Friday 16 May 2014

baking, life's simple pleasure

One of my life's simple pleasures is retrieving a tray of freshly baked bread from my oven. I find great satisfaction and delight when my homemade bread was baked to perfection, and enjoyed by my family.

I came up with the idea of baking these Oreo Cream Cheese Buns after making some oreo bombs for the oreo monsters at home. Oreo bombs are rather similar to chocolate truffles or cake pops. They are made by combining crushed oreo cookies with cream cheeses, shaped into round balls and then coated with melted chocolate.

Those oreo bombs were delicious even for someone who doesn't fancy oreos. I find the oreo and cream cheese mixture has got the right texture, perfect to use as fillings for buns and bread rolls.

The bread buns were made using my favorite tang zhong method. Although the dough was rather wet and sticky, and took a longer time to knead even with the help of a stand mixer, the tang zhong method yields buns that remain soft for 2 to 3 days. These buns will become regulars as my pantry never runs out of oreos!

Oreo Cream Cheese Buns

(makes 10)

for the buns:
tang zhong (water-roux):
20g bread flour
100ml water

bread dough:
210g bread flour
56g cake flour
20g milk powder
42g caster sugar
3g salt
6g instant yeast
30g egg, lightly beaten
85g water
84g tang zhong (water-roux)
22g unsalted butter

for the filling:
18 oreo cookies
125g cream cheese, cut into cubes, soften at room temperature


to make tang zhong:

*Place 20g bread flour in a saucepan. Add 100ml water, mix with a hand whisk till smooth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly with the 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 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 make the oreo cream cheese filling:
*Place oreo cookies (with the cream) in a plastic bag or ziploc bag. Crush the cookies with a rolling pin to a fine crumb. Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer or a hand whisk, beat the cream cheese till smooth. Add in the crushed oreo and mix well with a spatula. Cover and store in fridge until ready to use.

to make the bread dough:
* Place bread flour, cake flour, milk powder, sugar, salt, yeast, egg, water and tang zhong (use 84g) in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Let the mixer knead the dough on high speed until the ingredients come together to form a dough, takes about 8 to 10 mins. Add in the butter and continue to knead for another 15~20mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. (Upon adding the butter, the dough will become very wet/slack again, add some flour if it remains slack after 10 mins of kneading. Depending on the type of flour used, the dough may still stick to the sides of the mixing bowl after 15-20mins of kneading. If this happens, continue to knead for another 5mins or so, stop the machine, oil or dust hands with flour and proceed to remove the dough from the bowl.
* 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. Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.

* Divide the oreo cream cheese filling into 10 equal portions. For each bread dough, flatten into a disc and wrap with 1 portion of the filling. Pinch and seal the seams. Place wrapped dough, seam side down on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Repeat with the rest of the doughs. Cover doughs with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave to proof for the second time for about 30 to 40mins, or until double in size.
* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 12 to 15mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

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

Wednesday 14 May 2014


Last week, I received a gift from my blogger pal Sherlyn. She has sent me a handy pineapple tart mould and a cookbook filled with delicious dessert recipes. Thank you Sherlyn for your kind thoughts!

I flipped through the cookbook and this steamed pear recipe caught my attention immediately. Due to the hot weather, my elder child was down with a 'heaty' cold(风热感冒)...that is, he started having sore throat, followed by runny nose and soon developed cough. Besides giving him cold tablets, brewing cooling herbal tea, I also drowned him with lots of plain water, chrysanthemum tea and barley water. It will be a nightmare if the cough gets more and more serious as he is prone to wheezing.

This steamed pear with Chuan Bei (川贝) or Fritillaria Bulbs recipe is great for treating cough (热咳) developed from heaty cold (风热感冒). It is not meant to treat cold cough due to 风寒感冒 as chuan bei is very cooling to the body

The dessert consists of 3 main ingredients: asian pear, chuan bei and rock sugar. Chuan Bei helps remove heat from body and bring moisture to the lungs (清热润肺), loosen phlegm and suppress cough(化痰止咳). Asian pear and rock sugar also has similar medicinal benefits in removing heat, clears phlegm and relieve cough. As such, it is not recommended to replace the rock sugar with normal granulated white sugar. I used cane rock sugar which is yellowish compared to white rock sugar.

The preparation is quite straight forward and doesn't require long hours of brewing or double boiling. Basically it just involves cutting the pear to form a 'lid' and a 'bowl', remove the core and place crushed chuan bei and rock sugar inside the pear. The 'lid' is then secured to the 'bowl' with toothpicks (notice the two toothpick holes on the photo above?). Place the pear in a deep dish or bowl and steam for 30 minutes. It is advisable not to remove the skin of the pear as it helps to retain the juice.

The recipe says to place some water inside the dish, I believe it is meant to be drank together with the pear. However, it is tasteless so I discarded it before serving. Chuan bei is rather bitter but the rock sugar helps sweetened it and the dessert is really delicious and refreshing especially served chilled. For my elder son, I left it to cool and served warm, while the rest of us enjoyed it as a after-dinner cold dessert. What a wonderful refreshing treat to chase away the heat on a hot and humid evening!

Besides this steamed pears I have also prepared another similar dessert using chuan bei, pears and white fungus, will share the recipe in my later posts.  I made desserts with chuan bei four times over a week and my son has since recovered from cough, I didn't give him any cough syrup at all. I do not know whether it is really because of the healing power of chuan bei, but at least the dessert is a great way to quench thirst and a better dessert option than anything too sweet or heaty.

Steamed Pears with Chuan Bei 川贝蒸糖梨


1 ya pear (鸭梨)
8 fritillaria bulbs (川贝), crushed
10g rock sugar

(the ingredients amount is for 1 pear, increase the amount by multiples depending on the number of pears)

  • Wash the fritillaria, drain and pat dry. Crush with a rolling pin or use a mortar and pestle. (The crushed fritillaria yields about half a teaspoon). If necessary, crush big pieces of rock sugar with mortar and pestle into smaller pieces, set aside.
  • Wash the pear (rub the skin with some salt and wash thoroughly). Do not peel away the skin.
  • Make a horizontal cut at about 2 to 3cm below the top of the pear. 
  • For the bottom portion of the pear, with a spoon or a knife, dig a hole in the centre and remove the seeds and core.
  • Place rock sugar and crushed fritillaria in the hole.
  • Cover with the top portion of the pear. To secure the top to the bottom portion, poke toothpicks vertically from the top to the bottom  (I use 2 toothpicks across each other).
  • Place pear in a bowl. Fill the bowl with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of water.
  • Steam at high heat for about 30 mins. 
  • Serve warm or cold (let cool and leave to chill in the fridge before serving).
Note: Chuan bei is not suitable for those with weak spleen and stomach and is not for treating cold coughs.

Recipe source: 甜蜜食堂, 贝太厨房 

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Coconut Tarts 椰丝塔

With my recent success at baking some really nice egg tarts, I ventured further to try my hands at making Coconut Tarts.

For the coconut fillings, I followed the coconut tarts recipe from Angie's Recipes. Angie's comprehensive list of recipes was my first to go list when I started baking eight years ago :) As for the pastry crust, I am sticking to the 黑妈妈祖传蛋挞 egg tart recipe which I am now very familiar with.

I had problem removing the tarts from the moulds on my first two attempts at making egg tarts. Despite having greased the moulds before using, I had to use a spoon to knock the base of the moulds before the tarts could be released.

Thanks to Angel's kind advice and useful tip, on my 3rd attempt, I did not grease the moulds, and strange enough I could remove the tarts easily! I have always thought that greasing baking pans and moulds helps prevent bakes from sticking, but obviously it doesn't apply for those egg tarts. By the time I tried baking these coconut tarts, I could unmould the tarts almost effortlessly. I don't even need to knock or tap the moulds on the table top, simply invert the tart and I could lift up the mould easily.

Coconut tarts take longer to bake than egg tarts...which is great as the pastry crust will be nicely golden browned all over with the extra 15 minutes in the oven.

I really like the buttery and fragrant coconut fillings, in fact, I prefer these coconut tarts to egg tarts. However, not everyone in the family likes shredded coconuts, but it is not necessary and neither will I try to please everyone. The furthest I would go is, the next time I were to make these tarts, I will bake one batch of egg tarts and one batch of coconut tarts ;)

Coconut Tarts 椰丝塔

(makes 10, tart mould size: 7cm diameter)

for the crust:
150g plain flour
1 tablespoon custard powder
1 tablespoon milk powder
100g butter, cold, cut into cubes
½ tablespoon caster sugar
½ large egg (about 25-30g), beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

for the coconut filling:
125g fresh grated coconut
40g unsalted butter, melted
40g caster sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons condensed milk
2 tablespoons water


for the coconut filling:

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

for the crust:
  • Sieve flour, custard powder and milk powder into a mixing bowl. Place cold, diced butter into mixing bowl. With a fork or a dough scraper, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add in sugar, mix well. Make a well in the centre and add beaten eggs and vanilla extract (if using). Mix with hand until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough. (Note: do not over mix or knead the dough as it may cause gluten to develop and the crust may become tough and hard upon baking). Pat the dough into a round ball and flatten it to form a disc. Wrap with cling wrap and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins before use.
  • When ready to use, divide the dough into 10 portion (about 29~30g each). For each portion, roll dough into a ball, flatten to form a small disc and place into the tart mould. Press dough into the mould until the dough comes up to slightly above the rim. (Note: I hold the mould with both hands, then press the dough into the mould using my two thumbs while at the same time turning the mould with my other fingers in a clock wise direction, going round and round until the dough is evenly moulded to the tart mould.) Smooth the edges at the rim with fingertips to make it even.
  • Fill each tart with the coconut fillings to 90% full. Bake in middle rack in preheated oven at 180 degC for 30~35 mins or until golden. Leave to cool for about 5 mins. Remove from mould and leave to cool on wire rack (to unmould, simply invert the tart and lift up the mould). Any left overs can be stored in an airtight container, warm them in the oven and they will taste as good as freshly baked ones.
Recipe source: Angie's Recipes

Friday 2 May 2014

Refreshing Sips

Here's sharing with you a lovely quote to start my post...

The fact that I can 
plant a seed and it becomes a flower,
share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's,
smile at someone and receive a smile in return,
are to me continual spiritual exercises.
-- Leo Buscaglia

which has inspired me to keep up with blogging...

The weather is getting hotter and hotter everyday and I am not looking forward to the days and weeks ahead when my room temperature hits above 32 degC. The other day, I was browsing one of my favourite magazines in the library when I came across this passion fruits drink recipe. It was an instant hit, what a perfect thirst quencher for any hot sunny afternoons!

I have used passion fruits to make jam and chiffon cakes but never in a drink. Passion fruits, also known as 百香果 in Chinese (literally translated as '100-fragrance-fruit' and the pronunciation of 百香 actually sounds quite close to 'passion'), has a rich, tropical aroma and flavour. When I left the drinks to chill in the fridge, I was welcomed with a wonderful, fruity fragrant whenever I opened the fridge door. It was as though my fridge was stock up to the brim with a variety of fresh tropical fruits!

The passion fruits I bought came from Indonesia, they were golden-yellow with small white speckles on the skin before the fruits were ripe. Passion fruits will taste sweet only when fully ripened. The skin will be slightly wrinkled, changed to a darker shade of red and the shell should feel soft.

Fruity with a hint of tangy sweetness, this easy homemade refreshing sipper is a great alternative to soft drinks. I like the texture of the crunchy seeds too...makes me feel as though I am chewing on ice cubes. Why not kick start your weekend with this delicious beverage to cool off the hot sunny days ahead?!

Lime and Passion Fruits Drink

(serves 4)

3 passion fruits, well ripened
6 limes
75g rock sugar
2 tablespoons honey (adjust to taste)
4 cups water


  • Boil water and rock sugar in a pot.
  • Cut passion fruits into halves. Remove the pulps with a spoon and add into the water and sugar mixture. Leave to boil for 5 mins until the rock sugar is fully dissolved.
  • Squeeze juice of 2 limes into the mixture. 
  • Stir in honey, mix till honey is dissolved, add more honey if desired. 
  • Leave to cool completely. 
  • Portion drinks into 4 cups. Cut the remaining 4 limes into halves and add 2 halves into each cup.
  • Leave drinks to chill in the fridge before serving.

Recipe source: adapted from 贝太厨房