Peanut Butter Chocolate Bao

After my visit to the St Laurent Cake House last week, I decided to make some adjustments to my bao recipe. I used the recipe from Honey and Spice Blog. This time, I actually followed the recipe to the letter, including the overnight proof.

The dough had a different consistency than my normal bao dough. Like what I saw at the bakery, it was soft, pliable, and stretchy. The dough was very easy to handle and naturally formed a uniform round shape.  The water added to egg wash makes for a smoother topping.

The peanut butter paste was made with lentils to obtain the paste consistency texture so familiar with bao.  Chocolate chips can be used, but I prefer the unsweetened, natural flavour of the cacao nib. These are heavy on the protein; great for a snack if you are active.

Peanut Butter Paste

½ C green lentils

2 C water, plus extra

¾ C creamy peanut butter, peanuts only

2 Tbs sugar

Soak lentils in water for an hour. Cook lentils until tender. Puree. Add peanut butter and mix by hand. Add a little more water if too thick to stir. Add sugar. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Bao

Follow Honey and Spice Blog’s recipe for the dough. For the second proofing in my oven at 100F with a pan of hot water.  Add 1-2 tbs of the peanut butter paste. Throw on top a few chocolate chips or some cacao nibs. Add 1-2 tbs of water to egg wash to thin it out. Change baking temp to 360F and time to 16 minutes.

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Stretchy, pliable dough

Stretchy, pliable dough

Filling the bao

Filling the bao

Soft and chewy bao

Soft and chewy bao

Shiki Menya

Ah, Calgary is finally catching up with the ramen trend prevalent in Toronto and Vancouver. Two new ramen shops in less then two months. I took a long lunch for this visit, as they have a limit of 150 bowls a day, and typically run out before dinner. Good thing I arrived early as it is a small shop and a lineup developed soon after.

Our food arrived soon after we ordered. I had the sense that turnover would be quick; ramen is fast food, but cooked slow food style. The char siu tacos were delicious. The pineapple salsa offered a nice kick.

char siu tacos, pineapple salsa

char siu tacos, pineapple salsa

My friend ordered the tonkotsu black. She enjoyed her meal. I had a taste and found that it had a strong flavour of garlic, which I love.

tonkotsu black negi, soft tamago, menma, char siu, corn, black garlic oil, squid ink garlic

tonkotsu black
negi, soft tamago, menma, char siu, corn, black garlic oil, squid ink garlic

I decided to order the tonkotsu classic. The broth was not the creamy white as I might expect from a classic tonkotsu broth. The broth was flavourful; I overheard that they cook it for 16 hours. It was just a tad over salted though. The noodles were homemade. They were very good and they retained the chewy texture expected of ramen noodles. The egg was cooked to a turn and the char siu had a nice flavour.

 tonkotsu classic negi, soft tamago, menma, char siu, spring greens


tonkotsu classic
negi, soft tamago, menma, char siu, spring greens

The service was quick and attentive. I think I will be back to try some of their other selections. As an aspiring home cook learning to make ramen; I appreciate it when a restaurant takes the time to make it from scratch.

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Shiki Menya on Urbanspoon

St Laurent Cake House Tour

I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at the St Laurent Cake House. One of my co-workers is a co-owner of the bakery and this is how I stumbled upon this opportunity. The owner has also worked as a baker in China and at Maxim’s in Vancouver.

My friend Joanne, and I managed to fit ourselves awkwardly in the tiny space that was the bakery. The first thing that came out of the oven was the Chinese style “pigs in a blanket”. I love the taste of fresh from the oven baking. The taste of a freshly baked bao right out of the oven is indescribable. I sampled the BBQ pork, hotdog bun and egg tart.

Being a baker is hard work. The owner typically works from 7am to 10pm. The prep for the next day, which includes fillings and dough is done the previous day. They are fast, and they are efficient. All the baking is done by noon so that is the best time to head down.

In the morning, the items are fresh baked. For the second proofing, they use a specialty oven that maintains humidity at 70%. I think I need something like that for my kitchen, as my buns are never as light and fluffy as they are from a bakery.

They have a large variety of buns and items for a 1-2 person shop. They are known for their delicious cakes which are also made fresh the day they are picked up. Their mango cream cake is super good. The egg tarts are delish, and they are also known for raisin twists.

I also sampled their peanut butter napoleon. The light creamy peanut custard was a nice foil for the layers of puff pastry. There was huge pasta roller like machine for rolling dough to an even thickness, as you would need for this type of pastry.

Their other offerings included: BBQ pork bun, meat roll (pork), curry beef bun, chicken pie, coconut tart, red bean paste bun, taro buns, pineapple custard bun, cocktail bun, walnut bread, sponge cake and an assortment of other pastries similar to a napoleon.

Enjoy the baking while it lasts, as the owners are looking to sell the bakery. It has a put a lot of demand on their life outside of work.

I give credit to Joanne for some of the lovely photography.

Egg tarts

Egg tarts

Pig in a blanket, Chinese style

Pig in a blanket, Chinese style, photo by Joanne

Hotdog buns

Hotdog buns, photo by Joanne

Doh!

Doh!

Kneading doh!

Kneading doh!

Painting egg wash on BBQ pork buns

Painting egg wash on BBQ pork buns

Coconut tart shells, photo by Joanne

Coconut tart shells, photo by Joanne

It's all in the scoop

It’s all in the scoop, photo by Joanne

Raisin twists

Raisin twists, photo by Joanne

Yum.

Yum. Photo by Joanne

Taro bao

Taro bao

An assortment of goodies - egg tart, chicken pie, peanut butter napolean, meat roll and BBQ pork buns

An assortment of goodies – egg tart, chicken pie, peanut butter napolean, meat roll and BBQ pork buns, photo by Joanne

Storefront

Storefront

St Laurent Cake House on Urbanspoon
 

Briggs Kitchen and Bar

My father-in-law was visiting and we wanted to go to a nice restaurant. We rolled the Urbanspoon dice and Briggs Kitchen and Bar came out on top. It’s located in the old Cannery Row space, which has a nice aged, warehouse look complete with exposed brick and wood. I liked the atmosphere. But, how was the food? With chefs like Xavier Lacaze of Top Chef Canada fame, it should be good.

The menu layout, we found a bit confusing, as the appetizers were in the sharing plates section. Some dishes did not come with sides, and the sides were bundled with the sharing plates. No matter, we decided to order the calamari as an appetizer. It was crispy fried served with a side of thousand island like dressing.

Crispy Humbolt Calamari fennel, tomato aioli, lemon

Crispy Humbolt Calamari
fennel, tomato aioli, lemon

Hubby had the roasted chicken. He really enjoyed it. I snuck  in some of his fries and they were crispy and fried to a turn. Father-in-law ordered the 6oz AAA top sirloin and he thought it was quite good. Since he is not from Alberta, he is getting his fill of our fine Alberta beef at every opportunity.

Grilled Half Chicken  house slaw, kennebec fries

Grilled Half Chicken
house slaw, kennebec fries

I was totally famished from my run an hour earlier, so I decided to replenish with carbs. The lobster ravioli was delish. The only complaint was that the sauce was a perhaps a little too heavy on the butter, but on this day I really didn’t mind. I could have eaten two orders of the green beans, they were so good. It helps that I love garlic.

House Filled Lobster Ravioli lemon zest, lobster butter, sweet peas French Green Beans garlic sesame sauce

House Filled Lobster Ravioli
lemon zest, lobster butter, sweet peas
French Green Beans
garlic sesame sauce

We went to town on dessert. We ordered all three of their desserts. The MLF stands for mille feuille. The wafers were a nice crisp contrast to the creamy coffee custard and the crunch of the caramel coffee. This was my favorite so far.

Winter MLF  coffee cream, caramel toffee

Winter MLF
coffee cream, caramel toffee

The chocolate pot had a texture of a lava cake. Crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle. Pure heaven for chocolate lovers.

Chocolate Pot pecan brittle, vanilla ice cream

Chocolate Pot
pecan brittle, vanilla ice cream

Then I tried the lemon pie. I liked this as just as well as the mille feuille. It was a nice finish to the meal, as the clean citrus flavours cleaned up my palate after the attack of the rich chocolate and coffee.

Lemon Pie meringue, lemon ice cream

Lemon Pie
meringue, lemon ice cream

The service was good; the servers didn’t miss a beat and were very friendly. This is a place that I could come back to.

Briggs Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

AÑEJO Restaurant

A friend suggested that we try AÑEJO for lunch as I seemed to be on a Mexican kick. It came highly recommended. So the three of us took our time with a leisurely lunch on Sunday.

We decided to share the bacon wrapped jalapenos and ceviche. It was very tasty and came with a dipping sauce of huitlacoche aioli.  This really intrigued me as huitlacoche is Mexican for corn smut. Fungus that grows on corn. I was disappointed, as any flavor was overwhelmed by the taste of garlic. The dip did pair nicely with the jalapenos. The japalenos were nicely baked and fresh tasting; no deep fry here.

Bacon wrapped jalapeno

Bacon wrapped jalapeno

So back to the huitlacoche. We asked for a sample of it on its own so we could judge the true flavor. They were nice enough to give us a small sample that they would dress their caesar salad with. It came with cilantro in oil. It had a very mild and delicate earthly flavor. It’s one of those things like durian; if you can get past what it looks like in this case, it is delicious. It’s also really nutritious and good for you. A delicacy in Mexico; a plant disease in other parts of the world.

Huitlacoche sampler

Huitlacoche sampler

The shrimp ceviche was delicious as well as the side of jicama salad. It was a nice foil for the richness of the jalapeno appetizer.

Scallop and shrimp ceviche

Scallop and shrimp ceviche

My friend J had the adobe pork taco and the Mexican stew. I sampled a bit of the stew. It was rich and hearty, not quite the light lunch as advertised on the menu. My friend A, had three crispy snapper tacos. I sampled a piece of fish and it went well with a homemade spicy roasted red pepper sauce they had on the table. The fish was a perfect golden brown, and moist.

Pozole "Mexican Stew"

Pozole “Mexican Stew”

For myself I choose something light. The tomatoes on my tuna taco salad were perfectly ripe. Not something that I would expect around this time of year. The home fried tacos with a smidge of refried beans went well with the greens and tuna. It was a perfect main to go along with some heavier shareables.

Tuna taco salad with refried beans and jalapeno ranch dressing

Tuna taco salad with refried beans and jalapeno ranch dressing

I was absolutely full before we decided to order dessert. I love cinnamon and sugar. I thought I died and went to heaven when I sampled the churros with chocolate sauce. One bite and I was hungry again.

Churros with cinnamon and sugar and spiced hot chocolate

Churros with cinnamon and sugar and spiced hot chocolate

The tres leche was quite interesting. The cake was dense, but super moist. The side I was nibbling on was cold, but according to my friends the cake was warm. No matter, I really enjoyed it cold. I thought the sorbet was a tad on the tart side, but the flavours worked well together.

Tres leches, milk cake

Tres leches, milk cake

The server was friendly and the service was very good. But then again it was a slow lunch as the restaurant wasn’t all that full.

This was an over the top meal. I’m not sure why the ratings are on the negative side on Urbanspoon, but this time I will gladly disagree. It smacks of a return visit.

AÑEJO Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tu Tierra

Hubby and I were going to IKEA and we decided to grab dinner before we went shopping.  I’m always on the lookout for authentic Mexican food. We decided to try Tu Tierra.  There was a lineup, but we were seated in 15 minutes. Service was slow to start, seating etc. seemed disorganized. When we got seated, we were twice given menus and asked for drinks. (Which was ok.) They forgot the salsa for us and table next to us for the chips. I would summarize it as the service being inconsistent.

The food was good.  I had the poblano combo. The plate came out super hot, so you know it just came out of the kitchen. The chicken was tender and the mole sauce was tasty.  My only concern was that the bottom of the taco was soggy from sitting in the sauce. I enjoyed the spicy salsa and chips that were served as the appetizer. Hubby had the alambre con queso. He thought it tasted pretty good as well, but the next day woke up feeling unwell with nausea. We suspected it could have been due to his dinner the night before.  The food was perhaps a bit oversalted as I found myself drinking a lot of water in the hours following.

Alambre Con Queso with  seasoned steak, bacon, green bell peppers, sautéed onions,  smothered in melted mozzarella cheese

Alambre Con Queso with
seasoned steak, bacon, green bell peppers, sautéed onions, smothered in melted mozzarella cheese

Poblano Combo with chicken in mole sauce, chiles rellenos and chicken taco

Poblano Combo with chicken in mole sauce, chiles rellenos and chicken taco

Tu Tierra on Urbanspoon

Black Sesame Lentil Bao

I love making bao. So I decided to try something a little different for the Canadian Lentil Recipe Revelations Challenge. I used the Asian flavours of black sesame, and combined them with green lentils to make a filling for my bao.

I used the bao recipe from my red bean paste buns post.

For the sesame paste mixture, I used a sweetened black sesame powder. This can be homemade or bought at an Asian grocery store. I say sweetened as this would be the base for black sesame soup.

Black Sesame Lentil Filling

3/4 C  sweetened black sesame powder

1/2 C   green lentils

2 C      water

Pre-soak the lentils in water in a pot for at least an hour. Bring the water to boiling and cook lentils until tender. Puree the lentils in a blender or immersion blender. They will be a little liquid, that’s ok. Gradually add the black sesame powder. The mixture should form a thick paste. If too watery, add more powder. If too dry, add more water. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before using.

Follow the recipe for making bao as listed above. For steaming, place the bao on parchment paper in a steamer basket. Boil the water and steam until the texture changes to a glossy sponge. You can’t overcook these.

Sweetened black sesame powder and green lentils

Sweetened black sesame powder and green lentils

Pureed green lentils

Pureed green lentils

Filling the bao

Filling the bao

Steamed bao

Steamed bao

Baked bao

Baked bao