Monday, October 20, 2014

Bouchon Bakery Corn Muffins

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I'm a big fan of the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Although many of its recipes are time consuming and challenging, some of my favorites are actually the muffin recipes--simple but delicious. So far I've made three of the muffin recipes, and I've made them multiple times!


Previously, I've created the pumpkin muffins and the banana muffins, but I recently needed some cornbread for a stuffing recipe (stay tuned this Thursday) and decided to throw together these easy-to-make corn muffins. Not only were the freshly baked muffins perfect for breakfast, but I used four of them (the standard size) for my stuffing.


These are incredibly moist--just like all the other Bouchon Bakery muffins I've made--due to the fact that the batter is made at least a day in advance to give the flour (and in this case cornmeal also) time to really absorb some of the liquid and soften before baking, yielding very tender-crumbed muffins.


These muffins aren't too sweet, making them perfect for either savory or sweet applications (heck, I used them for stuffing!). You could easily add a little jalapeno and grated cheddar to the mix to make them even more savory, but they really are perfect just as they are. I love having extra little bites of corn in there too.


Stay tuned for a fun recipe this Thursday utilizing some of these corn muffins (it's inspired by a scary movie, and just in time for Halloween). This is an excellent go-to recipe for any lover of corn muffins! The Bouchon Bakery cookbook never fails to impress me, from the seemingly simple but exceptional muffins to its more complex recipe offerings.


Bouchon Bakery Corn Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo muffins or 1 dozen standard muffins
(Adapted from Bouchon Bakery)

201 g (1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespons) all-purpose flour
51 g (1/3 cup) fine cornmeal
12 g (2 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
135 g (1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
7.2 g (2 1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt
168 g (2/3 cup) whole milk (I used buttermilk)
90 g (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) eggs
90 g (1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons) canola oil
72 g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) frozen corn kernals

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Sift in the cornmeal and baking powder. Rub any lumps of cornmeal left in the strainer to break them up and add to the bowl. Add the sugar and salt and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Add the milk and eggs and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until just combined. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the oil, then increase the speed to medium-low and mix for about 30 seconds to combine. (I actually did this entire mixing process by hand in a mixing bowl with a whisk and it worked just fine).

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there. Fold in the corn. Transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 36 hours.

To bake the muffins: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line either a standard muffin pan with 12 muffin papers or line a jumbo muffin pan with 6 jumbo muffin papers. Spray the papers with nonstick spray.

Spoon the batter evenly into the papers (I used an ice cream scoop), stopping 1/2 inch from the top (135 g each for jumbo muffins and about half that for standard muffins).

Place the pan in the oven, lower the temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 35 to 38 minutes for jumbo muffins or 24 to 26 minutes for standard muffins, until the muffins are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.

The muffins are best the day they are baked, but they can be wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap or stored in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cranberry-Apple-Cinnamon Scones

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Last year, I shared a recipe for delicious, seasonal Pumpkin-Pecan Scones with Maple Glaze. Today, I'm sharing another scone recipe that's perfect for fall! These Cranberry-Apple-Cinnamon scones combine the essence of apple pie with the bright, tart flavor of fresh cranberries--two very prominent ingredients this time of year. And then the intense cinnamon glaze really takes these fragrant scones over the edge.


These scones freeze beautifully. In fact, that's what I did. I cut them, froze them, and then baked them straight from the freezer. By freezing these scones, it actually prevents the apple from oxidizing, which is why they should be either baked immediately or frozen and then baked. You can always just bake off a few at a time, and cut down the glaze recipe to make just as much as you need for a portion of the recipe.


Also, these scones are best the day they are baked, otherwise the fruit starts to soften the scones rapidly, and even the glaze will soften even after it's already set. They are still delicious, but the texture won't be the same. When fresh out of the oven, they are the epitome of fall, lightly spiced with fresh sweet apple and tart cranberry, all wrapped up in a deliciously tender breakfast treat.


Cranberry-Apple-Cinnamon Scones
Makes 12 to 16 (depending on size)

Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup peeled, chopped apple (1/4-inch pieces--about 1/2 an apple)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup buttermilk, heavy cream, or milk
1 large egg, beaten

Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Add cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and work the butter into the flour mixture, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse pea or dime-size crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or the butter will soften too much and the resulting scones will not be flaky. Add the apples, and cranberries and toss well. Mix together the buttermilk and beaten egg and then add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined, kneading lightly (but don't overwork it).

Divide the dough in half and pat each portion into a 3/4-to-1-inch think circle. Don't overwork the dough, as you want the butter inside to stay as cold as possible until the scones head into the oven.

Use a bench/dough scraper or knife to cut 6 or 8 wedges (like a pizza) from each round. Flip each cut scone over and place upside down on the parchment lined baking sheet (the bottoms are flatter and will look prettier as the tops of the scones), spacing a couple inches apart. At this point, the scones can be refrigerated or even frozen and baked later. Frozen scones can be baked from a frozen state; just add a little extra baking time, as needed.

Lightly brush on top of the scones (but not the sides) with a little buttermilk. Bake scones for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow the scones to cool on the pan while you prepare the glaze.

Stir together the confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, and milk until smooth. If the glaze is too thin, add a sprinkle more confectioners' sugar. Too thick, add a drizzle of milk. When scones are cool, drizzle the glaze over the tops. Allow the glaze to set briefly and then serve the scones at room temperature. These scones are best the day they are made, otherwise the moisture in the fruit with begin to soften the scones and glaze.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hoisin Baby Back Ribs

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These are some of my favorite ribs. I've made them for guests on many occasions over the years and they have always met rave reviews. And I have a secret for you. They aren't even grilled! They are super easy to make year-round because you actually prepare them in the oven.


Broiling the ribs first gives the ribs some great color and texture. Then placing the ribs on a rack over a small pool of water in a roasting pan actually allows them to stay super moist during the slow cooking process. By the end of a couple hours, your ribs are practically falling off the bone (and if you overcook them, they will LITERALLY fall off the bone).


The cooking method is great, but there is more to these easy-to-make ribs that makes them so popular. The marinade/sauce is Asian influenced; the original recipe derives from Alan Wong's Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii by way of a McCall's Magazine article many many years ago (May 2000 to be exact). I've been making these ribs since then, and I will continue to do so for many more to come.


I've adapted these ribs a bit from the original. The sauce is almost identical, but I've simplified the cooking method a bit. The sauce is truly what makes these ribs shine. It includes a pretty long list of ingredients, but many of them can be found in any avid cook's pantry. You could easily use this sauce on grilled ribs too, but the results from this technique are just perfect for me.


For many years I have hesitated to share this recipe. It may not be an original, but I've made it my own. I'm finally ready to part with the secret, and here is that coveted recipe... You're welcome!


Hoisin Baby Back Ribs
Makes 3 racks
Adapted from Alan Wong's Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii

1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 racks baby back pork ribs, halved

Whisk together all the ingredients except for the ribs, salt, and pepper.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the sauce (a bit less than half) and refrigerate until needed. Place ribs in a large Tupperware or food storage bag and add the remaining sauce.  Cover and refrigerate the ribs overnight to marinate.

Preheat broiler.  In a roasting pan, place a roasting rack large enough to fit it.  Wipe off excess marinade, season ribs with salt and pepper, and place the ribs bone-side up on the rack and broil for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Flip over the ribs so the meat-side is up and broil another 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven and fill about 1/4 inch of water, enough to almost reach the bottom of the rack.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 hours, or until the meat between the ribs is fork-tender.  Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil and brush with 3/4 cup of the reserved sauce (alternatively, you can make the ribs up to this point in advance, remove them to a sheet pan, and then brush on the sauce and return to the oven to re-heat and finish them off when you're ready to serve).  Return to the oven uncovered and bake for another 15 minutes.  Heat the remaining 3/4 cup sauce to serve alongside the ribs. Cut racks into individual ribs using a serrated knife, transfer to a platter, and serve with the warmed sauce.

*Note* The original recipe uses the same amount of marinade/sauce for 2 racks of ribs, but I think it's plenty for 3. If you want, you can easily cut down the recipe to 2 racks and use the same amount of sauce. You'll just have a more generous amount of marinade.




Monday, October 6, 2014

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Dumplings + GIVEAWAY!

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There are few culinary delights in the world that make me as happy as indulging in fresh dumplings. I'm partial to Asian dumplings in particular, but truly I'm an equal opportunity dumpling lover. I didn't grow up eating dumplings, and in fact wasn't introduced to even American-style Asian food probably until my teenage years. Authentic Asian food came much later.


I remember my very first experience with dim sum in Manhattan's Chinatown some years back. Although I had eaten dumplings from takeout restaurants in the past, this was really my first foray into a more authentic experience with a wide variety of tastes (I even ate chicken feet my very first time!). Ever since then, I have been fascinated by dim sum culture and the range of dishes that are produced at any given time.

Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings

I actually own a couple cookbooks devoted entirely to dim sum and dumplings, so when I had the opportunity to add another to my collection by reviewing Dumplings All Day Wong by Lee Anne Wong from Top Chef and published by Page Publishing, I jumped at the chance!

Korean Fried Chicken Dumplings

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you are no stranger to my history of dumpling making. You can check out the range of recipes using my "dumplings" tag (PS they aren't all Asian). Over years of experimenting and honing my skills, I'm pretty proficient in the ways of the dumpling. I'm proud to say that in nearly all of my dumpling endeavors I have made all the components (including the wrappers) from scratch! I've also become generally more successful at shaping them. There's always room for improvement, and I'm happy to be schooled any chance I can get.

Caesar Chicken Dumplings Salad

I'm very excited to expand my dumpling horizons with this new cookbook. It definitely focuses less on the traditional and more on contemporary dumpling creations. I love both, so I'm thrilled to have more ideas to add to my arsenal. For one thing, Wong does a great job suggesting ways to create all kinds of colors for your dumpling wrappers. Many books will suggest either green (spinach) or orange (carrot) but Wong includes recipes for making purple (red cabbage), pink (beets) and more!


The book also includes many recipes that feature include homemade wrappers, but also a lot that utilize store-bought. Honestly, I'm sure you could swap back and forth in most cases, so it's good to know you have some flexibility. I haven't used store-bought wrappers in years (out of stubborn principle) but I can see how having that convenience would save A LOT of time and make it so much easier to satisfy a dumpling craving on a whim.


Each and every dim sum/dumpling cookbook I own is set up in a completely unique way. One is divided into chapters by cooking technique, another by dough type. Wong divides her chapters by dumpling folds. Each chapter begins with a demonstration of how to create the fold or folds used in the chapter. Recipes follow.


I have a long list of bookmarks in Dumplings All Day Wong. A few highlights at the top of my to do list include Garlic Pork and Kale Dumplings, Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Dumplings, Szechuan Eggplant and Pork Dumplings, Miso Short Rib Dumplings, Korean Fried Chicken Dumplings, Chicken Caesar Dumplings Salad, Chicken and Mushroom Shumai, Ahi Dumplings with Avocado, Ginger Crab Rangoon Dumplings with Sweet and Sour Sauce, Vegetable Wontons with Apricot Mustard, Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings, Chicken, Leek and Bacon Bao, and Steamed Chicken and Rice Dumplings.

Carrot Ginger Dumplings

I was actually really excited to see that Wong has shared a Carrot Ginger Dumplings recipe that closely resemble the Carrot Dumplings I shared on my blog two years ago! Our techniques are exactly the same, but with different fillings. I'm pleased to see that my experiment all those years ago to duplicate dumplings I had at Buddakan are along the same vein as those a Top Chef contestant shared in her cookbook (technically the chef at Buddakan was ALSO a Top Chef contestant, so that's double awesome).

Chopped sprouts, bacon, and garlic

There's really only one major flaw in the cookbook. Wong includes some brief notes on freezing dumplings in her introductory chapter, but some pertinent information is overlooked. She states that dumplings can be frozen on a tray and then stored in a freezer bag for several months, but it should be noted (and stressed) that dumplings made with wheat starch dough MUST be cooked before they are refrigerated or frozen. They can be re-steamed later (with excellent results), but MUST be cooked before cooling/storing for later. For anyone without experience using this type of dough who wants to save extra dumplings, this could become a disaster.


On a minor level, there are some other random discrepancies. For example, in the Beet and Tofu Har Gow recipe, the recipe states it yields 40 dumplings, but tells you to cut the dough into 32 pieces. You can probably make the dumplings in either size, but the details just don't match. This is very minor however, and most of the recipes I've read through seem fine.


With that said, I'm very pleased with this book as a whole. I plan on utilizing it regularly. I have about 4 pounds of wheat starch in my freezer (for longevity) and I'm always looking for new and creative filling ideas so I can make a dent in my stockpile.


The first dumpling I decided to create from this book embodies one of the ultimate flavor combinations: brussels sprouts and bacon. The instructions in the book have you deep fry half the brussels sprouts and blanch the other half. I decided to simply roast them all in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, just tossed with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. They were delicious and perfect and I would do the same next time. The recipe below will showcase the original method.

Brussels sprouts and bacon dumpling filling

I actually followed the recipe's suggestion and used store-bought dumpling wrapper for this recipe. I found these at a local Asian market for $1.80 (for 1 pound/43 wrappers), which is a total bargain compared to anything at a traditional supermarket. After only using homemade wrappers for years, this was actually stepping outside of my comfort zone, believe it or not.


On the one hand, I found it to be extremely convenient. Homemade wrappers allow you to stretch the dough, if needed, and don't require wetting the dough to seal. For store-bought you definitely must wet the edges of the wrappers. I found shaping the wrappers less easy with the store-bought variety because it didn't seal as easily, and when I pleated the edges I had to even wet the outside a little to get the pleats to lay flat.

Szechuan Eggplant and Pork Dumplings

In the end, they turned out great though! The wrappers are pretty thin so they have a nice texture when you pan-fry them. I will probably stick with homemade wrappers whenever I have the extra time, but having some of these store-bought ones in the freezer will be nice for impromptu cravings!

Chinkiang vinegar is a Chinese black vinegar in a league of its own... I used it in both recipes I made from this book so far!

The brussels sprouts and bacon filling for these dumplings is incredible. There is so much flavor there, and a wonderful mix of textures from the tender, slightly charred roasted sprouts and the crispy, salty bacon. A bit of brown sugar, garlic, and vinegar in the filling really hit every note on your palate. To these beautifully balanced dumplings, add the unusual sounding, but strangely appetizing Fish Sauce Caramel as a dipping sauce and you have a fantastic creation! It's sweetness is actually a wonderful pairing to dumpling filling.


Considering how easy these dumplings were to make, especially by simply roasting the sprouts and also utilizing store-bought wrappers, I can see myself making them on a whim in the future. They were hugely popular by those who tried them, and I already have requests for a repeat. I actually halved the recipe with plans to make 30 dumplings, but I ended up with 24. In any case, now I have more wrappers for next time. Into the freezer they go!

Szechuan Eggplant and Pork filling

Although I'm only sharing one recipe today, I did make two recipes from the book before posting this review. The second dumpling recipe I tried was the Szechuan Eggplant and Pork Dumplings. These utilize homemade wheat starch wrappers and a super Earthy filling of diced eggplant stir-fried with ginger, garlic, and ground Szechuan pepper, ground pork, and a flavorful sauce including two kinds of soy sauce, vinegar, and chile bean paste.

Steamed Szechuan Eggplant and Pork Dumplings (you must cook dumplings with wheat starch dough before freezing!)

I actually didn't use the dough recipe in this book, but instead used a wheat starch dough recipe I've used for years. I just felt more comfortable using something I'm familiar with, and the ratios in Dumplings All Day Wong were a bit different from what I've used and am happy with (Wong uses a lot less tapioca starch and water than the recipe I use). Otherwise, I followed the filling recipe almost to a T. I omitted the diced chili peppers, and used Chinkiang vinegar (a type of Chinese black vinegar) instead of the red vinegar called for in the recipe, and made a simple dipping sauce using that same vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic.

Ready to be frozen

I also doubled this recipe, making enough filling for 60 dumplings instead of 30. Instead of doing a classic pleat I created a simple ruffle, which is much faster and uses up less of the dough along the edge so I could actually stuff more filling in each dumpling this way! Even so, I actually ended up with a bunch of extra filling, probably enough for another batch of dough and about 30 more dumplings, but I decided to actually just freeze the extra filling in a freezer bag for another day.


I pan-fried 20 of the assembled dumplings for consumption and then steamed the other 40 to then freeze for future use. Then whenever I want more, I can either just steam them, or steam/pan-fry them after gently thawing. Easy as can be! And boy are these delicious dumplings! I absolutely love all the flavors in the filling. They aren't as spicy as I expected for something called Szechuan, but I did omit the chiles, expecting the chile bean paste to offer enough heat. In any case, I'm already craving the batch I have stored in my freezer!


I'm really happy to add Dumplings All Day Wong to my arsenal of Asian cookbooks. It has some fantastic recipes with really creative and innovative twists on classic Asian dumplings. The photography is great, and I think it's really neat how the book is divided up by dumpling shape, each with a wonderful selection of recipes.


*GIVEAWAY* Now it's time to share the dumpling love! Page Street Publishing is allowing me to give away a copy of Dumplings All Day Wong to a lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment in this post telling me your favorite kind of dumpling. It's that easy! Post comments by October 13th at 11:59 pm EST to enter to win. Winner will be selected at random. US residents only. Good luck!

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Dumplings
Makes 60 dumplings
From Dumplings All Day Wong by Lee Anne Wong (Page Street Publishing; 2014) Printed with permission

1 lb (450 g) bacon, diced into 1/4” (0.6 cm) pieces
Oil for deep-frying
2 pints (1 1⁄2 lb) fresh brussels sprouts
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp (30 g) minced garlic
3 tbsp (40 g) brown sugar
2 tbsp (20 g) cornstarch
2 tbsp (30 ml) fish sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) reserved bacon fat
60 round dumpling wrappers
Fish Sauce Caramel (recipe follows)

In a large saute pan, render the bacon over medium-high heat until it is completely cooked and crispy. Strain and cool the cooked bacon on a paper towel–lined plate.  Reserve the bacon fat.

Preheat a small pot of oil to 375°F/190°C. Trim the bottom ends and old leaves from the brussels sprouts. Reserve any fresh leaves that may have fallen. Quarter the brussels sprouts, leaving the root ends intact.

Divide the trimmed brussels sprouts in half. Deep-fry half of the brussels sprouts in small batches, cooking each batch for 2 to 3 minutes until the leaves are caramelized and brown. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt. Once cool, chop the fried brussels sprouts into small pieces or pulse in a food processor.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the remaining brussels sprouts until tender, about 3 minutes. Refresh in ice water to stop the cooking and then drain on paper towels. Dry the blanched brussels sprouts well with paper towels and then chop finely (or pulse in the food processor).

Combine the cooked bacon, fried chopped brussels sprouts, blanched chopped brussels sprouts and minced garlic in a large bowl. In a small bowl, sift together the brown sugar and cornstarch until it is well mixed. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the filling, add the fish sauce, vinegar and bacon fat and mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the filling for at least an hour.

Fill and form the dumplings in the classic pleat style. I prefer using premade wrappers for this dumpling. Heat a wok or large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add ½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) of oil to the hot pan, tilting the pan to coat the bottom. Place the dumplings in a single layer in the hot pan and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add ½ cup (125 ml) of water and immediately cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed and the dumpling skins have cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve with the Fish Sauce Caramel.

Fish Sauce Caramel 
Makes 3/4 cup (175 ml)
From Dumplings All Day Wong by Lee Anne Wong (Page Street Publishing; 2014) Printed with permission

1/2 cup (120 ml) rice vinegar
1/2 cup (120g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) fish sauce

Combine the rice vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and add the fish sauce. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before serving. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

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