Friday, September 26, 2008

Chocolate Muffins

I had planned a week ahead to visit my girl friend's new home and hoped to bake a tray of muffins if my daughter napped well for our snacks later. She really slept well and long enough that afternoon giving me enough time to do cooking, baking and some housework :)

Having said that, I always kept in mind to bake something easy and fast. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I took effort to remember the basic muffins recipe by hard. The effort paid off as I recalled the recipe within seconds and it took me less than 15 minutes to prepare and mix all the ingredients. It was so satisfying to act like a pro home baker haa haa :)

I used the same Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe. The variations I made were as followed :

1. I added in about 1 1/2 tbsp of cocoa powder to the flour and sift them together with the salt and baking powder
2. Since I had about 50g baking chocolate left, I used the double boil method and melt the chocolate. I then mixed the melted chocolate to the batter at the step of folding in the chocolate chips.
3. I used the Buttercup butter which is slightly salted and I found that it tasted less buttery.
4. Do not use vanilla essence for this recipe.

It tasted not as good as I expected. Perhaps this was due to the different butter that I used. I normally use unsalted butter from Lurpark. The muffins are soft though and the chocolate tasted just nice to my preference.

I was so happy to see my girlfriend's daughter and my gal tucking in the muffins. Nothing is much more rewarding than seeing your family members and friends happily eating and finishing up your baking and cooking creations! :)

Blueberries and Yogurt Muffins

I was searching around for cake recipes suitable for diabetic patient. My father-in-law is diabetic and I thought of baking him a cake for his birthday. Found one Mango Cream Cheese Pound Cake but sadly was not able to bake it in time due to some changes in the celebration plans :( Anyway, I was glad to bump into a pastry chef's blog who discovered having diabetes shortly after enrolling himself in a culinary school. Check out this website to look for baking tips and recipes suitable for diabetes.

Originally I wanted to bake the Blueberries Muffins following the recipes found in diabetic pastry blog but I hold back because I got to know through youtube on what Splenda really is. Not sure how true it is but i think better be cautious than sorry. At the end, I followed this Blueberries and Yogurt Muffin Recipe and did quite a lot of variations to it.

I like the topping for the muffin most as it was so crunchy and it tasted exactly like those crumble pies if you ever tried one before.

The taste of the cinnamon and nutmeg was light but it helped mellowing down the sourish taste of the berries and enhanced the overall aroma of the muffins.

I used 2 types of blueberries from different farms. Perhaps that explains the two different purple tones of the muffins. This is really a healthy snack since it is fruity and uses less butter. Next time I will try to replace the butter with canola or sunflower oil and replace 1/3 of the plain flour with the wheat flour to make it more wholesome and healthier.



(Make 15)
220g Plain Flour
1/4 tsp of salt
56g unsalted butter (soften)
170g castor sugar
55g brown sugar
2 eggs lightly bitten
170ml full cream milk
90g plain yogurt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
218g blueberries
½ cup pecans (optional)


30g plain flour
30g cold unsalted butter (my suggestion)
2 tbsp brown sugar
A dash of nutmeg and cinnamon


1. Sift flour together with salt, baking powder and baking soda. Put aside

2. Grease the muffin tray and line the muffin tray with the muffin cases. Preheat the oven at 200deg C. Baking time 20-25 min

3. Mix butter with sugar until creamy, pale and fluffy about 5 - 7 minutes at high speed. Mix in yogurt, milk, eggs until incorporated at low speed.

4. Add in flour, salt, baking powder and soda and mix until incorporated . Do not over mix.

5. Fold in blueberries.

6. Fill the muffin cases about 2/3 full

7. For the topping, add plain flour, brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg together using the back of the fork. Rub in about 30g cold butter until bread crumb is form. Sprinkle on top of the muffin before baking.

Notes :
1. I have added half water to the full cream milk to make a 2% milk
2. I have reduced the castor sugar to about 90g and keep the measurement for the brown sugar.
2. Do not add in too much berries as it will increase the density of the cake. Don't make the same mistake that I did.
3. Best to be eaten on the day when they are baked as the toppings turn soggy the next day. Also, because they were so dense inside due to too much berries you can't really keep it more than 3 days.

Recipe from About.Com : Southern Food

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chocolate Chip Muffins with Nutella and Creamy Peanut Butter

Thank you for dropping by and read my humble blog! It is really heart warming to receive feedback from a friend who now wanted to dig out her baking 'barang-barang' and start baking again after reading my blog. Do share with me your baking experience and let us learn together! :) Speaking from a very novice baker's point of view, I always recommend my friends who have not baked before but inspired to bake now, to start with a simple and easy project i.e baking muffins.

Muffins are very healthy snacks for kids. They are easy to make because the main tips of muffins baking are 'do not overmix' which means it saves a lot of work and 'do not overbake' which means time saving! Hmm sounds like those Quality Improvement project that I used to run previously!

Muffins belongs to quick bread family like biscuits, scones, waffles, pancakes etc. There are 2 mixing techniques for muffins i.e the two mixing bowls methods or creaming method. Check out this site for more information about quick bread - muffins. It is a good practice to read and find out more information before you venture into a baking project.

I got the basic muffins making recipe from Everyday Food Magazines, May 2008 by Martha Stewart. The original recipe used the 2 bowls mixing method. However, I am more used to the creaming method so I just followed my heart!

This is a fool proofed recipe and you can do a lot of variations for the add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, berries, vegetables, cheese etc without changing the measurement of other ingredients. I chose to add in the chocolate chips as I just bought one and the balance is still sitting in the fridge now. Also I thought I should be more experimental this time by adding in the nutella and creamy peanut butter for the fillings which the original recipe never called for.

The chocolate chip muffins with nutella filling tasted so good as the nutella flavour blended in so well with the chips. The muffins are soft and buttery but not dense.

I like especially the crust on top of the muffins. It gave you that kind of umph when you bite a chunk of it....Yummy!!

However, this was not the case for the muffins with creamy peanut butter. The cake texture did not change generally but the overall bites were not satisfying as the peanut butter was very sticky and the flavour just don't blend in with the whole cake and the chips. Won't be baking this next time.

Ever since the first bake of this chocolate chip muffins, I have memorised the recipe by hard. It is worthwhile storing this recipe in your memory bank and you will know why in my next few posts which are on muffins also!



(Make 12)
220g Self Raising Flour
½ tsp of salt
170g unsalted butter (soften)
140g castor sugar
2 eggs lightly bitten
120ml full cream milk
½ tsp pure vanilla essence
165g semi sweet mini chocolate-chip or about a cup

Creamy peanut butter


1. Sift flour together with salt and put aside.

2. Grease the muffin tray and line the muffin tray with the muffin cases. Preheat the oven at 190deg C. Baking time 20 -25 min

3. Mix butter with sugar until creamy, pale and fluffy about 5-7 minutes using the electronic mixer at high speed.

4. Lower the speed to medium and add one egg at a time and continue to beat until it is well incorporated. Add in another egg and vanilla essensse. Continue to beat until it is well incorporated.

5. Add in flour and milk alternately in three portions until finished. Do not over mix.

6. Add in chocolate-chips in 2-3 portions and fold the batter.

7. Fill the muffin casing about 1/3 full and add in a teaspoon of nutella for six muffin cases. Cover up with another 1/3 of the batter.

8. Do likewise for the other 6 muffin cases but fill them up with creamy peanut butter this time.

Notes :
1. I am using Hershey mini chocolate chips.
2. The measurement given for the sugar is a reduced amount from the original recipe which is 170g. I decided not to use too much sugar. You may add sugar if you wish the muffins to be a little sweeter.
3. You may add in other suitable flavoured milk if you wish.
4. Another variation is you can put the nutella on top of the batter and swirl it with a tooth pick before putting into the oven. I will try doing this next time.
5. You may change the milk to low fat milk or by simply adding half water to half of the full cream milk to make it as 2% milk.
6. For all the recipes in this blog, I will try to simplify from the originals.

Recipe fram Everyday Food Magazine, May 2008

China Food Scandal

I am listening to one of Jeffery Michael's album while writing this post. Overlooking at the dining room's window to get a fresh greenery view of the little patch of jungle about a kilometre away from my house. Can see the top branches of the tree swaying gently and softly when the wind blows....Need to seek some peace of mind. My mind just swung to the many scenes of crying babies suffering from kidney stones and kidney failure due to the recent food scandal in China on the melamine tainted milk/ diary products. For babies and toddlers whose life have been impaired due to permanent kidney failure at this tender age even before they can really experience what life is about, it is really heart rending!

I took a deep breath and thank God that our children here are not affected directly. Hopefully the relevant authority will tighten the food safety and security system and most importantly I really hope that China government will come out with some comprehensive continued care plans for babies who lost their kidney functions permanently due to this.

Clare, my daughter took quite a lot of the 'Take One Baby Bites' since young as this is her favourite biscuit! It is a product of China with a big Caucasian baby's face in the front label of the box. I admit that I was misled by that picture and also the fact that many babies on the street are eating it, i thought it is safe. I threw all the Take One biscuits that I have.

Now I take effort to read labels and the nutritional facts for the products I buy and I try to do more home make snacks for her like muffins and biscuits at least I know what goes in her stomach!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake

My birthday was just over and initially I was hesitant to bake my own birthday cake! We had plans to go out later in the evening and I thought I should not tire myself since I wasn’t feeling well. At the end, I decided to bake the cake that I like which is very chocolaty from every layer of the cake to the fillings and right up to the top frosting! Also I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate my two months’ journey in baking! Whatever it is i know the good reasons why i baked :)

Well, I put on masks (of course not N95) and changed it few times when it gotten wet and washed my hand thoroughly. Having to work in healthcare for years, somehow I got influenced in practising good hand hygiene; a simple measure that breaks away the spread of diseases.

The recipe called for 2 round 8inch cake tins. Since I only got one, I divided the ingredients for the cake equally for two times baking. I did the mixing procedure twice to prevent the batter from being exposed to air too long while waiting for the first baking to finish.

After putting the first batter to the oven, I realised that I forgot to add water to the melting chocolate. I added in 2 tbsp into the balance of the melted chocolate for the second batter. The consistency of the chocolate turned thick, sticky and hard (as shown in the picture above) as compared to the first batch of the melted chocolate which was smooth and soft.

You can see the difference in colour for the first cake (lighter brown) which is on your right and the second cake (darker brown) which is on your left. Surprisingly to me the texture for the second cake is better. I have increased the timing to 30 minutes for the second batter as at 25 minutes when I put the toothpick into the cake it didn’t come out clean.

As this is my first layer cake project, I did quite badly in doing the job. For each cake we should layer it half to get four layers. I almost cut more than 2/3 of the cake for a layer and they were not level at all. Oops! I almost also broke one layer of the cake and if it happened my cake would turn out short. Luckily it didn’t happen.

I carefully assembled and spread the filling on top of each layer gently as I was afraid that I might tear the cake! I put the inverted bottom layer of the cake on top since it was the most flatten part. As the cake was not leveled, you can see in the picture that some parts of the layers are too thin. I tried to put more filling on the thin layer to level it.
For more details about layering cakes, refer to Baking911 website.

I cut one small little piece for my daughter as this cake contained really high caffeine. She is like me, a chocoholic! She asked for more but as usual I have to stop her at one :O.

The cake was very fudgy. It tasted so good and best to eat with vanilla ice cream! The filling of the cake had the strongest combination of cocoa and chocolate flavours and was a bit coarse due to the unmelted brown sugar (as shown in the picture above).

I like the frosting effect. It camouflaged the weaknesses of the whole cake and it 'dressed up' the cake beautifully!

This self-taught project was adventurous and the learning process was very satisfying. I am glad that I am able to feel for the very first time how layering, leveling, spreading, assembling, trimming etc are like.



(Make 8)
150g plain flour
175g unsalted butter (soften)
175g soft brown sugar
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp baking powder
250g bittersweet chocolate
75g finely ground almonds

For the filling:
75g cocoa powder
175g soft brown sugar
175g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar

For the frosting (top only)
50g unsalted butter
150g semisweet chocolate
25g bittersweet chocolate (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350deg F or 180deg C. Grease and line two 8” round cake pan.

2. Melt the chocolate with 4tbsp of water in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Let cool slightly. Cream butter and sugar and slowly add in eggs. Stir in melted chocolate and fold in the flour, baking powder and almonds.

3. Pour batter into pan and bake 20 -25 mins. Let cool slightly and invert the cakes on a wire rack. Slice each cake through the centre to make four layers.

4. To make the filling, mix together the cocoa and sugars. Beat in the melted butter and stir in 4 tbsp boiling water to form a smooth paste. Refrigerate for 20 min then spread evenly over three layers of the cake. Place the final cake layer on top.

5. To make the frosting, melt the chocolates and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Beat until glossy then let cool to a spreading consistency. Smooth evenly over the top of the cake.

Recipe from 'Homemade Cakes' by Philippa Vanstone

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Banana Muffins/ Cake

My whole family loves bananas a lot especially my daughter and my father in law. I will usually try to get a comb on Saturday if my in laws are coming over to stay. Since there were some over ripe bananas left over after a weekend, I decided to try baking banana cake as i read a lot on internet and books that this should be pretty well easy for a beginner to bake. Browsing through all the resources that I have, I decided to bake this using Agnes Chang's recipe.

I baked the banana muffins and the banana cake in 2 seperate occasions. I left no choice but to bake this as muffins since the most important ingredient that i need for any banana recipes that is the bananas left only 3 pcs! So I decided to mash 2 of them and left one for decoration. I halfed all the baking ingredients of course.

My daugther and my husband are always the prima tester for all my cooked and baked goodies. Yeah they are the guinea pigs! :) As any other mums, I always concern about the nutritional intakes of my daughter. So, if I can I will try to use checimals minimally and wisely in all my cookings and bakings.

So for the muffins recipe, I didn't use the baking soda at all since the baking powder itself already consists of the baking soda. The muffins turned out to be very moist but not greasy, it is soft but not airy and light as it shouldn't be! It tasted so good but it doesn't look very presentable as it sunk in the middle a little!

Well this is expected as I didn't add in the baking soda to boost up the leavening effect. I didn't fill up the muffin cases 3/4 full as my batter can barely made six! So when the batter leavened, it didn't successfully flow out to get that nice curve at the edge as it was blocked by the muffin cases. It looked like being squeezed to the centre didn't it?

Read somewhere that we should fill up the empty muffin holes with water for even baking. I did that for my muffins. No regret of not adding baking soda for the muffins though.

The banana cake which I baked in a loaf tin was not successful. The inner part of the batter was not cooked and it has a few big holes and the biggest one was in the centre of the loaf!

I thought of baking this to serve the hungry pangs of my hubby over the weekend when he needs to work. Anyway he didn't know about this :)

Very disappointed but still I was glad that we were able to try the sides of the cake. It tasted a bit heavy though. I used the self raising flour and therefore did not use the baking powder as instructed in the recipe.

Read in and other sites and found some baking tips and clues to the failed project :

Q1 : Why use baking powder and baking soda?

A1 : Baking powder consists of baking soda, one or two acid salt (cream of tartar and sodium aluminium sulfate) and cornstarch. The purpose of the baking powder and baking soda is to leaven the batter and baking soda is normally used for acidic ingredients, chocolate & cocoa, honey, maple syrup to neutralise the acidic ingredients and soften the cake at the same time leaven the cake. Baking powder that we used has 2-staged leavening effects that happens at different time. The first stage happens when liquid is added to the baking powder. This step happens when baking powder is added to the batter. The baking soda in the baking powder will mix with cream of tartar and create gas bubbles called carbon dioxide in the batter. The second stage of leavening happens when the gas bubbles enlarge when exposed to thebheat in the oven. (Baking soda able to create reddening effect on batter when mix with chocolate/ cocoa powder.)

Q2: What happen when too much baking powder is used?
A2: Too much baking powder will cause the batter to collapse. Too little will cause the cake has no volume and compact.

Q3: Why there is a big hole in the cake?
A3: When use baking powder and baking soda, you must sift them and mix them well before putting in the batter if not there will be a big whole in the cake. (I used self raising flour and did not use baking soda so why there are holes on my banana loaf cake remains as a myth until i found the answer!)

Q4: Why the inner cake is not cooked?
A4: Too low temperature or too short time of baking. (This is what happened to me as I bake the loaf for about 25 minutes as I was rushing out to have breakfast with my family friends. Hubby read wrongly the baking time as this is the baking time to bake the muffins instead.)



180g unsalted butter
180g castor sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, coarsely mashed
1/8 banana essence optional (which I did not use)
3 tbsp of milk mixed with 1 tbsp of lemon juice

Dry ingredients :
240g plain flour
1tsp of baking powder
1tsp of baking soda

Decoration : 2 ripe bananas, slimed and ½ lime


1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F. Grease and baseline a 10” x 6” loaf tin.

2. Cream butter and sugar and gradually add in eggs.

3. Mix in the mashed bananas (add in bananas essence at this stage if you are using). Pour in the sifted dried ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

4. Pour the batter into a cupcake or a loaf tin and bake for about 20 – 25 min.

5. If you are making the muffins squeeze lime juice over banana slices arrange banana slices on top of the cake as decoration.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool before serving.

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