2012 – baking for special occasions

Over a year had passed since the last entry. Just a late recap of 2012: The diet went on, I met my goal of losing 15lbs (then gained a few lbs back, then lost them again, then they’re back again, etcetc), and I’ve been on a not-very-strict diet since to a healthier weight. Baking turned into special occasions: a fun day/night with friends in a bakery class or a project for festive occasions, rather than a weekly routine like it used to be. It was a different way of experiencing baking, for every time I baked, I’d be trying to make something quite special and sometimes a bit out of my comfort zone. These are some of the things I baked in 2012 that made me proud:

Pumpkin Carriage Cake decorated with Cream Roses (Teacher: Ah Man of Cake Square in Hong Kong/ With: my friend Tiffany/ Hours spent: 6 hours over 2 nights) – I think the cream roses were the hardest to make! you just do it with a piping bag of cream, a chopstick, a pair of scissors and a lot of will power…

Hello Kitty Spongecake Swiss Roll (Teacher: Bowie Yim of Cake1Cake/With: my friends Ceci and Karen/Hours spent: 2.5 hours) – I almost messed up the face of Hello Kitty when the piping bag was torn when I was almost done drawing her face, her face was saved after chilling in the fridge and scraping off the excess paint from her face…It was also the first time that I successfully made spongecake swiss roll that didn’t crack when I rolled it! The trick was to roll it while it’s still hot and soft (and also not overcooking it to start with).

2012 X’mas challenge: Take-home gifts for guests – Shortbread with “typed” words + Desserts for the party – Mister-Donut-style muffin with melted chocolate and golden/silver balls decoration for Christmas (based on basic recipes for shortbread and muffin, just adding cocoa powder, green tea powder and blackberry jam to create the different colours and flavours of the muffins; words are “printed” on the shortbread with a “typing” kit for baking bought in Japan’s Tokyu Hands; chocolate for melting and the edible golden/silver balls are bought from the “I love Cake” shop in Wanchai: Time spent: days and nights of planning and testing!) – Baking for yourself and baking as a gift to someone else or as a highlight for a celebration like a Christmas family gathering are totally different matters, the latter certainly comes with a lot more stress as you would like to impress the crowd! I think the baked goods turned out well, but I got sick after the party…I think I’ve just gone a bit too ambitious this year…One can only handle so much self-learning at a time…

Finally, this is not something I baked, just a fun baked gift my sis bought me from Australia: a voodoo gingerbread man! She got me the cookie-cutter too, so I can make my own voodoo cookies some time =P…

2012 was a pretty good year. More updates to come in 2013.

 

 

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Messy Baker’s Christmas Special 2011

Dear all,

First of all, I hope you’re having a lovely Christmas holiday and will have a great New Year break too!

Just realized that the last time I updated this space was already half a year ago. If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been ON A DIET. And I’m glad to say that I’ve gradually lost at least a dozen lbs in a healthy way, though I have not yet met my goal (to lose 15 in total). I’ve thought about this space from time to time during the last few months, but really couldn’t see how this  could fit in with my diet plan. So I thought I’d return when I’m 15 lbs lighter~

Then came Christmas time! A time for our annual family party, which always gives me a great opportunity to bake and much incentive to make something that’s more of a challenge. It also gives me an excuse to throw my diet plan to the wind for a few days just to experience the joy of Christmas.

This year, I challenged myself to make some Christmas classics — mince pie and mulled wine — and a winter time favourite, chocolate brownie.

mince pie

The mince pie recipe I followed was from this year’s December issue of BBC GoodFood magazine (UK Edition), which is one of my birthday gifts from my lovely silly dear. For the filling, this recipe uses mincemeat from a jar and also fresh fruits for a lighter flavour. I used some Brandy & Dates mincemeat I got from ThreeSixty in Central, Landmark, Hong Kong (these mincemeat keep really well if unopened, got this jar last year on sale and it’s supposed to stay good till next November…), with one finely chopped apple and two segmented mandarins. The sweetness level of the filling was just right, surprisingly refreshing with the fresh fruits added. I think it suits the Asian taste puds quite well.

I find that the trickiest part of making these mince pie was molding the pies’ bases and lids. To get the perfect crust, the dough must be rolled out to the right thickness (3mm) before you cut the round pieces out to form the base of the pies, but if you’re not fast enough and/or if you’ve warm hands (I’m both), before you can roll the dough to the right thickness, the butter in the dough might already have melted and make the dough too soft for molding and you’ll have to put the dough back in the fridge for another 10-15 minutes to let it harden again before you re-roll it.

I used a 9cm round cookie cutter to make the bases, but didn’t have a 7cm one for making the lid. I recalled Nigella Lawson made star-shaped lids for her mince pies, so I decided to do my own version with a crown-shaped cookie cutter.

The pies turned out quite well, although I might have been too greedy and put a little too much filling in the pies which made some of the crown lids cracked as the hot filling tried to burst its way through while baking =P As the lids were not closely covering the pies, I was able to check that the filling was piping hot before I removed them from the oven. Instead of baking the pie for 15 minutes as suggested, I actually had to bake them for about 30 minutes before the crust turned golden and the filling was hot enough to serve. It proves again yhat all ovens are different and you have to mae friends with yours and not trust recipes 100% all the time.

I made these pies 2 days before Christmas and thought I’d freeze them until Christmas Day and reheat them before serving. It’s only then that I realized most recipes suggest to freeze the pies unbaked! After some Googling, I was fortunately reassured by a ‘Ask the Pie Expert’ website which says it’s fine to reheat frozen baked mince pie…On Christmas Day, I removed the pies from the freezer and thawed them under room temperature for about 30 minutes and rebaked the pies under 190*C for 40 minutes, checking them every 10-15 minutes until I could hear the mincemeat bubbling. This is how they looked:

mulled wine & brownie

Over the years, I realized I’ve turned into a faithful disciple of Jamie Oliver as I find that his recipes really work very well! This year, I watched him make a mulled wine syrup on TV and thought, “That’s clever!”, and decided to try it for myself (last year, I made mulled wine with some cheap Spainish wine and it was simply a disaster…I was determined to get it right this time!). As for the brownie recipe, I just found that his was the simplest and, lazy like me, I just went for it without giving it a second thought =P.

All I can say is, as long as you get all the essential ingredients and equipment right, you cannot go too wrong with these recipes (links below), and you should get something that look at least half decent like those I made below:

mulled wine recipehttp://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/other-recipes/jamie-s-mulled-wine

brownie recipehttp://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chocolate-recipes/bloomin-brilliant-brownies

I made the brownies the night before, waited for it to cool for an hour then cut them up into squares and placed them back into the baking tray and just wrapped the whole thing in cling film and left it in room temperature. On Christmas Day, I reheated them under 190*C for 8 minutes as I cooked the mulled wine. The brownies were still crunchy on the outside and sticky inside.

Lesson learnt: It’s really worth picking dishes that you can make days before the big party. Saved loads of stress for the day!

Take care and see you all again in 2012.

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Jamie’s Any-way-you-like cookies —- My way!

Bought this “Jamie’s Red Nose Recipes” book for Comic Relief in 2009 and the first recipe in it is the “Any-way-you-like cookies” recipe, a very lazy recipe indeed but I managed to make it even more lazy :P!

There are basically just 3 steps:

1. Mix all the basic ingredients (115g soften butter, 100g plain flour, 100g golden caster sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt) and “your way” ingredients well in the a food processor (“my way” ingredient is cocoa powder)

2. (My enhanced lazy version of the second step) Use two spoons to make little balls of dough and place onto a piece of cling film on a tray, cover the whole thing with another piece of cling film, use your fingers to flatten the dough balls between the 2 sheets of cling film and place the whole tray into the freezer for 20 mins.

3. Bake in the oven for 8 mins under 180*C. Place on a wire rack to cool till crisp.

Easy and yummy 🙂

 

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Strawberry Jam Jam Jam…Jam Jam Jam…

Jam, a great complement for baked goodies. Toast and Jam, a perfect combination.

I had always wanted to try my hands on jam-making and an article on a Chinese magazine called “the little thing” inspired me to actually do it this long weekend. The article was about an English lady living in Shanghai who found there is no good jam available in the city and decided to make her own and is now selling her homemade British jam as a business. Her name is Amelia.

I read about her recipe, another one noted in the same magazine, and also took note from Jamie Oliver’s strawberry jam recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/strawberry-jam-recipe/index.html), combined and made my own recipe as follow:

Ingredients: 900g strawberries, 300g caster sugar, juice from 1 lemon and zest from 1 lemon

1. Cut the strawberries into pieces, stir in the sugar, leave the mix in the fridge overnight

2. Grate lemon for zest and squeeze out the lemon juice, mix them into the strawberry/sugar mixture. Cook the mix on medium-heat until simmer and cook for a few more minutes on low-heat. Skim off foam during the cooking process.

3. Test if the jam is ready by placing a bit of it into the fridge for a short while and take it out to see if it is in your preferred consistency. Bottle them into sterilized jars when ready, then put it in the fridge overnight.

Tips:

1. Because no pectin is used in this recipe, this jam is not the jelly-kind, but relatively watery, but still very nice. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have put in the juice from a whole lemon, or I should have cooked the jam for longer for the jam turned out to be borderline watery.

2. You can sterilize the glass jar in an oven and boil the jar covers in boiler water. Make sure the covers are in materials that can endure the boiling process (the one I brought couldn’t, so…silly me had to make-do with sterilized aluminium foil as covers…shame…)

I have given 3 jars of jam away to 3 mothers in our family: my grandma and two aunts. We have 2 jars at home for breakfast/tea 🙂 jam jam jam…jam  jam jam…yum.

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1st Anniversary of Messy Baker’s Journey!

Yesterday marked the 1st birthday of the Messy Baker’s blog!

All these started on 25 April 2010 with the oddly-funny-looking Green Hazel-Hut cupcake. One year onward, there are now 40 checkpoints marked by 40 posts on this blog showing every baby steps taken on this baking journey of mine. Friends and family have tasted my work and luckily found delight in most of them.

In the coming year, I’d like to do more, more, more. Same things. Different things. Thinking beyond cake and bread.

Persist, Enjoy and Improve!

Happy Baking!

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Banana Madeira Cake

The baker is back! After 10 weeks of exhausting my creative energy in a musical singing and dancing class, I’m back to my oven, my original creative outlet, and resumed on a simple classic recipe – Madeira Cake. The ingredients are simple and therefore go well with most things (like the ripe banana I have at home that must be eaten soon…). I used less butter than recommended and therefore the cake is relatively lighter than those you’ll normally get from cake shops. I like this very much 🙂

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Ginger Scones

In case anybody wondered, Messy baker hibernated. Suffered from a hell of a flu season in Hong Kong, spent weekends in bed recovering, with medicine and endless coughing…not a pretty scene. Mood for baking completely vanished when the body and mind were taken over by headaches and sore throat.

This weekend, it finally feels like spring has arrived! The temperature is up and I’m back in short sleeves! So, time to document the one baking weekend I had in the last month when I didn’t feel as bad as in the other weeks…it was Chinese New Year weekend and I made ginger scones, following the M&S recipe on buttermilk scone but substituting buttermilk for yoghurt, adding some ground ginger powder to give the scone a bit of a kick. Also thought ginger was a bit Chinese-y and matched the CNY festive mood~I brought them as presents to Miah’s home to greet the lovely family a happy CNY. The ginger flavour was subtle, Miah could taste and tell there was ginger while his Ma could only taste the slightly spicy taste. The family seemed to like the scone. Each of them had their own way of enjoying the scone, Miah and his Pa liked it with condensed milk while his Ma liked it with marmalade. His granny had it plain I think.

 

Entering the Year of the Rabbit, I feel like I need some new inspiration for baking, maybe from new ingredients, or new recipes. Looking forward to better things coming out from my oven in the coming weeks~

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