Shanghai Red Bean Crêpe

Shanghai Red Bean Crepe with Kinako and Sesame Seeds

Pureed red bean paste is wrapped in a thin blanket of crisp-fried crepes in this sweet Shanghai classic. Traditionally served on its own, toppings such as toasted sesame seeds and light syrups are certainly welcome. My favorite addition is Japanese kinako, an aromatic flour of roasted soybeans, adding a subtle nuttiness that always plays well with the rich sweetness of azuki bean paste.

This simple recipe is probably the best reason to own a rectangular pan (or a lame excuse for justifying impulse buys meant to appease kitchen gearheads). A few rows of uniformly-sized crepes in the morning is always a great way to start the day (or instant therapy for some undiagnosed condition).

Still not convinced to make this right now? Red bean crepes are also great for sharpening your chopstick handling skills. Using nothing but two sticks, make a few batches without tearing a single crepe and you’ll surpass Mr. Miyagi in no time.

View Shanghai Red Bean Crêpe Recipe »

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • Twitter
  • email

Kinpira Gobo – Burdock Root, Stir-Fried and Spicy

Kinpira Gobo - Spicy Stir-Fried Burdock Root

There are many things that look more exciting than the beige stick facade of burdock roots but few have the appealing crunchiness it is prized for. Resembling a lengthier anemic carrot, it takes well to braising, retaining its crispness where other root vegetables turn mushy, and stir-frying, where its appetizing aroma is drawn out. Both cooking techniques are used in this traditional Japanese dish, serving as a good introduction to gobo cookery.

Although Kinpira is usually associated with spicy root vegetables that are stir-fried and glazed with soy sauce, sake, and sugar, its origin has little to do with culinary techniques. Kinpira originates from the name of a mythical character in musicals from feudal Japan. The dash of heat from shichimi togarashi, a bright orange spice blend containing seven ingredients, represents the hero’s strength and fortitude.

View Kinpira Gobo - Burdock Root Recipe, Stir-Fried and Spicy »

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • Twitter
  • email

Sweet Azuki (Red Bean) Paste – East Asian Dessert Introduction

Sweet Azuki Red Bean Paste Koshi-An Tsubushi-An

Sweetened azuki bean paste opens the door to East Asia, where it is widely used in a variety of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean sweets. Whether used in bread or pastry fillings, sweet soups, pancakes, or ice cream, the essential azuki bean is usually highlighted as the main flavor. Its assertiveness is best complemented with neutral ingredients, or my personal preference, enjoyed on its own with a splash of milk or cream and a cup of green tea.

Store-bought azuki bean paste, convenient though it is, can be tooth-achingly sweet to the point of inedibility. Making your own unsweetened bean paste gives you the flexibility to adjust the sugar amount depending on the recipe.

Azuki bean paste generally comes in two consistencies: chunky (tsubushi-an) and pureed (koshi-an). The following methods for both types should cover the majority of your red bean paste needs. You’ll be relieved to know that soaking and pressure cookers are optional — azuki beans are a relatively quick-cooking legume.

View Sweet Azuki (Red Bean) Paste Recipe »

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • Twitter
  • email

Eric Kayser’s Ciabatta au Levain Liquide

Eric Kayser's Ciabatta au Levain Liquide

No, I didn’t confuse my (non-existent) French and Italian. This formula for Italian ciabatta uses French terminology because it’s from Eric Kayser, well-renowned in Paris for his breads and pastries. In a city saturated with driven artisans dedicated to their craft, Maison Kayser still manages to consistently rank high among the best Parisian bakeries.

Even more impressive, for bread nerds like me at least, are his somewhat accessible bread formulas that share a common thread in liquid levain, wild yeast starter fed with equal weights water and flour. Used with commercial yeast to bring dough to life, the liquid starter also adds a very subtle acidity, a quality lacking in bread raised exclusively with commercial yeast.

After trying several ciabatta formulas, I can’t quite pinpoint why this method produces results better than the rest. All of the ciabatta formulas I tried had an airy interior but the most noticeable difference is the crust. It not so much crunches but shatters audibly as bitten, as opposed to the other formulas that yielded a slightly thicker and chewier crust.

View Eric Kayser's Ciabatta au Levain Liquide Recipe »

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • Twitter
  • email

Pumpkin Seed Cream Scones

Pumpkin Seed Cream Scones

Cream-based scones are as quick and easy as scones can get. This recipe requires nothing more than cream and any combination of dried fruits and nuts of your choice. There is no waiting for butter to soften at room temperature. There are no eggshells to crack and fish out of your pyrex. It takes about 30 minutes from measuring the ingredients to pulling out trays of freshly-baked scones from the oven.

In addition to the short ingredient list, creams scones use the simplest and most well-known method for making quick breads. The muffin method calls for nothing more than adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, much like making pancake batter but with less liquid. Other mixing methods for scones are the finicky biscuit method, where cold fat is cut into flour until pea-sized, and the labor-intensive creaming method, where room temperature butter is fluffed with sugar through vigorous, uh, creaming.

There is no “creaming” in a cream scone. Go figure.

The muffin method produces scones with a moist interior and slightly crumbly crust, a welcome contrast to the nutty crunchiness of pumpkin seeds in each bite.

View Pumpkin Seed Cream Scone Recipe »

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • Twitter
  • email