Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daikon... to dai or not to dai?

Daikon (だいこん?) (from Japanese daikon (大根), literally "large root") is a mild-flavored East Asian giant white radish.

Although there are many varieties of daikon, the most common in Japan, the Aokubi Daikon, has the shape of a giant carrot, approximately 20 to 35 cm (8 to 14 inches) long and 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) in diameter. One of the most unlikely shaped daikon is Sakurajima daikon from Kagoshima Prefecture that is shaped like an oversized turnip with white outside and bright pink inside.

The flavor is generally rather mild compared to other small radishes.

(Above information including image, is credited fully to Wikipedia)

A friend's mom just returned from Hokkaido lugging 6 huge daikons.
This blessed bud of mine hauled it to office for me... I have just written to an esteemed Japanese Food Blogger (whom I refer to for Japanese woes) asking for advice on how to cook this giant white radish.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Cure To My Parisian Batard Woes!!

People who know me... know that I spend a good part of my time back in Singapore, suffering from Parisian Bread Withdrawals. And the later part of the year, is usually spent scurrying to my favourite bakery in town to get my Batard fix for the following week.

I wanted to try my hand at making a passable Batard to tide me over, but after watching Julia Child / Danielle Forestier's video, I balked at the thought of having to slap the dough 850 times in the humid tropical weather of Singapore.

Last night, I decided to try sussing out another recipe as a comparison and if push comes to shove... by jove I will slap the darn dough 850 times.

Through this determined attempt, I came across Andrea's website . In it, she mentioned about a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. I could literally kiss Andrea's blog for this is the first time I've heard of the book, that is apparently the toast of the bread world.

I was skeptical of a recipe that was a no knead method and involved minimal handling. All I had to do was throw in Yeast, Water, Salt and Flour, stir, refrigerate and pull out a handful whenever I needed a loaf of Batard, bake and enjoy.

I tried it today, with Andrea's reduced amount of Yeast... and it was as good as any Batard I've tasted. True, there is a 2 hour resting period, true, you need to refrigerate it for some time before complexities in the dough developes. But anything that doesn't require me sweating in the humid heat of a 33 degree celsius kitchen, is a good recipe.

I halved Andrea's version as I wasn't sure how well it would work in my tropical humidity.
Here is my adaptation then:

3 1/4 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 Cups Water (recently cooled)
3/4 Tablespoon Salt (I used Fleur de Sel just for kicks)
1/8 Tablespoon Pepper + Coarse Sea Salt
(Coz my batard was meant for a Honey Baked Ham/Cheese Breakfast Sandwich)
1/2 Tablespoon Instant Yeast

1. Mix everything together in a huge tub. Ensure that the tub can accommodate three times of original dough quantity.

2. Refrigerate the tub. Remember that 14 days is the recommended maximum length of time to keep the bread dough. This refrigeration is recommended as dough complexities start to develop over time (I've got another batch waiting to be baked in approximately 3 days)

3. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, before pulling apart a chunk that you require for a loaf. Drop it in flour, covering the top as well as the bottom. Work the dough into a ball, and then start folding the tops slowly into the bottom, as though trying to create a creaseless dome top.
Do this for about 5 minutes in order to create a gluten cloak.

4. Shape the dough as desired, placing the finished dough onto a sheet of baking paper.

5. In a pre-heated oven, of about 230 degrees celsius, I placed a stainless steel bowl.
Just before baking, throw in a few cubes of ice into this stainless steel bowl in order to create the steam required to bake/steam the bread.

6. Bake this for approximately 20 minutes. (I had to do mine for about 30 mins total as I wasted too much time getting it into my mini oven because I had to do space apportionment between steel bowl, oven thermometer and dough. Temperature of oven dropped as a result)

7. Take your first bite of the crumbly crisp bread before doing anything else with it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grandma VanDoren's White Bread (Part II)

Following my success with yeast, I was so curious about how bread made with Bread Flour might taste, that I had to sneak to the basement supermarket before running up to the fourth level of the mall to meet C. We made just in time to watch Iron Man. I digress.... (pretty good movie if you are feeling brainless too!)

Ok, this time, I decided to try making a white bread to see if the taste of chewy white might be more pronounced, even though it is homemade.

I got another recipe off Allrecipes. It seemed relatively simple and for sooth, it was pretty hassle-free. The only problem though, was that it required the gradual adding of flour after the initial proofing stage. This was waaaay harder than adding everything in at once and kneading all the kinks out. The resulting dough wasn't very smooth and if you pulled it in all directions, it could be pulled apart with some persuasion.

In a fit of pique, I decided to stop kneading and left the dough in a dark corner to reflect upon its mistakes (otherwise known as first fermentation).

After an hour, it seemed to have calmed down slightly and seemed more smooth instead of its earlier lumpy sulky self. I gave it another knead and tried to form a smooth looking log but that proved harder than I had thought.

In the end, I just dumped it into my pan, re-wrapped the saran wrap over it and left it there to rise a little more (although this wasnt stated in the recipe).

I wasn't too pleased with the results though, it tasted like the local baguettes available in our local ma & pa bakeries. But overall... I'm just superbly pleased that I can finally declare that bread making isn't something that's beyond me. Woot! Given enough time, I might even attempt Julia Child's Batard... loads of time...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Yeast? (Part I)

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

It has been some time since I deemed it fit to step into the kitchen once again. This is getting to be a norm since I have spent most of February and/or March of the past 3 years, in Europe. The time from when I am back in town to when I step into the kitchen is spent in winter withdrawals and missing the many bread meals I've had.

The biggest reason I dislike making any sort of bread in Singapore is because I live in the tropics and humidity and heat and the texture of flours stored in this weather is a real killer. The other reason is that I don't care much for the smell of the yeast even after baking.

Having done a little reading on DARING BAKERS Feb 2008 challenge of French Bread by Julia Child and Obachan's Simple Whole Wheat Bread from ALLRECIPES, I found myself in a quandary.

The video of French Bread by Julia Child and Danielle Forestier showed a kneading process where I had to slap the dough 850 times. Hell... after 100 times, I won't be able to tell if I am slapping dough or my dog against the counter. That being said, I don't think Ms Forestier was kidding about slapping the dough 850 times.

With a relayed recipe of Julia Child's French Bread, from The Sour Dough, there is a fermentation process of at least 7-9hours with a final origami-like folding of the dough before shaping and a second fermentation.

I decided at close to 9pm that I would attempt Obachan's Simple White Bread from Allrecipes. Trying to decide on the proofing method of the different types of yeast, the conversation from Active Dry Yeast and Instant Dry Yeast and the difference between Baker's Yeast and Instant Dry Yeast (in my case, it seems to be the same) made me wanna take up a hobby like Cardiac Surgery. The explanations available online were relatively comprehensive but what I wanted to know was if the Instant Dry Yeast required the same proofing method or if I should just add the tepid liquid into the main dough without proofing, and move onto the next step. Arrrggghh!

I then discovered I didn't have Bread Flour but so set was I in making this bread that I decided go ahead with my new pack of Unbleached All Purpose Flour from Gold Medal. I went in knowing full well that my bread might not turn out well because the protein content in AP flour was 12% at best and regular Bread Flour has a protein content of between 13% - 14%. I figured what the heck, it's just 1%, let's try it anyway.

This is what emerged after almost 2 hours of double fermentation, several loving punches and almost 40 minutes in the oven at 175 celsius:

After my first bite of piping hot bread... I wanted to kiss the floors and thank the kitchen fairies! There was absolutely no smell of yeast! The next bite made me want to do the bread dance of joy at 1am in the morning because it doesn't taste cake-like (Thank you Bread fairy!).

I love that it resembles a decent loaf of bread and the texture is a tad chewy with an added flavour from the whole wheat flour. The added swirl on top on Pic 1 is my fancy origami attempt because I dislike breads with smooth dome tops. I can't really taste the honey though I suspect the real reason for the honey is to feed the yeast.

I can't wait to try it tomorrow after it has had time to cool down. I need to know how the crust will behave even with its light brushing of butter.

Conclusion: I must try this with actual bread flour to taste the difference between the two but this is definitely a bread I will be adding to my repertoire regularly. Thanks for the blog Obachan!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Uncle Lim's Strawberry & Chocolate Chip Birthday Cake

I was invited to my Uncle's birthday dinner at King's Copthorne, and in return asked to bake a cake for 15 pax. This being my extended family, that is non-blood related, whenever I'm asked to make something, I always feel compelled to ensure it's my showman bestest. Maybe I'm competitive, maybe I've long treated them as family whom I can and will give two hoots to, or perhaps they are just a harsh public. hehe (For sooth, they are not. They are full of compliments, sincere or otherwise)

Being as stressed as I am at work, I decided to use a standard recipe off Family Circle instead of fiddling around with something I like. And foolishly, I used a non-tested recipe for this attempt.

I had to let the cake burn because even after the prescribed time, the batter wasn't fully baked. I did damage control by assuring myself that all major hotels bake regular sheet cakes that they cut into shape before icing anyway, so I am not really cheating.
(Yes, I can be quite delusional on occasion!)
I did cut off the entire base portion and circumference of the cake and comforted self that a thick icing as shown in the picture would remedy all that didn't look so good.

I then piped some chocolate curls on a baking sheet and the darn chocolate refused to dry even after 3 hours, so I brought them all to my room to spend the night.

The following day? Most of my piped curls broke off in terror when I tried to gently coax them away from the baking sheet. Sensing that bad things come in 3s, I made the icing with much trepidation.

Well, in my recipe book, the cake is displayed with icing that is akin to Chocolate Buttercream. The actual recipe? Produced a runny consistency that is closer to a very diluted cream of chicken. Great! Two flops in one sitting! What is the moral of the story? The old adage of NEVER trying something new when it comes to the crux? I even used my treasured 70% Guanjara chocolate for this, hoping it would salvage whatever was left of my baker's pride.

In the end, I decided I was out of time and would just slather on the icing, and decorate it with loads of strawberries, as well as whatever chocolate curls that haven't crumbled in fear. I took out my super duper expensive gold dust and started painting just the tip of each chocolate curl.

I must say, despite the number of times I've used quality chocolate for icing, I have almost always been disappointed. Quality chocolate somehow just never seems to rid itself of the sour aftertaste if no sugar is added to it. This gave the cake a sourish feel whenever one bit into the top of the cake. Sigh... well at the very least, I would unabashedly give myself and "A" for presentation effort. If it tastes bad, just slap on loads of decor designed to make the crowd go wow.

Needless to say, no one was brave enough to tell me what they really thought aside from the coo-ing of admiration.

Ah well... I know better now and will henceforth, stick with regular 'inferior' chocolates for icing or buttercreams.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Macaron Trials - Strawberry, Black Sesame & Matcha with Roasted Chestnut

I went crazy after awhile, about macarons. The flavours, the texture, the precociousness of a mini labour of love...

These are the efforts of my trial run with flavours improvised on the spot: Strawberry, Black Sesame & Matcha.

Everyone loves the strawberry because nothing about it is artificially flavoured.

The problem with using sweet strawberry puree though, is that it makes the shells superbly watery and that in turn, gives me a flatter shell. The flavouring was my version of a strawberry buttercream, which surprisingly, didn't cream up as it should. But it was still the tastiest of them all. The wet butter cream though, would sometimes soak through the shell... affecting its visual impact.

The Black Sesame requires the addition of liquid in order to stop it from being so drying on the overall Macaron batter. The filling could do with a touch of liquid as well.
The more dry the ingredients, the stiffer my shell batter, meaning I have more control over the spread of my shells when baked. See the difference in the 'puffiness' of my shells across the different flavours? Matcha is equally 'drying'. The roasted chestnut came about because I couldn't be arsed to hunt around quality grocers for chestnuts - pureed or whole.

Also, I finally found the Marrons previously researched, at Jones The Grocer.
Can't wait to try it out on Matcha shells!

p.s. The copious sieving of almond flour through a fine mesh sieve is still a pain in the butt. I usually end up chucking the bits that are too large for my fine sieve with the rest of the dry ingredients, after 45 minutes of sieving. This is my sorry excuse for pimply shells.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Eric Kayser's Matcha Tarts Round 2!

Eric Kayers Matcha Financiers went over soooo well with colleagues that I've had a few asking me for more. So instead of experimenting with what's already a good recipe, I decided to just try out variations of different moulds.

I have a friend who tells me that she is immensely jealous of the baking pans, tins, cutters, etc. Yay!

Something about Matcha anything always gives me the zen feel even though Financiers contain a substantial amount of Butter and whites.

I love the leaf veins seen above.

An experiment went awry. Matcha Financier-Muffins with baked raspberries. The tart raspberry tartness just about did me in.

The big round one resembles so much like a 大饼 Da Bing
(sorta like a big cookie, chinese style)
The limit to my 'creativity'.
I didn't find that many moulds to have fun with.