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It has been a while since I baked and assembled a nice-looking cake from scratch. It was my mom’s birthday last Friday, birthdays = cakes. I originally thought of just making some kind of dessert but a cake is just much more celebratory. I wanted to make a fresh mango cake but mangoes were not in season (too bad). Strawberry it is. I didn’t really follow a specific recipe for the whole cake except for the basic sponge cake. I used a Génoise cake recipe, the ingredients are very simple but it is not the simplest cake to make. It is basically just eggs, sugar, flour, butter and a little vanilla extract. The layers consist of whipped cream, my own homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and a honey syrup. I used chopped pistachios as a garnish on top and sides – makes a very good contrast of colours with the strawberries!
Génoise Sponge Cake (7″ cake):
- 3 Large Eggs (approx. 55 grams each)
- 100 grams Granulated Sugar
- 100 grams Cake Flour (soft wheat flour) – sift
- 50 grams Melted Butter
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 450 mL Whipping Cream
- 3 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
- Approx. 6 Large Strawberries – wash, dry, hull and cut into halves + more for garnish
- 2 tbsp. Honey + ¼ cup Hot Water – mixed together (honey syrup)
- ¼ cup Strawberry Jam + 1 tbsp. Hot Water – mixed together (I used homemade – definitely made a difference in taste)
Génoise Sponge Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a 7″ cake pan – line only the bottom with parchment paper.
- Sift flour and melt butter.
- Break eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk with sugar. Set eggs over a water bath (simmering, NOT boiling) until the the eggs reach about body temperature, stirring occasionally – avoid cooking eggs so be careful not to have the heat too high.
- Mix with an electric mixer or on a stand mixer on high speed until increases in volume and becomes a creamy colour. *Important*: continue beating eggs on medium speed until eggs reach a “ribbon” stage (testing with a whisk, draw the mixture up, away from the bowl and allow it to flow back to the mixing bowl, if it looks like you can almost write letters in the mixture without it being too runny then it has reached the “ribbon” stage). It is difficult to describe in words so I might consider documenting the whole process in another post. 🙂
- Add in sifted flour and FOLD in flour with a rubber spatula until just mixed in. (try to do this in a fast motion and DO NOT over-mix)
- When flour is all mixed in, add butter + vanilla and FOLD until well mixed (DO NOT over-mix).
- Pour batter into cake pan and tap the pan the counter to remove any big air bubbles, bake right away in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Try not to open the oven door during the baking process. The cake is done when a knife is inserted into the centre and comes out clean.
- Cool cake, remove from pan – slide a paring knife around the pan and cake should come out easily when pan is flipped over (metal knives are not recommended for “non-stick” pans).
- Beat whipping cream with sugar until firm peaks form. Chill in fridge until ready to use.
- Cut cooled cake into three even layers. If the cake is shaped like a “dome” on top, cut off the excess to make a flat layer.
- Brush honey syrup onto the bottom two layers.
- Place strawberries on the bottom layer of cake and spread on whipped cream evenly, place second layer of cake on top.
- Spread strawberry jam on cake and top with a thin layer of whipped cream.
- Coat the top and sides with remaining whipped cream.
- Pipe cream for decoration (if desired – might require more cream). Garnish with strawberries and chopped pistachios.
- Chill until ready to serve.
It is not the best-looking cake but it is not bad. 😛 I didn’t take a picture of the cross-section, I thought that it would be nice to see it in an illustration. I didn’t sweeten the whipped cream too much because my mom is a not a big fan of overly sweet desserts. I also cut back on the cream (trying to be a tiny bit healthier). The end result was VERY yummy, the cake had a rich egg flavour and the layers had a very aromatic strawberry flavour – with fresh berries and the jam. Glad mom enjoyed it, she even had two pieces (she usually stops at one).
I can feel the heat outside the house as I am writing this post. My house is usually cool even during the summer, if I can feel heat, it is REALLY warm out. 🙂 Which is good, considering we didn’t really get much of a summer for the past month or so in Vancouver. Hot weather calls for yummy frozen treats! I was shopping at a tea shop a few weeks a ago (I am a tea lover), looking for a tea blend that would work well in my gelato. The tea expert recommended that I try their “Creamy Nut Oolong”. The tea description: “This high grade Chinese Oolong contains apple pieces, caramel bits, almond pieces, safflower, sunflower, mallow flower and natural aromas.” So I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be very delicious, the caramel flavour worked exceptionally well with the creaminess of the milk and cream in the gelato. I also used honey, its floral aroma also worked well with the floral notes in the tea blend. Ice-cream or gelato is actually very simple to make, as long as you have a good base recipe, you can flavour it with different aromas. I made small batch to try, my brother asked me why I didn’t make more. 😀
Makes 2 – 3 servings.
- 2 tsp. of “Creamy Nut Oolong” tea blend
- 1 cup Milk
- ½ cup Whipping Cream (at least 30% milk fat)
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Liquid Honey
- Place milk, cream and tea leaves in a small saucepan and heat on low heat for about 10 minutes.
*We want to steep the tea, so don’t boil the mixture.
- Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and honey until foamy and light (see image above).
- After steeping, pour the milk into the yolks and sugar mixture slowly and whisking at the same time.
*Careful not to pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture all at once, we don’t want to have scrambled eggs. Also whisk as you pour in the hot milk.
- Pour the custard through a FINE sieve, removing the tea leaves or any solid bits.
- Return the custard to the pan on LOW heat, stir with a wooden spoon as the custard heats up.
*NOTE: This step takes a bit of patience and you have to keep an eye on it because we don’t want to overcook the mixture and have solid lumps of egg yolk to affect the texture of the gelato.
- Cook until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon and draw a line with your finger to test if the custard has reached the right consistency (see image above). The custard will not be very thick but will be a creamy consistency. If you see lumps, remove the pan from heat immediately and cool mixture.
- Cool custard and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
- Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker, following its manufacturer’s instructions.
- Transfer the gelato into a seal-able container and freeze until firm.
My ice-cream maker is probably one of the simplest and inexpensive models that one can get. It consists of a moving part that has a switch to and a bowl that is to be frozen before the mixture is churned. I think freshly churned gelato actually tastes the best because its temperature is bit higher than freezer stored gelato (unlike the professional freezers in gelato shops). Its consistency is so soft and creamy. So if you are serving gelato from the freezer, you might have to “defrost” it for a short time in the fridge to get a softer texture.
I love having soups for lunch – they are light, delicious and most importantly will not put to me to sleep after the meal (especially during work :)). I used to buy canned soup for the convenience of a ready meal after 3 minutes of reheating. As I read the sodium levels on the nutrition label, I decided to make my own. I read some recipes online and came up with this as my freestyle cooking – not following a recipe. The ingredients are very simple: vegetables, chicken broth, chicken, pasta and herbs. I like the using herbs in my soup as they brighten up the flavours. I also used lemon to add a bit of refreshing flavour as well.
Makes 8 – 10 servings.
(I didn’t follow a recipe – adjust portions however you like!)
- 2 pieces of Chicken Breast
- 1 cup Dried Pasta (I used small bow ties), cooked, drained and rinsed
- 5 – 6 Celery Stalks, diced
- 2 medium-sized Carrots, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- herb bouquet – a sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme and sage,
tied together with a piece of cotton string
*If you do not like herbs, omit them.
- 2 cans of Chicken Broth (375 mL each)
- 2.5 – 3 L water
- Juice of ¼ of a lemon
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Season chicken with salt and pepper, cook, let cool and dice.
*I seared my chicken to add extra flavour but it is not necessary.
- Cook pasta in lightly salted water, drain and rinse.
- Wash vegetables and dice.
- Bring chicken broth and water to a boil with the herb bouquet, add vegetables and simmer at medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add cooked pasta and chicken, simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Fish out herb bouquet, add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
- Soup is served!
This soup is super easy to make, yummy and good for you – just requires a bit of vegetable chopping. I am ditching the canned stuff for good. 8)
Fresh local tomatoes are so delicious in the summer, it is a good time to preserve their sun ripen tomato-ey flavour for cooking. I came across some nice local tomatoes so I bought some to try canning them at home – it is my first time canning tomatoes. It is not a difficult process. All you need is tomatoes, salt, citric acid or bottled lemon juice, and water (proper canning jars too!). The following recipe was adapted from Chow Times.
For every 500 ml bottle:
- About 1 lb. (400-500 grams) fresh vine ripen tomatoes
- ¼ tsp. powdered citric acid OR 1 tbsp. bottled lemon juice
(bottled lemon juice has regulated acidity whereas the acidity of fresh lemon juice varies)
- ½ tsp. salt (if desired)
- Fresh herbs (if desired – I did not use any since it was my first time)
- Score a cross on the bottom of the tomatoes with a knife for easy skin removal.
- Boil tomatoes in hot water for about 30 seconds.
*Remove from water and place them in a cold water bath.*
- Peel skin.
- Remove the core (stem end) of the tomatoes with a paring knife.
- Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters and place into a pot and cover the bottom with water. (I used about 1 cup of water for 2 lbs of tomatoes.) Bring contents to a boil in medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Simmering them will kill the enzymes that causes the liquid and solid to separate – the process is called ‘Hot Pack’. Add salt if desired.
- Prepare jars for canning: rinse jars with warm water, sanitize and keep jars and tops in hot water (not boiling) until ready to use. Do not put hot contents in a cold jar – glass may break! Place the citric acid or lemon juice in the empty sanitized jars.
- Fill jars with prepared tomatoes, leave about ½ inch of space from the top of the rim. Use a plastic knife or utensil to remove air bubbles in the jar, add more cooking liquid if required.
- Wipe rim of the jars, place tops and screw rings (not overly tight!). Place jars into hot water with at least an inch of water above the jars and bring to a boil. Process the jars for 40 minutes (time from when boiling starts). After 40 minutes, turn off heat, wait until boiling subsides, carefully remove jars without tilting them. Check seal after 24 hours, the top of a good sealed jar shouldn’t ‘pop’ when pressed with your finger. If it ‘pops’, it means the jar is not vacuum sealed – you will need to use contents as soon as possible and store it in the refrigerator. Store properly sealed jars in a cool dark place.
I was surprised that canning tomatoes are so easy, the tomatoes I used is probably not suitable for a pasta sauce but will be good in a soup or stew. This is not canning tomato sauce – that is a different story which will require removing the seeds and milling the tomatoes. Things to be careful about is handling the hot jars and that cleanliness is key!
How can you go wrong with tomatoes and basil? After successfully making the thin and crispy sesame crackers, I wanted to further customize my recipe. I am addicted to making crackers 🙂 I wanted to try, yes, a classic combination of tomatoes and basil. So I tweaked the recipe and came up with this delicious recipe. These crackers turned out to be very rich in tomato flavour with a hint of basil. This recipe is the almost the same with the sesame crackers recipe, except for the thickness – these are thicker because I wanted the crispiness to be closer to a cracker rather than chips and secondly, the tomato bits can’t be pressed too thin – they will make holes in the crackers when the dough is being rolled out. The oven temperature also needed to be lowered otherwise the tomato will burn easily. I brought a box to work and they were popular – almost all gone in 30 minutes!
- 200 grams All Purpose Flour
- 50 grams Whole Wheat Flour (I used stoned milled)
- ½ tsp. Sea Salt + more for sprinkling tops
- 1 tsp. Baking Powder
- 2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
- 30 grams Sun Dried Tomato – finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely chopped Fresh Basil
- 25 ml. Olive Oil (good quality) + more for brushing
- In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients, including chopped basil and sun dried tomatoes.
- Add water and olive oil.
- Mix with a rubber spatula until the dough starts to form. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water.
- Turn the dough on a counter and knead until it becomes not sticky on your hands.
- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours develop in the dough.
- After resting, divide the dough into four pieces so you can work them through the pasta maker individually.
* Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Work the well-floured dough from the thickest setting and gradually to the thinner setting (I rolled these to the setting “5” with the thinnest at “9”).
* If you don’t have a pasta maker, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet.
- Cut the dough sheets so it fits on the cookie sheet, place on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Cut the dough sheets into small size crackers and bake for 15-16 minutes or until golden brown (keep an eye on them because they can burn easily). Let cool and store in an air tight container.
Tip: Avoid baking these crackers too long because excess browning will diminish the basil flavour in the crackers.
This recipe makes me not wanting to buy crackers anymore, they are so yummy and easy to make, not to mention easy on your wallet!
I have been thinking about making my own food blog for a long time, and I finally did it! Though there are only a few posts right now, I am hoping to populate it with my recipes, cooking and food related experiences! I am a blogging newbie, I see this as a learning experience for writing, taking good photos of food and a bit of designing. Please support my blog if you would like to read more! 8)