Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Almond Sponge Cake

Hello everybody!

I wrote this recipe because it's hard to find a recipe for sponge cakes that are delicious, spongy and yet have that elusive crispy exterior.  Sponge cakes are best when they are hot out of the oven and made with the highest quality eggs.  There are not a lot of ingredients that go inside these cake, so eggs, being such a key ingredient, must be of the best quality.

Here is a simple and delicious recipe that I am sure your family will enjoy.  I have also added almond meal to give the sponge cake a more complex flavor and texture.  To make this even more fun, I have also baked the almond sponge cake in individual almond shaped cake pans so they can be enjoyed and shared easily.  These pans increase the surface area, so the proportion of the spongy interior cake vs. crispy surface is just right.

Here is the recipe:

4 Large Eggs
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup Almond powder (You can pulse whole almonds in a food processor to make almond meal.)
1 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
A little butter for the pans

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Butter four Almond Shaped cake pans.  Lightly sprinkle flour over the buttered pans and tap out the excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, put in four eggs, sugar, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until the eggs have turned a paler shade of color, about 2 minutes.

Next, add the all purpose flour, baking power and almond powder, mixing until there are no lumps.

Add water and continue mixing on high until the mixture has expanded about three times its original volume.

Lower the speed of the stand mixer to medium speed, and then add milk and vegetable oil.  Beat until the mixture has been completely integrated.

Pour the mixture into the buttered and floured pans. Fill them until about 3/4 full.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature of the oven to 250 F and continue baking for 10 more minutes.

Let the cakes cool completely in their molds and then remove them from the molds.

The almond shaped cake pans I used are available here:

You will need 4 molds for this recipe.

Thank you for reading and have a good rest of the week.


Monday, February 14, 2011

How to make Soybean Milk

A lady making fresh soybean curd at a restaurant in Shanghai.  Served with a variety of different condiments.

Hello everybody,
This week, I am going to show you how to make soybean milk at home.  In many Asian countries, soybean milk is commonly served at breakfast and paired with dough fritters.  It can also be enjoyed like a beverage. It is full of flavonoids and is vegan friendly. Commercially produced soybean milk has lost a lot of its unique characteristics and complex flavor.  It is sort of like drinking canned coffee instead of brewing a fresh mug or eating canned spam and thinking that it is real meat.  There is no need to suffer through bad soybean milk, especially after you see how easily it can be made by YOU at home, using very basic equipment. 

The flavor of freshly made soybean milk is earthy, rich, beany and nutty.  I've written down here very specific instructions to ensure that your soybean experience is a successful one:

2 cups dried soybeans (preferably organic, washed and soaked overnight)
1/2 cup sugar
Water (Proportions will be given below)

Put soybeans in a large bowl.  Completely cover the beans with water and soak overnight.

The next morning you will find that the soybeans have expanded to three times their original volume.  The original 2 cups of dried soybeans now have a volume of 6 cups.

Put 2 cups of soybeans in a blender.  Add 2 cups of filtered water.  Blend until the soybeans have been fully incorporated into the liquid, until further pulses do not cause the solid bits to get finer.  This should take about 20 seconds, depending on the power of your blender.

Carefully transfer the contents from the blender into a filtering cloth such as a muslin cloth or a special cotton bag like the one I've used here. Allow the filtered liquid to drain into a large, tall stockpot.  Do this slowly and in batches.  Let the liquid drain out, and squeeze out the excess liquid from the cotton bag.  You will feel like you are milking a cow. 
Hold the blender carafe over the cotton bag.  Pour enough blended liquid to fill half a bag (About 1 cup).

Let the soymilk drain out of the bag.

Gently squeeze the bag on the bottom
Once most of the liquids have been squeezed out, give it a final squeeze
Repeat the above process 2 more times until all the soybeans have been used up.  You will end up with a pot of soybean milk and a separate pot of soy pulp (also called Okara).  You can save the Okara for other purposes such as adding into milk shakes since it is a good source of protein.  But, for purpose of making soy milk, we will discard the Okara.

Next, add two more cups of filtered water to the pot and heat up the soybean milk.  This is where the real work is, and you have to keep an eye on your cooking.  A film can form quickly on the milk. It can also over-boil easily if you do not use a tall stock pot or monitor it carefully. 
Soybean at original level at the start of the boiling process

The film can cause the boiling soy milk to overflow quickly.  Be sure to monitor the level of heat and stir quickly to dissipate the bubbles.
Since it only takes about 20 minutes to boil the milk, I strongly suggest that you stand near the stove and watch it like a hawk.

Boil until the mixture no longer rises as much.  This takes about 30 minutes.  It is important that the soybean milk has been heated thoroughly in order to deactivate all the enzymes. This will prevent it from interfering with normal digestion. 

Add sugar or honey to taste, or drink it unsweetened.

Serve warm or chilled.

Soy milk is full of fresh nutrients. Your body will thank you for it!

Thank you for reading, everybody, and have a great week ahead!



The cotton bag I used is available here:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Baba Au Rhum- Doesn't that make you wanna dance?

Hello everybody!

Doesn't the title of this simple bread make you just wanna break out and dance and wiggle your hips?  Ba ba ba ba, shake, shake, shake. 

Haha, ok. That was lame. Back on the topic.  What exactly is Baba Au Rhum?  Baba Au Rhum is a small yeasted bread baked in a Baba mold.  The cakes are traditionally served with unsweetened fresh whipped cream.  You can also serve them dipped in a rum simple syrup and topped with berries.  I think that they are delicious just on their own, especially hot and fresh out of the oven.  They are easy to make at home and will generate interest at a dinner party.

Here is the recipe (Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook):

10 ounce (about 2 cups) bread flour
1/2 cup warm milk (about 110 F)
1/2 ounce fresh yeast (If you do not want to use fresh yeast, you can use 1/8 ounce of packaged dry yeast)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more at room temperature, for molds
3 large whole eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoon salt
3 cups assorted fresh berries (optional)
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (optional)
Rum Syrup (optional, recipe included below)
2 cups heavy cream

In the metal bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together 2 1/2 ounce (1/2 cup) flour, warm milk, and yeast.
The yeast is starting to work it's magic.  This was about 10 minutess into poofing.
Cover with plastic wrap; let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  In the meantime, butter twelve 3-ounce baba molds, then place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  (This is an important step.  Make sure all the crevices of the molds are properly buttered or else the breads will not release cleanly.)

When flour mixture has doubled, attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated after each addition.  Add the remaining 7 1/2 ounce (1 1/2 cups) flour, the granulated sugar, and the salt, beat until smooth with no lumps, about 2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour melted butter down the side of the bowl in a thin stream, beat until incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 more minutes.

Place dough in a pastry bag filled with a 1/2 inch plain tip (see our store for pastry tips!); pipe dough into prepared molds, fill each mold halfway.  Let dough rise in a warm place until it has reached the top of the molds, 30-40 minutes.
Baba dough just piped into the molds.  Now waiting for it to rise.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.  If desired, toss berries with superfine sugar in a bowl and set aside to let it macerate.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Immediately turn out baba onto a wire rack; let it cool completely. 

Use a slotted spoon to gently drop two baba at a time into the hot Rum Syrup, submerging completely.

 Let soak until there are no more bubbles.  Place on a rack set over rimmed baking sheet.  Whisk heavy cream to soft peaks.  To serve, split baba lengthwise, and top with whipped cream and berries.

The baba au rhum molds are avaliable in a set of six here (You will need 12 molds for this recipe):

The piping tips used here in this recipe is also available here:

The disposable pastry bags are available here:

Thank you so much for reading!

Have a great weekend ahead!

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