Pandan Chiffon Cake


Morning markets in Malaysia have abundance of these chiffon cakes to sell. I used to eat pandan chiffon cake for breakfast almost every morning when I was a kid. To the extend that I don’t fancy it anymore. Sure chiffon cakes are light, soft and fluffy but I begin to find it dry, bland and like eating a piece of sponge!

20 years down the line, I am craving for the cake I had for breakfast so often as a kid. The asian bakeries here sell chiffon cakes at ridiculous prices because it is “rare”!

So I consulted the 21st century oracle that is Google and found this recipe that is reasonably do-able and produces a soft, fluffy and fragrant pandan chiffon cake. And surprisingly moist too. Definitely better than those I ate as a kid.

You will need 1.5 cups of self-raising flour and 3 bowls/containers to organise the following ingredients:

Bowl A

  • 165 ml (1 small can) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pandan essence
  • Half teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Green food colouring (until a light green colour is achieveed)

Bowl B (Mixing bowl)

  • 6 egg whites
  • Half cup sugar

Bowl C (Large mixing bowl)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Method:

  1. Heat up the oven to 160 degrees Celcius.
  2. Start by preparing the ingredients of Bowl A in a container, stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Seperate 6 eggs – yolks into a large mixing bowl (Bowl C) and whites in another large bowl suitable for mixing (Bowl B), and add sugar accordingly to each bowl.
  4. Bowl A: Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Keep in the fridge.
  5. Bowl B: Beat the yolks and sugar until pale and triple in size.
  6. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in flour into yolk mixture gradually until well combined.
  7. Pour ingredients in Bowl A into Bowl B (yolk mixture) and stir to combine.
  8. Slowly and gradually, gently fold in the egg whites (Bowl A) into Bowl B until well combined. Careful not to deflate the mixture too much.
  9. Pour batter into a 12-in round cake tin and bake immediately at 160 degrees Celcius for 50 minutes on middle rack.
  10. Cool the cake upside down for at least an hour.

Yes, you read the last step right. It is very important to cool the chiffon cake upside down to ensure it stays light and fluffy after cooled instead of squished due to gravity. Therefore, it is essential to have a special chiffon cake pan that is somewhat like a ring cake pan.

The chiffon cake can rise very high in the oven and if you cool it upside down, it stays at this height after its cooled

I don’t have a chiffon cake pan and I have used a regular spring-form round cake pan. Sometimes my chiffon cake held together as I invert it to cool upside down, but a few times it fell from the pan flat! So I didn’t take the risk to invert it this time and my chiffon cake is a little squished at the bottom. It turned out quite decent nevertheless.

Not so high anymore!

Note to self: Buy chiffon cake pan!

Soft Yoghurt Buns


Happy Easter!

What have you been doing over the Easter long weekend? I’ve been productive and made these amazingly soft and fragrant yoghurt buns.

The best tasting and smelling buns I have ever made, yes even better than my last success! The recipe is so simple, the buns turned out soft and fluffy and even without the water roux paste method. The secret? Proper bread flour! They even tasted like buns from the bakery shops! Bread flour over all-purpose flour people, big difference!

They looked a little amateur, that’s because I am one! Room for improvement. But they taste oh so good….!

I used strawberry flavoured low-fat yoghurt, because I love strawberries. You can use any other flavoured yoghurt or plain yoghurt, it works just the same!

Here is the recipe, originally from here. Measurements using regular tablespoon and teaspoon, not the measuring type! This will yield 9 fist-sized buns.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g bread flour (about 2 cups)
  • 3 g dry yeast (about 1.5 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100 g low-fat yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Half an egg, lightly beaten
  • Remaining half an egg as eggwash

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients and make a well in the center.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix yoghurt, melted butter, milk and half a beaten egg until well combined.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix using a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
  4. On a lightly floured flat surface, knead for 6 – 8 mins.
  5. The dough is on the sticky side and may be difficult to handle, just sprinkle hands with flour as you go.
  6. Put the dough in the bowl, cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour. I usually rise my dough inside the oven (not switched on) with a baking tray filled with boiling water on the bottom tray.
  7. AFter an hour, punch the dough down and divide into 9 equal balls.
  8. Arrange in a greased baking pan 3 buns by 3 buns, half an inch apart each other.
  9. Cover and let rise until double in size, about another 30 minutes.
  10. Brush the bun tops with eggwash and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

Bread Winner (Part 1)


My bread making journey has not been an easy one. I think I have about 10 failed attempts so far. Or at least 3 kgs of flour gone to waste!

During my first attempt, I was very ignorant and equated making bread to baking a cake, with a dough taking the place of batter. I glanced through the recipe for a basic white bread without looking at the actual methods involved. Yes, you guessed it, I baked the dough without proofing *blush*! In the bin it went.

The next attempt, I thought everything would work out after letting the dough rise for an hour. It doubled in size like the recipe stated and I was very confident! It was like a PlayDoh right out of the oven but turned stone hard after it cooled! I made bread crumbs out of this batch instead.

I tried again and this time, I let it rose twice! A-ha…..it must work this time! Again, still like PlayDoh.Very dense and heavy. Hardly edible. And it turns stone hard when its cold. So, more breadcrumbs at the end of the day.

I checked and checked the recipe. No, I did not miss a step or ingredient. I cross-referenced various other white bread recipes but they are all very similar.

(Step number 3)

I decided it must be the flour I was using. Over the next few weeks, I tried using a different (high protein) flour, adding an egg (or not), used vegetable oil instead of butter (and vice versa), adjusting amount of yeast, prolonged kneading, proofing twice (or thrice!), baking at different temperatures…..you name it, I tried it! My buns always come out too dense, heavy and gets stiff and dry when cooled. I could never achieve the soft, puffy and light texture of the sweet buns in bakeries. They stay soft even overnight. What was their secret?

After some serious trouble-shooting on the internet and chatting with a friend who is an avid baker, I had a good idea what I was doing wrong. Of course, it had to be the wrong ratio of flour and water content in my dough. The basic white bread recipes I have tried all have this line – add flour until you have a workable dough and knead. Being a newbie, a workable dough to me was like….well, (ironically) PlayDoh. Not a hint of stickiness. I must have added too much flour. But how do you knead a sticky dough if it keeps sticking to your palm? However, I was pretty sure this was my problem – adding too much flour.

All puffed up after proofing an hour (Step number 4)

I started searching for no-knead recipes and found one by The Pioneer Woman. I love her! Recipes with pictures, you will never go wrong! Her recipe calls for 9 cups of flour, and I halved that. Knowing that if I failed again, it won’t be too much of a waste. (Original recipe here.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used vegetable cooking oil)
  • 4.5 cups self-raising flour (or add 1 teaspoon baking powder/soda to plain flour)
  • 2 teaspoons dried active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Method:

  1. Pour milk, sugar and vegetable oil into a large saucepan and heat it until it bubbles and remove from heat.
  2. Let cool for 45 minutes or until lukewarm (~45 degree Celcius) and add yeast and stir. Let it sit for a minute.
  3. Add 4 cups of flour into milk mixture, stir to incorporate well.
  4. Cover and let rise for an hour in a warm and humid place. I usually rise my dough in the oven (not switched on) which also has a baking tray filled with boiling hot water at the bottom rack. Very effective in winter.
  5. After an hour, it would have risen near to the rim of your saucepan. Add in remaining flour, salt and stir to combine.
  6. Shape into balls and arrange in greased baking tray. Cover and let rise for another 20 minutes.
  7. Bake at 200 degrees Celcius for 15-20 minutes. Brush bun tops with melted butter right after baking for a soft crust.

The dough was very, very wet and sticky; almost impossible to handle. I was glad it was a no-knead recipe. It was elastic though, so I knew it had proven well. Because it was so sticky, I lathered my hands with lots of oil and literally just splat them onto the baking tray without properly shaping them into balls!

Ugly "splats"!

But at last, softer and more edible (albeit ugly and wrinkly) buns. However, it tasted more like muffins than bread. The springy-chewy texture of bread wasn’t there (aaaarghhhh….!). Terry said it was too “wet”. The buns turned very dense and heavy after cooling so it wasn’t a real success yet. The taste was good nevertheless. I will reduce the amount of milk if I attempt to make this again.

This recipe gave me the “feel” of the right dough texture and I became more confident in handling softer and slightly sticky doughs in my next attempt. Stay tuned for Part 2

Anyone’s got any bread-making stories to share? Recipes? Tips??

Half-successful buns