Sunday, May 27, 2007

Where's The Pineapple?

Por Lor Pau (read in Cantonese), when translated, means ‘pineapple bun’. Por Lor means pineapple, and Pau refers to bun. But there is actually no pineapple in this bun. What it consists of is a soft bread bun, topped with a crisp pastry ‘skin’ that looks like the surface of a pineapple.

Por Lor Pau is a very common bun found in Hong Kong ‘cha chan teng’(lingo for local tea cafes/eateries), where locals like to have it with a slab of cold butter sandwiched in between. Imagine sinking your teeth into a hot piping bun with melting butter oozing out? Decadent? Yes. Unhealthy on the waistline? You bet!

I’m ‘into’ these buns lately(minus the butter slab of course), after buying some from a pastry shop specializing in Hong Kong style pastries and buns. I thought ‘why not try making them myself?’ So I went to read up and made these buns by combining two recipes.

The buns are made based on this recipe. After reading several raving reviews on this Hokkaido Milk Bread, I decided to give a whirl, since I had some single cream in the fridge. I must say this recipe truly lives up to its name, the buns turned out super soft, with an aromatic milk taste to it.

As for the pineapple skin, I used the recipe at Jo Delibakery. I find that my Por Lor skin didn’t turn out as nice as I had wished. It’s no fault of the recipe though. I should have made the skin thinner and cover the entire bun before the last proof. As a result, the bun ‘peeked out’ at the bottom. The ideal would be to have the entire bun surface covered with the skin.

Nonetheless, I would make these buns again, because I like the combination of the crisp, slightly sweet topping with the pillow-soft buns. If you like Por Lor Pau too, do check out both recipes. Just note that I halved both recipes, and got about 8 buns, with some skin dough remaining as well(the bread dough to skin dough ratio is 2:1).

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Again!

Recently my work in the laboratory (I mean my real workplace, not this kitchen laboratory) has been keeping me busy like a bee. Starting early and finishing late has become quite the norm. I’m an ‘early person’, and I function best in the morning, and my brain power slowly dips throughout the day, until about 5pm in the evening, when my system starts to ‘auto-shut down’. But now I have to try to stay alert, or rather awake, way past 5pm into 6-7plus. It’s difficult, but I’m trying my best.

To release this tension/stress, I’ve been in a purchasing mood lately. Within 3 weeks, I’ve added 3 new cookbooks into my collection. In the past, I used to consider for a really long time before I decide on a purchase. Sometimes I ended up not buying at all. But I don’t know what got over me these days. I just went into Kinokuniya, headed straight for the items and paid up at the cashier. A method to de-stress? Maybe. A stress on the wallet? Definitely!

Anyway, one of the new books is Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. I’m quite sure this book needs no introduction. It has been on the food blogosphere since last year I think(sorry, I’m usually quite slow to catch on the latest ‘trend’), and I first came to know about this book from Brilynn’s. Since then, I seem to see Dorie’s recipes everywhere I blog-hopped.

Armed with this new cookbook, I decided to try out a simple recipe first. Hence this Marbled Bundt Cake was baked.

I made quite a few amendments to the original recipe for the Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake. The resulting cake was very moist, soft and buttery, with a tight crumb. Serve with a nice cup of java, a perfect afternoon tea.

Marbled Bundt Cake

125g all-purpose flour
25g ground hazelnut(or walnuts)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
110g butter
135g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
120ml buttermilk*

15g butter
85g bittersweet chocolate(I used 70% chocolate)
25ml coffee
10ml Irish Cream**
½ tsp instant coffee granules

1) Generously grease a 7-inch bundt pan. Preheat oven to 180C.
2) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda. Add in ground hazelnuts and salt. Whisk to combine.
3) Melt butter and chocolate over a double-boiler until completely melted. Cool slightly. Whisk in coffee Irish Cream and coffee granules. Stir to combine.
4) Cream the butter for about 1 min to soften. Gradually sugar and beat until light and creamy. Dribble in eggs slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 mins. Beat in vanilla.5) On LOW speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in ½ of the buttermilk. Then beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Finally beat in the remaining flour mixture.
6) Transfer slightly less than half the batter into the bowl with the chocolate mixture. Fold to combine completely.
7) Drop alternately spoonfuls of the two batters into the prepared tin. Swirl a thin knife/spatula through the batter once.
8) Bake for about 35- 40 mins till skewer inserted comes out clean.
9) Cool in pan for 5 mins. Unmold and cool completely.

* I make my own buttermilk by using ½ tbsp lemon juice and topping up with fresh milk to 120ml. Stir mixture, and set aside for 15 mins before using.
** I added in Irish Cream just for fun. The taste was not pronounced at all after baking. It can be omitted and replaced with 10ml coffee.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

All Set

The weather in Singapore has been kind of wreaking havoc on our health. It can be hot and sunny on one day, and the next we have torrential rains causing fallen trees all over the island. It certainly doesn’t help that there is a flu bug circulating. Most of my colleagues have been ‘taking their turns’ to fall ill with flu, sore throat and fever that lasts longer than usual.

I have not succumbed to the bug, at least not yet *touch wood*. But to ‘take precautions’, I boiled some herbal tea using chrysanthemum flowers this weekend.

In traditional chinese medicine, chrysanthemum tea is said to be a ‘medicinal’ tea which has a ‘cooling’ effect on the body, thus helping in the recovery from sore throat, cough etc. For myself, although I don’t believe in this totally, I do like chrysanthemum tea mainly because it’s a refreshing drink.

There are several varieties of chrysanthemum which can be used for making ‘tea’, and they are usually dried. This is the 杭菊 (pronouce Hang Ju), which I used.

Besides drinking the tea on its own, I also made some agar agar jelly. Agar agar is a gelatine extracted from seaweed, with similar effects to gelatine obtained from animal-by products. But its biggest advantage is that agar agar can set at room temperature, without the need for refrigeration. It is also more commonly used in Asian cooking, and as a substitute for gelatine for vegetarians/muslims.

To make these chrysanthemum tea jelly, you’ll need to make the tea first using:

40-50g dried chrysanthemum flowers, rinsed with some water
2.5 litres water

Place flowers and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and steep(leave lid slightly opened) for 30-45 mins. Turn off heat and sieve out the flowers(press on the flowers as they would have absorb some liquid). What is left behind should be a light yellow tea, about 1 to 1.5 litres

For the agar agar:

1 litre chrysanthemum tea
1 packet of agar agar powder, unflavoured (I used ‘Swallow” brand)
Sugar to taste

I just prepared the agar according to the instructions on the packet. Then I poured them into jelly moulds and left them to set overnight in the refrigerator. Just a note, I find that it is better to add slightly more sugar than required, because then the jelly would turn out just right. Mine were not sweet as I did not add enough sugar.

These jellys make a light, refreshing dessert after a heavy meal. I’m contributing them to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Rinku of Cooking in Westchester. Do head over to her place for the re-cap, and also to Kalyn’s Kitchen to find out more on WHB’s rules and who’s hosting for the week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Savoury éclairs

I was sorting out the photos in my PC, and found out that I had made these some time back, but haven’t posted them yet.

This mini éclairs are made using Florence’s choux pastry recipe. After making the durian cream puffs, I liked the pastry so much that I made them again a few days later. But I wanted something savoury this time. Digging into my pantry, I found a can of tuna, together with a tub of cottage cheese in the fridge. So I made a simple tuna cheese filling for these éclairs.

Do check out Florence’s site for the choux pastry recipe. The filling is very simple to make too. Basically just prepare according to your taste and liking, there’s no rule to this. I just mix one can of tuna(I used tuna in olive oil), about half a tub of cottage cheese(or more if you like), add juice from half a lemon, some freshly cracked black pepper, and you’re ready to go. I also added in some spring onions(scallions) as well.

This is my first time using cottage cheese, and I’m surprised at the creaminess it imparted to the filling. It’s like mayonnaise, but minus the fats, and makes a good substitute, in my opinion. It makes a great sandwich filling too.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Rolling Good Buns

This week Weekend Herb Blogging returns to the home of its founder, Kalyn's Kitchen. For this week 81 of WHB, I chose a recipe from the book – Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.

This is my first time using dill. Why did I wait so long to try out this lovely herb, when it has such a clean and crisp taste? Maybe I’ve been too obsessed with my long-time love, rosemary, that I’ve turned a blind eye to the other herbs out there. But I’m glad I finally picked up a bunch of dill from the supermarket.

I understand that dill pairs well with fish dishes, potatoes, cream sauces, as well as mild cheeses. Maybe that’s why this Swedish Dill Bread turned out excellent. Pairing cream cheese, onions and dill, this trio produced the most wonderful aroma when the bread rolls were baking. The rolls turned out moist and soft, with the fresh scent of dill, sweetness from the onions and a mild cheese taste ‘in the background’.

I guess the only ‘grouse’ I have would be that I would prefer a more salty taste to them. But if you’re pairing these with smoked salmon(suggestion by the book’s author), or serving them with a bowl of hot comforting soup, then there’s no problem at all. Of course, the simplest way would be to slap some nice creamy butter on top, now that’s what I call indulgence.

Don’t forget to head over to Kalyn’s for a re-cap of this weeks’ posts. Coincidently, while writing this post, I hopped over to Sher’s blog(yes, I multi-task a lot :p), only to find out she had also baked two wonderful loaves of Cottage Cheese Dill Bread. Go check out her post too!

Swedish Dill Bread (recipe adapted from Bread)

2 tsp active dry yeast
125ml water
500g bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
100g cream cheese, softened
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp olive oil

1) Mix softened cream cheese with chopped onions and blend well.
2) Measure out 2 tbsp water from the 125ml and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 mins, stir to dissolve yeast.
3) In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt, dill and whisk well. Make a well in the centre, and add in onion-cheese mixture, egg, oil, yeast solution, and the remaining water.
4) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball(if mixture seems too dry, add 1-2 tbsps more water). Switch to dough hook and knead dough on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins.
5) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
6) Punch dough down, then cover and rest for 10 minutes.
7) Shape dough*. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to the top of the pan, about 45 minutes.
8) Lightly sift some flour over the top(optional step). Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 30-60 minutes(see *notes below) until golden brown. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

* In the original recipe, the author uses a 1-kg capacity loaf tin, and baking time will be about 45-60 mins.
For me, I divide the dough into 15 equal pieces, shape them into rounds, and fit 10 pieces into 8-inch round tin, with the remaining 5 pieces as individual rolls. Baking time is about 35 minutes.
Looking at the dough, it should be able to fit two 8” by 4” loaf tins, just watch the baking time.

The above method is based on using a stand mixer. If you’re kneading by hand, at Step 4, mix everything with a wooden spoon to form a slightly stiff dough. Then turned onto a floured worktop and knead until smooth and elastic. Proceed as for Step 5 onwards.

Serve the warm rolls at the dining table.....and let everyone have fun pulling them apart, until the last roll left standing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sometimes It Does Work!

Being a huge durian fan, I am more than happy to make another dessert using this fruit. This time it’s durian AND chocolate!

Okay, some of you might be going “Ewwwwww! That’s gross!” Well, actually not at all, some things you’ll never know until you try. The ‘star’ of this is not the durian, but the lovely chocolate crust, recipe from Ilva of Lucilian Delights.

I first came across this crust recipe over at Gattina’s(which is why I also adapted her method), and I’ve been wanting to make them for a long time. Finally the chance came for these Chocolate Tartlets with Durian Filling.

I absolutely love the chocolate crust. It’s buttery, chocolate-y, not too sweet, and ‘shortcrust-y', everything I would like in a tart crust. Cocoa powder tends to be a bit ‘drying’, but this is not so at all. Besides making these tartlets, I also used them for cut-out cookies, which turned out highly addictive. If you’re looking for a great chocolate tart crust, this is it!

The good thing about this combination is, neither the crust nor the filling overpowers the other. Although durian has a strong taste, the chocolate actually managed to ‘tame’ it down, allowing the slight bitterness of the crust to come through.

Here’s my adapted recipe for the crust:

145g plain flour
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
80g sugar
2 egg yolks

1) Sift the first three ingredients to combine.
2) Cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add in egg yolks one by one, and beat until well combined.
3) Add in dry ingredients, mix to form a smooth dough. Divide dough into two pieces, shape into a disk, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
4) Working on one disc at a time, roll out to about slightly less than 0.5cm. Use the tartlet tins or cookie cutter to cut the dough to fit the tins. Cover the lined tins and freeze for 10 mins.
5) Bake in a pre-heated 180C for about 20 to 25 mins. Remove from the oven, cool for about 2-3 mins before gently easing the tartlets out of the tins. Cool completely before filling.

* I only used half of the dough to make about 9 tartlets (6cm diameter) plus some cut-out cookies. For the other half, I just wrapped it well and popped it into the freezer.

For the durian filling, simply remove the flesh from the seeds, and pass through a sift to remove fibres. Chill until ready to fill the tartlets.