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.

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a very matcha entremet ft. azuki & chocolate

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If this isn’t the most Asian thing I’ve done on here, I don’t know what is. (Well, apart from all the Asian-style bread that I’m so keen on making lately…) An entremet featuring the family favourite flavour (dat alliteration, I should ditch dentistry and become a poet instead), matcha, with guest stars azuki beans and chocolate.

After two days of semi-intense work, I had an off day yesterday where I was indulged in piggishness (at the best buffet in town, no less, which happens to have a dreamy dessert bar), and did practically nothing substantial other than start my first ever batch of sourdough starter, fingers crossed it doesn’t just turn into a big jar of moldy raisins.

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As I haven’t made proper multi-component desserts in a while, I thought I would make something with matcha and azuki. Cliché and predictable, I know, but to me they’re a match made in dessert heaven and I can never have too much of it. I immediately turned to Foodagraphy. By Chelle. who seems to worship matcha even more than I do, and was captured by her matcha azuki entremet. So I went to work right away, and voilà, a few hours later was rewarded with one of the most matcha-y desserts one could envision. Just sweet enough and the slightly bitter matcha flavour perfectly balanced by the sweet azuki beans, with a chocolate undertone – I think I might’ve had a Ratatouille moment, as it reminded me of why I was drawn to homemade desserts in the first place.

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p.s. sadly I do realise that my matcha cream looks a bit melty, that’s because I didn’t chill it long enough (at least 4 hrs ~ overnight is best). It does taste good though :L


Very matcha entremet
(makes one 25.5 x 9.3cm cake or 10 servings)
(adapted from Foodagraphy. By Chelle. who adapted from Kanae Kobayashi)

For the chocolate sponge cake:
40g chocolate
23g heavy cream
102g or 3 egg whites
45g castor sugar
23g cake flour

For the soaking syrup:
20g water
20g sugar
dash of liqueur (optional, I used strawberry)

For the ganache:
40g dark chocolate (~70%)
63g heavy cream

~1/2 cup of azuki bean paste, chunky or smooth

For the matcha mousse:
3g powdered gelatine
5g matcha powder
20g sugar
82g whole milk
63g heavy cream

For the matcha cream:
10g sugar
3g matcha powder
105g heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 170C/338F and prepare a lined baking sheet large enough to fit two 25.5 x 9.3cm rectangles. I find it easier to use the sheet upside down if it has rims when I’m removing the cake once it’s baked. To make the cake, first pour boiled heavy cream into chopped chocolate and stir to combine, then set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the sugar until you get stiff peaks. Fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture (cooled but not too firm to work with, if it’s firmed up just heat it for a few seconds and stir). Halfway through folding add in sifted flour, fold that in as well and continue incorporating the rest of the meringue. Spread the batter evenly onto the sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the middle bounces back when gently pressed. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

While waiting for the cake to cool, you can make the syrup and ganache. Boil the water and sugar together, then add the alcohol if using, and set aside. Boil the cream and pour over the chopped chocolate, cover for a minute then stir to combine, cover and let cool to room temperature.

When the cake has cooled, cut two 25.5 x 9.3cm rectangles out of it (or other desired dimensions) and lay the first piece into a mousse ring. I use cardboard fence lined with clingfilm because I’m poor, it does the same job. Brush the first layer with syrup, and spread half of the cooled ganache onto it, then all of the azuki bean paste. Spread the remaining ganache onto the azuki paste, top with the second layer of cake and brush with more syrup. Cover and chill at least 2 hours till firm.

Only start preparing the mousse when the cake is almost done or is done chilling, as it will start setting as soon as it’s mixed. Sprinkle the gelatine onto cold water and let it bloom for 5 minutes. Meanwhile start boiling the milk. Whisk together the sugar and matcha, and slowly stream in the hot milk while whisking so that there are no lumps of matcha. Add in the bloomed gelatine while the matcha mixture is still hot, and whisk to combine. Whip the heavy cream to semi-stiff peaks, and bit by bit fold it into the room temperature matcha mixture. Pour the mousse from a height onto the cake, to eliminate air bubbles, you can also tap the pan. Refrigerate again for 2 hours for the mousse to set.

For the matcha cream, whisk together the matcha and sugar, and slowly add cream while whisking to avoid lumps. When all of the cream has been added, whip it to semi-stiff peaks. Pour it on top of the set mousse and chill at least 4 hours to overnight. Decorate however you wish, or leave as it is. I mixed a bit of smooth azuki bean paste with whipped cream and squirted it all over, because it’s my mission in life to pretend to be fancier than I really am.

matcha + azuki bean panna cotta

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This dessert combines two of the most nostalgia-inducing things from my childhood: matcha and panna cotta. The latter being my absolute favourite when I was about 7, I’d get it every single time whenever we went to the bakery and is still my go-to choice for afternoon tea or post-meal light dessert. There’s just something so attractive in its simplicity, the milky richness and the way it dissolves in your mouth.

Matcha, on the other hand, was my mum’s obsession, almost in an unhealthy way. What did she want for shaved ice? Matcha and azuki beans. What ice cream flavour would she like? Matcha. She brought home taiyaki for our after school snack and guess what kind she got? Dad used to roll his eyes and call it ‘formulaic’, except he himself was converted to a matcha fanatic a couple years ago.

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The ideal, dreamy panna cotta should hold its form, but just barely so that it melts onto the heat of your palate. For my preferred texture, I only add enough gelatin so that it sets and doesn’t develop chewing texture. One bite of this and I’m back in first grade, on our excursion to a yam farm, being taught to make ‘the best panna cotta ever’ in literally a cauldron. We licked it up greedily on the bus on the way back, like a scene straight out of an anime, except dirtier.

Super creamy matcha panna cotta with azuki beans

60g milk
1 T matcha powder
4g (1t) powdered gelatin
300g cream*
40g sugar

*I experimented with reduced-fat and it worked great

First, add enough milk to the matcha until it forms a paste, about 1-2 T. Then sprinkle gelatin over the rest of the milk and leave it for 5 mins to bloom. In the meantime, heat the cream and sugar together until tiny bubbles appear. Turn off the heat and add in the matcha paste and gelatin clump and stir to melt and dissolve. Strain the mixture before pouring into serving dishes (I made 6 portions out of this). For extra azuki-ness, place some sweetened azuki beans at the bottom of the containers.

Tap lightly to release the bubbles and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. If you want to turn them out, quickly dip the containers in hot water first for easy removal.

I don’t have a strict method for the sweetened azuki beans, I just eye it and do things to taste, like my mum does. I soak the beans in water overnight, strain them and boil them for about half an hour until tender, al dente if you like. Depending on how syrupy or dry you like it, keep adding water to the pot so the beans don’t burn. Then add sugar to taste, about one ladle per 500g. Our favourite way to enjoy them is straight out of a bowl with a splash of milk.