Never waste – Green Onion Sesame Rolls

One of my roommates loves to go grocery shopping, which is great for us because we always have a stocked fridge. However, sometimes she buys things that we don’t end up using until it’s too late (i.e. the food has started rotting). Last month, she bought a large pack of green onions, but no one cooked anything with them. I always feel bad throwing out food. Growing up with parents who were farmers in China has taught me not to waste food. Since my parents know firsthand how difficult it is to grow food, they don’t like to waste food, even the smallest amount. So when I saw this recipe for green onion rolls, I knew it was the perfect way to use up our sad, wilting green onions.

         

This recipe is pretty straightforward. Just make a basic bread dough, chop up lots of green onions, and roll out the dough. Then, generously sprinkle the dough with green onions, roll the dough into a log, slice the log up and bake. After slicing up the log, you’ll get these beautiful looks rolls, chockful of green onions. Sprinkling black and white sesame seeds on top gives the rolls as nice pop of color too.

These green onion rolls baked and browned absolutely beautifully! And they smelled so delicious from the oven! However, I was a little disappointed in the flavor. They tasted good, but I felt something was missing. In my critical opinion, they were a tad too bland. Perhaps I should have added a bit more salt or some spice? Regardless, these green onion rolls were tasty, proven by the fact that my roommates gobbled them up so quickly.

In spite of the slight blandness, these rolls were a great addition to our dinner that evening. I’d suggest making these for a potluck or a dinner party – you’ll definitely impress the guests. And it’s a great way to get rid of lots of green onions all at once!

Green Onion Sesame Rolls
Adapted from Priscilla Liang’s Easy Fluffy No-Knead Bread

For the Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
1 egg
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

For the Filling:
Several stalks of green onion
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with water)
Black and white sesame seeds to garnish

1. Dissolve the sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture, egg, and butter to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Punch the dough with your fist. Roll the dough into a rectangle of approximately 1/3 inch thick.
7. Spread the olive oil and sesame oil onto the dough.  Sprinkle the salt and green onion evenly over the dough.
8. Roll and cut the dough into 16 pieces.
9. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and place 8 rolls into each pan.
10. Cover the pans with a damp cloth and let the rolls rise in a warm place for approximately 30 minutes.
11. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with black and white sesame seeds.
12. Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a roll comes out clean.
13. Serve with dinner or enjoy as a snack!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

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Surprising Swirls – Povitica

I love recipes that look difficult to make, but are actually really easy… like this braided lemon bread. And I love recipes that have a surprise inside, like this purple ombre cake. And I absolutely love recipes that are straightforward – it’s ok if they require more than one bowl or make a mess, as long as they are easy to follow and understand. So, when I saw this beautiful, creative bread called Povitica and saw how simple it was and how awesome it looked inside, I pinned the recipe and vowed to make it someday.

Just a regular loaf or bread… or is it?

I just love surprising people… which is a bit ironic, since I kinda hate being surprised (or rather, spooked since I’ll jump a mile into the air and scream whenever someone sneaks up on me). I especially love surprising people with food, either by making something shockingly beautiful or making something with ingredients and flavor combinations that they would never have expected to go well together (like lime glazed avocado pop-tarts or blueberry basil goat cheese hand pies… I’ll be posting these soon!)

What I love most about this bread is how unassuming it looks. Judging from its exterior, one would guess it’s just a regular old loaf of bread. But once you cut off a slice, it’s like BAM! You’re hit with crazy twists and swirls of walnut filling all throughout the bread. Povitica is basically the funkier cousin of swirl bread.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s super straightforward. Povitica is basically a sweet bread dough slathered on with a walnut filling, rolled up and twisted, and then baked in a loaf pan. At first glance, the swirls of filling throughout the bread look fairly complicated, but making them is pretty easy, especially with the help of the step-by-step photos on the Daring Baker’s website. I followed the quarter batch recipe, which makes one loaf. My bread ended up not being twisted that much, probably because I didn’t have enough filling for the swirls to distinctly show, especially near the top. Be warned though, this bread was a little messy, particularly when I rolled up the dough into a log, a lot of the filling spilled out. But hey, that’s the fun part of it. One reason why I like making breads so much is that I get to play with the dough and get my hands dirty. Besides, it doesn’t really matter if your kitchen gets messy because you’re going to have to clean it up in the end anyways. 😛

Povitica
Adapted from Daring Bakers (Quarter Batch – makes one loaf) 

For the dough:
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2  cups all-purpose flour, measure first then sift, divided

For the filling:
1 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

To make the dough:
1. Proof the yeast by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water and sprinkling yeast on top. Let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave until scalding.
3. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt.
4. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1 cup of flour.
5. Mix using a wooden spoon and slowly add the remaining flour until the dough starts to come together. (You might not use all of the flour.)
6. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick. Add more flour if needed.
7. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled.

To make the filling:
8. In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
9. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. (I just heated these in the microwave until hot.)
10. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
11. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
12. Let filling stand at room temperature until it’s ready to be spread on the dough.

To assemble the bread:
13. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle as thin as you can.
14. Spread the filling on top of the dough.
15. Gently roll the dough up into a long log/jelly roll. (The filling will probably get pushed out as you roll it up. Don’t worry about it.)
16. Lift the dough and place the middle in a “U” shape into a greased loaf pan.  Tuck the ends into the empty space of the “U” and brush the top with egg wash.
17. Let rest for 15 minutes.
18. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, then bake at 300 for 45 minutes. Check the bread after 30 minutes to see how browned the top is. If it is too brown, you can place aluminum foil on top.
19. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.
20. Slice off a piece and admire how beautiful your bread is! 🙂

This post has been Yeastpotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Homesick for Texas – Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches

Despite not having grown up in Texas, I still consider myself to be somewhat Texan and associate with Texas all the time. I suppose living in Texas for four years brainwashed me. 😛 The funny thing is that when I first arrived in Texas, I wasn’t its biggest fan. I felt like I had been transported to another planet (ok, maybe that was a little exaggerated, but Texas does feel like a foreign country sometimes).

Living in Texas also introduced me to new foods, from real southern BBQ (before moving to Texas, I thought BBQ was hamburgers and hot dogs) to Tex-Mex. One of my favorite foods I discovered in Texas was the kolache – a breakfast pastry similar to to the danish, but made with bread dough instead of danish/croissant dough. Even though it was originally brought over by Czech immigrants, Texans have made the kolache their own by putting their own twist on the fillings and even the pronunciation. Texans say “kol-ah-chee” while the Czech pronunciation is “kolach” (with a silent “e”).

For some reason, kolaches are rather difficult to find outside of Texas. I’m sure they’re available in the Mid-West, but in California, no one has heard of them. So, feeling homesick for both the delicious pastry and Texas, I decided to make my own kolaches. I looked up a few recipes and found these from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Kolaches consist of a basic sweet dough that are shaped into rounds or squares and filled with whatever fruit topping you like. Some people even stuff them with sausage. Common fruit fillings include apricot and blueberry. However, since I only had peaches in the house, I made peach kolaches instead. I also had an expiring block of cream cheese, so I made cream cheese kolaches as well.

This recipe was really easy to follow and straightforward. The only little problem (if you can call it that) was that I made the kolaches a tad too big. I thought I had shaped them into fairly small balls of dough, but boy was I wrong. They ended up rising quite a bit in the oven and became gigantic kolaches. Another difficulty I encountered was filling the wells. I suppose I just tried to put in too much filling because for every kolache, the filling spilled out of the well and down the sides. So make sure you put parchment paper underneath, which makes cleaning up extremely easy.

One of my fondest memories of eating kolaches was right before finals. Each semester, the Women in Engineering program hosted a pre-finals feast, consisting of Texas’ finest foods: breakfast tacos, chips and queso, and of course, kolaches. The fluffiness of the bread and the sweet filling of the kolache comforted me as I grew nervous about my imminent exams. After only four years, I’ve fallen in love with many traditions and cultural idiosyncrasies of Texas, with kolaches being near the top. Making these kolaches brought back good memories and brought a bit of Texas to California.

Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches
Adapted from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride

For dough:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

For cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon

For peach filling:
2 peaches
peach jam (I used apricot jam)

For posypka:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water, then sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
3. Add 1 cup of flour and yeast to the egg mixture and mix.
4. Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
5. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface.
6. Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour. (I left in the refrigerator overnight and let the dough warm up the next day before using it.)
7. After dough has risen, punch it down. Pull off egg-sized pieces (maybe even smaller!), roll into balls, and then flatten to about three inches in diameter.
8. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
9. While waiting for the dough to rise, make the fillings and posypka. To make the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. To make the peach filling, cut up the two peaches into small pieces and mix with peach/apricot jam. (I microwaved the jam to make it more liquidy.) To make the posypka, crumble the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together with your hands.
10. After second rising, gently make an indention in the center of the dough with two or three fingers. Fill each well with peach filling or cream cheese filling (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle with posypka.
11. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes and serve warm. Kolaches are best eaten warm and fresh from the oven, but they also taste good the day after.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Forgetting the Focaccia – Olive Rosemary Focaccia

My friends and I recently moved into a new house and in the whole process, we somehow inherited a big jar of green olives. I think olives are one of those foods that everyone has a different attitude towards. Some absolutely love them, some are indifferent, and some completely abhor them. Like my friend Rachel. One day, she asked her boyfriend to pick up a loaf of bread. She told him any kind of bread would be fine. However, when he showed up with a loaf of olive bread, she exclaimed, “Not olive bread!”

Now, I don’t mind olives, but I definitely do not like them enough to eat a big jar of them. I’ll eat a few on a slice of pizza or eat the olive that comes with my martini, but they’re a little too salty for me to eat regularly. So when I saw that big jar of olives, I knew I had to find a recipe that used olives. Remembering that story of olive bread, I looked up recipes for olive bread and found a few for olive rosemary focaccia.

Focaccia is actually a very simple and straightforward bread, similar to pizza dough (according to wikipedia). You just make a basic dough, add in whatever herbs (or food) you want, roll the dough out, spread olive oil over it,  and press your fingertips into the dough. Super easy, right?

Even though it was super simple, being the klutz that I am, I encountered a minor problem. While baking the bread, I was distracted and left the focaccia in the oven for a bit too long. Too long as in, burnt the bread and had the smoke alarm go off! Luckily I made two loaves and baked the other one perfectly.

I made this focaccia for a friend’s birthday dinner being hosted at my new house (which was why I had been so distracted while baking the focaccia). Another one of my friends had planned the whole menu, which included baked brie topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry, mushroom pasta, tuna stuffed bell peppers, and sauteed brussel sprouts with almonds. In addition to the focaccia, I contributed a quick, but fancy appetizer of figs drizzled with honey and topped with toasted walnuts.

Don’t those figs look so fancy?

Despite burning a loaf of focaccia (I had baked the first one and served it, but left the second one in the oven while I joined my friends for dinner – a very bad idea) and having the smoke alarm go off in the middle of dinner, my friend’s birthday dinner was a great success! The food was delicious and the company was great. We all make mistakes sometimes, some more than others (like me for example). But usually it all works out in the end. Besides, how else would you learn if you didn’t make mistakes?

The only real unfortunate thing about this bread was that it didn’t use nearly enough olives since I barely made a dent in my big jar sitting in the fridge. So, if anyone has any fun recipes that use a ton of olives, please let me know!

Olive Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Epicurious

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives, pitted, halved (I used green olives and sliced them)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

1. Dissolve sugar in warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Add the yeast to 3 1/2 cups flour and salt and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Add in the chopped olives and some of the rosemary.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes.
4. Form the dough into ball and place the dough into an oiled large bowl. Pour a little olive oil on top of the dough and evenly coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Punch down the dough, knead it into a ball and return it to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking sheet. Roll the dough out into a rectangle with your fingertips or a rolling pin. Let the dough rest 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over the dough and sprinkle the rest of the chopped rosemary on top. Let the dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.
8. Press your fingertips all over dough. (This was the funnest part! It made me feel like a kid again playing with playdough). Bake the bread  at 475F until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Easier than braiding hair – Braided Lemon Bread

The second I saw this recipe for braided lemon bread from Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to make it someday. I filed it away in my brain and waited for the opportune moment. So when I made too much lemon curd for the brioche crescent rolls, I secretly did this:

What I love about this recipe is that it’s so straightforward and easy yet yields a final product that is so intricately beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that everyone will believe that this braid was store-bought instead of homemade. For example, when I delivered the bread to my friends, they were all so impressed by it and were convinced that I had bought it rather than made it. I felt a little bad accepting their praises since it really was super easy to make.

Despite looking complicated to make, this bread is actually extremely simple. So much easier than french braiding hair, which I still can’t do. 😛 All you have to do is cut the sides into strips and alternately lay them over each other. Easy, right? Following Deb’s step-by-step photos doesn’t hurt either.

What’s also great about this recipe is that you can make the braid ahead of time, and then bake it right before you’re ready to serve it. I made the dough and braid the night before, then baked it the next morning, so it was nice and fresh for breakfast.

This bread is really delicious – my friends gobbled it up within 30 minutes. The soft, fluffiness of the bread is complemented with the tartness of the lemon curd. Since I didn’t have pearl sugar (I really need to invest in it, so I can make Liege waffles!), I sifted powder sugar on top. However, the cream cheese is rather unnoticeable. In fact, my brother couldn’t even taste it when he ate it. So I’d either increase the cream cheese filling or leave it out completely. The latter is probably better since the flavor of the lemon curd overpowers the cream cheese anyways. You could also exchange the lemon curd with any kind of curd or jam. I think raspberry jam would be a delicious alternative.

If you’re looking for a recipe to impress friends with, this is it. This lemon braid is perfect to bring to a brunch, like Deb did, or as a dessert to a dinner party. When your friends and family see this bread, they’ll praise you for your master baking skills and you’ll smile and say thanks, knowing that it was actually incredibly easy to make.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Lazy Sunday – Brioche Crescent Rolls with Lemon Curd

A few weeks ago, I had a few lemons that I wanted to use up quickly, so I decided to make lemon curd. It’s surprisingly very easy! Just lemon juice, eggs, butter, and sugar. I couldn’t believe it. Knowing that I’d get very bored just eating lemon curd on toast, I searched for some recipes to use it up. Once I saw this one for brioche crescent rolls filled with lemon curd, I knew I had the perfect recipe.

I used homemade lemon curd, but you can always use store bought if you don’t have enough time or enough lemons. If you do have those two things, I definitely recommend making your own lemon curd. It really is very simple. The first time I made it, I noticed some of the egg whites had cooked in my curd. So I spent a good 30 minutes trying to fish out those egg white pieces.

Can you spot the egg whites?

Not wanting to go through that process again, I found this awesome tip from Fine Cooking. Cream the butter and sugar first until fluffy, then beat in the eggs, and finally add in the lemon juice. You’ll end up with a lumpy yellow mess that looks pretty disgusting. But don’t worry, once you put in on the stove, it’ll become smooth and creamy lemon curd. I tried a second time, following the tip, and got beautiful, delicious lemon curd with absolutely no cooked egg white pieces!

As I’ve said before, I’m a little hesitant when it comes to baking with lots of butter. So I cut down on the butter in this recipe and used only 1/2 cup of butter. As I was mixing in the butter, I already thought that it was too much. But despite decreasing the butter, the crescent rolls were still pretty rich.

I made half of the recipe and got about 18 crescent rolls. As you’re making them, be careful not to put in too much lemon curd on the dough. I did that several times and lemon curd was peeking out of the crescent rolls, and then spilled out as the rolls baked.

These crescent rolls puffed up and browned beautifully. The dough was so soft and fluffy while the lemon curd was tart and sweet. It’s a great combination because the tart lemon curd cuts the richness of the buttery brioche.

I baked these on a Sunday morning for my family for breakfast. They’re a nice sweet treat to enjoy with your morning cup of coffee as you read the headlines of the newspaper and bask in the sunshine on a lazy Sunday.

Brioche Crescent Rolls with Lemon Curd
Adapted from girlichef

Brioche Crescent Rolls
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 warm water
1/8 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temp.
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 cup lemon curd (or any type of citrus curd)
1 large egg, beaten w/ 1 tsp. water (egg wash)
powdered sugar, for sifting

Lemon Curd
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Brioche Crescent Rolls
1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water, then sprinkle in yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, place the milk, sugar, and 1 cup of the flour. Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and another cup of flour and mix until well combined. Add salt and remaining flour about a ½ cup or so at a time, until the dough comes together but is still fairly sticky.
3. Pull the dough out of the bowl and place onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes.
4. Add a quarter of the butter at a time, waiting until well blended before adding more.
5. Clean the large bowl you used earlier, transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
6. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit for 30 minutes to warm up.
7. Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half of dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 10 inches wide. Cut into 12 equal wedges/triangles.
8. Add two teaspoons of lemon curd to the base of each triangle. Starting from that base, roll each triangle of dough and form into a crescent shape. Pinch ends to seal.
9. Place each crescent roll on a parchment lined sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
10. Preheat oven to 350F during last 15 minutes of rise time. Brush each crescent with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Lemon Curd
1. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs.
3. Add in the lemon juice. (Mixture will look very lumpy and chunky).
4. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. The mixture will thicken as you cook it.
5. Cook for 15 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to leave a path on the back of the spoon.
6. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.
7. Pour lemon curd into jar or bowl and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
8. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.
9. Spread on bread, toast, english muffin, etc… and enjoy!
You can keep fresh lemon curd in the refrigerator for a week or two.

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Childhood Nostalgia – Red Bean Buns

Growing up, I ate a lot of red beans. No, not the savory kind used in rice and beans, but the sweet kind commonly found in Asian desserts. Sweet red bean soup served after dinner and soft buns filled with red bean paste were some of my favorite desserts. Anytime I saw red bean anything being offered, my eyes would widen and I’d choose it immediately.

So when I saw this recipe for red bean buns, I knew I had to make them. To make the dough, I used the same recipe for soft, fluffy bread using the tangzhong method. I used canned red bean paste, but you could make your own. To make the rolls, you simply enclose a small ball of paste with a circle of the dough, then roll out the dough ball into a flat oblong shape. The funnest part was cutting slits into the dough, but make sure not to cut too deep or else you’ll end up with strings of red bean buns. Simply roll the dough up (hot dog style), brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

These red bean rolls bake and brown beautifully. My mom, lover of hot out of the oven baked goods, quickly snatched up a roll once I brought the tray out of the oven.

She was so impressed by these rolls and exclaimed that they looked exactly like those sold in Chinese bakeries. My friends reinforced this when I brought them the rolls the next day. I’m pretty sure if I had packaged the rolls in one of those pink boxes the Chinese bakeries use, no one would have guessed the rolls were homemade.

Since moving away from home for college and now grad school, I rarely eat any kind of Chinese food. I suppose the overexposure to it growing up as a kid has resulted in my avoidance of Chinese restaurants as an adult. Although I do enjoy certain Chinese dishes, I usually prefer to eat other Asian cuisines, especially Korean, Japanese, and Thai. However, these red bean rolls were so delicious that I could resist eating them or deny that they were amazing. Plus, they brought me back to my childhood and let me indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Like childhood, these buns are pretty simple, even though they may seem rather complex. They’re also super light and fluffy, just like how life felt as a kid. Not yet weighted by the burdens of adulthood, kids can fly as high and as far as they want. Hopefully, in producing bakery-worthy goods, these red bean buns will make you feel like that once again. 🙂

Red Bean Buns
Adapted from Happy Home Baking

Dough for soft, fluffy bread (follow this recipe just omit the pandan extract)
1 can of red bean paste, roll into balls of equal size
1 egg for egg wash
White sesame seeds (optional)

  1. After the dough has risen, divide the dough into equal sized portions (the number can vary depending on the size). Roll each portion into a ball and let them rest for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Flatten the dough into a round disc. Enclose each red bean paste ball with a flat disc of dough. Pinch and seal the seam tightly. Flatten the dough into a round disc and roll out into a longish oval shape. Use a knife to make a few slits, but don’t cut all the way through. Roll up into an oblong roll, then seal and pinch the edges.
  3. Place the rolls, seam side down on a greased baking tray. Leave some space in between the rolls to allow them to expand. Let the rolls proof for the second time for about 45 mins, or until they double in size.
  4. Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle white sesame seeds on top.
  5. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350F for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack.

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Apple Ginger Brioche Rolls

Apples and ginger are two of my favorite ingredients… like seriously. I eat an apple everyday for breakfast and am a HUGE ginger fan. So much of a fan that I’ll just eat pickled ginger and candied ginger alone. So ever since I saw this recipe for apple ginger brioche rolls, I’ve been dying to make them.

Being a bit afraid of butter, I’d always shy away from brioche recipes. Putting a whole stick (or even more) of butter into anything always grossed me out a bit. But I’ve since gotten over my little fear and have been wanting to make brioche for a while. I read somewhere that in earlier times, when butter was an expensive commodity and a sign of wealth, the amount of butter that was put into the dough showed how rich you were. So, a rich man’s brioche had a cup of butter while a poor man’s brioche had a mere two tablespoons. I love little food facts like that.

I decided to be more like a poor man, and keep the butter content on the low side. But if you wanted your bread to be richer, you could probably increase the butter. I also modified the filling a bit by adding a tablespoon of cinnamon. I used Saigon cinnamon, which seems to be a bit spicier, but only because that’s all we had. (Just a tip for you Costco shoppers, buy a big jar of Saigon cinnamon, it’s only $3!) If you aren’t a huge ginger fan, you might want to decrease the ginger a bit. Even I, a bonafide ginger lover, thought the heat from the ginger was a bit strong and had quite the kick.

The best part of these brioche rolls is that they will make your house smell amazing! From making the filling to baking the rolls, my mouth watered as I took in the aromas of the spices. However, be careful, these rolls are pretty messy. As I cut the rolled up dough, the filling oozed out. Not wanting to waste any of it, I coated a few pieces of the leftover dough with the delicious filling, which tasted amazing! These rolls bake up beautifully and look just like baked goods you’d find at Starbucks, especially with the parchment paper wrapping. Your friends and family won’t believe it when you say you made them yourself. 🙂

Apple Ginger Brioche Rolls
Adapted from this recipe

3 cups bread flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
4 tbsp soft butter
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
3 tbsp sugar
1 apple, chopped into small cubes
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 tbsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water for the sugar glaze (I forgot about this… and the rolls still tasted delicious!)

1) Preheat oven to 350F and cut 8 squares of parchment paper to fit eight muffin tins.
2) Mix the sugar and half of the warm milk in a large bowl.
3) Proof yeast by dissolving 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm milk and then sprinkling yeast on top. Let yeast dissolve and bubble for five minutes.
4) Add 1 cup of flour and lightly beaten eggs to the sugar and milk mixture. Mix until fairly smooth. Then add the proofed yeast and stir to combine.
5) Mix in the rest of the flour in batches until dough comes together. Then move dough onto countertop and knead for 5-10 min. (Note: this dough is very sticky and that’s ok! Just keep flouring your countertop as you knead. If you feel the dough is too liquid-y, add more flour.)
6) Knead in the softened butter a few tablespoons at a time until you have incorporated all of the butter. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
7) As dough rises in refrigerator, make the filling by mixing the chopped apple, brown sugar, ginger powder, and cinnamon together.
8) The next morning, take dough out and set aside to warm up. Then take the dough out (it will probably still be a bit sticky) and roll into a large rectangle.
9) Spread the filling onto the dough and roll the dough up into a long log.
10) Slice the log into eight pieces (or more) and place each piece in a paper lined muffin tin.
11) Let rolls rise for at least 30 minutes or doubled in size.
12) Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
13) Enjoy the rolls straight from the oven or brush with the sugar glaze. (You can quickly make the sugar glaze by placing the sugar and water into a pot and bringing them to a boil for a minute.)

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Queen of the Quick Breads

Before I really started getting into baking, I usually baked quick breads because they were simple, easy, and always yielded good results. No need to fuss with yeast or complicated procedures or worry about the delicateness of peaks of beaten egg whites. Quick breads are so robust that you can basically throw anything in there along with the  standard flour, sugar, eggs, etc… and you’ll still have something that tastes good. Plus, you can make so many substitutions. Who cares if you only have one egg left? Just add in some applesauce.

One of my favorite quick breads is this whole wheat and millet banana bread from Joy the Baker. I love the extra crunch millet gives to the bread. I usually add in chocolate chips, which make the bread even more delicious. (You can also make chocolate chip cookies to surround your quick bread with to make it look even prettier. :P)

Another good quick bread is beer bread. You can make any kind of bread you want with just a can of any beer. It shouldn’t be good beer either. In fact, the worse the beer, the better. (So you don’t feel so guilty about using the beer in bread instead of drinking it). With several cans of leftover PBR, I made all different kinds of bread, including cinnamon raisin, green chile cheddar, and rosemary and thyme. Beer bread is so easy – it’s basically just flour, beer, and whatever else you want to put in it. Here’s a couple of good beer bread recipes, with several variations: Beer Bread 4 ways and Easy Beer Bread.

Adding a little something extra to your quick bread is always fun, and can be as simple as incorporating chocolate chips and millet or swirling in cream cheese or jam. One of my friend’s favorite quick breads that I made is a pumpkin loaf with a layer of cream cheese in the middle. I did a variation of this bread using apple sauce instead of canned pumpkin and swirling the cream cheese instead, following this recipe.

Another bonus of quick breads is that if you have leftovers, you can always make muffins! 😀

Sometimes you just want to bake something simple, easy, and foolproof. Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit off if I don’t bake something that week. And if I don’t want to deal with the added stress of yeast or some fancy French technique, I know I can always turn to the old, reliable quick bread and make something delicious. Quick breads may not be nearly as impressive or exotic as some other baked goods, but in my experience, they will always work and that reassurance is sometimes all you need.

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Soft and Fluffy – Pandan Bread and Pineapple Buns

Being Chinese-American, I’ve been to a lot of Chinatowns, dim sum restaurants, and of course, Chinese bakeries. Whenever we visited my relatives in Oakland, we’d always go to Chinatown. And if we didn’t happen to eat dim sum that morning, we’d always go to my mom’s favorite bakery to buy a big pink box filled with everyone’s favorite Chinese buns and pastries. Most people love the pineapple buns (bo luo bao) and praise the crunchy sweet topping. However, I was an exception and preferred the light, fluffiness of the bread over the topping. Luckily, my brother was like most people, so I’d trade him the topping of the bun for the fluffy bread. 🙂

For years, I’ve been mystified by how those buns were always so fluffy, thinking those Chinese ladies in those bakeries had some magical powers. Recently, through thorough searching on the internet, I’ve discovered their secret to achieving such soft, fluffy bread. Apparently, it’s tangzhong, a scalded dough that helps keep the bread soft.

I thought I’d jazz the bread up a bit by adding a few drops of Pandan extract that I had bought from the local asian grocery store. Be careful to only add a couple of teaspoons since the extract is very intense. As you can see from above, it turned the white dough into a dark, green color. Alien dough anyone?

First, I decided to make loaves of Pandan bread. I think I let the dough rise too long, so the rolls were pretty huge and I could only fit in three rolls of bread into my loaf pan. Since I was going all out, I decided to add a layer of red bean paste inside the bread and a heavy sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. The bread baked beautifully, rising out of the pan and browning on top. However, make sure to bake it long enough. Deceived by the browned top, I took the loaf out too early and certain parts of the inside, specifically the parts of the rolls that joined together, were not cooked enough. But most of the bread was perfect, so soft and fluffy!

With the leftover dough, I made pineapple buns. My brother found this recipe for the infamous pineapple topping (in US units! yay!), which actually has no pineapples in it. 😛 Instead, it’s a mixture of eggs, sugar, butter, and flour. After I had placed the flat, round disks of topping (rolled out by my wonderful brother) onto the buns and scored the tops, I realized that the buns looked exactly like little turtles! So cute!

Once I took the buns out of the oven, my mom quickly grabbed one and took a bite. Ignoring my protests that they needed to cool, she countered that buns always taste best fresh out of the oven. I definitely cannot argue with that. So listen to my mother and eat these right after you take them out of the oven!

Although this bread and these buns are a lot of work (and waiting), they are definitely worth it. Your friends and family will not believe you when you say you made them yourself because they look exactly like store-bought Chinese bakery buns. My mom was so amazed that she wanted me to make them whenever we have guests over. Your mom wanting to show off your buns is definitely the best form of flattery. (If you got that pun, get your mind out of the gutter! haha)

But the most satisfying part of making the bread and pineapple buns was making them with my younger brother. It may be a bit surprising, but he’s actually the baker of our family. All throughout middle school he’d bake cookies, cakes, and cupcakes for his classmates and teachers. His friends even got him a standing mixer for his birthday! Along with our mutual love for Snow Patrol, our love for baking has helped us bond and become closer siblings. Baking with my brother was so much fun that the idea of opening a family bakery crossed my mind. Maybe that’ll be my back up plan if I ever decide that grad school isn’t for me…

Soft, Fluffy Pandan Bread (Tangzhong method)
Adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings and Christine’s Recipes

2½ cups bread flour
3tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (1/2 of the batch made from this recipe)
2 tsp instant yeast (I used dry active yeast and it worked fine. I made sure to proof the yeast first with 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tbsp of sugar.)
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
2 tsp pandan paste

1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add in all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong and pandan paste. Knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading.  Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic. (Kirbie’s recipe says she kneaded the dough for about 18-20 minutes. I didn’t knead it quite that long, probably only 10-15 min. But I forgot to do the window pane check, so not sure if my dough was actually kneaded long enough. Whoops!)
2. Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil.  Place dough into  greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
3. Transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls.  Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape.  Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top. (Check out Kirbie’s website for step-by-step pictures. These really helped me a lot when I was rolling the dough).
5. Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin. Flip dough over so the folds face up. (If you want, slather on a layer of red bean paste like I did here). Now roll the dough up. Place each of the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double the size, approximately another 40 minutes. (Since I was busy making the pineapple buns, I probably let the dough rise a lot longer… oops).
6. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny egg wash finish. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top!
7. Bake at 330 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

Pineapple Buns and Topping
Adapted from Homemade Chinese (I only used half of the topping)

Pandan dough (from above)
2.5-3 tbsp sugar
1/8 cup butter
1 egg yolks
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder

How to Prepare Topping:
1. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
2. Add egg yolk, baking soda, and milk together, and mix well.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture, and mix by hand until it’s smooth and not sticky. Be careful not to manipulate it too much as it will form gluten (we didn’t really see this step and didn’t notice any gluten forming)
4. Wrap the topping in plastic and refrigerate it for an hour and a half minimum.

How to Make Pineapple Buns:
1. Shape dough into equal sized balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for at least 15 min.
2. Take the prepared pineapple topping and roll it to a thickness of about 1-1.5 in.
3. Brush the buns with a small amount of water, and place the pineapple topping ontop of the buns. The water will help the topping stick to the buns.
4. Take a knife and lightly score the toppings with a criss-cross pattern.
5. Lightly beat 1 egg yolk and brush the buns and toppings with it. The egg yolk will provide the buns with a nice rich yellow color.
6. Bake the buns at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 min.
7. Let cool slightly, then devour!

This post has been Yeastspotted.