Bill and I used to cook together a lot BC (before children). Usually on the weekends, when we had plenty of time, we'd try out a bunch of recipes at a time and make feasts four ourselves. The leftovers would feed us for the first half of the following work week.
It was fun. Even (or especially) in the teeny, tiny closet of a kitchen we had in our first home – a little rented cottage with two rooms: a downstairs and an upstairs. Oh, yeah, and the bathroom. With the icky tub that we couldn't rid of previously existing stains (which had formed around those little rubbery feet and other cutesy non-skid shapes you can use instead of a mat. Yeah. Real nice.)
Once the kids started showing up, the cooking together thing – at least to that degree – lessened. Especially when they were very young. Someone just had to be available for diapers or to keep them entertained or out of the fish tank. It was just easier for one of us to cook solo. Which is fine, too. At least we both like to cook, so it wasn't always and forever me doing it.
But lately we've been drifting back into that cooking together thing. Kids are big enough to play unsupervised, to use the bathroom unsupervised, and to keep from falling in the fish tank.
This past Saturday we had one of those cooking evenings. I was originally only slated to make one of the dishes, but after I finished working on projects in my little sewing area, I ended up overseeing a second dish, and we just hung out in the kitchen, through the prepwork, the cooking, and then after dinner for a while, singing harmonies along with Fleetwood Mac's Rumors CD.
Bill had picked out the menu, and one dish was the Sesame Puffs pictured above. They were completely different from what we'd imagined. Both of us were thinking crispy (they're fried), when, in fact, they are more cakey. They're like old-fashioned doughnuts, really. Flavored with cardamom and lemon zest, they are subtly sweet with a nutty, toasty sesame crunch on the outside.
Unfortunately I was too busy slicing phyllo dough (for another dish – I need to re-do that one before I post it – it needs improvement on my part) to take pictures of the process. In fact, the photos I did take were done this morning of the few we still have.
Bill hadn't read the little side note thing that said these were actually a dessert, so we just had these along with the other things for dinner, and had his planned dessert FOR dessert.
But back to the Sesame Puffs. First of all, I think the name needs to be changed. They're not – to my way of thinking – Puffs. They're not puffy at all. Sure, they puff up a bit when they fry, but still…when I think of something called "puffs" I either think of cheese puffs – light and crispy – or of tissues with lotion for your red, sore nose. Neither fits.
The recipe comes from a Better Homes and Gardens book called Wok Cuisine: Oriental to American. Bill gave me the book for Christmas or my birthday or something waaaaaaaaaaaay back when we were building our collection of Asian cookbooks. It's funny, though – because it's not thoroughly Japanese, or Thai, or Chinese, and doesn't particularly look Asian, we don't reach for it all that often. And yet any recipe we've tried has been worth the time and effort.
Anyway, the recipe can be found on page 109, in the Frying section. The recipe on the facing page is for "Deep-Fried Pork Cutlets" – which is probably why Bill assumed the Sesame Puffs were savory rather than sweet.
These were simple as anything to make, and I will definitely make them again. If you feel the need for a bit more sweetness, you could probably dust them with confectioner's sugar, or cinnamon-sugar or – hmmm…this would be interesting…maybe a blend of sugar and a little Chinese 5 spice powder? Have to try that next time.
Anyway – here's the recipe.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T finely shredded lemon peel
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
oil for frying
1 beaten egg white
1 T water
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1. In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, lemon peel, baking powder, salt and cardamom. In a mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat til thoroughly combined. Add eggs; beat til fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 to 12 strokes or till dough clings together. Roll dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
2. In a wok or 3-quart saucepan heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of cooking oil to 365 degrees F. Meanwhile, cut dough into 1/2 inch slices. Roll each slice into a ball. Stir together the egg white and the water. Roll each ball in the egg white mixture, then in sesame seeds to coat lightly.
3. Fry balls of dough, a few at a time, in hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes or till golden brown and balls begin to expand and crack, turning once. Using a wire strainer or slotted spoon, remove balls from hot oil. Drain on a wok rack or paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree oven while frying remaining balls. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.