Coffee Almond Cookies

Today is Chinese New Year (CNY) eve. My usual CNY goodies bakes will be pineapple tarts and almond cookies. As years passed, I find myself baking less and less cookies. Mainly because my family members are more health conscious and decided to eat less goodies, and also, I've become lazier. Was it no demand equals no supply or vice versa? I'm not so sure too.

With some sliced almonds on hand, I decided to try Wendy's Coffee Almond Cookies as it looks really good. The cookies were thin, crispy and tasted good with the almonds. They were really nice.

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Recipe for Coffee Almond Cookies, adapted from Table for 2... or more.
(Makes for 2 small canisters)

Ingredients:
2 tsp Nescafé instant coffee
1 tsp Hot water
1 tsp Coffee extract

150g Salted butter
50g Brown sugar
1 Egg
200g Plain flour
50g Corn flour
100g Icing sugar
30g Full cream milk powder
100g Almond flakes, toasted


Method:
1. Mix instant coffee, hot water and coffee extract and stir to dissolve.
2. Sift plain flour, corn flour and icing sugar together. Then mix in full cream milk powder. Set aside.
3. Cream butter with brown sugar for about a minute on medium speed. Add in egg and beat until combined. Pour in the coffee mixture and beat until combined.
4. Add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Fold in almond flakes and mix until combined.
5. Spoon the dough into a full lined 8 inch square pan. Press down the dough and cover with another piece of baking paper. Fold down the overlaps and apply some pressure to level the dough. (I spooned it into a lined plastic container.)
6. Chill for 2 to 3 hours.
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7. Preheat oven to 160(fan)/180C. Line 2 large baking trays with non stick baking paper
8. Remove chilled dough from fridge and cut into 4 long bars. Cut the bars evenly.
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9. Arrange the dough slices with some space allocated for expansion. Keep balance of dough in fridge if not baked immediately.
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10 Bake for 15­-17 minutes or until the edges take some some colour.

11. Let the cookies cool down and store them in air tight containers. cookies_coffeealmond04
Wishing everyone
新年快乐, 猴年大吉, 红运当头, 心想事成, 岁岁平安!

Chashu Tamagoyaki Bento Set

Recently I have been attending customised Japanese cuisine workshops. So when my husband went to Shanghai few weeks back, I requested him to buy some bento boxes for me from JD.com. Although they were smaller than the ones I used during my workshops, the quality was good. Therefore, it was worth to get them.

Many of us like to buy such kitchen wares or baking wares, thinking we will use them one day. Well, some became white elephants, while others were used past their usefulness. In order for my husband to see that I will use what I bought, I decided to make a bento set lunch. I made Chashu with tamagoyaki bento set lunch. The chashu was really tender and juicy. I overcooked my tamago and it tasted a bit dry. Overall, I must say it was a good attempt on my first bento set.
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Recipe for Chashu, adapted from Just One Cookbook.
(Makes for 6 persons)

Ingredients:
1kg Pork belly block (I cut into half)
3 tsp Salt
1½ tbsp Cooking oil
2 inch Ginger, sliced

Seasonings
570g Kombu Dashi (original use water)
1 cup Cooking sake
1 cup Soy sauce
9 tbsp Sugar

Method:

1. Peel and slice ginger.
2. Sprinkle and rub the salt on the pork belly.
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3. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat and brown the fat side first, then flip over to brown the other side. It’ll take about 15 mins.
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4. While browning, put all the ingredients for seasonings in a heavy-bottom pot, including sliced ginger.
5. Place the pork belly in the pot and bring it to a boil.
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6. Place an otoshibuta (drop lid) on top of the meat. If you don’t have one, make one out of aluminum foil (and here’s how). To learn more about what Otoshibuta does, click here. (I used a loose cake pan base as the cover.)
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7. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, occasionally turning, for about one hour.
8. Remove the otoshibuta and take out the meat and cut into thin slices.
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9. Reheat your skillet and place some sauces into it. Place the cut meat into the skillet and let it coat with the sauces, turning it. Total time to simmer is about 2 mins.
10. Remove them and set aside.
11. Reserve the thicken sauces for the rice later.

To make tamagoyaki, click here. I used the recipe from my workshop and made spring onion tamago. I also use dashi for my tamago.
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To make sushi rice, click here.
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To assemble, scoop the rice to the left corner of the bento box. Then arrange chashu and tamagoyaki on the sides and the right side of the bento box. Add sliced cucumber or any other fresh vegetables of your preference. Serve and enjoy.
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Super Soft Bread (Just one proofing)

Irony sets in. After taking the time and effort to learn about Artisan breads, where long fermentation is required to produce a flavourful and healthier bread, now I prefer to bake easy sweet dough breads.

On Sunday where I decided to bake an easy and fast bread loaves, I came across Victoria Bakes' post on this "Killer Toast" with just one proofing. This was the perfect recipe given the time I can spare in the morning. I agree that this was really a very soft bread when it's mixed till the window pane stage. This is a keeper for me. Please read her notes on the hydration which is really useful.
bread_soft02 Recipe for Super Soft Bread loaves, adapted from Victoria Bakes.
(Makes 2 regular loaves, where I made 1 regular and 2 half sized)

Ingredients:
520g Bread flour
6g Instant dry yeast
340g-360g Hydration (2 eggs + whipping cream + full cream milk)
60g Caster sugar (20g if making a salty toast)
4g Fine salt (12g for salty toast)
60g butter

Method:

1. Mix all ingredients, except butter, together and knead till you get a silky and elastic dough. Approximately 4 mins on low speed.
2. Incorporate butter and knead till window pane stage (crucial). Approximately 8mins on medium-high speed for me.
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3. Divide the dough into 8 portions, weighing about 127g each. Then roll out flat and roll up like swiss roll, and place into greased loaf pan (or non-stick). 4 portions into regular loaf pan, and 2 each into the half pan.
4. Let it rise till dough reaches 90% of height of pan, approximately 50-60mins.
5. At 50mins' time, pre-heat oven to 170C.
6. Bake in the lowest rack for 30mins, tenting the bread with foil if it browns too quickly. Where I tent it after 13mins, and continue baking it.
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Note:
  • I used 100g eggs with 80g whipping cream and topped up to 340g liquid with the full cream milk. However, upon mixing, the initial dough was not incorporated, meaning, more liquid is required.
  • I added another 20g of milk, therefore, the dough became wet.
  • After I divided the dough, I rounded it up lightly and started to roll the out flat. The dough was still a little wet. So I floured the worktop lightly to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter top. Then it was easier to roll.
  • The window pane stage took longer than other recipe to reach. But it does produce a really soft bread with visible streaks.
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Flourless Chocolate Cake

The usual request for my elder sister's birthday cake is - flourless. She is a very health conscious person. Therefore, if she could avoid flour, she will. I made various flourless cakes for her, this year's flourless chocolate cake was from King Arthur Flour website. It was easy to make, but it's actually pretty flat if based on the pan size provided.
cake_chocflourless05 Recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake, adapted from King Arthur Flour.
(Makes a 1" 8" cake. Alternatively, increase the recipe by 2 to get a better height)

Ingredients:
170g 55% chocolate buttons 
113g Unsalted butter 
100g Caster sugar 
1/4 tsp Salt 
1 tbsp Instant coffee powder 
1 tbsp Rum 
3 large eggs 
43g Dutch-process cocoa powder

Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
170g Semisweet chocolate buttons
113g Heavy cream

Some toasted almond slices

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line an 8" round cake pan.
2. To make the cake: Put the chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl and simmer it over boiling water.
3. Heat and stir till butter and chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat immediately and let it cool down slightly.
4. Stir in the sugar, salt, coffee powder and rum. 
5. Ensure that the mixture is not very hot before adding the eggs. Add one by one and mix until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
7. Bake the cake for 25 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with very slight crumbs.
8. Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 10mins.
9. Loosen the edges of the pan and turn it out into a wire rack to allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.
10. To make the glaze: Heat cream in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. On a separate bowl, place the chocolates.
11. Remove the cream from the heat when it's hot, and pour into the bowl of chocolates. Let it rest for 1 min.
12. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.
13. Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. 
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14. Decorate the cake with the toasted almond slices. Refrigerate.
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15. Before serving, bring it to room temperature.
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Chocolate Peppermint Chips Muffins

Happy 2016!

2015 was gone in a flash. These were the highlights for me in 2015:
  • completed my first 10km marathon run in Hong Kong, 
  • my first holiday in Taipei with my colleague, 
  • worked part-time for a month to coach my children during June school holidays,
  • supervised two PSLE children & one GCE 'O' Level child,
  • rewarded my children with a California holiday
For 2016, I hope I can go for more holidays, and also spend more quality time with my children. As they moved on to secondary schools, their time spent at home will be lesser as school activities picked up. I hope this new year will be smooth-sailing and fruitful too!

For the last day of 2015, my colleagues organised a mini department breakfast party. As part of my contribution, I baked muffins.
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Recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Chips Muffins, adapted from Tested & Tasted.
(Makes 80 mini muffins)

Ingredients:
Wet
2 Eggs
125g Unsalted butter, melted
½ tbsp Rum
¼ tsp Salt
120g Buttermilk (120g milk + ½ tbsp lemon juice)

Dry
110g  Caster sugar
50g Brown Sugar
150g Plain Flour
40g Cocoa powder, dutch processed
1 tbsp Baking powder
¼ tsp Baking soda

50g Peppermint chips

Method:

1. Combine and mix all the wet ingredients in a bowl.
2. Sift the flour and powder, and combine all dry ingredients and mix.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir till just combined. Batter will be lumpy.
4. Add in peppermint chips and mix to corporate. 
5. Scoop into paper cups.
6. Bake at preheat oven of 170C for 13mins or until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
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Grissini

I always look forward to Christmas mainly because I will get excited about preparing Christmas meal for my in-laws and my family. The usual menu will include appetizer, mains will be turkey and dessert. Sometimes, I will also prepare drinks. And of course, I will seek my helper's assistance in the kitchen for the cutting and washing. I usually do the baking myself.

For the appetizer for my in-laws this year, I decided to make a sour cream dip. In order to go with the dip, I made Grissini. It was my first time making this. I'm not a big fan of hard and crispy cookies or breads. But I figured Grissini will taste good with dips, and it was confirmed when my family loved the combination so much.
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Recipe for Grissini, adapted from Alex Goh's "The World of Bread."
(Makes at least 20 sticks, depending on your length. I have a mix of short and long)

Ingredients:
250g Bread flour
2 tsps Instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
150g Cool water
35g Shortening

Method:
1. Mix all, except shortening, in low speed to form a rough dough.
2. Add shortening and continue on medium speed to mix to form a smooth elastic dough. Approximately 5mins.
3. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it and let it proof for 45mins.
4. Mould the dough into a ball, let it rest for 15mins.
5. Roll out the dough into a rectangle (L12cm x W50cm).
6. Cut the dough into strips (W1cm x 12cm).
7. Moist the palm lightly with water before rolling the dough. Stretch the dough strips slightly, roll them out about 18cm long then roll them in sesame seeds.
8. Put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush them with water and sprinkle with salt. (I omitted the salt).
9. Let them rest for 10mins then bake at 220C for 15mins.
10. Allow them to cool, then bake at 120C for another 15mins to make them dry and crispy.
11. Serve, or keep them in air-tight container to be served later. bread_grissini1
To make sour cream dip, fried 2 slices of bacon till crispy, then cut them into coarse pieces. Blend 2 cups of sour cream (400ml) with bacon bits, spring onions and smoked paprika until finely. To have more variety for the dip, prepare carrot strips, cucumber strips, cooked prawns and Grissini. Enjoy the feast!
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