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Archive for June, 2008

It’s once again the time of the month to announce June’s DB challenge – DANISH BRAID!! How cool! 

I was ecstatic when June’s challenge was announced. I’ve been wanting to make bread for months but once again with procrastination as my middle name, I never got around to doing it. This month’s challenge was once again a first time for me hence the excitement and anticipation. Sadly for me, the wedding took a toll on me and I fell sick. After I recovered, I was busy and then guess what?! I fell sick AGAIN!! As I’m typing this, I’m currently voiceless as I’ve lost the ability to use my voice box temporarily! With everything that’s happened, I was tempted to write in and tell Lis and Yvonne (the co-founders of DB) that I’ll miss out on June’s challenge. Call it a fighting spirit or even pride, I decided I’ll still make it even though dateline’s today! With my fingers crossed, I’ve made it – just in the nick of time!

This month’s challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?. A very interesting choice and definitely a challenge for me. Thankfully, they provided us with some videos to watch so we could pick up some tips. Seeing I don’t have a big oven (mine’s a turbo oven so it’s really small), I had to work a way around making those braids. After watching the videos, I couldn’t help but was excited with the prospect of using some of my dough to make other Danish pastries. I remembered Ryan had bought a bread book for me so off I went in search of it for inspiration. 

I kept thinking of what sorta filling was I gonna use. We are currently in winter so fresh berries cost too much and is out of the question. I wasn’t too keen on apple (which was what they had recommended in the recipe) as I wanted something I’ve never tried before. Hhmm…I’ve got some leftover red bean paste in the fridge…that would do…what else? Pears…I’ve always wanted to do something with pears. Ooohhh…and mascarpone..I’ve got some of those in the fridge too! And raspberries in the freezer…how could I forget? In the end, this was what I did: some red bean pastries, some raspberry and mascarpone ones and mascarpone with pear slices. 

Given the size of my oven, I divided my dough into 3 portions. With one of them, I split it into 2 and filled them up individually with raspberry mascarpone and raspberry puree, and mascarpone with pear slices. Voila! 2 braids! 

With another portion, I filled it up with red bean paste and made funky red bean slit roll! It looked really cool in the book so I decided I shall attempt it. And here goes…

With the last portion, I made some cute looking Danish pastries I’ve been wanting to make for so long! Café Toulouse in Hobart has these really nice pear Danish pastries which I used to buy frequently when I was working in the city. I’ve always wanted to make my own so that’s what I did! I made 2 stars and 2 diamond ones and some cute little croissants! Once again they were filled respectively with the raspberry and pear filling. 

 

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)  

  • 1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest of lemon, finely grated
  • 3 cardamom pods, split and scrape the insides and pound till fine (I didn’t have ground cardamom)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Method:

DOUGH

  • Without a standing mixer:  Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.  Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.  Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain.  Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even.  Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.  With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.  When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes.  You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

BUTTER BLOCK

  • Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.  Set aside at room temperature.
  • After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick.  The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.  Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.  Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.  Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third.  The first turn has now been completed.  Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.  Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface.  The open ends should be to your right and left.  Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.  Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed.  Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.  Make sure you are keeping track of your turns.  Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  The Danish dough is now ready to be used.  If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it.  To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze.  Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling.  Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Red Bean Paste
Ingredients
  • Red bean
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Dried orange peel
Method:
  • Mix together all the ingredients in a large pot and allow it to simmer over medium-low heat for a few hours. Stirring occasionally.
  • When it has reduced to nearly one third, remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. 
  • With a food processor or blender, blend the red bean till fine. Sieve it to drain off excess fluid. 
  • Heat a pan with little bit of oil. Over medium heat, “fry” the red bean pulp to allow it to dry off. 
  • When it’s slightly moist and not too dry, remove from heat and allow it to cool. Put into containers and refrigerate till you are ready to use. 
Mascarpone Filling
Ingredients:
  • Mascarpone
  • Icing sugar
  • Tinned pears in syrup
  • Frozen raspberries, pureed
Method:
  • Sliced pears into thin slices. Reserve syrup for later use.
  • Puree the raspberries then run it through a sieve. Put pulp into a bowl, add a little bit of sugar and microwave for 1 minute. Remove and give it a good stir. Set aside to cool. 
  • Beat mascarpone and icing sugar to taste for 1 minute. 
  • Divide into 2 portions: with one add in a little bit if the fruit syrup from the pears and stir it well; with the other, add in a little bit of the raspberry juice retrieved when sifting raspberry puree earlier and stir it well.

DANISH BRAID 
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients  
1 recipe Danish Dough 
Filling

For the egg wash:  1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

Method:

  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  On a lightly floured  surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick.  If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again.  Place the dough on the baking sheet.
  • Divide dough into 3 portions. With one, fill it with red bean paste and roll it up.
  • With the other, make little Danish pastries filled with raspberry and pear filling respectively. 
  • With the third portion, divide it into half. 
  • Along one long side of one of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.  Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
  • Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle.  Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.  Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling.  This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.  Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.
  • Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

  • Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
  • Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 175 degrees C.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Bake until golden brown.  Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.  The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
In conclusion, the pastries were not a bad success for a first attempt. Mascarpone was probably not such a wise option – just like Krystal said: “Won’t it melt when you bake?”. True enough it did. I might leave out the glaze next time as my pastries seem to brown too much. 

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I woke up one morning and felt like I just haven’t been cooking enough asian dishes, especially Malaysian dishes. Yes…yes…I know…it’s kinda weird that a person would wake up and that’s the first thought she has! But it was indeed what was on my mind. I started asking myself was I really as un-Malaysian as most of my friends say? Or do I just not like Malaysian food? Or is it because my culinary skills are really that limited? Hhmmm…tough call…in the end, I decided it was not because I don’t like M’sian food…I do actually REALLY like M’sian food..but it was because cooking Asian food can sometimes be really time consuming and my skills are just limited…oh well…

Anyway, this here is a classic Malaysian favourite. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like kangkung belacan! Even people who absolutely hate veg love this dish! Kangkung, known as water spinach, is a leafy green vegetable frown throughout tropical and subtropical countries, most commonly in South East Asia. It’s generally stir fried but can also be used in soups and salads. Belacan or shrimp paste is an essential ingredient in many curries and asian dishes. It’s made from fermented ground shrimp that has been sun-dried and then cut into rectangular blocks. Westerners would find the smell a little repulsive but trust me it enhances the flavour of your food when used appropriately. 

My dish here was made using mum’s special belacan chilli that she brought over for me. So honestly, I’m not too sure what the recipe is. But I think my sambal belacan recipe used for my nasi lemak is pretty similar to mum’s so here goes. We can’t often find kangkung in Hobart except for in Chinese Empo if you are really lucky. I was lucky I found mine during one of my Saturday Salamanca market  rounds and they were so much cheaper and fresher than the chinese empo ones. The key to this veg is to not keep it for too long. Try to cook it within the first couple days of purchase if not it loses its freshness and the stems are no longer crunchy.

Ingredients:

  • Dried shrimps
  • Garlic
  • Kangkung
Sambal Belacan:
  • Shrimp paste
  • Dried chillies
  • Fresh chillies
  • Salt
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Lime juice
Method: 
  • Mix sambal belacan ingredients in a food processor or if you have a pestle and mortar that would be better. 
  • Soak dried shrimps in some hot water so it softens a little. Chop it up roughly.
  • Mince garlic and wash the kangkung and set aside.
  • Heat a wok on high heat and add some oil. 
  • Add garlic and sambal and stir-fry till fragrant. Toss in the kangkung and fry it well.
  • Dish up and serve hot with rice.

 

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It’s been slightly over 2 weeks since the wedding and I think it’s about time I returned. So many things have happened in the last couple of weeks – the wedding, my annual “flu” fight, Slave Auction at church and Aunty Jenny’s leukemia relapse. I’ve been busy, busy, busy!

I can finally sit back now and relive the wedding.

It was indeed a beautiful wedding – bursting full of love, joy, tenderness and laughter. I have to admit, I was really stress the week leading to the wedding. There were just too many details to finalise, too many things to buy, too many meetings to attend and too many itineraries to plan! People who’ve never worked with me previously were shocked at how domineering and demanding I can be. The bridesmaids were so afraid of screwing up that every little mistake they made, they were praying I didn’t catch it! :)

I was really lucky that as wedding planner, I had the support of a solid group of friends who helped out with the preparations. The day before the wedding was packed full with decorating the reception venue, ceremony rehearsal, last minute equipment collation, purchasing and preparing food and drinks etc etc. But it was all worth it in the end. By the time the photographers arrived and the groom and his men came to pick the bride, tired though we were, the atmosphere was charged with excitement, and anticipation. For many of us, this wedding was our first close friend wedding. Hence making it all the more exhilarating. 

I don’t think it’s a western culture, but in the Chinese culture, when the groom and his men come for the bride, it is tradition that the bridesmaids and girlfriends of the bride make it a little hard for them to achieve their aim. Needless to say, we had a few tricks up our sleeves! :) When the guys arrived, everyone started running around. Doors and windows were shut – making sure that there were no possible entrance ways into the house. The guys were put through a series of tests – the first was to perform “The Chicken Dance”. This was so that they would lower their guard and think that we were gonna go easy on them. After that, there was a grueling session of 29 questions about the bride – whereby for ever wrong answer, they had to do a pushup. What made these all the more fun was that during these “tortures”, the bride’s father was there taking videos and photographs and taunting the groom and his men! After the 29 questions, the best man and groomsmen had to do 29 pushups, sit-ups and ear pulls individually. Why 29? Well, it’s ’cause the groom will be turning 29 this year! After the intellectual and physical round, it was time to work their creativity and originality – composing and singing a song with the bride’s name in it. Lastly, it was “angpow” (which means red packet) time. In the Chinese culture, the groom and his men have to give the bride’s girlfriends an “angpow” when they come for the bride. We girls decided that we were going to make their lives difficult by asking for 29 pieces of 5 cent coins. From here on, everything became a blur. We had a traitor amongst us and she had secretly opened one of the doors. The guys rushed in and people were running all over the place, shouting, screaming, some of us trying to barricade the stairwell and everything became chaotic. We were warned of a traitor, whom the groom had planted over a year ago, but our trusting nature led to our downfall! :) 

The wedding ceremony was held at Coal Valley Vineyard. The weather the day before when we went for rehearsal was really cold and rainy. As the wedding was to be an outdoor affair, we were praying really hard that the next day would be the opposite. God was on our side and the weather was just amazing for the last day of autumn – bright sunshine and warm enough to hangout on the patio for canapes and drinks after. 

This is my third close friend wedding and I think I can conclude that regardless of how many weddings I will attend in the future, as long as it’s a close friend, I’ll still be brought to the brink of tears. As I stood up on the patio watching bridal procession as YQ was led to Terence who was waiting for her, I felt myself holding back tears of joy. The joy radiating off her face and the pride shining from his was more than anyone could ask for. They were definitely a match made in heaven! 

The rest of the afternoon/evening flew by just like that. I allowed myself an hour of at the vineyard, catching up with old friends visiting from interstate and enjoying the scrumptious food and delicate wine served. We introduced out Aussie friends to the Chinese wedding toast. This is when we all raised out glasses in the air, and led by the groom, everyone will lift their voices and together we go “Yum Seng”. It’s not just a simple syllable pronunciation but the words are dragged out until you voice runs dry! Our aussie counterparts after the initial shock, enjoyed themselves so much that they were the leading voices in the following cheers! :)

It was back to a flurry of activities after that. I only had an hour gap between the ceremony at the vineyard and the reception at Quayside Cottage. Rushing from one place to another and touching up on all the last minute stuff kept me constantly on my toes. The rest of the night flew by without me remembering much of what happened. There was food, blackouts time and again thanks to the coffee percolator, speeches, more toasts and the cake of course. As previously promised, here are some pictures of the cake and sparkling wine arrangement. Sorry my designated photographer didn’t get an up close take so you guys will have to settle for this. I modified my tiramisu recipe and it was YUMMY!! :)

Sitting back now and reliving the wedding indeed brings smiles and sighs of contentment to me. I’ve discovered a new career path of weddings/events coordinating. Let’s just hope new doors will open for me henceforth…

 

 

 

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