Of course, I grew out of that phase (eventually) and nowadays, you’ll more likely catch me in the food section of a bookstore than the fiction section. And I never take books with me overseas anymore- I bring books back =] My cookbook collection is really small, compared to my collection of novels but I’m not quite sure what’s big, and what’s small- which makes me wonder, how big is your cookbook collection?? I have books which I buy, intending to try most of the recipes and some which I buy just because it’s cheap and the pictures pretty (and there’s a slight possibility I’ll try one of the recipes). And then there are my Chinese cookbooks- the ones which undoubtedly get used the most.
I love my Chinese cookbooks for a very simple reason- they have the recipes which appeal to me more than anything else. Because no matter how much I love to try new things, I’ve found that the food I like the best is definitely Asian. Perhaps it’s because I grew up eating asian food, but I prefer soft fluffy bread to crusty sourdough, I prefer soft and light sponge cakes to rich and buttery butter cakes, congee over porridge……the list goes on. The Chinese cookbooks I've seen are significantly different to the English ones I read- for one thing, they are almost all glossy, colourful and full of pictures (even if the photography isn’t any good…..) They also have a love of including step by step pictures.
On my (sort of recent) trip to Hong Kong (which I have yet to finish blogging about.....), I purchased a book on breads 'Hong Kong Breads' by Yau Yung Ling. I've taken an interest into bread making, ever since my first successful loaf and the realisation that the only reason my bread attempts failed was because of dead yeast. One of the first recipes I attempted was this Pai pau (排包- which literally translates to rows of bread), a common bread in Hong Kong, which is pretty much a basic asian bread dough which is shapped in rows which you pull apart to eat.
I love pull apart breads. I love how you can feel the incredible softness of bread as you rip it apart, before you take a bite and feel the fluffiness. I even like to pull my sandwiches apart- when I'm at school, I like to pull of each of the crusts, one side at a time, and eating them before starting on the centre. Which I why I knew I was going to try this bread. The bread dough used in this recipe has a slightly high butter content to the basic dough used in the rest of the book, giving it a bit of a better flavour.
It seems however, that I can never escape disasters in the kitchen and my first attempt at this resulted in an almost inedible loaf. I'd (once again) used yeast that had been left out for too long. I've since read that yeast can be stored in the freezer so hopefully, I won't come across that problem again for another year or so......
The second attempt was a lot better, and yielded a very soft and fluffy bread. The only problem was I'd put the rows too close together during the proving, and so the rows all moulded into one after rising and baking, resulting in one loaf which wasn't really pull-apart-able. Well, not neatly anyway. So we cut it up =]
It didn't actually turn out as soft as it looked in the cookbook, and not quite as soft as asian bakery bread, but we loved it just the same!
And here's a tip from the book:
Don't knead with your head!!
Pai Pau (or, as named in the book, Egg and Butter bread)
Recipe from Hong Kong Breads by Yau Yung Ling
476g strong flour
112g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Some yellow food colouring-
egg yellow or lemon yellow (optional)
4g bread additive (I used bread improver)
some beaten egg for topping
Place all ingredients except butter into bread machine (according to the directions your bread machine manual!) Set to Dough function. Add in the butter after 8 ~ 10 mins into the kneading cycle. When the dough has finished kneading, remove dough from machine and put it in a bowl covered with cling wrap Leave to ferment for 30minutes.
Divide the fermented dough into 16 pieces.
Roll each piece into a long sausage like shape. It should be a bit longer than your palm- about the width of a loaf pan.
Place 8 pieces of rolled dough next to each other in a row, so that they form a rectangular shape. Leave small gaps in between them. Do the same with the other 8 pieces, unless you want a huge/long pai pau.
Leave to ferment for 45 minutes or until double in size.
Brush egg wash on top and bake at 200oC for 15 minutes or until