Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I think this is a pretty good photo, don't you?
Well, it's better than the ones I've been posting, haha
   Nope, this cake does not have coffee in it. I suppose it's called a 'coffee cake' because it's good to have with coffee, just like a teacake is good with tea? Or good for tea? Anyway, I had three blocks of cream cheese (well, 1 and a half actually) and I wanted to make a cake that uses cream cheese but I did't want anything that uses too much cheese or else I won't have another chance to bake any other cream cheese recipes until we get some more. Get it?

   Thankfully, we can now get Tatura cream cheese for almost half the price of a block of Philadelphia cream cheese. I suppose Philadelphia cheese is creamier or more delicious or whatever, but we're not fussy folk and I believe in enjoying what food we can afford. Some people can't even afford a good, square meal per day. We've had a whole family- a mum and her children, (so many of them too!) come asking for some money and water at our house once. Poor kiddies. And mummy. 

   So should I be overly fussy over getting the best ingredients for baking, when cheaper ones which are good enough are available? I believe not. If I can afford to buy the more expensive stuff one day, Insya-Allah I will, but if I can't, I shouldn't grumble about it. And I won't. So remind me if I do.

   This is a pretty good recipe, and one that I'd probably make again. However, I seem to have problems  with cakes that need to be baked for over one-hour- the sides always turn out overbaked and black and burnt, just like with the Apple Crumble Teacake I made . I'm not quite sure how to counter  this problem, does anybody have any good tips that you ca share with me? I'd be really grateful.

   The ingredients & measurements below are what I've used, so visit the link for the original recipe and the metric measurements. 

Source: JoyofBaking

The Whats:

Streusel Topping:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup coarse granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter cut into pieces

Cream Cheese Filling:
8 ounce  cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon all purpose flour 

Cake Batter:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup good-quality margarine
1/2 cup soft brown sugar, tightly packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup (or more) blueberry filling

The How-Tos:

Preheat oven to 150C (original is 180C).

Grease and line the bottom of an 8x8-inch pan with baking paper (I don't have a springform pan, so I just used a regular one)..

Streusel Topping:
Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon in one bowl. Cut in the butter using a fork, a  bread knife or the tips of your fingers  until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Cover and place mixture in the refrigerator (or freezer, which is what I did!) to keep it cold.

Cream Cheese Filling:
Place cream cheese in a bowl and beat using an electric mixer until creamy and smooth. Add the sugar, egg, vanilla and flour and beat until well incorporated. Set aside.

Cake Batter:
Whisk or sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat the margarine until smooth and creamy. Add in sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk and eat until just combined. 


Spread the cake batter onto the bottom of the prepared pan and up the sides (the mixture is quite thick so this shouldn't be too  difficult). Pour the cream cheese filling on top of the cake batter. Spread or dollop generous spoonfuls of the blueberry filling on top of the cream cheese filling. Scatter the streusel topping on top.

Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. Test using a toothpick- poke it into the centre of the cake. Wait for 5 minutes and pull it out, if it comes out clean it is ready. Remove from oven and let cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature. It's good enough on its own, but you can always have it with cream. Yum!

Baker's notes:

1. Using coarse granulated sugar gives the streusel topping a lovely crunch, which Littlest Brother approved of. 
2. The cake is best eaten o the day it's made, because the topping will slowly sort of soak the moisture from the cream cheese filling, I think, and will no longer be crumbly. But it's stil definitely good for eating. Definitely.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lemon Bars

Lemon bars!
I think lemons are the best-smelling fruits in the world! But then again, I haven't smelled all the fruits that ever existed, so I may be mistaken. I've always wanted to make lemon bars. Ever since I started using lemons in baking, I've loved it. Truly. The flavour. The smell. Heavenly.

Source: Joy of Baking (visit the link for metric measurements & a how-to video)

The Whats
Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter - I used margarine & omitted the salt
1/4 cup icing/powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Lemon Filling
1 cup fine granulated white sugar
1 large eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons) - I only had 2 lemons & got about 1/4 cup juice
1 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Some icing/powdered sugar for dusting the top

The How-tos
Shortbread Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
2. Butter and line bottom of 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper. Make sure you butter the sides really well, and if you're up too it, line the sides with parchment paper as well. I'd advice you to do it (which implies that I didn't do it).
3. Beat the margarine and sugar using a handheld mixer until smooth and creamy.
4. Add the flour and salt and mix just until dough comes together.
5. Press the dough onto the bottom of your pan. This might prove a bit tricky. The best way would be to use the base of your palms as the dough won't stick too much to it. Use your pointer and middle fingers to gently press the dough into the corners.
6. Bake dough for about 20 minutes (mine took only 15 minutes) or until the edges are just lightly browned. Don't overbake as it's going to go into the oven again later.
7. Cool the crust while making your lemon filling.

Lemon Filling
1. Beat sugar and eggs using a handheld electric mixer until smooth.
2. Stir in lemon zest and juice.
3. Fold in flour, making sure you beat out any lumps. I like to use a spatula and chase any lumps to  the side of the bowl, pressing them against it.
4. Pour mixture on top of the crust. (My crust had sort of loosened from the sides of the pan a bit, and I was worried the filling would sink to the bottom of the pan, but thankfully they didn't. Much.)
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes or less or until the filling's set.
6. Dust top with icing sugar. Cut into bars and serrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrveeeee!!!

   I forgot about all about the bars after I'd put them into the oven  (I was busy browsing for more recipes). When I did remember, the timer was about to go off and the lemon bars were super brown. Uh-huk. I immediately rescued them without checking if the filling had set.

The crust. I overbaked it.
Just out of the oven. I overbaked the whole thing.  Darn.

   Fortunately icing sugar saved the day! What's important though, is that the flavour was not compromised. I am definitely making these again! Mum  thought they're too sweet, but I think they're fine, so I think they should be fine with you sweet-toothed lot.

   Oh yeah.. The filling stuck a bit to the sides of the pan, but I used a metal spatula to loosen them. They might turn out a bit wonky, and the filling isn't super solid, but I like them that way:

Click here to read about 10 interesting things about lemons

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Super Moist Egg-less Chocolate Cake

  Or Black Beauty. I'd like to call it that. It was wonderfully black in colour.

   We were out of eggs. Dad asked, "What do you need eggs for?"

   "I was thinking of making cake?"

   "Then we're getting eggs tonight!"

   Hopeful they will. I was in the mood for baking right then and there though, and decided that I wouldn't wait. I googled 'eggless chocolate cake' and found this recipe. After being used to the DFCC, it was nice to make plain, chocolate cake without any topping. No fuss, no mess. According to the blogger who posted it, the cake was good enough without the need for a topping, so I went with her suggestion. 

   And it is pretty good. That is, if you like super, dark chocolaty cake. If you'd rather have a topping, then by all means go for it. I like how smooth it looked when it came out of the oven, with just a few tiny cracks on top. And how easy it is to make. You only need one bowl and a hand whisk for mixing. As well as measuring spoons and cups. And a spatula. I can never make cake without my spatula.

This was taken using a flash.
What a huge difference from the first photo!
   The texture is spongy and not too crumbly, and the colour really dark. I'm a goon at taking photos, and this cake was extra tricky because of its colour. Oh well. I had three slices before I knew it. And the others aren't even back home yet.

Sources: Love2Cook & Dapurku Sayang

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
two tablespoons milk powder
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup cold water (from the fridge)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
1/2 cup vegetable oil (apparently you can also use melted butter/margarine or cooking oil)
1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar (which I forgot. Whoops)

1. Preheat oven to 160C.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add salt, milk powder and brown sugar into flour mixture. Whisk until well combined.
4. Measure water into measuring cup and add in vanilla extract. Add to dry ingredients and mix using whisk, making sure there aren't any lumps.
5. Add vegetable oil and whisk until well-combined. Apparently you can also use melted margarine or butter (omit salt if you use margarine or salted butter) or cooking oil, but I don't recommend the latter. (I've used cooking oil once for pastry and didn't like the taste.)
6. Add lemon juice/vinegar and mix well. (I forgot this part so I don't know how it affects the cake).
7. Pour into 8x8-inch pan. Or you could use a smaller, round pan if you want a taller cake.
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Test for done-ness using a toothpick- poke one until it reaches the bottom of the pan, wait for 5 seconds and pull it out, If it comes out clean, it's done.
9. Slather some topping on top if desired. I didn't bother.

I was... uh-hum... trying to take a photo while holding the camera in one hand.
Not a good  strategy.
   This is not a cake for wowing people. More of a I-need-a-good-cake-in-45-minutes sort of cake, maybe for serving some guests? It's nice and simple and uncomplicated. you won't have a heart attack making it. Although my whisk did fall out of the bowl two times. 

Crime scene!
Washing up!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apple Crumble Cake

   I'm making up for lost time.

 I made this Apple Crumble Cake a while ago and I loved, loved, loved it. In fact, I made it three times. It has entered my 10 top favourite cakes (I don't have an actual list though). Yeah. There are still some apples on the counter and I only refrained from making a fourth for fear my family will  throw them at my head (well, they wouldn't do that to food, but I shouldn't bore them with the same thing over and over again anyway).

Aren't they beautiful?
I wish apples grew here in Malaysia. That way I could plant one right outside my bedroom window.
   We had some apples browning in the fridge, so I wanted to bake something with apples. You cannot imagine (or perhaps you ca) how mind-boggling it is to choose a recipe! I took two days over it. 

That, ladies and gentlemen, is an apple corer.
Useful for, uhm, coring apples.
It's lost. Mum said I may have thrown it away with the apple skins
Somebody please knock some sense into me.
   And the apples kept browning. I finally choose this recipe because:

   1. It's from The Caked Crusader's blog, hehe, so what's not to love?
   2. It was baked and loved by a superhero, so what can an adoring fan do but make one too? 
   3. It has a crumble topping. I've always wanted to make a crumble cake ever since I found out about them, so this is one thing ticked off my wishlist. The topping also has cinnamon- I love cinnamon! Wait, should that be reason number 4?
   4. CC's introductory words about them. I quote: "This could be just about the best cake in the world. It’s more than a cake, sort of a cake/dessert hybrid – and if I haven’t caught your attention with a statement like that, then what are you doing on this site in the first place?"
   5. I was attracted to the step which involves whisking the eggs and sugar until it 'soufflés up' to 4 or 5 times its size. I love steps that involve whisking sugar and eggs. It's divine!
   6. It involves melted butter. I have no idea why this is a reason, since I didn't even use pure butter. Whoops.

   I also took down some notes while making the first cake, so I'll put them here. Hopefully they'll be useful in the future when I make them again.

   1. You're supposed to whisk the eggs and sugar using an electric mixer, because it'll take at least 10 minutes for the mixture to get to 4 or 5 times its original volume. I used a handheld electric mixer, and it took me nearly 25 minutes (with 4 or 5 30-second breaks in between). My hand got really stiff, and I was afraid the motor would heat up too much and blow up, but it didn't and the end result was worth it. I was right about reason number 5. 
   2. After the batter was ready, I started preparing  the apples, before which the batter was quite runny, like CC said it would be. When I was ready to pour the batter into the pan, discovered that it had thickened up, and even had bubbles which reminded me of a yeasted (if that is even a word) dough. I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen, but I poured into the pan and arranged the apples on top.
   3. (The cake is now out from the oven) I baked the cake at 175C. It's supposed to be baked for about 1.5 hours. At the 30th minute, I thought the top already looked nice and brown, and since I was afraid of burning it and there was still along way to go, I reduced the temperature to 150C. At the 45th minute, the cake looked ready and had even over-browned. I held myself from checking since there was still at least 0.5 hours to go. However, I checked it after another 10 minutes and no crumbs stuck to the knife I inserted. I think it was actually ready at the 40th minute. I wonder why, but after thinking about it, I think it was because the batter that went into the pan wasn't quite runny, and in fact I didn't have any trouble arranging the apples on top or worry that they would sink into the cake. So I suppose a runnier batter calls for a longer cooking time? (shrugs).

I'm looking for a way to make sure the  inside gets cooked without  overbaking the outer part of the cake. 
   Serve the cake with some lovely homemade Devonshire cream.

   [Click HERE for original recipe]

   Thank you CC, for such a lovely recipe! I've yet to produce a truly satisfying cake (which hereby refers to a cake that is both fully cooked inside without being overbaked on the outside- so far I've only managed either one), but so far the ones I've made have been gulped down so fast I wonder I wasn't sick!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trip to KL Part 2: Convo Day!

   I've been tardy. And lazy. I stopped posting a while back and now I'm trying my best to get the mood back. It. Is. Hard. 

  This is what I've been up to while I was gone (from here, anyway)
   1. Attended an interview. Boy am I glad that's over!
   2. Attended two weddings. Two of my best friends are now married. I feel old.
   3. Visited my Tok Aji and Tok Hajjah (my grandparents) up north. 
   4. Baked. A lot. 
   5. Did some translation work (and got paid for them).
   6. Tested for and got my driving license. Alhamdulillah. Yahoo!
   7. Getting bald... I mean bored while waiting for posting results.

   None of the activities are reason enough to have neglected this blog. Anyway, here's the long due Part 2 on my convocation.

   I know not many people read this blog, so I feel rather more comfortable in sharing some extra exciting -now stale- news regarding convocation because I know not many people will read about it. (Weird reason?) I know though, that those who do will be very happy for me.

   1. I was  awarded Best Student for my programme (Teaching English as a Second Language a.k.a. TESL
   2. I was chosen to deliver the valedictorian speech

   It was definitely a day to be remembered! I received an email several weeks before convo day explaining that I'd been selected as a candidate for the speech. So I drafted a speech, wen to the selection session (after getting all 'nerved' up for it), received an email informing that I'd been selected, went to a training session, went to collect my robes etc. This involved a lot of trips from Kelantan to KL and back to Kelantan, and mind you, each bus trip took about nine hours. Nine LOOOONNGGG hours. I'm officially (and have been for quite some time, actually) sick of long bus trips. Sick!

   Finally the big day came.. and ended. It was a happy, happy day and whenever I think about it,  I feel quite dizzy and can't quite believe the rizk Allah gave me. He has been so generous to me, and I feel truly humbled. 

People waiting to go into the hall.
      I don't have any photos of when we were in the hall, and anyway we weren't allowed to take photos. I got to know a few people, other students who received awards, and Masya-Allah, most of them go two to three awards each! I felt quite small in comparison, but I still felt grateful for the honour I was given.

   When it was time for the speech, I walked gingerly up the steps, praying all the way through that I wouldn't stumble.

My friend took this with her phone. Sneaky, hehe.
   Alhamdulillah, it went well. At first I stumbled a bit, and when I was supposed to give a nod of acknowledgement to the rector, I did a sort of awkward jerk instead of giving a graceful nod. I supposed my screws were tightened too tight, haha. 

   It seemed that I managed to make a lot people cry. I remember one of the trainers telling me, "If you can make people cry... well, you'll have made an impact." It was a huge pressure on me. I'm not big on making people cry OR on crying in front of people. Fortunately, I managed not to cry, but when I mentioned my parents, my throat sort of closed up and I had to choke a bit to get my voice through. Whatever happened, I'm glad people like the speech. That was what I prayed for. That the speech would be meaningful, beneficial and would touch people's hearts. Alhamdulillah.

   After the ceremony ended, we went for a special lunch. I couldn't eat, I never can when exciting things happen which is a pity.

That's Im, one of the award winners, and her parents
   And when we finally went out of the hall, there was a  surprise waiting for me!

Thank you Little Siser and Littlest Brother!
That bear is seriously huge! Seriously!
[Sidenote: I wanted to put a picture of Little Sister holding the,m, but she'd kill me. She almost did over the one I put in the last post. Haha.]

   They were so excited in planning what to get me that they only had these for lunch:

Iced Milo & sandwiches
Mushroom soup & garlic bread
   After that, we took photos. Lots and lots of photos. But I shall only post a few ( and be careful no post any that shows my face too clearly hehe).

Glad I made you happy :)
My beautiful friends
Some of my good friends
I particularly like this photo, for some reason
   It was a lovely day. I met so many people, old and new, and believe it or not learned many new things. Alhamdulillah once again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trip to KL Part 1: Kelantan-Terengganu

   My laptop is finally... well, usable. It seems that the part which connects the motherboard to the keyboard is damaged, so if I want to get that fixed, I have to get a new motherboard. Which costs around RM200. Gulp. So, for now, I'm using a USB keyboard that Dad bought. It's quite pretty:

(I'll add a photo later]

   Thankfully, I didn't lose any of my data, alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), so even without a camera I can still post a few updates with the hundreds of photos of things I've baked in the past months. However, in honour of the special occasion that took place two or three weeks ago (yeah, stale), I'm going to post some posts unrelated to baking, though perhaps a cake or two will make their appearance I hope that's okay.

   And what occasion is that? My convocation day! After six years of training, I finally made it. My family was quite excited as at first we weren't sure whether they could make it to IIUM, but alhamdulillah with Big Sister's help they could. Littlest Brother was especially excited about going to KL and to IIUM. Little Sister went too, but Little Brother had to take his PMR and therefore had to stay at home. PMR is quite a big deal, and I felt guilty about leaving him at home all alone to face it, but he was very noble about it and said that Mum and Dad should definitely not miss the occasion. Big Sister had a seminar so she couldn't go, but she lent her camera. Yeeehaaa.

   We had a good journey, which started at 10 a.m. on 8th October 2011 (my convo was on the 10th). First we went to Dungun, Terengganu to pick up Little Sister. I slept most of the way there because I didn't sleep the night before, preparing some... well, stuff to take and to leave for Little Brother. Watch out for it below.

   Terengganu has a lot of beautiful mosques. Below are some pics (sorry they're not great photos). I'm afraid I forgot to note down the names though, I'll do that next time. I've included some explanation on some of the terms for my non-Muslim readers.

   My favourite was this. It's so clean and white and beautiful. I love how it stands out against the blue, blue sky.

This is where the men take their wudhu'.
Taking the wuhu' involves a series of steps in cleansing some parts of the body.
It is compulsory before making the prayer.

This is  the tower where the mu'azzin  makes the azan (call for prayer).
At least that's what they used to do in the old days, I think, so that people can hear you.
I think they use a special room with a microphone and speakers now.
The mu'azzin is the person who makes the call for prayer.

   We also got to see The Crystal Mosque, but didn't get to take a very good photo, so here's one I found on the internet:

   It's very beautiful, but most importantly I hope a lot of people go there to pray. Mosques (or masjid in Malay) are houses for worship, so people should go there to worship Allah, right?

   We finally reached UiTM, the Dungun Campus. My sister is so lucky! They're within walking distance from the beach. It's practically across the road! Imagine being able to look at this everyday:

   I'd like to sit on that seat and just look at the sea, every single day...

   And here is the reason we have to go all the way to Terengganu before going to KL!

Hello, Little Sister!
   We couldn't possibly miss having a picnic by the sea when we're by the sea, so that's what we did. Momsie had packed a meal for us. And I made... cake and cinnamon rolls! The rolls I will write about in another post, but the cake... well, you may remember this monstrosity that I made:

   Well, the night before we left I didn't sleep much.I stayed up making the rolls and two DFCCs- one to leave for Little Brother and one to take with us! Unfortunately, a lot of mishaps occurred during the making, which will take too long to talk about, so this is the slightly degraded, disfigured-looking version that we brought along:

   Here is Littlest Brother greedily snacking on it:

   My family just cannot get enough of this cake. If you say the word "Cake" to their face, I can assure you that this is the cake that they will think of, hehe. We kept snacking on it all the way to KL, and while we were picnicking by the beach, we even drew the attention of two little boys, who, quite unashamedly, came up to us and asked for some. Haha. Here they are, I've forgotten their names:

   And here we are digging in:

   And don't forget the cake!!

   And I will now leave you. To make up for the lack of baking chit-chat, here's a few photos of stalls tat sell keropok losong and all sorts of local snacks and delicacies. These shops or stalls can be found all the way by the roads along the beach in Terengganu:

   The shops look more or less the same, don't they?

   Bubbye, Terengganu! We enjoyed visiting you!

   [If you don't mind, I'd like to make a Part 2 for my convocation report! Hehe...]

   p.s. Little Brother managed to finish the whole cake I left for him in three days. All by himself! Well, there was one, tiny slice left, but still...