Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nordstrom Cafe

The Nordstrom in downtown San Diego has a cafe on the top floor. It sells mainly sandwiches and salads, but with a more upscale setting.

You line up and place your order and find an empty table. After that, a server will come over and bring your drink, your order, and service you throughout your meal.

The sandwiches here are pretty tasty. The sandwiches are panini sandwiches, served hot and toasted. BF and I had lunch there the other day.

We shared a salad and a sandwich. The salad was a shrimp louis salad. It was served with a hot sour dough bread.

We also ordered a chicken club sandwich. The sandwiches come with salad or chips.

At the end of your meal, they give you some chocolate mints.

It’s a nice spot to come for lunch if you work nearby or if you need a shopping break. I’ve always had attentive service here.

Nordstrom Cafe
324 Horton Plz
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-1700
Nordstrom Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nutella swirl bread

I’ve been craving more of the tangzhong method bread lately. I just can’t get enough of the soft, fluffy texture of this bread. I’ve scoured the blogs for other recipes but this weekend I decided to try playing around and creating my own variation, using one of my favorite things: nutella.

I’m pretty sure I can eat nutella on toast for breakfast everyday and not get sick of it. I’ve never made a swirl type loaf bread but I’ve been wanting to try cinnamon raisin swirl bread. Hopefully I’ll get to try it soon. Using that same idea, I decided to try creating a nutella swirl loaf.

So far, all the tangzhong breads I’ve made have required separating the bread into smaller chunks and then letting the chunks bake together to form a single loaf. For this bread, I used one giant chunk and hoped for the best.

I used the recipe for the milk bread as my basis. I then decided to split it in half to create two loaves of nutella swirl bread, since one loaf of milk bread with this recipe is pretty big and always bursting out of my 9 x 5 loaf pan.

To my relief, this bread came out pretty well. The bread is soft and chewy, with nutella swirled inside. I wasn’t too happy about the gaping holes between the layers of nutella swirl, but I’m not sure how to eliminate them either.

The recipe was enough for two 9 x 5 loaves. I was worried there would be enough rise in the dough to create two whole loaves, but there was.

Nutella swirl bread
Yields 2 loaves


2½ cups bread flour
3tbsp+2tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (click here for making tangzhong)
2 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
nutella for filling

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. Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and 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. I kneaded the dough for about 18-20 minutes. Each mixer may vary.

When the dough is ready, you should be able to take a chunk of dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should be form a circle.

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 two 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 a thin rectangle.
5. Spread nutella across rectangle, leaving about one inch of dough along the edges. Roll up dough from the short end. Place in loaf pans and cover with plastic wrap. Let them rise until double the size, approximately another 40 minutes. The dough should fit across most of the loaf pan when it is finished rising.
6. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
7. Place breads on lower third shelf of oven. Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chinese egg tarts

I love chinese egg tarts. It’s one of my favorite things to get from chinese bakeries. The sweet pastry shell compliments the egg custard so well.

They aren’t too hard to make, but it is a little time consuming since you have to shape the individual tart shells. In the past, my egg tarts have tasted fine but are never as pretty as the ones in the bakery.

When you bake egg tarts, the egg custard inflates and collapses after they have cooled. As a result, my egg tarts don’t always look so pretty. The egg custard part always had bubbles or holes. You can see how my past egg tarts post here. Then I saw a recipe posted by Christine’s recipes for a Hong Kong style egg tart. Her egg tarts were picture perfect. I followed her recipe and her tips and this time my egg tarts came out much better. For the molds, I used these pretty Tartlet Tins I got on Amazon. If you grease them before putting in the pastry shell, the custards slide out really easily.

The two things that really made a difference were: 1) run the egg custard mix through a sieve first to get out all the bubbles that appear from mixing (I actually ran it through once and then there were still some bubbles so I scooped a few times with the sieve until I got rid of all the bubbles) and 2) let the egg tarts cook for the last few minutes with the oven slightly open.

These egg tarts are just the way I like them. Egg tarts come with two different pastry shells. One is a hard crust, similar to a fruit tart crust. The other is a flaky crust. I prefer the harder crust, which is harder to find now. This recipe uses the hard crust I like. These came out exactly like the ones I like to buy, so I am pretty happy with the result.

I would definitely use this recipe again, though next time I will reduce the egg custard mixture because I had so much egg custard mixture left after filling my shells (I seem to have this problem with every recipe I’ve tried). Here is the recipe below, with my notes:

Chinese egg tarts (recipe found on Christine’s recipes) with some notes and modifications I made on the directions)

Ingredients of crust:

  • 225 gm plain flour
  • 125 gm butter
  • 55 gm icing sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • a dash of vanilla extract

Ingredients of custard: (Next time I would reduce this. I used about 1/2 to 2/3 of the mixture)

  • 3 eggs
  • 110 gm caster sugar
  • 225 gm hot water
  • 85 gm evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Making crust:

  1. Place butter at room temperature until softened. Cut butter into small cubes then cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color.
  2. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
  3. Add in flour and continue to mix until dough is formed.
  4. Take a chunk of dough and press dough into individual tartlet mold. Keep pressing and shaping dough until it spreads across entire mold and forms a thin layer. I try to make it slightly thicker around the top edges. Repeat with rest of dough until it is used up.

(making custard):

  1. Pour water into small pot and heat until it is hot, but not boiling. Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg with evaporated milk. After the sugar water mixture is cooled, pour sugar water in bowl and mix on low speed with an electric mixer. (I tried hand mixing, but couldn’t thoroughly mix it.) Once it is thoroughly mixed, there will be a lot of bubbles.
  3. Use a sieve with very small holes, and strain the egg mixture through to get out most of the bubbles. For any remaining bubbles, scoop them out with the sieve until you have a smooth egg mixture.
  4. Place egg tart molds onto baking sheet. Then spoon in egg mixture, filling each tart.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
  6. Lower the heat to 180C. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. For the last few minutes of baking, after the egg custard has puffed up, open the oven door a few inches and let it continue to cook until done.