A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
For our June challenge, the 4 Velveteers (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I) picked Mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable (we settled on that because all 4 of us reside in different parts of the world so seasonal fruits/vegetables differs from continent to continent). For me, mint doesn't pose a lot of problem now as I have learnt to use it in some dishes ever since I live in France. Now if I was still living in Singapore, that would be a different story for mint is not very much used (or none at all) in Chinese cooking or dessert. At the start of this month challenge, I had in mind different ideas about what to do with mint and fruits or vegetable but in the end, somehow I got swayed to making Ichigo daifuku, a Japanese dessert. Ichigo what? I hear you. Don't worry, full explanation below. Don't ask me how that came about for I still have no idea. It just popped up in my head one day and refused to go away until I made this dessert. Ok, now let me introduce this infamous Japanese dessert, mochi.
Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. Traditionally, it is made and eaten during Japanese New Year but these days it can be eaten all year-round. This dessert is very popular in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand etc. There are many different types of mochi sold, for example:
This is a surprising dessert for most westerners as the mochi is soft and chewy, a far cry from cakes found around Europe and North America. The combination of strawberry and Nutella is actually pretty nice with a minty green tea taste. I also made some with just Nutella filling. Little One loves both version. This mochi is so soft and melt in your mouth that it's quite addictive - I kept eating them while making my Ichigo daifuku.
The original recipe said to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes at 800 watts but mine was cooked by 2 minutes. It could be that my microwave oven is higher than 800 watts (I thought). So I would suggest to try it at 1 minute 30 seconds first and proceed another 30 seconds until it is cooked.
I don't know if it is true or not but it is said that the green tea for baking is more fragrant and green in colour than the drinking matcha type. I didn't have any of the baking type in my pantry and I just used the normal matcha I have on hand. And I didn't use spoon, just pinch a bit off and roll it into a ball. It's a bit sticky so make sure your coat your fingers/hands with some cornflour.
As for the filling, you can put any filling you wish - it can be ice cream, ground peanuts, jams, fruits, palm sugar, sweet shredded coconut etc. If you want just plain mochi flavour, just omit mint and matcha (green tea).
The 4 Velveteers
The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) host a monthly event that explores food/cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.
Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:
* Aparna created Apple Tomato & Grilled Paneer Salad
* Asha created Potato Frittata with Garlic Scape and Mint
* Alessio created Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce
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.
It has been quite a while since we have a weekend alone sans Little One. So when my parents-in-law offered to look after her, we took it up without any hesitation. Pierre was already planning which restaurants to check out, what to do in Paris etc while I was torn between being happy to have some couplehood time alone at last and feeling like I have abandoned my little girl behind and worried about this and that (like a typical mother ). Pierre kept reassuring me that she would be fine and I should relax and enjoy this rare 'us' time alone but I was too stressed up. Needlessly to say, I hadn't slept well on the first night as I was too worried about how Little One was adapting with her grandparents and whether she was crying for us or not etc. Upon my insistence, Pierre called home the next day to check on her and was told that she passed a wonderful day out with her grandparents and enjoyed herself thoroughly and that she didn't asked for us once (to my surprise and a bit of a disappointment - Am I being selfish to want her to miss us just a little bit?). After the phone call, I thought 'tonight I can have a good night sleep.' ha! What a joke that was... We were woken up by the lady living upstairs at 4 am. As you know, many apartment in Paris have thin walls and floors so one can literally hear the neighbour next door or upstairs.
Anyway when Little One joined us finally a few days later, she didn't seems to miss us at all... I guess my little girl is growing up and no longer my little baby. We brought her sightseeing Paris and checking out the restaurants... she loves wraps and club sandwiches just as chinese dim sum. The 3,5 hour train ride home went uneventful, thank goodness. We were pretty worried that she might get bored and start to run around etc. At the end of the train ride, she made friend with a Maltese which growled at her in the beginning and she wasn't the least afraid of him. She insisted on patting and caressing him despite his hissing. *eyes rolling upwards* Then she decided to wander off from us even though I told her to stay put ... she walked away confidently waving and saying 'au revoir mommy' ... then started bawling her eyes out when a burly mustachio man smiled at her from his seat. So much for her little adventure.
Today I would like to share with you a delicious muffin recipe that I made before I left for Paris. I call it Banana Muffin Surprise because you never know what you gonna get. Hope you like it.
These muffins are very flavourful, light, moist and super delicious. Everyone started checking out the muffins at microscopic range after I told them that each muffin contains different stuff inside it. ... of course everyone is battling over each other to get either the dark chocolates or nutella ones ... I tell you I have a bunch of chocoholics in my house.
My mother-in-law who was watching her lines couldn't help but ate 2 of them. My father-in-law and Pierre were happily chomping down the muffins and see who gets the most chocolate ones out of the batch.
I thought we wouldn't be able to finish all of them and that I would have to freeze some of them. To my great surprise, they were so good that only 3 were left at the end of tea time.
I have made these again just last week and I have beaten all the wet ingredients together at one go with a fork - with this method, muffins are more compact but still moist, flavourful and delicious.
In all my baking, I use only salted butter (and I usually skip the salt part in the recipe). And I used 1½ tsp baking powder instead as I didn't have any bicarbonate of soda in my cupboard.
The weather has been acting weird for the past few days. We had weeks of very sunny spring weather and flowers were blooming everywhere, including the fruit trees in our backyard (we don't know what kind of fruit trees we have in our garden so that will be a surprise. ) Then suddenly end of last week, it started to rain for 2 days... and turned into snow.... gasp! Within half an hour, our garden was all covered with snow. The scenery was actually very pretty. Little One (LO) saw snow for her first time, and when the snow flakes hit her face and little hands, her expression was truly priceless ... It was like 'hey...what was that?' with a serious frown on her little face. We went on the balcony and let her play with snow. Since she never had snow fight before, I decided to gather a little snow ball and threw it at her ... hahaha ... she was like 'Mommy, why did you do that?' Sister-in-law joined in the fun and soon LO got the idea, however instead of her throwing her tiny snow ball at us, she threw it off the balcony. hahaha Apparently she enjoyed watching it falling down and making a splatter on the floor. Too soon, it stopped snowing and the sun came shinning and melt all the snow.
To chase away this cold weary weather, baking is the way to go : filling up the house with cookie aroma - mmm... yummy ... this recipe is (heavily) inspired by my previous Choc-Hazelnut Scrolls.
My sister-in-law took the first bite and exclaimed 'This is really good. Can I have the recipe please. Super yummy.' I was really taken by surprise and went : 'Really?' :O ... Pierre took one and didn't say anything ... he just chomped down another one, yet another. Little One was happily devouring hers. So I sank my teeth for my first bite... it is really good. Crunchy but not overly crunchy - a bit like shortbread. The coconut aroma just swamped my senses. I have to say the nutella or any chocolate spread goes very well with coconut.
I have made these cookies many times but I never really given much thought on the chocolate nut spread I used on it till Pierre asked me that day 'Do you know how Nutella came about?' 'No. I don't think there's anything interesting about it. It's just some modern invention.' Pierre: 'You should look it up. You'll be surprised.' Now that got me curious. So, here's some history lesson for you and me.
Nutella®, in its original form, was first created during WWII by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At that time, there was a shortage of cocoa due to rationing, so Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply. The original version of Nutella spread was called pasta gianduja - pasta means obviously paste, and gianduja is the name of a carnival character famous to the region, a character that can be found in the first advertisements for the product. This original form of Nutella was actually made in loaves and wrapped in tinfoil, so it could be sliced and placed on bread for mothers to make sandwiches for their children. But many children would throw away the bread and only eat the pasta gianduja! So Mr. Ferrero altered the product into a paste that came in a jar, that could be spread on the bread as well. This then became known as supercrema gianduja because it was a spread-able version of the gianduja. Supecrema gianduja was eventually renamed "Nutella" in 1964, with the origin of the word being "nut" and the "ella" giving it a soft ending. So now you know.
(taken from Biscuits & Slices)
Preparation: 25 minutes
Baking: 15 minutes
Using food processor
As Nutella is very tasty (this reminds me of the scene in Joe Black where Brad Pitt was licking deliciously his spoon), it is a nice base for these cookies, making them rich in taste and flavour. Great tea treats.
For that extra punch: crunchy and nutty flavour in every bite - I added some chopped hazelnuts into the recipe and an extra 20 g (approx) butter. It turns out very good and exactly what I wanted. We both love this modified recipe.
Regarding the spread, don't go over zealous with it or else you would have nutella spilling all over (although it was finger-licking good) and will have a hard time slicing the dough. Don't make the same mistake as me. I gave an extra dose in mine because Pierre complained that I always spread too thin a layer. When I had to slice it, aïe yaï yaï, what a mess! In the end, I had to use dental floss string to cut the dough. That saved the day.
You can use ground macadamia nuts in place of the hazelnuts.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.