Tag Archives: baked goods

Happy Chinese New Year

As Chinese New Year approaches, you’ll see a flurry of activities in every Chinese household. We spring clean to rid of ill-fortune and welcome good luck. We deck our homes in red and gold, both auspicious colours for the Chinese, to celebrate the most important traditional Chinese festival. We cook, we bake, we feast and we grow fat with our dear family and friends, all in the name of the new year. It is a time to gather with loved ones, particularly so on the eve of the Chinese New Year when we have reunion dinners with our families. It is a time when we say, out with the old, in with the new. This spring festival lasts for fifteen days, and is so important that even those away from home will endeavour to keep to the traditions of preparing ourselves for a blessed year ahead. Like us.

As we bid farewell to the Year of the Tiger and give a warm welcome to the Rabbit, we find ourselves somewhat wedged in no man’s land for Chinese New Year. This is the 4th year that we’re spending the festival overseas without our families. Nobody kicks up a big fuss over Chinese New Year in London, you don’t feel the excitement in the air, in fact, you wouldn’t even realise that the Chinese are celebrating it unless you set foot into Chinatown. That is where you will see families huddled into crowded supermarkets, peering into baskets and baskets of goodies, filling their trolleys up with groceries and cartons of mandarin oranges, and yes, you might even catch the occasional Chinese New Year song. But once outside of Chinatown, everyone is oblivious to the festival. The only way you’ll experience it is if you step into a Chinese home, such as ours.

Although our home severely lacks decorations, we are on our way to putting up three miserable couplets that we bought years ago. I haven’t managed to get a bunch of pussy willow, and doubt I will have the time to do it. I even contemplated putting up red packets (known as ang baos) on my Christmas tree, which I’ve only taken down last week. We haven’t bought any groceries appropriate for the new year. The only things that hint at the festival are a couple of red packets that we received from our parents, and a heap of oranges and clementines in our fruit basket. Traditionally, tangerines are a symbol of good luck and oranges are that of wealth. You will find that many food items we consume or exchange with family and friends are a symbol of either, or that of good health, happiness etc. These items are chosen as such because their names sound like the respective blesssings in Chinese. We couldn’t get tangerines, but all the same, clementines are a type of mandarin oranges, so that’s good enough for us.

During Chinese New Year, we visit our family and friends to wish them a blessed new year, and to catch up on our lives. No one shows up empty-handed and it’s important to bear gifts as a show of goodwill. These gifts are typically returned in other forms, depending on what the host family has purchased, really. Of these, the most important ones are oranges or tangerines. These are given in pairs, and for the more superstitious host families, never show up four oranges as four sounds like death in the Chinese language. The host families will return the oranges from their own stash to you, and this means that they give their blessings to you too. As you can see, oranges are a staple during the new year, and this, my dears, is the source of my inspiration for the Year of the Rabbit.

With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to put a twist in the traditional Chinese New Year snacks. Instead of pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, love letters and what-not, I decided to make some clementine macarons to welcome the new year. In a way, it is a perfect {fusion} representation of our circumstance as we are celebrating Chinese New Year in London. I put a dash of grated clementine zest in the macaron shells and made them a beautiful sunset shade of orange with the wonderful bottle of food colouring that Dad gave me in December last year. I also filled the shells with an orange buttercream that has been infused with orange zest and orange and lemon juice for the citrusy fragrance and tartness. The flavours worked beautifully (although they turned out a little sweet because my oranges were unusually sweet) and I think they make rather pretty gifts. So if you would like to present something different to your loved ones this year, why don’t you make a box of these clementine macarons instead? The possibilities are endless, really. You can make the buttercream however sweet or tart you want, and you could even make pineapple macarons in place of pineapple tarts.

I’m really happy with these macarons and wish I could box them up and give them to our families. But everyone’s 6000 miles away and besides, M and I might just finish the whole stash before our friends come over tomorrow night…..Oh well, there’s always next year, and the year after…..

For now, the plateful of clementine macarons do well to brighten up our currently un-festive home. That, and a bunch of oranges and a couple of red packets. Oh, and the couplets too. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I wish you prosperity, good health and happiness for years to come. Have a good one, and eat loads on our behalf!

Here’s the recipe:

Clementine Macarons with Orange Buttercream

For the macaron shells:
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)
Makes 34 shells

66g egg white, aged
2g egg white powder
60g caster sugar
90g almond flour
110g icing sugar
1/3 teaspoon grated clementine zest
A few drops of orange food colouring

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Blitz almond flour, icing sugar and grated orange zest to combine and make the meal as fine as possible. Sift blitzed ingredients together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool.

For the Orange Buttercream:

100g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
3 teaspoons orange juice (adjust levels according depending on personal taste)
2/3 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange-infused milk (leave 1 tablespoon orange zest in 2 tablespoons of milk in fridge, overnight)

1. Beat butter and icing sugar together till creamy.

2. Add juices and zest and beat till smooth.

3. Add milk and beat till combined. If this is too runny, chill buttercream before piping onto shells.

4. Fill cooled macaron shells with buttercream and sandwich.

Enjoy!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

Advertisements

The Lil’ Nubbins I Call Cream Puffs

I had an insatiable craving for cream puffs, particularly the ones from Beard Papa. If you haven’t tried their cream puffs, I’m talking perfect flaky crowns of golden happiness giving way to an atomic explosion of weightless vanilla cream. Ahhhh…

So I thought I might try making cream puffs at home, having had a series of successes with goodies that came out of my oven. I wasn’t all complacent of course, I was just quite encouraged that I may somehow, succeed at making flaky cream puffs but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t approach the recipe with a bagful of nerves. After all, having made cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes and macarons, I’ve come to recognise that pastry-making is a different dynasty of its own. Pastries freak me out,  I mean on the baking front of course; as a result, my personal encounters with pastries have been far and few between in the kitchen.

When I was a kid, I tried to make croissants with my dad. We were experimenting at home, and Dad made it work. Needless to say, I didn’t understand any bit of the technique, and I forgot everything except that layers and an obscene amount of rolling were involved. I was happy to just.eat.

Umpteen years later, I was dating M and I truly wanted to impress, so I foolishly attempted to make chocolate-filled doughnuts. Choux pastry was needed and I did all I could. I certainly didn’t impress and chucked the whole lot away. This attempt left me less than enamoured with pastry-making. When I learnt that choux pastry was once again required to make cream puffs, I felt deflated to say the least, but like I said, I was high on the baking luck I was running on for the past few months. I decided to give it a go. Will fortune favour the brave?

If we’re talking about flaky Beard Papa-esque cream puffs, no, fortune was downright cruel and delivered a sucker punch to my face. But if we’re talking about the slightly chewy, airy sort that are sold in most bakeries everywhere else, then I guess I hit the jackpot. I filled these little ugly nubbins with a simple and light crème Chantilly, dressed them up in a little bit of icing sugar so they won’t seem so naked and rude, and enjoyed them the minute they were clothed. Sad to say, they weren’t very delightful after refrigeration. When I feel like making cream puffs again, I’ll look into recipes that work well with refrigeration.

Here’s the recipe:

Cream puffs filled with crème Chantilly
(adapted from Ina Garten’s profiteroles recipe)

Makes 12

For the puffs:
125ml semi-skim milk
1/2 cup plain flour
60g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium eggs

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
2. Place butter, milk and salt in a saucepan on medium heat, bring to boil and remove saucepan from heat immediately.
3. Stir in flour and mix till incorporated, put the saucepan back on the heat and stir continuously for 5-6 minutes until mixture turns dry (stops sticking to pan).
4. Place the dough into a food processor, and adding 1 egg at a time, pulse to form a soft but very, very thick paste. If you can achieve this with just 1 egg, you don’t have to add the other egg. The paste shouldn’t stick to your fingers when you touch it.
5. Pipe the paste when it is still hot (essential to help it rise) and bake immediately. I piped the paste in swirls with a 2cm nozzle onto a lined tray, and pushed the tips (that will be left behind when you stop piping) in with a wet finger. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave the puffs in the closed oven for another 5 minutes.
6. Remove the puffs from the oven and make a small slit at the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Cool the puffs on a cooling rack and fill with crème Chantilly. Finish off with a dusting of icing sugar and serve immediately.

For the crème Chantilly:
125ml double cream, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
15g icing sugar

1. Beat the cream and vanilla till frothy and add sugar.
2. Continue to beat mixture till cream thickens and forms stiff peaks. Fill the puffs with the cream when puffs are cooled.

I hope you enjoy making these!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profile on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

Get Cracking for Christmas with a Chocolate and Coconut Roulade

So we have been back in sunny Singapore for almost a week now, and yes, I have been rather quiet on the blog as I have been whisked away to a flurry of culinary activities. I haven’t been cooking or baking, just eating LOADS only to realise that my old pair of jeans doesn’t fit anymore – oh, the horror!!! I have covered all the local dishes that I want to eat in just one week. I’m even doing repeats on the hawker rounds. Do the math and you’ll realise why I’m exploding in my jeans. In some ways, I wish I’m stuck in the snow blizzard, which is all the rage in London now, so I might be snowed in and be deprived of evil things I call food. But given the foodie I am, my pantry will be bursting with things I could work with to create meals befitting the holidays, and I’d still be fat anyway. Can’t win, can I?

Case in point: Just before we flew back to Singapore, we had some coconut milk in the fridge, and of course the baking aficionado in me always ensure a plentiful supply of flour, eggs, and what-not in the pantry. I needed to clear the perishables, and I wanted to make something for Christmas before I lost the sole governance of my cramp but beloved kitchen, so I dived into my recipe books and searched for ideas.

Two Christmases ago, my cousin, MS, visited us from the States and I had made Delia Smith’s flourless chocolate log cake for the occasion. I remember approaching the recipe with much excitement as I was told that flourless cakes are incredibly light. It was also my first time making a log cake and I was rather nervous about rolling the cake up. The nerves were probably very, very appropriate because I was a novice then and naturally, the cake cracked when I rolled it up. My ego was bruised after that attempt, so was M, almost physically so, because I had thrown a hissy fit after disfiguring the poor cake. Although the log cake was delightfully light, airy and chocolatey, I refused to make one again because I was afraid of screwing things up. This year, I summoned the courage and gave the elusive log cake another shot.

M bought me a chocolate recipe book (Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce) about a year ago, and I have neglected it since I wasn’t confident of tempering with chocolate. I decided to try out the roulade recipe in the book this year and thought it would be lovely to give the cake a tropical twist by filling it with whipped coconut cream. It was a perfect idea, in my opinion. I could use up the residual coconut milk in the fridge. I could practise the ‘never-say-die’ attitude and try making a beautiful log cake. And I could have a little Christmas with M before we returned to Singapore.

But things are never quite perfect in reality. I did finish up the coconut milk. I did have a little Christmas with M. The roulade rolled up beautifully when it was warm, but when I rolled it again after the cake was cooled, it cracked! I was upset but to be honest, I kinda expected it. I am nowhere near being an expert at baking even though I have improved over the years. Thankfully for M, I am a lot more mature now and have learnt not to throw too big a tantrum if I fail in the kitchen. The roulade was delicious though. It was very moist and light, and insanely fragrant with the whipped coconut cream filling. I would say that the chocolate and coconut combination is a dream and really, a small stroke of genius. M loved the imperfect roulade very much. I loved it too, but I think I would be a teeny bit happier if the roulade didn’t crack. Third time’s the charm, and hopefully, I will make a perfect log cake on my next attempt.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Roulade with Whipped Coconut Cream Filling

For the log:
(adapted from Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce)

4 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
90g plain flour
10g cornflour
10g cocoa powder
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 and 1/2 tablespoons milk
10g icing sugar
Salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12inch by 8inch baking tray with parchment.
2. Beat yolks and caster sugar till mixture turns very pale and fluffy.
3. Sift and mix flour, cocoa powder together.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix till combined.
5. Add butter and milk, and beat to combine.
6. In another bowl, beat egg whites with icing sugar and pinch of salt till stiff peaks form.
7. Gently fold egg whites into the mixture from Step 5 until incorporated.
8. Spread this mixture evenly into the lined baking tray and bake for 11 minutes in preheated oven. Remove the tray from oven and cool the cake in the tray for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
9. Flip the cake onto a clean tea towel, leave the baking parchment on, and roll the cake up. You might need a rolling pin in the middle to guide the rolling. The tea towel should now be on the outside of the roulade and the baking parchment should be in the centre.
10. Hold the roulade in the log shape for about 2 minutes, unroll the roulade and cool completely before filling the cake with the coconut cream. My roulade rolled beautifully when it was warm but cracked when I re-rolled the cake after it cooled completely. Next time, I might leave the cake to cool in the log shape before unrolling it to fill, although this might affect the texture of the cake.

For the whipped coconut cream filling:
(own recipe)

280g unsweetened coconut cream (the part that settles above the water when you leave a can standing for a few days in the fridge)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Beat ingredients till light and fluffy.
2. Fill the cooled roulade, and roll roulade up.
3. Decorate with a sprinkle of icing shade and dark chocolate shavings if you like, just like I did!

Store the finished roulade in the fridge, and serve chilled.

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Homemade Scones For Tea

I was watching Nigella Lawson work her easy-kitchen magic on telly about two weeks ago, and there she was, waxing lyrical about the scones that she was about to make. She promised that the scones take only 15 minutes to materialise, and I was almost convinced that I should make them sometime soon.

You see, I am one who needs to be inspired to make something. Without inspiration, my cakes turn out dry, my macarons look like pimply teenagers and I sulk for the rest of the day just because. Where does this inspiration come from, you might ask? Sometimes, I just want to make something pretty. Most of the times, I want to feed people I love with good things. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing my family and friends enjoying what I made. Sad to say, we don’t get many opportunities to have people over all the time, and the only person I do really feed is my husband, M.

Since the feedback on my food is only about as varied as M’s fervent nods or halting ‘erms’, I am also inspired by practicality. Having learnt a lot more about baking and cooking over the past year, I have grown to love looking into my pantry and rummaging for stuff to make something delicious. The idea that I am making full use of whatever’s left in the kitchen and the idea that it could turn out to be something out-of-this-world excites me. Yes, I am a miserly food geek.

For the scones this time, I’m inspired by everything. Nigella Lawson made the baking look effortless. I had shortening that I bought for making mooncakes a while ago (and I couldn’t find any recipe else to use it in…). I also had one egg left, a little bit of butter much neglected in the fridge, lots of flour and milk just dying to be used before it expires. M loves a good scone. My sister-in-law was also chatting to me about how much her boyfriend misses scones. It was the perfect time to whip up some for an English tea-esque lunch to test Nigella’s recipe.

The recipe turned out to be beautifully easy. I put everything together very quickly with minimal effort, and the scones were ready to be devoured in all of 15 minutes, just as Nigella had promised. The scones were golden, nicely risen, slightly crusty on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside. We slathered the warm innards with butter and golden syrup or jam (we didn’t have clotted cream). It was divine! It costs nothing more than 50 pence to make six of these babies, so why in the world would I pay £5-20 for an English tea session outside the comforts of my own home? I say, make your own, save some money and have them warm and fresh, something that you can’t quite get when you’re out.

Here’s the recipe.

Scones
(adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)

165g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/3 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
8g vegetable shortening, cold and diced (I used Trex)
17g butter, cold and diced
100ml milk
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Line baking tray with parchment.
2. Sift flour, salt, bicarbonate and cream of tartar together.
3. Rub in shortening and butter into dry mixture.
4. Add milk and mix briefly for the dough to just come together as a sticky mass.
5. Add a dusting of flour to a work surface, and knead dough very gently till the dough just about stops being sticky (the dusting of flour will help reduce the stickiness).
6. Roll out to 2.5 cm thick and cut out with a 5.8cm cutter (mine has a crinkle edge and the 5.8cm refers to the round cutter that is found on the other side of the same mould). Brush with egg wash. You should get 6 scones out of this.
7. Plonk the dough pieces on the tray and bake for 9 minutes until golden and nicely risen.

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

When the Mactweets Challenge: MacAttack #13 came around, I knew it was time to get some egg whites out and age them a little. We were warned that this was the 13th challenge, you know, the unlucky number for some, and guess what, I had a bit of an unlucky start this time! I was all ready to whip my egg whites up for Fall-themed macarons, and as luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, I spilled the aged egg whites before I could even grow feet on the macs. My clumsy hands in an over-packed fridge were very much like bulls in a china shop, I knocked the whites over, mopped up the gooey spill and mourned the tragic loss of my aged egg whites. I was ready to throw in the towel and skip this challenge but macaron gurus, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Eunice from Heaven in a Wild Flower assured me that fresh egg whites will whip up nicely anyway. Heeding their advice, I cracked some new eggs and separated the whites from yolks. There was no looking back and I was glad that I listened to them.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For this month’s challenge, we were asked to create macarons that spoke of what Fall meant to us. The first thing that I thought of was a piping hot cup of Japanese green tea in my cold, cold hands! I admit I did dream about sipping on a mug of hot chocolate about two seconds after I thought about green tea, but I felt that hot chocolate was a little too much for autumn, and better appreciated in the bitter cold of winter. I had wanted to make a matcha & white chocolate mascarpone filling (which I made last month and friends loved them), but I had a tin of adzuki bean paste in the pantry, just dying to be married to matcha already. I couldn’t deny a match made in heaven, could I?

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Whilst I am not a big fan of winter in London, I quite like autumn. Yes, most of the trees are bald in the blink of an eye, but the occasional tree is decked out in warm gold leaves that turn a seductive shade of mahogany. To me, it is the rarity of this sight that makes London very beautiful despite the cold and the ubiquitous bare trees. Regrettably so, it can get too cold to wander along the streets, and when that happens, what I love most is to curl up in my couch, with a duvet draped round my legs and a cup of hot Japanese green tea to sip on. With every cup of green tea, I also insist on having something sweet to nibble on. This is the ‘way of life’ that M and my sister-in-law, M have instilled in me. Both Ms are true connoisseurs of teatime accompaniments and I am glad that I have been well-taught.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For about two months now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with matcha, and have made cupcakes, polvorons, macarons and more cupcakes with matcha (posts to follow soon). There’s nothing I like more than having matcha-based pastries with hot green tea. The flavours are strong, yet subtle and so very alluring. Here, the sweet earthiness of adzuki beans are perfectly balanced with the bittersweet matcha & white chocolate buttercream. If you love matcha as much as I do, you might want to get cracking on these macarons in your own kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

For the macaron shells (makes 22 shells):
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)

55g egg white (these are not aged, and will turn out a little more chewy)
3g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
80g icing sugar
1 teaspoon green food colouring
Black sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Sift almond flour and icing sugar together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on the shell.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool. (I also dusted the shells with a little bit of edible gold lustre, they do give a nice sheen but they didn’t show up well on the pictures..)

For the Matcha & White Chocolate Buttercream:

55g white chocolate
40g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
5g matcha powder (you can add more if you like a stronger flavour, as the sweetness of ready-made adzuki bean paste can differ – See ‘Assembling’ section below)

1. Melt white chocolate and butter and leave to cool.

2. Beat in icing sugar and matcha powder until well-combined and creamy.

Assembling macarons:

1. Spoon matcha cream onto one shell.

2. Add one small dollop of adzuki bean paste on top of the cream.

3. Sandwich, and you’re done!

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Hope you enjoy making these and let me know what you think of the recipe!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey. And if you can’t get enough of matcha, you might like my Lychee Chiffon Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream Frosting.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Even though I don’t like winter very much, the last of autumn has to be given a proper farewell. In my opinion, there’s no better way to do it than to put a little bit of pumpkin in everything. Well, not everything, but you know, compatible things. Things like dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Yum.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I went into pumpkin overdrive lately, and bought one too many pumpkins. I made a pumpkin & walnut cake with cream cheese frosting for Halloween out of one, and the other was just sitting there on the table, sulking and looking very much neglected. It looked very handsome, nonetheless. Sunset orange, smooth, not the least bit scarred and very hard-muscled – literally. Oh well, someone’s gotta do the job and stick the knife in.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I really dread gutting a pumpkin. I’m the opposite of a gym bunny and carving a pumpkin gives me such an unpleasant and dangerous workout. The knife has to be exceedingly sharp, because the skin’s just impossible to get rid of. And I have to go in with such force, that many a times, I have almost lost a finger. Yes, gutting a pumpkin intimidates me. I spent a good half-hour wrestling this one to get to its flesh. Urgh, it was so not fun.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

But once I got to the core of the problem (pun intended), I blitzed the pulp into purée, made the most complicated version of brownies I have ever baked (usually brownies are so very easy because you just dunk everything in), and made M very happy with my take on Autumn’s farewell. Admittedly, I wasn’t very happy with the brownie when I sneaked a piece fresh out of the oven, whilst it’s warm and soft. It should be good, but it tasted half-hearted, like what Deb from Smitten Kitchen said. Neither chocolatey nor pumpkin-y. I was so disappointed. I chucked it in the fridge, hoping to never see it again, not knowing that the fridge and some sort of ‘ageing’ process were about to work its magic on these brownies. M and I had it for dessert after dinner that night, and I was just picking at it absent-mindedly when M exclaimed, ‘This is some good, really moist brownie!’. I was in a bit of a disbelief, thinking that he probably wanted to make me feel better. I took a bite, and damn, he was right! They were very dense, moist, and chocolatey, with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was how the cream cheese swirl got lost in the flavours (possibly because I used medium-fat cream cheese, rather than full-fat….silly Sainsbury’s ran out of the full-fat one, and also because I made very little of the cream cheese swirl).  It was still a solidly good brownie, nonetheless and I felt better about the day’s effort.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Here’s the recipe.

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirl
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen for brownie, and David Lebovitz for the cream cheese swirl)

Brownie part:
175g plain flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
160g 70% chocolate (I used Lindt)
205g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
295g pumpkin, blitzed in food processor to form purée
80ml sunflower oil
2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
40g blanched hazelnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Swirl part:
165g medium-fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 6 by 10 inch pan with baking parchment. Ensure parchment covers the sides of the pan too, so it’s easy to lift the brownie to cooling rack when everything’s done. Grease the parchment with some butter.
2. Combine plain flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Melt chocolate and unsalted butter to form a smooth mixture, and set aside.
4. Mix pumpkin purée, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg together and set aside.
5. Beat caster sugar, eggs, vanilla paste until fluffy and combined.
6. Add the flour mixture to egg mixture and beat till combined.
7. Meanwhile, beat the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl till combined and set aside.
8. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the chocolate mixture (from Step 3) and mix well.
9. Add the remaining (should be about 1/2 cup) flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the pumpkin mixture (from Step 4) and mix well.
10. Add a layer of chocolate batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 8 ) to the lined pan, followed by a layer of pumpkin batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 9). Repeat for another layer of chocolate batter. Now add the remaining pumpkin batter in blobs, alternating it with blobs of the cream cheese mixture (from Step 7). It is vital to work quickly because the chocolate batter sets pretty easily.
11. Swirl the mixture in the pan with a small spatula, making sure to work through to the bottom layer as the chocolate batter is quite dense. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.
12. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until set, whichever comes earlier.
13. Cool slightly in pan, then lift parchment out to cool brownie on a cooling rack.
14. Refrigerate when brownie is completely cooled, for flavours to develop and cut to serve. I think this would work well with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream too.

Hope you will enjoy making this! Feel free to leave comments!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Photograzing. Check out my profiles on PhotograzingFoodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Fruit in Baking: White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’m participating in the Monthly Mingle: Fruit in Baking this month. Monthly Mingle came into fruition with amazing Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? and this month, it is hosted by lovely Deeba at Passionate About Baking!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I don’t usually bake with fruits, I use lots of chocolate, nuts in my recipes, you know the heavy stuff, and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t worked with fruits recently except for my lychee mascarpone macarons. I thought this month’s Fruit in Baking would be perfect to get cracking on some dried fruits at home. I don’t always like to go out and buy all sorts of ingredients, just to tick the boxes on recipes; I do enjoy rummaging things from my pantry and putting them together, as I try to practise a waste-not approach. Besides, it’s more practical to finish up what’s left in the pantry before running out to get even more ingredients. You see, we don’t get very much kitchen (or any) space in London.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

My in-laws came over to London in May this year, and they brought two giant packs of dried cranberries. They were meant as health foods for us, but we can only snack on that many dried cranberries when we’re feeling peckish, so I thought it would be nice to make some white chocolate and cranberry cookies with them.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I am actually very fond of these cookies as they bring back lots of memories. When I first moved to London in 2007, I was introduced to a whole new variety of baked goods here. Waffles, cookies, biscuits, cakes, breads are done in so many permutations, done so very well and extremely cheaply that I wonder why bakeries in Singapore resort to charging exorbitant prices for good ‘fancy’ (read: those containing more than mere chocolate chips) cookies. The cost price isn’t high, but it appears that Asian countries are selling a Westernised concept to consumers; a large white chocolate and cranberry cookie may cost us only £0.50 here or even less, but it can cost up to the equivalent of £2 in Singapore. As such, I behaved like a mad woman on the loose, buying cookies from every nook and cranny in London, feasting on them without a care in the world. White chocolate and cranberry cookies were one of the goodies that I particularly enjoyed.

 

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

I like soft cookies, so I have tweaked the recipe for my chocolate chunk and flaked coconut cookies to make way for white chocolate and dried cranberries. If you like crunchy cookies, just bake them for a minute or two longer, as long as they don’t burn (they shouldn’t) and they will harden once they are completely cooled. These were very popular with my friends, I made loads, but they were snapped up very quickly. I’ve been told that these weren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate, and the flavours worked well together!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Here’s my recipe.

Chocolate Chunks and Flaked Coconut Cookies:
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

225g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g soft light brown sugar
170g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
400g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a handheld electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well (scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after each addition to incorporate the unmixed parts). Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in the vanilla paste.

4. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix well until a smooth dough is formed. Stir in the roughly chopped white chocolate and cranberries.

5. Arrange 6 tablespoon-sized drops of cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Ensure that these drops are spaced well apart to allow for expansion. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. At this point, the cookies will be quite flat, and frighteningly soft and pliable. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

6. You can choose to eat them while they are warm (not hot!) and wash them  down with a glass of cold milk, or have them at room temperature (they will be harder than when it is warm). M and I love the cookies warm. When the cookies have cooled completely, keep them away from cookie monsters!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.