Versatile Milk Buns

I’ve been experimenting with bun recipes in the last few months since my daughter started Kindergarten. I needed breakfast that she and I can grab and eat in the car if we’re running late. Buns came to mind because that’s what I grew up eating. Meat filled buns to be exact.

The meat buns I remembered had a very soft texture so I started with a milk bun recipe. This milk bun recipe is versatile enough that you can pretty much fill it with whatever filling you want, sweet or savory. Unfortunately, my daughter isn’t a fan of meat filled bun. She likes mostly sweet buns so I fill hers with cream cheese, or cheddar cheese, or custard. If you’re filling your buns with cheese, I find that they melt better if you grate them.

White Cheddar Cheese

Here are the recipes for a quick custard and cream cheese that I used to fill my buns. Feel free to use your own favorite custard recipe or cream cheese filling. If you’re filling your buns with custard, make your custard ahead of time as it needs to be cooled and refrigerated.

Quick Custard

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 200 ml milk at room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Direction:

  • Mix egg yolks, sugar and cake flour
  • Gradually add milk and stir to combine
  • Microwave and stir in 30 seconds increment until thickened
  • Cool, refrigerate and set aside

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons sugar

Direction:

  • Combine sugar and cream cheese, set aside

Now it’s time to make the buns! I like using my bread maker to make the dough. It takes care of all the timing from the rising and resting and punching down of the dough. You can use your mixer with a dough hook or a food processor to make the dough if you don’t have a bread maker. Just make sure you let the dough rise and rest properly. I’ll try to give the timing for the steps.

Milk Buns

  • 7 oz bread flour
  • 1.8 oz all purpose flour
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.8 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup cold milk

Direction:

  • Mix all ingredients together, starting with the dry ingredients first followed by the web ingredients, if you’re using a bread machine to make the dough. Press the dough function and step away until it’s done.
  • If you’re using a mixer or a food processor, start with the dry ingredients also, followed by the egg and melted butter, then gradually add the milk as fast as the flour can absorb it.
  • Continue to mix and knead the dough until it forms into a ball and the sides of the bowl is clean. The dough should be smooth, bouncy and not sticky.
  • Transfer the dough to a big bowl that has been lightly oiled. Turn the dough over to coat it completely with oil. Cover the dough with cling wrap and clean cloth.
  • Let rise for about 40 to 60 minutes. If you poke your finger into the dough and your finger mark stays, then it has finished rising.
  • Transfer the dough from your bread maker or when it has finished rising to the counter top and punch it down. The dough shouldn’t stick to the surface.
  • Cut the dough into 9 pieces, 1.7oz each.
  • Shape the dough and fill it with your choice of filling, and then place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Cover the dough with clean cloth and let rise again for another 40 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Lightly brush each dough with a mixture of egg and 1 tablespoon of milk.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. After the bread is baked, you can lightly brush with unsalted or salted butter for shiny crust and extra flavor.

Enjoy!

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Mochi Waffles

It’s Sunday morning and my tennis practice has been cancelled due to the poor air quality in Northern California. My prayers go out to those who lost their homes and loved ones in the fire. I hope the fires get put out soon.

Since I’m up early and stuck indoors, what could I make for breakfast? My first thought was the mochi waffles that I’ve had at a dessert store in Burlingame. They were slightly sweet, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Lucky for me, I have all the ingredients that I needed to make these waffles. I just needed a free morning to make it. The 2 ingredients that you may not have in your pantry are the mochiko flour and Japanese mini mochi. You can find both of these at your local Japanese grocery stores.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mochiko flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Japanese mini mochi

Directions

  1. Mix all purpose flour, mochiko flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add egg and milk and stir until smooth.
  3. Add melted butter and mix well.
  4. Heat up the waffle iron. If your waffles tend to stick to the waffle iron, use a non-stick spray.
  5. Pour your batter into your waffle iron. Sprinkle some of the mini mochi on the batter and close the lid.
  6. Cook waffles according to your waffle iron instructions.

These waffles are best eaten fresh out of the waffle iron. Enjoy!

Pressure-Cooked Pulled Pork

I love kitchen tools. I have too many of them but I can’t resist them. This is why I sometimes refer to my garage as my personal Sur La Table.

Nowadays, I look for kitchen tools that can do multiple tasks. One tool that I didn’t have yet in my garage was a pressure cooker. I’ve had my eye on a particular one because it boasts of having 7 functions in one pot. It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute/browning, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer.

When I saw it for $40 off on Amazon on Prime Day, I bought it. Last night, I used it for the first time to make pulled pork and it performed beautifully! I suspect I’ll be using this kitchen tool quite often because it does everything in the same pot!

Photo Jul 27, 6 09 45 PM

Here’s the recipe I used for the pulled pork.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs of pork butt (or shoulder), cut into big chunks
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika

Photo Jul 27, 5 57 01 PM

Direction:

  • Season the pork chunks with the onion powder, garlic powder and paprika.
  • Heat oil in pot and brown pork chunks on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.
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    Photo Jul 27, 5 55 14 PM
  • Add onions and garlic into pot and saute until onions are soft.
  • Add water and BBQ sauce to the pot and de-glaze the pot.
  • Put the pork chunks back into the pot. The liquid won’t completely cover the pork chunks. That’s ok.
    Photo Jul 27, 6 09 19 PM
  • Pressure cook at high psi (about 15) for about 60 minutes. This is what they look like when done.
    Photo Jul 27, 7 24 34 PM
  • Remove the pork chunks carefully and shred with a pair of forks.
    Photo Jul 27, 7 25 58 PM
    Photo Jul 27, 7 28 39 PM

I made quesadillas with my pulled pork last night. They were soooo good!
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You can adapt this recipe to make Mexican Pulled Pork too.

Here’s the ingredients for the simmer liquid instead of using water and BBQ sauce mix:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium orange, halved (without the rind)

You would also need to add ground cumin to the pork rub.

Enjoy!

 

Short Ribs Pasta Sauce

It’s officially Summer! Summer means an abundant supply of delicious summer fruits and vegetables. This year, I decided to plant corn and squash in addition to my normal staple of tomatoes and peppers. Both my corn and squash plants are doing well. I only planted 2 squash plants but they’re doing so well that I’m harvesting at least 2 every other day.

Photo Jun 27, 6 40 29 PM

So what do I do with all these squash? Short Ribs Pasta Sauce!

This recipe is from a good friend of mine and it’s chock full of vegetables, perfect for kids who aren’t vegetable fans. Another reason why I like this sauce is because it can be frozen and defrosted without a sacrifice in quality. When I make a batch of this sauce, I usually freeze a couple of quarts for those nights when I don’t feel like cooking.

The long list of ingredients may make this recipe seems a bit intimidating but it’s really easy but worth the preparation effort.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb boneless short ribs (You can use boned-in short ribs too, but you’ll probably want to increase the amount)
  • 4 squash (I use either yellow squash or zucchini – whatever is on sale at your store)
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large can of tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed – whatever is on sale at your store, or you can cut up fresh tomatoes too)
    Photo May 30, 3 01 39 PM
  • 1 14.5oz-can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 16 oz button mushroom (or crimini mushrooms), sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine, optional
  • 1/4-1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, optional
  • Salt and pepper

Note: All seasoning measurements are approximate so please adjust to taste.

Direction:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Season short ribs with salt and pepper and sear all sides. I used beef short ribs chuck steak in this picture since I couldn’t find boneless short ribs at the store that day.
    Photo May 30, 3 40 19 PM
    Photo May 30, 3 52 23 PM
    Photo May 30, 3 52 14 PM
  • Cube squash, carrots, bell pepper and onions, set aside.
    Photo May 30, 3 30 43 PM
  • In a large dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of oil until shimmering, then add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, onion, thyme from a few sprigs, pepper flakes and a teaspoon cinnamon. Stir fry for a few minutes until the onion is soft. Cinnamon may sound like a weird ingredient to add to pasta sauce for some of you, but it really does make a difference.
    Photo May 30, 3 59 20 PM
  • Add cubed vegetables and cook for a few minutes. Scrape brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
    Photo May 30, 4 00 23 PM
    Photo May 30, 4 03 51 PM
  • Add tomatoes, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon (if more is needed), and red wine.
    Photo May 30, 4 14 09 PM
  • Bring to a boil then nestle the short ribs back in the sauce.
    Photo May 30, 4 18 01 PM
  • Cover and place in oven for 2-3 hours to “roast”.
  • Remove short ribs from sauce carefully and shred using 2 forks.
  • Puree the sauce, then place the shredded meat back in the sauce. Stir to mix well. I use an immersion blender to puree the sauce.
    Photo May 30, 6 42 10 PM
  • In a separate pan, saute garlic and mushrooms in a tablespoon of oil. Season with Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add it to the sauce and meat.
  • Add Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
    Photo May 30, 6 56 04 PM

Now boil your favorite pasta to al dente and pour this sauce over it. Enjoy!

Angry Birds!

It’s been a while since I made a theme cake. There’s a reason for that. I’ve decided a year ago not to do theme cakes anymore because it takes more time to make the cake than to devour the entire cake. So I now make theme cakes only for family.

Like most edible theme cakes, most of the structures or models used on the cake are made using fondant or gum paste. I try to steer away from both as much as I can because I don’t think they taste good, but sometimes, it’s inevitable.

I have found one brand of fondant though, that tastes decent. Some had said it tastes almost like a tootsie roll. The brand is Fondarific. The fondant seems to also be more pliant and workable, and doesn’t dry up as fast as those I’ve worked with, such as Wilton.

Anyway, I digress.

I was asked to do a theme cake for my nephew’s 4th birthday. He’s crazy about Angry Birds. I mean, really crazy. He has stuffed toys of the different angry birds and knows what each bird does!

My first thought was…. someone has to already have made those things as cake toppers. I wasn’t looking forward to making them from scratch, though I will if I have to. But lucky for me, they are available! So, I just have to figure out what structure I’m going to build on the cake and where to place the birds and the pigs. Yay! Job made simple 🙂

So here are all the in-progress pictures of the cake.

First, I made a “stone” platform where I’m going to place my structure on. I made a rice krispies treats using vanilla marshmallows and cocoa puffs. I did add a drop of grey to make it look more like a wall of rocks rather than chocolate.

This is finished structure that I was going to put on the cake. The pigs and the birds are plastic but the other pieces, the eggs, ice blocks, wood planks, and the concrete blocks, are made out of fondant.

The angry birds with the fondant catapult! 

The finished cake. The cake was a marbled cake with a custard filling and whipped cream frosting.

I had some leftover cocoa rice krispies treats so I decided to make an actual angry bird model to surprise my nephew.

Here are the in-progress pictures:

And he loved it! I don’t know if he’s going to eat it though. 🙂