Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nutella Mini Crepe Cakes

Like my post on flower pavlovas, this post is less of a recipe and more of a tutorial.  I had some leftover buckwheat pancake batter last weekend and after seeing these super cute mini crepe cakes, I thought I'd try to make some myself.  I was ambitious enough to make ten tiny crepes, but not enough to make my own filling so I just melted some Nutella and used that in between the layers.

Instead of using a cookie cutter to cut out the mini crepes, I wanted to see if I could make consistently sized crepes by using the same amount of batter each time.  I used a Chinese soup spoon that holds about 4 teaspoons of batter, and it worked pretty well.

For the next batch, I wanted to try frosting the outside of the "cakes" to make it look more like a miniature layer cake.  I was out of the buckwheat batter, so I used Alton Brown's sweet crepe batter.  I found that if I carefully poured the batter into the center of the heated pan, the crepes stayed more or less the same size and shape each time.  It did mean I wasn't getting paper thin crepes because I wasn't swirling the batter around, but I was more concerned about reproducibility than the thinness of the crepes.

I microwaved the Nutella for about 20 seconds so it was easier to spread.  I was able to get a nice glossy coat with the warm Nutella, but it didn't stick to the sides of the crepe cake very well.  So for the last batch I frosted the outside with room temperature Nutella after stirring it around a bit.

Doesn't that look a full-sized layer cake?  (Ignore the bottom layer which was too big and stuck out; I shouldn't have used it.)  I can't get over how cute these are!  I dream about making a Happiness Cake version with mini-chocolate crepes, passion fruit curd filling, and coffee frosting.

Previously:  Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
Four Years Ago:  The Best Scones in the World, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Fried Rice, Alphabet and Rosemary Cheddar Crackers
Five Years Ago:  Cupcake Bites, Samoa Cupcakes, Coconut Lime Cakelets, Matzo Crack

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)

I've been traveling for work a lot recently, and while I definitely can't complain about being able to expense all my meals, sometimes I just want something simple.  Comforting.  That I made myself.  This morning I woke up and had a craving for dan bing, a Taiwanese breakfast dish that's basically a thin crepe with an egg on top.  I used to buy it all the time from street vendors when I lived in Taiwan, but I'd never tried to make it myself. 

A quick Google search brought me to this translation of a Taiwanese recipe.  I took one of the commenter's suggestion and added some sesame oil to the egg mixture.  It's a good thing the recipe was for 3 crepes because I needed 3 tries to get a good one.

On my first try, when I tried to flip the crepe, it was so soft that it just collapsed into a sticky mess on the pan.  The second time, instead of trying to flip with a spatula, I just dumped the crepe upside-down onto a plate and then slid it back onto the pan.  It worked well enough but then I ended up overcooking the crepe so that it was too hard to roll up without cracking (above left).  Finally, on the third try, I ended up with a pretty decent looking and tasting dan bing!

Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
makes 3 crepes

1/2 cup bread flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup water
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
3 heaping tablespoons chopped scallions
Soy paste and sweet chili sauce (optional)

Mix the bread flour and corn starch together in a small mixing bowl.  Add the water and a pinch of salt and mix well.  Let the batter rest for about 10 minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

For each crepe, beat 1 egg with 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt, and a heaping tablespoon of chopped scallions.

Start heating a non-stick pan on medium heat and lightly oil.  Once the pan is hot, stir the batter again (it may have separated slightly) and add a third of the batter (about 1/2 cup) to the pan.  Swirl the pan around to coat the bottom with a thin layer.  Cook the crepe until the top is set and the edges pull easily away from the pan.  Flip the crepe onto a plate and slide the crepe back onto the pan, cooked side up.

Pour the egg mixture on top of the crepe, and carefully spread it out with a spatula.  Try not to have any of the egg go over the edge of the crepe if possible.

Continue cooking until the egg is mostly set and then flip (the crepe will be sturdy enough to flip with a spatula now).  Cook for 10-20 seconds and then flip the crepe egg side up onto a plate or cutting board.

Quickly roll the crepe into a long, rectangular roll.

Cut into sections and serve hot with soy paste and/or sweet chili sauce.

Soy paste and sweet chili sauce are the more traditional sauces, but you can also try oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, or even ketchup.  You can also eat this on the go by spreading the sauce on the egg before you roll it up and eating it like a wrap or burrito.  Feel free to try different fillings in the egg mixture (e.g. chopped ham, crumbled bacon, corn) or on top of the cooked egg before rolling it up (e.g. shredded cheese, rou song [pork floss], cilantro), but I wouldn't put too much in because you want to make sure you can still roll it up easily.

Next:  Nutella Mini Crepe Cakes
Previously:  Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Four Years Ago:  Duck Fat French Fries with Rosemary, Maldon Salt, and Truffle Oil
Five Years Ago:  Cincinnati Chili

Friday, March 7, 2014

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

It seems like a running theme in the last couple of posts has been how I've used up vegetables from my Boston Organics deliveries, so here's another one.

I made this back in August, when eggplants were still in season, and I got these lovelies in my delivery.  I was inspired by Nobu's eggplant with miso, but instead of frying the eggplants first, I roasted them in the oven.  The ingredients for the glaze are the same as for the marinade used for Nobu's miso-marinated black cod, just different proportions since you want more of a paste for this recipe.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
serves 2

5 small Japanese eggplants
Canola oil
1/4 cup white miso
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoon rice wine
Toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut off the top of each eggplant and slice in half, lengthwise.  Carefully cut crosshatches into the flesh of the eggplants, but do not cut all the way through.  Place the eggplants skin side down on a baking sheet and brush the tops with some oil.  Bake for about 8 minutes, until the flesh starts to become tender.  Remove the eggplant from the oven and set your oven to broil.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine the miso, sugar, mirin, and rice wine.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Top each eggplant liberally with the miso glaze.  Place under the broiler until browned and bubbly, just a few minutes. 

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with rice.

Next:  Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
Previously:  Mushroom Marsala Pizza
Last Year:  Happiness Cake
Four Years Ago:  Momofuku Milk Bar's Crack Pie
Five Years Ago:  French Red Onion Soup

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mushroom Marsala Pizza

Every time I get crimini mushrooms in my Boston Organics delivery now I've been making this pizza.  I've made several variations--with fresh mozzarella, with shredded mozzarella, with rosemary, with thyme instead--and this is my favorite iteration so far.

Mushroom Marsala Pizza
makes two 10" pizzas

2 balls of pizza dough
Olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 small or 1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 550°F or as hot as it will go.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high and add the sliced onions.  Cook until browned, but not burnt.  Add a glug of olive oil and continue to stir while cooking.  Add another glug of olive oil when the onions become dry and start sticking to the pan, about another 5 minutes.

Once the onions are evenly caramelized, add the mushrooms and garlic.  Sauté for 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside while you prepare the pizza dough.

Stretch the dough onto a parchment paper-lined flexible cutting board.  Lightly brush with olive oil.  Top each pizza with half the mushroom and onion mixture.  Top each with half the cheese.

Slide one of the pizzas and parchment paper onto the pizza stone and bake for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the oven to broil and broil for 1-2 minutes.

Use tongs to slide the pizza with the parchment paper from the pizza stone onto a cutting board.  Slice and serve.

Next:  Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Previously:  Hotter Crash Potatoes
Last Year:  Peking Duck Pizza
Four Years Ago:  Bacon Fat Caramels
Five Years Ago:  Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hotter Crash Potatoes

I still make hot crash potatoes almost every time I get small, waxy potatoes from Boston Organics, but this time, I wanted something with a little more kick.  So I made a quick sriracha mayonnaise and drizzled it on the finished potatoes along with a sprinkle of chopped scallions, and tada!  Hotter crash potatoes!

I also took a suggestion from one of the comments in my original post to microwave the potatoes instead of boiling them first.  The result is basically the same but in a quarter of the time!

Hotter Crash Potatoes
serves 2 as an appetizer

6 waxy potatoes
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons kewpie or regular mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon scallions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 5 minutes.  Check for doneness; if a knife pierces through the potatoes easily, it's done.  If not quite done, cook for another minute or two until done.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or a Silpat.  Drizzle generously with oil.  Transfer the potatoes onto the oiled pan and smoosh with a potato masher or slotted spoon or large fork.  Crowd the potatoes close to each other and carefully drizzle more oil on top, making sure that almost all the surfaces are covered with oil.  Sprinkle with a few generous pinches of kosher salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  In the meantime, mix the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce together to make sriracha mayonnaise.

When the potatoes are done, plate and drizzle with the sriracha mayonnaise.  Garnish with a healthy sprinkle of chopped scallions.  Serve warm.

Next:  Mushroom Marsala Pizza
Previously:  Okonomiyaki
Four Years Ago:  Faux Momofuku Brussels Sprouts
Five Years Ago:  Boston Cream Cupcakes

Monday, February 17, 2014


Last week I received a head of cabbage in my Boston Organics delivery and didn't really know what to do with it until I remembered that it's a main ingredient in okonomiyaki.  I'd never had it before, so I'm not sure if what I made is particularly authentic or not, but it's a perfectly delicious way to use up a head of cabbage!

Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake that you can pretty much put anything in.  The name itself means "what you like" and "grilled".  I loosely followed this recipe except I used bacon for the meat and substituted panko crumbs for the tempura flakes since I didn't have any of the latter.  I also subbed in 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour for the all-purpose flour to make the pancake more tender.

There is a traditional okonomiyaki sauce that is very similar to tonkatsu sauce--think tangy, slightly sweetened soy sauce.  I didn't have any on hand, so I just used soy paste mixed with some ketchup and Worcestershire sauce as suggested by my findings on-line.  If you have Japanese-style kewpie mayonnaise, I suggest using that, but otherwise regular mayonnaise would work.  The other toppings I added were chopped scallions, nori komi fuikake (Japanese rice seasoning with seaweed flakes and sesame seeds), and bonito flakes.  Feel free to use whatever you want and get creative!

makes 2 large pancakes

For the batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour (substitute in 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour if you want)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dashi stock or water
1/2 lb. cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
1/4 cup panko crumbs or tempura flakes (optional)
2 eggs
4 strips bacon, cut in half (optional)
Vegetable oil

For the toppings:
Okonomiyaki sauce, tonkatsu sauce, or soy paste mixed with ketchup and Worcestershire sauce
Kewpie mayonnaise or regular mayonnaise
Chopped scallions
Nori komi furikake
Bonito flakes

Mix the flour, salt, and dashi stock or water together to make the batter.  Let rest in the refrigerator for an hour and up to 24 hours.

If using the bacon, cook over medium-low heat until the fat starts to render out but before it starts to brown too much.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  You can save the bacon fat to cook the okonomiyaki in.

To make one pancake, take half the batter (about 1/2 cup), 1/4 lb. shredded cabbage (about 1 cup), 1 tablespoon scallions, 2 tablespoons panko or tempura flakes, and 1 egg and mix together.

Start heating a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat or use the bacon fat left over from cooking the bacon.  Once the pan is hot, add the okonomiyaki batter and form into a circle.  If using the bacon, arrange half the bacon slices on top of the (uncooked side of the) okonomiyaki.  Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side.

Plate the okonomiyaki and drizzle the okonomiyaki sauce (or equivalent) and mayonnaise on top.  Sprinkle with some chopped scallions, nori komi furikake, and bonito flakes, or whatever you like.  Serve warm.

The bonito flakes are so thinly shaved that the steam rising up from the okonomiyaki will make it look like it's dancing.  It's kind of creepy if you've never seen it before because it looks like it's alive, but once you get over that, it's pretty cool.  This pancake kind of reminds me of Korean pa jeon except there's less of a moist batter and more of crunchiness from the shredded cabbage.

Next:  Hotter Crash Potatoes
Previously:  Squid Ink Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Last Year:  Cauliflower Steak with Cauliflower Purée
Five Years Ago:  New England Clam Chowda and Homemade Oyster Crackers

Friday, February 14, 2014

Squid Ink Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Last year for Valentine's Day I celebrated by making jjajungmyeon (Korean black bean noodles).  This year, I stayed with the color scheme but went Italian and made squid ink spaghetti aglio e olio, inspired by my trip to Venice.

After our time in Rome, my cousin Leslie and I took the train up to La Serenissima.  Despite being colder and rainier than Rome, Venice was amazing.  At just about every bridge we crossed, I felt like I had to stop and take a picture; it was so picturesque!

We spent the first half of our trip either using the complimentary hotel shuttle boat to St. Mark's Square or trudging through the rain on foot to get around.  The city wasn't that big, so we were able to see St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the Accademia, and Rialto Bridge pretty easily this way.

It wasn't until we decided to get a pass for the vaporetto (the public water bus), though, that I really began to feel like more than just a tourist.  At last we were able to see Venice from the Grand Canal as it was meant to be seen.  It didn't hurt that we were usually surrounded by locals commuting back and forth from work, either.

While scouring the grocery store on the last day for edible souvenirs to bring home, I found a package of spaghetti al nero di seppia, or squid ink spaghetti.  I had ordered spaghetti with cuttlefish ink sauce a couple of times in Venice a couple of times and really enjoyed it, so I decided to buy the pasta and try to make it at home.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any actual squid or cuttlefish ink to make the sauce with, although in my search I did find squid ink pasta at a local Italian store, so you probably don't have to go all the way to Venice to find the pasta.  Without any ink, I decided to prepare the pasta simply, aglio e olio, with garlic and olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  This recipe is even easier than spaghetti carbonara and you're almost certain to already have all the ingredients (you can use regular spaghetti if you don't have any squid ink pasta).

Squid Ink Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
serves 1

A small fistful of squid ink spaghetti
A few glugs of olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt 
Chopped parsley or basil

Bring a pot of salted water boil.  Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook according to the packaging (mine says to cook for 10-12 minutes).

In the meantime, add the olive oil and sliced garlic to a small saucepan and set on low heat.  Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the red pepper flakes and sea salt to taste.  Continue to heat while the spaghetti is cooking, but do not allow the garlic to brown.  If this starts to happen, remove the pan from heat.

When the spaghetti is done cooking, use a pasta scooper to add it to the saucepan.  You want a little bit of the pasta water to go along with it so don't worry about draining it first.  Toss the spaghetti with the olive oil until it is well coated.  Plate and garnish with some chopped parsley or basil.  Serve immediately.

Next:  Okonomiyaki
Previously:  Homemade Tagliatelle with Shaved Truffles
Last Year:  Jjajungmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)
Four Years Ago:  Nutella Ice Cream
Five Years Ago:  Tomato and Eggs over Rice