Monday, April 30, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I love layers in my cake, how all the different flavors mingle together to form one perfect harmony. Just like this cake. It's got a moist buttery cake, thick cream cheese filling, sweet jam made from fresh strawberries and a nice crumb topping. What could possibly be better than this? It IS the PERFECT coffee cake!

The first time I made this cake, I was careless and in my hurry to finish, I added the wrong amount of butter and my cake turned out dense and rubbery. It tasted as if it was undercooked. My poor colleagues had to eat it all. hehe. I finally got it right the 2nd time around though. This cake was so delicious it was completely worth all that effort.

I've never seen anything like it in any of the coffee shops around my city but my Aunt from California said that it was just like the one she orders at Starbucks. It reminds me of the Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins I made not too long ago because of the same elements they share but it is better than those muffins. WAAAY BETTER! This coffee cake is just so perfect paired with a nice cup of hot coffee or tea.

recipe adapted from Anny's Blog

Butter Cake & Crumb Topping
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into chunks

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sour cream (full fat)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Filling
1 - 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg

Strawberry Filling
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into pieces
3 tbsp sugar
3 tsp water
1.5 tsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8 inch round pan with removable bottom with non-stick baking paper.

Prepare the strawberry jam. 
Combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry in a bowl. Mix the strawberries and sugar in a pan. Cook over low heat until the strawberries release their juices about 5 minutes, then add the cornstarch mix and stir until well combined. Stir for another minute or two until it has thickened. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the cake.

Prepare the cream cheese filling. 
Beat the cream cheese on medium speed for about 30 seconds until smooth. Add in the sugar and egg and beat until well combined.  Set aside.

Prepare the cake.
Combine the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or just 2 forks, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Measure 3/4 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add the baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix well.

In another bowl, beat the sour cream, egg and vanilla extract until well blended. Using a hand whisk or a spoon, stir gently into the flour mixture until just incorporated. Batter may be a bit lumpy. Set aside.

Spread the batter in the pan, with about 1/2 inch up the sides, also leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges bare (like making a well). Pour the cream cheese mixture over the batter, being careful not to go beyond the border. Spread the strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup crumbs over the strawberry filling. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the cake.

Just looking at it is making me hungry right now. I just LOVE this cake!

Absolutely yum!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Better Than Crack Carrot Cupcakes

I love carrot cake. It's so hard to say no to those moist layers of cake that's chock-full of carrots, pineapple, raisins and walnuts with irresistible cream cheese filling and frosting. At least that's my idea of the PERFECT carrot cake. If you are a purist, then you are in the wrong place, my friend. But maybe you should still give this a try. It just might surprise you. It could totally change your mind about what you like or not. 

Thomas Keller is one of the best chefs in the world and his carrot cake recipe from his book, Ad Hoc At Home, does not disappoint. It was really close to perfection, except that the recipe only calls for carrots and walnuts so I had to alter it a bit to suit my own taste. Hey, the more fruits, the better! The cream cheese frosting was so luscious, decadent and delicious that it took every ounce of self control NOT to eat the frosting first.

I brought a batch of cupcakes I baked to work and one of the girls was literally licking off the bits stuck on the cupcake paper. She loved it that much! It was pretty obvious from the sort of hungry look on her face that one cupcake was not enough but unfortunately there wasn't any left. I tell you, you will not be able to stop eating these!

recipe first seen at TREATS, adapted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller

1 cup + 1.5 tbsp cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger powder

2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
1/8 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained (reserve syrup)
1/4 cup raisins, chopped(unless you want your cupcakes chunky)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. 

Soak the raisins in the pineapple syrup for 15 minutes. You can do this while you grate the carrots. 

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger powder in a bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, both sugars and vanilla extract with a mixer on medium speed until well combined and light in color (about 30 seconds). Slowly add the oil with the mixer still on and beat on low speed for another 30 seconds, change the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Set the mixer aside.

Using a hand whisk, stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients gently until just combined. Gently fold in the carrots, crushed pineapple, raisins and walnuts. 

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 10 minutes on the middle rack. Rotate pans and bake for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on  a wire rack before frosting. 

1 - 8oz cream cheese, cold and cut into chunks
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature for 10 minutes
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy (10 seconds). Take the cold cream cheese directly out of the fridge. On medium speed, slowly add the chunks of cream cheese in 3 batches to the butter until smooth.  Add the vanilla extract. Gradually add the sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins {Breakfast is Served}

Balancing work, blogging, baking and chatting with my boyfriend who lives in Europe at midnight is really starting to take its toll on me. I've had 3 hours of sleep the past few nights this week. I barely even get to enjoy my weekends anymore because I have to buy ingredients for orders from friends and then I spend whatever free time I have left baking. Honestly, I don't know why I do it, why I sell baked goods when I get so little profit that I wonder if it's even worth it. The only thing that comforts me a little is that I get to share my food with others which makes me happy.

If I could have a change of career, I would like to be a chef, whether it be at a restaurant or a private chef. Chefs can cook whatever they want all day long and they don't evenneed to worry about where to get the money for the ingredients. I love to bake but really, it's an expensive hobby. I'm sure all bloggers agree, unless of course you're The Pioneer Woman who makes a million dollars a year from her blog. 

I admire all those other bloggers out there who juggle full time jobs, families and kids and still find the time to post 10 or more recipes in a month. Where do they get all the time? I don't know how they do it. It must be a skill.

When life gets tough, little things such as a simple good muffin with a warm, relaxing chamomile tea can make make you feel better, if only for a while. These muffins are actually a treat for me since strawberries are expensive here but I just couldn't resist buying them. 

Do I like these muffins? Mmm.. I LOVE fruity cakes and desserts. I love the idea of layering the muffin batter, the bits of fresh strawberries and cream cheese filling while the cinnamon streusel gives the cupcakes a nice crisp on top. It's like a cross between a muffin and a cheesecake studded with strawberries. But these might have been a tad bit too moist for my taste. I might make these again with a few changes though. I realized the original recipe used less milk. 

These muffins are great for breakfast, coffee or afternoon tea. Try it! 

recipe first seen at  Patty's Food adapted from Squirrel Bakes 

Muffin Batter:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk (original recipe used 3/4 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups strawberries, cut into small pieces

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon Streusel 
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, cold

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Streusel Topping:
Sift the flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Whisk together. Add the cold butter and mix with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse wet sand. Set aside.

Cream Cheese Filling:
Beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.

Muffin Batter:
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. Whisk together. In another bowl, beat the milk, oil, egg and sugar. Stir the dry ingredients into the milk mixture gently. Do not overmix. The muffin batter will be slightly lumpy.

Scoop a tablespoon of the muffin batter into each cupcake liner. Sprinkle a few pieces of strawberries. Add a dollop (about a heaping teaspoon) of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle a little of the cinnamon streusel on top of the filling, followed by another layer of the muffin batter. Add a few more pieces of strawberries. Lastly, sprinkle the cinnamon streusel on top. 

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Best Fries Ever!

"You are what you eat", they say. I suppose there is some truth to that since I was feeling kind of sluggish the past weeks, low on energy and at times a bit irritable. I felt uninspired to do anything, even baking. I was feeling Bleh! It made me take a good look at the stuff I'd been eating lately - ice cream everyday (YES), cakes, even chips though I've never been a fan of it. In other words, I was feeling crappy because of all the accumulation of too much junk I'd been putting into my body for weeks. No wonder all my clothes feel tighter. I've gained some pounds from all that junk. 
It's about high time I start turning my diet around before it becomes a chronic habit. These days, breakfast for me is a bowl of oatmeal with some dried fruits and nuts and lunch is mostly just salad and fruit. Dinner is the only time I eat meat and rice. 
So I've been searching for some tasty but healthy recipes online and I came across these fries. You might be skeptical at first. I know how you feel but trust me.These fries are PHE-NO-ME-NAL! They're crispy but juicy inside, light, healthy and you won't even notice they're made of zucchini. Plus, they're oven-baked, not fried so that cuts a lot of the fat. Dipped in your own favorite tomato sauce, these fries will convert even the pickiest eaters and veggie-haters. They're great as a side dish or as a light snack. You will never miss those unhealthy french fries again at any fast food restaurant.

1 medium size zucchini
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Dash Seasoning (or your choice of a mix of dried herbs or parmesan cheese)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil lightly brushed with olive oil.

Cut the zucchini lengthwise and then into skinny strips. 

Stir the panko breadcrumbs with the salt, pepper and Dash seasoning or mix of herbs. Coat the zucchini strips lightly with the cornstarch. Dip the zucchini strips next in the egg, allowing any excess to drip off and then roll the zucchini sticks in the seasoned bread crumbs, making sure they are properly coated. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and lightly crispy. (NOTE: Turn the fries halfway through.) Serve with tomato sauce /marinara sauce.

Tomato Sauce
1 small onion
1 small garlic
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp DASH seasoning or your choice of mix herbs

Saute the garlic until fragant in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until transparent. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the herbs/Dash seasoning. Add the water and let the mixture cook for 10 minutes. Adjust the amount of water if the mixture gets too thick.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies


It's only been  like 3-4 weeks but it felt like I'd been away for months. I would like to apologize for disappearing a few weeks but I'd been busy with the visa application to Netherlands and I had 2 books to finish. 
I started reading the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins near the end of last month, just a few pages here and there when I had the free time at home, in between work and baking and by the end of the first book, I was completely HOOKED. I fell in love with the characters, strong and brave Katniss Everdeen and the sweet selfless boy with the bread, Peeta Mellark. I knew I had to continue reading the 2nd and 3rd books or I was never going to get any sleep at night, always wondering about what will happen next. I finally finished the last of the trilogy, Mockingjay.
For those of you who haven't read the books, I highly recommend it. It talks about survival, love, war and standing up for what you think is right.  A country in what used to be America, now called Panem, surrounded by 12 districts where each year, a male and a female tribute from each district from ages 12-18 is selected to be put in an arena to fight to the death as a reminder of the rebellion and war the 12 Districts lost several years ago. There can only be one victor.  
A lot of people compare it to Twilight because of the love triangle by the main characters but trust me, it's NOTHING like Twilight and the storyline is FAAAR BETTER. The movie, which is still playing in the theaters, was good but it really does not compare to the book. So the next time you hit the bookstores, you might want to get hold a copy of The Hunger Games trilogy. 

In the meantime, here's a little something to make up for my absence. Ghirardelli makes the best boxed brownies EVER!

These brownies are SO GOOD!
1 box Ghirardelli Ultimate Fudge Brownies with mini chocolate chips (510 g / 18 oz)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Fudge Packet (from the boxed brownie mix)
120g  bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream

Dark Sweet Chocolate, grated for topping

Preheat the oven to 325F.
Line an 8x8 inch metal baking pan with non-stick baking paper. 

Stir the oil, egg and water in a bowl. Add the brownie mix and stir until well blended. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Spread in the baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick insert in the center comes out ALMOST clean with a few crumbs sticking to it. Cool brownies before frosting. 

Melt the chocolate with the cream on a double boiler. Add the fudge sauce from the brownie mix and stir until smooth and silky. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled brownies. Chill the brownies for at least an hour. Grate some chocolate on top before cutting into desired slices. 

It might be best to cut into small slices as this is very rich and sweet.

Now this will definitely satisfy that craving for chocolate...