Bakery/Pastry

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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TUSCANY’S PORK FAT BITS COUNTRY BREAD

WHILE MY BRAIN WAS ANTICIPATING TYPICAL BREAD, CAME THESE POPS OF DEEPLY SAVORY AND UNMISTAKABLY CARNIVOROUS STIMULANTS.

Working mothers, I don’t know how you do it.

Those of you who follow our Instagram will know that recently, two toddlers have joined this family.  Not just some harmlessly drooling, homo sapien nuggets that crawl inside your neatly confined perimeters sucking on a bottle.  But two wall-eating… wood-shredding, (stuffed) animal-hunting, flying and flipping and cirque du soleil-style acrobats that, quite literally, ate and pooped the entire past week away, and then some.  Hi Internet, please meet 芝麻 (Sesame), and 湯圓 (Sticky Rice Ball.  SRB for short), the two Rottie-mix that we newly adopted over the past weekend.

So long, sleep.  Hello, stress.

I have so much to say about them, how we met, how we overcame fear, how we took an oath.  But this type of story deserves clarity and mindfulness, both not what my sleep-deprived head of glue can provide as we speak.  So I’m just going to leave you today with a Tuscany-inspired country bread, speckled with salty bits of porky fatness.  You heard right, a delightful discovery made in a motherly restaurant named Trattoria Dardano, nestled inside a tiny yet historical town named Cortona where we stayed.  The conversation we were having without suspicion was upended by my first bite of the unexpected burst of flavors.  While my brain was anticipating typical bread, came these pops of deeply savory and unmistakably carnivorous stimulants.  WHAT was that!?  I investigated immediately, to realized that this seemingly unremarkable bread was relentlessly laced with specks of salty fatty cured pork-bits which, I assumed, not only created these sparks of salivating porkiness, but also spread their gospel aromas into the neighboring bread-tissues when their fat was rendered during baking.

Geniale!  I shouted, but in English.

I think you’ll agree, too.

Gotta go.  Somebody’s eating my feet.

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DIM SUM MONTH FINALE: Tapenade short ribs, plus dim sum party game plan

AT LAST, DIM SUM MONTH FINALE…

WHAT:  Beef short ribs in super garlicky tapenade sauce, an adaptation of a classic dimsum item – pork ribs with fermented black beans but with an American/European twist.

WHY:  The unexpectedly supple texture of the beef (thanks to baking soda) melting gorgeously into a pool of bold and complex mixture of flavors, a revelation that can be easily prepared ahead of time and cooks in under 8 min.

HOW:  For both flavors and accessibility, I have swapped the traditionally used diced pork ribs with the more luscious and rich-tasting beef short ribs, and Chinese fermented black beans with the equally bold and forward black olives.  Trust me, if I may say so myself, the reinvented combination works even better than tradition.  The surprisingly tender and velvety texture of the beef – achieved by adding just a tiny pinch of baking soda into the marinate – disintegrates in your mouth in a medley of perfectly orchestrated flavours that you didn’t even know would go together.  Black olives, strawberry jam, soy sauce, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, and a depth created by using both raw and fried garlics.  It’s easy to put together, and a cinch to cook in a blink of an eye.  You’ll wonder where it’s been your whole life.

Now, simply follow the instructions below on how to throw a hassle-free dim sum party!

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DIM SUM MONTH: CHARSIU PULL-APART PINEAPPLE BUN

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  The new poster child of dim sum-scape in Hong Kong, the char siu pineapple buns, pull-apart style!

WHY:  Do you need to reason to eat a soft, squishy bun stuffed with sweet char siu pork and topped with crunchy “pineapple” crusts?  The entirety of happiness all in one bite, pillowy, crunchy, salty, sweet, gooey, porky and buttery?  Do ya?

HOW:  Burn all the other recipes that are dumbed down and one-dimensional.  Here’s a thorough recipe to show you how to make them like a pro, either with fresh pork shoulders (my preference), or with store-bought char siu pork.  But what really makes this recipe different is how the delicate balance of flavors are re-imagined.  Instead of the typical, cornstarch-thickened sauce that screams boring, we are going to re-create the stickiness by mixing in honey, ground dates and dried strawberries.  Not only do they provide a natural gooey-ness, they also bring a hidden fruity tone to the flavor-profile, making these sweet and salty buns unstoppably addictive.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer, and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

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JAPAN + SRIRACHA SENBEI, Japanese gluten-free rice crackers

I’m stalling on this post, about our trip to Japan, or more accurately, Osaka, Kyoto and Kurokawa.  This happens sometimes, either when the trip itself was too brief, or in this case, even with a sufficient duration to ponder, I find the place… difficult to compute.  Truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Japan.  Mixed, but not foreign.  After all, I’m from Taiwan, hardly a stranger.  Since awareness I guess, Japan has been a place with unescapable elements everywhere deep inside its social fabrics that, to me, are both deeply seductive and also repulsive.  It’s a festival of confusions, to say the least, the reason why Lost in Translation was transcribed here, and perhaps the reason why I hesitated to come for years.  I didn’t know if I was more afraid to love it, or hate it, and either way, why did that matter?  I wasn’t sure of the answer either.  It’s a country where people pay for their dinner through vending machines, but spend hours drinking a cup of tea.  The country runs on the most highly efficient and developed system of high-speed rail that few others can compete, but the information kiosk of which, in the Osaka station, is still being organized in old-school filers.  It’s a country that is famed for its obsession in cleanliness and manners, but one of the few still left in the developed world where I have to endure second-hand smokes in restaurants.  A culture that is widely associated with its quiet, distilled form of beauty, that wabi-sabi life, and yet, the major cities within which are wild labyrinths of neon lights and carnivals of giant moving octopuses.

Slow, fast.  Quiet, loud.  Polite, yet perversive.  Allures, and frustrations.  Which one is true?  Or perhaps all is.

A country that thrives in contradictions.

I didn’t know what to make of it.  I still don’t.

I wanted to, like everyone else, just focus on its beauties, which are nothing but pure pleasures.  The yakitori (skewered/grilled chicken) in Wabiya Korekido in Kyoto comes close to an art form.  The beef heart sashimi from Maru in Osaka could not have been the revelation that it is anywhere else.  The amount of philosophy that goes into making a bowl of ramen cries for admiration.  A dip into the tinglingly warm hot spring, the liquid silk that percolates from deep within earth in the stillness that is Kurokawa, it is hard, real hard, not to fall for it all.

But with every enjoyments, comes with a blinding contradiction that seemed to overturn the previous experience.  Was my experience authentic rituals, or rehearsed theatrics.  Was this a sanctuary, or a theme park?  What the world is infatuated about Japanese’s deeply philosophical way of life, was that even a real part of their lives, or just advertisements?  Or maybe they are two of the same thing, a double-sided mirror.

I’m sure most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.  I have failed to explain it, and for that I’m going to stop.

Maybe Japan was never something to be understood, but to be pondered upon.  Was never a maze, but growth-rings on a black pine trunk.

To get it, I gotta eat more ramen.

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MY HEAD, PLUS CHRISTMAS SPICE MOCHI BREAD BABKA

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LIFE IS A GREAT ADVENTURE… ACCEPT IT IN SUCH A SPIRIT

Theodore Roosevelt


OK, so I’m bald.

Wait, right, fine.  Technically, not yet.

I just buzzed my hair off.  Why?

Before you say it, this is not a Britney-style meltdown.  Okay?

This is Jarhead.  It’s war, and the enemy must be eliminated.  But the enemy in this case – is myself.  If you’re still interested, read on.

But before I start, I just want to apologize for making such a fuss in the past two weeks, sounding alarmingly distressed and melodramatic.  That was me then.  That is not me right now, as we speak.  Now, in hindsight, even the idea of making a public display of my buzz feels acutely self-absorbed if not stupid, but having said that, I still owe you an explanation.  So please know that whatever you read off of this, that it is in the context about hair, the nerve-less fibers that grow in ways without or without our consent and sometimes utter rudely.  So if I sound like I’m being superficial anywhere in the story, I may have been.  Well, here we go.

 

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A BETTER POPOVER/YORKSHIRE PUDDING RECIPE

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WE CAN ALL USE A LITTLE BETTER

It can be depressing today, either for political or personal reasons (for me, both).  So let’s not talk.  Let’s just all, perhaps, realize something about ourselves and others today with, if you can, kindness and faith.

I saw this recipe on a Bon Appetite’s special baking issue, and it has proven to be much superior than my previous Yorkshire pudding recipes.  Mainly, because it allows me to completely forgo the “resting stage” that I had emphasized so strongly before, and that is because this batter is mixed with simmering milk which has prevented the gluten from forming by partially cooking the flour.  No more resting.  This batter can go straight from being mixed to being baked, into the glorious, optimistic, better puffs that they are.

I can we can all use a little better today.

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A BETTER POPOVER/YORKSHIRE PUDDING RECIPE

Yield: 5~7 depending on size

Adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine. I've made several small changes to the recipe because it worked better for me, and I listed the grated cheese as optional because I want the flavour of these to stay neutral, that it can go with sweet or savoury. But if you really like the idea of it, then do it :)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (242 grams) half-half, or whole milk
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup +1 tbsp (103 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp (22 grams) cornstarch, or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup (17 grams) grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Depending on whether your oven comes with the fan-on option or not, preheat the oven on 375 F/190 C fan-on, or 400 F/200 C no-fan. Meanwhile, whisk together half-half (or whole milk), light brown sugar and sea salt in a small pot, and heat over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. While the milk is heating, beat large eggs inside a large, easy-to-pour jar or container. Once the milk's ready, slowly pour it into the eggs while whisking vigorously (must be slow and keep whisking otherwise the eggs may get cooked). Then add the flour and cornstarch, and whisk until just combined (tiny lumps here and there is fine). If you're using grated cheddar, add now and whisk until combined.
  2. Generously butter each popover pan, or muffin pan, or individual tin cups with about 1 1/2 tsp of butter, then bake in the oven for about 3~5 min when the butter is starting to brown slightly. Pour the batter into the mold until about 50% full, then bake in the oven for 15 min. Then turn the heat down to 350 F/175 F FAN OFF, and bake for another 20~25 min. During this whole time, do not open the oven door. If the color of the popovers are getting too dark in the last few min, turn the heat down a bit. The popovers must be baked for at least 35~45 min in total depending on their sizes, otherwise they might deflate afterwards.
  3. Remove the popovers/yorkshire puddings from the molds. They can be eaten as is, or "stuffed" with sweet fillings (such as chocolate mouse, custard, buttercream etc).
https://ladyandpups.com/2016/11/10/a-better-popoveryorkshire-pudding-recipe/
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EGG FLORENTINE IN PULLMAN “BOWLS”, FOR CYNTHIA

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WE ARE GOING TO DISCREETLY PAN-FRY THESE IN AN INDECENT AMOUNT OF BUTTER, UNTIL THEY ARE PRACTICALLY SOAKED ON THE INSIDES, AND DELICIOUSLY CRISPY AND GOLDEN ON THE OUTSIDES.

YOU KNOW, THE BUTTER-EXUDING CRUNCH?

Have you seen Ben Stiller’s movie, While We’re Young?  Well, if you haven’t, there’s no need to really.  Given that it has its moments here and there, all in all, it’s not entirely spectacular.  But the reason that I’m bringing it up is because – well, equally as unspectacular and unrelating to the majority demographic – I’m kind of in the same pickle.

I’m 36 years old, and very early on in life, I have made a very conscious decision not to have children.  I’m happy married, stable, as far as I know, reproductively unchallenged and relatively speaking, mentally healthy, and I consider myself an affectionate if not responsible dog-parent.  So as I said, the decision is a very deliberate one and the reasons for which, well lets just say, don’t quite belong in this post.  Uh, ok whatever, might you add, but where’s my fucking pickle?  Well, this is where the movie might be more articulate, not to say much more entertaining, in illustrating my quandary.  Thing is, most of our friends, with all due respect and our best wishes, have buckled together on the baby-train and exited through the other side of the crossroad in life in sort of a Groupon strategy, leaving us, a bit unprepared, in a social limbo.

That’s correct.  We are them, the friends without children.  The awkward pre-middle-aged couple who didn’t get the memo that, at this point in life, a dinner party that ends at 10 pm on a Saturday night, however frisky with all the right signals to assume more, is the end of the program.  Where to next?  Theirs kids’ swimming lesson at 8 am the next morning, and our party equivalent of blue balls that night iced with yet another Netflix binging.  But listen, I get it.  People’s priorities change as life evolves, and as their friends, we shall respect that.  Which is exactly why it’s ok that the number of friends to call for a drink and their level of energy to participate is together in a fierce race to hit the bottom.  And the rule that there are things that just shouldn’t be placed in close proximity, such as fire and curtains, me and donuts, and in this instance, conversations and this thing called the baby monitors, are more frequently being broken.  Which is why, I’m not filing a complaint, but to simply say, oops.

But why now?

It may seem totally self-absorbed and obnoxious to bring this up at a baby shower.  Yes, this is a baby shower!, for my friend Cynthia who just gave birth to their baby boy Luke!  And seriously, earnestly, for Cynthia who has been one of the most amazing human beings I know of (She’s a full-time lawyer/woman/wife/daughter-in-law/blogger/then pregnant/now mother, I mean do you feel me!), I wish them all the exuberating enthusiasms and my best positivism at this special moment in their lives.  Reading her unpackaged words of tenderness and content, as a dog-mom, whether anybody disputes it or not, I can relate.  So I am happy, for her.  Even though it means that soon after, I will have to hang outside a 24/7 convenience store, asking strangers if they want to break a donut with me.

To celebrate Two Red Bowl’s baby birthday and our social demise, I have prepared, in the theme of bowls, egg florentine in pullman “bowls” with burnt butter hollandaise.  Well, more box than bowl but you know what I mean, and let’s not forget that this is a very cute and kid-friendly idea, no?… (or that I’m more out of sync with the other side of the world than I realize).  The original inspiration comes from a Taiwanese street-food where they deep-fry a cutout box of pullman bread then fill it with seafood chowder.  But that’d be just wrong for moms and kids, right?, totally irresponsible.  So for the sake of the health of our next generation of pillars of the world, we are only going to discreetly pan-fry these in an indecent amount of butter until they are practically soaked inside and deliciously crispy and golden on the outside.  You know, the butter-exuding crunch?  And with the next point, don’t say that I don’t understand raising children, because we are going to cut out a hole on top, and hide a healthy pile of garlic spinach with a bed of creamy Laughing Cow’s spreadable cheese.  Bribery.  Yeah.  I know all about that.  Then finally, we top each bowls – or what I would like to imagine as little boxed presents from Yummy Town – with bursting soft-boiled eggs and a lava-waterfall of my foolproof, burnt butter hollandaise sauce.

Each bite is a fluent, harmonic dance of crispy and runny, crunchy and creamy, buttery and buttery yet there’s spinach.  Big “bowls” for parents, small bowls for children, and baby Luke gets to suck the runny yolks.  I’ve got all grounds covered.  So.  Next weekend.  Can we exploit the only benefit of the in-laws, and let’s hit bar?

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