Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mars oatmeal bar

It's finally over.. 2nd year that is. Only 3 more years till I become a dentist! 2nd year has passed by so darrn quickly. It's probably got to do with all those night labs and clinic, finishing classes at 8.30pm. But hey, I've started honing my skills on restoring dummy patient's teeth, treated my first "real patient" and I've learnt so much on head and neck anatomy. It's a pity I'll never get the chance to dissect a cadaver's head again. 

Now I made this wayyyy back in September last year. It was for a picnic during the mid semester break and frankly it was when our friendship really started. I still remember being rather surprised that you actually agreed to join us and frankly, those chocolate/peanut butter cupcakes you made were pretty good. But then again these were gobbled up the moment I took them out. Crunchy, gooey, chocolatey. They were really delicious. Perfect for a picnic or a midday snack.

You can pretty much use any chocolate bar, Snickers or Milky Way will work just fine. And you won't miss much if you opt not to add in the chocolate chips like I did. They were a breeze to make and surprisingly, egg-less. Now, as a dental student, I'll have to point out that even though the recipe requires only 5 tablespoon of sugar, lets not forget the hidden sugar from the Mars bars :)



Mars oatmeal bar adapted from Martha Stewart by pepsakoy
Makes 12 medium sized bars

Ingredients
3 Mars bars
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
142 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Coat a 8-by-8- inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with a sheet of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each short side. Put Mars bars and cream in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bars are melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and the salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a fork or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal; press half of mixture onto bottom of lined pan. Bake until just set and starting to color around edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Sprinkle crust with chocolate chips; drizzle with melted Mars mixture. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into squares

Seeing where we are now, I wished I never told you.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Top Chef: Just Dessert

Now this has got to be one of my favourite shows of all time. If you haven't heard of the Top Chef series, it's a reality based cooking competition for professional chefs and Top Chef: Just Dessert is a spin-off featuring pastry chefs. Watching the show never fails to make me hungry.

This cake was part of the finale in the 2nd season of the show. The final challenge was to create a display case that includes a display piece, an entremet cake, a savory bread piece, bonbons and a plated dessert for a special person in the chef's life. In case you're wondering, an entremet is just a fancy term for a multi-layered mousse cake. This entremet was created by Sally Camacho. She's one of my favourites and  I was really glad that she made it to the finals. With no name to this cake, it's simply called: 
Entremet- Chocolate Mousse, Mango Vanilla Cream, Caramel Crémeux, Lime, Almond Sponge

 This entremet has 7 components in total and if you followed the original recipe it would have 11 layers. I'll have to confess that what I've made is nothing compared to Sally's original creation. I've skipped a few components and layers just out of pure laziness. Sooo... check this out to see how awesome it'll be if you've followed her every step. Her recipe might be a tad technical so if you're a beginner, I suggest you save this recipe and try it again when you've got a barrage of baking techniques up your sleeves. 

I'll have to add that the almond sponge tasted rather weird? But maybe it's just because my oven died on me just when I was about to put the sponge in. I had to bake it in a toaster oven instead which isn't very ideal. It's also the first time I've tried out this technique of baking a sponge: making a paste first and folding it into the meringue. 

The mango vanilla cream wasn't mango-y enough for my taste so I doubled the amount of mango. And if you haven't realised, this cake uses heaps of cream. So if you're on a diet, you might want to skip this. :)


Entremet- Chocolate Mousse, Mango Vanilla Cream, Caramel Crémeux, Lime, Almond Sponge 

Ingredients

Lime Jam:
200 grams water
10 limes, juiced and zested
100 grams sugar
1 grams salt
1/2 vanilla bean
8 grams apple pectin

Mango Vanilla Cream:
100 grams mango puree (you might want to double this)
75 grams inverted sugar
4 vanilla beans
100 grams egg yolks
6 grams gelatin, bloomed
300 grams heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Caramel Cremeux:
3 vanilla beans
450 grams heavy cream
100 grams sugar
100 grams yolks
6 grams gelatin
1.25 grams Sel Gris

Chocolate Mousse:
115 grams sugar
368 grams heavy cream, scalding + 800 grams heavy cream, soft whip
80 grams yolks
256 grams Manjari chocolate
8 grams gelatin, bloomed 
 
Caramel Glaze:
500 grams sugar
450 grams cream
450 grams water
20 g rams cornstarch
22 grams gelatin, bloomed

Almond Sponge:
100 grams almond flour
85 grams powdered sugar
50 grams cake flour
60 grams egg whites + 160 grams
20 grams heavy cream
100 grams sugar
4 grams Fleur de sel

Almond Petite Beurre:
200 grams pastry flour
100 grams powdered sugar
150 grams almonds
135 grams butter
3 grams sea salt

Instructions

Lime Jam:
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stir to prevent burning. Allow to boil and cook for 1 minute. Take off heat and allow to cool.

Mango Vanilla Cream:
In a small saucepan, place mango puree, inverted sugar, and vanilla beans. Cook over low-medium heat. Temper in yolks, cook over low heat to make anglaise. Cook to 85 degrees Celsius. Take off heat, add gelatin. Remove vanilla beans.

Blend to smooth. Chill to 40 degrees Celsius. Fold in soft cream. Pour mixture into insert fleximolds. Freeze

Caramel Cremeux
In a small saucepan, place scraped vanilla beans and cream. Bring to scald. Reserve and keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, make a dry caramel by adding 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time to the hot pot to caramelize. Bring to dark caramel. Break caramel by adding warm cream to caramel. Cook over low heat to dissolve caramel. Temper in egg yolks. Cook over low heat to make anglaise. Cook to 85 degrees Celsius.

Take off heat, add gelatin and Sel. Remove vanilla beans. Blend to smooth. Pour into insert fleximolds. Place frozen disk of mango cream right on top to kiss cremeux. Freeze

Chocolate Mousse:
In a small pot, keep heavy cream warm. In a medium pot.

Make a dry caramel with the sugar. Once caramel is dark, break with hot cream. Temper in yolks to make anglaise. Cook to 85 degrees Celsius. Pour over chocolate and gelatin. Blend to smooth. Cool chocolate mixture to 40 degrees Celsius. Fold in soft cream. Place in piping bag for assembly.

Caramel Glaze:
In a small pot, bring cream to scald and reserve warm.

In a medium pot make a dry caramel with the sugar. Once caramel is dark, break with hot cream. Cook on low heat to dissolve caramel.

Mix water and cornstarch to create slurry. Add to caramel. Bring mixture to a boil. Allow to boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add bloomed gelatin. Burmix to smooth. Ice bath to chill glaze to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Reserve to glaze entremet.

Almond Sponge:
In a Robot Coupe, combine almond flour, powdered sugar, cake flour, 60 grams of egg whites, and heavy cream. Robot to make a paste.

In a kitchen aide mixer, with the whip attachment, mix 160 grams of egg whites on medium. Slowly add the sugar to make a medium peak meringue. Fold meringue into paste. Spread onto a silpat lined sheet tray and bake in a pre heated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 8-10 minutes or until evenly browned. Allow to cool. Then cut 2-7 inch circles and spread one side with lime jam and sprinkle with Fleur de sel.

Almond Petite Beurre:
Place all ingredients in Robot Coupe. Blend to form dough. Press into 7 3/4- inch ring. Remove ring. Bake in preheated 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-18 minutes or until evenly golden brown.

Assembly:
Build upside down. Place acetate on a flat sheet tray. Place 8-inch stainless steal ring on sheet tray. Pipe chocolate mousse all over bottom first. Use a spatula to spread it evenly and up the sides of the ring. 

Next press frozen insert of mango cream and caramel cremeux into mousse. Press an almond sponge circle jam side down onto frozen insert. Top with more chocolate mousse and spread mousse to cover evenly. 

Then repeat with another frozen insert of mango cream and caramel cremeux into mousse and press an almond sponge circle jam side down onto frozen insert again. Top with more chocolate mousse to cover. 

Then top with almond petite beurre. Freeze entremet in blast freezer. Once totally frozen. Torch outer part of the ring and remove ring from entremet. Glaze entremet immediately with caramel glaze. Garnish sides of entremet with tempered manjari plaques.


Pssst: If you notice in the 1st and 2nd picture, the layers are in a different order. And that's because I was stupid enough to not notice which way is the right side up when pouring the glaze over. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

My macaron journey


I've been holding back the idea of blogging about my macaron adventures for the longest time. I hesitated writing this because somehow I felt that there's no end to this journey. That there's still so much more to explore and do. I finally made up my mind just because I want to share my mac photos with the rest of the world. 

It all started way back in 2007 when I was still in high school. Back then, macarons were only starting to be popular and not many knew how to make these expensive gems. I still remember my first attempt. It was.. one gigantic mess. To think I actually spent hours researching on how to make the perfect macaron; I noted down every tip and tricks I found on the net and followed every one of them to the t. In the end, my batter was way too runny and it turned out nothing like a macaron. My 2nd attempt was much more successful. I still remember staring into the oven for the entire 20 min watching my macarons rise and develop feets and then going crazy in the kitchen.
My 2nd attempt
My 3rd,4th,5th,6th,7th and 8th attempt all done in 2 days.

After my successful 2nd attempt, I decided to challenge myself and make 18 macarons with 6 different fillings for a friend's 18th. And boy was it a challenge. Every batch came out different and it was then that I understood why macs were such a temperamental bunch. No matter how hard I tried to follow the recipe, every batch was different. Some had feet and while others didn't. It was also my first time making a buttercream filling and it was an omg moment when I realised just how much butter went into the pistachio buttercream. It was after making 6 batches consecutively that I finally got the hang of macaronage (the art of making macarons)
Chocolate
So what makes a perfect macaron? In my opinion, there are 4 things to look out for:
1. Appearance wise - nice and round with a prominent feet
2. Crisp outer layer
3. Chewy centre
4. Tasty filling

I'm not one who likes spending 3 bucks on a macaron but when I do, I usually am disappointed. There hasn't been many places I've tried where their macs fulfilled all my criteria. Most of them lack the chewiness and some of them so soft, I'm sure it was at least a week old. I know that macarons taste heaps better after letting it age in the fridge for a day or two. But when it starts going mushy, you know that it's way pass its prime.
Hamburger macs
There are now a gazillion posts about macarons all over the food blogging community and so I shall just summarise the steps that I follow. Do note that I'm using the French method and it works perfectly on all occasion. I've never tried the Italian method just because it's so much more troublesome. The recipe below is one that I've used countless of times and have memorised it by heart. It hasn't failed me yet. 

- Blend your almond and icing sugar together in a food processor so that you don't have to sift them (Sifting's a bitch. When I first started, half the time was spent on sifting the almond meal) 

- Age your egg whites (1-2 days at least. If you've forgotten, microwave in 5-8 sec bursts)

- The meringue should be stiff such that if you flip the bowl over, it stays put.

- When it comes to folding the dry ingredient into the meringue, do not be afraid. You do not have to be gentle for the first few strokes. 

- Stop folding once you reach the ribbon stage (To check, lift your spatula and the batter should fall in a steady stream forming folds once it hits the bowl) -> This is the most important step 

- Allow the macaron to form a skin after piping. It'll be ready if it doesn't stick to your finger when you touch it. 

- Baking time differs for different ovens. This is the most tricky part I've yet to master. But what you want is a convection oven (fan) and a high temp at the beginning so that the feet will form. Once the feets are formed you might want to lower the temp so that the top doesn't get burnt. However, too low a temperature and you'll risk having that air bubble in the shell. So what's the magic number? I'm not too sure myself. For my oven at home, after much trial and errors, I've come up with 160C for 5min and 140C for 10-15min. 
Ispahan

Macaron shells by Tartelette
(Makes 20-25 macs)

Ingredients 
90 gr egg whites (use eggs whites that have been preferably left 3-5 days in the fridge)
25 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)

Instructions

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.

Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. 

Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. 

The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. 

Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 140C.

When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. 

Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. 
Salted Caramel

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Cereal Milk Panna Cotta


I usually only have cereals for breakfast on weekends. And rarely do I have it with milk. I'll either have it dry or I'll sub the milk with Milo. My dislike for milk started the moment I stopped drinking it from a baby bottle. I was about 6 when I finally realised I was too old to be drinking from a bottle. Somehow writing this made me remember how I hated it when my mum didn't mix the milk powder properly and it gets stuck at the teat. And how I love that gurgling sound you get when you stop sucking from the bottle. HAhaha. I have never once drank a glass of milk my entire life. Alright.. enough about me and back to the dessert. 

A friend who tried this said it tasted like the leftover milk after having a bowl of cereal. And I didn't even tell her what it was. I have to say I really enjoyed it. The creamy panna cotta and the crunchy caramelised cornflakes go so well together. If you can't find gelatin sheets, you may use powdered gelatin. However the conversion measurement of gelatin sheet to powder is debatable and after much research, I've come to the conclusion that 1 sheet of gelatin = 2 teaspoon of powdered gelatin. BUT, this depends on what you are making and the strength of the gelatin powder. If you’re making a gelatin dessert that needs to be unmolded, it is wise to use slightly more gelatin just to be sure that it will hold up. 

The original recipe, calls for an avocado purée to be served with it. But it sounded pretty weird to me and I was too lazy to make it so I just used some strawberry and rhubarb jam I got from the farmer's market. This is the 2nd Momofuku recipe (the first being the shortcake) I've tried and so far they've been both very successful. I can't wait to get my hands on the Momofuku Milk bar cookbook.

This is cereally good. Believe me. 


Cereal Milk Panna Cotta from David Chang's Momofuku 

Ingredients

Cereal milk custard
265g cornflakes
710g whole milk
470g heavy cream
30g packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoon sea salt
2 sheets gelatine

Caramelised Cornflakes
60g cornflakes
3 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.

Instructions

For the panna cotta:
Heat oven to 150 degrees.
Spread cereal on a baking sheet and bake until toasty, about 12 minutes. While still warm, transfer to large bowl or container and add milk and cream. Stir to combine and let steep for 40 - 45 minutes. (The finished custard will get too starchy if it steeps longer.)

Strain into a bowl, pressing on the cornflakes with the back of a rubber splatula to extract as much liquid as possible. (Discard soggy cereal or eat it.) Add the salt and brown sugar to the milk, and heat it in the microwave for 1 minute just until milk is hot enough to dissolve sugar, watching carefully. Stir gently to dissolve sugar. (You can lightly warm the milk on the hob instead of doing it in the microwave, but if you do, do not whisk or overly aerate or over-heat it.)

Bloom (soften) the gelatine in 450m1 cold water. After 2 to 3 minutes when it’s supple and no longer crisp, with a texture Tosi calls “like a jellyfish” remove it from the water, wring it out and add it to the cereal milk. Stir it once or twice to melt the gelatine in the milk.

Divide mixture among 8 ramekins or silicone molds. Refrigerate until set, about 30minutes. If using ramekins, cover and reserve until ready to serve. If using molds, freeze 1 hour and pop out onto silicon liner (not parchment paper as it will stick to the custard), then refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the caramelised cornflakes:
Heat oven to 140 degrees. Put the cereal in a large bowl and crush lightly with your hands. Seven or eight squeezes should be sufficient; you want ccrumbles not powder.

In a small bowl, stir together milk powder, sugar and salt. Sprinkle mixture over crushed cornflakes and add melted butter. Toss to coat cereal evenly. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a nonstick baking mat) and bake for 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container up to 1 week.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Salted Caramel Popcorn

I made this for someone very special to me.

Yet sometimes... I wonder if baking something as a gift is actually a good thing. I mean.. if you give someone a "real present" (say, a candle set), at least they'll keep it somewhere and will always be reminded of you whenever they use/look at it. But the same can't be said for an edible gift. You give the gift, the receiver thanks you for the gift, the receiver eats the gift, the gift is forever lost in the receiver's gastrointestinal track. I know it is the thought that counts and the thought definitely counts when it come to an edible gift. But still... Unless you mean a lot to that person, the receiver will probably forget about it sooner or later.

When it comes to giving someone a gift, I'm someone who believes in making instead of buying something. It just feels more special. It shows you care. Plus I get to exercise my creativity, thinking of ways to make the gift stand out. And usually the gift with the smallest budget is the most creative/awesome/unique/out of this world present.


And now, back to the popcorn. I don't know if that special someone really liked it but I loved it. At first bite, it's sweet and then the saltiness hits you after that. This stuff is addictive. Just a little tip, cook slightly more popcorn than required. You'll probably be munching on them unwittingly while you wait for the caramel to cook. Well.. that happened to me.

If you go to the cinema and order yourself a bag of popcorn, half salted and half sweet (just like I do), then you'll definitely love this.  Oh, and here's a lesson I learn.. never try cooking un-popped kernels in butter. It doesn't work. 


Salted Caramel Popcorn from recipegirl.com

Ingredients
115g (1 stick) salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 cups popped popcorn

Instructions
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in a 1 gallon pot over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer undisturbed for 4 minutes. Stir, then continue to cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is a deep golden color.

Turn off the heat and whisk in salt, baking soda and vanilla. Set the whisk aside and stir in the popcorn. Scoop up the syrup from the bottom and over the top. Keep stirring and scooping the syrup over the popcorn until it is evenly covered and there is no syrup left on the bottom of the pan.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the caramel corn has turned a deep amber color. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and spoon it onto a waxed paper-lined surface to cool. When completely cooled, store caramel corn in a covered container- it should stay fresh for up to a week.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Pate Sucree

 

I love making tarts. They are so much easier than cakes and heaps more delicious. Who doesn't love the crust on any pie/tart? Unless of course it was burnt, soggy or just plain tasteless. In case you were wondering, a pate sucree is a sweet tart pastry while the savoury cousin of it is called a pate brisee. 

Now... making a tart shell is as easy as pie. All you need is a delicate touch and some patience. And of course, you can't make a tart without a tart/pie pan. There are so many types available these days. Round/rectangular, straight/fluted edges, stainless steel/ceramic. What I feel that is most important when choosing a tart pan is that it comes with a removable base. It makes it so much easier to remove the tart from the pan. And do you know what's even easier than a removable base? A tart ring. 

I've noticed that most professional pastry kitchens use them. If you don't have one or can't find them, not to fret. I use an "egg ring" which doesn't have a handle on it. It works perfectly and I got mine at the local supermarket for cheaps. 


This crust recipe should be part of your pastry closet essential because frankly, it's the only one you'll ever need. Use it for a lemon meringue tart or a blueberry tart or a salted caramel chocolate tart. Anything goes really. What makes this recipe different from other pie shell is the addition of almond meal and vanilla bean which adds a decadent touch to it. And of course, this recipe comes from the god of pastry himself, Pierre Herme. Now... this can't get any better, can it?

But wait! After reading Heston Blumenthal's latest cookbook, I've picked up a few trick from him which will make this tart even more awesome. One of Heston's tip is to use coins instead of beans to act as weights. I must say it is rather ingenious. Especially if you're someone like me who doesn't like wasting beans just to hold the dough down. Usually I don't use weights when baking tartlets. Which explains the shrinking in the first picture. The coins prevents the tart from shrinking and because it conducts heat well, the tart shell will bake more evenly.

Another tip he gave was to not cut off the excess dough after shaping it into the ring (Not like what I've done below). Let it hang and only cut it right after baking the tart. This will prevent any shrinking thus you'll have a tart with a uniform height. Neat trick I must say... And best of all, you get to munch on the excess! 


Pierre Herme’s Sweet Tart Dough from Desserts by Pierre Herme
Makes 4 9-inch tart

Ingredients
285g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar, sifted
100g ground almonds
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla bean pulp
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
490g all-purpose flour (You could chill this in the freezer if you're making it in the summer)

Instructions
Cream the butter using a food processor or a kitchenaid with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and mix well.  Next, add the almond powder, salt, vanilla and mix until the mixture is smooth, again scraping when necessary. Add the eggs and mix just until blended. Add the flour steadily. There is no need to wait for the flour to be incorporated thoroughly after each addition. Mix just until the ingredients come together to form a soft, moist dough that doesn’t clean the sides of the bowl completely but does hold together. Don’t overdo it.

Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces:  3 pieces for 10-inch tarts, 4 for 9-inch tarts.  Or, you can shape it into one large ball and cut off as much as you need.  Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or for up to 2 days before rolling and baking.  The dough can also be wrapped and frozen for up to a month.

To bake:
Butter a tart ring and preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (I roll mine between sheets of cling wrap so that it won't stick) to a thickness between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch.  Fit the dough onto the bottom and sides of the ring and leave some of the excess.  Prick the dough all over with a fork and chill for at least 3o minutes in the refrigerator

When you are ready to bake the crust, fit a circle of parchment paper or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or coins.  Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes , until it is just lightly colored.  If it needs more time in the oven, remove the rice/beans/coins and the parchment paper and bake for another five minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and trim off the excess dough using a sharp knife. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Salted caramel chocolate tart

The adult version of the Twix. Ah... Twix. I can never get enough of it. Heck with the Snickers and Mars bars. Nothing beats a Twix. It always comes in a pair which mean double the delight for the same price. That chocolate/caramel/biscuit combo can never go wrong. I am a sucker for chocolate coated biscuits. Chocolate fingers? Love it. Chocolate Digestives? MMmmm... 

 These days, whenever I rip apart the wrapper and take that first bite, I get flashbacks of my early army days... Every Sunday night, I'll be at the bus interchange along with my platoon mates waiting to board the bus that would take us to the ferry terminal. It is the last moment of being in a civilian world. A world where the commanders can never do anything to us recruits. Knowing that I'll be suffering for the next 6 days, I take comfort in my bar of Twix which I would munch on just before we board the bus. And this happened every Sunday for 3 months. Ah.. good times indeed. 

For this tart, I chose to use Pierre Herme's sweet tart dough recipe instead. It is by far my favourite tart base recipe and I'll be blogging about it next. I've also used the sea salt which I made from the seas of South Australia. Here's the link to my adventure of making sea salt. If I had to make this tart again, I would definitely use milk chocolate instead of dark. I felt that the dark chocolate ganache overpowered the caramel. So try using a chocolate that has less than 70% cocoa solid. 


Chocolate Caramel Tart with Sea Salt by Anita
Makes one 9-in tart or six 3 1/2-in tartlets

Ingredients

Pâte Sablée (Sweet tart dough)
140g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
240g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Caramel
115g heavy cream
200g sugar
pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Ganache
340g bittersweet (60%-66%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
460g heavy cream

Instructions

For the pâte sablée: 
Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer. Add eggs and mix just until incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix on low just until incorporated. Scrape out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap fully and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Flour work surface and roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Lay into a 9″ tart pan or tart rings of your choosing and trim excess dough with a knife. Refrigerate for an hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes (check earlier if you are baking individual tarts), turning halfway through. Remove foil and weight and bake for 10 more minutes (individual tarts may not need additional baking time). Tart shells should be lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool fully on wire rack before filling.

For the caramel: 
Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Set aside while you cook the sugar. Combine sugar with 5 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to boil and cook without stirring for about 4 minutes until it turns dark amber. Swirl to ensure it cooks evenly.

Take mixture off stove and pour cream slowly into the sugar (it will boil up so don’t pour in all at once.) Stir until incorporated and smooth. Add in salt. If caramel has cooled too much and become thick, place over heat and warm until it is liquid enough to pour.

Pour the caramel into the tart shell, covering the bottom evenly. Let cool until it firms and is no longer shiny. You can place the tart shell in the refrigerator to speed up the process.

For the ganache: 
Place chocolate and salt in a heatproof bowl. Place cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on high heat on the stove. Pour cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Then whisk slowly and gently to combine. Do not stir too vigorously as this incorporates air into the ganache and gives it a less smooth and velvety texture.

Pour the ganache into the tart shell over the caramel. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. (If you place the tart with warm ganache into the refrigerator, the ganache can cool too fast and end up cracking – unsightly but still edible, of course).

Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.


Friday, 10 February 2012

Rejected



I started this blog with the hopes of sharing my pictures with the Foodgawker community but so far ALL my submissions have been rejected. And there I was feeling so positive about my photos whenever I submitted them only to get rejected not once.. nor twice.. but 9 times!

Here are the various reasons they have given as to why my photos aren't good enough for them:
  • Lighting/exposure issues
  • Composition - awkward angle
  • Composition - too tight
  • Photo/food composition
  • Low lighting and/or underexposed
  • Harsh lighting and/or overexposed

While I do agree with most of their opinions, I just can't phantom why they have rejected some of my submissions even with the reasons provided. When I first started out, I tried to keep photoshopping to a minimum, contented with the auto adjustment function. But after each and every rejection, I started fine tuning my pictures with whatever amateur photoshop skills I had. 

Another reason for my unFoodgawker-worthy pictures is that they demand a 250x250 image. Which means cropping away a well composed picture. I prefer composing my photo on the camera thus I zoom in rather than crop out. This posed a lot of problem for me as many of the pictures were taken before I started this blog. These days, I'll take a few far angle shots just so that I can crop out a square image on the computer. 

So Foodgawker, it'll only be a matter of time before you accept one of my submission. In the mean time, I'll just gawk over the published photos and learn as much as I can from my fellow food bloggers. 

my study desk becomes a make-shift studio
Natural light? Check.
Background? Check.
Props? Check. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Soft white bread

I never did realised how bread smells like until I baked one for myself. All those times passing along a bakery, inhaling the scent of freshly baked loaves and my brain just did not seemed to make that connection. Well, at least now I know what I'm smelling. You've probably heard how housing agents would ask owner to bake some bread whenever there is interested buyer around. It's said that the smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven gives people a homey feeling and thus would be more likely to buy the house. Frankly, the smell reminds me of not of home but of the neighbourhood bakeries I've been to as a kid. Those bakeries that sells 6 in a pack buns of different fillings (eg. kaya, red bean, the cheese & sugar bun. damn.. those were awesome). If you are from Singapore, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.


Making bread is a totally different art form. And this being my first attempt, I must say I'm pretty proud of what came out from the oven. But I have to admit that I couldn't do it without it.. My brand new KITCHENAID MIXER!! Whoohoooo..! It's the dream machine every baker wants. It does pretty much everything for you. Saves you a ton of time and energy needed to knead the dough. The only downside of this machine is its bulkiness and you need to have space in the kitchen to store it. But hey.. Did I mention it does almost everything? It whips, it mixes, it kneads. It can even roll out pasta and grind up meat if you get the additional attachments. 
Soft Sandwich Bread and Rolls from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

This type of dough is often referred to as milk dough, since the primary enrichment is milk. Whether whole, skim, buttermilk, or powdered it also contains a fair amount of sweetener and some form of fat or oil. All of these enrichments serve to keep the bread soft and slightly sweet. Because of the many enrichments, the dough has a larger percentage of yeast than lean dough so it’s especially important to put it into the refrigerator right after it’s mixed to avoid overfermentation.  If you use honey or agave nectar instead of sugar, Increase the amount of flour by 3 1/2 to 7 tablespoons ( 28.5 to 56.5 g). This dough makes wonderful sandwich bread and can also be used to make many different types of rolls, including hamburger and hot dog buns.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon (9 g) instant yeast
1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (425 g) lukewarm milk (any kind; at about 35°C)
6 1/4 cups ( 794 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (14 g) salt, or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (78 g) sugar, or 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
6 tablespoons (85 g) vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
1 egg 

Instructions

Day before:

Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved. Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture.

If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.

If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium—low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.

Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.

On baking day:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake and divide it in half; each piece should weigh about 709 g, which is perfect for 4 1/2 by 8-inch pans. For a 5 by 9-inch pan use 794 to 907 g of dough. 

Shape into sandwich loaves, then place them in greased loaf pans to rise.  Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap; then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours, until it domes about 1 inch above the rims of the pans.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 177°C.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes. The bread is done when the top is golden brown, the sides are firm and brown, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is at least 85°C in the centre.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.


I dusted some flour over the dough before baking it to give it an artisan rustic look. You could create some patterns using a blade but that's a new technique which I've yet to try out. Do check out The Fresh Loaf if you are really keen on learning more about making bread. The bread is best eaten on the day it was baked but it was still good the next day after toasting it.