Friday, June 26, 2009

Peach Tart

The June Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Despite several minor roadblocks - the scale didn't work, so I had to estimate dry ingredients; the shortcrust pastry, which I should have made in the food processor, wasn't as thoroughly blended as it could have been; I had to use tools in the garage to get the jar of peach conserves open - this tart/pudding turned out just fine.

It has three parts: a shortcrust, a jam filling and a frangipane topping. We were allowed to use purchased jam, which is good because I don't make my own preserves. I wish I'd had some of my mother's Oregon grape jam, but my supply was gone, so I used Frog Hollow organic peach conserves instead. The conserves had some organic sugar but were basically just peaches - not too sweet. The frangipane is made with ground almonds, eggs, a little flour, butter and powdered sugar and turns out kind of curdy.

The entire dessert was rich and buttery but not too sweet - good for me, because I'm not a big fan of really sweet desserts. With a few home-grown, freshly picked strawberries for garnish along with sliced almonds, this tart was a fun and different dessert.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Diddle Diddle Dumpling

What fun! This month's Daring Cook challenge was Chinese dumplings. I make dumplings (potstickers) periodically, but I decided this was my chance to try a version that sounded so good but took a little too much time for a routine dinner.

I made Shanghai soup dumplings. These have the soup inside the dumpling, along with the regular filling. I made chicken broth by simmering chicken backs and necks in water, along with seasonings (green onions, ginger, garlic, soy). When the chicken was falling off the bone (2-3 hours), I strained the soup, returned it to the heat and boiled it until it reduced to about 3 cups. I added seasonings and gelatin, and, using a gravy separator to remove the fat, poured the mixture into a 9x13 glass baking dish, covered it and refrigerated it overnight. The next day I cut the chicken gelatin or aspic into small cubes and blended it with my ground pork/shrimp filling.

Since the challenging part of this challenge was making the dumpling wrappers, I followed the instructions for using the food processor - flour and warm water. Concrete! Not sure what I did wrong. So I switched to the Chinese mother method and hand-mixed the flour and warm water. Much better result. I let the dough sit for quite a while and then began the lengthy and somewhat arduous process of rolling out the little wrappers, filling them and pleating them.

Since the aspic would be melting when the dumplings were steamed, I pleated them into little purses rather than the traditional shape. I found it a little challenging to make sure all the seams were sealed tightly - didn't want to lose any of the broth to leaking. I had way more filling than dough but decided to use commercial wrappers for the leftover filling. NOTE: All pictures are dumplings made with the homemade dough!

I steamed the dumplings for about 10 minutes. Those that didn't leak (some dough stuck to other dumplings and tore) were great - a little burst of chicken-y hotness mingled with the pork/shrimp filling. And even without the soup, the potstickers were pretty tasty.

I also made some other little nibbles: naked shrimp/chive dumplings and ginger chicken and my friend Sarah provided a lovely platter of tomatoes, mango and avocado slices, sprinkled with seasonings. We had sriracha, red pepper flake sauce and mango citrus sauce for dipping. I liked the mango with the dumplings - a nice tangy contrast.

I had enough to freeze some uncooked dumplings for a dinner in the future. I would do this again, although having at least two days to pull it together is probably the best plan. I think I might also chill the soup before it becomes aspic to more thoroughly remove the fat. I got most of it with the gravy separator, but had to gently scrape some off the top of the aspic before I cut it up.

I doubt I will seek a new career as a dumpling maker, but this was a pretty good outcome for this challenge.

PS - After making and not loving the ricotta gnocchi last month, I had a chance to eat them in a real restaurant. We were in Portland, OR for a long weekend and stopped in at a venerable place that has been around for years and gotten excellent ratings. There they were: ricotta gnocchi, served with duck. I ordered, I ate and frankly, they were no more impressive than mine and still not something I was enthusiastic about. Maybe I'm just not a gnocchi person.