Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Quick and Healthy Amuse Bouche—Baked Stuffed Green Olives


An amuse bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.  Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu, but, when served, are done so according to the chef's selection alone.  The term is French, literally translated to "mouth amuser".  These Baked Stuffed Green Olives certainly are mouth amusers!  Winking smile


My Baby Girl adores olives... any kind of olives.  Whenever I open the door of the refrigerator or kitchen pantry, she always spots a can or a jar of olives and asks for some.  Of course, I’m more than happy to serve her some and enjoy a few with her together.  Smile  They are such a healthy and tasty snacks.


These Baked Stuffed Green Olives are super simple to prepare and take this healthy treat to a whole new level!  To continue with the healthy trends, I bake them in the oven instead of frying.  With the panko coating, they are super crunchy and you can’t tell that they are baked and not fried!  Let them slightly cool down before biting into one.  You can feel the burst of the juicy and salty olive along with its wonderful aroma.  Then comes the gooey melted cheese in the center.  I truly enjoy the different texture in each layers of these stuffed olives.  They are the perfect small bites before a meal, or, you can serve them as appetizers on the game days and gatherings.   


You can use any semi-soft cheese that you like. Feel free to try out the recipe with different kind of cheese that your family loves.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hong Kong Bakery-Style Sausage Bun (腸仔包) Using Tang Zhong Method (湯種法) with Video Tutorial


If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would probably remember the different types of bread recipes that I created with the Tang Zhong Method (湯種法).  Think of the Tang Zhong Method (湯種法) as the “starter” or dough base for your bread.  This method yields the softest and fluffiest bread you’ll ever experienced.  Unlike the traditional homemade bread, which often turns into “stone” the very next day; in contrast, the softness of the bread made with the Tang Zhong Method (湯種法) lasts for days.  Simply reheat the bread in the microwave and it tastes and feels as it’s just came out of the oven.  If you’ve missed the previous recipes and video, no worries, here they are again: A Loaf of White Bread, The Prosciutto di Parma with Smoke Gouda Crescent, Friendship Braided Bread, and The Brown Wheat Bread - Cheesecake Factory Style


Ever since I’ve discovered how easy and tasty homemade breads are, I’ve been making bread and buns more often at home.  The “demand”  had also increased, hence, I’ve been using a new method in preparing the Tang Zhong.  In my previous 4 bread recipes mentioned above, I recommend pouring the boiling water over the bread flour to create the Tang Zhong.  This works wonderfully when you’re preparing a single batch of Tang Zhong for 8 buns OR a loaf of bread in an 9 by 5-inch loaf pan such as this one below. 

However, I’ve switched to a different loaf pan long ago because of the increase in demand. I often found myself baking 2 loaves of bread in a day, one for my family and one for my In-Laws.  Or, a loaf of bread with another batch of (a dozen instead of 8) buns, such as these Hong Kong Bakery-Style Sausage Buns.  Back to this new loaf pan below, it has the capacity of 1.5 times of the one above.  Which means that I often find myself creating 3 times the amount of Tang Zhong.  Plus, the end result just look much better with the rigid/straight corners. Winking smile  At the end of this post, I’ll show you in a short video on how the new loaf of  bread looks like after it’s out of the oven!  So what is the new method of preparing Tang Zhong?  Simply prepare it on the stove top! 

Focus Foodservice Commercial Bakeware 1 1/2 Pound Pullman Pan

Here’s a simple pictorial on how to prepare the Tang Zhong on the stove top.

1) In a small/medium saucepan, add 1 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup bread flour together.

2) With a wooden specula, stir until there’s no big lumps.

3) Turn on the stove to low heat and continue to stir.  The dough will start to thicken.

4) When the dough turns slightly translucent and thicken, remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

5) Line a kitchen scale with plastic wrap, evenly divide the dough into 2, I always use a digital kitchen scale such as this one for accuracy (I’ve been using this scale for a while now.  I love it because the price is reasonable, very accurate and easy to use.  Besides, you will need one for making French Macarons anyway…okay, that’s another post.  Sorry….hehehe…)  I always get 200 gram (about 7 ounces) of Tang Zhong for each of this recipe.

6) Wrap each one up and refrigerate it overnight before use.

Pictorial of making Tang Zhong

The next day when you’re ready to bake, follow my recipe’s instructions at the bottom of this post.  This video below shows you how to form these Hong Kong Bakery-Style Sausage Buns, after the dough finishes the first round of proofing (refer to Step III and Step IV from the recipe).  Please enjoy the video.  

Pretty easy, huh?  In fact, they are, and very tasty as well.  Nothing beats the aroma of bread baking in the oven.  The whole house smells wonderful, just like home.  Oh well, some days my home smells like a bakery!  hahaha….

I usually use all beef kosher sausage to make these buns because my family prefers the taste.  But you can use your favorite kind of sausages, such as chicken, turkey or pork.  Another note, when you’re ready to make these buns, the whole process from start to finish takes about 3 1/2 hours.  However, there are a lot of “down time” in between because of the proofing, resting and baking.  The real hands on time is approximately 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how fast you can form these buns. Winking smile So, you might want to make sure you have sufficient time before you get started.   


Here’s a closer look at the inside of these sausage buns below.  See how light and fluffy they are?  I just love them.  Especially, when I don’t have to pay $1.75 to $2.00 per bun at our local bakery. Smile with tongue out


If I still haven't convinced you to make your own Tang Zhong bread, you’ve got to watch this short video below.  This video will show you how light and fluffy a loaf of Tang Zhong bread could possibly be! Unlike commercially produced bread, this one has NO artificial ingredients nor hard to pronounce “stuffs”/chemicals in the bread to make it light and fluffy for days.  It’s all NATURAL and basic ingredients.  Winking smile It’s the “method” and LOVE that do the magic!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Citrus Yogurt Parfait with Berries and Home Made Granola


I’m sure that many of you are eating lighter and healthier these days after the holiday feasts.  If eating healthier is one of your New Year Resolutions, then I have a special treat for you today!  This Citrus Yogurt Parfait with Berries and Home Made Granola is absolutely tasty and satisfying.  You can serve this parfait as breakfast, afternoon snack, and/or dessert. 


The citrus zests in the low fat vanilla yogurt is refreshing and delightful.  The yogurt is slightly sweetened by the agave, which complement perfectly with the sweetness and tartness from the berries and pomegranate.   The Home Made Granola adds a wonderful contrasting crunch to the parfait.  Not to mention, the granola is a perfect snack on it’s own.  I’ll go over the details in its ingredients in just a bit.


Here is a closer look at the parfait.  Hm….one perfect bite with a little bit of everything!


Let’s take a look at the Home Made Coconut Granola with Almonds, Pistachios, Dried Cranberries, Dried Cherries, and Goji Berries.  It’s a lovely combination of flavors and texture.  Also, each ingredient contains awesome vitamins and nutrition with many health benefits. If you’re not familiar with Goji Berries, I got mine from a Chinese supermarket.  I know Whole Foods markets carry them as well. Or, you can simply order them here.  Below is a picture of the Goji Berries, they are also known as Wolfberry or Fructus Lycii.  They are one of the basic ingredients used in Chinese soups.

According to WebMD, the goji berry are filled with powerful antioxidants and other compounds that may help prevent cancer, protect vision, and other illnesses, including heart disease. Antioxidants may also boost the immune system and lower cholesterol and slow the aging process.  Boy, that sounds like music to my ears.   To read more about the health benefit and side effects of Goji Berries, please click here.   


I usually make a large batch of these granola and store them in an air tight container.  That way, it’s always available when I need to make a parfait, top them on yogurt or ice cream, add into cereal or oak meal, or simply snack on them as is.


Below is a picture of the granola with each of the main ingredient listed.  Check it out.

Granola Ingredients

I hope you’ll try this granola and parfait.  You’re going to love them.  Thank you for stopping by today and wish you a wonderful weekend!

Disclaimer: No information, ingredient or product mentioned on this site is meant to diagnose, treat or replace professional medical advice.  They are my experience, my journey, and my opinions.  Please consult with your doctor before using any of the ingredients or products mentioned here. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coconut and Azuki (Red Bean) Glutinous Rice Cake 椰汁紅豆糯米糕—For Chinese New Year


According to the Luna Calendar, the Chinese New Year (CNY) falls on January 23rd this year.  I can't believe it's only a week away from now.  Chinese New Year is the biggest Holiday in many Asia countries, pretty much like Christmas or Thanksgiving in the United States.  In Hong Kong, most retail stores, businesses and schools are close for a week during the CNY to celebrate.  Traditionally, the days off also allow everyone to celebrate and visit family members and distanced relatives.  Boy, don't I miss that tradition!  To read more about other Chinese New Year traditions and a scrumptious Butter Cookie recipe, you can also refer to this post here from last year.  As we say farewell to the Year of Rabbit, we'll be welcoming the Year of Dragon.  The Dragon certainly has the characteristic and image of strong, energetic and mysterious.

There are many specialty food, savory dishes or sweet treats, made just for the Chinese New Year.  These special treats often have special meanings, for good health, wealth and/or good luck for the new year.  Rice cakes are one of the "must have" treats during the CNY because the pronunciation of Rice Cake in Chinese (年糕) sounds exactly like "growth (taller) every year".  These rice cakes symbolize growth and improvement for the year to come.  There are many different version of Rice Cake.  The more traditional ones are simply glutinous rice flour mixed with brown/palm sugar and/or coconut milk or water, and then steam away.


This particular recipe of Coconut and Azuki (Red Bean) Glutinous Rice Cake 椰汁紅豆糯米糕 is my modernized version of the Rice Cake.  Baked with a crunchy and fragrant layer of coconut flakes on top.  The first time I tried this coconut rice cake was from my Aunt.  It was so amazing that I went back for second and third.  I adopted my Aunt's recipe and added Azuki beans.  The red beans not only added a little sweetness and tender texture to this rice cake, but also added some red color that symbolized good luck in Chinese.  The slightly sweetened red bean flavor compliment really well with the coconut.  My Aunt's recipe called for just vegetable oil, but I replaced it with some coconut oil to add more coconut flavor.  It came out wonderfully.  Here are the main ingredients you'll need: Coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, eggs, coconut milk, prepared azuki red beans, evaporated milk, sugar and of course coconut flakes.


When the batter is done mixing, pour onto a prepared baking dish and dollop the red beans on top randomly.


With a spoon, swirl around to make the marble patterns as shown below.  Don't worry about the red bean staying on top now as some of them will sink during the baking process.  Also, I bake the rice cake for a few minutes before sprinkling the coconut flakes on top to prevent the coconut flakes from sinking.  When the coconut flakes stay on top, that’s how you get the golden brown and crispy layer.


See the golden brown top and crunchy edges?  YUM!  I particularly love the sides and corners for the extra crunch, just like brownies.


When the rice cake cooled down a bit, cut them into bars of your preferred size and serve.  I love them when they are still slightly warm from the oven.  The texture is a mix of crunchy from the edges, flaky and crisp from the coconut flakes on top, and tender and chewy from the inside.  The sweetness is perfect and packed with red beans and coconut flavors.  The coconut aroma truly shines through.


These Coconut and Azuki (Red Bean) Glutinous Rice Cakes 椰汁紅豆糯米糕 are perfect for sharing in gatherings, pot lucks, or package them to give to friends and relatives for the CNY.  Just a reminder, the edges of these rice cake will soften the next day.  Simply pop them back to a toaster oven or regular oven for a few minutes if you prefer them to be crispy.  Or simply enjoy their tender and chewy texture as is.


I want to wish all of you all a bountiful, healthy, and happy Year of Dragon (Gong Hay Fat Choi). May you reach higher than ever, exceed your next goal and target in life, just as these Rice Cake symbolized. 祝大家恭喜發財, 龍馬   , 身體健康, 步步升!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Palmiers 2 ways—Italian Savory Palmiers & Vanilla Sugar Palmiers


Palmiers are one of my all time favorite cookies.  Some people call them elephant ears, palm leaves, or French Hearts.  Back in Hong Kong, we called them butterfly cookies.  And these butterflies always fly their way straight into my tummy.  No matter what you call them, they are definitely decadent treats.


You can find sweet palmiers at many bakeries or even packaged ones from supermarkets in the cookies isle.  However, if you’ve never tasted a fresh palmier from the oven, I highly recommend you to make some.  Not only they are easy to make, they are WAY better than the packaged ones from the grocery.  The ingredients are super simple as well.  There are only 3 ingredients for the sweet palmiers.  Thanks for the convenience of store bought puff pastry, all you need are vanilla sugar and salt to make this treat.  They are elegant for parties, and simple to make on any afternoon if you want a quick pick me up treat. 

Click here for the post to read about how to make your own vanilla sugar at home.  Otherwise, they are just one click away if you prefer to order them online.


Onto the Italian Savory Palmier.  These are definitely wonderful appetizers and perfect for any parties or gatherings.  You can fill the dough ahead of time and keep it chilled in the refrigerator.  Then, simply cut out individual cookies and bake them right before your party.  They are unique and packed with tons of flavors.  Crispy and buttery puff pastry, filled with the classic Italian flare of pesto, sundried tomatoes and parmesan cheese.  The pine nuts add a crunchy texture and wonderful nutty flavor. Since a package of puff pastry comes with two sheets, you can (and should) definitely try both recipes out.  

Thank you for stopping by today, I hope you’ll enjoy today’s recipes.  Smile


P.S.:  I think these cookies are in perfect shapes for Valentine's Day too!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snow Ball Cookies (a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cookies)


I call these Snow Ball Cookies because that’s what my little boy likes to call them.  When I was taking pictures for this post, he happily exclaimed, “Wow, snow balls!”  Smile After he tasted one, he kept asking for more snow balls.  Of course, my Baby Girl got her fair shares as well.


By now, you probably have heard the other dozen names that these cookies also referred to. Such as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Wedding cookies, Italian Tea Cakes, Russian Tea Cakes, so on and so forth.  I thought I had many nick names when I was young. I can’t believe my record got beat by some cookies! LOL…Mind you, these are not just any cookies. These are some buttery, melt in my mouth, and highly addictive cookies.  I love the crunch and nutty flavor from the chopped pecans in them.  Another big plus of these cookies? They are super simple to prepare and your kids would probably want to help out in rolling the dough.  And it’s okay to let them taste the dough, it’s eggless. Winking smile   


I've packaged these Snow Ball Cookies during the holiday to share with my friends and family as they are very popular during the holiday season.  But I’ve already made more batches afterwards because they are simply amazing.  After you've tried them, you would want to make them all year round too, and not just during the Holidays.