Thursday, April 23, 2015

Melt-in-your-mouth Viennese Biscuits

I'm loving these Viennese biscuits when I first saw them at Love and Sugar. Instantly, I was thinking of the Mark and Spencer Viennese biscuits that are either dipped or sandwiched with gooey melted chocolate.

I really want to bake these biscuits and so I suggested the theme, Viennese Shortbread for our bake along with Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Lena from Frozen wings.

Viennese biscuits? These feather-light but buttery kind are typically made with soft buttery kind of cookie dough that is piped into whirls or fingers. While browsing for more Viennese biscuits recipes for my references, I have noticed that most recipes do not contain eggs at here, here, here and here. However, some recipes suggest the addition of eggs and egg yolk at here and here as it helps to hold the shapes of the biscuits after baking. To stabilize the structure of biscuits further, some at here and here even suggest the addition of egg white.

Soft buttery kind of cookie dough that is piped into whirls or fingers??? I can't help to associate these Viennese biscuits with the Donna Hay's melting moments that I have baked before. When I had a closer look at both Donna Hay's melting moments and Love and Sugar's Viennese biscuits recipes and noticed that the proportion of flour to butter of both recipes are about the same!!! Interestingly, both recipes do not contain eggs to stabilize the structure of the biscuits and this explained why my Donna Hay's melting moments lost their shapes really really really badly after baking them.

Lesson learnt... but I'm giving up baking the recipe from Love and Sugar because I know that these biscuits are going to feathery light and melting in my mouth too, just like the Donna Hay's melting moments. After researching further, I have managed to bake these Viennese biscuits successfully with these great tips...

Viennese biscuits shortbread fingers
A beautiful afternoon tea classic, Viennese Biscuits

Tip One: Do not use an electric mixer to mix the cookie dough!

Yes that you don't need a powerful Kenwood or a fanciful Kitchen Aid electric mixer to bake these cookies as over-beating the butter will cause the air pockets in the fluffy batter to expand too much and destroy the shapes of the cookies during baking. For this reason, all you need is a mixing spoon!

Sorry, my sexy KA... I'm not using you today.

Tip Two: The butter has to be very soft!

Try not to bake these biscuits on a freezing day! If you really have to bake these biscuits on a cold day, wrap a warm towel around a bowl of grated butter... this will guarantee creamy and soft butter in less than 15 mins :)

Yeah... This is the kind of soft butter that I'm talking about.
Next, beat in the vanilla paste or extract.

Tip Three: Use less but not completely no baking powder!

As you know, the addition of baking powder creates small air pockets in these biscuits for a feather-light texture but too much baking powder can cause them to look ugly being overly puffy. Instead of adding pinches of baking powder as suggested by the original recipe, I have added 1/8 tsp and the amount is still ok. Yeah... You can add pinches of small teaspoonful of baking powder but remember not to add too much!!!

Mix, mix, mix...
You can use either a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle or a cookie press like this.
I have piped my dough into these two shapes.
phew!!! They don't look so bad after baking!
They should be COOL enough to be dunk into the melted chocolate.
Mum, can I have one of these?
Hands off!!! Shoo!!! You have to wait for the chocolate to set!!!

While waiting, I have been hearing this question: Mum, can I have one please? Not just once but repeatedly!!! See... Kids can be naggy!!!

Now, son... You can enjoy this!
Me? I need a cuppa to fully enjoy these...

Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted from Love and Sugar and Marie Claire

Makes about 20 - I made 10 whirls and 10 broad wavy ones

For the biscuits:
125g unsalted butter, very softened - very important!!!
25g icing sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
125g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla paste or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To coat:
50g dark or milk chocolate, preferably the best quality ones like Callebaut dark chocolate callets with 70% cocoa if using the dark chocolate

Preheat oven at 325ºF or 170ºC or 150ºC fan forced.

Place butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a spoon, beat them until they are well combined. Then, beat in the vanilla.

In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Sift the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir to for a fairly firm dough.

Spoon dough into a piping bag or cookie press fitted with a star nozzle.

Line baking trays with baking papers. Pipe the dough into whirls or wavy fingers, spaced well apart onto the prepared trays. Bake for 13-15 mins until pale golden brown. Allow the biscuits to cool slightly (about 10 mins) on the trays and then transfer them onto the wire rack to cool completely.

To coat the biscuits with chocolate:

Line trays with baking papers. Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. To melt the chocolate, either place the bowl 1) over a pot of simmering water 2) in a microwave for several pulses of 10 secs in medium power. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Dip one side of the biscuits into the melted chocolate and place them onto the baking papers. Allow the chocolate to set before removing them from the baking papers.

Happy Baking

Here are our friends that have joined us for this bake-along. Please visit their blogs for more of their Viennese shortbread baking.

Please submit your details if you wish to link your post with this bake-along. This linking tool is open from 23 Apr to 2 May 2015.

For our next bake-along, we are baking cheesecake for our 4th bake-along anniversary which is to be posted on 7 May 2015. Please bake-along with us! All you need to do is to bake this recipe and blog hop with us for the next 10 days.

To blog hop with us, simply copy and paste this linky HTML code into your blog post where you want the blog hop list to appear. Make sure you are in HTML view/mode when you paste in the code. get the InLinkz code

Before using this linky tool, please make sure that: (1) Your post must be a current post. (2) Please mention Bake-Along in your post and link back to any of our hosts' Bake-Along post, (Joyce, Lena or Zoe). (3) Appreciate if you can display the Bake-Along badge in your post when linking up with us. Cheers!

Would you like to have a nice and relaxing afternoon tea with Twinings tea?

An Aussie cuppa? Anybody? 

On behalf of Twinings, I'm giving away three boxes of Twinings teas plus two packs of five tea samples each as shown here... to one winner.

To take part, simply complete the Rafflecopter below. Open to all international readers. Submission ends on 7th May 2015.

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I like to make a disclaimer here that I'm not paid by Twinings. I was given these teas to try and like to share some of them through my blog. Cheers!

Plus, don't forget to participate my another giveaway... ABC Delicious, Harper Collins Australia and I are giving this latest released book to one lucky winner. This giveaway is open to ALL international readers and the submission ends on 5th May 2015. Good Luck!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chicken Char Siu Bao / Pau / Steamed Buns

A little birdie told me that this steam bun recipe from No-Frills Recipes by Cheah is really really really good!

It is really really really true!

I have seen a few of my blogging friends (including Sonia from Nasi Lemak Lover and Kristy from My Little Space) who had tried this recipe and said that it is really good. After using this recipe to make these very delicious chicken char siu bao / pau / steamed buns, I must say this is my another favourite Chinese steamed bun recipe now. Thanks Cheah for sharing such lovely recipe!

Not to brag but these chicken char siu bao are truly as good as the professional made ones being fluffy white and smooth with nice saucy tender char siu filling. For an ultimate bao texture, I suggest not to substitute any of the bao ingredients including the SHORTENING! I know that I sounded severe saying this... Otherwise, this lovely bao texture can be compromised!!!

You must be thinking... Huh! Zoe says must use shortening? Didn't she says she has issue with shortening... LOL! Yes that I did! Having said that, I like take this opportunity to clarify my opinion regarding the use of shortening in my cooking or baking and here are the facts that I learned and like to share...

What is shortening?
According to Wikipedia, the original definition of shortening refer any fat that is solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry, meaning that shortening can be lard, butter or even margarine. Since the invention of hydrogenated vegetable oil in the early 20th century, the word "shortening" (or vegetable shortening) has been used to refer as hydrogenated vegetable oil exclusively.

Being solid in room temperature, vegetable shortenings are quite similar to lard. Having higher smoke point than butter and margarine and with less water content, both lard and shortening are great for baking and frying and yielding extra crispy and crumbly food. This means that lard and shortening can make food very delicious! Yup!

What are the concerns of using shortening for cooking / baking?
One: Saturated fat
The Australian Copha brand shortening contain 100% fat which 98% is saturated and so using Copha for my baking is a big NO NO NO for me!

Two: Trans fat
Some vegetable shortening made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils contain trans fats which are by-products of partial hydrogenation. Trans fats are known to link to a list of adverse health effects such as heart diseases. Using a good shortening being trans fat free is equally important. 

For food that really needs shortening, I was using Solite creaming shortening originally. Unlike, Copha, Solite creaming shortening contains 52% saturated fat but has 0.8% trans fat. As Solite shortening can be easily purchased in my local area, it seems to be the best easily available option that I can use before. Now knowing that Crisco shortening contains 25% saturated and trans fat free, I think my current choice is obvious! Despite said that, I have to emphasize that I'm NOT advertising for Crisco. Buying a pack of Crisco shortening from shops in Australia can be a challenging task for me and so I had to buy it online.

Besides shortening, the use of Hong Kong flour and double acting baking powder are equally important to make these bao so white and fluffy. However, if Hong Kong flour and double acting baking powder are unavailable, using any low protein bleached flour and normal baking wouldn't be detrimental. Sadly for me, Hong Kong flour can be out of stock for a long time with no valid reason in Melbourne. So, don't be upset if you can't find these ingredients as I can totally understand your frustration here!

Before proceeding to the recipe, here are the tips that I like to share on how to cook a good char siu filling:

For my char siu bao filling, I like to have a mixture of char siu with mince. For a smooth and silky mince, I like to mix in a small amount of cornflour and oil into the mince (either pork or chicken) before cooking it.

For a saucey finish, I like to add a mixture of water and cornflour in the last step of cooking and this will make the sauce thick and glossy.

For a healthier option, I have used homemade chicken char siu and chicken mince to cook my char siu bao filling and I reckon this filling is as tender as what we are enjoying in most dim sum / yum cha restaurants.

best char siu bao pau steamed buns
My chicken Char Siu Bao made with a really good steamed bun recipe.
The must-use ingredients include (1) Hong Kong flour ... 
(2) Double acting baking powder ...
(3) Crisco shortening
To cook this chicken char siu filling, you need...
(1) Add a small amount of these into mince before cooking.
(2) Cook onion, garlic and mince with these seasonings.
(3) Add these homemade chicken char siu and thicken the sauce finally.
I'm ready to fill the bao with char siu filling.
This is how I shaped my bao... Hope that it is correct!
Most of my bao remain in good shapes after steaming. No worries... I will eat the so-so looking ones :)
best char siu bao pau steamed buns
Thanks little birdie! This char siu bao is really really really good. Isn't it?

Now, here are the recipes that I have used to make these chicken char siu bao.

Chicken Char Siu Filling, "kind of" adapted from the book, Dim Sum Inspiration by Choong Su Yin

For best result, prepare this one day ahead

Makes about 20 portions of medium sized bao fillings
Ingredients A:
300g chicken mince
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

Ingredients B:
4 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
Ingredients C:
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp finely ground white pepper

Ingredient D:
300g char siu, roughly diced into 0.5-1 cm cubes

Ingredients E:
1 tbsp cornflour
1/3 cup (80ml) water
Ingredients A: Add cornflour and oil into mince and combine all thoroughly.

Ingredients B: Heat 4 tbsp of oil in frying pan with medium high heat. Fry garlic and onion until slightly browned and fragrant.

Ingredients C: Combine all together. Add mince and the combined ingredients C into the browned garlic and onion. Continue to cook with stirring until the mince is cooked.

Ingredient D: Add char siu into the mince. Cook for about 1-2 mins. Keep stirring while cooking.

Ingredients E: Combine cornflour with water. Make sure that the cornflour mixture is uniformly mixed before pouring into the cooking mince to make the filling thick and saucy. Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat. Set aside to allow filling to cool completely. Store in fridge until ready to use.

Steamed bun recipe mostly adapted from No-Frills Recipes and Nasi Lemak Lover

Makes 16-20 depending on sizes

500g Hong Kong flour or any low protein bleached flour
2 tsp instant dried yeast
125 g caster sugar
5 tsp Crisco shortening
2 tsp double acting baking powder or regular baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
220 ml water

Place all ingredients in the breadmaker, adding yeast and shortening last. Switch the breadmaker on with "dough” setting and allow the ingredients to knead and prove for 1 1/2 hr.

If breadmaker is not available and like what Cheah (No-Frills Recipesdid, mix dried yeast in 100ml lukewarm water. Add in 130g flour, mix well with yeast mixture. Roughly form into a ball of dough and set aside for 15 mins. Mix the rest of the flour with all other ingredients and knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hr or until double in size.

When the dough is ready, divide into 16-20 portions depending on the size of the bao that you want.

Shape each portion into balls with smooth surfaces and allow the dough to rest for 10 mins. Flatten each dough with your hands, and place 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoonful of filling in the centre of the dough. Pleat the sides. Pull the pleats together and seal.

Place each bao on a small piece of baking paper with its pleats side up. Rest the bao in warm mist for 15 mins. Meanwhile, set water to boil in a steamer.

Steam baos for about 15-25 mins until done. The steam timing varies if you have smaller or larger bao or multiple layers of baos to steam. For mine, the layer that is closest to the direct steam take 15 mins to cook.

Serve immediately and serve them warm.

Note: Using these recipes, I have made 16 large char siu baos and had about 4 portions of fillings as leftover.

Happy Steaming

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs up organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and me, Bake for Happy Kids, hosted by Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe at this post.

Our Little Thumbs Up event starts on the first day of the month until the last day of the month. Please join us! To join, simply cook or bake any recipe with the theme of the month which is CHICKEN for April 2015 and link with us at this post anytime until 30th Apr 2015.

What after April 2015? Cheryl from Baking Taitai will be the next hostess of May 2015 and her theme is YOGURT!

Don't forget your thumbs up or display this badge! And make sure that: (1) Your post must be a current post preferably within this month. (2) Please mention Little Thumbs Up in your post and link back to Bake for Happy Kids, my little favourite DIY and Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe. For more details, please see this.