Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I can't think of anything better than waking up to flaky-buttery-crispy fresh-from-the-oven croissants served on my kitchen table. One or two of those, plus a cup of steaming joe, and I'm ready to tackle my day. 
But making my own croissants, it's a different story. There are so many recipes and so many methods available through cookbooks and internet postings, it's so difficult to find out which one would work for me. And I have tried a few of the recipes to justify me saying that some produced better result than the others. 
After spending the last coupe of months tweaking and adjusting the recipes, I think I can finally say that I have come up with my ultimate foolproof croissant recipe. 

Ingredients for the detrempe (dough):
  • 1 1/4 cup milk, warmed to 105-110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups pastry flour, sifted*, plus more for dusting 
* Pastry flour is preferred, but if it's difficult to obtain, all-porpose flour works OK.

Ingredients for the beurrage (butter block):
  • 1 cup/2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into smaller pieces*
  • 2 tablespoons pastry flour
* I prefer to use european butter, like Plugra (and occasionally Kerrygold), because I think it gives better and more distinctive flavor to the pastry. 

Other ingredients:
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • Make the detrempe: Sprinkle yeast and sugar onto warm milk, give a little stir with a spoon, and let it rest for about 10 minutes until the yeast becomes foamy. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt, then add yeast mixture into the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hand until well mixed. Please do not over handling the dough, just give it enough mixing until all of the ingredients are well blended. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, knead a little bit more and shape it into a ball. The dough will be sticky and spread out a little bit. Place the dough ball on a floured parchment paper, and refrigerate while you're making the beurrage. 
  • Make the beurrage: Using a mixer, mix butter and flour until smooth. Transfer butter mixture onto a plastic wrap, shaping it into a flat square. Wrap the butter and refrigerate until the butter is firmer, about 20 minutes.

  • On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin circle. Place the butter block in the center of the dough. Stretching the dough with your hand, pull the top part of the dough, and fold it to cover the butter. Repeat the process with the bottom, left and right part of the dough, until you get a square envelope. Flip the square over, so that the flaps are facing down.
  • Using a rolling pin, flatten and roll out the dough into a large rectangle, sprinkle more flour if necessary. Fold the dough into thirds, by folding left and right side to the center. Transfer dough onto a lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
  • Repeat the process of rolling the dough into rectangle, letter fold, and refrigerate for 20 minutes in between foldings. In total, do 4 letter folds before final rolling and cutting.

  • Roll out the dough into a thin large rectangle, about 16 x 12. Trim the edges using pizza cutter or knife. Cut the rectangle in half vertically, then using the pizza cutter, cut the dough into triangles with 3-inch base. Take one triangle, stretch it slightly with your hand. Roll up the triangle, starting from the base, place it on a line baking sheet with the tip tucked underneath the croissant. Repeat the process with the remaining triangle, placing them about 2 inches apart on lined baking sheet. 

  • Place the baking sheets in a warm spot in the kitchen. Let the croissants to rise (but don't let them double in size), for about 1 to 2 hours*. Brush the tops with beaten egg. 
  • Bake the croissants in a 375 degrees F oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until they turn crispy and golden brown on the outside.
* I found that if I prepare and shape the croissants in the evening, I can store my croissants in the refrigerator overnight to slow proof them. In the morning, I take them out of the fridge and oven proof them at 85 degrees for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking (I know that butter will melt at 85 degrees, but since the croissants are very cold, 85 degrees work just fine). If your oven doesn't have this feature, you can place a medium bowl of very hot/nearly boiling water in the oven along with the croissants, close the door and let them rise for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Make about 20 croissants

And of course, while we're at it, why don't we also make some Pain au Chocolate?

Cut the dough in small rectangles, place a piece of chocolate bar on one end of the rectangle, roll it up, tuck the other end underneath the croissant, place on lined baking sheet, brush with egg, let them rise, and bake at 375 degrees until done.

Now, don't you want to just grab one of these puppies? :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Swiss Chard, Potato, and Smoked Andouille Empanadas

Ingredients for the pastry:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
Ingredients for the filling:
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 smoked andouille, cubed
  • 1/2 pound rainbow (or fingerling) potatoes, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed

To make empanada dough:
  • In a bowl, blend together egg, water and vinegar until well mixed.
  • In a food processor, pulse flour and salt together. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, pulse until the flour became crumbly. Add egg mixture into the flour, continue pulsing until the all of the ingredients is well combined.
  • Take the dough out of the food processor. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour. 

To make the filling:
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté until translucent and fragrant. Add potato cubes, smoked andouille, thyme and chili powder, toss to combine. Add chicken stock into the skillet. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender (but not mushy), about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
  • Remove skillet from the stove, set aside to cool down completely.
  • Boil some water in a saucepan with a little bit of salt. Dip swiss chard, one leaf at a time, into boiling water for about 5 seconds, then dip in a cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
To make the empanadas:
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Take one chard leaf and lay it flat on a cutting board. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of the leaf. Fold left and right side of the leaf inwards, then take the top part of the leaf and roll it down to form a pouch. Repeat the process with the remaining leaves and filling. Set aside.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the empanada dough into a thin sheet (about 1/8" thick), cut out round disc shapes using 6" cookie cutter.
  • Place one chard pouch in the middle of round dough. Fold the dough over the filling, seal the edges by pinching and pressing (or you can use fork to do this). Transfer empanadas onto lined baking sheet. Brush the surface with beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they turn golden brown. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

Ingredients for the marinade:
  • 1 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots/onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon black cardamom powder (elaichi)
  • 1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • salt and cracked black pepper
Other ingredients:
  • 1 pound chicken with bones, chop into smaller pieces
  • 3 cups uncooked basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for about 1 hour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots/onions
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • Mix all ingredients for the marinade in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss together. Marinate the chicken for 1 hour.
  • Boil about 6 cups of water in a large saucepan. Add salt, bay leaf, caraway seeds and garam masala into the water. Add rice and cook until the rice is half cooked, stirring occasionally. Remove saucepan from the stove and drain the rice. Discard bay leaf.
  • Place the marinated chicken on the bottom of heavy bottomed dutch pan (preferably cast iron). Layer one half of the semi-cooked rice on top of the chicken. Sprinkle chopped mint, cilantro and fried shallots onto the rice. Cover with the rest of the rice. Drizzle ghee and saffron water onto the rice.
  • Cover the pan with the lid. Make sure that it's airtight (use kitchen towel to seal the edges, or if you're ambitious, you can use cheap canned bread dough, roll it and seal the edges of the lid with it). Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, the reduce the heat to medium low. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken and rice are done. 
  • Remove pan from the stove, let it sit for about 10 minutes before opening. To serve, mix the chicken and rice in the pan, then transfer to the plates. Serve warm.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pandan Bread (Tangzhong Method)

After living here for so many years, I had grown to appreciate the crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside European style bread. I started to like it, I even took bread making classes at Sour Flour (which by the way, is highly recommended. Cat is an amazing instructor!), am a proud owner or my own bread starter, and I'm proud to say that I have baked sourdough breads and baguettes successfully.

But somehow something was missing. It's the soft fluffy bread with cotton-like texture like I used to have back in Asia. Sure, since I live in bay area, I can easily obtain some from some Asian bakery, but I wanted to be able to make one myself. 
Believe me, I tried. I tried so many times, and every single freaking time I failed miserably. Soft bread,, maybe. Fluffy, no!
For the longest time, I thought that I was destined to just purchase my Asian bread. Maybe without bread improver/leavening agent (that the bakeries probably use anyway), such task is impossible! Maybe all of my finger are thumbs! And I was ready to throw in my white towel.

Until, I found this recipe about a week ago. Suddenly, the Asian bread God is smiling upon me!
The softest, fluffiest, most delicious bread I ever baked! 

The secret of nice soft fluffy bread is called Tangzhong (coined from Yvonne Chen's Chinese book aptly called 65 degrees), which is really water roux (bread flour and water heated up to 65 degrees C). At 65 degrees, the gluten in Tangzhong would absorb moisture and become leavened. When added to the bread dough, Tangzhong will help producing softer and fluffier bread.

Tangzhong ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup water
Mix flour and water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or spatula. The mixture will become thicker and thicker. Use the thermometer to check the temperature. When it reaches 65 degrees C, remove the saucepan from the stove. Set aside and cool down. 
(Other way to check the temperature without thermometer is to check the mixture while stirring. When 'the lines' appear on the mixture when stirred with the spoon, the Tangzhong is ready).

Pandan Bread Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg (+1 egg for egg wash)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 120 grams Tangzhong (it's about 1/2 of the batch from the recipe above)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pandan extract (omit pandan extract and you'll get white milk bread that's great for sandwich or dinner rolls)
  • Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add all wet ingredients (milk, egg, Tangzhong and pandan extract). Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and knead until your dough comes together. Add butter and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic (about 20 minutes with mixer. I used hands to knead and it took me about 30 minutes and sore hand afterwards, so I don't recommend it).
  • When the dough is ready, you should be able to take a chunk and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should form a circle.
  • Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into the bowl and cover with wet towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  • Transfer to a clean surface. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Roll out each potion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top.

  • Flatten the dough with rolling pin. Roll the dough up, repeat with the rest of the portions. 

  • Place the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double in size, about another 40 minutes.

  • Beat an egg and brush over the top of the rolls.
  • Bake at 330 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Persimmon Bread

Fall is finally here. Fall fruits, like persimmons, are starting to make their appearance at the farmers markets and grocery stores. 
James Beard's recipe for persimmon bread is exactly what I was looking for when I ended up with some beautiful Hachiya persimmons in hand.

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
  • 2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

  • Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.
  • Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
Storage: will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The persimmon bread take well to being frozen, too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Curried Pork Stuffed Peppers

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 kaffir-lime leaves
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 anaheim chiles
  • salt and pepper
  • Wash the chiles and pat dry. Using a small pairing knife, make an incision from the top to the bottom part of the pepper. Scrape off the seeds and the membrane from the inside of each pepper. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, put together garlics, ginger, kaffir-lime leaves and lemongrass into a food processor. Pulse several time until the paste forms. Transfer ground pork and spice paste into a large mixing bowl. Add rice wine, sugar, curry powder, cornstarch, salt and pepper into the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.
  • Stuff the pork mixture into each chile pepper using a teaspoon (do not overstuff the peppers). Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the peppers on the skillet, cooking them until the skin is charred, turning them halfway during cooking. Remove peppers from the heat and transfer them to a baking dish. Bake peppers in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Serve immediately with steamed rice and spicy peanut sauce (recipe below).

Spicy, Sweet and Tangy Peanut Sauce

  • 3 bird's eye chilies (or use 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 red shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (or use 1 teaspoon fish sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts without skin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste

Put the first 6 ingredients in a food processor, puree to combine. While the food processor is running, drizzle the oil, water and vinegar to thin out the sauce. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl. Serve with the stuffed peppers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

It's so easy to make my own peanut butter, I don't think I will ever buy peanut butter from the store again. 

  • 1 pound organic shelled raw peanuts (about 3 cups), skin removed
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss together peanuts, 1/4 cup honey and sea salt until well combined. Spread the peanuts on the lined baking sheet in a single layer, roast for about 10-15 minutes. Using a spatula, stir the peanuts so they can cook evenly. Continue roasting for another 10 minutes, or until the peanuts turn golden brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven, cool peanuts completely.
  • Transfer the peanuts into a food processor. Pulse and scrape the peanuts from the sides with rubber spatula. Add more honey if you prefer sweeter peanut butter. Continue pulsing until the desired consistency is achieved. 
  • Place peanut butter in an airtight container and enjoy anytime!

Garlicky Buffalo Chicken Wings

Click here to print the recipe

The recipe for this classic dish is really a combination of the wing recipe from Saveur magazine and Alton Brown's buffalo wing cooking method. We love the flavors, and love the fact that these chicken wings are steamed and baked. Not deep fried. 

  • 4 pounds chicken wings, separated into 2 pieces, wing tips removed, rinsed
  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup hot sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce)
  • 1 1/3 cups chunky blue cheese dressing
  • 4 ribs celery, halved length-wise, then cut crosswise into 3" sticks
  • Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of the water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to boil. Place the wings into steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 15 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket, pat dry. Lay the wings out on the cooling racks set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towel and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Replace the paper towel with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Turn the wings over and continue roasting for another 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown. 
  • While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with the hot sauce into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine. 
  • Remove the wings from the oven, transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm with the dressing and celeries.