Thursday, February 28, 2013

DC Eats & Food: My Lunches with Jeanne: Mark's Duck House

I am launching a new series of DC Eats and Food.  I am also inaugurating with it, My Lunches with Jeanne, who might or might not be a figment of my imagination. My treiff, unkosher, alter ego, with a direct quote "we eat a lot of pork. I looooove pork." Preaching to the choir, NOT. She might or might not have gone to graduate school with Jonathan. If she is real, Jeanne might not be her real name but a pseudonym. She might or might not chime in here. Maybe by a lucky chance she will even write an entire post, as long as the muse strikes her and it is not too much work, and that too is a direct quote.
We ended up completely out of my comfort zone at an authentic Chinese restaurant, in an indistinct tiny strip mall. A place called Mark's Duck House. They greeted Jeanne warmly. The trolleys, as I called the carts, were rolled to our table by the servers as soon as we were seated. I believe dinner is a la carte. Jeanne quickly conversed with them, in Mandarin, and pointed to the desired dishes. They immediately unburdened the carts and our table quickly became crowded. One trolley was ladened with an array of dumplings of all shapes, pleated to perfection. The other with duck and other non dumpling offerings, like baked sweet pork buns. Jeanne mentioned how each particular type of dumpling has its own corresponding shape and pleating. It's an art.

The on the bone Cantonese duck was superb. Moist, flavorful and roasted to mahogany perfection. There were rice noodles that reminded me of Vietnamese food. More subtle, sophisticated flavors than the greasy, sweet and sour sauces in dishes I had in other Chinese establishments. Of course I was taken by that one dumpling that had some cilantro in it, or I though it did. Loved the Chinese broccoli, beautifully piled up in a rectangular brick presentation with some sauce. Honestly, if you eat anything seafood and pork, this is your Chinese heaven on earth. Here, you can't go wrong. I warmly recommend it; to me it was a culinary adventure.

Disclaimer: I do not get comped by restaurants or their PR agencies to write these posts. I foot the bill myself. I will share only places I love.

This series will be snapped with my iPhone.

Mark's Duck House
6184-A Arlington Blvd
Willston Center I
Falls Church, VA 22044
703-532-2125

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chocolate Yeast Cake & Roulade

This past January when I was in Israel, my newly wed nephew's wife baked this cake. Four roulades to be exact. See top left photo in the collage below. A bubbly and intelligent gal, I think barely twenty, if that. I was beside myself, taken by her, I had no clue what to expect. We briefly spoke to her at her and my nephew's wedding over the summer, but didn't know her at all.
She brought one chocolate roulade over to my sister's home, where I was staying part of the time. We devoured it. One roulade she gave to her neighbor and two she froze for my nephew. I begged her the next day to bring another one over, but she wouldn't relent, it was saved for her sweetheart. When I pointed at her. and told her that she is frugal, she threatened to withhold the recipe from me. All in good fun.
Come to think if it, this roulade is a staple at many Israeli homes, baked usually as a Shabbat (Sabbath) dessert. Some would say it is identical to a chocolate babka. Either way, I have been daydreaming about it since I came back to the US, but just got around to baking it. 

The first two loaves I baked were filled with the cocoa, coffee filling. I cut them lengthwise the way the collage shows, braided and scooped and squished them into two cake loaf pans. They looked like babkas. You might have caught the slice I Instagrammed earlier. The third loaf was the one featured in this post with the semi sweet chocolate filling, it went to my neighbors. The last was a roulade, shown in the top left photo of the collage, filled with the cocoa, coffee filling and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I love that yeast, chocolate and sesame combination.
Deeper depth of field than top photo
My further research was turning up identical recipes one after the other. I guess the recipe is full proof! After kneading the dough it comes out a tad sticky, but after proofing for two hours, boy it's gorgeous! If you do not wish to bake all four loaves in one day, you can keep half of the dough covered with saran wrap to proof overnight in the refrigerator.

Check out my Breads and Anything Yeast board on Pinterest to see the posts that inspired me to shape this loaf in an Estonian Kringle fashion.

Chocolate Yeast Cake and Roulade
makes 4 cakes/roulades

Yeast starter
25gr active dry yeast (about little more than 3 1/2 packets. Each packet is 1/4oz)
1/2 cup lukewarm milk

Dough
1kg (2.2lbs) all purpose flour
150gr sugar (3/4 cup)
4 eggs, room temperature
180ml lukewarm milk (3/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
200gr (7.05oz/14 tablespoons plus a tad) butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

Egg Wash
1 egg, whisked
1 tablespoon milk

Mix the milk and egg together.

Garnish
Sesame seeds

Fillings below

Add the yeast to the 1/2 cup of milk and let rest for 10-20 minutes until the yeast bubbles. Meanwhile, add the flour, sugar and salt into the mixer bowl and incorporate with a rubber spatula. With a dough hook attachment mix into the flour mixture, the milk and eggs, incorporate and shortly after add the bubbled yeast. While the dough is kneading add the pieces of butter one by one. Knead for about 5-7 minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated. Place the dough in a large glass, ceramic or porcelain bowl, cover with saran wrap and let proof in a warm place for up to 2 hours.

Divide the dough to 4 equal parts. Keep 3 parts covered with saran wrap while rolling out the first part. Roll out the dough into a super thin 40cmX45cm  (a tad larger than 15X17inches) rectangle. Spread with a rubber spatula the semi sweet chocolate filling or brush with melted butter and sprinkle the cocoa, coffee filing and roll tightly from the narrow part into a roulade.

Place the roulade on a greased parchment paper lined cookie sheet, with the seam side facing the bottom, cover with a kitchen towel and let proof in a warm place for up to an hour. Brush with the egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired and bake in a preheated  180C (356F) oven for 25 minutes.

You can slice the roulade lengthwise and keep the sliced parts facing up. Braid while all the while keeping the sliced parts facing up. Pinch ends and turn into a ring. Place on a greased parchment paper lined cookie sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for up to an hour. Brush with an egg wash and bake in a preheated  180C (356F) oven for 25 minutes.

Instead of rolling the braid into a ring you can lift it and squish it like an accordion into a greased parchment paper lined cake loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let proof in a warm place for up to an hour. Brush with an egg wash and bake in a preheated  180C (356F) oven for 25 minutes.

It is easier to squish the loaf with the cocoa and coffee filling into an accordion than it is with the semi sweet spread.

Cocoa, Coffee Filling
50gr butter, melted and brought to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or cinnamon

Mix the sugar cocoa and coffee.

Semi Sweet Chocolate Filling
150gr (5 1/2oz) semi sweet chocolate
70gr (about 5 tablespoons) butter

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie while occasionally stirring with a rubber spatula, until smooth and glossy. Let cool at room temperature.

You can use a ready made spread of your choice.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Israeli Couscous & Kale

Recent outings to a few restaurants catapulted me into a renewed enthusiasm for vegetables, if that is at all possible, considering I cook a lot with veggies, daily. Intensely charred Brussels sprouts with maple syrup, balsamic and a touch of yogurt in one place, charred cauliflower with a smokey ras el hanout, a Northern African spice mix in another, jolted my taste buds.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Baking with Heritage: An Argentinian Tortitas Negras - Little Black Cakes by Vintage Kitchen Notes

So happy to have Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes as my second guest in the monthly Baking with Heritage series. I hadn't the slightest clue about Argentinian baking, even though one of my best friends growing up was half Argentinian, the other half, Brazilian. I thought Asado and empanadas pretty much sum up Argentinian food. My son swears by the empanadas in Buenos Aires to be the best in the world. He was there on a soccer tournament in his freshman year in high school and got a hefty dose. Trust me I tried to replicate.

Moving fast forward to Paula, who is the gentlest, sweetest person and a super talented baker. Her writing below is romantic. I can imagine sepia toned old world charms through her words. I salivate over her Caramelized Monkey Bread and Soft Pretzels. For those of you who are fluent in Spanish, I am embarrassed to say I am not, Paula also has a food blog in Spanish called Jengibre Azul, Blue Ginger. In our brief brainstorming session Paula threw some ideas around. The little I knew that there are many classic Argentinian breads baked with lard, but for the purposes of this blog, I couldn't. I shot Paula a quick email explaining the entire kosher thing on one foot, though I should put a disclaimer attached here, I am by no mean kosher in the traditional way. When Paula mentioned these Tortitas Negras cakes, I think we both knew instantly that this is it. Aren't these Little Black Cakes deliciously intriguing? I was hooked!

Hop below to Paula, but before you do so, I encourage you to follow her on twitter and like Vintage Kitchen Notes on Facebook. I can't help myself but share with you her native country's Marinated Steak and Chimichurri Sliders  and Empanadas. For those of you who keep kosher, the lard and butter can easily be substituted with oil and margarine. If you wish to be a part of these series, drop me a note.
TORTITAS NEGRAS

When I read that Shulie was interested in heritage baking I thought I heard her call my name. Baking is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen, and having a chance to make at home something that reminds me of my childhood, of the times when old fashioned bakeries where still modern, is definitely on top of my list. As in sharing a prized recipe with someone as talented as her, and that includes not only her food, but also her tales of the world and amazing photography. I hope you, her readers, enjoy these simple and very traditional little breads.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Potatoes, Garlic Soup

These knobby tubers, the Jerusalem Artichokes, otherwise known as sunchokes, aren't related to artichokes but rather to the sunflower/daisy family. This root vegetable is surprisingly not from Jerusalem but rather native to North America. Italian settlers in the US called the plant girasole, sunflower in Italian, which might explain how the name evolved overtime to Jerusalem. Jerusalem artichoke's flavor resembles the taste of a heart of an artichoke, only sweeter.