Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crsip Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Pistachios

T's the season to enjoy and relax oneself 
spend some great times with your family and friends.  
Don't strain yourself too much in holiday gifts and cooking.
simple things mean more than anything. 

Here is a simple easy chocolate chip cookies
that I've been making for several Christmas. 

Wish everyone a great holiday season!

Recipe:  Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Pistachios
Adapted from Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham

1-3/4      cups all purpose flour
3/4          tsp salt
3/4          tsp baking soda
3/4          cup (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2          cup light brown sugar
1/4          cup granulated sugar
3             Tbsp light corn syrup
2             Tbsp whole or 2% milk
2             tsp vanllia extract
1             cup miniature bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
3/4          cup unsalted natural pistachios, toasted, shelled and chopped
3/4          cup dried cranberries (or tart cherries), chopped

  1. Place the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. Beat the butter in a electric mixer at medium high speed for around 5 mins or until the butter is pale, light and fluffy. Add sugar to the butter and beat for another 3 to 5 mins or until light and fluffy.  Add corn syrup, beat for a few seconds.  Add milk and vanilla and beat until blended.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture.  Beat until just smooth, scrapping down the side if necessary.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips, pistachios and dried cranberries with a rubber spatula. Press the dough together with your hands.
  5. Shape the dough into 1" balls and place them, 1-1/2" apart,  on a baking sheet lied with silpat. (or butter the baking sheet). Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand to a 1/2" thick disk.
  6. Bake for 4 mins, switch position of the baking sheet and then bake for another 4 to 6 mins, or until the cookies are golden brown.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 3 mins and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red Rice, Beef and Beans Burrito

My mom used to call me "rice bucket" when I was a kid. In Chinese, that means a person who like to eat a lot of rice. I could have lots of plain rice with just a little amount of other food. Rice was not a side dish to me, it was my main dish. But, this was no longer true.  Having too much rice in the past made me opt for other type of staple food whenever possible. Until one day, I found out that there were so many other ways to cook different types of rice in other parts of the world. The result is usually extremely flavorful rice with distinguished texture depending on the type of rice you use.  Having rice is not boring anymore. And once again, I become a "rice bucket". 

One of my favorite types of rice is Mexican red rice. I love the tomato flavor with a bit of spiciness from the jalapeno. To make a complete meal and also to please N, I usually make the bean and beef burrito. But at anytime, I can just have the red rice by itself.  

The following recipe is coming from Cook's Illustrated.  I have tried a few red rice recipes.  The amount of tomato and onion is just right in this recipe, not too overwhelmed. As usual, the measurement showing is half of the recipe as this was how much I made. I have also modified the cooking method. This is a straightly stove-top method, in contrast with the oven method in the original recipe. But perfect cooking rice turned out every time! 

Red Rice (Mexican Rice)
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, September 2004
Serve 3 to 4 as a side dish
1 1/2        ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2           medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2        medium jalapeno, minced
1              cup long grain rice
1/6           cup canola oil
2              gloves of garlic, minced
1              cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2           Tbsp tomato paste
3/4           tsp salt
1/4           cup minced cilantro leaves
1              lime, cut into wedges for serving

  1. Process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds.  Transfer mixture into measuring cup.  There should be around one cup of mixture.  Pour one cup of chicken broth into mixture. Put it aside.
  2. Rinse rice through strainer under cold running water for 1 to 2 mins, drains and put it aside.
  3. Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium-high eat, about 1. When you put 3 to 4 grains of rice in the pan and the grains sizzle, the oil is ready. Add rice and saute, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent and light brown, about 5 to 6 mins.  
  4. Reduce heat to medium. add garlic and jalapeno, saute for a min.  
  5. Add the tomato mixture, tomato paste and salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover the  rice and let it simmer for about 10 mins, until water is mostly absorbed by the rice.
  6. Uncover and let it cook under low heat for another 8 mins.
  7. Remove from heat, cover and let it stand for 5 mins.
  8. Fluff up the rice with a fork, stir in minced cilantro and serve.

The following is a really quick and easy way to make beef with beans to accompany the rice in the burrito.  I am not sure if this is authentic or not, but it certainly taste good.

Beef, Bean and Rice Burritos
Adapted from Bon Appetit, found on

1/2      lb lean ground beef
1/2      onion, chopped
2         large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2   Tbsp ground cummin
3/4      14 oz can black beans or pinto beans, rinsed, drained
1/2      14 oz can beef or chicken broth
1/2      can diced green chilies
2          green onions, chopped
Red rice, see above recipe

  1. Heat heavy 10" skillet over medium heat.  Add beef and cook until brown, breaking up clumps with wooden spoon, about 4 mins.
  2. Add chopped onion and garlic, cook until onion is transparent, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 mins.
  3. Stir in cumin and cook for 1 min.  Add beans, broth and green chilies. Cook until beans are softened, about 10 mins.  Press and crush beans with back of spoon, continue to cook until beans are creamy and thickened, about 5 more mins.  Mix in green onion.
  4. Assemble burrito by wrapping in a tortilla with any combination of beans, red rice, cheese, salsa, gucamole and sour cream.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blueberry Drop Scones

When I was young, I owed very little.  All my precious things could be put in a shoebox.  They were some stickers I exchanged with my friends, some letters from friends, some cassett tapes and sheet music with songs I loved. I told myself at that time that, they were the things that would be taking with me if there was a fire at home. 

As you grow older, your belongings grow with you as well. Besides the basic necessities, I have all these things spread around the house.  I'm amazed that during the last 20 or so years since I started to earn my own money, how much properties I have accumulated. Piles and piles of clothing, shoes, books, magazines, cds, dvds. Some of the stuffs are hiding in the corner of the closet, some tend to form clutters around the house. I looked around and began to wonder, how much of these stuffs I truly treasure, what are the stuff that I would be taking with me if there was a fire in the house.  I realized that, I still have just a shoebox of things. The shoebox may be a little bit bigger, like the one for boots. All the stuff I loved when I was a kid should still be in the box. Plus additional items from friends and family.  That's it!  I seem to have spent a lot and own a lot now, but in the end, only a shoebox of things is all I need to keep!

The blueberry scones I made today is quick, simple, and no fuss cooking.  It's a drop scone and no shaping and cutting of the dough is required.  I have been making this for several years and N doesn't seem to get tired of it. With the use of buttermilk, minimum amount of butter (2 oz) is required but the dough remains moist.  I wish everyone will try this!

Blueberry Drop Scones
Adapted from recipe of Tyler Florence from Food Network 

1    cup all purpose flour
1    cup whole wheat flour
1    tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar 
1/2 tsp salt
2     oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2"
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1     egg
2     cup fresh or frozen blueberries*

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Sprinkle and toss 1/2 tbsp flour on blueberries and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Spread cubes of butter on top.  Cut in butter using a pastry blender until the butter pieces are coated with flour in pea sides and resemble crumbs. You can also do this step in a food processor. Just process the butter in flour in 5 to 10 one-second pulse.
  4. In another bowl, mix buttermilk with egg.  Then add to flour mixture.  Mix until just incorporated.  Don't over mix the batter. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Be careful not to work it to hard because the blueberries can easily bruised. 
  5. Drop large tablespoons on an ungreased cooke sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 mins until brown

*Kitchen notes:
  • Original recipe uses only all purpose flour. As usual, I tried to incorporate as much whole wheat flour in baking as possible. And this is one of the recipes that it works.
  • You can replace buttermilk with cream, of course.  Or you can substitute buttermilk with 3 Tbsp buttermilk powder and 3/4 coup of water.
  • Every summer I would freeze 2 or 3 bags of blueberries when they are at their peak. The scones taste the best when the blueberries are sweet and juicy.
  • The original recipe is with orange glaze.  I never made the glaze because I don't want the additional sugar.  I think the scone is delicious just by itself.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Took an afternoon walk. The warmth of the late summer evening sun was soothing and comforting. All my stress accumulated through the week disappeared.


You don't have to travel far to find beauty.  This community farm around my neighborhood looks differently under different lights and weather.

Wish the summer color can last forever. 

After the walk, I made this simple soup for the evening.  With the abundance of salmon in Vancouver this year, this is a quick and delicious way to make use of the fish. I especially like the lemon zest and juice added at the end.  It freshen and lighten up the soup. Please don't skip it!

Recipe: Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder
Adapted from, original author Mary Karlin
Serves 2 to 4

2      Tbsp olive oil
1      stalk of celery, cut into 1/2" slices
2      unpeeled small red potatoes, cut int 3/4" cubes
1/2    tsp salt
1/2    tsp ground white pepper
2-3   green onions, coarsely chopped, including the green parts
1       ear of corn, cut out the kernels
2       cups fish or chicken stock
1/2    cup half and half  (or heavy cream)
1       lb salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1" pieces
8-10  shrimps, shelled
grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2       Tbsp minced fresh dill

  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the celery for 2 mins. Add potatoes, salt and pepper and cook, saute and stirring occasionally for about 3 to 5 mins.Add green onions, corn and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 12 mins or until the potatoes are almost tender.
  2. Add half and half, uncovered, simmer until potatoes are completely soft, about 3 mins. Stir in salmon, shrimps and lemon zest. Simmer gently until the seafood are cooked through, about 3 to 4 mins. Add more stock as needed. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle dill on top when serve. 

(P.S. This post had been in progress for a while and only until now did I have time to complete it.   Fall is upon us now. But the memory of summer still stays least in the pictures) 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fresh Berry Tarts

Just finished two rounds of golf today (Sunday). An "All You can Golf" day for $25 at a nearby golf course has given me so much excitement and disappointment, so much fun and frustration, and so much joyfulness and soreness. Absolutely love this game!  You have to be in focus in every single shot.  You have only one chance to hit each shot. Clear your mind, relax and feel your body movement, try to duplicate what you have learned from driving range practice, but do not over-think;. swing and hit with a rhythm, and when you hear a sharp and crisp metal sound, your chance of having a pretty good shot is high. But the problem is, I cannot clear my mind and relax that easily, and I cannot hear that nice metal sound all the time.  But yet, you learn from your game.  When you screw up a shot, it's not the end of the world.  You leave your disappointment behind, focusing on the present, try your best to recover.  Knowing how to recover from bad situation is just as important.  At the end of the rainy day, my hair was all messy and my pants were soaking wet, I met some nice people on the course and I spent some good times with N.

These fresh berry tarts are wonderful embellishments for a great day.  You can use any of your favorite combination of fresh berries or fruit.  My first choice is blueberries and raspberries.  Their sweetness complement each other really well and they look gorgeous together.  But raspberries were nowhere to be found yesterday, so I substituted with strawberries. This combination is also delicious.

The recipe is coming from the cookbook Tartine, a birthday gift from my sister-in-law a few years ago.  I put it aside for the longest time until last Christmas, I made chocolate cookies out from this book, and they were out of this world.  From then on, I was hook on the book.  Not only are the details of the recipes worth reading, the kitchen notes are especially useful because those are tips from a bakery. To supplement all these, the pictures are gorgeous that I never get tired of looking at them again and again.

I specially like the easy-to-handle tart dough and the light but delicious pastry cream of this recipe. I will share the simplified version of the recipe below.  Please get the book for the full version.

Recipe:  Fresh Berry Tarts
Adapted from Tartine 

Sweet Tart Dough
9        oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1        cup sugar
1/4     tsp salt
2        large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/2  cup all-purpose flour

Egg wash (optional)
1        egg, beaten
2        tsp water
salt     pinch

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until smooth.
  2. Add eggs. One at a time. Mix until smooth before adding another. Scrape the side of the bowl occasionally.
  3. Add flour all at once and mix at low speed until just incorporated.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, pour out the dough. Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Shape each portion into a ball and then into a disk about 1/2" thick.  Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 325°F
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into 1/8" thick and cut out pieces of 1" to 2" bigger than your tart pan or tart rings. Transfer the dough to the tart pan and apply slight pressure to the bottom and side of the pan.
  7. Put the pastry shell in the fridge and chill for 15 minutes or until firm.
  8. Dock bottom of the tart shell with a fork, making holes around 2" apart.  
  9. If using 31/2" tart rings, bake for 10 mins.  Mix egg wash ingredients.  Take out the tart shell and brush the bottom and side lightly with egg wash.  According to the book, this can seal the bottom and the side of the tart shell to avoid the tart shell to get soggy that easily.
  10. Put the tart shell back to the oven and bake for another 20mins, or until lightly browned.
* Kitchen notes:   
  • The baking time I posted here is based on my personal experience.  For some reason, the baking time suggested in the book is a lot shorter.  If you are trying the recipe for the first time, please watch out for your time. It may vary depends on the size of your tart pan. 
  • As mentioned in the book, this dough is very forgiving. You can gather scarp pieces and roll it out many times and the dough is still good.
  • You can also freeze the unused dough.

Pastry Cream
2        cups whole milk
1/2     vanilla bean
1/4     tsp salt
3 to 4 tbsp cornstarch, depends on the consistency you like
1/2     cup sugar
2        large eggs
4        tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbsp pieces

  1. Place a fine-mesh sieve on top of a bowl.  Put it aside.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and sugar. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add milk to saucepan.  Scrape beans out of vanilla bean pod and add to milk. Add salt.  Cook milk over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil. Stirring occasionally to avoid milk solid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
  4. Slowly laddle 1/3 of hot milk to egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg-milk mixture back to the hot milk in the saucepan. Cook the hot egg-milk mixture over medium heat. whisking continuously, until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 mins. It is very easy to get over cook at this step.  When you can see a few slow bubbles or start hearing bubbling sound coming from the bottom of the pan, it is time to remove the pan from the heat.  
  5. Immediately pour the hot egg custard through the sieve into the bowl.
  6. Let cool for 10 mins.  Stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skim from forming.
  7. When the pastry cream cool to about 140°F, whisk in the butter, one piece at a time.Whisk until smooth before adding another piece. Cool the cream before using.  Put a plastic wrap right on top of the cream to prevent skin forming.
  1. Spoon pastry cream into tart shell. Put your favorite berries on top.
  2. If you like, you can brush the fruit with some apricot glaze.  To make the glaze, put some apricot jam and little bit of water into a saucepan over medium low heat until the jam dissolved. Strain the jam through a sieve.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pad Thai and Mango Smoothie

We've been having a streak of good weather in Vancouver lately. Blue sky, light breeze, 20-ish temperature; all the complains of gloomy cold wet weather in early summer were gone. On days like these, it is very hard to keep working in the office. All you think about is to get through the week as quickly as possible so as to enjoy the weekends outdoor. This is also not the good time to sit in front of the computer retouching pictures and composing blog posts.  Yes, I admit that I'm a little slow in updating my post.  But, in times when I'm not blogging, in between working and golfing, I'm still actively seeking inspiration for photography, trying out new recipes and thinking about what to eat and what to post.

Just when I was being a bit too laid back, the folks at  food52 did a nice writeup on this blog.  That is a big encouragement to me. I hope I can keep up my work and continue to put up posts with food that I love and pictures that are interesting to look at, not just once. (That is my goal!) 

Back to food. Does hot summer and spicy hot food go together?  Yes, it does.  Especially when it is accompanied with a refreshing cold fruity drinks. Pad thai is probably the most popular Thai dish other than Thai curry. I love the sweetness, sourness and spiciness, all come together to form a complex yet balanced flavor. Don't be scare by the long list of ingredients.  It does take a while (around 40mins including time spent on roasting peanuts) to prep all the ingredients. But once you have all the prep work done, the actual cooking time takes about 10mins only. As for the drink, mango is sweet and aromatic, with a hint of banana and milk, this drink needs no sugar if all the fruit are ripe. And,  it takes just a few seconds to whip up.

Recipe: Pad Thai
Adapted from  Cook's Illustrated Magazine, August 2002
2       Tbsp tamarind paste*
3/4    cup boiling water
3       Tbsp fish sauce
1       Tbsp rice vinegar
3       Tbsp sugar
4       Tbsp canola oil
8       oz. dried rice sticks, about 1/8" wide*
2        large eggs
1/4     tsp salt
12      oz. medium (31/35) shrimps, peeled and deveined
3        garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1        medium shallots, minced (about 3 Tbsp)
1        red Thai chili pepper*, minced
2        Tbsp dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
6        Tbsp chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
3        cups bean sprout
3        medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias
1/4     cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (optional)

  • Making sauce:
    1. Rehydrate tamarind paste by soaking it in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 mins.  Strain it through a strainer, pushing the pulp fibers to squeeze out the juice.  
    2. Mix fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and 2 Tbsp oil with the tamarind extract. Set it aside.   
  • Preparing rice noodle and eggs:  
    1. Soak the rice sticks in hot tap water (not boiling) for 20mins, until they are softened and limp but not fully tendered. Drain and set aside
    2. Beat eggs with 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  •  Stir-fry:
    1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12" skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, about 2 mins. Add shrimps and sprinkle 1/8 tsp salt on the shrimps.  Cook, toss occasionally, until shrimps turned pink and opaque with brown edges, about 2 to 3 mins. Remove the shrimps and set aside.
    2. Add 1 Tbsp oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallot and chili pepper. Cook over medium heat, stir continuously, until fragrant, about 1 min, add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 sec. Add noodles, dried shrimps, toss with tong or 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and continue to toss all the ingredients with the sauce. 
    3. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimps over noodles. Continue to cook and toss, until noodles are tender. , about 2 mins.
    4. Dish out the noodles. Sprinkle remaining peanuts, scallions and cilantro on top.  Serve immediately. 

    *Kitchen notes: 
    • The tamarind paste I bought came in a plastic package and was marked "Product of Thailand". You can buy it in most Asian stores.  If you cannot find tamarind paste, you can substitute it with 1/3 cup lime juice according to Cook's Illustrated although I never tried this before.  The tamarind gives the dish a distinct sour flavor that I think is hard to replace with any substitution.
    • The rice stick I used was also came from Thailand. They came in S, M, and L size. I use M most of the time, but this time I used L which is about 1/4" wide. 
    • In the original recipe, 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper is used in place of the thai chili pepper. You can add the cayenne to the fish sauce mixture if using.  

    Recipe:  Mango Smoothie

     2      ripe mango
    1/2    ripe banana
    Some milk (2%)

    Coarsely chopped mango and banana.  Add milk. Process with a regular or hand held blender until smooth. Adjust consistency with amount of milk.  You can start with 1 cup milk first and add more if you want the drink to be less thick. 

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Japanese Sweet Bread


    Lately, I have been making lots of bread. Making bread is a satisfying experience. Unlike desserts, bread is an essential part of the meal that you do not feel guilty for eating too much of it.  And the smell of fresh bread is wonderful. I did not have much experience with yeast bread before. I usually just followed the recipes in Best Recipes closely and they never failed me. This time, however, I was curious to try out the Japanese bread making recipes that have been very popular among the Chinese food bloggers. 

    The bread that I grew up with, made by Chinese bakery, is soft and fluffy, without a thick crust. The dough is lightly sweet. And they remain soft and fluffy for a few days.  There are different fillings that you can put inside. To balance the sweet flavor, the fillings are usually savory.  Like, bbq pork, hot dog, curry chicken and ham and cheese. The red bean paste is one of the more popular sweet fillings.

    After reading this post on Christine's recipe, I could not wait to try it out. But the recipe is originally written for bread machine. I kept searching and found a similar recipe adapted for electronic mixer on Corner's Cafe.  After three trials, I finally got the bread that I thought was just as good as in Chinese bakery.  The following is my adaptation of the recipe.

    Recipe:  Japanese Sweet Bread
    Adapted from Corner's Cafe


    For Water-Roux Paste ("Tang Zhong")
    25g         bread flour
    125ml     water

    For Bread Dough
    375g       bread flour
    100g       plain flour
    32g         milk powder*
    75g         granulated sugar*
    3/4 tsp    salt
    1            package of instant dry yeast (2 1/4tsp)
    1            egg, lightly beaten
    150ml     lukewarm water (around 95F to 105f)
    40g         butter, cubed  

    For Egg Wash - 1 egg plus a bit of water

    1. Making Water Roux: Mix flour with water in a small saucepan.  Cook over low to medium heat, stir continuously, for 2 to 3 mins, until the mixture reaches 65c.  At this stage, the mixture should form a paste and when you use the wooden spoon to scratch across the bottom, you can see the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat and place a saran wrap right on the surface of the paste. Let it cool to room temperature before using. Or you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for a day or two. Do not use it when it turns grey.  That means it has gone bad. (Water roux is the secret that makes the Japanese bread soft and fluffy)
    2. Making the dough: 
      1. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Sift bread flour, plain flour, milk powder, suger and salt to the mixing bowl.  Add in yeast and mix well.  Add in water roux and beaten egg.  Turn on the mixer at slow speed and slowly add lukewarm water until the dough form into a nice ball of dough. 
      2. Continue to knead the dough at speed 4 to 5 (Kitchen Aid) for 5 minutes until the dough is somewhat smooth and not sticky.  Add in butter, continue to knead at speed 4 to 5 for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Take the dough out and knead it by hand a few times and then form the dough into a ball.  Clean up the mixing bowl and grease it lightly. Put the dough ball back in the mixing ball. Cover the bowl with saran wrap.Put the dough in a draft free places.And let the dough rise to double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hour depends on the temperature and humidity at the time.
      3. After the first rise, punch down and take out the dough. Knead it a few times and divide the dough into equal size.  I usually weight each portion to make sure they are of the same size. For the plain sweet bread, each dough ball is approximately 60g.  Shape the dough into balls and put them in a slightly greased baking pan. Cover with saran wrap and let it rise the second time in a draft free place, until the doughs are double in size, about 1 hour.
      4. Preheat oven to 350F.  Brush the surface of the bread with egg-wash. Bake the bread for 15-20mins or until golden brown. 
      5. If you like a shiny surface, brush the bake bread with a thin layer of butter.

    1.After kneading the dough, form the dough into a ball and let it rise in the greased mixing bowl.
    2.  To test if the dough has risen enough on the first proof, poke the dough with your finger,
    if the dough does not spring back, then it is ready.
    3. Shape the dough into equal size balls

    Making bread with filling:  After the first proof, divide the dough into equal portion and shape the dough into balls. Let the dough rest for 10 mins.  Using a rolling pin or use your finger, form the dough into a flat round shape. Put the prepared fillings* inside the dough and wrap the dough around it to form a ball. To shape the dough into flower shape, flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand. Make 5 cuts around the dough. Place the shaped dough on a baking pan lined with parchment paper/silpat. Cover with saran wrap and let it rise for second time.  Bake the bread as in basic bread recipe.

    4. Let the dough rise for the second time until double in size. Then the dough is ready to bake
    5. To make bread with filling, put the filling inside the dough.
    6. Shape the dough, let it rise for second time and then bake it in the oven.

    Kitchen notes:  
    • I have reduced the amount of milk powder to adjust to my taste. 
    • You may not need all the 150ml of water to make the dough form into a ball.  It depends on the weather of the day.  
    • The ideal temperature for proofing bread is around 85F. In order to have fluffy bread, you have to make sure that the dough rise enough. Otherwise, the bread will come out dense and tough. (This is from my own experience!)  To make sure that the condition is right for proofing, I turned on the oven to 200F and when the temperature is ready, I turned off the oven.  Open the oven door and let the oven cool down for 10 to 15  mins.  Then, put a cup of boiling water in the oven with the dough to ensure the humidity is maintained inside the oven.  Close the oven door and let the dough rise.
    • You can buy pre-made red bean paste in Chinese or Japanese grocery store.
    Post update (July 9, 2010):

    I just realized that after so many bread kneading I had done lately, my beloved Kitchen Aid was acting up on me.  Fortunately, it was not a big problem.  N helped me to hammer the pin down and it was fine. I was a bit disappointed with it but N reminded me that when I bought this model a few years ago, I did not expect to do that much bread making. Otherwise I should have got the more heavy duty one.  From now on, I may have to hand knead my bread!

      Wednesday, June 23, 2010

      The Unexpected: Cocoa-nana Bread

      I am not a planner.  I do not like to plan things ahead.  Except for work related stuff, which I am paid to do and trained to do, I never good at planning anything. Even vacation, I did not like to do the planning until N asked me several times and got mad at me. I know, this is bad.  But don't you think that things happen outside of your plan is more excited?  Things that come out of a sudden burst of idea, things that do not follow the usual path. Like, when I first started this blog, I just followed my sudden urge to do it. No plan, no preparation, no research. Just go for it. I still feel so amazed and so full of gratitude that there are visitors/readers who like what I posted.

      In the rare occasion that I do plan ahead, things usually do not turn out as expected. I was in the mood of trying new baking recipe last Friday night. I wanted something simple and easy to do, but at the same time, N for sure would like it. So, it has to be something chocolaty. N has also been asking for banana bread several times.  Since I got two really ripe bananas on hand, why not combine these two yummy ingredients together. Scanned through Dorie's book, found a recipe exactly what I wanted - a Cocoa-nana bread.  Even the name sounds cute!  So, I prepared to make it on Saturday morning. Although it was the first time I tried the recipe, I trusted Dorie Greenspan.  Besides, what can go wrong with banana bread? I decided that it should be delicious enough to blog about it and on Friday night, I was already planning on how to take the picture. 

      I got up very early on Saturday to make the bread because I love having the freshly baked goods smell in the house in the morning. I followed the recipe all through. When the bread came out from the oven, it looked promising.  But, the first bite of it got me wonder if there was anything wrong with my taste buds. The cocoa flavor was so overwhelm and the sweetness of the banana was completely lost to the bitterness of the bitter-sweet chocolate. I had a second bite, but still could not get use to the taste. I was upset and disappointed. I lost all my motivation to take pictures.  But since I had setup my picture setting already, I did take a few shots just to practice my photography skill.  N, being such a picky eater, to my surprise, did not complaint too much though.  Just said it was not great, and then kept eating.  

      Curious of what other bloggers think about the recipe, I did some research on the internet. It turned out that this recipe had been tried out by the Tuesdays With Dorie group and several bloggers did not like it either.

      It is now Wednesday night, what do you think happen to the bread?  It's not in the trash can. It's been mostly consumed and a small amount left in the fridge.  Strange things happened during these few days.  The cocoa mellowed out and all the flavors melted together, and the bread wrapped in saran wrap is still moist! I had a big piece after I got home from work today.  What a strange loaf of bread!

      Sunday, June 6, 2010

      Salmon Teriyaki and Miso Soup

      I do not think that we have enough fish consumed in our diet. Don't know why.  May be because I grew up in Hong Kong where fish were bought fresh, fresh in the sense that they were alive in the fish tank and killed by fish monger immediately after you bought it. So, I was a bit turned off by all the frozen or previously-frozen fish fillets that sell at the supermarket here. But, we got to adapt to and make the best out of what we have. As we have an abundance supply of salmon here and it is one of the most flavorful fish, I always like to try new ways of cooking it.  Teriyaki salmon is one of my favorite salmon recipe.

      This is a quick and healthy dinner. I always make the teriyaki sauce ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can last for a few weeks. Besides salmon, I also use the sauce on grilled or broiled chicken thighs and on vegetable.

      Recipe:  Salmon Teriyaki
      Teriyaki sauce recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated Magazine

      Ingredients for the sauce
      1/2     cup soy sauce
      1/2     cup sugar
      1        tsp grated fresh ginger
      1        clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
      2        Tbsp mirin
      1/2     tsp cornstarch

      Other ingredients:
      1       salmon fillet, about 6 to 8oz, 1/2 to 3/4" thick
      1       Tbsp canola oil
      Salt and pepper

      For the sauce:
      1. Put soy sauce, sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic in a small saucepan.  In a small bowl, mix mirin with cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved with no large lumps. Stir cornstarch mixture into the saucepan.  Bring the mixture the a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low for simmering. Stir occasionally and cook until the mixture is thickened, about 5 to 7 mins. Adjust consistency of the sauce to your preference by adjusting the simmering time.

      For the salmon:

                                 Pan-fry skin-side down first                                        Flip over when the skin is crispy and golden brown
      1. I like eating the skin as well. So, I usually season both sides of the fillet with salt and pepper.
      2. Add oil to the cast iron pan, swirl to coat the pan.  Heat oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking.  Put fish fillet in the pan, skin side down. Pan fry the fish for about 3 to 4 mins (depending on the thickness of the fillet) until the skin is golden brown.  Flip over the fish, pan fry the flesh side for another 2 to 3 mins, until golden brown. Remove fish from the pan and pour about 1 Tbsp of teriyiki sauce on top of the fish.  Serve.   

      To make it a complete Japanese meal, besides serving the teriyaki salmon with rice, I also like making miso soup.  It is so easy to make miso soup when you have the right ingredients in your pantry and it is so much better than the over-salty soup in the average Japanese restaurant.  

      Kitchen notes:  
      • Red miso is stronger and saltier in flavor while white miso is milder.  I like to mix both of them.  You can pick either one to suit your taste.
      • Using bonito powder to make the dashi soup base is a short cut step. Since I found out that even my Japanese sister-in-law is doing it this way, I did not bother making the soup base from scratch. But someday I will try!

                                                     Clockwise from upper left: Red and white miso paste, bonito stock
                                                                powder, yummy miso soup, dried wakame seaweeds

      Recipe:  Miso Soup

      3        cup water
      1/2     package of bonito powder
      1/2     package of soft or medium firm tofu, cubed
      4-5    shiitake mushroom, sliced
      1        Tbsp red miso paste
      1         Tbsp white miso paste
      A handful of dry seaweed (I used wakame seaweeds)

      1. Add bonito powder to water.  Bring water to a boil over medium heat. Add tofu and mushroom, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Add miso paste.  Stir occasionally and simmer until miso paste is dissolved, about 2 to 3 mins.  Add dry seaweed, cover and simmer for another 1 to 2 mins, until seaweeds are softened.  Serve hot.

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