Monday, 9 August 2010

Bun in Oven and Still Baking!

Coconut Bun 椰子麵包

Those who don't know English slang, having a "Bun-in-the-oven" means you are pregnant.  I am officially overdue - well, not me as such.  Junior is.  Estimated Due Date is was Saturday 7 August.  I guess Junior doesn't fancy that day as it's birthday and so is waiting until their lucky number comes up!

I don't mind too much, I've had it fairly easy throughout my pregnancy.  I'm finding the swollen feet and ankles annoying as it makes walking a little more sore and having a big bump in front of you certainly slows you down and gets in the way when you drop something (which is ALL the time!). 

Anyway, I digress.  Thought I'd check out the other new kitchen toy that hubbs bought - the Food Mixer.  For some unknown reason I wanted to bake my own bread.  I tell you, it certainly was quick and easy when there is a machine that does the messy mixing and kneading for you! 

The Kenwood in action!

Well.....why stop there at one loaf I heard a voice in my head.  I love to blog-surf and have bookmarked many a recipe with the view of trying them out.  Some of the recipes I find are just going around the blogosphere from one blogger to another.  Others try out recipes they've read from books and I thought I'd do the same.  I ordered this book along with some others and have yet to try any recipes out.  (Personally I think I just collect books I like the look of - especially baking books!)  It's from "Alex Goh's Baking Class - Bread" and I know bloggers have been raving about his cakes and bread and I thought I'd put the Kenwood to some good use!

Afternoon Tea anyone?

Seeing as I had a machine that was going to do the hard work I decided to choose the Sponge and Dough Method to make the Basic Sweet Bun Dough.  His reasoning is that it produces "...a softer, bigger loaf which keeps longer".  Time is not of the essence with me today and in all honesty I'd prefer a loaf or buns that stayed soft and obviously kept well.  There's only the two of us at the end of the day and although I'm sure I'll give some buns away to my mum, there's only so many buns you can gorge yourself silly on!

I had a crazy day in the kitchen and in the end this is what I've made...........

Mountain of Coconut Buns and some Cinnamon & Raisin Buns (ran out of coconut filling)

I think I might have got a bit carried away!  At least I know how many buns are made out of a portion of Alex's Basic Sweet Bun Dough

I also made 4 jars of Three Berry Jam (Raspberry, Blueberry and Blackberry) - I decided to make room in the freezer and these frozen berries were taking up too much room!  Home-made jam is so much tastier than store-bought,  Somehow there is an intensity of fruit flavour that I don't get from a shop-bought jar.  These berries were just on special offer at the time and found their way into the freezer for jam-making.  Haven't been picking any raspberries from Mum's garden this year. 

I was going to buy a loaf of bread from the bakery yesterday but seeing as hubbs had bought a new toy - we'd thought we'd make our own.  I like my toast in the morning - hubbs is seems is not a big bread lover.

I'll post up the bread and buns later on separate posts.  Too tired now!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Another New Kitchen Toy! - Kenwood Food Mixer

Not only was I lucky enough to get a halogen oven, I also got a food mixer too!  It has a stainless steel bowl and comes with a beater (for cake mixes), whisk (meringues and cream - will be handy for chiffon cakes!) and a dough hook.  Always wanted something that would do the hard job of kneading for me!
Saying that, I did bake a loaf of bread last Sunday and make a batch of Chinese Sweet Bread Buns - one half was Cocktail Buns, the other half was Sausage Buns.

Today, I'm making a loaf of bread again and am trying out a new recipe for Chinese Sweet Bread Dough.

Dough is proving for my loaf and I'm glad I had the mixer to knead the sticky dough!  I hate it clinging to my fingers in a gooey sticky mess!

Will post the results later!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

New Kitchen Toy - Halogen Oven

This alien looking unit is our new kitchen gadget - a halogen oven

Hubbs came home yesterday bearing gifts - well new kitchen toys!  We've talked about getting a Halogen oven - which is basically an extremely large glass bowl with a powerful halogen heat source in the lid unit.  I'm not sure why this came about but our toaster has recently gone kaput after 4-5 years.  One of the heating elements on the toaster wall has broken so it no longer works.  Doesn't bother me as the grill toasts my morning bread quickly.  Hubbs likes to use the toaster bag and pops a sausage roll or samosa in the toaster to warm up.  We also have  a George Foreman grill - well it was hubbs way of cooking dinner before he met me.  George is a bit unreliable and has a dodgy power lead which sometimes turns him off.  His non-stick plates are also wearing out in places too.  Hence, we've talked about a halogen oven.  They are supposed to be quite energy efficient and also very quick to cook food.  I think it's similar to a fan oven in the sense that hot air is blown around the glass bowl cooking the food.  That is why things are placed on the racks provided to ensure heat and air circulation.

So, we gave the strange spaceship contraption it's first trial tonight.  We decided to buy a chicken to roast for dinner.  According to the instruction manual, a 1.6kg chicken will take 40 minutes to cook at 200 deg C. 

Following the instructions I pre-heated the oven and placed my chicken on the lower rack and pit some potatoes around the meat.  Listening to advice on websites from other halogen oven users I added a cup of water to the glass bowl.  That way any fats and cooking juices don't burn and stick to the bowl making washing a nightmare.

It emits a very bright light when it's cooking

Our chicken was 1.3kg so I started the timer for 30 minutes.  The strange thing about the halogen oven is that it will switch itself off for a second every now and again when it reaches optimum temperature before turning itself back on again.  I was beginning to think the chicken would never cook! 

When 30 minutes was up the chicken was a pale golden brown.  It doesn't say to flip the chicken over but I did anyway to see if the underside was cooked.  It looked rather anaemic and raw to say the least.  I drained the pink juices from the cavity, placed the chicken breast side down and cooked for a further 10 minutes. 

It was a beautiful golden brown and I gave it several pokes with a skewer before deciding it was definitely cooked.  Looked good and smelt it too!

The cooked chicken - doesn't look too bad

The roast potatoes however, were looking pretty insipid.  I changed to the taller rack (I figured the reason why the potatoes and chicken probably didn't cook that well was it was too near the bottom of the glass bowl.  With the water on the bottom it probably prevent much air and heat to circulate around the food.) and put the potatoes back in for a further 10 minutes.  They turned out a lovely brown colour.

These looked super crunchy!

The result?  The chicken was just cooked and so deliciously moist!  The bones on the carcass look a bit pink but as I'm not chewing those I don't mind!  The breast meat was so tender and juicy!  Delicious!  I struggle to recall when I last had chicken that tasty!  I will definitely cook it this way again but on the higher rack and it will be interesting to see if the chicken needs flipping over to cook the back.  The potatoes looked good but weren't crispy crunchy as a proper roast potato.  They were soft and fluffy - "Like baked potatoes." commented hubbs.  I think they had too much of a steaming having spent 30 minutes millimetres away from the water.  Maybe I could cook them on a tray with a drizzle of oil next time?

Roast chicken dinner with tenderstem broccoli and roast potatoes

Crispy Pork II

Well yesterday we had our Crispy Slow-Roasted Belly Pork with mashed potatoes and steamed greens.  Hubbs wanted the pork for lunch (I had no ideas for lunch anyway) so I steamed some white rice, stir-fried some iceberg lettuce and warmed up yesterday's left-over pork.

See how the skin has puffed up compared to yesterday?
The pork puffed up beautifully under the hot grill and as a result has an addictive light crunch to the skin!  Yum Yum!

Simply served on a bed of rice, some cooked greenery and some 5-spiced soy.  It's rather delicious!  What's good is that I don't even have to make a trip to Chinatown for this! 

Friday, 6 August 2010

Crunchy, Crispy, Crackly Pork

Crispy and crunchy crackling!

One of my favourite dinners has to be roast pork.  Now, I'm not fussy whether it's British Roast Pork or Chinese Crispy Roast Pork.  Either way it's got to have that lovely crunchy, crisp light bubbly crackling!  When I see it on a restaurant/pub menu I am often tempted to order it and salivate in eager anticipation.  Last time I saw slow roast belly pork with crackling on a pub menu, yes -  I did succumb and order it.  To be honest, I shouldn't have bothered.  The crackling was chewy tough leather.  I didn't finish the dry fibrous pork either.  Disappointing.  So, my rule is now, if I want to eat Roast Pork I have to get in the kitchen and cook it myself.  With the exception of buying the Chinese Crispy Pork though.  Have never had a bad one. 

Had to drive hubbs to work a couple of days ago as his car was still at the garage for a service.  Hubbs is a programmer for Costco UK and so it was an excuse to go wandering in for Coffee and Danish - I mean to look around the warehouse!  I haven't been to Costco for a while and they do have good quality meat there at reasonable prices.  Problem usually is that it's faaar too much for the two of us and I'm too lazy to portion and freeze the excesses.  That and I ought to clear room in the freezer too! 

I was having a good ol' browse and nosey and saw a slab of belly pork.  I was actually looking for some pork ribs as hubbs wanted them for dinner when we took my mum out for dinner on Monday.  The place we went to had a bit of a long queue so we turned tail and ran.  Hubbs didn't get his rib fix either.  I got a reasonable sized piece 1.2kg not too big for the two of us and the skin looked like it should roast and crisp up well.  (Mum has taught me not to go for the pale and flabby looking skins that despite all your efforts will not crisp and puff up for roasting.)

I finally got round to preparing the pork for dinner today.  Now I would normally prepare this at least a day in advance to allow the skin to dry out in fridge - essential in my book for crisp crackling.  I only remembered at 1:30pm to prep my pork!  OK, now, do I want to keep it plain like I would for a Roast Leg of Pork English style?  Or aromatically flavoured with Chinese 5-spice flavour?  Couldn't decide so I did both! 

I slow roasted the pork on a moderate heat in the oven so the meat would be tender - belly meat can be a bit chewy otherwise.  I think the slow-roast enabled the fat to render out too.  Last part of the cooking process was to blast the skin so it would crisp up.  It wasn't puffy like the Chinese crispy pork, but still had a satisfactory crunch to it.

Here's what I did:

Crunchy Slow-Roasted Pork Belly

1.2kg belly pork (with skin and bone)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 tsp rock salt
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 eating apple (I used braeburn)

I didn't have time or inclination to bone out the rib bones so I just scored a deep (1.5cm) cut alongside each of the rib bones on the flesh side of the pork.  This creates channels in which you rub the flavouring into.
Using a very, very sharp pointed knife, I scored the skin of the belly pork as close as I could all over.  The scoring just went in one direction, no diamonds, no cross-hatching.  My mum used to stab the skin with a multitude of small pin-prick holes using a skewer and quite frankly, I didn't have the tools or time.  I think that's the Chinese method.  I use the English way of scoring and it works fine for me.  I put a small cooling rack into the empty sink then put the pork skin-side up on the rack.  I then poured 1 pint of boiled water over the skin of the pork.  This is a Chinese trick I think to prepare the skin - I think it helps it dry out for better roasting.  After that I patted the pork dry with kitchen paper.  The hot water opens up the skin slightly anyway and you can see the score marks.

I put the pork skin-side up on a plate uncovered into the fridge until I was ready to roast.  Usually I would leave it overnight. 

Half an hour before roasting, I took the pork out of the fridge.  Turning the meat onto the skin side, I mixed 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2tsp 5-spice powder in a small dish and then used this to sprinkle into the grooves of the meat.  I gave the grooves a good rub to distribute the flavouring evenly.

I used a pestle and mortar to grind the salt pepper and oregano to powder and flipping the pork back so it was skin side up, used this to rub into the skin of the pork.  I left it under a food umbrella next to an open window. 

After 30 minutes, I patted the skin dry with kitchen paper.  Salt on the skin draws out excess water before roasting so you get a good crunchy crackling.

I sliced the apple (removing any core) and laid it on the bottom of a roasting tray.  The pork sat on top of the apple slices and I roasted this at gas mark 5 for 1hr 30minutes. 

When the time was up, I drained the meat juices and fat into a jug for later.  I cranked the heat up to gas mark 7 and put the pork back in for a 30 minute high heat blast.  This is my sure-fire way of getting the crunchy crackling I adore.  It saves having to put the pork under the grill and toasting the skin to puff it up (which I inevitably burn!).

I strained the fat off the roasted juices and used the remainder along with the mashed apple slices to make a roast gravy.

This half is tomorrow night's dinner
- I plan to serve it Chinese Style with plain rice,
spiced soy sauce and some vegetables.
On serving I showed restraint and only carved half the meat (I was feeling greedy and wanted more!) for the two of us for dinner and serve it along side mashed potato and steamed shredded greens. 

Oh, and home-made apple sauce!  I find the jar stuff too syrupy sweet and not appley enough.  It's simple enough to peel core and dice a bramley apple, plonk in a small pan, splash some water add 1-2 tbsp sugar and cook slowly 'til it's as mushy/lumpy as you like it.  I like it mashy with apple chunks and a nice sweet sharp tang!  I made my apple sauce from 1 small bramley and ate it all myself!  Hubbs is not keen on fruit with savoury food.

This is hubbs dinner - see?  No apple sauce for him means all the more for me!
This is my plate - see the big dollop of tangy apple sauce? Mmmm!

Our Roasted Pork Dinner for two! 
(& left-overs for tomorrow's dinner!)