Spent a lot of time during the Christmas break baking.
Learned to make these pastry from scratch:
1 Puff pastry
2 French sweet pastry (cooked shortcrust pastry)
3 Spiced brioche buns
I used the puff pastry to make some delicious beef sausage rolls with my homemade cranberry jam and sharon fruit. The lightly curry-spiced minced meat, sharp cranberry jam and sweet fresh fruit make these sausage rolls Middle Eastern in flavour.
For the unusual cooked French sweet pastry, I made some mango jam tarts, French apple tarts (using two type of apples; homemade sweet dessert apple puree and sharp Granny Smith apple slices topping) and browned butter caramelised banana and dark chocolate tarts. The pastry was cook first (something like choux pastry) and then while it is still hot, mould within the pastry ring. It has a rustic look. Probably more suited for home-style bakes. It is fiddly to mould and time consuming.
The spiced brioche rolled buns were an experiment. Inspired by the look of the Chelsea buns. Instead of cinnamon, I substituted it with some Chinese ingredients; red fermented bean curd and Chinese five spice powder with dark sugar. Inside the buns, you will find a rather attractive dark and light alternate pattern.This is quite an interesting bread. Brioche dough (French) with Chinese spices. The bread is a combination of sweet and savoury with the shinny sweet apricot glaze..East Mixed West; Sweet and savoury!
Brown Butter Caramelised Banana Macarons
One very happy and excited customer after doing an 1 to 1 macarons making session with me at my kitchen. She had a very hands-on experience by working through the whole process from shopping for the raw ingredients, measuring all the necessary ingredients, technique of making and mixing the meringue. All turned out rather well. She has the determination and drive for perfection, and she did it so well.
We made 2 flavours macaron shells; intense vanilla and pandan. And 2 flavours for the filling; brown butter caramelised banana and blueberry jam.
We both agreed that the vanilla and brown butter caramelised banana flavour is the most delicious.
For the brown butter caramelised banana filling, you need the followings:
First melt the butter and cook it until brown. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar is melted and caramelised. Add sliced bananas and stir rigorously until they are well combined and mashy. Add the banana and vanilla essences. Continue cooking and stirring for another few minutes.
Then remove the paste from the heat and set aside to cool down completely. It is ready to be piped as the macaron filling.
New product from my home kitchen. Have a treat with this meaty pork liver biscuits. Just simply 4 main ingredients; Fresh pork liver, flour, free range eggs and water..without any preservatives...
The only problem is that these are doggie treats! (You can also eat it if you want..all human grade ingredients from Waitrose!) I know your dog will appreciate it. (Toby loves it!) If you look at the dog treats sold at the supermarket, you will notice most of the ingredients are something you will not even consider eating such as animal derivatives, ash etc etc...Why then it is ok to give it to your lovely dogs!
Finally found a reliable steamed bun recipe from MY Kitchen. I have attempted to make steamed buns before, but the result was not as good as I was expected, partly due the the type of flour I used. Western white plain wheat flour produced yellowish buns and they are probably higher in gluten, the buns were quite chewy. In UK, you should be able to get "Bao" flour (low-gluten wheat flour) from the Chinese grocer.
I am pleased with the original recipe. The buns looked authentic, especially the splits on the top of the buns, so much like those Char Siew Bao (BBQ pork buns) you will get from the dim sum restaurants. The texture and taste of the buns are both good. But I find the alkaline aftertaste left in my mouth was a bit too strong (probably the issue of the 10g baking powder called for in the recipe!) I wonder if there is anything I can do to reduce that aftertaste? Will using Alluminum-free baking powder as suggested by David Lebovitz reduce the aftertaste? I shall experiment next time round!
The temperature in Brighton is a bit low at the moment, so the proofing time for the dough was 30-45 minutes longer than what is being stated in the original recipe.
Lesson learned from the original recipe: Lemon juice (acid) added to the dough and in the steaming water would make the buns whiter!
Matcha Green Tea Biscotti with Cranberries and Macadamia Nuts
My flat was infused in the toasty fresh moss scent last night when these biscotti were baking in the oven. Almost like being in a forest by the camp fire. I imagine that would be the kind of feeling being in a transitional Japanese chanoyu (tea ceremony) in a rustic chashitsu (tea room). All these reminded me of my favourite book, The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura. A book that has a big influence on my view on things/life and architectural designs. I should read it again!
The green tea powder for these biscotti is not just the colour, the 2.5 generous teaspoon of the matcha powder adds great toasty-ness and makes the biscotti just like a cup of green tea but in a crunchy way! I do really like the idea of "eating" green tea. The red of the cranberries and white of the macadamia nuts made this biscotti almost Christmasy!
The basic biscotti recipe I always use is on here, just a few twists, you could create your special version!
I have also made other unusual biscotti before..
And I have even designed and handmade the packaging to go with the Japanese theme! The effect of the translucent parchment paper with red pattern goes really well the the silhouette of green contained inside..:-)
Pastry Challenge: Raspberry Cream Profiteroles
The second attempt of making these choux pastry and profiteroles. I am really quite pleased with the result. If I keep perfecting my skills, I should master it soon!
The reference of the choux pastry recipe was from The Cook's Book. One of my favourite comprehensive and informative cookbooks. I have learned a lot of new cooking techniques from this book. It has various chapters for different types of food and each recipe has it step by step instructions and accompanied by sequential photographs. Note: I don't get any commission by promoting this book!
Something new for me about choux pastry making is that it should be made with equal amount of water and full-fat milk in order to achieve a smooth pastry consistency. Just using water will only result in rough pastry. I think the smooth pastry does give a more professional feel to the final presentation of the profiteroles.
For the pastry recipe, you could refer to any choux pastry recipes that you could get hold on from online or other resources, but maybe consider the equal water and milk formula (if the reference recipe only uses water).
For the refreshing raspberry cream filling, I simply whisked double cream until stiff, and then add few generous tablespoonful of mashed frozen or fresh raspberry to the cream.
You can either pump the cream into the puffed pastry, but personally, I think a cut-top profiteroles with cream filling visible would add more visual excitement to the final presentation.
Oriental Chicken Salad
Lazy health-conscious or vegetarian food served in the restaurant annoys me quite a lot!
I will always question the intention to serve the customers those bland and boring (unimaginative simply-just poach) looking health-conscious or vegetarian food that garnished with some raw green vegetable. Are they just being really lazy to make better food!? Healthy or vegetarian food doesn't have to be bland and boring! They should stimulate both the Mind and our taste buds!
This salad is so easy to make, very little cooking (skills) involved (other than to poach the chicken breast), but rich in various appetising colours, textures and full of traditional healthy medicinal, hydrated Chinese ingredients such as goji berries, snow fungus, cloud ear fungus and chrysanthemum flowers. (Ingredients typically used to make traditional herbal soup). Super healthy!
Once all the ingredients are prepared and put into a large bowl, prepare the oyster sauce with fresh grated ginger (with some of my special home made mango chilli pickles). Then sprinkle the sauce all over the salad and serve cold.
Perfect for hot summer days (to come..soon!!)
You can read articles about the benefits of those Chinese herbal ingredients used for the dish.
Blueberry and almond tart
This is quite an easy tart to make. An impressive dessert for any potluck gathering. Or any day when you really fancy some decent dessert without having to spend a lot of money to buy them in a patisserie. Homemade tarts are always taste much much better (and cheaper) than those from the supermarket!
There are two stages to make the tart.
Stage 1: The Pastry.
Rub the butter into the flour until they resemble fine breadcrumbs texture and then mix in the icing sugar and orange zest. Add one egg yolk at a time to the flour mixture until incorporated. Finally add one tablespoon of the orange juice at a time to the flour mixture and mix until all come together as a dough. Wrap the dough with the cling film and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180'C. Prepare the 22cm fluted loose base flan tin by rubbing butter all over the internal surfaces.
After 30 minutes, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thickness (big enough to cover the whole flan tin). Gently press the pastry in place within the flan tin and chill it in the fridge for another 20mins.
Crumple a large piece of parchment paper (enough to cover the flan tin) and then carefully open it up and line it over the chilled pastry. Sprinkle ceramic baking beans over the parchment paper and blind bake the pastry for 15mins. Then set it aside to cool down completely before the next stage.
Stage 2: The filling
Preheat the oven to 180'C.
Use an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest and essence and mix well. Add the egg and mix it until fully incorporated then mix in the egg yolk and beat until well mixed. Then add the thick double cream. Beat until everything is fully incorporated. Gently fold in the flour and ground almond until just combined. Spread the filling mixture over the cooled pastry case, the level it. Sprinkle the blueberries over the mixture.
Bake the tart in the oven for 30-35minutes or until the crust is golden colour. Insert a skewer to the middle of the tart, if it comes out clean, the tart is cooked. Remove it from the over to cool down. Allow the tart to cool down before removing it from the flan tin.
Done! The tart tastes good if serves warm or cold! Simple!
Let's Eat Weed!
The idea of foraging for food in the wild has always been a fascinating idea for me! Free food and all that..If I can stomach garden snails, I would have a lot of meat to eat through out the year! But those slimy creatures are nasty!
But I found out that there is another wild thing that I can eat from my garden..WEED..onion! An edible Spring bulb plants. The whole plant is edible from the bulb, the leaves to the pretty white flowers. The plant has a hint of oniony smell plus a pungent fragrance that I can't put into words, maybe a bit too overpowering for my liking when they are raw. (Maybe that is why they are regarded as weed not vegetable!) It doesn't smell anything like spring onion, or young leek (as some people might suggest).
But since they are free food from my garden, I am happy to give them a try! Once cooked, they smell a lot less pungent, and very much like other complementary ingredients for a dish.
I mixed the finely chopped weed onion to marinated minced pork to make some burgers. And also experiment using the whole plant as the substitute for spring onion for the pork liver stir fry. I think they work well with ginger and meat! But I don't think I will eat them in any raw salad!