Duck Prosciutto


In the summer time, New York City is rife with green markets. I enjoy meandering around green markets, exploring the kind of foods that people take it upon themselves to impart an artisanal quality to, and eating the samples that vendors put out. One of the samples that stood out in my memory was Hudson Valley’s duck prosciutto. The creamy fat contrasted with the salty flesh tasted truly remarkable. However, at $22 per duck breast, I couldn’t bring myself to pay for it. Like all good DIY-ers, I decided to do it myself.


The process is remarkably simple. Acquire duck breast (which I procured from Ottomanelli’s & Sons Meat Market at $9.99/lb, which puts the homemade prosciutto at approximately less than half price than premade), salt it, and let it hang out in your fridge for about two weeks (or until it reduces to 70% of its original weight.) There isn’t a lot of hands-on work involved, but it does require some patience and some fridge real estate.


I let mine hang for 13 days, and its final weight was 70% of the original. (1.07 lbs before, 12 oz after) It tastes quite yummy, but I do think a more complicated spice rub would improve its flavor. I merely used some pepper because I didn’t have much else. Also, it’s impossible to get deli-thin slices without a meat slicer, so I had to settle for thick-cut bacon-esque strips. A local deli might agree to slice it up for you, though. Maybe be as charming as possible and hope they succumb to you?

Duck Prosciutto
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 1 duck breast

Ingredients
1 duck breast, about 1 lb
400g of salt
200g of sugar
Whatever spices you want – maybe do some research to see what goes best with duck? (I used pepper, the original recipe used juniper berries, fennel seed, white and black peppercorns, bay leaves, and coriander seeds)

1. Wash and dry duck breast thoroughly. Score the skin in a cross-hatched fashion in order to allow the cure to penetrate it more thoroughly. Weigh the duck breast and record the start weight.
2. Mix salt and sugar to create the cure and pour about 1/3 of it into a container that would hold the duck breast, allowing for space between the duck breast and the perimeter of the container. I find that a 9×5 loaf pan works well. Pour the rest of the cure over the duck, making sure to submerge it completely in the cure. Feel free to make more of the cure in the same 2:1, salt to sugar ratio if you need more of it. Cling wrap the container and place it in your fridge for 4 days.
3. After 4 days, remove the duck breast from the cure and rinse off the cure. You will find that the cure might have become watery. That is normal. After rinsing off the cure, dry it well with paper towels and rub it down with your spices. Wrap it in cheese cloth with twine. Suspend the breast in your fridge so that its surface is not in contact with anything. Let it hang for two weeks or until the end weight is about 70% of the original weight.
4. Unwrap and eat!

Yogurt Bran Muffins

Here I have a very basic, but very tasty yogurt bran muffins that are a snap to make. I had some Greek yogurt and I decided to make something yogurt-based. As they were baking, they smelled wonderful, the cinnamon scent really came through. The muffins fresh out of the oven had a really good texture; moist with a crackly crust. I recommend greasing the muffin pan instead of using paper liners to maximize full crustiness. I used white whole wheat flour for added healthiness, and personally would reduce the oil to 1/3 cup because I don’t like being able to smell vegetable oil in my food.

These muffins are also 169 calories each for 12 muffins. Not a crazy amount; and in my experience a higher caloric proportion of fat tends to make food more filling.

Cinnamon Bran Muffins with Yogurt
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 12 muffins (or 10 large ones)

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used regular granulated)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt (I used 0% Greek yogurt)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Mix egg, brown sugar and oil together in a mixing bowl. Stir in vanilla and bran.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with yogurt — don’t over-mix. Fill muffin cups and bake on center rack for 25-30 minutes. (My 12 muffins took 20 minutes.)

Chinese Bakery Hot Dog Buns


Considering the dearth of posts lately, I don’t fault you if you think I have succumbed to the stresses of school and ceased to bake. I actually have been baking.  I don’t know why I have such a persistent obsession with Chinese breads lately. Perhaps I got burnt out on making American desserts? And bread is just so much harder to actually excel at. I’ve been baking the same recipe over and over again: this Chinese sweet bread recipe from Christine’s Recipes. However, I’ve found the bread exceedingly frustrating to perfect. It employs the tang zhong method, which is a starter roux that helps the bread stays soft. However, not owning a kitchen scale, stand mixer, a non-stick pastry mat OR a bench scraper has been very trying. For one, I can’t get my ingredients down to the precise weight, which is crucial in a proportion-sensitive endeavor like baking bread. Also, hand-kneading an extremely sticky dough is near impossible, since the dough just sticks to my hands stubbornly.

However, I recently acquired both a kitchen scale and a non-stick mat (I used Matfer Exopat) and I was determined to make this attempt the best. I did some research, and apparently Chinese-style breads benefit from more kneading than you think it needs. Besides, I’d probably get too tired before I end up overkneading the dough and breaking down the gluten chains. I spent at least 30 minutes wrestling with the extremely sticky dough, training my forearm and grip strength and eventually got it to reach an elastic, bouncy texture that none of my breads have reached before. And boy, was it rewarding. This bread has the finest crumb of all the breads I’ve ever made, and it’s also quite shreddable.

I did encounter some problems with the finished goods, though. But I’m going to tell you what I did wrong so you can avoid these mistakes.

  • Pat your hot dogs dry before wrapping it in the dough. My hot dogs slid out of the bun after baking. I did like how the hot dog juices had moistened the inside of the bread, imparting a salty dog flavor to it, though.
  • When rolling the bread dough into long tubes to wind around the hot dogs, try to make the tubes thicker in the middle, tapering narrower towards the ends. It will be more aesthetically appealing.

Chinese Bakery Hot Dog Buns
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Makes 8 buns

Ingredients

Tang Zhong

25 gm bread flour
125 ml water (feel free to use milk or 50:50 milk/water; I used all water)

Mix bread flour and water in a saucepan; continually stir over medium-low heat until your whisk/spoon leaves trails in the mixture. Take off heat and let cool.

350 gm bread flour
55 gm caster sugar
5 gm salt
56 gm egg (1 large egg)
7 gm milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional – I omitted)
125 ml milk (I used water instead)
120 gm tangzhong (refer to this recipe for making tanzhong)
5 to 6 gm instant yeast
30 gm butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
8 sausages (I used Sabrett’s skinless beef frankfurters)

Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tang zhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until you get a dough shape and gluten has developed, then knead in the butter. Mind you, it’d be quite messy at this stage. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. (Tip: you might like to test if the dough is ready. Stretch the dough with two hands. If it forms a thin “membrane” that’s very elastic in texture. Use a finger to poke a hole. If the hole is a circle, not an irregular tear-off. That means you have successfully kneaded the dough to a perfect stage. Yet, don’t over-knead the dough. Otherwise all the tissues inside would be broken apart.) The time of kneading all depends on how hard and fast you knead.

Knead the dough into a ball shape. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes (Note: the time will vary and depends on the weather. The best temperature for proofing is 28C.)

Transfer to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into four to six equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.

Knead each part into a long tube, about 41cm in length (it depends on how long your sausage is). Roll to enclose the sausage, with seals facing down. Place rolls on a tray lined with baking paper, covered with cling wrap or a wet towel. Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size.

Brush whisked egg on surface of rolls. (I omitted this) Bake in a pre-heated 180C (356F) oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Yogurt and Sun Dried Tomato Biscuits


These biscuits were a haphazard post-work creation; I was really itching to make something, and since biscuits are as instant gratification as you could get when it comes to baking, I made some. They were decent warm from the oven but got a little dry as it sat out. I did use the minimum amount of fat needed and I also used olive oil instead of butter for an extra Italian twist. However, reheating made them better; and I’m sure dabbing some butter in a halved biscuit would be quite delicious.


Yogurt and Sun Dried Tomato Biscuits

Adapted from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
Makes 7-8

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1/2 scant teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoons olive oil
3/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon yogurt
3-4 pieces of sun dried tomatoes, chopped roughly

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together, then add oil. Stir in sun dried tomatoes.

Using a large spoon, stir in the yogurt until mixture just forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it 10 times; no more. If it is sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick slightly to your hands.

Press the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle and cut into 2-inch rounds. Put on ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Bake for 7 – 9 minutes or until the biscuits are a beautiful golden brown. Serve within 15 minutes for them to be at their best.