Saturday, 30 June 2012

white chocolate and berry entremet

An eleventh hour cake request, one unnaturally early morning after, and this entremet is the outcome. Not much to say about it as I just used various recipes from LCB and threw them all together with no tampering. The entremet consists of a biscuit sponge over which I sprinked some flaked almonds to help with the sticking problem (even still you can see bits where the surface tore off as I removed the ring), white chocolate mousse and a fruit jelly insert and glaze. For presentation's sake and to practise on yet more tempering and my chocolate work (sniffle, still getting over my departure from LCB), I made a chocolate ribbon.

I had loads of extra mousse so I dolloped it into a bowl with some piped heart-shaped sponge pieces and threw on some roasted flaked almonds. Chef's perks!!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

sago pudding entremet

This has to be one of the best entremets I have ever made!It was a pretty safe bet to begin with, combining sago, gula melaka, and coconut milk as done in the well known Malaysian dessert: sago pudding. However, I was surprised at just how happy it is in an entremet form. In fact, I'm almost tempted to say I prefer it like this. Having the coconut component as a light coconut mousse is an improvement I feel. I'm being sligtly effusive here, but it is hard to be as truly pleased as I am with this. It has even wrung a grunt of approval from my brother and I have penciled it in for Sunday's barbeque (the adzuki bean macaroons are under contemplation).

The entremet is lined with a good standard biscuit sponge piped out with a number 6 nozzle, it has a gula melaka jelly disc with sago set inside, a slightly salty coconut mousse and finally a gula melaka glaze. The gula melaka and sago jelly was the best way I could think of to incorporate the two in the entremet. On their own, sago is pretty tasteless and the gula melzka too sweet and I didn't want to use a gula melaka syrup in making the coconut mousse as I wanted to keep to pretty whiteness of the mousse. The jelly was the best option, and it really tasted so! The sago kept the gula melaka from being too sweet, and its chewy texture still managed to hold itself distinct over the jelly surround. Good things!

Gula melaka is often sold in a tiresomely dense cylinder. After hacking at it in futile for some time, I gave up and dropped it into a boiling vat of water where it slowly dissolved. Thus, all my measurements are for a gula melaka syrup at the hard boil stage (at this point, temperature was the only measurement I could take that could give an indication of the gula melaka to water ratio). It has been a while, but finally here is one of my own successful entremets!

GULA MELAKA AND SAGO JELLY (for 1* 16cm diameter entremet)
50g gula melaka syrup
25g water

1 leaf gelatine
sago pearls

  • Prepare the jelly mould by linning a 140mm diameter tin with clingfilm, or (as I did) the base of a ring.
  • Boil the sago until transparent, drain, and rinse with water to wash away the starch and preven sticking until cool.
  • Heat the syrup and water to around 70°C before stirring in bloomed gelatine leaf.
  • Stir in sago (quantity according to preference, I used 200g), making sure they aren't stuck together and lumpy and that there is syrup coating them all.
  • Pour into mould and leave to set before unmoulding (if a ring is used, after peeling away the clingfilm lightly heat with a blowtorch and the jelly should slide out)

NB- I actually made two entremets (no wastings this time), the first 'proper' 160mm diameter entremet is made with the quantities listed here, and the second with slightly different quantities and dimensions as it was to be built in a deeper ring with a smaller diameter. It is the small thick jelly disc that you see in the picture.

COCONUT MOUSSE (for 2*16cm diameter entremet)
200g creamed coconut
350g whipping cream

70g simple syrup (1:1)
6 leaves gelatine

  • Heat the simple syrup, salt, and water to around 70°C before stirring in bloomed gelatine leaves.
  • Whisk in the creamed coconut, allow to cool and whip up whipping cream to soft peaks.
  • When the coconut syrup feels cool to the touch, whisk into it some of the whipped cream.
  • When the coconut syrup is about 20°C, whip up the remaining cream to medium peaks and fold it in.
  • Upon the mousse reaching its setting point, use immediately.

GULA MELAKA GLACAGE (for 2*16 diameter entremet)
50g gula melaka syrup
10g glucose

50g water
2 leaves gelatine

  • Heat the syrup, glucose and water to around 70°C before stirring in bloomed gelatine leaves.
  • Allow to cool before pouring over entremet surface (too hot and it will melt the mousse, too cold and it will set while pouring).

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

adzuki bean macaroons

Alright, so I have been slack for days and have done hardly any baking (those drop cookies don't count) but spent my hours poring through manga and eating. Already I have churned though Yotsubato (my favourite!!! XD), Naruto (all over again), 20th Century Boys, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, Ashito no Joe, Eyeshield 21, Hajime no Ippo, Prince of Tennis, and various shouju mangas like Pastel and even Peach Girl. Oh dear, regression. But but, I'm reading Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot' now... I guess only a good post can redeem such behaviour. So, I have decided to make macaroons filled with adzuki/red bean paste!!!

The paste was made by boiling the beans, throwing out the scummy water of the first boil, and then continuing with a clean jug of water until mushy oblivion. The pulpy mass was then transferred to a food processor where I blended it for a good twenty minutes to make the texture as fine as possible (it didn't help that the beans I had were old and tough with skins that adamantly refused to soften). The resulting paste was cooked with rapeseed oil and sugar in a saucepan until it started to bloop, then quickly wrapped in clingfilm to cool without the formation of dreaded crusts (less crucial here than with pastry cream or curds but good to do all the same).

Japanese versions of adzuki bean paste tends to use a lot less oil than the Chinese version, but a little more sugar. It doesn't coat the mouth quite so well as the richer Chinese paste and, being used to the oilier version, it comes across just a little watery and insipid. For me, it is the texture of the Japanese paste that most disadvantages it against its Chinese counterpart. Its powdery-ness dries my mouth and I am left with a nagging urge to try scrape my tongue clean whereas the Chinese paste feels luxuriously smooth and very pleasant. On the other hand, the beany taste of the Japanese paste is much cleaner. I guess its just like water-based ganache vs cream-based.

For these macaroons, my paste is more Chinese-style. I wanted it to be able to hold its shape while remaining silky and was also felt that a water-based paste would fare worse when left to dry by way of cracking crusts. Lastly, it would give a richness to the macaroon- something you certainly don't get from its shell. Thus amount of oil (rapeseed, not traditional lard) and sugar (not so much- the sweetness to come from the macaroon shell) I used are completely too taste and texture- no scales for this one. I think it would be difficult to follow a set recipe as the paste is so easily affected by the age of the beans and its water content. In this case, consistency comes from the tasting.

Besides having plenty of paste for the macaroons, I also made some hong dou shui with sago and coconut milk (pity the lack of orange peel) and still had a whole tub of blended beans (without the oil and sugar) left over to be frozen for the future. Yays!!! Think what good things I shall be able to do with that: adzuki bean entremets and what about adzuki bean pastries to boot? Expect more from this front!

Update: Wailey! I packed the freshly made macaroons in an airtight box and came back next day to find the shells literally melting off. On the otherhand, the reject macaroons left on the table are pristine. Humph. Next time, as well as leaving them out to air, it would be nice to flavour the paste with something sharp like yuzu. I wager that would be awesome!

Monday, 25 June 2012

candied almond cookies

The candied almond and almond flakes were meant to be used in the decoration of a banana and coconut pudding. But woeful things happened: the chocolate casing was too delicate to contain the mousse so cracked allowing the mousse to ooze steadily out; the water-based ganache core set too hard; the surface texturing did not work (a short rant on this is to follow); and the condensation on the chocolate casing as I unmoulded the pudding made it all speckled. Absolute fail, but at least I know now what not to do and shall be re-attempting this shortly. However, it did also mean that I had a lot of candied almonds sitting around and waiting to be served on a pudding that never would be. So I chopped and baked them into cookies.

These are the optimal cookies for me! They are not overly doughy like Ben's cookies, nor sweet and oily like Millie's, but have a nice crisp edge and soft interior. Once out of the oven, I immediately transfered them onto a cooling rack to keep them from getting too dry and crispy. Using light brown sugar also makes a whole lot of difference to the taste and texture. You can see the recipe if you click enlarge the photo of my recipe book. I used 10g less castor sugar than stated, and it is a heaped half teaspoon of baking powder. It's been such a long time since I made this-they harken back to the post-LCB days when all my successful cookings were bound up in that fading notebook.

So, back to the dreadful pudding fail. I meant to give the surface of the mousse a lovely textured surface was made by building the pudding upside down onto a 'structure sheet' and freezing before unmoulding. I tried this previously with an ill fated white chocolate with coconut and caramelized peach entremet on the suggestion by the chef at school that the sheets worked well with mousses. So, I was more than horrified when I painstakingly built up my entremet, flipped it over, and ripped off its entire surface in removing the structure sheet. When I came wailing back to the chef he merely glanced at me in surprise and said it had to be frozen first, and was this not obvious? Non? Well actually, mister, it doesn't work even if you freeze it! I had to endure the whole 'ripping' experience another eight times (individual servings you see). RAWR!!!!

candied almonds

These aren't really candied almonds but not quite a brittle either as it doesn't use baking soda or corn syrup. There is a wonderful fellow who tells you how to bake marvellous things, candied nuts included (here), which I referred to for this but my attempts always produced very grainy clumps of sugar over the nuts as you can see. I can't seem to get the sugar to melt without burning (see below right). So in the end I made a direct caramel, at the same time roasting the nuts at 150 , before plonking the hot nuts into the caramel, giving it a good stir and tipping out onto a pan. I did the same with flaked almonds too (no pre-heating this time as they are so thin) and immediately rolled it between parchment paper and slicing while still warm (see below left). The candied almonds made by this method are also depicted in the main photo.

I much prefer the direct caramel method as it is faster and I get a thinner and more even film of sugar over the almonds (apart from the sugar pools). However, the odd thing is that with the normal candying method, the sugar covered almonds don't seem to melt. The nuts made with the direct caramel method are already distinctly sticky (made last night).

soba for lunch =D

Soba is perfect for hot, muggy and uncomfortable days as this. Some time back, I did finally make my own kaeshi (recipe here) and now have it stored in the fridge next to a bottle of dashi, nicely in hand for when I want to make the dipping sauce for the soba. My kaeshi stock did take a severe hit last week though when my bf mistook if for Pepsi (it was in a Pepsi bottle) and glugged it down. All sorts of awful splutterings and garglings ensued but really, you would have thought that its pungent smell, gloopiness and lack of carbonation were indications enough that it wasn't the anticipated drink.

I also prepared a light appetizer of kyuri no wakame sunomono topped with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and supplemented the meal with leftover inari, vegetable and seaweed chuka salad, and shima no kaori tsukudani (seasoned clams) from Japan Centre. To wash it all down is a steaming cup of genmai-chi. It may be a bit of a haphazard meal but delicious none the less.

I love Japanese food and my scanty knowledge of its preparations stems from the lessons I had six years ago under an excellent Japanese expatriate. She painstakingly taught all four of us the basics of typical Japanese fare, in this case the use of salt to take out the bitterness of the kyuri and draw out its moisture rendering it 'springy-crunchy.' Before, I would just lob off the top of the kyuri and rub the sliced ends to collect out a foamy sap. So now I can make good old agedashi tofu, potato korukke, horeso no gomaae, shiraae, kenjinjiru and whatnot to my hearts content. It wasn't all happy sailing though as the preparation of the rice was a touchy moment of every class. The poor lady did try so hard to show us how to scrub/polish the rice but every time I could almost see her heart shrivelling up inside her when our clumsy fingers crushed the grains as she allowed us all a perfunctionary attempt at washing the rice. Then she would gently but firmly removed the rice bucket from our hands and pick out the broken bits of rice, all the while throwing us reproachful glances. It will be a while before I dare post anything on rice but soba is doable. These have been boiled in barely simmering water before undergoing a thorough wash and then twisted into sizable portions ready to be swooped up by eager chopsticks.

Inari is one of my favourite things to eat and I was incredibly pleased when I found the preparation of the aburaage cases would be covered in our classes. My inari is a little more generous on the aburaage front than Japan Centre though, out of personal preference. Normally I use enough aburaage so that I can fold either sides of the opening over each other while at Japan Centre, the sides of the opening barely meet. Chuka salad is another favourite of mine but one I cannot make myself as nobody anywhere seems to know the seaweed used (the vegetables added in this version are carrots and mooli).

Thursday, 21 June 2012

chocolate and raspberry mini entremet

I am strongly opposed to wasting food and it nearly broke my gritty heart to keep on throwing away trimmings while at LCB. No no... Nowadays, I mostly subside on these 'perks' and my inexorably expanding girth is evidence of just how much extra there is. So, albeit with a little reluctance, I have been trying to find a use for these trimmings other than my and my brother's (who I have been diligently feeding with sugary treats) personal consumption.

Thus, with the extra chocolate mousse and dacquoise (from previous post), I made a mini entremet topped with a rolled tempered chocolate and roasted almond plaque (it would have been macaroon shells except a smelly squirrel slipped into the flat and bounced over all of them) for my much deserving bf who recently acquired the honorific: 'Dr.' Well done my llama and thank you Father Lord for blessing us so much.

chocolate and almond dacquoise with red fruit jelly entremet

I hate pollen! What a pity it is so necessary for the abundance of flowers (and most things green) I am just noticing all about the borough of Kingston.

My idea of a honey creme brulee and raspberry core did not work out too well in my previous entremet so this time I have used a puree of assorted red fruits to make a jelly centre, into which I also embedded raspberry halves. As I discovered after plopping my raspberries into the custard for the creme brulee, raspberries are annoyingly adapt at retaining air bubbles in their hollow little cores and halving them appears the neatest solution to this.

The entremet has an almond flavoured (extra almond essence) dacquoise surround and base, and is topped with creme Chantilly, a heap of raspberries, and a sprinkling of toasted almonds. At LCB, the dacquoise we made was covered by textured chocolate pieces; it seemed a pity to hid its lovely pale green and brown colouring so I haven't here, to pleasing effects. I also decided to try my hand at some chocolate work (sniffle- something I shall be missing out in at LCB) hence the odd tempered chocolate decoration (check it out!). It is surprising how much easier it is to work with dark chocolate than white chocolate, which is what I used initially. Sadly the chocolate piping here is awfully blobby. I feel like I have regressed back into piping incompetence.

Anyway, welcome back my wonderful sis!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

honey and apricot baguette and butter pudding

As the name implies, the custard is honey flavoured (and what better combination than honey and apricot) and made by substituting half the sugar quantity with two thirds of its weight in honey- honey tastes sweeter. I used baguettes as I love crusts and wanted to maximise their occurrences in the pud. For me, the sugar coated crust of a bread and butter pudding is the highlight of an otherwise textureless mass of rich soggy bread. The apricots were added in the hopes of bringing a new dimension to this drab little pud, and were roasted in the oven to caramelize and intensify their flavours.

You may have just gathered, I am rather cool towards bread and butter pudding. But, I did have a lot of custard leftover from making the raspberry and creme brulee core of a chocolate entremet (see pic!- the little red bits are the raspberries and the huge dimple due to an air bubble in the clingfilm) that I thought I may as well use it up. I also added an extra 40g yolk to the custard to account for the extra water in the honey and fruit, and because I want it to have a firmer set for easier handling in the entremet.

Having tried the pudding, I am slightly disappointed to taste only a trace of honey. The apricots perfumed everything and at least brought some flavour to the pudding but I personally found them a bit of a shock compared to their bland counterparts. Sadly, brioche and butter pudding still remains the only version of this dessert that I would care to have a mushy mouthful of.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

ending on a high!

This week has seen a 2.5hr exam immediately followed by 6hrs effort on the celebration cake below and the next day, a theory exam with a concluding 3hrs work to complete the cake. This is the happy result! I only wish that the chef had pointed out the uneven thickness of the piping (different piping bags between the two sessions) before I finished the cake. It did get a little messy towards the end when my brain awoke from the stupor it had sunk into, rebelled against the numbing boredom of it all, and firmly decided that I better hurry it up. It does seems that I have a penchant for poisonous flowers as the lily of the valley (made in gum paste here), like wisteria, doesn't sit well with being eaten.
I have also just received my results from the practical exam! Ho ho ho, absolutely ecstatic and thankful. I had to make a Sabrina, the cake I most hoped not to draw as I had only made it 3 times prior (compared to the whopping 6 times for the Opera and Fraisier) and because I am a slow chuggy person in general. There was definite chaffing at the bit when I realised my portion. But, it turned out all for the best and this is much needed lesson (especially in light of current funding issues) for me to really trust in God as He clearly knows what is best for me and not myself. Having now realised I am in contention to get a distinction (look- God gives over and beyond expectations!!!) I am all for praying for it. Observe my greedy grasping nature...

I didn't take a photo of my Sabrina during the exam, but the examiner did and the kind fellow angled the shot so my division of the cake doesn't look quite as off-centre as it actually was. While they couldn't give me the photo, the chef did let me take a photo of the screen. As expected, they did pick up on my improperly docked pate sucree base but the sponge that I thought was slightly undercooked turned out fine. There weren't any comments on the skewed slicing and the chocolate was tempered and marked well apparently. However, I did pipe the chocolate squiggle too tight making it all a bit crowded.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

queen sighting

On a completely separate note, I saw the Queen today. I was cycling through St James park and saw a little crowd gathering outside Clarence House. A brief enquiry told me the Queen was expected to pass by, so I loitered and low and behold, she did come trundling by, not 6m away from me, in a pretty car surrounded by envoys to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately I didn't catch a photo of her, and my photos of the dignitaries after her merely depicts blacked out sleek mercs.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

sadness at the end of the line

I'm feeling undeniably sad today. Today was the last proper practical of the term and I doomed out miserably by failing to attend the demonstration. Of all the things it was down to me mis-reading the timetable and subsequently sitting at home oblivious to the fact that important things were happening. It absolutely grates when I think of the little nuggets of baking know-how that have passed me by, and for no good reason but pure folly (rendering the hair apart at this point). The final blow is that I don't get any marks for this practical, which really does trample on my hopes of passing with a merit; I am clawing and scraping at the marks as is. Actually, considering the momentus mess I just made while playing with chocolate (like the coffee syrup for the opera, except with chocolate this time), I will be fortunate to pass at all.

To deepen the misery, our demonstration at LCB today was basically a taster session of the sugarwork to be done next term, which I won't be attending. My stint at LCB was initially intended only to be for basic pastry, to be able to do intermediate is quite a blessing. Yet, I can feel the green goblins of envy gnawing away at me as I take my leave. Look at the chef; look what most everybody in the room shall learn to do, but me. I shall be left behind.

The chef was kind enough to leave some of his pulled sugar out for us to handle. In the meagre ten minutes before he had to bundle us away in preparation for the next class I scrambled to the front and managed to make part of a flower (above), at the same time roasting my thumbs and index fingers a vibrant pink. I was slow, fumbly and too acutely aware of the heat to be able to stretch out paper thin edged petals as did the chef, and so have to be content with a distinctly chunky flower. Thus occurred my first and probably last encounter with sugarwork. No more, it ends soon T_T

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

jubilee trifle

A quick little trifle for tomorrow's jubilee barbeque! There has been no fiddling with this dish- good and wholesome dishes like this ought not be played with. The bowl was lined with slices of rolled up sponge with a homemade jam, a heap of strawberries macerated in sugar and balsamic vinegar piled in, before being topped with dollops of very-vanilla custard (two whole pods were used) and finally creme chantilly.

I almost wept with the presentation of the trifle. Having finally achieved a pristine flat surface and finished the piping (trying out block letters now), I deftly plunged my thumb in leaving a momentous crater right beside the 'J'. In my attempts to conceal the damage I managed to smear away the 'J' and a larger part of its neighbouring 'u'. The shells aren't properly shaped and the pile of unhealthy looking fruits (ought to have eaten them yesterday it feels like) clumsy. All highly distressing.

The leftovers were used to make trifle-pots to feed my brother with (yes, I know the chunks of strawberry should not be visible). Look at the wonderful bowl, a token from a choice treat at Gelatario in Covent Garden!

I made a fraisier for a 'jubilee brunch' too. It is certainly neater than my earlier attempts but again issues with the chocolate piping (going for block) as I had to deal with some many times re-melted and irretrievably lumpy white chocolate.

Friday, 1 June 2012

mini coconut tarte tartin

The recent dearth of posts is due partly to the sapping heat that has made even the thought of kitchen faffing faintly repugnant, and partly to a string of epic failures in the kitchen. Portuguese egg tarts were the elusive ambition. I even wanted to plant a juicy little raspberry in its depth (welcome of not, depending on the books of puritanical creme brulee connoisseurs). But sadly this was not to be. I have tried various recipes now- baking the puff pastry base blind or all at once with the custard; egg washing the blind baked pastry; varying the baking temperatures for the custard; using a bain marie- even to the point of finally resorting to ready-made puff pastry as I completely churned through my own precious stock of home-made puff pastry (until now I had not realised how pronounced the difference in taste between proper butter puff pastry and nasty margarine puff pastry was) and all to no avail. It is ever so odd and frustrating but there seems no way for me to achieve a completely crisp base while this is clearly possible as there are contented people out there in the world doddering away with apparently lovely results from the same recipe. The crispiest version was when I baked the tart at a prescribed 200C, without blind baking the base, but which also boiled the custard curdling it. So if anyone knows how to make this, or have any pointers for success, tell me please!
Here now is a marginally more acceptable creation of coconut tart tartin, a variation of what we did at school. It consists of slices of apples with a coconut caramel baked in a cupcake pan and sitting atop some puff pastry. The apple slices being larger than the cupcake dimple are folded in on themselves to make a nice little package. Next time I will slice them thinner- while this is a good size for the larger tarte tartins I made at LCB, its is a little too thick here. I also did an extra tatin using plums (shown above). They were a very disappointing purchase from the market, refusing to ripen but remaining rock hard while slowly wrinkling away. So for that, they received a good poaching in the coconut caramel and just to spite me they came out all rubbery and waterless.

Here is a photo of the apple version. Sigh, really dislike this particular tarte (the last one made- distinctly less caramelised than the first) as well as the photo, but by the time I had browsed through my photos and hurried back for another take, the poor thing had already been eaten.

For the coconut caramel, I tried various coconut products ranging from virgin coconut oil to creamed coconut to coconut cream and finally coconut milk. In my mind, the virgin coconut oil works best for this. It gives the best texture and a more subtle coconut taste (though I wonder if anybody who ate it noticed). I do like the creamed coconut- a solid mass of compressed coconut cream (I think) from which you can see a separate later of coconut oil- version. The non-oil component browns/burns very nicely in the caramel making it incredibly coconutty and quite a dominant flavour. However, these delicious bitties do also spoil the texture (I tried using it in mousse and while it tasted fine, the mouthfeel was very gritty). The coconut cream is the next best alternative, but the resulting caramel just isn't as glossy or smooth. Coconut milk is a little too watered down. I did not use any salt this time, the coconut is the accompaniment and not the main flavour. I have tried the coconut caramel with peaches and bananas (wanted a caramelised top for my banana loaf but it just would not happen as the high water content in the bananas steamed through the cake reducing it to a soggy sponge) with pleasing results, but this is the first with apples. It is all pretty good though!

On a different note, I am unwilllingly beginning to accept that perhaps I am overly partial to salt. The grimace the chef made at LCB when she tasted my excessively salted caramel hit home, as did my brother's close expulsion of that same caramel from his mouth. Hopefully I am not the only one, but I actually quite like salt on apples too. In the good old days, my mum would methodically wash our cut apples in salt water to 'make sure they are clean' before serving them. I loved the thin film of saltiness before I crunched into the sweet interior and to this day very happily sprinkle a little salt over my apples.

summer woes

I hates summer!

It has brought with it through the window, rogue squirrels and errant snails, the former gorging on my personal stash of sunflower seeds thoughtfully leaving a heap of perfectly split husks over the newly vacuumed floor, and the latter expiring on my pillow as a pleasant morning's greeting. It has also brought the dreaded pollen that itch my eyes relentlessly. Cycling is simply horrid now. As if the unbearable heat and gummy eyes are not hurdles enough, I also have to contend with constantly clawing bits of dust out of my eyes as I wobble to my destination half blind. My eyes my eyes!!!

Fortunately things have taken a turn for the better as cooler weather is expected and with it the rain! I suppose I should also keep things in perspective too: there are greater hayfever sufferers out there; take one example, sleeping but a hallway from me, from whose person emanates a steady stream of sneezes and little trails of tissue.