Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Balcony Grill & Bar

2710 Alton Pkwy
Ste 215
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 387-0888

Balcony Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

The Balcony is a Taiwanese restaurant/bar located in the popular Jamboree plaza that houses 85 C Bakery, Guppy House, Kula Sushi and many other food spots.

I visited The Balcony once (you can read the post and see the menu here) but I wasn’t particularly impressed. However, the one thing that I liked was that it serves snow shaved ice. With only a few spots serving snowflake shaved ice, The Balcony is the closest location to San Diego that serves it. For those who have not experienced snowflake shaved ice, blocks of ice with condensed milk are frozen and shaved into thin sheets, using a special machine, producing a very fine shaved ice that tastes almost like ice cream rather than ice.  It is a Taiwanese style of shaved ice that has become very popular in the last few years.

So on my last trip to the O.C. area, I stopped by The Balcony in the hopes of satisfying by cravings for snowflake shaved ice.

We decided to order some pineapple fried rice so we would have something salty to go with the sweet ice. I wasn’t very impressed with the pineapple rice. There was some curry powder flavoring the rice and some shredded dried pork on top.

For the ice, we chose the mango and condensed milk one.

For some reason the ice here is not nearly as good as the ones served in LA. The ice isn’t as fine, and isn’t very sweet. It looked right but it didn’t taste right. I left not feeling satisfied at all. I guess next time I’ll have to make the drive to Rowland Heights or San Gabriel Valley for some real snowflake shaved ice.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweet Potato Bread with Pecan Streusel

I have a bunch of sweet potatoes left over, so I’ve been trying out more sweet potato recipes. While I’ve enjoyed the sweet potato cupcake roses I’ve made the past few years, I would love to find another sweet potato bread/cake recipe.

On Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, she baked a sweet potato bread recipe into mini bundts. The recipe came from The Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book and can be found on Mermaid Sweets.

The recipe ended up being exactly what I was looking for. The sweet potato cupcakes I made previously are are the dense side. While I enjoy them, sometimes I’m in the mood for something lighter. This quick bread is very moist, and has a fluffier texture. I really enjoyed the bread.

Originally, I thought the bread was too plain on its own so I wanted to do something to it. I decided to add a pecan streusel topping. For some reason, my streusel didn’t stick very well to the bread, so it became very crumbly and kept falling off when I was cutting the bread. So next time I’ll skip the streusel. The bread was super yummy though. I’m going to make this again and maybe next time I’ll make them as mini cakes.

Sweet Potato Bread (adapted from Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book, recipe found on Mermaid Sweets, which I found through Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)

Makes one 7 x 3 loaf


1 cup sweet potato puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Pecan streusel topping
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 7 x 3 inch loaf pan.

2. Mix sweet potatoes, sugar and oil in a bowl. Whisk in egg.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture and mix with until combined.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
5. To make the topping, combine the sugar, butter, cinnamon and the pecan pieces.  Use a fork and mix until it butter and sugar resembles a coarse meal. You can also rub the mixture between your hands so that the butter mixes thoroughly with the sugar. Sprinkle the topping  evenly over the bread batter.
6. Bake for about 1 hour  or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Soft and fluffy Raisin rolls

After successfully making soft and fluffy milk bread using the “tangzhong” method, I’ve been excited to try more recipes using the tangzhong method. I love how soft, fluffy and bouncy the bread is and how high it rises.

For those of you unfamiliar with the tangzhong method, a few years ago, a woman named Yvonne Chen wrote a book entitled 65 degrees Bread Doctor, which details her secret ingredient to keeping bread  soft and bouncy.  She uses a flour and water mixture, cooked to 65 degrees C, to make a flour paste called “tangzhong” which is added to the bread.  What I loved about this idea is that it is natural and doesn’t use chemicals.

Christine’s recipes, which was where I found my first tangzhong bread recipe, has another tangzhong recipe, making bread rolls filled with custard coconut.  I’ve had similar rolls from chinese bakeries. I normally don’t like filling in my breads.  So instead, I decided to make the rolls and put some raisins in the bread rather than making a filling.

When I put the bread rolls together in the springfoam cake pan the raw dough rolls still had spaces between them. But when they baked, they all came together like they were supposed to.

The bread was really soft, just like the milk toast I made. It was soft, fluffy and I really like the addition of the plump raisins. You can easily pull apart each roll. I can’t wait to try out even more recipes. These tangzhong method breads have been devoured by my family.

One thing I did differently is that I put the dough into my stand mixer, and it made such a difference! The stand mixer was easily able to mix the dough and created a very elastic dough.

Raisin rolls (adapted from this recipe)


2½ cups bread flour
3tbsp+2tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (click here for the tangzhong recipe and directions. Please note 120g is less than the recipe makes, it’s only a little more than half so do not just add the entire tz recipe into the bread. Save the rest for another loaf)
2 tsp instant yeast (instant!! not active dry yeast!)
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

1. Make sure you have tangzhong already made from the night before or a few hours before you are going to make the bread as it needs to cool for a few hours in the fridge.
2. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. If you own a breadmaker or a stand mixer powerful enough to knead dough, I HIGHLY recommend using it. The dough takes a long time to knead. I used my Cuisinart standmixer to knead. It took about 18-20 minutes. You want the dough to be elastic. So if you were to take a part of it and stretch it out, you can stretch it to a very thin membrane without it breaking. (I wanted to take a picture but I made the bread at night and the lighting was bad.)
3. Gather 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.
4. Deflate and divide the dough into six equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.

5. Roll out each part with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Place a handful of raisins across the surface of dough. Roll the rolling pin on top of the surface of the dough so that they raisins get embedded in the dough. 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. Turn the dough over, so that the folds face down and roll and flatten dough with pin. Flip dough again, so folded side faces up. Roll the dough up from top to bottom.  Knead into a ball shape. Repeat this step of rolling and wrapping fillings with the rest of your dough. With seals of the dough balls facing down, place the six balls into a greased 8 inch springfoam baking pan, covered with cling wrap or a wet towel (I placed all six dough balls along the circle edge of the pan so that the middle was left empty. When it baked, the bread puffed up enough that the rolls/petals all came together). Leave it for the second round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size. (Pictured below are the steps, but without the raisins. I did this for another loaf I made and I forgot to take step by step for the raisin bread.)

6. Whisk an egg and brush egg wash on surface of buns (this will create the shiny finish). Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.