25 Apr 2014

Hokkaido Milk Bread (Tangzhong method)

Is it just human nature or just so that grass is always greener on the other side? First I really didn't like Japanese bread: it was all too soft and fluffy with no proper crust and the taste was always too sweet. Then I got used to the sweet bread, but I still longed for "proper European-style bread". And back in Finland every now and then I have a craving for shokupan: the fluffiest, softest (toast) bread there is. The problem is I can't buy it here and no attempt to bake it has yet succeeded (one attempt led to utter failure actually).

I've tried a couple recipes and one for Hokkaido Milk Bread has been best by far. I still haven't been able to produce the bread I'm looking for and I'm falling to believe that I need the flour they (=Japanese) use in order to obtain the same kind of fluffy texture. So much depends on wheat. Finnish wheat flour is all high-protei, strong flour.

Don't be frightened by the term "tangzhong". Despite the Chinese name, it's a Japanese technique used to create a soft bread that also stays soft and fresh for days. Usually around 10 % of the flour is used to make a "predough" / custard in 1:5 proportion to liquid. The flour and liquid are heated to 65 C (though I've never measured the temperature, the consistency will tell you that) as wheat is gelatinized in 65 C. You will get a "custard" which is allowed to cool and then is used as a base to dough.

You can use tangzhong for different kinds of breads or buns (if soft texture is wanted). Just calculate 5-10% of total flour, multiply that by 5 to get the liquid and then cook that to custard. And when you want to make the dough, remember to substract the liquid and flour used for tangzhong from the total ingredients. I'll give an example: It says in the recipe that you'll need 250 ml liquid (water or milk) and 350 g bread flour.  To make calculations easy, I'm using now 10% tangzhong ratio to total flour (but you could start with 5% ratio too):
Tangzhong (TZ): 350 g x 10% = 35 g flour -->> liquid 35 g x 5 = 175 g (~175 ml)
Dough: TZ + (250ml-175 ml = ) 75 ml liquid + (350 g - 35 g = ) ~315 g flour

The texture of the dough will be different compared to a dough made without TZ, so you might need less or more flour. The dough will be more sticky (as part of the gluten will be destroyed in the process of making TZ).

I'm reporting my adventures with tangzhong as I've experienced, so the first recipe is just for information (or for those strong-hearted) as it was epic fail: too dense (the yeast might have been dead or my flour is too strong).

(Update 29.6.2015: You might want to check this too: it's the one I'm most pleased with among the versions I've tried with tangzhong, at least temporarily.)

Epic failure bread 

!!don't try unless you want to be experimental!!

60 ml water
60 ml milk
25 g bread flour
125 ml milk
300 g bread flour
1 tsp salt
30 g sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
25 g butter

liquid:flour -ratio: 245/325 = 0.75 (not including 25 g butter)

Not-epic-failure-but-not-perfect bread

With this recipe (with minor changes) I got better results (actually quite a nice bread: good rise, but not enough fluffy and too salty). I decided to use more water instead of milk and put some milk powder instead as I read that milk prevents gluten formation. (And actually I've noticed before that milk-based breads are different from those water+milk powder -based.)

60 ml milk
60 ml water
24 g bread flour
125 ml water
250 g bread flour (seems my flour is extra-strong this time, I used less this time)
1.5 Tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt (next time 2/3)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast (in fear of no rise this is more than I would usually use)

25 g butter

--> liquid:flour -ratio: 245/274= 0.89 (not including 25 g butter)

Mix the ingredients for TZ in a (nonstick) pan. Heat up while stirring. When the wheat gelatinizes (the mixture thickens), take away from heat. Let cool to room-temperature.

Mix TZ, milk, flour, dry yeast, salt and sugar. Knead until elastic and smooth. Add soft butter and knead some more. Leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in size. Fold the dough down a couple of times, divide to 2 pieces. Flatten them into appr. 30 x 10 cm pieces and roll them up. Place side by side into bread pan. Cover and let rise until double. Bake in 175-200 C oven for 40 min.

(I was cheating a bit: I actually used my bread machine (program 1, the final proofing time +10 min)).

The quest continues...

Foxtail too wants to find a perfect shokupan

22 Apr 2014

Mämmitryffelit - Rye Truffles

We had a lovely sunny Easter here in southern Finland. How about in your hometown? If you ended up with some leftover mämmi, you might want to create something else from it as Easter is over. This recipe is adapted from Mämmi cookbook by the cook of Italy's embassy in Finland. I was supposed to serve these at a brunch we arranged for our friends on Easter Monday. We could actually have the brunch on our balcony even though it faces north-west (so no sunshine before 4 p.m.). It seems unbelievable that during Easter it could be so warm. Foxtail approves (or not, he prefers cool weather actually...)

Next time I want to have more chocolate taste, so I might use substitute cocoa powder for carob. They look so much like chocolate truffles that it's actually little disappointing when you bite into them to discover they taste only merely chocolate-y. Anyway, they were good, especially with blueberries :)

There was also another recipe rye truffles in the book, but with chocolate. Maybe next time...

Mämmitryffelit - Malted Rye Pudding Truffles

makes appr. 15 truffles

220 g mämmi
1-2+ Tbsp carob powder
1-2+ Tbsp cocoa powder (or you can use 3-4 Tbsp cocoa powder substituting for carob powder)
powdered sugar, if needed
more cocoa powder for dusting

If your mämmi is very moist, give it a couple 30 sec cycles in microwave oven and take out of the micro between the cycles to let the steam evaporate. Add enough carob and cocoa powder to make the mass enough solid. Spoon little mounds on a plate thickly dusted with cocoa powder. Form them as you like (I made cubes). My technique was to roll the piece first in cocoa powder and them form it into a cube. (The mass is quite sticky, so this way I avoided much of the mess).

adapted from Ahmed Ladarsi: Mämmi.

19 Apr 2014

English Muffins

I'm pretty sure I've taken this recipe from some magazine over 10 years ago. Shuffling through one's handwritten recipe book sometimes brings back memories like reading a diary. I remember making these in my student apartment in Hervanta, Tampere. And then I remember my fellow students and student life in general.

Nowadays I don't much write recipes to that book but instead here. A blog is great as it keeps every recipe more organized but for me (the former bookworm) there is just something appealing about a real paper book with its smooth covers and pages slightly curled in the corners.

This recipe is very simple, but maybe that makes it so tricky to get right sometimes. The original recipe is somehow "not right" and I always have to add more flour. (Maybe the original is supposed to be baked in a crumpet manner and then the Finnish author didn't understand that). These are perfect to be served toasted with your morning coffee or afternoon tea, slathered with butter or jam.

Oh, I forgot to mention that if you didn't know already, English muffins are not those sweet cake-like muffins but more like bread. Contrary to my usual habit of posting recipes in grams, this is in volume-based measurements. The dough should stay quite soft and sticky, don't use too much flour. 

English Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1/3 package (50 g/3 = 17 g) fresh yeast
250 ml milk
1/2- 1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
450-500 ml bread flour (the original recipe says 400 ml)
2 Tbsp melted/soft butter or shortening

For handling the dough use coarse wheat flour or semolina.

Warm up the milk to 37 C (slightly warmer than your fingertip). Crumble the yeast to a bowl and dissolve it to milk. Add salt and sugar. Knead in the flour to obtain a suitably soft but workable consistency. Knead in the butter/shortening. Let rise for 45-60 min in a warm place. Roll the dough on coarse flour/semolina floured table to 2 cm thickness and cut rounds with a glass or cookie cutter. Sprinkle some more coarse flour/semolina on top and let the muffins rise covered for appr. 30 mins.

Meanwhile heat up a cast-iron skillet (or frying pan) on mild heat (I used 2-3 on my 6-range stove). Cook a few muffins at a time on each side under a lid. The greasing of the pan is optional: the result will be different but good either way. Halve the rolls with a fork (that way the surface will not become too even: plenty of nooks and crannies for the butter to cling to). Toast and serve with butter or jam (or both!).

14 Apr 2014

Mämmi - Malted Rye Pudding

Mämmi is a very traditional Finnish Easter dessert. It could be described as a rye pudding or porridge. It is made of rye flour, malted rye and sugar/syrup. It has a deep malt flavour and is best enjoyed with cream or milk. Some like to sprinkle additional sugar on top, but to my taste mämmi has enough sweetness on its own. I'd guess it's not the prettiest food there is, but surely it's not the only one (think of a brown meat sauce or lentil soup...). (And btw, ä is pronounced like a in ham).

Nowadays you can buy mämmi from grocery stores and some bakeries in Finland. The traditional serving (and baking) dish was made of birch bark, but nowadays the commercial mämmi is in bark-imprinted cardboard boxes. I'd guess nobody makes it home anymore (except geeks like me).  It's quite time-consuming to make. (The actual hands-on time is short, but with all the waiting it will take the whole day). Two years ago I tried making mämmi myself for the first time. Everything went well first: the rye porridge became sweet ("imeltyä" in English, no idea... to malten? the process in which enzymes (?) cut starches to sugars and the food becomes sweet) but in the last phase when you're supposed to bake it in the oven... I spread it too thinly and let it bake too long. It got dry on top, crackled and became like a very dense rye bread.

This Easter I wanted to try making it again and this time I nailed it. Now my readers abroad can also enjoy this traditional dessert on Easter. Some ingredients might be hard to come by, though. If you want to enjoy this on Long Friday, you'll have to make it either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow the latest as mämmi takes time to develop that sticky texture and deep flavour.

Mämmi - Malted Rye Pudding

1 L water (330 ml + 4 times 170 ml), boiling
250 g rye flour
170 g malted rye
2-4 Tbsp (malt) syrup or sugar (or to taste: this will also depend upon the malting process)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp dried and ground Seville orange peel (=pomeranssinkuori)

Start by measuring rye flour and malted rye to separate bowls(*). Mix 330 ml boiling water with one fifth ryeflour and one fifth malted rye (you are not supposed to cook the pudding yet, so take it away from heat if your stove is too hot at this point). Sprinkle some rye flour* on top. You can leave it on a mildly hot stove or put it in oven or insulate it well for the mixture to stay warm. It should stay around 60-70 C for 1.5 hours. (If the temperature sinks below 60 C at the end of the cycle, it doesn't matter much, as you pour nearly boiling water on it again, the bigger problem would be the mixture getting too hot. But if the temperature is too low, you will get sour pudding)

*I use the flour from (*) for sprinkling (though I'm not so sure if it matters to add a little more flour). I had to use 1-2 Tbsp each time to get the surface covered.

Do the next part 4 times:
Stir in the flour you sprinkled earlier onto the pudding. Add 170 ml nearly boiling water, 1/5 (of the original amount)  rye-flour and 1/5 malted rye. Mix. Sprinkle again some rye-flour on top and leave to a warm place for 1 hour. (Yes, it is gonna take time).

After you've used all flour and malted rye and it has been in a warm place for one hour after the last addition of flour, stir again to incorporate the flour. Add the Seville orange peel and syrup/sugar (taste and add more if needed). Bring to boil. Cook on moderate heat for 10 minutes while stirring. Pour onto an oven dish (I used 2 aluminum pans) and let it cool. All the recipes tell you not to fill the dish too much as mämmi will boil over in the oven. I've never had any problems with that. Instead my problems have everything to do with NOT filling the dish enough. I'd suggest to use a deep dish and fill it at least 3-4 cm (that way mämmi stays softer).

Bake in 150 C oven for 2-3 hours. If your mämmi looks dry, you can brush it with sugar water every now and then (I mixed 20 g sugar with 40 ml boiling water). Brush the surface once more after you've taken it from oven. Let cool and cover. Place in fridge for 2-3 days to "mature". You can also freeze mämmi if you decide to make a bigger batch. Enjoy with cold cream (or milk or vanilla custard).

 Happy Easter!!!

7 Apr 2014

Chirashi Sushi Salad

How come the idea never came to my mind? It's so good! It tastes exactly like sushi but is a healthier option. I've made this four times since last week!!! The wasabi dressing might be my new favorite, too.

Chirashi sushi is "home sushi": sushi rice on a bowl and neta (=sushi toppings) arranged on top of the rice. This is like 3-tiered chirashi sushi: salad leaves, rice and neta.

Chirashi sushi salad

serves 2-3

150 ml Japanese rice (or other short-grain variety), washed and drained properly
165 ml water

Sushi vinegar:
1.5 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt

iceberg lettuce or other or mix, shredded & divided to three plates (I used gem salad and rucola this time, iceberg is ok too)
15 cm cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped away, cut into half-moons
1 small avocado, cut to slices
150 g salmon (either sashimi quality or salt-cured or smoked, I used salt-cured), cut to thin slices
1 Tbsp grated ginger > squeeze the juice onto salmon (discard the pulp)

Wasabi dressing
1-2 tsp wasabi paste (or to taste)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

Soak the rice for 15-30 min in cooking water. Cook it: (Just Hungry has superb instructions, I use the "frying pan" -method. I have an electric stove, so if you have a gas or induction one, those might behave differently. Again, Just Hungry has superb instructions). Bring the rice to boil on high heat (the lid on). Then turn the heat off (or to lowest setting) and let the rice cook under the lid (don't open it!). If it starts to boil over, remove the pan from heat for some minutes. 10 minutes after the boiling started, put the heat back on high for 30 sec to 1 min, (you will hear soon some cooking noise) then turn off the heat. Leave to steam for 10-15 minutes. Once again, do not open the lid at any point! (If you have a rice cooker, you can just omit this part and use your cooker ^^ )

Meanwhile, prepare the sushi vinegar (mix all together) and wasabi dressing (mix wasabi with soy sauce and vinegar, add oil). Prepare the ingredients for the salad.

When the rice is ready, sprinkle the sushi vinegar on it and with "cutting movements" mix it to the rice while fanning with a fan, newspaper etc... (you can ask someone to help, it's quite difficult at first by yourself). The rice will be better if cooled down quickly. Don't put it in fridge. If you have to store it for some time, put a wet tea towel on the bowl and leave it on room-temperature.

Sprinkle some dressing on salad leaves. When the rice is room-temperature or slightly warmer, divide on top of salad leaves. Arrange the salmon, cucumber and avocado. Serve the rest of the dressing on side.

adapted from Pirkka.

6 Apr 2014

☆ Spring ☆ Printemps ☆ 春 ☆ Kevät ☆

No recipe post this time... I've been busy trying to find certain spring flowers (Anemone hepatica) which are early this year. I haven't been able to spot them T_T They are my favorite spring flowers. Next week I'll be visiting Tampere, which means I can check my usual spots and maybe take some photos. Meanwhile, please enjoy these shots from our trip to Seurasaari and Tuomarinkylä a week ago.

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