Thursday, January 31, 2013

Steamed Chinese Buns (dough & bun assembly only)

Steamed Chinese Buns
(No pork products involved)

These buns are basic steamed buns, made with yeast and baking powder. The project is adventuresome for a baker or cook in a kosher kitchen because of the implication of pork.  I'm more interested in the dough making process and found various meat fillings in a cookbook given to me by a Chinese Filipina friend when I left Manila in 1983. The book is called Chinese Snacks: Wei-Chuan's Cook Book and is written in Chinese and less than fluent English (Edited by Miss Huang Su Huei, translated by Miss Nina Simonds). The imprint is 1976, no publisher named, although We-Chuan is (was?) a food purveyor in Hong Kong.
The recipe for the dough I used today comes from Momfuku's food blog.  Even though the attempt documented here was my first try, the dough was easy to work with. The final product looked reasonable, certainly not perfect.  With practice I think I can do this.

The meat recipe comes from a combination of sources including (a food blog about Asian cooking) and Wei-Chuan's Cook Book. I used 2nd cut brisket because it was fattier and could be BBQ'd.  Fred makes an astonishing smoked brisket and I'm sure that would be every bit just as delicious.  I plan to also try this with veal (the butcher suggested veal breast) and ground chicken (the Wei-Chuan cookbook has a recipe for this variation). 

For those who think keeping a kosher kitchen means matzah ball soup and gefilte fish- think again; figuring out work-arounds for various ethnic cuisines creates a whole new cooking adventure.
It was interesting in that when I looked for steamed bun recipes through an Internet search I came up with yeast/baking powder as the main option.  In Wei Chuan's book there are three options for "basic leavened dough including the one made with yeast, another with a young sour dough starter mixed with baking soda and baking powder and a third made with baking powder only. I have been learning to start sourdough starters on and off for the past year or so and have one going now, so I'll try this variation soon (Super Bowl Sunday might be a good day to find a long project to keep me busy!)
The choreography for this project is:
  • BBQ the meat (you need to have about 1lb of BBQ'd meat for each batch of dough)
  • Make the dough
  • Dice the meat while the dough is rising
  • Make the sauce for the diced meat filling
  • Assemble the dumpling
  • Steam
  • Devour them!!!! (and save some for later- these dumplings can be frozen to be eaten within a couple of weeks)

Recipes for fillings will be posted in a separate posting. This posting will document the procedure for making steamed bun dough and assembly of the bun.

 Here is the Momofuku recipe for steamed buns:
This dough is hand kneaded. In case you are looking for salt, this dough recipe has none.
In a large bowl add the following and mix:
  • 12.5 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
Add 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast to one side of the bowl, add 1/2 tsp sugar around the yeast
Pour 3/4 cup lukewarm water over the yeast to hydrate and start to mix by hand
Add 2 Tbsp canola oil

Mix by hand, turn out on a work surface. If you have trouble getting the mixture to bind, add 1 Tbsp warm water (you can add up to 1 more, but hold back to see if your really need it).
Gently knead by hand for 4-5 minutes, you'll have a stiff dough Pour about 1 Tbsp oil into the bowl (I don't wash these bowls- this is where you mixed the flour!). Roll the dough around in the bowl so that the dough has an oily covering.

            Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap.There should be no large pockets of air space between the plastic wrap and dough. The wrap should be loose enough for the dough to proof (rise). This dough will double in bulk in about 45- 50 minutes. 
 It will look different than bread dough- you will see bubbles in the dough - this is due to the use of the additional leaving agent (baking powder). There is a good photo below that shows this effect.
 Notice the stiff bubbled texture of the dough:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thin Pizza Crust on the BBQ

Thin Crust BBQ Pizza

Adam and I made pizza at home regularly (until he went away to school that is.....)

In the absence of a wood burning outdoor  brick/stone oven (hint to Fred) our gas BBQ works well for baking pizza crust and making pita bread.  I crank up the heat to the highest level it will go (the thermostat should be close to 500 degrees) and use a pizza stone that works on grills. I happen to have a granite stone, but Emile Henry makes one that is clay - these are the only two I know that are "BBQ proof, " but I'm sure there are others. Adam and I did try a traditional pizza stone and it cracked.

In the winter its a bit trickier to heat the BBQ all the way to 500, test your BBQ before trying this.   

I started making pizza when the kids were little and we lived in Florida. Dominoes and whatever other chains were the only pizza choices and the pizza was terrible.  Mikah commented, while in High School (do  you remember this?) that her friends liked the pizza we made in our house.

Adam asked me to buy the William-Sonoma imprint,  Pizza and other Savory Pies, by Binns so that he could get some ideas for toppings and other dough recipes. There is also an easy pizza dough recipe in The New Basics Cookbook, Rosso & Lukins (from the Silver Palate series).  The recipe I use is adapted from the one found in the Rosso & Lukins book.

If you want to try making pizza, but the wait time and idea of creating bread dough makes you nervous, Fleishmann's yeast has a relatively new yeast specifically for pizza that requires no proofing time. You cannot make bread with this yeast; however, it makes decent pizza dough- better than the ready made par-baked doughs that you buy hanging in plastic bags in the supermarket. The recipe is on the back of the package - you can purchase this yeast in some supermarkets including Wegman's and A&P.  The dough takes 30 minutes, start to finish.

If you are reading this posting just to see what it says, but you have no plan to ever make pizza dough from scratch there are frozen and fresh ready made pizza doughs - a very good one can be found in the refrigerator section in Trader Joe's.

Once you make a dough decision the cookbooks are useful for topping suggestions and ideas. Use your imagination to go beyond sauce and cheese.

Pizza is a type of flat bread. I don't know how to "throw" the dough like a pizza parlor, although I think that Eli did learn how to do this and hasn't shown the rest of his family. I work the dough on a flat surface and stretch it out. When we're making it on the BBQ (Adam and I do make deep dish pizza, in a pan, in the oven) and it's being baked on a stone I don't worry about the shape being round. In fact, the stone we own is square and I want to maximize the surface, so I aim for a square or rectangle that fits most of the surface of the stone. If this makes our home made pizza inauthentic, so be it, it works.  I par-bake several crusts before adding toppings, so that they can be made quickly in succession if we need more than one pizza and if the crust isn't needed, it can be cut into half or quarters, wrapped and frozen for use at another time as "individual" pizzas.

Here is a basic pizza dough that we use for pizza baked in the BBQ (it is not the same dough that Adam and I use for deep dish pizza). We sometime use up to 1c semolina mixed with all purpose flour. The semolina makes the dough a bit more difficult - it tears more easily (lower gluten levels, less stretchability)- but it does give the dough a slightly different texture that is interesting. We have semolina flour in the house because Adam sometimes makes pasta.

Dough :
This dough will make 2 thin crust pizzas
  • 41/2 tsp  (2 packages) active dry yeast and 2 tsp sugar  
    • (you can use instant yeast if you prefer- just follow instructions outlined in the Challah recipe for hydrating instant yeast).
  • 2 cups of very warm water mixed with 2 tsp sugar
  • 25 oz (5c) all purpose flour -(weighing the flour gives you a more consistent outcome)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled dry oregano or basil leaves (optional)
Procedure to make the dough:
1. To activate the yeast- measure 2 c very warm water in a large measuring cup, mix in the sugar, add the yeast, mix slightly and let stand 3-5 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly and look like a lumpy bubbly mass on top of the water.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the entire amount of flour, stir in the salt and make a well in the center.
3.  Pour the yeast mixture into the well.

4. Using a flexible dough scraper, or a rubber spatula, mix the flour and yeast mixture.

5. Pour the oil over the mixed dough and continue to knead gently, in the bowl, with your hand.  You do not need to kead this dough for more than 2-3 minutes.

6. Knead in the herbs /cheese if you decide to use them.
7. The dough will form a soft ball of dough with an oily glaze.

8. Gather the dough into a ball, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise (proof) for about 45-50 minutes - it will double in bulk. (A cool oven is a good place to proof dough)

Pizza Topping:
Prepare the topping you plan to use before starting to cook the crust.  Cheese and tomato sauce are an option, but we've used other kinds of toppings, for example hoisin sauce and sliced chicken or duck with chopped scallions or chives.  Adam likes to use diced Morning Star Farms "buffalo chicken"  (a soy product) and slivered bell pepper along with cheese and sauce.

Meat & Veggie Pizza (no cheese): reduced tomato sauce, chopped broccolini, beef fry (smoked meat),  

Procedure to assemble the pizza:
 9. Heat the BBQ with the cold pizza stone on the grill.

10. Gently de-gas the dough by pressing on it, remove to a flat (very lightly floured) surface) and fold a few times. Divide in half and let rest for a few minutes.

11. I gently stretch the dough out on the back side of a cookie sheet or a pizza peel that is sprinkled with cornmeal. Both work well, the peel is easier for me to handle, but it's one more piece of equipment that is nice to have, but optional.

12. Create a rectangle shape (it won't be perfect) slightly smaller than the stone.  I don't roll the dough, it will stick or you'll have to add additional flour which will make it less pliable.  Don't press the dough onto the surface of the peel or back side of the cookie sheet  - it will stick and make it difficult to slip onto the hot stone.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Onion Rolls (pocket style) - updated Oct, 2018

Onion Rolls

These onion rolls are reminiscent of the onion rolls found at the former Ratner’s restaurant or at Junior’s in Brooklyn. They are more like onion puffs with a savory filling. Bubby and her friends love them.
This particular recipe is adapted from the book Inside the Jewish Bakery  by Ginsberg & Berg.

The dough is fast rising, due in part to the flour (bread flour) and the large ratio of yeast to flour (2 packages of yeast to about 4 cups of bread flour).

There is a bit of choreography: make the dough and while it proofs, make the filling, assemble the rolls.  Once you are practiced at this a batch of rolls can be made in an evening.

If you are new to bread baking, you can check out my post on yeast and kneading flour

Start with the dough:

  • 22 oz bread flour (bread flour will create a better texture in the final product, but you can use all-purpose flour) 
  • 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast (I use SAF gold for sweet dough, but any yeast will do)
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (not too warm, instant yeast is sensitive)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 extra-large egg plus one yolk
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1.5 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil (for covering finished dough)
  • Add the flour into a large mixing bowl. For this recipe you want to use a mixer because of the high-gluten flour
  • Add yeast along one edge, top with 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Pour the water over the yeast/sugar side of the bowl to make sure yeast is hydrated
  • Start mixer on low speed, mixing the flour, yeast and water.
  • Add the egg and yolk, salt, oil, poppy seeds,sugar and continue to beat at medium speed for 4-5 mintues.
  • The dough will be stiff and pull away from the side of the bowl
  • Using a flexible scraper, gather up the dough, form a ball in the bowl
  • Pour 1-2 Tbsp oil over the dough, turn the dough so that the entire surface has an oily covering
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap (don’t leave air space between the wrap and dough, but make sure it is loose enough for the dough to rise)
  • Place in a draft free place (a cool oven works well) and allow to rise until just about double – this will usually happen in under and hour (45-50 minutes). 
    • Alternately: place the covered dough in the refrigerator and allow to rise for 8-10 hours (this is called "retarding"- slowing the rising/fermentation process. A good blog post on this technique can be found at The Baker's Blog).

Filling & Topping :Make the filling while the dough is proofing (rising).

In a bowl mix the following ingredients, it is both the filling & topping.
  • 24 oz finely chopped yellow onion (do this by hand in order to keep it from becoming too wet)
  • 3-4 Tbsp bread crumbs (will help the mixture dry)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds


  • Pre-heat the oven to 375
  • Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper (no greasing necessary)
  • Remove dough from the bowl, place on a work surface and divide the dough into 3 balls
  • Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough slightly to form a short oblong
  • Rolling in the same direction, roll out to about 12-14 inches. Then work crosswise so that you form a rectangle, about 12x14 and a bit thicker than 1/4 inch.  You may need a small amount of flour to keep the dough from sticking.

  • Using 1/4 of the onion mixture, spread along the top 1/3 of the dough, lengthwise
  • Roll the dough, starting at the onion covered edge, forming a log
  • Cut the log crosswise into half and then each half into thirds (six rolls from the log)
  • Move the rolls, in the same position, seam side down onto a cookie or baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  • Repeat the process twice more.  The yield is 18 rolls, slightly smaller than sandwich rolls.
  • You can make larger rolls if you want
  • Brush the 18 rolls with oil (use a neutral oil, canola, for example) Using the last 1/4 of the onion mixture, press into the tops of the rolls

  • Bake the rolls for approximately 30 minutes - check after 25 minutes. They will be golden brown
  • Cool on the pan
  • Wrap cool rolls, they stay well for 2-3 days at room temperature and freeze well (double wrap) for about a month.

Yum!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Enjoy them!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Finding Ingredients & Equipment

Finding Ingredients

Thanks to Eli's friend Emily for reminding me that if she wanted to try any of the recipes, some of the ingredients or equipment are unknown to her and may be hard to find.

This is the day of the internet, and I am often ordering even mundane ingredients like flour through the King Arthur website (especially when they run the no-shipping deals).  This saves me time and energy, although the UPS man isn't necesarily a fan.

So anyway, here is a list that I can update when someone asks me "huh? whats that and where can I get it?"

Some good website sources for baking ingredients and cooking:
King Arthur Flour :
The New York Bakers:

Filling (ready made)
  • Chocolate Schmear and the other "schmears" are canned fillings from Love 'n Bake, the home baking arm of American Almond company, a commercial baking supply company located in Brooklyn. They have a great website, lots of fun recipes and information. or .  Some of their products are available in Shop Rite (in the kosher experience section) and Whole Foods.
  • Israeli chocolate spread is a product, not a name brand. You can find it in stores that have large kosher sections (Shop Rite's kosher experience for example).  There is also a website: , but you have to order $100 worth of items in order to avoid shipping. is another site you can check out.
  • Pomegranate (the kosher supermarket in Flatbush, Brooklyn) has it all............
  • Baker's Choice is another company that has baking supplies including really good imported cocoa. The company is in Spring Valley, NY, but you can find their products in large kosher sections in supermarkets - especially around Passover.  They don't offer on-line retail orders; however, their phone is listed on the website:
  • I most often use King Arthur Flour.  Bread, white whole wheat and all purpsose are available in many supermarkets these days.  Bob's Red Mill (in the natural foods section) is another good choice. If you are just starting to bake and paying $5 for a 5 lb bag of flour hurts, Hecker's unbleached will bake a better product than Pillsbury, White Medal or the house brand, but doesn't rise as beautifully as KA (KA has a higher protein content & this affects the rise.)
  • Specialty flours can be ordered on line at King Arthur ( or in the supermarket from Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills.
  • Shop Rite has a large selection of flour, Whole Foods has a nice selection of high-end specialty flour.
  • Trader Joe's carries white whole wheat flour that seems to be the same or similar enough to KA that I do use it.
  • Use good pans, make the investment, it's worth it. I've been using the same loaf pans for many years- wash them and dry by hand, don't bang them around too much and they will serve you well for a long time. I don't have a favorite brand, but USA pans, Chicago Metallic and Kaiser are some brands that make good baking pans.
  • Parchment paper (available in all supermarkets, in the baking aisle) help you skip greasing in some cases and will help make sure that your baked product is easily removed from the pan.
  • Baker's peel - you can pick one up in Bed Bath and Beyond, along with other kitchen supply stores.  
  • Fleishmann's or Red Star active dry yeast work well (need to be activated, look at the Challah recipe for a description of this process).  Keep in the fridge or freezer (if you buy it in bulk).
  • Fresh yeast is difficult to work with and unless kept under ideal conditions can fail.
  • Instant yeast will mix immediately with water and flour.  I use SAF red label and order it from the King Arthur website. (It's cheaper from King Arthur than Amazon as I type this).
  • SAF gold is instant yeast meant for sweet dough. It has a bit of citric acid mixed in....does it improve sweet dough?  Honestly, I haven't used it enough to make a definitive statement about it, check back with me in 2014.

Haroset Cookie Bars

Haroset Cookie Bars

This is the recipe for the cookie bars I make with the left-over (and long frozen) Passover haroset that Fred makes. Even though the blog recipes were meant to more or less document yeast dough recipes, this one has no leaving agent at all- although it's definitely not kosher for Passover.

For a great kosher for Passover sweet - check out my Gluten Free Brownies, which are absolutely kosher for Passover.

I like cookie bars because they are done 1-2-3, no dropping the cookies one by one onto the cookie sheet. We haven't met anyone who doesn't like this haroset at the seder, nor anyone who doesn't like this cookie.

The haroset is made up of dry fruit, ground nuts, coconut and jam and is cooked like a jam mixture. It very much looks like a lumpy unattractive morter mixture that could hold the pyramids together.  (By now you might not even remember that we ever used the  Ashkenaz apple-walnut-wine mixture at all.)  It's an adaption from the Cardozo Haroset recipe in the NY Times Passover Cookbook  (Ed. by Linda Amster) and like most Sephardic recipes for haroset the endproduct is a paste-type fruit concoction.


My huband, Fred, makes a huge amount of charoset, we freeze about half for use after Passover.
  • About 20 oz sweetened grated coconut
  • 1 lb finely ground nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts in any combination you like)
  • 6 cups water (approximate amount, you have to check the haroset as it cooks)
  • 2 lb assorted dried fruit, chopped (definitely include pitted prunes, apples, dates. Skip figs, the seeds won't work well here)
  • 1 lb white raisins
  • 1lb dried apricots, chopped                                                      
  • 2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 24 oz cherry preserves
  • 1 1/2- 2 c sweet kiddush wine (or grape juice)
1. Combine (and mix) the coconut, fruit, ground nuts and water in a large pot. Simmer over low heat until fruit starts to break up and the mixture begins to thicken and look somewhat like a cooked cereal mixture
2. Add water if needed to keep the mixture from burning or sticking to the pot, keep stirring to prevent scorching. Be careful to keep stirring and watching- Fred may not admit this - but he has (slightly) burned the bottom of a pot while cooking this.
3. After the fruit has begun to break down (about 45 minutes) add the preserves and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. The mixture will be thick. Let it cool, it should remain moist, but will be very thick.
4. Stir in wine, cover and chill. 
5. The haroset stays well for the entire week of Passover. It can be frozen in smaller 8oz packets and keeps well for several months.

Cookie Bars:

Make bars in a 13x9x2 pan (I use a pyrex pan for this recipe). 

Cookie Crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix the following in a large bowl:                      
  • 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch salt (not kosher salt, the crystals are too large- use a salt with fine size crystals)
  • 2c all purpose flour
3. Pour 1/2 c melted margerine (or melted coconut oil) over this mixture. Stir. Press into place in the baking pan, it will be crumbly.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, the edges will be turning a bit dark

1. Prepare while the crust is baking, mix the following together in a large bowl:
  • 2 cups of  haroset (obviously, defrost if you are using it after freezing)
  • 1 lg egg
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (and nutmeg if you like it)
2. Add to mixture:
  • 2 cups chopped apples (Granny Smith, Jazz, Empire - NOT something that gets mushy like Rome)
3. Mix ingredients all together                                                        
4. Take the crust out of the oven, spread the fruit mixture over the hot crust

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds mixed with 1 tsp sugar and a few Tbsp of water

5. Combine the nuts, sugar and water. Sprinkle/spread topping evenly across the filling
6. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. Apples should be softened, but not mushy, nuts will be barely toasted looking.
7. Cool completely before cutting into squares