This week, the muse must have left me for a vacation elsewhere. Been having a mental block, I think. Worse comes worst, I woke up with a swollen pink eye yesterday morning; therefore, I’ve been on a medical leave. However, I can’t guarantee you of a short post. I’ll try to keep it concisely short as I should not be staring at the computer screen for too long anyway.
This would be an opportunity for me to thank some of my blogger friends – since I’m pretty wordless. I’ve been delaying these for who-knows-how-long. I’m a slow blogger, as always. Hope you aren’t annoyed. Haha!
Two months ago, Edith of Precious Moments rendered me the Sunshine Award. I could never seem to squeeze in some space to officially acknowledge my receipt of the Award because the usual Pei-Lin always has something to ramble about, except these few days. Recently, Jess of Bakericious handed me two more awards: the Stylish Blogger Award and A Blog With Substance Award. Now, I’ve got three in total to acknowledge. Man, it’s time:
Dearest Edith and Jess,
Thank you so much for the e-plaques! I’m honored to be one of the Award recipients! I’m glad that you think of me and take me as a friend – not just a friend – but a friend who also shares your passion for baking, cooking and blogging.
(Did I make this sound like a thank-you speech or what? Haha!)
But, I’ve decided not to tag along because I noticed that these Awards have been spreading like wildfire in the Food Blogosphere. I do feel pleased and honored for such an acknowledgment received, though. Instead of sharing the joy with only a few other fellow bloggers, I’d like to share the Awards with all of you: my fellow bloggers, readers, visitors, bakers, cooks, as well as food photographers and stylists. (I know I’m not qualified to be called a food photographer and stylist, as of now.)
For the most part, it is the encouraging words from you that keep me going. I feel tired out by other commitment in life; I once thought of giving up blogging as I couldn’t seem to cope with it. Gradually, I’m back on track again – because of the encouraging words received and sincerity I’ve been sensing from you guys. Thank you!
Anyway, to fill in the gap, here are 10 of the many things in life that make Pei-Lin grin. On the other hand, here are 10 random and REALLY
- I almost always give others the impression that I’m Chinese-illiterate. Among the Malaysian-Chinese, the derogatory terms “banana (香蕉人)” and “ABC” are used to refer to Chinese who can’t understand Chinese (中文). I’m neither one of those, and I hate being stereotyped that way. In fact, right from my kindergarten to senior high school years, I was educated in Chinese.
- I can speak, read and write, in the order of my proficiency level, in English and Chinese (Cantonese 廣府話 and Mandarin 普通話, Malaysian Mandarin to be exact *LOL*), as well as Bahasa Malaysia (B.M.). My written English is better than my spoken one, I think. (Due to the slower response I give when I talk!?) To all fellow Malaysians: I know there is nothing to brag about. Almost everyone here can speak these three languages. When compared to you guys, my B.M. sucks, big-time. Haha!
- I'm an indecisive shopper. Let's say I want to purchase two bags of good-quality imported chocolate chips. I'll first grab what I want, then in a few minutes' time, I'll return to the same spot to place the bags of morsels at where they belong. Throughout my stay at the store, I can repeat the above for three to four times till I've finally made up my mind. Do bear in mind I'm also having the same dilemma with a few other items on my shopping list. That's why I always shop alone because I can drive the people around me crazy. *LOL*
- One of my wildest dreams is to save up enough money so that I can go backpack traveling in France and conquer (all) the local pâtisseries and boulangeries. (Thanks to the book “Paris Sweets!”)
- Another one of my wildest dreams is to save up money and have a few months of retreat at Le Cordon Bleu, which also happens to be part of my retirement plan. That means, I’ll be a 60-year-old pastry school student by then!? Haha! (I know we change as we age. Hope that I won’t lose my passion for culinary art as time passes.)
- I don’t like to be passively entertained as I feel that my time can be put to better use by doing something else; therefore, I hardly go for a karaoke session, watch television and go for a movie (unless the show is a good one like "Julie & Julia"). However, I don’t mind watching culinary programs.
- I hope to be a freelance food writer (note: NOT food critic), food photographer and stylist someday.
- I’m not a fussy eater. Nonetheless, there are a few items that I won’t want to consume: petai, "stinky tofu" (臭豆腐), instant noodles, fresh Chinese-style "yellow noodles" (鹼水麵), soft drink and flavored beverages, "commercialized" fast food, alcohol and candy. (I do use alcohol in my cooking and baking though.)
- I write better than I talk. That’s why I prefer writing to express myself. Probably, I’m more of an introvert. The thing with me is when I find that I can click with that person I’m talking to, I can keep the ball rolling with ease. But when I feel there’s a lack of chemistry, I find it VERY challenging for me to carry on – because I don’t know what else to talk about!?
- Oh! One more thing about me is when I'm given bread and rice, I’ll pick bread. Whole-wheat one preferably. Why? Because I can eat this much food in this little time. Since I make my own bread, I might as well just eat it. I don’t mind having rice. But, I can only take this much food at a time; hence, the compromise.
I love cinnamon rolls and cinnamon swirl loaf. I only came to appreciate the sweet bread during my 3-year stay in the States. (Because none of my family members fancies herbs and spices!? I’m the black sheep at home, I love herbs and spices. The more pungent, the better. In fact, many Chinese I’ve come to know of don’t really care about spices. Perhaps, spices are too intense for them. My observation can be erroneous though.)
As opposed to Asian bakeries, American bakeries offer less variety of (fancy) sweet rolls. Sticky pecan rolls and cinnamon rolls are the ones I can think of, for now. I love the warm and woody scent of cinnamon. Sweeten things up and marry the spice with rum-soaked raisins and toasted walnuts gives the otherwise plain-looking bread a new depth of life.
It’s been over 2.5 years since I started making bread. One of the first breads I baked was no other than the cinnamon roll. As time goes, I’ve switched from making plain white ones to whole-wheat ones. (I don’t mind white bread occasionally. But, I do try to avoid it whenever possible.) As usual, Pei-Lin tweaked recipe, again.
When I made these cinnamon rolls and loaves (back in February this year), I replaced the basic sweet white bread recipe with my favorite whole-wheat bread recipe. (I doubled the recipe, too, for my breakfasts and lunch that whole week at work. I froze the extra. Till now, I'm still not sick of it.) Of course, when compared to the plain white ones, mine turned out to be denser and less fluffy. Mine had that something (fibrous) for you to chew on. (It’s whole wheat. Duh!)
I used the tangzhong method (湯種法) for these spicy sweet rolls. (My favorite way of making bread, hands down. Read more about the method here, here and here.) I’m well aware that not everyone likes this whole-wheat bread idea. So, here’s the original recipe for you to refer to. In the meantime, I’ve also included the changes I made alongside. Remember, bread making is a live science. Once you’ve mastered the principles and theories behind, you can run free with your creativity and imagination! Don't forget that practice makes perfect.
Cinnamon Rolls and Cinnamon Swirl Loaf 肉桂麵包與肉桂吐司
Adapted from "Bread Doctor," by Yvonne Chen 摘自《65°C湯種麵包》。陳郁芬 著
* The instruction below is meant for manual kneading of the bread dough. I've never kneaded my bread dough with a bread machine or sturdy stand mixer. So, please adapt the following accordingly. *
For whole-wheat bread base, refer to the recipe here
For white bread base:
210 g plain bread flour
56 g plain cake flour
210 g plain bread flour
56 g plain cake flour
20 g milk powder/dry milk
42 g caster/granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 g instant dry yeast
30 g whole egg -- at room temperature and slightly beaten
85 g water -- at room temperature will do
84 g tangzhong (湯種) -- at room temperature
22 g unsalted butter -- cubed and chilled
For the filling:
* Kindly adjust the quantity stated for the ingredients for the filling to your liking. Some people like it extra-spicy while some don't. Some like more raisins and/or walnuts while others don't. *
5 g (1 heaped Tbsp) ground cinnamon
20 g caster/granulated sugar
50 g rum-soaked raisins
* Soak the raisins in enough rum for 2 hours. Once soaked, drain them. I reserved the rum for brushing on the bread later on. *
50 g toasted walnuts -- coarsely chopped
* Toast the walnuts at 150°C for 13~15 minutes; remove from the oven and let cool completely before using. *
For the simple glaze:
* Optional, though, as I think the bread is good enough without the glaze. *
70 g powdered sugar -- or quantity to be adjusted as necessary
1 Tbsp room-temperature water/cold milk -- or quantity to be adjusted as necessary
A few drops of vanilla extract -- optional
- Combine (A) together in a large mixing bowl, then scatter the yeast all over the flour mixture and mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and stir in (B); mix everything together with a large, sturdy wooden spoon till the mixture has come together. Continue mixing till a dough has formed and starts to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter and keep kneading it till gluten has developed. Now, knead the cold cubed butter into the dough to incorporate. Once the butter has been incorporated, keep kneading the dough till it's reached the windowpane stage.
- Round the dough up; gather up and pinch the seams to seal well. Place the dough into a large oiled mixing bowl and cover with a sheet of cling wrap, then set aside to proof till it's has doubled in size.
* Nowadays, I usually place the dough on a lightly floured counter and invert my large mixing bowl to cover the dough to let it proof. That's just me being plain lazy. Haha! *
- Once the dough has doubled in size, deflate the dough and knead briefly to get rid of the gas trapped within. To know whether it's doubled in size, do the "poking test": dip your finger in some bread or plain flour and gently, slowly poke your finger into the dough -- of course, don't puncture it! If an indentation remains at where you poked your finger in, this means proofing is sufficient; otherwise, if that spot bounces back, let it proof further till the dough has doubled in size.
- For cinnamon rolls:
* The following is how I shaped mine, which is way different than the author of the book. *
On a lightly floured counter, with a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 1 inch-thick rectangle. (You decide how long, how wide the rectangle should be.) Now, brush the surface with the rum reserved from soaking raisins -- leaving about 1" space, lengthwise, untouched, along the topmost part the rectangle. With your hand, slightly press down on this 1" "reserved" space to make it thinner than the remaining part of the dough.
Combine (C) together and scatter the cinnamon sugar evenly over the rum-moistened surface of the dough. Then, scatter the walnuts and raisins evenly over the cinnamon-sugared surface of the dough.
Roll up the rectangular dough tightly, lengthwise, from bottom up (i.e. like for a Swiss roll). Seal the dough up by pinching the seams tightly. (That's why you have to purposely leave 1" space "untainted" while you brush and fill the dough.)
With a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice to divide the dough up into (smaller) equal sections, i.e. by 5~7 centimeters each. As you slice the dough, move the knife in only one direction -- NOT in a sawing motion; otherwise, you may risk destroying the gluten network formed within.
Place the sliced-up dough on greased/parchment-lined baking sheet(s), spacing apart to allow room for expansion. If you want pull-apart cinnabons, use greased/parchment-lined baking pan(s) instead and place the sliced-up dough closer to each other.
For cinnamon swirl loaf:
Grease a 6"(L) x 3"(W) x 3"(H) Pullman loaf pan; set aside for use later. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 7"x5" rectangle. Brush the surface with rum reserved from soaking raisins -- leaving 1.5"~2" space "untouched" along the left, right and topmost area of the dough's surface. Now, scatter the cinnamon sugar evenly over the rum-moistened part of the dough and then followed by the raisins and walnuts. Tightly roll the dough from bottom up (i.e. like for a Swiss roll). Pinch the seams tightly to seal the dough, then press both ends of the dough tightly to seal the dough too. Fold both ends over so that they're now tucked underneath the "log"; place the whole deal into the prepared loaf pan.
* I made mine in a way bigger Pullman loaf pan, with the lid on, and of course, with even more dough. The above instruction is solely for reference. Please adapt to the situation accordingly. When it comes to the shaping of bread and buns, I eyeball most of the time. *
- Cover with cling wrap and set aside to proof till almost doubled in size.
- For rolls: bake at 160°C for 15~17 minutes or till the rolls look golden and cooked through.
For loaf: bake at 160°C for 25~30 minutes or till the loaf looks golden and cooked through. Give the top of the loaf a gentle tap -- if the tap sounds "hollow," that means the loaf is done.
- Remove the bread from the oven and transfer them onto cooling rack(s) to let cool completely.
- If what you've made are cinnamon rolls, you may need the glaze. Combine (D) together till the mixture becomes smooth and has reached a desired consistency. Too thin? Add more powdered sugar. Too thick? Add more water/milk.
Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cinnabons, then put the rolls aside to set the glaze before serving.