Happy belated Vday

Valentine's Day Wreck

I know I’m a little late, but it took me a while to get around to uploading the picture of the awesome cake Mike got for me on Valentine’s Day. I know you’re probably thinking “Wow, can Dairy Queen not do better than that?” and the answer is “probably”. But Mike was going for a cake wreck, which is turns out is harder to make than just stumble upon. He told the person there to use the grossest colours and not center it properly. I think the two of them must have had fun. It worked out well too, because I love the gooey icing.

Yet Another Chinese New Year Recipe

Nian gao (sticky rice cake)

So this is the last Chinese New Year recipe I’ll be posting for a while, since the New Year was technically yesterday. I love nian gao, especially if it’s reheated in the frying pan (you don’t even need oil). This recipe is a baked version, technically you are supposed to steam it and then fry it, but this way is easier for me since I don’t have a steamer big enough to make it in. This recipe is the same as the one posted here, but it looks nothing like the image they have (I believe they’re showing a picture of a steamed cake, which is sort of funny since the recipe is for baked cake).

Ingredients

  • 1 package of rice flour (roughly 2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of sugar (I used a mix of sugars, but it’s really up to you)
  • 1 tbsp of baking soda
  • Sesame seeds
  • You can also add pitted red dates 
Directions
  1. Mix everything together
  2. Pour into greased baking dish
  3. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Rice packets

Rice packets steaming

To continue on with the loads of cooking for Chinese New Year, here is Mike’s and my recipe for rice packets.

Ingredients (for 10 small ones)

  • 2 cups glutinous rice (sweet rice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 20 dried (large) banana leaves
  • 3 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hoisin
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) boneless, skinless chicken (mixture of light and dark meat), coarsely ground
  • 1 Chinese sausage, cut in 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 ounces (56 g) Char Siu, cut in 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup water or chicken broth
Directions
  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs almost clear.
  2. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and enough fresh water to cover the rice, then let it soak for 2 hours.
  3. To rehydrate the mushrooms, just put them in a small bowl and pour some warm water over them and then let them soak for roughly 45 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the mushrooms, cut off the stems (since they’re a little hard), then dice them.
  5. While the mushrooms are soaking you can also start soaking the banana leaves in some warm water.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the soya sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin and sugar.
  7. Heat a wok or frying pan and then add oil. Stir fry the chicken for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, Chinese sausage and soya sauce mixture and stir fry for another couple minutes. Then add the cornstarch and water mixture and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Drain the rice and then put in rice cooker. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2
tsp of sesame oil and 1 1/2 cups of water then cook.
  10. When the rice has cooked, and cooled, divide it into 10 portions.
  11. Arrange the banana leaves into crosses (each cross = 2 leaves)
  12. With wet fingers, spilt each portion in half.
  13. Put one half portion on a banana leaf, spoon on some of the filling and then add the other half portion on top.
  14. Fold the leaves over and then tie it with a piece of twine (like you would a present with ribbon).
  15. Steam for 20 minutes.

The packets keep very well and can easily be frozen or refrigerated and then reheated.

Almost Chinese New Year (dumpling recipe)

As you may or may not know, tomorrow (the 26th) is Chinese New Year. In light of that, Mike and I have been cooking up a storm. Last night we made sticky rice for a small New Years potluck and today we’re going to make rice packets and dumplings. I also need to whip up some sort of 年糕 (nian gao/lin gow) for one of my classes tomorrow.  

Though nian gao and spring rolls are two of the more stereotypical new years food, I don’t have a good recipe for those right now. So instead I’ll share my very own jiao zi (dumplings) recipe.

饺子 (jiao zi)

Ingredients

  •  1/2 kg (1 pound) ground meat (this can be any ground meat, my favourite is ground chicken, but I have done it with turkey, pork, tofu, tofu chicken, and tofu beef)
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tsp brandy or sherry or rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 or 3 stalks of spring onion
  • 1 1/4 cups of bok choy

Directions

  1. Make sure everything is chopped up reasonably finely
  2. Mix it all together
  3. Put a spoonful into a dumpling wrapper and fold. This part can be a little tricky, but what I do is hold it in my palm, wet the edges just a little with a bit of water, then fold the wrapper and pink it. I then sort of pleat the edges of the wrapper starting at the middle, going to one end and then going back to the middle and pleating the other side. I think this sounds more complicated than it is, but you can take a look at this picture.
  4. To cook, heat up a deep (non-stick) frying pan that has a lid 
  5. Once it is hot, put in a bit of oil and as many dumplings as can fit without touching each other
  6. Fry until they’re just brown on the underside
  7. Pour in one cup of water that has had a “generous splash” of rice vinegar mixed in it
  8. Put the lid on the pan and cook for roughly 10 minutes. You may want to push them around just a tiny bit while they are cooking just to make sure they are not sticking, but that depends on the stickiness of your frying pan.
  9. I like to eat my dumplings with a sauce of equal parts soya sauce and rice vinegar, maybe with a little bit of chili paste mixed in
If you are extra hardcore, you can make your own wrapper instead of buying the premade ones. I’m not very good at judging the measurements of flour to water but it’s roughly 3 cups of flour to 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 cup hot water. You may need to add more flour or water depending on the consistency.

Brain Cake!!!

So I just discovered Cake Wrecks. Somehow I feel like I am quite behind the times. It was most definitely meant to be though, since the most recent post is all about anatomical cakes! I must say, I was particularly stricken with the brain one (being a brain scientist myself). In the summer some of my friends made their own brain cake, but I fear the caliber of that one was not quite at the level of the one featured here. Part of me wonders why this cake was made. Was it just for fun? Or was it actually for some sort of occasion? Was the occasion a “Congratulations you’re a neurosurgeon!” or was it a wedding? So many unanswered questions.

奶黄包 (lai wong bao, custard buns)

Dough (from Dim Sum by Ellen Leong Blonder

Ingredients

Starter

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Dough

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 cups flour, plus additional of dusting board/countertop
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp vegetable shortening

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the yeast with the lukewarm water and sugar and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the flour until well blended.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until puffed and bubbly.
  4. Stir the salt and vinegar into the starter.
  5. In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Stir the flour mixture into the yeast mixture. When combined, add the shortening and work it in with your fingers. The dough will become a sticky, somewhat shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth, adding flour as necessary.
  7. Grease a clean, large bowl with a little shortening, place the dough in the bowl, and cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.
  8. Lightly punch the dough down, and then proceed to add filling (recipe below).
  9. Adding the filling can be a little tricky, I usually make a circle (that’s still quite thick in the middle) then add a glop of filling. I then stretch the dough out and around the filling. This takes a bit of practice to get good at and to get a feel about how you like to do it.

Custard filling 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk (warm)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp of melted butter

Directions

  1. Mix egg yolks and sugar in a pan
  2. Add flour and mix well
  3. Place pan on low heat and stir constantly until thickened (this takes a while)
  4. Stop the heat and add melted butter and stir well

Sponge Cake Attempt 1

So Mike and I have finally discovered the show “No Reservations”. I know we’re a little slow on the uptake, but not having the Food Network, it took us a while to discover it (played very late on the Discovery Channel). I know most people must have more exciting things to be doing late at night besides watching the Discovery Channel, like sleeping perhaps, but we are just too cool for things like that.

So we were watching the Spain episode and one of the chefs the host visited made this crazy sponge cake that only took 30 seconds to cook in the microwave. After much scouring of the interweb, we found what seemed to be a reasonable approximation. Of course, though the fancy one on TV seemed quite simple, the recipe we found was much more complicated and used supplies we don’t have (like a whipped cream charger). So this is our approximate approximation of an approximate approximation

approximation is quite a weird word when you write it out that many times…

So the first attempt was not totally successful. It was spongy, but quite dense (most likely due to the lack of whipped cream charger). We also omitted the chocolate and went with vanilla. Yes, it was made in a plastic cup in the microwave.

Shortbread Cookies

Mike and I decided that it would be a nice gesture to give cookies as gifts this Christmas. We even purchased the most gigantic cookie sheet I have ever seen (it completely fills our oven). After procuring lots of butter and sugar, we set about making glorious shortbreads. Though I knew there wasn’t a whole lot to shortbreads anyways, we chose this recipe based completely on its lack of ingredients.

 

Shortbreads (modified from this recipe)

Ingredients (makes a TON of cookies, we estimate around 150)

  • 5.5 cups of butter, softened
  • 3 cups of white sugar
  • 12 cups of sifted all-purpose flour (though we used cake flour because that’s what we had)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (though our oven is hot, so we reduced it to 325 F)
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour by hand until the dough is smooth. Extra flour can be added if the dough is not stiff enough to roll
  3. On a (very) floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. Lacking cookie cutters, we used a standard shot glass.
  4. Bake for ~7 minutes. This really depends on your oven and how dark you want your cookies. I really recommend doing a small test batch because the original recipe says 12 – 15 minutes, but after only 8 our cookies were a tad on the overcooked side.
  5. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for a few minutes then move them to a wire cooling rack (if you have one, we don’t)

 

Icing (modified from this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cups of butter, softened
  • 4 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • lots of food colouring

Directions

  1. Cream everything together until smooth and fluffy
  2. We put it in a ziplock type bag with a corner cut off to pipe the icing

I think they turned out quite well, after the first mishap with the overcooking (but that can be easily avoided). We are packaging them up in little chinese takeout-esque boxes that we made last night. I’ll post photos of the finished product when all is said an done. 

I will also be posting photos of the finished knitting projects soon.

Naan bread

naan bread 

I love naan bread. A lot. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to get around here, unless you want to shell out the big bucks at the supermarket. This is the second time I’ve tried making it, but the first time was with whole wheat flour, so it didn’t turn out quite as well as I had hoped. This one, using good old evil white flour, turned out pretty tasty. Here’s the link to the original recipe, I made a few substitutions (as always) but it still turned out ok.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Whisk the warm water with the yeast and sugar until the yeast is dissolved. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.
  2. Sift flour (I didn’t sift) and salt three times into a large bowl add the yeast mixture, half of the butter and all of the yogurt. Mix into a soft dough then knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size (I like setting it on my register).
  3. Punch down dough then knead for 5 minutes. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out into 8 inch round naans.
  4. Heat up a frying pan to a very hot temperature, add a naan (or a couple, depending on the size of the pan). Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2. Keep a close eye on them as it may not take quite so long to cook.

Recipes to come soon

bake sale cupcakes

 

I’ve decided that it would be much more exciting if I included all the interesting food that I cook on a semi-regular basis. This is just a test entry, but I hope you enjoy the photo of some of my previous bake sale cupcakes.

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