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.
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)

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

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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Grand Marnier Fruit Cake

I went for a vacation in California during the school holidays to reward my children for studying hard for their national exams - two for PSLE and one for GCE 'O' levels. While I was there, I couldn't resist the opportunity to shop in Costco, a famous wholesale centre where they have in-house brands and sells other famous brands, in bulks.
What I looked for are the dried fruits and the nuts. They sell in big packets and it's relatively cheaper, and some, you can't get it locally. Therefore, with the dried fruits, I decided to bake fruit cakes as Christmas gifts for my friends and family. It so happens that my colleague told me about Wendy's white fruit cake, so I decided to use her recipe since I was already thinking of using Grand Marnier instead of the usual Myer Rum for my fruits. So here's my version of Grand Marnier Fruit Cake. I hope my family and friends like them. 
Recipe for Grand Marnier Fruit Cakes, adapted from Wendy.
(Makes approximately 5 small loaves)

Dried fruits:
100g Dried White mulberries
100g Montmorency cherries
150g Dried Blueberries
100g Dried Cranberries
100g Golden raisins
150g Grand Marnier (+ some orange juice, optional)

Combine everything and let it soak for at least 2 days.
375g Butter (I used salted)
200g Caster sugar
6 eggs
338g Plain flour
200g Toasted pecans, coarsely chopped (keep some whole pieces to decorate the top)
100g Grand Marnier

1. Preheat oven to 150C. 
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
3. Put in eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
4. Sift flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until no clumps are seen.
5. Fold soaked fruits and all the remaining liquid into the batter. Add pecans and mix well.
6. Pour batter into the pans, level and bake for 40-45mins.
7. Remove cake from oven. Pierce holes in them and brush them with Grand Marnier. Let it the cake air and when cake has totally cooled, keep them in air-tight container.
8. Drizzle more Grand Marnier for the next few days before consuming.
9. Wrap it up and present as a gift.

Merry Christmas & a Happy 2016 with lots of baking and feasting!

Almost McDonald's Apple Pie fillings

My eldest son loves McDonald's. He usually orders its fish fillet with extra tartar sauce, apple pie and ice cream. But not necessary in that combination. On one Sunday, after our lunch at a food court, he suddenly feels like having McD's ice cream and apple pie. So we went to buy. As he ate his apple pie, he raved about the fillings, the crust etc. So I told him that after we got home, I'll make him an exact McDonald's apple pie confidently.

After searching online for a copycat recipe, I realised the secret ingredients was the apple cider. As I wanted it to be quick, I used storebought puff pastry since I wanted to try out the apple pie fillings first. After my son tried the apple pie, he said he likes the crust. >_<" However, he feedback that it was more sourish. Otherwise, he thought the apple pie was nice...close, but needs some improvement. I told him I'll improve on it the next time!
Recipe for Apple Pie fillings, adapted from Babble
(Makes one 7" square pie)

2 Apples (I used green apples), chopped to 1/2″ squares 
1/2 cup apple cider 
1/4 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
zest and juice of 1 lemon 
big pinch salt 
2 tablespoons flour 

2 puff pastry sheet

  1. Combine the apples, cider, sugar, zest and juice, and salt, and cook over medium heat. 
  2. pie_apple01
  3. The mixture will bubble, and cook down. 
  4. After about 15 minutes the apples will soften, but still have a little texture. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two more. 
  5. Remove from heat and set filling aside to cool. 
  6. Preheat oven to 180C.
  7. Place a puff pastry sheet on a baking tray. When the filling is cooled slightly, scooped the fillings on the centre of the puff pastry.
  8. Place another puff pastry to cover the fillings. Seal the sides and pierce holes on top.
  9. Bake in the oven for 22mins or browned.
  10. Let it cool slightly before cutting and serving.
  • The filling was a bit sour. I reckon it was due to the lemon juice and using of green apples. However, as you eat, it became better. The sourness was only during the first 2 bites.
  • I reckon less flour could be use so that there is still much gravy to be seen, even though the fillings were not dry.
  • Overall, the taste was very close to McDonald's apple pie filings if sweet apples were used and fillings were more wet.

Homemade Coffee Extract

I've made Lemon, Orange and Vanilla extracts. I've also tried Pandan extract using the same method, but that failed on me. Maybe it was because I left it in the cupboard and long forgotten about it until the alcohol evaporated. So here I am, crazy about homemade extract, is my Coffee Extract. Here's how I made it.
Recipe for Homemade Coffee Extract, adapted from Joy in Our Journey.
(Makes a approximately 250g)

200g Vodka
75g Ground coffee beans

filter bag

  1. Pour measured vodka into the blender.  Add ground coffee.
  2. Blend for up to 5 minutes in your blender; but don't blend so long that the mixture gets too hot.
  3. Line a jar or container with a cloth or other straining fabric.
  4. Pour blended coffee mixture into straining bag or fabric.  Squeeze liquid from bag or fabric. 
Coffee Extract doesn't need to be refrigerated, and can be stored indefinitely for your baking and cooking uses.  After you have followed this recipe, it's completely ready to be used; there's no need to store this for months until it reaches potency.  However, you'll want to store your Coffee Extract in a dark cupboard or closet.

Pain á lÁncienne Rustic Bread (Ciabatta)

After trying out the Classic French Bread, I moved on to another similar bread from Peter Reinhart's artisan breads every day. This bread has higher water hydration (80% hydration) and is more difficult to handle compared to classic bread. However, the crumbs were more holey and the bread was really light. 
Recipe for Pain á lÁncienne Rustic Bread (Ciabatta), adapted from "artisan breads every day" by Peter Reinhart.
(Makes 3 large loaves, or 8 small loaves)

567g Bread flour
4g Instant yeast
11g Salt
454g Cold water
14g Olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients, except oil, in a mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 min. The dough should form a coarse shaggy ball. Let it rest, uncovered, for 5 mins to fully hydrate the flour.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Then mix on medium-low speed for 1 min. The dough should become smoother but will still be very soft, sticky and wet. 
  3. Use a wet scraper to transfer the dough to a clean lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 mins.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet or oiled hands, reach under the front end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto the top of the dough. Do this from the back end and then from each, then flip the dough and over it into a ball.
  5. The dough should be significantly firmer, though still very soft and fragile. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 mins. Repeat this process three more times, completing all repetitions within 40 mins.
  6. After the final stretch and fold, immediately cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. 
  7. On baking day: Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Generously dust the baking tray with flour. Gently transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, taking care to degas it as little as possible.
  8. Dust the top surface of the dough with flour. Using a scraper, gently divide the dough into 3 square, taking care to degas it as little as possible.
  9. With floured hands, gently fold the dough in thirds, like folding a letter but without applying any pressure. Gently roll the folded dough in the dusting flour to coat it, then lift the dough and place it on the baking tray. Rest the dough seam side down on the tray. 
  10. Let it proof at room temperature for 1 hour or when increased to 1 1/2 times its original size.
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  12. Preheat oven to 230C with a baking stone. After 10mins, placed a pan of water into the oven and let it boil.
  13. Place the baking tray on the baking stone and bake at 230C with steam for 15mins. After 15mins, remove the pan with water. Rotate the pan and continue baking for at 210C for 10-12mins. The bread should puff up and the crust should be hard when tapped. 
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  15. Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 45mins or completely before slicing.
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Similar to Classic French breads, I tried two separate time - one with baking on the same day and the other with overnight fermentation. Both crumbs turned out really good. Use this bread for sandwich and load them with loads of fillings as a meal. It's really good!
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Brioche Loaf

After the success baking of Lavender Yogurt Bread from Alex Goh's book, I wanted to bake more from this new book I bought. So next was Brioche Loaf. The brioche turned out to be really fragrant and buttery. During proofing, the oil from the butter actually leaked out from the loaf pan. :p The dough was easy to manage and the overall result was really good. Even my family love it too. The bread remained soft even after a few days. 
Recipe for Brioche Loaves, adapted from "The Art of Making Bread" 无添加剂面包 by Alex Goh.
(Makes 2 regular loaves)

Sponge dough
100g Bread flour
1/4 tsp Instant yeast
70g Cold milk
  1. Mix them together and knead to form a dough. 
  2. Cover it with cling wrap and leave to ferment for an hour.
  3. Keep it in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. 
Main dough
380g Bread flour
120g Plain flour
10g Instant yeast
80g Caster sugar
8g Salt
180g Cold milk
2 Cold egg yolks
1 Cold egg
240g Unsalted butter, room temperature

  1. Put all the ingredients, including sponge dough, except butter, in a mixing bowl. Using a dough hook, knead to form a dough.
  2. Add butter in 2 additions and knead till smooth and elastic. Place a cold rag around the mixing bowl to prevent the dough temperature from rising too high. 
  3. Mould it round and palce in a bowl, cover it with cling wrap. Leave to ferment for 45mins.
  4. bread_brioche01
  5. Divide the dough into 8 portions, about 160g each and mould them round. Leave it to rest for 10mins.
  6. Flatten the dough, then make 3 fold. Flatten lightly and roll it up like swiss roll.
  7. bread_brioche02 bread_brioche03 bread_brioche04 bread_brioche05
  8. Put the 4 dough each into the rectangular regular loaf pan.
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  10. Leave it to proof for 45mins.
  11. Meanwhile, heat up the oven to 190C.
  12. Use scissors to cut the centre and place some butter in the cut portion.
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  14. Bake at 220C on the lowest rack for 26mins. Tent the bread after 13mins if the top turns dark.
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  16. Remove from the loaf pan immediately after baking. Cool completely before slicing.
  17. Toast lightly before consuming to give it a better texture.
  18. bread_brioche10

Apple Cinnamon Custard Pie

When weekends come, I usually like to bake some desserts to bring over to my mum's place to share with my parents and family members after dinner. Sometimes, there will be request for birthday cakes. These few weeks were not as challenging as there was no requests. So then, it depends on my mood for desserts. Recently, I was quite hooked on watching Korean dramas, so I'll choose to bake easier desserts. :p *confession* This weekend, I decided to make an easy apple pie.
Recipe for Apple Cinnamon Custard Pie, modified from Alex's Irresistible Pastry.
(Makes a 9" pie)

Shortcrust pastry
35g Icing sugar
75g Butter, softened
1 Egg yolk
130g Plain flour


1. Using a spatula, mix softened butter with icing sugar till light.
2. Add in egg yolk and mix well.
3. Stir in flour and mix till all incorporated.
4. Using a cling wrap, wrap the dough and refridgerate for at least 30mins.
5. Take out and roll between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to about 3mm to fit the 9"pie pan.
6. Chill in the fridge for about 20mins.
7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180C.
8. Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and baking beans.
9. Bake in the oven for 18mins, then remove the baking beans and continue baking for another 8 mins.
(My crust was a bit overcooked, therefore, it tasted bitter. The timing above has already been reduced to prevent overcooked.)

2 Green apples, sliced thinly (or any apple of your choice)
2 Eggs
100g Milk
30g Sugar
100g Whipping cream
1 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder (optional)

  1. Mix the ingredients well (except apples) and strain into the pie shell.
  2. Arrange the apples into the pie. Sprinkle with some cinnamon powder.
  3. pie_applecustard01
  4. Bake at 180C for 25mins or until the custard set.
  5. Refrigerate before serving.
  6. pie_applecustard02

Classic French Bread

I'm just so into bread baking lately. Experimenting with new recipes whenever time permits. Next up is Peter Reinhart's Classic French Bread. This recipe made four small loaves. The original calls for overnight fermentation in the fridge up to 4 days. However, after mixing the dough, I split into two. One batch, I baked on the same day, and the other batch, I baked on the 4th day from the fridge. 
Recipe for Classic French Bread, adapted from "artisan breads every day" by Peter Reinhart.
(Makes 2 large loaves or 4 small loaves. I made 3 loaves)

480g Bread flour (original uses 680g bread flour)
200g Plain flour
7g Instant yeast
14g Salt
454g Cold water (original uses warm water)

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. The dough should form a coarse shaggy ball. Let it rest, uncovered, for 5 mins.
  2. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. The dough should be smooth, supple and tacky, but not sticky.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then immediately refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days. [I divided the dough into half - one refrigerate and the other to bake the same day.]
  4. Same day bake: Do two sets of stretch and fold with 40mins resting time. After the second stretch and fold, rest for 15mins.
  5. Carefully transferred the dough onto a worktop. Divide the dough into two.
  6. Shape the dough round and placed it in a floured banetton. 
  7. Let it proof at room temperature for 1 hour or when increased to 1 1/2 times its original size.
  8. Preheat oven to 230C with cast iron pan. 
  9. Prior to baking, transfer the dough into a floured peel. Score the dough with a lame. 
  10. bread_classicfrench01
  11. Remove the cast iron pan from the oven. Transfer the dough to the pan. Cover it with a stainless steel bowl or a glass bowl.
  12. Bake for at 220C for 15mins covered, remove the glass bowl and rotate the pan, then continue baking for another 10-12mins uncovered.
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  14. Remove from the oven immediately and let it cool completely before slicing.
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  16. 4th day bake: Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Gently transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, taking care to degas it as little as possible.
  17. Shape the dough round and placed it in a floured banetton. 
  18. Let it proof at room temperature for 1 hour or when increased to 1 1/2 times its original size.
  19. Preheat oven to 230C with a baking stone. After 10mins, placed a pan of water into the oven and let it boil.
  20. Prior to baking, transfer the dough into a floured peel. Score the dough with a lame. 
  21. Transfer the dough to the baking stone. Bake at 220 with steam for 15mins. After 15mins, remove the pan with water. Rotate the pan and continue baking for 10-12mins.
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  23. For a crispier crust, turn off the oven and leave the bread in for another 5 mins before removing.
  24. Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 45mins or completely before slicing.
  25. bread_classicfrench09 bread_classicfrench10
Based on the crumbs, you can actually see that both methods of baking produced almost the same crumbs. However, the covered boule has more consistent crumbs. It could also due to the fermentation duration. The dough which was left to ferment for four days have strong yeast reaction smell. But after baking, it tasted good, like the previous boules. Overnight fermentation was supposed to be more flavourful. However, I really cannot taste the difference. You decide for yourself if overnight fermentation is what you like. What I know is, this kind of lean bread is definitely healthier and better than sweet doughs.