Quarantine Bake Along: Banana Bread

I cannot remember the last time J and I have purchased bananas for ourselves–I don’t think in the almost 3 years of us being married we’ve had bananas sitting on the counters. It’s because neither of us really care for them. Banana bread, however, is a different story, but because we never have bananas around, banana bread is never an option.

Our housemate has bananas often, however, and had a few that were past their prime. The perfect opportunity to make banana bread! I’ve been eyeing a sourdough banana bread recipe on The Perfect Loaf for about a month and was finally able to try it out.

This loaf is beautifully balanced, light but wholesome and with just a hint of sweetness. My perfect kind of banana bread. It’s always disappointing to me when I bite into a loaf that tastes like mush or is as sweet as cake.

Sourdough Banana Bread Recipe

  • 240g (2 cups) spelt, whole wheat, einkorn, all-purpose flour, or a mix
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt
  • 125g (1 cup) chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips
  • 126g(1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 cup lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g (3/4 cup, stirred down) sourdough starter*
  • 42g (2 tablespoons) raw honey
  • 3 super ripe medium mashed bananas
  • 28g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • 4g (1 teaspoon) vanilla
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)

*If you don’t have sourdough starter, my favorite regular banana bread recipe is here.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another bowl (or a stand mixer) cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. While mixing, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in sourdough starter, honey, mashed bananas, and olive oil. Add in the vanilla. Then, add in the flour mixture slowly, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary. By hand, fold in the nuts/chocolate chips and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the 9” x 5” baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake for 55-65 minutes. It’s better to undercook this than overcook: you want it moist. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then gently remove onto a wire rack to thoroughly cool.

Adapted from The Perfect Loaf.

Quarantine Bake Along: Biscuits

Of all the quick breads out there, I gotta say that biscuits are at the top for my favorite alongside scones. There’s nothing like tearing open a warm, flaky biscuit and slathering it with honey butter. We often make them for breakfast, but they’re a welcoming option alongside any meal.

I have a few favorite recipes when it comes to biscuits, and it all kind of depends on what I have on hand and what I plan to use them for. I tend towards buttermilk varieties because I love the added flavor and tang that it lends. However, I know most people don’t often have buttermilk in their fridges, so I have back up regular milk and yogurt recipes as well. Find whichever suits your tastes and with what you have available!

A Brief Biscuit History

Several 19th-century innovations helped us get to what’s now recognized as the Southern biscuit. Better mills and increased wheat production dropped the price of flour enough that poorer Southerners could afford to buy flour. The development of chemical leavening agents, such as potassium carbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and sodium bicarbonate (what we now know as baking soda) helped biscuits rise without yeast or beaten eggs, creating the light and fluffy biscuits we know and love.

Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Add flour into a medium bowl, then add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well combined (this may take a minute or more). Add cubed butter, toss to break up the pieces, and smash each cube flat. Continue smashing and rubbing until butter has mostly disappeared into a floury mix, although a few larger, Cheerio-sized pieces may remain.
  3. Add buttermilk and stir with a flexible spatula until the flour has been fully absorbed. The dough will seem rather crumbly and dry at first, but keep mixing until it finally comes together. Once the dough forms a rough ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. Using your bare hands, gently pat dough into a squarish shape about 1/2 inch thick, then fold in half; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds, using only enough flour to keep your hands from sticking. Finish by patting the dough to a thickness of 3/4 inch. Dust away any excess flour, if necessary, then cut dough into 3-inch rounds and arrange closely in a cast iron skillet. Gather scraps into a ball, pat and fold a single time, then cut as many more biscuits as you can. The final round of scraps can be gathered and shaped into a single biscuit by hand.
  5. Bake biscuits until they are well risen and golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Let biscuits cool about 5 minutes to help set their crumb, then serve fresh.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

Classic Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.) Return dough to bowl, add milk and stir until it forms a rough ball.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.
  4. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Adapted from NYT Cooking.

Yogurt Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F.
  2. Sift flour into a medium bowl, then add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk until well combined. Add the butter, toss to break up the pieces, and smash each cube flat. Continue smashing and rubbing until the butter has mostly disappeared into a floury mix, although a few larger pieces may remain. This can also be done with 4 or 5 pulses in a food processor.
  3. Add yogurt, and stir with a flexible spatula until the flour has been fully absorbed. The dough will seem rather crumbly and dry at first, but keep mixing until it finally comes together. Once the dough forms a rough ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. With your bare hands, gently pat the dough into a squarish shape about 1/2 inch thick, then fold in half; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds, using only enough flour to keep your hands from sticking. Finish by patting the dough to a thickness of 3/4 inch. If needed, dust away any excess flour, then cut into 1 3/4-inch rounds and arrange in a cast iron skillet or round cake pan. Gather scraps into a ball, pat and fold a single time, then cut as many more biscuits as you can. The final round of scraps can be gathered and shaped into a single biscuit by hand.
  5. Bake until the biscuits are well-risen and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let the biscuits cool about 5 minutes to help set their crumb, then serve as desired. Leftovers can be stored up to a week in an airtight container; to serve, split the stale biscuits in half, brush with melted butter, arrange on a baking sheet, and broil until golden brown.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

Quarantine Make Along: Potsticker Dumplings (鍋貼, Guōtiē)

There’s much that I appreciate about my Asian heritage, especially the food, more so now than ever. Growing up Asian American was difficult and I felt like I had to subdue my Asian culture in order to be “cooler.” Along with this came me not appreciating a lot of traditional Asian foods that I am now so thankful for. Dumplings fell under that list of things. I have no idea why I didn’t like them that much growing up because now I fricken love them, especially in potsticker form.

Homemade potstickers/dumplings do take a bit of effort to make, but they’re so worth it. They taste SO much better. And they remind me of my childhood. These ones that I made are pork loin and cabbage. My mom always makes them with pork, shrimp, and Chinese chives. No matter what combination you use, they’ll turn out tasty!

A Brief Potsticker/Dumpling History

Dumplings have been around for over 1,800 years and potstickers have been enjoyed since the Song dynasty (960 to 1280 A.D.). According to legend, they were invented by a chef in China’s Imperial Court, who accidentally burnt a batch of dumplings after leaving them on the stove for too long. With no time to prepare a new batch, the chef served the dumplings with the burnt side on top, announcing that they were his own special creation. Fortunately, court members loved them.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Ingredients

Wrappers

  • 300g all purpose flour
  • 200 ml boiling water
  • Pinch of salt

Filling

  • 2/3 lb (300g) pork, shrimp, beef, or mix (can make vegetarian with tofu or mushrooms)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 lb (200g) finely chopped vegetables (cabbage, bok choy, leeks, chives)
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar (or your favorite Asian vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon laoganma chili crisp or chili oil

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, salt and boiling water in a large bowl you have a rough ball shape. Remove from the bowl and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine the protein, baking soda, corn starch, seasonings, and liquid ingredients. Stir vigorously in one direction until all the liquid is absorbed and the pork begins to bind to itself. Mix in the vegetables, spring onions, ginger and garlic.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface. Divide each piece of rested dough into 16 even-sized pieces. Lightly dust the dough pieces with flour. Place a piece onto the work surface with its cut side down, and flatten with a floured palm. Roll each piece of dough into a thin disc, roughly 3″ in diameter.
  4. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling into the center of each wrapper. Fold over into a half moon shape. Cradle the wrapper in one hand and use the other hand to create pleats along the edge furthest away from you, pinching the two edges together after each pleat as you go, to create a crescent shape. Avoid getting any filling on the edges and be sure to pinch firmly as you pleat to create a good seal.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the dumplings flat side down for about 2 minutes until a golden crust forms on the bottom. Add the cold water and immediately cover with a lid. Let the steam cook the dumplings for 8 minutes or until all the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and let the dumplings to cook for a further minute until they lift off from the bottom of the pan easily.
  6. While the dumplings are cooking, prepare the dipping suace by mixing sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and laoganma.
  7. Serve the dumplings in a big pile, making sure to show off the golden bottoms. Drizzle the spicy soy sauce on top, or serve on the side for dipping.
  8. You can always freeze the dumplings that you don’t use and pop them out whenever you want to eat them!

Adapted from Dumpling Sisters.

Quarantine Bake Along: Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅, Cōng Yóu Bǐng)

My late grandpa used to make delicious scallion pancakes for our family. He taught my mom his recipe and she has been making them ever since. Growing up, I would often have them in the freezer at the ready. My mom would also bring them to me during her visits when I was in college. Scallion pancakes have gotten me through plenty of empty refrigerator/pantry times throughout the years.

I introduced these to J when we were dating, and now he probably likes them more than I do. I finally got around to asking my mom for the recipe so now I make them whenever we have extra scallions. They take a bit of time but it’s always nice to have a stack of scallion pancakes in the freezer for when you want a snack. We often eat them for breakfast with a fried egg too.

A Brief Scallion Pancake History

The scallion pancake has been around for so long and its origins have passed into myth, folklore, and guesswork. It’s difficult to tell where it was first created, but many of the tales point to Shanghai, China (where my dad is from!). The scallion pancake greatly resembles an Indian flatbread known as paratha. There is a story in China that suggests pizza is an adaptation of the scallion pancake, brought back to Italy by Marco Polo. Marco Polo missed scallion pancakes so much that when he was back in Italy, he tried to find chefs willing to make the pancake for him. Not finding success, Marco Polo suggested the filling be put on top rather than inside the dough. The change, by chance, created a dish that formed into today’s pizza.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or neutral oil
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the dough. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour and cup of boiling water with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms. The dough should be sticky, but not wet.
  2. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it forms a cohesive, smooth dough. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the flour and oil roux by combining the oil, salt, and flour. It needs to have the consistency of a paste–continue adding more flour if needed to get desired consistency. Set aside.
  4. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece out into a thin circle. Next, take about 1 teaspoon of the roux and spread it across the entire circle of the dough. Take about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the chopped scallions and spread them generously and evenly over the roux.
  5. Next, roll the dough up into a log and then shape that log into a spiral (see photos). Using a rolling pin, roll out the spiral to desired thickness of pancake. Be gentle but don’t worry if the scallions tear through the layers. Just stuff them back in and keep rolling. Repeat with the rest.
  6. At this time, I’ll often stack the pancakes with layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper between each, stuff them into a plastic bag, and then freeze them for future use.
  7. When ready to cook, heat a pan over medium low heat until hot. Place the pancake in the pan. The pan should be hot enough so the dough is sizzling, but browning slowly. When the bottom is browned, turn the pancake over gently and let brown on the other side.
  8. Remove pancake and enjoy! If you like, now’s the time to sprinkle some extra salt on top to taste.

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao)

I’ve been wanting to make homemade cha shao bao for a while now. I finally got my hands on some good BBQ pork (thanks mom!) and asked my grandma for her amazing man tou (steamed bread bun) recipe. Combine the two, and voila! You get these steamed pork buns.

When I called my grandma asking about her recipe, I should’ve expected that she would say she doesn’t have one. She just eyeballs and throws a bunch of things together. I was trying to listen to her list off her “recipe” in mandarin and translating it into something I could put numbers to. She said things like 3 spoons of oil and an unknown amount of warm water haha. I decided to give it a shot and it actually turned out!

This was my first time making them so they definitely didn’t come out 100%. I’ll continue learning with each time, but they’re still tasty either way. My first steam batch was a huge fail. I called my mom to ask what could’ve happened and she made me realize that I didn’t let the buns rise long enough the second time. My grandma didn’t mention a second rise so I’m glad my mom came to the rescue with that, saving the rest of the buns!

Ingredients

Steamed Bun Dough

  • 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup warm water (90-110 F)

BBQ Pork Filling

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3/4 pound BBQ pork, diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • Red chili flakes, optional, to taste
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dough with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. It should come into a shaggy ball and most all the flour should be absorbed. Add more water or flour in small increments as necessary if not the right consistency.
  2. Place dough on clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, just a few minutes.
  3. Return dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. In the meantime, make the filling. Add the sesame oil into a large pan and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent and fragrant, several minutes. Add in the rice wine and let it cook and evaporate. Then, add in the pork and cook together for a few minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, combine all the rest of the filling ingredients except for the scallions. Stir well to dissolve corn starch and make a slurry.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture into the pan and cook until filling has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add in the scallions and stir. Set aside.
  7. Cut up 16 little squares from parchment paper or gather 16 cupcake liners.
  8. Once done rising, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 equally sized balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Roll each dough ball into rounds that are approximately 3.5″ diameter, making the middle portion thicker than the edges.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the round. Fold by pleating the tops and then pinching it all together at the center.
  11. Place the bun onto a parchment square and set aside. Repeat for all 16 buns and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until double in size, between 15-60 minutes, depending on the temperature.
  12. Prepare steamer (preferably bamboo) with water and place over high heat to get it boiling. Add buns to the steam basket and steam for 12 minutes on high heat. Be sure not to check on the buns/remove the lid.
  13. Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes before enjoying!