Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicken Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包 Pan Fried Buns

Hi everyone! I'm back!!!

... I'm back from the busy and flashy Singapore to my simple and laid-back Melbourne. Although my life is sometimes hectic with family and work in Melbourne, I reckon that it is never intensive like being a working mum in Singapore.

Now back to my blogging and cooking...

My son and I love love love sheng jian bao!!!

Sheng jian bao? In Chinese, they are 生煎包 and they are also known as Chinese pan fried buns. Sheng jian bao are Chinese savoury buns that are pan fried with crispy bases and also steamed to produce fluffy steamed-bun-like bun texture. 

We love love love eating sheng jian bao in Chinese restaurants. In one of our favourite places to dine, it usually serves five large sheng jian bao in one order. When my son was three, he can eat at least four sheng jian bao and will leave one for me. These days, he can finish all five large sheng jian bao and leave nothing for me... Then, he tells me that he is still hungry. Hmmm... When my son gets older, I'm hoping that I can order two serves of sheng jian bao and I bet that he wouldn't be able to finish all ten of them... Or will he???

I should be ashamed of myself that I'm fighting with my son to eat sheng jian bao... Please please please don't boo me!!!

So, here I am trying to redeem myself by cooking adequate sheng jian bao for my family and I did it...

sheng jian bao pan fried chicken buns
Chicken sheng jian bao 生煎包 / pan fried buns

To be honest, I really thought that it was a super scary recipe to attempt before I made these. Now, I can tell my son that mummy can make these buns anytime that he wants and I say it with a confident grin :)

Typically, sheng jian bao are made of regular mince pork (not lean) so that the buns are filled with juicy and smooth fillings but today, I'm making mine with a healthy twist and used lean chicken mince and cabbage instead.

I can't deny that the typical fattier pork sheng jian bao taste better than my leaner chicken and vegetable sheng jian bao but I can't deny that my leaner chicken and vegetable sheng jian bao taste are comparatively good too!

You can use any cabbage if you can't find any Chinese cabbage in your local market.
I'm surprised to see that the waxy cabbage that I used can contain so much liquid.
Next, I sliced the spring onions.
Gather the seasonings
And add all into the chicken mince. Chill mixture for at least 3 hours.
These are two of the ingredients that I used to make the bun dough
After its first prove, I divided the dough into 20 portions.
It was quite scary when I first shaped these buns.
Then, practice makes perfect!
Coat the bottom of the rested buns with sesame seeds
Pan frying (plus steaming) the buns
Wow! The buns are so fluffy!
Very delicious even they are made with healthier options!

Guys! Guys! No need to fight... There is plentiful of sheng jian bao here!!!

Well, I assume but all these 20 medium buns were gone very quickly with no leftovers!!!

I asked my husband and son if they want me to cook sheng jian bao with pork fillings for the next time and they said NO!!!

"We want the same chicken sheng jian bao..." said my husband with his head shaking and my son with a full mouthful of bun responded with his head nodding like crazy.

Knowing them, I'm very surprised to know that they prefer to eating these healthier version. Well, you should see my surprised face at that moment.

Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted from the book, Delightful Snacks and Dim Sum by Agnes Chang - please note that the original recipe by Agnes Chang uses chicken too.

Makes 20 medium buns
(just enough to serve three big eaters like us)
For the dough:
160ml (2/3 cup) water, lukewarm, plus 1-2 tbsp if the dough is too dry
350g Hong Kong flour or any low protein (7-9%) bleached flour
3/4 tbsp double-action baking powder or baking powder, you can omit this if you are using self raising low protein flour
1/3 tsp salt
60g caster sugar
30g shortening, preferably Crisco with no trans fat
1 tsp instant yeast

For the filling:
350g lean chicken mince (It works well for us!)
150g Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
2/3 tsp salt
about 30g spring onion, finely sliced, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp ginger, finely minced

To season:
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp light soya sauce
2/3 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chicken stock granules
1 1/2 tbsp corn flour

To cook:
adequate white sesame seeds to coat the bottom of 20 buns
4-5 tbsp oil -  I used Alfa One rice bran oil
3/4 cup (180ml) water or more if required

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

If you are kneading the dough by hand, combine all dough ingredients except shortening to form a dough first. Add shortening as you knead until you get a smooth and elastic dough. This kneading time might take up to 15-20 mins. Cover dough with a cling wrap and allow it to prove for 1 hr or until doubled the size.

For the filling:
Mix cabbage with 2/3 tsp salt and leave it to "sweat" for about 10 mins. Squeeze out its excess liquid.

Combine chicken, cabbage, spring onions, ginger and all the seasonings and chill the filling in the fridge for at least 3 hrs before using.

To assemble:
Divide dough into 20 portions, Shape the portions into balls. Using a rolling pin, roll each portion of dough as thin as possible and also into round shape. Wrap 1-2 tbsp of filling inside each rolled dough as shown in the video at Christine's Recipe. Repeat the rolling and wrapping steps with the rest of the dough and filling. You might have about 1 cup of filling as leftover like mine.

Cover the buns with cling wrap and set aside to prove for about 15 mins or until the buns looks slightly puffy.

To cook:
Using medium heat, heat up 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan (mine is 21 cm in diameter). Coat the bottom of the buns with sesame seeds and place them in the frying pan. Do not cook too many buns at a same time. Arrange them in a way that they will have space for expansion - I can cook 7 buns at a go with my 21 cm frying pan. Add adequate water (1/4 cup for 21 cm pan) and seal the frying pan with a cover. Cook the buns with medium heat for about 10-15 mins or until the water dry out. If the water dry out before the meat is cooked, add more water if it is required. Check if the meat is cooked and the base is golden brown and crispy before transferring the buns onto serving plates to serve. To finish, sprinkle some chopped spring onions to garnish.

Serve immediately.

Happy Cooking

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. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chocolate French Macarons (Italian Meringue)

Who says that baking French macaron is easy???

I didn't.

I said that it can be fuss free and fail proof if you uses the Italian meringue method but I won't think that it is easy.

With my countless of macaron baking, I have learned that:

(1) A digital weighing scale is necessary for macaron baking! Please do not assume that all egg whites are 30g each!!! I have to weigh all ingredients to make sure that its proportion is exactly right.

(2) Knowing my oven is critical. I have learned that fan forced baking is bad for macaron baking and baked mine in the middle rack at 150°C with no fan. Chocolate macarons are typically than denser than non-chocolate macarons and need extra 3-5 mins to bake.

(3) Modifying my Always-Successful-Italian-Meringue macaron recipe to bake chocolate maracon is not as simple as adding cocoa powder! I have added too much cocoa powder once and made chocolate macarons that are crinkled, dense and compact! Geez! Then, I found this recipe from here at Callebaut Chocolate and its proportion is spot on!

(4) Adding cocoa powder makes denser batter and macaron. For this reason, I had to scale up my usual recipe to make enough macarons to feed my macaron-loving family. Besides, I didn't want to scale down any recipe to anything that contains odd number. And, so instead of using 2-3 egg whites, I had stick to the recipe from Callebaut Chocolate and used 165g egg whites (about 5 egg whites) and eventually baked 60 chocolate macarons.

Is 60 chocolate macarons too many for us? I thought so but I was wrong. And if you are baking these chocolate macarons for Easter, I reckon that you might have to bake even more!!!

Talking about Easter... I can't believe it is now end of March 2015.

I like to thank everyone who participated with your yummy banana-y food at Little Thumbs Up event with Faeez. We have a total of 89 links for March 2015 and hope to have you cooking with us for the next Little Thumbs Up with the Chicken theme with Diana (The Domestic Goddess Wannabe) starting on 1st Apr 2015.

My family and I are going away to Singapore for our Easter break and I will be back at about 2-3 weeks later.

Before going, I like to wish everyone a good break and Happy Easter!!!

chocolate French macarons Italian meringue
Chocolate French macarons (made with Italian meringue)
The addition of cocoa powder made a firmer almond-egg-white paste.
Next, I made the Italian meringue.
Ta dah! The near-stiff peaks Italian meringue is ready!
Fold in the meringue into the almond paste in batches achieving the macaronnage and macaronner stage.
Very happy to see these perfect macarons!!!
Next, I made the chocolate ganache by combining equal amount of cream and dark chocolate.
Microwave with low power to melt all chocolate. Allow it to rest until it reaches a spreadable consistency. 
This is me sandwiching the macarons :)
And, this is me enjoying the crispy outside and fudgy inside of this chocolate macaron :D

No doubt that I love baking these because my family and I love chocolate macarons. However, I was feeling the urge to bake these because my friend's 13 years old daughter has been asking for a perfect chocolate macaron recipe whenever I see her at our picnics and gatherings. Here! Isabel, I have found the recipe for you.

Here are the recipes that I have used to bake these chocolate French macarons. It is mostly adapted from here at Callebaut Chocolate plus the chocolate ganache recipe that is mostly adapted from the book, I love Macarons by Hisako Ogita

Makes about 60 macarons or 120 shells
(number can vary depending on the sizes that you made)

250g almond meal (ground almond)
250g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder, Dutch processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
165g egg whites, divided into 2 portions, 85g and 80g
225g caster sugar
60g water

Make enough ganache to fill 60 macarons
250g cream (35% fat)
250g dark chocolate, Callebaut dark chocolate callets with 70% cocoa

Preheat the oven to 150°C (NO fan forced).

Combine almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa powder and sift them three times or more and set aside.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat 80g of egg whites at medium low speed at first for about 10 mins. While beating, combine water and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and cook the sugar water syrup to 118°C but not over 125°C.

Increase the mixer speed and continue to beat the egg whites while pouring syrup into the egg whites slowly in a steady and fine stream. Continue beating until the meringue is glossy and near-stiff peaks. Allow the meringue to cool to about 40°C.

Place almond meal-icing sugar-cocoa mixture in a mixing bowl and mix in the another portion of egg white (85g) to form a thick paste.

Fold in half of the cooled meringue first into the almond paste, scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl until the mixture is well-combined. Then, fold in the rest of the meringue into the almond mixture until the mixture is well-combined again.

Continue to mix in order to "deflate" some fluffiness of the meringue in the mixture and this step is usually referred as "Macaronner". In the book, I love Macarons by Hisako Ogita, it suggests scooping the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down for nothing more or less than 15 times but I like to gauge this stage by the look of the batter. I reckon it is ok when it looks firm and dripping slowly from a spoon.

Attach a 1 cm tip (I used Wilton tip 1A) to the pastry bag. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a cup or container and pour the macaron batter into it.

Pipe out the batter onto baking tray lined with silicon mats in circles and any shapes that you like. Gently tap the baking sheet firmly against flat surfaces to allow the batter to settle.

Allow the piped batter to rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 5 mins. Bake for 20 mins or until dried and slightly crisp. Note: My oven doesn't have bottom heat function and had to bake for another 5 mins at 130°C with NO fan forced to get the bottom of the macarons crisp. Please note that chococlate macaron is denser than non-chocolate ones. Typically, the non-chocolate macarons need 15 mins plus to bake and chocolate ones need an extra 5 mins of baking.

Allow macarons to cool on baking mat as they peel off easily only when they are completely cooled.

To make the ganache:

Place chocolate and cream in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl to microwave with low power for about 1 min or until the chocolate melts. Alternatively, place chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place cream in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Pour boiling cream into chocolate and allow mixture to sit for 5 mins.

Mix until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Allow mixture to cool at room temperature into a spreadable consistency. If ganache is too firm after cooling, warm it up slightly in a microwave with short burst of low power.

To assemble:
Using a spatula, spread a dollop of ganache onto the macaron shells.

Sandwich with another macaron shell. Press it slightly to secure. As these macarons are made with the firm kind of filling, they taste better after resting in the fridge on the next day.