Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shen jian bao 生煎包 (Pan-fried pork soup dumplings)

Juicy, pan-fried pork soup dumplings are the way to a man's heart! These shen jian bao (生煎包) are one of my family's favorites things to eat in Chinatown!
Almost every time we visit my parents, we take a trip to Chinatown. I don't live near a major metropolitan area so don't have the benefit of having an abundance of good Chinese food. My parents, however, travel into the city at least once a month for a meal.

There is one restaurant that makes some pretty spectacular xiao long bao, which are steamed (rather than pan-fried) pork soup dumplings. Their culinary cousin is the shen jian bao, which are pan-fried and crispy on the bottom. Both are delicious. Both are wonderful. We usually order both so we can have both steamed and crispy buns during our meal.
I was in a dumpling mood one day and made the decision to attempt making these. The instructions seemed a bit intimidating but wasn't once I read everything thoroughly. I've made countless dumplings in my lifetime so the assembly didn't scare me. All I had to do was make the yeasted dough, mix together the filling, assemble and cook.

I left out the salt in the recipe below because I was afraid that the filling would already be too salty with the oyster sauce and soy sauce. I was wrong. My shen jian bao were pretty phenomenal but lacked salt. I recommend following the recipe precisely below. We dipped our dumplings in a sweet chili sauce (even Addie!), and everyone was happy. I actually doubled the recipe below and we ate at least a dozen of these between the 3 of us. The skin was thin and soft, and the bottoms had a nice crunch (I used the starch water). The filling was juicy and had wonderful textures with the crunch from the napa cabbage. Next time I might add chopped mushrooms.

My parents were impressed when I told them about the dumplings and thought that my dumpling folding skills were pretty good. Wow - that's a compliment that I will cherish forever. I hope you try these buns the next time you are at an authentic Sichuan or dumpling restaurant. Just make sure you get at least 2 orders of them because they will go very quickly.

Shen jian bao 生煎包 (Pan-fried pork soup dumplings)
Dough
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 110 grams warm water (a little less than 1/2 cup)
Filling
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more as needed
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped napa cabbage
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons hot water
Starch water (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Directions
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix the flour and yeast together. Slowly stream in the warm water and mix on medium speed until the dough becomes smooth and pliable. Alternatively, you can mix by hand. Add additional flour if the dough is too sticky (it should not stick to your fingers).

Once the dough is no longer sticky, cover and allow it to double, about 1-2 hours. Roll the dough out into a long cylinder shape and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Set aside until ready to fill.

Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pork, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, cabbage, sugar and oil together. In a small bowl, soak the green onions in the hot water for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are up, slowly drizzle the warm water into the pork mixture. Then fold in the scallions. The pork should soak up all the water.

Assemble the buns: Take one of the pieces of dough and roll it out into a circle (using a rolling pin). Make sure the centers aren't too thin or else they will break. Add a spoonful of the filling in the centers. Pinch the edges of the dough towards the center like a fan fold (see here if you need a video). Repeat with the remaining 11 pieces of dough. Cover the assembled buns with a wet paper towel or cloth until you are ready to cook them.

Pan fry the buns: In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 1-2 Tablespoons of oil. Arrange some buns in the pan, making sure that none of the buns touch each other. Allow them to crisp up for at least 2 minutes. If you are using starch water (it makes for a prettier presentation), mix the cornstarch with the water and drizzle in about 2 teaspoons into the pan. Otherwise, you can just drizzle in about 2 teaspoons of water instead. Cover and allow the buns to steam for about 3-5 minutes so they are fully cooked.

Serve the buns while they are warm for best results. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.

Yield: 12 buns

Source: China Sichuan Food

Friday, August 19, 2016

Skating Fridays

A Funny Gold Medalist Story


I have a hilarious story to tell you about, and those of you who are skaters should appreciate the humor in this.

I attended a work conference last month when a new colleague of mine confessed something to me during the work-sanctioned happy hour (side note: the funniest things always happen at happy hour, right?). I had just met him for the first time, and he said that he was looking at my LinkedIn profile earlier that week. He noticed that in my 'Accomplishments' section, I listed that I was a Double Gold Medalist in figure skating.

You know where this is going, right? [snicker]

Once he read that line on my profile, he assumed that I was an Olympic gold medalist and proceeded to tell everyone at his office about how an Olympic gold medalist was going to be attending the conference and how I needed to be introduced as such.

He realized a few days later that I didn't list Olympic on my profile so he must have jumped to the wrong conclusion. I laughed and told him that a US Figure Skating gold medalist is someone who has passed the highest disciplines in figure skating and that it had nothing to do with competitions. My Gold Medal was essentially earning a 'black belt' in two areas of figure skating (Moves in the Field and Free Skate).

He was quite embarrassed but thought that it was a laughable mistake. His teammates all laughed too, and we got a kick out of turning this into a good 10-15 minute discussion afterwards.

Have you ever had something like this happen to you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eggless cinnamon chip zucchini muffins

A fantastic, eggless zucchini muffin with tons of cinnamon flavor. These are some of my favorite muffins for the summer!

I have Addie trained when it comes to zucchini. The girl loves her zucchini, but only because I usually shred them and put them in these muffins. I cannot tell you how many times I've baked those eggless muffins. I've made some tweaks here and there to make them slightly healthier and less sugary. Those edits are below.

One day, I was all ready to bake my modified muffins when I realized that I ran out of chocolate chips (oh, the horror!!). I found a bag of cinnamon chips and threw those in instead.

Turns out that the cinnamon chips were a great substitution for these muffins. They made the muffins extra cinnamon-y, and Addie even said that these were better than the chocolate chip version. The one complaint I have is that the cinnamon chips weren't crunchy the next day, even though I refrigerated all of the muffins overnight. Addie was not a fan of the leftover muffins and then said that she liked the chocolate chip ones better. Sigh.

I can't even begin to tell you how many batches of these muffins (usually made with chocolate chips) I have made this summer. It's probably in the double digit range. If I'm feeling generous, I'll gift some to neighbors. But we'll usually just eat them ourselves because they are that good.

Eggless cinnamon chip zucchini muffins
  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup (full fat) coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips (can substitute with chocolate chips)

Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two standard muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the zucchini, coconut milk and coconut oil.

Transfer the zucchini mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. The  mixture will look very dry, but if you keep mixing, it will eventually turn out to be a thick batter.

Gently fold in the cinnamon chips with a rubber spatula.

Fill the muffin tins all the way full. The muffins will not rise up and dome like a traditional muffin. Instead, they will rise slightly and flatten out on top and then shrink a bit after they cool.

Bake in your preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (with some melted chocolate). Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before serving.

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. You can keep them at room temperature, but I found that they start to get soggy overnight. They can also be frozen and thawed. 

Yield: About 18 muffins

Source: Adapted from these muffins

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nutella fudge brownies

These rich and decadent brownies packs a triple chocolate punch! The dense brownie layer is topped with a layer of thick fudge and finished off with a chocolate topping. Oh my chocolate!
Holy chocolate. That's what these brownies are. There are 3 (count 'em!) layers of chocolate heaven in each of these babies.

I wasn't intentionally going for the ombre look, but it turned out that way because I ran out of semi-sweet chocolate. All I had left were white chocolate chips. You can see from my photos that my top layer of white chocolate cracked when I tried cutting into them, but I think it adds to their appeal and gives them a little character.

My fudge layer wasn't as solid as I wanted it to be, but I almost prefer the gooey nature of it. I mean look at it - it's almost caramel-like.

I took a bite of these and my eyes started rolling back into my head. These brownies make you want to just swim in a vat of chocolate and drink bubbly champagne. Or maybe that's just me? Whatever effect chocolate has on you, it'll have 3 times the effect with these brownies.

Nutella fudge brownies 
Brownie
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Fudge

  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup Nutella (or other chocolate-hazelnut spread)

Topping

  • 6 ounces chocolate chips (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 1 Tablespoon shortening, butter or oil
Directions
Bake the brownie: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Then add the eggs. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly fold the dry ingredients into the large bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix until everything just comes together.  Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the middle is no longer jiggly. A toothpick inserted in the center should yield a few wet crumbs. Allow the brownie to cool completely before the next step.

Make the fudge: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the sweetened condensed milk, butter, chocolate chips and Nutella together. Mix well. Spread it evenly over the cooled brownie and set it in the refrigerator to cool.

Make the topping: In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Evenly spread it on top of the fudge layer and allow it to set.

Leftover brownies should be stored in an airtight container and can be kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least a week.
Yield: About 16 brownies

Friday, August 12, 2016

Skating Fridays

Private Lesson with a World and Olympic Coach: Double Salchow


I mentioned last week that I had the honor of working with World and Olympic coach, Nick Perna. Nick gave me (and Coach B) some great insights into my single jumps. What was reassuring was that almost everything he told me was nothing new. The tips he gave me to improve those jumps were the same ones that Coach B has been drilling into me. It's wonderful to know that both of these coaches have consistent things to say about my technique.

I asked him to focus on my double salchow since I have been having some challenges landing a correct one. I've landed a few, but they have been slightly underrotated. My legs also tend to open up early, so it was something that I had been focusing on.

We started off with a single salchow. Nick liked the technique on that and moved onto a single salchow into a loop jump. Then he had me try a double salchow on its own.

He saw the issues that I talked to him about and he gave me several things to try:
  • Double salchow walk-throughs and end in a traveling backspin
  • Axel walk-through
  • Back inside three turn into waltz jump
  • Back power three into mohawk into salchow 
  • Pivot exercise: Do a forward inside pivot into backspin (focusing on staying in the same spot); then repeat but with a jump
I proved that I could do all of these exercises with little issue. He put me in the pole harness (my first time in one of these contraptions) and told me to focus on the pivot exercise. My goal was to takeoff in the "h" position and cross my legs into a backspin.

I fell many times and even pulled a muscle in my rear, but by golly, I did it. Nick said that my takeoff was "textbook" but he saw where I had issues committing to the rotation.  He reminded me of the formula that I learned at a previous G2C seminar:

The formula for a landed jump is: Time x Rotation + Axis + Desire

He said that I had ample air time for the double salchow. My axis was fine, and I certainly had the desire. What I was missing was the rotation. Once I can isolate that and commit to it, I will have a successful jump.

He told me to keep working on the pivot exercise and jump into an axel and land into a backspin. If I can translate this into the double salchow, then I will be golden.

I hope that I can continue to make improvements on this jump, as I would love to add it to my repertoire and use it in a program in the next year.

Thank you, Nick, for your valuable insights and exercises. But more importantly, thank you for believing in me and giving me the confidence that I can do this.

I will keep you all posted on my progress.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Blueberry lemon curd ice cream

This refreshing blueberry lemon curd ice cream is a wonderful summer treat. With fresh blueberries and a perfectly tart lemon curd, it takes Jeni's ice cream base to the next level!

Is there anything more awesome than eating ice cream during the summer? My answer is no. Although I enjoy ice cream year-round, I especially love it in the summertime so I can cool off.

While I normally find myself craving chocolate ice cream flavors, sometimes I want something that is lighter and more refreshing. I found myself with some leftover blueberry chia seed jam and lemon curd so I created some ice cream to use them up.

This ice cream uses Jeni's base and is easily scoopable. The blueberry jam freezes beautifully and has a bit of texture with the berries and chia seeds. The lemon curd stayed fairly soft and ribbon-like and provided some wonderful tartness to the sweet ice cream base. It's a marriage made in ice cream heaven.

I have a feeling that this ice cream will be eaten fairly quickly so I need to brainstorm what flavors to try next.

Blueberry lemon curd ice cream
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Blueberry chia seed jam (or your favorite blueberry jam)
  • Lemon curd
Directions
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Set this aside. Reserve the remaining milk and keep it separate.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the sea salt until well combined. Set a fine mesh sieve above it and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cream, remaining milk, sugar and corn syrup on medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Allow the mixture to boil for 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the stove and very carefully add the cornstarch/milk slurry. Mix until everything is well incorporated and put the pan back on the stove. Allow the mixture to come back to a boil and until the liquid becomes slightly thicker, about 1 minute.

Turn off the stove and pour the liquid through the sieve into the large bowl with the cream cheese/salt. Mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

At this point, you have two options. You can either set the ice cream over an ice bath (pour the contents into a large zip-top bag, seal it shut and place it over a large bowl with ice cubes), or put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Once the mixture is completely cool, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Put a layer of ice cream in the bottom of your container. Then add layers of blueberry jam and lemon curd. Alternate until you reach the top of your container. Set it in the freezer until it has hardened (at least 4 hours).
 
Yield: About 1 quart

Source: An Eva Bakes original; blueberry chia seed jam from here and lemon curd from here; ice cream base from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fruit jam icebox cake

Icebox cake is the perfect dessert for those dog days of summer when you don't want to turn on the oven. This simple and satisfying treat requires little effort and can be customized to your liking!
These 100-degree days of summer have been pretty miserable. Not only is the heat bad, but the humidity is worse. The weather guys have been saying that it's been close to 110 degrees here with the heat index. Ugh. There's nothing worse than high heat and humidity in the summer - am I right?

Since it's been so hot, I have avoided turning on the oven. Our air conditioner is already working overtime, so it doesn't make sense making the house even hotter.

My family loved the blueberry lemon icebox cake so much that I decided to make another one - an even simpler one that didn't require anything fancy. I had some leftover mascarpone filling and used that for this cake. If you don't have any, feel free to use a container of cool whipped topping instead. I layered in my favorite fruit jam and obviously didn't have enough filling to top the cake off. So I used some fresh blackberries instead.

This dessert came together extremely quickly and probably took less than 5 minutes to assemble. I let the freezer do all the work to meld all the flavors together. My husband enjoyed this icebox cake one evening after a hot day and said that it was just as good as the blueberry lemon version with all the fancy ingredients. Guess sometimes less is more.

Fruit jam icebox cake
  • Graham crackers
  • Mascarpone/Greek yogurt filling (recipe from here)
  • Your favorite fruit jam 
Directions
Line a standard loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper and ensuring there is an overhang on the sides. Arrange graham crackers on the bottom to fill the pan. You may need to break up some graham crackers to fit.

Top with a layer of the mascarpone/Greek yogurt filling. Then top with your favorite fruit jam. Repeat for as many layers as you like (I only had enough filling for 2 layers). Top with a final layer of the mascarpone and freeze for at least 4-5 hours.

To serve, remove the cake from the pan by lifting the plastic wrap or parchment paper. Slice with a hot knife and top with fresh fruit if desired.

Keep the icebox cake covered and in the freezer. It will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 2-4 servings

Source: An Eva Bakes original; filling from here

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