Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Daring Bakers' Challenge - January 2014: Baumkuchen (Tree Cake)

Blog-checking lines: The January 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Francijn of "Koken in de Brouwerij". She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).
I was very thrilled when I saw this month's challenge! I would have never imagined being able to make a Baumkuchen in my kitchen. I first saw this cake back in December 2012 in a department store here in Hong Kong, and boy was I completely fascinated by the unique way this cake was being baked. It was almost like pit roasting a cake!
I was super satisfied with what I was able to produce for this challenge. The flavor of the cake itself was very much reliant on just marzipan and vanilla sugar. The simplicity of the flavors of this cake made it extra special. Sometimes, less really is more. It was very timely that I met some of my girl-friends for a dinner date tonight, so I got to share the cake with them. It was a little nerve wrecking though because my friend, F, is from Germany, so she knew what a good Baumkuchen should be... Thankfully enough, she liked it; the only thing she said was that I should change the chocolate glaze, because the glaze of a Baumkuchen should be pure chocolate, which was what the challenge recipe called for anyway, but I decided to make a ganache instead... oops, my bad! Oh, and I have give her credit for this cake as well since she got me the marzipan and vanilla sugar when she went back to Germany.
Just for a little "did you know?", Baumkuchen is made by first baking a thin layer of the cake batter then smearing another thin layer on top of the baked cake. By doing this process around ten times or more, you'll end up creating the tree trunk like layers inside the cake. Then you coat the baked cake with apricot jam and glaze it with either chocolate or sugar icing.
A traditional Baumkuchen would have cylindrical layers on the cake because of the way it has been baked in the "roast pit". So technically, this cake we were challenged to bake this month can be called Schichttorte (layered cake) since the layers we created were horizontal layers, just to mimic the concept of making Baumkuchen using a standard baking pan and oven. 
I feel like I have a new found knowledge and technique from this challenge, and this is really what Daring Bakers' all about. I can't wait for what's in store for us on February!
Bisou bisou,

Friday, 27 December 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge - December 2013: Whoopie Pie

I almost forgot to write a post about my whoopie pie! My date orientation has been a little messed up lately; probably because I’m on a three week holiday… Always a good thing, I guess!

Blog-checking lines: The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"
For this month’s challenge, I decided to follow the classic recipe for whoopie pie provided by our hostess to a tee. I took my pies to a dinner party, and I’d like to think that people enjoyed it despite the fact that we were all so full from the cheesy and super delectable tartiflette served by our host and hostess!  
I know I said I followed the classic recipe for whoopie pie, but I can’t help but put a tiny twist on my pies. I added a raspberry on the center of the filling to make a more balanced flavor. I don’t really like my desserts too sweet, so the tartness of the raspberry made me enjoy the whoopie pies, and I think the people at the dinner party liked it as well. The only down side to it was when I sandwiched the cake onto the filling; the raspberry kind of poked through a little and made the top of my whoopie pies crack. Nevertheless, bellies were definitely satisfied!
Bisou bisous,

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge - October 2013: Double Crusted Savory Pot Pies

I can't believe it's the 27th of the month again. I've been a very busy bee this month. Good thing I was able to make the challenge early this month. Although I don't have enough time to blog properly, so pardon me for the sloppy pictures and post.
Blog-checking lines: Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers' hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.
Since the host wanted us to have our own flair to our pie by having flavors from our own culture incorporated to our pie, I decided to add chorizo to the classic chicken pot pie. In Philippines, there is a very similar dish to a chicken pot pie called chicken pastel. There are distinct differences from a chicken pastel to a chicken pot pie, and one of them is having the presence of chorizo. So that is the twist I made to my chicken pot pie. As for my crust, I tried using a rough puff, and it worked out really well.
Bisou bisou,

Monday, 21 October 2013

Speculoos Cheesecake

I love it when I come across new flavours. Recently, someone gave me a pack of biscuits that are absolutely addictive. These biscuits have a similar flavour profile to gingerbread, but a lot lot better (I prefer it better anyway)! It is the biscuit behind the famous Cookie Butter that every food lover I know has been raving about - Speculoos. Speculoos originated from Belgium and was traditionally made around Saint Nicholas Day. Presently, Speculoos is available to munch on all year round.

In 2007, Speculoos was developed into a spread thanks to the winning entry to the show De Bedenkers (The Inventors) in Belgium; companies quickly produced the spread to make it commercially available, and indeed it sold like hot cakes!

I personally prefer the biscuit over the spread and find myself craving for a Speculoos or two to dip into my morning coffee. You can almost say that Oreo is for my milk as Speculoos is for my coffee! Having that analogy in mind, I remembered back when I was a teen, Oreo cheesecake was one of the 'it' desserts. So, my palate and my food loving tummy just quickly drew me to the idea of making a Speculoos cheesecake. 

I used a classic cheesecake recipe and tweaked it to showcase the flavours of Speculoos. I used the Speculoos biscuits to make the crust of my cheesecake. Then I incorporated the spread to a third of my classic cheesecake filling batter. I then gently folded the Speculoos cheesecake mixture into the classic cheesecake filling to make a marbled effect.

My speculoos cheesecake project was an undoubted success! One slice was not enough and it left me craving for more.  But I have to discipline myself to save some for the following days. In fact, I think I still have a slice left, and maybe devouring it now is a nice way to end this post!

Bisous bisous,

Friday, 27 September 2013

Daring Bakers' Challenge - September 2013: Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake

I can't believe it's been a year since my last post! So much had happened, I didn’t even have any time to pause and notice the world was passing me by. I am set to live in Hong Kong for another year, and I'm not complaining. I'm still head over heels with Hong Kong, and sometimes still feel like a newbie, exploring what this city has to offer. I recently just moved to my own place; it's a small studio but for a petite-sized me, I'm feeling super cosy and homey. I've set-up my kitchen to be functional and hopefully get back into baking.

I feel like I have such a struggle finding the intense passion in baking I once had in 2010. A part of me feels like it’s never coming back. Maybe that’s the way to go… Instead of searching or brainstorming ideas with myself on how to ‘recover’, maybe I should just accept my present and move forward. No more pressure in getting my blog going as when I first started this page; no more pressure of baking regularly. My aim is to bake because it’s my sweet escape and blog when I feel like sharing.

Enough rambling about my semi-personal issues, and on with the true essence of this post! Last time I participated in Daring Bakers' was January of 2011. It’s been a while, but I’m glad I am still welcomed to join the baking fun this month.

Blog-checking line: Imma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!
This month I was introduced to a cake that I’ve never heard of before. While I was reading through the challenge, my taste buds were slowly escalating into a state of salivation. I love dairy, I always have. So the idea of soaking a cake in a mixture made of three kinds of milk just sounded completely divine! I’m not quite sure of the origin of this cake; all I know is, it is quite well-known around Central and South America. Essentially, it is made out of a sponge cake, sometimes butter cake, that has been soaked in a milk syrup consisting of condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, then served with fruits and whipped cream. The milk syrup may be infused with different flavours, but I followed the recipe from the challenge to a T, having the milk soaking liquid spiced with cinnamon and spiked with rum.
The flavour expectation I had for this cake did not disappoint! I chose mangoes to go with my Pastel de Tres Leches, and it was a perfect marriage. Even just by the smell of the cake, you would know it was an amazing piece of edible goodness. The richness and power of the dairy immensely flavoured in this cake would take you to a quick retreat to the Latin world. The only thing I would improve on next time is to not soak the cake with all the milk syrup; I think there was too much of the soaking liquid, and as a result some of the syrup was oozing out even after decorating the cake. Regardless of this minor thing, this is a cake definitely worth baking again.

‘Til my next baking episode!

Bisou bisou,

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Back to Basics with Brownies and Muffins

For the last three years, I have felt like a nomad, finding a home from country to country. As unsettling as it may sound, it had its perks. Aside from the obvious of learning cultures and growing as an individual, my baking skills had immensely improved. Each country I temporarily called home gave me some sort of nudge to elevate my skills as a pastry chef wannabe.
I was blown away by the abundance of fresh produce back in Britain. Ingredients I used to just read about or see on cooking shows were easily available in any local grocery. My palate was in total bliss with all the berries and dairies I was able to savour for the very first time; they were absolutely inspiring.  
Though British weather has got its bitter-cold, gloomy reputation, it was a complete perfection when it came down to baking. The same recipe I used in Philippines to make pie crust was magically easier to work with and came out very nice and flaky. Hand-whipping a bowl of cream was a breeze. It was definitely there in Britain where I realize the relevance of weather in baking.
My change of residence to South Korea was probably the turning point to my home-baking episodes. While the culture and lifestyle of Korea was enjoyably rich and refreshingly different, I needed to find an outlet to retreat myself to somewhere I am more familiar with once in a while. That was when I started to bake on a regular basis. I got very focused on practicing and making French desserts, entremets and pastries. It was also in Korea when this blog was born. My skills as a home-baker were really developed and until now I still can't believe what I was able to create with my half-pint oven and hand-held mixer.
China was a challenge. For some reason, my love and thirst for good food and baking went to an all time low. I was also not enthusiastic with blogging anymore because of all the blocked sites in China with blogger being one of them. I had to use a VPN to access my blog; it became such a big job, most of the time I couldn't be bothered anymore. I wasn't prepared to let it just be like that. I created a website under the name Sugar Bowl which I intended to sell home-baked desserts with the aim to push myself to bake. It didn't have much direction until someone placed an order for a fondant cake. I gave it a go even with minute knowledge and experience with fondant cakes. I surprised myself with what I was able to make, and to top it all off, the client was very delighted with it. That was the start, and through word of mouth, I was constantly receiving fondant cake orders. Then it was obvious what direction Sugar Bowl was at.
Just a few weeks ago, H and I relocated again. The place we call home now is in the vibrant Hong Kong. I am curious to see how things will unfold here. It seems like every time I move to a new place, there's also something new and exciting that's going to happen. I also took down Sugar Bowl with me here, and as for its future, only time will tell.
Hong Kong has so far been one big pot of inspiration. I have only been here for a couple of weeks meaning I am so busy getting our flat furnished and all that, but I am itching to bake properly already! I already found shops that sell a wide range of baking ingredients and tools that I see myself frequenting at. Aside from the bountiful Hong Kong style bakeries, there are loads of restaurants for good eats and patisseries for sweet fix. Afternoon tea is also very popular here. Hong Kong definitely has all the reasons for me to get my mojo for food and baking back!
For a very humble start, I squeezed in some baking in the midst of chaos in the house. One of my dearest friends, B, had a house party recently so I decided to tote a box of brownies with me. Then on my recent trip to the groceries, I saw loads of lovely gems of blueberries so I made some cute blueberry lemon muffins for breakfast. Hope these two classics is a sign of a more fruitful baking and blogging by yours truly.
Bisou bisou,

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Character Cakes

Character cakes seemed to be popular this week at Sugar Bowl. I have to admit I felt nervous about making these character cakes because I wanted them to look as close to the original characters as possible.

Minnie Mouse Cake
Cars Cake
Spiderman Cake

I'm quite pleased by the outcome of all the cakes; tell me what you think? Do they look authentic enough?

Bisou bisou,


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