triple berry buttermilk bundt cake

When I saw this post http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/06/triple-berry-summer-buttermilk-bundt/ on smittenkitchen.com, I was so mesmerized by photos of the berry-studded cake with sexy icing dripping down its sides that I saved the page to my bookmarks so I could scroll through the photos whenever I wished to. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to make it. Alas, I live in a faraway tropical city called Singapore where fresh berries have to be imported from faraway lands and cost a bomb. Frozen berries aren’t exactly cheap, but given the quantity of berries required for this cake, they were a reasonable alternative.

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To my dismay however, frozen berries too aren’t easily available at any grocery store. Also, I didn’t know how economical it would be to buy 600g of frozen raspberries for $16, frozen blackberries for $14 and so forth. With each disappointing trip to a different grocery store, I grew increasingly depressed, bemoaning my pathetic state (why do I have to live in Singapore?! why are berries so expensive?! why do I love blackberries when they’re like practically nonexistent here?!! why couldn’t I live in Canada?! or someplace where I can have access to fresh seasonal berries for godssakes!!! i think you get the idea.)

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Thankfully, on a glorious day sometime this month, I chanced upon a bag of frozen mixed berries of just the right quantity I needed to make this cake. Of course I grabbed it and set about making it as soon as I got the chance to do so.

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It’s a simple buttermilk cake, employing the usual cake-baking method (beat butter, sugar and eggs, add flour and buttermilk alternately, then fold in fruit), but made gorgeous and deliciously jammy by the delightful berries. I believe any combination of berries will be absolutely glorious in this cake, although the original recipe calls for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. I’m sure using blackberries only will be even more fabulous; I will have to try that another day. The only problem with using frozen berries is that you will likely end up with a purplish batter (caused by the excess juices from the frozen fruit when you fold the berries into the cake batter) which I guess would be unfavourable to most people, but I’m not most people, purple is my favourite colour, I have made pink-swirled cakes many times, so why not purple, it’s time for purple! I’m sorry, that’s how my brain thinks; can’t help it.

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I think the mixed frozen berries I bought had a combination of four or five berries so it turned out to be a mixed berry buttermilk bundt cake, but whenever someone asked what cake this was, I replied ‘triple berry buttermilk bundt cake’ and I really like the sound of ‘triple berry buttermilk bundt cake’, so I shall just stick to the original name. (Was this explanation really necessary? I really do like to talk a lot sometimes.)

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The citrus icing is pretty and will score you points for presentation, especially if you’re a pro at these things (which I am not), but in terms of taste, I felt that it was unnecessary; the berry cake has tremendous flavour on its own. However, I had difficulty with the release of this cake (I nearly cried, after spending so much effort and cash on my beloved berries, the cake was not perfect!), so there was some patchwork to be done. The icing came in helpful here as it covered up the imperfect portions of the bundt and tried to prettify the cake.

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This triple berry buttermilk bundt cake will definitely be part of my go-to stash of recipes, because it got compliments from all my family members and also some guests that happened to drop by. Preparation is also a breeze – I made this within 2 hours. Of course, you need to have sufficient berries lying around if you have a sudden hankering for this cake. Or it could be adapted with any fruit according to the season, as suggested in the original recipe. A clear sign that this cake is a winner was the fact that more than half of the bundt was gone by the end of the day. This, in a household which takes a week to consume 14 frosted cupcakes, means a lot.

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green apple grilled cheese sandwich

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Grilled Cheese!!! It actually deserves three exclamation marks but I limited myself to one in the header picture so that it might look more refined and sophisticated. Although grilled cheese is at its root, comfort food, so sophistication is not priority. Although you do not need to be craving comfort to have a grilled cheese sandwich. You just need to crave cheese. Lots of it. And bread of course.

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I particularly like this sweet version of grilled cheese; I think I have made it – or variations of it – at least three times this year. Slices of tart green apple, a sprinkling of nuts (almonds or walnuts) enveloped with melty cheddar cheese and smashed between two slices of buttered cinnamon-raisin bread – what’s not to love right? Of course you can add whatever else you wish. An indulgent version I made (and devoured) earlier this year included cream cheese spread, lemon curd (homemade, I miss it so much!), figs and dried cranberries, in addition to green apple slices. Needless to say, it’s not non-calorific. But it was crazy awesome delicious and that’s what really matters!

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PS: I used a vegetable peeler to get really thin slices of green apple so that I could squeeze more green apple into my sandwich, I managed to incorporate about 3/4 of a small green apple in total! The more apple, the more balanced our sandwich is right? 🙂

dimply apricot coffee cake

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Numerous recipes bookmarked, but only limited time available. Sad fact of life #1.

Well, we got to make the best use of the limited time we have. I guess that’s how my brain decided to adapt parts of two recipes and create one simple coffee cake. I should probably confess at this point that for a long time, I had thought coffee cake referred to a coffee-flavoured cake. Only rather recently (how embarrassing) I learnt that coffee cake is basically a term used to refer to any cake that nicely complements a coffee or tea break.

Dorie Greenspan’s “Dimply Plum Cake” is one such cake. However, her recipe does not call for a streusel or crumb topping. I remembered seeing a similar plum cake recipe in The best of Fine Cooking – Breakfast magazine which had a crumb topping, so I decided to sort of merge the two recipes. Oh and I substituted apricots (of the canned variety) for the plums, because I saw canned apricots at the supermarket and bought it and it came with a December expiry date, so I had to use it and anyway the recipe is adaptable, as suggested by Dorie. Wow that was a pretty long sentence.

I think we should get on with the cake!

First, get the ingredients ready. This, at my place at least, involves washing and drying all the utensils, baking pans etc., then laying out the ingredients and hooking up the stand mixer (because it does not have a permanent place on our kitchen counter. how sad right. ok stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s not attractive.)

Prepare the streusel / crumb mixture as directed and place in the fridge while you make the cake batter. Beat butter and sugar till creamy.

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Zest a whole large orange by hand without the help of a microplane zester, instead using a regular grater and stop feeling sorry for the fact that you don’t own a microplane zester, and instead be grateful that you have an opportunity to tone your arms, however pathetic this may seem (by “you” of course I mean me, myself and I).

Add the eggs, then the oil, orange zest and vanilla. Just stand and inhale the lovely orange fragrance. Then snap back to reality and resume mixing. Or rather, turn the mixer to medium speed, so that it will continue to mix.

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When all the wet ingredients have been mixed, the batter is supposed to appear smooth and satiny; but I have no idea what a satiny batter looks like though. As long as the ingredients are properly combined, I guess it should be fine.

Next, add the dry ingredients (which you would have already measured into a small bowl earlier), a little at a time. Stand too close to the mixer and get flour flying into your eyes. Curse the fact that you’re wearing contacts and blink rapidly to avoid any eye infection. Wonder why you didn’t switch to glasses since you’re at home anyway and it doesn’t matter that you look like a nerd while baking a cake. Stop the mixer after all the dry ingredients have been added. Use a spatula and gently incorporate any remaining flour mixture that had not been properly mixed.

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Spread batter into the prepared pan, level it, top with apricots, realise you have spaced them too far apart in the first rows and hence your last two rows appear crammed, console yourself that imperfections are also artistic. Retrieve the streusel / crumb topping from the fridge, distribute as evenly as possible around the apricots. Wash your hands for what seems like the millionth time, and finally place the cake in the oven. Wait patiently for the oven to do its magic, and dive in! Okay, not really, you got to wait till the cake is completely cooled before slicing and serving (as is done for almost all baked goods.)

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A perfect everyday cake, lovely for tea or as a sweet breakfast treat. Hope you will like it too!

Dimply Apricot Coffee Cake

Recipe adapted slightly from (Fine Cooking, p 91 & Baking From My Home to Yours, p 41)

Ingredients for Streusel / Crumb topping 

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Pinch of cardamom / cinnamon ( I used cinnamon)

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (more as needed) ( I found 3 tbsp to be sufficient)

Ingredients for Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sliced almonds (I added this, felt that almonds complement apricots well)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Scant 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional) (I left this out)

5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flavorless oil (canola or safflower)

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

16 apricot halves (or, in the original recipe, plums)

Directions

  1. Make the streusel: Put the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom or cinnamon in a small bowl and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined. Drizzle melted butter over the mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles a clumpy dough. Using your fingers, break the mixture into pistachio-sized clumps and large crumbs. If the streusel is sandy and won’t clump, add a little more melted butter, 1 tsp at a time. Refrigerate the streusel while you prepare the cake batter.

  2. Centre a rack in the oven, preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line an 8-inch square pan with baking paper / parchment paper with overhanging sides for easier cake removal. Butter and flour the paper and place the pan on a baking sheet.

  3. Whisk the flour, sliced almonds, baking powder, salt and cardamom (if using) together.

  4. Beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.

  5. Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apricots cut side up in the batter (4 rows of 4 halves each), pressing the apricots lightly so they settle into the batter. Sprinkle the streusel around (not over) the apricots until the streusel mixture is used up.

  6. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the apricots and a thin knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.(Mine took about 1 hour for the centre of the cake to be properly baked, so do ensure the cake is done instead of simply removing it at the 40-minute mark!)

  7. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then lift the cake out of the pan using the overhanging sides of parchment paper and cool completely before serving.

Note from Dorie Greenspan: (about the original dimply plum cake) cake does not freeze well. 

Update 12/12/13: Cake is moister the following day, and the top fruit and streusel layer is slightly pudding-like. Soft cake is almost always a good thing in my book! 

breakfast, my favourite meal of the day

I LOVE BREAKFAST.

Yes the love is so great, it has to be in ALL CAPS.

I am one of those strange people who never fails to have breakfast every single day and never postpones it for any reason whatsoever. Or at least I have never refused breakfast ever since I was fourteen and my parents could stop forcing me to have breakfast because I had finally stopped being silly and realised what a treat breakfast was.

It’s the only period of time when I can have a meal in private, lost in my own thoughts, with silence for company. It’s especially lovely on weekdays, a slice of peaceful me-time before being swallowed by rush hour commute to work (or school, in the past).

toast with sliced banana is a favourite

toast with sliced banana is a favourite

grilled bread!

grilled bread!

Weekend breakfasts can be different. It’s the weekend after all, so it’s possible to prepare something that will take a little time, time which we can afford to spend on such indulgences, given that it’s the weekend.

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I think pancakes are classic weekend breakfast food. I have tried several pancake recipes over the years, gathered from the Internet and cookbooks. As I was pretty young when I started making pancakes for myself, I didn’t realize the importance of and didn’t take note of which ingredients made what kind of difference to the texture, taste, appearance of my pancakes, given that the various recipes would have had slightly different ingredients in different proportions.

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My current go-to pancake recipe is from “The best of Fine Cooking Breakfast – 88 Delicious Recipes” which I bought at a Borders bookstore in Boston, USA. It’s pretty straightforward and promises perfect fluffy recipes every time. Unfortunately, however, I have never been able to get thick, fluffy, American-style pancakes. I believe the fault lies in my skills and lack of proper pancake-frying equipment. Not the recipe itself. I follow the tips stated in the magazine too – mix the wet and dry ingredients separately; keep the batter lumpy; let the batter rest while heating up the frying pan – etc. 

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I have reproduced the recipe below, so you can try and perhaps let me know whether you’re able to get thick, fluffy perfect pancakes? Meanwhile, I should probably also try other tried-and-tested recipes from the blogosphere. I’ll have to cook pancakes till I achieve the thus-far elusive perfect pancake!

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Buttermilk Pancakes

From “The best of Fine Cooking Breakfast – 88 Delicious Recipes”

Ingredients

3 tbsp unsalted butter; more for serving

2 cups unbleached AP flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups buttermilk (I substituted with 2 cups milk and lemon juice)

2 large eggs

vegetable oil, for the griddle

pure maple syrup, for serving

Directions

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F (about 95 degrees C). Melt butter in a small bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove and set aside to cool briefly.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk gently until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly moistened. Add the cooled melted butter and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened (there will be lumps). Let the batter rest while you heat the griddle.

Heat a griddle or a large skillet over medium heat until drops of water briefly dance on the surface before evaporating. Lightly oil the griddle. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Let cook undisturbed until bubbles rise to the surface and the edges look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Check the underside of each pancake to make sure it’s nicely browned, then flip. Cook until the second side is nicely browned, about 1 minute more. Transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup. (In the pictures above, I served with the leftover strawberry coulis and a little maple syrup.)