Sunday, October 07, 2007
I had some issues with folding and consistency on these. This shape is harder than the crescent shape that I normally do.
On dipping sauces: When I was little my mother always served her dumplings with a mixture of mostly soy sauce, a dash of apple cider vinegar, and grated ginger. I used this mixture for years, but about 4 years ago, I was introduced to Alison's Koren home style dipping sauce. Since I was craving more flavor at the time, I started using a mixture that was a combination of Alison's and my mothers: soy sauce, a dash of apple cider vinegar, red chili flakes, julienned scallions, and sesame oil. About 2 years ago, I visited Din Tai Fung for the first time in Taipei, and I was immediately taken with their finely julienned ginger. Currently, I like the Din Tai Fung* style of condiments, with no soy sauce: Chinese vinegar, extra finely julienned ginger, hot oil, and maybe sesame oil. Ever since Din Tai Fung first served me those little slivers of ginger, I've preferred eating them that way. My mother also seems to prefer to the spicy vinegar and ginger only mixture. (This applies only to the dumplings with unleavened skins. I never eat the yeasty buns with soy sauce, but I did use the vinegar only mixture for the ones in this post.)
The dumplings are made juicy by placing solid meat jelly (either natural or gelatinized) in the dumplings when they are folded. When they are cooked, the jelly melts and turns into soup. Mine didn't come out as soupy as I'd like, but Din Tai Fung's recommendations on eating soup dumplings are to: dip in sauce. Place in soup spoon, and then bite into the skin and suck out the juice so it doesn't squirt you, before eating the rest of the dumplings. I also found that greater quantities of flavoring ingredients and stock should be added to the pork, then suggested in this recipe.
Normally when I make dumplings, I freeze the uncooked ones for later. However, since this dough has yeast in it, they must be cooked before being frozen.
*Din Tai Fun is a Taiwanese chain of dumpling houses that is know for their consistently above average to nearly excellent steamed dumplings. Their only US branch is in LA, and is worth stopping by if you are in town, although the branch in Taipei is noticeably better.
I cooked these broccoli using my mother's method--except she doesn't usually use garlic. She always cuts the florets and places them in a hot pan with a minimal amount of oil. After a 30 seconds she adds a just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and covers them for 3 minutes. When the steam cooks the broccoli through, she uncovers the pan and salts them. Sometimes she adds a dash of soy sauce. They are finished when most of the liquid has evaporated.
When I was little, my mother made these on occasion as a special treat. I enjoyed watching her make because they start off as little hard plastic looking disks that puff up immediately when you put them in hot oil. I also loved them, because they stick to your tongue before you crunch them. They need to be cooked in very hot oil, otherwise the outside will cook before the inside can puff up. I used peanut oil at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
This explanation from Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (p 105-106) is the best that I've seen so far about the different stages of egg white foams:
Glossy Soft Peaks and Stiff Peaks: At the "soft peak" stage, when glossy foam edges retain some shape but droop, and when the foam doesn't yet cling to the bowl, the somewhat coarse bubbles are still lubricated by plenty of liquid, which would quickly drain to the bottom of the bowl. At the "stiff peak" stage, where the foam is still gloss but now retains a well-defined edge and clings to the bowl, the foam is approaching 90% air, and the egg liquid has been spread so thin that the protein webs in adjacent bubble walls begin to catch on each other and on the bowl surface. There's just enough lubrication left for the foam to be creamy and easily mixed with other ingredients. This state, or perhaps just before it, is the optimum for making mousses, souffles, sponge cakes, and similar dishes that involve mixing and further rising in the oven. Further beating gains little additional volume.
Dry Peaks and Beyond: Just past the stiff-peak stage, the foam is even firmer, takes on a dull, dry appearance and crumbly consistency, and begins to leak some liquid, so that it slips away from the bowl again. At this "slip-and-streak" stage, as pastry chef Bruce Healy describes it, the protein webs in adjacent bubble walls are bonding to each other and squeezing out what little liquid once separated them. Pastry makers look for this stage to give them the firmest foam for a meringue or cookie batter; they stop the incipient overcoagualation and weeping by immediately adding sugar, which separates the proteins and absorbs the water. They also start the beating with about half the cream of tartar per egg that a cake or souffle maker will, so that the foam will in fact progress to this somewhat overwhipped condition. Past the slip-and-streak stage, the foam begins to lose volume and get grainy.