Saturday, May 24, 2008

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

I bought 5-lbs of cream cheese about two weeks ago. I've already planned some desserts that I will make with it. I kept the leftover 3-lb cream cheese in the fridge. A couple of days later, I found that there was some liquid coming out from the cream cheese package. It's not that it's going bad, I didn't see anything suspicious with the color or the smell. I tasted it and it tasted kind of salty. It looked like the cream cheese had separated into curd and whey, just like if you put yogurt in a cheesecloth and strain it overnight. The cream cheese texture was dry and crumbly. I didn't know why it happened. When I bought regular 8-oz package of cream cheese, the leftover stays the same as before, but not with this one. One possibility is that I kept the cream cheese on the very top shelf of my fridge and it's cooler that the one in the middle. Maybe it had gotten too cold, just as if you put it in the freezer. This is just my guess though.

So, not wanting to just throw the cream cheese in the trash, I decided to use it anyway. What is a dessert that uses a lot of cream cheese? cheesecake! and that's what I made. Not a fancy cheesecake with a whole lot of toppings, sauce, etc., but just a very standard New York cheesecake. The cream cheese just wouldn't get smooth even after beating it for 15 minutes and mixing it with other ingredients. There were a lot of small granules (whatever you call it) in the batter. However I beat it, it just wouldn't disappear. When I put it in the oven, I knew those small bits will still there even after baking.

So here it is. You can see the texture is not as smooth as a good cheesecake should be. But tastewise, I think it was really good. I put some lemon zests in the batter, vanilla (of course), and raspberry swirl on the top.



I'm still not giving up though. I'll bake a better one next time
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Soft Bread

Still in the mood of baking with yeast during this heat-wave time, I made some bread for my nephew's and my niece's breakfast and snack. I filled the inside with some bananas, cheese, chocolate, and leftover pineapple jam. It was just a classic soft bread that reminds me when I was a kid. Bread is very popular in Indonesia. Bakeries compete with each other to make the softest and lightest bread possible with all kinds of filling. Unlike today, when I was growing up, there wasn't as much flavor as it is today. Bananas, cheese, chocolate were by far the most common and the most popular flavor for bread. I had it for breakfast and during lunch break at school.



The picture may not be great but the texture of this bread is really soft, it just reminds of old days. It even stays soft until the day after. I don't' think I did a good job glazing them. I used egg yolk and honey for the glaze. I melted the honey in the microwave because it was almost solid and it was still way too hot when I mixed it with the egg yolk, so the yolk just cooked a little by the heat of the honey. That's why you can see some dark spots here and there on the bread.

It's gonna be back to normal weather again this week, around mid 70 F. It's great, but I guess the next bread will have to wait until summer is officially here. It's just around the corner though. I'm so excited to make different kinds of bread.
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Potato Donut

When I checked the weather last week, it turned out that Bay Area would be hit by a heat wave for a couple of days. It wasn't so bad in general, it's only 90-100 degree F. So, before the heat wave strike, I was so excited planning to make something that involved yeast. Something like bread or donuts. It feels like forever since the last time I made something with yeast. I checked my yeast supply and some of them expired already. As weird as it may sound, I couldn't wait that finally hot and humid weather is here. You see, yeast can only live in a hot and humid air. During winter, I rarely succeeded making something yeast-y. So as much as I want to bake some bread, I have to wait until summer comes. In a bakery, they usually have something like dough proofer, or humidifier, or warmer to proof the dough.



So, I decided to try out a new recipe for potato donuts. It's not like the whole dough is made out of potato, it's just that some amount of mashed potato added for texture. It's not the same as the donut that you normally get at a donut shop, the texture of potato donut is more like bread, although not quite. I have a recipe that I usually use, but I felt a little adventurous at that time.

My nephew and niece liked it so much, especially my niece. She asked for it for breakfast and afternoon snack. This is the picture before I put anything on it. I actually put three toppings for these donuts, the classic powdered sugar, shredded cheese spread, and chocolate sprinkles/chocolate rice, but they're all gone before I had a chance to snap a picture out of it.
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Pineapple Cookies (Nastar)



This little pineapple treat or what we usually call "Nastar" is an traditional Indonesian goodie. If Chinese has pineapple cake, American has pineapple upside-down cake, then nastar is definitely the Indonesian staple. Inside these little cookies is homemade-pineapple jam. We can't use the ready-made or jarred pineapple jam from grocery store because it will leak out. Besides, the taste will be completely different. The jam then wrapped with pastry-like dough or a little more like cookie dough.

What makes a good nastar is the perfect pineapple jam and the texture of the pastry. Some people like the pastry to be crunchy, but others (including me) like it soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture. The difference lies in the method of making the pastry, not the amount of the ingredients. You can make completely different textures with the exact same recipe, but different method.

I've been searching for the perfect recipe for this cookie for so long. And after long research, reading, experimenting, I think I find one. I really like the texture of this one. It's soft and when you put it in your mouth, it just breaks into melting goodness with intense milk flavor and sweet pineapple jam.

Luckily, I still managed to take a picture before it's all gone, although it's only half-full :).
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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tiramisu Cake



This cake is for one of my friends' birthday today. It's not that I want to make the same cake over and over again, but it's a special request from the boyfriend. In fact, I spent more than two days thinking about what cake I wanted to make. I want it to be different from the other cakes I've made before. But, the guy insisted to have tiramisu with chocolate sponge cakes and it has to be round (weird guy). I offerred him hexagonal cake, square, etc. but he wanted round. Well, round it is. The funny thing is, this guy is the same guy that I made this cake for. It was for his birthday and the girlfriend asked for tiramisu cake. I guess this guy liked it so much that he asked for it no matter what the occasion is (just for a note, he's the pickiest eater I've ever met so far).

So here it is, a tiramisu cake. It's quite warm here today. The cream easily melted, especially on the edge. Next time I make this cake on a warm day, I'll have to put a little gelatin in it for stability. Since it melted so easily, the cocoa powder that I sprinkled on top, dissolved so fast too, due to the excessive moisture the cake has :(. Oh well, it's too late now. At least there's a lesson to be learned.


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Choco-Banana Cake



This is just another cake to use up the bananas that I had at home. I always bake the leftover cake batter in a smaller pan (usually in a 6-in pan) and keep the cake in the freezer. That way, I can make a cake real quick whenever I need one (small one of course).

This cake is almost the same as this cake here. The difference is that it's a round cake of course, instead of rouleau. It consists of 2 layer of chocolate sponge cake, brushed with rum simple syrup, and filled with chocolate chantilly as well as sliced bananas. Then, the whole cake is covered with the chocolate chantilly. The plan was to caramelized the bananas before putting them inside the cake, but I guess I was too lazy doing all the clean-up :). Pardon the decoration, it's not the greatest decoration of all times, but I just want a simple-looking cake. Next time, if I make it for a celebration, I will definitely dress it up better.

I think I have to create a fancier name for all these cakes I'm making. Names make a difference too, you know. It's true that you eat with your eyes first, but whenever you're in a bakery full of extraordinary cakes and dessert, and you can't decide which one you want, if it were me, I would pick a cake that has the most appealing name.
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Monday, May 5, 2008

Pandan Cake with Cheese



Nothing special here. This is a cake I made for snack at home. I made the cake using tons of leftover egg whites that have been sitting in the fridge for a while, with buttercream, cheese, dark chocolate ganche, and red cherry.
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Bridal Shower Cake



Last weekend was one of my friends' bridal shower, Vicky. I'm so honored that I got to make her bridal shower cake. I've never made one before, but it's no different from any other cake.

I decided to make two-tier cake. A little more "grand" than a regular round or square cake, but not as formal as a wedding cake. Although it's a tiered cake, it doesn't mean that the decoration should be the same as a fondant or buttercream wedding cake. I wanted it to look fun but still beautiful.

So I browsed around and fell in love with this design. It's simple, looks so Spring-y, and it's no less than elegant. Instead of the usual round tiered cake, I made the bottom layer square instead of round. The bottom cake is a raspberry and white chocolate flavored like what I've made here, and the top tier is a tiramisu cake with chocolate sponge cake instead of vanilla.
This is also the first time I try using dowels for my cake.

It was not easy finding the right color of tulips that I wanted. I had to go to a couple of different stores with no luck, and I was so scared that the cake inside my car will start to melt (it was quite a warm day). Somehow that day, all stores agreed to carry only white and yellow tulips :(. Luckily, my friend that did the decoration, had some tulips left. Pheewww....

Well, everybody liked the cake and I was quite happy with the result. Of course there are still some room for improvement, such as the white chocolate plates could have been smaller and taller and different heights to show texture, the tulips on the top could have been more, but I think it's pretty good for a first-timer (for tiered-cake).
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