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Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread Muffins… fresh hot from the oven!

Last time I made corn bread it didn’t turn out as good as I expected– it wasn’t as fluffy as promised in the recipe, and quite dry too. I used a rectangle pan so when I sliced the corn bread it was full of crumbs… Well, this time I searched recipes for cornbread muffins, in the hope that texture will be more like fluffy muffins. I came acrossed this Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker (I believe the author got the recipe from Cooks Illustrated) , and decided to give it a try (even it only has one review). Why? Because this recipe uses more corn meal than other cornbread recipes, and the method really catches my eyes– it calls for cooking some corn meal with milk to trap the liquid, and thus producing moist cornbread muffins (as explained in Cooks Illustrated). I made a small change– increase sugar to 1/2 cup instead of 1/3 cup.

Results? 12 golden, happy cornbread muffins, fluffy and moist, waiting to be slathered with butter! Oh yes! 

Cornbread Muffins (yields 12 Muffins– adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Ingredients:

2 cups corn meals (divide to 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick)  unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method:

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with butter. 
  2. In a medium bowl, Whisk together 1½ cups of the cornmeal, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup cornmeal and the milk. Microwave for 1½ minutes, then whisk thoroughly and continue to microwave, whisking every 30 seconds, until thickened to a batter-like consistency (the whisk will leave a distinct trail in the bottom of the bowl that slowly fills in), 1 to 3 additional minutes. [Note: If you do not have a microwave, you can do this step in a saucepan on the stovetop.]
  4. Whisk in the sour cream, melted butter, and sugar until combined, then whisk in the eggs. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until thoroughly combined (the batter will be very thick). Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (the batter will mound slightly above the rim).
  5. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes, rotating the muffin tin halfway through baking. Let the muffins cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from the muffin tin and let cool 5 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 2 months.

Seaweed Cookies 紫菜酥餅 (yield 80-100 small cookies)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp dry milk powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
12 tbsp ( 1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter– softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 pack (17 gram) Costco organic seaweed– blended (see note below)
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Egg wash
Chili powder

Method:

  1. Combine flour, milk powder, salt and baking powder. Sift and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and mix until blended.
  3. Mix in blended seaweed  and sesame seeds with a spatula.
  4. Add flour mixture. Use spatula to mix and press to form a dough.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill dough in the fridge to harden so it’s easier to handle. When ready, lightly dust work surface with flour, roll out dough to 5mm thickness and cut with cookie cutter (dust cutter with flour to prevent sticking). 
  6. Put cut cookies on baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash then dash the top with chili powder.
  7. Bake at preheated 325 F oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on a rack. Store in air tight container when completely cooled.

Regina’s Note:

  • Seaweed: I used snacking seaweed instead nori for sushi making– snacking seaweed is usually lightly seasoned with salt and oil, making the cookies more flavorful. 
  • Flavor: The cookies have a nice seaweed flavor and not too sweet. Chili powder wasn’t spicy ( you can also use paprika powder– it’s more for the look). Next time I will try adding finely grated Parmesan cheese… sounds like a good combination with seaweed…

Hello my dear readers! I hope all is well with you. I’m sorry that I haven’t been active on my blog for over a year. I have been shifting my time heavily towards my family, kids especially and their schools (from 0–>100% involvement), and thus I had to set aside my blog temporarily.

To make up for my negligence is this toffee that I just tried for holiday treats. I am not into sweets typically but toffee with dark chocolate is an exception! My whole family actually love it. This recipe I found on the web is pretty easy to follow– they even have a quick video of making it.

Here’s some tips for success~ Heavy saucepan, cook to temperature 315 degree, stir occasionally, medium heat.  About the temperature, I tried it at 285 degree as suggested by the website, but found my toffee was not brittle enough with a bit of chewiness stick to my teeth. So I increased to 315 degree (by chance!), and the nrittle texture is just right for me. Now toffee is definitely on my holiday treats and giveaway list.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may your holiday season filled with love, warmth and peace!

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Almonds

Dark Chocolate Covered Toffee (adapted from AllRecipes.com: Best Toffee Ever- Super Easy)

Ingredients:

2 cups unsalted butter– cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
15 oz (1 1/2 package) bittersweet chocolate chips
3 cups finely chopped almonds– toasted

Method:

  1. Put butter, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan at medium heat. Stir in one direction until butter melts. Bring it to a boil. Cook until the mixture turns dark amber color, and candy thermometer reads 315°F. Stir occasionally.
  2. While the toffee is cooking, line a large baking pan (18 x 13 x 1 inch) with parchment paper. Leave some overhang parchment paper on both ends for easy lifting toffee later. Sprinkle 1 cup of chopped almonds on the parchment paper.
  3. When the toffee reaches 315°F, pour onto lined baking pan. Carefully spread to an even layer, covering all the chopped almonds on the pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over toffee, wait 1-2 minutes for chocolate to melt. Spread chocolate into a thin layer with a spatula.
  4. Sprinkle chopped almonds over chocolate, press in gently with a spatula or hand.
  5. Chill toffee in the fridge until it is firmed. Break or cut into pieces. Store in air tight container.
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Pickled Assorted Vegetables 涼拌什錦泡菜

Pickled Assorted Vegetables Recipe 涼拌什錦泡菜 

Ingredients:

1 chayote
1 kohlrabi
1/2 stick carrot
5 Persian cucumbers
1/4 stick daikon
3 gloves garlic– chopped
1-2 red hot peppers– chopped
sushi vinegar
sugar
water

Method:

  1. Prepare chayote: Peel off the skin and remove the core. Rinse to remove the sliminess of the chayote. Cut into small bite size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Rub salt into chayote with your fingers. Set aside for it to draw out the liquid. Rinse with water , then squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry.
  2. Prepare kohlrabi: Remove the outer skin of kohlrabi, then cut into small thin size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Rub salt into kohlrabi with your fingers. Set aside for it to draw out the liquid. Rinse with water , then squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry.
  3. Prepare carrot: Peel off the skin and remove both ends. Cut into small bite size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Rub salt into carrot with your fingers. Set aside for it to draw out the liquid. Rinse with water , then squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry.
  4. Prepare cucumbers: Remove both ends and the core of cucumbers. Cut into small bite size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Rub salt into cucumbers with your fingers. Set aside for it to draw out the liquid. Rinse with water , then squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry.
  5. Prepare daikon: Peel off the skin and remove both ends. Cut into small bite size. Put in a bowl and sprinkle some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Rub salt into daikon with your fingers. Set aside for it to draw out the liquid. Rinse with water , then squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry.
  6. Combine all vegetables, garlic and peppers in a large bowl (non metal, non plastic). Add enough sushi vinegar to cover half of the vegetables. Then add enough water to barely cover the top of vegetables. Add sugar to taste. Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for at least 1 day for the marinade to soak in. Stir the vegetables the next day and continue chilling in the fridge. Pickled vegetables last at least 2 weeks if kept well in fridge. Be sure to use a clean dry spoon to take out a portion for consumption.

Regina’s Note:

  • How to pick kohlrabi: Pick young kohlrabi that is more greenish rather than pale color, preferably with a little green leaves on the top. Old kohlrabi will have tough, chewy fibers/roots throughout the vegetables that make it impossible to use for making dishes.
  • How to pick cucumbers: Always pick cucumbers that are firm. There should not be any wrinkles on the skin or else it’s not fresh.
  • How to pick daikon: Pick daikon with smooth skin. Check the cut stems– they should look freshly cut. Put daikon in your hand and it should feel heavy to you. If it doesn’t feel heavy the daikon might be old or hollow inside.
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Cheese Sugar Pai Pau 乳酪白糖排包

I haven’t made 排包 ‘pai pau’ (bread rows) for a very long time. I miss that buttery soft pai pau from Kee Wah Bakery… Hmm, with only two tiny slices of whole wheat bread left on the counter, it’s time to make some more bread!~ Pai pau it is! Little did I realize that my previous pai pau recipes require dough starter which I didn’t have extra time to make… So I used a couple recipes as guideline and create this pai pau recipe that doesn’t use dough starter. Oh, and I always love Parmesan/Asiago cheese and sugar topping, so why not use it here to clean up my leftover cheese.

The taste: Well, bread made with or without a dough starter does make a difference, at least with this pai pau. Since I didn’t use any dough starter this time, my pai pau was a little dry the second day (I didn’t try it fresh on the baking day). I warmed it up a bit in microwave then the bread was soft again, but when it cools it gets drier and a little more dense. Oh well… as long as I have the crusty sugar cheesy topping, it’s fine with me 😉

Cheese Sugar Pai Pau 乳酪白糖排包 Recipe (makes 10 rows)

Ingredients:
7/8 cup (210ml) milk– see note below
1 egg– beaten
3 1/3 cups bread flour– see note below
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
5 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tbsp grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter– cut into pieces

1 beaten egg for egg wash

Topping:
grated fresh Parmesan cheese (about 1 tbsp for each bread row)
sugar (about 1/2 tbsp for each bread row)

Method (using Zojirushi bread maker):

  1. Add milk and beaten egg to the bottom of bread maker loaf pan, followed by bread flour, ensuring covering all the liquid. Make a indentation in the center and add dry yeast to the indentation. Place sugar, cheese, milk powder, salt and butter in different corners (salt and sugar at opposite side). Select “Dough” course and press “Start”. When the machine starts kneading, check on the dough by touching– if it looks a bit dry and crumbly, add 1 tbsp of milk. If it’s too wet add 1 tbsp bread flour.
  2. When the course finishes, remove dough from loaf pan and place in a large bowl, covered with plastic wrap and rest in a warm place until double in size.
  3. Punch out the air and kneed to a log shape. Cut into 10 pieces, roll each piece of dough into a oblong shape, sprinkle some sugar (optional) and roll up lengthwise likes jelly roll. Pinch to seal the end. Place bread dough in a greased deep dish rectangle baking pan, slight apart from each other. Cover with plastic wrap and rest until they are double in height.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Apply egg wash on top of the bread, then sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, followed by sugar (sugar helps preventing the cheese from getting burnt).
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove pai pau from the pan and cool completely on a rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • Milk: Weather and different batch of bread flour affect the amount of liquid used. When the machine starts kneading, check the dough by touching: if it’s a bit dry/dense/crumbly, add 1 more tbsp milk. It it’s too wet/sticky, add 1 more tbsp bread flour.
  • Measuring bread flour: the best and most accurate way is to measure by weight. If you measure by volume, be sure to scoop loosen flour into measurement cup (make a heap), then scrap off the extras with the back of a knife.
  • Cheese sugar topping: I baked 25 minutes but tips of pai pau are still pale so I baked for another 2 minutes, but the cheese sprinkles become too brown. So it’s better to stick with 25-26 minutes, or apply egg wash and the toppings half way through baking?…
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Challah Bread– 6-Strand Braids

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Challah Bread– 6-Strand Braids

Challah is a braided Jewish bread eaten on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. There are different braid patterns depending on number of strands used in braiding the bread. Because of Jewish dietary restriction, Challah is usually parve (containing neither dairy nor meat, important in the laws of Kashrut). Also, Challah for Jewish New Year is coiled instead of braided, sometimes referred as  ‘Turban Challah’.

How did my first challah turn out? The look was… weird, actually kinda ugly. I think I braided my challah too tight, didn’t giving each strand space to breath and expand to form the nice round curves. Also, the oven temperature was too high. I had to trim off the burnt bottom of the bread. The crumbs? It’s soft, but not as soft as I would like. Oh well, at least the family didn’t mind and finished the loaf. I sure had fun braiding the bread though.

Challah Bread (makes 1 large loaf)

Ingredients:

for the sponge:
7/8 cup water
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast

for the dough:
all of the sponge
2 eggs– beaten
2 cups unbleached bread flour
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil

Egg wash (mix well):
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water

Method (kneaded by Zojirushi bread maker):

To make the sponge:

  1. Add water to the bottom of bread maker loaf pan. Then sprinkle in flour ensuring covering all the liquid. Make an indent in the middle and add in yeast. Add sugar and salt in separate corners.
  2. Select “Dough” course and press “Start”. Check the dough when it is kneading: scrap down any dry flour, add 1 tbsp water if it’s too dry. When the dough course completes, unplug the cord and let it sit inside the loaf pan for 8-10 hours. Do not open the lid. The sponge will eventually collapse and look bubbly and sticky after 8-10 hours.

To make the dough:

  1. Add all other dough ingredients to the sponge in the loaf pan. Select “Dough” course and press “Start”. When the course completes, remove dough from loaf pan and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and rest in a warm place until the dough is almost double in size.
  2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead gently to push out the air, then divide into 6 portions. Roll each portion to a 16-inch thin log and start braiding. Please check out this wonderful 3-4-5-6-7-8-9 strand braiding video from The Bread Kitchen.
  3. Place braided challah on a baking pan lined with parchment. Loosely cover the bread and place in a warm place until it almost double in size. Apply egg wash and bake in preheated 375°F oven for 40 minutes (if the top browns too quickly, tent the top with a piece of aluminum foil after 30 minutes). Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • Braiding the bread: I  braided my challah too tight, so the pattern was not as obvious and kinda ugly. Next time I will braid a little loose so the curves will pop up after baking.
  • Oven temperature: I find 40 minutes/375°F is too high and too long for my challah. the top is very brown and the bottom is burnt ( I had to slice off the burnt bottom). So maybe 40 minutes/350°F on next trial will work out better?
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Pullman Loaf

I have always wanted to make a pullman loaf and finally I did it! This recipe is actually from my Zojirushi Sweet Bread recipe that comes with the bread machine; I just make a little changes. I found the texture of the bread a bit dense around the edge, but the enter is soft. Maybe I have too much dough for the loaf pan?… Hmm, next time I will cut down dough amount and we’ll see what happens…

Pullman Loaf 方形麵包 Recipe (makes 1 large 13″ x 4″ loaf)

Ingredients:
1 1/8 cup milk
1 large egg– beaten
4 cup bread flour
4 tbsp dry milk powder
4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

Method (use Zojirushi bread maker for dough kneading):

  1. Add milk and beaten egg to the bottom of bread machine loaf pan. Then add in flour, ensuring covering the liquid. Make a indentation in the middle and add in yeast to the indentation. Then add in milk powder, sugar, salt and butter around on the top (be sure salt and sugar are at opposite side). Select “Dough” course and press “Start”.
  2. When the course finishes, take the dough out of bread machine and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and rest the dough in a warm place until double in size ( I sit the bowl on top of a pot filled with 2 inches warm water).
  3. Remove dough from bowl, punch down slightly, then roll out to a rectangle shape, to the length of Pullman loaf pan. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Place bread dough inside a greased Pullman loaf, cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest until it’s 1/2 inch to the rim. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Carefully place the cover on the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, positioned in the middle of the oven. Carefully remove the loaf pan cover, and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan and cool completely on the rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • The bread looks great, but some parts of the crumb is denser than others. My theory is that maybe the bread has no where to expand during baking because the lid was on the pan. Maybe cutting down bread flour by 1/2 cup next trial so hopefully the bread will have more room to expand during baking and yields a fluffier crumb.
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Pullman Loaf 方形麵包