Sunday, May 07, 2006

Obachan's Matcha Pound Cake

I couldn't resist buying a new brand of salted butter the day before. It's from New Jersey and weighs about 400gm per pack. The neat thing about this butter is that it's not one huge slab with markings on the wrapper for every 25gm. It comes in 4 individual sub-packs and each are marked to the max of 8 tablespoons per sub-pack (coming from the metric system, butter measured in tablespoons was new to me). I also bought some unsalted french butter and decided the next day would be Pound Cake day.

I woke up early to experiment on Obachan's Matcha Pound Cake. I started laying out all my ingredients only to discover I didn't have Cake Flour. In the end, I had to run to 4 different places before I managed to get a semi-substitute. I bought 'Top Flour' from the bake shop I frequent instead. When I asked the staff if they knew what percentage of protein or gluten strength this contained, no one knew. Resigned, I bought the 'Top Flour' with an ominous premonition.

It might surprise some to know that I actually went thru home economics class as an O level subject during my teenage years. This means I had to sit for exams on Theory as well as Practical aspects of Cooking. It also means that I should still have some notion of elementary science of Baking. For afterall, regardless the number of years since I sat through such exams, these science theories still hold true.

After I creamed the softened butter with sugar, I got careless and tipped over too much egg at one go. No amount of high speed whipping would stop the curdling that occurred thereafter. For those of you who are interested, curdling is when the fat receives an overwhelming amount of contrast liquid at once, such as egg, and hence separates. The appearance would be something akin to oil & water not mixing but gathering together in tiny lumps. The way to prevent this is to always introduce the egg into your creamed butter, by the spoonful (i.e. Whip, add 1 tbsp egg, Whip, 2 tbsp egg, and so on till the batter is more liquified and well mixed, before adding in the rest of the egg).

I was disgusted with self for such a rookie mistake. I was left with no alternative but to keep the mixer on high and gradually add in the egg, tablespoon by tablespoon. Theoretically, after curdling has occurred, we were taught to stop adding egg altogether and fold in flour to bind the two. I decided to continue adding the egg since the receipe given seems to yield a fairly small loaf. Thereafter, I folded in the twice-sifted flour and although the mixture was visibly smoother and together, deep down I knew something would go wrong with the end result.

I then mixed a little warm water with my terribly expensive yet miniscule tin of Matcha, groaning at how little was left. This was then mixed in with a little of the original batter, so I now have two batches of batter. Plain and Matcha flavoured.
(Note: This little tin measuring 8cm in height, cost me approximately 5.50 Euros, akin to daylight robbery if you ask me. See my pretty little precious Matcha? : )
It was then that I noticed the oven temperature had not been keeping a steady temperature during the preheat process. Hmmm.

I was deciding between pouring the two mixtures in batches onto the loaf pan and then swirling it with a toothpick or to give the mixed batter a few swirls before pouring it into the pan. I followed the latter.

After pouring the swirled batter into my NON-STICK-greased-lined-greased-again, loaf tin (I won't even begin to narrate my horrific nightmares when young, of my cakes sticking to the aluminium cake tins during the final Practical Bake exam, falling off in chunks when I forcibly upturned and shook the baked goods from the cake tin, to lay on my exam Presentation Table, complete with Menu, Fine Dining Cutlery & Crockery and flowers), I then proceeded to do something I had never done. I proceeded to knock the air outtav the loaf tin by dropping it repeatedly from a height of about 5cm. This feels strange, I have never had to sift flour, fold it into batter carefully and then knock the carefully incorporated air at the end.

In the end, it wasn't the preparation process that killed me. It was my cranky oven that did it. Obachan mentioned she had problems browning cakes with her oven (they still look fantabulous btw). I should introduce her to mine. It has problems cooking the insides of cakes and cookies properly, resulting in me having to go into overtime with the baking time and usually burning the tops of my cakes, and the rising of the cake hampered. Next to my oven monster, her oven is a dream come true.

I realise that my oven preheat temperature was too hot and inconsistent, leading to the browning of the top too quickly, causing the expanding liquid batter below to rise later, breaking the crust formed on top. I resolve also, to be more generous with the Baking Powder the next time round when using Top Flour, for this flour's characteristic seems to resemble a higher tensile strength, yielding a lower rise in cakes. I should also learn to be more light-handed when swirling marble cakes in future. (p.s. This Matcha Marble Pound looks NOTHING like Obachan's Matcha Marble pic. Refer to hers for inspiration please)

Pound cakes are Mom's favourite, whilst anything Matcha is mine. A mix of these two seemed like a good idea for the twain to meet. I loved it that the cake was only subtly sweet and the taste of Matcha was quite distinct. Yay!

Mom later revealed that she liked her pound cakes sweeter, and she didn't care much for the Matcha. I then decided that I might as well put all that butter to good use and whip up another Marble Pound Cake, this time chocolate and looking at the receipe, it seems to be slightly sweeter.

I will blog this tomorrow as it is now way past 2.30am. I will be bringing both my Matcha Marble Pound Cake and Chocolate Marble Pound cakes as breakfast for two of my closest colleagues tomorrow. Will report their responses in my next blog.

Verdict: Success in Taste. Needs improvement in appearance. Should also start saving for a new oven (donations anyone? hehe).

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