Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Tiramisu Cake

tiramisu cake
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! This year, my Christmas was pretty quiet as my family ditched me for a holiday in Taiwan, whilst I spent three days alone at home revising and eating instant ramen for my Christmas dinner. The most enjoyable thing I did was probably going to my dear dear dear friend, YTH's birthday party.

tiramisu cakeYTH is one of my high/secondary school friends, but over these 6-7 years, I think we've become pretty close friends. (YTH: I hope you agree!) She's one of those people that will know what I am thinking of on one moment of eye contact, and we usually share the same views and thoughts on the many things we discuss. She's also the first one I always consult when I have a problem, and she's always there to listen when I come across baking disasters. She also loves to write - take a look at her blog, and she'll take you through the torturous IB journey we're on right now, but not without hints of humour and sarcasm that always make me smile when I read.

Of course, I wouldn't even dream of showing up without a birthday cake. Since most of us are pretty sleep deprived and rely heavily on caffeine, I thought I'd might as well include it in the cake. Originally I wanted to make an Espresso Fudge Cake (since YTH always gets a Mocha whenever we're at Starbucks or PCC), but I didn't have much time on my hands, so I settled on making a simpler - but equally caffeine loaded - Tiramisu Cake.

tiramisu cakeThis time the production of the cake went quite well, as only two main components were needed to be made - the yellow cake layer, and the filling/frosting mascarpone cream. I found the yellow cake to be a little dense and dry, and I think by soaking it with more espresso-rum syrup it will give a texture that is more similar than the classic Tiramisu.

tiramisu cakeAs for the filling and frosting, I can only say that I should have doubled the amount, because it is the best part of the cake! A smooth and creamy mascarpone concoction that is lightened with whipped cream and spiked with kahlua and espresso, I found it hard to restrain myself from eating it by the spoonful! Assembled along with the soaked cake layers and some finely chopped dark chocolate, the cake did resemble the flavour and texture of Tiramisu.

I really do like the idea of Tiramisu in the form of a cake, but next time I think I'll just go back to using lady fingers, but assemble the dessert inside a cake ring.

tiramisu cakeAlthough the cake itself tasted pretty good overall, the thing I'm most proud of is the decoration. Try looking at the first photo upside down - the design looks the same, because it's an ambigram! The idea was inspired by an ambigram that YTH drew a long time ago....Did I mention that she's an amazing calligrapher? The neatness of her handwriting is pretty scary, our Physics teacher once said that he thought it was typed!

The decoration was made by using a paper stencil. First I printed off an ambigram (from an ambigram generator that found using Google) and carefully cut out the text. Then I simply placed it onto the cake, and sieved over copious amounts of cocoa powder. Then comes to difficult bit - removing the paper stencil without spilling cocoa powder over the design. I found that the best way to do this is to use a pair of thin wire 'pliers' (pardon my English, I don't know what's the exact name of the tool), pinch one end of the stencil, and remove it quickly and swiftly in one direction so the cocoa spills on the 'dark' bit of the design, and not onto the 'light' bits.

tiramisu cake
This way of decorating probably works best for simple designs and shapes - hearts, stars smiley faces, or a single alphabet letter and numbers.

Or, you can make this cake for your New Year parties, and use a design saying '2010' for the decoration! And speaking of 2010, this will be the last post of 2009 - so I'll see you all again in 2010, and cheers to a better, happier and more fruitful year with more baking for everyone!

tiramisu cakeTiramisu Cake
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the cake layers:
2 cups (250g) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons, 142g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200g) sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180g) buttermilk

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup (66g) sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (I used rum)

For the filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce (224g) container mascarpone
1/2 cup (60g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (I used Kahlua)
1 cup(238g) cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces (70g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

To make the extract:
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:
Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:
Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Last Minute Christmas Cookies

Actually this post is a little late - I was meant to publish this before I went Christmas carolling, but I couldn't upload my photos and I was running late, so here I am posting this on the early minutes of Christmas Day! But any rate, enjoy these cookies :)

Following on to my previous post - Yes, I did have time to cram in a few more cookie baking sessions! Since we only have a day or so left until Christmas, I thought I'd summarise the three other cookies I baked for this year's holidays in one, short post.

I think any of these recipes would be perfect as a last minute addition to your cookie can, or to be packed as gifts (I baked the latter two recipes in one morning and they are set to be given off tonight), or just to be bookmarked and made another time next year!

World Peace Cookies

Man, who hasn't heard of these before? A rich, crumbly cookie loaded with dark chocolate bits, everyone is bound to like them. The dough can be stored in the freezer, and baked straight from their frozen state after slicing, so you can enjoy fresh cookies anytime your heart desires this holiday! The recipe can be found on Smitten Kitchen.

Lemon Cranberry Shortbreads

Recently I've learned to like dried cranberries, after eating a bun from a local bakery that had cranberries with linseeds. Anyway, I knew I had to bake these the moment I saw the recipe - I mean, a citrusy, fragrant lemony shortbread - one of my favourite flavours, since it balances the richness of the butter - is bound to appeal, and with my latest favourite food - dried cranberries added? It went straight onto my holiday cookies list. The original recipe asks for the dough to be pressed into a pan, baked and then sliced into bars. I didn't have such a big pan (even if I did it wouldn't fit into my puny oven anyway), so I chilled the dough, rolled it out and cut them into hearts instead.

Chocolate Shortbread Men

This can be said as my substitute for gingerbread men, since I really haven't
acquainted a taste for the spiced cookie yet. The shortbread recipe used to make these men have been tried out by me for a billion times - it is definitely fool proof. Only involving four basic ingredients, the dough is very versatile indeed and tastes wonderful. I've included the original recipe below and some of the variations I've tried before.

And lastly, a warm Merry Christmas to you all! Whilst I may be hiding behind my books and revising for my mock exams this holiday, I hope everyone of you will enjoy the holiday with your loved ones!

Lemon Cranberry Shortbreads
Adapted from dandysugar

3 lemons
cup (1 1/2 sticks) (170g) butter, at room temperature
cup (50g) granulated sugar
cup (60g) confectioners’ sugar
cups (250g) all-purpose flour
cups (60g) dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 300° F (150 C). Line a baking tray with baking paper, set aside.
2. Grate all the zest from the lemons and combine with the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Rub the two together until sugar is moist and fragrant.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add flour and mix on low speed until a crumbly dough appears. Add the cranberries and use your hands to form a soft dough. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour
4. Roll out the dough tp around 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thickness. Cut out shapes, transfer onto the lined tray and bake for 10-12 mintues until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before packing.

Basic Shortbread Recipe

Adapted from BBC Good Food

325g plain flour
200g chilled salted butter
125g/4½oz golden caster sugar
2 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
2 large free range egg yolks

1.Tip the flour into a food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces and drop them into the bowl, then whizz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks and whizz to a small dough. Chill the dough for an hour.
For those like me who don't have a food processor:
Put the flour into a large bowl, and cut butter into 1cm cubes. Rub the butter into the flour until incorporated and the mix looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks and use your hands to press everything into a dough. If it is too dry, add a couple drops of water. Chill the dough for an hour (or shape into a log beforehand for slice/bake cookies).
2. Preheat oven to 180 C. Roll out the dough and cut out shapes or slice the dough, arrange on lined cookie sheets. Bake for 15-20minutes until golden brown.

Chocolate: Replace 2tbsp of the flour with cocoa powder. Decorate cookies with chocolate chips if desired.
Lemon: Grate in the zest of one lemon into the sugar and rub until moist and fragrant before combining with everything else. Omit the vanilla.
Coffee: Add in 1-2 tsp espresso powder to the dough along with the sugar.
Pinwheel Cookies

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Christmas Stained Glass Cookies

Every year at Christmas, I try to bake or make something special for my friends. The last few days of school before the holidays just seems incomplete without giving out my edible presents to everyone - it's equally important as singing in the Carol Concert, writing Christmas cards and adorning ourselves in Christmas colours! Last year I made Kahlua and plain chocolate truffles, and the year before were iced shortbread cookies. Because I'm school life is still pretty hectic now, I thought I'd stick to simple cookies that everyone would be sure to like.

First up are Stained Glass Cookies, the classical combination of shortbread with a clear pane of coloured sugar that lets whatever light shine through. I vividly remember seeing these cookies in a cookbook way back at my primary school library, and wondering how on earth do you make cookies with a translucent red, yellow or green centres. Back then, hammering fruit candies in a plastic seemed very daunting to the 10-year old me, which is probably why I haven't attempted these Christmas cookies until now.

I must admit that making these cookies were very fiddly indeed - the clumsy me just had to let something slip along the way, so I had candy shards falling onto the floor (well at least it wasn't the hammer falling onto my toes) and fingers accidentally touching hot trays from the oven. Sometimes I messed up the smaller cookie cutout and had to scrap that and start rolling again. The cookies are removed from the oven halfway through the baking time to put the candy in the space (this avoids the colours being discoloured and too many bubbles forming), and pushed into every nook and cranny using a toothpick.

But the end product was worth all the effort. Even though my cookies were not as pretty as the ones I saw in that cookbook, and the colours were not as vivid as I envisioned it to be (maybe because the Fox fruit candies I used were light in colour), I was thankful that they actually looked like a cookie with a window of glass in the middle. I couldn't help but grin with satisfaction as saw the beautiful cookies as I pulled out each batch.

To be honest, I took a bit of risk in making these cookies as the purist within me kept on saying that the buttery and crumbly cookie would clash with the fruity flavours of the candy, but my taste buds and my everyone that tasted it confirmed that it did not. The flavours melded together well and was a delight to eat up those stars, angels and hearts.

I also had fun in tricking some of my friends when they asked 'Oh my goodness, how did you transparent thing in the middle? It's so pretty!!', and I informed them that it was glass - and some believed! Of course, I assured them that it was just candy, or else no-one would have dared to try them!

And on the last note, I'd like to thank the readers who commented on my last post - it did give me a lot of encouragement to blog regularly (fingers crossed) again - I really appreciate it! Here's a virtual cookie for you, you and you for reading My Buttery Fingers :)

Stained Glass Cookies
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Makes 20-40 cookies, depending on size (I got 44 cookies)

1/2 cup (1 stick. 114g) butter
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 cup (36g) brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup (Original recipe called for molasses - I don't have or know what it is, would anybody like to enlighten me?)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups (250g) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
30-40 hard candies, preferably in several flavors/colors (I used Fox fruit candies)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract, mixing until incorporated. Add egg and mix until light and smooth, about 1 minute on medium speed.
3. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Fold dry ingredients into wet mixture. Use electric mixer to blend just until flour is incorporated. Divide dough in half and flatten into two disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour and up to 2 days.
4. Remove any wrappers on candies and separate them by color into plastic bags (Place a towel in between to avoid bag tearing). Using a mallet to crush candies (they don't need to be all powdered - slightly larger shards will still melt fine).
5. Place one disk onto a floured surface (Elise suggests rolling in between waxed paper, which is of course less messy -but I stick to rolling on a floured surface to save paper) and roll to 1/4-inch (0.5cm) thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut dough into desired shapes.
6. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Using a smaller cookie cutter or a knife, cut shapes into centers of cookies, reserving these center bits to add into extra dough. If cookies will be hung as ornaments or decorations, poke a small hole in the top of each cookie before baking
7. Bake for 4 minutes and remove from oven. Use a spoon to sprinkle the crushed candy into the hollowed-out centers of the cookies, using a toothpick to fill up to the edges. Carefully remove candy that has landed onto the cookie to avoid colouring of the dough.
8. Bake for 5-6 minutes more. The candy should be melted and bubbling and the cookies just barely beginning to brown. Remove baking sheets from oven and place on wire racks to cool. Allow cookies to cool on pans at least 10 minutes; otherwise, the candy centers may separate from the dough. When cookies are completely cooled, remove and store in an airtight container. String with ribbon if you want to hang as an ornament.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Cookie-topped Cream Puffs (and a little rant)

I feel guilty. I feel ashamed. I feel uncommitted to my blog, because it's been more than a month since I've opened up this post editor and written something. After watching 'Julie & Julia' two weeks ago (yes, it finally is screening in Hong Kong! And Meryl Streep is awesome), it reminded me that I was a food blogger too. Not that I totally forgot the fact that I had a blog, but I felt that I had neglected it. And I felt real bad.

Baking was meant to be a passion. It is still, but sometimes I simply do not have any time or energy left after school work. But trust me, after spending hours and hours working on an Extended Essay in the library, and trooping back home heaving a boulder-weighing school bag, the welcoming hot shower and cozy bed is way more attractive than say, the butter in the fridge. Which is why I've completely abstained from baking, and blogging, for so long.


Alright, enough ranting. I feel so much happier after I've vented out my frustration, and I'm sure you all understand! Thank you for the patience in reading the un-baking-related words above :)

Back to this post's main intention, which is to present some delectable cream puffs I made, the moment I threw down my school bag after EE deadline day. My first attempt at choux pastry was nearly half a year ago. The cream puffs from that attempt were good, but real ugly in appearance! Quoting myself from that time - "can't wait to recreate a cream puff that tastes as good as, or better, than the ones from beard papa!", I was indeed determined to get the hang of making a neat cream puff.

And I sort of succeeded! On this second attempt, I chose to make Cookie-topped Cream Puffs, a replication of the same flavour they sell at Beard Papa. It's a classic choux pastry shell, filled with vanilla pastry cream and a cookie topping.

My rendition turned out to be pretty identical to the store bought ones, as all my friends from fellowship (where I bought them to) were squealing "Oh!! They taste just like the ones from Beard Papa!!". Which is when I decided to grab one myself before the were all gone and bit into it. The choux shell's flavour was enhanced with the chocolatey cookies sablee-like crumbs on top and the rich, vanilla bean-speckled pastry cream helped meld the whole thing together perfectly.

So if you, like me, have a special affinity for cream puffs, please do try this twist on it! I'm sure you'll love it these scrumptious little sweets!

Cookie-topped Cream Puffs
Adapted from Chou Cream No Hon by Junko Iida (Original recipe in Chinese)

For the choux pastry
30g cake flour, sifted
30g bread flour, sifted (If you don't have cake and bread flours, I'd suggest just using 60g all-purpose)
40g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
100ml water
5g sugar
1g salt
2 eggs (around 100g)

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
2. Place water, butter, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and heat over medium flame until butter is all melted and water is at a rolling boil.
3. Remove from heat, and add in the flours in one go. Mix together with a heatproof spatula until a dough forms.
4. Back on the heat, stir the dough continously until a thin layer of dough coats the base of the pan.
5. Transfer dough into a large metal bowl. Slowly add in the egg whilst mixing with a spatula until the egg is absorbed and formes a soft dough. An indicator is the formation of a 'triangle' when you lift the dough up using a spatula. Set aside the left over egg if not all of it was added.
6. Using a piping bag with a 1-cm tip (I just snipped off the end of a plastic bag), pipe around 10 mounds of dough, each around 4cm in diameter.
7. Brush over the left over egg, and with a wet finger, lightly press down any peaks on the dough.
8. Bake at 200 C for 30 minutes until golden brown.

For the chocolate cookie topping
20g cake flour
5g cocoa powder
25g unsalted butter, softened
25g sugar

1. In a small bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Fold on the flour and cocoa powder.
3. Press together the dough, and shape it into a log with 2-cm diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
4. Slice into 10 portions (or enough slices for the number of puffs you got using the recipe above). Place them on each mound of dough, and bake as per instructions above.

For the pastry cream
1/2 vanilla pod
250ml milk
40g sugar
3 egg yolks
25g cake flour
20g unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
2. Place the vanilla seens and pod into the milk in a small saucepan, along with half the sugar. Heat until the mill is just about to boil.
3. Whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a large bowl. Sift in the cake flour and whisk until well incorporated.
4. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk. Add the milk into the egg yolks in portions, stirring well after each addition.
5. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens into the consistency of thick cream and bubbles start to form.
6. Remove from heat and beat in the butter chunks.
7. Let cool completely before chilling and filling the cream puffs.

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