Tag Archives: Bread

What A Difference A Day Makes

Herby Bread Dumplings

Seems so inappropriate now, but I was eating this on Monday!

Wow, what a difference from the wintry weather we were having at the beginning of the week to what seems to be the height of summer today! This recipe is much more suited to the beginning of the week than now, it had to be said, but this is what I have for you, and as this month’s entry to the No Waste Food Challenge at Turquoise Lemons.

Her challenge for May is bread, which is brilliant, as most people end up with the odd stale crust or half a loaf here and there. I look forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with. I certainly got quite excited by this, as the possibilities are endless.

I thought I would get the opportunity to make a treacle tart with breadcrumbs, but have not really had the urge for heavy puddings.

This week I have eaten Caesar-style salad with crunchy bread croutons, which I made the quick way, by frying them off in a little oil and butter (for the flavour, you understand) but this is not the easy method, as you need to watch them like a hawk, because they will catch easily.

A little later in the year, when one can rely on really ripe tomatoes, I would have entered Panzella, which is one of my favourite lazy leftover suppers. Similarly, I make a number of cold soups that use bread to thicken them. Probably my favourite of these would be Ajo Blanco – made with almonds, bread and grapes. It sounds wrong, but it is actually really very good indeed.

I have also made bread as a way to use up some bits and bobs – such as a loaf stuffed with a pepper glut I found myself with, as well as various bits and pieces on focaccia.

Despite my comment when Kate first issued the bread challenge, I found myself with two things: some stew, and most of a dog-eared baguette left over from a picnic. It was cold, and so I decided to play around with dumplings

Us Brits are more familiar with the stodgy, suet variety. I have never really liked these dumplings, to be honest. Especially if you don’t flavour them with herbs, but even if you do I find them unappealing.

Many European cultures make the suety-bullet kind of dumplings, but they also make a lot of dumplings with bread. You can find varieties from Germany, and across most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

If you do a quick search on google, all of the recipes there recommend that you boil these little blighters in salted water. I did this for the stew, and they were everything I used to hate about dumplings; stodgy, claggy, bland, boring. I almost relegated this to the “experiment too far” category, never to be blogged about.

However, I had made quite a few of them, and you know I never throw anything away, especially if it is edible. I knew that I would be meeting them again at some point later on.

Last weekend, was huge. As well as the Rollende Keukens, we also went to Logical Progression – an old school all nighter, which was brilliant. It also meant that I knew I would need easy, but filling food for the following Monday. I thought ahead, and made our favourite fall back soup – Smoky Root Vegetable Soup. It was a good idea, come Monday, with all the socialising, and some serious gardening achieved over the weekend, I was too tired to cook.

Those remaining dumplings were beckoning from the fridge. I knew I had to use them, and so I decided that they would have to go in the soup. Normally, it is thick enough without the addition of bread, but I wasn’t going to waste them, so I thinned the soup with some stock I had in the fridge, which I had defrosted earlier in the week, but only used a little of. I guess I added about 300 ml in the end.

I decided to experiment, and fried half the dumplings in a little oil with a knob of butter (I needed these to taste of something). The other half I cooked through in the soup.

What a revelation both of these methods were! They were both lighter, and tastier. I guess that the addition of stock as a cooking liquor is a really important one. So for dumplings, like the weather, a day (or two) really can make all the difference.

Recipe: Herby Bread Dumplings

Ingredients

250 ml milk

Bay leaf

250 g stale bread (you can leave the crusts on)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only

2 long stalks of fresh rosemary, leaves only

Bunch of flat leaved parsley

Method

You can adjust the herbs to go with the dish you are going to have them with, these happened to go with my stew. The garlic is also optional, if it won’t go with your stew/broth then leave it out.

A small onion, chopped

A little oil for frying

An Egg

Heat the milk up with the bay leaf until it reaches boiling point. Meanwhile, tear the bread into chunks. When bubbles start to appear at the sides of the milk pan, take it off the heat, and remove the bay leaf. Pour over the bread, and mix it up a bit. Leave aside for half an hour to soak up the milk.

Finely chop all of the herbs, including the parsley stalks, which you need for the flavour they will lend.

Sweat the onion in a little oil, and take it to the point where it is just beginning to colour. Please don’t allow it to go  anything darker than a light golden colour, or it will lend an overpowering bitter taste to your final dish.

Add the herbs and the garlic, but remove from the heat. You want to add the onion mixture when it is cool, or you will scramble the egg later.

Add the onion and herbs to the bread, and mix really well. The bread is quite dense at this point, and you want to make sure that you get an even distribution of the herbs.

If the bread mixture is cool to the touch, add the egg, and mix it in well. If your dumpling mixture seems really wet, roll a very small piece into a ball and put in some water. If it breaks up, add some more breadcrumbs.

Raw Dumplings

To Poach or Fry – Make Your Choice

Roll all of the mixture into balls, and refrigerate for about half an hour.

Cook these in a flavourful stock, or add to a stew – although you will need to make the stew more watery than you would be used to, so that the dumplings can absorb the extra and the flavour. Either way, they need about 20 minutes, and will all be floating when they are done.

Or you can boil them in salted water for 20 minutes, then drain  them. Dry them well, and fry them in a little oil and butter before adding them to your dish.

Much better than just plain boiled.

Turquoise Lemon's No Waste Food Challenge

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Bun’s the Word for Chinese New Year

Dragon in China

Lóng Nián Kuài Lè Happy Year of the Dragon

(c) M. Medeiros 2010

Monday was Chinese New Year, so I decided that I would cook Chinese food. The Lunar New Year is the most part of the most important festival in the Chinese calendar, Chūn Jié (Spring Festival). Anyone who has Chinatown in a part of their city will know what a great party it is. It started on Monday, and will go on until the 15th day of the Lunar Calendar, when it will end with the  Festival of Lanterns.

The Chinese have a number of traditional foods for their Lunar New Year celebrations. They like to eat noodles, which must remain uncut for longevity. I cheated a bit and decided that the noodles in the Pho would have to do for this. It was eaten for the same meal, so it counts, right?

They also eat chicken, to represent good fortune, and shiitake mushrooms to fulfill wishes. I had some shredded chicken in the fridge that I had stripped from chicken carcasses that I used for stock, and I had to get some shiitake mushrooms for the pho anyway, so I wanted to use these as the basis for my Chinese meal.

I know that I am going on about it a bit, but we were lucky enough to sample some amazing Chinese food in Sydney. Some of which I blogged about, but a lot of which I didn’t. My recent experience led me to recall the vegan yum cha at Bodhi, where the Hom Bao (steamed buns) were incredible.

Hom Bao would also help me hit some more New Year’s Resolutions;  make more asian food, and bake more bread. Given that I coud also use up leftovers, there were really few other options for my first chinese meal of the year.

So, I threw myself right in at the deep end, and decided to make two fillings for Hom Bao, made two ways.  One was meaty, and used the chicken, and the other was vegetarian. It would have been vegan, but vegetarian oyster sauce has milk protein in it apparently. Who knew?

I am not going to lie, these buns are not a trivial undertaking, and involve several techniques. However, the results are really worth it, with a casing of sweet, soft dough, and rich savoury fillings.

Next time, I will make sure that I have some guests to share them with.

Recipe: Hom Bao

Ingredients

For the bun starter:

1 sachet dry active yeast

4 tbsp plain flour

4 tbsp warm (not hot, you need to be able to comfortably put a finger in it) water

1 tsp caster sugar

For the bun dough:

110 ml lukewarm water – if you can’t measure this accurately in a jug, weigh it (110 g)

200 g plain flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp vegetable oil (not one with a strong flavour)

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking Powder

For the Chicken Filling:

100 g cooked chicken, shredded

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A little vegetable oil for frying

2 spring onions, sliced thinly

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp sugar

For the Mushroom Filling:

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A little vegetable oil for frying

2 cm lump root ginger

½ leek

100 g shiitake mushrooms, or mix of shiitake & oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped.

1 tsp chinese five spice powder

1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (or make your own, and you can make it vegan)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp mirin (rice wine)

Method

Firstly, make the bun starter. Mix together the flour, water & sugar so the sugar starts to dissolve. Sprinkle in the yeast. and mix well.

Bun dough starter

Starter at the very beginning

Set it aside for 30 minutes to allow the yeast to start to work.

Bun dough starter after 30 mins

The starter develops bubbles and will rise a little

Add the rest of the dough ingredients, except for the baking powder, and combine well, until it comes together into a dough.

Bun dough

Dough formed

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, by holding onto the end of the dough with the fingers of one hand, then pushing the top of the dough down and away from you with the other hand. Fold it in half, then make a quarter turn.  Keep repeating the kneading action until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 10 minutes. If you over or under knead the dough, it will affect the bread, but it is easy to know when to stop kneading, this will be at the point when a finger jabbed into the dough stays there, and does not disappear.

dough, after first knead

Fingers sticking – good

Then put it into a lightly oiled bowl (a large one). The oil should not be strongly flavoured, but you need it to stop the dough from sticking to the bowl.

Dough ball before rising

Dough balls!

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and place it in a warm place. I use the top of my stairs, which is the warmest place in my flat, due to there being a door at the top of them. You can put it in your warmest room, or an airing cupboard if you have one. Don’t put the bowl directly on a radiator, and keep it out of draughts if you can. Leave it to prove for a few hours (maybe 2-3) until the dough has tripled in size

Dough after proving

Proved, you have large dough balls

While the dough is proving, make the fillings, then set them both aside to go cold.

For the chicken filling, gently sweat the onion and the garlic until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients, and mix thoroughly. The mixture should not be very liquid, so if it is, slake a little bit of cornflour, and stir it in.

Cicken & Soy Filling

Soy Chicken Lickin’

For the mushroom filling, sweat the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and the ginger and cook until you can smell them.

You will have julienned the leek as part of the preparations. the julienne need to be small.

Julienned leek

Fine cuts

Add these and the mushrooms to the pan, and cook down until the leeks are silken. You will need to stir this so that the leeks don’t burn. The observant may notice that I have sliced my mushrooms instead of chopping them. Don’t do this, it makes the buns harder to stuff. Chopped will be better.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Again, you don’t want it too liquid, so cook it down if it is runny.

Mushroom Filling

Oyster mushroom filling – much tastier than it looks

When your dough has risen, knock it down (give it a punch until the air goes out of it), then spread it onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle evenly with the baking powder, then knead it again for about 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 2, using a sharp knife. Put one half back into the oiled bowl, and cover it again. Roll the other half into a sausage, then divide it up into 8-12 pieces.

Divide the dough ino bun size

Bun Size Dough Balls

Put any dough that you are not working on back into your bowl and cover it over.

Shape each small dough piece into a round, then flatten with your hands

Flattening the dough

As flat as a Hom Bao

Place about a tablespoon of filling into the centre of the flattened disk.

Buns and filling

Filling

Then draw up the sides of the bun as follows:

Half & pinch

Fold in half over the filling & pinch the dough together

Stretch out sides

Stretch the sides out a bit

Be careful not to stretch the dough too thin,or tear it, because it will split when you cook it.

Pinch together

Pinch the sides together

Then bring the ‘gaps’ to the centre and pinch them all together to form a seal.

Sealed Hom Bao

Sealed Hom Bao

Place, sealed side down, on a 10 cm square of greaseproof paper.

The finished bun

The Finished Bun

Put the bun aside in a warm room, covered with a clean tea towel to prove for a bit more. You should find that you get better as you go along, my last buns were certainly a lot quicker than the first ones.

Repeat until you have finished the dough. You might have a little bit of filling left over, but that’s OK. I used my leftover mushroom mixture up in an omlette, and I intend to have the chicken with a jacket potato.

After about 30 minutes, the buns will have risen a bit more, and should look puffy.

Hom Boa after final proving

Buns – done!

You can then steam the buns over a little water, or brush them with egg wash and bake them in the centre of an oven at 180°C. Either way, they will take about 15-20 minutes, until they are fluffy and hot.

Hom Bao two ways

Hom Bao Two Ways – Golden and Steamed

I split the bao in the front, to show you the filling. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the steam, but there was a lot.

You cannot freeze the baked bao, but the steamed version freezes beautifully, and they will last a long time. Freeze after steaming, by placing on it’s cooking paper into one of those plastic takeaway cartons. You can fit three or four in each, depending on the size of of your bao.

Steam from frozen, still on the paper. Stick a  knife in to make sure they are warm all the way through before serving.

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