I have been so busy baking these days that I just realized that after 6 weeks in the second cake course, I had not posted any of class projects on my blog. This was the course which attracted me to George Brown in the first place. It was well worth the wait. I was not disappointed at all. The cakes are more sophisticated compared to those we made at basic course and they all tasted great.
Summer is a busy baking time for me. Birthdays of Adrian, Livie, and Lai Lai are all in the summer. Ho's is coming up in September too. It's Lai Lai's birthday today. When I asked her what she would like, her requirements were so simple that the gave me no clue of what the cake should be:: no mousse, more cake. She actually likes my chocolate zucchini cake, but I can't use that as the birthday cake! Since I made Black Forest for Livie, vanilla cake for Adrian, I'm running out of cake idea,. So I went back to my blog record and saw the chestnut cream cake again. Finally Lai Lai approved the flavour, so chestnut cake it is.
Last time I bought some canned chestnut puree made in France which was too sweet and the texture was too "jellyish". I ended up grinding some ready to eat snack pack chestnut to make puree myself. I didn't have time to do that again. My sis recommended this expensive Hero canned chestnut puree. Wow, $18 a can. It better be good. I spooned a little in my mouth, mmm... I don't have to grind the nuts this time!
I also altered my sister's sponge cake recipe by replacing some of the all purpose flour with cake flour. The cake came out soft but dense enough to be springy. Too bad my hand was not fast enough, some of the butter sank to the bottom. Other than that, I consider the cake layers to be very successful.
Since I didn't grind any chestnut, I toasted some almond slices to cover the side. Everybody was happy with the roasted nutty taste.
Now what should I make for Ho's birthday on Wednesday...?
Ho is taking the kids to Niagara for a night without me next week. After our family trip to Hong Kong, I only have 3 vacation days left. I have to save 2 for the kids’ field trip in the coming school year. Besides, I can’t go anywhere because the office will be very busy in this planning time.
Me: Livie, Adrian, listen to mommy – when you go out with daddy, be very careful and stay close them him, especially when he’s shopping. You don’t want to be left behind in the store.
Olivia: Then we’ll stay at the hotel.
Me: You go all the way to stay at the hotel? Besides, who’s going to look after you? Mommy is not going.
Olivia: Adrian will! He’s older. He can look after me. We can, play, read stories, watch TV… We’ll have lots of fun… fighting!
The reason why I had been so busy these days was Tang Zhong (湯種) toast bread. Ever since I had tried it, I couldn’t stop. My kids love it. My husband, for the first time, even said it’s comparable to those of J-Town. So I don’t buy bread from stores anymore. Yet the bread is so popular that I have to bake quite often to keep up with the demand. This recipe was written in Chinese. Jennifer just reminded me that I hadn't posted the English recipe yet. Here it is:
A) Dough starter (Tang Zhong)
Bread flour 20g
Unsalted butter 10g
Salt ¼ tsp
B) Milk 130ml
Bread flour 300g
Milk powder 15g
Instant yeast 1 ½ tsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Water 20 – 30ml
Unsalted butter 20g (room temperature)
Cook ingredients (A) in pot on low heat, whisk until a paste formed. Scrape it to a large mixing bowl.
Add ingredient (B) to cool the temperature.
Add ingredients (C) excluding water and butter to the bowl. Start mixing. It will be very sticky.
After everything well mixed, add water. Keep kneading until the water is evenly mixed in.
Add butter. After kneading in the bowl for about 30 times, all moisture should be absorbed and the dough should be smooth.
Take it to a floured surface and keep kneading for 10 more minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball, put it in a slightly greased bowl, seam side down. Cover with plastic and leave it in a warm place.
After 50-60 mins, size of the dough should be about doubled. Punch it down and knead a few times on a lightly floured surface again to remove bubbles.
Put the dough in a greased 9” x 5” loaf pan. Press it down. Wait for second proof rising up to about the height of the loaf pan.
Brush with egg wash and put it in preheated 390F oven, middle rack for 25 mins.*
*Check in 3 mins, cover top of the bread with foil. Otherwise it will burn.
Recently from Happy Home Baking, I also found a different tang zhong recipe for cinnamon rolls. She made it sound so easy, and it was! Just roll out the dough to 9" x 13" after first proof. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon (1 tsp) and brown sugar (30g) mixture. Roll, cut, arrange in pan with cut side up. Brush top with more butter and cinnamon sugar mixtre, then wait for second proof. Then it's baking time. That's it! My house smells like a bakery almost everyday. They are so soft! Oh no, I’m supposed to be on a low carb diet!
On Wednesday another team in the office brought in a feast of zucchini cakes. I guess zucchini must be in season. One of the cakes was so good that I had to make one myself. This is not exactly the same recipe but it’s even healthier because I could use applesauce to replace most of the oil. Thinking that this will be a good chance to sneak in some fibre for Adrian, I even used the new Nutri-Blend flour to make the cake. The oatmeal and chocolate chips topping was an idea I took from Happy Home Baking. They made the cake look very pretty.
One thing good about using zucchini in baking is that it just adds moisture to the cake but won’t affect the taste at all. On the other hand, the whole wheat taste from Nutri-Blend was quite strong. It completely failed what it claimed on the packaging “with goodness of whole grain but taste like white flour”. It doesn’t taste like white flour at all. The good thing is that it can be sieved through finely as white. I will only use it for whole wheat recipe from now on. At first I thought Ho wouldn’t like the cake because of the whole wheat taste but he said the cake was good and he could only taste the chocolate. I guess I am the baker with picky taste buds. Last night the chocolate smell filled the house and he kept asking me if he could have a slice. But he knew he shouldn’t because it’s midnight already.
Ok, breakfast time! Adrian still refused to eat it because he could see bits of green colour in it. I won’t give up! I’ll peel the zucchini when I make this cake next time. Livie loved it though, I guess it’s because it’s a chocolate cake. All girls like chocolate, she is a typical girl in this case.
Livie doesn’t like my cakes. She’s just not a cake person. Luckily she’s a fan of my bread. However, I can’t bake her a loaf of bread for her birthday!? Somehow chocolate cake and cheesecake are the 2 of her “better than so so” preference. I decided to make a Hong Kong style Blackforest, i.e. with jello in the filling instead of cherries. Since Ho did a good job in decorating Adrian’s cake, I let him do Livie’s too. I think he did even better for this cake. Now we can be a team!
Ho wowed me when he emailed this picture to me after finishing the decoration...
Tonight I was alone with the kids after dining with their grandparents. There were some tree branches left in the front yard from Sunday. After I had set up the shower for Adrian, I told Livie to stay with him for a minute so I could go out to pick the branches up. I guess it was more than a minute until I returned to the washroom. I saw Adrian driving up himself and Livie in the shower.
Adrian: Mommy, were you surprised? Olivia and I cooperated. I left the shower on when I came out and she went in. Aren’t we smart?
Yes, they’re very smart. I always set the shower to the right temperature before the kids go in because they may burn themselves if they move the handle (whatever that’s called) too far. They know not to turn it off so the next person can go in. I was so touched that they would work things out to ease up my workload. Suddenly I felt that my kids are growing up.
Our neighbour has 2 boys. One of them is about Adrian’s age. They used to play well together a couple years ago. However, we’ve been so busy going out that we seldom get out in the back yard to play anymore, so the kids don’t see each other as much. Tonight, Ho and I needed to do some gardening before the sun set, our neighbour had a party at home and they invited Adrian and Livie to their house to play with all the kids. I thought this would be a good opportunity for the kids to catch up.
After a short while, Livie ran out and told me, “Adrian is fighting with Ivan.” I asked her, “What do you mean?” Then she ran away saying, “Oh, never mind.” Since Adrian had never got into any fight before, I thought a minor verbal argument was what she meant. Finally our neighbour brought Adrian back and said he and her son had a big argument. I could see Adrian’s face, he’s really mad. He started to say bad words and when I tried to stop him, he got more upset and went in the house.
I asked Livie what happened. She told me,
“Adrian was very brave. They were playing well at the beginning. Then Ivan started to use his sword to poke on Adrian. He (Adrian) didn’t move, he was so brave! Ivan was teasing him saying, ‘poking a baby, poking a baby.’ That’s when Adrian started to yell at him.”
This situation is first of its kind and I’m so glad to see Livie standing up for her brother. As you can tell from her words, she loves and respects her brother a lot. I took her upstairs to see Adrian. Once he heard that Livie helped us to understand what went wrong, he calmed down a lot faster than usual. At the same time, we reminded Adrian that he needed to love his sister as much as she loves him. Livie adores her brother. They do fight sometimes, as all siblings do, but sometimes when Adrian cries, Livie will bring him tissue, pat on his back, or kiss him on the face. Even though Adrian is not as good as Livie in comforting others but he will also try to make Livie smile when she’s sad. Hope they’ll love and support each other like this forever.