Rage Baking

Today I went to the library all on my own. Before I hurt my knee I wouldn’t have commented on the independence of it, but being able to run small errands in the sun feels like a little miracle right now. I picked up Rage Baking by Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford. You may have heard of it — a book of recipes accompanied by essays, stories, and poems by women activists, artists, and bakers — and you may also have heard that the authors failed to properly credit Tangerine Jones, a black woman who had popularized the hashtag ragebaking on Instagram. Frustrating, and why I got it from the library rather than buying it as I had originally planned. As a book it’s a little lightweight. There are definitely some recipes that I want to try, and I have a lot of empathy for the women whose anger at everything happening these days is overwhelming, but I thought it could have included more recipes, more women, more perspectives, more food history, &c.

And yet, as a concept, I am all in. While I was laid up, all I could think of was all of the things I would bake when I got well again. Yesterday I managed to make banana bread*. I gritted my teeth to get it done, even though I had to stop three times to rest while making it. Ridiculous. Banana bread is so easy to throw together, before Christmas I could have done it half asleep. Yesterday it was such an effort, but I did it anyway. There were overripe bananas that needed to be used, of course, but there was also the feeling, of needing to do something, right now. And this was something that I could do, right now. I’m not advocating baking as a replacement for voting, volunteering, and donating, but when you’ve done all of that, and you still need to do more, yeah. Better preheat the oven and get your apron on.

* My favorite banana bread recipe is on Epicurious, although I increase the salt to 1/2 tsp, use brown sugar for half of the sugar, and add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.

Baked Filled Buns/Ju Bao

So, it’s been a little while! The short version, for those of you not following me on social media, is that I injured my knee right before the holidays, and have been resting/recovering for the past two months. Oof! I’m only just back on my feet, and I’m still not up to doing a lot of cooking yet, by myself. Fortunately, my son volunteered to help me make these delicious buns from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen.

These are a pretty simple yeast dough, and you can make the filling ahead of time, so if you wanted to throw them together for a snack, or a weeknight dinner, that would be very doable. We ended up making two batches, one with a curried chicken filling, and one with a potato and cheese filling.

Makes 16 regular-size buns, or 32 mini-buns

10 TB whole milk
4 TB butter
2 tsp instant yeast
2 1/2 TB water
1 large egg
2 1/2 TB sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for forming the buns
(the recipe doesn’t call for it, but we added 1/2 tsp salt)

You’ll need about 1 1/3 cups of whatever filling you choose. If you’d like, I can do a follow-up with fillings, but you can go with just about anything, just make sure it’s fully cooked, and cooled.

For cooking the buns:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 TB honey mixed with 1 TB warm water

1. Put the butter and the milk in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

2. Whisk the water and egg into the milk mixture.

3. Combine the sugar, flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor (or in a bowl if you want to do it by hand). Pulse a few times to mix, then slowly stream in the wet ingredients while running the processor (or, while stirring) until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

4. Oil a clean bowl, and put the dough in it to rise, covered, for about 45 minutes.

5. After the dough has risen, divide it into 16 or 32 pieces, covering them up when you’re not working with them.

6. To fill the buns, roll each piece out into a circle, 3 1/4″ diameter for regular, 2 1/2″ for mini. Lightly flour as necessary to keep from sticking. Place 4, or 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of the round, gather up the edges and pinch them together, sealing the filing inside. Flip over, and round them off as needed. Place all the filled buns on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350° F. Right before baking, brush the buns with the egg. Bake for 18 minutes regular, 14 minutes mini, or until a rich, golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes.

8. Brush the honey mixture on the buns. Enjoy while warm, or refrigerate and reheat for snacks (or eat them cold from the fridge!).

Panna Cotta

As far as desserts go, Panna Cotta has it all. It’s dead simple to make, but absolutely satisfying and delicious. Depending on what you top it with, it can be rustic or elegant, or anywhere in between. It’s creamy and sweet, but it’s not full of eggs, so it’s lighter than a custard, mousse, or pudding. Basically, if you have baking fatigue right now, but still have some festivities to get through, consider this my gift to you.

This version is from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and it serves 8 in very small ramekins, but I usually do 6 larger portions.

1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 TB cold water
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Heat the rest of the ingredients, except the sour cream, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, until hot, but not boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.

3. Put the sour cream in a bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream, a little at a time, until completely combined and smooth. Taste for sweetness, and add a little more sugar if needed.

4. Pour into ramekins or custard cups, Cover, and chill for at least 4 hours, or over night.

Because there are very few ingredients involved, please use the best ones you can find. You can top it with fresh fruit, jam or compote, any kind of sweet sauce, crumbled cookies, or, honestly, just have it plain. You can also substitute yogurt, chevre, or any other creamy-but-sour dairy semi-solid for the sour cream. I always serve it in the dish I make it in, but you can unmold it and plate it up if that’s more your style.

Christmas Candy

We usually make cookies for Christmas, but this year the kids wanted to make candy. Clockwise from the top, we have: New Orleans-Style Pralines from the most recent issue of Saveur, Tiger Butter Fudge from Butter with a Side of Bread, Apple Cider Caramels from Smitten Kitchen, Honeycomb Brittle with Chocolate and Sea Salt also from Saveur, and Almost-Famous Peppermint Bark from Food Network Magazine.

Whatever holidays you are celebrating this winter season, I hope they are merry, sweet, and full of light.

Ramen Egg Salad

I started to make some ramen eggs on the assumption that we had saved the marinade from the last time we made ramen, but that assumption proved incorrect, so I turned them into egg salad sandwiches for lunch. And they were delicious! Unfortunately I did not have the forethought to take a picture before they were all devoured, but I’m recording the basic method here so you can try it at home. Maybe take a picture and send it to me?

Part 1: make soft/medium boiled eggs. Boil enough water to cover however many eggs you’re making (I made six, which was enough for three sandwiches). Once the water’s boiling, place the eggs in the pot. Boil gently for seven minutes (that will give you a pretty jammy yolk, you can go down to six for a runny yolk, or up to nine for a more solid yolk), then remove the eggs from the pot and place them directly in an ice/cold water bath. Once they’ve chilled for a bit, crack the shells and put back in the water (getting some water under the shell makes them easier to peel cleanly). Peel and use, or refrigerate until using.

Part 2: make sriracha aioli. I used leftovers from last night’s kimchi hotdogs, but if you aren’t so lucky, you can make the actual version (from Double Awesome Chinese Food by Andrew, Irene, and Margaret Li: whisk an egg yolk, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 1 TB sriracha, 1 TB rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp each salt and sugar, together. While whisking, slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup canola or other neutral oil. Add another half TB of sriracha and vinegar, then taste and adjust seasonings however you like) now, or you can just combine sriracha and mayonnaise in whatever ratio you like.

Part 3: make the salad: Cut your eggs up into big chunks and throw into a bowl with a splash each of toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar, some salt and pepper, and and two-ish thinly sliced scallions. Mix, crushing the eggs a bit, taste and season as needed. Since the yolks are somewhere on the jammy spectrum, the salad will be pretty gooey. If that’s not your bag, make it with hard boiled eggs instead.

Part 4: assemble your other ingredients. Toast two slices of bread per sandwich (so, six, in my case, and I think most types of bread would be pretty good for this sandwich), peel, pit, and slice a ripe avocado, get some lettuce or other greens of your choice clean and ready, and if you have some, a pinch of shichimi togarashi is pretty nice to have.

Part 5: sandwiches! For each sandwich, spread both slices of bread with a layer of sriracha aioli. Arrange slices of avocado on one slice of bread, and sprinkle with a little sea salt if you’re feeling fancy. Mound some of the egg salad on top of the avocado, and add that pinch of shichimi togarashi. Top with the lettuce and the other slice of bread. Have a great lunch!

Thanksgiving Menu and Plan 2019

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is a lot of work. That sounds obvious, but I’m leading with it because I think sometimes people forget jus how much work it really is. You have to choose recipes that you and your guests will like, and be able to eat, and hopefully go well together, and then you have to actually make all that food, but you also have to be able to plan, and manage your time (and oven space) in order to get everything onto the table all together.

I’ve been hosting it every other year for, I don’t know, a long time. More than a decade. Every year we make some old favorites and try a few new recipes, and I thought I’d share this year’s menu, in part so that I’ll have it all in one place for next year, but also in case you were looking for some inspiration. I’m also going to share my plan for how to put it all together, just to give you an idea of what that looks like for me. Shout out to my husband, who manages all the cleaning and most of the shopping, so I can focus on the cooking.

If you have a favorite Thanksgiving recipe or tradition, or any tips and tricks for managing your cooking time more efficiently, please share in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!

The Menu

Spicy Pickled Green Beans via The Splendid Table (x 1/2), but a quick pickled version
Smoky Candied Almonds via Serious Eats (x 1)
Cheese and crackers (tbd)

Turkey and Gravy: Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy via Epicurious (x 1) I’ll have a smaller turkey, and I salt it (otherwise known as dry-brining for who knows what reason) rather than brining it, so there will be a few adjustments to the time-table

Mashed Potatoes: Extra Potato-y Mashed Potatoes from Inside the Test Kitchen by Tyler Florence (x 3)

Stuffing: Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Corn Nuts from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1), and a vegetarian bread stuffing with apples, and maybe some pecans and dried cranberries, that I’m just going to make up (x 1)

Cranberry Sauce:Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel via Epicurious (x 1/2), and Mama’s Cranberry Salad via food52 (x 1/2), the former I’ve made quite a few times, and the latter because I wanted to try something new

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Lime from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1 1/2 or 2, haven’t decided)
Caramelized Spiced Carrots via Epicurious (x 1/2)
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread via The Best American Recipes 2002-2003 (x 1)

Pecan-Rye Pumpkin Pie from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1)
Cranberry-Lime Pie via Epicurious (x 1)
Derby Pie via my mom and Aunt Julie (x 1), my son volunteered to make this, but it’s unclear if he’ll have time

Drinks: my husband handles the drinks. I think he’s making cranberry Mai Tais

Also, my mom is bringing Peasant Pie, Corn Pudding, and Apple Pie

The Plan

The Weekend before Thanksgiving: make turkey and veggie broth for stuffings and gravy, make the Zinfandel cranberry sauce, make cornbread for stuffing, make pie dough for pumpkin and derby pies

Monday: make cornbread stuffing, roast sweet potatoes for spoon bread, peel and mash, make nuts and pickles

Tuesday: acquire the turkey and do hopefully the last shopping run, salt the turkey, make the gravy base and herb butter, make the cranberry pie, maybe take out all the serving dishes and try to figure out which ones to use

Wednesday: make the veggie stuffing, make spoon bread, make the jelly cranberry sauce, make the derby and pumpkin pies, prep the sprouts and carrots, maybe infuse the cream for the mashed potatoes with thyme (haven’t decided about that yet), finalize plan for Thursday, go shopping for anything you forgot on Tuesday

Thursday AM: roast off the sprouts and the carrots, get the turkey out of the fridge
noonish?: get the turkey in the oven, peel the potatoes
some time after that: get the stuffings into the oven, boil the potatoes, get the appetizers on the table
after the turkey comes out: somehow fit everything that needs to get heated up into the oven, mash the potatoes, finish the sprouts on the stove, make the gravy
once the turkey is rested: carve the bird (that’s my brother’s job), get everything onto the table, don’t forget the cranberry sauce, remember to be thankful, eat
later that evening: pull pies from the fridge, whip cream, consider heating up the apple pie, somehow manage to have dessert after eating too much of everything else