East Malaysia Cooking Trip – Part 1

brinjals

Hello my blogger friends, greetings from Hong Kong! For those who have been following my blog, I’ve finally settled down in this city that never sleeps. It’s been more than two months since my last post and I hope you will still get to see this in your reader or email 🙂

I am preparing to start cooking and baking soon but for now, I would love to share with you an amazing trip that I’ve made before my move. For this trip, I get to stay with my relative in Sarawak, East Malaysia who owns a little vegetable garden right in front of the house. Of course, you know my itchy hands wouldn’t leave those gorgeous plants alone. Hee hee!

chinese squash

These are oriental squash which are great for making clear soup with dried scallops and pork short ribs. Boil them together for an hour and all you need is just a little salt to flavor it.

be different

While most squash are long and straight, some just prefers to be different.

robot oven

dough in robot oven

I would like to introduce this powerful oven that looks more like an alien in scifi films which can pre-heat to 220C within 10minutes. The only thing to be careful is that the heating element is at the top so attention is needed to avoid the crust of my bread from getting burnt. Yes, I baked bread with it and the result is very satisfying.

foccacia

I made this foccacia bread with dried Italian herbs using that robot. It was really crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The bread was very well received and before I knew it, the pan was empty.

12 hour overnight poolish 

150g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix everything together  and let it ferment overnight.

Main dough

278g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1 & 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, dried Italian herbs, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 tablespoon olive oil, poolish

Mix everything together and work your dough till it is smooth. Let it rest for 45 mins. Stretch and fold the dough and let it rest for another 45mins. Pre-heat oven to 200C and bake for 20mins. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano if desired.

harvesting egg plant

I just can’t keep my hands off these gorgeous brinjals or long eggplants. I’m so lucky that they are at their best when I was there. Green on the inside with no seeds yet.

pasta with brinjals

With limited ingredients, I turned the brinjals into this pasta dish.

brinjals, cut into circles

red chili, chopped

1 onion, chopped

italian herbs

1 big lime juice

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

your favorite pasta

Fry brinjals in olive oil till caramelized and set aside for later use. With the same oil, saute onions till caramelized and put in red chili, sea salt and pepper. On another burner, cook pasta to al dente and keep some pasta water. Back to the frying pan, add in lime juice and pasta water follow by a good handful of italian herbs. Put in pasta, brinjal and toss well. Serve with grated parmigiano and perhaps more chili.

It’s been a great trip. I’ll share more recipes in part 2 okay?

Kitchen Emotions

My profession in identifying and creating core emotions for tv promotion enables me to also connect up all the different emotions that leads me into cooking and baking.

It all begins when I often walk out from a restaurant feeling dissatisfied along with ANGER for paying high bills for lousy food and bad service in this city. And most of the time, what disappoints me is the way good ingredients are being treated poorly.

That is when the temptation and CURIOSITY of wondering if I can cook better food arouse my desire to take up the challenge and re-look at the function of my kitchen with a whole new perspective.

After numerous failures that eventually leads to a few good attempts with some recipes, the feeling of SUCCESS encourage me to create more to share with friends and neighbours which increases HUMAN CONNECTIONS without even noticing it. The reward is enormous.

Here’s a really simple recipe that makes me happy.

marinara w scallops

Pasta Marinara with Canadian Scallops

Canadian scallops

Sea salt

Black pepper

All-purpose flour

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pan. Season scallops with salt, pepper and coat lightly with flour. Fry scallops for 2 minutes on one side and another minute on the other side.

For the sauce:

Fresh basil

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 can of Italian tomato

Black pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pot with onions and garlic. The fragrance from the onion and garlic will infuse into the oil when heated up together. Add salt to avoid onions from burning. Sautee till onion turns translucent. Add black pepper, tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30 mins.

Serve with your favourite pasta and top it up with the gorgeous scallops.

hk loaf 4

Now comes to baking. My FEAR of sending something into the oven and hoping it will come out good stays with me for many years ever since I failed terribly trying to bake a basic sponge cake.

It was until early this year when Anto from relaxingcooking encouraged me to bake my first bread. It is a big emotion of DARING to take up the challenge to start a bumpy journey which I am glad I did and to discover the many secrets of baking along the way.

hk loaf 2

I got to admit I am quite obsessed with bread baking for now and I just can’t wait to log this recipe in that uses ‘tangzhong’ mentioned to me by Jean from bentodays. This method creates a super soft loaf with a long lost flavor which brings me all the way back to my childhood days. Yum!

Soft white bread using ‘Tangzhong’

TangZhong:

50g bread flour

250g water

Cook on low heat and keep stirring continuously until it becomes sticky.

Main dough:

270g bread flour

30g sugar

4g salt

1 egg

90g tangzhong

60g milk

5g yeast

30g butter (soften)hk loaf 3

Mix all ingredients except butter. Put in butter when rest of ingredients is well mixed.

Knead the dough till it passes the window pane test. Form it into a ball and put it into a greased bowl.

Sprinkle some water on dough and cover. Let it proof for 45mins to an hour.

Pre-shape dough into three round loaves and let it sit for 15mins.

For the final shaping, roll the dough to resemble soft rolls and put them side by side in a loaf tin.

Sprinkle some water on top and proof for 45mins to an hour.

Brush with egg wash and bake at 170C in a pre-heated oven for 30mins.

hk loaf 5

FLUFFY LOAF

fluffy_new2

I love making ciabatta bread the most because it is easier than baguettes and the ingredients are as simple. And I can still get crispy crust with good crumb. But once in a while, I would miss the texture of a fluffy white loaf and tasty French toast that can be made from it. 

fluffy 2

This recipe is almost the same as ciabatta (click here for recipe) except with the replacement of water with warm milk and the addition of 1 teaspoon of sugar and an egg for the main dough. The overnight starter stays the same.

For the final proofing, shape dough into a loaf and let it rise in a baking tin for a good 2 hours before baking in a 425F pre-heated oven for 35 minutes. 

CIABATTA BREAD

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photo(95)_dough

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I survived three weeks of hectic schedule at work and finally had a chance to return to my kitchen and play with a 70% hydration ciabatta dough. It turns out alright with the crumb I wanted. This time I used a poolish (overnight starter) to give the unique flavor a bread should have.

This recipe makes one loaf.

Poolish:

150g warm water

150g bread flour or all purpose flour with 10%-12% protein

1/8 teaspoon dried yeast

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover well with plastic sheet and leave it for 12 hours. I always prepare it the night before.

Dough:

150g warm water

280g flour

1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

green olives (optional)

Mix all ingredients (including poolish) and work the dough for 10-15 minutes. It is a sticky dough but avoid adding more flour while working on it. 

Let it rest in a covered bowl for 45 mins.

Stretch and fold the dough from 4 sides and let it rest in a covered bowl for 45 mins.

Sprinkle enough flour on a baking tray and shape the dough into a ciabatta. Cover with plastic bag and let it rest for a good 2 hours.

Add sliced olives on top. (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F and bake for 30 minutes.

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This bread can stay soft on the inside for 3 days before it starts to become stale.

FRENCH BATARD

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This is a happy moment!

From basic white bread to artisan bread that bakes in a pot, I’ve been trying to search for the recipe to make the kind of crusty bread that I like to be my daily staple. It was until I chance upon a 6 part video posted by King Arthur’s flour baking factory (click here for the first video) demonstrating French Baguette and Batard using the traditional way. It seems time consuming but the result is amazing and just the way I like it.

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The overall preparation time takes 5 hours but I realized it is not a trouble at all as I normally spend Sundays tidying up my home and explore new recipes so I can still carry on with my activities while the dough is rising.

The little drama came during my second attempt when my dough was in the final rising stage. During pre-heating, my oven decides to retire after a 10 good years of partnership.

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In that split moment, I was lost. Don’t know what to do with the dough. Throwing it away is my last option. Purchasing a new oven won’t make it in time. Then Mr Raju appears in my mind. He is the helpful neighbor who brings us nice food during Deepavali. When I approach him for help, he stopped whatever he is doing and lends me his oven without a slight hesitation.  

The over rising time and the transferring flattened the dough. My hard earned French Batard came out a little flat but it was good just the way I like it.

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This recipe makes one small loaf.

1/4 tsp dry instant yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

All-purpose flour (enough to mix until it sticks together and away from the bowl)

 

My Sunday routine

8:00 am- Mixing and Kneading

In a bowl, mix two cups of flour with salt and sugar. Mix yeast into water. Pour yeast with water into flour and start mixing. Add in more flour and mix until the dough sticks together into a ball and away from the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on table and knead dough for 10 minutes. Sprinkle more flour when dough gets sticky during the kneading process. Place it back to the bowl and cover with moist towel to rise for 2 hours.

8:20am – Morning run

10:00 am – Folding

Sprinkle some flour on table. Spread dough on table and stretch out on 4 sides. Fold all sides inwards like wrapping a present and place dough seam side down back into bowl. Cover with moist towel to rise for 1 hour.

10:05 am – Breakfast and grocery shopping at the local market

11:00 am – Pre-shaping

Sprinkle some flour on table. Place dough seam side up and pat on it to release extra gas. Fold the sides to the centre and shape it into a ball. Place dough seam side down back to bowl. Cover with moist towel to rise for 1 hour.

11:05 am – Tidy up home

12:00 noon – Final shaping

Sprinkle some flour on table. Place dough seam side up and pat on it to release extra gas. Shape it into a Batard and place dough seam side down on baking dish. Cover with moist towel to rise for 1 hour.

12:05 pm – Rest and relax

1:00 pm – Baking

Pre-heat your oven to 425F. After slitting the dough, spray with water and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

I am now baking with my new oven that produces great results.

french batard 1b

french batard 2

 

ARTISAN BREAD

After a success in baking my first basic bread following the recipes from two beautiful bloggers Anto and Kenley , I got adventurous and tried the now popular artisan bread or bread in a pot.

Artisan bread is really easy to make but unfortunately, it just wasn’t the kind of bread texture that I like. My first try botched with the dough being too wet. After adjusting the amount of ingredient, my second attempt turns out well.

The crispy crust was what I wanted but not the internal. Unless I am doing it wrong, the inside of artisan bread is gummy even when it is well done. I did some research and found out that it is due to the long rising time which produces loads of gluten that contributes to its texture.

If you happen to bake it better, please share your experience with me. I would love to know more.

I have always been intimidated by baking but now that I’ve started, I am in for it to try more recipes.

¼ tsp yeast

1 ¼ cups of warm water

1 ½ tsp salt

3 cups of flour

In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt and flour. Mix all ingredients well, cover with moist towel and leave it to rise for 8 to 12 hours. Sprinkle flour on worktop and fold the dough a few times without over working it. Sprinkle cornmeal, flour or oats into bowl, put the dough in and cover with moist towel to rise for another one hour. Preheat oven with a pot to 475F/245C. Transfer dough into pot, cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove bread from pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.