Monday, May 28, 2007

Stuffed Buns (Steamed or Baked)

This recipe is time consuming, but worth the effort (and a lot of fun if you want to impress your friends and you have some extra time on your hands.) In my opinion, making the time for something like this is generally a good idea. Put some good music on, gather in the kitchen with some friends, and have a good time - it's more rewarding than TV and cheaper than a movie. What could be better?

These buns can be steamed or baked. They're delicious either way, but the taste of each is quite different. This evening, I baked them because I thought they would go well with the soup Susan was making. The filling can be quite varied. The original recipe calls for spiced pork or sweet adzuki bean fillings. I have used cheese, mushrooms and broccoli, Veggie Crumble (of course), and black beans, garlic, onion and cilantro.

Make the filling:

As I mentioned before, this is where you can get creative. Here is what I have been doing recently:

1 12 oz. package Veggie Crumble

1can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 white onion, chopped small
2-4 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
2-10 cloves of garlic, minced (and about a thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped small, if you want)
1-3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
1-6 tablespoons of FolkFoods Master Sauce (or a chili garlic hot sauce of your choice)
1-3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1-3 tablespoons of rice wine and rice vinegar

(The amounts are not precise - I base my measurements on what I have in the house, who will be eating with us, how lazy I am feeling, etc.)

Heat a wok, frying pan, pot, whatever and add about 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Add onion and stir until softened. Add the garlic and stir around till it is perfect. How do you know if it is perfect? Whenever you are tired of stirring that stuff around and the kitchen smells really nice, it is perfect. Add the Veggie Crumble and drained beans and stir to get them all mixed around with the garlic and onions. (You can mash the beans a little bit if you want, only if you want.)

Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients and turn up the heat a little. Stir in the liquids slowly until you get the consistency that you want. How do you know when it's at the correct consistency? Practice. Your filling is now complete.

Make the Sweet Bread Dough:

(This dough can really be used for a lot of different things; I once had leftovers and made onion bialys - they weren't totally authentic, but they were tasty!)
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 c warm milk (can use soymilk)
1 egg
1/3 c veg oil
3 1/2 c flour + more for kneading

1. Put the yeast and 1 Tbsp sugar in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup warm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir (it should foam and bubble). Stir in egg, oil and the rest of the milk.

2. Put the flour and the rest of sugar in a food processor. While processing, slowly pour milk mixture into the bowl in a steady stream until it forms a rough dough ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl (if its too wet, then add more flour, c'mon.) Remove to a lightly floured board.

3. Knead dough, dusting as needed, until smooth and elastic (roughly about 2 minutes). Put in a large oiled bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour until doubled, punch it down. Put on floured surface. Rest for a minute, this is supposed to be fun, don't neglect your friends; give them something to do and to eat or drink.

4. Cut the dough in half. Roll each half into a 12" log and cut into 10 pieces. Press each piece down into approximately a 4" circle, with the outside thinner than the inside. Fill!

Filling the Buns:

Filling the buns is a fun activity to share with friends. For you email recipients, here is a short video about how to fill your buns. Or, just watch below:

After filling the buns, put them on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees (although I am basically making those times and that temperature up - I can't really remember the exact time and that sounds close enough. Take out the buns when they are nicely browned on top, that should work.) OR put them in a bamboo steaming tray over boiling water and steam for about 25 minutes.

They are really good! If I can remember, I will post a generic dipping sauce sometime in the future. (Or you can just dip the steamed buns in your friend's soup!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

R&D: Repetitive and Disasterous?

This is a FolkFoods business update.
It has a happy ending, so stick with me, ok?
(Because it certainly was difficult for us to get through to the silver lining.)

We went to the Venture Center a few weeks ago, excited and prepared to produce 80 pounds of Veggie Breakfast Patties. This was a major step for us, as we would now have "stock". [We would also know the size of the patties and could move forward with ordering the packaging, printing the labels and getting ready for market.] Now, I was a little anxious for this, as we were still not exactly sure about the process that we were going to use for our patties.

Let me back up a little and explain (which means, "Please allow me to divulge all sort of little details that only a few people would care about, but I feel compelled to share.") The original patty recipe called for shaping the batter/dough into a log, wrapping the log in parchment paper and aluminum foil, and then steaming for about 90 minutes. We want to sell the patties in the freezer section, so logs aren't good for freezing whole and we don't have a way to efficiently and consistently slice 80+ pounds of patty logs. So, we make them directly into patties. That works, right? Well, right, but not easily. Big question: how do we get them into consistent, professional looking patties on a mass produced (small batch) scale? And will doing that change the texture or integrity of the patty? After lots of questions and numerous batches of home cooked patties, we found a process that worked. New question: how to replicate the process in a mass produced way at the Venture Center?

We went to the Venture Center prepared to use a machine called the filler. Long story short, well, it didn't work and we got a VERY intricate, delicate machine VERY clogged up and messy. The batter/dough was too thick for the filler (it is generally used to fill jars of sauce and stuff.) Our second attempt was with a machine called the Pucker. (Yup, we made a lot of rhyming jokes.) Anyway, our dough/batter was too thin for the pucker, as you can see here:
(For those of you getting this in email, you can check it out here.)

So, the Pucker didn't work. I REALLY wanted that pucker to work. In theory, it was supposed to make perfect little pucks in perfect round little shapes, all ready for baking. The problem? The patty mixture was too thick for the Filler and too thin for the Pucker. Puck Me! Anyway, the only solution that came to mind was to either thin it down or thicken it up. Remember that I REALLY wanted to use the Pucker, right? So we decided to thicken it up. With what? Lots and lots of Vital Wheat Gluten. So, now we have 95 pounds of dough that is quickly becoming more and more dense as the wheat gluten does its stuff (it gets denser.) And guess what? It still didn't work in the Pucker! So it's getting late in the afternoon, tension is high and we come up with the final, genius idea of the day:
(Again, you email recipients, check these out here and here.)

We look pretty excited here, right? Those patties look great right? We returned the very next morning to bake those patties. (It took a long time to hand cut 625 patties!)

That's Shana and our dear friend Becky (remember Becky, we'll get back to her) right before they went on a LONG run (they are marathon training!) They put the 31 sheet pans into the ovens, quite excited to go on their run and return to fresh baked, perfectly cute, perfectly round FolkFoods Veggie Patties. I stayed at the center to clean up, and take care of some other stuff. Well, when the patties were done, Shana and Becky had still not returned. I took a little taste. Well, they didn't suck. But their consistency had completely changed! The taste was still good, but so not right. I was more than a little bummed. Two days and lots of ingredients, and we had 625 patties that we wouldn't sell. Andy, is this what you referred to when you said to make sure that we had done all of our R&D?

So I was devastated. Really. Then, I receive a call from Shana and Becky who are on their way back from their LONG run. They are excited to eat some patties, and I almost cry. Becky, a true Renaissance woman, goes directly into 'fix-it' mode. After a lot of brainstorming, she looks at us and says, "Is there any reason that the patties have to be Round?" No! Square patties make more sense from a production standpoint, there's no wasted space on the sheet pan, no worries about perfect little round patties, and hey, it's kind of unique, which sometimes sells. Brilliant!

I went home and we experimented, and tested and ate a lot of patties. And, to end this long story, we succeeded! Our patties are square. Last weekend when we went in for Veggie Crumble production (which was a complete success), we tested a batch of patties on a sheet pan in the convection oven. They were fantastic; the texture and taste were just right! Check it out (here):

So, that's the Patty story. Becky saves the day.

Soon I will post a picture of the coolest tool that we are going to use to cut the patties into perfectly uniform shapes! Anyway, after all of that R&D, we have an even better process and a better product. I just wish we had figured it out earlier in the process!

For those of you who have read this far, thanks! There will be a really good recipe coming up later in the week, and we have two weeks to get everything ready for our first Farmers' Market!

This Just In - Guest Author

My sister recently took some Veggie Crumble home for experimentation. She shared her success with us in the form of a recipe and pictures:

We are definitely meat eaters. My husband has to have protein - whatever kind it is. I happen to love everything that my brother cooks (with the exception of mistake soups - but thats for another day). So when he told us about the Veggie Crumble, we had to try it. To add into the mix, we keep a kosher house. Which, in a nutshell, means that we do not mix milk and meat. For example, a lasagna would be only cheese, no meat added. No Parmesan cheese on spaghetti and meatballs, no cheese on meat sandwiches, etc. So I was very excited to experiment with the Crumble. Not only was this the first time using the Veggie Crumble, but my first time making lasagna. Here's how it works:

Veggie Crumble Lasagna

Veggie Crumble
Olive Oil - I like Exra Virgin
Tomato Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese - 1 pack, I used part-skim
Ricotta Cheese - 1 container
Lasagna noodles - I used the no-boil ones, takes out 1 step
Fresh Basil (there is nothing better then fresh herbs)
Parmesan cheese

How to:

1. Chop up onion. In a pot, sauté with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. You add the salt here to release the juices from the onion - you want liquid for the crumble. Once the onions are translucent, add the crumble. I used cups. Next time I would use 2 or 3 cups, depending on how 'meaty' you like it. (remember, husband - meat eater). You can add about a teaspoon of water here, just to make some more liquid and hydrate the crumble. Once the crumble is fully mixed in with the onions, add tomato sauce, about 2 jars.

2. Build Lasagna. Don't worry here, you can't mess it up. I thought I could - but you can't! Start with a layer of the sauce. Then add the noodles. Then add the ricotta, then the mozzarella. If you love basil, you can put some full leaves in here. Then sauce, then noodle and repeat again. When you get to the top, cover with sauce and tons of mozzarella cheese. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese - extra yummy. Then you can call it '3 Cheese Crumble Lasagna'. Make sure it has enough sauce, I ran out of sauce, added a little water to the lasagna tray and pushed it down.

3. Bake in oven at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour. Don't be too caught up with numbers, measurements or times, just enjoy - It's delicious!!!

Serve with a great salad, yummy crusty bread and some good wine.

**Note from Jason: my parents, my brother-in-law, and my sister's in-laws all loved this lasagna. I am secretly hoping that my sister froze a piece for me (or at the very least will cook it the next time that she comes to visit.) More guest authors and recipes are coming along as well!

**Also, as soon as I get a chance, there are a lot of updates about the business - we've got some cool videos and stuff...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Quick Request

Hey everyone!
Here is a quick and easy way to get involved with FolkFoods. We are planning on giving out a BUNCH of recipes at the Farmers' Markets.
(UPDATE: We are going to be selling at the Burlington and Richmond Farmers' Markets - but more on that in the next post, too busy tonight.)
And this is where you come in: We'd like your recipes! Any of your favorite recipes using ground meat.

These can be simple, like a quick and easy meat sauce or intricate and complex, like, well, something intricately complex. I don't know. If it incorporates ground meat, send it it. We will see how well it works using our Veggie Crumble and if we like it, then it goes onto an index card or into the cookpamphlet. And... There will be some sort of prize if we choose your recipes. I don't know what kind of prize yet, because I don't know what kind of results I am going to get from this post. But it will certainly be worth the time it takes to type a recipe!

Oh yeah, and do it soon, Farmers' Markets start in a couple of weeks!
You can post recipes as a comment or email us at:

Crumbles for dinner:

And Crumbles for breakfast: