Monday, 23 May 2011

Fruit Tart with Chantilly Cream and Sweet Pastry


The fruit tart in question was a request from a friend for her sister's birthday. The fruits are of course her favourite. I've never made one and having read the many blogs and recipe books that were available out there made it quite a daunting task to begin with. But I tend to find the quickest way possibly to make one so here's how I did it.

Ingredients:
Sweet Pastry:
250gm plain flour - sifted
100gm icing sugar
100gm butter - diced and slightly soft
2 medium sized eggs

Chantilly Cream
500ml double cream
50gm icing sugar

Fruits
Any seasonal fruit or canned fruit of your liking. Various colours would be good if not, just berries is good too!

Method:
  1. Preparing the pastry in advance is helpful as it would quicken the process in making the tart. Even baking it a day before is also good. But on the day is also fine. So, in a food processor or in a mixing bowl, place in the sifted flour, icing sugar and diced butter. In a food processor pulse it to ensure butter gets incorporated into the flour and icing sugar looking like bread crumbs. If in a mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture until bread crumb like. Then add in the eggs one by own until it comes doughy like. In a food processor it may seem like it looks almost like a batter form but slightly thick. Don't worry about it. Just use your fingers to scrape out the pastry onto a floured surface.
  2. Next knead the pastry for about 3 minutes or so before wrapping it in cling film for refrigeration. You can keep this overnight or for 1 to 2 hours. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to a month.
  3. When ready to bake, crank up the oven to 190 Degrees Celcius. Bring out your flan tin or ceramic pie dish. There is no need for greasing as the pastry is actually really nice and oily and doesn't stick to the pan nor dish. Work with a rolling pin to flatten the pastry until about 5mm thick. Wrap the rolling pin with the pastry before lifting it to be unwrapped over the flan tin / dish. Use your fingers then to press the pastry on to the tin to rid off any air pockets. Cut any excess pastry away from the edges. Using your thumb and index finger from your left hand and index finger of your right hand, press the edges of the pastry to shape it. 
  4. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork to allow air to escape.Line the pastry with grease proof paper and pour in baking beans before placing it in the oven to bake blind for 30 minutes. Take out the baking beans at the final 10 minutes of baking to allow the pastry base to dry and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool thoroughly. Remove from flan tin / dish to quicken cooling process.
  5. The Chantilly cream was actually the easiest to make. In a mixing bowl, pour all ingredients into it and beat with a steady rhythm until mixture thickens. When whisk is lifted, the cream should not be runny but holds it own. Vanilla extract with vanilla beans actually does make the cream look better but you can use the actually vanilla beans by scraping it out from a vanilla pod. It however is not cheap, so just be careful when purchasing it. Set aside the cream in the fridge.
  6. The fruits what you may like can be sliced in many ways as long as you know how you want the fruits to shape up when decorating the tart.
  7. Assemble the tart by first spreading the cream on the base of the pastry case and smoothen the surface with your spatula or palette knife. Then line your fruits accordingly and leave it in the fridge for a little while before serving or alternatively it can be served there and then.
  8. You can add a jam glaze on top for added shiny effect. Other recipes call for a gelatine layer but I choose not to. For a jam glaze just use any kind of pre-made jam on place it in a sauce pan. Two tbsp should be enough. Heat it up and stir to let it melt. Then using a pastry brush, glaze the fruits with it.
This tart found its way to a pastry chef in a popular cafe / restaurant down in Balham, London. The restaurant staff also had a taste of it and enjoyed it tremendously. I even got tips on how to get the pastry case to be less brittle! That made my day for sure.

So if you ever want to make fruit tarts the easy way, this is the way to go.

Rustic oat loaf next.

The Innovative Baker

Monday, 16 May 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies


I received a huge cookie recipe book as a birthday gift two years ago and have underused it much to the dismay of my friend who gave it to me. But since I am on a roll to experiment in the kitchen I used it as a guidance to come up cookie recipes not entirely found in the book but plain old innovation happening right in my kitchen. So the original recipe was meant to be milk chocolate chip cookies. But I ended up doing something else altogether because of what I had in the kitchen. So here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 tub (340gms) smooth peanut butter (crunchy also adds further texture)
200gms butter - partially melted for 50 seconds in the microwave
300gms plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200gms firmly packed brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 tbsp vanilla essence
200gms dark chocolate chips
150gms almond flakes / diced almonds

Method:
  • Heat up the oven at 200 Degrees Celcius. Prepare your baking pans with greaseproof paper and set aside.
  • Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together.
  • In a mixing bowl, toss in the sugar, peanut butter, and butter and beat till sugar is dissolved and fluffy. Add in the egg and the vanilla essence and continue beating before adding in the flour in 3 batches. Once combined, the mixture looks firm. Add in the chocolate chips and almond flakes. 
  • Take a bit of the cookie mixture and roll into a ball. The size should be almost like a huge marble. Line it accordingly with at least 1 1/2 inches in between to allow for spreading to occur when baking.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes maximum and take out to cool. Repeat until mixture is finished.
  • The recipe should yield up to 40 cookies.
If you don't like Peanut butter then replace with nutella. 

The consistency of the cookie is almost similar to famous amos cookies except it looks round rather than pinched. 

The cookies have been cordoned off by the flatmates...yes, it tastes that good!

Cookie search continues,
The Innovative Baker

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Chicken in a Bowl?


Yup! That is what it is called! In certain Chinese restaurants in Malaysia, they have a dish where it is served with a plate and an overturned bowl. In that bowl, it has got a portion of a certain dish and rice. Usually quite saucy, the dish is immensely flavourful as it tends to seep into the rice making the dish an all round delight! I remember being taken to one such restaurant in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia by my parents and along with my siblings with have this dish quite a few times. So to reminisce, I decided to cook this:

Ingredients:
1 medium sized chicken breast or any cuts of the chicken if you prefer to have bones (should be about 200gm)
6 - 7 leaves of gem lettuce or any green vegetable you prefer
1 stalk of red chilli - jullienned or sliced side ways
1/2 cup chicken stock or 1/2 cube chicken stock cube mixed in hot water
2 cloves of garlic - minced
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water
pepper to taste
Pre-cooked white rice of your choice

Method:
  1. First, slice the chicken breast thinly into bite size pieces. Marinade with the soy sauce. Set aside.
  2. Heat up the wok and add some vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, toss in the minced garlic and stirfry until fragrant. Then add the chillies before adding in the marinated chicken and stir quickly. Once it is half cooked (slightly pinkish in the middle), then add in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Bring to a simmering state and add in the vegetables. Stir slowly to allow the vegetables to cook in the broth before adding in the cornstarch mixture. The broth will thicken. Add in pepper to taste. If it is not salty enough then add a dash of soy sauce.
  4. To assemble, place a medium sized bowl next to the wok. Scoop the chicken into the bowl til half full. Then add in the rice and cover it up to the brim of the bowl. Smoothen the rice surface. Next place a plate on top of the bowl. Using two hands, one holding the bowl, the other holding the plate, putting pressure in the middle of the plate, overturn it quickly. Take the bowl off and you have a nicely formed bowl of rice and chicken.
  5. Serve with bowl or without is up to you. But it would be a nice surprise for guests!
The chicken is of course the most neutral of meats. You can opt for beef, pork, turkey, fish, seafood or just plain vegetables too. Want to make it spicier? Then before adding in the chicken, fry some chilli paste with the minced garlic. You can also use chilli flakes instead if you rather a less chilli like consistency.



Saturday, 7 May 2011

Rump Steak with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives in a Red wine Reduction


I always craved to make a good steak at home. Seeing that it is inexpensive to purchase a good slice of beef steak from the butchers, i figured lets give it a go. Naturally the sauce or condiments that went with it were what I had in the refrigerator so here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
500gms rump steak - matured for tenderness. Speak to the butcher for the right cut and maturity time
About 8 - 10 black and green olives soaked in olive oil - sliced in half
About 5 - 6 sun dried tomatoes
1/2 beef stock
2 tbsp red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
  1. First prepare the sun dried tomatoes and olives by slicing them into bite size portions. Use the olive oil that soaked the olives as your cooking oil. It tastes even better than regular olive oil. 
  2. Heat up a frying pan and add the sun dried tomatoes, olives and olive oil. Wait for it to sizzle and then add the pepper. While waiting for this to cook, heat up the grilling pan.
  3. Reduce the heat on the frying pan with the tomatoes and olives, and rub olive oil onto the rump steak on both sides before seasoning with salt and pepper. When the grilling pan is hot enough, place the steak on it and let it sizzle. Wait about two minutes for one side to cook before turning it over. You will have the chargrilled lines across the meat. Wait the same duration with the other before fishing it out of the grilling pan.
  4. When waiting for the steak to grill, add the beef stock to your tomato and olive mix and let it come to a boil. When it becomes bubbly add in the red wine to the sauce and boil to reduce.
  5. Fish out the steak onto a plate. Pour the sauce onto the grilling pan where the steak was to get some meatiness into the sauce. It's kind of like making it infused with the steak flavour.
  6. This will drastically reduce the sauce and then immediately pour over the steak. 
  7. Serve hot. 
You can serve it with a nice condiment like a salad or some stir fried green beans on the side. A dollop of mash potatoes also adds to the flavouring as well.

(Why do you need to rub the olive oil onto the steak? Well, this I learnt watching a cooking show and also read it in many recipe books that steaks with grilling marks only appear when olive is rubbed onto the steak rather than the oil being dribbled on to the pan. Great tip i must say!)

Now that was a good steak. 

The Innovative Baker

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Jap Chae - Korean style glass noodles (MY VERSION AT LEAST)


My affair with Korean food keeps growing with a desire to even make my own kimchi (pickled chinese cabbage with chilli). But with a kick and a thrust of ingredients at hand, I made Jap Chae instead. Well at least the way I pictured how it would be and how it eventually tasted like. This would be essentially the third time I've made it and it has proven to be successful once more!

Ingredients:
1 bundle of glass noodles (the packet should be separated by portions)
1 chicken breast - sliced thinly and marinated with soy sauce and a little sesame oil
2 birds eye chillies - finely diced
1 whole red onion - finely sliced in half rings
10 sprigs of asparagus - finely sliced diagonally
10 sprigs of french beans - finely sliced diagonally
1 chinese sausage - finely sliced diagonally
a handful of coriander - finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp thick soy sauce

Method:
  1. Firstly soak the glass noodles in hot water to soften them. It will become transculent when soaked through.
  2. In the meantime, prepare all the ingredients ready for frying. Heat up a wok or a large enough frying pan with the vegetable oil. Toss in the red onions and birds eye chillies and let the onions sweat through before tossing in the chinese sausage. Let the sausage sort of burn a little on the sides before tossing in the chicken.
  3. When the chicken is semi cooked (half pink), then toss in the asparagus, stems first before florettes and then the french beans. Then toss in the chilli flakes, stir a little before covering it to let simmer. The heat will cook through the vegetables and also complete in cooking the chicken. 
  4. After 1 minute or so, uncover the wok and toss in the glass noodles. Stir until well mixed before adding in the soy sauce and thick soy sauce. Stir until well coated. Lastly add in the sesame oil and stir before spreading the chopped coriander on top.
  5. Switch off the gas, and serve hot!
The vegetables are interchangeable with other kinds like mushrooms, stem broccoli, kai lan and many others. If you wish to add more colour, then julienned carrots can also go in with finely sliced red chillies.

The meat is also optional if you're vegetarian. Just double up the vege portion and voila, a vegetarian glass noodle!

It only takes 30 minutes in total to cook and serve. Plus a great alternative to the usual fried rice noodle dishes we always have. 

Bibimbap next on line perhaps.

The Innovative Baker

Monday, 2 May 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese icing and hand piped Chocolate decorations


I've always wanted to make red velvet cupcakes. My brain was on high gear for weeks leading up to the royal wedding weekend and was researching on what was most possibly the best combination of ingredients needed to make it. But instead of having to rely on a recipe, I came up with an adapted one from an existing cake recipe. The decorations were also inspired from photos I saw of other cupcake decorations. So here's what went in:

Ingredients:
Cake batter:
300gms self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
15gms cocoa powder
250ml whole milk
1tbsp red wine vinegar
200gms golden caster sugar
100gms butter - softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 bottles of red food colouring

Icing:
300gms cream / soft cheese
400gms icing sugar
110gms unsalted butter
2tsps vanilla essence

Chocolate decoration:
100gms dark chocolate
200gms milk chocolate

Method:
  1. Crank up your oven to 200 Degrees first to warm it up. Then prepare the cake batter.
  2. Firstly pop into the microwave for 30 secs to soften the butter. While waiting for that, sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together. Then mix the milk with the red wine vinegar together.
  3. Beat the sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy before beating the eggs one by one. Then slowly add the flour mixture and milk mixture in batches til fully combined. Then stir in the red food colouring. It will turn the mixture burgundy like in colour.
  4. In prepared muffin trays with muffin cups, spoon in the mixture and bake for 15 to 18 minutes depending. Reduce the oven to around 180 Degrees when baking the cupcakes. (The cake batter would make up to 27 cupcakes)
  5. While waiting for the cakes to bake, prepare the icing. Firstly beat the butter and cream together before adding the icing sugar slowly to combine it. Lastly add in the vanilla essence. Beat a further 5 minutes to add air in. Then pour into an air tight container and stick it in the fridge.
  6. When cupcakes are baked, let it rest and cool down. While waiting, prepare the chocolate deco. Firstly melt both chocolate types in a bain marie (small pot with water and a heatproof bowl on top). Be sure not to melt it for too long as then the chocolate would split from its oils and have a weird sheen to it. Not what you want.
  7. Then let it cool down for about 30 to 45 minutes and you'll see it slowly firming up but still running. Then in a piping bag with a normal nozzle, pour in the chocolate mixture. Prepare a baking pan with a greaseproof paper to pipe the chocolate deco on. Then pipe whatever designs you can think off - buttons, hearts, crescents, stars, little dots... 
  8. When all three elements have cooled down - icing, chocolate decoration (hardened) and cupcakes are fully rested, then you can assemble! This is the fun part. The easiest to ice the cupcakes is to pipe the icing on the top. Then add some chocolate decoration with some semi-prepared sugar icing stars. 
Here's some other views of the cupcakes:


The party i took the cupcakes to devoured it. And it wasn't as difficult as it looked to be! So have fun baking!

Jap Chae next,
The Innovative Baker

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