Wednesday 28 September 2011

magical rolls

My cake friend calls these Magical Rolls.

That was the subject heading of her email which was sent to me right after she had them for breakfast. She had made a batch of magical rolls...aka Cinnamon Rolls following the recipe posted by The Little Teochew. So, what's so magical about these rolls?

First of all, the dough doesn't require any kneading, yet, the finished texture is as soft as any Asian kind of soft buns. My cake friend is also very surprised that the rolls are made with plain flour instead of bread flour. Aren't bread buns made with bread flour, won't plain flour produces a 'cake-like' texture? The answer is No. Magical, isn't it?

Next, the delicious sweet scent of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven magically transformed her kitchen into some cinnamon rolls speciality shop. For the benefit of those from a different era, cinnamon rolls were so popular many years back. Sad to say, they were like one of those fad foods, came and went so quickly, not very different from the rotiboy or the donut craze.

My friend's family polished off all 15 rolls during breakfast. I am sure, any self-taught home bakers would feel so proud and satisfied to be able to replicate something so close to what the professionals are churning out from the bakery stores.

Naturally, I got hooked to these magical rolls after hearing my friend raved about them.

I was all eager to give it a try until I studied the step by step tutorial posted by the original author of the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls. After going through the list of ingredients, I had some reservations about making them. I was really taken aback by the amount of sugar and butter that goes into making the cinnamon fillings and frosting. I am seriously not willing to pile on the pounds again. The big portion is also another issue.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a small batch version posted by kitchenMage. This smaller portion yields 12 rolls which I thought is just right for the three of us. I have also taken the liberty to cut down on the butter and sugar for filling, and I omitted the frosting completely.

Making the dough was a breeze, just a simple mixing of the ingredients, and really, there is no kneading required. I left the dough to chill over night so that it will be more firm to work on. Even then, the dough was still very soft and sticky. The only way to get around it was to dust the work surface and the dough, generously, with flour to prevent it from sticking.

I can't agree more that these are really magical rolls! The texture is so soft and light! Even without the icing, I find them very delicious. They are not overly sweet, nor sticky or gooey. I couldn't stop at just one, and with the reduced butter and sugar, I didn't feel guilty even when I reached out for the third one ;)

Ok, now, stop gawking. The only way for you to enjoy these freshly baked cinnamon rolls is to go make them yourself :)

Happy Baking!

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
(makes 12 ~ 15 rolls)

for dough:
250ml (1 cup) milk (I used low fat fresh milk)
50g (1/4 cup) sugar (I used brown sugar)
62.5ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1 teaspoon Instant yeast (or 1.5 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast)
250g (2 cups) + 30g (1/4 cup) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

for filling:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (cinnamon powder)
50g (1/4 cup) sugar (I used brown sugar)
50g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (melted)

  • Mix milk, sugar and vegetable oil in a pan. Scald (heat until just before boiling) the mixture. Leave to cool for 45mins ~ 1 hour.
  • 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.
  • 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 rolls 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 more firm and easier to work with if left to chill in fridge).
  • When ready to make the rolls, mix ground cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
  • Dust the work surface freely with flour. Dust the top and bottom of dough with flour. Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Then roll out as thin as possible. Dust the dough and work surface with flour when necessary.
  • Brush the rolled out dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture evenly over the surface.
  • Start from the opposite end of the dough, roll the dough neatly in a line towards you. Roll as tightly as possible. Dust fingers with flour if the dough feels sticky. Pinch the seams to seal.
  • Cut into 1 inch thick slices and arrange on baking pan lined with parchment paper (or greased with butter). Place the rolls close together so that they are almost touching.
  • Cover and leave to rise for 30mins (1 hour if dough was left to chill over night) or until the rolls double in size. (Note: the rolls can be left to chill in the fridge over night and bake them the next morning. If rolls have doubled in size, bake them right away. Otherwise leave to sit on counter until double in size before baking.)
  • Bake in preheated oven at 180degC for 20mins until golden brown. 
Recipe source: adapted from Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls

Friday 16 September 2011

muah chee

Muah Chee...a common street food in this part of the world, is a simple sweet snack made with glutinous balls coated with a mixture of grounded peanuts and sugar.

I am not a big fan of this local snack, neither do I dislike it. So, naturally, I have never thought of making it. Pardon my ignorance, I didn't even know that it is something we can make easily at home. Not until Laueen posted her muah chee at her blog Eat and be Happy. Her beautiful post got me really interested, and I started googling about muah chee. To my surprise, many bloggers have posted their homemade muah chee!

Since it is one of my husband's favourite street food, I decided to make some for him when he was back home. I followed this recipe by Sunflower Food Galore as it comes with very clear instructions. Thanks to her, my first attempt at making muah chee was a great success!

Initially, I thought only my husband was going to enjoy this snack, but it turned out that both my kids love it. They helped themselves with the muah chee when I was trying to scoop the cooked glutinous dough and roll them over the peanut-sesame mixture. The texture of the muah chee is really good, soft and not too chewy. The only minor point is, I find the peanut-sesame mixture a bit on the sweet side, will cut down on the sugar amount the next time. Also, I used up only half of the peanut mixture, but there is no issue with this since I could keep the leftover and use it for the next batch.

So, if you or your loved ones like muah chee, why don't you give this a try? I am sure you won't be disappoint :)

Muah Chee
(serves 4)
200g glutinous rice flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shallot oil
250ml water

1 teaspoon shallot oil for brushing

150g roasted peanut powder (I used ready made ones)
40g toasted sesame
75g granulated sugar

  1. To make shallot oil, thinly slice 2 shallots, fry with 4 tablespoons oil (about two parts of oil to 1 part of shallot) till golden brown. Leave to cool.
  2. Mix glutinous rice flour, sugar, salt, shallot oil and water in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, make sure flour mixture is completed dissolved.
  3. Pour the mixture into a deep dish (I used a 8" corelle dinner plate). Steam over medium heat for about 25mins. Test the centre to ensure it is cooked through. Brush the surface with shallot oil and leave to cool.
  4. Mix peanut powder, toasted sesame and granulated sugar in a plate. (Note: I only used up half the portion of the peanut mixture).
  5. When ready to serve, scoop small pieces of muah chee with a spoon and toss them in the peanut powder mixture. Serve immediately.
Recipe source: adapted from Sunflower Food Galore

Monday 12 September 2011

Mid-Autumn Fest

Just like all the fellow Aspiring Bakers out there, I spent the past few days on a mooncake making marathon!

I have initially planned to make 2 batches of traditional baked mooncakes and another 2 batches of snowskin ones. Just nice to use up most of the lotus paste I bought.

My first batch of snowskin mooncakes....matcha green tea snowskin mooncakes with red bean paste, and,

....Coffee snowskin mooncakes with tiramisu lotus paste.

The matcha snowskin is made by simply mixing matcha powder with water, as for the coffee flavour, I used 3-in-1 coffee ;)

Last Friday, I did not know what has gotten into me, after sending our elder son to school for his project discussion, I made a last minute decision to swing by Kwong Cheong Thye. My better half didn't mind making a detour as he is always eager to be able to do something for me ;)

I gave myself just a few minutes to shop as I had asked him to park at the roadside to wait for me. It was the first time I stepped into this shop and immediately I regretted not coming here instead of going to the usual baking supply stores to get the first batch of mooncake filling. Besides the necessary ingredients for making mooncakes, the shop offers a wider varieties of mooncake fillings. The best thing is, there are also half-kg packs. I first grabbed the low sugar white lotus paste (the thing that drove me to this shop in the first place), then the durian ones...but when I saw the mango flavour, I dropped the durian paste, and went on to pick up another cranberry paste ;)

Here are the new flavours I made...Cranberry snowskin mooncakes with cranberry paste and Mango snowskin mooncakes. I used only fruit juices to make the snowskin, ie, cranberry juice and mango juice respectively. I didn't add any food colouring, so the colour was a bit on the pale side.

Of the two, we prefer the mango paste, it is softer and has a nice mango flavour to it, whereas the cranberry one is a bit bland, the only plus point is, it comes with bits of cranberries. The pastes doesn't taste overly sweet, they pair of quite well with the snowskin since I used a recipe that calls for less sugar than most recipes that I have came across. However, the mango paste is quite soft compared to the lotus paste and the cranberry ones. Even though I kept it in the fridge after shaping them into small rounds, it was quite difficult to wrap the snowskin dough over it. I used the leftovers for baked mooncakes, it is just slightly easier.

So, all in all, I made 7 batches of mooncakes this year, a whopping 87 moonies! Luckily, they are all mini ones and my boys could eat them the whole day! I shudder at the thought of how many pounds I will be piling on, but I do have this attitude of 'eat first, die later', haha!

We will be spending the night eating more mooncakes over pu-er tea (great for busting the extra fat) and enjoying the sweet juicy pomelo (not so easy to get sweet ones) and probably some yams to round up the night.

I wish all of you who celebrate this occasion, a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋节快乐!

I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (Sept 2011) which I am hosting :

Mini Snowskin Mooncakes
(makes 12 mini mooncakes)

75g cooked glutinous rice flour
50g icing sugar
25g shortening,
90ml cold water

360g white lotus paste

  1. Sieve together cooked glutinous rice flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub the shortening into the flour mixture with fingertips until a crumbly mixture forms. Add cold water to the mixture and knead for a couple of minutes to form a soft dough. Do not over work the dough.
  2. Leave dough in the fridge for about 15 mins. (You may skip this step.)
  3. At the mean time, divide the lotus paste into 30g portions and shape into balls. (Note: I used a ratio of 40% dough to 60% filling for my 50g mooncake mould.)
  4. When ready, divide snowskin dough into 20g pieces. Shape each dough into a ball. For each dough, place it on palm and flatten with fingers to form a round dough about 5cm in diameter. Wrap the dough skin around the filling and shape it into a ball. Seal the seams.
  5. Dust mooncake moulds (diameter 4cm, for 50g mooncake) with some cooked glutinous rice flour. Place the wrapped dough into the mould and press the mooncake out. Make sure the surface of the dough in contact with the patterned-face of the mould is smooth. Store mooncakes in fridge for up to 1 week. Leave it under room temperature for about 15mins for the skin to soften before serving.

* Matcha flavour - replace cold water with: mix 1 teaspoon of matcha powder with 90ml of hot water. Leave to cool and then chill in fridge for at least 30mins before using.
**Coffee flavour - replace cold water with: mix 1 satchel of 3-in-1 powder powder (about 20g) with 90ml of hot water. Leave to cool and then chill in fridge for at least 30mins before using.
*** Cranberry flavour - replace cold water with same amount of cranberry juice.
*** Mango flavour - replace cold water with same amount of mango juice.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Traditional Mooncake

This year's mid-autumn festival is indeed a special occasion. My better half is able to celebrate this Chinese festival with us, just in time before he leaves for the airport for a mid-night flight :)

The next 'biggest' thing for me is, I have finally attempted to make traditional baked mooncakes!

Even though I know in advance that I will be hosting this month's Aspiring Baker's event, I didn't think that I would be ready to make any traditional moocncakes when the theme was firmed up. I only changed my whole impression on making baked mooncakes when I picked up a magazine from the library recently. I was flipping through the pages when a picture of some beautiful mini mooncakes appeared right in front of my eyes. With the easy-to-understand instructions and detailed step-by-step illustrations, I started to think that making traditional mooncakes is not that difficult after all.

With the newly acquired knowledge, I set off to get the necessary ingredients. The recipe from the magazine has included instructions on how to make the lotus paste filling and golden syrup from scratch, I thought I should go for ready made ones this year. No matter what, I am a first-timer. I don't want my effort to go into waste if I failed miserably.

You will be surprised at how easy to transform the basic ingredients into these mooncakes, all ready to go into the oven. The dough or skin of the mooncake is made by a simple mixing of golden syrup, alkaline water, peanut oil and flour. Peanut oil is used to enhance the flavour, but I replace it with canola oil as I couldn't get any peanut oil that comes in small bottle form. The alkaline water helps to make the dough more stretchable, and allows the mooncakes to brown nicely upon baking. However, just a small amount is needed, if used more than recommended, it will give the mooncake a very dark colour. The important point to note about the dough is, you need to let it rest for at least 2 hrs or more before using it. This step is known as 醒面.

I am no stranger when it comes to wrapping the filling with the dough. I learned the trick when I first attempted to make some snowskin mooncakes years ago. You may ask what is so difficult about wrapping dough around the filling? It  may appear to be an easy task, but not when you are wrapping a dough that is only 15g while the filling is 35g. By right the dough to filling ratio should be 2:8, so I will actually have to use only 10g dough. But for newbies like me, I opted to up the ratio a little, I worked on 3:7 instead.

I am no professional baker, but since I am lousy with words, I think a video clip will be good to demonstrate how I went about wrapping the mooncake. As it is the school holidays, I got my younger son to help me take the video :) Notice the small piece of dough in comparison to the huge ball of filling? The trick here is to hold the dough between the thumb and index finger of one hand, and the thumb of the other hand should gently press the filling down while turning the dough and at the same time pushing the dough up to cover the filling. Sounds mind boggling right?! Besides the right technique of wrapping, another thing to note is, always dust your hands with flour to prevent the dough from sticking and tearing. Trust me, dust your hand lightly with flour every time you pick up the dough, it will make your mooncake making experience a more enjoyable one ;)

Stamping the mooncake was easy since the mould I have comes with a plunger. The only thing here is, instead of dusting the mould (I am not talking about the traditional wooden mould), I dust the wrapped dough with flour before putting it inside the mould. If you have dusted the mould AND the stamping plates with flour, some flour may get trapped inside the grooves of the patterns, and you may end up with a clump of flour on the imprints.

Baking the mooncakes requires one to have patience. First, before sending them into the oven, spray or mist them with some water. This is to prevent the surface from cracking, and especially good if you have dusted the dough with too much flour. After the first 10mins of baking, the half-baked mooncakes have to be left to cool for about 15mins. Wait for them to cool off before applying egg wash on the top or top and sides as preferred. The next thing is to watch them carefully during the second baking. As all ovens work differently, check every now and then to make sure they don't get over browned. Do stand by at the oven at the last few minutes before the baking time is up. Take out the moonies when you feel that the colour is right.

I made these mini mooncakes with tiramisu lotus paste (a better name for lotus paste added with coffee flavour!). I have also tried with red bean paste, and added melon seeds as I liked the nutty texture.

It was a very good learning experience, especially for a self taught baker. I was already giving myself a pat on the shoulder while the mooncakes were baking in the oven. I received another huge encouragement when my better half went oooh and ahhh when he took the first bite. He even asked me whether I could make some for him to bring overseas for him to show off to his overseas colleagues (*^^)

I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (Sept 2011) which I am hosting :)

Traditional Mooncakes (广式咖啡莲蓉月饼)

(makes 12~13 mini mooncakes)

for dough:
100g plain flour
70g golden syrup (I used Abram Lyle's Golden Syrup with maple flavor)
2ml alkaline water
25ml peanut oil (I replaced with canola oil)

for filling:
415g tiramisu lotus paste
40g melon seeds

  1. Mix lotus paste with melon seeds. Divide the filling into 35g portions and shape into balls. Set aside. (Note: I used a dough: filling ratio of 3:7, for 50g mooncake mould)
  2. Place golden syrup in a bowl. Add in alkaline water, stir to combine. Add in oil, mix well.
  3. Place plain flour in a mixing bowl,make a well in the centre. Add in the above mixture. Mix with a spatula to form a soft dough. Gently knead the dough till smooth (takes 1~2 mins). Shape it into a smooth round dough. Wrap with cling wrap and leave in fridge to rest for at least 2 hours or over night. This step is known as 醒面.
  4. Dust work surface with some flour. Give the dough a few light kneading to smooth it.
  5. Divide dough into 15g pieces. Shape each dough into a ball. Roll each dough over some flour. Dust hand with flour and flatten each dough into a small disc (about 5cm in diameter). Wrap it around the filling and shape it into a ball. (always dust hand with some flour to avoid the dough from sticking).
  6. Lightly dust the wrapped dough with some flour. Place it in the mooncake mould and press the mooncake out. Place mooncake on a baking tray line with parchment paper.
  7. Spray some water on the mooncakes. (Note: this helps to prevent the mooncake from cracking during baking.)
  8. Bake at preheated oven at 180degC for 10mins. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15mins (do not skip this step).
  9. Brush the top with some egg wash. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 15mins until golden brown (since all oven works differently, do check after 10mins, and subsequently every other 2 mins to make sure the mooncakes are not over browned).
  10. Leave mooncake to cool completely and store in air tight containers. Wait for 2 ~ 3 days for the mooncakes to 回油 (for the skin to soften) before serving.
Recipe source: adapted from 贝太厨房

Monday 5 September 2011

Everyday Dessert

Ever since I learned how to cook this simple Chinese dessert...known as Tau Suan, I will make sure my better half gets to eat his favourite dessert whenever he is back home.

If you are living on the other side of the earth from this little red dot, Tau Suan is a warm, sweet dessert made with split, skinned mung beans. The mung beans is usually steamed still it is cooked before it is boiled in a pot of water. Not just plain water, but water that has been simmering away with a few bundles of pandan leaves or screw pine leaves. The soup is then sweetened with sugar and thickened with starch such as sweet potato flour or water chestnut flour. This dessert is always served with fried you tiao or fried dough fritters, a bowl of tau suan will never taste the same if there is no you tiao to go with it.

This cheap and simple dessert is easily available at most dessert stalls here...and if I am not wrong, there is at least one dessert stall in every single food centre or what we known as hawker centres. However, nowadays, it is not easy to find good tau suan. I either get a bowl of watery mung beans with a lot more water than mung beans, or the consistency of the dessert is so thick that it was no different from swallowing a bowl of gummy glue.

Although it is a simple dessert to prepare, it never occurred to me that I could actually make it at home...not until I first saw it at Esther's blog, Bits and Pieces of Life. She has followed the recipe from Makansutra, and thanks to Seetoh's video, I've since learned how to cook tua suan! I noted his unique way of stir frying the mung beans till it caramelised. This is definitely something different from the usual method of steaming the mung beans. By stir frying them, not only it shortens the preparation time; ensures the beans remain 'whole'; it also gives the dessert a nice golden hue. I have later tried another recipe using the steam method (just to compare), but the colour of the tau suan looks so pale and unappetising despite replacing white sugar with brown ones.

The other thing to note is the right type of starch to use as thickening agent. Water chestnut flour will give the best moulthfeel, without being too sticky, followed by sweet potato flour. Hope over to this interesting article to learn about the 'power' of the various thickening agents. For his recipe, Seetoh uses a combination of water chestnut and sweet potato flour. However, I used only sweet potato flour, yet I don't find the consistency or taste of the tau suan being compromised. My homemade tau suan tastes better than what I could get from most dessert stalls. Someday, when I find suitable recipes to use up water chestnut flour, I will certainly use it to thicken the dessert.

With the right knowledge of the ingredients, and following the recipe closely, anyone can make a nice bowl of tau suan. Do give this simple dessert a try, I am sure you won't regret it :)

Tau Suan with You Tiao

(serves 4)

1.5 ltr water
2 ~ 3 bundles of pandan leaves
250g split mung beans
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
50g sweet potato flour (original recipe calls for 30g water chestnut flour and 20g sweet potato flour)
50ml water
2 ~ 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (adjust according to taste)
1 stick of you tiao

  • Soak mung beans for about 5mins. Drain and set aside. 
  • Wash pandan leaves and tie into bundles.
  • Place water and pandan leaves in a pot. Leave to simmer for about 10mins.
  • In the mean time, place mung beans in a frying pan. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and stir fry continuously over low heat till the mung beans caramelised (about 8~10 mins).
  • Discard the pandan leaves from the pot of water.
  • Transfer mung beans into the pot of water. Bring it back to boil. Leave to boil for another 5~10 mins. Taste the beans for the prefered texture. Cook a couple of mins longer if prefer softer texture. Add in 2 ~ 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Dissolve sweet potato flour with 50ml of water. Stir in gradually. Turn off the heat once it comes to a boil. 
  • Serve with you tiao or dough fritters
(note: in order to get a nice consistency, do follow the ingredient amount closely, especially amount of water, amount of water chestnut/sweet potato flour.)

Recipe source: adapted from Makansutra Cooking

Thursday 1 September 2011

Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (September 2011)

Yes, it's that time of the year again...
when we get to enjoy delicious mooncake pastries, pomelos, yam...
when we get to see children carrying lanterns walking around the neighbourhood...

The mid-autumn festival is the time when families come together to appreciate the full moon. I grew up looking forward to the fifteen day of the lunar eighth is one of the many Chinese festivals that I really liked, I rank it right after the Chinese New Year :)

This year's mooncake festival will be a special occasion for me as I'm hosting the Aspiring Bakers #11 for September 2011!! Many thanks to Small Small Baker for giving me this opportunity to host this event!

If you are interest to find out what's on the previous Aspiring Bakers #10 - Easy as Pie (August 2011) entries, hosted by Janine of Not the Kitchen Sink! you may refer to this link HERE.

The theme for this month is none other than "Mid-Autumn Treats"!

Who can join?
Everyone!(if you do not have a blog, just send me a photo and recipe of your bake)

How to join?
Step 1 :
Make a mooncake, be it snow skin or traditional mooncake (including ice cream mooncakes, agar agar mooncakes, puff pastry mooncakes) in the month of September 2011.

Step 2 :
Post it on your blog between 01 September 2011 to 30 September 2011.
Your post must include the recipe or link to the original recipe. If you are using a recipe from a book, please include the title of the book too.
Any entries that are posted outside the date range will not be accepted.
Any entries that do not include a recipe or link to the original recipe will not be accepted too.

Step 3 :
Please mention that you are submitting your post to Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (September 2011) hosted by Happy Home Baking and provide a link back to this post HERE.
Entries will not be accepted if the above is not included.

Step 4 :
Email to me (I have removed my email address since the event is over, there is just too many spam mails in my mailbox) in the following format:

Your name or nickname:
Your blog name: (omit this if you do not have a blog)
Name of your bake:
URL of your post:
Attach your photo in your email (one photo for each entry, preferably less than 500kb).
Please use "Aspiring Bakers #11" as your email subject. You may submit more than 1 entry. Please send a separate email for each and every entry.

I look forward to your active participation and support for this event!