Monday, January 23, 2012

Green Tea Fortune Cookies

Don't you just love it when you get a do-over?

So I'm going to get in a New Year's post after all... Happy Chinese New Year! It's The Year of the Dragon and according to Chinese lore, the Dragon zodiac year is the most special and is said to bring good fortune.

I learned this fact and all kinds of other good stuff in Addie's article, "The fascinating origins of fortune cookies." Good stuff like that fortune cookies didn't originate in China at all; it was actually the Japanese who created them. Japanese immigrants brought the cookies to America and sold them in the chop suey restaurants in California that served what Americans have come to know as "Chinese food."

After finishing the article, I Googled The Year of the Dragon to learn more about the zodiac sign and what it portends for the year ahead. Despite being utterly practical and rational to a fault otherwise, I love astrology.

So here's what I learned about The Year of the Dragon:

  • The dragon is the only mythological creature in the Chinese zodiac which gives it special significance.
  • The year is often associated with new beginnings.
  • Dragon years are lucky so it's a good year to start a new business, get married, or have children.
  • Dragon years are associated with prosperity.

With those good tidings in mind, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Along with the article I mentioned above, Addie included Joanne Chang's recipe for Green Tea Fortune Cookies. I love Joanne's cookbook Flour so of course, I had to make the cookies. In a happy coincidence, I was invited to a Chinese New Year's party so they were the perfect contribution to the festivities. A fortune cookie is essentially a tuile and the batter is easy enough to make. The hard part is shaping the hot cookie into the proper form. I wound up with a few burnt finger tips but the cause was worth the sacrifice as the cookies were rich and delicious. Maybe even a little too rich- I might cut back on the butter a bit if I make another batch. I found fun fortune templates here- all you have to do is print them out and cut out the slips.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pear Pie Bars with Ginger and Kaffir Lime

The New Year just began and already I'm running behind...

Before I can get a fresh start on this year, I need to close out last year. I can't move ahead with posting anything I've made recently 'cause I’m all out of blogging sorts.

I made these bars some time last October. Must have been back when I was on a ginger kick. I uploaded the photos to a draft blog post and then promptly forgot about them. I typically post in chronological order as I make recipes since I don’t trust my memory. It’s best when a recipe is fresh on my mind as I’m writing.

When I ran across the draft recently, I wanted to skip it and just move on. New year, new leaf, yada yada....

However, I decided to break my timely blogging rule over these bars because they were pretty good. Also, I found the notes I’d made on a tweak to make them even better (see below).

So, allow me to put 2011 to rest by clearing my blog posts queue. Your indulgence is appreciated :-)

Pear Pie Bars
adapted from Food & Wine

I clipped the recipe for these bars from a Food & Wine issue back in March of 2008. It took me a while to get around to them but I’m so glad I did. The original recipe as written called for apples but I changed it up by subbing pears and switching out a few spices. I tried to mimic the flavor of Confitura’s Pear & Ginger Preserves with kaffir lime. I only added zest from two limes to my bars and regretted not adding more- it wasn’t enough to add the bright, tangy flavor I was looking for. Below, you’ll see that I called for using zest from four limes.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
~ 3 pounds pears- peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
4 kaffir limes- zest only
1/2 cup water, as necessary

1/3 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1. With a rack centered in the middle, preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Line a 9x9” baking pan with two pieces of overlapping parchment paper, allowing an overhang on all sides for easy removal.
2. To make the crust, beat the butter with the light brown sugar for a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy, on medium speed in a mixer fitted with a beater attachment. Turn the mixer speed down to low and beat in the flour and salt to form a soft dough. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the parchment lined pan and 1/2 inch up the side. Bake until the crust is golden in color and feels set, approximately 20 minutes. Set aside to cool on a rack.
3. Next make the filling. In a large skillet, melt the butter with the light brown sugar. Add the pears to the skillet and cook on high heat until they are easily pierced with a fork. It could take up to 10 minutes for the pears to soften so be sure to stir occasionally to prevent burning. Stir in the kaffir lime zest and fresh and dried ginger. Continue to cook until the pears are caramelized and very soft and all liquid has evaporated. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any sticky bits and, if needed, add up to half a cup of water to the pan to prevent scorching. Let cool.
4. To make the topping, toast the walnuts on a baking sheet until they turn golden, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and chop into smaller chunks once they have cooled. Add the oats, flour, light brown sugar, baking soda and salt to a large mixing bowl and use a pastry blender or two forks to cut in the butter until combined- the texture will be that of a coarse meal. Stir in walnuts and crystallized ginger and press the mixture into clumps.
5. Spread the pear filling over the partially baked crust then scatter the clumps of topping over the pear filling and press gently into an even layer. Bake for approximately 1 hour, rotating the pan at the halfway point, until the topping turns a golden color. Place on a rack to cool. Once fully cooled, cut into bars. The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or frozen for up to a month.