Saturday, October 25, 2008

Steamed Cheese Brownies


Yes, I know. Brownies mean chocolate, and there's nothing chocolaty here, especially if it's steamed, not baked!! Steamed cake brownies are really popular in Indonesia for the past couple of years (I just heard about it last year). The traditional flavor is chocolate of course, but people are so creative that they modify it to be cheese flavored, pandan flavored, anything you can imagine.

I made the chocolate version a couple of times before and they were good, especially for afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee. Usually, I would add a touch of rum inside the chocolate cake batter, and it makes it even better. But personally, I think it was no difference from a regular chocolate cake (the spongy one, not the fudgy), and I'm just okay with any kind of chocolate cake.



This time, I try to experiment with cheese flavor, substituting this with that, add this instead of that, etc. I have never been a fan of any kind of steamed cake either. I just prefer the texture of baked cake better, rather than the steamed one. But steamed cheese brownie has been in my list for a while now. To satisfy my curiosity, I make it anyway. There are always people who'd be gladly eat this anytime :)

The result is quite satisfying. The texture is similar to a butter cake, but softer, and yet dense, just like how brownie should be.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Black Raspberry and White Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake



First of all, that's a long name for a cake. I really should make a better and a more interesting name for all these cakes.

Today, two friends of mine are getting their civil wedding ceremony. The girl happens to work in the same company as I do. She only took a break for a couple of hours for the ceremony and lunch, then she was back at the office. I was planning to surprise her with a little gathering with some coworkers that she usually interacts with to share the happiness.

Of course the 'party' wouldn't be complete without a cake, don't you think? I was thinking of using this opportunity to experiment with a new cake flavor and combination, but then I changed my mind. I don't want my coworkers to taste my 'experiment' cake, that I didn't know how it will turn out. So I decided to play it safe and just make a cake that I already familiar with, but also taste great of course. My decision came down to raspberry and white chocolate cream cheese cake. I made this cake four times before (one of them was blueberry though). Now see, I would never make the same cake twice if I didn't think it's good.

Strangely, two Trader Joe's I visited, didn't have frozen red raspberry at that time and I didn't want to make another special trip just to find this. Before I left the store,I saw frozen black raspberry instead! I thought, what the heck, the taste would be the same anyway, it's just the color. And I thought the color would be pretty too. The color is very dark purple, almost black. Actually, it looks like a small blackberry, but this one is hollow.



Now, black raspberry is very high in anthocyanins, which is rich in antioxidants. We know that antioxidant is very useful to prevent cancer. People also use it for natural dye due to the rich and deep color.

When I started making the black raspberry jelly for one of the fillings, I realize that the taste is so different. You can definitely tell that it's not red raspberry if you were to have a blind taste test. The color is so deep that it stains my hand.



I wasn't actually satisfied with the final product. I used two 9 inch square pan for one layer and put it side by side, making the overall size to be 9x18, which I think is a little odd. two 10-in should be better instead of 9-in. And I think I put too much gelatin for the jelly, making it thicker than what I wanted. I think I forgot to change my recipe the last time I made this cake. You see, even though this is the fifth time making this cake, there's always something that needs to be modified. It's just never perfect, but I hope this is going to be the last time I modify it though.

The filling and components are still the same. It has two layers of soft cotton sponge cake. The deep purple color is black raspberry jelly that I made using the puree and added a little Chambord (black raspberry liqueur). The white filling is white chocolate cream cheese cream. The method is similar to whipped ganache, but this one doesn't have the air or lightness because of the addition of cream cheese. It's actually very creamy, without being heavy at all.

Usually after the cake is assembled and let refrigerated, I would cut all four sides to show the beautiful stripe pattern of the filling, but I didn't cut it enough to show it. I didn't want to cut it too much because I was afraid that the cake would not be enough for everybody :(.



Also, I really didn't know how to decorate some sort of sheet cake like this. There's just too much surface area to cover and you know that I'm not good with creative decoration (I'm working on it though). So, I just wrote "congratulations" with melted chocolate (and I wasn't happy with it either, it's not neat). I left the cake with the writing until the morning before I had to take it. So, I just grabbed some strawberries and frozen blueberries, and some mint leaves. You can never go wrong with berry decoration. The bright color will give you that "oohhh...aaahhhh..." thing.

The cake was gone in no time. Almost every single person who eat it or look at the cake, asked me if I made the cake (most of them doesn't know that I make cakes) and I'm so glad that everybody loved it. They kept saying how good the cake was ....... See, I'm not good with a lot of appraisal like that. So, I think my cheek was blushing the whole time.



I'm so glad that I found black raspberry. I think I would stock a couple of bags in my freezer as it's not always available. It would be awesome in mousse, bavarian cream, compote, charlotte, aahhhhhhh...........I'm too excited. Imagine how wonderful the color would be. I just can't wait :)
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cat's Tongue



Tried a new recipe for Cat's tongue, using different technique. I was kind of skeptical at first, judging from the method, but I tried it anyway to fulfill my curiosity. But to my surprise, it actually yield a good result texturewise. Tastewise, I think I need to put more vanilla powder in it and substitute some of the powdered sugar with granulated sugar, as I don't really like the powdery taste if the p. sugar, even after it's baked. It tastes a little 'flour-y', and of course because it contains quite a bit of cornstarch in it.



Cat's Tongue in Indonesia is very strong in vanilla, not just regular vanilla extract we normally know, but Indonesia vanilla powder. It is white in color and not completely powdered, you can see a little granules or bits in it, whatever you want to call it.

Other than that, my niece likes it a lot. She kept coming back for more. Or, maybe she was just interested in it because of the name??? hmm.....



I also tried my new cat's tongue pan I brought specially from Indonesia. You can always pipe it, but this way, it would give you uniform shape, right? It wouldn't change the taste no matter what.
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Kaastengel


From the name, it doesn't really give anybody a clue of what it actually is. It is a cheese type of cookie, very famous in Indonesia. Judging from its name, I think it was originated from Dutch, when Indonesia was Dutch colony. That's why, many of our foods now are influenced by Dutch.

To be honest, I was never a fan of salty cookies, and this is no exception. When I think of cakes, cookies, desserts, "sweet" is the first thing that comes to mind. When I was in Indonesia, I don't remember having this cookie very often, although this is one of the expensive type of cookies. I would prefer nastar or any other cookies anytime, any day. But, it was the time I haven't been introduced to the beauty and the art of foods.


Last week, I started my search on this kaastengel (hope the spelling is correct ;) ). There are so many recipes out there and there are a couple of methods too. So, after a careful consideration and thoughts :D, I settled on one, hoping that this will turn out very good and could possibly be the first and the last recipe on my search of the ultimate kaastengel.

Before weekend comes, I was in a cheese hunting for cheese. Traditionally, kaastengel is made with Edam cheese, but Gouda can also be used instead or any other aged cheese. It is sealed in somekind of red wax to preserve it, just like Gouda. For my kaastengel, I used about 80% Edam cheese and 20% Parmigiano Reggiano. I was afraid that the taste of the Edam would be way too strong. If you know this cheese, you would know that it has a very strong smell, odd enough to give me a little doubt of using it when I was shredding it. Some people also use 100% Parmesan instead of Edam, it's a matter of taste. They're both not a cheap cheese though. Use the real thing if you want the best result.



I was very pleased with how it turned out. It is strong enough to hold its shape, crisp enough to give you that crunch, and then it would just melt in your mouth. Maybe next time, I would alter the recipe a little. The recipe doesn't use any powdered milk (one of my favorite ingredients), and I love that 'milky' and buttery taste in my cookies :). For a first timer, I surely give this two thumbs up (four if I can, with my toes :P )
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pineapple and Durian Nastar



Made this nastar last Sunday, right after church. I started at 4pm and finished everything by almost midnight!!!! I know, it's not that many cookies, but imagine if you have to roll each filling into small balls, then wrap it with the dough, make sure they're round and the same size for more than 200 pieces of nastar. Not to mention that you have to glaze each one of them in the middle of baking. I think my back is still aching :).

But anyways, this is the first time I made durian nastar. I made the nastar filling while I was in Indonesia, since durians are much more flavorful there and fresh too (it's almost impossible to get a fresh durian here in the US). It turns out that durian filling is a lot more difficult to be molded. It's soft and a little sticky, even after I refrigerate it for a loooong time. Unlike the pineapple filling, it gets firmed up once it's refrigerated and therefore makes it easier to be molded.



Despite all the history in the making, it was really paid off after tasting the durian nastar (I love the traditional pineapple too by the way). Too bad I was only making a few of them (the tall container). Although I'm somewhat traumatic making nastar by myself after those long hours, I'm excited to make the durian nastar again, only half a recipe though. It would take what..about 4 hours?? :P
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Castle Cake



This is the other cake I made last weekend. I was thinking of making my own pillar and the stuff that a castle has, but as usual, I didn't have time (other than two cakes, I had to cook too). So, I bought Wilton castle kit. I though I just need to stick those stuff inside the cake and be done with it. But it came in plain white, undecorated pillar. That means, I still have to spend some time decorating each of them, with buttercream and colored sugar sprinkle.

I guess I'm not that good making kids cake. I don't have the patience of coloring buttercream with different colors, piping those different color buttercream into different shapes, not to mention it's a pain to wash all the bowls with buttercream in it. At the end of the day, I just didn't care about it anymore. The turrets that I've decorated fell and messed up the buttercream decoration and such. I was way too tired that Saturday night that I went to bad anyway although there are still a couple of close friends downstairs. But I got up early to finish the cake.

The cake looked fine before it got transported to the church. It was a disaster. I watched the turrets collapsed one by one with a huge pain. I knew it was gonna happen though, but I just didn't have time to decorate on site. A little part of the cake was ruined and it looked terrible. The weird thing is, I can laugh about it when it happened. I guess I was beyond stressed. Usually, I would literally go crazy if something happened to my cake, even if it just something like "oh, I forgot to put vanilla or liqueur in it", although it would be still perfectly fine.



So I transported the cake and put it inside the nursery room, where my niece's class is. The eight turrets had fallen and I put back the smaller four, putting the bigger four next to the cake wishing that the mom can put it back in the cake when they're ready to cut. After the service, I asked her and she didn't know anything about the other four turrets!! The cake must have been terrible and ugly. It was really messy, I couldn't stand watching it. Luckily, it was for small kids and the birthday girl is my own niece. Kids don't care about perfection right? All they care is that there's a castle cake in front of them and they're about to eat it.

Again, I imagine how much the leftover would be as it was a two-tier cake, way too big for a class of 10 kids plus a teacher and a couple of helper. But when I went to visit, the cake was almost gone! It seems like everybody liked it and so they told other people to try it. So, everybody went into that room. And I didn't get a piece. I know how it tasted like from the scraps I made at home.

The cake has three layers of soft cotton sponge cake in each tier. It has cream cheese mousse for the filling with a thin layer of blueberry paletta underneath each layer of mousse. The whole thing is also covered with cream cheese mousse. Blueberry paletta is a kind of blueberry jam I got from Indonesia when I went back last month. It was a great product. Although the name is "blueberry" and the color is exactly the same purple as the regular blueberry jam you got here, it barely tastes like blueberry. It is very fragrant, tastes and smells like a candy probably. I just love it. I thought some kind of cream cheese filling would be a perfect pair to this blueberry wonder. Judging from the rave reviews, I think I will put this combo in my file. Now, I just need to remember what ingredients I used and how much :)
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Summer Fruit Cake

I know I know, Summer is gone for this year and I am too late to make this kind of cake now. But hey, this is one of the advantage of living in California. You can get berries, peach, almost anything all year long, although it may not be as tasty as summer though.

It was my brother's mother in law's and my 3-year-old niece's birthday last week. They were two days apart and both birthdays fell on weekdays. So we decided to celebrate it on Saturday and invite close friends and family members only. I was planning to make two cakes, one for Saturday, and another one for my niece's sunday school at church. For Sunday cake, I was going to make a Castle Cake (more of this later). Since the guest on Saturday party were mostly adult, I decided to make a cake that has a lot of fruits and is not so filling. Besides, this cake has been on my to-make-cake list from the beginning of summer!



So, here it is, 10-in cake with three layers of cotton sponge cake, a layer of vanilla bean pastry cream in the bottom layer, and Grand Marnier chantilly cream(known as whipped cream) with lots of fruits (strawberry, kiwi, mandarin oranges, white nectarine, yellow peach). Then the whole thing is covered with more Grand Marnier cream and decorated with lots of fruits and mint leaves and also green chocolate leaves. If you know me, you'll know that I don't like making a plain vanilla cake with whipped cream filling and frosting (which should be what summer fruit cake/summer cream cake usually). I tried to always put something that'll give some zing or spark to it
(this is why I have lots and lots of liqueur and spirits in my pantry). I also try not to use one kind of filling for 3 layer cakes. I like to combine texture and taste. For the leaves, I used lemon leaves and white chocolate that has been tinted with a little green coloring.

By the way, this cake is tall! and I mean TALL for it's size! I was pretty sure that there will be plenty leftovers as the birthday lady is old already (and she doesn't really eat lots of cake) and the guests were also the kind of people that don't care too much about cake. Besides, they're going to be pretty full after the dinner feast. But I was wrong! The cake was gone, except for one slice. I was going to try that cake the day after (as I was quite full). The guests weren't that many people, so each person get a huge cake, probably the serving of two or two and a half portions (remember, the cake is tall too). They liked the cake so much, even the birthday lady finished her plate. I didn't see any plates with even a little cake leftover in the trash can, even the kids!



I wish I can show you guys the inside of this cake, but it was gone too fast. The quality of the picture is not that great either. It was taken at night just before the guest had arrived. So, it's a little "yellow-y". The sad part is, when I was going to eat the one slice leftover cake in the fridge after coming from work, I found an empty plate with cream on it. Hik...hik...somebody ate it. So, I didn't get the eat the cake AT ALL! how sad. But I guess I should be happy that they like it. That's the biggest accomplishment and prize that a baker can have :).
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