Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

If you are looking for a sandwich bread that has soft moist tender crumb and golden crust, this is one bread that you should try. This lovely recipe is from Dan Lepard, which you can get from, here. According to Dan Lepard, the fat content in the sour cream is what gives the crust its tenderness, so don't be tempted by any low fat substitutes. This bread has incredible oven spring, so give this loaf plenty of headroom when you put the loaf in the oven to bake.

Just as he says, this bread rose really high during the first 15 minutes of baking! After about 30 minutes of baking, I tent the top with foil as it is beginning to brown before the cake is done baking. When I remove the loaf right after baking, I can feel the softness of the loaf! 

This is one outstanding loaf. The crumbs are soft, moist and tastes really good. I ate most of the slices with a generous spread of cold salted butter (my favourite way of eating white soft breads), with mugs of hot coffee, really good. And we had a few slices made into sandwich with mashed egg filling, and it makes such a good sandwich bread. A definite keeper recipe! It is now one of my favourite bread! 

This bread is really easy to make. There's not much kneading at all, the only thing is, to let the dough rest for about 10 minutes after a brief kneading and folding, and this is repeated two more times. The only changes I made was to use only 1 teaspoon of salt instead of 2 teaspoons, and the light saltiness is just right for us.

Lovely moist, soft, tender crumbs.

I got the recipe from Dan Lepard's book "Short & Sweet" a fabulous book that I've bought from last December's book sale. You can get the recipe from guardian's website, here. I highly encourage you to make this bread, you would be glad you did!

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hakka Yam Abacus Beads Noodles

This noodle dish is a Hakka cuisine. We love eating this small cute little noodles. But surprisingly this noodle is not easily available from Chinese restaurants or hawker centres. So in order to enjoy this noodle, I made this a couple of months ago and am sharing it today with Little Thumbs Up January 2015 : Pasta/Noodles. 

These little rounded noodles are made up of mashed steamed yam and tapioca flour, which is mixed with a little boiling water, to form a dough. The dough is then made into small round balls (about the size of a small cherry tomato),  with one side pressed in the centre to make an indentation (resembling the abacus). The balls of noodles are then dropped into hot boiling water, drained and stir-fried as a noodle meal. 

A plate of Hakka Yam Abacus Beads Noodles

To make the yam abacus, firstly yam is steamed and mashed, then mix with some tapioca flour, and a little hot boiling water to make a dough. Pinches of dough is formed into small round balls, with an indentation on one side (use the back of a round chopstick), to resemble an abacus. They are then dropped into a pot of boiling water to cook, and when they start to float up, they are cooked. Remove and drain, they are now ready to be stir-fried.

The abacus beads noodles are soft on the outside with chewy centre, and is usually stir-fried with meat, mushrooms, soy sauce, oyster sauce and garnished with lots of crispy fried shallots and chopped spring onions. Serve hot, though they are great when eaten at room temperature too. A small plate is really quite filling! I love eating it with a condiment of sliced hot bird's eye chillies with a dash of light soy sauce.

Hakka Yam Abacus Beads Noodles
(adapted from "Delightful Snacks & Dim Sum", Agnes Chang)
600gm yam, cut into chunks, steamed until soft and mashed finely
300gm tapioca flour
1 tsp salt
some boiling water to mix, if necessary (I used about 3-4 tbsps)

2000ml water
2 tbsp oil

4 tbsp oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic and shallots
3 tbsp dried prawns, soaked
2 tbsp dried squid shreds, soaked (omitted)
200gm minced meat
3 dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked till soften, and cut to thin slices
3 tbsp black fungus, soaked, shredded (ommited)

Seasoning :
1 tbsp fish sauce (I replaced with oyster sauce)
1 tbsp chicken stock granules (I use 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
salt to taste (I use light soy sauce)
1/4 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 cup water

Garnishing :
1 egg, fried into thin omelette, shredded (omitted)
some chopped spring onion, red chillies and fried shallots

  1. Combine mashed yam and tapioca flour, mix into a pliable dough, adding some boiling water if necessary. Divide into small portions and form into the shape of abacus. (pinch some rolls of dough, the size of a small cherry tomato, roll in between your palms into a round and make an indent in the centre with your fingertip). Cook in rapidly boiling water until they float to the surface. Remove and place the abacus rounds into a pot filled with cool water. Repeat until all the abacus rounds are cooked. Drain and place in a large bowl. Mix with 2 tbsp oil. Keep aside.
  2. Heat up 4 tbsp oil, saute chopped garlic and shallots until fragrant. Add in dried prawns, dried squid shreds and stir-fry until aromatic. Add minced meat, mushroom shreds, black fungus shreds and stir-fry until fragrant. Add in seasoning and bring to the boil. Stir in yam abacus and stir-fry until dry. Taste and dish up. 
  3. Garnish with shredded omelette, spring onion, red chillies, fried shallots and serve hot.

I'm linking this post to :
Little Thumbs Up January 2015 : Pasta/Noodles organised by Zoe of Bake For Happy KidsDoreen of My Little Favourite D.I.Y, and hosted by Anne of My Bare Cupboard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

This week's bake at Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD) where we are currently baking from the lovely book "Baking Chez Moi", by Dorie Greenspan is Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake. 

According to Dorie, "The French call this a weekend cake because it will last all weekend, and it's good with so many kinds of weekend meals and outings."

I've made the cake twice, the first time, I've used a hand whisk. The cake did not really rise, the texture inside is full of holes, obviously I may have done something wrong during the mixing of the batter! But the cake tasted really good! 

The first bake ; lots of holes and did not rise that much at all.

Interestingly, this cake is baked in a loaf pan which is placed on two baking sheets that are stacked up together with the top sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

The second bake : turned out really nice.

Made the cake the second time, this time using the stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, from the whisking of the eggs, right through to the adding of the brown butter, which is the last step before baking. The cake bakes up really nice, well risen and moist, with lovely golden crust. I was really impatient to slice into it, but did as Dorie suggested, to wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it overnight for the flavours to develop. 

When I sliced it the next morning, I was all smiles as the crumbs are moist, there's no holes like the first time I've made it, and it smells really nice with the vanilla. It has a tight, dense but soft crumbs. The cake is buttery with the lovely scent of the vanilla and the light fragrance from the rum.  The only changes I made was to reduce the sugar to 180gm from the original 250gm, and the sweetness was just right for us. I've used salted butter and have omitted the salt. And I've lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, though it was not mentioned in the recipe, I always do that with my bakes.

As for the browning of the butter, Dorie mentioned that it takes just seconds for the butter to turn from a deep honey-brown to black, so keep a lookout for it, do not turn your back on it! (just love her friendly and easy to understand instructions!). I'm so relieved that I've managed to brown the butter to a deep honey-brown without any blunders! :)

I like eating thin slices of this cake, with a cup of warm tea. Though it cannot be seen clearly from the photo, the tiny specks of vanilla seeds are all over the cake. A tasty buttery fragrant cake!

To see the other bakers take on this cake, do stop by Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD).

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Stir-Fried Kailan with Ginger, Garlic and Chilli

"Veggie Variations", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). It's veggie week! I've harvested some homegrown Kai Lan from my potted garden and made Diana Henry's stir-fried veggie dish. She uses Kale, which I have not eaten nor seen before, so I've used my homegrown Kai Lan which is also known as Chinese Kale. I do wonder whether is the taste similar to Kale.

Kai Lan from my potted garden

A simple stir-fried dish, our version is pretty much similar to Diana Henry's  recipe ingredients. She has pre-boiled the Kale before stir-frying them, but I have omitted that step since I've used Kai Lan. A nice dish to serve for dinner along side some other dishes to eat with fluffy hot white rice.

Stir-fried Kale with Ginger, Garlic and Chilli
(adapted from "Food From Plenty", Diana Henry)
400gm (14oz) kale (I use my homegrown kai lan, cut into pieces, separating the stems and leaves)
2 tbsp oil
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2cm (3/4in) fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
4 spring onions, chopped

  1. Remove the ribs from the kale and tear or shred the leaves. Put into a large saucepan, cover with boiling water. Add salt and cook for about 4 minutes, then drain. (I use kailan, and omitted this step).
  2. Heat oil in a wok and fry the chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onions for 2 minutes (don't let the garlic burn). Add the kale. Cook for 1-1/2 minutes, turning to absorb the flavours. Season, squeeze over fresh lime juice and serve. (Add the stems, cook for about 2 minutes, then add the leaves, cook for a further 3-4 minutes. I did not use lime juice).

I'm linking this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week "Veggie Variations"

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hot-Milk Cakes with Strawberries and Cream : Bake-Along #74

It's our Bake-Along #74, and this week's bake, Hot-Milk Cakes with Strawberries and Cream, is selected by me to bake together with Lena and Zoe, and anyone who wishes to bake-along with us. 

Have you tried hot-milk cakes before? It is a light sponge cake, really soft and fluffy. The butter and milk are heated together until the butter melts and the mixture is just beginning to boil. This hot mixture is then poured into the batter, stir to combine gently, pour into the cake pan and bake accordingly. Guess that is why it is called Hot-milk Cake. 

The mini cakes which I've baked using ramekin moulds.  

I've baked this cake twice. The first time, the cake did not rise that much and it was dense and not fluffy soft as hot-milk cakes should be. I was sort of expected that actually, as when I read through the recipe, I realized that the method is slightly different from my favourite recipe which I have baked before, the one from Tish Boyle, which always turned out well. I noticed that the eggs are beaten rather than whisk. Should I use the whisk instead of the beater? But I decided to make the cake following the recipe and instructions from the Bon Appetit cookbook to see if there is any difference in the cake texture, with my fingers crossed that it would be just as good as Tish Boyle's, if not better! The cake did not turn out well at all. They are dense and not fluffy soft as a good hot-milk cake should be, but tasted pretty good!

So I've made the cake again, this time, following the same recipe from Bon Appetit, but using Tish Boyle's method of mixing the batter. And the cake turned out really well. They rise really nice with rounded top, the crumbs are soft and fluffy. Same recipe but with different methods in mixing the batter, gave completely different results. I'm not saying that there are anything wrong with the method of mixing the batter from Bon Appetit cookbook, but the one from Tish Boyle seems to work for me. I'm sure there are many bakers out there who has tried the recipe and method from Bon Appetit with good results! I was wondering which step I went wrong when following the Bon Appetit's recipe instructions. My guess is I should have used the whisk as I intended in the first place. Recipe says to "beat" and there is a vast difference between "beat" and "whisk"! 

I reduced the sugar for the batter to half a cup, and the sweetness is just right for us. The strawberries are sliced and macerated in some sugar of which I've used about 3-4 tablespoons,  for 20-30 minutes for the juices to form. I have added a tablespoon of rum, smells good!

To prepare the cream, whipped the whipping cream with 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

The rounded top of the cake is sliced, and keep aside. Place some sliced strawberries on the cake, place the rounded top back on the strawberries, and spoon or pipe some sweetened whipped cream on top. Garnish with more strawberries slices and drizzle with some of the lovely juices over. Serve immediately.

A lovely and yummy dessert! The cake is soft, light and fluffy (though I find that the recipe from Tish Boyle makes a fluffier cake). The strawberries are a delight with the added rum and with the sweetened whipped cream, makes this one delicious dessert. My family enjoyed this dessert very much!

Hot-Milk Cakes With Strawberries and Cream
(adapted from "Bon Appetit Dessert Cookbook", by Barbara Fairchild)
Makes 6
nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar (I've used 1/2 cup for the batter, and 3-4 tablespoons for the strawberries)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour (I've used plain flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder)
2/3 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (1-pound) container strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon rum for the strawberries (my addition)
1/2 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425F. Spray six 3/4-cup custard cups with nonstick spray. Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. Using electric mixer, beat eggs in medium bowl at high speed until thick, about 3 minutes. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, beating until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute longer. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour and beat 30 seconds. Bring milk and butter just to boil in small saucepan, stirring until butter melts. Beat hot milk mixture into batter. Continue to beat 30 seconds. Divide batter among prepared cups.

Bake cakes until firm to touch and pale golden, and tops form rounded peak in center, about 16 minutes. Cool in cups at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do Ahead : Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cool completely in cups, then cover and let stand at room temperature.

Toss strawberries and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in medium bowl to coat; let stand 20 minutes for juices to form. Using electric mixer, beat cream, powdered sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in another medium bowl until peaks form.

Remove cakes from cups and transfer to bowls. Cut off rounded top of each cake. Spoon some of berries and juices over. Cover berries with tops of cakes. Spoon whipped cream over, garnish with remaining berries and juices, and serve.

My notes :
Difference between the two methods : 
Beating of the eggs (beat/whisk)
Bon Appetit : beat the eggs 3 minutes, gradually adding in the sugar, and continue to beat for 1 minute longer.
Tish Boyle :  whisk the eggs, gradually adding in the sugar, and continue to whisk for 6 minutes until pale and creamy, and tripled in volume.

Adding of flour : (adding direct over the batter/sifting over the batter)
Bon Appetit : add the flour into the batter, and beat for 30 seconds.
Tish Boyle : sift the flour twice in a medium bowl, then sift the flour the third time over the batter, a third at a time, gently fold it in with a rubber spatula. 

Adding of hot-milk mixture : (beat/gently fold it in)
Bon Appetit : add hot-milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds.
Tish Boyle : add hot-milk mixture, and gently fold it in.

Baking temperature : (425F/350F)
Bon Appetit : 425F for 16 minutes.
Tish Boyle : following her method, baked at 350F and since I've used ramekin moulds for mini cakes, I've baked them about 24 minutes.

**To get the full instructions on Tish Boyle's method of mixing the batter, please refer to my old post here. Tish Boyle's recipe uses cake flour, which makes a more delicate and softer, fluffier cake.


Do stop by Lena of Frozen Wings and Zoe of Bake For Happy Kids, and all our friends who has baked along with us in the linky below :

For our next Bake-Along, we will be baking "Theme - Grissini (Italian Breadsticks)". Please do join us, bake any Grissini recipe, and link your post to our linky which will start on 5th till 14th February. Everyone is welcome to join us! Only current post please.


A friendly reminder when linking to our blog hop :
1. Please mention Bake-Along event in your own post linking direct to any of the hosts' post (JoyceLena or Zoe)
2. Please link only new and current post, PLEASE FOLLOW THE BAKE OR THEME provided by us. Unrelated post will be deleted.
3. Feel free to display our Bake-Along badge in your post.

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To join our blog hop, click on the link to get the code :
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Mark Bittman's Cinnamon Scented Fried Chicken

"January Potluck", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). This is our first potluck at IHCC for 2015 and we can cook from any of our previous and current featured chefs. I've made Mark Bittman's Cinnamon Scented Fried Chicken, first recipe that I've tried from Mark Bittman. 

Do you like fried chicken? Most probably the answer is a YES! What's not to love about fried chicken. Juicy, tasty meat with crispy delicious skin, (don't think about all that calories!). Mark Bittman's fried chicken is just that. His recipe is just like any other basic fried chicken, only difference is, he added a generous 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, for that lovely cinnamon fragrance. All the dry ingredients are mixed in a plastic bag, toss in a couple of chicken pieces at a time until well coated, and fry in oil until cooked and crispy. I've added another teaspoon of ground cinnamon after I test-fried a piece of chicken wing and tried it, I felt that it needed a little bit more cinnamon, and more salt, adjust accordingly to your taste. Serve these fried chicken while still hot, but do not expect it to be so crispy crunchy, as there's only flour and seasoning that coats the chicken, but they do have a light, skin crispiness, and the meat is juicy, moist and tasty. They will lose their crispiness when they are no longer hot, but tastes still good.

Mark Bittman's Cinnamon-Scented Fried Chicken
(adapted from "The New York Times Chicken Cookbook")
lard and butter combined, or vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 good chicken, cut into serving pieces, or use 8 to 10 leg pieces (drumsticks and thighs), trimmed of excess fat

  1. Choose a skillet or casserole at least 12 inches in diameter that can be covered. Add enough fat to come to a depth of about 1/2 inch, and turn heat to medium-high. If you are using butter, skim any foam as it rises to the surface.
  2. While fat heats, mix together the flour and seasonings in a plastic bag. Toss chicken in bag, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, until well coated. Put pieces on a rack as you finish.
  3. When oil is hot (a pinch of flour will sizzle) raise heat to high. Slowly add chicken pieces to skillet (if you add them all at once, temeperature will plummet). Cover skillet, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook for 7 minutes.
  4. Uncover skillet, turn chicken and continue to cook, uncovered, for another 7 minutes. Turn chicken again and cook for about 5 minutes more, turning as necessary to ensure that both sides are golden brown.
  5. Remove chicken from skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

I'm linking this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week "January Potluck"




And I'm sharing this cookbook "The New York Times Chicken Cookbook, edited by Linda Amster" with Cookbook Wednesday hosted by Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations. It's a collection of chicken recipes from different chefs (some very impressive names: Jacques Peppin, Patricia Wells, Nigella Lawson, Mark Bittman, Daniel Boulud, Craig Claiborne and others) and with various methods of cooking chicken ; roast, steam, poach, bake, fried, slow-cooked, grill. A book for chicken lovers!

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Spaghetti With Spiced Meatballs In Tomato Sauce

"Along The Spice Trail", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). I love cooking with spices. For this week's time, I've made Diana Henry's, Spiced Meatballs In Tomato Sauce, served over spaghetti.

Simmer the meatballs in the prepared sauce. Smells nice!

What I like about this sauce is, it is really easy peasy. There's no browning of the onions and no dishes to wash! Simply chop the onions and garlic, and dump them straight into the stewing pot along with the other ingredients for the sauce ; canned tomatoes, oregano, tomato puree, light brown sugar, salt and pepper and olive oil. Let the sauce comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. My family love more sauce for their pasta, so I have used three cans of tomato instead of two. I did not have any canned cherry tomatoes, so I have used one can of chopped tomatoes and two cans of plum tomatoes which I crushed before cooking. And did not have fresh oregano leaves (my plant died!), so I've used a tablespoon of dried oregano.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs, as per instructions in the recipe. I've used ground pork instead of beef. Ingredients for the meatballs ; onion, garlic, red chilli, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground mixed spice, chopped coriander (did not have any parsley). Season well. Fry a small chunk to test on the seasoning. Form the meat into meatballs, then browned them in a little oil. Remove and put them into the sauce, and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Check on the seasoning, I added another tablespoon of brown sugar to balance off the flavours. Serve over spaghetti.

Spaghetti with Spiced Meaballs in Tomato Sauce, delicious!

The meatballs uses quite a fair amount of cinnamon and ground mixed spice. I have however used ground nutmeg instead of grated. At first I thought that the spices would be too strong, but they balances off really deliciously with the meat. Stir through the spaghetti with the sauce, top with more sauce and some meatballs, sprinkle with chopped coriander, and enjoy!

Spiced Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
(adapted from "Food From Plenty", Diana Henry)
Serves 6
For the sauce :
2 x 400 cans tomatoes (ideally cherry) in thick juice (I've used one can of chopped tomatoes and two cans of plum tomatoes which I've crushed before cooking)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
leaves from 4 oregano sprigs (dried oregano)
1/2 tbsp tomato puree (use 3 tbsps tomato puree)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
salt and pepper

For the meatballs :
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
900gm (2lb) minced beef
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground mixed spice
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

  1. First make the sauce. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan (no need to brown anything) and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for 30 minutes, the sauce will thicken and the tomatoes collapse. Stir from time to time, adding a little water if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  2. For the meatballs, put 1 tbsp of the oil into a pan and cook the onion until soft and pale gold. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute and a half. Put this into a bowl with the beef, spices and parsley. Season really well. Pull off a little chunk and fry in some oil. Eat. This helps you decide whether you need more seasoning or spices. Form the beef into meatballs using wet hands.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs in batches. You don't need to cook them through; just colour the outside. Once they are done, tip in the tomato sauce and stir gently. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve with pasta (penne or spaghetti are both good; you'll need 100gm/3-1/2oz per person). Stir it with the sauce and meatballs in a large heated shallow bowl and serve.

I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week
"Along The Spice Trail"

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Little Thumbs Up January 2015 : Pasta/Noodles organised by Zoe of Bake For Happy Kids, Doreen of My Little Favourite D.I.Y, and hosted by Anne of My Bare Cupboard.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Granola Energy Bars

This week's bake at Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD) from Baking Chez Moi, is Granola Energy Bars. A healthy snack to start off our bake in 2015.

These bars are packed with oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, and 1 cup of mixed dried fruits, of which I've used a mixture of prunes, cranberries and apricots. Great way to use up all the bits and pieces in the pantry! Recipe uses brown rice syrup, an ingredient I could not find (and did not even know about it before this!), so I have used corn syrup instead. It works out great. I have however sliced the bar to 16 pieces instead of 20, as I find that cutting into 20 pieces would make very small bars.

The bars hold together really well on the first day, but I find that on the second day, they are a little crumbly and gets much chewier. These bars tastes very nice but I am enjoying it all by myself, as my family is not in favour of granola bars, any granola bars for that matter!  But I don't mind enjoying it all to myself. These bars make wonderful snack!

To see the other bakers take on these bars, do stop by Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD).

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arroz con Pollo

"Mystery Box Madness", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). We are free to cook with any of IHCC's previous and present chefs, using at least three of this month's mystery ingredients ; potatoes, buttermilk, flour, paprika, onion, leafy greens (any kind), lemon, honey, shrimp/prawn and feta. 

I've cooked Diana Henry's one pot rice meal, using four of the mystery box ingredients ; onion, paprika, leafy greens (parsley) and lemon.

Really easy one-pot dish to cook. It comes together pretty quickly. I have however omitted the chorizo as I do not have any. Recipe uses Spanish paella rice, but I have used arborio rice, as Spanish paella rice is not easily available in the area where I live. The chicken thighs are first browned all over, remove and keep aside while the bell peppers, chorizo (if using), are sauted until the bell peppers soften. Add in the chopped onions and garlic, cook until the onions are soft. Stir in paprika, red chilli flakes and chicken stock. Return the chicken thigh pieces to the pan and simmer, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wide, ovenproof baking dish, scatter the rice around the chicken, season well, and finish off the cooking in the oven, until the rice is cooked and stock has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. (mine took a little longer, 25-30 minutes, maybe because I've used arborio rice).

Serve hot, garnished with lots of chopped parsley. I love the smokey flavour from the paprika and the light fragrance from the red bell pepper. Chicken is very tender and tasty. Though the recipe suggest to drizzle this rice dish with olive oil before serving, I omitted that, as it does not need it. However, do not skip the lemon juice, it complements well with this rice dish!

Arroz Con Pollo y Chorizo
(adapted from "Pure Simple Cooking", Diana Henry)
serves 6
1/2 cup extra virgin oil, plus more as needed
12 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
salt and pepper
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
8 oz Spanish chorizo, cut into small chunks
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
5-1/4 cups chicken stock
2 cups Spanish paella rice (Calasparra or Valencia)
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon

  1. Heat the olive oil in a broad shallow pan, season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside. Add the bell peppers and chorizo to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the pepper softens. Throw in the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft. Stir in the paprika and red pepper flakes and cook for a minute, then add the chicken stock. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, and simmer, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Most people don't have a pan big enough to fit all the chicken in a single layer and still have room for the rice, so transfer the chicken, vegetables, and stock to a big, wide ovenproof dish - the one I use for this is 13 inches in diameter. Pour the rice around the chicken and season really well with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until the stock has been absorbed and the top is golden. When cooked, cover the dish with aluminium foil and leave for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil to serve.

I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week "Mystery Box Madness : January 2015"

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Strawberry Mille-Feuilles : Bake-Along #73

Bake-Along #73, theme is Mille-Feuille, also known as Napoleon. It is a French pastry, with custard cream, whipped cream and berries sandwiched between two or three pieces of crispy flaky puff pastry. There are other variations to Mille-Feuille which you can find when you google for more info. 

This week's theme is selected by Lena, to bake together with Zoe and myself, and everyone is welcome to join us. Bake any Mille-Feuille and join our blog-hop, by linking your post to the linky.

To bake this delightful pastry, I've turned to one recipe from this gorgeous book from my cookbook collection, by master baker, Nick Malgieri. His book Pastry Perfection is simply fabulous! 

I have used store-bought puff pastry instead of making my own, due to time factor (I've only made this Mille-Feuille yesterday, at the last moment!). I would really love to try his puff-pastry recipe which he has provided in the book. Well, one day, hopefully soon (fingers crossed!). I have however followed his recipe on how to bake the caramelised pastry, his orange vanilla custard and sweetened whipped cream. He has used a mixture of strawberries and raspberries, but I've used only strawberries.

Since the custard cream need to be refrigerated until chilled, I've made it the night before, and left it in the refrigerator overnight. Ingredients for the custard cream are egg yolks, whipping cream, milk, caster sugar, large pieces of rind from a small orange, plain flour and vanilla extract.

I did not roll out the puff pastry but used it as it is. The one I bought is about 8" square. I placed the 
pastry on a lined baking sheet, prick holes all over, sprinkled with caster sugar, cover with a large parchment paper, and top with another baking sheet to prevent the pastry from puffing, bake as directed for about 15 minutes. Invert the dough by grasping both sides of the baking sheet together so that the pastry do not slide out. Remove the top baking sheet, the top parchment paper, then sprinkle the dough evenly with some icing sugar. Proceed to bake as directed in the recipe until the sugar melts and caramelised the pastry to a deep golden brown, watching it carefully so that it do not burn. Slice the pastry to desired serving size while it is still hot. Slide cut pastry, still on the baking parchment back to the baking sheet, cover with another baking parchment, and place another baking sheet on top, until you are ready to assemble, to prevent the crispy baked pastry from warping.

Whipping cream is whipped with a little caster sugar, to soft peaks.

To assemble the Mille-Feuille, place a slice of pastry with the caramelised side facing up on a serving plate. Top with a layer of custard, arrange some sliced strawberries, and top with the sweetened whipped cream. Finish off by placing another slice of pastry, caramelised side facing up, pressing it gently to adhere the layer to the cream. Serve immediately.  Yummilicious! 

Though it is rather messy to eat, we enjoyed eating this Strawberry Mille-Feuille. I like the custard cream, it has the aroma of orange and vanilla and is not too sweet. I've also reduced the sugar slightly for the whipping cream, and everything comes together rather deliciously with the crispy flaky pastry!

Strawberry Mille-Feuilles
(adapted from "Pastry Perfection", Nick Malgieri)
1 batch Caramelised Puff Pastry Layers ** (refer below)
(cut into two 19cm square layers)

Vanilla Orange Pastry Cream :
180ml whole milk
60ml double cream
50gm caster sugar
zest of 1 small orange, removed in large strips with a vegetable peeler
3 medium egg yolks
2 tablespoons unbleached plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Finishing :
240ml double cream
2 tablespoons caster sugar
350gm small strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  1. For the pastry cream, combine the milk, cream, half the sugar and the orange zest in a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Bring to the full boil over a low heat. Meanwhile, in a bowl. whisk the egg yolks and then whisk in the remaining sugar. Sift over and whisk in the flour.
  2. When the milk mixture boils, whisk it into the egg yolk mixture. Strain the mixture back into the pan (leaving the orange zest in the strainer) and place over a medium heat. Use a small, pointed-end whisk to stir constantly, being sure to reach into the corners of the pan,until the cream comes to the full boil and thickens. Cook, whisking constantly for another 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the vanilla extract or paste. Scrape the cream into a glass bowl and press clingfilm directly against the surface. Chill until cold.
  3. A few hours before serving the mille-feuilles. use a sharp serrated knife to cut each of the layers into 8 rectangles, each about 4.5 x 9.5cm.
  4. Just before assembling, whip the cream with the sugar to a soft peak.
  5. Arrange 8 of the cut layers, caramelised side up, on dessert plates. Top each with a heaped tablespoon of pastry cream. Arrange some of the strawberries on the pastry cream, then top with a spoonful of whipped cream. Cover each with another puff pastry layer, caramelised side up, and gently press to adhere the layer to the whipped cream.
  6. Serve immediately; these can wait an hour at a cool room temperature but not much longer.

** Caramelised Puff Pastry Layers
300gm puff pastry (I've used store-bought puff pastry)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons icing sugar
  1. Lightly flour the work surface and the dough and roll it to a 25 x 38cm rectangle. (It's helpful to roll the dough part of the way, then transfer one of the pieces of parchment paper for lining a tin to your work surface, flour it and finish rolling the dough directly on the paper).
  2. Slide the paper and dough into one of the tins and use a fork to pierce it all over at 1.25cm intervals. Cover the dough loosely with clingfilm and let it rest for several hours. (I used store-bought puff pastry; 2 pieces of 8" square, did not roll it out, use it as it is, and skip the resting time, proceed to step 3).
  3. When you're ready to bake the layer, set a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 200C/gas mark 6. Line two 25x38cm Swiss roll tins with parchment paper.
  4. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and place the second piece of parchment paper on top; stack the second tin on top of the parchment. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 190C/gas mark 5. Bake for about 15 minutes until the layer is almost cooked through.
  5. Remove the stack of tins and dough from the oven and invert them, grasping both sides to avoid having the dough slide out. Increase the oven temperature to 230C/gas mark 8.
  6. The dough will now be resting on a piece of parchment on the back of a Swiss roll tin. Lift off the top tin, peel away the top paper, and slide the layer of dough, still on the second piece of paper, back into the original tin. Evenly sprinkle with the icing sugar and bake, watching carefully, for 7-10 minutes until the sugar melts and glazes. Don't wal away or it will definitely burn.
  7. Slide the baked layer, still on its paper, to a cutting board and slice it into the desired pieces while it is still warm. To prevent the pastry from warping once it has cooled, slide it or the pieces back between the papers and tins until you are ready to proceed.


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