Profiterole Topped Black Sesame Mousse Cake

Black Sesame Mousse Cake with Matcha Cream Profiteroles

Black Sesame Mousse Cake with Matcha Cream Profiteroles

The month of November is a busy one. Full of birthday celebrations for both my friends and family so plenty of reasons to bake, and eat, lots of birthday cake!

This cake was for my cousin who can EAT! It is her 25th birthday and she loves black sesame as much as me. I’ve been thinking of new ways of incorporating the delicious taste of black sesame into other desserts after successfully trying out the Green Tea and Black Sesame Swiss Roll. Trawling the internet I was able to find a few recipes, and settled for this recipe for Black Sesame Yoghurt Mousse Cake as the photos looked particularly inviting.

I have mentioned in previous posts that ‘Chinese’ style cakes tend to have very light sponge and a less sugar than typical British cakes. Before we started making our own birthday cakes my family would often go to the Chinese bakery in China Town and buy one of the cream and fresh fruit cakes. They are deliciously light and always look amazing!

25th Birthday Cake with my name miss-spelt!

Birthday Cake with my name miss-spelt!

 

I think my 25th birthday was the last time I got a shop bought cake, since then my mum has been making them every year instead. I’m not sure if I noticed this at the time, but the baker spelt my name using the wrong Chinese character! As you can see, lots of cream and decorated with fresh fruit.

When baking this Black Sesame Yoghurt Mousse Cake I wasn’t too keen on the idea of yoghurt so decided to use mascarpone cheese instead. This meant that the filling would be similar to that of a no-bake cheesecake, which was I found a little confusing as this wouldn’t really give the light airy mousse texture that you would expect from a ‘mousse cake’. So I had a quick look for other recipes and found this Green Tea Mousse Cake recipe which looked a lot closer to what I’m wanting to achieve. However the filling is made from raw egg yolks (as expected for a mousse) and with my sister currently pregnant with my future niece, this was a no go area!

So I settled for using the cake batter recipe in the Green Tea Mousse Cake (substituting the green tea powder for black sesame powder) and the cream filling recipe from the Black Sesame Mousse Cake recipe (substituting the yoghurt for mascarpone) . However this was only the beginning of many challenges!

So I figured that I had plenty of time to bake this cake on Sunday afternoon, so I wandered down to the supermarket after a leisurely breakfast (of more emergency breakfast muffins) and bought all the ingredients for this cake. I bought extra cream and mascarpone thinking that I could make a cheesecake later on in the week.

When I got home I started baking the cake. I have used an extra large cake tin, so needed to bake another cake in order to get two layers. No surprises there…

Then I started making the cream filling… this is where things went very wrong! I’m not very experienced in using gelatine in baking and this was a major hurdle to overcome for this recipe.  The first attempt at adding the cooked gelatine to the cream and mascarpone mixture it seized, solidifying and creating jellied lumps throughout the mix! DISASTER! All the filling had to be thrown into the bin. I absolutely loathe wasting food, so this was not good for my baking stress levels!

By this time it was 4pm and being a Sunday the supermarkets were closing so I couldn’t go and pick up any more ingredients. Luckily I had bought enough extra to carry on with the recipe and attempt it one more time but not enough gelatine powder left. After making a strong cup of tea and stepping away from the kitchen for half an hour to de-stress, I made a desperate phone call to my mum. She makes amazing cheesecake that contains gelatine, so advised me where I’d gone wrong (not allowing the gelatine mix to cool down enough first). I decided to go ahead with what I had left and hope for the best…

Thankfully the second time all went well, that is until I realised that I’d used up all my Black Sesame Powder! I managed to find a packet of whole black sesame seeds and ground them up in the spice mill into a powder but the results weren’t as fine as I needed it to be.

Experimenting with Designs using Black Sesame Powder

Experimenting with Designs using Black Sesame Powder

For the profiteroles on top:

I’ve made profiteroles on several occasions before so there were no major issues there. Expect that it’s been a long time since I made them and I had forgotten how much they poof up during the bake, so ended up with HUGE profiteroles that could have passed off as Choux buns! So again, I made a second batch…

Large and Small Profiteroles

Large and Small Profiteroles

I was planning on filling these profiteroles with the black sesame custard cream from the green tea and black sesame swiss roll recipe, but having run out of black sesame powder I opted for a contrasting flavour by using green tea (matcha) powder instead! Green tea and black sesame seem to be a very common and pairing, so the flavours should go perfectly well together. To make my life easier, I have just used whipped cream flavoured with a little sugar and matcha powder.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t work with gelatine! But if you need to, then follow packet instructions without defaulting in any way!
  2. Make sure you stock up on double, no triple, the amount of ingredients needs in case of baking disasters.
  3. Do not bake profiteroles when you are also baking ciabatta bread. This results in ALL the plain flour being used up…
  4. You can make profiteroles with bread flour too! Yay!
  5. Don’t try a recipe out for the first time for someone’s birthday cake. Practice it first or go for a tried and tested recipe. This will save you from another 8 hour baking marathon…
Black Sesame Mousse Cake with Profiteroles

Black Sesame Mousse Cake with Matcha Cream Profiteroles

Judging by the empty plates and the small left over piece of cake, I think all that hard work was worth it in the end! The sponge was light and soft. The cream was not too sweet and the black sesame taste was not too strong. I’ll definitely make this cake again, but maybe once I’ve forgotten the initial drama of the first time round!

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Ciabatta: Learning how to work with sour dough

Ciabatta: Second attempt

Ciabatta: Third attempt

Bread is a staple food in our household. We go through mountains of store bought wholemeal pita bread because its is tasty and easy to throw in the toaster straight from the freezer! Pita is great for scooping up whichever curry or stew has been made for a mid-week dinner. One day I want to try and make my own pita bread…

After a recent trip to abroad, my partner came home asking me to make some ciabatta as he had really enjoyed the bread whilst away. I’ve never tried to make a sour dough bread before. It’s always seemed a big challenge as the ‘starter’ takes at least 7 to 10 days to get going before it can be used. A few years ago I went on a bread making workshop for beginners and learnt about the science behind the craft. Sour dough breads were mentioned and some of the more experienced students were sharing stories about ‘feeding’ their starter. It was all a bit scary sounding so I put it to the back of my baking mind.

When looking up ciabatta recipes, I found that it was made with a similar ‘starter’ called ‘biga’ that only needed to be made the night before so using this recipe I set about on this new challenge! While researching ciabatta recipes I also found out that the meaning in Italian is ‘slipper bread’ because it looks like an old man’s slipper!

Ciabbatta: one with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs

Ciabatta: one with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs

Ciabatta

Ciabatta

When making these loaves the dough was so wet that it wouldn’t hold a shape so I resorted to using cake loaf tins to bake them in, hence the different shapes and sizes! I added some sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs to add flavour to one loaf, which proved worthwhile as the flavour was delicious!

During my second attempt at this recipe I managed to get the consistency of the dough much better as they could be baked ‘free form’, however I’ve forgotten to take pictures!

For my third attempt at ciabatta, I found that the taste and the bread didn’t have the characteristic big holes in the middle as in previous attempts. This may be because I used a different recipe or it could be because it’s freezing cold in Manchester these days, and may too cold for the biga so it may have just been dormant overnight. The depth of flavour wasn’t there and though the dough was very bubbly when proving. Next time I want to try and make it from whole meal flour!

Compared to standard home made bread (baked in a bread machine) the taste of ciabatta is far superior. However remembering to do the ‘biga’ the night before is still a challenge for me so this will have to be a weekend bread to make when I have more time and don’t have a 6am start!

Ciabatta: Second attempt

Ciabatta: Third attempt

 

Previous baking adventures: cakes, tarts, cookies and muffins etc.

Cookie monster cupcakes

Cookie monster cupcakes

Compared to some experienced bloggers, I am still fairly new to the food blogging world. However my love of baking and taking photos of the results started long ago! I usually take pictures of my cakes and bakes with my camera phone then post pictures on Facebook (hence the poor quality of my photos!). I was looking through all these photos and found things I had long forgotten I’d baked!

I’ve decided to collate the ones I could find pictures of, some have turned out well and some not so well but it shows a range of what I like to bake.

I went through a phase of making cupcakes for a while, so they feature heavily and my attempts at macarons have been a little questionable. Some bakers like to use the same recipes over and over again, perfecting it to their tastes. I’m not one of these bakers! I like to go by cooking books and flick through the lovely pictures then I get my recipes on line where people have commented on how to improve recipes.

These bakes have been for a variety of events spanning around 5 years! Usually for birthdays, as gifts, for charity fundraisers or afternoon tea parties. Each picture brings back memories of the occasion it was baked for and I can even remember what they tasted like!

Maybe one day I will find the time to collate all these recipes into my own personal cook book so that I can go back to them when needed, as often I can’t find the recipes again!

Fig and frangipane tart

Fig and frangipane tarts: using up left over figs

Almond Slices

Almond Slices: dessert for family meal

Raspberry macarons

Raspberry macarons: These won me first prize in a charity’bake off’!

Ice cream cone cupcakes

Ice cream cone cupcakes: office party

Chocolate macarons with passionfruit cream

Chocolate macarons with passion fruit cream: made for a friend’s Christmas gift

Elderflower meringue santa hats

Elderflower meringue Santa hats: part of a ‘secret Santa’ gift for a colleague

Ghostly meringue cupcakes

Ghostly meringue cupcakes: Halloween themed office party

Black Forest Cupcakes

Black Forest Cupcakes: gift when visiting a friend

Baileys chocoloate cupcakes and scones

Baileys chocoloate cupcakes and scones: part of an afternoon tea party I hosted

Eton Mess

Eton Mess: these gorgeous espresso cups were a gift for my 30th Birthday

Cardamom and hazelnut cookies

Cardamom and hazelnut cookies: afternoon tea party

Macarons with chocolate ganache and mini cupcakes with fresh raspberry

Macarons with chocolate ganache and mini cupcakes with fresh raspberry: another afternoon tea party!

Ugandan coffee and ground nut cupcakes

Ugandan coffee and ground nut cupcakes: raising funds for a friend’s charity building schools in Uganda

Cookie monster cupcakes: My nephew’s 1st Birthday party
Mini cupcakes: Coconut, Hazlenut, Blueberry

Mini cupcakes: Coconut, Hazelnut, Blueberry: experimenting for as part of a Wedding afternoon tea buffet

Melting moments: shortbread with butter cream and jam filling

Melting moments: shortbread with butter cream and jam filling: trying out two toned piping on cookies for a staff meeting

Shortbread cookies filled with jam and butter cream

Shortbread cookies filled with jam and butter cream: treats for the family

Chocolate Roulade

Chocolate Roulade: Dessert for a family meal

Nutella cupcakes with raspberry

Nutella cupcakes with raspberry: treats for colleagues

Hazelnut cupcakes with nutella frosting

Hazelnut cupcakes with nutella frosting: treats for family

Carrot and Walnut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Lemon cupcake

Carrot and Walnut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Lemon cupcake: Charity bake sale

Spinach and Cheese muffins

Spinach and Cheese muffins: Friend’s afternoon tea party

American style buttermilk and mixed berries muffins

American style buttermilk and mixed berries muffins: experimenting with buttermilk

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

Chewy chocolate chip cookies: Trying to make ‘Millies style’ cookies

Gluten Free: Pear, Caramel, and Cardamom Upside Down Cake

Pear, caramel and cardamom cake

Pear, Caramel and Cardamom Upside Down Cake

Pear, Caramel and Cardamom cake

It’s coming to the end of the pear season in England. I love pears but only when they are firm and crunchy. Looking over at the fruit bowl brimming with over ripening Conference pears I was trying to think of something simple to do with them. I found this recipe for a French Pear, Almond and Cardamom Cake that sounded delicious! I like the use of cardamom in desserts as it adds a nice background note to often very sweet South Asian and Middle Eastern desserts. I also like the use of almond flour in this recipe as I am trying to cut down on eating refined wheat flour but without cutting down on the amount of cake I can eat! 🙂

I have used a recipe for coconut caramel in a Coconut Caramel Slice recipe and have used this caramel recipe for several recipes since. The left overs from the last batch of caramel slices was in the freezer ready for another use so I decided to use it in this pear cake too.

I also found that the cake batter from the original recipe was not enough as I was using a round loose bottom cake tin rather than a small loaf pan so I have increased some of the ingredients to compensate. This is the recipe I’ve used:

Ingredients

  • 200g of ground almonds
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 100g of butter
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • about 10 pods of cardamom (ground)
  • 3 medium free range eggs

Instructions:

  • slice up pears and layer onto the bottom of cake tin
  • pour over the caramel sauce
  • cream butter and sugar, add ground cardamom and eggs then mix before adding ground almonds and mix well
  • pour cake batter on top of pears and caramel and spread evenly
  • Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes
  • Allow to cool slightly in the tin then upturn onto a dish so it is the right way up
  • Serve with cream/ice cream/custard

I’m fairly happy with the results. The cake was very moist and rich and the individual flavours really held their own! I think next time I’ll put the pears on top of the caramel so they look more caramelised. The cardamom flavour was a lovely addition, if anything I would add more cardamom and reduce the sugar in the cake batter to compensate for the sweet caramel sauce! Yum!

Pear, Caramel and Cardamom cake

Pear, Caramel and Cardamom cake

Mum's Chinese Chicken and Potato Stew

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

This dish makes a regular appearance at the dinner table when I’m eating at my parent’s house. My mum taught me to cook it when I was a student so I could cook traditional Chinese foods instead of eating ready made microwave meals every day. It’s such a simple dish to make that I actually stuck to it and would make a big pot that would last a few meals. I don’t have the recipe written down anywhere, just have it stored in my head. I have tried to look for it online but only found versions of the same recipe, so I guess it is the kind of family dish that is slightly different depending on which part of the world you are in!

This Chinese Chicken and Potato Stew recipe is close to my mum’s recipe, but with a vital missing ingredient: fermented tofu. This is may be an unfamiliar ingredient to people who don’t usually cook this kind of Chinese food, so here’s the Wikipedia explanation. I have to admit that I had no idea how fermented tofu was actually made until I read this, so I have learned something new today! The fermented tofu gives the dish a unique flavour, it’s hard to describe… it is somehow more ‘savoury’ in taste. Sorry that’s the best I can do! For this dish I used the red variety and this resulted in a deeper colour. 

I don’t usually post recipes but since I can’t find an exact version of my mum’s then here goes:

Chicken and Potato Stew

  • 1 pack of chicken drumsticks and thighs (chopped into small pieces)
  • 4 medium sized potatoes (cut into quarters)
  • 2 cubes Fermented tofu (white or red will do)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (squashed with the side of the knife)
  • 1 tbls Oyster sauce
  • splash of both light and dark soy sauce
  • sprinkle of sugar (to balance the flavours)
  • sesame oil (a few drops to taste)

How to cook:

  1. Brown off the chicken pieces with the garlic
  2. Add all other ingredients aside from the potatoes and stir it up so the chicken is evenly coated
  3. Add potatoes and stir stir again
  4. Put a lid on then cook on a low heat until the chicken is done. Stir it up every ten minutes and add water if it looks too dry.

As I said, it’s an easy dish to prepare. The cooking time will depend on the size of your potatoes and chicken pieces, this time it took me around 25 minutes. 

Garnish with chopped up green onions to make it look pretty and add a different texture. Serve with plain steamed rice and balance with a fairly bland green vegetable dish, this chicken is very rich in flavour. You may think that serving potatoes with rice is a little strange but that’s how I had it growing up and it tastes delicious!

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

 Variations to this dish could include using pork belly instead of chicken or use deep fried beancurd/tofu for the protein to make it vegetarian! (Substituting the oyster mushrooms for vegetarian stir fry sauce)

Adding shitake mushrooms or wood ear mushrooms, carrots or radishes such as daiykon are also tasty alternatives!

 

Coconut Cake

Birthdays are the perfect excuse to eat cake, forget about the presents! As long as cake is part of the (usually week long) celebrations then I’m happy.

Growing up in a household where both parents worked in the restaurant business, there was little time for baking birthday cakes. Our staple birthday cake was a ‘Sara Lee’ frozen Black Forest Gateaux or the Strawberry version, depending on which was your favourite!

To this day my favourite cake is Black Forest Cake. It brings back those feelings of joy and happiness from childhood innocence when your birthday was that day you got your favourite foods and all the family gathered to celebrate together . Now that my mum has more time on her hands, she loves to bake. For my birthday each year, she’ll ask what cake I want. And most of the time it’s the same as it’s always been!

 

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake

This week it was my foodie cousin’s birthday. We planned a couple of nights out and I offered to bake the cake. This cousin is obsessed with anything coconut. Be it in a cake, a drink, coconut macaroons… So I did a quick search for recipes and found this Coconut Cake recipe.

This recipe uses coconut in four ways; toasted dessicated coconut, coconut syrup, and a coconut custard that flavours the cream filling and butter cream topping. So I wasn’t too worried about the flavours not coming through! However I was terribly confused by the measurements as it’s an American recipe and I struggled to convert the ingredients accurately. There were quite a few parts of the recipe that required some advanced preparation too so its not a cake you can just whip up in a couple of hours, but it’ll be worth it in the end!

Last Slice of Cake

Last Slice of Cake

In the end the cake was HUGE! But was well received by all. Second helpings were had and the cake was distributed across three households. All in all, another successful birthday week!

Braised Chinese Chestnut Chicken

Wintery Chinese Stew: Braised chicken with chestnuts and shitake mushrooms

Traditional home cooked Chinese food is quite different to what your local Chinese take away or restaurant in the UK usually offers. Dinners at home are served ‘family style’ where there are several dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to pick at. There is usually one fish, one meat and a vegetable dish, all served with steamed jasmine rice. Though this can vary depending on the numbers of people eating and how much time you have to cook.

Braised chicken with chestnuts, and variations of it, is a family favourite. I’ve made it a couple of times for British friends as a way of introducing traditional Chinese home cooking and it’s always been well received! As it is a heavy dish full of strong flavours, it’s best to serve with simple greens and some kind of steamed fish. However since I cooked it for just two people at lunch, we just had it with plain steamed rice.

I took this recipe from the Every Grain of Rice cook book and rediscovered how much of a pleasure it is to cook from a book! No need to keep running over to my laptop to check ingredients or turning the screen saver off my phone when I’ve forgotten the next step…

I adapted the recipe slightly as I had no spring onions so used leeks instead. I used chicken leg quarters chopped up, and deep fried leeks in a little corn flour to add a final crispy finishing touch for texture and appearance sake.

I would recommend this Every Grain of Rice cook book to anyone who wants to learn some basic Chinese family recipes!

Fun With Bread: Stuffed rabbits and garlic dough balls

 

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

It is a well known fact that we eat with our eyes first. Food should look appealing as well as taste good, but it is also important to get the balance right.

I regularly go to my sister’s house at weekends for dinner. She’s a mum and works full time so I try and bring something along to ease the burden a little. This weekend she made a very complicated but delicious fish lasagne recipe, from one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. I offered to make the garlic dough balls to go on the side.

The weather in the UK has turned for the worse. It’s rainy, windy and generally pretty miserable out. This has had a pretty drastic effect on my bread making. Having decided to make the dough by hand, it just wasn’t rising during the proving as the kitchen was too cold. As a last resort I had to stick it into a warm oven which helped a little but I think it was a little too late as the dough still refused to rise much.

 

 

Garlic Dough Balls with Parmesan Cheese

Garlic Dough Balls with Parmesan Cheese

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

To make the dough balls taste a little more exciting, I made half the dough into dinner rolls but stuffed them with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Looking a little uninteresting, I decided to snip in a couple of ears of poke in a couple of eyes to make them into cute little rabbits.

Now you would think that my two and a half year old nephew would love these little rabbits, since he’s completely obsessed with animals! However he seemed pretty indifferent and slightly bemused. He was however much more interested in the garlic dough balls, ploughing through the bowl one by one.

It may be true that you eat with your eyes but at the end of the day its the taste that really counts. Since the ‘rabbits’ could easily have been ‘cats’ or ‘mice’, I think I only passed the taste test on this one!