Recipe, Baking: Best Cocoa Brownies

While I haven’t had any insatiable, violent cravings during the pregnancy, I do find myself wanting something sweet on a daily basis. Brownies had been on my mind for a while and with all this spending on baby/maternity things, I wasn’t up for shelling out $7 for a minute slice of so-so brownie. Plus, I knew I wanted to eat more than just ONE slice. I wanted to be able to eat a brownie a day for at least 3-4 days in a row. Uh Huh. Pregnant women rights.

So one fine afternoon, feeling most confident and armed with the easiest looking of brownie recipes, I attempted baking these all by myself. With success on the very first try and all mine to savour, I’ve definitely developed a biasness for this keeper of a recipe. It yields a moist, chewy, intense dark chocolatey brownie, perfect with some vanilla ice cream or simply unadorned. A dear friend whom I met up for tea the following day, couldn’t help but eat 7 cubes all by herself, one after another.

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Recipe: Pierre Herme’s Lemon Cream

I first read about this lemon cream recipe by S on Chubby Hubby’s blog. Having had much success with their other recipes (scones, popping candy chocolate cake etc), decided to give it a go to fill a batch of pastry tarts made using Heston Blumenthal’s recipe*. Honestly, I can eat teaspoon after teaspoon of this lemon curd on its own without a tart base. It’s that good and so, so easy to make. If you’re a fan of light, creamy lemon curd, I urge you to give it a go.

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Recipe: Root Beer Float Cake

Have you been on Pinterest? It’s amazing. It’s a treasure trove of goodness. It’s how I found this Root Beer Float Cake recipe. I finally got down to making it all by myself today. Usually my trusty hubbs will be my little slave in the kitchen when I bake, but today, he was out at work and I decided I was up for a little challenge.
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The Root Beer Float Cake recipe called for a bundt tin but I didn’t have one and decided to swop it with a tube pan with a removable bottom instead. It worked just as well. But here’s a little tip if you are using the same – place the tube pan on a tray before you pour in the batter and place both in the oven when you’re done. The batter is very loose and might leak (mine did but just a little!). Another tip I have for all noob tube pan users like me is to set the oven rack lower when you start heating up the oven. The tube pan is pretty tall, so it’s very unlikely to fit into the oven if your rack is slotted in the middle of the oven to begin with.

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I would also recommend you start boiling the root beer, butter and cocoa powder mixture in a larger heavy bottom pot/pan so that you can fold your flour mixture into it. The less you have to wash, the better! I started with a fairly mid-size one and had to be really careful when I was folding the flour mixture into the wet mixture.

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You can also make a Root Beer frosting to go with the cake if you want but I’m personally not a huge fan of frosting and I reckon a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be more than good enough! I adore the crackly top of the cake which I presume comes with baking it in a tube pan ’cause I don’t see this in the photos from where I took the recipe from. The cake has got a subtle root beer flavour and is a moist, rich chocolate cake fit for the weekend.

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Root Beer Float Cake Recipe adapted from here:

2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup (115 grammes) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cups granulated sugar (The original recipe indicated 1¼ cups but I prefer my treats less sweet. 3/4 cup worked just fine)
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda (Personally think there was just a little too much baking soda. I would reduce it to 1 teaspoon the next time I bake this.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F*. Butter your bundt tin or tube pan generously with butter and dust with flour, shaking out the excess flour and set aside.

2. In a large heavy bottom saucepan or pot, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Using a large pot means you will have room to fold your flour mixture into the cocoa mixture later.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy, which is okay and don’t be alarmed, it is a really loose/wet batter. Also, do not overbeat it, as it could result in a tough cake.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Using a tube pan, my baking time was roughly 45-50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

6. Serve warm with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

*Note: If you are using a dark, nonstick pan, heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

 

Recipe: Cheese, Corn and Chives Savoury Muffins

The immense stress at work made me really fidgety one Wednesday night. Since I didn’t have my bike with me (am staying at my mum’s), I decided the next best thing would be to bake. I ambled around the supermarket for 20 minutes before heading home, flipping recipes on my phone and looking at the produce at the same time, hoping for an inspiration to hit me.

I knew I wanted to make some cheese muffins for the sister Y who has time and again expressed she much prefers savoury foods over sweets. I finally settled on getting some canned corn kernels and cheddar cheese, recalling mum had also bought some chives over the weekend.

I used this Food Network cheddar cheese muffin recipe as a base and threw in half a can of corn and about a tablespoonful of chives as an experiment. The result was surprisingly delicious and I can see these served for breakfast or tea. Next time around, I’m adding more corn kernels (maybe a whole can!) which provided a sweet crunch to the muffins and throwing in just a little more chives for an extra oomph.

Recipe: Cheese, Corn and Chives Savoury Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

Cheese corn and chive muffins

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & then cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch mixed herbs (optional)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup corn kernels, drained (i would recommend a full cup)
1-2 tbsp of chives

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine milk, melted butter, egg & cayenne.
In a second bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, sugar & salt.
Stir in cheese.
Add flour mixture to milk mixture and stir batter until it is just combined. Halfway through, throw in the chives and corn in batches.
The batter should be lumpy (remember not to overmix!).
Spoon the batter into muffin tins (buttered or lined) filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake 20- 25 minutes.

– S

Recipe: Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart)

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I’ve not had much luck finding a good tarte au citron in Singapore. Have you? It’s usually either not on the restaurant’s menu or the pie crust comes a little too thick. Having some time on my hands last Sunday and egged on by A who bought a dozen of lemons from the supermarket, I decided to give it a go. I’ve not baked any tart shells before so this is my first – and I’m pretty certain not my last! I think it was a fairly decent attempt though I’ll be tempted to try David Lebovitz’s recipe the next time. For the filling, I used an easy lemon curd recipe from here. It was easy peasy and totally up my alley. Definitely making more lemon curd for scones or toast soon!

The shortbread crust recipe I used was adapted from JoyofBaking. I swopped some all purpose flour for almond flour instead (just because). You can stick with all purpose flour like the original recipe if you don’t have almond flour too 🙂

Shortbread Crust recipe for one 9-inch tart:

100 grammes all purpose flour
30 grammes almond flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
35 grammes icing sugar
113 grammes/half cup of cold unsalted butter, cubed

Lightly butter an 8 or 9 inch (20-23 cm) tart pan. One with a removable bottom would be better. I used one without.

In your food processor, place the flour, sugar, and salt and process to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and form clumps. 

Transfer the pastry to the prepared pan and, using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (Can use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the pastry.) 

Gently pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. (This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.)

Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. (This will help prevent the crust from shrinking while it bakes. I did only 8 minutes and the sides shrank a little.)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C and place rack in the center of the oven. 

Place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet and bake the crust until golden brown, about 13 -15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. It is now ready to be filled.

Lemon curd:

50 to 60g unsalted butter (butter is to smoothen the texture. reduce it slightly if you want)
200 to 225g sugar (depending how sweet or tart you like it) (I actually used only 100g I think. This is really similar to the make up of ingredients in Lebovitz’s recipe)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
120ml fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest, or more if you like (depending on how strong you want the flavour of lemon)

In a heavy saucepan, whisk all the ingredients except the butter. Mix well. The mixture may look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks. Ensure your flame is small and never stop stirring the mixture.
* If you want a more subtle taste of lemon, do not add the zest at this stage. Set it aside with the butter.
Watch the mixture closely. Once it thickens – it should leave a path on the back of a spoon – turn off the flame and add butter in 2 or 3 additions. If you have not added in your lemon zest, add it in now and stir to mix well.
Allow the curd to cool slightly (it’ll thicken further as it cools) before pouring onto the pie base.
Chill pie in the refrigerator for about half an hour for the curd to set before serving. Voila!

Recipe: Sticky Date Pudding

I’ve been cooking/baking and thinking about it more than I have in my life. Maybe it’s the new environment I’ve been immersed in for the past 1+ month now. Being with people who care about food and projects which revolve around food day in day out really makes me want to do more in the kitchen. A special mention also goes out to the lovely colleague who sits right beside me and brings in amazing baked treats 2 to 3 out of 5 weekdays. Lucky us!

Her sweet treats have really opened me up to (thinking about) experimenting a little more with new ingredients. One of which was earl grey – it got me thinking about incorporating tea/coffee into homemade desserts. I did get down to trying out one a week ago but it failed spectacularly (affirmation came in the form of friends’ polite reactions to the cake). Happens all the time, when I choose to cook/bake for my friends, it never ends up well. Story of my life. ;p

I couldn’t for, the life of me, recall the last time my sisters and I baked anything together. It was probably when we were really small and baking at my aunt’s place (just across the corridor) was a big and yearly affair at Chinese New Year. We would sit there churning out trays and trays of cashew nut cookies, flower-shaped butter cookies, marble pound cakes, kueh lapis and more. Anyhow, three weekends ago, a punnet of dates in hand, I decided to go over to mum’s for some baking therapy.

I googled quite a number of sticky date pudding recipes. They were all more or less the same in terms of amount of ingredients. In the end, I picked this one which sounded a little easier and looked like there wasn’t so much washing up post-baking (you see, I play out the recipes in my head before deciding if they would be too much trouble haha!). These little moreish puddings disappeared before we had a chance to get our hands on some vanilla ice cream.

Oh just so you know, these cost approximately 50 cents a pudding. Ah huh. You read that right. 😉 Fancy desserts for (less than a) dime.

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Recipe: Lazy Sunday Bread Pudding

A is away for two shoots in Melbourne so here I am camping at Mum’s place where it’s clean, the floor is swept daily, there is a well-stocked pantry and fridge, there is cable to watch, the clothes are magically washed and ironed. Best thing is, I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do with all the stuff I cook/bake ’cause there are more than two mouths to feed here! Only thing I’m missing is definitely my big comfy bed. I woke up bright and early at 8am with a slight ache in my back after sleeping on the leather sofa the whole night. Sofas are meant for sitting, really.

Because I’m a such a lovely and sweet daughter/sister, I decided to make some breakfast. I opened the fridge and occupying a large chunk of space was half a loaf of white bread. I was actually contemplating a lemon loaf but mum walked into the kitchen and said she would much prefer bread pudding because that would free up some space in the fridge. That’s my mum for you. Now you know where I got my practical genes from.

Honestly, it’s terribly simple, I kid you not. A 12-year-old could have made the same thing. All you need is a bowl and a whisk. I’m big on recipes that go easy on the washing. Maybe one day I should compile a series of recipes that only require you to wash a maximum of 3 utensils. It’ll be a hit, I’m sure.

These were baked for about 30 minutes; the insides were still moist and the sides and top were pretty crispy (not quite the typical bread pudding where it’s all squishy). If you like that mushy texture, then be sure to take it out of the oven earlier.

Just the thing for lazy Sunday mornings!

Lazy Sunday Bread Pudding

6 to 8 slices of old bread
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 eggs
220ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder
100 grammes white sugar (it was a tad sweet for us; so reduce if you want it less sweet)
zest of 1 orange (optional but strongly recommended; the zest really gives the pudding an extra special lift)

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Grease an 8 inch square pan with butter (I used two bread loaf tins instead).

3. Drizzle the melted butter over the bread. Lay them in the pan. You can sprinkle some raisins/nuts if you like.

4. Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, sugar and zest in a bowl until well mixed.

5. Pour mixture over the bread, making sure that all of it is covered and soaked in the mixture.

6. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the top springs back when lighted tapped.

– S