Archive | March, 2013

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

22 Mar

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And we’re back to baking!  I haven’t baked as much lately, and I don’t really know why…  Very silly, so I’ll have to fix that soon.

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So I biked downtown for the first time in ages the other day.  I had to go to the library to get a book, but had fines and couldn’t check anything out…  But I ended up at this really wonderful little place that I’ve been meaning to try since I came here.  It’s called Grahamwich, it is divine, and it is strangely cheap.  Also it’s got gorgeous design.  I can’t even tell you.

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Even though it was absolutely frigid, it was a beautiful day, and it made me so happy to be on the bike and taking pictures.  It’s been too long because we’ve had dreadful weather all winter that’s made it physically impossible to go out on a two-wheeled vehicle.

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One thing I love about winter: the beaches are deserted.  I’m always surprised/dismayed when summer comes around and the park near where I live is swarmed and the bike path becomes hazardous.  Not only is that crush of people stressful and annoying, but it prevents a person from singing a mix of Lady Gaga and Indigo Girls at top volume while biking.  If a person were into that kind of thing.

You’re here for food, though.  Let’s get to it.

I feel bad taking so many recipes from Joy the Baker, but she is truly primus super pares in the world of baking blogs.  This recipe isn’t even adapted, and I am suitably ashamed.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp, acc. to Joy)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tablespoons/2 oz butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs

For filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp/2 oz butter, melted and cooled

To do:

First, stir together 2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Pour the yeast into 3 tbsp water with a pinch of sugar and stir.  Let sit for five minutes until it foams up.

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Whisk together eggs in a different bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and milk together.  Remove from heat and add water.  Let that cool for a bit.

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Add that and the activated yeast to the flour mixture and stir until incorporated.  Then, whisk in the eggs completely.  It will take a long time and you’ll be totally convinced that there is no way the eggs will get with the flour/milk, but keep at it.  Also, it looks nasty as hell.

Add the rest of the flour to make it look even nastier.

Trust.

Transfer the dough to a greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Sit that down in a warm, dry place and wait for an hour so it can double in size.  While bread chemistry is happening, mix the dry ingredients from the filling part of the recipe in a small bowl.

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Also grease a loaf pan while you’re at it.

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I worked on my political theory final while I waited for the dough to rise.  Super fun.

Deflate the dough and knead in 2 tbsp flour.  Cover with a towel and let it rest for five minutes.  I don’t know why you’re supposed to do this.  I will find out and let you all know.  Maybe I will write a bread science post some day.

Anyway.

Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface until it’s about 20 in x 12 in.  I actually didn’t have a lot of trouble with this dough being super sticky or recalcitrant or anything, which made me very happy.  I did have trouble rolling it out for a while, but then I realized that I had these height guards on the end of my rolling pin…  Don’t judge, we all have those moments.

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With a pastry brush, slather it in the butter.  Or a paint brush.  Whichever you happen to have.

Then, sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.

Actually.  Okay, the original recipe acknowledges that it seems like a lot of sugar, but says to roll with it.  I disagree because jesus, it is a lot of sugar.  I would recommend using half the sugar, but if the original recipe works for you, go for it.

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Slice this into six-ish strips and stack the strips on top of each other.  Then, slice that into six squares.

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Pile those into the loaf pan like so:

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I’m trying to think of an analogy and failing…

Like stacking books on a shelf.  There we go.

Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and do the whole rising thing again.  In the mean time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Then, bake for 30-35 minutes.  The original recipe cautions you to make sure it’s really baked all the way through before taking it out.  The top should be a deep golden brown.  If it’s lightly browned, the middle may still be raw.  Cue paranoia, I know.  Sorry!

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It’ll be okay.  I believe in you.

 

The book I wanted to check out at the library was by Kim Young-Ha and it was called Your Republic Is Calling You, about a North Korean spy living in ROK for years and years who gets called back suddenly.  My school library actually had a different book of his called I Have the Right to Destroy Myself that I quite enjoyed.  It’s very short and a very quick read (I read the whole thing in the bath), and it’s sort of about a guy who helps people kill themselves, and about these two guys who know a woman who killed herself with the first guy’s help.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s a solid little book, and worth a read if you want something that doesn’t require a huge investment but isn’t some throwaway thing.

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Chinese Chicken Soup

21 Mar

In three weeks I’m presenting my paper on sustainable architecture in China at my first political science conference.  Do you remember that paper?  You must, I think it’s all I talked about from September-November.  A movie I’ve been waiting four years for is also finally coming out but instead of being in Chicago seeing it and the director at the Music Box I will be in Normal, Illinois talking about buildings and the environment and China to people who are probably really confused about why architecture has to do with political science.

Ah well, I’ll see Upstream Color the day after I get back and it’ll be amazing and wonderful, and I won’t get to see the lovely director/writer/composer/co-star, but I can live with that.  I suppose.

I can feel this becoming a career, though.  Green architecture in China.  I’m already thinking about paper topics for next quarter, but I’m leaning heavily towards how contemporary art in China is an invaluable form of resistance against the government, particularly against the central government’s urban planning policies.  HOWEVER, I have to finish this quarter first, and I’m so close to the end now.

This quarter I actually had the foresight to make one dish that I could eat all week long and that didn’t require a lot of effort, and it has really helped sustain me.  I just finished it off a few minutes ago, and so now I bring to you: Chinese chicken soup!

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How is this different from American chicken soup?  Well the broth, for one thing.  The Chinese version has a lot more flavor, using rice vinegar and soy sauce instead of just chicken stock.  Also, the vegetables, which is the biggest draw for me.  I’m not hugely fond of vegetables, but will always eat them in Chinese food.  They’re just better.  Better variety and better cooking methods.

I got this recipe from a very lovely site called A Spicy Perspective and adapted it out of laziness, taking out some ingredients I didn’t feel like getting.  If you really want the full experience, check out the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, cracked
  • 1 lb boneless chicken… I used breast, but the recipe calls for thighs.  I don’t know what the difference is.
  • 5 oz rice stick/mai fun noodles.  You could use any noodles though.
  • 1 large bunch/1 package green onions
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • whatever other vegetables you want to throw in there

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To do:

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock, water, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic to a boil.

Throw in the chicken and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Stir, or the chicken will clump together and it’ll  be weird.  Trust me.  Chicken clumps are weird.

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Add the noodles and then remove from the heat.  Mai fun don’t need to be cooked so much as soaked.  I actually don’t like these noodles, but it’s what the recipe called for and I was on the phone in the grocery store so I wasn’t really paying attention… Also I went to the local grocery store which only sells mai fun.  I should have gone Uptown to the Asian grocery store… They have an entire aisle of noodles.

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When you’re getting ready to serve the soup, chop all the vegetables up and put them in little bowls if you’re sharing with a group.  If you’re just keeping it to yourself, chop whatever you need as you need it.

DSC_0336This can be stored… probably indefinitely, but I’ve had it for a week and a half now.  You just have to microwave and then throw some vegetables on top and you’re golden.

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Ta-daaaa.  (I went to sleep at 7 am, okay, so don’t judge me based on my coherency right now.)

 

 

Now, books.  I’m reading a bunch right now, but what I really want to recommend is this French book.  If you don’t speak French… sorry.  Because I don’t think it’s been translated.  To preface this, I saw a movie a few days ago called Monsieur Lazhar, which is this exceedingly lovely Canadian movie staring a gentleman by the name of Mohamed Fellag.  I really liked him so I looked him up and found out that he was also a comedian and a writer, and my library system happened to have his books.  Luckily I can still read French, and luckier still Fellag is a brilliant writer who is completely readable and very talented.

I’m reading his short stories in C’est à Alger.  They all have to do in some part with Algeria, whether with the Kafka-esque government or the mythology of the area combined with the current political climate.  I would compare it to Persepolis, actually, in the way it shows you this very beautiful portrait of a place in turmoil and its people who are trying to make a life in extreme circumstances.  Anyway, if you can find a translation, hurray, and if you can read French, even better, because the book is great and his writing is even better.

Taro Chips

11 Mar

I am taking a break from various and sundry academic tasks to bring you this lovely recipe.  This is more for my benefit than yours, to be honest.  I spent the last hour and a half on a take-home exam trying to figure write in as many Downton Abbey references as possible.  After this, back to Japanese investment in China.

I don’t know how familiar you are with taro, but I know how familiar you should be: very.  It’s this little potato-type thing, usually used in Southeast Asian and Hawaiian food as a staple similar to rice.  It’s also used in desserts, like taro flavored bubble tea or popsicles, one of which I’ve had recently and the other of which hangs out in my freezer regularly.  I love taro.  It’s hard to describe its flavor when used in a dessert.

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Sweet, but not cloyingly sugary.  Fruity, but not tangy.  Full and robust, but with very subtle aftertastes of something indescribably excellent.  As a root, it’s also pretty good.  I found out recently that taro chips are a thing and that taro is $1.99 a pound at Whole Foods, and… it was pretty obvious what had to happen.  I found a recipe on Chowhound and so here you go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound taro
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

How to:

Peel and wash the wee tubers.

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I got a new peeler just for the occasion, and isn’t it adorable?

Slice the taro very, very thinly.  How thinly?  Like a chip.  I would aim for pita chip rather than potato chip unless you have some mad knife skills.  I for one am a complete loser when it comes to cutting and chopping, so my chips were kind of thick and also not remotely uniform.  It’s all good.

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Also, a warning?  These ooze a really sticky substance that’s sort of a pain, so you’ll have to wash your hands a couple of times, and maybe run the roots under cold water every once in a while, patting them dry for easier handling.

Then, lay all your slices out on a slightly oiled sheet.  Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Bake at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, but be extra vigilant if you slice them very thin or if you slice them unevenly.  I actually just stood in front of my oven and checked every couple of minutes, picking out the ones that were done off the sheet.  It sounds like a pain, but it really doesn’t take long.

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And so.  They’re delicious and healthy (baked!), and super cheap to make, so really there’s no reason not to make these unless you can’t find taro.  And then… I’m sorry.  Because that probably means you live in the middle of nowhere.  Condolences.

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So I know I’ve recommended Jhumpa Lahiri before, but I just finished Unaccustomed Earth, which I actually liked a lot better than Interpreter of Maladies.  Basically, if you haven’t read her yet you need to get on this, because you are missing out big time.  Unaccustomed Earth is another book of short stories, and it took me maybe a couple of days to read.  I only wish I had savored it more, so don’t be like me and take your time with this book.

Orecchiette and Asparagus

2 Mar

It’s been a great week for movies.  I started a new research paper on the art by Japanese victims of the atomic bombings, so I went to pick up some book from my professor published by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  She’s such a nice woman, and it was the first time I had seen her outside of class, so we talked for a bit and eventually hit on the fact that we both love the shit out of movies.  Her more than me, I think. But she got really excited, and asked if I had been to all these different theaters around Chicago, which… shamefully I had not.  But we talked about a movie she had mentioned in class, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, and Pedro Almodovar’s movies, which we both love.

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And so I looked up all the theaters she mentioned, and today went to see Like Someone in Love at the Music Box Theater.  It;s such a gorgeous place, and I can’t believe it took me so long to get there!  It’s an old-fashioned theater with a red velvet curtain, gilt everything, molded walls and ceilings, and an organ that sometimes accompanies the movies.  What a fantastic experience.

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Yesterday, also, I went to the movies to see Stoker, which was beyond phenomenal… It has limited release, and luckily it’s playing at our closest and favorite theater in this weird little mall.  I can’t even talk about that movie because it was so weird and wonderful, but if it’s playing near you, you should definitely go.

Finally, tonight we’re having a little get-together with movies and 2 ingredient pancakes with a recipe from the divine Top With Cinnamon.

Like I said… I good week for movies.  And in general.  Life’s been good, you know?

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Okay, so, last weekend I made this pasta, adapted from a recipe by Happy Yolks.  The original recipe calls for Jerusalem artichokes, which I could not find, so I used asparagus.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz orecchiette, or other pasta (but why would you pick another pasta?)
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 lemon
  • pat of butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Recipe:

First, wash and slice your asparagus.

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Now, Happy Yolks says to throw these in a steaming basket for 5-10 minutes, but I did not have this silly single-purpose tool.  I actually didn’t know what it was until I googled it and was like, “Oh, the dim sum wooden tower things”.  So I googled some more (TGIG).  I filled a soup pot with a couple of inches of water and put a sieve over the top, in which I put the asparagus.  Cover that with a lid and turn the heat up high on the stove.

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So it looks like this before you put the lid on.  The idea is to steam the vegetables without getting them wet, hence the suspension-sieve.

In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.

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Put the butter and some olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté the asparagus for 10-15 minutes so that they’re nice and cooked but still a little crunchy.  Cook the pasta for however long it says on the box.

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Drain the pasta and toss into a large bowl.  Add the asparagus and mix together.  Squeeze out the lemon over all of this deliciousness and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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It makes quite a lot so you can serve this for a number of people at dinner or just eat it yourself for a whole week…

(Fun fact: I did not spell asparagus correctly on the first try even once in this whole post.  Except that time.)

 

Unfortunately, I am between books right now.  I finished Tokyo Vice and cast about for something else to read, but haven;t hit on anything that’s really sucked me in.  So I got nothing for you, but here are some movies I have either enjoyed recently or that have been highly recommended:

  • Stoker
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour
  • The Great Happiness Space
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
  • anything by Pedro Almodovar
  • City of God
  • Like Someone in Love
  • The Namesake
  • Winter’s Bone