Sunday, 11 December 2011

BUTTERY, CRUMBLY, MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH


I do enjoy a good sausage roll once in a while.  Sure they lack the sophistication of French pastries but something about these rustic sausage rolls always manage to evoke the widest smiles. I’ve brought them to the office, picnics and housewarming parties and they are a big hit every time.

French butter and Atlantic sea salt play a big part in making the shortcrust pastry oooh so crumbly and addictive. And frankly, who can resist sausages from the Pan Pacific Hotel deli?


Fun's Shortcrust Pastry

200 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
100 grams chilled salted butter, cut into 2-cm cubes
4 to 5 tablespoons iced water
Egg wash

How to make the perfect shortcrust pastry?  Read it up here and here.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT PIZZA


Last weekend, while I was catching up on Bones Season 5 in my study when the TV suddenly spit "POOF!", gave off a little smoke and blacked out. Since the set was 15 years old its sudden demise didn't come as a shock. Frankly I had looked forward to buying one of those flat screen babies which would allow me to do more than just watch dvd.

While waiting for the new LED thingy to be delivered today I made pizza using the Italian Tipo 00 Flour For Pizza which Tammy got for me from il Bel Paese in Hong Kong.

What is Tipo 00 flour? Italian flours are classified by how finely they are milled, from the roughest ground "tipo"1, to 0, and the finest 00. There is a tipo 00 flour to suit every baking need – tipo 00 farina per dolci (type 00 flour for cake), per piadina (for Italian flatbread) and per pasta. Then, of course, there’s tipo 00 farina per pizza.

It is interesting to read that with Italian flour the baking strength of the dough is indicated by the letter "W". A higher "W" value, the stronger the flour. It is also important to know the "P/L" (the relationship between the tenacity and extensibility) of the dough. Flours with a high "P" value tend to have a high gluten content and absorb a relatively large quantity of water.

"L" represents the extensibility of the dough or its ability to rise. Gran Mugniao Farina “00” Per Pizza has the following specifications: W = 200-240; P/L 0.40-0.65




I managed to use up to 65% hydration. The dough was quite a challenge as it was sticky, sloppy and elastic. I pressed the dough out thin, almost transparent. Even so, it did puff up quite a lot during baking.  Not enough proofing, I suppose?




Sunday, 13 November 2011

DOMESTICATED



During weekends, I waste an incredible amount of time online researching nerdy stuff like poetry, books, photography and recipes.

My friend, C, is a little concerned when she found out that I spend my weekends blogging and baking. Recently liberated from an unhappy marriage, C is in the process of rediscovering herself. When I met her last week she declared proudly that she attended a concert on her own, something she has never done in her entire life! This year she spent her birthday weekend with friends in a beach resort, enjoying whole-heartedly for the first time in ages. “I fell asleep while listening to the sound of the ocean,” she said beaming, eager to express her new-found freedom.

C thinks that I need to go out more.

What C doesn’t realise is that I’m at the opposite end of her life stage. During the 16+ years that she was busy maintaining a marriage and family, I had been hanging out plenty. Now I feel happy to come away and be touch with my domestic side.

It’s been years since I made wonton (云吞), I've forgotten the correct way to fold the wrapper!


Friday, 11 November 2011

SLIGHTED







One night in the middle of October, a drama took place in my household involving: my mother, severe nose bleeds, and an ambulance. Afterwards Mom earned herself two appointments at TTS Hospital: one with an ENT specialist for endoscopy to ensure she doesn’t have a tumor; one for blood test to rule out hemophilia and other disorders. I’m happy to report that she passed on both counts. After conducting a brief memory test the doctor was quick to rule out dementia. Too quick, in my opinion, especially after she answered an affirmative “No” when asked if she has any children. Considering I was sitting next to her at the time, I think I have the right to feel slighted.
 

Friday, 28 October 2011

BREAD USING DURUM



This is bread made with 'Duelio' (durum) flour by Nisshin (日清杜蘭小麥麵粉), bought during my visit to Taipei in August. Compared to other brands of bread flour, this one is develops gluten much faster. It's the colour of cornmeal - a nice pale yellow.  The Ham & Cheese Loaf smells heavenly and so natural.  A good flour definitely produces a more flavourful bread.

I can still recall the first time I made Ham & Cheese Bread. After 20 minutes in the oven, the dough was still white as sheet and very much uncooked. It also smelled weird. My parents made faces (who could blame them?) and wouldn’t touch it. I gave a slice to Moon, who told me quite bluntly, “Fun, you're my best friend and I love you but I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to try this!”

I have no talent.


But who was it who said that "Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy"?  Talented fellow blogger, Christina, once told me (when I commented on her beautiful homemade baguettes), “Yes you can if you have the will to learn.”

So here I am. A learning a day.



Bread dough: 100 grams Nisshin DUELIO (durum), 50 grams all-purpose flour, 20 grams caster sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 grams instant yeast, 20 grams egg, 90 grams milk, 10 grams unsalted butter

Footnote: The morning after. Saturday, October 29, 2011. Last night, I double-wrapped the remaining bread in clingfilm and left it on the dining room table. It is still soft this morning.  Amazing!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

FOCACCIA FOR DINNER


After an exceptionally busy work week, I'm glad to retreat home to Chilli Crab Kitchen. This is my happy space.  In here I think happy thoughts and do only the things that I enjoy most.


Serena brought home a beautiful bottle of olive oil while vacationing in Italy.  Will attempt to make focaccia!  Today's focaccia recipe is from 面包新语, written by Kyoto-born pastry chef Nishikawa (西川功晃).

As with all bread dough, I started by beating the crap out of it (for about 6 minutes).  When I attempted to release it from the mixing bowl onto the countertop the dough, as if afraid of further abuse, clung on for dear life and refused to leave the bottom of the bowl!  And when I tried to coax it into letting go  I got dough stuck to the spatula, my fingers, and then the countertop.  I was like King Midas except everything I touched turned into dough, not gold.  I was horrified, “Oh no! There’s too much water!  I'm so in trouble now."   Fortunately it cooperated beautifully after the first proof. It wasn't long before the entire kitchen was filled with the heady scent of herbs and olive oil.

The focaccia came out of the oven just in time for dinner and the three of us had a simple meal of ham and cheese sandwiches. Dad was curious what expensive, high-end flour I splurged my money on this time but the secret is to use a mix of all-purpose flour and cake flour in equal proportions.  The dough was very sticky in the beginning but with a pair of lightly floured hands and a little patience, it all worked out well.

I still have a long way to go in mastering the art of making focaccia.  This one is a perfect golden brown, yet its centre is dry.


This one looks pale but it isn't uncooked.


Love the crumb structure though.


Still a long way from perfection.  Didn't do the nice olive oil justice at all. *disappoint!*

Bread dough: 250 grams all-purpose flour, 250 grams cake flour, 300 grams water, 5 grams salt, 7 grams instant yeast, 75 grams milk, 50 grams olive oil, dried oregano

Monday, 12 September 2011

A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIP


These pink roses were baked specially for my childhood friend Wai Leng, who celebrates her birthday today. Wai Leng and I have been friends since we were in kindergarten.  We even shared the same classrooms in primary, and most of secondary school.  Not many friendships make it this far.  I cherish what we have.


When I was in Taipei last month, I bought a book by Pierre Herme,  In it is a recipe for Cake Ispahan.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect with my new Nordic Ware Sweetheart Rose Cast Aluminium Non-stick Muffin Pan.


The startling combination of raspberries and scent of rose petals make my little sponge cakes clear winners.  I wonder, however, if the book was really written by Pierre Hermé himself because the Cake Isphan in the PH Paris website looks nothing like the one featured in the book!



A side story:  I was whisking egg whites at the dining room table when a fairly large wasp, obviously attracted by the scent of rose essence, flew into our apartment.  Curiously enough it only hovered close to my left shoulder for about 2 seconds then moved into the living room where it was spotted by my parents.  My mother went up in arms, rolling up the magazine she was reading, baton-like, to hit the poor thing with.  The insect, sensing impending doom, fled through the living room window.  It its haste to get way, it didn't fly out.  Rather, it kinda slid off the window ledge and plunged outside.  I hope it won't ever make its way back up 35 floors!




Happy birthday, Wai Leng!  How many friendships truly last a lifetime? 我们要把友情进行到底,知道吗?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

BEWITCHING BRIOCHE


Ever since I read Carole Walter's recipe for Brioche Buns with Dried Pears and Camembert I couldn't get the combination of creamy Camembert, toasted walnuts and candied pears infused with orange and cardamom out of my head.   I think about it everyday but I cannot make it - I haven't got dry pears! 


In our local supermarket there is abundance of dried mango, pineapple, banana, cranberries and once I even came across dried kiwi fruit but no dried pears!  I looked in all the local supermarkets but no avail.  I became obsessed with my search.  I went into depression.  My world stopped spinning. No, nothing else could substitute. Downright silly, I know. 

Then in July, my coworkers Soph and Venna headed off to Sydney to attend a client meeting and yes, they brought me back a small packet of dried pears!  Finally I can make Dried Pears and Camembert Loaves. 




I think I've done those dried pears justice.  

Friday, 19 August 2011

台北也有溫泉 Hot Springs in Taipei


Sunday morning up with the lark
I think I'll take a walk in the park
Hey hey hey it's a beautiful day

OK, so I didn't wake up with the lark on Sunday but I did have a song in my head as I got out of bed.  Headed out to Beitou with Sally after breakfast.

北投 Beitou
You don't have to travel far to enjoy hot springs in Taipei.  Take the MRT to 新北投站(Xinbeitou Station) and you'll find yourself in Taipei's hot springs district. 

People wanted to know if I went bathing in the one of the hot springs.  The answer is "No!"  Are you kidding me?  I felt the sun baking me slowly as I walked on the streets, ok?! I'm not jumping into any hot spring in this weather.

Cute train to Xinbeitou Station 新北投站 ...

A pretty long train ...

Beitou is nestled among the mountains.  There are hot spring hotels all over town.

Hot Spring Valley - the faint scent of sulphur is in the air.

Behind this lush greenery ...

... is a "steamboat" in which you can cook eggs.

Can you see the steam rising?

Even the creek is bubbling.


淡水老街 Danshui Old Street
A few stations away from Beitou is Danshui.  I've been here once previously with Tammy and Jee Sien but we didn't cover all of Danshui then.  It was pretty warm weather back then as well.  I remember Tammy was screaming murder because she was dying under the hot sun and we cut our trip short and escaped to 天母(Tienmu).





So many shops seling 阿给(Ah Gei).  Which one should we pick?  One offered us "Air Conditioning Upstairs".  Sold!  We are easy to please.



We'll drive on and follow the sun
Making Sunday go on and on
Hey hey hey it's a beautiful day


Thursday, 18 August 2011

吃喝台北 Food Glorious Food

Before I set off for Taipei, I listed out several things I would (and wouldn't) do.  I will eat in a Japanese restaurant.  I will not visit Jiufen, Danshui or Shilin Night Market because I've already done so. But how often do things always work out the way we plan, right? As it turned out I didn't have a single Japanese meal. AND - I did revisit Jiufen and Danshui and Shilin Night Market. Actually I ended up in 3 different night markets - 士林(Shilin), 临江(Linjian) and 师大(Shida). In a way, I feel blessed. If not for my friends' vigorous appetites, I may never have sampled such a wide variety of foods alone.









Taipei is a food lover's paradise.  Good food come in various forms from fine dining restaurants to hidden gems inside the city's narrow alleys.

Fortunately Sally loves good food as much as I do and she is willing to walk long distances for it.  Like 明月汤包for instance.  It's a good 15-minute walk from the MRT station but she persevered, and I followed, huffing and puffing under the intense summer heat. 

The one we ate in was the 明月老店on 基隆路。It  has only 6 tables.  There is another branch just around the corner on 通化街(Tong Hua Street) which looks newer and far more spacious.  We ordered only 2 dishes.

All 6 tables were fully seated when Sally and I arrived.

绍兴醉鸡 Drunken Chicken - I really like this cold dish.  The fragrance of the wine is too intoxicating for words.  The chicken skin is crunchy, reminding me of 猪脚冻。

小笼汤包 - Delicious steamed pork dumplings.  Even better than the ones we had in 鼎泰丰(Ding Tai Fung)!

I'm loving Taipei more and more. :-)