The sound of the snow-ice precipitation hitting against the windows has not stopped since yesterday, except for the brief intermission from this morning until about 2 PM. While sitting cozily in my bed, the sound is relaxing. Outside is like a war-zone where the wind shoots tiny icy bullets into your face.

Thank goodness DY and I got to go buy groceries during the break from this snow storm. We picked up a ton of things for the CNY party this Friday, and a few things for ourselves.

Speaking of CNY, I was planning on making sesame seed balls filled with red bean paste, but I've decided not to after attempting them tonight. Also, I think that the red bean paste (aka 红豆沙 or "hong dou sha" in Chinese) is an acquired taste.

Verdict: Win

So tasty! The sticky rice does fill you up, as this is a rich, deep-fried dessert. They were not too difficult to make, but at the same time they weren't simple. It didn't help that in the process of traveling from one house to another that I smushed all of my perfect round balls (so instead of balls, these were more like sesame seed disks). Much of our batch had to be thrown away, but the ones that did survive were had a beautiful, light golden color with toasted sesame seeds and a crispy exterior followed by a sticky and smooth interior of "hong dou sa."

Things that I learned:
1. Do not try to make sesame seed balls smaller than what the recipe calls for. If it says 24 balls, only make 24 balls. I tried to make them smaller, and the dough just crumbled in my hands. If you want more, increase the recipe.
3. Divide the dough like it's undergoing binary fission.
4. Do not stuff each ball with too much filling.
5. To create the ball, take a round of the dough, create a thumb print in the middle and pinch the outsides thinner. Put a dollop of the filling in the center, then hold it upside down so that it looks like a head (the filling) has one of those rice-worker hats (the dough) on it. Then crimp it shut like a pork bun.
6. The ball doesn't have to be perfectly round. The sesame seeds will cover up the crevices.
7. If you don't have a candy thermometer, heat the oil to medium high (closer to medium was better for me) and only start with a few balls at a time. Then adjust accordingly.
8. Only cook a max of 6 balls at a time.
9. It's ok for the sesame seed balls to take a long time to cook. It's also ok for them to be a little oily - you can just dab it dry later.
10. Keep flipping the sesame seed balls over during the cooking process.
11. When the sesame seed balls puff up and start floating, that is when they are done and ready to be removed.
12. As always, they taste the best served fresh.

Sesame Seed Balls from Dessert First
Yield: 20 balls

1 lb glutinous rice flour
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup red bean paste or 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup sesame seeds
oil for deep frying

Put the rice flour into a large bowl. Bring the water to a boil and add the brown sugar, stirring to dissolve.

Pour the sugar water over the rice flour and stir together with a wooden spoon to combine. You can add up to 1/3 cup more water if the mixture seems dry and isn’t coming together. Once the dough is cool enough to touch with your bare hands you can stop using the spoon and just knead the dough – don’t overwork it or it will become tough.

Once the dough is soft and smooth, break off a piece about the size of a golf ball and roll between your hands to form a ball. Place in a dish and cover with some plastic wrap, then repeat with the remaining dough.

Take one of the dough balls and make a well in it with your thumb. Place either a teaspoon of the red bean paste or a few pieces of the chocolate in the well, then push the dough together to cover up the filling. Roll the ball between your hands again to make it smooth and round without cracks.

Wet your hands with water and roll the dough ball in a dish of the sesame seeds, pressing gently to get the seed to adhere to the dough ball. Place the ball back under the plastic wrap and repeat with remaining balls.

Pour the oil in a wok or other pan so it is deep enough to cover the dough balls when you fry them. Heat over medium heat until it is 350 degrees.

Place a few dough balls (about 4-5) in the hot oil and let cook. Use a ladle or wooden spoon to press the dough balls against the side of the pan to rotate them – this is important to help them cook evenly and prevent spots from burning.

When the seeds start turning golden and the dough balls start floating to the top of the oil, the balls should be done – about 5 to 6 minutes. You might want to fish one out and cut it in half to make sure the dough has cooked all the way through.

Remove the balls and drain them on paper towels, then repeat with the rest. The sesame seed balls should be served as soon as possible to preserve freshness.


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