Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sticky Rice Wrapping How-To

Mmmm...look at those babies. Here are some photos related to the previous post about dim sum.
We made pork dumplings as well - kudos to the gals for the awesome wrapping job! I put myself in charge of rolling out the wrappers. Look at them all lined cute and ready to be fried and then gently steamed to perfection!

Had some difficulties with uploading photos in the previous post. Boo to the incompatibilities of Copy-Pasting text from Word!

(Place rice filling in the middle of the lotus leaf, on the veined side. Bring up the bottom of the leaf, where the nub is, over the rice. Gently hug the rice filling with the leaf as to compact the filling. Bring the left and then right side over, also gently compacting the filling. Roll the packet up burrito-wrap style, and place in a steamer.)


Dim Sum Sunday

A couple of Sundays ago, I had a couple of girls over for an old fashioned dim sum making party.
Okay. Perhaps dim sum making parties were never really 'the' thing to do on a Saturday night, but I have a very Joy Luck Club image in my head of my grandmother having a couple of gal pals over one night to fold dumplings. Maybe in preparation of a big event? And they would giggle and talk about the latest gossip in the neighborhood and what boys they had their eye on.

So I guess some things haven't changed too much. Ha ha!
I took a dim sum making course (a one-day all-day event) with Maple Pecan a couple of years ago, and since then, I have been enthralled with the the idea of making my own dim sum.

"You mean you make your own dim sum????" This is the question or reaction I get when I tell people I like to make dim sum. Or, "you can make dim sum???" Of course! It had to start somewhere, right?

I think my fascination with dim sum really started a couple of years ago when I went back to the motherland and asked the Ol' Father Spoon, "where do restaurants get their dim sum? Do they make it on premise?" (I should note that Ol' Father Spoon came from 'a restaurant family') He informed me that it's usually a mixture of making in-house and ordering. The idea of a restaurant ordering in their dim sum shocked me, yet at the same time the idea of making my own dim sum was groundbreaking.

Making. My. Own. Dim. Sum.

I had always taken the delicious steamed goodies for granted, I figure you could pick up a bag of frozen har gow (shrimp dumplings) at your local T&T, steam 'em up and be good to go. But to make your own? Wow. In the course I took, I was properly schooled. And since then, I never looked back. (Maple Pecan, on the other hand, was a trooper - enjoyed the course but prefers her dim sum already made and cooked in a steamer basket.)

One of the 'classics' - glutinous rice in lotus leaves (Sticky Rice).


6 lotus leaves, soaked in hot water until soft (use half a lotus leaf if they are very large)

2 medium black mushrooms, pre-soaked, stems removed and diced

½ lb chicken breast meat, diced

1 cup BBQ pork, diced

2 Chinese sausages, diced

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon oil for frying

2 cups glutinous rice

2 teaspoons sesame oil, ½ teaspoon minced ginger, ½ teaspoon sugar

Rice prep:

Measure 2 cups of rice in a saucepan. Pour cold water over rice and wash by rubbing rice between fingers. Drain off water, pour more water on rice and rinse. Repeat until water is clear.

Add water to cover rice about ¼ to ½ inch above rice level. Cover and cook on medium heat. Bring to a boil, turn heat down when water has completely evaporated and craters can be seen. Turn heat off completely and allow rice to steam, 10-15 minutes. Fluff rice before using.

Filling prep:

Marinate diced chicken breast with ½ teaspoon minced ginger, 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, ½ teaspoon sugar

Assembling of Filling:

Have glutinous rice hot and other filling ingredients ready.

On medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry chicken until cooked. Add BBQ pork, Chinese sausage and add 2 tablespoons light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons oyster sauce. Add to glutinous rice and mix well.


Shake off excess water from lotus leaves, put a portion of rice filling in the centre (on veined side). Fold bottom of leaf up to cover rice filling. Gently but firmly, bring the two side of the leaf towards the middle and compact filling together. Roll up to enclose the contents.

Place the wrapped rice in a bamboo steamer. Wrap the remaining packets and steam for 20 minutes and serve hot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cake Assembly - On the Fly!

A baker's best asset, other than a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, is the ability to improvise.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to think of how to rework a dessert at the "drop of a cake" (hee hee hee). But it's an important skill to have; I say "skill" on purpose - I believe that it is in part natural sense but also something that can be developed over time, with experience. Whether it's a separating buttercream or meringues that don't quite work, it's important to keep everything in check, breathe, and think. Think. "What would bring this buttercream together?" "What can I add to this ice cream to make it unforgettable?" In my case, it was "how can I pull together a birthday cake, at work, during lunch?"

I was pretty limited on time and didn't have too much in terms of pre-preparation, so I had to think of a dessert concept that I could pull together last minute, but still with amazing results. My pick? Ice cream-filled profiteroles topped with chocolate sauce.

Profiteroles (cream puffs) are super-easy to make. REALLY. They are! I know I tend to repeat that phrase quite often, but profiteroles are something anyone can do. They are also very versatile - they lend well to both savory and sweet fillings.

The quick method:

Heat 1 cup of milk and 1 stick of butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted and the liquid is just below boiling. Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour and stir quickly until no dry bits remain and the dough is roughly in one ball-shaped form. Take off the heat and add in 4 eggs. One at a time. The finished dough should be thick, sticky, but still pliable. Fill a pastry bag and pipe into mounds on a cookie sheet. (I used a small cookie scoop, feel free to use two spoons as well) Bake in a HOT oven (400F) for 20 minutes until puffed and golden. Reduce heat to 225F and cook a further 15 minutes until the puffs are 'dry' and sound hollow when tapped. I have cracked the door open a smidge at this step to prevent burning. One tip to prevent deflation - quickly pierce each puff on the bottom or side to further dry out the inside.

I made the puffs a day in advance, but everything else would have to be assembled day of.
The plan? Chocolate wafers would be the base for each puff and then topped with chocolate sauce. These wafer-puff-sauce mounds would then be stacked pyramid style on a plate, topped with a sparkler candle.

The results?

Not bad, eh? The chocolate sauce was cobbled together with chocolate chips (from home), cream (coffee cream @ work), honey (@work), and coffee(@work!)! I only had about 30 seconds to take pictures - the brief period of time in between taking the cake out of the freezer (they were filled with ice cream) and the presentation. The wafer base (store bought) was a great touch - they added a much needed crunch and rich chocolate flavour to each bite. Not to mention a terrific platform for the puff itself! And it made it that much easier to serve!

I should take this opportunity to mention that I did a guest post for a lovely coworker of mine on her fashion-themed blog, Being High Maintenance, Not Bitchy, (amen, sista!).

Check out my post here - and explore her blog while you're at it, it's full of great ideas and inspiration!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Blonde Moment

I was blonde for a moment. Actually - it was a pretty long moment. A moment that lasted almost 12 months. It was a great experiment, and I'm pretty sure I will go down that road again, but for the time being, I'm happy being a brunette again.

It was raining today, or I should say - it is raining today and I had a particular itch to scratch. Brownies. But I wanted to do something new (a la Kitchen Resolutions) so I dug up a recipe for blondies - the sister to the fudgy brownie. If the pastry world was like Hollywood, brownies would be Angelina Jolie and blondies would be Jennifer Aniston. The brownie is rich, luxurious, sinful, decadent, and at times, nutty. The blondie is lighter, sweeter - but is a mishmash of all different kind of nuts and chips. Cream puffs would be Jessica Simpson, of course. Light, airy, tricky to tackle at first, but SUPER-easy once you know all the shortcuts. Not to mention the gaping air pocket in the 'head' of the puff. Hee hee. I could go on forever - the chocolate chip cookie is like Paul Newman - classic, all-American, your go-to in an emergency, with a million different spinoffs and variations (see also: Jimmy Stewart, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon). But let's get back to business, shall we?

The aforementioned blondie contained some of my pantry staples - coconut, chocolate chips, and pecans. The recipe was taken from Joy of Cooking - I found one in Martha, of course, but hers was a bit too rich for my liking (5 eggs, I think, compared to 1.5 in JoC). The recipe calls for the browning of butter, which adds to the signature toffee colour of blondies as well as an added depth of nuttiness. I think it's a technique that is underused and underrated in baking - it's so simple, yet adds a multitude of dimension in taste! Perhaps I will try a browned butter cake next time! Mmmm...with maple icing.

As with many other brownie recipes I have tried, the cooking time was tinkered around with. It really depends on what kind of brownie/blondie recipe you have and the kind of bar you prefer. For a fudgier brownie, it's alright if it comes out a bit wet, but for a cake-type of bar, go for a clean tester. I don't think a blondie lends well to being 'fudgy', so I wound up leaving it in for an additional 10 minutes. If you're nervous about too tough of a crust, tent the pan with foil.

Anyway, check out the results below.

(Mise en place...more like mise en disaster zone)

(Mmmm....blondies. Studded with coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Yes, if you noticed in the previous post, I mentioned the "c-word". Cake. Delicious, delicious cake. By the way - the ice cream sandwiches? Other than for a bit of freezer burn, not bad! I used the Tovolo ice cream sandwich maker gadget, which worked out pretty well. It's a little complicated to explain - so maybe next time I will photo-document to explain how it worked.

So yes, I had some cake tops (levelled off cake....'tops') leftover from a project I had last week - my very first "paid-for" cake! Granted, it was for a co-worker's birthday - but it was my first paid-for cake! That wasn't paid for by a relative! Ha!

They didn't have a specific cake in mind, "something chocolate", they requested, and of course I obliged. I went with a multi-layered chocolate mousse cake enveloped (rhymes with 'developed') in a white chocolate ganache-buttercream frosting (kind of an oxymoron, I know, but I'll explain later). A pic of the goods, c/o a coworker's camera (but taken by me):

How many layers would you say that cake is? 3? 5? Does the mousse filling count as a layer? Or simply the sandwich glue that holds it all together? I didn't tell them, but this cake was booze-heavy! (say it with me "boooooze heavy!") Kahlua and Frangelico in the mousse and Amaretto keeping the cake layers nice and moist. Trust me, it makes a difference.

The only specific instruction I received was to keep the top white. I'm not the best at cake decorating, so I opted to do an all-white frost and let them decorate the rest. Oh, did I mention that this was for the Art Team? Ha ha - I knew they would appreciate a little more white space. I found a recipe for white chocolate ganache, but once I made didn't really coat as nicely as hoped. I did halve the recipe - but still, the chocolate cake was so dark, the effect wasn't great. I decided do mix things up by integrating it into a moderated buttercream (butter, cream, icing sugar) and it was really, really good. Really creamy, perfect amount of sweetness and went on like a dream. I'm going to try and duplicate it in the future!

(a snippet of their fantastic decorating! I missed the candles and cutting, but managed to secure myself a slice :)

So there ends another week. And next week - another cake. I have something quite unique up my sleeve...or rather, my apron. Which would mean, I have something quite unique under my skirt? ;P

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I made ice cream sandwiches with leftover cake tops and ice cream.
I made a small mess.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kitchen Resolutions

I don't like to make New Year Resolutions - I think that if you want to make changes to your life, start now! Don't wait until the 1st of January! But I suppose it's symbolic - a new year, a fresh start; wipe the slate clean and start all over. I don't have any 'personal' resolutions to share - not because I feel particularly private, but I don't have any (I make them year round, eh?). The trips to the gym continue as planned, mental self-improvement is always on the agenda, the quest to find the perfect fork plods on - but I do have a few "Kitchen Resolutions":

1) No dirty dishes in the sink overnight and start unloading/drying more consistently.
I know I'll make exceptions for this - who wants to clean up after a party?

2) Continue daily sweep.
After the 'Infestation 2009', I brush my small kitchen tile space religiously.

3) Push the boundaries of my baking - let's try a stretch of 12 new recipes. No past repeats.

4) Buy what you will eat. Don't buy for what you might eat.

5) Unless something breaks, no new kitchen gadgets.
Exception: Kitchen Aid Food Processor...Daisy's getting a sibling!

I think that's a pretty good start. I should print this out and tape it on my fridge. Tomorrow. Heh.
I should note that as an amendment to Resolution #5 - I will still accept kitchen gadget gifts! I was gifted a lovely and heavy-duty non-stick mini Madeleine pan for Christmas! Lovely! It's definitely something I have hesitated to buy for myself in the past, but have always wanted. So hooray! Thanks to Maple Pecan for the gift, and J for the suggestion!

Instead of typical sponge Madeleines, I made hazelnut shortbread.
And it was deeelicious.

Hazelnuts are something I always have in the freezer. Unfortunately, they are unpeeled so I have to plan long in advance before using them in a recipe. They must be toasted and peeled, something that can take quite a while - not to mention potentially disastrous!
My method: pour hazelnuts in a shallow frying pan and gently toast over LOW HEAT. Shake the pan/stir nuts often to avoid spot burning. You can toss out burnt nuts, but the smell will linger for-e-ver. Once the skins have started to crack and peel, pour the nuts in a small bowl lined with a kitchen towel and start peelin' by kneading the hazelnuts in the towel. The friction caused by the hazelnuts and towel fibre should be able to take off a significant amount of peel. I like to do some by hand once they have cooled or return them to the pan for a second round of toasting.

I'm not sure if you can tell the colour difference in the two pictures. If you can - the colour difference can be attributed to two extra minutes in the oven. Granted, these little guys are small and two minutes do make quite a difference. No discernible difference in taste, though!
Once cooled, the 'top' sides were dipped in chocolate. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of ground hazelnuts and it really made an impact! Highly recommend this simple and easy recipe.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Post

I haven't forgotten about this blog, I swear! I did think about posting...but it's the holidays = it was very, very busy. The four units of my family were reunited for the first time in nearly a year, I helped host my workplace's Baking Exchange, workplace holiday party, I hosted my first par-tay at my bachelorette spoon rest and.... it's still December. Here are some snapshots from the month:

(below: my contributions to the Baking Exchange - traditional gingerbread cookies and peppermint-topped Millionaire Shortbread (shortbread topped with a caramel layer, then with chocolate, then with crunched up candy canes), also a picture of the goods others bought, we raised nearly $200 at the subsequent Bake Sale)

(below: Christmas dinner - I cooked and hosted the fam! Stuffing,...err...stuffed squash and to the right - roast chicken with potatoes and stuffing. In the background you can see the mountain of mashed potatoes and carrots 'n cabbage plate.)