Monday, 14 August 2017

Chocolate Babka

Let me make this quick, because I'm a nice guy and I want to share with you this delicious chocolate babka.

If you never had it or even heard of it, chocolate babka is a hybrid between cake and bread from Eastern Europe. Laden with butter and cinnamon-spiced chocolate, this babka may take a little effort to make, but one slice and you'll know it was worth it. Great as dessert with a cup of coffee, or as breakfast.

I keep my filling pretty simple; not too sweet with luscious dark chocolate and sweet scent of cinnamon. But if you prefer, add some chopped nuts like almonds, walnuts or pecans. Or if you prefer sweeter chocolate, use milk chocolate or you know what, Nutella. Straight out of a jar, nothing else.


Chocolate Babka
Makes 1 loaf

150 ml whole milk
140 gr butter, unsalted and at room temperature
100 gr plain flour
150 gr strong white bread flour
5 gr salt
50 gr sugar
7 gr fast-action dried yeast
1 large egg

for the filling:
60 gr butter, unsalted
50 gr light brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100 gr dark chocolate (70% minimum), chopped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Lightly butter a 23 cm loaf tin and set aside.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk and butter just until the butter has melted. In your mixing bowl of a freestanding mixer, add flours, sugar, salt and yeast. Make sure the salt and yeast are not touching each other at this stage, or the salt will retard the yeast. Pour in the warmed milk and one egg. Mix at medium speed with a dough hook for 15 minutes.

Start adding the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, ensuring each addition is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. When all the butter is added. mix for a further 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth, slightly sticky (don't worry about this) and elastic. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to rise for 45 minutes to an hour or until it has nearly double in size. After that chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will make the soft dough, much easier to handle.

In the meantime though, make the filling. Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan and gently heat until melted.  Then add the chocolate, cocoa powder and ground cinnamon and stir until well combined. Leave to one side to cool down.

Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and tip out the dough. Flour the dough as well. Roll the dough to a rectangle, dusting with extra flour if necessary to stop it from sticking. Spread the filling over the dough, then roll up tightly like a Swiss roll.

With the seam underneath, using a sharp knife, cut the dough length ways down the centre leaving one end still attached. Twist the two strands around each other. This might get a little messy, but it's fine. Carefully lift up the dough and lay it in the tin. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and let it proof for 30-45 minutes, or until it has reached the top of the tin.

Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 50 minutes. Check halfway through. If the top gets too dark, cover it with foil. Cool it in the tin for 15 minutes before taking it out to cool completely. Dust with powder sugar, cut into thick slices and enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Lemon Ricotta Loaf Cake

When I was in New York City few days ago, I had a lemon loaf cake for breakfast one morning and it was oh-so-good! The cake was soft and moist, delicious lemon flavour, with icing on top that’s just not too sweet, the way I like it. I was obsessed with this cake, I had it again, and again at three other mornings after that.
As soon as I got back home, I knew I had to recreate it straightaway whilst the feeling is still fresh. I actually manage to smuggle a slice back with me and had it whilst baking this version of mine.
I’m really happy with how this cake turned out. It is exactly how I wanted it to be; tender, springy, moist crumbs, fresh lemon flavours inside and lemony boost on the outside from the lemon glaze.
I use oil here in place of butter to achieve maximum moistness to the cake. Plus there’s something quite old-fashioned about using oil, which I like. Previously I’ve made loaf cakes with Greek yoghurt or buttermilk, and this time I use ricotta cheese. This works as a tenderiser to the cake.
Sometimes when baking cakes, I like to impart flavours through the dry ingredients like malted milk powder or custard powder (delicious in vanilla cakes). Here along with the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, I feel lemon pudding mix just really enhance that lemony flavour. And don’t forget to rub that lemon zest with the sugar at the beginning.
I hope you’ll give this a go and enjoy it for breakfast, with a cup of tea in the afternoon or even before dinner… did I tell you I am obsessed with this cake? :)
Lemon Ricotta Loaf Cake
zest of 1 lemon
225 gr sugar
3 large eggs
120 gr vegetable oil
120 ml lemon juice
125 gr ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla paste
220 gr plain flour
1 packet / 96 gr lemon pudding mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

for the glaze:
120 gr powder sugar
20 gr lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment, set aside.
In a mixing bowl, rub the lemon zest and sugar to extract maximum lemon flavour before adding the eggs, oil, lemon juice, ricotta cheese and vanilla. Mix with a paddle attachment until everything is smooth, light and combined.
In another bowl, sift all the dry ingredients then add them to the mixing bowl. Mix until just combined, don’t overmix. Give it a scrape with a spatula if needed, ensuring all mix on the sides and bottom are incorporated.
Pour the batter into the tin and smooth the top lightly. Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until the top is slightly domed, cracked and a skewer/toothpick/uncooked spaghetti inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 minutes before taking the cake out from the tin to cool completely.
For the lemon glaze, in a small bowl mix the sugar with the lemon juice and whisk until smooth. The consistency should be spreadable, neither too thick nor too thin. The amount of the glaze may seem skimp, but trust me, that’s plenty.
Glaze the cooled cake evenly and let it dry for few minutes, this will make it easier come slicing and less messy, trust me. In the meantime though, it’s a good time to put the kettle on for a cup of tea or coffee. Slice the cake thickly and enjoy!
Any leftover cake, I’d recommend to keep in an airtight container at room temperature. The fridge will dry out the cake.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Sebastian's Remarkably Wonderful Brownies

The universe works in mysterious ways. I believe the universe connects us with the people we are destined to meet. You’ve probably heard the saying, “we don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason”. Sometimes they are there for a brief moment and other times for a lifetime.
People come into our life in many different ways, at a party, meeting or a random event; strangers sitting next to you on a bus or flight, and perhaps these days, on the internet. But somehow when you meet them you feel such strong bond and connection you don’t quite understand.
I met my best friend on the island, Lilla, at a Chinese restaurant over two years ago. We sat across from each other. I was with a group of friends and she was by herself. We made eye contact and I asked her, “Hi, where are you from?” She said, “Indonesia”. “Me too”, I said. Then we invited her to our table and that was our first encounter and the first of our many dinners together.
A couple of weeks later, on my birthday, I discovered that Lilla and I share the exact same birthday. How bizarre! As we get to know each other more, and upon each other’s observation, we found out we share so many similar qualities and we often joke that we are long lost twin sibling; separated at birth and we each had a half of a medallion. 
Lilla is the kind of friend you can truly rely on. Spending time with Lilla feels like I have known her forever and we always have fun catching up at the end of a long week with a cocktail or three.

Myself, Lilla and Espresso Martini
Not long ago, Lilla was doing a garage sale and she wanted something sweet to present at the sale. Of course I was happy to help and I baked her a tray of Sebastian’s Remarkably Wonderful Brownies from Dorie’s Cookies.
I love cookbook that has a story to tell and Dorie’s Cookies is one of them. Dorie and Sebastian started as pen pals in the early days of food forums on the internet until they finally met in Paris. I’m glad they became friends and that Sebastian shared his brownie recipe to Dorie.
"They’re unusual in the way they’re made and extraordinary in how they taste. The texture is neither cakey nor fudgy, but creamy, slightly chewy at the center and slightly crunchy at the edges."
I have made these brownies twice now and this recipe is definitely one to keep in your repertoire. There’s a lot of sugar in this brownie, but somehow they’re not sickly sweet and it is very chocolatey. Dorie mentions that the secret is cocoa powder, which gives the brownies their deep colour and flavour. There’s quite a lot of cocoa powder here, so I would definitely invest in really good quality ones.

Sebastian's Remarkably Wonderful Brownies
Wrapped well, the brownies will keep at room temperature for about three days, but I doubt it’ll last that long. Trust me.
So, have you met someone who share the same birthday as you? Do you find similar traits or qualities?
Michael

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

WPC - World Peace Cookies

I think it's very appropriate that I begin this baking project with the cookie that's on the cover of the book: World Peace Cookies.

Don't you just love the name? I know I do... and I feel with all the terrible things that are happening around the world, we could certainly use a little or a lot of peace. I wish everyone could have a bite of this cookie and perhaps, just perhaps, the world will become a better place, even just for a minute.

This is a seriously good chocolaty chocolate cookies. A recipe I know I'll be making again and again. It's sweet with a touch of salt from fleur de sel. I love its soft interior and the chunks of bittersweet chocolate still molten even after baking.

Like Dorie, I would also highly suggest that you splurge and use really good quality cocoa powder. My personal favourite is Green & Black's Organic. As well as best quality bittersweet chocolate. 

The making of the dough itself is straightforward and I chose to turn the dough into logs and freezing them before slicing and baking. After 12 minutes in the oven, do not panic if the cookies look like they're not done, that's just the way they should be. You won't be able to lift them (how do I know? I tried) and just be patient, and let them rest until they're just warm, at which point now you can handle and eat them.

World Peace Cookies - page 335

A New Project...

I started blogging eight years ago, in 2009.  I just turned twenty-one, and I wanted to be a better cook; and the blog is a mean of documenting my learning experience. In my first year of blogging, I set myself a challenge and I cooked my way through Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You A Better Cook cookbook. It was a wonderful learning experience and a year I’ll never forget.

It was then when I learn how to make homemade pasta, roast the most wonderful pork belly with my favourite braised red cabbage accompaniment, and I learn to prepare live lobsters and crabs.

I know I've been terrible at blogging. Not that I've stopped cooking, baking and eating at home entirely; you know, that's not true if you follow my Instagram (@michael_toa). But I do want to make a commitment to come back and share more of my learning experience with all of you. 

Through this blog, new friendships are made with so many around the world. I’ve gotten opportunities to work with brands and products I adore. And this blog also contributed to how I got to where I am now.

So, with that in mind, I am starting a new project! I have decided to bake my way through Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies. I love this book the first time I saw it and was very happy when…  let’s call this person M (like M in James Bond), for a bit of mystery (and we’ll talk more about M if you’d like in the coming posts) … M gave it to me as a Christmas present.

With over 160 mouth-watering cookie recipes both sweet and savoury (I am already loving the Cocktail Cookie section) to traybakes, marshmallows and ice-creams I look forward to baking and eating all of them; as well as few friends who gladly volunteered to tasting all of them.

I am very excited and I look forward to sharing my experience with all of you.

x,

Michael