Friday, June 25, 2010

G20 Olive Bread

Working from home these days during the G20 Summit. It's extremely difficult to work at home because you could get distracted so easily.  While I couldn't get much work done, this little baking project of mine turned out to be a huge success. The recipe is adapted from Williams-Sonoma's "Essentials of Baking":

3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
80 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and dusting the loaf
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1.  In a bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy.  Add the oil, the flours, and the salt.  Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook, and knead on low speed.  Add a little flour as needed for the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl after a few minutes.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Remove the dough from the bowl.

2.  Sprinkle the olives over the top of the dough and knead them into the dough briefly and gently.  Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk.

3.  Punch down the dough and turn it out into a lightly floured work surface.  Knead it briefly and gently to disperse the olives evenly.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes before shaping.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Shape the dough into a tight round loaf.  Cover the loaf loosely with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size.

4.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 450F.  Lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour.  Put the pans into the oven and reduce the heat to 425F.  Bake the bread until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30-45 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool for at least 45 minutes.  

The  bread was so very moist and rich tasting.  It is a great accompaniment to some very thinly-sliced prosciutto, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pâté de foie gras.  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lo Yeh's (Father In-Law's) Birthday Cake

Rita and I have decided to "share responsibilities"... she baked a cake for Guu Paw's birthday and I would do the same for Lo Yeh.  I have been planning for this project for more than a week.  I wanted this cake to be moist, feather-light, pretty and of course, delicious.  So after doing 5-hour extensive labour of love, I could say I really did my best this time.  Tomorrow is the big day, I can't wait to taste the cake and I hope everyone enjoy it too.  

I must warn you... this is going to be quite lengthy...

1 vanilla bean 
6 eggs, separated
220 g cake flour, sifted
200 g and 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
100 ml vegetable oil or safflower oil
200 ml milk 
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
1. Preheat the oven to 350F, with the rack in the center. Have a 10 inch tube pan (ungreased) ready.
2. In the bowl of the electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk the flour, sugar (200 g), baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg yolks, milk and oil. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, using the back of a knife, scrap the beans into the mixture. Beat about one minute or until smooth. Make sure there are no lumps of flour left unmixed.
3. Pour the batter into a large bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, with the mixer on whisk attachment beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  With a large rubber spatula,  stir in 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the batten. Fold in the remaining egg whites (half portion at a time) into the batter (being careful not to deflate the batter). 
4. Pour the batter into the ungreased tube pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven invert the pan and place on a bottle or flat surface so it is suspended over the counter.  Let the cake cool completely before removing from pan.
Once the chiffon cake is completely cooled off, slice it into 3 layers and put aside for assembly later.
1 cup of whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
10 medium-sized strawberries (thinly-sliced)
1. In the electric mixer, whisk the whipping cream and sugar until it reaches soft peak.  
2. On a clean surface, put 1st layer of the chiffon cake and spread a thin layer of fresh cream, then arrange the sliced strawberries evenly on the cake.  Put a thin layer of fresh cream on top of strawberries.  Repeat this procedure for the 2nd layer of cake and filling.  Place the last chiffon on top.  Put the cake in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

1. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several cubes at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) 
When the buttercream is done, it should be very smooth.  Take the cake out from the fridge and do your best to frost the cake.  If you made a mess like I did, just chop up some almonds and walnuts to hide the imperfection.  Decorate the cake top with fresh fruits (berries always make a cake look regal).  
I'm so beat.  If I had to spend 5 hours to make one cake, I don't think I will ever be qualified to open a cake shop... 

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma's "Essentials of Baking"

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt (optional)

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand until foamy.  Add sugar, olive oil, flour, and fine sea salt.  Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes.

2.  Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer it to a slightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise until it doubles in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3.  Oil a sheet pan with olive oil.  Turn the dough out into the pan.  Press the dough evenly into the pan.  Cover the pan loosely with a dry kitchen towel.  Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

4.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450F.  Dimple the dough by pressing your fingertips all the way into it at 1-inch intervals over the entire surface.  Sprinkle it with the course salt, if desired.

5.  Bake the focaccia until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan.  Cut it in to squares and serve warm or at room temperature.  

I also sprinkled some rosemary on top.  The focaccia turned out to be a bit dry (crunchy)... I may reduce the baking time to 12 minutes.  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mango Tart

This mango tart took me 3 hours to make... The pics sucked because of the poor lighting (as usual) and that I was exhausted.  Mangoes are in season now so I bought a case last week... We baked fruit flans in our baking class but I was not too happy with the results as I found the custard filling too bland.  So this time I found recipes for the filling and I improvised a little by adding a layer of sponge cake and a layer of fresh cream.  
Sweet shortcrust pastry
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup icing sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk
  1. In a mixer, mix the flour, sugar and salt for a few seconds. Add the butter and beat until it becomes pebbly. Add the egg yolk and combine until the dough clumps together. 
  2. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead for 30 secs. Wrap the dough up and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough out between two sheets of non-stick parchment paper and line a 22cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin. Remove the lined tin from the fridge and prick the base with a fork.
  4. Fit a piece of non-stick baking paper tightly against the crust and fill with weights. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in in a preheated oven (350F) for approximately 15 minutes or until the exposed edges are a very light brown. Remove the baking paper and weights. Bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until the base is golden brown. Allow to cool on wire rack.
Vanilla pastry cream
2 cups (500ml) whole milk
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Bring the milk to the boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Pour a little bit of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk well. Pour the remaining milk into the egg mixture and whisk.
  3. Place the saucepan onto the heat and whisk constantly, bring the mix to boil. Reduce the heat down to medium and cook for 2 minutes or so or until the custard becomes very thick. Remove from the heat.
  4. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Whisk in the butter until it’s smooth and silky.

Hot Milk Sponge Cake 
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ℉.  Butter and flour either a 9" round pan
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs until light, about 4 minutes.  With the mixer running on medium, slowly add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light yellow and comes off the whisk in a ribbon when the whisk is lifted, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. While the eggs and sugar are beating, bring the milk and butter just to a boil in a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Stir the vanilla into the hot milk.
  5. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly add the hot milk mix to the egg mixture.  Mix until combined, then reduce the mixer speed and add the flour mixture slowly, just until thoroughly combined, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.  Pour the batter immediately into the prepared pan and place them into the oven.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are browned and just pulling away from the pan or a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean.  Let cool slightly in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Fresh Cream Filling

1 cup of whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Whip the cream and sugar until it reaches soft peak.

3 large, ripe mangoes
  1. Cut the cheeks off both mangoes. Using a large spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh. Cut the mango cheeks into thin slices.
  2. Fill the crust with the pastry cream, ensuring the filling is smooth.
  3. Put a layer of the sponge cake on top of the pastry cream.
  4. Then spread the fresh cream on top of the sponge cake layer.
  5. Arrange the mango slices over the fresh cream.
  6. The tart can be chilled in the fridge for a few hours before serving. 
And of course I couldn't wait any longer... I consumed a slice before it's properly chilled.  It is very delicious...