black rice & azuki buns w/ yam

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Real talk, making bread in my spare time just compels me to abandon dentistry and everything non-bread related, and become a full-time baker. The more I read about the history of bread-making, capturing your own natural yeast and the endless combinations of flavours one could incorporate into something so simple and beautiful; the more entranced and encouraged I am to keep trying, occasionally failing, and ultimately sharing more bread.

Speaking of the things, specifically grains that you could make bread with, I decided to go the slightly unconventional route today and put black rice in mine. It makes sense; people put all sorts of starches in their breads, like potatoes and cooked rice, why not the rarer but incredibly beneficial black rice? Actually, it’s not very rare or expensive here at all; known as ‘purple rice’, all you have to do is turn a corner and find street vendors selling sweet congee made with this stuff, most commonly cooked with azuki beans.

 

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Yam, funnily enough plays a much more pivotal role on the Taiwanese dinner table than potatoes or sweet potatoes, which are almost another family member in our Australian home. The first ever excursion I can remember had us going to a yam farm. Mostly we eat it as is, sometimes baked with cheese, and parceled in bread it retains its sweetness and lends moisture to said bread.

 

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This recipe was created to use up homemade sweet congee made with black rice and azuki beans, but if you so wish to make it from scratch, it’s very simple and there are no measurements required. First of all, rinse and soak equal handfuls of azuki beans and black rice overnight. This will help soften the grains and reduce cooking time later. Without draining the water, as it contains the leaked nutrients, add more water if needed to cover the grains twice (i.e. if the beans and rice sit at 2cm, add enough water to reach 4cm). Cook in a rice cooker or on the stovetop for about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while if using the latter, as well as testing for doneness and adding more water if necessary. Consistency wise, it should be like, well, congee – somewhere between rice and rice stirred in soup. Add a few tablespoons of raw sugar at the end to taste and it’s done! Serve as is, or with a splash of milk, or chilled.

 

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Black rice has a bit of a bite, so it won’t be as soft as regular rice, and has a unique flavour and fragrance – I eat this stuff out of the pot quicker than I do ice cream.
Black rice, azuki & yam buns (makes 6 palm-sized buns)

200g bread flour
50g black rice flour (or replace with more bread flour)3g instant dried yeast
3g salt
15g sugar (adjust according to sweetness of your congee)
1 egg
150~200g black rice & azuki bean congee, room temperature
30g unsalted butter

1 medium baked yam, peeled

Add all of the ingredients to a mixing bowl, in the order they’re listed. Knead until a smooth soft dough ball is formed, about 6-7 minutes. Add in the softened butter pieces and knead for a further 10-15 minutes. Cover and proof till doubled in size (anywhere from 45mins to 2hrs depending on the climate).

Gently press the air out of the dough, and divide it into six equal portions. Roll each portion out to an oblong shape, about 15cm long, and dot chunks of the yam onto the dough. Roll it up, seal the seam, and shape into a ball. Once the process has been applied on all 6 buns, cover and proof again for ~45mins. You may like to slash the tops if you want the yam to be somewhat exposed. Bake in a preheated oven at 175C/347F for 15-20mins.

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