Monday, April 29, 2013

Stuffed meatballs

Sunday lunch, a rather quick treat.
I planned for baking the sweat bread on Sunday accompanying the stuffed meatball for lunch, however 'thanks" to a sewage issue I ended up choosing a simpler treat to go with the main course: omenahyvä. Whoever invented omenahyvä need to be praised for combining simplicity and goddess in one dessert..

Stuffed meatball are not more complicated either, if you know how to make meatball, this is going to be a very little change from it.

Ingredients  (makes 4-5 large balls, 4 portions alone served with mustard, but serves about double amount of people with a side dish)
1 pound organic ground beef meat
4-5 organic eggs, hard boiled
~ 1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
~ 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp oil
1-2 teaspoons of minced sweet paprika (optional)
if you don't add paprika, consider adding rosmary

For preparing
breadcrumbs or grist
Oil for frying

Boil the eggs at low heat for about 10 min. Cool and peel.
In a small pan heat the 1 spoon of oil, and lightly fry the garlic cloves.
Mix well the meat with the spices (salt, black pepper pepper, garlic, red pepper), and divide the meat in 4-5 pieces, depending how many you are planning to prepare.
Flatten the meatball in you palm to about your palm size, a bit overrunning mine..
Place the egg in the middle of the meat, carefully fold the meat around the egg, and roll the ball until the surface is smooth.
Roll the meatball in breadcrumb or grist (optional).
Heat the oil (you can start heating before you roll the egg in the meat) to be quite hot, just enough to cover half of the balls.
Place the meatballs carefully in the pan and slowly rotating fry all the sides. I usually turn them around ones to have all the side just a bit fried, then continue frying them thoroughly.
You should have a nice golden brown color. Place the ball in a tray, preferably covered with parchment paper.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 C, (380 F) and bake the balls for 15 minutes.

Serve while warm with mustard and fresh bread, or cut them in half and serve with potatoes sliced and baked in the oven.
You can also cool the meatballs and slice them thinly, serving them as part of a buffet with salads.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Search For The Fluffiest Tender Bun Is Over!

After mastering the Western bread-making technique, I started to embark on a new Eastern bread-making journey.  A journey back into my childhood with sweet and savory buns that were so soft, moist, tender, and fluffy that would put buns that are being sold in the US bakeries to shame.

The following recipes arrived from over ten years of countless experiments with failed recipes from cookbooks and online researches.

Cheers to good food!

Savory Roll Dough - Makes 12 buns
(Water-Roux is basically 1 part bread flour to 5 parts water)

Water-Roux Paste
25g bread flour
125ml water

For the water roux
Combine flour and water in a small saucepan and cook over low heat. Stir continuously until it has thickened to a paste (hint: American yogurt consistency or when you stir you can see the bottom of the pan, an indication that the roux is ready). Remove from heat.  The water roux can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator after cooling for 1 day if not used immediately.

325g bread flour
150g AP flour
30g milk powder
45g sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
6g instant dry yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml lukewarm water
75 g softened butter at room temp

For the Bun Dough:
Dissolve yeast in water (5 min).
Combine dissolved yeast with bread flour, AP flour, milk powder, sugar, eggs, water roux, and salt into the mixing bowl. Mix ingredients to form a slightly sticky, soft dough that will pull off the sides of the bowl.  Add extra water to dough as needed but only 1 tablespoon at a time if dough is too dry.  (it should take appx 10 min with a mixer).  Then incorporate softened butter to the dough and mix until dough is smooth and elastic and passed the window pane test.

Form the dough into a round boule, covered and let rise in draft free warm area until double (40 min to 1 hour depends on the temp in your house).
Conduct a finger test by inserting your floured finger into the dough and as you pull out your finger, the indentation of your finger should remains, a good indication that your dough has risen properly.  If the indentation springs back, the dough is not risen enough, continue to proof longer.

When the dough has risen properly, punch down the risen dough, divide dough into 12 equal portions and form them into balls.  Let the dough rest for 10 min then final shaping the dough according to your recipe.  Covered it lightly and let rise until almost double in sizes.  Brush on with egg white and bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown.  Cool completely before serving.

Sweet Bun Dough
Makes 24 buns
420g bread flour
120g AP flour
40g milk powder
84g  sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10g instant dry yeast
60g egg, lightly beaten
170g lukewarm water
168g water roux
44g butter, softened

Water-Roux Paste
50g bread flour
250g water

Same process as the savory dough.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Voisilmäpulla - Finnish "butter eye" bun

Tomorrow I visit my son's class to make a short presentation about Finland. Nah.. No culture can be truly experienced without tasting some of its culinary flavors, isn't it? :)
Plus, I'm sure the kids' won't mind. ;)

I chose to bake the voisilmäpulla because of two very simple reasons.
1) It doesn't contain much of anything to cause allergies, so even if there are kids allergic to nuts, this should be fine (not gluten or egg free though..)
2) I promised to bring some to the Vappu celebration at the Finnish house in Balboa park, and it is always nice to have a first trial with a less critical outcome.

Good enough reasons to bake, don't you agree?
I haven't made them ever here, neither in Finland, though of course I ate them at several famous "two o'clock Finnish coffee times" at Nokia.

The dough is the simple pullataikina, and I'm sure you will be fine with the half portion. Of course you can go for the whole portion and double buns, which of course I did, as there are 28 kids plus teachers, so 32 buns is the absolute minimum needed.

Ingredients (makes 16)
1/2 portion bun dough
60 g butter (1/2 stick) (for the middle)
50 g sugar (for the middle, add more if you have a sweet tooth)
1 egg for brushing

Ingredients (makes 32)
full portion bun dough
120 g butter (1 stick) (for the middle)
100 g sugar (for the middle)
1 egg for brushing

Prepare the dough. Let it rise for about 45 minutes, should grow to ~ double.
Divide it into two, make a thick roll and cut it into two, and again in two, to make all together 8 kinda equal portions. Repeat the cutting with the other half. Now take the small pieces of dough and work them in a smooth ball.
Place them on a tray with parchment paper, cover with a cloth and let them rise for additional 30 min.
Meanwhile take the additional butter out of the fridge and cut it into 16 (or 32) equal pieces.
Preheat the oven to 435 F, or 225 C.
Brush the top and side of the buns with the lightly beaten egg, press a hole in the middle and push one portion of butter in each hole.
On top add a small teaspoon of sugar. If you like them sweet add a larger teaspoon.

Bake the buns on the higher middle shelf for 10-15 min.
Place them on a rack for 1/2 min, and then cover with a cloth to keep the crust soft.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Edible piparkakku gift box or "cake"

The piparkakku seems to be everybody's favorite. The teacher talked about the piparkakku house for weeks after she eventually ate them :).
Today was her birthday, so we baked, and glued, and decorated, and I thought I'm going to share some home made present tips, for piparkakku lovers.
It is a lovely surprise "cake" for those who don't like creamy stuff, and it is long lasting too, so you can prepare it well in advance.
At school all the kids thought it is a cake and were looking forward to be cut and shared :).

Prepare the dough from piparkakku recipe. You need about 1.5 times portion. If you bake double, you'll have some cookies as well to put in the box.
Take two sheets of white paper, draw the template and cut out the pieces of the house .
You'll nee three sizes of rectangles:
- bottom and top: 16 cm x 24 cm, times two
- side walls: 8 cm x 14.5 cm, times two
- back and front walls: 8 cm x 24 cm, times two
- 4 small bars, two shorter ones that fit the short edges, and two longer ones that fit the longer edges of the top

1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar, for gluing them together with caramelized, hot sugar.

Roll out the dough about 4 mm thick. Use parchment paper on top and beneath to make your life easier.

Bake the shapes, adjust the edges while hot, if needed, by placing the paper templates on top of the cookie and cutting them around quickly before the cake hardens. 
Decorate with icing, and let them dry overnight.

Heat the 1/3-1/2 cup sugar, let it melt and caramelize until gets some light golden color. Reduce the heat, and start gluing the sides. I had to use a spoon to pour melted sugar along the lines where I needed to glue the parts together because I didn't find a large enough bowl to dip the part's edges in it.
If you have larger bowls and want to use those to dip the walls in the caramel and glue them right away, you might need to melt more sugar.
Glue first the two longer side walls perpendicular to the bottom. Hold them for ~30 seconds straight, don't shake or move them unless you have to, and if you have to, do it VERY fast right after you placed them on the bottom part, because the sugar will harden immediately.
Next the two smaller side will go in between the two longer ones. Try them on first before dipping them, or pouring any sugar anywhere.
I placed them first neatly in, and only then poured sugar from the top and inside to glue them together with the bottom and the side walls.
They might not fit perfectly, in that case use a bread knife to "saw" tiny parts off. They will be maximum 1-2 mm, so you really need to SAW them, rather than start cutting, or you'll brake the pieces.

Measure the thickness of the walls, and on the BACK side of the top cover  glue the four bars, leaving a space about the size of the walls between the bars and the edge of the box top.
I forgot to take a picture of the back side of the top, so I made you an image. The bars are same thickness, I just had issues adjusting it to look exactly the same in the pic. The bars are needed to stop the top from sliding off the box.
You can also glue small bars to make corners. Just have something to stop the top sliding.

I can promise, it's going to be a BIG hit :).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Csirkepaprikás - chicken stew

A very typical Hungarian meal, and after preparing the basic version one can turn it into a variety of meals. Though it looks soupy on the pic in reality it wasn't. It looked so full of sauce because it was still boiling. When it cooled down the sauce settled, and was just enough to have a nice sauce.

Well, this is the BEST if has all parts of the chicken, not only meat but also bony parts like the wings, breast, etc. So, if you want THE best csirkepaprikás, take the effort and purchase a whole chicken, cut it into peaces, and use all the parts that have some reasonable amount of meat. We usually use the wings, tights, drumsticks, breast for the paprikás and leave out the most bony parts (neck, legs) to be used in a light vegetable soup, like kohlrabi, or the typical Hungarian meat soup.
I was a lazy bastard, so I chose the boneless organic chicken tights this time.

600 g boneless chicken tights, about 1 / person
200 g onion (2 smaller ones, or one huge - the only type that can be found :) here)
2 small, 1 larger yellow pepper, or 1 large tsp of minced paprika (use less salt!!)
1 large tomato
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
paprika powder, 1.5 - 2 flat tsp
2-3 bay leaves, depend on the size
1 bunch of fresh Italian flat parsley
4 tsp sunflower oil
Suggestions: you can leave out the bay leaves and add other spices. Just some to consider - caraway seeds, or few basil leaves (works perfect with chicken) or 1-1 whole cloves, or replace the parsley with celery leaves.. You can also add a tsp or two of Ajvar. 
Play with the tastes, cooking is a game of fantasy and not pharmacy :). 

Chop the onions and yellow peppers. In a 3 quart pot heat the oil, when hot add the onions and yellow paprika, let them fry until "glassy". I work with high heat at the beginning as it is faster, but don't go away from the pot, stir continuously.
Remove from heat, add the powder paprika, about 1 tsp / 250-300 g meet. (See below at OBS.)
Mix well, add some water, about 50ml, and put it back to boil until the the water evaporates and the sauce is reduced back to basically oil only (almost).
Add the meat, lower the heat immediately to about half. Stir until the pieces of meat will whiten, and it releases some juice.
Let it saute for about 30 minutes. In theory (and practice, too) the meat should release just enough juice not to need any water added, but keep an eye on it.
Peal the tomato, cut into small 1 cm (0.5 inch) cubes, and add to the chicken.
Saute for additional 15 min. Add half of the bunch of parsley leaves, preferably tied together with a thin, clean thread. Add 0.5-1 small glass of water if needed. You most probably won't, but who knows.
Saute for additional 15 min. Check the amount of sauce. Don't me mislead, even if it looks much, or enough, when it stops boiling it will be much less. If you like it saucy, add the half a glass of water.
Boil it together for 5 min.
Remove from heat and it is ready to serve.
Bon appetite!

The recipe above is for the basic paprikás version and I'm going to post some variations of it later..

Depends how you like it, or where you live, you might add a flat tsp or a humpy tsp. In Transylvania we used less parpika powder, in Hungary it is typical to add generously. I became used to the Hungarian "generous" version, as you can see in the picture :), but it doesn't mean this is any better then the other. In contrary. I had friends complaining about my generosity when it comes to paprika, so try first, and then decide. This is not a spice though which can be added easily later if found insufficient, and reason is that it needs to be soaked up in the oil to make the best combination.  The only way to add, if needed, is to remove some spoons of oil from the stew, mix it with the paprika, and add it back.