Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Elaine: Gevulde Koek

OK...don't laugh but mine don't look pretty. Lets just say my frig is stuffed with food and I didn't chill the cookies before putting them in the oven. Big brain fart for taking this shortcut and not chilling my little gems before popping them in the oven. Maybe my pinch of baking soda was too whimpy of a pinch. They didn't seem to rise at all.Just turned into little almond pancakes...almost like those chinese almond cookies you see in the chinatown bakeries. Kate, yours look gorgeous. Mine on the other hand are complete rejects. But hey, they are delish! and thats all that matters to me...since its just me myself and i that will be eating them. By the time Mike gets home from his travels, they'll be all gone. When my frig is emptied out a little, I'm going to try chilling the cookies once fully assembled to get those crisp fluted ridges around the morsels.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Recipe 9: Gevulde Koek

These little almond cake/biscuits have to be one of my favourites. They are of Dutch origin and found in pretty much every bakery in The Netherlands. Gevulde Koek literally means filled cookie. Their filling is the most divine almond paste that I can eat straight out of the bowl. The other thing I love about them is they keep well for anything up to two weeks.....I hope you all like almonds, if not there is no reason why you couldnt substitute another nut, maybe hazelnuts? I have never experimented with them and doubt I would as to me they are perfect.
Technique wise I love baking them too. They involve a little rolling, cutting, piping and glazing, but all very simple.

For the dough
150g (1/3 cup + 2 T) butter
125g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
25g (1/2) egg dont be put off by the half you use the other half later. Thats if you can get your head around halving an egg.
5 ml (1 t) lemon juice
250g (2 cups) plain flour
good pinch of salt
good pinch of baking soda
2 eggs beaten
12 whole almonds

For the filling
130g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
130g (1/2 cup + 2 T) granulated sugar
75g (1 1/2 eggs)
1-2 drops of almond extract (optional)

Almond Filling
Combine all ingredients to form spreadable paste. This will keep in the fridge for two weeks if stored in an airtight container.
Biscuit Dough
Cream butter and sugar being careful not to overbeat.
Add the egg and lemon jiuce and mix until combined.
Lastly add the seived flour, salt, soda and mix until paste comes clean off the bowl, once again dont overmix.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerrate for 30 mins or over night.
On a lightly floured surface roll the pastry out into a sheet about 3-4mm thick. Using a 7cm crinkled cutter cut 12 rounds out and place on lightly greased or lined baking sheet. Leave about 2cm between each biscuit.
Using the rest of the dough, rerolling if necessary, cut out a further 12 rounds but using an 8cm cutter. Set aside.

Pipe almond filling using a plain piping tube onto the 7cm rounds. (approx 25g (1oz) per biscuit...ive never wighed but it could help to see how much 25g looks like. Leave a border of pastry filling free.
Lay 8cm discs on top and gently press down edges avoiding locking air in. ( I am never firm enough as my edges often raise up).
Paint lightly beaten egg wash ( made from 2 egg yolks) over each biscuit then press on a whole almond on top and brush again with egg wash.

Place directly into a preheated oven at 205 C (405 F) and bake for 12-14 mins until lightly browned. Allow to cool sloghtly and then remove with a spatula onto a wire rack.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kate: Steamed Pork Buns and Shu Mai

I decided to marinate some pork myself as I had several failed trips to chinatown to get it. It was a blessing in disguise. I found a great recipe http://www.whats4eats.com/recipes/r_me_charsiu.html
It was simple and the pork, straight out of the oven tasted fantastic. So good that its a suprise any made it into the buns.
The dough preparation went more smoothly than I anticipated. It rose wonderfully and then once again after being filled. Infact after the second rise I realised I'd used far too much dough for each bun but they would be Ok providing they stayed that way. Unfortunately they didnt. They continued to rise whilst cooking...is that bizarre? They ended up the size of a head, each. I also found it difficult to work out if they were cooked, the dough appeared damp on the outside but when cut they were properly cooked. So I think used far too much yeast or dough for each bun, probably both. I followed your recipe Jer using 3 x 7g sachets of yeast, is that a similar weight to your packets?

I prepared the mixture for some Shu mai at the same time and had Hugo as my little helper. They were good and thankfully steamed far better than the buns. They were also a great, rainy, sunday afternoon activity.

Elaine: Steamed Pork Buns

Three weeks later...I finally got to the pork buns. Sorry Jer. I didn't realize it would be such an effort to get bbq pork. Anyway, I sauteed onions and added it into the pork filling. I am the ultimate "over-stuffer"...wontons, turnovers, ravioli, you name it. So I decided to make these last night at 10 pm. Once I filled them all and put square parchment paper under each cute little bun, I let them rest for 1 hr to let them rise again. But got too tired to steam them up. Went to bed. Woke up this morning and hoped that they would still be as perky as they were last night. Wrong! They all fell, bbq pork filling was seeping out of the bottom of some of the buns. But I still steamed them up.
I think if they hadn't deflated overnite, the steamed bread would have been nice and fluffy. But it was a little tougher than I would have wanted. I think I would add lots more sugar into the next batch I make. The consistency of the filling was perfect though. Sam loved it for breakfast.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Student in the Kitchen

After my move to Chicago, I hadn't taken any cooking classes since my addiction to classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. But last week I headed to the French Pastry School to take a 3 day Chocolate and Sugar Candies class from 4-9pm. It was taught by Sebastien Canonne, Pastry Chef of the Year in 2004. Everyone in this class had been to professional culinary school and were all working at either top hotel or restaurant kitchens. And then there was me, the stay at home mom...hahaha. Tempering chocolates and working with melted sugars really intimidated me and I was ready to overcome my fear. .
Working with chocolates and sugar candies is high maintenance. Precise temperature control was the key. I really wasn't used to babysitting my pot with constant whisking and constant thermometer patrol. A temp under the target temp will create a candy that will not set, a little over and the ganache will separate or the sugar will burn. Learning how to use industrial chocolate equipment to dipping ganache in tempered chocolate by hand was so dreamy to me. I was in heaven. People must have thought I was on X...with this constant shit grin on my face and moans from licking everything around me...my finger...my spatula...my pot. I wasn't about to leave my cooking tools dripping with yummy morsels of ganache, caramel, or fruity gumminess for the dish washer. We made ganache that were dipped in dark chocolate or piped into chocolate shells: peanut butter, hazelnut praline, lemon, coffee, pistachio cinnamon. We made salted caramels and chocolate caramels; mint, ginger and lemon marshmallows; traditional French nougat; and my favorite of all ... Pate de Fruits: pear vanilla, passionfruit, cassis, and raspberry.

I took home so much chocolate and sugar candies, I didn't know what to do with it all. I can't stop thinking and talking about my class and look forward to attempting some of these recipes at home. I'll definitely be taking another class from the French Pastry School. It was really nice to be around people in the industry. I highly recommend looking for cooking classes to take. I forgot how much I enjoy being a student in these culinary schools.

Jer: Steamed Pork Buns & Shu Mai (Recipe 8)

I am nostalgic for my paternal grandmother. She had a way of loving you and being really tough on you, all at once. My family on the Castillo side is going through a tough time on a number of fronts and I can’t help but feel that if she were still with us she’d know how to make it all right.

Her name was Patria, but we affectionately called her “Lola,” which means grandmother in Tagalog (the official language of the Philippines). It was in her kitchen that I learned how food can bind friends and family as well as create memories that last long after one has passed on. I was a rambunctious teenager in her final years and I had my fair share of arguments with Lola just before she became sick. Sometimes I wonder if I cook to be closer to her and to atone for some of my adolescent meanness. I imagine her looking down on me and smiling when I’m alone in the kitchen cooking a meal for a Castillo family party or when I’m teaching a sister or some of my younger cousins how to prepare a particular dish. Certainly she scoffs when I do something wrong or when I throw good food in the trash. Like many people from the old country, she hated waste.

My grandfather left a relatively high-ranking position in the Philippine government to bring our entire family to California. As most immigrant stories begin, there was a time when more than ten and at one point, up to 15 of us --aunts, uncles, grandchildren, and grandparents-- lived together in a single suburban tract home, fighting over the one television, the last liter of Coca Cola, leftovers, the shower. To make ends meet, Lola would prepare specialty Filipino foods and sell them to the local Asian markets. Uncle Ben, their next door neighbor who I have called “uncle” my entire life, owned one of the better known local markets and she began at first by selling to him, and over time to others in the area. Sometimes she’d let the grandchildren help out. These were joyous times for me - sitting at her dining table, cutting pulveron (a crumbly butter cookie, like shortbread, but flakier) and wrapping them with brightly colored tissue paper, or making delicate dumplings for her famous pancit molo (a delicious dumpling and meat broth soup that we’d savor at midnight every Christmas and New Year’s Eve and on other special occasions), or rolling fresh and fried lumpia (similar to the fresh Vietnamese spring roll and fried Thai spring roll, respectively). All of this was punctuated by more than a little giggling with my sisters and cousins. Lola would come around and spank our hands if we were doing something wrong or remind us that we were working too slow or wasting wonton wrappers. On occasion, she would tell my left-handed cousins that their dumplings were not as good because they were rolled or pinched in the wrong direction. Tough love, yes. But when you brought her a beautifully rolled dumpling or lumpia and could see the pride in her face, you couldn’t help but be the happiest little girl for the rest of the afternoon.

Lola would have turned 80 tomorrow. Lolo, our grandfather and Lola’s husband, is 2 days younger. As we celebrate his birthday this weekend, I am sure Lola will be at the party too, probably shaking her head because the food has been ordered from a catering company as opposed to someone in the family making it themselves. Last week we hosted an ad hoc dinner party which was attended by my sister Rachel, two of my cousins, and two close friends. Since my sister and cousins were there, I wanted to celebrate Lola, and we did so with a dim sum feast. As a result, for our group’s recipe #8, I thought we could all make siopao (steamed pork bun, or Chinese char siu bao; found in any self respecting Chinese bakery) and shu mai (steamed dumplings). Elaine assured me that everyone in the group cooks Asian food and would therefore have some, if not all, the required condiments. The steamed pork bun dough recipe is Lola’s. I remember sneaking bites of her uncooked dough and enjoying the cooked treasures straight out of her commercial sized steamer. The filling recipe is that of my Auntie Harriet’s mother (in a small world story, she is also my grandfather’s second wife (after our Lola passed) or our “Lola Viado”). A lovely woman and wonderful cook who joined my Lola a few years ago. The shu mai recipe comes from my dear friend Kaoru. I would love it if she told me her grandmother handed this recipe down to her. I don’t know if that is the case, but it makes me smile to think of another happy lola, this time in Japan, smiling down on all of us as we enjoy her century-old dumplings.

Siopao (steamed pork bun or Chinese char siu bao)

2 cups warm water
3 packages yeast
¼ C shortening
1 C sugar
6 C flour

Disolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, cover and let sit for a few minutes. Add in rest of the ingredients. Knead until smooth, adding more flour if needed. Cover with damp cloth and let rise (~45 minutes).

10 oz bbq pork (buy pre-cooked and chop up)
3 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
1 T sesame oil
1 T flour
1 T corn starch
½ C stock or cold water

Dilute corn starch in stock or water. Mix all ingredients together. Cook until sauce thickens.

Cut off a decently sized chunk of dough. Ball, flatten, then roll out using extra flour if needed. Add filling to center and close up ball by pinching sides together. Place on square of parchment paper (Filipinos place them pinched side down whereas Chinese cooks make them pinched side up, sometimes with openings or sections that are not completely closed). Cover with damp cloth and let rise again. Steam for ~20 minutes and enjoy right away with a cold Asian beer to wash it down.

Shu Mai (the best dumpling recipe I have tried at home)

1 # ground beef (don’t use a cut that is too lean)
1 # ground pork
1 # fresh shrimp (chopped well but not fine nor ground)
1 medium onion (minced or grated on a cheese grater)
6 T potato starch (found in any baking aisle)
2.5 t salt
3 T sugar
Dash of pepper
1 T sake
1 T sesame oil
1 t soy sauce

Mix together, don’t over-mix as you will toughen meat. Place on wonton or shu mai wrappers (which are thinner and smaller). Smush down so they’re wrapped tight and sit upright on their own. You want the top to be open. Steam (place cabbage leaves or oil on steamer bottom to prevent sticking). Eat with asian mustard and soy sauce (TJ’s has a nice wasabi mustard that worked perfectly)

If having a dim sum party, make the filling ahead of time and have the group prepare the dumplings and steam in batches throughout the night while sipping sake or plum wine. That’s what we did and we had a blast – reminiscing about our grandmother, laughing about some of the recent (and silly) antics of our grandfather, and calling sisters and cousins on the speaker phone in between batches.

If you’re in the mood for more, like I was, here is Kaoru’s Chinese Sticky Rice recipe. Nelson (in the photo below) gobbled his up so fast. We all loved it.

Chinese Sticky Rice

3 C Japanese sweet rice (soak overnight)
2 C broth
Shitake mushrooms, chopped (if using dried, save broth)
1 medium carrot, minced
1 small can bamboo shoots, minced
1/2 # pork (not ground), minced and soaked in grated ginger
1/2 # ground pork (also soaked with grated ginger)
1 T sake
1 t salt
2 T soy sauce

Stir fry meat. Add vegetables and cook (can also add shrimp, peas, etc.). Add rice and cook After a few minutes, add broth and other ingredients. Cook until rice has absorbed liquid. Wrap portions in tin foil and steam for 20 minutes.

We finished the night off with coconut tapioca and piping hot green tea. I used the tapioca recipe on the back of the ubiquitous red box but substituted half of milk portion with coconut milk. Delicious. After a 20 minute break we broke out the green tea ice cream and ginger ice cream.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cath: Spanish Tortilla

So, I've procrastinated long enough posting this...mainly because I got totally obsesso and ended up making the tortilla three times this week! It always tasted good but the first two I did in a cast iron skillet and and they ended up sticking and looking terrible. Last night's version I did in a nonstick--so much for whatever horrible carcinogens supposedly leach out of Teflon...it did make it so much easier! As I became more familiar with the recipe, I decided to use two pans...one really big one in the beginning to cook the onion and potato and then the 9 or 10-inch nonstick to actually make the omelette. The first time I tried to do everything in that one cast iron and it was a mess--the potatoes on the bottom burned and the ones on top wouldn't cook. It was definitely easier once I had a bigger pan and things could cook more evenly and I had room to stir from time to time (using a heat-resistant rubber spatula so I didn't tear up the potatoes too much). Anyhoo. Here's a pic of my prettiest tortilla...Kate, I stole your idea and put parsley in the middle!

My only real compaint with this recipe is I wish it specified a weight for the potatoes instead of just a number. I'm sure once you get the hang of it you just know what the appropriate amount looks like but for novice tortilla makers it would be nice! I used medium Yukons and Rob thought maybe it was a little too potato-y. There were definitely bites that were all slippery potato slices and very little egg binding them. I read on one of those links that it's supposed to be more about the potato than the egg but I'd maybe use one less potato next time...or just smaller ones...

As for sides...one night I made the shrimp from that recipe I posted. Really good but I'd recommend getting them cleaned beforehand if you want it to be a quick dish! Then one night (yes, poor Rob...he's begging me at this point..."no more tortilla!") I stayed super-simple and did asparagus roasted with Parmesan. Then last night I tried one of those chicken recipes from The Spanish Table...you make a rub with saffron, paprika, garlic, sea salt and olive oil and then stuff orange quarters in the cavity. Yummy but I'd tweak that one too...instead of combining the olive oil with the spices beforehand I'd cover the chicken with olive oil and then rub the spices in. As it's written most of the spices slide off. Then I made a salad with baby arugula, toasted almonds, slivered dates and shaved Manchego. Dressing was sherry vinegar and olive oil. So tapas-y in spirit but not really tapas...but good!