Saturday, August 23, 2014

Szechuan Chili Oil

If there is one condiment my generous husband would never share with me, it is chili oil.

Perhaps it is the reason why he loves to go to Duck King so much, simply because the chili oil is great, if not wonderful. The best one we've had so far was at a small restaurant we used to go to when we were still dating. Heck it was a long time ago I already forget the name of the place and sadly it was replaced by Starbucks. Anyhow, my husband would refuse to go to a Chinese restaurant with average chili oil even when the dish is so stellar compared to Duck King. Chili oil makes a simple dish heavenly, he said.

I actually never bother to make my own chili oil because Duck King is only 10 minutes away from home. Not until yesterday.

My friend sent me a bunch of Szechuan peppercorn. It is quite hard to find it where I live. I have never cooked with it before, but I love the dishes that incorporate those particular peppercorns in. Having so much in my disposal, I immediately think of Mapo Tofu, Bon Bon Chicken, vegetable stir-fries, and many other Szechuan inspired dishes. But no, they have to wait far in line because Baby I am gonna make you sweat! With chili oil.

Adapted from
Infused Oil:
1 1/4 litre vegetable oil
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 whole garlic
3 inch ginger, the fatter the better
3 tbs coriander seeds
6 star anise
1 tbs green cardamom
2 tbs white cardamom

Ground Chili:
200 gr dried chili
1/4-1/2 cup Szechuan peppercorns
3 tsp salt
3 tbs soy sauce

-Bruise all the spices for the infused oil
-In a heavy bottomed pot, pour the oil, put the bruised ingredients in, then simmer on low heat for at least two hours.
**You want the garlic and the ginger just to fizz, not burn, not even brown.

-Place the dried chili on a pan and bake it in the oven for around 10 minutes on 150C. 

**This step is actually optional but definitely sane. If you buy your dried chili in a traditional market, chances are they do not keep it in tight container. So you wanna get rid of any ants or whatever living being lives there. It adds extra smokiness as well.
-Grind the chili and peppercorns. You don't want it to be too coarse or too fine it turns into powder.

-Place your ground chili in a big bowl, use either glass or stainless bowl, Mix the salt and soy sauce in.

After two hours.....
-Prepare a sieve
-Crank the heat up and let the ginger and the garlic furiously fizz.
-Pour the infused oil through the sieve. Be careful, it sizzles. 

Stir and let cool..

I am out of words.

It looks.. Demonic.. and judging from the time it took me to infuse the oil with that amount of spices, I'm not surprised that it is tantalizingly addictive. It is chili oil not like the one I've ever had. It has depth and character. It can even turn a humble instant noodle to a five star noodle dish. Toss it on your dumplings, on dim sum, on meat, on veggies, oh the endless possibilities!

If you're feeling crafty for the next holiday season, buy small mason jars and fill them with your own homemade Szechuan Chili Oil. Lovely gifts they would make. 

Okay, off we go now tossing some oil on poached eggs.

Have fun making it,

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Flax & Oat Sourdough

Passion? Obsession?

There is a very thin line separating the two. For people who have an OCD tendency, the line is often blurred and it is so easy to cross over to the other –not so pretty- side. My husband thinks that my passion for bread has become an obsession. He does not mind though, firstly because years ago he decided to marry this relapsing perfectionist and secondly my obsession feeds the family and fills our humble home with wonderful aroma.

Whenever I see another sourdough recipe, if I can’t make it soon, I would think of it until it ingrains in my unconscious mind. Sometimes I even have a lucid dream where I ponder the recipe in my dream and then wake up only to think about that recipe. This unrealistic behavior would stop if the bread in mind is already kneaded and baked. Although when the result is not as imagined, the whole pondering process will start again. Devious, devious cycle!

But let’s not bore you with me "Lecter-ing" myself.

Lol! I can't help it. I'm a hard core Hannibal fan.

Anyhow, let’s talk about this sourdough that contains oats and flax seeds. This bread had been haunting me for some time. When I first saw the title, I was smitten and saved it right away. Sadly, I was so busy at that time I couldn’t make it as soon as I had hoped. So fast forward to several weeks later, I exorcised that demon.

Adapted from
2 tbs unfed sourdough culture 
140 gr water
140gr bread flour

280 gr bread flour
112 gr whole wheat flour
130gr water
All of the levain
2 tsp salt

¼ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 tbs poppy seeds, optional
Enough water to cover the oat/flax/poppy mixture

Approximately 7 hours before making the dough, mix the sourdough culture and water until fully dispersed then add the flour. Cover with plastic and let rest.

Mix the oats, flax, and water. Cover with plastic and let rest.

Make the Dough
-Mix the Levain with water, add flour and mix just until the flour is wet. It should look like a shaggy mess. Cover with plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
-Add salt and Soaker then mix just until the salt and soaker is incorporated into the dough. Do not over mix here. It should not be a tight ball of dough yet.
-Stretch and fold every 30-45 minutes for 6 intervals. Cover with plastic while it rests.
-Shape however you want it and proof at room temperature for 1½-2 hours. 

-Preheat oven to 230C 
-Carefully plop your bread on the pan and make a slash.
-Bake for 40-45 minutes until a dark crust has formed.
-Let cool at room temperature for approximately one hour>> THIS, is the hardest part.

That is the picture of the loaf right after I took it out. 


This is the close up of the crust several minutes after it sat on room temperature.

The crust cracked slowly but sure because the temperature dropped from extremely high to just room temperature. The crumb was still 'cooking' on the inside because of the heat it retained and the crust was experiencing the gradual coolness from the outside. Being able to witness this process is a very rewarding experience. Bakers call it "Sing". Yes, you can hear the bread sing. The multiple crackling sound is very audible and it is the song this type of bread sings. 

About the excess flour on the crust, I tried substituting all purpose flour with rice flour for my couche. It worked WONDERS! The dough did not stick at all. Of course as you can also see, I put too much rice flour. But no problemo. It's a matter of aesthetic preference.

Let's check the crumbs..
--I failed to refrain myself from cutting it before it was completely cool. Sinner!

Creamy, delicate, delicious

It is a loaf you would want to bring on a picnic with your family and friends. Accompanied by some butter and a bottle of wine, if possible, it would make your day picture perfect. 

This recipe does take longer to make but it really is easier to handle because the dough is not that wet. The resulting bread is also seed packed, healthy, and very delicious it pays off all you hard work. Though next time I would add another 10 grams of so of water just like in the original recipe to have bigger holes in the crumbs. 

See? See?

That is why I love bread. Always, there is a room for improvement. 

But that is another project for another day, another glorious self-torturing day. Now let's just enjoy the bread with what we have in the pantry, in this case, Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette. Amiko's favorite.

Happy Baking,

Submitted to YeastSpotting
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