Well well well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? You look different — did you get a haircut? Oh, me? I didn’t get a haircut, but what I did get is a new apartment. I’ve been busy with moving these past few weeks, so for a while I was living in what seemed to be a very boring box-themed amusement park. But now I’ve officially bid farewell to my first Seattle home, and hello to my second — now with 800 square feet of lounging space! Finally, room enough for me to stretch my legs, and maybe dabble in the occasional breakdance routine.
Ready to get that boombox pumpin’
With the new apartment is a much bigger kitchen, and I am delighted to report that my range and oven setup is no longer fun-sized. That’s right, my oven can now hold two — that’s right, two — 9-inch cake pans at the same time on the same rack. This shit’s about to get real, y’all.
I don’t know about your method of unpacking and nesting, but the first box I always tackle is the one holding all my records and record player. This way, I can have some tunes immediately. Then, it’s on to unpacking and organizing the kitchen so I can break in the new cooking space pronto. All those other boxes can wait just a while longer.
Growing up, one of the staple weekend activities in our house was to go to the Asian market to replenish our fridge with bittermelons, salted eggs, Thai basil, and all that other stuff that we could never get from the local suburban supermarket. My mom loved to frequent one in Houston’s Chinatown called Hong Kong Market, and after an hour or so of grocery shopping (at the time, we had several aunts, uncles, and cousins living with us, so there were a lot of mouths to feed), we’d stop at the tiny Chinese bakery across the shopping plaza.
One of the things my mom would always get would be Hokkaido milk bread, though I always just knew it as “Chinese sweet bread.” It’s soft, fluffy, and a little sweet, and we always just ate it toasted with a thin layer of butter or completely plain. I guess the name “milk bread” comes from the use of milk powder or condensed milk, and some versions of the milk bread we’d get would also have swirls of grainy sweet milk mixture rolled in. It’s not as strange as it sounds, I promise!
This particular rendition of Asian milk bread doesn’t have anything swirled in, but I imagine you can easily roll in a cinnamon-sugar-raisin mix if you so please, or even the traditional milk mix (future recipe, perhaps?). The possibilities!
Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and you know, I honestly have no idea what people usually do on Labor Day weekend (buy mattresses at low, low prices, maybe?). I went hiking to Wallace Falls outside of Seattle, and it was beautiful. And also crowded. So I guess what people usually do on Labor Day weekend is hike Wallace Falls. Hmmm…
After the hike, I was completely drained of all energy, and what I could have used was a biscuit. An outrageously buttery biscuit full of carbs and energy and how was that for a segue?
Now, I’m pretty sure it’s a legal requirement to be way into buttermilk biscuits if you were born and raised in the South. But in my two-plus decades in Texas, I had never met anyone who made biscuits from scratch. It seemed like everyone I knew just bought the canned Pillsbury version instead, claiming that proper biscuits are too difficult to make. They talked about having to freeze the dough at random points, or brush layers with butter, or keep the mixing bowls and whatnot in the fridge so it’d all stay cold — what?
Bread is a wonderful thing, and I contend that there are few smells more alluring, inviting, and all-around wonderful than the scent of baking bread. I have made a few breads before, like coconut loaves and dinner rolls, but few things beat the tender, well, breadiness of challah.
Make no mistake, making bread can be a bit of a challenge if it’s not something you do often (or ever), but this recipe from Einet Admony’s incredible Balaboosta cookbook is approachable enough even for total bread newbies. Unlike some other recipes I’ve followed before, there are no starter doughs or anything of that ilk. You just need some brawn for kneading and looooots of time for proofing. Keep your courage! The payoff to your toils will be so worth it.
I made just a few changes to the original recipe. I use olive oil instead of canola because when I first made this, I only had olive oil on hand. The same goes for the honey and brown sugar substitute in place of plain white sugar or honey. All desperate substitutions initially, but I happened to like how it all ended up, so I’m sticking with it.