Thursday, 15 July 2010

Guilt-free banana walnut wholewheat muffins

We were having breakfast one morning last week when Herr Scherrer suddenly asked "Hey hun, can you make me some banana muffins?". I was amused by his request as the only other time he's ever asked me to bake something specific were also banana muffins... of all the many things that come out of my kitchen.... =P

Bananas are easily available all year round from most Hong Kong supermarkets. The problem though is getting bananas that are ripe enough, if not you'll end up having to wait a couple of days before being able to bake those muffins. I was lucky that day though, got my ripe bananas on special offer at HK$4 for 6!

Instead of my usual banana muffin recipe, I decided to make a healthy version this time, using milk instead of butter and replacing white flour with wholewheat flour. I had a bag of walnuts at home and decided to throw that in too, modifying a wholewheat banana nut loaf recipe I had from Carole Clements' The Great Big Baking Book into a healthy wholewheat banana walnut muffin recipe. The guilt-free muffins were moist and nutty, not greasy at all due to the omission of butter. I'll recommend it to anyone who is looking for a healthy treat!

Recipe below makes 5 muffins:

- 130g wholewheat flour
- 75g sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 ripe bananas
- 60g milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
- extra walnuts for sprinkling on top

1. Sift flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon together.
2. Add sugar and salt and mix well, then set aside.
3. Smash bananas with a fork into a puree, leaving some bite-size chunks intact.
4. Combine milk, egg and vanilla and add to smashed banana, mix well.
5. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir till just combine, careful not to over mix. Mix in the walnuts towards the end.
6. Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin trays, filling to the top.
7. Sprinkle the extra chopped walnuts on top.
8. Bake in 177 C preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
9. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Oooh those buttery sablés

You can't tell from the photos but I went sablé cookies crazy this weekend! I made at least 100 of these buttery yummies, enough to fill 2 large cookie jars! I love the taste of rich buttery cookies and sablés are one of my favorites. As always, with biscuits and cookies its always easier to make a big batch of dough at one go and freeze part of it if you don't wish to bake it all at once.

A french cookie originating from Normandy, sablés are crisp yet delicate and crumble nicely in your mouth. A french chef once told me I should never to refer to sablés as cookies... hehe.... anyhow, pair it with a good cup of coffee and you pretty much get my idea of a lovely afternoon tea.

These dainty bites come in all sorts of fancy designs, e.g. swirls and checkers. I was a little lazy with mine and went with four chocolate and vanilla quadrants placed alternate to each other.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Cherry hazelnut financiers

I recall the first time I came across financiers a few years back. It looked very much like a cupcake, in fact, I did think it was a cupcake until I bit into it and was pleasantly surprised at its texture - somewhat of a cross between a sponge cake and a moist cookie. The one I had was made with almond flour topped with berries.... yummy!

A little bit of research about financiers taught me that they are traditionally made flourless and baked in ingot-shaped pans, hence the name. A classic french petit four, no good baker should ever mistake it for a cupcake, so I'm told! The must-have base ingredient of a classic financier is beurre noisette, or brown butter, giving it a wonderful and distinct buttery & nutty flavor. These days financiers are commonly baked with fruit toppings.

Over the weekend I got my hands on a big bag of cherries. Perfect for a hazelnut financiers recipe I've been wanting to try out. I love financiers with almonds, but I love it even more when its with hazelnuts!!

Recipe below adapted from FCI's Fundamental Technique of Classic Pastry Arts (makes about 18).

- 190 unsalted butter (for the beurre noisette)
- 30 g cake flour
- 30 g bread flour
- 190 g sugar
- 135 g hazelnut paste
- 150 g egg whites, at room temperature
- cherries for topping

1. Place butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the milk solids have separated out in the bottom of the pan, and the butter has turned a light, golden brown and has a very nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine the cake and bread flours in a mixing bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. Add the sugar and hazelnut paste, stirring until very well blended.
3. Then, add the egg whites, a bit at a time, beating well and scraping down on the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
4. Stir in the cooled beurre noisette, beating until the batter is smooth.
5. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate the batter for 1 hour, or until well chilled.
6. Preheat the oven to 177 C.
7. Fill cupcake baking cups (up to 2/3 full).
8. Bake financiers for 10 minutes.
9. Remove financiers from oven and top each financier with a cherry, pressing the cherry halfway into the dough.
10. Bake financiers with cherry for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Best served warm.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Victorian milk bread

I still think nothing beats the wonderful smell of bread baking in the oven!  Still in the habit of making my own bread for breakfast whenever I can, sometimes the type of bread I end up with is dependent on the ingredients I find available in the kitchen.  Last week I realized there were quite a bit of milk in the fridge and decided on the classic victorian milk bread.

Known for its soft crust and crumb, this bread keeps well and remains crisp. The dough is easy to handle hence allowing it to be shaped creatively or even braided if one doesn't want to bake it in a loaf tin.  Most of the time milk loaves don't come with additional toppings but I decided to sprinkle poppy seeds over mine this time. Instead of kneading the dough by hand, I used a bread machine, removed the dough after rising and followed the recipe below from step 5.

Recipe below taken from "Bread" by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno

- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 350 ml tepid milk
- 500 g strong white flour
- 1.5 tspp salt
- egg glaze, made with 1 egg and tbsp milk

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 100 ml of milk in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Stir in half of the remaining milk.
2. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted milk. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved milk to form a sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise for 45 minutes.
5. Knock back, cover, and leave the dough to rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Grease a 500g loaf tin. Shape the dough into a S-shape to fit in a loaf tin. Cover with a tea towel, then prove until the dough is 2.5cm above the top of the tin, about 1 hour.
6. Brush the top of the loaf with the egg glaze. Bake in 200 C preheated oven  for 45 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.


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