Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cheese Tapioca Breads

Of course it is always after you stop looking for something that you find it.  In this case, I found it a few months after I stopped looking. But I’m so glad I did because the recipe is super easy.

A while back I discovered Korean sesame tapioca breads, which I completely fell in love with. I blogged about the breads and my obsession here.

The texture of these breads is a cross between the chewy crust of a fresh baked French baguette and mochi.The breads are light and airy, with a lot of pocket holes inside.  The entire bread is chewy, instead of just the crust, like typical breads.

The main ingredient in these breads is tapioca starch.  Occasionally I’ve seen these breads at Japanese bakeries, and they are labeled “mochi bread,” which is a misnomer, unless they are actually made of glutinous rice flour (which they usually aren’t from the ones I’ve seen).  Tapioca starch has similar properties to glutinous rice flour. If you’ve ever had “bubble tea,” “tapioca milk tea,” or “boba tea,” those chewy  black balls are made of tapioca starch.

As I discussed in my previous posts, after I found these, I became obsessed with them and tried to find them at other locations, or find a recipe so I could make my own. I searched high and low for a recipe, but failed to find one. Then the little bakery inside my local Korean market, Zion Market, began making these breads and the market started carrying a box mix to make them. So I stopped searching.

And of course, you know what happens when you stop looking for something right? I was casually reading the blog feeds off of my google reader the other day when I came across a cheese tapioca bread recipe found on Lily’s Wai Sek Hong.

I immediately recognized the breads as the sesame tapioca breads, except with cheese instead of sesame. On my last trip to the Paris Baguette, a popular Korean bakery chain where I first discovered these breads, I had seen them selling the cheese version as well.

I couldn’t believe that I had finally found a recipe. And I couldn’t believe how easy the recipe was. I mean, it was even easier than the mix. Just throw a few ingredients into a blender and then scoop them out into muffin pans.  And presto! Ready to bake and then ready to eat.

The breads came out great. Very chewy just how I like them. The only bad thing about these breads is that they do not keep well. In fact, they should be eaten within 24 hours or so after they are made, or else they turn really hard.

I’m so happy I found this recipe. Now I can make these whenever I’m in the mood.

Cheese Tapioca Breads (recipe found on Lily’s Wai Sek Hong)
(Yields about 18 mini puffs)

Ingredients
1 egg
1/3 cup cooking oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt

Directions
(It’s so easy it can be summed into one step)
Preheat oven to 450°F and grease a mini-muffin tin.  Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  (Your batter will be liquid) Pour batter into greased mini muffin tin about 2/3 full and  bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the breads puff up and are a light brown color.  And that’s it! See? Easy Peasy!

Serve the breads after they have finished cooling. The breads don’t store well so please eat within 24-48 hours.  Any uneaten breads should be stored in an airtight container.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soft and Fluffy Milk Toast (with a secret ingredient to keep it soft)

I’ve always had a preference for asian style bread.  The breads usually have an incredibly soft texture and stay soft and fresh for days. I’ve looked up recipes a couple of times and it seemed that a lot of the recipes required a “bread improver” to keep the bread soft.  I don’t believe this ingredients is available here in the U.S., but apparently is more common in Asia.

Then I read about the “Tangzhong method.” It’s been popular for a few years now, but since I don’t read chinese, I didn’t learn about it until recently. One of the blogs I follow is Christine’s Recipes. I really enjoy her blog because she makes a lot of chinese recipes and her blog is in English and in Chinese, which has allowed me to try recipes of a lot of my favorite chinese desserts.

I first read about the Tangzhong method on her blog.  Basically, a few years ago, a woman named Yvonne Chen wrote a book entitled 65 degrees, which details her secret ingredient to keeping bread fresh and soft.  She uses a flour and water mixture, cooked to 65 degrees, to make a flour paste called “tang zhong” which is added to the bread. What I loved about this idea is that it is natural and doesn’t use chemicals.

As soon as I saw the beautiful, soft and fluffy breads that Christine had made, I knew I had to try making my own. I read up on the tangzhong method on a few other blogs and also a few different recipes.

I decided to try making a simple milk toast, which is one of my favorite breads to get from chinese bakeries. It’s sweet and has no filling, so you can just enjoy the plain, soft bread.

You need to make the flour paste ahead of time and give it a few hours to cool, but it’s not too hard. I made mine in the morning, put it in the fridge and then used it that evening.

The bread portion was a little harder to make. It took several hours of proofing my bread and kneading it before it was ready. But it was totally worth it. When my bread came out, the crust was shiny and it looked and smelled like I was in a chinese bakery. After I let the bread cool, I peeled off a section of the bread and the texture was so fluffy. Even the next day, the bread remained as soft and fresh tasting as the day before.

I can’t wait to make this bread more often. Now I just need a bread maker for the kneading. The recipe allows you to knead by hand or use a bread maker. I highly recommend using a bread maker for the kneading because it takes quite a while.

Tangzhong

Ingredients
1/3 cup  bread flour
1 cup water

Directions
1. Mix flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
2. Pour mixture into a small pot and turn on medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up. It will begin to thicken.  When the temperature of the mixture reaches 65 degrees Celsius, turn off the stove and take the mixture off the stove to let it cool. I used a thermometer but I’ve read from Christine’s website and several others that you can sort of eye it. If you are continually stirring, the mixture will start to have “lines ” and then it is done. I started to see lines around the same time the temperature reached 65C.


3. Once the mixture is cooled, pour it into a bowl and cover the top using plastic wrap. Place the wrap directly onto the mixture to keep it from drying out and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The paste does not keep well, so use within a few days.

Milk Bread (adapted from two of Christine’s recipes here and here,which she adapted from the 65 degrees book)
Yields 1 loaf

Update: Since my first attempt, I’ve got a better understanding of how the texture should turn out, how long the kneading should be, and I’ve taken better step by step photos. You can view the updated post here.

Ingredients:

2½ cups bread flour
3tbsp+2tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (about half of the tangzhong made)
2 tsp instant yeast (instant!! not active dry yeast!)
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
Directions
1. 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 food processor powerful enough to knead dough, I HIGHLY recommend using it. The dough takes a long time to knead. About half an hour by hand. The dough will start out to be extremely sticky.  Keep kneading until the dough is no longer sticky and is elastic. You should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away.
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.  (Christine took great step by step photos. Mine are a bit rushed and in bad lighting) 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.

5. Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin.

6. Flip dough over so the folds face up. Now roll the dough up. (I actually messed up here. I forgot to flip the dough before rolling up, so you see that the dough is broken into two half on top instead of a smooth, uniform top.) Place each of the rolls into the bread pan. Let them rise for another 40 minutes.

7. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bi Rite Creamery


Bi Rite Creamery
3692 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

On my dessert run in San Francisco a few months ago, the one place I didn’t get a chance to try was Bi Rite Creamery. The line was simply too long and I felt too guilty to let my non-foodie friends wait for the ice cream. I’ve been wanting to visit ever since.

On this last trip to San Francisco for the Foodbuzz Festival, I had all sorts of spots I wanted to visit while in SF like the farmer’s market, the Ferry Building, the amazing melt-in-your-mouth Dynamo Donuts I had last time, and of course Bi Rite Creamery. Unfortunately, the schedule was so packed or I was so exhausted that I didn’t get to do any of these things–except Bi Rite Creamery.

The traffic getting to Bi Rite was awful, but I just had to visit. Luckily there was no line out the door this time.  Bi Rite specializes in making small batches of ice cream with local ingredients.  They offer a few select flavors a day. Many have proclaimed this place to be the “best ice cream.” It has over 2000 positive reviews on yelp.

On the day I went, there were about 8 flavors available. I sampled a few before deciding. Unfortunately, none of the flavors were ones I was particularly interested in. Lately, I’ve really been into more unique flavors, and Bi Rite’s offerings were more common and mainstream.

I chose a creme fraiche and a honey lavender, which were two of the more “unique” offerings.  BF got a vanilla and cookies and cream.  The ice cream was creamy and rich. It was one of those things where at first bite, I wasn’t that impressed, but as I kept eating, I really began to admire the rich and creamy texture. I think Bi Rite Creamery serves some delicious ice cream. It’s not my favorite ice cream shop though. I also wish they had some more unique flavor offerings, like Slocombe Ice Cream, which is nearby.