Sunday, 6 July 2014

life seems to go faster

Time seems to go faster as I get older. Do you feel the same? That is, only if you are as old as me...

It seems like it was only last weekend when the first school semester ended, and we hopped off to a one week retreat. The days followed just flashed past and before I could complete the first task on my wish-to-do list, the four weeks school holidays were already over!



I was stuck with my children 24/7 during the school holidays. While I enjoy their company, it was not fun having to think of what to prepare for lunch everyday. Whenever they are at home for lunch, I would make their favourites such as pizza, sandwiches, Japanese curry rice, pasta dishes, baked rice, noodles...simple meals that do not require too much preparation, fume free and with minimal cleaning. It is not an exhaustive list, and I got to the bottom of it within two weeks.



It's a blessing that my brain still functions fairly well even though I am getting older each day.

With left over ingredients from making pizza, Japanese curry rice, I came up with this baked rice with Japanese curry. To make it even more wholesome and hearty, I topped it with an egg, very much to my kids' delight as both of them love runny yolks.



This is my serving, smaller portion and without any eggs. I didn't manage to take a picture of those with eggs as my boys were too eager to tuck in. It is a nice change from the usual Japanese curry with rice dish and a new variation to my lists of baked rice dishes.

I read that routines tend to make time flies while new and unique experiences slow down time. For example, the journey seems to take longer when we first travelled to a new place, whereas the return journey (on the same route) appear to be faster, and if you were to take the same route frequently it no longer seems that long to travel to that same destination.

Trying new things, creating unique experiences and engaging in memorable events and moments are some of the ways to psychologically slow down time.  This is quite true for me as I find my days are much longer whenever I went for a holiday trip, away from the routines of endless household chores ;)

While I do not have the luxury to go for holidays frequently (I am definitely not worried that it will ever become a routine), what I could do is, from now on, I shall make it a point to venture further out of my comfort zone to create new culinary experience both for myself and for my family.


Baked Japanese Curry Rice

Ingredients:
(makes 4 servings)

200g meat (pork or beef or boneless chicken thigh), clean and cut into bite size
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
50g (3 small cubes) Japanese curry roux* (I used Kokumaro brand, medium hot)
1 tablespoon ketchup

4 cups cooked rice
1 cup broccoli floret
4 eggs
some shredded cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese (or combination of both)


Method:
  1. Blanch broccoli with boiling water (add a pinch of salt into the water) for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute chopped onions with the vegetable oil in a deep pan until translucent and lightly browned. Add in the minced garlic and meat, saute the meat till lightly browned. Add in potatoes and carrots and stir fry for a couple of minutes. 
  3. Add the water (use enough water to cover the ingredients) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 10~15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
  4. Add curry roux and ketchup, simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickens. Keep stirring to ensure the curry roux is fully dissolved.*Add another cube of curry roux, if necessary, to adjust the thickness of the curry to your preference. 
  5. For each serving, place 1 cup of cooked rice in an oven-proof dish. Place 1/4 portion of the Japanese curry over the rice. Put some blanched broccoli on top. With a spoon, make a slight dent in the middle and crack in 1 egg. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese. Repeat the same with the remaining servings.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degC for about 10~15 mins or until the cheese turn golden brown and the eggs are almost set. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Snow Pears with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus


Further to my earlier post on Steamed Pears with Chuan Bei 川贝蒸糖梨, here's another similar dessert, Snow Pear with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus 川贝雪梨汤.



The basic ingredients include asian pears (I used ya pears 鸭梨 as they are readily available), chuan bei (fritillaria bulbs), dried snow fungus and rock sugar.



These ingredients has medicinal benefits to help remove heat from body, clear phlegm, relieve cough, bring moisture to the lungs, soothes and nourishes the respiratory tract.



This nourishing dessert is very quick and easy to prepare, simply by simmering the ingredients for about 30 minutes. Due to the short cooking time, the snow fungus will be slightly crunchy and not overly soft or gelatinous in texture. The soup will remain clear and not 'cloudy'. Although I prefer to cook snow fungus in savoury soups till it turns very soft, silky and gelatinous, for this sweet dessert, I like it that the soup is clear, making it very refreshing especially when served chilled. The shorter cooking time also means that the pears still has a slight crunch and not soft and mushy.

Do note that this dessert is good for treating cough (热咳) developed from heaty cold (风热感冒). However, it is not meant to treat cold cough due to 风寒感冒 as chuan bei is very cooling to the body.

If the chuan bei is omitted, it is still a nice and refreshing dessert to help remove heat and quench thirst especially during such hot weather.



Snow Pears with Chuan Bei and Snow Fungus 川贝雪梨汤

Ingredients:
(serves 4)

1 clump dried snow fungus, about 20g
5g fritillaria bulbs, chuan bei (川贝)
3 snow pears (I used ya pear,鸭梨), skin on
30g rock sugar (use more if desired)
4 cups water

Method:
  1. Soak dried snow fungus in water for about 30mins or till soften. Wash and rinse the soaked snow fungus. Trim and discard the hard yellow part at the base. Cut the rest of the snow fungus into small pieces.
  2. Soak chuan bei in water for about 10 mins, discard the water.
  3. Wash the pears (rub the skin with some salt and wash thoroughly). Do not peel away the skin. Remove core and cut into bite-size chunks.
  4. Bring the water to full boil in a large pot. Add pears, chuan bei and snow fungus and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot with lid and leave to simmer for 30mins.
  5. Add in rock sugar, leave to simmer for another 5 to 10mins till the sugar fully dissolved, add more rock sugar if desired.
  6. Serve the dessert either hot or chilled (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.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake


After baking a batch of Oreo Cream Cheese Buns, I was left with half a block of cream cheese. Not knowing what to do with the leftovers, I tried googling for a suitable recipe to use it. I searched using the keywords "125g cream cheese", nothing interesting or suitable came up. I then tried googling in Chinese, "125g 奶油芝士" and this recipe popped right up.



The blog post with the title "125g的奶油芝士也能做出香浓的日式轻芝士蛋糕" caught my attention immediately. This is exactly what I am looking for...to use only 125g cream cheese to make a Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake!



I didn't have much luck with Japanese style cotton soft cheesecake on my previous attempt, once out of the oven, it sank, shrank and developed a 'waist' despite leaving the cake to cool in the oven before unmoudling. However, after my successful attempt at making the 3 ingredients Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake, my confidence level went up :)



I adapted the original recipe a little just to round off the ingredients amount. I baked the cake at 150degC for 60mins. The cake rose nicely and the top was baked to a beautiful golden hue without me having to adjust the temperature or to tent the top with foil. The cake was able to hold the structure so well probably because of the number of egg whites used and the relatively higher amount of flour. This is the first time I baked something using 5 whole eggs, I was actually a little overwhelmed with the shear amount of egg whites that was being whipped up!



Instead of leaving the cake to cool in the oven, I removed it immediately once the baking time was up. Once out of the oven, I dropped the cake pan at a height onto my kitchen counter top (I used a cork mat to protect the counter top). I read that this action helps to get rid of the hot air inside the cake quickly so that the cake will not sink or shrink too much (this also applies to chiffon cakes and bread loaves). I removed the cake from the pan right after as I didn't want it to cool off inside the pan. For me, it is best to remove the cake from the pan while it is still hot, as upon cooling, the top of the cake (the papery thin golden crust) will stick to anything that comes into contact, be it my fingers or a plate.  The cake pan and the cake itself was very hot, making it a little tricky to unmold especially I had used a cake pan with a fixed base. I had to invert the cake twice so that I could remove the baking paper on the sides and bottom, before leaving it to cool right side up on the cooling rack. It would be easier if I were to use a pan with a removable base. However, as the cake is baked using the water bath method, even if the pan is wrapped with foil, somehow water condensation may still occur, leaving the bottom of the cake dense and wet.



This cake is a lighter version of the usual Japanese soufflé cheesecake, the texture was soft and moist, something we could eat one slice after another without having to feel too guilty. Do give this a try if you ever run out of idea what to do with half a block of cream cheese. I feel that this is quite a fool proof recipe especially so if you are good in making chiffon cakes but no luck with Japanese soufflé cheesecake.

Happy Baking!



Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake 日式舒芙蕾芝士蛋糕

Ingredients:
(makes one 8" cake)

125g cream cheese, cut into cubes
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
5 egg yolks (I used eggs with net weight of 55g)
125g milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
75g cake flour
35g corn flour

5 egg whites (I used eggs with net weight of 55g)
120g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice


Method:
  • Line the base and sides of a 8" round cake pan(fixed base) with parchment paper. For the sides, make sure the parchment paper extends higher than the cake pan by about 1.5 inches as the cake will expand and rise above the rim of the pan, set aside. 
  • Sieve together cake flour and corn flour, set aside.
  • Place cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Set the mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the mixing bowl is bigger than the sauce pan). Let the mixture melts and stir till smooth. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
  • When ready, add the egg yolks to the cream cheese and butter mixture, one at a time, and with a balloon whisk, whisk to combine. 
  • Add milk, whisk to combine. Add lemon juice, whisk to combine.
  • Sieve over the flour mixture, whisk to combine. Small lumps may form once the flour is added, whisk the batter gently till there are no lumps, do not over mix. 
  • In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites and lemon juice with an electric mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Add half of the sugar and turn to medium-high speed and beat the mixture. Continue to add in the remaining sugar mixture in separate additions and beat until the egg whites reaches the soft peak stage.The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites curl over and droop slightly. Turn to low speed and beat for another 1 to 2 mins (this helps to stabilise the air bubbles). 
  • Add the beaten egg whites to the cream cheese mixture in 3 separate additions, each time fold with a rubber spatula (I prefer to use a balloon whisk) until just blended.
  • Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan lightly on a table top to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter.
  • Place cake pan in a baking tray. Fill the baking tray with hot water (the water should rise up to about 1 inch of the cake pan).
  • Place on lower rack of the oven and bake at 150 degC for 60 mins. 
  • Remove cake pan from oven and immediately drop the pan at a height of 20~30cm onto the table top. This helps to prevent the cake from shrinking upon cooling. Unmould the cake immediately. To unmold, place a large plate or baking sheet on top of the cake pan, invert the cake pan onto the plate/baking sheet. Remove the cake pan and the parchment paper on the base and sides of the cake (Note: do use oven mitten as the cake pan will be very hot). Next, place a cooling rack on the base of the cake, invert the cake right side up onto the cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Leave the cake to chill in the fridge for about 2 to 3 hours, best overnight, before serving. 
Recipe source: adapted from here.

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


Ingredients:
(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

Method:

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

川贝蒸糖梨




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

Ingredients:

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)

Method:
  • 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