Bakery/Pastry

BIALY STUFFED W/ CREAM CHEESE AND HONEY DATES

SWEET GIRL BIALY, WHO CARRIES SOMETHING WITHIN HER HEART WHEREAS IN A BAGEL, IT’S JUST AN UTTERLY HOLLOW HOLE

What’s a bialy, if you don’t already know?

I’d like to think of bialy as the ugly sister of bagel, who comes without the shiny crust nor a robust PR campaign, but, in my opinion, ultimately wins hearts and minds through slow and quiet diplomacy.  Or at least it should, if only in your kitchen.  Think about it.  Bialy and bagel practically shares the same dough, which isn’t a difficult one if I might add, but that’s about as much sameness as bagel’s gonna tolerate from her sibling.  Not a fault of her own, but bagel, being held to her finicky New Yorker status and all, is somewhat of a… hm what’s that word… right, bitch.

You didn’t “retard” the dough in the fridge for 2 days, not a bagel.  You didn’t boil it, not a bagel.  Didn’t boil it long enough, not a bagel.  Boiled in the wrong water, not a bagel.  Can’t use her crust as a mirror, not a bagel.  Too soft, not a bagel.  Too hard, not a bagel.  Lives in Montreal, definitely not a bagel.

But you see, bialy on the other hand, ah, sweet girl bialy… whether by virtue or as a necessary strategy for unpopularity, is very low maintenance.  Without exuding much judgements, she doesn’t mind being taken on a speed date, from kneading to baking, all under as short as 4 hours of your time (well, a bit longer if you live somewhere dry and cold, I mean, a lady’s gotta keep warm).  And surprising to whom care to look beyond the lack of a glamorous shine, her lightly browned exterior is thin but not without character, in fact, delicately crusty if you cherish it warm out of the oven as one should.  Then you’ll notice that her soft but chewy crumbs remind you so much of a bagel that you wonder if it’s really worth pursuing the other.  But perhaps the most heart-winning gesture from bialy is that she does, actually, carry something within her heart, a filled crater in the center whereas in a bagel, it’s an utterly hollow hole.  —- OK.. usually some sort of onions with poppy seeds kind of stuff and let’s admit that none of it is very chic and if anybody needs a before/after it’s this poor girl —-  In this case, I say why not, honey and butter coated sweet dates bedded within softly whipped cream cheese.  Right, you may think that’s rather odd against that whiff of onion powder being mixed into the dough which gives the bread a hint of savoriness, but no, it’s not.  That’s what’s surprising about this bialy, sweet and creamy but not without her savory core, soft to the touch but playfully chewy throughout, a bit of confliction but just the right amount.

Ultimately, the one you’ve been looking for.

BIALY STUFFED W/ CREAM CHEESE AND HONEY DATES

Yield: 5 bialy

Dough recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen and King Author Flour combined

Ingredients

    DOUGH:
  • 2 cups (275 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (165 grams) water
  • 1 1/2 tsp (8 grams) sea salt
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • cornmeal o semolina flour for shaping
  • STUFFING:
  • 7~8 large dates
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tbsp cream cheese, lightly whipped
  • white sesame seeds to sprinkle

Instructions

  1. PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, knead bread flour, water, sea salt, light brown sugar, instant dry yeast and onion powder on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn to high speed and knead for another 8 minutes until the dough is very elastic and smooth. The dough should feel soft, moist and slightly tacky, light a baby's bottom, but pulls away cleanly from the bowl when the machine is running. If the dough feels tough and rubbery, add a tbsp more water and knead until smooth.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until fully doubled, about 2 ~ 4 hours (this largely depends on how warm and humid the environment is). Scrape the dough onto a lightly dusted working surface and divide into 5 equal portions, then keep tucking each dough under and into itself until the surface is smooth and round. Coat each dough with cornmeals or semolina flour, then place onto a baking-sheet with at least 4" of space in between each. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Try dipping your finger gently into the dough, and if the indentation stays without springing back, the dough is ready.
  3. When the dough is almost ready, preheat the oven on 450 F/230 C, then place a cake pan filled halfway with hot water DIRECTLY on the bottom of the oven (this creates a moist environment that helps form a crust).
  4. SHAPE AND BAKE: Halve the dates and remove the pits, then mix the dates evenly with honey and melted butter, set aside. Dust the surface of each dough with more cornmeal or semolina. Slightly flatten each dough, then use the knuckles of your fingers to gently press and create a wide and deep crater in the center of each dough (kind of like making a fat mini pizza). To make sure that the crater doesn't spring back during baking, I highly recommend poking a few holes inside the crater with your fingers (as pictured).
  5. Now, smear 1 tbsp of cream cheese into each craters, then press about 1.5 dates into the cream cheese (avoid tips sticking out in the air to prevent burning), and sprinkle a little white sesame seeds over the top. If you have a spray bottle that forms fine mists, thoroughly mist the enter surface of the bialy until wet. This helps create a crust as well.
  6. Transfer the baking sheet into the oven, closing it as fast as you can to avoid losing steam, and bake for 10~15 min until the surface is lightly browned. Let them cool slightly on a cooling-rack but they are best when warm and crusty right out of the oven.
https://ladyandpups.com/2017/06/15/bialy-stuffed-w-cream-cheese-and-honey-dates/
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SPRING CREAM PIZZA

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DOLLOPS OF SAVORY WHIPPED CREAM HELPLESSLY DESTABILIZE UNDER THE BLAZING HEAT OF THE OVEN, RENDERING INTO A PUDDLE OF SALTY, OILY, HERBY AND CREAMY MAGMA

You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.

Off carbs?  I wish.  Gluten-free?  Is there any other diet more torturous by design?  How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever?  OK, yeah I have that.  But, no.  No, not for any of those things.  In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.

Wait, pizza can do that?  Yes, pizza can do that.  How?  By making me fat.

 

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SUNDAY SUPPERS’ RYE BREAD

I apologize before I say this simply because it’s gross and stuff, but yesterday somebody, two days in a row, decided to leave a hot steamy pile of poop right in the middle of our “aged” leather sofa…  I’m sorry, I told you, it’s gross.  But more importantly, why?  What could possibly be the reason for this deeply punishing act?  Hey beats me.  Just to fuck with the word motherhood, I guess.

I recognize the weirdness in the usage of such word, motherhood, I get it, so let’s talk about it for a sec.  Some swear by it.  Some avoid it.  And some get offended when it’s used in this context of, well, dogs.  But for the convenience of making a conversation, I struggle to find a better word.  Some say, “dog owner” is the more accurate phrase.  Hey, I hear ya, but, it’s just that… I don’t own dogs, just like nobody owns children.  They are mine, but not properties.  If someday my dogs tell me that they wants to leave the nest to go to Amsterdam and smoke pot for the rest of their lives, hey, fair game, I would just lock them up and take away all their food-money like any discerning parents.  Doesn’t make me an owner, just makes me a mother.  So for the lack of a better word, last month, or 20 days ago to be exact, I became a mother again, for the fifth and sixth time.  Yes, twin girls, two rescued Rottweiler-mix puppies.

Rottweilers × 2!?  You must be thinking I’m crazy.  And I’m starting to think you’re right.

How big do Rottweilers get?  Please don’t tell me because I have no freaking clue.  But the the fact that they are growing exponentially against our best wishes, seems to be one.  To put it into perspective, our maltese Dumpling was what, 3 kilo?  So by optimistic estimation, each of them would grow to be about 12 Dumplings, and together, 24 Dumplings.  That’s 70 kilos of pure muscles powered by the spirit of a trampoline.  We named them Sesame (芝麻), and Sticky Rice Ball (湯圓) or SRB for short, though the petiteness of their names is starting to sound more ironic than cute.

Who’s freaking out?  I’m just sayin’.

So how did this happen? Couldn’t we just try a single Rottweiler on for size and good reason first?  Well, the way we see it, we had no choice amidst a very complicated situation.

There was this adoption day thing at our local pet supply store that we simply wanted to “just check it out”, and there they were, two puppies inside the same crate.  No harm in asking a question is there?  So are they boys or girls?  “Both girls, sisters!”, answered the staff.  Hmm, girls, we’ve been wanting a girl.  This one on the right seem to be nice and calm.  Can I hold her?  “Yes, of course!  She’s the younger one.”  Awww look at her just relaxing on my lap!  Jason, Jason!  Are you seeing this?!  Wait, why is the other one acting all nervous and shit?  “The sisters are very attached to each other.”  What is this, woman?  You trying to make me feel bad?  Fine, Jason, can you just hold the other one so she’s doesn’t feel left out?

Yup.  …………………..

Oh wait you’re waiting for more complicatedness to come?  No, no, that’s it.  Yup.  The beginning of the end.  Put me on your friends-who-got-a-kid-and-gone-missing list.  Likewise, I’ll resurface the earth in 10+ years.

But on the bright side, the food side that is, giant wall-eating babies are putting me in a whole new perspective. I never understood this “easy home cooking” business.  I mean if you like cooking, what’s the problem?  And if you don’t like cooking, why you cooking?  Golfers don’t complain why is it 18 holes and not 4 holes.  But now, ehhh… I sort of get it.  The other day I allowed myself to spend a little obsession on homemade ramen, and someone ate my chair.  Literally, ate my chair.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen anymore, but the stakes for negligence are higher these days if you know what I mean.

Which brings me to mention – Simple Fare.

Look beyond the soul-sucking-ly beautiful photographs by the hands of Karen Mordechai, there is also the answer to the prayers of all bone-crushingly exhausted parents.   Take this elegant rye bread for example, which she calls “half day rye bread”, which really turned out to be “quarter day rye bread” in the warmer month that is May.  It was a cinch to put together, so much so that I was able to test two loafs at once even with two flying trapeze-artists demolishing my apartment (and Shrimpy) in the background.  I’m not an expert in the political correctness of a proper rye bread, but a smear of good room-temperature butter and a thin slice of fennel salami from Tuscany, I melted in a moment of relaxation and satisfaction, a rare one these days no doubt…

So thank you, Karen, but I simply must go because I just stepped into a puddle of pee.

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TUSCANY’S PORK FAT BITS COUNTRY BREAD

WHILE MY BRAIN WAS ANTICIPATING TYPICAL BREAD, CAME THESE POPS OF DEEPLY SAVORY AND UNMISTAKABLY CARNIVOROUS STIMULANTS.

Working mothers, I don’t know how you do it.

Those of you who follow our Instagram will know that recently, two toddlers have joined this family.  Not just some harmlessly drooling, homo sapien nuggets that crawl inside your neatly confined perimeters sucking on a bottle.  But two wall-eating… wood-shredding, (stuffed) animal-hunting, flying and flipping and cirque du soleil-style acrobats that, quite literally, ate and pooped the entire past week away, and then some.  Hi Internet, please meet 芝麻 (Sesame), and 湯圓 (Sticky Rice Ball.  SRB for short), the two Rottie-mix that we newly adopted over the past weekend.

So long, sleep.  Hello, stress.

I have so much to say about them, how we met, how we overcame fear, how we took an oath.  But this type of story deserves clarity and mindfulness, both not what my sleep-deprived head of glue can provide as we speak.  So I’m just going to leave you today with a Tuscany-inspired country bread, speckled with salty bits of porky fatness.  You heard right, a delightful discovery made in a motherly restaurant named Trattoria Dardano, nestled inside a tiny yet historical town named Cortona where we stayed.  The conversation we were having without suspicion was upended by my first bite of the unexpected burst of flavors.  While my brain was anticipating typical bread, came these pops of deeply savory and unmistakably carnivorous stimulants.  WHAT was that!?  I investigated immediately, to realized that this seemingly unremarkable bread was relentlessly laced with specks of salty fatty cured pork-bits which, I assumed, not only created these sparks of salivating porkiness, but also spread their gospel aromas into the neighboring bread-tissues when their fat was rendered during baking.

Geniale!  I shouted, but in English.

I think you’ll agree, too.

Gotta go.  Somebody’s eating my feet.

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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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