From Mooncakes and Milk Bread to Egg Tarts, Kristina Cho Helps You Make Iconic Chinese Baked Goods at Home
Chinese baking encompasses many wonderfully delicious things, like mooncakes with intricate designs, flaky egg tarts, pillow-soft milk bread, savory pork buns—the list goes on and on. Some of the foods you'll find at a Chinese bakery aren't even baked in an oven at all; rather, they're cooked by steaming, frying, or boiling. Kristina Cho, a food writer, recipe developer, and founder of the popular food blog EatChoFood.com, saw a gap in the cookbook market. Recipes for chocolate chip cookies and layer cakes are easy to find, but the same can't be said for iconic and more niche Chinese baked goods. "These recipes are hard to come by, and if anything exists, it's via a few untrustworthy web links," she explains. "I wanted to change that and share a collection of thoughtful, well-tested recipes dedicated to my beloved Chinese bakeries and cafes."
Cho is a first-generation Chinese American who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent years going to her family's Chinese restaurants. As an adult, she moved to San Francisco's unofficial second Chinatown located in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. Her food blog began as a creative outlet that eventually grew to a point where she quit her job in architecture to pursue cooking and recipe development full-time. Cho found that her most popular recipes were the ones that evoked nostalgia, and after being inundated with requests for Chinese bakery bun recipes, an idea began to form.
Her debut cookbook, Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries ($26.96, amazon.com) is filled with recipes for Chinese bakery staples plus personal family recipes. Her grandfather's almond cookie recipe is one that Cho is particularly excited to share. "This recipe is very cherished in my family," she says. "My Goong Goong was known for making his almond cookies, and it's one of the few baking memories that I have with my family." Cho added that seeing her grandfather's cookies in other people's kitchens (from those who got an early sneak peek of the book) has been a surreal feeling.
As you can probably guess from the book's title, milk bread is a key recipe that, in addition to being delicious on its own, is the base recipe for more than a dozen other recipes, from spicy Sambal and Parmesan Buns to deep-fried Milk Bread Doughnuts with Salted Egg Yolk Cream. "I think it's really exciting for people to get that experience working with dough, and this recipe in particular is fairly easy to work with," Cho says. "It has a few different components that you have to prepare before kneading it all together, but once you have it together the process of dividing it up and forming it into all these different shapes is really satisfying."
With her book, Cho hopes to demystify the process of making Chinese baked goods and show that creating them in your home kitchen is achievable and might not even require any specialty ingredients. She also wanted to show another side of Chinese food culture. "As a Chinese American person growing up in Ohio, I wish this book existed for me when I was going into the kitchen teaching myself how to bake," she says. "For the people who these recipes might feel nostalgic for, I hope that they find comfort in these recipes, and feel heard and seen through my shared stories and experiences." What's more, Cho hopes that her cookbook helps those who are new to these types of recipes to broaden their their definitions of what baking is, and that it encourages them to try new flavors and techniques.