Saturday, 27 February 2010

Daring Baker February 2010 challenge: Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007

This is my first daring bakers challenge and what a challenge it was. We had to make our own savoiardi / ladyfinger biscuits, mascarpone cheese, zabaglione and pastry cream using the given recipes. I had to read the instructions a few times before getting my head around it. I'm very pleased to report that it was an astounding success - I managed to make it 3 times in the month of February with good responses each time :) (or maybe everyone was just being polite!) I will post the recipes and instructions that we were given at the end.

First step - making savoiardi biscuits. They were actually fairly simple to make and tasted delicious straight from the oven - light and crispy. It softens a little after it's been left for a few days. The first time I made them, I ate so many out of the oven, I didnt have enough to make a 3 layer tiramisu! Oops.
The egg whites need to be whipped until its stiff. I wasn't sure what this meant and whilst researching on the internet, I read that you should be able to hold the bowl over your head. I tipped it upside down instead and nothing came out.

Add in the egg yolks - I love the colour of the yolks. They're fresh farm eggs from my local butchers.

My mis-shapen biscuits

Looks (and tastes) like the real deal though

Next was making the mascarpone cheese. This was the hardest part of the challenge for me as it took 2 attempts but I was very pleased with the final result. Here it is after firming overnight in the fridge. I used muslin cloth as I didn't have any cheesecloth and it worked fine.

mascarpone cheese


vanilla pastry cream

whipped cream



(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings


For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder


For the zabaglione:

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:

Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese


474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.


3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Been on a bit of a baking marathon for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately I haven't had time to post them yet but hopefully will get to them soon. These are not particularly festive but I wanted to try them out. The cookies were really soft and crumbly with a nice savoury taste. I made them 3 times recently - once without lemon zest. I personally prefer it with the lemon zest as I think it complements the flavour really well. These cookies are really simple to make and taste amazing. The best part is that they can be made in advance and kept in the freezer. You can then bake them whenever you need. Ideal for unexpected guests and perfect with a nice cup of tea.

Dough that has been frozen for 30 minutes

Sliced and ready to bake. When I was shaping the dough I thought it would be square (not sure why) but clearly they're not! I do quite like the shape especially since you can have Jenga cookies :)

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons of Earl Grey tea leaves (approximately 4-6 teabags, depending on size)
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water
250g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I used salted butter once and it made the cookies quite salty)
Zest of 1 small lemon
  • Heat oven to 190C
  • Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and mix thoroughly
  • Add the vanilla, 1 teaspoon water and the butter and pulse together until a dough is formed
  • Roll the dough into a log, rectangle, square (I'm clearly not very good at shapes)
  • Wrap with clingfim and chill for 30 minutes (approx 15 mins in the freezer)
  • Slice the dough and place on a baking sheet leaving a little gap between them
  • Bake until the edges are just brown, about 15 minutes (slightly longer if baked straight from the freezer)
  • Leave the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely

Birthday Cupcakes

It was a friend's birthday recently and I decided to make some plain vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting.  It was a last minute job and I had to make do with what I had in my kitchen. There are numerous recipes but most of them require milk. Unfortunately I didn't have any milk to hand so I modified the recipe slightly but it still turned out well. I only wanted to make 4 cakes so I halved the normal recipe for 12 cupcakes and used large muffin sized cases. Made exactly 4 large cupcakes :) which was great but meant there was none left for me to try!

Now comes the fun part. Cakes waiting to be frosted with pretty colours

My personal favourite

My favourite gold ribbon for the finishing touch

Happy Birthday P :)

For the Cupcakes (makes 12 regular cupcakes)
125g butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder

For the buttercream frosting (I sort of made up the proportions this time!)
100g Butter
200g icing sugar
Food colouring (optional)

  • Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until light and fluffy

  • Sift flour 2-3 times before mixing in

  • Make the buttercream icing by combining icing sugar and butter. You may need to add a drop of water to get the desired consistency.

  • Decorate and enjoy

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Pineapple Tarts

One of my favourite chinese new year goodies is pineapple tarts. I absolutely love them and could easily eat a whole box. I decided to try making my own, something I've never done before. I've never even sliced a pineapple in my life! This was a whole new learning experience but I'm pleased to report that it was a huge success (in my eyes anyway) The end result was so delicious, I ended up eating most of what I'd saved for my friends so I had to make a 2nd batch. I will post more about it later if there's anything to add as it's still in the process of being made currently. It's a really time consuming effort but well worth it in the end.
I made everything from scratch so the first step was to make the pineapple jam. I got some lovely pineapples from my local market.

what do you think? not too bad for my first time ;)
I grated the pineapple slices using a food processor and cooked it with cinammon, cloves , lemon juice and sugar. It took a few hours to cook on a low heat and this is the end result.
I left it to cool overnight in the fridge and then rolled them into little balls, well fairly large ones actually but I'll know better next time!
The pastry was simple to make as it was just a case of blending everything together - my favourite kind of recipe :) It was a really soft and crumbly pastry so I was unable to make open tarts. I made 3 different types of closed tarts - a roll with open ends, a round shape and something that is meant to look like a pineapple but actually bears no resemblance. I personally like the round ones the best and they sort of resemble a tangerine with the clove in the middle. This pastry literally melts in your mouth. I'll definitely be making these again in the future.
My fav shape
Pineapple Jam
2 pineapples
1 stick of cinammon
9 cloves
Approximately 3/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste) (I used 1/2 cup white sugar and just over 1/4 cup of brown sugar)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

250g butter
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
350g flour
50g cornflour

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water

To make the pineapple jam:

  • Peel and cut pineapple into slices.

  • Grate using a grater or food processor.

  • Strain pineapple juice. Tip: It makes a really refreshing drink whilst cooking. I got a whole bowful of juice from my 2 pineapples above.

  • Cook with all other ingredients for jam over a low-medium heat, stirring frequently.

  • Continue cooking until the jam thickens and dries up. You need the jam to be as dry as possible to make the tarts.

  • Cool jam completely before using.
To make the pastry:

  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

  • Beat in 2 egg yolks, 1 at a time and mix well.

  • Add vanilla extract and salt.

  • Fold in flour and cornflour and mix to form a dough.
To make the pineapple tarts:

  • Preheat oven to 180C.

  • Enclose jam in dough and shape as desired.

  • Brush with eggwash.

  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Mine took a while as they were fairly large!

Pineapple on FoodistaPineapple

Pineapple on FoodistaPineapple

Pineapple on Foodista

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I decided to make red velvet cupcakes for the chinese new year dinner at Dave and Ruby's (see previous post) I chose red velvet as it was Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day on the same day. Red is an auspicious colour in chinese culture and red is also the colour of love. I used my favourite hummingbird bakery recipe but was a little over-zealous with the food colouring as you can see. Oops! The cake still tasted good though :) I added in a little 'surprise' in the form of a gold coin for luck for the new year. It's not a new idea (see new year post) but it works everytime.

my super red batter

with gold coins

Did I mention how red it turned out? (Love the colour though)

I think my piping skills are finally improving :)

I sprinkled miniature hearts on half of the cakes for Valentine's and left the other half plain

Cross section of the cake

Red Velvet Cupcakes (recipe from the hummingbird bakery cookbook, I've simplified the method section for this post)
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
10g cocoa powder
20ml red food colouring (preferably Dr Oetker red food colouring)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1.5 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese cold

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Slowly add the egg and beat well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a thick, dark paste.
  • Add to the butter mixture and mix well.
  • Slowly pour in half the buttermilk, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated.
  • Repeat until all the flour and buttermilk have been added.
  • Add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.
  • Beat until well mixed.
  • Spoon mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  • Leave to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter and then add the cream cheese in one go and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Be careful not to overbeat as it can become runny.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Chinese New Year Dinner 2010

Thanks Dave and Ruby for hosting a superb dinner. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of people, just the food :) (typical!) Apologies for the slightly dark photos but we had ambient lighting and I forgot to turn the flash on. To start, we had the traditional 'lo hei' or 'lo sang'

Lovely mix of colours and flavours
with the salmon
Giving it a good toss for prosperity

L to R: steamed fish, chinese mushrooms with dried scallops and spinach, sweet and sour chicken, roast meats - pork & duck

you can just see the bowl of mangetouts at the back and the clear glass bowl had udon noodles with beansprouts

Definitely a feast fit for a king! Excellent food and excellent company, what else could one ask for? Dessert of course! In my opinion, however good a meal is, it's never complete without dessert :) My contributions for the night were tiramisu and red velvet cupcakes. Recipes to follow in another post.

Happy Chinese New Year - wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous tiger year.