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Here we are at the end of another month and posting another Daring Bakers Challenge. It’s the first time that I haven’t procrastinated on doing the challenge, but I’d never let that stop me from posting late. It’s still February 28 for a couple more hours, though, so here you go!
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.
We served this cake as dessert at a semi-impromptu dinner party we hosted last weekend (more on that tomorrow). While we’re on the theme of lateness, I will admit to you that we served this cake at midnight (gulp) because I didn’t start making it until after dinner. It did, however, come together very quickly, and it’s totally possible to throw this together at the last minute.
I used Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate for the cake, pairing it with a David Lebovitz-recipe coffee ice cream. The ice cream was fantastic (it’s Carlo’s favourite). The cake tasted like– well, it had 4 and a half chocolate bars in it. It tasted like chocolate. Carlo and I found the cake to be a bit too heavy and rich for our tastes, but then we’re not big cake fans, period. Our guests went back for seconds, though, so I think that means it was a success!
Thanks to Tony for taking the cake photo. Considering that it was taken at midnight (=NO LIGHT), I think it looks pretty great.
If you’d like the recipe, check out Wendy or Dharm’s blogs (links above).
Here we are at the end of another month, which means another Daring Bakers challenge.
This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.
Now, before I start showing you pictures or talking about what I did, let me tell you first that I have utterly failed this challenge. Really. Think of a way I could mess things up, and I did it. The planning: first fail. You see, I didn’t actually read the recipe until December 26, at which point I and everyone I know had been stuffed so full of sweets and rich food that I wondered whether I could really eat or find anyone else to consume SIX layers of richness ( mousse, praline, ganache, dacquoise, creme brulee, icing). This is not the fault of the recipe, which is decadent, and produces a gorgeous final product, as you’ll see on all the non-failure Daring Bakers’ blogs. If I’d started thinking about this earlier, I’d have had a wonderful dessert to wow the family at Christmas dinner. After Christmas, however, no one wanted to even hear me talk about six layers of chocolate. So… I cheated. I made only the dacquoise, mango mousse, and a chocolate sauce to pour over the top. I layered the mousse and the dacquoise in little cups, and that’s all. So I guess I made 3/6 elements, which technically isn’t failure. That’s fifty percent!
Next failure was my dacquoise. It has almond meal mixed with beaten egg whites and a touch of flour. This combination makes a thin, chewy biscuit. But, um… my thin chewy biscuit tastes a little bit like cumin. Oh dear. My almond flour, of which I had just exactly enough (this made me happy, as I didn’t want to trudge through the snow to the supermarket), was stored in a not-airtight container in a mess of a drawer that has a bit of everything in it, including, unfortunately, a very fragrant bag of cumin. So, housekeeping failure=cumin dacquoise.
Next, my mango mousse. I was drawn to this alternative offering in the recipe because I thought it would be a good alternative to chocolate. Problem is, I didn’t have nice mango, so I substituted some canned mango in syrup that was nearly completely flavourless. This wasn’t exactly my fault, as I just couldn’t find anything else that would do. So my mango mousse turned out super sweet with very little mango flavour (or colour… I used some food colouring, but that didn’t really help either). I added a bit of lime juice to the mousse to up the tang, which made it turn out… well, honestly, it was disgusting. Carlo took one bite and said “I can’t eat this.” And fortunately for him, I agreed.
My chocolate sauce, on the other hand, was fine. I used the chocolate icing recipe provided and just didn’t include the gelatin. It was, as you can expect, rich and unctuous, the way chocolate sauce should be.
That’s my not-a-yule-log epic. Failure in planning, preparation, storage, and commitment. Final product: inedible. I highly recommend you check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll if you want to see what the challenge was supposed to be. Me, I’m going to hide my head in shame and plan to do better next time. Please check the above links if you’d like the recipe.
So much for finishing NaBloPoMo strong. Last night, I started feeling an ache in my chest, and I woke up this morning with a full-blown, throat-searing, nose-plugging cold. Okay, so it’s just a cold. But I feel sorry for myself, unhappy, and weak. But with this post, we will have completed a post a day for a month! So at least there’s that.
My other comfort today has been Greek Mountain Tea, a recent purchase from the Greek Market. What a great discovery that place has been!
The Mountain Tea was dried but still green in its cellophane bag, and only $2.25. After sampling it today, I’m so glad I took it home with me. I thought I’d brew some up today because I read that it’s considered a cure-all in Greece, and Wikipedia claims that it “is traditionally used to fight the common cold, flu and allergies. Other traditional uses are for soothing respiratory problems, aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system, and calming mild anxiety. It is also used to relieve sinus congestion.”
Sounds like just what I need! I brewed it up and added a bit of honey as a sweetener. I was please to discover that the tea isn’t just healthy, but pleasant. It has a a lemony, thymey, chamomile-like aroma, and a mild flavour.
GREEK MOUNTAIN TEA
-a handful of Mountain tea, both leave and stems (1 to 2 tablespoons)
-one cup of boiling water
-honey to taste, if desired
Pour water over tea and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. The tea will have a light yellow/tan colour. I used my french press for this, because the herbs were buoyant and popped up above the level of the water. The french press let me keep them down.
I say super-caramel, because it really was. Caramel cake, caramel icing, and in my case, caramel drizzle. This cake was moist, and I think probably in my case, too dense. I’m not a cake-lover or a cake baker, and it seems that more often than not, my cakes are heavy. Why? I don’t know. I guess because I don’t adore cakes, I’m not putting the love into them that they deserve. They fall flat out of resentment. I did, however, adore the icing. With browned butter and dark caramel and a pinch of salt, the icing was rich, sweet and delicious. If it weren’t totally inappropriate, I could eat this icing straight out of a bowl. Of course, then I’d probably end up very, very sick.
This wasn’t my first time making caramel, so I didn’t have any problems with it, though I’ve ruined many a caramel to get to this point. What I love most about making it is the suspense– standing over the pot watching the sugar syrup boil in thick bubbles that look like alien eyeballs, and worrying as it gets darker and darker that I’ll wait too long, just a second too long, and I’ll end up with burnt muck instead of dark, rich, bittersweet syrup. I feel so accomplished when I don’t ruin it. I love any opportunity to make a caramel!
So, that’s my caramel cake report. The cake itself was nice but I probably won’t make it again. The icing… that I can’t wait to recreate. Maybe on top of carrot cake next time!
Thanks to Dolores at Chronicles of Culinary Curiousity and her co-hosts Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and gluten-free adapter Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go for a fun caramel-laden challenge. For the recipe, please see the above Bay Area Bites link. And if you want more caramel cake (I know you do!), check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll!
I think I’ve made this clear before, and any of you who know me in the real world are well-aware, but in case you didn’t know, when it comes to food, I’m novelty-seeking to a fault. If there’s something I’ve never heard of on the menu, that’s what I’m going to try. I have a hard time going back to recipes. And if I find out about an ingredient I’ve never used before, I have to try it, preferably as soon as possible. Also, if you can make ice cream with it, I will probably neglect all other life responsibilities in order to own it. Immediately.
The sahlab (or salep) I bought is in drink mix form, and the instructions say to mix it with milk, bring it to a boil, then and rose or orange blossom water before “decorating” it with cinnamon and nuts for serving. I think I might make ice cream with it. Surprise.
I bought the mountain tea– which came dried but still green in a cello bag–because I read that it’s Greek grandma’s answer to every ailment, and I thought I’d test it out on my mild cold. That, and I’ve never tried it before.
The lady at the cash register didn’t blink at the sahlab (or salep) and mountain tea, but she did hesitate at the masticha. It is a glass jar with a thick white paste inside it. On the front is a picture of a glass full of water that has a spoon full of white goo resting in it.
The cashier looked up at me and asked “have you every tried this before?” I said no. She said “in Greece, they put a spoonful of it into water.” I said I would try that, and then added that I thought I might try to make ice cream with it. I am obviously obsessed with ice cream. She nodded politely, then told me “It’s a bit… um… goopy.” She’s right, it is… it’s really thick and sticky, almost chewy (which makes sense, as mastic was actually probably the world’s first chewing gum). Anyway, now I have this jar of… goop. And it tastes pretty good, very much like a plant, with a bit of a pinesol flavour (in a good way). We’ll see what’s going to happen with it.
Have you ever heard of mastic or salep, or mountain tea? Have you got any uses for them?
p.s. If you’re in Edmonton, you should check out Hellas Foods on 109 Ave, just off 124 St. They’ve got some great stuff!
Yesterday I made a great cocktail that had raw egg white in it. It shook up nice and frothy, and the egg gave the drink a nice mouth-feel and texture. It tasted like Orange Julius for grownups! I’m probably going to include the recipe in my next cocktail column, but I’m wondering if I should. I wonder if anyone would try it. Does anyone even touch raw egg anymore? Would you drink a cocktail with egg white in it?
Here’s some discussion online:
The Kitchn explains the logic of egg in cocktails.
The New York Times says egg whites in drinks are back.
The Art of Drink says egg whites are safe.
David Wondrich says to shake your drink twice to get the best foam.
…because I’m supposed to post at least once a week to help keep SiS’s NaBloPoMo (post a day month) run going and because I only feel like playing video games and drinking beer today.
Counts. Totally counts.
Today I cooked with my favourite girls. They’re 6, 3, and 2. I don’t see them nearly often enough, which also means that we don’t cook together too often, but here are some things I’ve learned:
-They really, really like cracking eggs themselves.
-They also like measuring liquids into measuring cups. Six-year-olds can do this, but 3-year-olds… not so much.
-Aprons are a must (and they’re really adorable).
-Don’t worry about spilling and messes. Kids are going to get themselves and a kitchen dirty, but clean-up is easy.
-Baking is great because there’s a lot of measuring (I do a lot of the measuring, but I let them pour the ingredients into the bowl), a lot of stirring, and no knives. Plus baking seems a bit like magic, so they get really into it.
We cooked from Molly Katzen’s Salad People and More Real Recipes. This is a great book that alternates between print instructions for adults and illustrated comics-style recipes for kids. The 6-year-old loves going through the pictures, narrating the process something like this: “first you put the egg, then you put the milk, then you mix it up, then you add some stuff, then you put the green stuff, then you cook it, then you EEEAT IT!!”
Most of the recipes start with whole foods, so kids really are cooking, not just assembling pre-packaged foods in new combinations. The book isn’t perfect– one recipe calls for protein powder, which I find odd, and a recipe for focaccia starts with premade store-bought pizza dough. Time-saving, sure, but…. clearly I’m a purist. These oddities are offset by a recipes like parmesan crisps, pesto, cool cucumber soup with fresh mint, and mango-honey lassi with buttermilk. I think it’s great, and we’re definitely getting Katzen’s other book for preschoolers, Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes, as a Christmas gift for the girls.
Today we made “corny corn cakes,” which were essentially cornmeal pancakes with some whole kernels of corn added in. I actually enjoyed the pancakes and found that the corn/cornmeal combination gave a nice rich flavour and a great texture.The girls’ favourite thing about the corny corn cakes was the whole kernels of corn in the batter. When we sat down to eat the pancakes, they loved discovering those big chunks of corn. They were especially delighted when a kernel fell out of the pancake on their fork. The two older girls had maple syrup on their pancakes, but the two-year-old requested grape jelly. I don’t know why. Kids are weird.
CORNY CORN CAKES
from Molly Katzen
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup corn (I used canned kernels)
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Beat the eggs in another bowl, then add buttermilk, butter, and corn. Beat to combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir (gently, just make sure everything’s combined–like with any pancake, you don’t need smoothness)
Melt a little butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot enough, pour the batter in about 1/2 cup at a time.
Cook pancakes until they’re golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes (start checking when you see holes forming on the top of the batter in the skillet). Flip, then cook the other side, which should take less time.
And then you EEEAT IT!!
-2 slices of beer bread
-Carnation instant breakfast
-beef jerky (teriyaki flavour)
-a handful of almonds
Not necessarily in that order. NaBloPoMo combined with lack of time and inspiration makes for exciting blogging.