Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lavender Sponge Cake 薰衣草海綿蛋糕

"Back to the basics" is what I feel best to describe this sponge cake. As one of the most versatile cakes, it can be used as a base for many other forms of cake desserts, such as mousse cake.

I was inspired and challenged by a friend of mine who is very passionate in baking. Her persistent in doing it right set an example for me. In order to master a recipe, she sets a record of baking more than 10 cakes in a week.

Relatively speaking, I do not have much experience in making sponge cake with whole egg method and this may actually be my very first post on it. Whole egg whipping method with no other kind of leavening means whether the cake is successful or not solely depends on the stability of the egg foam. The air that gets trapped inside the egg foam expands in the oven and helps make the cake light and spongy. It is a bit more tricky making this cake than chiffon cake but the result is very rewarding!

In this recipe I used dry lavender instead of the more common vanilla extract to give it a different aroma. It gives the cake a very subtle scent.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thin Crust Pizza 義大利薄餅

Learning is an endless pursuit. As I believed I have attained the basics of bread making, I found out that there is much more knowledge waiting for me to explore. Ken Forkish used the basic ingredients of bread as the title of his book: "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast". He wrote that it is the manipulation of these simple ingredients that produces superb quality of bread or pizza. One of the keys is to use as little yeast as possible because too much will produce an off flavor. Another is to use low temperature to delay the rate of fermentation because it takes time for enzymatic reactions to take place. But your patience will be greatly rewarded because the product is more complex in flavor.  The pizza I made using this method proves that it is better than those from chain stores.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pandan Chiffon Cake 班蘭雪紡蛋糕

Don't be mistaken by the color of this cake. It is not from artificial coloring. It is from the chlorophyll of pandan. Pandan leaves are very popular in South East Asia. They are widely used in making rice, main dishes and desserts. It is best to use fresh leaves but here in North America, we have to settle for frozen ones.

It takes a little bit of planning in making this pandan chiffon cake, unless you prefer to use artificial pandan flavoring or canned pandan juice because it takes a few days for the pandan juice to settle so that the bitter liquid will be separated from the flavorful juice. (If you have access to a centrifuge, it will take a few minutes rather than a few days.) See notes on how to make the juice.

The aroma of this cake is unbelievable. The scent of pandan is very unique. It has a nick name: "vanilla of the East". I didn't use any frosting or garnishes on this cake because I do not want anything to mask its aroma and flavor. It is very good by itself!

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