Food & Drink

Taiwanese Breakfast Crêpes

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Who else likes breakfast for dinner?  Growing up in Taiwan, a lot of times, we would go out for breakfast on weekends and busy mornings.  Taiwanese breakfast joints are not like the swanky brunch places where you’d have a glass of mimosa.  On the contrary, they are often hole-in-the-wall places where you run in, devour your food in less than 5 minutes, and hop on your moped and be on your way.

I absolutely love all Taiwanese breakfast choices, but the one that I love the most is called dan bing 蛋餅, which roughly translates to egg-pastry.  The closest thing that resembles a dan bing is probably the crêpe, although dan bing has a little bit more chewiness in the batter.  The process for making dan bing is also very similar to a crêpe as well.  The batter is very liquidy, and you pour it on a skillet and then top with the toppings.  In this case, the toppings is an egg mixture that resembles an omelette.  This comes together so quickly that I find myself making this as emergency meals.

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Taiwanese Breakfast Crêpes

  • Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 stalks scallions, thinly chopped
  • Oil for cooking

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, water, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, scallions, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.
  3. In a nonstick skillet, heat a tsp of oil over medium heat.  Pour about 1/2 cup of crêpe batter and swirl on the skillet until it coats the bottom of the skillet in a thin layer.  When the tops look set, gently flip the crêpe over.  Pour 1/4 cup of egg mixture on top of the crêpe and swirl the pan to coat the egg mixture all over the base.  When the egg mixture has adhered, flip the whole thing over and cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until the egg is cooked through.
  4. Roll up the crêpe and repeat with remaining batter.  Drizzle with soy paste and top with scallions to garnish, if desired.

Recipe notes:

  • Soy paste is a type of soy sauce that is thicker, less salty, and quite sweet.  You should be able to find it in your Asian grocery aisle.  If you don’t have it, soy sauce is a fine substitute, just use it sparingly.

Food & Drink

Japanese Milk Bread

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A good friend of mine is a health nut.  So much so that he weighs all his food that he consumes on a regular basis.  I distinctively remember one time going to an Asian bakery with him, and he picks up a loaf of bread and tells me that he’ll eat the loaf in the next 2 days.  I was shocked, and I told him that’s an entire loaf of bread!  He explained that he needed to eat certain grams of carbs and if he sticks to Sara Lee loaves of bread he’d need to eat 2-3 loaves to get the same weight.  I picked up the loaf and I was surprised.  I never really thought of Asian bread as “dense” or “heavy”, just because the insides are so soft and pillowy.  Asian bread is deceptively compact and rich.  When you tear apart a piece of bread, you can see all the strands showing gluten development.

My favorite kind of bread is hands down milk bread.  In Taiwan, we call them Hokkaido Milk Bread or Japanese Milk Bread.  Upon further research, some speculations on the origin involve the “milk” originating from Hokkaido and the recipe perfected in Tokyo.  No matter the origin, what makes this bread so special is using a water roux as the starter.  This roux is called tangzhong.  Basically, we start off with the water roux and we mix it into the bread mixture as we go along.  This step is crucial as it is the key to creating the soft and pillowy texture.

This recipe uses a stand mixer to do the hard work for us.  The majority of the time is hands-off or waiting.  If you feel like kneading by hand, this recipe will work, but it might take more time.

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Japanese Milk Bread

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Milk Bread

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter, softened

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tb water

Method

  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the bread flour and water for the tangzhong starter over medium-low heat.  Continue to stir until you reach a custard-like consistency, about 3-5 minutes.  When you can do simple patterns like squiggle or lines in the mixture, it is ready.  Cool to room temperature while you work on the dough.
  2. In a small bowl, microwave the milk until it is warm to the touch.  Mix in yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar.  Let stand for 10 minutes while the yeast blooms.
  3. In a large stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add in yeast mixture, tangzhong roux, and egg and run the stand mixer on low until it forms a soft ball with no visible flour.  This process will take anywhere from 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the softened butter to the mixer and mix for another 10-15 minutes.  At this point, do the windowpane test to see if the dough is ready.  To do the windowpane test, grab a piece of the dough and stretch it as thin as possible.  Hold it up against a newspaper and you should be able to see through the dough and see the newspaper.
  5. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and cover.  Let dough sit in room temperature and proof for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  6. Punch down dough and divide into four pieces.  Shape them into balls and rest them on a floured surface.  Cover with a dishcloth and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  7. Butter or line a loaf pan.  Take each dough ball and roll it into a large oval.  Fold into thirds (lengthwise), gently flatten with a rolling pin, and roll it up.  Place the seam side down on the prepared loaf pan.  Repeat with remaining three dough balls.  Cover and proof for a third time, for about 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk together egg wash ingredients and brush on the tops of the bread.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Food & Drink

Egg Tarts

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I love egg tarts.  In my opinion, they are the perfect dessert.  They are perfectly sweet with a savory pastry crust.  One bite and it immediately takes me back to childhood when I’m perusing Asian bakeries with my parents and getting a freshly baked egg tart to munch on.

In general, egg tarts fall into 2 categories – Portuguese-style and Hong Kong-style.  They’re both delicious, and I make both fairly often.  I honestly just flip flop between the two depending on what ingredients I happen to have in my kitchen.  The main difference between the two is Portuguese-style egg tarts are typically made with only the egg yolks and uses heavy cream as the dairy component.  The result is almost like a crème brûlée texture for the filling.  It is also very common for Portuguese egg tarts to have a caramelized top and the shell is typically made from a puff pastry.  The Hong Kong-style egg tarts use whole eggs and evaporated milk, and it typically uses a shortcrust pastry as the base.  The texture feels light and jello-like.  It tends to be slightly less sweet than Portuguese egg tarts.

I wanted to play with something that was the best of both worlds.  Since puff pastry are relatively time-consuming, I wanted to make a hybrid egg tart with a shortcrust pastry base and with the ingredients you likely have at home already.

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Egg Tarts

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup iced water
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tb sugar, for topping

Method

  1. Make the pastry crust by combining all-purpose flour, butter and salt in a food processor, until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Slowly add iced water until a dough forms.  Knead dough until smooth.  Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl over a double boiler, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and thickened, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.
  3. Roll dough into a log and divide into 12 balls.  Flatten and roll each ball until it is about 4 inches in diameter.  Line each cavity with the prepared pastry crust.  Use a fork to gently poke several holes on the bottom of the crust.  Bake the pastry crust for 5 minutes.  Take out of the oven and fill with egg tart filling and sprinkle each filled egg tart with sugar.  Bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, or until the egg tarts are golden brown.

Food & Drink

Instant Pot Yogurt

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I’m such a huuuuuge fan of yogurt, I eat it almost daily.  Whether it’s in a parfait or using it to bake or to make dressings & dips, I always have a jar handy.  Going through as much yogurt as I do, making it keeps costs down, and I truly enjoy the unique flavor and texture that only comes with homemade yogurt.

The main reason I jumped on the Instant Pot train was that I could make yogurt.  It’s so easy, and requires very little hands-on time.  The end result is a lightly tangy yogurt, and the texture is a good happy medium between regular yogurt and greek yogurt.  It’s got a certain viscosity and thickness.

My favorite way of eating this?  With lots of fresh berries and my homemade granola!

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Instant Pot Yogurt

  • Servings: 4 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1 qt (4 cups) whole milk (2%, 1%, and non-fat are also fine)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt starter

Method

  1. Sterilize the Instant Pot by pouring 2 cups of water in the pot.  Sealing the lid, press STEAM for 3 minutes.  Quick release the Instant Pot and give it a good rinse.
  2. Pour milk into the pot.  Press the YOGURT button and adjust until the screen reads BOIL.  This process will boil and pasteurize the milk.  It will beep once done.
  3. Remove the lid and let the milk come to 110-115°F (if you don’t have a thermometer, it should be warm to the touch but not scalding).  Add yogurt starter and whisk to incorporate.
  4. Press the YOGURT button and adjust the time to 10:00.  When it is done, refrigerate immediately.

Recipe notes:

  • If you like greek yogurt consistency, after the yogurt is done, strain the yogurt over a cheesecloth until desired consistency.
  • Yogurt starter can be store-bought yogurt.  Just make sure the label says it has active cultures.  In my experience, Fage and Oui make excellent starters.
  • When the yogurt is done, I like to scoop out some yogurt to freeze as my starter for my next batch.
  • You can adjust the time, but I personally like it at 10 hours.  Make sure you let it incubate for at least 8 hours.  The longer it’s incubating, the more tangy and thicker the yogurt will be.

Food & Drink

Instant Pot Soymilk

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You guys – since Instant Pot came into my life in fall 2016, life has not been the same.  Although most people praise the Instant Pot to cook tender meats or one-pot meals, I personally think it shines in cooking beans and legumes.  It seriously has changed the game for me.  It takes out so much guesswork in cooking beans and I no longer have to stand over a boiling pot of water waiting for things to cook.

I spent the better part of my childhood in Taiwan.  So it’s fair to say that I’ve drunk my fair share of soymilk.  So when I moved to the states, my mom was surprised to find that the products available in the U.S. were not at all like the ones back in Taiwan.  They were often laced with additional flavors, such as vanilla, which is something we never put in our soymilk.  We also sampled Asian grocery stores but found that the soymilk available there, although more authentic tasting, was overwhelmingly sweet.  After many fruitless soymilk hunts, my mom began making soymilk at home.

Traditional soymilk isn’t hard to make, but there’s a lot of steps and is quite consuming.  When I first moved away from home, soymilk became an elusive drink that I only have when I visit my parents.  So when I got my InstantPot and discovered that you can use it to make soymilk, GAME CHANGER!  Typical storebought soymilk costs around $2-3 for a quart carton.  I also did the math – 1 cup of soybeans in the bulk aisle is around 50 cents.  This recipe makes around 1/2 gallon, or 2 quarts.  So compared to storebought soymilk, which is around $2-3, 1 quart of homemade soymilk is only 25 cents!

Instant Pot Soymilk

  • Servings: 8 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic soybeans
  • 8 cups water
  • Sugar, to taste

Method

  1. Soak the soybeans overnight in a bowl with 4 cups of water.
  2. Drain and rinse soaked soybeans.  In a blender or food processor, blend soybeans with 2-3 cups of water (subtract from the 8 cups of water), until you get a grainy paste (does not need to be super smooth).
  3. Pour blended soybeans and the remaining 5-6 cups of water into the Instant Pot.  Put the lid on and switch the pressure value to lock.  Manual cook for 10 minutes and natural release.
  4. Using a sieve, strain the finished soymilk.  Stir in sugar, if desired.  I typically add 1/4 cup sugar, but I recommend starting with 2 tablespoons and increase from there.

Food & Drink

Classic Meringue Cookies

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Okay, so Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite stores (grocery and otherwise), so when I poke fun at it, it’s all with lots of love.  So the best aisle in Trader Joe’s is without a doubt the aisle with the frozen foods in the bottom freezer and cookies and chocolates on the top shelves.  I think I’ve only managed one trip in my entire life where I walked down that aisle without picking something up.

The one product that always makes me giggle when I see people buy is their Vanilla Meringues.  I just sometimes want to whisper to people “psssttt, the Dress Circle Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies gets you more bang for your buck”.  But for real, if you buy a tub of meringues, you’re really paying $3 for egg whites and sugar.  Let’s spend that $$ on more fun cookies!

Meringue cookies are so easy to make and truly a one-bowl recipe.  The prep time takes less than 10 minutes, and the cookies spend most of the time in the oven (baking and cooling).  In my opinion, the easiest way to go about this is baking it 1 hour before bed, turning off the oven and it’ll be done cooling in the morning.

My meringue recipe uses less sugar than most recipes out there.  In my test batches, I find that too much sugar (although helps with keeping the shape of the meringue), takes away the depth of the flavor.  The meringues end up tasting like balls of sugar.  To add more dimension to the flavor profile, I opted to include orange extract, which I think gives it just enough of a critrus flavor.

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Classic Meringue Cookies

  • Servings: 4-5 dozen
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Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or a hand beater), beat together egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until foamy.  On high speed, add in granulated sugar, about a spoonful at a time and wait about 5-10 seconds between each addition.   When you reach soft peaks, add in extracts and beat until you reach stiff peaks.
  3. Spoon egg white mixture into a pastry bag fitted with the piping tip of choice (star tips are the most common).  Pipe into 1 1/2 inch rounds on baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave cookies in the oven to completely dry out and cool, about 1-2 hours.
  5. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.  Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe notes:

  • Not so good at piping?  No worries!  Most of the meringue cookies I did a swirl pattern using the star tip to create more textural interest.  I also did some which I simply piped down and up.  You can see in the pictures some where the ridges go straight up and down.  These have a very classic look and I think look quite nice as well!
  • Think classic meringue cookies are too boring looking?  After piping them out on the baking sheet, add some sprinkles to brighten up the meringues.

Food & Drink

Spinach & Mango Smoothie

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Spring is here and that means fruits and vegetables are about to get super affordable.  If you’re like me, you like to drink your vegetables.  This is horrible, but I sometimes convince myself that if I get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables out of the way in the morning, that gives me license to eat like garbage for the rest of the day.

I don’t have one of those fancy Vitamix of Blendtec blenders, which is a shame because those blenders can make anything ridiculously smooth.  The worst smoothie you can make is the one that is gritty and chunky in all the wrong places.  I just use a small personal blender and it has worked for me time after time.  The secret is a frozen banana.  The frozen banana will do 2 things – it will make your beverage colder and thus eliminating the need to add ice to your smoothie, also, it creates a velvety texture as you blend eliminates chunky smoothies.

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Spinach & Mango Smoothie

  • Servings: 1-2
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Ingredients

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 cup packed spinach
  • 1/2 cup packed kale
  • 1 mango, peeled, seeded, and chopped (approximately 3/4 cup fruit)
  • 1 cup milk (or dairy-free alternative)

Method

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender.  Blend for 30 seconds, or until smooth and you can’t see flecks from spinach and kale.