Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! Let's celebrate with good food

We invited our extended family to come over for Christmas dinner without knowing what we want to cook exactly (daring huh..). After the morning service at church and spending few hours at Pavilion, one of the most popular shopping malls in town well-known for its grand Christmas decor, I made a quick plan of what to cook and got the ingredients right before heading home.

Christmas dinner ready just in time before the guest arrived..

I wanted to add some Christmasty feel to the meal this time instead of the ordinary stuff, so I made these...

Pull-away Pizza Christmas Tree!

We have a 6" tall Christmas tree in the house and a miniature one on our dinning table. It's made of few circular pizza doughs, topped with loads of tomato purée, pepperoni, white mushrooms, macaroni & cheddar cheese and fresh basil leaves. To serve, just tear off and pop right into the mouth!

The preparation is really really simple...

Happily pulling away...

The recipe for this homemade pizza is available here. Only different was that I used my Panasonic bread maker to make the pizza dough this time which saved me a lot of time. The basil leaves were added after the pizza was done so they retain the greenish look. You may read the machine review here in case you are considering to get one...

Non-Baked Very Berry Cheesecakes!

We had some fresh strawberries and blueberries at home, so what's more perfect than making some cup-size cheesecakes that are pretty and delicious at the same time..

Served chilled...

And I do have a cheesecake recipe ready for sharing, here you go... non-bake cheesecake, instead of mango just top with fresh blueberries and strawberries.

I even added some berries underneath the cheese layer to make them really berry-merry. You may want to prepare this at least 4 hours before meal time for it to be fully chilled.

Crispy Bacons & Green Peas Macaroni!

The kid's favorite. Some how cheese, macaroni and bacons always work with the kiddos.

Well, although its not cooked by me this time, I do have the Mac 'n Cheese recipe for sharing, click here to find out..

And there's more good food... my mom-in-law's famous Siew Yuk! (non halal, pardon me..)

Roast Whole Chicken
The roast chicken was served with mouth homemade cranberry jam, all homemade by my sis-in-law who's great with food.

A similar Rosemary roast chicken recipe was shared 2 Christmas ago, you may find it here.

So good... So share...

With that, we had a peaceful and joyous dinner follow by gift unwrapping and chit chatting accompanied by the soft playing of Christmas songs by our favorite band -- The Piano Guys. 

Hope you have a good Christmas with your loved ones too. 

Merry Christmas! XOXO

Saturday, December 20, 2014

{Product Review} My First Bread Maker, Panasonic SD-P104

I have been thinking to get a bread maker for sometimes as I often buy bread for the kids to bring to their preschool, I would really prefer serving them preservative-free breads but all the kneading, rising, waiting are just impossible for me on weekdays, I often reach home only late night.. With the lack of space in my kitchen, I had to brush that thought aside. 

Until, I finally found time to spring clean my kitchen and cleared up a space for a new gadget. After doing decent amount of research, I made up my mind to get myself a bread maker that has many good reviews - Panasonic Bread Maker SD-P104.

Look at the wonderful fresh loaf we had for breakfast. Soft and fluffy, using only organic ingredients; it is delicious, fresh & most importantly, nonsense-free. 

Psss... If you want to search for some easy-to-follow breadmaker recipes, jump straight to this page.

I was daring enough to attempt timer function on first trial. Instead of a basic loaf I opted for Honey with Organic Sunflower seed. I wanted to know if this fella is as good as it claims to be.

Just get ready the ingredients and dump them all in.

Separate compartments for the instant yeast and nuts. Set the timer to complete by 8:00am and I just headed to bed. 

Ta-da, fresh loaf was ready at 8:04am exactly! It didn't rise to full as it should be, perhaps I have left the ingredients in there with the water for too long..  

Removing the bread was easy. Just turn the bread pan upside down and it dropped out effortlessly. 

Testing out the bread slicer that came free with the purchase, dummy proof. Just have to make sure you use a zigzag bread knife and cut sideways and not push hard downward or it may looses its shape.

Ready to serve.

Time to enjoy my coffee and breakfast loaf before the duo awake.

The next day, my boy and I attempted another soft bread recipe - Potato & Chia Seed Bread. It was a bit more tedious but the outcome was so so delicious that I fell in love on first bite! As I selected medium crust, the loaf has a crusty layer on the outside, and soft and aromatic on the inside thanks to the added potatoes.

Before we began.. Loaded everything into the bread pan. Half of the potatoes need to be roasted and the other half boiled and mashed before adding into the pan (that's why I said this recipe is a bit more tedious).

The extra mashed potatoes was used to make potato croquettes, check out the recipe if you like some crunchy snack, my duo loves these munchies. 

2 hours later.

4 hours 20 minutes later. It didn't had that perfect round top, which I shall find out why, but the texture was soft and the dough was definitely very well mixed, no bricks or soggy bottom at all.

Super soft bread, the way I like it.

Next I went back to basic and made this simple Raisin Bread, served with wild blueberry and golden apricot jam. The crust was a bit hard as I left it in the pan for over an hour before removing, however the bread itself is soft like pillow. My boy was so happy when he joint me for a breakfast in our backyard.

A day later, I decided to bake an Orange Butter cake. Yes, this bread maker can make cakes too. I followed the recipe strictly except I added some 10g of fresh orange juice as I only have 90g of egg liquid, so let's see what was the outcome.

Cake making took 1:30 hour. On the 12th minute I need to use a rubber spatula to scrap any excess batter on the sides. After than just let it continued baking. Despite the motor was moving very quietly (that I almost thought I did not press the start button!), the batter was very well mixed as you can see here: 

Progress is displayed on the LED screen with indication of remaining time.

Done! The cake came out beautifully.. but rather small, just enough for a small family consumption. 

The cake smell really nice but was too dense compare to the butter cakes I usually bake. But I shall give it another try to be sure.

{UPDATED} Few weeks later I tried making banana cake with my little breadmaker and it came out tasting wonderful! Refer to the recipe here.

Choosing the Bread Maker..
So, why did I picked this unit among the many brands available? I considered from 5 aspects:

#1 Delay start / Timer function
The reason I wanted a bread maker is because I wanted fresh bake in the morning, so my plan is to get ready all ingredients at night, set the timer and have the loaf ready in the morning, right before we wake up. Hence, timer function is a must for me. This particular model has 13 hour preset timer, which is a common function among many others mid-range model but this rules out most basic / entry models.

#2 Separate compartments for yeast & nuts
This will ensure I can make different variety of breads with minimal supervision. While I can opt to drop everything at the same time, exact timing for dropping of yeasts will actually helps to enhance the texture and outcome. (If the yeast comes in direct contact with salt or sugar it will not work anymore)

#3 Variety of recipes and quality bread
I was considering Breville and Lebenstil before I decided on Panasonic, it has the feedback of "making better breads that are really soft" from friends and the salesperson. Besides, when googled, I managed to find a lot of recipes and consistently good reviews on Panasonic machines, this has given me further assurance. Breville has a mixed reviews, some gave it 4-5 star rating and some as low as 1, which mainly rant about the soggy bottom or noisy sound, so I have my reservation on the quality consistency. 

One particular feature I read about this model that made a different from others, is the temperature sensor, in which this unit will adjust the temperature according to the ambient. This will ensure consistency in the dough it produces regardless of day or night temperature (typical Malaysia weather ranges from 37°c in day time to 26°c at night, a good 10°different)

#4 Pizza dough and dumpling dough function
I have not been making pizza for awhile as I was lazy of kneading and washing my mixer. While pizza dough function is widely available with most bread maker, dumpling dough function is not, so that is one bonus feature.

You can see the Pull-away Christmas Tree pizza I baked using my Panasonic here.

#5 Compact Size
Last but not least, a sensible size is important for me. I need a machine with small footprint so it does not occupies a lot of my already congested kitchen top. This Panasonic bread maker is about 32cm tall with a dimension of 24cm x 30cm. The weight is a manageble 6.1kg and comes with a handle, so making it really handy and easy for storage. Both Kenwood and Lebenstill were out from my list due to their heavy weight (Lebenstill at 8kg as it has a stanless steel body) or humongous size (Kenwood).... I do love the quality build of these 2 but unfortunately my tiny kitchen doesn't have that appetite.

Some missing functions or minus points for this unit that I think you ought to know before deciding...

Jam Making - it lacks the ability to make jams or marmalade, but I doubt I will really use it. So I rather have a bread maker that makes really good loaf than offering extra features that I don't need.  

{UPDATED} Later only I read some post that this function can be used to make chicken floss and pork floss. WOW, if only I knew it earlier! but then again, after reading the process (it needs to run 3 rounds Jam function), I think I would probably prefer making it the manual way - dry frying over a heated wok.

Peeping Window - it doesn't have a window panel on top that allows you to see the progress. While it is nice to have, I don't find it a must as I plan to use timer function most of the time, I would be sleeping while the machine is working (that's my key intention of getting a bread maker in the first place!). 

Anyway, if you really want to view the profess, after it has dropped the yeasts and nuts, you may open up the lid to check directly.
Keep warm after bake
Some bread maker like Breville has an 1 hour keep warm function, so the bread will not turn cold and hard if you forgot to take it out immediately. I totally forgotten about this requirement when I was shopping for it, although I would thought it is handy to have. 

At RM899 a unit (or RM799 after discount - USD$250 equivalent) it is beyond my initial budget of RM500. You can get Lebenstill and Breville's entry models for under RM500. However with the extra RM300, I am hoping the gourmet quality breads will outweigh the initial investment cost.

Alternatively, you can get the exact same model at for RM699 with free shipping, it is the cheapest I can find after much comparison (last I checked, the offer is over..), but big guy preferred to get it from his trusted store, TBM, which has multiple outlets that we can go to (if we ever needed after sales service) and came with several freebies when we dropped by - free recipe book, bread slicer and a packet of organic high protein flour. 

• Loaf size 
As I needed a small bread maker due to my space constraint, this unit only supports bread with a standard size. Some models such as Kenwood and Breville supports various loaf sizes. So if you have a big family (ie more than 4) you may want to consider a larger unit.  

In a Nut Shell...
After rounds of testing, I would say that I am happy with my new toy. :)

I especially like that it is quiet when in operation. Although I can hear the arm moving sound when I was working in the kitchen, it is nothing invasive nor disturbing at all, except when it dispenses the nuts/raisins, there were few loud "tut" noise. While I have yet to find out why my breads didn't rise to perfection, it did not affect the taste or textures.

The nonstick bread pan makes cleaning a breeze, just have to gentle wash the pan & blade with dish liquid and sponge, and wipe clean the yeast dispenser compartments with my kitchen cloth. No fuss, no mess, no tons of parts to wash.

Finally, the bread produced is really superb soft and fluffy, comparable to what I usually get from my favorite bakery. Except that now I can control what exactly goes into my bread.

Next I am ready to venture into more complicated recipes, stay tuned! 

{UPDATED} Check out my range of Bread Maker recipes, you won't be disappointed! and I have found out the trick to make the making perfect loaf that rise to full which I shared in the recipe... ;-)

You may read more about this product here:
Panasonic SD-P104

Or other brands that I have considered 
Breville bbm100 baker's oven 
* this unit has an impressive 23 built-on programme, really worth trying out!

Lebensstil LKBM 2101S

If you have any questions, do feel free to drop me a message below. As I discover more on the machine I shall have more to share. 

Until my next post, stay calm and bake on! :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Homemade Potato Croquettes, simply too good to resist!

Little guy and I were making potato bread earlier and we have half a bowl of mashed potatoes left, the recipe only calls for 50gm of mashed potatoes but the one large potato we boiled was nearly 140gm. 

So what to do with the leftover mashed? I decided to make some creamy & crunchy potato croquettes, and it became the most popular dish on my dinner table tonight.

Don't get fooled by its rather uninteresting appearance, it is actually better than chicken nuggets sold in the fast food store. ;) 

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes 
Serving for: approximate 8 medium croquettes 


Ingredient A
• 1/2 large potato, washed (approx 80g)
• 1 teaspoon of salt
• 1 slice cheddar cheese or approx 15g block cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes 
• 1 teaspoon of basil leaves
• 1 large egg, beaten

Ingredient B (For Coating)
• 2 tablespoon bread crumbs 
• 2 tablespoon corn flour 

The Making:
1. Boil the potato with skin in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove from the water, let cold and peel of the skin. Cut the potato into large cubes and mash them by pressing firmly with the back of a fork. 

2. Mix the mashed potatoes with all ingredient A. Shape them into oval shape patties of your desired size (I made them about 5cm long).

3. Coat the patties evenly with corn flour follows by a generous layer of bread crumb.

4. Heat up the pan with about 4 table spoon of coking oil, cook each side of the potato croquette for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. 

5. Absorb excessive oil with a kitchen napkin, serve as-is or with  your favorite sauce.

My kiddos and Big Guy enjoyed these so much, my boy actually gave me a double thumb ups! LOL.

Useful Tips:
• I added some small potato cubes into the patty to give some twist to the otherwise soft croquettes.
• I like to make my potato croquettes thin (about 1" thickness) so it is really crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Even I couldn't resist eating a few pieces of these delicious treats!