Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Panda Bread - how cute is this?

This has to be the cutest edible thing I've ever seen; panda bread! Thanks to Liesbeth who sent me the link to this cool panda site this morning - after all, whose morning is completely without a panda? The original source is an Asian site called Taro Taro.
I haven't made it yet but it's top of the list. Following is the recipe which I've copied from Perfect Pandas, so the comments are not mine. See the small pics below for tips on how to make.

Panda Bread:
600g loaf tin (206 x 108 x100h)
230g bread flour
70g cake flour
30g sugar
milk + 1 yolk = 210g (I used skim milk)
4.5g salt
18g unsalted butter (I used 20g)
4g yeast
8g green tea powder dissolved in 10g boiling hot water
8g cocoa powder dissolved in 8g boiling water

Method:1. Heat up milk and yolk to temperature of 38C. (I beat the yolk lightly with milk and send it to the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds).
2. Put everything in bread machine and set to dough cycle. Let it knead for 20 minutes. Stop the cycle and restart the dough cycle and let it knead for another 15 minutes.
3. Divide dough (about 560g) into 3 parts: 75g for the chocolate, 210g plain and the rest of the dough which is less than 280g for the green tea.
4. Add chocolate to the 75g dough and knead till the colour is even. Add green tea mixture to the 280g dough and knead till colour is even. (I did this step manually).
5. Prove all 3 pieces of doughs on separate greased plates covered loosely with oiled cling wrap for 30 – 40 minutes.
6. Punch air out of dough and prove for another 20 – 30 minutes.
7. Use 90g plain dough for the face and 2 pieces of 27g chocolate dough for the eyes.
8. Fill the hollow of the eyes with 30g plain dough.
9. Roll remaining plain dough over the patterned dough.
10. Divide the remaining chocolate dough into 2 pieces (17.5g each) for the ears.
11. Use 70g of the green tea dough to fill up the hollow between the ears.
12. Wrap the rest of the green tea dough all around the patterned dough.
13. Place dough into a well-greased loaf pan and cover it with a lid and prove for 50 – 60 minutes in an enclosed area eg. microwave oven.
14. Bake at 200C for 25 – 30 minutes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's Out!

Yes, Number 2 has lost his first tooth. At 5 years and 5 months he's an early starter but his grown up teeth are right there ready to pop through.
He was so incredibly excited to have a wiggly appendage that we are grateful it fell out within a couple of days so we no longer had to resist the temptation to reach inside his mouth and rip out that little sucker by hand. Carl insisted on grabbing the phone off me every time I spoke to someone to tell whoever it was - and it really didn't matter to him - that his tooth was loose or had just fallen out.
He's now busy with his second wiggly tooth and having heard from the dentist during his last check-up that boys usually change their teeth between 6 and 8 years of age, has announced that he is "actually a bit six already".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Food on the go in Brussels

This week I spent a few days in Brussels at ICONE, the International Conference on Nuclear Energy. It's a huge conference, with over 700 tehcnical papers presented by experts from around the globe, in addition to panel discussions, forums, and networking events.
On the Monday evening after emerging blinking and numbed at the end of a presentation I realised I had about 90 minutes before hte official evening reception would begin. The weather was sunny and it was still early so I did what any sensible woman would do: I went shopping.

Luckily I was staying right in town, just 10 minutes walk from the famous fish market and surrounded by lots of lovely streets. Wandering down the appropriately named Neustraat (New Street) and into the Century2 shopping mall, I had a moment of deja-vu. It was almost like being back in Singapore - this is the first time I've been in a mall since I was on Orchard Road! Ok, this one was smaller, quieter and a little less glitzy than your average Singapore mall but it was close. As hunger pangs knawed at my tummy I searched hopefully for a sushi bar or noodle shop and had to settle for a plate of watery won-ton soup and the worst siew mai pork dumplings I've ever eaten. This definitely was NOT Singapore!

However I did find some nice gifts for the kids, plus some Belgium chocolates for hubby to enjoy. Disappointed by the shoes (expensive) and hand bags (ugly) on offer I decided to call it quits, and spotted this little take-away food stall on the street. I've tried all sorts of take-away food in my time; fish and chips in New Zealand, burgers in the US, croquets in Holland and steamed porked buns in Singapore, but you will never, ever get me to try these take-away snails!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bonjour from Brussels

Today I´m blogging you from Brussels, captial city of Belgium and a damn fine place to have a meal. That´s about the limit of my observations so far after just a few hours on deck, but I think this place is going to grow on me. It´s my first visit to the EU headquarters and the journey here reinforced how much I love international train travel. I turned up 3 minutes before the train left, didn´t have to endure customs or immigration, and sat reading in comfort with plenty of legroom for the whole journey. People are chattier on trains than planes too: no-one seems too stressed out to say hi and even if you don´t parlez vouz francais hey, this is Europe! - everybody speaks at least some English.

Walking around the central city Brussels lacks some of the architectural charm of Paris but has more space and an equally lovely cafe culture. The big name high street shops give no clue as to ethnicity but the smell of pee in the doorways places you firmly in Europe. This plus the piles of rubbish on the street - I guess Monday morning is rubbish collection - were a little underwhelming but it pays to keep an open mind.

Look Mum - no side-wheels!

Carl has passed one of life's initiations into the Big Kid's world; he's finally riding his bike without side wheels. For weeks he has simply refused to even entertain the thought. The joy of whizzing along at break-neck speed on his little bike and the ability to execute 90 degree turns without fear of falling off were apparently thrilling enough.

However he finally agreed to give it a crack and now there is absolutely no stopping him. Running along beside your kids' bike holding on them until the moment you judge them able to maintain their balance and not crash into parked cars is obviously a Dad's job (at least in my universe), which meant I was able to capture the moment on film. Here's our little boy, suddenly looking all grown-up. That's Niels you can hear yelling encouragement from behind him!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Strubbet Kinder Boerderij- for those familiar midgets

Living in the Achterhoek - the word literally means 'back corner' although those who are in a less generous mood or perhaps pining for the bustling metroplis of their former tropical home may call is the arse end - of Holland has several advantages, not all of them immediately obvious. No, we can't get digital tv. But we do have a couple of good kinderboerderijen - that's petting farms to you non-Cloggies out there. The closest one to us is Strubbert, on the main drag between Lochem and Holten. It's of course been about 3 years since we last visited, so it was all new to the boys (again).
Actually there's not that many animals to pet, apart from baby goats so cute I had great trouble restraining myself from stuffing one in my handbag and just leaving with it. I'm sure those minature goats would happily live in the rabbit house...
...this isn't a criticsim by the way; I can't imagine that many animals like being harrassed by kids chasing them around all day and the expressions on the donkeys and lhamas faces didn't encourage me to try and sneak into their enclosures. Kids should be taught to repsect an animals personal space, not treat it like a piece of playground equipment.
There is however a good playground, spread over four hectares, plus a maze, flying fox, and lots of other cool stuff to play on. The day we turned up was Smurf Party!! Fun!! For Everyone!! The combination of all those exclamation marks and the sight of blue-painted men and women leaping manically around and speaking in squeaky voices soon induced the peculiar sensation that someone may have laced my coffee wtih a substance rather more psychedelic than sugar, but the kids loved it.
It's a nice relaxed place to visit if you've got little kids and I imagine we'll be there again this summer for a couple of visits. By next year Niels will no doubt consider himeself far to grown up to visit such a place, so I'm going to fit in as many baby goat cuddles as possible before then. Perhaps I could just stuff one down my shirt on the way out...