Friday, October 29, 2010

Japanese Sweet Potato Bread

I haven't been updating my blog for the past 1 week. I was busy preparing for my Dutch test held at the university earlier this week and then I caught a cold and just as I thought the first cold or flu was gone, now I am suffering from a second bout of flu. I am sure that they belong to different strains, one more serious than the other, and I am also quite sure that I caught it from my son who got it from the creche. Honestly the creche is a hot bed of all viruses, I have lost count of how many times I have fallen victim to the viruses from the creche. The funniest thing is, His Majesty my son never seemed to suffer as badly as I did from any of these viruses or bacteria. Apart from a constant runny nose for the past 1 week, he didnt cough or show any signs of sluggishness. His immune system is definitely better than mine, thanks to the breastfeeding he had til he turned one! Now as I am writing, I am sniffing and coughing and the skin around my nose is all sore and peeled due to the persistent sneezing and rubbing. I should take a winter flu shot if it helps me to battle all these cold and flu attacks for the coming winter.

Anyway back to the bread I baked few days ago, it is called Japanese Sweet Potato Bread. No, the sweet potato I bought from Colruyt was not from Japan, I have no idea where it was imported from, it could well be a holland or belgian sweet potato. This is a sponge dough recipe from Alex Goh and the result is a soft, springy bread, that has a slightly sweet flavour. I was hoping that the flavour would be more intense, but alas, my sweet potato was not made in Japan, so it wasn't that sweet after all. But His Majesty finished 2 pieces of the bread when it came straight piping-hot from the oven. :)

Recipe adapted from Alex Goh's Baking Code

300g bread flour
35g sugar
3 g or 0.5 tsp salt
4.5g or 1.5 tsp instant yeast

60g overnight sponge dough
(*See below on how to make the overnight sponge dough)

145g cold water
30g eggs (half of an egg)

120g sweet potato, cooked and mashed with fork
30g butter

* How to make overnight sponge dough *
100g bread flour, 60g water at room temp, 1/4 tsp instant yeast.
(Mix the instant yeast with 20g water until well-blended. Add in the rest of the ingredients and knead to form a dough. Let it proof for 30 min. Wrap it up with clingwrap and keep in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours.)

1. Mix ingredients A until well-blended. Add in ingredients B and ingredients C, knead to form a dough.

2. Add in ingredients D, continue to knead to form a smooth and elastic dough.

3. Mould the dough round, place it in a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Place in a warm place to allow it to proof for 45 min.

4. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and mould it round. Place the 6 pieces of dough into a greased loaf tin. 

5. Let it proof for 50-60 min or until its size doubles.

6. Bake at 180C for 25 min.

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apple Yoghurt Cake

I baked this cake last sunday as I had a packet of yoghurt which was gonna expire soon and half a dozen of apples still sitting in my fridge. This recipe was courtesy of my cousin HC. Since she marked a star beside this recipe which she had painstakingly written down (together with a few others) in a little notepad for me when I visited her last CNY, I had to try out the recipe no matter what. It was really a good recipe, I reduced the ingredients by half and baked it in my smallest baking pan, a 7-inch heart shaped baking pan.  

Recipe courtesy of my cousin HC.

250g butter
230g sugar

5 eggs

120ml yoghurt

350g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

3 apples, peeled and cut into cubes
50g sultanas or raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1. Cream A until light and fluffy.

2. Add B and cream until smooth and light.

3. A little at a time, add C and D alternately and mix until well blended.

4. Boil apple cubes until soft then add the sultanas/raisins and cinnamon powder and mix evenly. Add E into the above batter. Mix until well incorporated.

5. Pour batter into a greased and lined 9 inch cake mould. 

6. Bake at 175C for 60min and test with a skewer. It is ready when the skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool. Set aside and serve.

Note: If the butter is too soft, it will not cream properly. The eggs should be added slowly. To make the cake more appetizing, arrange some apple slices on the top of the batter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Strike Strike Strike

This week has been a week full of strikes. Not just in France but over here in Belgium as well. The people in France, especially the union folks were protesting over the government's attempt to raise the legal pension age to 62, they have boycotted the gasoline stations such that petrol and diesel have practically run dry all over the country, and French people are flocking to nearby Belgium to top up their tanks. Those not living near the border with Belgium, Germany or Switzerland practically could't get to work cos there was no petrol in their cars to even drive hundreds of kilometers to the neighbouring countries just to top up their tanks. I heard from the belgian news that even the Brussels airport was also experiencing a shortage of fuel as planes had to top up their fuel there instead of at the Paris CDG airport. Actually I don't understand what is the big deal, why the French raised such a hooha when the current official pension age in Belgium, Germany and Netherlands has already been set to 65 for many years. Netherlands even wants to raise it up to 67, I am sure whether this has been approved or not.

When I saw the images of the French protesters torching cars on the streets, I remembered the time when we were in France just 2 months ago. We had sent an email to a B&B owner in Paris asking if he had a private garage for us to park our car, out of concern of our car being the target of theft or arson. In fact my hubby was very paranoid about that and insisted on sending an email to the B&B owner, voicing his concern that our car might be broken into or burnt down by arsonists on the streets of Paris, if our car wasn't parked in a private garage. Well the B&B owner was not at all amused, he replied curtly in French that incidents of cars being set on fire were still relatively unheard of in Paris. Now the strike this week has shown otherwise.

In Belgium, things were also not looking good earlier this week. On Monday (18 Oct), the railway workers (from the socialist union) decided that they should also go on strike like the French and so they did. All train services came to a standstill all over the country, particularly in the capital Brussels. Those who used to commute daily to Brussels by train, had to take the car, and as a result there was a humongous traffic jam all over the country, up to 300km long. It was said to have cost Belgium over 10 million euro of lost productivity. 

Talk about productivity. Belgian politicians have been busy negotiating among themselves since the elections in June, but after rounds and rounds of negotiations, the Flemish and the Walloons still cannot come to an agreement on how to form a parliament with 7 different parties. King Albert has to step in a few times to mediate, first he appointed Elio Di Rupo (head of the Walloon socialist party who won the majority votes in the French-speaking Wallonia region) to lead the negotiations, when that failed, he asked Bart De Wever (head of the Flemish NVA party who won the majority votes in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region) to try to break the deadlock. Of course whatever conditions that Bart De Wever set on the negotiating table were quickly brushed aside by the Walloon socialists as being outrageous, the crux of the matter lies in the fact the Flemish people wanting more fiscal autonomy and less fiscal dependence from Brussels and Wallonia. Of course there are also other things at stake, such as the hot potato Brussels and the electoral boundary of B-H-V (Brussels Halle-Vilvoorde).

This little country has been ruled in a dysfunctional manner for decades, with 6 regional parliaments and 1 federal parliament. As a result of endless compromises between the north and the south, it has one of the most complicated parliament structures in the world, where everything is organised along the lines of language and region, that is why there are 7 parliaments in this country. And now, god knows what the outcome will be, since the tensions between the north and south are so high that they are even talking about splitting the country or creating a confederation state, whatever that means. :S

While other countries such as UK and France are talking about cutting back on national spending and pension reform, Belgium is still struggling internally on how to iron out the conflicts between the 7 parties to form a new government. I think the person likely to have the last laugh will be the current outgoing Prime Minister Yves Leterme. As long as a new government is not formed, he doesn't have to worry about losing his job. Who knows it may take another few months or maybe another 1 year before they come to an agreement?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Golden Crown Raisin Bread

This is a recipe taken from the other Alex Goh book which I have, called Baking Code. This book focuses more on baking continental cakes, cheese cakes and plain cakes, but there is also a small section each on cookies, pastries and breads. I think "Baking Code" was published in May 2008, just a year before  "Magic Bread" was published in July 2009, hence there was no mentioning of the gelatinized dough starter method. Instead most of the breads in this book used the overnight sponge dough starter method.

Regardless of whether it is the gelatinized dough or the overnight sponge dough method, Alex Goh's bread recipes have been a constant source of inspiration for my bread baking experiments at home. I find his recipes clear and easy to follow, and I am glad that I have his books with me in Belgium, as his books are definitely a good investment for my little kitchen. :)

Recipe adapted from Alex Goh's Baking Code

400g bread flour
100g plain flour
20g milk powder
65g sugar
6g salt
10g instant yeast

100g overnight sponge dough *

2 cold eggs
180g cold water

90g butter

200g raisins

* How to make overnight sponge dough
100g bread flour, 60g water at room temp, 1/4 tsp instant yeast.
(Mix the instant yeast with 20g water until well-blended. Add in the rest of the ingredients and knead to form a dough. Let it proof for 30 min. Wrap it up with clingwrap and keep in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours.)

1 Mix ingredients A until well-blended. Add in ingredients B and C, mix to form a dough. (The overnight sponge dough should be cut into smaller pieces before adding.)

2. Add in ingredients D, mix to form a smooth and elastic dough. (Check out the steps here to see if the dough has achieved the right consistency.)

3. Mix in ingredients E, mix until well-blended. (Note that you have to soak the raisins in a bowl of water for a few min, drain off the water, and dry the raisins before use. This will make the bread taste soft and moist.)

4. Cover with a greased clingwrap. Allow to proof for 50 min in a warm enclosed place, for eg an unheated oven with a bowl of boiling water inside.

5. Divide into 100g each. Mound it round. Place 8 pieces of dough round the side of a greased 20 cm round baking pan. Allow to proof for 50 min, again covered with greased clingwrap and put in a warm place. (The dough weighed about 1300g, and I divided it into 13 pieces of 100g each. I placed 8 pieces into a 20 cm round baking pan, and the remaining 5 pieces in a small loaf pan.)

6. Egg wash the surface and bake at 180C for 20 min.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sesami Buns

I made these buns yesterday, using Alex Goh's sweet bread dough recipe (see here for step-by-step instructions). Just prepare the sweet bread dough, divide the dough into pieces of about 80g each, mould them round and let them rest for 10 min. After 10 min, flatten each and roll it into swiss roll, and further proof for 45-60 min. Finally apply egg wash and sprinkle with some sesami seeds or sunflower seeds, and bake them at 180C for 12-15 min.

The sweet bread dough is quite easy once you get the hang of it, you can do many different buns with it, it is quite versatile and tastes good with or without fillings. The buns were spaced quite far apart but they had risen so much that I ended up having not enough space on the baking pan, so I just left them alone, stuck to each other. I baked these sesami buns with nothing but just egg wash and black and white sesami seeds on top (there were 2 with sunflower seeds also), and they taste really good. :p

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sweet Potato Huat Kueh (Sweet Potato Fa Gao 番薯发糕) - Huat Ah!

I have been pretty busy lately with my studies, that explains why I have not been posting so diligently as before. I can only blog either mid-week or during the weekend. But this afternoon, I felt so over the moon after my first successful attempt at making my Sweet Potato Fa Gao (Sweet Potato Huat Kueh 番薯发糕) that I absolutely must blog about it.

Chinese New Year is not here yet, but I am already making Fa Gao? Well, yes, bcos I just bought a 3-tier steamer or kwali from Antwerp Chinatown on Monday, and the first thing that sprung to my mind was making Fa Gao (also known as Huat Kueh, Huat Kuih or Fatt Koh, loosely translated to Steamed Prosperity Cake). This chinese steamed cake is a must for Hokkiens especially during Chinese New Year. The word “发” in Chinese or "huat" in Hokkien means prosperity. If the Fa Gao or Huat Kueh or Prosperity Cake splits on top and breaks into a smile, it means prosperity and good luck will come your way, hence it is a tradition for many chinese families especially those in Singapore and Malaysia to make this cake as offerings to the gods or for their own consumption during Chinese New Year. I remember my mum used to buy Fa Gao/Huat Kueh from the market to serve as offerings to the kitchen god.

But alas, today wasn't really my day for making any cakes or breads. I made 2 boo-boos while steaming Fa Gao. While the instructions clearly stated that I should first mix the wet ingredients together with the sugar in a mixer before folding in the dry ingredients by hand, I seemed to be in a trance of my own and I just dumped everything in a bowl and mixed everything together. Before I realised what was happening, it was already too late. The mashed sweet potato, egg, coconut milk, water and brown sugar were already mingled with the flour and baking powder. I had to manually incorporate and fold in everything using a spatula, and take care that I don't overmix although it is a prerequisite that the wet ingredients have to be well-mixed before folding in the dry ingredients.

Then, I quickly greased the coffee cups and carefully poured the batter into each. Before I placed them into the steamer, I saw something from the corner of my eyes. A bowl of dough sitting on the heater by the kitchen window. Oh shit! $%#@*&! I forgot to incorporate the dough starter in my Fa Gao. Arrrrgggghhhhh!!! It was really plain stupidity! I had to quickly pour out the batter from the cups back into the mixing bowl, mix in the dough starter, and pour the batter back into the cups again. By then, my steamer was already "boom boom boom", steaming with anger (like me). 

Before I put the cups in the steamer, I quickly said my prayers. 阿弥陀佛。Amen. God bless my huat kuehs. Ok, there you go, "huat ah"! 发发发! Please don't disappoint me again. My brother's eyelids must have been twitching for the past one hour, bcos I kept mentioning his name. Huat ah! :P

After 25 minutes, I opened the steamer and all the sweet potato huat kuehs were "smiling" at me. Out of 5, only 1 didn't manage to split on top and smile, the rest were all smiling gleefully. At least that was what I thought. You can see for yourself here. :P

I am so happy! Ik ben zo blij! I succeeded at my first attempt even though I made 2 horrible mistakes which nearly turned this into a disaster. I really have to thank my cousin HC again for her fail-proof recipe, considering that I nearly messed up the whole thing and yet the sweet potato huat kuehs turned out surprisingly well. Maybe my prayers were heard by whoever was up there? :)

The one at the top left hand corner did not FA or HUAT.
Only this naughty fella didn't split and "smile" at me, the rest all did :)

Here is the recipe, courtesy of my cousin. I think she got it from one of Alex Goh's books.

Recipe for Sweet Potato Huat Kueh/Fa Gao/Fatt Koh (番薯发糕)

Dough Starter
50g sifted plain flour
50g water
1 tsp dry yeast

200g sifted plain flour
2 tsp double action baking powder
200g sweet potatoes, peeled, cut, steamed and mashed with fork
120ml coconut milk
40ml water
120g brown sugar (reduced from 140g) 
1 egg

1. Dough Starter : Mix all starter ingredients in a bowl and set aside to proof for 30 min.

2. Batter
a) Sift the dry ingredients (plain flour and double action baking powder) in a bowl. 
b) Put mashed sweet potatoes, coconut milk, water, brown sugar, and eggs in mixer and mix well. 
c) Remove from mixer, fold in the dry ingredients and dough starter using a spatula until well-blended. Do not over-mix else the huat kueh will become dense.

3. Line the aluminium cups with paper liners and pour batter into cups til 90% full and set aside for 15 min to proof. (I used porcelain teacups and I omitted the paper liners as they were not big enough. I greased my teacups and filled them till 80% full, around 4 tbsp batter per cup, and made 5 teacups of batter with this recipe. My teacup has a 8cm diameter on top, 4cm diameter at the bottom and a 7cm height. It is recommended to use a tall and wide teacup to increase the chances of splitting on top. If you really want the Fa Gao to split and smile without relying on luck, you can use a greased knife to make the sign of a cross on top of the batter. I didn't do that but you can try!)

4. Meanwhile, prepare a steamer and let the water come to boil over high heat. When the steamer is ready, put the cups into the steamer and steam over high heat for 15 min. (Note that the steamer must be really hot in order for the huat kueh to split and smile on top. If you use bigger cups like me, you have to steam longer, for eg. 25-30 min instead of 15 min. Do not peep before the time is up and do not put any cup right in the centre of the steamer where the steaming hole is the biggest. That is also the place where usually water will drip down when you open the steamer.)

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pandan Yoghurt Muffins

I have been eyeing this recipe for a long time. I saw this at Jane's blog and also at LCOM's blog. The recipe seems to have been floating around the blogosphere for a long time and has been receiving raving reviews, so I tried it yesterday. It was really good. muffins didn't turn green. Well, I used pandan flavour essence instead of pandan paste, and it did not impart the greenish colour. Also the pandan flavour wasn't too strong either. I would say it was a blessing in disguise otherwise my hubby would refuse to chomp down anything that is greenish. I made 12 muffins with this recipe, it was officially my first time making muffins with my muffin pan and I was glad that it turned well for me. Hubby and BB helped finished all of them within an hour. :)

Original recipe adapted from Jane's Corner and Little Corner of Mine

Note: I used reduced amount of sugar (3/4 cup), and I only used a spatula to quickly mix the batter. General rule is to mix the batter within 12 strokes and do not mix the batter while filling up the muffin cups.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fried Honey Lemon Salmon

Two weeks ago, we invited a group of close friends to our house for dinner and a card game. Since I was supposed to cook for our guests, I quickly flipped through my recipe books and was thinking of cooking a signature chinese dish such as curry chicken or braised pork to impress the guests. However one of our guests has a food allergy. She can only eat fresh food which does not contain any preservatives. That literally means no frozen meat, the meat has to be fresh from the butcher, vegetables must be absolutely fresh and no vacuum-packed salads. Even the herbs have to be fresh and cannot come out of a bottle. At first I thought it shouldn't be a problem since we could get fresh meat and fresh vegetables easily and we could gather some fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme from our garden. But when I looked through my recipes, it occurred to me that I was so ingrained in using traditional chinese cooking sauces such as soya sauce, sesami oil, rice wine etc that none of my recipes were in fact free of preservatives. I didn't realise how unhealthy I had been cooking for my family. It came as a shock to me that we, or rather I, consume so many preservatives in my daily life. Even for my favourite vegetables soups such as cream of tomato soup or flemish carrot soup which I thought were very healthy, they were usually made of a bouillon soup base and the bouillon cubes are of course a no-no to my dear guest. So eventually I settled for "Pan Grilled Rosemary Chicken Chop". We discussed the dish with our guest on the phone and got her in-principle approval. The only thing was I had to wait for the special soya sauce and honey which my guest had to bring along. In the end, everything was a success and all of the guests enjoyed the dish, and I learnt something valuable about cooking, cooking with natural ingredients.

This brings me to the dish that I cooked this evening. It is similar to the rosemary chicken in the sense that almost all the ingredients are natural. You can replace the honey and soya sauce with the healthier, organic version from organic stores. This dish is dedicated to our dear friend, I hope she is able to prepare this dish and enjoy it without having any worries about food allergies.

Recipe adapted from The Chinese Pregnancy & Confinement Cookbook by Ng Siong Mui

300g salmon
2 slices old ginger, shredded finely
1 red chilli, deseeded and shredded finely
1 tbsp oil
some spring onion, shredded finely - for garnishing
some coriander leaves, shredded finely - for garnishing

Marinade for Salmon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp light soya sauce
juice extraced from 1/2 a lemon (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp honey

salmon seasoning
50 ml (1/4 cup) water
2 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp honey

1. Scale salmon, wash and pat dry with kitchen towel. Marinade with seasoning for 10 min.

2. Heat a wok til smoky. Add 1 tbsp oil and when wok is smoking, add ginger and fry til fragrant.

3. Add marinated salmon, retaining the seasoning for the sauce, and pan-fry over medium-low flame for 5 min on each side or until golden brown. Dish up the salmon and set aside.

4. In the wok, bring sauce ingredients to a boil. Add chilli and stir briskly for 1 min.

5. Pour sauce over cooked salmon. (Optional) Garnish with spring onions and coriander leaves. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Orange Marmalade Loaf

I made this today after seeing the ingredients on Plumleaf's blog. She was so kind as to publish the ingredients on her blog even before her baking starts so that both of us can bake in tandem during the weekend. After the successful baking of the plain white loaf and earl grey milk tea loaf last Friday, thanks to Plumleaf, this time she will share her recipe on orange chocolate chip loaf while I will bake an orange loaf (but without the chocolate chips) based on her recipe, I call it the orange marmalade loaf. :)

Even though my little philips went on strike this morning (quite common for belgian workers to go on strike by the way ;p), I still managed to get the dough working using my bare hands, phew! As usual my little one, His Majesty, wanted to have a share of everything, so he was the first to try my orange marmalade loaf, see how quick he was at snatching the first piece of bread here :)

He sure knew how to pick the best, the crust!

Can you see how the little specks of grated orange zest and how fine the texture is? It is very soft like cotton and springy to the touch. You can definitely taste the orange marmalade inside. :)

[Updated on 5 Oct 10] As promised, here is the recipe I adapted from Plumleaf (see her original recipe here).  The steps are about the same as my previous post on earl grey milk tea loaf and white loaf, except that I halved the quantity such that it is enough for making only 1 loaf.

Step 1 : Prepare the preferment dough half a day or one day in advance, preferably 17 hours ahead. Dissolve the yeast in water. Add bread flour, sea salt, skim milk powder and knead until soft. Cover the dough in cling wrap. Refrigerate to let it prove for 17 hours. (I only let it prove for 12 hours)

Preferment Dough
bread flour  (70%)  231g, 
water  (40%)  132g, 
fresh yeast  (2%)  7g, or instant yeast 2.5g (0.82 tsp)
sea salt  (1%)  3g or 0.75 tsp 
skim milk powder  (2%)  7g

Step 2 : Prepare the ingredients for the orange marmalade loaf.
Dough for Orange Marmalade Loaf
bread flour  (30%)  100g, 
skim milk powder  (3%)  10g, 
sea salt  (1%)  3g, 
sugar  (10%)  33g, 
water  (2%)  6g or 1 tbsp, 
egg  (6%)  20g, 
orange marmalade  (24%)  80g, 
fresh yeast  (1%)  3g, or instant yeast 1g (0.35 tsp)
unsalted butter  (8%)  26g, 
grated zest of 1 orange, about 10g

Step 3 : Cut the preferment dough into small pieces.

Step 4 : Knead all ingredients of dough together, including the orange marmalade and grated zest (but except the butter). Add preferment dough piece by piece.  Knead after each addition until soft and smooth. Add butter.  Knead until stretchable consistency. Put the dough into a big bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let it prove for about 25-30 minutes. 

(In addition to the 6g water added which is about 1 tbsp, I added an additional 1 tbsp water as I found the dough a bit dry. As compared to the plain white loaf which I baked last Friday, I found the dough of this orange marmalade loaf much easier to knead by hand, it wasn't so wet and sticky due to the orange marmalade and the grated zest. I let it prove for about 1 hour.)

Step 5 : Divide the dough into six small equal portions. Flatten each portion with your hands to drive the air out. Flatten the dough into a rectangle shape with the heel of your hand, and then starting at the top, roll the short end up tightly on itself like a swiss-roll, then cover with cling wrap. Set aside to rest for about 20 minutes, or until doubled in volume. (I let it prove for about 20 min)

Step 6 : Flatten each piece of dough with your hands to drive the air out. Roll each out into a rectangular sheet with a rolling pin. Fold about 2cm from both sides towards the centre and roll it out again.  Roll the dough up (the width should be the same as the loaf tin) and put them into the mould.  Cover with cling wrap.

Step 7 : Let it prove for about 40-45 minutes or until the dough has risen to 80% of the depth of the loaf tin. Close the lid. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170-180 deg C for about 30-35 minutes. (I let it prove for 1 hour and baked it in the lower half of the oven at 180C for 35 minutes. The loaf measured about 720g just before popping into the oven and it was baked in a 30x15x10 cm loaf tin without lid.)

Once again, thanks to Plumleaf for her recipe!

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

R.I.P. My Cake Mixer

My Philips cake-mixer broke down this morning in the middle of kneading dough. Luckily it had already kneaded to such a consistency that I could carry on with hand-kneading without the dough sticking all over my fingers. My poor cake-mixer must have worked itself too hard spinning breads since I caught the bread fever recently. I thought so too. It had served me well for the past 2 years since I moved to Belgium. In the beginning, its primary duty was to churn out cakes which unfortunately failed the QA test and went straight to my chickens' tea-party. Then after a while, after it had proved its mantle, it was given heavier responsibility such as baking simple fail-proof cakes as I slowly honed my baking skills. Just as I thought I could give it more challenges such as baking bread every sunday, it died without giving me any forewarning. Cardio Respiratory Resuscitation (CPR) didn't help, it just refused to budge and move its blades. 

Well, maybe it is time for some Christmas presents although it is not Christmas yet. Ok, Halloween presents then. First on the list, I would like to get a stand-alone heavy-duty cake-mixer. I am not even dreaming of a Kitchen-Aid, just a sturdy stand-alone cake-mixer will do, such as Kenwood. This will release me from the mundane and tedious task of standing and holding the cake-mixer while His Majesty happily runs around ransacking the kitchen and putting all kinds of weird things into the microwave. Next on the list is a bread machine. Oh yes, please take all the joy and also all the sore muscles from kneading bread from me. Hours of standing and kneading with the cake-mixer as well as with my bare hands had given me sore shoulders. The bread machine should help me do the job, I still have cooking and cleaning tasks to do, and also the unadmirable duty of disciplining and watching over the naughty one.

Now, which brand of cake-mixer and bread machine should I buy? Anybody kind enough to give me some suggestions?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Another 2 Good Breads - Earl Grey Milk Tea Loaf and White Loaf

Yesterday morning I woke up and found no bread left for me, all my butter sugar buns from the day before were gone. 

Me: "what happened to my buns?"

Hubby: "I only ate three."

Me: "No, I asked you did you finish them all?"

Hubby: "You had a lot yesterday, didn't you?"

Me: "I made 13, grandpa and BB had 4 during lunch and you ate 2 before dinner, and there were 3 left for this morning. So I must have eaten 4. But that's not the point. The point is why didn't you leave any for me today."

Hubby: " were sleeping, I didn't wanna wake you up..."

Me: "Oh, you are so sweet, you didn't wanna wake me up, and you finished all my buns!" 

I was quite angry that I didn't get to eat my butter sugar buns yesterday morning, I wanted to taste if they were still fresh after a day. But then I thought, hey if they weren't good, he wouldn't have finished them all, right? I still remembered a year ago, when I baked my first bread, everybody was so polite that the bread was left untouched and in the end I threw a little teaparty for my chickens. They were my best supporters, they still are. I was so upset by that failure that I stayed off baking bread for almost a year and now my buns were snapped up like nobody's business. Strange how things turn out!

Anyway, so much bitching about having nothing to eat in the morning. It always happens, cos THE MAN has to go to work, and THE MAN has to bring bread to work. It doesn't matter if THE WIFE has nothing to eat. Or the BB has nothing to eat. They will fend for themselves somehow, cos the breadwinner gets to eat all the bread, whereas the dependants can count themselves lucky if they have breadcrumbs to eat. LOL.

Hubby told me I baked too much bread when I baked my first sandwich loaf last week. Yesterday afternoon I baked another 2 loaves again, Earl Grey Milk Tea Loaf and a Plain White Loaf. Hubby said "you baked so much bread again, how are we gonna finish it?" I replied "It's better than baking too little and end up I have nothing to eat in the morning, right?"

Then this morning, hubby woke me up early in the morning, and said "Hey hurry up, please wake up, you need to slice the breads for me." I said "Can't you slice it yourself?" "You promised to slice it for me, quick I am running late for work!"

Ok Ok, I baked the breads and either I end up having no breads left for myself or I have to wake up just to slice the bread for my bread-winner.

Now back to my 2 precious sandwich loaves. I found a very good recipe in Plumleaf's blog. Intrigued by how beautiful her earl grey milk tea loaf had turned out, I decided to take up the challenge and made one myself. Then I realised that actually her preferment dough can make 2 loaves, all the more better, since I can try out her earl grey milk tea loaf and white loaf recipe at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone. 一石二鸟,一箭双雕,一举两得。

Hoho. The preferment dough calls for making the dough starter 17 hours ahead of time. This must be something similar to my "really good sandwich loaf" which only requires a 12 hour dough starter. So I prepared the preferment dough on Wednesday 11am and I started only at 4pm on Thursday, so it was more than 24 hours. Strange that the bread recipes that I came across recently all involve preparing the dough either 12 hours or 17 hours in advance. Anyway, for first-timers, it is always good to follow the recipe exactly, then once you are more confident with the recipe, you can cut short the proofing time as you wish.

So here is how it goes:

Step 1 : Prepare the Preferment Dough half a day or one day in advance. I forgot to measure the weight of the preferment dough but it was enough to make 2 loaf breads according to Plumleaf. So I divided them into 2 equal portions, one half for making white loaf (WL) and the other half for making earl grey milk tea loaf (EGMTL). Before I baked the two loaves, I measured each one of them, the  WL weighed about 800g whereas the EGMTL weighed about 700g.

Preferment Dough (for making 2 loaves)
Bread flour 464g, water 265g, sea salt 7g, skim milk powder 13g, fresh yeast 13g.

Dissolve the yeast in water. Add bread flour, sea salt, skim milk powder and knead until soft. Cover the dough in cling wrap. Refrigerate to let it prove for 17 hours. If you wish to make just 1 loaf, simply half the quantity of the preferment dough.

Step 2 : Prepare the ingredients for white loaf (WL) and earl grey milk tea loaf (EGMTL). To summarise, for both breads you need bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast and butter. The only difference is of cos in the quantity of each, and the fact that the EGMTL has a couple more ingredients such as milk powder, eggs (which I omitted), milk tea concentrate and ground earl grey tea leaves.

Here is the breakdown of ingredients in case anybody gets confused.

Dough for White Loaf (WL)

Bread flour 100g, sea salt 3g, sugar 35g, 100g water, 1.5g fresh yeast, 30g unsalted butter

Dough for Earl Grey Milk Tea Loaf (EGMTL)

Bread flour 100g, skim milk powder 13g, sea salt 3g, sugar 40g, egg 40g, 80g milk tea concentrate, 3g fresh yeast, 30g unsalted butter, 6g ground earl grey tea leaves.

Note that the WL has 100g water added to it instead of 80g milk tea, but I found the dough so wet and sticky, that I ended up adding 6 more tbsp flour (150g) during kneading. The EGMTL fared better during kneading, it was not so wet and sticky and I only had to add 3 more tbsp flour (75g) for flouring and kneading. Maybe I would reduce the amount of water for the WL the next time, but then again I was very satisfied with the texture of the WL, it was very soft and moist and just like cotton, far superior than those bought from the bakery.

To prepare the milk tea concentrate for the EGMTL, you can do as Plumleaf suggested, pour about 130ml of milk and warm it up (I used microwave) and throw in 7 earl grey teabags, let it brew for 15 min or so. After that, measure 80g of the milk to be used for the EGMTL. If you use 80g milk tea concentrate, then you can omit the 40g eggs. If you use 40g eggs, then cut down the milk tea concentrate from 80g to 40g. In total, it should add up to 80g liquid for  the EGMTL whether you are using eggs or not. 

To obtain the ground tea leaves, I just cut a hole in each teabag (7 teabags in total) and pour the tea leaves into the other dry ingredients for the EGMTL.

From here onwards, you can refer to Plumleaf's step by step instructions, there are pictures attached to each step and the steps are very detailed and self-explanatory. The picture of her earl grey milk tea loaf simply puts mine to shame, I could never achieve such a nice and tall bread like hers. For simplicity and easy reference, I am just gonna reproduce the following steps and share my experiences with making the 2 loaves. But all credit for making the 2 loaves should go to my dear Plumleaf from whom I owed this fantastic recipe :) 

Step 3 : Cut the preferment dough into small pieces.

Step 4 : Knead all ingredients of dough together (except the butter). Add preferment dough piece by piece.  Knead after each addition until soft and smooth. Add butter.  Knead until stretchable consistency. Put the dough into a big bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let it prove for about 25-30 minutes. 

(The steps are about the same for making both loaves: you add all the dry ingredients, and then you add water for WL, whereas for EGMTL you add milk tea concentrate plus ground tea leaves, then you add the preferment dough followed by butter. I proved the dough for 1 hour bcos my dough was slow to rise as a result of a miscalculation of quantity of instant dried yeast which I used instead of fresh yeast, and cold room temperature)

Step 5 : Divide the dough into six small equal portions. Flatten each portion with your hands to drive the air out. Hand square it and cover with cling wrap. Set aside to rest for about 20 minutes. (Again here I let it rest for about 40 min due to the same reason)

Step 6 : Flatten each piece of dough with your hands to drive the air out. Roll each out into a rectangular sheet with a rolling pin. Fold about 2cm from both sides towards the centre and roll it out again.  Roll the dough up (the width should be the same as the loaf tin) and put them into the mould.  Cover with cling wrap.

Step 7 : Let it to prove for about 40-45 minutes or until the dough has risen to 80% of the depth of the loaf tin. Close the lid. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170-180 deg C for about 30-35 minutes. (I baked in the lower half of the oven at 180C for 35 minutes)

Here are pictures of my white loaf, baked in a 30x15x10cm loaf tin. :)

Here are pictures of my earl grey milk tea loaf, baked in a 30x10x7 cm loaf tin. :)

My 2 loaves didn't rise as beautifully as Plumleaf's loaves due to my instant yeast, I miscalculated and added too little. You should check out her pictures, they look simply awesome. 

Nevertheless, I really enjoy eating these 2 loaves. I hope you enjoy baking and eating them as much as I do, and thanks to Plumleaf for her fantastic recipes!

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

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