Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Steamed Bao

Here's the thing about being on an allergy free diet, especially to corn or to soy. Cannot eat out without a risk of getting a food allergy reaction. When I had cravings, oh boy, you betcha I wasn't in good company. One of many meals I missed when I couldn't eat out was dim sum. I luv the little dishes and the fun of picking out my favorite dishes. Of course, these little dishes definitely come with MSG and so many other ingredients I cannot pronounce. But I really wanted to eat the little dishes without getting Camden's sick. So for my 2012 New Year's resolution, I wanted to master the art of making dim sum.

After searching, scanning, and reading many dim sum recipes in cookbooks and on the internet, I came across a few recipes that looked promising. I highly recommend a cute children's book called Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin. Check out the back of the cover and the back pages where there are drawings of ingredients and little dishes. For cookbooks, I highly recommend Dim Sum: The art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder. The ingredients are easy to find in Asian markets, and her instructions are easy to follow.

Of course, making the dim sum to eat at once was impossible. Too many techniques. Too many little dishes. I did it a few times, and it took a lot of planning. Did I master the art of making dim sum? Not even close. These little dishes are really difficult to master. BUT I did accomplish a few things like steaming bao buns. Since I already master the art of making bread (from my 2011 New Year's resolution), making bao buns is like boiling water. Yup, it's that easy.

Steamed bao is one of Brek's favorite homemade breads. When my mom came to live with us last year, I made steamed bao for dinner one night. Between steamed bao and chicken lunch meat, she was very impressed. She kept asking me how did I managed to pull these off. Well, I told her, I can pretty much bake and cook anything. It's the matter of researching the recipes and techniques, and taking the time to test the recipes.

Are you wonder what is the difference between the pizza dough and the bao dough? Baking powder and among other things. The ingredients are what make the difference texture in the steamed bao. So let's start measuring, mixing, and kneading the dough.

Steamed Bao
adapted from Dim Sum: The art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder
makes 15 buns (2 to 2.5 oz each)

Starter ingredients:
1 cup (8 oz) warm water (105° to 115°F)
2 teaspoons yeast (Red Star)
1/2 cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour

Dough ingredients:
2 cups (8 oz) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) coconut oil
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) rice vinegar
  1. To make a starter, mix all of the starter ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside until the mixture is foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on a room temperature.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk the oil and vinegar into the starter mixture.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the starter mixture.
  5. Knead the dough on the non-stick mat until it comes together, about 3-4 minutes. (See my pizza dough recipe's step 5 for the kneading technique.)
  6. Place the dough back into a bowl.
  7. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rises in a warm and draft-free place until double in size, about an hour. NOTE: I usually make the dough in the morning, then I'd let the dough sit at the room temperature until I am ready to make dinner. 
  8. In the meantime, cut out 15 one-inch square of parchment papers and set aside.
  9. When the dough is ready, punch it down and knead it for a minute.
  10. Divide the dough into 15 equal parts or using the kitchen scale, measure the dough to 2 to 2.5 ounce each.
  11. Shape each dough into a ball by continuously fold the side of the dough to the middle. Keep doing this step until the dough feels smooth on top.
  12. To steam the bao dough without a filling, place it on a parchment paper and place it in the steamer. NOTE: The steamed bao will double in size. Make sure the dough are about an inch apart when placing them in a steamer. 
  13. To steam the bao dough with a filling, flatting the dough with your finger, add the filling, then pinch the edges to seal. Place the dough seam side down on a parchment paper and place it in the steamer.
  14. Steam the dough for 12 minutes. NOTE: Start the clock when the steam is visible.  
  15. Serve the bao warm. Keep them in the steamer to keep warm. Store the leftover bao in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat them using a steamer.
TIPS: You can pretty much use any steamer to steam the bao. I use the stacked steamer. For presentation, I place them in the bamboo steamer before serving. The stacked steamer can be purchased at the Asian grocery stores, and it is really inexpensive. I bought a medium-size steamer for about $30.

The possibilities to having different steamed bao versions are endless. Split the unfilled bao in half, then add any favorite filling, from deli meat to pulled pork, just like you would use with regular sandwich bread.

Allergy Info: The steamed bao is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. Make the filling according to your allergy free diet.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coffee Cake (dairy free)

I discovered Joanne Chang while I was watching Unique Sweet and other cooking shows. She was pretty fun to watch in the Sticky Buns Throwdown with Bobby Flay. When I realized she wrote a cookbook, I searched for it at my local library. Flour is the name of her cookbook and also the name of her pastry shop. If I ever visit Boston, I will have to check out her café. 
After scanning through her cookbook, I bookmarked so many recipes and couldn't hardly wait to test them all. Most of her recipes called for dairy like butter and cream cheese, so I did make changes to her recipes to make them dairy free. 

I tested her coffee cake recipe because I was looking for something to bake for Brek's school breakfast. Her recipe called for cream cheese which I hate. I mean, I love to eat it. If cream cheese is called for in a recipe, it is very difficult to find a substitute as I don't use soy cream cheese. I decided to test it out with mashed ripe banana. Surprisingly, it turned out very moist and reminded me of a banana bread with crunchy streusel. Brek loves it, and I do too. It's been my go-to breakfast to bake for Brek ever since.

This is also a great way to use that ripen banana that I don't know what to do with it. When I have too many ripen bananas, I peel and freeze them for future baking. I usually add nuts to my recipes when I can. For the crunch. My favorite nuts are almonds and cashews. If you cannot have nuts in your diet, omit it in the streusel. I haven't tested this recipe without nuts or with other substitutes, but I think replacing the nuts with rolled oats or seeds is a good alternative.

I wrote this recipe using regular muffin pan. I've successfully baked this coffee cake using the half round loaf pan, a 8-inch square pan, and a bundt cake pan. The reason I've bake this recipe in many baking pans is because my kids eat with the eyes. Same recipe but different impressions. Feel free to explore the baking pan options. You may need to bake the cake a little longer so check the cake doneness using a toothpick technique after 15 minutes of baking. If I bake this coffee cake for Brek's breakfast, I usually bake it in a muffin pan for the easy grab-n-go.

Coffee Cake
makes 6 regular-muffin size
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
5 oz granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) coconut or safflower oil
1 large egg
1 ripe medium banana (3 oz), peeled and mashed 

1 1/2 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1.5 oz) preferred nuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 (0.4 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 Tablespoon (1 oz) coconut oil, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degree. Line a 6-cup regular muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray the pan with vegetable oil. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the egg, sugar, and oil until creamy.
  4. Whisk the flour mixture to the egg mixture until just combine.
  5. Fold in the mashed banana.
  6. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, making sure the batter is divided evenly.
  7. To make the streusel, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  8. Divide the streusel evenly on top of the batter.
  9. Using your finger, press the streusel right into the center of batter. Then spread the streusel to cover the hole.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven until the toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.
  11. Let cool before serving. Keep them in an airtight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.  
  12. Allergy Info: This coffee cake is free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. For nut free, substitute nuts with rolled oats or seeds and coconut oil with safflower oil.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chocolate Strawberry-Marshmallow Whoopie Pie

I get so inspired every time I watch Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel. And let me tell you, I watch it at least one episode a week... well, more like every other day. I watch it again and again, and all the episodes never get old.

The sweets that stood out the most were the ones with the natural ingredients. No food coloring. Raw foods. One of the bakers made red velvet cupcakes using beet juice as food coloring. How cool is that. After thinking about baking without artificial food coloring and flavoring, I wondered what my maple syrup marshmallows would taste like if I added the freeze dried strawberries right after I made a new batch.

I heart freeze dried strawberry!!! The marshmallows had that strawberry aromatic. So much fragrant that if I didn't make them myself, I'd think a strawberry extract or some sort of artificial strawberry flavor was added to the recipe. Now I'm so addicting to freeze dried strawberry. I want to bake more things with them as a highlighted ingredient.

The other day, I was flipping through a baking book, reading out the recipes' names. Brek stopped me when a recipe caught his attention and told me, "You haven't made whoopie pie in awhile." He was right. Last time I made them was for Halloween treats. The very next day, I came up with chocolate strawberry-marshmallow whoopie pie recipe.

Luv, luv, luv!!! Brek really liked the strawberry aromatic in the marshmallows. Camden wanted only strawberry-marshmallows because... well, he just loved marshmallows. I think he was on to something because strawberry-marshmallows did taste good by itself.

I highly recommend using a whoopie pie pan for this recipe as each cake will bake perfectly round with a good dome. It also comes in handy for not just baking whoopie pies. I've baked cookies with this pan to achieve that perfectly rounded cookies. (Check out my perfectly rounded chocolate chip cookies).

Chocolate Strawberry-Marshmallow Whoopie Pie
makes 6

Chocolate Cake
3 Tablespoons (0.7 oz) cocoa powder
3 teaspoons instant coffee granulate (optional)
3/4 cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) coconut milk
3 Tablespoons safflower oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Spray the whoopie pie pan with the cooking oil. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, coffee granulate, flour, and baking powder. Set aside
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar.
  4. Add the milk and oil then whisk until creamy.
  5. Mix in the flour mixture just until just combine.
  6. Using the medium scoop, place the batter onto the prepared whoopie pie pan.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven until the toothpick inserted in the middle of any cake comes out clean, about 10 minutes.
  8. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cakes into the rack to cool completely. NOTE: While the cakes are cooling, make the strawberry-marshmallows (recipe follows).
  9. Turn over 6 of the cakes.
  10. Scoop about 3 tablespoons of strawberry-marshmallows onto the cakes.
  11. Place the other cakes on top of the strawberry-marshmallows to make whoopie pies.
  12. Roll the side of the marshmallows onto the crushed freeze dried strawberry.
  13. Serve right away or keep them in an airtight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.
2 cups freshly whipped maple syrup marshmallows
2-3 Tablespoons freeze dried strawberry, divided

NOTE: Look for the freeze dried strawberry that only have strawberries as an ingredient. Just Strawberries is what I used in this recipe. One bag is pretty expensive, so I use them wisely in my baking.

Wait until the chocolate cakes are made and in the cooling stage before making the marshmallows. The freshly whipped marshmallows make it easier to place between the cakes. Only 2 cups are needed for this recipe. What to do with the leftover marshmallows? Make regular marshmallows or add more crushed freeze dried strawberry to make more strawberry-marshmallows for future treats. (Notice the chocolate covered strawberry-marshmallows photographs. See, the possibilities of strawberry-marshmallows are endless.)
  1. While the marshmallows are whipping in the stand alone mixture, roughly break the freeze dried strawberries into small pieces.
  2. Once the maple syrup marshmallows are freshly whipped, scoop about 2 cups into a bowl. (Just estimate the amount that'd be enough for 6 whoopie pies.)
  3. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the crushed freeze dried strawberries.
  4. Use the strawberry-marshmallows right away, as stated in the instruction above. Save about a tablespoon of crushed freeze dried strawberries as garnish.
Allergy Info: The chocolate strawberry-marshmallow whoopie pie is free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Candied Heart Beets

Yes, candied heart beets. What a fun name!!! Since I promised myself to eat more veggies and fruits for my 2014 new year's resolution, I've been looking out for new veggies and fruits that I have yet tried. One of them was beets. But I seriously didn't know what to do with the beets. I didn't know how to cook them or to eat them.

With the Valentine's day approaching, I decided to give the beets a try. I bought a bunch home, but I kept passing them, sitting in my veggie basket. Contemplating!!! Then it occurred to me. "Hey, maybe I can dried them into chips like I did with the old apples." Oh boy!!! Did I find something sweeter AND healthy for my kids and me!!!

I made just enough to fill up one tray. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. The baking time really depends on how thick the beet slices are.

Candied Heart Beets
serve 2

2-3 raw beets
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 225°F degrees.
  2. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside
  3. Wash and peel the beets.
  4. Thinly slice the beets with a vegetable peeler or a knife, making sure they are the same thickness. A mandolin slicer would work too.
  5. Using a heart shape cookie cutter, cut the beet slices into heart shapes.
  6. Coat each beet slice with the sugar on both sides.
  7. Arrange the slices onto the prepared baking sheet, a few centimeter apart. NOTE: I also baked the scrapes of the beets without sugar. I grinded them to make beet powder for future baking when red food coloring is called for.
  8. Bake the beet slices in a preheated oven for an hour.
  9. Turn off the oven but leave the beet slices into the oven until crispy, about 2 hours or overnight. NOTE: The baking time for making candied heart beets really depends on the thickness of the beet slices. Be sure to check each beet slice for the crispiness to the touch before baking them longer. If the beet slices are still soft to touch, turn the oven on to 225°F degrees then turn it off as soon as the oven is preheated. Leave the beet slices in the oven for another hour.
  10. Enjoy or store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
Allergy Info: These candied heart beets are free from or can be make without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. Told ya these beets are healthy snack!!!