Thursday, November 27, 2008

Apple Coffee Cake & Happy Thanksgiving!

apple coffee cake

Although Thanksgiving is not part of our culture, we embraced the speacial day ever since we have been here. Every year, we invited friends over to spend Thanksgiving with us. This Thanksgiving, however, we are back in sunny Malaysia, surrounded by our family for the first time in many years.

We are glad to be home, of course. But we also miss the time spent preparing the big meal. This year, we are lucky to have traditional homecooked meal prepared by mum. I know many of you are travelling today, so I hope you'll have a safe trip home!

From the "Fresh from the Oven" household, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

apple coffee cake

I don't have any Thanksgiving recipes to share, but may I recommend this Apple Coffee Cake for your post Thanksgiving breakfast? It's easy to make, yet the recipe yield a moist and generous serving. OCT colleagues loved it when he brought it to the lab meeting before we came back. I hope you will like it too!

apple coffee cake

Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze
adapted from

1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples
Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Brown Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter.

In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.

note: I omit the glaze, because I think the cake is sweet enough.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Homemade Bagels


I love bagels. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We usually get them by the dozens and finish them between the two of us in the span of a few days. When I visited NYC a few months ago, ST and I checked out Absolute Bagels and Murray's for their bagels. I was hoping to experience the bagel epiphany,in the city that claims to have the best bagels in the US. But guess what? I realized that they don't taste much different from my neighborhood Einstein Bro's. Perhaps I don't have discerning taste bud?

I have always wanted to make bagels, but the lengthy process of mixing, proofing, shaping, boiling and baking deterred me for a long time from sinking my fingers into the dough . It wasn't until a few weeks before our trip to Asia that I got down to making my first batch of bagels.


The bagel recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook , which I find the instructions to be clear and straightforward. Although the instructions seemed lengthy, it wasn't as hard as I imagined.

To my relief, the shaping was a breeze because the dough was not sticky at all. Even the most nerve racking part- boiling the dough was quite manageable. I was mesmerized by the movement of the dough which first sank to the bottom in the boiling water, and then floated onto the top when it's ready to be baked.


For toppings, I was thinking of my favorite "everything" topping, but have to settle with things I have in the pantry. I experimented a few bagels with Furikake, which is a kind of Japanese seasoning. It gave the bagels a japanese twist but I still prefer the "everything" topping. Having said that, I like the texture of the bagels, especially when they were fresh from the oven. It is great to cross out another item on my to-bake-list before the year ends!

adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 2/3 cup warm water
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp malt syrup
1 lb 6 oz bread flour (about 4.5 cups)
1 1/2 tbsp salt
toppings: sesame seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seed , Furikake seasoning

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the active dry yeast and warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Then replace whisk with dough hook. With the mixer on low, add sugar, 1 tbsp malt syrup, bread flour and salt. Knead until the dough forms, which takes about one minute. The dough will be a little sticky. Continue to knead on medium for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Divide dough into 10 pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray to grease. With lightly oiled hands, roll each piece of dough to be about 8″ inch long and then shape into a circle to make the bagel.

Place bagels on prepared sheets at least 2″ inch apart. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for another 20 minutes or until slightly puffy.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Fill your largest, widest stockpot with about 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add the remaining malt syrup.

Gently drop bagels into the water, putting in as many as possible without them touching. After 30 seconds, flip bagels over and simmer for another 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon remove the bagel and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Top with toppings of your choice.

Immediately place baking sheets in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then rotate sheet and lower oven temp to 350F. Continue to bake until the tops of the bagels begin to turn a golden brown - about 10 minutes. Flip bagels over and continue to bake for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy it while it's warm or keep the remaining in the freezer, for up to 2 weeks. Reheat the frozen bagels in a preheated 350F for 5 minutes, or until warm.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Lemon Yogurt Cake

lemon yogurt cake

I am greeted by my greasy reflection, while sitting in front of a mirror to type this entry. The loose t-shirt I have on, is glued uncomfortably to my back. In case you are wondering, I am far from the dry and cold winter in the northern hemisphere. And yes, we are back to the hot and humid foodies paradise- Singapore!

In my rush to clear up the fridge content before our 3 weeks vacation, I baked this lemon yogurt cake. Instead of our usual travel companion-banana cake, we have this to snack on board the 20 odd hours flight.

The lemon yogurt cake recipe originated from one of my favorite cookbook author- Ina Garten. Her lemon cake recipe is one of the early recipes I have tried when I first started baking. It is also one of my all time favorites.

lemon yogurt cake

Her lemon yogurt cake uses the same technique of brushing lemon syrup onto the hot cake, which assures that the cake stays moist and packed full with lemony flavor. The kind of cake that I would gladly eat anytime of the day. Instead of using whole milk yogurt, I used the greek yogurt samples I got from Stonyfield Farm. I added 2 containers of the 5.3 oz Oiko organic Greek yogurt, which was slightly more than the recipe indicated. Because I remember having lots of syrup leftover when I made the lemon cake last time, I simply used the juice from 2 lemons, in which the zest had been added to the batter earlier on.

For the convenience of packing, I made the cake with my mini loaf pan and did some personalization with each. Frozen blueberries were added to one mini pan, making that a lemon blueberry cake. The next one has poppy seed in it, making it a lemon poppy seed cake. I left one au naturel, and one with lesser poppy seed in case OCT decides he doesn't like poppy seed.

lemon yogurt cake

How glad we were having the lemon yogurt cake on board with us! The food that United Airline served in the economy class cabins were horrendous! OCT who is not a picky eater laments that the portion has shrunken too. Naturally, he was hungry before the next meal was served. The yogurt cake saved us from resorting to the airline pretzels. :)

Lemon Yogurt Cake
adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 containers of 5.3oz organic Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons of poppy seed
1/4 cup of frozen blueberries (more if you are making a big loaf cake)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan or the mini loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Add in your preferred add on ingredients (poppy seed or blueberries) and bake for about 50 minutes, (if you are using the big loaf pan) about 25-30 minutes (if you are using smaller pans),or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/4 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apple Galette

apple galette

I love fruits picking. There's an indescribable satisfaction of biting into the ripe fruit that one just picked from the tree. A few weeks ago, I persuaded my friends who have never been to fruits picking for an apples picking session at an apple orchard 2 hours drive from Atlanta. Needless to say, we had a great time that day.


Upon returning with a lot more apples than we could consume, my friends C and T turned to me for an apple pie demonstration. Instead of teaching them the classic apple pie, I opted for a simple apple galette recipe from Cook's Illustrated. A recipe source I know will not disappoint. And I am happy to report that the crust is one of the flakiest I have made. The video demonstation on the site is easy to follow and helpful for bakers of all experience levels.

apple galette3

Although the recipe used food processor, we made the dough by hand, with a pastry cutter. I offered my friends C and T who have never worked with pie dough the following pointers, which I hope you will find them helpful too:

1. Remember to have all the starting ingredients COLD. (the butter, water and flour).

2. Add the ice water slowly. One tablespoon at a time, until a dough ball is almost formed, but not quite yet. There will be some flour left at the bottom of the bowl, but that's ok. You can easily incorporate them into the dough when wrapping it into a circle for chilling later.

3. Handle the dough with a light hand and as little as possible. You don't want to overwork the dough or it will turn out tough after baked.

4. Let the dough rest and chill,for at least 30 minutes, after mixing and forming.

5. Don't be afraid of the dough and have fun!

apple galette

Although we had a little problem cutting and arranging the apple slices in an appealing fashion like the video demonstration,our apple galette turned out just as delicious. I didn't have apricot preserves, so I substituted it with raspberry preserves which explains the dark hue of the galette. That maybe the only aspect that could be improved on. That could easily be fixed with some chopped nuts scattered on top for color constrast.

The Apple Galette is a simple and elegant alternative to the classic American Apple Pie. You will be amazed by how fast it's disappearing from the plate. And if you are like me, you'd regret not cutting a bigger slice for yourself first before serving the others.

Apple Galette
adopted from Cook's Illustrated

2 cups all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter , cut into 5/8-inch cubes (1 1/2 sticks)
7-9 tablespoons ice water

Apple Filling
1 1/2 pounds apples (3-4 medium or 4-5 small-use granny smith, empire or golden delicious)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons apricot preserves ( I substituted with raspberry preserves)
1 tablespoon water

Using Food Processor: Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in food processor with three 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour, pulse to cut butter into flour until butter pieces are size of large pebbles, about 1/2 inch, about six 1-second pulses.
Using pastry cutter: Mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl, scatter butter pieces over flour, and cut the butter into flour until butter pieces are the size of large pebbles.

Using Food Processor: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over mixture and pulse once quickly to combine; repeat, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time and pulsing, until dough begins to form small curds that hold together when pinched with fingers (dough should look crumbly and should not form cohesive ball).
Using pastry cutter: Sprinkle water over mixture and lightly mix with hand, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough begins to form small curds that hold together when pinched with finger. It is ready when it looks crumbly and should not form cohesive ball.

Empty dough onto work surface and gather into rough rectangular mound about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Starting at farthest end, use heel of hand to smear small amount of dough against counter, pushing firmly down and away from you, to create separate pile of dough (flattened pieces of dough should look shaggy). Continue process until all dough has been worked. Gather dough into rough 12 by 5-inch mound and repeat smearing process. Dough will not have to be smeared as much as first time and should form cohesive ball once entire portion is worked. Form dough into 4-inch square, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until cold and firm but still malleable, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

About 15 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and halve apples. Cut apple halves lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

Place dough on floured 16 by 12-inch piece of parchment paper and dust with more flour. Roll dough until it just overhangs all four sides of parchment and is about 1/8 inch thick, dusting top and bottom of dough and rolling pin with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Trim dough so edges are even with parchment paper.

Roll up 1 inch of each edge and pinch firmly to create 1/2-inch-thick border. Transfer dough and parchment to rimmed baking sheet.

Starting in one corner, shingle sliced apples to form even row across bottom of dough, overlapping each slice by about one-half. Continue to layer apples in rows, overlapping each row by half. Dot apples with butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake until bottom of tart is deep golden brown and apples have caramelized, 45 to 60 minutes. Check the bottom of the galette halfway through baking-it should be a light golden brown. If it is darker, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While galette is cooking, combine apricot preserves and water in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium power until mixture begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Pass through fine-mesh strainer to remove any large apricot pieces. Brush baked galette with glaze and cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into individual portions; serve.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Hazelnut Ring Tea Cake

hazelnut ring tea cake

A few weekends ago, OCT and I played babysitters for his colleague who needed to work in the morning. Thinking of having something sweet for all of us to nibble, after a morning of play, I made a simple tea cake from Roland Mesnier's Basic to Beautiful Cakes . Chef Mesnier who is the former White House Executive pastry chef, has spent 25 years serving desserts to many influential politicians and first family.

hazelnut ring tea cake

I also enjoy reading the little introduction preceded every recipes. For instance, Chef Mesnier wrote that this Hazelnut Tea Cake was referred by President Reagan as "The Crunchy Cake" and had requested it for his birthdays several times. Information like this would be great conversation material on dinner parties, although I secretly suspect our young friend wasn't interested in this snippet of Mr Reagen's birthday cake preference. He was more anxious to get a second slice, with extra crunch on the side.

I adopted the recipe of the cake base, but used the praline buttercream recipe from one of the past Daring Baker's Challenges. Instead of making the nougat suggested by Chef Mesnier, I used Giada De Laurentiis's recipe.

Our little friend enjoyed the cake, especially the crunchy part!So was his play mate. :p

hazelnut ring tea cake

Hazelnut Ring Tea Cake
adapted from Roland Mesnier's "Basic To Beautiful Cakes"

For the Cake:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream, at room temperature. I use sour cream.

For the crunch:
1 cup (about 4 1/2-ounces) hazelnuts/almonds, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

1 recipe of Praline Buttercream. See here for the recipe.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Heavily grease and flour an 8-inch tube pan. I use a 10 cup bundt pan. The cake is not as high as the original recipe, but taste all the same.

Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Stir until well combined, but do not overmix. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Then stir in the butter and sour cream/creme fraiche.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake intil the cake begins to form a crust, about 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn the heat down to 350F and continue baking until a toothpick insered into the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes longer.Let the cake rest in the pan on a wire rack and unmold it. Re-invert it onto another wire rack so it is right side up, and allow it to cool completely.

To make the crunch,
Place the toasted nuts close together in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar mixture until dissolved. Bring to a boil and let cook until the sugar is light brown, about 8 minutes. Let the bubbles subside then pour the caramelized sugar over the nuts. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and let the sugar nut mixture cool until hard, about 30 minutes. When the sugar nut mixture is hard and cool, top with another piece of parchment paper and pound into small pieces, or place the sugar nut mixture on a cutting board and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

To assemble:
Liberally cover the prepared praline buttercream on the cake. Smooth all sides, and arrange the crunch in an appleasing manner.

Serves 12.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Chocolate Mousse Cake for a special man

oct birthday cake 08

OCT's birthday falls on October. Every year, as his special day approaches, I'd pile a few cookbooks on his lap and ask him to pick one as his birthday cake. Ever since I started baking, his request has always been mango cake. Yes, we both love mango, a lot. So I granted his wishes the past two years. We love mango so much that I even make a mango cheesecake for my birthday last year too.

oct birthday 08

This year however, I think it's time for a change.
"How about having something different for your birthday this year?"
"hmm...but I like mango cake."
"you know, mangoes are not in season now...I will need to use the frozen stuff and you know they are not as flavorful as the fresh ones."
"really? *sigh*....then I will have a chocolate cake"
"great choice, my Lord !"

Then it was up to me on which chocolate cake to make. In the end, I chose a chocolate mousse cake. The cake base was a coffee genoise I adapted from Roland Mesnier's book, and the chocolate mousse was the same one I used for my birthday cake. While the cake turned out disappointedly dry and flavorless, the low fat chocolate mousse was as delightful as I remembered.

oct birthday cake 08

I love how the low fat chocolate mousse tastes deceptively rich and sinful. Instead of using heavy whipping cream, eggwhites was used to make the safe meringue. It was then folded into the chocolate mixture to provide the cloud-like texture to the mousse.

I am not inclined to share the genoise recipe, based on the result I got. Instead, I would recommend anyone interested in making this cake to use this recipe. Of course making the lady fingers from this recipe would make the delicious chocolate mousse cake extra special too.

Not wanting to add unnecessary calories with buttercream decoration, I simply adore the cake with hazelnut brittle I have left from another cake.

oct birthday 08

Before OCT reached home from work, I took out some of his favorite toys to take a picture with the birthday cake. After that,I prepared a seafood noodle, along with 2 eggs for his dinner. The dinner he has requested, along with the chocolate cake. Noodle signifies longevity in Chinese. My mother in law used to cook noodle on OCT birthday every year before he came to the States, and that responsibility has passed down to me now. :)

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