Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Daring Bakers' Challenge - Povitica

There are so many cool things about being a part of the Daring Kitchen. Two of the big ones for me are the great people who are a part of the community and the cool new foods we get to make and taste. This month, those two things came together for our Bakers' challenge!

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I had never heard of a povitica before, but after reading through the challenge, I couldn't wait to try one. Then everyone started posting their results on the forums. And they looked outstanding. And, from what they all posted, they tasted even better.

Which, for some reason, totally paralyzed me.

But I finally went for it this weekend.

The dough has a bunch of steps (and uses a whole bunch of dishes), but actually comes together quite easily.

In one bowl, I activated the yeast. In another I melted some butter. In another I cracked eggs and beat them...

A little scalded milk, a bit of flour and a whole bunch of kneading later, I had a beautiful, smooth dough.

And a mere hour and a half later, that little ball of dough turned into...

...a bigger ball of dough! It rose beautifully and retained its beautiful, smooth feel.

Now, I knew that I would be making this a two day process. So I had little miss help me to deflate and re-knead the dough before covering it with plastic wrap and slipping it into the fridge for a slow second rise.

Now, the traditional filling for povitica, as Jenni told us, involves walnuts. Daddy is allergic to walnuts, so we skip those in our house. Pecans always make a good substitution. So, after putting the dough in the fridge, I quickly ground up some pecans so that I could pull together the filling in the morning without waking anyone up with the mini-food-processor.

The first thing that I did in the morning was the pull the dough out of the fridge to allow it to come back up to room temperature.

Then I set to preparing the filling. The recipe that Jenni provided makes enough dough to make four loaves. I prepared a half-batch, so needed filling for two loaves. I chose two different fillings. Both, though, require butter melted in a pot with milk. So I did that in one step.

While the milk and butter did its thing on the stove, I prepared my two fillings - one, the traditional filling (subbing pecans for the walnuts) as outlined in Jenni's recipe, and the other using fresh pumpkin. Because, after all, it is October.

I divided the milk and butter mixture between the two bowls, then little miss helped me stir.

Both bowls.

At once.

And then it was time to get down to business. The dough was divided in half, and then each half was rolled as big and thin as possible. The dough is really strong, and with a little bit of time and patience, I was able to put my rolling skills (honed over several recent challenges, including this one...) to good use.

The dough was still a little chilly, but I went with it... and was able to get it pretty thin.

Then I spread on the filling.

First the pumpkin....

Then the pecan (with a hint of cocoa...).

The idea, once the filling is on the stretched-out dough, is for the whole thing to be rolled up, then curled into a greased loaf pan. Thus, once the bread is baked, each piece has a really cool swirl pattern.

I actually tried two different methods of rolling up the dough to see how it would affect the patterns once the breads were cut. You can see the difference just from the baked loaves.

Interestingly enough, there was not a huge difference on the inside, though. But I pretty much chalk that up to my not really knowing what I was doing when I coiled them into the pans, so couldn't really "plan" the swirls that well... But, regardless, the results were pretty cool.

The pecan and cocoa was little miss's favorite.

And, if you really forced me to choose, I think I might say that the pumpkin was mine.

But they were both delicious, and the dough baked up beautifully. It's really versatile, and I am betting that it would be really, really good with a wide variety of fillings. And the swirl patterns looked even cooler the further into the bread I cut. But at that point I was too busy chomping to take pictures.

Jenni, this was an awesome challenge and an awesome recipe. Thank you so much for your talent, creativity and encouragement this month - I always love baking (and cooking) with you!

And I highly recommend checking out the really cool poviticas baked up in the kitchen this month - I think the Bakers really outdid themselves!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

I am a summer girl. I love the sun, warm weather, playing outside and being barefoot. As a result, the change from Summer to Fall is sometimes a little sad for me. I don't like cold weather. I don't like having to bundle up in layers. I don't like the little leaves that get tracked into my house... BUT, there are some things that I love about the Fall. And pumpkins are very, very high on that list. What makes the chill in the air exciting (okay, bearable...) to me is the thought of all the yummy treats I can make with the fresh harvest bounty.

This year, I decided to jump into pumpkin baking season with a new (to us) recipe that daddy found for pumpkin pull-apart bread. It just looked so good, I knew I had to start there.

There are so many delicious flavors at work in this recipe, and it takes a few steps to prepare, but it is so worth it.

It starts with brown butter. Basically, you put butter in a pan and let it cook until the milk solids begin to turn, well, brown. Then you rescue it before it burns. Because brown butter = tasty, burnt butter = nasty. Trust me.

Most of the dough ingredients, except for (most of...) the flour are mixed together by hand.

Then you can let your stand mixer knead in the flour. Or you can do it by hand if you enjoy that kind of thing. Or if you don't have kids who you may have to pick up quickly, without time to wash the sticky dough off of your hands first... whatever works for you. The end result is a lovely, smooth ball of dough that you cover in plastic wrap and allow to sit for an hour or so.

At some point during that hour, prepare the filling for the bread, which is simply a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, which looks pretty in a bowl and smells delicious in a kitchen.

After the hour, the dough should have doubled. Mine actually more than doubled. I think my yeast was as excited for pumpkin season as I was.

Here is where it gets fun. The dough is punched down (little miss, as usual, helped with that part), then rolled into a rectangle, and then brushed with more brown butter.


Then the butter is sprinkled liberally with the sugar and spice mixture.

Yum again.

There is a LOT of the sugar mixture. Just go with it. Don't think about it, just sprinkle away. Then use your hands to kind of pat it down to help it adhere to the dough and butter. Little miss loved helping with that part, too.

Next came the part that had me... nervous? Perplexed? A little of each, probably... I have read so many pull-apart bread recipes trying to get a better understanding of this process, but none really made it 100% clear, so here's my attempt at explaining what I did, based on my understanding of it...

Using a pizza cutter (it's easiest), cut the butter and sugar and spice covered dough rectangle into six equal strips. Or, as close to equal as you can manage.

Then each of those strips needs to be cut into six. Every recipe I read said to simply stack the six strips on top of one another and cut them all at once. I tried to make my life a little easier by stacking them into two shorter piles - I don't know that my pizza cutter could have gone through all six layers at once, and I wanted to minimize how far I was moving each sugar-coated layer. But you do what works for you.

You now have 36 little rectangles of delicious dough-y goodness. Now start to place the rectangles, one at a time, into a greased loaf pan, and kinda press them together as you go.

As you can see, I tried to be all nice and neat about it when I started. I filled up one side of the loaf pan all neat and fastidious like. Then, seeing that the other "half" of the pan was too narrow to do the same, I was much more haphazard in how I put them in. I'll have to figure out a better method next time, but, in all honesty, it really doesn't matter.

You'll also notice a pretty thick layer of the cinnamon-nutmeg sugar on top of mine. I rolled my dough out on wax paper, which wound up being much smarter than I'd anticipated. The wax paper caught all the spiced sugar that spilled off during the layering/cutting/picking up and moving rectangles parts of the process, and once I had the pieces in the pan, I simply (and carefully...) picked up the waxed paper and tipped the left-behind sugar right back onto the dough. It's like I did it on purpose or something...

All that was left was to let the bread rise once again, then bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Which makes the house smell amazing. Again.

And the results?

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but this was delicious. De. Li. Shus. I would love to show you a picture or two of the slices of this bread, of the interior, of how cool it was to pull off another rectangle every time you walk by the pan... But we ate it all before I could remember to photograph that... So I may have to make it again. You know, just so I can take those pictures for you.

The recipe did call for a (delicious sounding) glaze that I didn't bother with, but I may just try it when I make this again.

Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread
source: Willow Bird Baking

For the bread dough:
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) yeast
2 1/2 cup bread flour (I actually needed about 3 cups, but that might be because I used fresh pumpkin puree, which was more liquidy than canned...)

For the filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

To make the bread dough:
In a medium saucepan over high heat, brown the two tablespoons of butter, stirring once it begins browning, so that it browns evenly. Once it is the color of dark honey, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a large, heat-safe mixing bowl. In the same saucepan, over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it begins to bubble (not boil). Remove the pan from the heat and pour the milk into the same mixing bowl as the butter. Let the butter and milk mixture cool to about 100-110 degrees.

Once the butter and milk have cooled, stir in the sugar and yeast, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then stir in the pumpkin, salt and one cup of the flour. Using the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer, knead in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Once the dough has been incorporated, knead about four minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it (with plastic wrap or a damp cloth). Let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by whisking together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toward the end of the rising time, brown the remaining two tablespoons of butter, the set it aside to cool.

Once the dough has risen, knead a sprinkling of flour (about one tablespoon) into the dough, then let it rest (covered) for another five minutes. On a floured work surface (or, a floured, wax-papered work surface), roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 20 inches by 12 inches, being careful that the dough does not stick to the work surface. If the dough resists being rolled (if it snaps back to its smaller shape when you roll it), cover it and let it rest for about five minutes. Patience is worth it for this.

Using a pastry brush, spread the reserved brown butter over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle it with the cinnamon-nutmeg sugar.

With the long edge of the rectangle towards you, cut the dough into six strips with a pizza cutter. Stack the strips on top of one another and cut this stack into 6 even portions. (It is easiest to accomplish these "cut into six" steps by first cutting each shape into half, then cutting each half into three - it makes it easier to visualize.) Place the cut portions, one at a time, into a greased loaf pan, pressing them up against each other to fit them all in. Cover the pan with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until it (once again) doubles in size.

Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once rise, bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes until it is dark golden brown on top. Allow it to cook for 20-30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Plum-Nectarine Buckle

So as not to leave you hanging, I wanted to share with you the final installment of our adventures with plums. After the plum cobbler and plum dumplings, would you believe that we actually had a few plums left? And after a trip to the produce stand, we had nectarines, too. A quick google search later, I found the perfect confection to try - Plum-Nectarine Buckle.

A buckle is similar to a fruity-coffee cake - a dense cake, fruit, and a crumb topping. How could I not make something like that??

The first step is to cut the fruit. This is also the part that takes the longest.

The next step, which little miss was more than happy to help with, was to make the base batter. She helped me smooth it into the pan, too.

The batter is then topped with the cut fruit, and then sprinkled with the crumb topping.

Simple and straightforward (though it does generate a lot of dishes, but hey... you have to have something to do while things are in the oven!) - my favorite kind of recipe.

And when the timer beeped, we were met with this:

Pure yumminess. Perfect for breakfast, snack, dessert and, well, constant noshing.

This recipe is an absolute keeper. And I think it would work with any number of fruits. I have some strawberries in the fridge and blueberries in the freezer that are calling to me to be turned into a buckle as I type... I can't wait!

Plum-Nectarine Buckle

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (I used cinnamon instead)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup whole milk (I used 1% - it was all we had)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound plums, halved, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges (2 cups)
3/4 pound nectarines, halved, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges (2 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9 inch square cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and set it aside. Whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, the baking powder, allspice (cinnamon), and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and remaining 4 tablespoons or melted butter in another medium bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Spread batter evenly into the buttered pan.

3. Toss the plums, nectarines, lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large bowl. Spread the fruit evenly over the batter.

4. To make the crumb topping, use a fork or your fingers to work together the brown sugar, flour, pinch of salt and softened butter (I added a sprinkle of cinnamon, too) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping on top of the fruit.

5. Bake at 350 until a cake tester (toothpick) inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for an hour before serving.


Friday, October 14, 2011

October Daring Cooks' Challenge - Moo Shu

The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cook and her sister Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood. They challenged us to bring a taste of the East into our home kitchens by making our own Moo Shu, including thin pancakes, stir fry and sauce.

Waaaiiit a minute... Did that say C Mom Cook? Isn't that... here?? Yup! That's me! I got to host this month, and what a fun experience it has been! And with my sister's help, I think we found a great challenge to share with the group. The Daring Cooks' community is awesome and I am so amazed and impressed by all of the members who participated this month.

What follows is pretty much how the challenge was presented to the community. I hope everyone who participated enjoyed it as much as I did, and anyone who didn't, or non-Daring-Cook-readers - give it a try!

I kind of lucked into the position of hosting this challenge – I think I accidentally volunteered when working on a FoodTalk article late last year, but was then so excited to see my name on the hosting schedule, that I just had to go with it. Deciding on what to present, however, was another story. I considered and tested several different ideas before settling in on one.

I am extremely fortunate to have a friend and neighbor who went to culinary school, and with whom I always discuss my latest kitchen adventures. Recently she offered me an unbelievable gift – she offered to loan me her binders and notes from culinary school. I turned each page carefully, amazed by the information, tips, and recipes it contained. And then I saw it. A recipe for Moo Shu. All of the other ideas I'd been tossing around were tossed away. Moo Shu is one of the dishes that introduced me to Chinese food, and remains a favorite of mine. A simple, yet multi-component dish, my challenge was chosen.

The recipe that was included in my neighbor's binder was intended for restaurant use, with fancy ingredients, make-ahead components and scaled very large. Perfect for inspiration, but not the best recipe for a home cook with limited access to specialty ingredients and not needing to feed a restaurant full of people. After poring through cookbooks and websites, I selected the recipe for this challenge because it is both accessible and adaptable to a variety of dietary requirements, while maintaining authenticity to what Moo Shu is supposed to be.

Deh-Ta Hsiung, a renowned authority on Chinese cuisine, published a beautiful book called The Chinese Kitchen. The book is a wonderful and encyclopedic volume containing a wealth of information about all aspects of Chinese cooking, from ingredients to process to history. The recipes are accessible, flavorful, and clearly written. His recipe for Moo Shu, like the others, is straightforward and delicious, and is what I am sharing with you for our challenge.

In preparation for this challenge, I contacted Mr. Deh-Ta Hsiung, who is pleased to have his recipe as our challenge. Mr. Hsiung is widely considered an international expert on Chinese cooking, though his original work was in the arts and film-making. Chinese cooking was his passion, though, and he proceeded to take lessons from top Chinese chefs and work in professional kitchens around the world. Having written numerous books and articles, Mr. Hsiung is a respected authority in the world of Chinese cooking.

About this dish, specifically, Mr. Hsiung offered us a brief anecdote from his earliest work, regarding the origins of this dish's name. In The Home Book of CHINESE COOKERY, Mr. Hsiung discusses the dish as follows:

Some explanation is needed for the name of this dish. In China, we have a tree called kwei; according to my dictionary, kwei is called laurel in English, and it is a shrub rather than a tree; but the laurels we have in the garden of our London home never seem to flower at all, while the Chinese laurel is a large tree which produces bright yellow, fragrant flowers in the autumn. The pork in this recipe is cooked with eggs, which give a yellow colour to the dish – hence the name. But to add to the confusion, the Chinese name of this dish is mu-hsu pork, mu hsu being the classical name for laurel (are you still with me?). So you might say that calling it pork laurel is taking a poetic license.


Simply put, Moo Shu is a stir fry, containing thinly sliced or shredded vegetables, meat (traditionally) and scrambled egg. It is usually served on flat, thin, steamed pancakes, and is accompanied by a complementary sauce.

Moo Shu pork (the protein most commonly used in Moo Shu dishes) originates in Northern China (commonly attributed to the Shandong province, though sometimes attributed to Beijing), rising in popularity in Chinese restaurants in the West in the 1960's and 70's. As the dish became more popular, different restaurants adapted the recipe to meet their own styles, or to accommodate for expensive or hard-to find ingredients, so there is a lot of variation among recipes. Common among them, though, is a basis of cabbage and the inclusion of scrambled eggs.

The history and etymology of the dish are widely disputed, as indicated by Mr. Hsiung's anecdote above. There are two primary theories as to the origin of the name. Many, including the author of our challenge recipe, suggest that the Chinese characters, read as mu xi, refer to a tree that blooms with small, fragrant blossoms. They suggest that the scrambled egg in this dish is reminiscent of these blossoms, and thus a variety of egg dishes are referred to as mu xi. An alternative suggestion uses the Chinese characters reading mu xu, roughly translating to wood whiskers or wood shavings. The dish is thus named, it is said, due to the appearance of the shredded vegetables and meat, resembling wooden whiskers, or wooden shavings that were used as packing materials.

Recipe Source: The challenge recipe provided for the Moo Shu filling comes from The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung. The pancake recipe comes from the same source, though we have also provided an alternate method for preparing them, adapted from a variety of online demonstrations. The sauce recipe provided is from


A few notes about the traditional main ingredients of a Moo Shu stir-fry:

The primary vegetable within the Moo Shu stir fry is generally cabbage. While there are many varieties of cabbage available, the most traditional for this style of dish is the Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage.

Chinese cabbage is a traditionally cool weather crop which thrives during the shorter days of the year, so it is normally planted during the second half of the calendar year. It generally reaches maturity within about three months after planting. In order to provide a continual supply of the vegetable, a late crop is planted in areas with appropriate conditions. There are several varieties of Chinese cabbage, which all have delicate, sweet flavors, and blend well with the other foods with which it is cooked. It also holds up well to various cooking methods, which is why it makes a good base for dishes such as Moo Shu. Stored in the crisper of the refrigerator, Chinese cabbage can keep for up to ten days.

Scallions, also known as green onions or Spring onions, are milder than most other species of onion. They may be eaten raw or cooked, and are very common in Asian recipes. Scallions are generally sold in bunches with the roots still attached. Stored properly, in a plastic box to allow them to breathe, they can keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots of a variety of bamboo species. They are available fresh, dried and canned. Fresh bamboo shoots must be parboiled to eliminate a harsh, bitter poison, hydrocyanic acid, prior to being eaten or used in recipes. Dried bamboo shoots must be soaked prior to use. Both parboiled fresh and reconstituted dried bamboo shoots need to be rinsed with fresh water as the final preparation step. Canned bamboo shoots are parboiled and require no reconstitution, though should also be rinsed.

One of my favorite quotes about bamboo from The Chinese Kitchen is as follows:
Traditionally, the bamboo symbolizes the virtuous man, bending in the wind yet never breaking.

Not generally a word most casual Westerners associate with food, there are a wide variety of mushrooms that are used in Asian cooking. The specific fungus specified in Mr. Hsiung's recipe is dried black fungus, which has long been cultivated in China. While there are many different varieties available in China, there are only a few commonly available in the West. Stored in a dry, dark place just as they are packaged, they can last indefinitely. Once reconstituted, they can be stored for up to five days in the refrigerator in a bowl of fresh water.

Thin Pancakes:

Makes 24-30 pancakes
Preparation time: about 10 minutes plus 30 minutes' standing time
Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

4 cups (960 ml) (560 gm) (19¾ oz) all purpose flour
About 1½ cup (300ml) (10 fl oz) boiling water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vegetable oil
Dry flour for dusting


  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Gently pour in the water, stirring as you pour, then stir in the oil. Knead the mixture into a soft but firm dough. If your dough is dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, to reach the right consistency. Cover with a damp towel and let stand for about 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust the surface of a worktop with dry flour. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes or until smooth, then divide into 3 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a long sausage and cut each sausage into 8-10 pieces. Keep the dough that you are not actively working with covered with a lightly damp dish cloth to keep it from drying out.
  3. Roll each piece into a ball, then, using the palm of your hand, press each piece into a flat pancake. Dust the worktop with more dry flour. Flatten each pancake into a 6 to 8 inch (15 cm to 20 cm) circle with a rolling pin, rolling gently on both sides.
  4. Place an un-greased frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, lower the heat to low and place the pancakes, one at a time, in the pan. Remove when little light-brown spots appear on the underside. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to serve.

Alternate method for preparing the pancakes:
Once the dough has rested and been kneaded again, divide it into an even number of small pieces, rolling each into a ball. Working with two balls of dough at a time, dip the bottom of one ball lightly into sesame oil and press it onto the top of the second ball. Press the double layer flat, then roll the doubled pancake layers into 6 to 8 inch circles. In a dry pan, cook on each side until dry and lightly blistered (but without browning). Separate pancakes after cooking.


Alternately (I know, an alternate to the alternate...), if you would prefer not to dip the dough in the sesame oil, you can achieve a similar result with a slight modification. Again working two pieces at a time, roll each piece into a three inch pancake. Using a pastry brush, brush sesame oil onto the top of one of the pancakes, and top it with the other pancake. Further roll the doubled pancake into a 6 to 8 inch circle and cook as the above alternate method. This method was actually our favorite of the three, and yielded the best results – very thin pancakes that held up a little better and had the most authentic texture. We had the best luck brushing a bit of sesame oil on both circles of dough, then sandwiching them together. Just be careful separating the pancakes after cooking them on both sides – heat (steam) does get caught between them, so don't burn your fingers!


Links to a video demonstrating these alternate methods can be found in the Additional Information section below.


  • Be sure to use very hot-to-boiling water, as it helps relax the gluten, which will aid in rolling the pancakes super thin.
  • Adjust the heat of your pan as needed to cook the pancakes without burning them. I had to keep my burner on medium (rather than low) heat in order for my pancakes to cook properly (low was drying them out too much without cooking them fully), so watch your pancakes carefully.
  • If the pancakes are not to be used as soon as they are cooked, they can be warmed up, either in a steamer for 5-6 minutes, or in a microwave oven for 20-30 seconds, depending on the power.
  • And, in case you are curious, we both asked our local Chinese food restaurants about their Moo Shu pancakes, and they informed us that they purchase them prepared, and simply steam them for their customers as they order the dish.

Moo Shu Pork:

Serves 4
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking time: 6-8 minutes

2/3 cup (1 oz) (30 gm) Dried black fungus ('wood ears')
½ lb (450 gm) pork loin or butt
¾ cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) bamboo shoots, thinly cut
3 cups (6 oz) (170 gm) Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage), thinly cut
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
4 tablespoons (60 ml) vegetable oil
2 scallions
1 tablespoon (15 ml) light soy sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rice wine
A few drops sesame oil
12 thin pancakes to serve

  1. Soak the fungus in warm water for 10-15 minutes, rinse and drain. Discard any hard stalks, then thinly shred.
  2. Thinly cut the pork, bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage into matchstick-sized shreds.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil in a preheated wok and scramble the eggs until set, but not too hard. Remove and keep to one side.
  5. Heat the remaining oil. Stir-fry the shredded pork for about 1 minute or until the color changes. Add the fungus, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage and scallions. Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining salt, soy sauce and wine. Blend well and continue stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the scrambled eggs, stirring to break them into small bits. Add the sesame oil and blend well.
  6. To serve: place about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of hot Moo Shu in the center of a warm pancake, rolling it into a parcel with the bottom end turned up to prevent the contents from falling out. Eat with your fingers. (See Final Preparation and Serving section below for more complete details.)


  • I have used white mushrooms and dried black mushrooms in this recipe, but any variety of mushrooms, either fresh or reconstituted dry, can be used.
  • I did all of my chopping ahead of time and set all of the chopped ingredients aside in separate bowls. The cutting was the longest part of the process. Once I started cooking, it really came together quickly and beautifully.
  • In a pinch, you can use pre-chopped cabbage, usually sold as a cole slaw blend, as the basis of your Moo Shu.
  • If the stir fry is ready ahead of time, you can reduce the burner to low and cover the pan until you are ready to serve.

Hoisin Sauce:


While most restaurants, or at least those at which I have ordered the dish, serve this with plum sauce, none of the cook books or online recipes that I have seen have referred to that as being traditional. Most that reference serving it with a sauce call for it to be served with hoisin sauce.

4 tablespoons (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) peanut butter OR black bean paste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey OR molasses
2 teaspoons (10 ml) white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) garlic powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sesame seed oil
20 drops (¼ teaspoon) Chinese style hot sauce (optional, depending on how hot you want your hoisin sauce)
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml) black pepper

Simply mix all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy spoon.
At first it does not appear like it will mix, but keep at it just a bit longer and your sauce will come together.

Final Preparation and Serving:

Each of the three components that comprise the complete Moo Shu dish are served separately, and the diner prepares each serving on his or her own plate. Most restaurants provide four pancakes, a serving of Moo-Shu and a small dish of hoisin sauce as a single serving. To prepare each pancake for eating, the following is the most common process: a small amount of hoisin sauce is spread onto the pancake, on top of which a spoonful of the stir-fry is placed. In order to prevent (or, realistically, minimize) the filling from spilling out while eating, the bottom of the pancake is folded up, then the pancake is rolled, similarly to a soft taco. Once rolled, the prepared pancake is eaten immediately.

You can take a look at all the wonderful versions of Moo Shu that were cooked up this month here.

And thank you again for cooking with me this month, Daring Cooks! You guys are the best!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plum Dumplings

Remember that plum cobbler from last week? It wasn't really a fluke... it was just the tip of the iceberg.

You see, for many years, my mother in law has told stories about her childhood. For a time, her Nana lived with her family, and we have heard many tales of the traditional Eastern European foods that she ate as a result. One delicacy that she lovingly remembers are plum dumplings - whole plums wrapped in potato dough, covered in a mixture of butter and bread crumbs.

But in all these years, we've never tried them.

Until now. Nana found the Italian plums and set forth the challenge - let's recreate her Nana's plum dumplings.

We perused many recipes, then settled on this one, but, if I am going to be completely honest, we used the recipe as a guideline, not as a strict set of instructions.

The first step was to make the dough, which was very similar to gnocchi dough, something with which I am already pretty comfortable. One difference this time? Nana loaned me her potato ricer!

Man, that thing made mashing up those potatoes a cinch! Once the potatoes were riced and cooled, they were simply mixed with eggs, salt and flour.

A little hand-kneading and, voila!

Dough in hand, we headed over to my in-laws' house for the actual preparation. They found these beautiful Italian plums, small and perfect for wrapping.

Instead of measuring and/or rolling out the dough, we did it the old fashioned way - by hand and by feel. Nana started us out, enclosing the plums in the potato dough.

It was kind of a sticky process, but it worked out decently. Using what I had learned from making gnocchi, we were careful not to handle the dough too much, so that the dumplings would wind up as light as possible. Little miss was quality assurance, making sure that each plum was fully enclosed, with no purple poking its way out.

Once we'd enclosed all of the plums that we could using the amount of dough that we had, we were ready to boil them. We put as many in the pot as we could without crowding them, as we didn't want them to stick together.

The one thing were were unsure about was the cooking time. Depending on which recipe you look at, they cook for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. That's quite a range... so we just put them in the boiling water and waited to see what would happen... And we were pleasantly pleased to watch them rise to the surface of the water as they cooked! Keep in mind that's a whole plum, pit and all, inside each of those dumplings - and they all floated! We were amazed.

While they cooked, we prepared our topping.

Butter, bread crumbs and a touch of cinnamon sugar. Super easy, super tasty. Dumplings done, they were drained and put right into the pan of breadcrumbs.

Then came the real test - how were they? Not wanting to wait, we actually had what we call "backwards day" that night - we had our dumplings for "dinner" and our "real" dinner afterwards (and, in true backwards day fashion, called the real dinner, "dessert".) So we each started with a dumpling, generously covered in crumbs.

So how were they?

I think they were pretty good! Nana said that they were just like her Nana's. I think it was pretty nostalgic for her. And I think it was pretty cool watching my kids' Nana share something with them that her Nana shared with her. If that sentence makes sense...

These were a hit with the whole family, too - the dough wound up pretty light, which was great, and the plums were juicy and delicious.

All in all, it was a taste of generations past and I was really glad to be a part of it.

And, by the way, there were some leftover plums. Want to know what we made with them? Stay tuned!

Plum Dumplings
for dumplings:
5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, riced and cooled (my potatoes were a little smaller than I'd consider medium, so I used 7)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of salt
2 -2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
16-18 Italian prune plums

for topping:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine the riced potatoes, eggs, and salt. When well combined, add the dough and knead together (I did this by hand) until a soft dough forms. (My dough took just over 2 cups, not the full 2 1/2 cups.) Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Place a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Meanwhile enclose each plum in the potato dough. You can choose the method that works for you - either rolling out the dough and cutting out squares in which to wrap each plum or simply taking hands-full of the dough, flattening it in your hands and carefully wrapping the plums. Go with what works for you, just make sure that the plums are fully enclosed. Carefully lower each plum into the fully boiling water. Boil 15-30 minutes, until they float. (Ours took about 15-20 minutes.)

3. While the dumplings are boiling, prepare the topping. Melt the butter in a large skillet, then add the bread crumbs. Carefully brown the bread crumbs, then stir in the cinnamon sugar. Once the dumplings are cooked, drain them and place them into the skillet with the topping, making sure to coat each one well. Serve and enjoy!
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