Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cinnamon Bing

Have you heard that bing is the newest hippest thing?  Not the search engine (sorry hon, that still isn’t cool), but rather the bread.  I read it somewhere, I think in Bon Appetite, so it must be true.  Alas, living where we do means that we don’t have a lot of the ethnic bakeries around, so no authentic bing for me.  Back to the drawing board of making your own. 

Anyway, bing is a round Chinese bread, layered with endless options of fillings (potatoes, scallions, red beans) and then usually pan fried, but can be baked as well.  I got a hankering for some sesame scallion bread (Zhi Ma Da Bing) the other day to go with our miso ramen soup, (because you know, twice the carbs is better than one) so I tracked down a couple recipes to go from.  I’m pretty confident in my bread making ability – give me a range of ingredients and what the texture of the dough should be like (stiff, soft, sticky, etc) and I can usually hit it.  Honestly, it was easier than I thought. 

After making scallion bread, I wondered about making cinnamon bing.  The best part of a cinnamon roll to me are all the flaky layers wrapped in cinnamon and sugar.  It always bums me out when I end up with just one of the outer layers of a roll.  With a cinnamon bing, you would get all those layers. 

There are a couple cool things about bing bread – first, if you use an oil (and you want to) you get a ton of flaky layers almost as if you had laminated the dough ala croissant style or puff pastry.   Also, the bread doesn’t really have a second proofing and since you can cook it on your stove top, it means that this bread is instant gratification.  The only wait time is the initial proofing.

I have tried making bing both on the stove and in the oven.  The stove is great because both the top and the bottom of the bread gets this browned crispy edge.  Cooking it on the stove does take a little more care the first couple of times – it can brown quickly without cooking the middle.  I still have the maddening cooktop in my new house, and I found that I had to turn the burner down to the very lowest setting and covered the pan with a lid to keep the heat in.   Flipping it can be a bit of a challenge depending on how big the roll is, so you may want a second pair of hands the first time.   If you don’t want to deal with it just pop it in the oven. 

Notes on this recipe – I added an egg to this dough, but it is easily omitted.  Add a little more water or a little less flour.  The dough does not have to be an enriched dough, but I like it with this cinnamon recipe.  If you want a more savory bread, like with scallions and sesame seeds, lose the egg and the sugar. 

Cinnamon Bing


 1 envelope Dry yeast (about 21/4 tsp.)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour (More or less, depending on weather plus more for surface)
1 Egg
 cup water (may need a little more or less depending on dough)
1/3 cup Butter melted
1/3 cup Cinnamon - sugar mixture depending on how sweet/cinnamony you want it
Optional:  2 tablespoon Brown sugar for caramelization


Dissolve yeast in about 1/2 cup of water to check for viability. Or don't. I know my yeast is good, so I usually skip this step.

Add sugar and egg (if using), salt and about one and a half cups of flour. Stir until well mixed. Gradually continue to add flour until it forms a slightly sticky dough ball. You may need to add less or more - but generally about 3 cups for me. Knead until dough is smooth. Spray with cooking spray, cover and let rise until double, about an hour or so.

How it started (note the paintbrush)
After the dough has risen, clear a large space on your counter, the more the better. I use almost my whole island, but a kitchen table would work too. Sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough as long and as thin as you can.  You may have to take a couple short breaks to let the gluten loosen up. I estimate that my dough is usually about 1/8 of an inch thick, 3-4 inches wide and about 3-4 feet long. (see pictures).
How it ended up

Once you get it as long and as thin as you can without falling on the floor, running out of space or tearing. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Fold the layer over long-ways, pressing lightly so it will stick. You will still have a long piece of dough.
Repeat the butter and cinnamon/sugar mixture, and fold over again, pressing lightly. You have a long piece of dough with two layers of butter and cinnamon/sugar in it. Brush the top layer with butter again.

On a piece of parchment paper, start to roll the dough like a snail. You want a big, flat, round coil. Press down on the coil to make sure all the layers adhere to each other. It should be flattened. Brush disk with butter.

To pan-cook - Make sure the disk is flat! Place unbuttered side in a buttered or sprayed non stick pan that has a lid on low.. I had mine down to the lowest notch on my stove. Cover with the lid. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and check the bread - you don't want it to burn! Once the bread starts to turn a golden brown (about 5 minutes on my stove?) flip the bread. The lid is important - it keeps in the heat - don't try to cook this without a lid. You'll have beautiful golden bread with an uncooked interior.

To bake: Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.


Added bonus: My favorite way to make this bing is to add a caramelized top to the cinnamon bread - sprinkle some brown sugar in your pan or I just use some brown sugar and my blow torch due get a beautiful caramelized top.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


When I was a kid, I used to love getting flautas from the Mexican restaurant down the street.  Corn tortillas, stuffed with meat, wrapped into little cigarette-type rolls, deep fried, usually served with guacamole.  So good.   

After we got married, the husband and I got hooked on the ease of taquitos.  Basically the same thing, but not fried up to order.  Straight from the freezer to the oven.  Taquitos and potstickers became the basis of the infamous “Crap Dinner” we would indulge in about once a month.  Just like it sounds, this meal is rooted in junk food and usually resulted in two days of drinking water to account for the amount of sodium we had ingested.

Taquitos are still one of our favorite easy dinners.  I’ve gotten more and more disappointed in the taquitos that you can buy in the store, especially as I constantly consider the ingredients vs. homemade and the cost of prepared foods vs. making it at home.  I still do a ton of crock pot and make ahead meals due to Little E’s crazy riding schedule.  I was reading Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make-ahead and Freeze cookbook from the library the other day and was inspired by her frozen taquitos recipe.  I hadn’t considered making them at home. 

I hesitate to even claim that I have a recipe for taquitos because I tend to use it as a Use-Up-The-Leftovers food now.  Leftover roasts, chicken, and such all go into the freezer until I have enough to make taquitos although occasionally, I’ll make something specifically for taquitos – like a venison roast.  Drier veggies make good additions – corn, peppers, potatoes, rehydrated or oil cured dried tomatoes.   Cilantro holds up well too.  The only thing we have not really cared for has been cheese – the cheese doesn’t hold up well and melts away long before the frozen taquitos are done.  I just tried some with feta, and it held up a little better, but generally not worth the calories, as far as I was concerned.   In terms of seasonings, again, you don’t want your filling to be too moist – the tortilla will get too wet on reheating and fall apart.  That said, a little barbeque sauce or adobo sauce adds a lot of flavor.

Because frying all the tortillas takes some time and makes the house a little smelly, this is not something I make unless I’m willing to commit the time and energy to make a big batch.  I rarely make just one filling.    I’d say altogether it probably takes me an hour to an hour and a half to make 60+ taquitos (that's two small bags of tortillas), depending on how organized I am.   And just in case you were thinking about skipping the whole frying step – don’t even consider it.  Corn tortillas are difficult to work with, and the pre-frying step will make sure they cook up properly once frozen. 

 Make-Ahead Taquitos with Filling Ideas 
Yields: 8+ Servings

1 cup Oil May need more depending on pan. Not olive oil - you want something with a high heat point
2 bags Corn Tortillas
-- BBQ Pork --
1 1/2 cup Leftover carnita/roast pork
1/4 cup Finely chopped onions
1 tblspoons Cilantro
1/4 cup Bbq sauce Enough to moisten
2 Potatoes
1 Sweet potato
2/3 cup Fresh chorizo (can use Spanish chorizo, use about 1/2 cup, finely diced)
1/2 cup Feta Cheese (if desired)
2 cups Cooked, shredded/chopped chicken
1 can (12 oz) Black Beans
1/4 cup Salsa Use just enough to moisten filling - don't want filling to be wet
2/3 cup Frozen corn
2 cups Roast Beef or Roast Venison
1 can (small) Green chili
1/2 cup Finely chopped onions
1/2 cup Frozen corn (optional)
Prepare desired fillings by mixing ingredients together. If using a sauce (like bbq or salsa), use just enough to make the filling moist, but not wet. Season with salt/pepper/garlic as desired.

Prepare tortillas - using a large skillet, heat about an inch of oil to shimmering. Fry tortillas, 1-2 at a time for about 10-15 seconds on each side. Tortillas should not brown at all. Do not skip this step. Drain on paper towels.

Once tortillas are cool, spread about 2 tablespoons of filling on one edge of a tortilla. Roll up tightly, like a cigarette. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat. (I usually can get 2-3 on a toothpick). Lay out on a cookie sheet to freeze (if you are good, you'll remember to take the toothpicks out when the taquitos are slightly frozen but still flexible enough to remove the toothpick. Otherwise, you can just leave them in and even cook them with them in). Once frozen, package off into smaller bags or vacuum seal.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Pasta Maker with Quick Red Sauce

My husband got me a beautiful set of Shun knives for Christmas.  Beautiful and so very sharp.  In fact, I sliced the couch accidentally while I was unwrapping them and putting them away (I may not ever hear the end of that). 

With that purchase, he got a credit back to Williams-Sonoma.  Add in the gift card I received, and we had a handy little amount to spend.  I don’t usually shop there – it’s very expensive, but I do love to walk through it. 

I had my eye on some attachments for my KitchenAid mixer – I don’t have a single attachment, and I thought it might be fun to get a pasta maker attachment.  I have a hand crank pasta maker, but it’s a pain in the ass.  I’m willing to spend a lot of time of weird cooking stuff (obsession with springerle?) but pasta – ugh.  The constant kneading and rolling and re-rolling and re-rolling before you can even cut it… And then the cleaning and picking out little bits of dried pasta for the next two weeks. It’s too much for me. 

Anyway, the lady at W-S really spoke highly of the Philips Pasta Maker as opposed the KitchenAid attachment.  I have never heard anyone gush over a product like this.   And when I did a quick check online, just about all the other reviews of it also gushed over it. 

It’s a pretty cool machine – just put in your ingredients and in 15 minutes, you have fresh pasta.  My one complaint is that it only has 4 shaping discs – spaghetti, fettuccini, penne rigate and lasagna (which can be used to make ravioli and dumplings).  Apparently, if you live in Australia or Asia, you can get udon, ramen, angel hair and a tagliatelle.  The recipe book that comes with it includes recipes for the other discs.  It’s pretty cruel, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m still considering whether it’s worth the $60 shipping fee to get a $20 part.  

Now… the fun part….  My husband arranged for an impromptu dinner party with a couple friends.  I know you aren’t supposed to try something new like this when having a party, but I figured it would be fun for everyone.   Six adults, five kids – we’d see how this thing would work.  I made a quick red sauce and a quick white sauce (wasn’t sure what the kids would eat) and grilled some sausages and a chicken breast for protein.  Bob (my starter) provided another loaf of bread and my girlfriend brought a salad.  Didn’t have time to make dessert, but we still had plenty of Christmas cookies. 

Oh. My. God.  I doubt I will ever buy pasta again.  It was perfect.  Delicious.  And done in 10 minutes.  We made two large batches of spaghetti and it was probably a little tight – I could have made a third small batch.  And I say this primarily because I woke up this morning wondering if there was any pasta left because I really really wanted some for breakfast.  But alas, we ate it all last night.

 And the topper on the thing – it was a breeze to clean.  Even I could take it apart and clean it.  No teensy tiny parts to lose.  Fantastic.

Tonight, I am going to try Food52’s Spicy Ramen Express Recipe with Harold McGee’s Alkaline Noodles (although I may cut the semolina with a bit of AP flour).  

Last Minute Red Sauce

1 large Onion Very finely diced/processed
3 tablespoon Butter
1 can (8 oz) Tomato Paste
1 can (12 oz) Tomato Sauce
1 large can Tomatoes drained
1 small can Tomatoes drained
1/2 cup Wine/water can use red or white
1 tablespoon Spices (Basil, Bay, Oregeno, parsley)
4 cloves Garlic crushed
to taste Sugar Usually pinch to 2 tbls
1/4 cup Shredded italian cheese (parmesan or a mix)
2 tablespoon Butter

Saute onion in butter until very soft. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, both jars/cans of tomatoes and wine. Break up tomatoes if whole. Add in spices if dried to taste. Let simmer for 20 minutes. If using bay leaves, take them out now. Taste sauce - may need a little sugar, depending on wine used and tomatoes and how sweet you like it. This is also the point to adjust texture - if you like your sauce smooth, stick an immersion blender in it.  Otherwise, leave it chunky.  Stir in garlic and cheese. Let simmer for as long as you need. Shortly before serving, taste again, adjust spices. Finally, stir in the last two tablespoons of butter, mix well into sauce.

Yields: 6-8 Servings

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coffee Berries.....

About 6 years ago, I thought it would be fun to purchase some coffee plants.  We both love coffee, like, seriously like coffee.  Coffee has become one of our hobbies.  A friend from the neighborhood shared that she had a coffee roaster and it opened up a huge realm of possibilities.  We now have a coffee roaster, pounds of green beans, a big fancy grinder and of course, the coffee plants.

So, I got these plants.  I think I ordered two of them, but really, I got like 12 little sprigs of plants.  They were nice foliage and I have a great sunroom (when the oak trees don't shade it) so they were able to stay completely climate controlled.  Over these last six years they have grown tremendously and the plants now occupy three large 25 gallon pots.

Last May, we got our first blooms.

Pretty little things, aren't they?  The scent was sweet, really sweet.  Not as pervasive as a lemon tree (which I also have), but it could have been because there are fewer blooms.  We had a few fruits set.  I wasn't looking for a lot, because I didn't want to tax the plant, but I couldn't help but get excited when we had a solid 20-30 berries set across about 3 of the plants.

Fast forward seven months.  It's JANUARY.  STILL NOTHING.  These green berries done nothing for seven months.  I was starting to think they were never going to ripen.  I figured that the inside of a house in the frigid north was just not going to do it.

And then....

We have ripening.....  About January 10th I noticed the first signs of something changing.  At first I thought it was the berries dying (they were yellowing slightly).  But no - they were changing to red!

So today, I actually picked a berry.  At least one of them had that firm but squishy feeling that I associate with ripe fruit. 

Inside the berry, I was rewarded with two green beans!

So, I'm off to figure out how to process the beans.  The green beans have a coating on them - I associate it kind of like tomato seeds - it's kind of firm and slippery.  I believe I need to get that coating off.  I know with tomato seeds you ferment the seeds to remove the coating.  We may have enough to get a half of a cup of coffee, but it's been fun!  And, it's one step closer to knowing where our food comes from and being able to sustain my coffee habit in case of the zombie apocalypse.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Krispy Pops

Miss Thing has a July birthday.  While there are many benefits to having a summer birthday, there are a few fallbacks as well.  For those with a summer birthday, there is not the same excitement of having the whole class sing happy birthday, of the special birthday treat, of having that "special day" with the entire school. 

Fortuntely for those with a summer birthday, it means that you have a winter half birthday.  Now, I admit that I have not always been the most diligent mom when it comes to half birthdays.  I'm pretty sure I remembered last year to bring something in.  But I think that was my first time.

This year, Miss Thing requested that she can bring in a treat, so how could I refuse?  Her classroom is a restricted one - no nuts, no eggs.  I've been using my "crazy cake" recipe (no eggs, no dairy) cake for so long for her school events that I'm getting tired of making it.  Let alone I have dug myself into a bit of a hole with the complex constructions of some of my previous cakes.

So this year, it was something simple.  Rice crispy treats.  Sticks.  Chocolate.  Sprinkles. 

Start with your basic rice crispy treat.  I try and pack them down a bit as well.  You want some strength to your treat.  Then, spread a thin coat of chocolate on the back for structure and strength.  Homemade rice crispy treats can get a little flaccid or bendable at times.  You do not want that in a pop.

 Now, about that stick....  Rice crispy treats are not exactly the most stable, and while a stick should stay in, it is best to apply reinforcements.  Before placing that stick in the rice crispy treat, go ahead and dip it in chocolate first.  That way, the stick will be cemented inside the treat.

Drizzle the other side with more chocolate and top with sprinkles.   A sugar filled treat fit for a princess.  On a stick.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crack pie

I'm in denial.  I'm pretty sure if I ignore the date of my last post, I won't feel like quite as much of a loser.

Now, back to the food. 

I'm a little behind the times with Crack Pie.  It's been talked about in so many places (just to begin).  I remember seeing the first recipe show up in Bon Appetit in 2010 from Momfuku Milk Bar's pastry chef Christina Tosi and was intrigued, but not overwhelmed with the desire to make it.  I'm more of a chocolate girl myself, and well, this didn't have chocolate in it, and really didn't seem like it needed chocolate.  If you aren't familiar with this dessert, it's described as a salty/sweet oatmeal cookie crust with a gooey buttery center.

However this past weekend, my brother-in-law was bringing his new girlfriend over and I thought it might be nice to have a little dessert to break the ice.  I wanted to do something different.  With kids around brownies tend to be go-to sweet bite, but it gets boring.  A friend had recently posted her success with crack pie, so I figured I'd give it a go as well.

My one concern about the recipe was the sweetness.  I read a lot of reviews discussing how overpoweringly sweet the pie is.  And as much as I try to follow a recipe exactly the first time, looking at the crust, I knew that I didn't have time to bake a cookie just to make a cookie crust.  However, I have a good pat-in-the-pan oatmeal cookie crust that looked remarkably similar (it's the same crust I use for caramel cashew bars).
We let it cool and decided that I couldn't wait until brother-in-law and said girlfriend came over.  We decided that we would just sliver one of the two tarts.  Just to see how it tasted.  We would still have one full and pretty tart to cut into, and no one would be the wiser.

Before the guests got here, we had finished the whole tart.  One tiny sliver at a time.

The irony is that the new girlfriend (in whose honor I made the tart) didn't want any due to a diet.

Crack Pie (with an adapted crust)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus a pinch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a pinch)
  • 10 tbls butter (very cold)
Put flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor.  Pulse in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pour mixture into bowl and work in oats using hands.
Pat crumbs into pan (I used two 5 inch tart pans, but the recipe is designed for a 10 inch pie, so there may be some crumbs left over).
Bake crust at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crust starts to turn golden brown and is set.

NOTE ABOUT CRUST:  This crust may make a little more than a 10 inch pie pan

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Napa, and a special dinner...

We just returned from 48 hours in Napa, culminating in a visit to.... *The* French Laundry.

What an experience. Honestly, as wonderful as it was, I feel no burning need to return quickly... It was a very special occasion dinner, with everything cooked perfectly.

I'll write more about the dinner soon, but I'm currently pursuing sauerkraut.