Bao-zi – Dumplings!!! (ENGLISH)

No, I have still not had time to bake bread. Maybe I can try this weekend… We all know very well that, at times, you can’t just do all that you want. These days are just very busy (I don’t really know why, they just are) so I am always onto quick bakes. I would have liked to try and make croissants again but, same as bread, you need to have time and love and care to spare for that. I will keep you posted 🙂
Now… Do we consider bao-zi to be bread? I do! So we could almost think that I baked bread yesterday… And following my mentor’s recipe. Ibán Yarza, my life would be so boring without you 😀
Yesterday was Experiment Night. Both me and Sergeant Lunch love dumplings and I happened to have a recipe there from Ibán’s book that turned out to be a winner. This will be a recurrent feature at dinner from now on, I reckon 😉


Bao-Zi with meat filling


Ingredients

    Filling
  • 500 g minced meat (pork and beef mix)
  • 1 big onion (or 2 small ones)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • A splash of sunflower oil
  • A splash of vinegar
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • Pepper
  • 2 ground cloves
  • Dough
  • 400 g of flour
  • 200 g of water
  • 20 g of sugar
  • 4 g of salt
  • 10 g of fresh yeast (or 3 g of dry yeast)

Preparation

  1. We start preparing the dough. We mix all the ingredients and we knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It is a fairly dry dough, very different from the pizza one, for example, so don’t worry if it’s not fluffy and soft. We leave it to proof 30 to 45 minutes. It’s not necessary that it doubles its size, you just need to see that it’s started to ferment correctly and it’s bigger and fluffier.
  2. Meanwhile, we prepare our filling. We put the onion in the pan with the oil, and we fry it for a while, until golden. We add the meat, and we fry it for a moment on high heat; we add the rest of the ingredients, we lower the heat and we leave it there for 15-20 minutes. We put aside to rest once we are done.
  3. Once the dough is ready, we start preparing the dumplings. It’s actually easier than it looks like… Or so I thought 🙂
  4. We weight the dough, dividing it into little balls of 30-35 grams each. Of course, you can make them bigger. I am giving you the standard recipe that we also followed for the first time. With a rolling pin, we stretch each ball to a disc of about 10-12 cm, trying to leave the edge of the disc thinner than the central part. We put a tablespoon (be generous, I though I was already putting too much but I ended up having not enough filling) on the centre of the disc and we start folding its hems on top of the filling, pressing hard after each fold. Since it’s more complicated to describe than to do, I will leave you a video at the end of the recipe.
  5. Once the dumplings are ready, we leave them to proof another 30 to 45 minutes. Again, they don’t need to double the size, just to get a bit “spongier”. We can leave them proof in the steamer. You can use either baking parchment or salad/cabbage leaves so that they won’t stick to the bamboo.
  6. We are now ready to bake them. We place the steamer on top of simmering water, close the lid, hope for the best and leave them there for around 10 minutes. Once they are cooked (try and not peek too much into the steamer), we remove the bamboo container from the water and we will leave it to rest for a minute or two. We don’t want all the steam to escape at once, with the effect of leaving crumpled buns behind. We open the lid carefully and… Voila’, we are ready to eat!

As promised, look at this beautifully easy to follow video:

Of course, the filling can vary. I will report any new flavours added to our collection 🙂


Christmas Frenzy. Markets. Exam. Coconut Treats. Puff. Pant! (ENGLISH)

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I know, I skipped a week! I couldn’t deal with myself, people, I am sorry. Last week was very busy, and this week started along the same lines. So here I am, slightly late, but alive!

Last week was the Christmas Market at work, and I had to prepare something for the occasion. Problems, though, were arising. A hospital visit for a member of the family (nothing major, all is good now), the last class of the course, this and that, and there I am, on Tuesday (with a last chance to finish stuff up on Wednesday), having to prepare something for Friday (Thursday being Course day, I couldn’t do anything, really).
I had already decided to prepare some Baci di Dama (bad idea, since they are easy to make but they also take a hellishly long time). What to make next? It needed to be something quick and easy to transport, since I go to work by train. Nothing really fancy or too fragile then. I decided to prepare these easy peasy (or so I thought) Coconut Treats.

There, have a look at the ingredients:

Coconut Treats

Ingredients
200 g shredded coconut
200 g sugar
150 g (approx. 4) egg whites

What an easy recipe, you say. Indeed, it is. Now, you want to pay attention to some details, overlooked in the recipe from the Italian website I had taken it (Giallo Zafferano, the most relevant recipes page in Italy).
Also, being stressed out because I NEEDED this to work and I didn’t have enough time to take it easy probably didn’t help.
When you do it, be sure to be calm and collected! I can’t believe I am saying this after having survived croissant-making, but this little fellas made me very angry. And angry baking is never good baking, padawans.
So, what should we do with these 3 ingredients? We basically mix them. Now, the egg white goes just like that, no previous whipping, no nothing. So the issue here is  mix it well with the sugar and the coconut.
Now, the site calls for the use of a piping bag, to create nice little perfect spirals like the ones you can find in the following pictures (thank you Giallo Zafferano).

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I had a big issue with the piping bag, though, because the egg white had ended on one side of the bag and the rest was as dry as the Sahara in summer. No need to tell you how that ended. Yes, badly. I had to tear the bag open and try to stick the mixture together again, then shaping it with my very hands. The result was not nice.
So i ditched the first attempt (no, I did not throw it away, it was just discarded as something presentable at a Christmas market). The following day, I tried again. This time, I avoided the piping bag and, for the sake of being quicker, I used tiny little truffle cases. This attempt ended better than the first one, but still some of the treats were misshapen and blob-like. Now, they were delicious (first batch was delish too 🙂 ). I had bought some edible golden glitter and applied generously. Very, very generously. They weren’t the most refined treats, but they were nice and looked decent.

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That, and the priceless help from Sergeant Lunch putting together and packing the Bacis, made the Market appearance a success.
Now, people and desperate housewives at the Market were taking the competition really seriously, check these pics out:

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Christmas has officially started 🙂 🙂 🙂


Winter is here – Crostata (ENGLISH)

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These days, at work, we have formed a sort of “baking club”. We bring each other pies, cookies and, what I like the most, baking goods typical of the countries we come from.
I love to try new food and I love even more to try new sweet goods! The stranger the better. In the end, though, there are some products that we more or less make the same way. Take bread, or flatbread (we have pitas, piadinas, tortillas, naan, you name it).
Shortcrust falls into this category. In Italy, we call a tart made with shortcrust (and whatever you want to put on) “Crostata”. “Crostatina” is the little tartlet. Every kid in Italy remembers their nana’s crostata, usually with apricot jam (at least in my village).
In Sale there was a woman who owned a corner shop, but no one went there to buy cans of tuna. We all went there for her magnificent crostatas. God bless you, Ruvrona (I can’t even remember her name, since we all called her with her nickname, coming from who knows where).
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Tiramisu (ENGLISH)

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This is a true Italian classic. You must know that not all the things said about Italians fall into the realm of the topic. One, though, does: we DO eat pasta pretty much every day. The other one is: we DO like coffee, a lot. I miss Italian coffee very much, it’s probably the only thing, food-wise, that I find difficult to find a replacement for. As a general rule, I try to avoid drinking coffee outside my house, and I am used to shitty office coffee (that one is just bad everywhere).
Tiramisù is a great way of having a coffee. If you don’t like dessert too much, but you like coffee, this is the thing for you. I looooove Tiramisù. As I said once, I have it for breakfast, and I AM PROUD OF IT!

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Baci di Dama / Dog’s Bollocks (ENGLISH)

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I have decided that I am going to write this baking blog in Italian basically because I have the feeling (probably due to the fact that I have been living abroad for 10 years now) that in Italy there’s not enough knowledge about classic baking (as opposed to “pasticceria”, confectionery).
I have never liked those big cakes with sponges that taste of nothing, with whipped cream and a slight alcoholic taste (those in my head are all cathegorised as “confectionery” cakes). I have always preferred more earthy, rich flavours. That’s why I love muffins, and breads, and cakes, and spices. That’s also why I feel the urge to teach my compatriots to love those flavours, it’s clear that they don’t know what they’re doing!
Now, there are some Italian recipes that I really really like. Those ones I will share with you in English, because go Nutella, and hazelnuts, and crostate, and tiramisu’ (that may be considered a dessert, but I swear I had it at breakfast as well, so it shall be included… It contains coffee, right? So we can file it under “breakfast food”).
This specific recipe comes from my village. Yes, my village! The area around it, in Piedmont, is known for these little shortbread biscuits called Baci di Dama (Ladies’ Kisses). Once, to impress my friends back in Montpellier, I made some to bring over for dessert after the dinner I had been invited to. They were a hit, of course. Dan asked how they were called, I told him. He looked at the bowl full of them, and told me, very serious, with his lovely English accent: “They are delicious, but they kind of look like dog’s bollocks, don’t you think?”.

It’s true, they kind of look like a macaroon gone wrong, but who cares. They are delicious, they are guilt-free (if you make them small enough), and they are perfect to bring over to someone’s place for an afternoon tea, or for dessert.
If I ever open a bakery or try to sell my goods over here, I shall call them Dog’s Bollocks, though. ^_^

Dog’s Bollocks / Baci di Dama

Ingredients

100 g hazelnuts
100 g almonds
200 g butter
200 g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
300 g flour
cocoa powder (however much you want)
Nutella

These little fellas are very easy to make. Only downside? That they take a long time, and longer if you want them small.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Roast the almonds and the hazelnuts until golden brown. Once cooled, grind them to powder.
Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl with your hands, until you have a uniform dough.
Usually, I never leave the dough to rest in the fridge, but I suppose you may do that, either before or after shaping them. It takes a long time as it is so I usually skip this step.
Start shaping the dough into little balls (you can make them as big as you feel like, I would say never bigger than a macaroon, but hey, it’s up to you). Put them on a tray lined with a baking sheet leaving enough room for them to

slightly expand once in the oven (the way cookies do, so it’s not necessary to leave tooIMG-20170715-WA0027.jpg much of it). With your finger, lightly press them down a little so they are almost disc shaped.
Bake them for 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown

Let them rest on the tray a couple of minutes or they will be too crumbly to move. Then, allow them to cool on a rack (this operation may take some time, depending on how big you are shaping your bollocks – ha, ha – and how many trays you have available at the same time. I usually make 3 trays with these quantities)
Once all the biscuits are ready, take two of them that are roughly the same size, put some Nutella (again, I just use a little bit to stick them together, but you can use as much as you want) in between and press them together. Your first Bacio is done! Now just continue until you have finished the biscuits. You are allowed to try some while you prepare them, after all, quality control is important.

Also, your whole house is going to smell like heaven. That’s a big plus to this recipe!