Foodnotes

Happy meal #34: Moist lemon cake

After months of not venturing into the kitchen – partly because the tyrannical Tiny Human was making me feel nauseous at EVERY SINGLE THING – I finally scratched that cooking/baking itch and made something.

I’ve forgotten how much fun it is to bake! Okay, so the washing up is a major PITA but it’s always so exciting when the warm smells waft out from the oven and your brains are going YUMMY YUMMY NOM NOM NOM. Plus, I love to use husband as my guinea pig and see his face go dinggggg when something tastes awfully nice.

Speaking of awful, I have come to realize that baking for me is not about making it look gorgeous. Unlike Rachel, Lady J and Sherie, I have neither the patience nor the ability to prettify my food and style it. Once I am done baking, I just want to eat it and then share it with others. In fact, it gives me joy to share my baking goodies with friends and family. It’s like therapy for me.

Maybe one day, I might fulfill my dream of opening up that cafe named Ugly Foods, where the cakes look a bit rough at the edges and the cupcakes have splotchy frosting. Hee.

Here’s the moist lemon cake that I baked over the Deepavali holiday. It combines two of my favorites: cake and lemon. And it’s super duper easy to make. What’s there not to love?

Easy Moist lemon cake
Adapted from Cakes (Page One)

What you’ll need:
CAKE

  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • 150g sugar (I used slightly less than that, about 125g)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 90ml low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

LEMON FROSTING

  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan (I used a round tin instead because I don’t have a square one)
  • To prepare the cake, beat the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, lemon zest, baking powder and salt with an electric mixer at low speed until well blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until pale and thick, 3-4 minutes. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan
  • Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack
  • To prepare the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Beat in enough lemon juice to make a spreadable frosting. Spread the cake with the frosting and tuck in!

The ingredients used for the frosting is only half of that listed in the book. I decided to reduce it because based on past experience, using the full amount will yield me an extra portion of unhealthy frosting. Which I will then proceed to eat STRAIGHT. FROM. THE. BOWL.

(PS Doncha love my new cake stand! Been meaning to get one for the longest time and scored this beauty at the Robinson’s Expo Sale for merely $25. Yay! Oops. Did I just show off my aunty-ness?)

Foodnotes

Happy meal #29: Earl grey tea cookies

And we’re back with another edition of Happy Meal!

Oh I’ve been cooking but I either get lazy to whip out the camera to shoot or I am too lazy to write about it. The early grey tea cookies, for instance, were baked for Chinese New Year. And, erm, that was way back in February. I also made some oatmeal raisin cookies but that’s for another post.

During my recovery from the surgery, I spent a fair bit of time online when I wasn’t sleeping off the GA. One of the sites that I frequented was Martha Stewart and I was pretty intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe. Got husband to smash up the earl grey tea leaves that we had in the cupboard and off we went!

Earl grey tea cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Weddings)

What you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves, (from about 8 bags)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 226g butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

Directions:
Combine flour, tea, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Put butter, sugar, and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; slowly mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper; shape into logs. Roll in parchment to 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log and force out air. Transfer in parchment to paper-towel tubes; freeze 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake until edges turn golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Foodnotes, Friends

Have cake, will eat it

Back in September, I had the girls over for tea. We ditched the boys for the afternoon and just chilled and enjoyed one another’s company before a little being squeezed his way out into the world. Yes, David, I am talking about you. Yes, I realise that you cannot read now. Your point being?

Anyway, I was super productive that day. I whipped up a giant batch of chocolate chip cookies and a cake with lemon frosting. Am I Mrs Baker or what?

I know that those days of girly catch-ups and sitting in front of the telly doing absolutely nothing are over so that afternoon was extra precious to me. Of course, we did let the boys into the club after a while. They popped over to finish up what we couldn’t devour and then we promptly dragged our full and sagging bellies for a round (or two) of fried Hokkien mee, frog leg porridge and fried carrot cake.

This was the batch of famous sandwiches that Popartgirl made, which landed us the gig of providing food at David’s recent one-month baby shower.

Squirt made cinnamon rolls.

Hello, David!

Foodnotes

Tea with friends

I finally had the chance to use the tea set that I had bought from the thrift shop. Invited a couple of friends over (or rather, they invited themselves!) and I baked two cakes to feed them.

The recipes were from Afternoon Tea by frankie magazine – which is one of the most gorgeous and beautifully styled cookbooks I have ever seen. When I was having tea with Dotz at k.ki, I had asked the owners of the little drom store to give me a call if ever they bring in the cook book. Imagine my surprise when they rang me up a month later to say that they had a couple of copies, would I like one? Zipped down to the store a week later and realised that they had reserved a copy for me. OVER THE MOON I WENT!

The plate says it all

The first cake my elves and I made was the Macadamia Beer Cake. It was an instant choice, my eyes wouldn’t budge from the word “beer”. We had a little mishap with this one – the recipe had called for one cup of beer (I used Chang beer) but Elf #2 had merrily emptied the entire can into the mixer by the time we remembered to read the recipe. I added more flour to even out the consistency and it turned out alright. Unfortunately, I had used a wider cake tin than was necessary so the cake came out of the tin a little stunted in the height area. Oh well, food is food, we devoured that cake pretty quick, accompanied by a pot of earl gray tea.

Tea with cake

By the time I started work on my second cake, the Lemon Hazelnut Syrup Loaf, both elves had abandoned me and moved off into the cooler living room. Tsk!

The so-called "loaf"

I know, you are thinking, Hmm, this does not look like a loaf. In fact, this does not look like anything good. Frankly, I was thinking the same. Well. I kind of didn’t grease my loaf pan before chucking the batter into it and this was the result: cake that clung on stubbornly to the pan. Bah. I had to scrape everything out.

BUT. It was fabulous! The loaf – or cake, really – was so light and fluffy, it was amazing. And I am not tooting my own horn.

Anyhow, if I ever start my own cafe, I should really call it Ugly Food.

Foodnotes

Happy meal #17: Beer bread

Making bread scares me. The thought of handling yeast somehow scares me to bits. Don’t ask me why. I just feel that way. Maybe it’s because yeast is sort of living. You need to treat it at the right temperature, with the right attitude so that it works for you. Meh. Scared.

But then, I saw this recipe from Honest Fare and I was intrigued. Making bread without yeast? And with beer to boot? Hell, yeah! I’m going to try it.

The idea behind it is that beer is yeast, just in a prettier, bubbly form. The list of ingredients is short and it’s simple to make. It probably took me all of 30 minutes to prepare, and I am not the world’s fastest baker.

Gabrielle recommends mixing the dough using your bare hands but my kitchen lacks a big enough countertop and I was really itching to try out the dough hook of my KitchenAid. As for the beer, I opted for Singha beer because I like Thai beers. Does that make sense? And since I had a jar of dried rosemary leaves sitting in my cupboard unused, thanks to my still alive and kicking rosemary plant, I decided to sprinkle some on top of the dough before dumping it into the oven. Good move too, the smell of rosemary wafting through the air as the bread was baking was heavenly.

Less talk, more pictures.

Dough sitting in the loaf pan
Rising, rising
Baked!
Close up of the bread

The result was fab! Because of the butter at the top of the dough, the bread crust ended up being, err, crusty. Yum. We had it with butter, jam, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with black pepper and it tasted GOOD.

Have I gotten over my fear of yeast? No. But I sure can make bread.

Foodnotes

Happy meal #14: Blueberry buttermilk

Blueberries! Ah, love that squishy purple berry that stains everything from my plate to my fingers. Every time I buy freshly made waffles from the bakery, I go for the blueberry flavoured ones. So when I saw punnets of these at the supermarket, I grabbed them without thinking.

The most logical thing would be to make blueberry muffins, of course. But I decided that I shall not go down the typical road and turned to trusty ‘ol Google for something more interesting. And guess what, it led me to the website of the sadly defunct Gourmet magazine, where a Raspberry Buttermilk Cake recipe was awaiting me.

There’s something about buttermilk that always makes me confident that whatever I bake with it will turn out great. It could be the thick, creamy consistency or the wonderfully warm aroma, I don’t know. But it just happened that I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge and a Blueberry Buttermilk Cake I shall bake.

I love that the list of ingredients is fairly simple and short, and the baking process is straightforward. It also doesn’t take too long to prepare. And it definitely helps that I now have a stand mixer, which speeds up the process significantly!

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake
(Adapted from Gourmet)

What you need:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 of a 250g stick of butter, softened at room temperature
    2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
    1 punnet of blueberries (about 125g)
  • Directions:

  • * Preheat oven to 200°C with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

    * Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

    * Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

    * At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined (ie. flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour).

    * Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter blueberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

    * Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

    Ingredients

    "Whrrrr" goes the mixer

    Before baking

    The finished product looking very bruised indeed

    Cake for tea

  • Foodnotes

    Happy meal #12: Gingerbread run amok!

    I’ve always wanted to bake something festive for Christmas and seeing that it’s our little household’s first Christmas, I decided that gingerbread cookies were the way to go.

    First things first: I had to pop over to Phoon Huat to pick up some baking supplies. I officially declare that place my favourite bakeware supplier. It is not only a treasure trove but the products are cheaper than what you get outside. Butter for just $2! A pair of cookie cutter for slightly over a dollar! Rolling pins for slightly over a dollar (which I stupidly did not buy)! Thanks to Dr.Low’s recommendation, I went to the Sims Lane outlet which was HUGE. Love.

    Next, find the perfect (read: “easy”) recipe. A search on Google and tadah! Found it on Not Quite Nigella.

    Butter and brown sugar

    Fugly, lumpy dough

    The rise of the gingerbread in the oven

    Freshly baked (dude at the bottom left seems to have suffered a head injury during baking)

    The anonymous gingerbread army

    And then after an hour of creative, gleeful artistic endeavour, the final product was ready to be presented to the world:

    The Gingerbread Fashion Show

    We love it! The cookies were not overly crumbly or sweet – just the perfect touch of spice and sweetness. The only problem I had during the baking was that the dough, with three cups of flour, was too unkneadable. It kept falling apart and in the end, I had to work with small portions to keep it from breaking. Many a gingerbread limb was lost and emergency surgery had to be performed to make the boys and girls whole again.

    Oh and added to my woes was the fact that I didn’t have a rolling pin and the Ribena bottle that I had used was utterly useless. I was kneading and pressing and shaping everything with my hands and coupled with my handheld mixer, I was certainly giving my arms a good workout.

    Thankfully, east end gets a lot of the monsoon winds at this time of the year and there was a cool breeze circulating in the kitchen. The cats were snoozing in the living room so I could bake in peace, with beautiful Christmas carols playing in the background.

    You bet I’m going to be making this again!