{Taste} Gingerbread Men

Image

If I lived in a fairytale, I’d be the town baker. All my baked goods would possess magical properties.

My hot chocolates would warm the Grinchs.

The fluffy light cakes would heal the broken-hearted.

My gingerbread men would guard me from evil in the world.

If only life could be this magical, this perfect…

Gingerbread Men
adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoon unsulfured molasses

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg and molasses. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months (thaw before baking).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks set in upper and lower thirds. Working with one disk at a time, place dough on lightly floured parchment paper, and roll out to 1/8 inch thick, dusting lightly with flour as needed. Using paper, lift dough onto two baking sheets; freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove paper and dough from baking sheets. Using a long offset spatula, loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and brush off any excess flour. Transfer to baking sheets. (Gather scraps, briefly freeze, and re-roll.)
  4. For softer cookies, bake 8 to 10 minutes; for crunchier cookies, bake 11 to 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

I’m submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #26: Creative Christmas Motif Bakes! hosted by Alan of Travelingfoodies!

{Taste} Cinnamon Bun Cake

I took this Cinnamon Bun recipe and twisted it into a cake.

It was fluffy and delicious.

I was quite proud of myself.

innamon Swirl Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 18 buns.

Dough
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
1 teaspoon salt

Filling
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 square (1/4 inch) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 square unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt

For dough: Combine milk, butter, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Add flour. Knead until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling: Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in medium bowl.

Press down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over butter. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. Cut the log in half horizontally, revealing the stripped layers of dough and filling. Cross the two logs into a braid and twist into wreath. Place into baking pan.

Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes, though it may take longer. Don’t skimp on the double-rising time.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add water to thin the batter if mixture seems too thick. Beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Want more “twisted” ideas? Feast your eyes on this:

Skinny Minhy’s Twisted Cinnamon Bread

{Taste} Vegan Biscotti

Image

There is something miraculous about vegan baking.

Non-dairy milk or just plain water can substitute for dairy milk while sweet brown rice flour or flax eggs can be substitutes for eggs.

I love working with the chemistry behind all these ingredients and seeing how they all come together. Of course there are times when my baking experiments fail but for the most part, I’m able to not only invent recipes on a whim but also manipulate the ingredient so that the recipe can be vegan friendly.

Here is the latest creation:

Vegan Peanut Biscottis 

Adapted from Food.com

3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup brown sugar sugar

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

2 tbsp sweet brown rice flour

1 -3 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup crushed peanuts, toasted

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, non-dairy milk, oil (1 TBS for a hard biscotti, 2-3 TBS for a softer biscuit), sweet brown rice flour and extracts.

Stir the sugar mixture into the flour mixture, add the nuts; finish mixing with your hands.

With floured hands, shape the dough into two 3-inch wide “logs” about 3/4 inch thick, with the ends squared off. Place these on the cookie sheets. Bake the logs for about 25 minutes.

Remove the pans and reduce the oven heat to 300°F. Cool the logs on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs carefully with a sharp knife straight across into 1/2 inch wide slices. Place the slices cut side down on the cookie sheets. Bake 5-10 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Turn the slices over and cook 5-10 minutes more, or until golden on bottom. Cool on racks, then store airtight for up to two weeks.

Day of Perfect Meals

Image

The commute to and from work is about a 2.5 hour drive everyday.

My solution to combat the long drive is Podcasts. Tons of them.

Today on my way home, I was listening to Spilled Milk and was so inspired by their Day of Perfect Meals episode that I’d like to share my vision of a Day of Perfect Meals with all of you.

Image

Breakfast:

Fluffy Pillow Pancakes such as the one by Isa Chandra

Hot Nut Milk consisting of almonds, cashews, 1 tbsp of carob powder, 1 tbsp of flaxseeds, 2 dried figs

Lunch:

Miso tofu soup topped with scallions

Sweet Potato sliced in half and slathered with almond butter

Snack:

Red Delicious Apple

Image

Dinner:

Hot Nut Milk

DIY Vietnamese spring rolls

Image

Dessert:

Jasmine Tea

Big, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

As you may be able to tell, I like to keep my meals simple because I prefer to not eat too much per meal but have more meals spread throughout the day. I also love savoring each bite so the less I have on my plate, the more I can focus on the texture and quality of the foods.

What about you? What’s your favorite meal?

{Taste} Whole Wheat Millet Mantou 馒头

Image

Mantou (馒头)or Chinese steamed buns is a staple in our household and culture.

The bun is light and fluffy, and does not contain any filling.

It is usually made out of all-purpose or bread flour but we like being healthy and don’t mind the coarse texture of whole wheat or grains.

Edit Note: I adapted to Hevil’s recipe below but must admit that the buns turned out a bit tougher than expected. I would perhaps:

  • add about 1/2 cup more water;
  • or take out the millet and sesame flour mixture, and baking powder, Then, replace it with a starter using 2 cups of whole wheat flour and enough water until the mixture turns into dough. After both starter and dough rises, combine and knead, shape into buns before letting it rise once more and then steam.

Image

Whole Wheat Millet Mantou
adapted from Hevil’s Special Delights

    • 2 1/2  cups Whole Wheat Flour
    • 1 cup millet; 1/2 cup whole millets ground in food processor
    • 1 tbs sesame seeds
    • 1 tbs brown sugar
    • 1/2  cup temperate water
    • 1 cup warm non-dairy milk
    • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • Directions: 
      1. Grind 1/2 cup of millet and 1 tbs of sesame seeds in a food processor until they resemble flour.
      2. Combine both the flours and add remaining dry ingredients in a bowl. Then, pour in 1 cup of warm non-dairy milk and 1/4 cup of water into the dry mixture. If more liquid is needed, add more water until you can knead into a dough. Once the dough has formed, knead until dough doesn’t stick to the bowl.
      3. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until double in size. This can range from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature. It rises faster in warmer temperatures.
      4. After the rising period, punch down the dough and knead for 3-4 minutes to strengthen the gluten. Remember to add flour if the dough is sticky or add more liquid if the dough is too dry.
      5. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Then, fold one side into the middle, and then fold in the other side to the middle. Roll it out again.
      6. Roll the dough into a log.
      7. Divide into 12 to 18 pieces.
      8. Let it rise for about another 20 to 30 minutes.
      9. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the buns.
      10. Serve warm.

{Taste} 马来糕 Malay Steamed Cake

I love this cake. Light, fluffy, and slightly chewy.

 The fragrant brown sugar releases a type of caramel taste on the tongue.

Try it! You might fall in love with this cake too.

Adapted from Cafe Corner’s Malay Cake

Makes one 18cm cake

Ingredients

A)
1 cup cake flour
2 tbsp sweet rice flour
1/8 tsp sea salt

B)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda baking soda
1 tablespoon molasses or honey
1/3 cup canola oil

C)
4 eggs, separated
2 big spoonful (approximately 1/3 cup) of brown sugar

Directions

Gather ingredients from list A. Sift well with a whisk and set aside.

Gather ingredients from list B. Mix well and set aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks from list B. Beat egg whites until fluffy and foamy. Drop brown sugar one spoonful at a time into egg whites and continue to beat until well incorporated. Repeat step with second spoonful of brown sugar.

Combine List A and B. Pour List C into the combined mixture and gently fold until well incorporated.

Pour into pan. Let the mixture sit for about an hour.

After an hour, prepare steamer and hot water. Steam for about 25 minutes.

{Taste} Baked Vegan Donuts

I’d like to think I’m rather simple.

I like living as a minimalist. Just give me food, enough sleep, and enough personal space each day, and I’m good to go.

So when I went shopping with my grandmother one day and admired a mini donut maker on display, she showed up with the machine the next time she came to our house.

Although I love adoring and eating the miniature donuts, making them is another topic. The batter is quite difficult to pour into each miniature donut mold.

I’m patient.

Sort of.

Okay. Maybe a perfectionist should not own, or even operate, a mini donut maker.

That’s why I have a non-perfectionist as a sister.

I made the batter. She “baked” the donuts.

Baked Vegan Donuts

adapted from Oh She Glows

Dry Ingredients
1 Cup Whole Wheat PastryFlour
3 tbs Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
3/4 Cup Soymilk
1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tbs Sweet Rice Flour
2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Icing Glaze:

  • 3 tbs soymilk
  • 3 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs confectionary sugar