Saturday, October 8

The Eversoft Cottontail Milk Rolls

Due to the high and increasing demands for my softest roll recipe (ever)--and after much debate with myself as to whether or not to divulge such a secret--I have decided to share it with the world and my friends who requested it. So here I am introducing the best rolls ever (and yes, it's better that any of your aunts' or grandmas' recipes, period; and yes, I am so confident that this will replace your grandma's sweet rolls forever; and no, I won't tell):

The Roux
The roux is basically your lifesaver. When made correctly, it will keep your bread soft and moist for days. Here are the ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup water
Method: Mix the flour and water in a saucepan and heat at medium heat. Stir constantly until it becomes gooey. Your roux is done when you see streaks as you stir it. Remove from stove and pour it into a Pyrex bowl. Immediately cover with cling film. Make sure the film touches the surface of the roux to prevent any "skin" from forming overnight. When the roux is cooled to room temperature, store it in the fridge for one day. It has to cool in the fridge for about a day before use.

The Rolls
The key ingredients to a soft roll are eggs, milk, buttermilk, and oil. Unlike conventional recipes that call for melted butter and warm milk, I use canola oil and cold milk. The oil keeps the bread soft and fluffy even after a day, and the cold milk slows down the proofing process so your bread is spongy and not filled with irregular holes and air bubbles. Bread that has big holes is usually called focaccia. Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 5 tbs buttermilk powder (you can also use milk powder)
  • 5 tbs canola oil (remember, if you use olive oil, the texture will change because olive oil is acidic)
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tbs sugar (you may use honey)
  • 1 tsp salt (I prefer kosher, but whatever)
  •  2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour (it has to be bread flour; if you use all-purpose flour, make sure you add 1 tbs gluten flour for every cup of plain flour you use)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (you may use whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 of your roux
Method: Mix all the dry ingredients together and add in the wet ingredients. Stir with a spatula until a wet, messy dough forms. Now you may knead it with your Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook for 8 minutes. If you use your good'ol hands, good luck. At least you'll grow some pretty mean biceps in time. But make sure you oil the counter surface for easy kneading. I do not suggest flouring your counter. Your dough, when done, can be rather sticky. Don't you worry. It's okay. Cover your dough with cling film and let it rise until double its size. It can take up to 2 hours for some locations. 

When the dough is proofed, you may roll it out and cut it into equal pieces. Form them into nice balls and place them side by side (yes, the rolls need to be literally next to each other, lightly touching on the sides) on a lined or greased baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the rolls with cling film and let rise again until double the size. This can take up to an hour. 

Once done, bake for 16 minutes until the top is golden brown. It's normal to have the sides and bottoms still fairly white. Remove from oven and brush a coat of butter on the rolls, generously, and leave to cool. Once it is cool, the crust should soften and your rolls are ready to eat. Store uneaten ones in a bread bag and seal it nicely. This can be stored for up to a week (if they last that long).

Please feel free to comment on my blog and let me know how your bread turns out. I love a success story. And should you like what I post, you may follow my blog and request for more recipes. 

Good luck, and bon a petit! 

Saturday, August 6

What I Learned in Life So Far: Giving Up Is Not An Option

There have been times when you just want to raise your hands and surrender. Things are just not happening for you no matter how much you try. It's just so much easier to give up and move on to better things than to concentrate on everything you cannot do. But the events of my life have taught me otherwise--giving up is not an option.

Imagine, if everyone gives up every time he thinks he is not able to make it, there will be no achievements. Without achievements, you might as well not live. So here's my advice: Never give up on the small things, because they are the making of bigger things. 

My life has been somewhat of a roller coaster, which is not a bad thing, because I learned a lot. I am constantly asking myself, "Am I going to make it? Should I call it quits?" The easy way out is always to drop everything and walk away. But what does that say about your character if you were to do that? 

Someone once told me, "Life is not about winning everything. You can't possibly win in everything. It's okay to lose sometimes." Well, life may not always be about winning, but it is definitely not about losing either. To me, life is all about not giving up, not stopping halfway because you don't believe you can make it. My philosophy is, you've already come so far, why not finish it? Why not reach the finishing line. You may not win first place, but you're definitely a winner. You made it through, and that is worth everything.

Here are 5 things I've learned never to give up on. There are lessons to be learned in life, and these have become my mantra:
  1. Never give up on family--No matter how they come, your family is your blood. And when all things fail, they may be your only hope.
  2. Never give up on friends--Friends are as good as family. You don't need many, all you need is a handful that will stay with you through rain or shine. And the best thing about friends is that they are sometimes better than family. Remember, blood doesn't always make family, time does.
  3. Never give up on life--Your life is a vessel of endless possibilities. Never ever give it up. You are the captain of your destiny, steer your ship well, and you'll reach high places.
  4. Never give up on your dreams--Dreamers are the saviors of the world. If you have a dream, then you have every responsibility to achieve it, for a dream without action is merely fantasy. Everything you see around you happens because someone dreamed it and made it come true. Thomas Edison gave us light because he never gave up on his dream. 
  5. Never give up on yourself--This is self-explanatory. Give up on yourself and you might as well not exist. If you think you are worth anything at all, then there is no room for surrender. You fight till the end. You fight for what's most important to you--your rights, your voice, your freedom. You fight like you've never fought before, and that alone is something worth living for.
 And remember, no matter what comes at you in life, smile. Always.

Monday, June 27

No Distraction

After returning from Chicago with a much sought-after award, I am beginning to feel a fire surging from within. It is the fire of ambition and success, and I can feel it in my bones. Focus is needed. And passion, too. Which is why I feel it important to start letting go of some of the things I like in life in exchange for my dream. It's the ultimate sacrifice. So here's the deal--no distraction.

If you stand in my way, I will have to kindly ask you to move to the side. And if you do not take my polite gesture seriously, I shall crush you, for I will plough through this path to success like a tractor on a wheat field. But not to worry, I will never forget to be kind and and humble. Because I, too, stoop to conquer.

And conquer I will.

Friday, May 6

This Thing We Call Death

As I was revising my manuscript the other day, I came upon a section that I'd written about the death of a character in my book. This business of death is a peculiar thing. It haunts us, yet it teaches us to live. Death is sad, yet beautiful.
And here I am writing about the death of a friend the way I see it. Hope you love it:
At exactly nine the next morning, Eleanor picked up the receiver and answered an unexpected telephone call. Janice Farmer was on the other line, sobbing unendingly while trying to make sense of her own words. In between the intermittent static and her sniveling, she managed to tell Eleanor the bad news; her volume rose and fell, which sounded like she was pulling further from and closer to the receiver at the same time, an expression that was neither frantic nor excited, burrowed in a mixture of eagerness and distress—the up and down migration of a weak heart. 
Brother Joseph Young had suffered from a sudden heart attack the night before. It had happened while he was taking his shower; his body had slipped onto the wet, tiled floor, his limbs sprawled open, dangling stiffly over the rim of the bathtub until the ambulance came to collect his body five hours later. Had Mrs. Ramirez, his neighbor, not knocked on his door to borrow some sugar, Brother Young would have been left there alone to rot and decompose before anyone would ever discover his inexpedient death. 
Upon hearing the news, Eleanor’s hand flew to her mouth, resting on the lower lip; a part of her quivered. It was only a few weeks ago that she’d seen him, dined with him, listened to him chew his food, his dentures clucking quietly inside his mouth; she’d let him drive her home in his brown truck that coughed and choked—though without incident—all the way back to the Cunningham house. Once, between the truck and the front door, Eleanor had thought the night was somewhat magical. Weird as it was, serendipity had played a game on her fragile heart, that maybe Brother Young—the farmer who had only recently lost his dear wife, for which Eleanor had pitied him—could be a good thing in her life, even by the slightest chance. She had managed to steal a smile as she sauntered toward the house with the old farmer pacing beside her, his hands tucked in his pockets. But all that—whatever it was, however it had started—would now be buried deep down a chasm between here and there, never to resurface again. Eleanor would make sure of that. Janice Farmer’s voice continued to squeak in her ear. Without saying goodbye Eleanor put the receiver down quietly until it made a click. She would say her apologies later.
Standing there by the phone, Eleanor stared blankly into the vacant living room as a cone of sunlight beamed from a window, thinking of the fragility of life. You could be enjoying the afternoon breeze one day watching a blazing sunset behind majestic mountains, and come next day, you could very well plop over and die without warning. There was a lesson to be learned here. Eleanor shook her head, pursed her lips, and thought of how she could have made a difference.  
“I could’ve made him chicken noodle soup,” Eleanor said to herself. “I could’ve saved a life. What a pity. What a damn, bloody pity.”
(Excerpted from THE HOUSEKEEPER'S SON by Christopher Loke. Copyright © 2012 by Christopher Loke. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.) 

Monday, April 18

The World Between Yours and Mine

When we measure distance, we use a ruler, a metric system that is tangible and consistent. When we measure a relationship, the distance between two minds can be as vast as our galaxy, yet so close you can hear each other's heartbeat. Our minds are so powerful that we can actually speak to each other without actually opening our mouth. All we have to do is believe that there is a connection between two minds, two hearts--two worlds that are as tangible as the ground we walk on, and as real as the rising sun.

Spoken words are unnecessary to communicate the heart. If there's a connection between two minds, then a path will have already been established, thus speaking is not needed anymore. What one thinks, the other does, and vice versa. When we have reached this stage in a relationship, our minds project brain waves that beat to the rhythm of the earth, and it is beautiful.

In today's society, people do not believe in the power within themselves anymore. They rely on machines and technology to express themselves. In time, the mysticism of life dissipates, and people begin to forget the very thing that fuels their lives, which is the power to connect. We tend to see the absence of a conversation as a negative thing; silence becomes noisy, and noise becomes a necessary filler in most relationships. We think that by filling in the void with words we can avoid the quiet stares and the awkward silence between two people. In truth, the most beautiful of all relationships requires no talking at all. Just the connection between two minds. One single look, a lift of a brow, or a twitch of a mouth can speak volume in expressing what's in the heart. In most cases, the mere company of each other is already enough to fill the heart with two lifetimes of love. 

The relationship between two people is a world immeasurable. It's ever moving, ever changing. We can't afford to wait for tomorrow to express our love, for we live life but once. If we miss this opportunity, we may not have the chance again. Words are not needed. Just your thoughts, your actions, your commitment, and your mind. If you have a connection, solidify it. If you have feelings, build them. And if it is too far, yet so close, will it. The universe hears you and will respond. Do not stop trying. Love and be loved. 

The space between you and me is not that vast. We can do something about it and change the world we live in. We only live life once, let's not take relationships for granted!

Communicate your love, connect . . . wait, someone just poked me on Facebook. Gotta poke back. And what just beeped? Oh, it's a text message. And what's this? An email in the middle of the night! C'mon, guys I meant connect using your minds! Well, alright, I'll poke back, but just this once! Gosh!

Sunday, March 13

Communication Between Parent and Child Across Three Cultures: A Case Study

Upon studying the ways Americans, English, and Chinese communicate, I have come to a conclusion that one single message can mean so many things when spoken differently. Let's face it, Americans and English  speak different Englishes. A single "How do you do" will prompt an American to say "Fine" when she should've answered with the same "How do you do."

Likewise, a single "What's up?" will prompt an English to answer, "The sky, perhaps" when all one needs to say is "Not much." In America, people aren't really interested in "what is up" per se, or how you're really doing. You don't have to spill out everything that happened to you that day. In other words, when an American says "What's up?" or "How're ya doin'?" just answer, "Not much." It is unlikely that an American will sit and listen to your complaints should you ever answer, "Oh, I've had a crappy day." Along the same line, "How do you do" in English is not really a question; it's a statement that should've been answered with the same statement. It's a common English greeting, not an expression of interest.

Now, the Chinese are a complete opposite. When a Chinese says "Ni hao (How are you?)" you should answer, "Ni hao" and nothing else. Never mind divulging everything that has happened to you thus far that day, it's just going to fall on deaf ears. On the other hand, a man from Beijing will greet you with "Chi guo le ma?" meaning "Have you eaten?" which seems like an odd way to greet someone, but that's how it's done in Northern China. You greet a person by asking if he has already eaten, and he will answer back with "Yes, I have, thank you." Again, you don't want to answer, "No, I haven't" because you may put your greeter in a difficult position--to feed you!

Here's an illustration on how Americans, English, and Chinese tell their child that she is overweight (I chose a difficult subject to tackle due to its sensitivity):

The Americans
Parent: Britney, you look great in that dress. 
Child: Thanks, Mom. 
Parent: Looks like you've grown. That dress seems a little tight on you.
Child: Really? We just got it last week, remember?
Parent: You sure? Well, doesn't matter. We'll get you another one that fits. You know what they say about cotton: it shrinks. How about a shopping spree just you and me today? 
Child: Cool. 
Parent: Hey, I was just thinking about how I am so out of shape. So I got myself a gym membership. I got you one, too, so we can go together. I need company. You game?
Child: Count me in, Mom!

Conclusion: As you can see, the American parent does not really tell her daughter directly that she's overweight. Instead, she tackled the subject with much courtesy and diplomacy. The result is quite astounding; the daughter is willing to go on a healthy regimen without feeling bad about her physical state.

The English
Parent: Sybil, dear, what have you been chomping lately?
Child: Nothing, Mother, just the usual cakes and crumpets. Why do you ask?
Parent: I think you're looking quite rotund lately. Lose the chubs, dear, for your sake and that of your future husband.
Child: Mother, you know fairly well that I've always had my baby fat. 
Parent: Baby fat, my foot! Sybil, I'm being very civil about your weight here, goodness knows what other people are going to say. The last thing I want to hear from your notorious Aunt Mable is that you're fatter than ever. I don't think that's what you want to hear either, do you?
Child: I can't believe we're actually having this conversation.
Parent: Well, we are, dear. So get used to it. Obesity is one thing Americans are good at, not us English. I suggest you do something about it. 
Child: I suppose. 
Parent: Well then, get on with it, and make the English proud. 

Conclusion: The English's approach is stark, yet witty with a hint of sarcasm and patriotism. There's no time to be nice; the message needs to be straight and forward. Notice, the notion that Americans are less superior is often brought up. In other words, English pride reigns supreme in every English conversation no matter the length and importance. And they always love to compare themselves with Americans. A conundrum, really.

The Chinese
Parent: Ah Mei, you now fat! You better lose weight fast.
Child: Thank you for teaching me to look good, Mother.
Parent: I say you fat because I love you. I want you to be beautiful and healthy. Fat no good. You just fat now. 
Child: Mother, I stop eating now.
Parent: You make me proud. Your ancestors are proud, too. Look at Lisa, she very thin, very pretty, all men like. She weighs 75 lbs. You are 100 lbs. Must lose 30 lbs in a week. I know you can do it.
Child: I will only fruits and drink tea. I will exercise 10 hours a day. I will hide in my room until I become beautiful so I won't embarrass family and ancestors. 
Parent: Fat no good, Ah Mei. Fat no good. I am bad mother to even let you go fat.
Child: Mother, it is my fault to eat so much noodles and roast pork. I will make you proud. Promise.

Conclusion: The Chinese is even more direct that the English minus the sarcasm and wit. If you are fat, you are fat. And achieving perfection is the key to life. The parent strives to make her ancestors proud, to carry the family name with her head held high. The daughter understands the parent's burden and will do anything to make that happen no matter the difficulty. Filial piety and complete submission are important and crucial.  

(I should be writing my closing here, but I really don't need to. The examples above speak for themselves. Do write with your comments, I'd love to hear them all.)      

Thursday, March 3

Bad Upbringing

There are certain people in this world who think that sitting right in the middle of your doorway is A-Okay. Well, news flash: It's NOT! So here's my problem: I work in an office. I usually close my door because the factory workers who work in the same building yak a lot during their breaks (way too much even for my taste). They are usually loud and obnoxious. That's why I close my office door. I don't want to know who got who pregnant and whose uncle went to jail (you get the idea). Break time in the building is like Prison Break, except that these "prisoners" don't ever leave. They just linger forever to yak, yak, yak about their whole life story.

Now here's the kicker: Every time I open my office door to exit, I find one of these "prisoners" sitting right in the middle of the doorway. And they don't excuse themselves either, which is why I am so upset. I have to literally push my way out of my own office like trying to get on one of those Japanese subway trains with hundreds of people sandwiched in between. Except that I am in my office. I shouldn't need to do that. So I came up with a solution. I started to work with my door open thinking these minions will somehow register in their pea brains that I am actually in the office and will eventually use the doorway to enter or exit. And still, I never fail to find a factory employee sitting complacently right in the middle of my freakin' doorway! Are these people so thick that they don't even know where NOT to sit? 

I discussed this with my wife and all she did was shake her head and say, "Bad upbringing." And that got me thinking. I should not be angry with these people just because they are in my way. In fact, I should be more empathetic; I should put myself in their shoes and understand how it is like to be brought in homes that don't enforce PROPER ETIQUETTE!

As Johann von Goethe once said, "A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait," and that's probably why I keep seeing ugly people everywhere nowadays. Ugh.

But no matter, I will make a conscious effort to feel less upset now whenever I see Mr. Big Butt or Miss I-Am-Too-Heavy-to-Move propped in the middle of my office doorway. I'm just going to shake my head and sigh, "Bad upbringing."

Now get out of my doorway!

Tuesday, March 1

Wait, It's Already 2011?

Wait a minute, it's already 2011? No way! I must've been sleeping all this time. No, wait, I remember. I was sauntering down 45th Avenue and saw this green thing that kept hopping next to me. I leaned over immediately to see what it was, and there in front of me was a grinning, slimy frog. I was about to step on it--you all know how I love to step on frogs, right?--when it started to talk (this was the part when I almost passed out, but for some reason I didn't).
"Do me a favor, handsome," it croaked, "kiss me and I'll be your princess forever. I'm pretty and extremely talented. I can make you a happy husband." Another grin.
"Oh, I'm married, miss. I won't be kissing any princess anytime soon, let alone a frog," I said, quickening my pace.

You see, I was on 45th Avenue for a purpose, and that was to visit my favorite bookstore on number 276. It was an antique bookstore located in one of those grungy basements that looked like a tarantula lair. All I wanted to do was to go peruse some old books and get home.

Anyway, back to the story at hand. I brushed the frog off and gave it a nasty sneer, but the good-for-nothing amphibian kept catching up with me. To tell you the truth, it was quite a persistent little nut job. So I stopped, humphing something in French under my breath, and asked the frog to leave me alone or I'd eat it in something kungpao (the good thing about being Chinese is that I can eat anything). Then I saw a tear, and it was so clear I actually saw my reflection in it; I realized just how handsome I really was. So I stooped and said, "Well, green frog. I'm not sure why you'd bother yourself with me, but I'd kiss you for ten bucks."

At this point, I couldn't be bothered if the amphibian was really a princess after all, but I'd read enough stories to know that if I should kiss it, it could transform itself into a beautiful princess. So what the heck, I did it. I kissed it. One big, wet smooch! My mouth was all slimy after that, but I didn't care. I wanted a princess. A rich one, too!

But nothing happened. The frog politely said thank you and started to hop away.

"Hey, wait a minute you little green thing!" I yelled. "You are supposed to turn into a princess."

"No need to."

"What do you mean, no need? You promised!"

"I'm already a princess. My name is Princess Katak, and I am the princess of Swamp Kingdom located just down that gutter over there." For some reason she was all smiles, and I knew right away that she was telling the truth. It was the royal smile, I must say, that gave me the assurance that she was true royalty. But who cares, where was my princess?

"I asked for a kiss and you gave it. I told you I was a princess, and I am. I never said anything about turning into a human princess," she continued. "And just so you know, I am beautiful by amphibian standards."

My head was already giddy. I should be at a bookstore by now. "Okay, never mind the fact that you misled me, but I want my ten bucks as promised. NOW!"

"In my world, our money is our spit. One spit for every buck. Ready for it? I'd love to pay you."

At this point, I was beyond speechless; I was beginning to forget many things, including my name and my purpose in life. I did not respond.

"I thought so," the green thing snapped before hopping away toward gutterland. I guess I must have fainted or something because I cannot remember anything else after that. All that I recall is waking up next to my wife sometime in March. And the rest is history. But hey, I'm back, right, which is reason enough for everyone to jump hysterically in celebration. So there.