plum crumb buns

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Wow. I’ve been away from blogging so long I almost don’t remember how to do it. Not that I was particularly good at it, but I do feel responsible to make sure to provide the recipes with some company in the form of writing. So, Jane-The-Virgin-style, let me catch you up with what’s been happening aka excuses why I’ve been procrastinating: uni started two weeks ago, and since then we’ve been immersed in training for clinics which has been hard most of the time and boring the rest, it doesn’t make any sense, and then I’m looking for a dental assistant job because everybody has/has had one, and then there’s my brother and stuff. But. I have been making food. Regardless of the results, it’s therapeutic and calming while working with my hands; much unlike holding a drill and literally making a hole in people’s skulls.

Funny story, during the first week our course coordinator had us write in on this virtual blackboard thing the things that concerned us the most going into patient clinics. Literally, the most popular result was… manslaughter. Then it was HIV and getting sued. We sure are a confident bunch, as you can tell. I’ve definitely learned in my time in clinics that the more I suck, the more I appreciate the times where I don’t suck.

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Going back to the food (lol), project crumb bun was a long time coming. Sure, I’ve had lots of crumb cakes, but have been intrigued for time now by how the texture of a yeasted bread would work with a thick layer of crumbly topping. I’m glad I tried, because we’re kind of obsessed with them right now. The light cinnamon flavour combined with the tangy, juicy fruit laced with a hint of lemon is to die for, like, this is really good (my mum said so too so it’s true).

 

Plum crumb buns (makes 12)

For the bun part:
78g lukewarm water
7g dry instant yeast
1 egg + lukewarm milk = 100g
35g sugar
58g unsalted butter
3g salt
220g all purpose flour plus extra

For the crumb part:
80g unsalted butter, cubed and cold
60g sugar (can be mixture of white & brown)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
80g flour

For the plums:
4-5 plums
1-2 tbsp sugar
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon

First activate the yeast in the lukewarm water, with a pinch of the sugar in the recipe, whisk briefly and let bubble for 5 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients except the room temperature butter. Mix until it becomes a homogeneous mixture, about 4 minutes. If it’s too sticky to form a ball of dough, add extra flour a tablespoon at a time, stop when the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl but is still moist. With the mixer on, add the butter bit by bit, then continue mixing until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed. Take the dough out and turn it to tuck it in, lightly grease the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover and proof in a warm place until it doubles in size, about an hour.

To prepare the plums, de-stone and slice them into thin slices. Toss with the other ingredients until the juices start to come out. Set aside.

To make the crumb topping, mix together the dry ingredients. Either with your fingertips or on a mixer, incorporate the cold bits of butter quickly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Refrigerate.

Grease (and line if you like) a tin that measures approx. 20 x 25cm (or similar area). Roll out the proven dough on a lightly floured surface to the size of the pan, then transfer it into the pan, pressing in the corners. Cover and proof again for about 45 mins. Start preheating the oven to 180C at 35 mins.

Drain the plums and spread them in a single layer on top of the dough. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly on top and bake for approx. 40 minutes or longer, until the top, as well as the bottom, are nice and golden (no soggy bottom). Cool at least 30 mins before portioning and serving. Drizzle with a simple lemon juice-icing sugar icing if desired.

nectarine & brown butter brioche buns

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I’m feeling not like myself recently. Just negative upon negative thought, all enwrapped in bitterness and jealousy. The worst thing is, I know why it is and what action can be taken, instead of being the sulky person that I’m mostly not. Being the only female in the household for the time being, I feel suddenly burdened by the responsibility that is usually carried by the mother figure – looking after younger siblings, shopping for groceries, cooking, doing all the chores and not being acknowledged for any of it. Even a little cast aside and ignored, with no one to talk to. Of course, most of it is in my head, I know that, but it doesn’t stop me from retreating into myself.

Fortunately, a 3-day trip to the East coast has been of great help in alleviating my boredom, which is easily confused with depression. Six hours of train ride each way and not an ugly scene in sight, but sunny beaches, crashing waves, fishermen on rocks and untouched wilderness.

 

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Once again, I’ve succumbed to hintofvanilla‘s food porn. The allure of a baked brown butter pudding in the centre of each rich, soft brioche bun, topped with fresh peach instantly seduced me. The dough rose so beautifully and unified with the filling and topping – this’ll not be the last time I’ll be making these, that’s for certain. I’m neither a pastry chef nor good at presentation, therefore I highly recommend visiting her blog for stunning photography and wonderfully detailed instructions on how to make these delightful treats. After all, who cares about the high butter content and caloric intake when it’s Chinese New Year’s, right?

raisin bread

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I read a book the other day about how to make small talk, and on the very cover was the blatant statement that it should never start with the weather. I imagine that it probably applies to any kind of conversation, including a blogger to their reader. But you know what, life’s too short for me not to shitpost.

So I’ve been chasing wind and loving it. It breaks my heart that there’s only three weeks left before my beloved bike separates with me, even more than being separated from family, however horrible that sounds. I love the freedom and the pure thrill of riding right next to the railroad and pedaling as fast as I can to keep up with the trains flying past.
Oh, you’re just here for the food? Well this bread came about as an effort, frankly, to use up my raisin sourdough starter that I’ll have to separate with as well when my holidays are up. Raisin toast is absolutely everywhere in Australia for some reason, most frequently seen on the chalkboards outside coffee shops, but I’ve always found it too dry and lacking in depth of texture. That’s why I adapted one of my favourite sandwich bread recipes, which happens to be surprisingly straightforward as it requires no cooking and chilling of water-roux but still makes the softest stringy toast with dairy flavour undertones.

 

raisin bread (one 450g loaf)

300g bread flour
20g sugar
4g salt
2g active dry yeast
18g fed and active sourdough starter (or replace with more yeast)
15g unsalted butter
70g whole milk, scalded and cooled body temp.
135g lukewarm water
80g rum soaked raisins (or raisins)

Drain the raisins and set aside. Mix the yeast in the lukewarm milk and wait for it to foam up. Combine the yeasty milk, dry ingredients and 105g of the water and mix on low speed. Add the remaining water if needed; the final dough should be tacky but not sticking to your hands. Add the butter and mix until the dough can be stretched thin enough to be translucent. Add the raisins and mix briefly so they don’t break up.

Oil the bowl, form the dough into a ball and put it inside, spray the surface of the dough with a little water, cover and proof for an hour in a warm place. At the end of proofing the dough should be doubled in size and not bounce back when poked with a floured finger.

Take out the dough and punch the air out of it. Divide it equally in two and form each portion into a ball. Cover and rest for 15-20mins.

Roll each portion of the dough flat into a rough rectangle and roll them up from the short side. Cover and rest again for 15-20mins. Roll the dough flat, turn it over, roll it up from the short side and place the two rolls open side towards the long sides of the loaf tin. Spray the top with water, cover and let rise until the dough fills up to 90% of the tin. 10 minutes before done proofing, preheat the oven to 175C, then bake for 30 minutes. Loosen from tin and let cool for 20+ minutes before slicing.

chestnut pull-apart bread

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This bread came about when I stumbled upon a Korean sweet bread involving chestnuts that resembled monkey bread, except not as sticky-looking. Just as well, as we’re not too fond of excessive sugar in our breakfast foods. So I thought it an excellent opportunity to use up sweet roasted chestnuts and have my first go at a pull-apart style bread.
chestnut pull-apart bread

For the water-roux/tangzhong:
18g bread flour
88g water

For the dough:
44g unsalted butter, room temp.
40g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temp.
116g bread flour
116g all-purpose flour
68g milk, lukewarm
4g instant dry yeast
all of the water-roux/tangzhong

For the caramel chestnut paste:
200g peeled roasted chestnuts
50g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
180g water

For the sticky sauce:
20g unsalted butter
20g brown sugar
pinch of salt

The directions to make the main dough are identical to that for the soft fluffy cinnamon rolls.

To make the chestnut paste, add the chestnuts and sugar into a saucepan on medium heat. Gently shake the pan once in a while but don’t stir. After a while the chestnuts will begin to toast and the sugar liquefy, continue to cook until the sugar turns into a rich amber colour. Add half of the water to start, stir the contents occasionally and cook until the chestnuts are tender and mashable, and the liquid reduces to a thick syrup (add some of the remaining water at a time if syrup is very thick but the chestnuts aren’t soft yet). Cool completely. Place the chestnuts with about half of the syrup into a food processor/blender and process until the desired consistency is reached (mine was semi-chunky). Add more syrup if it looks too dry to spread.

After the first rise (of the dough), punch down the dough and roll it out into a thinner rectangle. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, keeping the rest covered while you work with one. Fill each piece of dough with a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the chestnut paste, pinch together the dough and roll it into a ball. Repeat with the rest.

Make the sticky sauce by boiling the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.

In a greased and/or lined ovenproof container, arrange the 16 balls as indicated:

8 stretched and flattened pieces around the sides, 8 more in the centre. As an optional step, I also stuffed some of the remaining paste into the gaps. I also poured in half of the sauce into the bottom.

Cover and let rise for a second time until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 175C. In the meantime, re-warm the sauce and pour over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, you may need to cover the top with foil in the last 10 minutes to avoid overbrowning.

 

matcha & azuki bean swirl bread

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I’m going to keep this post rant-free. Let’s see how well I keep that promise.

So the truth is, I’ve seen and walked past no less than 10 stray dogs since I’ve been in Taiwan. Is it a rarity? No. It’s been commonplace as long as I’ve lived here, especially with schools, markets and parks in the area where people typically dump dogs. How does it make me feel seeing them? To be honest, when I was little, I had an irrational fear of dogs so I didn’t care much as long as they didn’t come near me. But now, I feel helpless and guilty for leaving them to their fate when all I can do is maybe feed them if they stay around long enough. If the average life for strays is within 2 years, I don’t know if I’d be doing them any favours by reporting to authorities where they probably won’t be given a chance. As long as I live at home and can’t have pets, I’ll feel like a hypocrite, but in the meantime, I’ll have to depend on other people’s kindness, like the lady who gave money to our renter to buy food for a stray who makes a regular appearance on our street.

Phew. That wasn’t too long was it.

There isn’t much to say about the food except that by now I probably could and should have a separate category for matcha and azuki bean things.

 

Matcha & azuki swirl bread (one 450g loaf)

For the water-roux/tangzhong:
18g milk
8g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
18g bread flour

For the biga:
110g milk
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
all of the tangzhong
180g bread flour
5g sugar

For the main dough:
75g bread flour
3g salt
30g sugar
1/2 tsp yeast
20g milk
1 egg
all of the biga
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp matcha powder

150g smooth/chunky sweetened azuki bean paste

To make the tangzhong, heat all the ingredients together while whisking/stirring constantly till the mixture bubbles and thickens, then let it bubble for a minute before turning off the heat. Cover and chill 16-24hrs in the fridge.

For the biga, first heat the milk to lukewarm or about body temperature, then stir in the yeast to foam up and activate. Add in the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, milk, egg and torn-up little bits of tangzhong and mix on low speed until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl. Cover and let proof for an hour in temperatures of 27-28C (when it’s cold I like to let dough proof in a turned-off microwave/oven with a glass of hot water). Then transfer it to the fridge to proof for a further 36-72hrs.

Take the biga outta the fridge, it should have a webbed interior. Break it up into bits. Add to it the dry ingredients, then the milk and egg. Mix until even then add the room temperature butter, mix again till elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes. Divide the dough in two equal portions; cover one portion and add matcha powder to the other portion and mix until well distributed. Roll both portions into separate balls and let rest for 15-20mins.

Divide each flavour in half, and squeeze the air out of each piece of dough with a rolling pin (dusted with a little flour if needed). Visualise the flattened dough as thirds, and fold the top and bottom third into the middle like a letter. Then flatten longitudinally with a rolling pin, making sure the width of each strip is narrower than half the length of your loaf tin, so that the dough fits in later. Spread half of the azuki bean paste on each of the two white strips, leaving a 2cm border all around. Place the matcha flavoured strip on top of the white and pinch the edges to seal, do this with the other pair too. Roll them up starting from the short side so you end up with a fat cylinder. Place them into a 12oz loaf tin, lined and/or greased, spirally open sides toward the short sides of the container.

Cover and let rise until the dough rises to about 4/5 the height of the loaf tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes or until golden and done on the inside. Leave in tin to cool until touchable and chill the bread laid on its side so it doesn’t shrink. Ready to slice when cooled.

wine-soaked longan boule

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guess who almost overbrowned the top… but at least the swirly design is nice

If you’ve ever seen one of my posts and thought that I was way out of my depth trying to recreate some master’s creation – well, I’ve reached new heights in my overestimation of self in very arrogantly tackling what is THE most popular, sought after, award-winning king of loaves in the country (and most expensive, RIP my savings).

About 5 years back, master baker Wu Pao Chun made waves, no, tsumanis with this exact bread. People including ourselves would drive intercity, line up for hours outside his ‘Pasadena’ bakery just for half a loaf (the cost being triple~quadruple of more common European style bread, most couldn’t afford the whole deal). You may ask if it truly lives up to the hype, in my 19 years’ experience of bread fetishising, I’ve never tasted anything so sophisticated, layered, and dare I say, sexy. Although it is definitely more adult, the sweetness coming from the wine and dried longan meat, with the addition of slightly bitter walnuts providing crunch. Ever since we last bought the bread on one of our trips to Kaohsiung, I’ve been craving it again. So I had to find a solution that isn’t driving all the way to a different city every time the craving resurfaces.

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Almost impossibly, THE recipe has been publicised, and not locked up in an underground safe somewhere. Shame on you, Mr Krabs. As expected, it includes names of ingredients I’ve never heard of; but after a little research I modified it to be more home baker-friendly. And honestly, if quality ingredients are used, particularly the wine and longan, the results come pretty darn close to the real thing. I baked these at 10pm and was still smelling the smoky sweet fragrance of the dried longan hours later.

 

Wine soaked longan boule (makes one pretty ginormous bread)
(adapted from Wu Pao Chun)

For the biga:
175g bread flour
38g sourdough starter (I made mine using raisins)
50g red wine
55g lukewarm water
4g instant dried yeast

For the main dough:
all of the biga
200g bread flour
5g wheat germ (can get away without it)
2g instant dried yeast
134g lukewarm water
4g molasses
4g salt
44g walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
87g dried longan
19g red wine

To prepare the biga, first dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and leave for a few minutes to foam up. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed for 4 minutes so it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover and proof at room temperature of about 20°C for 12~20hrs until the interior full of air holes and tripled in size (if the weather’s warm, you can consider leaving it at room temp. for a few hours then transferring to the fridge for 24hrs).

Meanwhile soak the dried longan in the 19g of red wine. By the time the starter dough has done proofing there shouldn’t be any liquid left.

Once the biga’s ready, dissolve both the yeast and molasses in the lukewarm water and wait for it to activate. Then, add all the ingredients for the main dough except the nuts and longan. Mix on low speed for about 5~6 minutes until dough can be stretched thin enough to be translucent. Add walnuts and soaked longan, mix on low for a minute. Cover and proof for an hour upwards till doubled in size.

Form the dough into one smooth ball, trying to bury any exposed longan as it’ll dry out and become bitter if not covered by dough. Cover and proof again for 60 minutes or longer until twice the size. If you’d like, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of flour and score as desired.

10 minutes before the dough is done proofing, preheat the oven to 220°C fan forced. Prepare a tray with some small rocks and half fill it with boiling water to create steam. This helps form a crusty exterior on the bread, but you could just spray the oven a few times with water after you put the dough in. Once the dough is in, lower the temperature to 200°C and bake for 35~40 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing.

multigrain-ish sandwich milk bread

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Why is it that despite all that rage about ‘healthier’ whole wheat breads, that we can still never resist a thick, slightly toasted slice of white fluffy bread? Is it that it complements just about every condiment there is so well? Or is it that its perfect whiteness inspires purity of heart which we pursue so much but acknowledge the near impossibility of? In any case, wouldn’t it be nice to have something that weighs less on our conscience health-wise but still tastes delicious?

 

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That is the precise reason I decided to add a little colour, as well as flavour to your standard breakfast toast. And not just any toast, one that is heavy in dairy in the form of both milk and heavy cream, and without a doubt surpasses a supermarket brand, bland and sodium heavy white bread in texture, taste and nutritional value.

The multigrain powder I’m using here is made up of 10 different grains, and lends quite a distinctive fragrance when added to recipes, so I held back a little on it. That is to say, feel free to change around the white bread flour to multigrain ratio to personal preference.

One of these days I will perfect or come close to perfecting a recipe for the fluffiest, softest and melt-in-your-mouth white bread (which I think my sister and I came pretty close to last night), but for now, I’d gladly spread this bread generously with peanut butter.

 

Multigrain-ish milk bread (makes one 450g loaf)

200g bread flour
50g multigrain flour
7g sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
80g milk
70g cream
18g egg whites
5g butter

20g egg whites
35g sugar
3g salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
15g milk powder (or almond powder)

5g butter

Take the first lot of ingredients and mix them till combined into a smooth dough, then cover and proof for up to 3 hours until doubled in size. Then add to it the second lot of ingredients and knead for 10-15 minutes until elastic and smooth, followed by the last bit of butter. Mix the butter in until the dough is moist and soft but comes off the mixing bowl. Cover and rest the dough for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, and roll each our into a thin square sheet. Fold the left and right 1/3 onto the middle so you have a rectangle. Roll the rectangle longitudinally to slightly flatten it, then roll it up with your fingers like a swiss roll, and place it seam down, swirly open side facing the long side of the loaf tin.

Cover the tin and proof again until the dough rises above the 3/4 mark, and bake at 175C/347F for about 30 minutes, or golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. Remove from tin when cooled enough to handle and cool for a further 20 minutes before slicing.