22 June 2020

Matcha Neapolitan Sugar Cookies

I will always have a soft spot for Neapolitan ice cream, especially if it comes in a paper carton. It is the ice cream flavour I grew up eating because my parents thought this was the best way to appease an indecisive child that preferred strawberry ice cream on most days but would only eat chocolate and vanilla on the odd day. For me, Neapolitan will always be the classic combination of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, and it was not until recently that I started seeing variations of this tri-coloured and flavoured ice cream. One of the most notable ones is Japanese Neapolitan ice cream with matcha, hojicha, and black sesame flavoured ice cream. I also feel like a combination of Hong Kong milk tea, red bean, and soy milk would also make an amazing Chinese-style Neapolitan.

Today we are not making ice cream but we are borrowing the three-flavour concept of Neapolitan ice cream. These are a variation of the lavender Earl Grey sugar cookies that are in my cookbook Blooms and Baking (we are using a similar chewy sugar cookie base) but instead of being floral and tea-flavoured, we are making the cookie with three distinct but complementary flavours. Vanilla, matcha, and strawberry sugar cookie dough is gently rolled together to create a cookie of three colours and flavours. After making the base vanilla sugar cookie dough, I divide the dough into three equal portions and fold in matcha powder into one portion, fold freeze-dried strawberry powder into another, while leaving one portion plain (vanilla). The best way to add bold strawberry flavour into a baked good without changing the ratios of wet to dry ingredients too much is by adding freeze-dried strawberry powder. It is essentially dried strawberries (freeze drying removes even more moisture than dehydrating!) that have been ground into a very fine powder. In additional to adding bold strawberry flavours to the dough, it also colours the dough into a vibrant pink colour. If you want a more marbled look, you can mix the three doughs together a bit more, but be careful not to over-mix. Over-mixing will produce a cookie with muddled flavours and colour.

Matcha Neapolitan Sugar Cookies
Yields 12 - 14 cookies

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar (and more for rolling)
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
2 1⁄4 cups (270 g) all-purpose flour 
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons freeze-dried strawberry powder
2 tablespoons matcha powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set the baking sheet aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and 11⁄4 cups (250 g) of the sugar on medium speed until they are smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined and no more streaks of the flour mixture remain, about 45 seconds.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Add strawberry powder to one bowl, matcha powder to the next, while leaving one portion of dough plain.

Take a tablespoon of each dough and combine the dough by rolling between the palms of your hands.

Toss the dough balls in a bowl of sugar until dough ball is coated.

Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each ball. Bake the cookies for 10 to 13 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are light golden brown. Do not overbake the cookies. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Happy baking!

14 June 2020

Semitas de Yema (From New World Sourdough!)

My favourite thing about attending the Saveur Magazine blog awards last year was meeting all the wonderful, creative people both within and outside my Best Baking and Sweets category. Even thought it was a short 3-day stay in Cincinnati, I bonded with so many great bakers, photographers, and storytellers. I still stay in contact with many of them — Erika and I still chat regularly about recipe testing and about how we cannot wait to visit each other, Hannah and I love to vent about the process of writing recipes and share our love of getting our nails done (haha), I love watching all of Alexandria’s fun TikTok videos, and I am always so blown away by Bryan’s talent when it comes to bread making (a skill that I wish to one day possess).

Today we are celebrating Bryan Ford of Artisan Bryan’s upcoming cookbook, New World Sourdough. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that before the Saveur blog awards, I was not too familiar with Bryan’s work. Before Saveur, I mostly followed cake decorators and sugar cookie artists because that is more aligned with what I do here. Since learning more about Bryan’s work, I have been obsessed. Bryan’s knowledge of all things sourdough is beyond impressive. His website showcases sourdough baking heavily influenced by his Honduran roots but he also gives a spotlight to his New Orleans upbringing with recipes like New Orleans King Cake, Sourdough Beignets, and more. He also shares many of his recipes in Spanish and creates step-by-step tutorial videos of techniques that will help one become a better bread baker.

I was so excited (but also a bit nervous) to receive Bryan’s book. I am not at all familiar with bread/sourdough baking but I am glad that this book is one of my first introductions to this area of baking. New World Sourdough is so informative and breaks down the process of creating a sourdough starter, to building a levain, to the final bake with the greatest detail. The recipe I chose to make first is for Semitas de Yema, a semisweet and dense brioche-style bread capped with a crisp mixture of coconut oil and sugar.  Bryan said that the crispy sugar layer can be made into different colours, so I chose to make mine white (like his!) swirled with a bit of soft pink. This is how Bryan introduces this recipe:

“Almost every day after school, I would wait for my dad to bring home a bag of semitas from the local Honduran bodega. My parents enjoyed afternoon coffee more often than not, and as these are best dipped in hot coffee, it was a ritual of sorts for us to enjoy semitas with warm beverages on the porch. I didn’t drink coffee when I was young, so warm milk or hot chocolate was my go-to. Even when we moved to a New Orleans suburb, there were pockets of Central American people and markets, so finding these classic treats was easy.”

Congratulations on your new book, Bryan! I am so happy to have met you last year in Cincinatti.

Semitas de Yema
Yields 16 buns

Levain Build
100 g mature sourdough starter
150 g bread flour
50 g whole-wheat flour
200 g warm water

Final Dough Mix
500 g bread flour
500 g all-purpose flour
200 g egg yolks
250 g granulated sugar
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100 g water
350 g levain
5 g salt

La Cubierta
200 g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
150 g coconut oil
100 g granulated sugar

To build the levain
In a tall jar or medium bowl, mix the mature starter, flours, and warm water until incorporated. Cover with a lid or clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 3 to 4 hours until doubled. You can use your levain immediately, or refrigerate it for 12 hours to use later or the next day.

To make the final dough mix
In a large bowl, mix all the final dough mix ingredients, squeezing them with both hands until a dough starts to come together.

Cover the dough with a clean kitchen cloth or plastic bag and let ferment at room temperature for 6 hours. Refrigerate the dough for 12 hours.

To make la cubierta
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit on the counter while you make la cubierta.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, coconut oil, and granulated sugar. Whisk rapidly until you have a soft, crumbly mixture. You want it to be more dry than wet, so, if needed, add a bit more flour. Turn the mixture out on to a work surface and gently knead it into a ball. Set aside.

To shape and proof the dough
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Divide the dough into 120-g pieces (about 16 pieces) and shape each one using the balling up technique.

Take a small handful of the cubierta mixture (around 20 g, but you don’t need to measure); make a flat disk with the mixture and place it on top of each rounded dough ball. Place the dough rounds on the prepared sheet pan.

Proof the dough at room temperature for 4 hours until you see some cracking in the cubierta and growth in size.

You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when the cubierta is cracking; however, it may not always crack. Use a razor blade or knife to cut some designs into the cubierta before baking, as desired.

To bake the bread
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Bake the semitas on the sheet pan for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool for 15 or 20 minutes to ensure they are cooked all the way through before eating.

Remember, these are best enjoyed with your favourite cup of coffee. Dip it in and enjoy.

Happy baking!

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!


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