Saturday, April 14, 2012

Baker's Corner - Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


As with my previous recipe post, this one is also baking-related. I'm making up on lost time to bake as many sweet treats as possible! Chocolate chip cookies have always been on my baking agenda. I'm not a fan of the crunchy-crumbly kind of cookies....I prefer the soft-chewy kind. So, as always, I began hunting for a recipe for Chocolate chip cookies. I came across this recipe called 'Award winning soft chocolate chip cookies' on all recipes.com. The title indeed caught my attention! I thought it looked pretty good and decided to give it a go. 

Before I move on to the recipe, I'd like to share some baking facts with you. I've always been quite perplexed as to when to use baking powder and when to use baking soda while preparing baked goodies. A light background reading brought me to the understanding that both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, which means they are added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to 'rise'. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (like yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat! On the other hand, baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch). Baking powder is available as single-acting baking powder and as double-acting baking powder. Single-acting powders are activated by moisture, so you must bake recipes which include this product immediately after mixing. Double-acting powders react in two phases and can stand for a while before baking. With double-acting powder, some gas is released at room temperature when the powder is added to dough, but the majority of the gas is released after the temperature of the dough increases in the oven. 

Some recipes call for baking soda, while others call for baking powder. Which ingredient is used depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. The ultimate goal is to produce a tasty product with a pleasing texture. Baking soda is basic and will yield a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk. You'll find baking soda in cookie recipes. Baking powder contains both an acid and a base and has an overall neutral effect in terms of taste. Recipes that use baking powder often call for other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk. Baking powder is a common ingredient in cakes and biscuits. You can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (you'll need more baking powder and it may affect the taste), but not the other way around. 

The original recipe of these Chocolate Chip Cookies called for baking soda alone but I decided to use a combination of baking soda and powder as you will see below. The results were great. The cookies turned a lovely brown, they were soft and chewy on the inside but still crisp on the outside and there was absolutely no aftertaste of the baking soda. My cookie jar was empty within hours!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Restaurant review: Bombay Cafe, Singapore


When I'm in the mood for some savoury and spicy Indian snacks, the one and only place that comes to my mind is Bombay Cafe. This 'Bollywood' themed authentic Indian vegetarian restaurant offers a wide array of chaats (Indian street food), snacks, South-Indian, North-Indian and Indian-Chinese dishes. When it comes to the quality of food, variety and value for money, it may be considered one of the better Indian vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. 

The color palette of the interior of the restaurant is primarily a combination of bright pink and black with posters from Indian blockbuster movies adorning the walls and ceiling. This restaurant has its own distinctive style. In keeping with the flamboyant Bollywood theme, there are wall mounted television sets showcasing the latest Hindi songs. I often wonder how someone unfamiliar with Indian cinema perceives the whole song and dance routine! They must find it all quite amusing. I often catch the non-Indians glancing at the tv screens with bemused expressions on their faces! Jokes apart, the ambiance of the restaurant is relaxed and it is a different sort of dining experience to what you would be used to.