Spiced Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

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Do you bake to impress or bake to satisfy cookie cravings? Or perhaps, a routine? Even if it is a day to day passionate baking, certainly there is a motive that made you top the cupcake with chocolate shavings, pipe the perfect rose patterned icing or shaping the evenly squared cookie log before slicing them carefully. Most of the time I bake things that I would like to eat ( and that means more chocolate recipes! ) and so it is not so camera friendly but, it’s not an excuse really. I try to make things look as pretty as possible sometimes so that I can take beautiful pictures of it. That is baking to impress somebody, to the world. At times when I bake out of cravings, I bake something really quick, get it out of the oven, impatiently wait for it to cool, desperately snap a few pictures and poof! Gone into my tummy!

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So when I have a day all to myself and probably not craving anything in particular, I like to try baking to impress. Means I put in more effort to make everything look prettier. And I came across a cookie that looks like it came out from a gourmet cookie box sitting in one of those hipster grocers. Pistachios, half covered with dark chocolate, shortbread. I told myself that even if it didn’t taste as good as it looks, I can still look at it and sigh, how pretty!

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I took my time baking these pretties, making sure I pause at each step. I’m glad they turned out slightly rustic looking and it would’ve been a nicer bite if the cookie is more short and less crisp. And maybe brush the dark chocolate more liberally, which I did towards the end.

The next time i bake these again I might use earl grey or cinnamon instead. The variations are just endless! They make an excellent gift as well because they look elegantly rustic.

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If you want to bake to impress, give this recipe a shot. It looks like there is a lot of effort, but actually there is just a few simple ingredients involved and best of all, a log and slice cookie where you can hide the imperfections with a brush of dark chocolate.

Spiced Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

adapted from The Roaming Kitchen

225g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
115g (1/2 cup) castor sugar
55g (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
30g (1/4 cup) Icing sugar (sifted)
30g (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I substituted with cardamom and cinnamon instead)
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
220g (2 cups) flour
100 grams good quality dark chocolate
1/3 cup pistachios (as needed)

1. Cream butter for about 1 minute until smooth, preferably with a paddle attachment on medium speed.

2. Combine all three sugars, cocoa powder, salt and spices into the bowl of creamed butter. Beat until everything is incorporated and creamy (about a minute).

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3. Reduce mixer speed to low, add egg yolks one at a time, followed by coffee and vanilla extract.

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4. Turn off the mixer and add in the flour. You may use a wooden spoon/spatula to mix at this point till it is just incorporated. Do not overmix. The dough should be soft and quite moist.

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5. Take half the dough and place it on a cling wrap/baking paper. Roll and shape into a rectangular log. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

6. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until it is firm enough.

7. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 175C.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8. Slice the cookies into about 1cm thick. I think a thicker cookie works better here because you do not want the cookies to flatten too much in the oven, especially if the dough isn’t cold enough. That happened to my cookies and I thought a thicker slice would give a better result.

9. Bake for about 20 minutes and let it cool on a wire rack.

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10. When cookies are cooled, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Roughly chop the pistachios.

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11. Brush the melted chocolate a few times over half the cookie and sprinkle with pistachios! Be patient and let the chocolate set before storing.

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The Only Chocolate (Birthday) Cake Recipe You Ever Need

 

I think most of us find the task of preparing a birthday/celebration cake pretty daunting. Even if its your second, third, fourth….. birthday cake you have created. Birthday cakes are eaten once a year (at least the one that is of significance to you), on a very special day, it’s almost a must to have one on that special day and the food item that everyone who is celebrating with you looks forward to. Okay, maybe its just me..

 

For the past few days I have been reading some food blogs and came across bloggers who are given the honour and great responsibility of creating a wedding cake for their friends. I can imagine the amount of pressure they had to deal with, its a WEDDING CAKE! You screw the cake, the wedding is screwed.

 

This year, I have finally gathered enough confidence and courage to bake a birthday cake for my boyfriend. There was no celebration, he wasn’t around, no friends, no requirement for a birthday cake actually. So that made the task so much easier because no one’s going to judge and no one’s going to expect anything!

 

Let me tell you, I’m quite amazed how this cake turned out because I could’ve eaten the whole cake. The cake layers are so moist and just the right texture for a layer cake, slightly crumbly but springy. And the chocolate ganache is so rich and so seductive looking on the cake. What rainbow cake?

 

I have to give the credits to one of my favourite television cooking host, Ina Garten. I would give her a hug anytime. Also, credits to Bakerita for the most amazing chocolate ganache frosting! The pictures here might not do the cake justice but that’s because of my rather messy and rushed cake decorating. I also regretted not spending more time photographing the cake. Never mind on that, I now have a birthday cake that I can proudly bake with confidence.

Now, who wants a birthday cake?
Chocolate Birthday Cake, (makes a 4 layer 8 -9 inch round cake)

cake adapted from Ina Garten and frosting from Bakerita

For the cake:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups good cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs (room temperature)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the chocolate ganache frosting:

200 g dark chocolate

160 g heavy cream

150 g unsalted butter (room temperature)

a pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease and line 2 cake tins. (I used 9 inch)

2. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into bowl. Whisk them together.

3. In another bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and oil.

4. With the beater on low speed, gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

5. Add the coffee to the mixture on low speed until just incorporated. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure an even batter. (The batter is very watery, that’s fine.)

6. Divide the batter into the 2 cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 30minutes, then remove from cake tin and let it cool on a wiring rack before frosting.

7. While waiting for the cake to cool, prepare the frosting.

8. First put break the chocolate into smaller pieces and place them in a heat proof bowl.

9. Pour heavy cream into a saucepan and heat it up until bubbles start to form at the edge but not boiling.

10. Pour the hot cream into the bowl of chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Whisk the chocolate until smooth and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour or two, until it completely cools. Alternatively, refridgerate for 30 minutes but stirring it every 10 minutes.

11. Using an electric beater, beat the butter until smooth for 10-15 seconds.

12. Add confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and salt and continue beating on med-low for 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Scrape the bowl to ensure even mixture.

13. While beating, gradually pour in the cooled chocolate ganache and mix until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and beat for another 1 minutes until the mixture thickens and lightens in colour.

Assembling:

1. Make sure the cakes are completely cooled before frosting.

2. Using a serrated knife, evenly slice each cake into half horizontally and you will get 4 layers of cakes in total.

3. Keep the least flat cake layers for the middle two layers and reserve the most even cake layers for the top and bottom part of the cakes.

4. Spread the chocolate frosting on each layer and on the top and sides of the cake. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, that’s what makes it more seductive!

 

 

Chocolate Banana Bread

Whenever I give away my cakes, I get things like “Oh this is so you.”

And “why?”.

“It’s always in a loaf, with chocolate.”

I tried to put on a weak smile. Thanks.

It just occurred to me that the things I have been baking has been quite repetitive. When I go through the things I’ve baked, I see loaves of banana bread, marble cakes and any home baked looking cakes. I thought I needed to get out of the cycle and start challenging myself.

Hah! Back to good ol’ banana bread, with chocolate.

Its hard to pass up comfort baking sometimes.

Here’s an amazing chocolate banana bread recipe I got from Citrus and Candy.

I felt that the chocolate may have overpowered the banana a little but you can treat it as a Chocolate Cake with Banana, more than a banana cake with chocolate.
Still, a keeper, definitely. Even better if kept overnight and toasted, with some butter loving.

It is different from Bourke St Bakery’s banana cake , this one is more bread like and more suitable for toasting, oh yums!

Chocolate Banana Bread,

adapted from Citrus and Candy

195g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I omitted)
120ml canola or vegetable oil
190g light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Bananas, mashed
100g dark chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 170°C and grease a large loaf tin.

2. Sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt, cinnamon (and nutmeg) into a bowl and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract for a couple of minutes until well blended.

4. With a wooden spoon, stir through the banana mash then add the sifted flour mixture and gently stir until just combined (do not over mix). Divide the batter into two portions then add the melted chocolate into one portion and stir to combine.

5. Add random dollops of each batter into the tin then grab a skewer and start swirling. (I got a little excited and swirled too much, so marbling effect wasn’t obvious).Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the bread has risen and a skewer comes out clean.

6. Cool on wire rack then remove bread from tin.

Earl Grey Madeleines

ImageSome cakes are meant to be like that. Brownies are always sliced to squares, financiers in their oval shapes and madeleines, in their seashell like shapes. If not, it wouldn’t be called madeleines, silly! 

I can understand why if some people do not want to bake these, just getting the seashell molds might not be worth it. You know you’re not going to bake muffins in them.

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But I love madeleines! If a place sells them, I’ll definitely grab one and hope it’s as good as the one I tried at The Loaf. Unfortunately it seems that Sydney prefers macarons over madeleines.

Here, in my house, I attempted at baking this dainty pretty looking cake, using a Daiso madeleine mold which probably cost me $2 or less.

Here is the recipe I adapted from Gourmet Kitchen Tales but made a variation with Earl grey tea leaves, sorry, I just had to! It has to be Early Grey.

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There are so many variations on madeleine recipes out there. Some recipes calls for the whole egg, some does not require you to let the mixture rest in the fridge. I was overwhelmed honestly, recipe one after another. I chose this particular one because it sounded promising and it is from Joel Robuchon. It has to work! I also watched a really good demonstration by Rachel Khoo on youtube, actually that was how I discovered her shows and it just amazes me how she cook in that tiny little kitchen! I think she’s got a really good TV personality, I would say she’s the Asian Nigella Lawson. Anyway, back to the madeleines, she did an amazing episode on baking them which I think anyone attempting to bake one should watch it first.

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Earl Grey Madeleines (Makes about 12)

100g Butter

100g Icing Sugar

40g Flour

40g Almond Meal

3 Egg whites

1 Orange Zest

2 Earl grey tea bags

Method:

1. Butter and flour the madeleine mold.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the tea leaves. Put aside and let it cool.

3. Sieve flour and icing sugar together into a bowl. Mix in the almond meal.

4. Beat egg whites to a fluid consistency.

5. Add flour mixture into the egg whites and beat until you get a smooth batter.

6. Keep beating while adding in the cooled melted butter.

7. Place the batter into the fridge for about 1 hour to firm up.

8. When it is ready, preheat oven to 200C.

9. Spoon the batter into the molds. I suggest using a teaspoon to fill them in and under fill them (no more than 3/4 full).

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden brown in colour.

 

 

 

Orange poppyseed chiffon cake

As I grow older, I slowly got to understand my mother’s consumption habits, especially when it comes to food that she likes. And fashion too. When I was younger, she wore a lot of long sleeved top with colourful graphic prints which I thought was OTT, but now I am seeing those prints everywhere and even thought of getting one the other day. She also has a liking for anything with lace and linen (I used to question her taste for all things lacey) which I later became obsessed with for a while when I was in high school. I had no choice but to admit that “Yes mom, I now love lace too. Hey! We chose the same top!”. True story.


Not too long ago, I started to discover how wonderful chiffon cake is.

I mean, I always hear about how soft and fluffy it is and I’ve also tried it many times in my life, since young actually because it also happens to be my Mom’s favourite type of cake. So, it’s funny that I only start to like it now. That big pillow of airy cake, so light, can be boring at times and unsatisfying. That was exactly how i felt towards chiffon cake. How could my mom enjoy it so much. Perhaps its her Asian taste, preferring lighter desserts over rich creamy chocolate-y gooey brownies and cakes.

The chiffon cake that got me into this chiffon cake madness is the one from Azuma Patisserie. Everyone should try their chiffon cakes. It doesn’t need any explanation.

So I managed to get hold of a chiffon cake tin when I went back to Malaysia for my holidays. I even bought Okashi by Keiko Ishida, because I noticed her chiffon cakes recipes are everywhere. Since everyone made it look so easy, I tried.

Maybe the recipes are wrong, oven’s temperature wasn’t right, egg whites are not separated nicely and not beaten to its correct stiffness. I failed too many times. For other recipes, I tend to stay away from them a while if I fail the first time, but not for the chiffon cake. For everyone out there who failed at chiffon cakes, just keep trying.

Here, this time, I tried a recipe from the Australian Masterchef Magazine. This is the recipe which worked for me so far, but I think that is because of the higher flour content which differs from the Asian recipes.

Note for chiffon cakes:

Separate the egg whites when they are still cold (from the refrigerator) and let it slowly warm up to room temperature. I find it easier to separate them this way, if not the yolk tends to break easily. Tools must be absolutely clean as well. I rather have the cake stay longer in the oven than to take them out under cooked, because it will sink. Lastly, be patient while waiting for the cake to cool down after coming out from the oven. This will take more than an hour. You want it to be at least 85 percent cooled before removing it from the tin so that the cake is able to stand on its own and not collapse.

Orange poppyseed chiffon cake (makes a 25cm chiffon cake)

adapted from Masterchef magazine

Ingredients

400ml orange juice (to be reduced to half later)

7 eggs (separated)

330g (1 1/2 cups) castor sugar

125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil

Zest from an orange

40g (1/4 cup) poppyseeds

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

300g (2cups) self raising flour (sifted)

1. Preheat oven to 190C.

2. Place orange juice in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over med high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes until the juice reduced by half. Cool.

3. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg yolks and 165g(3/4 cup) sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick.

4. Combine 180ml (3/4 cup) of the reduced orange juice, oil, poppyseeds and zest in a jug. Gradually add to the yolk mixture and whisk till combined.

5. In stainless steel bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk until soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 165g (3/4 cup) of sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy.

6. Add flour to egg yolk mixture using a wire whisk and whisk until well incorporated.

7. Take 1/3 of the meringue mixture and fold into the mixture using a wire whisk. This prepares the mixture for more meringue so it is easily incorporated later on. Then, fold in another 1/3 using the wire whisk gently. Finally, pour the mixture into the meringue bowl to incorporate the final 1/3 of the meringue.

8. Pour into chiffon cake tin and bake for 10min.

9. Reduce oven temperature to 170C and bake for another 50minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

10. Invert the cake tin after removing from the oven over a wine bottle. Leave cake to cool completely (may take more than an hour).

Reducing the orange juice to about half.

Invert the cake, with the help of a wine bottle. U need a bottle, trust me. I almost flatten my cake.

Chiffon cakes aren’t the prettiest cakes. To beautify them, whip up some whipped cream flavoured with syrup or just enjoy them bare as it is.

I didn’t use the fork in the end.

Green tea sablés

I was once given a box of cookies as a thank you gift by a japanese student I hosted last time. I can remember it very well because the box was filled with individually wrapped cookies ( in which later I read that they were indeed actually sablés) with different delicate flavours, a common Japanese pastry trait. There was earl grey, green tea, citrus and others which I couldn’t remember. All i know is that I savoured each and everyone one of them and wishing someone could make me the same thing, again.
So, that was my first encounter (probably) with sablés.

Sablés are the French equivalent to the shortbread biscuits but just sounds so much nicer. Sablés

Perhaps the Japanese popularized it and made it look so pretty and delicate. They are sold in most Japanese bakeries I saw and in commercialized snacks. Put that next to good old shortbread cookies and it just does not look the same.

So here’s one of my attempts in creating sablés. I find it hard sometimes to make it just right because the dough can be abit too dry to form into logs or too wet, but if you follow the recipe well, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Roll into a log. I used the help of the baking paper to roll and shape them.

One thing I realized is that it takes some time for the dough to come together because usually the recipe tells you to incorporate the flour mixture into the butter using a spatula/wooden spoon instead of a mixer. So keep mixing gently till you get the right consistency.
I also suggest you to thaw the dough abit before slicing them (if you refrigerate them in the freezer or if it feels very hard). This way, you get a neat cut without the dough crumbling and getting knife marks. So, patience. Just let it soften a little.

Nicely spaced and ready to go into the oven. You could tell the edges are a bit rough.

If you are a perfectionist and couldn’t stand the sight of the edges of the cookies showing lines, roll the cookie log on a plate of granulated sugar to cover them before slicing. I skipped this, but that’s because I do not have granulated sugar with me.

Green tea sablés  (Makes about 50 cookies)

Adapted from Okashi by Keiko Ishida

Ingredients:

Plain flour/pastry flour 240g (chilled)

Green tea powder 15g

Unsalted butter 150g at room temp

Icing sugar 130g

Salt (a pinch)

Egg yolks 2

Granulated sugar, optional (for covering the sides of dough)

Egg white (beaten)

Green tea leaves (for garnishing)

1.Sift flour and green tea powder together, twice.

2. Beat butter, icing sugar and salt until soft and creamy. Add yolks and mix well.

3. Add flour and green tea powder mixture and fold in with a spatula until a dough is formed.

4. Cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for about 15 minutes so that it is firm enough to roll into logs.

5. Divide dough into half. Place a portion onto baking paper and shape it into a log about 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap it up with the baking paper and do the same to the other. Refrigerate logs until firm.

6. Preheat oven to 150C.

7. Thaw the dough a bit before cutting them into 7mm thick rounds. If you want, dip the edges with granulated sugar.

8. Place them on baking trays and brush a little egg white over the cookies and garnish with green tea leaves.

9. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Olive oil orange cake

Occasionally, I need a break from chocolate. I love chocolate like any chocolate lover out there. I can have chocolate every single day, whenever. Just on some days, I needed a lighter dessert, something spring-y, perhaps. Hey, its spring afterall!

So i chose to bake this olive oil orange cake. Originally, its meant to be topped with pistachios but, I could not find any at the supermarket ( can you believe it) so I opted for walnuts instead. I love walnuts, they are good for your hair i heard. Most of the time, I have issues with nuts in my dessert, especially in cakes. I tend to avoid cakes with visible nuts on it, I guess I just don’t like those nuts getting in the way when I am eating my cakes. This time, I just went with it. I just had to, just because the original recipe has pistachios in it and I thought an orange cake would be too plain old plain. Well, I had no problems with it but I might want to just roast and coat them with honey, marmalade or caramel next time before topping them on the cake.

It wasn’t difficult, this cake. The only part i didnt like was juicing the orange, thats all. Honestly, I chose this recipe because of the olive oil used, instead of butter or other vegetable oil but I could hardly smell or taste the difference. Probably just abit, when i open the oven doors. The taste of orange is pretty subtle as well, I definitely wanted more punch in the cake. Probably ginger to kick it up a notch? Still, its a good cake, especially with a cup of earl grey tea (again).

Olive Oil Orange Cake with Walnuts (makes two 22cm round cake)

adapted from tandteacake

(The recipe makes two 22cm round cake tin cake, but I halved the recipe for a 9inch square tin cake)

Ingredients

400g (14 oz) pastry flour, sifted
250g (8.8 oz) castor sugar
200ml (6.75 fl. oz) olive oil
4 eggs, separate the whites
Grated zest of an orange
250ml (8.45 fl. oz) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
Chopped walnuts (just to sprinkle on top)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease the baking tin.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff. Refridgerate.

3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with vanilla bean until fluffy. Add sugar and zest. Continue beating.

4. Add olive oil in a steady stream while still beating the mixture.

5. Add sifted flour and baking powder and fold in well.

6. Add orange juice bit by bit and mix well.

7. Fold in the egg whites.

8. Pour into cake pan and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.

9. Bake for 30 minutes. ( I only baked mine for about 20 minutes as the cake was on the thinner side)

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