A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Woohoo! It's about time! I'm back online again with my
spanking new hand-me down laptop (Pierre's new toy finally arrived). I was slowly withering away in withdrawal syndrome of not being able to write new entry on my blog and keeping in touch with my readers and friends for a month. However something good did come out of this, like Little One getting 110% of mommy's attention and the house too (yes, the dreaded housework got done faster). Being without a computer for a month taught me quite a few things but I'm not going to bore you with this right now (later, I promise). Ah... lots of news and recipes to share with all of you.
Before we dive into my new recipe, I want to draw your attention to some NEW features on the Blog (courtesy of Pierre's programming talents):
And the following recipes to look forward to:
Now just before my infamous laptop failed me, I joined a food blogger book club This Book Makes Me Cook - besides reading the nominated book of the month (of course), we also make a book inspired dish as the club is aptly named. I'm very late at this but hey, better late than never! Anyway, April book review was Can you keep a secret by Sophie Kinsella - a light hearted and humorous chick book with kind of predictable scenarios (sometimes a bit over-the-top) but a good read all the same. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even laughed out loud many times at some hilarious situations. The story begins with the heroine, Emma Corrigan, who is aviophobia (fear of flying) babbling out all her secrets to a total stranger seated next to her on flight during a very bad air turbulence, thinking the plane was going to crash. Unfortunately for her, that stranger unexpectedly become a permanent fixture in her life.
There was a company family picnic day scene in this book that inspired me to make this no-knead brioche. I figured that if it works on bread, no reason why I can't make a brioche the same way? Et voilà! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. From now on, I don't have to knead my brioche anymore - makes my life a lot simpler (pssst... because I suck at kneading big time). Just stir everything in, let it rise, punch it down and let it rise over-night covered in the fridge or a very cool place. Bake it the next morning and you have a lovely delicious breakfast.
It really tastes as good as the kneaded brioche. Pierre suggested using M&M's instead of the traditional pralines: OK, so it looks like a clown that has been thrown into a carwash, but it actually taste great and the peanuts still give the same crunchy sensation as the pralines
If you are living in cool climate country like me, I let my dough rise overnight outside on my window sill in spring or autumn but the coolest part of the house during winter.
I'm sending this No Knead Brioche recipe to YeastSpotting!.
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Before Little One entered our lives, Pierre & I dined, quite often, at Le Baalbeck, a small family restaurant specialised in Lebanese cuisine, down the street from our apartment in Nantes. Each time, without fail, we ordered our favourite apetizer, Humus and Moutabal even though we knew that we would struggle to finish our main course afterwards, like always. LOL!
So when Michele of Veggie Num Nums, Daring Cooks' February host, challenged all of us to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Dugid, needless to say, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to make Hummus & Pita bread but never got around to make it. Especially the Pita, as my skills at making bread is somewhat a hit & miss... most of the time, it's a miss.
For those who aren't familiar with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, Pita (means bread in Aramaic) is a round pocket bread which is used to scoop sauce or dips such as hummus or to wrap kebabes, gyros or falafel like a sandwich. It is baked at very high temperature causing the flattened dough to puff up like a puffer fish, thus creating a "pocket". And when the bread cools and flattens, this pocket in the middle remains, creating a space used in various dishes.
Hummus is a Levantine Arab dip made of chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant. Hummus is high in iron and vitamin C with a significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6.
Serves: 6 - 8 people
How to make Hummus
How to make Pita
The Hummus was perfect - creamy and tasty as it should be. However I added more tahini in my hummus than indicated in the above recipe to balance the taste.
The Pita was perfect too - tasty and beautifully puffed up like it should. The only thing that disappoints me is that it didn't get a bit brown like those in the restaurant. Perhaps baking it at higher temperature like 330°C under the grill for a minute or so might do the trick. I'll try this out next time.
For Hummus, it only takes about 15 minutes to make this if you are using canned chickpeas. Keep the leftover hummus covered in the refrigerator. Mine still tasted great on the 3rd day kept in the refrigerator. The bottle of tahini I bought from a local store is just grounded sesame seeds with water and not oil.
Pierre & I are so proud of Little One: she got accepted for Taekwondo class. I know it's nothing special but she is only 3½ years old and the minimum age for this class is 5 years old with a few 4 years old accepted on a case to case basis. Last week, my friend, Sharon checked with the teacher if Little One could join his class together with her son. He was a bit hesitant about her ability to follow instructions, discipline etc. but he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt after Sharon sang praises about Little One. Needless to say, she was all excited and looking forward to this day, talking non-stop about it and practicing her karate chop-chop since last week. So at the tryout on Wednesday, wooed and impressed the teacher she did. When I went to pick her up after her class, he kept praising her and giving me his thumbs up, telling me that she is good as those 5-6 years old in his class. Woohoo! Way to go, Little One! Bullies, watch out! This one will kick your ass if you dare to mess with her. LOL!
To celebrate this occassion, I decided to experiment with the left over dough from my Chinese Steamed Buns. I was curious to see how the buns would turned out if I incorporated some beetroot juice into the dough. The dough was a beautiful pinkish red but after steaming, it lost all the red tone, leaving a dull blotchy looking bun. But with a few strokes of brush of beetroot juice over the hot steaming buns, we got ourselves that beautiful red bun again.
This time around, I tried it out with cheese fillings using Laughing Cow (La Vache Qui Rit). I would recommend to try these cheese: cream cheese, blue cheese (if you like blue cheese), Saint Nectaire, Mont d'Or or any cheese that could melt easily.
It is so surprisingly delicious. The Laughing Cow cheese which is normally very mildly flavoured tasted as strong as some of those strong cheese. Even my father-in-law was surprised. Be careful when eating it because the melted cheese is still hot and it simply oozes out of the bun when you take a bite of it. I'm not a very cheesy person but I love the taste of this creamy cheese filled buns so much that I'm going to make more of it for breakfast. It's so yummy.
I also would like to thank lovely Renee of Flamingo Musings and Asha of Fork-Spoon-Knife for these 2 lovely awards: Happy 101 & Honest Scrap. For being the proud owner of these awards, I have to share some honest things about myself. So here they go in no particular order:
I'm forwarding these awards to some of my favourite bloggers whom I got to know when I first started blogging:
Chinese Steamed Buns are called baozi or popularly known as bao, bau, pow, pau. They are plain or filled buns (bread-like/brioche made of flour) that comes in various forms, with a variety of fillings (meat or vegetarian). In its bun like form, it is quite similar to the traditional Chinese mantou. In the Chinese culture, we eat this for breakfast or as snacks in between meals or during a meal.
One of my childhood favourite bao is Birthday Buns made in the shape of a peach with a lotus-seed paste fillings. Why in the form of peach? Peach is a symbol of long life in the Chinese culture. When I was a little girl growing up back in my village, we used to live in a typical big Chinese household of 3 generations under 1 roof - grandparents, uncles & aunties, cousins. That was back in the 70s before all of us were relocated to our new spanking multi-storey like pigeon holes home HDB flat (Housing Development Board) in the city. But before that happened, my grandparents used to host grand birthday celebrations with about 10 tables or more at home on their birthdays each year. My cousins & I used to sneak into the kitchen during the celebration to help ourselves with another one of those delicious and beautiful looking birthday buns. Sometimes the cooks caught us and kick us out of the kitchen but sometimes, he would kindly give one to each of us before sending us back to our parents.
When Jamie of Life's a feast who is hosting this months Bread Baking Day throws a « Baking Bread for a Birthday Party! » theme, I thought this is a wonderful occasion for me to try my hands at making Chinese Birthday Buns to honour her birthday in January.
Eager to bring some peach bao to Jamie's birthday bash, I plunged into this task with zealous energy and concentration. Little did I know forming bao in a shape of a peach would be this hard. I tried several times to shape it the best I could but failed miserably; it always turned out like a round bun after steaming. Then I thought every party needs some party animals, so I decided to make some party animals for her instead.
Some recipes calls for bao flour or Hongkong flour (gives your bao a whiter colour than normal flour but Hongkong flour is very expensive if you live overseas), while others uses a traditional method which takes 3 days but gives a fluffy outcome. I opted for a simpler recipe that is very suitable for making home-made bao using plain flour (easily available) and the result is pretty good. And since I live in France now, I decided to give these bun a little twist in East meets West version. And please don't spit out your coffee or fall off your chair upon seeing my artistic work!
My little animal friends are so cute, aren't they. Guess what are they?
Mmm...these are so good. The caramel just simply oozes out and so did the nutella version. They are even better than the traditional version with red bean paste or lotus seed paste. But be careful when eating it, the caramel and nutella filling can be pretty hot!
And no, it's not a hamster or a mouse. I know it looks really like one but it supposed to be a rabbit. LOL! I personally think I've done quite a good job - not bad for a first try at creating an animal form bun. It could have turned out looking worse. LOL!
If you couldn't make the buns immediately after making the dough, you can let it rise in the bowl with a damp cloth drape over the bowl. And if you have any leftover dough, leave it in the bowl with a plastic film or in covered box in the fridge.
These buns can be kept covered in the fridge, or frozen. You just need to steam it again when you want to eat it.
Reasons for my absent in blogging these days is I had a fever lasting for weeks. No, nothing extremely serious that needs medication but it is kinda serious enough to get me all excited and crazy: I have been caught by No Knead Bread fever. I better warn you first ... it is very addictive. I made them just for the pleasure of seeing my dough ferment correctly and rise and each time my bread turned out successfully, I wanted to do it again. My mother-in-law is thrilled about my latest baking adventure whereas hubby is a bit weary of my latest addiction. He asked one day 'how many dough are you making this time around?' after seeing bowls of dough fermenting everywhere in the house.
No Knead Bread is nothing new to bloggers around the world. It has been circulating for a few years now but now and then, there is a renewed interest in this method for beginners at bread making. This recipe, created by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, was first published in The New York Times in November 2006.
Mind you, my first few attempts at making this bread was a total disaster. The 1st didn't rise that much - I convinced myself that it did doubled in size (who was I bluffing ?) and baked it at 180°C for 45 minutes as said as an alternative way of baking it if one doesn't have a dutch oven. The bread was decent looking but very compact, didn't rise completely and crumbly, didn't taste anything like a whole wheat bread at all. I didn't understand why my whole wheat bread was so crumbly. My other half seemed to be satisfied with it while I was so totally disappointed. Never mind, I was not going to be defeated so easily: I got another brand of yeast from the cupboard, made my 2nd dough. To my utter disappointment, it didn't even rise as high as my 1st attempt. And baking it, turned into something hard as a rock (I think one could kill someone with it). The inside totally didn't rise and it looked totally inedible - my better half was courageous enough to try it and said it tasted like compact flour.
I was determined to find out why and where I failed... spent a few hours reading up on the Internet for possible causes. Ah, maybe my yeast was old - that could be the reason or my kitchen isn't warm enough or I didn't bake it right. A quick check on the date of my two packets of yeast revealed they were both expired by respectively 1 and 3 years: no wonder my dough didn't rise as it should! Got my cheri to get a new pack for me and I went off making a new batch of dough. The next morning I excitedly went to check on my dough, again my dough had not risen that much. As we were going to my in-law's place for the week-end, I decided to take the dough with me and left it to rise in the furnace room since that's the warmest place in the house. Off it went sitting there for a night. Wow! What a difference it made - it really doubled in size. I was elated. Yes! yes! I was going to have my beautiful bread! Kept telling myself not to be too excited in case it was another failure. So I let the dough to proof in the boiler room for 2 hours. Once the time is up, I pop it in the oven. This time around, I used the dutch oven method - using a Pyrex pot. Everyone was impatiently waiting for my bread for lunch. I took one look at my finished bread and was excited like a little kid given a candy: the bread was truly beautiful and it sang for everyone at the table. No, they couldn't wait for an hour for it to cool down so they cut it right away.
Oh... the reason why my whole wheat bread doesn't taste anything like it is because I got lost in translation. I used sarrasin (buckwheat) flour instead of blé complet (whole wheat). Two completely different flour. duh!
Watch out for my coming post on alternative methods of baking this bread if you don't have a dutch oven. I did various experiments on it.
It smells awesome, crusty on the outside, soft, moist, somewhat dense and deliciously tasty on the inside. Everyone loves it, even my guests (who asked me for the recipe). My mom-in-law who is very critical about her bread, gave this bread a big thumbs up. My father-in-law loves the walnut bread version. It is so delicious with just butter or with raspberry or strawberry jam.
The bread stays fresh even after the 3rd day. To keep it fresh, cover the cut portion with aluminum foil. Do not cover the whole bread as it will cause the crusty surface of the bread to go soft.
Give your bread new varieties by adding walnuts, dried tomatoes, olives, sesame seeds, pine nuts or a mixture of nuts, oats and raisins, dried figs, small chunks of bacon, etc. Instead of white bread, mix a cup of whole wheat flour with 2 cups of plain flour, or add rye.
It is said that the longer you let the dough rest like for 18 - 24 hours, the tastier is the bread. You can stir the dough down and let it rise again if you aren't baking it then. I did also let it proof in the fridge because I realised I didn't have time to bake it then. When I was ready to bake it, I took it out and let it proof at room temperature before baking it.
Problems with Dough
If your dough didn't rise, it could be either that your yeast is too old or the room temperature is not warm enough.
Kitchen too cool during winter?
My kitchen is a bit cool, so I had problem getting my dough to rise within 12 hours. If you can wait longer, then let your dough sit longer till it doubles in size.
Alternatively, I place my dough in my small bathroom next to the heater with door closed. Or, I put it in my oven or my microwave oven (both on turn-off mode, of course). This method works perfectly. Problem solved.
Messy dough on towel
The original recipe put dough on towel ... frankly, I only succeeded 1 time using this method with towel coming off clean after proofing. Perhaps the air was drier up in the mountains?? I'm not sure. For the rest of the breads I made, the dough always got stuck to the towel and I had to literally scrape it off. So alternatively I generously flour a baking sheet and let the dough proof on it. It is less messy and we can throw away the paper later. The other type of baking sheet I use is a non-stick reusable baking sheet. The dough still gets stuck on some parts but getting the dough off the mat is not that difficult.
Dear Readers, this time around, I'm going to cut the crap of my usual blah blah blah and spare you some eye workouts. I'll just go right to the point of this recipe!
What to do with your left over stale bread? We can do a delicious Cheese Fondue or use some of it to make Quenelles de Volaille (Chicken Dumplings) or use it as stuffing in Red Pepper Farcis à la Perpignanaise or we can use it to make the below delicious dessert.
And yes, I'm shamelessly self promoting my own past dishes on my own blog.
Surprisingly delicious. It reminds me of a wet version of fruitcake. I enjoyed it very much with nice cup of hot tea. Pretty nourishing however, it is in fact quite dense and will take care of whatever hunger you might have at the time
Oh, if you don't like candied orange, try apples instead.