Weekend Cooking: Making bread with the tangzhong method

 

 

What is tangzhong?

Well it is essentially a sort of roux, made by cooking flour and a liquid (either water or milk) until it reaches 65C or 150F. Most cooking blogs and websites that discuss tangzhong point to this 2007 cookbook 65C Bread (65°C湯種麵包) which I think is written by a Taiwanese and popularized this method in Asia. But the thing is, if you have ever eaten bread from Chinese bakeries, you may have noticed that it’s a lot softer than your typical ‘western’ style bread. In Singapore, the few old-school bakeries that are around make a very soft white bread – I’m guessing that the crusts are cut off or something as it is a seriously WHITE bread. So who knows, maybe all this time they’ve been using a tangzhong method or other.

Why bother?

Bread made with the tangzhong is softer, lighter. According to this blog by pastry chef Jennifer Field, the gel (the tangzhong) helps to hold on to water and also prevent some gluten formation, resulting in a softer bread.

My experience

I first tried the tangzhong method early last year, but I think I had added too much of the tanghzhong, resulting in too soft a dough and it was a lot harder to manipulate. Also I was far too ambitious in starting with a hot dog bun recipe, where the dough had to be rolled around the sausages. You can read more about my attempt at Chinese bakery-style hot dog buns here.

I’m not sure what attracted me back to the tangzhong method this year, there must have been a blog post that popped up somewhere, but I ended up on the blog Christine’s Recipes, which quite a few other food bloggers adapt from. This bacon and cheese tangzhong bread in particular caught my eye. But of course I didn’t have the right cheese (I wasn’t going to waste my good Brie on it!) but noticed at the end of the post she mentioned turning it into raisin bread. And in my house, there are always raisins. So that’s what I went for.

When baking I prefer to use my digital weighing machine as it’s far more accurate than scooping cups of flour

Tangzhong ingredients (enough for two loaves)
50g / 1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup milk (can use water or 50/50 water and milk)

350g / 2½ cups bread flour
55g /3tbsp+2tsp caster sugar – I increased it slightly to 4 tsp for my raisin bread
5g /1tsp salt
56g egg (1 large egg)
7g /1tbsp+1tsp milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional) – I did not have milk powder and it tastes fine without
125ml/ ½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (half of the tangzhong you make from above)
5 to 6g /2 tsp instant yeast
30g /3tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature) – my bread machine has a ‘rest’ period so I cut my butter into small pieces, straight from the fridge and put it in

I also added:
1 tsp vanilla essence
About 1 cup of raisins (soaked in hot water for about 5-10 minutes)

Making the tangzhong is easy enough. I used flour and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula.

You can use a thermometer to reach 65C/150F or do as Christine suggests and check for ‘lines’ that remain as you stir the thickened roux. In the end I did both, once I saw the lines, I checked the temperature. Just right.

Transfer to a small bowl, place clingfilm directly on the tangzhong to stop it from drying up. Cool to room temperature. This tangzhong amount is good for two loaves of bread, and can be kept wrapped in the fridge for a few days. But if it starts to change colour, toss it.

To make the bread dough:
I used a bread machine on its regular dough setting – it’s a lot more convenient, and also the recipe warns that it can be quite messy (which I guess means sticky?). If you don’t have a bread machine or mixer, please refer back to Christine’s Recipes for more details.

Because I was using a bread machine with a separate yeast container on its lid, I added in all the dry and then wet ingredients, and the yeast in the container, then let it run. The machine goes through a couple of rise cycles as well as the kneading.

When finished, remove the dough from the machine, place onto a clean floured surface or nonstick mat, cut into four pieces, shape each piece roughly into a ball, cover loosely with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes (see below for step-by-step photos)

Using a rolling pin, roll each ball out into a rough oval shape. Scatter the raisins evenly on the oval. Starting from one end, roll the dough into a kind of Swiss roll. Then use the rolling pin to roll it out into a rough oval shape again. And then starting from one end, roll the dough up into a kind of Swiss roll.

Place each roll side by side into the loaf tin. Mine is a silicon loaf tin but you should grease yours if it isn’t.

Let the dough proof again for about 40 minutes.

If you would like it to have that shiny surface, brush some egg wash or milk over the the surface. I only did this for my first loaf and forgot about it for the others. No problem there.

Bake in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. If you’ve never baked bread before, sometimes it’s easier to check the doneness of bread with a thermometer. Breads are done at about 190F/87C. Try to angle your thermometer towards the centre of the loaf – you can do it near one of the folds or from the bottom.

Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

(adapted from Christine’s Recipes)

 

I also attempted to make a chocolate bread – adding about 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Instead of using raisins, I used chocolate rice, sprinkling it before rolling. My 5yo adored the chocolate bread and ate it for breakfast every day. The 3yo didn’t like it as it probably didn’t have enough chocolate for him. I would try this again with more sugar and more chocolate rice or substitute it with chocolate chips.

Step-by-step photos

Dividing into four portions, rolling it into a ball, letting it rest

Rolling it out into a rough oval shape

Scatter the chocolate rice all over

Rolling the dough

Rolling it out again into an oval

Then rolling it up again

Doesn’t matter if its smaller than the loaf tin – it will rise during the proof

 

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Weekend Cooking: Chocolate birthday cake with chocolate flour frosting (and sprinkles)

 

All birthdays need cake. Chocolate cake was the request of the birthday boy for his very important fifth birthday.

Chocolate cake! Chocolate frosting! Sprinkles!

So I think this cake pretty much aced all three requirements.

Chocolate cake?

Check.

Chocolate frosting?

Check.

Sprinkles?

Stars and dinosaurs. Check and check!

The chopstick-mounted bunting was a way of eliminating the need for me to (1) pipe words onto a cake that was (2) already covered with sprinkles anyway. And the little dinosaurs on the cake was from a dollar bag of plastic dinos I happened upon at Target the other day.



  
 But this is a post not just pictures. So here I am, I am going to tell you about “flour frosting”. What the heck is that? I really am not sure how I came across flour frosting. I was googling “chocolate frosting”, looking for those that didn’t require heavy cream as I didn’t have any and didn’t really want to run out in the evening just to get some. And somehow somewhere, this flour frosting appeared. And best of all, seriously, BEST of all, it doesn’t even require powered (or confectioner’s as it is known here) sugar! That was a serious lifesaver because I realized that I had only about 3 cups of powdered sugar and most of these chocolate buttercream frosting recipes seemed to call for some 5 cups or more. And this is a cake for a 5-year-old. It HAS to be sweet. I wasn’t about to reduce the sugar by nearly half!

So I ended up using this recipe from Our Best Bites. It begins rather oddly on the stove – milk, flour, cocoa powder and sugar being stirred and heated together, then cooled in the fridge.

Silly me, it was getting late, I had had a long day (it is spring break and my kids are home ALL DAY and I am going bonkers thinking of how to occupy them!), I didn’t wait for the chocolate-flour mixture to cool enough (a cooled melted chocolate mixture is another part of this recipe) and my butter had been sitting on my counter for far too long. So when I first put it all together, it was more like chocolate pudding than frosting. As in, it was runny. So as any homebaker will do, I stuck it in the fridge and hoped for the best.

I hemmed and I hawed, I played The Simpsons game on my phone, I was too distracted to read. And when I couldn’t wait anymore, I pulled it out of the fridge, still a bit more-pudding-less-frosting, but I just slathered it on my four halves, slapped more on the tops and sides, almost forgot the sprinkles but remembered to sprinkle in time. Then stuck it in the fridge and worried about it all night forgot about it till the next morning.

And you know what? It turned out pretty well. It was actually a frosting that I  liked. It wasn’t too buttery as some buttercreams can be (yes I suppose that is a ‘duh’ moment). It was creamy and a bit silky. And surprisingly not too sweet. So I am saving this recipe for another time. It’s apparently also known as boiled-milk frosting or ermine icing, according to this New York Times recipe.
 The birthday boy declared it ‘the best cake in the world’. And that made my day. Thank goodness for five-year-olds who think homemade bunting is impressive and for sprinkles that make any homemade cake awesome.

 

Have you made flour frosting/boiled-milk frosting before? Also, if you have a go-to frosting recipe, please send me a link!

Oh and PS, my younger boy’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and he has already asked for a ‘strawberry cake’ so I would LOVE YOU if you have a strawberry cake recipe that I can borrow because I am not a strawberry person and haven’t a clue where to begin. 

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Weekend Cooking: Lemon cupcakes with salted vanilla frosting

I never quite caught onto the cupcake faze. A lot of cupcakes are too sweet, the cake itself not very tasty, it’s all about the frosting. Or maybe I’ve just only had too-sweet, not-very-good cake cupcakes. I mean it’s a huge business after all, there are cupcakes everywhere, dedicated cupcake stores.

So when a friend presented me with a bag of lemons from her tree, it was odd that my mind turned immediately to lemon cupcakes. As the husband later asked, why cupcakes? Why didn’t you think of lemon cake? I haven’t a clue. I just googled “lemon cupcakes” and decided that the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction was worth a try. I liked that she said it could be done in an hour. I have about slightly less than three hours in the morning on weekdays, but wanted to also take a walk (1/2 hour) and make pizza for the kids (I had made an overnight dough and it was rising again in the slightly warmer oven).

I pretty much followed the recipe, except that I reduced the sugar in the cupcake batter to about 150g  and added a splash of lemon essence. I tend to prefer desserts slightly less sweet so you may want to stick to the full 200g.

The vanilla frosting was accidentally salted extra by me. The recipe calls for 1/4 tsp and I seem to have added a bit more than 1/2 tsp. And instead of the 3-4 cups (360-480g) of powdered sugar, I used about 275g and found it to be sweet enough. (here’s the recipe)

Speaking of sweet, one of the most curious things about living in America (6 years now!) is that Easter = candy. I’m not religious (although the Husband is Catholic) so Easter was not a thing growing up, although in Singapore, Good Friday is a public holiday. It was fascinating to find SO MANY different types of Easter candy available at stores like Target. And the Easter egg hunt thing! The kids had so much fun doing that at preschool. Although thankfully the preschool has a no-candy rule so the eggs are filled with little erasers, trinkets or stickers.






So when life (or a friend) gives you lemons, make lemon cupcakes with salted vanilla frosting. Dinosaur sprinkles optional.

Happy Easter!

 

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Weekend Cooking: beef pasties

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I first came across the beef pasty during my year in England, Brighton to be exact. As a poor Masters student, I survived on my own cooking, lots of sandwiches and salads. And the very tasty beef pasty. There was a pasty shop a few minutes’ walk from the international students’ housing – here I have to add that this was one of the attractions of Sussex University – its international graduate students were housed in a block of apartments across the beach. As in a hop skip and a jump to the pebbly beach and freezing water, and just down the beach was Brighton Pier and all. I woke up every morning to seagulls and the smell of the sea. And walked along the beach almost every day. It even snowed twice when I was there. And the sight of a snow-covered beach is something else altogether!

Ok meandering memories aside, I fell for the pasty. It was cheap(ish), filling and hearty, and very convenient!

(Interestingly the Husband (then The Boyfriend) and I also came across pasties when we drove from Champaign-Urbana where he was studying* to Mackinac Island in Upper Peninsula Michigan. According to this website, Cornish miners brought it to Michigan when they went to work in the copper mines there!)

My Mum and I have made this recipe from Rachel Allen’s Bake before (she bought me the book!), although we’ve had to tweak it a bit as I find her recipes lacking in salt (her pastry dough calls for a “pinch” of salt – I’m not very good with ‘pinches’ and would really prefer things measured in teaspoon or grams!). But this is the first time we’ve made a spicy version! Kind of like a beef curry puff I suppose (although curry puff aficionados in Singapore will snort in derision).

I’m copying and pasting her recipe below, also available online. We followed her hot water crust pastry quite exactly, making a double portion of it, as we had 1 pound of beef to use up. I felt that the dough was too soft though, so I’ll try to find another recipe for hot water crust pastry the next time I make this!

With the filling, instead of coriander seeds and cumin seeds and mint, we used a mixture of spices at hand, such as a bit of all-spice and a Everyday Seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s that I use regularly. Nothing too strong as this non-spicy version was for the kids. I didn’t have mint so we substituted coriander leaves instead. And added corn kernels as well as the peas.

My Mum decided to also make a spicy pasty, using the other half of the pound of ground beef. We added to that two small parboiled potatoes, in small cubes, and some chillies, these were really spicy little chillies, so the seeds had to be removed first, then chopped fine. Also added to the mixture was one shallot chopped fine and plenty of coriander leaves and a bit of the stems too. She also added some garam masala.

(No specific proportions unfortunately, as we aren’t very good at measuring things and it’s more of a taste and see how it goes kind of cooking!)

Instead, here are some other recipes, Singapore/Malaysia-style, that you might want to consider, if you’re into spicy pastries. I am especially fond of spicy sardine puffs and miss eating those!

Chicken curry puffs – Rasa Malaysia

Epok epos (beef) – The Malay Kitchen

Spiral sardine puffs – To Food with Love

Curry puffs – The Food Canon

 

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Hot water crust pastry (Makes 250g) – from Rachel Allen’s Bake

INGREDIENTS

75g butter, cubed
100ml water
225g plain flour
Pinch of salt (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 egg, beaten

Place the butter and water in a medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, then allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg.

Pour the hot liquid into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Spread the mixture out on a large plate with the wooden spoon and allow to cool (about 15 minutes), then wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm.

 

Beef and pea pasty filling – from Rachel Allen’s Bake

2 tbsp olive oil
150g (5oz) onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp finely grated root ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
200g (7oz) minced beef
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
100g (3 ½ oz) fresh or frozen peas
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 egg, beaten

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425°F), Gas mark 7. Make the pastry.

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over a medium heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are soft and slightly golden.

Grind the seeds in a mortar with a pestle, then add to the pan with the beef, tomato purée, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until the beef is cooked. Add the peas for the last 1–2 minutes of cooking. Add the chopped mint, then season to taste and allow to cool.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it is approximately 2mm (1/16 in) thick. Using a small saucer or something similar, cut the dough into 12cm (4 ½ in) circles.

Lay 1 generous tablespoon of the mixture on one half of the circle and brush the edge of the other half with beaten egg, then fold it over to form a semi-circle. Pinch the edges together to seal, making sure there is no air trapped inside, and mark the edges with a fork. Repeat until all the circles and filling are used up.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of each comes out hot. Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

Verdict: We LOVED the spicy version! I’m so going to make it again. I think I might try the non-spicy version with some fresh basil and some chopped up bacon or pancetta next time.

Or maybe try this version from The Guardian. Or maybe these mushroom, cheese and potato pasties from Hungry Hinny!

 

* yes we had a rather long-distance relationship, having met (on a blind date no less!) a few months before we were both going onto graduate studies. Me to England, him to Illinois. Then him to the San Francisco Bay Area, and me back in Singapore. It’s been quite a journey!

 

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Cook It Up!: A Cookbook Challenge 

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Weekend Cooking: Quick Brioche and Lemon cupcakes

I’ve been hesitant about trying the recipes from The World of Bread by Malaysian baker Alex Goh (can’t seem to find much information online about him other than this outdated blog, but here’s a link to a food blogger who has tried out quite a few of his recipes, including the intriguing Celery Bread).

My mother-in-law gave this to me for Christmas 2010 and nearly four years later, I’m trying out a recipe!

The problem is that baking, especially bread-making, requires specific instructions and the recipes in this book aren’t written that way. The publisher was probably trying to squeeze as much as possible – in English and Malay as you can see below – in this slim volume so details are scant.

 

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I guess I’m used to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible where she specifies both the time and the Kitchenaid mixer speed for each of mixing. And how much the dough should rise during proofing.

So I was rather lost when I read through this recipe. But decided to persevere. Partly because I was intrigued by the instructions to place the dough in the freezer. In the freezer! Dough! In the freezer!

But yeah, it worked, kind of! I didn’t bother with the ‘tete’ or the head so it looks less like a brioche and more like a muffin, because, well, I used a muffin tin. So this brioche-muffin doesn’t look like a brioche but still tasted relatively eggy and buttery. And more importantly, it was really really quick. Just two hours of proofing and then into the oven it goes. I think most brioche recipes call for several hours of proofing or even overnight.

I might try it again but add an extra egg and see if that improves the taste.

 

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And because my Mum is a lover of lemons, I thought I’d make her some lemon cupcakes from Bake by Rachel Allen, a cookbook that she bought for me some years ago. (Check out my post on my cookbook collection here). I’ve had some trouble with some of the recipes from this cookbook before (although others have been quite yummy) and unfortunately, this lemon cupcake recipe had some problems. I had to bake it for quite a bit longer than it called for, and the cupcake itself, without the frosting, was not very lemony despite my adding twice the amount of lemon zest required! But the lemon buttercream was quite lovely.

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Weekend Cooking: Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is a staple at our house. It turns up at the dinner table at least once a month. It’s one of the first dishes that I learnt to make from my mum, although I do it in a slightly different way today.

So here’s how making a shepherd’s pie happens at my house one Sunday morning:

First, put the baby down for his morning nap, cross the fingers that he takes a nice long nap.

Next, ensure that Wee Reader has some water nearby, and lay out some jigsaw puzzles at the kitchen table to keep him occupied. Naturally these puzzles are of vehicles, one is an airplane, another a train, and the third a dump truck. He is happy to do them over and over.

Finally, get out all the things one needs for Shepherd’s pie.

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– Potatoes
– Sweet potato (because I had one leftover)

– shallot (or an onion if you have one – I only had shallots)
– several cloves of garlic
– one sad carrot
– the very limp last few stalks of celery languishing in the bottom drawer of the fridge
– four cremini mushrooms
– frozen peas
– frozen corn (because when pulling out the frozen peas I realized that there’s just a little bit of frozen corn left, and figure, eh, the more colours the merrier)

So to start with, wash the potatoes, chop them in half and pop them in a pot of water, boil until soft.

Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot, garlic, dice the carrot, celery and mushrooms.

In between, check on Wee Reader who has been saying, “Mummy, Mummy, I did it!” and remind him to drink some water.

When the potatoes are soft, peel the skins off and mash with some butter and milk, add some salt (I used garlic salt) and a bit of pepper and I added a bit of all-spice.

Conveniently, the baby has woken up, and it’s time to change and head out for lunch.

What’s for lunch? A drive down to the Mitsuwa supermarket in San Jose for ramen at Santouka.

Unfortunately, everyone else had that same idea (it was only 1110 and there were at least 25 people in the queue). Probably cos it was the first proper rainy day that we’ve had in a long time, at least on Feb 2, (we are, in case you didn’t know, in a drought State of Emergency), and there’s nothing better than something hot and soupy on a chilly day. With a hungry toddler though, we decided to just order from the other stall at the food court, which sells bentos and items like Japanese curry. Wee Reader enjoyed his stir fried beef, edamame, potato croquette and rice.

We pick up some supplies from the supermarket, like miso and panko, as well as some sashimi for dinner. Then pop into Clover Bakery for some delightful red bean buns (Wee Reader is a big fan), a chocolate chip melon pan and an apple tart.

Then we head home, luckily the rain has stopped.

The kids have some playtime and then it’s off for nap time.

Which means, part two of the Shepherd’s Pie project begins.

Heat up the pot, pour in some olive oil, add the shallot and cook for a couple of minutes, add in the garlic, carrots and celery. Throw in the minced beef (I used a pound’s worth). Then the mushrooms. Then a lump of tomato paste that I just remembered to take out of the freezer (so it’s a lump and not really paste-like). Season with salt and pepper, a little bit of L&P sauce, some Italian seasoning, and what Trader Joe calls ‘Everyday Seasoning’.

Then pour the mixture into a greased pyrex dish.

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Layer the mashed potatoes on top.

Run a fork through so that it will get some bits that will crisp in the oven.

Cover with foil.

Put it in the fridge to bake the next day (or bake it in  a 400F (about 200C) oven for about half an hour. Broil for the last few minutes if it’s not brown enough.)

Go play with the kids.

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Dinner the next day.

And the next.

And the next.

 

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Weekend Cooking: Black Forest cake

We’ve tried many a Black Forest Cake here in the Bay Area. But they haven’t been quite satisfactory, declared the Black Forest Cake fan i.e. the husband. So for his birthday weekend, I decided to just go for it and make it myself. And thanks to two recipes online, here it is!

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First get hold of some cherries – these Morello cherries were from Trader Joe’s.

Then make a chocolate cake! I used the cake recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. But decided that I needed an alternative recipe after that as I:

(i) didn’t want to use maraschino cherries – thus the tart Morello cherries above, which required some cooking with sugar (see below)

(ii) wanted to add a chocolate ganache – er, simply because one can never have too much chocolate, plus it was a birthday cake!

So I found this Black Forest Cake recipe from Home Cooking in Montana, which had everything I was looking for!

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So with the jar of cherries, save some cherries for decoration, and pop the rest in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of the cherry liquid and a couple of tablespoons of sugar (depending on how tart your cherries are, and how sweet your tastebuds are) and about a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, heat a pint of heavy cream until it’s about to boil, take it off the heat, and pour in about 10 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate melts. A whisk comes in handy here. Let it cool. I left it on the kitchen counter to cool, checking on it once in a while, whisking a little.

Then with a mixer, whisk a pint of heavy cream with some powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. If you’re not using this straightaway, I’d recommend chilling it.

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Ok so your oven has shouted at you to turn it off and you’ve tested your cake with a skewer/toothpick and all that. And cooled it well.

So now you can slice your cake in half (if you, like me, only have one cake pan. Otherwise, you could’ve made two cakes).

Then lovingly slather a good amount of chocolate ganache over the top and sides. Top with the cooled cherries and syrup (you probably don’t need to pack it as much as I did). And some of that whipped heavy cream you did earlier.

Next, gently place your second slice of cake on top. Try not to smush things too much, as it’ll all come out at the sides like mine did.

And once again, plenty of chocolate ganache, the remaining whipped cream. And top with those reserved cherries.

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Hopefully yours looks better than mine.

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More importantly, it was absolutely delicious.

The birthday husband was thoroughly pleased. Black Forest is his favorite and I have been meaning to make it for a while, but was a little intimidated. Wee Reader surprisingly loved the cherries (I shouldn’t be surprised, he does like Japanese pickles). My mum enjoyed her slice and had a bit more. And I liked it so much I had some for breakfast.

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Weekend cooking: Root beer cake and Freezer pie

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After Wee-er Reader’s first month party, we were stuck with a few opened bottles of drinks – ginger ale, Arnold Palmer, mango green tea and root beer. We managed to finish them (most were almost empty) but I had come across a recipe for Root Beer Float cake and was dying to give it a go. Plus it would make a nice cake for the husband’s Father’s Day cake!

Verdict? A yummy moist bundt cake which had just a faint hint of some hidden flavor. Perhaps if I used a more, erm is artisan the word?, root beer (craft root beer? I know there are craft beers but can you call it a craft root beer?) perhaps the root beer-iness might have come through more strongly. Still it was quite a tasty chocolate cake which the husband enjoyed as an early Father’s Day treat. Yum. Another slice please.

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Then in a bid to clear space in my too-stuffed freezer, I made what I’m calling Freezer pie – frozen pie crust and some frozen fruit. I’m not quite sure why I picked up that big bag of frozen mangoes, pineapples and peaches from Costco as I don’t have a blender and have yet to make a smoothie. It’s been taking up a big chunk of precious freezer space!

So I thawed the fruits (including some mixed frozen berries) with some sugar, drained the fruits and simmered the drained juices with some cornstarch to thicken it, adding some spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Meanwhile I blind-baked the pie crust and when that was ready, put the thawed fruits on top and poured the thickened juice over. It wasn’t very pretty (especially since the crust shrank) but it tasted quite good.

 

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Weekend cooking: Allergies r us

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Wee reader had his annual (weird to call something annual when he’s not yet two) allergy skin test on Friday. This time we checked for eggs, wheat, tree nuts and peanuts. His first skin test, on his first birthday last year (good scheduling on my part there), was for a variety of things including wheat. A blood test when he was about 9 months had shown the high likelihood of a peanut and egg allergy already and they didn’t want to do a skin test in case of a bad reaction.

And so happily watching a Thomas the train DVD (the clinic is well stocked) and clutching his Duplo car, he got his back scratched up well and good with all the different samples. Then a 15 minute wait began. The welts appeared pretty quick and it was painful to watch. Not because it hurt – although it did itch a little – but because I had been hoping for some sort of good news. I know that many children outgrow egg allergies and wheat allergies so I was hoping for either one to be a non-reaction. Nope. Not this year.

The good news though is that his wheat allergy reaction is the same as last year’s and his allergist gave us the go-ahead to gradually try some wheat products, like bread. Of course keeping a constant eye on the ingredients as many wheat products, like breads, are made in places where there are nuts. I was happy for any sort of good news!

And we discussed the possibility of bringing him in for a baked egg product food challenge (many egg allergy sufferers can consume baked egg products) when he’s older and hopefully having outgrown his wheat allergy. So who knows, there might be some hope for the future. The nut allergy though is hard to outgrow, from what I understand, so it is something we will have to continue to be careful about!

Don’t worry, it’s not all allergies news this blog post.

I’ve been making more forays into the Bread Bible. I first tried the basic soft sandwich bread and then a couple of weeks ago baked the raisin bread, which is quite similar to the sandwich bread recipe.

This time,  I gave the beer bread recipe a try. It was the first bread I’ve made with wholemeal flour (although it uses just a small amount compared to the bread flour in the recipe) and I must say that it gave a nice texture to the beer bread. I’ve tried two other beer bread recipes previously and those turned out to be more cake-y than I liked. So this was a nice change as it was a firm sliceable bread and had a good flavour too (didn’t taste of beer in case you’re wondering!).

As I’m making my way through the Bread Bible, I’m appreciating all the comments and tips that Rose Levy Beranbaum has added. I’ve gotten far better at shaping a loaf (thanks to her step-by-step instructions and illustrations) but, as you can see, I have to work on my slashing! Perhaps my knife isn’t sharp enough. Maybe a razor blade….

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I also made some muffins in an attempt to use up some frozen peach and mango slices! The King Arthur Flour basic muffins recipe was quick and easy and didn’t require a mixer. And it’s pretty adaptable too – next time I might try this with bananas and/or chocolate chips.

Do you have a favourite muffin recipe?

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Weekend Cooking: The Bread Bible

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So this cookbook has been sitting on my kitchen cookbook shelf for 1.5 years now.

Because I have been intimidated by it. This looks like a bread book for serious bread bakers. It isn’t full of glossy photos, or step-by-step photos, instead the pages are mostly words, with clusters of lovely photos of bread interspersed in between.

Now thinking back, I’m not quite sure what motivated me to finally pick up this hefty book on Friday morning. The desire to bake some bread? The lack of bread in the house (except for two lonely slices of storebought raisin bread)? The itch to do something with my hands? I knew I wanted a savoury bread, and this Basic Soft White Sandwich Bread (recipe here) caught my eye. Rose Levy Beranbaum describes this bread as “like a brioche, with less butter and no egg”, “lightly toasted and topped with soft scrambled eggs, it is nothing short of ambrosial”. Ooh…doesn’t that make you want a slice?

Ok so mine wasn’t all that perfect. It had a nice lightness and was much softer than any of the other breads I’ve made before. But it wouldn’t really qualify as ‘sandwich’ bread as it wasn’t tall enough. Because I didn’t let it rise long enough!

The problem began with my less than careful reading through the recipe and skipping over one of the rises. I neglected to factor in two extra hours of rising. Reading over the recipe again after the first couple of steps, I realized that if I followed the recipe to the letter, I’d still be baking at midnight. Oops indeed. So I had to shorten the rising times and make minor adjustments here and there. Note to self: read each step thoroughly next time before proceeding with any recipe!

Plus, my kitchen was a little cold. According to Beranbaum, the ideal temp for rising is 75-80F, and my house tends to hover around 67F (about 20C). So after the first rise (one of many!) seemed to take a while on the counter, I warmed up the oven a little and popped it in. It helped, a little, but just a little too late!

Anyway, this recipe was quite different from the breads I’ve made. It uses a sponge method, essentially making a sponge dough starter (which has all the liquid), and then sprinkling a flour mixture on top of the sponge starter as a protective cover to prevent drying out. Apparently this method helps to deepen the flavour of the bread (to really develop full flavor, it requires an overnight fermentation).

One thing I definitely appreciated in this cookbook was its detailed description on shaping the dough (even though this recipe uses loaf pans). She tells you to press the dough into a wide rectangle, to dimple it, to fold it overlapping and roll it and tuck it under (see the recipe for more information). My previous attempts at dough shaping were far more haphazard! More of a pat pat and into the pan it goes. I’d love to try out one of her free-form loaves to see how the shaping of those works.

At any rate, despite my less than thorough recipe-reading, the bread that emerged from my oven smelled fantastic. The whole house smelled wonderful and of course I had to sneak a bite (after letting it cool). Yummy. I will have to try this recipe again, giving it an overnight ferment and making sure it rises at the right temperature!

The Bread Bible has many other recipes that sound so tempting, like the olive bread, brioches, and scones which immediately caught my eye. I love scones!

Beranbaum has written several other ‘bible’ cookbooks, and has some recipes over at her website.

Bibliography

The Cake Bible (1988)
Rose’s Celebrations (1992)
Rose’s Melting Pot: A Cooking Tour of America’s Ethnic Celebrations (1994)
The Pie and Pastry Bible (1998)
Rose’s Christmas Cookies (1998)
The Bread Bible (2003)
Rose’s Heavenly Cakes (2009)

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs