Monday, September 1, 2014

Chinese Flower Steamed Buns 花卷

August 2014 is gone now... Strangely, time seems to pass quicker when we are busy. Agree? I believe that August 2014 has a been busy month for all of us. We have a total of 51 entries linking with Cook like a Star, Gordon Ramsay event and 343 entries linking with Little Thumbs Up, Flour event. 51+343 =394!!! With this massive amount of participation, I have to believe that we must have been very busy cooking and baking!!! I must thank Yen, Mich and Diana for being committed and wonderful hostesses for these events. To continue, I like to emphasize that events hosting can be time-consuming with all these theme-cooking and blog-visiting. I must admit that I have not been coping well with these massive amount of entries. Hence, I'm sorry if I have not visit all your linking blog posts and hope that you can understand that I have tried my best.

August 2014 is gone and so what's next? September 2014 is here! Kit from I-Lost in Austen is the next hostess of September 2014 and her Little Thumbs Up with Apple theme event starts on tomorrow, the first Tuesday of August 2014, 2nd September.

Today is the first day of Spring in Melbourne, Australia. To me, Spring is a beautiful season. The flowers are blooming and the days are getting warmer and longer. Feeling good, I'm inspired to do some Spring-related cooking. To start, I like to make something flowery and pretty...

Chinese flower steamed buns bao
Chinese Flower Steamed Buns 花卷

I was impressed after steaming these buns... but slightly disappointed after having my first bite of these. They are very soft and moist to eat but not springy at all! These buns collapse flatly when they are bitten and won't spring back to their shapes afterwards. Having said that, I have to strongly emphasize that I was just slightly disappointed as these buns are actually very nice to eat if you tear and pull them apart by pieces and eat them with any savoury food and gravy. In fact, they can be easily re-heated using a microwave and can stay moist even after a few days that they were made. My husband and son said that they enjoy these the most with fish or pork floss or any braised dishes.

Why this recipe? This flower steamed bun recipe is mostly adapted from Hunger Hunger. Unlike a recipe (from the book, the first book of noodles for beginners by Carol Hu) that I was intending to use originally, this is a fuss-free recipe that requires no pre-fermentation and contains five typical essential ingredients (plus water) to make the plain buns. Easy!

Divide dough into the required portion sizes accordingly
If you like something fanciful, you can shape the buns with these ingredients
To shape into pretty flower, do this first...
... then, this.
Keep pulling and twisting and tuck in both ends to get this. Pretty!
Allow buns to rest for about 20 mins and steam for about 10-20 mins
Happy to see that the flowery shapes stay pretty well.
Best way of eating it is by pulling it apart :)

Here's the recipe mostly adapted from Hunger Hunger

Makes 12 buns or 10-15 depending on the size that you like

For the dough:
350g Hong Kong flour or any low protein (7-9%) bleached flour
1 tsp double-action baking powder or baking powder, you can omit this if you are using self raising low protein flour
30g caster sugar
230 ml water, lukewarm
1 tbsp vegetable oil, preferably something light like canola oil
1 tsp instant yeast

The Extras:
2 tbsp sesame oil or vegetable oil, preferably something light like canola oil if you like a fair-looking buns
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2-3 stalks of spring onions, finely sliced
small pieces of baking paper to prevent the buns from sticking on steamed surfaces.

Place water, oil, sugar, flour, baking powder and yeast according to this order into a breadmaker and use "dough” setting to knead and prove the dough for 1 hr.

If breadmaker is not available, kneading by hand is possible. Dissolve yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into 2 tbsp of lukewarm water. Wait for about 10 mins or until the yeast mixture turns foamy. Combine flour, baking powder, caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, add about 200ml of water and yeast mixture and mix to form a dough. Transfer dough onto a non-stick work surface. Continue to knead to form an elastic and smooth dough (at least 30 mins) and then prove the dough for 1 hr.

Please note that the dough can be sticky but try not to add in more flour. Keep kneading and the dough will become smoother as you knead.

Divide dough into 12 portions or 15 portions for smaller buns. On a lightly floured work surface and using a rolling pin, roll each portion into a small oval shape which is about 3-4 cm wide. Use a knife, cut the inside of the dough by its lengthwise into thin strips of 0.5 cm (or thinner than that if you are making smaller buns) without cutting through the rims of the dough. Brush the cut strips of dough with vegetable oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds and sliced onions.

Take the ends of the dough, one end with each hand with your thumb and index forefinger pinching both ends. Stretch the dough as you pull it gently and twist at the same time until the strips form a nice twisted pattern. Tuck both ends under the twisted pattern and place the buns on a small pieces of baking paper to proof. Rest the bun in warm mist for 20 mins or until slightly doubled in size but not too long as over-prove buns tends to wrinkle after cooling from steaming.

Steam bun for 10-15 mins until done. The steam timing varies depending on the sizes of your buns and also if you have multiple layers of buns to steam. The layer that is closest to the direct steam will take about 10 mins to cook. When ready remove the buns immediately from the steamer and serve warm.

Leftovers can be kept in fridge or freezer with cling wrap and cover. To freeze, allow buns to cool completely at room temperature. Wrap each bun in each small freezing bag and place all of them in the freezer. To consume, no thawing of frozen buns are required. Just re-steam or microwave (cover with cling wrap) the kept buns until hot before serve.

Happy Steaming

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thousand Layer Flaky Swirl Yam / Taro Mooncake (with custard filling) 千层芋泥月饼

I love eating any flaky kind of pastry. And of course, I wouldn't resist eating any flaky kind of mooncakes.

After satisfying my son with mini baked custard mooncakes, I like to satisfy myself by baking my favourite thousand layer flaky yam mooncake (also known as 千层芋泥月饼 in Chinese). Learning from I have made previously at here, I have used the similar custard filling with three egg yolks to substitute the use of twelves salted yolk in my yam mooncakes. I'm so proud of myself that I have this brilliant idea... LOL!

As I can be very fussy with the quality and nutritional content of the food that I eat, I like to bake something that is not overly rich and not overly sweet and yet something still smooth and delicious to indulge.

Balance! Balance! - This is what I usually tell myself. I have used the most sensible amount of sugar and oil to bake these mooncakes and not forgetting that I have promised myself not to compromise their taste and texture.

flaky swirl yam taro mooncake with custard filling
Flaky Swirl Yam Mooncake with Custard Filling
No hassle of getting rid the tough skin of yam! I'm using the frozen ones from Asian grocery.
Use a skewer or fork to test if the yam is cooked. If it is soft enough, it is!
Process yam when it is hot as cooled yam tends to be firmer and you might fry your processor!
This is always my son's fav!
The addition of colouring is optional but the contrasting colours will make the pastry looking very pretty! 
Shaping these are so therapeutic!
These are easier to roll after chilling.
Assembling the mooncakes
Can't see much difference before and after baking? I know that the mooncake is cooked when its pastry is firm.
Can't wait to try one soon!
flaky swirl yam taro mooncake with custard filling
This is how the mooncake look on the day that it was baked ...
After chilling, these mooncakes look even more beautiful... 
See this...
Chilled mooncakes... They look so smooth and pretty!

Besides their look, you have to trust me that these mooncakes are not overly rich and not overly sweet and being perfect in its taste and texture. We don't even have to cut each of mooncake into quarters as half of these mooncake can be easily consumed even as tea time snack in just a mouthful. My fussy husband said that he is totally impressed with these mooncakes... Are you?

Here are the recipes that I used to make these mooncakes.

Yam / Taro Paste Filling mostly adapted from Yin's Homemade

Instead of making a sweet and slightly savoury Teochew style yam filling with added shallot, I have chosen to make something plain basically just yam, sugar and oil. Here, I'm making my yam filling with a reduced amount of sugar and oil added but optimal enough to taste good and smooth.

Makes 12-14 portions of yam fillings
400g peeled yam / taro, extra if you need to peel the skin
120g sugar
70ml vegetable oil, preferably rice bran oil

Peel skin off yam thoroughly and discard the skin. Otherwise, you may wish to use the frozen ones which have been peeled before packaging. Make sure nothing tough is left on the yam as the tough bits will affect the smoothness of the paste.
Cut yam into pieces and steam until soft. To test, using a skewer or a fork to pierce the taro to see if it is soft or breaks easily.

Using a processor or a blender, process the steamed and warm taro until paste-looking smooth. Warning: Cooled yam tends to be firmer and stickier to process and can potentially fry your processor! 

Place processed yam in a large frying pan. Add sugar and vegetable oil and cook mixture with medium low heat. Keep stirring and cook the mixture for about 15-20 mins or until mixture forms a dough.

Turn off the heat. Set aside. Allow the mixture to cool completely. Chill mixture thoroughly in the fridge before using it as mooncake fillings subsequently.

Custard Filling largely modified from the book, Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival by Choong Su Yin

Makes 12 portions with less than 1/4 as leftovers
25g butter, soften
60g caster sugar (more if you like your filling to be sweeter but this is ok for us)
3 egg yolks (from 3 large eggs, each 80g), roughly beaten
1 tbsp condensed milk
100ml cream (with 35% fat) or 40ml cream + 60ml regular coconut milk
20g all purpose flour
15g custard powder
10g tapioca flour

In a small bowl, combine flour, custard powder and tapioca flour.

Using a wooden spoon, beat butter and sugar until light and combined. While beating, add egg yolks one at a time and beat until combined. Beat in condensed milk, cream (and coconut milk, optional). Sift flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture and mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a heat resistance container and steam over medium heat for 25 mins with stirring in every 5 mins. Set aside for mixture to cool.

Knead mixture until smooth. Wrap custard in cling wrap and chill it in refrigerator until required.

Thousand Layer Pastry largely modified from the book, Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival by Choong Su Yin

Among a few great flaky yam mooncake recipe, I have decided to use this pastry recipe because 1) the one from Anncoo Journal uses slightly more fat content that this but I love to use Ann's thorough step-by-step mooncake shaping instruction as my reference to shape my mooncakes. She is always so brilliant! 2) the very well shaped mooncakes from Nasi Lemak Lover uses ghee. I know that Sonia's mooncakes are prettier but for health and personal reasons, I like to restrict myself to use of Crisco shortening with less saturated fat. I reckon both Ann's, Sonia's and my recipes all make nice and flaky pastry. Which is better? I don't know and I guess the choice is really up to each individual.

Makes 12 mooncakes
For the water dough:
60g shortening
1 tbsp sugar
80g warm water
1/4 tsp vinegar
180g high protein flour
drops of purple colouring, preferably natural colouring (optional)

For the shortening dough:
180g all-purpose flour
100g shortening

To make the water dough, combine warm water, vinegar and purple colouring. Dissolve sugar in the vinegar mixture. Rub in shortening into high protein flour, add the vinegar mixture gradually. Combine and knead into a dough. Allow dough to rest in the fridge for at least an hour, then divide into 6 portions.

To make the shortening dough, steam all-purpose flour and sieve when it is completely cool. Add shortening into the flour and knead to form a smooth dough.  Allow dough to rest in the fridge for at least an hour, then divide into 6 portions.

To assemble:
Line baking trays with baking paper. Preheat oven at at 200°C or 180°C fan forced.

ith reference to my picture, wrap one portion of shortening dough inside one portion of water dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into an oval shape, then roll it tightly like a Swiss roll.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into long strip and roll it tightly again like a Swiss roll. Using a knife, cut the rolled up dough into half. Repeat the same with the rest of the 5 portions of water and shortening dough.

With the incision part facing downward, use a rolling pin to flatten each half of the dough gently and then roll it out to about 5mm thickness without tearing the spiral designs.

Meanwhile, divide yam filling into 12-14 portions in the size of a golf ball. Roll out custard filling into 12 portions in the size of an egg yolk and wrap each into each portion of the yam paste.

Place each portion of yam filling in the middle of each rolled out pastry. Wrap filling inside the pastry. Seal the end. 

Arrange shaped mooncakes on prepared tray and bake for 20 min or until pastry look firm and cooked. Allow mooncakes to cool on the tray slightly for 5 mins, then remove to racks to cool completely. Serve when they are completely cooled or chilled in the fridge.

Storage: As these mooncakes are made with reduced amount of sugar, they should be stored at room temperature only up to 3 days and can last up to 2 weeks if they are stored in the fridge.

Happy Baking

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 Domestic Goddess Wannabe at this post.


Our Little Thumbs Up event starts on the first Tuesday 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 FLOUR for August 2014 and link with us at this post anytime until 31st August 2014.

If you are wondering what kind of flour you can use to participate this event, please check out this message from Diana...

"Flour is an essential ingredient in my (and I am sure, many of your) kitchen. It is the base of pastas and noodles, cakes and biscuits, or even as thickening agents in the making of a roux. The list of food items made using flour is endless. As such, we will be limiting the theme to mainly Wheat Flour, namely:
  • All-Purpose (also known as Plain) Flour
  • Bread Flour
  • Cake Flour
  • Self-raising Flour
  • Pastry Flour
  • Wholemeal Flour
  • Hong Kong (also known as Waterlily) Flour
  • Superlite Flour
  • Top Flour
You must use one of these flours in its raw form in your recipe and you must use at least 1 tablespoon or 10g of these flours in your cooking /baking.

What after August 2014? Kit from I-Lost in Austen will be the next hostess of September 2014 and her theme is APPLE! Her Little Thumbs Up event starts on the first Tuesday of August 2014 (2nd Sep) until the last day of the month.

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 Kidsmy little favourite DIY or/and Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe. For more details, please see this.

This post is also linked to the event, Best Recipes for Everyone August 2014 Event Theme: Mooncake hosted by Fion XuanHom's Mom.