Too Much Food

Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
Eating Out: Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant, Irvine, CA
One of the many Korean restaurants (I think I counted 4 last time I checked?) on Culver Dr. in Irvine. We’re faithfuls of Kaya, but this night we were faced with a 15 person-deep waiting queue and we were already starved. So off we went down to the plaza next door to try our luck at Dae Myoung Ok.

What I like about Dae Myoung Ok is the banchan (complimentary, refillable side dishes that always accompany a Korean meal); plentiful, well-seasoned (read: not so incredibly spicy or salty that you couldn’t finish more than one plate) and they give you generous portions. We ordered two noodle dishes (the white noodles is a hot seafood broth, the brown noodles is a cold, spicy broth). Again, portions are huge. We liked the cold noodles the best, while the seafood soup noodles lost their charm once the noodles started to get soggy and melted into the soup. We also got a soondobu (hot tofu soup). Standard fare; not great but not bad.

I’d say that Kaya is still my favorite, but Dae Myoung Ok has its charms. It’s definitely got it’s banchan going for it and it has some home-style dishes that the other Korean tofu and bbq places in Irvine don’t have (sujebi and mandoo anyone?). Another plus is that the service is super friendly; the woman who owns the place constantly makes rounds of the tables, asking customers how they are and how their food is; it’s akin to eating at your favorite Korean auntie’s house.

Dae Myoung Ok Korean Restaurant
14250 Culver Dr., Suite B
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 651-1177
Note: It may be a bit tough finding this restaurant; it’s a tiny place tucked in a fairly large plaza. Also, its signage doesn’t read “Dae Myoung Ok”; just look for a place called “Korean Restaurant” with mostly white interiors.

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From my backlog of restaurant visits that I have yet to post: Here are some eats from a recent visit to see my sister down in San Diego.

My parents and sister are all ramen lovers; so my sister decided to take us to Yakitori Yakyudori, a recently opened yakitori (skewers) and ramen place on Convoy in Kearny Mesa, a virtual mecca of Asian restaurants.

Note: When we visited, the restaurant had only ramen; they had yet to start doing yakitori. Another reason for going back, I suppose.

Starters: Takoyaki, (dumplings filled with chopped pieces of octopus, topped with mayo, a thick, sweet and sour sauce and bonito flakes, in the foreground) and gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings, in the background). Both served piping hot and still sizzling (the waitress even warned us that the innards of the takoyaki were extremely hot and we would risk burning ourselves if eating right away). Both are two of my favorite “snack foods” from Japan, and these were delicious.

Eating Out: Yakitori Yakyudori, Kearny Mesa
My order: I wasn’t in the mood for ramen, so I decided to go for a rice-based dish. I originally ordered the shiso-topped rice, but was informed that they were already sold out (sadness). Instead, I opted for the tofu-topped rice.

Eating Out: Yakitori Yakyudori, Kearny Mesa
It sounds quite boring and pedestrian (chopped, mashed tofu on rice?), but its simple, light, subtle flavors were just right. The tofu was lightly seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil (I think?) and when eaten on top of the freshly cooked, chewy Japanese rice, this really hit the spot.

Miso ramen. Sister’s order. A hearty, full-bodied broth. Heady on the miso flavor. I think this is for those who like stronger flavors, or for those who don’t mind being thirsty after their meal. Quite delicious, but I don’t know if I’d be able to eat a lot in one sitting as I prefer lighter brothed soups.

Eating Out: Yakitori Yakyudori, Kearny Mesa
Shio ramen. Mom’s order. Clearer broth, not as hearty or salty as the miso ramen, but full of flavor nonetheless. I preferred this one as the miso broth was a bit too strong for my taste.

Eating Out: Yakitori Yakyudori, Kearny Mesa
For some reason I didn’t have a picture of my dad’s order of Chashu ramen, but he assured me that it was delicious.

Chashu (thin slices of fatty pork) comes in all the ramen varieties, and so often ramen places either skimp on the chashu or serve thick, tough, dry slices. At Yakitori Yakyudori, the chashu is quite soft and almost melts in your mouth. A success in my book.

Yakitori Yakyudori
4898 Convoy St., Suite 101
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 268-2888
Mon-Sun 11:30 a.m. – 3 a.m.

My sister and I decided to hit up a local vegetarian place (Sipz) for dinner:

Eating Out: Sipz Vegetarian Cafe
My “caterpillar” roll: Brown rice, shitake mushrooms, avocado, yam, and some veggies, topped with avocado, teriyaki and sriracha. Isn’t it cute?
Eating Out: Sipz Vegetarian Cafe

It was pretty delicious too. I kind of wish the rice had been seasoned more like sushi rice (vinegar, mirin and sugar, in the Japanese style); it’s the only thing that would have made this roll better than it already was. But it was good nonetheless. And incredibly filling.

Eating Out: Sipz Vegetarian Cafe
My sister ordered their “chicken” chow mein: Eggless noodles stir-fried in a savory brown sauce with vegetables and their faux vegetarian chicken. I normally shy away from vegetarian faux meats (I don’t really agree with the idea and most meat alternatives that try to imitate meat fail miserable in both taste and texture). But this “chicken” was eerily chicken-like; if I didn’t know it was vegetarian I would have thought it was really chicken. It had me wondering what kind of process and ingredients they used (gluten? Too chewy. Soy? Beany tasting and would give you the wrong texture). Amazing. I imagine if you were someone who recently turned vegetarian but were missing meat, Sipz would be your to-go place.

This place was hopping on a Friday night and now I understand why. Their menu is extensive, offering Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and even Italian-inspired dishes. Apparently their vegan desserts are legendary for being super delicious (I glanced around at my fellow diners; most of them ordered some kind of dessert), but after our meal, we were simply too stuffed to eat sweets (what can we say, we’re lightweights!). In any case, it’s a definite reason to go back and try some of Sipz’s other offerings.

Sipz Vegetarian Cafe
5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 279-3747
Mon-Sun 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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Here’s a recap of our lovely meal at Cedar Creek Inn, as promised!

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
OC Restaurant Week offers diners prix fixe lunches and dinners (lunch can go as low as $10, dinner as low as $20) and it’s a fantastic way to try new restaurants that you normally wouldn’t visit. It took place last week and my family decided to try Cedar Creek Inn, a local restaurant that is literally five minutes from our house (yet we’ve never been there in the 3+ years that it’s been open).

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
After viewing the menu, all of us opted for the Baby Iceberg Wedge (Blue cheese, vine-ripen tomatoes, chopped egg and Applewood smoked bacon) over the Lobster Cappuccino (creamy lobster bisque with brandy-cream).

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
This was an excellent rendition of the classic wedge salad: generous portions of iceberg lettuce, lightly dressed with just the right amount of egg, tomatoes and bacon. While the Lobster Cappuccino sounded intriguing, we wanted something light before we dug into our main courses.

My dad and godsister both chose the “Surf & Turf” ($30): Petite Filet Mignon and Maine Lobster Tail (6oz):
Char-grilled bacon-wrapped filet mignon and a roasted cold-water lobster tail with grilled lemon, melted butter and three-cheese potato gratin and summer succotash

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
This was a huge plate! I tried a bit of the lobster and I have to say, it was possibly the best lobster tail that I’ve eaten to date; tender, buttery, without the rubbery-ness that plagues too many lobster tails at restaurants nowadays. The three-cheese potato gratin was sumptuous; very-thin slices of potato layered with a mixture of cheeses and broiled until it got a nice, crispy crust. This was delicious, but could have been an entire meal in itself, it was so rich. I didn’t try the filet mignon, but my dad assured me that it was delicious.

My mom ordered the Roasted Rack of Lamb ($30): Herb-roasted rack of New Zealand lamb with a tarragon-Pinot Noir reduction and garlic mashed potatoes, served with summer succotash.

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
I also tried a bit of the lamb; again, this was really well-done, the lamb was fresh, gamey but not unpleasantly so and very tender.

Being that I’m not a huge meat eater, I opted for the Angel Hair Pasta Pomodoro ($20): Angel hair pasta with extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
I wasn’t sure whether getting a vegetarian pasta as my main would be a good idea; my parents expressed concern that my dish would be “one-note” or “boring”, but this pasta was delicious; the angel hair was cooked perfectly; al-dente so that there was a nice bite. The tomatoes were ripe, seasoned just enough so that their natural acidity and sweetness balanced each other nicely. Bbasil and pine nuts added a nice nutty and floral aroma and great textural contrast; and what I loved was that the chef was thoughtful enough to place the goat cheese in a single sphere in the center of the pasta so that I could eat it as I wished, scooping up bits of the soft, tart cheese and swirling it into strands of pasta for every bite.

As if all this food wasn’t enough, we still had our final course to go. Three of us opted for the Chocolate Ganache Tart (Rich chocolate ganache on a pecan crust layered over caramel creme). Beautiful dessert and insanely rich. I love chocolate, but after one bite I was done and ended up packing the rest for some other time.

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
My mom got their signature dessert: the Coconut Supreme Cake: Cedar Creek’s famous coconut cake, served warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Eating Out: Orange County Restaurant Week: Cedar Creek Inn, Laguna Niguel
Ohemgee this was delicious. Warm, fluffy layers of vanilla cake with toasted coconut buttercream frosting, paired with a scoop of quality vanilla bean ice cream = party in my mouth. I’d come back and just order this for my appetizer, entree and dessert. Too bad we only got one for the table! If I had to recommend only one thing from this night’s dinner, this would be it.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience here. Service was attentive and friendly and the quality of the cooking here is excellent; definitely worth a return visit.

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Cooking at Home: Roasted Black Sesame Tahini

Ever since receiving a food processor for Christmas, I’ve been whipping up all sorts of new nut butters for my family to try. Since my parents are in love with anything black sesame, I decided to make some roasted black sesame tahini.

This stuff is delicious. It’s slightly bitter, savory and with the addition of a mere tablespoon of sugar, this tahini leaves a sweet aftertaste. So far we’ve just been spreading it on toast in the morning or dipping baby carrots in it, but I could see it being used in a dish like sesame noodles or for a creamy salad dressing.

The recipe couldn’t be easier, just a simple combination of roasted black sesame seeds and walnuts for a creamy consistency (a nut butter made with just sesame seeds won’t contain enough oil/fat to blend to a creamy consistency) with some salt and sugar. The only tricky part is roasting the sesame seeds; since they’re already black colored, you need to watch them carefully so that they don’t burn.

Cooking at Home: Roasted Black Sesame Tahini

Roasted Black Sesame Tahini
Yields about 3/4 cups of tahini.
What you’ll need:

  • 60g black sesame seeds
  • 140g raw walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more or less to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
The procedure:
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Place the raw walnuts in a shallow pan and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once in a while so the nuts roast evenly. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn and turn bitter. Once it starts to get fragrant, it’s almost ready. Remove the pan from the oven and let the walnuts cool.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, pan roast the black sesame seeds over medium-low heat, stirring continuously. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until the seeds start to smell fragrant. Turn off the heat immediately and remove the pan to a cool place. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or if you have a Vita-Mix/Blendtec, until you have a wonderfully fragrant powder. Make sure to scrape down the sides periodically so that you have a uniform grind.

By the way, grinding the seeds to a powder before making the butter ensures that you have a creamy end product; trying to grind the whole seeds with the walnuts will only result in a grainy, hulled butter. If this is what you prefer, by all means go for it 🙂

Once the black sesame powder and walnuts are cooled, place them in the bowl of your food processor along with the sea salt and sugar. Grind until creamy; this should only take about 2 – 3 minutes; it will first ball up, then loosen as the walnuts release their oils. Keep going until your tahini is whipped and smooth.

Scrape into a sterilized glass jar; allow to cool (it will be a bit warm from the processing) before putting on the cap and storing in the refrigerator. I’ll wager it’ll keep for at least two weeks, but keep an eye on it as walnut oils tend to go rancid quite easily.


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Whole Wheat Dill Beer Bread

Here’s the recipe for the beer bread pictured in the previous post; this is a super easy, quick-to-put-together quick bread. I love how it only takes one bowl and a few ingredients that you probably have in your pantry. After a bake in the oven, you have yourself a crusty, savory and moist bread that you could dunk in a bowl of hot soup or eaten at breakfast with your choice of spread (maybe a sundried-tomato,fig, and caper balsamic jam, perhaps?).

As with most of my baked goods, I opted to use white whole wheat flour. Since this is a quick, not yeasted, bread, I substituted half the portion of white whole wheat with whole wheat pastry flour to avoid a heavy texture. This worked out quite well; the bread was hearty, but not gummy or dense. As for the taste, the whole wheat added a welcome nutty flavor that complimented the yeasty aroma of the beer. As for the beer that I used, I just used a can of Kirin Ichiban, as that was what I had on hand.

Whole Wheat Dill Beer Bread

Whole Wheat Dill Beer Bread
Recipe adapted from Farmgirl Fare’s Beyond Easy Beer Bread.
Yields one 9″ x 5″ loaf.
What you’ll need:

  • 180g (1 1/2 cups) whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 180g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons dried dill
  • 1 cup grated cheese of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s soy cheese)
  • 12 ounces beer
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water, optional, for glaze
The procedure:

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare your loaf pan either by oiling/buttering it or lining with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except for the beer until well combined. Pour in the beer and mix, trying not to overmix (similar to when you are making muffins, you don’t want to develop too much gluten which could result in tough bread). Mix until just combined. The batter will be thick.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and if using the glaze, brush the top of the bread with the glaze and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. The crust will be golden brown. If you feel like the crust is browning too quickly, you can place a piece of tin foil over the top as a tent.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool completely. Slice and enjoy!

This recipe is super versatile as well; you could add any number of herbs (I used dill in my case), cheeses, nuts or dried fruits. Get creative!


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Cooking at Home: Sundried-Tomato, Fig and Caper Balsamic Jam

What do you do when you have a bag of sundried-tomatoes, a jar of capers and a bag of dried figs that you don’t know what to do with?

Make jam! What resulted was a melange of Mediterranean-inspired flavors, savory, sweet and tart all at the same time. I’ve been spreading it on top of a slice of homemade cheddar cheese beer bread in the mornings, but I imagine it’d be great on crackers, a grilled slice of crusty artisan bread, or thinned out as a pizza topping.

Cooking at Home: Sundried-Tomato, Fig and Caper Balsamic Jam

Sundried-Tomato, Fig and Caper Balsamic Jam
Inspired by Mel at bitchincamero, adapted from Thomas Keller’s Fig Jam from Ad Hoc at Home
Makes approximately 1 cup

What you’ll need:

  • 6 dried figs (I used Trader Joe’s organic Calimyrna figs)
  • 1/2 C sundried-tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • 1/4 C capers
  • 25g brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • water to cover
The procedure:
In a bowl, combine the dried figs and sundried-tomatoes and cover with boiling water; allow to soak for at least one hour prior to starting the jam.

Drain the figs/sundried-tomatoes and put into a small saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough fresh water to cover the mixture by one inch. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover.

Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the figs and sundried tomatoes are soft and pulpy and the liquid is reduced. Place the contents into a blender or food processor, and taking care, puree until desired consistency.

If the mixture is still a little too liquidy after pureeing, place the contents back into the saucepan and reduce over low heat, stirring the entire time until your desired consistency is reached. I reduced until it was tacky and slightly sticky.

Spoon the mixture into sterilized glass container, press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and allow to cool. When cool, place in the refrigerator.

Should keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.


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Baking at Home: Caraway Bread, Cubed

I finally baked a perfectly cubed-shaped loaf! I had purchased a square pullman tin while I was in Taiwan last summer and only got around to using it recently. My previous attempts all yielded loaves that were too short and never filled the top. Seems like half a pound of dough seems like the right amount to fill this 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 4.5″ tin.

Baking at Home: Caraway Bread, Cubed

This caraway bread is based off of Smitten Kitchen’s recent New York Deli Rye post. I increased the hydration of the dough slightly so that I could get a more airy crumb. Baking it in the tin allowed for a soft crust (which my parents prefer) and a light color. You can get six good slices out of this small tin, perfect for our sometimes-bread eating small family. Feel free to quadruple the recipe for a regular sized loaf of bread.

Caraway Bread
Makes one 1/2 lb. loaf, approximately a 4.5″ cube
Based of of Smitten Kitchen’s New York Deli Rye Bread
What you’ll need:
For the sponge:

  • 30g bread flour
  • 24g whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4g sugar
  • 3g honey
  • 104g warm water

For the flour mixture:

  • 88g bread flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 0.5 Tablespoons caraway seeds, whole or ground as to your preference
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt

For kneading and finishing the dough:

  • 1/2 teaspoon oil
The procedure:
Mix together the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl, whipping it if you can to aerate the mixture. Set it aside while you prepare the flour mixture.

Mix together the ingredients for the flour mixture, whisking it together to make sure the ingredients are incorporated fully and spoon over the sponge. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for one to four hours; or, until you see the sponge bubbling up through the flour mixture. Since it’s wintertime where I live, I waited about four hours before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

After you can observe the sponge bubbling up through the flour mixture, add the oil and mix the dough together, either with a stand mixer or by hand. I did this by hand as the amount of dough was so small. Mix until the dough is smooth and homogenous looking; as the hydration of the dough is higher than your standard sandwich loaf, it will feel tacky and sticky. This is fine. Continue kneading the dough until you achieve good gluten structure and the dough passes the windowpane test. This took me about ten minutes by hand.

Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and let it rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. After this first rise, take the dough out and degas it, you can do a couple of stretch-and-folds to give it better structure, then place it back into the bowl and let it rise again for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes have elapsed, take the dough and degas it gently and shape it (you can do a small boule or shape it sandwich style if planning to bake in a loaf pan). Place the dough in your chosen baking receptacle and let it rise a third time until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Half an hour before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F.

When ready to bake, place the loaf into the oven, steam (if not baking in a pullman tin) and lower the temperature to 375 F and bake for 25 minutes. Check to see if the bread is done by inserting a thermometer into the center of the loaf and making sure it reads at least 190 F. Invert the bread onto a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 4 hours before slicing to enjoy.

Next time, I’m going to bake the bread artisan-style on my pizza stone to get that crispy, dark crust I enjoy so much, but this bread is delicious in its own right. It’s pillowy and stays soft and pliable for several days, stored in an airtight container on the countertop. I’ve been eating it lately with homemade tomato jam (based on Mark Bittman’s recipe), but I imagine it’d be great in a grilled cheese sandwich.

Sending this recipe over to Susan at Wild Yeast for this week’s YeastSpotting (my first and hopefully not my last!).

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Hello 2010! Life has been a bit busy around here, but I just want to encourage everyone to help out (if you haven’t already).


Like many others, I found it hard to pick one of the many charities and organizations that are out there; I found this site useful in determining my charity of choice. I hope it helps you too.

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Busy busy busy! Sister is home and family and friends are visiting, half of the family is sick with the flu and cough (first it was my mom and me during Thanksgiving, now it’s my Dad and my sister’s turn), so between the coughs and the visits I’ve hardly had time to cook or bake. I have been browsing all the fabulous holiday creations my fellow bloggers have been putting out and I want to try to make them all!

Cooking at Home: Peppermint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

However, I did manage to have enough time to put this delicious ice cream together. I had bought a pack of MimicCreme vegan cream substitute and was itching to try it out and figured an ice cream was the best way to put it to the test. I was so happy after the freezing process that my ice cream was scoopable and creamy straight from the freezer (though putting in 3 tablespoons of vodka couldn’t hurt, I guess). For me, that is vegan ice cream success. This recipe is a Philadelphia-style ice cream (which means it doesn’t use egg yolks), so it doesn’t require cooking and comes together really quickly if you have all your ingredients chilled at the time you’re ready to make the base. If you’re not lactose intolerant or vegan, feel free to substitute heavy cream for the MimicCreme in this recipe and for more lusciousness, you can convert it to a custard-based ice cream (you probably can omit the vodka if you do this), but keep in mind that would require you to cook the ice cream base first.

Cooking at Home: Peppermint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Peppermint Cookies and Ice Cream
Makes approximately 1 quart
What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups unsweetened plain MimicCreme vegan cream substitute (or, 1 16oz. aseptic package)
  • 50g sugar (or more, to taste. I prefer my ice creams on the less-sweet side)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons vodka
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 6 peppermint oreo cookies (I used Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe-Joes, which are delicious by themselves), crushed
The procedure:

Using a blender, blend the MimicCreme, sugar, vanilla, extract, salt and vodka until smooth. Chill the base thoroughly, at least 4 hours or overnight, preferably.

Churn the ice cream base according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s directions. During the last minute of churning, add the crushed peppermint oreo cookies.

Pour into container and freeze thoroughly. Scoop and enjoy.

Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a relaxing holiday season and a happy new year!

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Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a recipe! Autumn is already in full swing and winter’s on it’s way and I have yet to write about something I’ve made. One thing I love most about autumn is all the great winter squash that arrives in the markets. I’ve had great fun just trying all the different varieties (this year, I’ve had delicata, red kuri, spaghetti, and buttercup in addition to my favorite, kabocha). What better way to enjoy autumnal squash than making some sweetened squash bao? These buns are made with half whole wheat flour, giving the bread a sweet, nutty flavor that pairs nicely with the sweet squash puree inside. Enjoy these for breakfast or for an afternoon tea snack!

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

For the filling:

  • 1/2 red kuri squash (or your winter squash of choice), ~500g after seeded *see notes about post-steaming yield
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 1/4t salt

For the dough

  • 60g whole wheat flour
  • 65g all-purpose or bread flour
  • 3g instant yeast
  • 1/4t kosher salt
  • 2t agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup or your liquid sweetener of choice)
  • 2t vegetable oil
  • 60g water
Making the filling:

Steam kuri squash until flesh yields easily when poked with a fork. Let cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and roughly mash (no need to make it very smooth, you’ll be working the flesh during the sweetening phase).

In a medium saucepan, combine the kuri squash flesh, raw sugar and salt, and over medium heat, stir until sugar is dissolved. Keep cooking the sweetened squash puree (this process helps to dry out the paste, you don’t want soupy squash as a filling for the buns) until it stops looking shiny and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and let cool completely.

For the bao dough:

Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, yeast, and salt. Add the agave nectar and vegetable oil and water, stir to combine until you get a rough dough.

Turn dough out onto counter and knead until you have a smooth, supple dough. I didn’t use my stand mixer as the amount of dough was small (and sometimes you just want to experience the pleasure of working with bread dough!). Knead until it passes the windowpane test, with a 5 minute rest halfway to allow the dough hydrate and the gluten to relax slightly.

Place in a medium, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and proof until doubled in size. In my cold house, it took about 1.5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto the counter and give it a few kneading strokes, and let it rest for 5 minutes for the gluten to relax. Divide the dough into 5 pieces.

Divide the filling into 5 mounds in preparation for stuffing the bao.

Flatten each piece, and using a small rolling pin, roll out into a 5″ diameter circle, taking care to make the edges thinner than the center (so that when you gather the dough around the filling you don’t end up with a super thick bottom and a super thin top). Place 1 mound of sweetened squash filling in the center and draw up the edges of the dough around the filling; pinching the dough at the top to seal.

Place seam side down on baking sheet, and cover with a kitchen towel while you complete the rest of the bao. After filling all 5 bao, let proof for 20 minutes.

I mixed together a simple slurry of almond milk, cornstarch and a pinch of sugar for a matte-style wash. If you desire a shiny-type of wash, simply beat one egg with some water. Brush the tops of the proofed bao with your wash of choice and sprinkle with some sesame seeds for garnish.

Bake bao for 25 minutes (if they start to brown too fast, you can tent with a piece of foil to avoid overbrowning).

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Let cool completely on racks for at least 8 hours (this allows the dough to finish cooking completely, if you were to eat them right away, you might find the dough directly underneath the filling to be slightly raw. After 8 hours, the dough will have finished cooking and the flavor will be better. This is generally true of most breads.)

Enjoy! My favorite way to eat these is to reheat them for 20 seconds in the microwave, then pop into the toaster for a little bit to get them slightly toasty on the outside. The outside becomes slightly crispy and the inside bread stays light and fluffy. Delicious!

Baking at Home: Autumnal Sweet Squash Bao

Cooking Notes:

  • I know that squash comes in various shapes and sizes, and my kuri squash, after halving and deseeded, was about 500g. After steaming and making it into sweetened puree, the yield was about 250g. Basically, you’re aiming for about 50g of sweetened filling per bao. If your squash is abnormally large or small, you can scale up/down the dough component. Or you can just eat the extra filling as is, it’s delicious that way too!
  • Any type of squash, pumpkin, sweet potato/yam or even beans can be sweetened in this way; it’s really a universal technique that you can apply to many vegetables/legumes to make sweetened paste for bun/bao fillings, dumplings, etc.
  • This dough is pretty versatile, besides using it as a baked bao dough, this dough makes steamed bao quite nicely too. Give it a try!
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