Learning

Bonjour!

I’ve been studying French since January, in anticipation of my future travels (or perhaps a short stay?) to Paris, so to stay motivated and to improve my grasp of the language, I’m going to blog a few short sentences in French, and hopefully will be able to write full paragraphs soon. So here goes! I’ll start with the famous French dessert, moelleux au chocolat. 

Bien que je n’aime pas mange les desserts au chocolat, je suis complètement obsédée par ce moelleux au chocolat avec coeur de thé matcha. Le recette est de mon école, LCB, mais j’ai fait une modification- le coeur de thé matcha. C’est juste chocolat blanc et poudre de thé matcha. 

“Although I don’t like chocolate desserts, I’m obsessed with this chocolate fondant with a matcha centre. The base recipe is from LCB, but I’ve made one modification- the matcha heart, which is just white chocolate and matcha powder.”

We made plated desserts in class this week, and one of the desserts was chocolate fondants. Because the fondants had to be baked à la minute we only made 2 each in class and took the rest of the batter home. I wasn’t quite pleased with the chocolate fondants on it’s own, so I made little matcha centres which I popped into the middle of the batter then baked.. it was DELICIOUS. Ooey, gooey, warm and sticky, and the tops crinkly and shiny like a good brownie. Oh, yes.

I suppose you could use any chocolate fondant recipe and insert a matcha heart in the middle; I made the matcha middles quite simply: I melted some white chocolate, stirred in some matcha powder then piped them in small silicone moulds and refrigerated them until they hardened. If you don’t have silicone moulds, just pour it into a small cake tin and cut them into pieces once chilled. When I was about to bake the cake, I just piped the fondant batter halfway up the moulds, pressed a matcha centre into the middle then piped more batter on top, then baked them off.

C’est tout! Miam!

 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I’m not a big chocolate person so I can’t really judge how good a chocolate cake is. But that being said, I do quite like this flourless chocolate cake from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook with berries and cream. I brought one for dessert to my friend Ian’s house when he cooked us a truly glorious Italian meal, and we had it with raspberries and blackberries and a big scoop of clotted cream ice-cream  It’s quite dense and very rich so a teensy slice is enough, and the cream and berries are so necessary. It’s truly a big pain to make though- I used every single bowl I own and several pots to make it! The eggs need to be whipped with sugar, chocolate melted over a bain marie, yoghurt and milk boiled in a small pan, a meringue needs to be made, AND cream had to be whipped.. argh.

However, I’m not quite happy enough with this recipe though, I think I’ll try River Cafe’s Nemesis cake next. The recipe is similar to this cake which is really good but.. somehow not what I’m looking for when I think of a flourless chocolate cake. It’s a super fudgy dense cake, like a chocolate fondant, but what I want looks exactly like this Bourke St one, lopsided and rustic with a sunken middle, but squidgier and mousse-ier instead of dense.. if you know what I mean? A simple solution would be to slightly underbake this but it kinda seems like cheating.. I think maybe I’ll try cooking it in a waterbath. But wrapping a loose bottom tin with a double layer of aluminium foil is a real bitch and water always leaks into it no matter how careful I am. Perhaps the problem with a flourless chocolate cake is the fact that it’s flourless..? Or perhaps it’s just my lack of enthusiasm for chocolate..

Rum Pavé au Chocolat

I love reading Japanese cookbooks! It’s usually much cheaper when they’ve been translated into Chinese, and at least I know just enough Mandarin to get by- ie I can read the ingredient list (sometimes with the help of my mum haha). And the great thing about these books are they usually focus on easy yet “chic” recipes, like this one. It’s basically a ganache set in a tin, left to firm, then cut into squares and dusted with cocoa powder. It’s so easy to make but it’s so good! It’s like a truffle, but softer- it gives slightly when you pick it up with your fingers, and right away you’ll so know that it’ll be soooo good. I spiked mine with rum.. because, why not??

Pavé au chocolat recipe, adapted from Japanese (Chinese) book.

The recipe uses a mixture of milk and dark chocolate but I used all dark. I also doubled the recipe and added a tablespoon of rum. I recommend using whipping cream- I used double but it split because of the high fat content and I had to whisk it quite vigorously to bring it back together. But double cream does make it quite a bit more indulgent! It can be used, but you’d have to be more careful about it splitting. Adding the chocolate to the hot cream instead of the other way round somewhat helps, and if it does split, just whisk it back together.. you’re gonna have to whisk hard!

♡270g dark chocolate, chopped
♡200ml whipping cream
♡vanilla or alcohol (I used rum)
♡20g butter
♡plus cocoa powder to dust

1. Bring cream to a boil on a stove, or in the microwave. Keep a close watch, especially if you’re doing it in a microwave- cream boils and bubbles over very quickly.

2. Place the chopped chocolate and alcohol into the hot cream, and let it sit for 3 minutes for the chocolate to melt. Stir gently with a spatula to combine, you don’t want to incorporate air into it.

3. Add butter, and mix until incorporated.

4. Pour into a small square tin or a loaf tin and chill until firm. Cut into squares and roll in cocoa powder to coat.

Posted in Chocolate | Rum Pavé au Chocolat

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake

This is one of my favourite cakes! A really dark, moist, fluffy sponge topped with lots of peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Yum. This chocolate cake recipe really is the best ever. I use it everytime I need a chocolate cake, and it never fails. So, so soft and moist yet really light at the same time. And the peanut butter frosting is adapted from Sky-High, and it’s omg so good- I could eat it with a spoon.. and sometimes I do. Gulp.

♡300g cream cheese, room temperature
♡113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
♡500g icing sugar, sifted
♡1 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add the cream cheese and beat until the lumps have disappeared.
2. Add the icing sugar, a cupful at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition, scraping down the sides. The sugar will puff out of the bowl so it’s helpful to cover the bowl/mixer with a damp towel while doing this. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.
3. Add peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. The frosting should have thickened slightly after the addition of peanut butter. If it hasn’t, add a little bit more cream cheese and beat until lumps have disappeared.

Chocopuffs

The idea for this super chocolatey dessert came from a Chinese cookbook translated from a Japanese cookbook.. and I don’t even understand both languages! It’s a chocolate choux puff with a chocolate biscuit crust filled with very, very dark chocolate pastry cream. I (barely) translated the ingredient list then looked at pictures to figure out the steps. The choux pastry was perfect- crisp and chocolatey. The biscuit crust, however, was a total dud! It uses eggs which I found strange for a biscuit recipe, but I went with it anyway. The biscuit batter was piped in swirls over the choux pastry before it was baked, and it’s meant to look as pictured above: a crackly thin biscuit crust. Frustratingly, that didn’t happen! The biscuit swirl just hardened and then burnt.. Grr. I remember the Ladurée cookbook having a biscuit crust on its eclairs, so I referred to it, and sure it is, there it was! The biscuit in the book was vanilla though, so I added some cocoa powder and it worked like a charm. This is definitely one of the best things I’ve made so far.

Choux pastry:

  • 50g butter
  • 60g milk
  • 60g water
  • 2g salt
  • 5g sugar
  • 60g cake flour
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs

1. Slice the butter thinly and place in a pot with the milk, water, sugar, and salt. It is important to slice the butter as if it’s left in a big block, it’ll take longer to melt and the liquid will evaporate, throwing the ratios off. Turn on the stove to medium heat.

2. Sift cocoa powder and flour together.

3. When the milk mixture comes to the boil, quickly dump in all the flour mixture in and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Beat out the lumps and continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball and stops sticking to the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.

4. Cool the mixture slightly by beating it with the wooden spoon, or by setting it aside for awhile. Once it cools slightly, beat the eggs in 1 by 1, stirring vigorously between each egg.  The batter should form a “ribbon” when the spoon is lifted. (it shouldn’t be too stiff that the batter “tears” when spoon is lifted, and shouldn’t be so runny that it flows. If too stiff, add a beaten egg in little by little, if too runny you’ll have to start over!)

5. Pipe little mounds of choux pastry on a lined baking sheet, 1 inch apart. The mounds should be about 2cm round for a bite-sized choux.  Place a biscuit round on top.

6. Bake at 18o˚C for 17 minutes then either prop oven door open and bake for another 10 minutes. Because I use a microwave oven and the door has to be shut for it to function, I compromised and baked at 150˚C instead for about 10-15 minutes, and it worked just fine. For the last 5-8 minutes, I poked holes in the bottom and flipped them upside down for some steam to escape, although this isn’t necessary. Next time, I’ll probably poke the sides as it won’t be as messy once filled with pastry cream.

7. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Biscuit topping (adapted from Ladurée sucré)

  • 100g very cold unsalted butter
  • 125g cake flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder

1) Place all the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until combined. Gather into a ball and chill for 1 hour.

2) Remove from the fridge and knead slightly to soften. Roll between parchment paper to a thickness of about 2mm. Cut out circles slightly bigger than the unbaked choux pastry mounds.

Pastry cream (adapted from chinese cookbook {I would write the name but it’s in chinese!} and Pierre Hermé)

  • 250 whole milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 40g sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • 125g bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 20g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Place milk in a pan and bring to the boil

2. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar, then whisk in cornstarch.

3. Once the milk has reached a boil, slowly pour in the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Do this slowly, as you don’t want to scramble your eggs! Once all the milk has been stirred in, pour back into the pan and place over heat again.

4. Whisk constantly over heat until the mixture thickens then remove from heat. Let it cool slightly, then add melted chocolate and butter. Stir.

5. Pour the hot mixture into a flat baking sheet and immediately cover with clingfilm. The clingfilm should touch the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill.

Assembly:

1. Place pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a 0.5cm round tip. If you don’t have tips, just snip the bag to make a small hole. If you don’t have a piping bag, just place the pastry cream in a ziploc bag and snip a corner. Anything goes!

2. Pipe the cream into the choux puff either from the hole at the bottom, or if you haven’t pierced a hole during the baking process, poke a hole at the side and pipe the cream in. I expect this will make neater puffs since the cream won’t be leaking out.

3. Eat as soon as possible! The longer it sits, the soggier it gets.

PS: sorry for the slightly blurry photos!

Chocolate & Lemon-Vanilla Bean Sablé

I’ve been reading quite a lot of Japanese recipe websites, blogs and books lately, and have been obsessed with their perfect pastries and cakes. They always look like how they should! I’ve come to realise that they are very fond of making sablés, a French biscuit which are sandy and light and melts in your mouth. Inspired, I made lemon-vanilla and chocolate ones. I had quite high hopes for the chocolate sablés since they’re a Pierre Hermé recipe, but I found them really underwhelming. The texture was perfect, light and tender, but it tasted almost like nothing at all. Which isn’t very surprising considering the tiny amount of sugar and cocoa powder in it. Hmm.. well it could just be me, though. The lemon zest and vanilla one were better, but still.. slightly boring. I guess I like my desserts not so dainty and delicate haha. Anyway, isn’t this a bit of a fail of a blog post?

 

Chocolate Macarons


Finally, finally I’ve conquered the french macaron! All of them had feet, no cracks and shiny tops- yahooo! As Malaysia is extremely humid- more so now that it’s the rainy season, I had to take lots of precautions to ensure that the feet form. Macarons are notorious for misbehaving in humid environments!

Firstly, I age the egg whites for at least a day to dry it out and increase its acidity. This step is essential regardless of the humidity as aged egg whites are much more stable than fresh ones.

Secondly, I switched on the airconditioning for at least half an hour before I start baking. This nippy environment is much more friendly for macarons, and will help the “skin” form properly before baking.

Thirdly, I let the piped macarons rest on the baking sheet for an hour to properly dry it out. Recipes usually state a rest period of 30 minutes, but that’s hardly enough for KL where it’s so muggy. I baked one macaron after a 45 minute rest just as a tester, and it cracked on top, so it definitely needs at least an hour- don’t skimp on the wait time, otherwise your efforts will be wasted and you’ll have lots of cracked macarons!

Fourthly, I baked one tray at a time.. I’m not sure if this helps but it doesn’t hurt either. Anyway, the bake time is short (15 minutes per tray) so the other tray would just have a slightly longer rest period.

The basic recipe is:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 110g ground almonds
  • 170g icing sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2T cocoa powder

1. Sift the almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder together, then blitz them in a food processor or blender until fine. Don’t blend for too long, the almond will become oily.

2. Whisk the egg whites in a very, very clean bowl. When it’s foamy, slowly add the caster sugar in. Beat until stiff, be careful not to overbeat it!

3. Sift the almond mixture over the stiff meringue and use a spatula to fold it it. The mixture will be quite hard initially but it will become more viscuous after several folds. Don’t worry, the meringue is meant to deflate quite a lot. The mixture is ready when it “flows like magma”.

4. Pipe 1.5″ circles on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Pipe them an inch apart. I drew a template on a large piece of paper and placed them under the parchment paper as guidance.

5. Let the piped batter rest for an hour in an air-conditioned room.

6. Bake for 15 minutes at 150C. Don’t forget to rotate the pan halfway.