Thursday, June 08, 2006


Rhuberry Pie!

I've been promising Taryn pie for a while now... and so finally here it is. Pie crust recipe courtesy of Alton Brown (involves a lot of freezer, food processor, and rolling in ziplock bags!?).

Not the prettiest crust around (ziplock bags weren't big enough so they kinda came out square), but damn that is one awesome tasting crust. Like, probably one of the best pie crusts I've ever had.

And of course, being filled with rhubarb, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries didn't hurt either. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Bagel Bonanza

Long demanded by a certain Mr. Incognito Holmes, I have finally broken down and made that Noo-Yawk treat, the bagel! Yes, it's boiled. And yes, it's baked. How did they turn out? Read on!

I'm following the recipe from the book, Bread: From Sourdough to Rye, from which I have made a few well received hits as challah and olive-cilantro pitas.

As always, I started with the lexan container of dough. I don't know if my measurements were a bit off (I "converted" the recipe from volumetric measures to weight measurements), but the dough was very very moist and I ended up using a lot of extra flour. The recipe seems to say that the dough should be moist rather than dry, so I guess that's a good sign? Makes for more difficult kneading that's for sure.

I split the dough into small balls and poked my finger through the middle, twirling them around it to make the hole... I wonder if this is how donuts are made?

I took each proto-bagel and plopped it into a boiling vat of water with some molasses in it. I remember my baba doing something similar like this with donuts, except instead of water it was boiling oil. :)

The bagels only sat in there for about 30 seconds a side, and then on to some baking trays where they got "decorated". Sesame + poppy, my favourite. :)

Voila, the final product. Sure, so perhaps they're not as "circular" as some would like, but really-- how can you really be sure with such an airy-fairy term as "circular". Does it even have a real definition? (And don't give me any of that "2*pi*r" crap. That's just what the government wants you to believe).

Anyways, they were fairly tasty (what homemade bread product isn't?), but as never having had a true New Yawk bagel, I don't know what to compare it against. They were definitely a lot breadier and lighter than the Montreal style bagels I'm used to from Segal's, but not quite as mouth-drying yucky as those bread-we've-shaped-in-bagel-form that you get from the supermarket or Costco.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Coconut Buns Attempt #1

Ok, Ritchie may miss his egg tarts but I certainly miss my coconut buns. What is there to not like about them? A slightly sweet and light dough, filled with a sugary-buttery-coconuty paste inside. Ahhh it's bliss.

Today I attempted to make my own coconut buns, and I must say the results were sub-par. Adequate perhaps for someone who is 7114 km away from real ones, but I promise another attempt!

I used a recipe I found on, which did take a bit of searching. Apparently the actual Chinese name for it is gai mei bao, which literally translates to "cocktail bun".

Here's my paste in process of being created, and the dough after it's first rising.

After some patting down, I split the dough into about 16 little bunches, each one destined to be a top and bottom of a bun... turns out that this is a bit TOO much, the buns were quite large, almost mini-loaves!

Here's the final product, the oven I guess was a bit hot and they got a little crustier than the average coconut bun, but they _are_ supposed to be a fairly dark colour (thanks to the egg in the dough).

My biggest mistake was probably in the bun creation... to be honest, how does one fill a bun?
For my next attempt, I have a recipe kindly translated from the Chinese by Tom and Brenda which is not only filled with funny idioms, also somewhat explains how to fill a bun. Excellent!

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Egg Tart Experiment #1

Due to the relative scarcity of Asians in the HRM, there is a definite difference in available menu selections between restaurants here and in Vancouver. Some seem to have come to terms with this, others scarf metric tons of it down whenever passing through Vancity, and yet others feel compelled to bend the laws of time, space, and culinary ability and make those menu items happen HERE and NOW.

Taryn and I have learned the art of making sunomono salad and okonomiyaki, and last Saturday we hung out at Ritchie's place helping him and Geniva prepare that tasty of dim sum tasties: the egg tart.

Mastering the pastry (Asian or not) is tricky business. I'm sure entire books have been written on the subject, unfortunately probably in French which won't help us now. So we're proposing a long, drawn out experiment, trying many recipes attempting to find one that best: (a) matches our abilities (ie. is EASY) and (b) tastes as close to the real thing as possible. For me, that means tasting like the egg tarts most currently in my memory banks: those from the Imperial Dim Sum in the Marine Building on Hastings + Burrard. They're ultra flaky, almost like they've been made with puff pastry, and oh so tasty.

This attempt we decided to make half the following recipe . By we, I mean mostly Ritchie as I was usually busy taking pictures. But hey, I _did_ provide a kitchen scale for use! (You always weigh when you bake, right? Scoop-and-tap!? If explanations like that web page have to exist, really lets just listen to reason and do it like the Europeans!)

Our assembled tools. In this case, 1 laptop, 1 strainer for sifting, 1 scale, 1 coffee, and 1 Nova Scotia trails guide.

Here is what you get when you halve a recipe that calls for 1/2 an egg. The far bowl contains our best approximation of a quarter of an egg.

We had to deal with lack of microwave, butter from the fridge, and a requirement for said butter to be room temperature.

After some furious mixing, we were left with the proto-pastry!

We needed to cool the dough for 2 hours in the fridge, but we figured 20 minutes in the freezer might be easier.

Stop-motion vanilla is a crucial ingredient in the egg custard.

Following the Alton Brown pastry method, we rolled the dough inside the ziploc bag, cutting it open when we reached the desired thickness.

We then formed the pastry into the tart shells. The first photo shows what we got from using a circular shaped cut out of pastry dough placed into the cup. The second is from a blob of dough that has been simply pressed into the shell with our fingers. I have seen both kinds at various dim sum restaurants, although from a comparative taste analysis they seemed pretty much the same. The only bonus to the pressed version was that it had no lip edges to burn.

We filled the crusts with custard liquid, baked, and voila the final product!

The taste test:

The taste test proved that the egg custard was more or less what we would expect at a dim sum meal. However, the pastry dough itself wasn't up to our requisite standards. It wasn't half bad pastry, as pastries go, but it wasn't flaky enough and had that pre-made frozen tart shell sort of feel to it. Definitely not the flaky concoction I remembered. There could be a number of factors at fault. Most obviously, we could just be using the wrong recipe for the kind of pastry we want. I think this is probably the main culprit, however we may have also mixed the dough too much which creates gluten, which binds the dough together, which is why bread isn't flaky and pastry is. I've also heard that butter doesn't impart quite the flakiness as vegetable shortening does, which is why perhaps a vegetable shortening + butter (for flavour) mixture may be preferable next time.

So, today's experiment has concluded but the search for the perfect egg tart recipe goes on.

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