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Daring Bakers: Panettone

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Wayward Oven
The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread.
I was all ready to participate when the challenge was announced, but as the posting date got closer, my enthusiasm started to wane.
The process of making the panettone, according to the recipe Marcellina provided, is long and with several steps to the process. Now, although I would usually attempt any recipe that interests me no matter how complicated or time-consuming, I just couldn't get my head into the game this time. Until Saturday – two days after the posting date. 
I made mini panettones (panettoni) but I have to admit that they were an afterthought. See, I had made some rich sweet, eggy, buttery dough for a loaf that is based on the panettone recipe in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. The dough was meant for a bread for another baking group I participate in, but there was a lot of it, so I took part of it, mixed in the glacé/dried fruit I had and baked the panettoni in mini cake cardboard liners.
The Wayward Oven
Not everyone will be familiar with winter melon. The gourd has a green skin and looks like a cucumber except it's fatter on one end. As a fresh vegetable, it's used a lot in soups; in candied form, it is one of the main ingredients in sugee (semolina) cake.
These glacé fruits are some of my favourites, but the downside is that the colours are quite pale so they don't show up well in the buns. The pop of flavours makes up for the lack of colour though. You would think that there was too much going on in the taste – the heat from the ginger, the sourness of citrus and pineapple, a honey sweetness from the winter melon, the brightness of the raisins – but it works. The only complaint I got was that there was too much fruit. I'll remember that next time. The sugar crust, from Dan Lepard's recipe in The Guardian but with an added touch of corn syrup, got the thumbs up. There's a good crunch to it.
The Wayward Oven
Oh, did I mention that the panettoni are leavened with sourdough starter? The dough came together easily, but took a long time to rise and only slightly at that. I was disappointed but baked them anyway.
And what a surprise I got when the buns plumped up in the oven! The dough wasn't evenly distributed between the boxes so there is a difference in sizes but the bigger ones can serve two.
The recipe for the sourdough-leavened dough will be posted on Jan 20 with the other bread I made.

Everything's coming up roses!

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's so nice being on leave. I have almost three weeks off from work and it coincides with the time my sister Joyce and her family are visiting from the US.
Last week, the day after they arrived, the whole family met at one of my brothers' homes for breakfast. My mother had ordered an array of local breakfast dishes like nasi lemak (coconut rice with sambal) and fried noodles as well as Indian specialities like tosai (rice and lentil pancakes), roti canai (flatbreads) and idli (steamed rice cakes) along with the accompanying chutneys and curries. I had a feeling these spice-rich and chilli-laden foods would not agree with my American brother-in-law, so I made a sweet breakfast bread for him.
A couple of days earlier, I had prepared some basic sweet yeasted dough from a recipe in Ciril Hitz book, Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads (Quarry Books) and used it for the bread. This video shows Ciril Hitz making his Russian braids in loaf pans. I made my bread according to his recipe except it's coiled to look somewhat like a rose.
The quantity of dough was sufficient for two loaves. I made the first one with about two-thirds of the dough and let it rise in a 22cm springform tin so it has a more defined shape (pictured above). This one I took to the office for a Christmas party.
Fill and roll, slice, braid, coil
The second loaf, which I made for Keith, was freestanding (pictured below). The crust was a deeper brown on the sides and the shape was a little less rose and a bit more knot, I think.
I'm sure any sweet yeast dough would be suitable for this braid. What I think is special is the Nut Filling that Ciril Hitz uses. It's also one of his basic recipes and he uses it for other confections in his book. The recipe is reproduced here with permission from the book publisher. I used almond meal and after spreading the paste on the rolled-out dough, I sprinkled on some ground cinnamon.
This braid was baked without a mould.
Both times I made the braid, I forgot to take a photo after the loaf was sliced, so there is no picture of the crumb. But it's not difficult to imagine the intertwined layers of dough and filling.
I also forgot to taste the bread both times. For the office party, I just dropped it off since I was already on leave, and at the family breakfast, after stuffing myself with a packet of nasi lemak and an idli, I didn't have room for anything else. But I have a feeling it wasn't bad since Keith kept eating it. (Or maybe he was just hungry!)

Season's greetings

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Sourdough Surprises: Cookies

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Sourdough Surprises group try out sourdough cookies this month, and after making a couple, I've come to realise that cookies are an ideal vehicle for sourdough starter. My cookies were inspired by two suggestions  Cherry Almond Biscotti and versatile cookies  from Jenni and Shelley.
My first recipe is a mash-up (pun completely intended!) of the sourdough banana bread and banana nut biscotti I've made before. I love both so much that I had to marry them and see what came out of the union.
Very good offspring, I must say.
However, the biscotti rose a bit too much, I think, so they have bigger bellies than normal biscotti. They might be a little difficult to dunk into a Champagne flute, but I have mine with coffee so they're fine.
My second cookie, with two types of chocolate, started off with 100g of flour. I added all the cocoa powder I had (and that's why it's 36g instead of a nice round number), and then just kept putting this and that into the mix until the consistency of the dough allowed me to use an ice-cream scoop to form little domes. The cookies stayed in shape in the oven and came out with the texture of brownies – they had a crunchy top and fudgy insides. I'm pretty happy with this attempt.
I'll be getting more ideas for sourdough cookies from these bakers:

I've only been baking with Sourdough Surprises since June, and have already learnt seven ways to use my starter. I'm going back and trying those that I missed  donuts, pretzels and cream cheese danish. Yum! Cookies were an excellent close to Sourdough Surprises for the year!

Sourdough Banana-Walnut Biscotti
Makes 2½ dozen

250g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp coarse salt
150g mashed banana (about 3 medium)
100g 50%-hydration white leaven
50g egg (1 medium)
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp palm or brown sugar
50g walnuts, roughly broken

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the mashed banana, leaven, egg, oil and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. The dough will be sticky.
Taste the dough and add sugar according to taste and the walnuts. Knead the dough briefly to evenly distribute the sugar and nuts, about 30 seconds.
Shape the dough into two 20cm-long logs with floured hands. Place rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet; flatten to 1cm thickness.
Bake at 180°C until surface is firm and pale brown, 20-23 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, turn down the oven to 120°C. Cut each roll diagonally into 0.5cm slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet; bake 9-12 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 7-10 minutes until nicely golden (cookies may be slightly soft in centre but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on a wire rack.
Black beauties: Soft cookies with cocoa and dark chocolate
Sourdough Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Makes 1½ dozen

100g all-purpose flour
36g cocoa powder
90g palm or brown sugar
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
50g stiff leaven
70g vegetable oil
80g chocolate (70% cocoa), coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 190°C. In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients, except the chopped chocolate, and stir until everything is well mixed. Stir in the chocolate. Use a small ice cream scoop to drop cookie dough about 5cm apart on a paper-lined ungreased baking sheet (the cookies hold their shape but when the palm sugar melts, it leaks out and hardens) and bake in a preheated oven until firm on the outside, 12-15 minutes. 

Tangzhong to the rescue?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I learnt something last Christmas that both surprised and saddened me. I had made some braided challah bread to sandwich the meats and cold cuts that the family usually has on the day, and it was everything I've read a challah should be: slightly sweet, rich with eggs and fat, a soft crumb and a glossy crust. I expected it to go down a treat.
One of my nephews constructed his sandwich with the bread but after a couple of bites, he passed it over to his father. He said the challah was too flavourful and in competition with the meaty fillings.
Now, I appreciate the fact that many people only know bread as those bland square slices that come in a plastic bag or ultra-soft buns with sickly sweet creamy fillings in the centre, but when my own family  rejects something I made... that was disheartening :-(
This Christmas, I have been officially put in charge of bread. I can buy it, make it, whatever... I just have to supply enough bread to be eaten throughout the day. I am still bringing some "plastic" bread and a couple of those so-called "artisan" loaves from commercial producers – hah! How can every loaf purportedly made by hands look exactly alike? – but I am also trying out some tangzhong buns on the family.
Recipes for tangzhong bread – made with a roux – have been making their rounds on the web for some years now. It's credited to Yvonne Chen, the "65° Bread Doctor", and is a bread that suits Asian tastes as it is soft and sweet. Her recipe can be found on many online sites, and I used it for the 300+ slider buns (pictured right) I made for a food fair in September. I made 18 batches in all (each batch produced  17 buns; 18 if I was lucky), and by the fifth batch, I was weighing out the ingredients by memory!
Because the theme of the food fair was "yellow", I made the buns yellow with a roux that contained custard powder. The idea came from Dan Lepard's slider buns recipe, who based it on Yvonne Chen's method. But I like it so much that I have been using custard powder since then. I have also continued making buns because I like the individual portions (and I think they appeal to children too).
I also follow Dan Lepard's brief kneading method instead of lugging out the mixer. I use less yeast in this recipe and allow for a slow rising to suit my schedule. 
We'll have to wait until Christmas day to see if the fussy eaters will find these Tangzhong buns acceptable, but I have a feeling *fingers crossed* things will be okay.
Tangzhong with custard powder

Soft Buns using the Tangzhong Method
Makes 17 slider buns or 10 burger buns. This recipe is a slight modification on Yvonne Chen's, with advice and instruction from Dan Lepard.

Yellow Tangzhong (roux)
Makes enough for dough and glaze

13g bread flour
12g custard powder
125g water
1 tbsp milk powder

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and mix well. Over medium-low heat, stir until mixture starts to thicken. Keep stirring until thickened and glossy but still soft – stir the roux and the lines should remain; a thermometer should read 65°C. Set aside to cool. It can also be refrigerated for not more than two days.
Buns made for burgers
350g white bread flour 
2 tbsp full-cream milk powder
40g sugar
5g salt
3g instant yeast
120g tangzhong (from above – reserve the remainder for the glaze)
1 medium (50g) egg
100g warm water
30g butter, softened

Reserved tangzhong (about 1 tbsp)

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and yeast. Add the tangzhong and egg. Stir together with a wooden spoon or dough whisk. Add water and stir until a rough ball forms. Cover bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.
Spread softened butter on the dough and knead it in the bowl until well incorporated. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Give the dough a brief knead by stretching and folding it over on itself several times every 10 minutes over half an hour, each time forming the dough into a ball at the end and letting it sit seam side down in the mixing bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky at first but will start to lose the stickiness after every knead and will grow in size each time. After the final knead, cover the bowl and leave to double in size, 1-1½ hours. If making in advance, place the bowl in a large plastic bag and secure (or cover with cling film), then place in the refrigerator to proof until doubled in size, 6-8 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Scale into 40g portions for slider buns or 70g portions (approximate; it's actually about 67g each) for burger buns. Leave the dough for a few minutes to relax, then shape them into smooth balls.
Flatten the buns
Mist the bottom of a 10cm-diameter flat-based container with oil (I use a round plastic lid), press the bun to flatten. Press firmly – the dough is robust and can take a lot of pressure – but avoid tearing the buns. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.
Just before baking, flatten the buns again. Add a few drops of water to the extra tangzhong to loosen it. Brush top of the buns with tangzhong and sprinkle with seeds. 
Bake until the tops are lightly golden (8-12 minutes for sliders; 12-17 minutes for burger buns). The buns will dome while baking but will fall slightly when removed from the oven to cool.

Chicken and salted beans

Monday, December 10, 2012

For a long time, I have felt daunted by the task of cooking Malaysian food. And even though I made up my mind earlier this year that I would try to cook more of it, I have not been doing so. I guess when Malaysian dishes are so easily available just down the road, there's no need to actually cook them at home.
But it's good to have a culinary repertoire  a few uncomplicated dishes that don't take all day to make but are different from the everyday fare and would be a treat whenever they're served.
The recipe for this Malay braised turmeric chicken with salted beans comes from Passion, a collaboration between two hotels in Malaysia: Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel and The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. The recipes are the signature dishes of the 13 chefs featured in the book, which also features the fermented beef sausages and sour masala jam that I posted on some time ago.
The chicken in the picture does look a little oily, but when the gravy is slathered on plain white rice,  it's hard not to have a second helping!

Braised Turmeric Chicken With Salted Beans
Serves 2

2 free-range chicken legs
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
500ml cooking oil
Curry leaves, to garnish

20ml cooking oil
60g ginger, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
5 dried red chillies
250ml water
1 tsp salted beans
50ml sweet soya sauce
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp sugar

Season the chicken with turmeric powder and salt and deep-fry over medium heat until half-cooked; set aside.
In the remaining oil, fry the curry leaves for a few seconds. Place on kitchen paper to drain.
For the sauce: Heat the oil and sauté the ginger, shallots, garlic and dried chillies for three minutes.
Add water and salted beans, soya sauce, ground black pepper and sugar (no salt is needed as the beans are salty).
Add the chicken to the pan and braise with the ingredients till the chicken is well cooked. Drain.
Serve the chicken with the fried curry leaves sprinkled on top.

Freckled beauties

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When I was a child, I was a fan of Brazilian football  like many, I adored the superstars like Pele, Socrates and Zico. But I tell you if I had then tasted the Brazilian bread called pão de queijo, I don't know if those football greats would have even registered with me!
I first learnt about these buns from Renata over at Testado, Provado & Aprovado. Her blog is in Portuguese but put it through Google Translate and you'll read about what she considers "an eternal pleasure". Now that I've made the buns, I know exactly what she means.
The hole-y crumb
After reading up on the buns, I became aware of how popular they are and that everyone who has eaten them raves about how good they are. I won't disagree.
Pão de queijo is made with tapioca flour, which makes it gluten-free. The crust is crisp, and the crumb is... well, if you don't expect it, it can be a surprise. I actually thought the buns might be uncooked when they first came out of the oven and I broke one open to see what the inside was like: it was gummy and elastic. But after the buns cool slightly, the texture firms up although they remain springy, with a web of air pockets on the inside.
For the first batch (pictured at the top of the post), I made the buns exactly as in Renata's recipe, only I halved it. The ingredients were tapioca flour, milk, butter, salt, Monterey Jack cheese and eggs. I wasn't sure what the batter should look like –  mine was sticky and I used an ice cream scoop to shape the buns. When I left a comment for Renata at her blog, she emailed me and told me that the texture can be sticky (and is sometimes piped) or firm (and can be rolled with the hands). I got 17 buns out of the batch... and I finished all of them myself!
Clockwise from top left: Frozen unbaked buns; the second batch of buns; 'gummy' texture on the inside
When I made the buns again (pictured above), I used coconut oil instead of butter and included some grated Parmigiano Reggiano together with the other cheese. I didn't add as much egg and the dough was firmer – I could roll out balls with my hands. I made them smaller this time and got 35. I baked just four and froze the rest after shaping. This batch was a little crisper on the outside, perhaps due to the firmer dough
Today, I baked a few of the frozen buns to take with me to a meeting with some of my family. Like me, they couldn't quite decide what to make of the texture when they first bit into the pão. The rubber-like crumb was not what they had expected. But after they got over that little surprise, they really enjoyed the buns and loved the chewiness. My sister asked me to include more cheese and my mother dipped it into some curry and found it to be very tasty!
Since I have made it twice and can compare, I think I prefer the dough a little sticky. The buns seem to puff up a little more in the oven, but it's entirely up to individual tastes. I haven't recorded the process of making the buns in photos, so please visit Renata's blog for how the dough should look at each step.
Made after getting Renata's advice
Postscript, Dec 3, 2012: After this post was published, Renata left a comment (see below) and I realised that I had probably baked the buns for too long. They are supposed to be quite pale and should be taken out of the oven as soon as they start to brown. I have amended the recipe.

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Makes 17 medium-small buns (four three-bite size). Can be easily scaled up.
125ml milk
1 tbsp coconut oil or 20g butter
½ tsp salt
250g tapioca flour (tepung ubi kayu)
125g cheese (eg. Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Cheddar), coarsely grated
1-2 medium eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, coconut oil and salt until small bubbles start to appear around the edge of the milk (if using butter, it should have melted). Do not allow it to come to a full boil.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and pour in the hot milk. The flour will immediately take on a gelatinous texture. Mix with a fork until the mixture is combined. There may be a few clumps, but at the next step it will be fixed.
When the mixture is cool enough to handle, rub it with your fingertips until it becomes crumbly. Stir in the cheese.
Mix in 1 egg. Stir with the fork until the mixture is hydrated and starts coming together. Add more egg until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough. You may not need to use all the egg.
Drop small spoonfuls (or use a small ice cream scoop) of the dough on a parchment-lined baking tray about 3cm apart.*
Bake the buns for about 25 minutes, or until puffed and freckled with golden brown spots just starting to brown with a few freckles. They may flatten slightly at first, but will puff up towards the end of baking time.
Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving serve them immediately.
* The unbaked buns can also be frozen. Place the balls on a tray lined with cling film or food-grade plastic and place in the freezer until hardened. Remove the balls from pan and place in a plastic bag, seal and store in the freezer. Bake them from frozen for about 5 minutes longer.
I have also baked five buns at a time in a toaster oven on HIGH  the setting just under TOAST  and they take 21 minutes from frozen to cook.

Daring Bakers: Twelve Days of Cookies

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.
When the November Daring Bakers challenge was announced, I of course imagined myself making all 12 cookies. In reality, however, that was never going to happen. But while expecting to make two kinds of biscuits, at the most, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with more than that in the end. (Well, I couldn't have a bonanza in my biscuit tin if it were filled with only one type of cookie now, could I?)
From Peta's recipes, I made the Lebkuchen but with a couple of substitutions: The recipe calls for honey but I was forced to add molasses and agave syrup as well as I didn't have the amount needed of any single one of those ingredients. By choice, I replaced the brown sugar with red palm sugar for a richer flavour. And I added allspice to the list of spices. The raw cookie dough was like fudge and tasted very good and if not for the raw egg in it, I would have eaten it without baking the cookies! The ones shaped like Christmas trees have a "glass window" (couldn't get a stained effect, unfortunately), made by filling cutouts in the cookies with crushed clear coloured hard sweets before they are baked.
I made three other biscuits as well. The Fig Bars (my favourite biscuit) are based on the Date Pillows I posted on a while ago, while the Lime Meltaways (for the tang) and Chocolate Pretzels (for the shape) are from Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies, a 2006 special issue magazine.
After all the biscuits were made, I happened to have an egg white left over and decided to use it for Fortune Cookies (I halved the recipe from and managed to make seven cookies) they just add interest to the biscuit tin! (And the fortunes will cheer me up after my heart fails from all the butter and sugar I've had!)
Many thanks to Peta for all her hard work, her tips in her Food Talk article on making piped short bread and especially her lebkuchen recipe! And check out what the Daring Bakers made in the slideshow at the site. There are so many varieties, colours and shapes. Lots of ideas for future cookie bakes.
Here are few other items that I think would be perfect for any festivity:
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (with recipe link)

Whey hey! A pastry that pops

Friday, November 23, 2012

The few plants on my balcony get fed some good stuff every time I make yoghurt. After straining the curd to get thick Greek-style yoghurt (or yoghurt cheese as it is also called), I pour the whey onto the plants since I've read that the protein in it is good for them.
And then I read about using the whey as a substitute for the liquid in baking. How long has this been going on? Why have I not informed myself on this sooner?
Sorry, plants. It's plain water from the tap for you fellows from now on.
Well, I started experimenting by using whey instead of water in a straightforward bread recipe. The texture was the same but there was a slight tang to the taste, as if I had added a sourdough leaven. It was quite pleasant.
But what I was really pleased about – and I know I did not imagine this – was that after manually kneading the dough, my hands felt softer. So that's another good reason to use whey. And to knead dough by hand.
Right, while I was quite confident that whey would not adversely affect a bread dough, I didn't know what to expect with pie pastry since it's a bit more temperamental. I chose to make toaster pastries, based on that famous brand, Pop-Tarts®, a snack which I have never eaten before but which I like the look of. They're flat, filled with nice things and easy to carry about – what's not to like?
I am pleased to say that the pastry with the whey turned out well.
Bake until partly cooked, freeze and then cook in the toaster oven until fully cooked

The tarts were filled with raspberry and apricot jams and a chocolate spread. Now, as the montage above (top, right) shows, some of the tarts leaked jam. I love the Bonne Maman brand, but the raspberry jam was just too runny to stay put inside the pastry shell. The apricot, from another brand, was more set, and the chocolate spread, of course, hardly moved at all.
These tarts are meant to be toasted in a toaster oven as the pastry is not sturdy enough for a pop-up toaster like commercial Pop-Tarts. But that's a good thing. The pastry is soft – and stays that way when chilled – yet it is easy to work with. And it is tender after baking, although keep an eye on the tarts when they're in the toaster oven or they may end up burnt like the first two I toasted here.
Keep an eye on the tarts when toasting, and mind the hot filling when biting in

Toaster Tarts
Makes 9  palm-sized tarts

1 quantity whey pie dough
Fillings, about a tablespoon for each tart (eg. jam, chocolate spread, fruit slices, cream cheese)
1 egg, beaten

Whey Pie Dough
270g all-purpose flour
½ tsp table salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp caster sugar
70g white shortening (eg. Crisco)
180ml yoghurt whey (top up with water or milk if there isn't enough whey)

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the sugar. Rub the shortening into the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre and pour in almost all the whey. Bring the ingredients together into a ball, adding more whey if the mixture is too dry. Knead the dough for 10 seconds, then form into a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with non-stick paper.
Divide the dough into two. Roll each portion out into a 30cm by 24cm rectangle, and cut each one into 9 smaller rectangles, roughly 10cm by 8cm (life is too short to be absolutely precise with this; don't worry, it'll all work out in the end). Brush half of the pieces with beaten egg and place a heaped tablespoon of filling in the centre. Spread the filling to 1.5cm from the edge. Lay the other 9 pieces of pastry on top of the filling. Press the edges of the pastry together and crimp with the fork. Prick the tops several times with a fork.
Place tarts on the baking sheet and bake until the tops turn light brown, 10-12 minutes. This will only cook them partly. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Place them on a tray and freeze them, about 30 minutes. Store in freezer bags.
To eat, pop a tart into a medium hot toaster oven (200°C) for 5-7 minutes and cook until golden brown. Take care when biting into the tart as the filling will be hot.

Sourdough Surprises: Scones

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Preamble: This post was originally published at 7am on Nov 20, but later in the day, I noticed a mistake and opened the post to edit. However, due to a technical error (read: my own mistake!), all the text, including the recipe, and pictures were erased! I've rewritten the post but cannot find the piece of paper I scribbled the recipe on so I have to leave it out for now. I'll put it in when I find it!

Update, Nov 27: Found the recipe! It appears at the bottom of the post.

Sourdough scones have been on my list of recipes to try for some time but I have been sitting on it and it took Sourdough Surprises to get me off my behind.
It was 10.56pm on Oct 24 and I was just getting ready to shut down the computer and go to bed when I remembered that I hadn't checked the challenge for November. When I saw what it would be, I immediately got my starter out of the fridge and fed it so that it would be bubbling the next morning and I could start on my scones post-haste.
Sourdough Surprises suggested two recipes: one with an overnight fermented dough, and the other, a quick one. I have used a non-sourdough scone recipe with success and I adapted it by including the starter.
I've used a process of flavouring the scones from Peter Reinhart. He adds the flavourings in a sort of lamination just like puff or danish pastry. This way, I can make one batch of scone dough, divide it and flavour them separately for two types of scones.
Sweet and savoury scones
After mixing up a batch of sourdough scone dough, flatten it out into a rectangle and do a trifold, like an envelope. Repeat the trifold three more times for a total of four trifolds.
To add flavourings, sprinkle on the ingredients before each trifold. This way, the flavourings are layered in and not mixed in from the start, which I think distributes them better. For my savoury scones, I used a mixture of nutritional yeast, which tastes like cheese, and chilli powder. Zingy!
Layer in the flavour
Check out the other blogs and their scones. I'm sure none of them pressed any Delete buttons by accident *sheepish look*

Basic Dough for Sourdough Scones
Makes 6-8 cutout scones

55g cold butter
65g all-purpose flour
50g pastry (low protein) flour (if not available, use all-purpose flour)
½ tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp fine salt or ½ tsp flaky salt
90g refreshed starter
50g buttermilk or soured milk, approximate

Place butter in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to harden.
Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a mixing bowl.
Grate the frozen butter over the dry ingredients in the bowl through the large holes of a box grater. With a fork, toss the mixture together so the threads of butter are distributed evenly and coated with flour.
Add the starter and stir together with the fork. Add ¾ of the buttermilk or soured milk; stir until all the flour is hydrated and the dough forms a coarse ball. Add a bit more butter if necessary to bring the dough together. It will be quite wet.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface; dust the top of the dough with flour. With floured hands, press the dough into a rectangle about 2cm thick. Use a metal scraper to fold one third to the centre and the other third on top like a business letter.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees and dust more flour underneath. Press out again into a rectangle and do another trifold. Repeat this two more times for a total of four trifolds.
Note: To add flavourings, sprinkle on the ingredients before each trifold.
After the fourth folding, dust under and on top of the dough one final time, then roll or press out the dough to 1.5cm thick. Cut out into circles, squares or triangles. Press the scraps together and roll out to 2cm thick. Cut out as many pieces as possible. Place on an ungreased baking pan about 2cm apart. Let the scones rest for 15-30 minutes (if possible place the tray in the refrigerator).
Preheat the oven to the maximum. Transfer the tray to the oven and turn down the oven to 230°C. Bake for about 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 6-10 minutes, until the tops and bottoms are a golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Have a heart, cook en papillote

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cooking en papillote or in parchment is a good way to retain flavour in a dish as it seals in the juices. I used to think that using paper would be difficult and messy, and that aluminium foil or cling film would be a better alternative. But unlike paper, foil and plastic are not permeable, and while that keeps the food from leaking, there is also the risk of overcooking. 
After using paper a few times, I found that it works very well, especially with  items like seafood and vegetables. It may not stand up well to the wet heat of a steamer, but it fares well in the oven.
Estimating the cooking time may take some trial and error at first. But a good indicator is looking at the colour of the paper. Once the packets start to brown and puff up, it won't be long before the food can come out of the oven. 
Snip, fill, fold, seal
Preparing and filling the paper parchment hearts

1. Fold a piece of parchment paper (about 30cm by 35cm) in half and cut it into a half-heart shape, staying as close to the outside edges as possible.
2. Open the parchment heart. Brush oil on the paper and place ingredients to one side of the fold line, at least 5cm from the paper’s edge.
3. Fold the top half of the heart over to enclose the ingredients. Starting at the top of the heart fold about 1cm of the edge towards the centre. Fold again to make a tight seal. Continue folding over the edge of the parchment packet, doubling the edge over so that it is tight.
4. When you come to the bottom of the heart, twist the tip and fold it under the packet to seal. Place on a rimmed baking tray to bake.
To serve, snip an "X" in the top of the packet and peel the paper open. 
Keep the colour
Tofu And Vegetable Parcels
Serves 4

3 cakes square white tofu
1 cup small broccoli florets
½ cup carrot matchsticks
1cm fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
4 prepared parchment paper hearts
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped, to serve 

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut tofu into 3mm slices.
Brush parchment paper hearts with oil and divide tofu between them, overlapping the slices slightly.
Layer with broccoli florets and carrot matchsticks. Sprinkle with minced ginger.
Drizzle on the soya sauce and sesame oil.
Crimp the edges of the parcels tightly and place on a rimmed baking tray.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.
Cut open the parcels at the table and sprinkle each one with chopped coriander before serving.
Seal in the goodness
Mustard Mushrooms and Brown Rice Parcels
Serves 4

2 cups cooked brown rice
6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup assorted fresh Asian mushrooms (shimeji, enoki, oyster)
½ red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp coarse grain mustard
Salt and pepper
Oil for brushing
4 prepared parchment paper hearts
Salad leaves, to serve

Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave to rehydrate and soften. Squeeze lightly to remove excess water (reserve the mushroom juice) and remove mushroom stems. Slice mushroom caps into three. Mix with the other Asian mushrooms and capsicum. Set aside.
Combine mustard and 1½ tbsp of the reserved mushroom juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the mushrooms and capsicum.
Heat oven to 220°C. Brush the parchment paper with oil. Divide brown rice among each parchment piece. Top with mushroom mixture and sprinkle with minced garlic. Pour on a little more of the mushroom juice if desired. Crimp the edges of the parcels tightly. Place parcels on a rimmed baking tray and bake until parcels are puffed, 20-25 minutes.
To serve, place parcels on individual plates, cut open and serve with salad leaves.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A year ago tomorrow, The Wayward Oven went live. I chose the date 11.11.11 because it would be an easy one to remember. Only thing is, I didn't remember until I saw what today's date was.
Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Nice one.
The date is significant in a way. Tonight, I will be performing in a rhythm tap showcase, hence the odd inclusion of a picture of shoes at the top of the post in a blog about food. I don't know if it was a coincidence or my tap instructor chose it specifically for the sequence of numbers (written, by the way, in date-month-year order as Malaysians often do) but it would be a memorable date for some people (not forgetful me, of course!). The various groups have been practising separately so far, but at two full dress rehearsals over the past week, I got to see some really nifty moves and colourful outfits.
I have another short practice later this afternoon before the show starts at 8pm, so of course in my nervous state, I have to get into the kitchen to make something. Something simple that wouldn't take too long to make, and most importantly, get rid of the jitters!
Well, you know how it is. Sometimes you're not even looking and you find bits of dried ingredients in your fridge or pantry. A tablespoon here, a soupçon there – not enough to add any real flavour but with all of them together, they add up to something that can turn out to be quite enjoyable.
And that's how I came to make these colourful no-bake chewy snack bars with rice cereal, some marshmallows that had melted in their packet, a bit of dessicated coconut, melon seeds, crystallised ginger and a container of glacé cherries from I don't know when.
Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink squares
I started out by mixing about 2 cups of crisp rice cereal, and 2 tablespoons each of dessicated coconut and white melon seeds in a bowl. Then in went roughly chopped glacé cherries (five green and two red) along with six pieces of crystallised ginger, also chopped. Everything was mixed well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
After melting about 40g of salted butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, I added about three-quarters of a 283g (10oz) bag of marshmallows, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the marshmallows had melted, into the saucepan went the cereal mixture. It was stirred until everything was nicely combined and then dumped into a buttered 18cm square tin.
A piece of plastic was then placed over the top and I pressed down firmly with all my weight. The mixture was hot but fortunately, my asbestos palms prevented me from being too affected by the heat.
Once the surface was as smooth and even as I could get it, I scored the top into squares with a knife to make slicing easier later and left the mixture on the kitchen counter to cool. Then I put it in the fridge to firm up. Using an oiled knife, I cut the slab into 16 squares. Once one of the corners pieces was out, it was easy to lift the whole block out onto a chopping board to slice up.
These bars contain no added sugar, but they are sweet nevertheless. The crystallised ginger does add a lovely mellow heat, though, as well that hint of golden colour together with the red and green of the cherries to an otherwise bland looking snack bar. Both the coconut and melon seeds could have done with some light toasting. 
But that's the nice thing about these squares: anything goes.

Raising pies by hand

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Hand-raised pies have been on my to-do list for a while. These are pies that are shaped by hand and not in a tin. Because they're unsupported when they bake, the sides drop slightly and expand outwards like a pot belly. Think Melton Mowbray pies.
Now, there are people out there who call their pies "hand-raised" even though they are baked in a tin (often a deep muffin pan). I don't think that's completely accurate, although it does makes the process simpler. But where's the fun in that?
Because hand-raised pies bake without anything to hold them up, they need a strong shell and that's where hot water crust pastry comes in. This is another item that I've intended to try for some time. I haven't put it off because it is difficult – it's not – but the pastry has lard in it and that's not an ingredient I use in my baking.
So I did some reading and looked up several recipes, and found that vegetable shortening or suet is also used. In terms of flavour, neither ingredient can compete with lard, but I don't think it makes much difference in the texture so that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. I have used all shortening, all shredded suet (Atora brand) and a combination of both, with good results for all alternatives.
So that's the gravity-defying pastry sorted out.
Traditional hand-raised pies are often made with a wooden pie dolly, which I don't have. Later, I found out a jam jar or drinking glass can be easily employed as a substitute.
And then I saw a video where the pie maker didn't use any sort of utensil to help shape the pie. He did it all by hand. I tried it and love it!
Hand-raising a pie
The filling for hand-raised pies is very often made with uncooked pork meat. This means the filling can be pressed together in a tight ball which doesn't come apart. That makes it easier to mould the hot water pastry around it.
I have used a cooked filling of cubed chicken, chestnuts, mushrooms, potato and frozen peas (in hindsight, I should have left out the peas) which is slightly looser in texture, and it is a bit fiddly to put together but not impossible. I feel like I'm playing with modelling clay! Sculptors will probably know the feeling.
The sides of my pies didn't brown thanks to my wayward oven (the name of this blog wasn't chosen on a whim), but they were cooked properly and didn't have the dreaded soggy bottoms. One of these stout little pot-bellied pies makes the perfect portable lunch.
Eat hot or cold
Hand-Raised Pies
Makes 2 pies (about 7cm wide by 5cm high). Pastry based on Paul Hollywood's recipe.

100g plain flour
20g strong flour
25g butter
65ml boiling water
½ tsp salt
30g vegetable shortening or shredded suet, or a combination of both
1½ cups of cooked filling
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours then rub the butter in with your fingertips.
Mix together the boiling water, salt and shortening in a small saucepan. Heat and stir together until the shortening melts. Pour on top of the flour mixture, stirring with a spoon until everything comes together.
Tip the dough onto a work surface and knead briefly; bring together into a ball. It will be lumpy. Use the pastry while still warm.
Divide the pastry into two equal portions. From each half, remove a quarter of the pastry for the lids. Press out the lids into 6cm rounds and poke a small hole in the centre with a chopstick. 
On a lightly floured surface, press out the remaining three-quarters of the pastry into two 13cm rounds. Place a mound of filling (about ¾ cups) in the centre of each round and press together to keep it together as much as possible (a stickier filling will stay together better).
Sculpt the pastry around the filling, trying as much as possible to make sure it is the same thickness all around and on the base. This is a bit fiddly, but can be done with some patience. Cup both hands under the edge of the pastry round and press it up tightly against the filling, building the sides straight up until the top of the filling. Don't worry if it isn't very neat at first. Rotate the pie on the floured surface with your palms to even out the sides and to make sure the filling is packed in, ensuring there are no holes in the pastry.
Brush a little water inside the rim of the pastry. Place the lid on top of the filling and press the edges of the pastry together to seal, with the rim slightly rising above the lid. Rotate the pie on the floured surface while pressing the sides gently – this will help tidy up its appearance and build up the height. Crimp around the top. If the hole has closed, use the chopstick to open it up again. Place pies on a lightly greased baking tray and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C.
Brush the lids of the pies (not the crimp) with egg wash. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and crisp all the way around.