Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Hamantaschen

This week's bake with the Rose's Alpha Bakers is Hamantaschen, small cookies eaten during the Jewish holiday Purim (learn more about Purim). Hamantaschen are traditionally made with a poppyseed filling, however I like to save my poppyseed-eating for cakes and muffins so I improvised and did more of a rugelach-type filling. In all seriousness, I like poppyseeds - but not that much - so I thought a cookie filled with poppyseed paste would be too overpowering.

My poor little Hamantaschen - which were supposed to bake up in a cute little triangle shape - were a complete fail. They all opened during baking so I ended up with more of an open-faced mini mince pie cookie. I followed the directions exactly in terms of the chilling of the dough, the rolling of the dough (thickness and size of the cookie), and I don't think I overfilled them, so I'm at a loss of what went wrong. Maybe I should have used a folded over corner instead of pinching them closed.

I also wish I had mixed up the apricot lekvar with the nuts, raisins and cinnamon-sugar so it all melted together better, but...oh well. Even if they don't look the way they should, they were tasty.

you can see the flaky pâte sucrée crust...

...but they are all flat flat flat...boo hoo!

mise en place for the cookie crust

I prefer to make my pie crusts by hand rather than in the food processor as instructed in the recipe (seems easier to get a real feel for the dough, you don't over-work the crust, and you don't have to wash the food processor bowl and blade afterward). It's easy to do by hand - just go fast and keep your hands well covered in flour (so their heat doesn't melt the butter). This cookie dough was actually a pâte sucrée crust, which has sugar and an egg yolk, so it's a sweeter and more sturdy dough than regular pie crust.

In these first four photos I'm incorporating the butter into the flour-sugar mixture. In the next four, I've added the cream and egg yolk and am forming the dough. The dough is then divided and given a rest in the fridge before rolling it out.

incorporating the butter

finishing the dough

filling for the cookies

Rose raves about muscovado sugar - and uses it in many recipes - so I bought a 2-pack of huge(!) tubs of light muscovado sugar from Amazon.com. It was a bit expensive - for sugar - but much, much cheaper than buying the small packs available at the grocery store.

smells delicious!

cutting out my cookie rounds

I wish I knew what went wrong. Maybe I left the openings too large? Maybe I should have sealed the edges with water instead of an egg wash? Too much filling? All of the above?

They are a bit more open than the pictures in the cookbook, but I pinched those edges pretty good! Oh well. I'll just pretend I did it on purpose...mini open-faced mince pies ;)

cookies assembled, given an eggwash, and chilled

a close-up

every single one opened back up...

mini open-faced mince pies

still delicious!


Bye for now...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chinese BBQ Pork & Homemade Pork Fried Rice

I love reading other people's food and baking blogs, especially when they have yummy recipes and lots of gorgeous pictures. I found this recipe, for Chinese BBQ Pork (Cha Siu) & Pork Fried Rice, while poking around on a cool family blog, The Woks of Life.

Here in Boston we have had one snowstorm after another - literally a snowstorm every weekend for the past seven weeks - it's been a truly awful winter (although the Pats did win the Superbowl...so maybe that's a fair tradeoff!). So, what better activity on a blizzarding Valentine's Day weekend than to make Chinese BBQ pork from scratch and then homemade pork fried rice?! It was absolutely delicious! You can find the recipes here: Chinese BBQ pork and here: pork fried rice.

Here are my photos of the finished rice and then my step-by-step...

my finished rice

time for dinner!

First came the BBQ pork. I was excited to make BBQ sauce from scratch and it was dead easy. I'll definitely make this again!

ingredients for the BBQ sauce for the pork

I reserved some sauce for basting the cooking meat. The rest of the sauce got poured over the pork (in a ziplock bag) and then it's set in the fridge overnight to marinade.

the final sauce was thick and it smelled great

meat in a bag

in goes the sauce

smoosh it around and it's done for the night

After a night in the fridge, the pork is set on a rack over the pan (to allow air to flow around the meat). Cook the pork until the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees, about 40-50 minutes at 450 (flip the meat over about half way through). My meat is much darker and more caramelized then the original recipe...next time I will experiment with cooking at a slightly lower temperature to see if that makes a difference.

ready for roasting

done...OMG, delicious!

While the pork is roasting, you can cook the Jasmine rice. I actually made mine the day before since my rice cooker keeps it fresh for a few days.

we got pork, we got rice...pork fried rice, here we come!

The pork is done to perfection! Moist and delicious. It was really fun to cook a large piece of meat and even after making a huge batch of rice, we had lots of leftover pork. It lasted all week!

After a short rest, cut about the pork you'll use for the fired rice into bite-sized pieces. 

a few test slices for the cook

so delicious!

The pork is done so now it's time to make the rice!

First, mix up the sauce, then chop the onions and scallions and prep the rest of the ingredients. The only change I made to the sauce was to use sake instead of Chinese wine (because that's all I had) and skipped the "dark soy sauce" since I couldn't find any at the grocery store. I also added some green peas to the fried rice.

ingredients for the sauce for the fried rice

the finished sauce

chopping the onions and scallions

All of my ingredients are ready...just need to scramble up the eggs.

ingredients for the fried rice

scramble, scramble, scramble...ready

Now it's time to combine everything and make the fried rice. First, the onions are sauteed, then the BBQ pork is added.

adding the pork to the onions

stir and cook for a few minutes so the flavors come together

Next, the rice is added and then the sauce. I think I used much more rice than the recipe called for, so I should have upped the amount of sauce a bit. Will definitely do that next time!

stirring in the rice

and then the sauce

Then the rest of the ingredients are added...peas, then sprouts, then egg and scallions. Give it a good stir to thoroughly mix everything...and then that's it...done!

next I added the peas and sprouts

and finally, the cooked eggs and scallions

And...done! It was so delicious, can't wait to make it again soon.

the finished fried rice

so yummy!


Bye for now...

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Lemon Posset Shortcakes

Another blizzard this week in Boston, and another bake with the Rose's Alpha Bakers. Up this week is Lemon Posset Shortcakes. Similar to how I felt about last week's recipe, the Chocolate Pavarotti cake with Wicked Good Ganache, I had mixed feeling about this recipe. On the plus side, it gave me the chance to try making my own candied lemon peel for the garnish - and that was fun - but I probably won't make the lemon posset shortcakes again.

my finished shortcake

time for a bite

The posset cream was pretty interesting - the texture was sort of like a science experiment (as is a lot of baking!). When you scooped up the posset it became liquidy but after a few minutes of sitting on the shortcake, it became thick and creamy, with a texture almost like yogurt. It was kind of fascinating! It actually reminded me of oobleck...did you ever make that when you were little? 

my chilled lemon posset

I was less impressed with the cake which felt like an awful lot of work for the end result. I usually love a recipe with so many steps and different parts, but this one just didn't add up in the end, in my opinion.

To start, I didn't have the correct kind of flour (wondra flour), so I followed the recipe's note to combine my cake flour with cornstarch. However, the note said to combine equal amounts of both, which seemed utterly disgusting to me to bake a cake with so much cornstarch(!) so I only used a little cornstarch.

I also thought that, with even just a portion of the called-for cornstarch, the taste seemed off (which I attributed to using the cornstarch in the first place) and the cakes were dry. So, perhaps not using wondra flour (or half cornstarch/half cake flour) really altered my end cake or maybe I over-baked them? They were a bit more moist after adding the lemon syrup...but the syrup made them much more delicate so then I had problems trying to spread my makeshift glaze (which was the next problem).

I didn't have any apple jelly for the glaze so used some of my leftover apricot lekvar instead (which I made a few weeks back for some amazing rugelach...post coming soon). This was a big mistake. Even though I thinned out the apricot lekvar, it was too thick and the flavor was much too strong for these cakes. So, overall, this week was a big miss for me.

Here are my photos...

ingredients for the shortcakes

more problems...this time with making brown butter...
my milk solids never browned

my sifted flour and cornstarch

beating more and more air into the eggs and sugar mixture

nearly there

Before adding the butter to the airy egg and sugar mixture, you need to "lighten" it by mixing some of the egg and sugar mixture into the butter. Otherwise it will deflate all the work you've just done.

"lightening" the butter

Then the flour mixture is carefully folded in, then the cakes are baked.

folding in...very gently

folding, folding...

done!

ready to bake...

...and done!

the finished shortcakes

The recipe made so much batter that I was able to fill a pan of mini rose cakes as well.

mini rose-shaped cakes

the detail on the rose cakes looks so much better in the photos!
It was kind of hard to see in person.

a look at the crumb, before the lemon syrup is added

my (still) too thick apricot lekvar

some posset on the plate and then a rose cake

a shortcake with lemon posset


Bye for now...