Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Daring Bakers' December 2011 - Sourdough

I seem to be able to bake everything well but bread. Even when Gav and I used the bread-maker, my loaves always turned out dense and almost cake like whereas his turned well. Eventually I gave up and let him take on the role of the bread-maker.

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!
Reading up on the sourdough making process got me thinking that it couldn’t be that hard and perhaps my lack of success in the bread making department will finally be overcome. I decided to use an Organic Rye Flour that I found in the local supermarket.
My first attempt proved to be unsuccessful, which yielded a dense loaf with a ‘gummy’ centre with no proper crust. The loaf was left to bake for almost two hours and refused to dry out. A quick SOS sent out to the forum helped me understand the possible reasons for the gumminess. I may have left the final dough to rise too long. So the next day I tried again.
The second loaf proved to be more of a success, the centre was baked thorough and the loaf had a proper crust.
I think I have a long way to go before I perfect bread-making, and so for Christmas (and my birthday) I have asked for book on bread making.

May 2012 be the year when I finally get the perfect loaf!

Sourdough Starter

Ingredients & Method

Day 1;
3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon whole rye flour
¼ cup water

In a plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste. Cover and leave the container somewhere warm. The dough should be sloppy and runny, which will bubble and ferment as it grows.

Day 2;
3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon whole rye flour
¼ cup water

Stir the ingredients into the container. The dough start to emit a yeasty smell.

Day 3;
3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon whole rye flour
¼ cup water

Stir the ingredients into the container. The yeast smell became stronger, almost sour. Bubbles started to form.

Day 4;
3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon whole rye flour
¼ cup water

Stir the ingredients into the container. The dough became watery and a thin liquid layer formed on top.

Production Sourdough;
¼ cup less 2 tsp rye starter
1 cup plus 2 tsp rye flour
1¼ cups water

Mix everything into a sloppy dough. Cover and set aside for 12-24 hours, until bubbling.

Final Dough;
2 cups production sourdough
2 1/3 rye flour
0.5 tsp table salt
¾ cup plus 2 tsp water

  1. Mix all ingredients together to form a soft dough. With wet hands, scoop the dough out and place it in a well-greased loaf tin. When greasing use hard fats such as butter.
  2. Put the tin in a large plastic bag, blow it up to form a dome and tie tightly, ensuring the dome remains. This is essential so that the dough can proof.
  3. The dough will be ready for baking anytime from 2-8 hours, depending on the temperature. For my first loaf, I left it to proof for 9 hours which proved to be far too long. The second loaf was only proofed for 5 hours. The dough will be ready to be baked when it doubles in size.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to a very high temperature of 240C. Bake for 50-60 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 200C and continue baking for the remaining time.
  5. Leave the bread to cool for a DAY before slicing.

The photo above shows the production sourdough from my initial attempt and my second attempt. There is a huge difference in the appearance namely the lack of bubbles in the first one.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

To all my readers, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May your holidays be filled with joy, love, family and lots of delicious food.

Lots of love, Nish xxx

Friday, 16 December 2011

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

If you’re looking for a recipe that doesn’t take much effort but is guaranteed to impress then you’re in the right place.

Vietnamese spring rolls are always a must order in Vietnamese restaurants. Its fresh, colourful and a perfect substitute for a salad. Combine this with the spicy, tangy dipping sauce and you’ve got a starter that will leave everyone wanting more!

Putting together the spring rolls doesn’t take a lot of effort. Plus it is extremely versatile; rice paper, lettuce, carrots, prawns, shredded meat, cucumber, peanuts, vermicelli, basil, coriander, and mint. The possibilities are endless.
In this instance, I used vermicelli, sliced mangoes, carrots and crushed peanuts for my filling. The mango kept the spring rolls fresh and paired well with the dipping sauce. If you prefer using prawns, boiled until it turns pink and let cool before using.

One thing to keep in mind is that rice paper is very delicate and requires wet fingers to prevent tearing.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls  

Rice paper
Carrots, finely sliced
Fresh herbs; basil, mint, coriander
Mango, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce * Use light soy sauce if you prefer to keep it vegetarian friendly.
1¼ tbsp sugar
3 tbsp warm water
2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced

  1. Soak vermicelli in a bowl of hot water until it becomes tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Soak rice paper in a bowl until it becomes soft. Remove and place on a flat surface. Start by placing a lettuce leaf as the base, which will also prevent the rice paper from tearing easily.
  3. Continue filling with your desired ingredient. I placed the carrots and mangoes on top of the lettuce leaf followed by the vermicelli, herbs and crushed peanuts.
  4. To fold, start from the bottom folding upwards, press down the sides to create a fold. Next fold the sides, until you have an envelope shape. Tightly roll the spring rolls away from you.
  5. For dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients and place in a small bowl.
  6. Slice the spring rolls and serve with dipping sauce.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Daring Cooks December 2011 - Char Siu & Char Siu Pau

Char Siu Pau
Char Siu
The final Daring Cook’s Challenge for the year – my how time has flown by. In fairness, I haven’t been the best Daring Cook, failing to complete a number of the challenges due to travelling and other commitments.

By hey, I managed to this challenge cooked and plated before the reveal date! Yay me! To be completely honest, there was no way I was going to let this challenge go by without making an effort. Char Siu has always been close to my heart – my late grandmother introduced me to this dish a long time ago. Every time I came home from university, she’d insist that she buy me Char Siu Rice from the restaurant nearby. It’s the only place I know which sells the perfect Char Siu; perfectly charred meat on the outside yet tender and succulent on the inside.

Seeing what this month’s challenge was brought back many nostalgic memories and when the dish was complete, I wished so hard that my grandmother was still here to savour it as she would have definitely agreed that this Char Siu recipe came pretty damn close to the one from ‘our’ restaurant. 
Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose the awesome Char Siu Pau as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Char Siu also known as Cantonese BBQ Pork is widely available in Chinese restaurant and is used in many dishes such as in fried rice, noodles or even on its own. In Malaysia, we often have it with rice, a soy based sauce and some sliced cucumbers.

For the pork, we were given 3 cooking options to choose from; straight into the oven, seared on a hot pan then transferred into the oven or grilled on the BBQ.

For the paus/buns we have the option of either steaming or baking them. I have never taken a fancy to the steamed buns so naturally the baking option was my choice.

Sara also provided us with a vegetarian option – Mushroom Fillings for Baked Buns. The original Char Siu and vegetarian recipe can be found here.

Char Siu


1 pork loin
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 tbsp maltose (or honey)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp hoisin suace
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
½ tsp ground white pepper
Pinch of salt
½ tsp five spice powder
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp red food colouring (optional)


  1. Place pork loin in a container that you will be marinating it in. If you prefer, cut the pork into smaller pieces as it allows for a more flavoursome Char Siu.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour the marinade over the pork and ensure that the pork is properly coated. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours. 
*I left mine in refrigerator to marinate for 48 hours.

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place a rack on top of the baking tray on which the pork will cook.
  2. Place the pork in a hot pan and sear it quickly to seal the meat. Once the meat is sealed on every side, place the pork on the rack and baste it with the remaining marinade.
  3. Continue to baste the meat once every 5 minutes.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your meat.
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Char Siu Pau

Filling Ingredients

350g Char Siu, diced

2 spring onions/scallions, thinly sliced

½ tbsp vegetable oil

4-5 tbsp reserved marinade from Char Siu

1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine

Dough Ingredients

2½ tsp dried yeast

55g sugar

½ cup warm water

280g plain flour

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 tbsp oil

½ tsp salt

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with a few drops of water.



  1. Heat oil in a wok/ frying pan and add diced Char Siu. Stir and let cook for a minute. Add the spring onions and leave to cook for another minute.
  2. Add the marinade and cooking wine and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool until ready to use.


  1. Place the sugar and warm water in a bowl and mix until sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast and leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Add flour into a large bowl and incorporate the egg, oil, salt and yeast mixture. Bring flour mixture together with your hands. Add more flour if the dough remains too sticky.
  3. Place dough on a floured surface and continuously knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until doubled in size. This usually takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the weather condition.
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and divide it into 12 portions. Shape each portion into round balls.
  6. Roll out each ball into discs of about 3-4 inches in diameter. You can use a rolling pin or your hands.
  7. Place a heaped tablespoon of filling in the middle of the disc and gather the edges to the middle and seal your bun.
  8. Place the buns, sealed side down on a baking tray. Continue with the remaining balls of dough.
  9. Brush the surface of the buns with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Rich Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Mum has been asking me to bake these cupcakes for some time and I have been putting it off for various reasons. However as we were due to celebrate my uncle’s birthday, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to whip these up. Plus it’s a perfect flavour combination which gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.
Some of the ingredients
As always this delightful pairing never ceases to disappoint. The aroma that permeates questions whether one is eating a Jaffa Cake or Terry’s Chocolate Orange – neither. In fact it is a rich, (aptly named) dense, moist, chocolately orange cupcake that it paired with a lovely chocolate ganache, topped off with a slice of caramilised orange.

I’m so happy with the way they turned out just as I envisaged; classy and chic. Don’t they look like they belong in a dessert display stand in some fancy chic cafĂ©?
Rich Chocolate Orange Cupcakes   

Yields 18 cupcakes


175g butter
250g castor sugar
6 eggs, separated
175g plain chocolate, melted
175g ground almonds
4 oranges, rind and juiced
225g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder

115g plain chocolate
25g butter
45ml double cream



1. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Gradually beat in egg yolks followed by melted chocolate.

3. Fold in almonds. Next add the rind and juice.

4. In a separate grease free bowl, whisk egg white until it forms soft peaks.

5. Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

6. Sift flour and cocoa powder and add the to wet mixture slowly using a spatula.

7. Pour into cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes at 170C, preheated oven.


1. Melt chocolate, butter and cream in a bowl over a pot of water.

2. Cool and chill until it hardens and achieves a pipe-able consistency.

 A step by step guide to the most mouthwatering cupcakes!

Nb: If you’re not a big fan of rind, I would suggest grating it much finer than seen in the photo.
I also found that the cupcake liners came off very easily which resulted in me removing all the liners for before serving. Not too sure why it does that though.