Sunday, September 18, 2011


My family loves to eat.  Every member enjoys cooking and all of them are really good cooks.  I think our taste buds were spoiled by my mom’s superb cooking skills, so we all developed the interest in eating good food.  I had a late start because my mom said I was too slow and was always in her way in the kitchen when I was little.  I didn’t pick up the skill until when I was studying at university away from home. My cooking is like kindergarten level when compared to those of my sis' and big bro's.  Even though my other bro doesn't cook much, but his wife cooks very well too.  What a lucky man!

We had a small family barbeque at Lily’s (my sis) house today.  By small I mean usually we would have close to 20 people whenever we had one, but this time my parents, big bro and sis-in-law are enjoying sunshine and beaches in Hawaii; hence we’re down to 12 counts only this time.  Lily and Berta (my other sis-in-law) already decided on most of the items on the menu, while worrying that we might have too much meat, I brought some zucchinis and a Challah for the barbeque.

I know, as Cherry asked, why did I make Easter bread Challah in September?  My answer was, why not?  It’s a good looking tasty bread which fits for any time of year I’ll say.  It was huge, close to 17” long and weighed over 1.4kg.  We couldn’t finish it but everyone saved a few slices for themselves.  It’s a very easy recipe from William Sonoma.  Success guaranteed.

I also found some pictures showing simple steps to do a 4-strand braid for easy reference.  The link is included in the directions.

The recipe looks quite long in the original book.  Let me see if I can simplify it:

  • 2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (40 – 46C, slightly warm to touch)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
  • 780g or 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room
  • 1 Tbs. poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

  1. In large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, 3 eggs, 4 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and butter.  Knead until all ingredients are incorporated. 
  3. Add remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Do not add too much flour more than the amount on ingredients list. The dough should stay soft and will become less sticky with kneading. Remove the dough from the bowl.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough. Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces.  Make each into a rope, each should be as long as the width of your baking sheet.
  6. Line the ropes horizontally on the lined baking sheet.  Follow the instructions from this link to do the braid.
  7. Repeat the braiding until you reach the ends of the ropes. Pinch them together at the top and at the bottom, and tuck the strands under at the ends.
  8. Cover the braided loaf with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise again in a warm, draft-free spot until the loaf doubles in size and is jiggly when you shake the sheet, 45 to 60 minutes.
  9. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.
  10. Brush the braid gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake the braid until it is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Tip: Check after 20 mins, cover with foil if you see the loaf is browning too quickly. 
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Makes 1 large braided loaf.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mooncake Festival

Saw my friend’s mooncakes last year on facebook. They look so pretty! I had this in my mind since then and bought a mould immediately. After keeping the mould in the kitchen for months, finally Mid-Autumn festival is here, I can give the recipe a try.

I tried 2 recipes. Cake dough of the first one wasn’t very good, so I chucked it. It did provide a very good lotus seed paste recipe though, that’s the one I used here – not too sweet, and relatively less oil than commercial mooncakes. Jennifer found me another recipe for the dough that is much better. It’s funny that I misread the step oven time, but they actually turned out well! The recipe was modified below accordingly. I couldn’t find glucose and was too lazy to make my own, so I mixed golden syrup and molasses together. It worked for me just fine.

I used molesses only in the one on the left, I used golden syrup in the other

Lotus seed paste Adapted from 愛在廚房

450g dried lotus seeds, peeled and centre removed
9 ½ cups water
300g sugar
300ml peanut oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp wheat starch

Heat oil in small pot to hot but not smoking yet. Turn to low heat for 5 mins.
Remove pot from heat. Set aside and leave oil to room temperature.
Bring one pot of water to boil. Put lotus seeds for 5 mins. Lotus seeds should be easy to open after.
Drain and ensure all centres are removed (otherwise your paste will be bitter)
Add 9 ½ cups of water and cleaned lotus seeds to pot. Boil until lotus seeds are soft and easy to break when gently touched. There should be enough water left just to cover the seeds. If water is drying up quickly, add ½ cup of hot water, bring back to boil. Then turn off heat and cover with lid.
Pour water and lotus seeds to food processor, puree to smooth.
Put sieve above a non-stick frying pan. Press lotus seeds puree through sieve.
Stir fry puree on medium low heat to a sticky texture, add sugar, mix until incorporated.
Stir in oil little by little. Make sure oil is well absorbed before you add more.
Once all oil is mixed in, sieve over wheat starch and stir until well mixed.
Remove from heat and leave it cool to room temperature.

Cake dough Adapted from Chi Chi’s Kitchen

95g sifted cake flour
26g peanut oil (I used canola)
1-2g dietary alkali 食用鹼水
50g Lyle’s golden syrup
10g molasses

Mix all ingredients together.
Leave it in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Separate into balls of 45g each.
Roll each ball to as thin as you can, mine was about 1/16 inch thick.

I bought frozen salty egg yolks for the filling. Originally I bought 16 salty eggs, ended up with 7 usable yolks only. Luckily I found this place that sell frozen egg yolks only. It’s more expensive than buying the whole eggs but I won’t waste as much whites and the size is guaranteed. Sprinkled each yolk with some rice wine and cook them in toaster oven at 325C for 10 mins before using them.

Assembly and cooking directions:
Guidelines for lotus seed paste: Single yolk mooncake –100g, double yolk – 90g, no yolk – 110g
Cover each yolk with paste. Roll them into balls and wrap with thin cake dough.
Brush dough and inside of mould generously with cake flour.
Put dough in mould and press until you can’t press any further.
Release dough on parchment paper lined tray.
Evenly spray water on each cake and put in preheated 400C oven for 4 mins.
Brush with beaten egg and reduce oven temperature to 350C.
Bake for 12 mins.
Leave them cool to room temperature and put in a tightly sealed box for 1-2 days.
Dough will be softened after and ready to serve.

I made 21 moon cakes with 1 ½ times recipe of lotus seed paste and 4 times recipe of cake dough. Since there is less oil in these mooncakes than store bought ones, the paste tends to break apart easily. Make sure you press them well when wrapping the yolk and the dough has to stick well to the paste. When you compare mine with the mooncakes from stores, you’ll notice that their lotus seed paste looks almost like transparent. That’s because of their high oil content. Mine looks solid cream colour with light taste. I think that’s the difference between canola oil and peanut oil too.

So far the comments have been good. I’ll definitely make them again next year. I’ll make ice skin mooncake from Jennifer’s blog and will try sugarless lotus seed paste for my dad too.

These cake doughs were made with Chi Chi's Kitchen recipe and mixed molasses and golden syrup