Sunday, May 9, 2010

Apple Cake

So I said that I was going to make either apple cake or pancakes during the weekend. And I did!! wow. It's not very usual for me to promise something to myself and keep it. With others it's fine, I have an obligation and a conscience, but darn, whenever I tell myself, "Make some cake this weekend" more often than not, it doesn't happen.

Last night I had this urge to do something creative. I was on a roll, I had made a light box that day and done some homework. And all on a Saturday (this is a big deal for someone who is usually trying to cram study and watch whodunnit shows on a Sunday night). So I decided to bake.

The cake recipe seemed to me deceivingly simple. I read it over and over and told myself that there had to be a catch. the last time I made something with fruit in it - apple turnovers, it had taken me ages because I had bought the block of pastry that hadn't been pre-rolled and the fruit, heavens, took ions to peel, core and chop. Possibly because I was being neurotic that day and had a fussy fit about how big the chunks were supposed to be, but never mind.

The hardest part about making the cake was probably preparing the apples. The rest was so much easier than I could have imagined. Turns out I had a hidden measuring up stowed away in the pantry!! It doesn't seem like much, but it made life so much easier. I hate having to wash measuring cups and wait for them to dry before I can get at the flour or other dry ingredients.

N.B. The next step towards a more ergonomic kitchen - An oven thermometer. we'll soon find out why ....

A weird thing though, the cake ended up taking about two and a half hours to bake, very different from the one and a half hours suggested in the recipe. I used half the recipe but the tin used was the same loaf tin as in my chocolate cake. Perhaps it was too dense? Whatever it was, about half of the apples on top of the cake were burnt, although the cake underneath wasn't touched. I pulled em out and it looked better, and it was almost un-noticable once the cake was sliced up.

The cake was also rather dense and at the bottom had formed a kind of crust. It wasn't like eating a rock, but it kind of reminded me of a bit of a pie crust? Not that I've ever had one (dead serious here) - the only pies I've ever eaten are meat pies coz the 'apple pies' from McDonalds are deep fried. I suddenly feel very small in this big world of food blogging.

Moving on.

I think it was because I might have mistaken my 1/3 cup for 1/2, and therefore, put a little less oil in than I should have.

Everyone loved it though. In fact, the tin was cleaned out today. In less than 24 hours. Now who would have thought it?The apple and cinnamon combination is lovely and the vanilla really comes through. Normally my family doesn't really like sweets but the tartness of the pink ladies is there and it didn't taste as sugary as I thought it would. I had been worried that it would remain rather untouched by anyone except for my dad and I, but Ben was enthusiastically cutting bits up himself (he was actually bothered!!) and my mum wanted me to make some again because, and this made me darn right proud, "This is the best thing you've ever baked." Gosh, even thinking back it probably was. So make it. the cake is simple and oh so good.

usually, I don't like to complain but the blogger's picture uploads are irritating. they take all the colour out and leave the photo looking pretty plain. I need to learn how to fix this.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cupcakes - A first!!

On Tuesday, I gave my first go at icing cupcakes. It was rather exciting. Although I have something to confess,

They were made from ready-made cupcake mix. Sorry. This is supposed to be a food blog, promoting fresh ingredients, fresh flavours etc. Sorry. But I have a little pitiful excuse. Time. They were for the trade fair the next day and tennis + piano meant that I started baking at 8 and with that stack of homework glaring at me from behind.

So now it’s the Friday after mini-assessment week and the prospect of a whole weekend without having to worry about well, anything really, is quite liberating. I want to try Deb from the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for apple cake or Mowielicious’ apple pancakes. Or maybe just plain buttermilk pancakes tomorrow morning. The first two sound delish but we’ve just run out of apples! Saturday is grocery day though, and hopefully I’ll be bringing home a cardboard box for the macro light box here:

But the cupcakes.

The icing was quite thick, and I just used a butterknife to kind of smother it on. I learnt that if I put to much icing on, it would just come off onto my knife in big chunks. I learnt to be firm and spread around and not downwards from the tip. Or was it the other way around? It seems ions ago now.

I painstakingly tried to decorate it with the coloured chocolate (that simply wouldn’t stick - they would roll off unless I pressed them directly into the icing) so that it would form “Ff” for the initials of our pretend “business” but they just ended up looking weirdly sprinkled. It was a pretty childish attempt what I don’t mind. A person has to start from somewhere right?

ack, images refuse to be uploaded from my flickr.


Friday, April 30, 2010


The days are getting colder and I'm starting to crave real good comfort food. Hot pot, beef noodle soup, vegetarian curry, I'm looking forwards to all of these warm dishes. Autumn is my favourite season, when it's just getting cold enough for me to wake up to foggy mornings and oatmeal. Although, today I had some muesli. But same diff right? I don't know about everyone else, but I find it a bit strange that no one in my family had ever eaten cereal muesli a week ago. And now I've fallen in love with it. Cinnamon and just a hint of that dried apple stuff. Mhmm. I don't think I could ever like muesli bars again. To me, they are symbolic of grab-it-and-run breakfasts when I struggle out of bed, half-alive and rush off to sports training. I end up chowing down the stuff in the car, in fear that if it doesn't digest in time, I'll end up doubling over with a stitch half-way through our footwork. But this muesli, is sitting down on a chilly morning with a book or the sunrise program at the breakfast table. It's lovely cinnamon and oats-y goodness.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chocolate Cake

So I was craving chocolate. and I had a day off tomorrow. and I had cocoa. and the rest of the family were snoozing away in front of the tv, leaving our lovely kitchen table free.

So I made cake. Chocolate cake. Yum.

Possibly the second cake I have ever made from scratch. And so easy!! No hand mixer or fancypants way of adding the ingredients, just mix up the dry and the wet ingredients separately and chuck em together.

Although, I only made half of Joy's recipe because I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough cocoa and that no-one would eat it and the cake would be left to mould in the fridge. Not that I don't try, but really, one can only eat so much cake.

Recipe taken from Joy the Baker's Organic Chocolate Cupcakes.

Chocolate Cake
- 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tspn baking soda
- 1/4 tspn salt
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 tspn white vinegar
- 1 cup cold water

1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and/or Line(I still don't know which works best) the cake tin (I used a small loaf tin for the recipe - about 11cm x 20cm x 5cm) and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, and vinegar (feel free to add some vanilla extract at this stage, I didn't have any).

4. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients being careful not to overmix. The mixture will be quite wet and this is OK. (It also had a few lumps and when I tasted it, seemed only a little bit grainy, but if you want to avoid this, just lessen the amount of sugar by a bit)

5. Pour into the cake/loaf pan and place in the oven for 45 - 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes clean.

6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool.

Honestly, I don't trust my oven and the temperature and I kept checking the cake every 10 minutes or so after the 30 minute mark. I was naive enough to think that I would only take about half an hour and when I pulled it halfway out of the oven the first time, it sank. Immediately. So don't do it folks. Just open the oven a little crack and try to stick the toothpick in. And don't take it out of it still kind of wobbles because it collapses really fast. A lot faster than one might think.

Cake mixture.
Lesson learnt: clutter in the background does not usually make for a nice photograph of food.

Mhmmm. Tasting the batter without the fear salmonella poisoning from raw eggs was guuudd.

Rush job. It was 11:30pm by the time I had lifted the cake out of the tin.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pancake Fail.

I made pancakes this morning. It had started off great. I woke up to the happy sunshine, watched a bit of the morning show and decided I was hungry. Everything was going smoothly until I decided to ‘experiment’ and add a bit of cocoa powder to the pancake mixture. My reasoning was, “They just add cocoa to muffins to make them chocolate flavoured right?” Never again. Maybe I added too little, maybe my cocoa powder wasn’t the right type (the package does not present me with a single clue as to whether it was Dutch-processed or not) or the cocoa powder simply wasn’t enough. But it’ll never happen again.

The recipe was ‘adapted’ from the Smitten Kitchen. I ended using about 1 ¾ cups of milk and 4 teaspoons of the cocoa power (Cadbury Bourneville) and about 2 ½ tablespoons of sugar. Please don’t try it. The recipe on it’s own is delicious but these little tweeks equated to a failure.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I borrowed a Marth Stewart Cookbook the other day and I am so excited about using it! Well, it's wearing off now that it's halfway through the holidays (already!) and I haven't gotten started on any of that holiday studying. My wishlist:
- Omlette (sadly, my last attempt was a failure but I think I'm ready to give it a go again)
- Garlic noodles
- Fresh pasta and tomato sauce
- Warm lentils and mushrooms OR cassoulet

They seem to increase in difficulty but I'm excited.

I'll also almost certainly be baking some sweeties for a baking pact with Juliana at our trip to the Easter show~~

I definitely need to get my laptop fixed - at this point, I have to transfer photos from my camera to the second laptop and then to this one, such a hassle, before I upload anything since the my laptop keeps rejecting CDs, including the CD with the software for the computer to read the images on the camera.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Banh Gio

My mum made banh gio today!! to explain, it is a kind of mixture of different flours and water half cooked to a stretchy dough-like mixture topped with a mixture of meat and steamed in banana leaves. They're usually served hot and with a nuoc mam sauce of fish sauce, lemon juice, garlic and sugar.

When we have enough banana leaves, so about every couple of months, my mum soaks the flour in the water over night and I'm assigned the role of wiping down the banana leaves after they've been boiled and wrapping up those little packages of deliciousness. To me, Banh Gio is one of those foods that bring back nostalgic evenings spent at the dinner table with the rest of my family. Sure this happens almost every night but banh gio is so good, it makes it so much more special.

My mum makes two types of banh gio - the soft white banh gio with more rice flour and a translucent and very chewy version. The latter is usually the favourite with mum, Ben and I, but since my mum had been soaking the rice flour for longer and cleaned the water more often (I don't understand the exact science) it had a slightly more chewy texture and less of a floury aroma. I still prefer the elasticity of the other banh gio though.

Buying these are dirt cheap in Vietnam and oh so delicious - I'd apologise to mum but she agrees wholeheartedly with me. There are many other variants - with the filling stuffed inside smaller pockets of banh gio that resemble semi-circles, or dumpling like balls. The fillings can be varied with things like a kind of savoury mung bean paste and mixtures of pre-cooked pork and prawn. I'm craving some right now.