Archive for Bread & Breakfast

New Year Celebration, Nuts & Breads


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Last chinese new year we managed to get away to Beijing. Unfortunately this year, Mike had to stay babysitting the hotel, as he sent all of the managers to take a few days leave. The city’s life is practically put on hold. Everywhere is so quiet, shops are all closed for more than a week (some would stay close for 2-3 weeks even), the hotel’s occupancy dropped significantly during these days. Food is getting scarce – *lucky that we live in a hotel where getting food is not really a problem* – unless one stocks up well prior to the celebration. The shopping frenzy happened 3 days before the celebration. Food stalls, street vendors, supermarkets were all packed with thousands of people and everything would be sold out instantly.

I’m not sure if I want to go out for the next coming few days, partially because of the weather that stay below minus two digits everyday, the other reason is that there isn’t much to do and see out there.

A few days ago, I experimented on the no-knead bread recipe. Thanks to Dita for her inspiring photo that makes me drool,  I peeked the recipe from Steamy Kitchen.  It’s amazing how one’s palate can change completely during pregnancy. I used to be more of a savoury person, but now I drool over things that’s super sweet, gooey, sticky caramelly with sprinkles of chopped nuts. A few months ago, I thought pickled cornichons was food from heaven. I must’ve gone mad!!!


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No-knead Sticky Pecan Caramel Cinnamon Rolls
Click here for recipe
Modification: We’re not a big fan of walnut,
so we use pecans instead. The filling is made without nutmeg &
black pepper (yuck!) I added chopped brazilian nuts & dates.
Double yums!!!


PhotobucketNo-knead Gruyere Cheese Rolls
to view recipe click here
This is another modification I made, just by replacing the filling
with crushed garlic, sprinkles of oregano, sprinkles of basil,
grated vintage cheese and Gruyere cheese


All of the nuts I bought from the local market next door, literally, it’s a small alley located next to our place. On regular days this market is so full of vendors selling every unimaginable things. One day I spotted a guy walking around in the market with a live bull tied around the neck, he was selling it for the meat. Great little place to walk around and find little surprises. I bought a bag of fresh brazil nuts, macademia, pecans and roasted almonds  (about 500 gram each)  for 75 Yuan only – that would be about US$11 total.


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From almonds, macademia, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds,
chestnuts, brazilian nuts, pistachios….
and some unidentified nuts. Take your pick!


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Warm chestnuts is a beautiful snack in wintertime
This cost about 5 Yuan/bag – less than a dollar


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Crusty Loaves with Gruyere Cheese


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As a true coffee junkie, I am constantly on a search for recipes of breads/cakes and other savouries to go with it. Although, in my opinion, the best match for morning coffee is cheese bread. This is such a wonderful loaf to bake. I was so excited when I prepared the starter dough the night before, wondering what wonderful taste & texture it would be like. I found the recipe from  HERE,  referred by Temperance on her Bread Baking Day#16. The starter puffed up very nicely overnight. Proofing took most of the time of the entire baking though, baking process only took about 30 mnts. So short, for such a rewarding result.

That morning my entire kitchen is wafting the smell of freshly baked cheese bread. The use of gruyere cheese – which I added a bit of mozzarella and drizzles of garlic oil, is just puuuurrr-fect!!! It’s melting beautifully, moist in the inside, crusty on the outside. Guess who loves it the most….. Mike 😀

This recipe is definitely going to be on the menu very often….

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CRUSTY LOAF STUFFED WITH  GRUYERE CHEESE

Ingredients:
(i) Starter
* 1 1/4 cups unbleached Bread Flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
* 1/2 cup cool water

(ii) Dough
* all of the starter
* 1 cup + 2 tbs to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
* 1 tsp salt
* 3 1/2 cups unbleached Bread Flour
* 1/2 tsp instant yeast
* *Use more water in winter time

(iii) Filling
* 2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, or your preference
* 1 tbs garlic oil (optional)

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Baking Directions:

1)  Starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, half cup of water.
Cover & rest overnight

2) Dough: Combine the risen starter with second one,
water, salt, flour & yeast. Knead until elastic.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover,
let it rise for 1-2 hours, till it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

4) Gently deflate the dough, stretch it into a 4 inch thick,
about 9″ x 12″. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

5) Roll it into a log, pinching the seam to seal.
Place the log, seam-side down on a lightly oiled surface.

6) Cover & let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till puffy but
not doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

7) Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads;
or cut in half, for two normal-sized loaves. Place on silicone sheet.
Spritz with warm water, immediately place them in the preheated oven.

8) Bake for 20 – 35 mnts or until the cheese is melted & loaves are
a deep golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Recipe from: HERE

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Submitted for a food event
“Bread Baking Day #16: Cheese Bread”
Hosted by Temperance ~  For more information & participation, have a look HERE


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What’s for breakfast?

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A basket of breakfast pastry

Do you skip breakfast in the morning?  Back then in the old days, I used to skip breakfast all the time. Sometimes just a cup of hot tea before jumping into the taxi rushing to the office. Although I never missed a day of coffee break in the office around 10am where we would sneaked out to the nearest Au Bon Pain. Best coffee and cinnamon rolls! I fell in love with the idea of breakfast ritual. Kinda makes you feel warm inside and get you ready to face the world outside.

Nothing fancy, sometimes just a cup of coffee with a spread of sweet jam on a slice of warm toast. Or the Kiwi way, cup of english breakfast tea with spread of vegemite and butter on a slice of vogel bread. Half boiled eggs are always a favorite. And warm toast… whoaaa my gosh how I love warm toast. With a cup of strong coffee with a layer of thick silky foam on top, please. I’ll give anything for that 😀

At mom’s home, is practically a breakfast heaven. All kinds of food that I will never get to make by myself, at least for now (I don’t seem to have the energy anymore to cook up something like that) – nasi uduk, nasi goreng with a slightly runny sunny side up, bubur ayam, ketupat sayur, kupat tahu…  you have no idea what you’re missing if you don’t know them.

I’m not really into bird food, you know all those seeds, grains and dried stuff. Sorry, yeah, I know it’s healthy . But I swear I can’t swallow those unless I have a beak.

What do you guys have for breakfast?

Accidentally Brownie

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Yeah, it was an accident actually. It wasn’t meant to be a brownie, just a simple chocolate cake but went deliciously wrong. I wasn’t sorry. And michelin-man definitely wasn’t sorry too. He was too happy being appointed the taste-tester for my little baking accidents. I feel so lucky to have him!

If you ever look at recipes on how they tell you to make chocolate ganache icing, sounds as complicated as rocket-science to me. Part of the fun of living in a faraway neverland like this is constantly being pushed to be creative. Okay, so if I can’t get to buy the ingredients the rocket scientists tell me to, that would leave me with two options: get the pastry chef from  deli shop downstairs to make them or make one with whatever I have in the kitchen. I chose the latter. Saves me from the headaches of having to deal with one of Murphy’s Laws … you know those “if anything can go wrong, it will” or “every solution breeds new problems”. To this day, I still believe that Murphy had lived in China or he probably found Murphy’s Law in China…. or better yet, he’s Chinese!

So mine is made from Hersheys chocolate syrup mixed with 2 tbs of Droste cocoa powder.  The more cocoa powder, the thicker it gets. At least it gives me the effect I need, melty but not  dribbly.

 

SIMPLE CHOCOLATE CAKE a.k.a  brownie

Ingredients:
*  125g butter, chopped
*  2 tsp instant coffee powder
*  3/4 cup (185ml) water
*  100g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
*  1 cup (200g) brown sugar
*  1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
*  1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
*  1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder
*  1/4 cup (30g) almond meal
*  1 egg, lightly whisked

Cooking Directions:
1.) Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease the cake pan
2.) Place butter, coffee, water, chocolate and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring 2-3 mnts or 
     until butter & chocolate melt and mixture is smooth.
     Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
3.) Transfer mixture to a bowl. Sift the combined flours & cocoa powder over the chocolate mixture
4.) Add the almond meal. Use a balloon whisk to gently fold the flour into the chocolate mixture.
5.) Add the egg and stir to combine.
6.) Pour cake mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or so
7.) Remove from oven, set aside for 30 mnts before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes & tips
It is important to cool the warm chocolate mixture before adding the remaining dry ingredients and egg. This cake is best left in its pan to cool before turning on to a rack. Densely textured cakes, such as this, are more delicate when hot and can easily split if turned out too early.

Recipe from Taste.com.au

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Perfect Pairing: Wild spring onions & Bacon Muffins

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Wild spring onions from the grassland are still sitting in the fridge,  crisp like freshly picked veggies.  I can remember vividly the taste of stir fried wild spring onions we had for dinner in the farmer’s home not so long ago.  It was a simple dish, no meat used. I can’t think of ways to cook them because these ones have almost unbearably strong fragrant.

After a quick search from internet, I found one from Taste. Hmmm, looks pretty easy – a few sprinkles of those wild spring onions won’t hurt. Should bring out the taste more, I thought. And hey…. it works beautifully!!!  Okay, I may screwed up on the heads. Well, you know how this electrical oven that seems to have a mind of its own…. 

As long as I can bake my own muffins and have a perfectly foamed cappuccino in the morning…… I’m a happy girl!  Oh yeah, they’re best served warm with butter and sour cream.

 

WILD SPRING ONIONS & BACON MUFFINS

Ingredients:
* 2 teaspoons olive oil
* 1 onion, grated
* 5 rashers rindless bacon, chopped
* 1/2 bunch spinach leaves, shredded
* 1/2 bunch wild spring onions, thinly sliced
* 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 1/4 cups milk
* 1/3 cup melted butter
* 1/2 cup cheese – cubed

Cooking Directions:
1.) Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease muffin pans.
2.) Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion 
     & bacon. Cook for 3 mnts or until onion is soft.
     Stir in spinach & wild spring onions
3.) Remove from heat. Set aside for 2 minutes or until
     spinach wilts. Allow to cool.
4.) Sift flour into a bowl. Combine egg, milk and
     extra-light oil in a jug. Mix well.
5.) Pour into flour. Stir gently until almost combined.
6.) Fold in bacon mixture and cheese. Spoon into muffin holes
     until three-quarters full.
7.) Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
8.) Serve warm with butter

** Recipe from Taste.com.au

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Grassland in Summertime

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August is the busiest month in the grassland of Inner Mongolia as there will be so many different festivals for the entire month. Most farmers will put up some extra tents or “yurt” as they call it, for the tourists. What I mean by “some” is more like a couple of hundreds or so.

July is just a perfect time, right before the domestic tourists start to flood in,  perfectly green all round  with the blossoming shrubbery.  I love exploring the wild florals that are scattered practically everywhere. All kinds of wonderful fragrances are in the air. Summer fragrance. Wild flowers. Some smell like rosemary,  other smell like lavender – now I have them both potted at the corner of in my livingroom   *hopefully they stay alive*   😦  

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 David collecting wild spring onions – with a cake fork!

 

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We were invited once for a dinner at a farmer’s home some time ago and I remember the wild spring onion dish. It was such a simple dish but with the taste that I apparently will never forget. The farmer’s wife proudly explained every single dish: the boiled mutton, steamed buns, some unidentified stir fried vegetables and wild spring onions which caught my curiousity instantly.  I’ve never seen ones before….   and there they were, sprouting wildly on a hill where we spread our picnic blanket.

It was amazing…  The stalks are much tougher & have a distinct sharp fragrance than the regular ones. See the purplish tinge at the bottom of their stalk? I think it’s rather appealing…..

Meanwhile, in the distant, a local villager digging into the ground pulling out roots of a particular plant with yellow flower. Collecting them for medicine, I suppose.

I love summer in the grassland. Beautiful weather and sunshine, thick cushy grass to lay down on, cool breeze… and those smells. Whoa, I would never forget those gorgeous smells….

Crumbly Chicken Pie

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I wonder how difficult it is to do a home-made puff pastry. Almost can’t remember the last time I had those pastry with nice crunchy layers of flakes and the filling that stays moist and juicy. Hmmm, I think it was in New Zealand a couple of months ago. In a deli by the beach somewhere in Auckland. The beach was not so exciting, but the pastry and coffee….  whoa my God! Unbelievably good!

Good pastry is such a rare thing in China, especially in secondary cities where most households hardly knew about baking, mixer is a rare thing to find here. I’ve been looking for one for quite some time. Unless it’s a medium-scale bakery business, local people don’t bake at home. Not as a hobby, not as a weekend ritual or daily routine.

Back to the puff pastry, don’t think I can find a ready-made in the cold section in supermarket. Need to ask David to help me with this someday when he’s not too busy. Chicken Puff will have to wait….  but I still can make Chicken Pie  😀

 

Chicken Pie Recipe

Ingredients for Pie Crust:
* 200 gr butter
* 300 gram all purpose flour
* 80 gr plain yoghurt
* 1 egg yolk
* pinch of salt
* bit of grated cheese

Mix all the pie crust ingredients, check if it’s moist enough.
Mix in yoghurt bit by bit. Set aside in a fridge for 45 mnts or until hard enough to mold

Ingredients for Filling:
* 1 pc large onion – sliced
* 3 pcs garlic – minced
* 2 pcs carrots – cubed
* 2 chicken breast fillet – cubed
* button mushrooms – sliced
* a little bit of parsley/spring onions – chopped
* 2 tbs corn starch
* salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg powder to taste

Directions:
1.) Cook onion + garlic until fragrant. Add chicken cubes, carrots.
Cook until almost tender
2.) Stir in salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg, spring onions/parsley, mushroom.
3.) When chicken & carrots are tender, mix in the cornstarch and let it thickens.
4.) Set aside, ready for filling into the pie.
5.) Shape the dough, as it will be quite moist, at the base of the pan.
6.) Put the filling in the middle. Top with a layer of dough, soften the surface to cover the edges.
7.) Coat the top with egg yolk. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for half hour
or until it turns bright yellow

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