Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tiramisu Layer Cake

I made a cake for Sis no.2's birthday. Cakes for fondant icing are quite limited; they have to be firm enough to hold the weight of the fondant and cannot contain too much frosting or filling. So, I decided to make a layer cake instead of a fondant one because I wanted to try out different flavours with lots of yummy cream filling.

I decided to go with tiramisu. Tiramisu is basically sponge fingers dipped in a solution of coffee and liquor, then arranged in layers with cream in between. The cream is a decadent combination of zabaglione (Italian custard), mascarpone cheese, coffee, fresh cream and liquor.

For my version, I baked a butter cake and incorporated the coffee and rum (my choice of liquor) into the batter. Then I cut the cake into 3 layers. I filled the layers with a cream mixture consisting fresh cream, mascarpone, coffee, rum and sugar (I left out the zabaglione because I was too lazy and also short on time). I found the mascarpone rather tasteless, but its texture is marvelously creamy and rich!

I added chocolate shavings on the layers of cream and also a dusting of cocoa for the top layer. Then I just stuck on some pretty pastel 'Happy Birthday' candles.

Overall, it looked and tasted great. However, the cake was a bit heavy and the layers squeezed the cream out the sides when cut. I might try using a sponge cake recipe the next time around.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Minced Beef Pies

On Sunday I made some minced beef pies. I used the shortcrust pastry which I made earlier for the bases. Then I filled that with a minced meat filling and then topped it with mashed potatoes.

I rolled out the pastry and used a large round cookie cutter to cut circles. Then I pressed the circles into a non-stick muffin tray. I made a mistake by pulling and stretching the dough circles which caused them to shrink while I was fitting them into the muffin holes. This made the process quite frustrating!

For the filling, I stir fried some chopped onions with minced beef and added some tomato paste, a cup of instant beef and herbs gravy and some salt and black pepper to taste. I also used some red wine which rounds up the rich flavour of the beef. Oh yes, the mixture was a bit too watery, so I added some corn flour.

As a topping, I piped on some mashed potatoes using a star nozzle. It looked a bit 'poo-like' at first, but developed a nice pattern when the accents turned brown in the oven. You can use any mashed potato recipe you like. Here I used cream and a bit of salt and pepper with the potatoes.

The pies were lovely and the kids devoured them; except for Eva who's not into anything that actually requires chewing!

I might make these again, but maybe without the troublesome pastry!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lollipop Cupcakes

I have been itching to practice my icing piping techniques, especially large swirls on cupcakes. However, I'm always too tired and too short on time to start from scratch. So, I finally cheated and bought cupcakes from the bakery just so I could decorate them! Why didn't I think of this earlier?

I tried a buttercream recipe using butter, icing sugar and golden syrup. It tasted a little better than usual buttercream, but I still do not like buttercream in general. I was hoping to find one which tastes good, because I like its stiffer consistency which produces swirls with sharper and more well-defined edges. But I feel it is still too much butter to swallow! I definitely prefer the taste of chocolate ganache and whipped cream.

Anyway, I piped buttercream swirls using a large drop flower tip which I modified a bit! I unfortunately do not own a Wilton 1M tip :( Then I sprinkled some non-pariels and stuck on lollipops which have been sitting in my freezer for ages.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mango Pudding

Mango pudding doesn't require any baking, but I thought I'd share this recipe anyway, because it's quite simple and turned out rather yummy. My kids like it, I think it's nice but a bit rich though, so you can't have too much.

Anyway, my in-laws have mango trees in the garden and 'tis the season of mangoes. Since there's a glut and we're not eating fast enough, I decided to make something with them. Mango cake doesn't sound too appetizing, so I found this recipe for mango pudding instead:

Mango pudding

(makes 16-20 servings)

3 cups mango puree (strained and fibres discarded)
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 sachets gelatine powder (5 x 10g)
*3 cups cream
*extra cream for serving

Place water in large pot.
Sprinkle gelatine powder over water and let stand for 1 minute to bloom.
Place pot over medium heat and heat liquid until gelatine totally dissolves. (do not boil)
Add sugar and continue heating, stirring occasionally, until sugar totally dissolves.
Remove pot from heat.
Add cream and puree.
Stir and pour into individual serving bowls.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Serve with cream poured over.

*(cream may be replaced with evaporated milk for a 'reduced fat' version)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Halloween sugar cookies

Today I baked sugar cookies. I used these Wilton 101 cookie cutters. They have many Halloween shapes like a cat, a witch, a haunted house, a ghost, two sizes of pumpkins, a bat and a moon. I used the ghost and small pumpkin mainly because I didn't want to use too much black colouring for things like the black cat and the black bat. A pink kitty just won't have the same Halloween effect... :)

Anyway, when rolling out the dough, I placed the dough in between 2 sheets of cling film (a trick I saw on tv). It made the process so, so much easier! I would recommend everyone to do this, as there is no more sticking to the table or the rolling pin. It makes all the frustration and hair-pulling disappear!

After the cookies were baked and cooled, I frosted them with cookie icing. I used a thicker icing to pipe out the outline. Then I flooded the inside with thinned icing. After that I added the details with black icing. This was all quite a bit of work and there was also quite some waiting; for the icing to dry.

The cookies turned out very pretty, but it took a lot of time and effort! So, I don't think I'll be using my cookie cutters for quite a while!

Shortcrust pastry

Last night I made some sugar cookie dough for baking cookies today. You can get the recipe here.

I also made some shortcrust pastry to freeze, because I intend to make some pies and quiche next week. I love puff pastry, but just looking at the recipe makes me feel tired! It's so much work, I'm too lazy to attempt it! Anyway, here's the recipe for shortcrust pastry which is so simple and straight forward.

I used all butter and no lard though, because lard is not very healthy, but mainly because I didn't have any! :) I'm hoping it will still turn out okay when I bake it!

Shortcrust Pastry


225g flour
50g lard
50g butter
1/2 tsp salt
40ml water

Sift the flour together with the salt, high above the mixing bowl to incorporate more air.

Place fats onto flour and cut fats into flour with round ended spatula. Continue cutting until fat pieces are pea sized and coated in flour.

Use fingertips (so as not to introduce unnecessary heat from palms of hands) to rub fats and flour together. Lift high and let mixture drop into bowl while rubbing.

When mixture resembles uniform sized breadcrumbs, add 10ml water and stir with spatula.

Add another 10ml water and stir with spatula.

Add another 10ml water and this time press down with spatula.

Add the last 10ml of water and bring dough together with hands.

Knead dough lightly for a few minutes on a floured surface until smooth.

Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour (for the gluten to develop) before use.
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