Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pan de Sal Revisited

I guess it was just natural for me to then move on to making pan de sal after a very successful ensaymada experiment. It's no longer an experiment, I suppose, as I have made ensaymada a few more times the latest batch always better than the previous. I froze half of the dough of the most recent one. I'll tell you how the frozen dough works in comparison to a fresh one in a future post.

But anyway, this post is about pan de sal. It's been a while since I made pan de sal. I was disheartened as all my attempts in the past fell short of my "ideal" pan de sal. (read earlier post on pan de sal). We've never made it at home in the Philippines that is why my "ideal" pan de sal is store bought hot pan de sal. Our neighborhood bakery bake pan de sal all throughout the day. You're almost always guaranteed to get hot pan de sal any time you feel like it.

Although pan de sal is available here down under they are normally not freshly baked. They are either frozen or, if you’re lucky enough to have a Pinoy bakery nearby, already packed but never fresh from the oven. There is no other way for me to get hot pan de sal unless I bake it myself.

Thank God once again to Miss Eufemia C Estrada who wrote a really wonderful book that renewed my interest in baking! I, of course, used her recipe which she apparently got from Dexter Rebolledo (of the famous Dexter’s Bakeshop & Coffeeshop in Manila).

I was a bit ambiguous about step 2 of her recipe but nevertheless the resulting pan de sal smelled, looked and most importantly tasted like my "ideal"!

Here's the recipe:

Dexter's Pan de sal

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hydrogenated shortening
2 egg whites
1 cup scalded milk
1 cup lukewarm water
7-8 cups flour

1. In a bowl, sprinkle yeast in lukewarm water. Wait about 5 minutes for yeast to dissolve. Add sugar and wait for the mixture to bubble. Add the salt, shortening, egg whites and 1 cup flour to make a soft dough. Mix by hand thoroughly. Add 1 cup milk with 1 cup lukewarm water. Add all of the flour. Knead until smooth. Form into a ball and let rise until double in bulk. Do not cover with cheese cloth. Do not brush with butter.
2. After dough has doubled in size, divide into 3 parts. Flatten each piece into a rectangle and place one on top of the other.
3. Divide rectangle pieces into strips. Powder the strips with bread crumbs. Cut into serving pieces. Place each piece on slightly greased cookie sheets, standing on cut side. Bake in preheated 450F oven for 15 minutes. Yields 62 pieces.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This would have to be one of my proudest moments as a home cook! I made Ensaymada for the first time and the final result was just what I wanted!

Ensaymada is the Filipino version of the Spanish Ensaimada, a pastry distinguished by its use of pork lard. Instead of using lard the Filipino Ensaymada substitutes butter and adds aged Edam cheese as a final touch. What results is a far richer and tastier product (in my opinion!).

I actually made Ensaymada two days in a row. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster but my second one was close to perfect if I say so myself.

I used two different recipes. The failure of my first try I partly (mostly) attribute to the recipe I got from this lame excuse for a Filipino cookbook. I knew something was seriously wrong with this book of supposedly “Favourite Filipino Recipes” that includes French Onion Soup, Lobster Thermidor, and Katsudon, just to name a few!

But anyway, I’ve been saved by another Filipino cookbook titled, Baking Made EC: 70 Family Favourites, by Eufemia C Estrada. I feel that this book is a lot more honest and “real”. It has no pretension that is quite rampant in the other one. It saved me from another disappointment. As a matter of fact it unleashed in me a brand new interest in baking! Thanks Miss Eufemia!

Miss Eufemia’s recipe, which I copied below, was relatively easy to follow and results is an Ensaymada that is both tasty and reminiscent of my childhood.


4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup evaporated milk, scalded
8 egg yolks, beaten
6 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup grated cheese
More butter for brushing tops
More sugar and grated cheese for dusting

1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes to grow. Add butter, sugar, salt and scalded milk. Add the beaten egg yolks. Beat in flour and knead until smooth and elastic. (You can throw the dough onto a lightly floured surface as part of your kneading).

2. Form into a smooth ball, place on lightly greased bowl, flip over so top is oiled, cover with dry cloth and let rise until double in bulk.
Cut dough into half and form 12 balls from each half to make a dozen. Roll each ball real thin, brush with softened butter, dust with grated cheese, roll with the help or a thin skewer and form into rings right onto slightly greased sheets. Cover lightly with cloth and let rise until triple in bulk

3. Preheat oven to 400°F while dough is rising. Bake about 15 minutes.
Brush tops with butter while hot. Let cool, then brush with butter once more and sprinkle with sugar and grated cheese. Wrap individually with greaseproof paper, if desired.

Note: Dough rings can be frozen to let rise and bake when needed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A change of name…

I don’t know why I never thought of “Beancounter” as the name for my blog. I am a bean counter, after all, by profession. And, I think, somehow, that name has some food connotation.

So, after over a hundred posts, 102 to be exact, I’ve decided to have a name change.

To those who are here for the first time, WELCOME!

To those who have been here before…WELCOME as well! :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

T-Bone Bistek (Beef with Onions Filipino Style)

I did not intend to use T-bone in making this dish. But we’ve got an oversupply of this cut of beef thanks to my father! You see, dad flew to Manila about a month ago. It’s his custom to request his butcher to freeze and vacuum pack T-bone steaks for him for to give to his friends in Manila. Fortunately for us (unfortunately for him) he was not able to check all of them in. He had to leave behind approximately 5 kilos of steak.

Apart from the normal steak and potatoes I’ve used T-bone for stir fries, stews and all sorts of beef dishes. But one that stands out is the Pinoy Bistek.

I’m not a fan of fusion cuisine (western ingredients cooked Asian/eastern style or the other way around) but bistek, in my opinion, is a good example of how it can probably work.

This dish also does not require a lot of ingredients and is quite simple to cook. And because of this the quality of the ingredients is even more pertinent.

Here’s how I prepare mine:

T-bone Bistek ala Kidapawan

2 fairly thick cuts of T-bone steak
Juice of one lime (I prefer calamansi but there were none available)
4-5 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of oil
3 large Spanish onions sliced into rings (if you like onions just add more)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Sirloin is more commonly used for this dish but since T-bone is what we have you need to de-bone the steaks then sliced into fairly thin pieces (the thinner the quicker to cook). Marinate the beef pieces in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and juice of half a lime. Leave for about half an hour.
2. Heat up a little bit of oil using a pan with a fairly thick base. Sear the marinated beef a few pieces at a time to avoid steaming the meat. You probably need only 30 seconds each side. Set aside the seared meat.
3. Cook half the onion rings in the same pan (if you don’t like the taste of raw onions add them all instead of just half). Add a bit more oil if necessary. Wait until the onions start to caramelise. 4. Add the seared meat back in the pan. Add the remaining soy sauce, lime juice and black pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the remaining onion rings just before serving.
6. Serve with jasmine rice or roast potatoes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Australia – the Food Icons – Lamingtons

Unfortunately, AUSTRALIA the movie has not been faring well in the box office. Friends who have seen it absolutely loved it but the film has been bagged by critics contributing to its further demise.

But over a month ago I’ve started, supposedly, a series of Australian food icons to coincide with the release of the film. I was a little bit disheartened to continue because of the film’s fate but as promised here’s the second instalment. Please follow the link to read the first about Aussie Meat Pies.

Lamingtons came as the second most popular Aussie food icon in a 2007 poll (affectionately titled “Top Taste Lamington Aussie Poll”).

There are many reports as to the origin and the name of this cake but most of them are hearsay. The most plausible, in my opinion, was the story that says this concoction was brought about as a means to use up stale cake.

Lamingtons, to describe simply, are sponge cake squares dipped in chocolate then rolled in desiccated coconut. Variations to this include cutting the cake in half and filling it with either strawberry conserve or fresh whipped cream.

They have been and still are popular as fund raisers (commonly called “Lamington drives”) for clubs and charities.

The recipe below comes from my book Lamingtons to Lemongrass by Maeve O’Meara and Joanna Savill.


3 eggs
4 tablespoons castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
125g Fielders cornflour (wheaten cornflour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g butter

200 g icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Boiling water
Desiccated coconut

For the sponge

1. Beat eggs until frothy - this recipe is much easier if you use an electric mixer. Add the sugar slowly, continuing to beat the mixture. Add vanilla essence.

2. Sift flour and baking powder three times. Add to egg mixture then add the butter which has been melted and just brought to the boil.

3. Pour the mixture into a greased, lined lamington tray (27 x 20 cm)

4. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

For the icing

1. Combine icing sugar, cocoa and butter together in an enamel bowl, adding a little boiling water to make mixture runny. Stand over bowl of boiling water to keep icing mixture liquid.

2. Cut cake into 5 centimetre squares, skewer each with a fork and with a knife coat with icing mixture. Roll in coconut, coating evenly. Sit on waxed paper to dry.

3. Serve on large platters on paper doilies.

Note:Tip: a tea towel over the rack stops marking. Also put cooled cake into freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting - it makes slicing so much easier).

Sleep deprived

What would be ideal is for my new daughter to sleep through the night. But at the moment that is a bit too much to ask. Eia is barely a month old and still settling in. But her sleeping pattern is impacting on us, her parents, negatively.

For the past few weeks my wife and I have been sleep deprived. We are getting a lot less than what’s considered “healthy”. Coincidentally, the results of the study linking the common cold and sleep deprivation came out today (Sleep the Key to Cold Prevention). According to the study 8-hour sleepers are less likely to get sick than those who slept less.

Yesterday, I did not get to bed till 5.30 in the morning. I had to reset my alarm clock to 7.30 to allow me at least two hours of sleep. I still did not get my two hours. And I was also late for work!

My wife is in no better position. Being the mother, she probably slept less (and worked more).

The last thing we want is to get sick! What are we to do?!

I’ve devised a plan that we are trying out for the first time in our career as parents. We’ll be taking shifts in looking after our little angel. The plan is for Cherry to go to bed by 9pm leaving me to look after Eia till about 2am. That’ll give her about 5 hours of rest time. She would then takeover from 2am onwards with the possibility of catching some Z’s during the day. I said possibly because having 3 other children to look after does not normally allow for this.

5 hours is nowhere near ideal but it is still better than 4, or 3, or 2, or 1, or no sleep at all.

To keep me company during these nights I’ve got a line up of DVDs to watch and a laptop for blogging. I am actually writing this while I’m on my first shift.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tinola (Filipino Style Chicken Soup)

If you’ve read my previous post you’ll notice that there were two papayas in the one of the photos. One was already peeled (I used to make Som Tum/Som Tam) while the other was still completely whole which I especially set aside with tinola in mind.

It’s the height of summer in Australia. Some people might think it odd to want soup when temperatures are soaring. But tinola, the Filipino version of the chicken soup, is actually quite soothing and refreshing with its dominant ginger flavour. I add tanglad (lemongrass) to my tinola for added “freshness”.

I would normally use dahon ng sili (chilli leaves) to finish off this dish but over the weekend I was given a fresh bunch of malunggay leaves (Sajin in the Indian subcontinent) which I liberally added to my soup.

Although I said use half a chicken in my recipe what I actually did was save the best parts for a Max’s style friend chicken and whatever is left I used for the soup.

For a refreshing end to the meal I made rock melon drink. Recipe for this one in my next post!

Tinolang Manok (Filipino Style Chicken Soup)

2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large onion chopped
6-8 slices fresh ginger
1 lemongrass sliced
Half a chicken cut into serving pieces
1 small green papaya cut into thick wedges
4 cups of water or chicken stock
1 cup malunggay or spinach leaves
Fish sauce to taste
Salt & black pepper to taste

1. Heat up the oil in a pot. Fry the ginger first. Add the garlic after a minute or so and fry until golden brown.
2. Add the lemongrass and cook for another minute.
3. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent.
4. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about 3 minutes or until the chicken pieces have changed colour but not yet fully cooked.
5. Add the water or stock and bring to the boil.
6. Lower the heat and adjust the taste using salt, pepper and fish sauce. If you’ve used stock you obviously need less salt and fish sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
7. For a clearer soup make sure you skim the soup.
8. Add the papaya and cook until the papaya is done to your liking.
9. Finally add the malunggay leaves. Turn off the heat after about 30 seconds.
10. You can serve this as a complete meal or as a soup to go with your main meal.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Som Tam/Som Tum (Thai Green Papaya Salad)

EatingAsia has inspired me to purge my collection of cookbooks/food magazines. You see, my idea of bedtime reading is either a cookbook or a food magazine. Over the years I have accumulated quite a collection as a consequence.

During this purging I stumbled upon a Thai cookery book (Lemongrass & Sweet Basil by Khamtane Signavong) that I bought about a year ago but never read/used. In it was a recipe for Som Tam/Som Tum (Thai Green Papaya Salad) that I’ve been meaning to try to prepare at home.

I was never fond of ripe papaya. I find its green papaya more appealing and full of potential. There's the traditional Filipino green papaya pickle called achara. It is also the preferred ingredient for tinola rather than sayote. And no adobo sa gata (San Pablo, Laguna version using duck or water buffalo meat) would be complete without this versatile ingredient.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked, the focus of this post is Som Tam/Som Tum which I made for the first time a few nights ago. Green papaya is quite difficult to source Down under but thankfully my parents have couple of trees bursting with fruit in their tiny garden. The other ingredients needed for this dish are readily available in the typical Pinoy pantry.

This salad is good as an entree or as a side dish. For dinner that night we had it with lechon kawali (roast pork).

Som Tam/Som Tum - Green Papaya Salad (Lemongrass & Sweet basil – Khamtane Signavong)

3 cloves garlic
3 bird’s eye chillies
30g roasted peanuts
30g dried shrimps
8 cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons palm sugar
4 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
250g sliced green papaya
4 snake beans

1. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, chillies, peanuts and dried shrimps to a fine paste.
2. Mix the paste with the cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice.
3. Mix well then add the green beans and papaya. Stir to mix without breaking up the papaya.

4. Serve with some grilled or barbequed meat or fish.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

7 days with HTC Touch Pro

It took me more than half a year to finally decide on what new phone to get. During that time a lot of new technology have been introduced including the new iPhone. If you've read a previous post you'll know I'm not a fan of Apple products. I was actually waiting for a new Nokia product but something better came up.

My Nokia N73 is still working fine. But with the amount of blogging that I do I need a phone that would be able to better support this new hobby of mine.

And so, after quite a long search, I finally decided on getting HTC's Touch Pro. It's got the TouchFLO 3D technology (that gives you touch control over the device) but the biggest attraction to me was the phone’s full QWERTY keyboard. As a matter of fact I am writing this post using my new phone! Even with this feature my N73 appears to be bulkier.

From time to time I would come up with an idea for a post when it is not convenient to turn on my laptop. It could be the beginning sentences of a post or a perfect ending to a post that would suddenly pop up in my head and disappear just as quickly. Writing down notes on paper is not one of my strengths. It was never an option. And because HTC Touch Pro is a Windows-Mobile device I could go straight into Word to jot down my thoughts for editing later. How cool is that? Well, I think it is!

It's only been seven days into our relationship and hopefully it would continue to work out between us (for the next 24 months at least!).