Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Cake 2011

The cake is now completed!

Remember my previous post on the making of the Christmas fruit cake?

Step two - icing and decorating, is now completed!

It brought back childhood memories of playing with plasticine, but of course, I used the edible icing to decorate the cake.

The Christmas cake was first covered with a layer of marzipan then another layer of royal icing. This of course was not an easy task as I thought, as I almost broke the rolled-out icing in several places while trying to put it over the cake. But it was quickly saved with a little dab of warm water, clever trick taught by my work colleague.

Then I rolled the green coloured icing into cone shapes, Christmas trees look-alike. However, due to difficulties in finding BROWN coloured icing, or even BROWN food colouring, I had to improvise and used white icing covered with chocolate flakes to try and imitate the BROWN tree trunk. Clever eh?

Then it gets even more fun when I rolled white icing into two different sizes of balls to make the snowman, before using colourful chocolate buttons to decorate it. Guess what? I could not find any suitable stick-look-alike for the hands and nose, hence I used broken pieces of spaghetti! Isn't my little snowman cute? haha!

After piping many dots of white icing on the trees and around the base, '~ta~da~' the cake is complete!

Well, the cake did not look exactly LIKE the professional looking one in this page found in the Decemember issue of deliciousmagazine.

Page from delicious. magazine

But I still love my very own version!

With that, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and all the blessings with friends and family!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

All-butter Shortbread

Not just any shortbreads, they are star-shaped shortbreads - 100% homemade!

Thinking what to give my colleagues at work for Christmas, I got this great gift idea from the December issue of deliciousmagazine.

Shortbreads made any shapes you like and wrapped beautifully any ways you like!
For me, a homemade gift is always the best gift! These shortbreads are pretty, delicious, easy to make and a wonderful gift for this festive season.

Recipe for 'All-butter shortbread stars and hearts' by delicious.magazine as follow:

Makes about 32
Takes 10 minutes to make, 15-20 minutes to cook, plus chilling and cooling

60g golden caster sugar
120g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla or orange extract
175g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting

Cooking method:
1. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, butter and extract. Sift over the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film, then chill for at least 30 minutes.


Star-shaped dough

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C/fan 160 degree C/gas 4. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, then roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Use small cutters to cut out stars or hearts and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden around the edges, the transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Shortbreads in festive paper cups

Once the shortbreads are entirely cool, I filled some paper cups with them then wrap the cups with cellophane and finally tie them up in a bow with some curling ribbon.

*Drum-roll*.......and we get a pretty little edible gift!

The shortbreads were wonderfully sweet and very buttery and crumbles nicely in your mouth...yummy!

All wrapped up in gold stars cellophane

My colleagues loved the little gifts they received, took photos of them and did not even want to open them up!

With that, I wish you all a joyous and blessed Christmas. Remembering that it is all about God's love for us that He sent His only Son, Jesus, for our salvation!

Happy holidays and have a lovely time with family and friends!

Rise, Soufflé, Rise

I would say most, if not all, people would agree that it is absolutely essential for a soufflé to rise!

I love soufflés not only because it is not the easiest recipe to make, but also because of it's beautifully light texture holding immense flavours!

Everytime some chefs try to make a soufflé in competitions on TV, the judges always say:"He/she is really brave making a soufflé here, any tiny error could mean disaster!"

I braved it today and decided to make Lemon Soufflés following a recipe by none other than the queen of baking herself - Mary Berry!

Mary Berry's Hot Lemon Soufflés Recipe from BBC Food website:

(There is even a video where Mary Berry shows you how to make the soufflés!)


Preparing Ramekins

Preparation Method:

1. Brush the insides of four ramekins with butter. Add a small amount of sugar to each and turn them to coat the sides and bottom, shaking out any excess. Set aside to chill in the fridge.

Coated with butter and sugar

2. Use a fine grater to zest the lemons – grate the yellow outer skin, but be careful not to grate the white pith underneath (the pith will make the soufflés bitter). Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice. Add the zest to the juice and put to one side.

3. Separate the eggs – crack each egg in half and tip the contents between the two shells, allowing the whites to slide through into the bowl beneath while the yolks stay in the shells.

4. Put four egg whites into a large bowl and two of the yolks into a separate small bowl (the left-over egg yolks can be saved for scrambled eggs or custard). Add 6 tablespoons of sugar to the small bowl with the egg yolks.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted)/350F/Gas 4. Put the baking tray into the middle of the oven.

6. Put the cream, flour and cornflour into a medium-sized bowl and whisk to a smooth paste.

7. Warm the milk in a large saucepan over a medium heat until just boiling. Remove from the heat.

8. Mix the hot milk into the cream, flour and cornflour mixture with the whisk – add a little to start with and mix well until the mixture is smooth like really thick cream. Press any lumps to the side to break them up. Then add the rest of the milk.

9. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put it over a gentle heat. Beat vigorously with a hand whisk until it’s thickened. It’s important to keep whisking all the time so that the mixture doesn’t stick.

10. When you feel it thickening, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and zest a little at a time. The heat of the pan will continue to cook the mixture.

11. Use a wooden spoon to beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together in the small bowl. Beat them into a thick paste.

12. Add this paste to the mixture in the saucepan and mix well until smooth. Put the saucepan back on the hob to thicken again. Whisk until it begins to bubble and then take if off the heat – the mixture should look like custard. Put it to one side to cool before adding the egg whites.

13. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl using a hand whisk or electric hand mixer. Before you start, make sure the bowl and whisk are completely clean and grease-free, and make sure there’s no yolk with the egg whites or they won’t whip to full volume. Whisk until soft peaks begin to form – the egg whites should look like clouds.

14. When the mixture in the saucepan has cooled you can add the egg whites. Check the temperature of the mixture before you add the egg whites – it should be body temperature or cooler. Add one large spoonful of the egg whites and beat well with the whisk to make the mixture less stiff. Now use a large metal spoon or spatula to very gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Use the spoon to go round the outside and cut through the middle – the aim is to fold in the air bubbles slowly, without breaking them up. Continue until it’s a pale yellow mixture with no streaks of egg white.

Filled with mixture

15. Fill the ramekins to the brim with the mixture and level off with a spatula or palette knife. Run a thumb nail around the inside rim of the ramekins (this helps the soufflés rise evenly without catching on the sides).

16. Place the ramekins on the baking tray in the middle of the oven for about 14 minutes until risen and turning golden. Don’t open the oven during cooking. Time and watch the soufflés carefully – take them out as soon as they’ve risen and are starting to go golden. If you’re using smaller ramekins you’ll need to reduce the cooking time by a few minutes (5 or 6 smaller soufflés will need about 10 minutes).

17. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Hot Lemon Soufflé

Following through the very long preparation method, it can be rather labour intensive as it is very important to follow each and every step to the word because any errors would result in a failed soufflé. However, I did enjoy each and every step of making the soufflé, especially the 'beating the egg-white part' until I got a fluffy cloud of egg-white - beautiful! And of course, the part where I take them out of the oven.

The soufflés has RISEN!

14 minutes in the oven, no more, no less. Although it would have been perfect with a touch more browning to the surface with just a couple more minutes in the oven, but I was too concerned about getting them burnt!

Regardless, to me, they looked beautiful, had a super light texture and was filled with acidic lemon flavour cutting through the sweetness of the sugar.

The inside

For me, a rather good first attempt at making a soufflé, and I am looking forward to the next one! Maybe a savoury one......