22 July 2012

Pound Cakes Galore

Pardon for my tardiness in blogging. Simply couldn't muster the energy to edit photos or write anything. Since our return from Phuket last month, have been managing dear son's crankiness, made worst by him falling sick for almost 2 weeks. Thereafter, my turn to catch the flu bug. Have been sick for more than a week now, feeling lethargic and sleepy all the time :(

Anyways, this is a long-overdue post about pound cakes. I baked these like months ago! I think I mentioned before that I'm not a fan of pound cakes as I prefer cakes that are tender and fluffy like chiffon. In my impression, pound cakes are always dry and dense and had to be washed down the throat with lots of liquid. But having seen a lot of bloggers talked about pound cakes like Mrs NgSK's Butter Cake (blogged by Wendy of Table for 2... or more) and Tish Boyle's Plainly Perfect Pound Cake (blogged by Shirley of @Kokken), curiousity got the butter better of me, so I decided to attempt three pound cake recipes over several weekends.

The first recipe attempted was Tish Boyle's Plainly Perfect Pound Cake. The ingredients used are fairly simple like plain flour, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, caster sugar, eggs, lemon zest, orange zest, vanilla extract and heavy cream. Method is straightforward, creaming butter then add sugar and mix till light and fluffy, followed by eggs, zest, extract, and finally alternating between flour and heavy cream.

* for full recipe, pls refer to @Kokken.

The cake turned out quite ok, fairly fine and tender with slight hint of citrus zest. Actually tasted quite good, rich and buttery when warm. But somehow turned a little hard and dry the next day.

Next up was atelier h's Green Tea Marbled Pound Cake. This recipe is from a Chinese-translated Japanese recipe book called Simple Desuga Ajiwainoaru Okashi Yaiteimasu by Setsuko Homma (幸福烘焙工房: 每天都想吃的美味甜點 シンプルですが味わいのあるお菓子焼いています,作者/本間節子). She's supposedly a renown chef blogger in Japan (www.atelierh.jp). I bought this recipe book from Kinukuniya as I like how Japanese pastries are crafted.

Green Tea Marbled Pound Cake
(makes one pound cake, 18x5x5cm)

  • 60g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp matcha powder, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius. Line baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Sift plain flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Cream butter in mixer till creamy, gradually add caster sugar and beat till light and fluffy.
  4. Gradually add in the egg and mix till incorporated.
  5. Sift the plain flour and baking powder one more time and gradually add into the butter/sugar/egg batter. Fold the batter gently.
  6. Divide the batter into 2 portions. Add sifted matcha powder into the one portion of the batter and mix till incorporated.
  7. Pour the both portions of batter into the baking tin, and create the marbling effect using a spatula.
  8. Bake for 35-40 mins.

I was rather surprised that the ingredients used are so simple as compared to the Tish Boyle's recipe (as well as Mrs NgSK's). The green tea pound cake turned out slightly drier than Tish Boyle's Plainly Perfect Pound Cake, as I suspected, since the latter had heavy cream added. In terms of proportion of ingredients, the green tea cake also had a slightly larger quantity of flour as compared to the fat content (butter and egg). I also feel that the green tea taste was a little understated (could probably be due to the quality of matcha powder used).

If I were to attempt the green tea pound cake again, I would probably reduce the quantity of flour, and perhaps add more liquid and/or fat content.

And finally Mrs NgSK's Vanilla Butter Cake. Many bloggers were raving about this pound cake in Wendy's blog and FB. Ingredients are similar to Tish Boyle's recipe, except that self-raising flour is used (instead of flour + baking powder), milk is used (instead of heavy cream) and no citrus zest added. But the method differs - the egg whites are separately from the yolks and beatened (with some sugar) till soft peak stage, then folded into the batter (butter > sugar > vanilla > egg yolks > flour/milk/flour/milk/flour); very similar to how chiffon cakes are done, or when you want to have a more fluffy texture for cakes.

* for full recipe, refer to Table for 2...or more.
This pound cake turned out the nicest of all three, more moist and fluffy. I believe due to the addition of milk, and most importantly the step of folding in egg white batter. But then again, the cake too, turned a little hard and dry the next day.

My conclusion is, pound cakes are best eaten freshly baked from oven or on the same day. If eaten the next day, it's recommended to reheat for a few minutes in the oven. So probably it's my bad afterall for not giving the pound cake its due recognition :p

08 July 2012

Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I didn't know about the existence of Red Velvet Cake until recent years, when I started baking and paid more interest to different types of cakes that are on display at patisseries and food blogs.

The red velvet cake is an intriguing cake, I mean, why is it called Red Velvet? So I did a little search on the internet to find out about the history and origin but it still seems a little fuzzy. I guess the most interesting part is the chemical reaction between the acidic ingredients like vinegar and buttermilk with cocoa which brings out the red anthocyanin in the cocoa, and hence the name? Bakers these days use red colouring to make the colour of the cake more pronounced, else a more natural way, beets.

Anyways, when I first noticed this cake at a cafe joint, I ordered a slice and wasn't impressed at all. The cake was rough and dry and the taste was uncharacteristic (read: no taste), and the cream cheese frosting tasted blah (wonder which lousy brand of cream cheese was used). Henceforth, I ignored the existence of this cake until recently, I happened to try one from Twelve Cupcakes, it was good! Tender and moist, the cake had a tinge of cocoa and the vanilla cream cheese frosting complemented the cake very well. Disclaimer, it is not an advert for Twelve Cupcakes ok! I just happened to taste one from there. It sort of re-ignited my interest in this cake, and coincidentally Shirley from @Kokken posted an entry on Red Velvet Cupcake. Even though I was hesitant about using copious amount of colouring in my baking, I decided to try it, at least once.

Her recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart and the quantity yield is actually 24 cupcakes, way too much for me who's baking this purely for experiment. I also reduced the amount of sugar used, like Shirley did.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(From Martha Stewart and @Kokken)

Ingredients (Yield 12)
  • 140g cake flour
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g  caster sugar (original 170g)
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp red gel paste food colour (I use Wilton)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Cream cheese frosting
  • 112g unsalted butter
  • 170g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar (original 226g)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together cake flour, cocoa and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add egg (one at a time if using original recipe), beating until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 additions of milk and whisking well after each addition. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add the mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Transfer  to wire rack to cool before frosting with Cream Cheese frosting.
  6. Cream Cheese Frosting: Whisk together cream cheese and butter until creamy and fluffy. Add sugar in 3 batches and continue to whisk until pale. Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.
The cupcakes turned out brownish red or was it reddish brown. I'm also unsure whether this is the "correct" colour or not, it doesn't really matter lah. The cake was indeed tender and moist with a tinge of cocoa taste and perfect with the cream cheese frosting. But the crumb wasn't really well distributed, I mean it's not tight and neat. I think I didn't whisk the sugar and oil thoroughly enough at the beginning? My piping skills really need more practice too, couldn't pipe the frosting evenly, like the ones sold at Twelve Cupcakes :(

The recipe is a keeper for now. Will probably explore other recipes, such as the ones using beets when I have the time.

05 July 2012

Phuket July 2012 Part II - Food & Places

In this post, I'm just going to talk about food in Club Med and Phuket, and some places and activities in a random manner.

Since the package by Club Med is full board, we had most of our meals at Club Med itself, and thus most part of our stay, buffet. There's actually a fine dining restaurant where ala-carte menu is served, but we didn't manage to make reservations for that in view of our toddler.

Well, the buffet spread at Club Med was pretty substantial, ranging from international cuisine, to Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. But after a few meals of buffet, we got a little sick of it and craved for more local Thai food. Unfortunately, we were rather disappointed with the Thai spread at the buffet, probably tuned to suit the palates of the guests; the dishes were not authentic enough.

I managed to capture a few photos of breakfast and lunch only (it was too dark and crowded during dinner) as I was always in a hurry to feed dear son.

The restaurant was divided into two sections, one section features the cold food/appetizers and the other the hot/cooked food (with a central open kitchen concept).
The hot/cooked food section. As usual, the egg station is always popular. Other spread includes porridge, fried rice/noodles, the typical ABF stuff like sausage, bacon, hashbrown, baked beans etc.
This is the section where cold foods are displayed. For breakfast, there's salad, self-made bagels, bread and pastries, cereals, fruits, yogurts, juices etc.
We only ate lunch on the last day of our stay as we dined out for three of the days. Lunch spread was actually quite impressive, as compared to dinner. There was a special station where cold spring rolls were freshly made by the chef. In fact, similar stations were also set up for the dinners as well.
Pretty appetiser display, cheese stick with mango, cucumber and cherry tomato.
Sample plates of food were displayed at the central open kitchen and available upon order.

The cool Japanese section chef. His station was always one of the busiest, whether lunch or dinner.
Pretty display of fruits.
Several types of dessert were available. But I thought that they were mediocre only.

All in all, the buffet spread at Club Med was commendable, but we sworn off buffet ever since return from the trip. Buffet for every meal was just too overwhelming.
We went to Jungceylon Shopping Complex one of the days and decided to venture into Patong Street for authentic Thai food. Came across this eatery called No. 6 Restaurant which was very crowded and thus concluded that the food must be good.
Phad Thai - Stir fried glass noodles. Nicely fried, the glass noodles was smooth and cooked to the right texture. Taste-wise, slightly sweet, salty and sourish with a tinge of spiciness. Yums!
Tom Yum Soup. The staff asked us for the level of spiciness and we said the most spicy. She was taken aback and told us that it would be very spicy. Well, we said bring it on :) I must say the Tom Yum soup was really good, spicy, tangy, savoury, tantalising different depths of our tastebuds. We had Tom Yum soup back at Club Med the night before and it was nothing compared to this.
Stir fried morning glory, aka Kang Kong. Crunchy and fresh, just a tad saltish.
Deep fried fish in Thai Sauce. We ordered this particular dish as we were curious with the Thai sauce. Turned out to be very interesting piquant taste. Not bad at all.

In conclusion, No. 6 restaurant was really not bad; well we were definitely glad to have a chance to eat some proper thai food, given that we were in Phuket.
Ok, this seemed a little random. On the second day, we rented a motorbike so that we could explore the island just like what we did more than ten years ago. And one of the more memorable places we visited then was Laem Sing Beach, a very secluded secret beach, which had powdery white sand and pristine blue waters. Well, the place has certainly changed, for one there is parking charge now. The path leading to the beach is "upgraded" to a proper road with steps and at the beachfront there are a few eateries. Back then, there were only a few huts selling drinks.

The beach was also much dirtier and not as beautiful, could probably be due to the monsoon. Slightly disappointed that our secret beach is no longer the same as before, but then again it's ten years afterall.
The other place that we went to was Naiyang Beach. This beach is located at the northeast part of Phuket and very near to the airport. And we rode about 2hrs on motorbike just to reach this place! We had lunch at Naiyang Beach ten years ago and it was the most memorable meal we had then, sitting on the beach and dining under coconut trees.

The area certainly underwent tremendous changes, it used to be just wilderness. Initially we entered the beach through the wrong road and reached a guard house. The guard told us that there's entrance fee for entering the national park. We were like HUH? but paid nonetheless (not cheap, 200 baht per person) since we wanted to go to the beach area. Then we realised that the so-called National Park was just a small stretch with a few recreation activities and eateries. If we go further and enter from another road, we would reach the area that we were looking for without having to pay at all. Cheated of 400 baht! Oh well.

The place was similar to ten years ago but much more established and bigger scale.
Now they built this kind of huts for diners. Ten years ago, it was basically just mats and tables under the trees.
Grilled chicken. It was OH-SO-GOOD! The meat was so fragrant, chewy and juicy!
Papaya salad. Nicely done, crunchy, sweet, spicy, tangy, no complaints.
Grilled Saba dish. I don't usually like Saba fish but this was really nice. The fish meat was sweet and juicy and tasted even better with the special chilli sauce provided.
Tom Yum soup, yet again (yes, hubby's favourite and a must-order). If the Tom Yum soup at No. 6 was good, this was excellent. It was even better!
Pineapple fried rice. Not bad but nothing to scream about. Once again, our most memorable meal of this trip at Naiyang Beach.
This is a Thai massage place just opposite Club Med. 300 baht for 60 min foot reflexology.
The interior furnishings is a soothing green. The massage therapist I had was pretty skillful. For the price and the skills, it's worth every penny!

On another evening, we rented a car and brought dear son to Promthep Cape to catch the sunset. Beautiful but partially blocked by the clouds.
On certain nights, the talented GOs at Club Med would actually put up Circus Shows. On the last night we were there, they had a Water Circus Show, which was basically acrobatic acts performed over the pool.
Spectacular indeed, given these people are actually the full time staff with their own job scope in the day time and yet they have to perform at night!

Not sure if we would visit a Club Med property again, but I must say that the kids' club is a big draw for parents who wish to have some me-time during vacation. Thanks to the kids' club, hubby and I were able to sneak off to visit the places we wanted to go.

And this time round, we had the company of a great group of friends which made the trip memorable and enjoyable. Well, if the group decides to go on another holiday together, we would definitely be keen to join once again.