First, a little bit of bloggy business: I'll be on holidays for a few days and will be in Ottawa this weekend with Jenny of All Thing Edible and Mary of Beans and Caviar. If you're around and want to meet up (we're thinking of dinner and a movie (Julie and Julia) for Saturday night), please email Jenny or me and we'll get you details. Needless to say, I'll do my best to autolaunch a post...but the key words are "do my best."
My regular readers know I've been stupidly busy this month. Workasaurus and Deadlineadactyle tagteamed me almost into submission. I beat them off, but it took time and energy. By the time I could draw breath it was...well...Monday. As in Monday 24 August.
I hadn't even really looked at the challenge before a couple of days ago. Sure, I saw a chocolate cake with wings in the challenge post: yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it--a layer cake of sorts, enrobed in chocolate with some sort of caramel thing on top. Nuts on the side. Easypeasylemonsqueezey.
After printing the instructions and reading them I realised it wasn't your regular cake. Parchment papers and drawn circles...springforms as templates and not baking vessels...six layers...toffee...chocolate butter cream.
Really, I didn't have time to think about what it was telling me to do. I just did. Even though I'm a huge proponent of analytical and critical thought, but sometimes thinking can really screw you up.
I knew for practical reasons a full cake would be out of the question. It's just me (well, not really: I decided to take it to a barbecue for two at Dear Friend's), so an eight- or nine-inch cake would be far too much. Add to that I'm going away for a couple of days and I'll have a stale cake sitting in my fridge awaiting it's binned fate when I return. I found the most adorable five-inch springforms a couple of months ago and I bought a set of six, thinking they'd be great for individual savoury pies, and thought "Well, if they're good enough for a savoury pie, they're good enough for a DB challenge." By eye I could see that I could easily halve the quantities for my teeny torte, my diminished Dobos.
The other changes may kick me out of the DBs for the month:
I just couldn't bring myself to ice the entire cake. All I could see was all that sugar: sugar in the cake, sugar in the icing and sugar in the toffee. I knew I'd either come away with a migraine or just be bouncing off the walls. And given it was a lakeside barbecue, I could easily see myself bouncing into the lake. Not good for a non-swimmer.
Then came the toffee layer. Sigh. Fatigue got the better of me. Although the toffee is really easy to make, I just didn't have the energy to do it....so I pulled my bottle of dulce de leche, melted it and used that instead.
I decided, instead of icing the full thing and turning the sixth layer into a pinwheel design, I'd turn it into a proper six layer cake, with layers of chocolate buttercream peeking from between the storeys of cake. the top layer would be drizzled with caramel. I think of it as a minimalistic version of the proper Dobos.
The result was a delicious...if not slidey cake. Quite honestly, I don't think icing the full cake would have stopped the Leaning Tower of Pisa appearance. The cake was tilty and cutting it didn't help as each serving became an Escher-like constuction of cake, chocolate and caramel...from certain angles, it was very difficult determining which end was on the bottom and which end was on top.
But does it really matter? No. The cake was lovley. The cakes were light and delicate. The buttercream (my first time making chocolate buttercream) was a heavenly moussey-marshmallowy spread. Sure, it would have been nice to have a properly done Dobos, but then again, it would have tasted just as good.
As some of you who follow my Twitter feed know this week was a difficult one.
My dear Cleo, took a turn for the worse and a very difficult decision had to be made; this wasn't totally unexpected as he had quite a scare 2.5 years ago.
My ball of purry fluff who came in from the cold wouldn't recover from the particular combination of ailments as what would cure one would worsen another. It was for the best...he was in discomfort, but not in pain and it would have turned very quickly to pain.
We had our last cuddle yesterday, through which his legendary purr started out as a little putter and got stronger and stronger, happy paws and all. I couldn't be there for his final moments, but the exbf told me as soon as Cleo could no longer hear or see me, his purr died down to a bit of a splutter; he thought Cleo hung on for me, and he knew that was our last cuddle. He purred softly until the very end.
I'm teary, but I know this was the best decision for him.
My dessert preferences have definitely taken a turn towards rustic and hearty. Don't get me wrong. My heart still skips a beat when I see a fancy, schwoopy, piped, spun-sugared architectural marvel. But really, the older I get, the more like myself I become and apparently foof-less desserts are what I am.
Un-iced cakes and cupcakes, crisps and cobblers...serve me some of those and I'm as happy as the Cookie Monster in a Peek Freans factory (really...cookies aren't a sometimes food).
This year, my baked go-to dessert has been studies in baked, stewed and roasted fruits. I know I haven't posted much about this, and I'm not sure why. Maybe my thoughts are deluded in that they aren't fancy enough to blog about. Maybe they are so omnipresent in my kitchen that I just don't think of them as blog fodder. Really, everything that comes out of a functional kitchen (even one with Beelzebub) is food blog fodder.
Residents of my part of the world know this has been an odd summer with the coldest July on record for a good 15 -20 years. Normally, I'd have turned my scullery into an ice cream factory by now, but with such pleasant temperatures, I've kept with my baked fruit desserts. In cooler months, I'd usually be using wintered fruits--apples, pears or some canned or frozen fruit--so it was a bit of a treat for me to use in-season blueberries and peaches for this buckle.
Buckles--at least this one--combines the best of several dessert worlds. A stewed fruit base, a cakey top and then there a streuselly top. Add ice cream, custard, chantilly cream or just straight pouring cream and I think this may be pretty darned close to a perfect dessert...if I could figure out a way to incorporate cream cheese icing, then I would call it a perfect dessert.
While this isn't a true non-recipe recipe--the cake part is, as we know, chemistry and we know what happens when things go askew so it is necessary to measure things out--the fruit and topping are really done by feel and can easily be changed to match your mood, palate and pantry: change the fruits to what's available, just keep roughly the same weight and spice or sweeten it to your taste; if you want to add Scottish Oats or chopped nuts to the topping go ahead. It's all up to you.
Blueberry-Peach Buckle Fruit layer 500g chopped peaches 250g blueberries 1 rounded Tbsp cornstarch 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar pinch of salt squeeze lemon juice
Cake layer 200g ap flour 1 dspn baking powder salt 110g butter 100g sugar two eggs 125ml milk 1/2 tsp vanilla
Workasaurus and Deadlineadactyl, while not slain have been beaten back with more than healthy doses of cunning, wit, guile, snarkasm and a good thwack or two from my rolling pin (if they were slain, then I'd have won the lottery or one of the equally wealthy but until now totally unknown Saatchi boys has fallen totally and utterly in love with me and has presented me with an engagement Aga (lilac, please) and we'd be off somewhere delicious and exotic with an excellent wireless connection).
My condo has smelled of peaches for the past week from the three-litre basket I picked up last week. Who needs those fizzy cans of air freshener or those plug-ins when you can just put out a bowl of fruit?
Soft, sweet and bursting with juices, a few were eaten straight out of hand. Ideally I'd have made a pie with them--they were so perfect--but piemaking wasn't in the cards: the temps have risen and since I do my crusts by hand, I'd probably worry the pastry into toughness. After flicking through a few pages, I found an idea so simple I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before: fritters.
I founda recipe for Pasching Puffa (peach puffs/fritters) in the fat cakes section of our dear Edna's first cookbooks. My preference for cookbooks written by people who really cook and write for people who really cook goes without saying, but even I must smile when I read the heading "fat cakes." I'm not sure how many modern recipe writers, nor anyone on a plastic cooking show, could get away with naming something a "fat cake."
She explains, through the words of her friend Bevvy that fat cakes include doughnuts and fritters and anything else that's fried in deep fat. Personally, I think it could also be used to describe the way they poof into fatness as soon as the batter touches the searing hot oil.
The only adaptation I've made to the recipe is the addition of powdered ginger to the batter, and lowering the frying temp by about 10F--it originally called for 375F, but I found it too hot and the first few fritters browned a little too quickly, but what should have been soft cakey innards were still too wet.
Peach Fritters (adapted from Edna Staebler's Pasching Puffa from Food That Really Scmecks p158) Yields about 24
280g ap flour 1Tbsp baking powder pinch salt 1tsp powdered ginger 250ml milk 1/2tsp vanilla 100g sugar 80g softened butter 2 eggs 1tsp powdered ginger 275-300g chopped peaches (fresh or canned) 1/2tsp lemon juice fat for frying (lard, shortening, oil)
Seive together the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger; set aside.
Mix the vanilla into the milk; set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the flour and milk mixtures, alternating, in the usual fashion (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour), scraping down the bowl every so often.
Fold in the chopped peaches and lemon juice.
Heat the oil to about 365F/185C. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into hot fat; fry until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Dust with icing sugar, if desired. Serve slightly warmwith ice cream or dunked into maple syrup if you wish.
Hello all. I was hoping to have a recipe up today, but I'm still running to keep ahead of Workasaurus and Deadlineadactyl.
Even though most of what I've fed my ravenous gullet wouldn't really be classified as "nutritious"--I don't know how much salt water taffy I've eaten over these past couple of weeks, nor how many burgers or slices of pizza (homemade and otherwise)--I was able to pick up some beautiful fruits and veggies...as well as a few well-deserved treats for me.
It will be a few more days until I'll be able to carve out some time for a proper post. Until then, here are a few photos of the nummy things that have crossed my lips:
Top: blueberries; courgettes, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic Middle: peaches; a pretty cuppycake Bottom: Schwartz's Montreal steak spice (courtesy of the exbf who was in Montréal for WorldCon); a chocolate from my favourite local chocolatrie
Yes, my busy bees are back, buzzing around workasaurus and deadlineadactyl.
I'm hoping the bees will scare them off (nothing more embarassing to the beasts that being all welty from the stingers of the teeny little winged creatures), but alas those horrid pharmacos have developed some sort of gigantic epipen for the equally horrid beasts, so it seems that I'll be busy slaying these dragon-like monsters on my own.
I'll be back in a few days.
In the meanwhile, I'll leave you with the Furs' Pretty In Pink simply because I found out John Hughes, director of some of my favourite 80s movies (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles) died today. For those of you interested in music he used in some of his soundtracks, check out Purebordom's John Hughes Soundtrack Retrospective.
Anita Stewart's "World's Longest Barbecue" interests me--not because it attempts to create a truly national feast, but because it essentially celebrates locavorism in a country made up of immigrants. There is a bit of a dichotomy there...
Sure, we have "quintessentially Canadian foods," such as butter tarts and doughnuts, but most of what's eaten goes beyond this.
Indigenous foods such as maple syrup, bison, blueberries and squash now sit along side various crops and herds brought over by waves of immigrants. Most of the meats we eat: chicken, pork and beef, along with carrots, apples, spinach, peaches and other fruits and vegetables, along with grains and cereals we eat on a daily basis were brought over by people who wished for a taste of home.
My concept of celebrating Canadian eating focusses on the breadth of dishes this country offers as a result of the creative and homesick cooks, combining a breadth of indigenous and new ingredients. It's also about what food helps us do: celebrate, commiserate, share and learn.
It's not in opposition to the "eat local" shadow cast by the event, as it's possible to adapt some home cooking to near-ish crops and herds, but I'd rather explore what I can do with a local base food and see what I can do to bring in part of the rest of Canada.
There are many ways to flavour a pork loin, but an Argentine-insprired chimichurri is my offerng. I use this vibrant green coriander leaf mixture as both a sauce and a marinade; I've also mixed with butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise for a sandwich spread. It's incredibly garlicky and a bit tangy and easily adaptable to your individual palate--apart from playing with the garlic and spicing, you can play with the parsley-coriander ratio, keeping to one cup of green.
For the loin, put some of the sauce and put it a zippy bag and let the pork marinate in it over night. After cooking, place the cooked meat in a tin foil pocket with a couple of spoons of chimichurri (not the marinating liquid, but some from the quantity made), seal the ends and let the meat sit for about 10-15 minutes before carving.
Oh, and the weird shape to the loin? No, local pork producers do not raise pigs to have their various bits shaped to look like flowers when cut. I don't have a barbecue, but I do have one of those table-top grills. Makes for very pretty slices.
Chimichurri 4 cloves garlic 1/2small onion, roughly chopped 1/2c flat leaf parsley 1/2c coriander leaf 50-60ml red wine vinegar 100-125ml olive oil 1tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste) 1tsp black pepper (or to taste) 1tsp salt juice from half a lime
In a blender, add the garlic and onion and chop finely. Puree in the the herbs in by handfuls, alternating with oil and vinegar. When all the leaves, oil and vinegar are combined, blend in cayenne, pepper and salt. Adjust seasoning to taste. Before using, add lime juice.