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I’ve had black sesame paste and green tea matcha powder that my parents bought in Japan sitting on my kitchen counter for months now. Thank goodness none of them have been opened nor exposed. I used both ingredients in separate ice cream flavors a couple weeks ago and wanted to replicate the flavor profile in a cupcake (still a sucker for them!)

It wasn’t that hard to find a cupcake recipe with this flavor combination but I decided on trying out this one from Delicious Coma. I liked how the recipe used both black sesame paste and toasted black sesame, which I thought would intensify the flavor. I don’t have a spice grinder so I ground the seeds the old fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle. I had to be patient with this step. You can’t grind too much at once or else everything will just go flying out of your mortar.

My tweaks: Nothing with the cupcake recipe. With the green tea cream cheese frosting: I used close to a tablespoon (3 tsp) of green tea powder and lessened the powdered sugar to 1/2 cup. I think this was a good choice. The tang of the cream cheese and the green tea flavor really came through.

Cupcake result: The cupcake was nice and moist but dense. I’m more of a light and fluffy cupcake type of gal (maybe so I can eat more?) From my baking experience, which hasn’t been that long, if you want fluffy and light cupcakes, your batter should be more of the dissolved kind- using vegetable oil instead of butter and incorporating boiled water with milk. Milk was used in the recipe but if you want a richer cupcake, try using buttermilk (always easy to make your own by just adding lemon juice or vinegar to your milk). However, this all depends on the recipe.

It was a pretty decent cupcake in general. Try the recipe out if you can get your hands on these ingredients for an out-of-the-ordinary cupcake experience 🙂

NO more excuses. I haven’t had any new posts for the longest time and the procrastination has just got to stop. I figured I’d write a post that summarized the baking I did last month (August).. and yes, before this month ends. Ok, I give up. I do have excuses. Work. Stress. Laziness. And new projects. Ahh, I got you there, didn’t I? I have been working on a new project with a friend recently and of course a post on that will come a little later. You will see what I have been up to this whole month. Pretty exciting stuff. Just wait!

But for now.. this baking post! I actually made different types of goodies last month. Though I have my project on finding the best cupcake recipes, I still made sure to try out new recipes and experiment.

1. Red Velvet Cake
Made this for the newly weds of the family, my brother and my sister-in-law, Jaymee. Check out my post about the food from the reception and watch the cutest wedding video ever! For the cake, I wanted to make red velvet since it’s Jaymee’s favorite. I wanted to make it extra special since it was my wedding gift to them. After finding this recipe, I stumbled upon another blog that gave me the cutest idea: using stencils to put letters on the cake (oddly enough, the same initials). And fortunately, I had just those! Stencils, which I bought a while back at MUJI. I was given the perfect opportunity to use them. Soo as you can see, it wasn’t perfect but I do consider it a labor of love, literally since it is heart-shaped. Carving the cake to the shape of a heart wasn’t as bad as I expected. Crumb coating though, was somewhat tricky. The crumbs need to be fine, I wish I had a food processor (still saving up for this). And sticking it on the frosted cake is just a whole other challenge I’ve never encountered. Taste wise, people said this wasn’t too sweet but it did dry out after a couple of days in the fridge. Maybe more frosting would have been better, I do tend to skimp on frosting..

2. Mango Bread
I’ve made this several times before but have never blogged about it. We harvest our own mangoes here in the province and so I started looking for ways to use them in baking. I’ve also made mango muffins before but I particularly like making mango bread more. I always spice up this recipe by adding dried fruits (mangoes or pineapple) and just reduce the sugar by a bit. I learned my lesson to soak the dried fruits in warm water before mixing it in the batter to avoid having to bite into hard chewy chunks in the bread. I also use half whole wheat flour, half all purpose and that is why the color tends to be browner. People always ask about the color, how it turns out having that caramel color for a finish, and that is the secret! Plus, I think whole wheat flour adds a natural nuttiness to the overall flavor.

3. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
If you guys were already readers of my blog from the beginning, you might remember that I already made something similar.. Pretty much the only difference with this one is the crust. With the cheesecake I made before, the crust is made with the same cookie dough found inside the cheesecake. These cheesecake bars are made with a graham cracker crust mixed with tiny chocolate chips. Cookie dough lovers are going to love these bars since each slice pretty much is cut with one ball of dough right smack in the center. That inside a cheesecake.. I mean, I just don’t know if I need to say more.

4. Cupcakes
Experimented with filled cupcakes. Made my own concoction for chocolate creme filling made with dark chocolate ganache and eggs to make somewhat of a pudding like consistency. Also played around with the chocolate cream cheese frosting.. I am actually somewhat depressed I didn’t take notes when I experimented with this one because it was just velvety smooth chocolatey goodness all found in this frosting. As for the lemon filling, I used the same old lemon curd for the lemon cupcakes.

Results? Dark chocolate: chocolate flavor was definitely there. Experimented whether use of cake flour made a big difference on texture. Not really. Save up and use regular all purpose if the recipe doesn’t specifically call for the use of cake flour. Tops cracked a bit but soon discovered it is because our oven needs to be calibrated, lucky me. Vanilla: filled it with the same chocolate filling. This had a dense texture which I didn’t particularly like along with the eggy taste that I got.. Tasted more like a yellow cake, which might not be necessarily bad but it wasn’t the vanilla cupcake taste I was looking for. Lemon: better texture than the first ones I made. Still dense but lighter. Lemon flavor was undeniably detectable, of course with the help of the tangy delicious curd. Again, if I could eat lemon curd everyday, I think I would. 🙂

It all started with the love for ube. Aside from its beautiful natural violet hue, ube just has this distinct flavor and aroma that I personally find hard to resist. I grew up around ube. The maids would make putong ube from scratch and locally made halayang ube would be on the table during parties or special events. Ube was definitely one of those foods that I missed while I was abroad.

One day, a pleasant surprise was found on our round dining table. A jar of ube jam from Good Shepherd. Does the brand sound familiar? Aside from its famous fruit jams and preserves, Good Shepherd has made its mark making fresh ube jam. Honestly though, I don’t like ube on its own. I usually like it mixed in other things such as cakes. My favorite one has to be Red Ribbon’s ube macapuno cake. There’s really nothing like it. It never fails to put a smile on my face especially when I need it! So with a sudden craving for anything ube, I venture out to create baked goods using the ube jam.

1. Ube Cheesecake: this is my own recipe. Shortbread cookie crust. Swirls of ube cheesecake combined with white chocolate cheesecake. Dollops of ube jam inside the cheesecake for a bit of a surprise. My younger brother loved this cheesecake. The ube flavor was strong and recognizable. I made a shortbread cookie crust because I’m rarely a fan of the usual graham cracker crust. Plus, I wanted a subtle buttery base that would make the ube flavor stand out more. Creamy, yet dense, this cheesecake is very rich and full of awesome ube-ness.

2. Ube Oatmeal Cookies: cranked out my go-to peanut butter oatmeal cookie recipe and swapped the peanut butter with ube jam. Used ube flavor instead of vanilla. I will probably use more food coloring next time. Though I’m always afraid to use too much. So let me know if you have a good source for natural food dye! These cookies had a good chewy texture and just a slight ube flavor. I would want the ube flavor and color to pop out more next time. Though ugly looking, I must say, there was something very addicting about these cookies!

3. Ube Macapuno Cupcakes: a lot of ube cake recipes called for grating fresh ube. As I am lacking of fresh purple yam and obviously had to use the ube jam that’s available, I searched far and wide for a recipe that incorporates the ingredient. I found this one to be perfect and reminded me of my favorite Red Ribbon cake.

The result? The cupcakes turned out a ghastly color, pretty close to as how the cookies turned out. The ube flavor was too delicate almost undetectable and the macapuno for some reason sometimes could not be tasted. For the frosting, I did an ube cream cheese frosting, leftover from the time I made red velvet cupcakes which I just added ube flavoring to.

If I wanted to put this on my list of projects, I wonder if fresh grated ube would do the trick for flavor and color? Handling the macapuno differently might also solve this problem.. maybe chopping it up first or maybe even toasting them for just a bit.. maybe even use coconut flakes instead of macapuno. Sorry, my mind is starting to wander!

Got a jar of an ingredient you want to incorporate into desserts? No problem! The internet is such a wonderful resource. It surprises and amazes me everyday of the information that’s available out there. Of course only use these as a backbone, use your own creativity to reach endless possibilities!

Oh! And if you’re wondering why my photos were taken under yellow lighting or not much even, it’s because it’s rainy season here. Check out this photo I took from our Manila condo.

This is one of many projects I’m currently in the middle of. Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake. I’ve actually only started this two months ago when I first attempted to make the famous cupcake flavor. I label this as my ‘first’ red velvet project since I wasn’t able to document the initial trial back in May. As for my other projects– finding the best lemon (curd) cupcake recipe, mastering the art (actually science) of bread making, consuming my current kitchen pantry inventory, etc.– well, those are still in progress. I am starting to think I should create an ACTUAL note of these projects rather than a mental one. As someone with OCD tendencies, lists are my life. There’s just no way for me to function without them.

The first time I made red velvet cupcakes, I made the cupcakes according to two recipes that I’ve adapted based on the comments I’ve read. The first one was Paula Deen’s red velvet cupcakes. Common complaints from the recipe: too oily, lacked taste and texture was not as moist. So I found another recipe that used butter instead of vegetable oil and used more cocoa powder. That is pretty much how I tweaked and merged the two recipes but I wasn’t satisfied since it still lacked flavor, the cupcakes were still a little greasy and the texture wasn’t as expected either.

unfrosted cupcakes

So two months later and several red velvet cupcake recipes bookmarked, I go back to my project and test yet another recipe. This one caught my eye because it used a lot less vegetable oil and a lot more cocoa powder. I figured since texture, greasiness and flavor were the usual sensitive elements, this would be the perfect recipe. And was it?? Well, it was a BETTER one. But NOT PERFECT. I really don’t know how to explain it but there’s just still something missing. These cupcakes turned out great texture wise since it was a batch of very moist, fluffy cupcakes. Color was lovely and vibrant as well. But analyzing the flavor component of it, it was definitely lacking something. Was it the cocoa powder? Does the vinegar really make a difference in adding that extra tang? Or does that come from the buttermilk. I’m not really sure as of yet. These were delicious cupcakes nonetheless and worth making again. Oh and one thing I realized, always make LESS frosting. These cream cheese frosting recipes make way too much. I suggest doing just a quarter of the recipes unless you plan to slather it on other things (banana bread, carrot cakes.. yumm)

NOTES SO FAR ON RED VELVET PROJECT:
1. more cocoa the better (actually, this depends on preference. I personally like the cocoa taste.)
2. use of vegetable oil: too much turns out greasy, just right comes out moist
3. use of butter: nice denser cake but not as fluffy
4. buttermilk: increased amounts may promote a moister cupcake, does this add to the flavor?
5. cake flour is better than all purpose (remains to be proven though)
6. what is the perfect ratio of these ingredients??? NO IDEA.

I appreciate a good quick bread. If you’ve read my other bread baking posts (please refer to my categories list), you already know that I have trouble making yeast breads. Not only is it time consuming to make, it is also very difficult and I just don’t have the required skills and background (yet) to create such artisan looking, great tasting breads. So to solve my bread making frustrations, I rely on what I know more of- quick breads. Unfortunately, even though I’ve made other types of quick breads, I haven’t been able to take pictures of them so I won’t be blogging about them for now. But make sure to keep an eye out when I make the following again: date walnut bread and mango bread. 🙂

The bread that I was able to take pictures of is a peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread that I made several weeks back. I know the pictures are horrible. I baked up a storm that night and was too tired to take pictures of everything. I promise to work on the photos! Anyway, this bread doesn’t need a lot of explaining to convince you that it’s delicious. There’s peanut butter, chocolate and banana in it. The peanut butter flavor was certainly detectable. The banana added some natural sweetness and moisture to the bread. And chocolate. Oh well, chocolate was just a default ingredient. You must have chocolate. Actually, this reminds me of my chocolate banana cupcakes minus the peanut butter (*gasp! idea for another cupcake*). Please forgive this next picture. I was baking something else and turned around to see my bread being attacked by my hungry brothers. Judging from this photo, nobody seemed to have taught my eldest one how to cut a clean slice of bread. :/

Blurred around to focus on attack on the bread

Last weekend, I went on an out of town trip to Tagaytay with some girlfriends. So Wednesday night, I was in the middle of planning what sort of baked goods I could make for the trip when one of my friends requested for cookies. I will not mention any names but she is one terrible cookie monster, that I can tell you! So along with some strawberries and cream cupcakes, I decided to make peanut butter oatmeal cookies.

I have made these peanut butter oatmeal cookies before. Everyone who got to taste these loved them. Including me of course. I really wouldn’t lie to you. I try not to be biased about my baking so I don’t go telling you guys that everything I make is awesome. But when I hype something up like this please just know that I am dead serious. THESE ARE DELICIOUS. Make these cookies plain, strictly following the recipe and you will end up with melt in your mouth peanut butter oatmeal cookies. Here’s a picture of the cookies from the first time I made them.

pardon the quality, a cellphone camera was used!

This time though, I wanted to play around with the recipe and change it up. If you’ve read my post on my strawberries and cream cupcakes, you would know that I have been on an experimental mood lately. So with leftover brownie bites and Snickers from the time I made stuffed chocolate chip cookies along with some homemade toffee sauce, a light bulb went off and I just knew.. Oh and I thought it would be interesting to note that I used whole wheat flour for this batch. I figured since I’m adding so much to the yumminess of the cookie, why not make it a little healthier?

#1 way: Brownie Stuffed Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies: I had around 8 small pieces of brownie bites leftover so I used these to stuff the cookies. The cookie dough was very hard to handle. I had to keep putting it back in the fridge/freezer to harden a little bit so I could scoop a good amount that would cover each brownie piece. It took 2 small ice cream scoops of dough to completely hide a chunk. You get the picture. These were big cookies so they had to bake for a good 11-12 minutes.

#2 way: Peanut Butter Toffee Snickers Oatmeal Cookies: Whew! That was a mouthful! I chopped up a couple fun size Snickers and mixed them in some toffee sauce. Then I mixed this into the remaining cookie dough, just as you would chocolate chips.

see the bits of Snickers??

The results: the brownie stuffed ones were good and ginormous. It was basically a giant chocolate peanut butter cookie but fudgy on the inside. The toffee Snickers cookies turned out so rich but delicious. They were so gooey that they fell apart so easily but it was also caused by the toffee sauce melting away within the cookie. The addition of the Snickers pieces added to the peanut taste which I really liked.

So play around with your basic cookie dough or cake recipes. Mix in some of your favorite things that you think would result into this wonderful combination. You might just surprise yourself with how it will turn out!

I always tell myself that it’s time to play around with recipes and use techniques I’ve learned from experience to come up with something I can somewhat call ‘my own creation’. So that is what I did with this one. I’ve been wanting to recreate the strawberry cupcake for a while now. I attempted to make some two weeks ago and they were a complete failure… That is why I didn’t even bother writing about it. It was a horrible and heartbreaking experience. But even though I was feeling defeated, I gave it another try.

I used a basic white cake recipe to experiment with as a base for the cupcake. Then my own touch.. A delicious combination of cream cheese, powdered sugar and strawberry jam. The strawberry jam was bought during a trip to Baguio. Yep, people familiar with Baguio should know about the Good Shepherd strawberry jam. I love how there are chunks of strawberries in there! I actually already used more than half of the jar when I made a strawberry swirl white chocolate cheesecake a couple months back but I haven’t been able to use up the rest since then. So there it was, sitting in the fridge, I had to finish it.

So I combined 4oz (half a block) of cream cheese, around 1.5 cups of powdered sugar and close to third of a cup of strawberry jam. I’m sorry. I know baking should be more precise. But I’m such a newbie with this experimental baking so forgive me! I mixed this in the white cake batter which I reduced the sugar content to quarter of a cup since there was enough sweetness from the strawberry cream cheese mixture.

The frosting. Of course there was frosting! I also just made this one up. I used a quarter cup (or half a stick) of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar and a quarter teaspoon of McCormick’s pink colored strawberry flavor. The result was surprisingly awesome. The strawberry flavor was there and a pretty pink hue so delicate but impressionable was achieved.

I’d say this wasn’t such a bad experiment.. definitely a lot better than my nightmare of an attempt the first time! The cupcakes turned out fluffy and light. The frosting was creamy and flavorful. I’m thinking if I keep practicing enough, maybe there will come a time that I can come up with my own recipes.. someday! I am hopeful 🙂

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