Bakery/Pastry

Paper thin soft chewy, Sonoran-style flour tortilla

For a couple years now, I’ve been taking jabs at creating the perfect flour tortillas.

Now, any conversation evoking the word “perfect” ought to be subject to a clearer definition, doesn’t it?  So here is mine.  The perfect flour tortilla, in my view, should be unleavened (otherwise it’s just a thin pita), translucent, thin but elastic, flavorful enough to be a standalone enjoyment, and above all else, embodying a soft chewiness that you could feel in between bites.

It’s safe to say that the recipes I used over the years didn’t stray far from the typical ones floating around the internet, more or less, kneading flour, warm water (often ambiguous on the exact temperature), some sort of animal fat all together which is rolled out and toasted on a skillet.  Simple, yes, and those aren’t horrible either.  Anything containing that amount of lard just can’t be.  But in the end… lifeless, doughy, and without flare.

Well that ends today.

You see, there is a place in Mexico called Sonora.  Legend has it, that as far as flour tortilla goes, they’ve got the best.  Large in diameter, tailored for burritos, their flour tortilla is stretched paper thin by hands and toasted only for a few moments on an inverted hot iron wok, resulting in delicate, see-through tortillas that had famed this region.  People swear by it.  And if there were a better flour tortilla in Mexico, it hasn’t been discovered.  Perfect?  As close as it’s gonna get.

So, It gave me ideas.

I took a couple weeks to really sift through the steps of what makes an optimal flour tortilla dough, with enough gluten in strength to be so thin yet chewy, carrying enough flavors that it runs the risk of being snacked away before anything can be wrapped with.  Then for those of us who has not mastered the art of stretching a dough out to the extent of paper-thinness by hands, I have an ingenious solution – a classic technique of making Peking duck crepes.

Instead of rolling a single dough out as thinly as humanly capable, I stacked two on top of each other, separated by fat/oil, then roll them out as thinly as humanly capable.  What happens is that when they cook, they puff and separate from each other, and what you get is two tortillas that are only 1/2 the thickness of what you normally could pull off!

Can you blame me for feeling clever?  As you are peeling these translucently thin and elastic tortillas away from each other and marveling at their supple chewiness and savory aroma, and go on to ecstatically wrap them with everything in sight, well, you’d thank me.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

Layered scallion pancraffles

”  SOMETIMES THE RIGHT THINGS DON’T MAKE SENSE. “

This is not a croissant.  I know better not to call it such without the distinct lamination equally spaced across in laser-precision, if only to avoid sudden eruptive rage from the sentimental hearts of any avid croissantologists.  But this is not a scallion pancake either.  Not only that its yeasted, bread-like dough stands apart from the standard model.  But the ungodly amount of butter in between its much thinner circular layers, stained green from bled out scallions could surely, I speculate again, rattle the graves of many conservative Chinese grandmothers.  Not that dead people have feelings.  But I wouldn’t underestimate their much-alive grandchildren with multiple Twitter accounts.  I guess what I could safely refer to it as, is probably that it’s a waffle.  For nowadays, anything and everything cooked in a waffle machine, let it be raw fish sushi or spaghetti bolognese, is unmistakably, a waffle.  No progressive movement there.

Or, I could just call it something else entirely.  A pancraffle.

And if you are one who doesn’t spend too much time on correct name-calling, but instead, on actions, then you’d be rewarded with these crispy and flakey outside, soft oniony and buttery on the inside, all in all, a beautiful hybrid with the best qualities of all parties.

But if you really want to get out there, then instead of the very reasonable topping of grated cheddar cheese, try a big dollop of burnt marshmallow meringue.  Sometimes the right things don’t make sense.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

Brûlée Coconut, Palm Sugar, Pork floss sticky buns

”  It’s savoury-sweet kinda thing, you know, obviously, but also smokey around where a mixed aroma of coconut, butterscotch and bacon meet and greet.  “

What in the world is pork floss?!

And where the hell do you get palm sugar?!  Or both, for that matter?!

Ok fine, so I knew this is gonna be a hard pitch.  And I’m probably not helping my case when I tell you that pork floss, invented by an anonymous Chinese likely on a night of massive insomnia, is a brownish cotton ball made of predominantly pork, which is cooked, shredded, then painstakingly dehydrated while being tumble-fried inside a wok until what used to be muscle tissues have then transformed into super fine, fiber-like fluffs.  Whaaat?!  And as if that’s not mind-bending enough, its flavor profile wonders in between savoury and sweet with a maple bacon or jerky-like porkiness oozing into your sensory space as your mouth grapple to understand this textural anomaly.

It’s really just like any other culinary ingenuities that took form initially as a means to tackle food preservation before refrigeration, but ended up being cherished by its culture even till this day.  Stretching from southern China down to Southeast Asia, hey, pork floss matters.  For every skeptics, there also stands a loyalists who would cradle and defend this “porky cotton” if you will, against the world’s cynical suspicion.  I too, love this shit.

Having said that, pork floss is not a stand-alone item.  It needs companies.  And as it has been increasingly branching out from its traditionally more savoury roles towards making collaborative debuts in, of all things, sweet pastries all across Asia, I feel it’s time for this surprisingly multi-faceted talent to be introduced to a more internationally recognized platform.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

Failproof flakey pastry stuffed with mochi and chocolate

Listen, I’ve made this flakey pastry about four times now.  And each time, no matter how every single signs along the way was pointing towards an inevitable heartbreaking disaster, somehow, miraculously, it always turned out amazing.  I’ve stuffed them with jam and cheese, with fruits and nuts, and this time, with bittersweet chocolate blended together with dark brown sugar and peanut butter plus a good chewy padding of sticky rice mochi on the bottom, and still I couldn’t manage to fuck it up.  More crispy and shards-like than puff pastry, but more defined and layered than pie crust, comes together fast and relatively easy, and goes down even more so.

So, as someone with a very unlucky track record in the baking arena, I pass this recipe onto you.  I’d say good luck, but something tells me you won’t need very much of it.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

Best sandwich bread, Florence-style schiacciata

”  A whopping 85% hydration… transforms into a gorgeously glossy and almost fluid blob of a dough that spreads willingly, and yields elastic translucent crumbs and a terrain of air bubbles.  “

I am no master baker.  But dude, you listen to me on this one.

Been to Florence?  No?  Well, okay… sorry I guess.  But this message is no less urgently relevant to you than those who have, particularly, those who have visited what is rumored to be the greatest sandwich shop in the world, All’antico Vinaio right in the center of Florence.  But what makes their sandwiches good you ask, some even say the best?  One could certainly make a convincing case for its market-style array of every single charcuteries, cheeses, vegetables and spreads that the great region of Tuscany has to offer.  But if you ask me, as it usually turns out in the subject of sandwiches, it is the bread.  More specifically, schiacciata.

What is schiacciata?  And do not mistaken it with focaccia don’t you dare.  Schiacciata is a Florentine flatbread that characteristically is closer to, I’d say, a pizza bianca than anything else.  Ever since my visit to All’antico Vinaio years ago, it wasn’t their truffle cream or fennel salami that haunted my restless keto dreams.  It was the carbsIt was the fucking carbs.  So last week, I finally decided enough is enough.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

The amazing paradox of scallion popover s’more

” Nothing about this makes any sense… Yet it’s going to change the s’more world as you know it. “

Mark my words.  None of this makes any sense.  Nothing about it suggests that it should work.  Scallions and marshmallows?!  If you now shelve this idea in the lightless skepticism inside your head, it will forever be just a reminder that I – the Asian chick who has been left unchecked for far too long in the internet wilderness – have finally gone mad.

But if you could just push aside your good senses (the little voice inside your head telling you that the third powdered donut won’t help you, yes that one, scrap it), this recipe will turn the s’more world as you know it, upside down.

Yes, scallions, possibly one of the least likely substances to be associated with s’more next to pickled herrings and petroleum, against all odds, has somehow proven to be a miraculously effective liaison between our taste buds and the buttery, slightly chewy sweetness of charred marshmallows.  Yes!  That is what I’m saying!  But how could this be?  Have I lost my mind?  Well, I wish I could take the credit for this insanity but in cold hard reality, I did not, sadly, invent this.  In fact, I have utterly stolen this idea from a Taiwanese cracker that is sold in all major Taiwanese airports, the scallion cracker nougat sandwich.

Yes, that’s a real thing, scallion soda cracker sandwich with a nougat filling.  Not that the case for savory-sweet hasn’t been established elsewhere, but none has ever been so curiously bizarre, absurd to a point.  Even the attempt to imagine the two flavors conjoining triggers a repulsion reflex put in place by millions of years of human evolution.  So what kind of a sick person came up with this twisted though in their evil lair, I didn’t bother to look up in my bitter jealousy, but what’s for sure is that it has turned every skeptics, Taiwanese or not, into a believer that the age for scallions to join the company of confectionary has finally arrived.

So why don’t I just do a recipe for a scallion crack nougat sandwich, you ask?  Well, if you have ever intended to make soda crackers at home you’d know that it is an unnecessary labor with negative returns.  And homemade nougat, even more so.  Try to stuff a little dollop of the latter inside the former and repeat 40 times?  Yeah I didn’t think so either.  Especially when there is an alternative for both that are not only easy and rewarding to make at home, but in my opinion, far more superior in textures, tastes, and last but not least, fun.

A foolproof scallion popover recipe that is pop-guaranteed with gorgeously crispy crust and a warm and spongy center, salty and buttery where just the right amount of scallion aroma permeates through its pores.  Then its naturally hallow cavity gently holds together the liquified state of the caramelized marshmallows, unstable stringy and promising, until you take your first faithful bite to collapse its integrity, as the crispy and spongy savoriness of the popover clashes against the burnt and buttery candy-ness of the marshmallows.  How unlikely so yet incredibly right.

And you too, from this point on, will forever wonder and marvel at the paradox that is the new s’more.

READ MORE

Continue Reading

Japanese melty iceboox cheesecake

I’m sitting here, struggling with how best to explain to you all why this Japanese version of the burnt basque cheesecake is superior than the original in every single way possible, mentally auditioning all the angles I could cut into this subject that I think is going to change the way you think about cheesecakes in general.  How it’s possibly the easiest cheesecake your kitchen-incompetence will ever behold… how it has complexities in its flavors that reminds me of a caramel flan… how its play between temperature and texture is brilliant… how the outer layer is rich yet airy while the center remains creamy and gooey, melting almost instantly around the heat of my tongue…  A R-rated story on how cheesecake and  ice cream had a baby?  I considered that, too.

But it dawned on me that these are all just supporting facts, facts that you will witness, I’ve no doubt, as soon as you make one yourself in your kitchen.  What really stands in between you and making this cake is not the certainties, no.  It is the doubt, one single doubt really, the only elephant that needs to be removed first and swiftly before everything else could just fall into place.  Because I know what you’re all thinking.  Here, I’ll say it with you.

Isn’t this just an undercooked mistake?  

No, no it is not.  It is fucking not.

Is soft-boiled egg a mistake?

There.  I don’t know how much simpler I could put it.

Now, welcome to the only cheesecake you’ll ever bake for the rest of your life.

if cheesecake and ice cream had a baby.

READ MORE

Continue Reading