Bread Overload

For some reason, I’ve apparently had a need for sweet bread-type things this past week. Last Wednesday, I made some sweet Indian roti, I mixed them up again on Friday, and today I cooked Portuguese sweet muffins. At this point, though, I can say that I am quite thoroughly breaded out. Oi. However, I did reach this point of sweet bread saturation quite deliciously, as you’ll see.

Sweet Indian Roti
Happy little sugar-laminated breads
The roti is really nice to quickly satiate a sweet bread craving attack. Flour, salt, water, and sugar is all you need along with a little bit of time to mix the first three into a dough, roll them, sprinkle with the sugar, fold up, and roll out again before pan-grilling. They come out chewy and light, with fabulous layers of gooey sugar. For variation on Friday, I added a tiny bit of sugar to the flour and salt for the dough along with some oil before the water. The oil makes for a more tender bread that is easier to flatten. However, for some reason the sugar-laminating doesn’t work quite as well. Some seems to get…absorbed by the bread and it starts to brown before all of the sugar gets a chance to become melty. I think I like them without the oil better, though maybe if I’m particularly wanting a tender bread, I’d go with the oil.

As for other tender breads, today’s Portuguese sweet muffins were a fantastically fun and delectable adventure! I’ve had a packet of yeast lying around since I bought one from my sister over a week ago, and I just couldn’t decide what to make with it. Today, it came to me in a sudden craving for the Portuguese sweet muffins my dad used to regularly buy from Trader Joe’s (a natural foods supermarket chain). After searching high and low–or really, just a few minutes at AllRecipes.com–I came upon this recipe that, aside from a lack of lemon, looked like it would at least come pretty close.

Portuguese Sweet Muffin
No Portuguese were harmed in the making of this muffin
It surpassed Trader Joe’s by galaxies. While I would appreciate the addition of some lemon in these muffins, it certainly isn’t necessary. I can’t imagine it being removed from the Trader Joe’s version because it needs the freshness of the flavor to make up for the lack of freshness in the muffin. Seriously, now that I’ve gotten very confident in my bread-making ability with these muffins, I will never, ever buy packaged breads again. I so rarely get cravings for bread that it’ll be worth the time to spend baking my own. I get cravings for cakes and pastries much too often to completely exclude packaged stuff, though, as much as I prefer homemade. ;x

Split Muffin
Soft and moist inside, firm and dry outside–perfect!
Being moist by nature, these muffins wind up with a completely different texture when packaged. The muffin becomes uniformly moist with tougher tops and bottoms in a package, whereas the fresh ones I made had a more extreme, pleasant contrast between the doughy, soft interiors and firm, dry tops and bottoms. Toasting is absolutely necessary for the Trader Joe’s muffins because the chewiness of the exteriors is just unpalatable right out of the bag, but I wound up eating my muffin sans toasting today. I think it could very well be enjoyed toasted, and at the same time, it isn’t a detriment to devour it as-is.

<Dressed-Up Muffin
There’s nothing like sweet breads topped with maple syrup
I didn’t quite consume it “as-is,” though. 😉 After tasting a small piece to see how it was plain, I had the sudden idea to top it with a little maple syrup and a pat of butter instead of my usual toasted-and-buttered treatment for the Trader Joe’s sub-pars. This concoction thus satisfied not only my desire for a sweet bread but also pancakes. While Portuguese sweet muffins are certainly not like a pancake, I almost exclusively have maple syrup on only either French toast or pancakes, so the association between “syrup” and “pancakes” is very strong in my mind. I’d never consider dressing a Trader Joe’s sad-excuse-for-a-muffin in this manner, though. I think I’ll stick to having those toasted-and-buttered.

So the moral of the story for all my bread-making recently is that if bread is on my mind, it’s time to whip out some mixing bowls, flour the table (the only flat surface large enough for kneading here–unfortunately), and heat up the stove or oven. Store-bought goods just aren’t worth it.

So There’s This Bag of Onions, See…

Yesterday, I was really feeling like chicken, and I still have quite a few onions left from the 5 pound bag I got on sale insanely cheap a few weeks ago, so I made them for dinner last night.

Sautéed Chicken and Onions with Teriyaki
Last night’s dinner–envious? 😉
I took a couple of the onions (they’re small), peeled and sliced them, and sautéed them in a little butter. When they were getting caramelized, I added a little sesame oil and tossed in chunks of chicken breast. I seared that well and then finished cooking it all. Once I was confident the chicken was done, the pan was removed from the heat, and I added teriyaki sauce to deglaze the pan. Oh, deglazing…getting all those little browned bits off the bottom of the pan. You don’t get that with non-stick pans, oh, no. You need good stainless steel pans for that. And let me tell you, those tiny caramelized flecks of yumminess make me confident my $400 investment in a set of Calphalon pans was well worth it. 😉 :yum:

Sautéed Chicken and Onions with Teriyaki Close-Up
Mmm…perfection…
It was torturous giving it some time to rest and cool a bit, but it was so good I was bouncing while I ate it once I did. I’m incredibly proud of my ability to cook the chicken just right–all the way through, but still fantastically juicy and tender. And the onions…oh, the onions. I can–and have–been perfectly satisfied with a meal of caramelized onions. Balance, what? I don’t care. There’s nothing on the face of the earth like soft-but-al-dente onions that have been cooked until their natural sugars are in full force, browned and rich. It’s a guiltless treat, I say–they’re vegetables! And sweet like dessert! Woo!

Inspired by Robyn‘s recent ramblings, complaints, research, and so on about her paper on Japanese snack foods and their “kawaii” quality, I’d been wanting to try the banana-flavored Koala’s March cookies my sister had about a week ago but couldn’t bear to save any for me to try they were so delicious.

Package of Banana-Filled Koala's March
Look at the happy Koala getting full of banana–for me! Mwa ha ha!
Adorable Koala Cookie
The cuteness of these cookies is too much!
Headless Koala
…But the cuteness is not enough to save him from being DEVOURED!
Suffering the higher cost here at the campus convenience store, I had a box in my possession after class yesterday. After opening the package, I was immersed in the scent of artificial banana flavoring. For someone highly allergic to and yet also highly fond of bananas, it’s about the closest I can usually get to eating them (cooked banana is okay, but since they have to be very thoroughly cooked, I tend to err on the side of caution and only eat even cooked ones when I’ve done the cooking and can be sure it’s well enough).

The first bite of one assured me that I would be fully satisfied with banananess and yummy-cookie-ness. The Japanese have an incredible knack for making cookies that are just a million times better than American packaged cookie products. And their creme fillings are perfect–in consistency and flavor–every time. For a processed, packaged food, they seem to come the closest to what I call the “realness” quality of homemade foods. When I eat an Oreo, it feels and tastes like I’m eating something that was pumped out by some machine in a factory. When a happy little Koala jumps in my mouth, it tastes fresh and yummy and delicious and oh, how I wish I could make these myself!

Today is my sister’s birthday. 🙂 She’s turning 21 already, which means I will no longer get requests for bottles of vodka or beer or anything else when I’m going shopping. We’re going out to dinner with the rest of my family tonight, and she’ll be able to order a drink for herself instead of just tasting mine. And after we get back, dessert will be had here, in the name of an amazing creation of mine that took four and a half hours of manual labor and the suffering of blisters, a deep cut on my finger, and impossibly sore arms this morning to produce. I’m sure it will be worth it, though, and you can bet photos will be forthcoming. 😉

Steamed Bun of Taro Goodness

After I was done with work today, I went over to Waldbaum’s to buy the weirdest thing ever: three pounds of butter and a package of yeast, and I followed up that stop with a visit to the local Asian supermarket. For what, you may ask, was I in need of so much sweet dairy fat, dormant microorganisms, and non-Western goods?

I actually have no immediate need for such a large quantity of butter, but Waldbaum’s has it on sale this week for buy one get two free. That is an insanely amazing price for butter, so I figured I’d stock up. I enjoy baking, and that generally requires butter for the best-tasting results, so it’ll be useful to have around. I’ve got two of the pounds in the freezer, so they’ll keep for months yet. It’s all about getting good deals on pantry staples. ;]

As for the yeast, my sister’s been wanting yeast for a while now, and she kept forgetting to tell me so whenever I was going food shopping recently. I was thinking about it today, so I got it for her. I’m curious to see what exactly it is she needs microscopic fermenting factories for, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough!

Finally, the Asian grocery store was basically just for killing the 30 minutes I had left after my food shopping until the next bus back to campus would be going by. However, what began as an innocent visit to do a reconnaissance of what the store has as compared to what is contained in my growing knowledge of Asian foodstuffs became a TARO PURCHASING TRIP OF DOOM.

While passing by the refrigerated cases on the right side of the store, I came upon the so-labelled Steamed Taro Buns I’d spotted the last time I was there but forwent buying because I was on a mission to find sweet red bean paste or adzuki beans. This time, on the other hand, I had no such goal in mind, and so the last, lone package of hulking taro buns was quickly removed from it’s chill-house of solitariness into my possession for impending consumption.

The bus took seemingly forever to get to the stop I was waiting at, but that was certainly because I was impatient to steam up these buns and taste the taro-y goodness lurking inside. Almost as soon as I got back to my apartment, I set up a pot to steam them, and put two buns inside–one for me, and one for my sister’s friend Terry. Ten minutes later, we were both very happily devouring soft, moist, steamy buns of taroness.

Steamed Taro BunWhen I say these buns are hulking, I mean they’re hulking. After it was steamed, the thing was easily the size of my fist. I wasn’t complaining, though! I certainly got my money’s worth with six of these insanely large buns for $2.75. 🙂 After removing the paper lining from the bottom of the bun, ready to introduce it to my tummy, I was overwhemingly overjoyed to discover IT WAS ROLLED LIKE A CINNAMON BUN. I could PEEL IT APART INTO A SPIRAL.

So of course I did. ;D

Bun InnardsCombined with the novelty of de-laminating the bun, the deliciousness of the barely-sweet, just-enough-taro-flavor mound of dough in front of me made this the most enjoyable non-cake-bread-eating experience I can remember. Forget about dinner rolls. Move over regular bread. Give me taro buns or give me…no bread! ;P 😀

Once that entire hunk of taro bun delight was being submerged in tummy juices, I decided the steaming of another was in order. That’s how the trip to the Oriental Grocery became a Taro Purchasing Trip of Doom. While one bun was absolutely wonderful, two was…well, one too many, heh. I am so stuffed right now, but at least I am STUFFED WITH DELICIOUSNESS!!

Pasta and Chicken with Lemon Sauce

For the main dish of my birthday party dinner, I put together a simple pasta dish with pieces of chicken and a light lemon sauce. Butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice comprised the simple sauce which was tossed with chicken and then some ziti. Just before serving, I added some freshly-grated parmigiano (yay for my new Magic Bullet!). Despite preparing a total of two pounds of pasta, there were very little left-overs.

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