Saturday, February 28, 2009

little choco-wanna-bes

after the long few weeks with zero baking activities in my kitchen, i finally baked again! and guess what i've decided to make! ^_^

it's chocolate cupcakes with cream filling!!! they look just like the hostess cupcakes. they're little hostess cupcakes wanna-bes! but guess what, they're much better than those you can find in the supermarket! no weird chemical ingredients in these little wanna-bes ^_^.

the cake recipe is just a variation of the chiffon cake that i always make, so making it was a piece of cake! (get it? a piece of cake!!!)

the cream filling is made of marshmallow cream, sugar, cream and some butter. i wasn't satisfied with the taste of the filling. i added some triple sec (orange liqueur), but that wasn't enuf. i knew there was only one thing that can satisfy my taste.... so on to my last resort, my favourite liqueur, the dark myer's rum. these cupcakes are definitely not made for kids! ha~

the top is then glazed with some bittersweet chocolate ganache. i was having a tiny bit difficulties getting the filling inside the cakes. i was worry that the cupcakes would burst. as the result, some of the cakes only gets very little fillings. however, i think that's not such a bad thing as the cakes are already quite sweet.

i only made a dozen of these wanna-bes. they didn't make it through the weekend. i gave 4 to my friends... and ate the rest with my hubby~!! it must be the myer's rum. i feel like i should be working out now! haha ^_^.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

caramel craze

i haven't been in a baking mood the past few weeks. i guess work has been taking so much energy out of me that by the time i got home, i don't really feel like baking anymore. and my weekends have been quite busy lately.

the last concoctions i made was done about a couple of weeks ago. i'm not sure why, but i got a little bit obsessed over caramel candy. i think "a little bit" is an understatement, as i was actually making caramel candies every night and it lasted for almost two weeks.

anyway, i wasn't going to write about it cuz i wasn't very satisfied with the results. however, i did learn a lot about caramel making and if i don't write it down somewhere i'm sure i'm gonna forget all about it. so, here goes....

working with sugar is tricky. making a good caramel candy is even more tricky. the texture of the perfect caramel candy for me is soft - not chewy. i don't like it when the candy gets stuck in between my teeth. however, it also needs to have that "caramel" taste.

the first recipe i tried was from a book i saw at michaels. i don't even know its name. this recipe calls for sugar, corn syrup, butter, condense milk in a heavy saucepan, and boil it to 240F. simple, yeah? but this made me wonder. the sugar never truly caramelized. with the presence of protein from the butter, the browning of the mixture is really... Maillard reaction! i never really understood the difference between caramelization vs Maillard reaction. now i think i kinda do :)

Maillard reaction happens when sugar meets protein. it resulted in browning, such as the browning in meat. true caramelization happens when sugar is the only ingredient involves in the browning.

anyway... my first try came out very pretty. however, taste-wise, they weren't that satisfying to me. too chewy. they taste like the caramel in See's candies' nuts & chews. they got stuck in between your teeth until they all melt away.

so, on i continue with my research. the more i search the web, the more different variation of caramel candies i see. i stumble upon Sea Salt.... fleur de sel a.k.a. the flower of salt. i've been wanting to try this too. so i went and got myself a jar of sea salt :) (i got regular sea salt, not fleur de sel cuz the latter cost way expensive!)

the result from this recipe is quite tasty, but they're hard as rock! i can't even cut 'em nicely...

this is when i realize that temperature matters. as a matter of fact, it matters much!

the higher the temperature, the harder the candies. the longer you cook it, the harder it'll be.

so for my third (and fourth, and fifth, and sixth) attempts... i skipped all the recipes and pulled out my notes from school instead. i don't know how i can forget about this, but i do have an excellent formula from my teacher. do'h!

this time i used the dry method in making the caramel. essentially there are two ways in making caramel. the wet method includes mixing your sugar, water, and corn syrup/glucose in a heavy saucepan. cook them together until all the water evaporates and you get caramel. this method is slow, but safe. the dry method starts off with corn syrup or glucose with a few drops of lemon juice. then you add your sugar a little at a time, letting it caramelized, while adding more sugar to keep the temperature from getting to high. this method is faster, but you gotta be really careful not to burn your caramel....

...which i did... many times (hence the fourth, fifth and sixth attempts).

i gave up after the sixth attempt. i kinda got sick of caramel by then. however, i do find the magic number for the consistency that i like. it is.... *drum roll*.... 235F. it's important not to cook it too long, or it will harden. at 235F, the caramel is still quite soft. so i had to put it in the freezer for a few minutes so that i can cut and wrap them nicely.

maybe i'll try making caramel candy again in a few months. as of now, i'm done with caramel :).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

got matcha?

remember what i wrote earlier about looking for the perfect sponge cake recipe?

well.. i think it's gonna take more than just "a few weeks" to find the perfect sponge cake recipe.

why is that? it's becoz i got distracted too easily!! hahahaha there's just so many interesting cakes/pastries/confections out there that i simply can't resist trying.

last week, masse's patisseries in downtown berkeley were selling green tea macaroon for the chinese new year celebration. i was able to get my hand in a couple of them and they were oh.... so.... delicious! they intrigued me to make something with green tea powder, and there happened to be a couple of recipes that includes matcha powder on the stack of recipes that i've been wanting to try.

the first one i tried was the green tea genoise from one of my favorite food blogs, Desserts First. the cake came out nicely. it was moist, light, and most importantly, not overwhelmingly sweet ^_^. i didn't have any red beans on hand, so i just skipped it. instead i used vanilla bean to flavored my whipped cream. the result was goooood! (especially when served with fresh raspberries).

the next one i tried was a recipe for a traditional japanese sponge cake, called kasutera.

came across this recipe from browsing around the internet (sigh.... i wonder what i'd do without the internet ^^). i'm not sure what kasutera supposed to taste like. mine came out very light and airy and i can really taste the honey flavor. interestingly, this cake actually tastes better after a day. the batter is also very interesting. the honey made it very... sticky... and fluffy... kinda like marshmallow.

mm... i think i should really try to focus on testing sponge cake again. or maybe not hahaha

we'll see!!