This month’s Progressive Eats is different for me. As we’ve worked our way through each other’s virtual homes all of the events planned by our monthly host were themes requiring dishes that I was familiar with. I can make soup, Tex-Mex, barbecue and more. Tell me to show for an apres ski party and I’m on it but Asian? I’m probably not alone but my experience with Asian is limited primarily to Chinese takeout. Oh I’ve made what Americans think of as Asian food but find someone in Asia who is familiar with crockpot Sesame Chicken and I’ll change my tune. See? Oh…wait. I do have some wonton wrappers in the freezer; does that count? I actually love that Jeanette with the blog Jeanette’s Healthy Living chose this theme. It’s good to stretch ourselves and try something new so this was fun.
First things first was to decide what to make and I called on my memory of hours spent walking through HMart; a local Korean specialty store. It is HUGE and every time I go there it is an adventure. I’m usually looking for a unique vegetable and never leave without a huge bottle of Mae Ploy Chile Sauce; it’s a kitchen staple.
HMart is my best source for pork belly too; it’s a standard cut of meat for many Asian dishes, not just the latest trend at chi-chi restaurants. I use it to cure and smoke my own bacon so HMart is special to me. One of my favorite sections of the store is a small bakery. The French influence is obvious in many of the pastries made there but for me, one of my very favorite things are the Asian Rolls. Known by a variety of names including Asian Sweet Bread, Milk Bread, Hong Kong Pai Bao and Hokkaido Milk Bread. And it really is a sweet bread but not in the way that our morning pastries are sweet and covered with frosting. This is more subtle. And so wonderful.
Still it was new for me and I had some anxiety about making it. But then bread always include some anxiety. Each and every time I pull off that linen dishcloth and see that the bread actually did rise, I whoop and holler like a kid with a new bike. Because I had never made it before and because I was making it yesterday, my anxiety level was even higher. But it worked and it was beautiful and it tastes so amazing; really you must stop everything now and get started!
I don’t make enough bread; there is always that association with the time required. But the truth is that it takes very little actual time to bake; much of the vested time is actually just waiting for the bread to proof. If you are sitting by the oven looking through the glass door; OK, that might make it seem too timely. But work it in between your other responsibilities and it’s really not a big deal. The big deal about this bread starts with the scent from the oven. My home had that smell that is so wonderful that a person might wish for an aerosol version to spray throughout on those days when that urges hits us. Spring cleaning, company, you name it…I want my home to always smell like Asian Sweet Bread.
As much as I like to fiddle and make something mine; always revising a recipe along the way, for this I stuck to the recipe exactly; well sort of. The ingredients. Yes. The method? Pretty much…but it’s in the method I took a small detour. I decided to use this recipe and I while I’ve included this photo with some quick phone snaps, I would recommend you peruse that site for a bit too; I thought the photos of steps were excellent.
One of the examples used half the dough, cut it into thirds and then created a unique loaf of bread with three small rolls put into a loaf pan together. As I rolled out the dough I was compelled to add a bit of butter and cinnamon to be rolled up inside. As I asked Jeanette our host, ‘East meets West?’ right? Hopefully in bigger and better ways than this but this was good. No, actually excellent. These rolls were perfect. Light and fluffy and just perfectly sweet.
If you, like myself, have wanted to try your hand with an Asian inspired food; I heartily recommend trying this bread. It is so good…I think I hear a few slices calling to me now! And for more terrific Asian dishes, make sure you visit my friends sites too; I know I can not wait to try something else new to me.
Asian Sweet Bread
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2/3 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
- 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon milk (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
Prior to baking
- Egg wash: whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water
To Finish After Baking
- Simple syrup: 2 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
- In the bowl of a mixer,add all of the dry ingredients and whisk together. Combine the cream and milk and stir; add to the dry mixture in the mixing bowl. Using the dough hook attachment, turn on the mixer to “stir.” Mix for 15 minutes, occasionally stopping the mixer to push the dough down.
- After 15 minutes of mixing, the dough is ready for proofing. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm spot for 1 hour. (I use my oven; preheating to 200 and then turning it off before putting the dough inside). The dough should expand to 1.5X its original size.
- In the meantime, grease two baking vessels on all sides with butter. I used a standard loaf pan and a 9-inch round springform pan.
- After proofing for an hour, put the dough back in the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes to get rid of air bubbles. Dump the dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut it in half. I made a loaf with one half of the dough by cutting it into 3 pieces, rolling them out and then rolling them up before placing them in the loaf pan. With the other half of the dough, I cut it into eight equal pieces and made buns. Once shaped, let the dough proof for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the risen dough with egg wash. Bake the loaves for 23-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the buns with sugar water to give them a really great shine, sweetness, and color.
Join us for an Asian Feast hosted by Jeanette’s Healthy Living:
- Chicken Satay from Spice Roots
- Asian Coleslaw from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- My Dad’s Chinese Sticky Honey Spareribs from Jeanette’s Healthy Living
- Asian Sweet Bread from Creative Culinary
- Sweet and Spicy Pork Egg Rolls from Pastry Chef Online
- Stir-Fried Asparagus with Ginger and Sesame from Mother Would Know
- Soda Chanh (Vietnamese Lime Soda) from girlichef
- Strawberry Cheesecake Wontons from Barbara Bakes
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Asian Feast and is hosted by Jeanette Chen who blogs at Jeanette’s Healthy Living. Join us and make something unique and delicious!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.
We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes or see how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.