Bakery/Pastry

DIM SUM MONTH FINALE: Tapenade short ribs, plus dim sum party game plan

AT LAST, DIM SUM MONTH FINALE…

WHAT:  Beef short ribs in super garlicky tapenade sauce, an adaptation of a classic dimsum item – pork ribs with fermented black beans but with an American/European twist.

WHY:  The unexpectedly supple texture of the beef (thanks to baking soda) melting gorgeously into a pool of bold and complex mixture of flavors, a revelation that can be easily prepared ahead of time and cooks in under 8 min.

HOW:  For both flavors and accessibility, I have swapped the traditionally used diced pork ribs with the more luscious and rich-tasting beef short ribs, and Chinese fermented black beans with the equally bold and forward black olives.  Trust me, if I may say so myself, the reinvented combination works even better than tradition.  The surprisingly tender and velvety texture of the beef – achieved by adding just a tiny pinch of baking soda into the marinate – disintegrates in your mouth in a medley of perfectly orchestrated flavours that you didn’t even know would go together.  Black olives, strawberry jam, soy sauce, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, and a depth created by using both raw and fried garlics.  It’s easy to put together, and a cinch to cook in a blink of an eye.  You’ll wonder where it’s been your whole life.

Now, simply follow the instructions below on how to throw a hassle-free dim sum party!

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DIM SUM MONTH: CHARSIU PULL-APART PINEAPPLE BUN

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  The new poster child of dim sum-scape in Hong Kong, the char siu pineapple buns, pull-apart style!

WHY:  Do you need to reason to eat a soft, squishy bun stuffed with sweet char siu pork and topped with crunchy “pineapple” crusts?  The entirety of happiness all in one bite, pillowy, crunchy, salty, sweet, gooey, porky and buttery?  Do ya?

HOW:  Burn all the other recipes that are dumbed down and one-dimensional.  Here’s a thorough recipe to show you how to make them like a pro, either with fresh pork shoulders (my preference), or with store-bought char siu pork.  But what really makes this recipe different is how the delicate balance of flavors are re-imagined.  Instead of the typical, cornstarch-thickened sauce that screams boring, we are going to re-create the stickiness by mixing in honey, ground dates and dried strawberries.  Not only do they provide a natural gooey-ness, they also bring a hidden fruity tone to the flavor-profile, making these sweet and salty buns unstoppably addictive.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer, and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

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JAPAN + SRIRACHA SENBEI, Japanese gluten-free rice crackers

I’m stalling on this post, about our trip to Japan, or more accurately, Osaka, Kyoto and Kurokawa.  This happens sometimes, either when the trip itself was too brief, or in this case, even with a sufficient duration to ponder, I find the place… difficult to compute.  Truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Japan.  Mixed, but not foreign.  After all, I’m from Taiwan, hardly a stranger.  Since awareness I guess, Japan has been a place with unescapable elements everywhere deep inside its social fabrics that, to me, are both deeply seductive and also repulsive.  It’s a festival of confusions, to say the least, the reason why Lost in Translation was transcribed here, and perhaps the reason why I hesitated to come for years.  I didn’t know if I was more afraid to love it, or hate it, and either way, why did that matter?  I wasn’t sure of the answer either.  It’s a country where people pay for their dinner through vending machines, but spend hours drinking a cup of tea.  The country runs on the most highly efficient and developed system of high-speed rail that few others can compete, but the information kiosk of which, in the Osaka station, is still being organized in old-school filers.  It’s a country that is famed for its obsession in cleanliness and manners, but one of the few still left in the developed world where I have to endure second-hand smokes in restaurants.  A culture that is widely associated with its quiet, distilled form of beauty, that wabi-sabi life, and yet, the major cities within which are wild labyrinths of neon lights and carnivals of giant moving octopuses.

Slow, fast.  Quiet, loud.  Polite, yet perversive.  Allures, and frustrations.  Which one is true?  Or perhaps all is.

A country that thrives in contradictions.

I didn’t know what to make of it.  I still don’t.

I wanted to, like everyone else, just focus on its beauties, which are nothing but pure pleasures.  The yakitori (skewered/grilled chicken) in Wabiya Korekido in Kyoto comes close to an art form.  The beef heart sashimi from Maru in Osaka could not have been the revelation that it is anywhere else.  The amount of philosophy that goes into making a bowl of ramen cries for admiration.  A dip into the tinglingly warm hot spring, the liquid silk that percolates from deep within earth in the stillness that is Kurokawa, it is hard, real hard, not to fall for it all.

But with every enjoyments, comes with a blinding contradiction that seemed to overturn the previous experience.  Was my experience authentic rituals, or rehearsed theatrics.  Was this a sanctuary, or a theme park?  What the world is infatuated about Japanese’s deeply philosophical way of life, was that even a real part of their lives, or just advertisements?  Or maybe they are two of the same thing, a double-sided mirror.

I’m sure most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.  I have failed to explain it, and for that I’m going to stop.

Maybe Japan was never something to be understood, but to be pondered upon.  Was never a maze, but growth-rings on a black pine trunk.

To get it, I gotta eat more ramen.

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MY HEAD, PLUS CHRISTMAS SPICE MOCHI BREAD BABKA

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LIFE IS A GREAT ADVENTURE… ACCEPT IT IN SUCH A SPIRIT

Theodore Roosevelt


OK, so I’m bald.

Wait, right, fine.  Technically, not yet.

I just buzzed my hair off.  Why?

Before you say it, this is not a Britney-style meltdown.  Okay?

This is Jarhead.  It’s war, and the enemy must be eliminated.  But the enemy in this case – is myself.  If you’re still interested, read on.

But before I start, I just want to apologize for making such a fuss in the past two weeks, sounding alarmingly distressed and melodramatic.  That was me then.  That is not me right now, as we speak.  Now, in hindsight, even the idea of making a public display of my buzz feels acutely self-absorbed if not stupid, but having said that, I still owe you an explanation.  So please know that whatever you read off of this, that it is in the context about hair, the nerve-less fibers that grow in ways without or without our consent and sometimes utter rudely.  So if I sound like I’m being superficial anywhere in the story, I may have been.  Well, here we go.

 

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A BETTER POPOVER/YORKSHIRE PUDDING RECIPE

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WE CAN ALL USE A LITTLE BETTER

It can be depressing today, either for political or personal reasons (for me, both).  So let’s not talk.  Let’s just all, perhaps, realize something about ourselves and others today with, if you can, kindness and faith.

I saw this recipe on a Bon Appetite’s special baking issue, and it has proven to be much superior than my previous Yorkshire pudding recipes.  Mainly, because it allows me to completely forgo the “resting stage” that I had emphasized so strongly before, and that is because this batter is mixed with simmering milk which has prevented the gluten from forming by partially cooking the flour.  No more resting.  This batter can go straight from being mixed to being baked, into the glorious, optimistic, better puffs that they are.

I can we can all use a little better today.

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A BETTER POPOVER/YORKSHIRE PUDDING RECIPE

Yield: 5~7 depending on size

Adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine. I've made several small changes to the recipe because it worked better for me, and I listed the grated cheese as optional because I want the flavour of these to stay neutral, that it can go with sweet or savoury. But if you really like the idea of it, then do it :)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (242 grams) half-half, or whole milk
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup +1 tbsp (103 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp (22 grams) cornstarch, or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup (17 grams) grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Depending on whether your oven comes with the fan-on option or not, preheat the oven on 375 F/190 C fan-on, or 400 F/200 C no-fan. Meanwhile, whisk together half-half (or whole milk), light brown sugar and sea salt in a small pot, and heat over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. While the milk is heating, beat large eggs inside a large, easy-to-pour jar or container. Once the milk's ready, slowly pour it into the eggs while whisking vigorously (must be slow and keep whisking otherwise the eggs may get cooked). Then add the flour and cornstarch, and whisk until just combined (tiny lumps here and there is fine). If you're using grated cheddar, add now and whisk until combined.
  2. Generously butter each popover pan, or muffin pan, or individual tin cups with about 1 1/2 tsp of butter, then bake in the oven for about 3~5 min when the butter is starting to brown slightly. Pour the batter into the mold until about 50% full, then bake in the oven for 15 min. Then turn the heat down to 350 F/175 F FAN OFF, and bake for another 20~25 min. During this whole time, do not open the oven door. If the color of the popovers are getting too dark in the last few min, turn the heat down a bit. The popovers must be baked for at least 35~45 min in total depending on their sizes, otherwise they might deflate afterwards.
  3. Remove the popovers/yorkshire puddings from the molds. They can be eaten as is, or "stuffed" with sweet fillings (such as chocolate mouse, custard, buttercream etc).
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/11/10/a-better-popoveryorkshire-pudding-recipe/
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EGG FLORENTINE IN PULLMAN “BOWLS”, FOR CYNTHIA

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WE ARE GOING TO DISCREETLY PAN-FRY THESE IN AN INDECENT AMOUNT OF BUTTER, UNTIL THEY ARE PRACTICALLY SOAKED ON THE INSIDES, AND DELICIOUSLY CRISPY AND GOLDEN ON THE OUTSIDES.

YOU KNOW, THE BUTTER-EXUDING CRUNCH?

Have you seen Ben Stiller’s movie, While We’re Young?  Well, if you haven’t, there’s no need to really.  Given that it has its moments here and there, all in all, it’s not entirely spectacular.  But the reason that I’m bringing it up is because – well, equally as unspectacular and unrelating to the majority demographic – I’m kind of in the same pickle.

I’m 36 years old, and very early on in life, I have made a very conscious decision not to have children.  I’m happy married, stable, as far as I know, reproductively unchallenged and relatively speaking, mentally healthy, and I consider myself an affectionate if not responsible dog-parent.  So as I said, the decision is a very deliberate one and the reasons for which, well lets just say, don’t quite belong in this post.  Uh, ok whatever, might you add, but where’s my fucking pickle?  Well, this is where the movie might be more articulate, not to say much more entertaining, in illustrating my quandary.  Thing is, most of our friends, with all due respect and our best wishes, have buckled together on the baby-train and exited through the other side of the crossroad in life in sort of a Groupon strategy, leaving us, a bit unprepared, in a social limbo.

That’s correct.  We are them, the friends without children.  The awkward pre-middle-aged couple who didn’t get the memo that, at this point in life, a dinner party that ends at 10 pm on a Saturday night, however frisky with all the right signals to assume more, is the end of the program.  Where to next?  Theirs kids’ swimming lesson at 8 am the next morning, and our party equivalent of blue balls that night iced with yet another Netflix binging.  But listen, I get it.  People’s priorities change as life evolves, and as their friends, we shall respect that.  Which is exactly why it’s ok that the number of friends to call for a drink and their level of energy to participate is together in a fierce race to hit the bottom.  And the rule that there are things that just shouldn’t be placed in close proximity, such as fire and curtains, me and donuts, and in this instance, conversations and this thing called the baby monitors, are more frequently being broken.  Which is why, I’m not filing a complaint, but to simply say, oops.

But why now?

It may seem totally self-absorbed and obnoxious to bring this up at a baby shower.  Yes, this is a baby shower!, for my friend Cynthia who just gave birth to their baby boy Luke!  And seriously, earnestly, for Cynthia who has been one of the most amazing human beings I know of (She’s a full-time lawyer/woman/wife/daughter-in-law/blogger/then pregnant/now mother, I mean do you feel me!), I wish them all the exuberating enthusiasms and my best positivism at this special moment in their lives.  Reading her unpackaged words of tenderness and content, as a dog-mom, whether anybody disputes it or not, I can relate.  So I am happy, for her.  Even though it means that soon after, I will have to hang outside a 24/7 convenience store, asking strangers if they want to break a donut with me.

To celebrate Two Red Bowl’s baby birthday and our social demise, I have prepared, in the theme of bowls, egg florentine in pullman “bowls” with burnt butter hollandaise.  Well, more box than bowl but you know what I mean, and let’s not forget that this is a very cute and kid-friendly idea, no?… (or that I’m more out of sync with the other side of the world than I realize).  The original inspiration comes from a Taiwanese street-food where they deep-fry a cutout box of pullman bread then fill it with seafood chowder.  But that’d be just wrong for moms and kids, right?, totally irresponsible.  So for the sake of the health of our next generation of pillars of the world, we are only going to discreetly pan-fry these in an indecent amount of butter until they are practically soaked inside and deliciously crispy and golden on the outside.  You know, the butter-exuding crunch?  And with the next point, don’t say that I don’t understand raising children, because we are going to cut out a hole on top, and hide a healthy pile of garlic spinach with a bed of creamy Laughing Cow’s spreadable cheese.  Bribery.  Yeah.  I know all about that.  Then finally, we top each bowls – or what I would like to imagine as little boxed presents from Yummy Town – with bursting soft-boiled eggs and a lava-waterfall of my foolproof, burnt butter hollandaise sauce.

Each bite is a fluent, harmonic dance of crispy and runny, crunchy and creamy, buttery and buttery yet there’s spinach.  Big “bowls” for parents, small bowls for children, and baby Luke gets to suck the runny yolks.  I’ve got all grounds covered.  So.  Next weekend.  Can we exploit the only benefit of the in-laws, and let’s hit bar?

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SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL PIE

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A SERIOUSLY FLAKEY PIE

WITH BLUEBERRIES SCENTED WITH FLORAL SICHUAN PEPPERCORNS, MYSTERIOUS AND SUBTLE, AND CREAMY OATMEAL ON THE BOTTOM TO SOAK IT ALL UP

Easy as pie.  I’m sorry.  Was that supposed to be funny?

Pies are anything but easy.  In fact, it took me two years of really, really, humiliatingly sucking at it; and another three years of total denials and nightmarish phobias; and then another year to pick up the pieces of my self-esteem to try again; and then, finally then, last week, before landing on something that I feel happy enough to share with behind closed door.  And today, six years plus a couple tweaks later, to talk about it openly on the internet.  This recipe is my collected wisdoms on pie-making from years of failures and heartbreaks (think those pies as a house presented with a giant sink hole, sewage flooding and electrical fire, all at the same time).

What it is, is a seriously flakey pie, like no-kiddingly flakey, with blueberries scented with a mysterious, floral tone from sichuan peppercorns that is subtle but distinct, and a bed of creamy oatmeals to soak it all up.  The sichuan peppercorns are not gonna make you go “Chinese food!“, ok?, it won’t.  It just perfumes the pie.  And the oatmeals not only prevents the whole “sewage flooding” issue, but is also texturally more superior than gloppy, cornstarch-thickened mess.  In fact, from now on whenever you bake a fruit pie, I suggest you blanket a layer of this on the bottom.  It is thirsty for the collapse of your fruits.

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Now, as a general rule of thumb…  For those people who were born with mutated abilities to make perfect pies since birth, this may not be a big deal.  But I gather that there are also those out there like me with this specific genetic defect, that they might appreciate some tips.  And my tips on How To Not Fuck Up A Pie is – Go Gollum.  A certain conversation amongst “ourselves” should take place inside our head, to remind us every step of the way that, forget one, it all goes to shit.  And my conversation goes like this:

  1.  We wants the butter cold.  We needs the butter cold.
  2.  No “peas”.  Hate peas.  Big, flat diskses of butter created by hands resembling thick coins, are the precious to a super flakey dough.
  3.  Vinegar.  Yes, vinegar works.  Yes.
  4.  Cold.  Liquid, cold.  Everything cold.
  5.  Don’t knead the dough.  It’s better to use plastic-wraps to bring it into disks!  Tricksy.
  6.  The dough.  Cold.  Before doing anything stupid.  Cold
  7.  Cooked fruits are just fruitses but less good.  And mushy.  Whenever we can, add flavors.
  8.  I don’t know where you come from, Smeagol, but “soup” is not a friend of pie.  You want fruit soup, go juice.  This is a pie.  Soak it up.
  9.  Do not bake until the entire pie is COLD!  Motherfucking cold.  Don’t make me.
  10.  Finally, did we do all this for soggy lower crust?  No, no we did not.  Bottom of the oven, 15 min.

Taken that these kind of schizophrenic talks are not always the most well-composed, I’ve detailed every single steps in the recipe-instructions to help you out a bit.  I hope it serves you well.

Happy go pie.

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SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL PIE

Ingredients

    PIE CRUST: adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
  • 2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp (15 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
  • 3 tbsp (45 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • SICHUAN PEPPERCORN BLUEBERRY OATMEAL FILLING:
  • 3 cups (460 grams) blueberry
  • 5 tbsp (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 cup (95 grams) quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tbsp (28 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (26 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) whole milk
  • TO BAKE:
  • 1 egg wash
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. PREPARE PIE CRUST: You can make the pie crust with food-processor, pastry-cutter, or stand-mixer. But I find that the most flakey crust results from the FLAT pieces of butter created by hands. So. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, light brown sugar and salt. Cut unsalted butter into large pieces, add into the bowl and coat each evenly with flour. With your fingers, create large, flat pieces of butter by rubbing them off of the large chunks. Each time you rub, coat the butter with lots of flour, and the largest pieces should be about the size of large, THICK coins, until you have something that looks like the first photo.
  2. Mix water, apple cider vinegar and ice cubes in a bowl. Scatter 8 tbsp of the liquid into the flour-mixture while fluffing with a fork, then bring the dough together by gently folding and pressing it with your hands. It should be very shaggy, and quite dry with lots of loose crumbs. But if the dough has difficulty coming together (very "sandy"), add 1~2 tbsp more liquid.
  3. Now, don't further knead the dough to try to bring the tiny loose crumbs together (and making it tough). Instead, lay a large piece of plastic-wrap on the counter. Transfer 2/5 of the dough-mixture onto the center of wrap, then bring the sides together until you have a tightly wrapped ball. Press down until it's flattened into a thick disk, then set aside in the fridge. Repeat with the remaining 3/5 of the dough. Let the dough hydrate/chill for at least 30 min, or it can be made the day ahead.
  4. PREPARE FILLING: In one bowl, toss together blueberry, granulated sugar, lemon juice and ground sichuan peppercorns. In another bowl, mix quick oats, dark brown and granulated sugar until even. Transfer 1/4 cup of the oatmeal-mixture into the blueberry and toss evenly. Then add whole milk to the remaining oatmeal-mixture and mix until resembling wet sand. Set both aside.
  5. MAKE/BAKE PIE: Take the larger disk of dough out of the fridge and leave the other chilled. Transfer onto a floured surface and roll it out into a slightly thinner than 1/4" (0.5 cm) sheet. Drape the sheet over your rolling pin, then transfer into a pie pan. Gently press it to fit the pan, then cut off the excess dough around the edge. Scatter the oatmeal-mixture on the bottom in a single layer, then top with the blueberry-mixture. Take the smaller disk out of the fridge, onto a floured surface, then roll it out into the same thickness (you can now do cutouts or patterns that you like). Brush the rim of the lower pie crust with egg wash, then drape the top crust over and gently pinch the edges to seal.
  6. Now CHILL YOUR PIE IN THE FREEZER FOR AT LEAST 30 MIN!!. Start preheating the oven AFTER you form the pie, so it forces you to wait for the pie to chill properly, which is paramount. Now, preheat the oven on 365 F/185 C.
  7. Brush the entire pie surface with egg wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake in the middle rack for 25 min, then move the pie to sit right at the very bottom of the oven and bake for another 15 min (this gives you that nice crispy bottom-crust instead of soggy one).
  8. Let cool for 15 min, then serve with scoops of ice creams (blueberry!).

Notes

The sweetness level of this pie lands on the mild side, as how I like it. If you want sweeter pie, add more sugar to the blueberries in Step 4.

http://ladyandpups.com/2016/09/07/sichuan-peppercorn-blueberry-oatmeal-pie/

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France Part II, and chicken w/ morels and rice pilaf

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ONE OF THE BEST DISHES I COOKED.

I AGREE.

Lourmarin is what it promises, a picturesque village in the Luberon region in Provence, and more.

No matter what kind of cynicism you bring along, or distaste for anything that seems to fit too squarely into Martha Stewart magazines, you come here, you see it, and it’s hard not to surrender, even just for a moment, under Lourmarin’s somewhat curated but irresistible, undeniable charm.  We arrived at 7 o’clock in a summer evening when this village draped with honeysuckle vines and buzzing bumble bees were casted under a slanted, pale blue light.  With just one deep breath of its brisk, floral and light beige linen atmosphere, everything felt just right.  May I even remind you that this was after 9 hours of driving from Lyon cutting through the gruesome, annual European migration to the south in the middle of August?  If it weren’t for the highlight of us stopping midway at an orchard, and me may-or-may-not having stolen a bright red apple and ran, the day would’ve all seem to be in ruin.

That ain’t pretty.  But Lourmarin made it worthwhile.

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(may or may not have stolen an apple from here…)

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