Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Corned Beef Bun

My Buns repertoire is growing and it is just so fun to take one good bread dough and make different types of buns from it. I have grown up with canned corned beef, which I know for sure is not a very healthy option as with SPAM luncheon meat but they taste so good that it is very hard to give up even if I am on a diet and sodium watch.

Same recipe as with all the previous buns, I just made up the bread dough but reduced the sugar to 2 tablespoon and only let the dough rest and rise once and divided them into 12 equal sized balls thereafter and stuffed the corned beef filling into them. I find that as I continue to make more of this dough, I don't really need to let the dough rest and rise 2 times as previously stated. The feel of this bread dough is very supple, like a deflated  balloon feel. That is when I know the bread dough is ready to be filled and baked.

Recipe :

Ingredients :
Buns :                                                         Filling :
3 cups Bread flour                                     12 oz/300g canned corned beef
2 tbsp sugar                                                1 tbsp chopped scallion
1 tbsp yeast                                                1 tbsp grated cheese
1 large egg
2 tbsp softened butter
2/3 cups warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
Method :

1. Mix the bread flour, yeast & sugar in a large mixing bowl.
2. Pour in the warm milk and warm water and stir to combine.
3. Beat the egg lightly and pour into the flour and water mixture. Using hands, start kneading the dough inside the bowl to combine the ingredients.
4. Lastly, pour in the softened butter and continue to knead with hands or mixer. Sprinkle some bread flour into the mixture as you go along till you obtain a smooth dough but not dry.
5. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rise and rest for 1 hour, cover the bowl with cling film.
6. Take out the dough and knead for 1 minute. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls.
7. Take 1 dough ball and roll it out to a circle measuring about 4 inches in diameter. Place 2 tbsp of the corned beef filling onto the middle of the circle, gather up the edges to enclose and pinch.
8. Turn the smooth side up facing you and using both palms, cup the bun and slowly turn it anti-clockwise to firm the sides and make it rounder. Place the bun into an aluminum cupcake liner and place on large baking pan. Continue with the rest of the dough balls and filling.
9. Let the buns rest for another 30 mins. Preheat oven to 400F.
10. Using a kitchen shears, snip a small cross on the top of each bun, sprinkle and fill the cavity with some grated cheese and chopped scallions. Bake for 15 to 17 mins.
11. Remove and serve warm.

Makes : 12 buns

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chocolate Ganache Filled Meringue Kisses

I don't usually take sweet stuffs and will always try to reduce the amount of sugar in all my cooking and baking. But something about meringue cookies that evokes my sweet sense and I felt like making this dessert cookie this weekend. On top of that, I was planning to pack some baked goods for my Easter celebrating friends and that was really a good excuse to do this recipe as one recipe yields alot of cookies and I must spread the calories around!    

I adapted a Pavlova recipe from the Saveur magazine as I find it very different from all the other recipes I have seen in cookbooks. There were cornstarch and vinegar added to the beaten egg whites besides the main ingredients of egg whites and sugar only. Both these additional ingredients were said to stabilize the egg whites and increase the lightness of the meringue. Which I found was very true. The texture of these cookies were crisp on the outside and billowy soft in the inside and I think it is fair to say this meringue cookies is so much easier to make compared to the macaron, which basically comprised of the same ingredients of egg white and sugar.
The recipe called for 2-1/2 cups sugar added into 6 beaten egg whites and I reduced it to 1-1/2 cup  but I think using 1 cup will be sufficient. There is not much involved in the making of the meringue but a kitchen mixer is definitely helpful as the egg whites have to be whisked  for a longer time of a total of 15 mins. Without a good electric beater, I think it is impossible to get the light and volume maximized meringue! The cornstarch was mixed with the vinegar and some vanilla essence before being added to the soft peaked egg whites. Don't be alarmed when the mixture turns starchy and pasty while sitting and waiting to be added into the egg whites, keep stirring to remain in heavy liquid form. The most work to be done is the piping part and the star tip is the one to be used to get the nice kisses pattern. I held my piping bag upright with the tip above the parchment paper lined baking pan and squeezed while counting to three to get the cookies more or less the same size. I made a simple ganache by melting semisweet chocolate chips in hot whipping cream.

As the meringue cookies don't sit still, after the filling and sandwiching, I placed them in my large muffin tins, standing with support by the sides. It makes it easier to have at least 6 or 12 cavities in these muffin tins as you work along, you fill up the tins with one sandwiched cookie at one time and by the time you finished the first round of 6 or 12 cookies, the next cookie will go into the first tin when the first one that was made earlier, which by then would have dried up and the ganache hardens. This can avoid messy meringues.

Recipe (adapted from Saveur Magazine):

Ingredients :
Meringue Cookies (recipe can be reduced by half):
6 egg whites (at room temperature)
1-1/2 cups fine sugar
1/4 cup Cornflour
1 tbsp Distilled vinegar
1/2 tbsp Vanilla essence

Chocolate Ganache Filling (for filling to make 60 cookies):
100g semisweet Chocolate chips
100ml Heavy or Whipping Cream

Method :
Meringue Cookies
1)Line 2 large cookie pans with parchment paper. Get ready a large piping bag with a star tip. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2)Beat the egg whites till slightly frothy. Add in sugar in 2 batches and continue to beat till attain soft peaks (about 10 mins on medium speed).
3)Dissolve the cornflour in the vinegar and add in vanilla essence. Keep stirring till ready to add into beaten egg whites.
4)With the beater continue whisking, add in the cornflour and vinegar mixture and beat till stiff peak (about 5 to 7 mins), when the egg whites has  tripled in volume and can hold its peaks when the balloon whisker is lifted up.
5)Working in 2 or 3 batches, scoop some of the meringue into the piping bag and pipe out uniform and small sized cookies onto the cookie pans, allowing spaces of 1 inch between them. You should be able to get about 120 to 135 cookies.
6)Reduce the oven temperature to 215F and then place in the piped out meringue into the oven and bake for 1 hour 10 mins. Rotate the pans every 20 mins for even baking. Once done, turn off the heat and let the cookies sit in the oven till completely cooled. (about 2 hours)

Chocolate Ganache
1)Heat the heavy cream in a pan till rolling boil.
2)Remove from heat and pour into the chocolate chips in a separate bowl. Keep whisking till all chocolate is dissolved and completely mixed in with the cream.
3)Let the ganache cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir before use. Spoon the ganache into a piping bag.

To Assemble :
1)Take one cookie and pipe in the chocolate ganache. Don't overfill, just slightly larger than the piping tip. Sandwich the cookie and ganache with another cookie. Let the ganache set with the cookies in a muffin tin. Continue with the rest.
2)Place the cookies in very dry places as moisture can soften the cookie shells.

Makes : 60 filled cookies

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Bento Days (1)

I finally re-arranged all my Bento tools and boxes into compartments and cupboards and feel so good to know where to look for a tool when I need it! This hobby of mine is taking up a bit of space and dare I say, making me want to spend money on every cute food picks and containers. But I guess all crafters do spend some money to pursue their interests further and do spend dollars with less sense when they come across materials and tools that can make their craft even better. I just have to comfort my thoughts that I am making food with my hobby and every purchase of an extra lunch box or cutter is worth every cent, though not necessarily making sense to have more than 10 lunch boxes with only 3 persons that I need to pack Bento for!!

This morning I made 3 similar Bento boxes for Curry and my kids. Infact I made one for myself too with all the left overs ingredients from theirs and needless to say, mine looked nothing like theirs, just dumping in everything before I rushed out of the door to pick up my kids for a playdate and sending over Curry's Bento box to his office.

I have always wanted to attempt this dish which comprise of omelette wrapped over tomato rice. Having the Japanese style rectangle non stick frying pan helps alot, as the omelette can be pan fried to a uniform size and the tomato rice filling is then scooped onto the middle and using a spatula or chopstick to encase it with the edges of the omelette. The pan with the omelette is then flip over onto a flat plate with the seam facing down and then I just used a large spatula to spoon the whole omelette and arranged into the Bento containers. It can be tricky for a first timer but after some practice, the skill can be perfected.

The rice filling is made up of boiled white rice with rice seasoning "furikake" sprinkled and mixed in and some tomato ketchup. I used Japanese mirin sweet cooking wine, rice vinegar, dark soy sauce, pepper and cornstarch to marinate the chicken drumstick, and pan fried and braised till tender. Kids don't actually mind that fruits are packed together with the main meal in one box but I think Curry doesn't like the idea, so I completed his Bento box with black olives and pickled cucumber and carrot slices.

During this week, I also resumed packing cute snack boxes for Miss E's snack time at school and she was pleased as I had been lazy throughout the past 2 months and fed her crackers, cheese and fruits only in all her school snack boxes! I can't wait to pack Prince D's first lunch box to school when he has to stay back next week. It will be his first time having lunch with all his pre-school mates and I hope he will love his first experience of eating Bento away from home, me and Miss E.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turtle Bread

I have liked turtles and tortoises since young and I remember well that my brothers and I used to have 6 tortoises, each bought at different period of times and one after another and we overfed them and they grew big too quickly. To see them grow in our small tank was both a learning process and fun way to spend time when there was nothing else to play with. If my kids ever ask for a pet, 2 fishes or 2 tortoises will be the only choices they get! If they don't ask, I count my blessings and keep quiet!

To make these cute breads, all you need is your favorite bread dough with one made plain and another with cocoa powder added. Once both types of bread dough are kneaded and let rested and risen according to the recipe,  you just have to divide and roll out the 6 parts that make up the whole turtle. The shell body part is to be made first by rolling the dough into a ball, next the 4 legs from the different colored dough and lastly the head part. All parts are then attached together by pinching the dough together and I used chocolate chips for the eyes which was inserted after the baking and before the bread cool wholly on the rack.

I used a recipe that has only bread flour, sugar, yeast and milk. The texture and crust of these bread resembles the French Baguette, crusty and crackly on the outside which suits the appearances of the tortoises well! As there was no fat in these breads, I had to include a pan of hot water into the oven during the baking to ensure that the bread doesn't dry out too much. My kids absolutely loved them and was telling me to try out other animals too. Maybe next time. At the meantime, I will take it slow and steady like the tortoises!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lemon Shortbread Easter Cookies

More than half of March has gone by and little did I realize that Easter is just 2 weeks away! I hate to admit this but I am sucked into celebrating Easter more because of the fact that it is Spring and I won't see winter again for the next 6 months rather than being staunch on my Catholic religion and observing good deeds and avoiding bad beings!  But still, I am not a bad person, perhaps a little crafty in mind and thoughts when thrown into awkward situations and I call that survivor's skills. 

Anyways, I got these fun small cookie cutters set last month and I just had to have them!  At that time, I have no idea what to do with them but I always go buying cute things like these to keep in my pantry till the super idea comes to my mind!

My weakness with shortbread cookies is perhaps synonymous with everyone else who loves this rich and short buttery goodie! It  is definitely the smell of the butter that entices the sense of smell and the crumbly shortness of the texture that makes everyone to take more than one cookie everytime it is available. It is just the ultimate cookie that packs the punches in both taste and calories. I would love to add more flavorings to the original recipe and today, I started with luscious and fragrant lemon. This citrus fruit always add a taste of freshness to everything and for my spring, I love that idea!

These cookies are very simple to make but must be rolled out to a uniform thickness of at least 1/4 inches thick to allow me to indent the shapes of the mini cookie cutters on the larger diamond shape cut out cookie dough. I added 3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and grated rind of 1 whole lemon to the dough. Constant light sprinkle of flour is required as you constantly go along rolling the dough and cutting the shapes. Although I love decorated cookies, I would think the sugar icing would overshadow the buttery taste of these cookies and perhaps make me sin tremendously bad on my current weight lose program! And so I just decorated the cookies with mini royal icing flowers that I still have plenty in my pantry. I love the simplicity of these little flowers and goes very well with the simple design of these cookies. I stir 1/4 cup of icing sugar in 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and used it to stick the flowers to the cookies. There are alot of new stuffs in the market these days like this green wafer strips that I used as the 'nest' for the cookies. Absolutely edible and nice that I don't have to pipe any sugar icing at all.

Recipe :
Ingredients :

10-1/2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of fine sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1-1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp Rice Flour
1/4 tsp Baking powder
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp Salt
Poppy seeds for decoration

Method :
1) Beat the butter and sugar till creamy.
2)Add in 3 tbsp of the lemon juice and grated lemon zest and mix.
3)Sieve the all purpose flour with the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4)Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Use your hands to blend the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
5)Preheat oven to 325F. Dust the working surface, rolling pin and cookie cutters with some all purpose flour. Take half of the dough and roll out to at least 1/4 inch thickness ( can be 1/3 inch thick). Use your cookie cutter to cut out the shapes and place on a large baking tray, lined with parchment paper. Continue till you finish up with all the cookie dough (makes more than 2 dozens). Insert poppy seeds for decoration if using.
6) Bake at the middle rack in the oven for 35 to 40 mins. Don't let cookies brown too much. Remove and cool on cookie rack.

Makes : 24 to 28 cookies

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cold Spicy Sour Chicken Feet

The continuous sunny days are just lovely. Our tulip buds are popping out once again for their brief 2 weeks existence as with every year. With warmer and longer days, the appetite changes and opts for lighter taste and smaller volume in servings.

Salad is the first thing that came to my mind but I can get bored with eating raw vegetables really quickly. And so I reverted to Chinese cooking with a lighter version. Cold dishes are popular during the hot summer months in Hong Kong and one dish that I particularly love is this chicken feet dish. I was so spoiled with multitude of street food in Hong Kong during my last December trip that I totally forgotten to eat this dish which is conveniently de-boned and sold ready made in vacumn packs in the neighborhood grocery of Curry's Hong Kong home!

I am not very sure on whether this is a Cantonese dish or Shanghainese dish, but one thing is sure is that it is a very appetizing dish which is served cold with the slight peppery spiciness of the red chillis and the permeating taste of sour vinegar with a tinge of sweetness from the sugar added to it. Although chicken feet is not a norm on the dinner tables here, I believe patrons of Dim Sum restaurants at Chinatowns all over America must have tasted braised chicken feet which tastes equally good served hot and more tender with little work on gnawing off the bones.

The texture of this dish is more chewy and a lot of gnawing to be done if using usual chicken feet. Although there is de-boned chicken feet for sale at Asian stores, I never seem to find them as I am always rushing to get other staples for my kitchen pantry. And surely, it will be impossible for me to debone each of them and I rather use my teeth and mouth than spend hours clipping and cutting through those plump skin tight chicken feet! This dish is very quick to make but needs at least 2 hours to rest and macerate to allow the vinegar mixture to sip completely into the chicken feet. Serve as an appetizer or simply a side dish. Or like me, store in a container in the fridge and dig in a feet or two during snack pangs.

Recipe :

Ingredients :
1-1/2 lbs chicken feet (about 2 lbs if deboned is available)
1 cup Distilled vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
6 Pickled Red Chillis, cut to small pieces (available in Jars at Asian stores)
1 large shallot (Sliced thinly)
2 tbsp Fish sauce
Scallion for garnish

Method :
1)Boil 1 large pot of water. Clean the chicken feet and clip away the claws.
2)Cook the chicken feet on medium heat for 15 mins. Prepare a bowl of iced water.
3)Drain the chicken feet and place into the iced water. Let it stand while preparing the vinegar mixture.
4)Bring the vinegar and sugar to a rolling boil. Add in the chilli pieces and stir till the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
5)Drain the chicken feet from the iced water and use a fork to randomly poke the chicken feet.
6)Pour the vinegar mixture into the chicken feet. Sprinkle with the shallot slices and mix thoroughly.
7)Spoon into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serves: 2 to 3 persons

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Olive Red Pepper Cheese Bread

What inspired me to make this bread? Leftover black olives and half of a red pepper! And also some grated cheddar cheese. I just used the same bread dough recipe from my previous recipe and made these loaves of goodies. I wasn't sure how my kids will like it as red pepper is still a new thing to them. But the bread went down very well with them and Curry and I was only left with 3 pieces this morning from the pull apart loaves.

The texture of these breads is crusty on the outside and soft in the inside. I eliminated the egg content and applied milk with a brush towards the end of the baking to get the slight browness on the crusts. The hardest thing to me in making bread is the shaping of it. I think this will get better with more experience and ableness to judge the quantity of the dough to fit one pan. Sometimes, when too much is stuffed into a loaf pan, there are parts of the bread that have not fully risen and can cause patches of uncooked dough here and there.

Luckily these loaves turned out perfect, although the shapes of each pull apart buns from them were not so uniform. The dough was divided into 2 portions, each one rolled out to a rectangle about 1/3 inch thick. Grated cheddar cheese was then scattered all over and next went in the cut olives and red pepper chunks with some chopped dill. The amount of these ingredients should not be too much so that rolling them up and cutting them into 2 inches long sections will be easy.

Once all the filling ingredients were in place, I just rolled the bread dough up tightly, like a cinnamon roll and then cut them into sections. Each log yields 6 sections each. After the cutting, I just arranged them with the cut side facing up into the greased loaf pans and baked in a preheated 400F oven for 25 mins. Milk was brushed on top of the loaves at the last 5 mins of baking. Let cool on a rack and pull apart the sections! No knives required.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strawberry Mousse Cakes

When the strawberries are out, I will get the thrill and urge to make pretty looking cakes. So far, I have only used them in mostly mousse cakes and should try other types of desserts in the future. But the fruit itself is just perfect on its own, to be eaten as it is with little extra on the sides. I wanted these cakes to have the peek-a-boo effect with the strawberries exposed, drapped over with sweet pink mousse and red lingonberry preserve jelly.

I managed to buy some smaller moulding cake rings in Hong Kong during my last trip in December. My springform pans are still perfect but I just needed to get the size of the cakes smaller to individual serving sizes which can be more work to decorate and mould each one but the end product is aesthetically more appealing than a big round cake.

Most of the mousse cakes I learned from observation of the structures of the cake itself, from its sponge base up to the top part decoration and just create the recipe for every layers and put them together. It is more work than any other types of cakes but the fun is doing it step by step and seeing the layers coming together in perfect unison with the right colors combination and ending with the perfect touch of decoration. This year I have taken the liking to using pre-made mini decorative icing flowers, wafers, non pareils and mini candies to complete the look of my cakes and I wish I had known about their usefulness earlier! They can really jazz up even the most mundane looking cakes!

I made a soft sponge base first in a rectangular pan and cut up pieces to fit into each of the cake rings. I spreaded some lingonberry preserves on the cake bases and arrange the halved and quartered strawberries around the rings. It was pretty difficult to arrange them in the small rings and I should have placed them cut sides facing out for a better and even distribution of the mousse. My idea was to let the mousse drip in between the strawberries cut and still expose the fruit itself. The mousse was made up of whipped cream with pureed and cooked strawberries and gelatin added to it. I love the lingonberry preserve from IKEA partly because it is not too sweet as with any other brands of preserves and a slight tartness is present . The preserve was cooked with a little water and sugar to make it watery and then passed through a sieve to get rid of any remaining berries in it. Dissolved gelatin was then added to it and let cool to room temperature before pouring onto the pink strawberry mousse. I used dill to decorate instead of mint to complement the frilly look on the cakes

It was a wet start for Spring today. Despite the rain, I am looking forward to visit the strawberry fields soon with my kids. We are just fortunate over here and spoiled with many places to pick the first berries of the year!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sakura Mochi

I have always wanted to make something pink and the inspiration of the spring Cherry Blossom trees is very great this month. And what better time to make a mochi, the Japanese dessert inspired by the Sakura theme and infact very appropriate for welcoming the warm sun and fresh breeze of spring!

I have 3 books on making Japanese sweets, of which 2 are completely in Japanese and one has an English translation written by Chinese publishers. When I first saw sweets made in Japan or 'Wagashi', I was in love, literally. It is amazing that something that is so simple in color and sometimes in the making too can be so appealing to the eyes and palates. Some Wagashi designs are so simple and some requires more delicate hand work and additional elements. At first I was thinking of shaping this Mochi wholly into the Sakura flower but the recipe for this Mochi uses soft flour instead of glutinous flour, which produces a more firmer dough that can be rolled out easily but more resilient to hand shaping. And so I ditched the idea and used a sakura shaped cookie cutter instead and digged out all my old gumpaste art tools to complete the features on the flower itself.

The soft flour was first mixed with some fine sugar and water added to dissolve the mixture into a thick watery paste. The paste was then steamed for 15 mins to solidify it and removed. Using the paddle attachment, the dough is mixed in with some vegetable shortening and pink coloring. I made my red bean paste from scratch so that I can control the amount of sugar added to it. The result of using soft flour rather than glutinous rice flour gives this Mochi a more firmer chewy skin and the mochi itself appears smooth, which holds the pastel pink color well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dill Vegetable Mini Quiche

It is definitely spring already even though the clock will change only in a week's time. The weather was beautiful throughout last week and my energy level has spiked with enthusiasm to do more things outside the house. Sadly, I have no green thumbs and dislike gardening but being able to go out and catch some sun with a short walk around the neighborhood admiring other people's efforts with their gardens is equally fun. I cannot wait to snap pictures of those spring daffodils and tulips.

With the warmer days, appetites of the palate changes too. Despite all my bakings and cooking, I am actually on a mission to lose pounds too! I was happy to have lost 8 lbs since January and am setting another 10lbs to lose for the next 3 months. 

With less need to consume meat this season, my option is vegetables. Curry has a thing for vegetables and he is always happy to stuff my fridge with more than 5 types of vegetables and fruits every week. I cannot give up meat totally but I am open to increasing the amount of fat free food categories. And one thing I cannot live without is cheese! I was in the mood of something light this teatime, savory and not sweet.  Although I didn't like capsicum/red bell pepper in the past, now that I am more conscious of what I eat, I will give it a try. For these mini quiche, I used baby tomatoes, black olive, red bell pepper and broccoli as the filling. Dill was added to the crust to give a nice touch and a good aroma to the vegetable combination. This recipe only yields 3 small tart sizes of 3.5" or 4". Quantity is my tool towards my weight goal!


Ingredients :
1-1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
4 tbsp butter, cold but soft enough to work with
1/4 tsp Salt
2 to 3 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp dill, chopped

Filling :
1/2 cup Broccoli Florets, break into smaller florets
1/2 cup Red Bell Pepper, cut into small chunks
6 baby tomatoes, halved for each
6 black olives, halved for each
1 large egg
2/3 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (yellow)

Method :
1)Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl.
2)With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour till resemble coarse crumbs.
3)Sprinkle in the chopped dill.
4)Spoon 2 tbsp of cold water to combine the flour mixture together. Only add the remaining 1 tbsp if the crumbs cannot be combined completely.
5)Grease 3 small tartlet pans lightly with butter. Cut out 3 parchment paper circles and leave aside. Preheat over to 375F.
6)Roll out the dough larger than the pans and cut out to line the tarts. Roll out dough for each pan to 1/3 inch thick.
7)Once the pans have been inserted with the dough, line the dough with the parchment paper circles and pour in baking beans.
8)Bake for 15 mins, remove from oven and remove the liner and baking beans and return to oven to bake for another 7 mins. Once done remove from the oven.

To Assemble :
1)Divide and scatter the broccoli, olive, bell pepper and tomato into the half baked tartlet cases.
2)Beat the egg with the milk. Pour into the tartlets till almost full. Sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese all over the tartlets.
3)Put the pans into a larger baking tray to catch  any over bubbling from th baking. Bake for 35 mins.
4)Remove from oven and let the quiche cool in their pans for 10 mins before removing them. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sakura Cookies

It is March and I love it. Finally we feel the warmth of the sun, although in an alternate pattern with snow squalls and rain during the days of a week, still the sense of spring is so near that I am thinking of cherry blossoms and daffodils already.

I was reading Terri's Blog over the weekend and saw her post on the tapioca starch cookies, called 'Kuih Bangkit' in Malaysia & Singapore. I have never attempted it before and thought it was a nice idea to mould the often plain white cookie dough into a pink Sakura, the flower of the cherry Blossom tree. I don't remember using Tapioca flour in any of my baking before and love to give it a try. As with most Asian types of cookies, the texture of this cookie is very different from the Western type of cookies. Most have very soft texture but not chewy like American cookies and some have the  'melt in your mouth' effect as this one but not buttery nor crunchy in anyways. 

Tapioca flour is used over here mostly in cooking to thicken sauces and to make sweet puddings. Perhaps of its higher starch content, it absorbs the wet ingredients in this recipe quickly and I had to work quite fast with the rolling and moulding of the cookies before the dough becomes brittle. Best thing to do is to work with batches of the dough and cover the bowl containing the dough with a kitchen towel while working on one batch. And when the one that you are working with starts to get dry and brittle, sprinkle drops of the coconut milk to wet it . I find this really works when I had to maintain the malleable texture of the dough when I indented lines on the cut out Sakura flowers and inserted the sugar non-pareils to complete the look.


Ingredients :
2 cups Tapioca Flour
2/3 cups Icing Sugar
2 tbsp Butter (Room temperature)
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup And 1/4 cup thick Coconut milk (Separate into 2 bowls)
Pink Gel food color (Wilton)
Non Pareils

1)Pan fry the tapioca flour for 12 to 15 mins on medium heat.  Remove from heat and let cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
2)Beat the butter and the icing sugar till combined. Beat in the egg yolk to combine.
3)Add in 1/3 cup of the coconut milk to the batter and continue to mix.
4)Fold the tapioca flour into the butter mixture.  A soft dough will form. If crumble appears, the dough is dry. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk by 1 teaspoon at a time till the right consistency is obtained.
5)Add in the pink gel food color and knead. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300F.
6)Divide the dough into 3 batches. Roll out 1 batch and cover the rest of the dough with a towel. Roll out to 1/3 inch thick and cut out with flower cutter. Arrange the cut outs in the baking pans and make indentations near the petals. Poke in the non pareils into the middle. Continue to work with the rest of the dough.
7)Bake for 15 mins, rotating the pans halfway. Remove and cool before storing.

Yields: 50 to 60 cookies

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Magnets

I used to have alot of favorite things when I was in my teens and 20s but now I have reached the age that I only consider things my favorite when they stand out above the rest of things and simply breath taking when I look at it. Remember those little dim sum magnets I posted 2 years ago? Well, they are still stuck to the fridge and I still love them! And I got some more new ones from my Auntie Cat last December when I was back in Malaysia.... what can I say, the workmanship just get more sophisticated and amazingly made for my enjoyment! They are the only things I play with when the soup is simmering or the fish is steaming. I wish I can make them myself but my fat fingers wouldn't let me. And thank goodness they are RM12 for 3. Such inexpensive things that brings so much fun to my kitchen.

These new ones are dishes, contained in noodle cups, bowls and bento boxes. Amazingly emulated, every piece looked real, from the piece of meat down to the egg yolk! Look at the abalone in the noodle cup and that piece of fatty pork besides the Bok Choy! Even the shrimp laksa begs you to pick each up and nibble them. The bowls collection are mostly Asian sweet desserts and the glutinous rice balls with sweet filling "Tong Yuen" is so cute with one of its filling spilling out! Needless to say, Bento boxes whether real or plastic must be neat in every sense and I am just amazed at the details of the boxes themselves with complete lacquer texture and gold prints.