Sunday, 25 September 2011

Osmanthus Flower Power

On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I came across a dessert called Osmanthus jelly.  Apparently this is very popular in Hong Kong especially during summer as it is supposed to be 'cooling".  Its made with dried osmanthus flowers 桂花 or "gui hua".  Piqued by this, I went to the neighbourhood Chinese medical hall to look for it and was pleasantly surprised that it was sold here.
The dried osmanthus flower is really pretty to look at, and it has a lovely delicate scent.  It's hard to describe the scent; a light sweet-ish floral (duh) aroma.
I tried to re-create the dessert that I had, with alternate layers of coconut and osmanthus jellies.  And since I really dislike using gelatine (it's one of those pet peeves with no basis what-so-ever), agar-agar was used as a substitute.

the osmanthus flowers add a pretty touch

1 packet agar agar powder
900 ml water
180g sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried osmanthus
1/2 packet dehydrated coconut powder

  1. In a pot add water, sugar, agar agar powder and bring to boil over medium heat.
  2. Transfer half of the agar mixture to another pot and stir in the osmanthus flowers.
  3. With the remaining half, stir in coconut powder.
  4. Pour 1/2 of the Osmanthus jelly into the mold.  When slightly firm to touch, add 1/2 of coconut layer.  Continue process with the remainder.
  5. Leave to cool at room temperature and refrigerate Osmanthus jelly to set. Serve chilled.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Wholemeal bread - tangzhong method

I first saw this in  Christine's Recipes and was instantly intrigued by it.  I’ve been making my own breads on the good old bread-maker for over 1 year now.  As much as the home made breads are healthier and preservative-free, it’s almost impossible to get it as soft and fluffy as commercial varieties.  I’m told that additives are added to get that texture.  However the Tangzhong (literal translation “to plant soup”) method uses a water-roux starter which produces a similar soft, fluffy texture without additives.  It is also called the 65C method as the water roux is cooked to 65C.  At 65C, the gluten in the flour becomes ‘gelatinized”, which then absorbs more water.  When the tangzhong is added to the bread ingredients, it adds to the moisture level and produces a softer textured bread.
It does sound a little fiddly, what with the 65C temperature and all that, but trust me, it's quite simple and I didn’t use a thermometer at all.  As a plus point my bread turned out correctly the first time. 

Being the lazy git that I am, I used the bread-maker for the most part.  You can also do it the manual way - ie knead by hand, but it is harder work.

The basic tangzhong is 1 part bread flour to 5 parts water.
The recipe I used is adapted from Christine’s blog. 

Ingredients of tangzhong (湯種)

  • 25gm bread flour
  • 125ml/ 1/2 cup water
Ingredients of bread:
  • 125ml/ ½cup milk
  • 120gm tangzhong (amount above)
  • 3tbsp olive oil ( can substitute with butter)
    • 56gm egg (equals to 1 large egg)
    • 200gm wholemeal bread flour
    • 150gm bread flour
    • 5gm/1tsp salt
    • 7gm/1tbsp+1tsp milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional)
    • 55gm/3tbsp+2tsp caster sugar
    • 5 to 6gm/2 tsp instant yeast
    To make tangzhong:
    1. Mix the water into the flour, stir well to remove any lumps.  Cook over medium low heat and keep stirring with a whisk or spatula to prevent it from burning.will
    2. The mixture will become thicker and thicker. Once you start seeing ‘lines” appear when you stir, its done.  All this takes about 2 – 3 minutes, and the end result is somewhat like runny custard.  (I threw away quite a few batches because it was too thick).  Remove from heat.
    3. Pour out into a bowl, cover with a cling wrap sticking to the surface of the tangzhong to prevent a skin from forming.  Cool before using.  I’ve kept it overnight in the fridge before, and it’s fine.  Just bring it up to room temperature before you use.
    To make bread:
    1. Using a bread maker, start with wet ingredients and add in dry ingredients with the yeast last.  Use the dough setting and knead for approximately 25 – 30 minutes.  The initial dough will be feel very wet and sticky.  When its ready, the dough should be smooth and elastic. 
    2. Proof the dough until double its size.  Time for proofing is about 60 minutes.  I leave it in the bread maker to proof. 
    3. Transfer to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Shape it into ball shapes, cover with a cling wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
    4. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into a longish-oval shape.  Take the lower edge and fold it 1/3 of the way up.  Take the top edge and fold it 1/3 of the way down.  See photo.
    5. Flip the dough over seal-side down, roll it out again.  Turn it over again (seal-side on top) and roll it up like a swiss-roll.  See photo.
    6. Arrange the rolled-up dough in a greased or non-stick loaf tin.  Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 40 - 60 minutes, or until the dough is double in size.
    7. Brush whisked egg on surface.   I use the bread maker “bake” setting.  You can bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/356F for 35 – 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and tin. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.  Serve with your favourite jams.  I love mine with peanut butter and strawberry jam.
    fold into thirds
    roll swiss roll style
    just like 3 little piggies sitting in the loaf tin

    voila - cooling on a wire tray



    Sunday, 11 September 2011

    Venice of Hong Kong? Tai-O village

    Decided to take a day-trip out to Lantau Island on a recent stop-over in Hong Kong.  There are a couple of ways to get there, but we decided to take the cable car across.  Lantau Island is well-known for the Giant Buddha, but I must say my favourite part of the trip was at Tai-O fishing village.

    Tai-O village is also known as the Venice of the Hong Kong - there are stilt houses built over the waterways.  The village is apparently known for its salt production and fishing.  There's a defintely a distinct tang of salted fish in the air.  Idyllic like anything - it's lightning years away from It-handbags and glass-steel skyscrapers.  With a very kampung feel, it brought back memories of an older, slower pace of life where time crawls lazily by.

    Boats of all types

    We wandered down a narrow alley littered with stalls selling all kinds of seafood - both the live and dried varieties.
    salted fish drying on hooks

    variety of live seafood
    Stumbled upon a stall selling "san sui tau fu far" or literally "mountain water bean curd pudding".  We didn't pass up the chance to try it out.  And boy, were we mightily glad we didn't. It was beautifully smooth - even better than the famed Ipoh Snowy Mountain tau fu far. 

    We spied a table ordering the mixed seafood with curry sauce and didnt hesitate to place an order too.  You get fishballs and cuttle-fish dunked in a spicy curry and a dollop of XO sauce on the side.  Shiok...sweating buckets by then, we finished with a bowl of black sesame paste.

    On the pier-side, there are boats touting dophin watches.  Unfortunately, we only had 45 minutes in the village and barely skimmed Tai-O's charms.  It's a lovely spot to chill out wher everything's just a tad slower and simpler.
    stilt houses

    a closer look at the front or is it the back of a stilt house

    the only bus-stop to the pier and town center

    Monday, 5 September 2011

    Cool, cool desserts in HK summer...

    If you think KL is hot, think again.  Summer in Hong Kong is worse.  It's muggy, humidity is in the high 80s and temperatures stay in the 30Cs day and night.  It just doesn't let up, and the heat emissions from all the vehicles just makes it worse.  Hot air permeates every single pore in your body.  I just had to duck into every other shop for its 'free' air-conditioning to cool-off.  Cheap, I know, but what to do?  It was that, or total melt-down.  No air-con, no eats - that was my mantra and I didn't care how delish its rated to be.

    It was a no-brainer to head down to Tin Hau for desserts first.  I found this little tong sui place when I stayed at L'Hotel Causeway Bay a few trips back.  We were totally bowled over by its tong sui.  Its called Ching Ching Desserts.  I only noticed later that for a little hole-in-the-wall, it had a stream of luxury cars parked outside and it's crowded.  It's now on our must-stop-to-eat-every-trip list. 

    Like most HK eateries, the tables are tiny, you perch on even tinier stools and you'll be elbowing or shouldering your neighbour.  So be prepared to stack your bags on your lap if you drop by in the middle of a massive shopping haul.  Its conveniently located too - just about a 5 minutes trot from the Tin Hau MTR station.

    Gluttons that we are, between the 2 of us, we ordered the walnut cream with tofu pudding, mango on tofu pudding (tau fu far) and to top it off, a half-and-half of black sesame and almond cream. We would have ordered more, but were too embarrassed.

    The tofu pudding is unlike what we get in Malaysia - it's ultra smooth, but also a little more firm and bouncy.  Very nice.  The mango topping which was essentially some pureed mango and mango chunks were deliciously cold and the entire concoction just glides down effortlessly.  Not too sweet.

    Tofu pudding with mango puree

    Tofu pudding with walnut cream
    Big Dog just loves their walnut, almond and black sesame desserts.  Regardless of the heat, he had to have them all, so he compromised with ordering the black&white which is black sesame and almond cream and having the walnut cream with tofu pudding. Sinful but oh-so-good.
    Black sesame and almond cream

    Ching Ching Desserts
    77 Electric Road,
    Tin Hau, Hong Kong
    Nearest MTR : Tin Hau

    Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Layered agar-agar

    Hari Raya celebrations just started, and with it comes the inevitable and overly-indulgent feasting on lemang, rendang, lontong and kuih raya.  The major cooking spree starts the night before Raya, and the smells of spices and coconut wafting across from the neighbour's proves irresistible.

    So, what to bring to my aunt's open house?  There's always a battalion of cousins ever-ready to eat, and more sedate aunts and uncles.  Hmmm.... with the hot weather, perhaps a nice cold agar-agar will do the trick - something to sooth and glide down easily after a fiery and rich repast.  Neither too rich nor heavy to handle.  Agar-agar brings back nostalgic memories of birthday parties when it was de riguer to have agar-agar in its translucent glory quivering on the table. 

    It is Hari Raya afterall, so it's got to be green, and I think coconut and pandan flavours will go well.  This layered agar-agar takes some patience as you have to wait for each layer to harden slightly before adding the next layer.  But it's worth the time and effort and it looks quite pretty.

    I used some fresh pandan leaves from the garden for flavouring and for the gorgeously light green colour.  Its natural this way, and feels healthier.  You can substitute with food colouring if you prefer.   Just remember that agar-agar needs loads of sugar, so if you're into healthier cooking like me, reduce the amount.  The recipe below has been adjusted to reduced-sugar already.

    Pandan coconut agar-agar

    Makes a tray of 10" x 8" (or find a mould which holds the total water volume)
    Ingredients :
    Coconut layer
    1 packet agar-agar powder ( I use Jim Willie or Swallow brand)
    800ml cold water (if you like it less firm, use 950ml water)
    200gm sugar
    1 packet powdered/instant coconut
    Pinch of salt

    Coloured layers - this makes 1 colour, so if you want 2 colours just multiply quantity by 2. 
    I used 2 colours - green and red.
    1 packet of agar-agar powder
    800ml cold water
    200gm sugar
    pandan juice, or food colour, or use coloured agar-agar powder
    1. Stir the instant coconut powder into the cold water, making sure there are no lumps.  Then add the agar-agar and sugar and bring the mixture to boil.  Add salt.  Sieve mixture and return to pot. Leave it on very low heat until ready for assembly.
    2.  For the transparent layer, put all ingredient except food colour, into a pot and boil until dissolved. Sieve mixture and return to pot. Leave on very low heat or keep warm in double-boiler.
    1. Measure about 400ml of transparent agar-agar and colour it in the colour you like. Leave it to harden slightly.  Once slightly firm, use a toothpick or fork to lightly poke holes onto the surface.  This will allow the next layer to 'stick' on top without sliding off.
    2. The next layer will be approx 400ml of the coconut milk agar agar. Leave to harden slightly
    Do the same alternating between the transparent layers and the coconut milk layer until all the agar agar have been used up.
    3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until thoroughly firm and chilled.  Serve chilled.
    Enjoy....Selamat Hari Raya and happy Merdeka :)

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