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Daring Bakers (from the archives): August 2010 ~ Pierogies

Saturday, July 27, 2013

In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try! 
Now, I have been a Daring Baker for a few years now and the reason I chose to be a baker and not a cook was because I could not resist making all those sweet baked goods. I have participated almost every month since I started – some dishes have come out well, others were excellent, and there were a few miserable failures as well. But I've learned many new things.
So for the challenge, I could have tried out a bake I had never done before, or gone back to one that had failed. But I decided to put aside the sweets this time and try out a Daring Cooks challenge. 
So I am making pierogies (August 2010 challenge hosted by LizG of Bits n' Bites and Anula of Anula's Kitchen) for the first time and after the whole process, which has several steps, I ask myself, "Why?" Why is this the first time I am making pierogies?! They're wonderful!
 Use the water after boiling the potatoes for the filling to make the dough
For the filling, I went with a traditional Polish/Russian one of potato and cheese. With the dough, I'd read that the water used to boil the potatoes is a good binder instead of eggs, and I also used sour cream. Apparently, low-protein flour makes a softer dough, so I used Chinese pau/bao flour. I like the texture of the dough, and it is easy to work with.
No doubt about it, pierogies are stodgy, so don't eat too many of these before doing something that requires moving about a lot. I had seven in one go – couldn't resist! – and had to have a lie-down after that.
Fry the onions, then brown the boiled pierogies in the same pan
Potato-Cheese Pierogies
Makes 30 pieces

300g potatoes, (about 4 medium) peeled and halved
4 rashers streaky bacon (optional)
1 medium (about 70g) white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
50g (about ½ cup) shredded sharp cheddar (or other cheese)
Salt and pepper, to taste

300g (about 2 cups) pau/bao flour (low-protein flour; or use all-purpose)
2 tbsp sour cream
175ml (about ¾ cup) warm potato water, plus extra

To make the filling, heat a pan and fry the bacon without any oil. Once the bacon is crisp and the oil is rendered, remove the bacon and crumble or chop. Sauté the onions in the bacon grease and cook until golden. Add the garlic and fry briefly. Set aside.
Boil the potatoes in plenty of lightly salted water until tender. Drain, retaining about 1 cup of the water.
Return the cooked potatoes to the pot over low heat to dry out slightly, 1 minute. Take pot off the heat and add the crumbled bacon, onion mixture and shredded cheese. Mash the potatoes, then let the mixture cool.
To make the dough, place the flour in a bowl. Stir in the sour cream. Make a well in the centre and add almost all the potato water. Bring the mixture together, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if necessary, until a soft dough forms. It should not be sticky. Cover and rest for 15 minutes.
Pierogies: boiled and frozen. They may look bland, but these little half-moons pack flavour - and comfort.
To assemble, roll out the dough to about 2mm and stamp out 7cm circles with a plain cookie cutter or drinking glass. Turn a dough circle over so the moister side will now be on top, and place a teaspoon of filling in the centre; press the opposite edges together firmly to form a semi-circle. The edges do not need to be crimped as they stick together well but for a bit of decoration, crimp away! Place the half-moons on a lightly floured plate.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil; salt lightly. Boil the pierogies in batches. When they float, leave them in for 1-2 minutes longer, then transfer to a tray lined with greaseproof paper. If desired, the pierogies may be frozen after they cool. Freeze them in one layer, then transfer to a freezer-proof plastic bag. 
Serve them with sour cream, or lightly fry them on each side and serve with fried onions and good-quality sausages.
* * *
And on the Bakers' side...
The August 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was pound cake. I chose to use it in a Baked Alaska.

Can you get drunk on coffee liqueur cookies?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Here's a cookie that I find intriguing: strazzate  "traditional crumbly cookies from the Basilicata region of Italy... flavoured with Strega, an Italian herbal liqueur", says
What I find interesting is that the cookie, made primarily from almond meal, is not bound together by butter or eggs, but by the Strega (or alternatively, Galliano) and coffee, the beverage. 
I didn't have any herbal liqueur, but I did have Kahlùa. So I made some substitutions for a strazzate-like cookie flavoured with coffee liqueur.
I can only imagine what the real thing must taste like, but I don't understand why Saveur calls them, in English, chocolate-almond cookies. These cookies may contain chocolate, but it hardly features. I have a feeling the creators of the cookie were very much focused on the liqueur and its herbal flavour, as well as a taste of coffee rather than chocolate. Mine has the tiny bit of chocolate called for in the original recipe but I've left it out of the name of my cookie.
The Saveur recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but for my wayward oven, that's too long. But then ovens are not all the same, and we will know how our own works. I give my cookies 20 minutes at the most, and then turn off the oven and let them crisp up inside. They form a crisp shell and have a chewy crumb. I think of the cookie as an almond macaroon (and perhaps even macaron) without the egg white. 
To answer the question posed in the title of this post, no, you can't get drunk on these cookies. Not after they're baked anyway. You can probably tell there's Kahlùa in them, and the cookies go very well with a cup of coffee.
The raw cookie dough, however... now, that is potent!
Crisp shell and chewy on the inside
Coffee Almond Cookies
Makes 18. Based on the strazzate recipe from

120g almond meal
10g (about 1 tbsp) chopped almonds
110g all-purpose flour
110g caster sugar
20g (about 1 tbsp) mini chocolate chips
3g (about ½ tbsp) cocoa powder
Pinch of fine salt
½ tbsp neutral-flavoured oil
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tbsp lukewarm water
60ml water
40ml coffee liqueur (or use espresso)

Grease a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 170ºC.
Combine the almond meal, chopped almonds, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa, salt and oil in a mixing bowl. 
Stir the baking powder into the lukewarm water. It will bubble almost immediately. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients together with the 60ml water and liqueur, and stir everything together quickly into a wet dough.
With a one-tablespoon-capacity ice-cream scoop, place mounds of dough 5cm apart on the prepared sheet (or form into balls with hands). They pretty much keep their shape so for flatter cookies, press the tops lightly to level them. Bake until set and light brown, about 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop the door open slightly and leave the cookies inside to crisp up, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Sourdough Surprises: Cinnamon rolls

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meet my sourdough cinnamon rolls chums, Blah McBland and Hock E. "The Rock" Puck.
Sure, they may be dolled up in cream cheese bling and filled out with cinnamon sugar padding, but underneath it all, they're flat and unexciting.
I used this recipe from The Fresh Loaf for the dough and cream cheese icing, and Ciril Hitz's recipe for cinnamon bun filling from his book Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads. The dough was perfect – it was quite wet but I used the slap-stretch technique of kneading and it was manageable. So in no way do I fault the recipe! Others have made these cinnamon rolls as billowy as their name suggests.
Let me just describe the rolls without too many details. I made two batches of rolls on different days. The first one is on the left in the picture. They rose a little in the oven, but they just would not colour and came out with a light crust! Also, there wasn't enough filling so they were anaemic and tasted insipid.
The ones on the right were more elegantly formed into rolls and had more filling. They looked like they were taking on good colour in the oven, but didn't rise and ended up as dark river rocks with the texture of dry rusks. Oh dear, oh dear.
That's my chums for you. I may try this recipe again in the future, but for now, I'm just going to admire what the other bakers on Sourdough Surprises did.

1:2:3 sourdough

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The 1:2:3 Sourdough formula has been around for a while and it's one that's worked very well with the breads I've made – as long as I don't confuse the components. The ratio refers to the dough mix: 1 part starter to 2 parts liquid to 3 parts flour by weight (plus about 2% salt). 
This means that if I start off with 100g of refreshed starter, I just add 200g of water, 300g of flour (sometimes just white; other times a mixture) and 6g of salt. The percentage of water is only 66%, which makes the bread far from wet and very easy to knead completely by hand. I often use the stretch-and-fold method, but sometimes it's good to get back to basics and go through the full-on "traditional" hand-kneading process.
Airy and creamy crumb
The bread is well-aerated, even though the dough isn't that highly hydrated, with a creamy crumb and good chewy crust. I have baked it freestanding on an upturned preheated baking tray with steam from ice cubes, and also in a Dutch oven.
With the Dutch oven, I use a method I learnt from Ken Forkish's book Flour Water Salt Yeast. He lets the loaf proof seam side down in the bread proofing basket and then flips it into the preheated pot so the seam is on the top. As the bread bakes, the crust cracks open naturally. Almost all the breads I've baked this way have come out with a three-point crack. And as the bread cools right out of the oven, there's always a loud crackling! 
The loaf is baked seam side up in a Dutch oven and cracks naturally
I often just tear off a hunk of bread and eat it on its own because it tastes good, but I have also used the same 1:2:3 formula and added fried onion to the dough. Another time, I made a grated potato and spring onion version, so the dough is quite versatile that way. The crumb on those "flavoured" breads was slightly tighter, but the loaves were still springy and delicious.

Hot under the cola

Sunday, July 7, 2013

There was this British monthly cooking magazine, aptly and simply called Cookbook, which I used to buy. It was only about 70-pages long, but every page was filled with recipes that I found easy to do since I wasn't much of a cook then. The first magazine I got was the November 1999 issue, and for the next year and a bit, I waited to get it every month. It cost £1.50 which doesn't seem a lot, but the Husband and I were living on his scholarship money (and a small sum of my savings) in London at the time and it was the only thing I spent our little money on after we took care of the rent and basic necessities.
Cookbook came in handy when I did a small three-day catering job for a friend of ours who was making a student film, and my whole menu came from the magazines. I didn't get paid for my time or labour but it was a good experience and I am credited as the caterer on the film!
Publication of the magazine stopped many years ago. I can't even find anything about it online now.
The recipe in Cookbook magazine, with my scribbles in red
I brought all the magazines back to Malaysia and they are now bound into two hefty volumes. I still look through them occasionally for ideas and recipes and have used an egg-free chocolate cake recipe from it (a reader's contribution) countless times. I have even adapted it – using orange juice instead of milk, ground ginger instead of  cocoa, omitting the cocoa powder altogether for a vanilla cake, and I have even made it into a Poppy Seed Crazy Cake.
For yet another adaptation, I wanted to use the recipe for a cola cake. The original recipe contains golden syrup, which I would substitute with a cola reduction. So I boiled down a tin of cola but it didn't turn syrupy enough, so I tried it again but this time added sugar to it before reducing it. It worked – it looked like treacle and the cola flavour was really strong. (Was that ginger I detected in the secret formula? I won't mention the brand but it's probably the most well-known one in the world!)
Unfortunately, the flavour wasn't distinctive in the cake. I'm still recording the recipe here because it makes a cake with a good taste and texture. It was a little sticky from the marshmallows but was chewy  as well though I haven't figured out why. It went down well with the family so I consider it a success, cola-less notwithstanding.
The pointy frosting 'decorations' on the plate were a happy accident*
Frosted Egg-free Chocolate (Cola) Cake
Makes an 18cm sandwich cake

Cola syrup

1 (325ml) can cola
3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar

275g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp quality cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
60g egg-free mini marshmallows
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml buttermilk
150ml vegetable oil
3 tbsp cola syrup (or use golden syrup)
Chocolate ganache, pourable

To make the cola syrup, place cola and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Leave to bubble but swirl the pan around occasionally until mixture reduces to about 5 tbsp (about 100ml). Pour into a small container to cool. It will still be runny but will thicken a bit more upon standing.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and base line two 18cm sandwich tins.
Sift the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and marshmallows, if using.
Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in 1 tbsp of buttermilk. Add the remaining buttermilk, oil and cola syrup to the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk-soda mixture. The batter will have a soft dropping consistency.
Divide the batter evenly between the tins and level the tops. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the centre is springy to the touch and the cakes are cooked. Cool in tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes (the cakes will shrink slightly), then turn out to cool completely. Remove the lining paper, wrap the two cakes in cling film and chill overnight. The flavour seems to develop after overnight storage.
Place one sponge on a serving plate. Put strips of greaseproof paper under the cake along the sides to catch the drips. Spread with some of the frosting. Place the other cake on top and spread with more frosting; chill to set. Pour on the ganache, allowing it to drip down the sides. Leave to set, then pull out the greaseproof paper strips. *The ganache drips may accidentally leave pretty streaks on the plate.

Chewy Korean sweet pancakes

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I've only just learned about the Korean sweet glutinous rice filled pancakes called hotteok. It was after reading a description by the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. This is what he says:
“If you are fond of litigation, you should probably turn the page. Because of all the hazards inherent in Korean gastronomy – stray coals, red-hot stones and exploding clams among them – there may be no foodstuff quite so dangerous as the chewy, sizzling street-food staple called hotteok... You will burn your fingers on the pancake, that’s a given; blister your lips; possibly scorch your tongue. But if you’ve never experienced hotteok, nothing can possibly prepare you for the flood of molten brown sugar from its heart, a delicious, cinnamon-scented goo that shares rather too many characteristics with napalm. Am I imagining things, or is that pure evil behind that griddle?”
Oh well now. Burn your fingers? Blister your lips? Scorch your tongue? A flood of molten brown sugar? It all sounded quite intriguing. Since I couldn't get them as street food here in Malaysia, how could I not search for a way to make them at home?
They didn't seem difficult to make and the ingredients were easily available. I wasn't keen on deep-frying them as some recipes suggested, but I saw that the pancakes could also be pan-fried in just a smidgeon of oil and still be crisp enough on the outside.
The dough is smooth when made and becomes 'lumpy' after proofing
So based on two recipes especially, I set about making my own hotteok. First, the dough. It was soft and pliable and yet would break apart easily when I pulled too hard. It certainly wasn't like yeasted bread dough. And when it rose, which wasn't much, it looked spongy and lumpy. More intrigue here.
Filling and frying the hotteok
The filling is like a cinnamon roll filling, with crushed nuts in it. Walnuts are especially used in Korea, but peanuts are apparently also popular. I also had some sesame seed paste, and used that in a couple of hotteok as well.
The picture below doesn't show how gooey the filling really was when I cut into a hotteok, but believe me, it was oozing out. The pancake was chewy and crisp, although the crispness didn't last long. It probably would have if it had been deep-fried.
But I really enjoyed it and can just imagine authentic hotteok being so much better.
The sugar filling turns gooey after cooking
Sweet Glutinous Rice Pancakes (Hotteok)
Makes 8 (about 10cm wide). Based on zenkimchi and beyondkimchi

150g all-purpose flour
120g glutinous rice flour
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp instant yeast
180-200ml water
1 tsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying

½ cup palm sugar
3 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt (omit if using salted peanuts)

Combine all the dough ingredients in a bowl and stir together with a rubber spatula into a sticky dough. It should come together into a smooth ball. Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough doubles in size. The bowl can also be placed inside a plastic bag and refrigerated until ready to use.
Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl.
When ready to make the hotteok, knead the dough briefly and divide into eight even portions. Form into balls.
Oil the small area on the work surface and place one ball of dough on it. With oiled fingertips, make an indentation in the centre so the sides are a little higher. Place one tablespoon of filling in the centre and pinch the edges together to enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Heat up a large frying pan and add enough oil to thinly cover the base. Add the filled balls to the pan in batches. Oil the bottom of a smooth-based bowl, ladle or a rubber spatula and use to press the balls to flatten them. When the bottom is browned and crisp, flip to cook the other side. Remove to a kitchen paper-lined plate. Eat while still warm, but mind the melted sugar filling.