Pineapple Coconut Buns

pineapple coconut buns

One of the first recipes I ever posted on this site was Chinese Cocktail Buns, or gai mei baos. These soft, fluffy buns with a buttery coconut filling were a favorite from my childhood and definitely the first item I reach for in any Chinese bakery.

It’s hard to improve on a classic, but for a long time I’ve thought that my ideal Chinese bun would have the luscious filling of a gai mei bao and the sweet cookie topping of another favorite, pineapple buns (or bo lo baos). (These buns don’t actually contain pineapple — they’re named such because of the crackly topping that vaguely resembles a pineapple.) I finally had a chance to test this theory by making these hybrid pineapple coconut buns, and let me tell you — Best. Idea. Ever. I honestly could eat these for breakfast every day! They were just divine slightly warm from the oven, but lasted very well for several days, just needing a few seconds in the microwave to restore the soft texture.

A few notes:

  • As written, making these pineapple coconut buns is a two day project. I prepare the levain for the bread in the morning, mix the dough in the afternoon, and shape/fill/bake the buns the next day. If you don’t have a sourdough starter or want to make this a shorter project, you can use the dough in the original Chinese Coconut Cocktail Buns post — just divide into 12 pieces and shape/fill/bake as directed below.
  • I highly recommend using caster (or superfine) sugar for both the filling and topping for the best consistency. I make my own by just grinding regular granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute.

pineapple coconut buns side

Pineapple Coconut Buns

Makes 12 buns

Ingredients:

For the sourdough milk bread:

For the levain:

  • 18g starter
  • 31g milk
  • 57g bread flour

Mix together and let ripen at room temperature until mature (6-12 hours, depending on environment).

  • 284g bread/AP flour
  • 46g sugar
  • 52g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 21g milk powder
  • 53g egg
  • 6g salt
  • 104g milk
  • 88g cream
  • All of the levain

For the coconut filling:

  • 180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 50g cake flour
  • 60g milk powder
  • 90g unsweetened desiccated coconut

For the pineapple topping:

  • 125g cake flour
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 40g lard or shortening, at room temperature
  • 7 g milk power
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp cream (plus more, if needed)
  • 1 tsp condensed milk (optional; use extra cream instead)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

To finish:

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • Simple syrup

Method:

For the sourdough milk bread:

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed (about 5 minutes on medium speed, using the dough hook on a stand mixer). The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading at medium speed until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into loose rounds. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour.
  5. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling and topping. To make the filling, cream together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the cake flour, milk powder, and coconut and mix to combine. I like to chill my filling for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to handle.
  6. To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the lard or shortening and rub it into the dry ingredients. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, vanilla, and condensed milk and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, then knead until a dough forms. If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add cream a tsp at a time until everything is hydrated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
  7. When the dough has rested, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Take the filling mixture and divide it into 12 equal portions (I like to roll it into rounds, then flatten slightly). Take a piece of dough and roll it into a circle, making the edges a little thinner than the middle. Place a portion of filling in the center, then fold the edges up and over the filling and pinch tightly to seal. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Cover the buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until about doubled in size, about 5-7 hours. When the buns are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 400F.
  9. Just before baking, top the buns. Divide the topping dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands to form a ball. Working one at a time, flatten a piece with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll into a thin round big enough to cover a bun. (I find covering the dough with a piece of plastic wrap while rolling makes this easy to do.) Brush the top of the bun with a bit of water, then carefully place the topping round on top, using a small offset spatula. Repeat with remaining buns.
  10. Brush the top of each bun with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until the tops are golden brown and buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 10-15 more minutes. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush with simple syrup. Leftover buns store well for a few days in an airtight container. Microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften.

Curry Beef Puffs

kids hands curry beef puffs

Is there anything more comforting than the smell of buttery pastry baking away on a cold winter’s day? Winter is definitely my favorite time of year to make puff pastry and laminated doughs, so here we are with another way to use that rough puff pastry from the raspberry palmiers recipe. But this time we’re going savory with these curry beef puffs, inspired by the Asian pastries often found on dim sum carts or in Chinese bakeries.

Crisp and flaky with a luscious curry filling, these little hand pies make a great portable snack or light lunch, and are a welcome addition to any party. The best part about making these guys at home is that you can really pack that filling in, because IMO there’s nothing worse than ordering one of these and getting only half a bite of curry. To be honest I probably overstuff mine just a bit, but as long as you can seal and crimp the edges well you shouldn’t have too much problems with overflow.

A few notes:

  • I really like using boxed curry roux blocks instead of curry powder for the filling; to me the flavor is better and they contain cornstarch which also helps thicken the filling. Curry roux blocks are easily found in Asian supermarkets. You can probably substitute curry powder (I’d start with 3-4 Tbsp), but you may need to add a cornstarch slurry to help thicken the filling.
  • For best results, make sure to thoroughly chill your pastries before baking. The pastry should be firm to the touch — about 10-15 minutes in the freezer for me.
  • While these are best the day they’re made, they recrisp well in a 350F oven or the toaster. I suspect you could also freeze some unbaked ones and bake straight from frozen; you may need a little longer on the baking time.
curry beef puffs - flaky

Curry Beef Puffs

Makes about 18-24 puffs

Ingredients:

  • One full recipe rough puff pastry (or one box/two sheets, storebought and defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 small (1.5″ or 60g) blocks Japanese curry mix (use whatever spiciness level you prefer)
  • 1/2 c – 1 c water
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • sugar, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water or milk, for egg wash

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium high. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Season with a little soy sauce and sugar and saute until onion is softened, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef, using your wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat. Cook until the beef is no longer pink, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the grated carrot, curry cubes, and 1/2 c water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely soft and the mixture is thick, about 30 minutes. If the mixture starts to look dry or the onions don’t seem to be breaking down, add a tablespoon of water (I usually add about two more tablespoons during the simmering process).
  4. Turn off the heat and check for seasonings, adding salt / sugar / pepper to taste. The filling should be just on the edge of too salty in order to cut through the rich pastry.
  5. Cool to room temperature, remove the ginger slices, then cover and refrigerate until cold.
  6. When the filling is cooled and you are ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  7. Remove one half (or one sheet) of puff pastry from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into a large square about 12-13″ on each side. Trim the edges to neaten, then cut the sheet into 9-12 equal pieces, depending on what size puffs you want (I like to cut each sheet into twelve 4″ squares, which makes a nice appetizer size).
  8. Transfer the squares to one of the parchment-lined sheets and chill while you repeat step 7 with the remaining pastry.
  9. Remove the filling and 2-3 squares of pastry from the refrigerator (keep the rest of the pastry chilled — I find it’s easiest to work with only a few squares at a time). Brush the edges of one square with a bit of egg wash. Place a heaping Tbsp of filling in the center of the pastry. Fold the top left corner down to meet the bottom right corner to form a triangle (or you can fold them in half for rectangular pastries, if you prefer). Use a fork to crimp the edges.
  10. Once you’ve completed half the pastries, transfer the sheet of filled pastries to the freezer while you finish filling the rest.
  11. Once the first sheet of pastries is chilled (the pastry should be firm), remove from the freezer. Brush the tops with egg wash and prick with a fork to create steam holes. Transfer the second sheet of pastries to the freezer.
  12. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until pastries are golden brown and puffed. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before consuming. Repeat with second sheet of pastries.
curry beef puffs on plate

Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles

This recipe is part of the Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace, hosted by Saghar Setarah of Lab Noon. Check out the links at the bottom of this post for other delicious potluck recipes from other bloggers!

We attended a lot of picnic BBQ potlucks growing up; and if you’ve ever picnicked with Asians you may have discovered we take our BBQs pretty seriously. There may be hamburgers and hotdogs, but it doesn’t stop there. Crockpots with congee, sticks of fish balls, plates of sushi — all par for the course. And of course — lots and lots of noodle dishes.

This is one of my go-to noodle salads for picnics, car trips, or — let’s face it — hot days when you don’t want to spend much time cooking. It takes all of 10 minutes to slap together, and is great on its own or as a base for a full meal (just add some shredded chicken, diced tofu, sliced raw veggies, etc.). If you have a peanut allergy, you can also sub out the peanut butter for tahini and that works great as well! Feel free to switch up the type of noodle you use too — my favorites are Yet-Ca-Mein (white Chinese wheat noodles) and dried shrimp egg noodles (the type you typically see in won ton noodle soup).

Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 8-10 oz. dried Chinese egg or wheat noodles
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter (or tahini, or a combination of the two)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (more if you like it extra spicy)
  • Thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

Method

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients from the rice vinegar to the chili-garlic sauce. Taste and adjust dressing for desired level of sweetness/spiciness.
  2. Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse under cold water to cool them down completely. Transfer noodles to a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Top with desired garnishes. Served chilled.

More delicious potluck recipes:

Curry Udon and Cooking with Kids

curry udon

As I near the halfway point with pregnancy #2, I’ve been trying to imagine how I’ll do certain things with two little ones in tow. No joke — at each store I’ll try to figure out where I’d park and if I’d put one kid in the cart and carry one, or stick the carseat in the cart, or if Marcus would maybe be responsible enough to walk quietly beside me (one can dream!). Sometimes I feel a little panicky, but then I remember my mom had five kids under 9 at one point. We may not have gone out much but we weren’t hermits. Just like toting one kid around was an adjustment, two will be too — but with God’s grace we’ll get there.

One of the concerns I had when I was pregnant the first time around was if I’d have time to cook and bake. I’ve always enjoyed preparing dinner and considered it a relaxing part of the day. To be honest, it’s taken me longer to “figure out” how to cook with a kid than it has to bake with one (because I usually just wait until my husband is home before I attempt any involved baking). And by “figure out” I mean that I haven’t really. As soon as I think I’ve got a schedule down, something changes — first it was Marcus not napping at that time, then it was him starting to climb on things whenever I was in the other room. You get the idea. If I’ve learned anything in the past 18ish months it’s that parenthood requires constant adjustment. No matter how many kids we end up having I’ll never have it “figured out,” and that’s ok. As my mom told me early on, when I was voicing my frustrations about not having enough hands: “Oh, you know, sometimes the house just won’t be clean. You do the best you can.”

Hopefully I haven’t painted this bleak picture where it sounds impossible to get things done with a kid! It’s just different, and I’m still learning. Some of the adjustments I’ve made since having a kid:

  • Divide meal prep into 15 minute increments. Chop vegetables during naptime; prepare marinades/sauces while the kid is eating; etc.
  • I don’t freeze a lot of cooked meals, but if I cook a batch of beans I’ll make a triple portion and freeze extras for quick additions to soups and stews.
  • Make batches of hard boiled eggs and granola at the start of the week for quick meals.
  • Always have frozen dumplings on hand.
  • Have a recipe base of quick meals that you can easily customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand. (Notice how many times the word “quick” has shown up? Lol.)

Curry is one of those quick meals that shows up in some variation on our dinner table every couple of weeks or so. We live right next to a little Japanese grocery store, so we always have a box of Japanese curry roux in the pantry. Most of the time we eat it over rice, but the other week I decided to switch it up and make it with udon noodles (another constant pantry item). It. Was. So. Good! The preparation was slightly different, but about as quick as how I make curry over rice. For the udon version I use less curry roux but dashi stock instead of water — this makes for a slightly thinner but still flavorful sauce that easily coats the noodles.

Curry Udon

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dashi stock (homemade, or using dashi powder)
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • About 1/2 in. ginger, peeled, sliced, and minced
  • 1-2 c sliced vegetables of choice (my favorites are carrot, celery, and mushroom)
  • 3/4 lb your choice of meat/seafood, sliced if needed (I usually use chicken or a package of fish/beef balls)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 pieces/blocks of Japanese curry roux
  • 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
  • Salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste
  • 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 3 packages udon noodles (about 600 grams)

Method

  1. Prepare your dashi stock.
  2. In a large frying pan or saucepan, heat oil on medium high. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, season lightly with salt and sugar, and saute another 3-4 minutes. If you’re using an uncooked protein, add it at this point and increase the heat to high. Saute until the meat/seafood is almost cooked through.
  3. Add the dashi and mirin and bring to a boil. (If I’m using beef/fish balls, I add them once the stock has come to a boil.) Skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the curry roux. Once the curry has dissolved, put the pan back on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened to your liking. Stir occasionally to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  5. Taste and add soy sauce, salt, and white pepper if desired.
  6. Prepare your udon noodles according to the package instructions. Serve curry sauce over the udon noodles and garnish with green onion, if desired.

Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

matcha black sesame mousse cake

This matcha black sesame mousse cake is what I’d call a happy accident. Originally I’d planned to make a black sesame cake with matcha mousse, but the black sesame cake just was not cooperating. (Still in search of a good black sesame sponge cake; I’m all ears if you have one!) After two failed attempts and a dangerously low number of eggs left, I decided to abandon ship and go back to my tried and true sponge cake, this time with a matcha twist.

So then it was on to find a black sesame mousse recipe. My criteria were that it had to use black sesame powder (because that’s all I had) and be pregnant-lady friendly (i.e. no raw eggs); this recipe fit the bill. It worked out beautifully — a nice, pillowy, not-too-sweet mousse with a present sesame flavor.

To add some sweetness and texture, the cake is finished with matcha white chocolate ganache, matcha meringues, and black sesame brittle.

I know there are a lot of steps, but really — it looks more complicated than it actually is. Most steps are easy and don’t take long to complete. The assembly is done Momofuku Milk Bar style, which makes getting the nice crisp layers…wait for it…a piece of cake. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Cake disasters aside, I honestly enjoyed both making and eating this cake. The matcha + black sesame combo is a classic flavor combo for good reason; and this iteration of it is light and elegant.

A few notes:

  • Originally I thought I’d whip up some of the matcha white chocolate ganache for decorations, so I made the ganache using a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to cream. In the end I didn’t need the whipped ganache; had I known this I’d have gone with a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream for a thicker glaze. Either will work; it just depends on the thickness/look you prefer.
  • Some of the elements (cake, meringues, brittle) can be made in advance. I wouldn’t do the meringues and brittle more than a day in advance, though, as they will lose some crispness — especially if the weather is humid.

mousse cake top

Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Matcha Sponge

  • One recipe of this sponge cake; replace 5g of cake flour with 2 tsp matcha powder
  • Simple Syrup

For the Black Sesame Mousse

Recipe from Grace’s Kitchen (make right before you’re ready to fill the cake)

  • 150 g whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 70 g sugar
  • 4 tbsp black sesame powder
  • 10 g gelatin powder
  • 50 gm water
  • 300 gm heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks (keep refrigerated)

For the Matcha Meringues
(Adapted from Meringue Girls)
Note: This makes a big batch of meringues, way more than you will need just for decorations. You could easily quarter or halve the recipe; I just made a lot because I was giving some away.

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 150g egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp matcha powder

For the Black Sesame Brittle
(Recipe from The Little Epicurean)

  • 25 grams glucose, or light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp water
  • 65 grams unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams toasted black sesame seeds

For the Matcha White Chocolate Ganache

  • 60 g matcha white chocolate, chopped (or plain white chocolate, plus 1/2 tsp matcha powder)
  • 30-60 g heavy cream (use up to 60 g if you want a thinner glaze)

For assembly

Method

Make the Black Sesame Mousse:

  1. Mix gelatin powder and water in a small bowl. Set aside to bloom for about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat milk and cream cheese over medium heat in a small saucepan, whisking to combine smoothly. Add sugar and black sesame powder and mix well with a whisk to make sure the mixture is lump free.
  3. Heat the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds in the microwave, or until the gelatin is dissolved.
  4. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and immediately stir in the gelatin. Allow to cool briefly. Fold in the whipped cream in three additions. Use immediately.

Make the Matcha Meringues:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment, pour in the caster sugar and heat it in the oven for 7 minutes (or until the edges crystallize). Heating the sugar helps to create a glossy, stable mixture. Pour the egg whites into a mixer and whisk them slowly, allowing small stabilizing bubbles to form, then increase the speed to high until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
  2. Take the sugar out of the oven, and turn oven down to 210F (leave the door open to help speed this up). With your mixer on full speed, very slowly spoon the hot sugar into the beaten egg whites, making sure the mixture comes back up to stiff peaks after each addition of sugar (don’t add any crystallized bits). Once you have added all the sugar, continue to whisk on full speed until you have a smooth, stiff and glossy mixture. You should continue to whisk for at least 5 minutes once sugar has incorporated. Feel a bit of the mixture between your fingers; if you can still feel the gritty sugar, keep whisking at full speed until it has dissolved and the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy. Sift in the matcha powder and whisk just until combined.
  3. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag with the tip cut off. Pipe out your kisses onto your prepared sheets by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. For decorative purposes, I like to make meringues of different sizes; just keep in mind they’ll finish at different times; so you may want to pipe smaller meringues on one tray and bigger ones on the other.
  4. Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until the meringue bases come cleanly off the parchment paper. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Make the Black Sesame Brittle

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet with a Silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine glucose, water, butter and salt. Set over medium heat and cook until butter has melted. Stir as needed to ensure even heating.
  3. Once mixture is liquid, add sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until sugar is boiling and has turned amber brown. Let cool to room temperature to allow brittle to set and harden. Once cool, use your hands to break up the brittle. Store in an airtight container.

Make the Matcha White Chocolate Ganache

  1. Place the chopped matcha white chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Warm the cream in the microwave until steaming. (Note: if you’re using matcha powder, sift this into the cream before heating and make sure to whisk so no lumps remain.) Pour evenly over the chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute before stirring to combine. Allow to sit at room temperature until it drizzles off a spoon slowly (you can also stick it in the refrigerator to speed the process up).

Assemble the Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

  1. Use the pastry ring to cut out 2 six-inch cake rounds. (The rest of the cake is extra; use it to make a trifle or just snack on it.) Wash and dry the pastry ring and line it with acetate. Place on top of a 6-inch cake board on a quarter sheet pan.
  2. Brush the first cake round with simple syrup and fit it into the bottom of the pastry ring. Pour in half the black sesame mousse. Freeze for 10-15 minutes or until the mousse is set.
  3. Put the second round of cake on top of the mousse and brush it with simple syrup. Nestle a second round of acetate between the pastry ring and first acetate round.
  4. Pour the remaining black sesame mousse over the second cake round. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set.
  5. Freeze your cake for at least 20 minutes before applying the matcha white chocolate ganache (this will keep the ganache from melting the mousse). Set the cake on an upturned bowl on a plate or baking sheet (to catch any drips). Remove the pastry ring and acetate. Using a spoon, drizzle the ganache along the edges to create a drip effect, then spread a layer over the top. At this point, you can affix the cake to an eight-inch cake round for easier moving. Refrigerate immediately to set.
  6. Right before serving, decorate with matcha meringues and black sesame brittle. I also used some crushed up meringues and black sesame seeds. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

mousse cake angled

Sourdough Hokkaido Milk Bread Twists

cinnamon raisin twist bread
One of my latest bread obsessions has been the twisty loaf. I’ve been wanting to try making those babka-esque twists that are all the rage these days, because who can resist a little swirly and pretty? Clearly, not me.

Twist breads are great for the holidays. They’re surprisingly easy to shape and faster than making a bunch of rolls; they can be equally appropriate for Christmas brunch or a potluck dinner; they double as decoration. Plus, they’re a chance to flex your culinary creativity — change up the fillings to suit your tastes and/or fridge contents!

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After making a fair share of these guys I’ve learned a few tricks that can really help your twist breads shine in looks and flavor! While I did all my testing using my sourdough hokkaido milk bread recipe below, you should be able to use your favorite enriched bread dough (i.e. babka / challah / cinnamon roll / non-sourdough hokkaido milk bread dough, etc.) to make a twist bread. I would recommend a dough that is soft but sturdy enough to be rolled out fairly easily. My trusty pumpkin version of this bread works equally well as a base, and I’ve included a couple other flavor variations below as well.

Twist bread tips:

  1. Don’t roll your dough too thin.
    I tried rolling my dough various sizes, and finally settled on an oval of about 10″ x 12″ as the ideal size for my loaf pan. I follow a process very similar to this one. You can roll your dough thinner to get more of a swirl, but (at least for my recipe) the bread will be more dense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; but personally I prefer fluffier bread to more swirl. The nice thing about the oval shape is that the ends don’t get too thick when you tuck them under. (I never bother trimming the ends.) It’s also easy-peasy to fit the loaf into the tin; no double-helixing / multiple criss-crossing required.
  2. Don’t rush the proofing. Enriched breads take extra long to proof, whether or not it’s sourdough. In my room-temperature kitchen, this recipe takes at least 6 hours for the final proof. I’ve tried rushing it and the texture just wasn’t the same. I know mine is ready when the loaf has puffed to fill the pan almost to the top.
  3. Thick, strongly flavored pastes work best for fillings. For ease of rolling and the best swirl effect, a thick paste works better than lots of chopped up ingredients. I tend to not measure my filling ingredients; but in general I use roughly 1/2 a cup of filling per loaf. Again, I opt for a less-is-more approach here: too much filling can weigh the bread down, making it more dense and cakey. You may have to experiment a bit to find your ideal filling-to-bread ratio, but that’s half the fun.

    A few ideas for fillings: fruit and nut butters, thick jams/compotes, cream cheese + fruit curd, pesto, grated cheese, etc. This is a great place to use up some of those half-eaten jars of jams and spreads. If I want to do a fruit filling (such as cinnamon raisin), I’ll rehydrate dried fruit in boiling water for an hour or so, drain, then pulse in a food processor with a healthy amount of cinnamon sugar and softened butter. I do find it helps to incorporate the butter into the paste rather than layer it, especially if you are doing a sweet loaf. Otherwise the sugar can turn into syrup and leak out, resulting in a sticky bun situation.

  4. Bake and cool fully. It can be a bit tricky to judge when these loaves are finished, as the filling can hide bits of uncooked dough. Your best bet is to check the internal temperature: it should register at least 195F. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out cleanly. Also keep in mind that if you’ve rolled out your dough thinner to start with and/or used a lot of filling, your bread will take longer to fully cook. When in doubt, let it go a few minutes longer, and tent with foil to keep the top from burning.

    Also, cool your bread fully to room temperature before serving. This helps the bread fully set and avoids that icky gummy taste that comes from slicing too early. Better to fully cool, then gently rewarm for 5-10 minutes than cut too soon.

  5. Glaze it! A healthy dose of simple syrup (1 part sugar dissolved in 1 part water) applied to your loaf right after baking adds an attractive shine and keeps your bread tasting fresher for longer. Be generous — about a 1/4 cup for sweet loaves, a little less for savory. Warmed jelly or honey also works (you won’t need as much), but if you’re planning on having your loaf around for more than one day simple syrup is your best option. Right after glazing is also a good time to add any garnishes: toasted seeds / nuts, finely chopped herbs, pearl sugar, etc.

Time to get twisting!

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Sourdough Hokkaido Milk Bread

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf | Makes one 8.5″ x 4.5″ / 9″ x 5″ loaf

Levain Ingredients

  • 18 g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30 g milk
  • 56 g bread flour

Mix and ferment at room temp (73F) for 10-12 hours. When ready it should be puffy and domed and you should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

Final dough ingredients

  • 276g bread or AP flour (I used half bread flour and half AP flour for a balance of chewiness and volume)
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 34g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 6g fine grain sea salt
  • 101g whole milk, room temperature
  • 86g cream, room temperature
  • 20g milk powder
  • All of the levain

To Finish

  • Egg wash (1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water or milk), for brushing
  • Filling of choice, approximately 1/2 a cup
  • Simple syrup, for glaze
  • Optional garnishes (toasted nuts, seeds, herbs, etc.)

Method:

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp (73F) for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Grease and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of at least 2 inches on the long sides (for easy removal later).
  6. On a lightly floured surface (I prefer a Silpat), roll out the dough into an oval roughly 10 x 12 in. Spread your filling evenly over the surface, leaving a 1/2 inch border along one short edge. Turn the dough so the short end without the border is facing you. Brush the opposite end with water, and gently but tightly roll up like a jelly roll. Once rolled up, roll gently back and forth a few times to seal. Transfer the log to the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up (optional).
  7. If desired, trim about 1/2 an inch off each end (I don’t bother because I don’t mind if the ends don’t have filling; but if you do, trim them). Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise. Place the two sides next to each other, cut side up. Gently pinch the tops together and twist the two together, keeping the cut sides up. Transfer twist to the prepared pan. (See here for a some helpful pictures.)
  8. Cover with plastic and proof for about 6 hours at room temperature. When ready, the dough should look very puffy and have risen to the top of the loaf pan.
  9. When the loaf is nearly finished rising, preheat the oven to 400F and prepare the egg wash. Just before baking, brush the surface lightly with egg wash.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then turn the oven down to 375F, rotate the pan, and bake for about 15 more minutes or until the loaf is well browned and registers at least 195F in the center. If the loaf is browning quickly, tent with foil. (I cover mine for the last 10 minutes or so.)
  11. Immediately after taking the loaf out, brush all over with simple syrup and top with garnishes, if desired. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Dough Variations

  • Matcha: replace 10g of flour with 10g culinary grade matcha powder. Pairs well with chocolate and black sesame fillings.
  • Eggnog: replace the milk with full-fat eggnog, decrease the sugar to 34g, and add some freshly grated nutmeg to the dough. Pairs well with cinnamon sugar and cranberry fillings.

apple3

Pumpkin and Corn Seafood Congee

congeeinsteamer

Congee, or rice porridge, is my cultural version of chicken noodle soup. It’s a light, soothing meal that is perfect for chilly evenings and those days when you’re feeling under the weather. I’d guess that every Chinese family has their own version of congee. At the root congee is extremely simple: just rice simmered with a lot of liquid until it gets creamy. But you can jazz it up any way you like — by changing the stock base (we favor homemade chicken stock), adding in some whole grains, or popping in some seasonal produce as this version does.

I first had pumpkin congee when I moved back to Toronto a few years ago. As much as I love my hometown of Seattle, I have to give Toronto the edge in the Chinese food department. There’s just a lot more of it here, and the quality and variety is extremely high. I’ve seen this at a few dim sum restaurants in the area, and I order it whenever it’s available. This is our best attempt to recreate it at home.

congeealone

A few notes:

  • At least four hours before you make this, wash, rinse, and drain your rice; put it in a ziplock; and stick it in the freezer. This helps break down the rice faster and your congee will cook in less time. You can definitely make this with non-frozen rice; you will just need to increase the simmering time by at least 45 minutes or so. You can also use brown, red, or black rice — just note that the simmering time will be a bit longer.
  • You can certainly roast and puree your own pumpkin; I had a partial can hanging out in the fridge so I used that. You can also add in chunks of pumpkin during the rice simmering stage if you prefer more texture.
  • People vary wildly on how thick / thin they prefer their congee. I usually start out with about 8 cups of liquid and adjust towards the end of cooking time by adding more stock / water if needed. If it’s too liquidy, just keep cooking it until it reaches your desired consistency.
  • If you don’t like seafood, feel free to sub in chicken or leave it out completely.

Pumpkin and Corn Seafood Congee

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed and frozen for at least four hours (see note above)
  • 7-10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade, or water
  • 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp dried scallops (optional)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 lb firm white fish, cut into 1 inch chunks, seasoned with salt and white pepper
  • 1/4 lb bay scallops

To serve:

  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Finely chopped green onion
  • Fresh ginger, cut in thin matchsticks
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili oil

Method

  1. In a large pot with a lid, add your stock/water, pumpkin puree, and ginger slices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. When the liquid is boiling, add your rice straight from the freezer. Keep at a boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Then turn down to low, add the dried scallops if using, and cover.
  3. Simmer, stirring occasionally (make sure to stir from the bottom to keep the rice from sticking), for about 15 minutes or until the rice has broken down and a creamy consistency is achieved. Add liquid a 1/4 cup at a time if you prefer a thinner consistency.
  4. Add the fish, scallops, and corn, and cook just until seafood is opaque (2-3 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Serve topped with desired accoutrements. Enjoy!

Chinese Swiss Roll

sliced swiss roll

Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.

Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.

Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.

At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.

untrimmed swiss roll

Some things I learned:

  • Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
  • I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
  • Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
  • I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.

uncut swiss roll

Chinese Swiss Roll

Serves 8

Ingredients

Batter A

  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
  • 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Batter B

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar

Other

  • 1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Filling & Garnish

  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
  • Icing sugar, optional garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Batter A:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.

Batter B:

  • In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Combine:

  1. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
  2. Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
  4. As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
  5. When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

To serve

  • Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.

Pad Thai

padthaiEarlier this week, I had a hankering for Pad Thai. It’s one of those dishes I’ll occasionally order out, but had never bothered to try making myself. My method for attempting new dishes usually consists of reading at least a half dozen recipes, noting the ingredient and method similarities, and then adapting to personal taste and what is in the fridge. For example: pad thai typically contains firm tofu (which I love), but I had a smidgen of ground pork that had to be cooked. So that went in. I also had a bunch of mint and cilantro from some other dinners we’d eaten earlier in the week, so that got added. Finally, I am a firm believer in pre-seasoning proteins (in this case, shrimp and pork), so that step was added as well.

One ingredient I didn’t substitute was the tamarind (some recipes call for lime juice, but I don’t think it’s an adequate substitute). I’ve never worked with tamarind before, and the only tamarind the local Asian market had was the whole pods. I used the instructions here to turn it into a pulp. It was a fairly messy process, but the flavor was definitely worth it.

Pad Thai

Adapted from Saveur | Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. dried flat rice stick noodles
  • 3 tbsp. tamarind pulp
  • 3 tbsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
  • 2.5 tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce), divided
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Thai chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tsp sugar, divided
  • White pepper
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 oz. ground pork
  • 2 tbsp. dried shrimp, soaked and chopped if large
  • 6 stalks Chinese chives or 4 scallions, green part only,cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1/4 c mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • Sriracha

Method

  1. At least 1 hour before cooking, marinate shrimp with 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Marinate ground pork with 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and a pinch of white pepper. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Dissolve tamarind pulp in 1 cup hot water in a small bowl, then strain through a sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on pulp with the back of a spoon to push most of it through. Discard seeds. Stir sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and chili garlic sauce into tamarind liquid and set sauce aside.
  3. Soak noodles in a large bowl of hot water until pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Cook shrimp until pink but not completely cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
  5. Add remaining 3 tbsp oil to hot skillet. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry until soft, about 10 seconds. Add ground pork and saute until mostly cooked, about 1 minute. Move ingredients over to the one side of the pot and add the lightly beaten eggs. allowing to set slightly and then stirring to scramble. When eggs are about halfway cooked, add dried shrimp, chives, half the bean sprouts, half the peanuts, the noodles, the sliced omelette, and the reserved sauce and stir-fry, tossing constantly, until noodles absorb most of the sauce and sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Garnish each serving with the remaining bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and peanuts and serve with limes and sriracha.

Creamed Corn Chicken

creamstylechickenThis is one of those simple, homey dishes that is a snap to put together when you don’t have much time to cook / feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. While the taste is best if you can marinate the chicken ahead of time, you’ll still get good results if you do it even just 1/2 an hour before cooking. Serve with plenty of rice and some variety of Asian veggies, and you’ve got yourself a Hong Kong cafe-style meal.

Creamed Corn Chicken

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sugar, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t sugar
  • 1 1/2 t shaoxing wine
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 1 t cornstarch

Method

  1. At least an hour before cooking (or overnight), combine chicken pieces with marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Heat oil in medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring frequently, and season with salt, sugar, and white pepper.
  3. When ginger and garlic become aromatic (~2-3 minutes), add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides are browned and chicken is nearly cooked through (~4-5 minutes).
  4. Add cream style corn and soy sauce. Lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. While stirring constantly in one direction, add beaten egg. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove ginger slices. Serve over rice.