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Hi, amateur/hobbyist baker and cook here

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, I'm C.

I'm a student at a university in central Illinois. A big one. With a lot of agricultural departments. ;)

I'm still learning more every day. I enjoy baking both desserts and European-style hearth breads, though I'm also dabbling in Asian-bakery sweets from time to time. I just recently made the transition from baker's yeast to sourdough. It's been a while since I cooked anything interesting or fancy, but I like to experiment. However, since I live in the dorms, I almost exclusively bake, now.

I look forward to learning a lot from everyone here, and picking up tips.

post #2 of 13
Hi, aznninjahitman!
post #3 of 13
Hello and welcome to cheftalk.

As you can see, we have members from all over the world (I'm Scots) as well as all abilities of culinary skill, too.

I hope you will enjoy reading some of the excellent articles and blogs on here - and the photographs aren't too shabby, either!

Feel free to join in on any thread of interest or start your own. The professional area is read-only for us non-profs, I'm afraid - but you can certainly learn a thing or two from just reading the threads in there!
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your kind words, guys.

Yes, I've checked out the professional forums, mainly on baking. It really highlighted some concerns I'm still learning about (like chemical leaveners and influences on gluten structure, etc.!). Very interesting to me.

I'm Chinese American, and I have a fascination with both (traditional) Japanese and classic European cooking methodology and aesthetics. Maybe something interesting will come of it someday. =)
post #5 of 13
Sounds like you have an interesting ancestry. Me? Just plain old Scots, through and through! Doesn't mean I cannot appreciate cuisines from all around the world - although there are a couple which I would not put at the top of my favourites list!
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ah, should clarify. I'm Chinese-American, that is, I'm pure Chinese by blood, though I grew up here. My dad, however, was an overseas Chinese in Vietnam and immigrated sometime after the war after a long trip around SE Asia, and my mom is just southern Chinese.

I do have lots of diverse influences on my palate, as a result.
post #7 of 13

Asian Pastries

Hi C~

I'm interested in Asian Pastries as well and would like to know if there are any books/formulas/specific bakers that you might recommend? I am Asian-American as well (2nd gen, both parents from Japan), and would like to delve deeper into Asian baking techniques.

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi Petit Patissier. ^^

I actually can't say I've experimented too much with Asian breads and pastries. I have done certain things like melonpan, certain steamed Chinese buns, and some baked ones, but I have to say that I mostly am experimenting with continental European breads and some pastries. Oh, and I've done kasutera/castella a few times, but that's a battle and a half!

However, Japan does have quite the baking reputation when it comes to western-style, localized foods. I'm not sure if Japanese bakers prefer butter or use lard, but I know that Chinese bakers tend to use lard and/or a mix with butter - that's one of the barriers that's kept me from experimenting, as well as the relative scarcity and/or expense of regional ingredients and the effort of preparing my own.

Most ingredients are relatively easy to prepare, but take a lot of time (relatively speaking). If you have the time, though, go for it! It's a lot more satisfying than using, say, storebought, packaged azuki/red bean paste!
post #9 of 13 did your melonpan come out?
I've yet to try my hand at azuki or azuki-filled pastries, although I've been accumulating recipes for steamed cheesecake and cream rolls that I'd like to try. One thing I have noticed, is that Asian pastries have a more subtle sweetness to them, which I personally prefer.
Also, I haven't found any recipes that call for lard, although I do understand what you mean by availability - kanten and konnyaku (konjac) by itself have been the hardest items to obtain.
Thanks again!
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
The melonpan was... a little flatter than I had hoped. I was too rough on the dough during the shaping process, plus the gluten was probably overdeveloped (leading to some collapse after the oven spring). I've only tried it that once, and I'm actually planning to do it again in a week with a friend. Maybe I'll double it this time. =)

I do prefer a more subtle sweetness as well. In addition, I tend to use more brown sugars when I bake if I can get them, unless the recipe specifically calls for white sugar, and I also like to reduce the sugar levels if I can. The best madeleines I've ever baked had brown sugar and browned butter. =)

I think the lard-based recipes tend to be the more traditional Chinese ones.

No I have a question for you. Have you ever made mochi? It's very hit and miss with me (I make it from mochiko, by hand). If you have a good dango recipe, please let me know!

Good luck with your experiments!
post #11 of 13

hi there az-man;-)

reading your posts and wanted to say hello....

also, you mentioned using brown sugar/browned butter in baking. i so agree with you!! my brownies are fantastic and the trick is browned butter.....

have you tried billington's muscovado sugar (you can get it on amazon)? it has to be the best brown sugar i've ever had and it makes any cookie or cake recipe taste even richer....and it's great in coffee drinks:-)

take care......
post #12 of 13

Hmm...I don't have a mochi recipe, per se...I've only tried making mochi using mochiko once, and was very disappointed. Now I use a mochi maker (machine that spins the mochi rice round and round until is slowly becomes a big, soft, pliable ball) and then use rice flour to form the individual cakes.

As far as dango goes, I've never tried to make it, although I do have a formula from my grandmother for both dango and manju. I believe dango is simply coloring a batch of mochi and wrapping a ball of an (azuki paste) inside of it. The manju I'm not so sure about, I'll have to try it and then get back to you ^^

Have you made any dessert dim sum?
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi mustang.silly and petit patissier. =)

I haven't used muscovado sugar in my baking yet... I don't dare, because my supply is so limited and it's very expensive as sugar goes. I do use it in tea and coffee occasionally, and the original purpose was actually to make caipirinhas [a Brazilian mojito-like cocktail]

I wish I had a mochi maker! It's one of those bells and whistles I just can't get at the moment - maybe in a few years. I have made fairly good daifuku before, with homemade tsubuan, but like I said, it's very hit and miss, and I didn't feel that the mochi was silky enough.

I've made red bean paste buns before (baked). That's about as far as my dessert dim sum has gone, and I wasn't around to try them once they finished! I heard they tasted delish, but looked atrocious. :lol: This was years before I'd started learning to bake and shape dough...
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