Sunday, July 3, 2011

Strawberry Bubble Tea and Sweet & Salty Popcorn


A relaxing Sunday afternoon, mostly overcast sky with lucky sunny breaks in between, I revisited Finn Slough, a place not so far away from where I live, a tiny community with distinct looking wooden houses built along a marshy river bank. Every time I go there, I can't stop imagining how life would be like in the old days when it was still a robust fishing village.  The Finnish fishermen may be long gone, but what's left are the remnants that merged with the landscape to create a unique place. Here are some of the pictures taken.


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After a joyful afternoon with some new photos to process, I'd like to have something fun and refreshing as snack. Got a box full of local strawberries the other day.  They were so juicy but still a bit tart.  I also have some tapioca balls that I wanted to try out.  So, I make some strawberry bubble tea, with all natural ingredients, no artificial milk and fruit powder as in a lot of other recipes suggested.


Recipe: Strawberry Bubble Tea
Serve 2

Ingredients:
1      cup strawberries, washed and cut into halves or quarters
1      ripe banana, cup into 1" pieces
1/4   cup cooked tapioca balls
1/2   cup low fat milk
1/2   cup strong tea, cool in the fridge if freshly brewed
3      Tbsp sugar syrup (mix 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup water, simmer until sugar melted)
2      Tbsp sugar or honey (optional)
ice cubes (optional)

Instructions:
Put all ingredients except tapioca balls in the blender.  Process until smooth.  Put tapioca balls in a glass first and then pour in the blended mixture.  If prefer ice cold drink, put a few pieces of ice cubes in. 

Easy enough, right?  Just a few tips to make it right:
  • The strawberries I have are still quite tart.  So, to reduce the sugar that I have to put in, I put in a banana.  It increase the sweetness and also the creaminess of the drink.
  • There are a few different brands of tapioca balls in the Asian market.  I bought the one that is vacuum sealed and made in Taiwan, where bubble tea originated.  And cook it according to instruction on the package.  The process usually involves cooking the balls in boiling water for 15 to 30 mins and then steep in the boiled water for another 30 mins.  Adjust the timing to get the chewiness texture that you want.
  • As the sweetness of the berries varied, adjust the additional quantity of sugar or honey to suit your own taste   


Last week I went to the farmers' market and bought some kettle corns which were so good that me and N finished a big bag in no time. Of course, I will try to DIY so that we can have a continuous supply of it at home.  We always use the Alton Brown method of making popcorn and season it with different spices after cooking.  How to incorporate sugar is a different story because you want the sugar to melt. The Rachael Ray recipe solves the problem:  to put in the sugar with the popcorn in the oil before it pops. The popcorn came out perfectly cooked and tasted just like the one in farmers' market. 

Recipe:  Sweet and Salty Popcorn

Ingredients:
1/4      cup vegetable oil
1/2      cup popcorn kernels
2         Tbsp sugar
1/2      tsp salt

Utensil required:
A  good quality big stainless steel bowl, around 10" in diameter. 
Aluminum foil to cover the stainless steel bowl, poke a few holes on it for ventilation
Oven mitts

Instruction:
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in stainless steel bowl until just before smoke comes out.  You can test the hotness by putting a piece of popcorn kernel in.  When it pops, the oil is ready.
  2. Add popcorn kernels and sugar in the oil all at once.  Cover the bowl with the piece of holey foil.
  3. Put your oven mitts on and start shaking the bowl continuously.  After a 20 to 30 sec., the popping starts. Yes, there is a bit of exercise involved. It will take a few minutes to have the kernels all popped. But don't stop shaking until the popping sound gradually dies down. Turn off the heat.
  4. Season the popcorn with salt.


For those of you who are in Canada and US, Happy Canada Day and July 4th!!

All images copyright © Yogi Studio 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Caribbean Chicken Wings


Finally got some time to finish off this post!.  Once again, I rely on the food and its taste and color to make the bad weather go away. I am getting tired of this gloomy wintery spring. I want the bright and blooming sun, not the timid and shy one. I believe this Caribbean chicken can perform its magic. The sweetness and spiciness compliments each other perfectly, with the use of the citrus to brighten up the flavor, these chicken wings are scrumptious and addictive.  Don't be scared by the long list of ingredients.  Just gather all the seasonings and put it in the food processor and the marinate is done. You do need some time to marinade the chicken, but the reward for waiting is big. The cooking process is hassle free. What can be simpler than baking and glazing!

I hope you will enjoy this easy recipe and let's hope for better weather everywhere!! 


Recipe: Caribbean Chicken Wings
Adapted from Sunny Anderson's recipe on Food Network

Ingredients:

1      jalapeno, chopped (if you want it not so spicy, remove the ribs and seeds; use habanero if you want it spicier)
2      Tbsp soy sauce
2      Tbsp honey
2      Tbsp brown sugar
1      Tbsp sugar
1      tsp fennel seed
1      tsp cayenne pepper
1      tsp allspice
1      tsp dried thyme
1/2   tsp ground ginger
2     garlic cloves, chopped
2     green onions, chopped
2      Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2      Tbsp lime
2      Tbsp orange juice
2      lb. chicken wings

Directions 
  1. Process all ingredients in except chicken wings in the food processor until smooth.  Reserve 1/2 cup of marinade.  Marinate chicken with the remaining marinade for at least 6 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a piece of aluminium foil on the baking sheet and then put a bacing rack on top of it. Put the chicken onto the rack. Bake the chicken for 20 mins.Discard the marinade.
  3. While the chicken is baking, heat up the reserved marinade in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Reduce the marinade by about 1/3 or until it is slightly thickened. It takes about 10 mins. 
  4. Take out the chicken after the first 20 mins of baking.  Brush it with the glaze.  Increase oven to 400F. Bake chicken for another 15 to 20 mins, until cook through.  Keep an eye on it in the last 5 mins to avoid the chicken to be over-cooked, or burnt.

All images ©Yogi Studio

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce










I walk very fast. But I do things slowly.




















I don't like cooking dinner after work because I have to rush everything. I like to cook slowly on weekends and enjoy the chopping, the mixing, the tasting of the food.

















I'm slow to realize what I really like to do in life.

















I'm slow in my blog post. Since I started going back to work last April, I could hardly manage doing one post a month. Of course, partly it is due to my day job, but partly it is also due to my slowness in taking pictures, processing pictures, testing recipes, and composing the post.  But, I enjoy every minute of it. 









To all my readers and visitors, thank you for all your patience. 
I made this last weekend.
Hope you will like it!

Lemon and chocolate desserts are two types of desserts that I love dearly. Lemon cheesecake is especially light and refreshing. Well, 'light' in terms of its flavor and month feel. But it still a cheesecake. To cut down the calories, I made four small lemon cheesecakes. I put the other three in the freezer and will test out different toppings later. The original recipe is using the classic lemon curd as topping. But I wanted to use up some of the frozen blueberries that I still have from last season, so I made this sauce that compliment the lemony flavor impeccably. 


Recipe:  Individual Lemon Cheesecake  with Blueberry Sauce
Modified from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham & Alison Miksch
Make four 4" wide, 1" tall cheesecakes
Ingredients
Crust:
1     cup graham cracker crumbs       
4     Tbsp (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

Filling
2/3     cup sugar
2/3     Tbsp lemon zest
2        8 oz. package cream cheese,  room temperature
2/3     cup sour cream (better to use full fat ones)
1-1/2  Tbsp lemon juice
2        eggs

Blueberry sauce for 1 cheesecake
A handful of  fresh or frozen blueberries, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1       Tbsp sugar
2        tsp lemon juice
1       Tbsp or more water

Directions:
For the crust: 
  1. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.  
  2. Stir graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Mix well. Press crumb to the bottom of  four 4" wide non-stick spring form pans.  To get a cleaner edge, use the bottom of a small spoon to press the crumbs firmly together and clean up the edges.
  3. Bake the crust for 8 to 9 mins, or until the crust is set. Remove crust from oven and place it on the wire rack to cool.
For the filling:
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 325F.
  2. Boil a kettle of water to use as water bath for baking.
  3. Process the sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor until the sugar turns yellowish and the zest is finely ground.
  4. Using a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese in medium speed, until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar-lemon mixture gradually and continue beating until smooth.  Scarp down the side occasionally. Add the sour cream an lemon juice, beat until combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Don't over beat the batter after the eggs are in.
  5. Wrap each of the spring-form pans with foil to prevent water from the water bath to go in. Pour batter into spring-form pans and then put them in a small roasting pan or tray.  Put the pan in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until water reach halfway of the height of the spring form pans.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40mins, until the surface of the middle part of the cake is still jiggly and the surface of the cake loss the grossiness. Don't over bake.  The internal temperature of the cake should be around 160F to 165F.
  7. Take the cakes out from the oven and water bath and let them cool on the wire rack  When they are completely cool, remove the foil. Refrigerate them for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  8. Remove the ring of the spring-form pans. Serve it plain or with your favorite sauce or toppings.
For the blueberry sauce
  1. Heat sugar, blueberry and water together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and the sauce reaches a consistency you like, about 4 to 6 mins. Mix in the lemon juice off heat. Let it cool down before serving on top of the cheesecake.  Adjust the taste and consistency by varying the amount of sugar and water.
 All images ©Yogi Studio

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Spring Vegetable Soup and Whole Wheat Buns


    I'm here to summon spring to come as quickly as possible.  The cherry trees around my neighborhood should have been blooming outrageously by now.  But those pinkish fairies still haven't shown up yet. I am hoping that through cooking, I can make it look like spring is here.

    This vegetable soup is delightful and refreshing.  By taking a further step in making the broth first with some basic ingredients and herbs and then straining the broth, the sweetness of the vegetables infiltrate the broth thoroughly without the mushy vegetables messing up the clearness of the soup. After making the broth, you can freeze it for later use.  The time taking to make the soup is short, depending on the vegetables you use.

    Receipe: Spring Vegetable Soup
    Adapted and modified from Cook's Illustrated May 1, 2001 

    Ingredients:
    Broth
    1            medium carrot, minced
    1            rib celery, minced
    1-1/2     medium onions, minced
    1            medium leek, white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly and minced 
    3            cloves of garlic, unpeeled and crushed
    1            Tbsp of olive oil
    4            cups home made chicken broth*
    3            cups water*
    1/4         tsp whole black peppercorns, crushed
    1            bay leaf
    1            tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
    5            parsley with stems

    Soup
    1           rib celery, chopped
    1           medium carrots, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
    2           medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4" strips, rinsed thoroughly,         
    6          small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2" cubes
    1          medium head broccoli, cut into small florets
    2          cups baby spinach, if using regular spinach, remove the stems

    Directions:
    1. Broth:
      • Heat olive oil in stock pot over medium heat.  Add carrot, celery, onions, leek and garlic. Cover and cook vegetables, stir occasionally, until veggies are softened, about 5 to 7 mins. 
      • Add broth and water, black peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and parsley.  Turn up the heat and bring it to a boil and turn it back down to simmer. Simmer until the broth is flavorful, about 20 to 30 mins. 
      • Strain the broth, squeeze out juice from veggies and then discard the veggies.
    2. Soup
      • Bring broth to simmer over medium heat.  Add celery, carrots, leeks, potatoes. Simmer for 6 mins.  Add broccoli, simmer for another 3 mins or until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Stir in spinach.  Season with salt and pepper and serve. 
    *Kitchen note: 
    • The original recipe asks for store-bought chicken broth and 7 cups of the broth without water.  Since I was using home-made broth and I didn't like the chicken flavor to be too strong, I diluted it with water.
    • You can try cooking with other ingredients.  Such as putting some diced tomatoes in and replacing potatoes with mini pasta; adding green peas in is also a very nice touch.


      These whole wheat buns are soft and light in texture.  The original recipe is to make a loaf with raisin mixed in the dough and sugar sprinkle on top. The instruction below is simplified. If you are familiar with the no knead method of Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, same steps are taken in this recipe.  If you are not, please refer to my post on Light Whole Wheat Bread or their book for further details.

      Recipe: Milk and Honey Whole Wheat Buns
      Adapted from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day

      Ingredients:

      4-3/4     cups whole wheat flour
      4-1/2     cups unbleached all-purpose flour
      1-1/2     Tbsp yeast, or 2 packets
      1            Tbsp kosher salt
      1/4         cup vital wheat gluten
      2            cups milk
      2            cups lukewarm water
      1/3         cup honey
      2            large egg
      Extra milk for brushing the top

      Directions:
      1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in the standing mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Whisk the wet ingredients together.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once. Stir all ingredients together in the mixer until all combined. No kneading is necessary.  
      2. Put the dough into a 5 quart plastic container.  Cover with the lid ajar. Let it rest for 2 hours.
      3. Close the lid (not air tight) and put in the fridge. Dough can be used over the next 10 days.
      4. On baking day, cut up the dough and quickly shape it into ball shape with a wet hand. Each ball should be a size of a small orange. Put the dough on the baking sheet lied with parchment or silpat. Let the dough rest for an hour.
      5. 30 mins before baking time, preheat oven to 375F. Position tray into middle of the oven. Just before baking, brush to top of the dough with milk.  Bake the dough for 25 mins, or until internal temperature reaches 200 - 210F.
      6. Cool the buns before serving.




      Wednesday, March 23, 2011

      Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

      This year, March seems to be a slow and hard month to get by.  Winter does not want to leave.  It's still freezing cold in the morning outside. Sad news keep coming in the past week.  The haunting images and video clips of the disaster in Japan makes one wonder how unpredictable and vulnerable life is. No matter how advance the technology we have, when face with the force of mother nature, we are always the loser.  Losing your home, losing the loved ones, losing all your belongings...these are scary scenes.

      But, as time passed, the other side of the story emerged.  Life is vulnerable, but it is also resilient. The lost of all your belongings at the moment does not mean lost of your hope to the future.  When people are held together to face difficulties, there is hope.

      As the headlines gradually replaced by other world crisis, this may get forgotten very quickly.  I put this down in my blog post, to remind myself, that it is a blessing to have what I have right now, and that there are people all over the world who are experiencing extreme hardships due to all kind of natural or man-made disasters.  They need our continue support.

      Please donate to: Red Cross Canada, Shelterbox Canada, Doctors Without Borders
      (or other non-profit organizations of your choice at your own countries.  I put these few down here because I am more familiar with their works)


      Because of busy work schedule, I have not picked up my camera for a while. This weekend, I felt an urge to make use what I have to take some pictures.  So I tried out this recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  I made a few Moroccan style stew before but N did not seem to like it. He accused me of making "funky" stuff.  But this time, he finished his whole plate of food all at once and didn't even pick out the apricots which he usually considered as "funky". 




      I did make some changes to the recipe. As usual, I halved the recipe.  Instead of putting in green olives and dried apricots, I decided that almonds would add a nice crunchy texture to it and more appealing to N.  So, I paired almonds with apricots instead. I also skipped the mashed garlic which should be added with the lemon juice at the end. The good thing about this recipe is that, it does not need a traditional tagine.  According to Cooks, a heavy-lid Dutch oven is just as food to keep the moisture in during cooking. So, here is the modified recipe.


      Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds   
      Adapted from Cooks Illustrated January 8, 2007 
      Serves 3 to 4 

      Ingredients 
      2         medium size chicken breasts, boneless, 
      trim off excess fat
      3         medium size chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, 
      trim off excess fat
      1/4      cup all-purpose flour
      2 1/2   Tbsp olive oil
      1         large onions, halved and sliced 1/4" thick
      2         lemon zest strips (about 2" long)
      4         medium cloves garlic, minced
      1 1/4   tsp sweet paprika
      1/2      tsp ground cumin
      1/4      tsp ground ginger
      1/4      tsp ground cinnamon
      1/4      tsp ground coriander
      1/8      tsp ground cayenne pepper
      2         cup low-sodium chicken broth
      1         Tbsp honey
      3         medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
      1/2      cup dried apricots, chopped
      1/4       cup roasted almond, chopped
      2          Tbsp lemon juice (for serving)
      1/4       cup cilantro leaves, minced (for serving)
      salt & pepper

      Directions:
      1. Brown the chicken - Pat dry the chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off the excess. Brown the chicken in the pot on both sides, 6 to 8 mins.  Don't crowd the pot.  If too much chicken, brown it in two batches. Take the chicken out and put it aside.
      2. Brown the onion - Add 1 Tbsp oil to the pot and return to medium heat. Add onion, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, until the edges of the onion are browned, about 5 to 6 mins.  
      3. Add spices and broth - Stir in minced garlic, paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne, cook until fragrant, about 30 sec. Slowly whisk in broth and honey, scraping up brown bits.
      4. Return browned chicken thighs to the pot, bring it to simmer and cook for 4 mins.  Add carrots to the pot.  Then put the chicken breasts on top of the carrots. Return to a simmer, cover, and cook until thickest part of the breast register 160 degrees. about 10 to 12 mins.
      5. Make the sauce - Transfer all chicken to a plate and loosely covered with foil.  Stir in chopped apricots, return to a simmer, cook, uncovered, until liquid are slightly thickened and carrots are tender. about 4 mins. 
      6. Add back the chicken - Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. You can also keep the chicken in whole piece. Take out the lemon strips and stir in the shredded chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.
      7. To serve - Stir in lemon juice and let it sit off heat for 5 to 10 mins. Sprinkle cilantro and almonds on top of individual portion and serve with couscous.


      Sunday, February 6, 2011

      Spicy Wonton with Peanut Sauce


      The scent from the steaming of diakon cake, the oil sizzling sound of deep fried snacks, the preparation of the togetherness tray (a box of candies and snacks for greeting of guests), on the night of Chinese New Year eve, to prepare for the visiting of friends and relatives in the next few days, all works were done in the kitchen. Those were the time I loved to spend with my mom, watching her using all of her strength to shred the diakons, maneuvering in the tiny little kitchen tending several dishes at the same time. My mom does not like cooking that much, she treats it as a chore most of the time, but in time of needs, she can perform magic.



      I miss all the hussel and bussel of Chinese New Year.  In fact, this year, I almost forgot about what date Chinese New Year was on until I watched the evening news.  Being away from my hometown for too long and preoccupy with work make me stop caring about any festive days from far away. But on New Year Day, my parents called from my hometown. Loud noises of people filled up the other end of the line. My parents and all my uncles, anuts, cousins and their kids, were all together having a new year dinner banquet.  I got a chance to talk to relatives that I had not seen for ages.  At that moment, I truly felt that I was right there with them, celebrating the new year together.  This is what Chinese New Year is about: family, friends and food.

      To celebrate Chinese New Year, I made the spicy wontons.  Wontons are easy to make and everyone has their own way, using different ingredients to make it. Here I used both ground pork and shrimps because I like the texture of the pork and the sweetness of the shrimp together.   As for the aromatic ingredients, green onion is a must, sometimes I also use shitake mushroom and cilantro. This time, I added some dried scallops to increase the seafood flavor.  Peanut sauce is optional, but it does add another dimension to the wontons. N specially requested peanut sauce to come with his wontons. The recipe makes a lot of wontons. After I fold them into individual wontons, I put them on a tray and freeze them. Then I put them in the ziplog bag. So, I can have wontons to enjoy for a few weeks.

      Recipe:  Spicy Wonton with Peanut Sauce

      Ingredients for the fillings (make approximately 70 pieces):
      3/4       lb. lean ground pork
      5          water chestnuts, chopped
      1/4       cup bamboo shoot, diced
      2          small green onion, chopped
      1          tsp minced ginger
      1          Tbsp shredded dried scallop (whole dried scallop soaked in hot water for 10 mins until softened, then shredded by hand)
      8          oz. shrimp, peeled, chopped into bite size pieces (around 1/2")
       1          package of wonton wraps

      Seasoning for the pork
      1         tsp rice wine
      1-1/4   tsp salt
      1/2      tsp sesame oil
      1         tsp cornstarch
      a pinch of black pepper

      Seasoning for the shrimp
      1/2      tsp rice wine
      1/4      tsp salt
      1/2      tsp cornstarch

      Spicy sauce for one bowl of wonton (about 10 pieces) 
      1        Tbsp soy sauce
      1/4     tsp garlic
      1/4     vinegar
      a few drop of chili oil
      1        tsp oil

      Garnish
      1          green onion, chopped
      2          Tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped

      Directions
      1. Mix ground pork, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, green onion, ginger and dried scallop together. Add the seasoning. Set it asides.
      2. Mix shrimp and seasoning in another bowl.
      3. Folding the wontons: Take out a wonton wrapper, place a teaspoon of filling and a piece of chopped shrimp in the middle. Using your finger, put a thin film of water on the edge of  the wrapper.  Using your thumbs and index finger on both hands, bring the four corners of the wrapper together. Squeeze the wrapper to close the dumpling.
      4. Cooking one bowl of wonton (10 pcs):
        • Boil 2 cup of water and one cup of chicken broth in a saucepan.  Add 1 tsp of salt to the boiling water.
        • Mix the spicy sauce ingredients in a serving bowl
        • Add wontons to boiling water.  Keep them boiling for 3 to 4 minutes until wontons rise up to the surface.
        • Remove and drain the wonton with a slotted laddle. Put wontons into the bowl with spicy sauce.  Mix well with sauce.  Garnish with green onion and serve. If using peanut sauce, drizzle sauce and sprinkle peanuts on top and serve.

      Recipe:  Chinese Peanut Sauce
      1         Tbsp peanut butter
      1/2      Tbsp chicken broth
      1/2      Tbsp soy sauce
      1/2       tsp sugar
      1-2      Tbsp water

      Direction:
      Mix the all the ingredient together.  Whisk until smooth.  Add more water if you like a thinner consistency.







      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      Light Whole Wheat Bread


      Winter is well underway. Unlike the eastern part of the continent, cool air in the west coast was not accompanied by heavy snow but pouring rain lately. When a rare sunny afternoon appeared in the weekend, me and Yogi couldn't resist to go out. It was cold. But the cool air was surprisingly refreshing. It wiped away all the hussell and bussell during the holidays. The clear sky and earthy smell of the bare trees calmed my soul and redirected my senses to take notice of the brand new start of a year.

      So, what now?  Another year.  Do I have to come up with some resolutions again? Not this time. Just like to keep things simple. Only one goal in my mind: to spend my time in a meaningful way.  Cooking and photography mean a lot to me and I will try to do more of it. 

      I always want to learn more about bread making. During the holidays, I finally got some time to explore a little bit more on it. In my mind, making bread is time consuming and the outcome is not always satisfactory. I have seen the no-knead bread recipe popping up on the internet everywhere.  Jim Lahey's recipe on The New York Times being one of the earliest ones. The idea is so tempting.  Just mixing the ingredients without kneading and have the dough sit overnight. Then shape and rest the dough and bake and you have fresh bread to eat. When I kept looking on the internet, I found an even more convenient way of bread making. In Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg claimed that the dough they made can be refrigerated and each time you want to make fresh bread, you can just cut out a piece of dough to use.  That sounds fantastic but does it really work?  Although prove is everywhere on the internet, I remained skeptical. So, I bought a kindle version of the book to try out their recipes.


      For the past two weeks, I have made four batches of the dough with slight variation of the process. Each time I gained a little more knowledge on how to handle the very wet dough and how to shape the bread. I must say that, although you may not be able to achieve the very open crumb structure that you want or the shape and the slashes may not come out as what you expected, the taste of the bread is generally quite delicious and would not be inferior to any supermarket bread.  For that, in addition to the convenience, will keep me making these bread. It is an added bonus that book's website is very resourceful. There are tonnes of tips on bread shaping, Q&A to solve baking problems and recipes as well. The following is based on one of the basic dough recipes in the book. I have modified some of the procedures to suit myself .  To understand more about their approach of bread making, the ingredients and the techniques, please buy their book.

      Recipe: Light Whole Wheat Bread
      Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day 
      by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg

      Makes 4 1lb. loaves.  The recipe can be doubled or halved.

      Ingredients:
      3         cups lukewarm water (95F to 105F)           
      1-1/2  Tbsp yeast (2 packets)
      1-1/2  Tbsp Kosher salt (1 tsp regular table salt)*
      1         cup whole wheat flour
      5-1/2   cup unbleached all-purpose flour
      Whole wheat flour for the pizza peel*


      Directions:
      1. Attach dough hook attachment to standing mixer.*Mix the yeast, salt and water in the bowl of the mixer*. Add whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Turn on the mixer at low speed for 30 to 45 secs, or until the ingredients are well mixed. The purpose is just to mix the ingredients together. No kneading is necessary.  
      2. Transfer the dough into a 5-quart lidded (not airtight) container. Cover and let the dough rest for 2 hours in room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, or flattens on top.
      3. *Refrigerate the dough in the covered (not airtight) container overnight.  The dough can be kept in the fridge for the next 14 days.
      4. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off about 1 lb dough (about the size of a grapefruit). To shape the dough into a ball, stretch the surface of the dough an pull the dough to the underside. Turn the dough around and repeat the same stretch and pull process.  If the dough is to sticky, you can use a wet hand to handle the dough.  This process should take about 30 to 45 secs, the less time in handling the dough the better. Put the dough on the parchment paper and let it rest for an hour. Alternatively, dust the pizza peel with flour and rest the dough on the pizza peel.
      5. Twenty minutes before the baking time, put a pizza stone in the middle rack of the oven and a broiler tray at the bottom rack (or anywhere in the oven that does not interfere the rise of the dough).Heat up the oven to 450F.
      6. Just before baking, dust the surface of the dough with some flour and slash the top of the dough in cross, scallop or tictac-toe pattern using a serrated knife. Holding the parchment paper, put the dough onto the pizza stone. If using pizza peel, slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Carefully put 1 cup of hot water in the broiler tray.  Bake for 35 minutes until the bread is firm and deeply browned, or until it reaches 200F to 210F.  To have a crisper bottom, you can pull out the parchment paper 2/3 into the baking time.
      7. Let the bread cool down on the rack before slicing.
      *Kitchen notes:
      • The Kosher salt that I use seems to be quite salty.  So, usually I put in 1 Tbsp only. Please adjust the amount of salt to your own taste.
      • The whole wheat flour for the pizza peel is only required if you do not use parchment paper for resting the bread. I find it easier to move the dough around if I use parchment paper instead. 
      • You can also mix the ingredients by hand directly in the food container, as suggested by the original recipe. But I found it much easier to do it with a mixer.
      • Based on the original recipe, the dough can be used after the 2 hour rise.  But as this dough is very wet and sticky, it will be much easier to handle if it is refrigerated first.
      • Open crumb structure - The first few times I tried the recipe, the crumb came out a bit dense, but the bread was delicious. Although N liked the dense texture, I still wanted to see some bigger air pockets. So, the next time I made the bread, I put a little bit more water in ( 2 to 3 Tbsp more). The dough was very sticky and wet. I also minimized the dough shaping time. After it rested for an hour, the dough did not rise much and also spread out and flattened a little bit. However, when it was in the oven, the bread rose beautifully and the crumb structure turned out to be the best I ever had. 


      Winter to me is beautifully depressed. Hope you enjoy the rest 
      of the winter and have fun making bread!

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