LeSweetThings..

February 26, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie – Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits.

Filed under: TWD — lynettechng @ 2:42 pm

I have to admit that when I saw what this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was, I was more than a little apprehensive. Biscuits? I had never made them before, and had only tasted them once or twice – ever!

When I got my copy of Baking sometime last year,  the section on biscuits was one I was planning to ignore. I mean, I’m Chinese (not that that’s an excuse)… We don’t eat biscuits… at least not the type that was featured in Baking. The biscuits I was more accustomed to resembled more like cookies than scones.

I was going to have to fly blind on this one.

Dorie’s Pecan Sour Cream Biscuit was chosen this week by Ashley of eat me, delicious, and well… I followed the recipe to a tee! No substituting, no guessing, no estimating…

They looked relatively easy to make, but through out the whole process, I had no idea if I was even on the right track! I was worried, and well, I guess my biscuits felt it.

They didn’t rise as much as the pictures. As you can see, mine were fairly flat-ish, and not as full as Dorie’s. Someone please tell me if it looks like I’ve done something wrong??

Taste wise, they were pretty alright, with some butter and strawberry preserves.  Again, they tasted a tad bit more like scones to me, but that may be my asian tongue talking.

Would I make these again? Probably not. Did I enjoy the process? Not so much. Not that this should deter anyone from giving this a try. But I’ll put it down to experience… And I can say that I’ve been there and done that!

I do look forward to next week’s Snikery Squares, chosen by Erin of Dinner and Dessert.

If you’re feeling adventurous enough… give these biscuits a try!

* * * * *

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
(Makes about 12 biscuits)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between– and that’s just right.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading– 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even– a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting– just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

February 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me…. with a ‘Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake’

Filed under: Cakes, Cheese, Themed — lynettechng @ 12:24 am

For my birthday, I wanted to make a cake that I wouldn’t normally do. I was thinking a layered cake, because they are, in my opinion, celebration cakes. Alot of heart, alot of effort and alot of love goes into these cakes, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t make layered cakes all that often. Special occassions only.

I’d thought about it, and decided on the carrot cake. I know I didn’t want something chocolatey. Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is my life, but I ‘d been working with it so much in the last few weeks, I thought I’d give it a bit of a break. The carrot cake fits this to a tee. It works very well as a layered, tall cake. It has an autumy-feel, which whilst it really is spring, the chill that runs through my bones makes it feel all autumy, plus I really like carrot cake!

Now, the most important question was not which cake to make, but whose cake to make! Almost every book out there has one, and good ones at that, so I had to think long and hard on this…

I finally decided to go to the beginning. To the one that made me truely enjoy biting into a slice of carrot cake. To a pretty unexpected source. I turned to Jamie Oliver this weekend, for his ‘Rather Pleasing Carrot Cake’ from ‘Cook with Jamie‘.

It was a very moist cake, with a light crumb. Jamie suggests a mascarpone cream cheese frosting, but I opted to use that as a fillig instead, and went the way of Dorie for the citrus frosting.

I L.O.V.E.D this cake, and the texture of both the filling (lighter and silkier) and the frosting (citrusy and sweet). Chopped walnuts on the sides, and light sprinkerling on top provided just the perfect crunch and contrast to the moist cake and creamy cheese.

This one’s definately a winner!

* * * * *

Jamie’s Carrot Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling
+ Dorie’s Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake:
285g unsalted butter, softened
285g light brown soft sugar
5 large eggs, separated
Zest and juice of 1 orange
170g self-raising flour, sifted
1 slightly heaped teaspoon baking powder
115g ground almonds
115g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra for serving (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
285g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
Sea salt

Filling:
115g Mascarpone cheese
225g full-fat cream cheese (I used Philly)
85g icing sugar, sifted
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Frosting:
225g cream cheese, at room temperature
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

To make Cake:
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF/Gas 4). Grease and line a 22cm/9” round spring form pan with greaseproof paper.Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor (I used my trusty old standmixer!) until pale and fluffy. Beat in the yolks, one at a time and add the orange zest and juice. Stir in the sifted flour and baking powder, and add the ground almonds, walnuts, spices and grated carrot and mix well together.In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then gently fold them into the cake mix.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and baked for about 50 minutes (depending on your oven. Mine only took 45mins) until golden and risen.
You can check if the cake is cooked by poking a cocktail stock into it. Remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10mins, then turn it out on the rack and leave for at least an hour. You will want to leave the cake in the tin for not longer than 10 min, as I find that it tends to adhere itself to the paper – not a pretty sight!

To make Filling:
Mix all the icing ingredients together and spread in between layers.

To make Frosting:
Working with the stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract. I used 1½ tbsp to cut through the sweetness, but I think this really is up to you. I also threw in some lemon zest , and the frosting is gorgeous with specks of yellow.

February 22, 2008

A Chilly Night, and a Sloppy Dish

Filed under: Themed — lynettechng @ 3:49 pm

On the weekend, I was invited to a friend’s place in the New Territories for the very traditional Hong Kong countryside dish of 盆菜 (or Poon Choi, in Cantonese, which is literally translated as Basin Dish,). This is usually consumed during the Chinese Lunar New Year, and seeing as today is the last day of the new year, I figured that it was an apt time to post. 

I’m Chinese, albeit one with diluted knowledge of her customs and traditions. And I was psyched to try this new dish, which I had never before tried! I had heard all about it, and could not wait to finally have a taste. 

I arrived in Fanling, a town in the New Territories, bright and early (alright, it was half past 2 in the afternoon, but it was a Saturday, and deemed to be considered early enough), and after a quick and tasty lunch of 点心 (Dim Sum,), we headed off to one of the little villages for an afternoon of mahjong (considered to be Hong Kongs national hobby!). I was learning the game, and I lost $40. Enough said. 

Dinner time rolled by soon enough, and we all bundled up in coats and jackets and headed down to the car park. Yes, you heard right. Car park. The management had cleared the lots of cars, and set up 25 tables and a stage for karaoke! Fun!  The main attraction was brought out. A whole heaping basin full of food! Layer upon layer of good stuff like pork, beancurd, radish, dried beancurd skin, mushrooms, fishball, big fresh water prawns, chicken, duck I could go on and on!! It was all simmered in a lovely broth, and was bubbling away. The heat a sweet reprieve from the cold and the chill! 

Alright, I know It doesnt look like much. Actually, it looks like a whole bowl of cohesive gunk but then again, Chinese good isnt popular for its presentation. Its all about the taste and flavour, and this dish had it in spades! Its not fine dining., but standing around a table with 12 other people, eating out of a basin (that is a friend is to be believed, was the basin that people used to wash their feet in in the past!!), BLISS! The camaraderie amongst friends, the general good feelings from surrounding tables I just cant find the right words to describe it. It just has to be experienced. 

Happy New Year, everyone!! May the year of the Rat bring you and yours good health, wealth and prosperity!

**Edit: Apologies for the terrible lighting of the photos. I did my best with minimal light, in semi-darkness, in a parking lot!!

February 21, 2008

Do you really need a Sweetheart?

Filed under: Chocolate, Cookies — lynettechng @ 12:27 am

I had contemplated back-dating this post. Yes, that’s right. Cheating.

Why?, you may ask. Well, simply because I was late in posting for Valentine’s, that’s why. And not wanting to be left out, I contemplated back-dating this post. But while drafting it in my mind, it started to dawn on me that I didn’t have to. Simply because I was going to say that Valentine’s isn’t just for the couples out there.

This year, I don’t have a Honey to snuggle up to… but I do have a few Sweethearts that deserve my attention. To my girls (and a couple of boys) out there, this year’s Valentine’s treats are for you. For always being there, especially through the rough, for putting up with my whinging, my worse than ever bad temper, and most of all, my absence.

So this year, my Valentine’s is proudly late, because my true Valentines won’t mind…

* * * * *

This is Thomas Keller’s TKOs from his book, ‘Essence of Chocolate’… which is nothing more than a grown-up, classy tribute to the humble Oreo.

My filling is brown (as opposed to the white filling the recipe calls for) because I was initially going for the half recipe, but forgot it while heating my cream, and poured it all over my lovely chopped Valrhona milk chocolate which was a half recipe portion (and all I had!). I had to make up for the other half with a 66% Valrona Alpaco so I would not lose the milkiness the filling was meant for (and also that it was a left over packet from the Gateau frm the last TWD!). Waste not, want not…

It was still a perfect blend, so if you’re a true-blue chocoholic, and want to go for a chocolate filling, please don’t let me (or Thomas Keller) stop you.

This dough does not re-roll well. So I would suggest you roll it only once, and try and get as many cookies as you can out of each. Of course, if you do not mind weird-looking cookies, or if you wish to have some samples for ‘quality control’ (one must always set high standards), feel free to re-roll them. They might not look pretty, but rest assured, they still taste absolutely delish!

I urge you to try these… Remember. You don’t need a Sweetheart to make these… use round cookie cutters instead!

TKOs

Filling
1/2 cup cream
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Cookies
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
7 1/2 ounces butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes

For the filling:
Place the white chocolate in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk together to melt the chocolate. If it doesn’t melt completely, place it in a double-boiler to finish the melting process.

Transfer the filling to another bowl and let cool until it has thickened enough to spread – it may take a few hours. I quickened up the process by putting it in the fridge for 20mins (while my cookies were baking), and whisking it to give it a bit of fluff and texture. I found that it set pretty quickly after being in the fridge.

For the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F / Gas 4).

Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in an electric mixer. With the mixer still running on low speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time. Let the dough continue mixing until it comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured working surface and work into a solid block. Divide the block into two pieces.

Working with one piece at a time, roll out to 1/8″ thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart (cookies will spread a bit in the oven).

Bake the cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes depending on your oven (mine only took 11 minutes, so keep watch!), rotating the sheets halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to wire racks and let finish cooling.

To assemble the cookies:
Using a small spoon, scoop a small dollop of filling into the center of the underside of each cookie. Top with another cookie right side up. I love mine with tons of icing (it’s top quality valrhona! so sue me.), so I placed dollops on 3 points of the heart, and squished it. YUM!

Press the cookies together until the filling spreads out to the edges.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

February 19, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie – Almost-Fudge Gâteau

Filed under: Chocolate, TWD — lynettechng @ 11:11 pm

It took me quite a while, after looking through so many blogging events online, sifting through the ones that looked too intimidating, I finally found one that fit the bill. It wasn’t a contest (i managed to squell the competitive streak in me), and it would keep me baking. Or rather, encourage me to blog about the lovelies that came out of my oven…

You see, I bake. Quite a fair bit. But what generally happens is that I baked and ate them. End of story. I’ve thought about blogging about them, but that’s where it ended. That’s right, ladies and gents! I am a procrastinating baker! There. I’ve said it. Hello, my name is Lynette, and I’m….


Big thanks to Laurie for coming up with Tuesdays with Dorie! Where a member gets to choose from Baking each week, and everyone does their take on it and posts about it on their blog. This week’s (and my very first go at this) is the Almost-Fudge Gâteau. And might I say, this is one decadent cake, and highly recommended for a special occassion.

Dorie recommends a bittersweet chocolate for this recipe, but looking at the ingredients (very little flour and butter… but 5 eggs!), I figured that this was going to be a pretty dense piece of art, so i opted to go with a 66% Valrhona Alpaco, that has a lovely woody, earthy taste. It was G.O.O.D! It was dense, as expected, and the lighter chocolate worked perfectly. As the name described, it was almost like fudge, with a hint of crumb. Delish!

The cake, overall, was fairly easy to make. although the part where it called for the beating of the egg whites to ‘firm but glossy peaks’ did scare me for a minute. I’ve always had this irrational fear for egg whites, or to be specific, whipping egg whites. You see, there’s always talk about how you have to be careful with whipped egg whites. How they are delicate, and how, when handled wrongly, they could ruin everything!! And I didn’t want that to happen. And it’s this fear that had kept me from attempting to make my favourites like meringues (Dorie has a FAB cocoa almond meringues recipe in Baking, pg 155) and macaroons… I speak in the past tense, but that’s another story for another day.

The gâteau (or iced sponge cake, in French) rose beautifully in the oven. Mind you, the only raising agents in this were the revered egg whites, so this meant that they would make or break this cake. You could probably imagine me pacing back and forth in the kitchen, peering at it through the oven window. And of course my sigh of relief when it did what Dorie said it would, rise on the sides, then puffed in the center. Phew!


The glaze was delicious, and was the perfect balance to the cake. The sprinkles, on hindsight, were a little tacky. But it had been so cold and dreary in Hong Kong for the last couple of days, that I wanted to inject some color into it.

Yellow + Orange = Sun, no? Well.. my bad! *shrugs*

I leave you the recipe, and strongly encourage everyone out there to give this a try… you know you’ll regret it if you don’t!

* * * * *

Almost-Fudge Gâteau

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that’s fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.

Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

To Make the Optional Glaze:

First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven – the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake – it will just add to its charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you’re impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

February 15, 2008

:: the one where… ::

Filed under: general, Uncategorized — Tags: — lynettechng @ 8:21 am

The lost one found her true calling…

It’s a year since I’ve packed my bags, and moved to Hong Kong. I won’t try and paint a pretty picture that it’s been fun and easy. It hasn’t. But I’ve learnt a lot from this. And I’m all grown up, too. No, I’m not. But I’d like to think I have though. Allow me my idle daydreams…

And while it was but a spark of interest a year ago, in the time that I have been in Hong Kong, it has developed into a passion. Striving to find that perfect recipe, the right balance of flavors, the flawless finish to the celebration cake…

And so, a new chapter begins, as I delve into the culinary world, and try to learn as much as I can in as little time as possible, and hopefully dessert after deliciously baked dessert will pass through my kitchen doors.

I’ve been urged, encouraged to start a food blog, and in all honesty, I did fiddle with the idea for a while. But then Life got in the way, and I procrastinated. I guess the time has finally come. And I’m going to do it.

Ladies and gents, you’re reading the first post of my blog, now dedicated to food, and all things delicious. Working with me is my new Nikon D40, which will hopefully do justice to the scrumptious little things.I love chocolate, and I hope you do too. Because there’s a lot of it coming!

xx
L

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