January 22, 2012

'Tis the Year of the Dragon

January 23 is Chinese New Year. Time to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, a sign of good fortune and great power. Anyone born this year should be honored and respected. So how about doing that with a nice dim-sum-oriented spread?
To me, potstickers are a Far East comfort food. There's something about a pair of chopsticks, a chubby dumpling, and some sweet and salty dipping sauce. I really enjoy some crunchy crab rangoon for starters when getting Chinese take-out, but I know everyone can go without the fried-food calories this time of year. I've revamped a longtime recipe in my arsenal to be baked in phyllo dough instead of using wonton wrappers and frying them. And who doesn't love a little oriental-inspired dessert? Matcha (green tea) latte chocolate chip cupcakes with Chinese five-spice fudge frosting wrap up your trip on the Oriental Express nicely. So go on, celebrate the Year of the Dragon with a little honor and respect to the ultimate of Chinese comfort food gods!

Chinese Potstickers (adapted from Cooking Light)

For the dumplings:
3 cups chopped napa (Chinese) or savoy cabbage (about 4 ounces)
4 dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1 1/2 ounces
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
5 ounces lean ground pork
5 ounces ground chicken breast
1 large egg white
48 gyoza skins
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
1 1/3 cups water, divided
For the sauce:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1/3 low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons chile puree with garlic sauce, such as Sambal Olek
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
To prepare dumplings, cook cabbage in boiling water 1 minute or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool; chop.

Place mushrooms in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms; chop.
Combine cabbage, mushrooms, 1/4 cup green onions, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and next 7 ingredients (through egg white) in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.

Working with 1 gyoza skin at a time (cover remaining gyoza skins to prevent drying), spoon 2 teaspoons pork mixture into center of each skin. Moisten edges of gyoza skin with water. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal. Place dumpling, seam side up, on a baking sheet sprinkled with remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch (cover loosely with a towel to prevent drying). Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and filling.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 dumplings to pan; cook 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until water evaporates. Repeat procedure with remaining canola oil, dumplings, and water.

To prepare the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve sauce with dumplings. You can also use prepared Gyoza Sauce or Ponzu Dipping Sauce found in your grocer's international foods aisle. Yields 16 servings (serving size: 3 dumplings and about 1 tablespoon sauce)

Phyllo Crab Rangoon (adapted from the kitchen of L. Peters)

1 8-oz packages) light cream cheese, room temperature
1 can (6 oz) lump crabmeat, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
cooking spray or melted butter (depending on how many calories you want to save!)
1 roll phyllo dough (from a 2-roll package), thawed

Combine the cream cheese and crabmeat and mix until smooth. Add salt, garlic, and onion powder. Unroll phyllo dough and follow this tutorial if you've never made phyllo triangles before. Place triangles on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with sweet and sour sauce or soy sauce. Makes 24 appetizers.

Green Tea Latte Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar

1/4 cup Trader Joe's Matcha Latte Mix 
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

2-3 drops green food color
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with about 15 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift first four ingredients together and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and latte mix together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well each time. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk in four additions (flour, milk, flour, milk) and mix until virtually no lumps (about 3-5 minutes). Add almond extract and 2-3 drops of food color. Stir to combine. Divide evenly in lined cupcake pan (no more than 2/3 full) and bake 16-18 minutes until golden or toothpick comes clean. Cool completely before frosting. Makes 12-15 cupcakes.

Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Buttercream

3 3/4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder (pre-ground McCormick and Penzey's brands also available)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl, sift together sugar and cocoa; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, cocoa, and five-spice powder and mix to combine. Add milk and vanilla and continue beating until creamy. If desired, add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency. Fill a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe on top of cupcakes or use small spatula and spread on desired amount. For a cute fortune cookie cupcake topper, follow this link.

January 2, 2012

Champagne Wishes and Sorbet Dreams

Ah, the new year... A chance to purge the old and bring in the new. Typical vows to get in shape, quit eating sweets, and cook healthier meals. But if you have to break those resolutions at all, and you can at least make it to Valentine's Day before doing that, these treats will be worth veering off that path and onto a pink-treat one: pink champagne cake and raspberry prosecco (rosé) sorbet.

I love rosés, especially champagne or sparkling rosés--good, dry cavas, proseccos, and bruts. Rosé is usually considered a summer drink, but it rears its beautiful blush head this time of year in sparkling format everywhere. For these two recipes, made this past weekend to celebrate ringing in 2012, I used Gruet Brut Rosé ($15.99 at Whole Foods). We had this a few years ago for NYE dinner out on the town, and it really fits the bill. Don't cheapen out when baking with champagne. It's well worth getting the good stuff, since alcohol notoriously bakes off in the process. And although the sorbet recipe calls for prosecco, I went ahead and used more brut rosé, since it's what I had on hand for the cake, and it definitely made both dishes. Plus, by using some for the cake and some for the sorbet, it leaves you with just enough to enjoy a glass while baking! ;-)

Rosé Champagne Layer Cake (adapted from The Boozy Baker by Lucy Baker)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated cane sugar
6 large egg whites
2 large whole eggs
1 1/3 cups brut rosé

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray with baking spray three 9-inch round layer cake pans. Line with parchment circles and butter/spray again. Dust with flour and tap out excess.

In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg whites and eggs and beat until smooth, about another 2 minutes. Alternately add the flour mixture with the rosé, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. (I used about 2 1/2 cups of batter per pan and then had extra batter for some cupcakes.) Bake 28-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes for 15 minutes in their pans, and then remove them and allow to cool completely on wire rack before filling and frosting. Fill with cream cheese frosting, mixed with 2 tablespoons pink sanding sugar and 2 tablespoons strawberry vanilla sugar, and frost with Swiss meringue buttercream (plus a few drops of pink food coloring). I also used India Tree Oyster Pearls along with plain vanilla buttercream for piping the decor on top and down the sides, for a "bubbly" effect.

Makes one three-layer 9-inch cake (12-15 servings) plus about a half dozen cupcakes, or one three-layer 10-inch cake (20-24 servings) with no extra batter. Serve at room temperature with raspberry rosé sorbet.

Raspberry Rosé Sorbet (adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox)

1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup water plus 1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups prosecco or rosé

Gently mash together raspberries and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl to macerate. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar with 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. (You are making a simple syrup.) Transfer syrup to a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Scrape the raspberries and their juice into a blender, add 1 1/2 cups cold water, and purée until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing the purée with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. You should have about 3 cups of raspberry purée. Discard seeds. Add sugar syrup and prosecco or rosé to purée and stir to combine.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Due to the alcohol, it may still be slushy after churning. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve. Makes 1 quart.