Friday, April 25, 2014

ham and gruyere cheese muffins

Today I am going for super simple. Is it possible? For sure!

I baked a lot this week. And that's saying a lot since I normally bake quite a lot anyway!

But I had a few birthday cakes to bake this week, so all my other bakes were kept very simple.

This is a quick and easy ham and Gruyere cheese muffin. And as with all muffin recipes, it is a matter of mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ones, and adding whatever filling you like.

So, in a bowl, I combined the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dried thyme.

In another bowl, I mixed the wet ingredients: milk, egg and melted butter.

I also chopped the ham and grated the cheese.

The wet ingredients were added to the dry ones.

And mixed.

Then I added the ham and the cheese.

And mixed again.

Finally I spooned this mixture into the cavities of a greased muffin tray.

And baked them.

Aren't they cute?

These muffins taste a little like the American biscuits, which of course, aren't biscuits at all.

But no matter. Because they are still delicious!

Ham and Gruyere Cheese Muffins (Makes 18)
Adapted from Clockwork Lemon

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 cups of ham cut into 2cm cubes

Preheat the oven to 180C and line muffin tins with papers
1. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and thyme in a medium bowl.
2. In a separate bowl combine the milk, egg, and melted butter.
3. Stir milk mixture into the flour mixture until barely combined. Fold in the ham and cheese. Divide the batter among muffin cups.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. 
5. Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy warm! If you plan on freezing some, allow to cool completely and then freeze in a ziplock freezer bag as soon as possible. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

40 minute ham and cheese pinwheel bread rolls

Recently I posted a recipe for a 40 minute bread roll. The recipe was a huge hit because apart from being super, super easy, it produces really soft bread rolls that stay soft for up to 4 days (a friend kept a roll for that number of days as a test) and well, being able to make bread from start to finish in 40 minutes is something that is quite amazing, really.

I then received many emails asking for step-by-step instructions, accompanied by photos, on how to make different types of rolls using this recipe.

So today, I am sharing a post on how I made pinwheel rolls.

To start, I added warm water, oil, yeast and sugar into a mixing bowl. This was left to stand for 15 minutes for the yeast to do its work.

At the end of 15 minutes, you should see quite a bit of foam. Under the foam, there was still liquid.

Into this, I added flour, egg and salt.

Then using a dough hook, I mixed this for 2-3 minutes, until the dough came together.

I rubbed some oil on my hands so I could transfer the dough onto my already lightly oiled work surface.

Then I used my hands to knead the dough.

Step 1: I pushed the dough outwards away from me.
Step 2: I folded about 1/3 of the dough towards me.
Step 3: I folded again.
Step 4: I turned the dough 90° anti-clockwise.

I repeated this 2 more times.

I formed the dough into a ball. I cut the ball (roughly) into 2 equal parts with a lightly oiled pastry scraper.

I took one of the balls of dough, and rolled it out with a lightly oiled rolling pin until it was about 1 cm thick.

I laid out the ham and sprinkled the shredded cheese evenly on the ham.

Then I rolled the dough as tightly as I could, and pinched the seams to seal.

I trimmed the ends and cut the roll into slices of about 2.5 cm thick. You can cut them into thicker slices if you wish.

The rolls were placed in an oiled baking tray, covered with a piece of damp tea towel, and left to rest for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, the rolls would have expanded a little.

I gently brushed the rolls with an egg wash (egg + milk).

And baked the rolls for 12 minutes.

I brushed the rolls with a little melted butter. This step is purely optional.

I transferred the bread rolls onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This is such a fantastic recipe.

I actually make all sorts of bread rolls about 4-5 times a week now.

Try it.

You'll most likely fall in love with this recipe as I had done!

40 Minute Ham and Cheese Pinwheel Bread Rolls (Makes 16)
Adapted from YourHomeBasedMom

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup oil - I used canola oil
2 tablespoons (about 16g) active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
3 cup (about 476 g)bread flour - I used 2 cup bread flour + 1 1/2 cup plain flour
9 slices ham
1 cup shredded cheese - I used UK Leister
1 egg + 3 tablespoons milk, beaten
50g butter, melted (optional)

1. Heat oven to 220C.
2. In your mixer bowl combine the water, oil, yeast and sugar and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Using your dough hook, mix in the salt, egg and flour.
3. Knead with hook until well incorporated and dough is soft and smooth. (Just a few minutes.) The dough will be a little sticky. I oiled my hands, kneaded it one to two times, and it became really easy to shape. If your dough is too wet, add a little more flour and knead a few times.
4. Form dough into 2 balls. Roll one ball out into a rectangle, about 1cm thick. Lay ham on dough, the sprinkle cheese evenly over the ham. Roll the dough tightly into a log.
5. Cut into slices (about 2.5cm thick) and place in a greased 9 x 13 pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Glaze with egg wash. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

To keep rolls soft, wrap with cling film and keep in an air-tight container (I keep the rolls in cling film in my oven.)
If you keep the rolls in the fridge, warm in the microwave oven for about 20 - 30 seconds to soften.

1. Dough is too wet or sticky? Add a little oil and hand knead a couple of times. The dough should become easy to work with. Still too wet? Add a little more flour.
2. You can use any oil. Maybe not peanut oil. Unless you want a peanut-y bread. Olive oil, Canola oil, Sunflower oil, Grape seed oil... all can be used.
3. Personally, I have not had any problems with the bread being too yeasty. If you find it so, change the yeast and try different ones till you find one that you like.
4. Conversion of flour from cups to grams: This is a conversion I got online. You may still need to adjust.
5. Oven temperature: Every oven is different. You need to understand your oven, so if you have one that tends to be hot, lower the baking temperature, and vice versa.
6. I do not recommend that you reduce the yeast quantities because this is a quick bread. You need the yeast to make it work. Similarly, you need the sugar to feed the yeast so it works.
7. You can put any filling you like in this bread. It is very versatile.
8. You can also glaze with milk (full-fat, low-fat, skim, etc), sprinkle any toppings you like.
9. I don't recommend that you rest the dough for more than 10 minutes. From feedback I received, the bread may be less soft.
10. You can use 1/2 bread flour, and 1/2 wholemeal flour, or 100% plain flour. The results are the same. You can't use top flour. There isn't enough protein to form gluten. 
13. The yeast MUST foam. NO FOAM = DEAD YEAST. Throw it out.
12. Every environment differs. You may live somewhere humid, or dry, or hot, or cold. If in doubt, check what other bakers recommend that you do for the weather conditions you live in, and experiment! You may need to tweak timings/ baking temperature, etc. Don't give up!

Monday, April 21, 2014

tuna, egg and cheese mini-pies - an impossibly easy mini-pie recipe

Canned tuna is a really versatile ingredient to have in the kitchen.

Apart from the numerous combinations of sandwiches one can make with canned tuna, there are also many salads one can add tuna to, the most famous (I guess) being Salad Niçoise.

Indeed, for many years, I would not eat canned tuna. The LAM found it very difficult to understand this, as "Cat Food Bun" (ie, tuna sandwich) is one of his favourite things to eat.

He was, however, able to convince me to take a bite of his Salad Niçoise one evening while we were out at a nearby Italian restaurant and I guess that was the turning point for my relationship with canned tuna. While it would never make it to the Top 10 things I love to eat, at least I stopped hating canned tuna with a passion.

Which brings me to my offering for today - an impossibly easy mini-pie with tuna.

As with most of my recipes, this one is really easy.

I started by preparing the tuna. In a Dutch oven, I sauteed diced onion for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onions became soft and translucent. Into this, I also added thinly sliced chili. If you do not like spicy food, omit the chili.

Then I added the tuna which I had drained. Here, I used a combination of tuna in olive oil and tuna in chili oil but you can use any combination that you like.

Finally, I seasoned with a little salt and pepper.

And transferred the mixture into a bowl to cool.

While all that happened, I also boiled some eggs. The shells of the eggs were removed and I gave the eggs a rough chop.

Finally, I was ready to assemble the pies.

Into each greased cavity of a 12-hole muffin pan, I placed a scant tablespoon of Bisquick mixture. For those who do not have store-bought Biquick mix, I have also provided a recipe for a home-made version at the end of this post.

Then I added 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of tuna mixture and about 1 tablespoon of chopped eggs.

Finally, I topped (generously) with cheese. I used shredded Cheddar, but any cheese you like would work.

I added another tablespoon of Bisquick mixture onto each pie, sprinkled some coarsely ground black pepper, and baked the pies for 30 minutes, or until the tops had turned golden brown.

These mini-pies make really great breakfasts or even as a quick snack. I have friends who make them to pack into their kids' lunch boxes.

Easy, quick, delicious and versatile. What more can one ask from a pie? :)

Tuna, Egg and Cheese Mini-Pies - An Impossibly Easy Mini-Pie Recipe (Makes 12)

2 cans tuna, drained
2 large chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1/2 onion, diced
3 eggs, boiled and chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste
Black pepper to sprinkle

1. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet.
2. Add chili and cook a further 30 seconds.
3. Add tuna, salt and pepper. Stir to mix. Transfer into a bowl to cool.
4. Spray a 12-hole muffin pan with vegetable oil. Add a scant tablespoonful of batter, followed by 2 tablespoons of filling and 1-2 tablespoons of Cheddar. Top with another tablespoon of batter.
5. Sprinkle with black pepper.
6. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes, or until the tops of the pies have turned golden brown.
7. Cool completely before removing from muffin pan and storing in fridge (2-3 days) or freezer (up to 3 months).
Note: Thaw in fridge over-night if storing in freezer before re-heating.

For the Batter using Ready-Made Bisquick Mix:
1/2 cup Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk - this can be whole milk or low-fat milk
2 eggs

Whisk Bisquick mix, milk and eggs in a bowl until combined.

For the Homemade Bisquick Mix:
3 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 tablespoons baking powder, sifted
56.7g cold butter or shortening

Place flour, baking powder and butter in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter (or food processor) to cut in the cold butter until evenly incorporated. Keep in refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Friday, April 18, 2014

snow fungus, red date, longan and gingko (dessert) soup

Go to an Asian market (we just call them markets here) and chances are, you would find some very strange looking things.

When I was a kid, I would go to the wet market with my mom every week. Back then, markets were a lot more exciting. I remember seeing pigs' heads being put up for sale. And pigs' brains too. They were pretty creepy.

Perhaps the most interesting sections of the market have got to be the dry goods stalls. There, you can find really alien-like items and while I would never buy something like dried seahorses (what would I do with them??) there are some other ingredients that one can buy and turn into really yummy dishes.

Today I am going to cook with one of these.

For the Chinese, this would be a pretty familiar sight as most of us would have grown up eating various Chinese Tang Shui (糖水), literally translated as "sugar water". Don't be put off by this, as the taste of a Tang Shui is really more than a concoction of sugar + water.

Today I am sharing a recipe for this very common, and very popular dessert.

To make this dessert, you would need some snow fungus (雪儿). They are usually sold dehydrated, so you would need to soak the fungus in hot water to re-hydrate them.

And the snow fungus looks, well, like a coral. Or something you use to wash yourself with.

But do not be fooled by its unglamourous appearance. It has a great texture.

I turned the snow fungus upside down and removed the hard bit in the middle. This part is not palatable. Then I cut the snow fungus into smaller, bite-size pieces.

I also bought some dried longan (龙眼干).

Into a pot, I added the snow fungus, dried longan, red dates (红枣), pandan leaves and rock sugar (冰糖). Most people add rock sugar at the end, but I simply added them together with the ingredients and make adjustments at the end. Either works.

I also added water, covered the pot with a lid and brought this to a boil. Then I lowered the heat and continued cooking for about 20 minutes.

Finally, I added gingko nuts (白果)and cooked for another 10 minutes.

Once cooked, I turned off the heat and allowed the soup to cool. Because we like our desserts cold, I removed the pandan leaves and placed the pot in the fridge for the dessert to chill.

This is a refreshing dessert with loads of contrasting and very interesting textures.

It is also super easy to prepare!

Snow Fungus, Red Date, Longan and Gingko (Dessert) Soup (Serves 6-8)
Adapted from Noobcook

40 grams snow fungus (also known as white jelly fungus, silver ear, white wood ear, 雪儿)
2 litres water
5 pandan leaves tied to a knot
50g dried longan (龙眼干)
20 pitted red dates (红枣)
100g (about 30) ginkgo (gingko) nuts (白果) use either canned (drained) or the vacuum-packed type
120g rock sugar (冰糖) to taste

1. Soak snow fungus in a bowl of hot water until it is puffed up and turn a whiter shade, then carefully drain soaking water. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim and discard the dark yellow hard part on the centre underside of the fungus. Cut the rest of the fungus to smaller pieces and set aside.
2. In a soup pot, add water, fungus, pandan leaves, longan and red dates. Bring to a boil and then simmer (with lid partially closed) for 20 minutes. Add gingko nuts and continue simmering for 10 minutes.
3. Add rock sugar to taste and stir through until the sugar is fully dissolved. Discard pandan leaves. Serve warm or chilled.