chinese barbecue pork buns (bao)

chinese barbecue pork buns

I was looking through food blogs the other day and my sister was with me. She saw this recipe for Chinese Pork Buns and immediately said, “Hey let’s make those!” I thought it would be too complicated or take too much effort, but after thinking about it for a minute I said, “Ok let’s do it.”

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

Working together with my sister to cook the buns, it was not difficult at all. We didn’t take the time to actually make the legit Char Siu pork that Jen used, which looks fantastic and I hope to try someday. Instead, we just pan fried the pork and incorporated it into the sauce. Not quite as cool, but still tasty.

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

These took us 4 hours total to make. We had a makeshift steamer that we made out of two pots and a metal net, and we only could steam 5 buns at a time. Despite all the work, I was SO happy with how these turned out. The buns are exactly what you would find in a Chinese dim sum brunch. I never thought I’d actually be able to make them, but the dough itself is actually very straightforward to make. Only the assembly is the tough part (we had a ton of ugly accident buns that burst open… you are only seeing pictures of the good ones).

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

When we got near the end of the dough we ran out of pork filling and decided to fill some buns with Nutella. And it was delish. Like a chocolate croissant, only in a steamed bun…

chinese barbecue pork buns

chinese barbecue pork buns

Overall I’m so glad we decided to try it, and even the ugly buns still tasted fantastic.  I’m definitely saving the recipes for the future. Props to my sister for helping me with the cooking, the photos, and the eating.

Chinese Barbecue Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

found on: Use Real Butter
*filling from Fine Cooking issue #109
*dough from Chinese Snacks by Huang Su-Huei

filling
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tbsps oyster sauce
2 tbsps ketchup
5 tsps granulated sugar
4 tsps cornstarch
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (this is not the same as regular soy sauce)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch white pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsps peanut oil (I used vegetable, oops)
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (1/4-inch)
1 1/2 cups char siu pork, fine dice (I used just regular cooked diced pork)
1 tbsps Shaoxing Chinese sherry
1 1/2 tsps sesame oil

Whisk the chicken broth, oyster sauce, ketchup, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Heat the peanut oil over high flame in a wok or heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook (stirring often) until golden brown – about 6 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add the pork, stir-frying for about 2-3 minutes. Pour the sherry in from the edges of the wok (or drizzle in a circle over the saucepan as I did) and stir together. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the broth mixture into the center of the wok or pan. Stir together until the filling is thickened. This takes only a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil. Let cool and refrigerate the filling. Filling can be refrigerated for a few days before using. Do not freeze.

dough
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup warm water (105°F – 115°F)
1 tbsp yeast
6 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsps shortening

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water and add the yeast. Let the yeast stand for about ten minutes or until it becomes foamy, floating to the top. Sift the flour (I never sift anything) into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, shortening, and the yeast liquid. Mix well. If the dough is dry, add a little water. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. Knead the dough until smooth (took me ten minutes by hand) Place the dough in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until it has tripled in size.

Do this: cut 24 squares of parchment or wax paper, 2 1/2-inches a side.

Assemble the bao: Knead the risen dough until it is smooth and elastic. Again, if it is too dry, wet your hand(s) and knead it – if it is too wet, add some flour and knead it in. Because I work on a finite area cutting board (i.e. not a long counter), I found it easiest to cut the dough into quarters and make a log from each quarter. Keep the unused dough under plastic or a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying out. Cut each log into 6 equal pieces and flatten each piece with your hand to make a disc. Use your fingers to pinch the outer inch of the disc thinner than the center. Then shape a sort of well in the thicker center of the dough. Spoon a tablespoon (or more, if you can handle it) of the pork filling into the center of the dough. Pleat the edges together, with the intent of gathering the edges to form a sort of bowl from the dough (use your thumb or spoon to push the filling down). If you care about the presentation (hey, some people don’t) then wipe your fingers clean of any filling on a wet cloth before twisting and pinching the pleats together at the top. If there is excess dough, pinch it off. Set the bao on a square of parchment. Repeat for the rest and let them stand for about 10 minutes.

Steaming: Place the buns in a steamer with at least 2 inches between them as they will expand during steaming. You will not be able to fit them all in your steamer unless you have 1) a giant steamer or 2) a million layers – so be patient and don’t cram them together, just steam in two or three batches.

If you have a wok, bring 2 inches of water to a boil and set your steamer over the wok (make sure the steamer doesn’t actually sit in the water – that would be called boiling and we don’t want that!). If you don’t have a wok (I don’t) then this is what I did: I found a stockpot that fits my generic bamboo steamer perfectly. The fit doesn’t have to be perfect, just don’t use such a large pot that the steam escapes. I filled the stockpot with 2 inches of water and then placed a small metal rack (you can find these in random Asian grocery stores) in the center. Bring the water to a boil, place the steamer on the rack.

Steam for 10 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 24.

Storage: Once cooled, you can seal these in an airtight container or ziploc bag and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, either steam them again for a few minutes or do the ghetto method: place the bao in a bowl, cover with a plate, and microwave for a minute or two. You can also freeze the bao in a sealed bag and reheat them by either steaming or nuking (just add more time than if they were refrigerated).

lemon pull-apart bread

I first found this bread as just a pretty picture on Tumblr. A reallllly pretty picture.  There was no source for the photo (like most things on Tumblr), no recipe, nothing but a photo, and I felt like I absolutely needed to know how to make it because it looked like the most delicious bread in existence.

So I saved the image and then uploaded it to Google’s Reverse Image Lookup, and luckily found the website it had originally come from- a beautiful blog called Clockwork Lemon. The recipe was there! And when I finally got time I made the bread.

lemon pull apart bread

It involved making a dough, letting it rise, cutting it into a bunch of layers, rubbing orange-lemon-sugar zest mix on them, letting it rise again, and finally baking it.

lemon pull apart bread

It really was exactly what I dreamed it would be, lemony, sweet, really soft with a crunchy top, and the layers pulled apart easily. The recipe includes a frosting for this bread but I knew it wouldn’t need it and I was right. It is way good enough on its own.

lemon pull apart bread

It takes a little time to make this but it’s really not hard at all, and so delicious. The butter does drip out of the pan when the bread expands upward, and this made my smoke detector go off about a million times, so I put a pan in the oven underneath the bread pan.

lemon pull apart bread

Pull Apart Lemon Coffee Cake (Bread)

from Clockwork Lemon & 17 and Baking

Sweet Yeast Dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (You might not use all of this)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Lemon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of three lemons
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing (I did not use this)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make the dough:

1. In the microwave heat the butter and the milk together until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly. While it is cooling Mix two cups of the flour with the yeast and the sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Then add the water to the milk mixture and stir in the vanilla extract

2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixer and stir until combined. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg until it is combined. Add another 1/2 of the flour and the salt and mix till combined.

3. Sprinkle the dough with 2 tbsp of flour and knead it with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky but should become soft and smooth from the kneading. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Make Ahead Tip: If you want to make the dough the night before you bake it just gently deflate the dough after its first rise, place back in the bowl and cover it with plastic. Stick it in the fridge overnight (it will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. Plus you get added flavor in the bread from the benefit of a slow, cold rise) The next day take the dough out and bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I like to cover my dough with a damp piece of paper towel and stick it in my oven at the lowest temperature until it is room temp.

4. Mix the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. It will draw out the citrus oils and make the sugar sandy and fragrant.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or spray it will baking spray

6. Forming the loaf: Deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. This part is a lot easier with a ruler on hand! Use a pastry brush to thickly coat the dough with the melted butter

7. Use a pizza cutter, pastry cutter, or a sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″ (it might not be this exact size, but try to make the five strips be equal sizes). Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar over the first buttered rectangle and gently press the sugar in. Top it with a second rectangle, sprinkling that one with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon sugar as well. Continue to top with rectangles and sprinkle, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with lemon sugar.

8. Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. it might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes.

9.Bake the loaf for 20 minutes and then check to make sure that top isn’t browning too quickly. If it is, just cover the top of the loaf with tinfoil and continue baking. My loaf took a little over 40 minutes to bake completely. When done, transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth. Spread over the warm bread (you might want to put some plastic wrap or parchment paper under the bread to catch the drips)

11. Eat!

chicken piccata

This Chicken Piccata recipe is really simple and really tasty. I first made it last summer and then tried it again last night, and was happy with it again. Lemony, parmesan-y chicken. Make sure the chicken pieces are thin enough or else they won’t cook through. Only thing I didn’t use is the capers because I’m not really into them.

I’m not really a good cook (much better with baking) but this recipe is simple enough for even me. I’m always looking for recipes with meat since I’m a total novice when it comes to fancy meat recipes.

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata

from: Simply Recipes

INGREDIENTS
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pound total)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brined capers
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1. Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally, butterflying them open. If the breast pieces you are working with are large, you may want to cut them each into two pieces. If the pieces are still thick after butterflying, put them between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them with a meat hammer to 1/4-inch thickness.

2. Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces in water. Dredge them thoroughly in the flour mixture, until well coated.

3. Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to a plate. Cook the other breasts in the same manner, remove from pan. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

4. Add the chicken stock (or white wine), lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Plate the chicken and serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

“the” chocolate chip cookies

Choc chip cookies

These cookies are damn awesome. My roommate said they are like “scone cookies”… really soft and pillowy. The recipe has the odd ingredient of a pack of instant vanilla pudding mix. It made about a billion cookies (3 dozen).

The NYT/David Leite/Jacque Torres chocolate chip cookie recipe still remains my favorite, but that one requires 2 different types of flour, 24 hour refrigeration prior to baking, fancy chocolate feves – not something you wanna make on a whim. This simple one takes a lot less work, time, and the ingredients are simple and easy.

choc chip cookies

From A New Bloom

Chocolate Chip Cookies (made about 3 dozen for me)
Ingredients

  1. 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  4. 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  5. 1/4 cup sugar
  6. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 12 ounces semisweet (or special dark) chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (ingredients 1 through 3) and set aside
  3. In a stand alone mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy
  4. Add eggs
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing and scraping the sides as you go
  6. Add in the vanilla extract
  7. Manually mix in chocolate chips and scoop batter onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes

ginger fried rice

ginger fried rice

I really did not think I would like this recipe. I’ve had it sitting in my bookmarks’ recipe folder for over six months now after finding it on Smitten Kitchen, because I couldn’t believe how something that looked so boring to me could be described as “staggeringly delicious.”

I usually am wary of recipes that take something amazing and classic on its own (Chinese fried rice) and try to update it, or in this case, put a French spin on it. I like real Chinese food. The French are amazing. Why try to hybridize them? But when it comes to recipes I trust Deb Perelman, and I certainly trust Mark Bittman, so I made it.

ginger fried rice

And they were right – this is just fantastic, and so much less boring than I thought it would be. It was my first time ever using leeks in cooking, and it was great. I made it with brown rice and subbed in vegetable oil for the peanut oil. It was hard not to burn the ginger and garlic, because they go from golden brown to black in literally about 20 seconds, but they still managed to taste great. The ginger and garlic have a huge presence here even though they are just fried and scattered on top.

For anyone who likes fried rice, ginger, eggs, it’s a total knockout.

From Smitten Kitchen

Ginger Fried Rice

Serves 4

1/2 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
Salt
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried
4 cups day-old cooked rice; Vongerichten recommends jasmine (I used brown) but this is the perfect way to use up any leftover rice you have, especially from Chinese delivery
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons soy sauce

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.

Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.

In a nonstick skillet (it just makes it easier) fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.

red velvet cake sucks

I hate red velvet cake. It is just chocolate cake with red food coloring. Really. That’s it. I don’t understand the entire world’s excitement over it, especially when some recipes call for two entire bottles of red food coloring for one cake. Why bother?

Some people say that they prefer the rich cream cheese frosting. Ok, got it – so just make a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. There is also the acidic component of the cake that often comes in the form of buttermilk, which I understand can be delicious. But I feel that the cake would be just as wonderful without the fake red color. It reminds me of years ago when ketchup companies tried to make purple and green varieties of ketchup. Not for me.

red velvet cake

I’d rather have my chocolate cake without any Red 40.