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French King Cake (Galette des Rois)

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This is a popular January dessert, traditionally eaten for epiphany, but I make it all year round. It is a perfect last-minute dessert, for potluck, dinner guest, or work friend's birthday you almost forgot. It will look like more effort than you'd put in.

The whole dish comprises just two components: puff pastry, and frangipane. Egg-wash/decoration completely optional, but strongly recommended - for 30 seconds of effort, it'll look a lot more impressive!

Ingredients:

2 sheets of puff pastry (~9-inch)
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup granulated sugar or 3/4 cup powdered sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Instruction:

Cream butter with sugar just until mixed. Add eggs one at a time, then mix in almond meal and vanilla. Cut out 2 round puff pastry sheets by using a lid or plate as mold. Add the stuffing to the center and spread until there's ~1 inch margin. Brush the margin with egg whites to help the sheets stick. Fold the other sheet of pastry on top.…

Single-Serve Beef Wellington

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Beef Wellington is easily among the holiday favorites. This crowd pleaser dish can be finicky to nail. If ingredients aren't properly wrapped and chilled, you risk leakage that would turn the pastry soggy. Exact baking time of the wrapped dish varies with the size of the roast - the steak can easily be over-baked by the time the pastry is puffed, or pastry can be burned while the steak is still raw. Practice makes perfect, but buying whole tenderloins to practice can get expensive.

This is my shortcut to get the same dining experience at a fraction of the time & investment, with the added perk that you don't have to wait for a big gathering to enjoy the dish. These individual beef wellingtons can easily be made on any weekday night. No wrapping, no tricky timing, no need to buy a whole tenderloin and risk ruining it. Each component is cooked individually & reassembled. I'm making a minimalist version here, feel free to add Parma ham and/or pate if that's how …

3 Ingredient Pumpkin Mochi, Halloween Treat Made Easy!

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This is an unforgettably easy mochi recipe. It will work with  any type of sweet pumpkin/squash - butternut, acorn, kabocha, whatever you have at hand. The core of pumpkin mochi boils down to 2 ingredients: pumpkin, and mochiko, in 2:1 ratio by weight. Everything else is really optional.

I'm making this with a black sesame paste filling, because black & orange just feels more Halloween. But feel free to skip the hassle, this works great with store bought red bean paste or edible cookie dough (the pasteurized kind without baking soda). You can also just skip the fillings altogether and just slice and pan fry the dough, if you're not entertaining anyone.

Ingredients:

mochi dough:
1/2 lb butternut squash (or kabocha/acorn)
1 cup mochiko, aka sticky rice flour
2~4 tbsp maple syrup *

black sesame filling:
1/4 cup black sesame
1/4 cup walnut pieces
2~3 tbsp brown sugar - or to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil **

* you can use any sweetener, honey, brown sugar, agave, zero calorie sweetne…

Dry-Aged Prime NY Strip with Bercy Butter, Red Wine Pan Sauce, & Almost-Instant Roasted Potatoes!

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This is a rare splurge that's worth every penny. I decided to make a full steakhouse meal with all the usual "steak enhancements" - flavored butter, sauce, side, with a few shortcuts.

First of all, stop waiting half an hour or more for cold butter to soften. you can fully soften a brick-hard cold fridge butter in under half a minute. The trick is to microwave 5 seconds at a time, and keep turning 90 degree in between intervals. Microwaves work essentially in sine waves. By rotating lengthwise in intervals, you're changing the heat direction from up-and-down to front-and-back every few seconds. This will allow even heating, so no part gets too hot while the other parts are cold. You should be able to fully soften your butter in 20~25 seconds, depending on how cold your fridge is. Give it a pinch after 20 seconds to test softness.

Bercy butter is basically bercy sauce in butter form. I'm omitting the white wine and stock, since I'm already making a pan sauce …

Red Bean & Coconut Oil Pastry Mooncake

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This is an accidentally-vegan recipe, where the coconut oil substitution is applied as an upgrade to the traditional lard - and it worked out better than I hoped!

A little background...

why traditional pastry calls for lard

Recipes tend to call for the same fat in lean dough and the oil dough for simplicity. But only the oil dough has finicky requirements. it calls for a fat that is solid at room temperature, but is very soft and easy to handle. Because the oil dough mixes the fat with flour in the oil layer for ease of handling (vs pure butter in western puff pastry, that requires chilling in between turning), it also requires pure fat to puff right - that's why supermarket butter, with its 20% water content, does not work very well for this application.

what are acceptable substitutions

Store bought lard has a melting point of 97~113F - you want to pick a fat with relatively high melting point like this, for ease of handling, as the temperature from your hand will warm up the dou…

Moon festival treat: savory mooncake (aka puff pastry wrapped meatball)

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Moon festival is a holiday celebrated all over east Asia, where families gather together around mid-autumn to watch the full moon, and eat snacks (because a harvest is expected soon!) 

Mooncakes come in sweet and savory. Today I'm sharing a savory version, basically ginger-scallion-soy meatballs wrapped in flakey pastry. This is a quick puff with a lean dough and a fat dough - no chilling or resting needed!

Ingredients:

Pastry: 
Lean dough:
1 cup flour
2.5 tbsp lard
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup warm water

Fat dough:
3 tbsp lard
2/3 cup flour

Meatball:
marinade:
2 scallions
1 inch thumb-sized ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce 
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil 
1/2 tbsp shaoxin wine
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tbsp ground white pepper
1 cup ground pork (or 80% lean beef)
1/4 cup water

optional: egg wash (1 yolk + 1tbsp water)

Instructions:

Combine the ingredients for lean dough with a fork, then switch to a spatula. The dough will be very sticky at this stage. Let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

Fluffy, Pillowy, Foolproof Instant Mashed Potato Gnocchi

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If you've ever bought pre-made, shelve-stable, room-temperature packaged gnocchi, you've been disappointed before. They're always gummy with very little potato taste. I wish it were easier to like the much more convenient substitute. God knows how many times I failed at making the legendary light-as-cloud, fluffy, pillowy gnocchi. I've made enough batches that were colossal waste of time and ingredients, I could hear Gordon Ramsay yelling in my head.

Truth be told I kinda know why. But honestly, who measures Idaho potatoes by the grams?! How big do you consider a "medium potato" to be? Do you bake your potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, or microwave them with a lid on? What is a good amount of water loss? What is a proper amount of dusting flour? What does it even mean to work just until the dough comes together?!

If you've shared my frustrations, this is a recipe for you! It recently dawned on me that potato gnocchi are finicky because the wetness of…