Category Archives: Food

Lazy Daisy No-Knead Bread Recipe

I’ve noticed that many soap makers, including myself, also enjoy cooking and baking.  I will confess though that these days I think more about soap than I do about food.

More than 3 years ago, I got hooked on making bread. It all started when I stumbled upon this NY Times recipe, which, at that time, I found revolutionary.  After I made my first loaf, a new passion was born.  I became really serious about it and even made my own starter from scratch, and went on to making bread the traditional way.  For more than a year, I baked bread almost everyday, but I eventually stopped because my family and I felt we were eating way too much carbs.

Ever since Natalia casually mentioned here about her new obsession for homemade bread, I started to miss  it.  I finally got around to making it again when my French friend stayed with us last month.  She loved it and had it for breakfast everyday.  Even though she’s not really into baking, it looks like this no-knead technique is going to change all that.

Most of you are probably proficient bakers already, but for those who are daunted by the idea of making bread, or who are very busy, or simply lazy, I encourage you to try this.  It won’t take much of your time, and I guarantee you’ll be so pleased with yourself and grinning from ear to ear after you see this artisan-looking bread coming out of your oven.

I’ve made many variations but my favourites are the ones with muesli and chia seeds.

No-Knead Muesli Bread

No-Knead Muesli Bread

Crust, up-close

Crust, up-close

Chia Bread, baked in cast iron dutch oven

Chia Bread, baked in cast iron dutch oven

Chia Bread, sprayed with water and baked on a tray

Chia Bread, sprayed with water and baked on a tray

One day I will learn how to take videos, but for now, I’m only limited to  pictures.  Luckily, there are plenty of Youtube videos on how to make no-knead bread.  Click here to see the one by cookbook author and NY Times journalist, Mark Bittman.

I’ve tweaked the original recipe and I’ve also increased it by 50%. One loaf is good for 4 to 5 persons.

NO KNEAD BREAD RECIPE

450 grams water
12 grams salt
scant 1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
600 grams bread flour

Optional:
75 grams muesli + 75 grams water
or
25 grams chia seeds + 75 grams water

1.  In a large bowl or container (allow space for the dough to triple in size), pour in the water and dissolve the salt in it.

2.  Add and dissolve the yeast ( to avoid killing the yeast, never put salt and yeast in direct contact with each other )

3.  If you’re making plain bread, skip this and go to the next step. If you’re adding muesli or chia seeds, add it now into the water mixture, including the additional water.  Stir and let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow it to absorb water.

4.  Add the bread flour into the water mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula just until there’s no more trace of dry flour.  If you wish, you can finish mixing with your hand.

5.  Cover the bowl or container.  Let it sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours, but I usually just let it sit for 8-12 hours.

6.  When the dough is ready (it would have tripled in volume and have big holes), place a large cast iron dutch oven with its lid on in the oven (If the knob is not metal, wrap it with aluminum foil).  Crank up your oven to its highest setting, usually 500˚F or 250˚C.

7.  While the oven is pre-heating, place a sheet of baking paper on one side of the table.  Sprinkle flour over it.

8.  Oil your hands and work surface with olive oil.  Dump the dough on the oiled surface. Stretch 2 opposite sides of the dough and fold in towards the center. Turn the dough 45˚ and do the same for the other ends. Turn over the dough and transfer to the floured paper.  Cover with a large inverted bowl.

9.  When the oven has reached the right temperature, carefully remove the hot dutch oven.  Remove the lid.  Holding on to the paper, transfer the dough into the dutch oven. Cover and return to the oven.

10. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 200˚C or 400˚F, and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

For better understanding, the water is 75% of the flour weight, and salt at 2%. I find that the higher water percentage of the original recipe is a bit too gummy for my taste.  When adding muesli/oats or chia seeds, extra water is needed to compensate for their absorbent nature.

If you don’t own a cast iron pot, no worries!  Place the dough on a regular baking sheet and liberally spray the surface of the dough with water before it goes into the oven.  After 10-15 minutes, making sure you are wearing oven mitts because the steam can burn, spray the dough again in the oven.  The water will help keep the crust thin and crisp.

Warning: making no-knead bread can start a new addiction!

Happy baking! 🙂

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Perfect Yogurt in a Magic Cooker

This is a long overdue tutorial that I promised when I wrote Yogurt Soaps and Notes, but then it hit me that my method involves using a special equipment that most people don’t have.  I was hesitating whether to write this post or not, but I hate breaking promises, and I honestly think it is one of the best and most reliable methods, especially if you make a lot of yogurt regularly.

Google How to Make Yogurt and you will find numerous ways to improvise if you don’t have a yogurt maker.  I have been there and done that with most methods, but results were not always very consistent, until my mom discovered the Magic Cooker. She used it for soups and stews, but I had other ideas for it.

The key to making yogurt is maintaining an ideal temperature of 110˚-120˚F (43˚- 49˚C) for the bacteria to grow, multiply, and do their thing.  This, the Magic Cooker does perfectly.

A Magic Cooker works like a slow cooker except that there is no electricity involved.  It consists of an inner pot which you use to cook food in, and an outer pot which holds the inner pot to continue the cooking using the stored energy.

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Outer and inner pots of the Magic Cooker.

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The inner pot nestled in the outer pot.

I  think my mom got hers from a friend of a friend, but I checked Amazon just for reference and found that they have the bigger unit.  The unit I use at home is an older model, and I think the capacity is 3 liters, although I use it for only 2 liters of milk at a time.   I am in no way paid to endorse the product, but here’s the link for those who are curious. It is kinda pricey, but since you can use it for so many things without the use of added electricity, I think it is worth the investment in the long run.

Pictured below are the things you will need to prepare.  For this recipe, I used 2 liters of raw milk. For every liter of milk, you will need about a tablespoon of yogurt for proper inoculation. You can use store-bought plain yogurt as your “mother” yogurt, and for succeeding batches, you just need to reserve a little bit of what you made.

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Magic Cooker, milk, yogurt, thermometer, mixing spoon

By the way, the fuller you fill the Magic Cooker, the better it holds the temperature. At the very least, make it half full.

If you are using raw milk, you have to pasteurize or heat it up to a minimum temperature of 185˚F  (85˚C), otherwise it won’t work. It’s ok if your milk ends up hotter, like it did with me.

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Next, place the pot of milk in a basin/bowl/sink with cold water to cool it down to 120˚F. Stir it from time to time to prevent skin from forming.

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If you are using pasteurized or UHT milk, which I sometimes do, you just need to heat up the milk to 110˚-120˚F, and skip the whole cooling process, unless you accidentally overheated the milk.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use your finger (clean!) to gauge the temperature of the milk.  When you put your finger in, it should feel very warm and you should be able to leave your finger in the milk up to the count of ten without feeling like you are getting scalded.

When your milk is at the ideal temperature range of 110˚-120˚F  (I personally prefer to have my milk at the higher end of the range), add the mother yogurt and stir thoroughly.

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Cover the inner pot with its glass lid and place it inside the outer pot. Close the lid of the outer pot and leave it undisturbed for 4-5 hours.

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After the incubation period, check to see if the milk has thickened up by shaking it a bit. If it jiggles like jello, it is ready. If it still looks runny, give it another couple of hours before transferring the inner pot to the refrigerator.

Texture of chilled yogurt is like silken tofu. Since I used raw milk, the fat separates and forms a soft yellow layer. Yum!

Texture of chilled yogurt is like silken tofu. Since I used raw milk, you can see that the fat has separated and formed a soft yellow layer. Yum!

The whey separates naturally. You can mix everything with a wire whisk or scoop out the whey for a thicker yogurt.

The whey separates naturally. You can mix everything with a wire whisk or scoop out the whey for a thicker yogurt. To make yogurt cheese, place in a cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain.

I once forgot about the yogurt until after 12 hours.  I was expecting it to be spoiled already, but surprisingly, it was still fine and not even that sour!

I find that raw milk produces a thicker and richer yogurt, although technically, it’s no longer raw.  With pasteurized milk, some people add powdered milk to make a thicker yogurt, or you could also use milk fortified with calcium.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, even if you’re using a different method. 🙂

Tripping Out in Old Taipei

Last April, my husband and I took advantage of a buy one, take one airfare promo, and booked it around October 13, our wedding anniversary.  We wanted somewhere near, so we picked the nearest capital city, Taipei, which is just 2 hours away from Manila.  Hubby has never been to Taiwan and the last time I was there was in the early 1990s.

On our second day there, as I was researching on how to go to the fabric market, I read about Dihua Street, the oldest street in Taipei, and an important commercial hub for Taiwanese products such as medicinal herbs, teas, specialty food, textiles, etc.  This really piqued my interest, plus the fabric market was in the same area.

Oh boy! I really tripped out when I saw all the goods laid out in abundance inside the shops with more displays spilling out onto the building’s covered walkway. All I could think of were “soapabilities”.  Poor hubby, there really was nothing there of interest to him, but he patiently waited.

Here are snapshots of Dihua Street and its shops:

Dihua Street

Dihua Street

Sunday afternoon shopping in Dihua.

Sunday afternoon shopping in Dihua.

Rose Tea

Dried rosebuds for tea

Up-close, simply gorgeous.

Up-close, simply gorgeous.

Dried shiitake mushrooms

Dried shiitake mushrooms

Sadly, shark's fin is still widely sold in Taiwan.

Sadly, shark’s fin is still widely sold in Taiwan.

Ta-dah…….my Dihua haul:

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L to R: sweet osmanthus, calendula, mixed floral tea

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Lavender and chamomile

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L to R: powdered black sesame, black bean (but it’s not black), Job’s Tears

Still not satisfied, I had to go back again. This time I came a bit more prepared and researched on the items that I saw but were unfamiliar to me, and looked up the Chinese names of things I wanted to get, like stinging nettle, which I found! I still have to show my haul to my mom to make sure I have what I think I got. She can read and write fluent Chinese, but regrettably I don’t.

Clockwise from top left: mung bean powder, mugwort, roselle, stinging nettle, rose, brown rice powder

Clockwise from top left: mung bean powder, mugwort, roselle, stinging nettle, rose, brown rice powder

In popular stores in the city, I saw a lot of imported French soaps, including the large cube-shaped Marseille soaps that I had previously seen in photos only. Of the local handmade soaps, Monga Soap was the one that stood out and what I kept on seeing. From their brochure, these are some of the medicinal ingredients they use in their soaps: Asian puccoon, roots of Chinese Angelica, leguminosae, ginkgo leaves, pearl powder, polygonum multiflorum, absinthium, pogostemon cablin benth, etc. I still have to research on these things as I am not familiar with most of them.

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Monga: all-natural Taiwanese handmade soap

There would be something amiss if I didn’t make any mention of the fantastic eats in Taiwan. It is truly a foodie’s paradise where you can find practically anything and everything. We stuck to Asian cuisines, mostly Taiwanese, except for European desserts which are very popular there. When traveling, we always try to do as the Romans do. 🙂 Here are a few of the dishes I was able to take photos of:

Din Tai Fung's famous xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings with "soup" inside)

Din Tai Fung’s famous xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings with “soup” inside)

Din Tai Fung's wonton soup

Din Tai Fung’s wonton soup

Du Hsiao Yueh's scallops with silken tofu

Du Hsiao Yueh’s scallops with silken tofu

Shaved mango ice with fresh mangoes, mango ice cream and milk pudding from IceSquare Snowflakes

Shaved mango ice with fresh mangoes, mango ice cream and milk pudding from IceSquare Snowflakes

Vanilla panna cotta and green tea millefeuille

Vanilla panna cotta and green tea mille-feuille from Pozzo Bakery

Soaps From Missouri River Soap

I have 2 more days of vacation before I head home.  The past week and a half has just been awesome! The weather in both Hawaii and California has been gorgeous and I have been happily eating away.  I can feel my pants are a bit tighter, but when I’m traveling,  I just want to enjoy and not have to deal with what’s good or bad for me. I mean, it’s not everyday, right? 🙂

Clockwise from top left: granola cookie, macadamia white chocolate cookie, cherry almond square, apple almond tart

Could not resist inserting these to-die-for treats from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, St Helena. Clockwise from top left: granola cookie, macadamia white chocolate cookie, cherry almond square, apple almond tart

Now on to the subject, I just wanted to do a quick post on the soaps that I ordered from Holly of Missouri River Soap. The package was already waiting for me when I arrived at my sister’s place last Saturday. I ordered Patchouli Rain, Summer Love, and Wake Up! Holly also sweetly  sent samples of Green Clover & Aloe, Sunshine & Rainbows, and Licorice.  What can i say, but that they all look great and smell divine! I like them all, but if I have to choose, my favorites would be Patchouli Rain and Green Clover & Aloe. They smell really fresh, clean, and upscale. Kudos to Holly, a truly gifted artist and soapmaker!

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