Today I begin a year-long quest for myself and this blog. It's all about pushing the limits of my kitchen comfort zone. Lately my cooking has been so uninteresting I'd feel sheepish blogging about it, hence only six posts last year (five of which occurred before Valentine's Day). So to shake things up, this year I am going to cook through a cookbook.
I chose "The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide" by Wai Hon Chu and Connie Lovatt. I think that if I were to describe a perfect food, it would be a dumpling. The authors give a three-part definition of dumplings as carbohydrate-based, boiled or steamed, and not noodles. Within this definition - which allows things like steamed puddings and tamales but not doughnuts or meatballs - there is a staggering variety of recipes and techniques from all around the world.
The book is conveniently organized by month. Recipes are sorted into the seasons they fit best so, while I will be trekking out more to get things like banana leaves and taro, I'll still be able to source many of my ingredients from my favorite local farmers.
I know this is the sort of thing that I should have started on January 1, but really, that's such a hectic time of the year that it's no good for making any major decisions. Fortunately we get to celebrate a second New Year right around the time things have settled down after the first one.
So to mark the inception of the new project, I made a recipe from the January section, actually. They're steamed rice buns for the New Year, called "Fot Gao" in the book but if you want to look them up online, they're spelled "Fatt Koh." They're basically rice flour, sugar, water and leavening mixed together and steamed in muffin cups. Some recipes also include coconut milk, yeast and bright food coloring, but this one used just baking powder and unrefined sugar. The first time I made these, I used white rice ground in my grain mill, but those didn't "bloom" as much during steaming as the ones I made with purchased (Bob's Red Mill) white rice flour. I also cut out 1/4 cup of sugar the second time around with no apparent detriment.
These are very chewy and gooey, and if you aren't likely to eat something like this out of hand, they're really good steamed on top of my morning oatmeal as it boils.