Thursday, 7 August 2014

steamed pork and vegetables buns 菜肉包子

It has been a while since my last post. For the past month I was too engaged planning for a short trip...and as usual, after returning from my getaway, I was kept busy with unpacking and getting back to the mundane routines.

Today I will like to share with you my experience in making chinese bao, or steamed buns. Although I have made steamed buns with red bean paste, this is the first time I have tried making steamed pork buns. I have to give myself a pat on my shoulders as it is quite a challenge to make chinese steamed buns especially this type which requires the buns to be wrapped by pleating.

I followed a straight forward recipe from this cookbook 孟老师的中式面食 mainly because after watching the demo video by the author, with the clear instructions, I felt I should be game enough to take up the challenge ;)

Since it was my maiden attempt, the buns were not well wrapped, some turned out super ugly. This particular one, in fact the last bun I wrapped out of the batch was the fairest of them all. Practice does make perfect!

The wrapping was not that difficult as the dough was quite easy to work with, not sticky nor too soft or slack. The pleats I made were not distinct enough and most of it disappeared after the buns were steamed.

The batch of buns with varied 'styles'...not done on purpose though...each one turned out 'unique' due to the lack of skills. The recipe calls for plain flour or all-purpose flour, since I used bleached plain flour, the buns weren't too yellowish.

I steamed the buns in a bamboo steamer. It was a good decision to get it even though I know I wouldn't use it too often. The bamboo steamer fits perfectly in my wok. The cover helps to absorbs water moisture so that condensed water droplets will not fall onto the buns during the steaming process. Furthermore, the steamer will give off a wonderful bamboo aroma once it gets heated up.

These chinese pork and vegetable buns do not taste like those local bak bao (pork buns). They are closer to those I had in Beijing such as the 庆丰包子 or 天津狗不理包子. To my family, these buns are really delicious. The skin is soft and has a slight chew while the fillings is juicy and flavourful. The texture of the pork fillings is not comparable to local bao available here. The local pork bun has a better bite and smoother texture whereas for these buns, the fillings reminds me of chinese dumplings, jiaozi 饺子.

Enjoying a tray of piping hot steamed pork buns over a pot of chinese pu-er tea certainly brings back fond memories of the few winters we spent in Beijing.

Steamed Pork and Vegetables Buns (菜肉包子)

(makes 10)

for filling:

200g cabbage
3 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
200g minced pork
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons juice/water squeezed from cabbage*
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon white grounded pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil

for dough:
250g plain flour
3g instant dry yeast (about 3/4 teaspoon)
15g caster sugar
135g water
5g oil (about 1 teaspoon)


for the filling:
  • Wash cabbage, chop finely, squeeze out the water (with hand). Reserve 3 tablespoons of the water*. Mix in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the cabbage, set aside.
  • Place minced meat in a small mixing bowl. Add salt and add in a little water (squeezed from the cabbage). With a pair of chopsticks stir constantly in the same direction till the water is fully absorbed. Continue to add in the remaining water, a little at a time, stirring with the chopsticks in the same direction. With each addition, make sure water is fully absorbed before adding more water.
  • Add in soya sauce, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well.
  • Add in grated ginger, sugar, pepper, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well.
  • Add in remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well. 
  • Add in finely chopped spring onions, cabbage, mix well.
  • Leave to chill in fridge for 1 hour.
for the dough:
  • Place all the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix together to form a rough dough. Dust work surface with some flour, transfer dough to work surface and knead by hand till smooth (about 10 minutes). Cover dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  • Roll dough into a cylindrical/log shape, cut into 10 equal portions. Place each dough, cut side up, flatten to form small discs. With a rolling pin, roll out each disc to about 10~12cm round disc with the edges thinner and centre portion thicker (do not roll the dough too thin).
  • Wrap the dough with filling (the filling is just enough for 10 portions as the dough ratio is about 1:1). Place bun on a square piece of parchment paper (I used cupcakes paper liners). Cover loosely with cling wrap and leave buns to proof for 15 mins.
  • Place buns in a steamer and space them apart so that they do not touch one another. Steam at high heat for 12mins (make sure the water is already boiling before steaming).
  • Turn off the heat and leave the lid slightly open for 3~5 mins before removing the whole lid. Serve warm. Keep any leftovers in fridge (covered with cling wrap or store in airtight containers) and re-steam till hot before serving.
Recipe source: 孟老师的中式面食 watch video here


200克 高丽菜/包菜
3根 葱, 切细
200克 绞肉
1/2小匙 盐
3大匙 水/菜汁*
1大匙 酱油
1/2小匙 姜泥
1/4小匙 细砂糖
1/4小匙 白胡椒粉
2大匙 白麻油

250克 中筋面粉
3克 即溶酵母
10克 细砂糖
水 135克
5克 食油

  • 高丽菜洗净, 切碎, 挤干水份 (留3大匙菜汁备用*), 加入1大匙白麻油搅匀, 备用
  • 将盐加入绞肉, 水(菜汁)以少量多次方式加入, 用筷子以同一方向将水分搅入绞肉中, 让水份完全被绞肉吸收后才继续加水。
  • 加入酱油, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 加入姜泥, 细砂糖, 白胡椒粉, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 加入1大匙白麻油, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 拌入切细的葱, 包菜, 搅拌均匀后冷藏一小时备用。
  • 将所有材料混合至松散状的面团
  • 面团移至工作台上,用手搓揉成光滑状
  • 将面团放置在室温下松驰约5分钟

  • 将面团分割成10等份
  • 每个小面团擀成中间厚周围薄的面皮,直径约10~12厘米(面皮不要擀太薄)
  • 将馅料填在包子皮内 (馅料和包子皮的量是1:1)
  • 将包好的包子放在防粘蜡纸上, 放入蒸笼内, 盖上盖子, 进行最后发酵, 约15分钟。
  • 锅中放冷水, 烧热至沸腾, 放上蒸笼, 大火蒸约12分钟。
  • 时间到熄火后,先将蒸笼稍微掀开一条小缝,待3~5分钟后,再完全打开蒸笼,取出。

Sunday, 6 July 2014

life seems to go faster

Time seems to go faster as I get older. Do you feel the same? That is, only if you are as old as me...

It seems like it was only last weekend when the first school semester ended, and we hopped off to a one week retreat. The days followed just flashed past and before I could complete the first task on my wish-to-do list, the four weeks school holidays were already over!

I was stuck with my children 24/7 during the school holidays. While I enjoy their company, it was not fun having to think of what to prepare for lunch everyday. Whenever they are at home for lunch, I would make their favourites such as pizza, sandwiches, Japanese curry rice, pasta dishes, baked rice, noodles...simple meals that do not require too much preparation, fume free and with minimal cleaning. It is not an exhaustive list, and I got to the bottom of it within two weeks.

It's a blessing that my brain still functions fairly well even though I am getting older each day.

With left over ingredients from making pizza, Japanese curry rice, I came up with this baked rice with Japanese curry. To make it even more wholesome and hearty, I topped it with an egg, very much to my kids' delight as both of them love runny yolks.

This is my serving, smaller portion and without any eggs. I didn't manage to take a picture of those with eggs as my boys were too eager to tuck in. It is a nice change from the usual Japanese curry with rice dish and a new variation to my lists of baked rice dishes.

I read that routines tend to make time flies while new and unique experiences slow down time. For example, the journey seems to take longer when we first travelled to a new place, whereas the return journey (on the same route) appear to be faster, and if you were to take the same route frequently it no longer seems that long to travel to that same destination.

Trying new things, creating unique experiences and engaging in memorable events and moments are some of the ways to psychologically slow down time.  This is quite true for me as I find my days are much longer whenever I went for a holiday trip, away from the routines of endless household chores ;)

While I do not have the luxury to go for holidays frequently (I am definitely not worried that it will ever become a routine), what I could do is, from now on, I shall make it a point to venture further out of my comfort zone to create new culinary experience both for myself and for my family.

Baked Japanese Curry Rice

(makes 4 servings)

200g meat (pork or beef or boneless chicken thigh), clean and cut into bite size
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
50g (3 small cubes) Japanese curry roux* (I used Kokumaro brand, medium hot)
1 tablespoon ketchup

4 cups cooked rice
1 cup broccoli floret
4 eggs
some shredded cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese (or combination of both)

  1. Blanch broccoli with boiling water (add a pinch of salt into the water) for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute chopped onions with the vegetable oil in a deep pan until translucent and lightly browned. Add in the minced garlic and meat, saute the meat till lightly browned. Add in potatoes and carrots and stir fry for a couple of minutes. 
  3. Add the water (use enough water to cover the ingredients) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 10~15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
  4. Add curry roux and ketchup, simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickens. Keep stirring to ensure the curry roux is fully dissolved.*Add another cube of curry roux, if necessary, to adjust the thickness of the curry to your preference. 
  5. For each serving, place 1 cup of cooked rice in an oven-proof dish. Place 1/4 portion of the Japanese curry over the rice. Put some blanched broccoli on top. With a spoon, make a slight dent in the middle and crack in 1 egg. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese. Repeat the same with the remaining servings.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degC for about 10~15 mins or until the cheese turn golden brown and the eggs are almost set. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Snow Pears with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus

Further to my earlier post on Steamed Pears with Chuan Bei 川贝蒸糖梨, here's another similar dessert, Snow Pear with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus 川贝雪梨汤.

The basic ingredients include asian pears (I used ya pears 鸭梨 as they are readily available), chuan bei (fritillaria bulbs), dried snow fungus and rock sugar.

These ingredients has medicinal benefits to help remove heat from body, clear phlegm, relieve cough, bring moisture to the lungs, soothes and nourishes the respiratory tract.

This nourishing dessert is very quick and easy to prepare, simply by simmering the ingredients for about 30 minutes. Due to the short cooking time, the snow fungus will be slightly crunchy and not overly soft or gelatinous in texture. The soup will remain clear and not 'cloudy'. Although I prefer to cook snow fungus in savoury soups till it turns very soft, silky and gelatinous, for this sweet dessert, I like it that the soup is clear, making it very refreshing especially when served chilled. The shorter cooking time also means that the pears still has a slight crunch and not soft and mushy.

Do note that this dessert is good for treating cough (热咳) developed from heaty cold (风热感冒). However, it is not meant to treat cold cough due to 风寒感冒 as chuan bei is very cooling to the body.

If the chuan bei is omitted, it is still a nice and refreshing dessert to help remove heat and quench thirst especially during such hot weather.

Snow Pears with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus 川贝雪梨汤

(serves 4)

1 clump dried snow fungus, about 20g
5g fritillaria bulbs, chuan bei (川贝)
3 snow pears (I used ya pear,鸭梨), skin on
30g rock sugar (use more if desired)
4 cups water

  1. Soak dried snow fungus in water for about 30mins or till soften. Wash and rinse the soaked snow fungus. Trim and discard the hard yellow part at the base. Cut the rest of the snow fungus into small pieces.
  2. Soak chuan bei in water for about 10 mins, discard the water.
  3. Wash the pears (rub the skin with some salt and wash thoroughly). Do not peel away the skin. Remove core and cut into bite-size chunks.
  4. Bring the water to full boil in a large pot. Add pears, chuan bei and snow fungus and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot with lid and leave to simmer for 30mins.
  5. Add in rock sugar, leave to simmer for another 5 to 10mins till the sugar fully dissolved, add more rock sugar if desired.
  6. Serve the dessert either hot or chilled (let cool and leave to chill in the fridge before serving).
*Note: Chuan bei is not suitable for those with weak spleen and stomach and is not for treating cold coughs.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake

After baking a batch of Oreo Cream Cheese Buns, I was left with half a block of cream cheese. Not knowing what to do with the leftovers, I tried googling for a suitable recipe to use it. I searched using the keywords "125g cream cheese", nothing interesting or suitable came up. I then tried googling in Chinese, "125g 奶油芝士" and this recipe popped right up.

The blog post with the title "125g的奶油芝士也能做出香浓的日式轻芝士蛋糕" caught my attention immediately. This is exactly what I am looking use only 125g cream cheese to make a Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake!

I didn't have much luck with Japanese style cotton soft cheesecake on my previous attempt, once out of the oven, it sank, shrank and developed a 'waist' despite leaving the cake to cool in the oven before unmoudling. However, after my successful attempt at making the 3 ingredients Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake, my confidence level went up :)

I adapted the original recipe a little just to round off the ingredients amount. I baked the cake at 150degC for 60mins. The cake rose nicely and the top was baked to a beautiful golden hue without me having to adjust the temperature or to tent the top with foil. The cake was able to hold the structure so well probably because of the number of egg whites used and the relatively higher amount of flour. This is the first time I baked something using 5 whole eggs, I was actually a little overwhelmed with the shear amount of egg whites that was being whipped up!

Instead of leaving the cake to cool in the oven, I removed it immediately once the baking time was up. Once out of the oven, I dropped the cake pan at a height onto my kitchen counter top (I used a cork mat to protect the counter top). I read that this action helps to get rid of the hot air inside the cake quickly so that the cake will not sink or shrink too much (this also applies to chiffon cakes and bread loaves). I removed the cake from the pan right after as I didn't want it to cool off inside the pan. For me, it is best to remove the cake from the pan while it is still hot, as upon cooling, the top of the cake (the papery thin golden crust) will stick to anything that comes into contact, be it my fingers or a plate.  The cake pan and the cake itself was very hot, making it a little tricky to unmold especially I had used a cake pan with a fixed base. I had to invert the cake twice so that I could remove the baking paper on the sides and bottom, before leaving it to cool right side up on the cooling rack. It would be easier if I were to use a pan with a removable base. However, as the cake is baked using the water bath method, even if the pan is wrapped with foil, somehow water condensation may still occur, leaving the bottom of the cake dense and wet.

This cake is a lighter version of the usual Japanese soufflé cheesecake, the texture was soft and moist, something we could eat one slice after another without having to feel too guilty. Do give this a try if you ever run out of idea what to do with half a block of cream cheese. I feel that this is quite a fool proof recipe especially so if you are good in making chiffon cakes but no luck with Japanese soufflé cheesecake.

Happy Baking!

Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake 日式舒芙蕾芝士蛋糕

(makes one 8" cake)

125g cream cheese, cut into cubes
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
5 egg yolks (I used eggs with net weight of 55g)
125g milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
75g cake flour
35g corn flour

5 egg whites (I used eggs with net weight of 55g)
120g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

  • Line the base and sides of a 8" round cake pan(fixed base) with parchment paper. For the sides, make sure the parchment paper extends higher than the cake pan by about 1.5 inches as the cake will expand and rise above the rim of the pan, set aside. 
  • Sieve together cake flour and corn flour, set aside.
  • Place cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Set the mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the mixing bowl is bigger than the sauce pan). Let the mixture melts and stir till smooth. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
  • When ready, add the egg yolks to the cream cheese and butter mixture, one at a time, and with a balloon whisk, whisk to combine. 
  • Add milk, whisk to combine. Add lemon juice, whisk to combine.
  • Sieve over the flour mixture, whisk to combine. Small lumps may form once the flour is added, whisk the batter gently till there are no lumps, do not over mix. 
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to medium-high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture in separate additions and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage.The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. Turn to low speed and beat for another 1 to 2 mins (this helps to stabilise the air bubbles). 
  • Add the beaten egg whites to the cream cheese mixture in 3 separate additions, each time fold with a rubber spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  • Place cake pan in a baking tray. Fill the baking tray with hot water (the water should rise up to about 1 inch of the cake pan).
  • Place on lower rack of the oven and bake at 150 degC for 60 mins. 
  • Remove cake pan from oven and immediately drop the pan at a height of 20~30cm onto the table top. This helps to prevent the cake from shrinking upon cooling. Unmould the cake immediately. To unmold, place a large plate or baking sheet on top of the cake pan, invert the cake pan onto the plate/baking sheet. Remove the cake pan and the parchment paper on the base and sides of the cake (Note: do use oven mitten as the cake pan will be very hot). Next, place a cooling rack on the base of the cake, invert the cake right side up onto the cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Leave the cake to chill in the fridge for about 2 to 3 hours, best overnight, before serving. 
Recipe source: adapted from here.

Friday, 16 May 2014

baking, life's simple pleasure

One of my life's simple pleasures is retrieving a tray of freshly baked bread from my oven. I find great satisfaction and delight when my homemade bread was baked to perfection, and enjoyed by my family.

I came up with the idea of baking these Oreo Cream Cheese Buns after making some oreo bombs for the oreo monsters at home. Oreo bombs are rather similar to chocolate truffles or cake pops. They are made by combining crushed oreo cookies with cream cheeses, shaped into round balls and then coated with melted chocolate.

Those oreo bombs were delicious even for someone who doesn't fancy oreos. I find the oreo and cream cheese mixture has got the right texture, perfect to use as fillings for buns and bread rolls.

The bread buns were made using my favorite tang zhong method. Although the dough was rather wet and sticky, and took a longer time to knead even with the help of a stand mixer, the tang zhong method yields buns that remain soft for 2 to 3 days. These buns will become regulars as my pantry never runs out of oreos!

Oreo Cream Cheese Buns

(makes 10)

for the buns:
tang zhong (water-roux):
20g bread flour
100ml water

bread dough:
210g bread flour
56g cake flour
20g milk powder
42g caster sugar
3g salt
6g instant yeast
30g egg, lightly beaten
85g water
84g tang zhong (water-roux)
22g unsalted butter

for the filling:
18 oreo cookies
125g cream cheese, cut into cubes, soften at room temperature


to make tang zhong:

*Place 20g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 100ml water, mix with a hand whisk till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with the hand whisk to prevent it from burning. Within 1 to 2 mins, the mixture will start to thicken, stop when you see traces in the mixture for every stir you make with the hand whisk. The tang zhong is ready. Immediately transfer the hot tang zhong into a bowl and cover it with a cling wrap, making sure the cling wrap sticks onto the surface of the mixture. This is to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Leave to cool completely before using it.

to make the oreo cream cheese filling:
*Place oreo cookies (with the cream) in a plastic bag or ziploc bag. Crush the cookies with a rolling pin to a fine crumb. Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer or a hand whisk, beat the cream cheese till smooth. Add in the crushed oreo and mix well with a spatula. Cover and store in fridge until ready to use.

to make the bread dough:
* Place bread flour, cake flour, milk powder, sugar, salt, yeast, egg, water and tang zhong (use 84g) in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Let the mixer knead the dough on high speed until the ingredients come together to form a dough, takes about 8 to 10 mins. Add in the butter and continue to knead for another 15~20mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. (Upon adding the butter, the dough will become very wet/slack again, add some flour if it remains slack after 10 mins of kneading. Depending on the type of flour used, the dough may still stick to the sides of the mixing bowl after 15-20mins of kneading. If this happens, continue to knead for another 5mins or so, stop the machine, oil or dust hands with flour and proceed to remove the dough from the bowl.
* Place dough in a lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.
* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* Divide the oreo cream cheese filling into 10 equal portions. For each bread dough, flatten into a disc and wrap with 1 portion of the filling. Pinch and seal the seams. Place wrapped dough, seam side down on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Repeat with the rest of the doughs. Cover doughs with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave to proof for the second time for about 30 to 40mins, or until double in size.
* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 12 to 15mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source for bread dough: adapted from 65度C汤种面包, 陈郁芬