July 31, 2009

Super Soft Bread Loaf with Walnuts & White Sesame Seeds

I'm glad that I made this loaf of bread the day before I moved out of my old apartment. I spent literally most of my waking hours packing and organizing stuff--I simply didn't have time to cook at all! So, I pretty much survived on the bread that day by using it in sandwiches and eating it plain because it was SO good!

This recipe for this bread was shared by MH and I've used it three times. The first two didn't turn out right because the middle section of the loaves was undercooked! Nonetheless, the cooked part was really soft and not dry. I felt really awful about that. This is by no means saying that the recipe isn't good. I guess it's hard for my 30x10.5x11cm Pullman loaf tin to get the bread dough fully cooked without having the end product becoming a little too dry! Why?

For my latest attempt, I baked the bread for about 55 minutes rather than 30 minutes as suggested in the recipe. So, I reckoned that 55 minutes should be okay as the middle section of the bread still turned out undercooked after 45 minutes of baking for my second attempt. Yes, it was fully cooked this time but a tad too dry I think. And, this made me feel really unhappy and frustrated. I guess I'll have to experiment with my Pullman loaf tin more.

Also for this latest attempt, I reduced the sugar by 20g because the two previous loaves were a bit too sweet for me. I suppose you can even reduce it by 30~40g, which I may try when I'm making bread using this recipe again. I've tried it with both white and brown sugar, and the loaves turned out just fine.

Besides making plain sandwich loaves, you can also throw in whatever you like into your bread. This is the nice thing about homemade bread--be as creative as you want and tailor-make the bread to suit your own taste! Getting slightly tired of plain sandwich loaves, I decided to roll in some chopped roasted walnuts and coat the loaf with white sesame seeds. It turned out perfectly sweet--like how a good sandwich loaf should be--and nutty! Yummy! So, without further ado, here's the recipe:


Super Soft Milk Loaf (adapted from
My Home Kitchen's)
For one 30x10.5x11cm Pullman loaf tin

(A)
850g bread flour
108g sugar
12g salt (I increased it because I used unsalted butter)
13g milk powder

(B)
196g heavy cream
184g egg whites

(C)
9g active dry yeast
196g warm water, at 43C/110F 85g

unsalted butter, at room temperature

some coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
some white sesame seeds, for coating

1 egg, slightly beaten and set aside for egg wash
  1. Dissolve together (C) and let it sit till frothy
  2. Combine together (A) and make a well in the center, then stir in (B) and yeast mixture; mix them together till a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl
  3. Turn the dough out onto a working surface and knead till gluten develops, then knead in the butter till it's incorporated; continue kneading the dough till it reaches the window pane stage and is smooth and elastic
  4. Round the dough up and place it into an oiled large mixing bowl, cover and let it proof till doubled
  5. Deflate and divide the dough into 4 equal portions, then round them up and cover to let rest for 10 minutes
  6. Roll each portion of the dough out into a rectangle and roll it up from its shorter end Swiss roll style, pinch the end up tightly to seal it up and cover to let rest for 10 minutes
  7. Roll each portion of the dough out into a rectangle again and sprinkle some chopped walnuts it, then roll it up from its shorter end Swiss roll style and pinch the end up tightly to seal it up.
    Brush some egg wash all over each rolled-up portion of dough, then roll in some white sesame seeds all over it; place them in a greased 30x10.5x11cm Pullman loaf tin, leaving some room in between each of them for expansion; cover the tin to proof till the dough is almost doubled
  8. Bake at 180C/350F for 50-55 minutes or till it's cooked thoroughly and looks golden brown on its top; remove it from the oven and immediately unmold the bread loaf to cool it thoroughly before slicing to serve and storing

July 23, 2009

A Berry Last Summer in America & Cantonese "Claypot" Pudding 黃糖紅豆“砵仔”糕

It's now a little over a month before I say goodbye to B-Town, a small American town in north central Minnesota in which I've lived for slightly over 2-1/2 years. During my stay here, I've tried things that are oftentimes beyond the reach of a city dweller such as breathing fresher and cleaner air (yes, you can actually tell that just by your first breath here,) feeding goats and picking all sorts of fresh local produce including juneberries, red raspberries, pie cherries, bush cherries and blackcurrants, broccoli, purple cauliflower and green peas. Perhaps, I'd say it's been more of an experience of living in rural America.

Thinking that I may be unable to experience rural way of life again back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I jumped on a chance of going to a local berry farm to pick strawberries with my family friends. So, off we left for the farm at about 6.40 a.m. This northbound drive took us about 30 minutes to reach the place. And upon our first steps onto this family-owned farm, we were greeted by the alluring sweet smell of strawberries--no kidding! Even the restaurant beside the parking lot couldn't beat it! It was only when we left that we started to smell something waffle sneaking out of the restaurant. These were after the berry picking:

Anyhow, mine was a rounded bucket of strawberries because the gentleman charged me US$9. Didn't want to get too much because I'll be moving out of my current apartment this weekend. So far, I've eaten only some of them plain because these red gems are SURPRISINGLY sweet! I think I'll freeze the remainder and use it in different things at my family friends' before I fly out. By the way, I'll blog less after this post till the day I reach Malaysia because I won't be having my own kitchen anymore for almost a month. (A real torture for me!)

Back to the main topic. Before I left for the farm that morning, I actually made "clay-pot" rice pudding, or "puud zai gou" 砵仔糕 in Cantonese, so that they'd be cooled enough for my breakfast by the time I got back. Yea, my breakfast for the day was the pudding and oodles of strawberries ... Hmm ...

I was inspired by so many different sources that I finally decided to give this a try. What's most encouraging was my encounter upon Siukwan's recipe for this traditional Cantonese snack! Her recipe calls for the ingredients that I already have. On the other hand, I've seen recipes that use wheat starch (澄麵粉,) something which I don't have--for now.

My exposure to Hong Kong media, such as TVB drama series and some HK-based radio programs, has really stirred up my curiosity for puud zai gou. What I've learned so far is that it was created in Toisan (or Taishan 台山,) a coastal city in the Chinese province of Guangdong (formerly known as Canton.) And because this was where my roots can be traced to, I got even more motivated to try it!

People say that the tradition is starting to lose its hold because this snack isn't as common as it was in HK anymore. But then, my observation told me that it's still something that brings back fond childhood memories to many Cantonese of older generations especially. The funny thing is I haven't seen this in Malaysia ... I wonder why. We've got Cantonese steamed custard 鮮奶燉蛋 (I'll try to blog about this later,) HK-style egg tarts 港式蛋撻, jin dui 煎堆 or deep-fried sesame balls, and some other classic Cantonese desserts and snacks. But, we just don't have this rice pudding and ginger milk curd 薑汁撞奶 (I'll try to blog about this later, too ...) Could it be due to the fact that puud zai gou only came to popularity in the 1930s and -40s, when the migrations of the forefathers of Southeast Asian Chinese had already taken place in large numbers well before that?

This is my first time having the pudding and I love it! It's not too sweet, has got a chewy texture ... I really love the aroma of rice and adzuki bean blending together. Felt happy as I bit into those red beans. Anyhow, I used muffin molds as I don't have any proper claypot ... Worked for me!

Here's a good recipe for puud zai goh that I adapted from Siukwan's:

Brown-Sugar Clay-Pot Rice Pudding with Adzuki (Red) Beans 黃糖紅豆砵仔糕

240g rice flour 粘米粉
160g brown sugar 
*Or any other types of sugar, but white and brown sugar are the most common ones 
750ml water (about 3 cups) water, divided
some cooked and softened adzuki (red) beans
  1. Brush the molds with some cooking oil and place some adzuki beans in them, set aside. Have the steamer or wok ready for steaming
  2. Mix 1 cup (250ml) water and rice flour together thoroughly to combine--mixture will be slightly stiff
  3. Meanwhile, bring the remaining 2 cups (500ml) water and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan and till the sugar is dissolved completely
  4. Gradually pour the hot syrup into the flour mixture while you keep stirring/whisking them together till they're well-blended
  5. Working quckly, pour to divide the batter among the molds and immediately steam it over high heat while the batter is still hot for about 25 minutes or till it's all cooked through--don't oversteam it; otherwise, the texture of the pudding will get tough
  6. Remove the molds from the steamer and let the pudding cool aside till it is cooled enough to be handled.
    Use toothpick or skewer to pick it out of the molds and serve it at warm or room temperature. Refrigerate any leftover.
    To serve the pudding again, resteam it over high heat for 3-5 minutes or till they're just hot enough.

July 17, 2009

"Ang Koo" Kuih

I think this blog has been isolated for almost a month! Yes, I've been churning out things in this closet-sized kitchen. But, I've been having a hard time trying to blog about them. Why? Busy organizing, packing and settling down some business before I say bye-bye to America for good! I'll be flying out back home to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia end of next month!

The touchdown will be just one day before our nation's Independence Day, or Hari Merdeka as we Malaysians would like to call it. This is actually going to be a return to home for good! Amazing, these past two and a half years just fled past right before me in the blink of an eye. I haven't been home since I left in January 2007! Can't believe that I'm finally going home to see my beloved family and experience the familiar again *sobbing.*

Coming as a transfer student to complete her degree in mass communication, I now found myself as a jobless graduate who has been trying her luck in the harsh job market. While it's the beginning of another chapter of my life, I'm excited and yet anxious about what to come next. In the meantime, I've been pondering over and over again. Perhaps, it's time for me to slow down on my baking and cooking. I've gained A LOT of weight since I got addicted to kitchen! I don't think anyone will appreciate looking at a fat girl *fainted.*

I'm trying to discipline myself to bake and cook less frequent and ONLY AS NEEDED. Just hope that my parents won't faint and will still be able to recognize me when we see each other again for the first time in 2.5 years at the airport. Can you imagine the embarrassment of leaving as an average-sized girl and returning as a fat girl!? Anyhow, I'll still blog but less frequently.

Here, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite kuih-muih ang koo kuih (紅龜粿). Kuih-muih (in Malay, the plural form for kuih) are a big part of the life for a Malaysian and Singaporean. Ask any one of us and we'll give you an endless list of kuih: kuih koci (my mom's and my favorite,) kuih dadar (my personal fave,) kuih talam, seri muka (love it but very fattening,) kuih lapis, jemput-jemput, onde-onde, kuih bingka ubi kayu, kuih keria and so much more! 

Ang koo kuih is of Baba and Nyonya origin (or better known as Peranakan in Singapore.) The blood shared by baba and nyonya is mainly Chinese as they're part-Malay. Nonetheless, these Straits-Chinese have adopted the local Malay culture for a very long time; hence, the birth of this unique culture that can only be found in Malaysia and Singapore.

This particular kuih is aptly named "ang koo" because of its resemblance to a turtle shell that is red in color. In the local Chinese dialect of Hokkien, "ang" means red and "koo" means turtle. (I'm not fluent in that dialect though.) It has a chewy and soft skin that is made out of sweet potatoes and glutinous rice flour. Its filling is oftentimes sweetened mung bean paste, which is one of the things I like about the kuih. Still, there're those that are filled with savory mung bean paste (I detest that!) and finely crushed roasted peanut-sugar mixture (yummy!)

Because of the kuih's special appearance, there's a special mold needed for making it. But as I don't have any, I went ahead and made them to satisfy my ang koo kuih craving. The following is a very good recipe for the ang koo kuih skin from Florence. Mine look orange because of the sweet potatoes that I used, they had orange-colored flesh. And, some look green because I kneaded some pandan paste to a portion of the dough.

As for the mung bean paste, I got the recipe from SeaDragon's old blog. I actually prefer his because of the addition of Chinese five-spice powder and sesame oil, they added a flavorful kick to the paste! And instead of skinned mung beans, I used the whole ones as they're all that I've got. Lazy me, I didn't want to pass them through the fine sieve. Thus, I resorted to blend the cooked softened beans in my blender. That's why the filling of my kuih looks dark! Nonetheless, the taste wasn't compromised! Yummo!

Ang Koo Kuih 紅龜粿 (adapted from Florence's)

For the skin:

(A)
200g mashed cooked sweet potatoes
300g glutinous rice flour
2 Tbsp oil
160ml water, or adjust accordingly
some red coloring for red kuih or pandan paste for green ones (optional)
  1. Oil some banana leaves and set aside for use later (I used parchment paper instead as I don't have any)
  2. Mix (A) together to get a smooth dough, cover with cling wrap or damp cloth to prevent the dough from drying out and set aside
  3. Brush the mold(s) with some oil to prevent the dough for easy unmolding of the dough
  4. Take a small portion of the dough and roll it out with the center being slightly thicker than the edges either by hand or a rolling pin
  5. Wrap some mung bean paste with one of the flattened dough, enclose it by pinching the edges tightly together and then roll the filled dough into a ball using your palms
  6. Press the filled dough into the mold firmly to get the pattern and shape (of the mold,) then gently tap the mold onto the counter to take the dough out. Place the dough onto a piece of oiled banana leaf; repeat with the remaining dough till it's used up
    *Because I don't have the mold, I flattened the filled dough up slightly to make it look somewhat like the real deal instead--except without the pattern
  7. Steam the filled and shaped dough over high heat for 3 minutes with the steamer's or wok's lid covered. At 3-minute mark, uncover the steamer to release the steam and put the lid back onto its position and steam the kuih for another 3 minutes over medium heat or till they're all cooked
  8. Remove the kuih from the steamer and brush a little bit of oil over them to prevent them from sticking to each other; let cool aside. Serve them at room temperature.
    Refrigerate any leftover kuih; resteam them, or like how my family does sometimes, pan-fry them in a little bit of oil to serve them again. Pan-fried ones will become crispy on the outside, and yet, the chewy texture will still be there.

For the mung bean paste (makes 750g of paste, adapted from
SeaDragon's):

300g skinned mung beans

75g lard or oil (I used lard and it really makes it taste better--though unhealthier)
1/2 cup shallots or onions, sliced (I used 1 fairly small onion as shallots are rather expensive here, and chopped it up really well)

(B)
1/4 tsp sesame oil (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder 五香粉 (optional, but highly recommended)

(C)
180g sugar
1 tsp salt
  1. Soak the mung beans in enough water for at least 2-4 hours; drain well.
  2. Steam soaked and drained beans for 30 minutes or until softened
    *Because I used whole beans for this, I cooked them in a pot of simmering hot water instead like how you'd do for Chinese sweetened mung bean soup dessert.
  3. Remove the cooked beans from the steamer/wok and pass them through fine sieve to remove any hard particles (I skipped this part and blended them up really well in my blender.)
  4. Melt lard in a wok and heat it (or oil) till hot, add in the sliced shallots and cook over low heat until they're golden and aromatic; dish out and drain well, keep it for some other use. Leave the shallot oil in the wok
    *Those fried shallots are so nice that we use them in so many things. I've used them for Cantonese blanched vegetable dish (e.g. romaine lettuce 油麥, gai lan or Chinese broccoli 芥蘭, choy sum 菜心), plain rice porridge, soups 老火湯 and so much more.

  5. Heat up the shallot oil, add in (B) and cook over low heat briefly till aromatic; add in (C) and mashed beans, stir-fry them over medium or medium-high heat till the paste has become thick and can stand in peaks. Let it cool thoroughly aside before using or storing.
    *I've been freezing my pastes. So, I just thaw them out as needed in the fridge overnight and use them for other stuff e.g. tau sar beng. All these really make things easier.

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