Marsala Pork Chops

Note to self: Gravy on noodles is better than on pork chops. The latter is nice to eat on its own.

The improved version for the hubs

Source: Taste of Home, Feb/March 2011
Yields 4 servings

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 bone-in centre-cut pork lion chops
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup white wine/chicken broth
1 tbsp marsala wine
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
Hot cooked egg noodle

1. Place bread crumbs in a large resealable plastic bag. Add pork chops, one at a time, and shake to coat. In a large skillet, cook chops in 2 tbsp oil over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160F. Remove and keep warm.

2. In the same skillet, saute onions in a remaining oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes longer. Add the white wine, marsala, pepper and salt, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in butter until melted. Serve with pork chops and noodles.

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Chinese Barbecued Spareribs

At last, after days of not cooking and baking, I have today to work in the kitchen before spending the next few days in school. I have loads of recipes to try before I go back to Singapore and I have to grab every little opportunity to do that!

These ribs are easy to prepare and the longer it is in the oven, the better they taste!

Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
Serves 4

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp ketchup
1/2 cup water
4 pounds spareribs, cut into serving pieces

1. Combine the honey, soy sauce, garlic, ketchup, and water in a pan large enough to hold the ribs. Marinate the spareribs in this mixture in the refrigerator for several hours, turning a few times.

2. Roast the ribs for  1 1/2 hours in an oven set at 350F. I took it out at different times to baste the ribs. I find that the longer the ribs stay in the oven, the softer they become, and of course, the flavour too.

Happy Mid-week! Buckwheat Cookies

A few months ago, my friend A gave me a 1/2 bagful of organic buckwheat flour. “I’m done with the amount of flour that I need and I don’t know what to do with the reminder. Since you like to bake, maybe you will find some use with it.”

I actually don’t know too. I came across some recipes like buckwheat crepe and failed. It was stored in my freezer (do store specialty flour in this compartment of the refrigerator to ensure longer life span) until this recipe popped up before my eyes. I had my doubts. I mean, will anything with buckwheat taste good?

And they are delicious. Perhaps it’s because of the amount of butter that they taste like butter cookies to me, masking a little of the buckwheat flavour. The author, Amanda Hesser of The Essential New York Times Cookbook, commented that these cookies have an engaging flavour and not too much sugar and are great with tea. I concur. Come to think of it, they actually taste quite like the digestive biscuits I used to adore.

Mid-week. Weekends are marching in!

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Breaded Pork Cutlets with Parmesan Cheese

Chicken breast is originally intended to be used in this recipe. But the author, Amanda Hesser of The Essential New York Times Cookbook, suggested that pork and veal cutlets will do just fine and they’ll cook more quickly.

I gave it a try without doing the last step. Top it up with thin spaghetti in Alfredo sauce with mushrooms and chopped onions. It satisfied two hungry people all right.

 

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Spanish Fricco (Beef, Potato and onion stew)

Finally, I have the time to explore new dishes. The past few days have been spent in the school helping out the teachers and by the time I reached home, I could only afford to cook familiar dishes. Thankfully, the hubs was willing to take over the cooking (his fried rice!) and household chores. Feels blessed.

Anyway, the next few dishes would more or less come from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser since I’m going through this book now.

I welcome this stew on a very busy day. It’s easy – just put inside the oven and let it stew! The preparation is simple too, making this dish a busy working day’s meal.

But the problem is according to the recipe, you would need two Dutch ovens. One big and one smaller obviously so that the latter can sit inside the bigger one. I’m not sure of anyone who has two Dutch ovens; maybe this is the norm in US? Anyway, since I have only one small Dutch oven, I just place all the ingredients in it and place it inside the furnace for the same period of time as advised. When the cooking broth looks like a wreck with rivulets of cream streaming through the beef juices, it is a success (according to the author).

Well, to me, the dish came out fine. I appreciate the natural juices that come from the beef. I’m not sure how it will turn out if I follow the recipe to a tee. If you know, do tell me. =)

Serves 6

2 pounds boneless beef shoulder
4 large white potatoes
1 1/2 large yellow onions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche

1. Heat the oven to 350F. Cut the beef into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Flatten each slice between sheets of waxed paper to 1/4 inch thick.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut the onions into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

3. Have ready 2 Dutch ovens or heavy pots, one that’s large enough to hold all the ingredients and a larger one that will hold it comfortably. Cover the bottom of the smaller pot with one-quarter of the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with 1 tbsp butter. Add a bay leaf, and cover with one-third of the beef and one-third of the onions. Season again. Repeat this 2 more times. Cover with the remaining potatoes, season once more, and add the remaining bay leaf. Using your palms, press down on the ingredients to compress the mixture. Pour in the cream.

4. Cover the pot, set it inside the larger pot, and fill the larger pot with enough boiling water to come halfway up the smaller pot. Transfer to the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the layers slips right through, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Lift the smaller pot from the larger pot, to make serving easier.

Honey Spice Cookies

The dough is soft and hard to manage. Instead of rolling it out to 1/16 of an inch in thickness, I did a short cut by pinching small amount of it, rolled it into a ball and then flattened it. It would require more time in the oven, I reckon, since it is no longer that thin. The first batch came out soft but the flavour intensified after 2 days as the author has recommended. Freezing the dough a few days more, I baked again yesterday, this time, having them in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I realised they can be good.

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11.30am onwards…

I have been baking and cooking. And then realised I still have not enough time to prepare food for the small group.

Green tea financiers

 Burger buns which look so much like pong pia.

Preparing Brioche dough for the next day

Mantra for the day: Bake/cook, wash and then dry.

Fried radish cake for small group. Radish cake didn’t turn out well; it needs more time in the steamer and the portion is not enough! Nonetheless, have improved.

Not enough time! The hubs to help! Green Pea Fritters to add to the inadequate amount of fried radish cake. But, it’s not really a popular dish. =(

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Shepherd’s Pie with Curried Meat

This is interesting. It has an Asian twist to it with the addition of curry powder and spices such as cumin and coriander (found in Indian cuisine). I adjusted the portion so that it would cater to just the two of us and perhaps, some leftover for tonight. But the hubs kept eating and I think it means the dish is nice and that we’ll have little left for dinner. I’m not complaining. It’s worth all the trouble to prepare the dish when someone can appreciate.

As usual, I don’t like to use broiling because of some bad experiences with using it. The potatoes are not golden brown as can be seen from the pic. Nonetheless, it’s still delish.

Source: The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
Serves 4 to 6

6 white potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp finely minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp  curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup crushed canned imported tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp sugar
freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked fresh/frozen green peas
1/2 cup hot whole milk, plus more if needed
3 tbsp unsalted butter

1. Put the potatoes into a pot and add water to cover and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender to the core when pierced with a fork.

2. While the potatoes cook, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add the curry powder, cumin, and coriander, and cook briefly, stirring. Add the meat and cook, stirring down with the side of a heavy kitchen spoon to break up the lumps, until it’s lost to raw colour. Add the tomatoes, broth, sugar and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Heat the broiler. Drain the potatoes and put them through a food mill or a potato ricer (or just use fork!) back into the hot pot. Stir in the peas and heat briefly. Add the hot milk, 2 tbsp butter, and pepper, preferably white, beating with a wooden spoon. If the mixture is too thick, add more hot milk.

4. Spoon the piping-hot curried meat into a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Top with the hot mashed potatoes. Smooth over the top. Dot with the remaining tbsp of butter.

5. Run the mixture under the broiler until the top is golden brown.

FFWD: Coconut-lemongrass-braised pork

Ok. I know I’m lagging wayyyyy behind the project. I don’t seem to be around on Friday to prepare the FFWD’s dishes! So, I’m trying to catch up now.

Had Coconut-lemongrass-braised pork for lunch. This dish pairs up well with rice. Didn’t add much coconut milk (even though the recipe calls for it) since I don’t quite like too strong a coconut milk taste. Think I didn’t choose the right cut for the pork. Should use pork butt but I bought lean ones since the latter was available in the market.

Cook and share a pot of curry!

So, today, in my home country, a lot of people would be cooking curry, thanks to a FB event (that has grown too wild) put up by a group of friends whose aim was to say, ‘let’s not argue, let’s not quarrel, let’s learn to tolerate, embrace and appreciate our multicultural way of life.’ in response to an incident between a new Chinese PR and the neighbour, an Indian family.

I shan’t go into the details of the story. But I want to declare that I love curry, all sorts and versions of it, and all the more when I can mix the correct spices and cook my own curry.

Obviously, there are also many who cannot take to the smell of the spices in the curry. It’s well…normal, I think. Like I dislike the smell of durians and shun it at all cost while my colleagues and family members love it and my mother would purposely bring one piece near to my nose. It’s all right.

I love anything and everything  spicy while my dear hubs cannot really enjoy it. It’s okay. I just do separate dishes or sometimes he will try the spicy food, with loads of water to accompany, that is. This is called preference and surrounding it, respect.

My dear hubs can’t force me to quit eating spicy stuff like belachan, no, hell no! But he will tolerate the smell and avoid the dish when I cook it. I will stay away from durian but that does not mean that I react violently when my colleagues have them as treats.

It’s all about respect for one another, even if a certain action or smell, in this case, makes us very uncomfortable, revolting at times. But if it is part of a person’s culture, shouldn’t we be open and learn more about it instead of rejecting it straightaway?

Anyway, I am enjoying my Bombay curry and spiced roast potatoes with my hubs but felt that the curry is not spicy enough. Will add more chilli powder the next time. Oops..I mean, I will add more chilli powder to my own portion. =p

Bombay Curry
Source: The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Serves 4

One 4 -pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (alternatively use parts of chicken; I used chicken wings)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, thinly silced
2 tbsp curry powder
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut
1/2 cup light unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup water

1. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the chicken skin side down and cook, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate.

2. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion to the pan, and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the curry and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Add the coconut, coconut milk, and water, return the chicken to the pan, and cover with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes. Baste the chicken with the pan juices. When the meat is done, remove it from the pan.

3. Arrange the chicken on a platter. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the sauce. Spoon it over the chicken.

Spiced Roast Potatoes (Sekela bateta)
Source: Cooking with my Indian mother-in-law

These potatoes can commonly be found in many rice dishes. Originally, they could be added to stretch quantities to feed more people.  I think they are excellent as a side dish too!

For dishes serving 4 people (adjust accordingly)

4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
1/2 tbsp groundnut (peanut) oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Large pinch of salt
Large pinch of chilli powder
1/8 tsp tumeric

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. In an ovenproof dish, toss the potatoes with the oil, garlic, salt, chilli powder and tumeric. Put the dish in the oven and roast the potatoes for 25 minutes until they are golden-brown and cooked through – test them by piercing with a skewer or the point of a knife.

Mushroom and beef stroganoff

Stroganoff was invented by a Russian chef in Saint Petersburg at a culinary competition during the period of the Czars. Glad that he did because this dish is easy and nice to have. Serves as a comfort food too.

Serves 4 (adjust serving size accordingly)
Source: One-dish meals

1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
200g beed tenderloin, cut into strips
800g white button mushrooms, caps wiped, stems discarded and sliced

1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
300g Linguine, cooked al dente

 

1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add beef and mushrooms and saute for  3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in flour and cook for another minute.

3. Add white wine and cook until mixture thickens, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

4. Mix in sour cream, then add nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Add linguine to a pan. Toss until linguine is well-coated with sauce. Serve hot.

Joanne Chang’s Homemade Oreos

Another JC’s baked goods. I must say the oreos taste good and are easy to make though you might want to consider preparing the dough the night before so that it can sufficiently be chilled.

The recipe can be found here. I’m not in the mood to type out the recipe; my mind is on something else. After working through some of her recipes from the cookbook, I really think that it is worth your money. The baked products turn out delish!

Preparing the dough

Going into the oven

 

Filling on the cookie

Sandwiched!

Homemade oreos!

Never-ending

These are the books and definitely recipes (see the ‘bookmarks’ on the books) that I want to attempt before I return them to the library. Do you think I can beat the deadline?

Miette

The next time you are in SF, you have to visit Miette and try their pastries. Love the shop and obviously the sweet stuff. Love this video too and let’s hope I could get my hands on the book soon (from the library, i.e.). =p

We did our share of hunting for it earlier this year. =)

Macarons fever.

This film makes the baking of macarons looks so scientific. It actually is. Thus far, I’ve baked 5 different flavours. 5 more to go before the end of the year!

Cinnamon raisin scones

Whenever I want easy, no-fuss breakfast goodies that need to be baked, I thought of scones, biscuits and muffins which are classified under Quick Breads. They are quick to make, as the name suggests, and can be substantial as a meal.

These scones are taken from one of Sun-Maid recipes. Scones, in the dough stage, presents itself as a shaggy lump but magical things happen to it in the oven. The dough coheres, the sugar and salt flavours polarise, and springy, moist scones rise up from the heaps on the baking sheet. Not to be mistaken for biscuits, scones are usually sweet and triangular while biscuits are unsweetened and round.

The next time I use this recipe, I will up the amount of raisins cos I’m a big fan. =)

Chicken Gohan (rice)

One of the surest thing that Ken and I would do while travelling is to visit bookstores. Bookstores are to the Queks what museums are to history buffs. As usual, Ken could most commonly be found at the Fantasy section while I at the Cookbook section.

So that day in D.C., we were tired from walking down National Mall where our last stop was the Natural History Museum. It was still early and we need to bum somewhere. Barnes and Nobles came to mind.

Browsing through the cookbooks, I found a Japanese one and the following recipe which is easy. All I need is 1 tbsp of sake and soy sauce each and 1 tsp of grated ginger juice and sugar for the chicken bites marinade. The rest is up to my improvisation…because I couldn’t remember the rest of the ingredients/steps. =p

Then I remember Oyako-Don and decided to throw in eggs (with mirin) and onions. It’s a simple meal, the way I like it.

Tandoori Chicken & Zucchini pancakes

The school has sent me the orientation schedule and I can start volunteering soon! There are a total of 8-9 days that a teacher has to attend before the semester officially starts. Hmm, that’s a few days more than what we need to back home. But most part of the schedule is for teachers to plan the curriculum though I’m not entirely sure what it means. I would know more as the days progress.

Ken and I had been rather lazy in our training for the 1/2 marathon in October. So, this day, we resolved to run a longer distance and thank God for him who will always press me on when I get LAZY.

Lunch for today – Tandoori chicken and zucchini pancakes – a treat after a long run (just 9km). Thankfully, these two dishes are super easy to prepare, without the complicated spices which also means it may not taste as good as the authentic ones? Still, these will suffice.

Tandoori Chicken (Serves 2)

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt/ sour cream
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
4 skinless chicken breast halves

1. Preheat the oven to 475F. In a large bowl,  mix together 1/4 cup of the yogurt, the garlic, tumeric, ginger, 1 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Add the chicken; turn to coat.

2. Transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 160F, 25 to 30 minutes.

Extra: Peel an apple; coarsely grate into a medium bowl. Add cilantro and the  1/4cup yogurt; season with salt and pepper. Serve the sauce alongside the chicken, with rice, if desired.

Zucchini Pancakes (makes about 9 small pancakes)
(Source: Heart of the artichoke and other kitchen journeys by David Tanis) 

1 large zucchini
1 tsp salt
1 to 2 eggs
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano (optional)
Olive oil for frying

1. Grate the zucchini. Toss the grated zucchini with the salt and let it drain in a colander for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, you can go running. Squeeze very fry in a clean kitchen towel.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg with the pepper and scallions. Add the flour, then add the grated zucchini and cheese (if using) and mix thoroughly.

3. Pour olive oil into a cast-iron skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat. Carefully place spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture in the pan, then flatten them to a diameter of about 2 inches. Make only a few pancakes at a time so you don’t crowd them, and turn each once, letting them cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden. The heat should stay moderate.

4. Serve immediately, or hold in a warm oven until the entire batch is cooked.

Curry and roll

Time flies. August celebrates our one-year of being in Boston. That also means that I have been working in the kitchen for the same period of time. No longer am I frustrated with certain outcomes of my culinary adventures but am embracing the uncertainties and amazing discoveries along the way.

But, to be honest, there is perhaps one cuisine that I’m still doubtful of even though it is commonly found in where I live. It is the Indian cuisine, one which is unimaginable without spices. And it is precisely the spices that deter me from attempting the recipes since the complex, multilayered flavours associated with the best Indian food are achieved through careful cooking and the artful combination of usually small amounts of several different spices.

Thankfully, though the spices are varied, you can be sure that the same basic ones are used. In the Indian pantry, the following spices can more often be found and it is advisable to buy whole spices since they can keep longer.

Whole spices:
Dried red Kashmiri chillies | Black (or brown) mustard seeds | Cumin seeds| Fenugreek seeds | Coriander seeds | Cinnamon sticks | Green cardamoms | Cloves | Black peppercorns | Whole nutmeg | Fennel seeds | White poppy seeds | Saffron strands

Ground spices:
Asafortida | Chilli powder | Tumeric

Of the above, how many are you familiar with? I don’t usually buy whole spices, preferring ground ones and I’m thankful to have found this recipe – Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken) which uses ground spices! Obviously, you can try to replace whole spices with ground ones but I’m just too lazy to do the conversion. =p

To complete this dish, I’ve decided to bake some old-fashioned dinner rolls (Source: The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet)

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Joanne Chang’s Sticky Sticky Buns

Ta da! Another Brioche today! And it’s the famous Joanne Chang’s Sticky Sticky Buns! You may ask, “What about yesterday’s loaf of bread?” I’m pleased to inform you that by noon, we were down by one slice.

Yes, we are really bread lovers. I used to worship bread many years ago until I realised too much of it makes me accumulate fats (at least in my case) and since then I had tried to watch my bread intake. However, in recent times, I found myself falling in love with it again, fueled by the ability to bake my own.

Anyway, the freezer had the other 1/2 batch of brioche and after gym, went down to buy a packet of brown sugar before I headed home to bake them. I love the gym – Bodyscrapes Fitness – which cost me $25 for 25 passes. Not bad a deal, isn’t it? I like it that it was not overcrowded, that the machines are new and clean.

Anyway, I was excited to come back to bake my inaugural Sticky Sticky Buns. I hope it to be a success and read the recipes a few times. It was relatively easy. So here goes:

Firstly, prepare the goo. 
170g unsalted butter
330g packed light brown sugar
115g honey
80g heavy cream
80g water
1/4 tsp kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature.

This should make about 2 cups of goo (sticky stuff) but I used half the portion and save the other half in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be kept for up to 2 weeks. Well, if you feel lavish about this sweet stuff, you could use it all. I, would rather halve it for the sake of the waistline. =p

You will also need:
1/2 batch of basic Brioche dough
55g packed light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
100g pecan halves, toasted and chopped

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and half of the pecans.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch think. It’s rather easy to work with as it has been chilled. Position the rectangle so that the short side is facing you. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough.

how to make an animated gif
Starting from the short side furthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. And you need to do so bravely and confidently so that the roll will be tight and you will end up with a nice round spiral. Even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from either side.

Use a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.

Pour the goo (I used half the amount) into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Place the buns , cut side down, and evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about about 2 hours or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft and the buns are touching.

Meanwhile, go for a run and they should look like this when you are back.

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 350F.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Use your sense of smell too! Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter and spoon any extra goo ( I don’t have) and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.

The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. It’s true; it’s warm and soft and really delicious. They can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 1 day and then warmed in a 325F oven for 6 to 8 minutes before serving. Which also explains why we need to finish the buns by tomorrow!

Malted Chocolate Macarons

At last…macarons again. This morning has been rather cool and it’s back to baking again!

The hubs thought the ganache made the whole macarons taste less than sweet. “Macarons are supposed to be sweet right?” I thought that it was okay but we all have different tastebuds, so that’s all right.

Not sure how the two of us would be able to finish these macarons but we’ll try. More running perhaps?

Some of my macarons have really awful cracks. Hisako Ogita in her book, I love macarons, suggested that:
1. they are baked without drying the surface of the macarons.
2. I did not use two oven trays when baking.
3. The oven was too hot, and the bottom of the baking sheet got too much heat.

I quite suspect that the heat in the oven was too hot. These days, things get baked faster than expected. Perhaps, it’s the weather?

Pasta Carbonara

These days, it has been so hot that it’s hardly enticing to cook in the kitchen anymore; it’s like a furnace! It’s definitely not a good idea too to bake anything in Summer unless the kitchen has got good ventilation or an a/c installed. But since I’m not so fond of eating out, cooking has to go on.

I stumbled upon this website and the author’s entry about Pasta Carbonara. To be honest, I’m not so much of a pasta person until I came over to the States. I know it’s easy to cook but I find pasta too starchy for my liking. S cooked this dish before for small group gathering and I was won over. Since then, I have become more open to it and in particular, Pasta Carbonara – a dish that is so easy and quick to make.

Beware though, that Pasta Carbonara uses raw eggs. I’ve adapted a little of the recipe found in her blog. Oh, by the way, her pictures are really beautiful and I like her stories too.

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Pain Aux Raisins

Using the other half batch of brioche dough, I went on to bake Pain Aux Raisins for breakfast tomorrow. It’s really convenient to have Brioche dough in the fridge as standby but the problem is, as with all other types of bread dough, you need to let it proof for the second time which takes time. I would much prefer to have freshly-baked bread/pastries for breakfast but it’s a bit impossible unless I have brekky at 11am?

Nonetheless, the smell of bread in the oven is the most inviting and satisfying moment for me; it just makes me happy! Oh! By the way, the pastries taste real good just by heating it up in a 300F oven for 5 minutes. I think I’ve nailed this!

 

Before and after baking

Recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour
1/2 recipe Basic Brioche dough
1 recipe Pastry Cream (same link as above)
1 cup (160g) raisins (or golden raisins)

Glaze
1  cup (140g) confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle 16 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Position the rectangle so that the long side is facing you. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the cream. Starting from the long side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll it tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Even off the ends by trimming about 1/4 inch from either side.

3. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 to 10 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inch wide.

4. Space the pieces, cut-side down, evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.

5. Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 F.

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastries are golden brown on the edges of the spiral and pale brown in the centre. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes.

7. To make the glaze: While the pastries are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, 2 tbsp of the water and vanilla until smooth. Add more water as needed to thin the glaze enough to make it spreadable. The glaze can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

8. Generously brush the tops of the still-warm pastries with the glaze.

9. The pastries are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 300F oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Brioche Au Chocolat

The brioche dough was so much easier to work with after proofing it in the refrigerator. As I rolled it out, I couldn’t help but be marveled and relieved at the same time at how smooth-going it was as compared to the initial dough I removed from the stand mixer bowl yesterday.

1/2 recipe of Basic Brioche dough
1 recipe Pastry Cream
114g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 by 10 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Position the rectangle so that the long side is facing you. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the bottom half (a 20-by-5-inch section) of the rectangle. Fold the top half of the rectangle completely over the bottom half, then press down gently so the halves are smooshed together.

  

3. Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the filled dough into 10 pieces, each about 2 inches wide; each piece will be about 2 by 5 inches.

4. Carefully transfer the brioche to the prepared baking sheet. Cover the pastries lightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to proof for about 2 hours, or until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft.

5. Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 350F.

6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg until blended. Gently brush the tops of the pastries with the beaten egg.

7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. The pastries are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day and then warmed in a 300F oven for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Brioche (at last)

I decided to wait no more but to start working on my tutorial or notes rather, on Brioche (bree-OHSH). I had my virgin attempt using Francois Payard‘s recipe from his book Chocolate Epiphany and loved the loaf of rich, tender bread. It was decided then that I should bake Brioche again and create different baked goods using the master recipe.

Brioche is made from a rich dough and it’s so called because of its high fat content which comprises a generous amount of eggs and butter. This high ratio of fat makes this dough difficult to work with, but the flavour is well worth the effort. Like all yeast breads, it begins with water, yeast, flour and salt.

The general procedure for mixing brioche dough:

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

2. Hydrate the yeast, then combine it with the flour, salt, sugar and eggs. Mix until a soft dough or sponge is formed. This step gives the fermentation a head start. which in turn gives the finished bread a more pronounced flavour.

3. Knead the dough on medium speed for 15 to 20 minutes until it is smooth and shiny.

4. Add the butter in small increments, kneading until the butter is incorporated before adding more. Continue this process until all of the butter has been absorbed into the dough, approximately 8 to 15 minutes.

5. Cover the dough and ferment at room temperature until doubled. This second fermentation is usually referred to as rising or doubling. The longer this process takes, the more flavour develops in the dough.

6. Punch down the dough, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Punching, which is actually a brief knead (not literally punch!) or fold, deflate the dough, expelling carbon dioxide that has built up and letting fresh oxygen in to feed the yeast, prolonging the fermentation. The dough then doubles again, usually in the refrigerator.

7. Divide and mold the chilled brioche dough into desired shapes. Brush with egg wash or cover lightly and proof until doubled in volume. Do not proof brioche in a very warm place; the butter may melt out of the dough before proofing is complete. Professional bakers use a proof box, in which the heat and humidity can be controlled. At home, we can create a similar environment by simply covering the loaf with oiled plastic wrap.

8. Bake in a moderate oven until the crust is deep golden brown. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes to prevent the loaves from collapsing, then remove the bread from the pans and finish cooling on racks.

Source: The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard & On Baking: A textbook of baking and pastry fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky, Priscilla Martel and Eddy Van Damme.

For this basic brioche, I’m using Chef Joanne Chang’s recipe from Flour since I’ll be baking other brioche treats from the same cookbook. =)

Basic Brioche (Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook)

315g unbleached all-purpose flour
340g bread flour
3 1/ 4 tsp active dry yeast
82g sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
120g cold water
5 eggs
310g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until all of the ingredients have come together. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.

2. On low speed (2), add the butter one piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Then, continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium, and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the dough becomes sticky, soft and somewhat shiny. Then turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute (the mixer’s motor gets hot!). You should hear the sough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl.

4. Place the sough on a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

At the same time, I prepared the pastry cream too so that the next day, I could proceed to making Brioche Au Chocolat. Using the recipe from her cookbook again…

Pastry cream

300g milk
100g sugar
30g cake flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

What do you do with the egg whites then? Guess what? Macarons!

1. In a saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the milk is not boiling). While the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt. (Mixing the flour with the sugar will prevent the flour from clumping when you add it to the egg yolks). In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. The mixture will be thick and pasty.

2. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the milk has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small heat-proof bowl. Stir in the vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold, or up to 3 days.

Let’s continue with it tomorrow!

Burger KING

This burger was christened Burger King (I know it’s hardly original) after the hubs took a glance at the scale of the burger buns that came out of the oven. It’s larger than the normal-sized ones and he suggested that I can compete with those at Eagles Deli & Restaurant.

Obviously, I’m in no desire and capacity to compete but am ever eager to create my own burger. Summer calls for all sorts of burgers since it’s the season to grill and barbecue (are they the same?) and so, let me attempt my very first (almost) home-made burger!

Thankfully, ‘The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A year in the life of a restaurant‘ was ready to be loaned and the following recipes came in handy!

House-made buns (Makes about 7 big buns/ 20 small ones)

1 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for coating the bowl
3 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, + extra for dusting
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Put the milk in a small suacepan and warm it over very low heat until lukewarm.  Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir, and set it aside for 5 minutes to activate (yeast is most active btw 90-100F).

Meanwhile, butter a large bowl and set it aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast mixture with half the flour on low speed. Then, over a 1-minute period, add the remaining flour along with the sugar, salt, egg and butter. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Then turn the speed to high and mix for 2 minutes more. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and set it aside in a warm area for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Divide it into 7 equal pieces (use weighing scale!) and arrange them in a row on the surface. Keeping the other portions covered with a kitchen towel so they won’t dry out, roll each piece into a ball. Leave them, covered on the surface for another 10 minutes to relax the gluten. Then, using a rolling pin, flatten the balls into rounds that are 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, put the baking sheet inside a large plastic bag, and tie the open end closed. Place the pan in a warm area of the kitchen and let the buns rise until they have doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

( I would divide the dough into 18-20 pieces because the recipe yields really BIG buns).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F.

Remove the sheet pan from the bag, brush each bun with water and then sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Slice in half and serve.

  

Next is the homemade mayonnaise. The following recipe yields 1 cup and will keep up to 3 days under refrigeration.

2 egg yolks
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the egg yolks with a few drops of lemon juice and the mustard in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Start to form a stable emulsion by adding a little of the oil, a few drops at a time, while whisking vigorously. Continue adding the oil in a thin stream-you want to do this slowly to ensure that the oil is fully emulsified into the yolks from the get-go. Once you’ve incorporated about 1 cup of the oil (the mixture should be very thick at this point), add 1 tbsp water and a few more drops of lemon juice. Season with the salt and pepper, and then continue to slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup oil while whisking vigorously.  Transfer the mayonnaise to a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Top the bun with cheese, lettuce and tomato slices & cilantro and you are good to go!

My love.

Can you blame me? That after having that unforgettable bowl of ramen at Ippudo, the soul in me still longs for something Japanese.

I need to tell you a place to get nice sushi which doesn’t really cost a bomb; it’s at a corner right smack in Chinatown, downtown Boston, but you might miss it easily since the small store is located inside a building. The sweet hubs googled this place after I told him about my desire for these rolled-up rice and we were back again after our first visit a few weeks back.

Avana Sushi| 42 Beach St
(between Harrison Ave & Tyler St)
Boston, MA 02111

After the departure of the family, I got my hands on Laksa. They have brought the Prima-taste laksa premix and it is the closest resemblance (right down to the taste) I can get. It gets as spicy as it should even without my adding of the belachan chilli. The poor hubs prepared himself by filling a cup of ice and midway through the meal, had to go out to the living room to cool himself in front of the fan. =p Yup, it’s better this way. I certainly do not wish for additional flavour to be added to the bowl of laksa. Heheheh. No cockles I’m afraid but still I was very much satisfied with the result.

I love my Asian food a lot, really.

Brekky for today: Toast with egg mayo with cilantro and pancetta.

Note: Need to learn how to cook laksa from scratch and to make own sushi.

Independence Day

Savory item – Ham and mushroom cheese muffins. Off to NYC for a few days. Happy Independence Day, America!

The first time I baked this in May 2010, I cried. The muffins turned out horrid and I had to throw the whole batch away. Something was wrong but I couldn’t figure it out. I decided to try again today since I had ham and mushrooms in the fridge and they needed to be used. Replacing cheddar cheese with Gruyere cheese, the final product was passable though still a bit tough. It reminded me of FFWD’s savory cheese and ham bread which I like. I’m just glad I didn’t have to throw away stuff today. =)

Continue reading

Bread

 Salt: The mineral that slows down the multiplication of yeast cells, regulates the fermentation process, and adds flavour to the loaf.

Wheat: The only cereal containing gluten, an elastic complex of starch and proteins that can retain carbon dioxide gas and stretch under pressure to form a structured loaf.

Water: The vital liquid that transforms starchy, powdery wheat into a glutinous framework that stretches during fermentation and coagulates during baking to form a loaf.

Yeast: A fungus that consumes sugars in flour and produces the carbon dioxide gas that makes bread rise: the agent of fermentation for a loaf.

Green Tea Financiers (David Lebovitz’s)

After a morning of being in the dentist and emptying the pockets of a few hundreds of dollars, a 5km run and a dinner of bak chor mee, all I need is zen, calmness, before the in-laws arrive in less than 24 hours. They are somewhere in the sky as I write.

These financiers are no-fuss but definitely a comfort to an exhausted soul. They look good as a welcome gift to the family too!

Financier (pronounced “FEE-nan-ci-AY) is a moist and extremely versatile cake. It has many virtues. The batter can be refrigerated and held up to 2 weeks- in fact it’s best made a day in advance. The cake stays fresh for days after it is baked. The cooled cake can be layered with fillings like curd and ganache.

The most outstanding attribute of financiers is its moistness. Only egg whites are used. They have the same stabilizing protein as the yolk but much more water. And while most cake recipes call for whipping air into the whites, creating a foam, in financier the whites remain liquid.

Butter also adds to the moist texture of this type of cake. While in typical cakes solid butter is creamed at the beginning of a recipe, here it is melted and added to the batter last.

The following recipe came from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Desserts

Sesame-salt mixture
2 tsp sesame seeds (white, or a mix of black and white)
1/8 tsp flaky sea salt

Financiers
2/3 cup (55g) sliced almonds (I used ground almonds)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
5 tbsp (45g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha)
1/4 tsp baking powder
Big pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1/2 orange, preferably organic
1/2 cup (125g) egg whites (about 4 large egg whites)
6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Butter a 24-cup mini muffin tin.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tsp sesame seeds and sea salt and sprinkle the muffin cups with two thirds of the mixture.

3. To make the financiers, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, pulverise the almonds, sugar, the 1 tbsp white sesame seeds, the flour, matcha, baking powder, salt, and orange zest until the nuts are finely ground. Add the egg whites and butter and pulse until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl or blender jar as needed to ensure the ingredients are thoroughly combined. I gave up on my blender halfway through and transferring all the ingredients into a big bowl, I used a whisk to mix them together so that they are well combined.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, then sprinkle the tops with the remaining sesame-salt mixture. I could only fill up to 23 muffin cups and each is filled to the half-mark. Rap the muffin tin on the counter once or twice to release any air pockets and level the batter. Bake just until the financiers feel firm when gently pressed with a finger, about 12 to 15 minutes.

5. Let cool completely, then remove the financiers from the muffin cups.

The batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking. Although financiers will keep for up to 1 week stored in a cookie tin, their crusts will soften.

Don’t you feel peaceful just by looking at them?