Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Four Cheese Naan with Fresh Cilantro, Crushed & Toasted Cumin Seeds and Garlic

I was watching a Swedish cooking show where a Swedish chef visited an Indian restaurant in NYC. During the program, he made a naan stuffed with cheese, cilantro, cumin and garlic. We never figured out what kind of cheese they used or whether the cumin was whole or ground, but it looked very good and we decided to try making something like it.

I left one ball of dough in the refrigerator overnight and made the one in the photo above this morning. It appears that the naan come out more like naan when you leave the dough to mature overnight, so I have modified the steps taken in making naan accordingly.

To really make naan you need to have a Tandoori Clay Oven. Manjula suggests using a pizza stone. I had neither. The logic is similar to making pizza in that the oven should be as hot as you can make it and the surface that you place the dough on should be ultra-hot. If you have neither of the above like me, all you can do is crank your oven up to maximum heat and then slip the naan on a board, quickly onto the baking hot oven tray.

I have to say that the cilantro was a little disappointing. I would suggest making it without the cilantro and sprinkling some of it on top after it comes out of the oven.

Four Cheese Naan with Fresh Cilantro, Toasted Cumin Seeds and Garlic

Makes 6 Naans


2 Cups AP Flour
5.5 g Dry Yeast
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Sugar
Pinch Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Heaping Tbsp Yogurt
1/2 Cup Water (or as much as you need)



1 Cup Fresh Cilantro Chopped
2 Tsp Toasted Cumin Seeds (Grind them a bit)
200g Shredded Cheese (Mozzarella, Cheddar, Samsoe, Emmental)
6 Cloves Garlic Chopped

Step 1: In a big plastic bowl, mix the yeast with 2 Tbsp of lukewarm water, 1 Tsp sugar and 1 Tsp flour and leave until frothy. This will take around 10 minutes.

Step 2: Add some more of the flour, the salt, baking soda and oil and mix it.

Step 3: Add the rest of the flour and mix it until crumbly, and then add as much water as you need to form a smooth dough. I kneaded mine on a lightly floured surface.

Step 4: After coating the ball of dough with more extra virgin olive oil, return it to the bowl and cover with plastic and let it rise for 6 hours. At this point you can knead the dough thoroughly until elastic and smooth and divide it up into 6 portions. Wrap each individual portion in plastic and store inside the cold compartment of your refrigerator.

Next Day:

Step 5: Take out as many balls as you are going to make and let them warm to room temperature.

Step 6: Preheat the oven to 250C or the highest you can make it go. Leave the tray inside the oven. Knead each portion before rolling them out. Kneading will also help them warm-up so you can start when they are still a bit cool to the touch.

Step 7: Flatten the dough out into a circle, sprinkle with cheese, cilantro, cumin and garlic and fold the naan in a similar way to making Chinese Beef Pies. See Manjula's video.

Step 8: Let these balls of dough rest for 5 minutes, and then flatten them with a rolling pin.

Step 8: Place the naan on oven paper on top of a flat board so that you can slide them onto the baking hot oven tray. If you have a pizza stone use it by all means, but I don't have one.

Step 9: Bake for 3-4 minutes. The baking time will depend on your oven and whether you have a pizza stone. It was around 4 minutes for me. The naan is ready when it is still snow white, but has some golden brown patches on top.

Step 10: Brush the naan with butter and sprinkle with some fleur de sel (and fresh cilantro).

Step 11: Let the oven reheat for 5 minutes before putting the next batch inside the oven. You can bake 2-3 in one go depending on the size of your oven.

We had ours with Garam Masala chicken and a salad.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Steamed Lotus Buns

I still had some leftover lotus paste and Ann of Anncoo Journal suggested I make steamed lotus buns with them. I didn't want to waste any of it as Ronny and I nearly became crippled making it. It was really hard work. Please refer to my previous post for the lotus paste recipe.

I followed a recipe from Smoky Wok, modifying it a bit. I only used sugar to activate the yeast and omitted the rest of it. I also used cake flour as I read that it was better to keep the protein content low.

These were delicious and much healthier than the mooncakes as the wrapper only had a small amount of butter in it. If you have any kind of paste lying around (Azuki, white bean, lotus, etc.) it's very easy to make and wonderful to have with some nice Chinese or Japanese tea.

Steamed Lotus Buns


5.5g Dry Yeast
1/2 Cup Warm Water
1 1/2 Cup Cake Flour + more for kneading
1 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 Tsp Sugar

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and 1 Tsp of the cake flour and leave it until bubbly for around 15 minutes.

Step 2: Sift all the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl.

Step 3: Mix the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture adding the butter.

Step 4: Knead for around 10 minutes.

Step 5: Transfer to a clean oiled bowl and let it rise for 60 minutes or until it has at least doubled.

Step 6: Start boiling the water in the steamer* when the dough is ready for another kneading.

Step 7: Knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it is smooth and pliant and then divide it into 12 portions.

Step 8: Roll a small ball of lotus paste and wrap it up. See this.

Step 9: Cut oven paper so that they are bigger than the buns and place the buns on top of the paper.

Step 10: Steam 3 at a time for 15-20 minutes.

Step 11: Serve warm.

*I used a couscoussier.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making Chinese Mooncakes in Spain: A Study in Surrealism

This is a documentary of me attempting to make mooncakes in Spain without the correct ingredients and without a mooncake mold. The arduous process and results were a study in surrealism.

What on earth is this?! It doesn' a moon cake, but what the hell. I spent three days slaving over this thing!

Anyhow, I don't suggest you follow my modified 'recipe' as the lotus paste came out way too soft. I am guessing there was too much butter in comparison to the starch content, and hence it tended to spread all over the place.

The other issue was that the dough did not seem to have the resilience it should have had and was not stretchy and soft and tended to crack, resulting in a surface that kind of looks like the drought hit areas of the earth.

I would say that the only useful part of this blog is how to prepare the dried lotus seeds. The rest is a work in progress.

So here goes...

Preparation of the Lotus Seeds

I used dry lotus seeds as this was all I could find.

I purchased 150 g x 6 packs of dried lotus seeds. After I soaked them in water overnight and seeds that had changed color and so on were removed, this converted to around 1.9 kg of lotus seeds. This means that a 150g pack of lotus seeds will convert to roughly 316 g of usable hydrated lotus seeds.

Step 1: Soak the lotus seeds in water in a big bowl for a few hours.

Step 2: When the lotus seeds have softened sufficiently for handling, check each seed to make sure the germ has been removed from the center as this is very bitter. Also throw away any seeds that look discolored.

Step 3: Soak the lotus seeds in water again overnight.

Step 4: Measure the desired amount of seeds. In my case I needed 1.332 kg lotus seeds to make 3 kg of lotus paste. Put the rest inside a tupperware in water and store in the refrigerator.

Step 5: Boil the lotus seeds for more than 5 hours until soft. Remember that you want a smooth paste. The softer they are the less likely they are to get gritty.

The recipe I followed for making lotus paste was this from Amanda:

Amanda's Recipe

200g Lotus Seed
180g Sugar (120g recommended by author)
160 ml Peanut Oil (100 ml Olive Oil recommended by author)
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Condensed Milk
1/8 Tsp Salt

The author noted that this made around 450g of lotus paste and I needed 3kg. This meant I needed around 1332 g of lotus seeds. I modified the recipe proportions using fresh cream instead of condensed milk:

1330g Hydrated Lotus Seeds
800g Sugar
670g Butter
17 Tbsp Honey
14 Tbsp Fresh Cream
1 Tsp Salt

This is the lotus paste paste I made...or should I say Ronny made. Frankly, without his viking brute strength, it would have been impossible to stir more than 2.5kg of this paste for a few hours. It was insane. Now I think I can understand how Leif Erikson managed to get all the way to the Americas on his man/wind powered boat.

*This recipe yielded 2640g of lotus paste. Don't know what happened to the 360 g, but maybe we took too many spoonfuls out of it to 'taste it' as we were making it, and as I mentioned earlier it tasted good but was too soft.

I used several references for making my moon cakes and will link to them where relevant. In the end I chose to go with the formula on Anncoo Journal.

Anncoo's recipe:

600g Hong Kong Flour
360g Sugar Syrup
12g Alkaline Water
150g Peanut Oil
3 kg Lotus Paste

I compared this with another recipe on House of Annie.

Annie's recipe:

300g Superfine Flour (600g)
240g Mooncake Golden Syrup (480g)
1/2 Tbsp Alkaline Water (1Tbsp)
75g Cooking Oil (150g)
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda (1 Tsp)

A few questions arose at this point.

1. What is Hong Kong Flour?
2. What is Mooncake Golden Syrup?
3. What is alkaline water?

Hong Kong Flour turned out to be a fine bleached flour although I was never able to find out the percentage of its protein content. In the end, I opted for using 300 g AP flour and 300 g cake flour.

Mooncake Golden Syrup can be substituted with corn syrup or Golden Syrup, but if you really want to make it from scratch you need to let it sit for around a year before using it. See this. I opted for using a mixture of syrup and honey used in making Arab confections as this is all I could get.

Alkaline water according to some references is what is referred to as lye water in the west. However some say that it is simply alkaline water and you should do a litmus paper test to determine the pH of your tap water. Pure water has a pH of around 7.0. If the pH is more than 7.0, it is alkaline, if it is lower it is acidic. If your water isn't alkaline, adding baking soda to it can make it alkaline. The water in my area is very hard and alkaline so I just used tap water.

The other question is the baking soda in Annie's list of ingredients. As the dough has to sit for 3 hours to 1 day in her recipe, we can assume that it's not there for its raising properties. I am guessing that it is there to ensure that the dough stays alkaline.

Annie also uses a lot more syrup, which suggested to me that her dough would be softer. hmm....

In the end this is what I did:

300g AP Flour
300g Cake Flour
360g Syrup with Honey
10g Tap Water with an alkaline pH
150g Melted Butter

Anncoo's recipe says to let it sit for 20 minutes, but I decided to let it sit for much longer while I made the lotus paste. I might also add that if you have any doubts about whether your tap water is alkaline and don't want to do a litmus test, add 1 Tsp baking soda to the water.

This is what the dough looked like when it was put into the refrigerator:

The morning after making the lotus paste (and it had cooled down), it was time to shape and bake the moon cakes.

Shaping and Baking the Moon Cakes

Step 1: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm-up to room temperature or at least until it is soft and pliable.

Step 2: Knead the lotus paste well and make 80g balls (or 150g if you think you can do it) . I had difficulty wrapping 150g of paste as my paste as very soft in comparison to my dough. I reduced the amount and decided to wrap them in the same way as I wrap Chinese beef pies - which is not the way to wrap moon cakes, but if you have trouble wrapping it the correct way, I suggest you do what I did!

Step 3: Knead the wrapper dough well and make 50g balls with it.

Step 4: Flatten out the dough into a circle with your hands and wrap the lotus paste ball with it completely.
See this. I didn't put an egg in the center, but put some walnuts and almonds candied with honey in the center.

Step 5: If you have a mold, then lightly dust the ball with cake flour and press it into the mold and remove. If not flatten it with your hands so that you have circular mooncake (with no fancy designs on it).

Step 6: Preheat oven to 180C.

Step 7: Bake 10 mooncakes or so at a time for 7 minutes. Remove them from the oven, cool them and bake the next batch for 7 minutes. Basically the mooncakes will need to cool for 10 minutes.

Step 8: Dial down the oven temperature to 175C and let the first batch rest for another 3 minutes at least.

Step 9: Paint the surface of the first batch of mooncakes with egg wash and put 10 of them back in the oven and bake them for 20 minutes.

Step 10: Repeat the process until all the mooncakes are baked.

Note: I used a well whipped egg yolk + 1 Tsp water for my egg wash.

I was talking to a friend of mine while making these and she mentioned walnut mooncakes, which made me want to make some candied walnuts and almonds.

I just coated a handful of walnuts and Marcona almonds with dark honey from Galicia and roasted them in the oven preheated to 175C (350F) for around 12 - 15 minutes, stirring them around a bit at the 7 minute mark or so. I incorporated these into a few of the mooncakes.

Let me end this by quoting Annie:

"Honestly, if you live in Asia where the filling ingredients are easy to find and buy pre-made, and most of the other ingredients for the skin are also prepared for you, it's not really hard at all. If you live in the West, where the ingredients may be more difficult to find and you'd have to make everything from scratch by yourself, then yes, I'd say it would be tougher."

No kidding!

The last and perhaps most important question is how they tasted. Well, my crust turned out to be like a soft pie crust and the lotus seed paste was very aromatic because of the Galician honey and home made vanilla essenceI used. They were definitely palatable, but they just were not....Chinese mooncakes. Please consult my original sources when making yours.

Addendum 1: The mooncakes need to be made at least 2 days before consumption. After 2 days the wrapper will soften and the cakes will become very fragrant. I left mine out on a cooling rack for the rest of the day and them stored them in an airtight container. Whenever I open the containers the aromatic scent of dark honey from Galicia, caramelized sugar, vanilla, butter and fresh cream spill out of the container and it's a real pleasure to take one of the moonakes out and eat them. Mine may look awkward, but they taste fabulous.

Addendum 2: I used 100% cake flour to bake another batch, and let the dough sit for 20 minutes. This appears to yield a more elastic dough. However, when I baked them the wrappers seemed to crack. This could be because I did not wait until the lotus paste had warmed-up to room temperature.

Addendum 3: If the lotus paste is soft, let it harden in the refrigerator and take them out and make the balls right before they are ready to be put into the wrapper. Then let them soften inside the wrapper before you put them into the mold or shape them with your hands.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Buttermilk Cluster Rolls - Revisited

I made Michael Ruhlman's Buttermilk Cluster Rolls back in February 2010. This is a standard recipe in our household now and I thought I'd share the few modifications I have made to the original recipe.

Instead of baking it inside a cake pan to make that gorgeous looking cluster roll, for practicality's sake, I bake it inside an IKEA bullar loaf tin (27.5 cm x 8.5 cm x 6 cm), and make a few small buns on the side with the leftover dough. If you have a bigger bread loaf tin, you can make bigger balls of dough and bake everything in one go. Some modifications have been made in the recipe because buttermilk is difficult to obtain and expensive in Spain. I use a mixture of yogurt and whole milk.

This is Ronny's sandwich bread these days and he likes to melt Gouda or Cheddar cheese on it, but I love to have it with a generous slathering of marmalade made from bitter oranges from Seville (Mermelada de Naranja Amarga, Angel Camacho Alimentacion, S.L.).

Here's the modified recipe.

Yogurt & Milk Loaf with Blue Poppy Seeds - Adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Recipe


800g AP Flour
125 g Yogurt
445 g Whole Milk
5.5 g Dry Yeast
1 Tbsp Spanish Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Honey (I use Miel Multifloral de Galicia)
Butter (for greasing the tin)
Coarse Corn Flour (for sprinkling in the tin and on the oven paper)
1 Egg
1 Tsp Blue Poppy Seeds

Step 1: In a big mixing bowl, combine the flour (saving maybe 1/2 cup for the kneading), yeast and salt and give it a few whisks to make sure it is well-blended.

Step 2: Add the yogurt, milk and honey and mix and mix it until it's blended enough and you can move it to a floured kitchen surface.

Step 3: Use the remaining flour and knead the dough until smooth and resilient for about 10 minutes, gradually incorporating all of the flour.

Step 4: Put it back in the bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Let it rest for around 2 hours.

Step 5: Butter the bread loaf tin and sprinkle with coarse corn flour.

Step 5: Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it well releasing all the gases and then make 4 balls weighing around 300g each (the size of my fist aka the size of a 12 year old boy's fist) and put them into bread tin like you would when making a Brioche.

Step 6: Roll the remaining dough into small balls (100g x 4) and put them on oven paper that has been sprinkled with coarse corn flour.

Step 7: Cover both with tea towels and let them rise for 60 minutes.

Step 8: Beat the egg until it's a uniform smooth yellow.

Step 8: Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and when the bread has risen, brush the surface of the loaf with the egg wash, sprinkle some blue poppy seeds on top and bake for 30 minutes, then cover with aluminum foil if the top is very brown and bake for another 10 minutes (Total Baking Time: 40 minutes).

Step 9: After removing the baked loaf from the oven, slide in the buns and bake these for 15 -20 minutes or until they are nice and brown on top.

Further Notes: My bread often cracks on top or on the sides and although this doesn't bother me I know it might bother some of you. I found this note on which is helpful.