Sometimes when I’m trying out a new recipe, I have only a vague idea of how it is supposed to turn out. Because I only have a photograph of the final product, my mind doesn’t always trust the instructions when my eyes watch the ingredients changing into different shapes and textures along the way.
This weekend I had chosen to attempt Mu-Shu pork with curry-scented pancakes. One of my coworkers had pointed out the entree on the menu of a local Chinese restaurant, and a few days later I had found the recipes in an old Martha Stewart magazine.
After lining up all the ingredients to make sure I had everything necessary, I read the recipe for the pancakes. I had to go through the instructions several times, because it sounded like there were unnecessary steps. If it was a pancake you would think that you could just make a liquid batter. However, the instrucions said to form what sounded like a tortilla, brush one side with sesame oil, then put a second flattened disk of dough on top of the first. My dough was almost too wet, so I added enough flour that I could handle it.
While my fingers fought the sticky dough, I reflected on technical challenges that amateur bakers in the GBBO episodes face. The contestants are given a minimal amount of time to bake a (usually) unfamiliar product with just a list of ingredients and very basic instructions. My time limit was self-imposed rather than one given by a television show judge, though. Somehow the doubled-up disks made their way to the frying pan, and I could even peel them apart later when the pork-and-vegetable filling and the balsamic-plum sauce were ready.
If I choose to prepare Mu-Shu pork in the future, I think I’ll look at some other recipes to see if other cooks follow the same method for curry-scented pancakes, or if the sandwich method is something that can be improved upon.
Can you think of any reason not to just make a pour batter or a single layer tortilla instead?
The nights of the presidential debates, we were happy to accept the invitation to some friends’ apartment buidling. Since our own commentary was often louder than that of the candidates, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the political part of our get-together. However, the snack offerings were always abundant, and one was glad to have companions.
The first week, Zach promised to bake a batch of buffalo chicken dip. It did not disappoint. Another week, Tyler and Natalie layered a bean-guacamole-cheese dish, which disappeared quickly along with a bag of corn tortilla chips. Sometimes I focused more on the candy bowl: mini dark chocolate bars and Goetz’s soft caramels with their cream centers…
November 8th, we didn’t have any specific plan. I knew that I could count on Joel being up following the election, but we didn’t set out snack foods to fortify us through the long night. Instead, we ate a regular meal and finished off two last scoops of mango gelato.
Then the phone rang. One of our friends was wondering if he could come over so that he wouldn’t have to follow the election at home by himself. His wife had plans to meet with some other ladies that evening.
My dilemma was what to offer as a snack. Said friend isn’t fond of cheese, so a cheese plate with fruit and nuts wouldn’t work so well. Fruit with chocolate didn’t seem substantial enough. Popcorn? Then you have the shoveling of popcorn into mouths, the sound of munching, and the greasy hands…
I didn’t have bread to toast and serve with jam or marmalade, but I did have half a tube of crescent dough. I’d wrapped some breakfast sausages in 4 of the triangles of canned dough that morning and baked them to serve alongside scrambled eggs. Filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, almond extract, and chopped almonds, this half of the dough became a sweet contrast to the morning bake. Remembering the technique we used at Mozart’s bakery in Columbus, Ohio I brushed the hot pastries with an apricot glaze to give them a pleasant shine. A drizzle of chocolate also provides a nice touch.
Crescent dough is not equal to puff pastry, but it will do in a pinch. And, as it often is with baked goods, when they are warm and fresh you don’t get many complaints.