Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I baked a crostata con la crema using the second version of the pasta frolla as well as making the pastry cream chocolate with the help of half a block of some chocolate I had on hand. ^^ This is my first Daring Bakers' challenge and the second try at making the crostata. xD The first one turned out quite horribly for me, I just couldn't roll the dough (I've never rolled dough before, actually) and gah, the other mishaps are just too embarrassing to mention. >.<

I can't really remember much since I baked this quite awhile ago and a lot has happened since then. xD

But I can say that I very much enjoyed making something different for a change. Despite the name of my blog, I actually rarely bake pies and tarts, so this step out of my comfort zone was quite the experience. ^^

I still can't roll out dough, by the way. (the crust you see is the work of pressing down the dough into the cake pan) Yes, I used a springform cake pan, since I didn't have a tart pan on hand. Fortunately, my experience with 'pressing down' cheesecake crusts into pans helped me with constructing the tart crust. xD

Apologies for the Harry Potter crack down the surface of the tart, I should've put a pan of water along with the tart to make it crack-free.

So, yes... First challenge completed~ Can't wait for the next one. ^^

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Marbled New York Cheesecake

This was the first cheesecake recipe I've ever baked and now, I'm known as the 'great cheesecake baker' amongst my relatives. As much as I think that they're over-exaggerating, I have to say that it's an exceptional cheesecake recipe. =D I found the recipe on, like most of my recipes. Of course, like all allrecipes recipes (lol, did anyone else find that last sentence funny?) when made as-is, produces okay-okay results. But with a few tips and tricks here and there (courtesy of the reviews), it is transformed into something much more spectacular. I have added my own twist to the recipe and here's my version. ^^

The original recipe can be found here. This is my altered version.
Marbled New York Cheesecake
serves one 9-inch cheesecake, approx 1.5 inches in height
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 1/2 egg, beaten (you'll use the remaining 1/2 for the filling)
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 675g (23 oz) cream cheese, softened and at room-temperature
- 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 tablespoon and 1 and a half teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or 1 and a half tbs whole milk)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Lightly oil the springform pan. This will ensure that your cheesecake won't stick to the bottom of the pan and that there won't be any cracks when it cools.
2. Crust: Combine the flour, sugar and butter into a bowl. Beat one egg and slowly pour half of the egg into the mixture. Mix the crust-mix toegther until a dough forms. Press to the bottom of the pan and poke holes all over with a fork. Careful when adding the egg, if you add too much, you'll have to add some flour to counter it, throwing off the balance and making a stiff crust.
3. Bake the crust in the oven for 15 minutes and take out. Allow to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 245 degrees C (475 degrees F) in the meantime.
4. Make sure your cream cheese is at room-temperature so that your filling doesn't have any lumps. Using a spoon, mix your cream cheese until it comes to a smooth consistency and to smoosh it up if it's stiff. Gradually add in the sugar and flour, beating after each addition to maintain the smooth texture. Add in the eggs and yolk. Don't panic if it starts to seperate the cream cheese mix into little bits. If your cheese is at room temperature, it'll mix in smoothly after awhile. Add the whipping cream and mix until blended. If your mix is still lumpy, press it through a sieve, but I think doing so makes a flatter cheesecake (or it's just me).
Optional step: Drop some chocolate syrup on the surface of the cheesecake and make swirly-patterns with a toothpick.
5. Pour filling over the crust (which should be cool by now). Get another pan (doesn't matter how big it is) and fill it up with hot water, or normal-temp water, both will have the same effect). Place your cheesecake on the middle rack and the pan of water on the lowest rack and bake at 245 degrees C (475 degrees F) for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are up, immediately drop the temperature down to 95 degrees C (200 degrees F) and bake for one whole hour. Do not open the oven door under any circumstances.
6. Once the one hour is up, turn off the oven and leave it in the oven for another hour. Still, don't open the oven.
7. Chill overnight in the fridge. Don't even try to cut the cake after it has just cooked, let it set in the fridge.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ridiculously Easy Salad Croutons

I know it isn't exactly baking and isn't exactly cooking, but the fridge is full of baked goods and I couldn't think of anything to post for today. xD Maybe I'll dig out some of my old pictures and write about them, but for now, I'm letting you in on a secret:

Ready-made croutons are a waste of money. (no duh)

Ridiculously Easy Salad Croutons

1 french baguette (you can use normal bread, if you want)
some form of oil
pinch of salt

1. Cut the baguette / bread into 1cm cubes and place on top of a baking sheet.
2. Drizzle with some vegetable oil.
3. Pop into a preheated oven at the top rack for 15 minutes at 175 degrees C (350 degrees F).
4. Let it cool and toss with salad or keep in an airtight container.

- Any vegetable oil can do the trick, it helps with the browning. I seriously don't recommend you using your Italian-imported high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Normal light olive oil will do.
- You could always flavour it with some garlic (or whatever) infused oil you have prior to baking.
- I have heard of people buttering the baguette before cutting it up but I think regular toss-with-vegetable oil is much healthier.

Crispy, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mini-Pavlovas

I have a confession to make:
I have been seriously neglecting my blogspot after being introduced to tumblr by a friend. xDD

After updating my tumblr for the who-knows-how-many-eth time, I decided to actually write something on my poor blogspot. What else, I thought, would be more perfect than some light, delicate mini-pavlovas? Now, I do know that the traditional meringue and pavlova is "crispy on the outside but delightfully marshmallow-y on the inside", however, I (and my pavlova-loving mom) think that it's much better when it's crispy and dry the whole way through.

I went through a pavlova-baking phase a few weeks ago after my mother started craving some from the local Delicious restaurant (no, I didn't capitalise that for fun, the name of the place is 'Delicious'). But RM13 (approx. $4) for a dollop of meringue with whipped cream and strawberries is quite pricey if you craved one everyday. xD

And so, I opened my web-browser and went to (where most of my recipes come from) and the end result was quite pleasing. =D (after a few adjustments, of course)

The original recipe can be found here. This is the version with my alterations. 

Crispy, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mini-Pavlovas
serves 7 mini-pavlovas
2 egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or any kitchen acid you have on hand  eg. lemon juice, white vinegar)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Whipping cream and fruit of your choice

Pre-baking Notes
- My food processor has a whisk attachment, so I make meringues in my food processor (I don't have a mixer). I don't recommend using the normal blade attachment, however... It just won't work.
- Egg whites will never never never double in volume properly when there is a particle of fat in them. Clean your bowl, beaters and everything to make sure they're grease-free for optimum egg volume. Also, when seperating eggs, better to have white in your yolk than yolk in your white.
- Egg yolks don't keep as long as egg whites do in the fridge, so I recommend you making pavlovas with leftover whites than making pavlovas and having leftover yolks... If that made any sense. ^^ (Egg yolk fridge life = 1 - 2 days ; Egg white fridge life = 1 week)

1. Pre-heat oven to 120 degrees Celcius (or 250 degrees F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Beat the egg whites until really soft peaks form (it'll be mostly foamy without the sugar and etc). White the beater is still... beating, add in the sugar by the tablespoons gradually. Once all of the sugar is in, beat it on high until proper soft peaks form.
3. Put the food processor / hand beater / stand mixer / your hand on low speed and add in the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch. Then, turn the speed to high and beat until still peaks. Don't overbeat and make sure everything is incoperated. 
4. Using a spoon or spatula or whatever you're comfortable with, dollop around 2 - 3 tablespoons of egg white fluff onto the baking sheet. Lightly press the mound down with the back of a spoon and shape the edges of the blob into a circle. With the back of the spoon, make a small dip in the middle of the egg-white mix so that your whipped cream and fruit can stay on the top instead of toppling off your dessert. Don't worry if your pavlova doesn't turn out looking like a pavlova. Practice makes perfect. ^^ If you have a piping bag, go ahead and pipe out the mix. 
5. Don't worry about it expanding or running, it won't. Which means, about 1 inch or so between pavlovas is enough.
6. Once you have made 7 (depending on how much mix you put per pavlova), pop it into the oven for 1 and a half hours.
7. Turn the oven off and let them cool in the oven overnight (or maybe 4 hours).
8. Once they have cooled and dried off in the oven, turn the oven on again but set it to 90 degrees Celcius (195 degrees F) for about 25 minutes (don't worry about it preheating, just turn it on).
9. Turn off the oven, let it cool again for about an hour or so. To check whether your pavlova is crispy on the inside, just stab a toothpick through the middle of one of them and when it comes out clean and there's no toffee-like layer in the middle, it's dry.
10. Place one on a plate, dollop (or spray-can) some whipped cream on and serve with your favourite fruit on top.

Post-baking Notes
- Don't lick the bowl when making meringues. It's uncooked egg whites, can get you salmonella and it's kinda gross.
- The second baking time isn't really necessary if your pavlovas are already dry all the way through after cooling down. I live in a relatively humid country, so the second baking time is needed. Of course, if it's rainy or hot outside, that will have an impact on your pavlova. But it's okay, practice makes perfect. ^^
- Store un-whipped-creamed pavlovas in an airtight container for up to a week or two. If it gets toffee-like in the middle, just pop into an oven for 25 minutes at 90 degrees C (195 degrees F).

Enjoy~ <3