Starting life over is never easy… whether it’s a new relationship, moving to a new country, or adjusting to a new job, change always brings about a sense of expectancy and a sense of loss. Which was exactly how I felt a year ago when I had to pack up my bags yet again and leave Vancouver to return to Singapore. I was just starting to feel like I had sunk roots into a place that had treated me well, a city that I have come to love and call home. And I was starting to build deep friendships with the locals, after having gone to grad school, pastry school and working at the best patisserie in the city with them. But change is inevitable and the grief it brings unavoidable. In order to cope during times of major transitions, we embrace the unknown while trying to preserve the life we’ve become all too familiar with. Well at least that was what I tried to do.
When I first got back from Canada, I literally had to rebuild home again. What that meant was we had to find a place to live, and then furnish it pretty much from scratch. Now guess what was the most important item on my list of things to get? I’ll give you a clue… it belongs in the kitchen. Yup, an oven. I mentioned in my previous post that ovens are a luxury in most Asian households, but in my home it is the single most-used piece of equipment. Plus, baking was the one thing that marked my life in Vancouver that I could carry on doing in Singapore, giving my life in transition a semblance of continuity and comfort. So I went in search for an oven and finally bought a $6K oven that allowed me to inject steam into the oven when I was baking breads. (Yes I know what you’re thinking, the cost of my oven is still the talk of the town amongst friends and relatives.) What’s the big deal with steam you ask? Professional bakers add steam in the first few minutes of bread baking in order to moisten the surface of the bread when it is placed in a hot oven. This prevents a crust from forming immediately, enabling the bread to rise quickly–a process we call “oven spring”. The initial burst of steam also helps the bread achieve that nice crispy crust that gourmet breads possess.
So being quite the oven snob I am, imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that the Panasonic NN-DS592B combi-microwave oven is not only a microwave, but also a steamer and convection oven which (yup, you guessed it!) can combine those functions and inject steam while baking bread!!! What’s more, it has a fermenting function that cuts down the time you would otherwise require for proofing bread. But what takes the cake for me is that while it has so many functions rolled into one sleek package, it only costs a fraction of what I paid for mine! Hmmm…..
Now this I had to see for myself, so I decided to make this ham and cheese swirl loaf using the 汤种 “tang zhong” method. It might seem a little complicated, but you are going to find the results so worth it. This Asian style milk bread is soft, fluffy, mildly sweet and so fragrant it can be eaten on its own. Roll in some ham and cheese and it can be a meal in itself!
汤种 “tang zhong” starter
25gm bread flour
125ml water (could be replaced by milk, or 50/50 water and milk)
1. Place flour and water in a saucepan. Over medium-low heat, stir the mixture continuously with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula until the mixture becomes thick and gooey.
2. Turn off heat and transfer dough mixture into a clean bowl. Cling wrap directly on the surface of the dough to prevent it from drying. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Ham and Cheese Milk Bread
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Yields: One 9″ loaf
350gm bread flour
1 large egg
7g (4 tsp) milk powder
125ml (½cup) milk
120gm tangzhong (from above)
6gm (2 tsp) instant yeast
30gm (2 tbsp) butter (room temperature)
4 slices of thinly sliced ham
a handful of cheddar/mozzarella cheese
1. Combine all ingredients except ham and cheese into the bowl of a mixer. Knead with a dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes. Then knead on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
2. Transfer the dough to a floured counter and shape the dough into a ball. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling wrap. Set aside in a warm place to ferment until the dough is double in size, about 90 minutes. Or use the ferment function in Panasonic combi-oven to shorten fermenting time to 60 minutes.
3. After fermenting, knock back the dough by punching the air bubbles out on a clean floured counter. Flatten and shape the dough into a rectangle slightly narrower than the length of your loaf pan. Lay ham on surface of the dough, sprinkle cheese on top, and then roll the dough gently toward you into a log. Place in loaf pan with the seam side down.
4. Proof the dough in the pan for another 45 minutes until 1 1/2 times the original size. Or use the ferment function in the Panasonic combi-oven to shorten ferment time to 30 minutes.
5. Egg wash the top by gently brushing some beaten egg on the surface. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F/180C.
6. Bake in a pre-heated 350F/180C oven, inject steam (if your oven can) in 3 bursts of 1 min each within the first 5 minutes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Take the loaf out of the tin and transfer onto a wire rack to let it cool completely.
8. When completely cooled, slice to serve or store in an airtight plastic bag or container.
p.s. This post is an entry for the Singapore Blog Awards 2013 Panasonic ‘Best Cooking Blog’ Competition. fait maison is one of the finalists in the ‘Best Cooking Blog’ category so pls pls pls support by casting your vote for me here daily. 🙂