No-knead Hokkaido Style Milk Bread

A very easy way to make a good loaf of Hokkaido Milk Bread. Traditional tangzhong roux method is a quite tedious process. You will have to incorporate chilled butter into the dough with your hands and keep kneading until the dough passes the ‘Windowpane Test”. This recipe requires no dough kneading, instead you just mix all the ingredients with a spatula and place the mixing bowl in the fridge overnight. The loaf still turns out light, fluffy and can be easily pull apart. It’s good enough to eat plain and even better in sandwiches, but in my opinion, it’s best when toasted.

Makes 1 loaf (by using a 9inch X 5inch loaf pan)

  • 400g                      all-purpose flour中间面粉
  • 50g                        butter, melted and cool off
  • 60g                        white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon         salt
  • 2 teaspoons       yeast
  • 150g                      full-cream milk, lukewarm (40C/80F)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (save a ½ tablespoon for egg wash)
  1. Place the butter in a bowl. Put in the mircrowave over low power for about 30 seconds. Place all the dry ingredients of all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add into melted butter, lukewarm full cream milk and beaten eggs. Combine above dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Mix well until no dry flour is seen.

2. Cover the mixing bowl and leave it in the room temperature until the dough size is doubled. Place covered mixing bowl in fridge overnight.

3. Remove the dough from fridge. Lightly dust your workspace. Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Cover the dough pieces with kitchen towel and let them rest for about 30 minutes.

4. Pick a piece. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a long oval piece. Pick one end of the oval and roll it up towards the other end to make a roll. Use your hand to press down the roll a bit so the roll stays tight. Repeat the process with the rest two dough pieces. Use butter to grease your loaf pan or place a parchment paper into the loaf pan. Place the three rolls into the loaf pan.

5. Cover the loaf pan with kitchen towel. Leave the dough rest for about 2 hours or till the dough size is about doubled. Brush the dough with egg wash.

6. Preheat the oven to 170C°/340F°. Place the loaf pan in the middle of the rack. Bake for about 36 minutes.

Pineapple Buns菠萝包bō luó bāo

Generally found in Chinese bakeries rather than dim sum house, these buns get their name from pineapple skin-shaped patterns on the topping. The buns consist of two parts, a soft sweetened bread roll wrapped by a crunchy topping composed of sugar, butter and flour. There are very similar Japanese Melon Pan buns, which are in turn variations on Mexican concha buns. It’s a small world, after all.

Makes 10 pieces  

MAIN DOUGH for the soft bread roll

  • 250g all-purpose flour (King Arthur all-purpose flour is preferred as its protein content is 11.7% which is higher than other brands.)
  • 1 teaspoon, salt
  • 40g                        white sugar
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon             dry yeast
  • 1 large egg (about 60g), beaten
  • 3 tablespoons                    whole milk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons                    water
  • 35g                                  unsalted butter (if use salted butter, just reduce above mentioned salt from 1 teaspoon to ½ teaspoon.) Cut into small cubes and at room temperature

BISCUIT DOUGH for the crunchy topping

  • 60g                        unsalted butter
  • ½ cup                    white sugar
  • 1 large egg (about 60g), beaten
  • 200g                      cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon         baking powder

Toppings

  • 2 tablespoons                    white sugar

Method

Step 1  Making the Main Dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients of 250g all-purpose flour, 40g white sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 and ¼ teaspoons of yeast. Mix well. Add wet ingredients of 1 large egg, 3 tablespoons of milk and 3 tablespoons of water. Use a spatula or your fingertips, gently mix the ingredients together until they are combined. In the beginning, the dough is very sticky and wet, but keep mixing until it forms a loose, sticky ball. Also, use the dough to pick up the flour on the sides of the mixing bowl. This step should take about 2 minutes. Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface.
  • Press the heels of your hands into the dough, pushing forward slightly. Fold the top half of the dough in half back toward you. Then rock forward on the lower part of your palm to press it flat. Turn the dough slightly (to clockwise), fold it in half, and rock into it again with the lower part of your palm. This process is called “punching” the dough and the goal is to lengthen and stretch the gluten strands in the dough. Repeat for 5 minutes or so. Tip: If the dough doesn’t seem to be losing its stickiness, sprinkle more flour over the top and work it into the dough. You can lightly dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking too much.
  • After “punching” for 5 minutes and the dough gets more elastic, press and stretch the dough, about 10 inches (25 cm). Then put small cubes of 35 g unsalted butter on top of the dough. Roll up the dough tucking the butter in, and then continue the kneading process.
  • Your hands, dough, and the work surface will get oily and messy in the beginning. Don’t be panic. I recommend using a metal/silicone dough scraper to collect the dough stuck on the work surface once in a while and keep kneading.
  • As you knead, the dough will absorb the butter and it will eventually become very smooth and easier to work with. Finally, start banging the dough onto the work surface and fold it over away from you. This helps develop the gluten (elasticity). Bang the dough, turn it 90 degrees, and “punch” it, using the lower part of your palm. Continue this process for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, supple, and silky. Tip: Don’t let go of the dough when you are banging onto the work surface and don’t let it rest for too long between turns.

When the dough gets silky and smooth, pull the end of your dough with your thumb and fingers. Keep spreading the dough with your fingers, stretching the dough into thin translucent membrane. This test is called Windowpane Test to see if the dough’s gluten has been developed enough. If the dough tears, the gluten isn’t quite ready yet. Knead the dough for another 2 minutes and test again.

  • Shape the dough into a ball by pulling all sides of the ball to the bottom and pinching them together. Place the dough in a bowl (the seam on the bottom). Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. I use a Proof setting (100ºF/38ºC) in my oven.

Step 2   Making the Biscuit Dough

  • In a large bowl, add 60 g unsalted butter and mix with the spatula until it becomes smooth. Add 100 g white sugar and mix with the spatula until they blend well together.
  • Slowly add a very small amount of 1 large beaten egg into the bowl and blend well together before you add another small amount of the egg. Continue until all the egg is well blended. Sift 200 g cake flour and ½ teaspoon baking powder into the mixture. Using the spatula, mix well until the dough is not floury. Collect the dough and make it into a ball.
  • Roughly cut the dough into 10 pieces. Starting from the big piece, measure the weight again till it weighs ⅒ of the total weight (in my case, 40-41 g). If it’s heavier, pinch off the dough and add the extra dough to a smaller dough, by stuffing the extra into the inside of the smaller dough. Roll the 10 pieces of biscuit dough into 10 balls. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes until it hardens a bit.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, dust your index finger with flour and put it in the center of the dough. If the hole doesn’t close, then the dough is ready for the next step. Remove the dough with a silicone dough scraper and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Press the dough with your hands to release gas in the dough and deflate.
  • Using a dough scraper, roughly cut the dough into 10 equal pieces. Starting from the big piece, measure the weight again till it weighs ⅒ of the total weight (in my case, 46-47 g). If it’s heavier, pinch off the dough from the center and add the extra dough to a smaller dough, by stuffing the extra into the inside of the smaller dough. Knead to combine well. Shape each dough piece into a nice round ball, pulling from all the sides and tuck into the bottom. Place the dough on your left (right) palm, and rotate it with your right (left) hand, keeping the seam side on the bottom.
  • Put the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or kitchen towel to prevent it from drying. Rest the dough for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  • Put the biscuit dough on the lightly floured work surface and flatten the dough with your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out into 4 inch (10-12 cm) flat rounds. Continue the rest until the main dough is ready.
  • Place the biscuit dough on your palm and put the main dough in the middle, seam side facing up. Then flip to show the biscuit dough on top. Gently pull all sides of the biscuit dough wrapping around the main dough.
  • Coat the biscuit dough with white sugar (2 Tbsp) and remove the excess sugar. Then using a dough scraper or knife, gently score the biscuit dough into a crisscross pattern (I score 3 lines each side). Place the dough on the baking sheet, seam side on the bottom. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent from drying. Let the dough rise in a warm place until the dough rises one and a half (1.5 x) in size, about 50 minutes (I used the Proof setting (100ºF/38ºC) in my oven).
  • When the dough has risen halfway, preheat the oven to 360ºF (180ºC). Note: If you are using the oven for proof, you have to transfer the dough to a warmer place so you can preheat the oven.

Step 5 Baking

  • Bake at for 13-15 minutes. Toward the end of baking if you see the bread is not being browning evenly, rotate the bread once so that the bread gets an even color.
  • Once the bread is baked, transfer to a wire rack. Let it cool for 5 minutes, and enjoy!

To Store

  • Once the bread is cooled completely, individually wrap it in plastic to prevent it from drying. Then put it in an airtight container or bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to a month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or microwave to warm up inside.

Homemade Peking Duck 北京烤鸭běi jīng kǎo yā

Simply using oven and a few tricks, we can certainly make the famous Peking duck in our home kitchen. Though preparation takes more than 24 hours, the active cooking time is much less. And you get to enjoy this gorgeous, restaurant-quality Peking duck at home. The thin and crispy skin is nicely separate from the duck meat. Serve the skin or/and meat with sugar or sweet bean sauce as a dip. Keep the carved duck or the remainder of the roast duck to make a tasty soup for your next meal.

You will need to have one particular ingredient, maltose麦芽糖, help achieve the gorgeous skin color. Maltose is a very thick liquid sugar made from sprouted grains such as barley. It is less sweet than corn syrup but much sticker and firmer. It is used widely in Chinese disserts and sweets. It is available in small plastic tubs in Chinese grocery stores or Amazon. Maltose must be heated before it can be scooped into measuring spoons. This can be done in the microwave on low power in short bursts, or by placing the tub in a bowl of hot water.

Ingredients

  • I duck, about 5 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons                   maltose 麦芽糖
  • 3 tablespoons                    hot water
  • 1 teaspoon white rice vinegar, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon    China five spice powder五香粉
  • 1/3 teaspoon                     salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon     black peppercorn powder, optional
  • 1 tablespoon,                     Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 loaf of bread, soaked with water

Equipment

  • a roast pan with rack OR a baking tray and baking cooling rack
  • an empty wine bottle and a pastry brush

To enjoy the duck

  • Peking duck pancakes, click here for how to make your own pancakes
  • sweet bean paste甜面酱
  • English or mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • Leek or spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced

Method

Preparation (start 24 hours earlier)

  1. Tuck an empty wine bottle into the cavity of duck and set the duck upright. Heat up a pot of water. Pour the hot water into a heat-proof water pitcher or a large bowl. The water should be about 90C°/180F°. Pour the hot water all over the duck skins include the skins inside the legs and wings.

2. Scoop three tablespoons of maltose into a bowl (you may find Maltose is sticky or too firm. If so, you can soften the syrup by placing the container of the maltose in a bowl of hot water 5 minutes ahead of time.) Add three tablespoons of water into the bowl Mix it well. Or place the bowl into microwave on low power for about 1 minute. Add a teaspoon of white rice vinegar.

3. Use a pastry to brush diluted syrup all over the duck skins include insides of the legs and wings. Leave the duck in room temperature for 30 minutes. Then repeat the brushing process by using up all your syrup. Clear a space in the fridge. Place the duck in the fridge overnight (no less than 24 hours.)

Roasting the duck (this takes about a total of 3 to 4 hours)

  1. Heat up the oven to 360F°/180C°. Line up the roasting pan with two layers of aluminum foil (this makes cleaning work easier!).

2. In a bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of five spice powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and black peppercorn powder and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine. Place the duck on the roasting rack with breast facing up. Soak a loaf of bread in the water.

3. Brush the cavity of the bird with the liquid. Tuck the soaked bread into the cavity of the duck. Wrap the legs and wings with aluminum foil – this prevents this leaner part of the meat from burning during the slow roasting process. Place the roasting pan into the lower rack of the oven. Close the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

4. Turn down the oven heat to 250F°/125C°. Tent the duck with aluminum foil. Bake for 2.5 hours to 3 hours. The roasting time depends on the size of your bird. Add 10 to 12 minutes for each additional pound.

5. Heat up the oven to 360F°/180C°.  In the meantime, carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven – the pan is hot so not to burn yourself. Use a spoon or fork to remove the bread from the duck. Remove the aluminum foil from the legs – but still leave the wings and bones part of legs. Place the roasting pan back to the oven – depending how deep the skin color looks like now. To prevent the skins from darkening, you can tent the duck again with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

6. The duck is ready to serve now.

How to cut the duck

  1. Once the duck is out from oven, rest the duck for 5 minutes. Then cut a line around the beast. Use the tip of your knife to remove the half of the breast with the skin on. Slice the duck breast into a bite size piece. Continue to work on the other piece of the breast.

Jade Dumplings 翡翠水饺fěi cuì shuǐ jiǎo

The Year of the Ox is just around the corner. It’s time to get together with family and friends to wrap health and delicious dumplings, or “Jiao Zi” in Mandarin. Let us wish these beautiful jade dumplings bring us good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
 

Yields about 60 dumplings

Wrappers

  • 200g + 200g       all-purpose flour
  • ¼ + ¼  teaspoon    salt
  • 110g                   water in room temperature
  • 110g                   spinach juice (to make spinach juice, place 3 to 4 cups of baby spinach and ½ cup of water in a blender. Pour the ground spinach into a cheese cloth and squeeze the juice into a bowl.)

Filling

  • 250g                    ground pork
  • 125g                    ginger and spring onion water* (calls for 15g sliced ginger and 15g roughly chopped spring onions and 200g water)
  • 1 teaspoon         salt
  • 1 teaspoon         sugar
  • 1 tablespoon      light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon        sesame oi
  • 1 tablespoon        Chinese cooking wine (substitute it with Japanese mirin)
  • 1 tablespoon       cooking oil (optional)
  • 250g                    vegetables – you have the option of shredded zucchini, minced mushroom (either brown or button mushroom is fine) or minced Napa cabbage

Dipping sauce per person

  • 1 tablespoon      Chinkiang vinegar 镇江香醋 (substitute it with Balsamic vinegar)
  • ½ tablespoon       light soy sauce 生抽
  • 1 teaspoon           any chili oil or minced chili, optional

Method

For wrappers and filling

  1. Get a medium size mixing bowl. Place into 200g all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gradually add into 11g of water. Use your hand to mix them together. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and, using your fingers and palms, knead for 5-6 minutes till the dough becomes smooth. Cover the dough/mixing bowl with clingy film. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Get another medium size of mixing bowl. Place into 200g all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gradually add into 11g of spinach juice. Use your hand to mix them together. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and, using your fingers and palms, knead for 5-6 minutes till the dough becomes smooth. Cover the dough/mixing bowl with clingy film. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  3. While dough is resting. Let’s season the filling. Add sliced ginger, spring onions and water in a bowl. squeeze ginger and spring onions in the water, rub them in the water then drain by discarding spring onions and ginger.
  4. Use chopsticks or pork to stir in the water. Stir in one direction for about 1 minute. Add into 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil,1 tablespoon of light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine. Mix well. Prepare your preferred shredded vegetable. Combine them with seasoned ground pork. Set Aside.
  5. Now, let’s make the wrapper and assemble the dumplings. Divide white dough into three equal pieces. Divide the green dough into three equal pieces. Pick one piece of white dough and roll it out into a rectangular shape. Do the same with 1 piece of green dough. Place the green piece on top of the white piece. Use a rolling pin to press the dough down for them to be stick together. Pick up the longer side of the rectangular dough then roll up the into a rod shape. Cut them into 18- 20 equal small pieces.

6. Simply use your hand to pick up each piece and pound it into the floured surface to make a small circular disc. Then use a rolling pin to smooth out each disc till it’s about 9cm in diameter – edges are thinner than the center as this has to hold the filling. You can constantly dust the rolling pin with flour to keep the wrappers from sticking.

Assemble

  1. Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand and spoon 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper, form a taco shape and bring the front and back together in the middle.
  2. Start pinching one end of the wrapper to seal, heading towards the middle. Then do the same with the other end.

Continue working on the rest of the dough and filling to make 40 more dumplings by repeating the process with the rest of the dough and filling.

How to cook  

  1. The whole process takes about 12-15 minutes.
  2. Make a big pot of water to a boil.
  3. Add the dumplings into the boiling water and cover the pot. Fill into the pot with 1 cup of cold water every 2-3 minutes for three times whenever the water starts boiling. Use the slotted spoon to push around the dumplings in the water to keep them sticking to the bottom from time to time.

Tips

You can always make large quantity of the dumplings and keep them in the freezer. Just allow 2-3 more minutes of cooking time when cooking the frozen dumplings.