'Mooncakes & Milk Bread' Brings Chinese Bakery Treats to Home Bakers

Kristina Cho's debut cookbook is the first ever to focus on Chinese bakery cooking.

October 22, 2021
Photo by Bette Blau. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.

Kristina Cho, the blogger behind Eat Cho Food, didn’t set out to write a cookbook that's as full of family memories as it is delicious Chinese bakery treats. But that’s what happened when she began working on her debut cookbook, Mooncakes & Milk Bread.

Throughout the book, Cho weaves in stories of afternoons spent at her grandfather’s restaurant, Sunday meals at her family’s favorite dim sum spot, and special trips to Chinese bakeries. “Trips to the local bakery case and vacation visits to Chinatown bakeries in other cities are some of my favorite childhood memories,” Cho writes. “It was exhilarating, getting the chance to pick out a new, shiny baked good or crisp cookie, each bite connecting me a little more to my family’s culture. Sipping on tea and pulling apart our haul of treats bit by bit, my parents and grandparents would regale us with their own memories of living in Hong Kong or even older stories of my grandparents in Taishan, China.”

Although Cho wanted to be a chef like her grandfather when she was young, she became an architect before finding her way back to food. Now, she fuses her architectural training with her cooking expertise to create meticulous recipes.

Each of the seven chapters in Mooncakes & Milk Bread includes detailed photos and step-by-step tutorials on how to shape bread, pleat buns and dumplings, and make intricate or cutesy mooncakes. Whether these treats were a part of your childhood or are entirely new to you, Cho has made it her priority to guide you through with clarity and precision. Which might be necessary considering the book is the first of its kind, focusing solely on the classic buns, breads, cookies, cakes, and tarts found in Chinese bakeries and cafés.

Mooncakes & Milk Bread is meant to serve as a blueprint for anyone interested in Chinese baking, but Cho hopes readers will experiment with different flavor combinations, bun shapes, and recipes to make it their own.

Cho writes that when she began searching for Chinese bakery recipes, she could find a few obscure links, and nothing close to a trustworthy recipe. She wanted to make her favorite childhood bakery treat, hot dog flower buns, so she came up with her own recipe and posted it on her blog.

“Apparently, a lot of other people love them too,” Cho writes, “as I was inundated with requests for more Chinese bakery bun recipes. That’s when the wheels started turning on this cookbook.”

Cho found that a few ingredients and techniques were the basic template for most of the recipes. Like pillowy and slightly sweet milk bread.

“Milk bread is a very important recipe because it's the foundation for a majority of the buns in the sweet-savory chapter,” she told me over the phone. “What makes a big difference is understanding how to develop your dough and giving it enough time to proof.” Once she had the base, Cho visited Chinese bakeries to gain inspiration for flavor combinations. What she came up with is the perfect combination of tradition, creativity, and the magic of childhood—chocolate milk bread. Eat the loaf as is or spread it with some peanut butter. If you have any leftovers, make French toast topped with condensed milk instead of maple syrup.

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