Whoops …

I just re-read my post on  A New Obsession : Breads.

I realize I’d made a promise to do weekly posts on Breads.  What was I thinking?  That’s insane.  Good thing all my faithful viewers are not bread-heads. Y’all still reading ’bout Ham Choy. Well, I still don’t have anything new to say about Ham Choy.

But I will give you a glimpse of what I have been baking.

 

… and yes, I have been making bread too.

 

Toronto, Canada.  2018

 

 

 

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A Surfeit of Croissants

I’m learning how to make breads at the George Brown culinary school.  Last week’s class was French croissants.  It was my introduction to laminated breads i.e. breads made with layers and layers of butter.

Through a series of missteps and happenstance I ended up making over six kilos of dough.

If you’re familiar with the lamination process, you will appreciate the magnitude of  that effort. Suffice to say it took twelve hours of kneading, rolling and folding to produce these three batches of dough.

I cut and baked the first batch at school. This first set I called my ‘learning batch’. They were less than perfect.  I’d cut them too big, shaped them wrong and had not left enough time for proofing. While they tasted ok, there was obvious room for improvement. I took the remaining batches home for practice.

Learning Batch of Croissants
Croissants – First attempt – the Learning Batch 

Two batches (4 kg) of dough make a lot croissants.  The good news is that raw croissant dough can be frozen.  The bad news? I didn’t have enough freezer space.

What to do with all that dough?

Have a Croissant party!

After spending all day Saturday prepping the dough, I spent all day Sunday making pastries.  I’d learned a lesson or two in school.  My pastries there had been large and under-proofed.   At home, I was extra careful in cutting and shaping, aiming for smaller and consistent sizing.   Altogether I made about  seven or eight dozen croissants. Pain au chocolats,  Croissants Almondine. Cinnamon Raisin. Croissant Beurre.  Baking trays lined up around my kitchen and everything smelled wonderful.

croissant party (4)-2
Pain au Chocolat, Croissant Almondine, Croissant Beurre, Cinnamon Raisin

Croissants must be eaten on the day they’re made. Preferably within two hours from the oven when they’re warm, flaky crisp, soft and redolent with the smell and taste of butter.

Even with seven hungry friends and take-home party bags, I had left over croissant dough.  These were the rolling bits and ends that couldn’t be re-rolled into pastry (a big NO-No with laminated dough.)

What to do with all this dough?

Improvise and make Crois-Bits!

I slashed the remnants into to smaller pieces, tossed them with sugar and leftover frangipane and baked them up into into crunchy little bites. They were light and crisp and perfect with my morning coffee.

Croissant muffins
Crois-Bits

But still there was more.   All the coffee in the world, couldn’t make me finish two dozen Crois-Bits.

What to do with all these croissants?

Make Bread Pudding, of course!

And because these are croissants and not plain old bread, they’re  called Diplomate au Bavarois.

Croissant Bread pudding (2)
Bread Pudding  aka  Diplomate au Bavarois

Finally, after a week of croissants, I am out of dough.  At least, I’m done with the batch that wasn’t frozen.

This Saturday though, is another class.  We are making Danishes!

 Toronto, Canada.  June 2018

A New Obsession

Sandy Breads 2

It’s been a while since I last posted. Months actually. The funny thing is, my Stats page tells me this site has been getting regular hits every day.  Without exception every day someone views  Ham Choy is Kiam Chye is Hum Choy.   If I was a Views hound, I’d rename the blog to The Ham Choy Chronicles and post exclusively about this Hakka staple.

Too bad I am not a hound.   I blog about what I like and I have a new obsession: Bread.

The first time I made bread was when I was in Singapore and homesick for a  traditional Jamaican style sweet bread:  Home-made Easter Bun … the Non-Fail Version.

Encouraged by my limited success I continued to make  more bread.  That was two years ago.  Fast forward to November 2017 when I signed up for an advanced workshop on Artisan Bread at the King Arthur School @ The Bread Lab in Washington State.

For four days I learned how to make bread.  Straight dough, enriched doughs, biga, poolish, sourdoughs, ryes. We covered all the basics of handmade, long rise bread. Some of it went over my head but I grasped the fundamentals and relished the fruits loaves of my learning.

Ever since I’ve been making hearth style breads regularly.  I don’t buy grocery bread anymore. And I’m still learning.  There are vast libraries of knowledge on breads and  legions of bread enthusiasts in the blogosphere.  I’m joining them. Every week I’ll be posting something about bread.

Sorry, Ham Choy readers.

But who knows, maybe someday I’ll experiment and create an new type of bread: Ham Choy buns.  You’ll be the first to know.

Toronto, Canada. 2018 

 

Anadama Bread

Anadama Bread
Anadama Bread

Without context this is an unusual bread name to remember.   It is a regional US specialty with a tender soft crumb and subtle molasses flavor.  The context behind the name?  It’s a story of course …

Once upon time, a long time ago when men were Men and Women worked in the Kitchen, John and Ana were a newly married couple in New England.   Ana was a lovely woman, beautiful and smart.  She was gifted in many things but had absolutely no talent in the kitchen. In today’s world she’d probably be a fast tracker in corporate HQ or an apprentice to a $10B (or not) bigoted CEO.  Anyways, Ana could cook only one thing, cornmeal mush. She cooked it every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  After eating mush for 15 days straight, John decided he could do better. He threw together Ana’s cornmeal mush with some yeast and flour, kneaded it himself, all the while muttering “Ana, damn her!”

This is a good dough to make with a KitchenAid mixer.   It is fairly wet initially but with 4 minutes of mixing will pull together around the dough hook and away from the mixing bowl walls.   Use a rubber spatula to scrape dough on to a lightly floured surface.  The outside of the dough will be dryer than the inside, but after a couple minutes of kneading will have a smooth tackiness throughout.

I like to add raisins and/or walnuts, to add a bit of sweetness and texture to the bread. If using, add to the dough when rolling into the loaf’s form, just before the second rise.

Recipe derived from Better Homes and Gardens’ New Baking Book.

Anadama Bread

1 cup    cornmeal
2 cup    water
½ cup   molasses
1/3 cup butter
2           eggs
2 tsp     salt
4 ½ to 5 cups flour (all purpose is fine)
4 ½ tsp active dry yeast (2 packages)
¾ cup   raisins or walnuts (optional)

2 8x4x2 loaf pans, greased and floured

Mix cornmeal and water in large bowl.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir cornmeal and water and microwave again until you have a cornmeal mush.   Cube butter and mix in to cornmeal mixture until melted.  Add molasses and sugar.  Cool liquid mixture until it is just warm (115 to 120 F).

Stir eggs into the cornmeal mixture and add to flour & yeast.  Beat with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on high speed for 3 minutes.

Turn dough on to lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in lightly oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.

After an hour, remove the dough and cut into 2.   Press out into rectangle and add raisins & walnuts, if using. Tightly roll into a loaf shape  and place into loaf pans to raise again for 1 hour, or until nearly doubled.

Bake in preheated 375 oven for 20 minutes.  Remove & cover with foil to prevent burning.   Bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven. Rest for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool on a wire rack.

Coconut Nut Bars

20160911_184040-2It’s back to school time and one of the things I remember is lunch bags.   Actually, I remember not having to prepare lunch bags. That was done by Hubby for Kid1 and Kid2.  Aside from inventive wraps and chopped veggie things, he prepared some delicious snack bars.

I recently discovered his secret – a dog-eared recipe book called “Brown Bag Success” by Sandra K. Nissenberg and Barbara N. Pearl.  I skipped past the pages on Healthy Lunches and Sandwich Staples and zoned in on “Snacks, Treats and Finishing Touches.”  There I found what I’d been looking for. The chewy, nutty, butterscotch flavored Coconut Nut Bars.

It was deceptively easy to make. I whipped up a batch in less than ten minutes, baked it for 20 and waited for it to cool.   Kid2 who is now twelve years older and two feet taller, hovered around the kitchen.  Unwisely, I left the bars unguarded.  When I returned to store them away, I found the supply woefully diminished.

Challenged, Kid2’s only response was “Huh? Humph…(swallow)..nuhme!”

Coconut Nut Bars

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (add 1 cup if you’re nut crazy like me)

Grease and flour a 8×8 pan
Preheat oven to 350

Measure flour and baking powder in a bowl
Melt butter in microwave.Stir in brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla.
Mix in to flour mixture. Add coconut and nuts. Batter will be stiff.
Spread into pan.  If it doesn’t look it has enough nuts, shove some more into the batter.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
Cool for 15 before removing from pan. Use a long serrated knife to slice into bars.

Makes 12 bars

Bagels – Toronto Style

Homemade Bagels

When in Toronto there’s no reason to make bagels. There’s an excellent bakery close by and I can buy them fresh and hot from the oven.  Raisin, whole wheat and sesame are my favorites.

When I’m not in Toronto it’s not so easy.  In Singapore bagels are an imported luxury and only available in the freezer section of a specialty supermarket. Given my impending return to the island, I decided to try making it at home.

Montreal Bagels
Montreal Bagels

If you’re Canadian, there are two types of bagels – Toronto and Montreal style.  Toronto style is like New York bagels – big, fat and chewy. Montreal style is smaller, paler and thinner – rather like large sesame crusted pretzels.

Montreal bagels are OK but I always find them a bit flat tasting. They’re only good with massive amounts of cream cheese … which I suppose is the point.  I guessed that the difference was due to less salt. I was right! Montreal bagel recipes have no salt and more sugar.

For my home exercise I tried a couple different recipes. This version is my favorite.  It is adapted from the SophisticatedGourmet.com’s NY Bagel Recipe   It is different in that I’ve added more sugar and reduced to the oven temperature from 425 to 350.  The higher temperature resulted in a crispier crust which was almost baguette like. That’s fine but not what I wanted.

Pulling this together with my heavy duty KitchenAid stand mixer was a breeze. The dough hook and powerful engine made short work of kneading the dough.   Pulling this together by hand (as it will be in Singapore) is going to be more of a challenge.  But it will be worth it.

Toronto Style Bagels

The secret of a chewy bagel
The secret of a chewy bagel

2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup warm water
3 ½ cups flour (all purpose is fine)
2 tbs sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ cup warm water

Proof yeast in ½ cup of warm water mixed with 1 tsp sugar.

Mix flour, sugar and salt.  Add ¾ cup water and yeast mixture. Blend and knead into a smooth dough

Cover in oiled bowl. Leave for 45 minutes to 1 hour to raise until double

Cut dough into 8 pieces. Mold into smooth balls before punching a hole and forming into bagel shape.  Note that the balls should be round and smooth otherwise the cooked bagels will not be well formed.

In a large skillet boil water with 1 tbs sugar. Cook bagels in boiling water for 2 minutes before turning over for another 2 minutes. Set aside to drain on a wire rack.

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Bake bagels on a well oiled baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

Makes 8 bagels

Montreal Brunch

20160806_112614The brunch menu said ‘brouillade d’oeuf, croissant, echalote verte grille and sirop d’erable.

“What’s brouillade?” I asked.

“Scrambled eggs,” hubby replied.

“With maple syrup?”

“Yes!” Emm, the resident Montreal-er said. “We put maple syrup on everything.  Pancakes, beans, meat pies. Eggs, no problem.”

Canada  produces 80% of the world’s pure maple syrup and is the leading supplier of maple syrup and maple products. Quebec produces over 90% of Canada’s supply, with the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers controlling the supply and sale of the product.

In 2012 the news world was rocked by the theft of over 10,000 barrels of syrup from a warehouse near Montreal.   At the time, grade A syrup was trading at $1,800 a barrel (approximately 13 times the price of crude oil) and the loss was valued at nearly $20 million dollars. It focused attention on the cartel-like Federation and dubbed Quebec as the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup.

Referred to as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup heist, the theft was remarkable for the size and scale of its organization.  Moving that many barrels would have required one hundred tractor trailers trucking through the warehouse site, unchallenged and undetected.

Hmm … sounds like a good heist movie. I could imagine Donald Sutherland as the criminal mastermind and Keanu Reeves as the lead driver in a convoy speeding across the Trans Canada highway.

Meanwhile, my brunch plate had arrived.  It looked like  I’d found one of those missing barrels. It had been poured all over my eggs.

Les Québécois have famously sweet tooth(s). They love sugar – tire sur neige (maple syrup taffy on snow), sucre à la crème l’érable (maple fudge), tarte au sucre (sugar pie) and pouding chômeur (poor man’s pudding) which is  a kind of maple syrup cobbler with no pretensions of fruit.

20160806_112620Not being a Quebec native myself, I found the dish a bit too sweet.  I traded it for hubby’s sandwich.

His meal violated another axiom of heart healthy foods. Cholesterol rich with braised beef, melted cheese and sauerkraut, it was fried in butter and accompanied by frites cooked in duck fat.

Delicious, heart clogging Québécois fare.

Montreal, Canada. 2016