EyeSwoon

the bite: Betty Liu

By Natalie Goel

There’s something so intimate about being let in on other people’s family recipes. Pair those meals with effortless styling and moody, soulful photography and you have a food blog that most certainly makes us swoon. We’re talking about fellow 2016 Saveur Blog Award winner’s namesake site, Betty Liu.

A wedding photographer by trade, Betty began her blog as a way to catalogue her mama’s mouthwatering, home-cooked Shanghai dishes like shao mai, mung bean soup and red-braised pork bellyShe now shares those classic recipes — the type of authentic Chinese cuisine you might find at your favorite food trucks — alongside her own east-meets-west creations and culinary adventures. Below, read about Betty’s most-craved and most-made meals and help yourself to her her white cheddar and apple mini pie recipe, a decadent dessert perfect for Valentine’s Day.

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NAME: Betty Liu

PROFESSION: Wedding and food photographer, and workshop host

PHILOSOPHY ON FOOD? Food is more than just a dish — it’s about the microstories told, connecting us with where the ingredients came from, who cooked this meal, and what meaning it could have.

A LITTLE ABOUT THE RECIPE YOU’RE SHARING WITH US? White cheddar apple mini-pies!

COOKING MAKES ME FEEL… Excited and hungry.

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BRIEFLY, HOW YOU CAME TO DO WHAT YOU DO: Before becoming involved with anything food related, I was (and still am) a wedding photographer. Photographing people, examining light on the go and solving problems has always been my passion. When I started my blog, my main goal was to document my mom’s cooking, which was not really recipe-based, so that I could reference these dishes later on. Food photography quickly became a passion, and now I can’t imagine life without it.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN TOOL? My hands!!!!!

THREE INGREDIENTS YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? Good sea salt, scallions and mushrooms.

QUIRKY FOOD HABITS? I put scallions in almost every savory dish I make.

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BIGGEST SINGLE INFLUENCE ON YOUR COOKING STYLE? I learned cooking from my mom, and that meant no recipes were allowed. Cooking was instinctive, based on taste and experience, and to this day, I like to experiment on the go, refining when putting the experiment into recipe form later on.

MIDNIGHT SNACK? Ramen.

BEST SOURCE FOR FOOD AND RECIPE INSPIRATION? My mother.

I CAN NEVER RESIST… Duck or pie.

THE RECIPE OR MEAL YOU ARE KNOWN FOR? My mother’s Shanghai-style red-braised pork belly — it’s my most made and searched recipe.

MOST SWOON-WORTHY RESTAURANT? O Ya in Boston.

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THEY SAY YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT — WHAT ARE YOU? Kitchen-sink fried rice.

RECIPE YOU GREW UP EATING THAT YOU MOST CRAVE? Shanghai shao mai — open-face dumplings stuffed with sticky rice and shiitake mushrooms.

FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIP YOU’VE PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY? Light is everything!!! No matter how well you style your scene or compose, without good light, no amount of editing will fix the photo. Study light and learn how to manipulate it.

TOP TRAVEL DESTINATION? New Zealand!!!!

WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR BETTY LIU? I’m looking forward to more food photography workshops in 2017. I’ll be headed to New England, California and Greece, to name a few, to teach retreat-based workshops!!!

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White Cheddar and Apple Mini Pies with Cinnamon-Infused Honey

Betty Liu

  • Ingredients

    • Cinnamon-Infused Honey

      • 1/2 cup honey
      • Cinnamon stick
      • Place honey and cinnamon stick in a pot and heat on low for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, pour into a bottle with cinnamon stick and let sit overnight.

      Pie Crust

      • 2 1/2 cups flour
      • 2 sticks butter, cubed into 1 cm pieces, cold – prepare this beforehand
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 3 teaspoons sugar
      • 3/4 cup cold water
      • 1 cup extra-sharp white cheddar, grated

      Filling

      • 3 to 4 apples. I used Macintosh, a new England staple for apple pie, and 1 Granny Smith for extra tartness, peeled, cored and sliced.
      • Juice from 1/2 lemon + 1 teaspoon zest
      • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
      • 1/2  cup brown sugar
      • 2 tablespoons flour
      • Egg wash – 1 egg + splash of water, beaten
      • Demerara sugar
      • Slices of extra-sharp white cheddar

      Notes: I used mini tart pans, but you can use any vessel you want – full-size pie pan, cupcake tin, mini cocottes, little tart molds – any will work, just keep an eye on the baking time.

  • The Prep

      1. Cube butter into 1 centimeter pieces, and place it in a bowl in the freezer. I find that this allows the butter to get very cold before you work with it. Place cold water into the freezer as well. Don’t worry about it freezing — you will use it before it can freeze.
      2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, grated cheese.
      3. Take cold butter, and using a pastry cutter, fork, or fingers, work quickly and cut butter into dry ingredients. Pea-size chunks will remain, and that’s completely fine.
      4. Using tablespoons at a time, scatter cold water into dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix or knead. Add the mixture gradually – you can always add more water, but you can’t take it out. The resulting dough should be damp but not moist.
      5. Separate dough into two halves. Shape into disks and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in fridge. Let dough rest for at least 1 hour.
      6. Filling: Squeeze lemon juice over apple slices, toss with brown sugar, salt, and flour.
      7. On a floured surface, roll one disc of dough to 1/8” thickness. Line tart pans with pie dough. Arrange apple slices over tart. Roll out other half of pie dough and arrange in lattice or full-crust form. Place in fridge for another 10 to 15 minutes. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle Demerara sugar over the top, and for the full-crust pies, slice some venting slits on top.
      8. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until top is golden brown.
      9. Remove from oven and immediately place a slice of white cheddar right on top of the crust and allow the residual heat to melt cheddar onto the crust. Serve by drizzling cinnamon-infused honey.

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