Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cooking in Azeroth, post 2: Lunar Festival Treats

Welcome to Cooking in Azeroth, a weekly blog series featuring recipes from "World of Warcraft, the Official Cookbook" by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. Over the next year I will cook and review all 100 recipes.

This week I made Red Bean Buns and Pearl Milk Tea to celebrate the Lunar New Year! These treats were really delicious and easy to make.

The Lunar Festival is one of many in-game holidays (such as the Feast of Winter Veil/Christmas, Hallow's End/Halloween) and coincides with the Lunar New Year. Cities are decorated in paper lanterns, there are fireworks and gifts enclosed in red paper envelopes, and characters can wear clothing that looks like cheongsam.

This in-game holiday and the fourth game expansion, "Mists of Pandaria," are the inspiration for many East Asian-inspired recipes in the Warcraft cookbook, all of which sound delicious.

Red Bean Buns
The recipe for Red Bean Buns can be found in the Breads section of the Warcraft cookbook. This recipe is inspired by the in-game item "Red Bean Bun" from the Mists of Pandaria WoW expansion, released in 2012. The Cooking profession quests to source ingredients and unlock new recipes were a highlight of this otherwise problematic expansion (in short: reliance on tropes perpetuating the view of East Asian cultures as mystic and traditional).

These buns are made with a yeast dough. Preparing the buns for baking takes a while because you must let the dough rise twice: once before assembling the buns by filling flattened circles of dough with sweetened red bean paste, and once again after they have been assembled.

I have never, ever managed to get dough to rise in my kitchen without proofing the yeast first. Proofing involves mixing dry yeast with 110F water and sugar, then waiting for it to bubble - gotta make sure those yeastie beasties are still alive! The recipe does not mention proofing and my yeast packages say they can be used without proofing as long as the recipe involves mixing the yeast with warm liquids, but I always strike out - so your mileage might vary. I did find the extra liquid from proofing made the dough easier to work with and gave it a consistency closer to other yeast doughs I've made in the past.

Even if you're a beginner, this recipe is very easy to make. The resulting buns are delicious, perfectly sized for breakfast or a snack, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The dough is made from ingredients most bakers have on hand and the recipe instructions were very easy to follow. And I love how the buns look like flowers, with the slits cut into their sides and poppy seeds!

The Boyfriend did express that he wished the dough was saltier, so we might experiment with that.

This recipe makes 10 servings. Each bun has about 185 calories when filled with a tablespoon of bean paste. I bought my bean paste at a local Korean grocery store and it was just the right amount of sweet.

Ingredients cost me $10.98, and included the yeast, bean paste, and poppy seeds. The jar of poppy seeds was the most expensive item at $6.49, and might have been cheaper if I had gone to the larger store that carries more than one brand. Everything else (flour, sugar, etc) I had on hand.

Pearl Milk Tea
I LOVE boba tea and have always wanted to try making my own. I was so excited to find this recipe in the cookbook! Mainly because I would have to make it, and couldn't back out like I always do after googling boba tea recipes (it's just so much easier to visit a local cafe instead of buying and making the boba).

The "Pearl Milk Tea" in-game item is also from the Mists of Pandaria expansion, released in 2012.

The recipe is pretty standard - milk, tea, boba pearls. The instructions say to use yak milk for best results but this is a reference to the in-game recipe, which uses an item called Yak Milk to craft the recipe. I just used regular 2% in mine.

I used Cock Brand tapioca pearls because they were the only ones available at my local shop. I had to experiment with cooking them because there were no instructions on the bag. I found that soaking the boba before boiling made them very slimy and broke them into smaller pieces, while dumping them into boiling water left many with uncooked, chalky centers. Finally I found placing the boba in its cooking water before bringing the pot to boil for 30-35 minutes, then letting them soak in the hot water another 15-20 minutes made them the best.

In the future I will probably source my boba from Amazon, because of the variety and reviews, though I'll continue to check my local groceries for different types of tapioca pearls to experiment!

The other ingredients for this recipe were things I already had on hand or were bought at my local chain supermarket, like 2% milk and black tea. You can use your preferred tea for this recipe, so we tried it with green and black, and found the black tea stood up better against the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Once the boba were cooked this recipe was very easy to make. The recipe includes suggestions for steeping the tea while the boba soaks in its syrup, so everything has a chance to soak up yummy flavors and cool off - I found that after my boba had chilled a bit it was gummier and less slimy, which I really liked.

This milk tea was very sweet to me, but the texture of the drink was deliciously smooth and much nicer than some of my local shops that use powder mixes for flavor. The honey flavor from the boba syrup stood out the most, followed by the black tea. Since I didn't care for the sweetness I think I will omit the condensed milk in the future (this would also cut some calories!)

The recipe says this makes about two servings, but for us it was closer to three. At three servings, and estimating that about half the syrup is left after soaking the boba, this recipe comes in at about 430 calories per serving.

Ingredients cost $14.26 and included all of the ingredients for this recipe except the black tea, which I had in my kitchen already.

Thank you for reading!

Recipes completed to date: 6/100

Banner background and item description images are from Other images are my own.

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