Thursday, 29 November 2012

Handmade Northern Chinese Dumplings
手工北方水饺


My grandpa used to say: "No food is more delicious than dumplings; no position is more comfortable than lying down”. It’s a rhyme if translated into mandarin: “好吃不如饺子,舒服不如倒着”. This is how much we northern china people love dumplings, homemade dumplings.

In my family, it’s a tradition to make dumplings on happy occasions like Lunar New Year and family members’ birthdays. We also make dumplings when bid farewell for family members who are travelling away from home. Other than these special moments, dumplings are made whenever we have spare time. Served either as main dish or side dish, dumplings have never failed to satisfy our appetites.
Typical northern chinese dumplings are famous for its bigger size, thinner skin with rich and juicy fillings. There are a variety of fillings in chinese dumplings, which we adjust according to our tastes.

When making dumplings, the most difficult part is to prepare the skin. It takes years of practice to use the rolling pin proficiently. The good news is, ready-made dumpling skins are available in supermarkets.  Though the taste and texture cannot be compared with hand-made ones, at least they are acceptable.
In this post, I share with you one of my home recipe - Green Chilies with pork meat. It has a fresh, “crisp” taste with light chili scent. A bite of this dumpling is a mouthful of happiness.



HANDMADE NORTHERN CHINESE DUMPLINGS 


INGREDIENTS

Dumpling Skin
- 500g all-purpose flour
- 300ml water

Fillings
- 3 big green chilies about 500g, coarsely chopped
- 500g minced pork meat
- 60g ginger, finely chopped

Seasonings:
- 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (boiled and cool)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons 5-spices powder
- 1 tablespoon light soybean source

Prepare Dumpling Fillings
  1. Sprinkle the seasonings one by one on the surface of the minced meat. Mix well with a pair of chopsticks. .
  2. Let seasoned for 30 minutes before use.
  3. Slit green chilies into halves, remove the seeds. Chop coarsely.
  4. Squeeze out the excess water with hands. DO NOT over-squeeze, otherwise the dumplings might taste dry.
  5. Put coarsely chopped green chilies on top of the seasoned minced meat. When ready to make dumplings, mix them together until just combined. If mix them too early, the vegetable juice may come out and make the fillings difficult to wrap in later.



Make Dumplings
  1. Put flour in a medium bowl. Add water gradually and mix well. Knead with hands until a soft and smooth ball is formed. If necessary, add more water or flour.
  2. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl. In a lightly floured surface, separate the dough into 3 portions. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it is soft and elastic.
  4. Roll the dough into a long roll about 2cm in thickness. Cut into small pieces with a knife, about 2cm in length.
  5. Sprinkle flour on the surface of small doughs. Flatten with your palm one by one.
  6. Roll out the small dough with a rolling pin into a round shape with desired thickness (~2mm).  Dumpling skin is ready.
  7. Take one dumpling skin, put on your left palm, add one tablespoon of fillings in the centre of the skin. Fold the skin in half so it resembles a half circle. Then, working from one end, gather a small fold on one side of the skin. Pinch the fold onto the other. Keep folding and pinching until the dumpling is sealed.


  8. Put the freshly made dumpling on a floured surface. Continue to make dumplings until the fillings are used up.
Note: Dumplings can be frozen and stored in a freezer for up to 2 months.

 

 

Cook Dumplings
  1. Heat 3 cups of water in a medium wok till water is boiled.
  2. Add fresh or frozen dumplings one by one into the boiling water.
  3. Use a spatula to lightly stir the dumplings to ensure they are not stick to the bottom of the wok. To prevent dumplings stick to each other, do not put too many dumplings at one go.
  4. Cover with a lid and heat until water is boiled. Add ½ cup of cold water.
  5. Repeat Step 4 two times or until dumplings are floating in the wok.
  6. Heat off. Remove the dumplings with a drainer. Serve warm.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Soft Buns with Ham & Spring Onion 香葱火腿小面包

Since young, I like to play with dough. It's very satisfactory for me to knead a messy sticky dough into a smooth elastic ball. The best part is proofing. Watching a dough growing like a self inflatable balloon, isn't it interesting?

Thanks to the tropical weather in this "red dot", the proofing process takes less than an hour under room temperature! That reminds me of those old days back in my hometown, especially during winter time. To make those buns, we had to cover the dough with thick cotton quilt, and put it near the heater for 3-4 hours...


Okay, let's come back to our beautiful day today. It's a Sunny Saturday morning. After a late breakfast, I decided to bake something for high tea. In my refrigerator, some spring onions, eggs, ham and cheese lying around quietly. "How about Cheese & Ham buns or Spring onion & Ham buns ?" The idea just crossed my mind, and the next moment, I have already flipped my recipe book to Soft Buns page...

Around 2pm in the afternoon, my lovely buns were out of oven, and... they were gone in 15 mins! Luckily I snapped some nice "before and after" photos. Seems need to double the servings next time!




SOFT BUNS (HAM &SPRING ONION)
(Bread recipe source: 65°c 汤种面包)

Ingredients
(makes 15 soft buns)

Water Roux
  • 25g bread flour
  • 125g water
Bread Dough
  • 300g bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 80g fresh milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 30g butter ( softened)
  • 90g water roux     

Spring Onion Garnish
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil,
  • 60g spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Others
  • Ham slices,
  • white/black sesame



DIRECTIONS:
  1.  Prepare water roux (microwave method):
    • Mix water roux ingredients together in a bowl. Stir until smooth.
    • Heat up in microwave. Every 15 seconds, take out and stir to make sure no lumps of flour. Within 1 minute, the mixture will start to thicken, stop when you see traces in the mixture for every stir you make with spoon or chopsticks.
    • Leave to cool completely before use.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, yeast, sugar, salt, egg, water roux and milk. Mix well with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Knead with hands until form a ball (DO NOT add flour, the dough should be sticky).
  3. Add in softened butter, continue kneading until the ball is smooth.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave to proof in a warm area for 45mins.


  5. Remove the dough from the bowl . With lightly floured hands, gently give a few light kneading to press out the gas. Divide dough into 15 balls – about 50g each. Leave to proof for 10 mins.
  6. Flatten each ball and roll out to a circle with a rolling pin. Cut a piece of ham into halves, place on the rolled out dough. Roll up from the bottom, as tight as possible. Seal the seam and form an oval shape.
  7. Cut a line in the centre of the dough to expose the ham slice. Leave to proof for 30-40mins.
  8. Brush with egg white and put spring onion egg wash in the opening (I also made some ham & cheese version, they taste fantastic as well). Sprinkle some black sesame on the surface.


  9. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degC for 15-20 mins until golden brown.
  10. Leave to cool.
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Friday, 23 November 2012

Yam Paste with Ginkgo Nuts
芋泥白果甜品


Yam Paste with Ginkgo Nuts is often seen in an exquisite 10 course Chinese dinner menu. Garnished with coconut milk, it has a creamy consistency with rich coconut milk flavor. It's so delicious that whenever I attend a wedding dinner, I can easily finish 2 servings of this dessert even though it is served at mid-night!

To relieve cravings for such high calorie food,  the only way is to make it a slighly healthy version myself. After much reserach and several trials,  I developed my own simple, healthy,  yummy yam paste recipe. Share with you, let's enjoy together.

YAM PASTE WITH GINKGO NUTS

INGREDIENTS

- Yam (~800g-1kg )
- ½ cup of olive oil (replace pork lard, I did not fry shallot in oil as it tastes the same to me)
- ½ cup of sugar (reduced sugar)
- ½ cup of water (optional, depends on your liking of texture)
- ½ cup coconut milk

GARNISH

- Ginkgo nuts
- Coconut milk

DIRECTIONS
  1. Remove yam skin and cut into small cubes. 
  2. Steam for about 30-40 mins until soft. Test with a chopstick, if can stick through,then it's ready.
  3. Remove from the steamer, mash with a spatula or folk until smooth.
  4. Fold in sugar while warm, mix well (more sugar may be added to suit your liking).


  5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium fire, add in 1/4 cup olive oil.  
  6. Add in mashed yam, and stir with wooden spatula gently. You can see yam absorb the oil quickly. Add in more oil and continue stir until the yam and oil are well combined. 
  7. Add in water and coconut milk, keep stirring it till yam paste becomes smooth consistency and turn slightly purplish. Add in more water or coconut milk, if necessary,  to suit your liking of texture and taste.
  8. Remove from the heat. Garnish with ginkgo nuts and coconut milk. Serve warm.
  9. Keep the remaining in the refrigerator. Heat up with microwave when serve.


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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sweet Fermented Rice for Beauty
养颜美容甜酒酿

 
During my confinement days, my mom’s friend brought me a jar of homemade fermented rice. It has a sweet taste with light alcoholic smell. She said it helps to stimulate the production of breastmilk. Can eat by the spoon, or make popular Chinese desserts by adding it to boiled egg soup (酒酿鸡蛋)or rice balls soup (酒酿圆子). There is no added sugar in fermented rice, the sweetness is purely from the glutinous rice itself during fermentation.
I am fascinated by fermented rice not only because of its unique taste, but also its attractive benefits.  Chinese believe fermented rice helps promote blood circulation and is great for prolonging young and smooth skin.

Ever since then, sweet fermented rice soup has become my "secret" beauty dessert.



FERMENTED RICE


INGREDIENTS
- 500g glutinous rice
- Rice yeast (~10-15g), crushed to powder (I get it from YUE HWA)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Soak the rice for 4-5 hours or overnight. Drain. Add water to just cover the rice. You can steam for about 30-40 mins, or cook in a rice-cooker as usual. 
  2. Stir the rice gently to loosen it and let cool. It’s best to use a pair of clean chopsticks as the rice is a bit sticky. Take care not to cool the rice completely.  Let the rice cool to a stage when it is warm but not hot when touched with hands. That’s the temperature yeast works the best.

  3. Prepare a clean glass container (strictly no water, no oil). In the process of fermentation, your hand and the container must be very clean . Use disposable cooking glove to do the following steps.
  4. Sprinkle one thin layer of rice yeast powder at the bottom of the container. Put one layer of  rice evenly.
  5. Sprinkle rice yeast powder on the surface of the rice, add another layer of rice. Repeat this step until all the rice has been transferred to the container. 
  6.  Make a hole in the center of the rice. Sprinkle remaining rice yeast powder on top as well as inide the hole.  
  7. Cover the container and leave it in a warm place (I put in my microwave oven).
  8. Check the rice after 24hrs. Here are some indications of successful fermentation:
    • The hole is full of liquid
    • The rice does not stick to the container wall when you shake the container gently.
    • Press the surface of the rice with a spoon, you can see liquid coming out and fill up the spoon.
    • The taste of the rice is sweet with light smell of alcohol.

    If fermentation is not complete, cover the container and check again in 36hrs. Usually, under room temperature of 28-33 degC, it should be ready by 2-3 days. If the taste turn sour, it means over-fermented. If found mould on the surface of fermented rice, it means the process is not clean enough.

    Once the fermented rice is ready, put the container into the refrigerator to stop fermentation. It can be stored for a month.  

Fancy a bowl of sweet fermented rice soup? Follow my blog, I will tell you how to make these beauty soups !



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Monday, 19 November 2012

Tasty Vegetable Pancake
美味菜饼


Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods, but many children including my two don’t like them at all. As parents, we are getting more and more creative in preparing food.

In my family, other than dumplings, in which we can put all kinds of vegetables and still my children love them. Another alternative is Vegetable Pancake. Unlike dumplings, vegetable pancake is easy to prepare, and yet mouth-watering. I usually whip up this healthy tasty pancake within half an hour. Sounds attractive?


 


VEGETABLE PANCAKE
(makes 5-6 servings)
Batter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups water
Seasonings
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon 5-spices powder 五香粉
- 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder 黄姜粉(optional)
Vegetables
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
- 5 scallions (green tops cut into 3 inches,  sliced lengthwise)
- 3 large green cabbage leaves, thinly sliced 

DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Add in water and eggs and stir until lumps are gone.
  2. Stir in vegetables. Add more water, if necessary (the batter should be smooth and pourable). Set aside.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking oil. Pour a ladle of batter onto the skillet, and spread it out evenly into a circle. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and bottom is browned. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.



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Friday, 16 November 2012

Melt-in-the-Mouth Pineapple Tarts (closed version)
入口即化凤梨酥


I don't remember exactly when I started baking pineapple tarts. All I know is, it becomes top in my baking list for Chinese New Year. My motivation for baking pineapple tarts is very simple: I cannot resist these rich, buttery and melt-in-the-mouth cookies. Also, I feel the pineapple tarts from commercial bakeries are usually too sweet for me. Baking them myself, I am able to control the sweetness and the texture of the pineapple tarts as well as the quality of the ingredients used.
 
 

I obtained my precious recipe from a friend in Malaysia. Her mom is good at baking all kinds of traditional festival cookies. In addition to pineapple tarts, I also learned peanut cookies from her mom. My recipes have been testified by my friend:). She says the taste is very close to her mom's version.

PINEAPPLE TARTS (CLOSED- VERSION)
INGREDIENTS

Pastry
  • 400g plain flour
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a pinch of salt (1/4 tsp, omit if butter is salted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Egg wash
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon milk/water

500g store-bought pineapple filling


DIRECTIONS
  1. Put flour, icing sugar, vanilla powder and salt in a mixing bowl, mix well with hands.
  2. Add in softened butter, egg yolks and cold water. Continue mix with hands until it comes together and form a dough (Do not over knead).
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  4. Take 2 teaspoons pastry and roll into a small ball . Flatten it using your palms.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon of pineapple filling on the center of each pastry skin and wrap it. Roll into a ball (patch with more pastry skin if needed.)
  6. Glaze the pastry with egg wash and bake for 15-18 mins until the pastry is slightly golden. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely.
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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Simple, Delicious Raisin Loaf
简单好吃的免揉葡萄干面包


 
A friend of mine was thinking of buying a breadmaker years ago. I remember the price she mentioned was around $800. "Oh, my God, with $800, we can buy loads of breads every day for months!"

In my impression, a “toy“ machine at this price, should be able to do everything from kneading, proofing and shaping. We only need to pour in all the ingredients, press a few buttons, and the doughs would be ready for baking.

Well, if the breadmaker does not do wonders, let our bear hands do then!


The recipe I share with you here is the simplest one, which does not require much kneading, yet the bread is one of my favorites. The texture is in-between soft and chewy, and it smells wonderful. Usually I make 2 loaves of this bread, and they will be gone within a day or two .

Making bread gives me a lot more satisfaction than making cakes, really.  Don't believe me?  Try it yourself !


RAISIN LOAF
(makes two loaves)

INGREDIENTS

-  1 cup of lukewarm water
-  1/2 cup of caster sugar
-  2 teaspoon salt
-  3 eggs
-  115g butter (melt and cool)
-  5 cup all-purpose flour
-  5 teaspoon dry yeast ( I use Levure Seche de Boulanger Dry Baker's Yeast )
-  1/2 cup raisins (dip in rum, drained)
-  Black sesame (Optional)


DIRECTIONS
  1. Place all ingredients except water in a mixing bowl (take care to separate salt from yeast). Gradually add in water, and mix well with hand until the dough comes together to form a ball (it takes about 5-7 mins). Do not add flour at this stage.
  2. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let it proof in room temperature (about 28-30 degC) for about 40mins - an hour or until double in size.
  3. Take out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Give it a few gentle kneading to release the gas. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Sprinkle in a little more flour and roll each dough into ball.   
  4. Roll out each ball of dough with rolling pin. Place the raisins all around the flat piece of rolled out dough and then roll it up. (When you go to shape the dough, the raisins will all be well hidden inside and will be delicious when the bread is sliced open.)
  5. Pinch and seal the seams. Tuck in the seam side, and place dough into greased loaf pans. Cover with damp cloth, let rise till loaves are double in size.Sprinkle black sesame on the surface.
  6. Preheat the oven at 180 degC. Bake for 30-35mins or until the surface has turned golden brown.



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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Zero Failure OREO Cheesecake
“零失败“ OREO 奶酪蛋糕


I am a born lover for cheese, butter and milk, though I am a typical Chinese from northeastern part of China. That's a place where most of us love dumplings, buns ( 馒头, with no sugar, no butter)  and plain rice, of course. My mom told me she had no breastmilk for me when I was born. I was fed with milk powder as a baby. Maybe that explains?

Anyway, I fell in love with cheesecake at first bite of it, and started baking when I was in U.S several years ago. It's so easy to bake a cheesecake there because you can simply grab a ready-made crust from the supermarket at the cost of less than $2?  I baked almost every week with the same recipe and shared with friends.

Until now, I always keep a few packs of cream cheese in my fridge. Whenever anyone in my family misses cheesecake, I bake one within an hour. We have never been tired of it.


Recently, I shared this recipe with a friend who has almost zero baking experience. She succeeded at the first attempt. So, I call it "Zero Failure" recipe :)



OREO CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

For the crust:
  • 2 packs of OREO cookies, divide(16 for crust, the rest for topping)
  • 50g-80g butter (melted)

  • For Fillings:
  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 2 tablespoons multi-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

  • Directions: 
    1. Preheat oven to 160 DegC. Grease a 9 inch pan (both bottom and the side of the pan).
    2. Prepare the crust:
      • Place 16 of the cookies in a resealable plastic bag. Flatten bag to remove excess air, then seal the bag.
      • Finely crush cookies by rolling a rolling pin across the bag. Place in bowl.
      • Add butter, mix well. Press firmly onto bottom of the pan. 
    3. Beat egg and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy.
    4. Add cream cheese, vanilla essence, flour and milk. Mix until well blended.
    5. Pour over prepared crust; sprinkle with the remaining chopped cookies.
    6. Use a water bath, bake for 1hr or until center is almost set (the center of the cheesecake should be just slightly moist when it is ready to be removed).
    7. Remove from the oven. Cool on a wire rack. Loosen the cake from the edge of the pan by running the tip of a knife or narrow spatula between the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan. This allows the cake to pull away freely from the pan as it cools.
    8. Refrigerate overnight before serve.


    g+1

    Monday, 12 November 2012

    Who Wants A Bite of Pizza?
    轻轻松松烘比萨饼


     Several years ago, I made some "pizza" with soft bread. Everyone loved it, but ... "Can you make the thick crust as those selling in the market? It would be the real Pizza then!" . They commented while gulped down my "pizzas".

    At that time, I was fascinated by different type of cakes, never thought of making doughs. It seemed beyond my reach.

    After shifted  my focus from cake to bread, one night,  I looked at a Pizza crust recipe for the first time. I can't believe I never thought of making Pizza crust myself ! Maybe it's what Chinese says "难者不会,会者不难"?

    I made two fantastic REAL thick crust pizzas the next day. Everyone said my pizzas tasted just like those selling in the restaurant!  "You should have done it earlier !"

    

    THICK CRUST PIZZA      
    Recipe adapted from Happy Home Baking 


    INGREDIENTS
    (makes two 9'' or 10'' thick pizza crust)

    - 250g bread flour
    - 50g plain flour
    - 1/2 teaspoon salt
    - 1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast ( I use Levure Seche de Boulanger Dry Baker's Yeast )
    - 1 tablespoon olive oil
    - 180ml water


    DIRECTIONS
    1. Preheat oven at 220 degC.
    2. Place all ingredients except water in a mixing bowl (take care to separate salt from yeast). Gradually add in water, and mix well with hand until the dough comes together to form a ball (it takes about 5-7 mins).
    3. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let it proof in room temperature (about 28-30 degC) for about 40mins- an hour or until double in size.
    4. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Give it a few gentle kneading to relese the gas. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Knead one dough at a time for about 2 mins, let rest. Knead another dough for about 2 mins.  Take turns doing this kneading for about 3 rounds. Let the doughs rest for 10mins.
    5. Roll each dough into round shape. Place it on a greased baking tray, press out the dough to about 12 inch in size to fill the tray .
    6. Spread some pizza sauce ( I use spaghetti sauce) over the dough. Leave about 1 cm (0.5 inch) from the edge. Sprinke a layer of shredded Mozzarella cheese, followed by preferred toppings (button mushroom slices, canned pineapple chunks, ham slices, green/red peppers slices etc). Sprinkle the top all over with shredded cheese. Let rest for 10 mins.


    7. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20mins or until the crust has turned golden.
    8. Serve warm with tobasco sauce and grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.


    g+1

    Sunday, 11 November 2012

    Muffins Once Again
    蓝莓瑪芬再尝试


    Lately, have been craving for blueberry muffins. I recalled those big muffins sold at Cosco. One box of 6 muffins for USD5.99. Usually, quite difficult for me to finish them within one day. So, they often became my breakfast for the next few days.

    Tried to bake muffins in the past, not sure why the muffins always  turned out to be dense. Since they were not popular, most of the time, I had to finish them myself. It happened a few times, I thought I was not good at muffin baking, and stopped for sometime until a few days ago.

    This time, I decided to try a different recipe with step-by-step guide and pictures. The batter was so much thicker than the previous ones, that was the first impression I had with this new recipe!

    10 minutes into baking,  I saw the muffins rise like big mushrooms!  Though it's almost 9pm, I finshed one freshly from the oven. It brought back good memories of U.S Cosco muffins!


    BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
     
    INGREDIENTS
    (makes 8-10 muffins)

    - 2½ cups (375g) self-raising flour
    - 1 teaspoon baking powder
    - 3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
    - ½ cup (125ml) vegetable oil
    - 1 egg
    - ½ cup (125ml) milk
    - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    - 1 cup frozen blueberries
    - almond bits, for sprinkling


    DIRECTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
    2. In a large bowl, place the flour, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.
    3. Place the oil, egg, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl. Stir until well mixed.


    4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the blueberries and mix to well. Do not over-mix the batter . The batter should be thick("spoonable", not "pourable")
    5. Spoon mixture into a muffin tin lined with muffin paper cups.


    6. Sprinkle the tops with almond bits and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the muffins have risen and turned to slightly golden brown. Insert a skewer into the centre to test. If it comes out clean, it means that the muffins are cooked through.
    7. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

    Recipe adapted here
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