Baking to De-Stress- Girls Night In: Green Tea Sponge Cake + Eggs Benny

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Too much on my mind. Lots of thinking lately. Looking through old diary and realized how philosophical I was once upon a time. Flash forward to 10 years later (yes…10 years later. SIGH) and here I am still always unsure really of what’s on my mind. To save you all the insightful deets that may bore you, I’m in process of sorting out my life, my life-long happiness, and really getting things back on track and finding myself. Emo eh? Sorry, back to topic….

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Today, I woke up with no purpose except to whip up a good dinner for my bestie. And yes, cooking and baking completely de-stresses me and it takes my mind off other things and all I think about is how the cake will turn out and I just get swept off my feet. Sounds a lot like love…

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Green Tea Sponge Cake: (recipe adapted from food.com)
Note: If you follow original recipe via link above, it makes a 8” cake. But since it was literally for two people, I changed it to fit a 6” pan which is perfect for those nights when you just feel like you need to just eat yourself to sleep 🙂 Yes. We all have those nights. I hope I’m not alone!

Ingredients:
– 5/8 cup (around 157g) all-purpose flour
– 5/8 cup (around 157g) granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup honey
– 5/8 teaspoon (just a little more than half a teaspoon) vanilla extract
– 5/8 tablespoon (just a little more than half a tablespoon) green tea powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 4 large eggs, separated
– 1/8 cream of tartar (just put in a pinch- doesn’t have to be exact! the point of baking is to relax)

Directions:
1. Whisk sugar, honey, vanilla, green tea powder, and salt into egg yolks until everything is mixed together.
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2. Fill a pan with hot water and place bowl in it.
3. With an electric mixer (I used a hand-held one for convenience) and beat for about 5 minutes on medium-high speed until mixture turns pale yellow and has doubled in volume.
4. Gently sift in flour into egg yolk mixture.
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5. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer until foamy. When eggs are foamy, sprinkle in 1/2 tablespoon of sugar and cream of tartar.
6. Beat until egg white mixture forms stiff peaks.
7. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites gently into the egg yolk mixture.
8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
9. Use parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan and grease the sides. Pour in batter.
10. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. When done, the cake sides will pull away from the pan slightly; top will be flat and will feel spongy when pressed with finger.
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11. Let cake cool for 10 minutes. Then run a small knife between the edge of cake and pan and remove to let it cool completely so that you can move on to the frosting phase.
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For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
Makes enough to frost a 3 layer 6” cake.
Ingredients:
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:
1. With an electric mixer, whip cream until soft peaks form.
2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until cream holds peaks.
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And of course, when there’s sweet, you always crave salty. I guess it’s kinda in human nature to crave the opposite…ANYWAYS. FOCUS. OK. So, here’s my dinner for tonight: my beloved eggs bennys with homemade hollandaise sauce:

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Revised Homemade Hollandaise Sauce (recipe adapted from gotnomilk.wordpress.com)
Note: I halved original recipe (so it should make around 4 servings) and made modifications due to lack of available ingredients and utensils in my kitchen so it ended up quite runny, but I ended up saving it by mixing cold water with a bit of corn starch and reheating the mixture while add the thickener and although it wasn’t perfect, it still tasted pretty good! So here’s my twisted version:

Ingredients:
– 2 egg yolks
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon mustard (original recipe called for dry mustard)
– 1/2 tablespoon vinegar (original recipe called for fresh lemon juice)
– 4 tablespoons margarine
– Bit of cold water and pinch of corn starch
Directions:
1. Melt margarine in saucepan.
2. Using a hand-held mixture, mix egg yolks, salt, mustard and vinegar.
3. Reheat the melted margarine until it starts to boil and slowly drizzle it into the egg yolk mixture whilst continuing to mix.
4. Mix cornstarch with cold water
5. Reheat mixture at low heat and add corn starch mixture whilst continuing to stir and you should slowly see it start to thicken. Then turn off heat and it’s ready to serve!

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I made a loaf of my baguette recipe and topped a slice off with a perfectly poached egg (key is to add vinegar to boiling water, stir to create a hurricane-like effect, break in egg and voila! It will all stick together), and drizzled with the hollandaise sauce.

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Dinner ready to serve along with a glass of wine. Then seriously, just chill out….

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Flourless Egg Tart = Revised Creme Brûlée :)

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I’m way to excited to be flying in 2 days to Hong Kong to visit my friends and family! Most of all, I miss my nieces soooo much! Seriously they grow up so fast, every time I miss them for a month or so, they just seem older!!

Also, I was doing some light cleaning and since I’ll be away for 3 weeks, that means time to clear things from the fridge that may go hulk on me during this time. The only things were a pint of whipping cream and eggs yolks. This seriously screams custard!!

When I was growing up, my mom would always make sure there was a steady supply of egg tarts around. My sisters and I loved them but for some reason we weren’t that fond of the pastry shell! So, we always ended up using a spoon to scoop out all the creamy goodness. My mom eventually found our “stash” of hidden empty tarts so she stopped bringing them home since it was such a waste. SIGH. That marked the end of our egg tart fest. 

Oddly enough, I ended up always avoiding egg tarts as I got older, mostly because I felt guilty wasting the shell in public (maybe I still had some in private hehehe). But today solved all my problems! This recipe produced such a creamy eggy texture, I went into custard heaven! I know, I know, they don’t look like the best round custards you normally see but I’m all about convenience and trust me, these tasted amazing!

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Egg Tart Custard (recipe adapted from www.cbc.ca)
Recipe makes 8 (if using ramekins) or 16 if using muffin tins! FYI: I quartered the recipe so you that I could eat it all by today 🙂

Ingredients:
– 3 cups (750mL) whipping cream
– 8 egg yolks, room temperature
– 1/3 cup (75mL) granulated sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) vanilla

Directions:
1. In a saucepan, heat cream over medium-high heat until steaming.
2. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the cream. Slowly is good to ensure that you don’t cook the yolks!
3. Fill ramekins, place into a shallow pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the ramekins. I don’t have those, so instead, I used my disposable muffin tins and cut them into twos. Then I filled my bread loaf tin with boiling water and places my tins inside!
4. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for 30 minutes or until edge is set but centre still jiggles and knife inserted in centre comes out creamy. Remove from water; let cool on racks as it will solidify a bit.
5. You can either cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until chilled and set or as I did, I ate them as soon as they were cool enough to not burn my tongue!

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Thick Chewy Pizza Dough

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As most of you know, pizza is the ultimate food for me! I can seriously eat this everyday, for every meal. Well….maybe. Anyhoos. I honestly do miss Paisanos Pizza in Hong Kong- I used to walk by Central and grab a slice for equivalent of around $3 per slice and it was huge (yea yea…I know that usually prompts “that’s what she said”…) but BACK to topic: It was literally the size of my face! And the best part? They deliver 24” pizzas. That’s right. You literally have to tilt the pizza 60 degrees in order to get it through the doorway!

I’m always on the quest for find the pizza and I think I hit it close to home with Bibo– it is amazing: thin, chewy and the crust is to die for!! Obviously I wanted to replicate this and in my search, I found this thick chewy pizza dough recipe. I must admit, it’s not close to Bibo’s but it’s different from my previous recipe which was more of a thin crispy crust. This one is a thick crust and oh-so-chewy 🙂

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Thick & Chewy Pizza Dough: (adapted from www.recipes.com)
Recipe makes 1 GIANT (oh yeaaaaa) pizza crust

Ingredients:
– 2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
– 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
– 1 1/2 cups warm water
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
2. Add in warm water and oil.
3. Mix dough and knead (I used my KA mixer: mix on speed 2 with your dough hook for around 6 – 7 minutes). Feel free to add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky or more water if the dough is too dry.
4. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, cling wrap and cover with towel. Let the dough rise until doubled; this should take about 1 hour.
5. Once it has risen, punch down the dough, and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out.
6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping and baking it.
7. Top pizza with desired ingredients!
8. Brush crust with olive oil (I totally missed this step!)
9. Bake pizza until cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Strawberries & Cream Log Cake

I love love love baking dates 🙂 After thinking and thinking about what to bake next, my friend Angela and I settled on a Strawberry & Cream Sponge Cake Roll. It was the perfect size and I love how light this sponge cake tastes and I always hands-down prefer whipped cream vs. buttercream! And fresh strawberries? Heaven!

It was not at all a quiet baking session today since we had the pleasure of little Maddy’s “singing”. She’s reaching the toddler stage and just so energetic!! Crawling and trial walking all over the kitchen, she was our entertainer today 🙂

So, as I was saying, we wanted to do something new and different but still keeping it simple. I swear next time will be tiramisu since that was on our list but due to time constraints, we thought it best to go with something where we have the ingredients already readily available.

Strawberry Log Cake: (source from www.grouprecipes.com)
Recipe makes one log

Ingredients:

Cake:

– 4 large egg yolks
– 2 large eggs
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1 cup sifted cake flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– powdered icing sugar (to sprinkle on top of finished log)

Strawberry Filling:
– 1 cup whipping cream
– 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
– 3 tablespoons lemon curd (recipe here!), at room temperature
– 1 pint basket (about 3 1/4 cups) strawberries, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Directions:

Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 18- x 12-inch jellyroll – sheet pan with aluminum foil; coat with oil or vegetable spray.
2. In large mixer bowl beat yolks and eggs at high speed about 5 minutes until thick and lemon-colored. Continuing at high speed, gradually beat in granulated sugar until mixture is pale and thick.
3. Gently fold in dry ingredients (i.e. flour, baking powder and salt) except powdered sugar to blend thoroughly.
4. Then fold in water, oil and vanilla.
5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake in center of oven about 10 minutes until springy to the touch.
6. Meanwhile, coat a clean dishtowel with powdered sugar. Invert hot cake onto towel close to one long edge. Gently peel off foil. Trim 1/2 inch off each short side of cake. Note: We totally missed this step!! Definitely a must for next time
7. Starting from long side, tightly roll cake and towel. Set on rack to cool completely. Note: We laid cling wrap underneath the cake so that we could roll it like sushi 🙂

Strawberry Filling Directions:
1. In mixer bowl whip cream to form soft peaks.
2. Beat in sugar to form stiff peaks.
3. Then fold in lemon curd to blend thoroughly.
4. Mix in chopped strawberries.

Assembly:
1. Gently unroll cake. Spread strawberry mixture evenly on cake and re-roll.
2. Place seam-side-down.
3. Dust with powdered sugar.
4. Cut into 8 (about 1 3/4-inch) equal slices. Place each slice on serving plate. Garnish with whole and halved strawberries (optional).

Side Notes:
The original recipe called for 10 minutes of baking time, but since we are both (sadly) not blessed with mathematic genes, we failed to make adjustments that was probably required since we used a cookie sheet for the pan. Hence, the cake batter was spread out thinner and it was a bit denser than what we would’ve liked, but next time’s the charm perhaps! So next time? Bake shorter! Maybe 6-7 minutes and keep monitoring?

Also, the filling asked for lemon curd to be mixed into the whipping cream. Again, I halved the recipe and it seemed I put in too much liquid. Result? Lemon curd that was slightly more on the runny side. The recipe we used is here and I’m sure it was well intended to work out as a legit creamy curd 🙂

Verdict: It really wasn’t as hard as we initially thought! I admit, we were slightly intimated when it came down to the rolling part but we made it! Few cracks here and that’s why there’s powdered icing on top- masks it all! This is perfect for breakfast (there’s protein from eggs, calcium from cream and come on, a good serving of fruits!), lunch, dinner or dessert 🙂 Definitely one recipe I’ll be keeping to try to perfect! It sure was a lot of fun making it though!

Countdown to Christmas…..teeheehee

I just couldn’t help myself. Christmas songs everywhere and I’m loving it!! Even taking a peepee break in the mall washrooms with festive songs has been making me smile 🙂 The Vancouver rain? Not even complaining right now- it’s CHRISTMAS for god’s sake! Seriously time to do some shopping, drink some egg nog (spiked of course) and build em’ gingerbread houses.

I feel like I’m getting a bit…hmmm….well…let’s just say nowadays I much rather curl up warm under a fleece blanket, with a cup of vanilla chai latte, watching Storage Wars. Or the Next Iron Chef. And most recently? Live here, Buy That. Ahhh…love vicariously living through adventurous people while safely at home. Ok. That last part made me sound like a hermit but…well…you know what I mean I hope!

Anyways, that’s why I got excited @ Games Night + Potluck/ BYOB hosted by my friend, Monica. She is seriouslyhands-down, the best host. Her Toby is the friendliest, Caesar Milan-watching dog I’ve ever seen! Surprised the fiancé as it has been awhile since a dog has not pee-ed or attacked him (true story). Old school jello shots, ribs, lasagna, homemade sugar-glazed walnuts, bruschetta + cupcakes = best way to spend a Saturday night 🙂

And oh yes. Of course I brought cupcakes and of course they are slapped silly with Christmas love ♥ I wished I took more pics of the cupcakes but it was me with a bottle of wine and cakes. Just couldn’t focus!!

I made Red Velvet Cupcakes (I halved my recipe here from my previous post for a good batch of 14 cupcakes). And Christmas isn’t Christmas without green….

Key Lime Cupcakes (adapted from www.food.com)
Original recipe states 12 cupcakes but I was able to make 14 – 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:
– 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 1/4 cups sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
– 1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
– 1/4 teaspoon green food colouring
– 3/4 cup of almond milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar (my own substitute for 3/4 cup buttermilk since I never have that in my fridge! You can use this combo with almond milk, regular milk, soy milk, rice milk, etc.)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth.
3. Add sugar and beat until blended.
4. Add in eggs one at a time.
5. Then add in lime juice, lime peel and food colouring.
6. Sift in flour and alternate with milk mixture (or buttermilk). Tip: If you are using an electric mixer, you can just add in flour and milk mixture at one and mix at low (2) speed.
7. Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Around 2/3 full is good.
8 . Bake cupcakes for 20 – 25 minutes. Do toothpick test to ensure it’s fully cooked. Original recipe says to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan but I like to immediately remove from pan to let cool so that the cupcakes don’t overcook in the heated pan.
9. Make sure it is fully cooled before you frost them!
*You can always make these a couple days in advance and wrap them in an airtight container and freeze them. Just let them defrost before you frost.

Assembly:
1. While these babies were cooling, I started on my marshmallow fondant. I made a batch of white and kneaded in the food colouring as I went along.
2. I used round cookie cutters for the toppers and a flower cutter for the “snowflake”. For Rudolph, I used a smaller round cutter for the face and an even smaller one for the eyes and nose. The ears were from the same flower cutter but I just cut it in half and nipped out one petal to shape it into an antler-like thing 🙂 The eyeballs are just black fondant rolled balls.
3.  You can do all these pieces separately. When ready to assemble Rudolph, just tip water onto the pieces to stick them together. You can also do these in advance and let them air dry overnight.
4. Prepare your buttercream frosting (I used 1/2 the recipe which was sufficient to lightly frost around 30 cupcakes). Spread a layer on the top (you may even want to trim the cupcakes which an high dome top so that it is flat enough for the fondant topper to sit on) and place the topper on.
5. NOM NOM NOM

Blueberry Oatmeal Loaf

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Bread baking is still intriguing as there’s sooo many techniques to making a nice, fluffy, chewy loaf. BUT I do need a change for breakfast! There’s loads of frozen blueberries in the fridge and some quick cook oats. It seemed way too obvious: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins! But, as I mentioned before, I’m still stuck in my bread baking phase, so I ended up using this recipe and baking it into a loaf pan 🙂

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Blueberry Oatmeal Loaf (adapted from www.food.com)
Recipe makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf

Ingredients:
– 1 1/4 cups uncooked quick oatmeal
– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 tablespoon baking powder (Tip: If you’re out like I was, just sub with 3/4 teaspoons baking soda + 1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar)
– 
1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
– 1/2 cup water (Note: Original recipe called for 1 cup milk which can replace the 1/2 cup yogurt & 1/2 cup water- just depends on what you have in stock!)
– 
1 egg
– 1/4 cup margarine
– 3/4 cup fresh blueberries or 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder (or baking soda + cream of tartar) and salt in a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, combine the yogurt & water (or milk), egg and margarine.
4. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix until moist only. Just stir and do not beat.
5. Fold in blueberries.
6. Sprinkle some cinnamon (around 1 teaspoon) on top – optional
7. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full or fill greased loaf pan.
8. Bake 20- 25 minutes for muffins and 30 – 35 minutes for loaf.

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Serve warm or eat cooled! Equally good- I loved the texture of the oatmeal in the loaf and with the tartness of the blueberries, it was a perfect combination. Not too sweet which makes it amazing for breakfast 🙂

FYI Nutritional Info:
Per Serving (based on 8 servings)
209.4 calories, 4g fat, 34.5g carb, 5g protein, 2.1g fibre

C’est la vie ♥ French Baguette

I know, I know…I’m on a TOTAL bread making phase. Can’t help myself, but I’ve been going through these like a mad woman. I knew I’ve always loved bread but now I know I loooovvveeee homemade bread. Period.

I miss my girls in HK desperately and yes, even though Vancouver is lovely, and it is home, I can’t help but still feel like I’m settling in! Why? Well, there’s been all these wedding planning going on and our place isn’t ready until next May = lots and I mean lots of time for baking in the meantime.

I still think about the amazing trip in July to Paris with the ladies and although I cannot wait to everyone in December, I’m definitely craving those baguettes we had in the morning at Paul’s, even though most mornings was spent with baguette in paper bag, munching and speed-walking through the streets to shop 🙂

Here’s my first go at baking me a good loaf of French Baguette.

French Baguette (adapted from www.AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients:
– 2 1/2 cups bread flour (note: using all-purpose flour still turned out great!)
– 1 tablespoon white sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
– 1 cup water, warm

For Brushing Top:
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 tablespoon water

Directions:
1. Place all dry ingredients (i.e. flour, sugar, salt and yeast) into a large mixing bowl.
2. Create dam in middle and pour in warm water.
3. Using a dough hook (speed 2), mix until incorporated and mixture forms a dough. Then continue to mix for around 5 minutes (i.e. around 7 – 10 minutes if taking out, flouring clean surface and kneading by hand)
4. Grease a bowl and transfer dough and turn to coat with oil. Cling wrap it and put it in a damp place to rise.
5. Be patient- let is rise for around 1 hour (sometimes 30 minutes will do the trick) and it will have doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
6. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16×12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8×12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf.
7. Cover again with cling wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it has doubled again.
8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
9. Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water and brush over the tops of the loaves.
10. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Ok. Verdict? THIS IS FREAKING GOOD STUFF. Next time, I’ll alter it by adding olives 🙂

FYI Nutritional Info
Per Baguette (above recipe makes 2 large baguettes):
572.5 calories, 2g fat, 116g carbs, 20g protein, 5g fibre