Thursday, 18 September 2014

my new multi-tasker

I have always viewed a food processor or a stand blender an unnecessary gadget in my kitchen. The simple everyday meals that I dish up would never require one. Storage and cleaning is another reason that makes me think twice before investing in another kitchen must-haves.

Just like what happened previously with the Bosch MUM5PRO HomeProfessional Kitchen Machine MUM57830, when Bosch invited me to participate in the review of their latest Bosch MaxoMixx MSM87180 hand blender set, I was hesitant to accept the invitation. In fact I almost turn down the offer as I don't think I am able to come up with any decent recipe that requires the use of a hand blender. It was only after looking through the various features how this hand blender could also be used for preparing desserts and cakes that I decided to take up the challenge. I definitely have more confidence in my baking than cooking skill ;)



When I opened up the box of the complimentary set of the MaxoMixx hand blender, I knew I had made the right decision to participate in this review and recipes exercise. The MaxoMixx is more than a hand blender, in fact it is a multi-functional tool that can perform various operations from blending to whisking, chopping, mincing, shredding and grating. The set comes with a detachable stainless steel blender foot for puree, blend and chop ingredients, a stainless steel beating whisk for whisking egg whites and cream, two different sized chopping device with stainless steel blades, an ice-crush blade and a blending jug.

two stainless steel cutting blades and ice crush blades
blending jug with calibration

With the interchangeable and detachable attachments and accessories, the device can easily be transformed from an immersion blender to an electric whisk or a handy food processor to chop herbs, onions, meat, nuts, chocolate and cheese. These features are great not only for preparing meals but they are also applicable to the preparation process of cake and desserts making.


12 speed dial at the head end for easy setting

ergonomic design handle

The blender is equipped with a 12 speed setting, 750 watt of power to allow various kinds of applications. The turbo button or pulse function for maximum performance is very useful for that extra quick blitz. The non-slip, soft touch handle and large buttons on the base unit provide comfortable and safe handling. The eject button allows ease in detaching and clicking on the attachments.




Another safety feature is that both choppers are fitted with either non-slip base or rubber suction feet to provide extra stability. The attachments and accessories, except the base unit and gear attachments, are dishwasher safe. Both the stainless steel blender foot and whisk are easy to clean and there is no worry of stubborn food stains over time or after processing vegetables such as carrots or beetroots.



The robust and high quality stainless steel blender foot allows it to be used directly in hot pots without the worry of damaging the device. It also saves the trouble of having to transfer hot soup from the pot to a stand blender and then back to the pot again. The device is easy to maneuver and there is control over how fine I wish to blend or puree the ingredients since I can stop as and when to check. I didn't take more than a minute to puree the pumpkins into a pot of velvety smooth goodness.

The length of the blender foot is long enough for most deep pans and pots. It can be placed inside the accompanying blending jug for making smoothies and puree fruits. In fact, it can also be used to mash ingredients directly in suitable cups, bowls or containers.

As the blender foot is detachable, I can store the base unit, blender foot and whisk in my kitchen drawers for easy retrieval for my daily use.


pardon my poor photography skills, the actual size of the balloon whisk is much smaller than what it appears in this picture.

Next, I tested the balloon whisk attachment. The balloon whisk is quite small compared to my hand whisk. I have doubts whether it could provide the same results as my old and trusty electric handheld mixer.



I used the whisk to prepare my all time favourite Fruit Pastry Cake which yields a rather thick batter. Surprisingly, the small balloon whisk could work through the thick batter with ease even though I only set it to speed 4.



The two choppers come in handy for chopping nuts and dried fruits, grating chocolates and for turning oreo cookies into crumbs. This really helps cut down preparation time especially whenever I am in a rush or when I am on a bake-on-a-whim mood.  The processed ingredients can be covered with the lids and stored until when ready to use, a very thoughtful design indeed.



The chopper can even be used to cut cold butter into flour for making small batch of scones, cookies and pie crusts. It takes the manual work away from having to rub butter with fingertips or a fork and the worries of the butter melting away during the process.

So far the Bosch MaxoMixx proofs to be a multi-functional and very versatile tool that helps to reduce time and effort when preparing an entire meal from appetisers to desserts. I am very satisfied with the overall performance as it is able to meet my cooking and baking demands. The only down side is that for optimum use, the ice crush blade could only crush a few ice cubes at a time. The other thing that probably only affects me is that besides the base unit, the gear attachments cannot be immersed in water or even cleaned in running water, it can only be wiped with a damp cloth. (Update: I was informed by Bosh that the reason for advising consumers against washing the gear attachments is that there is food safe grease in the gear which would help to protect the usage lifespan of the product and ensure the quality of performance. This applies to many other products in the market as well.) 

After using the MaxoMixx, I have completely changed my opinions of a blender or food processor as an essential kitchen appliance. I am looking forward to prepare sauces, chili pastes, potage, smoothies and milk shakes and all those dishes and desserts that I wouldn't think of dishing up without such a handy kitchen device.

Do look out for my blog updates in the coming months as I will be sharing recipes prepared using the MaxoMixx blender.


PS: 'The ergonomic MaxoMixx hand blender from Bosch has been awarded the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2014. Made up of 40 international experts, the largest-ever Red Dot jury for the 2014 awards, delivered the following appraisal on the Bosch MaxoMixx hand blender, "With its dynamic form and optimal ergonomics, this mixer meets the demands of a modern kitchen appliance." This prestigious win adds on to the growing list of Bosch household appliances that have been similarly honoured with the coveted title - the Bosch MUM5 Kitchen Machine was awarded in 2011.'

This is not a paid review but I was provided with a set of the Bosch MaxoMixx MSM87180 hand blender for my use when I participated in their review and recipes exercise. The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

Monday, 8 September 2014

抹茶芋头酥 matcha green tea flaky mooncakes


Just like the previous years, weeks before the mid-autumn festival, my children started reminding me to make them their favourite snowskin mooncakes. Over the weekend, besides rushing out two batches of snowskin mooncakes to satisfy their cravings, I tried making some flaky yam mooncakes.



It's the first time I tried my hands at making these teochew style yam mooncakes. I followed the step by step instructions from my favourite Chinese blogger, Carol 自在生活, although the mooncakes I made do not look great, they taste really good!



The yam filling which I made from scratch is very fragrant and flavourful...not overly sweet and I like the hint of buttery and milky flavour.



The matcha flavoured pastry crust is not distinct at all but it certainly helps to made these flaky mooncakes look more appealing to the eyes :)






I also tried some with ready made red bead paste as fillings. The red bean paste which I bought from kwong cheong thye never disappoints me. It is not too sweet and the texture is very smooth. It is worth the effort to make a special trip each year to this shop to get my mooncake ingredients.


Here's wishing you a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
花好月圆,福满金秋,中秋节快乐!



Matcha Green Tea Flaky Yam Mooncakes 抹茶芋头酥

Ingredients:
(makes 12)

yam filling:
450g yam (peeled)
70g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter
15g milk powder (omit if not available)

water dough:
200g plain flour
15g icing sugar
70g shortening
100g water

oil dough:
155g plain flour
5g matcha powder
80g shortening


Method:

yam filling:
  • Cut yam into chunks and steam for 15 to 20mins or until soft. Mash finely with a fork while hot. Add in caster sugar, unsalted butter and milk powder(if using), mix well. If desired, add extra sugar and adjust sweetness according to taste. Leave to cool. Divide into 45g portions and shape into rounds and set aside.
water dough:
  • Sieve together flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in shortening with fingertips until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add in the water and mix and knead for about 5 mins to form a soft dough. Cover with cling wrap and leave the dough to rest for 40mins.
oil dough:
  • Sieve plain flour and matcha powder into a mixing bowl. Add shortening and mix with hand to form a soft dough. Do not over knead. (Note: Cover oil dough with cling wrap and keep in fridge till ready to use.)
to assemble:
  1. Divide oil dough into 6 portions (about 40g each), shape into rounds.
  2. Divide water dough into 6 portions (about 65g each), shape into rounds. Flatten water dough and roll to form a disc (about 10cm diameter). With the smooth surface facing out, wrap one portion of the oil dough pinch and seal the seam. Shape into round ball. Repeat with the rest.
  3. For each wrapped dough, flatten and roll out into a thin, longish oval shape. From the shorter end, roll up swiss roll style. Place seam side down and cover with a damp cloth, leave to rest for 10mins. (Refer to the first video demo posted here.)
  4. When ready, repeat the Step 3. Place seam side down and cover with a damp cloth, leave to rest for 20mins. (Refer to the second video demo posted here.)
  5. When ready, cut each rolled up dough into two equal portions. Flatten each dough and roll to form a disc (about 10cm diameter). Wrap one portion of the yam filling, pinch and seal the seam and shape into a round. (Refer to the third video demo posted here.) 
  6. Place seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest.
  7. Bake in preheated oven at 170degC in the middle rack for about 25mins. Leave to cool on cooling rack. Store in air tight container in room temperature up to two days. Reheat in oven till warm before serving as the crust tends to harden upon cooling. Reheating will make the crust flaky and crisp.
Recipe source: adapted from Carol 自在生活

Saturday, 30 August 2014

easy banana cupcakes



This must be one of the easiest banana cake I have ever baked. I adapted the recipe from a banana cake which I posted way back when I first started baking and blogging.



I didn't want to make a full size cake so I halved the recipe and turned them into cupcakes. I had also taken the liberty to replace some of the ingredients with whatever I had on hand and kept my fingers crossed that the cupcakes would at least be edible!



I filled 12 small paper cases with batter almost to the brim and all of them rose beautifully upon baking and none had batter spilled over, phew! The batter was not as thick and I had expected some overflow but all went well :)



Making these little banana cakes is almost like making a batch of muffins. There is no creaming of butter or beating eggs with a mixer. Everything is done with ease, a few quick stir here and there is all that is required.



These easy banana cupcakes are really very good, I didn't expect the recipe to be so forgiving. The crumbs are tender, moist and filled with banana flavour. It is very satisfying and rewarding to be able to bake something on a whim with whatever available and especially when the bakes turn out delicious and are well received. Well, to me, there's the wonder and joy of baking...putting separate elements together to create wonderful feelings and moments to treasure.




Banana and Chocolate Chips Cupcakes

Ingredients:
(makes 12 cupcakes)
size of paper case 43mm(base diameter) x 60mm(top diameter) x 39mm(height) 

150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 large egg
100g caster sugar
45g vegetable oil
60ml fresh milk
200g mashed banana (about 2 medium size bananas, use over ripped ones)
40g mini chocolate chips

Method:
  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 180 degC. 
  • In a bowl, stir together plain flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, with a balloon whisk, whisk the egg until blended. Add in the sugar, vegetable oil and milk, whisk to combine.
  • Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with the mashed bananas, and stir with the balloon whisk * until just blended. Do not over mix. (*note: for ease in mixing, change to a spatula at the last addition of dry ingredients.)  
  • Add the mini chocolate chips, fold with spatula to just combined.
  • Spoon batter into paper muffin cases. Arrange filled muffin cases on a baking tray.
  • Bake for 25mins or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool on a wire rack. Store in airtight container at room temperatures for 2-3 days.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

steamed pork and vegetables buns 菜肉包子

It has been a while since my last post. For the past month I was too engaged planning for a short trip...and as usual, after returning from my getaway, I was kept busy with unpacking and getting back to the mundane routines.



Today I will like to share with you my experience in making chinese bao, or steamed buns. Although I have made steamed buns with red bean paste, this is the first time I have tried making steamed pork buns. I have to give myself a pat on my shoulders as it is quite a challenge to make chinese steamed buns especially this type which requires the buns to be wrapped by pleating.



I followed a straight forward recipe from this cookbook 孟老师的中式面食 mainly because after watching the demo video by the author, with the clear instructions, I felt I should be game enough to take up the challenge ;)



Since it was my maiden attempt, the buns were not well wrapped, some turned out super ugly. This particular one, in fact the last bun I wrapped out of the batch was the fairest of them all. Practice does make perfect!

The wrapping was not that difficult as the dough was quite easy to work with, not sticky nor too soft or slack. The pleats I made were not distinct enough and most of it disappeared after the buns were steamed.



The batch of buns with varied 'styles'...not done on purpose though...each one turned out 'unique' due to the lack of skills. The recipe calls for plain flour or all-purpose flour, since I used bleached plain flour, the buns weren't too yellowish.

I steamed the buns in a bamboo steamer. It was a good decision to get it even though I know I wouldn't use it too often. The bamboo steamer fits perfectly in my wok. The cover helps to absorbs water moisture so that condensed water droplets will not fall onto the buns during the steaming process. Furthermore, the steamer will give off a wonderful bamboo aroma once it gets heated up.



These chinese pork and vegetable buns do not taste like those local bak bao (pork buns). They are closer to those I had in Beijing such as the 庆丰包子 or 天津狗不理包子. To my family, these buns are really delicious. The skin is soft and has a slight chew while the fillings is juicy and flavourful. The texture of the pork fillings is not comparable to local bao available here. The local pork bun has a better bite and smoother texture whereas for these buns, the fillings reminds me of chinese dumplings, jiaozi 饺子.

Enjoying a tray of piping hot steamed pork buns over a pot of chinese pu-er tea certainly brings back fond memories of the few winters we spent in Beijing.




Steamed Pork and Vegetables Buns (菜肉包子)

Ingredients:
(makes 10)

for filling:

200g cabbage
3 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
200g minced pork
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons juice/water squeezed from cabbage*
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon white grounded pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil

for dough:
250g plain flour
3g instant dry yeast (about 3/4 teaspoon)
15g caster sugar
135g water
5g oil (about 1 teaspoon)

Method:

for the filling:
  • Wash cabbage, chop finely, squeeze out the water (with hand). Reserve 3 tablespoons of the water*. Mix in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the cabbage, set aside.
  • Place minced meat in a small mixing bowl. Add salt and add in a little water (squeezed from the cabbage). With a pair of chopsticks stir constantly in the same direction till the water is fully absorbed. Continue to add in the remaining water, a little at a time, stirring with the chopsticks in the same direction. With each addition, make sure water is fully absorbed before adding more water.
  • Add in soya sauce, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well.
  • Add in grated ginger, sugar, pepper, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well.
  • Add in remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, stir with chopsticks in the same direction, mix well. 
  • Add in finely chopped spring onions, cabbage, mix well.
  • Leave to chill in fridge for 1 hour.
for the dough:
  • Place all the dough ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix together to form a rough dough. Dust work surface with some flour, transfer dough to work surface and knead by hand till smooth (about 10 minutes). Cover dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  • Roll dough into a cylindrical/log shape, cut into 10 equal portions. Place each dough, cut side up, flatten to form small discs. With a rolling pin, roll out each disc to about 10~12cm round disc with the edges thinner and centre portion thicker (do not roll the dough too thin).
  • Wrap the dough with filling (the filling is just enough for 10 portions as the dough ratio is about 1:1). Place bun on a square piece of parchment paper (I used cupcakes paper liners). Cover loosely with cling wrap and leave buns to proof for 15 mins.
  • Place buns in a steamer and space them apart so that they do not touch one another. Steam at high heat for 12mins (make sure the water is already boiling before steaming).
  • Turn off the heat and leave the lid slightly open for 3~5 mins before removing the whole lid. Serve warm. Keep any leftovers in fridge (covered with cling wrap or store in airtight containers) and re-steam till hot before serving.
Recipe source: 孟老师的中式面食 watch video here

菜肉包子

内馅材料:
200克 高丽菜/包菜
3根 葱, 切细
200克 绞肉
1/2小匙 盐
3大匙 水/菜汁*
1大匙 酱油
1/2小匙 姜泥
1/4小匙 细砂糖
1/4小匙 白胡椒粉
2大匙 白麻油

包子皮材料:
250克 中筋面粉
3克 即溶酵母
10克 细砂糖
水 135克
5克 食油

内馅调配:
  • 高丽菜洗净, 切碎, 挤干水份 (留3大匙菜汁备用*), 加入1大匙白麻油搅匀, 备用
  • 将盐加入绞肉, 水(菜汁)以少量多次方式加入, 用筷子以同一方向将水分搅入绞肉中, 让水份完全被绞肉吸收后才继续加水。
  • 加入酱油, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 加入姜泥, 细砂糖, 白胡椒粉, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 加入1大匙白麻油, 用筷子以同一方向搅匀
  • 拌入切细的葱, 包菜, 搅拌均匀后冷藏一小时备用。
包子皮的制作:
  • 将所有材料混合至松散状的面团
  • 面团移至工作台上,用手搓揉成光滑状
  • 将面团放置在室温下松驰约5分钟

包馅/蒸制:
  • 将面团分割成10等份
  • 每个小面团擀成中间厚周围薄的面皮,直径约10~12厘米(面皮不要擀太薄)
  • 将馅料填在包子皮内 (馅料和包子皮的量是1:1)
  • 将包好的包子放在防粘蜡纸上, 放入蒸笼内, 盖上盖子, 进行最后发酵, 约15分钟。
  • 锅中放冷水, 烧热至沸腾, 放上蒸笼, 大火蒸约12分钟。
  • 时间到熄火后,先将蒸笼稍微掀开一条小缝,待3~5分钟后,再完全打开蒸笼,取出。

Sunday, 6 July 2014

life seems to go faster

Time seems to go faster as I get older. Do you feel the same? That is, only if you are as old as me...

It seems like it was only last weekend when the first school semester ended, and we hopped off to a one week retreat. The days followed just flashed past and before I could complete the first task on my wish-to-do list, the four weeks school holidays were already over!



I was stuck with my children 24/7 during the school holidays. While I enjoy their company, it was not fun having to think of what to prepare for lunch everyday. Whenever they are at home for lunch, I would make their favourites such as pizza, sandwiches, Japanese curry rice, pasta dishes, baked rice, noodles...simple meals that do not require too much preparation, fume free and with minimal cleaning. It is not an exhaustive list, and I got to the bottom of it within two weeks.



It's a blessing that my brain still functions fairly well even though I am getting older each day.

With left over ingredients from making pizza, Japanese curry rice, I came up with this baked rice with Japanese curry. To make it even more wholesome and hearty, I topped it with an egg, very much to my kids' delight as both of them love runny yolks.



This is my serving, smaller portion and without any eggs. I didn't manage to take a picture of those with eggs as my boys were too eager to tuck in. It is a nice change from the usual Japanese curry with rice dish and a new variation to my lists of baked rice dishes.

I read that routines tend to make time flies while new and unique experiences slow down time. For example, the journey seems to take longer when we first travelled to a new place, whereas the return journey (on the same route) appear to be faster, and if you were to take the same route frequently it no longer seems that long to travel to that same destination.

Trying new things, creating unique experiences and engaging in memorable events and moments are some of the ways to psychologically slow down time.  This is quite true for me as I find my days are much longer whenever I went for a holiday trip, away from the routines of endless household chores ;)

While I do not have the luxury to go for holidays frequently (I am definitely not worried that it will ever become a routine), what I could do is, from now on, I shall make it a point to venture further out of my comfort zone to create new culinary experience both for myself and for my family.


Baked Japanese Curry Rice

Ingredients:
(makes 4 servings)

200g meat (pork or beef or boneless chicken thigh), clean and cut into bite size
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into bite size chunks
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
50g (3 small cubes) Japanese curry roux* (I used Kokumaro brand, medium hot)
1 tablespoon ketchup

4 cups cooked rice
1 cup broccoli floret
4 eggs
some shredded cheddar cheese or mozzarella cheese (or combination of both)


Method:
  1. Blanch broccoli with boiling water (add a pinch of salt into the water) for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute chopped onions with the vegetable oil in a deep pan until translucent and lightly browned. Add in the minced garlic and meat, saute the meat till lightly browned. Add in potatoes and carrots and stir fry for a couple of minutes. 
  3. Add the water (use enough water to cover the ingredients) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 10~15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
  4. Add curry roux and ketchup, simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickens. Keep stirring to ensure the curry roux is fully dissolved.*Add another cube of curry roux, if necessary, to adjust the thickness of the curry to your preference. 
  5. For each serving, place 1 cup of cooked rice in an oven-proof dish. Place 1/4 portion of the Japanese curry over the rice. Put some blanched broccoli on top. With a spoon, make a slight dent in the middle and crack in 1 egg. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese. Repeat the same with the remaining servings.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degC for about 10~15 mins or until the cheese turn golden brown and the eggs are almost set.