Flaxseed Potato Bread

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

Of all the root vegetables that I add to my bread recipes, taro is my favourite;  it produces the most lovely white fluffy crumbs.  However, my recipes call for 100g of mashed taro only, at most 150g for each pullman loaf.  I end up with excess taro which becomes a burden to clear lately, as I don’t cook as many meals as before.

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

So I went back to enriching my bread with potatoes.  To make my baking life easier, I don’t even weigh them anymore; I simply use up a small-size potato that I can cup with one hand.

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

To pen this recipe, I weighed 100g of mashed potato for this bake.  But I think the recipe is really forgiving, 135g -150g of potatoes should work too!

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

The first 60-minute bulk proof was completed inside the mixing bowl.  I transfer it to a wooden board to be shaped into a boule.  Since I have time, I let it relax for another 15 minutes before its final shaping.

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

Covered, free from the draft, of course.

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

After final shaping, I transfer it to a Pullman loaf tin that I line with a reusable baking cloth bought from here, no more single-use parchment/baking/greaseproof paper trash!

Flaxseed Potato Bread // Mono + Co

I let the dough take its time to rise to the rim of the loaf tin, then I bake it for 30 minutes at 170C.  Here’s the detailed recipe, below.

Flaxseed Potato Bread 

220g bread flour

100g cooked potatoes, mashed

1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons raw honey
1 egg, beaten
30g water*
20g cold butter, cubed
2 tablespoons flaxseeds

* Do not pour all 30g water into the mixer bowl, add water bit by bit, watch the dough closely, stop once the ingredients form a rough ball.

In a mixer bowl, combine bread flour, mashed potatoes, egg, instant yeast, sea salt, raw honey, and water. Turn on the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead these ingredients on the lowest speed (KA 1) till they come into a ball.  Continue to knead for 3 minutes, then stop the mixer and let the dough sit for at least 10 minutes.

Turn on the mixer again and knead for 1 minute before adding butter cubes one by one while the mixer is running on its lowest speed.  Keep kneading till there are no traces of butter left and the dough has reached windowpane stage.  At this stage, the dough will be extremely pliable and baby-bottom soft. Add flaxseeds and knead for another 1-2 minutes, or until the seeds are well mixed into the dough.

Leave the dough in the mixer bowl for its first proof of 60 minutes.  The dough will rise to double its volume,  punch down to deflate and transfer it to a clean worktop.

Flatten the dough to push out gas trapped inside the dough, either by hand or a rolling pin.  Shape the dough into a boule, let it sit for 15 minutes.

Next, shape it into a log and place it in a bread tin, seam side facing downwards.  Let this sit in a draft-free place to rise for another 50-60 minutes.

When the bread has risen to the rim of the baking tin, bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 30 minutes.  Remove the bread from the pan immediately after baking, and let it cool on a rack completely before slicing or serving.

Store in an airtight container if not consumed immediately, to keep the loaf soft and the crumbs from drying out.

*Wash the reusable baking cloth with dish detergent (or tea seed powder), air-dry completely before stowing them away for next baking session.

From Trash To Treasure – Upcycle Mooncake Boxes

Mid-Autumn Festival will be over soon.  Fancy mooncake boxes; Love or Loathe them?  Keep or Throw?  Reuse or Upcycle?  Anything but recycling, because fancy packaging can’t be easily recycled.

Furthermore, recycling is NOT working, and definitely NOT the answer to our mounting waste pollution problems.  I buy my mooncake sans packaging.  If I see nice mooncakes boxes, I’ll shamelessly ask for them.  If you have been throwing away your mooncake boxes and wonder what else you can do with them, here are some ways that I reuse the containers.

//  Serving tray, for pretty tea sessions

// Laptop stand, to improve airflow

From Trash To Treasure : Upcycled Mooncake Boxes // Mono + Co

// Baby keepsake box, for the most beautiful memories

// Bookstand, for current reads

// Desk organiser, for hiding away all stationery mess

// Toolbox, for the handywoman in me

// Pantry organiser, for better space management

// New arrival, looks suitable as CNY decor like this

One Recipe: Steamed Mantou, Oven-Baked Bread, or Slider Buns

One Recipe: Steamed Mantou or Baked Buns // Mono+Co

The soft and fluffy buns shown at the end of this video recipe looked unbelievable.  Really, how do you make steamed buns that look so golden-brown, like those baked in an oven?  My first attempt produced pale-looking steamed buns.

There is no water in the dough recipe; four eggs and 30ml of oil are the only liquids holding the rest of the dry ingredients together.

The bread dough rose very well, and the steam-cook process produced an excellent Mantou texture.

Soft fluffy crumbs, like those baked with tangzhong (roux) recipes!  But the colour of the crust is so different from the one in the video.  Was it because I did not use a cling-film to cover the dough when steaming?

I tried again, this time by baking the dough in the oven.

The colour is nice for a baked loaf.

When the base looks this good, you know the bread will be yummy as well.

My third attempt was to make slider buns with this recipe.  The specks you see on the buns are oat pulp that I added to the recipe.  I make oat milk at home and often need to recycle the oat pulp residue in baking projects.  If I am not baking, then I simply make oat porridge, which is the fast way to use up the pulp!

Bake them at 170C for 20 minutes, and you get squishy slider buns.

Add your favourite fillings, or enjoy them plain.

I store them in a covered cast iron pot.  The pot makes great bread containers!

So there you go, I have tried this recipe three times, each time making a different type of bread.

My verdict: I will use this recipe for steamed Mantou only, simply because I already have my preferred recipes for baking bread and buns.  But now I am getting curious if my favourite bread recipe can be steamed to become fluffy Mantou!

Steamed Mantou/ Oven-Baked Bread or Slider Buns

adapted from here
300g plain flour

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast

30g sugar

30g cooking oil

*Optional: I added 100g of oat pulp to the dough for my slider version.

In a mixer bowl, combine plain flour, eggs, instant yeast, and sugar. Turn on the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead these ingredients on the lowest speed (KA 1) till they come into a ball.

Adding oil and keep kneading till the dough reaches window pane stage.  At this stage, the dough will be extremely pliable and baby-bottom soft.

Leave the dough in the mixer bowl for its first proof of 60 minutes.  The dough will rise to double its volume,  punch down to deflate and transfer it to a clean worktop.

Shape the dough to your liking (mantou, loaf, buns etc.) and place in a steam basket, bread tin or baking pan, depending on what you are making with the recipe.

Leave the shaped dough to rest for another 50-60 minutes.

To steam Mantou: Fill a pot with enough cold water for a 50-minute steaming process, as you should not interrupt the process by opening the cover halfway through to top up the water.  Place the buns in the pot and start steaming on high heat, once the water begins to boil, set timer to steam for another 40 minutes.  Mantou is best served warm, no need to cool down.  Store the balance in a sealed container.

To bake bread loaf: Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 30 minutes.  Remove bread from bread tin immediately after baking and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.  Store in a sealed container.

To bake slider buns: Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 20 minutes, let it cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

An Almost Zero Waste Travel Journal – Tainan, Taiwan

Have you been making a list of things to do post-circuit breaker? Or post-pandemic?  No one can tell us when the “virus-free” day will come or how the pandemic will end, but nothing will be the same again.  Especial for travellers.

Whether we can afford the flight tickets, post-covid19 remains to be seen.  But there is no harm thinking about the next vacation spot.  Taiwan came to my mind while scrolling through the old photos on my phone.  Here’s sharing some of my zero waste reusable kits when I travel overseas.

Bring your own water bottle so that you can refuse all the bottled water during the trip.  The water dispensers in airports even dispense hot water, great for tea lovers like me.

I bring this reusable coffee cup instead of my usual stainless steel water bottle during vacations. Because this cup has a wider mouth, this makes it easier for stallholders to fill it with my takeaway drink orders.  The double-walled container is also suitable for hot drink orders.

Waste from single-use plastic bottles can be easily cut to zero when you bring your own reusable ones.  I always boil my own supply of drinking water using the electrical pot provided by the hotel.  Before sleeping, I will boil a full pot of water and let it cool down overnight.  Next morning, fill the bottles and go.  Or, you can also politely ask the hotel’s cafe or restaurant to fill up your drinking bottle before you head out for the day.  At mealtimes, I will also try to ask the eateries to help fill my bottle with plain water.

There is a lot of trash from the pantry items inside the hotel room and at the breakfast counter, if you consume them.  I don’t mind drinking black coffee to skip individually packed sugar and creamer.  I also bring along my handkerchiefs, instead of using the serviettes.  Disposable straws and stirrers are also unnecessary for me; I drink straight out of the cup (yes, iced drinks too!) and reusable chopsticks, spoons, even knives, make suitable stirrers as well!

Taiwan is a vegetarian-friendly destination.  Almost every place has vegan or vegetarian options.

Ice cream served in a cone produces less waste than one served a cup.

Dining-in is always our first choice so that we can be served with reusable plate ware and cutlery.  Byo containers are reserved for packing street food!

Another good reason for dining in; watching chefs close up while they cook your meals!

The reusable menu is so rare to find!  Everywhere else provide paper slips.

I bring along tenugui as a reusable towel/handkerchief, avoiding create trash from the use of wet wipes and tissue paper.

The tenugui make great carriers too!

Tea seed powder is also part of my byo kit, as I use it to wash my greasy food containers, cutlery and drinking bottle at the end of the day.

This enamel food container helped saved plenty of disposable waste being created.

What kind of reusable containers do you bring when you travel overseas?  What is the max number of byo items you can pack before your bag becomes too heavy!

101 things to do at home – Circuit Breaker (Extended) Edition

*Updated 15/5*  Added a list of eco-documentaries available for streaming.

It’s Day Five of the circuit-breaker period.  Have you run out of things to do at home yet?

With everyone in Singapore hunkering down at home until May 4, lots of #StayHome activity ideas are being shared around; the message is simple: Stay Home To Stay Safe.  Jotting these down as we still have the next three weeks to do our part to flatten the curve by staying at home.

I also started looking for programmes that would help my elderly parents feel less bored at home.  This is more challenging; my mom has been scrolling through videos on the small smartphone screen all day.  Sharing online content is not enough. If you know of any meaningful activities during these times to engage the seniors, please share with me?

This is still a growing list.  It’s a work-in-progress as we navigate this pandemic crisis together.

// If you enjoy documentaries and films about the environment

+ Our Planet series: One Planet, Frozen Worlds, Jungles, Coastal Seas, From Deserts to Grasslands, High Seas, Fresh Water, Forests

+ Chasing Coral

+ The Next Black

// If you enjoy reading 

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Borrow digital reading materials online – the public libraries are closed; gain access to thousands of ebooks, audio books and digital magazines by downloading the NLB app.  You will also need the Libby and Press Reader app to read the borrowed titles, follow the in-app instructions or refer to the FAQs here.

+ Read magazines online – SPH is offering three month’s free access now

+ Audiobooks for kids from Audible are now available for free, sometimes it’s nice to rest the eyes for a while.

+ Read Covid-19 updates and related stories onlineNational Geographic, The Guardian, The Atlantic

+ Read an eBook, “Coronavirus and Business: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review”

// If you enjoy stage performances

+ Watch a musical – Andrew Llyod Webber musical on The-Show-Must-Go-On! YouTube channel, release every Friday and available online for 48 hours.

+ Watch a local play – The Necessary Stage‘s Rosnah(2016) and Those Who Can’t, Teach (2017). Pandemonium‘s Dragonflies (2018), Wild Rice‘s Monkey Goes West,The Theatre Practice‘s Liao Zhai Rocks!, Liao Jiu, Sing’Theatre‘s A Spoonful Of Sherman (2019)

+ Ballet for you? The Winter’s Tale by The Royal Ballet

+ National Theatre full play: Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature

+ Catch a concert performance – Montreux Jass Festival has made over 50 performances available for free streaming.

+ #DabaoSCO – Singapore Chinese Orchestra is asking us to “nua at home” and enjoy concerts like this and this.  Follow SCO FB Page for regular updates.

+ Andrea Bocelli, #MusicForHope, an Easter Sunday concert, live from Duomo di Milano

+ Concert highlights from Esplanade are now available online

// If you enjoy DIY sewing projects

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Got cloth at home?

+ DIY reusable masks with patterns and instructions from here, herehere and here

+ Make reusable masks without sewing, like this, this and this

// If you enjoy bread-baking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

Do you have a sourdough starter at home?  I am making a new one.

+ If you have one sleeping at the back of the fridge or inside the freezer (yes, it is possible), try reviving it?

+ But first, I am making raisin yeast water; they make starters strong which help to produce the dramatic oven spring in bread.  I use this recipe from Junko Mine.  Then I make my starter.  Then I will bake bread with this recipe.

+ Find natural sourdough starter guides and sourdough bread recipes: The Perfect Loaf, The Clever Carrot, Nourished Kitchen

+ If slow-baking with a natural starter is not your thing, try these recipes using commercial yeast instead. Milk Bread | Pull-apart Garlic Bread | Po Lo Bao | Butter Buns |

// If you enjoy cooking

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ I am beginning to enjoy IGTV content shot from the real kitchens of chefs like Chef Massimo Bottura  and Padma Lakshmi

+ Binge-watch YouTube cooking videos: Bon Appétit, Day Day Cook, Peaceful Cuisine , Adam Liaw , Green Kitchen Stories

+ Famous recipes unveiled!  Hilton shared how to home bake Doubletree chocolate chip cookies; Ikea tweeted the meatball “instructions”, which should not be confused with this version on IkeaSG’s website;  Disney Park posted this churro recipe and video; I have never heard of a funnel cake, but Canada’s Wonderland is giving away their recipe online as well; bread recipes from Belmond hotels

+ More recipes: Pret A Manger dark chocolate chunk cookie recipe

// If you enjoy doing household chores

+ Be motivated by vloggers that cook, clean and organise the house: here, and here,

+ Get inspired by early risers! This Morning Routine playlist gets me excited about waking up at 5am, even on a non-working day!

// If you enjoy exercising

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

A friend managed to set up a basic home gym before the shut-down of non-essential businesses took effect.  I only have an old yoga mat at home so I will learn to make-do at this moment.  Seems like running will have to wait too. I will turn to YouTube channels for at-home workouts instead:

+ Yoga: Yoga with Adriene, Purple ValleyAhstanga Yoga, Yoga with Tim, Fightmaster Yoga, The Yoga Room, Boho Beautiful

+ Others: Pop Sugar Fitness, Blogilates, HASfit , Fitness Blender, Group HIIT ,Live Fit GirlTrifecta Pilates

+ Dance tutorials: Like this, and this

// If you enjoy learning online

101 Things to do at Home // Mono+Co

+ Activities and classes at Community Clubs may be suspended but PA instructors are conducting lessons online using FB Live instead.

+ NTUC Learning Hub is offering free online courses from GO1 for a limited period, till May 31.

+ Or explore other online course platforms EDx and Coursera for courses that suit your interests.

+ LinkedIn classes on remote working

Stay Home Project: Make Ahead Meals

The ongoing Covid-19 situation has brought out the best and the worst in people.  I am fortunate to be working in a sector where I get to see the compassionate and generous side of Singaporeans.  This somewhat calms me amid the cycle of emotions fueled by the pandemic crisis; fear, uncertainty, frustrations, just to name a few.
Like many, my family has started paying more attention to personal hygiene.  We also wipe our mobile phone with 70% alcohol-based disinfectant more frequently than before.  Surface cleaning is now done with disinfectant, no longer just water or vinegar.  There is currently no evidence that natural cleaning products like vinegar or vodka (it only contains 40% alcohol) are effective disinfectants against Covid-19.  Refer to this list provided by NEA instead.  I have collected my #BYOBclean hand sanitiser which contains benzalkonium chloride as an active ingredient.  I will be using it to disinfect high touch areas; the label recommended this usage too.  According to the website, the hand sanitiser will lose its effectiveness after six months as it is filled in a recycled bottle.  Let’s make sure we use up the hand sanitiser/disinfectant by September 2020 to prevent wastage.
As social-distancing measures tightened, we have also found ourselves staying at home longer than before.  Come mealtimes on workdays, takeaways seemed a better idea, with safe-distancing laws now enforced at public areas.  Hence, I decided to step up my make-ahead meals routine to make home-cooking on weekdays a breeze.  This #stayhome project that explores the world of meal-prepping is largely inspired by the Japanese’s johbisai and the Korean’s banchan.

001. Fried shallots and shallot oil
A pantry must-have ever since I discovered Kolo Mee in Kuching.

002. Vegan Kimchi
Totally skipped the minced garlic from this recipe that was adapted from Maagchi’s, and added one whole apple instead.

003. Meat-Free Dumplings
My own recipe, inspired by the vegetarian dumplings, gyoza, xiaolongbao I have eaten!
-large firm tofu, mashed
-handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, soften in water and chopped
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped
-few stalks of green scallions, chopped
-dumpling wrapper, white, round ones
-Seasoning: sesame oil, light soy sauce, pepper, all to taste*

* Lately, I am beginning to sound like my mom when I share recipes!

004. Taro Pullman Loaf
For assembling a handy sandwich meal.
– 280g plain flour
-120g taro, steamed
-1/2t instant yeast
-1/2t sea salt
-2T raw honey
-1 egg
-70g water, pour slowly and adjust according to the hydration level of your dough
-1T neutral flavour oil
Follow the instructions here, almost same recipe except for the flaxseeds.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander’s guide

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

When I think of zero-waste bulk stores, small shops in the neighbourhood centres come to my mind first; wet markets for packaging-free grocery, hardware stores for spare parts and stainless-steel-everything, Chinese medical halls for loose-leaf herbal tea or medicine, even dried rose buds and lavendar, all sans the plastic bags.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

I have shared so many of my zero-waste wet market grocery shopping attempts here and here that I started to wonder if I am boring everyone to death.  So it was really a pleasant surprise when Mothership picked up one of my posts and shared it here.

If you want to find out more about zero-waste grocery shopping in the heartlands, start by exploring the wet markets first.  Check out what your nearest wet market offers.

To locate a wet market near you, try these sites:

1)I found a list of markets on data.gov.sg, a very interesting website to gather local statistics and data.  Unfortunately, it was last updated back in December 2016.

2) There is another list in PDF format on NEA’s website available for download here.

Here are 5 things I buy #byo style from the wet markets, that always surprise people who have not been to one before!

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

1.  Ground Coffee
Not your atas single-origin coffee for a home-brew flat white.  These are Nanyang-style blends, roast to perfection for making a full-bodied kopi-o.  Bring a small air-tight container, no more than 500g volume.  The stall-holder will tell you the coffee aroma escapes immediately after grinding.  If left standing unconsumed for too long, the grounds will end up only good enough for scrubbing body or absorbing odour in the air.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

2.  Plain Flour
Prima Mill’s “for-professionals” ranges of flour are available through the dry goods stores inside the wet markets.  I have come across two types: Flying Fish brand (my favourite, with a 10.8% protein level) and Necklace brand (9.5% protein level.)  Let me know which one your nearest store carry!  My container allows me to buy up to 2kg of flour.

Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping - A Heartlander's Guide // Mono and Co

3. Grains and Nuts
Offering varies, depending on the size of the wet market.  I usually get my walnuts here.  You can also buy raw almond and peanuts, bake them into healthy snacks.  I bring drawstring bags to make it easier for stallholders to weigh and pack.  Once I reach home, I will transfer them to air-tight containers.

4. Assorted “Old-School” Biscuits
Bring an air-tight container.  Avoid the temptation to buy too many types!

5. Chinese Preserved Vegetables (酸菜,咸菜,大菜,四川菜。。。)
These pickles are great for adding flavours to Chinese-style meatless soups.  The stalls sell them by weight, this means buying according to requirement, say, a quarter head of the preserved cabbage instead of the entire head.  Bring a leak-proof container, and……

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co… a reusable shopping bag to pack everything, of course!

Happy zero-waste shopping in the heartlands!

Bread baking: a relearning journey

After baking my own bread at home for so many years, I am so used to removing pretty loaves like this and this out from the oven. When I saw my first finished bake from the bread machine, I can’t help feeling disappointed.  A shapeless loaf with a crust that looked too smooth/shiny/thick.  I didn’t know where to start slicing.

Yup.  I finally bought myself a breadmaker.  It’s so difficult to find an opportunity to make bread at home lately.  The bread-making process is not difficult; just plenty of watching and waiting.  15 minutes here, 60 minutes there, another 40 minutes of something, before finally bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Followed by the tedious job of cleaning the kitchen tools and utensils after cooking: measuring bowls and spoons, mixer bowls, dough hook, and kitchen board…

So I revisited my wish for a bread machine, looking forward to fresh, healthy, homemade bread every morning.   The decision process was pretty fast because  I have done my homework so many times in the past.  I chose a model that comes with a ceramic-coated pan, instead of a Teflon version.  The rest is then up to my relearning journey to convert past recipes into breadmaker-friendly versions.  My first two attempts were alright, edible but nothing close to the texture I have perfected with natural bread improver using root vegetables.

As with my past kitchen experiments, I am journalling it here so that I can refer to it and improve as I bake more often.  A third loaf is cooling on the rack as I type.

For my own reference only.  If you have the same breadmaker (it’s a Song-Cho) and a tried and tested recipe for it, share with me!

Experiment No.1 "Pumpkin Loaf"
Water 250ml
Butter 24g
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar  3 Tbs
Flour 420g
Pumpkin puree 100g
Milk powder 2 Tbs
Instant yeast 1 tsp

//Menu Selection: 
Crust color@light

Simple Pleasures

// unlimited supply of sweet basil at home, it’s that simple.

// found a random encouragement note in a library book.  I am not alone.

// removing labels from jars and containers without leaving any adhesive residue behind should be this easy to encourage reusing and recycling.  Refilling these emptied detergent bottles with DIY citrus infused vinegar cleaner.

// mom couldn’t resist buying a box of unbelievably-cheap-but-expiring-really-really-soon Betty Crocker pancake mix from the discount store but needed help to finish.  That’s how I ended up having pancakes AND waffles for breakfast.

// gave my favourite good morning towel a make-over using natural food dye: turmeric, a shade that I really love after using it for my DIY beeswax food wrap.

// using food dye means I can use my cooking pot for the project.

// because every drop counts.  Transferring cooking oil to a repurposed glass bottle.