Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Finding Substitutes

I came across this great site that I reckon is quite useful for the wannabe cook, especially in third world countries where ingredients are not always readily available. It offers you the definitions of foods, and also SUBSTITUTES for them, if the real thing is not available.

An item I've seen in many recipes, but find hard to obtain, without costing an arm and a leg, is BUTTERMILK. (it costs like RM10 for 1 litre) The other ingredient I was looking for was GUM TRAGACANTH, for modelling icing. After reading about it on the internet, I resigned myself to the fact that you will never be able to obtain it here, (since some woman from Las Vegas said she could only find it in Sydney), but to my surprise, it WAS available at cake supply haven, BAKE WITH YEN.

Cooks wannabe, you may thank me at your leisure for this wonderful discovery.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Fudge Cake

Ripped from Nigella Bites, one of Nigella Lawson's cookbooks, this sinfully rich chocolate cake, is really sinful. Not only it's swimming in butter, oil, AND sour cream, the icing is ALSO ludicrously unhealthy, in its original form. Therefore I have taken the liberty of substituting the prescribed icing with a chocolate ganache, which at least omits the tons of butter and icing sugar. Though I've made it twice, once with the original icing, and the second time with the ganache, I've only eaten it the first time, and didn't get around to actually eating it the second time round, so I have no idea if it's any good, and only have the wife's word for it that it is okay.

What Goes In

Dry Ingredients to be sifted
3 1/5th cups plain flour
50gm cocoa powder (3/4 cup)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

Cream & Egg Mix
3 eggs
tub sour cream
1 tbspn vanilla extract

175gm butter, pref unsalted
½ cup corn oil
300ml cold water

250gm dark chocolate
1/3 cup cream


Original recipe
175gm dark choc
250gm unsalted butter
275gm icing sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to moderate, ie, about 170C, or mark 5 on the electrolux. Line two 8" sandwich pans. I don't know why they're called that, coz you don't make bread in them. I guess cakes in these kinda pans usually are used to sandwich something.

2. Sift the "sifting ingredients" and sugars into a big bowl. You can also try using brown sugar throughout, especially if you buy into the common belief that brown sugar is healthier.

3. In a separate bowl, or jug, whisk the egg cream combo until it resembles just that. Egg and cream combo. Ie, you can no longer tell the yolk from the albumin, etc.

4. In yet another separate bowl, (this is when having domestic help, or dishwasher comes in handy), mix the butter, oil, and water....yeah, I know, I thought it was weird too, who ever hears of mixing oil and water. The outcome would be two stratified layers, or oil and water. But don't despair. The cooking diva knows what she was talking about.

5. Chuck everything into the big bowl where the dry ingredients are sitting. Beat (with electric mixer) until its all nicely mixed and looks like a chocolate cake batter.

6. Divide into the two sandwich tins, and bake for about 25-30 minutes. I'm not sure if you're meant to leave it to cool in the pan, or on a wire rack, so to be safe, just do a bit of both....

7. For the ganache, zap ingredients in microwave for a minute, letting the choc melt.

8. Place a healthy dollop in between the cakes, and the rest to ice the rest of the cooled cake.

9. If opting for the sickly rich butter icing, melt the chocolate. Cream the butter and icing, and add the melted chocolate until it forms a nice spreadable icing.

10. Serve at room temperature I suppose. According to Nigella, if you're heartbroken, you can eat the whole cake.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Durian Poppy Seed Cake (Warning- Resulting in Toxic Gases)

Durian, the king of fruits, seems to be back in season after a hiatus of a few months. Usually, the initial crop probably ain't the cream of the crop, but with this cake, you do not need to use premium grade D24 breeds, but for the durian cream, yeah, it'll help to use top notch stuff. Same principle applies to chocolate cakes I guess. The liquid parts, frosting, glazing etc, should be from yummy chocolate.

If you are not a durian fan, you might as well close this window right now and go back and watch season 2 of Desperate Housewives.

The main hassle of making this cake is deseeding the durian. Especially if the flesh is too ripe, and mushy. I don't think your guests want to imagine your fingers running through the mushy flesh. Best way is to chill it a bit so that the flesh is firmer, and peels off from the seed more easily.

The Cake:

400gms of durian flesh (ie, no seeds), pureed, with a dash of milk

250gms butter
1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1½ cups flour
½ cup custard powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3rd cup poppy seeds

1. preheat oven to 175C. that's no 5 on an electrolux. I can't understand WHY they just can't put the temperature readings on the dial.

2. use a cake mixer, cheap one will do, to beat the slightly thawed butter (in our equatorial heat, leaving the butter out for 5 minutes from the fridge will do the trick...those sydney readers, depends which season you're in), together with the sugar, until nice and creamy. (by the way, I've already reduced the sugar by half, so further reduction at your own peril).

3. when the butter and sugar is nice and creamy, let your kids have a taste. nothing like butter and sugar. yummmy.

4. adds eggs gradually, (ie one by one is not a bad idea), continue mixing until the whole mixture looks like ......eggs, butter and sugar mixed.

5. in a dignified manner, plonk in the durian puree, while resisting tempation to wallop any along the way. give it a good churn with the cake mixer again, until it's all mixed, and you can see some durian fibre stuck on your beaters.

6. stir in the poppy seeds. Contrary to popular belief, although opium comes from poppy, the only high you'll get from this is by inhaling the durian.

7. add the flour in in two batches, stirring it in until mixed. The batter should be more viscous than when before you added the flour. Obviously.

8. transfer batter to 8"round tin, and bake for 50 minutes.

9. serve with fresh durian cream, or where durian is scarce, then thick pure cream would do.

10. in about 4 hours or so, you should be emitting noxious gases, either by burping or by farting. stay away from the flame.

Durian Cream:
400gm of durian
whipping cream - half cup
Blitz together in blender.

Alternatively, whip cream separately. blend durian. mix together. This is really your call.