24 January 2014

Homemade Tomato and Cheese Pizza

I have no idea why I took so long to make my own pizza at home! I've attempted recipes that are much more complicated and difficult, so there should be no reason why I couldn't do a homemade pizza right?

I bought this donna hay magazine back in 2009 because I was attracted to the cover picture then. I was so inspired to make the exact same pizza, but somehow never gotten around to do it, until now.

Then in Aug 2012, I decided to buy a Jamie Oliver pizza stone after attending a homebaker gathering because there was a private joke about Jamie Oliver's pizza stone. Found out recently that this group of friends also bought the same pizza stone after that gathering. LOL!

And still, I didn't manage to attempt making a pizza at all and kept the pizza stone tucked in my cabinet all this while! I even attended a hands-on pizza workshop in March 2013 :p

Finally last month (Dec 2013), I decided to stop procrastinating and used my JO pizza stone for the very first time. I wanted to serve pizza for a baking play date and decided that the kids could create their own versions with different toppings of their choice. So first, I did a test bake, followed by a large batch enough to feed all the kids and adults who attended. It was a fun affair indeed; my kitchen was turned into a pizzeria and it was cool to watch golden crisp pizzas emerged one after another from the ovens.

Conclusion, making pizza dough was not daunting at all, in fact it was easy peasy :p Since then, have been making pizza quite often :)

This tomato and cheese pizza is so easy to put together with only pizza dough, tomato sauce base, cheese and tomato required. Oh it tastes so good, really a comfort food that can be eaten anytime! I just need to make a batch of pizza dough, divide into individual portions and freeze them. Whenever I feel like eating pizza, I would defroze a portion or two, add the bases and toppings and voila, homemade pizza

So does mine look like the one on donna hay cover? Kekekeke.

Tomato and Cheese Pizza
(recipe reference from donna hay, issue 47, Oct/Nov 2009)

Basic pizza dough
  • 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250ml lukewarm water
  • 375g all purpose plain
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Base and toppings
  • Store bought tomato/pasta sauce
  • Assorted cheese such as Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cheddar (I just buy ready grated mixed cheese for pizzas)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Basil leaves (optional)
  1. Place yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside until bubbles start appearing on the surface (should be around 5 mins), this means the yeast has been activated.
  2. Place flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Using a spatula or well-floured hands, mix the ingredients together till a dough forms. Alternatively, mix the ingredients using dough hook in an electric mixer till dough forms.
  3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into desired ball portions and place the dough balls into a lightly oiled bowl and clingwrap the bowl. Set aside to proof at a warm place till dough balls double in size. After proofing, the dough balls can be clingwrapped and kept in freezer till ready to use.
  4. Preheat oven together with the pizza stone at the oven's maximum temperature. Mine's 275 degree celsius top and bottom heat mode.
  5. Take a dough ball, knead lightly for a few seconds. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper, flatten and roll out into desired shape and thickness. The thinner the dough, the more crispy it will turn out. Thicker dough will result in more bread-like pizzas.
  6. Top with tomato sauce, followed by grated cheeses, then tomatoes.
  7. Place the pizza with parchment paper into the oven on top of the pizza stone. Bake at 275 degree celsius for 10-12 mins.
  8. Top with a few basil leaves and best served hot.

I am submitting this post to the the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids and  Doreen from My Little Favourite DIY , hosted by Alice from I Love.I Cook.I Bake

19 January 2014

Hong Kong Flaky Egg Tart 港式酥皮蛋挞 - AFF HK/Macau Jan/Feb 2014

I believe the egg tart needs no elaborate introduction :) Basically there are two types of tart shell, the cookie-pastry base (饼皮) and the puff-pastry base (酥皮). My family loves egg tarts especially my son who can walloped 2-3 pieces at one go when we dine at dim sum restaurants. Decided to challenge myself to make the puff-pastry or flaky egg tart for Asian Food Fest Hong Kong/Macau. And it took me three tries to make a more presentable and tasty flaky egg tart that I can share here. I'm going to share a lot of details below, the recipe, as well as some pictures of the process. I know it's not perfect yet, but the best I could do for now.

I have attempted the cookie pastry base egg tart before and it's more straight forward by combining all ingredients together to form the dough. Whereas, for the flaky tart, there's actually 2 doughs, a oil dough (油心/油皮) and a water dough (水皮). The combination of this 2 doughs attributes to the "thousand layer" crispy texture of the tart shell.

Therefore, to me the success of the flaky egg tart lies in the tart shell, it must be very crisp, appears to have "thousand layers" and the layers must be visible. The tart itself must be fragrant and complemented by a creamy, smooth and slightly sweetened egg custard. It's definitely not easy because like western puff pastry, the 2 types of dough are to be folded, rolled and folded at least 3-4 times in order to achieve the "thousand layers" crispy effect.

In fact, I've attended a dim sum hands-on workshop back in 2008 where one of the items I learned was the flaky egg tart. Back then I was still a noob in baking. The notes given by the Chef were merely 7 sentences, less than 700 words and quantity for 200 pieces of egg tarts! I was seated at the back of the class, frantically trying to note down what he said while trying to watch his demo. It didn't help that the class was noisy because everyone was trying to ask questions and some stood up to see what's going on blocking those at the back etc. Well, after the workshop, I didn't have the courage to attempt the recipe until now.

Prior to baking, I did a lot of research on various ingredients, methods and techniques, by reading different recipes posted by bloggers and watching several youtube videos to familiarize with folding techniques of the dough. Technique is pretty much similar, adopting 3x3x4 (i.e. roll dough flat, fold into 3 folds, roll dough flat, fold into 3 folds again and finally roll dough flat, fold into 4 folds).

However, in terms of ingredients, different proportions, types and even the temperature of baking. So in the end, I decided to adapt the one from the workshop because I remember it was very good, but I did some changes along the way as well.

And so like I mentioned, there are 2 doughs used, the oil dough and water dough. Water dough is pretty straightforward, just combine all the ingredients to form a dough. As for the oil dough, some recipes use flour + butter, some use butter only, some use flour + shortening + butter, some use lard. I've come across one recipe that uses flour + butter + vegetable oil (featured in magazine without any reference), not sure if it's really doable.

The recipe I learned from the workshop uses flour + shortening + butter. The advantage of using shortening is it's more stable than butter (melts more slowly). So when you are rolling and folding the layers, the dough doesn't melt/break/fall apart that easily and you can achieve the 3x3x4 folding at one go. Whereas, if you use flour + butter, in between the folds, you have to chill the dough (15-20 mins), else the skin of the dough breaks easily.

This was my very first attempt. I decided to use flour + butter for my oil dough. coz I was reluctant to use shortening. Being inexperienced and the hot and humid weather didn't help, the skin of my oil dough broke during the first fold and it became very messy as butter leaked everywhere (top, bottom, sides). Other problems like the cookie cutter I used to cut each piece of tart dough was too small, I filled too much egg filling etc. So it looked quite ugly and didn't taste crispy (a bit hard).

For my second attempt, I made half recipe using flour + shortening + butter for the oil dough, and another half recipe using flour + butter.

I wanted the flaky layers to look more visible (round cutter cannot achieve that) so I went to buy a set of fluted cookie cutters.

Egg tart looked slightly better, but still filled too much egg custard filling; cookie cutter used still too short (I want to create more height in order to make the layers more visible) and temperature of baking too high.

In terms of taste, the one that used butter won hands-down. It was buttery and very fragrant, whereas the one that added shortening tasted quite flat.

And so, my third attempt, I decided to give the flour + butter dough another chance (skip shortening altogether). I made sure I chilled the oil dough sufficiently in between, dust the work surface properly with each fold, used a larger cutter to stamp each tart, filled the egg filling to about 70-75%, baked at lower temperature (staggered temperature control). All in all, the key ingredient was patience (because our weather is very humid and butter melts very easily). It was a long drawn process indeed.

I guess my patience got rewarded and the egg tart turned out so much better looking! It was so flaky that pieces of tart fell all over the place as I was biting into the tart

I also tested the egg custard filling with 2 different recipes, 1 using evaporated milk and another using fresh milk. In the end, the one using fresh milk turned out slightly better, more creamy and smooth.

Hong Kong Flaky Egg Tart
  • Recipe yields 8 tarts
  • 4cm base tart casing (measures 6cm from the top)
  • 9cm fluted cookie cutter
Oil Dough
  • 100g Plain Flour, sifted
  • 160g Unsalted Butter, cubed and keep in chiller until use
Water Dough
  • 20g Bread Flour, sifted
  • 60g Plain Flour, sifted
  • 5g Custard Powder, sifted
  • 10g Egg
  • 40g Iced Water
Filling (Option 1 - Fresh Milk)
  • 100g Fresh Milk
  • 50g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 drop Vanilla Extract
Filling (Option 2 - Evaporated Milk)
  • 40g Evaporate Milk
  • 100g Sugar Syrup (made using 100g water + 50g sugar)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 drop Vanilla Extract

1. Make the oil dough. Combine the flour and cold cubed butter in a large bowl. Use pastry cutter to press the butter into the flour until it forms a rough dough. Alternatively, use electric blender and pulse the mixture until rough dough forms. Work quickly so that butter do not melt.

2. Place the dough on a piece of clingwrap and wrap it up into a small rectangle parcel (about 10cm x 15cm). Chill in fridge for 30 mins.

3. Make water dough. Combine all the ingredients into an electric mixer, and blend until a dough forms. Knead for 5 mins until dough is smooth (texture feels like ear-lobe). Mold into a rough oval shape, wrap in clingwrap and chill for 20 mins.

4. Take both water dough and oil dough out from the fridge. Dust the work surface with flour so that the dough will not stick to the work surface. Remove clingwrap (keep it aside). Roll the water dough into a large oval, make sure it has sufficient space allowance for the oil dough to be enclosed within. Place the oil dough in the middle of the water dough.

 5. Wrap the water dough like a parcel, encasing the oil dough, make sure no oil dough is exposed at the seams.

6. Slightly flatten/roll the combined dough, dust with some flour top and below and wrap the dough in clingwrap. Chill in the fridge for 20 mins.

7. Retrieve the dough from the fridge. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with flour. Remove clingwrap (set aside), dust top and bottom of dough with flour. Roll the dough into half inch thickness in rectangle shape. Fold one side towards the centre (as shown).

8. Fold the other side towards centre. You will have 3 layers. Dust with flour all around. Wrap in clingwrap and chill in fridge for 20 mins. This is round 1 of folding. (We will do 3x3x4)

9. Repeat step 7.

10. Repeat step 8. This is round 2 of folding.

11. Retrieve the dough from the fridge. Dust the work surface and rolling pin with flour. Make sure to dust a larger surface area. Remove clingwrap (set aside), dust top and bottom of dough with flour. Roll the dough into half inch thickness in rectangle shape. Fold left and right sides towards the centre (as shown).

12. Fold one side of dough towards centre again. You will see 4 layers now. This is round 3 and final round of folding. Dust with flour, clingwrap and chill in fridge for 20 mins.

13. Retrieve dough from fridge. Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour. Place dough on work surface, dust with flour. Roll the dough flat into 0.5cm thickness. Use cookie cutter to stamp the dough into individual tart shells.

14. Wrap tart base using clingwrap (separate each layer) and chill in fridge for 15 mins. *At this point you could freeze the tart base for subsequent use.

15. Retrieve tart base from the fridge. Mold each piece into the tart casing, pressing down the dough towards the sides and bottom of the casing. Avoid touching the top part (perforated) else pattern will not be visible after baking. As you can see, I'm using a larger cookie cutter because I want to create height for the egg tart without having to "push" the base upwards (like some recipes do). Poke some holes in the tart base using a fork gently (not too hard else egg filling will leak). Chill tart base in fridge for 15 mins. Preheat oven at 220 degree celsius.

16. Prepare egg filling. Combine all ingredients of egg filling, make sure sugar is fully dissolved. Sieve the egg filling 2 times. Once tart base is ready, pour the egg filling into each tart to about 70-75%.

17. Place tray of egg tarts at the bottom most rack. Bake at 200 degree celsius for 15 mins. After 15 mins, bake at 180 degree celsius for 10 mins. After 10 mins, slightly open the oven door, slip a cloth or oven mitt by the door and let egg tart bake in residual heat for another 10 mins.

18. After 10 mins, remove the tray from the oven and let egg tarts cool slightly before removing the tarts from the casing.

The ones on the left were filled with evaporated milk egg filling and the ones on the right were filled with fresh milk egg filling. Our family preferred the fresh milk egg filling.

The egg tarts are best served warm. They remain crispy for a couple of hours in the open. If not consumed immediately it's best to keep them covered in the fridge. To re-heat, I just pop them into air-fryer or oven for a few mins and they will become crispy again!

This recipe is definitely a keeper and perhaps I will try making mini ones like those served at dim sum restaurants. Meanwhile, let me enjoy this sinfully delicious pastry with a hot cup of chinese tea!

 I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest ( Hong Kong + Macau ) – Jan+Feb Month hosted by Annie of Annielicious Food

18 January 2014

Phuket Dec 2013 - Part VI Dining in Phuket

Continued from
Part II - Kids Club and Float family pool
Part III - Elements Restaurant at Pullman Arcadia

This is the last post on the Phuket trip *phew*!

Since we rented a car for our trip, we made use of the opportunity to go around hunting for good authentic local thai restaurants.

Hubby found out about this restaurant through the internet which is located a little north of Phuket Town at Leam Hin. It's slightly off the beaten track and mostly frequented by locals. There's actually a small fishing community there with wooden houses on stilts, as well as a jetty where boats ferry passengers to Koh Maphrao and Koh Rang. There are also some floating restaurants around the area.

We were surprised that the restaurant is quite big.

Alfresco dining that stretches all the way out. More suitable for late evening and night when it's not so hot.

Jetty where boats ply to Koh Maphrao, Koh Rang and floating restaurants.

Overall feel is quite rustic. Interesting find for us this trip.

How about the food quality?

Fried egg for dear son.

Couldn't remember the name of this vegetable, but it was very nice. Juicy and crunchy and not as fibrous as we thought.

My must-order dish, thai prawn cake. It was not bad.
Tom Yum Soup which was not bad either, ingredients were fresh and soup was spicy and tangy.

Glass noodle with prawn. Not bad, the glass noodle was springy and flavourful.

Quite disappointed with this fish. The way it was cut and fried, the meat became too dry and tasteless. Nothing compared to the one we had in Koh Samui.

Overall, the meal was ok but it didn't wow us like Koh Samui did. We would give it a 6.5/10 as compared to Krao Chao Bann and Sabieng Lae in Koh Samui (both rank 8.5/10).

The next day's lunch, we headed to Rang Hill which is located in Phuket Town. There are a few restaurants up the hill and Khao Rang Breeze is one of them.

I guess one of the attraction about this place is the view and ambience. The service was quite good as well, the service staff were all very attentive and quick.

Ordered a thai iced tea which was very good, milky and fragrant.

We weren't very hungry, so just ordered a few small dishes, and for dear son a fish and chips.

Stir fried kailan with roast pork. Quite well done, vegetable was crunchy and the roast pork savoury.

Stir fried flat rice noodle. It was ok, just lack a bit of wok hei.

Tried the thai prawn cake as well. It was ok as well.

Dear son's fish and chips was terrible though, fish was too dry and crust too thick and hard. Overall the meal was so-so only, with a much higher price tag as compared to Leamhin Seafood Restaurant.

On our last day, before heading to the airport, we dropped by Naiyang Beach for our lunch.

Of all the places, we still prefer this area which is rustic, value-for-money and served reasonably good local thai food. Love to sit in these beach huts.

Sunny day with awesome weather.

The beach was lovely, with lots of beachgoers suntanning.

Sea was very calm and perfect for swimming.

My favourite thai soda water, served with thai lime.

Stir fry glass noodle with pork. Very flavourful.

Hubby's favourite tom yum soup, very spicy and tangy.

Grilled squid. Springy and very flavourful with BBQ smell and taste. Yummy!

Overall, we were disappointed that we have yet to find good authentic thai restaurants in Phuket that could be comparable to the food standards and pricing of Sabeing Lae and Krao Chao Bann in Koh Samui. If anyone could provide recommendations, we would deeply appreciate it!

We will return to Phuket again for sure, and hopefully the next time fare better in our hunt for good thai food.