Wednesday, 29 February 2012


It has been a long while since I made a loaf of bread. Ever since my bread machine broke down 2, 3 years back, I find it more and more difficult to make bread from scratch. Since I don't have a standing mixer (and no intention to get one), the kneading process although rather therapeutic, will make my arms and shoulders hurt for days. I have been looking around for a replacement, but have no luck as I wouldn't spend more than what I paid for my previous bead maker. It so happened that I manage to get a new machine at about the same price when we were in Beijing last year. The design and functions is just like my previous machine, a very basic and economical machine that is affordable and reliable...well, at least for a couple of years.

Here's my first loaf of bread for the year. I followed the tang zhong method and bread rose high and mighty. It rose more than an inch over the top of the rim of my pullman pan that it couldn't fit into my standard bread loaf air tight container. I can't complaint much since it is really a happy problem for me =)

Do pardon me from bragging, but the loaf was very nicely baked, the crust colour was just right! From the picture above, I hope you could imagine how pillowy-soft and fluffy the bread loaf turn out.

'拉丝' a commonly used term to describe a feathery soft loaf of bread...where the crumbs tears off like strands of silk...

The bread tastes delicious even on its own as it is a sweet bread. It remained soft and light for three days, in fact the loaf was so cottony that I had problem cutting it into slices. It is time I get a new bread knife since I don't know how, or whether it is possible to sharpen a serrated knife?

What better way to eat scoops of ice cream than to sandwich them between a slice of homemade bread! I could almost hear the sounds of bells jingling from the ice cream cart...

Raisin Loaf (tang zhong method)

tang zhong (water-roux):
25g bread flour
125ml water

bread dough:
285g bread flour
15g milk powder
54g caster sugar
4g salt
5g instant yeast
30g egg, lightly beaten (about half an egg)
81g water
90g tang zhong (water-roux)*

30g unsalted butter
60g raisins

to make tang zhong:
* Place 25g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 125ml water, mix till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with a 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. (Take a look at the video clip here. ) The 65degC 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 knead dough by bread machine:
* Place water, egg, tang zhong (use 90g), sugar, salt, bread flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Leave the lid of the machine open (this is to prevent over heating). After about 10mins of kneading, add in the 30g of butter. Let the machine continue to knead the dough. After the kneading cycle has stopped (20mins), Stop and Restart the machine. Continue to let the machine knead for another 20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

* 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 2 equal portions. Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough and roll out to form a longish oval shape. Starting from the shorter end, roll it up swiss-roll style. Leave the doughs to rest for another 10

* Flatten each dough and roll it out again to form a long rectangle (around 30cm x 10cm). Flip the dough over and sprinkle the surface with raisins. Roll up swiss-roll style, roll up as tightly as possible. Pinch and seal the seams. Place the 2 doughs, seam side down, against each side of a well greased (with butter) pullman tin.

* Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 50~60mins, or until the dough rise up almost to the rim of the pan. Bake in preheated oven at 180degC for 30mins. (Note: If necessary, cover the top with foil to prevent over browning). Unmold immediately and leave to cool completely. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

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

Sunday, 19 February 2012

happiness comes from...

These blueberry crumbles muffins were not on my latest to-do list...but I made them anyway...just to use up the leftover crumble toppings, and some very sour blueberries from the apple and blueberry crumbles I made earlier.

I used to think that it is best not to do any baking if I were on a foul mood. Anything that shouldn't go wrong, would go wrong. However, these blueberry muffins accented with orange zest, proved me wrong. The entire process from preparing the batter to putting the muffins into the oven was rather therapeutic. My mind was very focus, calm, and I was able to shut away all the unhappy thoughts. Everything turned out well and the muffins rose beautifully in the oven. The lovely domed crumble toppings made them looked like little cups of popcorns baking away in the oven. My mood lifted up right away...

I baked these ordinary, everyday muffins in these less ordinary, but very pretty paper cups that VB, my cyberfriend mailed to me recently. Thanks VB, for showering me endlessly with beautiful paper liners, cookies bags, cake boxes, etc, etc, etc. Just looking at the muffins made me feel happy, baking is the best therapy for me.

Do you know that foods that are high in carbohydrates increase the production of serotonin in the brain and have a temporarily calming effect on the mind and body? Probably that is why there was something comforting about sinking my teeth into one of these warm, freshly baked muffins. Those soft and fluffy crumbs was no doubt an instant mood lifter.

Besides making a batch of muffins, happiness also comes from sharing and receiving...

I feel so honoured to receive two awards from fellow bloggers recently.

The first award is thefrom Yummy Bakes
'Liebster' means favourite or dearest in German. 

Here are some rules for accepting the award:
Thank the person who gave the award and link back to their blog.
- Copy and paste the award to your blog.
- Reveal the 5 blogs you have chosen to award and let them know by commenting on their blog.
- Hope they pass it forward by accepting and awarding it to bloggers they would like to honour.
So, here are the five blogs that I would to share this award with:
Eat and Be Happy
Min's Blog
The Sweet Spot
I received The Versatile Blogger award from Precious Moments, thanks Edith! To carry on, I am following it to the following bloggers. Please do accept this award and forward it to 10 other blogger friends of your choice.

Angie's Recipes
Blessed Homemaker
Cook With No Books
Cosy Bake
Cuisine Paradise
Elinluv's Tidbits Corner
Epicurean Escapism
Fong's Kitchen Journal
The Weekend Epicurean

To the rest of you who always make it a point to drop by this humble blog of mine, and especially those who care to take the time and effort to pen down their thoughts and comments here, I will really love to share my muffins with you, but before the day comes when we could literally pick up anything from our screens, I can only share the recipe here, if you ever happens to try it, I hope they are able to bring you much joy and happiness.

Blueberry Crumble Muffins

(makes 12 regular size muffins)

for the crumble toppings
40g cake flour
40g almond powder (grounded almond)
40g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
30g caster sugar
25g walnuts, coarsely chopped

for the muffin batter:
240ml plain yogurt (regular or low fat)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
60ml canola or corn oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest from 1 orange
260g plain flour
100g granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g fresh or frozen blueberries

  1. For crumble toppings: Place flour, almond powder, sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add the cold butter. With a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs (or use fingertips to rub in the butter). Add in the chopped walnuts, toss to combine. (Note: leave to chill in fridge if not used immediately.)
  2. For muffin batter: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lightly beaten egg, oil, vanilla extract and orange zest, until just combined.
  3. Sieve flour, baking powder and baking soda into another mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt and whisk to combine.
  4. Remove 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients and toss it with the blueberries (Note: If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them).
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined (Note: stop stirring once the flour incorporates into the batter, but do check that there is no pockets of flour at the bottom of the bowl). Gently stir in the blueberries. Do Not over mix the batter. The finished batter should appear thick and lumpy.
  6. Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, fill it to about 3/4 full (Note: I transfer all the batter into a clear plastic bag. Snip away the corner of the bag to make a hole, large enough for the blueberries to pass through, and use it like a piping bag to fill the paper cups).
  7. Top each muffin cup with 1 tablespoon of the crumble toppings. 
  8. Bake in preheated oven at 190degC for about 20 - 25mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Recipe source: adapted from Joy of Baking.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

apple and blueberry crumble

As mentioned in my last post, my digital to-do list is quite effective. My next new bake of the year is Apple Crumble. I tend to shy away with anything that requires cooking over the stove. But at the start of this year, I told myself that I should really really get out of my comfort zone. While going through the recipe, I had envisioned that cooking sugar with just 1 tablespoon of water would definitely cause the mixture to stick to the pot, and to make it worst, you are not suppose to stir the mixture before it caramelized.

My initially fear of ending up with a pot of burnt apples was rather unfounded. The sugar mixture didn't even stick to the stainless steel pot I used. I have added in lemon zest to cook with the apple fillings even though it is not called for in the recipe I followed. My heart was skipping with joy when the filling was done ;) The cooked apples, lightly accented by the lemon zest, tasted just right...tender but not too soft; sweet but not too sweet. Half the challenge was completed!

As it was the first time I was baking apple crumbles, not knowing what to expect, I filled the ramekins with the crumble toppings almost to the brim. Imagine my shock when I saw the toppings rised well over the rim upon baking. There was nothing wrong with it, but I needed 'space' for the scoop of ice cream to serve along with the apple crumble. So, once I took the ramekins out of the oven, I pressed the crumble toppings down with the back of a spoon. I would have press it down further, but the toppings started to fall off and I thought it was best to leave it alone. I left it to cool but when I went back to check after 5 mins, I was taken aback by another interesting sight...the crumble toppings sank further down the rim. I felt a little sheepish...I should have left it alone and let nature takes its course?

photo credit: photo taken with help from my sous chef cum ad-hoc photographic assistant holding the spoon as steadily as he could.
Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever tasted apple crumble. What a delicious combo of warm apple fillings, bursting blueberries, light buttery crumbs that was full of flavour and fragrance from the almond powder and nutty walnuts! Needless to say, apple crumble with vanilla ice cream is a perfect match. Another discovery I made...the tangy blueberries became sweet even though it was not cooked with the apple fillings, I wonder what went on under those crumble mix when it was baking in the oven?

This is a certainly a crowd pleaser, great as after dinner desserts when you have guests coming over since the fillings and crumble toppings can be prepared in advance. I am sure you will have guests going gaga over your homemade desserts :)

Apple and Blueberry Crumble

(serves 4)

for the filling:
4 apples (I used 3 large China fuji apples)
60g caster sugar (original recipe calls for 80g)
1 tablespoon water
zest from 1 lemon (not called for in original recipe)

*some fresh blueberries

for the crumble:
60g cake flour
60g almond powder (grounded almond)
60g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
40g caster sugar (original recipe calls for 60g)
35g walnuts, coarsely chopped

(*the blueberries are not cooked with the apple fillings)


for the filling
  1. Core the apples, cut into chunks.
  2. Place sugar and 1 tablespoon water into a pot. Leave it to boil on Medium-to-High heat. DO NOT stir the mixture. (Stirring will cause the mixture to thin out.)
  3. Leave the mixture to boil undisturbed (takes about a couple of minutes). Once it starts to brown or caramelize, swirl the pot a little to allow the mixture to brown evenly. Immediately add in the apples, stir to coat the apples with the syrup. (Note: the syrup mixture will be very hot, it will splatter when the apples are added especially if the apple chunks are not well drained. This is speaking from experience.)
  4. Allow the apples to cook on Medium-to-Low heat for about 5 mins, stir occasionally.
  5. Add in the lemon zest, continue to cook for another 5 mins or until the apples become fork tender and the mixture dries out. Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.
for the crumble
  1. Place flour, almond powder, sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the cold butter. With a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs (or use fingertips to rub in the butter).
  3. Add in the chopped walnuts, toss to combine. (Note: leave to chill in fridge if not used immediately.)
to assemble
  1. Preheat oven to 190degC.
  2. Fill ramekin or ovenproof dish to 3/4 full (portion is enough for 4 ramekins, size of ramekin: 3.5"). Add in a few fresh blueberries to each ramekin. Top with crumble mixture (I used about 2 tablespoons for each ramekins and there is still some leftover crumbles).
  3. Bake for 30mins or until the crumble is golden. (Note: the crumble toppings will expand upon baking)
  4. Leave to cool and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Note: the apple fillings could still be piping, take care when serving to young children.)
Recipe Source: adapted from Smile! 幸福小点心, 山王丸由利绘

Monday, 6 February 2012

struck off the list

I am not a food snob, and likely will never become one. I do not have a sophisticated palate since my diet is restricted to simple homecooked meals or cheap hawker centre food. I spent my growing up years eating to to live-to-eat if one's share of the dishes on the table is only one out of ten.

失败之作: 酥皮, 还是...硬皮蛋塔?!
But, when it comes to egg tarts, I have to confess, I am a complete snob! I will never settle for anything that doesn't come anywhere close to those flaky, light and tender crusts with smooth, creamy fillings egg tarts from 金门饼家 Golden Gate San Francisco. I don't have the luxury to fly over 8000 miles whenever I need an egg tart fix. I don't even want to make my own since I know I will never get anywhere close to the ones I had. But, making a batch of egg tarts has always been on my to-do list...for the longest time...probably more than three years. I didn't even blush whenever I tell my elder son (who loves egg tarts of any sort) that someday, I will make him some egg tarts...

substandard food, substandard photography
I have been gathering recipes since day 1 when I announced to my kid that I would make him some egg tarts. I bought those disposable, aluminum cups/moulds two years ago, thank goodness they don't come with an expiry date! I even took the trouble to bring them along to our recent trip...thinking I would have plenty of time to get down to this eggy business while we were away from home. I had even proudly showed the disposable cups to my kid, declaring to him that finally, we were going to have homemade egg tarts! Of course, the plan didn't fall through (^^')

oh, what an eye sore!
While unpacking the aluminum cups when we got home, I told myself, this is not going to work. I had to do something about the way I procrastinate, it is almost becoming a habit. So, instead of writing up a list of new year resolution, I created a new to-do list for the year...this time on my iphone Notes app so that I will be constantly reminded to get things done. Top on the list is none other than egg tarts. I have planned to make them in the month of January, but I still gave myself a pat on the back when I finally retrieved a tray of golden tarts from my oven on the first week of February! Yeah!

As expected, my first attempt at making egg tarts was almost a failure. The crust was suppose to be flakey but it looked more like a short crust pastry but didn't taste like one. The recipe calls for making both the water and oil dough, but the crust turned out a bit tough. I don't usually blame my kitchen failures on the recipes, but this time round, the recipe is really at fault. The fat (melted butter) amount was not enough for the oil dough, I couldn't even form the dough, it was just too dry and crumbly. I had too add more melted butter in order to turn it into a smooth dough.

Making the crust was also quite time consuming as it calls for wrapping the oil dough with the water dough for each individual tart crust, and rolling and making the 'envelop folds' one by one! There is also something wrong with the baking says, to bake them for 5mins, then cover the top with foil and continue to bake for another 30-35mins. I followed the instructions obediently, but what I got was a tray of tarts with very pale crusts. So, I extended the baking time for another 10mins. Even thought the crust was not golden, I had to removed them from the oven as I know any minute longer would be suicidal for the custard fillings.

Fortunately, the custard was not badly affected by the prolonged baking. It was not as soft as expected, but taste wise, it was a 'pass'. At least it was not too sweet (I did the right thing to cut down on the sugar amount) and not overly eggy, thanks to the one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I won't be sharing the recipe but I will be trying out another one, wish me luck! Just in case you are wondering...I had chosen this recipe since it is taken from a book dedicated to Asian delights, local food, snacks and nyonya kuihs. I actually bought the book just for the flaky crust egg tart recipe. What a great let down :(