30 May 2011

Luncheon Meat Sweet Soft Bun

Yes, I did it! I finally made my first ever Luncheon Meat Sweet Soft Buns on Sunday morning! Have been dying to bake this since I attended the Sweet Soft Bun Workshop by Chef Valerie 2 weeks ago.

Luncheon Meat Soft Buns hold a special place in my heart. I remember when I was about 4-5 years old and attending Kindergarten, everyday after class I would pass by an old school bakery in my neighbourhood in Bedok. Every time, I would be lured and tantalised by the sweet aroma of soft buns just freshly baked out of the oven. I would always beg my mother to buy me the luncheon meat soft bun, and no other, for it is my favourite bun. My mother would obliged once in a while, as a treat and tea time snack. I would hold the still-warm bun carefully and eat it immediately. It was bliss, the fluffy soft bun oozing with salty minced luncheon meat. This was one of the fond memories of my childhood :)

Those days, soft buns were very humble looking with only a few choices in flavour, I could only remember sugar and cheese, sausage, red bean. Over the years, bread has evolved into a food with fanciful shapes, creative flavours and even innovative names, and I believe the revolution started with Breadtalk. I recalled it was a sensation when Breadtalk first launched in 2000, it was not just bread, it became a concept. Then many other bakeries followed suit as well, including the neighbourhood bakeries. Although some neighbourhood bakeries still sell luncheon meat soft buns, it's not the one I'm familiar and grew up with, the minced luncheon meat soft bun. The whole slice type is just not the same as the minced one. So as I was saying, Chef Valerie's recipe gave me the golden opportunity to relive my childhood favourite tea time snack. And I was dying to bake it!

Prepared the Gelatinized Starch (Yukone method, also known as Water Roux, 汤种) on Friday night as the starch can only be used after 24hrs. It was easy, just mix a small amount of bread flour with boiling water.

Woke up specially at 8.30am on Sunday morning to bake (even though I slept only at 4am - night out playing poker game), reckoned I would need about 3hrs in total, just in time to go out for lunch then fetch dear son who stayed over at his grandma's place.

The steps were relatively easy, in fact 'neater' than baking cakes. Was glad that I could let my trusty electric mixer knead the dough, no need for arm power. Only thing I was unsure how long to knead the dough. Though Chef Valerie said knead till dough looks very smooth, not sticky and leaves the bowl, I was slightly unsure since this was my first attempt. Then I saw the dough really leaving the sides of the bowl, was wondering whether it was time to stop, but decided to push on further as the dough was still a little sticky. Finally, the dough left the bottom of the mixing bowl too. Ahhh, I think it was about time, it felt right.

Next, took out the dough and let it proof for about 20-30 mins. While waiting, I prepared the minced luncheon meat and set up the table for the wrapping later. Nothing fanciful with my minced luncheon meat, just mashed using a potato masher, no other seasonings or condiments.

So after about 30 mins, my dough tripled in size, divided it into 12 pieces of 40g each and started shaping each dough. Chef Valerie made it look so easy and effortless to shape the dough. I just couldn't get the perfect round with smooth top. I guess practice makes perfect?

 Next, flattened the dough, put the minced meat in the centre of the flattened dough and wrapped it up. Quite easily done except that I still couldn't get the perfect round bun with smooth top. Bleah.

Next up, let the buns proof for 1hr. I used this time to wash and clean up the kitchen. As seen in the photo, the buns 'grew' in size after this second proofing. Then after brushing with egg whites they were ready to go into the oven (bake at 200 degree celsius for 12 mins). Can't wait!

I think my oven was too hot, after 10 mins, the buns already turned quite brown. So I took them out although it was not 12 mins yet. Luckily I decided to check the buns, else they might have been charred if gone for the full 12 mins. Brushed them lightly with some melted butter and tadah, completed!!!

Okay, they didn't look that pretty, but hey it was sort of the look I wanted to achieve, the old school handmade bun that I remembered from my childhood. They looked exactly like this!

I couldn't wait for the buns to cool down, grabbed one and bit into it immediately. YUMMY! The bread was indeed soft and fluffy and went so well with the salty minced luncheon meat. I believe this was the taste I was dreaming about.
 I made a few whole piece type, for experimenting purpose.
 But it was this, that captured my heart. They looked plain, but hey, once you take a bite, your mouth would be bursting with the juicy, salty taste of luncheon meat, together with the slightly sweet, soft bun.
The buns were best eaten on the day itself, but they remained soft and fluffy even the next day. Not advisable to keep beyond that though, since no preservatives are used, unless in the fridge.

With the success of this sweet soft bun, I believe I would be making them often, and experimenting with different fillings, like curry. Till then, let me bask in my little sweet success and indulge in a day of eating the minced luncheon meat soft bun non stop.

27 May 2011

Sinfully Sinless: Superfood Desserts Demo Class

Past Sunday I attended Chef Joycelyn's Sinfully Sinless: Superfood Desserts Demo Class at Shermay's Cooking School. Gosh, I can't remember when was the the last time I attended any Chef Joycelyn's class. In fact, I deliberated for quite some time whether to attend this particular class as I'm not really into Superfoods. Then again, I was curious about all the ravings on healthy baking/eating these days. Can a girl really have her cake and eat it too? Can any dessert/cake/pastry actually taste nice without the basic foundations of wheat, sugar, egg and butter?

4 recipes were demo-ed in the class and 2 additional bonus recipes were included in the recipe pack.
  1. Kinako and Soy Milk Gelato - Soy milk gelato with touch of Japanese Soy Bean Powder
  2. Chocolate Chip and Cocoa Nib Cookies - Wheat-free cookies made from oat and brown rice flours.
  3. Lemon, Polenta and Almond Cake - Gluten free, moist and damp Italian-style torta
  4. Blueberry Quinoa Muffins - Wheat-free muffin made from quinoa and oat flours and sweetened with agave nectar.
These chocolate chip and cocoa nib cookies look every bit like any ordinary chocolate chip cookies; I guess save for the oat and brown rice flours used instead of plain flour. One key ingredient though is the use of Xanthan gum whose property works in replacement of wheat/gluten. Though only a tiny amount is used, it is essential in many recipes where wheat is not added.

I must say this tasted really good, like I said, just like any chocolate chip cookies. Crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the inside (depends on baking time). Very suitable for people who are allergic to wheat/gluten.
I was very interested in this particular recipe as the sweetener used is agave nectar which is relatively low on the glycemic index. Since I'm controlling my sugar intake, this would be a perfect dessert. Moreover, quinoa and oat flours are used; these are supposedly to be very rich in protein and good for our bodies.

Taste-wise, well, not as good as the usual blueberry muffins, but I can still accept. It's not too sweet, with a cakey texture.

For this, Polenta flour is used. I didn't even know what Polenta is until this class. Relatively easy to bake as key ingredients are similar to the usual cake.
However, I didn't really like it. In the first place, I didn't like lemony cakes. Though the cake was really moist, found it a tad too sweet and didn't like the gritty bite to the cake due to the polenta and ground almonds.
The Kinako and Soy Milk Gelato is really simple to make. Very light and refreshing like sorbet. But I don't really like the kinako after-taste.

Each participant brought home one cookie and one muffin. I let dear son try both. He hated the blueberry quinoa muffin though he liked the usual blueberry muffin that I baked for him using Chef Keiko's recipe. Great, I was still thinking of baking this for him. For the chocolate chip cookie, he took a few bites then didn't want anymore. I wasn't sure whether he liked it or not.

I'm still hesitant to try these recipes as the list of ingredients is extensive and most of them are not very common. Don't want to buy a whole lot of ingredients and end up not using them. Well, we'll see.

24 May 2011

Koh Samui 26-28 Feb 2011 Part II

A continuation from my previous entry on Koh Samui getaway.

Sabieng Lae is our favourite restaurant in Koh Samui and one of the reasons why we love the island. This time round, we didn't rent a vehicle so it was actually rather inconvenient to get there as the journey takes about 30-40 mins one-way. Had to find a cab that was willing to take us there, wait for us while we had our meal and send us back (as it's difficult to get a cab there). Such an arrangement cost 700 baht. If we were to rent a motorcycle or car, it would cost only 250 baht and 400-500 baht respectively for 24hrs. Naturally, we couldn't get a motorcycle with dear son. As for a car, parking is a problem in Chaweng area and we really didn't see the need to rent one since we were checking out the next day already. Well, for the sake of the great food, we just had to part with the 700 baht.

Pleasant surprise as we reached Sabieng Lae. The restaurant had a minor facelift with new signboard and entrance, looks kind of more classy now. Anyways, the focus is the food! The place was still as crowded as before and besides locals, there seemed to be more tourists than before. I guess more people have discovered this little gem.

Looking at the extensive menu, we couldn't decide what not to order. Decided to indulge since it's not everyday we could visit Koh Samui. LOL :p
Seafood salad as appetizer. My my, this salad really blew us away! The combination of the different tastes and textures created a symphony in our mouths and whet our appetite for the remaining dishes. It was sour, sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy, chewy, crispy, succulent, everything in one dish. Thumbs up!!!
Stir-fry morning glory. Fresh and crunchy. Another must-order dish here.
Tom Yam Gong. Though the broth looked very clear and harmless, trust me it packed a punch. Taste was full-bodied and complex. You know how some tom yam soup tasted flat, like just spicy and sour? This had depth to it, you could taste different spices and herbs that were added.
Steamed squid with lime. We didn't mean to order so many squid dishes, but since we hardly eat squid in SG, might as well? Haha. Actually we kind of had an overdose of squid for that meal, didn't realise there was this much squid we ordered. Should have ordered fish or something else. Anyways, the squid was fresh and once again, the tangy and spicy sauce made us went on and on, without realising just how much cholesterol we had consumed.
Deep fried prawn cake. Okay, we didn't order this in the first place. I mean, we ordered 4 dishes already! But we saw other tables ordered this and it looked so damn good that we just had to be gluttons :p
It was sooooo good! The prawn cake was deep fried to a perfect crisp. The innards were fish, squid and prawn paste that were succulent and well marinated. It was totally addictive with this sweet and sour sauce provided. And we finished everything. Seriously. Just between the 2 of us. Gluttony to the max. Best part the meal cost less than 1000 baht!

After the sumptuous meal, we left satisfied and vowed to return one day. I missed the prawn cake already. The cab took us back to Chaweng street, and we walked and shopped in an attempt to burn off those calories we consumed earlier.

It was sunny and humid, we were hot and sticky so decided to pop into an ice-cream palour. My goodness, after that huge meal? But but, this was dessert :p We always have room for dessert right? LOL!

Look at the colours. I tried not to think about the artificial colorings they could have added. Okay, no poisonous thoughts during vacation, right?

Couldn't remember the exact flavours, I think they were coconut sherbet, blueberry yogurt, cookies and cream and some caramel butterscotch.

Dear son loved the ice-cream and couldn't stop eating. We hardly allow ice-cream back home, so for once he could indulge. Well, we were on holiday, so relaxed a little.

After the ice-cream stopover, we walked some more, heading towards the spa place. Hubby had his massage the night before so it was my turn. Initially wanted to go back to the spa that hubby went, but saw this particular one which looked quite decent. Hubby brought dear son back to the hotel for his nap, whereas I popped in for a 60 min "Tiger Balm" massage (around 300-350 baht).

Started with a simple foot cleansing first.
This comfy looking massage chairs were for foot massage.
And these for back/full body massage. My "Tiger Balm" massage was soothing and relaxing, the muscle rub really worked wonders. The body first felt warmth then an icy feeling, just like when you apply tiger balm. Another reason why we love Koh Samui. Not sure if other places in Thailand offer such massages. I know Krabi doesn't.
After the massage, I headed back to the hotel. We brought dear son for a bit of sand play and swim and by the time we were done with washing up and stuff, time for dinner again.

We saw Chom Talay (restaurant where we had breakfast) put up alfresco dining on the beach with a BBQ seafood theme. Really tempting, alas we were still quite full from our heavy lunch. Besides, didn't think the romantic atmosphere/dining experience would agree with our active dear son. So we settled for a quick dinner at one eatery nearby, with simple Pad Thai noodles and Stir Fry veggies.

After dinner, we shopped a bit, before heading back to the resort for dear son's bedtime. Hubby went out again for more massage while I stayed with dear son.

Next morning and our last day. Breakfast as usual. I had 2 servings of food :p

Thereafter, I brought dear son out for a walk as he was bored and hubby wanted to take a nap. Most shops were not open yet, so after an hour, I headed back to the resort. Did some packing and we headed out for lunch at Burger King. After lunch, some last shopping before finish up packing, check out and off to the airport.

Nothing much to do at the airport, so we checked ourselves into Swensens since it's air-conditioned (the boarding area is not). Yes, more ice-cream :p Well, it was hot and we need something to cool down.
And finally, time to board the plane. Just before we board the plane, I strapped dear son to the baby carrier. He fell asleep soundly and we had peace throughout the flight :) Okay, this marks the end of our short getaway. We'll definitely return to Samui, when we have another serious craving for Sabieng Lae and Tiger Balm massage.

23 May 2011

Koh Samui 26-28 Feb 2011 Part I

Finally, I got down to sort my travel photos and edit them! Took lotsa photos as usual and will be splitting this entry into 2 parts.

Hubby and I brought dear son to Koh Samui back in Feb for a short 3D2N getaway. This was our third time on the island, we really missd the "Tiger Balm" massage as well as our favourite restaurant on the island, "Sabieng Lae". Technically, this was not his 'first' trip to Koh Samui, I 'brought' him there during my second trimester. LOL, not that he knows.

The flight was 8+pm, which was supposed to be his bedtime, but he was too excited to sleep. In the end, we had to keep him entertained and out of mischief throughout the flight. Thank goodness it was a short flight under 2hr! By the time we touched down, cleared customs and reached the resort, it was already 10+pm. This time we decided to stay in yet another different resort, the Chaweng Regent Beach Resort, because it's located nearer to the main shopping district along Chaweng Beach and hence more convenient with a toddler.

We checked into a Premier Room, which is slightly bigger in room size so that dear son could have more space to explore. The king-size bed was cozy and comfortable, good size for all 3 of us.
Day bed which we didn't really use much. Didn't need it as we were comfortable lazing about the king size bed all day long.
Pleased with the flat screen TV, not that we watched much TV.

Very spacious bathroom which comes with an attached jacuzzi bath. Dear son enjoyed waddling in this super size bath tub.
Balcony which we didn't use much as we were afraid of the mosquitoes.

After we settled down, hubby ventured out for his favourite "Tiger Balm" massage while I stayed back with dear son for his overdue sleep time.
The very next day, all of us woke up bright and early (ahem, it was dear son actually who wakes up at 7am everyday without fail). After washing up, went to Chom Talay for the buffet breakfast.

Chom Talay was just next to the beach, with ample seating areas both indoor and alfresco according to preference. Buffet spread was pretty standard with the usual juices, cereal, fruits, deli, bakery, egg station, noddle station, porridge, sushi, hot dishes etc.

I ordered a bowl of rice noodles from the noodle station. The broth was light and soothing, just perfect to warm my tummy :)
Followed by a small selection of the buffet spread.
After breakfast, we explored the resort with dear son. There are 2 pools, the beach pool and garden pool. Yes, looks inviting but we only soaked ourselves in the children's pool with dear son.

There's a spa located within the resort itself but prices are much higher than that of the spas along the Chaweng streets, so I didn't try the service.

After exploring the resort, it was still quite early (we woke up very early remember)? Shops were not opened yet and it was also not time for dear son's nap, so we decided to head to the beach for him to play with sand.

This was his very first time playing with sand, he was totally intrigued and enjoyed himself so much that he didn't want to leave. As the sun got hotter, we brought him to the children's pool for a quick dip before heading back to the room. After we bathed and changed him, he was tired from all the morning activities and quickly settled into his nap, while both hubby and I were glad to take a breather.

Part II to be continued...