Almond Cake

Happy Lunar New Year!  I hope you had a fabulous time visiting family and friends and feasting on all the delicious food and snacks.

I spent two days visiting my relatives and I had a good time catching up with them.  We had a fun time sharing stories, giving out hongbaos and trying out each other’s bakes.  I brought the pineapple tarts that I made to my in-laws and grandmother’s house because they love pineapple tarts but can no longer make them.  I remember that when I was a child I would go to my grandmother’s house to help make pineapple tarts.  Those good old days will always be remembered dearly.  We made tray after tray of pineapple tarts to give to our relatives.  Now that Grandma is almost 90, it is time for me to make them for her each Chinese New Year.  I’m glad she likes my tarts.  She is a good cook and hearing her say she likes them is like receiving a pat on the back.

Coming from a small family, my visiting for Chinese New Year is finished.  If you have a big family with many relatives to visit and you are thinking of bringing a gift over to their house, I have a recommendation for you.  You can make an almond cake that everyone will love.  Whenever I bake this for someone I get good reviews for it. It is really delicious and moist.  The butter and ground almonds make this cake a winner.  The best part is everything can be mixed in one bowl.  It saves time in getting the mixer out and washing multiple dishes and utensils.  I use just a bowl and a hand whisk.

I bought ground almond to make almond cookies but never got around to it because I was making pineapple tarts (due to hot demand from the husband and daughter).  I doubt I will be baking almond cookies because my MIL has kindly bought us a box of almond cookies.  So today, I decided to make an almond cake using the ground almond meant for almond cookies.  I will be having this for tea later.  I hope you try this recipe and and get a thumbs-up for this cake.

almond cake1

almond cake 2

Almond Cake 

Ingredients (one loaf cake or 8″ cake):

  • 100g unsalted butter, bring to room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 90g ground almonds (almond powder)
  • 40g cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon flaked or chopped almonds for garnishing

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper at the bottom and lightly grease the sides of the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a hand whisk until it is light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and continue whisking.  Then add vanilla and fresh milk, whisking after each addition of ingredient.
  5. Sift over cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl.  Fold to incorporate the flour and butter mixture.
  6. Add ground almonds and fold to incorporate everything.
  7. Pour batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle flaked or chopped almonds.
  8. Bake in pre-heated oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.
  10. Enjoy!

almond cake3

almond cake orchids

 

 

Pineapple Tarts

Lunar New Year is approaching soon.  It will fall on 16 and 17 February this year.  Lunar New Year is also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival.  In the midst of all the preparations for Lunar New Year, I wanted to share my favourite New Year goodie with you.

Pineapple tarts are my favourite of all the delicacies during this festive time.  They are buttery cookies wrapped with pineapple paste.  They taste fantastic because the buttery flavour goes wonderfully well with the sweetness and slight tartness of the pineapple paste.  Pineapple tarts don’t last long in my home.  Everyone loves them.  I’ll be making more for myself and my relatives.   Other than pineapple tarts, some of the typical goodies you can find at each house during Lunar New Year visiting are cashew cookies, almond cookies, love letters, kuih bangkit, green pea cookies, bak kwa, and yu sheng, just to name a few.

This year, we are welcoming the Year of the Dog.  There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac.  During Lunar New Year, people visit their family and friends, bringing festive greetings to them.  It is customary to exchange two mandarin oranges with the relative or friend you are visiting as a gesture of exchanging well-wishes for the new year.  It is also a tradition for parents and married couples to give hong bao (red packets with money) to their children and family or friends’ children.  Adult children show their filial piety and appreciation to their parents by giving them hong bao along with mandarin oranges and other gifts they may wish to lavish on their parents.  One of the biggest highlights in the Lunar New Year celebration is the reunion dinner.  Every family member gathers together to have dinner on the eve of Lunar New Year.  Schools and offices end the day in the afternoon so that everyone has time to prepare for this important meal.

Lunar New Year is a tradition for all Chinese families.  There are a lot of preparations leading up to the New Year.  Families spring clean their homes, shop for decorations, stock up the fridge for the reunion dinner, bake cookies and shop for new clothes.  Before I get back to spring cleaning and making more pineapple tarts, here’s wishing all a Blessed Lunar New Year and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

tarts3

tarts2

Pineapple Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 227g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 50g icing/confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 500g pineapple paste, rolled into balls**
  • small amount of beaten egg for egg wash

** I used pre-made pineapple paste bought from the supermarket.  You could also make it from scratch.  There are many online recipes on making pineapple paste from scratch.  Here is a picture of a pack of pineapple paste.

Image result for pineapple paste

Directions:

  1. Sift icing sugar over unsalted butter. With an electric mixer cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffly, about 5 minutes.
  2. Dribble eggs into the mixture and continue mixing until everything comes together.
  3. Add salt and vanilla and continue mixing for about 1 minute.
  4. Sift flour into the mixture.  Combine flour and butter mixture until a dough is formed. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees celcius.
  7. Remove dough from the fridge.  Form dough into a flat disc and place pineapple ball in the centre of the dough.  Seal the dough and roll into balls.
  8. Use a scissors to make incisions to resemble pineapple skin (optional).
  9. Apply egg wash on pineapple tarts and bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
  10. Allow pineapple tarts to cool completely before storing them in air-tight containers.

 

tarts5

Enjoy 

 

Loving the bread machine

Our family has bread almost everyday, for breakfast and sometimes tea.  We used to buy our bread from the supermarket and bakery until I started making them two years ago.  I decided to buy a bread machine as I was really keen to make bread but I wasn’t very good and strong in kneading dough.  It takes quite a bit of muscles to do the job well and I didn’t have the confidence in succeeding.

My bread machine has served up loaves of bread for us in this two years.  In addition to the delicious and nutritious loaves we enjoy up till now, it has also helped me knead nice dough so I could experiment and make bread buns and bread rolls.

These are the cheese buns I made yesterday.  I have found a good recipe for basic bread bun which I will share below.  You can tweak your fillings and toppings.  Have fun coming up with different buns!

cheesebun

Basic Bread Bun

(makes 8 buns)

recipe source: Cooking a Dream (with slight modifications)

Ingredients:

250g bread flour

3 tablespoons milk powder**

2 tablespoons caster sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

110ml cold water (** if you don’t have milk powder use 110ml fresh milk instead of cold water)

1 teaspoon instant yeast

40g unsalted butter

a little beaten egg for egg wash

Directions:

  1. Check the instructions of your bread machine and add the ingredients as per the machine’s instructions.  For my machine I have to add dry ingredients first followed by wet ingredients (all except for butter which is to be added later).  If you do not have a bread machine, you can use a mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough or you may also knead by hand.
  2. Select bread dough function to set the machine to knead the dough.
  3. Ten minutes into the kneading, add in the butter.
  4. Allow machine to continue kneading.  After the kneading is completed, you can allow the dough to proof in the machine or you may take out the dough and place it in a well oiled bowl to proof it.  I take mine out and proof it in a bowl covered with a plastic wrap or wet towel to prevent moisture loss.
  5. Allow dough to proof or double in size.  This takes about 1 hour in a warm environment.  Place the dough in a warm place in your house to proof.
  6. Once dough has proofed or doubled in size, do a window pane test to check if you are ready to proceed to the next step.  Alternatively you can press the dough deeply with a finger.  The depression should stay and your finger shouldn’t have any dough sticking on it.
  7. On a slightly floured surface, knead the dough by hand for 5 minutes to expel the gas in the dough.
  8. Cut the dough into equal sizes and roll them into balls.  Place each dough ball on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap or a wet towel to prevent moisture loss.  Let them rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Take each dough ball, lightly knead to expel gas.  With a slightly floured rollling pin, roll the dough into a circular disc and add your filling in the centre of the disc.  Wrap the dough and pinch the bottom to seal the dough.  Repeat till all are done.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap or wet towel and let them rest for another 1 hour or till dough doubles in size.
    For the cheese buns I made, I rolled the dough into balls and let them rest for 1 hour.  At the end of the second proofing, I applied egg wash on each dough ball before adding shredded cheese on top of the egg wash.
  10. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  11. Apply egg wash over the dough balls.  This step is already done for the cheese buns I made.
  12. Bake for around 15 minutes or till lightly golden brown on the tops.
  13. Allow the bread to cool on a cooling rack.

 

Enjoy!

Butterless Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am loving this chocolate chip recipe that I found on Chef Savvy website.  The cookies taste absolutely fantastic and the texture is crisp on the outside and chewy inside.  I will be using this recipe from now on whenever there’s a demand for chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe is great because it uses coconut oil rather than butter.  Coconut oil is well known for its health benefits.  It is widely used in food and health care.  Composing of medium-chain triglycerides it is lower in calories than most oils.  There’s only a very slight hint of coconut in the cookies.  The taste is just great!  In fact, I personally prefer this version of chocolate chip cookies.  My food picky daughter also loved them.  She had five and asked to pack some for school.

coconut oil choc chip cookies 2

Butterless Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients (makes about 12 cookies):

11/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup coconut oil (not melted)

Directions:

  1. In an electric mixer beat coconut oil with brown sugar and caster sugar till everything is incorporated well.  I used a whisk to do this step.
  2. Add egg and continue mixing till well incorporated.
  3. Add vanilla and mix till well incorporated.
  4. Sift in all purpose flour, baking soda and salt into the mixture.  Mix till all the dry ingredients are combined.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips and form a soft dough.
  6. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
  8. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
  9. Remove dough from fridge and roll them into balls and place them on the parchment paper.  Leave ample space between each cookie dough as the cookie will spread while baking.
  10. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes.
  11. Place cookies on a cooling rack.  Store in air-tight cookie jar or container when they are cooled completely.

coconut oil choc chip cookies 1

Enjoy them with milk!  I’ll be making another batch soon.  Hope you like them too ♥

coconut oil choc chip cookies 3

recipe source: Chef Savvy

 

Time for some Cookies

Sometime ago I realised I haven’t used the cookie stamp I bought from our vacation to Brisbane a few years back.  The cookie stamp was quite an impulsive purchase, definitely something I wouldn’t buy now because I already owned some really beautiful cookie cutters handed down to me by my granny.

Since staying at home full time, I have been conscious with my spending, always asking myself whether I needed an item before buying it and whether I already have a similar one lying at home.  I don’t buy anything straightway anymore, rather I would go home and get about my usual activity.  If I really needed the item, it would surely pop up in my mind.  So no more impulse shopping for me.  I feel this change leads to less unwanted, unused things in my house, less clutter, less cleaning and a simpler life for me.

Oh, back to the cookie stamp.

I made some yummy butter cookies.  This is a really simple recipe.  Give it a try because the cookies are really good and the cookie jar will be empty in no time.

cutoutcookies1

Cut-Out Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

(makes about 36 pieces depending on the cookie stamp/cutter size)

100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

80g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

180 cake flour

20g corn flour

Steps:

Sift cake flour and corn flour together and set aside.  Line baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

With an electric mixer, add in sugar to the butter in 3 additions and cream till the mixture turns light and fluffy.

Add in egg yolk and mix well.

Add sifted flour mixture in 3 additions, stir with a spatula to form a soft dough.

Place dough in a plastic bag and flatten with a rolling pin.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from the fridge and roll it on a slightly floured surface and cut out with slightly floured cookie cutter.

Line the cut-out cookie dough with some space between each cookie on the baking tray as they will spread a little while baking.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.

Cool them on a cooling rack and store in air-tight cookie jar or container.

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Welcome to Lovin the Simple.  Today’s first post will feature an easy muffin recipe.  If you love bananas and chocolate then it’s easy to combine both ingredients in this recipe to make this super quick and delicious treat.

chocchipmuffin1

Ingredients:

Makes 9 small muffins

100g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 over-ripe banana, mashed

1 egg

40g castor sugar

30g vegetable oil

30g fresh milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

chocolate chips for topping

Steps:

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Line muffin tray with cupcake liners.

Sift plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  Lightly whisk to combine the dry ingredients.

Whisk egg and sugar till well combined.

Add milk and whisk till combined.  Next add vegetable oil and whisk till combined.

Add mashed banana and vanilla and whisk till well combined.

Make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the wet ingredients and fold to combine both ingredients.  Do not overfold as this will result in tough muffins. Light and swift folds will result in moist and fluffy muffins.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners till about half full.

Garnish or top with chocolate chips.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

After baking, let the muffins cool on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.

chocchipmuffin2
Enjoy these muffins warm with a cup of coffee or tea

I kept the extra muffins in an air-tight container and stored them in the fridge because the chocolate chips would melt at room temperature in sunny Singapore.  When the sweet tooth kicks in I will take them out of the fridge and enjoy them with coffee and a nice conversation with my daughter.  That’s the simple life I love!