Sunday, 21 September 2014

Red Bean Pumpkin Rolls

On my birthday, one of my best friends wrote me a card and in it there were two quotes. The first quote was a Dr. Seuss one, which can be applied to any kinds of situation. "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened". The second however, spoke to me on a deeper level. It was originally Japanese, translated to Chinese - '今后我想在自己选择的道路上一步一步的寻找光明。直到我能这样微笑着说话为止,在哪之前我至少要流下一公升的眼泪', from the Japanese Drama One Litre of Tears, which was based on a real life story of a young girl named Aya who kept a journal while her body wore away from spinocerebellar degeneration.
"From today onwards I wish to march on the path that I myself chose, step by step in search of light. Until I can genuinely smile while I speak, I must shed at least 1 litre of tears".
We must constantly strive for happiness, for equilibrium and balance, in this ever changing world. And that is what I will leave you with today, alongside these photos and recipe.

I tried several variations of the pumpkin bread, making both savoury and sweet versions. In the end I think I prefer the red bean version the best! I also tried several versions of dough, the original recipe called for milk added to the mixture. It made the dough really soft and harder to handle (dough in the round bowl), so I omitted it and added more pumpkin instead (dough in the square-ish bowl).

In terms of flavour, you can't really taste much of the pumpkin. It just lends a subtle sweetness and gives the bread a stunning bright colour!

Red Bean Pumpkin Rolls

Makes 12 
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction 

For the dough:
160g pumpkin, chopped into cubes (leaving the skin on is fine)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt 
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp five spice 
1 egg, beaten 
2 tsp dried yeast
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

For the filling:
Red bean paste 

1. Place the pumpkin into a pot of boiling water and let it simmer until softened (about 15 minutes). Test with a fork. 
2. Drain the pumpkin, then mash with a fork. 
3. Add the oil, salt, sugar and spices and mix until well combined. 
4. Add in the egg and mix well.  
5. Add the yeast and flour and stir until combined. Tip mixture onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands. You will need to knead until the dough becomes smooth, feels elastic, doesn't stick to your hands and springs back when pressed with a finger. Treat the dough gently, but firmly. 
Alternatively, knead with a mixer with the dough hook attachment, but this takes the fun of making bread away!
6. Oil a big bowl and the surface of the dough, then place the dough in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp cloth. Let the dough proof for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. 
7. Knock down by punching the dough to deflate it. Knead the dough, folding the rough side in so the smooth surface is on the outside. Shape and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangular shape. 
8. Spread your desired amount of red bean paste onto the dough, then roll up like a swiss roll. Divide this log into 12. 
9. Place each dough into a muffin hole, cover with damp cloth and let it proof a second time for about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size again. At the 45 minute mark, turn on the oven to 180C to preheat. 
10. Glaze the rolls with a light layer of egg white then bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. You'll know the bread is done when you tap the bottom of the roll and it sounds hollow. 
11. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Looking back and looking forward

I can't remember the last time I had some quiet time to myself. The only time when I was able to drown out the voices in my head was under the shower, with the cap on, listening to the sounds of streaming giant water droplets thundering down on me, willing the hot water to wake me up. This weekend was fairly quiet. On Saturday I kicked back, erased all strands of thoughts related to uni, grabbed myself a couple of books and a cup of tea and immersed myself in that. It was magical. I fell asleep part way through the second book, woke up three hours later by my parents and had dinner, then continued reading. On Sunday, the nagging started again. Come on, don't be lazy, get some work done. Keep pushing, you're so close, work hard now, relax later. I knocked those voices out by making bread. Bread making has got to be one of my favourite things to do. I love every bit of mixing, kneading, feeling the sticky dough on the pad of my palm and on my fingers transforming under the careful push and shove into a smooth and bouncy work of art. Then the patient waiting while the yeasts labour on and puffs the dough up into this delicately light thing that feels so alive. Next you can really get creative and think of the possibilities of fillings and ways of shaping your dough, And after a second proof, bake them off into golden goodies that fills the whole house with the most incredible, yeasty, homely smell. You can see why that was able to keep my other nagging priorities at bay.

It's Lantern/Mooncake Festival today, so happy mooncake festival to all! I have been home the entire day, still in my weekend lazy mood. I turned a blind eye to social media and my phone. Partly because my mind is still in is slumber and I am simply too lazy to text or message anyone (Sorry friends!). Partly because I really do think I need to pause and I'm not too sure... quietly regain some perspectives on my life? I used to have this habit of eating a bowl of fruits and yoghurt in the afternoon. How much I'd look forward to the delicious, refreshing bowl of fruits - apples or banana mostly or whatever fruit is in season, with dollops of yoghurt (or soy milk) and a generous sprinkling of crunchy nuts and cereal. It's just so healthy but so yummy. Today, after months of neglecting this practice, since I was never home this early, I went downstairs to the kitchen, got the kitchen knife and cutting board out and made myself a fruit salad. Then it occurred to me, how much time has really passed. The last time I made that fruit salad was earlier this year when the strawberries were still in season. It really hit me. How much time has passed, how much has changed, how much I have changed in just a few months.

It is now about six months since I started my masters. And if I am really disciplined, i can finish in three months. I laugh to myself at this silly plan thinking about the mountainous work load still waiting for me. But nearing the end of my lab work, I do feel a sense of relief. Gosh it was almost two months straight of madness - morning till night, sometimes twelve hour shifts, no weekends. Everyday was literally, wake up with partially shut eyes, shower, eat, off to uni, do experiments for hours on end, sometimes skipping lunch, toast or instant soup for dinner, then carry on until ten or eleven pm, home, sleep, repeat. No wonder my skin is in such horrible conditions. My eating habits have changed so drastically from last year. The picky girl that only eats mixed grain rice with loads of fresh veg now scoffs down bread, cakes and cookies - in excessive amounts, way too much sweet food, or whatever's available just to fuel her body. Again I say, no wonder my skin is suffering so much. Thank god this is only Masters and not PhD and it'll all be over in a few (long) months! Then it'll be detox time!

While I welcome the day that I submit my thesis, the prospect of what's going to happen after is quite daunting. Hopefully I would have my masters degree, but job hunting! What a scary thing! I don't know what I want to do. What if i don't find a job? What if I get a job that I dislike or that the people there are nasty? What if I chose the wrong path?  When is the best time to apply for jobs? I'm already running through websites after websites of job listings but I have this debate going on in my head about whether or not I should start applying, seeing that I am still quite a long way off from finishing my masters. But... what if the jobs that I am interested in now are gone by the time I have finished? Would it be too late? On one hand I would quite like a month or two without any work, just focusing on regaining my health and balance. But on the other hand, the thought of sitting idle for months, feeling insecure and unsure... hmmm I'm not sure if that's what I want.

Anyway, I think I've poured enough of my silly thoughts onto this page. I'm working on a lovely pumpkin bread recipe so hopefully that will be up soon!