Sunday, July 27, 2008

Siu Lung Bao Dinner

After reading rave reviews, restaurant recommendations for NYC, and several recipes, I decided to get into the kitchen and see if I really could make my own Siu Lung Bao.

Siu Lung Bao, for the unitiated, are small purse-like dumplings filled with meat...and soup. My first experience with these juicy delicacies was in Shanghai, where they originated. I was 5 months pregnant at the time and very few things caught at my tastebuds the way these dumplings did. (In defense of the general cuisine of China, these dumplings are served with a dark, sweet vinegar for dipping, thereby tipping the scales SO far in their favor, this pregnant woman could find love for few other things!)

Until the recent rash of Siu Lung Bao blog-hype, I was blissfully unaware of how the dumplings were magically filled with soup. I assumed it was some sort of labor-intensive, ancient process, similar to the crystal balls we purchased in the art market, painstakingly painted with landscapes and animals...from the inside.

With my trusty little sister at my side (along with a promise from my mother and husband that they would finish any dumplings I could manage to turn out), I started out. The process wasn't as difficlt as I imagined, but it didn't turn out as I'd imagined, either. The recipe, in my opinion, calls for far too little soup "jelly". My dumplings were all-but dry inside, the soup having been absorbed by the wrappers.

When I ran out of wrappers, I mixed the remaining soup gelatin into the remaining meat mixture, more than doubling the soup called for in the recipe. That mixture was put into the freezer to await another day of dumpling making. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two Kinds of Sushi from the Pantry

My family knows I am a pantry cook. You can send anything home with me- it will get made into a meal. I'm like the wicked stepsister from Cinderella with the shoe- "I'll MAKE it fit!"

So, in light of this I want to share my two "pantry sushi" recipes. We've made them a few times, and my husband and 3-year-old daughter ate every last piece, every time. (And no- these are hardly "authentic" Japanese food. But they're yummy, and reasonably healthy.)

Sushi Rice

Cook 3 scoops of rice. When finished, mix with: 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, pinch of salt boiled together in the microwave. Spread into a 9x13 pan and let cool. This is enough for 4-5 rolls.

Spicy Tuna Roll Filling

1 can tuna fish
heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
heaping tablespoon sweet chili sauce

Mix together, then add additional ingredients to your liking. Last time I added a dash of chili oil, a little extra chili sauce, a few shakes of white sesame seeds, and a few shakes of shiso furikake. I like mine spicy.

Spread rice about 1/3rd inch thick on all but bottom inch of nori wrapper (on top of a bamboo roller), lay a line of tuna filling across the middle of the rice, and roll.

This made 3 thin rolls. The smaller it is, the better for Ernie!

Chicken Katsu Rolls

microwaved chicken nuggets, cut into 1/2 inch strips

Prepare sushi wrapper as above, and make a line of chicken across. Roll.

(I know, I know...but really, these were yummy! And most of our friends have chicken nuggets in the freezer.)

Rhubarb-Raspberry Jam

We made a "freezer" jam today, with rhubarb and raspberries from my Mom's abundant and very large garden. (We've also discovered what happens when you never waste a new raspberry cane, but keep planting new rows. It's fantastic!) Ernie and I had a lot of fun picking berries this morning- the brambles were taller than the poor girl, but she still managed to get her fill of berries.

I think this might be my favorite "jam" recipe so far this year- it's not mind-blowingly sweet like other recipes and especially other raspberry jam recipes. The berries and rhubarb make a nice combination, too. I froze it in mason jars, topped with a canning ring and 4-ply plastic wrap. I was afraid to put boiling jam into Gladware containers.

This recipe is from the canning section of the 75th Anniversary Edition of the New Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, a much-loved member of my cookbook collection.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Jam
75th Anniversary Edition New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

6 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened sliced rhubarb
4 cups sugar
3 cups raspberries or one 12-ounce package frozen lightly sweetened red raspberries
1 3-ounce package raspberry-flavored gelatin (NOT sugar-free)

  1. In a large heavy kettle combine rhubarb and sugar. Let stand 15-20 minutes or until sugar is moistened. Bring to boiling. Boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add berries; return to boiling. Boil hard 5 to 6 minutes or until thick, stirring often. Remove from heat. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved.
  2. Lade into half-pint freezer containers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Seal;label. Let stand at room temperature until set. Store the jam up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator or 1 y ear in the freezer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Citrus Marmalade

This marmalade is from the Ball Blue Book of Canning- the reigning "Bible" of North American canning, with completely FDA approved recipes (important if you want to have the best chances of avoiding botuslism.)

I've seen similar recipes for this marmalade (also called GLO, for the three citrus ingredients) in other cookbooks.

Since this is only my second time canning solo, a few things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I started out with one fewer cup of sugar than called for, and was so sternly admonished by a cookbook I was flipping through to "Always use the amount of sugar called for" that I immediately dumped the final cup of sugar into my almost-gelled marmalade, which then seized up into something similar to Jell-O. I guess sugar helps things to gel properly? I have yet to make a recipe calling for additional pectin- both my attempts so far have used fruit high enough in natural pectin to not require additional. I wonder what it would be like to only cook something for 5 or 10 minutes, instead of stirring for an hour?

Also, when I went to take the jars out of the water canner, I realized it had NOT been simmering for the last 10 minutes. So I turned it up and let them simmer for an additional 10...and they'd been in an extra 10 waiting for the water to come to the initial simmer (that didn't last). So, the marmalade got some extra cooking at the end and came out very dark. But, all the jars sealed and nothing broke this time. So we're making progress! (And you can see that I didn't do a good job skimming the marmalade- I just can't stand throwing all that jam away! I saved what I did skim, and have been enjoying it on toast. Mmmm, foamy marmalade!)

Citrus Marmalade
Ball Blue Book of Canning

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced grapefruit peel (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup thinly sliced orange peel (about 1 medium)
3 quarts water, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped grapefruit pulp (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup chopped orange pulp (about one medium)
1/2 cup thinly sliced and seeded lemon (about 1 medium)

  1. Combine fruit peels and 1 1/2 quarts water; boil 5 minutes; drain.
  2. Add fruit pulp, sliced lemon and 1 1/2 quarts water; boil 5 minutes.
  3. Cover and let stand 12 to 18 hours in a cool place.
  4. Cook rapidly until peel is tender.
  5. Measure fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup fruit mixture, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  6. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Cook rapidly almost to gelling point. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  7. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cantaloupe Preserves

We tried a new recipe- Cantaloupe Preserves. And yes: Every.Single.Person I mentioned this to has said "I didn't know you could can cantaloupe!"

After our little experiment, I'm not convinced you really can.

I think next time I wouldn't leave the fruit sitting for so long- a LOT of water came out. Also, I'd taste it before adding all the sugar. It's unbelievably sweet- way too sweet for toast or biscuits. It might make a nice layer between cake, or maybe in a thumb print cookie. It's gorgeous to look at.

In general, preserves are created by mixing fruit with an equal amount of sugar and letting them sit till juices come out (enough to dissolve the sugar.) The mixture is then boiled together, and then can be left in shallow pans for the fruit to "plump up" before you can it.

The recipe was taken from the 1970's edition of the Kerr Home Canning & Freezing Book. I'm not even going to put it here, because I can't recommend it...but at least now you know! Cantaloupe CAN be canned. Just do it different than I did.

Next up: Grapefruit-Orange Marmalade

Friday, July 4, 2008

Danish Braid

This was our June Daring Baker's challenge, and it was AMAZING. Beyond amazing. Delicious. Life altering. (And yes, I'm saying that mostly to tease the family that I left behind on The Other Coast. Make it yourselves, and see if I'm telling the truth or not!)

Without further ado, here's the recipe we used (from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking) and some notes about Danish Braids. Please bear with me - this recipe IS long. If it wasn't slightly complicated, it wouldn't be much of a challenge, would it?! The results are amazing, and the process really isn't that difficult - just wordy. ;-)

Some History:
• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread.
• Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there.
• In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

Proofing Temperature For Fresh Dough
(room temp) For Refrigerated Dough
Degrees F Degrees C
70 ~ 21 1-1/2 to 2 hrs. 2-1/2 to 3 hrs.
75 ~ 24 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hrs. 2 to 2-1/2 hrs.
80 ~ 27 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
85 ~ 29 45 min. to 1 hr. 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.
90 ~ 32 45 min. 1 hr.

• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Simple Bread

I got this recipe from a comment on The Pioneer Woman- love it! (Comment #63) I make this recipe about twice a week.

Simple Bread
2 cups warm water
1 heaping Tablespoon yeast
1 heaping Tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour

1) In mixing bowl of Kitchen-Aid, proof the first three ingredients for 10 minutes.
2) Add salt and 4 cups flour (whole wheat or white), and mix with dough hook till mixture is well combined and not sticky. This takes a while- perhaps 5-10 minutes?
3) Add up to 2 cups more flour to dough, and continue to knead with the dough hook. I like to add a half cup at a time, and mix for a few minutes to see how it's doing. When I'm done, the dough is still sticky, but I'm able to scoop it out of the bowl to set on the counter. It's manageable.
4) Pull out the dough, spray the bowl with Pam, put the dough back, and spray the top with Pam. Roll it over a few times to make sure the whole thing is coated.
5) Cover with damp towel, set in a ward spot, and let rise to double. Punch down and form- rolls, pizza crust, focaccia, 2 bread loaves, etc.
6) Bake at 350 until done. My bread loaves take about 25 minutes.