Thursday, August 25, 2011

A journey through Chocolate Cake


This particular story begins on an ordinary day when a young girl walked into her first Year 8 food technology practical class which, like the rest of the class, she was looking forward to. They were baking chocolate cake today, using a simple melt and mix recipe, and since the lesson was only 50 minutes, the ingredients were already measured and prepared. It couldn’t have been any easier or fool-proof.

By the end of the lesson, the whole room smelt of sugar and chocolate as everyone pulled a beautiful (it a little ordinary) chocolate cake out of their ovens. It was soft, it was chocolatey- it was delicious!

The girl was simply amazed.

What? Wasn’t cake making supposed involve many years of practice and learning? Wasn’t there supposed to be some sort of skill involved? How could she have just made such a delicious cake using such simple ingredients?

So amazed was this little girl that the first thing she did when she went home, was to fumble through her pantry to find the ingredients required for this magical cake and give it a go herself. If she could replicate the recipe at home, it would be perfect as it was her mother’s birthday- it would be the first birthday cake she had ever made for her mother!

After carefully measuring out each ingredient, and following the recipe precisely (and making much of a mess in her kitchen), she eventually managed to prepare the batter and put it in the oven where she waited optimistically for her cake to finish baking. Unfortunately, it did not turn out quite as well as expected.....

(try not to laugh!)

What the girl didn’t realise, was that her (seemingly clever) substitution of Nesquik milk chocolate powder for cocoa powder was not the best idea, contributing to only the slightest chocolate flavour in the cake. That, and perhaps some over mixing of the batter, resulted in a strange looking cake with an even stranger texture and flavour which was barely edible.

Oh’s the thought that counts right? ;)

Not completely disheartened at her unexpected failure, she bought a box of cocoa powder on her next supermarket trip and attempt number 2 and 3 followed a few weeks later. But still no successes. The cake was never sweet, nor chocolaty enough (perhaps the fault of the recipe) and of course, the girl was not quite daring enough to change the amount of sugar or cocoa powder in the recipe.

Taking the easy way out, she decided to start with box mixes instead, and not surprisingly managed to create a few, tasty cake-looking cakes out of them.

Convinced she had gained some experience, knowledge and perhaps skill in the kitchen, she decided to tackle the chocolate cake again- this time with a new recipe, from the back of the cocoa box. The recipe itself was simple- another melt and mix recipe quite similar to the one she had been using from school. Expecting a failure once again, you could imagine her surprise when out of the oven popped a beautiful looking chocolate cake!

one of the later attempts at this recipe (the first one wasn't that pretty...)

It was from that moment that she was hooked onto baking. There was something indescribably satisfying about successfully creating a cake from scratch that lured her back into the kitchen time and time again. She started to find herself flicking through cookbooks, as this interest slowly spread from cakes, to cookies, to desserts, and eventually to food in general.

One day, she started a food blog....and the rest is history ;)

* * * *

It’s my blog’s 2nd birthday (two days ago actually), and I thought it would be a little fitting to look back to where it all started and see how far I’ve come. I started this blog when things were sort of going downhill- I’d been met with countless failures and decided that it would be nice to begin documenting everything, hoping that it would also force me to put more effort into ensuring successes- or at least try to make my bakes look a little better.

Whilst that goal has pretty much been achieved, what I hadn’t quite considered was that this blog would, in turn, motivate me to bake more, try out new recipes/techniques and fuel my interest in food in general. Nor did I think that I would love blogging so much (afterall, I’ve always hated writing!) and spend so much time reading many other inspirational food blogs.

A celebration cannot pass without cake, and whilst this chocolate beetroot cake I present you with today may not be quite as exciting as perhaps some complicated dessert I could have made, it does go to show much I’ve changed since I first set foot in the kitchen, when you compare this cake, with the ones I made when I first started baking.

Oh, and it tastes absolutely amazing.

The recipe comes from Sala at Veggie belly. She says on her blog, that after she tried this recipe, she threw out all her other chocolate cake recipes!! If that’s not enough to get you wanting to try this recipe, I don’t know what is! The combination of chocolate and beetroot is quite interesting- I love that the chocolate flavour in cakes is so strong and tasty that it can cover up almost anything, like mistakes (which is probably why the first thing we baked in food tech class was chocolate cake) or, in this case, most of the beetroot flavour. The beetroot is completely unnoticeable- it sort of melts into the cake, giving the most amazing moist texture, and gives it a slight hint of its own unique sweetness.

Now, I’m not usually a beetroot fan. Infact, I’m usually one of those who scream ‘yuk!’ at the sight of beetroot, perhaps because of the fact that no-one in my family likes it and as such, this was the first time we’ve had beetroot in our kitchen. I would have liked to surprise my family with the fact that there was beetroot in the cake, the way you’re supposed to with these kind of cakes, but that wasn’t the easiest job, considering I had red stained hands after peeling the beetroot and a whole pot of beetroot left over after baking the cake.

Nevertheless, they received their surprise- it was definitely a lot tastier than anyone expected and had me planning on making a second one almost instantly. It’s one of the most exciting recipes I’ve come across for a while!

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe
from Veggie Belly
Original Recipe from Ross Burden

serves about 8

for the cake
85g dark chocolate
3 medium eggs
300g sugar
240ml sunflower or vegetable oil
300g cooked and pureed beets
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30g cocoa powder
200g flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the chocolate ganache
250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250ml heavy cream

1. Pre heat oven to 350 f.

2. Melt the chocolate (for the cake) over a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Slowly add the cooked beet puree , the melted chocolate and vanilla into the egg mixture. Beat just untill combined.

3. Sift the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the beet batter. Fold just untill everything is combined. Dont over work or over mix the batter.

4. Spread a teaspoon of butter or oil over the surface of a 10 inch cake pan. Sprinkle some flour all over, and tap out the excess. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 30 minutes, or till a tooth pick or skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Baking time may vary depending on the pan and oven you are using.

5. While the cake is baking, work on the ganache frosting. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a sauce pan, just till it starts to barely boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk till it forms a smooth sauce.

6. When the cake is done, cool it on a wire rack. Then pour the chocolate ganache over while the ganache is still warm. Let the ganache topping cool and set a little before serving.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ma'leisia Cafe

Finding somewhere to eat with my family isn’t exactly as easy as it seems- we all have quite different tastes, we have a limited budget and of course the area we live in isn’t exactly as full of exciting choices as perhaps the city. Too often, we run out of ideas of where to eat and end up revisitng the same places over and over again- not that it’s a bad thing, but sometimes, a little something different would be nice!

So when I saw this restaurant on Chocolatesuze’s blog, I was quite excited to try it out. Walking there from the shopping centre, we almost decided to try some of the restaurants on the way there instead, but I persisted and we eventually made our way to this little cafe.

Deep Fried Salt and Pepper Calamari ($7.90)

We start with an entree of deep fried calamari. They look quite like the packaged ones which you fry yourself at home, but are deliciously tender, with a satisfying crunch which leaves us hooked and not at all disappointed.

Nasi Lemak with Bali Chicken ($9.90- lunch special)

The Bali Chicken is a curious looking dish, with chicken covered in a mysterious dark, thick sauce. The chicken is quite tender, but it is really the sauce which is the highlight of this dish- slightly sweet and nutty, and flavoured with various spices, the sauce is incredible tasty. So much so, that I would have happily licked all of the remaining sauce on the plate if it were not for its spiciness! (It probably wasn't that spicy- I just don't take spicy too well!)

Ipoh Chicken Rice ($8.90- lunch special)

The Ipoh Chicken bares a strange resemblence to Hainese chicken- especially with soup and sauces it came with. The generous serving of chicken is served on top of a bed of bean sprouts, with a light drizzle of a tasty soy-based sauce and my favourite component- plenty of deep fried garlic! Served with a mound of tasty chicken flavoured rice, which is delicious enough to be eaten by itself, this dish was another winner which we wouldn't mind ordering again.

Ais Kacang ($3 - with meal)

We finish with a dessert of Ais Kacang, a jumble of sweet delights like grass jelly and red beans beneath a sweet mountain of shaved ice drizzled with rose syrup. It's not quite as good as the version at Mamak (which is where our first encounter with the dessert occured) but still a satisfying end to a delicious meal.

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