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Category Archives: Nibbles

Passion – the test

In an earlier post, I had shared about how my passion for bread started a few years ago.

However, with the big move back to a tropical island, it felt too warm to bake and sweat out in the kitchen. Physical inertia set in.

Besides, the climate change also meant that the conditions are different for baking bread now. What I had learnt earlier about bread making had to be adapted to the tropical climate. Mental inertia reinforced the physical inertia.

I can be so weak at times.

It was then that I met A who bakes bread loaves.

She explained to me that the baking conditions here are actually favourable for bread as it’s warm throughout the year. She shared with me about her preferred ingredients that could be bought in local shops. And she was kind enough to invite me to her home to bake bread together.

A’s home-made bread loaf was soft, chewy and fragrant like those at well-established bakeries. It was good enough to be eaten on its own. I felt motivated to try bread making again.

I started gathering with friends to bake bread. Together, we experimented with various recipes and methods. 

This Chinese styled 花巻 is tasty on its own, with a tinge of sesame oil aroma.

花巻 with some chopped ham and parsley (or fresh green onions).

Gradually, I understood how to make the best of the new environment for baking bread. I learnt where to get the best ingredients. I also saved up to buy an oven.

My passion for bread was reignited!

This cheese loaf is truely satisfying.

Hot cross buns

Along the way, H-chan and her mother introduced me to a quick and easy method by Murakami Sachiko that resulted in light and soft bread rolls in an hour.

By cleverly using the microwave oven, this method required only a third of the usual time needed for making bread.

Second proofing in the microwave

The most appealing part was that there was no hard work of kneading by hand, so even a child could bake bread like a professional baker!

Delicious bread in less than an hour!

I tripled the earlier recipe and made BIG bacon and onion breads!

Kneading by hand can be challenging especially when working with a recipe that uses eggs and lots of butter. In the hot and humid weather here, butter melts really quickly and it is very hard to knead a very wet and sticky dough.

However, there is something I find immensely satisfying and relaxing when kneading a dough by hand .

I also get to practise working through the 4th dimension each time I knead.

I start off by visualising the end product – delicious bread.

No matter how sticky and unmanageable the dough is, I keep a mental picture of what I want to achieve – a smooth and elastic dough, which will in turn become delicious bread.

At the kneading stage, this is in the 4th dimension as it is yet unseen in the 3rd dimensional world. I keep kneading until the dough I can see in this 3rd dimensional world fits what my mind saw in the 4th dimension earlier.

The next stage of waiting and watching the dough rise is simply magical.

Of course, the climax is when the aroma of freshly baked bread fills the air and the bread reaches the mouth.

Tadah ~ a hearty bread!

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Posted by on January 12, 2011 in Nibbles, Scribbles

 

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Joy to the World

One of my most joyous Christmas eve was spent carolling to the accompaniment of a hymn player, outside a church building, as snow fell quietly onto me.

Hence, when I saw a post about a gingerbread bread house, I decided to make one with the scene of that memorable Christmas eve.

Following the clear instructions on the post, I was able to build my first gingerbread bread house effortlessly.

Ingredients to make a loaf of chocolate nutty (walnut), fruity (cranberry) and spicy (cinnamon + nutmeg) bread

 

A peaceful scene was created with "fallen snow" ~ icing sugar!

 

Some non-food items were gathered to complete the garden around the house.

 

Welcome to God's house of love.

 

The angels said, "I bring you good news of great joy..." Luke 2:10

 

Today a Saviour has been born to you.

 

Snowman rolls on the ground cheering, "Joy to the World! The Lord has come!"

Jesus Christ is God’s special Christmas present, a gift of joy and love, to the world.

Have you accepted that special gift?

May the joy and love of Christmas fill your home and warm your heart.

Have a blessed Christmas.

イエスキリストは神様から特別なクリスマスプレセントです。

あなたはその喜びと愛を与える贈り物もう受け入れましたか?

楽しいクリスマスを!

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2010 in Nibbles, Scribbles

 

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Passion – the beginning

Before 2005, I appreciated good bread but I wouldn’t say that I was crazy about bread.

Then, through a common acquaintance, I met T, and things changed.

T taught me how to make bread by hand.

Making anpan-man (literally red bean breadman)

I found it intriguing that simple ingredients such as flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter, milk and water when combined together could change so much in form and produce something delicious known as b r e a d.

I marvelled at the science involved in the entire process of bread making to provide the best environment for the yeast to work with the other ingredients.

I noted how meticulous T was, always using a digital scale to weigh each ingredient, and a thermometer to ensure that the liquids were of the right temperature (30C).

T's hand written recipes

T taught me how to knead the dough by hand. We took turns to knead non-stop for a good 15-20 minutes, until the dough passed the window-pane test so that the dough would be of the right elasticity for the bread to rise evenly.

During the first rising (40 mins), a cling wrap was used to cover the dough while it doubled in size. In the cold months, this would take place in a warm water bath of 32-33C. T would stick a finger into the middle of the dough and if the depression remained, the first rising would be completed.

Beard Papas or Santas?

Next, the dough was divided into smaller pieces and allowed to rest for 20 minutes (benchtime). T would weigh each dough piece to ensure that they would all be the same size.

The next step involved pressing out the air in each piece of dough, and shaping the pieces into buns followed by a second rising (20 mins). A conducive environment at this stage would be to cover the buns with a piece of thick cloth and to have a moist cloth over.

Finally, egg wash was brushed all over the top of the buns and off they went into the oven (180C) to be baked for 15 minutes.

Christmas tree bread

The entire process took no less than 3 hours.

On days when we had the luxury of time to have tea-time together, we would make side dishes or desserts (while waiting for the bread to rise) to accompany our freshly baked bread.

The dining hall would ring of our delighted voices as we enjoy the ‘bread’ of our labour, and the air would be filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

16 March 2006 *~ Fresh bread to start the day *~ This is my mailbox. It holds little surprises from friends here and afar. Today, a freshly baked raisin bread was in there. It was from T. T and I started off as bread-baking friends. We dream of posting little notices at the local train station and customers showing up at 5:30pm to pick up fresh breads from our ovens. Although we do not always meet, we send each other our thoughts through this mailbox.

T’s passion for bread had influenced me to come to truly love and appreciate good bread. Even after she had moved to another part of the country, I would attempt to make bread on my own, recalling all the hands-on techniques that she had taught me, and following the notes that she had written.

It all started as a curious meeting to make some fresh bread, yet something in me blossomed into a love for bread, and between T and I, there is a friendship that has lasted half a decade across the oceans.

Today, our passion for bread making is still bubbling in our separate kitchens and T continues to spur me on to try new recipes and to keep baking.

 

台所                 From the kitchen comes

美味しいにおい   the delicious aroma

手捏ねパン        of hand kneaded bread

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Nibbles

 

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Cheesy pizzas

I love pizzas, especially the cheesy ones.

It’s not just the taste of cheese that I love. It’s also the delight of pulling a slice of pizza with its melted cheese away from the whole pizza.

But I had been disappointed by many home-delivered pizzas not showing up with those stringy cheese I saw on their ads. Most recently, I was let down by both the taste and the look of a 7-cheese pizza.

And now I know why…

Oh well, the chef said it right, the best tasting (and best looking) pizzas are the ones fresh from the oven.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2010 in Nibbles

 

What’s in the fridge?

A small bitter gourd

A slice of dried beancurd

A few eggs

Some sliced pork

And my brain computes that I can make goya champuru!

This Okinawan dish is basically a mix of vegetable (goya which is bitter gourd) and beancurd, stir fried together. Often, pork and eggs are added. It is closer to Chinese cooking than Japanese cooking.

When I first heard the word ‘champuru’, I thought of the Malay word ‘campur’ (mixture) and the Hokkien word ‘cham’ (mix). Or is the latter also borrowed from the Malay language?

The linguist in me is ever so curious, so I did a search and on the Japanese Wikipedia, and there was a source that recorded that the origin of the Okinawan word ‘champuru’ is indeed from the Malay word ‘campur’. I’ve yet to find the link between the Malay and Hokkien words, although the likelihood is very high in this multi-lingual and multi-racial country.

Anyway, I call this the “what’s in the fridge” goya champuru recipe. Hence, the proportion may not be the best.

 

WITF Goya Champuru

A small bitter gourd, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and sliced thinly

A slice of dried beancurd, cut into small rectangles

An egg, beaten

Some sliced pork

Seasoning: 2 TBS mirin, 1 TBS light soy sauce, a dash of pepper

1 TBS vegetable oil for frying

1. Rub some salt into the bitter gourd to make it crunchy and to remove some of the bitterness. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse out the excess salt in the bitter gourd slices, and squeeze dry.

2. Wrap the dried beancurd in a piece of kitchen paper to remove excess liquids before cooking.

3. Marinate the pork in the seasoning.

4. Using medium fire, heat up the oil in a frying pan and lightly brown both sides of the beancurd pieces.

5. It’s champuru time! Mix the pork and bitter gourd into the frying pan with the browned beancurd pieces. Pour the remaining seasoning into the frying pan and stir well. Lower the fire and cover the frying pan with a lid. Simmer till the bitter gourd is soft and the beancurd has absorbed the seasoning.

6. Remove the lid and pour the beaten egg over the mixture. Once the egg starts to cook, turn off the fire and stir the egg bits evenly.

7. Serve hot with rice.

Itadakimasu.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2010 in Nibbles

 

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Afternoon tea time

My first impression of an afternoon tea time was formed after reading Alice in Wonderland when I was a child.

I still remember taking out play tea-sets and enjoying afternoon tea with my family, neighbours, cousins, friends, aunties and just about anyone whom I could get hold of!

Today I relived those tea sipping moments with significantly one of my very first friends.

A retreat space in the middle of a busy district.

D and I went back a long way… back to the era when there was no mobile phones nor internet. We went to primary school only for a year together, yet we kept in touch by writing countless letters to each other over the years.

Then somehow we lost touch for some years in between.

One day, early this year, I was tidying (unsuccessfully) some old greeting cards and I spotted one from D.

I looked at her familiar address which I had handwritten on numerous letters and cards addressed to her in the past. I wondered if she still lived there. I wished I had a number to call and speak to her. I wished I could email her. I contemplated popping over to that address to find her.

God must have heard my thoughts.

Cos’ the next day, I walked into a bookstore and, there, walking right towards me was D!!!

I couldn’t believe it and I just had to jump with excitement!

Before we parted, we made sure that we had exchanged mobile numbers, email addresses and just about any means of contacts.

And since then, we’ve been catching up and filling each other in, on those ‘missing’ years of our lives.

Today, we sat down blissfully to enjoy an afternoon tea time. Of course, with real cakes and tea!

I had a Strawberry Souffle.

 

小さいごろから私は午後お茶の時間が大好きなので、

よく周りの人に私とティータイムを遊ばせました。

 

大きくなったら本格的なお茶の時間ができてすごく嬉しいです。

 

今日は最近再会したD-さんと美味しいケーキを食べながら、

D had a Framboise Chocolate.

ゆっくり午後の時間を過ごして、本当にありがたいです。

 

次回のアフタヌーンティータイムを楽しみにしています。

 

Flor Patisserie
2 Duxton Hill
Tel: 6223-8628

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2010 in Nibbles

 

Healthy eating

You are what you eat.

So, if you eat healthily, it’s good for your body.

Many people know that they should eat healthily. Yet, not many of them do it.

Why?

From my experience of sharing healthy food with my mother, I’ve learnt that it’s about choices and mindsets.

Firstly, I have to decide to eat healthily, even while I’m healthy.

I have to consciously make the choice to eat healthily. My conviction has to be strong and consistent. Once I’ve decided that I want to take care of my health, I’ve to do all that I can, to achieve the goal. In my mother’s case, a bad medical report alerted us to be more serious about her diet, and it sealed the decision for her.

Secondly, I have to change my mindset about what is healthy eating.

This is what, I find, takes longer to get through to most people. Most people have had bad experiences with “healthy food”. Or perhaps in their minds, they conjured up images of raw vegetables, wheat grass and coarse brown rice. In their minds, if something is healthy then it is bland and unpalatable.  And this cannot be further away from the truth.

Being a foodie, I refuse to waste calories on awful food. In fact, healthy eating can be a gastronomic delight, with little effort and little expenses.

It has taken me 3 years of fuss-free cooking of  ‘healthy’ food in the kitchen to get this point across to my mother. Thankfully, she’s now fully converted that healthy food can be delicious food.

Today, ‘healthy’ food is ‘normal’ food to her. She has developed a tastebud and an appreciation for eating food for their original freshness rather than overcooking and overseasoning them. Yes, all the excessive seasoning and grease actually ruin our tastebuds and bodies!

One of the organic lady's fingers from my vegetable patch.

Our fridge is now stocked with fresh ingredients, where there used to be leftover food that would be ‘recycled’ (refried or recooked in a new sauce) into a ‘new’ dish the next day.

Together, we enjoy finding tasty ways to cook fresh seasonal produce and we explore healthier ways to prepare our favourite ingredients.

Recently, I’m proud that my mother can distinguish how fresh homemade bread tastes, as compared to store bought ones, and for that, I’m willing to bake her fresh bread regularly.

A homemade milk loaf

 

Of  course, this is going to the luxurious extreme of healthy eating. But I don’t mind indulging her, especially since her medical report looks good now.

Freshly baked walnut buns

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2010 in Nibbles, Scribbles

 

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