baking

Vanilla Almond Granola

Easy to make and delicious Vanilla Almond Granola! It is surprisingly easy to make. What took me so long to try?!

Whisk together coconut oil and syrup until well combined.

Make sure the oats are evenly coat.

Spread it evenly on the pan before baking. Stir to ensure the granola is baked evenly, every 15 mins.

Vanilla Almond Granola

Ingredients:

2½ cup or 200g rolled oats

¾ cup silvered almonds

½ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

½ cup maple syrup (substituted with golden syrup)

¼ cup coconut oil

¼ tsp almond extract (omitted)

1 tbsp vanilla extract (yes, 1 tablespoon)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 300oF or 150oC. Line baking pan with baking paper.
  2. Toss oats, almonds, cinnamon, salt together. Set aside.
  3. Whisk syrup, coconut oil till combined.
  4. Whisk in almond extract and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over oats mixture and toss to coat evenly, making sure all oats are moistened.
  6. Spread it on the baking sheet, and bake for 45min, stirring every 15min.
  7. Allow granola to cool completely so that it will be crunchy.
  8. Keep in airtight container for up to 3 weeks, at room temperature.

Notes:

  • It is a scale down from the original recipe, and it fits my baking pan just nice. So it depends on the size of your own baking pan.
  • I used a combination of sliced almonds and diced almonds because that’s what I have on hand. I find that sliced almonds are good as it is thin and crunchy after baking, giving the finished product more “dimension”.
  • I omitted almond extract as I finished it. The granola was still good.
  • Substituted maple syrup with golden syrup. Yea.. I am making it more unhealthy so called. But I think that both are sugars, and downing too much maple syrup is equivalent to overdose of sugar too. Besides, it was practical for me because I could not think of a better way to finish up my golden syrup. End product was good, maybe better because golden syrup is thicker and sweeter compared to maple syrup. Just eat in moderation. J
  • Stirring every 15 min is absolutely important, especially that I used almond flakes, which are thin. Some almond flakes were still burnt.
  • It is absolutely delicious and easy to make.

 

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Peanut cookies

 

I first tried this recipe 3 years back, after founding the recipe on Bread Et Butter. I liked how she presented it with the simple 2:2:1:1 ratio. (2 cups peanut: 2 cups flour: 1 cup icing sugar: 1 cup oil) Voilà! I loved peanut cookies and was amazed how simple it was. No weighing scale needed (unless if u need to weigh out the balls for business purposes).

Peanut cookies are easy to differentiate from the white almond cookies. But anyway, I took extra effort to make it look like golden coins (ancient Chinese coins look like that). Did not apply the egg wash evenly.

The peanut cookie dough was extremely cohesive. It was the easiest to make as compared to almond cookies, especially the crunchy almond cookies, which requires “extra squeeze” to make the dough come together.

I used a chopstick with square ends to gently push the middle to create “coin shape”.  The one at bottom right was leftover dough, about 5g instead of 8g.

I purposely left some of it with the bubbles from egg wash. It all dissipated with baking. (e.g. second one from bottom left) Without egg wash, the taste was not very different.

Finished product.

 

Peanut cookies

Makes 60-65 cookies, 8g each.

 Ingredients:

1 cup ground peanut (~125g)

1 cup flour (~125g)

½ cup icing sugar (67.5g)

½ cup oil (67.5g)

Method:

The ratio of peanuts: flour: icing sugar: oil = 2:2:1:1.

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add in oil and mix well. It should form cohesive dough (not crumbling). Form dough into small balls, 7-8g each. Glaze with beaten egg. Bake at 180oC, 15-20 min.

Notes:

  • The dough for peanut cookies are much more cohesive than the almond cookies (both types), thus easier to handle.

I am submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb)” hosted by Miss B of Everyone Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Traditional Almond Cookies

This was really fragrant. Even my grandma (who does not eat CNY cookies as she is afraid of butter) says its nice! She ate three. Nice feat. I took it out to let everyone try during the reunion dinner at Grandma’s house and all of them except one liked it, to my delightful surprise. One of my uncles can’t stop at one and specifically requested to grab the container of cookies I gave Ah-mah (grandma) and kept popping into his mouth right after dinner. He liked it so much he wanted to order. But I have no time for that cos CNY was next day!

Moreover I made a mistake by using the fine grain table sugar as it was too late to get caster sugar anyway (most shops were already closed when I started baking).  I thought the sugar would melt with high oven temperature, but it did not. If u want the sugar crystals to blend in better, use caster sugar (super fine grain, specifically for baking). Some people like the sugar crunch though.

Nevertheless, I looked for ways to solve the crystal problem. I want to find a recipe which creates melt-in-the-mouth-even-more almond cookies. I found one using icing sugar in much less quantity, which I had thought of after baking the first batch, but threw the idea out as I was not sure how the cornstarch content will affect the product. Maybe next year.

It looks similar to the crunchy melty almond cookies I baked earlier, but that’s just the original colour of almond cookies. The yellow colour saw in stores were bestowed by egg wash, which has to be omitted because my friend’s wife is vegetarian.

1 batch makes about 60-65 cookies, 8g each. Slightly more cookies than required to fill one container. I used a medium large container. This “business” was no easy task. Hourly pay could be $5 or less, depending on various factors. But the bonus is, I get to do the things I like.

Cooling on a rack immediately after baking. My oven pan was too hot and the bottom got slightly burnt. On the upside, there was a nice “burnt taste” if u know what I mean.

Traditional Almond Cookies

Makes 60-65 pieces, 8g each

 Ingredients:

120g ground almond

95g caster sugar

180g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

122ml oil

1 egg yolk

Method:

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together. Mix well with almond. Incorporate oil into the dry mixture and stir quickly. Roll into small balls of 7-8g each (about 1 tsp). Bake at 180oC, 18 min or lightly browned.

Notes:

  • Bought the wrong type of sugar, the fine grain table sugar. It did not melt fully in the finished product. Some people like the “crunch” sugar crystals gave. I think it’s a blessing in disguise, but if I bought the normal table sugar (coarse grain), then people will probably shun the cookies.
  • Baking at 180oC for 18min results in slightly overbaked cookies. Anyway baking temperatures and timing in recipes are mere guidelines. Every oven is different. My oven pan tends to be very hot and I think that’s why cookie bottoms were slightly burnt. I ended up baking for 15min. No burnt taste but slightly less fragrant overall.

I am submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb)” hosted by Miss B of Everyone Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Classics: Chocolate chip cookies

Crunchy chocolate chip cookies (pardon for poor lighting)

soft chocolate chip cookies. (10 min baking time)

I first made this classic in 2010. Found it in

All Recipes is my favourite recipe site because the recipes were contributed by real people who tried it and reviews by people who also tried it. Its almost foolproof. This particular recipe is by Dora and has over 6000 positive reviews.. I knew I gotta try it.

As it would be the last Christmas cookies I bake for my colleagues, I decided to do the same cookies again. But when my sis saw the soft cookies, she commented that most people would prefer crunchier ones. True. So I Increased baking time and my colleagues seemed to prefer it over soft ones anyway. Enjoy! 🙂

I mix it with two spoons.

not smooth I know..

After adding eggs.

Add in flour, chocolate chips and walnut. Mix well.

Flatten slightly. Bake for 10 or 20min, depending on the texture desired.

Ingredients:

225g butter

200g white sugar (reduced to 50g)

220g packed brown sugar (reduced to half)

2 eggs

10ml vanilla extract (2tsp)

375g flour

5g baking soda (1 tsp)

10ml hot water (2 tsp)

3g salt (1/2 tsp)

335g chocolate chips (semi sweet)

115g chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 175oC.
  2. Cream butter and sugars till smooth. Beat in eggs one by one. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to mixture, together with salt.
  4. Sift in flour. Add chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased pans (flatten slightly for crunchier result)
  6. For soft cookies: Bake 10min or until edges are browned.
  7. For crunchy cookies: Bake 20-22min or until the cookies are brown.

Notes:

  • Baking time determines whether it is a soft or crunchy cookie. Increase by twice as much time for cookies with a crunch.
  • Did not read carefully and added salt to flour instead. Not a big impact I guess.
  • Cookie will slightly spread but flattening it will produce a more evenly spread and crunchier cookie.
  • Baking it for too long will result in an overbaked product – the cookie will taste slightly bitter. But most people will enjoy it anyway. Only the most picky tastebuds will be able to tell. Most people around me prefer crunchy cookies.
  • The chocolate chips are way too much. Semi sweet (Hersheys) is still too sweet. Reducing it by half is a good idea.
  • Reduced white sugar as I ran out of it. Brown sugar was weighted loosely instead of “packed”. It was still too sweet for some people. Could reduce sugar content further, but not sure how it might affect the outcome other than sweetness.

Butter pound cake – Christine’s recipes

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Since my first failure on the seemingly simple butter cake, I have started my mini search on butter cake recipes. In order not to waste ingredients, I am looking for recipes using whole eggs instead of yolks only. I’ll probably try those when I want to bake some egg white cookies. That is, if I am able to eat cookies first..

The first try was a disaster which I can’t remember how exactly it happened. That’s why writing a food/baking journal is so important, especially when u are on a personal quest to become a better cook/baker, as with anything else.

My second try was a simple butter cake using one-bowl method. It finally looks like a cake. I have a colleague who is a real connoisseur and never run out of descriptive words for food and taste. I wonder why he does not pursue his love for food. With his abilities, I am sure he can be a real expert well sought for food tasting. Anyway, he gives 55-65 marks for my cake. He was being kind I think. Lol. It sure tasted decent, but did not rise well enough, causing an over dense cake. It was also dry probably due to improper mixing. I sure am not a talented baker, hence I need to keep records and notes. Used to bake a couple of stuffs and didn’t note it down. Now I realised the importance of it.

Anyway, I decided to give creaming method a try, for better leavening effect. I have also wanted to make pound cake. So what better than butter pound cake using creaming method?

Overall, I am very satisfied with this bake. More than the simple butter cake. Shall let the connoisseur try tmr. 🙂

This recipe is taken from Christine’s Recipes – Butter Pound Cake

Ingredients
200g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
105g sugar (original calls for 175g. I used about 60%.)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50ml milk

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius. Grease a regular loaf pan (11.5×22.5×5.5cm), and line with baking paper.
2. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt. (This is the same as self-raising flour.)
3. Beat butter on low speed till creamy.
4. Add sugar and increase to medium speed. Beat till pale and creamy. This is creaming.
5. Beat eggs in a bowl, add to batter in 3 batches, ensuring that it is well mixed before the next addition. Mix in vanilla extract.
6. Sift in flour mixture in 3 batches also, folding it in with a spatula, making sure there are no lumps of flour, but not over mixed too. (Over mixing produces tough cake.)
7. Mix in milk quickly. Pour into lined baking tin. Bake 20min. Then reduce to 170 degree Celsius and bake for another 20-25min. Extend if needed. Monitor the temperature and time as different ovens work differently.

Notes:
– After 20min at 180 Celsius, my cake had a little crack. Wanted to skip the part to cut the top of cake so it doesn’t crack just anywhere. But too bad. My oven was probably too hot. I followed recipe instructions and made a line cut along the length of cake. At the end, the initial small crack (formed before 20minutes was up) enlarged.
– I baked for additional 15minutes at 170 degree Celsius. A dark brown crust formed on top. Too brown. I should have lowered the temperature to 160 or 150 towards the end. After 45minutes, the cake was bubbling with butter. But the top had a nice brown. I used my knife as a skewer but it was greased with butter so I was not sure whether it was undercooked inside or purely oily. Lol..it was too late when I realised. Overbaked.. For sure.
– Creaming requires butter softened at room temperature. When u press the butter with your finger it should form a dent but holds its shape. Otherwise, it is too soft and oily to retain air. As a result, the cake will be dense. Refer to Baking Tips & Hints from Baking Pan for more information. I think I made the mistake of softening it for too long. My connoisseur colleague said this time round the cake is improved but still too tough inside.
– I was particularly attentive in the creaming, trying to achieve soft and fluffy. In other words, creamy. The sugar did not entirely dissolve. But why would sugar dissolve in fat? I think eggs help to bind butter and sugar together.
– Added eggs slowly, 1/3 at a time, making sure it was well mixed before addition of the next 1/3. This is because eggs act as an emulsifier. Some recipes I saw online mentioned there is no need to worry if addition of eggs lead to curdling. Maybe. But after some failures, I tend to be more careful on this. If the purpose of egg is to emulsify, the mixture should look well mixed after it’s addition.
– Add flour by three batches too. I made some cakes with lumps and it looked scary. I do not want to over mix to allow too much gluten formation. I want a cake, not a tough baked batter. No lumps desired too, so I scrap the bottom to make sure the flour is well mixed in.
– Mix quickly after adding milk.

A really simple, Basic butter cake (one bowl/blending method)

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It all starts with a desire to make a decent mango mousse cake.

I bought three big fat mangoes recently, each the size of three times my palm. Boyfriend’s birthday is approaching too. Mousse cake sounds like a very presentable birthday cake and feels (at least) light. The cake layer for mousse cake is usually a soft cake, and I thought of sponge or ogura cake, which is also known as cotton cake. However I can’t get hold of cream of tartar, which is an essential ingredient in ogura cake, and I thought sponge is a little too dry. So I decided to practice making the most basic of all, butter cake.

I am a clumsy baker. I made some good stuffs, but had my fair share of failures. I definitely am not a cake person, because it requires the electric mixer, and I find the mixer too troublesome to take out and use… So I usually bake cookies, and I bake it.. quite decent, with some good raves and satisfying results. It is important to use heart and soul in baking (cooking, and actually in whatever u do. People can tell. It shows.)

So a cake noob decided to bake her first butter cake. (Or is it not the first?)

I followed a recipe from a nice looking Chinese recipe book. Turned out pathetic. It was dry, cake did not rise (almost expected), top was over dried, inner was undercooked. I had to know why. I wanted to throw it away, but being mum, she disallowed. Not that she is eating any of it though (zzz..). I ate some over breakfast at my bf house, and the guy reached out for second servings, claiming that the taste is ok, though tough inside. I told him not to eat my failed product already, as I wasn’t sure if it was cooked. Bad for health. Lol.. But was touched by his gesture though.

After some search online for butter cake recipes, I realize the recipe I used was intrinsically wrong. The batter was meant to turn out too dry, as it did not have any liquid as an ingredient. Most butter cake recipes calls for use of milk, buttermilk, or some form of liquid. It uses the creaming method, which i was not sure how it works for cakes. I usually do quite well for cookies. Seems like cakes require more mixing and much fluffier mixture from creaming. A lot of knowledge and practice required indeed. More on the failed recipe next time.

For now, a decent butter cake. With more improvements to be made. 🙂

Recipe is adapted from The English Kitchen – A Simple Butter Cake.

Ingredients
125g butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
190g sugar (reduced to 130g)
3 large eggs (best at room temperature)
210g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Pinch of salt
125ml milk

1. Preheat oven to 150 degree Celsius. Butter 8-inch round pan and line with baking paper.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together. Mix with sugar.
3. Mix on low speed with butter and some milk till incorporated. (Purpose is to coat flour with fat)
4. Add in eggs, remaining milk, vanilla. Beat on low speed to mix all ingredients, then high speed till just smooth.
5. Bake 1h 5min, or till skewer-clean.
6. Cool 5 min in pan before turning out on wire rack.

Notes:
– Used 9 inch pan as I do not have 8-inch. As expected, the cake did not rise as well. It is a little tough, although taste is ok.
– After some research (after the whole baking saga… What was I thinking??), I realized 1 8-inch round pan can be substituted by a 8 x 4 inch loaf pan (which I have). Shall try it next time.
– If I used a larger pan, according to Joy of Baking – pan sizes, I would have to reduce baking time and up the temperature slightly. Very informative website recommended for all bakers, especially newbies. Videos are also included for most recipes, so u can know exactly what it means by “stiff peaks”, “soft and fluffy”. Seriously, these descriptive terms are good, but not specific enough to save new bakers disappointment, time, effort and money. Seeing pictures and videos is to best way to learn. Baking is an art, and much of science.
– Top of cake is slightly hard. Should have reduced the cooking time since the cake is in a more spread out pan. The top is slightly overcooked, though overall, still nice.
– Original recipe only requires all ingredients to be mixed on low speed till incorporated, then increase to high till just smooth. Did some research and realized the blending method is as described above. Should I just follow the recipe instead of changing the mixing method? One-bowl method is about coating flour with fat, so that further mixing will not develop as much gluten, and the result will be a moist cake.
– Wasn’t sure how “just smooth” is supposed to be. I spent some time scraping down ingredients on low speed, and the batter turns “just smooth” a little while after I changed to high speed. I read that most people beat it at medium speed for 3minutes. So not sure if I did not mix enough. Some gluten needs to be developed as it would give the cake structure.
– Cake was cooked. It could have been more moist, and soft if it were allowed to rise more. It did not rise as much as expected, probably due to larger pan and improper/under mixing. But still, the cake was good enough to satisfy me.
– Taste wise, it was decent. Slightly not sweet enough for it to be called dessert. But then again, my household is not into sweet stuffs.
– I am glad I made a butter cake decent enough to bring to work.. Usually I only dared bring chocolate cakes as many faults can be covered by the rich taste and dark colors.
– Cake is decent enough to serve my family and friends too.

Snowskin mooncake with red wine berry paste – Mooncake making 2014

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I was making these mooncakes on Friday night when my family members walked past, bewildered. “Mooncake?? So early??”

Yup that’s right.. I don’t want to repeat last year’s mistake by starting too late, stressing myself out and not able to get hold of some ingredients & equipments. Moreover, I was a first timer last year. Did not expect mooncakes to be so complicated (?). Or rather, it is difficult before u figure it out, as with everything else. Anyway, I have given myself ample time this year by starting early, recee stores, testing out ingredients (example different flavours of paste) & recipes, refine techniques etc.

This is just a trial run, so I’m making things simple. Original, no color, single filling. Last year, the skin of my snowskin mooncake turned very hard after 1-2 days of refrigeration. Disappointing. This year, I want to make sure I correct those wrongs. This year will be a search for recipes and storage methods that produce sustainable soft skin.

This recipe stayed soft on day 3. I think it is worth a share.

I brought the mooncakes to a housewarming party, and the guests loved it. (Even though my sis said white mooncakes don’t look appealing.) I did not want to add artificial colorings and flavorings so it would take some time to research the ways I can incorporate color and flavor.

So far, I am happy with this first trial. 🙂

This recipe is adapted from Alan Ooi, Mooncake Sonata recipe book.

Ingredients (makes 12-13 small mooncakes, 55g each)
90g fried glutinous rice flour (Koh fun)
125g icing sugar
25g shortening
95ml cold water

Fillings: red wine berry paste 360-390g (store bought, from KCT)

Method
1. Sift koh fun and icing sugar together.
2. Rub shortening into mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add cold water and mix well till soft dough forms.
4. Leave the dough to rest for about 30 minutes, under cling wrap.
5. Weigh 25g of dough, roll into a ball. U should get 12-13 balls.
6. Weigh 30g of filling, roll into balls.
7. Flatten dough and roll out into a rough circle, thinner at the sides.
8. Wrap the filling in it, and form a ball.
9. Dust the wrapped ball with a little koh fun. Press into the mould, detach the ring and push the mooncake out.
10. Store in airtight container, in the refrigerator (not freezer).

Notes:
– I read somewhere that resting the dough helps to make it more smooth and pliable.
– In my house of non-sweet-lovers, the dough is too much for them. I’m not sure how reducing the sugar will affect the dough texture and pliability though. Shall try next time.
– My sis commented that white mooncakes look inedible and mouldy. (Especially with dark red filling) I am going to experiment with different colors and flavors.
– It is important to keep the mooncakes in airtight container in the fridge. So far I do not need to thaw before serving. Today is day 3 and the mooncakes stay soft.
– The dough is on the dry side but pliable and easy to manage. It “cracks” with rolling. Just paste it back.
– The sealed side is uneven. To produce beautiful prints, I thought I should let the smooth side go into he mould. But the bottoms all turn out pretty ugly. I read somewhere that the seal side should go into the mould face. As I mould, I was thinking how come those store bought mooncakes have smooth beautiful bottoms. Maybe this could be the answer.
– Store bought paste I have worked with are so far easy to work with (Phoon Huat, KCT)

Some of the places to get supplies for Mooncake making:
Sunlik, KCT, Phoon Huat, Bake King, Ailin