Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheese Sticks or Buns

Nope, if you are looking for the American Cheese Stix aka thick strips of cheese, breaded, and fried.....this is not it. The Cheese Sticks I am referring to is the bread topped with shredded cheese that you can find in most Asian bakery. Why? The better question is why not? Instead of doing PB&J for lunch, something new with a little twist should make for an interesting light lunch or snack.

Yeah, I can take the easy way out and just called it Asiago bread but there is a problem to it. First, I am not using Asiago although the appearance of these buns do look like one. And secondly, I still feel that it is somehow wrong to term the Asian style bun as bread. Bread to me is more of the European style hard crust, hearty, and kinda like steel sitting in your stomach-type of bread. The Asian's bakery style bun on the other hand has a soft and thin crust with a fluffy light interior.

So, no! I don't think they are the same at all and cannot in all my years as a baker, group this different types of baked flour yeast-ed goodness in the same category. You just have to bear with me on that one. Back to the cheese sticks, these babies are really great. It is nice and soft, with the crispy crunchy melted cheese exterior. Beats those cheese crusts in Asia's pizza hut's cheesy crusts anytime. Anyone in Asia or Middle East has, by any chance, try the latest hamburger stuffed crust pizza in Pizza Hut there yet? I am curious to know how it will taste. Intrigue? Most definitely! You can read more on it at AHT - Serious Eats.

Cheese Sticks or Buns
300g bread flour (King Arthur brand if you can)
30g sugar
70ml warm milk
75g water roux
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 packet Active Dry Yeast (About 7g or 1 Tbsp)
45g butter

2 cups of shredded Mozzarella
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 egg, beaten
Dried Parsley Flakes

1. In a bread machine, combine all the dough ingredients in the order as prescribed by the manufacturers.
2. Set bread machine on dough cycle and let it knead and proof the bread dough till double in size. Mine take 1 1/2 hours.
3. After dough is done proofing, divide it into 10 portions (about 50-55g each)
4. Shape it into a round. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 10 minutes before shaping.
5. Once dough is done resting, press flatten one portion of dough with a rolling pin. Then roll it up into the shape of an oblong. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with clean kitchen towel. Let proof for 45 to 50 mins until it doubles in size.

6. Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
7. Brush dough with egg wash.

8. Mix the shredded Mozzarella and sharp cheddar in a bowl. Generously top dough with cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan/Romano.
9. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for even browning. Once bread is out of the oven, sprinkle lightly with dried parsley and paprika. Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.
The best tasting soft fluffy cheesy bread you will ever taste.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Homemade NY-Style Bagel

I was never a big fan of bagel but these homemade bagels are really good. Why will someone decide to make homemade bagel, you may ask. Well, cos I have never and I want to. See, when you are really into baking, there are a few items in the book that will give you street credit. First and foremost, making homemade croissant. That is the ultimate street cred a home baker can get from everyone.
The second one, is of course, making your own bread loaf at home. Then come the choux pastry, pies, and etc, not necessary in the order but you get the idea. So, how does bagel rank when it comes to street cred? Pretty high, since people rarely make them at home. No, they are not that difficult but it can be tedious to some, considering you have to boil them first before baking them.
Yup, not only will you need the patience to knead them, let them rise, shape, let them rise again, you will also have to boil them prior to the final baking process. Plus, you can pretty much get bagels everywhere. The homemade once though are pretty specials, you can add whatever toppings you want.You can also opt to make it as chewy as you like, just add the boiling time. Enough said!

Homemade NY-Style Bagel (Adapted from Sophisticated Gourmet)
300g King Arthur's Bread Flour
200g King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

1. In your bread machine, add in water and sugar. Add salt to flour. Mix well. Add the flour to the water-sugar mix. Make a well in the center and add in your yeast. Set bread machine to the dough cycle and let it go.
2. Once dough is done proofing in bread machine, turn it out onto a clean work surface. Punch down dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
3. Divide dough into 8 equal portions.
4. Shape dough into balls by molding the dough using the palm of your hands against the work surface in circular motions.
5.Using your finger, poke a hole in the center and stretch the dough to about 6-inches in diameter.
6. Place dough on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Cover with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add in a tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir till dissolved. Also, preheat oven to 425F.

8. Once water comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat to medium low. Boil bagel about 2 minutes per side.
9. Place boiled bagels on baking sheets. Once all bagels are done boiling, bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes till golden brown.

10. Let cool on wire rack. Serve with cream cheese, butter or preserves.

Homemade Strawberry Preserves

Yes, it has been a while since the last I put up a post on this blog. Life has been busy in general, which is great. Strawberries are in season now and for those of you who do not know it, I am a huge strawberry fanatic. I love the look of it, the color, the shape, the smell, and most important of all, the taste. Good strawberries are hard to come by, and I am speaking of those naturally juice and sweet ones. Some of them are just so bland that I usually feed it to the dog.
But I can't possibly give her that many strawberries without risking her overactive bowel movements which will cause some gross and unhappy incidents in the house. The poor rug. Strawberry preserves seems to be the perfect solution and boy, I can kick myself in the ass for not attempting to make homemade preserve before. I found a super easy recipe, alter the sugar level to suit my taste, and voila......perfection in a container.
But before you embark on your preserve making journey, let me give you a fair warning about making preserves. A pound of berries yield only about 500ml of preserve. If strawberry is expensive where you are, forget about making your own and just buy a good brand jar. However, if you live in a place where berries are cheap, like yours truly, then go ahead and embark on a preserve discovery journey. It may not be easy but it is definitely delicious!

Homemade Strawberry Preserve
1lb strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
3/4 cup of sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, mashed strawberries in batches. You can mashed it as fine as you like or leave it slightly chunky like I did.
2. Add in the sugar and lemon juice. Cook on low till sugar has fully dissolved. Stir occasionally.
3. Once sugar has fully dissolved, turn heat up to high. Continue cooking the berry mix till it comes up to a rolling boil. You are aiming for 220F on a candy thermometer. If you don't have one, cook the strawberry preserve till you can no longer see pink foam on the surface of the mix and then let it boil for another 5 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid preserve from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Let cool before storing in a clean glass jar. You can process the jar for canning if you plan to keep this for a while. If you are consuming it immediately, just store it in your favorite jar, let cool completely before putting it in the fridge.
I usually served them with homemade NY-style bagels. Seems like a lot of work but it is a great weekend treat. Bagels with cream cheese and homemade preserve.