June 21, 2009

A Summer-y Treat: Chrysanthemum & Longan Konnyaku

After about 5 months of northern Minnesota winter, I can finally say that it's summer here! The temperature has been averaging at around 26C/78F. Very close to what it is back in Malaysia. Except, I heard from my family that it's been unusually warm back home. It can get as hot as 35C/95F! Whoa!

To cool you down in this hot, hot weather, here's a refreshing treat for you guys! Asian-style set desserts such as agar-agar and konnyaku are things people back home would love to have on extremely hot days. What I love about konnyaku is that they're SO chewy to chew on ... Ah ... good enough to satisfy my craving for snacks. Why?

Made from seaweed, these chewy mini jellies have almost no calories and very fibrous at the same time! What more can you ask for in a good and yet simple summer dessert! My mom and aunt sent me konnyaku and agar-agar powder sometime back. While konnyaku powder is readily available in Malaysia and Singapore, I'm unsure about Western countries like the U.S. though. So, for those of you living overseas and are craving for some konnyaku, you can try your quest at Asian grocers.

As for dried chrysanthemum (菊花), I'm sure it's available at Asian grocers, especially those located in big city areas. This flower has a kind of floral scent that is so soothing. Plus, chrysanthemum tea is often consumed for its medicinal uses, such as soothing your throat, lowering high blood pressure and relieving from headache. As much as I can recall, I've been drinking this tea since young ... It's a very familiar part of my life.

Also, the Southern Chinese fruit longan (龍眼) are almost always sold in cans. They can be easily found at Asian grocers. Canned ones and sometimes, dark-colored dried ones (桂圓) are normally used to make East Asian jelly and other desserts because fresh ones are simply not available all year round.

Chrysanthemum & Longan Konnyaku 龍眼菊花水晶糕

30g dried chrysanthemum (the ones for brewing tea)
250ml boiling water

1/2~1 tsp molasses (for flavoring and coloring, but optional)

355ml water
355ml syrup from the canned longan

10g konnyaku powder
55~65g sugar, or to taste

Some canned longan, sliced each into 4 smaller pieces
  1. Pour the boiling water over the dried chrysanthemum, then cover to let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, drain but reserve both the chrysanthemum and tea--keep them in two separate bowls. Dissolve the molasses into the tea completely; set both aside for use later
  3. Boil (A) together in a pot over medium-high heat till the mixture just starts to boil. Meanwhile, whisk (B) together
  4. When the mixture in the pot has just started to boil, gradually whisk in the (B) mixture till everything is well-dissolved
  5. Turn off the heat, then stir in the chrysanthemum tea and whisk to blend well
  6. Rinse the jelly molds with cold water, then place some of the reserved chrysanthemum and longan slices into each of the molds. Next, divide the konnyaku mixture evenly among the molds quickly before it sets up
    *Because I don't have any of the specially designed mini jelly molds from home with me, I used mini muffin tins instead. But, it all depends on you whether you'd like to make it jumbo or mini. You can also use small ramekins, too!
  7. Leave the jelly to cool thoroughly aside, then refrigerate it till set before serving--overnight chilling preferably
  8. Unmold the chilled and set konnyaku jelly to serve

June 19, 2009

Two Ways with Fish & A Happy Father's Day!

I took fresh fish, or seafood in general, for granted while I was home in Malaysia. Since my arrival in this landlocked area in the U.S., I've been extremely deprived of seafood. I remember there were some live seafood, including fish, shrimps (or prawns,) crabs, lobsters and other kinds of shellfish at the Asian grocers down in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. They were only sacrificed upon customers' requests, which has been a typical Asian way of consuming not just seafood but anything edible including produce and livestock. In other words, the fresher the better.

Too bad, this mini town doesn't have any Asian grocers! Can you believe it? We non-locals have to travel back and forth on the road for eight hours just to get the missing ingredients every once in a while to stock them up. (Well, I am considered a jobless graduate now! *sobbing*) As an outsider, I wonder what'd happen if Americans are left deprived of milk, cheese, peanut butter and pops (this is a Midwestern term for soft drinks.) This is so unfair!

The local supermarkets definitely stock up on some seafood. But, it's all previously frozen and expensive. Though I tried to, I couldn't help myself but to get a couple of tilapia from the market a while back. So to justify the money spent, I was determined to get the best out of them. And, each fish was treated in two different ways. One fish was steamed. (I know, I know ... Frozen fish is a bad choice for steaming, but I was craving for it terribly!) This is what we'd call Hong Kong-style steamed fish (港式淸蒸), which is the method that my family's been using to savor fresh fish. Obviously, it's our favorite! I learned how to make this healthy dish from my father by observing him while he was in action in the kitchen. (I love you Dad!) Whenever we have this, my youngest brother and I will battle over the slightly sweetened soy sauce so that we get to drizzle it over the rice. This sauce is so appetizing that we'll finish our share of rice in a few big gulps! (好惹味0架!)

The other fish was shallow-fried and served with slightly sweetened black bean sauce. I'm not sure where the idea of preparing this dish came from. But I sort of remember having fish served this way at a restaurant back home. Hmm ... So, I recreated it based on my vague memory of it. Very good indeed!

By the way, Chinese cooking is done through eyeballing. In my opinion, understanding the ingredients and methods as well as experience are the essentials to mastering it. So, the following is just a rough guideline And, here's how I did: 

Hong Kong-Style Steamed Fish 港式淸蒸魚 

1 medium-sized fish (I used tilapia 非洲鯽/魚)

Some salt & sugar, to taste 
Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒) 

2~3 stalks of spring onion, with stems removed and cut into smaller sections 
4~5 big slabs of fresh ginger

some oil, for cooking 
3 big slices of fresh ginger, thinly shredded 
2 stalks of spring onion, with stems removed, cut into smaller sections and separate them according to the green and white parts 

1.5 Tbsp sugar, or to taste 
1~1.5 cups light soy sauce (生抽) 

Some ground white pepper 
1/4~1/3 tsp sesame oil, or to taste--not too much though because it'll backfire

some fresh parsley, for garnishing
  1. Place a steaming rack over the wok, then fill it with enough water until it's about 5cm/2 inches below the rack. Bring it to a full rolling boil over high heat (Or, you can steam the fish in a steamer.)
  2. Meanwhile, wash and clean the fish, then make a deep cut across the fish's stomach. (Of course, the interior is cleaned and cleared thoroughly.) Rub (A) all over the fish [not too much though because it's just for seasoning and the wine is to help remove the fishy smell] Stuff (B) into the stomach. (Err ... I meant arrange it, not stuffing the ingredients into the fish like how you'd stuff a turkey.)
  3. Place the fish onto a plate and when the water in the wok has reached a rolling boil, steam it over high heat for 10~15 minutes or till cooked
  4. Meanwhile, in a smaller wok, heat up some oil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-high and stir-fry to sauté the thinly shredded ginger, add in the white part of the spring onion to stir-fry along till fragrant
  5. Add in the 1.5 Tbsp sugar and cook till caramelized, then pour in the light soy sauce and turn down the heat slightly. Cook until the mixture starts to boil, throw in the green part of the spring onion and season with (C)
  6. When the fish is cooked, remove it from the wok/steamer and pour the hot sweetened soy sauce over it.
  7. Garnish with some fresh parsley, and serve the fish while it's still hot
Fried fish with preserved black bean sauce 豆豉醬煎魚 

1 medium-sized fish (I used tilapia 非洲鯽/魚) 
some salt and sugar, to taste 
4~5 slabs of fresh ginger

3~4 Tbsp cornflour 
1 Tbsp rice flour

1~1.5 cups oil, for shallow-frying

1 shallot, minced 
2 slices of ginger, minced 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1~1.5 Tbsp preserved fermented black beans (豆豉), mashed well (Use previously mashed ones 磨豉 if you have) 

1~1.5 tsp brown sugar 
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce 老抽

1.5~2 cups water

1 tsp cornflour 
1 tsp water
  1. Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat. Meanwhile, wash and clean the fish, then make a deep slit across its stomach and place in the slabs of ginger. Rub some salt and sugar all over it.
  2. Combine (D) together and generously coat the fish with the flour mixture. Lower to medium heat, then gently place the fish into the hot oil and shallow-fry until each side is golden in color
  3. Remove the fish from oil and place onto a kitchen paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.
  4. Meanwhile, leave a little bit of the oil in the wok and heat it up over high heat. Stir-fry to sauté shallot, followed by garlic and then ginger till fragrant. Add in mashed preserved black beans and stir-fry till fragrant.
  5. Add in (E) and stir-fry till blended, then pour in the water and bring to a boil. Lower to medium-low heat and cook till the water has evaporated for a bit
  6. Dissolve together (F) to get a slurry, and mix into the sauce mixture. Turn up the heat to high and cook till the sauce mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
  7. Arrange the fried fish on a serving plate, and pour the sauce over it. Serve immediately
By the way, a very Happy Fathers' Day to all the fathers out there, including my father, my late grandfather and American "father" Steve! To my beloved late Grandpa (爺爺), I'm sorry I'm unable to be home in time to see you for the one last time. Please take care along the way. I love and miss you so. I'll keep my promises. Thanks for the love, care and support that you've given me. Without you, I wouldn't be where I am now! Thank you!

June 14, 2009

Apam Balik, Chin Loong Pau or Ban Jian Kuih: A Comfort Food

When I was home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I often had chin loong pau, or apam balik, for breakfast or brunch. (Er ..., not sure how it should be written in Chinese ...) My mom would normally buy it from the middle-aged man at the pasar pagi, meaning morning wet market in Malay, located in our residential area.

I'd stand by my mom watching him make these pancakes skillfully. And, his Indonesian helper was always by his side helping him out. Instead of the original-flavored ones, we'd sometimes buy the green pandan-flavored ones. But, the filling was always a mixture of crushed roasted peanuts and castor sugar. And, we love both!

Actually, I never knew that apam balik is also called ban jian kuih and min jiang kuih until I left home. I wonder why ... Could it be due to the environment that I grew up in? Not having many Hokkien-speaking friends? A cultural exchange with the Malays? Hmm ..., all these are possible. My first true contact with Hokkien speakers came during my freshman year in college. And unsurprisingly, they were all from the southern state of Johor. LOL, I was having an intensive Hokkien course for one year!

Anyhow, back to apam balik. I love it so much that I'd to have it once a week. While I was living in the dorm during my freshman year at the local college, I'd get these pancakes from Malay stalls at the nearby pasar malam, or night-time wet market, each Friday. I still remember that they sold some with chocolate rice sprinkled in the filling ... So, you'd end up with chocolate apam balik! All these have made me cherish the multicultural environment of Malaysia even more.

As you can see, I crave for apam balik wherever I go. I'm happy that I can actually make them from scratch even though I'm one Pacific Ocean away from home. And, I think I'll keep making these pancakes on my own even after I've returned home for good soon. The only thing was that the pancakes yielded by the recipe below was not as chewy as commercial ones. Nonetheless, they were good enough to satisfy my cravings.

Apam Balik, Chin Loong Pau or Ban Jian Kuih/ Min Jiang Kuih 麵煎粿 (adapted from
Café of the East) 

200ml warm water, at 43C/110F
1 tsp active dry yeast

120g bread flour
30g tapioca starch
*I might try 100g bread flour with 50g tapioca starch next time
1/4 tsp salt
35g castor sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature
60ml cooking oil
1/2 tsp alkaline water
*I substituted it with a mixture of 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp water
Extra warm water if necessary

For the filling:
Finely crushed roasted peanuts
Castor sugar
Roasted white sesame seeds (optional)
Canned cream-style corn (this is more of Malay style, but optional)
Salted butter, cut into small cubes
  1. Dissolve together (A) and let sit aside till it gets frothy; combine (C) together in a mixing bowl in the meantime
  2. Mix in the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients until blended and lump-free, cover the mixing bowl with a cling wrap and let proof till bubbly and doubled in size
    *Alternatively, just mix (A) and (B) together straight away if you're using instant yeast
    **I did mine the night before and let it proof in the refrigerator for about nine hours. The next morning, I took the mixture out of the refrigerator and let it warm up slightly for about 10 minutes -- it became bubbly and doubled again once it got warmed up.
  3. Mix in (C) to the batter until blended. If batter is not of pouring consistency, add in a bit more warm water -- the quantity needed here depends on how the situation turns out
    Let the batter rest for 5~10 minutes with the mixing bowl covered with a sheet of plastic film. Before cooking, mix in the alkaline water
  4. Heat a flat nonstick pan over medium-high heat. (*I used a 23cm frying pan.) Once it's hot, lightly grease the surface of the pan with some oil and lower to medium-low heat.
  5. Pour in enough batter to make pancakes that are of your desired thickness, then cover the pan with its lid and cook till the surface of the batter becomes bubbly and just set
    *Because my 23cm pan is rather large, I poured all the batter into the pan; hence, a larger pancake

  6. Sprinkle the ingredients for filling on one half of the pancake, then lift and fold the other side over. Dish out the filled pancakes onto a serving platter
  7. Repeat steps #4, #5 and #6 with the remaining batter till it's used up
  8. Serve
    *I let mine cool thoroughly upon slicing and serving

June 10, 2009

Caffeine-Loaded Éclairs

I'd been wanted to make pâte à choux, or choux pastry, since I saw the Daring Bakers' challenge from last August. It was about Pierre Hermé's choux pastry. Within that month itself, I was driven to insanity by all the fabulous chocolate éclairs and choux à la crème (cream puffs) that were everywhere in the food-blogging world!

Unfortunately, I was--again--distracted by many other equally good recipes out there. Whoa, it took me almost 10 months to FINALLY try pâte à choux!? LOL, that's me! During the spring break in March, I got my first and only cookbook in the U.S. It was Paris Sweets by the lovely Dorie Greenspan. (I don't think overloading my luggage with cookbooks is a good idea when I'm about to head back home for good.) I'll flip through the book whenever I can to try out some of the recipes, get inspirations or just read about the anecdotes on the wonderful pâtisseries and boulangeries in Paris. I hope I get to visit France someday ... and end up in Le Cordon Bleu!!?? (Just being silly here ...)

Anyhow, I managed to try out a recipe from the book. It was the éclairs au café from Fauchon! These éclairs were filled with espresso-flavored pastry cream and glazed with espresso-flavored fondant. (Yea, I was overdosed with caffeine after having these little pastries LOL!) I love everything about them except the fondant ... It was TOO sweet. I'm unsure whether it was because of my Asian blood or what. Despite that, my American friends still found the sweetness acceptable. Hmm ..., it was actually quite predictable though if you look at the recipe ... A little bit of espresso, a squirt of lemon juice and nothing but LOADS of powdered sugar!!! Was I on the verge of getting diabetes? You bet!

Nonetheless, I'll definitely replace the coffee fondant with something else if I were to make coffee éclairs again, such as with bittersweet chocolate ganache. I love the espresso pastry cream though. Chocolate with coffee ... who can beat that combo! I'm sure we can make the pastry cream for something else besides pâte à choux. Other than that, everything else is definitely a keeper. The following recipe was slightly modified to adapt to my situation. 

Éclairs au Café (adapted from Fauchon, in Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan) 

For the pâte à choux:

125g milk
125g water
115g unsalted butter, cut into smaller chunks & at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar

140g all-purpose flour
*I used bread flour for its higher protein content; hence, better water absorption

5 large eggs, at room temperature

For the espresso pastry cream (this is my way of doing it to work with what I have):

500g milk

6 large egg yolks
100g sugar (I may reduce the quantity slightly the next time ... But, that's just me.)
45g corn flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g unsalted butter, cut into a few pats & at room temperature

80g espresso, cooled (I added some Kahlúa to the mix for a stronger flavor. It was eyeballing.)

For the espresso fondant:

600g powdered sugar, or less depending on the situation
60g espresso, cooled (I added some Kahlúa to the mix for a stronger flavor. It was eyeballing.) 
A squirt of lemon juice
  1. To make the pastry cream:

    Fill a larger bowl with ice cubes; set aside a smaller bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and to be placed in the ice bath. Get a fine mesh strainer ready, too.

    Bring the milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, in the meantime, whisk together (B) thoroughly

    When the milk has just started to boil, remove it from the heat and gradually pour it into the yolk-sugar mixture through tempering--whisking well all the time as you pour in the hot milk to avoid scrambling the eggs; stir in vanilla extract

    Return the milk mixture into the saucepan and place over low-medium heat, whisk vigorously as you cook it. Stop cooking when it's thickened and firmed

    Remove from heat and press the pastry cream through the strainer and into the smaller bowl, then set the bowl into the ice-water bath and stir it frequently until it reaches 60C/140F

    Whisk in the 50g butter into the pastry cream, then continue to whisk till it's cooled; lightly whisk in the 80g espresso, then press plastic film against the cream surface to seal it tightly and prevent a "skin" from forming.

    To store, keep refrigerated till use. Can be kept for up to two days. Whisk to smooth the chilled cream upon using

  2. For the pâte à choux:

    Line baking sheets with parchment paper and have large pastry bag with a large star tip fitted ready nearby, preheat the oven to 190C/375F

    Bring (A) to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over high heat, then add in the flour all at once and lower the heat to medium-low; stir energetically with a wooden spoon--the dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring vigorously for another two minutes to dry the dough. It should be very smooth by then.

    You can either do this in the stand mixer or by hand, mix in the eggs one by one--mixing well after each addition. The dough will come together as you keep adding and mixing in the eggs to the dough. Stop adding when the mixture has become thick and shiny because you may not need all the five eggs.

    Work quickly while the dough is still warm, spoon it into the pastry bag and pipe out thin fingers of dough that are about 12cm/5 inch long and 2.5cm/1 inch wide onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 5cm/2 inches of space between them.
    *You can now freeze the piped dough on the baking sheets. Once they're frozen, you can slide them out of the baking sheets and store them in a Ziploc bag. There's no need to thaw them; just bake them longer for two more minutes.

    Bake them for 8 minutes before slipping a wooden spoon into the oven to keep the door slightly ajar. At 12 minute mark, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom; continue baking till the éclairs are golden, firm and puffed for another 8 minutes or so.

    Turn off the oven and leave the éclairs to cool thoroughly in the oven with the door slightly ajar before assembling or storing. They can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

  3. For the fondant:

    Pour the 60g espresso into a small bowl, then add about 2/3 of the powdered sugar little by little, stirring constantly. Mix in lemon juice, then add in as much additional powdered sugar as needed to produce a fondant that evenly coats the top of an éclair and stays where it's spread

  4. To assemble:

    Carefully cut the éclairs horizontally in half (a natural cut line can be found at the puff point of each éclair,) lift off the tops; spoon or pipe the pastry cream to fill the éclair base

    One by one, hold the éclair tops over the bowl of fondant and working with a small icing spatula, spread them with fondant. Settle each éclair top on a filled base and refrigerate the éclairs for at least 1 hour upon serving.

    Filled and glazed éclairs are best served the day they are made

June 6, 2009

Panna Cotta: A Simple Dessert with Versatility

Having been in the little northern Minnesotan town of Bemidji for almost 2-1/2 years, there're things that I'm still not used to. Even though I've been through three winter here, I think that it's intolerably freezing! The worst I've had was -34C/-29F! Man, I REALLY miss Malaysia!!!

Unfortunately, the summer here comes and goes in just a blink of an eye. It's so precious that it normally lasts from late May until early September of each year (in my opinion as an observer.) And, this year's is just another horror!

Just as I went out jogging yesterday evening, I told myself that, "Man, SPRING is finally here in Bemidji!" Seeing all the flowers bloom made me feel happy. But in less than 24 hours, the merciless weather quickly transformed a friendly warm day into an unfriendly cold day. The worst of the day was 6C/43F!!! I think I'm going to cradle my head in my hands and sob again. Too unpredictably versatile! The bipolar personality of the weather here is driving me nuts!

As gloomy as the Mother Nature could be, I was glad that I made berries and vanilla panna cotta to cheer myself up! Made just enough of this spring-y dessert to share with my family friends, too! And, we surely enjoyed every bit of it!

Even though it's as versatile as the weather of northern Minnesota, panna cotta can fill you with heavenly and yet sinful pleasure. Having too much will likely lead you to an "overdose of creaminess!" Because it's set with gelatin, there's a lot of leeway in coming up with new variations. In other words, tweak recipes using your wildest imagination without having to worry about messing things up!

I adapted the recipe by Aran of Cannelle et Vanille to work with what I had. Instead of gelatin sheets, I used powdered one. I made the mousse with frozen raspberries instead of strawberries. And, the gelée is a double-berry combo with frozen sweetened currant purée added as I ran out of raspberries. Lastly, I devoured mine with sliced strawberries. It's a combo of mild sweetness and tartness with a refreshing summer berry theme. Ahh ..., simply divine!

My family-friends liked it as well! As usual, I was expecting to get teased. But this time around, my "American dad" said that, "I've nothing bad to say about this!" LOL! I was SO delighted that I think I'm starting to get infected by the panna cotta bug. My brain is filled with ideas for this versatile Italian dessert!

Berries and Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta (adapted from Aran's)

For the panna cotta:

200g heavy cream
45g sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3g powdered gelatin

100g plain yogurt 

For the raspberry mousse:

100g raspberry purée, strained to remove seeds
10g sugar
2g powdered gelatin

75g heavy cream, whipped till soft peaks 

For the gelée: 

100g raspberry purée, strained to remove seeds 
50g sweetened currant purée, strained to remove solids 
20g sugar

2g powdered gelatin
  1. Combine (A) together and bring to just a boil in a saucepan to help dissolve
  2. In the meantime, sprinkle the 3g powdered gelatin over a little bit of cold water and let sit aside briefly to soften it up
  3. Remove the heavy cream mixture from the heat once it just starts to boil, whisk in vanilla extract then followed by the softened gelatin till fully dissolved; set aside and let it cool to body temperature before mixing in the yogurt
  4. Once the yogurt is mixed in, divide the panna cotta mixture among the serving glasses evenly. Refrigerate the mixture until set
  5. Microwave to warm half the raspberry purée together with the 10g sugar in a bowl to dissolve the sugar completely
  6. Sprinkle the 2g powdered gelatin over a little bit of water to soften it up, then mix into the warm raspberry mixture thoroughly. Combine this mixture with the remaining half of the raspberry purée
  7. Gently fold in the raspberry mixture to the whipped cream and divide it among the serving glasses (pouring over the panna cotta layer,) refrigerate till set
  8. Microwave to warm (C) together to dissolve the sugar completely; sprinkle the 2g powdered gelatin over a little bit of water to soften it up, then mix it with the warm berry mixture thoroughly. Divide the mixture among the serving glasses (pouring over the mousse layer) and refrigerate till set
  9. Serve with sliced strawberries if desired

June 3, 2009

A Keeper?

I actually made these cupcakes last Saturday for lunch at my family friends' the next day. Ever since I saw the recipe here, I'd wanted to try to make some as it sound promising. And, I only snapped a shot of ONE lonely cupcake because I'd brought its siblings to the lunch.

I did modify the original recipe as I could already picture that the cupcakes would turn out to be overly sweet if I hadn't reduced the sugar. That reduction of sugar was also necessary as I used semisweet chocolate. They were still pretty sweet even though I'd reduced the 200g sugar to 120g!

Also, omit the almond extract if you're not a big fan of it. I wonder if I'd overbaked the cupcakes because the recipe asks us to bake them till they feel barely set in the middle. Taking into account that my naughty oven tends to overheat, they'd already "puffed up" by 20-minute mark! And when I took them out of the oven, their surface was still sort of wet--but didn't exactly fit the description in the recipe. Was this supposed to happen?

Anyhow, I personally think that these cupcakes are best served warm or at room temperature on the day they were made. That's because when I had them the next day, I found their texture to have become a little on the dense side. Still, it wasn't all that disappointing: these snack cakes are definitely moist thoroughout because of the use of yogurt. So, a keeper or not? You decide.

Bouchees Chocolat au Yaourt / Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes (adapted from David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris)
Yields 12 regular-sized cupcakes

200g bittersweet or semisweet chocolates, coarsely chopped
*I used semisweet ones, which wasn't recommended. So, please use bittersweet ones if you can.

125ml vegetable oil, divided

125ml plain yogurt
200g sugar (I'd suggest reducing to 120g; or else, they'd be TOO sweet!!!)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

180g all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cupcake liners or grease it well, then set aside till ready to use
  2. Melt the chopped chocolates completely with half the vegetable oil in a double boiler till smooth, then remove from heat and set aside
  3. Mix together the remaining half of the oil with (A)
  4. On the other hand, combine together (B) and sift them into another mixing bowl.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then pour in the wet mixture and stir twice. Then, followed by the melted chocolates and stir them all together until just smooth
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin holes, then bake for 25 minutes or till the cakes feel barely set in the middle
  7. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool on a cooling rack before serving
    *I let the cakes sit in the muffin pan for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely on the wire rack.
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