Pumpkin walnut sponge cake

Pumpkin walnut sponge cake

Pumpkin walnut sponge cake

This is one of the other things I made for my recent tea party. For food intolerance readers, sorry this one breaks all the rules — it’s got sugar, eggs, butter and wheat flour! I was baking for the eating pleasure of others…

I used this basic recipe with some modifications.

115g butter
60g castor sugar [or to taste, less is also ok, especially if you use sweet fruits]
115g flour — used all white flour and substituted two tablespoons with homemade dried okara (simply because I had some to use up)
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup mashed, cooked pumpkin [steam or microwave the pumpkin]
chopped walnuts to taste

To prepare the nuts: roast wholenuts over very low heat in a frying pan without oil. I like to chop them by placing in a deep bowl then using scissors. If you chop them first, the very small bits burn easily when roasting. Use a coarse sieve to remove bits of bitter skin or small burnt scraps.

Cream fat & sugar.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Fold in sifted flour and baking power.
Add pumpkin and walnuts this to sponge mixture & mix well.
Put into 1 loaf tin.
Bake 40 mins at 375˚F / 180˚C or until done.

The final result was very light and spongy! However, I did use a bit more flour than the recipe amount and it was a bit dry. I’ve made this basic recipe countless times before and learnt the following:

1) It’s usually very moist, because of the high butter content, so an oily kind of moist.

2) Don’t overdo the amount of fruit puree (banana, pumpkin, peach etc. – anything soft and mashable) as it results in a batter that has too much liquid and you end up with a dense cake (canceling out all the hard work in creaming to introduce an airy texture!).

3) ALWAYS take the trouble to do the creaming stage properly, don’t rush the process. The light and airy creamed mixture will impact the final texture of the cake greatly.

Be careful of emulsification, which happens when you add too much egg at one time, as I experienced before. I now beat all the eggs in a bowl and add it to the creamed mixture one tablespoon at a time.

Read more about creaming here and here.

12 Sep 09 update: Made this cake again today using homemade red bean paste (sweetened to taste) instead of pumpkin. Very successful and delicious!

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Improvised gluten-free muffins (basic recipe)

improvised gluten-free pear muffins

improvised gluten-free pear muffins

I remember the time when I was really scared to start gluten-free baking because it seemed so complicated, so many types of flour, so easy for things to go wrong, for the baking to fail. A couple of weeks ago, I baked some muffins (if you can call them that) without following any gluten-free recipe book and amazingly, the product was edible!

All I did was to try a direct substition of wheat flour with a gluten-free flour blend in my original basic muffin recipe. Yes, the very first basic muffin recipe, which I subsequently stopped using when I found basic recipe no. 2 gave better results. Basic muffin recipe no. 1 is so easy that you can easily by heart:

2 cups flour
1 cup milk/liquid
1/4 cup oil/butter
1 egg (2 , if you prefer)
1 tsp baking powder
other ingredients of choice – e.g. 1 chopped apple, handful of nuts/dried fruit etc.

I used exactly those quantities together with a few large chunks of tinned pears, and made up the 1 cup liquid with half milk and half pear juice from the tin. Apart from the pears and pear juice, no added sugar. (If you are avoiding salicylates, remember to choose pears in syrup as commercial pear juice contains the peel which has salicylates. Of course if you are on an anti-candida diet, the syrup is probably worse!)

The gluten-free flour blend is the one I described earlier:

8oz/225g brown rice flour
8oz/225g tapioca starch
8oz/225g soy flour

No xanthan gum, no gelatine.

The batter was extremely wet, but I decided to go ahead without adding extra flour. The consistency (and eventual effect) reminded on a crazy improvisation attempt when I dumped a load of mashed pumpkin into a gluten-free sponge cake recipe, thereby completely altering the ratio of liquid to other ingredients — a crazy attempt which I did not blog about because I can’t even remember exactly what I did (brain must have gone on strike, hence giving rise to the mad improvisation to begin with); started out being utterly disappointed with the result and subsequently very pleased when put aside my preconceptions and realised the texture was quite appealing and the taste pretty good.

The result:

It looked beautiful at the end of baking, but collapsed as it cooled after coming out of the oven, just as this gluten-free bean bread did. I’ve discovered the quick bread gluten-free recipe that doesn’t sink is this one that uses gelatine as well.

Taste-wise, I was very pleased although visitors to my home who tasted a bite responded only with a grimace masquerading as a polite smile :). Texture-wise, I’ll repeat what I’ve said in my other gluten-free baking entries; it reminds me of Southeast Asian kueh or steamed cakes, soft and very close-textured, no ‘crumb’, kind of squishy.

The overall effect of the non-wheat taste and texture is certainly very reminiscent of local desserts, so perhaps if I dropped names like ‘muffin’ or ‘cake’ and called it kueh, people would have different expectations and not react so negatively towards my gluten-free baking!