Warning - this is a REALLY long post
It's been a busy month. Hair-tearing-outering busy. With this in mind I can only think I was in a state of utter delerium when I thought "I can be a Daring Baker! Sign me up!" Shortly thereafter, I decided I could be a Daring Cook, too, and joined.
A thrill of excitement ran through me when I saw I had access to the Daring Cooks private forums, and i'm SO excited to participate in my first challenge! I've been watching the amazing work from the monthly challenges with curiosity for a few months now, and I'm overwhelmingly eager to participate!
My first Daring Cooks challenge is hosted by Jen of Use Real Butter, and is Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers. I nearly choked when I saw the announcement. Dumplings? Me? Make? What?
I decided to get it done and out of the way, but I was pleasantly surprised with the result. While I'm so not a pro (not nearly!) the dumplings were tasty and actually ok! This is entirely to do with excellent instructions as provided by the fabulous Jen.
The filling is easy, it just requires a bit of chopping. The real challenge here is making the dumpling wrappers. So not easy. But worth it. On my first attempt I didn't read Jen's post properly (or look at the photos closely enough), and I was pleating both sides of the dumpling together. Not a huge issue, but it made the process a lot trickier.
So, here are my steps for Chicken, Ginger, and Water Chestnut Chinese Dumplings or Potstickers
Makes 20-30, depending on the size
For the filling:
250g Chicken Mince
3 cabbage, leaves chopped finely/minced
1/4 cup (125g) water chestnuts, finely chopped/minced
2-3 spring onions, minced
1-1.5 tbspn chopped/minced fresh ginger (to taste)
2 tbspn corn flour/corn starch
1 1/2 tbspn soy sauce
1 tbspn sesame oil
I also included some Chinese chives, but these may be hard to come by. They look like long grass, and have a slight garlicy aftertaste. I found them at the markets, but you may find them in Asian grocers. I included about a 1/4 cup of these, minced.
For the wrappers:
2 cups (250g) of plain flour (you're much better off weighing this if you can)
1/2 cup of water
To make the wrappers:
I initially made these in a food processor, but found it a lot easier by hand.
Placed the flour in a large bowl, and create a well in the middle. Pour the water into the well. Using a fork, or your hands, mix together itill combined, then knead until just smooth. It is quite a dry dough, so it won't be like bread. It will be quite firm. Don't overknead the dough. It doesn't have yeast to put air back into it!
Put your dough to the side and cover with a damp cloth while you make your filling (for about 15 minutes).
To make the filling:
Time to get your hands dirty! Combine all your filling ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. That was hard, wasn't it?
Okies' here's where it gets tricky.
Get your dough, and shape it into a "flattened dome". You're aiming for a flat circle with a consistent thickness of about 1 inch throughout. Next up, cut 1 inch wide strips. From these 1 inch strips, cut off 1 inch pieces. These will be your wrappers. Cut these off as you work, not all upfront, or they'll stick back together anyhows.
Take one of your pieces of dough, and after covering the rest up with your damp cloth, shape a ball from the dough. On a well floured surface, flatten the ball with your hand, and using a rolling pin, roll out into a very thin, flat circle. The shape is important. As round as possible. Not splatter shaped! The dumpling wrapper should be a little thicker in the centre, but around the edges you're aiming for about 1mm.
Place a tablespoon of your filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper. Using your fingers/chopsticks/psychic powers, shape into an oval (no need to be too pedantic here: near enough is good enough). Now fold your dumpling wrapper in half over the filling and join the edges in the middle. You now want to pleat the edges of the side of the wrapper closest to you. This is a simple enough idea, but it is very fiddly, and kind of hard to explain. You basically want to create about 3 pleats on the right, and 3 on the left, of the side of the wrap facing you, then fold the sides of the ends together to seal. Jen has a fantastic, and well photographed post on pleating/folding the dumpling wrappers on her blog, and you should definitely read this.
Once you have assembled your dumplings, it's time to cook them! I steamed mine the first time round, and made Potstickers (fried dumplings) the 2nd time round.
Place you dumplings in a steamer basket lined with cabbage leaves, or well greased, and steam for 6 minutes, then serve. Voila!
To fry (potstickers):
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (not olive!) in a frying pan that you have a lid for, and add your dumplings, bottoms down. Fry until light brown on the bases, then, with lid in in hand, pour a 1/4 of a cup of water into the bottom of the pan all at once (please don't burn yourself!) and clamp the lid on immediately. Allow the dumplings to steam for about 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and serve.
I made a dipping sauce of 2 parts soy sauce, 1/2 part white vinegar, 1 part Shaosin Wine, a few drops of sesame oil, and a bit of fresh minced garlic, which was great, but hubby used sweet chilli sauce from the bottle. I laughed at him for a bit, but it really wasn't bad and complimented the flavours well, so each his (and her) own!
All up, these are pretty time consuming, so not a weekday dinner. The dumplings were fantastic, though, and would make a great weekend meal, so set aside a couple of hours and have fun! I made these a second time round I liked them so much!
Jen advises that once the dumplings are assembled you can actualy freeze them for a couple of months, and second time round I did this. They're a fantastic, and essentially healthy, food that make a good stand-by lunch and are really quick to cook. To freeze them, put them on a baking tray, making sure they're not touching. Once they're hard (so the dough is not sticky), take them off the tray, and put them in a container or ziplock bag and keep for up to 2 months! Easy!