Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with Oats and Pecans


Have I mentioned recently how much I love the recipes from my Amy's Bread cookbook? I've made and shared several recipes over the years including the amazing Focaccia with Fresh Rosemary, Picholine Olive Bread, Pumpkin Pecan Knots, and Fresh Thyme Bread with Olive Oil (a riff on Amy's Fresh Rosemary Bread).

I'm a fan of the book overall, but have complained about some poor editorial issues. I highly recommend the book, but suggest actually reading it from front to back because there are some important tips that are only included in the introductory sections.

With that said, I recently decided to whip up some more fantastic bread from Amy's. This was the first pan loaf recipe I tried from the book, and I must say it turned out fantastic! Per usual, like the other recipes in the book, this dough is quite wet and challenging to work with.

From top to bottom: biga starter, dough before proofing, dough after proofing

It says to add minimal flour when kneading it, but especially considering the humidity levels on the day I made the bread, I know the dough needed a bit extra flour to really make up for the extra moisture. It was stick quite sticky and tacky, but not a total nightmare to work with after dusting more flour on the board and dough as I worked to knead it together.

Shaped and ready to proof

Making any bread from Amy's Bread is a big waiting game. These are not fast breads that only need an hour or so to proof. They require planning and waiting. The results speak for themselves, however. I don't think I've ever made pan loaves that have puffed up quite so beautifully! This bread is truly stunning.

After proofing

It boasts a really nice crust on the exterior and a wonderfully chewy interior. It's studded with toasted pecans and a nice balance of oats, making this sandwich bread anything but basic. It's hearty and nutty with a delicious complexity. It's a bit denser than the typical fluffy sandwich bread you'd purchase at the store, but that means it will stand up well however you choose to use it.

This is a great bread that can sway in either the sweet or savory direction. Cut in thick slices, it's perfect for French toast, and serves at a wonderful sandwich bread for tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, and even PB&J. It's also great as a simple toast with your bacon and eggs.

The original recipe is below. The only things I did differently were to slightly decrease the amount of molasses to 25 grams instead of 35 grams because I was using Blackstrap molasses which has a stronger flavor than regular molasses. I didn't want to take a chance of having it be too strong, so I scaled back just a bit to be safe.

I also didn't use an old cast-iron pan to create steam. In the fine print of the book it mentions to use a pan you don't mind getting rusty, but that's not repeated anywhere else in the book. I added boiling water into a regular small baking pan to create some steam, although spritzing water against the walls of the hot oven will also successfully create steam.

I DID bake my bread in the pans atop my preheated baking stone. I figured since the recipe encourages you to use it if you have one, I'm sure it helps get an even better crust but absorbing more heat into the pan than if it was simply on an oven rack.

I'm very pleased with the results of this sandwich bread. It's a time consuming process to make it (mostly waiting for the dough to proof, etc), but it's definitely worth it. You really yield so much more character in your bread if you take the time to make it yourself. This incredible bread is a perfect example of that.

I'm submitting this post to Yeastspotting.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with Oats and Pecans
Makes two 9 x 5-inch loaves
(From Amy's Bread: Revised and Updated)
Equipment: two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans, oiled

57 g (2.00 oz/1/4 cup) very warm water (105º to 115ºF)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
524 g (18.48 oz/3 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
354 g (12.50 oz/2 1/3 cups) unbleached bread flour
170 g (6.00 oz/2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
20 g (0.70 oz/2 tablespoons) kosher salt
622 g (22.00 oz/2 3/4 cups) cool water (75º to 78ºF)
340 g (12.00 oz/1 1/2 cups) Biga Starter (recipe follows)
42 g (1.50 oz/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) honey
35 g (1.23 oz/2 tablespoons) molasses
20 g (0.70 oz/2 tablespoons) canola or vegetable oil
227 g (8.00 oz/2 cups) pecan pieces, toasted
Extra oats, for topping the shaped loaves

Combine the very warm water and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes.

Whisk the whole wheat flour, bread flour, oats, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Add the cool water, biga, honey, molasses, and oil to the yeast mixture and mix with your fingers for 2 minutes, breaking up the biga. The mixture should look milky and slightly foamy. Add the flour mixture and stir with your fingers to incorporate the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl and folding the dough over itself until it gathers into a shaggy mass.

Move the dough to a very lightly floured surface and knead for 7 to 8 minutes, until it becomes supple and elastic, using as little additional flour as possible. This dough should be very soft and moist but not mushy. If it feels too wet, add another tablespoon or so of bread flour as you knead. If it feels too stiff, add cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a pliable dough. It will feel sticky in the beginning but become compact and elastic as you knead it. Put the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with oiled plastic, and let rest for 20 minutes to relax and develop elasticity. You should be able to stretch it easily but you won’t get a transparent sheet with this dough, because of the chunky oatmeal.

Spread out the dough in the mixing bowl and evenly sprinkle on the pecans. Press them into the dough, then pull the dough from the edges of the bowl and fold it in toward the middle. Knead the dough in the bowl until the nuts are evenly incorporated, 3 to 4 minutes.

Gather the dough into a loose ball, lift it up and oil the bowl, then place it back in the bowl, along with any loose nuts. Turn the dough to coat with oil, cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature (75º to 77ºF) for about 2 to 2½ hours, until it doubles in volume. When the dough is fully risen, an indentation made by poking your lightly floured finger deep into the dough should not spring back.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface, pressing in any loose nuts. Divide it into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a log.

Spread a thin layer of the extra oats for topping on a flat plate or baking sheet. Use a pastry brush or plastic spray bottle to lightly moisten the top of each log with water, then roll the tops of the loaves in the oats. Place each loaf seam side down in one of the oiled 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 2 hours or until they have doubled in size (a finger pressed lightly into the dough will leave an indentation).

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450ºF. Prepare the oven by placing a cast-iron skillet and a smaller pan (a mini loaf pan) on the floor of the oven or on the lowest possible rack in an electric oven. Place an oven rack two rungs above the cast-iron pan, and if you have one, put a baking stone on the rack. Fill a plastic spray bottle with water. Fill a teakettle with water to be boiled later, and have a metal 1-cup measure with a straight handle available near the kettle.

Five to 10 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, turn the water on to boil, and carefully place two ice cubes in the small loaf pan in the bottom of the oven. This helps to create moisture in the oven prior to baking.

When the loaves are ready, place the pans on the baking stone. (If you’re baking without a stone simply slide the bread pans onto the empty oven rack.) Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet and immediately shut the oven door. After about 1 minute, quickly spray the loaves with water, then shut the oven door.

After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400ºF and rotate the loaves if necessary to ensure even browning. Bake them for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound slightly hollow when tipped out of the pan and tapped on the bottom (an instant-read digital thermometer should register around 210ºF). The sides and bottom of the loaves should feel firm and slightly crusty. If the tops are browned but the sides are still somewhat soft, place the loaves directly on the stone or the oven rack to bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Cool the loaves completely on a wire rack before slicing. This bread freezes well, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag.

*Tips and Techniques*

We used unbleached bread flour with a protein content of 12.7% and regular whole wheat flour with a protein content of 14.5% for this dough. The biga was made with all-purpose unbleached flour with a protein content of 11.7%.

Use the same container for weighing/measuring the honey and molasses and the oil. Pour the oil into the container first, then pour the specified amounts of honey and molasses on top of the oil. When you add them to the ingredients in your mixing bowl, the sticky sweeteners will be released easily from the cup without sticking, giving a more accurate measure and an easier clean-up. (When using volume, measure the oil first, then use the same tablespoon to measure the honey and the molasses.)

If you want to duplicate the Whole Wheat Oat Pecan bread we sell in the bakery, add 290 grams/10.25 ounces/2 cups of golden raisins to the dough when you add the pecans; divide the dough into four equal pieces and shape them into bâtards before proofing and baking. You may have to bake two of the loaves on a sheet pan if they won’t all fit on your baking stone.

You can also refrigerate this dough overnight and shape and bake it the next day. After mixing, let it rise for 1 hour at room temperature or until it looks slightly puffy but has not doubled, before refrigerating. The next day, let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature to warm and soften before shaping it.

Biga Starter (Small Batch)
Makes 400 grams / 14 ounces / 1 3/4 cups
(From Amy's Bread: Revised and Updated)

200 g (7.00 oz/3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) very warm water (105º to 115ºF)
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
227 g (8.00 oz/1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour

In a medium bowl, mix the warm water and yeast together and stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 1 to 2 minutes, until a smooth, somewhat elastic batter has formed. The batter will be fairly thick and stretchy; it gets softer and more elastic after it has risen. Scrape the biga into the container, mark the height of the starter and the time on a piece of tape on the side of the container so you can see how much it rises, and cover the container with plastic wrap.

Let it rise at room temperature (75º to 78ºF) for 6 to 8 hours. Or let it rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours to warm up and become active before use. Biga should more than double in volume. If you use the starter while it’s still cold from the refrigerator, be sure to compensate for the cold temperature by using warm water (85ºF to 90ºF) in your dough, instead of the cool water specified in the recipe. Use the starter while it is still bubbling up, but before it starts to deflate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Japchae (Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Meat and Vegetables)


Japchae is a traditional Korean dish made with stir-fried sweet potato noodles, meat, and vegetables. This lovely, colorful creation may be heavy on the veggies, but it's not exactly healthy--there's quite a bit of sesame oil in it as well as vegetable oil for cooking.

Korean sweet potato noodles, or dangmyeon, are gluten-free and made of only sweet potato starch and water. They are a grayish color until they're cooked, and then become chewy and crystal clear (they're sometimes called glass noodles).

When mixed together with the meat, vegetables, and seasonings, they become shiny and slightly sweet with a pretty intense sesame flavor from the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.

Even though it's a bit tedious, cooking each vegetable separately is fundamental to this dish. Each ingredient has a different cooking time, and by cooking them individually, each one maintains its integrity, both in color and texture to make a beautiful and cohesive dish.

You can use several tender cuts of beef or even pork to add protein to the dish. I was able to get a small 4-ounce piece of grass fed non-GMO striploin (aka strip steak) on sale from Whole Foods.

Beef and shiitakes marinating

The butcher was nice enough to cut me a smaller slice than what they had on display, and even trimmed the fat off for me. Even though you're only using a tiny bit of meat in the dish, using the good stuff does make a difference.

Before mixing

If you'd like to make this dish vegetarian, omit the meat and use a few more re-hydrated dried shiitake mushrooms in its place.

Japchae (Korean Sweet Potato Noodles with Meat and Vegetables)
Serves 2 to 4
(Adapted from Maangchi)

4 ounces beef, such as tenderloin, striploin or ribeye (or pork shoulder), cut into 1/4-inch wide and 2 1/2-inch long strips
2 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 2 to 3 hours or in cool water overnight, stems discarded and caps cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 large egg yolk (white stringy stuff removed from yolk)
4 ounces spinach or baby spinach, washed and drained
4 ounces Korean sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
2 to 3 green onions, cut crosswise into 2-inch long pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
4 to 5 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

To marinate the beef and mushrooms: Put the beef and shiitake mushrooms into a bowl and mix with 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil with a wooden spoon or by hand. Cover and keep it in the fridge.

To make the egg garnish (jidan): In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and a pinch of salt with a fork.

Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a heated nonstick pan. Swirl the oil around so it covers the pan, and then wipe off the excess heated oil with a paper towel so only a thin layer remains on the pan.

To keep the jidan as yellow as possible, turn off the heat and pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan. Tilt it around so the mixture spreads thinly. Let it cook using the remaining heat in the pan for about 1 minute. Flip it over and let it sit on the pan for 1 more minute. Let it cool and slice it into thin strips.

To prepare the noodles and vegetables: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then take it out with a slotted spoon or strainer. Let the water keep boiling to cook the noodles. Rinse the spinach in cold water to stop it from cooking. Squeeze it with your hands to remove any excess water. Cut it a few times and put it into a bowl (no need to cut the spinach if you're using baby spinach). Mix with 1 teaspoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Put it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the noodles to the boiling water, cover and cook for 1 minute. Stir them with a wooden spoon so they don’t stick together. Cover and keep cooking for another 7 minutes until the noodles are soft and chewy.

Strain and cut them a few times with kitchen scissors. Put the noodles into the large bowl next to the spinach. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix well by hand or a wooden spoon. This process will season the noodles and also keep the noodles from sticking to each other.

Heat up a skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil with the onion, the green onion, and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes until the onion looks a little translucent. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet again and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the white mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 2 minutes until softened and a little juicy. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet and add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Add the carrot and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the red bell pepper strips and stir-fry another 20 seconds. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Heat up the skillet and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the beef and mushroom mixture and stir fry for a few minutes until the beef is no longer pink and the mushrooms are softened and shiny. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

Add 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil to the mixing bowl full of ingredients. Mix all together by hand. Add the egg garnish and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Mix it and transfer it to a large plate to serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wonton Soup


Wonton soup is a comfort any time of year, whether you're battling a winter's cold, or braving a summer thunderstorm, it's delicious and simple. Wontons are simple enough to make using store-bought wrappers.

My 1-pound package of 3 1/4-inch wonton wrappers had about 82 skins (this can differ based on thickness of dough). I used some for siu mai and some for these wontons and then froze the remainder for another occasion.

These wontons are filled with pork, but I've seen recipes that use shrimp or even a combination of pork and shrimp. I kept these very basic with some ginger, scallions, and seasonings, and yielded about 18 plump wontons, but you can get more if you fill yours a bit more frugally.

The broth itself is also very easy to make. I used homemade chicken stock, but any good broth works since you're enhancing it with ginger and garlic. I also added some sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots (I had some leftover from an opened can), but you can play around with the mix-ins as you like.

If you aren't in a soupy mood, you can also simply make the wontons, boil and sauce them, or you can easily fry them up as well. They are very versatile. Enjoy!

Wonton Soup
4 servings

6 ounces ground pork
3 tablespoons chopped scallions, Chinese chives, or a combination
3 tablespoons chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Ground white or black pepper
About 18 to 20 wonton wrappers

2 quarts chicken stock
2 to 3 (1/4-inch-thick) slices ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
4 ounces sliced mushrooms (any kind you like)
1/4 cup canned bamboo shoot strips, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Homemade chili oil or sesame oil, for garnish (optional)

To make the wontons: in a medium mixing bowl, combine the pork, scallions, chicken stock, soy sauce, ginger, wine, sesame oil, and pepper. Stir until the mixture is well-combined.

Fill a small bowl with cold water. Take a wonton wrapper and lay it on your work surface. Place 1 tablespoon of pork filling into the center. Wet your finger and run it around the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally in half, pressing gently to make sure there is no air trapped inside. Either leave the wonton as is (triangle) or wet one of the folded corners and then bring the other folded corner together, pressing them together to make a pointy tortellini-looking shape.

The wontons can be covered and refrigerated at this point or frozen in a single layer and then transferred to a freezer bag for up to 2 months.

To make the soup: Add the chicken stock to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and garlic, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to infuse the ginger flavor into the stock. Remove the ginger pieces, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.

Add the mushrooms and bamboo shoots, if using. Bring the stock back up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the wontons and cook until they float to the surface and the filling feels firm and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon or spider to strain out the cooked wontons and distribute them to individual bowls. Then ladle the soup over the wontons in each bowl. Garnish with scallions and chili or sesame oil, if desired.

*Variation* Alternatively, boil and drain wontons and then top with the sauce from the Sichuan Crescent Dumplings recipe and garnish with scallions (optional) for a delicious Sichuanese boiled wonton dish as opposed to a soup. You'll get about two servings instead of four if you decide to boil them instead of making soup. See photo below :-D

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Astoria Favorites: Queens Comfort & MexiBBQ


Astoria is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York City. It's found in the borough of Queens, and was my on-again-off-again home for a couple of years. Even though most tourists who visit the Big Apple spend most of their time in Manhattan, the locals know that some of the best food is found in the outer boroughs, and Queens is no exception.

A couple of my favorites are found on the same Avenue in Astoria mere blocks away from each other. The first is Queens Comfort, a fun and cozy spot with a retro vibe, filled with collectible toys, comics and more from years past. Their window display even features "The Game of Jaws." It's cash only with a BYOB policy.

Queens Comfort is incredibly trendy, and can boast quite the line at peak times. The gentleman who wrangles all the waiting diners makes it a one-of-a-kind experience, telling jokes (you have your choice of "spicy" or "mild") and asking each guest a question of the day. I was recently asked what my favorite toy is, and he mentioned another question he's used is one's spirit animal. He then calls out your answer instead of your name when alerting you your table is ready.

I was dining alone (a CEO according to him, since CEO's don't eat with their employees... or something), and he made an effort to even get me seating earlier rather than later since I was alone. I was seated at the bar, which was fine by me.

Considering that Queens Comfort is such a busy restaurant, the service is great and the food is quick. There is a long communal table down the center, which is actually where I sat the very first time I dined here. There's very little elbow room and you are SUPER close to your neighbors, but I think it's just part of the experience.

I've eaten at Queens Comfort twice thus far (and I assure you, if I still lived nearby it would be more often). The first time was a year ago for dinner, and most recently for Saturday brunch. The menu changes daily, and there are some favorites that will stick around regardless, but other dishes with fluctuate. You definitely can't go wrong, as everything on the menu is a real winner.

Brunch menu 8/1/15

During my first visit, I split an appetizer order of Roasted Sweet Corn and Cheddar Empanadas. There were two to an order, and each was excellent. A little sweet from the corn, a bit cheesy, gooey and soft, yet crunchy on the outside, served with a spicy chipotle aioli.

Roasted Sweet Corn and Cheddar Empanadas $6

My entree for dinner is also available on the brunch menu, and it's truly a classic: Chicken and Waffles. It's served with a Tabasco glaze, maple syrup and powdered sugar. It's a fried breast, making it much easier to eat than chicken on the bone, but it still manages to be perfectly juicy and tender. It's really a wonderful rendition of this sweet/savory/(and just a bit spicy) favorite.

Chicken and Waffle $14

My friend picked the "Lil' Dizzy" Captain Crunch fried chicken Po Boy sandwich with tomato, slaw, pickles, and spicy remoulade. She loved it!

"Lil' Dizzy" Po Boy $16

During my brunch visit, I really struggled to make a decision between several of the creative Benedicts on the menu. I was also really intrigued by the Burrito, among many other choices. I narrowed it down to the Hobbits Salty Pork Benedict featuring bacon, fig jam, brie, poached eggs, buttermilk biscuits and Hollandaise, the "South by Southwest" Benedict featuring a crispy corn tamale, smoked pulled pork, BBQ sauce, poached egg and Hollandaise, and the "Down by Law" Benedict featuring roasted chicken, bacon jam, poached eggs Hollandaise, buttermilk biscuit and chipotle aioli. That's only three of the nine-ish Benedicts served that day.

"Down by Law" Benedict $16

I selected the Down by Law, but really I wanted someone else to just make the decision for me, because they all sounded so good (and so did everything else on the menu, I really can't stress how AWESOME everything sounds). I was very pleased by my choice at the end. The chicken almost reminded me more of chicken confit in the way it was pulled and yet very tender and flavorful. The buttermilk biscuits had great flavor, the Hollandaise was sparse, but just enough (you never want your Benedict drowning), and the chipotle aioli offered a little bit of heat. I was VERY pleased.

Even after standing outside in the excruciatingly hot, sweat-dripping-down-your-back-and-everywhere-else weather, it was still totally worth it in my opinion.

Fun 3D decorations by the bathroom doors

A few blocks west of Queens Comfort is another great Astoria restaurant, this one with much shorter lines, and a great option if you just aren't willing to wait. MexiBBQ is a fusion of Mexican and BBQ, just as the name suggests. I've only been here for brunch, but I've visited twice, and enjoyed my meal exceptionally.

The Hangover Cure features corn torillas in salsa verde and salsa roja, with sliced chicken and chorizo, and is topped with two fried eggs. In short, it's chilaquiles, one of my absolute favorite things in the world. This can be on the spicy side, but a very comfortable spiciness for a Mexican food aficionado. My friends who live nearby tend to order this dish almost exclusively.

The Hangover Cure $14

I've also ordered and enjoyed the BBQ Brisket Eggs Benedict. It's jalapeno goat cheese cornbread topped with poached eggs and chipotle Hollandaise, served with home fries. This dish takes on more of the BBQ side of MexiBBQ. It's equally delicious, yet very different. Both this and the Hangover Cure are dishes I'd happily recommend and order again.

BBQ Brisket Eggs Benedict $14

The Bloody Mary has a chili powder rim, and from what I can remember was pretty spicy. I like spicy, so that's okay!

Bloody Mary

These are just a couple of my favorite Astoria hot spots. I dine in Astoria a lot because not only am I a former resident, but my closest New York City friends still live there. I hope visitors and residents alike will check out both of these wonderful restaurants if they haven't already. Thumbs up all around!

Queens Comfort
40-09 30th Ave (btwn Steinway St and 41st St)
Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 728-2350

37-11 30th Ave (btwn 37th St and 38th St)
Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 626-0333

Monday, August 3, 2015

Dunderi with Lemon and Butter


I'm absolutely obsessed with Jenn Louis's cookbook Pasta by Hand. I reviewed it a few months ago, sharing a fantastic recipe for Gnocchi al Sagrantino, and have also made the Chickpea Gnocchetti and the Ricotta Gnocchetti since then (you can find those recipes in her book!). My most recent exploration was the Dunderi, hailing from the Amalfi Coast in the Campania region of Italy.

Everything but the flour...

Finished dough

Dunderi are delicate ricotta dumplings enriched with egg yolks and held together with just a bit of flour. Be careful when you roll them out to keep the excess flour to a minimum--just enough on the dough to keep it from sticking to the board, and then scrape away extra flour with your bench scraper.

These are incredibly easy to make. My one pound package of ricotta cheese (supposedly weighing 452 grams) actually contained exactly 480 grams, which is perfect for this recipe. Many brands of ricotta come in either 15 ounce or 32 ounce containers, but if you can find one that's exactly 1 pound, you may luck out and have just a teeny bit extra in there like I did! Or just make it yourself. It's actually quite easy :)

The Dunderi recipe in the book suggests pairing these light ricotta dumplings with melted butter or tomato sauce, as it's most traditional. It also points out that these are sometimes made with lemon zest from the amazing Amalfi citrus, so why not include the citrus in the butter? Tasting Table offered a version of this recipe doing just that, so I've utilized that sauce adaptation in the recipe I'm sharing today.

Dunderi B.C. (before cheese)

For ease of preparation alone, I definitely think these Dunderi are worth making. You can have a homemade gnocchi dinner in less than 30 minutes. No need to cook, peel, and process potatoes through a food mill or ricer. No need to make a special, time-consuming sauce. No need to even shape them on a gnocchi board or fork. These are as simple as gnocchi gets! They're also less carbs than the potato variety.

They are a bit less melt-in-your-mouth tender than the Ricotta Gnocchetti in the book, or even the Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi I've previously shared from another source, but from my experience the dough is easier to work with and shape. They do contain more flour and eggs (yolks in this case) than the Ricotta Gnocchetti, which can lead to it being a bit more firm, but also richer in flavor from the surplus of yolks. In any case, they are definitely worth trying! I still found them to be incredibly delicate, and loved them in a simple tomato sauce as well (I served half the dunderi with lemon and butter, froze the other half for another day, and then cooked and served it with tomato sauce made with fresh local tomatoes!).

And P.S. Definitely freeze those whites! I like to freeze them individually in the cups of a silicone muffin pan so I can pop them out easily and transfer them to a freezer bag to thaw and use later. This is a great way to "collect" egg whites (which freeze beautifully) to use them later. Egg yolks do not freeze well, so make Dunderi first and then stockpile your whites for making meringue, angel food cake, marshmallows, and more!

Dunderi with Lemon and Butter
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Pasta by Hand & Tasting Table)

480 grams (2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese, homemade or store-bought
6 egg yolks
45 grams (1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used Pecorino Romano)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
160 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Semolina flour, for dusting

113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (I used Pecorino Romano)

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta and egg yolks until smooth. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and flour until the dough just comes together.

Dust a work surface with a 30 grams (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface and sprinkle with an additional 30 grams (1/4 cup) flour to prevent the dough from being too sticky to roll.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour.

Using a pastry cutter or bench scraper, divide the dough into 6 equal portions. On an unfloured surface (or one with minimum flour), roll each piece into a log about a 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the log into 1/2-to-1-inch-long pieces. Place the dunderi on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. Make sure the dunderi pieces are not touching, so they don't stick together.

The dunderi can be made, covered and chilled in the fridge for up to 2 days or frozen on the baking sheet and transferred to a resealable plastic bag. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the dunderi and simmer until they begin to float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until the butter becomes golden brown and turns toasty, 6 to 8 minutes. Be careful so it does not burn! Add the lemon juice and zest (it will splatter--be careful), and season with salt. Add the dumplings and toss to coat. Top with Parmesan and serve immediately.

*Variation* Dunderi may also be served simply with melted butter or a basic tomato sauce.


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