Friday, February 20, 2015

Cinnamon Craisin Walnut Sourdough

Hello everyone, OCD is going on a brief 2 week break after this post because I really need to study for my medical boards; unfortunately, baking will not help me rock my exams for my MD degree and residency! I'll keep posting on Instagram, so you can still follow me there :)

Fear not, I will return after my exam, hopefully alive. Wish me luck!


Can you imagine sitting at home on your butt and studying +12 hours a day? Every single day? For almost 8 weeks? I couldn't. But here I am, studying a couple thousand questions for my medical boards, and I have no idea how I'm doing it.
It's a rather painful experience. Plus I found out how much I forgot (or never knew in the first place) from basic sciences. Like...the Krebs cycle....or embryology of the brachial pouches/arches/clefts ....or the tumor markers of every single cancer.

I've never taken time off to study for an exam; I just studied while in high school or college. But the US Medical License Exam (USMLE) is a beast and a rite of passage for all medical students. This 8 hour test gives you a three digit number that literally determines your medical career - where you can go and even what specialty you can choose. Oh and you can't retake it if you screw up.

Am I scared? Oh yes.
But I couldn't let all that sitting studying at home time go to waste. Hence, my newfound obsession with artisan bread baking and learning the art (or frustrations) of the sourdough rise. After all, sourdough requires watching the bread, and I can actually do that since I'm at home all the time now (studying of course...not, erm....looking up bread baking forums for deperate help).

In fact, I even listen to my Pathology audiotapes while kneading my bread - that's how dedicated I am to my education.
I wanted to make a Craisin Walnut Sourdough after becoming obsessed with the bakery bread used in my Apple, Bacon, and Walnut Panini and seeing similar recipe by Top with Cinnamon.

*before baking*
Chef Uy: OMG, that craisin walnut bread is SO expensive! I'll learn to bake it myself.
B: Of course, dear.
*after baking 8+ loaves of bricks*
Chef Uy: Ok, I'll fork over the money to buy the bakery bread -___-
B: Mnn-hmm, dear.

Baking sourdough has brought so many struggles but I think I've got it semi-down now - I've typed up two sets of direction - one that's for people who know bread baking terms already and one that's more detailed for beginning bakers. This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour which is nice because it includes a touch of yeast to help the rise a tad bit. And if there's anything I learned in this past month, it's how to have patience when rising my sourdough bread .... and my practice test scores.

1/2 cup "fed" starter (mine is from Carl's Starter)
1/2 to 3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups flour (I did 1 3/4 all purpose and 3/4 wheat), plus additional for kneading
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Directions (the TL:DR version)
Combined all your ingredients to form a dough.

Please dough in a greased bowl lined with parchment paper and cover. Let rise until double (1st rise).

Knead dough and let rise until double (2nd rise).

Optional: knead dough again and let it undergo a 3rd rise if dough is not stretchy/gluten is not fully formed yet.

After the 2nd (or 3rd rise), shape the dough and let it "rest" until puffy (~1 hr). Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray/rub the loaves with lukewarm water (or diluted milk for a golden brown). Make diagonal slashes in the loaf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.


Directions (detailed)
Combine fed* starter, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and flour in a bowl; stir to form a dough that comes together. Mix in cinnamon, craisins, and walnut pieces. The dough will be fairly wet - although harder to handle, supposedly a wetter dough yields better sourdough; so adjust as needed.

* A fed starter is crucial for a good rise. If you take it right out of the fridge, it won't be active.

Place dough in a greased bowl lined with parchment paper and cover to keep it from drying out; a dry surface forms a skin, preventing it from fully rising. Let rise until it's doubled in size.**

**A note on timing: I just eyeball by size, not by time, so the rising period can vary (for me, it was ~ 1-2 hrs each time). To speed it up, place in an off oven with the light turned on to keep it warm. To slow down the rising period, leave it in a cooler area like the fridge (I've left it overnight there for 10 hrs). A slower rise lets the sourdough develop more flavor. 

Once risen, knead it again, with a light dusting of flour if needed. Because the dough is wet and sticky, I recommend "kneading" by using a spoon to roll/pull dough onto itself while it's on top of a parchment paper inside the bowl. This minimizes the dough sticking to your fingers (thus reducing the need to add as much flour). Here and here and here are some videos to see how "wet" dough can be and tips on working with it. Let rise again in a greased, parchment paper lined, covered bowl until double in size for the second rise.

Gently shape and knead the dough into a ball. After the 2nd rise, the dough should be stretchy and pass the "windowpane test," showing the gluten is well formed.*** Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let it "rest" until puffy, about 1 hour; this is the resting period prior to baking

***optional: If your dough is not stretchy, or if it keeps flattening/won't hold its shape, you can knead and let the dough sit for a third rise. An additional rise gives time for more gluten strands to form and strengthen.

Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray/rub the loaves with lukewarm water (or diluted milk for a golden brown). Make diagonal slashes in the loaf so it can expand when baking.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

If you want more resources, check out KAF and The Clever Carrot
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eggs in a Basket (Fried Egg in Toast)

Valentine's Day is coming up! There's a million names for fried eggs in toast - Eggs in a Basket / Eggs in a Hole / Eggs in a Nest / Bird's Nest / Toad in the Hole / Bullseye / Moon over Miami - but no matter what you call it, it's a fun way to show your love.
eggs Basket Fried Egg Toast valentines brunch breakfast heart
Each person in my family has a very specific preference for how to eat eggs - fried, scrambled, runny yolk, solid yolk, with rice, with bread, with ketchup, whites only, etc. My favorite is, of course, fried. Personally runny yolks are my pet peeve; gotta have them cooked all the way. B, in the other hand, likes to poke his and watch the yolk flow away.
eggs Basket Fried Egg Toast valentines brunch breakfast heart
I saw this somewhere and thought this was the cutest idea. It was surprisingly tricky to get it done perfectly. Flipping the whole thing makes it messy because the yolks burst, and it's not pretty anymore. Cooking without flipping risks burning the toast before the egg is done. Toasting the bread prior makes it hard so the egg flows out underneath if the pan's not perfectly flat. And the biggest fail was trying to pour egg white from a carton - those whites were way too runny and flowed underneath out of the bread hole faster than you can say "rats!"

In frustration, I wanted to jab the center of the failed eggy hearts (I never claimed I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, right?).

But after many, many Eggs in a Basket trials, I think I've got it figured it out. The trick - fry only one side of the bread so the second side cooks right along with the egg.
Obsessive Cooking Disorder: Eggs in a Basket (Fried Egg in Toast)
Fun medical fact: In pathology there's quite a few cancers whose cells are classically described as "fried egg" - oligodendriomas (a brain tumor), multiple myeloma plasma cells (a bone marrow cancer) and seminomas /dysgerminomas (testicular/ovarian cancers).

Hey, I'm studying for my medical boards - gotta justify why I spent all morning frying and popping eggs instead of reading.

cooking spray or butter
1 slice of bread
1 egg
pinch of paprika and pepper
shredded cheddar cheese, to garnish
basil, to garnish

Cut your heart or whatever shape in the middle of the bread using a cookie cutter or knife (as I did).

Add butter or cooking spray to a frying pan on medium. Fry the bread (and the cut out piece) in the pan until golden brown. Flip the bread over. Carefully crack the egg inside and fry the egg for an additional minute or two, until the egg whites are fully cooked.

Some recipes brown both sides of the toast before cracking the egg, but I only cook one side first so you can fry the egg longer without burning the bottom (this way, you don't have to flip the whole thing, keeping the yolk pretty). 

You can flip the entire Egg in a Basket to cook the yolk a bit more. Lift the edge of the bread up with a spatula to make sure the egg has solidified and set into the toast. Add cooking spray / butter as needed and gently flip it over. Careful not to pop the egg yolk!

Top the egg with paprika, pepper, cheese, and basil. Slide on to a plate and serve with some avocado slices. Enjoy!

Note: Another option a friend mentioned is to cook on one side on a skillet, then hold in the oven under the broiler for a minute to cook the top without flipping. Genius!
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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fried Chinese Birthday Noodles (Tsa Misua)

Today is my mom's birthday. Misua is a skinny salty Chinese noodle from Fujian province, where my ancestors are from. It's the "longevity noodle" so we always eat it on birthdays and New Years, both American and Chinese. While it can be cooked as noodle soup, I'm sharing the stir fried "tsa" version from my mom.
Fried Chinese Birthday Noodles Tsa Misua
Although Mom makes excellent food, explaining her recipes is not her strong point.

Chef Uy: *email* Mom, I want the recipe for your misua, can you send it?
Mom: *email* boil noodles, mix pork, veggies. That is basically it. Shrimps optional. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This is home style - no measurement. 
Chef Uy: eh... but... I still don't know how to cook it.

Mom never measures anything and substitutes/leaves out ingredients based on whatever's in the kitchen, which is why the family dishes are never exactly the same.

Dad: Although you're making the same dish, it somehow tastes different every time.
Mom: This is why I run a house, not a restaurant.
long life noodles birthday chinese new year lucky
The whole reason why I started OCD was because I wanted to record the recipes I learned, especially the family recipes by mom. Asian food is all about tradition, so it's kinda nice knowing I can carry these recipes onwards to my future family.

A second boon of writing these recipes down is that we might finally have some consistency in mom's cooking as well, heh.
Fried Chinese Birthday Noodles Tsa Misua
Without further ado, I present a Fukienese family's tsa misua birthday noodles. I've provided measurements, but in the spirit of mom's cooking style, think of the amounts as just "guidelines."

Fried Chinese Birthday Noodles (Tsa Misua)

1 package Chinese misua noodles
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 yellow onion
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water overnight to soften
1/4 lb pork
3-4 carrots
1/4 lb shrimp
1/4 head fresh cabbage
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups chicken broth
Chinese peanuts (roasted peanuts with skin on)
green onions, sliced for garnish

Cook noodles in a pot of boiling water until tender (just a few minutes). Drain and set aside.

Chop onions and slice mushrooms, carrots, cabbage into thin diagonal strips.

Heat oil in a wok, stir fry the garlic and onion until fragrant. Stir fry mushrooms, pork, and carrots with soy sauce and sugar. After a few minutes, add cabbage and shrimp and continue to stir fry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken broth. Let simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add noodles and mix. Top with peanuts and green onions.
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