Sunday, 25 December 2011

towering high

Warm, buttery scones are such a delight to wake up to, especially on a Sunday morning.

The problem with baking away from home is, I could only stick to very simple bakes that require minimal use of baking equipments or tools. Baking up a batch of scones is probably the simplest way to stop my itch for baking. They can be put together without using a whisk nor a spatula.

It was one of those rare occasion when I felt really proud of myself when I took out this tray of towering high scones from the oven.

Look at how tall these scones have rose from a mere 1 inch thick rounds. They have doubled their height after spending not more than 15mins in the oven. These are the tallest scones I have ever made! Thanks to a recipe that I came across not too long ago. The trick for yielding towering high scones lie in 'folding' the dough a few times...almost the same concept as making the pastry dough for croissants. I have came across similar recipes that call for rolling out the dough and making 'envelop' folds and repeating it a few times. However, I was a little skeptical as I have came across too many scone recipes that often warn you not to over work the dough. This recipe that I followed recommends a slightly different method of doing the folds. Instead of rolling the dough out with a rolling pin, the dough is gently pat down lightly before it is cut into halve. Then, one half is stacked over on the other before the stacked dough is pat down again. The process is then repeated a couple of times. I am all for this method as I am confident that I wouldn't over handle the dough too much.

I bought this lovely cookie cutter from a tiny baking supply shop in Sanlitun (三里屯). My children and I were walking towards the bus station after a light lunch at Sanlitun village when I spotted the signage of this shop from a distance. I didn't even notice its existence when I passed by the same lane, twice. There are only three display racks inside the shop, yet I managed to buy 2 cookie cutters, some cocoa power, cake flour, dried cranberries and even birthday candles ;)

I used this cutter to cut out the scones since it is the same size as recommended in the recipe. As expected, the scones didn't retain the flower shape after baking...but the height of the scones more than compensated for the lack of visual appeal.

I actually felt half-hearted when I started working on the dough, which was dry compared to the sticky and softer doughs that I am more familiar with. I was expecting a total failure and I felt like kicking myself for replacing fresh strawberries, as called for in the original recipe, with dried cranberries. However, much to my delight, the scones turned out wonderfully light and fluffy, and very tall! These freshly baked scones were so delicious that they were good even on their own. All I needed was just a cup of hot coffee to go with them. They certainly worth the extra effort to wake up slightly early to make them for my family. I have never woke up to the smell of buttery scones baking in the oven, but I am sure it must be a very nice feeling...

Towering High Cranberries Scones

(makes about 9, using 4cm cutter)

200g cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
50g unsalted butter, Cold, cut into small cubes
30g caster sugar 1 pinch of salt 90ml milk, I replaced with plain yoghurt
40g dried cranberries, cut into smaller pieces

extra 1 tablespoon milk for brushing
some icing sugar for dusting

  1. Sieve cake flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Place unsalted butter into mixing bowl. With a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. 
  3. Add in sugar, salt and dried cranberries, toss gently until just combined. 
  4. Add in milk, gather the mixture to form a rough dough. 
  5. Place dough on lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently for about four to five times. -
  6. Pat the dough to a rectangle shape, about 3cm thick. 
  7. Cut the dough into half. Stack one half over the other. Pat the dough into 3cm thick rectangular shape again. 
  8. Repeat the above step for another 2 times (note: handle the dough lightly, scones will become tough when over handled.) 
  9. Finally, pat the dough into 2cm-2.5cm thick. Use a lightly floured cookie cutter (4 cm diameter), cut dough into rounds. To ensure better rise, press the cutter straight down, do not twist the cutter. - Gather the remaining dough, pat into 2cm - 2.5cm thick and cut out the remaining rounds. -
  10. Place the rounds on baking tray (lined with parchment paper) about 1 inch apart, brush top with milk, sprinkle with icing sugar (I replaced with caster sugar since I couldn't get icing sugar). 
  11. Bake in preheated oven at 200degC for 10-12mins or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool, serve warm.
Recipe source: 幸福烘焙工坊, by 本间节子

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

for the lazy baker

Pardon my absence from the blogging world...although I doubt I would be missed by anyone ;)

I am quite disappointed that I am not able to visit my regular blogs here in Beijing. Even though I have set my google readers before leaving home, nothing shows up when I tried to access it here. Well, guess I have to do a lot of catching up when I get back by the end of the year.

Although I am away from home, I don't really feel like I am on holidays. Other than the cold weather and the rather laid-back weekends, our weekdays are just like any other day. My kids will spend the mornings doing their holiday assignments while I reply emails to friends, do my groceries and prepare lunch. In the afternoons, my boys are very much pre-occupied with watching cartoons, playing games and letting off their energy by playing table tennis at the fitness centre. Life is pretty much as usual.

I still get to do my baking, at least once a week, if not more.

One of my latest bake is none other than a simple pizza for our dinner last night.

Believe it or not, this pizza requires No Kneading at all. Perfect for a lazy baker like me!

I have made this once, before I left home for Beijing. It was so good that I recommended it to my cake friend right away. She couldn't resist the temptation to make it for her family after I showed her pictures of my boy tucking away into a hearty slice of homemade pizza. I had to share the idea with her since she was the one who introduced me to her magical rolls

...that is, The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. I used the exact same dough recipe for the pizza base, so, no kneading is required. I did make some slight adjustments, ie, I replaced the milk with plain water, and this time, I also cut down the sugar amount a little (as suggested by my cake friend) so that the pizza base would not taste as sweet. Her's turn out great as well! Even though she didn't take any pictures, I had no difficulties conjuring an image of her boys and hubby wolfing down her delicious, made from scratch, homemade pizza.

I managed to make two pizza from the small batch version of the original PW's cinnamon dough recipe...a big regularly one to fit the drip pan, and a small round 8" 'personal' pan pizza.

Just like making the cinnamon rolls, the dough is as sticky and soft to handle...but after dusting it freely with flour, I was able to flatten the dough and spread it out as thin as rolling pins required, since I don't have one on hand. Unlikely most pizza doughs, this one is sooo 'baby-bottom' soft that it doesn't shrink back while trying to flatten it. One thing to note is, I spread the dough out directly on the parchment makes handling the dough much easier.

For once, I didn't make any hawaiian pizza for my children. Instead, I topped it with fresh white button mushrooms, salami slices, capsicums, mini tomatoes...

The texture of the pizza base is very soft and very bread-like...great if you like pan pizza. I love how the combination turns out...especially the fresh, juicy toppings :)

What more can I say, nothing beats a slice of homemade pizza, especially when it doesn't requires much effort. A truly, kneadlessly simple, everyday meal that everyone can put it together, either for their own indulgence or for their loved ones...

so, what are you waiting for?!

No Knead Pizza Dough


1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup caster sugar (I used 40g)
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used 1 teaspoon Instant yeast)
2 (250g) cups plus 1/4 cup (30g) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (scant)
1/4 tablespoon salt (heaping)

extra flour for dusting

pizza toppings and grated mozzarella cheese

  1. Mix water, sugar and vegetable oil in a pan. Scald (heat until just before boiling) the mixture. Leave to cool for 45mins ~ 1 hour.
  2. Place 250g (2 cups) plain flour and Instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the above mixture. Stir with a spatula until the mixture comes together to form a thick batter. (If using Active Dry Yeast, sprinkle the yeast into the mixture and let it sit for a minute before adding it to the plain flour.) Cover and let the batter sit for at least 1 hour.
  3. Add in the remaining 30g (1/4 cup) flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until the mixture comes together. Either go ahead to make the pizza or cover and leave to chill in fridge over night or until needed. If left to chill, check the dough and punch it down by folding with a spatula if the dough rises almost to the rim of the mixing bowl. (Note: dough will be easier to handle if left over night.)
  4. When ready, place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray. Dust parchment paper generously with flour, transfer dough onto parchment paper. Dust dough freely with flour, dust hands with flour, flatten and roll out the dough into a thin round or rectangular shape, as desired.
  5. Spread dough with a layer of pizza sauce, top with some grated mozzarella cheese. Arrange toppings over the surface evenly. Top with more grated mozzarella cheese, bake in preheated oven at 200degC for about 15 mins or until the pizza base turns golden brown and the cheese melted.
Recipe source: pizza dough recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls

Friday, 2 December 2011

let it snow...

2 December 2011…


0 deg C

First snow...

in Beijing...

This is our third winter in this city…

but it was only this morning…

we saw the first snow…falling…

down, from the Beijing sky…



and more snow...

My boys had a great time, playing in the snow…
I had a great time, watching them playing in the snow…
We are looking forward to the next snow…

Oh please,

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…