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Posts Tagged ‘walnut’

I keep thinking fall started months ago.  I blame the mornings for being gray since August because one month of gray skies has me thinking about stews and cider and cinnamon.  Actually, I have been thinking about cinnamon a lot lately, but it felt unfair to think about cinnamon when I had five-pound zucchinis and heirloom tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter.

Okay, I still have one last five-pound zucchini on the counter, but it just feels like fall.  Maybe it’s the fact that I just read a book that gushed about things like apple cider.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have started work and the emphasis is on a “fall start date.”  I don’t know.  I guess the slight newness of routine finally nudged me towards believing the seasons have changed ;)

In the name of trying things new, I decided a cinnamon fig walnut bread would be in the works.  A toast studded with figs and walnuts and swirled with cinnamon sugar sounded like a good breakfast on-the-go.  Probably even better with cinnamon honey butter.  Mmm…

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One of my childhood friends loves to eat gnocchi.  If that dish is on the menu, she is almost certain to order it regardless of the sauce base.  Over time though, she has observed that not all gnocchi dishes are of the pillow-like wonderfulness that people rave about.  In fact, some taste downright rubbery and awful.  I suppose that’s a gamble one makes when ordering unless the restaurant is known for their gnocchi…

In any case, making gnocchi from scratch is hard and laborious, which is why most people prefer to order it at the restaurant.  However, dumpling-making whether it be Italian or Chinese seems to be most rewarding and satisfying when made at home.  I  remember my mother having me help her make savory tang yuan around the Winter Solstice by making the little balls for her soup.  While that was a time-consuming activity to make enough balls to feed the entire family, I thought it was fun.  Of course, my mother hasn’t made it since childhood since it is so time-consuming.

Intrigued by the gnocchi-making process and inspired by childhood nostalgia, I decided that this week would be a good time to try making dumplings.  Thus, I invited my friend over for a gnocchi-making session…

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Growing up, my mother taught me never to eat foods raw.  With the exception of my family’s Burmese culinary tradition of eating salad (dok), my more dominant Chinese culinary tradition dictated that foods were best eaten cooked.  Whether food was stir-fried, braised, or steamed, the sharpness of raw ingredients disappeared, and the flavors would meld together.  Food was in harmony together only when cooked.

It is that kind of upbringing that made it difficult for me to understand how people were tempted by raw cookie dough or batter.  The gritty sugar and the raw flour taste just did not have any appeal to me, but  of course, it did to my kitchen mates in middle school cooking class. I remember that we were supposed to bake chocolate chip cookies–one batch for our school’s bake sale and the other batch for ourselves.  While the batch for our school’s bake sale was followed to the letter, the other batch was improvised on the whim of my group mate who was nibbling on the cookie dough constantly and adding more brown sugar to taste.

The result was a mind-boggling recipe for Martian mud–my friend and I peered into oven and saw the poor cookie dough in a bubbling muddy mess.  Our cooking instructor tried to revive our poor cookie dough by making them into muffins to no avail.  Our dazzling concoction reliably became Martian mud, and I had to scoop out the lumpy mess into the trash.  My friend still giggles about that incident till this day.

In a way, this baking disaster taught me that all things go wrong when you eat raw dough or batter.  Yes, it’s a bit irrational since it was the improvisation of adding excess brown sugar that ruined the cookie dough, but I feel that disasters should be avoided at all cost. I do not need to be reminded of such disasters.

Although now that I have more baking experience, I can see the temptation of raw cookie dough and batter because I realize that the sheer knowledge of having to wait for something sweet and delicious at the end of a long baking time is enough to test someone’s patience.  Why not nibble a bit here and there?  However, that incident in middle school has forever scarred me from ever trying to lick the spatula despite how luscious and rich and intoxicating the smell of, let’s say, a brownie batter.

I usually save my tastings after the baked goods are warm to the touch.  After that, I take a nibble, make some mental notes, and drift off.  Baking loads of goods every so often does that to you.  Not everything piques your attention enough to warrant more than a nibble.  That is, of course, unless you’re talking about Francois Payard’s Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies.

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