip the egg and coconut flavor together. Pour the cream into another mixing bowl and whip the cream, starting on low speed, gradually raising the speed to medium-high as it thickens, until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. On low speed, gradually whip in the egg mixture and the mixture will turn into a thick mayonnaise like consistency.
3.  Add the sugar and pandan paste in gradually and beat the mixture well.
4.  Taking a spatula, manually fold the flour into the mixture until all traces of white flour have disappeared. Gently stir in the sweetened coconut.
5.  Bake for 15 minutes in the muffin tin, rotating once after the halfway mark. Let the cupcakes cool for 2-3 minutes in the tin, then remove them.
6.  Using a wooden skewer, poke holes over the surface of the cake, and slowly brush the sugar syrup all over the cake.
7.  Use a spatula or a knife and generously frost each cupcake with a scoop of white chocolate ganache. Sprinkle on extra sweetened coconut as a finishing touch

Whipped White Chocolate Lemon Ganache (Makes about ¾ cup)
Adapted from The Cake Book, by Tish Boyle

6 ounces (170g) finely chopped white chocolate
1 cups heavy cream
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon lemongrass powder
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1. Place the white chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, spices and lemon zest to a gentle boil over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it stand for about 1 minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk the mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
3.Using the whisk attachment, beat the ganache at medium-high speed until the whisk begins to leave a trail in it and it has the consistency of soft whipped cream.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Baker’s Notes

1.    In Singapore, you can find pandan paste and coconut flavour at Phoon Huat stores. The cake gets it’s colour from the natural pandan hues.

2.    If you’re not a fan of coconut (then we can’t be friends… I’m kidding!), substitute coconut extract for vanilla. Corn and blueberry marry beautifully with pandan too.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Strawberry Cupcakes with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

Some of my favourite food blogs are constantly featuring big bodied, creamy, diner style cakes (IamBaker, Raspberricupcakes, I’M TALKIN TO YOU!). They make me so envious at times because there’re people around to eat all that cake! I’ve happily resigned myself to drooling over their cakes and baking mini versions in my humble kitchen because the family prefers tiny, hand held treats instead of BIG, HONKIN’ slices of cake. Not big cake people, my relations.

I am not the greatest fan of strawberries. Not to rain on anyone’s berry parade, but the berries we get in Singapore tend to be sour and tiny. Naturally, I was skeptical of any strawberry cake recipes, but the Brown Betty one uses frozen strawberries! Some might find this blasphemous, but I ADORE frozen berries, so perfectly tart and sweet, plus they keep for years…

This cake is a keeper – A. The strawberry flavor shines without being too tart and is a perfect complement to the zesty lime frosting. B. LOOK AT THE COLOURS – it’s brilliant for Valentines’ and even Chinese New Year, which is coming in a few weeks. The cupcake flavours actually remind me a strawberry mojito, so feel free to sneak in a few shots of vodka to punch things up!

Strawberry Cupcakes (Makes 12) Adapted from The Brown Betty Bakery Cookbook

150g frozen strawberries, thawed to room temperature
1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon regular salt 
2/3 cups (155g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons strawberry liqueur
3 drops red food coloring
2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature

1.Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. Mash frozen strawberries through a strainer over a measuring cup until you get about 1/3 cup of juice. Reserve the mashed strawberries. Add the 1/3 cup of juice to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to about ¼ of the original amount. (I eyeballed it until it became a sticky syrup)

3. Mash the remaining strawberries with a fork. Add the reduced strawberry syrup and fresh lemon juice to the chopped strawberries and mix till blended.

4.In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder together.

5.In a bowl, beat butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one at a time. Add the strawberry puree (from the third step), 1/2 teaspoons strawberry liqueur, and 3 drops of red food coloring, vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.

6.Keeping the mixer speed on low, alternately add the flour mixture (from the fourth step), with the milk, ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth.

7. Portion the batter into liners until they’re about 2/3 full. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 15 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before putting them on a wire rack to cool.

8. Top cupcakes with lime cream cheese frosting with an optional white chocolate garnish!

Lime Cream Cheese Frosting (My Own)
110g cream cheese
30g butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 drops of green food dye

Using a handheld mixer, beat butter and cream cheese till well combined. Add in powdered sugar, lime juice, zest, green food dye and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

Baker’s Notes

1. I didn’t have strawberry liquor at home, so I substituted it with vodka. Orange liquor would work well too!

2. Frozen strawberries are best for this recipe, fresh strawberries might be too tart and you’ll have to adjust sugar levels accordingly.

3. You can adjust the amount of food dye for both recipes, based on your colour preferences.