Fudgy Chocolate Cake for a Father

It’s Father’s Day today but the family has decided ahead to defer our celebration till next week or so. It’s always a little tricky come June every year because little sis’ birthday will be a week before Father’s Day, and mine a week or so after. To complicate matters, mum’s birthday is 2 weeks after mine. If we abide strictly to celebrating every family event in June/July, we would be indulging every weekend and that’s very bad for our waistlines, not to mention our health. And in any case, the parents have a social event to attend this evening so we didn’t have to fret very long to arrive at our eventual decision.

A formal family celebration aside, this day cannot go by without a lesser form of acknowledgement (or my rather sensitive dad might feel under-appreciated). I started planning to bake several miniature cakes earlier this week, and consulted mum and little sis for ideas. Unfortunately, my family have very boring palate – we finally settled for the very safe choice of a chocolate cake. Well yes, the non-chocolate fancier has to bake yet another chocolate cake.

So there you have it, a two-layer chocolate fudge cake cut into miniatures with creamy chocolate fudge frosting slapped in between layers and at the top. And because this is for the dad who is the antithesis of ‘loud’, I placed some Varlhona crunchy pearls as the simple final touches. No elaborate creaming, no loud colours. Not the prettiest of cakes, but that’s not an issue since the dad eats almost anything. I most resemble him in this respect, apart from our inane need to tidy all wire/cable bundles.

A friend jokingly posted a status update on his Facebook account, exclaiming that today is a day to celebrate the failure of all fathers. I wondered why he feels so but this friend of ours has always been known to be a little wacky. And I somewhat disagree with him. I can’t speak for all dads, but my dad was ahead of his peers even when he was a brand new father. He believed that the responsbility of bringing up children falls on the shoulders of both parents, not just the mum. Needless to say, the dad was very involved during our growing up years. Thank you daddy.

Happy Father’s Day!

Perfect Strangers

Perfect strangers they once were, but they are now buddies, and my very able assistants in my little kitchen! I’m sure they need no further introduction…

My trusty 4-year old KitchenAid has served me very well. This is the single most expensive big-ticket item I’ve invested in. At least for my baking escapades, it is. Readers who followed me since the old blog would know that my KA is not in white, I chose the pink one because part of the proceeds were donated towards the fight against breast cancer. A noble cause it is.

Once in a while, I do dream of owning a white KA instead. The thing with KA is that, it is so hardy I might not find the need to replace this current one in my lifetime. Oh well… I could always consider painting it white. Or leaving it alone.

And this second item – iPad2 – also does not require any introduction. Thanks to a good friend, I manage to land my hands on a 64GB wifi-version of the white iPad2 on 29 Apr 2011, the very first day it was launched in Singapore. While sharing in my joy, you must be wondering how an iPad could become my assistant in the kitchen. You see, I’ve started saving all my recipes as PDF files so effectively, my iPad has become my portable recipe book! Not only that, it has also become my portable piano and violin book since I do buy some scores over the internet. And I must say flipping the pages while playing on the piano and violin has never been easier!

Most importantly, I help save some trees!

Let me know if you have some creative ways of utilising your iPad ya?

Chocolate Fancy

I’m not a big fan of chocolates – never was, and possibly never will be.  The irony is, I married someone who is one.  Whenever I feel like baking for him, his choice is invariably something to do with chocolates – chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cookies etc.  And it really gets to me sometimes because while I don’t mind, I’d rather not waste calories on dessert I don’t fancy much.

This is with the exception of the chocolate cupcakes, which recipe is posted below.  The cupcakes are moist and soft, with a hint of milky-chocolate flavour in them.  I never get sick of eating them.  And they really taste the best fresh out of the oven, after a cooling time of about 10 minutes.  That texture and heavenly taste… I’m at a loss for words to describe.

Recipe: Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 160g caster sugar
  • 70g all-purpose flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 100g milk
  • 50g vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g boiling water
  • some nutella (for frosting)
  • some mini marshmallows (for dressing)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare 12 cupcake liners on 1 baking sheet.
  3. Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. Mix these together until evenly combined. Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl or jug, whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Add the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and whisk by hand, taking care to scrape down the sides of the bowl until well-mixed. Add boiling water and whisk well to combine.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with cake batter. As the consistency of the batter is very thin like thick liquid, it might be easier to pour the batter into the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before storing or frosting.

Yield: 12 regular-sized cupcakes
[credits: Tessa @ Handle the Heat]

In light of the recent spate of consecutive losses my family was faced with, the little sis requested to have a quiet birthday with no fanfare.  Well… not that my family likes having elaborate birthday celebrations, but I got what she meant.  So, no birthday cake for her.  Just some pretty cupcakes to commemorate the occasion.  Happy birthday, little sis!

I admit I’m as lazy as a home baker could get.  Visually it might have been a lot more pleasant to the eyes if I had used a white-coloured frosting or icing before placing the marshmallows on but I’m too lazy for that.  Conveniently I have a half-finished jar of nutella lying around in the kitchen, and there you have it, the fastest way to dress up a cupcake.  The fininshing touches of the mini marshmallows and ribbon, I have to give credit to another home baker (whose cupcakes were featured in the local newspapers some time ago) for the inspiration.

The little sis was very happy when she received her birthday cupcakes.  I hope she liked them even better after tasting them!

Get Shorty!

Not the mobster movie starring John Travolta and Gene Hackman but the buttery, melt-in-the-mouth Scottish confection that is the shortbread cookies. Apparently shortbread cookies were once only served during Christmas and the Scottish New Year’s Eve. I am glad this is no longer the case and that shortbread cookies are easily available all year round.

I was first introduced to shortbread cookies through my mum, who has a sweet tooth (yours truly inherited that trait from her, amongst other things). When I was younger, she loved to procure her favourite All Butter Shortbread Fingers from Marks and Spencer from time to time, and these cookies were reserved as a very special treat or reward whenever I pleased her i.e. did well in school. Nowadays, she is consciously cutting down on sweet stuff in her diet as age catches up. But I know she will never reject shortbread when offered, especially if they are hand-baked by me.

Recipe: Very Short Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 255g all-purpose flour
  • 75g corn flour
  • 255g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 110g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C.
  2. Prepare a 9×9 inch pan by greasing with softened unsalted butter.
  3. Sift the flours into a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cream the cubed unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and cream at medium speed for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the icing sugar and cream for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the vanilla extract. Beat the mixture until well combined.
  7. Gradually add in the sifted flours until combined.
  8. Press the dough firmly into the pan (I use a flat-bottomed glass to help complete the deed). Prick the surface of the dough lightly with a fork at regular 1-inch intervals.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes on a rack in the lower half of the oven, until lightly browned.
  10. Let cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cutting board and cut into squares or fingers whilst still warm. Cool completely on the wire rack before storing.

Yield: 27 1×3 inch fingers
[credits: Joycleyn Shu @ KUIDAORE]

This recipe was generously shared by Joycelyn on her online blog. She rightfully pointed out that the secret behind sensational shortbread lies in 2 main ingredients – the butter and corn flour – so it pays to use premium butter. I like Lurpak and Elle & Vire butters over the more commonly available SCS butter.

One additional tip if you like your shortbread fingers to cut more neatly after baking: score the dough lightly before putting it into the oven. In fact, I would perform this before pricking the surface with a fork. Makes the task of cutting it easier although it means that you would have to ‘double-invert’ the baked dough to get the right side up. But if you find the dough a little too soft to manage, just stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes before scoring and pricking.

Mum loved it, as did the whole family. This simple recipe is a gem and a definite keeper!

The Biscuits of Prato

Otherwise known as ‘Biscotti di Prato’, or simply Biscotti (literally means ‘twice-baked’ in Italian). These long and hard cookies which originated from the City of Prato in Italy are very dry and are traditionally served with a drink, into which they may be dunked. I prefer to have my biscotti neat. You would too, if you follow the recipe below. It is too tasty to be dunked in coffee or any other beverage.

Recipe: Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 165 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 80g butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Sift together the flour, ground cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Whisk the eggs and salt together in a large mixing bowl with a handheld whisk until well-mixed.
  3. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Whisk in the melted and cooled butter.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula and mix until smooth.
  5. Fold in the hazelnuts and stir with a spatula until well distributed.
  6. Using a plastic bag (cut open save for one length), shape the dough on a tray or baking sheet into a rectangular strip to any desirous dimension. Place the tray or baking sheet to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to 175°C.
  8. Remove the plastic bag from the chilled dough and place the dough in the centre of a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or baking paper.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center is firm. Remove baking sheet from oven to cool on a wire rack. When loaf is cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice the loaves diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet.
  10. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, turning over once. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield : 18-20 slices

I have not been making time for baking in quite a while, and a group of friends who had once tasted my biscotti lamented about how they missed them. I took the opportunity to prepare several batches in advance and froze them till the day I needed to bake them. We had a dinner appointment but it was cancelled at the 11th hour because of a family emergency. Nevertheless I was able to present them each with a box of biscotti to bring home to enjoy.

Just a word of caution: don’t indulge too much in the biscotti. After all, they are baked twice and are thus what Chinese would term as ‘heaty’. Eating too much of them at one sitting would most likely result in a sore throat or a heaty constitution. Well, perhaps dunking them in some hot beverage isn’t half that bad an idea after all. And in any case, the biscotti keep for at least a week in an air-tight container at room temperature.

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