Saturday, 27 September 2014

Lemon and Crystallised Ginger Brioche

There are many ways to greet people, obviously... There's the handshake; a hug; a hug and a kiss (or two or three) on the cheek; the Japanese bowing; the Thai wai, etc... Which are all fine by me. But then there's also the fist bump which makes things awkward.

I am not the kind of person who'd initiate a fist bump just so you know; and whenever someone offers the salutation, it always takes me a second to think what to do with it, how to reciprocate the hand gesture.

The appropriate way is of course to return the favour and you 'pound' it. I think that's the right terminology... To pound... I don't know. As you can tell, I am cool like that... Not! 

Anyway, recently at the end of a work-shift, a colleague offered a fist bump and after a couple of seconds of what feels like a very slow thought process, I decided to wrap my hand around his fist and I shook it. Yes, I shook it.

.....*insert favourite swearword! 

Just thinking about that moment gives me the creep. Oh Michael, WHY?!

My question of the day, what's your opinion on fist bump? Have you experienced similar awkward situation? No? Just me? Ok then...

Anyway...moving on... Let's focus on these delicious and fragrant lemon and crystallised ginger brioche buns. Brioche is one of my favourite breads. It's soft and buttery, with a rich flavour and a light texture. Thanks to the high content of butter and also the eggs which make this bread utterly sublime. 

There are several methods to making brioche dough which sometimes take a day or two. Because of the high butter content, often when the dough is made, you have to refrigerate it for several hours or overnight so that it's easier to handle and shape. My version here, I suppose is an express brioche and great for us with little patience. It is still buttery, and the dough will be soft but not impossible to handle straightaway. 

As with any enriched dough, brioche has a lot going that yeast does not like, so making a sponge starter helps achieve a light brioche. And it's nothing complicated at all. Believe me. 

The flavour idea comes from an evening of sipping lemon and ginger tea... And I just thought wouldn't it be great to be able to chew on this, and so... yeah, greed also plays a big part in the making of these brioche buns. 

I hope you give this a go... Have a great weekend! x
Lemon and Crystallised Ginger Brioche
Makes 20 brioche buns

For the sponge
40 gr strong white flour
5 gr instant yeast
65 ml lukewarm milk

300 gr strong white flour
50 gr caster sugar
5 gr salt
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 eggs + 1 for egg wash
90 gr soft butter, unsalted
50 gr crystallised ginger

Rock salt, for topping

Make the sponge by combining all the sponge ingredients in a bowl and giving them a good mix with your hand. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for few minutes to allow the yeast to grow and the mixture will become foamy and bubbly.

In a mixing bowl, add all the sponge and the rest of the ingredients, except the butter and the crystallised ginger. If you have a freestanding mixer that comes with a dough hook, do use it. At first the mixture will look runny and sticking to the sides of the bowl, but not to worry, just keep the mixer going at medium-high speed for few minutes and it will come together eventually. 

Once the dough comes together nicely, take a little piece of the dough and check if it has passed the windowpane test.  This is to tell if you've sufficiently kneaded your dough.  To do this, hold the little piece of dough and gently stretch the dough into thin translucent membrane; and if you hold it against the light, you should be able to see the light coming through (the windowpane). If you can do this without tearing the dough, that means the gluten is well-developed and you can proceed to the next step. 

Add the butter in three additions and once the butter is fully incorporated into the dough, throw in the chopped crystallised ginger and mix again for a couple of minutes. Take the dough out and shape it into a ball. Place on a lightly greased sheet pan or a big bowl and cover with cling film. Let the dough rest and proof until it doubles in size. This may take from 45 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature of the room.

Divide the dough into 20 equal size... You can eyeball it, or if you want to be precise, each ball is about 36 grams. Shape the dough into little balls and place into a lightly greased moulds. But you can shape it anyway you want... in a loaf pan, or you can circle them around in a baking tin and make a 'tear-and-share' kind of shape. Let the dough proof again for the second time for about hour or so. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 170 C. 

Before baking, brush or spray generously with egg wash which will make the brioche glisten later, and top with a little sprinkling of rock sea salt.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the top is golden. Let cool a little and you know what to do next...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Earl Grey Panna Cotta - Video

It's amazing what you can do with so little ingredients.... Milk, cream, sugar, gelatin and a flavouring of your choice and you get yourself a scrumptious, classic Italian nursery dessert... Panna Cotta. 

This has to be one of the easiest desserts to make... In a sentence: heat the milk and cream, add sugar, the soften gelatin, pour into moulds and let it set in the fridge. That's really it. Also best thing is, you can make this in advance for a dinner party or for a sole-indulgence moment after a long day. But you should make this in advance anyway, at least for few hours for the panna cotta to set and become fridge cold. 

However, what I find really important in making "the perfect panna cotta" is the consistency. It should be soft-set but firm enough to be unmoulded without collapsing. To achieve this, you do need to follow the exact requirement for the setting agent. 

Instead of using gelatin, I use agar-agar here because it was easier to find back in Indonesia and also it's vegetarian friendly (agar-agar is extracted from seaweed after all). But whichever one you're using, make sure to follow the instructions. Gelatin sheets need to be soften first in cold water before adding it to the warm cream and milk mixture; whereas agar-agar powder reacts to heat in order for the setting to occur. 

Flavour-wise, you can do anything you want really... Vanilla is traditional but you can be as creative as you want... This time round I'm giving my panna cotta an Anglo-twist and infusing mine with Earl Grey tea which I absolutely love. It's light and fragrant with a distinctive bergamot flavour. 

I could happily have the panna cotta by itself, but the same principle that it's always good to have some greens (or some reds in this case) with your meal, I feel a scatter of berries around the panna cotta is appropriate. The strawberries are macerated in sugar and a touch of balsamic vinegar which may sound odd, but believe me and give this a go. The balsamic vinegar brings out the beautiful colour of the berries, making it glisten and truly enhances their strawberry-ness.
And guess what... This is another video recipe! Yay... Please enjoy...
Special thanks to my friend Vincent for filming and editing the video. Vincent is also a brilliant photographer and you can check out his work on Instagram @vincentwilfred.

 Have a delicious day!