Category Archives: Cakes and bakes

THE BEST crusty and super amazingly soft and tasty bread 

Viva la Thermomix!

I’ve tried unsuccessfully for goodness knows how long to make bread at home. I have access to delicious German Volkhorn (wholegrain) bread from across the road at Baker & Cook, but the allure of the smell of freshly baked bread has kept me going back to try again and again. 

My bread always came out doughy and heavy. And while I like the concept of taking your aggression out on dough, I never seemed to have the muscles or stamina to knead it enough. 

Enter the Thermomix. 

There is a kneading function on it, that you could get from using your stand mixer with the dough attachment. 

This recipe doesn’t even use sugar. I don’t normally have an aversion to sugar, but bread in Singapore (unless you have access to specialty or artesian bakeries) has this slightly sickly sweetness to it. The second ingredient after flour in most of the commercial bread is sugar. Ugh. 

The few simple rules I found helped me get my bread crusty on the outside and super soft on the inside:

1) You need to keep the yeast and the salt separate. Easily done by adding the ingredients in a particular order. Water and yeast first, then a layer of flour before adding the salt. Salt apparently “kills” yeast, and you need yeast to do their amazing work and create those lovely bubbles of air in your bread (I love how yeast is this living thing!)

2) Knead. A lot. A lot of recipes for bread in the Thermomix call for just two minutes of kneading. I get that the blades are super powerful, but I honestly think bread kneading needs time. This recipe calls for six minutes. Be patient. It’s worth it.

3) More patience required: you can’t go “I fancy a freshly baked loaf of bread, and expect to do it in under 2 1/2 hours. Yeast (that lovely living thing) needs time to work it’s magic. And on to my next tip…

4) Prove (or second ferment) the bread in the fridge overnight, or for at least eight hours. The coolness of the fridge slows down the fermentation, giving the yeast more time to give bread a better flavour.

5) I’m still playing around with ratios of plain bread flour and wholemeal spelt flour. Every time I have previously tried to make things completely wholegrain, the bread felt a little too healthy. And I figure, you have to enjoy what you eat, right? Everything in moderation, so I think at most I’d try 50:50, but I haven’t gotten there yet. 

Finally (I know you’re thinking it) here is the recipe:

Ingredients makes one standard loaf

  1. 225g lukewarm water
  2. 1.5 teaspoons yeast
  3. 375g bakers flour
  4. 3-4 tablespoons of mixed seeds (I use flaxseed, sesame and poppy)
  5. 3/4 teaspoon of salt

Method

  1. Add the ingredients in this order: water, yeast, flour, seeds, salt.
  2. Blitz on speed 7 for 10 seconds to roughly combine.
  3. Knead for 6 mins.
  4. Remove dough and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and place into a warm spot. (In Singapore that’s anywhere that isn’t airconditioned)
  5. Leave this to rise for approximately an hour or until doubled.
  6. Remove dough from bowl, knock out the air by shaping your dough into a free form loaf, rolls or placing it in to the desired tin.
  7. Allow to rise overnight in the fridge overnight until almost doubled in size. Alternatively you can just let it rise in the same warm place for another 50-60 minutes. 
  8. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  9. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Banana bread with cream cheese icing

Today I have a guest helping me. So today’s post is brought to you by my talented niece, Saisha!

I had a surplus of over ripe bananas and decided to make banana bread in the Thermomix, and found a recipe adapted from Donna Hay (thank you Robin!). I added extra bananas just because I didn’t want to waste any, and also more bananas, make the bread even more moist.

Ingredients – banana bread
  1. 4 large bananas
  2. 125g butter
  3. 170g brown sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 80g maple syrup
  7. 255g all purpose flour
  8. 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  9. 1 tsp baking powder
  10. good pinch of salt
  11. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  12. small handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
 Ingredients – cream cheese frosting
  1. 100g cream cheese – at room temperature
  2. 50g butter – at room temperature
  3. 150g icing sugar
  4. good pinch of salt
  5. 1 tbls milk
Method – banana bread
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C
  2. Blitz bananas on speed 5 for 30 seconds
  3. Set them aside in a separate bowl
  4. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to the Thermomix bowl and mix on speed 5 for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl a few times, till light and creamy
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and beat them on speed 5 for 10 seconds (each)
  6. Add the banana mix with the maple syrup and combine everything on speed 5 for 45 seconds
  7. Pour wet mixture into large bowl
  8. Add all the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatular.
  9. Once all the ingredients are combined, scoop the mixture into a lined baking tin and bake for 90 minutes, or until a skewer/knife is placed in the middle and pulled out clean
  10. Allow to cool and ice with cream cheese frosting

Method – cream cheese frosting

  1. Blitz cream cheese and butter for 30 seconds, speed 5
  2. Add icing sugar and salt and mix for 1 minute, starting speed 3 and gradually up to speed 8 until light and creamy
  3. Add milk and mix 30 seconds, speed 5

Enjoy ! Saisha signing off 🙂

IMG_6956


Yorkshire pudding


My husband often catches me sitting in front of my oven as I watch my food bake. It’s certainly better than TV. Cookies brown, pork roast crackling goes crunchy, cakes rise. And Yorkshire puddings are one of the most satisfying rises of all, starting out bubbling around the edges, then blooming dramatically into wonderful bowls of crispy dough, the perfect vehicle for gravy.

I tested various recipes, with Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith’s recipes rendering suprisingly disappointing, heavy Yorkies. The recipe below follows Mary Berry’s. The batter is thin but this produces the lightest Yorkies, which work so well with the mandatory roast beef.

I also prefer to make one or two large Yorkshire puddings rather than trying to quickly and accurately pour equal amounts of batter in to 12 muffin tins.

Ingredients

Makes 12 muffin sized Yorkies or 1 greedy large one

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 115g/4oz flour
  3. 275ml/½ pint milk
  4. beef dripping or oil with a high smoking point
  5. salt

Quinoa bake with spinach and ricotta

As we head in to the festive season, I find that I need to balance out the indulgences of this time of year, with home cooked, healthy (at least semi-healthy) meals.

Packed full of goodness, and also gluten-free (for any of you who are gluten intolerant), this baked quinoa “pie” with spinach and feta is as comforting as it looks. Hot from the oven, the quinoa are almost pillowed amongst the ingredients, adding a lightness that you wouldn’t get if I omitted them. I only need to cook for two, so I made enough for four, split the mixture in to two small pie tins, and will freeze the other portion for a time when I need something easy, quick and delicious. All I have to do is warm up and eat.

This recipe is really versatile – adding in ham or bacon would work too.

Ingredients (for one large pie to feed four or two smaller pies)

  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
  3. 200g feta (you can also substitute ricotta or even cottage cheese)
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. Splash of milk
  6. 1 cup of grated parmesan, divided in to two portion
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F
  2. Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until tender and the germ is visible
  3. Stir in the spinach leaves as you fluff the quinoa – the residual heat will wilt the leaves
  4. Crumble the feta in and mix
  5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with a splash of milk and one portion of the parmesan
  6. Add a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper – don’t over-salt as the cheeses will already add some savouriness to the dish
  7. Loosely spoon the quinoa mixture into your pie dish, pour over the egg mixture and combine the two in the dish
  8. Flatten the top and sprinkle the second portion of parmesan over the top
  9. Bake for 30-35 mins until the top is golden
  10. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then enjoy hot !

Quiche Lorraine

I cheat and use store-bought shortcrust pastry with my quiches. If you have the time to wait for the dough to rest, and don’t mind clearing up the mess (which I always seem to make tons of whenever making pastry) go right ahead.

Quiche Lorraine reminds me of growing up in the suburbs in Sydney and having a slice of quiche with a salad on the side. You can’t really not like it – salty bacon and sweet sauteed onions enveloped in a warm eggy pillow – with pastry. It’s pretty easy, too – just make sure you blind bake your base properly, or it will end up soggy instead of crispy and short, giving you good contrasting textures with each bite.

Ingredients

  1. 1 -2 sheets ready made shortcrust pastry
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 6 rashers (or more if you want) bacon, diced
  4. 200ml heavy cream
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1 cup grated gruyere or cheddar cheese
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/390F
  2. Line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry
  3. Prick the base, line with baking paper and add pie weights/rice/beans before blind baking in the oven for 15 minutes
  4. Remove the baking paper and pie weights and put back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned
  5. While the base is baking, make your filling
  6. Sautee the bacon on medium-high heat until brown and crispy and remove from frying pan to cool
  7. Reduce the heat to low and cook onions until soft and translucent
  8. Mix cream, eggs, cheese together in a jug.
  9. Season with salt and pepper – remember not to oversalt as the bacon and cheese will provide additional seasoning
  10. Once the base is ready, sprinkle your bacon and onion on the base, and pour in the eggy/cheese mix over
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/320F and bake quiche for 30 minutes or the middle is just wobbly (it will continue to cook a little more once out of the oven)
  12. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes before removing quiche from the tin
  13. Enjoy hot or cold as leftovers the next day 😉

 

 


Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

Thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction, I found the most amazing recipe for the super-chocolately chocolate cupcakes. Sally has kindly done all the hard work, testing various recipes, before landing on this as the best recipe.

The cake is not overly dense, yet super moist. The icing thicker than buttercream. And the combination of these two is truly sublime. I found Valrhona chocolate powder in my local cake shop (Sia Huat on Seah Street) which I think made them even more decadent.

I added an extra pinch of salt to both the cake mix and the icing because I personally love that salty/sweet combination. And I needed an extra 5 minutes in the oven for them to be perfectly cooked.

Ingredients makes 12 cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  2. 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  3. 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  4. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 2 large eggs, at room temperature*
  9. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  10. 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  12. 1/2 cup buttermilk*
Dark Chocolate Frosting
  1. 2 and 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  2. 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  4. 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until smooth and set aside to slightly cool.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.
  5. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  6. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until just combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.
  7. Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan.
  8. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  9. For the frosting: Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder to assure there are no lumps. Set aside.
  10. With a handheld of stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy – about 2 minutes.
  11. Gradually add the sifted sugar/cocoa powder alternately with the heavy cream and vanilla. Beat on low speed after each addition. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too dark. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  12. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with dragées or chocolate chips if desired.

Notes

*Room temperature eggs are required for this recipe. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, put them in a glass of warm water for 5-10 minutes.

*Buttermilk is required for this recipe. If you do not have buttermilk, make your own by mixing 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice with 1/2 cup milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.


Meyer Lemon Tea Cake

Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and have a sweet floral flavour, without the mouth-puckering tartness of normal lemons. When cooking with meyer lemons vs normal lemons you will need to adjust the sugar of your usual recipes.

Of course when I saw them in my local supermarket I had to grab a bag of them. I’m planning to make all sorts of meyer lemon-y things with it – my first was a meyer lemon tea cake.

My recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking’s Lemon Blueberry Bread – my recipe uses less sugar (and no blueberries!) and the end result is a light, airy, deliciously lemony cake that goes perfectly with a big mug of tea.

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups (195g) plain flour
  2. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. Grated zest of two meyer lemons
  5. 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  6. 1/2 cup (100g) castor sugar
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  9. 1/4 cup (120ml) milk
  10. 1/4 cup meyer lemon juice

Lemon Glaze:

  1. 3 tbls sugar
  2. juice of 1 meyer lemon

Method

  1. Butter and flour a loaf tin
  2. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
  3. Rub the zest and the sugar together to release the lemon oils
  4. Add softened butter and beat until light and creamy, about 5 minutes
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg
  6. Mix vanilla extract, milk and lemon juice together
  7. Sift flour, baking powder and salt
  8. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix till just combined or you’ll overwork the gluten in the flour and end up with a heavy cake
  9. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin and bake for 55-65 minutes, when the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean
  10. Make the lemon glaze while the cake is cooking
  11. In a small microwaveable bowl, stir together sugar with the lemon juice
  12. Microwave for 10-20 seconds or just until the sugar has dissolved
  13. When the bread is done, remove from oven
  14. Pierce the top of the hot loaf with a wooden skewer or toothpick and brush with the hot lemon glaze
  15. Cool loaf in the pan for about 30 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack

 


My first apple pie

individual apple pie

After making successful pastry for my mince pies a few weeks ago, I said that I would conquer my fear of pastry. And with the inspiration of Mamma’s Gotta Bake’s mini apple pies and the ever dependable Martha Stewart’s recipe for easy pie crust, I made my first apple pie ! I’ve a long way to go from a presentation perspective, but the taste and texture came out just how I wanted it to (I’m so thrilled).

A few rules that I followed while making my pastry:

  • Keep everything as cold as possible – butter should be chilled (I popped mine in the freezer). The reason for this is to keep the butter from melting into the flour, giving you a more crisp and flaky end result. For this reason you should minimise contact with your hands as much as possible, use your fingertips or the heel of your palm, which are the coolest parts of your hand, or better, use a pastry cutter or a food processor.
  • Add just enough water to the pastry to bind it together – too much and the water will evaporate while cooking and steam, making the pastry soggy.
  • Don’t overwork the pastry – quickly work the ingredients to just bring it together. Overworking the pastry will release more gluten in the flour, making your pastry less delicate.
  • Make sure you rest the pastry for at least an hour – I rested it for two for good measure – this helps the gluten to relax, giving you a more tender texture.
  • I love the idea from Martha Stewart to double the quantity of dough, and freeze half for use later.

My first apple pie makes 4 individual 10cm pies

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  1. 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  2. 230g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 1 tsp sugar
  5. 4-6 tbls iced water

For the filling:

  1. 6 tart apples (granny smith or fuji), peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 cm pieces
  2. juice of half a lemon
  3. 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
  4. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  6. 1/4 cup white sugar
  7. good pinch of salt
  8. 2 tsp cornstarch

To finish:

  1. 1 egg, beaten
  2. 1 tbls granulated sugar

Method

  1. Make the pastry first to give enough time for it to rest while you make the filling
  2. Add the cubes of butter to the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse on low until combined – it should resemble course breadcrumbs
  3. Add 2 tbls of the chilled water to the mix and pulse once or twice – just enough to bind the ingredients together for you to be able to tip the mix onto a board for kneading
  4. Continue to add 1 tbls at a time until the dough comes together
  5. Divide into two, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour
  6. For the filling, add a few teaspoons of lemon juice to the cut apples to stop them going brown
  7. Add the sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon and cornstarch and mix to coat the apple pieces
  8. Cook in a large saucepan for a few minutes until the apples soften – I like my apples to still have a bit of bite when cooked – if you want them softer, cook them for longer
  9. Add more lemon juice to the mix to taste – the sourness will mellow as the mix cooks
  10. Remove from heat and cool – about 30 minutes
  11. When ready, preheat your oven to 220C/425F
  12. Roll out your pastry to 3mm and I used the foil pie trays to cut out two circles per pie – one circle the size of the edge of the tray, one 1/2cm larger
  13. Use the larger circle to line the tray – you can use a muffin tray if you don’t have the foil trays
  14. Spoon the cooled apple mixture into the trays
  15. Top with the smaller circle and seal the edges (I used my thumb and you can also use a fork)
  16. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the granulates sugar on top
  17. Bake on a baking sheet to catch any apple filling that may bubble out for 18-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown
  18. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes
  19. Serve while warm with a big dollop of cream or ice-cream

Carol’s Christmas Mince Pies

I love a good mince pie. How could you not love a festive, icing sugar topped tender pastry, enveloping a deeply comforting warm mix of fruit, candied peel, spice, even some nuts and brandy. There’s the additional joy of being able to eat one you made yourself, still warm from your oven.

I found a jar of Tiptree brand mince filling in my supermarket. My favourite store-bought jams are Tiptree, so into my basket that jar went. I do need to caveat though, that the Tiptree mince ended up being very treacly (for want of a better word) and almost too alcoholic (never thought I’d ever say those words) for my liking. I have since found that Marks & Spencer do a mince filling which is Red-Riding-hood just right.

Nigel Slater has a really easy recipe that I used – I used a variety of tart cases rather than a tart tin just because I don’t own a tart tin, and perhaps my pastry was thicker, I only managed to make 12.

Ingredients makes about 12 – 18 tarts, depending on thickness of your pastry

  1. 150g unsalted
  2. 300g plain flour
  3. good pinch of salt
  4. 1 egg yolk
  5. a little cold water
  6. 375g good-quality mincemeat
  7. icing sugar for dusting

Method

  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour in a food processor.  Pulse until you have what looks like coarse, fresh breadcrumbs
  2. Add the salt and pulse to mix
  3. Add the egg yolk and pulse again to mix well
  4. Add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Add one teaspoon at a time – it’s surprising how little you actually need
  5. Bring the dough together on to a floured board and knead gently for a few minutes until it softens
  6. Reserve half of the dough, then roll the remainder to about 5 mm
  7. Preheat oven to 200C/390F
  8. Cut out 12 discs of pastry to fit the bottom of your tart tray/tart cases. Place the pastry in the bottom of your case, smoothing them up the sides so the edges stand very slightly above the top of the edge
  9. Fill each one with a dollop of mincemeat. Be generous.
  10. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a further 12 discs of pastry
  11. Slightly dampen each of these round the edge with cold water then lay them over each tart and press firmly to seal the edges.
  12. Cut a small slit in the centre of each pie and bake for 20 minutes till golden
  13. Let them calm down for a few minutes, then serve warm, dusted with icing sugar
  14. Store any leftover pies in an airtight container

Grown up Honey Joys

Honey Joys with macadamia nuts

I can’t remember when I last bought a box of Kelloggs cornflakes. But for some reason, browsing through the cereal aisle I had this insane craving for Honey Joys and so a box ended up in my pantry.

I made some changes to the classic recipe – substituting the sugar with more honey, making it less sweet, adding crushed macadamia nuts, but essentially they are still the sweet treats that took me back to the time where they were proudly on the same table as fairy bread and chocolate crackles at children’s parties (for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 70s in Australia or New Zealand, fairy bread is white bread with butter and hundreds and thousands sprinkled on them, and chocolate crackles are a combination of rice bubbles with cocoa, desiccated coconut and hydrogenated coconut oil, served in cupcake cups – how times have changed !).

Ingredients makes 24 mini cupcakes

  1. 45g butter
  2. 1 tbls sugar
  3. 3 tbls honey
  4. 50g macadamia nuts
  5. 3 cups cornflakes

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150C / 300F
  2. Wrap the macadamias loosely in a clean teatowel and crush with something heavy like a rolling pin
  3. Melt the butter, sugar and honey together in a large pot until frothy
  4. Add the cornflakes and nuts and stir well so that everything is evenly coated
  5. Spoon into cupcake cups
  6. Bake for 10 minutes
  7. Cool