Thursday, April 30, 2009

McBurger Birthday cake

I'm quite girly and feminine as a person, so decorating a cake for guys can be quite difficult for me. Flowers & hearts are definitely out of the picture. My colour palette is usually quite feminine too with pastel colours as a favourite. Usually, I always opt for chocolates as it is quite universal. But I like to push myself everytime, I'm bored playing it safe. And I want to practice my fondant skill after my last disaster. Lately, I've been going to flickr for decorating inspiration. You really can find some great ideas there. In there, I've seen a few burger shaped cake that I thought was pretty cool and perfect for my friend.

He loves chocolate so I'm making the basic chocolate mud cake in the shape of a burger. Strapped for cash and time due to my assignments, I decided to use whatever's available in my pantry. I don't have time to go to cake deco to get red, yellow and brown icing colourings for the tomato, cheese and the buns. Luckily, I still have caramel brown icing from the course and green from Zio's cake. I incorporate some plain white icing to 3/4 of the brown to get that faded brown colour for the buns. For the beef, I wanted a deep brown colour. In painting, caramel brown + black would equal dark brwon, right?........ wrong! in icing colouring, it would equal to a yucky greyish colour. so I ended up leaving the meat part covered in chocolate ganache without a fondant covering. Since my friend is not so fussy about cakes and he's happy enough if someone would take the time to make him one, so I tried not to went over my head. I decided to put just a few layers of lettuce and a slice of cheese. Just call this a meaty burger with little toppings.

The drama was kept to a minimal this time, in fact, there's hardly any. My ganache worked perfectly! I found out why it didn't work for me the first time. It's because I set it in the fridge rather than in room temperature. However, due to this crazy freezing weather, my kitchen feels like a fridge, so I put it in my oven overnight *turned off obviously*, and warm it up in the microwave for 2 minutes on low to soften it up. Ideally, if you have time, try to make the buns in white chocolate mud cake and dark chocolate for the meat. Therefore, when they slice the cake, it will look like real burger.

My fondant skills nor my covering-the-cake-with-ganache skill is still faaaarrrr from perfect but I'd like to think I'm improving. Still a crack here and there and ganache stain as well, but it's getting better. I'm planing to get some stirofoam made up in different sizes so I can practice and not waste any cake.

I will post the recipe this time.. you can also find it in Paris Cutler's Planet Cake book along with fabulous cake decorating ideas.

Additional info:
This morning I read this post again and thought I'd like to share more about the process of making this cake. It may not be new to all of you experienced bakers and cake decorators, but perhaps this will be beneficial for us novices. In decorating with fondant, it would be good to divide the work in a couple of days rather than finishing it at one go. Unlike sponge cakes, or when you decorating with buttercream, fondant cakes can be handled better when the cake had enough resting time. Time wise, this could actually be an advantage. Especially for someone who has a tight schedule like me. When my friends asked me "how long does it take you to make that cake?", I said "four days" they all looked at me with a blank face. It's actually not that long. perhaps in that 4 days, I only spend around 1 - 2 hours of active time, the most time is spent on the final day when you put it all together (It took me. Please keep in mind the cake can keep around 7-10 days once it's taken out from the fridge. So for ecample in this case, if you are having the party on Thursday, you should bake the cake at least Sunday or Monday the latest. The cake itself when stored in the fridge can last up to 3 weeks. Here's a detailed rundown of the schedule:
- Day 1 -> bake the cake, mix in colours, make decoration if using (I only had to do the sesame seeds for the bun, so this process is quite quick for me)

- Day 2 -> Make the ganache (it has to be set overnight)
- Day 3 -> cover the cake with ganache (keep it in an airtight container to prevent drying)
- Day 4 (this is where you need the most time) -> cover the cake with fondant and put in all the decorations. For this burger cake, It took me around 2.5 hours to do this part including making the lettuce and cheese, and I'm considered quite slow.

Hopefully this will help you plan your cakes better and avoid any drama =)

Chocolate Mud Cake makes one 22cm (9in) round cake or 20cm (8in) square cake. For this cake, I only made 3/4 of the recipe

220g butter
220g dark chocolate, chopped
25g coffee
125g self raising flour
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
480g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
7tsp vegetable oil
100ml buttermilk

Put butter, chocolate coffee and 160ml of water in saucepan and melt under low heat stirring constantly. Sift the flours, cocoa and bicarb of soda into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and make well in the centre. Add the combined egg, oil and buttermilk and the chocolate mixture to the flour, stir well with a large spoon.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes in a 160 degrees oven. Cooled completely in the tin. Cake can keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.

Chocolate Ganache
(again, I use 3/4 of the recipe)

600ml of cream
1.2 kg of bittersweet chocolate couverture -
(I use Lindt 58% bittersweet chocolate couverture)
A little note: For friends I like I usually use Lindt chocolates (they're pretty good and quite reasonably priced), for the so so friends, I just use the general brands like Cadburry couverture or Nestle couverture since they are much cheaper. For myself or loved ones, I always chose the best and my most favourites like Valhorna or Kennedy & Wilson. They are superior with also a premium price especially here in Melbourne as there's only one store that stock Valhorna.

Chop the chocolates as finely as you can and put in a large bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it reaches just bellow the boiling point. Pour cream over chocolates, whisking constantly. Whisk until smooth. Don't use a mixer as you will incorporate too much air to the ganache. Cool completely. After cooled, cover tightly with glad wrap with the wrap touching the surface of the ganache to avoid skin forming. Leave to set overnight in room temperature. When you're ready to use, if the ganache is too hard, heat it up in the microwave on low for 1-2 minutes and until it reaches the desired consistency. You're looking for a nutella-like consistency.

Assembling the cake

2-3 tbs of jam (any flavour)
20ml of liquor (any flavour - jamaican rum, cointreau, grand marnier or tia maria are always nice with chocolate)
150-250ml of water

Instead of getting rid of the bump on the top, I usually cut thinly on the hard skin of the cake, and reserving it to patch uneven surfaces later. to get a perfectly level surface of the top, use the second layer or the cake as the first layer. Brush each layer generously with the syrup to moisten the cake. Wait until the cake absorp the liquid before putting the ganache. Cover it with ganache. Let the ganache to set in room temperature. When ready to cover with fondant, brush the cake with the syrup or water to help the fondant to stick better to the cake. Here's a video on covering a cake with fondant:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheesecakeletes three ways - DB April 2009

I admit my defeat. I finally caved in to these cheesecakes. I never used to like cheesecakes. The texture, the sligtly tangy and sweet taste just never work for me. Especially that stuck-in-your-throat feeling you get everytime you eat a spoonful. Bleh! The one and only time I ever made a cheesecake, a baked one I might add was for my boss's birthday and I still wasn't sold by this dessert. However, I think I might just found a recipe that could change my skepticism.The recipe that is this month's Daring Bakers challenge was soooo creamy and the texture was so soft (soft enough for me to wreck one when I tried to unmold it). Not the easiest or simplest recipe I'm afraid. The baking time plus resting time, and the water bath makes this recipe quite challenging (coming from a girl who burnt herself in too many occasion from trying to remove the heavy water-bath-filled pan). But this water bath is the key to achieve it's creamy texture.

We were given total freedom to change the recipe this month. In fact, that is part of the challenge, creating different flavour combination or ways to serve the cheesecake. Me being the indecisive that I am, of course couldn't decide on one flavour, so instead, I did it three ways. The three most favourite ways of how I do dessert. Fruity, chocolatey and not forget the very best, cookies and creme. You can say that my love of desserts are summed up in this three cakelets. Eventhough I adore figs, but this is not actually my first preference, but my all time favourite, the berries and cherries are long gone since we are well in the winter season now here in downunder. And figs seems to be at it's top of the season, so I paired it with a lovely bush honey for my fruity cheesecake.

Before I forget, this is the official blurb that needs to be posted:
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecakeletes:
(2/3 of recipe) I use three ramekin dishes

crust for the honey and marble cheesecakelets:
120 g graham cracker crumbs
74g butter, melted
16g caster sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Oreo crust:
60 g Oreo biscuit, set aside the white parts for the cheesecake
37g butter, melted
8g caster sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

450g cream cheese, room temperature
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

Honey & Fig:
25g sugar
25g bush honey
3-5 dried figs

50g caster sugar

Cookies & Cream:
25g sugar
white cream leftovers from crust
3-4 oreo biscuits, roughly crushed into big chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thai Sunday

When the wind is gushing outside with a speed that can blow you away and a house that feels more like the inside of a fridge, spending your time in front of the oven actually feels like heaven. Another excuse to keep pending my assignment. Yes, I have yet another assignment lined up next week. But this time, is a group one, so the work is shared.

I have defrosted a nice fillet of fish in the fridge that is ready to be prepped. When it comes to savoury food, a combination of sour, salty and a nice kick of heat is always my favourite, especially when it comes to seafood. That's why I always cook my fish, Thai style.

To make it even more Thai, I also made a fresh pot of Thai milk tea. Eventhough I always tried to make everything from scratch, this time, I chose to go the instant way with a sachet of ready made thai milk tea. I always loved this rather bright orange coloured drink. Not just because it's attractive colour, but also from it's sweet and fragrant take on the ordinary milk tea. And it complements Thai style dishes perfectly. However, this is the first time I drank it hot. With this weather, I certainly didn't feel like for ice cold drinks.

For the fish, I decided to bake them instead of frying them. Making them healthier and fuss free from dealing with hot oil splats. It uses all the traditional Thai spices like lemongrass, ginger, coriander and kaffir lime leaves. I did cheat a bit by using store bought red curry paste.. but you can always make them yourself if you like. A little warning, I can handle a little bit of heat, so this recipe is quite hot, however, if you like to mellow the heat, you can deseeded the chilli or leave it out all together.

Thai chilli fish
adapted from here
2 fillet of white fish
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
about 2 cm of fresh ginger, grated
1 lemongrass, chopped
1 tbs of red curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
2 tbs of sweet chilli sauce
3 tbs of lime juice
2 chillies, chopped
3 tbs fish sauce
1/2 tbs palm sugar

Clean the fish and make 3 or 4 large score on the skin. Combine all the ingredient in a shallow oven proof dish. Mix in the fish and combine the marinating ingrediant to completely coat the fish. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 C. Bake fish covered in aluminium foil for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and place fish on the top rack of your oven and grill until the skin are crispy, usually takes about 8-10 minutes. Serve with jasmine rice and Thai milk tea.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A hearty breakfast when time is on your side

Nothing can make my day brighter like a good hearty breakfast in a lazy weekend. For once, time is on my side this morning and the rainy weather is perfect to be spent with a hearty comforting vanilla rice pudding. Rice puddings are not hard to make, but it can be quite time consuming. A good one will take at least one hour with constant stirring. I have been looking for a recipe for making it in a slow cooker, but I haven't had much luck.

I first tried making rice pudding when I bought the Marie Claire breakfast book. It calls for a lot of spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, just the way I like it. But when I cooked it, I ended up with a mess. It seems to need almost double the quantity of milk as what stated in the recipe, but the rice was still undercooked at the end. What a disappointment from what seems to be a very promising start. Not until I tried making Aran's arroz con leche when my faith is restored. Her version is so simple with only cinnamon and milk but it was soooooo good. To satisfy my need of spice, I added the spices from Marie Claire's recipe and cook it using Aran's method. I end up cooking it for almost 90 minutes to 120 minutes to achieve a thicker rice pudding. I have some left over of fleur de sel caramel sauce from the pancake I made a couple of days back, so I add it to the vanilla rice pudding. yumm yumm yumm.

Vanilla rice pudding

1 litre milk
100g arborio rice
50g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
pinch of fleur de sel or sea salt
1 vanilla bean, seeded

In a heavy based pan, heat the milk, salt, spices and cinnamon stick to a gentle simmer. Try to keep the heat very low. Add sugar and rice, stir to combine. Stir every 5 minutes or so and cook gently until it thickens. It took about 90-120 minutes for me to get a thick consistency. Serve with any sauce or on its own with a dash of freshly grated cinnamon.

Fleur de sel caramel sauce

250g brown sugar
400ml thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, seeded
60g butter, chopped
1/2 tsp fleur de sel

In a heavy based saucepan, cook sugar, cream, vanilla and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until it boils and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in fleur de sel. Set aside until it thickens to the desired consistency.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy belated easter

I had macaroons for Christmas, hot cross buns for Good Friday, and now red velvet for Easter. In the shape of eggs of course. Eventhough it's almost a week too late, I hope everyone still in the mood for Easter spirit. Sorry, life keeps getting in the way and I'm behind on my posts. Now you know why I made the red velvet cupcake the other day.

I got my hands full with all the hot cross buns and church on Easter weekend, so I didn't have time to properly decorate the eggs. Colouring chocolates is just not the extra work I needed when I'm trying to juggle between masses, bread baking and catching up on some much needed sleep after a crazy week. If you've been paying attention, I had a super hectic week before Easter. That's why my single most important mission during the 4 days Easter long weekend plus 2 extra days of annual leave was to do "absolutely nothing". Well, nothing that I don't like anyways. Sipping coffee in a quaint little cafe with a good book or a good company and sleeping in is what I intended to do for the whole Easter break.

So, to avoid more work with the chocolates, I did what I do best, paint. I used oil candy colouring to decorate the eggs. I was so lazy, I only painted these 5 eggs and left the rest plain white and brought it to the Easter dinner on Good Friday.

I used Stephanie Jarowski from joyofbaking's recipe for the red velvet cake and Jennifer Graham from Crabapple Cupcake's for the cream cheese frosting.

Happy belated Easter everyone!

Cream cheese frosting

125g unsalted butter, softened
400g cream cheese, softened
1.5tsp vanilla essence
6 cups icing sugar

cream the butter for 1-2 mins. Add cream cheese, vanilla and 3 cups of the sifted icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually add the remaining icing sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency.

Red velvet Cake Chocettes

Red velvet cake. you can find the recipe here
Cream cheese frosting
1 packet of white chocolate (use compound for a shortcut, so you don't have to temper the chocolate)

Bake the red velvet cake.
Make frosting.
Both of them can be made one days in advance. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.
In a large bowl, crumble cake using your hands or a mixer. Mix in frosting gradually until the mixture is moist. Carefull not to add too many frosting or not you will have trouble shaping the chocettes. Take one teaspoon at a time and shape the dough into egg shaped. Put in the fridge for an 30 minutes to firm it up. While it's chilling in the fridge, melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip the chocettes in the chocolate and put in a baking tray to set. Try to place the eggs with the bottom of the egg touching the tray so you will end up with a nice smooth egg-shaped chocolates. Decorate by colouring chocolates and piping it or if you're too lazy, just paint some design with oil colouring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Perfect buns for Good Friday

In an Easter fashion, especially on Good Friday, it's only natural to have hot cross buns. This year, I decided to try my hands on making them. I tried two recipes that I found interesting. One is Meeta's from What's for Lunch Honey and the other one is the one I found on this month's Delicious magazine, my favourite cooking magazine.
I actually made this one yesterday and brought it to work as a trial. I need to try the recipe first before I make the real one for our Easter get together today. Even with all my traumatic experience with yeast, this buns are quite easy to make. And a good recipe that offers windows of opportunities to alter. On the first one, I made the traditional one with lots and lots of raisins. It became the talk of the office. My 'buns' was the hot topic of the day. =)

On the one I made for our get together, I substitute the raisins with chocolate chips, because one thing I know for sure about my friends are if there's raisin or dried fruits in them, there's no way that they're touching them. I made 1.5 times of Meeta's recipe and after adding the chocolate chips, I divide the recipe in half and put all water in one and half water and half coffee on the other one to make a mocha hot cross buns.

One thing I learned from this, is when making it with choc chips, add them last after you mix in the yeast and the water, so the chocolate will not melted through the dough.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

the right to vote

In a patriotic spirit to my country, I decided to dedicate this red velvet cupcake to this democratic day where all Indonesian in all corners of the earth share their rights to vote in the hope of a better future for the country. Well, actually, that's just my excuse to make red velvet cake and made a simple icing decoration in the shape of our red and white flag. Any excuse will do, right?

I didn't even share my vote today.. hey, not my fault they decided to do it on Holy Thursday. I was planning to vote before work or before church, but it turns out they only open the ballot from 9.30am to 7.30 pm, I start work at 9 and there's no way I can take time off work since this will be my last chance to catch up with my boss before her trip to China, and the mass is at 6pm - 7.30pm. What a girl to do?

I have a strong opinion on the fact that they held it on Holy Thursday, but I decided to spare you my rant, anyways, today is Holy Thursday..

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

cake scraps = cake chocettes

I have some cake scraps from the baby block cake I made last weekend and whole lot of cookies and cream frosting from the cupcakes. Not wanting to waste any of this, I decided to make same cake chocettes. I know I know.. I should have been relaxing and catching up on some sleep after being sleep deprived for more than a week, but I just hate to waste all this up. It's very simple to whip these babies up anyways, and by using compound chocolate to dip it, takes the hassle from having to temper the chocolates.

I made some into choc-kabobs and gave it to some friends as an early easter treat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Special cake for a a special one year old

A very close friends of mine is having a birthday party for their beloved one year old. Zio along with their parents are some people I hold dear to my heart. I have always been there since this baby was brought to this world, a tiny 600grams premmie to the chubby boy that he is now. So, when the mother asked me to make the cake, it's a task I take very seriously. This will be my first baby cake and since this will be a big party, I can go all out. I'm planning to make a baby blocks cake as the centerpiece and also cupcakes. What's more perfect than cupcakes for a kid's party. For the flavour combination, I decided to make chocolate mud cake for the block cake, and chocolate cupcake with cookies and cream cheese frosting. You can never go wrong with chocolate.

If you can think of things that can go wrong in baking and decorating a cake, I have just experienced it all at once when making this cake.
If you think that I didn't think it through enough or plan it enough, you were wrong. I planned the whole thing more than a week in advance starting from getting all the ingredients, the decorating tools also the reference pictures to help me in creating the decoration. I even scheduled the whole thing to the last second. Create the figurines on Monday - Wednesday, bake the cake on Thursday, make the chocolate ganache on Friday night, colour the icing on Saturday morning, decorate the cake on Saturday night and make the cookies and cream frosting for the cupcakes and finally, bake and decorate the cupcakes on Sunday morning just before the party so everything will be nice and fresh. Up until Friday night, everything was on schedule and went according to plan. Even my essay was on schedule I even felt proud of myself for creating the figurines (the first time I ever made one I might add). Not until Saturday morning when the series of disaster began. One, I found out that the essay was 3000 words, not 2000 words as I thought it was. Panic mode: on. And this is not due to my ignorance to the brief, the lecturer have been saying it's 2000 words in class all the time, so I just take her word for it, but the official brief states 3000 words, so to be safe (and it's too late to write an angry email to her asking which is the right one), I decided to aim for 3000. So I have to put my essay first over the cake. Assuring that everything is in place, if I just wake up really early on Sunday, I can finish decorating the cake and the cupcakes. Or so I thought...

Starts off with the ganache not sticking to the cake.. I have worked with chocolate ganache before, but this is the first time this ever happen to me. Have any of you experience the same thing? The ganache is just very oily and paste-y. It's really hard to get it to stick to the cake, and when it's cold, it set hard like a chocolate block, not soft as it should be. So, it's impossible to get that sharp edges on the block cakes. Pressed for time, I just have to live with it. It looked more like a blob than a baby block. Of course, without the ganache having sharp edges, it would be impossible to get it from the fondant. While waiting for the cake to set, I decided to move on to the cupcakes. Another disaster! The cupcake paper I bought yesterday was too big for my cupcake pan. I have moved beyond panic mode to nearly hyper-ventilating. M tried to calm me down by driving me to the homeware store to get some. We stopped to get some coffee in the hope of it calms my nerve a little bit.

When I got home, it only have gotten worst. the blue fondant was too soft to work with, so I tried to fix it by adding some CMC to it. It helped a bit, but it's still very tricky to work with. By this time, M has moved to become my sous chef. Poor him, I was actually turning into Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. I have seen my version of a mad woman.

Eventhough we were an hour late to the party (hey, we're Indonesian, being on time is not in our blood), we manage to get the cake there in one piece. It still looked cute on display. The proud parents still very impressed. Thank God for the figurines, it manages to make the block cake still cute. I ended up not putting the block cake on top of the cupcake tower, because it was too heavy.
I need a lot more practice with fondant decorating. Hopefully I can be a lot better at it. Just glad it's all over, and I manage to finish my essay on time. This essay has been a wake up call for me. The very reason why I was done with being a student. Only 3 more months to go till I graduate. I think I'm going to take 2 days off after easter. I really need to unwind after a very stressful week.