Gum Mastic, Cardamom, Rosewater, and Pistachio Ice Cream

The recipe that required the most amount of specialised ingredients.

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Gum mastic is used in Eastern Mediterranean cooking. Honestly I have no idea how I even came across it. I opened up my folder of bookmarked ice cream flavours and there it was. My Greek friend got really excited about this, he said that there’s an old wives’ tale about mastica being the cure to everything (cue long-suffering eye-roll from said friend).

And sorry I can’t really describe its taste either. It brings more of an aromatic component to me rather than a taste. Some say that it smells like pine trees, but I’ve never smelt a pine tree before…

And cardamom also smells really good. Like a really classy scented candle. That you want to eat. Basically I kept smelling this ice cream throughout.

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The ice cream is based off an eggless custard – my first recipe without eggs! This meant that I could be less careful about watching the temperature of the custard, since overheating an egg-based custard can result in a bit of a sulfurous smell and taste (ie like eating farts, yummy).

And I thought this ice cream froze pretty well! Didn’t get as icy as some of my previous ice cream attempts.

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Unfortunately you do need an ice cream maker for this recipe, although I’m sure you can use one of the many ways out there to adapt the recipe.

Gum Mastic, Cardamom, Rosewater, and Pistachio Ice Cream

I don’t know why one of the scoops looks more yellow than the other, but it’s okay I accept you for who you are.

I got the recipe from here and used ground cinnamon instead of a cinnamon stick.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon whole green cardamoms
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 100ml rose water
  • 1 teaspoon gum mastic crystals, crushed with 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 200ml evaporated milk
  • Handful of toasted pistachios to top, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Crush the whole cardamoms in a pestle and mortar (or get your housemate to crush it in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin, because you’re lazy like that). Take out the pods leaving the seeds then pound the seeds to a fine powder.
  2. Place the milk and double cream in a saucepan, and add the ground cardamom and cinnamon. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by about a quarter to a rich creamy colour (it takes about half an hour).
  3. Place the sugar and rose water in another saucepan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat until it becomes a thin syrup. Remove from the heat and cool.
  4. When the milk and cream are ready, remove from the heat and stir in the crushed gum mastic. Cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. Sieve the liquid. Add the evaporated milk to the sieved liquid and combine with the rose water syrup. Cool and chill.
  6. Churn in an ice-cream machine until desired consistency.
  7. If you want a scoopable consistency rather than a soft-serve consistency, chill the ice cream down in the freezer overnight.
  8. Top with toasted pistachios.

Notes

  • I’d suggest going light on the gum mastic especially if you’re not used to the flavour because it can be quite strong.
  • To me the pistachio was really crucial in bringing this recipe together. Brought some textural variation, and its nuttiness also complemented the sort of organic(?) taste of the mastic.

Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns

Well I say earl grey but I couldn’t really taste the tea. Maybe my palate is unrefined, reflecting my appearance and general approach to life. Or maybe my super-generous jam distribution combined with the fruits in the bread overwhelmed the tea flavour.

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Well it’s a good idea in theory. Earl grey has a bit of a fruity note to it so I thought it’d go well with the bread. I just wanted to make my Easter baking this year a little bit more cultured okay.

Probably will try steeping the tea for longer next time, might even try an overnight infusion.

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Don’t get too excited and snip too big a hole to draw your cross, like I did for my first batch. This is the stage where a steady hand comes into play, so just do some deep yoga breathing, pop a beta-blocker, and enter your Sherlockian mind palace.

Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns

Also there is nothing more unappetising to look at (and eat) than an unglazed hot cross bun so just remove all inhibitions and slather on an uncomfortable amount of glaze. You are the Picasso of your kitchen. The van Gogh of jam. And the Bob Ross of your own heart (aww).

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If this bun doesn’t look like it was from the previous image, it’s because it was a different batch. Sorry for the deception.

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And of course, what’s hot cross buns without an unhealthy amount of butter. I like my butter cold, like my heart.

I used the same recipe as the Hot Cross Buns I made last year (Paul Hollywood’s recipe), and just steeped the milk in some earl grey first.

Ingredients (makes 12 medium-sized buns)

  • 330ml full-fat milk
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags, opened
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil (for oiling the bowl)
  • 7g instant yeast (1 sachet)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75g raisins, soaked in water for at least an hour
  • 50g mixed peel
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 apple (peeled, cored, and finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g plain flour (for making the cross)
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam

Method

  1. Simmer the milk and empty the contents of the teabags to the milk. Take the milk off the heat and steep for at least 30 mins.
  2. Sieve the milk to remove the bulkier leaves and warm the milk up slightly again. Add the butter to melt the butter. Leave to cool until it’s about body temperature.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. When adding the ingredients to the bowl, add the yeast on the opposite side of the salt and sugar since the latter two could retard the yeast.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add the beaten egg. Mix well.
  5. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. It might be sticky at first but just keep kneading until it comes together.
  6. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Mix the dough with the sultanas, mixed peel, lemon zest, apple, and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. Divide the dough into 100g portions to make 12 rolls. Shape each dough into a ball by pulling on the top surface to create a smooth top. Arrange the buns on a baking tray, leaving some space between them for expansion. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour more.
  9. To prepare the paste to make the cross, mix the 75g of plain flour with about 5 tbsp of water, adding the water 1 tbsp at a time so you just get a thick paste. Place the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross pattern onto the top of the bun once they are done with the final proof.
  10. Bake at 200°C for 20 mins until golden-brown.
  11. Gently heat the jam until it’s more runny, then sieve it to get rid of any chunks. When the bread and jam is still warm, brush the jam over the top of the buns with a pastry brush and leave to cool.

Notes

  • If you don’t have a piping bag you can just use a zip-lock bag with a corner cut off.
  • Try to use a piping bag with a smaller nozzle to get a neater looking cross.
  • I find that soaking raisins beforehand makes them a little more plump and less likely to burn when baking.
  • I like to mix in cinnamon with the jam for glazing, to get more cinnamon flavour.

Salmon and Pak Choi Quiche

For when you think to yourself “you know what, I think this quiche needs to be more Asian”.

Which is never.

Salmon and Pak Choi Quiche

But just like eating pasta with chopsticks, coating mac and cheese with panko, and dipping everything in Kewpie mayo, sometimes combining the East and West in my kitchen is just better.

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Cutting the pak choi this way looks aesthetic but it makes the quiche really difficult to cut. I lost like half my filling trying to saw my way through the leaves for this cross-section shot. If you’re not going to show anyone your quiche just cut the pak choi up into small pieces man. Also the quiche might cook more evenly since I found that the quiche filling around the pak choi tended to be more runny.

I got this recipe from the Great British Bake Off! I really liked the flavour of the quiche. The filling itself was really soft and delicate, and the sesame seeds in the pastry added some aroma and complemented the Asian flavours of the filing.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 250g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Filling

  • 400g salmon fillets, skinned
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 pak choi, sliced in half lengthways

Method

Pastry

  1. Mix the flour, salt and sesame seeds in a medium bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. Beat together the butter and half the beaten eggs in a small bowl and gradually mix into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Lightly knead the dough on a floured board until smooth then wrap in cling film and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Filling

  1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and bake at 180°C for about 20 mins or until just cooked through. Let the fish cool a little before flaking into small pieces.
  2. Turn the oven up to 190°C.
  3. Roll the pastry out on a floured board and line a greased 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin (although I used a 20cm cake tin it’s cool). Chill for 15 minutes then prick the base with a fork, line with aluminium foil and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil and baking beans, brush the base of the tart case with the remaining beaten egg from the pastry ingredients and bake for five more minutes.
  5. Remove the tin from the oven and turn the temperature down to 180°C.
  6. Arrange the salmon over the base of the tart case and drizzle over the soy sauce.
  7. Mix the eggs with the cream in a jug, season with salt and black pepper then pour three quarters of the mixture over the salmon. Arrange the pak choi on top, cut side up, and pour over the remaining egg mixture. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and just set.

Notes

  • I’ve tried this recipe two times and both times I’ve undercooked the filling. I think either cutting up the pak choi to ugly-but-practical small bits or just letting it bake much longer than you expect should solve this.

Shiro Anpan (Buns with Sweetened White Bean Paste)

Continuing to live vicariously through food. In this case compensating for not actually being in Japan.

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This sticky mucus-y water roux is the first step to making fluffy Asian-style bread. I was a bit weirded out by it at first but the results are goooood.

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And no, I don’t have two of the same bowl, I just combined two images to save on the limited memory allocated to me with my free wordpress account (student life). I don’t even know why I thought it was important to show both images.

But moving on.

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I had some leftover sweetened white bean paste (shiro-an) from my attempt at wagashi and read that shiro anpan’s a thing. I eat normal anpan (with sweetened red bean paste) all the time in Singapore, so I was really excited to try this variation on it. I thought that the shiro-an had a bit of a lighter and more delicate flavour than normal sweetened red bean paste.

By the way, sweetened bean paste is a common thing in East Asian desserts. Some of my (non East Asian) friends get a bit weirded out by the idea of it but give it a try!

And now, a lovely 3 image collage detailing the rise (and rise) of my bread. Enjoy.

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Well, that was fascinating.

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Oh yeah check out that pull.

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And here is me trying to make a cross-section shot of my bread look aesthetic but failing abysmally.

I got the recipe for the bean paste from here, and used my standard Asian bread dough recipe originally detailed here.

Ingredients (makes 8 buns)

Shiro-an (sweetened white bean paste)

  • 1 can cannellini beans (235g dried weight)
  • 75g granulated sugar

Water roux

  • 75g water (1/3 cup)
  • 14g plain flour (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Bread dough

  • 310g bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 110g heavy cream (1/3 cup)
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk (1/3 cup)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 37g unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 tbsp)
  • Some white sesame seeds to decorate

Method

Shiro-an

  1. Drain the beans thoroughly and mash through a strainer. Apparently this step is easier if you skin the beans first but it was honestly a pain and it was easier to just start mashing and pick out the skins as you go. I ended up with about 190g of strained beans.
  2. Put the strained beans in a saucepan and add the sugar. Stir until thickened. The paste will cool down as it cools.

Bread dough

  1. Mix together the bread flour, yeast, and sugar. Then add the water roux, heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and egg white. Knead well until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  2. Add the softened butter in 3 additions, adding a new addition after the butter has been well incorporated into the bowl. Keep kneading until your bread reaches windowpane stage.
  3. Cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Knock down the bread dough and split the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball shape, and then roll each ball flat, with the edges a bit flatter than the middle (makes it easier to close).
  5. Divide your shiro-an into 8, and place each divided portion into the middle of the dough disc (if you think it’d make it easier to handle, freeze each portion of shiro-an first. But note that this will retard the second rise). Close the dough around the filling, and seal well. Shape each bun into the ball shape (see notes). Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour).
  6. After doubled in size, create a egg wash with the leftover egg yolk and a splash of leftover cream. Brush over the top of the buns. Decorate with some white sesame seeds.
  7. Bake at 200ºC for 13-15 mins, or until golden brown.

Notes

  • This video shows pretty much how I shape my buns. It’s potato quality and out of focus but eh you get the general idea from it.
  • Heavy cream is also known as double cream or whipping cream.
  • All timings listed are a general guide. It’s better to follow the description (eg doubled in size) rather than the timings, as the timing depends on many factors like the activity of your yeast, or the surrounding temperature.
  • It’s important to oil the clingfilm to cover the bread or the bread will stick to the clingfilm and you’ll lose some of the volume in the bread when removing the clingfilm. That’s a lot of clingfilm in one sentence.
  • I’ve made matcha green tea buns containing sweetened red bean paste as well! But the dough from this recipe’s nicer. Life is a never-ending pursuit of knowledge.
  • Also. No, housemate-who-shall-not-be-named-and-shamed, my cover photo does not look like anal beads. Get your head out of the gutter.

Blini (Russian Crepes)

Blini

Another quick recipe! I was originally going to make this for pancake day but life (and fluffy Japanese-style pancakes shameless plug) got in the way.

I wanted to make this all because I was reading fanfiction about one of my favourite anime (Yuri!!! on Ice. The 3 exclamation points are very important) and the Russian character started talking about blinis. Which are apparently Russian crepes. Don’t judge me.

I ate mine with some sweetened condensed milk, Marco Polo jelly (or should I say, gelée. Ohohohoho look at how cultured I am. It’s a type of tea-infused jelly), and whipped cream. I think most people eat blinis as something savoury? Like in an hors d’oeuvre. Woah I had to google that spelling.

Ingredients (the original recipe predicted about 7-8 crepes but I ended up with 4, not sure if it was because of differences in the size of the pan/thickness of crepe)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of milk (or heavy cream if you’re feeling greedy. Guess which one I went for)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Approximately 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil + more for oiling the pan

Method

  1. Whisk the egg, milk, sugar, and salt together.
  2. Slowly start stirring in the flour. Start with half of the flour and gradually add in a little at a time until you get a runny batter that is thicker than milk.
  3. Stir in the oil. Then cover and let rest for 15 mins.
  4. Preheat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and oil the pan using a kitchen towel lightly soaked in oil. Use either a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup (whichever is more appropriate for the size of pan you chose) to scoop the batter (for consistency). Quickly tilt the pan until the batter spreads to cover the pan surface.
  5. Cook for 2-3 mins until small bubbles start to form on top and bottom is a light golden brown. Then flip and cook for 30 seconds, or until the other side is a light golden brown as well.
  6. Oil the pan before each blini.

Notes

  • Yeah the recipe seems a little imprecise but honestly it’s quite forgiving and you can always adjust the consistency of your batter with more flour if it’s too thin and more milk if it’s too thick.
  • I found that the batter got quite lumpy and I had to really work to get the lumps out. So I think just be a bit more careful when adding the flour and really whisk well.