Brioche Buns

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Baking these buns has been a long-time dream of mine. I’m a huge bread lover, and I actually do dream of baking bread. I have many crazy and vivid dreams, but that’s a topic for another day or blog. Well, it took me a while to set aside enough time to get these buns baking, but it has finally became a reality.

Ta-da! A picture of me with my buns. Oh, and yes, I also want to share some wonderful news with you all. Tim and I are expecting. Twin baby girls. Yes, I said TWINS. And girls! Not one, but two. Two delicious buns, I mean babies.

The buns and the babies have both been a dream of mine, so I thought I would celebrate them together in this little post. We are beyond excited (and nervous) about what our future life will look like, but we will embrace all things God chooses for us.

So far, my journey into motherhood has been pretty nice. I mean, there was a lot of planning, waiting, then more planning, and more waiting, so in a way, it parallels this brioche recipe. I’m half-kidding, as I know the rest of the pregnancy will be a lot harder than just turning on an oven, but it has been a joy preparing for this radical change in our family’s lives.

Now that we know we are expecting two little girls, I’m dreaming about the day I will have two little kitchen helpers kneading breads and preparing dinners together. Though I would want to do this with all my children regardless of their gender, I know it will be extra special to have that mother/daughters time in our little kitchen.

One day, I will introduce this recipe to them and share their birth story over our brioche and milk. What a time to look forward to. I cannot wait. :D

Brioche Buns

Ingredients:
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup warm milk
2-1/4 oz packets active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (if cold, cut into tablespoon pats)
1 egg, beaten with water (for glaze when ready to bake)

Directions:
1. In a stand mixer bowl, combine warm water and milk. Sprinkle active dry yeast over milk mixture. Let sit for about 8 minutes, until mixture becomes foamy.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Add flour mixture into milk/yeast mixture and using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for about 1 minute.
3. Slowly add in eggs to the flour/yeast mixture. Keep mixer on low and make sure to incorporate eggs one at a time.
4. Add room temperature butter, one tablespoon at a time, and mix together on low for about 5 minutes.
5. Grease a large bowl and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm and draft-free place for about one hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
6. Deflate the dough (use a rubber spatula to avoid sticky hands), and cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.
7. Keep in fridge overnight, or at least 8 hours. This will help the flavor and bring the dough to a workable dough.
8. On the next day, after dough has been properly chilled, butter a 12-muffin tin. Remove dough from fridge. Prepare egg glaze by beating one egg and combining with 1 tablespoon water.
9. Using a pastry cutter and a floured workspace, divide into two equal portions. Divide again. And again. Keep doing this until you have 36 small pieces of dough.
10. Drop 3 pieces of dough into each section of the muffin tin.
11. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
12. Cover muffin tin with wax paper and let rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
13. Brush the tops of each bun with the egg/water glaze.
14. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
15. Serve warm. Enjoy with your choice of spread!

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Categories: Recipes

Condensed Milk Blueberry Muffins

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I adore summer. Being a gal from the south, I love the heat, the humidity (yes, I even love the humidity) and pretty much everything about summer. Summers in New York are also great because of the lack of bugs, all the great city activities, and the abundance of sweet summer fruits!

As much fruit as we eat, I wish I could say we’re part of an awesome fruit share from a quaint farm that I personally know and love, but this year we’re not. I realized I’m not the best fit for joining a CSA due to irregular schedules and my need for choice in produce. In fact, I purchase a significant amount of our fruit from Costco. Yes, I know they don’t always have organic options, but right now my family’s priority is saving a buck or two, and Costco helps us do that.

So what does one do when left with an extra pound or so of blueberries that you can no longer force your husband to eat more of? I suppose I could have made a pie, but I chose to make muffins since I also needed breakfast options for the week.

I changed up a Paula Deen recipe for these muffins, and I made her recipe even more decadent. How is that even possible? Ha, I made a way. Really, it was out of necessity considering I drank all the milk because I was on a recent Oreos kick. If you don’t know me in person, I’m actually healthier than this post is making me out to be. But I shouldn’t feel the need to justify myself, I embrace my food choices, as should you. In any case, instead of going out and buying overpriced milk in the paltry neighborhood grocery options, I looked for substitutes within my kitchen. And sure enough, I had just one can of sweetened condensed milk left! Perfect.

Since the condensed milk is already sweetened, I omitted the sugar that the original recipe called for. So much for the ultra-decadence I claimed. ;)

These muffins turned out quite perfect, I must say. They had a fluffy texture, were perfectly sweet, and not too dense. They tasted like previous muffins I’ve made with yogurt or sour cream, so I may just continue to use this recipe not out of necessity but by choice for my blueberry muffin needs.

May it be a welcome addition to your recipe box as well.

Condensed Milk Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Paula Deen

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
2. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy and pale in color. Add in can of condensed milk and continue to beat for about a minute.
4. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the milk until well incorporated and being careful not to over mix.
7. Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.
8. Scoop batter into the paper lined muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with the 2 teaspoons sugar.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.
10. Makes about 12 generously sized muffins.

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Categories: Recipes

Soft Pretzels

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Now I have been baking a bit this year, but I have been in comfort baking mode. What’s that mean? It means I’ve been spending time on classic favorites of mine. Oatmeal raisin cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Banana bread. Matcha mochi. Pretty much just those — things I’ve made plenty of times before, so I haven’t had new recipes to share. Hence my excuse for not posting.

But with these pretzels here, well, it was my first time baking pretzels, and I’m so happy that I have something new to bake and share about.

The idea sparked when I ran into an old coworker not too long ago, someone I get along well with because of our mutual love for baking. So naturally, our conversation led to baking, and she mentioned how every now and then she’ll treat her family to homemade fresh baked pretzels. Wow, a treat indeed. My mouth instantly salivated at the sound of that, so I had to try it myself.

And despite my amateur pretzel rolling skills, I have to say, they turned out pretty darn well. They weren’t too fussy of a recipe, and I can see this making its way into my list of comfort baked goods.

This has rekindled my desire to continue baking new things! Now I’m brainstorming all the wonderful things I can do with yeast. For a huge bread lover like me, this journey of bread making is gonna be fun.

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:
2 packets (4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
5 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.
2. Prepare stand mixer with dough hook attachment. In the mixer bowl, mix together dry ingredients — flour, rest of sugar, and salt.
3. Add the oil and yeast mixture, then turn on mixer to low speed (2/4) and let the mixer do the work for you. Make sure the mixture isn’t too dry. You can add in tablespoons of water if it is. Let mixer knead for about 7 minutes until dough is smooth.
4. Lightly oil a large bowl, and place the dough in the oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover this with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. When in a warm place, this should take about an hour.
5. After dough has risen, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheets with Silpat.
6. In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water.
7. Take risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. (See this video for pointers! I made mine without the middle twist, but I’m also a pretzel newb.) After all the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
8. Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 7 minutes.

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Categories: Recipes

Happy 2014!

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Another year gone by, and this blog neglected for what seems like eons. I am most definitely still around, and I’d love to share some updates with my dear readers, FAQ style. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, ask away in the comments! Bar any inappropriateness, I will answer your questions.

Q: Are you still displaced from Hurricane Sandy?
A: Nope! We moved back to our home in Long Island City after almost five months of being displaced, and our building is well on its way to recovery. We are so blessed to have Tim’s sister live so close by, and they generously gave us space in their home for the entire time. We gained so much perspective during that time, and I do feel like God used the storm to show us just how much He cares for us.

Q: Wow! What was it like living with your in-laws for so long?
A: I’m not exaggerating the least bit when I say it was so much fun. It was like one really long slumber party. We had a lot of movie nights, I enjoyed having people to cook for, and then there was the dog that brought so much joy each day. Plus, we experienced first-hand the transformation of their beautiful new apartment! If you need home inspiration ideas, check out my sister-in-law’s blog. Chris and Jenn, we don’t thank you enough for all that you did for us. Not many people could stand living with their in-laws for a little while, much less five full months. Thanks for sharing your home when we needed one.

Q: Are you still baking?
A: Yes! Once we moved back into the apartment and got full use of our gas and electricity, I’ve been giving my oven some much needed attention. I’ve been baking mostly comfort desserts, which to me are chocolate chip cookies and green tea mochi cake. During the long break from baking, I’ve made quite a list of projects I want to try, so I will be baking a lot more this year.

Q: I heard something you changing jobs–what are you doing now?
A: You heard right, and I quit my job earlier in the year. Instead of selling enterprise software, I have made a huge decision to launch my wedding planning business, Savour Weddings. It’s been quite the journey since I started helping friends out with their weddings some six years ago, and I believe that this is the perfect job for me at the moment. There is nothing like the end of a wedding, after the couple has been sent off to start their marriage by all their friends and families–I relish in that moment and will work so hard to ensure that happens at every wedding.

Q: Are you going to get back to blogging?
A: Yes, yes, yes. I’m back in my home, I’ve got a flexible work schedule, and I’ve been baking and cooking. I would love to continue blogging my baking projects, but I may include some cooking and other related posts as well. I miss my blogger friends and readers, and I am sorry I’ve been away for so long.

Q: So what all happened in 2012?
A: I’ll answer this question with an Instagram recap. Here are some memorable moments from the year:

To celebrate our 5th anniversary (and Texas Independence Day), Tim and I served Frito Pies to over 200 people at church! What a joy to bring a little bit of Texas culture to NY.

We lived with little Wonka for 5 months, and there’s nothing like the warm welcome from a dog when you come home back work. We’d love to get our own dog, but we consider this one almost like our own. (Chris and Jenn just don’t know it.)

I traveled to Thailand this summer, mostly to spend time with family, especially my ill grandmothers. A month later, my paternal grandmother, Khun Ya, breathed her last breath. I cherish the time I got to spend with her, and I’m glad she’s not suffering any longer.

Breaking Bad had its last season, and I celebrated my birthday Walter-White-style. Minus the whole drug empire thing, of course.

And then there were all the weddings I worked! Yuna and Addison’s wedding featured a relaxed Brooklyn brunch, and they taught me that the best is certainly yet to come. I look forward to an awesome 2014!!

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Categories: Briefs

2012 Reflection

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January 1st is always a day of reflection for me. I’ve put off reflecting back on 2012 for a long time because it’s been a very trying year for my family, and if I leave myself alone with my thoughts, my mind wanders, and a lot of emotions take over.

It’ll be helpful for me to walk through the year’s events, so let’s review the year Instagram style.

In January, I sampled beignets all over New Orleans, in February I became part of the LFCC Deaconate Team, and then in March, Tim I celebrated four years of marriage by eating lots of uni and ramen.

In the spring, I had some health issues taken care of, and everything in life seemed to halt while I recovered. I was very encouraged by everyone’s thoughts, prayers, food and flowers, and I took that time to nurture myself spiritually and physically. I also took the time to grow a little herb garden on my balcony.

Once I fully recovered and found myself back at work, things instantly sped up and it came time for our Asia trip, to visit Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. Tokyo was everything I imagined, and three days were simply not enough to experience all that I wanted…

I stopped blogging after I mentioned that my grandmother was very ill. The great news is that my grandmother has since left the hospital, and though she’s not fully recovered, she’s in stable condition and can live at home with some assistance. I’m thankful for the chance to spend time with both grandmothers this summer, and while all the food was great, the time spent with family meant much more.

Taiwan was another whirlwind of a trip. Even though we spent about a week there, we jumped from city to city so often, it felt like a nonstop night market. We sampled lots of stinky tofu, soup dumplings, beef noodle soup, mango shaved ice, bubble tea, delicious fruits, but we were fortunate to be accompanied by so many family members and family friends. Just like in Thailand, this trip was about family which made all the food taste better.

After the trip, we returned to another case of reverse culture shock, which was fixed by eating lots of ramen and Taiwanese breakfast, and lucky for us both are easily accessible here in New York. I also had the joy of coordinating two weddings in September for some extraordinary couples. Both were beautiful days, and they couldn’t have gone better.

In October, I had a fantastic birthday that started out with bacon, continued with a close peek at the Christopher Columbus statue, and ended with some bluegrass in Astoria. Tim also made me some amazing beef noodles. Seeing that the majority of the year was pretty awesome is just the reminder I need to get my mind off of the most recent events. Speaking of which…

October 29, 2012. Contrary to what most people thought, Hurricane Sandy did not turn out to be nothing. While we prepared as much as we could, we had no idea we would witness a huge surge come tearing through our neighborhood, into our garage, up through our lobby. And in no way did we anticipate that the storm would still be affecting us in the new year. Sandy’s effects were truly devastating to many, and I pray nobody will ever underestimate the danger of hurricanes again. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for, like our lives and a standing building, but it requires a conscious choice to acknowledge this as part of God’s will, and not to give up hope. It’s this hope that we must hold onto while we are still displaced and are battling countless things to be able to return home in 2013.

It’s been hard to get in the holiday spirit while dealing with Sandy’s aftermath, but we were able to make a trip to visit my parents in Houston, TX for Thanksgiving while we stayed in New York for a cozy Christmas with my in-laws. We were even able to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday, and it’s been a real joy to see how God has grown everyone through the year.

This year has been like a difficult bread recipe — one that requires a lot of kneading and waiting them some more kneading and more waiting. Eventually when the bread finally goes through the heat in the oven, the dough that was worked and waited on turns into a wonderful bread that fills the home with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

With all the storms I’ve encountered in life this year, I know now that it’s all part of a process, much like that bread recipe. And with that in mind, I can say with confidence that I do look forward to 2013. I pray I don’t encounter as many hardships as in 2012, but even if I do, I know it’ll just be another step in life. My hope is in Jesus Christ, and may He be the solid Rock on which I stand.

p.s. Happy 6th year to this little blog. May 2013 bring many more stories and motivation to continue the baking and blogging!

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Categories: Briefs