#WeekendCooking Pai Bao

Oddly, this is not a bread I’ve really seen in Singapore. This 排包 is a bread that originates from Hong Kong. But we Asians like our bread to be super soft, and while Singapore doesn’t have Pai Bao, the old-school bakeries has very soft white bread.

Also there is that love for condensed milk, which is swirled into coffee and tea.

And so this is a recipe that combines the sweetness of condensed milk with the soft Asian-style bread.

Adapted from Christine’s Recipes

(makes two loaves)

370g all-purpose flour
65g sugar (I used brown sugar)
5g salt
12g milk powder (this helps with the milky flavour)
6g instant dry yeast
1 egg
200ml milk (I used whole milk)
120g tangzhong*
35g condensed milk
35g unsalted butter, softened

*The tangzhong is made from 25g of flour and 1/2 cup of milk, which you cook over a low heat, stirring regularly. This mixture will thicken. You’ll know when it’s thick enough when your spoon leaves “lines” as you pull it through the mixture.

 

I used a breadmaker and simply added all the ingredients and let the machine knead and do the first rise. In the original recipe it says to let rise for about 40 minutes.

I divided the dough into six portions but didn’t realize that this was for two tins! Instead of splitting it into three portions each, I put all six portions in my own loaf tin. Oops….

Anyway, so the instructions are to roll out the dough until it’s about the length of your loaf tin, then fold in half and roll it all the way down. Don’t forget to seal it by pinching. Do that for all your portions and then place three in each tin.

Cover with cling wrap and let rise until it almost reaches the top of the loaf tin.

Christine’s recipe has egg wash but I brushed milk on the the surface instead.

I baked it in a 350F oven for about 35 minutes.

 

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

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#WeekendCooking Funfetti birthday cake

 

 

Sprinkles sprinkles everywhere!

That seems to have been the theme for my now 8yo’s birthday cake.

This was his request…

 

 

And so I set off to try Smitten Kitchen’s Confetti Party Cake recipe. I did make a slight change as I  substituted whole milk yogurt thinned with a bit of whole milk in place of buttermilk though and as usual reduced the sugar slightly and increased the salt. The thing with funfetti cake though is that it’s not a light fluffy kind of cake as I’m guessing it needs some density in which to suspend all those sprinkles. And that really is quite a lot of sprinkles!

 

With the chocolate buttercream, I used the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, again reducing the sugar and increasing the salt. I also used a mix of regular cocoa powder and the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder

 

 They were very pleased with the cake and my 5yo has asked for the same cake but with vanilla buttercream for his birthday in a couple of weeks!

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Reading Sweet Bean Paste and making dorayaki #weekendcooking

The title of the book – and the writer’s name (Durian? As in like the fruit? Or does it have some other meaning?)- was what attracted me at first, as well as the lovely color scheme of the cover.

And what a poignant and moving story this was.

It’s an odd couple kind of story. An ex-con working at a dorayaki shop to pay his debts and a 76-year-old woman with gnarled hands who asks him for a job at the shop, offering to teach him her recipe for sweet bean paste, which she says she’s been making for fifty years.

(Dorayaki is a Japanese confectionary with sweet red bean paste sandwiched between two small pancakes.)

Sentaro doesn’t want to hire her at first, even though she offers to accept a lower pay. But it turns out that Tokue makes amazing sweet bean paste.

“Unlike the ready-made paste, this was the smell of fresh, living beans. It has depth. It had life. A mellow, sweet taste unfurled inside Sentaro’s mouth.”

Sentaro had been using a commercially-made paste which isn’t exactly the best. He’s been pretty much grudgingly doing his work every day, it’s more about paying off his debt than anything else.

But after he hires her, business begins to improve. And Sentaro starts to be more interested in the making of dorayaki. They experiment with beans from different countries. And since Tokue doesn’t work every day, Sentaro begins to make the paste himself.

However word soon gets out – to the customers, to the shop owner – that there may be something wrong with Tokue. People stay away from the shop, the owner wants Sentaro to get rid of her. But how can he?

Sweet Bean Paste is a story about loneliness, about prejudice, about two outsiders who become unlikely friends. I loved how the focus was just on a few characters and the friendships that developed among them.

And oh, the changing of the seasons, especially with all the cherry blossoms!

“Blossom surrounds him on all sides, as if he is at the centre of a deep, sparkling lake. He senses the full force of emotion that has been dormant in the trees all year, waiting for this once-a-year explosion of joy: their pure, unadulterated happiness.”

And most of all, this book will make you long for a taste of dorayaki. Or maybe you’ll be tempted to try to make your own!

And that was exactly what I did.

One thing I like to pick up when we visit Japanese supermarkets is dorayaki. I especially love the dorayaki with chestnuts in them. I’ve never thought to make them! But I was really inspired by the book and just wanted to try making my own.

I found this recipe from Just One Cookbook and hey, I had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I had also seen a couple of recipes like this one from Chopstick Chronicles which added a teaspoon of mirin or sweet rice wine so I added that too.

So we made it just yesterday, a rainy Friday after school.

It was a nice treat for all of us, as we have all been catching coughs and colds one after another these past few weeks.

The recipe was easy enough and didn’t require any special equipment besides a whisk. The kids took turns cracking and beating the eggs, adding ingredients.

And they stood by the stove and watched for bubbles. And soon became quite good at spotting when it was time to turn the pancake. It needs about 1.5 minutes or so on the first side.

 

The pancake batter has both sugar and honey in it. So it does brown quite a bit.

 

I didn’t have adzuki beans on hand but I did luckily have this tin of red bean paste or anko.

Tada! Freshly made dorayaki. So good!

I’ll have to try making the red bean paste myself another time but for now, this was great!

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#WeekendCooking Muffins and Financiers

 

I recently tried two new-to-me muffin recipes and both of them were great!

Chocolate chocolate chip muffins

I used this recipe from Pretty Simple Sweet but buttermilk isn’t something I have at home and I didn’t want to go out and buy some. So instead, I used whole milk yogurt, thinned with some whole milk. And it turned out great. It’s not too sweet (although that may be because I reduced the sugar by 20g) and it’s nice and chocolatey from the cocoa powder and the chocolate chips. I didn’t have quite enough chocolate chips though! I had just slightly less than a cup but it was enough for me!

 

Mixed berry muffins

Recently I picked up a bag of frozen berries from Costco. You know Costco, those bags are huge. I made some berry-banana smoothies from it but decided I also wanted to make some berry muffins. I was curious about this recipe from King Arthur Flour, supposedly some famous department store recipe (a name I wasn’t familiar with). The recipe is actually a blueberry muffin recipe but my bag of frozen berries was a mixture of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. So I went with that! The recipe called for 1/2 cup of the berries to be mashed but since I had frozen berries, I didn’t do that. As usual I decreased the amount of sugar (I find American recipes to be a little too sweet) but just slightly as I wasn’t sure if these berries were sweet enough. And I always appreciate websites like KAF’s which allow for weighted measurements. One of my favourite tools in the kitchen is the digital scale and it makes it so easy (and accurate) to add ingredients to the bowl. Anyway, if you do try this recipe, ignore the part that says “fresh preferred”. This recipe worked great with frozen berries!

 

Chocolate Financiers

I wasn’t quite sure if I had had a financier before. Maybe at a high tea once? But it didn’t have a lasting impression and I couldn’t tell you for sure what one tasted like. They aren’t exactly something I can easily find in my suburban town. So I decided to try making it. Once again, Costco to the rescue – their bag of almond flour is huge and priced well.

I don’t have a financier mould (which are small rectangles) but I did have a silicon mini muffin tray. And that worked out great. This recipe from Wild Wild Whisk was easy enough to follow (it’s adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller). But I was too lazy to pipe out the batter and instead used a spoon to pop it into the mini muffin moulds. And that still turned out fine! You do have to prepare the batter ahead, as it sits in the fridge for an hour. And I especially liked browning butter – it smells so good. It was delicious and so very chocolatey that one mini one was just perfect.

I might give this Brown Butter Financier recipe from David Lebovitz a try too. Interestingly, it doesn’t require refrigeration before baking.

Apparently they’re called financiers as their shape (the original rectangle) looks like a bar of gold!

Have you made financiers before?

 

 

 

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#WeekendCooking Chinese New Year celebrations

Chinese New Year isn’t a holiday here, the kids don’t get the days off school, the husband is still at work. It’s not the same as the Chinese New Year celebrations I grew up with in Singapore, where we would get the first two days off and spend it visiting family and friends, eating lots of snacks and special New Year meals.

 

But despite it not being a holiday, I still try to hang on to some traditions. The kids get new pyjamas, we decorate the house, and we try to have our reunion dinner on the eve, although this year it was tricky because the 7yo had tennis lessons in the evening so we had to do our reunion dinner on the first day of the New Year instead. We did our usual hotpot meal!

I also try to make some cookies for the New Year, this year I made pork floss cookies. Pork floss is a kind of shredded dried pork. It’s a bit sweet and a bit salty so it makes for a great cookie flavour. The cookie batter itself is very buttery and melt-in-your-mouth type. So the addition of sesame seeds and pork floss results in a  buttery crunchy and delicious combination.

One thing I always buy is niangao, a sweet sticky glutinous rice cake that is steamed. There are a variety of flavors you can buy like coconut or red bean or ginger. I like the simple brown sugar version. Traditionally it’s offered to the Kitchen God, as the sticky cake means he won’t be able to say bad things about the family. The niangao at room temperature is quite firm and it’s easy enough to cut.

I like to slice it up, dip it in some beaten egg and panfry it. This way the niangao itself softens and gets a bit sticky and tastes great with the egg. Some people eat it with yam but I’ve never tried it that way.

It’s a once-a-year special treat!

 

 

 

 

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#weekendcooking: Condensed Milk Bread

My family wasn’t big on condensed milk like some families in Singapore were and are – a lot of condensed milk is used by drink stalls, for instance, sweetening Singapore-style milk teas and coffees and Milo. For a long time, my in-laws would add condensed milk into their coffee so I would buy that for them when they visited.

But condensed milk makes me think of when I used to go camping in Singapore, as part of the Outdoor Activities Club at my junior college. We’d slather condensed milk over bread and that was breakfast. Some years ago, in a little dingy Shanghainese-style eatery in the Bay Area, we discovered mantou (or a deep-fried bun) served with condensed milk as a dip. So sinful. So delicious! Sadly the eatery closed down after a few years. I’ve yet to see that dish in another eatery here.

Recently, I spotted this recipe from Bake for Happy Kids –  Condensed Milk Bread

And I knew I had to try it.

Of course I didn’t have condensed milk – and had run out of bread flour – so a supermarket trip was needed. But anything for a good bake, right?

You can find the recipe for Condensed Milk Bread here. I followed it to the T but decided to make two loaves.

This is actually a 排包 paibao – 排 meaning line and 包 meaning bread or bun – and if you look at the original bloggers’ photos, you can definitely see the lines clearly. Mine was a bit over proofed so it lost definition.

The lines of bread are made from dividing the dough into 15 little balls, rolling them out into strips that fit into your loaf tin. It’s quite a bit of work, especially if you’re making two loaves like I was!

But it does make for some extra soft and lovely bread. It isn’t overly sweet and tastes a little bit milky from the condensed milk and the milk powder. Quite a delightful loaf of bread!

I’ve been wondering though about the 15 balls. Perhaps I will experiment the next time, and instead of 15 I’d do the usual 4 balls when I make tangzhong bread  and see if that makes any difference.


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Weekend Cooking: Treats from Singapore

My mum flew in from Singapore yesterday morning. And she brought some lovely and yummy things with her.

 

These canned poppadoms are really quite good. Of course freshly fried ones can’t be beat but really, am I going to fry poppadoms? No, the answer is no.

Also, peanuts. Singapore-style peanuts taste quite different from whatever I’ve seen here. The husband and I have grown up eating them at Chinese restaurants, which lay out plates of peanuts to snack on while waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

We are fortunately living in a city where Asian supermarkets are common enough, and some of these Asian supermarkets do sell ready-made pastes for chicken rice and some other Singapore or Malaysia-style dishes. But I don’t think I’ve seen this brand here. Asam Pedas Ikan is a sour-spicy fish dish – the sourness comes from the tamarind or Asam Jawa.

Laksa may be more familiar to some of you, it’s a spicy coconutty noodle gravy, eaten with fish cakes, prawns, bean sprouts. It’s just so much easier to make with a paste!

 

 

 

On the left is Ang Ku Kueh, literally translated as Red Tortoise Cake. It’s a sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a filling, in this case, yellow mung bean paste. It’s steamed on a piece of banana leaf to prevent it from sticking. The pink cake on the left is kueh lapis, tapioca and rice flours, coconut and pandan, then brightly colored and steamed. Sometimes it comes in rainbow colours.

 

Pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit. Pineapple tarts are my husband’s favourite and we have tried several store-bought brands over the years and none of them have been as good as this one. The pineapple paste is good, not too sweet, the biscuit base is buttery and crumbly and so delicious! The kueh bangkit is a light biscuit made with tapioca flour and coconut milk. It has a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs