Friday, September 25, 2015

Panda Buns (Cheddar and Cream Bread Recipe)

So recently I have been seeing quite a number of Japanese bakers coming up with really cute bread bun designs. The bread buns are really so cute that you wonder if they will ever be eaten at all. (Might end up playing with them instead!) Being the practical me, I often question myself when it comes to whether I should spend such time to make these all too cute bread buns. If I ever do it, it'll be considered a luxury! But again, I have been into bento sushi art lately as well, which also consume quite a fair bit of my time....~haiz. Anyway, the Panda Buns I baked are considered easy, plus it is monochrome! Only 2 colours, how hard is that haha! I wanted to use my trusty White Bread Loaf recipe to make this so as to reduce the stress level. But opted to try a new recipe in the end because I'm always keen to new ones! So here is my Cheddar and Cream Panda Buns. 

Okay I admit...I got lazy and didn't read up more about the temperature control part. But it was 10pm and I was ~yawn~, you get the idea. :P And hence the suntanned pandas were borned. :P Or should I say oven-tanned pandas. A friend then alerted me that I should have reduce the temperature to a low 150C, even though it did came across my mind before baking. But the thought of undercooked gooey bread is just too overwhelming that I went ahead with the oven tan anyways....Haiz again~. However, other then that golden hue on these bears, I have to say it did turn out quite well! Agree? (Self-nodding.... -_-")

So if you do want to attempt this out, feel free to use my White Loaf recipe and bake at a low 150C for 30-35 Minutes and see how it turns out. But bear in mind I did not use this White bread loaf recipe to attempt this at 150C, so I cannot advice you on anything. :) can hold that thought, come try out this Panda buns using the same Cheddar and Cream recipe like here at 170C. It's straight dough too, on!

Ingredients For Cheddar & Cream Bread recipe (makes 8" x 8" square loaf buns)
350 g bread flour
1 large egg (48-50 g)
100 ml fresh milk
3 slices of Kraft cheese (~60 g)
85 ml heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
40 g caster sugar
5 g instant active yeast

25 g unsalted butter room temp

1 tsp charcoal powder (I bought mine from Kitchen capers)
1 tsp egg wash (for the eyes and nose to adhere to the dough)
  • In a sauce pot, add in the milk, cheddar cheese and cream cheese in. Heat it at medium low heat, and stir well till mixture melts. Set aside to cool before use.
  • In a mixer bowl, add in bread flour, egg, salt, caster sugar and yeast. Pour in the cooled cheese mixture.  

  • Beat the mixture till the dough comes together. Continue to mix, it will be sticky at first but just continue to mix with time durations of 5 minutes mix, 5 minutes break and repeat. The dough will eventually become less sticky to the touch.

  • You can add in the room temperature butter and continue to beat the dough. It will then finally pull away from the sides and become very elastic.

  • Remove the dough and grease the bowl. Place the dough back in and let it proof for 1.5hrs or till it doubled up in size. Like seen below:

  • Punch out the air and knead the dough a little. Divide out 16 dough portions of 40 g. The remaining dough is set aside for use later.
  • Roll the 40 g dough portions round and place them in a 8" by 8" greased square pan.

  • Continue till all the dough portions are rolled and placed in the pan. 
  • Next you add the charcoal powder to the remaining dough that was reserved earlier. It should weigh about 60 g if I remember it correctly. Knead well till the dough is uniformly black.
  • Pinch pinch out about 1.5g to 2 g worth of dough and roll it round. Then place 2 of these small round black balls on the top of each dough portion in the pan. These will be the ears of the pandas.

  • Repeat till all the ears are made and placed on top of the buns. 
  • Using your finger tip, carefully rub the place where you will be placing the eyes and nose on the buns.

  • Preheat the oven to 175C right before you are going to work on the eyes and nose portion of the Pandas.
  • Next, pinch about 1 g of the black dough and press it flat till it is oval shaped. Carefully place the oval on the dough top to make the eyes. Pinch a small bit of the dough to make the nose. Note that all these are rough estimate of the dough, I feel it is too much of a hassle to weigh out such a tiny portion of the dough. So just try your best to make a rough gauge on the eyes and nose bread portions. Repeat till all the eyes and nose is made.

  • If the buns has already been fully proofed like showed above, bake it in the oven for 26-28 minutes covered with aluminium foil (yes I covered but till browned  :P). 
  • Once baked, remove from the oven. Also carefully remove the buns out of it's pan so it can cool over the rack completely before eaten.

I am glad the eyes and ears and noses (except one) were still in tact when I removed the buns out from the pan. :) So the egg wash does help to adhere the dough nicely. I shall make sure I use a lower temperature next time at 150 C and see if it really stays white and pale!

The texture? Let's see....
What do you think? Nice right?! I am pretty please with it myself too! Soft and with a slight bite to it, just like the way I enjoyed my breads. Although it might not be as soft as my White loaf bread recipe, this bread still radiates a nice creamy, cheesy aroma. If you like a stronger cheese, please by all means, use that. And do let me know how it turns out for you. ;) Last but not least, hope you have fun baking these pandas, I know I sure did. 

I can't wait to try out another fun shape...what do you suggest?? 

Okay, I gotta go guys, thanks for reading!
Remember, do what you love and stay happy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hokkaido Custard Milk Tarts

My baking experiment continues with Hokkaido Fresh Milk....of course. That luscious dairy is just calling out to me to try out more bakes with it. But it should not be just any bake, it should be something that can bring out that creamy rich flavour of the Hokkaido Fresh Milk. My usual choice would be a light steam cake which calls for dairy milk. So I tried, but that didn't came out with an evident milky flavour (Yes..I experiment bake all the time). Will share with you all next time when I get the chance, But for now, success calls on this recipe instead: Hokkaido Custard Milk Tarts.
What better way to enjoy the milky goodness than these pastry tartlets containing creamy milk custard using the Hokkaido Fresh Milk? And guess what, baked custard definitely intensified the milky flavour. Yummy.
Pairing the milky custard with flaky, buttery pastry crust is just perfect. I made the pastry crust just thin enough to hold the custard and yet won't dominate the taste of the tartlets. And thus the custard flavour can "shine" through. I have opted to use egg whites only in the custard recipe, so it took on a lighter and purer shade of cream white. 

Let's get started on the ingredients shall we? You will be happy to know that most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry. Even Hokkaido Fresh milk is now readily available at your nearby Fair Price Finest.

Ingredients for Hokkaido Custard Milk Tarts (makes 8)
Sweet pastry dough:

150 g cake flour
60 g cold unsalted butter, cut small
45 g confectioner's sugar
2 egg yolks (40~45 g)
1/8 tsp salt

  • In a large mixing bowl, add in the cake flour, powder sugar and salt. Using only your finger tips, rub the cold butter into the flour mixture. Alternatively, use a mixer to combine the ingredients till it resembles bread crumbs.
  • Next add in the egg yolks and gently work the dough but not over kneading it. Over kneading the dough will make it hard and not flaky.
  • Chill the dough in plastic wrap for at least 30 mins till ready to be used.
  • Grease the mini tart tins. After 30 minutes chill, take out the dough and divide it into 8 equal portions, about 35-36g each. 
  • Weigh out each dough portion and place them in the greased tart tins. Use your fingers to gently press in the pastry dough to shape it nicely to the tart tin. Repeat till all the pastry doughs has been shaped.
  • Put them in the fridge until needed. Proceed to make the milk custard filling.
Hokkaido Milk Custard filling

1 tsp condense milk 
Pinch of salt 

200 ml Hokkaido Fresh Milk

100 ml heavy cream

40g caster sugar

1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 tsp cake flour sifted
2 egg whites (~80 g )

  • Preheat the oven to 170C.  
  • In a saucepan, pour in heavy cream, sugar, salt, scrapped vanilla bean seeds and its pod. Turn on the fire to low and stir to cook mixture till the sugar has melted.
  • Once the side starts to bubble, remove from fire and sift in the cake flour. Whisk it well.
  • Next add in the Hokkaido Fresh Milk to the mixture. Mix well.
  • Stir in condensed milk and egg whites as well, mix well. Next, sift in cake flour and egg whites. Whisk throughly again.Remember to use a whisk to whisk it thoroughly. If you still see tiny lumps, it is okay, you will sieve it off later.
  • Strain the mixture leaving only the vanilla pod and membranes of the egg. 

  • Divide the custard filling equally among the chilled pastry tart shells.
  • Bake the milk tarts in the preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or till the custard is slightly firm to the touch or not wobbly. 

  • Remove from oven and let cool on the rack completely. Gently remove the tarts from the tins by carefully inverting the whole tart and using the palm of your hand to catch it.

Another way to make the milk custards without the hassle of baking the pastry shells will be steam baking it in baking ramekins at perhaps 140-145C for 25-30 minutes. But that will be another try out, another recipe. ;)

Love that whitish colour from the custard. You can of course opt to use egg yolk in the custard. Just replace one egg white with 1 egg yolk. But bear in mind my recipe calls for 2 eggs exactly, yolks for the pastry and whites for the custard. 

You can now easily get Hokkaido Fresh Milk at any Fair Price Finest for $6.45 per litre. Whether it is just for consumption or for baking breads (check out my Hokkaido Milk Bread here!) or baking these delicious creamy Hokkaido Custard Milk Tarts. You should definitely give this great dairy product a try. 

I have grown rather fond of this Hokkaido Fresh Milk and not sure if I can go back to normal milk after all these days of drinking it! But again, I strongly believe quality is more important and quantity. Giving your family and your body the best is essential to having a healthy and happy life.

Till we bake again, do what you love!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Purple sweet potato butter cake

It is almost like an alarm clock in the body. I would naturally crave for some butter cake or poundcake like bakes time to time. Do you get that too? Yes, I love chiffon, I love tarts, I love pastries, but somehow the lure of buttery soft cake keeps coming back for more! Although having the good old traditional butter cake is the best, I still enjoy explore and experimenting different ingredients being incorporated to it. And this time is none other then one of my favourite sweet potato...not just any, but that sweet and pretty purple sweet potato. And so Purple Sweet Potato Butter Cake is born!
The addition of the root vegetable has made this cake not only more moist, it also gives off that sweet potato aroma and flavour when you eat it, especially when it is warm. So love! If you love pumpkin too, you can try it with that. But keep in mind that pumpkin has more water content verses sweet potatoes, so the result might end up a wee bit different perhaps.

For now, let's look at this Purple Sweet Potato Butter Cake recipe and see what it consist. :)

Ingredients for Purple Sweet Potato Butter Cake (makes a 8" by 8" square)
150 g sweet potato steamed + 50 ml coconut oil 
  •  Blend the two together until smooth. Set aside for use later

Egg Yolk Batter
5 egg yolks (~73-75g)
60g caster sugar
200 g salted butter at room temperature (Or unsalted butter with 1/2 tsp salt)
200 g cake flour

Egg White Batter
5 egg white
100 g caster sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

  • Preheat the oven to 155C. Prepare a steam bath in the bottom rack so you can so a steam bake later. Grease and line a 8" by 8" square pan with parchment paper. Set aside for use later.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add in the yolks and caster sugar. Start whisking till it thickens and doubled its volume.
  • Next place the softened room temperature butter in, whisk it in in gently to the yolk batter. The batter will be thick and creamy.

  • Now you can add in the blended sweet potato and coconut oil puree. Again, give it a good whisk to combine thoroughly.
  • Last, add in the sifted cake flour. Whisk well again.

  • Next, whisk the egg whites in another mixer bowl. Add in the lemon juice  and then gradually the caster sugar and continue to beat till stiff peaks.

  • In 3 separate portions, add in the egg whites to the egg yolk batter, folding gently each time and careful not to deflate the egg whites.

  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, spread it evenly. At this moment, you can choose to bake it as is or put on the extra sweet potato cream topping swirls.

Swirl Topping (optional)
100 g sweet potato + 60 ml heavy cream
  •  Blend the two together until smooth. Set aside for use later

  • Scoop spoonfuls of the sweet potato cream puree over the top of the cake batter. Then using a tooth pick, run it through the batter to create that swirl effect.

  • Steam bake the cake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes in the water bath till the cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. 

  • Once baked, carefully remove from the oven and place over a towel. Remove the cake from its cake pan and cool on the rack completely before slicing. Enjoy!'s not that complicated right? Although I did add sweet potato in both the cake batter and as a topping. I think it adds that extra oomph and sweet potato intensity to it.

With the addition of coconut oil, it really brings out the coconut fragrance. A little goes a long way! And that purple sweet potato cream swirls not only beautifies the cake appearance, it also adds that creamy sweet potato bite, which is like a bonus every time!

A close look at the soft cake texture of this special butter cake. :9 It is not dense at all, moist and fragrant and also buttery rich that leaves you satisfied. Or maybe you're like me...I can't resist having 3 slices at one go... oops. :P

If you decide to give this a try, try making it ahead and let the cake rest overnight. I personally feel the cake taste better the following day. Just like any butter cake, the taste mallows out and somehow makes it more rich in taste and flavour the following day. Like magic...taste like magic too. Don't take my word for it, get your baking apron on and try it yourself. ;)

Okay guys, signing off now. Hope you all will like this recipe and drop me a note if you did try it ya? 

Remember, do what you love and stay happy!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Heritage Recipe : Braised Pig Trotter

I am happy and honoured to be working with Le Creuset in the coming months, in which I will be using their timeless and beautiful cookwares to cook up homey dishes to share with everyone. Since I have been using Le Creuset cast iron pots for more then a decade, I have more or less got myself familiarised on how to handle them. Thus, as I showcase some of Le Creuset's products with the different dishes, I hope I will be able to highlight the cookware's features like their extraordinary heat-retention and its damage resistant enamel coating. And don't get me started on the array of colours they have available for their products...enough to make me go gaga over them. Definitely one of the few cookwares presentable enough to be taken directly from the stove to the dining table. So much win.
If you see carefully, some of those pots have already collected "souvenirs" from the years of cooking with them. But trust me, it is still solid as a rock and functions the same as the day I brought it out from it's new packaging. 

Growing up in a Hokkien family, we do a lot of braised dishes. And one of them is this Braised Pig Trotter.  And as long as I can remember, my parents has been cooking this dish for the family. Whether it is for a casual dinner or having guests over or during festive seasons, this dish always seem to fit the occasion. Sometimes we would use pork belly instead, but the formula is pretty much the same. The meat is cooked at low fire for long hours to create that fork tender effect. And having that dark flavourful gravy "elixir" alone, is good enough to make me chomp down a bowl of steam rice. Such wonderful taste of tradition and nostalgic flavours definitely needs a trusty recipe and of course a good cookware. I am happy to say that Le Creuset dutch oven is just perfect for the job. And can I just say that new Cool Mint colour is just gorgeous!
In this post, I will share with you all, how I cook up this family favourite using Le Creuset's  25 cm French Oval Oven. Personally, I think 24 or 25 cm oven are just perfect for a small family usage (like mine). It fits a midsize chicken, a pig trotter and even a midsize fish too. 

Let's take a look at the required ingredients for this recipe:

Ingredients for Braised Pig Trotter (Serves 4-5 pax)

900 g to 1 Kg Pig Trotter, removed any hair
4 to 5 slices of ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2-3 spring onion, cut into smaller segments
500 - 600 ml water


1/2 tsp quality 5 spice powder
1 tbsp Chinese wine (绍兴酒)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese wine (绍兴酒)
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp white ground pepper
1.5 tbsp rock sugar (冰糖)

Add ons: 
200 g firm tofu, cut into smaller squares
4 hardboiled eggs

  • First order of business is to wash the new Le Creuset pot with warm soapy water, just like how you would with any new cookware.

  • Then fill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the pig trotter.

  • Remove the pig trotter and leave it to drain on a clean plate. Pat dry and rub in the marinating ingredients. Let it marinate for 1 minutes at least. In the meantime, rinse the dutch oven and dry it.
  • Pat dry the pig trotter. At this point, marinate the pig trotter with all of the marinate ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes. 
  • Heat up 4 tbsp of cooking oil in Le Creuset oven over medium low fire. 
  • Pan fry the pig trotter in the dutch oven but make sure you have something to shield the possible oil splatter.

  • Pan fry both sides, then off the fire and carefully remove the leg and place on a clean plate. You will notice there are some bits of the skin stuck at the base of the oven. That is okay, those will add flavours to the dish and will come off when we do the braising later. 
  • Add in the smashed garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise and ginger slices. Cook till fragrant over medium low fire.

  • Now proceed to add the pig trotter, follow by all the seasoning ingredients EXCEPT the sugar. Stir to mix and coat the leg with the flavourings and cook for a couple minutes.
  • Add in the water and bring the pot of ingredients to a boil.

  • Cover the pot with it's cover and slow braise the trotter for a good 30-40 minutes. 
  • After 30-40 minutes, open the lid and add in the rock sugar and spring onions.

  • This time, leave a small gap when you place the lid back over the pot. Let the sauce slowly reduce to a thick gravy, about 1/3 left.
  • At this point, you can add in the firm tofu and hardboiled eggs to braise together with the trotter for another 10 - 15 minutes.

  • You can now remove the pot from the stove, covered and let sit till ready to serve later.

I would usually cook this dish early in the afternoon and let it seat to soak up the flavours further. Especially since the Le Creuset oven is excellent in retaining the heat, it will still continue to breakdown and braise the meat with the flavourings. So when we have the dish for dinner, it was still warm and just perfect for the kiddos. 

The best part of this dish? Everything! Fork tender meat, galantines pork skin, gravy soaked tofu and perfectly flavoured braised eggs. Gravy is perfectly intense with meat and fat essence rendered into it. Give me steam rice please!
If you wonder if the pot has any stains after this long braising process...none. After we mop up all the gravy, I did a quick wash up with soapy water, it was good as new. Happiness. 

I am glad I managed to learn how to cook this dish from my parents. Now I get to cook it for my own family for many years to come. And trust me, this Le Creuset French oven will still be good enough for them to cook this dish with when it is their turn! 
Interested to get yourself a lovely Le Creuset dutch oven too? Head on over to Le Creuset 's official website or go to their FB page for more offers and see he range of cookwares they offer. Alternatively, you can go to major departmental stores like Tangs, Robinson, or Takashimaya to check out the products in person. Get a feel which size is more suitable for your family or personal use. 

Hope I have inspire you enough to give this homey and delicious dish a try. 
Do drop by my Instagram or here to leave me a comment how it worked out for you. 

Until then, do what you love and stay happy!