Sunday, December 2, 2012

Osmanthus Flower and Goji Berry Jelly (桂花糕)

I quite enjoyed the flavor of osmanthus jelly when I had it at a restaurant during dim sum and declared to my other dining companions that I could easily recreate it at home. Those who know me know that I say this a lot and nothing ever really materializes from these declarations. However, a year later when I came across a packet of dried osmanthus flowers in the grocery store (more accurately my local Chinese market, because honestly you probably wouldn't find osmanthus flowers in your local grocery store), I bought it in preparation for a future attempt at making osmanthus jelly. The osmanthus jelly was once again back on my radar. That was about two months ago. It probably would have been at least another six months had my mom not suggested that we make some for Thanksgiving recently. I also made the pumpkin roulade already posted here, chocolate chip and almond cookies, and a french apple tart, but more on that in an upcoming post.
Anyway, after about a year and a half, one of the many declarations I made was finally realized. I looked up recipes for osmanthus jelly and decided to go with one from Christine's Recipes since her recipes haven't failed me in the past and I already had all the basic ingredients. This dessert really could not be simpler since you're just making jello from an osmanthus flower flavored syrup. If you don't have a chinese market near you, you can probably find dried osmanthus flowers in a specialty tea shop or purchase it online. The same method can be used for other dried flowers and teas as well. Try this for a light, easy, make ahead dessert.

Osmanthus Jelly
Adapted from Christine's Recipes
Makes one 8 by 8 inch pan

1L water
300 g rock sugar (you can use whatever granulated sugar as well, add it to your taste)
3 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers
3 tbsp + 2.5 tsp unflavored gelatin, (about 5 envelopes, although the packets aren't always consistent)
                                                           Use 5.5 envelopes/+ 1 tsp gelatin for a firmer, moldable jelly
2 tbsp dried goji berries, rehydrated in water for a few minutes and drained

Put 1 cup of the water aside in a small bowl. Heat the remaining water to a gentle boil, add sugar and dried osmanthus flowers, gently simmer until sugar is dissolved. Adjust to your taste. Strain syrup to remove the osmanthus flowers. You can also put the flowers in a tea bag or a cheesecloth bundle for easier removal.

In the 1 cup of water set aside, sprinkle in the gelatin and let sit for a minute. Add the bloomed gelatin to the sugar syrup and stir until dissolved. Mix in the drained goji berries if using and pour into molds or an 8 by 8 inch pan to set. Sprinkle some dried osmanthus flowers over the top for decoration if you'd like. Once the jelly reaches room temp, you can place it in the fridge to set completely. Once completely set, unmold or cut into squares and serve.

Blueberry Pancakes

I have to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of pancakes. For those of you who love pancakes, this probably makes no sense. I do enjoy a nice fluffy pancake now and then, but until now, I haven't found a recipe that produces results as good as those you'd find in a restaurant. This recipe for pancakes from America's Test Kitchen is darn good, even for an occasional pancake-eater like myself.

I've found that buttermilk is crucial, for me anyways, in producing a tender pancake. Although the recipe suggests using milk and lemon juice if you don't have buttermilk, it doesn't produce the same exact results in my experience. The basic recipe here can be varied in many ways by adding nuts, other fruits, and spices to the batter. It can also be drizzled with chocolate sauce, coconut syrup, honey, etc. rather than the more traditional maple syrup. The picture here isn't as pretty as the original pic, but it's just as delicious.

Blueberry Pancakes
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

2 cups buttermilk
2 cups(10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted/cooled
vegetable oil for pan
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, rinsed/dried

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg and butter into the buttermilk. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Do not overmix.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tsp of the oil to the pan and swirl to coat the pan. Drop 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan for each pancake, sprinkle blueberries over the top of each. Cook until large bubbles form, then flip the pancake and cook until golden brown.

Note: If you don't have buttermilk, you can use 2 cups of whole milk mixed with 1 tbsp of lemon juice as the original recipe suggests. However, I've never really found that this substitute gives you exactly the same results, so I would recommend buttermilk if possible.