Fruitcake came up in a conversation last week so I decided to make a batch. I've not made this before but it's cake, it can't be too hard. I searched for mom's recipe, a more cake than fruit variety. A sober cake. Found it. Made long shopping list.
This morning I assembled the recipe's ingredients, mixed them together, then poured them into two loaf pans. Fifty minutes at 350, forty if your oven can't go below 400.
Delicious, just like mom's. Here is Angela Gaston's fruitcake recipe.
It's cold outside, there's even some snow, so I'm heating up the house by cooking. Yesterday I made scones. I was inspired because I had a new cookbook, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Beranbaum, an author recently name-dropped in the Times. As an e-book it was only $4 (and that's Canadian).
One problem, though, is that as an e-book - I'd not had reason to try this before, mind - you can't print from an e-book. At least you can't easily print. But I figured there had to be a way as I wanted a printout to add to my binder of recipes, many of which are commented. (Typical: cut time by # min as stupid oven not below 375.)
Long story short, I made the scones and they turned out fine. As proof I've a couple photos below.
And of course I got around the printing problem. I did it two ways: the easy but less satisfactory way is to print screen grabs on the pc. It works but the pages aren't editable. The better way turned out to be to pull up each page on the iPhone, save a screen shot, OCR the jpg, then paste the text into an editor. After removing extra line breaks and fixing tabular data I had an editable and printable recipe. And like most things, the next time I do it, it will go faster.
I'm starting to break my news cleanse and so I'm catching up on world events. Venezuela's hyper inflation, the Italian election, the South Korean PM, I can now make small talk about each of these. But Im still skipping all the long reads on US politics, especially the predictable fox nominated to guard hen house.
So what's this about ganaches you say? Today I needed a layer of chocolate. You see, yesterday I made three shortbreads: poppy seed, date, and chocolate. Sounds like a lot but once I assembled the tools, and got into the rhythm, making a second, then a third, was easy. And they all turned out great.
But one of the three wasn't just shortbread. I topped the chocolate one with peppermint buttercream then left it in the fridge overnight. Today's task is to finish it with a third layer of just chocolate.
Here is where the experiment comes in. The recipe calls for pure chocolate as the frosting. Problem is, when I've made this in the past I found pure chocolate hard to spread. So today I decided to experiment by cutting the chocolate with cream - a ganache - to get a more spreadable texture.
So I made small amounts of two ganaches, in cream : chocolate ratios of 1:1 and 1:2. In each case I weighed ingredients, poured hot cream over chocolate, stirred a while, then tested each as a spread. Turns out both were fine, the 1:1 smoother, the 1:2 more flavorful. I used the 1:2 ratio for the final frosting. Best of all, unlike my days in the Chemistry lab, I get to taste the chemicals.
Of course, all this shortbread and ganache talk is just an excuse to post some photos. I'm using the Fuji and 16 mm f/1.4, as opposed to the Nikon with macro. Part of the reason is of course the comfort of holding the smaller Fuji, but it's also the Fuji's live view and the fun 16 mm. The 16 lets you experiment with out-of-focus areas - some would say it makes it too easy - and it has ridiculously close focus, you can almost touch your subject with the lens element.
I was thinking maybe it won't be so bad. Taxes, health, social down. Pollution up. Eh, we've survived this before. But now I wonder that my optimism was mistaken. It feels like the new president has pushed his way into office already. And now he tweets threats of nuclear Armageddon.
The nightmare has begun.
Since there is nothing I can do about America's Berlusconi I'm going to put it out of my head and replace it with a couple of pictures of a cool food tool I just got.
I succumbed to the call of the KitchenAid stand mixer, drawn in by colour, design and aggressive discounting. The fact that I might have a use for it seemed an afterthought.
Actually I do have a use for it. When I was growing up my mom had a Mixmaster - great name for a mixer - and she made a lot of desserts. Cookies and candy and bars: she plied my sister and me with deliciousness and she also took some to her school where she treated her French students. Of course, I've no students to take things to so I don't strive to match the volume of sweets she produced, but I can see a use for a mixer in making the occasional dessert as well as bread dough.
So I brought it home, made space for it* on the counter, washed all the parts, adjusted the bowl height, and then made a batch of Olive Oil Challah from a recent post by Melissa Clark in the Times. I followed the recipe, aside from substituting AP flour for bread flour. Admittedly, this small batch wasnt much of a test for the KitchenAid, it felt like it barely left idle, but it was fun watching how it kneaded the dough effortlessly. The bread turned out well, as you can see from the already-partially-eaten loaf.
I'm listening to Asturias from the Vicky Cristina Barcelona soundtrack.
*The new mixer has spurred the almost-predictable follow on, a search for a cabinetmaker to extend the kitchen's cabinets and counter space.
Yes I know I'm a day late. I was busy with Festivus festivities.
It's cold here. Not as cold as Toronto or Winnipeg or anywhere else in Canada but it is cold. Even inside. My glass-walled office so nice most of the year is cold.
So I'm cooking. When we were in Ajaccio I could look out our apartment window and see a patisserie. Each morning I'd walk down the stairs, stairs that reeked of cigarettes, for a breakfast of pastry and coffee.
It was here I encountered ambrucciata which brought to mind creme brulee in a pastry. Sweet and creamy and cheesy. And then I noticed it at the next Corsican patisserie, and the next. And they all have the same pinched pastry shape.
Turns out, a near-facsimile isn't hard to make. The French use brocciu, a Corsican cheese, but it's similar to ricotta. The French version is larger. But taste and texture are close enough.
A torte is a rich, usually multilayered, cake that is filled with whipped cream, butter creams, mousses, jams, or fruits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torte
As I raised a piece of strawberry torte to my lips, strawberry not plum despite the recipe's name* since that's the fruit on hand, I considered a friend's comment that this did not sound like a torte, so once done enjoying the rich dessert embedded with fruit I consulted the internet and Harold McGee and Mark Bittman and realized there isn't unanimity in how torte is defined and then I thought whatever it's called, it's easy and delicious and I'll just leave it at that.
I tried a new recipe for biscotti and they turned out really well. Since I'm the only one in the house who likes chocolate I've the burden of eating them so I freeze them. And what do you know, they get better over time. The recipe is in the Times and it's called Union Square Cafe Chocolate Biscotti.
A half block from our door in Merida, on calle 47 between 54 and 56, is a nondescript door that leads down a narrow hallway to a claustrophobic room where I had my first affogato. Maybe it's called Dilan, that's the name on google maps, but maybe it's not, I don't remember any sign, just the chocolate taste created by mixing espresso and ice cream.