Saturday 27 March 2010

Ichigo Daifuku (いちご大福)

Two years have passed since I last promised my better half that I'll make him some Daifuku(大福); I kept putting it off... day after day, week after week, month after month (^^''') I guess it is because I am not a fan of it the Japanese mochi, Taiwanese mochi or even our local traditional ‘Mua Chee’. I do not find it appealing at all, sinking my teeth into a clump of soft, chewy, floury dough. But my better half likes I finally made them a couple of days ago.

I used to think that Japanese kanji 大福 (daifuku) means mochi (rice cake made with glutinous rice flour) in Japanese. I thought they refer to the same thing. It was only after I did a search or rather, a study on daifuku that I learned the kanji for mochi is actually 餅. Here's sharing with you my little discovery:

Just like the other types of wagashi, 和菓子 or traditional Japanese confectionery, daifuku is made with mochi stuffed with sweetened adzuki red bean paste. So, daifuku is a type of mochi, while mochi is the glutinous rice cake which can be steamed, boiled, grilled and served in various ways.

Daifuku was originally called Harabuto mochi(腹太餅), which means one can fill up his stomach by eating it, (hmm, probably because of the generous amount of filling and the glutinous rice dough?). Later, the name was changed to Daifuku mochi(大腹餅, big belly rice cake). Since the pronunciation of Fuku(腹, belly) and Fuku(福, fortune) is the same in Japanese, the name was further changed to Daifuku mochi(大福餅), and eventually it is known as Daifuku(大福, big fortune).

The basic ingredient in daifuku making is the glutinous rice flour. There are two different kinds of Japanese glutinous rice flour: 餅粉(もちこ) Mochiko and 白玉粉 (しら たまこ) Shiratamako. Mochiko is made by washing glutinous rice and milled; to make Shiratamako, glutinous rice is first washed then soaked in water and milled, but unlike mochi-ko, water is being added throughout the milling process. The solution is then dehydrated and dried. Either one can be used to make daifuku, but the texture and consistency of the mochi is different. Mochi made with mochi-ko are more sticky and less elastic, they dissolve more on eating and do not have such a "rubbery" consistency. Mochi from Shiratama-ko are more elastic and subtle in flavor.

Another type of flour that is used in the making of daifuku is Katakuriko. Katakuriko is potato starch which is used extensively in Japanese kitchen. It is a thickening agent for soups and broths, and is often used to coat ingredients before frying or simmering. Katakuriko is used for dusting the sticky mochi.

It is important to get the right flour. I made the mistake of buying Joushinko (上新粉) a non-glutinuous rice flour instead of Mochiko. So I went back to Daiso again to look for Mochiko and I was lucky to spot Katakuriko on the shelves too.

Daifuku comes in many varieties and flavours. I made ichigo daifuku (strawberry daifuku)...a variation that contains a whole strawberry which is coated with red bean paste before it is wrapped with mochi. I learned how to make them by following this video clip :)

It was my first attempt at making was a tricky task trying to wrap the sticky mochi. The mochi gets less flexible as it cools, so the wrapping has to be done quickly while it is still hot. They didn't look as good as I expected, but I was really caught by surprise at how delicious they turn out! I couldn't believe myself that I actually like the texture of the soft, slightly chewy mochi which taste plain and dry at first bite...but the taste is compensated when you get to the sweet red bean paste and once you hit the juicy strawberry the whole combination is simply awesome! My kids love these daifuku too, there were not enough to go around since they were made in small batches. It was only later that evening that I realised why most recipes make only a small quantity 6 to 8 strawberries at most. The reason is that daifuku tastes best on the day it is made (the mochi will get harden) so it is better not to make more than you can eat within a day or so.

Strawberry Mochi (Ichigo Daifuku)
(makes 8 ichigo daifuku)

8 small strawberries
160g red bean paste
100g mochiko(glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
120ml water* (original recipe uses 100ml water)
some katakuriko (potato starch) for dusting

Method: (video demo)
  1. Rinse, dry, and hull the strawberries. Roll red bean paste into 20g balls. Flatten each ball into a small disc and wrap with one strawberry. Keep in fridge.
  2. Mix glutinous rice flour and sugar together in a heatproof bowl. Add water and stir to dissolve. (*Original recipe calls for 100ml of water, but I added more as the mixture was too dry, unlike the one shown in the video demo.) Cover the bowl with heatproof cling wrap or a heatproof plate/cover. Place in a steamer and steam over high heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Dust generously with potato starch. When the mochi is ready, stir it with a wet heatproof spatula till smooth and transfer it onto the prepared baking tray(the mixture will be very sticky, I could hardly stir it). Sprinkle the mochi with potato starch, dust hands with potato starch and pat the mochi to flatten it slightly (the mochi is still hot). Use a pastry scraper or a knife to cut it into 8 portions.
  4. Take one piece of mochi, flatten and stretch it into a round disc, dust off any excess potato starch. Place a strawberry (Step 1) in the middle, with the tip side facing down and wrap the mochi around it by pulling and stretching the mochi. Pinch and seal the seam.
  5. Repeat the same with the rest of the mochi. (Note: Work briskly as the mochi will get less flexible as it cools.) Leave the daifuku at room temperature for an hour to set before serving. Daifuku tastes best on the day it is made. If there are any leftovers cover and store at room temperature.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Sweet Treats

For the past couple of weeks, my kids had to take extra lessons to prepare themselves for their national swimming tests. Both were not fast learners...base on the fact that they have been taking weekly swimming lessons for the past 3 years, I am sure other children wouldn't take that long.

My younger child, who is rather tiny compared to his peers, took a long while before he could swim 50 metres without stopping. During the earlier days, he was always seen hanging to the side of the pool, very much like spiderman ;) When he took the Bronze swimming test last year, after finishing 4 laps, he could barely walk when he got out of the pool!

For this Silver award test he took, he had to swim 16x50m and complete one lap (with t-shirt and a set of pajamas on top of his swim suit) within 4 minutes; while his brother had to swim 20x50m within 45mins and complete 100m under 3 minutes. Both of them lamented that they needed extra energy to take the test; and both came to a consensus that they would get the extra boost from bananas and chocolates.

I had wanted to make them some chocolate banana muffins for breakfast, but thought it would be easier just to give them banana and chocolate as dessert. So I made them this age-old treat...baked bananas with chocolates.

The bananas I bought were still a little green, but I was not too bothered by it as I knew after baking, the bananas would turn soft and sweet.

I cannot remember where or from whom I learned these, but I was quite sure the first time I made them were during my secondary school days. I am now passing on this simple recipe with anyone who is interested to give this a go.

Preparation Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 10 - 15 mins

- with the skin still in tact, and the two ends pointing upwards, make a slit lengthwise, slicing through the banana but not through the bottom of the peel.

- stuff the middle with chocolate squares or chocolate chips.

- wrap them with foil and pop in 200degC oven for 10 - 15mins until the bananas turn soft and the chocolate has melted.

- remove peel and serve immediately.

This sweet treat is best eaten while the banana is still piping hot. It is great as a after-dinner dessert yet we wouldn't mind having it as a late afternoon snack. Perhaps it also served the purpose of providing the very much needed kids passed their tests. I don't know whether this dessert had anything to do with it...the younger fellow managed to swim 4 laps of free style and was still among the first few to get out of the pool, on top of that he broke his own record of swimming 100 metres in 3mins 18 seconds.

I can't help but to end this post with this doodle done by him. He painted it with some left over ink after practicing his Chinese calligraphy (*^^*)

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I have written it!

Thursday 11 March 2010

Simple Homemade Dessert

It is a wonderful thing to be able to replicate a popular dessert at home.

I copied a Mango Sago with Pomelo recipe from this Food and Travel magazine several months ago. The reason why it took me so long to try is that I never seems to be able to buy both the mango and pomelo at the same time?! The opportunity finally arrived when I saw Thai honey mangoes on sale, and at the same time spotted a full cart of pomelos at the neighbourhood fruit stall. Even though I bought both fruits on the same day, I wasn't able to prepare the dessert right away as I had to wait for several days before the mangoes were fully ripened.

The recipe appears to be simple and straight forward, actually it is too simple since it doesn't even provide any instructions on how to cook the sago pearls. So, for a lousy cook like me, it is not surprising that I burnt the sago pearls while trying to cook them in a pot of cold water! I only managed to find out later that the correct way is to cook the pearls in a pot of boiling water, that way, the pearls would not stick to the bottom of the pan and there won't be any chance of getting them burnt. A lesson learnt!

I tweak the recipe a little by replacing the coconut milk with fresh milk. I am not sure whether this homemade version is comparable to the ones you get from restaurants and dessert shops, but, I am very satisfied with how delicious and refreshing it turned out. The taste was not compromised even though I used low fat fresh milk and low-fat evaporated milk.

Here's sharing with you a small tip...I placed the dessert in serving bowls and popped them in the freezer for about an hour or so before serving. The mixture turned a little icy and this became the best dessert especially on a hot and humid day :)

Mango Sago with Pomelo

100g sago pearls
150g mango puree**
1 fresh mango, peeled and diced
1/4 fresh pomelo, peeled and separated
200 ml fresh milk** (I used Meiji Low Fat milk)
250 ml evaporated milk (I used low fat version)
120g white granulated sugar**
200 ml water
200g ice cubes

- original recipe calls for 120ml coconut milk and 80ml of full cream milk, I replaced it with low-fat fresh milk.
- I cut down the sugar from 150g to 120g
- I used 150g mango puree instead of 30g)

  1. To make the mango puree, remove the flesh of 1 mango and blend it in a blender. If you do not have a blender like me, simply mash the mango (use very soft and ripened mango) with a fork.
  2. Soak sago pearls in water for 5 mins, drain and set aside. Place about 2 litres of water in a large pot and bring it to a full boil. Add the sago pearls and cook until translucent (about 5 ~ 10mins). Keep the water at a rolling boil all the time, stirring occasionally to prevent the pearls from setting to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat, cover the pot and set aside for about 5 mins. Drain and rinse the sago pearls under running water until cool (this helps to remove any excess starch), drain and set aside.
  3. Mix fresh milk, evaporated milk, sugar and water in a pot. Heat over low heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes. When the ice cubes are melted, add in mango puree. Stir to combine. Mix in the sago pearls.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool completely and chill it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  5. Serve with diced mango and pomelo.

Friday 5 March 2010

Flower Buns

These flower buns are nothing new, many bloggers have made them. But, it was the first time I attempted to shape a simple red bean bun into a flower:) Most importantly I made theses buns using the 65degC tangzhong (water-roux) method.

I came across this tangzhong method, 3 ~ 4 years ago, when I first borrowed the book《65C汤种面包》by 陈郁芬。I was totally new to bread making, and her method was way too challenging for me back then. Since it involves cooking the tangzong or water-roux (a mixture of water and flour), I  have to give the recipe a miss. I am quite hopeless when there is anything to do with the stove. I was quite certain that I would probably burn the water-roux. Incidentally, I burnt a pot of sago pearls the other day...I should have waited for the water to boil before adding the sago pearls, but instead I boiled them together with the pot of cold water. I thought it was no different from boiling a pot of red bean soup, that's how ignorant I am!!

Over the past year, I have seen several bloggers making super soft and fluffy breads using this method, I couldn't resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon! Pei Lin over at Dodol & Mochi has written a great write-up on this water-roux method, like her, I don't have a thermometer to check whether the water roux has reached 65degC, so her post came in really handy with all the clear instructions and photo illustrations. I was quite surprised that cooking the flour and water mixture was not as difficult as I thought. Just a quick simple stir over low heat and the tangzhong was ready! Little did I know the challenge to me was not making the tangzhong, but it was the kneading of the dough!

Ever since my bread machine was damaged, I have to  knead bread dough by hand. The secret to producing soft bread from this tangzhong method lies on the fact that after the flour/water mixture is cooked it  will be able to absorb more water/moisture.  The amount of liquid used in  this recipe is quite substantial, as a result,  the bread dough was super wet and sticky! I had a hard time kneading the sticky mess. After struggling for 10mins, I gave up and had no choice but to keep adding small amount of flour to the dough to make it more manageable. Even after 30mins of kneading, the dough was still quite sticky and soft. I left it to proof since I had to get on with my other chores. Fortunately, the dough rose very well during the first proofing. It was not so sticky after the proofing and it was easy to shape the buns. 

To make the flower shape, simply wrap the buns with the fillings and shape it into a round ball. Then flatten it to a disc and with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, cut 8 slits all around the edges. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (roasted). In case you ask me, here's the secret to make the sesame seeds stay neat in the middle...dip one end of a rolling pin (only if your rolling pin is the same as mine, that comes with a flat surface, which looks something like this) with some water, then dip it with sesame seeds so that the surface is covered with the seeds, then 'stamp' it on the surface of the bun. 

Unfortunately, these buns were not as soft as expected since I must have added too much flour when I was kneading the dough. It was a little dense and there is a slight chew to it.The texture was about the same two days later, it didn't turn too hard or dry. I guess I am almost on the right track, but I would probably not be making bread using this method too soon, unless I go over to someone else's kitchen to borrow a powerful standing mixer ;)

For the basic sweet bun recipe hop over to MH's blog post here.

Monday 1 March 2010

Breakfast Delight

Our weekend breakfast...prata with banana. Another quick and easy breakfast to put together. Simply pan-fry a frozen prata, top it with some banana slices and finish off with a drizzling of homemade chocolate sauce, and, breakfast is ready!

I thoroughly enjoyed the visual effect of the prata slowly ballooned and puffed into a ball when it was sizzling in the pan. It makes cooking a pleasure! Could you see how puffy the edges turn out?!

I can't remember where I copied the chocolate sauce recipe, but it is so easy to make...just mix 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder(I used Ghirardelli, unsweetened cocoa powder), gradually, (don't dump it all in) with 50g of condensed milk (about 2 1/2 tablespoons). Do sieve the cocoa powder and stir the mixture really well. I don't want you to make the same mistake I did...I had tiny bits of undissolved cocoa powder in my chocolate sauce (^_^''')

This is my share, you wouldn't want to see how my kids covered theirs with the chocolate sauce! I didn't ask my younger child for his opinion, to him anything that is sweet, tastes good. My elder child who has got more refined taste buds assured me that he loves his breakfast to bits!

By the way, if you ever want to try this, don't throw away any left over chocolate sauce (that is, if you are lucky enough). Use it to sweeten your coffee and you will have an instant mocha coffee right away.