To those who follow my blog, I am sorry as I have not been updating as frequently as I should. However that mean I haven’t been cooking and baking. Dishes that I have baked and cooked lately just doesn’t come out as great as I wished and was hoping for. Therefore I felt like I was having baker’s block haha a baker’s version of a writer’s block 🙂 So i decided to quit being lazy and feeling sorry for myself and keep on baking. To get my motivation going again, I recently bought a great cookbook after reading all the reviews… Asian Dumpling by Andrea Nguyen. I wanted to make everything in that book, it was hard narrowing down which recipes to try first. Since I got this book before Chinese New Years, it seems suitable that I went with a Chinese New Year snack Sesame Seed Balls. These tasted exactly like store bought ones except fresher and yummier! And I even made my own filling, Sweetened Red Bean Paste , instead of buying from the can and it was definitely rewarding.
Sweetened Red Bean Paste
2/3 C of dried adzuki or small red beans
5 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1. Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl, and cover them with 1 inch of water. Discard any floaters. Let beans soak for 8 to 9 hours.
2. Drain the beans and put them in a small saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to gently simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are very soft. Some will split open. Press on one, and it should crush easily with little pressure. Remove from the heat and drain in a mesh strainer; let drain for 5 minutes to remove excess moisture. Wash the saucepan.
3. Combine the beans and the white and brown sugars in a food processor. Puree into a smooth chocolate brown mixture, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary.
4. Combine the oil and the pureed beans in the saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, or until the beans have pulled away from the sides of the pan and thickened into a soft paste. The paste will darken as it cooks and dries out.
5. Transfer the paste to a bowl and set aside at room temperature to cool completely. To prevent drying and promote even cooling, occasionally stir the paste as it sits and thickens. Use the paste after cooling. Refrigerate it for up to a week or freeze up to a month.
Sesame Seed Balls
Makes about 22 balls
6 tbsp of sweetened red bean paste
1 3/4 C sweet rice flour
2/3 C water
2/3 C lightly packed light brown sugar
1/3 C raw sesame seeds
Canola or peanut oil, for deep frying
1. Measure 1 level tsp of paste for each dumpling and roll each portion into a small ball. Put on a plate, cover, and set aside. If you are using the peanut filling, put it in a small bowl.
2. Put the rice flour in a bowl and make a large well in the center. Have a small bowl of water nearby for wetting your hands later. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the candy and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour the sugar syrup into the rice flour. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine, stirring and eventually pressing the ingredients into the ball. Transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth.
3. Cut the dough into 3 pieces. Take a piece and give it a gentle squeeze. This dough tends to dry quickly due to the hot water evaporating. If cracks form, wet your hands and squeeze on the dough. Roll it on your work surface into a chubby log about 6 inches long. The extra water should soften and smooth the dough out. Cut long into 6 even-size pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces to yield 18 balls total.
4. For each dumpling , take a ball of dough and make a deep indentation to create a little cup. Aim to to make the cup about 1 inche deep. Put a ball of paste or 1 teaspoon of ground peanut mixture in the well, tapping it down a bit. Close the cup, making sure that the filling is enclosed. Pinch and twist off an extra dough and seal well. Roll the dumpling between your hands to make it perfectly round and smooth, wet your hands if the dough feels dry. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap.
5. Put the sesame seeds in a small bowl. Put the dumplings in the sesame bowl to coat it well with the seeds, then put it back on your work surface. Repeat with the remaining balls.
6. To deep fry the balls, use a wok or pot for example a 4 quart pot. Near the stove, have a platter or baking sheet lined with several thicknesses of paper towel. Pour in the oil about 2 1/2 inches. Heat over medium high heat to just below 350F. Fry the balls 6 at a time for 7 to 8 minutes carefully lowering each one into the oil. The balls will lazily fry at the bottom of the pot for about 2-4 minutes before floating to the surface. After they rise use the back of a metal spoon or spatula to re-submerge each one in the oil and to gently press it against the side of the pan. Press and hold for 1 to 2 seconds and release, you will see the balls expand a but. Keep pressing and releasing until the balls are about 2 1/2 times its original size. When the balls are about 2 inches in diameter, stop pressing and fry a little longer until they are golden brown. Once they are done, take it out to drain on the paper towl. Repeat the same with the remaining balls. Adjust the heat during frying so that it remains from 340F-360F