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changsha

Day Fifteen: Deep-Fried Breakfast Treats

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Tuesday is a pastry day, and today we are making deep-fried dough sticks called 'youtiao' 油条. Using towels as stand-ups for the dough layers, our jubilant professor Cheng Wanxing showed how to roll and fold the dough.

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This basic breakfast 'donut' has a secret: it's the only dish I've seen in this kitchen that actually requires precise measurements.

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After some vigorous kneading (professor's hands patting the dough looked like some exotic drummer's) the dough was left to rest.

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While one dough rests, the teacher mixed a handful of lard with flour and prepared the dough for another dish: Crispy Pies Stuffed with Pork and Chives 韭菜盒子.

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The pies also have a secret: there are actually two kinds of dough, one is more fatty than the other. The layers are rolled into a tube and cut horizontally to make the pie skins imprinted with a spiral pattern.

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Pinching the edges into frills is much harder than it seems. Some started rehearsing right on the spot.

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Freshly fried flaky pies did not take long to be consumed.

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Back to youtiao. As he was rolling and cutting the dough, Professor Cheng speculated on the economy of a youtiao stall. "The vendors overcharge you brutally," he said (a youtiao costs 1 yuan). After deducting the cost of flour, salt, yeast and oil, a smart youtiao maker can rake in 3000 yuan in a month.

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I hope they do. Somehow, it's the cheapest snacks that take up the most of the cook's time and effort.

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During practice, we produced crooked pies with all kinds of frivolous edges. And as for our youtiao, they were ruined: instead of putting in 4 grams of soda, we accidentally put in 12 grams of salt, and the dough did not rise.

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But after deep-frying the chive pies were still delicious and flaky. Some even said that our spindly and hard youtiao were a tasty innovation. New dish on the market! Now I'll start raking it in.

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