Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sci-Fi Food?

I found this peculiar-looking fruit during one of my supermarket trips.

I couldn't really walk away without buying this. So I went home to do some 'background check' on this fruit. The Horned Melon belongs to the cucumber family, and is grown in New Zealand and California. Due to it's intriguing appearance, people are often attacted to it. I'm certainly one who did.

Cutting through the fruit revealed the following:

The interior is filled with numerous jelly-like 'sacs', each of which encases an off-white seed. I tried eating a few of these seeds. The sacs taste surprisingly sweet and tart at the same time. The seeds pops out of its sac easily, and although the seeds can be eaten, I find them to tough to bite and swallow.

To be honest, this is one fruit which I wouldn't just scoop and eat, simply because it has too many seeds which I'll have to spit out. I guess it might be more suitable as a garnish. Or use the fruit as a decorative element on the dining table.

It's a pity I didn't like this fruit, but I guess the consolation is that I finally knew now how adventurous I can be with food :p (I would never have thought such a spiky, weird, UFO-like fruit can be eaten). Of course, I hope this could be a post for Weekend Herb Blogging too, which is hosted by Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog this week. Do head over to check out the round-up, and also to Kalyn's Kitchen for more details on WHB.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Goodness of Red

After a few weeks break from Weekend Herb Blogging, I’m back to participate with a post on beans – adzuki beans to be exact.

Adzuki beans, also known as red beans(a more general term), is commonly used in sweet desserts in Chinese and Japanese cooking. They can be cooked with sugar into a paste-like consistency, which is subsequently used as a filling in Japanese sweets such as daifuku(glutinous rice cake), or an-pan(sweet bread filled with red bean paste), The chinese also uses them to stuff tang yuan(glutinous rice balls) or the more familiar mooncakes.

Here I made a sweet ‘soup’ comprising of adzuki beans, lotus seeds and orange peel. This is a very common dessert available dessert stalls in hawker centres and food courts, as well as being the almost-ubiquitous ‘finale’ at a Chinese wedding banquet.

There are so many variations of this recipe, depending on personal taste and preference. So just take the recipe below as a guide.

300g adzuki beans
2 litres water
1 packet of fresh* lotus seeds, rinsed
1 piece of dried tangerine peel(available in Chinese medicinal halls)
4-5 blades pandan leaves
Rock sugar or caster sugar to taste

1) Cover adzuki beans with sufficient water and leave to soak overnight(this will cut down the cooking time substantially)
2) Drain the beans. Place them in a slow cooker(it’s also fine to cook them over the stove) and add 2 litres of water and orange peel. Let the beans boil until they just begin to turn soft and break up.
3) Discard the orange peel. Drain the cooked beans and reserve the liquid. Place half of the beans into a blender. Add some of the red bean liquid and blend to a very smooth mixture.
4) Pour this mixture into a pot, add the un-blended beans, slowly add in the red bean liquid until the consistency you prefer. Add in the lotus seeds, pandan leaves and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then for simmer for about 10 mins. Discard the pandan leaves.
5) Serve hot. Or if you like, this can also be served chilled, and especially refreshing with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Note: Some people do not blend the beans, I do as I like it smoother, but at the same time I want some bite, so I blend a portion. Similarly, if you prefer, you could also blend all the beans for a totally smooth soup. It’s really up to your personal taste.

*If you fresh lotus seeds are not available, dried ones can be used. Just make sure to soak them in water overnight, remove the bitter germ in the centre and steam to soften them.

Rachel is hosting this week's WHB, so don't forget to head over to Rachel's Bite to check out the round-up. Of course, Kalyn's Kitchen will be where you'll find more details on WHB.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Have a slice of cake......

Or is it?

Actually, the above is bread baked in a cake tin, and so the ‘cake-like’ wedges. After baking a few sweet breads, I thought it might be a good change to make a savoury loaf. I think I still prefer something more saltish and hearty for breakfast, since that’s usually my ‘heaviest’ meal of the day.

The recipe for this Casatiello loaf is from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, currently my most tried-and-tested bread book. Casatiello is a traditional savoury Easter bread from the region of Campania, Italy. It’s loaded with lots of cheese and pieces of meat, usually salami, and traditionally made with lard. According to Mr Reinhart, the Casatiello is best described as the savoury version of the panettone, which is also very rich and buttery.

I totally agree with him. Even during baking, the aroma of the cheese and salami wafting through my kitchen is sufficient to make me hungry. About baking for half an hour, I could see the little pockets of cheese bursting into brown spots on the surface. Slicing through the bread reveals a moist crumb studded with salami pieces and melted cheese. You really don’t need any more accompaniments to this bread, because each piece is a great sandwich on its own.

Casatiello(adapted recipe)

Makes one 8-inch loaf

Sponge ingredients
30g bread flour
6g active dry yeast
115ml fresh milk, or buttermilk(see note 1)

Dough ingredients
260g bread flour
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil(see note 2)

85g coarsely grated cheese(use Swiss gruyere, provolone, Gouda or Cheddar)
100g salami slices(see note 3)

1) Make the sponge first by combining the flour and yeast in a bowl. Add in the milk and whisk to make a pancake-like batter. Cover the bowl and let ferment at room temperature for one hour. The sponge will foam and bubble.
2) In the meantime, pan-fry or toast the salami slices until crispy. Drain off the oil and crumble into smaller pieces.
3) Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in the egg and sponge from (1).
4) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball. If it appears too dry, add in small amount of water so that there is no loose flour. Cover the dough and rest it for 10 mins.
5) After 10 minutes, add in the olive oil and mix until incorporated. Then switch to dough hook and knead on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins. Add in the salami pieces and knead(or mix) until evenly distributed. Then add the cheese and gently knead(or mix) until it is also evenly distributed. The dough should be soft and elastic, but not sticky.
6) 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.
7) Punch dough down and shape into a ball. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
8) Line the bottom of an 8-inch round tin and grease the sides. Flatten into a disk shape and place in the centre of the prepared tin. Let rest for 5 mins. Using your fingertips, gently push/stretch the dough out from the centre until it touches the side of tin. If at anytime the dough resists stretching, let dough rest for 5 mins before continuing. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to the top of the tin, about 50-60 minutes.
9) Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 35-40 minutes until evenly golden brown and cooked through. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool at least one hour before slicing.

(1) I make my own buttermilk by combining ½ tbsp lemon juice with enough milk to make 120ml. Using buttermilk will impart a slight tangy-ness to the loaf.
(2) If you like a richer version of this bread, use 85g unsalted butter(at room temperature) in place of olive oil at Step 5, as in the original recipe. Mine is a ‘leaner’ version.
(3) Besides salami, pepperoni, bacon or chorizo can also be used. Just be sure to cut into smaller pieces, then sauté them to crisped them and release the fragrance.

This bread is at its best served slightly warm, where there’ll still be pockets of melting cheese. But if you need to store them, toast them lightly the next day and they will still be delish.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Another Variation

Hmm...actually I dont have much to write in this post(kind of having 'mental block' these days) Just want to share with you another flavour of my favourite butter cake recipe. This time it's durian - the King of Fruits.

Durian Cupcakes

100g plain flour
125g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
200g unsweetened plain yogurt
160g durian flesh*
85g unsalted butter
180g sugar
2 eggs, beaten

Almond flakes for sprinkling(optional)

1) Grease or line 12 muffin cups. Preheat oven to 180C.
2) Sift flours, baking powder and baking soda. Combine yogurt and durian flesh, mix well.
3) Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Dribble in eggs slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 mins.
4) On LOW speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in ½ of the yogurt mixture. Then beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining yogurt. Finally beat in the remaining flour mixture.
5) Divide mixture between the muffin cups, sprinkle almond flakes on top, and bake for about 20 to 25 mins or till skewer inserted comes out clean.

I use a stand mixer for this, which can ‘fold in’ the flour and yogurt gently on its lowest speed. If you cream the butter manually or with a hand-held mixer, after the eggs have been incorporated, use a spatula to gently fold in the flour and yogurt.

*To obtain durian flesh, pass them though a sieve to remove the fibres, then measure out 160g.

These cupcakes does not have an overwhelming durian taste/smell. Instead it is subtle, but yet distinct. I used a combination of flours these time, and obtained a nice moist crumb that does not fall apart easily.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Favourite Seeds

After making the Por Lor Pau last week, I attempted them again as I was not very satisfied with ‘pineapplle skin’. However, this batch didn’t turn out any better. Disappointment aside, something did turn out well – the bread.

Once again, I used the Hokkaido Milk Loaf recipe, but adapted it to make a black sesame loaf. I have always been fond of using sesame seeds in my baking, so when I bought a bottle of ground sesame ‘powder’, I wanted to see what I could do with it, and this bread recipe came just in time.

Below is my adapted recipe. Click here for the original recipe from Schneider.

Black Sesame Milk Loaf

270g bread flour
30g cake flour
15g milk powder
40g sugar
4g salt
2 tbsp ground black sesame
5g active dry yeast plus 20g water
Half a beaten egg(about 26g)
70g single cream
110g fresh milk

1) Dissolve yeast in water. Set aside for 5-10 mins, stir to dissolve yeast.
2) Mix flours, milk powder, sugar, salt and sesame in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in yeast mixture, egg, cream and milk.
3) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball. Switch to dough hook and knead dough on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins.
4) 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.
5) Punch dough down, then cover and rest for 10 minutes.
6) Shape dough into a loaf and place in a greased/lined 8” by 4” loaf tin. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to about double the height, about 45-60 minutes.
7) Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

The above method is based on using a stand mixer. If you’re kneading by hand, at Step 3, 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 4 onwards.

If you like asian-style breads, this would be the recipe to try, for it's soft and moist, and its softness lasts beyond 2 days, which is pretty good considering this is made without any commercial bread improvers.