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Easy Beginner-Friendly Milk Bread Recipe

Soft, chewy, and light as a pillow, milk bread is probably #2 on my bread list. I have very fond childhood memories of picking up a loaf from Mitsuwa and smothering it with salted butter. This recipe is super easy and pretty hands-off (if you have a stand mixer and kitchen scale). It’s also really fun to watch the dough rise at each step. The roux-like tangzhong is a crucial step that gives the milk bread its signature fluff.

Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 3.25 oz milk

  • 0.65 oz bread flour

Dough

  • 5.25 oz warm milk

  • 2 tbs sugar

  • 2¼ tsp (1 pack) active dry yeast

  • 12.1 oz bread flour

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 room temperature egg

  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, softened

Egg wash

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Activate Yeast : Mix the warm milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes.

  2. Tangzhong: In a small pan over medium low heat, combine the milk and flour to make the tangzhong. Stir for a couple minutes until it thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.

  3. Make Dough: In a stand mixer bowl, whisk the bread flour and salt together. Crack the egg in, add the yeast mixture and the tangzhong. Stir until it roughly comes together.

  4. Knead: Set the stand mixer on low and knead for 5 minutes. Add the butter and knead for another 5-7 minutes. The dough should be sticky and springy.

  5. First Rise: Cover the mixer bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 - 1½ hours or until it doubles in size.

  6. Shape: Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and shape each into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it becomes a long oval. Fold one side (lengthwise) into the middle and then fold in the other side as well. Flatten with a rolling pin. Gently roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the seam at the bottom. Place it seam side down into a greased 9" X 4" loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining two dough.

  7. Second Rise: Cover and let rise again for 1 - 1½ hours or until double in size (or top of dough has risen over the top of the pan by about an inch.

  8. Bake and cool: When the bread is ready to bake, brush the top of the bread with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes at 350º F. Remove the bread from the pan, let it cool on a wire rack, and take lots of Instagram photos! It’s so beautiful and you did so, so good!

Christmas in Tahoe: 2018

To celebrate our holidays as a newly married couple, this was the first year that Alex and I have ever spent Christmas together. I joined his family for a week on their annual trip to Lake Tahoe. Although it was a little strange to not make the trip home to Chicago like I have been for the past 10 years, this was a more relaxed celebration after our crazy busy year.

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We left on the Saturday before Christmas with a rental car full of snowboarding and skiing gear, the two dogs and their toys/food/bed, our duffel bags, the Instant Pot, and boxes full of groceries. The drive was long but relaxing, as both dogs fell asleep in our laps and enjoyed having our full attention.

Since we were staying at dog-prohibited area in the Hyatt, we had to keep the dogs at a pet hotel in Truckee. We missed them so much, but it was the best solution and we knew they were in good hands. The Truckee-Tahoe Pet Lodge was the nicest pet hotel we’ve ever booked for the dogs. It was cozy, the staff was super friendly and responsible, and Chef and Shabu were happy to be together in the same room. We even went to visit them for a day and took them out for a few hours, and they actually seemed eager to go back to their room.

We snowboarded a total of 3 days at Diamond Peak. I haven’t nailed carving yet, but I’m not giving up! I’ve still watching YouTube videos and am excited to try again on our next snowboarding trip. I am, however, able to consistently depart the ski lift without falling which is a BIG win for me. I’m not a pro yet, but I’m definitely improving.

On Christmas day, we even soaked in the jacuzzi after our snowboarding runs and then huddled around the fire with hot chocolate.

But for me, the highlight of the trip was Uncle Soo Hyun’s cooking. Over the years, I had heard so many stories of his creative and delicious meals — much like Thanksgiving — and I was so excited to enjoy it firsthand. Just a few of our meals:

  • Chile verde

  • Gumbo

  • Prime rib + crispy potatoes + homemade focaccia

  • Homemade pizza

  • Kimchi jjigae

  • Budae jjigae

  • Apple pie

We returned home a week later, eager to relax at home, clean, and eat veggies. The dogs were also VERY happy to be home and immediately tucked themselves into bed.

Our First Keurig Coffee Machine

Alex and I are avid coffee drinkers. We each drink at least two cups a day (maybe even more since Alex is working from home). Even though we have a cold brew infuser, we found ourselves craving hot coffee now that the weather is colder. Cyber Monday was the perfect day to treat ourselves to our very first Keurig.

I'm pretty obsessed with how easy it is, and I love having the option to add foam at the push of a button. Hence why I decided to learn how to make milkbread for optimal coziness.

Christmas Spirit!

Bringing home a Christmas tree was one of the things we've been looking forward to all year. It was totally out of the question last year, but now that we're settled in, we can actually make the space cozy and enjoy the season. We bought our Noble Fir from Armstrong Garden Center (with a handy $10 coupon) and borrowed decorations from my mother-in-law. This is hands-down the nicest tree I've ever gotten so we're giving it lots of TLC and photo opps.

We also stopped by Home Depot to pick up some trellises and snap peas. The goal is to train the vines across our brick fence to make the wall lush and fruitful.

And in the spirit of Christmas, we went full-on holiday mode and went to Disneyland with Léna, Diaeddine, and Rachel. It was a combination of celebrating Léna's birthday, showing them around Disneyland for the first time, and taking a day to just have fun. We really miss having an annual pass, but now all of our "fun" money goes straight into the house (see "snap peas" above). It was a very sweet, nostalgic day re-tracing our steps around Disneyland and remembering where we often daydreamed about our future house and family while waiting in lines.

Fall/Winter Reading List

Every year, one of my resolutions is to read more. Now that I’m 4 weeks into my new job, I’m establishing a new schedule with new habits like listening to more podcasts on my commute and making a conscious effort to come home every night and spend at least an hour reading. Here’s what’s on my reading list.

1. Downtime - Nadine Redzepi

I’ve been obsessed with Nadine Redzepi ever since I saw her in Ugly Delicious on Netflix alongside David Chang’s wife Grace. I guess I have a thing for chef’s wives. Nadine’s book is beautifully designed and photographed and even comes with 3 ribbon bookmarks in the binding to keep track of your favorite recipes. Her cooking philosophy is especially relevant to us now as we nurture a casual, communal atmosphere in our open layout kitchen. She also values using fresh ingredients and giving them a sophisticated yet simple twist. 10000% recommend.

2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Mark Manson

I will always read books that have curse words in the title. Now, I don’t agree 100% with everything in this book, but the biggest takeaway for me is to not stress over the small stuff. I’m the type of person who will replay moments throughout the day in my head before I fall asleep and beat myself up over how I should have reacted or what I should have said. An hour later, I’m still tossing and turning. I’m halfway through this book and it’s an important reminder to stop caring about things that don’t matter.

3. The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

I was gifted this book by a former coworker several years ago, and it isn’t until now that I’m finally getting around to finishing it. My new job is a lot less creative than what I’m used to, but it’s also a huge learning experience with its own set of roadblocks. Reading this book is also a reminder for myself that all writing — whether its campaign manifestos, social copy, roadmaps, pitch decks, banner ads, meta descriptions, or site-wide banner callouts — literally anything with words is an artistic craft and creative challenge.

4. Manage Your Day-to-Day - Jocelyn K. Glei

I read this book years ago and loved how calm and organized it made me feel. Every office is chaotic, some more than others, and as I’m transitioning back into the startup world and learning the complexities of a tech startup, I’m finding that this book is a great way to stay grounded.

5. UX for Beginners - Joel Marsh

Like I said above, this new job is exposing me to certain areas in which I have minimal experience like UI/UX. So I’m taking it upon myself to read as much as I can and catch up to the rest of the team so I can start contributing even more. I checked out this handy book via Libby (I love my library card) and can quickly breeze through a few chapters every night. It’s a funny, entertaining light read but I also know that I’m absorbing so much information and looking at websites and apps completely differently.

Thanksgiving 2018

We loved hosting Friendsgiving and ate leftovers for the entire week leading up to actual Thanksgiving. However, that didn’t hold back our appetites.

Alex’s uncle Soo Hyun is a very talented chef and plans a gourmet menu for the occasion. This is what he spoiled us with this year.

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I baked two loaves of sourdough in the morning: one to eat with the cheeses, the other for sourdough stuffing.

Everyone lent a hand, the entire dining table was set to the brim, and everything turned out so delicious!

Then in keeping with tradition, we went to bed by 11PM and woke up at 5:30AM to hit the Camarillo Outlet Mall for some Black Friday deals. I bought more mature, business casual attire and am really trying to upgrade my wardrobe.

On Saturday, we met up with Leslie and Matt at the Anaheim Packing District, and I finally checked out Morning Lavender boutique in Tustin.

And then on Sunday, the gardeners returned to finish clearing the backyard. This weekend, we’ll be building our raised beds and planting new trees.

Friendsgiving 2018

We started planning our Friendsgiving feast a month ago, almost as soon as we returned from Bali. Léna, Rachel, and I planned the menu in a Google doc, giggling like crazy at our desks and assigning dishes. The idea was to introduce Léna and her husband Diaeddine to a true American Thanksgiving since they had never quite experienced one before. But then in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we expanded the invitation to our other friends from abroad, Ezequiel and Pastora, as well as other close friends like Arya and Daniel. In total, we had 10 hungry mouths to feed!

The turkey was once again Alex’s pride and joy. We bought two huge turkeys from Costco a week ago (one for Friendsgiving, the other for actual Thanksgiving), conveniently avoiding the pre-holiday mad rush this past weekend. Two days prior, he carefully brined the bird with his special recipe, including salt, dried rosemary, thyme, and fresh oranges. When the day arrived, he spatchcocked the turkey and simmered the spine, neck, and giblets for 6+ hours to create a stock for the homemade gravy. Since the turkey was now butterflied, it only took about 2.5 hours to cook and stayed extremely moist and flavorful.

We’ve been to our fair share of disappointing potlucks so we wanted to make sure every dish was made from scratch yet still easy. I had made it a personal goal to master sourdough by Thanksgiving, and indeed, I did with a few weeks to spare! I made two loaves: one to eat fresh with brie and the other to use in sourdough stuffing. Léna also brought additional decor to deck out the table and even generously gifted us a set of wine glasses so we’d always have plenty to host with.

As our friends arrived, the kitchen island truly proved itself to be the heartbeat of our home. We’re so thankful that our open layout allows guests to move freely between the kitchen, dining room, and living room. It’s casual and comfortable, and we’re so proud of all the manual labor we put into painting the cabinets and designing it a year ago. The kitchen is our most used, and in my opinion, most loved room in the house and we’re so happy to share it with guests.

The menu:

It was a much-needed night of friendship, food, and laughter and we’re so thankful for everything this year has brought despite moments of hardship. Cheers to the official start of the holiday season!

Clearing the Backyard Pt. 2 with Help from the Pros

After our strenuous attempt at clearing the backyard ourselves, Alex decided to gather quotes from gardeners and hire a team to uproot the rest. They arrived on Sunday morning around 9AM and stayed past 6PM cutting down trees, uprooting stumps, raking dry brush, and tearing down the sheds. Both Chef and Shabu were very concerned.

We’re so impressed by all the natural light pouring into the master bathroom and master bedroom, all because we tore down two overgrown trees. It is a little sad to see some of the greenery disappear, but upon closer inspection, all of it is overgrown, unruly, and sometimes even rotting. We’re excited to replace it with new, healthy plants, veggies, and trees.

The five men worked for 8+ hours and will be back next Sunday to finish the job.

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Clearing the Backyard

The backyard has been a beast of a project looming over us. This weekend, we finally got our hands dirty.

As a reminder, this is what we were dealing with: decades and decades of neglect and overgrown trees. It may look green in these photos, but the entire perimeter is full of piles of dead leaves and dust that have packed down upon themselves to become mulch.

Luckily, Alex and I are both big fans of farm-themed video games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon so we were eager to clear the brush and get some veggies planted.

Since Alex got his chainsaw, he’s been cutting down small trees and shrubs, including this one that has been obstructing the view from our living room window.

Then Alex removed the unsightly plastic from the pergola that has been bothering me every day. Now that it’s gone, light is pouring into the bedroom. I can’t wait to remove even more plastic, paint it white, and hang string lights from the top. Not the greatest before/after photo, but the best I could do with dirty hands.

We used pickaxes, shovels, shears, rakes, and brooms to dig into the chaotic mass of roots and literally rip everything out. Many even began to take root in the mulch-y leaf piles. We were half expecting to unearth a dead animal or a gigantic anthill in the process, but luckily it was all just plants. After two days and three trips to Home Depot, we finally saw our progress pay off. Honestly, Alex did all the heavy lifting and I’m so thankful he’s just as excited as me to tackle this project. I could barely open a 25-lb. bag of soil, let alone carry it.

We bought leaf bags from Home Depot and filled up at least 7 bags with all the dead crap. Then we leveled the soil, cut out the bottoms of our old kitchen cabinet drawers (leftover from demolitions), laid down weed fabric, and used the drawers as raised vegetable garden beds.

We planted a kale medley, an Asian veggie medley, rosemary, and jalapeño peppers in the veggie beds, and moved my tomato container next to it. We also got ambitious and bought a lemon tree and avocado tree… which meant we also got a better hose and small drip irrigation system.

We also ordered an extra yard bin from the city to help clear the clutter faster, and our neighbor offered us his two yard bins. That means every week, we’ll been filling 4 yard bins to the brim for garbage day. We’re so tired and and still setting everything up, but we’re excited to start making use of the backyard after all the neglect it has suffered!

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Adventures in Bread-Making: Sourdough #5 SUCCESS + No-Knead Recipe

It took me five attempts to FINALLY achieve the perfect loaf!

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In my earlier attempts, my biggest issue was a deflated loaf. To increase the rise and produce more air bubbles, I adjusted my starter’s feeding schedule to twice a day and used warm water to help move along the process. I also had 3 starters going so I could track their progress and see which variables were most successful. The quality of these photos are pretty terrible because my hands were covered in flour.

The starter with two daily feedings of rye flour was clearly the most lovely and bubbly and easily passed the float test.

From there, I followed my usual recipe. Even though it does take time, I’ve perfected it now so that it fits comfortably into my schedule.

  • 8:00AM: Mix 50g of sourdough starter with 350g warm water, 500g bread flour, and 9g salt. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 30 mins.

  • 8:30AM: Fold dough inside the bowl towards the center to form a ball. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 8-10 hours. Go to work.

  • 7:00PM: Come home from work. Gently roll dough onto the counter and fold the edges toward the center, forming a ball. Flip over so that the seam side is down. Cover with the bowl it was resting in and let sit for 5-10 mins.

  • 7:30PM: Dust a banneton basket with flour. Rub hands with olive olive to prevent sticking. Roll and rotate the dough into a tight ball. This helps build its structure so that the bread will rise as it bakes. I usually shape it for a minute or two, until I see small hair bubbles stretching across the top of the dough ball. Place seam side up in the banneton, cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 30 mins - 1 hour. Eat dinner.

  • 8:30PM: Pre-heat oven with the Le Creuset inside. Use oven mitts to remove from oven and open lid. Gently flip the dough ball onto parchment paper so that the seam side is down and gently lower into the Le Creuset. Cover lid and bake for 25 mins.

  • 8:55PM: Remove lid and bake for 30 mins or until golden brown.

  • 9:25PM: Remove from oven and let rest for 1 hour.

  • 10:25PM: Slice bread and ENJOY.

Recipe adapted from Baked: No-Knead Everyday Sourdough Bread.

Our Destination Wedding at Villa Taman Ahimsa in Bali

When we decided on Taman Ahimsa and all of our vendors, I scoured the internet for reviews and photographs. Now that it’s a year later, the villa is becoming a more popular wedding venue (they had 5 other weddings in September after ours). The trickiest part was communicating with the staff with day-of meals, transportation, and charges. Most of it was verbal and some was via e-mail so there were inevitably a couple mix-ups, like the masseuses who showed up on the wrong day.

However, Bali is home to the nicest, most hospitable people and the villa staff was so accommodating. They quickly remedied any mistakes without extra charges and graciously went above and beyond to help with bartending at our Welcome Lunch, constantly cleaning our rooms and common areas, and setting up a beachfront BBQ on our last night. We were so spoiled and it was the absolute best send-off.


OUR VENDORS

We chose the “By Your Side” package with Avavi Weddings. This meant that our coordinator Adria would help provide a list of recommended vendors within our budget, but it was our job to vet them out and choose who we wanted to work with. We started by interviewing photographers — and there were a lot. Ultimately, we resorted back to Adria’s recommendations and chose someone who had worked with her before, had experience shooting at Taman Ahimsa, and spoke English very well (in addition to having a beautiful style).

Afterwards, we chose vendors for hair and makeup, videography, caterers for the wedding and Welcome Lunch, decorations, and sound and lighting. Almost all of this was squared away within 2 months, even before we had bought our outfits or plane tickets. Also, we were simultaneously renovating the house so we wanted to get all of the wedding details wrapped up ASAP.

In our final stages of wedding planning, we almost didn’t have a cake because our catering menu already included four desserts. However, as much as sticking to our budget was important to us, we also didn’t want to pass up on parts that we might regret later. So we put down a deposit for a delicious, fluffy, creamy, semi-naked, two-tier Irish coffee cake and we’re SO glad we did. And like many of our vendors, it was so much more affordable in Bali than if we had done the ceremony in LA.

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The only vendors we decided to skip out on were an emcee and DJ. Our officiant Arya was more than capable of emceeing and graciously rose to the occasion. And since we were unsure if Balinese DJs would be familiar with American songs, we chose to customize our playlist. We personally selected all the songs, downloaded and edited them if they were too long, assembled the order of the playlist, and just asked our sound dude to press play!

We practiced our first dance routine every night for about 2 weeks. I choreographed it and frantically hemmed my dress a few days before we left so that I wouldn’t trip over it.

And right before we invited guests to the dance floor, we added a fire dance performance to the reception because Alex got really excited about more fire.

Here is the list of all the vendors we had the pleasure of working with. I’ll be writing Tripadvisor and Yelp reviews for each of them because we loved them all so much. It was the most pleasant, enjoyable experience and we’re so glad to have friends in Bali now. Having a destination wedding requires a lot of organizing and even more blind faith (more on that here), but everyone exceeded our expectations and flawlessly brought our vision to life.

Clearing and Cleaning

We spent another weekend cleaning and organizing, but it feels like we’ve barely made a dent.

After Alex cut down the front trees last weekend, he put the chainsaw to good use again and finally cut down the overgrown bush in our backyard. It’s been bothering us ever since we saw the house for the first time.

We also cleaned the guest room and rearranged the position of Alex’s desk. Now that he’s working from home, we invested in a standing desk and standing mat. The guest room has served as our storage closet ever since we got back from Bali, so we finally cleared my wedding dress off the bed and put our luggage in the garage.

The other desk has been relocated to the foyer to serve as our charging station/“drop station” for keys and sunglasses, and display for our fancy ceramics from Gaya Ceramic in Ubud, Bali.

I also found time to make two loaves of bread. You can read about them more here.

And FINALLY, we put some of the cabinet doors back on. It’s taken us a while because some still need paint, others have missing screws, and there are been other priorities. Now that they’re back on the cabinets, our ongoing kitchen project is 80% complete since we started it last November. Can you tell that the dogs like to watch us as we putter around the house with our errands?