Monday, May 30, 2011

Hong Kong Breads

Of all the bread books that I have, I love this one the most! By far, it is the easiest to follow and there is really no daunting process in its recipe.

Currently this book is only available in Hong Kong or via book companies on websites. When I first started making bread, I wonder why was it always so many steps, from kneading, resting, rising, punching down, kneading and second rising again! By the time I did all these, I was ready to get my car keys and just run down to the grocery to get a loaf, all readily and uniformly cut.

I love all kinds of bread. From the French Baguette to the Italian Pane, Japanese Milk bread to healthy choices of Oat & Nut bread, I will buy anything to try. Despite baking so much bread myself, I am always on the look out for new breads in the market and funny that I don't own a bread machine to make things easier at home! I love to work the bread dough with my hands and trust the hands on feel and texture to tell me it is right.

This Book has 2 main recipes for the bread dough, namely Sweet Dough and Salty Dough. The method of making both types are the same and nothing fancy about it. The book's instructions is written in both English and Cantonese Chinese with individual pictures on how to form the dough and shape the buns. As with all books published in Asia, the explanation in English may not be very clear cut but for a seasoned bread maker and the help of the instructional pictures, one can roughly guess on how to go about it. True that this book deals mainly with the making of Buns rather than loaf breads, but to the Western palate, it imparts a new idea on taking the plain bread dough to another level of creativity and choice. Same as the evolution of a large cake to the fancy idea of a smaller version disguised as cupcake, these bread buns are potentially addictive to lovers of bread too and very fun to make with multiple and endless possibilities of fillings.

What I really like about this book is the idea of taking 1 bread dough and using it to make so many different types of buns. And also you can mix everything in one go, knead it once and let it rise once before and after the filling, no punching and double kneading required!! Instead of the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, why not make a coconut roll bun, sausage bun, cheese bun or even a curry meat bun? Once you master the making the dough, you just need to think up of fillings. The bread is equally delicious eaten plain. So, if you are in Hong Kong or able to find this book on the internet here, do give it a try. Simple, delicious and very versatile..... all the features of a bread dough that you will like!

These are the buns I made using this book.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beef Tendon

With less than 1 month to go before I travel to Asia, things have been a bit hectic. Cleaning up things, packing stuffs and getting ready for the end of another school year for the kids takes up alot of my 24 hours in a day. Along with that comes allergies and alternative weather of hot and cool can take a chunk of energy and concentration.

Recently I have received a few comments on my posts. As understood, a blog is exclusive to the writer of the blog herself and whether to publish a comment or not, reply or ignore is simply at the blogger's free will. Why do some people think they simply can barge in and takes up other people's blog or web space just for the sake of advertising their own interests? Is this the new trend of cyber bullying? Inserting one's own links disguised in the name of "comments" in the hope of free advertising through other people's blogs is certainly something I don't tolerate. To me, this is outright taking advantage of other people's hardwork blogging and if the intention to advertise is made clear outright to the blogger in accordance to the advertising on blogs etiquette with appropriate terms agreed, perhaps things will just turn out good. Thank goodness Blogger provides me with the Comment Moderation button or else I would have to deal with all these nonsense all the time. What a waste of time! If you don't like it, set up your own blog and put all your comments there. And yes, no matter how many attempts of this sort can be, I adopt that Ignorance is Bliss!

Got some Beef Tendon from the Asian Market yesterday. Usually I eat this part of the cow only in Vietnamese Pho dishes and also sometimes on cold appetizer dishes served at Chinese weddings, together with Jelly fish or Pig's ears. The tendon comes in white tubes, color and texture resembling the raw beef stomach on the outside with a tough gelatinous centre. It is this center part that contains high content of collagen which is believed by the Chinese people to supply protein that strengthens and builds one's bones and joints. Before cooking, they look long and huge but after being in the pot, they shrink alot and the outer layers curl up and tightens. The tendon needs to be cooked for more than 3 hours to soften it for eating or else it can really break your tooth gnawing it, not mentioning a choking hazard as its cooked down gelatinous content makes this a very slippery piece of food in your mouth which just slides down easily down your palate.

I preboiled the tendon for 20 mins to shrink it and clean it thoroughly before simmering it in a combination of soy sauce, 5 spice powder, star anise and dried tangerine peel. A pressure cooker will come in handy for this dish but I cooked it on the stove top for more than 3 hours, with addition of extra water every hour. The amount of dark soya sauce seems alot in the beginning but after 3 hours with additional water, it diluted to the right saltiness. So, the amount has taken into account of this fact and to reduce the soya sauce quantity may not yield a very robust and flavorful dish. I served this dish cold and eaten together with rice.


1 to 1.5lb Beef Tendon
5 large Pips of Garlic
4 small Red shallot
1 small knob of ginger (the size of your thumb)
5 slices of Dried Tangerine Peel
2 Star Anise
1/2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder
1/2 cup Dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese Cooking Wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Chopped Scallion for Garnish

1. Peel and slice the shallot, garlic and ginger thinly. Leave aside with the tangerine peel and star anise.
2. Wash the tendon under cold running water. Boil 7 to 8 cups of water in a stock pot large enough to hold the tendon. Once the water is boiling, immerse the tendon (as a whole) into the stock pot and let it simmer for 20 mins on medium heat.
3. Remove from the heat, discard all the water and spoon out the tendon. Rinse the pot and put it back on the stove top. Heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil and drop in the shallot, ginger, garlic and star anise. Fry for a minute. Add in the tendon pieces, 5 spice Powder, cooking wine and stir to coat and mix. Pour in the Dark soy , sugar, salt and drop in the tangerine peel. Cover with lid and simmer for about 10 mins.
4. Add in 3 cups of water and stir the tendon around. Cover with lid and Let it simmer for 1 hour on medium heat.
5. Add in another 3 cups of water and stir. Using a kitchen shear, snip the tendon all over. It will still be too hard to cut the tendon. Snipping randomly ensures the flavor seeps into every part of the tendon. Cover with lid and let it simmer for another 1 hour on medium heat.
6. Add in another 3 cups of water and stir. Snip again with kitchen shears, this time should be softer but still hard to cut. Cover with lid and let it simmer for another 1 hour, making it a total of 3 hours.
7. Try to cut the tendon to see if the texture has softened enough. If there is no resistance when cutting it, cut one piece to try out. The texture should be slightly crunchy but very chewy and tender at the same time. If a more tender texture is desired, add 1 cup of water and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 mins.
8. Lift up the tendon and let it cool down. Slice thinly. Can be eaten hot or refrigerated to serve as cold dish.

Serves: 4 to 5 person as side dish

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Green Bean Bun

Sweetened Red Bean paste is the most used filling in Asian breads, buns and desserts. However, green bean is equally popular and delicious. According to the Chinese culinary experts, using Red bean makes warming dishes while Green Bean has a cooling effect. Blending both of them makes the perfect combination. I usually make the Green Bean Dessert Soup when the weather is heaty hot and when it is winter time, the Red Bean Dessert Soup just warms the body and nourishes.

The green bean filling was made prior to preparing the bread dough. The beans must be soaked in water for at least 4 hours or overnight so that they soften and speed up the cooking part. There is no difficulty in preparing the bean paste but all is about patience as it will take more than 1 hour and some stirring till the liquid is almost dried up. Nearing the end of cooking, I used the food processor to break down the softened cooked beans and continued cooking for another 15 mins. Once cooled at room temperature, the bean filling will clump up and ready for filling into the bread dough.

I used the same bread dough as in the Custard Bun II . Instead of the Custard filling, I used the Green bean filling and divided it into 14 portions. As these buns were slightly bigger than the Custard buns, I only managed to make 13 buns out of the bread dough. The cut flower shape is optional. After filling a portion of the bread dough with 1 portion of the bean filling, it was then gathered up and pinched together to close. Turned around and slightly flattened out with my hand palm before cutting it into 5 petals shape.The egg wash was applied just before baking and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Baked at 400F/200C for 15 to17 mins.

Recipe for Green Bean Filling
150g Green Bean
75g Sugar
750ml Water

1) Wash & Soak the beans in 4 cups of water for 4 hours or overnight.
2) Drain the water and move the beans into a stock pot and pour in the 750ml water. Start to boil the beans on medium heat for  about 45 mins. When the water has been reduced to 1/3 left. stir in the sugar and continue stirring till dissolved. This takes about 15 mins. Move the bean filling to the blender/food processor  and puree the content. Pour the bean puree back to the cooking pot and continue to stir on low heat for another 15 mins. Do not add any more additional water but continue stirring to prevent burning on the bottom of the pot.
3) Remove from the stove and cool in a bowl. Prepare the bread dough. When the bean filling has cooled to room temperature or can be chilled, scoop and divide it into 14 portions. Insert 1 portion into each bread dough portion.

Makes: 13 to 14 buns

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Custard Bun (II)

I have made Custard Buns previously and this time I got a can of custard powder, instead of making the custard from scratch like last time. Having baked and cooked my food from scratch for some time now, I can taste on what is out of a box mix or can mix. And the custard powder has this certain lingering paper smell or taste even after baking, of which I don't really fancy. But to save me time and in my plan to try everything, I gave it a try. The kids loved it but I will only use it for convenience sake.

The good thing about using custard powder is that the custard is clumpy in texture, hence easier to fill into the dough and doesn't seep out during the shaping and rolling. The bread dough was divided into 16 portions and rolled out individually to a small circles to fill in 2 heap teaspoon of the custard. Making buns takes alot of time but if you have a structure of time and what to do, then the process goes very fast. For this recipe, I prepared the bread dough first and while it was at rest for an hour, I cooked the custard and let it cool. I then divided the dough into 16 balls. And worked with 1 dough ball at a time by rolling out flat, filling up with the custard, enclosed it and let it rest on the baking pan. And then continued with the next one. There is no need to bake these buns in a paper cup, as they will bake nicely on a large cookie pan.


Bread Dough
3 cups Bread Flour (extra for dusting)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp yeast granules
2 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg

450ml Milk
20g Butter
100g Sugar
30ml Warm Water
2 eggs
40g Custard Powder
25g Flour

Bread Dough
1)Stir the bread flour, yeast and sugar together with a fork to mix.
2)Pour in the warm water and using a spatula to mix into a rough mess. Next add in the warm milk and do the same thing.
3)Beat in the egg and stir in to mix.
4)Drop in bits of the softened butter and using your hands, knead and rub the butter into the flour & liquid mixture till combined. Dust with a little flour if it gets too sticky to knead.
5)Dust working surface with some flour, and knead the dough for 1 minute, folding at intervals and pushing down to knead again. Dust with a little flour as you go, the dough will get less sticky and still feel slightly wet in your hands.
6)Let the dough rest in a big bowl, covered with cling film and let to rest and rise for 1 hour.

1) Boil the milk together with the butter and sugar on low heat.
2) Dissolve the custard powder and flour in the warm water. Beat eggs separately and then stir the custard powder mixture into the beaten eggs.
3)Continue beating the eggs and take the milk and slowly pour some into the egg & custard mixture. Take this mixture and pour it back into the milk in the pot and continue to cook on low heat till the mixture becomes thick and clumpy, about 5 mins. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

To Assemble
1)Remove the bread dough to the working surface.Divide the dough into 12 to 16 balls, weighing 40gm each.
2)Using a small rolling pin on a dusted surface roll out each ball into a circles. Place 2 heap tsp ball of custard filling in the middle and gather up the edges of the dough to enclose the filling. Put it down on the working surface and pinch the edges closed and gently roll it with your palm pressing down slightly to get the round shape. Place the buns onto a baking pan. Continue with the rest and let the buns rest for 30 mins. Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and place rack to the bottom part of the oven.
3)Egg wash the buns and decorate by piping any extra custard on top of the buns. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 mins, rotating the pan halfway. Remove from oven immediately, let cool a bit before eating. Filling may still be hot.

Makes : 12 to 16 buns

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rhubarb & Cranberry Whole Wheat Pie

Spring is the season for Rhubarb and strawberry. Similar to celery in shape, Rhubarb is not associated to the green Celery though but considered a vegetable generally but called and referred to as a fruit in America. Its leaves are removed as they are toxic and the  stalks are packaged and sold. This is my first time baking with Rhubarb and I didn't know what to expect except for the fact that it is very tart in taste and more sugar is needed to balance out the tartness for the filling of this pie. I still have a pack of frozen cranberries and thought it would be lovely to bake an all Red pie, both fruits equally tart in taste and served warm with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

For a different take on the pie crust, I used whole wheat flour and a combination of butter and vegetable shortening to yield a more short and light pie. Using whole wheat flour requires more water to be added to the flour and butter mixture and if you are using the usual All Purpose flour, reduce the water by half. The dough is more tender with the use of vegetable shortening and may be difficult to lift up from the rolling surface onto the pie plate. Any breakage during this process can be easily patched up randomly with loose dough. Unlike tart which needs to look conformed and professionally done on the tart pan, pie is the opposite, where the more rustic and homemade it is, the better it looks! I prefer to use light brown sugar for this pie for the richer flavor and as I wasn't sure how much juice did the Rhubarb yields for the pie after the baking, using brown sugar gives more moisture to the filling. As both Cranberry and Rhubarb are tart, I had to use 1 cup of packed light brown sugar to get the right amount of sweetness for this pie. 


Pie crust
475g Whole Wheat Flour
140g Cold Butter
140g Cold vegetable Shortening
1 tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
5 to 7 tbsp Cold water

375g Rhubarb, outer tough skin peeled and cut into small pieces
200g Cranberries
200g packed Light Brown sugar
2 tbsp All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
15g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp Light Brown sugar

Pie crust
1. Stir the whole wheat flour together with the sugar and salt. Move the content to the food processor.
2. Cut the butter and vegetable shortening into smaller pieces and drop in randomly into the flour.
3. Process with the pulse mode to mix in the butter & vegetable shortening. Do not over mix.
4. Starting with 4 tbsp of the cold water, add into the butter and flour mixture and pulse to mix till the content comes together to a soft dough. If still dry, continue to add 1 tbsp of water till enough. The dough is ready when you can clump it together into a disk. Place in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

1. Stir the Rhubarb and cranberries together.
2. Stir in the Brown sugar to mix thoroughly, but do not crush the cranberries.
3. Stir in the cinnamon and all purpose flour.

To Assemble
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the dough and roll out enough to line a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Save some for decoration. Alternatively, an 8 inch double crust pie can be made out of this recipe. Line the pie pan.
2. Spoon in the fruit filling and spread out to fill the pie dough. Cut out any extra dough with your cookie cutter. Drop the butter pieces randomly all over the pie filling. Arrange the dough cut outs to decorate your pie. Sprinkle the extra brown sugar all over the filling. Place the pie pan onto another large baking sheet, to catch any filling if baked and bubble over.
3. Bake for 15 mins. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue to bake for another 55 to 60 mins.
4. Remove the pie and let it cool for 15 mins before serving. Best served warm.

Serves : 6 to 8 person

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lemon & Coconut Cake

Oh Spring, why art thou so lovely and brutal at the same time? My seasonal allergies have been slowing me down big time! Watery and itchy eyes with a runny nose just makes life miserable. Simply rubbing my nose dry, so to speak! As age catches up, I feel I am  more susceptible to these type of seasonal allergies and any allergens can trigger something in me. Oh how I envy those people who can enjoy the spring air out there without any glitch or sneeze.

Notice that I have done less of cooking and baking compared to last year? Perhaps I have diverted my attention to something else or perhaps my successful weight loss have more or less curbed my appetite for all things fried, sweet and fattening. Not that I totally cut out everything but the urge to overdo with the butter, oil and cheese is just not so overbearing already and I tend to eat with a conscious mind taking notes of the high and low calories of the food. Infact I am shifting my interest from cooking magazines to fashion magazines. Oh how Vain.... but the idea in my head is still the same, only shifting attention from beautiful cakes to lovely dresses.

For a lovely cool spring day (minus the allergies), I thought of coconut and its fragrant nutty aroma. I bought a pack of toasted dried coconut flakes long time ago and only now I figured on what to do with it. Coconut flesh comes mostly in the dried and vacum packed form here, either cut to big flakes or produced into almost powder dessicated form. For this recipe I used the dried strands type which bakes beautifully with the cake batter and lends a crunch to the moist and tangy cake itself. This recipe was reduced to yield a serving for 6 only so that I don't get too much to eat while relishing every bite. I maintain the idea that you can have your cake and eat it too..... only that you don't have to eat too much of anything.

60g Softened Butter
115g Low Fat sour cream
130g All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsp salt
110g Sugar
1 large Egg
50ml fresh lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Vanilla paste
30g toasted coconut shred
30g Brown sugar

1. Grease a small loaf pan & preheat oven to 350F. 
2. Sift the flour together with the baking soda and salt.
3. In Another bowl, beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Add in the egg, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla paste and beat to combine. The mixture will look like a mess and not smooth.
4. Spoon half of the flour into the butter mixture, fold in to combine.
5. Spoon in the sour cream next and stir to mix. Lastly fold in the remaining half of the flour.
6. Spoon batter into the greased pan.
7. Mix the brown sugar together with the coconut shred. Sprinkle onto the surface of the cake batter. Press gently down so the coconut shred stick to the top of the cake batter.
8. Bake for 30 to 35 mins.
9. Let the cake cool inside the pan for 10 mins, remove and cool completely before serving.

Serves: 6

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mango Pudding Tart/Mothers Day

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers who follows my blog. I am in my 7th year of being one and everyday I learn something new on taking up this very challenging role. Sometimes I whine, nag, frustrated and worn down but all in all, motherhood is pretty much the most satisfying duty and undertaking a woman can go through in her life. To see a little child growing up while being involved as a a parent, friend, mentor, authority and problem solver takes all of a mother's love and concentration. A Mother's love can never be compared nor measured by anything and to be able to give it all out is a celebration of unconditional love everyday. My hope for my kids is that they will always think that I am part of their lives no matter how old they are and will always see me as a fun and loving mother despite my occasional nags.

I had nothing in particular to bake but got some lovely Ataulfo Champagne Mangoes from the grocery store. Oh, I love mangoes so much. Luscious, juicy, sweet and tangy at the same time and so bright in color. Always reminds me of my home in Malaysia where most households have a tree or two, taste good with sugar & soy sauce when raw and decadently delicious when they ripened and fall from the tree.

For this tart, I whipped up a pudding like mango filling and spread it into the pre-baked tart case and decorated it randomly with cut mangoes, strawberries, non pareils and heart wafers. Most mango pudding recipes always requires the pureed mango to go through a sieve to remove the fibrous content but I found that absolutely unnecessary and also very tedious of which I was not willing to waste my time on. Hence, this pudding filling is not smooth but very full with mango taste and I am sure no one will complain as the texture complements the crisp and light buttery tart base. It is like eating mango jam on a cookie.


Tart Base (to line an 8 inch size round tart pan)
250g All Purpose Flour
170g Cold Butter, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 tsp salt
5 to 7 tbsp cold water

Mango Pudding Filling
1-1/4 cup Pureed Mango flesh (about 2 large Ataulfo Mangoes)
1/4 cup Sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tsp Corn Starch
Strawberries & Extra mango, cut into small cubes for garnish

Tart Base
1. Sift the flour & salt together.
2. Dop in the butter pieces. Use processor to cut OR use your hands to crumble the butter into the flour. Do not overmix, just enough to coat the flour with butter to yield coarse crumbs.
3. Add in the water, starting with 5 tbsp first. Continue to process on pulse mode or gather with hands till the flour & butter comes together to form a soft dough. Continue to add water by 1 tbsp at each time if too dry. Do not overwork the dough.
4. Form the dough into a disk, cover and let it rest in the fridge for 30 mins. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease the tart pan with butter.
5. Remove the dough from fridge, roll it out to line the tart pan. Tuck in on the sides with extra thickness. Line the tart dough with aluminum foil and baking beans. Bake for 15 mins.
6. Remove from oven, reduce the temperature to 350F and remove the foil and baking beans. Continue to bake for another 10 to 15 mins. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Mango Pudding Filling
1. Dissolve the cornstarch in the heavy cream.
2. Place the eggs & yolk together with the sugar in another bowl. Whisk till the sugar dissolves.
3. Stir the cornstarch into the heavy cream, bring it to a rolling boil on low heat and continue to stir.
4. Pour half of the heavy cream into the eggs in the bowl and continue to whisk so that the eggs do not curdle.
5. Take this mixture and pour it back into the remaining heavy cream in the pot and keep stirring on low heat till it thickens to coat the back of the spoon (like custard). Remove from heat. Continue to stir for another 5 mins, add in the mango puree. Fold to combine.
6. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and spoon into the pre-baked tart case. Smooth out with a large icing spatula.
7. Cover and let the tart rest in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Decorate with mango pieces.

Serves: 8 person