Farewell, readers!

Dear Readers,

I have been holding onto this domain just in case I was able to squirrel away some time to develop recipes once again, amidst raising a little toddler and spending time with Mr. ABC Chef. Well, looks like that season won’t be coming any time soon, and I don’t really make money from this site, so I cannot justify paying to keep it! I have really enjoyed reading all your comments over the years, and hearing how you actually use the recipes, and hope that the blog has served you well as a resource for making ABC food! This blog will be shut down on January 9 by my webmaster (Thanks, Gene!!!!!), so please save whatever recipes you like before then! I have saved some of my favorites, and you can also email me at theabcchef@gmail.com if you miss the January 9 date!

 

Happy cooking,

Megan

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Hi readers! I stumbled across these drafts…

If you doesn’t mind the lack of pictures, please be encouraged to try your hand at this cinnamon coffee cake. It you think of pound cake and add a thick cinnamon swirl running through the middle, with craggly cinnamon sugar crusts, this is it! This is the recipe from where I used to work, but I looked it up and looks like it’s straight out of Taste of Home! The only difference is in the quantity of cinnamon- my husband always says, ‘needs more cinnamon,’ so I usually add lots more cinnamon than is called for. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature- it’s important for this recipe in particular. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

1 cup butter, at room temperature

2 + 3/4 cups sugar (divided)

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 cups sour cream, at room temperature

3 Tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

0) Preheat the oven to 350F.

1) Cream butter and 2 cups sugar together until the butter is fluffy and aerated- you’ll know it’s aerated because it will get less yellow and more white than the sticks of butter you started with. (Cream for about 10 minutes)

2) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well to completely incorporate each egg, before adding the next egg.

3) Add the vanilla to the butter/egg mixture, and mix well.

4) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

5) Add the flour mixture and sour cream alternatively to the butter mixture, mixing well. The batter will be on the thick side.

6) Make the cinnamon sugar mixture by mixing the 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts together.

7) Grease a bundt or tube pan very well. Add a few heaping spoonfuls of the cinnamon mixture in the pan, and rotate the pan to distribute evenly. Pour in half the batter, sprinkle about 1/2 the remaining cinnamon mixture over top of the batter. Pour in the rest of the batter, then evenly sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon mixture on top.

8) Bake for 60-65 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert.

Chai Orange Scones

Hi! I may or may not have mentioned that since we’ve moved to Indiana,  I’ve been baking part-time for a nearby cafe. It has its ups and downs (downs mostly due to frustrations that are un-related to baking itself), but mostly it is fun and good. At work, when there is a little bit of downtime (waiting for something to bake or chill), I’ll peruse the shelves and see if I can find some inspiration, otherwise known as ingredients that haven’t been used for a while.

I made candied orange peel for a chocolate tart a few months ago, but I have just learned that candied orange peel stays good for practically forever. This is probably because there’s barely any water in it after all the cooking, drying, and sitting-in-sugar.

I saw cardamom on the shelf, partially ground, partially chunky. We have no mortar and pestle nor spice grinder at work, so it’s tough cookies with the food processor and sieving.

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to combine chai spices + candied orange + scones, so here are my apologies to Indians, and the recipe. Please read the notes- I address important candied orange peel issues! Haha…sounds so dramatic.

chai spice orange scone

Since this was for work, sorry that this is the only picture I got! Taken with my phone.

Chai Orange Scone

Adapted from this and that recipe

Makes 8 generous or 12 more sensible servings

Ingredients:

Scones:

2 3/4 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 g) sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp chai spice – halved from KAF

At least 1/4 cup of candied orange peel+’soaking sugar’, OR 1 Tbsp of candied orange peel tiny bits

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into some slices

~1 cup to 1 1/4 cup half and half (or milk or heavy cream- richness will go up or down)

Icings:

~1 cup powdered sugar

Orange Juice

~1 Tbsp orangey sugar from the candied orange peel

Chai spice

Instructions:

Scones

1) Preheat the oven to 375F.

If you are using homemade candied orange peel, continue to step 2. Otherwise, skip to step 3.

2) Using a food processor or clean spice grinder, blitz the orange peel and its sugar, until the orange peel is cut into tiny little bits. Transfer to a small bowl.

3) Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, chai spice, and 1 Tbsp candied orange peel.

4) Use a pastry blender to cut butter into the flour mixture until small bits (pea-sized) form. (Alternatively, use a food processor)

5) Freeze the butter and flour until the butter is firm. It shouldn’t take too long, because the butter bits are fairly small

6) Add 3/4 cup of half and half to start, and fold the liquid into the flour-butter mixture. Keep folding and adding a little half and half each time, just until there are no stray dry bits left.

7) On a lightly floured surface, bring the dough together until it is one lump. For 8 servings, flatten into one circle and slice into 8 wedges. For 12 servings, form two circles and slice each into 6 wedges.

8) Bake at 375F until lightly browned, around 20 minutes. If you gently prod a scone with your finger, it should offer a little resistance, but shouldn’t feel like a rock 😉 To be exactly sure, break one open to test!

9) While the scones are baking, make the icings:

Icing

Orange: In an appropriate vessel/bowl, add orange sugar, if you have it, (about 1-2 tsp) to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and thin slightly with orange juice. Water is okay too, but will give a less orangey icing, of course. Adjust for orangey-ness, and add more orange sugar if needed.

Chai: In an appropriate vessel/bowl, add a little bit of chai spices (1/2 tsp?) to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and thin slightly with water.

Consistency of the icing should be really stiff, so that it will not melt/dissolve into the scone over time, and so that the colors will be vibrant. How stiff? It should not flow freely in the container, nor drip or flow off the fork quickly, if you hold it up. It should take some effort to scrape the icing from the bottom of the icing bowl. It should semi-crust over if you walk away for a few minutes, because you want it to crust over quickly after you pipe it on the scones.

Once the scones have cooled, drizzle with icing (I did chai first, then orange).

Chai Spice Mix

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp ground cardamom

3/8 tsp ground nutmeg

3/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Makes more than necessary for the recipe. Store somewhere safe so you can make these scones again!

Substitutions/Notes:

-You will only have what I will call, for lack of a better name, “orange sugar” or the sugar the orange peel lives in, if you make your own candied orange peel. I used this  recipe for the orange peel, but you can use anyone that you like. It’s pretty straightforward- blanch orange peels, boil in simple syrup, then coat and dry. I know it sounds time consuming, but you can make a big batch and use it in food projects!

-I call for 1/4 cup of candied orange peel + sugar, because that’s roughly what I pulsed in the food processor at work. You technically only need about 2 Tbsp total, but I don’t think such a small quantity would work, unless you have a spice grinder, and I assume that more people have food processors but not necessarily spice grinders.

-These scones are yes, best enjoyed on the same day they are made. You can freeze the dough if you want to make the dough in advance, however!

-For a dairy-free version, I haven’t tried this yet, but I think you could substitute, 1:1, coconut oil (or shortening that doesn’t contain any trans fat) for butter, and coconut milk in place of the half and half/cream/milk.

Liang Ban Fu Zhu / Cold Marinated Beancurd Sticks

Beancurd sticks doesn’t sound very appetizing (most translations of dried Chinese goods sound a bit questionable), but they are delicious! Really. They are made from the skin that forms on top of soymilk as it’s being cooked, and these ‘beancurd sticks’ are sponges for flavor as well as texturally sound. They have a little bit of chew to them, but are also soft. They soak up whatever liquid they are plunked in.

About a month ago, when it started to finally get warmer and more humid, I started craving mostly room temperature and/or dishes that didn’t require much cooking or braising. Liang ban fu zhu, or marinated beancurd stick, is a product of such cravings. The best part about liang ban food is that you can make it ahead of time and eat it as a side with your meal, so plan ahead! Continue reading

Lu Niu Rou and Lu Cai – Chinese Cold Braised Beef (and other goodies)

If Chinese cuisine had an eastern charcuterie equivalent, lu cai would definitely make it onto the plate. Lu cai is a general term for an assortment of soy sauce-and-other-spices-braised foods, ranging from the most popular beef shank, to seaweed knots, extra firm tofu (also known as bean curd- what an unappetizing translation 🙁 ), hardboiled eggs, pig ears, chicken legs, duck wings, and the like. A big pot of soy sauce and other seasonings (fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and sometimes a whole slew of 20+ spices!) is brought to a boil, then all these assortments of goodies are steeped and cooked on a low heat for a looong time, until all the flavors meld together and season the food items until they are spectacularly delicious. Lu niu rou, or cold braised beef (?) is probably one of the more famous, with the famous swirley beef shank cross section, but a lot of other foods can be ‘lu’ed! Excuse the Chinglish, but that’s probably the best way to explain some of these things..Oh, and lu niu rou should not be confused with lu rou or lu rou fan– they are completely different! Sorry, it’s probably a little confusing for non-Chinese speakers, no?

Lu cai is is easy to make, as long as you have some tastebuds, and patience. See, you’ll need to season the braising liquid to your liking, then cook and wait long enough for your choice of goodies to completely soak up the braising liquid. Once the foods have gotten generously seasoned, they will cool in the fridge and be served cold or at room temperature. It is the perfect dish to keep in the fridge to supplement a summer meal.

The most important component of this dish is the spice bag- in the past, I’ve either gotten these from my mom, grandma, or trips to Taiwan. If you live in the US, Oriental Mascot is a pretty popular brand, and that’s the default one my family would use. It should say on the packet how many pounds/ounces of food the packet is good for. A little goes a long way- for instance, I was told that my spice bag was good for 1200-1800 grams of food. Your spice bag should specify how many pounds it is good for…I used more than the 1800 gram suggestion, and thought it tasted fine! I think it depends on whether you are braising more meat or non-meat. Non-meat will dilute the liquid but meat will add its own flavor to the liquid. Continue reading

Fresh Strawberry Tart

Thanks to the generosity of some new church friends of ours (Thanks, Wilsons!), we were able to pick strawberries in their amazing garden! These strawberries are the real stuff- I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat store-bought strawberries again :O

When we were younger, Marie Callender’s (read about another nostalgic Marie Callender pie here) would have an annual strawberry pie sale around May, and we would almost always get one or two. Chock full of strawberries and slathered with a goopy reddish sauce, this pie, lined with a cookie-like crust, was all about fresh strawberries.

Since I had strawberries that were surely even better than the ones of my Marie Callender-childhood, I made a tart that is an ode to fresh strawberries. If you’ve missed strawberry train, I think this pie would also be good with any other type of berry..

Continue reading

Guo Tie- Potstickers

Now that I’ve gotten over my brief infatuation of gardening (the honeymoon phase is over; weeds galore have dampened my enthusiasm a little 🙁 ), I will be sitting down at the computer to write more. Thanks, reader MLee for leaving me a kind comment that reminds me why I started this blog in the first place 🙂

As I might have said before in the dumplings post and have been learning, you use hot water dough for foods like steamed dumplings, (zheng jiao) potstickers(guo tie) or chive boxes (jiu cai he zi) to make the dough nice and tender for crisping up. The hot water kills some of the gluten formation. For chewy stuff like noodles or boiled dumplings, use cold water for a chewier, stretchier dough.

Did you know that you can make these with whole wheat flour and they can still taste good,  and in my opinion, even tastier? What’s even better is that the dough is nutritious and also more filling than if you were to use all-purpose flour, thanks to the fiber. Whole wheat also makes foods more jie shi (結實), or solid/sturdy/filling. I won’t be going back to all-purpose anytime soon. Read past the recipe for my favorite aspects of whole wheat flour, but first, the recipe and some pictures. Continue reading

Yep, still alive..

Where has she gone?

Seems like I’m always in transition, huh. First it was an 11 hour move in November, Christmas vacation in CA with family, and then we packed again and moved on March 25, because we…..

Bought a house! Woooo! Good thing some of our stuff was still in boxes :0 made the moving easier!

 

The ABC Chef has been transforming into the ABC Gardener.

Posts will continue once I get a handle on all this house+garden stuff! :O

Hopefully we won’t move again anytime soon…

Sheng jian bao

The first time I had homemade sheng jian bao was circa 1999, when my aunts from Beijing visited and stayed with us for almost a month. That month, they made carb concoction after carb concoction for us. Sheng Jian Bao (or Shui Jian Bao) was one of such carby eats they made (One of the yummy foods they also made was hu bing, a cornmeal ‘pizza’ with garlic chives).

Welp, I had a bunch of sentences about how I believe the origin of sheng jian bao to be in Shanghai and all this stuff…but now I’m all confused after seeing a blog called  TaiwanXifu. She writes, “Earlier today I asked a foodie friend, a chef who formerly worked at the Shanghai Shangrila Hotel, about the origin of Shui Jian Bao. He said that Shui Jian Bao are from Jiangsu/Shanghai. The dough is, as this recipe is, half yeast and half oil based. But Sheng Jian Bao are from Beijing. They are a totally yeasted dough, i.e. bigger and fluffier.”

Ack! Let’s just say I’ll be making what I know as sheng jian bao, also called shui jian bao. If an expert can shed light on the situation and confirm/deny TaiwanXifu’s friend’s words, please leave a comment!

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating sheng jian bao before, think of the crispy crunchiness of the potsticker, crossed with the fluffiness of a steamed bun or baozi. If you haven’t had both of those before, think of a meat or vegetable (or both)-filled piece of fluffy yeasted dough, with a crispy and crunchy on the bottom where it meets the pan. Hungry yet?

This pita bread and blog it came from got me thinking about using sourdough starter for EVERYTHING! It also helps that I gave away my quart container of yeast when we moved, and keep forgetting to get some from my sister who lives less than a mile away. Hah.

Not only did I want to use sourdough starter for everything, but I also wanted to use my white whole wheat or red whole wheat  berries (by the way, milling your own flour makes the most sweet and fragrant flour!), so it was a double challenge.

I hesitate to take the time to post recipes that use sourdough starter AND whole wheat AND feature Chinese food, because how many people are in that Venn diagram intersection of interest groups?! Very few, I think. But, maybe there are more of us out there than I appreciate. (By the way, if you are in that intersection, please leave a comment!)  Also, I wonder what came first- sheng jian bao or white, processed, all-purpose flour? Maybe whole wheat was how it’s always been made. Who knows..

Anyway, the first experiment of using sourdough starter in man tou (want to make a post on that someday, too!) was a big flop that resulted in a heavy rock of a dough. I learned from that experience, so here we are.  If you are not in the sourdough or whole wheat club, I’ll also post the recipe I used for ‘regular’ dough.

As for the filling, there are several options- I don’t think there’s any rule, and something that would work in a baozi or dumpling would probably also work in sheng jian bao. On my first trip (of 4) to Taiwan, I ordered a sheng jian bao that looked scrumptious, then bit into it, only to find that it was ONLY CABBAGE and shrimp skin. WHAT! So really, it can be anything, though just seasoned pork seems to be a pretty popular option. I prefer meat (pork) + some vegetable in mine. Hm, maybe napa cabbage wouldn’t be right- I don’t think I’ve ever encountered napa in sheng jian bao. So, maybe no napa. I’ll ask my mom and get back to you ;D

sheng jian bao

More oil and slightly more flour in the steaming water

 

Continue reading

Cumin Lamb (My Way)

I am definitely a fan of cumin lamb, but I can’t say with certainty that I’ve had it so many times or that I am a cumin lamb connoisseur. I do know, however, that it has 1) cumin and 2) lamb and 3) those two make for a great combination.

That being said, I want to share how I made cumin lamb for us at home the other day. I can assure you that it’s not like what you’d find in the restaurants, because I just made it up based on what we’ve had that we like, and based on what was in the fridge at the time. It has different textures of the crisp celery, tender jalapenos, pungent onion, and tender lamb with just the right amount of chew.

It only has some lamb and lots of vegetables (the way we eat at home), and does not sit in a puddle of reddish orange oil when you are done. Of course, feel free to increase the lamb and adjust the seasonings proportionally, but somehow, we always manage to have lamb leftover, no matter how many vegetables are in the dish. I attest it to the vegetables picking up the tasty juices..

This version of cumin lamb doesn’t have dried red peppers, but it does have fresh jalapenos, and it doesn’t have garlic, but it does have red onions, which add a pretty purple color!

I hope you’ll try this out!

 

Cumin Lamb (My Way)

孜然羊肉

Zi Ran Yang Rou

Ingredients:

6 ounces lamb a fattier cut, like leg or shoulder, thinly sliced

2 tsp Shaoxing wine

1/4 tsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp soy sauce divided

3/4 tsp cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp oil canola, vegetable, peanut (neutral), divided

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 slice ginger

1 small red onion

2-3 jalapeños

5 stalks celery

1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

1) Marinate the lamb with the Shaoxing wine, sugar, 2 tsp soy sauce, cornstarch, and ground cumin.

2) Slice your vegetables- try to cut them the same thickness, so that they all cook evenly and in the same amount of time. I always slice my celery on the diagonal. Julienne the ginger.

3) Heat a pan, add oil, then cook the lamb until 80% of it has changed color from reddish to brownish. Remove from the heat.

4) Heat the remaining oil in a pan, then add the cumin seeds and ginger.

5) When the cumin seeds start to smell, add the red onion, jalapenos, celery, and salt. Cook until the celery is crisp-tender, then add the remaining 1 tsp soy sauce, then the reserved lamb.

6) Cook until the lamb is just done. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed!

Substitutions/Notes:

-You can also use hot pot sliced lamb for the meat, but just make sure you only cook it very, very briefly for the first part. The texture/mouth feel will also be very different than if you slice your own lamb.

-Not a spicy fan, or don’t have jalapeños? Use green bell peppers or long hots (spicy too!) instead.

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