Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 52

It's hard to believe that this is my last daily photo roundup post. I've gone a whole year taking a picture every day, and looking back, I think I've managed it on about 355/365 days. I make that a 97% success rate, which I'm pretty sure is better than I've ever done on any exam!

It's been really fun and interesting to do - the camera has become part of my day to day handbag equipment (along with a squashed cereal bar, quite a lot of crumbs, some stale chewing gum, a ponytail band despite having very short hair - you know - the essentials!). Mini-M now picks it up, and says 'cheese' (which admittedly sounds more like 'chszzzz' with no vowels at all), when she wants her picture taken. I've created a 1 year old photo diva!

It's also my 200th blog post! Since starting in January 2009, it took me 30 months until July 2011 to reach 100 posts, then 6 months to notch up my second century. I'm feeling quite proud of my little blog!

Anyway, Mr E is going to be taking over the daily photo mantle, and I guess we'll soon discover how, when and where the pictures are going to be posted!

But until then, for the final time, here are last week's photos...

Saturday 24th December
Christmas Eve finished with a quiet game of Scrabble after a lovely family gathering over the Forth in Fife. Mini-M slept, and Mr E and I put our feet up and pondered double word scores, triple letter scores and whether or not any words contained no vowels...



Sunday 25th December
We went to the zoo on Christmas Day. The penguins were the highlight. Mini-M has been working on her penguin wiggle, and it was performed at many times throughout the day!



Monday 26th December
Boxing Day saw us head to Granny and Grandad E's, where Mini-M continued the penguin theme by wearing her penguin jumper around her waist and waddling around the kitchen, with a cushion.



Tuesday 27th December
A trip to Harestanes for some fresh air and see-sawing got everyone out of the house.



Wednesday 28th December
In a rain-free gap there was some technical swing construction...



Thursday 29th December
Indulging in some holiday reading...



Friday 30th December
I couldn't let my folks escape without featuring in a photo - so here they are waving us off on our way back to Edinburgh - Granny and Grandad N



Saturday 31st December
Happy Hogmanay chaos earlier this evening, when some lovely friends threw open their home to a horde of rampaging tots! There was laughter, there were tears, and someone took their trousers off - sounds just like student days again...


I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings, and a little insight into my view of our world. I'm not leaving blog-land behind - I'll still be updating Makey-Cakey regularly with crafts, cakes and I daresay a fair few photos of Mini-M may sneak in there too, just with a little less structure!

And finally of course, Happy New Year! I hope 2012 brings health and happiness to you and yours, where you are. Rx

Chocolate Poppyseed Slice - A Successful Invention

I'm a big fan of poppy seeds, particularly poppy seed cake (Makowiec) which I'm attributing to my Polish ancestry! I had good intentions of making some, but in the midst of Mini-M having some very festive pre-Christmas lurgy, I ran out of time. The tin of poppy seed filling just sat there on the counter, looking sadly at me every time I passed, saying 'bake me!' (Just to clarify, I don't actually talk to my ingredients, they don't actually talk to me, and I'm speaking metaphorically rather than madly!)

So I did. In my head I envisaged a kind of poppy seed millionaires shortbread, without the caramel or chocolate topping. It pretty much worked out exactly like that, and better - I'll definitely be making it again. The shortbread bottom was based on this BBC Good Food Millionaire's Shortbread recipe, and the topping by these Poppy Seed Cookies from Jar in the City, which I de-nutted then chocolate-d up.



The result may not be exactly authentically Polish, but it tastes delicious so hopefully it's cultural transgression can be forgiven!

Chocolate Poppy seed Slice (makes 1 tray)
For the base

  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 140g dairy free margarine
  • 175g plain flour
  • 25g ground rice

For the topping

  • 1x850g tin poppy seed filling
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1x 85g bar dark chocolate (mine was flavoured with ginger and mandarin)

For the icing

  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • a little cold water

Preheat the oven to 160C (Fan 140C) and grease a 9x13" rectangular brownie tin or similar.
Blitz all the base ingredients together in a food processor until it goes through the crumbly stage and starts clumping together.
Press the crumbly mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes until golden.
Meanwhile make the filling by mixing the poppy seed filling, egg, plain flour and cocoa powder together well in a large bowl.
Melt the chocolate and stir it in to the poppy seed mixture.
Pour the topping over the cooked base, and spread out evenly.
Increase the oven temperature to 180C (Fan 160C) and bake for another 30 mins until slightly puffed and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool, then mix the icing sugar with a few teaspoons of cold water to a smooth consistency, and drizzle over the poppy seed layer with a teaspoon.
Allow to harden, then cut into squares to serve.



Best of all, it's dairy free - enjoy!

An alternative take on some Christmas classics: Mincemeat pancakes and Brussels Sprout Pakoras

We went to the zoo on Christmas Day! It was fab - Mini-M was captivated by the penguins, we saw the new giant pandas, it stayed mainly dry, the penguins came out on parade, and despite it being rather gusty, we made it to the top of the hill without being blown away.

As a result we had a rather unconventional Christmas meal. We took a picnic, which included cold potato tortilla, smoked mackerel and tomato mayo toastwiches, sausages wrapped in bacon (of course) and mincemeat pancakes. Then when we got home in the evening, we had carrot, parsnip and orange soup with brussles sprout pakoras!

Definitely a deviation from turkey and gravy, but still delicious!

To make the sprout pakoras, I used this recipe from the Patterned Plate, with a few little tweaks.

Here's my version.

Just the right mix of spicy, crunchy and sprouty!
Brussels Sprout Pakoras (Makes 12-15 depending on size)

  • 125g brussels sprouts (this worked about at 12 smallish ones for me)
  • 1/2 a large onion
  • 125g gram flour (chickpea flour)
  • 3 tbsp ground rice
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 300ml cold water
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1/2 a hot fresh red chili
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1litre sunflower oil (for frying - you can reuse it)

First prepare your sprouts - take off the outer leaves if necessary, and cut off the bottom stalk, then finely shred them.
Next finely chop your onion.
Deseed and chop your chili.
Finely chop your parsley.
In a large bowl, mix together the gram flour, ground rice, baking powder, cumin, ginger, turmeric and salt.
Add about 250ml of the water until you have a thick but pourable pancake batter consistency. You may need to add more water - just keep adding it until you reach this point.
Mix in your sprouts, onion, chili and parsley and stir until well combined and coated.
Pour the oil into a medium saucepan, so that it comes about halfway up the pan, and is about 3 inches deep.
Heat the oil until a small blob of batter will float but not immediately colour. It's a bit tricky getting it right - too cold and the pakoras will absorb too much oil - too hot and they will be cooked on the outside but raw in the middle.
Once your oil is hot enough, drop tablespoons of the mixture in - they will sizzle a bit as the moisture in the batter comes into contact with the hot oil. Depending on the size of your pan you may be able to cook up to 3 or 4 at a time. I managed 2. Don't be tempted to squash too many is, as they will a) stick together and b) cool the oil down so they won't cook properly.
Cook for a few minutes, until golden and slightly puffed up, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

These are delicious fresh, but they also reheat well, so you can make them ahead, allow to cool, then re-heat for about 5 minutes in a hot oven.

Fresh pancakes just chilling out on a tea-towel
The mincemeat pancakes were delicious - to make them, I started off making a regular scotch pancake batter, but before I added the milk, dolloped in half a jar of suet-less mincemeat. I then added enough milk to get the correct consistency, but it was a fair amount less than usual, since the mincemeat was quite runny. Then I cooked them as usual. They were great cold, but even better toasted the next day for breakfast!

Mr E & Mini-M mid-pancake munch, waiting for the penguin parade
Say cheese if you love pancakes!

Friday, 30 December 2011

If this chocolate cake could wear a cape and fly... it would!

Superfood and chocolate cake. Not often words that coexist happily in the same sentence. I mean, I'm sure a lot of people would heartily agree that chocolate cake is a pretty super food, in terms of general deliciousness, but it's not normally a superfood in terms of nutrition.

One of these days I will not spatter cake mixture when pouring it into the tin!

Well, this one is! It contains not one, but two superfoods: blueberries and quinoa. The first one probably didn't surprise anyone - the second one has possibly made you all a little sceptical. Rest assured it tastes delicious, and not at all 'healthy' which means you can be relatively virtuous and still feel sinful.

Cracked chocolate amazingness

As I'm writing this, I'm mentally picturing some little fat blueberry ninjas, and a be-caped packet of quinoa, ready and waiting to take on the winter germs, cure aches and pains, lift spirits and find the solution to world peace. If only! In reality, they might at least create a neutral dessert - where their superfoody presence cancels out the sugar and other cake baddies!

The heart of darkness (due to my dodgy photography!)
This recipe is adapted from one I found at Within the Kitchen - so if you're looking for a real dairy, blueberry-less version with a coffee hit, and twice as much of it (yum!), then you'll find it here.

Superfood Chocolate Cake (Serves 6-8)

  • 1/3 cup dried quinoa
  • 1l water
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy milk (as usual, I used Oatly oat milk)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Scant 1/2 cup of dairy free margarine
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g fresh blueberries
  • pinch of salt

Put the quinoa and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer until the quinoa is tender (about 10-15mins). Drain, and allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan) and grease an 8" cake tin. Line the bottom with baking parchment if it isn't non-stick.
Put the eggs, oat milk, melted margarine and vanilla in a blender (or bowl if you're using a hand blender). Add 1 cup of the cooked quinoa. (If you have extra left, if makes a fantastic tabbouleh style salad with tomatoes and lots of fresh herbs.) Blitz it until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, measure out the cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Stir to combine then add the wet ingredients.
Mix well, then stir through the blueberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for around 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (unless you hit a blueberry of course!).
Allow to cool completely in the tin, then wrap in tin foil, pop in a large airtight box and leave for 24-48hrs before eating. This helps it to become moist and fudgy - of course you can eat it straight away, it might just have a very slightly more grainy texture from the quinoa, depending on how soft you cooked it, and how smoothly you blended it!
Serve warm or cold, with a drizzle of oat cream, and feel good about getting your chocolate fix!

More than a drizzle really!

Friday, 23 December 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 51

Well today has been an epic blogging day - this is post number 3, plus one last night!
And it's also my second last daily photo post - I can't believe I've actually managed the whole year, pretty much without cheating. A subject of recent debate has been whether or not I continue it on into 2012. It's been a lot of work, but also a huge satisfaction. I think I want a wee break of carrying my camera everywhere, however.... Rumour has it that Mr E may be taking up the daily photo baton. Now we just need to figure out the logistics of where and how the photos will go - but rest assured, they will still contain plenty of Mini-M!

Right - on to this week's pictures.

Saturday 17th December
Today was the Mummy School Christmas party. Mini-M was poorly, but made it along for 15 mins at the end during which time this ambitious picture was staged!



Sunday 18th December
An afternoon visit to the National Museum of Scotland to allow Mini-M some indoor adventuring, as she was starting to perk up. Perhaps she's a geographer at heart, getting up close with the volcano display!


Monday 19th December
Hmmm - a picture taken out of our bedroom window at 11:57pm - oops! Guess who forgot to photograph anything interesting during the day...



Tuesday 20th December
Mini-M not looking entirely convinced by the rainbow Eskimo look!



Wednesday 21st December
Clearly 'The Wheels on the Bus' has branched out since I was a kid!



Thursday 22nd December
Mini-M's advent calendar has stained glass instead of chocolate



Friday 23rd December
The best way to eat peanut butter on toast is with one piece in each hand!

Gingerbread Tablet - tastes like Christmas!

What does one do when faced with a full and unopened carton of single cream, and real butter in the fridge needing used up, when still unable to eat dairy?

Turn it into a big batch of gingerbread tablet, of course, and share it with family, friends and colleagues!



I can't tell you what it tastes like - but I can tell you that it went down very well with all who tasted it. In fact my brother, a self titled 'Tablet Connoisseur' decreed it really good - high praise indeed - and happily headed off home with a small stash of his own to see him through some very un-festive exam revision.

So here's my recipe

Gingerbread Tablet (makes 1 large tray)

  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 900g granulated sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 284ml carton of single cream
  • 150ml semi skimmed milk
  • 50g crunchy gingerbread biscuits
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars, milk and cream and vanilla into a large heavy based saucepan. Put it on a really really low heat, and leave it until it has all dissolved - this can sometimes take as much as an hour. Dissolving over a low heat is key - if the heat is too high, the mixture will start to boil before all the sugar crystals have dissolved, and the resulting tablet will be grainy in texture. Still delicious, but not velvety smooth.
In the meantime, butter a baking tin - mine was a 9x13 inch swiss roll tin. Don't use margarine or oil or spray, otherwise it will make your tablet taste funny. A thin, even coating of real butter is best.
Crush your gingerbread finely. I think there's a massive therapeutic value in pummelling the living daylights out of some defenceless biscuits with the end of a rolling pin!
Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a vigorous boil - stirring carefully because it does tend to splash a bit, and boiling sugar to the eye is not something anyone needs to experience.
Continue to boil hard until it reaches the soft ball stage (115C according to my sugar thermometer). It's not that I don't trust my thermometer, just that, well, OK I don't trust my thermometer, so prefer to check that it's ready by dropping a small amount of the mixture straight from the pan into a cup of cold water. If you can roll it into a ball that holds its shape under water, but loses it a bit out of water, then that's you done.
Take it off the heat, set on a heatproof worksurface, roll up your sleeves and beat it hard with a wooden spoon until starts to thicken. You will notice the consistency suddenly start to change, at which point throw in the gingerbread crumbs, give it one last stir and very quickly tip it into your prepared tin. This stuff sets fast! There is nothing more upsetting than it setting in the pan, particularly if it's going to be a gift. Although it will still taste delicious, a tub of unceremoniously-hacked-out-of-the-pan-with-a-knife tablet chunks and crumbs doesn't have quite the same elegance and visual appeal and neatly cut squares!
Once it has set to the touch, mark into squares with a sharp knife then allow to cool to completely stone cold before turning out of the tin and cutting.



Breakfast Club 17: Banana Bready Bread

Now that I'm officially on holiday, I am catching up on a blogging backlog, still in my PJs whilst Mini-M is having a morning nap. Of course, she will probably decide it is time to wake up in about three minutes, before I get anywhere close to the end of this post, let alone onto the next, and I'm now wasting time writing rubbish that could be recipe words - I'll never learn! Onwards...

The December Breakfast Club challenge theme was Bread, and was hosted by Krithi's Kitchen. We were challenged to either make bread for breakfast, or use bread in a breakfast dish. I went for the former.

This challenge coincided with a surfeit of bananas. Our veg box banana allocation is usually reserved for Mini-M who is a banana fiend, however she was on a bit of a food strike a few weeks ago, so suddenly there were three rather sad bananas in the fruit dish.

In my epic 'Recipes' bookmarks folder, I had this one from veganbaking.net for Yeasted Banana Bread. It's for proper bready bread, with yeast, rather than banana cakey bread, with bicarbonate of soda or SR flour.

For once, I didn't have to de-dairy it, which meant it went into the oven without the familiar will it / wont it work feeling. Of course it did!

And for once my substitution list was low - so I'm not going to post the recipe, just direct you to the original. Where it called for 'non dairy milk' I used oat milk, and instead of canola oil I used sunflower, but that was it. No weirdness!

The recipe is easy to make, and quick, in that there isn't much measuring, mixing or kneading involved, BUT slooooooow in that there is a lot of rising time. Not a good 'bread in a hurry' recipe, but a very good 'delicious warm bread without very much effort' recipe.

It was sweet and banana-y but not too sweet - just right for breakfast. It toasted well, and got top marks from both me and Mr E. I don't think any of it even made it into Mini-M's mouth, but it throws very well,  particularly the crusts, which can easily clear the length of the living room.


I have to apologise also for the shocking photographs - this was made during the brief no-camera spell, when my old one gave up the ghost once and for all, and my new one hadn't arrived. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Random Recipes 11: Rocket Parmesan & Pear Salad (sadly without the parmesan!)

December's Random Recipe Challenge - hosted by the ever ingenious Dom at Belleau Kitchen was to make a recipe from a cook book that you rarely use, then give it away to charity, (The book, not the cooking!) which was a lovely idea, and a welcome antidote to all the mince pie and Christmas cake type posts flying around. Not that they aren't delicious and lovely too, of course, but sometimes it's possible to get a bit Christmassed out. And of course, charity shops are always on the look out for donations, many with stock appeals at this time of year, so it's a win win situation!



My book was World Cuisine Italy (1) which I think may have come from a newspaper at some point in the past, but is a fairly substantial book that had languished unused and unloved on my cookbook shelf.



I asked my sister, the lovely Auntie L to choose me a random recipe, and she picked Rocket, Parmesan and Pear salad, or Insalata di Rucola, Parmigiano e Pera if we're going to be Italian about it.

Since I'm still non-dairy, it immediately lost one of it's three key ingredients, and became Rocket and Pear Salad, which was thankfully still peppery, sweet, and tangy with a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

So yet again, not what I was supposed to make, but lovely all the same. Don't be scared of adding pears to your winter salads - they are fantastic - I am a convert!


Friday, 16 December 2011

Christmas Playdough

Whilst I was researching my edible gifts article for the Daring Kitchen, I came across this Fall Spiced Play Dough recipe at Creating Nirvana Today. Yes, I know playdough isn't edible, but it is a homemade gift from the kitchen, so I decided that it most definitely counted!

This week I was using my full entertainment arsenal to keep a poorly Mini-M happy, and decided that playdough was worth a shot. It turned out to be a big hit - particularly prodding it with pointy sticks.

The post over at Creating Nirvana Today will make you double this quantity - I halved it to fit with the amount of flour I had, and it made plenty for playing with Mini-M, but if you're making it to entertain a horde of kids, I'd definitely do a bigger batch. I also changed the spices a bit - again to match what I had to hand. It made the kitchen (and my hands!) smell like Christmas. Mr E wanted to eat it. Mini-M tried - but only once - clearly even with spices and vanilla added, playdough still tastes like playdough!

This possibly wasn't the most sensible use of nap time!
Christmas Playdough

  • 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • 1/4 cup of table salt
  • 1tsp cream of tartar
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 1tbsp sunflower oil

Put all the ingredient in a saucepan and give a good mix. Don't worry, it will be all weird and slimy and lumpy to begin with but it will come OK in the end.
Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, and you will see the mixture begin to thicken. Keep cooking and stirring until it comes together and forms a ball.
Once you've reach the right playdoughy consistency, take the pan off the heat and allow to cool a little.
Give it a quick knead for a couple of minutes, once it's cool enough to handle, then wrap tightly in cling film, seal in a plastic bag, or pop into a tupperware box until you're ready to use it.

Trying some over ambitious one handed rolling pin lifting
Prod (with one hand on the rolling pin in case of sudden attack...)
Prodding is serious business!
"Ooh that's pretty! I'd like to squash it!"

A Picture A Day: Week 50

It's been a bit of a week of lurgy here, mainly for Mini-M who has been feeling very poorly, with a snotty nose, hacking cough, gunky eyes, temperatures, shivers - the works. She's been a very miserable little lady, but thankfully we seen to have turned a corner and she's on the mend, although still nowhere near 100%. Hopefully that's out winter dose of illness out of the way pre-Christmas!

My camera also died once and for all last Friday. My new one has in fact winged it's way from Germany already, thanks to Kodak and DHL, but as a result most of this week's photos were taken on phones, be it mine or Mr. E's.

So here they are...

Saturday 10th December
Today was Mr E's work Christmas do - which was monumental in that it was our first night away without Mini-M, since it was just outside St Andrews. Thankfully Mini-M, the babysitting grandparents, Mr E and myself all survived, and indeed enjoyed the weekend! This was my highlight though - my special dairy free dessert - layers of thin, light, crispy filo pastry layered with marinated strawberries, citrus marshmallows, and raspberry sherbert. It was absolutely delicious!


Sunday 11th December
Mini-M helping me unpack, as the lurgy began to kick in


Monday 12th December
The living room, 10 mins after a very discontented and agitated Mini-M got up from her nap


Tuesday 13th December
Bubbles at the MusicBugs Christmas session


Wednesday 14th December
Our mini indoor reindeer...


Thursday 15th December
Some moderately happy veg time on the sofa as an interlude from the coughing and crying :o(


Friday 16th December
This isn't a photo, but I make no apologies for that! It is 25 seconds that brightened up my day. Mr E and Mini-M filmed me a little message, and it popped up in my inbox during lunch. I hope it makes you smile too, whoever you are, and wherever you're reading this.

video

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Coconut Chocolate Truffle Torte (Shh! It's dairy free but no-one will ever know...)

Quite a few years back, I remember our family having Delia's chocolate truffle torte one Christmas, specifically because, since I lived in the 'big city' at uni, I was asked to find some amaretti biscuits that were clearly proving elusive in deepest darkest Hawick! I still remember finding a deli that stocked about six different types, and having no idea what quantity they were required in, so buying about four packets.


Anyway, it was a decadent, rich, chocolatey concoction, and buoyed up by the success of my dairy free chocolate truffles, I began to ponder if it could be made dairy free by using coconut milk instead of the cream, and dairy free dark chocolate.

This post is proof that it can! I made it for a weekend away with friends and it got a whole hearted thumbs up, as well as general disbelief that it was dairy free, which is always a good thing. Substitutes that taste like substitutes always make me a bit sad - I want things to taste fantastic in their own dairy-free right.

I'm just gutted I didn't manage to take some better pictures of its fantastic-ness!

Coconut Chocolate Truffle Torte (serves 10-12)
  • 75g dessicated coconut
  • 450g dark chocolate (high cocoa solids, dairy free)
  • 5 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 5 tbsp cherry brandy
  • 2x 400ml tins coconut milk

This recipe has an unusual first step... about a week before you want to make the torte, put your coconut milk in your fridge. Shove it to the back, and go away and forget about it.
When you're ready to make the torte (and remember it needs to chill overnight before serving) toast the coconut in a dry frying pan over a low heat, or under a grill until lightly browned.
Grease and line a 8-10 inch loose bottomed cake tin (line the sides as well as the base, since you don't want it to taste 'greased').
Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the base of the tin.
Break the chocolate into pieces and add to a heat proof bowl with the liquid glucose and cherry brandy.
Heat it over a pan of gently simmering water until melted and completely smooth.
Take your tins of coconut milk out of the fridge, and don't shake them or turn them upside down. Remove the lids and carefully spoon out all of the thick coconut cream. By chilling it, it will have separated into a thick creamy layer on the top, with a smaller layer of very watery coconut milk at the bottom.
Once you've spooned out all of the thick stuff, give it a quick whisk with an electric beater to thicken it a little more.
Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix gently to combine, then pour over the coconut into the prepared tin.
Give it a shoogle to settle the top level and tap it off the worktop a few times so that the bubbles rise to the top.
Chill it overnight in the fridge.
To serve, tip it out of the tin onto a serving plate - worry not, it is pretty robust! Carefully peel off the greaseproof paper, and there you go. Rich dark chocolate coconut creamy goodness with a subtle hit of alcohol - a perfect grown up pudding!


Daring Cooks' December 2011 Challenge: Cha Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks' December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch - delicious!

This was a fantastic challenge to make - exciting enough to feel adventurous, but uncomplicated enough to be achievable.

Looking super shiny after baking
I made the Char Sui pork somewhat impulsively without checking first of all which ingredients I actually had in the cupboard. I went for the maltose and food colouring free version, since I wanted them to be suitable for Mini-M to try, and she's high spirited and energetic enough without a dose of 'pillar box red'!

Here's the list of what should have been in the Char Sui marinade... Honey, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, oyster sauce, shaoxing cooking wine, five spice, salt. Here's what actually went into it... Honey, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper (so far so good), date syrup, cherry brandy (!), ground cloves, ground cinnamon, salt. All things considered, I was relieved how good this tasted even despite the cherry brandy.

I then used the Char Sui pork to make the baked pork buns - cue a whole lot more ingredient substituting.
I didn't mess with the actual dough recipe, but the filling itself was a heavy casualty.
I didn't have spring onions, so used half a regular one. I didn't have hoisin sauce, or any more sesame oil, and I subbed in some ketchup, some more date syrup, a splash of rice wine vinegar and some finely chopped tinned pineapple. I also used some home made vegetable stock paste for the chicken stock.

Cooked pork and chopped onions ready to go into the filling 
Pork & pineapple filling
The dough after rising
One little baked bun
And a cross section of baked porky goodness!
So then, behold the miracle that is baked pork buns that still taste good regardless of what weird ingredients you throw in!
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