Monday, 29 March 2010

His results - Japanese Cheescake

I found this recipe very pleasing to make. I enjoyed the processes; the melting, stirring, and sifting. I was happy to use my skyline loaf pan again too.

Given the lightness and beauty of the finished product it was actually almost embarassingly easy to put together. I used orange extract rather than lemon and way less than in the recipe. It reads as a tablespoon in the recipe. I don't know if that's right but I used just a teaspoon. The recipe is really huge by the way. You'd maybe want to divide it if you're going to make it yourself.

When I tested it to see if it was done (it was finished by 45 minutes by the way) it was very puffy with a cracked top. As it sat in the oven it sank a little and pulled away from the side. It didn't collapse though. It's still very puffy as you can see in the picture below.

It's impossible really to imagine just how light this is. As you bite it or slice it it make a little bubbling, popping noise like a marshmallow as the tiny delicate bubbles burst. It's delicate, with just the right amount of sweetness and a beautiful hint of orange. This is the almost the opposite of the caramel cake of a few weeks ago. Where that beats you in the face with sugar, this wins you over with a great, subtle flavour. I loved it and the colleagues were pleased with the choice. One said he could happily sit down and eat a whole cake. I think he probably could too.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Recipe 11 - Japanese Cheescake

I gave my colleagues a choice of three recipes like I planned to and they settled on this Japanese cheesecake. It seems like a good call to me! It's somewhere between a cheesecake and a spongecake. Very light and fluffy. I'd been looking for a good recipe online for a while and was happy when a little while ago I found this one at i bake for you.

Japanese cheesecake

250g light cream cheese, softened
50g butter
100ml milk
6 eggs, separated
125g sugar
60g cake flour (low protein flour)
20g corn flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp lemon essence

Preheat oven to 160C, 325 F, gas mark 3.

Melt cream cheese, butter and milk in a double boiler.

Allow to cool.

Whisk egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add sugar while whisking until stiff peaks.

Sift cake flour, corn flour and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Mix in cream cheese mixture, egg yolks and lemon essence.

Gently fold in egg whites.

Transfer mixture into a greased/lined baking pan. Wrap the sides and bottom of the baking pan/s with aluminium foil. Do not cover the top! (This helps prevent water from seeping through to the pan and cake mixture.)

Place baking pan into a large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water about up to half way to the baking pan.

Bake for about 1hr or until cooked. (Will depend on pan sizes. Check with skewer. If it comes out clean, it is cooked)

Leave door ajar for about 45mins. (ie. leave an oven mit in between door and oven to give about 1-2cm gap for heat to slowly disperse. Don't open the door fully!)

Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

I'm looking forward to it and so are the colleagues. It's definately something a bit different. She and I exanding our repertoire and building our skills!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

His results - Sesame Seed Cookies

Don't these seeds look pretty? They worked magic in these cookies. I love the taste of sesame. She was lucky on that score I guess!

I toasted them in a pan on the stove. I think I did it at a lower heat than I should have and for a longer time. They tasted just right but perhaps aren't quite as dark as they could have been. The flavour was beautiful, rich and very potent.

Like she said, the cookies were very easy to put together. I used my silicon baking mat rather than baking paper. If you look at it you'll see there's a crease from where it was folded when they posted it to me. That's a little annoying and led to the weird siamese cookie you can see in the middle row, one from the right. I wised up and put the dough away from that in the other batches.

Mine spread even more than hers I think. I split the recipe in half but still used a whole egg so it would have been a bit runnier.

I'd agree with her review of the taste. Very rich and buttery with a great, salty, sesame kick. They went down very, very well with my colleagues. They described them as a little strange, quite complex and totally delicious.

I've decided to draw up a shortlist of recipes for next week and let those same colleagues choose what we'll bake. I know it'll be something good though since it'll be my shortlist!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Her results - Sesame Seed Cookies

Things went well in the kitchen today.

I wanted to make sure I toasted my sesame seeds correctly, so I found this helpful blog. The pictures I saw helped me remember that the massive bag of sesame seeds in my freezer is actually a bag of toasted sesame seeds. I read that their flavor isn't as good as that of freshly toasted seeds. Luckily I owned 30 grams of unadulterated sesame seeds, so I toasted those and then I lightly re-toasted an additional 90 grams of the pre-toasted seeds from my freezer. Both varieties tasted fine, but I can confirm that freshly toasted seeds are the most delicious. The rest of the dough making process was straightforward and only took a few minutes.

I've developed a trick for uniformly measuring cookie dough. First, I measure the right amount of dough for one cookie as prescribed by the recipe (in this case 1 tablespoon). Then I weigh that dough ball (today's weighed about 19 grams). Finally, I use my scale to measure the rest of the dough into uniform balls. That may seem like overkill, but I hate trying to measure spoonfuls of cookie dough. Here's what my cookies looked like before and after baking:

Watch out, they really spread while in the oven! While we're on the subject, I love my new cookie sheets.

I ended up with about 40 cookies, so maybe my dough balls should have been a little smaller. Having fewer slightly bigger cookies fine by me, though!

Beyond the sesame seed flavor that is prominent, the taste of the cookies is also buttery, rich and slightly salty. The cookies are an interesting balance of light and hearty. The crisp edges and the sesame seeds provide a light crunchiness while the cookie itself is soft and tender. Delicious! I read somewhere that these are popular in the Carolinas and are good paired with iced tea. I can almost guarantee that the claim is accurate, but I enjoyed mine with the Sunday New York Times and a big glass of ice water.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Recipe 10 - Sesame Seed Cookies

This week I picked the simplest recipe I could find that appealed to me: Sesame Seed Cookies. I found the recipe on Martha Stewart's website. The site features a cookie a day, and a lot of them sound great. I chose this recipe over the others partially thanks to its simplicity and also because I have some sesame seeds I want to use ASAP. I've never had a sesame seed cookie. I hope I like them. But more than that, I hope that he likes sesame seeds. If not, I'm in trouble.

Picture courtesy of Martha Stewart's website.

Sesame Seed Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

* 120 g all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 120 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 180 g light-brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 120 g hulled sesame seeds, toasted

1. Heat oven to gas mark 4 aka 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda, and set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until combined. Add toasted sesame seeds, and beat until incorporated.
3. Using a spoon, drop cookie batter, about 1 tablespoon at a time, onto prepared baking sheets, allowing at least 2 inches between cookies for spreading.
4. Bake until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Her results - Buttermilk Pie

When I was young, I refused to eat buttermilk pie. It sounded like an adult dessert, almost akin to cottage cheese and fruit (which I still can't be convinced to try). Perhaps if I had made one of these pies with my grandma, I would have realized that it's made of all the tasty stuff I love. Like the buttermilk cake we made recently, this pie only has 1/2 c. buttermilk but a ton of sugar. Here's what it looked like just before going into the oven:

And upon coming out:

I don't know what caused that weird fissure, but it didn't alter the flavor!

I love this pie. Like he mentioned, it is sweet but not overly so. The flavor is hard to pin down. All I can really say is that it's almost got the flavor of custard but not quite. It's a bit sweet, a bit eggy, a bit buttery... The homemade crust was an upgrade over frozen, but the upper edge of my crust got overdone. I'm still learning! In making this crust, I discovered a way to reduce the stress I feel when trying to make pie crust. I usually get frustrated when I'm trying to roll the crust thin and round enough, and then lift it into the dish without it tearing. By making slightly too much pie crust, it's easier to work with. Until I hone my rolling pin skills, this may be my strategy. I had to use a 9.5" pie dish, and that made my pie just a little thicker than it might have been in a larger dish. Since I like a lot of filling in my pie, it was right up my alley. This will not be the last time I make a buttermilk pie. I may try my great grandmother's recipe next time. It calls for three times as much buttermilk and some lemon juice.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

His results - Buttermilk Pie

We seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. We've had a few weeks in a row with really tasty results.

That's not to say its all gone smoothly. The top got a tiny bit overdone here and it sank ever so slightly in the middle. It wasn't anything to worry about though, the darkening on the top was purely cosmetic and didn't affect the flavour.

As usual I took a piece of this in to three friends at work on Monday and we sat down together at lunch for a chat and a taste of something delicious. One of them said this was their favourite of all the dishes they've tried so far. High praise indeed!

It really is very good though. I didn't have a pie dish big enough so I baked it in a slightly smaller one and reduced the recipe by a quarter. I then sliced it into eight and each piece was still too big really. Nobody struggled even the tiniest bit to fit in a whole piece though. The most suprising thing to me was just how un-sugary the finished product tasted. After seeing the crazy quantity of sugar I poured into this thing I kind of expected it to turn out incredibly sweet but some magical cooking chemistry happened and it turned out just sweet enough with a nice texture and a great taste. I advise you try this one out. I had high hopes for this pie and it didn't disappoint. (The raw batter tasted great too by the way!)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Recipe 9 - Buttermilk Pie

If you take a look at your calendar and check out the entry for this coming Sunday you can probably guess what we're cooking this week. That's assuming you're an American and write down the date the wrong way round with the month first.

That's right. It's 3.14, a number which surely strikes a chord.
And what better way is there to spend pi day than to bake a buttermilk pie!

Over Christmas the lady and I ate a variety of fine, fine pies but perhaps the finest we came across was the one you can see below. It came as part of an outstanding, if life-shorteningly unhealthy, meal that also included the unbelievably tasty fried banana peppers you see before you now.

My compliments to the pie producer were so effusive that along with the bill I was slipped a copy of the recipe. This week we shall attempt to recreate it!

As you can see the recipe calls for a 10" frozen crust. We'll make our own instead using the ever reliable Delia as our guide. A 10" pie is really too big (and look at all of that sugar and butter!) and I planned on reducing the recipe. I've decided that we'll go with it as it is though but I'll insist on a solemn pledge to get a whole load of this stuff out of our respective homes ASAP after baking to remove the temptation. We should both be extremely popular with our colleagues next week! The recipe has a whopping 4000 calories in it.

We'll make pastry as per Delia using 150g of flour.

In metric the recipe for the filling goes like this:

400g sugar
60g flour
120ml buttermilk
110g melted butter
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 eggs

Mix all of this together and put it into the prepared crust. Bake at gas mark 6 or 400 Farenheit for 45 minutes or til it quits jigglin!

I've been waiting and waiting for the day I'd eat this again. This weekend should live long in the memory!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

His results - Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

If you think back to the vanilla slice you'll maybe remember that I'm fond of these old Skyline pans. I've managed to track a couple down including the pan I used for this week's effort.

I decided to line the pan bottom since she told me she'd read a few reviews of this recipe which said it tends to stick.

The batter was easy to make and very tasty raw. When I was little and used to 'help' my Mum making buns I always used to love cleaning the bowl and the beaters from the mixer. If I'm honest with this one I didn't do a very thorough job of scraping the mix into the pan just so there'd be a little extra left in there to eat while it was in the oven.

I scattered over the raspberries and sugar. It seemed like quite a bit of sugar but I went with it.

The cake took longer than stated in the oven. I had the same experience as she did where the top looked well done while the middle was still very gooey. If you're making this (and I highly recommend you do) then I'd extend the cooking time and not judge it by how done the top looks or how well it springs back since this was deceptive for me.

I wish that the raspberries had floated a little better. I think tossing them in a little flour would have helped with that. Also, if you look at the photo you'll see the sugar topping is great in the center but totally missing from the outer inch and a half or so. Very curious.

When it was finally done we tucked in. And it was great. It was very, very moist and the slight crunch of the sugar topping was excellent. Eating it the day after the flavour was perhaps even better but the crunch was gone. For that reason I'd suggest you eat it on the day it's baked. You can always make another tomorrow!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Her results - Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

After my failed attempt at steaming a pudding last week, I thought there was no way I could go wrong baking a simple cake. I just have one question: how could the top look so done and the inside be so underdone? Luckily I discovered that I had a problem after only a short amount of cooling, so popped it back in the oven and basically rescued it. The outer edges are a little overdone and the center is not as fluffy as it could have been, but the bottom line is that this is a good recipe. The sugar on top gives each bite a nice crunch. And despite all the sugar that the recipe calls for, the sweetest bites are those with berries inside. I'm not going to admit how much of that cake I ate today.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Recipe 8 - Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

I've been wanting to cook a Raspberry Buttermilk Cake ever since I saw one on Smitten Kitchen. The recipe I've posted below is the original recipe from with some metric measurement added in. The image below is from a blog entitled State of Gracie. Doesn't it look delicious?


SERVES 6 (probably more for us)
JUNE 2009

Simple, tender buttermilk cake topped with a nice, sugary crunch: We like it as it is, full of raspberries, but you could easily substitute any sweet, juicy berries you pick up at the farmers market.

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (60 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (150 grams) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz / 140g)

Preheat oven to 400°F, gas mark 6 with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


Using fat free buttermilk this comes to a total of 1700 calories

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Her results - Date Pudding

Defeat! Well, kinda...

I was skeptical about this dessert at first. I'd never eaten a date, but he'd given me some nice ones so I nibbled one and found that they're delicious. Then there was the issue of suet. I'm a vegetarian and I forgot to look for veggie suet, so I decided to use Crisco. Okay, let's be honest: when the two of the six ingredients are dates and suet, I can see how the recipe might fall out of fashion!

Once I got past the ingredients, I moved on to the issue of equipment. He'd never imagined I wouldn't have a pudding basin. Meanwhile, I had no idea what a pudding basin was. To be fair, he figured I'd at least have an appropriately sized heat-proof bowl. I had a small pyrex bowl which I suspected was too small. Normally I'd have hunted for a cheap "pudding basin" in a charity shop, but time constraints forced me to visit a fancy kitchen store. I came home with a nice stainless steel bowl of the right size and shape.

The ingredients came together really easily, and I think I sealed my basin up carefully.

To my aggravation, my new bowl was too tall to fit into my deepest pot. I figured I could make a makeshift lid out of foil or another pot.

But something went totally wrong because after two hours the pudding hadn't set up in the middle. So I replaced my rickety tin-foil lid with an inverted pot and I gave it an extra 30 minutes, then another 30.

No luck! I finally gave up and flipped the darn thing out onto my plate. Prepare yourself.

I quickly set about remaking the recipe. I unwisely chose to make it in my small pyrex bowl because my first pudding looked pretty small, plus the pyrex bowl could fit in my pot with the lid on. Well it wasn't big enough and somehow water got in, too. This one was such a disaster I refused to photograph it. It went directly into the garbage.

The good news is that the pathetic looking pudding tastes good. It has the texture and taste of a sweet and lightly fruity cookie dough. I'd never serve it to a guest, but I'm polishing off the last crumbs as we speak! And even though I've failed mightily, I couldn't be any more determined to keep making puddings until I succeed.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

His results - Date Pudding

As I write this I have one overwhelming feeling.

Pity. Pity for her.

This pudding was suprising to me in a couple of ways. I was suprised at how moist it turned out and how much it rose while it steamed. I was also suprised at just how good it was. I mean, it's a really, really good pudding. This week I really wished me and her were together so we could have tasted each others efforts. I suppose if we had been together I almost certainly wouldn't have made this pudding this weekend.

Silver linings I suppose although it's precious little given the size of the cloud. I enjoyed making this. I'd never made a steamed pudding from scratch by myself although I have plenty of happy memories of helping out making Christmas Puddings with my Grandma. I enjoyed pretty much every stage of this, especially fashioning the lid.

To me that was the second best bit (after the eating of course).

It's beautiful and light. Not overly rich or sweet but certainly slightly decadent in its taste. To me it's a real shame that these type of puddings have fallen out of favour a little. They're making a little bit of a comeback though I believe. I'll certainly be making something along these lines pretty soon I hope.

Make it. Be careful when you wrap it. Serve it warm. Close your eyes and drift away.
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