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Monday, August 31, 2009

Wrapping Up August

I need to take a minute to capture what has happened in the month of August. Pretty much a mixture of all feelings: sadness, relief, excitement, and curiosity. Of all, curiosity is the big word of August - it shows that I, as the rest of the residents in this universe, have interest in other human beings and desire to comprehend new behaviors or find new truths.

Relief marks the final moment when C came to clear his stuff from my residence and formally closed our chapter once and for all. Apparently it is necessary to take a note - for this thing was annoying and for a second shook my core understanding of him as a good person - before he left he was asking for another chance and upon my refusal he conveniently made threats out of frustration. Threats!

Sadness speaks for the curious bag, P. No matter how much changes he has convinced me to believe that he is now entirely a new person with new career, new house, new car, new personality, and new view of life. He simply failed to make me see one fundamental change: sincerity! It is maybe that fundamental and lies underneath the deep deep sea of conscience that no change can ever reach it. The very last of a few phone calls he made following the "curious bag" dinner was on the occasion to invite me for a family farewell dinner with his sister who was scheduled to leave for a happy new life in Germany the next morning. Was I assumingly flattered to be part of such warm intimate connection? No, the invitation call was made from his car during a rainy caught-up-in-traffic-jam situation.... about an hour before the dinner! And my rejection was simply natural because as anybody else in this busy universe, I had plan - no matter how trivial it was. It was simply unacceptable to expect someone to go for a family gathering that means meeting anyone and everyone in the family without a prior mental reservation. Period.

Excitement came along with the belief that “Life is always up and down”. T brought about an up and officially flushed the gloominess away. As short as the time we got to know each other is, I am telling myself to flow with it and breathe in any happiness I will experience along the way. New problems are bound to arise while I won’t know where this is going. Uncertainty is certain. Everything is too soon to put any meaning to it. So for now getting to know him is exciting.

And last, curiosity is the urge to finally get some answers to the things that have taken place and predict what will happen next (I could never stop my mind from making these predictions no matter how bad my predicting skill is…… as similar as saying.. I live therefore I predict :-))

Being curious for a long time, I took the step of baking Caramel Cake following Tartalette’s post. Went through every single step of it as closely as I possible can. My curiosity made this cake happen and left me to understand: the caramelized butter frosting is delicious but extremely sweet!

Posted by Tartalette, a courtesy of Shuna of Eggbeater.
Makes a 9 inch cake.

1. Caramel Syrup

- Sugar > 2 cups
- Water > 1/2 cup
- Water - for "stopping" the caramelization process > 1 cup

- In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
- When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
- Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it).

2. Caramel Cake

- Unsalted butter at room temperature > 10 tablespoons
- Granulated sugar > 1 1/4 cups
- Kosher salt > 1/2 teaspoon
- Caramel Syrup > 1/3 cup
- Eggs - at room temperature > 2
- Vanilla extract > a splash
- All purpose flour > 2 cups
- Baking powder > 1/2 teaspoon
- Milk - at room temperature > 1 cup

- Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

- Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
- Sift flour and baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. (This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter).

- Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

3. Caramelized Butter Frosting

- Unsalted butter > 12 tablespoons
- Confectioner’s sugar - sift > 1 pound
- Heavy cream > 4-6 tablespoons
- Vanilla extract > 2 teaspoons
- Caramel syrup > 2-4 tablespoons
- Kosher or sea salt to taste

- Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
- Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
- Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

4. Assembly

- Cut caramel cake into 2 layers.
- Sandwich cake layers and cover the overall cake with caramelized butter frosting.
- Fit a plain nozzle into a piping bag, pipe out frosting into a desired pattern on the cake.
- Decorate with cherries, chocolate balls and sugar decoration.
- Serve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bakers’ Dobos Torta

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. It was invented in 1885 by Jozsef C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

Dobos Torta is extremely rich with caramel wedges at the top, lots of chocolate buttercream sandwiching 5 (in my case, 6) layers of thin sponge cake and coating the entire surface of the cake, and a great amount of chopped nuts such as hazelnut or almond for side decoration. It is absolutely an excellent choice for sweet dessert! In order to make one, you need to face the ultimate challenge and make sure you do very good planning.

Entirely agreed with some DBers’ opinions that the top caramel is the most challenging part of all in the making process. Bringing syrup into the amber stage is no problem at all, but once the caramel is applied to the sponge layer and gradually settles, I am totally uncertain about the right time to cut the caramel. Despite the fact that I precut the segments from the beginning, but when the caramel added to it, I knew for sure this extra layer would add a new problem. An oiled knife worked well in cutting but it was still quite hard to get the segments separated without damaging them. I guess this caramel thing has to be improved by more practice.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague..

The recipe has been adapted for my own convenience and to suit the local ingredients. To see the original recipe please click here.

Serves 12 persons

1. Sponge Cake
Makes 7 layers
Need: 7 baking trays and one 8 inch convex square cake ring

- Cake flour – sift > 112 grams
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Eggs – room temperature, separate egg yolks from egg whites > 6
- Icing sugar – divide into 2 equal portions > 162 grams
- Vanilla essence > 1.5 teaspoons

- Combine cake flour and salt.
- Preheat oven at 200C.
- Cut 7 pieces of parchment paper with the size of 11 inch square. Using the bottom of the 9 inch convex square ring as a template and a pen, trace the shape on the center of each of the paper. Turn them over and place them into each baking trays.
- Beat egg yolks, icing sugar, and buttercream essence on high speed until pale and thick in about 3 minutes.
- In another mixing bowl beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Stir ¼ portion of egg white into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk moderately. Then fold in the remainder, again whisk just moderately.

- Fold half of flour mixture into the eggs, whisk moderately and then fold in the remaining flour.
- Spread 75 grams of batter into the area slightly exceeding the mark on the parchment paper.
- Bake at 200C on the top rack for 4 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center and the edges are lightly browned.
- Repeat for the remaining batter until 7 layers are achieved. Cool.
- Peel away parchment paper.
- Use the 9 inch convex square as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat convex square.
- Set aside for later assembly.

2. Chocolate Buttercream

- Eggs – room temperature > 4
- Granulated sugar > 200 grams
- Dark chocolate – finely chop > 110 grams
- Salted butter – room temperature > 250 grams

- Prepare a double boiler by filling ¼ portion of a large saucepan with water and bring it to boil.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick in a big heat-proof bowl for about 5 minutes.
- Place bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan and switch to low heat. Cook egg mixture by whisking constantly for 3 minutes until it starts to thicken a bit.
- Immediately whisk in chopped chocolate. Continue cooking and stirring for 3 minutes.
- Scrape hot egg mixture into another bowl and leave to cool in room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
- When cool, beat in soft butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time. The result will be thick, velvety chocolate buttercream.
- Chill while make caramel topping.

3. Caramel

- Granulated sugar > 200 grams
- Water > 180 ml
- Lemon juice > 40 ml
- Vegetable oil – to oil knife

- Choose one of the best-looking and flat sponge layer for caramel topping. Grease parchment paper with butter and place the layer in the center.
- Cut the 9 inch convex square cake into 12 segments but leave them in their initial sticking-together position.
- Grease a sharp knife with oil.
- Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.

- Once dissolved, switch to high heat and boil without stirring, only swirling the saucepan.
- Let it boil until the color turns amber.
- Immediately pour the hot caramel on top of the cake layer (make sure it is in room temperature, not just being refrigerated). Keep caramel inside the cake area.
- Using offset spatula quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake. Let cool until beginning to set for about 30 seconds.
- Using the tip of a hot oiled knife cut through the cutting mark to divide the cake into 12 wedges. Cool another minute.
- Finally use the edge of the oiled knife to completely cut and separate the wedges by doing one firm slicing movement.
- Cool completely.

4. Assembly

- Chopped almond > 200 grams
- Almond chocolate truffle > 1
- Chocolate curls > 2

- Position one cake layer on the serving plate. Spread 75 grams of chocolate buttercream on the layer. Top with another cake layer.
- Repeat this step until all the layers are stacked up. Coat the entire cake with buttercream.
- Press chopped almond to the sides of the cake.
- Arrange the caramel wedges on top of the cake. Prop an almond under each wedge so it sits at an angle.
- Place almond chocolate truffle as a centerpiece accompanied by 2 chocolate curls.
- Refrigerate cake inside a cake dome until the buttercream is set, about 2 hours.
- Serve. If there is any overnight refrigeration involved, remember that the cake is best to be consumed when the it is in room temperature.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Curious Bag

How is the experience of seeing an ex? Last week on my way back home I was approached by the rep officer of my apartment and she told me that someone tall, fair, and handsome came to look for me and being unsuccessful to get permission to access the building, he finally left a message. Who is it??? I wondered. A short chit-chat later, she handed a small piece of paper with a handwriting that looked like scribbles. Well, it was P, ex from 4 years ago, and funny to say, his handwriting hasn't been improved ever since. The message was asking me to give him a call.

Two hours later we had a phone conversation. A pleasant one. Afterall there wasn't any hatred or unresolved issues left hanging. 4 years was more than enough to get over hiccups of a six-month relationship. We ended the phone nicely just like 2 ordinary friends catching up. Bye friend, take care!

Then something surprised me the following day. The next morning P called and suggested he should take me out for dinner - to a nice place with live music and not far from our areas. I wasn't prepared and had an evening yoga class. So I told him so and he said it was fine since he could stay on at his office for some paperwork and when my class was over he would come to pick me up. I agreed with my mind filled with all this curiosity “What does he want?”

He was on time. There in front of Starbucks dressed in deep blue polo shirt and jeans, he was waiting for me. Awkward enough, as we both walked to the parking lot, he was doing this subtle hand gesture of offering me a bag with a bakery brand on it, Saint E'toile - assumed it must be bread or something. But I was uncertain about accepting cause frankly speaking, he never really did anything like this before when we were together. So I didn't do anything and he did swing that plastic bag to my direction one more time but I was still not taking any action. And there was no affirmation sentence like "This is for you" or "Please accept it" or anything like that. Finally we entered his car, he put the bag beside his seat. And yes, he totally forgot about the whole thing or should I say the offer was never being verbalized.

Along the drive we had enjoyable conversation - about Public Relations, Insurance, and work. Felt it has been so long since the last time I actually had a quality talk to someone in a that intellectual level. And then out of the blue in one of the turns that he made, he claimed that our past breakup was due to all his faults.

Dinner was fine and the conversation topics changed to family, boyfriends, and friends. We openly shared the fact that both our family members had on several occasions asked about each of our whereabouts and wellbeing. Interesting highlight was that he talked about karma and depicted the fact that a one-and-a-half-year relationship he had after our breakup had put him through the situation similar to the one in which he had caused me so much pain and that he had realized how it felt being in my shoes.

Two hours later we left the restaurant and he insisted on sending me home. Entering my residence, my mind was trying to settle with a conclusion: "It was a friendly dinner, nothing else!" But there was this very tiny bit of it wondered: “Was it really?” Besides I was still curious about the hand gesture. I couldn't help but wondered: "Did I misread the hand gesture or he really meant to give that bag to me non-verbally and finally forgot about it altogether?"

Makes 8 tarts

1. Crust
Makes 290 grams
Need: 8 tart cups size top diameter 7cm, bottom 4 cm, height 2.5 cm

- Cake flour - sift > 125 grams
- Icing sugar > 45 grams
- Ground almond > 18 grams
- Eggs > 30 grams
- Salted butter – soften in room temperature > 75 grams

- Combine cake flour, icing sugar, and ground almond in a big bowl. Make hollow in the center. Pour in eggs and butter.
- Use hand bring the ingredients into the center and knead until smooth.
- Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Remove dough from fridge, roll out with rolling pin to 2mm thickness.
- Line tart cups with dough and press thoroughly until neat.
- Poke some holes at the bottom with a fork. Set aside.

2. Lemon Filling

- Whipping cream > 70 grams
- Granulated sugar > 90 grams
- Eggs > 2
- Lemon – grate rind, squeeze juice > 1

- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Bring 50 grams of whipping cream and 90 grams of sugar to 70C.
- Combine eggs with 20 grams of whipping cream. Add into the preheated whipping cream mixture.
- Sift mixture. Add lemon juice and rind.
- Pour lemon filling into the tart cups until 95% full.
- Bake at 160C for 30 minutes.
- Leave to cool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caramel Surprise

Last month when I was in the challenge for Daring Bakers' Mallows I stumbled into marshmallow leftover with which I wasn't sure what to do. The fact it displayed please-dont-throw-me-away-i-am-edible kind of look moved my hands to fill it into a piping bag fitted with star nozzle and start piping on baking trays.

As the star shaped marshmallows were sitting there for hours, they showed no sign of any possibility to be removed from the tray as they were just glued into the parchment sheets. I was totally clueless but one thing for sure - I didn't want to waste it. So I preheated the oven at 160 degree Celsius and baked them for 10 minutes, turned the tray 180 degrees and continued baking for 10 more minutes.

And the result was crispy marshmallows with strong taste of caramel. Entirely different in texture and taste from marshmallows. I liked them even though I am not really a marshmallow fan.


- Water > 23 grams or 1/8 cup
- Light corn syrup > 33 grams or 1/8 cup
- Sugar > 84 grams
- Powdered gelatine > 4 grams or ½ tablespoon
- Cold water > 9 grams or 1 tablespoon
- Egg white – room temperature > 1
- Vanilla essence > ¼ teaspoon

- Sprinkle gelatine over cold water and let dissolve.
- In a saucepan combine water, corn syrup, and sugar and bring to boil at “soft boll” stage or 115C.
- Remove syrup from heat and add gelatine. Mix well.
- Beat egg white until soft peaks form. While stir beating pour hot syrup into the whites.

- Add vanilla essence and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Transfer to a piping bag fitted with star nozzle.
- Pipe stars on the baking tray lined with parchment sheet. Space out about 2cm in between stars. Let set in room temperature for 2 hours.

- Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius.
- Bake for 10 minutes, turn tray 10 degrees and continue baking for 10 more minutes or until stars are golden brown.
- Cool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Merci Beaucoup

First of all, I would like to thank Jill of Jillicious Discoveries for passing the One Lovely Blog Award to me. I am flattered and honored. Thanks, Jill... It has been nice getting to know you and learn so much from your beautiful blog!

Haven't been that long in this blogging world, so far it has been fun, exciting, fulfilling, and at times challenging - when it comes to meeting Daring Bakers' posting deadlines and occasionally my own personal ones. And of course making friends and learning from other bloggers. Hope to know food bloggers from Thailand though *wishful thinking

And last, here comes the time for me to dedicate this One Lovely Blog Award to other 13 bloggers out there who have been inspirations for me! Feel free to pass it on to your other 13 favorite blogs.

1. Fitri of Rumah Manis
2. Thip of Bonbini
3. Anula of Anula's Kitchen
4. Gine of I Dolce Fanno Felici
5. Lolo of Vegan Yum Yum
6. Karen of Citrus and Candy
7. Natalie of Patisserie Natalie
8. Jenn of Jenn's Cuisine
9. Angela of Isolated Foodie
10. Vera of "Baking Obsession
11. Simone of Junglefrog Cooking
12. Isa of Eat My Cake Now
13. Melissa of 99% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Spanish Rice with Prawns, Mushrooms, and Artichokes

Wow, a Spanish rice from Jose Andres, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment! Great, for someone like me who has never visited Spain or patronage any Spanish restaurant, joining the challenge is an ultimate attempt to recreate the dish as close as possible to it original taste, texture, and color.

Thanks to Olga of Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes for hosting August 2009 Daring Cooking Challenge – Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes by Jose Andres.

On my first attempt I stumbled upon reality that it was truly exquisite recipe with quite expensive ingredients, but still would like to stick closely to Jose Andres’ recipe. Or else how on earth would I know how this famous Chef’s cuisine is supposed to taste or look like? Some suggested using replacement ingredients if cost is a concern. Well, I’ll check with my piggy bank and see what I can do about it…

Artchokes are hard to find in Bangkok. The closest I could get was the canned artichokes that was soft, yellowish, and sour. Never tasted artichokes so I was unsure how it would contribute to the final taste. But as I was cooking it away, these pricey chunks dissolved to no where to be seen. And the rice turned out sour. Gosh, no choice … Should just exclude artichokes altogether from my recipe? Broccoli maybe??

And my Spanish rice was wet and sticky – lumping as I finished photographing. So as I looked into the forum and witnessed that different DBers came out with different consistency and yet the best photographed ones were the slightly dry with almost separated rice grains, I decided that I should reduce the portion of the liquid ingredients: wine and water/fish stock and the result should be improved then.

As for squids, they need to be accompanied by clams or prawns. I cut squids into little strips which at the end were no where to be seen on my serving plate either. So guessed should add more variety of seafood to make the dish more appealing and prominent!

So when the second opportunity knocked, I had prepared prawns instead of squids. And despite the fact I was thinking of excluding artichokes, there were still 4 left in my fridge and I didn’t want to waste them. Would still include them but treat them slightly differently just to make sure they will look good at the end of the cooking journey.

Well, second attempt turned out pretty good. But next time it could be better! Have adapted Jose’s recipe to suit my convenience and local ingredients. Still the original recipe could be found in here.

Meanwhile I am looking at this tomato shot and want to pause and take a deep breath enjoying how wonderful this God's creation is. And thank God at this particular moment in time for the life I am living, the baking and cooking that I am enjoying, the freedom and strength to create, and this beautiful meeting with T.

Cook for 3 persons

1. Traditional Allioli – the garlic mayonnaise/dish accompaniment

- Garlic – remove skin, chop > 4 cloves
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Lemon juice > ¼ teaspoon
- Extra virgin olive oil > 20 ml

- Place minced garlic and salt in a mortal.
- Using a pestle, smash garlic cloves to smooth paste. Add lemon juice.
- Drop by drop, pour in olive oil slowly and continue smashing the paste in a slow anti clockwise circular motion. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as the smashing is going on.
- Keep repeating until the paste is smooth and dense the consistency reaches a thick mayonnaise. The smashing takes about 20 minutes.
- Refrigerate. (Allioli must be consumed on the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it).

2. Sofregit

- Olive oil > 1 tablespoon
- Red tomatoes – chop > 3 big/5 medium/250 grams
- Onions – chop > 1 small/100 gram
- Green pepper > ½ / 50 grams
- Garlic – remove skin, chop > 3 cloves
- Button mushrooms – chop > 50 grams
- Bay leaves > 2
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Touch of ground cumin.
- Touch of dried oregano.

- Place all ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft. Set aside to cool.

3. Spanish Rice

- Button mushrooms – halve > 12
- Olive oil > 2 tablespoons
- Bay leaves > 4
- Sofregit > 6 tablespoons
- Water/fish stock > 2.5 cups
- Chicken essence cube - optional with water if there is no fish stock > 1 cube
- Japanese rice > 300 grams
- White wine > 1 glass/320 ml
- Canned artichokes – halve > 3
- Prawns > remove head, peel, devein > 300 grams
- Saffron threads > 3 teaspoons
- Saffron powder > 2 teaspoons
- Salt > ½ teaspoon
- Spring onion – chop > 2 stocks

- Sauté mushrooms with olive oil on preheated frying pan. Add sofregit and bay leaves. Fry for a while.
- Pour in water + chicken essence or fish stock. Let it boil.
- Add in rice and cook for 5 minutes in high heat. Stir occasionally.
- Turn to low heat and add in wine, artichokes, prawns, saffron threads, saffron powder, and salt. Continue cooking for 8 minutes until grains are cooked. Stir occasionally.
- Put pan away from heat and let rice stand a couple of minutes.
- Sprinkle with spring onion and serve together with Allioli.