30 May 2020

Strawberry Genmaicha Cream Puffs

If you follow me on Instagram you will notice that I have been loving Valrhona's Inspiration collection, a line of fruit couvertures that come in strawberry, raspberry, yuzu, and passionfruit.  I have yet to play with the raspberry fèves but I know I want to incorporate them in a super rich and fudgey dark chocolate cookie. The raspberry would also make a lovely ganache glaze for a doughnut — a cruller specifically, with the bright pink glaze enrobing all the groves of the cruller. I love the convenience of these couvertures because you can infuse intense fruit flavours without having to cook down and reduce the actual fruit and worry about adding too much liquid to your ganaches or whipped creams. I have been using them mostly in whipped ganaches and folding them into cookie doughs (exhibit a, exhibit b, exhibit c).

I made these puffs for my dad's birthday a few months back and the family loved them. Choux puffs topped with craquelin are filled with a genmaicha whipped cream and each puff gets two big swirls of whipped strawberry ganache made with the strawberry fèves. Alternatively, you could make a white chocolate ganache and fold in several tablespoons of freeze-dried strawberry powder to get a similar ganache. I made little white chocolate decorations to top these puffs because my dad deserves all the love.

Strawberry Genmaicha Cream Puffs
Yields 10 cream puffs

Whipped Strawberry Ganache
114g (2/3 cup) Valrhona Strawberry Inspiration fèves (or any strawberry chocolate of your choice), roughly chopped
240ml (1 cup) heavy cream

Finely chop the chocolate and place into a bowl.

In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Once mixture has boiled, pour milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until thoroughly melted and combined. Set in the refrigerator to chill, at least 4 hours.

Once chilled and ready to use, transfer the ganache to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip ganache to medium-stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a open star pastry tip to pipe into choux pastries once baked.

Genmaicha Whipped Cream
240ml (1 cup) heavy cream
4 genmaicha tea bags

In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Once mixture has boiled, place genmaicha tea bags into the hot cream. Remove saucepan from heat. Allow the tea bags to steep for at least 20 minutes.

Transfer cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the cream to chill in the refrigerator to chill until cold, at least 4 hours.

Once chilled and ready to use, transfer the cream to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip to medium peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a medium round pastry tip to pipe into choux pastries once baked.

25g (2 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
25g (2 tablespoon) brown sugar
25g (4 tablespoon) all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until smooth.

Roll out the craquelin dough to 1/8-inch in thickness. Use a cookie cutter and cut out 12 2-inch circles. Set aside.

Pâte à Choux
57mL (1/4 cup) water
57mL (1/4 cup) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
57g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
70g (1/2 cup and 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
110g (~2 1/2 eggs) large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat, and immediately add in all the flour. Quickly stir in the flour, using a rubber spatula, and return saucepan back over medium-high heat.

Continue to stir the mixture, without stopping, until the paste is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. It will pull away from the sides of the pan and leave a thin coating of cooked paste on the bottom when ready. The texture should resemble dry mashed potatoes.

Transfer the paste to a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for the choux to cool down.

While the mixer is running on medium, gradually stream in the lightly beaten eggs. Mix until well combined.

Transfer the pâte à choux to the prepared piping bag with a round tip. Pipe out 10 choux mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving roughly 2 inches between each puff. If you are making choux with a craquelin top, this is when you want to add the craquelin to the choux mounds.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately bake choux puffs for 35 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and turn down the oven to 325F, then bake for 10 minutes more until choux are deeply golden. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack to cool.

Cut off the top of the choux with a serrated knife.

Pipe the choux cavity with genmaicha whipped cream until it reaches the brim of the bottom choux half.

Pipe two layers of whipped strawberry chocolate ganache.

Top cream puff with other choux half like a hat. Decorate with dollops of genmaicha cream.

Serve immediately.

Happy baking!

28 May 2020

Strawberry Toast Box

There are classic, humble Asian sweet snacks like bubble tea, bubble waffles, and wheel cakes, but when the occasion calls for an over-the-top dessert (both architecturally and in terms of the amount of ingredients used), toast boxes prevail. Toast boxes (also known as honey toast, brick toast, or Shibuya toast) are exactly what their name suggests — a buttery crispy bread box filled with all sorts of sweets. Huffington Post calls a toast box 'a cabin construction of buttery French toast bricks' and I like that description a lot. When I was growing up, toast boxes were as synonymous to tea shops as bubble tea. Every Friday night, my friends and I would visit our go-to bubble tea shop and order our favourite drinks and several different flavours of toast boxes to share. I feel like they have lost a bit of their popularity throughout the years, but that does not make them any less special to me.

Toast boxes may sound complicated and laborious but they are actually extremely simple to 'make'. I put make in quotations because toast boxes are more about assembly with pre-made, often store-bought, ingredients rather than making each component from scratch. 

First things first, a toast box starts with the fluffiest white bread. Milk bread is my preferred bread when it comes to assembling this edible architectural masterpiece. The loaf of bread is hollowed out, buttered, and fried/baked until golden. The hollowed out bread pieces do not go to waste. The bread is cubed and also toasted until golden. These cubes are layered with the other ingredients of the dessert. You can fill your toast box with whatever you like but the more colour, texture, and height the better, so do not skimp on the fillings and garnishes. Typically, there will be a fresh fruit component, some sort of whipped cream, sweetener (condensed milk or honey), and ice cream. Since strawberries are in season right now, I filled my toast box with variations of strawberry (fresh fruit, ice cream, filled cookie straws), matcha whipped cream, tapioca pearls, and condensed milk. Toast boxes are best served fresh, when the toast is still a bit warm and provides such nice contrast to the ice cream and chilled fruit.

Strawberry Toast Box
Serves 2 - 3

1 4-inch loaf of milk bread or soft, unsliced white bread of your choice (there should be crust on 5 sides)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
6 - 8 strawberries, halved and quartered
1/2 cup whipped cream, divided
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 cup cooked tapioca ('boba') pearls
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1 scoop strawberry ice cream
2 cookie straws

Place loaf onto a cutting board with the crustless side of the loaf facing upwards. Starting from the crustless side of the bread, use a sharp serrated knife to cut a square out of the centre of the loaf (do not cut all the way through), leaving a 1/2-inch border on all four sides and at the bottom crust. Turn the loaf onto its side, with the crustless side facing your left. Using the same knife, make a slit along the right edge of the now top side (crusted), leaving a 1/2-inch border. This will make the removal of the interior of the bread easier.

Remove the cube of bread that you have now detached with the cuts. Cut the cube of bread into 1-inch pieces. Leave the box intact.

Swirl 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter onto a pan over medium heat. Place the bread box onto the pan and fry the first side until golden. Repeat with remaining sides until all sides of the box is golden, adding more melted butter when necessary. Transfer toasted bread box to a cooling rack.

Add remaining butter to the pan and toss 1-inch bread cubes in the butter and fry until golden. Using chopsticks to flip the bread cubes is helpful. Transfer bread cubes to the cooling rack as well.

*Alternatively, you can do these steps in the oven and bake the bread box and bread cubes until they are golden. I find that you get a more even golden colour when you do it on the stove.

Transfer bread box to a plate, with the hollowed side facing upwards. Add half of the toasted bread cubes into the box. Top with a handful of strawberries. Layer with 1/4 cup of the whipped cream (I divided my whipped cream into two portions and folded in matcha powder to the first portion). Drizzle a tablespoon of condensed milk. Add remaining bread cubes, strawberries, and whipped cream. Spoon on tapioca pearls, top with ice cream, drizzle with remaining condensed milk. Garnish with cookie straws.

Enjoy immediately.

Happy baking!

20 May 2020

Easy Sugared (Tanghulu-style) Strawberries

Since I have been sharing Instagram Stories tutorials of many of my favourite childhood treats, I knew I had to share a recipe for these sugared strawberries. This is perhaps the most simple 'recipe' of all the childhood snacks and calling it a recipe seems a bit silly. Traditionally, tanghulu is made with mountain hawthorn (山楂) covered in a hard candy coating served on a long bamboo skewer, but nowadays it is common to deviate from the use of hawthorn to other types fruits. I had my first tanghulu (with strawberries) at a summer night market many years back and since then have made it a tradition to get a skewer every summer the night market makes its seasonal return.

The sugar coating is perhaps the most important part of this treat and in order for it to be a true tanghulu, the sugar coating must be extremely crisp and shatter upon the first bite. Tanghulu are sometimes called bingtanghulu, with the word 'bing' meaning 'ice' and describing the candy coating of this treat. This treat is traditionally served in the wintertime because the heat of summers in China tends to melt the sugar coating. I personally enjoy making these treats in the summertime because strawberries are so fragrant this time of the year. The sugar coating will soften as the strawberries sit and release moisture, so you want to make these as close to serving time as possible.

Easy Sugared (Tanghulu-style) Strawberries
Yields 14 - 16 sugared strawberries

16 strawberries, washed and dried
250g (1 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
125g (1/2 cup) water
Red food colouring (optional)

Wash strawberries and dry them completely. Moisture will prevent the sugar coating from fully adhering. Once dried, skewer strawberries on bamboo or lollipop sticks.

Line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small pot over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Allow the sugar to melt without stirring the mixture.

As the syrup boils and it starts to turn a very light golden colour (it should read 150C on a candy thermometer, about 8 - 10 minutes over medium heat), turn off the heat. If you are not using a candy thermometer, please use the 'cold water test.' When you drizzle some of the hot sugar syrup into a bowl of cold water, the sugar should harden into sugar ribbons that you can break with a 'snap.' If the sugar in the cold water is still flexible or does not create the 'snap,' the sugar is not ready yet. This sugar is ready to coat the strawberries when the sugar mixture reaches 150C/ if it passes the cold water test. Stir in a few drops of red food colouring now if using.

Tilt the pot slightly, so more syrup pools on one side of the pot. Dip a strawberry into the syrup and turn the stick gently to cover the strawberry completely. Allow excess syrup to drip off and place sugared strawberry on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the strawberries are sugared.

Allow the sugar coating to harden completely before removing from the baking sheet, about 10 minutes. 

Serve immediately.

Happy baking!

17 May 2020

DIY Meet Fresh: Yam and Taro Ball Dessert

Perhaps it is because I grew up eating it a lot more, I find myself craving Chinese dessert more often than non-Chinese desserts. I always want dessert 'soups' with coconut milk, grass jelly, and cubes of fresh fruit. I will always say yes to my mom's pearl barley and bean curd dessert. And you know I will be having at least two bowls of 楊枝甘露 (chilled mango pomelo sago) during warm summer days. Most of these aforementioned Chinese desserts are often homemade and enjoyed in the comforts of my parents' home. When we are out, we opt for dessert options that are more laborious if we were to make it at home. I love frequenting dessert shops that specialize in taro desserts. Taro is very common ingredient and flavour in Chinese desserts and I am here for it. I grew up eating shaved ice with tender taro chunks and taro balls and nowadays, I always find an excuse to go to Meet Fresh or Blackball for their signature taro desserts.

Over the last few weeks, I have started making my own version of these desserts and have found so much joy learning more and more about all the different types of rice flours and starches used in Chinese sweets. Through making many batches of taro balls, yam balls, and sweet potato balls, I think I have found the ideal ratio of these root vegetables to tapioca starch. My mom loves everything taro as much I do, so I made a build-your-own dessert bowl type of situation for her for Mother's Day. The set up is exactly like the set up at Meet Fresh or Blackball — grass jelly, yam balls, taro balls, boba pearls, brown sugar syrup, evaporated milk, condensed milk and homemade ice cream ready to be layered in a dessert cup or bowl. I am so excited to share my love of this Chinese dessert with you, which in my opinion, is the perfect summer treat.

Yam and Taro Ball Dessert
*Note you can always scale up or down the recipe to make more or less taro and yam balls. You just want to make sure you keep the ratios of ingredients the same.

Taro Balls
250g taro, steamed and mashed (~about 1/4 of a large taro root)
85g tapioca starch
3 - 5 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Yam Balls
150g yam, steamed and mashed (~about 1 medium-sized yam)
45g tapioca starch

Clean and remove the skin of taro root and yams. Cut the root vegetables into large cubes and place inside a steamer basket above a large pot of water. Steam until root vegetables are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

Once the root vegetables are tender, transfer the taro to one bowl (250g) and the yams (150g) to another bowl. Use a fork and mash the root vegetables. Leaving small chunks is okay, it will give more texture to the balls.

For taro balls: add tapioca starch, water, and sugar to the taro paste and mix until fully combined. If you taro dough is too crumbly or dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together.

For yam balls: add tapioca starch to the yam paste and mix until fully combined. Unlike taro root, yams contains quite a bit of moisture and sweetness, so we can omit adding any water or sugar to the mixture.

Shape the dough into balls, slightly larger than the size of boba pearl (my dad says the size of a Malteser is perfect).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the taro and yam balls into the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the pearls float to the top, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Transfer the cooked balls to a bowl of cold water to prevent it from cooking further.

Remove from cold water and set the balls aside.

Brown Sugar Syrup
5 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons water

In small pot over medium heat, combine brown sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until mixture thickens a bit and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool down a bit, about 10 minutes.

To assemble
Grass jelly
Taro and yam balls
Cooked boba pearls
Brown sugar syrup
Evaporated milk
Ice cream

To assemble, fill half a cup or small bowl with grass jelly, top with taro balls, yam balls, boba pearls, and any other toppings of choice. Drizzle brown sugar syrup and evaporated milk to taste. Top with a big scoop of ice cream. Enjoy immediately.

Happy baking!


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