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 super 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

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 bought from il Bel Paese 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.




The dough was sticky, sloppy and elastic. A challenge.  I pressed the dough out thin, almost transparent. Even so, it did puff up quite a lot during baking.  Maybe not enough proofing, you think?


Sunday, 13 November 2011

DOMESTICATED



On 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.

Today I realised that I've forgotten the correct way to form a wonton!


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 Mum 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

A LITTLE BIT OF SUCCESS



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, 2 grams instant yeast, 20 grams caster sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 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 cling film and left it on the dining room table. It stayed soft till this morning!

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.


Serena brought home a beautiful bottle of olive oil while vacationing in Italy.  I made focaccia from a recipe  from 面包新语 - a book 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 in such trouble now."   Fortunately Sloppy Dough cooperated after the first proof. It wasn't long before the entire kitchen was filled with the scent of herbs and olive oil.

The focaccia came out of the oven just in time for dinner and the three of us - Mum, Dad and I - 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 of Nishikawa's recipe is using 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 turned out ok.


Quite pleased with the crumb structure.


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, 5 grams salt, 7 grams instant yeast, 4 grams dried oregano, 50 grams olive oil, 75 ml milk, 300 ml water

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!


As I was whisking egg whites at the dining room table a fairly large wasp, obviously attracted by the scent of rose essence, flew into our apartment.  It hovered over my left shoulder for about 2 seconds before moving 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!  May our friendship lasts a lifetime.

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 to Sydney for work.  I begged them for a 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?  The weather was so hot, I felt that my skin was slowly turning crispy even as I walked. 

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(Tianmu).





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 variety of foods.










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 dined 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 Tong Hua Street (通化街) 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.  I personally think they are much better than the ones we had in Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰丰) !

I'm so in love with Taiwan.

AAHHH ...

I just discovered that the new Blogger interface works with CHROME. How come no one tells me this?! I've been blogging with SAFARI sin...