MAKING IT BLISSFUL

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Walnut Wholemeal Bread

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Unlike most bread makers I know who bake breads regularly at home, my homemade bread routine did not take off well with a bread making machine.  The model I bought produced bread with a very synthetic aroma that I couldn’t quite figure out what it was even till now.  As it was a discontinued model that went for a song, I had no after sales service to rely on.

For a while, I thought my recipes were wrong.  Yeast was not a familiar ingredient then, so I thought I had put in too much yeast, cos I could not pinpoint what other ingredient could attribute to that strange smell during the whole bread making process.  After throwing about 5 loaves away, I gave up troubleshooting the recipe, and decided that yeast was not just my kind of ingredient. And along the way, concluded that bread making machines make strange smelling bread.

It was not until I got a mixer which came with the dough hook, that eventually turned me into an avid bread maker.  The breads I kneaded with the mixer and baked in the oven no longer emit that strange smell anymore, so I could safely conclude that there was indeed something wrong with my bread machine.  Although I wished I could handle a dough from start to finish like this, the mixer made the task too easy (except for No-Knead Bread), plus my hands are too warm to handle the dough, not without breaking down the gluten.  A half machine homemade bread is still better than a factory produced one anyway.  No E-some-number ingredients. No Preservatives.

I am beginning to get too comfortable with this Champion’s Milk Toast recipe, so I started adapting it to bake a healthier wholemeal version.  My first not-so-successful attempt that had me replacing the bread flour completely with wholemeal flour, ended up with a dense loaf.  So this time, I tried with a plain flour and wholemeal flour mixture.

The first proof went well enough to encourage me to added some chopped walnuts into the dough during final shaping stage.  I decided not to use my usual “swiss roll” shaping method to create a neat looking loaf, but with this folding and sealing method instead.  The end result is a lovely rustic looking loaf of bread, that still maintains the fluffy texture of the original Champion’s Milk Toast.  This 50/50 plain/wholemeal flour mixture looks to stay while I try out a more flavors, before moving on to a 100% wholemeal recipe.  I need more successful results as encouragement!

RECIPE : WALNUT WHOLEMEAL BREAD
/ Adapted from here

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150g plain flour or bread flour
150g wholemeal flour
24g fine sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
135g water
69g fresh milk
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
15g unsalted butter, cubed
30g walnut, roughly chopped

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01. Put all ingredients, EXCEPT BUTTER & WALNUTS, in the  mixing bowl.
02. With a flat beater attachment, mix all ingredients at low speed (1 on my kitchenaid)
03. Change to a dough hook, and continue to knead the dough, adding cubed butter gradually.  Keep kneading till dough reached window pane stage.  You may increase the speed of the mixer to level 2 halfway when the dough starts to look stretchy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
04. Remove the bowl from the mixer, grease working hand slightly with butter so that the dough won’t stick to fingers, loosely shape the dough into a ball*.
05. Cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel, and let it proof for at least 60 minutes (or until it double in size).
06. After the dough has double in size, punch the dough down, and move it to a clean work top.
07. Roll loosely into a ball, leave it on the counter covered with towel for 15 minutes.
08. After 15 minutes, the dough will rise again.  Flatten the dough and add chopped walnuts to the dough.  Knead to mix the walnut well into the dough.
09. Shape the dough into a loaf shape and place it in the bread tin.
10. Covered the bread tin with towel, and let it have a final rise.
11. Once dough has risen to fill up the bread tin, bake it for 30minutes in a preheated oven at 170C / 240F.
12. When the baking time is over, remove the bread from the bread tin immediately, and let it cool down completely on a rack.

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+++ / *this dough will be sticky, almost impossible not to stick to fingers when touched, so I had to use the tucking method (using greased fingers to tuck/fold the sides of the dough to its base)  to roughly shape it into a neat ball for its first proof. See second photo,  it’s not all smooth and perfect, but good enough.

+++ / my bread tin measures 20x10x10 inches.


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Chocolate Ganache Frosting

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I do not own a cake stand, and as if that is going to stop me from picking up frosting skills?

Nope, I can always remove the glass tray from my microwave oven, balance it over a large rim bowl to elevate it, and tah-dah: my makeshift frosting station is set up! That’s how much I like to make my stuff “multitasks”.

I have been using this Chocolate Ganache recipe to make my cakes look every inch fancier.  No matter how I spread it, the frosting never appears messy, just pretty and glossy, no piping skills required!

RECIPE : CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING
/ Source

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10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water (or cream, if you prefer it richer)
1 and 1/2 sticks or 170g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

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01. Place water/cream and the chocolate in a small metal pot, melt the chocolate by placing the pot over pan filled with barely simmering water.  Stir occasionally and remove the pot from the simmering water once all the chocolate has melted.
02. Whisk cubed butter into the chocolate mixture until they have completely melted.  The frosting should look smooth and glossy.
03. Set aside at room temperature let it cool down to a spreadable consistency.

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++ this recipe is enough to generously frost a 2 tier 9 inch cake, with about 1/2 cup leftover.
++ the frosting appears to be runny but i still manage to use it to frost my cake, sides and all, at room temperature.  However, the slippery frosting between a 2-tier cake makes cutting difficult, the layers appear to be sliding off each other with every slicing motion.  My solution is to chill the cake slightly in the fridge to set the frosting before cutting it.


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Very Small Batch Cherry Compote

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The way I eat ice cream in a shop is very different from how I serve it at home.
I’ll order a single scoop or two, and just enjoy the cold treat without buying any additional toppings.  No crunchy nuts, no gooey syrup, not even chocolate chips.

But when I have ice cream at home, I will search for some goodies as toppings, or make some on my own.  Cherry compote happens to be one of those toppings that  can be easily homemade,  and instantly upgrade my plain vanilla ice cream to a sundae level dessert.

I usually use about 12 pitted cherries to make just enough to top 4 small bowls of ice cream.   After they are served, I don’t have to worry about storage containers or how long before I have to finish it up, that’s the best thing I love about small batch recipes.

I loosely follow David Lebovitz’s recipe here, that yields 3 cups of cherry compote.  For my small batch, I took out the almond extract and liqueur (Kirsch/Cherry Brandy),  but add I them back when I make them in larger quantity for cake toppings.

RECIPE : VERY SMALL BATCH CHERRY COMPOTE

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12-15 fresh cherries, wash, stemmed, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons sugar
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01. In a non-reactive small saucepan (one that does not react/get stained with acidic ingredients), put in the cherries and sugar to cook over a small fire for about 10 minutes, stirring with a spoon frequently.
02. Because I am cooking such a small batch of cherries, I usually encourage faster juicing from the cherries by pressing them with the back of the spoon against the pan once they turn soft.  This will also prevent the sugar from getting burnt without having enough liquid in the pan.
03. When the mixture starts to look thickened, and the cherries have completely cooked, remove the pan from the fire and let cool.  It will thicken up further.


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Stir Fry Everyday #05 : Tea Tree Mushroom Tofu

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I am not sure what these 茶树菇/柳松茸 are called in English, but “velvet pioppini” popped up under wiki.  They look like shimeji mushrooms with longer stems and flatter caps.  I usually get the dried ones for stews and soups because of the rich umami flavor.

These fresh ones were found at a Taiwan produce fair, and I was hoping that the wet market stall owner can carry them as well.  Since the mushrooms are already full of flavor, I simply stir fry them with oyster sauce, and top them on silken tofu to make a dish paired with my staple white rice.

RECIPE : TEA TREE MUSHROOMS TOFU

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1 small handful of tea tree mushrooms, about 100g
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 package of silken tofu
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 and 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce, mixed with 1/2 cup of water
white pepper, to taste
few drops of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon of corn flour, mixed with 2 tablespoon of water.
chopped spring onion, optional for garnishing

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01. Trim off the ends of the mushrooms, and wash them thoroughly.  Drain, set aside.
02. Heat up the tofu by steaming it for 10 minutes, drain water released from the steamed tofu and place it on a serving dish.
03. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil in a heated wok, once it smoke, add in chopped garlic and cook till soft, but not brown.
04. Add in tea tree mushrooms, stir fry for about 30 seconds with medium heat.
05. Pour in oyster sauce and water mixture, continue to stir, till the sauce starts to boil and bubble, about 2-3 minutes, for the mushrooms to be cooked.
06. Add a dash of pepper and sesame oil.  Turn down the fire to low, taste, and adjust to preference.
07. Mix the corn flour solution well, before adding it to the mushrooms to thicken the sauce, stirring to cook all the while.
08. Simmer till the sauce thickens, then pour it over the steamed tofu.
09. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Serve immediately.


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Kiwi Jam

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My first attempt in this mandarin marmalade few years ago brought me almost to tears.*
The effort to separate the peel, the pith, and the membranes from the flesh were way too much for me then.
Not forgetting that the jam jars and covers need to be sterilized through boiling in hot water.*
Original plan to preserve a big bag of leftovers from Chinese New Year was cut short half way, when I decided to just cook with what I had peeled.
I have since learned to appreciate a bottle of well made marmalade better.

Compared to orange marmalade, kiwi jams are way easier.
So easy that I make only a single serve each time with just one large kiwi fruit; saves me the trouble of sterilizing the container and finding the fridge space to store it.
I choose kiwi fruits that are a bit more on the ripe/soft side, so that the flesh is easier to be mashed with just a fork.  If you intend to make a bigger batch, a food processor might do the puree job better.

RECIPE : SINGLE SERVE KIWI JAM

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1 very ripe kiwi fruit, peeled
1 /2 tablespoon sugar
lemon juice, few drops

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01. Put the kiwi fruit in a small saucepan, and mash it into puree with a fork or the back of a spoon.
02. Over a small fire, bring the kiwi puree to gentle simmer, stirring with a spoon all the time.  The batch is so small,  it could get burnt real easily.  So please, do not attempt to multitask.
03. Once you see the puree bubbling and steam rising, that means it is hot enough to add sugar at this moment, stir to mix well.
04. When the kiwi jam starts to become thick and sticky, squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice.
05. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding sugar or lemon juice.
06. Remove from fire and scrap the jam onto a small dish.
07.  Cool completely, or chill in fridge if you like it cold.
08. Serve with your favorite toast.

 

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this mandarin marmalade recipe throws in the peels, pith, seeds and all, wondering why it is not bitter
this method of leaving the glass jars and covers in oven set to 100C/225F for 10 minutes will do too

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