Friday, June 28, 2013

Mini Azuki Buns 迷你紅豆麵包 (TangZhong method 湯種法)


Just realized that I haven’t share a bread/buns recipe on my blog for a while.  So, I guess it’s about time to do so.  I make loaf breads and filled buns at least two to three times a week.  That’s how much my family loves bread.  Besides the usual Sausage Buns, Pastrami And Muenster Blossom Buns, and Prosciutto with Smoke Gouda Crescent, these sweet Mini Azuki Buns (迷你紅豆麵包) are also my family’s favorites. 

Still remember the Azuki Bean Paste recipe that I shared not long ago?  Great!  If not, please check out this post here for the recipe and pictorial.  You’re going to need that for today’s recipe.  Of course, you can get the ready-made red bean fillings for this bread recipe.  But why?  When you can easily make your own and enjoy it any time you like.  Plus, it’s a lot cheaper to make your own and you can control the sweetness in your bean paste.


These buns are really mini in size.  I can easily eat three of them just for breakfast.  Yes, they are that tiny.  Or yes, I have a big appetite!  They fit perfectly in my Little Girl’s hands.  Don’t you think everything is more adorable in mini-size?  Well, I guess my hubby’s tummy would disagree on that.  But the rest of the family do think so. 


You might noticed from the title of this post that this bun recipe uses the TangZhong method (湯種法).  If you’re a long time follower of my blog, you might remember this method is my favorite way of making bread.  In summary, the TangZhong method is adding a cooked dough into the main bread dough to create a soft and fluffy bread/buns, with its softness lasting for a few days.  You can read more about this method here if you're interested.


Are you ready to get into my kitchen to see how I made these Mini Azuki Buns?  Come on over.

First, we prepare the TangZhong the day before (See picture below)

**Note, please excuse me that the TangZhong Pictorial picture is from a previous post.

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

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

3) Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring constantly. 

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

5) I usually double the TangZhong for another recipe.  So, I used a scale to divide the TangZhong.  If you’re just making a single recipe, please ignore this step.

6) Wrap the TangZhong with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight before use.

Pictorial of making Tang Zhong

After the mixer is done with kneading the dough for you (thank you), let the dough proof for an hour.  Divide the dough into 24 equal parts, let them rest for 15 minutes and follow the steps below to fill the buns.  (see picture below)

1) Simply roll the red bean paste into 24 1-inch balls.  Set aside.

2) On a lightly floured surface, work with one portion of the dough at a time.  Gently knead the dough a few times. Form it into a smooth round ball. 

3) With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough into an 3-inch circle.

4) Place one of the red bean paste ball in the middle of the rolled-out dough. 

Pictorial A

5) Gently pull the sides up and pinch the dough to close the seams. 

6) Place the filled dough seams side down into a mini tin foil cup (or onto a silpat lined baking sheet).  Repeat with the rest of the dough and fillings.  Place filled buns in a warm place to proof a second time.  About 30 to 40 minutes, or until double in size.

7) Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the egg wash by beating the egg and a teaspoon of water until well combined.  Gently brush egg wash on top of the buns.

8) Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until slightly golden. Cool on wiring rack.

Pictorial B

Pretty straight forward, isn't it?  The steps are actually quite easy.  But please note that, the whole process of bread making takes more than 3 hours from start to finish.  So, it could well be your weekend “project”, especially if you have a 9-5 full-time job.  The good news is, the bread stays nice and soft for many days for your enjoyment.  Because of the hot summer weather, you might want to keep the buns in the refrigerator.  Simply reheat them slightly in the microwave (without the foil) or toaster oven and they will taste like they are fresh out of the oven.  (I usually use the microwave so the buns won’t get dried up and turn crispy).


These are the perfect two-biters, or 6, if you’re like me, eating 3 buns in one sitting.  So, do you make your own bread at home?  Have you ever tried the TangZhong method of making bread?  I would love to hear from you.  Let me know if you have a favorite bread recipe to share.  Until next time, please take care. 


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The End of Google Reader, Alternative and Options

Finally, the date is getting closer!  Google Reader is coming to an end on July 1st, 2013.  Yup, only a few days away.  I've been testing and trying alternatives sites to migrate the subscribed blogs that I read regularly.  And you might want to do the same as well before it’s too late.  Now, I use Feedly.  It’s the closest alternative to Google reader, in my opinion.

Here are a couple of articles for more details on how to set your account up if you want to read more about it.  Please check out this post here, and here.

Another alternative is to follow me on Bloglobin’, simply click here to follow.

Of course, you can also subscribe to my blog by eMail so you don’t miss my new posts.  (please see the “subscribe by email” on the right hand side-bar right below my profile picture.)

If you really want to track me down, you can also follow me on Google+Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and PinterstOpen-mouthed smile I will be happy to follow you back.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below.  I’ll try my best to answer.  For questions that I don’t really know, I’ll ask my personal I.T. support technician (a.k.a. my hubby) for you. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Make Azuki (Red Bean) Paste (自家製紅豆沙餡料)


I hope you all had a wonderful Father's Day celebration.  We spent the weekend at my In-Law's place and we had a blast.  Maybe I'll share a few pictures with you in a future post.  For now, let's check out today's recipe.

Red bean paste and I go way back!  It’s a popular Chinese/Asian ingredient that you’ll find in many traditional desserts.  I think it’s safe to say that we have a love-hate relationship with it.  How?  I’m glad to tell you this love-hate relationship is less complicated than a love story involving a real person.  I simply love red bean paste in certain desserts, and hate it in some others.  Isn't it quite extreme?  Maybe after all, it’s not the problem of the red bean paste, but “other” ingredients in certain dessert that made me hated it?  I thought I would never know why....


So, my conclusion is that it’s not the red bean paste’s fault.  I guess I do love it after all.  It’s a wonderful addition in many desserts, such as these Coconut and Azuki Glutinous Rice Cake 椰汁紅豆糯米糕 that I always make duirng Chinese New Year; Black Sesame Macarons with Black Sesame Buttercream and Adzuki Beans; or for these Snow Skin Mooncake 冰皮月餅.  The red beans I used here are the Azuki beans (see picture above).  They are slightly bigger than the regular red beans you might find in American markets.  So, if you’re make this recipe, you might want to get the Azuki beans from the Asian markets or online here.  Otherwise, your cook time might be less if the size is smaller.


Another key ingredient in this recipe is the Chinese Cane Sugar (片糖), see picture above.  I know, somehow the English translation said “brown sugar” (in pieces?) on the package.  But as the ingredient said, they are really “cane sugar”.  So, just make sure this is the type you use.  Or else, you can substitute with turbinato (raw) sugar.  They taste pretty much the same.

This is how the cane sugar “pieces” look (see picture below)!  Don’t you just love all these translations?  I always have so much fun with them.  Open-mouthed smile


Back to the recipe.  Here’s how I make these red bean paste. 

1) Place Azuki beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least an inch above the top of the beans. Cover with plastic wrap and let them soak overnight.

2) This is how they look after soaking for a night, all plumped up and ready to go.

3) Transfer the beans to a strainer and rinse under cold tap water. Discard soaking water.

4) Place bean in a large pot and add just enough water to cover the beans. Cook on medium high until water comes up to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Taste a bean and it should be tender. Then, add the cane sugar and salt and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered and stirs constantly with a wooden spoon until water is almost all absorbed by the beans.

6) This is how the bean paste should look like. Remove from heat, let cool and store in the fridge until ready to use. Or, you can wrap them individually in small portion and store in the freezer for future use.


Pretty simple right?  Of course it is.  There are many ways to use these red bean paste other than the recipes link I shared above.  I’ll share more recipes using this red bean paste in the near future. 


Of course, you can always buy ready made canned ones.  But I really adore the homemade version because I can adjust the sweetness in mine.  The canned ones are always a little too sweet for me.  With this less sweet homemade version, you can really taste the earthy flavor of the red bean.  This red bean paste is really starchy, slightly creamy, and with the perfect amount of sweetness, like all good beans paste should be.  Yes, I eat it by the spoonful too!  They are that good!  Please don’t judge.  You might do the same if you make these goodness. 

So, the mystery of my love-hated relationship with the red bean paste was solved ever since I made my own paste at home.  It was the quality if the paste that made me dislike it with certain desserts.  I'm so glad that we have mended our relationship.  After all, red bean paste is something that I don't want to miss in my life.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Matcha Ice Cream (抹茶雪糕)


I grew up with many Japanese confectioneries and treats when I was living in Hong Kong.  After moving to the States, I’m happy to find that many of those treats that I enjoyed so much are available in the Japanese or Asian markets around me.  One of the treats that I always get whenever I visit the Asian market would be Matcha Ice Cream!  That is, before I got my ice cream machine last year.  Do I feel bad that the market lost my business?  Not really, that’s because I think my homemade version is better than the packaged ones you can get.  At least, my Hubby say so (and he’s my toughest food critic around the house)!



Matcha (Japanese Green Tea) refers to finely milled or fine powdered green tea. The Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha.  Nowadays, matcha is also used to flavor foods such as mochi, soba noodles and a variety of Japanese confectionery.  It has a deep, grassy and slightly bitter taste.  It’s extremely earthy and could be an acquired taste if you haven’t tried it before.   If you like this Japanese Green Tea, then you’re going to love this dessert.    


The ice cream base itself is creamy and slightly sweet as I don’t like dessert that is overly sweet.  With the subtle bitter flavor and strong aroma of Matcha, this Matcha Ice Cream (抹茶雪糕) is simply irresistible and got the perfect balance in both flavor and texture.  


Ready to check out how I make the Matcha Ice Cream?  Come on into the kitchen with me.  (See pictorial below)

1) In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk, salt, sugar, and matcha powder on low heat until simmer.  Whisk until mixture is well incorporated.

2) In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  While whisking constantly, gradually pour the milk mixture into the yolks. Scrape the warmed yolks mixture back into the saucepan.  (note: this is the step where I wish I have 3 hands, one hand to pour the milk mixture, second hand to whisk the yolk and the third hand to capture the picture for you!  Luckily, you only need two hands to make this recipe!)

3) Continue to cook the mixture over low heat and stirring constantly with a flat bottom wooden spatula.  Cook until the custard thickens, able to coat the spatula, and reached 170 degree F. (That’s the magic temperature when salmonella bacteria in the egg yolk is killed, if any.  Woohoo… Oh, sorry folks, don’t know why I’m getting excited.)

4) Place the cream in a large mixing bowl with a strainer on top.  Strain the custard into the heavy cream.  Stir in vanilla extract and vodka, and refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight. (By the way, the vodka is used here to enhance the ice cream texture because alcohol lowers the freezing point.  The ice cream stays creamier and smoother as it does not freeze as solid and is less likely to form ice crystals.)

5) Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Mine takes as little as 25 minutes.  You can enjoy the ice cream at this point as soft serve texture.  Or store in a freezer safe container and freeze until the texture is harder. 

6) Enjoy!


Pretty simple, right?  Of course.  Now, I can enjoy Matcha ice cream at home whenever I craved for some, which is quite often especially in this Southern California hot weather.  I hope you enjoy today’s recipe, tips and tutorial.  Stay cool and have fun churning!


Note: Matcha is available in most Asian markets.  If you can't find it, you can get it online here.  And click here to see the ice cream machine that I use.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Pleasant Surprise


Aren't these Peonies gorgeous?  Not only they looked great, they also made my whole living room smelled wonderful too.  The smooth and velvety petals were soft to the touch, like baby's skin.  Every time I walked into the living room, the  elegant, sweet floral aroma simply filled the air.  I couldn't helped it but took deep breaths and inhale the sweet scents. 

Mind you, I haven’t receive flowers for many years.  So, let me dream a little and admire these pretty buds for the time they last in my vases.  It’s kind of a “silent agreement” between my hubby and I that I don’t want him to buy me flowers, even on special occasions.  I rather receive something edible, or more practical.  I know, I think I’m a very unromantic person. hahaha….But I guess that’s the case when you earned the title of “Mommy”.  I rather save the money for kids’ college.  So, where did these gorgeous Peonies came from?  Of course, they were from my sweet Mother-In-Law’s garden.   It was a pleasant surprise from her.     

Update:  Many of you corrected me in the comment that these flowers are actually Gardenia, and not Peonies.  Hehe...this once again proof how little I know about flowers and gardening.  Thank you so much you all for the information.  


She was on her way to my area the other day.  So, she called to meet up after I picked up the kids from school so we can all enjoy an afternoon tea together.  And she made this very special delivery for me.  That’s so sweet of her.  Of course, she knows me so well and include something edible, too.  Open-mouthed smile


These prunes are straight from my In-Law’s garden too.  I got this huge basket filled with these sweet little gems.  So good!  I’ll make some pastry with them and share the recipe, that is, if we don’t finish them before that happens.

I also got a basket full of tangerines.  So sweet and lovely.  These will be all gone before I have a chance to “transform” them.  But that’s okay, they are super good as the way they are.


Last but not least, I got the very last crop of Loquat (枇杷).  These are the fruit I grew up eating.  They have a thin, hairy skin (that you remove before consuming), the flesh is also orange in color, very tender, sweet, juicy and has a hint of floral tone.  The seeds are brown color and quite big.  My kids don’t care too much about these loquat (just yet).  But I’m so happy I got to enjoy them.  Smile  So, thank you again for all the goodies.  I sure did enjoyed them a lot.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mango Pudding (芒果布丁)


Mango Pudding (芒果布丁), it’s a nostalgic dessert to me with many childhood memories.  I grew up having this dessert quite often.  Some restaurants in Hong Kong used to serve this as a complimentary dessert after a meal or you can at least order one.  But seems like the complimentary option is a thing in the past.  The last time I went back to Hong Kong for a visit, none of the restaurants we visited gave out this dessert anymore.  However, mango pudding is still quite popular in dessert specialty stores or cafes.     


In Asia, the Ataulfo Mangos, also known as Manila Mangos or Champagne Mangos, are far more popular than the Tommy Atkins Mangos.  In fact, I didn’t even know about the Tommy Atkins Mango until I moved to the States.  The Ataulfo mango is skinnier, with bright orange/yellowish color skin and flesh as shown in my pictures on this post.  The skin is rather thin and the seed is quite flat.  The flesh from the Ataulfo mango is very tender and smooth.  It’s very refreshing, sweet and have a pleasant floral tone.  On the other hand, a Tommy Atkins mango is bigger in overall size, the skin is a combination of red and green, even when fully ripen.  The skin and the seed are thicker compared to Ataulfo.  Also, the flesh is more fiber-ous and firmer.  So, for a smooth and tender mango pudding, I used the Ataulfo mangos, just the way it’s supposed to be.   


Traditionally, the mango pudding is enjoyed with a splash of evaporated milk on top, maybe a few diced mangos as well (see picture below).  But that’s totally optional.  My kids preferred it with a little freshly whipped cream (as shown in picture above).  So, the option is totally yours.

Click here to see the silicone mold I used for the mini puddings as shown in the picture below.


This Mango Pudding is a very quick dessert to put together and it’s perfect for the hot summer days.  There are only 4 ingredients on the list.  Sometimes, I think simplicity is the best.  Just let the ingredients shine on their own.  This Mango Pudding needs a little chilling time so it’s totally perfect to make it the day before, so it’s a wonderful party dessert.  Another good news is that the Ataulfo Mango is now in season (from march through December).  I hope you’ll go pick up a few of them and make this refreshing treat.


What are some of your nostalgic treats from the childhood?  Were you able to re-create them at home like I did?  I hope you enjoy today’s post and recipe.  Until next time, please take care.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gardening Updates


I can’t quite believe the last time I post a gardening update was already more than two years ago!  Chick here to see the post.  Since then, I've added quite a few more herbs and plants to the family.  Smile Yes, I considered my herbs my family too, since I don’t have any pets.  And yes, I guess I’m weird like that.  But with someone like me, who got the biggest “brown thumb” (which means cactus died under my care, more than once), it’s a project to take care of a little herb garden and I’m proud it’s doing pretty well lately.  With my current “yard” situation, I can only plant them in pots, many different pots and not on the ground like I wanted to.  But hey, it’s better than nothing.  I love using fresh herbs in my cooking, so these plants had been fantastic for me.

In the picture above, the one on the left is mint.  They are the strongest growing thing and really can spread everywhere.  Can you believe the one I originally had almost died on me (too)?  So, as an insurance policy, I got another one.  But somehow, the first mint plant survived my “brown thumb” so I have two now.  The one on the right is Rosemary, the very first herb plant that I've got since 3 years ago.  Chick here to see how small it was when I first purchased it.


The picture above is a pot of 3 different herbs.  They are tarragon (on top with a little yellow blossom), spicy oregano (on the right) and thyme (on the left).  I just got them this Spring as the previous one were “murdered”.  Open-mouthed smile


The picture above is the parsley.  It was in the “ICU” (intensive care unit) during winter…but somehow, it survived and growing stronger than ever.  So the saying of “whatever doesn't kill you would make you stronger” was right.


I have the sweetest neighbors.  About a month ago, she shared some cherry tomato seeds with me.  This picture above shown how much they've grown in just a month.  Can’t wait to go tomato picking with my Baby Girl in my very own back yard!


This picture above is a chili plant. See the little white flowers blooming?  I can’t wait to cook up something spicy food when the chilies are ready.


I love Thai basil and use them in my Thai dishes from time to time.  But usually a recipe only calls for a small amount.  I've purchased Thai basil in Asian supermarkets many times and often using not even one third of a package and have to throw out the rest as they turn brown rather quickly in the fridge.  So, adding a plant of Thai Basil to my herb family (picture above) is just a natural thing to do as I can simply just cut whatever I needed.  Isn't the purple and white blossoms beautiful?  I love them.  They smell amazing too!


This one is Italian sweet basil (picture above).  I use this to make my own pesto and pasta dishes very often.  It's growing gorgeous.


These last two pictures are from the front area of the house.  See how the lovely flowers are blooming at their best?  That’s because they are taken care of by my neighbor! hahaah…you didn't think my brown thumb turned green, right? 

Thanks for reading.  So, what are growing or blooming in your garden?  Do you have herbs plants like I do?  Is there any other herbs that you would suggest me to add to the family?  Please share.   Smile