Once in a while, I get this sweet tooth craving. Which is weird because I usually prefer salty snacks to desserts. Think murukku, salted peanuts, roasted cashews and the like.
But when I get into that mood, I go into the kitchen and whip up a cake or sometimes two. I figure that if I am firing up the oven, I might as well batch bake some yummies.
Since it’s only me and Nic and eating an entire cake is out of the question, I usually freeze half the baked cake. Cakes freeze well without any loss in taste or texture. I learnt this from some American blogs I read. They freeze everything – raw cookie dough to stews and more.
Anyway, last night I got into this cheese mood. I dug around my fridge and realised I had some mascarpone and some cream cheese. It was either tiramisu or a cheesecake.
I decided to make a cheesecake since I was dying for some creamy dessert. I usually bake after dinner so it was by 10pm or so that I started pulling out my springform pan.
The funny thing is this: I have always eaten great cheesecakes but never baked any until the last 2 years. No, I am not kidding. My aunt bakes a mean cheesecake with canned peaches. My sis bakes delicious blueberry cheese tarts.
My springform pan sat in my cabinet for a long time before I decided one day to just test out some cheesecake recipes. I guess I was inspired by a good friend’s cheesecake which she brought to a potluck party some time ago. I loved the creamy goodness of it all and gobbled a good many slices!
I love this recipe because I just need my measuring cups and my good old electric mixer (I still have my Elba handheld mixer – I want to get a stand mixer but I simply have no space in my kitchen for yet another kitchen appliance).
Actually a cheesecake is easy and quick to make. Let your cream cheese sit at room temperature for 1 hour before you start so the cheese is soft. I’d adjust the sugar and condensed milk quantities if you prefer it to be less sweet.
I used my own homemade vanilla extract (just slice up 2 vanilla pods, stick them in a glass bottle and pour in enough good quality vodka to cover the pods and let this sit in some dark cabinet for 4 weeks or so. You’ve just made your own vanilla extract. You’d NEVER buy the commercial stuff ever again, I swear). As you can see, I like homemade stuff (yogurt, for instance).
OK, enough blabbering.
Here’s the recipe. For the baking part, pre-heat your oven at 150C as you prepare the cake.
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp white sugar (use brown sugar if you prefer less sweet)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Van Houten brand)
1/3 cup melted butter
Mix all the above and press into a 9 inch diameter springform pan. Leave aside.
250 gm cream cheese, at room temperature
400 ml condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp flour
1. Beat cream cheese with mixer until smooth. Gradually add condensed milk.
2. Add vanilla extract and eggs. Beat on medium speed till smooth.
3. Toss 1/3 of chocolate chips with flour. Pour this into cheese mix.
4. Pour mix into the cheesecake base. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips on top.
5. Bake at 150C for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cake to cool in oven for another hour.
Have a go at this recipe and let me know how it goes.
(But if you’re simply too buggered to bake a cheesecake, get some darn delicious slices from Moody Cow if you’re in Penang. Their salted egg yolk cheesecake is to die for. Parking is a terrible thing on Transfer Road so it’s best to go with a friend and you can hop into the shop and get your cheesecake fix.)
Next round, I’ll share my tiramisu recipe.
I don’t like to throw away stuff, especially stuff that’s still usable.
This goes for food. And this reminds me of Mary, a good friend who refuses to discard chocolates from her fridge. I can be like Mary too.
I can feel extremely guilty about throwing away edible food. Must be all those years of my dad admonishing me to finish up food on my plate as a child because “the kids in Africa are starving”. Mentally I have that picture of a starving African kid each time I throw food out.
The one with the bloated tummy and huge, limpid eyes.
Now it’s better because the food goes into my compost pots in the garden. At least they’re turned into fertilizer. That’s a second life for food.
Ever since I got myself a juicer, I’ve been churning out fresh carrot juices about twice a week (when I am not too lazy to wash the machine!).
I never knew having carrot pulp could be such a guilt trip. It does when you have pulp from 5 Australian carrots staring you in the face, daring, simply daring you to chuck them into the compost bin.
So I refrain. I pack the pulp up into plastic containers and freeze them.
In the end, I realized that I could do something with the carrot pulp. I could make carrot cake!
You see, back in the days when I didn’t have a juicer, I would grate carrots by hand. Terrible job, that. Hated that but loved chomping on freshly baked carrot cake.
So now I solved my carrot cake woe. I had plenty of carrot pulp to make carrot cake with. (I am not a big fan of cheese frosting so I omit that plus storing cake with frosting is one mean, messy job.)
So here’s the carrot cake recipe which I fall back on because it’s simple and tastes great. I actually stumbled on a secret tip that makes carrot cake moist….the addition of green apple. That’s also because I juice carrots and green apples together in one go (yes, to make a healthier juice than say, just carrots).
The sweetness level is just right because I can’t stand overly sweet cakes. That’s why I make cakes with brown sugar.
I love this quick cake because it is easy to mix up and easy to eat. What’s not to love about a cake like this? And it contains carrot pulp and green apple pulp which means extra fibre and health-inducing qualities.
(And I add beetroot pulp to chocolate cakes but that’s totally another story for another blog post.)
Moist Carrot Cake
130 gm self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
130 gm brown sugar
2 cups grated carrot (or carrot pulp from 5 medium size carrots + pulp from 1 green apple, if you like extra moistness)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 eggs, beaten
150 ml vegetable oil or melted butter
1/4 tsp salt (omit salt if you’re using salted butter)
1. Preheat oven to 180C . Grease and line your pan. Or if you’re like me and can’t be bugged with greasing and lining, just grease your pan and sprinkle flour all over the greased pan. Shake off excess flour but ensure flour coats the bottom of the entire pan.
2. Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground cloves.
3. Mix in sugar, carrot pulp, walnut and raisins. Pour in eggs and oil (or melted butter).
4. Plug in your electric mixer. On medium speed, beat this mixture until well-combined about 3 minutes.
5. Pour mixture into your pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until your cake is done.
Once your cake is cool and removed from the pan, you can make your frosting. In a mixer on high speed, whip 60 gm cream cheese with 30gm butter and 1 tsp lemon juice. Add 2-3 tbsp icing sugar and whip till smooth. Smooth over your cooled cake.
I’ve always wanted to bake a butter cake but somehow, some butter cake recipes are to be dumped. (I’ve tried a few and most turned out either too dense or too dry. I simply can’t stand a dry butter cake!)
Nic loves butter cakes. He loves anything with butter. He’s such a butter fiend that we can stockpile butter in the freezer. Each time we shop in Jusco or Tesco, he’ll comment that butter wasn’t this pricey when he was a kid. Still he’ll buy at least 3 blocks of butter.
So when there’s a butter sale, we buy butter and keep them. (Anyway we shop infrequently too so having more butter than less is always good – since I have those mad moments when I’d decide to bake something, anything after dinner. I am fortunate I live in my own home and no one can tell me I can’t bake at 11pm. My sis who lives at home with my parents sometimes get the nags when she starts having that itch to bake at 11pm.)
And so, butter tales aside, I’ve finally found a butter cake recipe I can live with.
I am not sure where I got this from as I often trawl blogs and websites for recipes – and these days with Pinterest (yup I am on Pinterest too), it’s a lot easier as everyone shares delicious finds.
The cake got the nod from Nic. Actually I’ve reduced the sugar – we normally take less sugar in our cakes if I can help it.
Then, two weeks ago, I went home to Banting to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday. It was a family affair – just my sisters, parents and my nephew and niece.
Back home, my sister introduced me to yet another butter cake recipe. This one, Mei says, was so scrumptious that her 9 year old son ate it all! Now my nephew is one picky boy. He’s mostly vegetarian because he can’t stand chicken or fish or anything weird (our regular food is weird to him). He can eat chicken rice without the chicken. He loves KFC cheesy wedges but that’s about all he really likes. So if he eats up most if not all of a butter cake my sis makes, it must have been really superb.
So Mei taught me the butter cake recipe which she obtained from a very dog-eared copy of Amy Beh’s recipe book.
This cake turned out wonderfully well. It was supremely light and tasted almost like a moist Japanese cheesecake. It had a bounce (which my first butter cake didn’t have) as a result of having meringue folded into the cake. It was a keeper and a winner. And this is one cake you can whip up quickly too.
I didn’t take photos of this moist and light butter cake as we were all so busy eating it! Promise to post when I next bake it which should be in the next few days as I am dying to eat this lovely butter cake again.
OK, now onwards to the recipe.
Butter Cake One
(this recipe is the denser butter cake recipe, the one I first made)
- 250 gm butter
- 150 gm castor sugar (originally was 200 gm but I never liked overly sweet cakes so I reduced it)
- 250 gm self raising flour
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp soda bicarbonate
- 1/2 tsp orange essence (added to eggs)
- 1 tbsp condensed milk mixed with 6 tbsp hot water
1. Preheat oven (180C) and grease a square tin. (I am normally rather lazy and just grease and lightly flour the tin. This method works just as well as the parchment paper. Plus I don’t waste paper.)
2. Beat butter and sugar till fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in flour and soda bicarbonate.
4. Stir in milk to combine.
5. Pour into tin and bake for 25-30 mins depending on your oven.
Butter Cake Two
(this is the lighter, fluffier butter cake that my sis made)
- 250 gm butter
- 100 gm castor sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- Rind of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 150 gm self-raising flour sifted with 1 tsp salt
- 5 egg whites + 25 gm castor sugar (beat till stiff peaks form – or a meringue, as it’s called)
1. Beat castor sugar and butter until fluffy.
2. Add egg yolks one at a time and continue beating.
3. Add lemon rind and vanilla.
4. Fold in flour followed by meringue.
5. Pour into a greased and lined 20cm pan and bake in a preheated oven for 25- 30 minutes or until cake is done.
By now you would’ve known that I got myself a bread machine if all those bread recipes haven’t clued you in yet.
Yes. It was either this or the magic thermal cooker (which I figured would help me make soups without watching the fire on the stove). In the end I chose the bread machine because I love bread!
And the best part, I didn’t have to buy the bread machine either.
I’d accumulated that many points on my credit card that I could redeem a Lebensstil Bread Machine from CIMB. I still don’t know how much the bread machine actually costs but I really don’t care. It’s a machine that helps me make bread so that’s that, right?
As I’m typing this, the smell of baking bread is wafting around. I don’t know about most people but I love the smell of baking bread. It’s so comforting and so homey. It makes me feel like some domestic goddess (not Nigella, mind you, she’s pretty much the ultimate domestic goddess) somehow. Even though I did not roll up my sleeves and knead away at the bread.
Purists will sniff at having a bread machine but I’ve made bread prior to getting a bread machine and I tell you, it was tough. Kneading bread is not exactly easy. It takes strong arms and lots of determination to make a good loaf of edible bread.
While I don’t mind eating ‘gwai lo’ bread, you know, the type that is chewy and full of mind-expanding goodness (oats, rye, barley etc), after sometime I want some soft textured bread. The kind that is similar to Gardenia and perhaps now Massimmo.
And while I do live near to a local bakery called Amei which bakes bread without preservatives, I somehow think I should be making bread. Call it an intense fascination with bread or the desire to cross one more thing off my list.
So, let’s see – how long have I had the machine? Possibly 5 months.
In that span of time, I’ve tried like 5 different types of bread recipes. You name it, I’ve tried it. Thanks to reading Flavours magazine and my bread bible, trawling King Arthur Flour’s website and a bunch of helpful blogs out there, I’ve experienced bread-making at its maniacal.
I tried the water roux method (tang zhong method which is clearly a favourite for most people who love Asian style soft breads and buns) and also the much-talked about Alex Goh’s sponge method. The sponge method is similar to tang zhong; the only difference is you don’t need to cook the flour and water mix, you just pour boiling water over the bread flour.
Both methods are good. They create breads which are soft like pillows. I even made sausage rolls. The only drawback was, the bread tasted good the day it got out of the oven. The day after, the rolls were a tad hard.
With a bread machine, it wasn’t that difficult to use either tang zhong or sponge method. I just put all the ingredients into the machine (all liquid ingredients plus tang zhong or sponge followed by the dry ingredients) and set it to the DOUGH programme. It kneads the dough and even proofs it. It does take a while though so this is not something you want to do on a day when you’re rushing around.
I finally tested a bread recipe which I really liked – the bread smells heavenly when it’s baking, it tastes soft and buttery (even without pats of butter) and fragrant and the best part, it retains its lovely softness the day after! Even Nic gave this a thumbs-up – we polished off the whole loaf in two sittings. That’s how amazing this recipe is.
And to think I almost passed it over!
I looked at the ingredients and didn’t see what made it so exceptional. And to think it is made entirely in the bread machine. All I did was eat the bread.
Here’s the recipe for the Pullman Loaf. It’s called Pullman because it’s supposed to be baked in the oven in a pullman tin (a bread tin with a sliding cover so that the bread is square shaped – like the kind of roti you get from your roti shop). I didn’t have one so I just decided to do it all in the bread machine.
Put the ingredients in this order in your bread machine:
190 ml chilled UHT milk
330 gm bread flour
30 gm caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt (do not put the salt near the yeast; salt inhibits the yeast)
Set your machine to BASIC and let it knead.
About five minutes into the kneading, open up your machine and add 25 gm of cut up butter.
Close the lid and let the machine do its work. After 3 hours, your bread is ready!
It will have a lovely brown crust (choose MEDIUM crust setting on your machine).
You won’t be able to resist slicing into this bread the moment it comes out of the bread pan. But resist you must. At least let the bread cool for 30 minutes. It will be eaten up with relish!
This is definitely the kind of no-fail bread recipe any newbie bread enthusiast can try.
Of course you can knead this bread by hand. I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t tell you how it’s made but trust me, if you swoon over bread like me, go get a bread machine.
Calculate your credit card points and redeem one!
Or else, go buy one for yourself. 😉