Thursday, August 25, 2011

black sesame brownie

My little babies! Have I mentioned that black sesame seeds are my new favorite obsession right now? I love these things so much. The flavor, and the nutty aroma are definitely the two things that managed to capture my heart. I had wanted to buy some black sesame seeds ever since summer started, but I hadn't been able to get ahold of them until the last week of my summer break - right before school started. Still eager to make something out of it, I wasted no time and decided to make something instead of packing up for college. Oh well.

Initially, I wanted to do a black sesame tang yuan - a sweet and chewy ball of rice flour that has black sesame in the middle - but that seemed a bit too difficult for me to make since I was particularly pressed on time that day... I'll make it over winter break or whenever I get back home though, because tang yuan is amazing and I could have it every day if I had the option to!

I settled for doing black sesame brownies though. Except I didn't really "settle" for them - I more like pounced on the idea and the recipe, because it seemed like such an easy thing to bake, and also because brownies have never failed me in the history of ever. And it really was a breeze to make, although there was a bit too much butter for my liking. I was a little grossed out to see so much butter swirling around in my pan, so I think I'll lower the amount next time...

Black Sesame Brownies (Recipe from Pig Pig's Corner)

  • 150 g unsalted butter - melted
  • 100 g black sesame seeds
  • 140 g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs black sesame seeds (to sprinkle on top).
  1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C (fan).
  2. Combine melted butter and sesame seeds in a food processor or blender and blend until a paste is formed.
  3. Add sesame paste to a pan, add sugar and soy sauce, fry for a few mins until fragrant (oil will start to seaprate). Remove from heat and leave this to cool.
  4. When sesame mixture is cool to touch (warm is fine), mix in eggs one by one.
  5. Gently fold in plain flour until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into a lightly greased and lined square tin.
  7. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. [Don't omit this step, as the sesame seeds add a nice crunch to the cake!]
  8. Bake for about 25 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

They came out a little too sweet for me... It goes nicely with a cup of warm milk, but I know that if I remake this, I'll definitely cut down on the sugar and the butter. When the sesame seed paste is being stirred in the pan, you could really see the sesame seeds release their oils, and that along with the butter was a little too much for me. I even decided to pour some of the butter out so that I wouldn't have to work out for five hours or something. It tasted wonderful, but I know that this kind of thing isn't healthy at all - it made me feel a little guilty afterward, but it's not like I'll bake something like this all the time.

Now I wonder if I can do something similar to this but in a cupcake form...? I'm just eager to be reunited with my black sesame once again because I have so much planned for it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

green tea wassant-style rolls.

I made these maybe two or three weeks ago, but I've been so behind with everything lately (in preparation for college!) that I hadn't got a chance to share this until now. I guess being inspired by the finale of Masterchef had something to do with it, but I think the larger factor is just my boredom combined with the need to do something productive late at night.

In a lot of blog posts, and especially on Foodgawker, everyone's green tea treats always look so bold, vibrant, and green. Delicious. Inviting. And then I try out those same recipes to get a completely different shade of green. It would be discouraging, if it weren't for the fact that the things usually at least still tasted great. But I'm trying to figure out what it is I'm missing. Is it the powder that makes a difference? Do people add green food coloring secretly and not tell me about it? I just want to know what I'm doing wrong with my green tea! I hope for that bright green color just as much as everyone else who loves green tea, you know?

So I decided to challenge myself, and use green tea powder even though I knew that my results wouldn't look as deliciously green. I ended up getting drawn in by a particular recipe for green tea brioches. It looked exciting, and I was itching to try something new apart from the standard loaf of bread - even the directions seemed a little bit more difficult compared to what I usually followed... Like, what the heck was a tour double? I had no idea, just that it involved a lot of folding, and a lot of rolling. Oh well, what better way to find out what they testing it out?

The entire process was simple enough, but it kept me bustling about the kitchen for almost the entire time. I thought I'd have enough time to sit back and relax while the dough was in for its first rise (2 hours!) I ended up having to make the matcha filling, and by the time I was done with that, I had to clean the mess of dirty pots and pans that had accumulated. As soon as all of that was over, the two hours I had intended on using to relax was gone, and I had to get back to work again.

This was my end result. A far cry from the pictures on the blog that I was following, but at least it still tasted good. And a tour double wasn't as intimidating as it seemed, even if I did such a poor job on it. Maybe the swirls of green tea and bread would have been more evident if the green was brighter, but we all know that's a problem I've yet to solve right now.

The recipe calls them brioches, but I'm not sure if they're really a brioche, or a wassant, or a weird hybrid of both. So if someone could actually clear that up for me, that'd be pretty neat. But for those who want to give this a shot, here's the recipe:

Green tea brioches (Recipe from Foodbeam)

Brioche dough:
  • 300g strong flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp dehydrated yeast
  • 125g whole milk
  • one egg
  • 50g butter diced and at room temperature
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the butter and mix until it forms a rough dough.
  2. On an unfloured surface, start kneading the dough incorporating the butter as you do so until it forms a smooth ball; around 8 minutes.
  3. Place the dough back into the bowl – covered with a cloth – and leave in a warm place for 2 hours or until double in size.
NOTE: When forming the dough, it is going to be really sticky. It was a monster trying to knead this dough. What I found effective was this method of kneading the dough that.... really isn't kneading, but more like beating your dough up on the table by slapping it on there for like, 15 minutes or more. But for me and my lack of stamina and not-so-strong wrists, it was a little suffering, so I cheated a bit and added some flour... I couldn't handle how sticky it was... Oops.

Green tea filling:
  • 80g milk
  • one egg white
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 20g flour
  • 20g matcha green tea
  • 10g butter
  1. Bring the milk to the boil. While it’s heating, mix the white and sugar in a bowl until combined. Mix in the flour and matcha green tea, and beat until homogeneous.
  2. When the milk is boiling, pour it over the matcha mixture, whisking as you do so.
  3. Transfer back into the pan, and cook on medium heat until thick. Mix in the butter.
  4. Spread it on a baking tray lined with cling film, around 20×15cm. Chill.

Shaping the Brioche:
  1. Remove any air from the brioche dough by gently patting it down, then roll it into a 30×20cm rectangle.
  2. Place the matcha filling in the middle, then fold the dough over it, sealing the extremities together.
  3. Roll into a longer rectangle, then make a tour double.
  4. Repeat the folding one more time, then roll the dough back into a 30×20cm.
  5. Roll the dough onto itself to form a log.
  6. Trim the ends, then using a sharp knife, slice into 3cm-thick segments.
  7. Butter 12 5.5cm-wide rings, and place the slices into them, cut side up. Or if you’re making a loaf, arrange six slices into a loaf tin, and the remaining slices into rings.
  8. Cover loosely with cling film, and allow to rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
NOTE: View the tour double image that Foodbeam provided if you're a little lost! It helped me a lot when I was trying to figure it out. Also, if stuff starts leaking and oozing out, it's really not a big deal. It might be a little sticky to work with once the matcha filling starts to gush out here and there, but I think it's pretty normal. I was a little too nervous to roll my dough out too thin, so I didn't have that problem the first time around, but the second time, I had stuff oozing out everywhere... it's just a messy experience.

As you can tell, I decided to just cram them all together in a little loaf pan instead of putting them each in their separate metal rings like you'd normally do for brioches. I kind of liked them all sitting in their loaf pan, all nice and snug. And they tasted good! I wasn't so sure that they were going to taste of anything but just bread, because I wasn't sure how the green tea filling was going to work its flavor in there, but there was just a...a tiny hint of it, somewhere in there. I wish the green tea had a stronger flavor in the bread, but that might just be me and my love for green tea.

...But I still want to know why my green tea baked goods are always a poopy green. :(

earl grey shortbread cookies.

I love shortbread. And I think I've also shared my love for earl grey tea some time not too long ago. So when I was snacking on some crackers the other day during the afternoon, I decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to combine both shortbread and earl grey tea into one thing. Earl grey shortbread cookies, obviously.

As soon as I finished up my little mid-day snack, I decided to get to work on finding a recipe, and ended up satisfied with this one, by Nutrition Kitchen! It seemed too good to be true - 40 calories per cookie? I know it's a large number, but for a shortbread cookie, it is a small price to pay, compared to the 80+ calorie ones I've eaten.

Cookies have always been pretty easy - I don't want to jinx it, but I've always had somewhat good luck with them and the instructions for cookies are as simple as it gets. And these cookies are no exception. You literally measure out everything, mix it all together according to instructions, pop it in the fridge, cut 'em out, and bake!

I didn't follow the instructions to a T, deciding that it was enough dough for one long log, since I had room in the fridge to fit it all in, anyway. I guess it's just a matter of how much space you have in the fridge! But I also decided to cut these out thicker the first time (about 3/4") since my mom liked thicker shortbread cookies, and that came out to be just a little over 2 dozen cookies. The second time around, I cut them a bit thinner (about 1/2") and I got just around 3 dozen - naturally the amount you get just depends on how thick you cut your cookies!

Speaking of cutting these cookies though, that was my favorite part. Getting them out from the fridge and then cutting them all up into tiny circles. I should think you could roll out the dough and then cut out cute shapes with it, but I was getting impatient and I wanted to taste these babies soon! So in the oven they went (about 10 minutes for me) and out came this delicious aroma of earl grey.. I couldn't wait till they cooled down some.

Really though, the phrase, "it's as easy as pie" should be changed to, "it's as easy as cookies" because these are the quickest, simplest yet most delicious shortbread cookies I've ever wanted to come into my life. So without further ado!

Earl Grey Tea Cookies (from Nutrition Kitchen)
makes 3 dozen*
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Earl Grey tea, loose leaf
  • 7 Tbsp unsalted butter, cooled slightly until softened, diced
  • 1 Tbsp brewed Earl Grey tea, cooled
* - Just depends on how thick/thin you slice 'em!

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Set aside. In a spice grinder or food processor (spice grinder works best), process the loose leaf tea until coarsely ground.
  2. In a food processor, add the powdered sugar, tea, and butter. Pulse the mixture until the sugar and butter are combined. Add the flour mixture, and process the dough until it starts to comes together. Then drizzle in the tablespoon of brewed tea, and process until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Split the dough in half. Form each half into a log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in a piece of plastic and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours until cold (I left mine in overnight).
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice the cookies so that they’re approximately 1/2 inch in width. Arrange the cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes, or until slightly browned on the edges. Then have some tea time!

Ten minutes allowed them to be kind of softer than how shortbread cookies usually are, but I liked them a bit on the softer side - if you like them crunchier, anywhere from 11-13 minutes might not be a bad idea, though. They tasted so much of earl grey, I could hardly contain my happiness. I know I'll be making these again and again (especially because there's no egg in this!) and I've already made three batches in the past two weeks!

The third batch I made though, was a green tea version which I don't think I'll blog about, since it's so similar to this one already. It had juuuust a smidgen of green tea, which I love, but it was not enough green tea for me - so I'll be adding more next time. I'm actually very excited to try all different variations with this recipe, especially black sesame since that's one of my favorite flavors.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

hokkaido milk bread.

It took me awhile to gather the courage to attempt this bread by myself. Really, you have no idea how nervous I was to make this bread, and how excited I was to see the outcome. I swear someone just gave me a shot of adrenaline before I started mixing ingredients together, and it didn't wear off until I cut a slice of bread to try out for myself.

Making the tangzhong itself was a little intimidating in itself. Tangzhong, if you didn't know, is a starter mixture that's made simply with flour and water. Its purpose is to make the bread stay fluffier for longer, and also creates that slightly chewy and "elastic" texture that is commonly found in Asian pastry buns!

Anyway, I had measured it out and carefully stirred, looking carefully to see if I could spot the "lines" that show up when it hits around 65 Celsius. I didn't have a thermometer, so I just had to eye it! I actually messed up the first time, because I had to answer the phone - the flour and water got way too hot, so I had to start over, but it looked just like it should have, the second time around. "Yesss, success!" But this was only the beginning!

Was it a success? Was it a failure? I was extremely nervous about it when I took it out of the oven. Seriously, this (to me) was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as far as bread is concerned. Since I don't have a standing mixer or a bread machine, making the hokkaido milk bread with the tangzhong method was really hard because it required at least 30 minutes of kneading.

I'm normally a fan of kneading bread. There's something about kneading bread that just feels so comfortable, so fun to work with, and ultimately, it's relaxing. But when I had to stand here and knead non-stop for 30 minutes, it was definitely a little too much of a good thing. But that was the hardest part about this bread. Just the kneading. Looking back, it wasn't as formidable of an opponent as I thought it would be. I thought it'd be much more complicated, for some reason, but once the kneading was through, everything else was easy breezy!

If you guys want to try on your own, I suggest heading over to Kirbie's Cravings to see more detailed instructions and pictures! I followed her blog step by step, and managed to get this (somewhat) beautiful loaf!

...Okay, so it's a little lumpy, and not as pretty as hers, but not bad for a first try, right? Anyways, for reference, here's the recipe! I strongly suggest you guys head over to Kirbie's Cravings or Christine's Recipes to get more detailed information and pictures about it though! It'll make the process that much less intimidating and easy! (Not that it is extremely intimidating or anything... I'm just inexperienced!)

Milk Bread (adapted from two of Christine’s recipes here and here,which she adapted from the 65 degrees book)
Yields 1 loaf

  • 2½ cups bread flour
  • 3tbsp+2tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 120g tangzhong (click here for making tangzhong)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add in all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong. Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic. I kneaded the dough for about 18-20 minutes. Each mixer may vary.
  2. When the dough is ready, you should be able to take a chunk of dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
    NOTE: If you guys are doing it by hand like I did, follow the instructions up till the dough hook attachment..and knead, knead, knead away! Since the directions were taken from Kirbie's Cravings, I thought I might add for reference, that it took me approximately 35 minutes to knead by hand. I guess it varies from person to person, but one way you can tell for sure is by checking with the windowpane test!
  3. Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top.
  6. Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin.
  7. Flip dough over so the folds face up. Now roll the dough up. Place each of the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double the size, approximately another 40 minutes.
  8. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

It turned out soft - extremely soft, like I was eating a cloud! I haven't had bread this soft since I was in Hong Kong. It was like an instant nostalgia trip back to places like Panash, and Yamazaki's! The bread had just the right amount of sweetness, so that it worked extremely well with a small bit of butter - perfect for a small little breakfast, served with a cup of milk tea on the side.

So! The tangzhong method is definitely welcome in my house! I'm glad I discovered it, but I just hope that next time I try variations of this bread, I'll be able to use a standing mixer. Since I had carpal tunnel once back in sophomore year of high school, my wrist has been much more fragile than it used to be, and kneading by hand for as long as 30 minutes sure took its toll on me! A few hours after I finished making the bread, my wrist felt incredibly uncomfortable and it hurt to move my wrist too much.. So I'm hoping for a standing mixer to make things a little easier for me in the future!

Friday, August 5, 2011

garlic butter.

Okay, so this is probably the easiest and yet most delicious thing I've ever had on any bread. But it fills me with so much regret, because, well. Garlic breath. But I'd been growing tired of peanut butter, nutella (I guess it's possible) and other sweet spreads, plus I hadn't had garlic rolls in a really long time, and wanted them again just for the taste.

I get this nostalgic feeling whenever I eat garlic bread, though I don't really understand why, because I didn't have it often in my childhood. My mom used to buy the garlic toast from the freezer section though, but it wasn't common, and I'd eat the entire thing within a couple of days, no problem. Maybe that's where I got it from.

In any case, after all these years of liking garlic butter, garlic toast, garlic knots, all that jazz, I finally decided to just make my own tub of garlic butter, to spread on anything I wanted. Which meant garlic breath for a long time.

No regrets though. It's not like I step out of the house often enough to make contact with people in the first place! And my family enjoyed the garlic butter as well - we finished an entire baguette in a day because of it.

All gone! We had to keep slicing more and more and more bread to go with the spread that I made. The garlic butter had a ton of chopped up parsley in it, and I'll be honest... I really like the smell and the flavor of parsley. Our family doesn't get parsley often; if anything, this was the first time we purchased parsley in perhaps more than ten years. We're a cilantro family, and my mom had the impression that parsley wasn't all that good anyway. But this proved her wrong, and now we're (at last!) a cilantro and parsley family.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

earl grey tea cupcakes

I've been feeling pretty under the weather the past few days, and because of it, I've been baking non-stop. As soon as I wake up, I'll grab a piece of fruit as breakfast, and then immediately whip out ingredients from the pantry to make whatever I'm in the mood for.

The past few days have very much been all about bread, but I suppose I'll backlog about those later - I decided to make my first "real" entry concerning baking right now because a friend asked me how I made these, and because it's fairly easy, I thought it'd also work for a quick blog post.

Let me start off by saying I know little to nothing about cupcakes. I've only worked with cupcakes maybe once or twice in the past. One of those times, I failed because the tops managed to cave in and refused to give me peaks, and the other time, I decided to use cake mix just to be on the safe side. Yeah, those looked good, but they tasted like cardboard. Knowing this, it's safe to assume that I like to try avoiding cupcakes unless I'm really in the mood for them. I did a good job avoiding them. Partially because I don't like store-bought ones since they throw so much frosting on the top.

And then I woke up this morning, craving cupcakes.

So here it is in all its...close-up glory. My little earl grey tea cupcake. To be honest, I was very satisfied with the taste, as well as that neat little bit of crunch that the top had. I fancy a small bit of that crunch on my cupcakes, since most of the cupcakes I got in the past already have a soggy and wet top from all the frosting that's slapped on top of it. (Can you tell I'm not fond of frosting?)

The recipe I chose was taken from this blog, though I made a little bit of my own changes just because I felt particularly ~adventurous~ today. But not really. They're minor changes, so feel free to just stick with the original instructions as opposed to my somewhat amateur methods! Anyway, the instructions/recipe (with a minor tweak and some confusing sidenotes) are as follows:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tbsp. of loose Earl Grey tea leaves.**

* - I used 2/3 cup sugar, but the original recipe says 1 cup of sugar. My sweet tooth can't take much, and I found that the 2/3 was just the right amount of sweetness for me, so just experiment with this one!
** - I just used two teabags. I like earl grey tea, and I really wanted to taste it in my cupcake. Don't judge me!

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Fill a cupcake pan with liners.
  3. Beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure that they are incorporated thoroughly.
  5. In a bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, including the tea leaves.
  6. Add half of the dry mixture.
  7. Add the milk then the remaining flour, stir until combined.
  8. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
  9. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating halfway to ensure even baking.
  10. Let cool completely before frosting.

Since I used two teabags, I decided to cut one of the teabags and pour the loose earl grey leaves into the dry mixture, and the other one, I decided to steep in my milk which I had microwaved beforehand. I wasn't sure how strong the flavor would come out if I had just dumped the unsteeped tea bags into the dry mixture, so I was just experimenting. I wish I knew what I was doing in the kitchen sometimes!

Either way, I put my (now) milktea to the side as I beat together my wet ingredients in one bowl, and combined my dry ingredients in another bowl. Around step 7, I poured the milktea, as well as the tea leaves into the cupcake batter. In summary: everything just gets thrown in eventually, I just decided to be difficult and steep half my tea in the milk first.

I skimped out on the amount of batter I put in my liners. Which is why they kind of look flat, maybe. I'm actually not sure. Sometimes cupcakes look flat, maybe? I'm no expert in cupcakes. It's really not my comfort zone at all. Regardless, my second batch had cute, round peaks, but my family decided to devour those before I had the opportunity to take pictures of them.

I'm very happy with the flavor though! These had such a nice earl grey flavor to them, and it wasn't like "teehee, it's a subtle hint of earl grey," it was like, "woahhh, i'm definitely in your face and all over your taste buds," and I liked that. They were pretty moist and very soft too, two very important features that I had missed because I hadn't had cupcakes in a looooong time. Either way, it's worth trying out if you're a fan of earl grey tea. And cupcakes.