Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ichigo Daifuku - Japanese Sweet bean and Strawberry ball

I used to eat these almost every day when it was Strawberry season.
I finally got around to trying to make my own...
Step one was making sweet bean paste. I boiled dry white beans with sugar until they were tender, then pureed them with a bit of the water in the food processor.

The next step was to prepare the strawberries.
I washed and trimmed them, and then molded a layer of the cooled bean paste around them, leaving the base exposed.

The next step was combining the rice flour, sugar and water and microwaving it briefly (2 minutes, stir, 1 minute, stir)

Then I divided it into 8 pieces and rolled it (on a floured cutting board) into round discs about the size of a saucer. After they were rolled, I picked up a bean-coated strawberry and wrapped the flattened dough disk around the berry, pinching the dough together at the bottom to close the bundle. Mmmm...

A brief dusting of cornstarch and they're ready to go. I ate 3 (they were ugly and crackly) and brought 5 to work to share.
Next time: Don't let the dough sit for more than a minute or two in the open. A dry skin forms on it and it's tough to get it silky again.
Actually, there might not be a next time...at least not for awhile. This may turn into a yearly strawberry season once-off.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fresh Pasta - Vegan

I went out for a friend's birthday to Fressen, a great vegan restaurant that serves little vegan plates that you share. Dishes are sort of a mishmash of cultural influences, and one of the dishes we had inspired me to make my own pasta.
It was roughly cut basil fettucine noodles in a cheeseless pesto sauce. It was delicious (if a bit oily) and I vowed to to it myself at home. I love that I now feel confident enough in the kitchen that I will attempt to recreate most recipes that I like from restaurants. At least once.
I have great memories of helping my nonna and my mother make pasta. It was my job to crank the handle on the pasta machine, which would flatten the balls of dough into smooth sheets, and then cut it into noodles. They were soft and delicious, and I would nibble on one or two while they hung on the back of kitchen chairs, drying. I hope to some day make noodles that good.

I also posted this as an instructable.

Ingredients: 1 2/3 cup flour
about 2/3 cup water
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
optional 1 tsp oil
*Optional flavouring (pureed spinach, tomato paste, pureed basil, or just about anything)

-Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If you would like to add flavouring, adjust the amount of water up or down.

You want a ball that sticks together but is not too wet or dry. Add more flour or water until you get something that holds together without being too wet.

Turn your ball out onto a well-floured cutting board. Knead it for at least 10 minutes.

To knead: push the ball away from you with the heel of your hand. Then gather the sides inwards, flip the ball around and repeat. It should start to become smoother and more pliable.
Add flour as needed to keep the ball from sticking to the board.

When the dough is well-kneaded, cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

When it's rested, divide it into eighths. Work with one eighth at a time and put the others aside, covered.

Roll out the dough on a floured board. Push the dough outward from the middle, then turn it around, applying more flour to ensure that it's not sticking to the board. Continue to roll out until it's about 2-4 mm thick. At this point you may want to let the sheets dry out for a few minutes to make them easier to cut. Not long, though, or they'll dry out.

Cutting the noodles into rough fettucine shapes by hand isn't terribly difficult. Heavily flour the strip of dough, then lightly roll it up like a jelly roll. Cut strips as thin as you like with a sharp knife, then carefully unroll them.

To store your noodles: dry hanging for a few minutes (on the back of a chair perhaps) then flour and gather into bundles. Freeze or refrigerate, covered.