Friday, August 17, 2012

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

Photo credit - Oops, I got it somewhere from Google Images. Apologies for not attributing to the proper source.

After my last post on a Banana Yoghurt Coconut Cupcake, a friend called and said it looks lovely but she wanted to know the difference between a muffin and a cupcake. I've asked this question before and was told a cupcake is essentially a cake, which doesn't enlighten quite enough, so I'm posing this question again. 

I searched the internet again, and these are some of the responses I found:

1. A muffin is just a confused cupcake.

2. A muffin is an ugly cupcake.

3. A cupcake is a muffin with a fancy hat.

4. A muffin is a healthier cupcake.

5. Muffin is to bread what cupcake is to cake.

6. I called my wife "Cupcake" when she was younger. Now I call her "Muffin".

7. If you throw a muffin onto the wall, you will hear "Thud". If you throw a cupcake, you hear "Pouf"

8. Muffins are heavier and denser. Cupcakes are lighter and fluffier.

9. A muffin is a quick bread.

10. A cupcake is a cake that is cupped.

11. Ingredients are similar but mixing method is different. With muffins, you prepare all the dry ingredients separately from all the wet, then mix. For cupcakes, you do the butter-sugar mixing method and work towards a cake batter.

I remain confused. Anyone out there can provide a definitive, absolute answer that clears all doubts?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Banana Yoghurt Coconut Cupcakes

This is a quick way to get rid of some longstanding ingredients in the fridge and pantry. My super-ripened bananas with skin that had already turned completely black and the frozen shredded coconut that's been in there for a month. 15 minutes prep time and 20 minutes oven time. A lovely afternoon snack for everyone at home.

Lovely and easy recipe to come back to - it yields 12 very moist cupcakes. Sorry, I like my cupcakes topless so no pretty frosting to woo you with.

Er...we wiped them all clean before I could even start this blogpost!

Dry Ingredients
13/4 cup plain flour, sieved
1/2 tsp baking powder, sieved
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup and they're fine)
2/3 cup shredded coconut (leave some to roast as toppings - this I forgot to do)

Wet ingredients
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
Mashed bananas (I used 3 medium sized ones)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used Greek yoghurt)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Celery Bread - More Fibre can only be good for you

My first attempt at celery bread recipe by Alex Goh Magic Bread. I like the idea of having vegetables in your bread. A big plus is this is the only way to get my kids to eat the green, fibrous celery. Just blend till fine and add to the dough before the first proof. Yes, they ate 200g of celery and asked for more.

Instead of ham, I added the herbed pancetta that I bought from Tuscany. It gave off a smoky aroma and herby taste to the bread.

It's the bread for you if you like a soft inside.

I did not follow the original method on moulding. Instead, I just shaped the dough into whatever pans I have at home and really pretty much just to my own fancy and whims.

Here, I cling-wrapped each loaf after completely cooling off to maintain freshness.

Check out my other bread attempts

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - Very Dark Espresso-Molasses-Kahlua Cake

I've really pushed the limit this time on sugar reduction - this cake is only 125g sugar. That is only a third of the recommended recipe and the least I've ever used on a cake, I believe. Highly suitable for diabetics. It tastes bitter! But I love it!!

I've always enjoyed a top crumble but this one really takes the cake with a major crevice. Any tips from anyone out there on how to minimise this?

Recipe from Always Order Desserts
1 stick (125g) Unsalted Butter, softened
11/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed (I used only 1/2 cup, and admittedly, it can be increased to 3/4 cup)
2 Tbsp Molasses
1 Large Egg, room temperature
1 cup Strong Black Coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua
11/2 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Dutch Cocoa Powder
1/2 Baking Powder
1/4 Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, molasses and egg until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the coffee and kahlua until combined.
In a separate bowl, sieve and whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well blended.
Pour batter into pan and bake for about 65 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
As mine is a way reduced sugar version, I sprinkled icing sugar on top and served with a sweet caramel sauce.

See my other Jewish Chocolate Cake.

Word of the Week - Molasses

Not to be confused with sandstones near mountain bases called molasse, Molasses in the culinary world are the by products from beating sugar cane. Juice is first extracted from the cane, and thereafter, boiled to become concentrated. The caramelization of the sugar results in molasses. The quality of molasses depends on the maturing of the sugar cane.

Essentially, there are 3 rounds of boiling resulting in 3 grades of molasses - mild, dark, blackstrap. The first round of boiled juice retains the highest amount of sugar, the second round gives off a slightly bitter taste, and the final round produces high grade blackstrap which gives off a robust flavour. It also contains a higher level of vitamins and minerals and is sometimes given as health supplements, serving out a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Its texture is rich like honey and the taste is finger licking good. Get the unsulphured version which has no preservative (sulphur dioxide) added in the treatment process.

Molasses is used in dark brewed beverages such as stout and dark ales, and it is also a common ingredient in baking. Check out my next post on a Molasses Kahlua Cake.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dry Laksa (Spicy Rice Noodles)

OK, here comes my Dry Laksa post. Not for those who swear that laksa is all about the gravy. One big plus about this dry version is easy portability to bring to a friend's place. Got a big tick from the kids on this one. It's less oily, less salty but still comes with a kick.

Special thanks to my friend Lina who dislikes wet laksa and her mom had to create this dish just for her, and I got to learn it from them!

For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, it is an authentically traditional street food in Singapore, and what better time to post this than on Singapore's 47th birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday, my beloved Singapore.

We fooled around with the plating, trying to elevate the status of the humble laksa but alas, it has to stay where it belongs, in a good old traditional Chinese bowl.

For those already familiar with this dish, the ingredients are exactly the same as the traditional version. The only difference is you don't add as much water.

All ingredients easily accessible from a one-stop shop in the wet market if you live in Singapore. For those who don't live in Asia, these are common Chinese cuisine ingredients and you should be able to get them from Chinatown.

1 kg thick Vermicelli
2-3 Tbsp Dried Prawns (hay-bee), chopped into small pieces
1 packet Laksa Paste (choose those without MSG or preservatives)
A bunch of Laksa Leaves, plus 2 tsp of finely chopped ones for garnishing
1 Tbsp Sugar
200ml fresh Coconut Milk (or one small packet of Kara)
Long Fishcakes, julienned
500g Beansprouts
6 large or 8 small dried, fried Beancurd (taupok)
200g medium sized Prawns, deshelled and sliced in horizontal halves or
1 Chicken Breast, poached and shredded

1. Boil pot of water, add vermicelli and cook till soft, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pan under medium to high heat, add 2 Tbsp oil and stir fry dried prawns till fragrant and not wet.
3. Reduce heat and pour laksa paste and laksa leaves in. Stir fry occasionally till fragrant and oil is released from the paste. Add sugar. Be careful not to burn the paste. Add coconut milk and put back to medium heat.
4. Add all other ingredients - beancurd, beansprout, fishcake, except the prawns, and stir fry with the paste. When well incorporated, add prawns. Turn off heat when prawns turn red and are cooked.
5. Remove from heat, and in a mixing bowl, mix well with boiled vermicelli. There is no need to stir fry the noodles, and you do not need to add salt - this I like. Garnish with chopped laksa leaves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marcus Wareing's Banana Bread Pudding - Very Rich, Very Brit, Very Olympic!!

With the gigantic bananas from my dear friend, I decided this would be a good time to test Marcus Wareing's Banana Bread Pudding. MW, as you may know, is an English celebrity chef who has a strong love-hate relationship with Gordon Ramsay.

I found the method very interesting and unlike any other pudding I've made, including the one from Jamie Oliver, or the basic banana tea bread I made. Definitely want to make this again.
Heavily caramelised bananas and toffee syrup!

Love it! Love it! Love it! I enjoy the method of creating the toffee syrup and pouring it over the banana mixture before baking. It is truly differentiating from most of the banana bread recipes I've come across. Texture is moist and sweetness comes from overripe bananas and the caramelisation process. And this with reduced sugar! Awesome.

This is my tribute to all the impressive Brits - Bradley Wiggins who won the Tour de France just 2 weeks back and Andy Murray who came in third in Wimbledon. To Chariots of Fire and Mr Bean, the greatest detective on earth Sherlock Holmes, Dr Who, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Queen and her Jubilee Year, the gorgeous Kate Middleton, the sharp-tongued Simon Cowell, the hidden gem in Susan Boyle, to Great Britain during this Olympic season! I miss the river Thames and I miss my friends in London. Now enjoy that puddin'!
Very moist inside. Warning: also very rich! 

Here's the adapted recipe:
200g Unsalted Butter, divide into 50g + 150g
120g Brown Sugar (original recipe is 200g, but with ripe bananas, 120g is more than enough)
3 Tbsp Golden Syrup
125ml Thick Cream
150g Plain Flour, sieved
1 tsp Baking Powder, sieved with flour
3 Overripe Bananas, mashed (I used about 480g)
3 Large Eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven with fan option to 180C. Lightly oil a 9" pan.
2. Make toffee syrup by doing the following: melt 50g butter under low heat, add 50g sugar and stir. When melted and well incorporated, add syrup and thick cream and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. Simmer for about one minute then remove from heat.
3. With a hand mixer, beat remaining butter and sugar till creamy and light. 
4. Mix mashed bananas and beaten eggs together, then add to the butter mixture. 
5. Gently fold in sieved flour and baking powder to butter and banana mixture.
6. Pour 1/3 of toffee syrup to bottom of pan, then add half of banana mixture. Pour another 1/3 of toffee syrup on top, then add the remaining banana mixture. Pour remaining toffee syrup on top of full batter.
7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If it comes out wet and soggy, drop temperature to 110C and bake for another half hour. You will see it bubbling in the oven. Enjoy the heavy caramelisation process taking place right in front of you.
8. Remove cake from oven and leave it to cool at room temperature. Toffee will help harden cake in 10-15 minutes if it came out of the oven slightly wobbly.
9. Slice a small piece with a serrated knife and serve with frozen berries or a dollop of cream and a lovely cup of English tea. It's very rich, so don't serve big slices. 

Some tips:
1. It's ok to have a few chunks when you mash your bananas, if you are a banana lover!
2. The berries provide the occasional juicy burst which pairs well with the richness of the pudding.
3. You need a big pot of tea to go with this!