Part Time Course at Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia

Life has so few surprises left that sometimes we need to venture out of our daily routines to learn something new and unexpected. In mid 2015, I decided to join a part-time course at Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia, which took up 12 hours per weekend for 12 weeks. Continue reading

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Baking Corner: Cotton Cheese Cake

Cotton cheese cake  (also known as Japanese cheese cake) is my favourite cake! I would constantly go into the fridge to have one slice of it. It is the only cake that I would actually eat more than one eighth of the cake. As much as I enjoy baking, I don’t really have a sweet tooth. This cake is smooth, creamy and light, so it creates the perfect balance of satsifaction in my mouth. I baked this cake over the weekend and there’s only one third of the cake left in the fridge. Yummy!

Two techniques to note when baking this cheese cake is the the double boil method and the beating of egg white.

  1. I just realised recently there’s a difference between double boil and water bath (explained here). Although the recipe calls for double boil method (for cheese and milk mixture), I have been using the water bath method. Either way, this is to ensure that the mixture is not directly in contact with the pot.
  2. Beating egg whites is a critical step in recipes to trap air and create lightness. Under beating or over beating will result in a dense and flat cake. To know that the egg white is beaten adequately, use a spatula to scoop a small portion up. If it does not drip (like a viscous liquid), it is adequate and you can continue to the next step (adding sugar). A trick is to bring the egg white to room temperature first. You can get more volume with room temperature egg whites.

On my first few times of baking this cake, I realised the surface of the cheesecake always crack after baking, resulting in unpleasant looking cakes. The cake tastes just as well, but from a OCD point of view, it bothers me quite a bit. In my opinion, visual appeal is quite important in serving cakes. I found out that the best solution is to bake it at low temperature for a longer period of time. As all ovens are different, so if the cake rises too high too quickly, reduce the temperature accordingly. Keep an eye on the cake at all times to prevent cracking.

If the surface of the cheese cake breaks, don’t worry! Take the cake out from the oven when it is ready, remove the baking pan from the water bath. Set it aside and let the cake cool inside the baking pan for about ten minutes. The cake should shrink and the cracked surface  will close up a bit. After that, remove it from the baking pan to avoid moisture build up at the bottom of the baking pans.

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Cotton Cheese Cake

Cotton Cheese Cake

Cotton Cheese Cake

Ingredients (made on a 9-inch springform pan): 

For the filling

  • 250 g Philadelphia cheese
  • 250 g milk
  • 90 g butter
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs (separated)
  • 69 g Hong Kong flour
  • 20 g corn flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preliminary Method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls.
  2. Line the base and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 140’C.

Methods:

  1. Double boil cream cheese and milk over hot water.
  2. Stir occasionally until cream cheese melts completely, or until mixture turns smooth.
  3. Add diced butter into the mixture until it dissolves completely.Let it cool for a couple of minutes.
  4. Mix egg yolk and stir quickly to combine well.
  5. Combine the HK flour and corn flour. Sift the flour into the cream mixture in several additions.
  6. Mix well between every addition to avoid lumps.
  7. Stir in lemon peel and leave the mixture to cool.
  8. In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  9. Pour sugar in egg white mixture and beat until stiff peaks form.
  10. Fold in several tablespoons of egg white mixture into cream cheese mixture for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mixture in Step 10 into the remaining egg white mixture. Fold until even.
  12. Poor the mixture into a baking pan. Place the pan into a larger baking tray. Add hot water into the tray.
  13. Bake for about 60 minutes at 140’C.
  14. Chill in the fridge for about 3 hours before serving.

Recipe adapte from Christine’s Recipe 

Chocolate Oreo Cheese Cake with Oreo Biscuit Base

I started baking with cheese cakes. The first few cheese cakes  I made was so terrible that it’s hardly even called a cake at all. But there’s something positive about hitting rock bottom – you can only climb upwards from there. I made a few basic cheese cakes before, but when I had a taste of oreo cheese cake a friend made for my 21st birthday, I knew it had to go into my ‘to bake’ list. The list is only getting longer and longer and… I need volunteers to eat my pastries!

One fateful Saturday, I decided to bake an Oreo cheese cake and I thought; why not have an Oreo biscuit base instead of a standard tea biscuit base. Then, I asked myself – what’s better than a cheese cake? I’ll tell you, a chocolate cheese cake with oreo! So that’s where the “Chocolate Oreo Cheese Cake with Oreo Biscuit Base” idea sprung to light.

Just kidding.

What really happened was that I improvised when I realised that I bought chocolate Oreo biscuits (with chocolate cream filling) instead of the original Oreo biscuits (with white cream filling).  The cream had to be removed for the base of the cake. Not wanting to waste it, I added it to the cheese cake mixture and it worked. As the cream is already sweet, no additional sugar is required.

I’ve always wondered how much cakes cost, so I estimated it with breakdown as follow:

  1. 2 packets of chocolate Oreo biscuits for RM 6 (£3). I wish that I had bought more, so that I can saturate my cheese cake with more Oreo biscuits. I had to sparingly arrange it such that every slice would have a bit of Oreos.
  2. 3 blocks of Philadelphia cheese for RM 30 (£6). I baked this on a 9 inch springform pan, and 3 blocks give a perfect ratio of 9:1 of filling and base.
  3. 45 g of Luprak slightly salted butter for RM 2.50 (£1). One block of butter is 200 g for RM10.
  4. 150 g of caster sugar for  RM 1.50 (£0.50).
  5. eggs for RM 1.50 (£0.50). Depending on type and range, a dozen of eggs cost about 5 ringgit.
  6. 1 tsp of vanilla essence.

So there you have it, it costs about RM42 or £11 on a 9-inch springform pan. The price is not a direct conversion from RM to £, but rather the estimated cost of ingredients in Malaysia and UK. When cut into 8 even slices, one slice is estimated at RM5 or £1.50.  And we paid for cheese cakes at bakeries at least triple the price. *cries*

Anyway, here’s the recipe: (Pssst: It tasted awesome!)

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Chocolate Oreo Cheese Cake with Oreo Biscuit Base

Chocolate Oreo Cheese Cake with Oreo biscuit base

Chocolate Oreo Cheese Cake with Oreo biscuit base

Ingredients (made on a 9-inch springform pan): 

For the base / crust

  • 16 chocolate Oreo cookies divided – crushed.
  • 45 g butter, melted.
  • 1 tsp sugar / honey

For the filling

  • 3 x 250 Philadelphia cheese
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2.5 g vanilla essence (1 teaspoon)
  • 8 oreo cookies, chopped.
  • 16 Oreo chocolate filling

Preliminary Method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls.
  2. Line the base and sides of the springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 140’C (base) and 180’C (filling)

Methods:

For the base

  1. Separate the chocolate cream from the Oreo biscuits. Leave the chocolate cream to the side.
  2. Put the Oreo biscuits in the bag and crush it till it’s fine.
  3. Melt butter in pan on low heat and coat the crushed biscuits until evenly moistened.
  4. Press firmly on springfoam pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.

For the filling

  1. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla essence with electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended.
  2. Occasionally scrap down the side of the bowl for even mixing.
  3. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat well after each addition.
  4. Add in chocolate filling and beat.
  5. Reminder: Do not overbeat. Batter should be smooth, light and airy.
  6. Remove springform pan from fridge. Pour filling into the springform pan in three addition.
  7. For every addition, mix in the quarter Oreo cookies to your preference.
  8. For the final addition, arrange the quarter Oreo cookies such that some of them will be above the filling (pic above).
  9. Bake for 45 minutes @ 160’C or until centre is almost set.
  10. Cook for 3 hours in fridge or overnight.

Baking Corner: Butter Cake

The first time I attempted butter cake was two years ago. It was also the time my first hand mixer broke. (yes, it is possible) What happened was this; instead of looking for a basic butter cake recipe, I tried to be creative and used a banana butter cake recipe – without the bananas.  Yes, I see the problem now and no, I don’t deserve to be in the kitchen.

Being an absolute rookie in this department, I am definitely getting the hang of things now. My parents love butter cake, so it calls without reason to attempt the plain old simple butter cake recipe. I use a basic butter cake recipe, adapted from Rasa Malaysia. It calls for the basic baking ingredients; sugar, flour, butter, eggs. I reduced the sugar by 20%.

I’ve tried to bake butter cake three times now, each time a little different from the other. The first is the basic butter cake to ensure that the recipe works (it does), and then, I tried frosting. Still looking for the perfect frosting technique, but this will do for now.

Here’s a picture of my dad’s birthday cake! If you spot a 1 in the background, it’s because my dad is NUMBER ONE! And behind every successful man, there is a woman.. and a son, and an annoying brat, hehe.

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Basic Butter Cake Recipe 

Note: The buttercream icing was far too sweet to our liking, so until I find the ingredient for the perfect frosting, here’s a recipe for a plain butter cake.

Butter cake with buttercream frosting

Butter cake with buttercream frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/3 stick (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200 g plain flour/all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 200 g castor sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 60 g fresh milk
  • 5 g (1 tsp) vanilla essence

Preliminary method: 

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 160’C (fan oven)

Method:

  1. Mix the flour and the baking powder together and sieve. Add in salt and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Use an electronic beater to mix butter and sugar until well combined or pale yellow in color.
  3. Add in the first egg. Beat well after each addition of egg until creamy.
  4. Scrape down the sides for even mixing.
  5. Add in vanilla essence and mix well.
  6. Fold in the flour into the mixture and mix well.
  7. Finally, add in the milk.
  8. Pour the mixture into the greased baking pan. Shake it lightly to distribute cake mixture evenly.
  9. Bake until golden brown and cooked, about 40 minutes. Use a cake tester to test if it’s cooked.
  10. Remove it from the oven and let cool on the wire rack for another 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Baking Corner: Kuih Momo

Kuih momo (a.k.a Kuih Makmur) is my absolute favourite in every Chinese New Year. I would always eat these cookies and savour the sweetness as it melts in my mouth. After countless attempts, I finally found the exact texture and taste I wanted from this cookie! For those of you who never tasted kuih momo, you must definitely give it a try! The cookie is rich with ghee and milky flavour, and will crumble easily in one’s mouth, thus very fragile.

There are a couple of details that separates kuih momo from other cookies:

  1. Ghee – Ghee or clarified butter is used instead of regular butter. When I made this in Manchester and didn’t realise ghee was available in the city, I used the regular butter and let me tell you it is one of the hardest momo I’ve made.
  2. Full cream milk powder – Full cream for full flavour. This ingredient is hard to find in Manchester, so I used to substitute it with evaporated milk powder. This gives the milky flavour to the ghee.
  3. Stir fry of flour – This is probably the unusual step compared to most cookies.  The flour is stir fried in a wok prior to mixing the dough. Just make sure that the flour does not burnt (becomes brown). Although there was no scientific explanation, I believe the frying reduces the density of the flour and ensures that the flour is light enough (considering volume of flour is constant).
  4. Temperature – After ghee is melted in a pot, ensure that ghee does not go to room temperature after melting. The ghee should be slightly warm when poured into the mixing bowl. The stir-fried flour should also be left to cool slightly above room temperature.
  5. Coating – When coating the cookie with icing sugar, make sure that it has cooled  after taking it out from the oven. If the cookie are warm, the icing sugar will melt and unfortunately, not stick to the surface.

Enjoy the cookies because these are literally the best cookies of all. *winks*

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Kuih Momo

Kuih Momo

Kuih Momo

Ingredients: (about 120 cookies)

  • 250 g plain flour
  • 150 g ghee or clarified butter
  • 75 g full cream milk powder
  • 40 g icing sugar (or 75 g max)
  • 1/4 tsp (2.5 g) sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

Preliminary Method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the fan oven to 140’C

Method:

  1. Dry fry the flour for 5-6 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid burning, or until the flour smells nutty.
  2. Remove from the heat source and leave to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Melt the ghee in microwave for 20 sec. Leave to cool.
  4. Transfer the flour into a mixing bowl.
  5. Add milk powder & icing sugar. Stir well.
  6. Ensure that there are no lumps in the mixture of dry ingredient. If there is, sieve again.
  7. Pour ghee and egg yolk into the dry mixture.
  8. Mix with a fork or spoon, then rubbing with fingers until the dough is evenly mixed.
  9. Roll into balls of about 1.5 cm to 2 cm.
  10. Put into oven for 12-15 min at 140’C or until golden brown.
  11. Leave to cool for 3 minutes. When slightly cool, pick it up with fingers and coat with icing sugar.
  12. Put it in the small muffin papers and store in an air-tight container.

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Recipe modified from: Sunflower Recipes 

Baking Corner: Melting Moments Cookies

The first time I bake this cookie was February 2013, right before Valentine’s Day. That was why I chose a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I haven’t got the recipe right yet, so my melting moment cookies is slightly harder than what I prefer.  Another option is to make bigger cookies, about 5 cm length.

For a description of Melting Moments Cookies:

If you have not had a chance to savor these delicate treats that I am going on about, ‘Melting Moments’ are aptly named for their buttery shortbread-like texture. Trust me, it really melts in your mouth as it titillates your every taste bud. After browsing variations of these delightful cookies over the net, I am inspired to get my ‘joy of baking’ mood on. And with ingredients that are so easy to come across, it’s easily inspiring to bake some of my own best Melting Moments ever.

For a velvety smooth and fluffy, crumbly cookie that is totally irresistible, the key ingredients are substituting cornstarch (cornflour) with potato starch for the light and fluffy texture, cake flour for a soft finishing touch and real butter for the wonderful flavor.

– Melting Moments Cookies, Rasa Malaysia.

I made this cookie because the taste reminds me of another type of cookie; at that time, I couldn’t get the recipe right, but I finally did (featuring next week).

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Melting Moments Cookies

Melting Moments Cookies

Melting Moments Cookies

Ingredients: (about 90 cookies)

  • 160 g plain flour
  • 125 g corn flour
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 60 g icing sugar (reduced)
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) of vanilla extract)
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preliminary Method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls. Make sure the butter is at room temperature.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170’C

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and icing sugar until creamy.
  2. Add vanilla extract and stir well.
  3. Fold in plain flour, corn flour and mix well until a soft dough is formed.
  4. Use a rolling pin to roll dough until about 0.5 cm thickness or less.
  5. Use a cookie cutter to make different shapes of cookies.
  6. Transfer the dough into a baking tray.
  7. Bake for about 12-15 minutes at 170’C.
  8. Place them on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
  9. Dust icing sugar over cookies using a sieve.

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Recipe modified from: Rasa Malaysia

Baking Corner: Coffee Cookies

Coffee cookies are one of my brother’s favourite Chinese New Year cookies. These cookies are very addictive; that sweet bitter coffee aftertaste keeps you coming back for more. Heavenly!

There are a variety of cookie designs or patterns that one can make, for example, using a cookie cutter or piping. Since I don’t have the relevant cookie tools, I decide to use a fork to press down a ball dough till halfway down.

When I look at the recipe, I notice how much flour was required; the ratio of flour to butter was almost 1.8:1. This ratio will make the cookie hard and crispy. Brown sugar is required to give the brownish texture but if the colour of dough isn’t dark enough, add half a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

I realise that I do not have coffee essence. A good substitute is to replace it with concentrated coffee. The amount of coffee varies on how strong you want the coffee taste to be. I use a mixture of 3 tsp of coffee powder and 3 tsp of water to give a mild coffee taste.

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Coffee Cookies

File 18-01-2016, 11 03 44 AM

Ingredients: (about 150 cookies)

  • 340 g plain flour (sifted) – updated
  • 230 g unsalted butter – updated
  • 120 g brown sugar – updated
  • 1 tsp (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 g) coffee essence*
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) cocoa powder (optional)

*coffee essence can be replaced with concentrated coffee. My ratio is 15 g coffee powder = 15 g water. 

Preliminary Method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients and placed them in separate bowls.
  2. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 160’C

Method:

  1. Mix the sieved plain flour with baking powder in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy.
  3. Add sugar and mix well.
  4. Add coffee essence or its replacement.
  5. Fold in dry ingredients in #1 in few instalments until all flour is mixed well.
  6. If the colour of the dough is too light, add half a tablespoon of cocoa powder.
  7. Roll the doughs into balls of about 1.5 cm diameter.
  8. Transfer them into a baking tray.
  9. Make sure that there are enough space in between each balls (about 2 cm)
  10. Use a fork to press the dough halfway down as a pattern.
  11. Bake for 10 min for 160’C or until golden brown.
  12. Leave to cool.