Bakery/Pastry

Super rich coconut, orange and mango panettone

see you next year, my friend

In a few days, we are going to pack our bags and head to Paris then Marrakech for our holiday vacation.  I probably won’t see you much on this blog during that time, which is why I’m throwing you a fat-bomb now to sustain your optimal winter-time figure all the way untill a new year comes. What a new year if one can’t make a diet resolution to fail utterly at?

This is what I call, the Crazy Rich Asian Panettone, lubed up with 12 egg yolks, coconut milk, and an ungodly amount unsalted butter and unrefined coconut oil.  This indecent level of fat not only keeps the crumbs sinfully moist, but also provides a backdrop of coconuty aroma where it pairs beautifully with speckles of dried mango and persimmons tinged with orange zests.  It could serve as an awesome “self-enrichment” during the holiday seasons but also, as we all secretly desire, as an ill-intended gift for our frenemies whom we would like to see de-shaped on that first depressing day back to the office.  Either way, we win.

So see you next year, my friend.  You’ve been lovely.

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MOLTEN SPICED BROWN SUGAR DONUTS

IT COLLAPSES AND MELTES TOGETHER INTO A VISCOUS DEEP BROWN GOO WHEN IT SURRENDERS TO THE WILLFUL STEAM INSIDE AN EXPANDING, FRYING BUN

As previously confessed on my Instagram (read for context), these days, I’ve been physically and mentally occupied with being a responsible dog mom.  This recipe was developed to be brought to Sesame and SRB’s playgroup – as one is required to do when one’s children are the least well-behaved amongst their peers – to maintain an illusion of their waning popularity and postpone the likely inevitable timing when they get officially kicked out.  When the stake is this high, mom goes to town.

So I’m proposing these fluffy yet chewy donuts stuffed with dark brown sugar that is formerly massaged with honey, vanilla extract, sea salt and spices until all parties clumped into a lustful wet sand, which then fatefully collapses and melts together into a viscous deep brown goo when it surrenders to the willful steam inside an expanding, frying bun.  It’s needless to describe to you how the molasses-y sweetness that’s brought into focus by a hint of cardamon, cinnamon and sea salt, oozes slowly out of a warm pillow, and how narrow of a window they will remain in their best possible state shortly after they came warm out of the fryer.  And so as my respect for these donuts demands, I seized and honored the moment and as a result, none of them had made it to fulfill their original intended purpose.  I’m not explaining anything but just saying.

Well, empty handed but still gotta go.  I’ll see you around.

 
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SIMPLE YET SURPRISING AMSTERDAM PANCAKE

 

I KNOW IT DOESN’T LOOK MUCH.  I PROBABLY WOULD’VE BYPASSED IT IF I WASN’T STUCK IN AMSTERDAM.  BUT I’M GLAD I WAS.  AND I KNOW YOU WILL, TOO

I’ve been to Amsterdam.  For a total of 18 hours.  I don’t know what people do during an overnight layover in a city they know nothing about, and I knew nearly nothing about Amsterdam.

However, pancake, seems to be a thing.

What did I know about “Amsterdam pancake”, or as I later found out, pannenkoeken?  Not much, really, aside from that it’s starkly different from the verticality of common stacked pancakes, in fact, it’s one of the flattest stand-alone foods I’ve came across.  And in my long years of hunting for culinary clues, when something spreads so unseemly, so 2D, so unornamented to a point of bleakness, yet is still adored as “a thing”, further investigation is warranted.  And rest assured, I was not disappointed.  To clarify upfront, during the only few hours of daytime we had, we only tried Amsterdam pancake once, from an unresearched, random cafe close to our Airbnb apartment, and had only a single pancake with cheese which we shared.  All in all, what I’m trying to say is, I am no expert.  But from the moment since the waitress placed something that looked exactly like this in front of us, as unflatteringly as it came, and I tore a small corner from the edge and put it faithfully in my mouth,  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Chewy.  Chewy was the first word that came to mind.  But soft though, really soft.  A combination of textures that, from the start, was already far more interesting than any of the spiritless associations of common pancakes, say, pfff, fluffy.  Flavor-wise, it wasn’t exceedingly eggy like Dutch baby or french crepe, nesting comfortably in the natural and mild sweetness of wheat flours and milk.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about how daringly minimal it presented itself on the table, a bare blanket of confidence with nothing else but a few slices of melted Dutch gouda on top, almost making a statement, declaring its independence from BS, secure with assurance.  It felt playful to eat, interacting, but comfortable, like having a conversation with a soft-spoken but funny stranger who underdressed with ease, while the whole time I wondered if it was too weird to ask if we could be friends for life.

And that’s exactly what I did.  All eight times of trials and errors.  It felt funny going after something, with this much effort, when I wasn’t even sure if it’s a classic representation in its category.  Is this the pannenkoeken?  I have no idea.  But I don’t really care.  I just want to find my way to back to that particular one that I really liked.  It was expectedly tricky to replicate that softly chewy texture which I hold as a key to its charm, leading to a combined conclusion of both wheat flour and potato starch in the batter.

I know it doesn’t look like much.  And I probably would’ve bypassed it if I wasn’t stuck in a city full of it.  But I’m glad I was.  And I know you will, too.

 
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CHI SPACCA’S FOCACCIA DI RECCO, OR THE CLOSEST YOU’LL GET TO IT AT HOME

DOLLOPS OF FRESH COW’S MILK CHEESE COCOONING IN BETWEEN TWO PAPER-THIN FILMS OF UNYEASTED DOUGH, AND BAKED INTO A BALLOONED AND BLISTERED PIE WITH CHEESE-FILLED UNDERGROUND CHAMBERS.

What is obsession?  When is it helpful and when does it get silly?

Ever since that episode of Chef’s Table on Nancy Silverton, I’ve been dwelling, not upon, but inside this subject.

The episode, of course, celebrates a chef’s willingness to spend an inexhaustible amount of effort to close that last short climb between what is already a great dish to a conceivably perfect one.  A distance too short and steep no doubt, for most to commit.  But to Silverton, especially when it comes to breads, being obsessed is not a question of should or shouldn’t, but do you have what it takes?  I am, however, at least not today, talking about the theoretical aspect of obsessions.  Instead, I’d like to bring forth the physical one that I was sent into after watching her episode.

During that show, there was about a 30-seconds scene showcasing a flatbread-looking pie, a glowing golden-brown mirage.  Captivated by that glimpse, nothing but a glimpse, without even knowing what “it” actually was, I plunged into a months-long pursuit from grasping what I saw to realizing it in my own kitchen.   First, it took me a considerable amount of Googling to find out what I initially thought was a “thin double-sided pizza stuffed with mozzarella?”, to be something actually called focaccia di recco from her restaurant Chi Spacca, an extremely crispy-edged, flatbread-like creature that has nothing to do with either pizza nor mozzarella, or the typical focaccia for that matter.  The dish is essentially dollops of fresh cow’s milk cheese cocooning in between two stretched, unyeasted, paper-thin films of dough, and baked into a ballooned and blistered pie with cheese-filled underground chambers.  Mostly cracker-like crispy, partially soft and stretchy, all in all and bona fide gastronomic wonder unlike anything I have ever seen.

It, allegedly, took her two whole years to perfect.

Since then, I bled over bringing it into my reality.  I don’t have anything else to elaborate other than the every words already written in the instructions, each summarizing hours and hours of theorizing, testings, failings, staring, and re-testings, presented to you, as shortly and concisely as I think what a normal human being has patience for.  The result rewarded and justified every last drop of sweat and tears spent, and whatever difference there may be from the real deal, I confide in my belief to be a result of hardware issues (commercial oven VS. home electric oven).  Except, maybe, whatever experience I cannot transcribe through words.  And if so, then that my friend, is where only your obsession can take you.  But it’s worth it, let me tell you.  It’s all worth it.

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BIALY STUFFED W/ CREAM CHEESE AND HONEY DATES

SWEET GIRL BIALY, WHO CARRIES SOMETHING WITHIN HER HEART WHEREAS IN A BAGEL, IT’S JUST AN UTTERLY HOLLOW HOLE

What’s a bialy, if you don’t already know?

I’d like to think of bialy as the ugly sister of bagel, who comes without the shiny crust nor a robust PR campaign, but, in my opinion, ultimately wins hearts and minds through slow and quiet diplomacy.  Or at least it should, if only in your kitchen.  Think about it.  Bialy and bagel practically shares the same dough, which isn’t a difficult one if I might add, but that’s about as much sameness as bagel’s gonna tolerate from her sibling.  Not a fault of her own, but bagel, being held to her finicky New Yorker status and all, is somewhat of a… hm what’s that word… right, bitch.

You didn’t “retard” the dough in the fridge for 2 days, not a bagel.  You didn’t boil it, not a bagel.  Didn’t boil it long enough, not a bagel.  Boiled in the wrong water, not a bagel.  Can’t use her crust as a mirror, not a bagel.  Too soft, not a bagel.  Too hard, not a bagel.  Lives in Montreal, definitely not a bagel.

But you see, bialy on the other hand, ah, sweet girl bialy… whether by virtue or as a necessary strategy for unpopularity, is very low maintenance.  Without exuding much judgements, she doesn’t mind being taken on a speed date, from kneading to baking, all under as short as 4 hours of your time (well, a bit longer if you live somewhere dry and cold, I mean, a lady’s gotta keep warm).  And surprising to whom care to look beyond the lack of a glamorous shine, her lightly browned exterior is thin but not without character, in fact, delicately crusty if you cherish it warm out of the oven as one should.  Then you’ll notice that her soft but chewy crumbs remind you so much of a bagel that you wonder if it’s really worth pursuing the other.  But perhaps the most heart-winning gesture from bialy is that she does, actually, carry something within her heart, a filled crater in the center whereas in a bagel, it’s an utterly hollow hole.  —- OK.. usually some sort of onions with poppy seeds kind of stuff and let’s admit that none of it is very chic and if anybody needs a before/after it’s this poor girl —-  In this case, I say why not, honey and butter coated sweet dates bedded within softly whipped cream cheese.  Right, you may think that’s rather odd against that whiff of onion powder being mixed into the dough which gives the bread a hint of savoriness, but no, it’s not.  That’s what’s surprising about this bialy, sweet and creamy but not without her savory core, soft to the touch but playfully chewy throughout, a bit of confliction but just the right amount.

Ultimately, the one you’ve been looking for.

BIALY STUFFED W/ CREAM CHEESE AND HONEY DATES

Yield: 5 bialy

Dough recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen and King Author Flour combined

Ingredients

    DOUGH:
  • 2 cups (275 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (165 grams) water
  • 1 1/2 tsp (8 grams) sea salt
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • cornmeal o semolina flour for shaping
  • STUFFING:
  • 7~8 large dates
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tbsp cream cheese, lightly whipped
  • white sesame seeds to sprinkle

Instructions

  1. PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, knead bread flour, water, sea salt, light brown sugar, instant dry yeast and onion powder on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn to high speed and knead for another 8 minutes until the dough is very elastic and smooth. The dough should feel soft, moist and slightly tacky, light a baby's bottom, but pulls away cleanly from the bowl when the machine is running. If the dough feels tough and rubbery, add a tbsp more water and knead until smooth.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until fully doubled, about 2 ~ 4 hours (this largely depends on how warm and humid the environment is). Scrape the dough onto a lightly dusted working surface and divide into 5 equal portions, then keep tucking each dough under and into itself until the surface is smooth and round. Coat each dough with cornmeals or semolina flour, then place onto a baking-sheet with at least 4" of space in between each. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Try dipping your finger gently into the dough, and if the indentation stays without springing back, the dough is ready.
  3. When the dough is almost ready, preheat the oven on 450 F/230 C, then place a cake pan filled halfway with hot water DIRECTLY on the bottom of the oven (this creates a moist environment that helps form a crust).
  4. SHAPE AND BAKE: Halve the dates and remove the pits, then mix the dates evenly with honey and melted butter, set aside. Dust the surface of each dough with more cornmeal or semolina. Slightly flatten each dough, then use the knuckles of your fingers to gently press and create a wide and deep crater in the center of each dough (kind of like making a fat mini pizza). To make sure that the crater doesn't spring back during baking, I highly recommend poking a few holes inside the crater with your fingers (as pictured).
  5. Now, smear 1 tbsp of cream cheese into each craters, then press about 1.5 dates into the cream cheese (avoid tips sticking out in the air to prevent burning), and sprinkle a little white sesame seeds over the top. If you have a spray bottle that forms fine mists, thoroughly mist the enter surface of the bialy until wet. This helps create a crust as well.
  6. Transfer the baking sheet into the oven, closing it as fast as you can to avoid losing steam, and bake for 10~15 min until the surface is lightly browned. Let them cool slightly on a cooling-rack but they are best when warm and crusty right out of the oven.
http://ladyandpups.com/2017/06/15/bialy-stuffed-w-cream-cheese-and-honey-dates/
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SPRING CREAM PIZZA

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DOLLOPS OF SAVORY WHIPPED CREAM HELPLESSLY DESTABILIZE UNDER THE BLAZING HEAT OF THE OVEN, RENDERING INTO A PUDDLE OF SALTY, OILY, HERBY AND CREAMY MAGMA

You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.

Off carbs?  I wish.  Gluten-free?  Is there any other diet more torturous by design?  How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever?  OK, yeah I have that.  But, no.  No, not for any of those things.  In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.

Wait, pizza can do that?  Yes, pizza can do that.  How?  By making me fat.

 

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SUNDAY SUPPERS’ RYE BREAD

I apologize before I say this simply because it’s gross and stuff, but yesterday somebody, two days in a row, decided to leave a hot steamy pile of poop right in the middle of our “aged” leather sofa…  I’m sorry, I told you, it’s gross.  But more importantly, why?  What could possibly be the reason for this deeply punishing act?  Hey beats me.  Just to fuck with the word motherhood, I guess.

I recognize the weirdness in the usage of such word, motherhood, I get it, so let’s talk about it for a sec.  Some swear by it.  Some avoid it.  And some get offended when it’s used in this context of, well, dogs.  But for the convenience of making a conversation, I struggle to find a better word.  Some say, “dog owner” is the more accurate phrase.  Hey, I hear ya, but, it’s just that… I don’t own dogs, just like nobody owns children.  They are mine, but not properties.  If someday my dogs tell me that they wants to leave the nest to go to Amsterdam and smoke pot for the rest of their lives, hey, fair game, I would just lock them up and take away all their food-money like any discerning parents.  Doesn’t make me an owner, just makes me a mother.  So for the lack of a better word, last month, or 20 days ago to be exact, I became a mother again, for the fifth and sixth time.  Yes, twin girls, two rescued Rottweiler-mix puppies.

Rottweilers × 2!?  You must be thinking I’m crazy.  And I’m starting to think you’re right.

How big do Rottweilers get?  Please don’t tell me because I have no freaking clue.  But the the fact that they are growing exponentially against our best wishes, seems to be one.  To put it into perspective, our maltese Dumpling was what, 3 kilo?  So by optimistic estimation, each of them would grow to be about 12 Dumplings, and together, 24 Dumplings.  That’s 70 kilos of pure muscles powered by the spirit of a trampoline.  We named them Sesame (芝麻), and Sticky Rice Ball (湯圓) or SRB for short, though the petiteness of their names is starting to sound more ironic than cute.

Who’s freaking out?  I’m just sayin’.

So how did this happen? Couldn’t we just try a single Rottweiler on for size and good reason first?  Well, the way we see it, we had no choice amidst a very complicated situation.

There was this adoption day thing at our local pet supply store that we simply wanted to “just check it out”, and there they were, two puppies inside the same crate.  No harm in asking a question is there?  So are they boys or girls?  “Both girls, sisters!”, answered the staff.  Hmm, girls, we’ve been wanting a girl.  This one on the right seem to be nice and calm.  Can I hold her?  “Yes, of course!  She’s the younger one.”  Awww look at her just relaxing on my lap!  Jason, Jason!  Are you seeing this?!  Wait, why is the other one acting all nervous and shit?  “The sisters are very attached to each other.”  What is this, woman?  You trying to make me feel bad?  Fine, Jason, can you just hold the other one so she’s doesn’t feel left out?

Yup.  …………………..

Oh wait you’re waiting for more complicatedness to come?  No, no, that’s it.  Yup.  The beginning of the end.  Put me on your friends-who-got-a-kid-and-gone-missing list.  Likewise, I’ll resurface the earth in 10+ years.

But on the bright side, the food side that is, giant wall-eating babies are putting me in a whole new perspective. I never understood this “easy home cooking” business.  I mean if you like cooking, what’s the problem?  And if you don’t like cooking, why you cooking?  Golfers don’t complain why is it 18 holes and not 4 holes.  But now, ehhh… I sort of get it.  The other day I allowed myself to spend a little obsession on homemade ramen, and someone ate my chair.  Literally, ate my chair.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen anymore, but the stakes for negligence are higher these days if you know what I mean.

Which brings me to mention – Simple Fare.

Look beyond the soul-sucking-ly beautiful photographs by the hands of Karen Mordechai, there is also the answer to the prayers of all bone-crushingly exhausted parents.   Take this elegant rye bread for example, which she calls “half day rye bread”, which really turned out to be “quarter day rye bread” in the warmer month that is May.  It was a cinch to put together, so much so that I was able to test two loafs at once even with two flying trapeze-artists demolishing my apartment (and Shrimpy) in the background.  I’m not an expert in the political correctness of a proper rye bread, but a smear of good room-temperature butter and a thin slice of fennel salami from Tuscany, I melted in a moment of relaxation and satisfaction, a rare one these days no doubt…

So thank you, Karen, but I simply must go because I just stepped into a puddle of pee.

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