10 Oct 2014

bo lo bao

Another Asian bakery bun ticked off the list! When I was a kid I used to always wonder why they were called bo lo bao (pineapple bun) when it didn't taste or have any pineapple inside. Apparently it is named like that due to the look of the bun especially when additional carvings are made on top of the cookie crust prior baking. The usual bakery I go to don't carve their buns, so I didn't bother.

Bo lo bao reminds me of the Japanese melon bread in which a cookie crust is placed on top of the bun prior baking. Some of the issues on baking this type of bread is explained in Yakitate!! Japan during the melon challenge. I think it was on the lines of the different optimum temperatures of the bread and cookie thus the cookie will either be under baked or the bread becomes too dry. Therefore Kazuma Azuma, decides to bakes them separately and sandwiches the cookie to the crust with whipped cream prior serving. Combining the two components together later helped maintained the softness of the bun and the crispiness of the cookie. (Japan #58 has been produced in real life too.) 

Fortunately, the problem doesn't apply to the HK version, but the topping does get soft and moist the day after. But if you have leftovers, not to worry! Cut them in half, pop them into the oven until the crust crisps and enjoy with a slab of butter in the middle. 

Serve with some milk tea for a proper Hong Kong style 下午茶 (afternoon tea)!

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HK style pineapple bun (bo lo bao)  (菠萝包)     makes 10 regular or 20 mini buns
method and topping adapted from Phoebe's More Than Bread

250ml milk (or 2 heaped Tb of milk powder + water)
60ml cooking oil
80g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp bread improver (optional)
450g bread flour
1 3/4 tsp dry yeast

60g unsalted butter, softened
80g raw sugar
100g plain flour, sifted
10g custard / Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted 
1/4 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted
1/2 large egg, beaten

1/2 large egg, for the glaze

Place bread ingredients into the bread machine bowl according to manufacturer instructions. Set to 'dough function' (30 mins knead, 60 minutes prove)*. Add a tablespoon of water or two if the dough appears to be dry after a few turns.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until combined. Form a ball, wrap with cling film and refrigerate until required.

Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface after the first prove. Gently flatten dough and divide into 10 x 86g or 20 x 43g** dough pieces. Shape them into small balls and transfer to a lined baking tray. Ensure there is ample space for the bread to rise. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place until dough doubles in size***.

Roll bun topping thinly in between two sheets of cling film**** when the second prove is almost finished. Use a cookie cutter about the same size as your bun and cut out rounds.

Lightly brush bread tops with beaten egg and gently secure the cut out topping. Brush with beaten egg again.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius for 10 - 15 minutes or until crust is golden and crunchy. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately. 

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*Alternatively, combine all dry ingredients and form a well. Combine all wet ingredients and gradually pour into the dry ingredients to form a rough dough. Transfer onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead until smooth. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size - this is the first prove.

**I find that the dough does not rise as well if I divide them into small pieces. I recommend making the regular sized buns (86g dough).

***For the second prove, I put them in a 28-30 degrees Celsius oven for 40 - 60 minutes. Brush with beaten egg every 20 minutes.

****Topping will crumble if it is too cold, take out 5 minutes prior using.

25 Sep 2014

taking a breather

Ploughed through eleven hard weeks and finished three assignments back to back to be rewarded with a sweet, break of twelve days for recovery (thought I wish it had been earlier). I've compiled a list of things I wanted to do during this break and getting my Ls is definitely one of them! Inspired by this post I read at the beginning of the year, I want to try making all the components I need to bake this choco moo cheesecake. These will include the milk jam (condensed milk), cream cheese (!!) and ganache. I am not sure if homemade cream cheese will work for this, but it is worth a shot.

To get the gears running again, my sister and I chose an easy chocolate chip cookie recipe from cookpad to bake. She was hoping it would turn out chewy, but it turned out kind of cakey, like a muffin top (yum!). The inclusion of rice flour gave it a nice texture too. I'm not a big fan of chewy cookies, so these worked in my favour but looks like we'll hit the drawing board again to find something she likes.

Oh, by the way - on my last day of placement, I was able to run a cooking activity with some of the students at the Language Centre! As we did not have access to a kitchen, we made chocolate truffles (the crushed biscuits type) and these coconut waffles which were hungrily gobbled down by everyone! It has always been a little dream to teach food tech so I was glad I was given an opportunity to do so.

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chocolate chip muffin tops    makes about 12
adapted from cookpad

I recommend you eat these whilst they are still warm so you get the gooey chocolate centers.

1 large egg
60g caster sugar
60ml cooking oil
100g plain flour
50g rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g dark chocolate with sea salt*, chopped into small pieces

Whisk egg and sugar until well combined. Add cooking oil and whisk thoroughly. Sift in flours and baking powder and mix. Fold in the chopped chocolate. 

Allow cookie dough to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Place 12 equal sized blobs** of dough onto a lined baking tray. Leave 2-3cm of space between each piece to allow room for spreading. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celcius for 10 minutes or until golden brown. 

*Or just plain dark chocolate with a couple of pinches of sea salt
**I used a small cookie scoop

10 Aug 2014

the weekend cake

Since starting the new semester, I have been quite busy keeping up with the never ending list of things to do. Things keep amassing by themselves - emails to send, papers to write, research to do. This course I signed up for around this time last year, was far from what I expected. It's been challenging, but also very rewarding (most times), especially where I am placed for my rounds this semester. Halfway through my first round, I became kind of discouraged, but by chance, I was able to visit many of my secondary teachers for two days last week who gave me unconditional support and encouragement. Standing from a different perspective, my philosophy has changed from what it initially was. It's definitely something I want to work on improving.

The patience, dedication and time I received from one particular teacher is what keeps me going. I didn't tell him that, but I thanked him for the invaluable advice he's given me once again. "It's easy for someone to sit at the back and criticise, but doing your best is what makes the difference."

In case you were wondering, the cake has nothing to do with my reflection. It was something I whipped up late yesterday afternoon and it's too good not to share. Originally it was meant to be an apple cake, but after I discovered it was rotten inside, I crossed my fingers and switched to using pears. The cake is moist and spicy with the pear pieces giving it extra sweetness and textural crunch. It's only been less than a day and it's almost gone! Luckily it doesn't take long to make. Hopefully with apples next time.

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spiced pear cake     makes 1 x 17.5cm square
adapted from the 350 degree oven

2 packham pears, chopped in small pieces
200g raw sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted*
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, sifted
1/2 tsp mixed spice, sifted
2 large eggs
65ml cooking oil
150g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted

Mix pear pieces with sugar, lemon juice and spices. Combine eggs and oil in another bowl and set aside.

Make a small well in the sifted flour and powders and add the egg and oil mix. Fold in to combine. When flour is mostly incorporated, add the pears and fold in thoroughly.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees celcius for 30-35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted.

*The cinnamon taste is quite strong on the first day, but mellows on the second. You may want to reduce the amount if you don't like it so strong.