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Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The chiffon cake has the richness of the butter cake, and the fluffiness of the sponge. It is prepared with oil(corn or sunflower), eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and flavorings. Chiffon is traditionally baked in a tube pan, but any spring-form pans work good too.

Yolk BatterMeringue
  • 120 g All-purpose flour
  • 80 g Cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 140 ml Grape juice
  • 100 g Semisweet chocolate
  • 30 g Castor sugar
  • 100 ml Mazola corn oil
  • 6 Egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp Cold water
  • 7 Egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon juice
  • 200 g Powdered sugar

  1. In a small pot stir together half tablespoon of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water until smooth. Heat the mixture over the low fire while stirring until the starch thickens. Set aside to cool. Prepare a deep baking tray half-filled with warm water and place a wire rack atop. Set it on the second lower shelf in the oven. Start preheating to 175C/350F.
  2. Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Whisk together AP flour, remaining cornstarch, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Combine chocolate and grape juice into a sauce pan. Melt chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally. Place melted chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, egg yolks and vegetable oil in a larger bowl. Whip until completely blended. Gradually sift flour mixture into chocolate mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined.

  3. Beat the whites slowly with a pinch of salt until they are frothy, then add in lemon juice to the foam. Salt and acid will help stabilize the foam. Continue beating the whites and gradually add in sifted powdered sugar when they have almost reached the soft peak. After powdered sugar has been beaten into the meringue and it forms soft peaks, add in cornstarch mixture, beating to firm peaks. Cornstarch helps to keep the meringue firm.

  4. With a rubber spatula fold 1/3 of meringue into the yolk batter to lighten it (unnecessary too thoroughly blended) . Quickly but gently fold the remaining meringue into chocolate batter in two additions, folding after each addition just until no white streaks remain. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10 or 11-inch round pan and place it on the top of prepared tray. (This resembles to a bain marie, ensuring that chiffon cake bakes gently and evenly, without risking water trapping through springform to the cake during the baking) . Bake for 65-75 minutes, until wood pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Turn on a wire rack to cool. You can enjoy the cake as it is, or with desired sauces or toppings, or slice it horizontally into 3-6 layers to make a cream layer cake.

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Stabilizing Whipped Cream

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Creamy whipped cream with a hint of sweetness, it’s perfect for piping and decorating layered cakes, or making mousses or just as an accompaniment to tarts and many other desserts. To create whipped cream, dairy whipping cream is usually sweetened with sugar during beating.
Cream are categorized and sold according to the amount of milkfat or butterfat they contain. Light whipping cream has between 30% and 36% butterfat and heavy whipping cream contains 36%-40% fat, or even 42%. If a cup of cream in the supermarket labeled whipping cream, then most likely means light whipping cream. Both creams can be turned into whipped cream by beating them with air. The fat grobules in the cream then trap the air bubbles, resulting the foam, which is roughly the size of the original cream.

"Whipping Cream" with varied butterfat content
#30% Butterfat#32% Butterfat
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#33% Butterfat#35% Butterfat
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In Germany whipping cream (Schlagsahne) usually contains 30%-33% fat, if cream has 35% fat content, then it is probably labeled as “Schlagsahne Extra” (33% fat content from Eifel NRW ) or “Teesahne” with maximal 40% butterfat and “Crème Double or Doppelrahm” between 43% and 45% butterfat content. Cream has slightly lower butterfat content, between 25% and 29% are labeled and simply sold as “Sahne”. “Coffee cream or Kaffeesahne” here contains 10-15% fat. In UK, a cream labeled as “Double Cream”, must contain 48% butter fat, and 35% for a whipping cream. “Half Cream” with 12% fat content used only for coffee in UK is correspondent with German “Kaffeesahne”, while a 18% “Single or Light Cream” correspond to American “Half And Half. Ok, enough confusion. All you have to remember is that whipping cream with a fat content of 30% to 36% works best when making whipped cream. The higher the butterfat, the more flavourful and stable cream will be.

  • 400 g Dairy whipping cream
  • 15 g Icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 3 Plain gelatin sheets
  • OR 1 tsp granulated gelatin
  • Some cold water
#Leaf Gelatin #Soaked In Water
  1. Cream is easier to whip up when cold. So start by chilling a large, clean mixing bowl (preferably stainless steel bowl which helps keeping cream colder), a beater or whisk, and the cream in the refrigerator overnight or until thoroughly chilled. To make sure they are VERY cold, I put the mixing bowl and beater in the freezer 15 minutes again before start whisking the cream. In summer time, place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and whip the cream in the coolest place of the room. Turn on the air conditioner if you have one. While the bowl and beater are still in the freeze, prepare the stabilizer.
  2. Submerge the gelatin sheets in a small bowl filled with cold water until softened, 3-5 minutes, then gently squeeze out excess water. If using granulated gelatin, add 2 tablespoons or just enough of cold water to the gelatin so that the liquid is thoroughly absorbed. Temper the bowl of softened gelatin inside another pan of very hot water, or heat it in a microwave on high for about 20 seconds. Stir the heated mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool it to about the body temperature. Do not let the gelatin set.
  3. Besides gelatin, the starch-based stabilizers, like RUF, Dr. Oetker, or Kuechle, can also be used to help stabilize the whipped cream. They are usually to be found in every supermarkets in Germany.
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  4. Whip cream either by mixer(handheld or stand) or by hand (not recommended though, especially when whipping a lot of cream; if you do, use a balloon whisk). To make life easier, I use a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to whip cream. Fill the well-chilled mixing bowl at least 1/5 full fitted with the well-chilled whisk with nice cold whipping cream, so that air can be incorporated quickly and efficiently with the cream.
  5. To avoid cream splashing, start it off slowly until the mixture becomes soft and thicker. The cream drops from the whisk when it is lifted. Now it is the right time to add in extract and icing sugar (icing sugar contains cornstarch which helps stabilize the whipped cream) along the sides of the bowl, and continue to beat at medium speed. Slowly add in the dissolved gelatin all at once and beat until the cream holds soft peaks. The volume of well-whipped cream is about doubled. Overbeating will cause it to curdle and become butter.
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Easy Methods of Whipping Egg Whites

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

  • Besides having balanced ratio of the cake recipes, techniques of whipping egg whites often determine quality of cakes. It’s unnecessary to beat the egg whites to stiff every time. The consistency of whipping egg whites depends on what kind of cake you are going to bake. Therefore you have to whisk the egg whites in a right way before savouring a piece of tasty cake.
  • Use the most fresh eggs in the cake baking. Old egg whites tend to collapse when other ingredients are folded in, and they don't rise well in the oven. Freshness Test: Place an egg in water mixed with a little salt. If the egg is fresh it will sink. The quicker or farther it sinks, the fresher it is. If the egg floats, it has spoiled. Cold eggs are easier to separate than warm eggs. To achieve maximum volume when beating eggs, have them at room temperature, about 17C—22C.
  • Make certain that all mixing equipment are absolutely clean, and that inclusive of your hands. The bowl and and beaters should be free of fat particles. Egg whites will not increase to the desired volume if contaminated with any trace of oil. This is also true if any tiny speck of yolk appears in the egg whites. If you happen to have copper bowl in hand, it is ideal for whipping egg whites. A reaction between the copper and whites generates a much more stable foam, with one-third more volume than you get in a standard bowl. If copper is not available, the next best choice is stainless steel. 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar for 2 egg whites can be added as a stabilizer, replacing the acidic properties of the copper. Lemon juice or vinegar will work as well. The ratio stays same as cream of tartar calls for the recipe. If possible, plastic and glass bowls should be avoided to use because plastic tends to hold some oil even after thorough cleaning. The naturally slick surface of glassware doesn't give much traction for the egg whites to climb the bowl. Never use aluminum which reacts with the egg whites causing them to turn slightly gray.
  • Whether to use a hand-held electric mixer
    or a stand mixer
    really depends on the number of egg whites whisked at one time. I choose using a stand mixer when I have to beat more than 3 egg whites, otherwise, I prefer to whisk egg whites with my hand-held electric mixer. That’s not to say that egg whites cannot achieve their full volume manually beaten. A bulb whisk
    works fine and for sure more wires bring on faster results. Spiral version works easier than the flat one. Start at a slow speed and gradually increase the speed until the egg whites reach their full volume. Operating the mixer at a high speed from the beginning will not allow the egg whites to reach their full volume and will not stabilize because of its grainy and large bubbles.
  • Some professional pastry chefs suggest adding a pinch of salt with the raw egg whites at the beginning of beating. Because salt not only enhances flavors but also helps to make the whites beat more easily. However, some feel salt decreases the stability of whipped up egg whites and prefer adding it along with other dry ingredients. When you're ready to whip your egg whites, add an acid to them such as cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar. Set your mixer on low and start beating. In about 10 seconds you should have frothy and foamy egg whites.
  • Sugar not only adds sweetness, it also stabilizes the egg whites and helps producing a more smooth meringues. When whipping egg whites for soft macaroons, use just one part sugar to one part egg white, i.e. beating 1 egg white with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Or use 2 parts sugar, 4 tablespoons, to whip up one part egg white. If less than 2 tablespoons of sugar to whisk one egg white, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink. Besides weight ratio, timing plays another important roll in whisking egg whites. It is very important to be aware of when you add the sugar to the egg whites. If whisking in 1/4 cup or less of sugar, then add at the beginning. Otherwise, start adding it gradually just before they form soft peaks, when egg whites have been whipped to at least four times their original volume. Sugar, if added too soon, will likely inhibit egg whites from foaming. If too late, sugar not completely dissolved, and you most likely end up having dull and over-whipped egg whites. Always add sugar in a stream, slowly at the side of the bowl while the whites are being whipped. Avoid dumping it in the center, unless you want to experience how beaten egg whites deflate.

蛋白/Egg White/Albumen/Poggle/Glair/Glaire can go through 4 stages ( 5, if inclusive of the stage before beaten-up) when beaten depending upon the end result needed. Do NOT stop the mixer in between.

  1. #Foamy Fluffy: Large bubbles, very loose with a cloudy, yellowish liquid developing into bubbles.

  2. #Soft Peak: Bubbles have tightened into a white foam with a soft ribbon that folds back into itself. You can pull the whites into a "2-3 centimeters peak" but they won't hold the shape.

  3. #Firm Peaks: Glossy, firm and smooth like fresh heavy cream. You can pull whites into a peak that will curl but not stand.

  4. #Stiff Peaks: Glossy and very stiff. Best for baking chiffon cakes.

  5. #Over Beaten: If egg whites are beaten to dry and dull, they are over-beaten. Watch carefully, because egg whites can go from stiff to dry and over-beaten in as little as 30 seconds.

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Braided Raisin Bread With Lemon

Monday, January 07, 2008

  • 250 g All-purpose flour
  • 40 g Sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 40 g Unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tbsp Lukewarm milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 20 g Fresh yeast
  • 1 tbsp Grated lemon peel
  • 80 g Raisins
  • 1 tbsp Milk
  1. Soak the raisins in a bowl filled with warm water for 20 minutes until soft. Drain.
  2. In a mixing bowl put flour, sugar, pinch of salt, butter, egg and lukewarm milk. Crumble the fresh yeast on top of the ingredients. Using a stand mixer blend all the ingredients at slow speed until a dough forms. Then adjust to middle speed and knead for about 5 minutes until dough comes off easily from bowl and smooth. Add the thoroughly drained raisins and lemon zest. Knead for another 30 seconds until well-combined.
  3. Cover the dough and let rise for 45 minutes. Punch down and divide the dough in 3 equal pieces and roll into ropes. Loosely braid the ropes and put on a greased baking tray. Let rise for another 30 minutes until braid is plump and doubled in size. Brush with milk and bake for about 30 minutes at 190C/375F.
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X.O Sauce

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

There is no standard recipe of XO sauce. It is mainly made of roughly chopped dried scallop (conpoy), dried shrimp, chilli, and dry-cured Jinhua Ham, which is named after Jinhua city, in the middle of Zhejiang Province. If you have difficulty to find it, then use other ham with the similar quality.

  • 200 g Dried scallops
  • 30 g Dried shrimps
  • 100 g Dry-cured ham
  • 80 g Dried squid
  • 50 g Eel floss
  • 100 g Garlic
  • 30 g Small red hot dried chillies
  • 1 tbsp Sesame seeds, roasted
  • 750-1000 g Salad oil
  • 2 tbsp Jiafan rice wine
  • 1 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Maggie sauce
  • 1 tsp Black pepper powder
  1. Soften the dried scallops in warm water. Drain them well and work them into rough shreds with a fork. Or pulse the dried scallops with an electric mixer if you prefer thin shreds of conpoy.
  2. Soak the dried shrimp, let drain and mince finely. Rinse squid and microwave for 1 minute with medium heat. Turn and heat one more minute. Thinly tear them off. Dice ham into fine cubes. Chop garlic and dry chillies. Shred the shallots and deep-fry them until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat the same skillet with the rest of oil on high. Stir in minced garlic until fragrant. Add in dried shrimp, chillies, ham, shallots, conpoy,squid and eel floss. Turn the heat slower and keep stirring until the sauce brings fine aromatic and tasty smell. Now season the mixture and continue to cook the mixture has turned into golden brown. After the XO sauce cooling down store it completely covered with oil in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or XO sauce would have lost its aroma and freshness soon. XO sauce not only can be served as a condiment, but also be used in various stir-fries.
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