28 February 2009

Daring Bakers: For the love of chocoalte

• Recipe's origins: Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Valentino, From "Sweet Treats"
• Recipe's orginator: Chef Wan
• Our hostess: Wendy of WMPE

• Our co-host: Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef

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.

Firstly, thank you all for your get well wishes. I'm still feeling as if someone is tightening a vice grip around my temples, squeezing my left eyeball out of its socket while at the same time attempting to use my throat as a nutmeg rasp. Oh yes...I no longer sound like Demi Moore (thank goodness)...I now sound more like Bonnie Tyler à la Total Eclipse of the Heart...but without the '80s makeup and hair...or smokey hallways (bad for the cough)... or ninjas who think they're whirling dirvishes...yeah, I don't have the non-synced boyband-esque choreography over here...and (unfortunately) I'm sadly lacking in young men emerging from swimming pools...but thankfully no one with glowing eyes (unless you count the reflective properties of Hagia's and Zeus' eyes) are freaking me out (or illuminating my darkened hallways.

Anyway...I've always known I shouldn't be cooking when I'm in a bad mood. I should add to that "never bake when I'm sick."

The cake is incredibly easy--I've done similar in the past and produced beautiful and tasty cakes. Not this time. I scaled the recipe to 2/3 (hey, it's just me, I still haven't reliably reclaimed my chocolate tooth and right now Buckley's makes everything taste like pine resin soaked dance belts...worn pine resin soaked dance belts (look it up if you don't know what a dance belt is).

Since it's February (aka the soppiest month of the year), I thought I'd cast aside my usual aspersions surrounding the 14th (aka one of three days of the year some people have to mark on their calendars to tell their "certain someone" they...umm...notice them (personally, I think if you are in a relationship, you should let your certain someone know they're special everyday ...but that's just me)) and bake little heart-shaped cakelettes. Unfortunately the blessed things fell apart while unmolding...which makes them perfect fodder for a chocolate trifle...perhaps...under different circumstances. Meh.

The second part of the challenge was to pair the cake with ice cream. Good gravy. I wish I'd read the challenge before I finished making seven quarts of ice cream for Baby 'bella's birthday party. I'd have snapped a piccie for the this month's DB challenge.


I thought back to the flavours my little ice cream maker made, and apart from the ginger-lime, I think any of the flavours I made would have gone really well with the cake. But if I were to choose one, I'd nominate my coconut custard...I'm such a fan of Bounty bars...

Yes...it is pictured...barely. See the row closest to the windo? See the yoghurt container at the far end? Yup. That's it.

Coconut Custard Ice Cream
250ml milk
2 generous handfulls of sweetened desiccated coconut
2 egg yolks
100g sugar
200ml tinned coconut milk, well stirred
125ml heavy cream

Add desiccated coconut to milk and scald. Take the mixture off the hob and let stand for 30 minutes.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar, then add the coconut milk and heavy cream and mix well. Dribble in the warm coconutty milk while stirring constantly.

Pour back into the saucepan and cook over mediumish heat while stirring rapidly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature before cooling in the fridge overnight.

If you want, you can strain out the coconut shreds, but it's really unnecessary...mind you, if you're worried about scrambled eggs in your ice cream, then go ahead and strain before pouring the brine into your ice cream maker. Follow whatever manufacturer's instructive recommendations exist...

To see what the other Daring Bakers did, please visit our blogroll.

Meanwhile, I'm going back to bed...or seeing if I can get a recording contract...


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21 February 2009

I sound like Demi Moore

Gentle reader*,

As you've probably noted, my bloggy output has been rather minimalistic over the past few weeks.

Two weeks ago I felt *something* start to come on...at first it was fatigue...then it was a stuffy nose...then I was fine...then I got tired again...then a pressure headache or two. A week and a half ago my temps were yo-yoing like well...a yo-yo.

This week it hit my throat.

I awoke sounding like Deirdre Barlow. The next day I sounded more like Kathleen Turner (a vast improvement). Now I sound more like Demi Moore (a step down, I think). Somewhere between Kathleen and Demi the names Alannah Myles and Joss Stone also passed certain lips..along with "976-number" and "woah...the guys are really going to like this."

Yesterday the cough introduced itself...on the road to sounding like a mad, barking seal. Today the snot started...and the fatigue returned.

Needless to say, I'm blessedly tired of this...and I'll be back when a bit more myself.


*you know I'm not quite myself when I can't resist that cliché...

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15 February 2009

Feast: Baby 'bella's 9th birthday party

An ice cream party. Our Baby 'bella wanted an ice cream party to celebrate her ninth party. Fifteen flavours were on the wish list.

Hmmm...my ice cream maker has been disconcertingly silent during the past few months...and I do have two inserts taking up room in my freezer. A quick glance at the list and we divvied up the flavours, combined a few and two weeks of churning and we came up with a dozen flavours between the two of us. Thank goodness I now have a deep freezer to store my five flavours.

Nine little girls in total.

Nine squealing little girls.

Were we ever that squealy when we were that age? I'm sure we carried ourselves with grace and decorum...always walking from one place to the other, never raising our voices and never, ever jumping up and down like jackhammers riding on pistons. Hmmm...maybe age has fuzzed the little grey cells a wee bit.

Being one of the "official adults" on site I was to help keep things going and spot for any troublesome issues. But I received an invitation...which meant I was allowed to be a squealing little girl. I decided to be a squealing adult. Okay. I was squealing on the inside...those girls could squeal for Canada. Really.

Six hours.

Six hours of frenetic kitten cavorting, chinchilla chasing, snake spying and budgie bugging interspersed with games, food and foodish games. Heck. I was the "world famous food expert" who judged the cupcake decorating contest.

As a non-parent it was very interesting watching the dynamics and the personalities within a group of people this age. There was the nurturer, the forty year-old disguised as a nine year old, and...of course, the ever-so-precious-in-only-her-parents'-minds child.

The cake itself was Dorie's Perfect Party Cake (March '08's DB challenge) and I think my friend did a lovely job with the cake. Yes...the blessed thing did not rise but no matter. It's still a delicious cake. Loved the mauve daisies that set off the primrose of the buttercream.

And the ice creams? We had French Vanilla, Lemon, Butterscotch, Chocolate, Strawberry, Coconut-Mango, Ginger-Lime, Chocolate Chip, Banana Cream, Coconut Custard, Pink Peppermint-Oreo and Orange Sherbet. The young guests weren't too enamoured with the more...exotic flavours and left them for the grown ups (and Baby 'bella), and stuck to chocolate chip, chocolate and the Oreo-mint (hmm...all chocolate-based...who knew?)

Umm...yeah. The grown ups had a little extra help to get through the day (in case you were wondering, the wine glass was not part of the place setting...and the grown ups were not walking around the house with glasses of reisling during the party....AFTER the party was a different story).

Okay: yes, I know I should stop referring to her as "Baby 'bella" but I just can't. She'll always be "Baby 'bella" to me.


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08 February 2009

On My Rickety Shelves: Animal Vegetable Miracle

Thanks to the good people at Harper Collins Canada for providing me with this month's book.

Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
Harper Perennial
370 pages; $17.50

Transplantation stories—kit and caboodle packed up and moved to strange and alluring surrounds—are a bit of weakness. Tim Parks, Peter Mayle and Georgeanne Brennan have all sucked me into their travels and travails as they navigate new customs, meet the local colour and slowly try and work their ways in to the weft of their new neighbourhood fabric. Amusing, eye-opening and painfully self conscious these books help to satisfy my armchair travel-cum-voyeurism. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle walks in this genre, but also tramples on socio-political foodism that is de rigueur.

The book’s premise is simple: Kingsolver, her partner and children leave Arizona for an Appalachian farm to grow their own food, eat locally and basically become better people for it. They grew a lot of vegetables, raised chickens and had various “a-ha” moments regarding food production and food consumption.

Multi-authorship is a tricky premise to execute effectively and in my opinion, this is a prime example of too many cooks. Kingsolver is the main narrator, recounts mushroom hunting, travelling to Montréal, market shopping and other slices of life. Interjections about modern food production appear from her partner Steven L. Hopp, including treatises on locavorism, food pricing, and genetically modified foods. Her daughter Camille provides her own insights into the familial adventures along with recipes and menu ideas.

I had a hard time getting into this book. I started it several times, and at each attempt I set it back on the table with great exasperation.

Barbara Kingsolver is a very good writer. Primarily known as a fiction writer, her words engage the reader and bring her new community (and her family) to life. If this book were “only” a story about a family moving out to a farm and their adventures and learnings, it would be a fabulous read. Unfortunately, it’s not. Hopp’s essays contain a degree of earnest, evangelistic scholastic work usually voiced by those who’ve just learned about how food gets to our plates. Readers would be better served by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dillema or Gina Mallet’s Last Chance to Eat. Camille Kingsolver’s essays are marked by purpled prose indicative of schoolgirl essays; quite honestly, I was quickly disinterested in the younger Kingsolver’s words and barely skimmed most of her passages. I think I’d have rather read Lily Kingsolver’s (Barbara Kingsolver’s youngest daughter) views of the process. Really.

The differences in styles and abilities interfere with the text’s flow, and to me create a chopped and disparate book. The anecdotal recounts of their experiences are fun to read, but I’m not sure if they balance out the food politics presented, nor are they salves to what seem like her daughter’s indulgent passages.


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