Saturday, 28 July 2012

mother and child meal

Ever since my elder child went on to secondary school, with longer school days, he hardly comes home for lunch. Gone were the days when the three of us would chit chat over the lunch table. With extra lessons and activities in the afternoons, I only get to have lunch with his younger brother twice or if I am lucky, three times on a normal school week. I know I shouldn't complaint, but I find it difficult to cook for just the two of us. I am ever so tempted to rely on take-outs instead of turning on the stove. But, the feeling of guilt will always come haunting me if I fail to put home cooked meals on the table.

So, I resort to fuss-free, whenever possible, fume-free, quick and easy to pull together, under 30mins meals...just like this parent and child donburi.

I was introduced to the Japanese cuisine way back in the early 90s. The first time I read/saw the kanji '親子丼' or oyakodon on the menu, I formed the impression that it is so named because it is a 'mother (母親) and child (孩子) meal'...a loving okasan cooks this special dish for her child; mother and child then sit down to enjoy the dish together. Indeed it was a very heart-warming scene I had conjured, a parent-child bonding thingy because I had subconsciously interpreted it based on the Chinese context of the characters '親子'. It was only many years later that I read that the parent and child here refers to the two main ingredients, chicken and egg! I felt really sheepish when I realised my mistake. Can you almost imagine how that scene in my mind was shattered? very anti-climate isn't it? lol! I should have known better since I learned long ago that many kanji words have totally different meaning from the Chinese characters.

When I first attempted to replicate this chicken-and-egg donburi at home, I used pre-mixed pack. Ok, I know, it is very embarrassing, but what to do for someone who was, and still is, a culinary idiot. Glad to say, I have since progressed from pre-mix, to cooking it, almost, from scratch. But it still lacks the real authentic flavour as I don't make my own dashi. I can easily cheat by using instant dashi powder but I don't want to, as the ones I saw available on the local supermarket shelves come with added msg. To avoid the hassle of making dashi, I used water...and, a dash of fish sauce! Believe it or not, it comes quite close to the real thing, at least my untrained, unsophisticated taste buds makes me think so. For the time being, this is the way I prepare this dish, but I am sure in time to come, I will make dashi from scratch.

P/S: I use this brand "Megachef' fish sauce(it doesn't contain msg), my friend VB has kindly sent it to me all the way from Hong Kong :)

Easy Oyakodo
(serves 2)


1 large chicken thigh, deboned, remove skin, cut into bite site
1 medium size yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 eggs, very lightly beaten
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sake (I replaced with ryori sake, Japanese cooking rice wine)
1/2 cup dashi (I replaced with water and a dash of Thai fish sauce)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Japanese soy sauce, Yamasa brand)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
some spring onions, cut into 1" length
2 bowls of cooked rice

In a small frying pan, heat mirin and sake and bring to a boil. Add dashi, soya sauce and sugar, bring to a boil. Add onions, cook till soften, about 2 mins. Add chicken meat, leave to simmer for about 2 to 3 mins or until the chicken is cooked. Toss in the spring onions. Drizzle in the eggs, do not stir. Turn off the heat once the eggs is almost set. Place rice in a large serving bowl. Pour chicken and egg mixture over the rice. Serve with nori (optional).

Recipe source: adapted from 30种爆红人气外食

Sunday, 22 July 2012

back to work

It took me a while to get back to making bread. I thought I would be churning out loaf after loaf of bread when I bought my new bread machine, instead I have been making simple stir and bake cakes more regularly that ever. Even though making a batch of bread buns is not as difficult as it seems, it does take up a fair bit of least 3 hrs from gathering the ingredients to retrieving a tray of freshly baked buns from the oven. It needs proper time management and planning ahead, so that I won't end up in a situation that I need to get out of the house to run errands or to go fetch my child from school while the dough is ready for shaping into rounds.

I finally got down to make some bread buns last week, and that was when 'suddenly' the reality hit me that I may have to spend less time on baking in the future...

I have been keeping my digital to-do list on my phone diligently, whenever I am at a lost or couldn''t make up my mind what to bake it will come in very handy. First on my list is none other than Coffee Buns or better known as Roti Boy or Mexican Bread Buns. While the usual roti boy bread buns come with a buttery filling, I decided to skip it since I have yet to find a recipe that uses much lesser fat. We could do without the filling extra fat as I was very confident that the tangzhong bread buns would taste great even when eaten plain.

I love how these coffee buns or coffee cookies buns (as they were covered with a layer of cookie dough) turned out. These buns were delicious even without the filling. They were not as greasy as the ones I bought from the bakery, but it would be better if the coffee flavour was stronger. They smell really good though especially when they were baking in the oven.

As usual, the tangzhong dough didn't disappoint me, the texture of the bread was very soft. After taking the first bite...for the first time...I felt proud of myself that I have come 'so far'. I can still remember the very first batch of bread buns I made several years ago, they looked so horribly out of shape that I could feel my stomach cringe every time I was reminded of them whenever someone left me a comment on that particular post. Everything is self taught, from baking to taking pictures. Even though I have not moved beyond baking simple cakes and buns, at least my shaping skills have improved and I am able to take slightly better pictures compared to six years ago. Yes, my learning curve is definitely much longer than most who started their baking journey even much later than me. Yet, I truly enjoyed this slow learning process, taking my own sweet time to explore the world of baking and doing what I like.

I hardly buy cut-flowers but when I saw these lovely flowers looking so fresh at the florist stall, I couldn't help but to part away a couple of dollars for a stalk. That single stalk has enough flowers to fill up my tiny vase :) I have bread to feed my body and I have flowers to feed my soul, what more could I ask...

Back to the title of this post...

I will be going back to work. It is not a full time job and I get to work from home. No, the job I have been offered has got nothing to do with baking. It is a 'regular' freelance, home-based job and I'll get to earn some pocket money which I could spend on baking ingredients :) I will probably not be able to update my blog as regularly but I will still continue to bake, at least once a week, I hope...

Coffee Cookie Buns
(makes 10)

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

bread dough:
210g bread flour
56g cake flour
20g milk powder
42g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6g instant yeast

30g egg, lightly beaten
85g water
84g tang zhong (water-roux)*

22g unsalted butter

50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
50g egg, lightly beaten
50g cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon warm water


to make topping:
* Dissolve instant coffee powder with the warm water, mix in vanilla extract. Set aside.
* Beat the butter with caster sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg one teaspoon at a time, beat well after each addition (add in egg gradually to prevent the mixture from curdling). Add in the coffee mixture gradually, beat well after each addition. Sieve over the cake flour. Mix with a spatula until just combined. Transfer topping into piping bag fixed with pipping nozzle (round tip). Let the topping chill in the fridge until needed. Remove from fridge about 5~10mins earlier before use to allow the topping to soften a little.

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. 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 84g), sugar, salt, bread flour, cake 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 22g 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. (Note: refer this post for instructions on how to knead dough by hand.)

* Grease hands with some vegetable oil (this helps to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands). Remove dough from bread machine. Shape into a smooth round. 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 (about 55g each). Roll each dough into smooth rounds and place on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 30~40mins, or until double in size.

* Pipe topping onto each dough. Make sure to cover the entire surface with the topping.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container. Best served warm (re-heat in oven if necessary before serving).

Recipe source: 65度C汤种面包, 陈郁芬 and 我的幸福手作面包,李成实

Monday, 9 July 2012

Care for a slice of cake?

Care for a slice of cake? Anyone?

It has been a long while since I baked something with lavender. I bought some dried lavender, on impulse, of course, and it has since been sitting in the cupboard for weeks. I am so glad that I finally used it to bake something!

It is certainly a good start as this Lavender Pound Cake came out of the oven with a slight dome, a nice albeit not too deep crack in the centre, and a beautiful, even, brown crust. The lovely golden crumbs has more than compensate the higher calories count.

The distinct scent of the lavender filled my kitchen as the cake was baking in the oven. Yet, I didn't find it too overpowering. The texture was not too dense although it wasn't as moist as I would have expected it to be. I could have over baked it since I had left it in the oven for extra few minutes just to make sure the cake was fully cooked. I like the nice buttery fragrance though, with just a hint of lavender lingering at the background. I am thankful that my family was quite receptive to the not too familiar taste of a scented cake. I will certainly try out other ways to use the reminding lavender, and hopefully I am able to come back with good results.

Lavender Pound Cake

(makes one 17cmx7cmx6cm loaf cake)

90g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
30g ground almond
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon dried lavender
some apricot jam (I omitted this)

  1. Spread ground almond on a baking tray. Toast in oven at 100 degC for about 10mins. Give it a stir in between to ensure even toasting. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Line 17cm x 7cm x 6cm loaf pan with parchment paper (base and all sides). Set aside.
  3. Sieve cake flour, baking powder together, set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar with electric whisk until mixture turns light and fluffy.
  5. Add 1 egg yolk, beat well. Add 1 egg white in 3 separate additions (or dribble in gradually), beat well after each addition. Repeat the same with the second egg yolk followed by the egg white also in 3 separate additions, beat well after each addition (Note: this method of adding in the eggs helps prevent the batter from curdling.)
  6. Add the ground almond, fold with a spatula until just combined.
  7. Sieve over the flour mixture in 3 separate additions, each time fold with spatula until just combined.
  8. Add dried lavender, fold to combine.
  9. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven at 170 degC for 10mins. Remove from oven. With a knife, make a slit lengthwise along the centre of the cake (this is to ensure the cake produce a nice crack upon baking). Continue to bake for another 30~35mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Unmould, transfer to wire rack, leave to cool. Brush top with apricot jam if using.
Recipe source: adapted from Delicious!! Baked Cakes