Curry Crescents

咖喱角

The amalgam of spices known as curry was an Indian import to China, which became popular in a small number of stew-type dishes. My personal favorite is this delectable meat-stuffed pastry, a standard item in the dim sum repertoire.

  • The classic Chinese pastry is superbly flaky, but it is also greasy and requires lengthy kneading and folding of a lard-soaked dough, which is a bit like handling a jellyfish. The food processor pastry called for here is a 3-minute breeze, with a touch of sweetness to enhance the curry. The lard-butter combination yields a wonderful, non-oily crust.
  • Miniaturists will enjoy making the tiny crescents; less patient types will prefer to shape them larger. For those who can’t be bothered at all, the savory stuffing can be eaten alone.
  • This is an immensely practical hors d’oeuvre for a party. The dough and stuffing must be made in advance. Uncooked crescents freeze beautifully and can be baked straight from the freezer.

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Ingredients

Pastry ingredients

  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) almost-frozen sweet butter, cubed
  • 2 ounces almost-frozen lard, cubed
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • a pinch salt
  • 10–12 tablespoons ice water

Filling ingredients

  • 3 large cloves garlic, stem end removed, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 1 large walnut-size nugget fresh ginger
  • 1 medium whole scallion, cut into 1½-inch lengths
  • 1 large, firm onion
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons thin (regular) soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 scant tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¾ pound ground top round beef
  • tablespoons corn or peanut oil
  • 3–4 tablespoons curry paste
  • coarse kosher salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
  • additional flour, for rolling out the dough

Egg wash

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Method

Making and chilling the pastry

For standard, small-capacity food processors divide the pastry ingredients in half and process in 2 batches. For large-capacity work bowls that can process 3 cups of flour at one time, process it in 1 batch. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the work bowl fitted with the steel knife and distribute the butter and lard on top. Process with on-off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Do not overprocess. With the machine running add the ice water through the feed tube in a thin, steady stream, stopping the water flow and the machine as soon as the dough begins to come together. The dough will look rather dry. You should just be able to press it together with your fingers.

If you do not have a food processor, cut the fat into the combined flour, sugar, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add enough ice water, tossing with a fork, until the dough can be pressed together with your hands. Seal and refrigerate or freeze as below.

Press the dough into 2 flat disks, each about 1 inch thick. Wrap separately in wax paper, then refrigerate until firm. The dough freezes perfectly. To freeze, seal the paper-wrapped disks airtight in plastic bags. Defrost to a cold temperature in the refrigerator before using.

Making and chilling the filling

Mince the garlic, ginger, and scallion in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, scraping down as necessary until fine. Add the onion and process with on-off turns until chopped. Scrape the mixture into a small plate. Return the knife to the work bowl, and process the wine, soy, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Add the beef in several clumps around the blade, and process with on-off turns to combine. Alternatively, mince and combine the ingredients by hand.

Have the onion and beef mixtures, the remaining filling ingredients, and a bowl lined with a metal strainer or colander near your stovetop.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirl to glaze the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a bit of beef, add the beef mixture. Stir-fry briskly until the beef is 90 percent gray, using the spatula to break up the clumps of meat, and adjusting the heat to maintain a merry sizzle without scorching the meat. Remove the meat to the strainer to drain. Wipe the pan clean, heat until hot, then add the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil and swirl to glaze. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add the onion mixture and stir-fry briskly until the onion turns translucent, lowering the heat if the mixture begins to brown. Add the curry paste, stir, and return the beef to the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Stir to combine, add salt and additional curry to taste, and quickly fold in the sesame oil.

Scrape the mixture into the work bowl of the processor fitted with the steel knife and process with on-off turns until nubbly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding a bit more sesame oil if the mixture seems dry. It should adhere together neatly in a spoon. If you do not have a food processor, chop the filling to a fine consistency with one or two equally weighted knives and adjust the seasonings after the mixture cools.

Chill the filling thoroughly before using, up to 2 days, sealed airtight.

Shaping the crescents

Use a 3-inch round cutter for cocktail-size crescents, a 4-inch cutter for larger crescents. Have the cutter, 2 baking sheets, a cup of flour, a small cup of water, the egg wash and a pastry brush, the chilled filling, and a teaspoon measure and fork on your work surface.

Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and quickly roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is ⅛ inch thick. Check for even thickness with your fingertips. Flour the board as necessary, keeping the flour to a minimum. If you are new to dough-making or the kitchen is hot, roll out only half a disk at a time and keep the remainder refrigerated.

Flour the cutter, then cut out as many circles as possible. Press the scraps into a ball, bag, and refrigerate. Work quickly, so the dough stays cold. Using 1 level teaspoon for small circles and about 2 level teaspoons for large circles, place the filling off center in each dough circle. Dip a finger into the water, then run it lightly around the edge of the circle. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling, forming a crescent, then press the moistened edges lightly to seal. Continue until the first batch of circles is sealed, transfer the crescents to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while you roll out, fill, and seal the next batch. Continue until all the pastry, including the scraps, has been used up. Refrigerate the crescents on the baking sheets until thoroughly cold.

Remove the first sheet from the refrigerator, and use the fork to crimp and seal the edge of each crescent. Lightly brush the tops with egg wash for color, then return the first batch to the refrigerator while you crimp and gloss the second batch. When all the crescents have been glossed and refrigerated, gloss a second time and refrigerate until firm. With a toothpick or thin bamboo skewer, make a tiny hole in each crescent to act as a steam vent, just under the rounded fold of pastry to hide it from view.

The crescents may be baked immediately or refrigerated or frozen. If working a day or more in advance, put the baking sheets in the freezer, then bag the crescents airtight as soon as they are hard. Bake stored crescents directly from the refrigerator or freezer.

Leftover filling may be refrigerated for several days or frozen. Use it as a spread or wrap it in lettuce leaves for a delightful cold snack.

Baking the crescents

Bake on ungreased baking sheets in a preheated 375° oven for about 25 minutes until golden. Frozen crescents will require about 5 minutes additional baking. Turn the sheets and rotate their placement in the oven after 10–15 minutes to insure even coloring.

Remove the crescents immediately to a towel-lined basket or tray. Cool several minutes and serve.

Leftover crescents are good at room temperature or may be reheated in the oven, wrapped airtight in foil.

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