Friday, April 14, 2017

No Knead, No Commercial Yeast Bread with Raisin Liquid Starter

You probably don't know this but since last year I've been trying to bake a sourdough bread. I say trying because I kept failing. And failing. The problem is the sourdough starter.

This is just one of many starter failures. I tried Peter Reinhart's formula. I discovered pineapple juice is not something you want to add to your starter. A swarm of flies will enter your home. I cursed Peter Reinhart upside down. I tried another Peter Reinhart's formula, this time without pineapple juice. I don't know what happened. Scary stuff grew on the starter. I followed The Perfect Loaf's formula. The starter did not smell good. Also stuff grew on the starter. I tried Dean Brettschneider's Bread formula. I forgot what went wrong. There were many other tries, following this youtuber or that book author. Nothing worked.

Finally I followed Richard Miscovich's formula and managed to produce a starter which didn't look like something died. I made a levain out of it. Unfortunately, the loaf of bread I baked came out of the oven so heavy that I knew right away it was wrong. The inside of the bread looked weird, totally inedible. I don't know what I did wrong. Was it Singapore weather? Finally I decided to give sourdough starter a break and look for alternatives.

I found this book Jayeon Bread at the bookstore and it looked interesting enough to me to buy it. The starters in the book are made from fruits. I chose raisins because the success rate is higher. I followed everything the book said. Boiled the jar and utensils. Used organic products. My first try. I had huge amount of mould growing on the raisins. I wanted to cry. I had to discard the raisins. My second try, I had better luck but after 7 days I still couldn't hear any sounds coming from the raisins. Plus some mould kept coming back. I did some major googling and found some answers. The book said to stir the raisins once a day. Actually you have to give the contents a good shake. A stir is not going to deter the mould in Singapore climate. I did that and boom! Success. No mould.

See my raisins have started to float.

On the 7th day, I felt the liquid was ready to be used because if you put your ear next to the jar, you can hear lots of sizzling sounds. I've never heard anything more beautiful. The smell of the liquid starter is a bit like wine. Very pleasant. The ones that failed previously had a bad smell.

Getting the liquid starter to work is only the first part of the journey. Next, I had to use the liquid to mix with bread flour (1:1) to produce a refreshed starter. This is similar to a sourdough starter. I had to discard/feed the refreshed starter at least one day before I can use it to bake. On the third day, I carefully measured out 110g of refreshed starter to make White Pan Bread. I felt it was safest to bake something easy.

This is my refreshed starter. Just look at all the bubbles.

This is my final dough after everything is mixed together by hand. It looks like there's a lot of dirt in it. It's just the lighting. The "dirt" is actually tiny bubbles. I was a bit concerned it's quite floppy. I left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I looked at the dough and it had risen quite a bit. Wow, the magic of time. I shaped it as well as I could into an oval shape to fit in a loaf pan. The dough was really hard to manage as it had the tendency to flop and spread out. I let it rise a bit more at room temperature. I think it took about 2 hours before I became impatient and put it in the oven.

Success! The bread is not gummy in any way. The texture is not bad. The most important thing - it's edible! I'll be honest. This is not the tastiest bread I've ever eaten. It's just plain white bread. But I almost cried when I realised I had succeeded because I've had so many failures. Finally my dream of baking bread without any commercial yeast has come true. I feel like I created life! And the most amazing thing about this bread? I didn't even do any kneading.

The Jayeon Bread book has a formula for sourdough. I think I will try that next. You never know, 20th time (I've lost count) lucky?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Café de Coral or was it Café from hell?

Another Hong Kong food post. Don't worry. It's the last one. I'm a bit sick of it myself.

Okay, this happened on the day we went to Disneyland. We left Disneyland in the late afternoon to go to Tung Chung which was just two MTR stations away. Hubs wanted to look for sneakers at the factory outlets. Our intention was to go back to Disneyland at night to catch the fireworks.

We decided to get our dinner as well. The shopping mall we were at (I think it was Citygate) was huge but none of the expensive restaurants called out to me. Finally, in desperation, we ate at McDonalds. The fries tasted different by the way, less crispy.

After our meal, I was attracted to a walkway which led to another mall. Hubs saw a sign for "Café de Coral" and he said some blogger had recommended it and it was too bad we had already eaten because it was a place he wanted to try. I thought about it and I didn't want hubs to regret not eating at Café de Coral. I mean, we were there so I decided that we should go have a light meal at the cafe since we were never going to be in the area again.

Upon entry, we saw the menu on one wall and I decided to try C1 while hubs opted for L4. The menu had English translations so I was very happy about that. We had to order at the cashier and pay immediately. After payment, the cashier gave me a piece of paper with our order and waved us off.

I walked further in and figured that I had to go to the kitchen counter to hand over my order chit to the kitchen crew. Hubs went to get us a table. It was free-seating. A male kitchen crew took my order chit away and started putting stuff on a tray. The default drink for my order was a milky concoction which I didn't want. The other options were iced lemon tea or just tea. I tried to explain to the male kitchen crew that I wanted iced lemon tea and discovered he couldn't understand any English or Mandarin. After a lot of pointless exchange going nowhere, another male kitchen crew popped his head from behind and asked if I wanted "black tea". He spoke Mandarin! Black tea was close enough so I accepted it.

My order of French toast came and the kitchen crew waved me away.  I told him I had another order but he kept waving me away. I pointed to the container of fulfilled order chit and asked for mine back but of course he didn't understand a word. I decided to look for hubs. I was kinda close to tears already. I told hubs that I was not given his order and the order chit was taken away from me. We went back to the counter and I kept pointing to the order chit bin until eventually, the kitchen crew found my order chit and he gave me hub's order which consisted of a glutinous rice soup, a chicken wing and a samosa. Except I was given two items instead of three. The samosa was missing. The male kitchen crew kept pointing to some Chinese words on the order chit and asked me what it was. It was very puzzling. He kept asking me what the words were. I had no idea how to read the words. We were going nowhere. Finally, the head waitress was summoned. She scolded the kitchen crew for not being able to read the words. Actually, neither could she. She made a phone call and the person over the phone told her what it was - curry something. The samosa! After telling the kitchen crew what the missing order was, the head waitress left. Hubs went back to the table and I stood waiting.

Eventually an older female kitchen crew started talking to me in Cantonese. I couldn't understand what she was saying. Although I understand a teeny tiny itsy bit of Cantonese, the locals speak rapidly in bursts. Couldn't catch a word. I looked around for the Mandarin speaking guy but he had disappeared. Her voice grew louder and louder and I wasn't sure if she was scolding me. Probably. Eventually, another female kitchen crew was summoned from the kitchen. She was literally pushed towards me. I heard her protesting in Cantonese that she couldn't speak English. Anyway, she used some hand gestures to indicate that I should go, sit down and eat. The missing samosa would be brought to me. I don't know how I understood her but I did. So I went to sit down.

I don't know how I could still smile because the inability to understand the crew or get myself understood really wore me down.

Eventually hub's samosa arrived. He must be the first person to ever order it. I think hubs enjoyed his food.

My tea and french toast were quite horrible. The french toast strangely had peanut butter on it. Who puts peanut butter in french toast? Later I realised that the menu did state that the french toast came with peanut butter. I was too blind to see it.

The restaurant is really spacious and comfortable. If only the food tasted better and I didn't have to go through hell to get it.

The funny thing is the next two days, nearly everywhere we went in Hong Kong, there was a Café de Coral.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tim Ho Wan

There are so many Tim Ho Wan outlets in Singapore that it's a bit ridiculous to go to a Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong. Right? But someone, I forgot who, once told me the Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong makes better food than the branches in Singapore. And the selection is far wider. Ridiculous, right? I felt outraged enough to seek out a Tim Ho Wan outlet in Hong Kong.

We were on our last day and time was not on our side. In the end, we went to the outlet at Central because it was convenient. Except it was so hard to find.

We kept going back to this map but it was no help. Eventually we asked a guide working at the mall and she gave us directions. We still missed the correct escalator but hubs saw another escalator further away and once we figured that out, we managed to find Tim Ho Wan.

There were 2 queues outside the restaurant. One was to pay and the other one was for entry. We had gone through so much trouble to find the restaurant so we queued up.

While in the queue, we were handed an order chit. Since we were familiar with Tim Ho Wan food, we knew what to order. There were menus with photos available as well. The food selection looks more or less the same as what we get in Singapore.

The restaurant was incredibly cramped. We didn't get our own individual table and was stuck in a community row. On my right were four large Filipinos. On my left was a large Chinese man with two women. They spoke Cantonese.

After we got in, the queue outside grew even longer!

We ordered two cups of Chinese tea (HK$3 total) and were given two empty tea cups. When I asked for the tea, the waitress said to take from the teapot on the table. When hubs tried to take the teapot closest to us which was from the table of the Cantonese customers, one of the women held on to the teapot, scolded him and wouldn't let hubs have it. So hubs had to take the teapot from the Filipinos who didn't mind. It was very weird. In Singapore's Tim Ho Wan, none of this shit will happen. The waitress pours tea into our tea cup and if you need a refill, you'll just have to ask for it. Sometimes, a waitress goes around refilling your tea anyway.

Steamed rice rolls stuffed with barbecued pork or as we call it in Singapore, Chee Cheong Fun. In Singapore, a different diluted soy sauce is provided. Here in Hong Kong, you're expected to use the regular more concentrated soy sauce placed at each table. I half expected a fight with the Cantonese women over the sauce but they didn't raise any objections. Seriously folks, eating Chee Cheong Fun with regular soy sauce just ain't right.

Deep-fried beancurd sheet roll filled with shrimps. I notice the beancurd is very crispy despite the light colour. This was delicious!

Steamed dumplings chiu chow style. I didn't know hubs didn't like this and ordered it. When I don't like any food, I announce it to the world but hubs keeps it to himself.

 Steamed rice with beef and pan fried egg. Hubs was quite shocked by the tiny size of his order.

 Pan fried turnip cake. Unfortunately, Tim Ho Wan's turnip cake is NOTHING compared to Dimdimsum.

Sweet potato soup. I love sweet potato soup but I didn't understand why I ordered it. Maybe I wanted something comforting? Honestly, all sweet potato soup tastes the same.

We noticed the 4 Filipinos couldn't eat any of the chicken feet. They ordered 4 plates! Perhaps they were misled by the name on the menu - "Phoenix Talons with Abalone Sauce". Guys, you do know phoenix aren't real. In case you're wondering, I'm in the "never ever gonna eat chicken feet" camp. My mother used to tell me eating chicken feet is good for the skin or was it a cure for arthritis? Anyway, I decided not to believe her.

Oh, something wonderful happened while we were eating. The Cantonese women and guy companion had finished their meal but continued to sit at the table chatting. One of the women had left and they were waiting for her to return. A waitress came and ordered them to leave. The woman tried to explain that they were waiting for someone but the waitress would have none of it. She said there were so many customers waiting and they could wait outside the restaurant. Ha ha. It made hubs' day.

Three new customers came to take their places - two Cantonese speaking men and a Caucasian lady. The guy who sat next to me wore a mask and only took it off to eat. I kept wondering if he was afraid to catch something or pass something? It really bothered me. The waitress brought a new pot of tea and placed it beside me and guess what? The guy sitting next to me immediately grabbed it and placed it far away from me. You've got to be kidding me. I don't think the Cantonese speaking customers understand how the tea system in Tim Ho Wan works!

Another interesting thing happened. A single lady sat beside hubs after the Filipinos had left. She ate a few items and she had brought her Starbucks coffee in. (so daring) When she left, the waitress made her take the Starbucks coffee container. And then the staff realized she didn't pay and someone had to go chase her. There was Cantonese shouting and I expect a lot of embarrassment for someone.

Not a bad price for a very full meal. We definitely over ate. Other than the sauce for Chee Cheong Fun, I think the food in Hong Kong and Singapore are exactly the same. What we do have in Singapore that's different are the monthly specials.

IFC Mall MTR Shop 12A, Central

Read about my trip to Hong kong here:
4Days 3Nights in Hong Kong
Tea at Australia Dairy Co
Breakfast at Capital Cafe
I heart Dimdimsum
Tsui Wah Everywhere
Goose or duck?
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