The Legend of Sun Knight Side Story #20: Blueberry Coffee

“Ecilan, how’s it going? What are you up to and what is this that you’re drinking?” Grisia sauntered into the Ice Knight’s room, nose tilted, sniffing the fragrant aromas of coffee in the air.

“Storm is currently sick after working six days straight dealing with the paperwork caused by that last stunt you pulled at the Kingdom of Forgotten Sound! I’m helping him out with these documents while he — hey don’t drink that!” Ecilan’s complaints suddenly turned to panicked shrieks as Grisia reached out for the coffee mug next to him and took a sip but quickly spit it all out in disgust. “Sigh, that’s why I told you not to drink it, you sweet-toothed freak! That stuff is coffee, it’s what I drink to have enough energy to keep burning the midnight oil. Speaking of which, can you help me with some of these documents, Grisia?”

Backing away, Grisia quickly thought about how to weasel out of this predicament. “W-well, I’d love to help, but I would need some of that coffee stuff you’ve been drinking as well so I can power through the night dealing with all this paperwork. And you know me and my obsession with blueberries and sweet things, there’s no way I can drink that strong bitter stuff!”

Ecilan fell deep in thought, recalling the coffees on offer at the cute little pastry shop he passed by earlier that day. A smile crept up on his face. “I have just the thing for you…!”

Description from Pastry Recipes: This is not a pastry per se, but nothing goes better with our scrumptious pastries than a delicious cup of coffee. This month, we are offering a unique and unforgettable filtered brew with notes of blueberry, blackcurrant, and red grape. If you aren’t able to visit us at Pastry Recipes, try to find a local specialty cafe that offers other unique coffees instead of going to S*@%bucks, and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Ingredients / Equipment

  • A bag of fresh whole bean coffee, with blueberry notes if desired1
  • Kettle for boiling water, ideally gooseneck shaped2
  • Coffee Grinder, ideally with burrs and not blades3
  • Scale capable of measuring to 0.1 grams4
  • Coffee Pourover Dripper5
  • Coffee Filter Paper6
  • Mug or cup

Recipe Instructions

Editor’s note: There’s many ways to brew an excellent cup of coffee. This is just how we do it at Pastry Recipes! You may need to adapt this recipe to fit your own setup and your own coffee.

  1. Measure out 18 grams of whole bean coffee and put it in your grinder. You can use more or less, but the dose would affect how the coffee behaves in a pourover, so you may need to make additional adjustments besides just scaling the amount of water accordingly.
  2. Heat up water in your kettle to boiling point.
  3. Fold the filter paper along the crease, then unfold and place the filter paper in your dripper and place the whole setup on your cup, resting on your scale.
  4. Once boiled, pour at least 50 grams of water to wet the filter paper in your dripper and warm your setup. Allow water to drain and discard.
  5. Grind your coffee beans into a medium-fine grind. It should be roughly between the texture of coarse sand and sea salt. Pour coffee grinds into your dripper.
  6. With your finger or a chopstick, gently poke a large hole in the center of your coffee grounds, and 5 or 6 smaller holes around the sides.
Folding the filter paper along the crease at a slight angle such that a bit more of the paper is folded near the rim. This should help your filter paper fit more snugly in the dripper.
Wetting your filter paper with at least 50 grams of boiling water helps it stick on the dripper and heats up your dripper and cup so that your coffee stays at a consistently high temperature throughout the brewing process.
Making several indents in the coffee grounds gives your coffee a larger surface area to be wet evenly in the next step.
  1. Let your coffee cool down slightly to ~95°C, or about 30 seconds with the lid off the kettle. The optimal temperature for each coffee will vary. Generally lighter roast coffees are best from 93-99°C while dark roast coffees taste better from 86-90°C. Tare (zero out) your scale, start a timer and immediately pour about 40 grams of water into the bed of coffee, making sure to wet and cover the grounds with water evenly.
  2. Gently swirl the entire dripper setup three revolutions to help all of the coffee get wet evenly. Wait 40 seconds for the coffee to settle. If your beans are fresh, you should see little bubbles forming and popping from your coffee.
  3. Pour another 125 grams of water into the coffee bed in steady, even circles. Aim to complete this pour in about 20 seconds, around the 1 minute mark. Gently swirl the coffee again, making two rotations to help the coffee settle and any grounds stuck to the sides to fall. Wait for the water to drain partway through, but before it’s completely dry before starting the final pour, roughly 10 to 15 seconds depending on the paper and grind size.
  4. Pour the remaining 125 grams of water into the dripper in gentle circles, this time even slower, aiming to finish pouring in all the water around 30-40 seconds, or around the 2:15 – 2:30 minute mark. Feel free to use more or less water depending on your preferences and to taste.
  5. Give your setup a final gentle swirl to allow the grounds to settle evenly and let the water finish flowing through the coffee bed. This should complete around a total time of 2:45 – 3:15. If it falls outside of this range and you are not satisfied with the taste of the coffee, consider adjusting the grind size – finer to make it slower or coarser to make it faster.
  6. Set aside the dripper and enjoy your coffee! Generally, it’s best to wait about 5-10 minutes or so for your coffee to cool to around 60-65°C for the most enjoyable cup.
Swirling your dripper gently after each pour ensures that your coffee grounds are well-settled. Each subsequent swirl should be more gentle than the last. This is the first swirl.
After the initial pour (called the “bloom”), some amount of bubbles should form from the coffee bed. This indicates the presence of carbon dioxide and is a sign that your coffee is very fresh.
Try to pour at a consistent height, as high as possible but just below the point where the flow of water beings to splash. Pour in circles to cover the coffee grounds evenly. Always pour into the coffee grounds rather than directly on the filter paper.
Once the brew has completed, you should end up with a relatively flat coffee bed with few grounds stuck to the sides. This is an indication that you were able to extract most of the coffee relatively evenly.
 
Your coffee may taste different at various temperatures. Most coffees taste best around 60-65°C, but great coffees will exhibit evolving but ever-pleasant tasting notes as it cools down.

A good cup of a modern light roast coffee should have a delicate, floral, fruity, winey or tea-like fragrance, a pleasant juicy acidity like a citrus fruit, a sense of mild sweetness without needing to add sugar or milk, and a lingering aftertaste that leaves you wanting another sip. For those who haven’t tried it before, it may feel closer to drinking fruit juice or black tea than a cup of coffee. When roasted and brewed correctly, There should be very little to no notes of bitterness / burntness or vegetality / harsh sourness. If experiencing the former, try using lower temperature water and/or less water overall, with small adjustments each time. If experiencing the latter, try higher temperature water and/or pouring a bit more water for the same amount of coffee. Light roasts are generally the most demanding in terms of gear and technique, so be patient when “dialing in” your coffee – hopefully you’ll find the sweet spot after a few attempts that makes the effort worth it.

A medium roast coffee should have primarily notes of nuts and milk chocolate, with perhaps still a hint of florals or fruits. It may be somewhat more bitter and taste closer to what one may traditionally associate with coffee. If you regularly drink and enjoy regular coffee, a medium roast may be a more approachable and less demanding start if the description of a light roast doesn’t sound appealing to you.

Good specialty-grade dark roast coffee is hard to find these days, just as high end may object to serving a steak well-done. Nevertheless, dark roast coffee still appeals to a considerable populace that also demands a quality product, so a select few roasters still cater to this market. Expect to find notes of dark chocolate, spices, smokiness, noticeable bitterness and very little acidity.

Footnotes

1. If you can, find a local speciality coffee roaster who can recommend a coffee you like. If you specifically want a coffee with blueberry notes, you can consider for example, this one from Vibrant Coffee Roasters or this one from Passenger Coffee, or even this more affordable alternative from Happy Mug. Feel free to make or request recommendations for good coffee roasters (esp. if you aren’t in the United States) in the comments below. There’s many different quality coffees out there, some with floral notes, fruity notes, nutty and chocolatey notes to suit a wide variety of tastes and preferences. Be sure to get a bag that was roasted within one month of purchase, as stale coffee would lose much of its best flavors and aromas.

2. Ideally, you’d want a kettle that lets you pour a controlled amount of water with a temperature gauge, which looks something like this product. If that is out of your budget, consider a model without the temperature control and use a separate thermometer to check its temperature as it cools down from boiling. You can try to make do with a regular kettle, but it would be difficult to control your pouring flowrate.

3. While you can buy pre-ground beans, you would lose the ability to change your grind size, and you would be losing out on the best flavors and aromas of the coffee, which tend to be released within a few hours of grinding the beans. If budget is a concern, consider using a manual coffee grinder. For example, this model or this model should give you great grind consistency at the entry-level, and it would be difficult to find a cheaper option without compromising significantly on quality. I would highly recommend to avoid using any sort of blade grinder for your coffee as you would likely end up with pieces of coffee that are either too large or too small, which will make your brews taste both sour and bitter, as compared to a good grinder that would let you make a sweet, balanced cup of coffee.

4. There’s lots of scales that can do the job. They typically look something like this, with a button for taring (zeroing out) the scale, and another for setting a timer. If yours doesn’t come with a timer, you can use the built-in one from your phone or similar.

5. There’s a couple of good drippers on the market. The classic one that is cheap and works well is the v60. The one shown in the photos above is the Origami dripper.

6. Make sure to get filter paper that fits your dripper. For the v60 and Origami, you would want ones that are cone-shaped, for example this one which I personally prefer.

Dominion’s End V6C1: The God of Many Eyes

posted in: Blog, Dominions End | 12

“Xiao Yu!”

As I came back to the base, Auntie came running over in a panic. Before, sprinting this fast would have left her out of breath. But with the crystals making her and Uncle grow younger and younger, she was hardly breathing harder than usual by the time she reached me.

“I can feel something very, very large behind the base, deep underground. Just yesterday it was so small, I thought it was a wild rabbit in its burrow. But after all the typhoons, it’s become massive! And it has yet to stop growing…”

What a pain. I was expecting aberrants to fall from the sky, not come from underground! I asked Auntie, “Can you sense where it is now?”

She shuddered, but still nodded as she said, “I can… It hasn’t moved from the garden. It hasn’t stopped watching us since I noticed it. I think… It sees more than I can.”

I started giving orders, “Tell Zheng Xing to excavate it swiftly. Everyone else, assemble in the garden and prepare for battle!”

As everyone grabbed their gear, I charged into the garden to see… A giant brown, lumpy mass. Throughout its surface, eyes of all different sizes blinked and stared in various directions. Some eyes were in clusters, like clumps of bubbles.

A voice rang through my head.

I SEE ALL. NOTHING CAN ESCAPE MY SIGHT. PAST. FUTURE. PRESENT. THE LOVED ONES YOU HAVE LOST. THE LOVED ONES YOU HAVE YET TO MEET. FEED ME AND THIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE YOURS.

All eyes fixated on me, including the eyes of the other members of the Zhanjiang Garrison.

“What a lousy deal! I can already see the past and present and I’ll get to see the future soon enough!” I retorted back. “Everyone! Attack! Go for the eyes!” The eyes are usually the weakest point, right?

As expected, with so many weak points, the aberrant died very quickly. Shujun looked at its corpse with pity. “If it could see the future, then didn’t it know it was about to die?”

I began slicing open the corpse to pull out the evolution crystal, and found smooth, white flesh that leaked a milky juice. I realized, “It’s an aberrant potato! There are probably smaller seed potatoes still buried in the dirt! Dig them out before they grow back.”

As everyone dug frantically, aided by Auntie pointing out where the potatoes were and Zheng Xing moving the earth the get the deeper potatoes, Shujun began walking around with a basket for everyone to drop the potatoes into.

Several baskets later, she happily said, “We have so many potatoes, I can make mashed potatoes, potato chips, hash browns, blanched matchstick potatoes, French fries, potato curry, latkes, potato bread, cholera, rosti, potato farls, Spanish tortilla, potato ice cream, potato salad, potato pie, baked potatoes, leek and potato soup, aloo gobi, potato casserole, potato fritters, fish and chips, tater tots, papet vaudois, vinegar potatoes, gnocchi, shepherd’s pie, roasted potatoes, potato dip, hurricane potatoes, potato skins, ratatouille, potato pancakes, hassleback potatoes, colcannon, scalloped potatoes, Korean potato pizza, funeral potatoes, boxty, poutine, twice-baked potatoes, three earthly treasures, potato knishes, pierogis, nikujaga, aligot, potato burgers, steamed potatoes, aloo masala, and we can also use them to practice throwing grenades!”


After several days of eating potatoes…

I picked up a potato croquette that was as round as my waistline and wailed, “I think I’m starting to turn potato-shaped!”

Potato-shaped potato croquette potato potato recipe

patoto
  1. Get a lot of panko breadcrumbs (does not have to be made with potato) and put them on a pan on a hot stove with a sploosh of oil. I’ve never tried this, but I bet you could use crushed up potato chips instead.
  2. Stir the breadcrumbs until they’re brownish and toasty. Add some pepper and salt here or back in step 1. Just do it at some point so it won’t be super bland.
  3. Cook some ground meat or something you can pretend is ground meat in a pan until it’s brown.
  4. Mix in your leftover mashed potatoes with the ground meat. If you don’t have leftover mashed potatoes, then:
    -1. Boil a bunch of potatoes or steam them or sous vide them or microwave them until you can squish the potato pieces with a fork or potato-masher tool.
    0. Mash the potatoes until they’re a tolerable level of lumpiness. Add in stuff like salt and pepper and herbs and garlic powder if you don’t like bland potatoes.
  5. Make the mashed potato and meat mixture back into a potato shape.
  6. Coat the potato-meat-potato in flour.
  7. Coat the potato-meat-potato in a beaten egg. Or if you’re too much of a wimp to beat an egg in a fight, you can use a flour-water batter instead.
  8. Coat the potato-meat-potato in the brownish-but-hopefully-not-as-toasty-hot-so-you-don’t-burn-yourself breadcrumbs.
  9. Air fry the potato-meat-potatoes (called “croquettes” from here on after) for 10 minutes (600 seconds) at 400F (200 C).

    Longer, less succinct recipe here:
    https://www.justonecookbook.com/baked-croquette/

½ Prince Side Stories Part 3: Meat Floss Bun

posted in: ½ Prince, Blog | 2

Meat floss buns
Meat floss buns
One a penny
Two a penny
Meat floss buns

Give them to your daughters
Give them to your sons
One a penny
Two a penny
Meat floss buns!

A long-haired man at the hawker stall sang those verses with a surprisingly clear and sonorous voice that pierced through the cheerful banter of the tourists donning colorful apparel as they milled about. His booth was but one of many, each offering their own unique appeal, whether it be appetizing foodstuffs, minigames with cute prizes, or engaging performances for all ages. This was Infinite City’s first annual festival celebrating its inception and Odd Squad had spared no expense or effort to make it the most extravagant event in the world of Second Life. While the rest of the squad was busy making sure the festivities were running smoothly and that the city was still safe from any hidden threats, one member was conspicuously absent from their duties…

Prince, donning a pair of oversized sunglasses and a totally-not-suspicious cowboy hat wandered cheerfully from stall to stall. “So many snacks, delicious morsels from every cuisine all around! Which one should I try next?” muttered the incognito leader turned runaway eater. At that moment, a peculiar stall-owner’s melodic song wafted into Prince’s ears, which subconsciously prickled at the words “meat” and “bun”. Like a rat to a piper’s tune, his feet carried him naturally to a fancy red booth.

“Meat floss buns! Soft and sweet buns, light yet savory strands of pork, a marriage of flavors blessed by the heavens! How many pieces would you like, mister?” The shopkeeper asked cheerfully, his face obscured by long strands of golden-brown locks. Prince paid the stall owner’s appearance with little mind, and instead stared with mouth half-open at the this unusual variety of meat buns. The buns were twisted around like braids of hair, with fluffy pork floss, chopped scallions, and white sesame sprinkled across. Is this still considered a meat bun? As the “mama” to my dear meatbun, it wouldn’t be considered child abuse for me to eat this, right?

“Where did that rapscallion Prince run off to? His shift still hasn’t ended yet! If he’s shirking his duty as the gatekeeper for the vendors to satisfy his stomach then he’ll be getting an earful from me soon enough!” Yulian-dàsăo’s angry voice was still distant, but gradually got louder along with a pattering of footsteps. Pressed by time and too tempted by the innovative snack in front of him to reconsider, Prince held up two fingers, making a quick transaction before disappearing into the crowd, away from the impending danger of a fiery lecture. Moments later, Yulian-dàsăo approached the spot where the meat floss bun stall once stood, but nothing was there. She rubbed her eyes, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. She could have shown she had saw Prince talking to a life-sized… No, that couldn’t be, could it?

That night, Prince tossed and turned in his sleep. The pleasant aromas of the two meat floss buns still lingered fresh in his mind. Out of nowhere, a familiar deep voice suddenly sounded out. “Thank you for accepting my dowry. On which auspicious date should we set the wedding?”

Prince shook himself wide awake, but there was nobody around. What was going on? Wasn’t that the sound of the shopkeeper at the festival? How could he be in my bedchambers right now?

“How about March 1st? That’s National Pi–” the voice continued but Prince couldn’t help but interrupt.

“Who are you? Where are you? What do you want from me?”

“You don’t remember? I’m your future son-in-law! You agreed earlier to give me your daughter’s hand in marriage and even accepted my dowry! Is my proposed date too soon? Would one month later work out better you think?” Out of nowhere, the shopkeeper appeared with a poof, but this time his long curly hair was combed neatly to the sides and his face was revealed to be that of a… pig??

The words of the shopkeeper from earlier echoed back in Prince’s mind. Soft and sweet buns… strands of pork… a marriage blessed by the heavens… Oh! What have I done? I’m so sorry, meatbun! I’m so sorry, Phoenix! Finally hit by the gravity of the situation and the consequences of his rash actions, Prince immediately fainted.

The light of the morning sun shone warmly into Prince’s bedchambers, and groggily he woke up. What a crazy dream that was! At that moment, two little voices, clear and sonorous, cried out, “Grandmama, you’re awake! We brought you breakfast in bed! It’s your favorite meat floss buns1!”

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (160 ml, at room temperature)
  • 1 cup milk (235 ml, at room temperature)
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (70g)
  • 1/2 cup cake flour (70g)
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (500g)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (11g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces pork sung (also called pork floss, 115g)
  • 3 scallions (washed, dried, and finely chopped)
  • Egg wash (whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water to make a simple syrup)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a mixer, add the heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt (add everything to the mixer in that order). Using the dough hook attachment, turn on the mixer to “stir.” Let it go for 15 minutes, occasionally stopping the mixer to push the dough together.
  2. After 15 minutes, the dough is ready for proofing. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm spot for 1 hour. The dough will grow to 1.5X its original size. Check out our original milk bread recipe for photos of this process!
  3. After the hour of proofing, put the dough back in the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes to get rid of air bubbles. Dump the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Cover the dough pieces with a dry cloth while assembling the buns.
  4. Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a rough 4×6″ rectangle. Spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise onto the dough, and then sprinkle with pork sung and chopped scallion. Roll it up lengthwise into a tight cigar shape. Cut the cigar in half lengthwise, with about an inch on one end still attached, so that the piece of dough almost looks like a pair of pants. Twist the dough together, with the cut sides facing up, and tuck the ends underneath the bun. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat the process until all the buns are assembled.
  5. Cover the buns with a clean, dry kitchen towel, and allow to rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Before baking, brush each bun with egg wash. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. After baking, remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush each bun lightly with simple syrup. This is what gives these pork sung buns their signature shine!

Footnotes

1. Recipe courtesy of https://thewoksoflife.com/pork-sung-buns/

Big and Little Sun Go Go 27: Blueberry Clafoutis

posted in: Blog | 4

“Side quest triggered: Choose between guns or concealable weapons.”

Although Charles tried to explain the virtues of guns, Grisia and Elaro were not convinced.

Grisia had pretended not to know Elaro’s proficiency with concealable weapons, but he understood that it was extensive. If he had suggested his student seek out Leaf instead Metal, he might have given the idea of using a gun a chance, but he had not.

Elaro reasoned, “If we get a gun, we will eventually run out of bullets, but stealth weaponry can be retrieved and reused. In addition, the side quest says we can defeat ten enemies armed with guns, which seems more certain than shooting ten enemies at a distance and possibly missing their vital organs.”

Charles nodded, still regretful, but accepting this statement.

“Side quest completed: Choose between guns or concealable weapons!”

Grisia’s stomach growled.

“Side quest updated: To be able to enjoy dessert during the apocalypse is such a blessing!

It’s even better to eat something strange, yet still familiar. Please make a clafoutis with player Grisia’s favorite fruit.”

“Teacher’s favorite fruit is blueberry, but what is clafoutis?” asked Elaro.

Charles immediately replied, “Clafoutis is a French baked dessert with berries cooked in a custard-like batter. It’s good we picked up that portable toaster oven at the supermarket.”

They took out the toaster oven and started to assemble the ingredients.

Charles looked at their supplies in regret, “We don’t have fresh blueberries, so we will need to use dried ones instead. We will also need to use powdered eggs and milk, this will have to do.”

Editor’s note: This light dessert can also be enjoyed as a sweet breakfast dish. While Grisia may enjoy blueberries, you can add any fruit you like. If you are in an apocalypse and only have access to dried fruits, you can soak them the same night you make the batter in an liquor made from the same type of fruit (i.e. dried apricots soaked in abricotine).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup of Blueberries (95 g)
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons of Melted Butter (78 g)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 5 Tablespoons of White Sugar (62 g)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk (118 ml)
  • 1/4 Cup and 3 Tablespoons of Flour (60 g)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Mahlab or 1/4 Teaspoon of Almond Extract
  • Powdered Sugar or Vanilla Sauce for Serving.

  1. The night before whisk together the butter, eggs, sugar, salt, milk, flour, vanilla and mahlab or almond extract and refrigerate. If you are using dried fruit, this is the time to start soaking them.
  2. The day of preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
  3. Grease something the size of a small pie pan, normal bread loaf pan or small cake pan with butter. Pour the refrigerated mixture inside and drop the blueberries in.
  4. Put it in the oven and let it cook for around 45 minutes or until puffed and brown. Check it around the 20 minute mark in case your oven is different or it is cooking faster.
  5. Let it deflate and then enjoy. You can serve it with vanilla sauce or powdered sugar.

GOD V4Prologue: Shooting Star Bread

posted in: Blog, GOD | 1

“What bountiful spoils of war! Not only did my guide escape the curse, but was even able to snatch away a Sinner of Existence!” Saiximili exclaimed, looking immensely pleased as he examined Philo who was currently lying at his feet, still wearing the Stone of Lethargy around his neck. He had originally thought that he would soon be out of a job, but unexpectedly he was given a salary increase instead?

“Bountiful my ass!” Shooting Star growled with a sinister expression. “I was this close, just this tiny bit away from incurring the jealousy of the heavens and being paid an early visit from the Grim Reaper! Yet look at you, you useless, so-called starseer, still celebrating over there like an idiot!”

Alan had a puzzled look. Is it even possible to simultaneously be “incurring the jealousy of the heavens” while also “being paid an early visit from the Grim Reaper”?

“Of course this is worthy of celebration!” Saiximili had a smug knowing look as he explained. “Think about it. There’s only a total of seven sinners, and you already have two of them on your side. If the enemy wants to eliminate you, they would at least need to command three of them to have a chance at succeeding. If you were to kill off one of their sinners, that would greatly reduce their chances of finding three more sinners to go against you!”

Only then did Shooting Star’s face showed that he finally understood the significance of this moment.

“H-hold on, who did you say you planned to kill off?” Bai Saya who had collapsed on the ground after returning to White Feather due to over-expending the power of the stone yet again, and even had no energy to properly place down the two people he was carrying suddenly interrupted. He had promptly lifted his head as soon as he heard the word “kill”, revealing a panicked expression as he butted into Saiximili and Shooting Star’s dangerous conversation.

“Of course it’s the Sinner of Existence! No matter if its the Guide of Existence, the Sinners of Existence, and most importantly, the Starseer of Existence, they are all undeniably our eternal enemies unto death! Killing them off is the easiest solution, though for the Sinners of Existence, it may be possible to spare them if we perform that ritual on them…”

“Ritual? What ritual?” Bai Saya asked anxiously. Any potential method that may spare Philo from being a casualty in this war that they had all unwittingly been dragged into would be worth considering.

“Well, according to my visions, there’s a slim chance of breaking the bond between a sinner and their guide, but it’s not an easy procedure. The best case scenario would be that the sinner gets converted to our side, but it’s far more likely that the sinner would go berserk, rampaging like a mindless animal until they are put down. It’s possible that they would even detonate all their power at once, directly destroying everything around them within the radius of a large city.”

“Philo is our friend and companion; we cannot simply give up on him without trying! Don’t you think so, Shooting Star?” Bai Saya shone again with righteousness, a pleading yet insistent look plastered on his face as he gazed at his companions.

It was instead Dan who first spoke up. “Saya, this is much too dangerous. Philo may be a friend, but we can’t risk all of our lives to save him. And as a knight sworn to protect others, losing his dignity would be a worse fate than death. He would not want to leave such a legacy behind.” Dan cunningly gave a seemingly logical reason on behalf of Philo to not save said person, perfectly masking his actual intentions of not risking putting Saya into harm’s way.

“Saimi, at least tell us more about the method and if there’s any way to mitigate the risks.” Bai Saya insisted with increasing desperation, seeing the nonverbal cues that his party is hesitant to support him in his plans.

“To release a sinner from the knots of fate tying him to his faction, the other side’s guide must brand the sinner with their own mark from within as well as to himself. The effect is increased if the guide also applies this mark to any of his own sinners at the same time. As long as the other side can quell the power released by the opposing sinner without harming his mind throughout the duration of the ritual, then the sinner would be freed from his original fate and would no longer be able to support his original faction.”

“What is this mark of the guide that you speak of? And what does it mean to apply the mark ‘from within’?” Shooting Star asked with suspicion. He definitely did not want to expose his own demonic emblem, and wasn’t sure if that was what Saiximili was referring to. If Saiximili knew about his demonic emblem and exposed his identity, that would really spell a big problem for him!

“The mark can simply be anything created by and symbolizes the identity of the guide. Applying the mark from within, well that just means the mark needs to be ingested by all its participants. For you, Shooting Star, luckily I have just the thing.” Saiximili started jotting down a set of instructions, and after a few minutes, tossed a scroll with his notes at Shooting Star.

“What is this?” Shooting Star inquired intriguingly and secretly sighed in relief seeing that this has nothing to do with his demonic emblem.

“It’s from King Arthur1. They’re really good, and it should be easy enough to pull off, even for a novice like you. Just follow the recipe and you’ll end up with a beautiful Shooting Star Bread.”

Shooting Star widened his eyes. This looked so good, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to even share any with his companions, ritual be damned.

Ingredients

Dough

2 cups (241g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (46g) potato flour or 1/2 cup (46g) dried potato flakes2
1/4 cup (28g) Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons (198g to 227g) lukewarm water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
1 teaspoon (6g) salt

Filling

6-8 tablespoons of apple butter3
1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar to taste

Instructions

  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  2. Next, sift the flour, potato flour, and dry milk through a strainer; this is an important step to prevent lumps in the dough. (If you’re using instant mashed potatoes rather than potato flour you can skip this sifting step.)
  3. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk. 
  5. To shape the loaf: Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover the balls, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
  6. On a lightly greased or floured work surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10″ circle. Place the circle on a piece of parchment, evenly spread with 1/3 of the apple butter and sugar, leaving 1/4″ of bare dough around the perimeter.
  7. Roll out a second circle the same size as the first, and place it on top of the filling-covered circle. Repeat the layering process while leaving the top circle bare.
  8. Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.
  9. Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.
  10. Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.
  11. Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes.
  12. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  13. Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden with dark brown streaks; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer.
  14. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
  15. Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage. To reheat bread for serving, place it on a baking sheet and tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Place in a preheated 350°F oven, and warm for about 15 minutes, or until it’s as hot as you like.
Why are there four pieces of dough here?
Spread the apple butter evenly onto the dough.
Don’t worry if your dough is not perfectly circular.
If the dough feels too wet, feel free to sprinkle more flour onto it until it becomes more manageable.
If the color at the top is not to your satisfaction after baking, consider using the broiler function to give it a bit more visual contrast.
It may not look perfect, especially the first few times you attempt it, but should still taste good enough to have you craving more!

Footnotes

1. Original recipe taken from https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/cinnamon-star-bread-recipe with adaptations.

2. You can substitute with cornstarch on a 1:1 ratio if you don’t have any potato flour/starch.

3. A shortcut to making apple butter is to start with unsweetened apple sauce and cooking it down with cinnamon and other warm spices.