The 面包 experience

Some people say that bread making is therapeutic especially when you are kneading the dough. My opinion? Incredibly stressful …on your FIRST attempt.

My first bread making experience started purely due to necessity. We had a day trip the following day and had to pack our own lunch. The easy way out was to prepare sandwiches but we had no bread. We could well go to the supermarket and buy a loaf but I thought it was a good opportunity to bake a loaf of bread!

I started reading up and gosh, how confusing it seemed! There were a lot of information that I had to take in: how yeast work, at what temperature will it be active, how to knead the dough, etc.

I am thankful that there are numerous resources and reading widely helped. My first attempt at Honey Wheat Bread was a success and I was amazed by yeast! My second bread was Currant Bread with Cinnamon Swirl and I got distracted while watching Masterchef. The bread turned out well, nonetheless, just that it has no swirl.

Honey Wheat Bread

Currant Bread with a Cinnamon Swirl

I’m eternally grateful for my mixer which makes life so much easier for me. =)Here I am. I’m making notes on it, so bear with me.

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Quiche Lorraine

Quiche, a French cuisine, is an oven-baked dish made with eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Usually, the pastry shell is blind-baked before the other ingredients are added. The most traditional quiche of all is a quiche Lorraine, made by pouring a custard mixture over pieces of bacon, and sometimes cheese, arranged in the tart shell.

A little history: Both France and Germany play roles in the history of the classic quiche Lorraine. Since sovereignty over Lorraine (now a province of northern France) has bounced back and forth between the two countries, the word quiche may have originated with the German Kuchen, meaning “cake” or “pastry”(Essentials of baking by Williams-Sonoma). A true quiche Lorraine would not have cheese as its ingredient.

I intend to make this for lunch and judging by the time needed to prepare the crust and then the baking of the contents, it would at least take me about 1.5 hours. It was my first time making the pastry crust and naturally, was quite fearful if it would turn out well.

I decided to make the basic pie and tart pastry dough (Pate Brisee) which is unsweetened pastry, normally called for in recipes for savory tarts such as quiches, dessert tarts or pies with very sweet fillings. I used a 10″ pie pan and followed the recipe found in James Paterson’s baking.

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs (help to make the pastry less tough)
2 tbsp additional water if dough is too dry

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix both flours and salt on slow speed (you don’t want the flour to start ‘flying’) for about 30 minutes. Add the butter and combine it with flour on low to medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the eggs and mix the dough on low to medium speed for 40 seconds up to 2 minutes. The end result should have the dough holding together in a clump. If not, add the 2 tbsp of water. Mine clumped together effortlessly. Thank goodness!

Flatten the dough into a disk on a non-slipped pastry mat. I love this mat because it has markings on it which guides me on the size of dough. Roll out the dough that is big enough to cover your pan (at least 4 inches wider).

This stage is called baking “blind” in which the shell is baked empty before any filling is added. Blind baking the shell is necessary because when liquid or semiliquid fillings are cooked in a shell, the shell must be pre-baked or the filling will keep the shell from getting hot enough to become crispy.

     

As you can see from the picture, I didn’t roll out the dough at least 4 inches wider in diameter. Thinking that it was good to be able to cover the pan, I just left it as it was.

  

Into the oven it went, at temperature of 400 F for about 15 minutes for the edge of the tart to turn pale brown and about15 minutes more for the inside of the shell to turn golden brown and look matte instead of shiny. After 10 minutes, I opened the over door and checked and to my horror, the sides had shrunk! I have to think of repairwork because if it continued to be ‘pulled down’, I could not fill the shell with liquid!

 

 So, I did some patch work with the additional dough I had. I’m not sure if it will stick with the existing shell but it’s worth a try. To solve the previous problem, I should have placed a parchment paper over the shell and put dried beans to keep the shell from puffing up in the oven. It worked and after being baked, I set it aside.

For the content of the quiche, you would need
Egg wash to seal the tart shell
1 1/2 cup of flavourful cheese ( I used Gruyere)
4 slabs of thick-sliced bacon
2 eggs
1 cup milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper

1. Prebake the tart shell. Brush with egg wash and bake for 5 minutes more to seal. Reduce heat to 300 F.

2. Cook the bacon strips over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until they barely begin to brown. Remove, drain on a paper towel. Cut them into 1/3-inch-thick slices.

3. Beat he eggs until combine and then beat in the milk and cream. Add a little pepper.

4. Sprinkle bacon over the tart shell, then spread the cheese over it. Pour the eg mixture last.

5. Place the quiche on a sheet pan for about 40-45 minutes ot until set – there’s no motion on the surface when you move it back and forth. Mine took longer than 45 minutes and I turned up the heat to 350F and baked till set.

Note to self:
1) If dough is not used immediately, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2) My rolled-out dough was too thick this time round. Consider a thinner shell.
3) Consider putting spinach in the quiche.

Cooking adventures…

It’s difficult to plan and cook for 100 people but Sarah and I decided to take up the challenge again to cook for the fellowship. Her idea was to prepare our own version of the kimbap but was not sure if it would take off. “I think it would work. Just try. That’s no harm trying!” I assured her.

So, we and our hubs took the Saturday to help prepare the ingredients (this, after watching Harry Potter and Dim Sum for lunch). It involved a lot of shredding, cutting, frying and cooking of the rice. It was definitely an enjoyable time with the Tays and we ended the night with some exercise at their gym.

The next day, it seemed that God had planned the timing well. we bumped into the Tays at the entrance and they needed help to carry the many bagfuls of food inside!

And so we started preparing the table for the 100 people who would be coming in to have lunch. It was not easy to gauge the amount and I must admit we were poor at it. The rice was indeed insufficient but all other ingredients were ample. The people really love their carbs!

The people liked the concept; it’s a nice change from the normal kind of meal that we had. It pays to JUST TRY! (ZM, did you hear that?!).

So, it was more cooking at home. Sometimes, I was frustrated because the food turned out poorly, edible surely but not delectable. Yesterday, for example, I wanted to cook the hubs’ favourite dish – ngoh hiang (deep fried meat roll). To me, it was an easy dish but the bean curd skin baffled me. I took the skin out while preparing the meat and when I was able to wrap it, the skin went dry…irritatingly dry! Is it the humidity? Or is it supposed to be like this – that you take out the skin only when you are ready to roll? Another mistake I did was to put the ngoh hiang into the oven. Minutes into the baking/ roasting (I don’t know what), the smell didn’t seem right. It has to be deep-fried but I have decided not to since I didn’t want the kitchen to reek of smoke. But they are not meant to be baked/roasted and in the end, I pan-fried them. I know it is possible to steam too but let’s just try. Hubs said the dish was okay and had the taste but I know there’s so much more that could be improved.

Currant bread with cinnamon swirl

A few days ago, Ken also introduced me to a website where I could view the past episodes of many different shows and I was hooked on to Masterchef. While watching it yesterday, I attempted to bake Currant bread with Cinnamon Swirl and FORGOT to add in the egg when the mixer was at work! Dang! I was distracted! And for the first time, I used a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk (to add to the yeast) and also chicken breast (for my soup noodles) but it wasn’t much of a help. Sometimes using my instinct is better but I know too that I ought to learn how to use it properly.

The bread turned out fine (phew) although it took a mighty long time for the dough to rise (oh! by the way, the cinnamon didn’t swirl…sigh). The breast was overcooked (sigh) and it was hard. Apart from these experiences, cooking the other dishes for the past few days was satisfying. I adapted some of the dishes from the cookbook and did it the way I wanted it. My fried rice turned out well (at last!). It may seem like a easy dish to do but to achieve that kind of standard (not damp) and have the grains of rice flavoured without using too much of any sauces takes experience (in my opinion). I followed how Terry cooked his egg fried rice and improvised it. I’m happy it turned out okay!

Stir-fried Green Beans with Hoisin Sauce, Garlic and Bacon

Braised Chicken Wings with Oyster Sauce Noodles

Egg fried rice with Lap Cheong, carrots and green beans.