Tuesday, September 28, 2010
There are many recipes and methods of making bread. Ever since I discovered how amazing this TangZhong Method (湯種法) is, I never switched back to the old recipes. TangZhong method was originated from Japan, to make soft and fluffy bread. The most amazing part is, the bread made with this method stays soft and fluffy even after a few days. Simply reheat the slice of bread/bun in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds, you’ll have a warm, soft and fluffy bun on hand, just like it’s fresh out of the oven.
Basically, the TangZhong method is to mix 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a paste/wet dough. At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and become leavened. Thus, when the TangZhong is added into other ingredients of a bread dough, it will be heightened and produce fluffier bread.
With the basic TangZhong bread recipe, you can wrap the dough with any ingredients you preferred, the sky is the limit. Whether sweet or savory, or simply just white toast, they’ll all be wonderful. With the TangZhong bread recipe, I’ve made Hong Kong Bakery style hot dog buns, ham and cheese rolls, crab and sweet corn buns, coconut custards loaf, sesame paste buns, BBQ Pork Buns, etc. The simple white loaf is the one I always go back to make more.
It’s soft and fluffy, melt in your mouth goodness. It has a hint of sweetness and buttery flavor. Look at the air bubbles in between the bread, it’s lovely. You can slather it with butter, your favorite preserves, wrap your kind of meat or veggies in between 2 slices….or just like me, eat it plain! :) Yes, you really don’t need anything with this bread, it’s that good! Go give it a try and you’ll fall in love with this recipe, just like I did.
Update: I have updated this recipe and included a step-by-step Youtube video tutorial as well. Please check out the updated post and recipe at the link below:
Saturday, September 25, 2010
It’s not easy being a Mom, I learned that after I became one myself. LOL…Not sure if the moms out there have troubles having your kids sit still until they finished their meals? Sound familiar, right? Sometimes, we all need a little tools and gadgets to make a kid’s meal looks fun and festive. I found one and just want to share with you. Look at the picture below, it’s a really fun plate to eat, don’t you agree?
This Mickey Mouse ring is supposed to be an egg ring (haven’t make an egg with it yet, this is the very first use of the ring). I do plan to mold eggs, pancakes, and cakes, with it in the future, stay tune. I love the non-stick coating because it’s really easy to clean up. The material is very sturdy and I’m sure it’ll maintain its shape over time. Please click here if you’re interested to get one for your kids or for the kids in you. :) My son loved it and he finished his dinner in record time! Happy kid and happy mom!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to you all!
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival or 中秋節 in Chinese. It’s a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese, dating back over 3,000 years. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. The moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties. I personally preferred the traditional ones, with white lotus seed paste and preserved egg yolks.
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of moon cakes. Usually, they are a bit too rich and too sweet for my liking. However, since this is a much observed tradition for the Chinese, and the moon cakes are usually given to friends, families and colleagues as gifts before the festival. It’s hard not to have them in the house around this time of the year. Every year in the past, I’ll have just a piece or 2 of the moon cake when we celebrate this festival. (1 piece = 1/8 of a moon cake) Okay, okay, the most maybe 1/2 of a cake, that’s it. That total consumption is over a few days period, not all at once!
This year, I got a box of moon cakes from my Mom. Look at the tin cover, it’s an art of itself! Don't you agree?
pomelos under the moon together, along with a cup of hot tea (to cut the grease from the cakes). Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as carrying brightly lit lanterns and watch dragon dance. Too bad I didn’t have a chance to get the pomelos (one of my favorite fruit) nor the lanterns. And of course, no dragon dance here either. I did manage to cut myself a piece of the moon cake and enjoy it with a cup of hot tea though.
So, this is how a traditional moon cake looks like. This particular moon cake is with white lotus seed paste and double preserved egg yolks fillings (my favorite type and combinations). Not kidding you, the bakers managed to jam 4 yolks in one moon cake, I think that’s a bit too much though. Some other combination of fillings include but not limited to ham and nuts! Aren’t these supposed to be desserts? Oh well, that’s why I usually stick with the traditional ones. Anyway,when I cut into this moon cake, the natural oil from the yolk burst and started dripping. I was thinking wow, that’s such a nice yolk! It surely was a pleasant surprise. Then the fragrant from the white lotus seed paste and yolks filled the whole room. I couldn’t wait to take a bite (that’s so not me, remember, I don’t really like moon cakes)! Look at the inside of the moon cake! Does the preserved egg yolk look like a full moon to you? That’s the whole idea of putting a preserved egg yolk inside the moon cake, to resembling the full moon. :)
Friday, September 17, 2010
The weather in L.A. is weird, it could be cool as the temperature range in the mid to high 60s Fahrenheit on one day, then, hot like an oven in the mid 90s F. the next day. The temperature between day and night is easily 20+ degree different! According to the Chinese/Luna calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival will be here in less than a week. Why are we still in the 90s F? I couldn’t wait for the weather to get cooler!
The reason I mentioned the temperature was because during the photo shoot of this mousse cake, the chocolate whipped cream on top of the cake melted too quickly before I had a chance to capture a nice shot (see above picture)!!! Oh well, I guess I should work on my photography skills instead of “complaining” about the temperature! LOL…at least, L.A. has 99% sunny days on average. :P
Anyhow, my son finished the whole (2-inch) cake all by himself right after lunch and wanted more!!! Apparently, the melted whipped cream didn’t bother him! I guess he really wanted a chocolate cake as he’s been asking me to make him one for a while. In the past, I’ve made chocolate Swiss Rolls, many times. I wanted something new. Something with even more chocolate flavor. So, I created this Chocolate Mousse cake. It is simply perfect for chocolate lovers (did I mention before that my family loves chocolate?) This Chocolate Mousse Cake is soft, fluffy, creamy, and chocolaty. Hm…heavenly in every bite.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I had been wanting to bake up some of these French Macarons for a while before I really put things into actions. Why was I procrastinating? Mainly was due to afraid of failure. I’ve came across so many different recipes and they seemed hard to make and required lots of skills. However, once I baked up my first batch, I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to bake more, with different varieties and flavors. These French Macarons are not to be confused with the American Macaroons, the later one has shredded coconut as the main ingredient. Versus the French Macarons, which are made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectionery sugar. It’s a blank canvas that you can be creative and put many different ingredients into it.
Did I mention they were hard to make? Actually, not at all! As long as you follow a few tips and you’ll be good to go. First of all, precise measurement is important, as in all baking. Measure all ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is essential to the success of a perfect Macarons. You’ll always get a more precise measurement by weight than by volume. So, if you still don’t have a kitchen scale, what are you waiting for? Click here to check out the one I use. I love it.
Second of all, follow each step of the recipe and don’t be lazy (like I am). There are reasons behind each process. For example, this recipe calls for aged egg whites and it is important because there’s less moisture in the aged egg whites, in ratio of protein. If the batter is to runny, your cookies won’t bake up properly.
Last but not least, practice makes perfect. My skills in using pastry bags was really classified as “beginner” (or worse, don’t even know what class that is) when I first started to make Macarons. After 4 to 5 batches (forming more than 200 cookies shells), I upgraded my skills to intermediate level. Yes, I’m still not perfect but it’s much better than before.
These Opera Macarons are super delicious! Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Your taste buds will jump for joy when your tongue come across with the smooth and creamy coffee buttercream. When you bit into the center, you’ll experience the "melt in your mouth" goodness with the rich chocolate ganache. Ending with a hint of the hazelnut and almond flavor from the shells. As I’m typing this post, I’m popping one (and another….and another… X ) in my mouth. So, don’t just imagine how good it is. Go make a batch and experience it yourself!
Friday, September 10, 2010
Yes, another salad for dinner. This time, it is not just any salad though. Duck is the star of this dish. Somehow, I think duck is a very special ingredient to cook with. Not that we don’t eat ducks often (we get BBQ ducks from the Chinese restaurants all the time). It’s just that I don’t cook with it a lot. Maybe because the duck seems too hard to handle? However, this Orange Duck Salad is quite easy to make and it’s definitely one of my new favorite.
I love using ingredients that are in season. Not only they are in their best quality, they are very affordable as well. These beautiful mini heirloom tomatoes (in assorted colors too) were sitting on the trays in the market that I couldn’t resisted bringing home. My husband loves the spicy and crisp Belgium Endives, they balance well with the sweetness of the orange vinaigrette. So, they’re all coming home with me.
I got this Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe's. If you don't have one near by, you can purchase the vinegar online from here.
The Orange Duck Salad pairs perfectly with a glass of red. It was such a perfect meal for summer weekend. Really look forward to making this salad again, very soon.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
As “promised” from my previous post, there will be another birthday celebration. This round is for my loving Mother-in-law’s birthday. It also falls onto the Labor Day long weekend. So, we celebrated her birthday with a “sleep over” at my in-law’s place. I’m sure you all recognized this cake. Yes, it’s another Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake. Sorry if I disappointed you for not making something new for my Mother-in-law’s birthday. But this cake is just so delicious that I have to make it one more time in such a short period of time. Not to mention, my Mother-in-law is also a chocolate lover! I guess it runs in the family! hehehe…
Of course, I used the best chocolate I can get. This time with some chopping to do since the market ran out of those in small chips size. I think the cake looks better this time around, too. Don’t you think?
To make it up to you for not having a new cake recipe on this post, I’ll share more pictures with you that I took over the weekend. Did I mention that there are a few dozens of fruit trees at my in-law’s place? So, I picked some fruits that are in season. Unfortunately, my little boy got a fever over the weekend and he was not allowed to go outside (the outside temperature was 110 degree Fahrenheit). Otherwise, he would be my fruit picking buddy. Here are some of the harvests: juicy peaches, sweet figs and tart apples….
These peaches are so sweet and juicy. Look at that vibrant color. I love it!
Really hate to see food going to waste! So, I picked a basket full of peaches, maybe I’ll make some preserves out of them later on.
The picture below is a Meyer Lemon. It’s a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. They’re not only great for cookies and cakes, but also really nice in savory dishes, marinates and vinaigrettes.
This is the flower from the Michelia tree (白蘭花). You can smell its fragrant whenever you walk by. The color of the flower should be ivory. Somehow, this one turned into orange.
These figs are super sweet. They’re really good as is, excellent when you put them into Chinese soup, and divine if you wrap them with prosciutto! Yup, another basket full!
Not too sure what kind of apples these are. They’re a bit too tart and firm to be eaten fresh. Guess they’ll be really good in apple tarts/pies.
Up next, I was eying these pomegranate. They’re not really ripe yet. Not until the end of this month. So, I’ll be visiting my in-laws again, soon. Please wait for me, pomegranate!!!
It’s such a luxury to have the freshest fruits whenever you want them, right off the trees from the backyard. Not many people are as fortunate as we do to have this garden of plants and fruits. I truly appreciate and cherish it. Once again, thank you Mother- and Father-in-law!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Here comes another Birthday celebration. Yes, twice in a month; and don’t be surprised if there’s a 3rd one coming up! This time, Mom and Dad brought Dim Sum to our place and we had lunch together. I prepared this cake so we can have the cake cutting and wish making rituals; I remember we always have birthday cakes and other goodies to celebrate our birthdays when we were young. Those were precious memories. Mom even brought over some of our childhood pictures. It was so nice to see those pictures again. Gosh, I really looked young back then!
Next to me was my older brother. Doesn’t he look handsome? I remember we had many birthday pictures with this background until we moved to the new place when I was 7 or 8. I still remember those bright pink plastic plates we always use for birthday cakes! Come to think of it, I should have made some jelly to go around mom’s birthday cake also! :P
Back to the Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue Cake. I had so much fun making this cake because I knew my Mom would love it a lot. I used some good quality bitter-sweet chocolate for the cake base (flourless). It’s worth it to invest a little more on the chocolate because you can totally taste the difference. The chocolate is so rich that you want to close your eyes, enjoy and savor every moment when you take your first bite (oh well, maybe that’s just me). I love the contrasting texture of this cake. The meringue is light and fluffy, the toasted hazelnuts add a nice crunch, along with the smooth and silky chocolate base. Hope mom enjoyed this cake as much as I did. Happy Birthday again, Mom. I love you!