Thursday, January 27, 2011

Share your love with a Chocolate Ganache Cake

Hello everybody,

Valentine's Day is coming up. What are your plans? This year, instead of going to overbooked restaurants and buying overpriced roses, how about baking a simple, beautiful and delicious cake to share with the people you love?  I think that a chocolate cake baked in the shape of a heart is especially alluring and appropriate.

This is a delicious chocolate ganache cake recipe that we like to use here in our Brown Cookie kitchen. One recipe yields enough for two-9 inch cake pans.  If you are using our heart shaped cake pan, you will need one 8 inch and one 6 inch heart pan.  You can serve the cakes individually or stack them together to form a tiered cake.  You can also use two 8 inch pans, but the cake layers will be thinner.

As with any shaped cake that needs to be decorated or frosted, the release of the cake after baking is important.  Can you imagine all your hard work going to waste because a section of the cake broke away when you were taking it out of the pan?  The trick to getting a perfect release is first to butter the pans carefully (leaving no corners unbuttered) and, second, using a quality cake pan with a removable bottom.  That way, you can transfer the cakes easily out of the pan to the wire rack for decorating and then back to the cake stand for it's final presentation.

Here is the ganache cake recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook):

For the cake:
3 sticks (1 1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pans
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 recipe of Chocolate Ganache  (Please see below)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter the two heart-shaped cake pans of your choice.  Some equipment suggestions here: 
Choose either:
1)Two 8 inch by 8 inch or
2) Two 8 inch plus one 6 inch (cake will be slightly taller)).
3) Two 6 inch cake pan (You will have some leftover batter)

Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment, dust with coca powder.  Tip the pan upside down (while holding onto to the bottom of the pan) to tap out the excess cocoa power.

In a medium bowl, whisk cocoa with hot water until the mixture is smooth.  Gently whisk in the sour cream and let the mixture cool.  In another medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy. This will take about 3-4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at the time, beating to combine after each addition.  If using a stand-mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, as necessary.  Beat in vanilla extract.  While the mixture is on low beat, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the cocoa mixture.  Beat this until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth with an offset spatula. The cake doesn't have baking powder, only a little baking soda, so it will not rise much.  You can fill the pans up almost to the top as shown in the pictures below.

Cake pans filled with batter
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.  Again, depending on the pans, this will take 45-50 minutes.  Monitor the "doneness" of the cake. 

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Gently lift the bottom of the removable pans, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan.  This will make handling the cake from this point onwards to the final presentation a lot easier. Let the cakes cool completely.

Transfer half of the Chocolate Ganache (about 3 1/2 cups) to a bowl of an electric mixer.  Let it cool completely, about 40 minutes.  After it has cooled, attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until the ganache holds soft peaks, which will take between 5-7 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, slightly trim the tops of the cake to make it even.  You will find that baking the cake in our heart shape pan, the cake is so thick you do not need to sandwich two layers with another layer of frosting.  The cake will remain whole.  If you have a cake turntable, use it.  If not, put the cake on a flat surface and spread with 1 1/2 cup of whipped ganache.  Refrigerate this until it has set, about 30 minutes.

Then transfer cake to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.  Pour reserved (non whipped) ganache over the top of the cake.  Pour slowly and evenly from the center towards the edges. 

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.  You can decorate with mint leaves, but I like to use strawberries or leave the cake blank!  It is already so pretty.

Recipe for the Chocolate Ganache:

4 cups heavy cream
2 pounds semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 cup light corn syrup  (Don't worry, they make this without High Fructose corn syrup now)
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a full boil; turn off the heat.  Add the chocolate, and swirl pan to completely cover with cream. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth.  Add the corn syrup, salt and stir until combined. 

I hope you will like this recipe.  So go ahead, this Valentine's Day, feed them some cake.  :)

The heart-shaped cake pans with removable bottoms are available here:

6 inches:

8 inches:

Thank you for reading!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to Use Your Pain de Mie Pullman Bread Pan

I started baking pain de mie or pullman bread loaves at home because I miss eating cafe-style thick slices of toast topped with butter, sugar and condensed milk.  This style of bread is very popular in parts of Asia, including Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The slice of toast is almost three times as thick a standard bread slice, and it is surely a decadent treat.

Breads are easy to make at home.  Once you get the hang of it, all you have to do is mix the ingredients and wait.  Let the dough rise, and then punch it down.  Requiring little hands on time, it is perfect for days when you have to multitask but still feel like baking something for your family. Making your own bread also means that you will avoid the artificial leaveners and preservatives used in many commercial breads in the supermarket.

Here is one of my favorite pain de mie recipes, adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook:

Pain de Mie, Pullman Bread

1 1/2 pounds (about 4/12 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
Vegetable oil, for oiling the bowl and pan

In the bowl of a Kitchenaid mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, dry milk, and butter.  Add the warm water and beat on low speed until the dough is smooth, elastic and uniform.  This will take approximately 5 minutes.

On a lightly floured working surface, turn out the dough and knead by hand about five times.  Check to see that all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated and the dough forms a smooth ball.  Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with cling wrap.  Let it rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  If the temperature is correct, this should take about 1 hour.  If your house is cold during winter, turn an oven on to about 250 F, then turn it off.  Open the oven door to let most of the heat out and place your dough inside the warm oven for the entire rising time.

After the initial one hour rising, punch and deflate the dough.  Tug on the sides a little and invert the dough in the bowl so that the dough's smooth side is facing up.  Cover with plastic wrap again, and let it rise until it has doubled in size.  This will take another 1 hour.

Brush the inside of a standard size Pullman loaf pan with vegetable oil.  Make sure that all the surface is coated as well as the underside of the lid.   Turn the dough on a floured surface, and roll out the dough to a 12 x 8 inch rectangle.   Roll the dough on the long side to form a tight 12 inch log.  Gently rock the dough back and forth to seal the seam.  Place the loaf, seam-side down, in the prepared pan, and slide the lid until it is 3/4 of the way closed.  Let it rise again in a warm place until the dough is almost touching the lid. This will take about 45 to 60 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425 F.

Close the lid completely and bake, rotating the plan halfway through, until the loaf is light golden brown.  This should take about 45 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350F, close the lid and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  (The bread should have a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.  If it does not sound hollow, slide the lid back on and continue to bake the loaf, checking at 5 minute intervals until the crust is deep golden brown).  Remove the bread and let it cool completely.  Enjoy!

If you are looking for a good quality pain de mie pullman loaf pan, you can find some available at our store.  The one used in this recipe is a standard size, but we also carry a smaller 4.5 inch bread pan.  You can still follow this recipe, but cut the dough in half to put each portion into two smaller pans.

Standard Pain De Mie, Pullman Loaf Pan:

Smaller Pain De Mie, Pullman Loaf Pan:

Thank you for reading!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Madeleines: Is traditional better?

In this post, we are going to play "Cooks Illustrated".  We will compare the traditional Madeleine pan with the Madeleine pan offered at  Our objective is to give you, our readers, more choices in your baking equipment.

A Madeleine is a tradition French tea cake. It is small, golden and bright in appearance and typically come in the shape of a shell. Traditional Madeleine cookies have almond meal mixed into the flour. The final result is a delicious, airy cake that is simple and elegant.  It is an easy cake to bake at home and to serve.  The traditional shape of Madeleine cookies is an elongated shell with tapered ends.

Last year while visiting Paris, I had the good fortune of visiting E. Dehillerin. A very established and amazing French cookware store. I found a lot of baking supplies to bring back to the United States, and one of them was, of course, a Madeleine pan.

Once I got home,  I immediately put the Madeleine pan I bought in Paris to use.  Soon, I fell in love with baking (and eating!) Madeleines, and I was searching for more pans.  I felt that this delicious cake didn't have to just have one shape.  It was time to look for new pans.  On the left is the one I bought from E.Dehillerin, and on the right from

After getting some pretty solid experience baking Madeleines with the two pans, I found three distinct differences between them.

1) The first difference is the weight of the pans
The tradtional Madeleine cake pan has a capacity of 12 cookies and weighs 13.5 oz. The Madeleine pan from weighs 1 lb 13 oz and can bake 11 cookies of the same size. The browncookie Madeleine pan is almost 1 pound heavier.  The extra weight is important because heavier cake pans promote even and uniform baking results.

2) Shape. Do Madeleines have to have the same elongated shell shape? Don't you think that having two different shapes will make the presentation more interesting?  Also, what if you made some Madeleines with lemon flavor and left some without, how are you going to be able to differentiate them? A simple way is to bake them in different shapes. I find the fan shell shape of browncookie to be equally as attractive as the traditional cake pan. 
3) Finally, the most important criteria: Baking results

Although both pans performed beautifully, you can see that the heavier browncookie pan enabled the Madeleine to have more attractive brown tan lines.  It also gave these cakes a crispier outside, while the cake remained moist inside.  The traditional was a little paler but was still very tasty.  I carefully buttered and flour the pans before loading the batter, so both pans released the cake perfectly and did not stick to the pans.  In this case, however, the browncookie pan was non-stick and released just ever so slightly better.

This heavy duty Madeleine pan is available at browncookie at the link below:

We hope you find this post informative and expand your cake pan collection!! 

Thank you for reading and happy baking!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heart Shaped Brownies

To make a simple baking project more special, I rely on specialty cake pans. Because Valentine's Day is rolling around, I have chosen to use a heart shaped pan for my brownies. Brownies do not expand much so you can pretty much fill the batter almost all the way to the top and they will not overflow.

Baking brownies this way also ensures that every single piece has the coveted crispy edges.

To serve, you can plate each heart shaped brownie individually on a plate for a dinner party, or it can be plated buffet style for a bake sale. Add a slice of strawberry or mint to garnish to make your brownies even more special. You can also decorate with a sprinkle of icing sugar.

All you need to get started on this fun baking project is a box of brownie mix, 2 eggs, vegetable oil, some strawberries and mint leaves for garnish. Follow the instructions on the mix, but for these pans, the baking times must be adjusted to 20-25 mins at a 425 F oven for the best baking results.

The pan used for this project can be purchased here:

Thank you so much for reading!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fluttering Hearts Cookies-Valentines Day

We are barely into the new year yet, how is everybody settling into the year so far?

Now is the time to look forward to the next holiday, which is Valentines Day. On this day, we celebrate love of all kinds: Young love, mature love, love for your family or for your children. Or maybe we just need an excuse to celebrate because we don't want to wait eleven months before the most wonderful time of the year comes rolling around again.

A Valentine's day celebration doesn't have to be expensive or involve fine dinning. How about taking a little time to create some beautiful cookies for your loved ones? The extra effort shows that you care.

These cookies are so pretty, they will send hearts fluttering everywhere.

Here we go:

Fluttering Hearts Cookies

1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of Salt
1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup milk power
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp corn flour
Red food coloring
Half a bag of semi sweet chocolate chip (For decorating)

For the Royal Icing:
2 and 1/4 cup icing sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp lemon juice

Cream unsalted butter, icing sugar, egg yolk, vanilla essence and pinch of salt together. Cream until the butter is fluffy and has changed to a pale off white color. On a Kitchenaid stand mixer, this takes about 2 to 3 mins.

Next, add the sifted all purpose flour, milk powder, and corn flour to the creamed butter. Gently stir to combine.

Divide the dough into two portions. Leave one portion alone and add red food coloring to the other portion. Knead the coloring into the dough slowly. Even though it may seem that the color is splotchy, if you continue kneading, the color will distribute itself uniformly throughout the dough. (Have faith!)

Lightly flour the working surface, and roll the dough out and use a heart shape cookie cutter to cut out the dough. On baking sheet lined with parchment paper, put the cut out cookie dough on the sheet. Freeze for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F, put the cookies directly from the freezer to the oven. Make for 10-12 mins until the edges have turned golden brown.

When the cookies have cooled down, decorate them with royal icing or with chocolate.

The cookie cutter with stamp for these cookies can be found here:

Thank you so much for reading! Have a great week ahead.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ladies who lunch- Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts always remind me of the ladies who do lunch in Hong Kong. These ladies are called tai tais, most of them do not have to work for a living and spend their leisure afternoons as they please. I imagine a group of them gathering at each other's house, serving egg tarts over a pot of tea, while they catch up with the "latest gossip" about other people.

It is easy to envy such a lifestyle, but is not the way I would like to spend my life. But boy do I like egg tarts. As a perennial Asian high tea favorite, they are surprisingly easy to make at home. And, if you use fresh, high quality eggs, you can achieve even better results at home than some of the finest hotels that serve them.
Here is a simple recipe and some tips on how to create the perfect egg tart. Enjoy it with your friends and family during your down time!

Ingredients (For the crust):
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/2 of 1/4 cup ice water

Method (For the crust):
Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until the ingredients look like bread crumbs with larger butter pieces remaining.
With the machine running, add ice water through the feed tube (if your machine doesn't have a feed tube, it is ok to open and add water slowly as you work the dough). Pulse for about 20-30 seconds but no longer.

Tip the dough out of the bowl onto a clean surface. Gently shape the dough into a flat disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

(Let the dough warm up a bit before rolling it out).

After resting the dough for the allotted time, roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch.

Place the egg tart mold around the dough and cut around the dough to fit the the dough to the mold.

Press the dough gently into the molds. Preheat oven to 450 F.

Now onto the egg filling

Ingredients (For egg filling)
2/3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
9 eggs, beaten
1 dash vanilla extract
1 cup evaporated milk

Method (To complete the tart):
In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar with water. Bring this mixture to a boil and wait until the sugar has dissolved in the water. Allow this sugar mixture to cool.

Whisk egg into sugar mixture until combined. Lastly, add evaporated milk and vanilla.

Fill this mixture into the prepared tart shell. You can fill this pretty much up to the brim as it will not expand too much.

Carefully load the filled shells in the oven and bake for 12-15 mins, until the egg custard is set. Note: During the baking process, it is normal if the egg custard puffs up. The custard will be flat once it cools.

The mold for making the egg tarts can be found here:

Thank you for reading and enjoy!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

No thumb, thumbprint cookies

It is the New Year, and it's time to take things to a new level.
Thumbprint cookies are simple to make and eat. They are crowd-pleasers at bake sales and parties. Just a simple shortbread dough, press your thumb in the middle and add the filling of your choice. It is done.

In the New Year, we are going to take this traditional technique a little bit further. Instead of using your thumb, consider using a simple cookie press to shape your cookies. The press will allow you to shape cookies uniformly and quickly. Your creations will quickly become the talk of the town, making you the star host of your community.

Here is our recipe for the jam thumbprint cookies:

You can use a variety of different jams. I can think of apricot, orange marmalade, traditional strawberry jam... or even a small chocolate chip.

2 eggs
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 to 1/2 cup jam or preserves

Separate egg whites and yolks in separate bowls. Chill the egg whites until needed.

In a stand mixer or an electric mixer, cream butter for about 1/2 min. Add sugar and continue creaming until the butter is light and fluffy. Add in egg yolks and vanilla. Add the flour and stir on low to medium speed until all the flour has been combined. Chill the dough for about 15 mins or until it is slightly firm.

Shape the dough into little balls of dough about 12 g each (about 1 teaspoon). Press the dough ball into the cookie mold and then depress the plunger to release the dough. Lay the shaped dough out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Continue shaping cookies until all the dough has been used up. Freeze the shaped cookie dough for 1 hour as it will help the shaped cookie to hold its shape better during the baking process.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375 F. Put the chilled trays of cookie dough directly in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10 mins.

Remove from oven and fill the center with the selected jam or filling of your choice. Brush dough with egg whites.

Return the cookies to the oven for another 5 mins for a final bake.


The rectangular cookie press for creating the cookies above can be found here:

Thank you so much for reading! Happy New Year!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...