My friend is also prediabetic so her request involves making something that is delicious but not too sweet. I used a healthy low GI sugar, Masarang arenga forest sugar, to make the cookie house, and used royal icing only as glue and for making the grass.
It is the first time I used a no-spread cookie recipe for a construction project as I needed something that has a better fit at the seams than my usual brown sugar cookie recipe which expands a little during baking. I adapted the recipe from here. I am also going to share how I make and bake cookies without standard cookie cutters. This recipe is excellent for handling as it's not really sticky and doesn't need to be chilled. I was skeptical about how the texture would turn out as it doesn't use a lot of butter and uses no leaving agent. But the addition of cornflour does wonders to the texture!
No-spread vanilla cookie recipe
114g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
100g caster sugar (or brown sugar or in my case, masarang arenga forest sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten (about 51g without shell)
250g plain flour, sifted
48g cornflour, sifted
3/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Gel food colouring as needed
1. Preheat oven to 180℃.
2. Cream butter and sugar using a spatula until just smooth (you don't want it to be too airy).
3. Mix in egg a little at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla and mix well.
4. Add plain flour, cornflour, salt and mix together with spatula. Mixture may seem dry at first but after a few minutes, it will gather into a ball and pull cleanly from sides of bowl. Knead by hand to bring dough together if necessary. Add food colouring at this point if you are using it.
5. If baking recular cookies, roll to 5-6mm thick between parchment paper. If making cookie consturction projects, roll to 4mm thick. You don't want the cookie pieces too thick for construction projects as they may end up really heavy and the weight of it may cause it to sag or break.
6. As the dough is not chilled, it is rather soft but still not difficult to handle. Even then, you at want to avoid transferring cookie cutouts from work surface onto baking tray as the shape of the cookie cutout would have deformed by then. Instead, portion your cookie dough such that it can fit into your baking tray after rolling between parchment paper. Use cookie cutters or homemade plastic templates (pink plastic piece in the picture below) to cut out the shapes using a small knife. Cut similar sized cutouts on each tray. If you have a large cookie and small cookie cutout on the same tray, the larger cookie will underbake and small cookie will overbake. You can place the cutouts fairly close to each other as the cookies won't spread in the oven. Remove the excess dough around the cookie cutouts.
The side walls of the cookie house. I removed the excess dough surrounding the cookie cutouts
7. Bake in the oven until it appears dry and crisp. I can't give a specific time as it really depends on size of cookie cutout. The teeny heart flowers took about 6 min to bake (but at 160℃) The chimney pieces about 7-8 min, the larger pieces like rainbow and roof pieces took about 20 min but I lower the temperature to 160℃ after the first 12 min to prevent excess browning. You can always put the cookie back in the oven to bake a few minutes longer if it still looks underdone. Cool on baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Just a note on the rainbow...I created it differently from the rest of the pieces. I rolled each coloured dough into long sausage shape and placed my template under the parchment paper so that I know how each colour should be shaped. I just remove the plastic template before baking. Do brush a little egg white between different colours so that the dough will stick together. Gently but firmly apply pressure to make them stick together.
Rainbow cookie dough
Hearts and heart flowers cookie dough
Prepare stiff consistency royal icing for gluing the pieces together. I coloured it to a colour close to the house so that the seams are less obvious.
Constructing the house
Assembled house that is lacking the number "20"
The recipe for vanilla chiffon cake can be found over here. I used the exact quantities so I won't repeat it in this post. I used a 17cm chiffon tin and covered the hole of the cake with separate sheet cake cutouts. I have also shown you how to slice the cake into three layers so I won't repeat it in this post.
Freshly baked vanilla chiffon cake
I made the filling differently from my attempt last year as using full dairy cream although yummy, was quite nerve wreaking to work with in Singapore's hot weather. I was not too keen on using non-dairy whipping cream although it is much more stable because they come in really huge packets, doesn't taste as good as pure dairy cream (contains mostly oil, sugar, stabilizers and flavourings) and I didn't know that leftovers can be frozen 😆. I learnt something new from a fellow homebaker that it can be frozen. That means I don't have to worry about throwing away the rest of the packet when I am unable to finish it. I used a combination of dairy and non dairy cream here to have the best of both worlds, stability and better taste.
I omitted sugar as non-dairy cream already has sugar added. But I added some gelatin to improve the stability. And I am so glad I tried this! The resulting cream is stable at Singapore's tropical room temperature, not too sweet, and is light in texture 😊. Although my previous experiment using white chocolate and gelatin as stabizers worked beautifully in the stability department, it is richer in taste and heavier on the stomach so this is great for people who prefer something lighter.
Before you assemble the cake, wash, cut and dry the strawberries with paper towels. I chose Korean strawberries as they are tender to bite. I made sure the pieces that are visible on the cake are cut to the same size, about 2cm in height
See the similar sized cutouts on the paper towel. The rest of the pieces can go inside the cake where they aren't visible
Fresh cream filling recipe
200g non-dairy whipping cream*
130g dairy whipping cream*
1 tsp gelatin powder
1 tbs cool water
1 tsp vanilla extract
*You may adjust the ratio according to your personal preference and environmental condition of where the cake is served. Dairy cream should constitute at most half of the portion if you want a reasonable stability in Singapore's warm room temperature
1. Pour both whipping creams and vanilla into a tall mixing bowl. Mix the contents well, cover bowl with cling wrap and chill overnight in fridge.
2. Place water in small microwaveable bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the surface of water. Let the gelatin bloom for 10 minutes. Microwave on medium power for 10 seconds. Stir until all gelatin is dissolved.
3. Scoop 1 tbs of cold cream mixture and mix it with melted gelatin. Mix well. Set aside.
4. Use electric mixer to whisk cold cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add gelatin mixture while whisking the cream by hand. Continue whisking by hand until stiff peaks form.
Properly whipped cream should still appear smooth but able to hold a peak. If it is clumpy, it has separated.
I use acetate sheets as removable cake ring for cake assembly. You can buy from baking supply stores. Details of assembly can be found in my older post as well. The arrangement of the strawberries here is better than what I did previously so follow this instead. Make sure you press the strawberries against the acetate sheet so that cream doesn't come between the strawberry and the sheet.
Cake assembly in progress
Covering the assembled cake with cling wrap on top to chill for two hours.
This was really a labour of love for a friend who has shown much kindness and generosity to my family 😊
With lots of love,